Chapter 6: Liberation Finale

Disclaimer: Square Enix owns Final Fantasy VII

Aeris's POV:

How cruel…

The world around her had suddenly revolved in one night, made of finely spun glass, her heart had fallen into an abyss and shattered into a million pieces yet nothing around her had changed. The hallways were bustling with activity as usual… A 'Hello' here, a nod there, gaggling geese of gossipy girls chattering away… Nothing had changed, except that her heart was now broken and beyond the salvation of mere healing powers of gum, glue and adhesive tape…

How can anyone smile?

When I've lost my heart and soul…

Her steps were heavy, weary, the result of not being able to sleep the night before, Cloud's forlorn expression was etched clearly in her memory. She was afraid… So terrified… That she would forget even a single detail, every touch, every kiss, every sigh… Much as the memories stabbed her so painfully in so many places with so many daggers and remembering was like sitting in a bloody iron maiden, she just didn't want to forget. To remember was torture, but to forget…

To forget…

Aeris sighed sadly and touched her lips gingerly with her fingertips. The pressure felt different, so was the texture but her memory was all she had left. I miss him… The longing was powerful, reverberating within like the strings of a violin in the midst of a symphony yet the music was confined within the theatre, locked within her heart. She didn't want to go to school… Didn't want to go to class… Didn't want to see Cloud smiling at Tifa with her in his arms… And yet, it was the only way, the only place she could see him…

Her classroom door was looming towards her like the gates of Apocalypse. As she weaved her way through the crowd, Aeris spied a pretty brunette girl leaning against the door, her bag held nervously between slender fingers, as if she were waiting for someone. Aeris didn't recognise her until their eyes met. That pretty shade of burnt sienna blinking daintily as they spied Aeris beneath heavy lashes.

Tifa…

"Good morning." The greeting came out of her mouth spontaneously, naturally, unconsciously and out of habit, sounding unnervingly cheery to Aeris. Her dark haired friend walked over to her, head bowed low, the dark chestnut strands shrouding her eyes like a curtain. Her shoulders were tense.

"Aeris…" She started, her cherry red lower lip suddenly started trembling and suddenly without warning the brunette femme fatale flung herself into Aeris' arms knocking the wind out of her best friend as she burst out crying aloud and squeezing the breath out of Aeris in her vice like grip.

"Cloud pushed me away!!!!"

The sentence took a few moments before it actually registered. "WHAT???" Aeris exclaimed 8 seconds later. Shock penetrated her, all the way down to her toes and back. The sensation tingly and somewhat cold.

"I… I've always known… How Cloud felt about me." Tifa choked on a sob, her now visible eyes were red and puffy from crying. "So… So… I was so sure… So confident that… I didn't need to do much… But…" Tifa clutched so tightly onto Aeris' shoulder like an eagle's death talons that she winced as Tifa hiccupped another sob and buried her dark head into her shoulder. Words began tumbling out of her mouth between sniffles as she revealed the events of the day before.

"Thank you… I like you too…"

Cloud stopped short and chuckled to himself. "I'm sorry… I guess that's what I would have said before…" "C…Cloud?" Tifa's initial elation was transformed into confusion. "I'm sorry…" He apologised again, looking at his palms. "I did feel the same way about you before… Once… But… There's someone else now…" Tifa wanted to place her hand on his shoulder but instead pulled away and bit down on her lower lip, her eyes bright, she clasped her trembling fingers together trying not to cry.

He chuckled to himself again, glad that his cobwebs of doubt were finally dusted away. "… She can be so stupid at times that I just can't bear to watch… She's really one of a kind…"He laughed again, nearly tearing at the memory.

"I…" His laughter died down in his throat, disappearing like snowflakes on a sunny day. Cloud lowered his head, his eyes becoming reflective and regretful. "… Never noticed before though…" He kept silent for a while before raising his face towards the sun, the golden beams making his face glow then he spoke again, his voice serious and determined.

"She's… Always… So sad… Always crying…" He murmured softly, shaking his head and smiling to himself as he visualised a genuine radiant smile lighting up the face of the girl he loved, transforming it into an image of angelic perfection. "That's why... I don't want to see her crying anymore… I want her… To smile for me. To smile at me…"

Tifa pulled away from Aeris, her head lowered as she finished. "That girl…" She said forlornly, her tone giving away an emotion Aeris never thought possible… Betrayal. "Is someone that I'm close to…" Aeris' heart nearly stopped in her chest, her blood cold in their veins and was about to speak when the brunette continued. "Although… At this point, I don't really know how to comprehend what happened… But I hope… That the relationship between them… Between Cloud and that girl… Will develop well. Because from what I can tell… He really does love her."

Aeris blinked and was shocked for the second time that day, her world was swirling in a stream of blinding, brightly coloured lights, practically delirious and dizzy at the implication of Tifa's words, her world was spinning. Is this really happening? Am I… Dreaming? Her best friend wasn't yelling at her? But giving her her blessings?

"Why are you still standing around here watching me cry for? Shoo! Shoo! You should be in class!!" Tifa exclaimed, forcing a cherry smile and pushing her towards the classroom her heels squealing loudly from the friction until she stood before the large grey sliding door. "Tifa…" She protested, suddenly completely terrified, not knowing what to expect. The door suddenly seemed to double in size before her… Intimidating her. But her best friend simply smiled and gave her another nod that shrank the door back to its normal size and a light push on her back that silently said 'Go ahead… Open the door'.

Aeris swallowed loudly… Nervously. Her fingers trembling as they found their way to the smooth worn latch. Slipping her fingers through the latch, she stood there with Tifa behind her not moving a muscle… There was something she just had to say… "Tifa…" She started, her voice fearful and not daring to turn around. "Hmm?" Tifa responded, her tone quiet. "I'm sorry…" She choked out, her body tensing as she prepared herself for a royal shelling. Warm arms wound themselves around her from behind and Tifa rested her chin against Aeris' shoulder sighing. "Don't be. It's not wrong to fall in love… Go on… He's waiting for you." Aeris nodded and squeezed Tifa's hands as they unwound themselves. "Thank you…" Slowly, she took a deep breath and pulled, and stepped into the light with her head down, afraid of what she might find or see.

It's not possible…

Cloud couldn't possibly…

Be in love with… Me?

Could he?

She raised her head timidly. He was standing by the window, a hand leaning lightly against the ledge, almost bathing in the light of the morning sun, his tie hung loose around his neck and floating on the wind currents. Upon the sound of her entry, Cloud turned his blank face to face her. Their eyes met for a brief moment. Aeris lowered her head not daring to look into those blue eyes lest she drowned. "G'Morning…" He said, startling her out of her anxiety, his voice smooth and soft.

She looked up, facing him. His lips mouthed a word…

"Aeris…" Her name flowed easily over his lips. Shyly, he held out a hand towards her, a single pink rose, the colour of a maiden's blush held between his outstretched fingers. Sunlit, his perfect features shone, glowed golden, his hair framing his face like a seraphim's halo. His blue eyes lighted up with genuine joy, shining in all their completeness… A tenderness that radiated from deep with his soul. His mouth began tugging at the edges, lifting, almost in slow motion into a breathtaking smile that made Aeris quivery. She felt as if she was looking upon the face of an angel with a smile… That was even brighter then the first time she saw it. "Aeris…"

His smile was mesmerizing and so heart-stoppingly beautiful. Aeris was so shell-shocked and overwhelmed; her stomach went all aflutter, she was so happy… Just so happy, tears found themselves rolling down her cheeks, butterflies threatening to burst out of her chest in a fluttering rainbow as her trembling fingers accepted the rose not daring to touch those long handsome fingers lest Cloud disappeared into thin air, the rosy pink petals began to gently unfurl into a full bloom in the light of the sun… Aeris couldn't help but stare at his smiling face, a single thought running through her mind…

He's smiling… At me.

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Cloud's POV:

He stared at her in horror as tears streaked her face, his smile melting like snowflakes on warm skin. Her green eyes were glittering and dripping, she was sobbing, almost hiccupping. Her reaction was completely beyond his comprehension.

She's crying…?

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Aeris's POV:

He's looking at me…

"I…" Cloud started and caused Aeris to burst out in a fresh series of sobs. The look on his face was absolutely classic and he looked so horrified and so cute; she almost burst out laughing but ending up choking on another sob.

"Don't tell me… You hate me already?" He asked timidly, his face draining as pale as a sheet.

Please…

"AHHHH!!" Cloud exclaimed, completely flustered, he started waving his arms around, flailing like a baby duck. "But I'm REALLY in love with you Aeris!! I love you!! I love!!" His words were silenced in mid sentence as Aeris kissed him swiftly yet gently on the lips. His blue eyes wide open with shock and staring at her… Right at her…

She pulled away slightly; a smile on her lips, the kiss had been salty yet sweet. "Say that again…" She whispered, the tears still dripping. Cloud carefully took in her smile and his confusion transformed to joy; he gently brushed the tears from her eyes with his thumb, drawing her close until their noses were touching. To him, she couldn't look any more beautiful… His fingers trailing down her cheeks to her lips and parted them gently with a finger causing her to moan urgently, already missing the feel of his lips against hers, his tongue within her mouth. Sapphire stared into emerald… Forest met ocean…

"I love you…" He whispered achingly into the gap between their mouths, the warmth of his breath erotic before he slowly closed the distance and pressed his lips to hers, tasting the salt of her tears on her lips... The taste incredibly intoxicating. "And just for the record, it wasn't about the sex… It was more than that…" He whispered as he broke the kiss, his breath against her lips. "I saw something in you that I never noticed before… And somehow…Along the way, I found out that I had fallen so hopelessly in love with you…"

"Say those words again…" She moaned as his lips left hers and found their way along the side of her neck. The warm wetness of his lips as they planted kisses against the sensitive skin of her neck was making her shiver. "Cloud…" Calling out his name, she felt him tremble. "I was so afraid… That you would hate me…"

"No… I love you…" He repeated raggedly and kissed her again. And no more words were needed.

Please… Smile at me…

Again.

Finis

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SOBS… Darn it… I always weep when I write a fluffy chapter… SOBS!! Blows into a tissue

And there we have it! With this, "Please Smile At Me" has come to a close… I hope you've all enjoyed reading it as I have writing it!! And thank you all once again for your beautiful reviews and ardent support!! Bows to all of you…

"Voice of Submission" is now out!! A Yuffie X Vincent fanfic dedicated to Beeria!! Sadly though, I think Vincent is a BIT off character right know… Not to worry!! Will get it right soon:P Of course… There IS a reason why he's a bit off but I'll leave that for later chapters:p

In the meantime, do read my other fics ya?

Mako Dreams (Cloud X Aeris)

Silver & Silent (Sephiroth)

Voice of Submission (Vincent X Yuffie) BRAND NEW!!!

Shouts To!!

Last Cetra: Ello! Ello! Ello!! Nice to see you again!! Glomps you and kisses you senseless!! Fluffy enough for you?

You're just in time for the final chapter:P Though we've only just 'met', it has been great to have your support!!

firegoddess372:Ah… All updated: Hope you enjoy the ending!!

asga: See!! It's not sad anymore!! It's a happy ending!! I hope you've enjoyed this!!

MidnightRayn13: Wow!! Thank you!!

Ankosune: Thank you… I hope it wasn't too dramatic to your liking… It was one thing that worried me as I wrote this fic…

Oddishness: Alas… The story has come to an end, sorry to disappoint you… But thank you for all your support!! It has been an honor, having you read this fic all the way to the end!! Do take a look at "Voice Of Submission" k? I HOPE you like it… : Beeria: Yes… And I am back again… Sadly this time to end this story… "Voice Of Submission" is dedicated especially to you!! It would be an honor for you to read it too… I hope you like it and I hope I've done the version I wrote for you for your suggestion some justice…

Foi: Ha ha!! Did you cry at the ending? I hope you did!! And I sure as heck hope this fic was up to your expectations!! Ah yes… It's true unfortunately…. I am evil incarnate. MUAHAHAHAHAHA!!

samuraix85: Thank you!!! THANK YOU!! THANK YOU SO MUCH!!!

Alantie Mistaniu: And the final chapter has been written!! I hope the ending was to your liking:p thank you so much for your nice reviews!!

And to everyone who is now reviewing or has reviewed me before!! THANK YOU ALL!!!!

See you next in "Voice of Submission"!!