Title: Never Goodbye

Disclaimer: Not mine, if they were, you'd know about it.

Summary: Cloud watched as Aeris and Zack leave him at the church in Midgar, and remembers... Oneshot, very short.

Warning: Shounen-ai. Don't like, go read something else. Zack x Cloud.

"You'll be okay now, right?"

And all he could do was stare, stare as she turned to join her friend, stare as the dearest and most likely the biggest influence in his life smiled that warm, loving smile of his that only he seemed capable of as he removed his hand from under his arm, where they had been folded over his chest casually as he watched his blonde friend from a distance with a fond expression in those violet eyes. Stare as he swept that hand down in a friendly wave goodbye. Stare, a hollow pit of sadness forming in his stomach as he realised that this goodbye had been put painfully on hold for two long, difficult and confusing years. Stare as he and his friend smiled at him for the last time before turning away and walking out into the light, where they faded into nothing so much as a thread of a memory. He wanted to call out to them, yell at them to wait, but he knew they wouldn't have heard and for some reason, his vocal chords wouldn't work at that moment.

There was a breeze coming in from the open church doors, and it swirled around him and rippled the water in which he stood, a little cold on the bare skin of his arms. But there was a cheerful happy voice on that wind, Aeris' voice was carried upon it where it floated to his ears as she chatted to the tall SOLDIER who walked or floated or whatever spirits do beside her. And Zack... Zack laughed. Zack laughed the way Zack did. Zack laughed in that way that only he seemed able to. Zack laughed for the sake of laughing. And Cloud knew he would keep that sound for the rest of his life, tucked safe in his memories where no one could distort it or sully it, where he could look back on it and know that Zack was happy.

"Yeah, I'm..."

His sky blue eyes slid closed as his mind drifted and skimmed over fond memories that lived and breathed ad laughed in his own thoughts, the only place that such memories could live. He remembered how he would sit with his raven haired friend on a grassy knoll just outside Midgar, but far enough away so that there was indeed grass to sit on, where the reactors hadn't gluttonously devoured all the Mako from the surrounding area and left it completely barren like they had the area immediately outside the city. And they would lie outside on lazy summer afternoons when the pair should be in class or on duty or where ever they were supposed to be. Laughing when every so often when Zack would spy a cloud floating timidly by that, in his over productive imagination, bared a striking resemblance to an unfortunate member of ShinRa staff, usually Heidigger, and thus a string of insults aimed at the poor aforementioned ShinRa employee would follow, often leaving Cloud doubled over and choking on the very air he breathed in an attempt to control his laughter.

Other times, he would be subject to Zack's incredibly persuasive techniques, and would find himself clinging to Zack as if his life depended on it, which it probably did, as Zack took him into the city on the back of his bike, laughing into the wind that slammed into his face and pulled his hair back into a midnight banner that would fly behind them, cautioning other traffic that the young speed demon was on the roads and that the best choice of action was most likely to leave your car at home and walk.

Zack laughed a lot, Cloud noticed. He laughed when he was happy, laughed when other were happy, especially if he knew that he was the one to make them feel that way. But he laughed in many different ways too. Cloud remembered him laughing nervously when he brought the blonde to his apartment for the first time, worried at how the boy would react to the mess. He laughed manically whenever Cloud squealed as he mercilessly tickled the young blonde, pinning him to the floor and prodding and stroking in just the right places and in just the right way to have the boy squirming and begging him to stop. He laughed whenever Cloud was sad, after some careful cajoling and soothing pats of the head or back, sometimes even a cuddle if he was really upset, because he knew Cloud liked to hear him laugh. He laughed when Cloud would look up at him with large, sparkling blue eyes or asked him a question about SOLDIER in that tone of voice that Zack found utterly adorable. It was easy to tell when Zack was happy; the difficult thing was noticing if he wasn't, because there was very little that could get Zackary Roughknight depressed.

"You gotta be happy and have fun while ya can kiddo! Life's too short to be sad all the time!"

Cloud locked those words tight in his memories, understanding his advice, though he wasn't one to smile an awful lot. It was ironic really, that one whose life was cruelly cut so short should talk of life not being long enough. He wondered if Zack knew that he'd have to leave earlier than his friend. Did he do everything that he really wanted to do? How many plans did he have for the future? What would have happened if he stayed? Would he spend the rest of his life with Cloud in Midgar as a mercenary? Did he have other things in mind? What did he want?

"Just kidding... I won't leave you hanging like that. ...We're friends, right?"

Echoes and whispers of past promises weaved their way into his thoughts, leaving a bitter taste of betrayal in his mouth. He wouldn't leave him behind? Then where had he been for the past two years? Why was he all by himself? Why did he feel cold and lonely now? And Zack was walking away? Gone even, faded into that light, leaving him alone once again.

Cloud had never thought that Zack would lie to him.

"You know what?"

Another memory, pushing the bitter ones out of the way for dominance. Warm and sweet, fond and caring and gentle. He remembered the soft hand that stoked and petted his hair so tenderly and carefully, as though he were made of something precious.

"What Zack?"

He remember that Zack had smiled at the boy's question, remembered how Zack told him that he loved it when his eyes were large and glittering in an innocent curiosity that he never got tired of seeing, that always made feel so strongly about the lovely little blonde that was so content just to lie in his arms.

"I fucking love you."

Cloud remembered smiling at that. Zack had a way with words. He cursed an awful lot, in fact, he was glad he never introduced the SOLDIER to his mother, he was sure that she would have been appalled at his 'colourful' language. But Zack never sounded offensive, he just sounded like... well... Zack.

"I love you too Zack."

The memory of Zack's chuckle was clear in his mind, and he remembered that he would snuggle closer into to older man's warmth, sighing happily when he was encouraged to cuddle closer, so that there wasn't one place on his body that wasn't in contact with his lover's.

"Good. Because I think I would die if you didn't."

There was a kiss and a murmur of a laugh but Cloud no longer cared to recall the rest as that one thread of thought lingered and echoed in his head. Was that why he left so soon? Was Cloud all alone because that love that he had and willing gave without expecting a return, though he received one anyway, wasn't quite enough? Was the only person he could blame for losing the one important thing in his life himself?

You know I hated it when you blamed yourself...

Was it entirely his fault? Was it- Was that a voice in his head? He was hearing voices? Was he going crazy now?

Ah Cloud, you're in a class all of your own. "Crazy" doesn't do you any justice.

Oh thanks... His replying thought was almost a sarcastic laugh. He knew who's voice it was. So why bother listening to voices of your dearly beloved if you can't hold a conversation with them? Besides, Zack was in the Lifestream now, so he supposed that the Ex-SOLDIER could talk to him if he so wished. It never stopped Aeris...

Hey, don't mention it. A pause, almost awkward, though Cloud knew he was still there, and then he spoke again, You know I still love you, right?

The words themselves were enough to make him smile. To anyone else, it sounded like an off-hand question one would ask in passing, but Cloud knew it was just his way, knew the messages that came with it.

Yeah, I know. I never stopped loving you either. Though his smile faded as the wind from outside whipped around him again, a sudden realisation hitting him that he didn't want to think about but knew he had to face. So... Is this it then?

Hmm? Is this what? His voice was curious, still happy and warm and so loving, but curious.

Goodbye. Is this goodbye Zack?

That loving chuckle that Cloud loved so much echoed in his mind, and the slight breeze that floated in from the open door warmed and moved in a definite circle around him again and again.

An embrace.

No Cloud. Never.

And he smiled. A true smile of utter joy that Cloud hadn't felt for at least seven long and painful years.

"I'm not alone."

Awww, aren't Cloud and Zack sweet? Sorry Aeris, but you can't have Zack, he belongs to Cloudie! XP

Cloud/frown/ If at all possible, don't call me Cloudie...

Zack/grabs Cloud and hugs him reeeeeeeeeally tight/ Aww! Cloudie you're so cute! Kawaii desu!

Cloud: Oh don't you start...

/Watches then for a while... then turns away/ Better not get distracted. Anyways, I decided to write a little bit about that scene right at the end of AC, I'm sure you know what part I'm on about. When I finished, I found it was a little short in comparison to some of my other stuff, but then reasoned with myself that you can only write so much in a scene that lasts for less than 40 seconds. So it's all good. Reviews are greatly appreciated!