A/N: So here you are guys =) finally some real closure. I was thinking about it and remembered that some of you needed something more. I ended the story the way it logically ended...which meant some of you didn't get the happy ending you were waiting for. And then I realized that I wanted a happy ending too; that even though I never got one, that doesn't mean I couldn't make one up =) So that's what I did: I wrote my own happy ending. I just started college this week, so the whole 'new scene' is kinda what prompted this. Maybe some of this will leak into the real world, because we could all use a little hope now and again.
I love you all! Thank you for sticking around until I got my sappy butt back in gear ^_^
"How time does fly," Aerith remarked aloud, turning the page of the calendar hanging on the wall.
The pretty girl didn't turn to Cloud as she spoke, focusing her attention instead on the soaking dishes, "It's been almost a whole year since the gala. Yet it feels like it was only a little while ago."
"What are you rambling about woman?" Cid yelled gruffly from the other room, "This year has been too damn long! I'm glad to see it go; good riddance I say!"
Aerith simply giggled lightly at the foul-mouthed mechanic, "He's just upset he doesn't have a purpose since we finished restoring this place. I think he gets bored."
"You shut your damn mouth woman!"
Aerith laughed again, not at all upset at the shout. Cloud was sitting at the table, his thoughts also turning to the past year that had seem to fly by, yet crawl so slowly along all at the same time. So much had happened.
It had been 12 months since they restored their home. 12 months since the party, since the day Leon found someone else.
11 months since he and Yuffie finally decided it was for the best if they learned to let Leon go, that they'd all be happier that way.
9 months since they actually did move on.
7 months since Rinoa broke Leon's heart by leaving him for some asshole named Seifer.
6 months and 3 weeks since Leon left to collect himself, to put himself back together.
6 months and 2 weeks since Rinoa and Seifer got a visit from two very unfriendly people.
3 and a half months since Leon finally returned, since Yuffie could finally look at him without her heart aching.
2 months since life had slipped back into some sense of normalcy.
1 month today. 1 month since—
"And so then I totally swiped—"
"Hey, you two," Yuffie's 'fantastic' story was cut short as Leon called out to her and Cloud, the only person who sat still long enough for Yuffie to gush to.
"What's up Squally?" the ninja asked, Cloud merely quirking an eyebrow.
"It's Leon," he stressed for what must have been the thousandth time that week, but shook his head and continued on anyways, "We just got a new arrival, seems his world was just destroyed."
"Odd," Cloud muttered, "I thought Sora was taking care of that kind of thing…" and Yuffie tilted her head as if she didn't understand it either.
"We'll figure it all out later, but in the meantime I need someone to show him around and get things set up."
"But don't you usually do that kind of thing Squally?" Yuffie asked, "You've always taken the new guys under your wing." The last statement was more of something Cloud would've said, but since he probably wouldn't have, Yuffie took the liberty of saying it for him.
"Whatever," was the only answer they were graced with, and Cloud fought the urge to roll his eyes.
Leon turned around and walked back a little ways in the direction he had come from, calling out to someone they could not see, "Hey, Fair, c'mere."
A boy about their age strolled around the corner, his hair inky black and spiked backwards; and Yuffie noticed that his eyes were almost as enthrallingly blue as Cloud's.
Leon thumped him on the shoulder, "This here is Zack Fair, and he's agreed to join the defense committee I've been talking about. Zack, this is Cloud Strife and Yuffie Kisaragi the Ninja…and Thief."
"Hey!" the girl in question protested in outrage. Zack laughed brightly at the exchange, and Cloud decided he liked the sound of it; he'd always been drawn to people who were unaffected by the world's hardships (Leon not included).
"Nice to meet'cha guys," Zack stuck out a hand for them to each shake, still smiling; something that was not lost on any of them. He was surprisingly laid back and cheerful for someone who just lost their home world. Maybe…he was suffering from amnesia…?
Glancing over Cloud recognized the look in Yuffie's eyes, and couldn't help a soft smile. This would be good for her; he would be good for her. And, looking over to Leon's very well hidden smug expression, maybe that's what the lion had meant to happen all along.
"Come on!" the ninja shouted happily, grabbing Zack's hand, "I'll show you around and stuff, and we can even find you a place to stay!" and started pulling him in the direction of the market.
Cloud stood next to Leon, not minding staying behind; he was happy for her. He'd just stay out of their way and let the magic happen.
Before the two turned the corner Zack stopped, hand still intertwined with Yuffie's, and he looked back at Cloud, "Hey, you coming Spiky?"
Cloud's eyes widened, barely able to keep his mouth shut in his surprise. Zack didn't just call out to him. He must've made it all up in his head. People preferred Yuffie's personality to his any day; there was no way this newcomer actually wanted him to tag along.
Things never turned out like this.
"Cloud," and the blond in question tensed, liking very much how his name sounded as it rolled off Zack's tongue, "come on, we're waiting on you," and smiled warmly at his perplexed expression.
Cloud threw his gaze over to the ecstatic Yuffie, who also seemed to be equally surprised, but more than willing to accept this oddity.
He glanced at Leon then; for confirmation or permission or something –he didn't really know what he was looking for. The lion twitched his lips in a small smile, nudging Cloud and nodding slightly.
Cloud turned back to the two who were still waiting, smiling shyly as he hurried to catch up and allowed a grinning Zack to snatch at his hand, pulling him along.
It had been exactly 1 month since they had met Zack Fair.