The Cry of the Planet Chapter 34
By Edyn Cross
Aeris climbed down from the fat cat and watched the coach until it was out
of sight in the Sector 6 business district, "That girl in the cart was Tifa?
Where was she going? She looked kind of... odd."
Before Cloud could speak, Aeris took off towards the business district after the cart.
"Wait," Cloud said as he jumped off the slide. "I'll go on alone! You go home!"
"Damnit," Cloud hissed under his breath as he chased after Aeris who in turn was chasing after Tifa. When he finally caught up to her, she was standing below a large fluorescent sign that read, "Wall Market." The streets were alive with people, neon signs, and over eager salesmen. Gentleman's clubs, bars, small busnisses, and "working women" lined the streets of Wall Market making it into Midgar's prime red light district. An older man wearing a large brown trench coat closed at the front and wore shoes with no socks. As the man passed Aeris, he slowed his pace, licked his lips at her, and made a gesture with his right finger going in and out of his balled left fist.
Cloud took a step forward towards the man, "Get the fuck out of here."
The man seemed to recognize Cloud's clothes and turned away walking quickly down the street and disappeared into the anonymous crowd.
"This place is scary in a lot of ways," Aeris said. "Especially for a girl, so we've got to find Tifa fast."
Cloud just nodded thinking about how this could be a lot worse for Aeris. Tifa had no problem taking care of herself. She put up with drunks slobbering over her nightly at her bar... It was Aeris he was concerned about. She seemed a bit too... innocent for a place like this and he knew the men here could just smell it.
They began walking down the main street looking for any sign of Tifa. Men on the streets seemed to be eyeballing Aeris more than any other woman out there, working woman or not. It made Cloud feel protective, but even though he would never admit it, he liked just being seen with her.
"Hey you two!" A man called from a doorway. "You look like you could use some... rest! We have a big beautiful room. Round rotating bed, hot tub, mirrors on the ceiling..."
"Not interested," Cloud said flatly as Aeris giggled.
"Maybe over there?" Aeris said pointing to a sign that read, "Honey Bee Inn."
"Maybe..." Cloud said as they walked. "You okay with this?"
"Of course!" Aeris said taking Cloud's arm. "I've got my bodyguard to protect me."
Cloud just smiled and for and for a moment actually wondered when he would be getting his payment. His thoughts were cut short when they reached the Honey Bee Inn. Large billboards above the building displayed scantily clad woman in tiny bumblebee outfits. There were several men outside the doors talking amongst themselves each waiting for their Honeybee. Outside the group of men, Cloud saw a very familiar guy standing out front with short brown hair wearing a plain black jacket with a white shirt underneath.
"Man... Should I go... or not?" The man said to himself. "I get so mental at times like this, I'm hopeless!"
The man looked over and seemed to recognize Cloud, "Hey! Aren't you Cloud? Tifa's friend?"
Cloud nodded, "Johnny?"
"You mean..." Johnny stuttered. "You're here for some..." Johnny trailed off mumbling to himself and finished with a barely audible, "...also?"
Cloud shook his head and grinned, "Don't bring me down to your level."
"I know," Johnny chuckled in spite of himself. "I decided this after a lot of deep thought. My last memories of Midgar... you know."
Cloud just shook his head and walked with Aeris up to the bouncer of the Inn.
"Welcome!" The bouncer greeted Cloud looking him over. "Even unpopular dweebs like you may meet your destiny here! You lookin' for a girl?"
Cloud nodded, "You know a girl named Tifa?"
The bouncer rubbed his unshaven face, "Hey you're pretty fast. Tifa's our newest girl. Normally we like our new ones to get... acquainted with as many guys as possible, but unfortunately she's having an interview right now. Here at the Honey Bee Inn, it's customary for all the new girls to be taken to Don Corneo's mansion. The Don's a famous dilettante, but for some reason now he wants to settle down and is in the market for a bride."
Cloud nodded and turned to Aeris who was busy warding off one lame pickup line after another from the men idling outside the club. Cloud stepped between Aeris and the crowding men and didn't say anything. He didn't have to. The men quickly dispersed and went back to waiting for their favorite Honeybee to come available.
"The bouncer said Tifa's in Don Corneo's mansion," Cloud said as continued walking. "You know where that is?"
Aeris nodded, "It's furthest building north in this Sector. Not far at all."
The two made their way up the streets of Wall Market again passing eccentric men, working girls and every now and then a seemingly normal person. At the far end of the Sector was a mansion designed in Wutainese style with a man in a black suit and sunglasses standing sentry at the front door. Cloud approached the man and tried to act friendly. Before he could say anything, the sentry shook his head.
"This is the mansion of Don Corneo," The sentry said. "the most powerful man in Wall Market. Look, the Don's not into men so don't let me catch you here again..."
The sentry looked over to the woman standing next to him, "Hey, you got a cute one with you... I'm sure the Don would have lots of fun playing with her..."
Aeris smiled a bit and slowly blinked, "Excuse us a moment."
She took Cloud by the arm and pulled him aside, "This is it. I'll to take a look. I'll tell Tifa about you when I find her."
"No!" Cloud said and looked over to the sentry who was busy talking into his PHS. "You can't..."
Aeris put her hands on her hips, "And why not?"
Cloud looked for a way to put it nicely, "You DO know what kind of place this is, don't you?"
"Then what am I supposed to do?" Aeris said. "It's obvious you can't go in there with me."
Cloud scratched his head, "Well being a man that'll be pretty hard. Besides... If I bust in there, it'll probably cause too much commotion... But, I can't let you go in alone. First we need to find out how Tifa is doing..."
Cloud stopped when he saw Aeris laughing to herself, "What's so funny?"
Aeris shook her head, "The only way we both can get in there is if you dress up like a girl."
Cloud's eyes went as wide as saucers, "What!?"
Aeris walked back over to the bouncing and put her hands on her hips. The bouncer looked at her and put his PHS away, "You decide yet?"
"Just wait," Aeris said trying not to laugh. "I've got a cute friend I want to bring."
The sentry nodded, "Well, if she's as half a hot are you are, I... I mean the Don would be very happy to see her, too."
"Aeris!" Cloud hissed as they walked back towards Wall Market. "I can't..."
Aeris elbowed him in the side, "You ARE worried about Tifa, aren't you?"
"Yeah, but..." Cloud complained. "Isn't there another way?"
Aeris shook her head and smiled, "Nope. Hey look, there's a clothing store over there."
Cloud followed Aeris into the clothing shop and they looked around at various dresses. Cloud kept his head down, as his face was pure scarlet. He wished he were anywhere but here shopping for a dress for himself.
After spending ten minutes going through dresses, Aeris shook her head and sighed, "These are all way too small..."
Aww, too bad, Cloud thought in contempt. Guess we're gonna have to find another way. You know I was really looking forward to putting a dress on.
"Excuse me," Aeris said approaching the saleswoman at the front counter. "I'd like to get a dress, but it needs to be custom made..."
"Umm... It might take a little while," the saleswoman said. "Is that all right?"
"What's the problem?" Aeris asked.
"Well my father, the owner, has been in a bit of a slump lately," The saleswoman replied. "You see, he makes all the dresses."
"And where is your father?" Aeris asked.
The saleswoman laughed, "He's probably plastered at the bar."
"So..." Aeris said. "You're saying we can't get a dress unless we do something about your father?"
The saleswoman nodded, "Yes, I'm sorry. He doesn't listen to me anymore and he's caused so much trouble. Would you guys help bring him back?"
Aeris looked at Cloud and giggled again, "Well, if we don't do something, we don't get a dress, right?"
The saleswoman nodded again, "Really!? You'll help? Thank so much, I just don't know what to do with him anymore."
"Alright, we'll do something," Aeris said taking Cloud's arm. "Let's go."
Cloud followed Aeris down a few buildings to the closest bar. Unlike the streets, when they entered, no one took any notice of Cloud or Aeris. The bar was dark and smoky and very grim. There was an old jukebox by the entrance and above it was an old dusty picture with words written under it reading, "In dedication to Jonathan Serra." There was a man and a woman talking at the bar, one waiting to use the restroom and then one man sitting by himself staring at nothing but the drink in front of him. Aeris walked over to the man and tapped him on the shoulder.
"Excuse us," Aeris said politely. "Are you the father of the girl at the clothing store?"
The man slowly turned around and sighed. His breath reeked of his alcoholic drink and it looked like he hadn't showered in a month, "I own the clothes shop... but I ain't your father."
Aeris blinked, "I didn't say that..."
Cloud was getting impatient, "Make me some clothes."
The old man took a drink and sighed release another cloud of alcohol from his mouth, "I don't make men's clothes and I don't feel like makin' anything right now."
Aeris grinned, "Cloud, you wait over there for a second, I'll try and talk to him. Why do you go have something to drink?"
Cloud shrugged and took a seat at a table across the room.
"You know, Mister," Aeris said to the owner. "He always said that just once, he'd like to dress up as a girl. That's why I wanted a cute dress for him..."
The drunken owner spit beer out in surprise, "What!? A tough lookin' guy like that?"
Aeris nodded, "So, how about it? Will you make him one?
The drunken man rubbed his unshaven stubble, "... Might be interesting. I was gettin' a little bored just makin' regular women's clothes."
Aeris clapped her hands, "Then you'll do it for us?"
The drunken man nodded, "Yeah, all right. What kind of dress you want?'
Aeris considered this, "Something that feels soft... And something that shimmers!"
The man ordered another beer, "Hmm, you got it. Give me five minutes to finish my drink and I'll head to the shop. Drop by in half an hour or so and it should be ready."
"Thanks!" Aeris said walking back over to Cloud and sitting down at his table. "It'll be ready in thirty minutes. Let's get something to eat while we're waiting."
Cloud and Aeris had a light lunch with little conversation. It was obvious to Aeris that Cloud was very uncomfortable doing this, but as much as she hated to admit it, it was kind of fun. After they finished eating and paid the tab, the two walked back over to the clothing store ready for Cloud's new attire. The bell above the door chimed merrily as they entered the store.
"Oh you're here," The owner said as they entered and then eyed Cloud curiously. "It's ready. Go try it on."
Cloud flushed as he snatched the dress from the owner and stormed towards the dressing room with his head down. He threw the dress on the stool in the dressing room and drew the curtain across. Cloud leaned his sword against the wall and stripped out of his SOLDIER uniform piece by piece and dropped them in a pile in the corner. He stood naked except for his black boxers with little white moogles on them and looked at the dress in utter confusion.
"How... do you put this thing one?" Cloud muttered to himself. He slipped the dress over his head and fumbled with the zipper in the back only managing to get it half way up. Cloud looked in the mirror and just shook his head. He had never felt so ridiculous in his life. His eyes shot to the curtain when he saw it pull back and Aeris' green eyes peeked in.
"Whoa!" Cloud screamed trying to cover himself. "What are you doing!?"
Aeris just looked at him thoughtfully, "Hmm... It's still not right... Oh! A wig, that's what you need!"
If Cloud had a gun he would have shot himself. He pulled the dress back over his head and put his regular clothes back on and almost immediately felt "normal" again. As left the dressing room, he saw Aeris talking to the woman behind the counter.
"Excuse me," Aeris asked politely. "Do you know where we can find a wig?"
The saleswoman nodded, "I thought you might need one, so I talked to my friend about getting one. You know the gym here? You'll find a lot of people there like him. Go and have a talk with them."
"... Like me?" Cloud said giving Aeris a look. "What did you tell him?"
Aeris giggled a bit, "Does it matter? Anyhow, we got a pretty dress! Now we just need a wig."
Cloud just shook his head before they left the clothing store and crossed the street to the exercise gym. The gym smelled like sweat and cheap cologne. Two men were practicing squats in the boxing ring while another was punching a large bag. A man who was dressed in feminine clothing was just admiring himself in the large weightlifting mirrors. After he saw them enter, he swiftly walked to Cloud and gave him a wink. Cloud's stomach lurched
"You the one..." The man said checking Cloud out. "Who wants to be cute?"
Cloud blinked, "Cute?"
Aeris stepped in front of Cloud, "Right... About the wig..."
"Yeah I heard," The man said still looking at Cloud. "But it'll cost ya."
"Big Bro!" The feminine man called and then looked at Cloud. "The only way you're gonna get cuter is if you can beat the Big Bro!"
An enormous man with legs the size of rain barrels climbed out of the boxing ring and stood a few inches from Cloud's face.
"That's right!" The weightlifter said arrogantly. "So, you've got to compete with me! Let's do squats... I'll beat you right out of this gym!"
Cloud snickered and looked at the first man dressed in feminine clothes, "If this guy is Big Bro, does that mean you're...?"
Aeris tried to hold in a laugh as well, "THE beautiful Bro?"
The Beautiful Bro looked offended, "What? You didn't know? Never mind that, come over here."
Beautiful Bro lead Cloud to Big Bro who was doing stretches.
"You know how this goes?" Big looked at Cloud. "Start from the ready position, squat, and then get up back to the ready position in perfect form, like this."
The weightlifter did a few squats in front of Cloud.
"Got it?" Big Bro asked.
Cloud nodded, "Got it."
"Whoever has the most squats at the end of 30 seconds gets the wig. I'm not going to lose, The Beautiful Bro's wig is MINE!" Big Bro shot a wink to Beautiful Bro that made Cloud shudder. "So you want practice?"
Cloud shook his head, "No."
"Then lets get started!" Big Bro and Cloud went to the ready position. "Beautiful Bro, you keep count!"
Beautiful Bro nodded and looked at the clock on the wall, "Start!"
Cloud and the weightlifter began doing squats with Aeris watching in noting but amusement. She couldn't tell who was ahead, but the intent expression on Cloud's face made Aeris want to collapse on the floor in a fit of laughter.
"Stop!" Beautiful Bro called and looked at Cloud. "You had twenty-one squats and he had nineteen. That's really something... I'm a man of my word, here you are."
Man? Cloud thought to himself as he was handed over a blonde wig that had two braided pigtails.
Big Bro balled his fists, "I'm mad... I'm so so so MAD!"
"Shut up," Beautiful Bro said turning towards the weightlifter and laid a punch right in his stomach. "Don't cry just because you lost!"
"Let's go," Cloud said taking the giggling Aeris by the arm and leading her out.
Cloud frowned at her as they left the store, "I'm glad you find this amusing."
"I'm sorry," Aeris said still smiling and then pointed to a building. "Hey, can we go in the Materia store?"
Cloud just shrugged as they went in. Aeris went directly towards the Materia on display and dug in her jacket pocket for some gil.
"Hey man," The shop owner said softly to Cloud. "Got a minute? I need to talk... you know... man to man."
"What is it?" Cloud asked.
The owner looked over at Aeris, "I'm sorry, but young lady? Would you leave us alone for a second?"
A blank look took over Aeris' face, "Why...?"
Cloud shifted his weight, "Aeris..."
"Fine," Aeris said annoyed and left the store.
"Now here's the thing," The owner said to Cloud. "Do you know that vending machine in the inn? I'm itching to know what they're selling in it. All my friends are girls and I can't ask one of them to go get it? You know?"
"What don't you do it yourself?" Cloud asked.
"To tell you the truth," The owner explained. "I got in a fight with the guy at the inn and I can't go there anymore. So, would you do it for me?"
Cloud thought, since I'm in no rush to hurry to get dressed up like a woman, "I'll go."
The owner grinned, "Good thanks, I'll be waiting here when you're done."
Cloud shook his head to himself as he left the store and met Aeris outside. She was standing with her arms crossed and raised her eyebrows.
"Finished?" She asked impatiently.
"Yeah," Cloud said as they started walking. "Let's drop by the inn."
"...Why? Aeris asked. "It's still morning..."
"No, not that." Cloud replied. "I just gotta pick up something."
Aeris followed Cloud as a walked hurriedly back to the southern part of the district where the inn was at.
"Hey you two!" The greeter said outside the inn. "I knew you'd be back! We still have the room left with the circular bed and mirrored ceiling."
Aeris cleared her throat.
"No," Cloud said simply. "Can I use your vending machines?"
"Sure, sure," The greeter said. "Go on in."
"Aeris, could you wait here a sec?" Cloud asked.
Aeris looked at the greeter and then back at Cloud and nodded.
"Go on in!" The greeter said and then winked at Aeris. "I'll make sure none of the hoodlums lay a hand on her."
Aeris just chuckled uneasily.
Cloud went inside the inn and looked around for the vending machine. He was about to say screw it and give up when he found the machine in the far corner of the bottom hallway. Cloud eyed the machine curiously and bought the most expensive item. He left the inn to see Aeris helping the greeter reel in customers and appeared to be quite good at it. One man bought a stay at the inn for no apparent reason other than to get a chance to talk to the beautiful woman outside.
"Hey," Cloud said moving a few men to get to Aeris.
She gave him a bright smile, "All done?"
Cloud nodded, "I need to drop by the Materia shop again."
"Okay, but we really should hurry," Aeris said as they started walking.
"Come back anytime!" The greeter said as they left. A few men watched Aeris every step of the way and eyed Cloud jealously.
When they reached the Materia store Cloud turned towards Aeris.
Aeris held up her hand, "Don't need to ask, I'll wait here."
"Heh, thanks," Cloud said. The bell above the door jingled as he went in.
"Hey," The owner said as he went in.
"I got it," Cloud said going up to the counter.
"Oh, really!?" The owner said looking at Cloud closely. "And what is it?"
Cloud handed the storeowner his purchase and smirked a bit.
The storeowner stared at it dumbly, "A protein drink. That jerk. I'm gonna do so much more business than him, his head'll spin. Thanks for your help, bud. Take this, it's not much, but ya helped me out."
The storeowner handed Cloud a designer tiara. As Cloud accepted it, he debated on whether or not to give it to Aeris or to wear it with his wig. I wouldn't look half-bad...
The bell above the door jingled as Cloud left the store.
"Now what was THAT all about," Aeris asked.
Cloud shook his head and held out the tiara, "Nothing. But I got this."
Aeris clapped her hands, "Ooh! That will look so cute in your wig!"
Cloud rolled his eyes.
"Hey," Aeris said as they started walking again. "While I was helping outside the inn, some guy gave me a member's card to the Honey Bee Inn... I think we should check it out. It's owned by Don Corneo, we might be able to find out some more info on exactly where in the mansion Tifa's at."
Cloud nodded, "Not a bad idea. They won't let you in, though."
Aeris nodded, "I know, you can do this on your own I'm sure."
Cloud and Aeris made their way back down to the Honey Bee Inn for the second time. A few more men had gathered around. Some debating on whether or not to become a member, others just here looking for a chance to see some action. Cloud approached the bouncer, flashed the member's card that Aeris had given him and was let in without a moment's delay. Seeing Aeris now available, the men flocked to her moths to a light.
As the large gold door shut behind him, Cloud looked around the Inn and shook his head. Numerous pretty women clad in tiny, revealing bee outfits populated the room. Some going in and out of rooms and into the employees only room in the back. The rest were toying with other young men all waiting for their turn in one of the room with their favorite Honey Bee. The few Honey Bees by themselves eyed Cloud curiously and cautiously while one of them winked and wet her lips at him.
Cloud blushed and scratched the back of his head, "What am I doing here?"
Final Fantasy 7 Fanfic