Disclaimer: Nothing belongs to me.

The day went by quickly. Cloud knew that it probably should have dragged on until the entire group was tired, but it was dangerous to travel at night, especially with all the possible things that could be in the forest. So, the group had pitched tents and made food. The only thing that was left to do was start the fire, which Cloud had volunteered himself to do, thinking that it would be such an easy task. He had been very wrong.

Aerith giggled at her traveling partner as he rubbed sticks together, trying to light a few sparks. "Do you even know how to get the fire started, Cloud?" she questioned, taking a seat on a stump near Cloud.

"Well, I was hoping those survival skills would just come to me." Cloud replied, throwing the sticks down into the dirt. "Usually, Tifa does this."

"So, why did you offer to help?" the flower girl asked, putting a supportive hand on Cloud's shoulder.

"I don't know. I guess since Tifa did the cooking and you did the cleaning, that starting a tiny fire would be no problem. It was an attempted contribution to all the trouble I'm putting you guys through." The blond- haired, blue-eyed boy said.

Aerith smiled at Cloud softly, sighing. "Maybe you can get Tifa to light it now."

Cloud glanced over his shoulder, answering, "No, she's already asleep. It's dangerous to wake Tifa up and I want to keep my life."

Aerith swatted him playfully on his forearm, "I'm going to tell her you said that, and then you'll really be dead."

Cloud chuckled, feeling his lips make a smile. He really was aware of how little he smiled, but didn't often care about that. He had an image to maintain, so he wouldn't look like some dork in front of his group of friends or his enemies. A person who smiled too often would make Cloud think how weak they might be. But, there were many more reasons. If Cloud smiled, there would soon be something taking away those happy moments, because that happens to every person. How could it not? So, you could say that Cloud could be afraid to smile.

However, things seemed to be different with Aerith. He felt so at easy in her presence. Cloud felt safe enough to smile whenever they were alone together, like now, for instance. Nobody had ever really broken down his walls without an ax before, or at all, but Aerith managed to completely walk through those walls so easily and without Cloud trying to struggle. There was just something different about her that he had come to like. Maybe it was the way she smiled at him through her own emotions or perhaps it was her purity.

Aerith's purity and innocence was so refreshing for the young ex-SOLDIER. With his other friends, all of them had gone through so much alone and managed easy frowns on their faces nearly every day. While Cloud had seen Aerith's pain numerous times through her smiles, he still admired the way she always 

remained positive and did not linger on her suffering. Her smiles were sometimes like a fa├žade, like Cloud's frowns, but still, her smile made Cloud want to smile with her. Then there was her laughter. It was like a sweet song that only an angel would sing high above the heavens. Aerith's giggles were so beautiful to listen to and she nearly managed a different kind of chuckle every time Cloud saw her.

Cloud did not view the flower girl as weak or vulnerable for being open about her feelings; quite the opposite really. He only wished that he had the courage to be like that, and maybe he would be like that one day, so long as Aerith stuck around for more adventures after all of this was done. Cloud needed her in his life to help him smile. He would never say so out loud, but he knew that his life would be a wreck if he ever lost her. Cloud found a friend that he could truly be open with and maybe, h even loved Aerith.

"Please, don't do that, Aerith! I still have to fight Sephiroth!" Cloud chuckled as Aerith giggled.

"You're so silly, Cloud," Aerith said. "How come you don't act like this around the others?"

"I don't know. They don't make me smile like you do. You're different." Cloud smiled, hoping that Aerith would take that as a compliment and not think of him as weak or something.

Aerith's cheeks turned crimson red and she grinned, "I'm different, huh? How so?"

Cloud only smiled affectionately at his friend, "You're smart, kind to all things, you have the grace of an angel, I love the way you smile, and I like how you're able to get me to say anything crazy. Kind of like right now."

"So, you don't think I'm pretty?" Aerith playfully pouted, giving Cloud puppy-dog eyes.

"You're right, Aerith. I don't think you're pretty. I think you're beautiful." Aerith looked at him suspiciously, but Cloud only continued to smile. He wondered if Aerith knew how he felt about her, and if she did, Aerith did an awfully good job of keeping that information to herself.

She broke her eye contact with him, turning her eyes to the dirt. Her cheeks burned like fire, she realized. Aerith could swear that her heart would burst out any moment if Cloud kept smiling her at her like this. She realized that slowly, but surely, given time, that she would end up falling in love with him. Aerith thought that perhaps Cloud felt the same way that she did; maybe that was her own childish fantasy.

Aerith looked out Cloud again. This time his eyes caught hers and refused to let go, but she wasn't struggling. His ocean-colored eyes looked into her lily-pad ones. Both of their smiles had faded off of their expression, but both still had laughter in their eyes. Silence rested throughout forest as Cloud started leaning into her. Aerith's body went numb as his lips came closer to her eyes. Cloud and Aerith started to shut their eyes. The whole thing was like an intense drum roll, and both kept playing.

A sound of a twig snapping came from behind Cloud. The two quickly pulled away from their almost kiss, while Barret stood there behind Cloud and Aerith, with his arms crossed over his chest. He smiled sheepishly. "Shouldn't you be lighting the fire, Cloud?"



Cloud glanced over at the very pink Aerith and replied, "I'm trying, Barret. Believe me, I'm trying."