A/N: Just a random idea that came to me with some help from my friend Altsoba. :D Done for the CxA forums 100 challenge for the theme Promise. Read, review, and enjoy!
Disclaimer: Owns nothing
"Aerith, you can't seriously be considering going out there to find him!" Yuffie cried in alarm, her eyes wide as she gestured to the window. "Don't you have eyes?!"
A slightly irritated look fluttered across the woman's face. "Yuffie, please, stop," she told her, her green eyes flicking to the glass. "I'm not naïve; I know it's dangerous out there."
It was the most violent storm Radiant Garden had seen in years; thunder rolled, shaking the ground, the wind howled, and lightning forked across the pitch sky. On one hand, it was good that the parched and damaged earth was at last receiving some healing for the damage the Heartless had blighted them with, but on the other it was causing quite a bit of problems for the inhabitants of the only recently restored dwellings. Leon and Cid had already left to help several families that were having difficulties, leaving the women behind to take care of their own home.
"If Leon were here, he wouldn't let you go!" the young ninja declared fiercely, her small frame braced for a fight. "He promised Cloud that he'd keep you out of danger!"
She whirled on the younger girl so quickly that it startled her, causing Yuffie to back up a few paces. "And who is going to keep Cloud out of danger?" she demanded. "You know how he is, Yuffie! I wouldn't be surprised if he's standing around out there now, searching for Sephiroth!"
Yuffie winced, rubbing her head. Aerith did have a point; Spike was prone to do incredibly stupid things like that. But still. . . She bit down on her lip, watching as Aerith pulled on a coat, tucking her long braid in and lifting the hood to cover her head.
She turned to head towards the door, to find Yuffie standing right before her, holding out a lantern. "Here," she sighed. "I dunno how much good it'll do ya with all the wind and rain, but you need to be able to see where you're going."
Aerith's expression softened, and she embraced the slim girl as she took the lantern. "Thank you, Yuffie," she whispered before opening the door, allowing a cold blast of wind into the room that made the ninja yelp.
"Aerith!!" she wailed over the roar of the storm, but the brunette had already been swallowed up into the night, the door closing with a thud. Groaning, Yuffie wrapped herself up in a quilt, sinking into a chair to wait. "Leon's gonna murder me," she sighed.
It took all she had to walk; the wind swept over her lithe frame so strongly it nearly carried her backwards. But Aerith set her jaw in determination, clutching her lamp in one hand and the wall railing in the other. Her hood was not helping at all; the wind blew from all directions and had swept it off her head, freeing her long braid into its wrathful currents. The moisture shooting from the heavens pelted her with such force that she could almost have sworn it was hail instead of rain.
Drenched and shaken, she paused in the shelter of the stairwell to get her bearings, emerald eyes scanning the gloom as her other senses also stretched out, trying to catch some whiff of Cloud- either by seeing him or feeling his presence, but there was nothing, not even a residue trail. Not that she had really expected to find one; such marks would not last long in such a storm unless they were fairly fresh.
Sighing, she closed her eyes, biting down on her lip as she strained her senses to their limits, trying to widen her range just enough for a glimmer of his aura; wild, fresh as rain-drenched pine, and with all the freedom of a sunlit field.
"Where are you, Cloud?" Aerith murmured, her soft words lost in the roar of the storm, her pale hand pressing flat against the stones as she reached for the whispering voice of the planet beneath her. "Where are you. . ."
Her thoughts connected with the planet's consciousness, and images instantly began to blur through her mind, flashing by so quickly that she barely had time to see them as she flew along a zigzagging trail in spirit. She soared down the spiraling stone steps of the bailey, through the shattered hole in the stone wall and down the treacherous ragged trail that led to the Crystal Fissure. And there, just before the entrance to the cavern, a familiar blond haired figure stood on a rain soaked ledge that jutted out alarmingly over a deadly drop.
Dark lashed lids fluttered open, a relieved sigh escaping her parted lips as she patted the ground gently. "Thank you," Aerith murmured before gently breaking the connection and rising once more to her feet to begin her hazardous trek toward the bailey that would lead her down the jagged path.
It took all her strength and determination to stumble along as the wind and rain fought to discourage her, but she put her head down, arms wrapping around herself tightly and pressing onward. Her brain had long sense come unraveled, her long maple syrup hair flying out behind her in wet plumes, dancing with the wind. The weak little lantern clutched in her hand flickered bravely through the inky night, casting just enough of a glow to keep her from tripping and falling headlong off the path to the slick sharp rocks below. She once again thanked her common sense that she always wore her dependable brown boots instead of some delicate little slippers that would most certainly have been destroyed on this quest.
When what felt like an eternity later, she managed to lift her head, swiping her drenched bangs away from her eyes to peer through the gloom. She knew she was nearly there- his aura was so strong around her now. . .
"Cloud!" she called out, knowing though that her cry would be lost in the crash of thunder that made the ground beneath her feet tremble. "Cloooouddd!!!"
A gentle prodding from the planet made her step forward cautiously, her feet edging slowly along the solid path until a sudden burst of lightning threw the area into brief illumination, allowing her at last to spy the lone figure only feet away, his back to her.
Another utterance of thanks escaped her as she hurried forward towards the precipice, calling out his name as loudly as she could. "Cloud!! CLOUD!!!"
He seemed oblivious to her presence, his black clothing completely drenched and flapping around his body. Despite the storm that raged and howled around him, the man seemed completely and utterly at peace, his eyes closed, head tilted heavenward to let the rain spatter against his face. Aerith's face softened slightly at his expression, though she couldn't help but be amused by the fact that even in the pouring rain, Cloud's spiky hair remained as stubbornly vertical as always.
Blinking the rain from her eyes she clutched at the rocky edge, stepping onto the slick surface. "Cloud? Clou-"
Vibrant blue eyes had flown open, staring at her in confusion. "Aerith?" he inquired, raising his voice to be heard over the whistling wind. "What in heaven's name are you doing out here?" he asked, turning to face her, a hand extended towards her.
"Looking for you!" she panted, moving slowly towards him. "I knew you'd be out here. Are you trying to catch your death?"
Cloud stared at her in bewilderment before glancing up at the stormy sky. "It's a summer storm," he told her blankly. "I don't think there's much risk of me getting a cold or anything.
Resisting the urge to roll her eyes, Aerith stepped nearer, her hand leaving the safety of the rocky wall and reaching out to take his offered hand with hers. "I wasn't talking about tha-aaaah!!!"
She shrieked as she slipped, pitching sideways towards the drop below, her green eyes widening with alarm. Cool leather gloved hands snatched her by the shoulders, jerking her upright and into the safety of Cloud's firm chest. Gasping in great gulps of air, Aerith clung to him in relief, her whole body shaking like a lone leaf clinging to a tree branch.
"You okay?" he spoke in her ear, his hands running soothingly up and down her arms, causing shivers that had nothing to do with fear or temperature.
"I think so," she returned, pulling back enough to gaze into his glowing sapphire eyes. "But honestly, summer storm or not, we need to get out of it before something else happens to one of us."
Cloud made a face, but nodded reluctantly. "I guess you're right."
Before she could say another word, he had swept her off her feet and into his arms as if she weighed nothing, moving with nimble ease towards the path.
"What are you doing?!" she said in alarm, clutching at the sopping fabric of his shirt.
"Preventing any more accidents." Aerith couldn't be sure, but she thought she saw the hint of a smirk flitter across his normally emotionless features.
"Ha ha," she muttered, but rested her head against his shoulder as he carried her down into the cave entrance of the Crystal Fissure.
Darkness engulfed them, but the sounds of the storm had died down, a faint light coming from the glowing crystals. Cloud lowered her down to sit on a boulder, and straightened, moving away. She could hear some faint sounds and in seconds a flame flared to life in a small fire pit. Straightening with a sigh, Cloud grabbed a blanket and tossed it to her before settling down at her feet, his hands held out towards the flame.
"You want to tell me why Leon let you climb down here alone in a storm?" he inquired.
She raised a slender eyebrow. "You going to tell me why you were standing out on a rain slick ledge where you could fall to your death or get struck by lightning?"
"I wouldn't have-" he started to protest but she held up a finger for silence.
"Trade?" she offered. "Story for a story?" When he nodded, she sighed. "Leon didn't know. There was some problems with a roof threatening to collapse so Leon and Cid went off to help, leaving me and Yuffie behind."
"So you're saying I should drop-kick Yuffie for letting you do such an insane thing?" he demanded, a trace of anger in his voice.
Aerith groaned, smacking him lightly on the back of his wet head. "Honestly. Do you think there was really anything she could have done to stop me?"
Cloud wrinkled his nose, scowling. "I guess not," he conceded with a sigh.
Smiling, she nudged him slightly. "So, are you going to tell me what you were up to?"
The man's scowl became even more pronounced. "It's stupid," he mumbled.
"I don't doubt that," she chided cheerfully. "But I want to hear the reason anyway."
Sighing heavily, he adverted his bright eyes to the dancing flames as he spoke slowly. "When we were apart. . . it was a way I felt that I could connect to you," he admitted hesitantly. "I would stand out in the rain and feel closer to you than I had in ages, and when it stopped, I felt clean, fresh again with new hope. Old habits die hard, and I just. . ." He shrugged uncomfortably, fiddling with the silver wolf ring on a chain around his neck. "Told you it was stupid. . ."
There was a soft sound of cloth sliding against stone and then Aerith was sitting beside him, still wrapped in the dark gray blanket. "Not stupid," she told him quietly, putting a hand to his cheek and turning his face so that their eyes met. "It's sweet. Though next time. . .maybe you should come see me in reality instead of standing around daydreaming about it."
Cloud had the grace to blush, his gaze dropping again. "….."
Aerith tilted his chin up slightly, leaning forward to touch his lips lightly with her own, smiling inwardly at his sharp intake of breath. "Silly Cloud," she chided breathily.
"Maybe a bit," he managed to get out, his arm slipping around her waist to hold her to his side, head ducking down for another kiss. "But you love me anyway."
"Of course," she returned before their lips met again for another long moment. Then she sighed deeply, cuddling closer against his side for warmth, her eyelids drooping sleepily. "Promise me you won't do anything else stupid while I'm not able to come after you?"
Chuckling slightly, Cloud rested his cheek against her silken hair, drying quickly in the fire's warmth. "I'll do my best."
Morning came to find Aerith sleeping alone, curled up against the boulder, wrapped in a gray blanket, a faint shine of silver metal glinting between her clenched fingers. The vicious night's storm had abated, leaving behind only a pure robin's egg blue sky, spotted with soft white clouds and the earth a radiant green.