A/N: So, um, did I seriously just write meet the parents fic for my ridiculous, entirely canon-noncompliant crack pairing? Yes, yes I seriously did.
There are cracks in the ceiling outside Aeris's home, where light pours down in pale beams, and cracks in the packed dirt where flowers grow up scraggly and wild, and naive as it might be, Jessie feels safe here. Like a world apart, wrapped in the muted thunder of water falling from the Plate above, clear enough to look almost pure – though that's no guarantee of anything – and deep enough to drown in. The house itself stands two stories high, red tile roof, windows looking out. Worn down, now, but still strong, and it rests on good earth.
It would be dangerous to bring a wanted terrorist back here, and so, of course, Aeris doesn't. But an ordinary girl, who works days in a Sector Seven bar and brings in extra gil rewiring people's broken radios, well that, Aeris explains, that's another concept entirely.
Aeris, who's beside her now with a wicked gleam in her eyes, the kind of impervious enthusiasm she always slips into when she's just a little bit frightened.
“Of course not,” Jessie says.
It's all the warning she gets, that and a heartbeat's worth of time to think before she finds herself dragged along the path and up to the door, stumbling a little – Aeris is stronger than she looks – and knowing better than to protest. No knocking. Just come on in.
And the truth is, Jessie never has been comfortable in other people's houses – not since before she left her own behind, not as many years ago as it sometimes feels. She prefers her own space, or neutral ground, someplace where she holds the advantage. And even invited, she is never quite able to ignore the feeling that her presence is an intrusion.
That's what it feels like now, stepping into a small, clean, cozy room, seeing the vases of flowers on every spare surface, the faded photos lining the walls. There's a woman seated at the table, which is piled with scraps of fabric, spools of bright thread. A moment's pause, and Aeris is pulling her forward again, scared and smiling.
“This is Jessie, mom,” she says. “I've told you about her.”
Aeris's mother looks Jessie over with narrowed eyes, like she's peering into a microscope, putting some improbable and inexplicably popular theory to the test. Formidable woman, Jessie thinks. Runs in the family, maybe, except for the part where they aren't really related at all. But that doesn't seem to matter, because Jessie knows what she reads in this stranger's face before she looks away, which is don't you hurt her, and don't you dare let her wear herself thin. All the things that mothers want for their daughters, and it snags at something in Jessie's heart that she hadn't even realized was there until it started cracking.
“You have a beautiful home,” she says, and hopes it means what she intends it to mean. Hopes it means enough.