It was like drowning.

Cloud remembered, when he was not yet six - the warm water that stung like hell as it filled his lungs.

He sought to breathe. His arms flaying, his chest heaved. But more he tried to breathe, the water - the unchanging, sticky and overwhelming mess - wormed its way in.

He remembered choking.

He remembered the tearing of his eyes as he desperately tried to get some air. The molten lava that burned him as it got lost in the infinite blue, so hot that it turned everything cold. The sudden, unbearable coldness that pushed him to breathe, breathe, breathe!

The infinite. the invulnerable and eternal cerulean that molded with his eyes. It dominated his form so completely the moment he had tried to brave it.

Each heaving breath he took, he was dying a little more. He sought for life, but death filled his lungs.

With a last try for air, he opened his mouth wide and his instincts worked his lungs. A gush of water entered instead of air, and the agony engraved deep into his mind. - the excruciating pain and the instinctive sense that he was ebbing away. The water turned warm once again and he had ceased trying.

When he woke up in the white hospital bed he wouldn't forget that it was the bare struggle. it was himself. that quickened the pulse of his prolonged death. Irony sneered in his eyes.

One day his longings would kill him, consume the fuse of life and finally conquer him.

Would overwhelm him, like the waves that plunged him harder into the merciless liquid.

The hot, molten lava that burned, that turned everything cold. The tangible clutch of black, inky panic that seized and bound his limbs.

And the infinite blue.

. Living was very much like dying.

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How long had it been since he held the blanket against him on a Sunday morning, the sunlight from the window tickling his eyes. He had sleepily pulled the cover over his head, avoiding the brilliant flash, reveling in the ebbing drowsiness.

Sweet Reminiscences.

He remembered the glittering of lights in the exclusive Shinra balls, being irritated at - yet acknowledging - the flashes of desperate photographers. The days when he commanded those in the blue uniform - as worthless as they were - with a single word or nod. When he looked at people's eyes he saw something akin to awe - and as much as he was apathetic about their presence - it was pleasing nevertheless. His identity was Sephiroth. What he was had defined him, and he never had tried to look beyond it.

Complacency.

Yes, it was. His fingers against the silk of his cushions, he had sunk into the traitorous frame of mind. Although there was still silence about him, he had imagined the soft floating of classical music to fill the void. The great contrast of his glorious adulthood from his miserable childhood seemed to him like a dream, but it was one he took for granted nonetheless. When he stood on the podium, hovering over what seemed like a sea of ants - for so many there were who were under his command - unconsciously pride, arrogance, and ultimately insolence seeped through to his heart. The boy with ridiculous silver hair and glowing eyes who had huddled in the corner every day, dreading the morning sun through his barred window. The boy who couldn't stand looking at his reflection, for he hated it so. The inevitable contempt and disdain for himself formed an impenetrable barrier in which he masked with an air of superiority, all while struggling to maintain the delicate frame of mind. After a day filled with alcohol and praises, he would return to the security of his apartment and stare - at the stranger in the mirror.

It had all prepared him for the fall.

It happened so fast.

The realization, the bare notion that the vision he held of himself was a glass replica of his longings. He watched himself shatter like the feeble attempt it was, watched everything that had shaped him crumble. The small mistakes and hurts and regrets resurfaced themselves into a nightmare he would endure to his day.

He should have known.

His monstrous perfection.

He wasn't beautiful. There was no beauty about it - his presence stilled the hearts instead of making them beat with the mysterious fervor. He was just a haunting precision. Features fascinatingly flawless, but not pleasing to the eye. A face that engraved into one's mind, but one they would rather not recall.

He remembered the primary propaganda poster Shinra distributed during the War, the one that they nailed onto every wall, every supporting pillar. They had even printed it on the back pages of the Shinra newspaper to instill support. A picture of him. Him standing in the battlefield of Wutai, commanding the very elite. Strands of hair blowing about his face, Masamune gleaming. His cloak majestically trailing behind him.

A God. An invincible, unreal. and ultimately, untouchable. being that he had come to be.

He once had taken it as a blessing.

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The unrelenting sunlight reflected off the snow. The world seemed to be made of glass at the moment, with the intense light blinding her.

She had never felt so tired.

How hypocritical it is to glorify physical toil.

When one was sitting in a chair with a cushion to lean on, with a beverage of choice in hand, the facts could be distorted through the idle words that aimed straight to the foolish desire of idealism. But when every step taken was an actual agony, then the nobility and absurd grandeur, maliciously fabricated, fell apart.

The sweat gleamed down her forehead, and Aeris wiped them off with her damp sleeve. Panting, walking with her hair sticking to her face. She had to put her hand against her temple in order to shade the light. The endlessness of the toil coiled within her like a snake, she was unable to see the usual private sparkles. The despondency blurred the world.

The heart suddenly filled with unrelated remorse. Sudden reminisces back to the recent nights which she had fell asleep against the stony surface of the cave. She felt the obscure anger and self-pity welling up from the core of her being. She struggled to suppress the ridiculous association, but a choked gasp escaped her as she looked up to see the stoic man virtually gliding through the scenery.

Mind collapsed before matter.

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Bound by the invisible chains of an unspoken agreement, Aeris once again forced herself to kneel in the midst of snow - though the area she chose was relatively free of them. A sigh escaped her lips as she arranged what little scraps of wood she could find into a circle. Damp as they were, she doubted if they would catch fire, but her hunger was no longer gnawing in her stomach. The longing, so desperate just moments ago, was forgotten as a sting of wind slapped her across her cheeks, turning them instantly crimson.

The abrupt, ludicrous, change of temperature was another phenomenon that she was forced to withstand for the past days. She found herself momentarily wishing for the suffocating heat that plagued her just hours before.

How .fickle. How utterly fickle one could be. She would have laughed but her impatience at delay of - him - prevented her from seeing the irony. Clutching her hands sharply in her bosom to return a shade of pink to them, she bolted up and stepped outside, her eyes squinting in search for a familiar man.

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Cloud liked his room.

If he closed his eyes he could still see.

His room was a sanctuary. As long as he was sprawled on the bed with lights out, nothing would bother him. His room did not have a window. The wallpaper was a moldy beige. When he brushed his fingers against it, he could see the dust fall. The small size was stifling. His mother remarked that the room looked rather like a jail cell.

And he would take it still.

He would stare at the ceiling. He used to let his mind wander, reliving the latest humiliation to add to his life, and dreaming up a cutting response he could've made, fantasizing that he had punched the bully's lights out instead of looking away. He would try to forget the heat in his heart and the slow dimming of his eyes and the fading light as he tried to look as dignified as possible as one could in the midst of laughter. Now that he reached a mature age of thirteen, he had learned a better way to forget. Now, his eyes were blank as his pupils dilated. He savored the feel of the clean blanket against him. He had discovered that in order to make the best of the blessed time in his room he must - must - never think about anything. So he dwelled on the notion that tomorrow was not here yet. And it would not come as long as he kept his eyes open. As soon as he succumbed to the traitorous sleep, he would start and sit up - only to find that it was morning once again. So, to avoid it, he kept his eyes open. Just making the time last - the blessed time. His whole being was focused on how to make the night last forever - forever and ever - so that he won't ever have to go through whatever tomorrow held in store for him. Although he usually found himself waking up in the morning - with a sinking feeling in his stomach - he usually managed to live two or three hours longer than most people.

When the sum arose and the familiar voice of mom yelled out his name, he would be filled with contempt for the woman. He would've done anything to stay where no one was. When no one was around him he never felt lonely - it was when he was surrounded by the people he spent all his life with but still treated him like a perfect stranger that he dreaded. The extreme awkwardness that made him feel like dying every day. Being unable to join in the circle even though he was two feet away. He was waiting for someone to call out his name - just anyone to shout - "hey Cloud!" So he went out of his house, day after day, and endured the torture of standing in the corner, knowing that everyone knew - for they indeed knew - that he was there and was probably thinking of his pathetic form while pretending to be interested, or laughing at, something else. So Cloud waited, waited, and waited. until days turned to months and months turned to years.

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The sky rippled as it turned amber. A tip of a tall, towering tree just grazed the sun. Everything was now stained in a golden light.

Aeris looked directly at the glowing orb. Surprisingly it did not blind her. Nevertheless she squinted her eyes, and her lashes made the rays scatter. The extending, unending, impossibly thin lines all wove into a butterfly figure. The sun poured molten iron from its overflowing casket. The surroundings all blurred in the brilliance. Aeris lifted her hand and experimentally passed it across her face, though she knew it was an illusion.

So she sat like that, staring in the blinding rays of the sun, her eyes half shut.

Looking ridiculous. But she laughed.

Sephiroth was startled from his reverie by her laughter. It came out easy and clear, ringing from her abdomen into an undeniable expression of underlying innate delight.

If she had shrieked with ecstasy it wouldn't have said any more.

And for a moment he could feel the familiar fire burning low. The raw, stabbing green longing probed into his open wound.

With a quick wayward glance he mastered the desire to snap at the unforgivably inconsiderate and unknowing creature.

Such ignorance.

He was like that. All of a sudden his whole being would be seized in an uncontrollable flame and he would quench it the best he could.

.

When her eyes glowed like that, he could see. see her lying across in a field of lilies, her body writhing amidst the endless sea of the white petals and golden stems. He could see her hair tangling among the intoxicating scent. He could see her clothes spoilt by the sunlit powders and he could, at the end of it all, see her wrap around her arms around a figure. And the two would sink beneath the lilac fields.

When he closed his eyes he could see.

.

Aeris abruptly turned her head around to see her companion take the scorched rabbit out of the smoldering fire.

His silver hair was stained. He couldn't help the color from soaking deep into his silvery strands. She thought that she could see the sun reflecting off the glowing tresses and wondered, for a second, if he knew.

She wanted to tell him.

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One could get used to anything. Perhaps that was man's greatest skill. Although it often led to demise, it eased the needless ache.

The shrilling violin, hitting the same notes over and over again, as its piercing scream badgered her nerves. The crescendo would lead to the inevitable bang, an expected doom. It was so very cliché. The past few days had been endless prelude of something so terrible that she couldn't even grasp it.

But the composer had made a mistake. The crescendo was too long. It exhausted her. The first prickling expectation and dread ebbed. She struggled to hold on, for in the end would be the culmination of all.

Yet, one could - and would - get used to anything.

She was a child. She had fallen asleep in the comfortable seat of red velvet in the seemingly eternal and now boring, repeating notes. She did not heed her mother's embarrassed shakes or the crowd's pointing of her ignorance.

She betrayed the elaborate golden setting that destiny constructed and stepped over the timidity that had first bound her.

The foretold never came. The climax was ruined by the lack there of. The audience was left dumbfounded at the insolent stage that suddenly shifted its ear-splitting wails into a quiet melody.

Danger and dread had melted away and Aeris was unaware that it had once even existed.

.

Time passed on its own whim, she knew. But here, the regularity was lost. A minute would extend to penetrate her skull and imprint itself as a memory bared; yet the day merely slipped by.

In affect everything became amiss.

She wondered if it was all a dream.

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So, once again the night was here.

The darkness - better, the mere absence of light - feebly reigned in insignificance. Sephiroth closed his eyes in their usual cave and struggled for sleep.

The void was killing him. Wasn't this all there was? The futile race against death? The outcome was all too certain. People persisted on running, nevertheless.

Why?

The race would end. It would. Just like everything would, because everything one day dies. From power, love, to beauty. From the goodness of human heart to the wickedness of it.

This journey in which he was trapped. Someday they would all breathe their last.

Every moment spent in living was a step closer to death. He could not escape the eternal irony.

Immortality. Did he chase it? That was his promised prize from the alien creature that still dictated him, pushed him through the bitterness of it all.

.

Yet, in the days where his eyes still shed tears, he had wished death.

He had been surprised that a single piece of metal had been all there was to it.

The fragility of it had dumbfounded him.

The sight of crimson blood on his lifeless skin. The sudden sting that made him hiss through the clenched teeth. And the rush of adrenaline, the heart that suddenly beat in his ears and the darting of the eyes to the door, checking it's locked. The blood was oozing out, and the sudden fear struck him, made his mouth dry. But he hadn't pressed on the wound, had just let the crimson liquid drip steadily on the marble floor, making such vivid marks on the frigid white. He had been mesmerized, and the tears that threatened to spill were momentarily forgotten. It was a proof that he was indeed alive.

.

The next day he could barely move from the beating he'd got. The room was cleaned out of everything and anything. The scientist's snarling face mocking him again and again as pain and blood spurted from his mouth.

"Do you want to die? I'll show you what it feels like."

And, oh Gods, it had hurt. The blow after blow bent his frame and he had kneeled for mercy.

.

Gods were cruel. For they smote those who wanted life yet bound those yearning for death.

Was there no escape?

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What was this that seeped through her heart as days passed by?

It was just there. Pinpointing was impossible and analyzing was pointless, for it was a "feeling", dammit. But it made itself be known. Like tides. It came and was gone, only to come again. It welled within her and she could almost feel the protective barrier it generated.

She could almost giggle. The same undue silliness that came over her when it just wouldn't do. Just like she did that day when his hand was upon her face in the stillness of the night. That day when she unconsciously thought a fantasy be true, and had thrown herself through the bars that separated it from reality.

It all came back to her in a wild rush. The vulnerable, trembling thing in the cell, begging for her to free him. And the impassive mask that had her in tears on that day they touched. And the shifting of it when her green eyes locked with his, when he had been so close to her. The feel of his leather coat and his hand on her forehead. The hasty retreat he made, almost as if.

As if he was frightened, Aeris let herself muse. She entertained herself in the world where nothing moved. Only thoughts saved her from drowning in the stillness of it all, however off they may be.

.

His form was asleep. The ever-present glow of his verdant eyes was gone, and only silvery moonlight lighted the cave.

It suddenly struck her that he was not two feet from her.

Suddenly she wasn't alone anymore. She had behaved as if she was the only one in the world, engaging in fantasies and crying as if no one would see. For everything now was not real enough for her.

But the ethereal vanished when the earthly emerged.

They lay parallel to each other, each facing the ceiling. His face was slightly tilted towards the opening of the cave.

She suddenly drank in the details as a man dying of thirst. The mundane details that had shaped her earlier life, when she did not know of such things she knew now. When she hadn't confused the reality with the fantasy. The details were what confirmed the reality of the situation, and she eagerly absorbed it.

Close to his head was the discarded cape, the same one he had drawn upon her when she collapsed in the snow. It was carelessly thrown on the floor along with the various leather straps. She noticed the shoulder pads. Masamune lay by his side, and she briefly thought that he may cut himself with it.

She slowly shifted her form so that she could be closer, by his side. She was so close now, she could see the silver lashes that used to fringed the now-absent eyes. Her gaze almost trembled as it moved down to the long bridge of his nose, the healthy flush of his cheek, and his pouting mouth.

Oh, why was he so still? This was breathtaking for her after such long torture of monotony.

She could barely restrain a choked . giggle, yet again. as she slowly raised her hand. She first rested it against the silver hair that swept the stone floor, the same strands that had been almost fiery just hours ago.

He still didn't move. She felt as if she would explode.

Once again she was a child. This time, she was lifting the heavy lid of a cookie jar, plunging her hand into the hollowness of the clay pot while her eyes kept darting to the kitchen door. All the while she could not, although she knew that she shouldn't, resist feeling unbearably flighty, like a bumbling bird first learning to fly.

If he had opened his eyes then, what would have happened?

She couldn't give a damn, as her fingers softly descended on his cheek.

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Sephiroth could have choked.

The details of his morbid thoughts that he previously had wove into a rope in which to hang himself with fell apart from his fingers like sand.

The strongest fantasy crumbled under a mere touch of reality.

He could feel something almost tauntingly warm suddenly resting on his cheek.

He knew who it was and he could barely register the meaning of it.

Was it her? Oh, Gods, was it her? He wanted to turn and see but now he was aware of the warmth of a body that was inches from him. If he turned he would surely run right into it. And he was now painfully aware that his upper body was bare.

Returning to his previous thoughts was not even an option, and his mind focused nothing else except what was happening right now coherently.

He felt a shaky breath unknowingly caressing the curve of his neck as she exhaled a long withheld breath. Then the distracting. better yet, earth shattering, fingers trailed down his cheekbone. The path which she traced burned like fire.

He was frozen from movement as he felt the same warmth now tracing down his jawbone. It was almost close to agony.

Why was she so gentle? He couldn't distinct the touch from the mere heat of his body that always enveloped him. The touch tickled his flesh. and he wasn't sure if this was a dream.

The most real thing that had happened was emerging back into his fantasy world.

Oh Gods. She was ever so tender and he could have cried at the uncertainty of it all. His mind slapped him mercilessly and he was doomed from concentrating on anything else but this.

And the touch continued, a thumb that brushed his cheek. And suddenly he knew - or thought he knew - that this was real.

What was fantasy? The most elaborate castle was built of sand, and just a touch that was real would shatter it so. Was he really emerged in the depth of his past just mere seconds ago? Was he really dissecting the complex philosophy of life and death just a moment ago? What good was the ability to think if everything and anything was vulnerable to the traitorous thing called reality?

Yet the thought would never cross his mind. For he would gladly forget the most exotic fantasy he ever had for a caress in real life. For it never was the truth it claimed, it had always disguised it. For fantasy was to be nothing but a lie upon a lie.

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Cloud always felt like crying at the deceit and the sheer façade they put on - for he was so disgusted. But a part of him longed that he was a part of the crowd, and that someone else other than himself was in the corner. he would gladly indulge in the duplicity and treachery that he scorned. And he hated himself even more.

Because he was depraved of hope he indulged in a fantasy - of being together with someone who would perfectly compliment him, who filled him so completely. He wanted to find a person that was beyond himself. Someone so lovely that it would bring tears to his eyes just looking at her face. Someone who would rise by his side and caress his cheeks. Someone who would bury her head in his chest and he wanted so desperately to become her anchor - her barrier to everything in the world. He wanted to get hurt for the sake of her. He .wanted. to die for the sake of her - and she would feel the same way too, he mused. But he would not let her. He would protect her, lull her to sleep, sacrifice his shirt and sleep in stark nude on a field of snow if she said she was cold, even when all he had on was a shirt and she was wearing an overcoat. In return he would know that she loved him in return he would never leave her, in return he would never be lonely again - in return, he would know, for once, that there was something called love in the world, and that his life had been spent for the purpose. That he was capable of living for such a lofty ideal.

He let himself be separated from reality and drowned in the fantasy he created. He did not realize that reality would - already have - crushed such hopes from blooming.

For fantasy was nothing but a lie.

Yet he indulged.

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AN:

I am so tired.

I'm so sorry for not updating for such a long time. I'm just so eternally sorry. I seriously was haunted by guilt, yet I just could not push myself to write.

Sorry. I really am.

But I want to thank all the reviewers. You guys are what made me snap out of it and just. write, dammit. I will, hopefully, be responding to the recent reviews I've gotten if I can trace it. Thank you everyone, for reviewing! I would write more, but I am dying to update this.

So, THANKS GUYS!! I LOVE YOU!! AND EXPECT MORE OF THIS!!

^^ Sigh. You guys rock.

--KrystalClear

Ps. My mind is positively a chaos. Much of the monologues reflects a part of me. What good is dreaming, if it can be so easily thwarted by reality?

Sigh.