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Chapter Eight: Digging Up the Past
A few days after the engagement party Aerith and Cloud had gotten their rings and were wearing them, they of course decided to not announce their engagement just yet to let Rinoa and Squall have the limelight for a while. They were almost inseparable actually, Aerith would meet Cloud every day after her work at the flower shop, she of course would get along with Snow and Squall at the shop as she usually brought flowers to brighten up the shop and otherwise joked along with them.
Cloud himself couldn't have been happier, but Reeve, Tifa's friend had dug up many things on Aerith. When Tifa began to read up on the curse, she was astonished. It had taken Aerith's mother when she was very young and Aerith had been put into the foster care system. As for Aerith's father, he was never located unfortunately. Then as Aerith grew up, things always happened around her, various accidents at school, being called a delinquent and having the government's special interest in her. The turks a special group of operatives followed her around after the death of her former boyfriend Zack.
The name caught Tifa's attention. "Zack Fair?" she asked Reeve.
"Yes, Cloud's best friend who died in the war." said Reeve.
Tifa nodded and sighed. "I don't think Cloud's going to like this...but for his own safety..." she said.
Reeve folded his arms. "Do you really think this will break them up?" he said.
Tifa shook her head. "Not with the way he looks at her, no. But I want Cloud to make sure he knows just what's he's getting involved with. Aerith is nice, I like her. But I have to look out for Cloud's best interests, he is my friend." said Tifa.
"You sound more like a mother." said Reeve.
Tifa shook her head. "Thanks Reeve." she said.
Reeve shrugged. "Anytime." he said before he left.
Tifa waited for Cloud to get home, she of course did her usual routine before she caught Aerith and Cloud as they came back from a date after his work.
"Cloud, Aerith, can I talk to you guys?" asked Tifa.
"Sure." said Aerith.
Cloud shrugged and they walked inside to the apartment, Tifa sat down with the papers and looked at them both seriously. "I saw your engagement." she said bluntly.
Aerith looked at Tifa and sighed. "I'm sorry we didn't mean to keep it a secret, we were planning to tell everyone soon." she said.
"I'm not angry because of your engagement being a secret." said Tifa.
She shook her head. "Aerith I like you but I'm sorry but I have to make sure you're what's best for Cloud, he's my friend, I'm only looking out for his best interest." said Tifa.
Aerith looked confused and Cloud stepped forward. "Whoa hey, I know you and I...have always had some problems. But no need to get hostile towards Aerith." said Cloud.
"I'm not hostile Cloud." said Tifa.
Aerith shook her head. "It's ok." she said.
Aerith looked at Tifa and smiled. "It's only because you care about him the same way I do." she said.
Tifa looked at Aerith and nodded.
"Aerith...you dated a guy named Zack Fair?" asked Tifa.
The name struck at both Aerith and Cloud, Aerith looked down and Cloud's eyes went wide.
"Wait, Zack was your ex?" he asked.
"We were together for a while, not serious though." said Aerith.
"Aerith the government has been tracking you for some time, they said you sent over eighty letters to him." said Tifa.
Aerith hugged herself and then put her face into her hands, her shoulders began to shake and she did begin to cry.
"He was dead...I knew it by then, or something had happened, he disappeared. Last we talked I'd broken up with him, he said he would be coming home soon but I...we...there was this girl named Cissnei and questions around him. I liked him yes, and no matter what happened I do miss him, he was a friend no matter what. But I...I told him the curse would kill him!" she cried.
Aerith had no control over this curse that had haunted her entire life, she ran out of course which was when Cloud looked at Tifa.
"You know Tifa...you and I. I used to idolize you, I mean you were the popular girl. No matter what everyone in town always loved you. You and those other kids didn't know I existed as a kid, you noticed me when I left for the military and asked me to make a promise. But you know something, I'm sorry. I can't keep that promise. I can't make things better between us now, we're just...too far gone." said Cloud before he left after Aerith.
Cloud ran and ran before he found Aerith, she was crying at a playground near her shop. He sat on the slide at the top next to her and looked at her with concern.
"Aerith." he said.
She looked up at Cloud.
"It's ok." he said.
She looked at him with tear filled eyes.
"Zack...was my best friend." said Cloud as he put an arm around Aerith.
He smiled then a little. "He and I, he believed in me even when others didn't. He helped me to come out of my shell a little, he helped me to believe in myself." said Cloud.
Aerith nodded. "Yeah he...he helped me a lot too to believe in myself. I grew up a little more after he died, he was really something but I...I know now." she said as she looked at Cloud.
"I love you so much and I don't want something to happen to you because of this family curse." said Aerith.
Cloud shook his head. "It's not a curse, it's just a bad string of luck." he said.
Aerith sighed. "When I was little, bad things happened at my schools...it's what alerted the government when I was called a delinquent and put through the foster care system. But no matter what, my adoptive mother Elmyra always helped me. I know this may sound weird...but I'm just frightened something else bad could happen to someone I love because of this thing, this bad luck, this curse." said Aerith.
Cloud shook his head. "I don't know what Zack would say about me marrying his ex girlfriend but I want to believe he would give us his blessing. I want to remember the good in Zack, and I know Tifa wanted to make sure I knew this before I did marry you because it's important. So Aerith please, don't ever hide from me. I'm here for you." said Cloud.
Aerith smiled at Cloud and he shyly looked away as he kept his arm around her. "You're still so shy Cloud, I'm surprised to hear you talk so much." said Aerith.
Cloud blushed more and rubbed the back of his head. "Well you know." he said.
Aerith sighed. "I'm sorry you had to find out this way." she said looking away.
Cloud shook his head. "The things that happened weren't your fault. Zack's death...wasn't your fault." he said.
Aerith looked into Cloud's eyes and he looked into hers. "Look I don't know if he's mad that I'm marrying you, but the Zack I knew didn't hold grudges or cause problems." said Cloud.
Aerith laughed a little. "That's true, Zack was easygoing and carefree." she said.
Aerith though for a moment. "He was nothing like you Cloud, maybe you both look similar, maybe you both are just as handsome as each other. But Cloud, I am undoubtedly much more in love with you then I ever was with Zack." said Aerith.
Cloud smiled a little. "I love you too Aerith." he said.
Cloud moved and hugged her closely, she hugged him back, some rain began to fall and they both laughed a little and began to play in the rain. Cloud splashed Aerith who gave him a look before she tackled him to the ground. She looked down at him, the rain pouring over them as they realized the magic that was between them. Cloud's blue eyes looking into Aerith's green eyes as they lay on the cold hard ground in the rain, it was like they were teenagers again, the chemicals between them were undeniable and neither of them ever wanted this to end.
"The past doesn't matter now." said Cloud.
"Our future is together." said Aerith.
They kissed in the rain laying there in the rain, soon they got up and went back to Cloud's place, Tifa was still there but they didn't mind, as Aerith walked over and started up some hot cocoa.
"Tifa, I wanted to ask you something." said Aerith.
"What is it?" asked Tifa.
"Will you be my maiden of honor?" asked Aerith.
"Are you sure?" asked Tifa stunned.
Aerith nodded. "Of course." she said.
Cloud went to take a shower, Tifa went up to him before he went in and looked at him.
"I'm sorry." she said.
Cloud shook his head. "It's alright, I understand why you did it." he said.
Tifa nodded and Cloud smiled, Tifa realized though, that smile, she'd only ever seen it with Aerith and him. He never smiled that way at her, she would smile at him but he was always blank. Cloud was in love with her, and there was nothing Tifa could do about it, so she decided, maybe it was time...time to let him go.
Tifa went back to the kitchen and began to sip the cocoa with Aerith, the two of them talking about Cloud being awkward, and otherwise talking about how filthy the city was and what they could do to maybe get some cleaner air around themselves. They seemed to bond and once Cloud came out of the shower in his pajamas, Aerith went in to make sure she didn't freeze. Cloud sat down next to Tifa and looked at her seriously.
"I couldn't keep the promise I made to you. But I want to keep this promise with her, the promise of marriage and a life." he said.
Tifa sighed and looked down at her hands. "I know, and maybe...maybe this ideal I had of you, was wrong. Cloud I do know the real you now, and I know we've had our problems in the past together, even as friends. I just...when you came back after what happened to Zack, I don't ever want to see you that way again. I want to help prevent that. I'm just making sure this time." she said.
Cloud nodded and looked at Tifa honestly. "I understand, and really, thanks Tifa, thanks for always helping me and looking out for me." he said.
Tifa smiled a little. "You've opened up more you know, since she came along." she said.
Cloud smirked a little. "I suppose I have." he said.
Tifa nodded and got up. "Alright then, better announce your engagement soon." she said.
Cloud nodded. "We plan to." he said.
Tifa left then, once she got to her car she did bite her lip and let the tears fall, yes this was...this was a crush gone sour and she'd have to just move forward as best as she could, she liked Aerith, she was happy for them, but it did hurt.
Cloud met Aerith out of the bath and he swept her up into his arms, kissing her sweetly as he carried her to the bed and the two of them laid down, cuddling before they fell asleep in each other's arms.
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