Disclaimer: Neither AnakhaSilver from Deviantart or Trilies of own any of the characters below besides Rise, an original character that only makes a brief cameo. The characters in this work of fiction belong to Squeenix and/or Disney. We do, however, own the plot. This is made for fun and enjoyment of the fandom, not profit.
Author's Note: I admit I rather like writing the dynamic of the friendship between the Final Fantasy characters. It's fun! Of course, bright beginnings don't always have bright endings to accompany them...
"I feel like I'm hitched."
Blinking, Aerith looks up from the sandwiches she's making. Delicate fingers tap about on the cutting board. "Now why would that be?" she asks innocently. The smile she and Cloud share are definitely teasing. Cid doesn't miss it, either, and just scowls through the faint pink on his face.
"Yeah, yeah, go on 'n' laugh," he grumbles. "But how do y'think a guy feels with a pregnant gal in his house making lunch for him to take t'work?" Crossing his arms, he leans back. "Awkward. That's how it feels."
Aerith just giggles softly. "It's not so bad, Cid. At least you don't feel like I do."
The gruff blond stiffens instantly, and Cloud shifts in uneasy alarm. "Morning sickness?" Cid asks carefully, eying her round stomach. Months have since passed since she's moved in and the due date is looming closer. It's really no wonder everyone's so jumpy. Everyone, it seems, except for Aerith herself.
"Don't be silly," she chides, and wraps up the lunches expertly. "If I was feeling unwell, would I really be up and about?" She hands the packed lunches to the two at Cid's table. "I meant I feel like a mother with two kids." Oh, they both sulk at that! Laughing, Aerith smacks their shoulders gently. "At least it's good practice. Oh, come on now, you know I'm only joking."
"The food better be good for that," Cid mutters, standing up. "Getting mocked in my own home..."
"Free food and great conversation." A familiar someone chuckles form the doorway of the kitchen. "The things you suffer for friendship, huh, Cid?" Tifa beams when Aerith whirls around to greet her. Instantly, the two are squeezed in the best hug they can manage. As they pull away from each other, Tifa pointedly looks down at Aerith's belly. "So, how is everything?"
"Just fine." Aerith pats the bulge reassuringly. "I'm amazed I'm even standing this morning, 'tho. Carrying Sora around 24/7 is exhausting."
"Sora?" After a moment, Tifa's eyes light up. "Right, you're naming the baby that! Pretty name, and you don't even need to know if your baby's a boy or a girl."
"That's only a little part of the reason." Aerith smiles secretively. "But enough about me. You guys have to check in on those strange ships at the docks, don't you?"
"Gummi ships." For a rare moment, Cid looks unreservedly happy, leaning forward with his fists clenched. "No one's ever seen anythin' like 'em before, but they're definitely spaceworhty. Extensive testing from those eggheads at the castle. When we finally perfect 'em, space travel won't be limited to asses with magic."
"Cid," Cloud mutters in warning.
"Cid!" Tifa scolds sternly.
Aerith sighs and smiles. "Cid, the baby."
The mechanic just rolls his eyes and snorts. "Kid ain't even born yet," he says gruffly, although he's still smiling. "Tell you what, after I pilot a gummi ship off into that big nowhere myself, I'll make sure you and yer kid get into some ships too. It'll be one helluva ride that neither of ya will ever forget."
"I don't doubt it." Leaning back against a counter, she watches in amusement as Cid rushes the group out the door. He really loves working on those ships... Aerith feels her heart rise happily at the thought of her friends enjoying themselves. This is Cid's dream, after all. "Stay safe!" she calls after them with a wave. Amidst laughter and chatter, they give back their own farewells. Soon enough, it's just the two of them in the house.
"Come on, now," she murmurs lovingly to her precious unborn child. "Up the stairs we go." Cid isn't a man with too many needs, so despite being two stories, it's a rather small house he lives in, with the bedrooms upstairs. Still, Aerith can't help but be fond of it. Yes, she might have to walk up stairs just to get to her room, but it's not so bad. That doesn't mean her optimism saves her from being dead tired... The second she sits on the edge of her bed, it takes quite a bit of stubbornness not to fall asleep. She has a letter to write, after all. So paper and a pen are collected and Aerith begins to write.
Good news! The birth date is soon. It's a shame that you aren't here to celebrate with us, but if I know you, I'm certain you're having fun on your own journey and I know you wish us the best from your other letters. Once Cid finishes his work on the gummi ships, we'll make sure to visit you at the Coliseum you're so fond of. Show us around, okay?
Aeleus still hasn't gotten a break from his duties, so I haven't heard form him yet. I'm sure that whatever project Ansem has them working on is important. Still, I can't help but wish they'd finish quickly. I won't waste your time with worries, though! A lot of fun things have happened as well.
Leon and Rinoa have been taking care of my flower cart, as my belly has gotten far too big. Sometimes, a bunch of their friends go over to help them sell flowers. It's a big hit, ha ha! Because they're being so sweet, I let them keep some of the munny. I've heard from Rinoa's father that they're saving up for something special. I wonder what it is? Regardless, I'm glad they're having fun.
I've been having some strange dreams lately. Sometimes, I almost can't tell if they're real or not. In some of the dreams, I'm standing on this beautiful beach in a land far far away. Shattered colored glass is all around me, but somehow I know none of it will cut me. The tide just washes past my bare feet and drags the glass deep into the sea. Then I'll look up at the blue blue sky and just laugh because I'm so happy...
See? Strange... But in a good way, I think.
I'm going to take that as just another sign. I never told you what I'm going to name the baby, did I? It's
Mid-sentence, she pauses, rubbing lightly at her throat. Ack... Her little hike is finally catching up to her. Glancing at a nearby clock, Aerith decides to take a break. The letter certainly isn't going anywhere. With an admittedly unladylike grunt, she pushes herself up onto her feet. The stairs are taken slowly; ever since she received the news, Aerith's taken the greatest care in avoiding spills. Finally stepping onto the ground floor drags a relieved sigh out of her. Crisis averted! she thinks to herself jokingly. Shaking her head at her own caution, Aerith steps into the kitchen.
She never makes it past the doorway. She can't bring herself to.
Xehanort is in the kitchen again.
Aerith's mind barely has time to question how and why he's here when instinct takes control. Unfortunately, her elbow slams into the door frame as she jerks back, and faster than she ever thought possible, Xehanort whirls around. Silence, tense and stiff, curls around her throat like a noose. Xehanort's eyes have always been bright - but not like this, tinted with a mad glow that makes the shadows of the kitchen twist somehow... Darkness... That one word flutters through her mind before it's shoved aside for a surprisingly vicious thought:
Don't you dare touch my child.
"Aerith." The man before her is not Aeleus' friend, not the person who had married Rise or made Ansem beam with pride. She doesn't know who he is, with his mad gold eyes and threateningly empty voice. Because of this, she doesn't call him by name. Aerith only clenches her jaw.
"I have to go." In a heartbeat, adrenaline races through her body and pushes her down the hallway. She can hear his footsteps behind her, but already she's fumbling with the door knob and practically spilling outside. Exhaustion is wearing down on her limbs, and it is only through pure will that she doesn't just collapse. A Chocobo is grazing outside, Tifa's undoubtedly, and it skitters backwards slightly in alarm when Aerith stumbles to it. At her whistle, however, it gets down low so that she can clamber onto it. Xehanort's already outside, dashing towards her, but with a snap of the reins, the bird dashes away. Its scream of "COOC!" has her start in alarm, and when she looks back, she can see a handful of yellow feathers poking from the gaps of Xehanort's fist. Soon enough, however, he disappears from sight as Tifa's Chocobo carries her throughout the city, past streets and scatterings of people.
Eventually, with a slight tug of her reins, the Chocobo comes to a slow and Aerith pants, leaning against the back of its neck. Fear is still making her heart beat wildly, and in paranoia, she looks over her shoulder. No one... Not even the usual people. It's early, after all. Twisting the reins in her hands, she tries desperately to think. She certainly can't go back to Cid's house, not with Xehanort there. Something is most desperately wrong with that man... Has he even told Aeleus about her? Aerith's eyes narrow. Somehow... she thinks he hasn't.
Besides, if there's anyone who could help her, protect her, it's Aeleus. To the castle, then.
Guiding the Chocobo to the castle is easy; if anything, Tifa trains hers well. The problem is that the closer they get, the more her stomach hurts... More and more fear pounds in her veins, but Aerith refuses to let it scare her off. Just... Just have to get to Aeleus... Have to let him know, and have to keep the baby safe... If anything else, she has to keep her baby safe...
She's only a few more long Chocobo strides to one of the stairs which leads up to the elevated area where the castle rests when her body can take no more. With a choked cry, she forces herself to slide off of the bird, shaking with pain. It doesn't quite work; her legs give out beneath her, and she slams one of her knees onto the pavement in an effort not to damage her child. Why...? Why now, of all times? Tears spring to her eyes, almost more from how she's so close... Even as she crumples to the ground, the Chocobo calling out in alarm, she can feel something burst within her, staining the inside of her legs...
Perhaps it's the pain. Perhaps it's her own panic. But lying down in a tiny little side road with her water broken and something just so wrong, Aerith swears she can see Rise again.
The other woman looks just like she did when she was alive, before the birth, before things went wrong. Her long silver hair frames her face, which is twisted into an expression of worry as the pale figure kneels down besides her. Turquoise eyes shine in dual anxiety and reassurance even as she so lightly places her hand over Aerith's. Her mouth moves, but no sound comes out. It's almost okay, because somehow, Aerith can understand.
Everything will be okay.
Then the apparition, the hallucination, seems to fade away, and Aerith hears familiar footsteps rushing towards her. Even before Xehanort appears and comes to a stiff stop, Aerith is struggling to push herself up onto her elbows. Even with tears staining her face, she is defiant and radiant, fists clenched and prepared to do anything to keep this man away from her child. But... something... Something is different now. There's none of that strange darkness from before, at Cid's house. In fact, he almost looks like the Xehanort she remembers meeting, the man she has laughed with and teased. He seems so confused, standing there frozen. Does he even see her...? It's proven he does when he takes a jerky step forward, then another and another until the movements become smooth again as he kneels besides her. Gently, she's taken into his arms and lifted up. Breathing hard, she looks into his eyes.
If this is the man who she remembers and not the person who had set off so many alarms in her heart back at Cid's, then she won't fight against his help.
Everything passes in a blur- the houses, the Chocobo which races along besides them, even when they're bursting into the yard of a home that Aerith only faintly recalls. Of course... Xehanort... has always been strangely strong, unbelievably quick if probed into being so... Faces are whisked past her, one of which is young Rinoa, her eyes wide with panic and worry. Into a room, then a bed- Orders shouted, a hand clenched in hers, knees bent-
As if they need to tell her. It's all Aerith can do, what she needs to do- that, and clench her eyes shut and scream. Eventually...
It all fades to black.
Le gasp! Dramatic ending! -jazz hands!- What will happen? Of course, it's Ana's turn next, so who knows if you'll find out...