Title: Nowhere Warm
Fandom: Final Fantasy VII
Characters: Cloud, Aerith
Prompt: 084: He
Word Count: 746
Summary: Had she known? [In-game, City of the Ancients, Cloud's POV]
Author's Notes: Spoilers for the City of the Ancients, if anyone still needs a spoiler warning for this fandom :) This is a companion piece to Like A Star, which is the same scene from the game, only from Tifa's viewpoint...I never intended to write another one, but my screensaver is comprised of various FF images, and the shot of her and Cloud in the water just struck me a few nights ago, so...here it is. Also, Crisis Core Easter Egg...though not necessary for understanding this, and no spoilers... <3
“I’ll come back, when it’s all over.”
The words chased him, mocking him, swimming to the surface of the water as she sank further and further down.
Had she known? When she left him in the forest, did she know what waited for her? She said only she could stop him, only she could save the world...
She said she would come back. She couldn’t have known. And she had smiled at him...looked up and smiled, and there had been this look in her eyes...it was love, and so much more. His heart had stopped, then, looking into her eyes, and then it began to swell and he wondered why he had let her go in the first place, why he didn’t take off running the instant he awoke, wondered how there had been enough room in his heart for Sephiroth to control when all he could feel right now was her.
And she smiled, eyes big and shining with joy and love and relief and he could do nothing but look back at her, wanting to ask everything and not knowing where to start because if he spoke it would break the spell.
And he should have felt it...the change, the moment the air turned to ice and it felt like all the life was sucked from the room, he should have known. But all he could do was look at her eyes and her smile and then she was gone and he was standing there. He did not smile, but he laughed, and in his eyes there was malice and amusement, and he was mocking his pain, proud of what he had done.
She was just gone, caught in the middle of her smile, lips pursed as though she were about to speak, and he still wasn’t sure he could believe what was happening, and so he just held her, trying to find some sign that life still coursed through her.
She was warm and still smiling, words that would never be spoken still caught on her lips, and he would swear there was light flickering through her, but he couldn’t register anything but the feeling inside of him like he was dying beside her.
He was screaming without knowing what he was saying, hot tears burning down his face for the first time since before he could remember, and then there was a flash of light and Sephiroth was gone and something--Jenova?-- in his place.
He saw Tifa beside him. She was crying and reaching down to help him stand, and he nodded and took her hand, because he knew they had to fight and he wanted to thank her for being able to think clearly, because there was no way that he could. The battle should have been impossible, but once he found the strength to lift his sword he just wanted to punish something for the pain he was feeling. It was messy and graceless and he could barely see, but it was Jenova (or was it Him? The devil himself?), and Tifa was still so strong when he was not, because it was she who finally won the battle, who stood behind him when it was over and he carried her lifeless (but she was still warm!) frame to the water’s edge.
He stood there long after he released her and watched her find a resting place on the bed of the lake, her final words still chasing him. He was numb to the chill of the water, to the growing darkness under the waning moon, staring only at the place where he had let her go, wondering if she had returned to the planet, feeling the tears once again. He reached up to wipe them away, and found his face was covered in blood, her blood--it must have spilled onto him when he held her as Sephiroth stood mocking him.
It seemed significant, her blood covering his face, and he knew he should figure out why, but it didn’t change the fact that it was hers, and she was gone, and he could have--should have saved her, there must have been some way. There were ripples in the water that he knew were his tears and he suddenly felt ashamed. She deserved more than that, more than tears in the lake, and he reached a wet hand to his face to wipe off the blood and despair, finally turning to walk towards the shore.
He did not look back.