To Love an Ancient 3: The Last Seven Days: An Aeris and Sephiroth Finale.

20292 Words

51 pages

Chapter 1: Death Pact

Disclaimer

Nope, I don't own Final Fantasy 7...but I sometimes adopt their kawaii bishonens! (most specifically the silvered haired kind.)

Author's Notes

Hey guys! Just to let you know, I have reached the third, and final arc of my fic!

(Btw for any new readers, I wholly recommend you to read TLAA1 and TLAA2 first, so you can understand the events of what have occurred so far.) The A/K title has now changed, so A/S remains to be the prevailing theme. It just seemed logical to break this story into three parts. Now that Kadaj is taking a backseat role, Aeris is progressing back to the original story arc. Lol, If anything, Yazoo will be making a step forward, but unfortunately, even though his character plays a pivotal role in this final arc, it is still not enough for him to play the leading man. So I can't call this A/Y! (as much as I secretly wanted to. Lol x) Coughs x Yus, Aerseph4eva will forever remain loyal to the warped shipping of A/S x LOL, despite almost being converted to a A/Y fan.

Hmm, thinking about it now.. I'm not sure how long this last arc will be. I have a feeling it will be a lot shorter than TLAA2. Still, there are lots of things to write about. Even though Meteor will fall in 7 days, I can still flesh this fic out….(does anyone remember how furiously annoying those DBZ battles were? If anyone used to watch the series, you would remember the craziness of the battle time frames. In some episodes , they would drag out a 7 min battle scene for like 5 EPISODES Lol) So don't worry A/S lovers, I still have many more chapters to write before this story is completely finito x

Oh…I also feel I need to warn you readers that there is a greater use of taboo language in this chapter. Not that I'm usually fond of potty language, but since it's the end of the world on Gaia, verbal etiquette is lost, understandably, in a desperation to survive the oncoming Apocalypse x lol

As for musical muses for this chapter, I don't know if any of you guys have been on ocremix but that site has the BEST videogame music remixes on the web! I could spend hours listening to all the ff7 pieces on that site. 'Ascension to Cosmo Canyon' and 'Sector 7 Hath Wrought The Angel' are brill. lol

Hmm… As for other musical muses today, they are rather predictable…

Original Omen Soundtrack- Ave Satani

FFVII- OWA

Donny Darko- Whom the bell tolls.

Escaflowne - A very old favourite of mine but it never gets old.

The Fountain- Together We Will Live Forever.

Anywho enough of my ramblings, and on with the fic!

0o0o0o0o0

Any man or woman who believe 'emotions' and 'feelings' to be metaphoric products of the human heart, are all very much mistaken. Whilst not possessing a human body that was wholly her own, Gaia nevertheless was a sentient being, and she could feel much joy, as she could weep much sadness. And as the Planet realised her last hope had failed her, Gaia truly feared her end. And with desperation born solely from her need to survive, Gaia secreted her last defence onto the surface of the Planet.

Five armoured xenoforms burst from the bowels of her Lifestream.

Ruby.

Sapphire.

Emerald.

Ultima…

And finally…

Diamond.

Their monstrous cries wracked the three terrains of Gaia.

And Gaia softly smiled to herself.

Her WEAPONs had been awakened.

And their one mission...

To return all human-life back to the Lifestream.

For the Planet to survive the dark attack of Xenogenesis, sacrifices needed to be made. Gaia had come to the conclusion that mankind was the most selfish race on the Planet. Mankind had the ability to take advantage of everything they touched. They polluted her seas. They raped her lands, and never once thought to give a single whit back in return. And now, with the Planet under threat by the child of Xenogenesis, mankind had to pay a penance for their greed. Now was the time for all human souls to return back to the Planet.

Gaia watched silently as her five WEAPONS unleashed themselves across her world. Ruby flew across her skies, to land in the dusky sands of the southern continent. Gaia knew the moment Sapphire skimmed across her waters, seeking out the closest city it could find to destroy. Gaia smiled softly when Emerald descended deep into her dark oceans. Being an aquatic xenoform by nature, Gaia was reassured that Emerald would successfully return all sea-life back to her core. When Gaia felt the presence of Ultima speeding across her darkening clouds, her faith in her own self defences grew. Gaia knew Ultima's glowing red eyes could target every moving life-form that lived on the surface of her Planet.

And then finally, Gaia turned her unseeing gaze towards her final WEAPON..

Unlike his elementally bound Brothers, Gaia had a specific plan for Diamond. The moment the last WEAPON left the Northern Crater, Gaia issued Diamond a specific target to destroy.

The target was a place. A polluted metropolis that bled too much spiritual power from her spiritual core.

This place… was called Midgar.

Gaia smiled triumphantly to herself. She knew none of her WEAPONS would fail her. After all, their single purpose in life was to kill, and kill they did well. Gaia realised the more spiritual life that amassed in her Lifestream, meant the greater chance she had of protecting herself from the red wrath of Meteor. Gaia cared not if the entire surface had to be sacrificed in order to survive the madness of the calamity. No monstrous child of Xenogenesis could make Gaia submit! Not even if he attacked her with the most destructive powers of the Cosmos!

As Gaia raised her vision upwards, her unseeing eyes saw a red pinprick of colour descending from the vast corners of space.

Gaia sighed quietly to herself.

It seemed Mankind's extinction was now inevitable.

Meteor was on its way.

0o0o0o0o0

Cosmo Canyon Laboratory

0o0o0o0o0

"Ho Ho Hoooo!" Bugenhagen, an elderly man of profound wisdom chuckled to himself. The old man was sitting alone, and quite comfortable in the familiar darkness of his holographic laboratory. The elderly man popped his round lenses on his nose, and gazed up at the familiar heavenly bodies of energy resonating above his head. The old astronomer sighed appreciatively in awe. Bugenhagen knew he could never tire of watching the wonders of his optical universe. Using technology created by man, Bugenhagen had seen stars expand into sizes so large, they could eclipse the Planet Gaia at least ten hundred times over! And on rare occasions, the astronomer had seen stars evolve into a beautiful catastrophe of raw colour. Against the black calmness of space, the colourful spectrum of a Supernova was a beautiful vision to behold. Its colour of destruction, born from the breath of a dying star, illuminated the entire cosmos with new shades of life. Bugenhagen always thought it was amazing, how in the starlit heavens, death did not represent the shades of sadness like it did for the people on Gaia. Instead, death was a colourful celebration of life. For each Supernova that burst across the heavens, would then give birth to new clusters of stars. And these tiny stars would shyly blink their young innocent existence against the thick timeless void of space, so that one day, they too would expand, and the cycle of death would become the father of life again.

Bugenhagen sighed pleasurably. Stargazing had always been his most favourite past time. And as the years passed by, many of the intricate constellation had been etched into his old, wise memory.

"Oh ho hooo! What do I see here?"

Peering through his little dark lenses, Bugenhagen watched a tiny red glow blink outwards from the far east of space. Assuming it was just a harmless shooting star, Bugenhagen happily laughed out sweet jollies to himself, and continued on with his pleasant stargazing. But as the red tailed meteorite began to first crash into one Planet, followed by many, many others, Bugenhagen's light chuckling began to fade away.

In all his life, Bugenhagen had never seen a meteor so hungry for blood.

As the large red rock began to expand with a bloodlust for more life, Bugenhagen's eyes widened in disbelief. The demonic red calamity carelessly destroyed each Planet it passed, never once pausing in its great journey of death. Bugenhagen raised a shaking hand to his temple when Pluto and Saturn were blown to smithereens. The old astronomer did not want to watch anymore, but he could not turn his gaze away from the violent mass murder of the planets above. It seemed death was the prevailing theme in the heavens. And as the large red meteor began to descend towards the Planet of Gaia, Bugenhagen heard Gaia's cries as if they had been born from his own heart.

The elderly man dabbed his forehead with growing anxiety.

Having lived a long life, Bugenhagen knew the destiny of all living things. He believed what was born on the Planet, would inevitably die on the Planet. And then all spirits which returned to Gaia would then return to the pool of the Lifestream. The old astronomer knew that Gaia's relentless cycle of death reassured all those living on the Planet, that their spirit would return full circle to live again, always.

But this angry Meteor falling from the skies…was a red harbinger of doom…

And it possessed a power so terrible that it could destroy Gaia completely...

With that thought, Bugenhagen's brow began to sweat with fear. The power of the red Meteor was horrendous. It fed from the spiritual life of each Planet it collided into. Bugenhagen knew that without spiritual life, Gaia would inevitably die, and then…the Planet would be no more. The elderly man shuddered to himself. When the optical illusion of Gaia was swallowed up by the blood red madness of Meteor, Bugenhagen had to switch off his machine. Immediately, the optical world of space dissolved away, to shift back into the clinical environment of an old laboratory. The astronomer shook his head and stumbled from his observatory. In the sixty years Bugenhagen had enjoyed stargazing, this was the very first time he had no desire to look up at the sky.

The elderly man stared down at his visibly quaking hands.

Having lived a long life, Bugenhagen knew he had seen many, many things. And because of this, the old astronomer rarely felt the need to fear anything.

But…

Witnessing the entire annihilation of Gaia was enough to make every hair on the astronomer's chin stand on end.

'And so…. The Planet will be no more…'

Bugenhagen lowered his gaze to the floor of his laboratory and mentally shivered.

0o0o0o0o0

Southern Terrains of Planet

0o0o0o0o0

"What the? Oi Spiky! What the hell is that up 'dere?!" Barret bellowed, as a large, dark form flew across the sky.

Cloud raised his head upwards, just in time to catch the sight of a shadow disappearing into the pale heavens above. "No idea," the blond answered calmly, before flitting his mako tainted gaze back to the ground beneath him. Without a lead of where to go, the leader of Avalanche had parked the Avalanche buggy on the western fields, allowing his team an official break while he tried to think of a plan. The blond warrior looked down at the creased map in his hands, and contemplated on where to go. The Ex-SOLDIER knew Midgar was on his far East, and Wutai was on the far west. And since there was nothing of interest to find on the Southern Continent, Cloud was quickly running out of ideas of where to go. Sephiroth had not given them any clues of where to find him, and Cloud's hopes of finding Aeris had dissolved to almost nothing.

"No idea?" Barret echoed his leader's words, as he looked up at the blue sky, wondering if the large creature would reappear again to attack them.

"Ah don't worry about such shit Barret, it was probably an oversized dragon, or some other mutated piece of whatever."

The burly gunman darted his dark eyes to a certain blond pilot, who was comfortably sprawled out on his back across the grass.

"You think so?" Barret questioned the older blond.

Cid shrugged carelessly, as he casually puffed a trademark cigarette in his mouth. " Ah, who fucking cares what it was Barret. If it didn't come down to attack us, why waste precious time thinking about random crap."

"But I've never seen any-ting 'dat BIG before," Barret bellowed, addressing his entire team, who were all seated near him.

"I have."

Barret turned his dark gaze on Red, who was calmly padding to his side. "When I was a young pup, Grandfather used to show me drawings of Protectors born of the Planet's blood. He told me that when the time came, and the end of the Planet was most imminent, the Guardians of the Planet would all return to aid Gaia. I think what we all saw now, was one of them flying over our heads."

The burly gunman stared at Red as if he had three eyes instead of one. "You're joking right Red? The Planet really has its own Guardians to protect her?"

The red beast nodded softly. "Well, that's what Grandfather used to say. Nearly all his stories came from his translations of the Chronicles of Yore. So I would not dismiss any of his words as nonsense."

Listening in of their conversation, Tifa thought now was the best time to chip her own thoughts in. "Then I guess the Planet's Guardians can't be all that bad, if they were created by Gaia to protect us, right Red?"

The red beast did not seem so sure. "These Guardians protect Gaia yes," Red agreed, as he kept his single eye on the Zangan fighter. "But, if my Grandfather's stories are correct, these Guardians are more commonly known in Ancient myths as WEAPONs. And I don't know about you, but I have never known of a weapon created on this Planet that was not made to kill or cause harm to others," Red felt his ears droop as he spoke his words. "Have you?"

The brunette felt her composure waver at the red lion's words. "So these WEAPONS are dangerous?"

Red was about to respond but Cid beat him to it. "Hey guys, I think you're all forgetting something kinda important. We all know our enemy is Sephiroth and his fuck ass powerful Black Materia, so why are we all wasting time thinking about random shit that is flying over our heads? Who fucking cares if what we saw was a WEAPON or not!? That doesn't change the fact that Sephiroth is going to destroy the world if we don't find him! Shouldn't we all be deciding on how to find that megalomaniac bastard instead of wasting time thinking about first class shit?" Again Cid's crude, but wise words could still the entire team to silence.

"Cid is right," Cloud admitted eventually, as he looked out beyond the dull horizon. To the blond warrior, the sky seemed so much darker than it had been yesterday. To him the fading light in the heavens was an ominous sign of a dark future ahead. "We all need to focus on our main target… Sephiroth, and not be distracted by old wives tales of the past…"

"I'm not so sure Cloud," Red admitted, as he lazily walked over to his leader's side. All the while, his team-mates stared at the large beast in mild confusion. "Grandfather told me how the WEAPONs protected Gaia by herding all life back into her Lifestream. I once thought WEAPONs to be myths of legend…but now… seeing that creature in the sky…" Red shivered to himself. "I am not so sure…"

"These WEAPONS appear to be omens of death," a lugubrious voice murmured to the air. Red turned his head at the Ex-Turk, who was now leaning against the door of their small, yellow buggy. Tifa shivered softly and rubbed her bare arms. The brunette could not understand why the gunman's always had to be so cryptically chilling. It seemed death was the only topic he could contribute to. Tifa mentally shuddered. At times, the gunman really unnerved her. Turning her attention from Vincent, the brunette stood to move in her leader's line of vision. When glowing blue met gentle brown, the martial artist began to speak.

"Cloud? Maybe we should go to Cosmo Canyon. Red's Grandfather might be able to tell us whether or not that thing we saw in the sky is dangerous or not. But more importantly, I think we should go… because Bugenhagen might know of something about the Black Materia… or even how to defeat Sephiroth."

The blond warrior stared calmly at his female companion, before passively turning his gaze back to the dreary horizon. Tifa felt her brow softly crinkle with worry. The brunette knew Cloud had been acting rather odd, ever since they left the small village of Gongaga. In truth, to the brunette, it felt like Cloud was becoming less like the leader of their team, and more like a drifter. Tifa tensed her lips together. Despite his seldom acerbic tongue and silent nature, the brunette knew Cloud was a kind and sensitive soul. Most people seemed to see the swordsman's silence as arrogance but the martial artist knew better.

Unfortunately, a certain wutainese ninja was unable to pick up her leader's sensitivity.

"Hey Blondie! Are you deaf, or maybe you've taken a new liking to sleeping with your eyes open? Hello? Anyone home?" Yuffie remarked loudly from her seated position on the grass. When Cloud did not turn to look at her, the ninja was awfully tempted to throw a piece of gil at his stupid, spiky head. The ninja hated being ignored. "Tifa was expecting an answer out of you. So what's your decision? Where are we all gonna do?"

Mako blue eyes wavered on the sight of the northern horizon. For reasons he could not explain, the direction of the North……it just seemed so fascinating. "North…" The blond murmured under his breath.

"What did you say? I didn't hear you. Sheesh, you are such a mental spazzo at times," the wutainese ninja commented nastily, with a harsh shake of her head.

"Yuffie!" Tifa called out angrily, reprimanding the teen with a cold glare. "Don't call Cloud such names!"

Yuffie shrugged, and made a raspberry noise at the older female, causing Tifa to frown even more at the cheeky ninja.

"Yea, I think Teef's idea is cool," Barret verbally offered, in an attempt to interrupt the war of the glaring females. The burly gunman soon realised that the blond swordsman had no intention of playing leader at this current time. Not that such matters bothered a man like Barret. The former leader of Avalanche was more than happy to reoccupy his former position, if Cloud was willing to vacate it. And with that thought in mind, Barret began issuing orders for all members of Avalanche to head back to the buggy. Cosmo Canyon was going to be their next stop. The Corelian gunman watched as Tifa and Cid entered the yellow buggy, followed by Red and Yuffie. Barret was about to head inside the yellow vehicle too, until he realised a certain blond swordsman had not even made an attempt to move. Cloud was still gloomily peering out at the lazy sky. The large gunman frowned to himself before walking over to his inert leader.

"Hey Spiky, you coming wit' us or not?" Barret's words temporarily broke the young warrior out of his docile daze.

"Y-yea," Cloud answered quietly to his large team mate, standing up slowly, and making his way towards the yellow buggy. Unconsciously, the blond felt his mako tainted eyes draw themselves back to the direction of the North. And as he looked at the sky, only one thought seemed to rise to the surface of his thoughts. The sun was bleeding out on the grey horizon. And the sight could only mean one thing. Danger was inevitable.

With a painful sigh, the blond swordsman turned his gaze from the morbid heavens, to follow Barret inside the buggy.

And all the while, dark crimson eyes watched the blond swordsman warily.

0o0o0o0o0o0

Cosmo Canyon Inn

0o0o0o0o0o0

When Avalanche finally reached the dusty red cliffs of the western continent, it was nearing sunset. Barret parked the yellow buggy outside, and Red guided everyone inside his home. As Tifa walked up the steps, she turned to address the red beast. "Red, I think you should take Cloud with you to see Bugenhagen," Tifa stated kindly, turning to the rest of her team. "We could all meet up by the Cosmo Candle later or something."

"That would be a very good idea Tifa," the red beast agreed, as he turned his head to the blond swordsman standing silently behind him. "Cloud, you still have your PHS, right?" Cloud weakly nodded and lightly patted his pocket. Red turned back to the busty brunette. "So if we need you, we will call."

Tifa nodded and watched Red and Cloud take leave to Bugenhagen's observatory. When they left her sight, she turned her gaze back towards the rest of her team mates. "Ok then guys, I think it would be a good idea if we waited for Cloud and Red at the Candle, and Oh Cid-" the brunette paused as the blond pilot walked past the Cosmo fire, ignoring every word she had just said. "Where are you going?"

"Chill, I'm just running low on my smokes. Don't worry, I will be back long before you guys even have a chance to miss me," the pilot answered with a kind smirk, before comically jogging up the stairs and towards the local Cosmo store.

Tifa shook her head sofly. Sometimes the pilot was the comic relief that Avalanche so desperately needed.

0o0o0o0o0

Spotting his Grandfather quietly snoring on a chair, Red carefully padded over to Bugenhagen's side.

"Grandfather?" The red beast said softly, as he nudged the old man's wrist with his large, cold nose. Eventually, a pair of grey eyes opened, to slowly fasten their tired gaze on a four legged creature seated before him.

"Oh Nanaki. I am old, and I have lived a very long life…" the elderly man moaned woefully, shaking his head at the large one eyed beast. "But you….you have not even reached adulthood…You are still only a pup…so young at your modest age of Forty-Eight… How can fate be so cruel to one so young…?"

"Grandfather?" Red uttered softly, as his single eye wavered with genuine concern. He had never seen his Grandfather act so meloncholy, not since his Mother had died during the Gi Tribe raids. "What did the stars show you?"

The elderly man weakly rose himself out of his wicker chair, and wearily walked towards his Cosmo laboratory. "Come inside my laboratory Nanaki, and I will show you," Bugenhagen paused to turn his tired gaze on glowing mako blue. "Of course you can come along too Cloud. This is something you need to see as well."

The blond Ex-SOLDIER nodded softly and followed the pair into the elevator. When the trio reached Bugenhagen's laboratory, both Cloud and Red watched as the elderly man glided towards his optical machine, before turning it on. Suddenly the world of the lab dissolved away, to be replaced with a black universe, bedazzled with colourful stars and planets.

"Now look to the East…to that red moving dot over there. Yes, there. Can you both see it?"

Cloud and Red turned their eyes to a red orb that was burning a long trail of death across the starry sky. Bugenhagen did not need to explain what they were both looking at, for deep down, they already knew. Cloud instinctively shuddered and took a hesitant step backwards in sudden realisation.

'Its…'

The swordsman remembered finding the Black Materia inside the Temple of the Ancients…and meeting Him. Cloud could feel the memories of that dark day coming back to haunt him…

0o0

"Now listen Cloud, once the planet is hurt,

it gathers Spirit Energy to heal the injury.

The amount of energy gathered there

depends on the size of the injury."

o

"Now tell me Cloud, what would happen

if there was an injury that threatened

the very life of the Planet?

Can you imagine how much energy

would be gathered there!?"

o

"Ha ha ha. And at the centre of that injury, will be me."

o

"By merging with all the energy of the planet.

I will become a new life form, a new existence.

When I meld with the planet…

I will cease to exist as I am now.

Only to be reborn as 'God', to rule over every soul."

o

'Behold that mural.

The Ultimate Destructive Magic

Meteor."

0o0

Cloud raised a shaking hand to his temple, as he watched the curse of the Black materia flash across the optical heavens. As the blond saw the death and destruction of the planets, his mind was consumed with an infernal madness of guilt. He knew he rightfully deserved to feel such suffering emotions. After all, Cloud knew he had been the one to hand the most deadliest weapon in the universe to Sephiroth!

And now Sephiroth had awakened the Black Materia…

Meteor was heading straight to their Planet…

Which meant……

Everyone was going to… DIE!

And it was… ALL. HIS. DAMN. FAULT!

As Cloud watched the trailing flame of Meteor soar towards their solar system, one thought assaulted his mind.

'FUCK!'

"By the speed that Meteor is falling…I would predict mankind has no more than seven days before the Planet is no more…" Bugenhagen admitted sadly.

Red turned shocked eyes on his Grandfather, but Cloud could not turn his gaze from the dark red nightmare moving across the sky. He was completely wracked with guilt. 'Why ?….Why did I give Sephiroth the Black Materia?' The swordsman's hands trembled, as he watched Meteor blow Pluto to smithereens, followed by Saturn, Jupiter, Mercury….Venus…

"Is there no way to stop it?" Cloud asked in a very quiet voice, in an attempt to hide the shakiness of his tenor. "I mean, since Meteor was summoned by the Black Materia, is there not a way to stop the summoning from reaching this Planet?"

Grey eyes snapped towards the direction of the blond swordsman. "The Black Materia you say?" Now Bugenhagen understood what was happening in the heavens. "So this Meteor… has been drawn here, by the Black Materia's call? But who could be so foolish as to summon the most destructive power in the Cosmos to Gaia?"

And so Cloud explained what happened inside the Temple of the Ancients.

When he finished, the elderly man had turned very pale.

"Bugenhagen, if we defeat Sephiroth, will this stop the course of Meteor?" The swordsman needed to know if there was a chance to save everyone.

"I don't know," Bugenhagen admitted wearily, as he turned the optical machine off and guided everyone back inside the elevator. The blond mentally sighed to himself. "So you say we have seven days left, and then it's all game over?"

Bugenhagen nodded sadly. "Meteor will erase all life on this Planet. Even if Gaia manages to survive the attack, all of mankind will need to die in order to save her."

'Fuck,' the blond mentally cursed again. He brought a gloved hand over his eyes, in an attempt to conceal the guilt ridden fear that was glowing in his blue mako depths. As the trio reached the bottom level of the elevator, the blond felt reluctant to move. His mind was frozen to the horror that there was only seven days left before the end of the world. "Cloud, I think you need to go and tell the others," Red eventually admitted to his silent, blond companion.

"Yea," Cloud muttered under his breath. 'Not that them knowing would change the outcome. Hmm, maybe it would be better if no-one knew about this other than Red, Bugenhagen and I. If nothing can be changed to stop the inevitable….why should we spread the bad news? Wouldn't it be better to allow mankind to maintain their ignorance in the last days of their existence, rather than admit the truth, and prolong their despair?'

The warrior's eyes shadowed over with a growing shame. He had no idea what to do. He turned his gaze towards Bugenhagen who had moved himself from the elevator and was now seated in his favourite chair. The blond had also noticed Red, who had positioned himself at his Grandfather's side. Despite the prediction of the inevitable Apocalypse, Red was still loyally drawn to family. Cloud sighed to himself and turned his gaze inward. The blond knew Red was right. His friends needed to know what was happening to the Planet. But not just his friends…the entire world needed to know of the oncoming calamity which was to befall them.

'But…how can I burden everyone with the news of the end?'

'…Knowing the Planet only has seven days left….'

'The truth would bring madness to all…'

Cloud felt his eyes waver as his thought about his beautiful, dark haired companion. He had no idea how Tifa would take the news of the oncoming Apocalypse. Throughout the years he had known her, his childhood companion had been his secret strength to push him through his most difficult challenges of life. Cloud did not think he had the courage to admit the truth. That…because of him, in seven days…she was going to die. The swordsman's eyes darkened with guilt and shame. If Cloud had the choice, he wished he could conceal the truth of the Apocalypse from everyone. The blond always believed it was better for man to live in ignorance, rather than writhe in the madness of helpless despair.

'But still….'

'This may not be the end... There is still a small thread of hope… If I find a way to kill Sephiroth, the summon of Meteor may stop, and then the Planet might be saved from complete annihilation…'

'But…'

'How can I kill Sephiroth, when I don't even know where to find him!'

'…….'

Thinking about the future was getting him nowhere. And with only seven days to go before Meteor arrived, Cloud realised now was the time to act. But he knew he could not act without having a plan. Sighing painfully, the blond slowly made his way towards the entrance of Bugenhagen's home. He knew he had to tell Avalanche the truth… he just did not know how he was going to do so. Giving one final look at Red and his Grandfather's sorrowful features, the blond turned and left.

0o0

The blond leader of Avalanche found the rest of his team-mates seated around the crackling flame of the Cosmo Candle. When they all turned to look at him, Cloud had to fight the urge to run away. He forced himself to be strong. And so, with a very heavy heart, Cloud sat before his team-mates and told them about the inevitable Apocalypse.

When the blond finished his morbid speech, surprisingly it was Vincent who broke the uncomfortable silence with a cold and murky laugh. "So it seems the WEAPON we all saw today was a genuine omen of death."

Nobody could say anything to deny the truth of the dark gunman's words.

"I guess it was," Cloud agreed quietly, as he watched the flickering flames dance before him.

Crimson eyes glanced over the fire to stare at his pale haired leader. "Cloud, do you believe if we defeat Sephiroth, that Meteor would stop its course?"

"I hope so…" The blond answered uneasily. "Killing Sephiroth is the only hope we have of saving the Planet."

The entire Avalanche team fell silent. It wasn't long before a familiar four legged companion reached their group. "Hey," Cloud greeted the fiery beast who appeared just as dejected as he felt. Red nodded in his leader's direction, before finding a place to sit between Cid and Yuffie. "While you were gone, I spoke to Grandfather about what we saw in the sky today. Now that Meteor is on its way, Grandfather is sure that Gaia has unleashed all her WEAPONS to protect herself against the Calamity.."

"Protect?" Tifa voiced softly. "So they are harmless to humans?"

Red shook his head. "With the Apocalypse now looming over our heads, the WEAPONS will see any living form on the Planet as a potential threat to her survival. It does not help that Shinra has caused more harm than good to the surface of the Planet. In truth, I would not be surprised if Gaia sees humans who use mako energy as an equal threat to Sephiroth." Red's ears flattened themselves against the sides of his head. "So you see, we are in danger of both Gaia's WEAPONS and Sephiroth's Meteor…this is truly a terrible day for us all…"

Each member of Avalanche bowed their heads. All their thoughts of hope had been lost inside the bleak reality of death.

"So what should we do now?" Barret asked after a moment. His voice was uncharacteristically quiet.

"Maybe we should all get some rest." Tifa offered softly. Sleep however was the last thing on her mind. Nevertheless, the brunette tried to hide her loss of hope with thoughts of weak optimism. "You never know, maybe if we all sleep on this problem, one of us might wake up tomorrow with an idea on how to stop the Meteor from falling."

Cid scoffed to himself. "Haha, fat fucking chance of that Tifa. There's more chance of us all dying in our sleep tonight!"

The brunette dipped her head down and bit her lip.

And then a uncomfortable silence settled itself around the Cosmo Candle.

"I guess Tifa is right. We should all turn in for the night…" Cloud mumbled eventually, as he lifted his miserable mako eyes from the flickering fire, to look up at the night sky. "Constantly thinking and worrying about a problem we can't fix is not going to help any of us, nor will it change anything. Hopefully, with enough rest, the morning light might lead us all towards a sign of hope." The blond Ex-SOLDIER shook his head, before standing up and making his way towards the Cosmo Inn.

Cloud knew he was not going to rest a single wink this night.

0o0

Cosmo Canyon Inn

0o0

"Reunion.."

Blue eyes tainted with mako power flashed open in the darkness. Bare-chested and sweating, Cloud bolted his body upwards into a sitting position. The young warrior had no idea what had just happened. Had he been dreaming? Or was it a premonition? The Ex-SOLDIER raised a shaking hand to his temple. His mind had been assaulted with images of death. His head had envisioned a world of white corrupted by the blood of mass murder. The warrior's body shuddered and his mind despaired. Whatever he had just seen was irrelevant, for now Cloud had an unconscious urge to move.

"I need to go…" He murmured to himself, as he moved out of the small cot in the Cosmo Inn, to then stand up in the darkness of the room. "…to the North…" The warrior knew his feet were not moving on their own accord now. He was now a puppet of fate with no will to call his own. He had to go. He knew he could no longer stay. And so the blond Ex-SOLDIER began to methodically dress himself, while the rest of his team mates slumbered on around him. Finally strapping his great white broadsword onto his back, the golden haired warrior realised he was finally ready to leave. And then, moving like a silent shadow in the night, Cloud passed his slumbering team-mates and left the Cosmo Inn.

In the darkness shrouding the canyon, crimson eyes observed a blond swordsman lumbering past the flickering Cosmo Candle. When the dark watcher realised Cloud was heading towards the main exit of town, the dark gunman decided to make his presence known. Somersaulting down before the now stunned swordsman, Vincent Valentine stopped the blond warrior in his tracks.

"Where are you going Cloud?"

The blond warrior froze, to stare up at a tall, dark gunman, whose crimson mantle was flapping ominously in the wind. "I have to go now Vincent," Cloud voiced calmly, as his mako tainted orbs turned towards the direction of the North. The gunman gazed at the leader of Avalanche in calm curiosity.

"Go where?" Vincent asked him quietly.

"I just need to go," The blond shrugged and bypassed the dark gunman. Vincent blinked slowly.

'Is Cloud sleepwalking?'

"Cloud, where do you need to go in the dead of night?" Vincent murmured, blocking the blond's path yet again.

Within the darkness of the canyon, Cloud felt his resolve begin to waver. "I need to go to Him Vincent."

"To Him?" Vincent felt his brow furrow softly. The vision of violent mako green eyes flashed in his memory. "You mean to Sephiroth…?"

The blond weakly nodded. Now he was wavering on his feet. For reasons he could not understand, the warrior was beginning to feel very ill.

'W-what is happening to me?'

The Ex-Turk furrowed his brows in calm confusion. "Cloud, how do you even know where Sephiroth is? Is he nearby?" The gunman frowned to himself. Vincent knew his demonic instincts could not pick up the presence of Lucrecia's son anywhere nearby.

The blond shook his head and raised a shaky hand towards the light of the moon, who was gleaming a cold white shadow across the dark heavens above . "I just know Sephiroth is out there…and I feel him inside of me. …He's been waiting for me…And I must go to him."

The blond warrior raised a hand to his temple, and shuddered dangerously on his feet. The migraines were back again, and getting so much worse.

'Reunion.'

Cloud dropped down to the ground on his knees. He did not know was happening. He had never felt so helpless.

'Am…I… losing my mind..?'

'My Reunion is at hand…'

'What…are..'

'Come to the North puppet and you will find me…'

'These voices…'

'You want to find me, don't you?'

"…in my head?" The blond murmured through gritted teeth.

'Hahaha, but then I forget…you were always the weakest, weren't you Cloud…?'

"Cloud," The gunman was suddenly at his leader's side. "Are you alright?" he asked uneasily, as he used his human hand to touch the blond's tense shoulder.

The blond warrior shook his head weakly, and tried to stand up. "Do you not hear the voices?" Cloud murmured to the black moonlit sky. "I can hear them in my head… And they are telling me to go to him…that is why I must go…now.. to the North…..to the N-North…" The blond struggled to his feet and began to weakly walk forward. He had barely taken three steps when his legs buckled out beneath him. When Cloud's eyes rolled into the back of his skull, Vincent swiftly dashed forward to catch the blond. The gunman winced sharply at the weight of the unconscious swordsman in his arms. Even though Cloud had a tiny frame, the broadsword strapped on his back was far from light. Vincent was amazed how the young warrior could wield such a heavy and cumbersome blade on the field, let alone in battle. The sword was monstrously heavy. The Ex-Turk knew he would be severely handicapped if he carried a burdensome weapon around with him all the time.

Releasing a melancholy sigh, Vincent carefully placed the blond down onto the dark and dusty ground. The gunman truly had no idea what had happened to the young warrior. The only conclusion Vincent could come to, was that Cloud had became mentally crippled, due to the burden of Sephiroth's madness and the Calamity of Meteor. Not that the gunman could blame the teen for breaking down. Vincent knew in the past, he might have been afraid of the Planet's impending doom too. But now, with his beloved Lucrecia long gone from his world, the Apocalypse's bittersweet promise of silent oblivion seemed a tempting source of freedom for a dark soul such as Vincent Valentine. To him, Death was a escape from the pains of living without her. Eternal oblivion would free him from all his sorrow…his suffering…and loneliness…

Vincent sighed wearily. He knew he was the only man on the Planet who would welcome death with open arms. Life no longer possessed a real meaning to him anymore…

Shaking his head at his own morbid thoughts, the gunman's attention was drawn back to the unconscious Ex-SOLDIER laying before him. Under the light of the moon, Cloud looked so young..

So fragile...

The gunman's eyes wavered softly, before ascending his gaze upwards to stare at the cold moon above. On a rare night, when his mind was not mourning the past, Vincent sometimes paused to ponder about the purpose of the moon. The gunman wondered what the moon felt when she stared down at a Planet, which gave birth to so many lost and broken stories. Vincent had always perceived the moon to be a silent spectator, a cold maiden of the night, who watched the midnight activities of men who were unable to find inner peace in the calm stillness of the dark. But…as Vincent gazed up at the cold and white lonely orb, the gunman realised a dark secret about the white mistress of the sky. Something no one else seemed to see but him.

The moon was a false white sun.

A shadow of false hope.

In truth, the moon could not create her own real light at all. Instead she was a cruel parody of her brother the sun. Her cold white gaze did not possess the gift to strengthen, nor grant light to a world shrouded by the darkness of man.

The gunman chuckled mirthlessly to himself.

Now it seemed all too fitting for lunacy to be named after the Goddess of the moon. Unlike the sun, the moon could not offer any real warmth, and yet man was still drawn to her cool white light above. Vincent felt his lips curl upwards. It seemed all men who looked at the moon were fools…for lunacy was the only gift a moon could offer. For in the immense darkness of space, one tiny moon meant nothing in the vastness of the black. The moon did not possess the power to guide any man towards the hopes of a brighter future. And yet, many men, just like himself, still looked up to her night sky. Man was still drawn in by the fake and glimmering light in the darkness.

Vincent chuckled humourlessly to himself, before reaching down to drag the unconscious body of Cloud back towards the direction of Cosmo Inn. As the gunman gently pulled the blond along, he mildly wondered about his leader's current obsession with the sky.

'The shadow of the moon seems to favour the way of the North…there must be a reason for this..'

The gunman smiled to himself.

The answer seemed obvious.

"The North will probably be where the madness of Death begins…"

0o0o0o0

Northern Crater

0o0o0o0

As the Lifestream burst out from a deep chasm inside Gaea's cliffs, two black clothed figures were spat out and onto the rough terrains inside the Northern Crater. Aeris cringed weakly, and carefully brought herself onto to her knees, coughing up clogs of water from her throat. After diving into the seas of the Sanctuary, and travelling through the glowing tunnels of the lifestream, the brunette's entire body was now completely soaked through. Despite her thick leather garbs, Aeris could not stop shivering. She raised a trembling hand to her face, and brushed her dark, wet bangs from her vision. It was so cold, and she could not stop shaking.

Instinctively, her large green eyes darted to her side where a silver haired teen was sprawled facedown on the dark ground beside her. If it was not for the slight rise and fall of his chest, the flowergirl might have believed the unconscious boy to be dead! Ignoring the pain of her sore muscles, the brunette crawled over to Kadaj, and called out his name. But the youth did not awaken. The flowergirl shuddered with growing worry. When Kadaj was taken over by Sephiroth, Aeris knew that Loz had knocked him unconscious to protect her. Because of this, the brunette was terribly afraid of shaking the teen awake, lest she cause further harm to his injured skull.

Aeris gnawed her lip anxiously.

Another thought troubled her too.

The brunette did not know what she would do if Kadaj woke up with His eyes staring right back at her.

The brunette shook her head.

She had to stop focussing on her worries, and instead draw her mind back to the reality of what she had accomplished.

'To save Kadaj I…I overcame my fears…'

'I dived into the water…and let the currents guide me…'

'Into the veins of the lifestream…'

'And now…'

'I'm back on the surface of the Planet.'

'I got Kadaj out of the Sanctuary…'

'But… now, I don't know where to go…'

'…or what to do..'

The flowergirl's instincts advised her to wait for Yazoo. She really hoped he was doing ok against his Brother Loz. She did not want to imagine the horror the gunman was experiencing having to fight a member of his own family. Aeris could only pray for the safety of both warriors.

Drawing her attention back to the unconscious teen on the ground, the brunette knew she had to tend to Kadaj. Carefully bringing the teen's head onto her lap, Aeris felt tears rise to the corners of her eyes when she saw rusted flecks of blood staining the back of the teen's silvery head.. Seeing the young warrior so weak and in pain was breaking her heart. When she stroked the teen's pale face with long and gentle fingers, the brunette felt her gentle heart tremble with sorrow. Kadaj did not deserve any of this, and Aeris mentally despaired when she thought about Sephiroth's dark desires. For Sephiroth to wish death on a child to feed his ascension to godhood only justified the truth of the Planet's words.

Before…Aeris never wanted to believe the words of her Mother Ifalna. But now…seeing Kadaj wounded in her arms, reality was staring her right in the face. The flowergirl could not deny the words of the Planet any longer. Aeris knew she had been a fool to think he could be redeemed by mere words alone. But her foolish love for Him had blinded her from the cold and brutal truth.

'I have lost him to the madness…'

The brunette's eyes quivered with grief and shame. Aeris knew she did not possess the power to save an angel wrought of evil. She could speak no words which could bring Him back to the light. The flowergirl knew at one time, she might have been able to fight Sephiroth's darkness if he possessed the warm, beating heart of a human….but …that was no longer the case. Aeris knew she was unable to fight a man who bore the cold beating heart of a Monster!

Aeris knew she could no longer delude herself of the truth…

She had to accept the cold and cruel fact of life…

Sephiroth…

He did not possess the emotional capacity to love anyone, or anything.

He could only…

Hate….

Hurt…

Harm…

And Destroy…

And with that painful realisation, Aeris bowed her head over Kadaj and wept.

0o0

Aeris did not know how long she waited inside the dark cave when a large gush of Lifestream burst out from the dark chasm before her. Her wide eyes turned even wider, when a dark form flew out of the gushing green, to crash down solidly on the cold, black ground beside her. At the sight of familiar black leather and long silvery hair, the brunette instinctively began to smile with relief, until she realised something was certainly not right with the unusually inert gunman.

"Yazoo?"

At the first sight of crimson, Aeris felt all blood rush from her face, and her eyes quivered in horror.

She did not know what traumatised her more.

The blood that was quickly pooling around the unconscious gunman!

Or..

The sword that was impaled through his chest!

The sight of both violent horrors caused the brunette to scream out bloody murder. "Oh my God! Yazoo!" Aeris hastily slipped Kadaj off her lap and rushed over to the heavily bleeding gunman. She could not believe it. Two blades were jutting out of his skin. Her wide eyes flitted up to the warrior's pale and lifeless features. The brunette brought her hand over her mouth and began to visibly shake in terror.

'Yazoo..'

He can't be…'

'Is he….?'

'Dead?'

Aeris shakily removed the dark blindfold from the gunman's face. When the dark fabric was brushed aside, Aeris stared at the warrior's closed lids, or more specifically his silvery lashes, which were painting soft filigree shadows of weakness across his pale white skin. Biting her lip in apprehension, Aeris very fearfully placed two fingers to the column of Yazoo's pale throat. She searched for a sign of hope that life had not left his bleeding form. Tears blossomed down her face when she felt an uneven pulse, albeit weak, palpitating beneath her pale fingertips. The brunette trembled with relief. But her scared green eyes caught the crimson gleam of two bloodied blades, and her relief was chased away with rising horror. Aeris had no idea what to do. The brunette knew she could not risk pulling the sword out of the gunman's chest. She could not dare. For she knew if she did, Yazoo would very likely bleed to death…

"Ugh. Shit it hurts… My head hurts like a fucking bitch.."

Hearing a certain familiar voice, Aeris visibly jumped in surprise. She whipped her head around to stare into the bloodshot eyes of Kadaj. When the young warrior realised who was staring at him, all his dry cursing stopped. "M-mother?" The teen's eyes wavered, as he tried to see the dark haired beauty before him, but his vision was drastically failing him. For reasons he could not understand, he could see five blurry figures of his Mother sat before him. The teen grabbed his head and groaned in pain. Aeris felt her heart pang at the sight of the teen's suffering and quickly embraced the youth to her chest. She shakily smiled at the teen in her arms, relieved to know that Kadaj was now here with her and not Him. But her smile did not last long. And as the teen blearily stared up at her in weak confusion, Aeris suddenly had the urge to cry again. "Kadaj…Your Brother..-Yazoo.. He is behind me and he's," Aeris had to close her eyes. "-he's-very badly hurt. I-I don't know if he will make it."

"Huh?" The teen blinked. His concussion was not helping him to make sense of the words that were coming from his Mother's mouth. He was sure his Mother had said something about Yazoo being behind her. And so Kadaj struggled to look over his Mother's shoulder. When he did, it did not matter that his brain was pulsing a terrible rhythm of pain. Any strong-willed warrior could look past the physicality of pain when their minds witnessed a vision so horrendous.

Inescapable crimson filled his blurry vision.

And the teen's face vaulted in white horror.

"Big Brother…" Kadaj's voice wavered weakly. Despite his blurry vision failing him, the young warrior could see Yazoo laying on his side, unconscious, and bleeding out all his life blood across the cold, stone floor.

The teen's eyes dilated at the sight of two viper blades of an all too familiar dual sword, speared right through his Brother's torso!

'Souba?'

'Why is Souba in Yazoo?'

Forgetting his own pains of delirium, Kadaj painfully crawled over to his wounded, older Brother. "Brother?" the teen voiced weakly, as he gently shook the gunman's arm in an attempt to rouse him. "Wake up Brother. Wake up."

The teen shook him a little more.

But the gunman did not move.

Kadaj felt a new source of fear grip his chest.

"Come on, Brother, this isn't funny now. I know you are much stronger than this." The teen shook the gunman a little harder. For reasons he could not understand, Kadaj felt a icy trail of panic seize his chest. Suddenly, Kadaj was finding it very difficult to draw breath. 'W-what is this feeling inside me?' The teen had never experienced such a powerful feeling of fear for anyone other than his beloved Mother. But as Kadaj watched more of his Brother's life blood spread out across the ground between them, the young warrior felt an all too familiar sting of tears, threatening to blur his vision.

The teen was getting desperate now. He was beginning to get very upset. "Yazoo, wake up!" He yelled in his face. But the gunman remained still as death, and the teen could only fear the worst. "Oh just move you damn lazy fuck!" The teen cried out in desperate frustration, violently shaking his older Brother. But no matter what Kadaj did, the long haired warrior did not awaken.

Giving the gunman one final shake, the teen tearfully watched as Yazoo's lifeless face lolled down to one side, shrouding his facial features in the dark shadows of his long, pale hair.

Realising he possessed no power to rouse his Brother, Kadaj turned wide and wavering eyes onto his Mother. When a single tear trickled down his face, Aeris felt her own heart crumple with pain. "Brother isn't waking up Mother. Why Mother? Why won't Yazoo wake up?"

Aeris embraced the young teen. Tears were slipping down her face to land on top of the young teen's head. Like Kadaj, the brunette could only assume the worst. And as the flowergirl watched another splash of blood drip from Souba, Aeris closed her eyes and violently shuddered in pain.

"D-do you think Yazoo will die Mother?" Kadaj voice wavered quietly, unable to conceal the nervousness of his own voice. Aeris nearly choked on her own tears when she heard the teen's heartbreaking question. The brunette held Kadaj even tighter against her body. She knew he was shaking just as much as her. She could feel his fear for his Brother as if it was her own. "I don't know Kadaj," Aeris murmured brokenly, causing more tears to slip down her face. "I just don't know."

"But I don't want Yazoo to die Mother…" Kadaj whispered weakly, as he tearfully stared back at his older Brother. The teen had never seen his Big Brother so badly wounded before. His fingers trembled around his Mother's waist. Aeris bit her lip and brushed her lips on top of the teen's head. "Nor do I Kadaj…nor do I."

0o0

A bawling Remnant and sobbing flowergirl were the sounds that awoke Yazoo from his dark and painful slumber. Despite the delirious pain consuming every sense in his mind, the gunman forced himself to open his eyes, to then blearily stare up at the crying pair beside him. Lost in their own sorrow, neither Kadaj nor Aeris seemed to be aware of his awakening. The pale warrior weakly twisted his lips with growing distaste. "To cry like that, you two…are truly… pathetic," Yazoo paused, and hissed viciously in pain. By the Gods his shoulder was killing him! The pale gunman ignored the two wide pairs of eyes that had now latched themselves onto his bleeding person. Yazoo was more concerned in trying to get himself into a sitting position, but he was failing badly. With Kadaj's sword in his shoulder, it was restraining all movement on the right side of his torso. When his mako tainted eyes flitted upwards, he was now aware that Aeris and Kadaj had stopped sobbing, but now their eyes were glinted with new tears of relief.

"Why is everyone around me turning into weak cry-baby Lozzes?" At the thought of his elder Brother, Yazoo felt his mind darken with shame at his own words. 'Forgive me Brother…but I was not strong enough to protect you.'

And then the emotional damn broke.

"Yazoo!" Aeris and Kadaj cried out in gleeful unison, as they rushed towards to embrace the wounded gunman, but Yazoo shakily held a hand up to keep them both away.

"Big Brother…" Kadaj uttered weakly, as his blurry vision stared at the bloody mess that was his Brother. Even though his vision was damaged from his concussion, Kadaj was still aware that his older Brother was very badly hurt. "Let me help you."

"I-I'm fine," Yazoo murmured carelessly, ignoring the flowergirl and his Brother's apparent look of disbelief.

"That's bullshit Brother," Kadaj exclaimed, while Aeris nodded beside him. "You are bleeding out everywhere."

"Kadaj… shut. up," Yazoo groaned in pain, and tried to sit up again to no success. Souba was paralysing his right side completely. The gunman realised that if he wanted to move, the sword had to go. And with that thought in mind, Yazoo grinned weakly to himself. With a violent grimace, the gunman moved his left arm behind his back to then slowly and rather painfully extract the twin blade from his wounded torso. As he pulled, crimson pain pooled down his chest, staining his pale skin and mixing with the dark leather of his jacket. But the wet and wounded warrior paid it no need. When he successfully removed the sword, Yazoo released a nervous breath, and held the twin blade out in front of him with a weak and shaky arm.

Raising his pain tainted orbs to meet the horrified faces of Kadaj and Aeris, the gunman forced himself to faintly smile at them both. "You forgot your sword Little Brother." Yazoo murmured weakly, as he threw the bloodied weapon at the teen's feet, before clutching his open wound with his left hand.

Kadaj gaped at Yazoo in awe and disbelief. He ignored Souba at his feet and watched in horror as Yazoo collapsed back to the bloodied ground.

"Yazoo!" Kadaj exclaimed softly, as he rushed over to his wounded sibling. "Are you alright?"

"I will be fine Kadaj," Yazoo answered wearily, as his eyes opened and closed softly. "…I just…need…a moment to rest…"

The young teen frowned. "You better not die on me Yazoo. If you do, I will kill you myself."

The gunman smiled and closed his eyes slowly. That line was something he would have expected to hear from Loz…

Loz…

"Yazoo…?" Aeris asked softly

Even with his eyes closed, Yazoo was aware that the brunette had knelt herself at his just like Kadaj.

"Where is Loz?"

When Yazoo heard the flowergirl's words, he contemplated on not answering her. But when Kadaj asked the same question moments after, the older male knew he could never deny his younger Brother anything.

"Loz won't be coming with us," Yazoo admitted quietly, as he opened his eyes to look at the two individuals knelt beside him. Hearing his words, Aeris eyes welled up with new tears of sorrow. The sight of them caused the gunman to turn his gaze away from her. Yazoo could not comprehend why a stranger could weep over someone they did not properly know. Aeris had no close relation with Loz so her emotional response to his death seemed highly inappropriate. In the past, the brunette's fake sadness for his older Brother would have angered him, but Yazoo knew he did not have the energy to waste on such a useless female. The gunman knew he needed to focus his mind on only two factors.

1) Escape.

2) Healing

Yazoo realised they all had to go.

"Kadaj be useful and help me up," the bleeding warrior murmured to his younger sibling. At any other time, Kadaj would have argued back at Yazoo for demanding anything of him in such a callous tone, but as things were so dire, Kadaj did exactly what his older Brother said. When Kadaj helped Yazoo stand up, Aeris nearly had a heart attack when the gunman wavered dangerously on his feet. It looked like he was going to fall again. But Kadaj was at his Brother's side, kindly maintaining his balance. When the gunman was confident enough to stand on his feet, Yazoo ushered the teen away from him, and Kadaj did so, albeit reluctantly. Holding his wounded shoulder with his left hand, Yazoo stumbled past the brunette and away from the deep crevasse where the lifestream roared beneath them. Both Kadaj and Aeris watched in mutual confusion when Yazoo stumbled towards a knocked over black motorcycle that neither Kadaj nor she had seen in their neighbouring vicinity.

'Of course we didn't see it, because we were both too scared of Yazoo dying.'

Pulling the bike upright with a weak grimace, Yazoo looked at the black machine before his mako tainted eyes caught the sight of Kadaj's inventory bag dangling off the handle. The gunman's eyes glowed in appreciation. Grabbing the dark satchel off the bike, the pale warrior planted Kadaj's bag on the seat of the bike before searching through the contents of it. It wasn't long before Yazoo found exactly what he had been looking for. Holding the pale green orb to his face, Yazoo eyed the crystallised source of curative power between two gloved fingers. In his current condition, Yazoo knew he did not possess the strength to summon even the weakest materia spell. He cursed his physical condition, before darting his mako tainted eyes on his younger Brother who was blearily looking in his direction.

"Catch Kadaj," Yazoo remarked calmly, as he calmly threw the green Restore materia at his younger Brother. The teen moved his gloved hands out to catch the green orb…

And missed it completely!

The gunman blinked in surprise when his usually adept brother fumbled his fingers in the air. The small green stone bounced to the dark ground, once, twice, three times, to then eventually roll to a dangerous stop by the dark crevasse, where the Lifestream continued to rage below.

Yazoo turned his eyes up at Kadaj.

"I'm really sorry Brother," the teen apologised as he grasped his head in pain. "My...brain hurts too much to see, do, or cast anything.. I'm sorry."

Yazoo gritted his teeth in irritation. He knew it was not Kadaj's fault that Loz had given him a pretty bad concussion. Still this knowledge was not a help to him. The gunman turned angry cold eyes to the flower maiden standing at the young teen's side. "You can still use Materia, right? Or are you mentally disabled as well?"

Aeris stared back at Yazoo as if he had said something most rude. "Of course I can!" And to prove her point, the brunette snatched the orb from the ground and began chanting the strongest healing spell she could possibly manage. Soon wave upon wave of healing energy settled over their group. Instantly Kadaj and Yazoo felt some of their vitality return to them. Nevertheless, despite the cure spell, Yazoo knew his wound had not stopped bleeding, and Kadaj's mind had not stopped pulsing in pain.

"I'm sorry, that is the best I can do," Aeris apologised, realising that her energy had reached an all time low. All her running inside the Sanctuary had nearly drained her of all her curative magicks.

Yazoo sent the brunette a dark look before wearily shaking his head. "You… are completely worthless," The gunman grumbled to himself, ignoring Kadaj's cry of rage, before leaping on the large, dark motorcycle. The wound in his shoulder was still painfully drawing attention to itself, but Yazoo knew he could not do anything about it for now. Starting the engine quickly, the gunman turned to the pair staring at him. "Get on, both of you. We need to go."

The brunette blinked at the gunman in surprise. "But you are still hurt," Aeris replied weakly, as she walked up to the dark cycle. "Yazoo, you shouldn't ride if you are still bleeding…"

"It doesn't matter whether I am bleeding or not. There is no time ," Yazoo answered in a tense tone. "We all need to get out of here. Since Kadaj is concussed and you cannot drive, that leaves only me. And unless you want Sephiroth to catch up with us, I highly recommend we get away from the Crater as quickly as we can."

Aeris shivered. As always, Yazoo was right. She weakly nodded at him and allowed Kadaj to help her up on the bike while he sat himself behind her. Now sandwiched between the two leather clad warriors, Aeris gulped uneasily. The last time she sat on a bike, she made a promise to herself never to ride with Yazoo ever again. As Yazoo began to rev the engine, Aeris realised the last time she said that, she had lied to herself.

And then they were off!

The bike ride was a stuff of nightmares. If Aeris thought her first experience riding with Yazoo was terrible, her second experience was almost eclipsing the screaming horrors of the first. Yazoo drove through the Northern Crater as if a banshee was biting at their heels. He sacrificed every ounce of grace for relentless speed. Aeris' black gloved fingers instinctively dug themselves around the gunman's waist. She heard the gunman grunt in pain, and the brunette felt almost guilty for causing the wounded warrior more harm. But she had to cling onto him because she did not want to fall off! From behind her, Aeris could feel Kadaj's arms wrapped around her own waist, much like hers were wrapped around Yazoo's. Aeris knew there was no space between them for modesty nor personal space. As the walls of the Northern Cave blurred past her vision, the brunette turned her gaze forward, before resting her forehead against the gunman's back. And then, Aeris closed her eyes, and tried to focus on anything, other than the thought of vomiting.

0o0

When a gust of blistery wind clipped her face, the flowergirl opened her eyes, and realised that Yazoo had driven them out of the dark cave and straight into a snowy blizzard. Aeris snapped her eyes shut as a thick glob of white temporarily blinded her vision. The snow was falling heavily down around them, and did not look like it would stop anytime soon.

As the motorbike began a vertical scale down the walls of Gaea's cliff, Aeris clung to Yazoo for all she was worth. Impending death was written across her features. Sensing her Mother's fear, Kadaj tried to console her. The brunette felt the young teen squeeze her middle in a comforting gesture, temporarily distracting her from their dangerous drive. The moment Kadaj's hot breath blew the side of her side, Aeris felt her attention momentarily withdrawn from the horror of her death descent, and more towards the enamoured puzzle that could only be Kadaj. "Don't worry Mother, everything is gonna be alright," he shouted in her ear. Kadaj knew he had to speak loudly, to fight the sound of the thrashing winds and the roaring engine of their motorcycle. "You already know I will always protect you. And I'm sure Yazoo will too. Please trust us Mother."

Aeris closed her eyes. She did not have to think about trust. Yazoo had long since won her trust the moment he had saved her from falling to her death on Gaea's cliffs. Kadaj on the other hand had grown on her ever since they journeyed through the forests of the Northern continent. But despite the trust she felt for both warriors, Aeris could not stop feeling afraid. Even when they reached the bottom of Gaea's cliff and their ride became more horizontal, the brunette shuddered with fear.

"!"

When Yazoo swore aloud, Aeris felt her heart leap up in fear. Suddenly with no warning, the gunman pulled their bike to a sudden halt in the snow "We've ran out of petrol…" Yazoo cursed loudly, as the snowy storm continued to angrily blow over their heads. Raising a gloved hand to block the falling white flakes from his vision, Yazoo's mako tainted eyes surveyed the white expanse before him. The gunman thought they could have at least make it to the first town. But he had overestimated the capability of the motorbike. It seemed the vehicle was not made to carry three riders. And now they were all stranded on the white terrains of the Great Glacier.

'No petrol?' Aeris turned horrified eyes on Yazoo.

"Guess we will have to walk then," Kadaj stated calmly, as he sluggishly dropped off the back of the bike. His head was still throbbing a violent tune of nausea. The blurry bike ride had not helped his whirling mental condition. Nevertheless, despite his suffering, Kadaj gently helped his Mother off the cycle and onto the crisp snow. The teen was ready to aid his wounded older Brother, but Yazoo slipped off the bike effortlessly, before removing all the equipment he had stored in the bike's inventory. Yazoo threw Kadaj his bag of equipment, followed by Aeris' half frozen clothes.

"So…where do we go?" Aeris asked quietly to the pale gunman. The warrior did not answer her. He simply looked Southwards and Aeris squinted her eyes to see any colour or figure in the distance. But it was hopeless. It did not matter where she looked. Snow was all she could see. Everything was pure white. She could barely see her own hand in front of her, and to prove her own mental theory, the brunette raised her left gloved hand to her vision. Suddenly, her left hand was drawn from her face, and the brunette blinked in surprise. Her lips lilted into a gentle smile when she realised Kadaj had kindly latched her leather clad fingers in his own pale ones. It appeared that Kadaj had no intention of losing his Mother in the snowy blizzard. The brunette's eyes then experienced another unexpected surprise when her other hand was snatched from her right side. Aeris turned her gaze downwards to look at the dark gloved hand held tightly against her own. Her cheeks flushed in surprise, before shyly staring up at the passive faced gunman who was now holding her hand. His facial features remained bland of all emotion, and when Yazoo tugged her hand, Aeris allowed him to guide her and Kadaj away from their motorcycle to brave themselves through the cold and bitter snow.

0o0

By the time the trio had found the entrance of a small cave, the sky was tingeing to dusk. Slipping his hand from the flowergirl, Yazoo slipped inside the entrance of the dark cave. His tired mako tainted eyes looked inside for any potential signs of danger. Seeing nor sensing none, he guided Kadaj and the flowergirl inside.

Aeris blinked as she looked inside the dark cave. She could barely see anything. Kadaj immediately flopped down on one of the frozen rugs that had been left by a previous traveller. The teen did not care that the rough material was making him feel more cold than warm. He was just glad to be no longer moving. After all, walking and biking were never good hobbies to practise when you were suffering from a brain splitting concussion. The teen noticed that his Mother was struggling in the darkness. He knew what he could do to help her. Rummaging through his dark satchel, the teen grasped the a couple of pieces of materia. He activated them before throwing each coloured orb in different corners of the cave. Now the cave had light.

The flowergirl smiled in appreciation at the younger teen, and looked around the cave properly. Unlike the previous cave Aeris had shared with Kadaj and Yazoo, this one was much, much bigger. The brunette wouldn't have been surprised if she could fit at least 8 Yazoo's inside and still have room to spare. The brunette caught Kadaj's mako tainted eyes looking at her. Smiling at him gently, the flowergirl sat down beside him and began going through his bag, looking for blankets to keep them both warm, before passing the bag back to the teen.

While Kadaj and Aeris tended to each other, Yazoo was the first one of them to latch their attention on the cold remains of an old fire. Drawing his attention to his younger Brother, Yazoo asked Kadaj to hand his inventory bag over. The teen did so without question. Even though Kadaj's aim was shoddy due to his concussion, the gunman caught the bag with ease.. Looking inside, Yazoo cursed at the lack of materials they could use to burn. Everything seemed much too valuable for their survival. Yazoo pulled out all the food rations Loz had stocked inside along with the blankets, medicine and full containers of water.

Loz… Yazoo felt his eyes flicker with painful memories of his older Brother. The pale warrior mentally shook his head. The gunman knew there was no time to regret actions of the past. If he wanted to live, he had to look to the future. And so Yazoo continued to look for more burning materials. Unfortunately there was nothing suitable to burn. Yazoo sighed in mild irritation. Using the remains of burnt wood from the dead fire, Yazoo created a tiny fire using Kadaj's fire materia. The burning embers sparked gently and the gunman frowned to himself. With so little wood to keep it blazing, Yazoo could not see the flames lasting long. Before the next hour passed, the gunman knew someone would need to find more wood. The gunman sighed and sat himself near the fire, jostling his wounded shoulder in the process. The warrior winced painfully but made no sound.

Self consciously, the gunman's mako tainted eyes flickered towards the pair on the other side of the fire. Kadaj nor Aeris seemed to notice his suffering. They were too wrapped up in taking care of each other. Yazoo turned his eyes away from them and looked towards the entrance of the cave. The gunman assumed that since he was so used to doing everything for everyone, he might as well be the one to brave the cold blizzard outside. It did not matter whether he was still bleeding or not.

Nothing really mattered.

And with that thought in mind, Yazoo began to wonder…

'If nothing matters…'

'Why am I trying so hard to survive….?'

'Why am I even trying to live…?'

Yazoo gazed across the fire to peer at his little Brother. Kadaj had comfortably nestled himself by his 'beloved' Mother's side, sharing his body heat with hers. He had made sure to pile every blanket in their possession on them both to keep the weak woman warm. The gunman was sure they had not even left a single blanket for him. Not that such things surprised him.

The gunman's eyes began to dull with pain. Yazoo could see the giant grin on the teen's face as he spoke random nonsense to the brunette. In truth, the gunman had never seen his little Brother so happy.

'I guess…..Kadaj no longer needs me…'

'Not when he has Her..'

The gunman turned his head away from the happy blanketed pair, and began the simple and methodical task of heating up a pan of water before their weak fire died out completely.

'I have no reason to be here anymore…Not when Kadaj has her around.'

Decision made, the pale haired gunman stood up, making a considerable effort to conceal the agony of his wounded shoulder from view. When Yazoo made an approach to leave the tent, the gunman felt wide green eyes turn on him. The pale warrior did not even attempt to look at Her. Instead he weakly gestured his head towards the dying fire. "Need more wood.." he mumbled distantly, as he stared at the entrance of the cave, seeing the inevitable white that would soon greet him.

The brunette nodded at him. "Thank you Yazoo," Aeris answered gently, causing the gunman to momentarily pause to look at her in bewilderment. This was the second time the brunette had thanked him, and it made him feel strange. Mentally shaking off his own confusion, the pale gunman left the cave to brave the artic winds of Gaia.

Yazoo knew he had no intentions of returning.

White oblivion would be his final destiny.

0o0

Now that Yazoo had left, Aeris took her time to address the back of Kadaj's head injury. Using the water that Yazoo had boiled and a white piece of cloth, Aeris began the slow and tedious task of cleaning away the congealed blood, from the back of Kadaj's silvery head. The young warrior hissed every now and then, but it was clear he was making a conscious effort not to visibly cry out in front of his Mother. When the brunette had finished tending him, Aeris placed the rust coloured fabric down and embraced the shivering teen at her side.

"Mother?" Kadaj voiced softly. He tried to look at her. Even now his vision was making him see three faces of the woman holding him.

The brunette pulled back from the young teen so that she could properly look at him. "Yes Kadaj?"

"Can you tell me what happened in the Sanctuary. I…I cant remember a thing," the teen mumbled softly, rubbing the back of his sore head. His vision had still not cleared up, but at least he could think coherently without being in too much pain.

The brunette's eyes darkened from her memory of the Sanctuary. "It was no longer safe for us to stay. That is why we left,"

"Oh..." Kadaj answered simply, as he stared up at his Mother's troubled face. He was sure there was more to the tale, but his pounding head would not let him ponder that thought any longer.

Then another thought came to him. "Mother?"

Aeris stared back at him. "Hmmm?"

"What is the Reunion?"

Aeris felt her blood freeze. The last thing she wanted to think about was Sephiroth's psychotic orgy of death. "It's nothing Kadaj," the brunette lied. "Just focus on resting for me."

"Ok Mother," Kadaj answered sweetly. As he closed his eyes, his face winced painfully. "My head hurts," he whined softly to her. "Why does it hurt Mother?"

"Loz hit you," Aeris answered sadly, as she thought of the kind, burly giant who had a fetish for long black whips.

"Loz!" Kadaj blinked in confusion before grimacing in growing anger. "Oooh that bastard! He is so gonna pay when I next see him. By the time I have finished with Loz, all his intestines will be smeared everywhere!" Kadaj promised aloud, all the while moaning in pain.

Aeris smiled sadly at him. She brushed the teen's silvery bangs from his vision and Kadaj smiled up at her fondly. "Mother?" he murmured gently.

"Yes Kadaj?" Aeris asked softly.

"I love you."

The brunette blinked in shock, before her face crumpled into a soft and gentle smile. She embraced the confounded teen fondly. "Kadaj you are just too cute at times."

The teen was confused. "But it's the truth Mother. I do love you."

"I know…" Aeris murmured into his hair, as she brought her lips to the teen's brow.

Kadaj was getting delirious now. Whether it was from his concussion, or plain fatigue… Aeris could tell the teen was almost ready to fall asleep.

"Mother…?" Kadaj murmured drowsily.

"Yes Kadaj.."

"Do you love me?"

The brunette's heart jumped in surprise, at the unexpected question. 'Love?' Suddenly Sephiroth's words came back to haunt her memory.

0o0

'.. Even now, you reveal to me all

your weaknesses, and this feeds my

growing strength."

"What weaknesses?"

"You love me."

'Hahaha, and you are already aware

that I possess no such feelings of love for you.'

0o0

The brunette shuddered at the dark memory. 'When Sephiroth told me he did not love me….. The truth of his words hurt so much….I...I almost wished he had the compassion to lie to me instead… I wanted him to say those three little words… even if he truly did not mean them...even if we both knew they were untrue.. I just…I just needed to hear him say it… Love was the only thing I ever wanted from Sephiroth…and yet…it was the only thing he could never give...' As Aeris looked down at the teen's pleading features, the brunette realised, in that moment, that she was holding the boy's young and innocent heart in her hands. While Sephiroth was more than happy to crush her heart into tiny, irreparable pieces, Aeris knew she could never be so cruel to another. And as the brunette stared down into the teen's large mako orbs, Aeris realised something she had never realised before. After all the time she had known Kadaj, the dynamics of their relationship had changed. When she first met the teen, he had been her kidnapper. He had been the incredibly cheesy boy who wanted to be a slave to all of her wishes…

But now…

Things felt different...

Of course..

Kadaj was still quite cheesy.

And still…

Very, very annoying.

But despite this, Aeris felt a warm tenderness for the boy who called her Mother. It was a feeling she did not feel before. Aeris realised it was only because of Kadaj that she found the strength in herself to run away from Sephiroth and get out of the Sanctuary. By saving Kadaj, he had helped her to overcome her darkest fears… Fears that He had created in her mind…

Sephiroth had the power to make her feel so very weak and worthless…

But when Kadaj was with her…Aeris realised how much stronger she had become.

And as the brunette repeated the teen's innocent question in her own head, Aeris did not need to think of what words to say, for the answer instinctively let them slip from her lips.

"Yes Kadaj. I do…"

Hearing his Mother's words , the sleepy Kadaj allowed his eyes to tremble in surprise. Then slowly his lips parted to reveal a wide, white toothed smile. "You always know how to make me so happy Mother…So very happy…" the teen whispered, as he wrapped his arms around the brunette's waist. Kadaj brought his face towards the crook of her shoulder and Aeris shivered as the teen fondly brushed his lips against her pale neck. "You are all I need." Kadaj murmured drowsily against her ear. Aeris felt her eyes soften as the grasp of the teen's fingers began to loosen around her waist. The brunette realised Kadaj was falling asleep on her.

'Awww.'

Aeris gently glided her gloved fingers through the teen's baby soft hair, and listened to the soothing sound of his gentle breathing. For reasons she could not explain, Kadaj could bring out a part of her inner being that the demi-Cetra had never experienced with anyone else. When being with Kadaj, Aeris understood the Cetra desire to wholly protect another from harm. Looking at the sleepy young youth, Aeris could feel her Cetra spirit smiling down at the pale innocence cradled in her arms. As she continued to glide her gentle gloved hands through the teen's silky hair, she began to hum a soft and gentle lullaby of life.

"I belong here with you
Though the earth cries inside me.." (*)

And as Aeris sang her song…Ifalna's words of hope filled her with a growing warmth. Aeris had always known of a way to save everyone from Sephiroth's madness.

It just involved….

A single sacrifice...

"I will fly
High into the storm..."

In the past Aeris Gainsborough was not ready to face death in the Mako Reactor of Nibelheim.


"Far from the light
I will be strong"

But now….things had changed… and. Aeris could no longer fight Gaia's will.

She knew she had to complete her destiny….

For the reason was laying sleepily in her lap…

"Because they need you
Because I love you,"

Aeris tenderly stared down at the Kadaj's sweet, pale face and tenderly stroked his pale bangs from his brow.

"You close your eyes now.."

The brunette closed her eyes and continued to sing her gentle song. The flowergirl knew what she had to do. If her sacrifice could save the life of Kadaj and so many other innocents, her Cetra spirit was now ready to embark on one last journey. Aeris could finally hear Gaia's call inside her. It was telling her what to do, and where to go. Her Mother had been right all along. Now was the time to return back to the Planet.


"I will be gone."

A tear slipped down the brunette's face, but all the while she was smiling as she sang.


"But my love for you will go on…"

When her lullaby finished, the cave became silent of all sound except the cold whistling of the snowy winds outside. The brunette stared down at the gentle burden in her arms. Aeris now knew she would do anything to prevent Sephiroth from destroying such innocent souls like Kadaj.

"Mother?" Kadaj murmured up at her in a slurred tone. Since his eyes were still closed, the flowergirl jumped in surprise. Aeris had assume the teen had fallen asleep. "Yes Kadaj?" Aeris asked softly.

"You once told me about a flower garden you had at your home. Mother, do you remember?" He mumbled gently. Aeris stared down at the teen and tears dotted her vision. The flowergirl remembered the words she spoke to him inside Icicle Inn. "Yes...I do remember Kadaj."

The teen's lips curled upwards. "And you promised to take me there, right?"

Aeris had to fight to keep her voice steady. Brushing the bangs from the teen's forehead, Aeris felt her heart break, as she spoke a promise she could never fulfil. "Yes…"

Even though his eyes were closed, the teen was still smiling. Kadaj was already imagining what it would be like, to walk hand in hand with his Mother in a garden full of flowers. "And it will be just the two of us, right? No-one else, not even Yazoo?" Kadaj asked innocently.

The brunette's eyes were glazed with tearful pain. Her hands uneasily clenched at her sides. Eventually, Aeris found the strength to answer the pale teen. "When everything is over Kadaj, I will take you to Midgar to see my flower-garden. I promise."

"Okay," The teen smiled weakly, unaware of the new despair he had inflicted on his beloved Mother. "Good night Mother, I love you."

And then Kadaj was out like a light.

When she was sure the teen was asleep, Aeris let the emotional dam inside her burst. She raised a shaky hand to her mouth in an attempt to silence the sound of her quiet and stifled sobbing. When her body began to physically shake due to the strain of her dark and sorrowful emotions, Aeris gently moved Kadaj off her lap and wrapped many heavy blankets across the teen's small, lean body, all the while silently crying to herself. And as Aeris stared down at the slumbering teen, the brunette felt sadness encage her heart with eternal sorrow. It hurt so much to lie to Kadaj, but Aeris knew she could never tell him the truth. Knowing how much Kadaj loved her, he would try to stop her from becoming a sacrifice in the City of the Ancients. But Aeris knew she had no choice. To save everyone who walked on the green earth of Gaia, she had to fulfil her final duty as the last Cetra. That was her Cetra Burden: to Protect and Cherish Life.

'And all those that were killed in the Sanctuary…I cannot let any of their deaths be in vain…'

The brief shadow of a silver haired Zack flittered across her memory, and Aeris felt her heart despair even more. She shook her head sadly, and forced herself to think towards the future… To the hope that fate had offered her all along.

'Mother once told me how to repel Meteor….but to stop it… a willing sacrifice needed to be made.'

'…The White Materia…'

'I had hope with me all along…and now is the time to finalise the Planet's prayer…'

Aeris shakily raised a hand to touch her hair band, searching for the familiar hardness of materia she knew she would find there. But to her horror, there was nothing there! The brunette removed her pink ribbon and shook her hair. But no white orb dropped from her dark, messy tresses. As Aeris gaped at the new horrific revelation, the flowergirl quickly realised her cruel nightmare was far from over.

'Oh No, No, No-no ,Nooooooo!'

'This can't…this can't be real. I can't have…'

'It's not possible…'

'I-I….'

0o0

'I HAVE LOST THE WHITE MATERIA!'

0o0

Aeris was about to have a panic attack. She was already hyperventilating. The flowergirl's mind raced back to her last memory of when she saw her Mother's Heirloom. But to the brunette's horror, she could not even remember the last time she held the materia in her hands. Ever since she had met Kadaj, the brunette had taken no time to consider the real importance of her Mother's trinket. And since Aeris had no clue of where she might have dropped it, the flowergirl realised it could be anywhere on Gaia or even anywhere in Sephiroth's Sanctuary!

Aeris huddled her knees together and tried to blink back tears. "So I really have failed the Planet," the flowergirl whispered brokenly. " In seven days everyone will die…and I wont be able to do a single thing to stop it."

And with those words, Aeris silently wept into her arms.

0o0

The fire had gone out long before Aeris realised a certain silver haired gunman had not returned with more wood. Rubbing the wetness from her large, bloodshot eyes, the brunette stood up to move towards the edge of the cave. She peered out casually, seeing nothing but snow. As many minutes trickled by, the brunette was beginning to grow even more worried. Turning her gaze to the pale teen who was calmly slumbering beneath the huge pile of woollen blankets, Aeris smiled sadly down at him.

"I won't be gone for long Kadaj. I'm just going to look for your Brother."

Grabbing a large brown blanket and wrapping it around her leather clad form to protect her body from the cold, Aeris rushed out into the cold snow. She was beginning to worry now. She could not see anything but white. The brunette had not forgotten about the violent wound on the gunman's right shoulder. The flowergirl shuddered and began calling out for him.

As she trudged through the deep snow…

Aeris could only fear the worst.

Her nightmares came true when Aeris finally found Yazoo laying half frozen in the snow. Laying face up, his lifeblood had stained a wide ring of crimson death around his wounded form. "Yazoo!" Aeris screamed out in horror. Dropping down to her knees before the wounded warrior, the brunette tried to staunch the flow of blood to avail. She screamed again, when she realised she did not even think to bring Kadaj's Restore materia with her.

"Yazoo!"

"YAZOO!"

"Can you please stop screaming. Your loud voice is hurting my ears," The wounded warrior moaned in a dismal tone. The brunette's heart leapt up with hope. Yazoo was still alive! The gunman was now blankly staring up at the distraught female. Aeris had silenced herself, but her tears did not stop falling. Yazoo noticed this silent revelation and glared at her coolly. "Just because you can't scream, that doesn't mean I want you to continue crying either."

"Then what do you expect me to do if I can't scream or cry?" Aeris exclaimed emotionally. All the flowergirl wanted to do was get Yazoo back to the cave. She did not think she had the physical strength to move him, but she was going to damn well try.

The pale haired gunman turned his head away from her. "I expect you to leave me alone. Forget you even found me here."

The flowergirl's eyes dilated in surprise.

"W-what?"

"Go back to Kadaj," Yazoo murmured drearily, as he closed his eyes against the white expanse before him. He did not like looking at the snow… it reminded him too much of the Sanctuary. "He needs you."

Aeris shook her head. She knew she could never leave Yazoo. "But you will die if you stay out here."

If Yazoo had the strength, he would have shrugged his shoulders carelessly. "We all die someday. Why not today..?"

Aeris was now getting scared for the welfare of Kadaj's older Brother. "No, don't say such things Yazoo," the brunette pleaded, as she leant her body towards him. "Let me help you back to the cave. I can try and use the Restore materia and- "

The brunette gasped when the gunman kicked her midriff, causing her to fall backwards into the snow. Aeris cradled her stomach in surprise. The attack hurt, but she was more surprised than anything by the unprovoked attack. "Didn't you hear what I said? Get the hell away from me!" Yazoo raged, as a thin trickle of crimson dribbled down his chin.

Using her arms to bring herself into a sitting position, Aeris openly gaped at the bleeding and very angry gunman. She was completely horrified at the vicious glare he was now sending her way. "You really are a fucking, useless waste of space. What the hell did Sephiroth see in you?" Yazoo snarled aloud, as he coughed up a handful of blood. The flowergirl could only stare at the gunman in mute terror. Her silent surprise seemed to anger the pale warrior even more. "You can't even understand," The gunman had to pause to cough. "-when someone tells you to leave them alone. I want to die in peace damnit, not with you hovering around me like an irritating buzzard."

"Yazoo.." Aeris' eyes trembled as she crawled towards the pale gunman. Yazoo turned his head away from the flowergirl. He did not want to look at her. "Please…" The tears were falling again and Aeris did not try to stop them. She had to help Yazoo. She could not leave him alone in the snow to die. "Let me help you."

The gunman refused to look at her. "Why do you even pretend tocare about me? Stop acting like an idiot and go back to Kadaj,"

"Pretending?" Aeris echoed weakly. "I'm not pretending. I want to help you. Please let me help." Aeris knew she was begging now.

Yazoo sighed. "What is the point? There is no reason for me to live any longer… And the more I look up at the sky, I'm finding less reasons to live…and more to die…"

The gunman's words were upsetting the flowergirl. It hurt her knowing how someone was choosing death when they deserved to experience the glory of life. "No don't say that Yazoo."

"Don't say what?" The gunman mocked her weakly. "The truth?"

Aeris shook her head. "No. Kadaj would not want you to die. You know he cares-"

"- only about his beloved Mother , so please do not attempt to tell me otherwise. Unlike you, I am not a fool," The warrior intercepted her words with cold, deadly precision.

The brunette face crumpled sadly. "Yazoo please. I want to help you. I know you don't even like me…"

"I despise you…" Yazoo admitted coldly.

"I despise myself too…" Aeris replied with a soft, sad smile. Hearing her words, mako eyes turned to look at her. Using his confusion to her advantage, Aeris crawled to the gunman left side and sent her most pleading expression his way.

"Yazoo please, let me see your wound? I can help you if you let me."

Looking into her wide and tearful eyes, Yazoo could not find the energy to care about being angry with her. To keep on arguing with her was sapping his life energy.

"Do as you wish," the gunman stated to her weakly, as he closed his eyes and resigned himself to his fate. "You are far too stupid to reason with anyway."

Aeris smiled weakly at the gunman's insult to her person, and shyly placed a hand across the gunman's right shoulder. When she pulled her hand back, wet blood stained her dark glove. The brunette's eyes wavered softly. The demi-Cetra wanted to heal Yazoo but with no materia on her person, she was unsure what to do. She did not want to waste time running back to the cave. She did not know how much time Yazoo had left to live.

Clasping her hands together in prayer, Aeris turned her heart and soul to Gaia. Only the Planet had the power to save Yazoo now. "Please Planet, help me." When Gaia did not respond to her prayers, the brunette was beginning to get afraid. "Please Gaia…this will be the only thing I ask of you. Before I die in seven days, please help me save him…"

As a green orb began to resonate around the flowergirl's clasped hands, Aeris realised Gaia had heard her heartfelt prayer. Staring down at her fingers in awe, the demi-Cetra watched the orb expand into a wide corona of light before dispersing straight towards the gunman's body.

Suddenly there was a green flash of light, and then all colour's of life faded back to white.

0o0

"Healing Wind!"

0o0

Mako eyes snapped open and then suddenly Yazoo seated himself up in the snow. Pulling his jacket open in surprise, the gunman blankly stared at the pale, white, unblemished skin of his right pectoral. He was amazed beyond belief. There was not even a scar. Even the blood coating his body had disappeared! If it wasn't for the two visible tears on his jacket, Yazoo might have imagined his bloody wound to be a mild dream. The gunman could not deny that he was very impressed with the flowergirl's curative skills. "H-how did you use magic without materia?" Yazoo murmured quietly, trying to conceal his awe in his voice, but failing badly.

The flowergirl beamed at him, and tapped her nose. "It's a secret."

The gunman looked at the brunette oddly. "Why is it a secret?"

The brunette shook her head with a gentle smile. "Because no-one is allowed to know…"

Yazoo blinked at her for almost a minute. "You are so bizarre," he remarked eventually.

Aeris giggled lightly. "Coming from you, I will take that as a compliment."

The gunman quirked an eyebrow. This woman was truly nuts.

Aeris could not stop smiling now. She was just so glad that Yazoo was alright. '….for now yes…but he will die in seven days…as will everyone esle…' The brunette's green eyes darkened, and her previous fleeting joy faded back to growing despair. Yazoo caught the transition of emotion. Curiosity perked, the gunman asked the female what was troubling her.

The brunette turned her head away to build up her inner confidence. She knew the gunman was strong enough to face the truth. "Yazoo… I n-need to tell you something important…"

"Go on…" Yazoo said slowly.

Aeris cringed. "Sephiroth has used the Black materia."

The gunman blinked at her. "Black Materia?" Yazoo had never heard of such a thing.

Aeris sadly nodded. "Yes.. Sephiroth has used the Black Materia to summon Meteor towards the Planet… …it will arrive in seven days…and when it does….it will crash into us…and then everything will be no more..."

Yazoo stared long and hard at the brunette before him. It felt like many minutes had passed. And then eventually the gunman spoke. "And still…even knowing this, you forced Kadaj and I to come out to the surface?"

The flowergirl weakly bowed her head.

"You are such a sadist…" Yazoo drawled out quietly, before turning his head away from the stunned flowergirl.

The brunette whipped her head up. "I'm not a sadist," Aeris defended herself in surprise.

"Yes you are, why else would you try and save us if you already knew we were all going to die in seven days time…? Why allow Kadaj, Loz and even I false dreams of survival when we have all been sentenced to death?" The gunman no longer knew what to think of the foolish woman at his side.

Aeris laughed sadly. "I guess I didn't have a chance to think at all. My only thought was to get you all away from Sephiroth," the brunette admitted honestly.

The gunman sighed wearily. Whatever fleeting hope he once possessed of survival, had now been dashed by the brunette's words of truth. Yazoo did not know what to think or feel now. Anger seemed too melodramatic an emotion to feel…Instead, Yazoo felt a calm acceptance fill his heart. He remembered his previous words. 'I was willing to die today…why not in seven days time?'

"So this is why you ran from the Sanctuary? Hmm…did you flee because Sephiroth waas going to kill you too?" Yazoo stated slowly ,as he turned to the brunette for answers. The flowergirl shook her head. "No.. actually…Seph- Sephiroth wanted me to stay in the Sanctuary and rule the Planet alongside him. He planned to make me immortal by merging me with Jenova somehow. But…I-" Aeris looked down at her hands. "I refused to bow down to the will of a monster. I could never forgive myself if I allowed Sephiroth to harm and destroy Gaia for his own selfish needs."

This new revelation confused the gunman even more. The pale gunman was trying to understand the brunette's motives. "So.. by leaving the Sanctuary, you sacrificed your own chances of being immortal… even when you were aware that coming up to the surface meant inevitable death…?" The brunette bashfully nodded. Yazoo now raised a patronising brow at the female at his side.

"Aeris, you are such an idiot…" Yazoo groaned quietly, but there was no cruel bite to his tone. Looking at the brunette's sheepish expression, the gunman felt his lips twitch into the beginnings of a small smile, before shaking his head in mild amusement. Yazoo knew he would never understand this woman at all. But at least, he knew he would never have to worry about Aeris manipulating him or his younger Brother. She was far too stupid and innocent for that. 'She sacrificed immortality…and now because of her foolish decision, she has to die along with the rest of us…Why has she chose to turn herself into a martyr?'

The gunman became thoughtful. All the while the brunette at his side was silent of sound.

"So there is no way to stop Meteor from coming…?" Yazoo asked eventually, as raised his mako tainted orbs skywards to see a very noticeable red orb, glaring a glow of death above them.

When the flowergirl heard his question, she felt her face darken with sadness and guilt. "Not now…There was a way to stop Meteor…. You see, the Black Materia has a sister called the White Materia. And it had the power to destroy Meteor's darkness…. I used to carry this materia around with me all the time…" Aeris knew she was ready to cry again, but she could not help it. "The White Materia belonged to my Birth Mother Ifalna. When she died, it was the only thing I was left with. If you saw it now, you would not think it to be a piece of materia, since it's so tiny…But…" Aeris paused, as tears dotted her vision. "On my way to meet Sephiroth….or maybe when I was running from Sephiroth…I lost it…."

The brunette's eyes dimmed and Yazoo watched her silently. All the while his mind was whirling with different possibilities. And then Aeris continued on. "The White Materia was Gaia's only hope of defeating Meteor. Now I have lost it….all hope has been lost…"

The gunman furrowed his lip in thought. "Tell me what this White Materia looks like again," Yazoo asked softly, as he idly moved one of his gloved hands inside his leather coat, searching for an item he hoped was still in his pocket.

"Well…like I said, the White Materia looks like a small white pearl. It's really pretty, almost like a piece of jewellery."

Yazoo smirked as he brought his hand up to the brunette's greeneyed gaze . "You mean this?"

Aeris stared wide eyed at the gunman's gloved fingers. There, held between his thumb and forefinger was her Mother's heirloom.

The White Materia..

The brunette raised a shaking hand to her mouth. "How…I mean…why ?" Aeris felt tears of elation blur her vision. She blinked them back when Yazoo calmly handed the small piece of materia to her. Cradling the orb in her fingers, Aeris began to tremble with tearful excitement.

Now she had the White Materia, hope had returned to Gaia! Even if the hope was slight, Aeris still believed that the Planet could be saved from Sephiroth's darkness!

"You must really be an idiot to lose something this important." Yazoo muttered to himself, as he remembered picking up the small orb on the beach of the Sanctuary. Aeris beamed softly at him. "I know," she agreed as her eyes smiled down at him. The gunman was getting flustered at the sight of the flowergirl's joy. He had to turn away from her. He was not used to the unnecessary levels of warmth emanating from the flowergirl's form. The brunette misread his discomfort for disgust and her smile faded from her lips

"Yazoo, you really don't like me, do you?" The flowergirl voiced quietly, as she turned her attention to the pale orb in her hand.

Yazoo turned his head to look at the brunette oddly. "Do you want me to like you?" He asked, raising a brow of mock disbelief.

Aeris shook her head gently as her gaze turned inward. "No, I think this is how it has to be." 'I finally understand…I now know why Yazoo has my White Materia…This is the work of Gaia's will……Yazoo…he is going to be the one to aid me with my Holy Prayer… Since Sephiroth cannot aid my sacrifice……you chose his Remnant instead… Gaia…I must thank you. I know Yazoo has the strength to guide me back to my original path of fate…He will aid me with my Cetra Burden.'

"Whatever," Yazoo drawled uneasily. He was getting uncomfortable seeing the brunette smiling at him so often, as if he was Kadaj.

"That's what I needed to hear, because Yazoo…" The brunette paused, and her eyes softened gently at him. "I have a favour to ask of you. There is something I must do…but I cannot do it alone.." Aeris was trembling with emotion now. She wasn't sure how to say the words. But looking at the gunman's calm expression comforted her. It gave her the strength to continue on.

"Go on," Yazoo encouraged slowly. Again he had turned his head away to look up at the rouge tainted sky above.

And so she did. "You see, to use the White Materia to stop Meteor…there needs to be some form of sacrifice."

"Sacrifice?" Now the gunman was confused as he turned his lazy gaze upon her. "What kind of sacrifice?

Aeris inhaled a breath of courage. She was not going to hide the truth from Yazoo. "To bring the White Materia to life, someone needs to die."

For the first time that she had seen him, Yazoo was stunned. His mouth had dropped open and his eyes were now agape in surprise. The expression would have been comical if the situation was not so tragic. Aeris now knew what she needed to say next was going to be even harder. She turned her eyes to the side, and bravely continued on. "Yazoo….I know how brave you are…and I know you can find the strength inside yourself to do this for me..…so when the time comes, w-will you…-will-you-"

Aeris had no time to finish her rambled plea, as the pale haired gunman suddenly snapped his head towards her. "How dare you think I will die for you and this worthless Planet!" Yazoo was angry now. "I will be no-one's martyr! I'm not going to die so everyone lives! If I have to die, then everyone is coming with me!"

Aeris gaped at him in surprise, before shaking her head with a sorrowful smile "No. No. You have it wrong Yazoo. I would never ask you to do such a thing for me. But I-" Aeris could feel her voice cracking. "-I do not have the heart to ask Kadaj to do this…for I know it would break his heart…and that is why I come to you…."

Yazoo stared at the Aeris, looking at her properly for the first time he had known her.

Aeris was shuddering both physically and emotionally. She held her hands together. She had to be brave. She knew she had the strength to continue on. "Yazoo...will-"

Aeris could not fight the trembling of her hands.

"-Will you-?'

Yazoo's mako tainted eyes dilated sharply in dawning recognition.

"-It's just that… this is the only way to stop Meteor, and to save the Planet. So Please….please I beg of you." Suddenly Aeris bowed herself in the snow before the stunned warrior. "I know you have never really liked me, and I am so sorry that I have to ask a favour from you in the first place. But I know there is no other way to stop Him. I wish there was…but there isn't…My love for Sephiroth was not strong enough to bring him back to the light. And that is why I have to do this… I will defeat Sephiroth with his own weapon. I will fight Death with Death… I will sacrifice my life to save everyone…" Aeris had to stop talking now. The moment she raised her head from the snow, to stare at the gunman's face, Aeris saw an uncharacteristic shiver of emotion glimmering in the deep depths of Yazoo's eyes. The brunette could feel her heart cracking. It seemed her words were affecting him. "I'm so sorry Yazoo to make you do this. I'm so sorry," Aeris murmured through the tears as she bowed her head down to the snowy ground. All the while Yazoo watched the woman bowed helplessly before him. The gunman felt himself become unexpectedly emotional when the brunette kept on apologising to him, as if she had committed a great disservice to him.

"Stop it," Yazoo grumbled quietly.

"Stop what?" Aeris murmured through her tears.

"Stop apologising. It's irritating."

"I'm sorry," The brunette instinctively answered, before freezing at the mako tainted glare that was sent her way. She dipped her head down submissively. Yazoo was the last person she wanted to anger. He was her last chance of saving the Planet!

"And stop grovelling. That is just as irritating."

The brunette raised her head upwards in surprise, before moving herself into a similar seated position like Yazoo.

"I'm Sor-….It's just-" Aeris was wringing her hands in her lap now. "I'm just not strong enough to do this by myself and I need your help so much."

The gunman was staring at her seriously now. "So you want me to kill you, is that correct Aeris…?" Yazoo stated softly, while the flowergirl shuddered a weak yes. "And while asking this of me, deep down, you do not wish to die…You do not want to die, do you Aeris?"

"I…." Aeris could not lie. "It's just…There is no other way to save this Planet from Sephiroth's Meteor. But if my death will save millions, I have to do this. I need to do this…"

"I see…" the gunman murmured to himself, as he looked down at the shaking brunette before him. But in truth, Yazoo did not see. He could not understand why a human would selflessly sacrifice her own life for strangers who did not know nor cared to know her. It simply made no sense to him.

But one thing Yazoo did understand was why Aeris came to him for assistance and not Kadaj. Unlike his Little Brother, Yazoo did not need to hold her hand 24-7 nor had a reputation for expressing any form of compassion towards her. For this reason alone, Aeris believed he would be the perfect man to play the role of the flowergirl killer. The gunman gritted his teeth. He could not believe the girl's audacity. She was asking him to play the role of her executioner. And if that wasn't warped enough, she was actually happy for him to do it!

He really did not know what to say.

But the warrior knew there was nothing he could do. If he wanted to live beyond the seven days of Meteor…then the flowergirl had to die. And as the gunman stared into the flowergirl's wide and imploring green orbs, Yazoo realised he was ensnared in her bittersweet spell. The gunman knew he had the chance to defy her will. He could tell her no and they could all accept to die in seven days. After all, just moments ago, he was ready to die…

'But Aeris stopped me….she healed me….'

'…and this same woman who has healed me…..now wants me to kill her….'

'…What delicious irony…'

Removing his gaze from the brunette, Yazoo returned his gaze towards Meteor. The fiery red orb glaring down at the Planet was a sign of death for them all. Yazoo knew he had to make a decision quickly.

'Should I allow myself to die….?'

'Or should I live…?'

'But for me to live…that means…'

The gunman bit his lip.

He had finally made his decision.

"If that is what you wish of me. Then you shall have it. Aeris, when the time comes, I will be the one to take your life." Aeris' eyes shuddered with tearful surprise, and before Yazoo knew it, the brunette had threw herself at his form. She wrapped her arms around the stunned gunman, and began thanking him over and over again. The warrior really had no idea what to do, or even say and so he kept his arms at his sides, and allowed the flowergirl to embrace him. When he felt a slight wetness slide down his neck, Yazoo realised Aeris was crying on top of him…It seemed illogical how a potential victim was thanking and holding their soon to be murderer. It was illogical how Aeris would hug him when they were reluctant allies at best. But such thoughts began to dissipate when his mind began to shiver with disturbing feelings that he could neither define nor understand. The brunette did things to him. He no longer knew what to think of her. Yazoo had never met anyone like this woman. She affected him in so many ways…Aeris had ensnared him, and the gunman did not know how to pull himself away…he did not even know if he wanted to pull himself away.

The gunman's eyes darkened and his hands nervously twitched at his sides.

"Thank you so much Yazoo. I knew I could trust you,." Aeris wept softly, as she pulled herself away from the gunman to smile at him through her tears. "You are truly one of a kind. Kadaj is sooo lucky to have you as his Big Brother."

Now Yazoo was even more baffled with the woman before him. He could not find the source of the flowergirl's joy. He knew that if he was in her position, smiling would be the last thing on his mind. And so Yazoo gave up on trying to understand the strange female before him. He realised that Aeris was more of an enigma to him after each and every passing day.

"So…." Yazoo drawled eventually. He wanted to bring the female back to the reality that was now facing her. Her joy seemed inappropriate for what she expected him to do to her. "You still have not told me when you want me to do this…" Soon after she said those words, the light in the brunette's eyes began to fade slightly. "Do you want me to do it now?" The gunman was surprised at the calm and droll tone in his voice. His words seemed callous, even to him. 'If only Little Brother knew what I intend to do to his beloved Mother.'

Aeris shook her head gently with a sad grin. "Not just yet Yazoo. It can be done anytime after I have finished Holy's prayer inside the city on my ancestors. It is only in the City that my prayers to Gaia can be heard."

The gunman nodded in understanding. "And where is this city of your ancestors?" Yazoo questioned quietly.

"The City of the Ancients? It's…about a day away I guess. Maybe less, or just a little more. I'm not too sure. I just know that once we get past Icicle Inn, there is a small cave. And the beyond this cave is the city where I need to go."

The gunman became lost in thought. "I see." His gaze snapped back on the female at her side. "If you want to reach the City of the Ancients before Meteor comes, we should leave now." Soon after he finished his words, the pale warrior leapt up to his feet. As he was completely healed by Aeris' Healing Wind, he was suddenly full of energy.

The brunette nodded in agreement. She was about to stand up herself, but was nearly bowled over in surprise when Yazoo held a gloved hand out to her. "Thank you," Aeris said kindly, as the gunman pulled her up. Keeping his hand in hers, the gunman began to guide them through the snow and back towards their cave. When the cave came into sight, Aeris had a sudden thought.

"Yazoo..?" She asked him, tugging his arm in an attempt to make him stop. He did so, and looked at her in slight confusion.

"What?" He asked her cautiously.

The brunette bit her lip. "I have another favour to ask of you…" Aeris said, as she bowed her head.

"Another favour?" He asked hollowly. Yazoo could not imagine what this next favour would be. This woman had just asked him to kill her, He could only wonder what new insanity would spill from her lips. "What is it now?"

Aeris' wide eyes stared up at him in a heartfelt plea. "Yazoo…please…please, whatever you do, don't tell Kadaj about any of this…if he knew the truth of what I…and what you had to do… it would break his heart." Aeris felt her eyes tear at the thought of the young teen suffering in the future because of her. Her death would surely break his heart. But the demi-Cetra knew sacrifice was the only way to save everyone.

Yazoo blinked slowly. As he looked at the pleading brunette, only one thought ran through his mind. '…So you want to save Kadaj from the pains of suffering….but not me…' The gunman's eyes glittered with green jealousy. 'Why you evil.. conniving… little-' But Yazoo could not find the anger to finish his dark thoughts, as he stared at the brunettes tearful features. Yazoo knew Aeris cared for Kadaj, so it was understandable that she wanted to keep him from harm…even if he was going to find out the truth eventually…

"I understand," the gunman answered wearily, as he brushed his pale bangs from his vision. "If you wish it of me, I will not tell Kadaj a thing. You have my word."

Aeris squeezed the gunman's gloved hand in genuine gratefulness. "Oh Thank you so much Yazoo. You truly are the best!"

The gunman could not respond to the flowergirl's gratitude.

Mentally sighing, Yazoo tugged Aeris' arm back towards the cave. All the while his mind pondered darkly..

'How am I supposed to feel, when someone is happy to die by my hand?'

'……..This is madness.'

0o0o0o0o0o0

Author's Notes

Ehehe? Now who thought this chapter was dark? If any of you guys have read TLAA1: 58 recently, then I am sure you remember Aer's incessant fear of dying by Seph's hand. But now Aeris is ASKING Yazoo to kill her. My have the tables turned. I really would not like to be in Yazoo's shoes atm. Mind you, he seems to be taking it quite well…Hmm. We'll see how this develops in later chapters. Whew this chapter is stupidly long. But I've grown fond of writing 40-50 pages instead of 7 or 8. You can pack more angst and excitement inside.

Anywho, I'm gonna wait til I reach at least 10 reviews before starting TLAA1 CH2, so guys you know what to do. If you want me to start writing TLAA3-C2, REVIEW REVIEW REVIEW XX Come on, I moreorless did a 50 page chapter, that should deserve some comments at least LOL X

(*) Oh don't know if anyone recognised the song Aeris song. Katethegreat19 did some fantastic lyrics for Aeris' theme, so I had to put it in this chapter.

Ja ne

Aer_seph4eva

P.S

Don't forget to REVIEW X REVIEW X REVIEW X