The cuteness is almost abhorrent. XD Just a little Zerith love.
Aerith had never known much about men, mainly from the absence of any kind of father figure in her life, and she'd only seen most of the male citizens of the slums from afar. But this, this human being who was more like an angel than anything else...this was a man. Muscle as hard as stretched cords, thick fingers and clipped, rounded nails, face cut in sharp angles—the prominence of his jaw, the straight line of his nose. His body was big in every way hers wasn't.
She had always heard of how powerful SOLDIERs were, how hungry and deviant and monstrous they could be. But this one was gentle and complacent, had a quick smile and an even quicker mouth. Had a sharp mind and the most blue eyes. Eyes as blue as nothing she knew enough about to compare to.
And he wasn't scary at all. In fact, he was quite funny. His voice was deep and his laugh made fast shivers race down her spine, and sometimes, when he touched her, she would get all these thoughts, some plainly curious and others wanting in ways that were almost foreign and disorienting, and wondered if she should stop thinking and just act on one of them. How surprising would that be, to the both of them?
Today wasn't such a good day, though. He was upset, and he'd been that way for a while and Aerith could only hug him from behind and hope that her arms were strong enough to console him.
She'd seen children upset before and children could be easily distracted with a piece of candy or a flower or even a silly face, but how was she supposed to distract him? His sorrow was more painful than a bruise, and much deeper than a skinned knee. His tears held more weight than a broken toy.
So even men cry too.
And even when his tears were gone and drying and he turned his head and Aerith could see his eyes, dark and red with lingering grief, she still held onto him, slim fingers curled tight into the front of his uniform. His hand touched her arm and she started, fast shivers racing down her spine at his quiet laugh. Quiet and soft and so hurt.
"I'll be okay."
He sniffled and rubbed his face with both hands and Aerith sat back, hands still on the thick guards on his shoulders.
"Sorry," He apologized quietly. "Guess I'm not very good company today, huh?"
Of course you are. But Aerith didn't say that, even though she hardly got to see him anymore. His job kept him busy and kept him far away and most times she didn't even get a phone call, but she never blamed him for it. As long as continued to show up every once in a while, she couldn't complain.
Aerith looked at her own hands, small and ineffectual and skinny, so unlike his, but built the same way. They weren't powerful or deadly, but they were hers. And maybe for this one instance they could nurture more than just flowers.
She moved to his side, careful not catch her dress under her knees, and Zack looked up, reserved smile, dark eyebrows knitted together as she offered him her hands, cupped together as if holding a ladybug or a firefly inside. "Here."
"What is it?"
Aerith opened her hands and his eyebrows furrowed more deeply finding her palms empty and he shrugged his shoulders, showing that he didn't understand.
"Like this." She giggled lightly, placing her hands over each of his ears and his eyes widened a little at the sudden contact, smile just a fraction brighter than before. "What do you hear?"
"I don't hear anything." The sorrow was still there, in his voice, mourning, the unwillingness to cooperate.
"Listen." Aerith prompted gently, nearly blushing when she realized how close his face was like this, how beautiful and clear his eyes were.
His eyes rolled good-naturedly. "Yeah, I did this when I was a kid, you're supposed to hear the ocean."
"What else?" She prodded, letting her fingers feel the soft, thick, black of his hair at his temples.
He sighed and she wondered if he would actually humor her this time. "I hear...the forest in Gongaga. That's my hometown. I used to take hikes with my dad in the summertime...We'd spend the whole day just walking and exploring."
"Sounds nice. Anything else?" She smiled and Zack laughed, noticeably less morose than before.
"What're you doing?"
"Cheering you up." She said simply, thumbs lightly caressing over his ears, the softer hair near the back of his neck. His expression shifted noticeably from playful to intrigue. "Is it working?"
"Yeah." He mimicked her smile with one that was uniquely his own and she could see that he was genuinely trying to be happy for her. "It is."
"Good." Aerith declared softly, folding her arms around her stomach as she sat back on her heels. Then Zack leaned forward, reaching up, and his hands settled over Aerith's ears the same way she had done to him moments before.
"Now, what do you hear?"
Ignoring the fluttering in her chest, Aerith slid her gaze to side, tracing out patterns in the floorboards, convincing herself that the heat in her face was coming from his larger, concealing hands and nothing else. She heard the same things she always did, the Planet, the voices of ancestors, the wind blowing over the hole in the ceiling. The rustle of the grass in between the flowers.
"Mm, I hear clouds."
Zack laughed suddenly and she returned her eyes to his face. "Clouds?"
She nodded, very matter-of-fact. "Mm-hm. And the sunlight."
"Oh yeah." He inclined his head, much like a puppy would, eyes slipping closed for a moment. Smile both in his voice and on his face. "I hear it too."
Aerith took this moment to study his tranquil expression, the dark eyelashes resting low over his cheekbones, the masculine sturdiness of his nose and jaw. The subtle curve of his light-colored lips, all the while feeling those curious thoughts returning.
What would it be like...I wonder?
"You know what else I hear?" He asked, his bright unnatural eyes opening once again, regarding her with a playful grin.
"What's that?" Aerith inquired coyly, fingers playing with the hem of her dress. She wondered if this was what flirting felt like, because she certainly was feeling a strange rush at looking directly into his eyes, at the hands cupping her cheeks and toying with her bangs.
"I can hear your heart beating."
She giggled, curling her hand at her mouth. "You can?"
"It's pretty loud."
Aerith touched his chest, on the left side, over the knitted material of his uniform. "I can hear yours too."
"Maybe they're talking to each other." Zack concluded with a grin, tucking a lock of hair behind her ear before his hands fell back to his lap.
Aerith pushed his shoulder, her touch lingering as a gentle warmth spread through her. "You say funny things sometimes, Zack."
"Really? I don't mean to." He laughed, crossing his arms behind his head and falling back in a slow arch to the ground. "Most times I just say whatever pops in my head." He spoke to the ceiling, dark hair curling over his eyes. Enhancing his boyish features.
Aerith shifted so her legs were curled beside her rather than beneath her, not caring in the least about the fine dirt on the floor as she carefully lowered herself to his level, head resting comfortably in the crook of his bent arm. His eyebrows rose in pleasant surprise, eyes as bright as the thin rays of sunlight that warmed the flowerbed not a far ways off from where they lay.
"Don't be sad anymore." She murmured eventually, knowing it was selfish to say something like that, but Zack's light smile didn't fade, only remained there as if frozen in some perpetual moment of pure happiness.
"Okay." He said quietly to the air above them and turned his head to the side, face much closer than Aerith expected. Close enough that she had no choice but to stare back, close enough that she could feel the tickle of his breath on her skin. Her opened palms planted somewhere on his chest, the initial first move was tentative from both ends, the subtle craning of his neck and the somehow instinctive need for her eyelashes to flutter closed. His nose bumped against hers briefly and he laughed softly, a little nervous, maybe, then the soft touch of his lips at the corner of her mouth that pressed once, twice, moving carefully to kiss the other side.
Aerith giggled, from her own bangs tickling her face, and the warm lips on her cheek, as surprising and pleasant as a drop of summer rain. His eyes looked up somewhere above hers, idly scanning around her features in that way of his and the crease between his eyebrows hinted that he was either trying to remember something, or was storing away the moment for future contemplation.
Aerith decided that she quite liked the way the expression looked on him, if only because smiles and tears aside, it made him seem much more human. It was almost hard to believe she had gotten so comfortable with this...man. A man with more power and potential in his body than all the frightening fiends of the slums.
There was comfort in having him close though. Even with...that feeling she would get, not the curious and wanting one, but something much, much darker. Like an omen almost, or... Aerith never could quite figure it out. When she tried, it only lasted seconds, mostly at times when she was sure Zack wasn't paying attention (moments that were more common than would've liked.) She would look at him and that feeling would be like he was running away, even though he hadn't moved at all.
It was like knowing you were going to lose something, even while it was still sitting in your hand. And that scared her, sometimes.
But those were things to think about on her own time, when nothing but silence filled the church and the small comfort of her bedroom, when Zack was away and there wasn't much else to do but miss him and pray that wherever he was, he was happy and safe and would come back for another visit soon.
Right now though, all she had to do was enjoy his company. Slip her fingers around his, no matter how much smaller and fragile and ineffective they were, and enjoy the fact that he was there.
There, and nowhere else.
Aww. Love Zack and Aerith. Love.
Review if you liked it, please. I know you have the time. :D