Aerith woke up wondering how she got in Zack's bed and why he looked like that before she realized that there was a yesterday.
And boy, was it some yesterday! All of a sudden, Zack hit the bottle for no apparent reason. And Zack was an obliviously honest drunk. She couldn't help but ask questions.
So many fun answers—it was the most romantic she had ever managed to get him! He liked her hair down, he got tummy aches when he was away from her for long time, if they ever had children, he always wanted a daughter named Julia—but if they got stuck with a boy, he'd like the name Jake. Zack was just fond of the letter 'J'. His middle name was James—but he had always told everyone that it was Xavier and this wasn't true. Secretly he enjoyed being called 'Puppy' because it meant people thought he was friendly and happy. He admitted everything sincerely and openly. So much honesty in such a small window of time—no wonder Zack stopped drinking when he started to get all cuddly! It was the first sign of his blatant truthfulness.
But that was the thing; he didn't stop drinking that night. And she didn't stop him because it was cute. But that was her mistake.
"And you know what?" He said, his voice getting soft and airy as they moved into the credits of the third movie for the night—a pirated DVD copy of Wicked. "I actually think I'm in love with you. I'd follow you…anywhere." His blue eyes traced her face as he smiled drunkenly. "But there's one thing that I wanna do. 'Cause we haven't and now I think that maybe…it'll be special now?" The statement sounded like an uneasy question to them both. Zack had actually prepared himself for this and he had done it so…sweetly. There wasn't an ounce of sexual tension whatsoever…
Finally after a moment of whiskey-scented silence, she finally whispered, "Okay…"
Now she was snuggled into his warm body, their legs tangled together, and his arm thrown over her and in that single pleasant moment of bliss. However, Zack was on the other side of her, feeling rather sick to his stomach. That was something she didn't know—and would never know.
Eyes wide open; he let an inward groan start. Why had he done this? He knew Aer had been saving herself for marriage like the good Planet-religious girl she was…but then again…she said she would—
No! Bad. Bad Zack.
He scolded himself.
…Where had the dog scolding came from? Had he really hung out with Angeal that much to intake the Puppy thing to himself? He felt he probably deserved to think of himself in such a demeaning way…wasn't he supposed to be the good boyfriend and not force her into sleeping with him and stuff? Did he do that jerk move that guys in Midgar do to keep their girlfriends from leaving them?
"I'm never drinking that heavy again," the raven-haired teenager admitted aloud, making her turn around with a grin.
"How long have you been awake?" she giggled, rubbing her nose into him.
"Not long. Since ten, I guess."
Watching him have that fake look on his face bothered her. "Zack!" His cheery response moved much too slow for Aerith's tastes so she grabbed at his face with her thumb and index finger and pulled it hard. "Smile, you jerk!" Instantly, his personality was revived.
"What was that for?" With a laugh, he had shaken her off to sit up and massage his face with his fingers. "Shiva—"he snapped. "That freakin' hurt…" She watched him, arms crossed over her chest, as his shoulders moved to work the pain out. Zack's posture was bad in the morning, unlike his SOLDIER stance where he stood perfectly militant—the bumps of his spine rose up under the tanned skin as he slouched. Zack really was quite a pretty boy.
"So, are you going to cook breakfast or what?" She teased, poking one of the bumps because she simply could without getting caught. At least if he turned around, he wouldn't be able to tell if she'd been staring.
With a lopsided smile, the man turned back, any sign of unhappiness long gone. "Um…" A nervous chuckle escaped his chest. "Is that what guys are supposed to do after this kinda stuff?"
"How 'bout we go out for breakfast?"
It was the perfect suggestion! In a moment, he'd untangled his legs from hers and had his feet planted on the floor. Aerith could always count on Zack to give up a dramatic romance for food. Always. Plus, it seemed as if he needed a distraction. Apparently, Zack didn't have as much fun last night as he thought he would. Maybe he wasn't as ready as he thought! She giggled at the idea which made the teenager in front of her turn around with a questioning look but he shrugged it off.
"I'm gonna go take a shower first, 'kay?" He got up with yesterday's drunken swagger still marring his perfect stride. "Y'know, you can come with me…if you like."
"I wait 'til next time."
Zack's eyes widened with a happy surprise as his voice nearly cracked, "There'll be a next time?"
She rolled her eyes, gesturing at the bathroom door. "Go. Clean up. Save hot water." He got the idea and backed up that way slowly.
"Grab me a shirt, top drawer…y'know which one." He was referring to his over-crowded dresser that only got cleaned by the flower-girl. She nodded, watching him bend over to grab his pants off the floor and parade himself into the bathroom without closing the door completely.
Zack wasn't good at dressing himself. He never grasped the idea of clashing colors or too many patterns. During her last stay, she had hidden any clothing items that Zack would mess up and wear with something. Well…those clothes weren't really hidden. They were located in the bottom drawer the Zack never opened, in fact. But to Zack's knowledge, he only owned jeans and shirts in primary colors.
She picked a black button-up shirt with blue designs on the left side. It was sort of dressy compared to what Zack normally wore so she figured it was good date attire.
Then she moved to his second drawer and grabbed one of the dresses she kept underneath his socks. It wasn't Zack's favorite dress and really it didn't belong in his house…but she liked wearing it because it made her feel pretty. The whole outfit was white but it had silver trim with beaded tassels and sleeves that puffed up around her forearms. She'd made it herself.
The water pounded against the shower floor suddenly and Aerith grabbed the dress and pulled it over her camisole.
"Can you get that?" Zack shouted from the bathroom. It was before she had even noticed Zack's cell phone was vibrating its way across the floor that he had asked for her to get it. SOLDIER senses were truly something to behold.
So she answered it. And a familiar voice echoed through the receiver. "Zack, get Aerith! Now!"
"This is Aerith, stupid. Don't you listen to voices before you speak?
Suddenly the voice burst into a strong, free-hearted laughter. "Oh, oh! You did something nasty last night, didn't you?" The voice took a breath to make his sniggering stop. "Anyway: CALL THAT GEEZER!"
"The geezer that gave us his card yesterday. I checked his file! He's totally legit! He's the guy that actually owns the Loveless Theatre! Genesis Rhapsodos signs his paycheck!" Reno's voice seemed incredibly overjoyed and coffee-fueled.
"First, how did you check his file?"
"Um, I…with my job, I…um…"
"Zack told me you're a Turk, thanks." Reno made an 'oooh' sound on the other end while she groaned as Aerith asked, "And who is Genesis Rhapsodos?"
"Who's Genesis?" Zack chuckled from behind. "You're kiddin', right?" Taking a towel to his hair he rubbed at it until it stuck out at funny angles. "Who're you talking to, Aer?"
Shushing him, she continued to talk while he complained. "He's the only SOLDIER to support the arts fully. Without him, Loveless Avenue would be but only a tourist trap," Reno said with a sort of pride. "However, Vice-president Shinra makes certain that the theatre itself is kept wonderfully in-tact."
"Yes and…?" The girl prompted.
"You know, that's my phone, not yours," Zack whined.
"Well," Reno laughed, completely ignoring the other male voice on the line. "You need to call that guy. You see, there's an opening for Belinda's part, her last show is tomorrow night—you need to call him now. Audition with me, please! Colm's part is open too!"
"Okay, when do we do this?"
"I'll call! Then I'll make the appointment." He cleared his throat. "How's four sound?"
"Great! Hang up and tongue Zack for me. Later lovely." And there was a silence across the line before Zack held out his hand expectantly.
"Phone. Please," he sighed. She handed him the little gray talking-box. "Hey," he said with a smile. "You'll be sure to get Belinda."
"You act like you're surprised!" Stretching, he flashed his biggest grin. "I heard my phone vibrating while I was in the shower, after all!"
This was true. Zack scanned the room for his shirt found where it was, picked up Aerith to get it out from under her, and shrugged it on. SOLDIER were very interesting creatures. They developed very quickly—even overnight. The biggest example was that Zack's hair had gotten back into a spikable length by the time he had gotten back out of the shower.
"Are you like a plant?" she laughed, rubbing the black spikes until they sat flat again. It was still a short, tamable length—not yet long enough to cover his neck. It still made him look un-Zack-like. Sort of shaggy though…still cute. More like the guy she knew.
"Excuse me?" Zack's eyebrow shot up, and he laughed again squirming next to her on the bed.
"Ha…it's nothing, love." When the other eyebrow shot up, she squirmed away from him with a giggle. "I'm going to…go get ready now."
"Oh, have fun."
And as quickly as he had shown up and gotten lovable, she scurried like a mouse into the bathroom, closing the door and locking it behind her. It was almost hilarious to see how much effort Zack put into his appearance with that laid-back attitude of his. And he made no effort to hide it. Three different tubes of gunked-up hair-gel lay open on the bathroom sink with his shaving stuff. Closing the tops on all of them, she carefully stacked them next to each other and wiped down the area that Zacky seemed to mess up a lot while she was gone.
"He'd die if he was without me," she thought to herself, trying not to think of what things were like for him when he was off on missions. She showered quickly, and combed her hair out while it was still wet to become ringlets. Then she pulled her dress over her hair then re-adjusted the sleeves before Zack managed to pick the lock.
Yes. He picked the lock.
"Need help?" Blinking like a baby that got his hand stuck in the cookie jar, Zack smiled up at her from his spot on the floor. Instead of reprimanding him, she knelt down too, the line between the bathroom floor and the apartment's floorboards separating them from each other.
"Sure," she turned around for him. "Besides, I know it's pointless…you've stolen my only hair ribbon anyway, didn't you?"
"Damn right!" And he produced the pink fabric from his pocket and tied it into the curls.
"You always do that."
"Stealing your stuff?"
"No, you're just…always there when I least expect it."
He laughed, pulling her up by the hands and tugged on her bow. "Ready to go, Bunny?" Despite the fact that they did a very adult action only that morning, they both acted like a pair of tweens ready to go out on the second date. However, they were more comfortable with each other than they ever had been before. She leaned into him a bit more, he took a bit more possessiveness over their decisions and where his arms and hands went.
Zack might not act like he had money, but he did. He received quite a hefty sum of money for going out on missions as the Shin-ra army required. The higher his class, the more money he gained. Usually, he didn't spend a single gil because things were often given to him, and he mooched off General Sephiroth terribly. Under no circumstances did Zack's money influence his choice in food establishments.
The restaurant they picked—well, the restaurant Zack picked—was pretty nice. Just a family-owed burger joint that had a decent way of cooking things without all the grease and when you put your hand on the table, it wasn't covered with something unidentifiable and sticky like the normal McMoogle's. So it was the ideal date for them both. Even though she was a vegetarian…this wasn't over the top. Absolutely perfect. No candles, no overly priced fish and plain vegetables, and no stuffy business people thinking they were hot shit. Absolutely perfect.
"Hey," Zack asked over a bowl of fries. "What if you get this role and it makes you so famous Genesis Rhapsodos wants you as his girl?" Knowing the answer, he propped his head up in his hands and watched her reaction from across the table. The emerald green eyes widened and she put a fry in her mouth so she wouldn't have to say anything for a few seconds. Then very slowly, a truly sarcastic answer seeped from her lips. "Oh, I'm sorry," fighting the smile that pricked at her mouth she let it show brightly at the last word. "I'm just going to have to dump you."
"That's cold!" Pouting, he threw his nose up into the air, his blue eyes darting down so he could look at her giggles. "And to think I bought you this lovely meal!"
"Thank you, Zacky…!" Her voice grew sing-song as he looked back down again to eat. Mouth full, he grumbled.
"Now you tell me…" Banging his fist on the table, the youth found himself laughing again. "And don't call me Zacky! I don't like it!"
"Yes you do. You told me you did."
"Well, I lied," he said stubbornly.
"You can't lie, Zack!" She charged, pointing a fry at him, "This is why the army doesn't send you into situations without a Turk." He rolled his eyes, but did not disagree. Hey, Aerith knew when she was right and she would always let the truth shine through.
Zack's phone buzzed in his pocket and he nearly pushed the F-you button until he looked at the caller's name. He slid the little gray box across the table. "For you. Give Reno your number next time, 'kay?"
She struggled trying to answer it without dragging it through Zack's ketchup but eventually she found a way and said quietly so nobody in the restaurant could hear, "Hello?"
"Get your little girly bum down to Sector 8 now! This guy leaves at 1:30 and an audition takes seven minutes!"
"Okay, Reno, calm down, Zack and I are right down the street eating breakfast…er…lunch."
"I'm calm!" The impatient voice shouted into the receiver.
"If you say so," she sighed. "Meet us under the My Bloody Valentine poster. Okay?"
Silence. "Reno?" she asked, then repeated. "Reno?" Zack began his own little fit of giggles into the food before he took the phone away from her ear. "He hung up," she told him without needing to.
"You're amazing," with that final statement, Zack stood up and tossed the tip on the table. "Let's get going then."
"You shouldn't listen into my conversations…"
"I know, but I can't help it." Shoving his hands deep in his pockets, Zack nudged her with his elbow and she nudged him back. Eventually, this became a child's game of push-and-shove until they were out in traffic again and the raven-haired man took her by the hand and led her across the street.
"You're late." Reno met them outside the theatre in half of a Turk suit. Honestly, Aerith assumed that it was because he didn't own anything better or maybe it was because it was dressy but then he said, "I just came here from work, yo." And the thought was dropped.
They went inside the a strangely-lit theatre with huge groups of red-velvet seating, a balcony, and a beautiful image of a Banora tree looming into the ceiling above. Already, some girl on stage was reading her words from the page with an stance that said that she was meant for the theatre. She looked up from her script and scrunched up a little pug nose before she continued reading. Zack coughed something about plastic and this earned him a hiss from the directors.
Needless to say, Zack backed away and slinked off to a back row where nobody could see him.
"Thank you, Elena." The director sighed. "We'll be in touch." Breath caught in the woman's throat and she nodded before dashing from her high position and out a side door. Soon she appeared slipping between seats and crept to the door as Reno paid her a greeting. He was met with a long, embarrassed string of swear words before a metal door slammed and the whole event was over.
"Ah…Mr. Sinclaire and Miss…ah…Gainsborough. To the front, please."
Looking back to find Zack's support in the universal sign-language of 'Just go, stupid!' He pushed his hands away from him and looked severely toward the stage. She took Reno's hand and let him lead his way through. Apparently, he hadn't done this either because unlike Elena, he couldn't find his way onto the stage. So they stood on the red-carpeted floor and looked up at the dry director much like two lambs to the slaughter.
There were two scripts on the seat in front of them wrapped in yellow covers. Reno picked up one and Aerith the other…then they looked to the director who had set up a table in the seats for further direction. "Yes, thank you." He said loudly, his voice having no emotion except a domineering vibe as great as Sephiroth's. "As you know, by auditioning with each other that does not mean if one gains a part in the play, the other will as well. If one fails, that does not mean you fail together. You two are being judged separately. Understand?" When they both told him that they did, the man began to speak again.
"I want you to read from page 42, Aerith will read Belinda's part, Reno will read Colm's part. Are you familiar with the play or do you need an explanation of plot?" They said they were familiar but would like to know the director's ideas. The man didn't smile, but gladly gave his opinions out.
"The ending was written by Genesis Rhapsodos." There was that name again. "This is not the lost ending, as you know. Belinda has just been rendered Loveless by her lover, Colm, as he has just sacrificed himself for his friend's sake in the last scene. She knows that she is not alone when she receives the news, for her lover died and saved the world, and she would have him as long as she lives on. And so the Colm's sacrifice saved the world and Belinda. Now she is confronted by Colm's visiting spirit." He looked to see if they were paying attention, and nodded, "You're reading what happens next. Now, let me see your rendition of my idea."
Aerith looked down at the page and found her heart beating wildly in her chest while she looked at the words she wished to speak. "I'll start now," she whispered by the equally nervous redhead, tapping his fingers anxiously on the script.
Suddenly, she knew she wasn't Aerith anymore.
"Colm, do you really have to leave?" Belinda said lowly, her voice cracking through the tears.
Colm tilted his head, with a soft sigh and his lips turned up into a fatherly smile. He couldn't touch her. He shouldn't. But when he graced his fingers onto her hair, she shuddered to the touch. "I…promised them I'd come back." He admitted. If he didn't make the promise, surely he would return to her. But he promised. He would not leave the afterlife. "The people I love—they're waiting for me."
"I don't understand!" She cried, clutching into his jacket, dipping her head into his shoulder. "Not at all!" But then, Belinda backed away with a sorry pleasantness, as if putting on a smile to make a person happy. But she sniffed, wiping her hands across her tear-streaked face. There was nothing she could do to help him. Nothing she could do to make him stay. "But…please," She sighed, "take care of yourself."
Colm smirked, leaning forward on his toes. "Of course, I'll come back to you." He assured, turning away from Belinda but keeping his face toward the audience as he walked downstage. "Even if you don't promise to wait for me." Tilting his head back, he smiled. "I'll return knowing that you'll be right here."
And Belinda dropped to her knees, clutching her stomach from the separation. "I'll be here."
And the scene ended with that final statement. The two shook their way out of their daze with small, jumpy smiles. "Aerith…" the director said blankly, unfazed by the performance. "Can you sing?"
"I think…I can."
"Let's find out." Without missing a beat, he continued. "Do you know how to the song Blown a Wish?" He asked, arms crossed. "It's in the back of the script. It's sung before Colm leaves." The blank director cleared his throat. "Are you familiar with it?"
Aerith had heard Zack pluck it out on his guitar before as it was a somewhat popular tune in Midgar. So she nodded and said that she knew it, but not the lyrics.
The first sound from her lips was a squeak…then another as Reno kicked her calf. Zack was in the seats, a blur against the shadows as he rolled his hands for her to begin to sing.
Zack had never heard her sing. In fact, neither one of them had ever heard each other sing before! He knew his voice wasn't all that bad…but it wasn't as if he could grab a mic and notget laughed at through karaoke. Aerith…might be able to sing…maybe. Her voice was milky—a trait in Midgar that was uncommon because of all the heavy smokers.
Aerith's blanching face darted into the pages of the script and she looked over it to croon the melody sweetly. Putting just as much sad passion into the tune as much as she had into Belinda's role, Zack got that sinking feeling he had earlier that morning. She was very good.
"Midnight wish, blow me a kiss
And I'll blow one to you.
Make like this, and I'll pretend it's true." She looked up and smiled lightly at the director, then the man in the back shadows through the sea of red-velvet before continuing.
"Show me all your favorite things, show you all mine too.
Make a wish, I'll give it all to you."
"Hold on to your promises, hold on to mine too.
Caught like this, I'll turn it in with you."
The Aerith stopped and scrunched up her nose at the next set of lyrics and let a tiny puff of air escape her saddening mouth. Then, the director stood and stopped her. "That's enough, if you will leave so we can prepare for the next appointment. We'll be in touch. Mr. Sinclaire, if you will stay for a moment, I would like to hear your—"
Zack was by her side in a moment and took her out of the theatre and into the street immediately. "That was good. How'd it feel?"
Dejectedly, she lifted her head and croaked. "I didn't do my best! He didn't like me." She looked like a kitten stuck in a cat carrier—eager to get out but only offered a toy to make her feel better. In this case, Zack felt like the toy. So he decided to be the best toy he could be and did everything a good plaything did. He tried to be flashy by pulling off tricks in the street, he tried to be comforting by keeping his hands to himself for other than hugging, he attempted to be distracting by telling pointless jokes until finally he ran out of things he could imagine and finally asked. "You want me to get drunk again?" The he revised the statement: "Do you want to get drunk together?"
It made her laugh, but in that previously-occupied way. "Hey, Zack…would it be okay if we just walked around town a bit more?" Tucking her hand into his, she grinned up at him and blinked. "Just talking? Being together?"
Honestly, he'd been hoping for that. "Will that make you smile?"
"Will it keep you trying to make me smile?"
Shrugging, he shoved his free-hand into his pocket and proceeded into sector 7. "We'll have to find out, I guess," he chuckled, bumping into her to begin that game of 'push-and-shove' again. "We can walk all the way into sector 5 to get coffee if you want."
She agreed and they started that one walk throughout the entire city of Midgar for a cup of lukewarm coffee.
Chapter 2 is up! Chapter 3 is on its way!
First of all, thank you for reading! I appreciate every last one of your reviews and subscriptions. Thank you aichioluv for the extreme review—it made me have the will to continue writing this!
Also, looks like Genesis and Reno will have bigger roles in this than I imagined. Well, hurrah for our redheads—they're classy!
My Bloody Valentine is actually a real band and actually made an album named LOVELESS. Check it out because it's VERY FF7-like. In fact, My Bloody Valentine is on the poster for Loveless in all Final Fantasy VII's—the singer Belinda Butcher was on the original poster from FF7 to CC, but during Advent Children it was changed to look like Aerith instead. (I'm using that, obviously). But seriously, give 'em a listen. I mean it. The lyrics will freak you out.
This isn't over! Ch 3 is coming!
On a final note: Ahaha McMoogles.
Thank you for reading!