The Cry of the Planet Chapter 33
By Edyn Cross
"... Seem pretty tired..."
Cloud's mind stood on the thin line between sleep and consciousness in something almost delirium. The voice was back and this time Cloud was too tired to really care why he kept hearing it and how it got there.
"You haven't slept in a bed like this... in a long time."
Cloud tried to remember, "Oh yeah... Ever since that time."
Cloud's mind still hung in the delirium just before sleep remembering "that time" in the past. He was on a bed much like this one, but the house was very different, much smaller, and much poorer. It was old, but it was cozy with its cobblestone and hard wood floors. A woman with hard blonde hair pulled back up into a high ponytail paced the house with pride sparkling in her eyes. Cloud knew she was his mother but he also knew that she was...
"My how you've grown," Cloud's Mom said. "I bet the girls never leave you alone."
"... Not really." Cloud heard himself say.
"I'm worried about you," She said. "There are a lot of temptations in the city. I'd feel a lot better if you just settled down and had a nice girlfriend."
Cloud shook his head lying on the bed staring at the ceiling, "I'm all right."
"You should have... and older girlfriend," Cloud's Mom pushed. "One that will take care of you. I think that would be the perfect type for you."
A moment later, Cloud's eyes shot open and he jerked up in bed. He was back in the small bedroom of Aeris' house and had the stuffed Moogle in his arms. Cloud looked at the clock on the side of the bed and it read almost three in the morning. I must have fallen asleep, Cloud thought to himself.
Cloud stood up, stretched, put the stuffed Moogle back on the bed and went to the door. He put his ear to it and heard exactly what he had hoped for: Nothing. Cloud tiptoed past the door before the stairs, which was Aeris', careful not to step on any loose wooden floorboards, which might wake her up. He hated just leaving her like that and not only because Aeris' mother requested him to either, but he needed to get back to AVALANCHE.
Cloud went down the stairs, quickly but quietly and made it out the front door managing not to wake Aeris or her Mother. He walked towards Sector 5 then turned and looked back towards Aeris' house. It slept silently as the rest of the Sector did at such an early hour. Cloud turned away from Aeris' house just in time to miss the curtain moving in the upstairs window.
Even at an hour like this, there were still a few residents of the Sector awake and going about their things. One man was out working on an old car listening to a small TV set that sat on his front porch. Cloud passed him and the TV slowly and pretended not to be too interested in was on.
"... for the news," The TV murmured. "Due to a terrorist attack by the group named AVALANCHE, parts of Midgar that were temporarily out of power will be restored momentarily. Following President Shinra's lead, Mayor Domino also spoke out publicly against AVALANCHE..."
And the rest of the news was cut off when the owner of the TV changed the channel until he reached a very trashy talk show.
As Cloud was leaving the main business district of the Sector, he walked by a large storm drain where someone had appeared to make a house inside. As he was studying the storm pipe he felt a presence looming behind and eyes burning the back of his head. Cloud slowly turned around and saw Aeris standing behind him with her arms crossed and an expression on her face that read, "And what do you think you're doing?"
Aeris just smiled, "You're up bright and early."
Cloud shook his head and looked at the ground, "How could I ask you to come along when I knew it could be dangerous?"
Aeris stood thoughtful for a moment, "Are you done?"
Cloud ran a hand through his hair and looked up at the bottom of the upper plate.
"You have to go through the slum in Sector 6 to get to Tifa's Seventh Heaven," Aeris said as they started walking. "I'll take you there."
Cloud couldn't refuse... Not anymore. Why she wanted to keep going out of her way to help was beyond him, especially when she was putting herself in danger. As they walked through Sector 6, they talked about this and that... The weather, who's the leading Chocobo Races this year, and of course about each other. This part of Sector 6 was a large highway that looked like it had begun construction long ago, but was never finished. Cloud helped Aeris up the parts that seemed tricky with unstable earth and sharp rocks, but she managed to handle herself well. After about twenty minutes of walking through the torn highway, they reached a very old and very worn playground.
Aeris pointed to a large gate behind the playground, "That's the gate to Sector 7."
"Thanks," Cloud said turning to her. "Are you gonna be all right going home?"
"Oh no!" Aeris said dramatically tilting her head back and putting her right wrist on her forehead. "Whatever will I do!?"
Cloud blinked as Aeris threw herself into a small fit of giggles.
"Isn't that what you want me to say?" she asked.
"You know," Cloud said looking at her almost shyly. "You could come to Sector 7 with me for awhile."
Aeris looked at him surprised, "I could do that... But, won't I be in your way?"
"What do you mean in the way?" Cloud was confused.
Aeris just shook her head and smiled, "Nothing!"
Cloud looked over to the old playground and thought of how morbid it seemed. Only one swing worked, the money bars were old and rusted, and the teeter was missing the totter. Aeris looked at the large slide, which was a giant fat cat with the slide going through it. With a sparkle in her green eyes, she ran around the back of the cat, climbed to the top and sat between the ears.
"I can't believe its still here," Aeris said with a hint of nostalgia. "Cloud! Come on up!"
Cloud shrugged and went around the back of the fat cat, climbed to the top and sat by Aeris.
"What rank were you?" Aeris asked scooting closer to him.
Cloud blinked, "Rank?"
"You know," Aeris said. "In SOLDIER."
"Oh... I was..." Cloud began but for a split second, he honestly couldn't remember. Whiteness and static shot through his mind and immediately after he could remember.
"First class," Cloud said looking at Aeris, but she didn't appear to notice his delay in answering.
Aeris nodded, "Just the same as him."
"The same as who?" Cloud asked.
Aeris looked shyly away, "My first boyfriend."
"Were you two... serious?" Cloud asked slowly. Was that jealously he was feeling?
"No... Not really," Aeris lied. "But, I liked him for awhile."
"I probably knew him," Cloud said. "What was his name?"
Aeris shook her head, "It doesn't really matter."
Aeris closed her eyes for a few seconds, but those seconds seemed to stretch into a year. A year of memories, a year of happiness, a year of... him.
It was about six years ago and young Aeris was sixteen years old. Not for
the first time and certainly not for the last, Aeris had been on the run
from Turks in another one of their vain efforts to kidnap her. It was about
four o'clock in the afternoon, but the sky was dark with rain and glowing
with Mako pollution.
Aeris had been in the supermarket gathering the items on the list that her mother had given her. She was in good spirits while wandering though the store and hummed a small tune while sorting through the tomatoes. She picked a few that she liked, put them in a bag and placed them on the silver scale that hung from the ceiling holding the vegetable misters.
While inspecting the weight, the silver chrome of the scale turned a dark navy blue, almost a black, as a shadow blocked covered the bright fluorescent lights on the ceiling above her. Her eyes went wide and dread engulfed her. Aeris knew what stood behind her. She turned around to see the largest man she had ever seen in her life. She didn't recognize the bald man with the sunglasses, but she did recognize the neatly tailored navy blue suit.
"Are we going to have a situation?" The man with the sunglasses asked blandly.
Aeris shook her head and then intentionally dropped her purse. Her mind raced as she slowly bent over to pick it up. A thousand ways to escape whirled through her mind and all seemed like wrong ones. As she put her hand on her purse, she thought to herself that the old tricks are the best tricks. She stood up so quickly, swinging her purse forward square between the Turk's legs and he bent over with a grunt. Aeris screamed, pushed the Turk back and swung her purse again this time hitting the side of his head knocking his sunglasses off.
This was the first and last time Aeris bothered trying to scream for help. No one moved, no one cared. All the shoppers just looked away, not meeting her eyes and pretended like nothing was happening. They all knew what happened to those who interfere with the Turks and none of them wanted to meet the same fate as that girl with the green eyes.
Aeris ran as fast as she could out of the supermarket weaving in and shoppers and food displays. She passed through the automatic front doors and ran into the rain only to be grabbed by two Shinra Guards waiting outside in case she eluded the Turk. They grabbed her arms, but the rain and their gloves made Aeris one slippery girl. She jerked free and ran down the street as fast as she could with both the Guards hot on her tail.
Aeris bumped into bystanders on the street, saying sorry each time she did so, and rounded corner after corner, but still couldn't lose the Guards. When in sight of the train station, Aeris sprinted as fast as she could towards the building. When she rounded the corner of the station, she ran head on into someone standing on the plateform and sent them both sprawling to the wet concrete.
The man landed on his back and Aeris landed right on top of him. Exhausted, she lay on top of him for a moment, her head resting on his chest as her lungs breathed hot fire. After a moment she looked up to see who it was and saw a young man around her age with long spiked dark brown hair and a worried look on his face.
"I... I'm..." Aeris started with her lungs still burning. "I'm... sorry."
"Hey, are you okay? You really..." The man couldn't seem to finish what he was saying when he looked into her eyes and then lost himself. She was the most beautiful woman he had ever seen.
"I..." Aeris said offering her hand to the man to help him up. "I'm sorry. I didn't mean..."
"She went over there!" A voice called from behind the station.
Aeris looked sharply towards the train station with nothing but fear in her eyes and then looked back at the man who was now standing again looking at her. The man followed her large green eyes as they desperately looked for a way out thinking to himself that they look like they glow just a bit.
Before she could find a way to escape, the two Shinra Guards rounded the corner and Aeris heard a weapon click. She turned around to see the Guards both aiming their guns at her and they too were out of breath. Before anyone could speak, the man with the brown hair took her hand, pulled her behind him and narrowed his eyes at the Shinra Guards.
"Step away from the girl," One Guard ordered. "She's none of your business."
The man shook his head, "Maybe... But it seems to me that she doesn't want to be your business either."
"I won't ask again," The same Shinra Guard said. "Move away."
"I'm sorry, I can't do that," The man said still holding onto Aeris' hand. It was soft and small and so delicate. He could feel her shaking behind him and he didn't know if it was fear or the cold rain... Or maybe a bit of both.
"Take her," The first Guard ordered the second.
The second Guard nodded and stepped towards Aeris and the man.
"Alright, this is..." That is all the second Guard said right before the man with the brown hair let go of Aeris' hand, kicked the gun out of the Guard's hand right his right foot, did a half swing and delivered kick with his left foot into the Guard's stomach. The force pushed the Guard back hard against the wall of the train station building knocking him unconscious.
The first Guard stared wide-eyed in awe for a moment before he made his move. This one wasted no time and immediately fired his gun at the two. The man with the dark hair quickly pushed Aeris and followed her behind the other side of the train station. Bystanders screamed and fled at the noise of the shots as Aeris and the man stood with their backs against the building while pieces of brick were torn off the corner of the building by the bullets.
A whole minute went by before the Guard stopped fired to reload his weapon. Without hesitation, the man with the brown hair charged around the corner at the Shinra Guard and grabbed the Guard's right arm and twisted it around his back forcing him to drop his weapon. The Guard fell face first to the ground and the man dug his knee into the Guard's back while still twisting his arm. With his free hand, the man picked up the gun and placed it against the Guard's head.
"I don't know why you're harassing that young lady over there, but it's stopping now," The man twisted the Guard's arm tighter and he screamed. "Do you understand?"
"Y... Yes!" The Guard pleaded, but was barely audible over the approaching train whistle. "Just please... please don't kill me!"
The man smiled, pulled the gun back and stuck it heavily against the Guard's head knocking him unconscious. A moment later, more shouts echoed down the Sector street as the approaching train docked for it's passengers. The man put the gun in his coat pocket and ran back behind the station building where he left Aeris. She was still standing against the wall and shaking very badly.
The man gave her a warm smile and took her hand, "We need to get out of here."
Aeris could only nod her head as the man led her onto the train and waited for it to depart. Aeris looked out the window and saw the bald man in the blue suit running up with a good half dozen more Guards searching the station. The train doors closed announcing its departure just as the Turk looked into the window and made eye contact with her. He sprinted to the doors as the train began to move, but the platform ended into tracks and rock forcing him to stay behind. The bald man stood calmly for a second before turning around and laying his fist hard into the concrete pillar behind him. Aeris couldn't be sure, but she thought she saw the concrete crack from the punch.
"Phew!" The man said plopping down hard onto the train seat next to her. The car was empty except for the two of them.
"Are you alright?" The man asked. "Are you hurt or anything?"
"No... I..." Aeris began and then thought for a moment. "You just saved my life."
The man offered a white confident smile and nodded his head, "Yeah, they had it in for you... Any idea why the Shinra are after you?"
"No..." Aeris lied. "But... How did you know that was the Shinra?"
The man laughed, "Because I work for them! I'm in the SOLDIER division, First Class."
Aeris gawked, "If you work for them then why did you help me!?"
"Just because I work for them doesn't mean I agree to what they do," The man winked at her. "Besides, even if I did agree, I couldn't just stand by and watch them kidnap such a beautiful woman."
The man went wide-eyed as the last part just slipped out. He scratched his head and looked away from her eyes. Those green eyes that seemed to draw him deeper into her.
"Well, thank you," Aeris blushed. "I owe you so much. Please let me do something for you... Will you come to my place tonight for dinner? I'm sure my mom would want to thank you personally for all you've done for me."
"Of course," The man said and then stuck out his hand. "I'm Zack, by the way."
"I'm Aeris," She smiled at the proper introduction. They shook hands and Aeris couldn't seem to take her hand back right away. She found herself completely infatuated with this man. He wasn't exactly a knight in shining armor, but was definitely close enough. They sat silently for a moment still holding hands and staring into each other. Zack uttered a nervous chuckle as he took his hand back and looked out the window.
"Where's your stop?" Zack asked trying to sound casual.
"Sector 5 slums," Aeris said without a trace of embarrassment.
"You're kidding!" Zack laughed. "I would think someone like you would live in a nice condo on the upper plate..."
"Why would you think that?" Aeris asked crossing her arms smiling.
"Well, because you're..." Zack started and then blushed a bit.
The train intercom came on announcing Sector 5 train stop and relieved Zack in knowing that he didn't have to dig himself out of that one. Aeris stood up and for the first time inspected her clothing, which was all muddy from her tumble in the rain and pouted.
Zack looked at her, "What's up?"
Aeris shook her head, "My mom's gonna kill me. Look at my clothes!"
Zack laughed out loud, "Because of that?! If she loves you, she's not going care about your clothes after she hears what happened."
Aeris thought for a moment, "You know... you're right."
Zack flashed his confident white smile as the train slowed to a stop and the doors opened. Zack held out his elbow, "Shall we?"
Aeris smiled and held his arm as the walked all the way to her house. When they arrived, Aeris pulled her house key out of her purse and slid it into the lock. Before she could even turn the key, the door flew open and her worried looking mother stood in the doorway.
"Aeris!" Elmyra cried as they entered the house. "Where have you been? I just sent you for a few groceries! You know I don't like you going to that church. You could get hurt by a loose piece of wood that could fall..."
Elmyra cut herself short when she finally saw the man standing next to her, "And who is this?"
"Mom, this is Zack," Aeris introduced.
Elymra raised an eyebrow and slowly offered her hand to the man, "I'm Elmyra Gainsborough, Aeris' mother. What are you doing with my daughter?"
Zack only uttered a nervous laugh before Aeris explained what had happened from the bald man with the sunglasses, to running through the Midgar streets, and finally to Zack rescuing her at the train station.
When Aeris was done, Elmyra looked back at Zack, not with suspicion this time, but with gratefulness, "Thank you, Zack. I'm sorry if I seemed rude, but I am very protective of my daughter and you can probably figure out why."
Zack nodded, "Yeah."
"Mom?" Aeris asked. "Can Zack stay for dinner tonight?"
"Of course he can," Elmyra said smiling. "Why don't you get cleaned up, Aeris? Zack can help me with dinner. It should be ready by the time you're done."
"Okay," Aeris said going upstairs.
Elmyra looked at Zack's glowing eyes for a moment and Zack was sure she was going to ask about them. Elmyra never did and just smiled a tired smile and went to the kitchen to prepare dinner. Elmyra did the cooking while Zack set the table.
"So are you from Midgar, Zack?" Elmyra asked.
Zack shook his head, "No, I came from Gongaga Village. My parents still live there."
Elmyra nodded, "What brought you to Midgar?"
Zack laughed, "It may sound kinda dumb but. Ever since I was a kid, I wanted to be a hero just like Sephiroth. So I moved here and made it into SOLDIER."
Elmyra dropped a dish and it shattered on the floor, "You work for... Shinra?"
Zack nodded moved to help pick up the shattered plate.
A flash of hostility crossed Elmyra's face right before her look of gratefulness, "Well, I suppose if you were like most of them, you wouldn't have gone through so much trouble to save my Aeris. Thank you again, Zack."
Zack just smiled and ran his hand through his hair then went back to picking up the broken plate. He heard someone coming down the stairs and as he looked over, he could feel his mouth nearly drop to the floor. Aeris had come down from getting cleaned up and she looked absolutely gorgeous. Her hair was pulled up into a neatly twisted ponytail with a strange white rock that almost looked like Materia sitting in a ribbon. She walked to the kitchen and Zack quickly stood up and rubbed the back of his head.
"Why don't you two have a seat?" Elmyra said. "It's almost ready."
They took their seats beside each other at the table and Elmyra joined them shortly after. It was good meal, not just the food but the company as well. Elmyra found herself liking Zack a great deal in the short amount of time that he had been there. He was polite, smart, and above all, he seemed very honest. After the meal was over and the three finished cleaning up, it was getting around to nine o'clock in the evening.
"I hate to say it," Zack said apologetically. "But I need to get going. I have to be up early tomorrow for training exercises. Thank you for the dinner, Elmyra, it was great."
Elmyra smiled, "Thank you for everything, Zack. Please come back any time."
Aeris took his arm, "I'll walk you out."
They stepped outside onto the front porch and Zack looked over Aeris' shoulder to all the blooming flowers.
"Wow," He said softly. "You know, I've never seen flowers in Midgar before."
"Yeah," Aeris said. "I love taking care of them, for some reason they have no problem blooming here."
"You should try selling them," Zack suggested. "Buying a flower from a pretty lady like you would brighten most anyone's day in a place like this."
Aeris just blushed.
"Hey," Zack said. "Can I see you again?"
Aeris put a hand over her mouth and giggled to herself.
Zack blinked, "What's so funny?"
"Nothing," Aeris said smiling. "You're talking like this is the end of a date."
"No, it's not," Zack said and smiled his confident smile. "But I would like to take you on one. That is if you want..."
Aeris just smiled, leaned forward and softly kissed Zack on the mouth. The kiss lasted only three seconds, but it seemed to linger on Zack's lips for the rest of the evening.
"Zack..." Aeris whispered. "Good night."
Zack smiled at her feeling a bit dazed, "Good night, Aeris."
The two met on a regular basis for the next year and it was the happiest year of Aeris' life. Zack never told her or anyone why Aeris hadn't had any kidnapping threats by Shinra Inc. and Aeris didn't want to bring it up... She hoped those days were finally over, but still had her doubts. She would have never guessed that the one ordering the Turks to find her was constantly being fed misinformation on her whereabouts. She never knew that one of the highest-ranking SOLDIER members of Shinra... her own Zack was sabotaging records and doing everything he knew possible to stop the Shinra from finding her. He didn't know why Shinra wanted her, and he never found out, but he would do... and did everything he could to keep Shinra away from her.
Things couldn't be going better for Aeris and Zack until almost a year after they met; Zack was summoned on assignment to Nibelheim. The two met the night before in the Sector 6 playground and sat talking for hours while sitting on the fat cat slide. When the talking was through and the night left nothing but expression of actions, they went back to Zack's apartment and made love not for the first time... but, for their last. Zack woke Aeris up early in the morning only to say goodbye and that he would miss her and promised that he would be back as soon as he could.
Zack never came back from Nibelheim.
Aeris waited for eight months. She checked the mail every day hoping for a letter. She checked Zack's apartment every day to see if he had returned. The last day she stopped by the apartment, it was listed for sale by Shinra Realty. Aeris was heartbroken. She didn't think that Zack had run off and started a new life without her. She honestly believed that something had happened to him, but she didn't believe he was dead. She didn't feel him in the Lifestream...
Aeris opened her eyes and she was once again sitting on the fat cat slide
with a First Class SOLDIER sitting next to her. But it wasn't Zack. (or was
"Aeris..." Cloud said looking curiously at her. "You okay? You look lost."
"I'm fine," She said sadly. "I just..."
Before Aeris could finish, a loud crashing sound came from behind them. They quickly turned around to look and saw the large gate to Sector 7 opening with a large coach pulled by a chocobo come rolling in. On the back was a lovely woman with dark brown hair flowing to the back of her knees. She was wearing a very small blue dress revealing her long legs and better than average breasts that bounced proudly as the car rolled over the uneven ground and towards the business district of Sector 6. Two men inside the cart watched the woman like wolves watching a lame deer with greed and anticipation. On the side of the cart was word on bold black cursive that read, "Corneo."
Cloud literally jumped up, "Tifa!?"
Final Fantasy 7 Fanfic