"And through it all,
she offers me protection,
A lot of love and affection,
whether I'm right or wrong,
And down the waterfall,
wherever it may take me,
I know that life won't break me,
when I come to call,
She won't forsake me,
I'm loving Angels instead" –
Robbie Williams, Angels
Fall of an Angel
by Nanaki Lioness
Those piecing green eyes…so beautiful. Soft honey colored hair that framed the face of an Angel. The flawless features illuminated by an inner beauty, a compassion to help others sought to such an extent they became more important than herself. An innocent love and trust for others, one that could be considered a weakness. But not for her. They highlighted her personality perfectly. Unselfish, unwanting, not accepting a reward for anything she would do. A passion for nature, and the Planet itself. An important part of Fate's plan to make individuals care. She was perfection.
And she had been taken, murdered by the blade of their enemy.
The eyes looking dead at those around her, their shining light within gone. The hair loose from it's braid, the pink ribbon that once held it sliced in two. The flawless features tainted by a wound so deep she could not survive. The perfection, the trust, the love, taken by one clean slice of a sword.
Aeris Gainsborough was dead, and those she left behind were in turmoil.
As Cloud had stepped through the crystal holy waters that surrounded the altar of death, they watched from the shore. They saw their friend go out as far as he could and hold Aeris's body above the water, and whisper something to her as he reluctantly let her go. It could have been goodbye, it could have been I love you, it didn't matter to those who saw him slowly retreat, his bright eyes never once leaving the spot where he had just laid Aeris to rest. He had backed up to the shore, almost falling backwards onto the sandbank having not noticed he had reached it. The others had stared out into the translucent waters before them silently. No-one uttered a word, meloncholy having taken over the group like a vice clamping their souls. The air was only occasionally punctured by the sounds of Tifa and Yuffie crying.
Someone had asked what they were going to do now. If they going to continue their journey. The others had paid them little notice, too wrapped up in their own dark thoughts to hear the words spoken. Silently, they had started to move away from the edge of the water. No-one dared a look back.
They had made their way to a nearby abandoned building. Yuffie and Tifa had immediately left the party, going up the stairs to one of the two bedrooms. Cait Sith had powered down in a corner, looking awfully ashamed. Red had curled up by a fire that Barret had lit, and was sleeping soundly. Barret had been sitting in a chair next to the burning embers, and Vincent had laid on the couch. Both were asleep, the only noise in the room being the sparks of the fire. Cid and Cloud has gone up to the other bedroom. The whole building had a sombre air about it.
And it was those thoughts that invaded Cloud Strife's mind in the early hours of the morning, when he was trying not to think of them. He had tried to think of anything but that, anything but the beautiful women who had been murdered. But he couldn't. His mind was determined to make him stay awake, plagued by unwelcome thoughts. They came unbidden, despite his best efforts to keep his mind occupied.
He stared at the ceiling, sighing deeply. Sleep seemed distant, like it had been most of the night. He had been laying restlessly for hours. He glanced at a nearby clock. Two hours sixteen minutes, to be exact. Across the room, he could hear Cid's gentle sleeping. He had been out like a light as soon as his head touched the pillow, but Cloud had heard him sigh a few times when he awoke. He didn't seem to be sleeping peacefully. Cloud didn't suspect anyone in the building was.
He pushed the unwanted thoughts of the evening's events out of his mind once again, only to have them replaced with equally disturbing ones. Sephiroth burning Nibelheim…he shook his head to clear it. He didn't want to think about Sephiroth. If he did, he would think about…
…no, he refused his twisted imagination the pleasure of re-playing the scene in his head. Or, at least, he tried.
He hated himself. He had tried to kill her, doing the job for Sephiroth like a puppet would for it's master. He had held the blade above his head, sending it downwards towards her own. The startled cries of his friends had snapped him from the trance, but he still felt ashamed with his actions. He hadn't said a word to anybody since he had buried her. They had hardly spoken at all either.
The reactions of some of the others had surprised him a little. Cait Sith, being controlled by an anonymous Shinra Employee, had looked ashamed. He was with the enemy who had hounded the Cetra for the duration of her life. Barret had surprised him by offering Cloud himself comfort, a condoling hand on his shoulder. Yuffie had embraced him, but whether it was to passify her cries, or his hurt, he didn't know. Tifa, normally strong and cool headed, had run from the altar in tears. Cid had simply stared up at the sky, as if in prayer for the flower girl. Vincent, stoic and calm, had only cast a glance at Aeris and then Cloud before leaving. Hurt was evident in his red eyes, but he appeared to have suffered a grevious hurt before. No-one knew much about the mysterious man's past. Cloud assumed it must have been to do with his lost love, Lucrecia.
Cloud himself had simply looked on at his friends. He didn't once move from his place opposite Aeris until all his friends had vacated the altar. Then he had gracefully lifted her body, angelic even after life had departed her, and carried her out into the water. And let her go.
Now, he was destinated to stay awake all night, thinking of the wrong that had been commited. And blaming himself. He was her bodyguard. Why didn't he save her? He should have done. He would never forgive Sephiroth, but he would never forgive himself. He had almost committed the crime himself, but thanks to his friends, was spared the guilt of actually killing her.
Sorrow had overtaken his soul, the guilt pushed away. His strong façade for his friends was transparent now, had been as soon as the blade sliced through Aeris's back, and out of her stomach. Inside, he was drowning in tears he refused to cry.
Tifa and Yuffie had cried. That hadn't surprised him. He had too, in front of Sephiroth no less. Tifa surprised him a little; he had been under the impression that there was a rift between the two, although it was nothing too serious. And Cloud feared it had been to do with him.
Both girls felt affection towards him. Aeris had taken him on a date at the Gold Saucer, and even though he had owed her the date, he still enjoyed it. Aeris's words and actions also showed she liked him as more than a friend. When Cait Sith had read their fortunes, he had said they were perfect for one another. Tifa had been there, he had seen the jealously in her eyes. She had tried to conceal it, but Cloud had known her a long time. He could see straight through it. He had liked her since childhood, but that was what caused the problem. He didn't think he could ever see her as more than a close friend, although she obviously wanted more.
He wasn't sure how he felt about Aeris. Was she a friend? Or something more? Either way, it didn't matter, she was dead. That unsurprisingly ended a relationship. But it didn't end love. Cloud didn't know if he loved Aeris, but he did care for her a lot. So her death hurt him.
He was no stranger to loss. One would thing he was a true survivor, but this was not right. Sephiroth had burnt Nibelheim down to the ground, but he hadn't gotten used to hurt. His memories of the quiet mountain town had gone with the ravaging flames, everything he had ever known. His mother had perished in the flames too, but then he had been seeking revenge. Sixteen years old and in that kind of situation meant it hadn't hit him immediately. The overwhelming hate and desire to kill Sephiroth had. His memories were lost after that point, and he didn't think now was the suitable time to try and retrieve them.
He heard Cid cough softly. He was awake, but Cloud didn't call out to him. His friends should be allowed the soft serene of sleep, even if he wasn't. Cid would drop back off soon anyway.
He glanced at the clock again. Nearly four am. He cursed inwardly. Even if he did get to sleep-which appeared unlikely-it would only be for about four hours. That was better than nothing though, the more approachable option. Although, that wasn't by his choice. He would like nothing more than to drop into the velvet carasses of dormancy, where his troubled mind would be at peace. At least for a short while.
Although, he thought dejectedly, I'd probably just end up having nightmares.
After about ten minutes, he sighed and sat up. He had been tracing the imperfections and cracks in the ceiling with his eyes, but he had run out of ceiling. He had also run out of patience awaiting sleep, and threw the covers off of him. Fatigue wouldn't be claiming him any time soon, so lying in bed was useless. He quietly went over to the partially open door and slipped out. The bright lights from the hall hit his sensitive eyes, and he shaded them for a moment. When he looked around again, he realised there wasn't any place to go. Tifa and Yuffie's room was next to his and Cid's, and the stairs were to his left. He was also accutely aware of the heat in the building.
A shower was becoming appealing, as the heat was getting unbearable, but he didn't want to wake anybody. He settled for just getting a glass of water instead. Slowly, he crept down the stairs, hoping he wouldn't step on any floorboards that squeaked like in Aeris's house.
Dammit! He thought. There I go again!
It seemed like there was nothing to think about unless it meant thinking about Aeris, or an aspect concerning her. It was becoming vaguely annoying. It wasn't that he didn't like thinking about her, because he did. He just didn't want to at that moment.
His friends were concerned. He didn't know why. The only words spoken amidst goodnights were aimed at him. Was he okay, did he want to talk? No he wasn't okay, but he didn't want to talk. He had never been one for heart-to-heart chats.
He looked around the ground floor of the building, realising that he was in the living room. Red was still sleeping by the fire, that had begun to die down. Barret was fast asleep in a chair, evident by his snoring as the back of the chair faced Cloud. Vincent was sleeping on the couch, but as Cloud laid eyes on him, the red orbs snapped open. Vincent nodded to him and closed his eyes again. Cloud wondered if the man ever slept at all. Sighing, he looked around the room quickly and kept his eyes away from the front door. He felt like going outside, but he knew he'd be drawn to the Cetra's final resting place if he did that. Picking up an empty glass, he ran some water and started up the stairs again. About half way up, he stopped and looked at the front door again.
"Cloud?" A voice behind him said. He turned and saw Tifa standing at the top of the stairs. "How long have you been up?"
"All night," Cloud told her, starting up the steps again. He was glad for the distraction.
"Oh." Up close, Cloud could tell Tifa hadn't been sleeping much either. She looked tired and worn, her eyes red with fatigue or tears. Probably both.
"Couldn't sleep?" he asked.
"Something like that," Tifa sighed. "How about you? Are you all right? I know you and her were…close…" Tifa tailed off slightly. Cloud nodded slighty.
"I'm pretty good." Tifa studied him for a moment.
"Then why haven't you slept?" She asked. Cloud shrugged.
"Not tired, I guess."
"Oh. So what were you doing up?" Cloud showed her the glass of water.
"Just getting this."
"I thought I heard someone go downstairs. I kinda hoped it would be you." Cloud didn't reply to that. Tifa smiled compassionately, although tears stood in her eyes now.
"You know what I think?" She said softly. "Aeris was an angel. She wasn't human. She was too pure to be tainted by humanity's flaws. She was sent by the Planet on a mission, and when she succeeded it, she would be taken. She fulfilled her purpose here, and was taken back to where she belonged. Don't you think, Cloud?" Cloud didn't say anything for a moment; this was exactly why he didn't want to talk about Aeris. He nodded slightly, wanting to get away from the subject.
"Yeah." Tifa smiled smally at him. There was a silence between them. Cloud looked at her for a moment, thinking about her words. She had obviously been putting a lot of thought into the subject. And she was right too. That simple realisation brought tears that he had locked away inside forth to his eyes, unbidden.
"I'm sorry," Tifa said, noticing. "I didn't mean to upset you." She stepped forward, embracing him tightly for a moment. Cloud didn't say anything. Then she pulled back.
"I've kept you up long enough," Cloud said. "You better go back to bed."
"Yeah," Tifa said. "Okay. You take care, Cloud."
"And you." Tifa smiled again and entered her room again. Cloud sighed, shaking his head. Only a few more hours, he thought. Just a little while longer and we can leave this place.
Just a little longer, and they could end the fight.
Opening his bedroom door, he cast a baleful glance at Tifa's door. He hesistated slighty. He knew she had wanted him to stay with her. He had ignored her gestures, not wanting to fall in love again.
Yes, he thought slowly. I love Aeris.
And, as it always worked for him, Fate twisted his life to make the one thing he desired unavaliable. Aeris was dead, but there was still Tifa.
Could I love Tifa? The childhood sweetheart he had adored for years?
I could, he thought, entering his room. Just not right now. He didn't want to think about loving anyone else yet.
No, this night was reserved for the Angel who had fallen.