Oc e Ne- Yes and No ~*~A Final Fantasy VII AU~*~

Chapter Four-Odium("Hatred")
AN~Sheez! Another long break! Is it THAT hard to get 8 reviewers a chapter??? Well, maybe it is. I dunno. HICB(my other fic, you all should go check out some of my other fics) is ALWAYS getting too many reviews, faster than I can update, at that! It makes me feel kinda decrepit(and I don't even think I spelled that right......) Oh, whatever! On to fanfic writing! Between this and my novel, I've definitely got a humor kick going on right now...LoL. Hope you find this chapter as funny as I'm going to! ~Vereor Veritas~, ~*~tigerofthewind~*~
Inside of the sleazy, rather questionable-looking slum of Wall Market, Cloud was asking questions. He bobbed around as polite as you could please, gesturing with his hands and bowing courteously to those who offered him information. As soon as Aeris walked underneath the electric sign in front of the inn, however, he ran over to her and looked positively relieved. Aeris, having been around quite a bit, knew the reason.

"This is a pretty scary place, especially for a guy,"she said, then amended her sentence."Or, a girl dressed up as a guy, for that matter. So just stick around me and we'll find Tifa, fast."She headed purposefully off to the right, hand resting subtly on Vereorvis' hilt, and the other hand held firmly on Cloud's arm. She couldn't risk either he or the man-Tifa to get into any trouble here.

She idly smacked a man's hand away from her gil pouch, and stopped in front of a huge sign that said The Honeybee Inn. Cloud frowned; he clearly hadn't been in Sector 6 before in his life."An inn, hunh? You think Tifa's staying there?"

"Oh ho ho ho,"Aeris laughed. THAT was certainly rich. If Tifa was dressing up as a man just to get a little cozy with those freaks in the Honeybee and raise a little gil, AVALANCHE must be in a more dreadful financial situation then she'd realized. But it wouldn't hurt to ask---and afterward, she'd have to enlighten poor Cloud a little about the REAL state of being inside this place.

The ticket vender whistled soundlessly and sidled up to Cloud."Phew, you've got a piece here, little lady!"While Aeris watched with wary eyes, he circled Cloud and scanned him up and down as a merchant would a horse. Although the second he asked to see Cloud's teeth, Aeris decided, they'd be outta here faster than a mob after the Shinra, Tifa or no.

The vender stood on tiptoe and peered up into Cloud's face. Said Cloud backed away a little nervously, shooting anxious eyes in Aeris' direction for a second. Thoroughly enjoying herself and feeling as though the guy wasn't exactly HURTING Cloud, she decided to let it carry on for a little while longer. The man muttered on."Such a lovely face you haven't seen in the slums in a long time, no sir,"he was rambling."Those eyes, sparkling blue like the ocean should be if those corporate bastards hadn't fucked with it so bad. . .and that hair!"He tugged on it like a child would, nearly giggling like one as well."Such a lovely golden color, like an angel!"

He turned to Aeris."You're his agent, no? How much?"Already he was digging around in his pockets for gil. Aeris succeeded in looking perturbed enough to make the man up the price another 200, then decided to stop pulling his strings. Cloud was gripping her arm hard enough to break both her radius and her ulna.

"Sorry, he's not for sale."Rolling her eyes in some guy's direction who was standing off to the corner looking as though he wasn't sure WHAT the hell he wanted to do, she addressed her next question to whom appeared to be the man in charge."'Scuse me, you know a---"She cleared her throat."You know a guy named Tifa here? Uh, might have changed...his...name or something."

The man frowned; clearly thinking was not something he did on a regular basis."Only guy I know 'round here's named Tempest...brown hair, red eyes? Always wore baggy clothes...gets me to thinkin' about what's underneath."He winked lewdly at Cloud, who took a step back, blinking. Aeris smiled as best as she could through clenched teeth.

"Can I see he---him, please? Tell him Aeris wants him; he'll come. He'd BETTER come,"she added, more to herself than to the man. Tifa certainly had some explaining to do.

The man shook his head."Sorry, lady. You're a cute girl in yer own way, but Tempest's gettin' ready to see the Don tomorrow. The guys're in there workin' him over. Try back tomorrow."

"Thanks."Aeris literally stamped away, kicking a garbage can as she went by, revealing a hobo eating what appeared to be a dead...something or other...behind the metal disposal unit. Cloud hurriedly followed, wisely deciding not to remain at that bizarre place without SOMEONE there to have his back...in the non-literal sense.

"What should we do now?"he asked of Aeris, then jumped a little as someone(of questionable gender, mind you) pinched him from behind. She scowled.

"We can't DO much now,"she retorted,"since Tifa---oh, excuse me, TEMPEST-- -has suddenly decided she wants to go on a little masquerade to do Gods- know-what in this sleazy slum of a town!"She took several deeps breaths and then sighed, shaking her head dejectedly."There's not much we can do, pal."She gave him a half-hearted smile."We'll just wait until tomorrow, head back to the Honeybee, and talk to Tifa then, okay?"

He looked relieved, then nodded."It's alright if you're worried about her,"was all he said, which caused Aeris to stop and stare at him.

"Who says I'm worried? I'm pissed off!"

He smiled, that little half-smile he wore that never reached his eyes."It was always your cover-up for whenever you were really worried about something. You'd always get really mad about something. You must've yelled at me at least a hundred times when we were little."

"Only a hundred?"(Wow. I've yelled more than a hundred times at cheese, I'm certain. Damn cheese, it always looks so tempting until the moment you put it in your mouth, then the sneaky little bastard decides it wants to go all dead-rat on you and then---)

"Well, you were only around for a few months before you left for Junon."Cloud shrugged."I wouldn't expect you to remember that much, if you didn't even remember me."He forced a laugh."Well, while we're here, let's pick up some supplies! I know I'll need some items for later, right?"

(Why is he asking me?)"Uh.....yeah, I guess."Not wanting to jeopardize the moment, she shoved on past some street musicians and into the larger part of Wall Market, complete with items store, inn, materia store(that was currently closed, cheap bastards), and a weapons store. Not to mention that old lady who sat outside the materia store cooking something of questionable comsumption in her giant kettle.

The strange thing was, all of the shopkeeps in the store made a big deal over Cloud. Aeris, knowing full well the background of the people in Wall Market, wouldn't have normally been so surprised, however, several of the gawkers were women.

(Well, maybe this place's changed),she figured, paying the woman at the items store for her new stock of Potions, Tents, and Hypers(hey, a little bit of anger never hurt anyone).

"Such a lovely face,"the woman gushed, but at least she was old enough to be Aeris' mother, which calmed the ex-SOLDIER a bit(although not by much, sometimes the elderly could be more lecherous than the young)."And that hair color is natural? Well, he's certainly due for a trip to Don, if you catch my drift!"She winked at Aeris, who growled and bared her teeth. It was the third time someone had said that to them.

"Thanks,"she managed to get out through clenched teeth, and dragged Cloud off to the weapons store. Thankfully, the man there was interested only in collecting junk and building things, and left the two of them alone to pick out new upgrades for their weapons. Neither Aeris nor Cloud were too keen on parting with their weapons, but a few upgrades never hurt anyone.

She wasn't exactly sure WHAT Cloud did to Celoferrum, the thing looked exactly the same as it had before; but she herself attached a new blade to Vereorvis(the old one had been so worn down by that time it couldn't even cut through butter on a summer day), and decided to get fancy and added a swirling flame pattern to the hilt.

As she paid for the upgrades(rather grudgingly, at that, the place was expensive as hell), the man commented without even looking up:"Take him to the Don."

That was it. Aeris leaped over the counter and grabbed the man by his shirt collar, swinging around the newly upgraded Vereorvis like a maniac. Cloud yelled in shock and tried to pull her back, but Aeris would have none of it. Okay, so Wall Market was filled with homosexual perverts. But what was with the bizarre fascination with Cloud?! Jeez, probably about a dozen cute guys came wandering into this town every day; why now?!

"Hey!"she shouted, shaking the man who didn't even look fazed."What's the big idea?! You're the fourth person today who's said that I should take my buddy Cloud here up to see this 'Don' guy! I know he's cute and all, but this is ridiculous! I'm gettin' tired of all the stares and sightseers and pervs crowding us every second of the day! What's wrong with you people?!"

She must have looked rather hysterical, because Cloud exerted an insane amount of effort and managed to pull her off the man, holding onto her shoulders and trying to apologize to the rather abused shopkeeper.

He, however, looked past Cloud and directly as Aeris, fixing her with a calm stare."Just look at him."

It seemed to be a more cryptic message than common sense, but you could never tell with slum folk, and slum shopkeepers, at that. Yanking herself out of Cloud's grasp more harshly than was needed, Aeris spun on her heel and kicked open the door to the shop, stalking out into the grassy path that was Wall Market's main street, and back towards the inn she had seen on the way in. If they were going to have to wait to meet 'Tempest' until tomorrow, she didn't want to be caught dead out on the streets of this place at night. Especially with Cloud.

She had already made reservations when said Cloud came leaping through the door, leaping mainly to avoid the swift hands of the man advertising rooms for the inn outside. He fixed her with an accusing glare.

"'So just stick around me and we'll find Tifa fast,' she tells me,"he said sarcastically,"but the second I turn around from apologizing to a shopkeeper, she's already out of sight!"He flopped down in one of the lobby chairs, scowling up at her from underneath his bangs. Aeris snorted.

"Completely ungrateful, eh? If it weren't for me in the first place, you'd be dead where you stand---or worse!"

"I've managed this far on my own!"He shoved past her and grabbed the room key before she could get to it.

"How?! By hiding in the shadows every time someone walks down the streets?! By having Mom keep every single person alive out of your existence?! That sounds more like cowardice, not surviving!"

Cloud pushed open the door---"You said you'd always be there for me!!!"--- and then slammed it in her face.

'You said you'd always be there for me!!!'

Aeris shook away another glitch and glared at the lobbyist, who was giving her a strange look."You didn't see nothin', old hag."Plodding down the hall, suddenly feeling extremely tired, she pounded on the door wearily."Cloud, open up."No answer. She tried again."I know I said I'd always be there, and I can't remember much about you or anything growing up. But I remember one thing---I wouldn't have left if there hadn't been a good reason. Me joinin' SOLDIER wasn't the only thing, I know. But I'll tell you what---"

The door swung open. It had never been locked.

Hanging the 'Do Not Disturb' sign on the doorknob, Aeris stepped inside and closed the door behind her. It was pitch black and she couldn't see a thing, so she turned on the lamp by the bed."Cloud?"

He was sitting in the corner, head in his arms, and with Celoferrum hanging limply out of his fingers. He looked up, looking thoroughly miserable, but his eyes were dry; a good sign, for Aeris hated it when people cried."What?"

"Write it off as PMS or whatever, but I didn't mean it. Okay?"Silence."We'll find Tifa tomorrow, and get the hell outta here. I don't like bein' here any more than you do."

"And after that?"It had been the true cause for his outburst."You'll go back to blowing up reactors with AVALANCHE and I'll go back to the church, and never see you again?"

Aeris started towards him."It's just for a little while, and then---"She stopped as he slammed his fist down onto the floor, shoulders shaking dangerously.

"You said that about Junon!"he shouted."'I'll finish up my SOLDIER training and come back, okay Cloud?' That was what you said to me. And then, in that park where we said goodbye for the first time, you told me you'd been First Class for five years, now! Five years! And you didn't--- never---"

It seemed impossible for him to finish, and Aeris was glad he didn't. Grimacing painfully, she sat down next to him and threw her arm around his shoulders."I know, and I'm sorry. I guess losing my memory isn't a good enough excuse. But all I can do now is make amends."She turned and faced him squarely, both hands on his shoulders."I'll make you a promise now, Cloud. And you make one for me, too. Since both you and I ain't got much in this world, let's make a pact that we'll always have each other. That we'll always be there for each other, and never leave each other again, alright?"

He didn't smile, but nor did he look so wretched anymore, so it was a plus. The two of them shook on it.

"Now........"Aeris dragged the two beds together."We'll camp out together, like we used to do in the old days."She stopped, blinked; surprised she remembered it. Sighing heavily, she kicked off her shoes and spread out on the shockingly comfortable and vermin-free hotel bed, unbuckling Vereorvis, to place it on the dresser should she need it."I truly hate this."

"Hate what?"Cloud sprawled out next to her, hair glowing in the lamplight around him. Aeris cursed and would have spit, but there was nowhere to spit in the cramped room.

"This damn amnesia or whatever it is. I can't remember spending time with you as a kid, or any of that. And it wouldn't seem like a big deal, except for the fact that I don't remember my time with Mom, or time in Junon, or pretty much anything up until a few years ago, after I made First Class. It's ridiculous."

"We'll figure it out sooner or later,"Cloud said, more hopefully than certainly. But under his breath, Aeris heard him mutter:"And if we don't, it's probably for the best."

But she chose not to say anything. If her not remembering something was for the best, then chances were, she didn't want to know about it. It was the same thing with Elmyra. There was definitely something wrong here, and she wasn't entirely sure the problem started with Cloud.

There was silence for a while, until Aeris suddenly spoke out of the blue:"Hey Cloud, you still claustrophobic?"

He propped himself up on his elbows and looked at her, surprised."Yeah...but how did you know about that?"

She shrugged."Just remembering, I guess."

"But---"Cloud looked as though he wanted to protest, then thought better of it."So........you just.........remember things, just like that? Like, if you stop thinking about it, then something'll come up?"

Aeris rolled her eyes, but he couldn't see."Yeah, and if I stare up at that spot on the ceiling long enough, I'll be able to tell you today's winning lottery numbers!"She made a face."It's like knowing that you're gonna die and trying not to think about it. It's useless to even ask, Cloud."

"Oh."He made a face of his own, then decided to broach something that had been bothering him for a while."Aerith..........do you know who this 'Don' guy is?"

"Hunh?"Aeris sat up, too."I've heard of him. He runs this shithole. I don't know what he'd want with an honest guy like you, but maybe these people have just smoked a little too much---"She stopped."Oh, God."

The cogs in her brain had finally started turning. The people kept telling her to see the Don. The Don was a big-time guy in Wall Market. Tifa had dressed up as a guy and---

"What is it, Aerith? You look like you're going to be sick."

"Nothin'.......uh, nothin' Cloud."She pasted an attempt at a smile on her face."Maybe he's lookin' for some fashion tips from ya...heh heh......."

He didn't even catch the sarcasm. Lucky for some people, Cloud could be immensely dense. Aerith took a few swallows. Gods, how had she gotten herself into this one? And, more importantly, what could she do about it?

"Well, since it's nothing like you say, then I'm going off to bed."Cloud reached up past the headboard and turned the light off, casting the two of them into darkness.

"Yeah, we've gotta find Ti---excuse me, Mr. Tempest---tomorrow."Aeris yawned, but knew she would sleep like shit that night."G'night Cloud."

"'Night, Aerith. Oh, and uh........sleep well, okay?"

Aeris felt as though she had been shot. Several glitches came back to her at once, causing her to shake almost as much as Barret whenever he was angry, and to grab her head between her hands in a sudden spasm.(Sleep well, Sleepel, Sleepel, Sleepel, sleep well............)
~*~*~
'What was the difference back then?'

'...........Between what?'

'Between sleeping well and Sleepel?'

'Sleepel.........the sleep magic. Used to scare me a lot. You close your eyes, it'd feel like no time passed at all, and you'd open them again to find out it was six or so hours later. Never used to like it. Lots of SOLDIER cadets would cast it on you during training........made me nervous. You never knew what they'd do to you until you woke up........'

'.......I told you not to trust that other one.'

'Yeah, ya did. But something ain't right about that, either.'

'Back then.........do you remember? You would have trouble sleeping, and-- -'

'No. Not.........right now.'

'Then when?'

'Just...........give me a little time. I can't---won't---'

'Ha ha ha.......you never were one with words.'

'I'm...........not good with words? Fooled you, I think.........'

'Well.........I suppose the weak must have their victories on occasion.'

'You said.........wait. What was it you said? Why can't I remember..........?'

'You yourself said you did not want to........... Ha, ha, ha......accept your past, Aerith. Accept me. And sleep well, flower of my heart, until we meet again...............'
~*~*~
Aeris was surprised she didn't wake up screaming. Well, surprised and a little grateful(seeing as how the last time she screamed she lit Barret on fire to cover it up, and she certainly didn't want to have to do that to poor Cloud). Stretching and thinking about yesterday's events, she felt a wave of nausea slam into her when she remembered what she had figured out about the Don.

(And Tifa's going there?! What the hell is wrong with her?! I mean, I wouldn't put it past AVALANCHE to rob the homeless and all if they needed money, but THIS?! No, there's gotta be something more technical behind it...)

".....billion........mirror fragments......small....light.......taken.......angel's singing voices.........zeno......gias........."Cloud was muttering nonsense in his sleep, something Aeris found rather humorous. She'd never known anyone to be a sleeptalker, not even Biggs, who slept AND talked all the time(but never simultaneously). To jar him from his stupor, Aeris kicked him in the arm.

"......no, sir.......don't need to see the Don......got enough change.........? ......What........?"Cloud stirred and sat up, grimacing as morning breath rebounded and hit him in the face."Gods, I feel so tired........hunh? Oh, hey Aerith."

He still insisted upon calling her Aerith."Mornin', Cloud."

"You're up bright and early, I see."

"Well, we gotta find Ti---Tempest, remember?"(And I'll show her a 'tempest' next time I see her, believe you me.)"Are you ready to go? I can wait a few more minutes, if you still need time to wake up."

"No, I'm"---a yawn---"alright. I think I just want to get out of here so you and I can go back home."

Aeris frowned.('You and I'? There was no 'you and I', pal, not ever. I don't plan on going back to Sector 5 ever again. Same way I ain't never goin' back to Junon. Too many memories, too many places that feel like home...... Gods, I should've just been a chocobo jockey.)"Whatever."
~*~*~
The man wouldn't let them in. It was rather ridiculous, really, since he claimed that he'd never seen them before in his life and they'd only been there just yesterday, but there wasn't much they could do about it. He gave a pointed look at Cloud, said to go see the Don(and nearly lost his genitals in the process, there was no way in hell Aeris was going to let a sleaze like that near ANYONE she knew, let alone Cloud), and turned back towards shooing away the day's profits.

"Dammit!"Aeris shouted, once they were away from the Honeybee and standing around the old woman who was cooking the congealed stew in the rusty pot."Why'd Tifa have to go THERE?! What a fuckin' moron!"She sighed impatiently."Alright Cloud, you can wait back at the inn and I'll go find good ol' Big Boobs---she's got a lotta explainin' to do."

Slowly, ever so slowly, Cloud turned towards her.

Aeris caught the look in his eyes and shook her head back and forth distinctly."No. N---O. I mean it, Cloud. NO. WAY."
~*~*~
Five minutes later saw the two of them outside of Don Corneo's mansion, Cloud leading the way timidly but determinedly, and Aeris tagging along rather grudgingly from behind. It wasn't the puppy-dog face, it wasn't the pleading on hands and knees, it wasn't any of those things(for in truth, Cloud had DONE none of those things) that had allowed her to bring him along.

She had taken the shopkeeper's advice and looked at him. Whatever the odds were, she knew that he was the only one out of herself, himself, and Tifa who was honestly male. If it came down to that, there was no way Tifa could shrug that one off. And not wanting either of them to get hurt, she had devised a way to sneak in from the side through the laundry chute to be there in case aught went amiss with Cloud's plan.

It wasn't much of a plan, really---sneak in, find Tifa, and get the hell out of there. Brisk and efficient; questioning Big Boobs could wait until later, she just had to survive until then.

"Phew!"one of the guards at the gate whistled as Cloud, who had changed behind an old building into some rather......daring......clothes they had bought at the clothing shop came walking up, humming tunelessly and snapping his fingers.

"Hello,"he said, so softly Aeris almost couldn't hear."I'd been hoping to see the Don, you know, but they told me he wasn't seeking audience for another THREE DAYS...... Could any of you.....I don't know, maybe help with me that?"

"Wee-elll......"The taller guard contemplated."The Don doesn't usually make exceptions, especially when that hot rod Tempest just came in from Sector 7 and all, but.......is that hair color real?"He tugged on it, but Cloud grimaced and bore it. In the shadows, Aeris inadvertantly slid Vereorvis an inch or so out of it's sheath."It is? Then certainly! Come on in, come on in!"He motioned for one of the other men to open the doors, and Cloud shot one last look at Aeris before turning resolutely and heading inside of the doors. They closed shut with a clang.

There was something in Aeris' eyes, and she tried to dig it out, rubbing frantically at them. It didn't register for a moment or two that she was crying, until she felt the telltale sting in the back of her throat.(Why am I so upset? He's not gonna die, for the Gods' sake! The worst they would possibly do is---)

(Oh. Right.)She decided to let Vereorvis do the work that she would not burden upon Cloud.

Waiting for the guards to reclose the doors and resume their idle chatter as they had been before she had arrived, she lowered her head against the bright lights and darted for the window.
AN~I swear, this wasn't originally meant to be two chapters; it was just going to be one. But all the little blurbs between Cloud and Aeris took longer than I thought, and so, it's going to be two. Besides, I just thought of a few things I want to add to the scene in Don Corneo's mansion, so maybe it's for the best...ew, not like THAT, people! LoL. Tiger doesn't do porn. I'm listening to the Hellsing soundtrack right now. It's pretty cool; you should go out and buy it! NOW!*uses hypnotizing power to convince the world that the Hellsing soundtrack is indeed worth buying and not just a waste of money like the Music to Duel By CD for Yu-Gi-Oh!* But that's the cause of another....odium. LoL. Until next time! ~Vereor Veritas~, ~*~tigerofthewind~*~