The real Christmas fic for Annjirika! Ah… Something I promised her a long time ago but never got around to it. I typed this up once before, but then Microsoft Works decided to be evil and have an error pop up, and close the system, the affects were me completely losing everything. Oh I was pissed. It was such a good draft. But… They say second time around is usually better. I doubt it will be, but I'll try.

Disclaimer- I don't own Kingdom Hearts

Bittersweet Clouffie

"Cloud… It's been a long time and things have changed over time." A young woman with long brown hair and a pink dress stood in front of Cloud, guilt slipping onto her face. "I'm sorry, it's just that… "

The blonde shook his head slowly, "No… it's alright." He cut her off so he didn't have to hear what she was going to say. It always feels worse to hear the words. Words left no escape, no way to look around the situation, no way to recover.

He had come too late, he had went through hell to reach her, yet she had given up on him. She didn't wish to wait for him any longer, so she forgot about him. Was it really his fault? He tried with everything in his power to get to her. Working for the lowest levels of scum, jumping from planet to planet seeking out her name. Finally, finally he finds her after so many years, but he was too late, she had already forgotten everything they were.

He had so many hopes, so many dreams about their future, what they could be, and what they should be. If he had come sooner, she wouldn't be in the arms of another. But he's stuck here, thrown off once again, away from her, never again to hold her like he had once before.

Cloud turned away from her form; his gaze dropped to the ground while his fists clenched tightly in frustration and aggravation. Not at her however, never at her. The frustration and aggravation was directed towards only himself. Aggravated that he had clung onto hope for so long, frustrated that he had gone through so much, only to receive nothing but a pat on the shoulder in the end. He walked away, there was nothing else he could do but walk away. Anything was better than standing there in her gaze that was weighing on his back.

"Are you leaving again Cloud?" The brunette said worriedly. She was on the verge of telling him what he wanted to hear, to tell him to stay with her. If only it would keep him near them once again.

Cloud's eyes closed tightly, his mouth grinding in more frustration. He slipped his mask back on, one of annoyance as he glanced over his shoulder. "Aerith… I've been wandering around planets for nine years, and quite frankly, I'm tired of it. So if it would be alright, I'd like to get some sleep at the hotel. If you wish it, I will just leave the planet."

Aerith shook her head, "No, no… Sleep, yes. You could use the rest. I'm happy that you are back Cloud. You're always going to be my friend."

The blonde offered a small smile, just to make the woman in front of her less concerned. So he can't even offer her what he was really feeling. Right now, he didn't want her to see what he was feeling. So he turned his back to her once more; leaving the First District and heading into the Second District.

It all came out at once, his anger, frustration, aggravation. All his sadness, sorrow and grief. All his self loathing. It all came out as he kicked a nearby trashcan into the side of the building, then proceeded to continually slam his fists into it. His eyes were brimming with unshed tears, tears he refused to let spill for a hopeless cause.

"Whoa Spikes, wanna take it easy on him? He can't even defend himself." The unmistakable voice of Yuffie Kisaragi filled the alleyway. She had just been innocently heading towards the hotel in the Second District. She had no particular reason to head there, but she hadn't been watching Cloud and Aerith from the shadows if that's what you were thinking.

"Maybe you wanna take on his buddies too. I'm sure their horrified." She pointed over to the untouched waste baskets, "You're a regular garbage can executer man person." She walked over as he stopped, the amusement washing away from her face as concern was replaced, "So um… are you… Okay now?"

Cloud stood up from his crouched position near the garbage can. His knuckled felt bruised, as if he had been punching a wall several times, and his wrists were sore from the impact of each punch. He hitched his cloak higher up to hide more of his face then usual so it would hide the scowl across his lips, "I'm fine. I was just heading to the hotel." He stated matter-of-factly.

"Oh, uh… right." The teenager watched him head off towards the hotel, not at all sure what to say. Aerith may be gullible, but she wasn't. Not as much as her at least. "So I'll see you later then?" Yuffie almost winced at herself, she couldn't believe how hopeful she sounded, it was pathetic even to her own ears.

The young ninja stood there sweating as he stopped and turned to look at her. She felt her throat tighten up as he just stood there several moments just starring at her in that complete blank expression on his face. It was only when he finally spot, a simple word, yet hold enough meaning to make her nerves no longer feel like they were going to explode.

"…Sure." And then he headed off into the hotel.

"Well okay Spikes! I'll be dragging your lazy ass out tomorrow then!" She announced to his retreating form.

"You're going to have to do it one more time."

"I can't!"

"Of course you can, now come on, on my count…."

"…Cloud?"

The blonde turned from the window in his room at the hotel. It had been four months since Aerith let him know that they weren't going to happen. He had settled in the blue room, though he rarely brought himself out.

His gaze was on Yuffie, who's standing at his doorway, dripping wet, and eyes red. Evidently she had been crying a few moments ago. although comforting was something he just doesn't do, so he doesn't ever question why someone is or had been crying. He's a little more discreet about it. "Something wrong?" He questions as if it weren't obvious.

"Leon's an asshole!" The teenager scuffed in annoyance, "I do one damn thing wrong and he starts bitching at me. Yeah okay, so I accidentally threw a ninja star at him and hit his shoulder. I was throwing it at a damn heartless! Then he goes on about how useless I am, and if he wasn't there then the heartless would eat me alive and that I should grow up and… and… generally just being his moody, bitchy self!" It all came out in a breath or two, enough to make her pant a bit to regain oxygen in her lungs.

Cloud just raised an eyebrow and questioned, "Better?"

"Much! Thanks for the chat Spikes." Yuffie said, already feeling like her old bouncy self. Cloud may not talk much, but neither does Leon. But what Cloud does that Leon doesn't is listen. He doesn't comment, just stands there and listens to her complain. She found it easier to vent off of him. Aerith always interrupts her in mid rant to comment, and Leon.. .well… Leon just doesn't care to hear her complain. She turned from him, making ready to go search off for something fun to do. Maybe she'd head back to the waterway.

"You're not useless…"

Yuffie paused and turned around, blinking a bit confused, or maybe it was surprise? "What did you say Spikes?" She questioned, just to make sure she hadn't heard him incorrectly.

Cloud however just shook his head, not being one to really repeat much of anything, "Never mind."

"Oh no you don't!" Yuffie announced as she made her way towards him. She raised up on her toes to get in his face, "I'm minding, so spill it." She questioned, though she was more aware at how close she managed to get in that few seconds, rather than worry about what he had said.

Cloud drew his head back a bit and blinked a bit dumbfounded down at her. He could feel her breath caressing the skin on his neck, making goose bumps form on it. "I just… said… you're not useless." He repeated hesitantly, wanting nothing more than to take a step back, though at the same time he just wanted to move forward.

Yuffie's eyes closed halfway, they seemed to glimmer in the faintly lit room, "Oh…" She all but whispered, though she was sure there is no one around to hear them speak but each other. Her hands raised from her sides, as if on their on accord, and grasped the front of his shirt, "Thanks for the compliment Spikes." She finished before tugging him down to press her lips against his own.

"…Anytime."

"There we are, there we are!"

"Can I… See her?"

"We have a problem…"

"What's going on?"

Cloud's a nervous wreck, and Leon wasn't helping. The gunblade specialist remained leaning against the wall of the kitchen, eyes on Cloud, arms crossed, and an amused smirk spread across his lips. The look was enough to make the blonde want to strangle the older man.

"What? What? Alright? Stop looking at me like that." Cloud finally snapped, not wanting to deal with Leon in the same room with him.

"I thought the day you would look so pathetic was going to be long after I died." Leon commented with a chuckle, "This is going to be amusing… I can tell already." Cloud growled in annoyance, but Leon just ignored him, "So how long has it been?"

"Close to nine months, why?" Cloud replied and questioned suspiciously.

"Don't you think it's a bit… soon?" Leon raised a brow with the question.

Cloud shook his head, "No… I'm not losing her."

Leon shrugged, "Whatever… Honestly, I'm surprised someone was able to deal with her for this long."

"Oh ha ha!" Yuffie exclaimed as she walked into the kitchen. Her hair rivaled Cloud's in the all superior spikiness. She was decked out in a green spaghetti strap top, and black sweatpants. No doubt about it, she had just crawled out of bed.

"I happen to be quite tolerable." She stated as matter-of-factly. She opened to refrigerator and grabbed the carton of orange juice. She never really bothered with cups, nor did she really care that Cloud and Leon were watching her as she proceeded to drink straight from the carton. It's not like it was a secret anyway.

Leon gave a dry laugh, "Yeah.. As long as you don't open your mouth." He commented.

"Fuck you." Yuffie chirped uncaringly.

Cloud just shook his head at their antics. They always did act like they were in some sort of sibling rivalry. He glanced over to Leon and smirked as Yuffie went about her normal procedure of making breakfast for one. She tossed waffles in the toaster, and grabbed a bowl from the cupboard. Opening up another cupboard, she grabbed the box of fruit loops and emptied the remainder of the cereal into her bowl.

Yuffie glanced up at the two men, a little unnerved by their sudden silence and staring, "What?" Cloud shook his head in response as if nothing was wrong, and Leon just chuckled. Her eyes narrowed in suspicion, "What do you find so funny Squall?"

Leon just shrugged in response.

Yuffie glanced back to Cloud, but he just shook his head once more. She decided to wait till she could drag Cloud to somewhere private before prying the information out from him. She found that she could make the blonde tell her anything she wanted as long as she pushed him in the right way.

She walked over to the fridge once more and grabbed the milk. Her waffles popped up from the toaster, half brown, half burnt. Just the way she likes them. She'd let them cool off first before eating them. She finished preparing breakfast, and ignored Cloud and Leon as she went about eating her cereal, her eyes glued on the cereal box.

Cloud watched her eat, every bite making him sweat more. He kept glancing over to Leon, but he just continued to have that same amused smirk, not letting anything else on, he was like a statue standing there.

"OW, SHIT!"

Cloud snapped his gaze back to Yuffie, to see her spit something out and immediately stand up from her chair. She turned around, fingers in her mouth as she walked over to sink. She spit blood out of her mouth. "What the hell is in my cereal, a rock?"

Leon burst into chuckles while Cloud felt like beating himself. He walked over to the table and grabbed the now bloody ring from the table. He made sure to wipe it clean with his shirt while walking over to Yuffie. "It was... Um... This." He held it in two fingers as he waited for her to turn around.

The young woman turned around and starred down at the ring in his hands. Her lips closed shut tightly, as she stared at it unblinkingly. "You…" Yuffie licked her lips before she tried speaking again, "You… hid that in my fruit loops?" She questioned him slowly. Cloud could only nod in reply. Yuffie's lips slowly curled up into a grin, then she started laughing, "You're the weirdest guy I know Spikes!" She announced loudly.

Cloud shifted from foot to foot, feeling more and more like an idiot with each passing second. "You do know what this is, right?" He asked slowly.

"Of course I do!" She announced before hugging him tightly, "And of course I will. I didn't put up with your for nine months for the hell of it Cloudy! But why the hell couldn't you have just done it like any normal guy?" She questioned before slipping it on and admiring it. She forgave the ring for cutting her gums for the mere fact of what it represented.

Cloud gave a short embarrassed laugh, "I figured… I'd choke under the pressure."

Yuffie rolled her eyes at him, "So you settle for looking like an idiot. Ah.. I see, very crafty of you Spikes." She gave a nod, of approval. Cloud just scratched the back of his head, his face feeling as if it were a furnace. The ninja couldn't hold it in anymore, she let out a shriek of joy, grabbed Cloud, and crushed her lips against his. Fortunately for them, Leon had left the moment Cloud picked up the ring.

"We can't stop the bleeding…"

"Does that mean?"

"We're doing all we can."

"What? Let me see if!"

"I'm afraid you'll have to wait."

"Let me see her damn it!"

"Doctor!"

"…I promise to look to no other, to love and hold you. In sickness and in health. I promise never to have doubt in you, or in us, for as long as I live." Cloud felt his cheeks warm up as he stared at the woman in front of him for a long moment. He lowered his gaze to the their clasped hands and slip the gold band onto her finger, next to the silver one she wore.

"I do too." Yuffie replied, than laughed feeling embarrassed and a bit pathetic. The audience laughed as well, and Cloud grinned widely.

"Is there anyone who has any reason or just cause as to why these two should not be together, speak now or forever hold you peace……. Then you may kiss the bride."

The two kissed, "Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you.. Mr. And Mrs. Strife."

"My deepest apologies… we couldn't save her."

"……"

"Sir… would you like to hold her?"

Cloud remained in his place as everything unfolded around him. He can't believe what's happening, everything had been going so perfectly. One good thing after the next. He can barely contain his tears, no.. not contain them. He wants to let them go, wants to let them all go, but they refused to be set free. He can't believe she's gone from his life again, but this time permanently.

Cloud felt small arms wrap around his waist, causing him to rip his gaze away down to the woman at his side. "I can't believe she's gone…" He heard her speak through choked sobs.

"Neither can I."

"Poor Leon…"

Cloud turned his gaze from Yuffie, and looked through the glass, standing there in the middle of the room is Leon, with his baby. The one that Aerith had given birth to. Cloud wrapped his own arms around Yuffie, letting a few tears drop of his own for his friends. "It's okay Yuffie."

Her arms became tighter around his waist, "I love you Cloud, I always will."

"I love you Yuffie."

"I love Leon, Cloud… It's been a long time and things have changed over time… I'm sorry, it's just that…"

It's just that you knew that I wouldn't be able to handle having you torn away from me. So you led me to Yuffie, someone I can depend on, someone who will still be there.

Ho ho ho! Merry Christmas! A twist to what I led you all to believe. And the mind twister strikes again! Bwahahaha! I hope you enjoyed this one-shot. I had fun writing it. And man oh man, I sure as heck…. Okay… Honestly? The whole mind twister ending part, where it's really Aerith dying and not Yuffie came to me right about…. Eight or nine paragraphs up AHAHA. Anyways, this is the real gift for Annjirika. Hope you enjoyed it Annie-Bell!