A/N : A Cloud x Aerith ficlet thing set in the future. An AU of sorts I suppose, with a hint of implied!Cloti at the beginning. Reviews would be appreciated.

Oh, and by the way Crimson Kaoru beta'd this fic. Check out her works, her writing is simply amazing.

Disclaimer: There's no way I own FF7: Advent Children. I do not make any profit from this. I'm simply using them for my own sick and twisted purposes.


Reunited


He's drifting in and out of consciousness.

In those rare instances when he's awake, he can feel the push of the IV in his arm, hear the constant little beepings of the machines, see the hopelessly bleach-white sparkle of the hospital walls closing in around him. Sometimes, when his mind can grasp reality and not some warped figment of a fantasy, Cloud thinks he sees a set of wide, glossy wine eyes watching him from the doorway; if he tries, concentrates on that one spot, he can barely make out the slim image of a woman garbed in black, hands clenched into tiny little fists by her sides. He's pretty sure he must be going crazy though, only imagining that last part. After all, Tifa had left him years ago.

Most of the time, the pain is too much to bear and he finds his eyes fluttering closed as the darkness claims him once again. He feels his pale, thin lips quirk into a smile as an image of Her fills his mind, someone brighter than anything else he's ever seen. His image of her is old and is of ages past, suspended in frost and coldcold ice. Frozen forever in his fading memory (but he could never forget Her). She is young and beautiful, a woman of twenty-two with the whole wide world ahead of her, and he's barely in his twenties. He will always remember Her as the sweet, innocent flower girl she truly was. This image usually comforts him, is the only thing that can ever comfort him these days, and he treasures his memories of the precious flower girl with all of his heart.

A loud, wheezing cough slips past his dry, cracked lips; in a matter of seconds, the unmistakable taste of copper rises up in the back of his throat. Blood. Suddenly, he feels like he is drowning in it.

When he feels his pale lashes flutter, the gloom of something more lethal, more eternal than sleep pressing upon his mind, he doesn't struggle as he finally lets go. Am I dying. . . ? he wonders, and he's drifting, drifting away, and the cool, healing touch that settles upon his brow lightens the ton of deadweight upon his soul . . .

. . . When next he opens his bleached sapphire irises, he is lying in a field of wild flowers -- petals in every color imaginable expanding as far as the eye can see. A soft breeze blows over him, and he sits up slowly, taking in the shadow that falls over him; suddenly, he realizes that he is not alone in this ethereal, yet strangely familial place.

"Is . . . is this heaven?" he stammers uselessly, even as wide, beautiful emerald orbs stare back at him. But even so, somehow (this time) everything and nothing is different all at once. Her smile is bright and genuine, like tendrils of falling white-gold light reaching out to caress his skin. When all he can do is stare, her silvery laughter carries through the air like tinkling bells.

A moment passes between them fleetingly, like crisp, autumn leaves.

Stunned, he blinks uncertainly as he catches the way the rose-shades and red folds of her dress lift in the breeze. It had never been quite like this. So life-like, so real . . . The tan of her skin, the scent of rose-water lingering around her graceful form, and the ringlets of brown hair slipping out of her neat waist-length braid to fall around her pretty face, captivates him all at once.

Unsure, he reaches out, but finds himself pausing in the next instant; suddenly, he is afraid of touching her in fear of what might happen. Like a butterfly wing, she is so delicate, so fragile, and one touch could change everything. He could touch her, kiss her, and then she'd be gone. He is snapped out of his pondering when her sweet, lilting voice pierces the tranquil air, beautifully wiping his mind clean of every doubt and fear beginning to bubble to the surface.

"You were always hesitating. Always holding back," she smiles fondly, guiding his hand to rest against her cheek. "You don't have to do that anymore, Cloud. Okay?"

He closes his eyes and leans into her touch. "I missed you," he confesses quietly, bringing his hand to rest against hers gently. He is still afraid of breaking her, even now. "You were always there, like a hole in my soul. I –I've never come out and admitted that, not to anyone, but . . ."

"But?" she prompts, leaning away slightly as she tilts her head gently to one side.

"But you're someone I can't forget. Ever."

"You never tried," she responds, jade eyes soft and kind as they peer into his. "You always kept me close by. In your heart. In your memories. All of you did."

He starts, unsure as he suddenly feels himself shying beneath her gaze, conflicted emotions flashing across his handsome features for a brief second. Pain, guilt, some inner torment. Regret. "Was . . . but was it enough?"

She smiles; dazzling and bright as she leans in, she presses her petal-pink lips against his softly. Unecumbered shock clouds his eyes before common sense douses his senses like ice-cold water. Trembling just ever so slightly, so caught up in the storm of emotions that he couldn't -- wouldn't -- give name to, he kisses back. Framing her face in his hands, Cloud gives his everything to the moment; he lingers over the feel of her lips, attempting to memorize every sensation. He tries to convey the strength of his feelings, to apologize for all the times he's pushed her away, to learn what it is like to kiss another person with all his heart. Like he's wanted to do for so, so very long. And it is absolutely amazing.

"Always," she whispers, breathless, eyes shining as she pulls back to stare deeply into his blue eyes. "I told you about the Promised Land, didn't I, Cloud? Now, I can show you. Come on," she says, beaming happily, "everyone is waiting."

He gazes at her, unable to tear his stone-blue gaze away from her smiling features as he takes her hand. Her fingers curl around his, squeezing just ever so slightly. And when he finally gets to his feet, he falls instep, letting her lead for the very first time.

--

At 3AM in the morning, Cloud Strife dies with a smile on his face.

--fin.