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To distract myself slightly from the faint case of nerves of posting chapter 1 somewhere more visible (and spending ages fretting about the synopsis), here are some amended versions of the last two chapters. Not sure how much did get amended in the end, but hopefully I have it sounding less abstract this time...

Chapter 12 - Wutai

Aeris
Aeris's eyes blinked open. She had only meant to enjoy the warmth of Cloud's body for a few minutes; how long had she been sleeping? Her partner was still behind her, his hot skin pressed against her own, his arms wrapped around her. So this was what it would be like. Safe, warm and comfortable beyond measure. Thoughts and fears seemed so distant, so unimportant. All that mattered was this quiet moment with the two of them and Cloud's breath tickling her neck. She wondered if he was still asleep and considered squirming around to check. Better not; she might wake him.

She was fine where she was and wondered if she could carry on like this for the rest of the night. They were currently in a hotel in Wutai having spent a good number of hours in and around the hot spring. After Yuffie's rescue from Don Corneo's clutches, the ninja had insisted they come here in repayment. Since the White Rose of Wutai, or at least her family, was picking up the bill, each of Avalanche had wound up with their own room. There would be no complaints about snoring or flailing limbs this time. It also meant it had been the easiest, simplest and least risky occasion to hook up with Cloud since this journey began. She had slipped into his room around eleven; it was later now but still dark outside. There would be plenty of time for her to get back to her own room.

Earlier Cloud mentioned wanting to bathe in the hot spring with her and the thought was appealing. The main bath had closed hours before; besides mixed bathing was both discouraged and risky. But now she wanted to get Cloud into a tub with her when next possible. It sounded a tempting prospect; hot water all around them, Cloud behind her, the two of them lying in scented water on their own. She could not help but smile at the mental image as they shed their clothes and embraced. Even if she could not yet share a bath with Cloud, at least they were able to stop by the hot spring. How long since she had last had a bath? Too long.

Aeris could hear the soft sound of Cloud breathing. Maybe, just maybe there would be a chance to be with Cloud once more before their friends awoke? Another seduction after the passionate encounter they shared some hours before was tempting. When she waved away his attempts to put on a condom, the action surprised Cloud and spooked him a little. She had made the choice to dispense with them, shushed away his objections and pulled him to her before he had a chance to protest. He did not need any coaxing once he slid inside her. She fidgeted, remembering the burst of liquid heat, the feel of gooey warmth erupting within her as he climaxed. Cloud had groaned, deep, low and sexy before stilling against her. Even as he caught his breath he apologized for his inability to last longer. She had assured him it was okay. So much like the first time they had been together. Now she considered it, their most recent coupling was much like the first. Yet Cloud suffered no moment of self-doubt this time; he'd known what to do as she curled into his arms.

He made her cry out in pleasure moments later, so used to her body, how best to touch her, the rhythms and movements she desired the most. She squirmed against him as he kneaded her breasts. She should have gotten up soon afterwards, should have not made herself as comfortable as she did. But it had been impossible to resist the lure of just lying beside Cloud. She had promised herself no more than a few more minutes in his arms, a few more quiet moments before she returned to her room to sleep.

She wanted more time like this. Wanted to wake up in the mornings with Cloud beside her. This was worth all the potential problems. To sleep like this every night and wake in the morning safe and secure. She just needed to tell him how she felt, let him know what she had decided in Cosmo Canyon, what she realised after Mount Nibel. And providing she was not somehow misreading every one of Cloud's reactions, she would then be able to call him her boyfriend. She just needed to sit down with him and talk this through. She smiled at the thought of his delighted face and wriggled into his arms.

There was an inhalation behind her; she had disturbed Cloud's sleep. "Morning," she said pushing back against him, making the best of the situation.

"Aeris?" His voice was thick with sleep. "I thought you'd have gone back to your room."

She smirked. "I would have, but you are far too comfortable. You don't mind, do you?"

The arm around her waist tightened. "Not in the slightest."

"Good." She settled into contented silence.

"Aeris?" He sounded nervous.

"Yes?"

"Are... are you sure it was okay? About before?"

She gave an exaggerated, exasperated sigh. "Cloud; I would hope by now that you would be able to tell when you make me come."

"No, not that," he said, a note of stress audible. "When I c-, I mean when you didn't let me put the condom on."

Ah. Despite his faint protest back in Kalm, that he was now worried about not using the contraceptives amused her. She twisted around in his arms finding his brow furrowed. "I told you it was okay; I don't regret my decision."

"I know. I mean, I thought you enjoyed it. I just... I could have given you an infection. And you could get preg-"

His eyes were wide with worry when she cut him off with a kiss. He was too cute. He blinked at her as she leant back.

"Cloud, I think I need to let you in on a little secret; I'm on the pill. I'm not going to get pregnant."

"Oh. Oh," he said, and blinked. Relief flooding across his face. "But-"

"And I trust you to not give me anything unpleasant." She leant forward and kissed him again. It took him a moment to respond but he started kissing her back and she felt his arousal brush her leg. "So, you have nothing to worry about. I very much enjoyed how that felt, and was planning on forgetting about the condoms from now on. Assuming you don't have a problem with my idea?" Cloud shook his head and his face broke into a sheepish grin. His cock hardened further, pressing into her hip. "Are you by chance wanting to try again now?"

"The thought had crossed my mind," he said, almost breaking into a smile. Aeris smiled back and pushed him down. Sliding on top of him, she pinned him to the bed as she shifted her hips back against his.


After far too much time lounging in a post-climax bliss, Aeris forced herself to sit up. She had been dozing in short fitful moments for some time now, conscious of the lightening sky outside. Cloud still felt far too good pressed against her and it was snug and warm beneath the blankets he'd pulled around them both. She could just stay with him. Either they'd deal with the rest of Avalanche learning about them in the morning, or they would somehow be stealthy. It would be fine. Or would it?

Looking down at the slumbering Cloud, Aeris realised she missed the little dating formalities. She missed the tension as she admitted her feelings, as she confirmed she wanted a relationship and waited for a response. Missed the first date when even touching hands was new and exciting. Missed all the little moments foreshadowing later physical intimacy. She missed the first kiss and how the later kisses would become more passionate. Missed the simple pleasures of learning about the other; what they had in common, what they liked and disliked.

There was no point in denying she and Cloud would not need those formalities; they were already so comfortable with each other. There was almost no chance of a problem if she told Cloud she considered him her boyfriend. But still she felt she needed to ask Cloud out on a date; one that would not end with them in bed together. So; she could not have all the traditional dating moments. But she could have enough to make it seem like a start and not just a continuation of sleeping together in secret. They would hold off on the sex for now and take the time to learn about each other. She just hoped she would not frustrate herself too much while they waited. Asking Cloud out would have to wait though. If she asked now while they were both naked and in bed together would not make the distinction clear enough. She would take the next opportunity to have the date she had promised Cloud all the way back in Midgar.


Chapter 13 - Enchantment Night

Cloud
After the performance in Event Square, Aeris asked Cloud if they could ride the gondolas together. The question gave him a few erotic possibilities based around an enclosed cabin and away from prying eyes. To his disappointment, Aeris took the seat opposite his and seemed far more interested in staring out of the window. Once again Cloud found that making the first move was daunting. He should suggest they make use of this privacy. It was a lot more certain and safer then hoping neither Barret or Cait Sith returned to his room. Or Tifa and Yuffie did not return to Aeris's. But as was so frequent in his arrangement with Aeris, making the first move was beyond daunting. All he could do was watch her admire the fantastic view of the theme park below them and look himself.

"It's so pretty," the flower girl said, her excitement replaced with silence as the fireworks began. Showers of sparks and the boom of explosions echoed in the air all around them. With visible effort Aeris pulled her gaze back inside the gondola and to her passenger. Now she was staring into his eyes, her hands clasped in her lap. She glanced out the window again as she spoke. "It's beautiful, isn't it?"

Cloud found himself smiling at the comment and nodded. Aeris offered him a faint smile in return, now meeting his eyes once more. "First off it bothered me how you looked exactly alike."

Her words were confusing. Who did he look like? He opened his mouth to ask, but his partner plunged on regardless. "Two completely different people, but looking exactly alike. It's the way you walk, gesture..." She paused, swallowing. "I think I must have seen him again, in you."

She was talking about Zack. She had been comparing him to her former lover, the one she had never moved on from and the one that kept this relationship physical. He tried to keep his face impassive, but failed. A worried look had entered Aeris's eyes. "But you're different. Things are different. Cloud..." She leant forward and placed her hand on his knee, the contact electric. "I'm searching for you. I want to meet you."

The warmth of her touch contrasted with the odd chill that built in his chest. His mind whirled as he tried to make sense of her words. He was right here with her. How could she search for him? Why had she referenced Zack not two moments ago? The former boyfriend whose influence on her life he was never going to eclipse, and whose shadow he seemed doomed to stay within. But she had been talking about him; Cloud Strife. How could she not have met him? Not have kissed him in Wall Market, had sex with him in Kalm? How could she claim to be looking for him when he had been right beside her the entire time?

"But I'm right here," Cloud said, feeling his brow furrow.

"I know, I know, what I mean is..." she trailed off. "I want to meet... you."

There was something familiar in what she said. Jarring emotions seemed to overlap and he felt dizzy. Aeris was leaving him behind; she did not care for him, did not want who he was. She wanted someone else. But even as the bewildering thought coalesced his mind latched onto her words. She wanted to meet him. She had been talking to him. He was the one she was looking for. She wanted to find him. She could show him the way back. Something shifted and he felt lighter, some weight that had been pressing down on him, evaporated. Aeris was saying all these confusing things; each felt almost like both a rejection and an acceptance of everything he was. Something shifted and it was as if they had just had sex. Not the explosive release of orgasm, but the curious almost magic Aeris seemed to cast on him. How calm, sated and complete he felt in the after-glow. He felt it now, prompted only by her words and not as a result of lying in the wonderful tangle of her arms and legs.

Was she trying to hint at something? Did she want him to make the first move? Aeris's attitude had been so unlike everything Cloud had ever known about relationships. Did she now want him to take charge for a change? Unsure of himself he spoke in halting words, not quite believing what he was saying. "If you want to... meet me, you could come over here." He felt his nerves settle, becoming more sure of himself as he spoke. He lifted one eyebrow to emphasize the suggestion.

Aeris started giggling. He had screwed up; it should have been seductive, not a joke. He had misunderstood what she had been talking about. His nerves hitched even as Aeris drew in a breath. "We really do need to work on your flirting, Cloud."

Cloud sighed. "I know." He fidgeted for a beat and then took the plunge. "But how about it?"

Aeris regarded him for a long moment, each passing moment just adding to his nervousness. This could not be good. He had screwed everything up. When she finally replied, her answer was both expected and what he feared the most. It had a bleak inevitability about it. "No. I... I don't think we should have sex."

The bottom fell out of the world. He had been trying to prepare himself for this moment for so long. He had so often reminded himself the relationship was transitory and not intended to endure. He needed to quash his feelings about Aeris so that once the end came it would not hurt as much. But he had failed. He had failed at every step and her words awoke a pain in his chest. He dropped his eyes to his hands, bringing them together to hide his nervousness. "Oh. Okay." He tried to keep the tremor out of his voice and keep his face blank and impassive. How much longer was this ride going to take? He needed to get out, he needed to get away.

"Cloud?" He did not move. "Cloud, please look at me." His insides were in turmoil and he did not move. He heard her shift and then her hand pressed against his cheek. It felt so good. He let her turn his head and found himself staring into her eyes. "It's only temporary. I want to start dating you first." Cloud blinked. He must have imagined it. He turned her words over in his head, trying to puzzle them out, figure out what they meant as they could not be what he thought. "I know I said we weren't getting into relationship stuff before, and I know I kept telling you there wouldn't be anything more between us. But before I knew it I was moving on from Zack. I know Gongaga wasn't great for either of us, but it was the push I needed. I've moved on Cloud. And I really want to try moving on with you. If- if you want to be my boyfriend?"

The rush behind his ribs was unlike anything he had ever felt before. Forget any previous relationship, any passionate hook-up. Nothing compared to the sheer joy he felt at her words.

"Yes," Cloud said, trying to keep his voice steady. "Yes, I want to be your boyfriend," he repeated as he reached out for her hands. They were so warm; he never wanted to let go. "What do we tell the others?" Even as he asked he tried not to smile too much.

"I don't know yet," Aeris said. "I just think we need to take things a bit slower and calmer than we have done. And I don't think we should sleep together so soon after getting into a relationship. So, we're going to cool off for a while and do normal dating things. We'll arrange a first date soon."

"Does tonight not count?" Cloud had asked without thinking. She pursed her lips and narrowed her eyes, and there was the fear once more.

"No. I only just asked you out. Tonight was what I owed you for being my bodyguard. Our first date is still to come." Her expression softened after a moment and now she was smiling at him. "I will, however, be okay with you kissing me," she said with a smirk.

She leaned towards Cloud until their lips met. Their first kiss as boyfriend and girlfriend. The gondola rumbled into the station, disrupting the moment. Cloud was almost tempted to try riding the route again, but Aeris was already getting out. "I had fun tonight. Let's come back here again sometime," she said over her shoulder.

"I think I can arrange that," Cloud said. He checked his watch; it was late. Cloud did not want to head back to the hotel, but the sooner tomorrow came, the sooner his next date and their relationship could begin. They began heading back, Cloud about to ask what Aeris wanted to do tomorrow when she frowned, staring at something ahead of them.

"Hey, what's Cait Sith doing?"

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