Characters: Aerith Gainsborough and Cid Highwind
A shitty day called for a drink or three.
Cid had already plowed through one tall glass of Corel beer, signaling to the bartender that he was ready for another. He had managed to escape the group by the skin of his teeth, slipping out when Barret started in on Marlene and getting almost weepy. Grown men shouldn't be weepy.
Pinching the bridge of his nose, he thought back to when his day had taken its first downturn. Probably that morning. Half asleep and taking a piss at the campsite, and he managed to piss all over his dirty clothes. So he had to lug around nasty urine soaked jeans and shirts in his bag. That was just the beginning.
One of the fights they'd encountered ended up with him knocked out, a gash across his cheek. It was healing nicely, thanks to Aerith and her magic, but it still pissed him off. Magic made him snippy anyway, and the way it felt when it was cast on him felt like being dropped in a vat of gelatin. Not something he enjoyed, he felt kind of slimy afterward.
His internal musing was interrupted by the bartender placing a tall glass in front of him, frothing and beckoning. He took the first gulp, wishing that he could smoke in here. Damn shame, the smoking bans in some places.
"So this is where you're brooding!"
The voice jolted him, and he gaped at the woman who slid onto a stool beside him. She shook her head at the bartender when he came by to get her order, smiling at him before turning her attention to Cid.
"Hell, Aerith. Why'd you have to follow me all the way in here for?"
Propping her elbow on the counter, Aerith placed her chin in her hand as she assumed a thoughtful pose. To Cid she looked strange here, like she didn't exactly fit. The bar wasn't some hole in the wall, but it was full of the shady types one expected in a bar. The guy in the corner, his eyes shifty as he slid bags of substances to the visitors at his table. The woman nearby, sidling up the men in expensive clothes and cooing at them.
Raising his eyebrows, he took another sip of his beer as he waited for her to speak. She took her sweet time, too, and finally she raised her eyebrows back at him in a mockery of his expression. "I thought I'd keep you some company! Seems like you need it."
Cid snorted, rolling his eyes. Like hell he needed company, he was constantlyin the company of people. Sometimes he needed to be off by himself.
"Think again, Ribbons. The last thing I want is company."
"Usually when you don't want it is when you need it the most."
This sounded weirdly cryptic, and he shot her a half hearted glare. "The hell you goin' on about?"
Instead of answering him, she shrugged. Aerith swiveled on her stool so her back was against the bar, surveying the people behind them. "Wanna know how I found you here?" She asked teasingly, leaning her elbows back against the counter.
"Just a hunch."
Cid suppressed the urge to groan. He quickly downed the rest of his beer, signaling the bartender for another. Seemed like Aerith was in one of thosemoods. Cryptic statements and silent staring into the distance was becoming more common with her, and he doubted even Tifa knew what was going on with the girl.
"Yeah that clears up a whole lotta things."
After that she fell silent, and he enjoyed his beer in relative peace, watching her from the corner of his eye. Even if she seemed so out of place, with her bright clothing and pretty face, she still seemed to sense the rhythm of the place. Her gaze traveled from table to table, as if she were watching the most epic of stories happening right in front of her. She didn't even flinch when a man in one corner grew rowdy, shouting profanities as he was escorted (forcefully) out. Cid gave her a considering look, and then it clicked in his mind.
"I guess that makes sense." His comment caught her attention, and she gave him a quizzical look. "You're used to places like this. Probably worse." Her mouth tilted in a half smile, and she turned her attention back to the main area of the bar.
"I am. I've seen worse, but really it's just another part of life. There's good and bad, and then there's just living from day to day." Cid nodded, silently agreeing with her. Aerith sat there for another long moment in silence, before turning to Cid with a determined look in her eyes.
This was not a look he wanted to be on the receiving end of. Usually it was Cloud, sometimes Tifa, but Cid had seen where this look has lead. She was about to drag him into something he didn't want to do and he opened his mouth to protest.
She ignored him, pushing out of her seat and walking across the room. He stared after her, a little confused, before turning back to his beer. Maybe she'd picked up on his refusal and just let it slide. Yeah, that's probably what it ishe told himself, drinking more of his beer.
Music started playing, a loud country beat that had him shaking his head. This was one of those old songs, the kind his parents danced to when they were teenagers. He didn't mind it, but he wondered who had turned it up so loud?
When there was a tap on his shoulder, and he turned his head to find himself face to face with a grinning Aerith, he knew just what she was up to.
"Oh, come on. A little dancing never hurt anyone."
Aerith gave him a look that was a cross between a pout and a glare. He was immune. He had to stay strong. The past had showed him how hard people found it to say no to her, but he was just as determined as she was.
"Don't be a stick in the mud. Nobody we know is in here, and I bet it'll make you feel better."
"Since when in the history of this Planet has dancing proved to make people feel better?"
He held up a hand before she could speak, shaking his head vigorously. "No, I don't want to hear your made up facts."
"They aren't made up!"
"Yeah, I'm sure you took all kinds of polls in Midgar on this shit."
At this the grin was back on her face. "And how do youknow?"
Their banter was interrupted by an unfamiliar voice. "Hey man, why won't you give the pretty girl a dance?"
A man who was stumbling on the line between buzzed and blitzed sidled up to Aerith, putting an arm around her. The man was a stranger, and didn't seem like he intended to make anyone uncomfortable. Regardless, Aerith stiffened, shooting the guy a wary look from the corner of her eye, and Cid sighed heavily.
"Hey, back off okay."
"Naw, I'll give her what she's wantin'." The guy let out a laugh that was too loud, squeezing her shoulders and ignoring her attempts to step away. Cid pushed himself off his stool, towering over the guy with an irritated glare. "Seriously buddy, back off. Pushy gets you nowhere."
The man held up his hands in a mock surrender, bowing in Aerith's direction before rambling off to accost someone else in the bar. Cid slapped some gil on the counter, nodding at the bartender before shoving his hands in his pockets and turning to Aerith.
"Let's get outta here."
Aerith shook her head, smiling at him as his eyes narrowed. "Nope. You owe me a dance!"
"What...I didn't say shit about owing nothin'!"
"Just this once? Please?"
He was stubborn as hell. A fact he prided himself on. He could have told her no for hours, in various ways, but at that moment he just couldn't find the words. He didn't want to say no. He couldn't explain it, and sometime later chalked it up to some mysterious Cetra magic that she could use. Whatever it was, he found himself reluctantly agreeing to dance with her, making her clap in excitement.
"Great! I can lead us, my mom taught me some dances when I was younger."
"Don't think so. I'mleading, so I get to pick what we dance."
And so it was that he gave her one dance in a bar that he'd forgotten the name of as time went on. It was in some small town that the population couldn't have been more than a thousand. Still, she'd managed to drag him out of the terrible mood he'd been in all day. He didn't know how she did it.
It was probably the music.