It was like my body was on fire. Bullets pierced my suit and skin and I felt myself falling to the ground. Blood surrounding me on the cold floor. My blood. I felt myself drifting under. Cloud struggled over to me somehow. Silly boy, he should be resting. He shouldn't see this. The ShinRa army was already gone by the time he made his way over to me.
"Zack…" He muttered, now kneeling next to me. I just smiled at him.
"You.." I grabbed his head and brought it to my chest.
"You will… live for the both of us." I managed to grunt out. I handed him my… No, Angeal's… sword.
"You'll be my… living legacy." I said. I saw tears fall down the blonde boy's face. This day would forever haunt him.
"Zack…You are a true hero." said Cloud, running his weak hand over my face softly. I nodded in thanks. It meant a lot. That was my whole life's dream. To become a hero.
I felt myself saying a few more things to Cloud before falling into complete darkness that lingered for quite some time. Was I dead? How does it feel to die? I couldn't be dead. Don't get me wrong, there is no shame in dying, especially with honor, but I couldn't die now. There was something else I needed to do.
I needed to tell her I loved her.
I needed to tell the flower girl who dwelled in the slums, who had never seen the bright sky or anything above the Midgar plate, whom I hadn't seen in four years, that I loved her.
As thought her name, the darkness became engulfed in light. Images of her, in that church, with those flowers, filled my mind. And the thought of her one main wish, she had told me one day. To spend more time with me. That was right before I went on that mission that got me captured and experimented on for four years. Four fucking years. I felt mixtures of love, and anger, and determination fill my body. I was coming alive again. I felt the air fill my lungs, and my heart beat faster. I slowly but surely, opened my eyes.
I was still on the ground where I had 'died'. But there was something above me. Flying.
"Angeal?" I coughed out, but it was barely audible. The sun was too blinding to see the angel's face, but I knew it had to be Angeal. Feathers were falling softly down to earth, where I lay. They were white, not black like Genesis's had been. Not black like a monster. White. Like an angel.
"Zack, you are a hero, indeed." I heard Angeal's voice say.
"SOLDIER and ShinRa itself are corrupt. They have some learning to do. Genesis knew that, even though it drove him insane. And director Lazard knows it too. They brainwash all the SOLDIERS into thinking what they do is right. And at times, it is. But at other times, it's monstrous. I'm right behind you Zack. If you attempt this journey back to Midgar, I will protect you all the way." Said Angeal, still flying high above my head. Was I hallucinating? Nah, it couldn't be. This was too real.
"Thank you, Angeal." I said as loud as I could. I struggled to sit up. Pain shot through all parts of my body. I examined the damage. I had several shots to my stomach, many to the arms and legs, and definitely one to the head. How was I alive? It was definitely a miracle. Maybe the lifestream didn't want me yet. I smiled to myself. And got to my feet slowly. I looked out to Midgar. I could see it from where I was. It wouldn't be too hard to get all the way back. I began my journey limping slowly down the path.
As I limped along, thoughts of Cloud entered my mind. Where was he now? Was he okay? He had been through so much with me these past four years. Everything that happened at Nibelheim especially. He had killed Sephiroth, who had burned his hometown of Nibelheim down. My memories were beginning to blur slightly. All I could remember was waking up in that laboratory and breaking out. Cloud had gotten Mako poisoning, and then a series of events led me to where I am today….
Damn SOLDIER. Damn Shinra. Damn the Turks. Damn everything.
I remembered Cissnei now. She had gone against her job of being a Turk to help me out. She was so good. It was those people in that army that I nearly took out, that were monsters. And the scientists. They were monsters too.
Midgar was getting closer now. I could feel Angeal's presence above me, but I didn't look. It was better that way. I was surprised that there were no monsters or soldiers to fight off here. Guess they weren't expecting me. But I kept getting the feeling I was being watched by someone other than Angeal.
The sun was baking me by mid day. I smelled like blood and it was making me sick. Hopefully Aerith wouldn't mind. Maybe she could use some oils from her flowers to make me smell better. I felt myself smile at the thought of this. She wouldn't even see this visit coming. I felt myself tearing up, but I just wiped them away and smiled.
"You alright Zack?" I heard Angeal ask above me.
"Yeah I'm fine! Just getting a little emotional after everything that's happened. I don't think I can keep it bottled up much longer." I said with a smile. Angeal laughed.
"Hey Angeal?" I asked after a few minutes.
"How am I alive?" I asked. I was still refraining from looking up at Angeal, keeping my eyes on the road.
"Well… Sometimes it's not ones time to go. Your determination and dreams kept you alive. And maybe just a little luck." He said with a chuckle.
Hours were going by, and the sun began to set. I was finally in Midgar, heading toward sector 7. I tried to take side streets and keep hidden from the people. What would they do if they saw a wounded SOLDIER member with an angel flying above his head? It was nearly nightfall, when I finally made it to that Church in the slums. I could barely move anymore. My wounds hurt so bad and I was feeling light headed. I hadn't eaten or drank anything in such a long time. I put my hand on the large door and looked up at Angeal, who was smiling down at me.
"Go on." He said. I nodded and yanked open the door.
And there she was, sitting facing the back part of the church, crouched over her flowers. She was more beautiful than I remembered. She wore a pink dress with that same pink bow that I bought her so many years ago tied in her hair. I felt tears running down my face, and I didn't care. I didn't want to hold anything in anymore. I leaned against the door frame, pain engulfing my body. The stress on my body was too much. It hurt. The hunger and thirst didn't make things any better. I watched Aerith for a while, tending to her flowers like she always did. She then lifted her head up like she sensed something. Someone. She turned it slowly, and my eyes made contact with the beautiful green eyes I had dreams of. Her eyes widened as she gasped. Her hand rose to her mouth. There was a few seconds of silence but then my body couldn't endure it anymore. I fell to my knees, my body aching.
"Zack." She finally whispered, still in shock. She ran over to me and took me in her arms. I held onto her. I held onto my life.
"Zack it can't be you, can it?" She cried, tears now falling from her face.
"It is." I muttered.
"You're hurt." She said sadly, looking at my wounded body. She put my arm around her and stood up, supporting me as she walked me over to the flower bed. She put me down gently and then sat herself again.
"The flowers will help you. They are therapeutic." She explained. I nodded a held my arms open for her again. She embraced me again, sobbing lightly.
"Aerith." I said and held her back a bit so I could see her eyes. They were still filled with youth, but they had more maturity in them now. I could see the pain she had gone through in her eyes.
"I love you." I said, biting my lip, trying to keep back complete hysteric crying. My emotions were about to make me explode. She looked a bit taken back, but she smiled.
"And…If I end up not dying from these wounds… I want to spend the rest of my life with you… I want you to be my wife." I said, sobbing lightly. She then put her arms around my neck softly and put her for head to mine.
"That's my biggest wish. That's all I've ever wanted." She said, tears still falling from her eyes. Tears of happiness. I then grabbed her around the waist and kissed her. I forgot how tired, how hungry, how thirsty, how achy I as. All I felt was an insane feeling in my heart, that was being with the person that meant most to me. Her lips were so soft and warm, everything I always imagined them being.
"I love you, Zack." She sobbed after pulling back. The whites of her eyes were totally red.
"And I never want to lose you again." She forced out. I held her tighter to me, squeezing her small fragile body against my big muscular one.
"I'll won't leave you ever again, Aerith. I promise." I said.
Suddenly, soldiers were coming through the windows and doorway of the church. Somehow I knew this would happen. The soldiers had their guns pointed at me.
"You have got to be kidding me." I growled. "Why can't you just leave me alone?!"
"Is that the target?" Said a soldier to another.
I felt Aerith grab on to me tighter. I felt like I might pass out. This was all too much. I guess Angeal couldn't watch out for me forever.
"If you shoot him, take me with him!" Yelled Aerith. "This is a Church. You should all be ashamed of yourselves!"
"Aerith, no." I pleaded.
"Everyone, hold fire." I heard a voice say. It came from outside. The soldiers put down their guns and looked to the door where Tseng, along with Cissnei were entering.
"This is a First Class SOLDIER named Zack. Most of you probably heard he was dead a long time ago. The truth is, he was experimented on for four years along with an infantryman. I am probably going to lose my job for doing this, but all of you need to fall back right now. Leave him be." Directed Tseng. The soldiers looked around at each other.
"Should we take orders from him?" asked one soldier to another. Tseng and Cissnei went to stand in between the army and Aerith and me. The soldier eventually decided to listen to Tseng and leave the church.
"Zack…" Cissnei began, but Tseng cut her off. He silently handed a box of letters to me.
Aerith's eyes widened.
"Those are for you. I'm sorry about everything that has happened." Said Tseng.
"Do you guys know where Cloud is?" I asked them, remembering my blonde partner in this whole journey.
"Yes, he came to us. We are going in to talk to Rufus ShinRa tomorrow and tell him everything that has happened. You should come too." Said Cissnei. I nodded.
"Its time people's eyes are opened up about everything that has been swept under the rug." I said. Tseng and Cissnei both nodded in agreement.
"You're really hurt, Zack." Said Cissnei, noticing the wounds on my body.
"I'll be fine." I said, glancing at Aerith, who was still in my arms.
The two Turks left the church to me and Aerith. It was late and the church was almost totally dark. Aerith fed me some food and gave me water that she had brought with her to the church that day. She was planning on eating her dinner there. It felt so good to eat after so many days of starvation. She cleaned up some of my wounds and said she would take me to the hospital the next day, but for now to rest. We decided to stay in the Church that night.
Aerith was silent in my arms as we lay there in the flower bed. My mind was all over the place, but ended up turning to the box of letters on the floor.
"What are those?" I asked her quietly.
"88 letters you've probably never received." She said quietly. I sighed, not even wanting to get angry at the Turks right now. After a few minutes I asked her if I smelled bad. She laughed and said I smelled fine. I smelled like Zack.
"So… Aerith." I said.
"I didn't ask this right before. Will you marry me?"