Premonitions II-C: Crisis Core

BY : Hippo_and_Friends_with_Benefits
Category: Final Fantasy VII > General
Dragon prints: 702
Disclaimer: I do not own Final Fantasy VII, Crisis Core, it any characters therin. I am not making any money here.

Chapter 13: The Fateful Meeting

April 2, 0001

Zack was barely conscious. As his eyes were closed, he could see nothing; just black. He felt an ache in his back, yet a softness behind him; something had broken his fall.

And then, he heard his mother's voice.

"Tell me what happened," Mrs. Fair commanded.

"Mom?" Zack called into the oblivion. "I want to help out a friend. But, I don't know how I can do it."

I felt sorry for him; Angeal was a lost cause and he still wouldn't accept it.

"Hell-llooo!" called a female voice.

"Mom?" Zack responded. He was puzzled; that wasn't his mother's voice. He didn't recognize it.

But I would have.

Reality quickly returned.

Zack found himself laying on the ground in what looked like a cathedral. Flowers were all around his body.

And guess who was standing over him?

"Hell-llooo?" Aerith repeated.

Zack's eyes fluttered wide open, revealing that he was alive.

"Hooray!" Aerith exclaimed as she stood up and smiled.

As soon as Zack saw Aerith, he was stunned by how beautiful she was. He observed her emerald eyes, her long hair, and her perfect teeth. For a moment, he actually thought he had died.

"Heaven?" he asked.

"Not quite," she replied. "Church in the slums."

He then sat up and took a longer look at her. To him, she seemed so soft and...comforting.

"An angel?" he asked.

"No," she giggled in flattery as she shook her head. "I'm Aerith!" She then turned her back to him and pointed to the ceiling. "You fell from the sky. Scared me." She then faced him again, smiling.

"So you saved me, huh?" Zack observed.

"Not really," Aerith dismissed as she put her hand to her mouth. "'Hell-llooo!' That's all I did."

Zack laughed, and did a somersault to get to his feet. He liked her right away, and wanted to impress her.

Aerith laughed happily.

"Thank you so much, Aerith," he said as he folded his arms. "I'm Zack. I have to repay you somehow."

"Don't worry about it," Aerith said with a smirk. It was obvious what she was really thinking: Please ask me out. Please ask me out!

"No, no," Zack insisted. "Hey, how about one date?"

"What is that?" asked Aerith. "Don't be silly!"

Zack sighed.

Aerith smiled again. She had a crush on him the moment she saw him, but still wanted to play hard to get. Gehrig had to have taught her that.

Zack, meanwhile, failed to watch his footing.

"Stop!" Aerith exclaimed. "Don't step on the flowers!"

"Excuse me?"asked Zack as he put his foot on the hardwood.

"Normally, people are more careful with flowers," she reprimanded.

"Well, I guess I'm not normal," he said. He then took another look at the flowers. "You don't see a lot of flowers in Midgar. They're like luxury items around here."

"They only grow here," she explained. "Although I planted some outside my house, too."

Zack took another look at the flowers; this girl seemed to make everything positive.

"If I were you, I'd sell them," he suggested. "Midgar's full of flowers, your wallet's full of money!"

"Midgar, full of flowers," Aerith repeated. "Wallet full of money... I never thought of it that way."

He certainly liked her, but he also realized that he was on the job. He needed to get back to the Shinra Building.

"So do I have to go through the roof again?" he then asked. "Or is there another way out?"

"The exit?" she replied. "That door over there. Going already?"

"Yeah, I should get going," he said. "All right. Thanks again, Aerith."

"Yeah," she said.

Zack began to walk toward the door, but when he reached it, he turned around for another look at Aerith. He was just as smitten with her as she was with him. He couldn't control himself.

"So, are you always here?" he asked.

"Yeah," Aerith replied as she put her hands behind her back. "Hey, so where are you going?"

"I'm not really sure," he answered. He knew there were a lot of people in the slums who weren't exactly fans of the Shinra.

Aerith smiled and went up to him. "I'll take you there, okay?" she offered.

"Where?

"Hmm, I'm not really sure," she echoed as she closed her eyes sheepishly.

Zack immediately figured out her intentions.

"You just want to spend more time with me, right?" he deduced.

"Yeah," she replied as she opened her eyes and gave a flirty smile.

Aerith took Zack outside the church, and he scanned his surroundings.

"This must be under the plate," Zack observed. "Sector Five. This is the slums."

"Yeah," Aerith confirmed. "If you walk a little, you'll be in the central slums. There's lots of people, and you can go above the plate from there, too. So I'll walk you over there."

"If I can get out onto the streets, I guess I can figure things out from there," he said. "Okay, lead the way."

"Okay," she agreed. "I'll show you the way to the central slums."

Aerith led Zack down the church stairs, and scanned the ground nearby.

"I'd like to plant flowers here, too," she said. "If there were flowers lining the streets, it would be sooo beautiful."

It was a beautiful moment, and then it got interrupted. Two hedgehog pies, rather bothersome creatures known to lurk in the slums, approached them.

"Monsters!" Aerith exclaimed.

"Ah, here we go," Zack said calmly.

"Zack, let's run!" she pleaded.

"Don't sweat it!" he assured her as he drew his sword. "I'll protect you. I'll handle it."

"You can?" she asked.

"Just stand back, so you don't get hurt," he commanded.

Zack immediately took care of the creatures with one swipe.

Aerith immediately placed both of her hands to where her heart was. Nobody had ever defended her like that.

"I feel so safe with you, Zack," she said with a smile.

"Is that right?" he asked.

"Yeah," she said as her smile widened. "You can beat up monsters." She then walked over to him and gently squeezed his bicep. "You're so strong."

"Strong, huh," Zack said as he began to blush.

"Is something wrong?" she asked with a smile.

"No," he dismissed. "It's nothing. Anyway, those things weren't tough at all! So, did I look cool? A little?"

"Hmm," she playfully replied with her index finger to her mouth.

"Hmm?"

"Beats me," she giggled.

"Aerith," he said, "in these types of situations, you should be more..."

"Hey, Zack," she interrupted with a smile. "Let's go, okay?"

"Uh, hell-lloo?" he weakly asked.

"Come on, let's keep moving," Aerith commanded. "We have to get to the central slums before more monsters show up. But I guess if you're with me, there's nothing to worry about, right?"

As she led him through the slums, they suddenly became more populated, with people going about their daily lives.

"People from the slums can be categorized into two groups," Aerith explained. "Those who hate Shinra, and those who idolize Shinra."

"And which are you?" Zack asked.

"T. U. L.," she replied.

Eventually, they reached a gate. It looked like it was dividing sectors, they same ways as on the surface.

"So the central slums are this way?" Zack asked.

"Yeah," Aerith replied.

Zack was silent.

"What is it?" she asked.

"I guess the slums are built just like any other city," he observed.

"Of course," Aerith agreed. "Many people have lived here for a long time. Inside the gate there, there's a marketplace. It's fun because there are so many stores. You can go above the plate from there, too."

Zack was silent. He had never thought of the slums as their own little community.

"Do the slums seem strange to you?" she asked. "I grew up here."

"It's kinda stuffy down here," he replied.

"Really?" asked Aerith. "It's always like this, though."

"I know what it is!" Zack realized as he looked upward. "You can't see the sky."

Aerith gave him a weak smile.

"Who wants to see the sky?" she replied. "I don't, that's for sure."

"Wouldn't you normally miss seeing the sky if you lived under a plate all year round?" he asked.

"I guess I'm not normal," Aerith said as she put her head down.

Zack suddenly felt bad inside. It was because she was feeling down. It made him realize just how much he liked this girl.

"You want to talk about it?" he offered.

She looked up, and made eye contact.

"The sky frightens me," she began. "I feel like it's sucking me in. Weird, huh?"

Zack shook his head.

"Listen," Aerith said sadly, "I know you're about to go running." She closed her eyes again. She wanted to cry.

And then, she heard him approach her. Moments later, she felt him holding her hand. Her heart skipped a beat.

"Normal is overrated," Zack assured her.

"Think so?" she asked.

"I have an idea!" he suggested. "One day, I'll take you to see a beautiful sky, the real sky. It's not frightening at all. I know you're gonna love it."

"Maybe I will," she said as she opened her eyes and smiled.

Zack and Aerith walked through the gate, still holding hands.

Aerith was on cloud nine. She had never held hands with a guy before, and the feeling gave her goosebumps.

Eventually, they got to the market.

"Looks like an interesting place," Zack observed.

"Maybe we should take a look around?" Aerith suggested as she scanned the area.

"Whoa!" cried a high voice suddenly. "Watch out!"

Moments later, a nine-year-old boy ran into Zack.

"Oh, sorry," Zack apologized as he grabbed the spot the boy had ran into.

"Be more careful!" the little shit reprimanded before darting off.

Aerith immediately got a concerned look.

"Hey, Zack?" she began. "You didn't just lose something, did you? Like any of your belongings?"

"Did I lose something?" he echoed as he checked his pockets. "I don't think...". And Then, he learned the awful truth. "Aaagh! My wallet!"

"It's gone?" she asked.

"Was it that kid?" Zack asked rhetorically as he put his face in his hand. "I'm gonna hunt him down!"

"Zack, wait," Aerith objected. "I'm sorry, but I know that boy."

"You know him?"

"There has to be some reason," she continued. "He would usually never do something like this."

"Whatever the reason, stealing is wrong," Zack insisted. "I'm gonna find him, and..."

"Let's ask him why he did it," Aerith interrupted. "I'll bring him here."

Before Zack could say anything, she turned and ran off.

"Hey, Aerith!" Zack called, but it was too late; she had disappeared around the corner.

"She's gone," he sighed. "I'll have to look for him, too! There's a lot of people here. I guess I'll ask around."

He did just that. Eventually, Zack did spot the son of a bitch.

"There!" he announced. "I got you now!"

The thief began to run again. Unfortunately for him, Aerith had reappeared, and was blocking his escape.

"Aerith!" Zack called. "He's running towards you!"

Aerith put her hands on her hips and gave the boy a stern look.

"Hey, you," she commanded. "No more running."

"We got him!" Zack exclaimed victoriously. "You sneaky little runt! Stealing from people is a-"

"Zack," Aerith reprimanded.

"A very, very bad thing!" he corrected himself. The last thing he wanted to do was make an ass of himself in front of her. "So tell me, why did you do it?"

"It's none of your business," the boy snapped as he turned away.

"When you stole my wallet, you made it my business!" Zack retorted.

"You promised me a long time ago that you would never steal again," Aerith added. "Are you in some kind of trouble?"

The thief was silent.

"If you're in trouble, just say so," Zack commanded. "Now you've got Aerith all worried."

"My own wallet was eaten by a monster," the turd answered. "But I have to buy medicine, and get home quickly."

"Medicine?" Zack asked. He looked at Aerith; he knew what she would want him to do. "I'll get your wallet back from the monster."

Aerith's eyes widened in concern.

"But it's dangerous," she objected.

"No worries!" Zack assured her. "Monsters in this area are no match for me! Besides, if I don't do this, he's gonna have to steal again, right?"

"Then I'll help, too," she offered.

"No, it's okay, Aerith, really," he insisted. "I'll take care of it. You can stay here and keep that kid out of trouble."

The little shithead groaned.

"The monster should still be on the street that goes to the park," he said. You need to prepare a little before going, right?" He then reaches out his hand. "It's not much, but here's your wallet back."

"It's not much?!" Zack exclaimed. "You're not making it easy for me to forgive you!"

Zack then ran off.

The boy immediately turned to Aerith.

"You have a crush on him," he said.

Aerith shook her head, but produced a guilty smile.

"It's okay," the boy continued. "I can tell."

She smiled out of embarrassment, and began to blush.

"He likes you, too, you know," the boy continued.

"You think so?" she asked.

"He has to," the boy confirmed. "The way he listens to you like that."

Zack returned with the wallet a few minutes later, as promised.

"You really got it back!" the kid exclaimed.

Zack forced a smile as he handed the wallet back.

"Eww!" the boy exclaimed. "It's all slimy!"

Mind you, it had be down the gullet of a creature.

"Quit complaining!" Zack retorted. "You should be glad just to have it back!"

Aerith gave Zack a concerned look.

"Zack, were you hurt?" she asked.

"Not a scratch!" he assured her. "No problem whatsoever! Now, to deal with this brat. Get ready for the longest lecture of your life!"

Aerith placed a hand on her hip and gave Zack a look.

"Is what I'd like to say," Zack quickly corrected himself, "but you can go. You're in a hurry, right?"

"Thanks, mister," the boy said.

"Next time you're in trouble," Zack continued, "don't steal! Come talk to me first."

"I appreciate the offer," said the boy, "but I think I'll pass. I thought you looked pretty rich, but your wallet told me another story."

"Don't mock me, junior!" Zack warned. "I'm gonna be a wealthy man soon. Aerith and I are gonna sell flowers!"

Aerith gasped in surprise.

"We call it Operation: Midgar Full of Flowers, Wallet Full of Money!" he continued.

"That's right!" she giggled. "Midgar full of flowers, wallet full of money!"

"Aerith, are you seriously doing this?" the kid asked skeptically.

"Yes," Aerith replied. "I'm gonna try, anyway. So, no stealing! Come talk to me if you're in trouble, okay?"

"All right," the thief agreed. "I'll come talk to you. Well, I really do have to hurry. Thanks, Aerith, mister. You should be more careful on the street, unless you want your wallet taken again!"

"Obnoxious little brat!" Zack responded. "Get lost already!"

"Okay, boomer!" the boy shouted as he ran off. He was out of sight within moments.

"Thanks for helping that boy, Zack," Aerith said with a smile.

"Oh, it was nothing," Zack assured her.

"Hey, Zack?" she began. "Were you really serious about selling the flowers?"

"Of course!" he replied. "How can I turn back now, after all I said? I have an idea! Let's make a wagon!"

"A wagon?" Aerith asked.

"Yeah!" Zack exclaimed enthusiastically. "A flower wagon! If we have a wagon to put the flowers in, we can cart them all around Midgar selling them."

"Oh yeah, that's true," she agreed. "That is a good idea!"

Zack and Aerith resumed their hand-holding, and soon came across a vendor called Shopping Paradise.

"Welcome to the item shop!" greeted the clerk. "On sale for a limited time only! A most exquisitely fragrant perfume!" He then turned to Aerith. "An ideal gift for that special lady friend! How about it, mister? Three hundred gil each!"

"I guess I could buy one," Zack agreed.

"This perfume is a limited-time offer. It's first-come, first-serve, so act quickly!"

Zack rolled his eyes.

"Here's a proposition for you!" suggested the clerk. "Normally, the price is three hundred gil even, but if you were to blend in some of this valuable rose oil, this cheap perfume can become quite luxurious! Would you like to try blending?

"Yeah, let's try!" Zack agreed.

Zack carefully mixed the oils. When he finished, he handed the perfume to his companion, hoping for the best.

"Aerith, this is for you," he said. "I hope you like it."

"Oh, thank you!" she happily said. "I wonder what kind of scent it is!" She sprayed it on herself, and was almost immediately mesmerized by the aroma. "Wow! It just smells so nice! Thank you so much, Zack. You're really amazing! I'll cherish it."

"All right!" replied Zack. "Does this mean you really like it?"

"Yeah," she answered. "It's almost a shame to use it. I'll be so sad when it's all gone. Can I just keep it without using any?"

"Y-yeah?" said Zack. "Well, I hope you enjoy it!"

The two of them giggled in unison.

A few vendors down was the accessory shop.

"Oh, hi Aerith," the clerk greeted. "Is that your boyfriend?"

"Hmm," she replied as she took a glance at Zack. "I'm not sure yet."

The clerk scanned him himself.

"Hey, aren't you...you are!" He exclaimed. "The guy who was chasing that kid around! I heard about you from the neighborhood folks. I thought you were just some dumb outsider, but it turns out you're a pretty good guy! I'm sorry we misjudged you. This is just a small token of our appreciation." He handed Zack a blade sharpener. "I have to say though, Aerith," he continued. "You're not gonna find a decent, honest, kindhearted guy like this very often. This one has my stamp of approval. I hope you're very happy together!"

"Maybe I'll just say he is," Aerith giggled as she put her hand on Zack's shoulder. "There's something really special about him. I've never met anyone like him before. It feels really fun, just being around him." She then turned to Zack. "Oh, wait, can I take a look inside this store?"

"So, what?" he replied. "The whole reason you wanted to go out was to shop?"

"Then I won't," she responded sincerely.

"I'm just kidding!" Zack assured her. "Go look as long as you like."

"Thanks," she said. "Just for a little bit. I promise."

That little bit turned out to be half an hour. Of course, Zack found it annoying, but he accepted it as the nature of the beast.

"You really like this store, huh?" he observed.

"Yeah," Aerith giggled. "It's fun just looking around."

Then, Zack got an idea.

"Hey, Aerith," he began.

"Mm-hmm?" she asked.

"To show my gratitude for the 'hell-lloo' that woke me up," he said, "I'll buy you something."

"Oh, you don't have to," she insisted. "You're repaying me with one date, right?"

"You said, 'Don't be silly!'"

"Well..."

"Then consider it a one-day anniversary gift of our friendship," he suggested.

"Are you sure?" she asked.

"Positive," he insisted.

Aerith look a long look at the hair bows on one shelf.

"Ok," she said after a few moments. "This one."

She had selected a pink one.

"All right, I'll go buy it," Zack agreed. "I'll be right back."

Zack went and bought it.

"Turn around," he then commanded.

Aerith turned around, and felt his hands rustling in her hair. This sensation was most certainly welcome as well, and goosebumps began to appear on her back and shoulders.

"How's that?" he asked.

"Did you put it on right?" she asked. "Will it stay on?"

"It should be fine," Zack assured her. "Yeah, it looks great!"

"Thank you, Zack!" she said with a smile as she put her hand on his shoulder. "I'll always wear it from now on." She then gave him a long, hopeful look. "Hey, do you still have some time?"

"I guess so," he replied. "Why?"

"Why don't we go to the park?" Aerith suggested.

"Whoa, that kinda sounds like a date!" he observed with a grin.

"Uh-huh!" She replied, also with a grin.

"Okay, let's go!" he agreed enthusiastically.

Aerith then led him to the park. On the way there, Zack placed his hand on the small of her back. It sent chills up her spine, as it was another welcome sensation. She had trouble believing this was happening.

Eventually, they got to the park. It wasn't really a park, by the way, but more of a playground. There was a swing set there, as well as a slide in the shape of a cat.

"I used to come here all the time when I was a little girl," Aerith began. "My favorite was the cat slide."

"You like cats?" Zack asked.

"No," she replied as she shook her head. "I'm a dog person. Dogs are children with hair all over. Cats are just a lump of fur that take up space."

She then climbed onto the cat and signaled for Zack to do the same.

"I would always climb up here," Aerith continued. "And I would always shout "Hel-looo! This is the voice of the goddess!' My mom would always scream me stupid!"

Zack laughed.

"I used to hide in the coats when I was a kid."

"I did that, too," Aerith giggled. "So, ever meet any SOLDIER members?"

Zack slightly tended up. He wasn't sure of how Aerith felt about the Shinra.

"Maybe," he replied. It wasn't exactly a lie.

"Do you think that they're happy?" she asked.

"What do you mean?"

"Heroes to children, protectors of the peace," she clarified. "But, they're not normal. They get some kind of special surgery, don't they?"

"So they say," he said.

"Normal is best," she continued. "I think so, at least. Those SOLDIER people are kind of weird."

"They're...weird, huh?" Zack echoed.

"And they're scary," she added. "They fight, and they love it."

"Actually, I'm with SOLDIER," he said.

Aerith immediately gasped.

"I'm sorry," she immediately apologized.

But the damage was done. Zack looked away.

Now I've done it, Aerith thought to herself. She wanted to get up, run off, find a private place, and cry long and hard. She had just blown a wonderful opportunity.

And then, Zack turned to look at her again.

"It's okay," he assured her. "You didn't know."

"I still feel terrible," she said softly.

"It's okay," he insisted. "I can't speak for everyone at SOLDIER, but I wouldn't say I love to fight. I just prefer to keep people safe." He paused. "Especially beautiful girls like you."

Aerith smiled. He really knew how to make her feel better.

"So pretty," She said as she gazed at him.

"The face?" he asked.

"The eyes!" she clarified.

"You like them?" he asked. "Then take a closer look. Eyes infused with mako energy. A SOLDIER trademark."

"Oh, you!" she giggled as she playfully shoved him.

"Color of the sky, right?" Zack laughed.

Aerith nodded.

"But not scary at all!"

He then gave a serious look.

"I'll admit it, things haven't been normal at all lately," he said. "What about you, Aerith? How's your life going?"

"I was thinking it would be a normal day," she giggled, "but then suddenly some guy fell out of the sky."

"That's not all that bad," Zack said.

Suddenly, Zack's cell phone began to ring. He was well aware that it would be rude to answer it on a date, but he was also aware of the only person who would be calling him now.

So he answered it.

"Zack, return to the Shinra Building now," Sephiroth commanded. "Genesis has attacked us."

"On my way," Zack complied. He then turned to Aerith and gave her a sheepish look. "I'm sorry, but duty calls."

"Well, I guess I should get going then," she said. She then gave him a hopeful look. "Will I see you again?"

"Of course!" he assured her.

"I hope that your friend's ok, Zack," she mentioned.

"Huh?"

"You talk in your sleep," she clarified.

"Yeah, it'll be fine," he said, half-confidently. "I know that now."

"Hey," she said as she made eye contact with him. She then wrapped her arms around his shoulders; she couldn't leave without at least hugging him good-bye.

"I really like you," she said. "Can we do a second date?"

"Absolutely!" he replied. "Where do you want to go?"

"How about the aquarium?" she suggested. "I haven't been there in years."

"Sounds good!" he said.

A moment later, Zack was gone from view.

Aerith's palm was still sweaty, but her heart was happy. It was true; she had been expecting another boring day.

She quickly pulled her phone out and dialed.

"Aerie!" Gehrig greeted.

"I met a guy!" Aerith squealed.

"When?" Gehrig asked.

"Just now!" Aerith replied. "He came crashing through the church ceiling!"

"Did he die?" Gehrig playfully asked.

"Far from it!" Aerith giggled. "He took me on a date. It was incredible!"

"Did you kiss?" Gehrig asked.

"Not yet," Aerith replied. "But we did hold hands!"

"Is he still with you?" Gehrig asked.

"He had to go back to work. I just hope he doesn't run into any monsters along the way," Aerith said.

"Or, worse, Mary Ellen," Gehrig added.

Aerith began to laugh.

"Get your butt over here!" Gehrig demanded. "I want to hear everything!"

"Okay," Aerith agreed. "I'm on my way."



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