disclaimer: If I owned FFVII or any of its characters, there would be a game sequel by now.. but there isn't, is there.. therefore, I do NOT own anything.

Prelude

A sudden splash in the distance broke through her quiet reverie. Uncertain of what she should anticipate, she rose from the flowerbed and took her brass knuckles out of her back pocket. Sliding them on had become a ritual, always presaging a bloody end. Contrary to what the people closest to her thought, she was not a fighter. She fought out of necessity, to protect herself, those she loves, and her beliefs.. it was never a desire of hers to feel as powerful and deadly as she knew she had become. In fact, she regretted it had been her only choice. She felt somehow less human, less vulnerable and mortal than she knew life was… this above all, saddened her. Briefly, she wondered if Aeris had felt the same – perhaps that was why Aeris chose to stop fighting and just take the alternate route available only to her – to stop all the fighting once and for all. Mulling over these thoughts as she peered at the metal fitted for her hands in her grasp, she could not bring herself to put them on once again. She slipped them away into her back pocket. She'd rather run than fight today.

As she started to slink off, a voice rung out – unintelligible but familiar. She silently made her way to the back of the church, pressed herself to the wall, and peered slowly around the corner. There he was.

He stood in the middle of a clear pool of water, naked to the waist and staring at his own reflection. The pale flesh stretched across his chest glistened with beads of water. Cobalt eyes full of grief and blond hair splayed permanently in all directions. A human compass… her very own magnetic pull. His heavy sword hung loosely in his grip, water rippling around the sharp steel beside him, his easy grasp of it making him look all the more deadly.

She felt white heat strike her, hard. Blushing with the fantastic imagery that flitted before her mind, she tried to pull her eyes from his image. Her whole being ached with love, desire, and despair as one question pricked her mind: would she be ever unable to cut herself all the way down the middle – severing in half the one whole that should have been them? Ever unable to find the second half of her in some other – matching apple to apple?

A sharp, cold sensation deep inside of her stomach told her she would not. That even if she finally could fight no longer for him, she'd never be able to stop her heart from calling out for him… til at last there'd be nothing within but an echo of his name.

"Cloud."

Her lips whispered unintentionally. Slowly, he looked up from the placid water, sank to his knees within the pool and murmured, "What am I supposed to do now?" He had felt sure he'd been given a second chance, a chance to rewrite the ending of his story, a chance to live it like he would've chosen to – but he'd never much considered what he actually wanted before – just what he felt he must do. He'd acted only out of necessity for so long, he'd forgotten what it was that he used to dream about before all the nightmares.

Cloud sunk even further into the shimmering water of the pool, easing his weary body into it until he floated on his back. The cool liquid encircled him – he felt vulnerable and secure at the same time. After his whole world had been dictated for him, now he'd have the chance to take his own path? And so he sighed again… "what now?"

Tifa witnessed his musings in silence, solemnity tugging down her lips. Even as everything inside of her demanded him, pleaded for him, whimpered for him, she took a deep breath, turned, and walked home.