What If... Part 2

The Sleeping Forest

By Gasper S. Keltner

"I'm searching for you…" Cloud looked at her in surprise. They had decided to go on the Gondola, as it was free that night in Gold Saucer. Now, months of traveling together, meeting new allies, almost getting themselves killed more then a dozen times; and Aeris was revealing her feelings to him, her innermost thoughts were slowly spilling onto his ears.

"…………" His Mako Eyes were still wide in shock. He was able to blow off some of the conversation, only half listening. Considering that what she saw was Zack, he felt vulnerable now.

Aeris stared over at him, he smile light as always. Finally she was alone with him. No Tifa to be protected or smothered, no Tifa to drool over him with untold love, no Tifa to take over the show. It was him and her alone, and she knew it was meant to be.

"I want to meet you." He turned and laughed a bit.

"But I'm right here."

I know, I know…what I mean is… "I want to meet…you." He stared at the last Cetra for a second, and wondered. Does she REALLY love me?!?

"Why don't you read our fortunes." Cait Sith was doing his last good deed. The puppet had decided to sacrifice its life, and this, this would be how it was remembered. Upon Aeris' suggestion, the cat let the moogle start its sequence of throwing its arms in the air.

"Say, that's right... I haven't done it in a while, huh?" Spoke Cait Sith. Cloud looked to Aeris and Tifa, not knowing anything else to tell the cat. He wasn't good at inspirational speeches, he was just accepted as the leader. "I'm so excited. Right or wrong, I'm still the same 'ol me." The slot machines in the stuffed toy's chest started turning, printing out the prediction. "Now, what should I predict?" Clasping her hands, Aeris stood next to Cloud, with Tifa on the other side of him. Then Aeris had a thought.

"Hmm, let's see how compatible Cloud and I are!" Tifa immediately turned away in anger and jealousy.

Cait Sith jumped off the moogle's head. "That'll cost ya. Exactly one date!" Tifa stopped her fuming, trying to look non-caring at the whole situation.

"Here I go!" The Moogle kept up his dance. The answer was printed out, and the cat read it, and it frowned. Tifa took notice of this, and felt that aching feeling again in her heart. The android lowered his sound output device. "This isn't good. I can't say it." It looked at Tifa with a stolen glance, noting her pain. "Poor Tifa."

Aeris waited anxiously. Cloud was looking around, losing interest minute by minute. "No! Tell me!" She called out. "I promise I won't get mad!" Tifa glared at the Flower Girl. She turned away from the couple once more. She valiantly held back the tears that were now growing in her tear ducts. In vein though, a few slipped down her face, but Tifa didn't show it much. That little whore! WHY DAMMIT! Her emotions raged. But what was it to her. IT"S EVERYTHING! HE'S EVERYTHING! She struggled now…slowly whimpering, once more barely able to hold back the further tears.

"Is that so? Then I'll tell you." Cait Sith told the two. "Looks good. You are perfect for each other!" Aeris beamed with a wide grin, her emerald eyes flashing in happiness. Cloud smiled weakly, and even chuckled a bit. "Aeris' star and Cloud's star! They show a great future! Cloud, I'll be your matchmaker, preacher... I'll do whatever you want me to!" At that moment, Aeris thought she actually saw Cloud blush. Looking away, he scratched the back of his neck, then did his trademark shrug. Cait Sith laugher haughtily and jumped up and down on the toysaurus. "You just call me when it all happens!" The cat then turned and jumped towards the door leading to the Puzzle Room. Yet, Aeris' noted a look of sadness on his feline face. He slumped, and turned to the three friends.

"Thank you for believing in me, knowing that I was a spy." Then jumping a little ways, he spoke again. "This is the final, final farewell!"

"Be strong Cait Sith!!" Aeris called to him. That was the last they saw of Cait Sith Model One, the Model that foretold two unique futures.

"I've watched this scene several times…when Aeris, Cloud, and Tifa are the precarious love triangle. Even though it was foretold Aeris died in the quest against Jenova; I, Gaspar, Guru of Time have seen the alternatives. This story just so happens to be that way. Watch…for the coming events are what might have happened. What if… I've often asked that question myself. What if this happened instead of that. I've seen it all, and sometimes, I surprise my self eh heh heh! But this timeline…this one appeals to me. No, Crono is not in it…it's of a different group of people. Though some are related to this reality, these characters are different in most aspects…but I digress…Do read on if you wish to know what I am talking about."

Tifa stood at the ledge of the giant hole in the ground. Below, the scene played out, as Cloud lost his mind once more. Sephiroth laughed as he left the scene, now in control of deadliest Materia in the history of the world.

"Cloud... you haven't done anything." Aeris kneeled down to his crouched form. After all the Tifa had seen, she was disgusted. "It's not your fault." Cloud was losing control by the second and Tifa was screaming on the ledge. He stood up, an evil smile on his face, then without warning, punching Aeris in the shoulder. She fell back, and Cloud pounced on to her, repeatedly hitting her.

Aeris felt blow after blow. First, he hit her shoulder, then her face, and then her stomach. He was using his SOLDIER instincts. She felt her a liquid-like substance flow down her face: her nose was bleeding. Cloud was pummeling her, as she tried to defend her self. Raising her arms, he repeatedly hit them, harder this time as if breaking her. She heard Tifa's screams, and wondered if she was coming to help.

"Cloud--!!" The bar owner screamed from the ledge. She heard a noise from the bushes, but ignored it. Cait Sith's familiar voice hammered her hearing. Yet she continued to look down.

"Oops! This looks like I came at a bad time!" Came the voice with a slight accent. "I'm Cait Sith No. 2. Right pleased to meet you all!" Tifa felt the urge to throw the moogle down to help Aeris, but refrained from the idea.

"Cloud, what are you doing!?" A thought entered mind, one of Aeris' broken body lying there, and Cloud climbing up to join Tifa in laughing at the dead flower girl untimely demise. What am I THINKING! She quickly dismissed it, as he looked away, clutching his head. Tifa breathed heavily, thanking whatever god looked down on them that Aeris wasn't dead, and that Cloud had come to his senses.

Falling to one side, Cloud saw only white where once he saw red. Everything is white... He looked around once more, seeing nothing but that color. What did I do? I don't remember anything... He recalled giving Sephiroth the Black Materia and his feeling of guilt that he had done so. My memory... since when...? If everything's a dream, don't wake me. Darkness came.

He stood in the woods, noticing the forest that surrounded him. "Cloud, can you hear me?" Aeris' sweet voice rang through the trees. He watched as his body suddenly appeared in the clearing.

"Yeah, I hear you. Sorry for what happened."

"Don't worry about it." She walked out, and Cloud could see the side of her face. No bruises had shown up, which he was happy for.

He shrugged and looked down. "...I can't help it..." Aeris' form walked back into the trees, and she sounded almost like she giggled.

"Oh..." She reappeared on the other side, hopping between the trees.

"Then, why don't you REALLY worry about it?" She smiled, walking up to him and wiping one of his eyes that were tearing up. "And let me handle Sephiroth." She laughed again, which to him was almost uncontrollably beautiful. Her form disintegrated after turning white, and disappeared again. Aeris walked out from yet another tree. "And Cloud, you take care of yourself." She walked off, into the forest, and at the last second turning to speak. "So you don't have a breakdown, okay?"

She suddenly floated down next to him. He could make out every detail of her. The long brown hair, the emerald green eyes, her nicely formed body. He had known nights when he would have longed for her embrace, but dismissed them, knowing it was a dream and she was inside his head. Looking around, he spoke to her.

"What is this place?" Watching, she put a hand behind her back and stretched skyward, much like Tifa after a battle.

"This forest leads to the City of the Ancients... and is called Sleeping Forest." She replied. Turning to him, she smiled. "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." She turned, and started walking again. "The secret is just up here." She looked back at him, confused.

"At least it should be. ...I feel it. It feels like I'm being led by something." Raising her hand, she waved at him like Marlene would wave to Barret. She disappeared deep into the forest, and he could have sworn he saw a shadow behind her. "Then, I'll be going now. I'll come back when it's all over." Reaching forward, he tried running, but as most dreams, was unable to move anywhere.


He pondered it for a moment, when he heard the voice. "Hmm.... She's thinking of interfering? She will be a difficult one, don't you think?" Sephiroth floated down beside him, and chuckled. "We must stop that girl soon." Cloud's vision went white, then black.

Aeris crept out of the sleeping village of Gongaga. Armed with some left over materia that was mostly given to Yuffie, and her Princess Guard, she walked past the graveyard, giving a thought to pray for Zack. She had seen the similarities in both SOLDIER's, down to the swords the carried. But I love him now, and that's why I'm doing this. She thought, walking into the wilderness. She felt that this was the correct path. I'm the last…I need to do this. A twig snapped, and she stopped. Wha? Looking around her, she raised the staff to a guard position. Crouching, she waited for the intruders to show themselves.

"Show yourself." She yelled out into the night. Slowly, the shadowed figure stepped into the moonlight.

"What are you out doing this late" Aeris let her guard down.

"Dammit Tifa…"

"What? It's a good question." The Bar-owner stared at her and smiled. "Besides, I thought you would be watching over Cloud. I have for the past day and a half." Aeris noted the anger in Tifa's voice, and sighed.

"I'm like Cloud just as much, and I trust him and you all as friends. But I have to go now. I have to stop Sephiroth."

Tifa looked at her for a moment and frowned. "No, you don't-"

"If Cloud is to get better I have to go." Tifa closed the distance between them, and practically hit her.

"You don't know what he's capable of Aeris. Cloud and I got out by pure luck. I know what he's capable of." She pointed to the almost invisible scar tissue on her stomach. Aeris peered at it closely, and sure enough the diagonal cut was there. "Touch it Aeris."

"I believe you. But I need to do this. I'm doing it for you and Cloud." She straightened up, turned, and continued walking down the path. "Good bye Tifa, it's been fun."

Tifa looked on as the Cetra walked off. She was confused to the fact that Aeris had mentioned her and Cloud together. She knew Cloud was just as confused in this affair, not knowing whether to favor Aeris or Tifa herself. Deciding it was for the best, she ran up to Aeris.

"You're not going alone then."

"Tifa, stay, he needs you."

"You need me more Aeris, I don't abandon friends." Aeris stopped and smiled.

"What are you doing now?"

Caught off guard, Tifa sighed. "I'm not abandoning them, I'm leaving them to help you for a while. Besides, I'm getting nauseous from Cid's cigarettes." Aeris giggled politely, then thought.

"All right, we have a lot of terrain to cover."

Gasper S. Keltner's Fanfiction