Disclaimer: Nope, don't own Final Fantasy VII, or anything related to it.

Author's Note: My third and final entry into a fanfic comp, the previous two being an Axel-centric Kingdom Hearts oneshot, and a Hwoarang-centric Tekken oneshot. Last year, my FF7 piece, "Hero", won the competition. Let's see how I go this year :) Also its been SO LONG since I've written for FF7, and I had a bunch of fun doing it. Hopefully you'll enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it.


CANDLE


"Aw mannnn…"

The kitchen's an absolute mess.

That damn cake's evilly eyeing me, and I give it the same treatment. The oven gets it next, and then the eggs on the floor and whatever's left of 'em dripping off the counter alongside the remains of the batter and the icing. And the utensils that failed to their job properly, making me look like a loser.

I… can't cook to save my life, clearly.

So here's the quick rundown. It's a Saturday, my parents are out at the Golden Saucer because they feel like it, and it's a very special day today. To mark this special day, a special someone's coming over, and I tried to make a special cake for this special someone only to ruin the cake, which is now as black as my hair. And yes, I ruined it specially, by burning the stupid cake, because I'm an idiot and fell asleep on the lounge instead of watching over it.

Dammit.

There's what… five minutes left? I've got five minutes to clean this up before this special someone comes in, and there's no way that I can just pop out to the nearest store, buy a cake, stuff the guy's money full of gil and then run back in here, proclaiming that I made it all by myself and put on a display of forced pride. No way am I able to do that. Besides, it's kinda wrong.

This room's just a… a disaster!

Alright, let's think about this logically. First thing's first – gotta clean up all this mess. That shouldn't take long, hopefully. After this I gotta try and make something else to replace this cake and stick a candle in it or something… How long do cupcakes take to make?

Man, I'm such a screw up. Seriously I remember being a kid and saying 'Gongagagaga' instead of 'Gongaga', my hometown's name. And then I can't cook either – Dad once accused me of 'lighting the water on fire'. And yes, it was without oil. No idea how he got that into his head. And now I can't even make something as basic as a cake.

There's a knock on the door, and for a moment, I freeze all over. In my wondering, I didn't even get time to actually clean up the room. Can't leave my guest outside, it's rude! Doesn't matter how embarrassed I'm gonna be, just gonna have to suck it up and deal with it.

Whatever nerves are jittering around, though, slow to a stop when I open the door and see you.

You smile at me and wave slightly, "Hellooo."

With nothing but a short, sharp nod, I step aside and close the door, shutting it quietly thereafter. I can feel the flow of your blue and white dress brush against my jeans. You've already wandered off somewhere, but I'm still, my palm flat against the wood, pondering on how I'm gonna make up some awesome excuse… Or tell the truth without fumbling over my words like they're hot potatoes, or something.

When I decide to turn and look back up, you're exiting the kitchen, but I can't really tell what you're thinking with the look on your face. There's no furrowed eyebrows, no laughter, no nothing. It's literally like a blank face, and it's kinda intimidating because I don't know if you're mocking me quietly or what.

You then smile at me again, your head tilting to the left slightly as you do so, "Would you like to explain to me what happened in the kitchen, Zack? It is almost like a disaster zone…"

My feet soon carry me to the other side of the room, crossing back into the kitchen, trying to clean up whatever I can because I just can't face you right now. Too nervous and too… stunned that this entire situation's turned out so poorly so far. Everyone needs to be able to make something, right? Something that takes some kind of effort, anyway. And can have meaning behind it.

"Um…" I tug at my black shirt, "I really don't know where to begin."

"From the top would be lovely," you respond, pulling up a chair, seating yourself elegantly.

It feels like there's something stuck in my throat, "Well, to put it simply, you know my parents have been away, right? And they don't know about you yet, I dunno when the right time will be to open up my mouth and go 'hey guess what', and then prattle on… But… I tried to make you a cake," I pause and turn on my heels, choosing to lean against the countertop instead, regardless of the food, "A birthday cake, for your birthday, which is today. Eighteen years old, to be precise. Still a year younger than me, though… Happy birthday, anyway."

You tuck some of your brown hair behind your ear, your green eyes shining underneath the hanging tungsten light. You try to hide the smile in your voice, but it's very obvious that you can't because it's cracking through into your words, "So you did remember."

"Of course I did!" I'm fumbling over my words now, even as my head falls, "I… wanted to surprise you."

"You did."

At this, I scoff and look up, furrowing my eyebrows, "I did? How, Aerith? By showing you how much of a screw up I am and how I really shouldn't be your boyfriend because I can't even cook you a damn cake?" You've started to say something, but my voice rises above yours, "Well I know making a cake's not exactly important but my failure in making it shows that I'm still quite the screw up…"

"Zack," you begin, chuckling a little, "I don't care if you can't make a cake. It's the effort behind it that surprised me, and it's the effort that I appreciate. So, thank you."

I sorta feel… lighter. Brighter, maybe, "So… you're not mad?"

"Why would I be?"

"Because there's no cake in front of you and no candles for you to blow out. No wish to make, either."

You stand and approach me, patting my shoulder thereafter. You leave your hand there and smile at me again – honestly I've always loved seeing you smile - and then speak once again, your voice soft and encouraging, "I got my wish already, because I want to spend my birthday with you. And you are here. The cake's not important."

Somewhere amidst the exchange, my hand grew a mind of its own and decided it was a good idea to cover your one on my shoulder. Soon enough, I let go and move from my current position against the countertop, heading to the cupboard to grab something, because an idea's manifested. I gotta remedy this diaster, and I know just the way to do it.

You call out, "What are you doing over there?"

"Getting things."

"What things?"

"Just things!"

Said things are being concealed in my hands when I return to where you stand. You fold your arms across your chest and quirk an eyebrow, slightly confused, and your expression only causes me to smile in response, "Why are you being so secretive, Zack?"

"I'm not being secretive!" I remark, feigning an overdramatic reaction for fun.

It's here that I put the pink candle that I retrieved from the cupboard in my mouth, and you chuckle a little, shaking your head and unfolding your arms. One hand's resting on your hip, and the other's just dangling down your side, without a real care or purpose, "What are you doing?"

"Seeing as you don't have a cake," I reply, despite the item in mouth, "Then I'll be your cake!"

My stance has shifted. My chest is now puffed out more and my hands are on my hips, and you laugh again. The sound reverberates through the room, more so as I pull out the box of matches I also grabbed from the cupboard and lit one up, putting it on the little and very-hard-to-see wick of the candle. My eyes kinda hurt from going cross-eyed to get it to happen, but once there's a little warmth and a little light glowing there, I look back to you, blindly putting the packet of matches on the countertop to my left.

"Make a wish!" I say.

You stand there for a few moments with an odd look on your face, before closing your eyes, making that wish pop up in your head. Afterwards, you blow out the candle, and the air feels nice on my face – the smell of the candle doesn't, though. It's… smelly.

You gently pull the candle out from between my teeth, making it easier for me to talk, "So Aerith, what did you wish for? Actually, wait, no, don't tell me, it won't come tr –"

You say nothing and kiss me instead, throwing your arms over my shoulders.