Aerith Gainsborough (cetrasoul) wrote in hollow_glory,
Aerith Gainsborough

Mourning Again - Open mainly to Cloud [ Midgar - Morning ]

It had been a long week for Aerith Gainsborough. She was so skilled at wearing a smile and dancing around the subject of her father's disappearance. It seemed to flawless, so easy, even when, deep inside, she was breaking. The strain of her father's death, and... and something else entirely. She would feel faint from time to time, exhausted when she'd just down a cup of coffee and been energetic moments before the spell set in. And the screams she heard in the middle of the night...

Mom was speaking to her again, but even though she assured Aerith that she'd forgiven her for their last argument and apologize for her own part, there was a pain in her eyes that was impossible to hide, a pain that Aerith couldn't help but wonder if she was responsible for.

With a sigh, the librarian wondered if it was as easy to tell when she was hiding something. She'd liked to think she'd been good at it, what with having so much practice lately. Aerith hated to be a burden, and she hated to feel so weak and helpless.

The flower girl was fortunate enough, however, to be in a better state of health at the moment. It had been a quiet morning in the library with only a few of regulars stopping by to pick up reference materials for various assignments. Sometimes it was easier to smile when things were like this; at other times, it would come to be so much that she thought she would collapse on herself. She could let herself break like this. She had to be strong, for Mom's sake, and genuinely helpful to Sephiroth and the rest of his investigation. That was why Aerith smiled brightly as the newly-enlisted SOLDIER placed the flower she'd granted him in his pocket, decidedly more at ease than when he'd walked into the expansive library.

The little things were what kept her going, sometimes more than the big, dramatic, life-altering ones.
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After a mediocre breakfast in the mess hall, Cloud slipped through the ambling SOLDIERS and cadets back to his room. He'd finally finished that stupid remedial magicks class, thank god, and it had left him with his mornings free until just before lunch. At least until his CO realized that he was available. It wasn't that he was goofing off, though. Since Sora vanished, he'd been left to do all the repairs to the training grounds himself, as well as the remedial class. Funny, he thought, it was such a sudden thing. Not that he didn't sort of understand. It still had left him stuck with all the work. At least now it was all done.

When he got back to his room, Cloud slipped into his uniform jacket and picked up a book from his desk. Educational Speaking or How to Teach for Dummies it was called. He'd borrowed it out of the library to help him with talking to the class that he'd been told to teach. He'd kept it, reading a little every evening, but now that he was done with the class, he never had to look at it again, thank god. Though he wasn't looking forward to facing that grim old lady who he'd checked it out from. She scared him almost as much as Sephiroth did.

Actually, now that I think of it, their hair is sort of-- Cloud froze as he realized who he was comparing. Was he really crazy enough to liken the two people? He shook his head vigorously to remove the images and left his room. I think I'm the one who needs to get away.

He made his way to the Great Library, carefully avoiding any corridors and paths that he might meet other SOLDIERS on. When he got to the doors, he stopped long enough to take a deep breath, then pushed one open and poked his head in. If the librarian was in a sour mood, maybe he could flee before she saw him.
Aerith was busy checking over the logs to see who needed a good talking to about returning their books on time when she heard the sound of the heavy doors creaking open. The sound of footsteps did not follow, however, and as the flower girl craned her neck, she could see a blond, spikey head of hair poking in through the crack in the door. It was so adorable, she couldn't help but laugh as she stepped out from behind the main counter.

She was wearing her usual, a simple, pink sundress with a pair of light brown, open-toe sandals, delicate on her small feet. When she clasped her hands behind her back, leaning forward just a bit, her long, brown braid fell over her left shoulder.

"It's okay. I don't bite. Promise!" Aerith smiled at the young man. Strange that she hadn't seen him before, but maybe he wasn't usually the bookish type.
Movement brought Cloud's nevous searching homing in on the front desk, and his eyes widened. He was surprised to see that instead of the steel-haired, grim-faced warrior of words, a beautiful young woman with autumn hair and a sweet smile was standing there encouraging him to come in.

Cloud felt his heart give a jump, like it did whenever any pretty girl took any sort of notice of him. But this time, instead of a passing interest, her smile stayed on him, friendly and...almost teasing. The blood squeezed from his chest to tint his cheeks and ears.

Nervously, he stepped into the library, jumping when the door swung shut behind him. Say something, idiot. She's obviously the librarian, and this is way better than that old battlehen. Tell her who you are and give her the book.

Well, he'd made some progress by actually stepping inside. Oh, and he was blushing. Aerith hadn't met too many SOLDIERs who were in the practice of blushing in her company. Or maybe it was just that she'd spent too much time around Zack and Sephiroth, the first of which would never blush around her and the second of which who probably wasn't capable of it, strong and self-assured as he was. Maybe she could make it a goal.

The young man standing before her was handsome, maybe with a touch of cute thrown in there thanks to that adorable blush. She laughed and stood up straight, brown curls falling down her back again. He was a curious case, this...

"How eloquent," Aerith's voice carried a hint of laughter, and she clasped her hands behind her back. "Do you have a name? Or should I just call you Mr. Uhhh?"
Cloud turned a deeper shade of red. But to his surprise, he felt more sheepish than embarrassed. He couldn't believe that this pretty woman meant it in any way but nicely. Her smile was too friendly; totally unlike the kids from his home town.

Thinking of his home town brought Cloud's thoughts back to earth. His mouth opened and to his surprise, he found words coming forth. "Cloud. Cloud Strife." He swallowed a little and remembered the book he was clutching in his hand. He lifted it up, showing it to her. "I, um, I came to return a book."
There! She'd actually gotten some words out of him.

"So you do talk!" Aerith brushed a stray lock of hair behind one ear and turned to make her way over to the other side of the counter. She opened to log book but didn't move to flip the pages in search of his name just. Her green eyes lifted from the pages to regard Cloud. "Come on over, and I'll take you off of the list, Cloud." It was an interesting name, unique and somehow so fitting for him. Aerith found herself smiling, mind drifting off for a moment as she waited for him to approach.

"Cloud... That's an interesting name." She grinned, resting her chin in her hand, elbow propped on the surface of the counter. "I like it. Are you from Midgar?"
Cloud followed the pretty librarian to the counter as she requested, much like a trained puppy. It wasn't often that he had a girl smile at him, after all, so he figured he'd be forgiven for obeying such a sweetly given order. Especially since it meant that she would talk to him more. And she liked his name.

Still a bit pink around the ears, he stood at an almost attention in front of her, eyes determinedly locked right above her head. "No, ma'am. I'm from, uh, Nibelheim."
Pen in hand, Aerith drew a line through one entry on the growing list of people who'd checked out books. It was still legible, of course, for the records. When she was finished, she took the book from him and set in a pile that she'd file back later in the day. The smile she'd been forcing earlier in the day had somehow melted away into the something genuine as it remained ever-present. That is, until she saw fit to frown jokingly when the SOLDIER called her 'Ma'am' of all things.

"Nibelheim... I can't say that I've been there," she replied thoughtfully. Of course, working in a library and becoming so familiar with so many SOLDIERs and the like, she'd heard a thing or two about the place. "It's in the mountains, right?" The young librarian paused thoughtfully, acting as though a thought had just popped into her head.

"Oh, I almost forgot! You're going to have to learn something, if you're going to keep coming here, Cloud," she teased, a twinkle in her eye. "All of my customers, especially the ones I like, have to abide by one, simple rule." Again, the flower girl paused for dramatic effect, wondering if he'd squirm or fidget.

"You have to call me Aerith. Ma'am makes me feel like I'm over 60 or something."
Cloud wondered what he might have said to have that crease appear between her brows, but he didn't have time to apologize (which was probably good, since he'd most likely stammer like an idiot). He instead nodded at her question with a 'yes ma'am' ready. In fact his mouth was opened to say it, when she continued, and he blinked and shifted, staring at her, bewildered by what the rule could be, and if this meant he was counted in the group of people she liked.

The next moment, he was glad he hadn't said anything. He pinkened again, embarrassed but sort of pleased that she smiled at him like that. He wasn't used to being teased like this, and he looked at her in bewilderment. "Yes ma--uh, Aerith...?"
Aerith had decided she liked this one from the moment he'd poked his head through the door. There was something special about him, something not a lot of people had. She thought she had her finger on it, but she couldn't be certain unless she did further research.

And it was in that moment that it was decided. Aerith frowned putting on a show of being upset as she shook her head and sighed.

"I'm not sure I can forgive you. Not unless..." Aerith's voice trailed off and she turned away, having to do so out of need to conceal the smile that was creeping across her lips despite all of her best intentions to keep up the act. "Oh, I don't know if you'd do that..."
Oh dear, now it looked like he had broken the rule. Just my luck, he thought, I break her rules two seconds after learning them. Great going Strife.

Hope filled him, however, like the second chance offered a condemned criminal. She was so much nicer than that old librarian, and yes, he was already hopelessly charmed by her smile and laughing eyes. "I can do it," he said quickly, trying not to sound too desperate. Surely it couldn't be that bad. The la-Aerith didn't seem like a cruel person, after all. And he didn't want to give up before even trying, did he? Even if he couldn't do it, at least he'd tried, and that was what mattered. He braced himself visibly for whatever condition she might offer, prepared to spend an afternoon dusting and shelving books and toting boxes or anything.
Aerith turned around just the, hands clasped behind her as the act was abruptly dropped. He'd been quick to agree to whatever terms she would chose to lay out, and, had he been someone else, she might've made him do something silly. Like let her tie his hair up in ribbons. He really didn't know how lucky he was right now, did he?

"Well, you could take me out to dinner sometime," came the cheerful offer. She wanted to get to know Cloud. He'd managed to intrigue her, and he had such a nice disposition at that. And so, Aerith waited with a smile for his answer.
It took a moment for the offer to sink in. Cloud blinked at her, surprise written clearly on his face. That was all? He'd thought it would be something more difficult, more back breaking. Not that he would refuse anything she wanted.

"Uh, okay." Hesitance filled his voice. He was still not sure he'd heard her right. Taking her to dinner could hardly be called any sort of punishment for him, and he'd just come off a whopper of a punishment detail. It would be more punishing to her, really, and--

Wait a minute. Did she just ask me out?!?
Well, he was a little clueless, but it wasn't so bad. In fact it was even a bit endearing watching the realization of what she'd just asked him hit him. Cloud had agreed, and Aerith doubted he would go back on his word. He looked like the type that needed to go out and have a little fun anyway.

The smile was ever-present as she positively beamed delightedly by his answer.

"Great! Did you want to go out tonight? I'm free tonight and tomorrow night." Aerith's grin turned just a tad mischeivous. "Don't worry. I'm not a fussy date."
Color flooded into Cloud's face as Aerith said the "d" word, and it took all his concentration to think about what she said. "Uh, I-"

His brain then did something incredible, it started working. It quickly went over his schedule. Damn. He had duty tonight, which meant that he did go on a da--if they went to dinner, it would have to be early, and it wasn't nearly enough time to prepare for something like a da--like taking someone to dinner. But then again, with Sora gone, they still had not re-assigned him a buddy (since he'd been sort of confined to barracks, he guessed they figured he didn't need one yet). So if he didn't want to have some guy tagging along and watching as Cloud made a fool of himself, today would be best.

Right. Hesitantly, he said, "Tonight? If you don't mind it being early."
Wow, he'd managed to get a whole sentence out that time! Aerith giggled, one hand covering her mouth as she nodded.

Of course, a date probably wasn't the best of ideas right now, but she'd willed herself this far to keep up appearances. No one was supposed to know, Sephiroth had said. It was best to try and go out, take her mind off things, no matter how impossible it seemed to not think about her father... But Cloud was wonderful, genuine, sincere, and somehow shy. It was so rare to find that in a man these days, and she found herself drawn to him without even really knowing him all that well just yet.

"Tonight would be wonderful," she answered honestly. "Did you want me to write down my address so you can pick me? Or would it be best for us to just meet somewhere?"
Decision after decision. It seemed overwhelming to Cloud all the choices that came with making a da--going out to dinner. He frowned a little, trying to think, glad that she was being so patient. Is it even proper of me to get her address? Oh god, do I even have anything clean to wear? Come to think of it, maybe he should meet her here at the library. "I...I can, um, how about if meet you here? Um...what time...?"
Well, there was an idea. He was bright, even though they might have to work on his speaking skills at some point. The thought was merely a passing joke, Aerith assuming he would open up to her more over time.

"That'll work just fine. I get off around five. Is that early enough?" The flower girl grinned, that familiar twinkle in her bright, green eyes. "But you really don't need to be so nervous. Is this going to be your first date?"
The color reappeared on Cloud's face, much to his dismay. He supposed it was obvious that he didn't associate with girls very much. And the light in her eyes made him think that, despite the kindness, he was going to be made fun of. Like most girls did.

But then again, at least she had asked up front, before she'd gotten any illusions of him being suave and debonair. That was Zack's field. He braced himself and nodded, still blushing red, and staring down at his feet. He wouldn't blame her if she decided not to stay with him, but at least he would be honest about things.