Anxious Heart Among the Fireworks

Disclaimer: Final Fantasy VII belongs to Squaresoft and I owe nothing about the game.
(I thought I should add this since I've taken a lot of dialogue from the game ^_^")

Gosh, I'm really really sorry about the delay of updates! _ Summer came along and I didn't have enough time to write, then school came along...and so forth. But enough of my excuses! ^_^ I'm writing again and will post more chapters. So far, Cloud has confessed to Tifa, as she had to Cloud. ^_^ I just love them together! Anyways, the story continues on like the game, but I have made some changes to it. The dialogue is pretty much the same except for what I added in. I've changed a lot in the story too to make the story go faster. I've also added Vincent and Yuffie in, although I don't think I've mentioned them earlier. ^_^"" I hope you will still enjoy this chapter!


***It's CloudxTifa forever!***


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~Revealing Light

As the sparkles and glitters sailed down from the sky after their outbursts, the Gondola which contained Cloud Strife and Tifa Lockhart also descended. When they both walked out of the Gondola, they smiled at each others as Cloud reached for Tifa's hand. Tifa took hold and she paused as looked up at the falling sparkles which settled upon her. Cloud too looked up as the glitter fell upon them softly. They had missed the fireworks, but they had felt it shine upon them when it had burst to shower them with a light from the dark which had seemed impenetrable...

A light which will continue to shine for Cloud and Tifa to be together...

* * *

The loud explosions and flashes of light woke the young Cetra from her slumber. Drowsily she rose from bed and yawned.

"Ohhh-um," yawned Aeris. "Quite a lovely sight, but not so to the ears. Am I right, Tifa? Tifa? Are you still asleep?"

She turned around and glanced at Tifa's bed. For a moment she thought Tifa wasn't there and rubbed her eyes.

"Tifa?" said Aeris, then stopped rubbing her eyes and looking at Tifa's bed, sleepily. The bed was empty. Tifa was not there afterall.

Aeris' eyes widened. Immediately she shook herself fully awake. "Oh, no!" she cried out, throwing aside her blankets and leaping onto the floor. She rushed over to Tifa's bed and threw back the covers completely. The bed remained empty as before. Immediately she looked around and spotted Tifa's nightgown still hanging on a chair, untouched.

Tifa....thought Aeris. She never even came to bed...Where can she-Cloud! I'd better go tell him first!

Forgetting her shoes, Aeris rushed from her room. Where can Tifa be? she thought wildly as she ran. She couldn't have gone off by herself with...with...no! That can't be....

She burst through Cloud's door, shouting, "Cloud!!!"

Silence greeted her. Aeris can only stand there in response to the silence, noting the neat bed sheets and buster sword propped against the wall, and Cloud's night clothes, also hanging from a chair...untouched...

* * *

"Tifa! Cloud!" shouted a familiar voice.

Both turned simultaneously. Alan appeared, clutching his camera and two photographs.

"I'm...sorry...if i was...late," he panted, bending over to catch his breath.

"No, you weren't late," said Tifa. "We just arrived here as well."

"Oh, that's good then," he replied and stood up straight. "I got the photos developed right here." He handed Cloud one of the two.

Cloud looked at the picture and a small smile turned up on the side of his lips. Tifa watched his expression, then looked over his shoulder to see for herself. Tifa had to smile as well.

It was truly a lovely picture. The Gondola poster was in the background along with the pictures of the fireworks. The lighting was perfect with the reflects of multiple colors which bounced off the walls. But most importantly, was the couple standing in the middle of the picture. Cloud, with his arms protectively around Tifa, had a small smile on his face as though he was secretly enjoying the hug, which he was. Tifa, holding Cloud's arms, was leaning back against Cloud pressing onto him and showing a beautiful smile.

"I'm sure glad I have a copy of it," they heard Alan say. "This picture is worth a thousand words with hidden feeling and will definitely bring me a good grade."

Cloud looked up and looked at the young man. "I'm sure it will," he said, nodding with a smile."And I'm sure it is."

He looked at Tifa and smiled.

* * *

After waving good-bye to Alan and wishing him good-luck, Cloud decided that they should return to the hotel. Hugging Tifa to him, they both walked back to the hotel past the many people who still did not want to retire to their beds.

As they finally stopped in front of Tifa's room, Cloud reached for the door handle. Unexpectedly, Tifa stopped him.

"No, don't, Cloud," she whispered quickly, withdrawing his hand.

Confused, Cloud allowed himself to be stopped. "What's wrong, Tifa?" he asked.

"I...I don't want to...wake Aeris up," she whispered, looking at the ground.

"What is the matter to wake Aeris up?" asked Cloud, feeling more confused.

"I don't want her to see us like this...she is my best friend, I don't want to hurt her...." Tifa's voice trailed off.

"Tifa," said Cloud, holding her shoulders as Tifa looked up and looked at him, "my feelings for you can not be kept in secret or a hushed whisper. I love you, and that is all that matters to me. Aeris is nothing more to me than a close friend. You are much more than that. If she finds out, then she will have to bear the truth. I can not and will not change that."

Tifa nodded without a word, but Cloud could see the relief that shown in her eyes.

"I'll...walk you to your room. If I do wake Aeris, I will be alone," she said, pulling his arm along with her.

As they stopped in front of Cloud's room, Cloud suddenly encircled his arms around Tifa's waist and pulled her close.

"Cloud...?" said Tifa softly, surprised by his sudden action.

"We'll tell the others tomorrow about us," he murmured. "So that they won't start assuming anything. It will be straighforward."

"Are you sure?"

"I am positive, Tifa. Even if they all appeared at this very moment, I wouldn't hesitate to reveal the truth that I have bottled up for over 5 years....Tifa, I love you."

He pressed his lips upon hers before she could respond, but he knew that by the way she responded to the kiss, she did not mind at all. There was no one around; the hallway was silent and empty except for the two who stood alone. Both enjoyed the quietness and the privacy that was laid out before them.

"Why don't you come in for a while?" asked Cloud after they broked from the kiss and he reached for the door handle.

"Sure," said Tifa, holding Cloud's hand as he opened the door with the other and stepped in. Tifa nearly ran into him when Cloud stopped in a half step into his room.

"Cloud?" said Tifa, concerned. "What's wrong....." Cloud stepped aside and Tifa was completely surprised.

All the lights were on and the entire group was in the room. Vincent was leaning against the wall with Yuffie pestering him with questions. "What don't you talk? What's with the claw? How old are you REALLY?" came from her repeatedly. Barrett and Cid were engaged in some sort of argument and RedXIII watched without much interest. Aeris was sitting on a chair and looking worried.

At the sound of Cloud walking in, everyone immediately stopped with their talking and Aeris jumped up from the chair.

"Oh! Cloud!" she cried, rushing over. "I was sooo WORRIED about you!"

"Where were you?" asked Barrett grumbily. "And you too, Tifa?"

"Well...we..." stammered Tifa, unable to answer.

"Walking off at the middle of the night," yawned Cid. "Telling no one. Worryin' your friends sick...."

"Screamin' for everyone to walk up," finished Barrett. "Just where were you two?"

Tifa looked at Cloud, searching for an answer, but he was doing the same. Aren't you going to say something? said Tifa's expression. I...willl soon, responded Cloud's look. Yuffie caught the silent interaction between them and smirked.

"Weellll...." started Yuffie, grinning. "A guy and a girl, no one around, walking off together, doncha think they will be-"

"You stay out," growled Cid. "You're too young for this...but hey....did you two just sneak off together?"

Both Cloud and Tifa felt their faces flush. Aeries looked at them, but decided to ignore that question.

"It's alright!" she exclaimed. "As long as they're back! I had thought they both were taken by Shinra or pursued by monsters or kidnapped or injured or.....or......Oh, Cloud! I'm so glad you're alright!" And she leaped into Cloud's arms.

Surprised, Cloud immediately held his arms to stop Aeris, but in in doing so, dropped the picture of him and Tifa. Not the picture, Cloud groaned in his thoughts. He struggled to pick up the picture, but his arms were clamped to his sides by Aeris' arms. From the corner of this eyes, he saw Tifa's lips twitch.

"Aeris please," Cloud said as he struggled. "I dropped something...can I pick it up?"

Bored from the argument between Barett and Cid and decided for some attention, RedXII stood up. "What can this be?" he said, sauntering over for a look.

"Oh! It's just a little something," said Tifa quickly, reaching to snatch it up, but not before RedXIII caught a sight of it.

"Oh, I see." he said, smiling slightly as Tifa started to again blush. "It's actually quite a beautiful picture. You needn't hide it."

"What picture?" said Barrett and Cid simultaneously.

"Yea, what picture?!" asked Yuffie, bounding over. "I wanna see! I wanna see!" And before Tifa could stop her, Yuffie whisked the picture from Tifa's hands, leaped away, and paused to looked at it. Her eyes immediately widened.

"Ooooo!!!!!" exclaimed Yuffie. "This is sooo cute!!! Tifa! You look so cool with....." She looked up and then smirked at Cloud, who was struggling with Aeris hugging him. With a grin she began chanting: "Two-timer! Two-timer! Cloud loves a heart but cheats with an airrrrr!" (Author's note: Heart=Lockhart, Tifa; Air=Aeris)

"YUFFIE!" shouted Cloud, completely furious with the 16-year-old.

She continued chanting as Barrett walked over. Without a word he snatched the picture from her.

"HEY!" shouted Yuffie, stopping her chant and trying to take the picture back. "That's mine!"

"You mean MINE!" she heard Cloud growl.

"Let's take a look," said Cid, walking over as Barrett looked at the picture. Vincent glanced at it from his corner over Cid's shoulder.

"Love, hmf," he muttered, looking away.

Unfortunately, Yuffie heard him.

"Whadaya mean, huh?!" she said and walked over to him. "Do you know how it is to be in love, huh? Doncha think that they've been through a lot? You should feel happy! And love is a beautiful thing! You can't look down upon it like that! What do you know about love?!" She glared at him with the worst glare she could give.

Vincent merely looked at her. "Kid," he said quietly. "You're too young to understand...and you don't know about love as much as I do.I have been through a lot and more than you can ever think."

Yuffie folded her arms over her chest. "I'm listening."

When he didn't answer, Yuffie continued to pelt him with questions and demands. In the meanwhile, a small smile showed upon Cid's face as he surveyed the picture.

"Well well well," he started, looking at Tifa, who looked at the floor to avoid his eyes, her ears becoming pink.

"Nothin' really to be embarrassed about!" said Barrett, waving the picture at Tifa, grinning. "My lil Tifa's all grown up-"

"What picture?" asked Aeris suddenly, finally releasing Cloud. Tifa heard a breath of relief the exhaled from him as he straightened himself up. "Can I see it?" she said as she reached for the photograph.

Barrett and Cid exchanged uncomfortable glances.

"Are you sure?" asked Barrett quietly.

"Of course, silly!" said Aeris, flashing a smile, holding out her hand and waiting eagerly.

Barrett looked over her and contacted with Cloud's eyes. Cloud noticed and merely shrugged. He mouthed 'Go ahead', and pulled Tifa to him with one arm and tipped his head toward her so Barrett can acknowledge her beside him.

I know that, you idiot, thought Barrett, frowning. I'm asking how would Aeris feel...Whatever, it's not my problem.

"Here, Aeris," said Barrett, handing her the photograph.

Aeris took it with a happy squeal and flipped it over to the right side and looked.

Only Tifa noted that the smile upon Aeris' face had wilted, but only a little. A girl would know another girl's heart, thought Tifa. She is definitely not happy with it....she is facing denial...

As accurate as Tifa thought, Aeris faced Cloud and forced to put on a smile. "This is a very pretty picture," she started slowly, "but...it's only a picture, right? There's nothing really....right? I mean...you know.....it's just a capture of a moment...that's all...isn't it, Cloud?" Her voice rang with mix of hope and a touch of sadness.

I knew she was going to say that, thought Cloud. It might hurt her, more than I feared, but she would have to know.

Cloud shook his head. "No, Aeris," he said. "It is not just only a picture, but the truth which represents what Tifa and I are."

Aeris' eyes widened completely. She drew in a sharp intake of breath and took a step back. RedXIII watched with interest while Vincent merely paid attention. Barrett and Cid waited for more explanation with their arms folded across their chests, leaning against the wall. Yuffie, though, was throughly excited.

"I knew it! I knew it!" she shouted with glee. "I told you so! A guy and a girl, no one to be around to stop them, who knows what they had-"

"Yuffie!" shouted Cloud, completely exasperated with the young ninja. Yuffie continued to chant and ignored Cloud's warning. Shaking his head, he ignored Yuffie and continued with the rest of the group.

"Everyone," started Cloud, making sure he had all their attention. Yuffie suddenly paused to listen as well. "I think this is the time that I should tell you all. I won't stall or take time since all of you will sooner or later know of this." He took Tifa's hands and looked into her beautiful red eyes. We are such a perfect match, he thought, thinking about his blue eyes in unison with Tifa's red. But that is not why I care so much for this woman. Ever since I had met her...she had taken my heart and I knew I will never get it back. I want the world to know that I had lost only one battle, to take my heart back from Tifa, but I know that it forever will belong to her, as hers belong to mine. "I am in love with Tifa Lockhart."

It was as though time itself went through a slip. Barrett's head snapped up at Cloud's last line. Cid stood up straight so quickly he knocked Barrett off his feet. As they went into another argument, Yuffie danced around singing something about love and mysterious lovers. RedXIII cocked his head and asked about love. Only Vincent showed no reaction, and only Aeris sat down slowly as though she was in shock.

"I wanted to tell everyone," continued Cloud, trying to catch their attention again, "since I want it to be clear about our relationship so nothing can come between us and no strange rumors would start circulating. I only want to be with Tifa."

"I feel the same," said Tifa, bringing up her courage and standing beside Cloud. She took a deep breath. "Barrett..." Barrett stopped arguing at the sound of his name and turned to Tifa. "Remember how you would ask from time to time why I never looked at another man...this is why. I could never find another like Cloud. I am in love with Cloud Strife."

Barrett nodded knowingly. "Tifa," he began. "I knew that when you first brought Cloud to the AVALANCHE headquarters, he was somehow different. You talked to him differently and treated him differently. I'm glad that you finally did something about it....."

"Yes, Cloud is different," said Aeris suddenly. Barrett looked surprised at his interruption as he looked at Aeris. She did not apologize or return his gaze. The room immediately silenced at Aeris' words.

"He is different," she repeated. "And....he derserves a good person to be with him...although...I thought...I was also different from most people that......" She trailed off as she set the picture onto the bed and avoided everyone's eyes.

"Aeris...." said Cloud. "You know that...it just can't....." Cloud too trailed off.

An uncomfortable silence settled upon the once loud and rowdy room. Yuffie, too, had to stand still and hold her breath, trying not to make a sound. RedXIII sat still, swishing his flaming tail back and forth, back and forth. Tifa surveryed her eyes around the room and brushed back her hair with an unsettling hand as she turned to look at Cloud. Without a word she took his arm in hers. Cloud felt the movement and allowed Tifa to comfort him. I have to do something...say something, he thought. It's not-

Cloud was interrupted from his thoughts by a very loud laugh that suddenly erupted from Barrett. Everyone too was jolted by the sudden break in the silence.

"What's so funny?" asked Yuffie, scowling.

"It's that....Tifa..." Barrett laughed, "and I talked....about why she never looked at another man." He continued to laugh loudly.

"And....???" asked Cid impatiently.

Barrett stopped laughing but continued to chuckle. "She told me how she was waiting for the right man, the one with a big sword." He erupted with a loud laughter again as everyone looked at each others confused. Tifa, though, burned bright red.

"B-Barrett!!!" she shouted, fuming with embarassment and complete annoyance.

"What's wrong, Tifa?" laughed Barrett, even louder. "Didn't you say he has to have a biiiig sword and shaped-"

"BARRETT!"

Tifa watched as he beckoned Cid over and whispered into his ear. Soon, Cid too was caught in long peals of laughter.

"I-I think you're all tired," stammered Tifa. "Why...Why don't you all go to bed now?" She gestured to the open door.

RedXIII was the first to bound out the door. "I'm glad you're alright, Tifa," he said on the way out. "Have a good night."

Aeris then stood up. "I think....I think I'll go to bed now." She rose slowly and left the room without another word. "I'm glad that you're alright too, Tifa...and Cloud....I was worried...."

Soon Vincent and Yuffie left, followed by Barrett and Cid, whom of which Tifa was struggling to shove out the door.

"Remember to tell me the exact si-"

"Barrett!" Tifa finally shoved them out and shut the door quickly. She listened as Barrett and Cid's laughter grew fainter until their voices had disappeared behind doors of their room. Relieved, Tifa turned back to Cloud, who was sitting on the bed and looking at the photograph.

"Haven't seen enough of it?" asked Tifa playfully as she seated herself beside Cloud.

"A little," replied Cloud, "because what I really want to see is already sitting beside me."

Tifa laughed and shook her head. "Silly Cloud," she said as she took the picture and set it on a nearby desk.

"Oh, Tifa," said Cloud, remembering, "what was Barrett talking about the sword?"

Tifa immediately felt her face flush as she seated herself beside Cloud again.

"Well...." said Tifa, struggling to find the right words, "it's true that Barrett usually asked me why I never wanted to go out with another man or start a relationship before I met you. Then he asked me what kind of man I wanted. I remembered that you had a liking for large swords, so I said....umm..well....I was waiting for someone with a sword...a biiig sword." She gestured how large with her arms.

"But I do have a big sword," said Cloud, pointing to his buster sword propped against the wall.

"No! No...not that..." said Tifa, her face redder than ever. "Not...that kind of sword....Barrett misunderstood what I had said, so he liked to tease me about it. Umm...I meant the sword that you use to fight with...but Barrett....ummm....thought of a....well....guy's sword..." Tifa's voice grew more soft within each word and figgeted with her hands, obviously uncomfortable with the subject.

"I don't...." said Cloud, then it suddenly came to him. Oh...gosh....thought Cloud, feeling a touch of humiliation which was replaced by fury. "I am going to kill that Barrett......"

Tifa laughed. "It was all really a joke....Barrett liked to tease me with it. It's really nothing too bad."

Cloud shrugged and smiled a teasing smile. "What if I am as big as-"

"Cloud!"

She glared at him as Cloud laughed. He's actually laughing, thought Tifa. She too then had to laugh along with Cloud. The laughter lasted for a short while, when Tifa decided to bring up the subject that was bothering her.

"Cloud..." she said. "Aeris....I don't think she was very pleased to know."

Cloud shook his head. "Tifa," he sighed. "I do not care at all how Aeris feels about us. I had said this before; Aeris would have to deal with it on her own. She is nothing more to me than a close friend. I will not change what is between us. I love you far too much for another person to come along and stop us from loving each others. I won't let you leave me Tifa. I love you."

"Oh, Cloud!" said Tifa as she threw herself at Cloud and hugged him fiercely to her. She could not let go of the man she loved so much and the combination of relief, truth, and happiness left her tears streaming down her face. She could not think of a life without him. She would not forget what he just said and kept those words locked into the heart. I won't let you leave me Tifa. I love you...I love you...I love you...love you..

Cloud responded by hugging Tifa tightly to him. He could not think of a life without Tifa as well. It seemed so impossible, so lonely, and so cruel. He held her and buried his face into her hair. My Tifa, he thought. My life...my world...my love...

Both enjoyed the long while as they held each others. It was until Tifa remembered what Barrett had said that everyone had awaken to find them and noticed something very wrong.

She released Cloud and looked up at him. "Where's Cait Sith?" she asked.

* * *

Cait Sith looked nervously around. The loud group of people walked by and didn't pay attention to the cat on the large stuffed animal. He relaxed as he watched them walk by. This is going to be quick, he told himself as he held the keystone in his shaky hands. It's going to be-

"Hey!" said a voice. "What's Cait Sith doing?"

"Wha!!" exclaimed another voice. "Is that the...keystone? Hey! Cait Sith!"

Cloud! Tifa! thought Cait Sith wildly. Immediately he ran. Cloud and Tifa wasted no time in running after him, gaining upon him slowly. He rushed into the Chocobo square where Cloud and Tifa lost his whereabouts.

"Where did he go?" panted Tifa.

To her response, they heard a loud helicopter outside. Immediately they ran out, only to find they were too late. Cait Sith had handed the keystone over to...Tseng!

"Well done," said Tseng before he flew away on the helicopter.

"Hey!" shouted Cloud rushing over. He grabbed Cait Sith off the stuffed animal.

"W-wait a second. I won't run or hide," said Cait Sith, struggling against Cloud's grip. "Yes, I was a spy. I was hired by Shinra."

A pained look appeared on Tifa's face. "...I trusted you. I can't believe you!" cried Tifa.

"I can't help it," said Cait Sith, saddened by the look on Tifa's face. "How 'bout if we continue like nothing ever happened?"

"No way, cat!" shouted Cloud, shaking him. "You gotta lot of guts acting like friend but being a spy!"

"Then, what are you goin' to do? Kill me? You'd just be wastin' your time if you tried. This body's just a toy anyway. My real body's at Shinra Headquarters in Midgar. I'm controllin' this toy cat from there."
"So you're from Shinra," said Tifa, anger flaming in her eyes. "Who? Who are you! Tell me!"
"Whoa," said Cait Sith, shaking his head, "I can't tell you my name."
"We're not gettin' anywhere," said Cloud, turning to Tifa.
"See? I told you!" said Cait Sith, struggling again. "Talking won't do any good, so can't we just continue our journey?"
Cloud glared at him and held him higher, stopping him from struggling. "You think I'm jokin'!?" he growled.
Cait Sith remained still as he spoke. "...Alright, yes, I am a Shinra employee. But we're not entirely enemies. ...Something bothers me. I think it's your way of life. You don't get paid. You don't get praised. Yet, you still risk your lives and continue on your journey. Seeing that makes me... It just makes me think about my life. I don't think I'd feel too good if things ended the way they are now."
"......And so on, and so on..." Cloud heard Tifa say.
"He'll never tell the truth," said Cloud, glaring at Cait Sith."Once a spy, always a spy. We can't go on with someone like that. C'mon get real!!" He shook Cait Sith slighly intending to frighten the cat.
Cait Sith smirked. "...just as I thought," he said. "Talking won't make a bit of difference. But I prepared something in case this happened. Why don't you listen to this?" He took out a small recording device.
"Papa! Tifa!" cried a familiar young voice.
"Hey! That's Marlene!" cried Tifa.
"Tifa?! Tifa!" continued Marlene. "Help me!"
Cait Sith flicked the device off. "...So, you have to do as I say."
Cloud shook with fury. "...You're the lowest..."
Cait Sith shrugged. "I didn't want to do this... using dirty tricks and taking hostages... But this is how it is... no compromises. So why don't we continue on as we did? Oh, you didn't seem to know this, but... The Keystone is the key to the Temple of the Ancients. Even so, you're all going, right? I know where it is, so I'll show you later. The Shinra have already been there, but I guess you have to deal with that."
"...Well, we're stuck... We'll have to do what he says," said Cloud, glaring at Cait Sith with the worst glare he can give as he set him down.
* * *
Tifa sat down on the bed as Cloud closed the door to his room. Neither said a word as Cloud seated himself beside Tifa.
It was a blow to both of them that a friend had betrayed them. A friend...who was part of Shinra. Shinra, the very company and organization that Cloud and Tifa sworn to hate. The organization that brought the many losses and pain to both.
After a while, Cloud decided that what had happened could not be changed. Tifa must be tired, he thought. It has been quite a night for her.
"Tifa? Do you want to go to bed now?" he asked softly.
"Yes, I do, Cloud," whispered Tifa.
Cloud nodded and reached over to give Tifa a kiss on the cheek before rising and going to the bathroom.
She must be taking it really hard, he thought. Tifa cares much for Marlene...and she had trusted Cait Sith deeply. He was a very good friend to her. Cloud turned on the tab and washed his face. As he turned off the tab, he looked at himself in the mirror. Water dripped from his face and droplets settled on his eyelashes. His hair in the front curled more from the weight of the water and dripped off when the weight grew too much. Blue eyes gazed back at him. Cloud shook his head to get the last of the water off him and looked at himself again. He looked deeper into his eyes and noted the slight yellow glow. Mako...he thought.
Cloud closed his eyes and walked away from the mirror. Tifa came to his thoughts. She's probably back in her room sleeping, he thought. It's alright...I'll see her tomorrow morning. I wish I can be with her now though...I want to know how her body feels against mine...soft, warm, comforting....Cloud sighed as stepped from the bathroom, but stopped in his tracks.
Am I seeing things? he thought.
On his bed was a large lump under the blanket....with long hair and a womanly figure...
Ti....Tifa...??, thought Cloud. I thought that she went back to her room....
He walked quietly over and gently laid a hand on the figure.
"Tifa?" he whispered. A small moan answered him. "It is you....Tifa..." Cloud smiled.
He looked across the room and looked at the other empty bed. It looks too lonely, he thought. I don't want to be alone...but I'm not alone, not anymore...
Cloud slipped out of his shoes and slowly crept onto the bed. He lifted the blanket and settled down beside Tifa, enjoying the warmth that Tifa had made. As though she knew, she turned to face him with a small moan, eyes closed.
Cloud waited to see if she was awake, then reached over to brush Tifa's hair from her face. Gosh...Tifa was just so beautiful..any man would be envious of Cloud...it frightened him to imagine a life without her. Shaking those thoughts from his head, Cloud crept closer and hugged Tifa close to him and fell asleep. Meanwhile, a small smile appeared on Tifa's lips.
* * *
In the following morning, everyone was late in waking up, but Cloud and Tifa woke up even later, finding themselves hard to leave each others in bed.
"What took you so long, Cloud?" asked Cait Sith when they finally appeared. "Oh yeah, about the Temple of the Ancients. I think if we take the Tiny Bronco East towards the sea, we should be able to find it. Well then, shall we get goin'?"
"Yea," was the response.
Aeris avoided everyone during the whole trip. Tifa tried to make conversation with her, but without success. Finally it came down to leave her alone.
Upon arrival at the Temple of Ancients, Aeris was suddenly regenerated. She rushed ahead of the others and stopped in front of the pyramid.
"This is... the Temple of the Ancients..." she breathed. "I... know... I feel it... The knowledge of the Ancients... floating... You could become one with the Planet, but you're stopping it with the strength of will. For the future? For us?"
"What are you saying?" asked Cloud when he and the rest caught up with her. "Do you understand?"
"You're uneasy..." continued Aeris, ignoring Cloud. "But happy? Because I'm here? I'm sorry ...I don't understand. I want to go inside!" She ran as the group quickly followed.
They ran into the pyramid, but immediately confronted Tseng, but he was mortally wounded.
"Hey! It's Tseng!" said Aeris.
Tseng noticed them and muttered something about the Promised Land and Sephiroth. Hearing Sephiroth's voice, Cloud jolted.
"Sephiroth?" he said. "He's inside?!"
"Look...for yourself..." said Tseng, and handed Cloud the keystone. As he handed over the keystone, Tseng gave a shudder and slumped back with his eyes closed.
"He's dead," said Cloud quietly. With the key in his hand, he set it onto the altar. Immediately they were taken to the inner sanctum.
(Author's note: I skipped some parts so that the story could move faster. The parts I skipped were the parts that are already seen in the game; it's not necessary to write it into the story. I hope you don't mind!)
Walking along the corridor, Cloud sensed a being that he had thought he had long since forgotten. "Sephiroth is here, right?" he said, turning to the group. "Tseng had said so. No matter what he thinks, it's going to end here. I'm taking him out!"
Moving along, they arrived at a room with pictures.
"Where are you!? Sephiroth!!" shouted Cloud.
"So cold." said a voice. "I am always by your side. Come. Splendid. A treasure house of knowledge..."
"I don't know what you're saying!" Cloud shouted.
"Look well."
"At what!?"
At that which adds to the knowledge of... I am becoming one with the Planet. It's simple. Once the Planet is hurt, it gathers Spirit Energy to heal the injury. The amount of energy gathered depends on the size of the injury. ...What would happen if there was an injury that threatened the very life of the Planet? Think how much energy would be gathered! Ha ha ha. And at the center of that injury, will be me. All that boundless energy will be mine. By merging with all the energy of the Planet, I will become a new life form, a new existence. Melding with the Planet... I will cease to exist as I am now... Only to be reborn as a 'God' to rule over every soul."
"An injury powerful enough to destroy the Planet?" gasped Aeris. "Injure... the Planet?"
"Behold the mural. The Ultimate Destructive Magic... Meteor."
"That'll never happen!" Cloud shrieked.
Wake up!
"Cloud!" cried Tifa. "What's going on?"
But Cloud did not hear her. He did not even hear any of the group members. He was consumed by a sudden aura that overtook him...controlled him...He felt evil, and to his shock, he enjoyed the feeling of wrath and pain...He shuddered and chuckled softly..."Ha ha ha... Black Materia. Ha ha ha... Call Meteor."
"Cloud!" shouted Tifa. She took him by the shoulders and shook him. "Cloud! Get a hold of yourself!"
From deep inside the evil, he heard Tifa call his name. That voice, he thought...I should go back..No! don't go...I have to...Why?....she's calling me....
"Mm?" murmured Cloud, looking up. "What's wrong? Is something wrong?"
Tifa looked concerned. "...It's nothing so don't worry about it. Right, Cloud! It's nothing. Sephiroth got away."
"...Don't worry about it. I understood what he was saying. So this must be Meteor, right?" Cloud thought for a while.
"...this must be magic," said Aeris, looking around. "Just what Sephiroth was saying. The Ultimate Destructive Magic, Meteor. It finds small drifting planets with its magic. And then collides with them. This Planet might get wiped out entirely..." Something caught her eye. "Hey! Look at this!" She gestured at a small box on an altar. "There's something written on it. ...B.l.a.c.k. ......M.a.t.e.r.i.a."
"Black Materia!" exclaimed Cloud.
"What should we do with it?"
"Take it."
"But wait...the voices...they say....They said that the Temple itself is the Black Materia. So, this whole building is the Black Materia?"
"This huge Temple?" asked Cloud, looking around. "This is the Black Materia!? Then no one could take it."
Aeris thought for a while. "Hmm, it's pretty hard." she finally said. "You see this is a device, which gets smaller each time you solve a puzzle. As the model becomes smaller, you become smaller too. Until it's small enough to fit in the palm of your hand."
"So, if we solve the puzzles, the Black Materia will get smaller and smaller and we can take it out?"
"Yes, but there's one thing... You can only answer the puzzles inside the Temple. So, anyone who solves the puzzle will be crushed by the Temple."
"We've got to think of a way to get it out. Because Sephiroth has lots of different flunkies. It's nothing to him to throw their lives away to get the Black Materia. This place isn't safe."
After a moment of silence, Cait Sith stepped forth. "Cloud," he said. "Everything you said makes perfect sense! You can use my stuffed body for the future of the Planet."
Cloud gave such a hard look at him that Cait Sith flinched. "We can't let Sephiroth get his hands on the Black Materia. And we can't let the Shinra get theirs on it either."
"But Cloud," protested Cait Sith. "There's really nothing else you can do. Everyone, please trust me."
Cloud looked at everyone for their approval. They all nodded slighty.
"I guess we have to choice." was Cloud's answer.
"All righty then!" said Cait Sith becoming very relieved and happy. "Leave it all to me! Please hurry, you've got to get out of here! I'll be waiting at the exit!"
"Cait Sith...." started Tifa.
"Go now!" he said, waving them away.
As the group turned and began to run, Tifa turned around.
"Be strong," she said, then turned and followed the rest of the group.
Cait Sith watched her go and waited until everyone was out of sight. "She told me to 'Be strong'," he said. "I feel so happy. What happened? I can protect the Planet too! I'm kinda embarrassed... There's plenty of stuffed toys like my body around, but there's only one me! Don't forget me even if another Cait Sith comes along. Good bye, then! I guess I'm off to save the Planet... "
Outside, the group had managed to run outside the pyramid when the ground began to shake. It started with light shakes which rapidly changed into violent tremors. Cloud held Tifa close to him as the ground threatened to throw them from the ground. Then almost unbelievably, the pyramid began to shake and shrink before their eyes. Slowly but gradually faster as it shrunk and turned into a unmistakable shade of pure black.
Finally, all stopped shaking and everything became quiet. The group settled themselves and paused for a breath of air.
"Look!" shouted Yuffie. "I see something...black!"
"It's the Black materia....and don't bother trying to steal it." said Cloud, eyeing Yuffie carefully. She frowned and stepped away from the gap. "I'll go get it."
"Be careful, Cloud," said Tifa.
He nodded and slowly started his descent. He landed onto the dusty ground and paused in front of the materia.
I sense a evil power coming from it...he thought. This is not an ordinary materia. And how can it be? It's the entire Temple of Ancients. He reached down and picked it up.
No sooner had he picked up the materia, a voice echoed in his mind.
I became a traveler of the Lifestream and gained the knowledge and wisdom of the Ancients. And soon, I will create the future. Ha, ha, ha... I wonder? Wake up!
Cloud suddenly felt the evil that he had felt inside the temple. No...go away....you can't avoid me....leave me alone!....I can't leave you alone....why not?....I'm like you.....what?......wake up......shut up!......listen to me.....no!....you can't run from me....aaa.....I am what you are......aaaaaaaaaa..........illusions......
There, Cloud... good boy.
All Cloud remembered was black.
* * *
"Everything is white... What did I do? I don't remember anything... My memory... since when...? If everything's a dream, don't wake me."
"Cloud, can you hear me?"
"Yeah, I hear you. Sorry for what happened....I gave the Black Materia to Sephiroth..."
"Don't worry about it." "
...I can't help it..."
"Oh... Then, why don't you REALLY worry about it? And let me take care of yourself. So you don't have a breakdown, okay?"
"What is this place?"
"This forest leads to the City of the Ancients... and is called the Sleeping Forest. It's only a matter of time before Sephiroth uses Meteor. That's why I'm going to protect it. Only a survivor of the Cetra, like me, can do it. This secret is just up here. At least it should be. ...I feel it. It feels like I'm being led by something. Then, I'll be going now. I'll come back when it's all over."
"Aeris?"
* * *
"Cloud?" a voice said.
"Ummmm...." groaned Cloud.I want to open my eyes....then go ahead....you're still here?!....sort of....what do you mean?!....it is not my time yet.....leave me!......
"Cloud?" the voice said with full concern in her voice.
....she's calling.....then go.....leave me alone......I won't hurt her.....don't you dare hurt Tifa.....I just said won't....
Cloud opened his eyes and saw Tifa standing over him. She looked relieved and happy as she embraced him.
"Cloud...I was so worried..." he heard her say in a muffled voice.
"I'm alright," he said, returning the hug.
"You just collasped there at the Temple of Ancients." said Tifa, hugging him tighter.
"I'm alright now. I just suddenly...didn't feel well"
Tifa looked at him. "I know that isn't true somewhat...but you can tell me when you're ready. Cloud....Aeris is gone."
"Everyone is out looking for her," said Barrett from a corner.
Cloud immediately remembered the dream. "...City of Ancients....Aeris is at the City of Ancients.."
"By herself?!" Barrett stood up.
Cloud nodded slowly. "That's where we'll go."
* * *
(Author's Note: I had to skip even more. *sigh* I'm sorry...)
"Aeris...." whispered Tifa.
"What?" said Cloud.
"There....."
Cloud looked at where Tifa pointed.
There.....was Aeris.
She was kneeling upon a platform in a deep prayer. Her lips moved in a rhythmatic tune as she held a small white orb in her hands. She did not take notice of the group, no even when Cloud walked up onto the platform.
"Aeris..." said Cloud. "You're-"
Suddenly Cloud doubled over in pain. It was immediately replaced by the evil that overtook his sanity. It is time....go...now...listen.....Cloud shuddered at the sensation of the pain and delight than wracked his body. His eyes glowed a bright yellow through the mako that flowed through his veins. He could not control himself...he did not feel himself...he did not know who he was....the sword.....His arm reached behind his back and grabbed his buster sword. He advanced onto Aeris and raised it high above her head. Good.....now...just bring it down....end it.....The sword sliced through the air without sound, aiming well at the target-
"CLOUD!" shrieked Tifa.
"Stop it!" shouted Cid.
Everyone rushed over as Cloud stopped just in time. His eyes which glowed yellow was replaced by shock. He took a few steps back away as he tried to regain his conciousness ....you're worthless....what are you....
"Ugh...what are you making me do..."
Just then, Aeris looked up and smiled at Cloud. She's still smiling, he thought, and I tried to kill her. He tried to take a step, but failed at his fear that he might draw out his sword again. Aeris....
A sudden movement above them caught Cloud's eyes. He looked up and saw...Sephiroth! A moment of confusion and fear washed over him. Sephiroth...he died....how can he be here? He stood nearly paralyzed from the shock of his attempt to kill Aeris and the shock of seeing the one man that he believed dead.
But what made Cloud jolt back to his senses what the Masamune blade that was held in Sephiroth's hands. It was in a downard sweep, aiming for the target below....
.....Aeris!
Before Cloud could change anything, before Tifa and the group can do anything, before any of them could say anything, it was too late. The Manasume plunged through the Aeris and the tip showed through the other side. Aeris opened her mouth into a silent scream as the white orb dropped from her hands and made its way to the waters of the City of Ancients. Sephiroth looked up at the horrified faces of Cloud's group and smirked. He withdrew the Manasume from Aeris as she slumped to the ground, his blade completely sleek with red and dripping.
Cloud could not believe it. It was too fast. It could not have been possible. Aeris was just there, praying and smiling...it was too fast...She could not be gone...
"...Aeris. This can't be real!" he heard himself crying out.
"Do not worry," said the Sephiroth with a smirk. "Soon the girl will become part of the Planet's energy. All that is left is to go North. The 'Promised Land' waits for me over the snowy fields. There I will become a new being by uniting with the planet. As will this girl......"
"...Shut up," said Cloud. "The cycle of nature and your stupid plan don't mean a thing." His eyes blurred. "Aeris is gone. Aeris will no longer talk, no longer laugh, cry...... or get angry...... What about us...... what are WE supposed to do?" Cloud dropped his buster sword and looked at his hands. "What about my pain? My fingers are tingling. My mouth is dry. My eyes are burning!"
"What are you saying? Are you trying to tell me you have feelings too?"
Cloud looked up in fury. "Of course! Who do you think I am!?" he shrieked.
Sephiroth laughed as he jumped into the air and disappeared.
"Because, you are...a puppet..." rang his voice across the City of Ancients....
* * *
Cloud took a step into the water. In his arms he carred Aeris...the last Cetra, his close friend.
The first time we met....Aeris....I knew that you were different. Not only as a Cetra, but as a friend. I am deeply sorry that I could have never loved you the way I love Tifa. I am sorry...
His vision blurred. You were there to make me laugh. You cheered me up. Cheered me on. You believed in me. You didn't ridicule my mistakes. You will forever remain a close friend in my heart. You are not really dead, you live on in my memories...
He held back the tears. I could have saved you. But I felt...fear...I am sorry, I could have saved you. Sephiroth should not have been able to kill you. I was slow....I was weak...It is all my fault....I was not able to save my own friend...
Aeris...you have done a lot for us....It is time for you to rest....and watch over us from above...
Cloud walked deeper into the water until he felt the slip where the water would break into a deep dip.
Aeris....thank you for everything....rest well.....
He gently set her into the water. A part of him screamed to stop. He supressed it...knowing that it would not help. Finally, he released Aeris. She settled upon the water, then slowly the water began to engulf her. As Cloud watched with mixed feelings of sorrow and complete grief, Aeries slowly drifted to the bottom. Cloud waited until he could not see her anymore.
Good bye Aeris.
He turned around and walked back onto the shore. He sad eyes surveryed the group.
Yuffie was sitting down with her arms wrapped around her legs and sobbing. RedXIII sat with small sobs and dropping tail, and even the flame did not look as bright as usual. Barrett was struggling not to sob out loud as small tears trickled from his eyes. Cid was leaning against his spear and avoiding all eyes as his own were filled with tears. Even Vincent, who showed the least emotion to anything, showed the slightest hint of sorrow in his eyes. Finally Cloud brought his eyes to Tifa.
She was watching him with tears streaming down her face. Not tears that he had saw on the Gondola ride, but tears that he had seen when Tifa's mother passed away. Cloud touched the side of his face and realized that he had shed any tears yet.He saw Tifa still watching him and walked over and looked at her. She looked up at him with shining pools in her red eyes and walked into his arms, ignoring his wet clothing. She clutched him tightly as she sobbed. Cloud held Tifa tightly as well and buried his face into her hair. Tifa....he thought as tears finally streaked through his face.
Nothing was said as the two lovers embraced each others in tears and sorrow.
Good bye....Aeris....
* * *

No, this isn't the end. I will add more chapters. ^_^ I just hope that it would be updated often. Each chapter does take a while, but I will continue to write. I hope you don't mind about the skips and stuff! Please review! I'd really appreciate it! Thanks!