Oh Danny boy the pipes, the pipes are calling

From glen to glen and down the mountain side

The summer's gone, and all the flowers are dying

Tis you, tis you, must go and I must bide

Cloud stared down at the water, gently lapping against the shore, not all that distant from his boots. Above, the sky was rather dark with clouds, but that didn't mar the beauty of this place. Or the pain.

He shifted and the leather of his coat creaked, a clip jingled, and the ground crunched under his boot. Lifting a hand, he toyed with the red ribbon tied around his left arm, eyes blind to the rippling water in front of him. It hadn't been that long ago that the Sephroids had attacked- trying to get what was left of Jenova- trying to resurrect Sephiroth- had indeed resurrected Sephiroth. But in doing so, they'd awakened the Planet's sleeping Angel.

"Aerith..."

His lips pulled down, and Cloud berated himself for picking at old scabs. This wound would never heal, he felt. No mater how much he loved Tifa, Aerith had been the one he couldn't save- and could never know how his life would have- could have been with her. This making do with events was killing him!

Just as it had killed him before the Geostigma had taken his drive to live.

"Am I ... still tainted?" Cloud asked, surprised at his voice in the silence.

The water lapped the shore, the wind rustled through the white branched trees high above. No answers there.

"I don't have them either," he told the trees. "So many died... All these wars. I fought for something. I guess it was peace. Or was it revenge? I can't tell anymore, I don't remember."

Still, the trees had no answers, and he fell just as silent as they, all except for the whisper of breath, the clink of a clip, the creak of leather like the scrape of branches against each other. He was one with the scenery- and pretended that he was one with Her.

But come ye back, when summer's in the meadow

Or when the valley's hushed and white with snow

Tis I'll be there in sunshine or in shadow

Oh Danny boy, oh Danny boy, I love you so

How seasons changed. From spring to summer and to winter's snow.

They came and went, and the scars made on a tree this year disappeared and were grown over into a burl or scabbed with bark. The Planet covered wounds just like that- scabbing it over, covering it with dirt and rock and eventually, the scars faded away.

Cid once said he thought the Planet was just a young child, defenseless against the parasites that crawled upon its surface. Well, not in so many words, but those had been the ones Cloud had filled in. Shaking his head, he sighed, "You'd probably be upset at me for thinking like that," he told the water that sparkled voicelessly at him, "I fought to save those parasites once. Twice. I guess I shouldn't be surprised that you'd want to ..."

Though he cut his words off verbally, they battered against his bruised and wounded mind viciously, want to be with the Planet instead of us- to save the whole instead of the parts. "Just you and your garden," Cloud muttered and started to turn.

It wasn't that he'd thought better, or that anything had caught his attention, but he stopped and looked back at the water. No. He couldn't leave her grave with those words. "I'm sorry," he told her deaf ears. "You did what you had to, just as we did what we had to and there's no changing it." Hanging his head, Cloud closed his eyes and lifted a hand to rub them, rub at the scar across his brow where he'd had his goggles shot off. That had hurt.

"Not as much as losing you did."

Lowering his hand, he stared at it, blinking slowly as his vision blurred. Even if there were no witnesses to his stupid angst fest, Cloud was firmly against crying.

And if you come when all the flowers are dying

And I am dead, as dead I well may be

You come and find the place where I am lying

And kneel and say an Ave there for me

Taking a strained breath through his nose, Cloud turned towards the lake once more, and knelt in an effort to regain his composure. "But why did it have to be you?" the blonde demanded, lifting his head, "When will it stop hurting so much? ...When did you get so deep that it would hurt me so much?" With each successive question, his voice got fainter, and finally, he whispered, "why can't I just be happy with what I've got?"

Still, there were no answers, not from the wind in the trees, nor the water on the shore or from the distant thunder Cloud could hear gathering. But worst of all, there were no answers to be found within himself which was why he'd come here- to ask the last person he thought might know.

"But you won't speak to me. I'll never hear your voice again."

That did it- his hold on what he could barely restrain broke, and Cloud bowed his head, resting his forehead on his knee as his shoulders shook. He hoped to God that Vincent or someone didn't show up. He had his phone, but didn't have it on, hadn't left a note when he'd left, other than that he'd be back, and not to keep dinner. Balling his fist, Cloud slammed it into the ground, "Why can't I just be happy with what I have!" he shouted, foot sliding out from under him till he was sitting on the ground, bent forward over his knees, fists on the ground holding his weight.

And I shall hear, though soft you tread above me

And all my grave shall warmer sweeter be

If you'll not fail to tell me that you love me

I'll simply dream in peace until you come to me

Not that he'd expected any answers from this.

Not that it made things easier to handle. His brief glimpse of her during his fight against Geostigma and the Sephroids had not put his mind at peace. All it had done for him was stab at an old wound and remind him of why he should be grateful for what he had. But he was glad he had his friends! "But I..." he whispered, "I still hurt."

Licking his lips, Cloud lifted his head, eyes blurred with tears even as he sat back and wiped his face with his hand, sniffling. "Aerith..."

Blinking his eyes clear finally, he stared at the water where she lay.

"Aerith...

I love you."

I'll simply dream in peace until you come to me