Disclaimer: Nothing belongs to me.

Cloud softly inhaled, filling his lungs with the cool night air as he and Aerith walked at each other's side, near one of the hangouts outside of school. Every now and then, someone would stop and stare at the odd pair, but he could have cared less, to be devastatingly truthful. However, it had bothered him slightly that Aerith seemed to be upset by something; her silence and reluctance to answer some of his questions suggested this. But if Aerith didn't want to talk about it, he knew better than to press her on it.

Yet once again more people—this time it was Tifa and Elena—were giggling at something that was clearly quite funny to them, but halted in their steps when they saw Cloud and Aerith. When Cloud refused to meet Tifa's eyes to acknowledge her existence, they finally went about their business, and the two kept walking.

"And to think that I used to be one of them," Cloud mused aloud with a low chuckle. "So, what colleges have you applied to?"

"None," she said, leading him to a dead end. "I'm not going to college."

"But I thought you said-"

"No," Aerith interrupted, smiling just a little bit. "You assumed."

"Well, yeah. You're smart," Cloud replied. "Why shouldn't you get into a good college?" Aerith shook her head, her emerald eyes darting to the ground. "Aerith," he began, despite his better knowledge, "is everything okay?"

She was getting ready to dump him, wasn't she? That had to be it! Aerith probably didn't know a nice enough way to do it. . .

"Cloud," Aerith sighed, looking up at him again, "I'm-I'm unwell."

. . .and she was making up excuses to avoid what must have been inevitable to her. On the bright side, he could probably buy enough to time to figure out what he needed to change about himself, so that Cloud wouldn't lose Aerith.

"Well, I'll take you home. You'll feel better soon." Cloud retorted, wondering if his insanity was showing to her.

"No, I'm actually really sick." Aerith sighed. She blinked, and there were suddenly tears ready to pour. Cloud did his best to brace himself. "I have leukemia."

Suddenly, Cloud wished that Aerith was breaking up with him. Anything. . .—anything but this.

"No, no," the blonde shook his head in disbelief. This must have been some horrible joke. "You're eighteen, you're wonderful. . . You can't. No! You're perfect!"

"I'm not, Cloud," Aerith murmured softly. "I've known for two years now. The doctors have done everything for me, but I stopped responding to treatments."

"But—it's not possible. Wait, so you couldn't have told me this sooner?" Cloud questioned angrily, wanting so much to pound his fists into a nice chunk of brick. "Before I went and fell in love with you? You've been lying to me this whole time!"

"They all said that I should live my life normally—like nothing's changed," Aerith said, crying now.

"What? Is that your excuse?" He laughed bitterly. Cloud just wanted to pretend like this was just some bad dream, and would wake up all in due time.

"It's meant to be an explanation," the brunette responded, tucking a strand of hair behind her ear. "I didn't want people to treat me like some special case, because that's not what I am, Cloud. I especially didn't want to be that you."

"That doesn't change the fact that you lied to me, Aerith," Cloud said, glaring. "For the first time in my life, I felt good about life. I could breathe, and be someone better. But it's only now you choose to tell me that I have to lose you—lose you just as I've really found you. It's not fair!"

"Yeah?" Aerith inquired, taking deep breaths to control her own whirl of anger and sadness. "Try being in my shoes. I had finally begun to accept it, but then you happened to me! And I've never wanted to live more than I do right now!" She shouted.

But Cloud could only stay silent, shaking his head to and fro as he tried to let the news sink in. Before he could blink, Aerith had disappeared out of sight.

He hated Dr. Rufus Shinra—he hated the man with a burning, furious passion. The loser had abandoned his family for a chance at a better life with some cheap floozy, and this fact had always stuck with Cloud. But Cloud loved Aerith a lot more than he hated his father, and his father was the only smart enough doctor in the city that could help her.

He parked his motorcycle just outside of the tall house, and ran straight to the door; Cloud couldn't waste any time in merely walking. The blonde banged on the door and practically punched the doorbell.

"Doctor Shinra! Doctor Shin—Dad!" Cloud pleaded.

Clad in gray pajamas, Rufus finally opened the door. A look of sheer shock swept across his face, bemused by his son's presence.

"Cloud? What are you doing here? It's one in the morning."

"I need your help," he confessed, choking on his words. Cloud couldn't give Aerith up without a fight.

"What is it? Are you okay?" Rufus questioned.

"It's my girlfriend—her name is Aerith—and she's sick with cancer." Cloud explained. "Okay, you've gotta help her! Please?"

"It's not that simple, Cloud. I don't know her case, I'd have to speak with her current doctor, and I-"

Cloud shook his head, rolling his electric blue eyes. "Forget it, Doctor Shinra. I knew it was a long shot to come here for help, anyway." He huffed, and walked back to his bike.

"Cloud, hold on a second! Cloud, wait!"

'Nothing can be done against the truth

No matter how we remain in denial, yeah

Wasting time, replacing time

With each empty excuse

But that'll only work a little while

Coping with despair, knowing you're not there

So I blame it on the sun, run away from everyone

Hoping to escape this ridicule

Trapped in misery, wrapped so miserably

In this deception I'm wearing like a skin

Dying to maintain

Oh, I keep trying to explain

A heart that never loved me to begin

Oh I'm such a mess

I have no choice but to confess

That I've been desperately trying to belong

Lying to myself and everybody else

Refusing to admit my right was wrong'

Cloud rode through the darkness, not a single star in the sky to guide him as he rode through the Forgotten Capital; it was usually a place to find peace. . . If anything, it was working in reverse for him. Unknowingly, warm tears slide down his cheek—crying was something he hadn't done in such a long time—but he didn't care.

Over and over, he tried to tell himself that he would soon live to regret all the changes he had made for himself and that Aerith didn't really matter, yet Cloud knew it was the furthest thing from the truth. He could never be sorry for falling in love with her, for it was all for the better. But it still hurt, like someone was squeezing his chest.

'And then He came


And it means

Praise and meditation

And then He came


And it means

Did you think about that?

And then He came


Oh, and it means

Praise and meditation

And then He came


Oh, and it means

That it seen,'

Cloud stopped riding—stopped riding to pray for the first time in a long time.

He stood at one of the docks near his home, staring out at the tangerine sun as it rose higher above the crystal-calm water.

"I got a call from your mom," a voice—Zack's—said from behind Cloud. "Talk to me."

"What's there to talk about?" Cloud asked. He shook his head at himself; his mind was too tired for this conversation.

"You know about what, man." Zack replied. "You, Aerith. . ."

Cloud blinked slowly, the heaviness in his eyelids tempted him with rest. "She's the best person in the world. What else is there to know?"

"I've been a crappy friend, Cloud, because I didn't understand," the raven-blacked hair teenager confessed in a whisper. "I'm sorry."

"It's okay, man," the blonde sighed.

He didn't want to have an ongoing fight with his best friend, not when he was already losing Aerith.

Cloud gently tossed pebbles at Aerith's window, standing just outside. He wanted to get her attention, maybe apologize yet again for going off on her the other night. Or even a glimpse of her would have been nice. When she finally opened her window, Cloud was at a loss for words.

What do you say to the love of your life that's also dying?

'I want your symphony

Singing in all that I am

At the top of my lungs

I'm giving it back to you'

The blonde sang; to his surprise, not all that bad either. It definitely made Aerith blink a few times until she giggled at how Cloud got down on both his knees.

'So I lift my head back down

And I lift my hands and pray

To be only yours

I pray

To be only yours

I know now you're my only hope'

"Aerith!" Gast beckoned, almost apologetically.

She gave Cloud a parting smile, and went back to what was the rest of her life.

All morning and all afternoon, Cloud had been dropping off bouquets with lilies and other variations of white and yellow flowers that he had managed to obtain from a small flower field in the outskirts of Midgar. If Aerith ever decided to speak with him again, Cloud would have to remember to show her. She'd love it; and despite herself, Cloud knew she would also appreciate the romantic gesture. So far there were a total of one hundred and eighty-nine flowers at the Gainsborough doorstep.

"Cloud, what are you doing?" Gast inquired, somehow not glaring. He had been in counseling that morning, and was curious to what this boy was up to.

"Will you give Aerith a message from me?" Cloud asked, walking up the reverend.

Gast sighed. "I'll contemplate it in my spare time."

"Tell her that I'm not going anywhere." Cloud said solemnly, and strolled on home, leaving the reverend completely speechless.

Featured songs: "Selah," by Lauryn Hill, and "Only Hope," by Switchfoot