Premonitions II-C: Crisis Core

BY : Hippo_and_Friends_with_Benefits
Category: Final Fantasy VII > General
Dragon prints: 708
Disclaimer: I do not own Final Fantasy VII, Crisis Core, it any characters therin. I am not making any money here.

Chapter 26: Senior Year Begins

And now, to continue.

Cissnei stayed home with me for three days after she found me crying. She made me breakfast each morning and kept a close eye on me during the day to make sure I was okay. She's sit on the couch with me and we'd watch my favorite movies or play video games together; anything that would take my mind of my heartbreak. She insisted that she was off those days, but, on the third day, I overheard her calling in sick.

She was such a saint for taking care of me then. After all those times I found her annoying, I realized that she was looking after me the whole time; she really cared about me. I guess I had some growing up to do, like any insecure teenager naturally does.

The next day, I visited Gehrig's grave, and found someone I knew there.

"Hey," Aerith greeted softly.

She then wrapped her arms around me and squeezed me as hard as she could. Still feeling the grief, I did the same. And I heard a popping sound.

"You cracked my back," she giggled. She then displayed a serious face. "You don't seem okay."

"There's something you may as well know," I replied.

"I know about it," she said. "The real reason she invited you to the boardwalk was because she knew you were going to ask her to be your girlfriend."

"She told you?" I asked.

Aerith nodded.

"And she left you a note to read as she was coming back?"

"She said 'yes,'" I confirmed sadly.

"She has it all planned out," she continued. "She was going to jump into your arms and kiss you."

"I kind of figured that," I said.

"And she would have gotten her sweat all over you, forcing you two to shower together." She pause. "Sorry," she apologized as she dried a tear from her eye. "There will never be another Gehrig Cline."

I hugged her again, well aware that I was not the only one who was grieving.

"Is there anything I can do?" I offered.

"I'll be okay," she replied.

As I mentioned earlier, Aerith's religious beliefs are somewhat complicated. Here's where that plays out.

"Gehrig's okay," she continued. "She's returned to the planet."

"Returned to the planet?" I asked.

"My biological mother told me that, when we die, our souls return to the planet. It's our souls that keep the planet alive and thriving. Gehrig is doing the world an important service as we speak."

I didn't believe her, of course, but she had just lost her best friend; the last thing I had wanted to do was start an argument.

"I wonder," Aerith continued, "when my time comes, of Gehrig will take my hand and lead me into the Lifestream?"

That's what Aerith called the combined souls of the dead that are apparently roaming the planet under our feet.

This Lifestream idea sounded rather comforting. It's always been said that the dead go to a better place. But it's also been said that extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof. It seems some people, like Aerith, don't require extraordinary proof.

Well, I do.

August 3, 0002

I got another new neighbor at the end of the summer. He had moved in down the hall; it seemed like the Shinra had put him there. I recognized him as soon as I saw his blond, spikey hair, and his sky-blue eyes. The damndest thing was that he had recognized me.

"Tobin?!" he greeted.

"Hey, Cloud," I returned.

"It's been a while," he observed. "What are you doing out here?"

"Training for the stealth program," I replied. "I have one more year of high school and then I'm off to Xing for four years. But, anyway, what are you doing out here?"

"I came hoping to join SOLDIER," Cloud replied. "But that seems kind of unlikely now."

I hid the fact that I was at his "exam," but I hadn't forgotten it. Cloud, on the other hand, seemed to have moved on. He didn't even seem shaken up over finding out that he's President Shinra's illegitimate son. I think that's because he kind of already figured that. Cloud looks a hell of a lot like Rufus, the president's only son in wedlock. President Shinra also has a mansion in Nibelheim, where Cloud's from. Finally, Cloud's mom has never been married. Anyone can do the math.

"Listen," Cloud continued. "You can't tell anyone I know that I didn't make SOLDIER. And I mean anyone."

"Your secret's safe with me," I assured him.

Cloud then gave a concerned look.

"I wonder what the hell I would do if I ever got deployed to Nibelheim," he muttered. "That would be interesting."

Be careful what you wish for, Cloud.

August 15, 0002

Heidegger ascended the stairs to the top floor of the Shinra Building. He saw President Shinra sitting at his desk, with Rufus standing beside him. Scarlet, Reeve, and Palmer could be seen seated on the chairs in the back. Heidegger could tell right away that this was important.

"We have a situation," President Shinra began as soon as Heidegger reached the desk.

"Shinra employees have disappeared," Rufus announced. "At our first reactor."

"What do you mean?" Heidegger inquired. "Have they deserted, or have they just vanished?"

"We don't know," Rufus answered. "That's why we need to investigate immediately."

"You understand what's at that facility, right?" President Shinra pressed.

"Jenova," Heidegger replied. "That's where we're keeping her."

"Exactly," President Shinra concurred. "If that thing gets loose, we're going to have a rather difficult time here. And that's an understatement."

"Why can't we send SOLDIER troops in?" Heidegger inquired. "Isn't this their job?"

"That's the other reason we called you up here," Rufus answered. "Lazard Deusericus didn't show up for work three days ago. His phone has been shut off."

"Which means he abandoned his job," President Shinra added. "I'm appointing you acting director."

"I'm honored," Heidegger replied, though I couldn't tell if he was serious or not.

"Begin the investigation," President Shinra commanded. "If need be, send a SOLDIER First Class to Nibelheim and neutralize the situation ASAP."

"Understood," Heidegger complied.

THAT EVENING...

I forgot to mention a somewhat important detail; Zack and Aerith were now living together. This was not because they wanted to take their relationship to the next level; it was because Aerith had a run-in with the Turks in early August. She no longer felt safe at home.

They were both on their knees at the coffee table, playing a board game. That was what they often did during their free time, as Aerith just wanted peace and quiet for a change.

"Dammit," muttered Zack. "You beat me again."

"Fair game," she giggled.

"Not really," he dismissed. "You play like a girl."

"I am a girl!" she retorted.

"All right," he sighed as he leaned over the table. "Good game, then."

They then kissed; it was their routine to kiss after every game, regardless of who won.

At this point, Zack and Aerith were more than a year and a half into their relationship, and they felt more comfortable with each other than ever. Zack no longer made the effort to clean his apartment perfectly, and no longer tried to dress as nicely; in fact, at this moment he was in a tank top and pajama pants. Aerith, meanwhile, was wearing a red and purple striped baby shirt and in her panties.

"Any chance I get, the pants are off," I overheard her saying to a fellow cheerleader. "I'm just happier without pants."

I'm sure Zack was happier as well. Anyway, as the game ended, Aerith stood up, and placed both her hands on the small of her back.

"What's on your mind?" Zack asked.

"Senior year's started," she replied. "It's going to be quite a year. I'll be cheer captain, we have our senior trip...and the prom."

Zack nodded.

"You're going to the prom with me," she commanded.

"We'll see," Zack replied.

"Hey-hey!" she exclaimed. "You don't have a choice. I booked a hotel room for us on prom night."

"You did?!" Zack exclaimed.

"You bet!" Aerith replied. "We're going to spend two nights and a day in that hotel room." She paused, and grinned. "Butt naked."

Zack grinned back, but his grin faded.

"I can't dance," he sighed.

"Oh, you big baby!" she groaned as she took Zack's hands and lifted him to his feet. She then wrapped her arms around his shoulders. "Wrap your arms around my waist," she commanded.

Zack did as he was told, resting his arms an inch above where her shirt met her underwear.

"Now just do what comes naturally," Aerith continued as she began to sway them.

Zack remained calm and confident; he realized that it wasn't so difficult.

"Hey!" she suddenly exclaimed. "Are you staring in the mirror?"

Aerith was wearing a pair of white panties that flattered her butt, and the mirror was displaying her backside rather well.

"No!" Zack playfully defended, although, of course, he was.

"Liar!" she giggled as she kissed him. "Don't worry, I still love you."

They kissed again, which their arms still locked in position.

"So Aerith," Zack began, "after the prom...what comes next?"

"We graduate, silly," Aerith replied. "But I was starting to wonder. After we graduate...what to we do?"

Zack was silent. He had been considering it ever since Angeal had died. Now, after it began to affect his relationship with Aerith, he was almost determined.

"I'm thinking about quitting SOLDIER," Zack finally said.

Aerith stopped swaying and looked her boyfriend in the eyes. She was completely caught off guard.

"What?" she asked.

"I had to miss your birthday," Zack replied. "And your figure skating competition. And I've had to bolt for work."

"Zack..." Aerith began. She was quite speechless.

"I'm tired of letting you down," he said. "And I really don't like this job anyway. Especially after Project G."

"Project G?" asked Aerith.

"Project G was Angeal's mother's experiment," Zack explained. "I apprehended Hollander in Modeoheim and turned him over to the company. After that, the company put me on standby. That was a while ago now. Shinra is in apparent disarray right now. The Turks are hanging around me everyday. They say our vacations 'overlapped' coincidently. Yeah, right."

"I don't like that," she said.

"I hate it," Zack added. "That's why I want to quit."

Aerith's eyes became moist; he was really giving up his job for her. A moment later, a feeling of love overwhelmed her, and she place her hands on his face, pressing her lips against his hard.

"I really love you," she whispered.

"And I love you," he said as he picked her up off the ground and kissed her again. He then gently put her back on the ground, and looked her in the eyes.

"What will we do, then?" she asked.

"We can leave Midgar!" Zack announced enthusiastically. "We can live in Gongaga."

"Don't you want to be a hero?" Aerith asked.

"I can make that sacrifice," he replied.

Aerith was touched again. He was practically ready to change his whole life for her. It proved that she really did come before everything else.

"You're my hero," she said before kissing him again.

An hour later, Aerith was wearing even less; in fact, she just wore hear earrings and necklace. She was relaxed in the tub, with Zack behind her, his arms wrapped around her torso.

"I'm still with SOLDIER until then," Zack said as he kissed Aerith's cheek. "They're actually sending me for some so-called shore leave at Costa del Sol this weekend."

"Can I come with you?" she asked. "I can stay a little bit before I have to go to cheer camp."

"Of course," he replied.

Aerith smiled and relaxed in his arms, placing her hands over his.

THAT WEEKEND...

Zack and Aerith were laying on their stomachs on their beach towels at Costa del Sol. He was in a pair of black trunks, she was in a red bikini.

The two of them were silent; both of them had a lot on their minds.

Aerith was still taking in the humongous sacrifice he was making for her. She would admit it had gotten her by surprise. He would really change his whole life for her. Not to mention, of course, that he was taking her in to make her feel safe.

As she continued to stare at the waves, Aerith thought about what was laying ahead. Later that day, she would arrive at cheer camp, where she would be cheerleading captain for the year. There would be her eighteenth birthday, then the senior trip, then prom, and, then, graduation.

And then, she suddenly realized what she wanted after graduation. She had been kind of hinting at it with herself, but now she felt more sure of it.

Mrs. Zack Fair? she asked herself. It would make sense. They had been dating for nearly two years. They knew everything there was to know about each other. In a few months, she would be an adult.

But, before all that happened, she had to go to cheer camp. Reluctantly, they got up and walked back to where the stone stairs were. They led up towards the shuttle station.

"I'll be back tomorrow," Zack promised.

"Don't keep me waiting," she replied with a smile.

Aerith then folded the towel and three just a tee shirt on. She's just happier without pants, remember?

"I'll see you when you get back," she promised.

"I won't be late," he promised back as he wrapped his arms around her waist.

"I have an idea," Aerith suggested. "Wanna got to the aquarium next weekend?"

"We can do that," he replied.

"We can do it in the jellyfish room," she added with a seductive smile.

"Bad girl," he teased.

Aerith giggled and kissed him. She then turned and walked up the stairs.

Cloaked, I could see Zack staring at her butt as she climbed the stairs, but I didn't judge. She was his, and he certainly earned it. A moment later, Aerith was gone.

Without nothing else to do, Zack turned toward the ocean and began to do squats. He didn't even know why anymore; he was determined to quit SOLDIER in June anyway.

Suddenly, he began to hear footsteps from behind, climbing down the stairs.

"Suntan lotion?" offered a familiar, female voice.

Zack immediately recognized it at Cissnei's.

"No, never mind that!" he replied.

He then turned to face Cissnei, who was wearing a yellow bikini. Zack, having a girlfriend already, took little notice. He simply continued to do squats.

"What is this?" he continued. "Are they putting me out to pasture?"

"You could use some R and R," Cissnei said.

"I'm bored!" he complained. "That's it, I'm calling them."

"Director Lazard's not in," Cissnei reminded him. "He's been missing for a while now. It was Lazard who was funding Hollander's research. Using the company's money."

"Are you serious?" Zack exclaimed.

"We're interrogating Hollander," she confirmed, "so we should learn more soon."

"What's wrong with them?" Zack asked rhetorically.

Cissnei gave him a confused look.

"People," he clarified, as he turned to face the ocean. "What are they all thinking?"

"The truth lies within each person," as she stared at the ocean as well. "But even truth seems suspect once it leaves their mouths."

Zack, realizing that she wasn't going to give him his privacy, decided to be more vocal about his desire for it.

"Cissnei, go do something," he pleaded.

"Calling Aerith?" she asked as she folded her arms.

"How do you know that?" Zack demanded as he turned to face her. "Am I being watched?"

"No," replied Cissnei calmly, "she's the one being watched. That girl is an Ancient. The only one left in the world. You didn't know?"

"She...never said anything," Zack lied. He then turned to face the ocean again. "The only one left in the world, huh. She is one of a kind."

And then, Zack could hear more feet on the stone steps. This time, they were running. He turned to see Tseng, who was dressed in a Turk's uniform instead of a swimsuit.

"Heads up!" he announced sternly. "Genesis copies!"

A moment later, three copies, dressed in snorkel gear, jumped from the ocean.

"Genesis copies!?" Zack echoed.

As he had left his buster sword back at his apartment, his options were limited. He quickly grabbed the nearest thing he could find: an umbrella. The umbrellas at Costa del Sol had sharp edges, allowing Zack to impale each of the copies one by one.

As the three of them watched, a green glow began to appear on one of the corpses.

"These guys are still around?" Zack exclaimed. "But Genesis..."

He remembered distinctly how he was finished off.

"Maybe Genesis is still around, too," Tseng suggested.

"Huh?" asked Zack as he turned around.

"When the soul leaves the body," Tseng explained, "it returns to the Lifestream."

I guess Aerith isn't the only one who believes in that. Funny, she and Tseng seem from totally different backgrounds, unless there's something the latter isn't telling us.

"Yeah, and...?" Zack inquired as he folded his arms skeptically.

"The river of souls that circles our planet," Tseng continued. "Perhaps Genesis's soul is-"

"Controlling copies from the Lifestream?" Zack interrupted. "Is this what you're telling me?"

"It was merely a supposition," Tseng explained. "In any case, your vacation is over, Zack. Junon is under attack by an unknown force. You're going there with me to investigate."

"Thank God," Zack whispered.



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