"It's good to be home…" Zack said as he stepped out of his car parked in front of the hotel he would be staying at until he could actually be bothered to find a place to live. The rolling fields surrounding the area could barely be seen between the houses. "This place hasn't changed a bit…" he said to himself, his hands on his hips as he surveyed the area in front of him and tried to decide where he should go visit from here.
He decided with the park he and his old friends used to hang out at. It was a short walk from where he was staying. And when he got there he sure was glad he did. There were a few little boys running around. The sight of them made Zack think of his own past when he would run around in a similar fashion with his friends.
"Hey Zack! Catch!" A brunette boy said before chucking a ball at the dark haired boy with relatively tan skin. Because of the lack of a warning it hit him in the face and sent him sprawling backwards. The brunette laughed, "HAHA Sephiroth! Did you see that!?" He said turning to the boy with platinum silver hair. Who nodded and smirked.
"Angeal!" Zack whined as he got up and ran over to their other friend who was sitting on one of the park benches. The young teen looked up at Zack with a cocked eyebrow, "Did you see what Genesis did!?" He yelled rubbing his nose where the ball had hit him.
"No." Angeal replied bluntly. He looked away from Zack but could feel the puppy dog eyes against his side of his head. Angeal sighed and stood up, "What did he do, puppy?" He said using Zack's nickname from the three older boys.
"He threw a ball at me." Zack whined, though he was visibly happy that Angeal paid him any attention. Being the youngest he was often cast aside. The other three were thirteen years old and Zack was only nine.
"You were being annoying; besides, I told you I was going to throw it." Genesis said walking towards the two dark haired boys, shrugging as he went, a pleased smirk stretched across his pale features. "It's not my fault you have terrible reaction time."
"Shut up Genesis you weren't being fair!" Zack snapped turning and glaring at the older boy, stomping his foot on the ground as though to really convey his thoughts on this point.
"Yeah? And what are you going to do about it, shrimp?" Genesis threatened glaring down at Zack.
The little tan boy seemed to snap as he threw a punch and nailed Genesis in the nose. The older man staggered back and by then Zack was on top of him beating him, landing punches wherever he could manage. But it didn't take long before Genesis started to retaliate. Sephiroth and Angeal had tried to pull the two apart with no luck and managed to get a few hits of their own while trying to work it all out.
"HEY STOP IT GUYS!" Someone called, and that was all it took for the four boys to leave one another alone and look up at the young lady who had yelled. Her long brown hair was pulled back into a ponytail and she frowned down at the four, her hands on her hips her green eyes slightly frustrated. "You guys are friends you shouldn't be fighting." She said.
"Sorry Aerith…" the four boys said together letting the little girl, younger then all of them have it her way since they didn't want to get her mad. They stood up and brushed themselves off.
"Now, Genesis, I want you to apologize to Zack." Aerith said setting her glare onto the brunette boy, leaning forward slightly, vicious towards the four boys despite her tiny stature, barely standing to Genesis's shoulder.
"What!? Why me!? How do you know Zack didn't start it?" Genesis retorted crossing his arms and shaking his head in a rather childish manner, which was so like the young man to do.
"Well you just proved my point. Now apologize." She demanded.
"I'm sorry Zack…" Genesis said quietly in a defeated tone of voice slouching forward with a sigh reaching up to scratch the back of his neck, not even looking at Zack as he spoke, obviously not wanting to add the look of victory on Zack's tan face to the embarrassment he was already dealing with after having to apologize to anyone in the first place.
Aerith smiled sweetly, "Now isn't that better." Zack just laughed…
The thoughts, the memories played through Zack's mind as he watched these little kids playing and play fighting, the two girls trying to keep the three boys from getting to rowdy. He smiled at them, they hadn't noticed him and they didn't now as he stood up and decided where he was going to go from here. He was going to go find his old friends. They had to still live here; no one ever left this little town. Zack himself had been one of the rare exceptions to this. But he knew his friends still had to be here, and he decided he would start with good ol' Angeal.
The route to Angeal's house was burned into his memory for an eternity, that, along with the directions to all his friends houses, was something he knew he would never forget in his entire life, especially since most of them lived right by his old house. He was sure Angeal would still be here, and if he wasn't still in the same house he would be somewhere still in the city limits. He knew this as he approached the quaint little house up the asphalt driveway with no car in it.
He rang the doorbell and waited. And waited. After a couple minutes he was starting to think that no one was going to answer but the door did eventually swing open. The person behind it was rather familiar though Zack wouldn't have been able to place him if he hadn't slightly looked like Angeal, the angles on their faces were the exact same, but their hair was different, this man had grey hair and his eyes were brown, it wasn't Angeal but Angeal's father. "Uh…hey, does Angeal still live around here?" Zack asked unable to help from feeling at least a little awkward talking to this man for the first time in his life. Before he had only ever seen him once in real life and a few times in pictures.
"Angeal left here for the big city a long while ago." The man said in a hoarse voice as he examined Zack who was suddenly even more awkward, not having ever expected Angeal to be one of the people that left this city, it always just seemed that everyone who had lived here would still live here.
"Oh…alright, sorry to bother you then…" Zack said scratching the back of his head and taking a few steps off the patio as Angeal's dad closed the door. That had really caught Zack off guard, now he wasn't sure whether anyone would still be here, though he knew there was only one way to find out. He stepped off the Hewley property and looked up at the sky which was turning a dreary grey to match Zack's suddenly foul mood. He looked down at his watch, it was getting a bit late, maybe he would have better luck tomorrow, and it was probably time for him to head back to the hotel for now. So that's what he did he started off towards the hotel where his car and everything was.
On his way back he was stopped by a voice that sounded almost familiar. It was deeper though, much deeper, and no longer broke every once and a while. But the way it was yelling was familiar, and got Zack to look around for the person causing the ruckus. The man was spotted quickly and Zack smiled, he had found someone he knew, he was starting somewhere.
The man he was looking at had almost shoulder length brown hair which was styled perfectly with most of it flipped to one side and covering his face, which Zack could barely see because of the distance and the fact that the other man was only partially turned to him. His features were pale and cold, his eyes an icy blue. He wore a red leather jacket, but it was still the voice that made Zack so sure of who it was and made him actually make his way over to him.
"Genesis? Is that you?" Zack asked as he approached and the figure became more defined, if it was Genesis as Zack guessed, the boy sure had grown into a man over the years, though still such a familiar figure he looked like a stranger as well, and that made Zack wonder whether or not people would be able to recognize him now.
Genesis turned and looked at the person who had called his name, taking his eyes off what he was trying to get into the back of his truck. Those cold blue eyes looked the tan man over, eyebrows furrowed. "Yeah…it's me. But, do I know you?" Genesis said crossing his arms over his chest and giving Zack his full attention, but Zack was simply shocked. "What's with that face, you look like you saw a ghost." Genesis said as he noticed how shocked Zack seemed to be.
Zack suddenly burst into a fit of laughter, doubling over grabbing onto his knees as he laughed. It made Genesis take a step back in surprise and maybe worry. "Um…are you alright, sir?" Genesis asked bending down slightly, putting his arms over Zack slightly as though to protect him from any further episodes.
Zack stopped his laughter and looked up at Genesis who still looked slightly worried. Zack stood up straight, "Yeah. I'm fine, but are you? What was with that 'sir' bull shit?" Zack said with a smile putting his hand on Genesis' forehead to check for a high temperature, but it just ticked off the brunette.
"Don't touch me." He snapped swatting Zack's hand away from his face. He took a step away from Zack, his glare had returned, fiercer than ever now.
"That's more like the Genesis I know." Zack said with a smile, honestly so pleased with Genesis' reaction, remembering how blunt and rude Genesis had been back when they were kids.
"I don't know you! Stop acting like you know me." Genesis demanded before slamming the trunk of his car closed and walking around to the drivers' side door. Zack was shocked again and he followed Genesis. He grabbed the door just as Genesis had gotten in and was about to close it. He was glad he had had all the training the past few years or he probably wouldn't have been able to keep the door open, it seemed like Genesis had been working out a lot to. "What now!?" Genesis snapped.
"It's me…Zack Fair." Zack said with a frown, "Do you honestly not remember me?" He choked out, his throat was getting tight as his brows furrowed over his bright blue eyes.
Genesis paused and looked Zack over again his angry demeanor faltered for a moment, but didn't come back nearly as fierce this time, maybe he felt some pity for poor delusional Zack Fair. He looked at the steering wheel in front of him, "No I don't know you. I think I'd remember someone as messed up as you." That seemed to really hit it home in Zack's mind as the tan man let go of the door and let Genesis close it.
Zack stood there, not moving as Genesis turned on the car and rain started to fall from the grey sky, hitting Zack's face as he didn't even bother to watch Genesis start to drive away. He couldn't believe one of his best friends could just forget him like it seemed Genesis had right now. At least it seemed as though the Earth felt for him, at least it seemed like it hadn't forgotten him. He couldn't bring himself to move at all. He didn't want to. Now that he really got a chance to think about it everyone had probably either moved away or had forgotten him for the eleven years he had lived in the big city far away from this little rural community out in the middle of nowhere. He looked up at the sky and let the rain hit against his skin cooling it down just from the slightest touch, his mouth slightly ajar from the initial shock which had failed to wear off.
Head lights lit up the air around Zack, but he didn't turn around or even think of moving. What was the worst that could happen; the car would hit him and end his life. Well so far, it seemed like he didn't have much more to live for. The car though stopped beside him. He didn't move. The person honked and he heard the small whir as they rolled down the window on the passenger side. "Hey, Zack." The person called, it finally got his attention and he turned his head to the side and saw Genesis looking at him, his brows furrowed. A spark of hope started to light up Zack's brain, and he started to think. His neck which had still been craned backwards moved to a more natural position as he approached the car.
"Yeah?" Zack asked cocking an eyebrow and resting a hand on the window.
"Are you just going to stand out here looking like a zombie and get sick or do you wanna get in the car so I can drive you to where you're staying?" Genesis questioned. The spark was gone, it wasn't that Genesis had suddenly remembered him; guilt just seemed to have gotten the better of the rude brunette. Zack opened the car door and got in and did up his seat belt as Genesis pulled back out onto the main road, "So where are you staying?" he asked looking at Zack out of the corner of his eye.
"I'm staying at the hotel down near the marketplace, by the park." Zack brought up the park, not as a land mark, but in hope that it would get Genesis to remember something about Zack. But Genesis just nodded and started towards the hotel, without even a second thought, it really was as though Genesis had completely forgotten about him over the years. This depressed Zack more then he thought it would and Genesis didn't bother sparking a conversation, and the ride was incredibly awkward, at least to Zack. Genesis still seemed to barely register the fact that anyone was in the car with him.
They travelled down the main road, one of the only roads in the small city until they got to the marketplace then to the hotel where Zack saw his car parked, compared to the huge truck Genesis was driving it sure seemed flashy and Zack noticed Genesis looking it over, not in jealousy but with a spark that said 'my car could crush that thing like a bug.' Zack almost smiled, that would be just like Genesis.
Zack opened the door as the truck stopped and looked back up at Genesis, "Thanks." He said, with a small rather forced smile.
"It wasn't a problem." Genesis said shaking his head. Zack closed the door and walked up to the entrance of the building, he looked over his shoulder at Genesis as the massive truck took off into the distance. Zack sighed before he opened the door to the hotel and stepped inside out of the rain.
As he checked in and made his way up to his room he thought that maybe tomorrow would be a bit better than this had been. He realized if he had talked to Genesis while they were in the car he probably would have been able to get the brunette to remember him, instead of acting like a zombie as Genesis had put it. He could have brought up Angeal; if he had Genesis probably would have started to clue into back when the four of them would hang out or even to the fact that who else could know Angeal enough. He could have brought up that fight that he remembered while he was at the park, where Aerith had had to come and pull the two off of one another. But he hadn't done any of that, he could try again another time, hopefully he would be able to see Genesis again.
He got up and walked over to the vanity on the far side of the room and looked at himself, was he really that much different, sure his skin was a little darker then it had been before and his hair was longer and all pushed back except for one strand which fell in front of his face. His arms were bigger and his muscles more defined, and he now sported the scar on his left cheek and earring on his left ear, but there wasn't really anything that different about him, was there? Maybe he looked a little more mature, which would definitely throw off his old friends. Maybe he would have better luck tomorrow. He would try to find Sephiroth and maybe Aerith. His luck couldn't be that bad. He sighed and went back to sit on the lumpy bed he had been provided. He hoped they were both still here.
He closed his eyes and he almost fell asleep. But he stopped himself as he remembered the other people he would have to see, like Cissinei, Tifa and Cloud. Maybe even Rufus and Lazard. It really would be good to see how many of them were still there and how many of them would still remember them. Genesis had always been a rude person, he was just being cruel, though Zack didn't think he was lying, he was pretty sure he had actually forgotten. This city…it really did deserve the title the City That Forgets. Or maybe Genesis just took it too literally. Zack stood up and took off his vest, he changed into some more comfortable pants while he kicked off his boots and socks and this time he let himself go to sleep.
Sun filtered through the curtains onto the bed in the hotel where Zack was sleeping soundly, but the sudden light made him reluctantly open his eyes, it already seemed to be a better day, at least the sun seemed to be up today and he wouldn't have to put up with the dreary weather and mood of the day before, this was a good omen. He could tell, and it was that that motivated him to get up and get himself ready for the day ahead, where he would be reunited with Aerith and Sephiroth.
He was outside by ten in the morning and decided he would go find Sephiroth's parents and ask them where Sephiroth would be. The fact that Genesis, Angeal and Sephiroth would be twenty five now kept slipping his mind at it really was just something he found hard to wrap his head around. He had already seen Genesis and he hadn't looked much different than he had when they were younger, but the same might not be able to be said about Sephiroth. But there was only one way to find out.
The walk to Sephiroth's was a rather short one, of course the walks to anywhere in this little city were short. He looked at every place he thought was familiar as he walked, which happened to be most of the town. He saw houses where old friends used to live, stores he used to go to with his parents and on occasion with his friends, though he had been nine when he left so normally he was accompanied by a parent. But even while he thought he couldn't help but get a bad feeling, both his tries on seeing his old friends yesterday had failed, who was to say this wouldn't be a failure as well. By now it was too late to turn back because he could already see Sephiroth's large house down the street. It was bigger than Angeal's and that just made it a little bit more awkward as he approached the front door.
Unlike at Angeal's house someone answered the door relatively quickly. Zack recognized the lady, she had aged, but time had been kind to her. She looked nothing like Sephiroth, but that was to be expected from his adoptive mother. "Um, hi…is Sephiroth still around anywhere?" Zack asked in a rather uncomfortable manner, scratching the back of his neck and rubbing his foot into the wood below him.
"No, he's not. He's not in this town, if that's what you are asking." She said shaking her head. She looked Zack over again as though trying to figure out who he was.
"Oh…well I should have figured that, I'm sorry for bothering you." Zack said nodding slightly a frown covering his tan face as he started to back up, expecting the lady to just close the door in his face, but she didn't.
"Do you want me to call him for you?" She asked tilting her head to the side, her face gentle and almost sympathetic. But the offer really made Zack think; did he want to bother Sephiroth? He had come here looking for Sephiroth, but did he really want to bother him when it didn't look like the other man seemed to care. He had probably forgotten like Genesis had anyway.
"No it's fine; I don't want to bother him." Zack said shrugging and turning his head to the side and taking another step backwards.
"Okay, well bye." The lady said before she closed the door and left Zack alone on the porch. The young man looked up at the sky, it was still bright, maybe there was still hope, or maybe the Earth just wanted to cheer him up and this bright weather actually meant that disaster was going to be fall him. Zack started off towards Aerith's house none the less.
He had to pass by his old house on his way to Aerith's from Sephiroth's and that had to have been his first sight of good luck since coming here. He saw a FOR SALE sign on the front lawn of his old house. It made him stop and look up at the old structure. That was a sign, and not just a literal sign, he was going to buy his old house back. It looked the exact same as it had before, except for the roof, someone had re-shingled it again, which was probably for the better because when he left it there had been one patch of shingles that had been a different colour then the rest because of an accident that had occurred so many years ago. He could see the window of his old room and he wondered if it was still blue or if someone had painted it. Someone had changed the curtains in the kitchen window, but aside from that he saw no differences what so ever from when he left it. The sight of it made him smile, that had definitely cheered him up, and he was in high spirits again as he continued to the next house over, Aerith's house.
He practically leaped up to the front door and rang the doorbell and a few minutes later a young women opened it. Her long brown hair tied up in a long ponytail. She wore a light blue dress with a floral pattern on it. She hadn't changed at all and Zack was so happy to see her, "Aerith?" He said with a huge smile.
Her brow furrowed as she looked Zack over a couple times, resting a hand on her chin in thought. Zack's good feeling was starting to head downhill as he realized she probably didn't remember him, that she was just like Genesis, she had forgotten him completely. "Zack?!" She exclaimed and he looked up at her in shock as she threw her arms around his neck, which forced her off the ground, apparently he had grown a lot more then he thought he had. His mood which had been going downhill hit a jump and flew through the sky, she remembered him! Was this some sort of miracle?
"You remember me!?" Zack exclaimed hugging her back, twirling her around once before putting her down. She giggled as she looked up at him and smiled sweetly like she had eleven years ago.
"Of course I do, how could I forget someone like you, Zack?" she said putting her hands behind her back and rocking on her heels. She was so short; Zack had expected her to have grown more than that.
"Well it sure looked like you weren't about to remember me." Zack said crossing his arms, resting most of his weight on his left leg.
"I wasn't…I saw that and I remembered you." She said pointing over Zack's shoulder at something on the driveway. Zack looked over his shoulder and saw a wagon filled with flowers. And it made him smile as he too started to remember it. "If it weren't for you I wouldn't have any money to my name." She said with a laugh. Zack was off the porch and over examining the little wagon and the beautiful yellow flowers in it.
"I remember giving you this idea…I even remember building this wagon for you. Remember when Genesis came up and broke it and I had to start from scratch." Zack said turning round to look back over at Aerith who had come to join him now. She nodded, "Then Angeal came by and told me how I could make it even better." She nodded again, she seemed almost as happy as Zack did right now.
"You have a great memory Zack." She said with a smile.
"It's nothing." He said before standing up straight and looking down at her, resting his hands on his hips and sticking his chest out in pride. It made Aerith laugh a little more.
"I was actually just getting ready to go out and sell…would you like to come with me? It would be great to catch up; I haven't talked to you in eleven years." Aerith said with a sigh as she picked up the handle of the wagon.
"Well, it'll be fun, it's not like I have anything better to do right now anyway." Zack said with a shrug. Aerith smiled up at him again and started down the driveway, Zack followed her, "So you still live here." Zack stated.
"Yeah, you know how rare it is for people to leave. Angeal left and Rufus is almost always out of town. But everyone else you know is still here I think." Aerith explained as they turned onto the sidewalk and started down the road. "We'll stop there last." She said pointing at the house across the street. Zack followed her finger and looked at the house across the street. Zack recognized the house quickly.
"Does Strife still live there?" He asked looking back down at Aerith. She nodded. "Why his house last though?"
"I always save him the best flower…everyday so I just find it easier to go there last right before I go home." Aerith said with a shrug as she continued down the street.
"Uh, alright then." Zack said still not really understanding why they would go to Cloud's house last when it was right there across the street. But Zack couldn't help but have a butterfly flutter in his stomach when he looked over at the blonde's house; he was honestly really looking forward to seeing Cloud again. He turned back and looked at Aerith again as they continued to walk on past the house though. "So you've been selling flowers for eleven years?" he asked. She nodded. "And that's the only reason you remember me?"
She looked up at him at that, "Yes. This is the City That Forgets after all." She said with a nod.
"Harsh…" Zack sighed out scratching the back of his neck. She sure could be blunt sometimes.
"Have you seen anyone else yet?" Aerith said obviously as an attempt to change the subject.
"Well…sorta…" Zack started as he tried to think over which part of the Genesis ordeal to tell to her, "I ran into Genesis yesterday…He didn't remember me though, but he seems pretty much the same as he was back when we were kids." Aerith laughed. "What's so funny?" Zack asked.
"I was just thinking. You're completely right, he hasn't changed at all." Aerith said shaking her head slightly, her long brown ponytail swaying gently with the motion.
"And what was with that HUGE truck of his?" Zack asked, finding something he could pick at for the time being. He hadn't even realized they had stopped walking.
"That's his baby…he named her Jenova I think." Aerith said with a laugh.
"That's kind of…weird." Zack said scratching the back of his head but laughing. "I thought he was going to crush my car with it when he dropped me off at the hotel I'm staying at." This made Aerith laugh, though Zack couldn't tell why, so he looked down at her with a cocked eyebrow.
"Do you have one of those tiny cars they drive in the city?" She asked.
"Uh…yeah I guess you could say that." Zack replied wondering if he should find it offensive or not. He did take it offensively when Aerith started to laugh at him though, "Yeah yeah! I've lived in the city for eleven years you can't blame me for getting a car that is normal there!" He exclaimed.
"Right, right of course I'm sorry." She said before turning around as a little girl approached, "Oh, my first customer." She commented with a smile.
This little girl had to be four years old; she had a short dark brown braid and wore a plain white dress. Her brown eyes were bright as she looked up at Aerith, "Hi Ms. Aerith!" the girl exclaimed.
"Hi there Marlene. Are you going to buy one?" Aerith asked. Marlene nodded.
"Yes please…and can I help you pick out the perfect one for Cloud?" She asked in an adorable voice.
"Of course." Aerith looked up at Zack, who was looking down at the flowers, "Would you like to help us, Mr. Zack?" She asked.
"Who's he?" Marlene asked as she seemed to finally notice Zack.
"He's a friend who moved away a long time ago, but now he's back. Why don't you say hello, Marlene?" Aerith said turning back to the little girl.
"Hi Mr. Zack. I'm Marlene." She said smiling up at Zack.
"Well it's nice to meet you Marlene." He said with a bow, the little girl looked flattered. "And I guess I'll help you." He said squatting down next to the wagon next to Aerith. The three looked through the wagon until Marlene found the perfect flower for Cloud and set it to the side. Then she picked one out for herself.
"Do you think my mom will like this one?" she asked Aerith holding it up.
"Yes I'm sure she'll love it." Aerith said standing up straight.
Marlene took out a few Gil and paid Aerith for the beautiful yellow flower. The little girl looked up at the two adults, "Bye Ms. Aerith, have fun with Mr. Zack." She said with a smile before she twirled and started to walk away. A few paces away she turned to walk backwards so she could say, "Protection."
"Wait…WHAT!?"Zack exclaimed as he figured out what she had just said and why. He gaped and Marlene as she turned around and ran away giggling. Zack looked down at Aerith who was giggling away, "Why did she say that, she has to be like four years old."
"It's probably because of her father, he has a tendency to not watch what he says, he's really immature sometimes." Aerith said. Though it seemed like she was trying to hide it she seemed to be blushing.
"Why did he have a kid if he's so immature?"
"He didn't have a choice, it's not his kid it's his friends but his friend and his wife died and poor Marlene was all alone." Aerith said with a shrug, though a frown pulled across her lips, "Barret is the only one they would have trusted with their kid so he took her in though he was only twenty two." She explained.
"She bought a flower for her mother…" Zack said his face glum at the news, a girl that sweet didn't deserve to have such terrible things happen to her, not that she really seemed to care about it much.
"Yeah, once a week Barret takes her to her parents' grave." She said nodding solemnly, "He really is a sweet guy though, especially when it comes to Marlene." She finished as another girl walked up and asked to buy a flower.
"Sounds like it." Zack said a small smile pulling at his mouth.
Aerith sold a few more flowers to people and she and Zack were quiet for most of that time except for the occasional hello here and there. Zack could honestly say he couldn't recognize most of the people who came up to them, of course he had been gone for eleven years so that would make sense, especially since most of the people who came up had to be under eleven years old. They all seemed to know and love Aerith though. She sold her last flower before she turned to Zack.
"Ready to make our last stop?" She asked lifting the handle of the wagon and getting ready to leave.
"Cloud's house? Yeah, sure, let's go." Zack said with a shrug, trying not to sound as eager as he really was. Aerith just smiled as she started to walk back the way they had come down to Cloud's house.
"So Zack you never did tell me why you left? Did you ever get to be in SOLDIER?" Aerith asked as they walked.
Zack shrugged at the sudden question, "I left because my parents left, and yes I did end up getting into SOLDIER. Didn't you notice I'm wearing the honorary SOLDIER belt?" he said motioning to the incredibly large belt around his waist.
Aerith looked down at the belt, "Oh, I didn't notice it." She said with a giggle. "Was SOLDIER fun?" she asked looking back up at his face.
"Well, I wouldn't say 'fun' but it sure was exciting." Zack said scratching the back of his head with a short laugh. Aerith laughed as well and then they were silent as they continued to walk along down the street towards Cloud's house.
They wheeled the wagon right up to the porch before Aerith picked up the flower they had picked for Cloud with Marlene. She practically jumped up to the door and knocked on the light blue door. The door opened within the next two minutes and Zack felt his heart skip a beat as he saw the young man behind the threshold of the door. His pale blond hair was spiked up in almost the same way it had been when he was little. He was thin and pale and his features were smooth, blemish free and young. His eyes were a fierce, beautiful shade of blue that so many people seemed to have, but it only really suited Cloud and his blond hair. A frown was set on his face and as he looked at Aerith he didn't even seem to really care. "Hello Aerith." He said in his smooth voice, it was so quiet and Aerith's voice seemed to boom in comparison.
"Hey Cloud." She said with a huge smile on her face. She held out the flower in front of her as Cloud reached into his pocket and pulled out a few Gil. "Marlene and Zack helped me pick it out for you." She finished as Cloud took the flower and gave her the Gil. Cloud's brows furrowed as he looked down at the yellow flower in his hand then up at Aerith.
"Zack?" He asked his head tilting to the side ever so slightly. And Zack's heart leapt as he was so sure that the blond might possibly remember him, he could see in the blonde's eyes that he was thinking about it.
"Yeah, Zack Fair, he lived here when he was younger, do you remember him?" Aerith asked with her kind smile never faltering as she motioned to Zack who lifted a tan hand and waved, smiling rather awkwardly as Cloud stared him down.
Cloud continued to stare for a rather long amount of time and it got more and more awkward and Zack's heart sank more and more as time passed. He didn't remember. Zack could tell that now and that thought was only confirmed as Cloud shook his head and looked back at Aerith, "I don't remember him..."
"Oh. Well, that's alright." Aerith said with a kind smile though she seemed sad like she wished that Cloud had actually remembered the Ex-SOLDIER member. Zack didn't think this was alright though, now that he really thought about it, Cloud was the only one he really wanted to remember him. But the blond didn't, and it crushed Zack, it hit him where it hurts. A lump was forming in his throat and he kept swallowing to try and keep himself from breaking right there. "Well, bye Cloud. I'll see you later." Aerith said waving.
"Yeah, later." He said before he closed the door. Aerith turned around and Zack looked away from her and started to blink furiously. He was fine with Genesis not remembering him; he would be even more fine with that if at least Cloud had remembered him. But now he was simply crushed. Aerith seemed to notice how upset he looked.
"Zack...Don't mind Cloud..." she started, as she bent down to pick up the handle of the wagon. She straightened up and looked back up at Zack, the smile that usually graced her features had turned into a small frown, "He's the kind of person who will never dwell on the past." She said, her frown only slightly perking up on the ends.
"Yeah, I kind of figured that…" Zack replied rubbing the back of his neck. He looked up and around and noticed the FOR SALE sign in front of his old house again, the house next door to Cloud's and he smiled again, that made him feel just a little bit better after what had just happened. "Hey…did anyone ever buy that house?" He said pointing at the relatively large building. Aerith looked where he pointed and seemed to lose herself in thought for a while.
"Yeah. For about two years another family lived there, they weren't there often and didn't really do much though, I think they moved out last year." She explained looking back up at Zack who hadn't taken his eyes off the old building.
"Well…it'll be good moving back in there. I wonder if it's the same as it used to be." He said with a smile, he could tell Aerith was slightly shocked but she seemed to get over it quickly as she seemed to realize that had been Zack's old house. She let out a chuckle.
"That's got to be nostalgic, moving into your childhood home." She said with a smile looking at the building. She looked back up at Zack, "Do you have the money for it?"
"Of course I do!" Zack exclaimed planting his fists on his hips and looking down at Aerith, "SOLDIER members get paid, y'know." He said jabbing himself in the chest with his thumb, smiling happily, thoughts of Cloud disappearing for a while as Aerith started to walk down the driveway. Zack followed her, with a bounce in his step.
"Where are you staying now?" She asked as she stopped at the side of the road and looked both ways for cars on this barren street.
"The hotel in the marketplace." He replied pointing in the general direction as they started crossing the road towards Aerith's house.
"That won't do at all." Aerith said stopping in front of her driveway, shaking her head and frowning as she looked up at a slightly confused looking Zack. She looked down at the ground and was silent for a moment before looking back up at the dark haired man with a large smile on her face, "Why don't you stay at my place tonight!?" She suggested.
Zack didn't know how to respond to a sudden and rather odd request like that. It was almost enough to even make him blush, but he didn't. He took a moment to compose himself before scratching the back of his head and replying, "If you don't mind, I'm fine with it. It would have to be more comfortable then the hotel." He said, wondering if there would be anything he would have to be worried about, not wanting to have to tell Aerith that he didn't and probably wouldn't ever have feelings for her, if that was indeed where she was trying to lead this.
"Great, sounds like fun. Why don't you go get some stuff and be back over here in half an hour?" She said with a smile swaying slightly.
"Alright that sounds good. I'll be back soon." Zack said with a large grin, it was infectious, with Aerith always smiling it was hard for him not to, despite everything. He turned and waved over his shoulder before walking down the long road towards the hotel he was staying at.
Upon arrival to his room he was back in a foul mood, without Aerith around him it was harder to stay as happy after a day full of learning such horrible things. Sephiroth was gone; the death of a young girl's parents and Cloud couldn't remember him. He quickly got some stuff together and threw it in a bag, wanting to get back over to Aerith's as soon as possible; having his own thoughts swarming his mind was starting to really upset him. This want to banish the thoughts from his mind had him ready within what seemed like moments and he decided it would be easier if he drove down to Aerith's.
He turned off the car in Aerith's driveway and let out a sigh. He ran a hand through his hair as he undid his seat belt and opened the door. He picked up his bag out of the seat beside him and slung it over his shoulder when he heard some giggling right behind him making him jump and almost smack his head off the top of his car. He wheeled himself around and looked down at her with a frown on his face and his hands on his hips, "You almost gave me a heart attack…what's so funny?" He asked seriously.
She pointed at his car and just continued to laugh before she managed to add, "It's tiny." Her entire face showed how amused she was, but Zack didn't get how it was so amusing. He looked at Aerith then down at his car then back at Aerith. Then he realized that Aerith was giving it almost the exact same look Genesis had the other day and he had a feeling he would be getting this kind of a look a lot more often from here on out.
"That's almost the same look Genesis gave it yesterday." Zack said scratching the back of his head and frowning.
"Well I'm really not surprised now." Aerith said straightening up and looking up at Zack, "How can someone as tall as you even fit in there?" She questioned with a laugh. Zack frowned and sat down in the driver's seat again.
"It's not that hard, it's not like you're supposed to be standing up in it or anything." Zack said running his hand over the wheel before looking up at Aerith. "You know there are cars smaller than this." Right after he said that though a sceptical look crossed Aerith's face. He got out of the car, "I'm not kidding!" he said. He held his arms apart "I mean, they're about this big and only two people can fit inside them." He explained. Aerith started to laugh.
"That's funny Zack, if only there were cars smaller then this thing." She patted his car on the hood and Zack gave up as he closed the car door and started walking up to Aerith's house. She followed him, practically skipping and still laughing at Zack's car. He didn't get what was so funny; a car was a car, so what if he didn't have some sort of monster truck like Genesis. His car still got the job done, and it probably didn't use up as much gas.
Inside Zack looked around; it was such a quaint little place. Aerith kicked off her shoes on a mat next to the door and ran on down the hall, "Mom I'm home!" she called as she ran. Zack was slightly confused though he should have guessed that she would still live with her mom especially since this entire city seemed to have changed very little in the past eleven years. Zack took off his boots and put them down next to Aerith's shoes. The size different was almost something to laugh about but he didn't as he walked down the hall Aerith had gone down. The hall opened to the kitchen on one side and Zack looked in and saw Aerith sitting on the counter talking to her mother who had aged nicely, the years had been kind on her. She looked only a bit older then she had back when Zack had first known her. Aerith looked over at Zack and jumped off the counter. Her mother looked up and cocked her head to the side as she caught sight of the tall tan skinned man standing in the doorway of the kitchen. "Mom, this is Zack, the one who lived here eleven years ago, the one who's staying the night." She said putting a hand on Zack's shoulder. Zack just smiled and waved not knowing what to say under her critic's gaze.
"You didn't tell me it was a boy staying over." The woman, Elmyra, said switching her gaze back to Aerith, in a very regular motherly tone. Zack scratched the back of his head.
"Well I thought he would stay in the guest room, he's not going to be a bother." Aerith said with a smile.
"That's not what I'm worried about." Elmyra replied with a sigh. Zack bit back everything he was going to say and try and assure her because he didn't know what exactly she was worried about and didn't want to give her the wrong idea just in case.
"Well he's already here isn't he? It would be rude to throw him out now, especially since it means he would have to go back to that hotel." Aerith said with a smile putting a hand on Zack's shoulder. Elmyra simply sighed at her daughter's words.
"Fine he can stay. Dinner is going to be ready in ten minutes." Elmyra said before turning back to her cooking, which Zack just noticed, he took in a deep breath smelling the food being cooked, he had no idea what it was having lost all his good sense by pretty much only eating microwaved food for the past couple years.
"Well I'm going to go show Zack the guest room." Aerith said with a smile grabbing Zack's wrist and pulling him out of the kitchen and down the hall to the stairs. The climbed the stairs and Aerith opened a door leading Zack inside. The room was a very light blue colour similar to the colour of the sky, had a bed a dresser a clock and a couple scenery paintings, but aside from that was empty. It looked, quaint, for lack of a better term. "Well you'll be staying here tonight, Zack." Aerith said letting go of his wrist and practically twirling into the middle of the room with a smile on her face.
"It seems nice." Zack said looking the room over again. He walked in and sat down on the bed, which was just as comfortable as it looked, and much better than the beds at the hotel he had stayed at the night before. Aerith smiled as she came over and sat herself down next to him.
"I'm glad you like it." She said, "Now I know you're new back here, so I've decided I'll let you know anything you want, if you have any questions. Especially about the citizens." She said smiling at Zack.
"Well…does anyone still live here, that I used to know?" Zack asked.
"Well. The Turks are still here. They have a new member though; she tends to run her mouth a lot." Aerith said with a laugh. Zack nodded and smiled; glad to hear the Turks were still there and together. The Turks was the name of a group who had always stuck together through school: Reno, Rude, Tseng and Cissinei. They were never apart, and it seemed like that still applied now. "Tseng leaves every once and a while, but the others seem pretty much anchored here. Apparently they work for Rufus's dad."
"Rufus still lives here?" Zack asked, remembering the bossy, good for nothing, snobby little brat named Rufus Shinra.
"Yeah, well most of the time, a lot of the time he travels with his father to the city, he is the vice president of Shinra now so he's really busy now adays." Aerith said reaching back and untying her long brown hair letting it fall to where it reached around her waist.
"Oh yeah, his dad is the president of Shinra…I'm surprised I didn't see Rufus at all when I was in SOLDIER, I saw his dad a couple times since SOLDIER is owned by Shinra but I never saw Rufus." Zack said with a laugh. Ha paused for a moment in thought, "So I'm guessing Lazard still lives here too then…since him and Rufus used to be such good friends."
"Yeah, Lazard never left, he works as the vice chairman of the branch of Shinra located here." Aerith said but she paused and laughed, "At least I think that's his title, I'm not really sure."
"A company like Shinra has a branch in a no where place like this?" Zack asked. Aerith simply nodded. "Well…That's kind of shocking…I know there isn't a SOLDIER branch here."
"Yeah the General Affairs department is mostly what's here. The Turks work there." Aerith explained. Zack nodded in understanding, it would make sense for them all to work in the same place, do the same thing, and everything. They were exactly as Zack thought them, inseparable. It made him smile thinking of how they all must've grown up. Except for Reno, he was pretty sure the red head didn't know how to grow up. He was sure Rude and Tseng were the same as always, stoic and quiet. Then Cissinei, he was sure had grown into a pretty young lady, maybe she had even managed to get her hair under control instead of always tying it back. It all made Zack's heart beat faster; he couldn't wait to see how everyone had grown up. He hadn't been shocked by Aerith or Genesis or even Cloud, but someone was bound to shock him eventually.
"You two! Dinner!" Elmyra called from downstairs. Aerith jumped to her feet and gracefully walked out the door, followed by the not nearly as graceful Zack as he more or less plundered down the stairs. Elmyra had three plates set out on the dining room table and Zack took a good whiff of the food. He hadn't had decent food in a long time and this home cooked meal made his mother water. He could feel Elmyra's gaze on him but didn't even look at her as he sat down with the two women and the three started to eat. They ate in silence, Zack simply scared of being judged by Elmyra not wanting to get off on the wrong foot right off the bat, not wanting her to get the wrong idea of Zack's intentions by staying here.
Aerith picked up his plate along with her own and her mother's and walked with them into the kitchen. Zack finally made eye contact with Elmyra, "Thanks for the meal, I haven't had anything that good in years. You'll have to teach me how to cook." He said with a laugh and a smile. Elmyra smiled back at him seeming quite pleased with herself. Aerith walked back into the room.
"Zack…it's about 7 now…a bit too early to go to bed. Do you want to watch a movie?" She asked.
"Sure, that sounds like a plan." Zack said standing up. He heard Elmyra sigh as she too got up and walked around the other two into the kitchen and Aerith grabbed Zack's wrist again and pulled him into the living room. She pushed him down onto the couch in front of the TV before she went over to a cabinet full of movies. She seemed to be having trouble picking one, it took her a couple minutes, but she did eventually pick out a movie. She put the DVD into the machine and let it start. She refused to let Zack see the cover until the movie started. It ended up being some apparently scary movie called the Uninvited.
Zack jumped slightly when the head spun around at the beginning, but aside from that didn't find it all that frightening. Aerith on the other hand was shaking and jumped any time something happened. She was pressed against Zack's side but didn't take her eyes off the screen. When the girl shot out from under the stove Zack almost let out a scream, he had been expecting it, but it still got him. Aerith did scream though and it was high pitched and loud. She was literally shaking and Zack wondered what she would be like watching a movie scarier than this. At the end of the movie, Aerith seemed to understand everything that had happened during the plot. She had probably seen the movie before, but Zack was confused as fucking hell. He stared at the screen with his brows furrowed, "What the HELL was that…? I am honestly SO confused right now…" he said rubbing his eyes.
"You didn't think it was scary did you?" Aerith asked, she finally had her composure back and had her legs pulled up under her.
"No, it wasn't scary…but that was messed up…I thought it was real…seriously what the hell." Zack said running his hands through his hair not quite sure what to think now. Aerith yawned and he looked at her with a cocked eyebrow.
"It's about 9 now…we might as well go to sleep." She said smiling at Zack, not that he finally got to look at her she looked dead tired. He nodded.
"Alright, I think I need time to think about this movie anyway…that was just so screwed up." He said standing up. Aerith stood up after him and just managed to avoid his fist as he stretched. "Oh, sorry, I wasn't paying attention." He said as he realized he had almost hit the young woman.
"No it's alright Zack, you must be tired too…come on lets go to bed." She walked off across the room and out into the hall. Zack followed her and the two went up the stairs. Aerith paused outside of the room Zack was staying and. "Well good night I'll see you in the morning." She said waving. Zack nodded.
"Yeah, I'll see you later." He said as he opened the door and walked in, shutting it behind himself. He walked over to the bag on the bed and opened it pulling out the sweat pants he slept in and quickly changed into them, wondering briefly if it would be comfortable walking around the house in these in the morning. In the end he decided he was too sleepy to care. After throwing his bag onto the floor he fell onto the bed and was asleep as he hit it. His dreams that night filled with old memories of him and all his old friends. And himself now rekindling that old friendship, everything going the way they should have gone.