This takes place the night after Advent Children ends.

I'm deliberately breaking grammar rules here. Be prepared.

Please let me know what you think, as this is not the typical kind of stuff I post. Thanks.

&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&

there are three words in 'i love you' and he can't get past the first

so he sits on the side of his bed in the early morning hours
drops his head in his hands
and thinks

three important things happened today
1. he almost lost everything in a fight with sephiroth/kadaj/jenova/himself
2. he had been healed and given another chance
3. zack and aeris had left him

one last smile on her face and a 'you'd better not mess up this time you dork' look on zack's was all he got before they turned their backs, walked away, and moved on

he blinks into his palms
what's it mean to move on?

today, as they left the church, denzel had looked at him and said 'i want to be just like you when i grow up' and he didn't know if he meant zack or sephiroth or cloud—

wait, he's cloud
let's try that again
today, as they left the church, denzel had looked at him and said 'i want to be just like you when i grow up' and he didn't know if he meant zack or sephiroth or himself

what is it like to grow up?
he doesn't really know because he spent those crucial teenage years in a test tube
and he never got to decide to be a man
but suddenly everybody was looking at him and expecting him to be
but he never got to decide
so he's been rebelling
ever since

three important things happened today but he has two important conclusions
1. it's time to move on
2. it's time to grow up

throwing back his head and laughing at the simplicity of it all
he stands
bed springs creaking—crying?—saying goodbye to the man/child/zack/sephiroth/cloud hybrid freak that he is—was—
isn't going to be anymore
and he walks into the bathroom
closes the door (it's like all those times Zack came home from drinking and--)
closes off the memories
closes his eyes
he opens them again to look at his reflection in the mirror
too-bright blond hair spiked ridiculously and wild like zack's used to be—
zack—
the hair must go

so it does
he's not sure exactly how to do it at first
so he creates a step-by-step procedure for himself to make sure he gets it right
1. cut hair with scissors
2. adjust blade on electric razor (he doesn't want to look bald, only buzzed)
3. shave head
he repeats the steps to himself as he performs them
as the thick clumps fall into the garbage pail
and the tiny spikes fall into the sink like confetti
it's a party
and he feels strangely like dancing
but he doesn't know how

when he's done he looks at the new person
the last new person
the only person
he will ever be
now
now
what's that?
a smile
his smile
a slight concave of the lips so precisely tiny that it has to be intentional to exist
and a lifting of the eyes
his eyes
that have always been blue
like a cloudless sky

he frowns
zack had blue eyes
they will be the one reminder of when he wasn't him

next come the clothes
off off off
SOLDIER styled pants and tank top flying through the air
the wolf's head amulet clanking on the floor
(another reminder of zack)
and the ribbon
aeris' ribbon
around his arm
he pauses

there will be two reminders of when he wasn't him

he's down to his boxers now and he
shuts his eyes
and pushes down all the memories that want to flood his mind
packs them up into boxes
three boxes
one for each of them
when he seals the lids he
looks in the mirror
tilts his head
and recognizes himself
for the first time
in forever

underneath all the boyish hair
all the desperate accessories
and the childhood dream wrapped in military clothing
there is the man he's been wanting to be—is
"cloud strife" he says
"i'm cloud strife"
and it's invigorating
excited, he says it again
and again
and he wants to show someone
he wants to show her
so he leaves the bathroom and stops at his closet to get dressed again
but he doesn't have any clothes
they are all zack's
and sephiroth's
and thankfully, none are aeris'
but none are cloud's—his

running a hand over his fuzzy head (it feels good)
and shrugging
he decides he doesn't care
he's ready anyway
so he walks down the hall and knocks on tifa's door
and when she opens it blearily
he sticks out his hand and says
"hi, i'm cloud strife"
then he smiles (his smile)
blushes a little
and says
"i need to shop for clothes"
"and…"
a pause, just to make sure he gets the words right
"i love you."

&&&&&&&&&&&&&

A/N: I don't know where this comes from. Hey, I don't even know if it works. But at least, it was interesting to write. Thanks for reading.