A/N: I've been playing Crisis Core here lately, and this little ficlet thing wouldn't get out of my head. So I just wrote it out. It isn't anything deep or prolific, just sort of a more UPLIFTING look at Aeris's death. Um, I guess spoilers if you don't know ANYTHING about FFVII or Crisis Core or even Advent Children (though this has pretty much NOTHING to do with Advent Children), but other than that, I'd say everyone's all right. I hope you all enjoy!
Also, yes, this is a one-shot, there really isn't anything more to come. Unless you all WANT to see "Zack and Aeris's Adventures In the Afterlife" or something. ;)
He felt like maybe he should be … preparing or something. Like the place wasn't quite ready for her. But then, he thought that this place would never be ready for her. She doesn't belong here.
She doesn't belong there, either …
There was that voice again, the same one he'd been hearing for what seemed like weeks now. Seemed like, because there really was no good way to tell time here. Lately, he'd been measuring the minutes, the hours, the days, by watching her. When she slept, he knew another day had passed, and she was one step closer to …
Part of him was happy. Sublimely, majestically happy. But that part of him, he knew, was the selfish part. The part that he had always tried to quash. He didn't want to be a person who took joy in someone else's suffering, and normally he wasn't.
But when it came to her? Yeah, all right, he was selfish. And not a little jealous, either. He'd watched her more than anyone else since he'd been gone. Not all the time, and not for very long … but still. He always went back to her, always had to make sure she was safe.
When she'd met him, the blond one, the whispers here had started … Her time is coming. She'll be home soon.
And so, yeah. He'd been watching her a little more diligently here lately. Watching her eyes light up when she talked to Cloud, or when she laughed with Yuffie and Tifa. It tugged at parts of him that he'd all but forgotten about.
Dead people don't feel. They just become part of the Lifestream all over again. How many times had he heard that in his life? He'd really like to have words with whoever came up with that assumption, because while it was true that he was part of the Lifestream now, again? It was completely false that "dead people don't feel".
Because he felt, every day. Regret, remorse, anger, jealousy, love … he felt it all. And now that he knew … what he knew? While a part of him was happy … the bigger part of him mourned for the rest of the Planet.
What would their lives be, without her? What would happen to Cloud, especially? Could he really handle another great loss?
She'll be home soon …
The voices were back again, and as he searched the webs of magic that surrounded him here in the Lifestream, reaching out with his mind to find her, he saw …
Her companions were readying themselves for sleep, but she sat silent and alone. She had that look in her eyes, the one he knew meant that she was plotting, planning, dreaming. She smiled at Cloud as he wished her a good night.
He could see the longing in her eyes as she watched Cloud, and he felt a pang. Once upon a time, she had looked at him that way, too. He could tell that she wanted to talk to Cloud, to tell him everything, and that the words were just on the tip of her tongue. But she held them in, and when she was alone, she sighed.
"Will you help me?"
He could hear her perfectly then, and he knew that she was talking to him now. She did that sometimes. Most of the time, when she talked to her friends, he could hear her, but barely, as though she were behind heavy glass. Her voice was muffled then. But every once in awhile, she would turn herself inwards, and focus on him, and it was like she was with him again. He figured it was her Cetran blood that allowed her to speak to those who were with the Planet again so freely. He couldn't answer her back, of course, but he did his best to send some of his energy out to her. He knew she would feel it.
She smiled a little then, and he was glad that he'd gotten through to her. "I'm a little … a little nervous," she admitted. "It would be harder, I think, if you weren't there. But still …" She sighed. "He's going to blame himself. I don't want that."
Oh. Oh. It was going to be soon. Like … hours. Or possibly only minutes. She was leaving the inn that they were resting at now, and heading to the Forgotten City. He could hear her voice, melodic, soothing, whispering words that only the Planet and those who were part of it could hear now.
Holy. She was asking for Holy.
He felt like he needed to do something. It wouldn't be right, after all this time, to greet her empty-handed. But it wasn't like he could just pop over to the florist or something.
While he was contemplating this, she had reached her destination, and he, along with everyone and everything else in the Lifestream, was feeling the pull of her prayer. And then he felt something … else. Something darker, something evil.
Before he really knew what was going on, or what he was doing, he was in front of her, though he was sure no one could see him. But Cloud was … for some reason, he was trying to …
No. It couldn't possibly be Cloud who did this? He heard a female voice shouting then, and suddenly Cloud had backed up and was shaking his head in confusion.
He turned to look at her then, and he could feel Cloud right behind him. He knew that Cloud wanted to get to her, but everything happened so fast. She looked up then, and he was almost sure that at that moment, she could see him. She smiled a serene smile, and he really wasn't sure if it was meant for him or for Cloud, but it didn't matter, because in the next second, it was over.
Cloud rushed forward at the same moment that he did, and they both caught her, though it wasn't the same. The girl in pink that Cloud held was limp, lifeless, covered in blood.
The one that fell into his own arms was warm and vibrant and very much … well, he supposed alive wasn't the right word. She was on her feet in an instant … it was as though she hadn't even seen him. There were tears in her eyes as she looked through the ether now, at Cloud. She reached out her hands, as if trying to touch him, but could grasp nothing. "Did it work?" she whispered to herself. "Was it all worth it?"
It worked …The voice was back again, and she turned her head quickly. He could tell that she was trying to discern where it came from. "Well, then, that's all I need to know," she said, and the resolve in her voice was evident. This was a smooth transition for her, because she'd already accepted it. She didn't have to like it, and he could tell that she didn't … but she was at peace.
He watched her as she watched Cloud carry her other body, the physical one, out to the lake, and return her to the Planet. "Cloud. I'm so sorry." She touched her fingers to her lips, and reached out one more time, as though to try and touch him. Then she took a deep breath and closed her eyes for several long moments.
She was saying goodbye.
Finally, she turned around, and her eyes were misty, but her expression was complacent. When she saw him, she smiled, and it was real and bright. "Zack." She reached out to him, and her eyes widened when he grasped her around the waist and pulled her to him. "You're … real," she breathed into his collar incredulously. "I thought maybe this was all just a mirage and that you were just going to slip right through my fingers or something." There was a touch of melancholy in her voice.
He tilted her chin up with one of his fingers. "Not this time, babe," he said earnestly, and then he lowered his lips to hers for a very long overdue kiss.
When they parted, she looked up at him for what seemed like hours, but was probably just seconds, and then she took several steps away, looking at him over her shoulder playfully. "You were waiting for me." It was a statement, not a question.
"Always," he finally said, because it just felt like the right thing to say.
She laughed then. "It's so strange to actually be talking to you like this again! It's like … nothing has changed at all. Of course, everything has changed … but still. It's nice." She paused, her expression thoughtful. "I should feel bad, shouldn't I?" she asked. "Everyone is … sad, now. And I'm … not. That sounds terrible. I mean, I'm worried. About Cloud, especially. But I actually feel … relieved. Peaceful. I mean, I did my part, right?"
"You got it easier than I did," he said honestly. "I was mad for a long time after I first got here."
"Well, you weren't prepared. And you … had things you didn't want to leave behind?" Her voice was timid as she asked that question. The one he knew had been bothering her since he'd died.
"Yeah," he told her. "Things I didn't want to leave behind." He winked, and she rolled her eyes. Then he looked at her. "What about you, huh? Anything you didn't want to leave behind?"
She looked thoughtful then. "Well, I don't like that I had to leave my friends – or Cloud. Not a bit. But in the end, I think … I've saved them. So … I'd rather they have the option to go on with their lives, at the cost of mine, than have the future for everyone be non-existent, you know?"
He did know. He understood what she meant, and he felt proud of her. She was so strong. So much stronger than anyone else he'd ever known. "I really wish there was more I could've done for you," he said then.
"What do you mean?" she asked.
"Well, when I heard that you were gonna, well, you know … I thought maybe I should do something to prepare for you." He laughed sheepishly. "Stupid, right?"
She shook her head. "No! That's very … sweet. But what more could you have done? I asked for your help, and you came. And you're here now. What more could I want out of my afterlife?"
He laughed then, and he didn't think he'd ever stop. But when her brow furrowed and she looked around, rather bemusedly, he did stop. "What's up?" he asked her.
"I think – I think they are calling me now. I can feel it, like a buzzing in my head, telling me where to go. So I should go. Work for me to do, I suppose. But I'll find you later, I promise!"
She walked up behind him then, and wrapped her arms around his shoulders, like she'd done before so many times, and kissed his cheek. "Thank you, Zack," she said quietly into his ear.
He took hold of her hands and pulled her around to stand in front of him, and then he kissed her soundly. "They do that with everyone," he said softly. "You shouldn't be gone for too long, though."
"I won't be," she promised, and she stood on her tiptoes to rest her forehead against his. "You'll wait for me again, right?"
"Of course!" he told her with a wink. "What else am I gonna do around here?"
Smiling, she let go of his hands and turned and walked away from him. This wasn't like every other time they'd parted, because this time, he knew without a doubt that they'd be together again soon.