Chapter 10: Flowers in Midgar

Well, wrote this chapter up when I was supposed to be reviewing for Physics. This is now officially more updated than the one in fanfiction.net
Anyway, A lot of Cloud and Aerith interactions here that I added, but it somehow seemed to fit (Tifa fans, pipe down! I’ll make a Tifa scene like this too when the opportunity comes!)

Chapter 10: Flowers in Midgar

Are you all right? Can you hear me?

A voice was in his head.

“Yeah…”

Back then, you could get by with just skinned knees…

                “Huh? Back then? What do you mean?”

Don’t worry about me. Just worry about yourself now.

“…I’ll try…”

Hello? Hello?

                The voice changed. It was now feminine. He could have sworn it sounded real…

“Hello?”

Cloud opened his eyes and blinked. A pair of emerald eyes looked back at him.

This is a dream. He thought. I died and went to heaven, huh? He stared at the face in front of his. It seemed kinda familiar… He was just inches from her…

The girl blushed and moved back. Cloud sat up, confused. And then, he realized that their faces were really close just then.  His cheeks reddened a bit too.

“You okay?” She asked as she turned her back to him. “This is a church in the sector 5 slums. You and a bunch of other things suddenly fell down here. It was a bit scary…”

“I came crashing down?” Cloud asked, trying to make sense of what he remembered last.

A red robot, fire, the president…

“The roof and the flower bed must have broken your fall- You’re lucky.” The girl said, bending down and lightly brushing the flowers with her hand.

“So this wasn’t heaven, huh?” Cloud muttered. “And these were your flowers? Sorry…”

“…Seriously, do guys have a speech about heaven prepared for when they fall down?” She mumbled as she turned to him. “Anyway, it’s all right. The flowers here are quite resilient because this is a sacred place. They say you can’t grow grass and flowers in Midgar. But for some reason, the flowers have no trouble blooming here. I love it here.”

The girl smiled as she said that.

“Oh, I remember you!” Cloud said in remembrance.

“Haha!” The girl laughed. “Fancy meeting again so soon huh?”

“You were that scary flower girl!” Cloud said without thinking. He prepared for the worst…

“So, you remembered, huh?” The girl simply smiled that sad smile he saw before.

“Ahh.., yeah.” Cloud responded, unable to think of an answer.

Was she really that girl from before? She seemed so… peaceful here. Like this was her world. With a pretty girl in a paradise within Midgar… Life could be worse, right?

“But, am I really that scary?” The girl pouted at him.

“Sheesh, you ruined the mood.” Cloud laughed a bit.

“Eh?”

“Nothing.” Cloud smiled bitterly again. What was he doing here? Thinking a girl was pretty…

“Hmm, but you were staring at me.” The girl mused.

“I-” Cloud looked at her, trying to find an excuse.

He looked closer. He couldn’t help it. She really seemed familiar, yet he knew he didn’t know her. But still…

“Hey, what are you doing!” she stood with her staff out, looking alarmed.

Cloud went out of his reverie. He didn’t realize that he was already reaching out to touch her face.

Damn! Now she’s swinging the staff down on me!

                “Hold up! I wasn’t gonna-”

THUMP.

Cloud heard a painful sound as he felt his consciousness slip away for the second time.

<O><O>

“Ugh, wha-?” Cloud muttered as he woke up. He felt traces of magic around him. Restore, maybe?

“Umm, let’s start again, you just fell down from the sky and was rescued by me.” A brown haired girl was kneeling beside him, explaining the situation. “You should be very grateful since you might have died otherwise. As proof of your gratitude, you can just treat me to the 500 gil eat-all-you-can here at sector 5.”
“Oh…” Cloud shook his head, trying to recall. “Thanks, I guess I could have died, but I don’t have too much, so maybe a 50 gil bread would- Hey!”

The girl looked anxiously at him and then the door. She was sweating now.

“You hit me with that staff of yours! THAT’s how I was knocked out!” Cloud cried indignantly.

“Ugh, I got found out!” The girl puffed her cheeks childishly.

Ugh, is she a kid? She’s bloody older than me!

“Oh well, see ya!” The girl said brightly as she stood to leave.

Cloud grabbed her hand to stop her.

“Hey now, you just attacked me, you know.” Cloud stared at her.

“Well, you were sexually harassing me!”

“Just when did I do that!?” Cloud put his face on his palm. He really had to clear this up.

“Before I knocked you out!” The girl retorted. “You suddenly tried to touch me. And not exactly on a place comfortable for a girl!” She added, putting her arms around herself protectively.

“I was trying to touch your face! Not- well, there!” Cloud began.

“That’s almost the same!” The girl said, though she seemed to relax a bit. “Besides, why would you do that in the first place? It was so sudden, any girl would do what I did.”

Any girl would run and scream, not hit the guy with a bleeding metal staff! This was getting nowhere.

Cloud sighed.

“I reached out to touch you because you seemed kind of familiar AND because I just woke up. Sorry, but I don’t go around holding girls like that. Cloud explained.

Her green eyes studied him.

“Even if they looked as pretty as you.” Cloud added, somewhat lamely.

The girl gave a start at that. Then, she suddenly laughed- no, giggled! Was she seriously 22?

“Oh, that was funny!” The girl said, trying to stifle her laughter.

What was funny with what he said? Girls are seriously confusing.

“Was there anything funny with what I said?” he frowned.

“Nothing, nothing!” the girl said, finally managing to stop laughing. “Thanks for the compliment, I guess. But you don’t have to say it with a face that serious and a voice that grouchy.”

The girl smiled again.

“Sorry. Was I really that bad?” Cloud scratched his head.

The girl’s smile faded a little.

“Yeah, you’re even like that right now.” She frowned now. “Would it kill you to smile or something?”

Cloud froze. Huh. I rarely smiled these days. He realized.

When was the last time he smiled before he saw Tifa back at Sector 7 a few days ago?

He shook his head.

“That’s probably just because of the fall.” He said stiffly now.

“I hope so.” The girl said in a flat voice now, with a flat expression to match. “I don’t want to be stuck talking to Mr. ‘Even if they looked as pretty as you’.

Cloud turned his head and hid a grin. That bad, huh? I’d laugh at me too.

They sat in silence for a while after that.

Then,

“Say,” Aerith started. “I feel like talking, are you up to it? After all, this is the second time we’ve met…”

“Well, I have nothing better to do right now and you did save my life. Sort of.” Cloud turned to her. “So, yeah, I guess.”
<O><O>

“Wait, just let me finish tending to these flowers.” Aerith said as she watered the ones on the center. “There, done!”

She sat next to the moody guy who was looking at the flowers silently.

“Say, do you have any materia, mister er- moody person?” Aerith asked playfully, taking a small white stone from her hair somewhere.

The guy looked annoyed.

“I have a name, you know.” The guy said. “It’s Cloud Strife. And I have some.”

Cloud raised his materia-equipped bangles. “Nowadays, you can find materia anywhere.”

“Yeah, but mine is special.” Aerith said, rolling the white stone on her hands. “It doesn’t do anything.”

“Huh. You probably just don’t know how to use it.” Cloud said carefully, looking like he was trying not to piss her off again.

She frowned. Was she really that scary?

“I used the Restore materia on you earlier, remember?” She looked at him. “It just… doesn’t do anything. I just feel safe having it since it was my mother’s.”

“I see.” Cloud said, then went silent again.

“Oh, and since you didn’t ask,” she said, somewhat miffed. He’s not your usual guy, but at least ask my name! “It’s Aerith. Aerith Gainsborough.”

“Er- the materia? It has a name?” Cloud asked stupidly.

“No, you idiot, it’s my name.” Now she was annoyed.

“I know, I know, I was just teasing.” Cloud yawned and stretched out his arms, looking at the sky through the hole he made. She caught a half-smile on his face.

Suddenly, he turned to face her again.

“Nice name you have there, Miss Aerith Gainsborough.” And winked.

She laughed a bit. So he did have a sort of a personality. There was just a hint of it, like he was suppressing it, but it was there.

“You, on the other hand, have a remarkably suitable one. So, Mister Strife,” she asked, taking the bait. “if I’m a flower girl, what things do you do?”

“Me? Hmm…” Cloud wondered. “I guess I do a little bit of everything.”

She glanced at the entrance of the church. A man was leaning against the church door. She couldn’t see his features from that far, but he was wearing a black business suit.

“A jack-of-all trades, huh?” Aerith asked. “A freelancer who does odd jobs?”

“I suppose you can call it that, though I lean more towards the mercenary work kind of things.” Cloud said, his voice starting to lace with tension now. So he noticed it, too.

“Well Mister Strife, have you ever been a bodyguard?” She looked at Cloud, trying to tell him to relax. It’d be bad if someone like him fought seriously here. “You do a little of everything, right?”

“Hmm, I probably have, at some point.” Cloud answered, only relaxing a bit as the man just stood there.

“Then I’ll hire you as one.” She said simply, trying to catch him off-guard. “Get me out of here and take me home.”

He finally relaxed enough to look at her with those blue eyes.

“I can do that for you, I guess.” He suddenly grinned mischievously. “But it’ll still cost you, you know?”

She smiled now. Oh, he’s enjoying it now, huh? Is that a challenge?

“Let’s see, how about I repay you with… one date?”

“Huh,” Cloud said thoughtfully. “well, I can hardly say no to that now, can I? But I have a condition.”

Pressing his advantage, huh? And I thought he had no personality… Aerith smirked. “Hmm, if it’s something perverted, you’ll be needing an ambulance in a bit.” Now what could it be….

His eyes widened at that.

“Nothing like that!” Cloud said indigantly.

“So, what is it? I’m listening…” Aerith smiled at him. Her heart was starting to race now. She hadn’t felt this way in a while.

“You start calling me Cloud.” He said, grinning at her.

“Only if you start calling me Aerith.” She answered back.

Cloud stood up and put his sword in its place behind his back. Heading towards the man in the suit, he turned his head around, looked at her in the eyes and said:

“Fair enough, Aerith.”

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