Chapter 25 : Healing

Images and voices merged into one. The past, present and the possible future were all shown in his dreams. Of course this future was the one he was trying to prevent, one after the other his nightmares came to pass in this world.

But it didn't matter, he knew this wasn't real. No matter how much it tried the creature inside of him would not win, he was going to make sure of it.

The truth Sephiroth had told him was still fresh, and as much as he wished it was a lie he knew it wasn't. Even worse he had taken Aerith, forced her to stand there and tell him as if it was her fault. But it had worked, he had lost control again and that had cost another their life.

'I promise this won't happen again, no matter what price I have to pay.'

Aerith placed the warm cloth on Cloud's forehead. His whole body was motionless apart from his chest that slowly lifted each time he took a breath.

The talk she had with Zack wasn't exactly a pleasure. He had taken the news well but it was the first time she had seen him with a serious look on his face, even in the middle of danger he had a smile but, this time it was just gone.

Of course Cloud had taken it much worse, exactly like Sephiroth had wanted him too. But could she blame him? How would she feel if it had turned out that she was related to someone like that?

Sighing Aerith tried to push these thoughts to the back of her mind, thinking this over and over again would just make her feel worse.

"Y'know, it helps to talk when you've got something on her mind."

Aerith straightened up in her chair and looked round for the voice for a few moment before realizing where it came from.

"You're awake?!" She switched to the bed and looked over Cloud's body.

The blond just smiled and nodded sleepily.

"How do you feel?"

"Fine, just my head that's killing me." He tried to sit up only to be pushed back down.

"You're not going anywhere." Aerith pinned him down on the bed.

"Why not?" Cloud tried to fight back but found that he was too weak at this point to win.

"Because you're staying right here right where I can keep an eye on you."

"I have duty to perform you know."

"Not any more." She shook her head. "President Shin-Ra has ordered that you are to stay under surveillance after the incident."

Cloud stopped struggling for a moment and looked her straight in the eyes. "Incident?"

Aerith waited a moment before letting go of his arms; she sat back and sighed slowly. "I didn't know whether I wanted you to remember or not."

The look on Cloud's face change, she could see that he knew what it was about. "The last I remember is you and Sephiroth, he made you tell me something and then it all goes a blur."

Not enjoying the task Aerith explained everything to him, from start to finish. His past, present and possible future. Cloud listened quietly, just nodding his head every so often.

It was hard to tell whether he was speechless or just deep in thought, perhaps both. Aerith ended the story at the point Zack had knocked him out, she then looked up from the bed covers to see what Cloud's reaction was.

"I guess that's about it." A moment passed and she lowered her head again. "I'm sorry."

"Don't be." Cloud had a serious expression on his face. "Why should you have to be sorry for something that's not your fault?"

"I," Aerith looked down at her hands, she didn't really have an answer to his question.

Sighing, Cloud sat up and pulled the covers off of himself. This time Aerith didn't try to stop him.

"I should have stopped this."

"What do you mean?"

"I never should have gotten you involved." He lifted himself off the bed and walked over to the window, not really looking out at anything. "You shouldn't have to deal with my problems."

"So what?" Aerith stood up as well and stared at him. "You wish we had never met?"

"That's not what I meant." His voice had gone soft. "Before, I would never bother anyone else with my own life, and now the first time I do it ends up like this. I should have never let it happen."

The way he spoke now reminded her of when they first met, back when Cloud would barely say a word to her about himself. "You know, finding out how you feel about someone is not done during the good times. It happens when times are at their most difficult, that is the time when you truly admit out how you feel."

Cloud placed both hands on the side of the window and leaned against them. He sighed heavily while staring out. "How I feel? That's not the question I need answering. I need to know that when the time comes, I will be able to protect them, you."

At the top of the castle standing on the roof, Rufus turned and ran his fingers through his hair. "So when do you plan to leave?"

"First thing tomorrow." Zack had left earlier to give a report to him, luckily the president didn't hold Cloud responsible for the incident.

It was in the middle of the afternoon and the sun was still high in the sky, but canceling out its warm rays was an icy cold wind coming in from over the ocean next to them.

"Any new about Sephiroth?"

"No, he disappeared." The Soldier crossed his arms and looked annoyed. "Probably planning his next move."

"Then perhaps it is a good thing you leave here for now," Rufus walked over to the edge and looked down. "There is little resistance these people could mount up to fight with."

"To be honest I feel lost in the whole thing, it seems only Cloud and Aerith have any idea about what's going on."

"Aerith? Ah yes, the Cetra girl. She does seem to have a part to play in this." He turned back to Zack. "Let us hope it is a good one."

It was difficult for Aerith to say anything. A simple 'don't worry, everything will turn out fine' wasn't going to do at this point. She watched him stare out the window, thinking as usual.

While wondering what to do she ran her fingers through her hair to straighten it out. As she did she remembered that her ribbon was missing which was why it was all loose now. "Oh no..."

Aerith pushed herself up and began checking her pockets. "It's gone."

"...?" Cloud turned round and watched as she started to panic while searching the room. "What's wrong?"

"It's not here, I must have lost it." The panic in her voice grew. "I can't believe I never noticed it earlier."

Pushing away from the window Cloud grabbed Aerith long enough to ask her. "What is it you've lost?"

"My white orb, the little sphere I wore in my ribbon."

Cloud released her and stepped back. "Oh that's ok then."

"What?" Aerith stared at him blankly. "What do you mean 'that's ok then'? Its really important to me."

Smiling the blond reached into his pocket. "It's ok because I have it right here." He pulled out his hand and opened it in front of her, showing the white sphere in the middle of his palm. "You dropped it back in Wutai, I just never got the chance to give it back to you before."

"Oh." Staring at it for just a moment she then reached out and closed Cloud's fingers around the sphere. "Then there is nothing wrong."

"...?" Cloud blinked a few times before speaking. "You don't want it now?"

Aerith shook her head. "No, I wanted it so that I could give it to you."

"Me?" He looked down at the sphere. "Why?"

"For someone who is a Cetra you don't know that much do you?" She smiled and shook her head as Cloud continued to stare blankly at her. "You see, it's a tradition for every Cetra to be given on of these at birth. They then keep it until they find a soul close to theirs, when a Cetra finds that person they then give it to that person and well..." She stopped short and hoped he would get the rest on his own.

Cloud opened his hand and stared at the white sphere. "Souls? You mean the thing you showed me back in Wutai."

Aerith smiled and leaned closer to him, whispering into his ear. "I hope you understand now."

Cloud walked swiftly down the corridor, his stomach growled once again just to make sure he got the point. 'It has been two days since I last ate I guess.'

As he reached the doors to the cafeteria though, he hesitated. He knew everyone was already inside, and he had told Aerith that he was going to meet her there but...

An image of the faces passed through his mind, each with a single expression, judging him about what had happened. 'But they know its not me, they understand, don't they?'

Still staring at the handle of the door, Cloud's mind began to predict their reactions. They wouldn't feel safe around him, would they even trust him? How could anyone trust a monster?

'Shut up!' Pressing his hands against his ears Cloud tried to close him self off from the accusing voices. The more he tried the louder they became, repeating the same prediction over and over.

But just as he thought he couldn't do it and decided to give up, the door opened and a surprised looking flower girl stood there to meet him.

"Oh, what are you doing out here?"

Cloud quickly lowered his hands and fumbled around with words in a useless attempt to come up with some excuse. Luckily for him Aerith just shook her head and pulled him inside. "Never mind." She continued to pull him until they were at the table everyone else was sitting at.

The cafeteria was quite large, big enough to fit around thirty people in it. And with only six people using it the room looked even larger than it actually was.

As he sat down at the table Cloud quickly glanced round and then looked back down to his plate so that no one noticed.

He felt a light wave of relief as no one was actually paying attention to him. Yuffie was pestering Squall about something, although she kept calling him Leon for some reason he didn't know. Cid was staring at some blue prints that he had placed next to his plate at the end of the table. Zack was too busy stuffing his face to notice anything else in the room. And then finally Aerith, well, she was looking at him curiously, but then again that was probably about her finding him staring at the kitchen door with his hands over his ears.

Shaking his head Cloud smiled at the thought of himself standing there. 'I'm lucky she doesn't think I'm going nuts.'

Aerith rested her chin on her palm and smiled softly. 'He's going nuts.' She had left to go and find out what was taking him so long to get here, of course him standing out side like that wasn't what she was expecting. 'I guess he could be a bit nervous.' The flower girl looked around the table at everyone else; they all now knew what had happened. 'But they also know its not your fault, you are going to have to trust us now Cloud as much as we trust you.'

Note: Ok, I finally decided I liked this version of the chapter; I must have six different versions of it now. One thing I want to ask right now is a decision I can't decide on, I want to know on exactly the type of ending I'm going to use, one of them is a Disney ending (Kingdom Hearts style) and the other a SquareSoft ending (Final Fantasy VII style) if you know what I mean. So if any of you have a strong preference let me know because it would really help in deciding. As usual thanks to everyone who has reviewed, even after I didn't update for a long long time.

swtlil-azn - Yes Sora will be in this story, the first point will most likely be when Squall meets him in the game.

DarkNightAngel - Bad end, I'm not really sure right now, like I said above I'm trying to decide on a Disney ending or a Squaresoft/enix ending.

Shin Shiroi M.L.A - It's nice to know that you liked my story that much and you English is great (its my first language and I mess it up most of the time anyway so I wouldn't worry).

lena-jade - Haha ok, in any case you did get it right. As for the errors, I'm trying to go through the story now and find all the errors but if you happen to find one that I keep making (like your and you're) just let me know and I'll go back and fix them.