Aerith Gainsborough was finally happy in her new life and surrounded by the people who loved her. Armed with her flowers and an unconquerable love for all things she was finally moving on…until a late night visit turns her world upside down. When three homeless boys wreak havoc on her perfectly restructured world, will she help them out or be forced to turn them away?
lots of errors...sorry
Sunday was always a good day for her, she had plenty of time to herself and plenty of time to tend to her flowers. She sat outside her favorite coffee shop sipping tea and watching. It was one of her favorite things to do, sometimes she had the opportunity to see someone do something amazing and kind, other times it was at least funny to see other people awkwardly interact with one another. Two new lovers on a first date, or an elderly couple taking a stroll through the park. She was fortunate in that she rarely saw them fight. Argumentative people, she assumed, must not come to the park on Sundays.
She ran a flower shop the rest of the week, it was her little piece of heaven. Her flowers were her salvation in the face of a terrible loss. She'd once had everything, a home, a loving family, everything she'd ever wanted…and now she had only the lilies. She didn't mind so much, they were the last thing Tseng had given her, they were sacred in her eyes.
Aerith stared out at the park, watching a young girl bounce from bench to bench, pestering other park goers, and laughing all the while. She hadn't noticed anyone approach her or even heard her name being called.
"Aerith…Aer? You in there?" A hand waved back and forth before her eyes, startling her.
"Wha-sorry, Tifa…I didn't even hear you." Aerith laughed lightly, slightly embarrassed.
"I'm not surprised." Tifa replied with an amused smile. "So, who are you watching today?" She plopped down in the chair next to the flower girl.
"That little girl, with the purple ribbon in her hair." She motioned with a nod toward a young girl in a red and yellow skirt with a matching jacket that hardly seemed to cover her shoulders. The girl pivoted suddenly on one foot, her blond braid flying around behind her. Her eyes were clear blue and her smile was full of mischief.
"She reminds me of Yuffie." Tifa chuckled as she watched the girl slip a piece of paper and a few gil out of a mans pocket as he nearly bowled over her. "Yep, definitely Yuffie."
Aerith smiled over the brim of her cup. "Think she's homeless?" She wondered aloud.
"Nah." Tifa's eyes narrowed as she carefully scrutinized the girl. "Her clothes are well maintained, she's clean and her hair isn't matted. She looks healthy enough, she isn't so thin her ribs show…but she could very well be an orphan." Tifa finished, glancing at Aerith.
Aerith nodded, watching as the girl examined a handful of paper and gil, laughing to herself as she held up a particularly interesting piece of paper. She stuffed her 'loot' into a bag on her hip and ran off to the far side of the park.
"So…Zack has asked me to move in." Tifa said suddenly, shifting nervously in her seat.
"What?! I hope you said yes!" Aerith practically leapt out of her seat. "That's great, aren't you excited? I'm excited, gosh that's so exciting. Have you told Yuffie? I can call her, want me to call her so you can tell her? Oh, she's going to be so exc-" Aerith babbled on excitedly before Tifa stopped her.
"Aer, relax!" Tifa laughed. "I just told Yuffie, she said something about stealing Zack's hair gel and ran off." Tifa and Aerith exchanged concerned glances before succumbing to another fit of laughter. Tifa gave her a bright, happy smile. "And yes, I did, he wants to start this weekend…Cloud said he'd help, too." Tifa bounced in her seat. "Gods, Aer, he's so amazing and wonderful…Ugh, I sound so cheesy! But, Shiva help me, I am so completely and utterly in love with him." Tifa gushed.
"How's Cloud handling losing her 'roomie'?" Aerith waggled her eyebrows at Tifa. They both laughed.
"You mean live in maid? Sweet lord, I don't care…he'll have to learn how to use the 'Swifer' and cook for himself eventually." She rolled her eyes. "You'd think, at some point, his survival instincts at least would kick in but nooo, not Choco-butt. If I wasn't there he would literally live in a landfill, hell they'd probably condemn the place." Aerith laughed at that, knowing first hand just how lazy the blond could be.
"Maybe you can con Vincent into moving in with him, or Cid." Aerith suggested, glancing back out at the park. Tifa smirked, imagining Vincent with an apron and dust mop.
"Vincent would kill him, he can't stand anything being dirty or out of place. I'm honestly surprised he tolerates the bar as well as he does. Cid smokes, and besides that, Shera wouldn't want to." Tifa folded her hands in her lap and propped her feet up on an empty chair. "You know, it's funny. He's more excited about all this than I think I am. Ever since Cloud introduced us he's been pushing for everything, from the first date to me moving in. I told him yesterday and he practically tackled me saying 'For the love of Holy, move in!'. It was a little weird." Aerith only smiled at Tifa.
"Zack and Cloud have been friends since they were just babies. He's the closest thing to family Cloud has left, it means a lot to him to see Zack so happy." Aerith finished with a sip of her now cool tea. "That and Cloud wants his bachelor pad back to himself."
Tifa gasped in mock shock. "Cloud? Want me out? Oh, say it ain't so!" Tifa and Aerith giggled at their own joke.
They sat talking about Tifa's move, Zack's new bike, Cloud and his 'sloppy-go-lucky' attitude. Aerith watched the park while she rambled on about the bar, Vincent and his unnerving ability to attract incredibly old and flirtatious women, including one that had caused the subtle and normally reserved gunman to not only blush, he fumbled his way upstairs and locked himself in Tifa's office for two hours.
"He was so red, Yuffie couldn't stop laughing long enough to get a whole sentence out. You should have been there!" Tifa flailed her hands wildly. "The woman wouldn't quit badgering him for sex, and she wasn't even a little subtle." She mimicked her best 'old lady voice', "Hey, handsome…I bet you're a wild one in the sack, wanna have a go?" Aerith choked on her tea and laughed till her eyes watered. "She was rubbin' up on his arm and I believe there was even a grope or two in there. Really, it's only fair. I mean, Yuffie and I have to deal with crap like that all night…I can't believe how many women have tried to get in his pants and none of them are under fifty!" Tifa slapped her hand on the table.
"What about Yuf?" Tifa's easy smile became a full fledged 'evil grin'.
"He watches her all night and yet wont even talk to her when we close, it's very strange. Well, actually they spent a half hour locked in my office. Yuffie had managed to get in through a window and managed to talk him out of the bloody office. It was a lot like pulling teeth, he was practically terrified that old creep was still waiting for him down by the bar. Yuffie grabbed him by his metal arm and he nearly threw her back out the window…it didn't really end well now that I think about it, but it got him out of my office. We'll see if he shows up tonight." Tifa sighed and shook her head, suddenly the horny old cow hitting on big tough guy Vincent wasn't so funny.
"Does he just hate her or what?" Aerith asked, feeling defensive for the younger woman. "She does nothing but nice stuff for him and he treats her like she's the biggest calamity to ever hit the northern continent…" Tifa's mahogany eyes shimmered in the fading light as the sunset.
"I know, she says it doesn't bother her. She seems to think he's 'warming up' to us, even if he doesn't seem to like her. But that can't be! I've seen him, seen him blatantly ogling her as she serves the customers, pours drinks, and even when she's doing nothing at all but sitting at the bar yakin' it up with Cid. He can't tear his eyes off of her, I don't understand why he can't just get off his 'I'm so tortured it's emo' ass and at the very least say hi to the woman." Tifa glared, remembering the look of shock and hurt flashing in Yuffie's eyes the night before.
"He'll come around, just like Zack did. I remember when Zack could hardly be in your presence without getting panicky and flustered. He was love struck from the beginning, but he couldn't even complete a sentence if you talked to him." Tifa smiled at the memory.
"Well hopefully Vincent wont make her wait another two years before he asks her out, he may not have the time he thinks he does with her." Aerith lifted an eyebrow in question.
"Oh? And who, pray tell, has set their sights on miss Yuffie?" She set her cup down and toyed with a wayward lock of her chestnut hair.
"Who do you think?" Tifa gave a sarcastic grin.
"Ew…isn't Denzel like, what, fifteen?" Aerith made a face of complete disgust.
"No! Reno, he's been coming by a couple times a week and always asks for Yuff's to serve him. She hasn't said anything, but I know he's been flirting with her…that sly dog!" Tifa made a comical face.
After a while both women rose, heading back out to the street. "Just make sure Vincent see's it, see what he does. Does Reno come in when he's working?"
"Not usually, once he did and Vincent was obviously displeased. I just thought that was because he had to do most of Yuffie's job too." Tifa nodded to herself thoughtfully. "You could be on to something there, Aer. Oh, before I forget, Zack and I are having a house warming dinner next week, can you make it?"
"Sure." She smiled softly.
"Good, there's this ridiculously good looking man you just have to see." Tifa giggled at Aerith's mock gagging. "Don't say anything until you see him, he's Zack's mentor, or one of them anyway." Aerith nodded dismissively before turning to leave.
"Yeah, yeah, I'll be there. Have fun tonight, tell Yuffie I'll be by around nine. Barrett said something about coming by to see Elmyra tonight, I'll have him drop me by." Tifa nodded and both girls went their separate ways. Tifa to her bar and Aerith to her little shop. As she rounded the corner, heading down to her shop she saw the young girl from the park, she was happily bouncing around a woman roughly Tifa's age smiling and laughing. Aerith smiled at the sight as the two headed for a parked car. The girl caught her eye, and for a moment they simply stared at one another before Aerith smiled and nodded her greeting. The girl grinned and smiled brightly at her as she walked by.
She made it down to the shop, watered her flowers quickly and locked everything up before once again heading out the door. This time she made her way toward her apartment two blocks away. It was a warm night so she had opted to walk the short distance. Edge during the day was a relatively lovely small town, by night it was completely different. There wasn't an over abundance of crime or anything, but there was the occasional kidnapping or mugging. As she neared the front entrance to her apartment building she could smell the alcohol and filth wafting off the man before she even saw him. She wrinkled her nose at the foul smell as she carefully walked around him and up to the door.
"Wha' ya doin' out here, lady?" He slurred dangerously close to her.
"I was just heading home, sir." She didn't turn around as her key slid noiselessly into the lock. She slowly twisted the key as he took another stumbling step toward her.
"Got any extra gil? Huh, lady?" She nearly gagged on his breath and rancid body odor…and yet the pleading tone of his voice stopped her.
Her mother had always told her to 'do unto others as you would have them do unto you'. She sighed heavily and turned, retracting the key from the lock. She took in the man once more and noted he was ghastly. His skin was thin and stretched tight against his gaunt cheeks, he had maybe three or four teeth that she could see with his head bowed. Judging by his breath he probably didn't put much stock into oral hygiene. She fumbled around in her pockets and her bag until she found her coin purse. She pulled a twenty gil note out and went to hand it to him. She caught his stare, saw the tragic combination of disappointment and gratefulness. Turning back to her coin purse she sighed a second time. She had plenty of money, gil was never a problem for her. He had nothing but the filthy clothes on his back. He didn't look as though he'd showered in the last month, he probably wasn't eating regularly and when he did eat it was more than likely someone else's trash.
"Here…just take the whole thing." She handed the coin purse over, smiling at the look of absolute relief. "Would you like a shower? I can find you a change of clothes as well…if you need them."
"Uh..m-miss? Are…but…" He fumbled with his words, clearly shocked. "I wouldn't wanna be a bother." He shied away from her, taking a slow step back.
"Really…it's no trouble. We have an extra room for rent, you could use it for a good night sleep and a shower." She clenched her hands against her stomach, inching closer as he backed away. "Please?" He stopped, slowly lifting his gaze to hers. His eyes were a pale green, the most beautiful color she'd ever seen…and he seemed so young now that she saw him full on. He smiled a bit shyly, revealing a rather filthy and yet surprisingly full, set of teeth.
"I'd love to, miss…but my brother's need me. It was my night to get food…" He ducked his head once more.
"How old are you?" She cocked her head to one side, eyeing him carefully.
"I'm sixteen, miss." What she had previously thought to be matted hair slid off his head and revealed itself as a ratty old hat. His hair, though matted and dirty, was the strangest color she'd ever seen. Silver, as though living on the streets had aged him so drastically he'd gone grey in childhood. "My brothers'…they's eleven and six…they're-" He turned to point in the direction of the skeleton of what was going to one day be another apartment complex when he spotted someone walking toward their hideout. He shot her a panicked glance before turning and running as fast as he could toward the building. In his haste he dropped the coin purse. Aerith reached for him a second too late, yelling after him as he ran.
"NO!! STOP!!" She screamed, suddenly struck by the same panic that apparently gripped him. She heard several doors flying open and heavy feet pounding down the stairs.
"Barrett! Barrett!!" Aerith ran after the boy without a second thought, catching sight of a large black shadow running behind her.
"Where's he heading?" Came an impossibly calm voice.
"The abandoned complex! Hurry, Nanaki, I think someone is after them!" She shrieked, gasping for breath as she struggled to keep up with her four legged companion.
"Aer! What'n the hells all the shoutin' for?!" Barrett's deep voice bellowed behind her.
"This boy! I have to find the boy!" She tripped, flying forward and subsequently colliding with a very small, warm object.
"Hey…HEY!! Get offa me!" She heard a voice shout angrily beneath her. As she moved to stand another solid body hit her, tackling her to the ground.
"Get 'way from my brother!" This one felt much sturdier than the body she'd fallen haphazardly over.
"I'm sorry! I was looking for the-" She caught sight of sea green beneath all the muck and grime on the boys face.
"What are you doing here?!" Came a shocked voice.
"Please do not run, it is tiresome to chase you and we mean you no harm." The boy jerked violently away from the voice, stumbling over the still crouched body of his brother and falling to the ground.
"Oh, Gaia…that cat talked!" His eyes were wild and wide, terror marring his features.
Aerith, sensing something was terribly wrong, stood and ran forward, helping the boy to his feet before scooping the smaller boy on the ground up into her arms. "I'll tell you all about Nanaki when we get inside, now run!" She took off toward her building, Barrett having helped the other boy back to his feet and coming up behind them. They could hear distant shouts and something being broken into. The boy in Aerith's arms whimpered in fright.
"Mommy…I wan' my mommy." Aerith felt her heart ache for him.
They ducked into the building, Aerith slamming the doors and quickly engaging all the locks. She and Barrett ushered the kids upstairs, the small one in her arms refused to be put down so Aerith sat herself down and simply held onto him, squeezing him securely within her arms. She ignored the smell, looked past all the black and brown filth coating his hair and skin and clung to him, whispering soothingly against his hair.
The older two stood awkwardly in the middle of the room, alternating wary glances between Barrett and his mechanical arm and that cat like animal with the flaming tail sitting beside them.
"I am Nanaki…I apologize if I frightened you." He slowly inclined his head toward the eldest boy.
"What…are you?" He asked, cautiously reaching out to touch the large animals head.
"That is not important…What are your names?" He took a slow step forward and was rewarded with a gentle scratch behind his ear.
"My name is Kadaj…that's Loz, and Yazoo is the youngest." The boy pointed to each one in turn. Aerith smiled warmly at the boys.
"Welcome to my home, now…you three look like you could each use a good wash. I can show you two to the spare rooms and you can shower. I'm sure Denzel and Barrett can fish out something for you two to wear." Her smile was contagious and Barrett noticed Kadaj was beginning to relax, leaning heavily against Nanaki. Loz swayed slightly, yawning as he did.
"'m sleepy…" He murmured to Kadaj. Kadaj nodded once and smiled back at Aerith.
"Thank you, the police don't like us living in that old building…" He answered sheepishly. Aerith refrained from asking anything further, instead she opted to usher them off toward separate bathrooms.
"Barrett, can you and Denzel-" He nodded before she could finish, ruffling the little boy in her arms hair as he walked off, shouting for Denzel once he was just out side the door.
"Mother…where…are you?" She sighed heavily as the youngest boy clung tighter to her, whimpering again.
"Hush now, little one…you're safe now. You're safe now…" She made her way into her room, fishing through old t-shirts until she found one that was plain white. She started for her own bathroom to start a bath for the youngest when her phone rang. Still unable to detach the boy she sighed and went to answer it.
"Hello?" She shifted from foot to foot.
"What's going on?" A young woman's slightly accented voice came through the reciever.
"You are absolutely freaky, Yuffie." Aerith laughed. "How do you always know just when to call?"
"Ninja…Aer, I am a n-I-n-j-a. That and I'm kinda freaky that way…why, did I actually catch you in the middle of some obscenely awkward moment?" Aerith could practically feel Yuffie's smile radiating on the other end of the phone.
"Three boys, I personally never planned on having children, but I am currently housing three homeless boys." She smiled sweetly as Yazoo slowly lifted his head at the mention of her housing them. "I suppose I'll bring them with me when I come down tonight…it was the strangest thing, Yuf." Aerith started as she made her way back toward the bathroom. Yazoo glanced at the water and then at her, his face pink with embarrassment.
"Really? What happened…Hey wait a minute." Aerith waited patiently as Yuffie processed what she just said. "Did you just say you adopted three homeless boys?!" There was a brief struggle on the other end of the line before another familiar voice spoke.
"Aerith, are you alright?" Tifa sounded worried.
"Yes, yes…we're fine. I'm trying to get Yazoo to take a bath but he seems a little disinclined to undress in my presence." Aerith cocked her head curiously to one side, earning a small smile from the boy.
"Is he an infant? You can probably let him bathe alone…just sit in the other room. Explain how in the world you wound up with three boys. You know, they aren't like puppies….I know you love to help people and give to the needy, Aer, but this is radically different." Tifa's voice was filled with concern. "…do you need any help? I can have Yuffie run the- fine, I'll take you with me! Sheesh, I can just close the bar tonight." Tifa laughed at something Yuffie said.
"I don't know…someone was after them, Tifa. One of the boys said it was the police, but this guy sure didn't look like any police officer I've ever seen." Aerith felt worry and fear knot in her stomach. "This was someone else…" There was a pause on the line. Aerith heard Tifa mumble something before she spoke again. Her demeanor had changed so suddenly it caught Aerith by surprise.
"I'll have Yuffie and Vincent head there straight away. I'll go pick up Zack and we'll be right behind them. Are you ok now? Did anyone see you four? Is Barrett still there? Have him stay with you, he'll know what to do should anything unexpected happen before we arrive." Tifa spoke with such authority Aerith thought perhaps she was speaking to another person all together. Maybe Tifa knew something about these boys. Granted, it was odd they had silver hair and mako green eyes but that was about it. Aerith had to refrain from hanging up on her friend out of sheer fright.
'What if I'm only putting these children at risk by telling her?! Holy, what have I done?!' Aerith's hands trembled violently as she stared at the phone.
"Aerith…was the man chasing them, was he wearing a suit? Was he alone? Aerith?" Tifa seemed to sense her distress and her tone changed again with a sigh. "Honey, you have to pull yourself together and answer me right now. Zack wont be able to help if you wont give me anything to go on. If someone is after those boys and he's in the area odds are he closing in on you as we speak. You don't need to be afraid of me Aer…I would never do anything to hurt you or anyone you deem worthy of protection." Aerith took in a shuddering breath, seeing the logic in her argument.
"Just Barrett and Nanaki, I don't think that man saw us…but then again I wouldn't be surprised. Who would chase after these poor children, Tifa?" Aerith found some relief in the sounds of Yazoo splashing playfully in the bathtub. She'd filled it with bubbles, nearly four times as many as she'd intended thanks to her nerves, though he seemed to be having quite a time with them. "We'll be here under lock and key, you have the spare?"
"Better…I have Yuffie. She and Vincent could steal the shirt off your back and you'd never notice. They're already out the door and on the way. Hang tight, Aer…" Tifa ended the call.
Aerith ducked out of the room and found Denzel standing in the hall. "Do you have any old pajamas or know anyone with pajamas for a small six year old?" The boy nodded, handing a jacket to Kadaj and running down the hall.
"Thank you, miss…" He started shyly.
"Aerith." She smiled back.
"My name is Aerith…and you are very welcome. I have a friend coming by to see if she can help me out, her name is Tifa. In the mean time, would you care to explain why you were running from that man?" She gently coaxed Kadaj back toward her bedroom so she was within earshot of Yazoo.
Another random something or other…I have this whole thing somewhat planned out and I kinda like it…which is why I'm posting it. Tifa/Zack because Valentine'sninja inspired me, Yuffie is working on Vincent…but I haven't decided if she's going to wind up with him. Aerith and some super smexy man, and the little girl she's watching in the park? Yep, it is Kidd from Chrono Cross. As you've probably noticed I took a few liberties with the three remnants. This story is fairly AU, some things are the same or similar to the game/movie storyline though.