~The Way You Transcend the World~

The man's heart had been captured from the first moment he had lain eyes on her. As he had run out of the Sector eight station after his first mission as an Avalanche member had been successful, Cloud Strife only had one thing on his mind: escape. He had passed hoards of debris strewn across the street, carefully avoiding crowds as to not draw attention to himself. The orders had been paramount: meet Barrett and the crew at the Sector 8 subway station.

He vividly remembered the police sirens blaring in the night air, and the smoke billowing around the Sector 8 shopping center, the scent of dust and fire heavy in the air. However, reflecting back on the memory now, all he could really recall was the tall brunette woman, dressed so delicately in shades of pink as he stepped out of the subway station. He recalled the faint smell of the petunias that lingered in the air around her. And as she had handed him a flower in exchange for one gill, he could now almost feel the flash of electricity that had went through his arm as his finger had brushed hers. The woman broke the monotony of the dreary city with the way she managed to smile while those around her panicked, how she had hummed a slow, tantalizing melody while she had rearranged the flowers in the wicker basket she had carried in her arm as she had calmly walked away from him. Never in his life had another human being enticed him as she had with just a few words.

Now Cloud stood looking out of the window in his room at the Gold Saucer inn. His room overlooked the spooky inauthentic graveyard in the Ghost Square, but he could see the bright lights of the amusement park shimmering and sparkling in the night sky. The lights made Cloud think of Aeris' mysterious green eyes, and how they lit up every time she sent a coy smile his way. There had been something very alluring about Aeris, something ethereal. Perhaps it was the fact that she walked around with a smile on her face while Midgar stood daunting with its dark buildings and dirty slums. Or maybe it was the way her long, pleated hair swayed around her hips as she floated through the city, selling brightly colored flowers that cheered the people around her. Most of all, Cloud knew, it was the way the woman looked at him with trusting, admiring eyes that reached into his soul and finally captured a distant, long abandoned part of him that still had the ability to love.

Cloud smiled faintly as he absent-mindedly watched a violent strand of lightning strike one of the tombstones. He watched in amusement as he realized it wasn't a real thunderbolt, but magic. He wished he could magic Aeris into seeing him as more than a friend or bodyguard. How he wished he could tell the woman she haunted his dreams every night with advances he would only make while asleep, how he wished he could always protect her from the evils of the world, and most of all he wanted her to say she shared his feelings. Cloud sighed at the musing. He was her bodyguard and nothing else. But even as he told himself this he knew that it wasn't true. Cloud could not ignore the advances she made. The flirty words, the more than innocent touches, and the warm smiles he felt she reserved especially for him. Those subtle gestures were simply not to be ignored. He had long learned from his SOLDIER training to keep a nonchalant and apathetic attitude towards other human beings, all the while catching every glimpse of body language exhibited. However, when it came to Aeris Gainsborough, he could not help but be himself; to let the repressed, fun-loving part of him come out. He felt safe around her, like he could be vulnerable, but at the same time felt protective of her. The way Aeris encouraged him to speak his mind and joke around with her made him feel appreciated, wanted. He had long ago crossed the line from mere friendship to love, and he had fallen hard.

Lost in his tempting thoughts, Cloud almost did not realize that someone was knocking on his door. He turned around in time to see Aeris bursting through the large wooden door, her long brown braid flying after her. Cloud's heart raced and he gulped. They stared at each other for a few seconds, emerald eyes boring into his baby blues.

Aeris covered her mouth suddenly and giggled with a rather mischievous expression.

"What's wrong?" asked Cloud, and mentally cursed himself for not thinking of something more appropriate to ask.

Aeris smiled widely and her eyes lit up. "You want to go on a date?" she asked.

Cloud's jaw dropped, "What?"

"A DA-TE," she teased. "Or haven't you ever gone on one?"

Cloud blushed. How to answer this question? He had not been expecting THIS. He did not want to admit that no; he had never been on a real date before. But he didn't want to lie either.

"Well…" He shuffled his feet as he slowly answered, "not a real one…"

Aeris stopped smiling and looked down. She seemed thoughtful for a second and mumbled something before looking up.

Cloud waited anxiously for her to say something to him, anything. He watched her nervously when suddenly she grinned. She grabbed his hand with an enthusiastic "Let's go!" and before he had a chance to react, she led him out of the room, down the dimly lit hallway, and out of the spooky Inn. They reached the Gold Saucer lobby wheezing for breath.

Cloud was so flabbergasted by this sudden development that he didn't listen as the lobby attendant went on about some special promotion. What did this mean? Was Aeris just being friendly or did she have feelings for him? Was this the first wonderful date with many more to come? But then a though struck him; '"How about I'll go out with you once if you take me home safely."' That's what she had said when Reno had shown up at her church with a mission to kidnap her. Cloud had helped her get home, and Aeris was paying him back for being her bodygaurd. She was just finishing her part of the deal… He felt a flash of anger, but was quickly subdued. Why couldn't two friends have a good time together, regardless of business deals made in the past.

Cloud barely noticed as Aeris led him into the Event Square, and barely protested when they were chosen to play the lead characters in the Event Square play. He immersed himself into the ridiculous role, and for the longest time since he could remember, he was genuinely having fun.

About an hour later, Cloud and Aeris returned to the lobby, laughing hysterically.

"You're quite the actor, Cloud!" Aeris exclaimed while executing a dramatic fainting motion. "Oh, save me, great Alfred!" She tripped and burst into a fit of giggles.

Cloud laughed as he helped her stand upright. "It was part of the SOLDIER training, believe it or not."

"SOLDIER…" Aeris repeated. Cloud stared into her eyes, trying to read them, and saw a flash of nostalgia, which soon disappeared into curiosity. She looked into his eyes and tilted her head to the side. Cloud was momentarily dazed. She was standing close enough for him to feel her steady breath on his neck; sending a pleasurable shiver down his spine.

Suddenly realizing he still had his hands wrapped around Aeris' waist, Cloud suddenly let go of her as if shocked and stepped back. He brushed the back of his head and cleared his throat uncomfortably.

Aeris, never one to feel embarrassed for long, grabbed his hand. "Let's go on the Gondolas!" she exclaimed and led him toward the exit.

Cloud trotted behind her, still slightly dazed at the fireworks going on inside of him. He followed her silently as she purchased two tickets from the pink-attired woman at the kiosk, and literally hopped inside the cozy-looking, wooden cart, just enough to seat two people. Cloud followed with his head down. What had he gotten himself into? He wasn't prepared for this! He shoved himself down on the seat opposite Aeris and crossed his arms. And while Aeris poked her head out of the window, Cloud looked down at his shoes.

With a rumble of gears, the cart started to move up along the wires it hung from. He couldn't sit still. He looked everywhere in the cart except at Aeris, who continued to stare quietly out of the window. Cloud wished he could hear what Aeris was thinking, and for once in his life, he disliked the silence. The air around him felt thick with awkwardness as the park outside blazed with neon lights and squeals of laughter. The silence hung heavily in the air, and Cloud went back to staring at his feet.

"Wow, how nice," came Aeris' voice. Cloud looked out of the window to be met by the sight of a huge roller coaster, alit with multicolored neon lights. The gondola cart became illuminated with a whir of golden light as it maneuvered craftily around the tracks of the roller coaster. Through the loop it went, as screams of joy and terror were emitted from the coaster car. The gondola cart zoomed under the slope, and faced down into the ocean water below. Aeris clutched Clouds hand just as the cart was about to hit the water, but it was jerked up at the last second to pass just over the water. Beams of light erupted from the giant flashlights embedded in the water as the gondola cart passed. The air became pungent with the scent of camellias and Cloud looked into the water to see flower petals strewn delicately into the water. The scent mingled with another one; the sweet flowery scent that followed Aeris. The combination was tantalizing, and Cloud thought he would forever associate this scent with Aeris. The gondola cart jerked upward once more and faced the sky, where a bright, full moon waited to greet them. It seemed to cover the entire night sky and Cloud felt as if the cart would fly straight into it. They watched the moon with bright eyes, both speechless. It was amazing how beautiful the night sky looked when not blocked by smog and dirt. It was amazing.

The gondola cart straightened and slowed down. The two passengers sat back down on their respective seats. Cloud glanced briefly at Aeris to see her studying him and promptly looked away, willing himself not to nblush. He stole another glance at her after a few seconds, but this time she was looking at the floor, rubbing the back of her head. He cleared his throat and looked out of the window just as Aeris leaned over. A few strands of Aeris' hair brushed Cloud's cheek and he moved away. Aeris did not seem to notice and continued to look out at the amusement park. Outside, they could see the bright blue racetrack where five or so large Chocobos ran by.

"How cute!" she exclaimed. Cloud smirked. Only Aeris would find a Chocobo race 'cute.'

The gondola cart continued moving, making its way up into the sky, and it became dark inside the cart as it slowed to a steady pace.

Aeris looked back at Cloud and grinned. "It's so pretty," she whispered, then resumed looking out of the window.

'You're pretty…" Cloud thought, although he would never express that sentiment out loud. He joined Aeris at the window, just in time to watch lime green fireworks explode into a million tiny pieces and fill the night sky. Loud rumbling filled the air as three or four more fireworks exploded, filling the inside of the gondola cart with wavering, multicolored light. Cloud looked at Aeris' serene, smiling face as she watched the fireworks with wonder. The neon lights illuminated the planes of her face. Cloud had never seen her from this close a distance, and now noticed how heart-shaped her face was. Her eyes were framed with thick brown lashes, and now shimmered different shades of green under the colors of the fireworks. She had subtle freckles precisely on the apple of her cheeks, which were deeply flushed in a flattering shade of pink. Her nose was slightly upturned at the end, leading down to plump, rosy lips, which were now smiling, causing a tiny dimple to appear on her right cheek. Cloud imagined how it would feel to run his finger down her cheek and brush her lips with his thumb. 'I bet they're soft…' he thought. A loose strand of hair whipped gently against the delicate curve her neck. He wondered what she would do if he reached over and brushed it away, and then ever so gently leaned over and pressed his lips softly against it. She would probably push him away, or worse, not show any emotion whatsoever. That was a boundary he dared not cross, not while he was so unsure of her feelings.

Promptly the fireworks ended, and Cloud suddenly sat back into his seat so she would not catch him staring. His heart raced in his chest and he wondered how Aeris couldn't hear it thudding.

Aeris leaned back into her seat and smiled, her eyes shining with awe. "It's beautiful, isn't it?

Cloud nodded and smiled in response. For a few minutes there was silence, but this time, it was a comfortable silence. Aeris turned her face towards the window while Cloud continued to silently study her face. She was beautiful, that was certain. But there was something about her that Cloud found so fascinating. He could never tell what she was thinking or what she would do next. Usually, unpredictability in a person would fall under a non-trustworthy category, but Cloud trusted Aeris to the core of his being. It was funny how easily she understood his motives and silences, all the while remaining a nothing more than a mystery to him. He watched her as she bit down gently on her bottom lip, as if deep in thought. He cleared his throat to break the silence. She briefly moved from the window to look at him, and then hung her head.

"First off, it really bothered me how you looked exactly alike," she spoke softly.

Cloud sent her a questioning look.

She sighed. "Two completely different people, but look exactly the same." She paused and looked up at him. "The way you walk, your gestures…I think I must have seen him again, in you…" she trailed off.

Cloud looked at her, confused. A man...?

Aeris shook her head violently. "But you're different. Things are different…" she dropped her head, her hair shifting to cover her eyes.

Cloud watched her. What was she talking about? He opened his mouth to say something when Aeris looked him straight in the eyes, tears building up in her own.

"Cloud…I'm searching for you…I want to meet you."

What did that mean, he was right in front of her. "But I'm right here…"

Her voice dropped to a whisper. "I know, I know, what I mean is… I want to meet… you"

Cloud kept watching her expectantly, but Aeris didn't say anything else. She stared out of the window, her chin resting on her hand, a far away look on her face. Cloud tried to make sense of what she had said, but didn't disturb her thoughts. He was lost in his own. What had brought that on? And what did she mean by wanting to meet him? He was here, wasn't he? What other way was there of knowing someone other than…knowing them? It was just like Aeris to confuse him silly.

"It's landing," Aeris called from the window. Cloud leaned over and saw that, indeed, the gondola was ending its course. The cart slowly clattered to a complete stop. Aeris hopped off the ride first and Cloud followed in silence. They walked down the path towards the Park lobby silently, each lost in their own thoughts.

When they reached the graveyard path in front of the Ghost Square Inn, Aeris stopped him.

"This was fun, Cloud." She smiled. "And forget about what I said, I was just being…"

"You?" Cloud finished.

Aeris giggled. "You're pretty mysterious too, you know"

"I like to keep people guessing."

"You keep me guessing." She spoke softly. They stared at each other for a few seconds. "Thank you for tonight"

"I had fun." He was sincere.

"I'm glad." She smiled. Cloud's heart fluttered.

They continued walking up the path to the Inn in silence, enjoying each other's company. After they parted ways into their separate rooms, Cloud lay awake on his bed, staring at the darkened ceiling. It scared him to think of how much he cared about Aeris. He had not felt this way for anyone before. He loved Tifa, but she was his best friend, and the love he felt for Aeris was completely different. He turned over on his bed to face the window. The sky outside was the darkest black with a few scattered stars. Once again, he pictured Aeris' face, and how the glow from the fireworks had enhanced her beauty. He smiled to himself as he started drifting off to sleep. The realization hit him: he had to protect her, to have her in his life, because he could not spend another day without the company of Aeris Gainsborough.

A/N: This is a rewite of The Way You Transcend the World. I've now turned it into a two-shot. This is the happy part, so if you want to stop reading here, you're welcome to!

Please review with any comment, complaint, concrit you have! ^.^ I love me some reviews.