A Tiny Flower

A CloAer oneshot by OTW

P.S. I don't own FFVII

It was different here. Maybe... it wasn't so much that it was different. It was more like he felt differently about being here. And yet, so little had changed about himself. He was older now, but that was all. He still acted the same way, thought the same things, and mourned the same person. A lot of time had passed since he had last walked over this same ground. Five years to be more specific. But Cloud was still the same Cloud.

The Forgotten City had recently become a little more known. Cloud had overheard people talking about the "miracle" going on there a few times. And although he had avoided seeing it for himself ever since the miracle was first discovered three years ago, it permeated his thoughts constantly. He almost felt guilty for having never witnessed the glory of the miracle first hand all of this time. As if he was trying to forget her death to the point that he refused to see the so-called glorious nature of the Forgotten City. That, among other things, was what brought Cloud to finally visit the dead city oscillating with the ghost of the Cetra people for the first time in five years.

He dismounted his Fenrir very slowly, as if a sudden movement would scare this spectacle away. His boots met the soft dirt, and Cloud walked forward to the water's edge. He was emotionally intoxicated, his heart gasping at the sight of this fantasy. The miracle of flowers, as it came to be known, was even more beautiful in actuality than he had dreamt. His mako eyes took in the panoramic landscape before him: a conch-shaped building in ivory with a welcome mat of a lake that twinkled, all surrounded by fluorescent blue trees that miraculously bloomed with thousands of tiny white flowers all year long. Scattered atop the frozen surface of the crystalline lake were dozens... no, hundreds of tiny white flowers that glowed as palely as the moon shining over them. Even now in the dead of winter, the branches of the trees continued to grow the glowing flowers that looked like miniature lotuses, all of them in perfect bloom. Even the ones that had fallen to the ground didn't have any withered or dry petals.

No one could explain how these trees suddenly came to only grow lambent flowers no matter what time of year. All that anyone knew was that it was a miracle. Except Cloud. To Cloud, it was only something to torture him. Something to torture him with the memory that he had lost her seven painful years ago. And something to torture him by making him ache to see the miracle for himself but not allow him because it was in the one place... the one city... the one lake he never wanted to see again. Maybe... there was no helping the pain he still felt.

Cloud knelt by the water's edge, and ran his fingers out over the icy sheet covering the lake. He reached out, and delicately grasped one of the tiny flowers lying on the ice between his thumb and forefinger. It was a simple little blossom, white with an ethereal hue. He let it rest in the palm of his left hand as if it were a weak but precious creature. No one could explain this miracle, and Cloud had tried hard not to answer it. But his attempts to not think about it reaped few results. Maybe... this miracle was because of Aerith.

Aerith... sweet Aerith. The Cetra girl must've drawn Lifestream to this spot over the years, causing the trees to grow brilliant little flowers. Her mere presence had the power to cause miracles, her loving presence. Perhaps that's why the City of the Ancients felt different to him. Before, it was the place where his life fell apart that night. Where he made a vow to never forget and never forgive. Where his mind first began to lose its grip on reality. Now, he could see and sense that it was saturated with the essence of Aerith, and there was nothing formidable about that. But this city, this spot, was still an oasis of inauspicious memories. Memories that made his heart ache.

She had passed away seven years earlier. The loneliest, darkest night of his life. He still had the feeling of holding beautiful, limp Aerith in his trembling arms ingrained in his memory. But a slow realization that was growing more and more true everyday fractured Cloud's ceramic heart in so many places: her death was the most distinct memory he had of her. He didn't have her laugh memorized the way he used to. The vividness of her smile faded more and more everyday. He wanted so badly to keep those precious memories of the good times with her alive, unfiltered by the passage of time. He wanted so badly to remember the exact way it felt to kiss her hand, even if it was just a play. He wanted so badly to live in those days again when she made nothing else matter. Nothing but Aerith and her stubborn playfulness. Nothing but Aerith and her affection. Nothing but Aerith and sitting with her under the fireworks on an enchanted evening. He could never forget who she was and how she had warmed his heart, but he didn't want to lose any tiny detail of who she was– no matter how insignificant of a detail it might've been– to the passing years. And yet, everyday, he felt her slip further and further from his grasp. Why couldn't she be as alive as the vibration she had left behind? Why was it all so cruel?

Flecks of snow began to slowly float to the ground across the December air. Cloud stood up, his head tilted towards the sky to take in the flurry and the incandescent flower still in his hand. It really was a beautiful sight caught between a gentle snow and the quivering trees that blossomed white flowers. There it was again... the feeling that he was in her presence. That reverence for something beautiful, spiritually and visually. That breathlessness for this thing that was too perfect to not be a dream. That awe for the fortune that brought him to this spot. Fortune? No, not fortune. It was never luck with Aerith. That day he fell through her church roof into her flowerbed, he knew it wasn't just by chance. Maybe... this was what fate felt like.

Cloud unconsciously pulled his left sleeve up. It was still there. The slightly discolored and tethered pink ribbon he had been wearing for years now, tied securely around his left bicep. The ribbon that reminded him every day of an important time in his life, a sacrifice, and the girl he would always love.

He held the tiny flower in his hand up to his lips, and kissed it softly before letting it flutter to the ground.