A/N: You may want to read You Were Always Late before this...you know, since this is a sequel and everything.

Away From You

It's cold. It's never cold in there...so I think that's how I knew.

I think that's when I realized it'd just be best if I didn't step over that threshold, if I didn't even open that door.

But that only proves how dense I am, doesn't it?

I've thought a lot, these past two years. It's quiet, and when it's quiet, its easy to think. That's one reason I left. There were times when it was so loud, whether from the customers of the bar, or from the children, or from her plunking a tune out on the piano. I couldn't think, and I appreciated that.

But then, as many times as it was loud, there were that many times when it was quiet. Soft. Delicate. A silence that was fearful of being broken.

If it was broken, then something might've happened to Denzel. When all you're listening for is the soft breath of a child, you don't want anything else to be heard, to be making noise.

I had no choice but to be quiet in those moments, and I hated that...because a child shouldn't have to be that quiet, not for that reason.

Still, I never realized how quiet it would be away from there. I never realized how quiet it would be in this place...this place that isn't suppose to be cold, but it is.

It's like it's freezing me out, giving me the cold shoulder, so instead of actually opening the door, I leave my hand on the frame, unable to move. I'm frozen. I don't want this, that's what this place is telling me. It's telling me to turn around, don't go in...and that isn't right.

Despite how quiet it is here, it's never told me to leave before, and it only leaves me curious as to why it would want me to leave.

I have to see...I need to see.

My hand slides slowly down the frame to the large handle, and I rest my hand there for a moment.

What could be worse? Could I fail anymore? What else do I need to ask forgiveness for? I guess I'm about to find out.

The door creaks as I inch it open slowly, a rush of cool air darting out against my face.

It's okay if I die, it breathes.

I jump, startled, releasing the handle of the door quickly.

Oh sure, it's disturbing when a church talks to you. It's even more disturbing when that said church tells you it's okay that they die.

But it's worse when you recognize that voice, and it's not the voice of a church.

I hesitate. At those words, from that voice, I should be rushing in. But now, I think I understand why the church is cold. That voice, it's distant, clouded, ringing slightly in my head.

I know that voice, but, because of its state, I can't figure it out. I don't know who it is. And that's why I hesitate, because I'm not sure I want to find out who it is.

It's okay...I know you've got a lot on your shoulders, and I'm sorry to add this to it.

I jerk back again, as the voice slides out the door, as if the church is talking, breathing the words to me. And how do I even know that whoever this is, is talking to me?

I don't want to go in there. What...what if it's Denzel? This...this is where I found him. What if he's in there dying. There's no cure, I know this as much as anyone else...but still...I don't want him to die.

I don't want to die.

I don't want them, her, to see me die. It isn't right...after everything we've been through, for her to have to suffer through that as well. No one should have to see me die. No one should mourn me, or cry over my death.

I'm not worth it.

So, I need to save whoever is speaking on their deathbed right now...to whatever ghost they're speaking to, I should stop them. I should help them.

I place my hand on the door, and with one swift movement I push it open.

It's selfish of me to think that maybe my death will affect you as much as hers, to show that you loved me...but I hope it doesn't.

The voice echos with the door as it slams against the wall. I swallow. Whose death? Whose dying? And who do you want to love you?

I take a step hesitantly, the floor creaking in response.

I hope you don't care, because I want you to live. I want you to breathe, and smile, and be happy, and enjoy life for once. You've done so much already for all of us, so you shouldn't have to suffer anymore.

They aren't talking about me. They can't. I deserve to suffer. Zack, Aeris, Nibelheim, Midgar, Sector 7. All of it. I have to take that blame, I have to live with that. That's all I have. That's all that keeps me moving, suffering. If not, I'd just lay down and die.

I know you have Geostigma, I think I sorta knew for a long time.

How did you know? How could you? This is my problem, this is something I have to figure out for myself. And, maybe if I figure it out, I can figure it out for Denzel. Maybe I can save Denzel, even if I can't save myself.

I glance to my left. That pew. That pew shouldn't be shattered. What...happened? Is this is why the church is cold? Is why it's trying to turn me away?

I hope you get better, and I hope you learn to fight, and be the brave man I know you can be.

Me, brave? I'm a coward. I ran from my home; I ran from my memories. I became someone who was braver than me, better than me. I didn't have the right to do that, especially since he died saving my life. It's best if someone else is brave; they can actually get something done. Being brave and actually being successful...those are two different things.

I move forward slowly, keeping my head down. I'm not ready. I'm not ready to see whose dying, because they aren't speaking right now. I can tell. This is something the church remembered, held for me.

I don't want it...

Because someone died saying this.

And I know there are times when you just want to hide away like the little boy from Nibelheim, but you can't do that now, as much as you'd like. I won't let you, and I don't think Aeris or Zack will either...because like it or not, you brought yourself into the world of heros, and that's where you're going to stay.

No! Shut up! What do you know of Nibelheim? What do you know of Aeris and Zack? Who are you to say I'm a hero? I didn't bring myself there...I got pulled there. I just was going to make money, I wasn't there for the planet. I made that clear from the beginning. They were the ones that pulled me in.

Why would you want me as a hero? I already told you, I am a coward.

Because we have faith in you.

No. You're mistaking me for someone else. Do you know how confused I was after killing Sephiroth? I wasn't Zack anymore. I wasn't that ex-SOLDIER. I wasn't her hero. I was a nobody. I didn't have an identity. I was the one who couldn't even make it into SOLDIER to leave it. I was a weakling. You can't have faith in the weak, and you can't have faith in someone who doesn't have faith in themselves.

And why am I saying this, when you aren't even here? When I know you can't hear me? Well, maybe by some grace of Aeris she'll let you hear this...even after I've passed into the Lifestream and fallen asleep.

The voice is bitter at first, and then a sad hopefulness enters it as it finishes.

...Aeris...did this? Don't die. Please don't be dead.

And maybe, by some grace of Aeris, I'll still have you...that image of your face, when you're happy, and when you're sad, and those rare moments when anger or frustration show through; and then...when you laugh, or when you're shocked.

How can you have those images? I don't let them show. I don't. Not around anyone. I keep those to myself, and...


I don't even realize my pace has picked up, but I'm still keeping my head bent. I'm still not ready. Not ready, never ready for this.

Maybe she'll just let me have those. Maybe she'll let me live eternity in that night under the Highwind.

And that's when I see you.

Because I lift my head in shock at those words. Because the only person who was with me that night was...you.

You. No. It can't be you. You can't be saying these words. Please, anyone else. Don't...please, no.

I read a lot of adventure novels, you know (what's the point, right? We lived in one)

How can you be so casual, leaned up against that column? How can you? When even now I can see the trace remnants of the battle you fought. The shattered columns, the destroyed flowers. How can you speak so carefree? How can you look so peaceful, with your head tilted to the side, a sad smile upon your face.

How does death bring you peace?

And in each and every one, the girl always got the guy or visa versa. But that didn't happen with us, did it?

Don't say this, not now. Don't tell me this now. You can't tell me this and leave me.

Or...have you already left me?

That night...I know you didn't say you loved me, and I know I never said it to you, but if it ever felt that we were lovers, it was that night...that night when we watched the stars drift, and when you held me in your arms.

When did I fall? When? No. How? How did this happen? How could...

Even from here, grasping to one of the few unscathed pews, I can see the blood you tried to hide. I can see where it ran onto the floor of the church, where it bloodied your hand, and the fallen lily laying before you. And the light dusting around your lips.

But what gets me..

That was the night...

Your eyes. They're the same color as your dried blood.

...I felt you loved me...

The night? No, you listen to me. I didn't love you that night.

Even if you don't love me now, and even if you didn't love me before...I think you loved me then...even if it was for me, just to humor me and soothe me.

I loved you every night. I loved you when I was here, on this hard floor, like you are now. I loved you when you were angry at me, or disappointed in me, or happy with me. I loved you not that night, but for your entire life.

I still appreciate that, and I still love you, and I always will.


And I'm going to wait for you here, propped up against this column, as death takes me. I'll just wait here. You'll get here eventually.

I'm here now, Tifa, I'm here.

Please, be alive, Tifa...if I've ever wanted anything from you. Be alive. Please.

I know I'm lying to myself. Or else you would've said something, wouldn't you? Your words wouldn't be echoing in this silent church, they'd be spilling from your mouth.

You're mouth that I'm touching so softly, the skin cold, your eyes vacant.

This isn't right.

Yes, I'll just wait here for you, even if I'm already dead...I'm waiting.

No. No, Tifa. Don't say that. You shouldn't have waited for me. You should've gone...why didn't you go?

I always have to wait on you, but that's okay. I'm use to it.

That isn't okay, Tifa, do you hear me? It isn't okay for me to be late every time something happens. You were right, I can't hide, because every time I hide...I hurt you...

Only, this time...

After all, you were always late.

I'm too late.

Please, say something else. Tifa. Please.

And that's when I feel it as I reach out to pull you into my arms, to hold you in death. That's when I feel the painful, deadly pull of the Geostigma. Except, this time, it isn't Sephiroth or Kadaj. It isn't Aeris's flowers, or Zack or that wolf.

It's you, Tifa.

It's you as a child, falling off that bridge into the cool water of that well we sat out by the reactor where your blood was dripping the color of your eyes when you found me at that train station when we jumped and you were scared in Wall-Market in ShinRa's Mansion where we rode in that Gondola interupted by crystal trees in the City of Ancients, tears whisper on your cheeks as you held my hand in that hospital bed, as I held you in my arms that night beneath the Highwind.

I don't think I'm going to wake up this time. I don't deserve to. I hope I go to hell, Tifa, I hope there is a hell, so I can go to it.

Even if you're an angel now, because there's no way you'd dissolve into the Lifestream, you're too good, too pure to fade away, and even if you forgive me, I wouldn't forgive myself.

And the black blood of my Geostigma mingling with your red blood is the last thing that I see, just before I pull your limp body on to my chest.

This was my mistake. This is the death I called for.

But then again, if I hadn't of entered here...I wouldn't of found you. I wouldn't have lived then.

Of course, I've been dead for a long time.

I've been dead as long as I've been away from you.

A/N: blame MiuMai. And me being angstful. I just couldn't let it sit. I don't think I like this one very much. I...well, while (obviously) I've written Cloud's POV before, never been the angstful one, though. Like, completely basherific to himself. I don't know how I did with this. But I wanted something angsty and moody. eh. That really long sentence...I was just trying to make it like Geostigm-y...like, how everything bled together. I don't know if that worked out. Eh...