Appointment With Destiny Chapter 12
Aeris was on pins and needles all day waiting for Sephiroth to arrive. She went through her closet four times before she ran out an bought a new dress. She tried several hairstyles before deciding to just let it hang with a ribbon holding part of it back from her face. She made another trip to the shopping center when she thought her shoes made her dress look bad. Back at home, she worked herself into a sweat dusting, re-dusting, and moving flowers or figurines around. Was the crystal shiny enough? Was that a spot on the table? She ended up taking shower and washing her hair again.
She was just about to get dressed, when she remembered she hadn't started dinner. Aeris raced around the kitchen in her robe, rushing to prepare a simple but elegant meal. At six thirty she pulled the last dish out of the oven. Satisfied at last, she was hurrying out of the kitchen to get dressed when Sephiroth opened the front door and walked in. Aeris took one look at him and burst into tears.
"I was hoping you'd be happy to see me," he said. "Should I leave?"
"I AM happy to see you," she said falling into his arms, "But I wanted everything to be perfect when you arrived. Look at me! I'm not even dressed and my hair is a mess!"
"It's not funny!" she complained. "I look terrible!"
"Aeris," he said, "If you were covered with dirt and wearing rags, you'd still be beautiful to me."
To Sephiroth's amazement, she cried even harder.
"What did I say wrong?" he asked bewildered.
"If you had to say that," she wailed, "I KNOW I look bad!"
"That's not what I said, and it's not what I meant!" Sephiroth raised Aeris' chin so that she had to look at him. "I'm going to do something just for you."
Aeris sniffed. "What?"
"I came here straight from my fathers office," he said. "I'm going back down to my office to pick up my messages. Will that give you enough time to get ready? I'll only be gone about twenty minutes."
She nodded. He kissed the tip of her nose, released her with a smile and left. Aeris raced into the bathroom and took a three minute shower with a musk scented body wash. Dressing as fast as she could, she stepped into her new shoes and unwrapped her hair. Fast and furious strokes brought it up into a nice sheen. She left it loose this time. She spent the next few minutes checking and rechecking her appearance. When Sephiroth opened the door again, she was standing there with a radiant blush, laughter in her eyes and a smile he couldn't resist. When he took her in his arms and kissed her this time, they didn't eat dinner until much later.
* * * * *
"Tell me about AVALANCHE again." Aeris buttered a slice of her breakfast toast. "How dangerous are they?"
Sephiroth gave her a curious look.
"Why? Are you thinking of joining them?"
"I'm just want to know more about them," she answered. "I've been told they're just people who are trying to get the President to stop hurting the Planet."
"Where did you hear that?" he asked.
Aeris spread jelly on her toast. "From a girl named Jessie."
Sephiroth sat up straighter, watching her intently.
"Jessie? You met Jessie Flasschoen?"
"Well, she didn't tell me her last name," said Aeris, "But she said her name was Jessie."
"Maybe you'd better start from the beginning," he said.
Aeris told him about meeting Jessie and their shopping excursion. Sephiroth didn't say anything while she talked but something in his eyes told her he less than pleased at what he was hearing.
"If you see her again, yell for help at the top of your lungs," he said. "AVALANCHE is dangerous. Stay away from them."
"Jessie didn't strike me as dangerous," began Aeris. "In fact I . . . "
"STAY AWAY FROM THEM!"
Aeris was so startled, she dropped her toast.
"I'm sorry." Sephiroth reached out and took her hand. "I didn't mean to yell at you. It's just that I can't help wonder why she approached you at all. She knows you're my wife and she knows I am always on the lookout for them. That means your meeting wasn't accidental."
"But she didn't know I was going to leave the building when I did," protested Aeris. "She didn't have any reason to think I'd leave it at all. How could she have planned to meet me?"
"I don't know," he admitted. "But I don't like it. It's a good thing Scarlet was watching out for you."
"Why is Scarlet watching out for me? I don't need a babysitter."
"I never said you did." Sephiroth took one last sip of his coffee and stood up. "Don't leave the building."
"But I wanted to look at some more things for our apartment," protested Aeris. "I'm not finished yet."
"Don't leave the building Aeris."
Aeris opened her mouth to speak, but his expression stopped her. Sephiroth looked at her a moment longer then went into the livingroom to get his sword. Aeris followed simmering.
"I thought you said you weren't feeling any more Jerin effects," she said.
Sephiroth attached the masamune to his belt and looked at her. "I'm not."
"So why are you being so bossy all of a sudden?"
"Never mistake kindness for weakness," he said.
"What's that supposed to mean?" asked Aeris.
"It means don't go out of this building," said Sephiroth. "Can I get you anything on the way home?"
"Yes." Aeris folded her arms. "A cake with a metal file in it."
Sephiroth looked puzzled. "What's that supposed to mean?"
"It means you're going to be late for work if you don't hurry up and get out of here," said Aeris. "You're a general after all, what kind of example are you setting for your men?"
Sephiroth went to the front door. He opened it and turned back to look at his wife. "I'm not trying to make you feel like a prisoner Aeris. I just want to make sure you're all right."
Aeris relented a little. "I know."
"Are you too angry to kiss me goodbye?"
She smiled at him and went into his outstretched arms. They shared a lingering kiss before Sephiroth released her and went on his way.
Over the next few days, Aeris kept hoping Sephiroth would take her to the shops outside the building, but Heidegger kept scheduling drills for the troops and he couldn't commit to a date with her. Two weeks, after he'd come home, Heidegger sent Sephiroth and a squadron of troopers to the Junon Training Facility for an undisclosed period of time.
Aeris hid her disappointment by rearranging the furniture. She was contemplating the fourth change when someone knocked on the door. Hoping Sephiroth was home at last, she opened the door. It was Scarlet.
"If I didn't know any better, I'd think you weren't happy to see me," said Scarlet coming in as usual, without being invited. "You hardly come out of your apartment anymore, so I came to admire your handy work."
"I'm sorry," said Aeris, closing the door. "It's just that I was kind of busy."
"I see." Scarlet looked around. "This place has really changed."
Aeris beamed. "I found some really nice things in those shops outside the building. See my lace curtains?"
Scarlet went to the window to inspect the drapes. She didn't say anything right away. Leaning closer, she examined the stitching then straightened unimpressed. "They're nice."
"Nice?" Aeris frowned at her.
Scarlet gave Aeris a condescending smile. "They're not bad for what they are. One could almost believe they're more expensive than they look."
Scarlet yawned and stretched. "It's too bad you couldn't find better drapes than these but you didn't do too bad for your first try."
"You're saying I chose terrible drapery?"
"No. They're all right . . . I guess," said Scarlet airily. "You tried."
Aeris went to the coffee table. "I bought a supply of furniture polish there too. It's the liquid kind that makes wood last for years. It repels dust longer too."
Her jaw dropped as she watched Scarlet run her fingertips over the table, then inspect them.
Scarlet glanced around then headed for the bedroom. Aeris followed.
"Where are you going?"
"I just want to see what else you've done."
She wandered from room to room looking. Aeris simmered slowly but decided to allow the inspection because she knew everything was neat and clean.
Scarlet's tour ended back in the living room.
"How do you like it?" asked Aeris.
Scarlet gave her a pitying look. "You did the best you could under the circumstances."
"What?" Aeris stared at her.
"Don't be mad," said Scarlet. "You came from a different world. Decorating like this is probably the rage where you come from. I don't expect you to be up on the decorating trends in this world yet. It's a wonder Sephiroth didn't give you a few pointers, but then I guess he understands you have to do a little more adjusting to do."
Scarlet looked toward the curtains again. "Ask him to find someone to get your drapes from Sector 7. Just that alone will perk this room right up."
"Scarlet," said Aeris with barely concealed rage. "Get out of here."
Scarlet looked shocked. "What did you say?"
"I said get out before I drag you out." Aeris clenched her fists to keep her hands from shaking.
Scarlet held her hands up in supplication. "I'm sorry Aeris. Sometimes I'm too direct in my remarks. I wasn't trying to hurt your feelings or belittle you. I'd be more than happy to help you redecorate if you want me too."
"I don't need your help." Aeris went to the door and opened it. "If you think my decorating tastes are too bland for you, you don't have visit my home. Goodbye."
"I'm really sorry Aeris." Scarlet dropped her head and walked out the door. She turned and opened her mouth to say something, but Aeris slammed the door in her face.
"The NERVE!" Aeris was so angry, she picked up one of the pillows on the couch and threw it at a wall. "That overdressed, over made up . . . !"
She stopped and looked at the drapes she'd been so proud of moments before and her eyes started to sting. She went to them and ran the material over her hands. Somehow the pretty flowered pattern had lost its appeal to her. Aeris stood back and looked around the room. Was her decorating tastes really so far away from those in this new world? Sephiroth hadn't uttered a word of complaint but was that because he didn't want to hurt her feelings?
The phone rang startling Aeris out of her thoughts. It rang again and she stared at it. She didn't feel like talking to anyone right now. The phone rang again. Aeris sighed, then went to answer it.
"Did I catch you at a bad time?" asked Sephiroth.
Aeris brightened. "No. I was just moving some of the furniture."
"Again?" There was amusement in his voice.
"I'll get it right eventually," she said. "Are you coming home today?"
"That's what I was calling about," he said. "I won't be back for another week. We'll be out in the field."
"Oh." Aeris sat down.
"I'll take you out to dinner when I get back," said Sephiroth.
"I'm taking you to a restaurant OUTSIDE the Shinra building," he said.
"Really!" Aeris sat up. "We'll go outside? Really?"
"It's been that bad huh?" Sephiroth laughed. "Yes really."
"I'm looking forward to it," she said.
"Fine. I'll see you in a week," he said. "I have to go now."
"I love you."
"I know." He laughed again. "See you in a week."
Aeris hung up. His lack of response to her sentiment didn't bother her. Sephiroth wasn't one to say words of love with an audience present and wherever he was, he probably wasn't alone. The phone rang again. She picked it up.
"Hi Aeris," said Scarlet. "I was just thinking. Why don't I take you shopping where you can find some new drapes? I'm free right now."
"No thank you."
Aeris hung up.
"How dare her?" she said out loud. "I was just feeling good and she goes out of her way to make me mad again!"
Aeris looked at her drapery and frowned.
"I'll show YOU Scarlet!"
She ran into the bedroom and changed into a dark blue pants set. She brushed her hair then carefully braided in so it fell down the middle of her back. Aeris examined herself in the mirror. Did she look like someone carrying a lot of money? Not really. She put her wallet in her pants pocket and went to the door.
"I'll show YOU Scarlet," she muttered under her breath as she locked it behind her. "You'll eat your words lady."
Aeris didn't want to take the elevator, but it was the quickest way down. She stepped inside and pressed the button for the second floor. The elevator began to descend. Aeris kept her eyes on the opposite elevator shaft. To avoid the Hundred Gunner, she took the stairs whenever she could. It didn't get in the opposite car as often as it had in the beginning but it still made her nervous. To her relief, her platform didn't stop once on the way and the fearsome machine never made an appearance.
Aeris stepped out of the elevator cautiously on the 2nd floor and looked around. There was no one around. She hurried to the stairway door and closed it quietly behind her. She took the stairs down to the first floor. She opened the door carefully and looked around. The lobby was crawling with people, but Aeris was doubtful. If Scarlet saw her on the monitors, she'd be down here as fast it wouldn't be funny.
Aeris watched a while longer, then decided she had to try to get out, before she lost her nerve. She left the elevator and tried to look inconspicious as she strolled out the door. She hurried away from the building as fast as she could, but she didn't feel safe until she was beyond the boundary of her last shopping trip. Aeris looked back, but no one was following her.
I did it, she thought. I really did it.
Jessie would have been a welcome sight, but when Aeris looked around, all she saw was strangers. She had to keep moving or someone might recognize her from the building. She'd only gone a little further when a man old man with a choco cart asked if she was lost. When Aeris asked for directions to the train station he offered to take her. She accepted his offer.
At the train station, she was pleased to find the tracks ran right through Sector 7. Aeris boarded the second car and found a seat with a sense of excitement. Sephiroth would be furious if he knew what she was doing, but she decided wouldn't tell him for a while. She'd order her drapes and hurry home after making arrangements for them to be delivered. She smiled as the train pulled out of the station.
A car pulled up near the steps of the platform. The passenger door opened and Scarlet climbed out of the passenger seat. Tseng stepped out of the drivers side. A man with his long red hair in a pony tail and a bald man climbed out of the back seat. A blonde woman, holding a radio got up off a bench near the stairs and joined them.
"She's on the train," the woman said.
"I knew she'd take the bait." Scarlet lit a cigarette.
"As long as she thinks we don't know she's gone, everything should go according to plan," said Tseng. "Hojo will get what he wants."
"What made you so sure she'd leave the building today?" asked the red haired man.
Scarlet blew a cloud of smoke into the air.
"You don't know women very well do you Reno?"
"I know enough to get what I want," he answered. "I'm not interested in the rest."
"It must have been some insult," said the blonde. "What did you say?"
"Just enough to make her want to choke me, " answered Scarlet. "I figured she'd sneak out of the building, but I didn't think she'd come to the train station. Are you sure you were tracking the right girl Elena?"
The blonde woman nodded. She's never met me, so she doesn't know I work for Shinra. I heard her asking the old man to bring her here. He was driving so slow, it wasn't a problem to follow them on foot. When she got here, Aeris asked another man for directions to Sector 7."
"What an unexpected bonus," said Scarlet. "I thought she'd try to find better drapes in the outer shops. She talked about Sector 7, but I never thought she'd try to go there alone!"
She turned to Tseng.
"Just make sure she isn't seriously hurt. The last thing we need is Sephiroth in a rage. Rough her up enough to get what we need and make a break for it."
"That's easy enough," answered Tseng. "I know some people in that area would do anything to make a quick gil. I'll arrange for a mugging. We'll stay in the back ground and make sure things don't get out of hand."
"That's darned clever of you Tseng," said Scarlet. "If you rescue her from her muggers, Sephiroth will never suspect the Turks were involved."
"That's the idea." Tseng turned as another car pulled up behind them. "There's your ride. I'll report back to you later."
Scarlet nodded and wiggled her way to the second car. She hoped Tseng was watching, but when she looked back, he was already in the car. Only the blonde looked back. Scarlet turned away. It was Tseng's loss. She opened her cell phone and punched in Hojo's number.
Aeris was overwhelmed by the sights outside her window. Sephiroth was always so busy. This was her first real look at Midgar. There was more to see than she'd ever dreamed of. She made a mental note to ask Sephiroth to give her a tour around the city the first chance he got.
The train stopped from time to time at one station or another. Aeris experienced her first rush of panic when the lights started flashing and an alarm sounded. The train stopped and armed guards came aboard. They surrounded a man sitting by himself four rows down from Aeris. The man pleaded and begged but there was no sympathy from his captors. They dragged him from the train. That's when Aeris found out about the automatic identification checkpoints along the tracks. She trembled in her seat expecting the guards to return for her, but the train pulled out of the station and went on its way. She didn't relax until they passed another check point without setting it off.
They must not know I'm gone, she thought. No one is looking for me.
The nice buildings and homes gave way to structures less kempt. For the first time Aeris began to wonder if she'd done something dumb. When the train pulled into an old decrepit station, she almost changed her mind about getting off. The conductor noticed her hesitation and frowned at her. She gave him a confident smile and stood up.
"Enjoy your day," she said cheerfully as she went to the door.
He just stared at her.
Aeris stepped down to the platform and walked as though she knew where she was going. She could feel the conductors eyes on her back. Beads of sweat broke out on her forehead. If he turned her in now, not only would Sephiroth be furious with her, he'd lock her in the apartment and program the doors not to open for her again.
Holding her head high, she walked as if she wasn't worried about a thing in the world. The conductor turned away and boarded the train again. When Aeris heard it leaving the station she slowed her steps then stopped. She looked after the departing train fighting the urge to run after it and try to jump on.
The train went around a corner out of sight. Aeris turned to the buildings before her. They were an odd assortment of single and multi-floored structures. All of them were run down. The whole area looked gloomy and dank. The more she looked around the more depressed she became. Aeris had no idea of where to go. She'd have to find something to help for help.
While Aeris was studying her surrounding, seven figures stood back in the shadows of a building watching her.
"Knock her around a little," said Tseng. "But don't leave any marks, meaning her face especially. Cut her arm just enough to get a blood sample. Nothing life threatening or serious. Pin her arms behind her back to do it. Don't let her see what you're doing. You can scare her but NOTHING ELSE! When you get the blood, let her get away, shout loud enough for us to hear and we'll come running and "save" her. Reno will take her back to the car while we're supposedly handling you three. You give the blood to me and you'll get your pay. We're going to fire three shots in the air to make her think you're dead. Get out of town as soon as you can and change your looks. She belongs to someone who is going to be very unhappy with what you're going to do to her and he'll track you down if he can. Change yourself or die."
The three shady looking men nodded.
"We got ya boss," grinned the leader.
"A mugging," said Tseng. "Nothing more."
The three men nodded again and slipped into the shadows.
"When they finish the job, kill them Elena."
The blonde woman nodded. "Will do."
Aeris felt the curious stares of the inhabitants as she passed but most people ignored her. A few of the men gave her inviting smiles and made cat calls behind her back but she wouldn't look at them. If I look like I'm not afraid and I'm not going to take any nonsense from them, they'll leave me alone, she thought. Her idea seemed to work until three men stepped out of a doorway and surrounded her.
"Where ya goin' sweet thing?" asked one.
"Why don't you slow down a little and have a drink with us?" asked another.
"No thank you," said Aeris trying to look as if their stopping her was just a minor annoyance. "I have to be going. I'm meeting friends."
"You've just met 'em," said the third man. He licked his lip and rubbed his hands together. "Your friends like what they see."
The first man tried to touch her hair. Aeris slapped at his hand. He jerked it out reach
"Wassa matter baby?" he cooed. "All I wanna do is run my hands through your beautiful hair. There's no crime in that is there?"
"Please leave me alone." Aeris tried to push through the men but they barred her path with their bodies.
Aeris kept her voice steady. "Move."
"We plan to," said the first one looking around. "We plan to."
There had been a few people on the street before the men accosted her. Sensing trouble, they'd all vanished like magic. Coming from a world where people chose not become involved even when someone was being murdered in plain sight, Aeris knew all to well what was happening. She tried to make a break for it, but the men grabbed her and a dirty hand clamped over her mouth. She tried to fight them off but she was no match for three strong men. They snatched her off her feet and carried her into a into a trash filled alley arguing over who would have her first.
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