Disclaimer:I do not in any way, shape, or form own the characters contained within this story, nor do I make any money from writing or posting this story. They belong to SquareEnix...etc...

Author's Note:So, the following is simply a short story I wrote inspired by a picture I found on photobucket. Not much else to say really, so without further ado, on with the tale!

He couldn't see anything, forced to keep his eyes closed to shield them from the piercing light. Every part of his body ached; any movement was labored and painful. The man never expected it to be this way, never expected it to feel like this torture.

Then a sudden alteration in the lighting caught his attention, his eyes darting about to determine the reason even though they were still tightly shut. Slowly he allowed the lids to slip upwards, letting his vision return again. The light was still shockingly bright, forcing him to blink several times to adjust to his new surroundings.

Everything was white and illuminated in such a way that it appeared as though there was no end to this new realm, perhaps there simply was not and his previous perception of reality simply refused to allow him to accept this new one. He lay there for a time, contemplating these thoughts until he realized that was very unlike him.

He shifted, straining his muscles as he worked at remembering how to use his voice. When this forgotten skill finally returned he found himself uttering, not the question he'd meant to bring forth, but a distressed scream instead as his body recalled everything he had learned in life, especially what pain felt like.

However it must have been that scream that alerted someone to his presence as he lay, panting and writhing, on the non-existent ground. He looked up at the shadowy figure above through watering violet eyes.

"You shouldn't be here, Soldier," he heard a familiar gruff voice mutter to him as a hand extended into his view. Muscles worked themselves into once familiar motions as a small smile crossed his features, his own hand moving to meet the offered one. He was pulled gently into a sitting position as the man before him crouched to his level.

"Angeal," he whispered looking at the man's face – it was as he always remembered it: strong, stern, masculine, and weathered, but kind, and loving everything he'd always liked about the man. He managed to tear his gaze from his old mentor just long enough to glance about this world before he looked back, "Where are we?"

The ex-SOLDIER chortled, "I would say the Lifestream if I were to hazard a guess. But you shouldn't be here, so why are you?"

"Dead?" He shrugged, grimacing as pain lanced through his shoulders at the abrupt motion of his stiff arms. "Someone brought me here; it's the only explanation I can think of. Do you want me to go back?" The look of sheer rejection, pleading, and hope on the younger man's countenance made Angeal smile.

"Never," he said quietly, "I'm just a little too selfish to let you go." A hand made it around the SOLDIER's head, lacing fingers in soft hair, and leaning forward until his forehead was resting against the other's.

The smaller man laughed; the largest smile on his face as he threw his arms around the man's neck and embraced him tightly. "I missed you Angeal," he murmured as a single tear ran down his cheek. The ex-SOLDIER grinned as he returned the embrace.

"I missed you too, Zack."