The first time Rabbit’s friends tried to set him up with a girl, he was a junior in college at Muskogee State University. He was in the library studying with his meteorology friends for their upcoming dynamics midterm. However, he felt like he was the only one actually trying to study.
“Dude, come on. The girl over there is totally checking you out man.” Beltzer said. Rabbit looked up from the textbook he was absorbed in to look at Beltzer across from him. He could see Bill nodding beside Beltzer in agreement.
“She actually is, Rabbit. You should let Beltzer play matchmaker again. He did a fantastic job with Jo and me,” Bill said, giving a toothy grin to his girlfriend across from him.
Jo glanced up from her notebook at the mention of her name but shifted her focus to where Beltzer and Bill were looking.
Sure enough, there was a girl and her friend sitting at a table diagonally across from their table of four. She looked young and spirited, possibly a freshman. Nothing about her features stood out, but her and her friend were whispering very intensely while looking over to the group. Jo considered them for a moment and then turned back to the boys at their table.
“I actually think they are right, Rabbit,” Jo said before turning back to her notes.
Rabbit sighed. “You guys know I’m not interested in dating anyone.”
“You have been using that excuse for two years now, man. Just go over and strike up a conversation.” Beltzer said borderline complained.
“Beltzer, I’m not interested. I’m more concerned with our midterm next week.”
Beltzer put his hands up in surrender. “Fine. But don’t say I didn’t try to help you out.”
Rabbit sighed again and went back to reading his textbook. He knew he would never be interested in having a girlfriend.
The next time Rabbit could remember his friends’ attempting to get him a date, they were at a bar in a small town somewhere off the backroads of Oklahoma talking about the chase they had just completed. Bill, Dusty, and Beltzer were discussing the rating of the tornado they saw earlier in the day. Jo chimed in occasionally and Rabbit laughed through sips of his cheap beer at his friends' antics.
In a lull in the conversation, Dusty nudged Rabbit’s elbow and gestured to a woman that was looking at them from across the bar. “Y’know I think that woman is checking you out, dude.” Dusty attempted to whisper to Rabbit but greatly misjudged his volume and all but shouted, which gained the attention of the other three at their table.
“Which one?” Beltzer asked, him and Bill already looking for the woman in question.
“Redhead. Three o’clock.”
The group looked over and sure enough, there was a rather pretty woman looking over at their table, specifically at Rabbit.
“Dude, go get her number.” Bill reached over and smacked Rabbit on the arm.
Rabbit shook his head and took another sip of his beer. “No thanks, I’m not interested.”
“Come on man! You’ve been saying that for years. You have a degree and a job. Now you need a girl.” Dusty exclaimed with a slam of his beer can on the table for emphasis.
Rabbit continued to shake his head at Dusty.
“Fine. If you won’t go talk to her, I will.” Dusty said, making a move to stand. Bill and Beltzer cheered him on as he left the table.
“By all means, she’s all yours.” Rabbit chuckled under his breath, watching Dusty’s drunken attempts at wooing the woman.
After about twenty minutes of talking between the two, Dusty came back over to the group while the woman left the bar.
“Struck out.” Dusty sighed as he sat back down.
“Damn that’s harsh,” Beltzer said, slightly wincing.
“You definitely didn’t lose on that one,” Dusty said while looking over at Rabbit.
Rabbit couldn’t help the smirk as he took another sip of beer.
The following time of trying to set Rabbit up, Jo was attempting to convince Rabbit.
“Rabbit, all I’m saying is that she is a very nice agronomist that is cute, quirky, and likes geography. It would be the perfect match!” Jo exclaimed as the pair walked to the meteorology lab.
“For the last time, no.” Rabbit said as he continued to his desk. Their conversation had gotten the attention of everyone currently in the lab: Beltzer, and the current undergraduates, Joey, Lawrence, Hayes, and Allan.
“Rabbit, come on. In all of the years I have known you, I have never seen you go on a single date.”
“Because I’m not interested in anyone you try to set me up with.”
“But Mary Ann is a sweet woman and you two would get along perfectly.”
Rabbit sighed and looked around the lab at the others. He was surprised to not see Beltzer join in on hounding him to settle down. Instead, he looked on at the pair from across the room before turning back to his work. Rabbit knew he was still listening to their conversation.
The undergrads also had followed Beltzer’s example and went back to work besides Allan, who made eye contact and gave Rabbit a raised eyebrow and a smirk before turning away.
Rabbit looked back to an impatient Jo and raised his hands in defense.
“Jo look, I appreciate you trying to help me, but I’m not looking to be in a predetermined perfect relationship. I want to find someone unexpectedly that just clicks with me.”
Hayes looked up from the paper she was reading and looked over at Rabbit. “Kinda how you and Allan just clicked,” she said.
“Exactly.” Rabbit said while gesturing to her but looking at Jo.
Jo sighed and turned away from Rabbit. “Fine, I respect how you want to meet them, but maybe try a little harder to find them?”
“Sure boss.” Rabbit said as he watched her walk back to her desk. Everyone had gone back to their work, but Allan looked up again at Rabbit. Rabbit gave him a wink before turning his attention to his desk. Allan shook his head as he went back to work.
No one in the lab noticed their pink cheeks or how Rabbit always gives Allan a ride home. Nor do they notice how, every Friday, they leave in the opposite direction and head to town to have dinner at a local diner together.
Speaking of a diner, the fourth time Rabbit’s friends try to set him up, he was at a diner with Allan, Dusty, and Beltzer. They had finished early at the lab one Saturday, so Beltzer invited Rabbit to eat with him and Dusty at a diner that Dusty claimed to “have the best hash browns in Oklahoma ''. Jo and Bill went to visit Aunt Meg while the other undergrads had gone back home. Rabbit asked Allan to tag along with the three of them. He had a strong feeling Dusty and Beltzer were up to something. Beltzer’s too wide of a grin when he agreed only confirmed his suspicions more.
Sure enough, once the four of them were seated at a booth in the diner, a young, smiley blonde approached them and greeted Beltzer and Dusty by name.
“Hey, Beltzer! Hi, Dusty! How are y’all doing today?” She asked. Rabbit read her nametag, ‘Sarah’ it said.
“Hi, Sarah! We're doing good. This is our friend Rabbit we have been telling you about and one of our undergrads, Allan.” Dusty replied, gesturing to Rabbit and Allan respectively.
“It’s a pleasure to finally meet you. Beltzer and Dusty have been telling me a lot about you and the crazy storm chases y’all go on.” Sarah said, still smiling and looking directly at Rabbit.
“Funny, they never seem to have mentioned you to me.” Rabbit said, giving her a polite smile in return.
After the four of them had ordered, Sarah walked away to place their orders. Rabbit turned to look at the two across from him. He returned their grins with a hard stare.
“If you two tell me that you are trying to set me up with her, I will walk out of this diner.” Rabbit stated.
“Of course man!” Dusty exclaimed, not comprehending Rabbit’s seriousness, “You have been alone for who knows how long and Sarah is great! Sweet, down to earth, and a fantastic cook.”
Rabbit sighed and rubbed his hands across his face. He felt Allan’s hand on his thigh underneath the table in comfort. He was also staring at Beltzer and Dusty to make sure neither noticed his movement. They were too focused on Rabbit to see anything.
“Dude come on, give her a chance,” Beltzer said.
Something in Rabbit snapped. “Y’know what? No, I won't. I'm sick and tired of all of you trying to set me up with any girl you remotely think will be a good match for me. I am happy with where I am in life and don’t want a girlfriend. I’m not dealing with this anymore.” he said, moving from the booth and out the door of the diner. Allan pulled a 20 from his wallet and left it on the table. “Sorry guys,” he said as he moved to follow Rabbit out and around the corner to his truck.
Dusty and Beltzer didn’t follow them, so they didn’t see the heated kiss the pair shared before climbing into the truck.
The fifth time Rabbit could remember his friends trying to meddle in his love life, they were at Aunt Meg’s newly finished house. Following their success with Dorothy, they helped the city of Wakita rebuild while working through their data. The team was having a relaxing day at Meg’s. She offered to make the team dinner as thanks for everything.
The topic of relationships came up after Dusty mentioned Bill and Jo getting back together. Meg went around the room asking the group about their relationship status. The rest of the team sat and joined, curious about what they would share with Meg.
Beltzer talked of a girl he had been seeing for a while. He has yet to introduce her to the full team, but Rabbit had met her in passing. She is very nice and they seem happy together. Joey said he met his girlfriend freshman year. Hayes recently reconnected with an old high school flame. Lawrence said he was focusing on school but has gone on a few dates. Allan simply laughed and shook his head.
Eventually, Meg got to Rabbit and asked him how the dating world was treating him. Before he could answer, Dusty cut in.
“Nothing has changed for him, Meg. He has shut down every girl we have tried to set up for him.”
“Well, let him answer for himself, Dusty,” Meg said, turning back to Rabbit.
“Actually Meg, it’s treating me very well.” Rabbit said with a small smile. Meg returned his smile.
“That’s wonderful to hear,” she said. Rabbit nodded in agreement.
Bill, Jo, Dusty, and Beltzer were having none of it.
“What?!” all four of them shouted at nearly the same time. Rabbit laughed at their shocked expressions.
“You never bothered to actually ask me if I was dating someone. I’ve been dating them for a while now.”
“Who is it? Do we know them? Do any of us know you were dating someone? Did you know?” Beltzer began to question, pointing at Allan.
Allan laughed and nodded his head. “Yeah, I knew. I’ve known since the beginning.”
“How could you tell him and not the rest of us?” Beltzer asked, directed toward Rabbit.
Rabbit shrugged. “He was in the right place at the right time.”
“Unbelievable,” Dusty said, still in shock.
Rabbit continued to avoid answering their questions about his relationship. However, he would rather deal with this than their attempts at setting him up.
And if he used his relationship with Allan as payback for annoying him, they could wait to know the truth or figure it out on their own. It’s not like they are actively trying to hide their relationship from them; he couldn’t fix their obliviousness.
Plus, the knowing looks he and Allan share are sweet enough.
It was a Saturday afternoon in the late summer. The undergrads decided to meet up and get ice cream at the parlor just down the street from Muskogee State University. They all were turning to their newest adventure in life. This would be the last time in a while that they would all see each other. The four of them had grown close within the lab and wanted to celebrate on their own without their mentors.
Joey got into graduate school at the University of Texas Austin. Hayes got the position she has been dying for at NSSL, thanks to two very nice letters of recommendation from Jo and Bill. Lawrence would continue his studies at Muskogee, but he still wasn’t sure if he would work in Jo’s lab again. Allan got promoted to head mechanic at the mechanic shop he works at. He figured he would stay there for a while until something new came along.
“Wasn’t it originally Allan’s idea to get ice cream one last time?” Joey asked the other two.
Hayes nodded her head, “Yeah it was. It’s not normally like Allan to be running late.”
“Maybe he got caught up at the mechanic shop and couldn’t leave when he wanted to,” Lawrence said.
“I don’t know, but I'm definitely going to grill him when he shows up,” Joey said, turning to look down the main street in hopes of seeing Allan’s truck. Hayes and Lawerence laughed at Joey’s comment before returning to sitting in silence outside of the parlor.
The three of them were too caught up in observing the town that they almost missed the truck that pulled up across the street. Allan hopped out of the driver's side and gave a wave to them from across the street. They then watched Rabbit get out of the passenger’s side and walk around the front of the cab to take the keys from Allan. The pair shared a smile as Rabbit moved to get into the driver’s seat. Allan shut the door once Rabbit was in the car.
The three watched the pair say goodbye to each other. In a split second, Allan leaned into the open car window, gave Rabbit a quick goodbye kiss, turned from the truck, and jogged over to his friends.
Once Allan made it across to his friends, he turned and waved to Rabbit. Rabbit waved back at the group as he pulled away from the curb. He was down the street and made a right turn out of view before any of them said anything.
“So how long have you two been a thing?” Joey asked Allan, looking away from where Rabbit’s truck was.
“Since March before we launched Dorothy,” Allan responded.
“Goddamnit.” Joey sighed. Hayes and Lawrence laughed as he pulled two ten-dollar bills from his wallet and gave them to Hayes and Lawrence, respectfully.
Allan laughed along with them. He threw his arm around Joey’s shoulders and began to lead him to the door of the ice cream shop. “Come on. I have been waiting all day for this ice cream.”
Following the end of the fall semester, the team had their annual Christmas get-together at Meg’s. They always had the party the weekend before the holidays to celebrate the past year and get into a festive spirit for the coming days.
This year, Bill thought of an idea on how to get Rabbit to introduce his significant other to the team. He was still deflecting the team’s questions and Allan refused to tell them any information despite Dusty and Beltzer's unsuccessful attempts at bribery.
Bill, Jo, Rabbit, Beltzer, and Dusty were all in the meteorology lab one afternoon after the fall semester had ended and final grades were submitted. Bill thought now would be a great time to put his plan into motion.
“Y’know Rabbit, this year the rest of us were talking and decided that we all should bring a date to the Christmas party at Meg’s,” Bill said to the group, who were quietly working at their own desks.
Beltzer and Dusty snapped up to look at Bill. Bill was looking at them, silently pleading they would follow along and not blow up his attempt to convince Rabbit to bring a date.
Beltzer caught on to Bill’s plan and cleared his throat. “Yeah, we were talking about that. We wanted to make it required that you had to bring a date.” He looked over at Rabbit, who hadn’t looked up from his papers.
Rabbit hummed in acknowledgment. After a moment, he looked over to Bill. “Okay sure,” he said before turning back to his work.
Bill, Dusty, and Beltzer shared glances with each other before Beltzer shrugged and went back to work. Bill gave Dusty a smirk and he got a laugh in return. Hopefully, his plan will work.
A week later, the team gathered at Meg’s house for their small party. Jo and Bill were already there when Beltzer and his girlfriend arrived. Dusty followed shortly after. He greeted Meg with a laugh when she asked about the girl he had been seeing and why she wasn’t there.
“She flaked on me and ran off with a lawyer from Stillwater,” he explained. Meg gave him a smile out of sympathy and offered him a cup of coffee.
Rabbit and his date had yet to show up and Bill was starting to get mildly impatient. Jo could sense his annoyance and put a hand on his arm. “He’ll be here eventually,” she told him. He sighed and before he could respond, Beltzer called from the front windows that Rabbit’s truck had pulled up.
Bill and Jo walked over to Beltzer to look out the window. The three watched Rabbit park and get out of his truck alone. Meg greeted him at the door and took the casserole he had brought.
Before Bill could open his mouth to ask where Rabbit’s date was, he was cut off.
“I already know what you are gonna ask. My date will be here later. They had to work today and couldn’t get off early.” Rabbit explained. Bill gave him a side-eye. “I promise they will.”
About an hour later, the group was sitting around talking when there was a knock at the door.
“I got it,” Jo said while standing and moving to the door. She opened it and was greeted by Allan.
“Hi, Jo! Merry Christmas!” Allan said, giving her a smile. Jo returned the smile and moved to let him in.
“Allan, as happy as I am to see you, I wasn’t aware that you were stopping by,” Jo said. Allan looked back at her as he continued into the house. “Didn’t Rabbit tell you I was gonna be late?”
She gave him a confused look, “What?” She followed after him into the living room. The rest of the group looked up as Allan entered, Jo following behind him. They greeted Allan but all shared similar confusing glances with each other.
“Hey everyone, sorry I’m late. We had several last-minute calls at the shop and I couldn’t get out on time.” Allan said.
“Yeah, it’s no problem, Sanders.” Bill said, “But Rabbit told us that his date was gonna be late.”
Allan stared at Bill and gave him a smirk. “Do we really have to spell it out for y’all?” All he got was questionable gazes and furrowed eyebrows in response from the group.
He let out a small laugh and walked over to stand behind Rabbit, who was sitting at the dining table, watching his friends slowly try to piece together the game he and Allan were playing. Allan bent over to kiss Rabbit, much to their stunned friends’ surprise.
“Are you kidding me?” Beltzer was the first to acknowledge the pair. “How long have you two been dating? How the hell did the rest of us not notice?”
Rabbit scratched the back of his neck as he responded, “We started dating before we launched Dorothy.” He glanced at Allan for confirmation. “We didn’t try to hide our relationship, y’all are just too oblivious to notice.”
“Damn,” Bill said.
Dusty started to laugh and approached the two, engulfing them in a bear hug. “Here we are thinking this entire time Rabbit has been sad and alone when he actually has been dating someone longer than either of us, Beltzer.”
“I honestly can’t believe that we didn’t notice,” Jo said, shaking her head in disbelief. She also walked over to give the pair a hug. “I’m happy for both of you though. I’m glad it seems to be working.” She gave Rabbit a warm, knowing smile, which he returned.
“I’m surprised none of you figured it out,” Meg said from her chair diagonal from Rabbit. She gave the pair a smile before turning to the rest of the group.
“What do you mean, Meg?” Bill asked.
“It was obvious that they were together when we were talking about everyone's relationships back in the summer. Don’t tell me you didn’t notice back then Billy.”
“I honestly didn’t know,” Bill said with a hint of laughter in his voice.
The rest of the group slowly joined in on the laughter and congratulating Rabbit and Allan again. Allan slipped into the chair next to Rabbit and intertwined their hands. They shared another smile before Rabbit leaned over and kissed Allan on the cheek. The group wasn’t even phased when Allan moved their hands to rest on top of the table.
The team was just happy that Rabbit had finally found someone to love openly and authentically.