Note: Found this in the catacombs of my old fics archive on my computer. Polished it up a bit.

Sense and Sensibility

Cloud walked at a steady, slow pace, holding her body close to his. He didn't want the journey to be an uncomfortable one, no matter how redundant the action of cradling her neck might have been. The young woman in his arms, the flower girl who he vowed to protect, was limp. Every once in a while, he would look down at her, hoping, praying to see her chest rise up with a breath of life. Nothing. He nuzzled his nose in her hair and kissed the top of her head. Her hair still smelled like those wild flowers she was so fond of.

His eyes traveled to her folded hands, under them laid the wound. A clean wound, a fatal wound, and a wound he wasn't quick enough to prevent. It all happened so fast, yet it played so dramatically slow in his memory. The slick blade of the Masamune sliced through soft skin, sensitive nerves, flesh, and pierced though vital organs. There was no blood, no pain, just the surprise feeling of life slowly slipping away through your fingers. That was the mark of a skilled swordsman.

The memory it self made him sick and he repressed the bile that threatened to come up. He remembered watching Sephiroth coming from above, a one-winged angel in the mist of glory. Aeris was below, oblivious to the angel of death that marked her. He opened his mouth to yell, to chase all the wrongs of the situation away with his voice. But nothing came out. Those emerald eyes that used to sparkle with happiness, widened in shock and slowly dimmed as death brushed its finger tips over her body. His body went stiff and as he saw her hands fall out of their prayer stance, the world violently crashed around him. The situation jarred his senses and he forced his body to respond, but it was too late.

That was then, and now Cloud could only walk past her home. He turned towards the pond where her final resting place would be. He took this responsibility because it was his job to protect her. He took this responsibility because she helped him grow and appreciate the little things that never really mattered to him. She helped him smile and forget the trivial matters that complicated life.

The pond's crystal exterior glistened as the sun trickled through the vines and leaves of the thick forest. His boots treaded through the thick mud of the bank as he made his way towards the middle.

He looked at her calm face. She looked like she was asleep and this scared him. He lowered her body a little and flinched at the coolness of the water. He rose her back up again. He didn't want her to feel the sharp cold. He didn't want to disturb her in her sleep. With gentle ease, he slowly let his grip loosen. The pink material of her dress became a dark blood red as it absorbed the water. Cloud took a deep breath, as if he was going himself with her under the water, and finally let her go.

He watched her calm pale face submerged, grow blurry, and then disappear within the depths of the pond. And just like that, Cloud Strife's light was gone.

He stood there, watching the ripples that formed from his shaking form dance on the water. His own anger began to pump through his veins. His hatred of himself spread through his body like a deadly plague, poisoning his soul.

He closed his eyes, trying his best to put that hatred aside. This was not the time for that. He lost a comrade, he lost a friend. But he couldn't do that. The fact remained that he wasn't quick enough, he wasn't smart enough, and he wasn't strong enough.

He just wasn't…there enough.

And that bothered him. No matter how much he tried to ignore it, no matter how much he tried to direct that hatred toward thoughts of revenge, he couldn't help but hate the one responsible for her death, himself.

A gentle wind picked up and brushed against his face.

But no matter how much he hated himself, Cloud had a duty. He knew he wasn't good at keeping promises, but he'd be damned if he'd let Aeris down again. He realized that it wasn't about him or revenge. It was about her. It was about the planet. It was about saving something that meant the world to someone else. Cloud was willing to do this for her even if it meant losing himself in the process.

He turned around and made his way back towards the muddy bed.

It was a sacrifice Cloud Strife was willing to make.

He set forth to complete the journey.