Note: This story takes place three years after the ending of Final Fantasy 7, and will include the entire cast of characters, how they have changed and where their futures now lie.

This story is fairly old - it was written round about 1999 when I was still in my teens. Even though it is old, I hope you will enjoy it. There will also be sequel after it is finished. :)


:: The Meeting After ::

Prologue

It was early morning, and the wind was howling outside. Leaves rustled incessantly against the windowpane as they were torn away from the safety of their branches and whirled about until they could bear it no longer. And then, they would drop to the floor, exhausted, only to be whipped up occasionally by the never-satisfied nighttime breeze.

In the crook of Cloud's arm, Tifa stirred. Snuggling up against his chest, she murmured something, then quietened and drifted back peacefully into an untroubled sleep. Cloud shifted himself awkwardly to make his position a little more comfortable, careful not to awaken the girl beside him. He half sat, half lay, his eyes wide open, wide-awake. There were often nights when he could not sleep, and during these frequent occasions, he took the time to mull over nothing in particular.

Tonight, Cloud thought, was different. He had no idea why, but the conviction had come as naturally to him as many other things he had experienced in the past. There was something in the wind that night, something different. He could not for the life of him imagine what it was, nor if it was ever really there: but the knowledge that it existed within his head remained a teasing, tantalising enigma.

Cloud absently stroked Tifa's hair, as he often did when she lay next to him in bed. He liked the soft, comforting feel of the silky strands against his skin; it pacified him, perhaps a little strangely. Calmer now, Cloud smiled to himself. A faint tinge of first light was touching the blackness outside, signalling the certainty that the new day was on its way.

"Cloud?"

Tifa had awakened beside him, and he had been in such deep thought that he hadn't even noticed it. Her voice and face were still bleary with sleep as she looked up at him, her features mildly inquiring.

"Trouble sleeping again?" she asked.

Cloud nodded.

"Yes, but I don't mind, I was only thinking." he paused "It's nearly morning."

Tifa gazed passingly out of the window.

"So it is. Are you getting up early then?"

"I don't know. It depends on whether you can keep me here or not."

"What's that supposed to mean?" Tifa inquired, staring up at him archly. Cloud gave her a half smile and shrugged evasively. Tifa pulled a face at him and held him close to her, burying her face next to his chest.

"I could keep you, if you really wanted me to, but something tells me you wouldn't. What were you thinking of?"

Cloud shrugged.

"Oh, just about how the others are getting on. I thought that perhaps we should pay them a visit."

"Why not just write them a letter or drop them a line?"

"I don't know. It's just not the same, I suppose. We haven't seen most of them in nearly three years. Red dropped in last year, but that's only because he lives just across the Delta River. I want to know how everyone else is doing."

There was a short silence, and then Tifa suddenly started up.

"Cloud, I just had a brainstorm!"

"Sounds funny coming from you." he joked.

Tifa pouted.

"Don't tease me, Cloud. In fact, I think you'll like this idea."

"Okay, I'm sorry. So tell me this brilliant idea."

"Well," Tifa began excitedly, apparently having forgiven him "I thought that maybe we could retrace our old journey after Sephiroth, and meet everyone on the way! How does that sound for an idea?!"

"What, you mean travel the whole Planet just like that?!" Cloud cried, half shocked.

"Well, why not?" Tifa continued "We could take everyone along with us, and then have a massive meeting at the last place we stopped at."

"A party at the Crater?" Cloud put in sarcastically "Sounds like fun, Tifa."

Slightly put out, Tifa thought again for a while, then spoke again.

"Okay, so maybe the Crater isn't a very good idea for a meeting place after all. But what about the City of the Ancients?"

"That old place?!" Cloud exclaimed depreciatingly "But it's swarming with archaeologists nowadays!"

Tifa wriggled out from under his arm and climbed up on to his chest.

"You're scared Cloud Strife, I know you are!"

"No, I'm not." he replied a little defensively.

"Yes, you are," she retorted "you're too afraid to go back there."

Cloud fell quiet. He was scared, in a way. What had happened there three years ago had caused him much heartache afterwards. He wasn't too keen on replaying it to himself all over again. Tifa saw his troubled look, and put on her most pleading countenance.

"Oh, please Cloud! Don't worry about the archaeologists. If we have Reeve with us, he can send them away! Please, Cloud!"

The question flitted around in Cloud's head: why not? With a sudden laugh, he leaned forward and kissed the girl's nose.

"All right, Tifa, you win. Your wild fantasy may have some merit after all."