Disclaimer: I don't own FFVII
A/N: I debated on posting this chapter, but in the end decided for it. Maybe you guys might enjoy it. :) AU.
For: Miss Layla and Kerapal bubbles
"I want Wutain food."
Zack looked up from cleaning his sword to the woman sitting on the chair across from him. She had her hands laid over her growing (but still flat) stomach, rubbing lazy circles over it. "Aeris…" He said slowly, connecting his blue eyes to her bright green ones. "You hate Wutain food."
She pursed her lips and glanced at her belly. "Yes. But little Rose doesn't, therefore I don't."
Zack held back a grin. "First of all, we're having a boy. And second, we're in Edge."
"As if I'd forgotten." She said flatly. "And we're having a girl."
He sat up straight and crossed his arms, knowing there was no winning on his part. "…That means the food here is more bland than the color of the sky."
At this, Aeris looked out of their window, seeing the grey skies that never really held color. "There's that one place that sells it. It's down the street from my shop…" She trailed off, trying to remember the name.
"If there was, I'm pretty sure I'd have known about it." Zack told her confidently. He set his sword down ran a hand through his hair, absently rubbing his stomach. The thought of Wutain food did sound really good actually…
"Seventh Heaven!" She exclaimed happily, sitting up and clapping her hands. "That's what it's called."
"Seventh Heaven…" Zack murmured, moving his hands to his chin in a thinking posture. "Isn't that…a bar?"
Aeris nodded and held her hands up to have him help her stand. "Yes. Now get my jacket."
"You sure you want Wutain?" Zack asked lowly, glaring at the men drinking who had averted their eyes to Aeris as they entered. She wasn't too far into her pregnancy to be noticeable. Only to his eyes because he'd had the curves of her skin memorized under that pink dress.
The bar wasn't packed, nor was the dining section of the tavern, so Zack had Aeris sitting in the corner booth, and made the decision order the food himself so no middle aged would be staring at her. "Oh, Zack." Aeris giggled, hand over her mouth, as she figured out his reasoning.
He walked up to the bar, narrowing his eyes at the men who'd been staring at Aeris. "Turn around." He threatened with a clenched jaw as one man had turned his entire stool to face his girlfriend. The man gulped and turned back around.
A light chuckle directly in front of him had Zack face the source of the sound. He met very amused eyes of a rather attractive woman. He rubbed the back of his head abashed. If he'd learned anything from Aeris and a few of her girlfriends, he knew women had a sixth sense about men that they themselves didn't even know. "Uh…"
Her claret eyes sparkled and she shook her head gently. "You could almost rival Cloud in his protectiveness…" She murmured, and with his enhanced hearing, he'd picked it up easily.
"Cloud?" Why had the name sounded so familiar?
"Mhm." She smiled, fingering the ring on her left hand. His eyes immediately caught the movement and he smirked. "Married two years already… but, I'm talking too much. What can I get for you?"
He leaned forward, his eyes continually glancing to check on Aeris as she played with one of her bracelets. "I heard you had Wutain food here."
"Absolutely!" She grinned, leaning across from him to refill the drink of a younger man next to him. "Cloud always brings produce from different areas around Gaia when he comes from his deliveries."
"Sounds great! Two servings, then." He grinned, slapping the countertop lightly. Suddenly, he felt his shoulder jerked back and his gaze immediately came in alignment with dangerous blue eyes, not unlike his own in color. Shit, this guy looked familiar.
"She's not interested." The voice was hard and final.
"Cloud," The woman behind the counter scolded in exasperation. "He was just ordering food."
He felt a gentle hand on his shoulder, and he turned to catch Aeris' knowing smirk. "Problems in the menu?" She said, humor laced in her voice.
The blond man's face unhardened at her appearance and his stance became relaxed. He raised his hand to scratch the back of his neck. "Oh."
"Yes. Oh." The woman behind the counter said with a frown. "Cloud… you can't just threaten every guy that talks to me, you know."
His eyes narrowed a bit at her logic. "You know how men are here, Tifa. We can't take risks."
"I think you two would be perfect friends." Aeris smiled, folding her arms and shaking her head.
"I was going to say the same thing." The woman, Tifa, sighed with a small smile. The two women locked gazes and giggled, leaving the men confused.
Aeris walked directly up to the counter, pushing past Zack and sitting herself on the stool. She held her hand out in greeting, her bracelets jingling. "I'm Aeris Gainsborough."
"Tifa Strife." The bar maiden introduced, shaking her hand.
"Nice to meet you, Tifa." Aeris smiled widely.
Zack shrugged and cocked his eyebrow at the man sitting in the stool next to his girlfriend. "I don't think I need to ask you to move, do I?"
With a smug smirk, he sat himself in the now empty barstool, watching as the blond went around the bar and began filling in the orders while Tifa now began to take Aeris' undivided attention.
After a short while of hearing the two women chatting away about things that held no interest to him. He frowned, becoming bored at being ignored and was saved as a bowl of Wutain noodles were set in front of him. Looking up he saw Cloud lean over and place a bowl in front of Aeris. "Your meals."
Tifa gasped and blushed, her hand flying to her mouth. "Oh! Cloud! I'm sorry! I just got so caught up in-"
"Tifa." The blond's lips twitched into a smile, and he put a hand on her shoulder. "Don't worry about it."
"So…" Zack drawled out, looking at the blond more closely. "Cloud Strife…"
"You're name sounds familiar." The raven haired man shrugged, digging into his food.
Cloud grimaced and looked at him curiously.
"Zack Fair." He introduced, chest puffing out in pride of himself. The movement caused his spoon to tip and a bit of liquid fall onto his clothes.
Aeris laughed and wiped it away as he frowned.
Cloud's eyes widened. "Zack… Fair?"
"That's me." He nodded, "Head of WRO Intelligence."
Cloud frowned and he and Tifa shared a glance that neither Aeris nor Zack missed. "Hm. I don't do well with the government."
"What do you mean?" Zack asked, only slightly offended. It's not like WRO was the next Shinra. Hell, that damned company was so corrupted, they'd destroyed themselves in their unsuccessful exploitations of that one group… With wide eyes, Zack grinned at finally realizing where he'd seen this man.
"Oh, hell!" He exclaimed, laughter in his voice. "I know you! You were that group that totally maimed Shinra. I knew I'd remember."
Cloud frowned. "Yeah…"
Zack whistled, slinging an arm around the brunette next to him. "Good thing, too. I was almost at my wits end working for them. But, it paid the bills." He said, his voice lowered as he rubbed his hand down the arm of the woman next to him. Aeris gave him a small smile, remembering their struggles they'd had to endure, trying to make a life for themselves.
Tifa looked back and forth between the two men. She knew Cloud's past with Shinra was as rocky as hers had been. The company becoming a form a tyrannical government, taking from the poor and giving to the rich. There'd been many homeless families because of them, and their feelings toward the now fallen company were still sour.
She cleared her throat and looked at Aeris. The other woman shrugged and continued eating her soup. "We aren't too… fond… of governments, but Reeve is a dear friend of ours." Tifa explained, signaling she'd be there to a customer across the room. "We know he'd never turn out like Shinra. It was nice meeting you two, but I think some customers are getting rowdy."
"I'm holding you to your promise on helping me shop for baby clothes, Tifa." Aeris smiled.
"Of course." She agreed, nodding before walking off with another smile to them.
Cloud still looked at Zack strangely and the man in question was beginning to wonder if he had food on his face.
"I think I've seen you before." Cloud said quietly.
"I wouldn't doubt it!" Zack grinned, pushing his now empty bowl away from him. "I'm pretty big news when it comes to WRO."
"You wouldn't happen to be from Gongaga, would you?" The blond questioned, ignoring his job title, and surprising the older man.
"Yeah." He nodded, "How'd you know?"
Cloud smiled briefly and chuckled. "What years can do to a guy…"
"What do you mean?" Aeris asked, pushing her bowl away as well.
"Nice to see you again, neighbor."
Neighbor, Zack thought curiously, forcing his memories of Gongaga to emerge. With comically wide eyes, the dark haired man laughed loudly and clapped the spiky haired blond on the shoulder. "Cloud Strife!"
"I'm confused." Aeris admitted, cocking her head, but smiling all the same.
Zack wrapped his arm around her frame again fondly and punched Cloud's shoulder, missing the wince he'd made. "How could I not have recognized! Well… you're hair was longer and less… spiky. Hell, how've ya been?"
At Aeris' expectant look, he added. "Oh, right. Cloud was my neighbor for a while until he moved to… what? Nibelheim? Yeah." He chuckled, running his free hand through his hair. "Wow, the mischief we used to cause… Remember old Gran's garden we mutilated?"
Cloud grinned along, nodding his head in agreement at the memory. "Nice to see you again."
"You did what!" Aeris' eyes widened as she fixed Zack with a stern look that had him backpedaling.
"Uh… So you're married now? Congrats, man." He avoided her question and met Cloud's amused look.
He nodded. "And, it looks like you're doing well yourself."
"Hell yeah!" Zack agreed, "Look at what a fine, beautiful, intelligent woman I have here on my arm. Nothing better."
Aeris' stern look didn't fade, but he knew she was flattered by the light in her eye. The next few hours were spent as the three of them conversed, Tifa occasionally as well when the it got slow.
Finally exhausted by the day, Aeris grabbed Zack's hand and turned to Cloud, smiling softly. "I hate to break up your reunion, but I'm feeling a bit tired."
That had Zack's amusement replaced with concern as he helped her stand up. "You okay?"
She nodded getting ready to answer, but yawned instead. She grasped Cloud's hand and gently squeezed it. "It was nice meeting you, Cloud. I can guarantee you'll be seeing more of us after tonight."
Cloud gave a short nod, and almost staggered when Zack's hand firmly planted itself on his shoulder. "Take care man. No more runnin' around trying to destroy the government. Gotta support my family somehow, huh?" He laughed, loosening his grip and pulling back.
Cloud's lips curved. "No worries. I'm a delivery boy now."
"I own a flower shop down the street." Aeris interjected, leaning heavily on Zack. "If you ever want to stop and pick something up for Tifa."
Cloud nodded. "See you guys later."
With a light wave, Zack replied, "See ya!" And the two of them made their way out of the tavern and into the busy Edge night.
"Well… that was unexpected… and pretty great!" Zack grinned widely.
"It was, wasn't it." Aeris agreed, wrapping her arms around his broad chest. "Mmm, Tifa's food is absolutely heavenly."
"Can't argue there." Zack snickered, thinking how Aeris cooking was… less than skillful. He loved how she was so insistent on trying new recipes, though and even though it didn't taste great, the love she'd put into it made it enjoyable.
When they reached their home, and readied themselves for bed, Zack was halfway into dreamland when he yelped as Aeris pinched him. "Hey! What was that for?"
"For ruining that poor woman's garden."
He groaned. He'd never hear the end of this one.
Huge thanks and hugs to WonderlandQueen, sana-chan9, Aosugiru Sora, and vintage paper for your wonderful reviews and awesomeness! Love you guys!