Hey everyone, I'm so sorry it took me so long to update. I don't want to make excuses but here they are anyway.

1.) I got a job, practically full time.
2.) I've been getting ready for college, registering for classes, taking care of financial aide...etc.
3.) I was having a hard time writing this chapter, there's so much dialogue.
4.) I couldn't decide on a title.

Hopefully one of those is good enough...but they're all pretty lame.

Author's Notes: A lot and yet nothing really happens in this chapter. It does get a bit lemon-y because I felt bad about ending the last chapter as a cliffhanger, it's not very long but at least it's something. I hope you enjoy.

"This heart, it beats, beats for only you. My heart is your's."
- My Heart, From All We Know Is Falling

Chapter 7: My Heart

Awareness slowly creeps over me the next morning, uninvited and unwelcome. I fight against it, perfectly content to stay asleep, watching as images from the previous night flit drowsily and blissfully around inside my semi-conscious mind.

I soon realize that I am fighting a losing battle, and I open my eyes reluctantly, blinking them several times against the lingering affects of sleep. The first thing I see when my vision clears is Cloud, lying on his back and still sleeping peacefully beside me.

I can't stop staring at him, he's just so…beautiful…glorious…perfect? None of those words seem to describe him best, and I'm sure that I could never find one that would. I inch closer to him and prop myself up on my elbow. My gaze sweeps over his sleeping form, falling on each toned muscle…each scar.

They seem endless; I never knew he had this many. They litter his torso and arms, each a different size and shape, starkly standing out against his fair skin, and each with its own story to tell. They only make him more perfect…

Holding back my hair, I lean over his chest carefully and brush my lips over the nearest blemish, causing Cloud to stir slightly. I move to the next one, kissing it as well, this time holding my lips against his skin just a moment longer than the last. I repeat the process several times, slowly making my way up his chest, to his neck…and finally his lips.

He must have woken up, because the second my lips touch his he pulls me against him, kissing me gently at first, his hands moving all over my exposed skin. After a few minutes I pull away to kneel over him, straddling his midriff. I lean down and kiss him, running my fingers through his hair, and gently whispering 'I love you' with every breath I manage to steal.

He runs his hands along my back, my legs…my chest. He doesn't open his eyes, he simply relies on touch, tracing invisible lines all over my body, coaxing from me pleasured moans and sighs, sounds I never knew I could make…

The passion flares, every touch and every kiss becoming its own release. Everything begins to melt away, allowing my mind and body to become totally attuned to Cloud. He becomes the world, the universe, even life itself. His taste, his smell, the sound of his ragged breathing, and the feeling of his skin against mine are the only things that matter.

It's amazing how two people who couldn't be any more parallel, any more different, who coexisted side by side for so long but never connected, could have beaten the odds and found a way to overlap and make one complete being, a perfect balance of fire and ice, light and darkness…

I surrender to him, allowing him to have dominance. He positions himself over me, his lips brushing against mine in the softest of ways as he slowly enters me, letting my body adjust to his intrusion. But I ignore the pain, only allowing myself to revel in the delight of being with him this way. Just the two of us alone, joined together with no boundaries, no walls to separate us.

He begins to move slowly, each gentle thrust accompanied by a soft caress or a tender kiss, both of us patiently climbing to the plateau, the sensual peak of our shared and sinful pleasure. Soon, our bodies shake with every movement, every breath. Both of us teetering on the edge of climax, but not yet ready to take the plunge, not yet ready to surrender the intense pleasure of the moment; we're both completely lost in each other…completely lost in love that we've waited so long to share.

We spend the remainder of the morning like this, taking each encounter in stride, every moment spent together a whirl of fiery passion. Each kiss and every touch containing its own unique and searing flame. When we finally stop, we lie there quietly in my bed, wrapped in each other arms, breathing heavily and exhausted.

"You look terrible." I say, laughing lightly as I run my fingers over the now swollen and bruised area around his right eye.

"So do you." he chuckles, tracing his fingers along what is no doubt the raised outline of Xander's hand on my cheek.

I place my hand over his, holding it against my cheek. His touch is almost like a balm, it sooths away the remnant sting of blow, and eases the pain of its memory.

"I love you, too, you know?" I say quietly. "I didn't get the chance earlier…to tell you."

"You showed me." he whispers, gently kissing my forehead. "That was enough."

"Still, to say it…it feels wonderful…relieving. I love you." I say again, smiling as I feel a rush of emotion flow out with the words, words I had waited so long to say to him…words I had forgotten when I had met Xander.

"Why did you choose me?" asks Cloud bluntly, his eyes searching mine.

"I didn't." I reply, "In the end it wasn't a choice…it was an ultimatum of the heart."

"I don't think I understand…" he says quietly.

"After you said you loved me…I was confused, torn. I knew I should choose Xander, it would have been the right thing to do…the rational thing to do. And on the way to his house, I was sure of what I was going to do. I was going to marry him, despite what you had said, and we'd spend the rest of our lives together, happy and blissfully in love."

"So what happened? What made you change your mind?" he asks, trying to hide the desperation in his voice.

"I started thinking about the future, trying to picture what should have been this perfect life…and I couldn't. I saw everything I expected to see, a beautiful house, a sprawling lawn, kids…I didn't see him there though, standing next to me or reflected in the children's faces…I saw you. That's when the decision was made for me…I had no control, my heart had taken over, and it wanted you."

"So, you're happy with your decision? No regrets?" he asks, his tone serious.

"No…why would I have regrets?"

"He can give you everything…anything you've ever wanted and everything you deserve…I can't, not yet anyway. I may have won your heart but…"

"And I have won your's…finally after all these years. Listen to me, Cloud," I demand, catching his eyes again. "If I could hear you say 'I love you' everyday for the rest of my life, that would be enough. I don't need money, I don't need nice things, I need you."

He doesn't say anything, simply staring at me and remaining silent.

"You believe me, don't you?" I ask quietly after several minutes.

"Of course I do." he says, pulling me closer to him. "I was just…making sure."

"Making sure of what, Cloud? That I didn't want to leave you?"

"Yes, because if you did want to go back to him…I would have let you go. I love you enough to do that…as long as you were happy, I'd be happy."

"Then why say anything at all?" I ask, my tone sharp. "Why try to break Xander and I up if you were willing to let me go back to him without a fight?"

"Because I wanted my chance to fight for you," he replies calmly. "To win your heart."

"Cloud, I'm only going to tell you this once, so listen carefully." I say, taking his hand in mine and placing his palm against my chest. The feeling of his skin against mine is almost electric, making my heart race. "This heart, my heart, beats for only you. It wants only you, it needs only you, no one and nothing else. Do you understand? Can we end this conversation here, put every fear and doubt behind us?"

"Yes…" he whispers.

"Good." I say, kiss him gently. "And Cloud, you never had to win my heart, you just had to ask for it."

I think everything turned out alright, I think the chapter feels a bit rushed though. I already have Chapter 8 mostly planned out, I just have to start writing it. Please leave some reviews and don't forget to "Like" the Facebook page I made, I want to keep everyone updated!

Until the next chapter,