Final Fantasy VII and its characters are copyright Square-enix.

Afterglow

Aerith shut the door, careful not to disturb the two girls sleeping. With a quiet sigh, she slid against the door until she felt the ground beneath her. It was late; she and Cloud had taken their time coming back.

She leaned her head against the door. Everything was all jumbled; she was happy she'd spent an evening with Cloud, but Marlene and her mother… She was terrified that whoever was controlling Cait Sith would hurt both of them. Her mother didn't have a phone, though; they'd never been able to afford one. She had to simply pray that, wherever they both were, they'd be safe.

She looked over at Tifa, breathing quietly in deep sleep. Aerith swallowed. She felt terrible. She had no idea how she would break the news to Tifa about Marlene in the morning. Watching the girl sleep soundly, Aerith was overcome with a terrible sense of the world. While Tifa slept, Marlene was captured, Cait Sith had betrayed them, and Aerith had taken Cloud on a date.

Everything changed, whether people were asleep or awake. It was a continuous cycle.

Aerith felt suffocated. She stood and padded softly over to the window in the room. Cracking it open slightly, she sat on the sill, looking out at the sky. There were no stars in the sky. A new moon. Aerith shivered. Everything seemed clouded, as though all that she knew was about to change again. If the Turks entered the temple of the Cetra, what would they find? What would they damage?

She leaned her forehead against the pane of glass, her eyes sliding shut. She had to set tomorrow aside. It would work in its own time. As she calmed her mind, she felt a warm feeling spread through her. Despite Cait Sith's unfortunate decision, she had spent a wonderful evening with Cloud. She'd had to push him to go with her, initially, but that was just the way Cloud was. He wouldn't do anything on his own, but once he was given that first push he put his whole heart into it. She liked that about him.

Cloud had messed up his lines during the play and had accidentally kissed the dragon in the 100th couples' play. Once Aerith had gotten over the initial shock of Cloud actually making such a huge mistake, she'd laughed until Cloud was beet red with embarrassment. The apologetic look on his face made her immediately forgive him. That was the way Cloud was.

She was happy that she'd been able to at last tell him the thoughts that she'd been keeping inside for so long. Once she'd aired her thoughts, it was as though a weight that had been pressing against her had been gently washed away and in its place was room for a better tomorrow, one with Cloud and her at its center. Cloud had been clueless as to what she was talking about; she knew that he wasn't well. But having told him, she knew that her words would remain with him; she hoped they would help him find himself again.

Cait Sith's thievery had postponed whatever else they might have done. Aerith was still incredibly disappointed in him; Cloud had been devastated. He was terribly trusting, often childlike in his behavior. It was one of the things that had confused her about him, though she didn't feel it was time to ask. He seemed to be walking a precarious line between a healthy mind and the darkness that lay behind it. She didn't want to disturb that dragon for now.

She smiled, opening her eyes again to take in the night sky. Cloud walked her back to her room after Cait Sith had returned to his rooms. Cloud blushed and looked down as he dropped her off at room she was staying in. He was awkward and sweet, as though he'd never taken a girl on a date in his life. She couldn't resist how charming he was; she bent and gave him a light kiss on the cheek. His beautiful blue eyes, covered in the shadow of the hallway, widened as his color, even in the dark, deepened. He smiled shyly at her, and she smiled back, half wishing he would give her a real kiss.

Instead he bent down and kissed the back of her hand. She blinked, surprised and overwhelmingly happy. He was her bodyguard, and he had kissed her at last.

Her hand still ensnared in his, he'd stood upright. His eyes were intense, compelling. They were silent for the space of an instant, unspoken things hanging between them. Quietly, he said, "Good-night, Aerith."

He vanished down the corridor before she could say a word. Her eyes followed him; it was this Cloud, full of inner, intense passion, that she loved the most. The Cloud who kept everything inside and yet felt it so clearly.

Aerith smiled as she thought of that moment. Everything would be all right. Her bodyguard would be with her, and she would have many more days at his side. That was all she could ask for.

She slipped into her own bed, across from Tifa and Yuffie. She fell asleep quickly, dreaming of tomorrow within the new moon's afterglow.


Author's Note - This is just a bit of Aerith drabble, since I've been writing a lot of Cloud-heavy stuff lately. I hope you enjoyed your time reading. Thank you for supporting my work. I am sincerely grateful. :)