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Cloud Strife wandered the empty streets of the place he remembered as home as multiple lights burst into the starlit sky. His aimlessly-filled feet dragged with dread and fear. Every single time Cloud blinked, all he could see were gently emerald eyes, being him to continue his journey and not give up. Like a naïve child whom refused to stop playing a make-believe game, the spiky-haired blond obeyed. With ever breath Cloud drew, the more he thought his sanity was being compromised, and all because he couldn't let go of her.
Within the bitter blackness of his soul, the former Underworld employee could feel sorrow pursuing him, but couldn't have cared less. Cloud only held false hope closest to his heart. He could still hear a light, angelic voice beckon his name; but with ever single begrudging stop, he grew disbelieving. So what if he would never find what he was looking for? What if all hope was dead? What would it matter to anyone if was so stubborn to never give up his search?
"Light," Cloud whispered. "Deceiving light."
Hades, he thought with bitterness. The Lord of the Underworld lied—his light was not there. So many innocent lives were slain by his hands; and the darkness consumed him. Fighting his was back from it wasn't the problem for Cloud; it was trying to live with himself afterward. The, of course, a mere child would be the free his soul of Hades's shackles.
Hades never had her. He lied. He lied and I actually believed him!
"Cloud," a male voice questioned from behind him, "is it really you?"
The blond turned around. He knew this face should be familiar to his cold blue eyes, but it wasn't.
"Cloud, it's me—Cid Highwind," the man spoke, but Cloud remained silent. "Don't ya remember?"
He shook his head.
"Come with me, boy. Let's find ya some shelter among good, ole friends, eh?" Cid chuckled to himself, leading Cloud to someplace. "Ya don't look so good, but the least ya could do is keep up yer end of the conversation. Then again, ya never were the talkative sort."
Cloud wished this stranger would kindly stop talking. He was not in the mood to feel obligated to a person he had hardly known for less than five seconds, let alone follow this person into some unknown place. Besides, he still had to find his light.
"I can't go with you," Cloud whispered. "I'm looking for somebody."
"Look, Cloud, Sephiroth ain't-"
"I'm not looking for him," he replied coldly. "Where are you taking me?"
"Merlin's place," Cid answered. "Ev'rybody is gonna be so relieved to see ya. Don't be offended, but most of us believed ya to be dead." He stopped for a moment, glancing around. "Let's see—any Heartless? Nope." Cid grinned and walked over to a seemingly humble, gray brick house. "This is it. They should be in the library."
Cloud watched as Cid opened a door and strolled inside. He hesitated briefly, foolishly hoping that almost haunting emerald eyes wasn't just some crazy dream that he stubbornly held on to. The blond entered, following the older man down crimson halls. Another door opened.
"Hey!" Cid shouted. "Take a gander at what I found."
Suddenly, a long forbidden breath all but choked Cloud a slender woman of uncommon beauty turned around, and he saw those enchanting green orbs that he had been searching in the very depths of darkness. He stared at her while standing in the middle of the doorway, breathing in her presence.
They made their way over to each other, as she brightly smiled at him. Cloud was vaguely aware of the other people in the room, watching with disbelieving eyes. The female brunette leaned forward, studying the gruff-looking man in front of her. Chewing her bottom lip, the girl's jade orbs began to shine.
"C-Cloud," she questioned, bravely attempting to keep her composure. "I knew it—you're alive!" Her chest rose and down rapidly. Standing up straight, she reached out to touch Cloud's fair skin. "Oh, it is you, Cloud!"
"Um, Aerith," Cid spoke, "don't overwhelm the poor guy. I don't think he can remember-"
"I can," Cloud interrupted, not daring to take her smooth and gentle touch away from his face, "or at least, bits and pieces. I've been looking for you, Aerith."
Aerith giggled to herself. "I know, Cloud." She stated, hugging Cloud tightly.
He tensed at this. "Aerith," he began as he forced away Aerith's embrace. "I'm so sorry."
"For what? I thought that you might have missed me, too?" She inquired, sounding very confused by Cloud's hesitation.
"I, uh," Cloud sighed, shaking his head. He looked at Cid and the other two strangers. "Aerith, could we maybe talk alone?"
"Oh, right!" C'mon Squally-poo! Let's leave these two lovebirds alone!" A youthful girl exclaimed, tugging at the wrists of the older, male brunette.
"Yuffie, how many times do I have to tell you? It's Leon!"
"Shuddup, you two," Cid shouted, pushing the bickering figures out of the room. He slammed the door shut, leaving Cloud and Aerith alone.
"We're alone now, so talk." Aerith told him, sitting down on a wooden desk. She still managed to wear her signature smile.
"I have dreamed of this so many times, but I never really thought the day would come where we would meet again." Cloud paced the room. "I searched and searched all over, but Aerith, I lost my way in the worst way possible.
"What—what do you mean?" Aerith asked, only slightly frightened by Cloud's words.
He sighed, shaking his head. Cloud momentarily debated with himself on whether or not he should tell Aerith the specifics. On the one hands, Cloud could keep this to himself while protecting Aerith from the truth. On the other hand, this could badly affect not just her, but everyone, if Cloud did indeed choose not to tell her this. However, the most important thing here was to guard and protect Aerith at all costs.
"Cloud!" She exclaimed, snapping Cloud out of his thoughts. "What happened to you?"
"Three years ago when we were separated by this way, I had woken up in a different world where I know absolutely nothing. I couldn't remember anything, but my name and green eyes—yours. I remembered how they always reflected any sort of light. You were always my light, weren't you, Aerith? However, there was no sign of you. The memory—it just teased me, but I did want to remember you—all of you." Cloud stopped his pacing to glance at Aerith, who watched him with compassion and love written all over her expression. She flashed him a reassuring grin.
"I travelled all over, hoping that I would see you and gain back every instant I ever shared with you. But then, I encountered a man with a slurred speech. His name was Captain Jack Sparrow and he told me that he had seen many souls killed by the Heartless, including a group of young people that looked about my age."
"And, you thought that I. . ." Aerith swallowed bitterly, doubt in her eyes.
"But I didn't give up. Even if I did think it was true, your eyes wouldn't leave me alone. They were in my dreams every night and I couldn't let myself give up on you. And that's when Hades, God of the dead, found me. He said that my light was somewhere in his realm, waiting for me. The only way I could get you back is if I were to-"
"Sell your soul," the brunette interrupted, fiddling with the hem of her pink dress.
Cloud nodded. "So, I became one of his gladiators in the coliseum. I had to kill for the entertainment of others, but my assignment was to eventually murder the son of Zeus, Hercules and then that's when I could get you back. But after about a year of that, the job leaves one empty; and the darkness got to me."
"You became a Heartless, Cloud." Aerith shook her head almost immediately, getting up and grabbing his hands. "Cloud, I know you, okay? So listen to me. That does not make you a bad person. You were lost, but you found your way back to me, because you refused to give up." She began to tear up, pressing their foreheads together.
"But I killed so many. I'm a murderer, Aerith." This time Cloud wanted to be selfish. He wanted to remember the feel of her glorious hands against his flesh; he wanted to gaze into those amazing orbs.
"No, you're not," she pressed her lips to his forehead, "And you shouldn't believe it either. You're a good person."
"Aerith, you just don't get it, do you? Hades wanted me to kill a kid, and I would have!" Cloud moved away. "And I'll damn my soul again a million times over before I bring you into that."
"Would have, Cloud—meaning that you didn't," Aerith reasoned.
"Yeah, because Cerberus trampled me and the very man I was supposed to kill ended up saving me!" Cloud shouted angrily at her.
"I don't care about any of that, because it's all in the pace now. After everything you've been through, I'm certain that you deserve-"
"I don't deserve anything," he interrupted solidly.
"You know, Cloud, you deserve more than what you let yourself have," Aerith countered. "Despite what you think, you are not evil."
Cloud rolled his eyes, wanting to knock some wisdom into that hard skull over hers. He recalled always bickering with Aerith over the tiniest of situations and sometimes, nothing at all.
Wait. . . He remembered; he remembered her.
"You were always the noble one, weren't you? Always running around Radiant Gardens with a halo over your head, telling everything that they were good deep down." Cloud shook his head, thinking about the silver-haired man.
"Okay, fine. You're right." Aerith nodded, agreeing. "I don't want to lose you again and that makes me selfish. That does scare me. Thinking about going through that pain of always wonder and not knowing that you were ever coming back scares me to death. So, if I could go in the darkness to get you back, I would. That makes me just as evil as you are, Cloud Strife. If we didn't need each other so much, this would have never happened to you. We're both to blame here." She said, pouting her lips.
Cloud shook his head in pure annoyance. Aerith had no business putting any guilt on her shoulders just to lessen his load. He clenched his teeth together, realizing that Aerith now stood right in front of him, her cheeks glistening with tears. That broke him.
No longer would he dare deny his soul to her, because amazingly, they were meant to be joined together. There would be no more running away from that, only embracing. And that's what Cloud did next; he embrace the only person that had the ability to calm his restlessness—his light.
"I've missed you," Aerith said, burying her face in the nape of his neck, "so much."
"Shhh, I have missed you, too, Aerith," Cloud whispered into her ear to put her at ease. "You'll never know how much I need you."
"I only know how much I need you."
Aerith knew that tonight Cloud had no intention of forgiving himself of his past sins, but perhaps someday. Yes, someday Cloud could truly love himself and be happy. Until then, the very least she could do for her loves was grant him what he wanted most of all: a soul-binding kiss.