Hello and welcome back once again to the next and last chapter in this story, with my co-author RikuKingdomHearts. We had the idea for this one in mind for a while now, and funnily enough, it ended up being much longer than we expected. But we hope that you do enjoy this chapter. So without any more waiting, let's get to it!
Aqua and Cloud were slowly walking around. They had been walking for a while now, just mostly lost in their thoughts. After realizing they had been brought back to the realm of light, it had taken them some time to really understand that. The fact that Zack had stayed behind still hung heavy in their hearts, but they managed to press on. They had figured out that they were back in Radiant Garden, the world that all of them had been in before being cast into the Realm of the Darkness.
It had been three days since that fateful moment when they were returned back to Radiant Garden. After getting back, Aqua slept for nearly two whole days before being able to regain her sense of awareness, as being trapped in the Realm of Darkness for so long had altered her perspectives slightly. She had then tried to figure out what they should do next, but her thoughts were still a bit foggy.
Cloud on the other hand, was not able to get any rest at all as he was in constant worry about his brother Zack. He had spent the last three days mainly pacing around outside of Radiant Garden, lost in his own thoughts. When Aqua had awoken and learned of this, she went to be with him to try and give him some company to try and ease his troubled mind. She had attempted to get him to head back into the town with her and get some rest, but he refused.
The two of them continued to walked around the outside of the main town, as they didn't quite feel like heading back through the town yet. Aqua was going to stay there with Cloud until he decided to head back in. They also didn't really feel like doing anything yet. Even though Aqua had wanted to help Cloud, the two of them only walked around and barely spoke to one another. Though, both of them still had the same topic on their mind.
Each of them were wondering if they would ever actually see Zack again. With the only door to light having closed with him trapped on the other side, the possibility of him coming back to them started to seem quite low. Even with them sharing the same thoughts, each of them had different methods of dealing with not having Zack there as they continued to pace. Both were lost in their own heads with only their rambling thoughts to accompany them.
Though Cloud knew Zack wanted him to be strong, it still was a struggle to keep himself from breaking down. Cloud slowly started to slow his pace until he came to a complete stop. Aqua soon noticed this and turned around and looked at the sulleded young man.
"Cloud?" she asked as she walked back to him.
"I guess I'm still worried… about Zack. I know what we talked about before… but I can't stop worrying about what could have happened."
Aqua frowned a little as she nodded. "I know. I have those same thoughts. But we have to stay strong for Zack. I can feel it in my heart… we will see him again."
Cloud sighed, but ended up smiling a little. "Thanks Aqua."
"Are you ready to head back into Radiant Garden yet or do you want to walk around a little more?" Aqua asked as she looked in the direction of the main part of the town.
"Not yet… just a little more walking around I guess," Cloud replied.
Aqua nodded in understanding and the two continued walking along the outside of the town. Even though Aqua kept advising Cloud to not worry about seeing Zack, she couldn't help but feel uneasy sometimes. However, she thought back to everything that Zack had done in the past, and he had always seemed to keep his word. She smiled a bit at the thought, reassuring herself that even though the situation looked bleak, that he would be back. Sometime.
As they walked a little bit further, they noticed something on the ground. The two froze in their tracks as they stared down at what laided several feel in front of them. They only glanced at each other for a single moment before running over to the figure. Both of them hoping it was who they thought it was.
As they got closer they both immediately recognized the familiar black spikey hair. They almost couldn't believe their eyes as they were seeing Zack right before them. Aqua stopped just a few inches in front of Zack and looked at him. He was laying on his side and they could clearly see he was covered in gashed and cuts. Blood was caked all over his face and body, and it seemed that his shirt was fairly soaked in blood as well. His breathing also raised concerned as it was very faint and almost not noticeable.
Without a moment of hesitation Aqua raised her hand over Zack and casted Curaga over Zack. The wounds slowly started to heal up a little and faded slightly. Zack's breathing also seemed to get a small bit stronger. With a sigh of relief Aqua kneeled down and shifted Zack slowly, just in case he was still in any pain. She gently placed his head on her legs as watched him carefully to make sure he was still breathing normally.
Cloud was still standing a few feet back from them as he did not rush there immediately. His eyes were wide in shock as his breathing increased dramatically. His mind blanked out for a few seconds as he was trying to process what he was witnessing before him.
"Z...Zack. It's...you. You, did come back after all. I...I…" Cloud trailed off as he was unable to finish his sentence as his throat tightened around his vocal chords.
His mind suddenly started racing with all of the fears he had of Zack never coming back, and all of the doubts that he had of his brother keeping his promise to him to come back. There were many thoughts that Cloud could not even think through clearly, as he felt tears beginning to form in his eyes. He wanted to feel embarrassed almost, but at that moment, all of his cares had left him. He was overwhelmed with joy to see his brother back with him again as he ran forward and slid down beside Zack. He rested his head against his chest and sobbed onto him, soaking Zack's shirt more than it had already been with the blood stains.
"Cloud… Are you okay?" Aqua asked as she looked at Cloud. She stared at Cloud sobbing for a moment, a little surprised, but she then thought of it being understandable. Cloud had spent the past three days so stressed and worried, she knew that emotion would spill out eventually. It pained her though to see Cloud so overwhelmed, she wanted to say more to try to comfort him, but she had no idea what to ever say.
Cloud raised his head slightly to meet Aqua's eyes. His eyes were red and covered with tears, as other parts of his face was stained with Zack's blood now. He opened his mouth and tried to find the words to say, but he was still choked up from all of the emotional stress.
"I'm...just...happy...and I was worried...and sad...and...it's a bunch...of things…" Cloud exasperated through short breaths, his breathing still heavy as his chest rose and fell rapidly. Then, he laid his head back on Zack's chest and rested there, not wanting to leave his brother's side right now for anything.
Several minutes passed of the two of them just sitting there with Zack as he was still seemingly in a deep sleep. Cloud's sobbing had just about stopped now, as his breathing finally was returning to a normal state. He raised his head and used his sleeve to wipe the tears from his eyes. Aqua still had Zack's head on her lap as she gazed upon his face in silence, thinking of how peaceful he looked laying there with a smile on his face.
Suddenly, a thought crossed her mind as she raised her head up.
"Hey, Cloud," Aqua said, hoping to grab his attention
Cloud looked up at Aqua and the two of them stared at each other for a few seconds before Aqua continued what she wanted to say.
"I didn't question it until now, but how exactly did he get back? There was nothing to use to come back. I know I should just be happy he is here, but I'm just curious," Aqua trailed off as she became lost in thought at this topic.
Cloud thought for a moment before shrugging his shoulders, as he did not really have a clue as to how Zack was there now.
"It doesn't matter. He's here now with us," Cloud stated bluntly as if to not want to touch on that topic again. "However...if he's here, then I wonder if Sephiroth is too."
Cloud looked around a few times, glancing at different areas. If Sephiroth was here, then he would have come out at the same place together, but there was nobody else around. Cloud hoped that Sephiroth was not around, as he did not want to have to deal with him anymore. He casted that thought aside for now and focused back on Zack.
Zack was still sleeping soundly, with no sign of being bothered by anything happening around him. Cloud had started to worry though, as he had hoped that after this time Zack would have woken back up. His mind started to race again as he tried to find a way to help.
"Hey Aqua," Cloud shakily said. "Do you think...casting another healing spell on Zack would help to wake him up? I'm just worried is all."
Aqua looked to Cloud before looking at Zack's peaceful face. Seeing Zack sleep so soundly with no signs that he was going to wake up soon started to worry her more now that she really was thinking about it. Without realizing it, a memory came to the front of her mind. A certain memory that made her shudder a little.
"I… I don't know…" Aqua said as she lowered her head. Letting the memory stay in her mind. Was this just like it was back then? It couldn't be that. Aqua couldn't think of a way for it to be that way. And she refused to believe that would ever be the case. Determination filled up in her, she wasn't going to get down that easily. Zack wouldn't want her to give up on him.
She looked at Cloud once more. "I'll try though. Better to always try than not at all."
Aqua placed her hand on Zack's forehead and casted Curaga again. The light green glow flowed over Zack's body, healing up more smaller scars and wounds that didn't fully heal the first time.
Both Cloud and Aqua held their breath as they waited a moment. And in the next few seconds Zack stirred and groaned. He slowly opened his eyes and quickly shut them as they light was a bit brighter than he remembered.
Rubbing his head he groaned again as he slowly sat up and finally looked around him to see Aqua and Cloud sitting right next to him. He blinked a few times, as he was wanting to make sure that he was not seeing illusions. Though, Zack thought that he could also have been dead, especially considering the last thing that he remembered. After rubbing his eyes to alleviate his blurry vision, he refocused and sure enough, Cloud and Aqua were there staring right at him.
"Where...where am I exactly? The last thing I remember is passing out in the Realm of Darkness, and I was thinking of you two as well. I thought that I wouldn't be able to keep my promise that I made to you both. Is...is this really happening though?" he questioned to them as he was still trying to gather his composure.
Without having any answers given to him, the next moment for Zack was nearly being tackled to the ground by a surprise hug from Cloud. "Zack…" Cloud muttered as he rested his head against Zack's shoulder. "You're alive...I… I'm…" Cloud trailed off, unable to finish his words as tears started to fall from his face again.
Zack grunted a bit as Cloud was squeezing him quite a bit hard, but he smiled slightly upon seeing his brother so happy to see him. He raised an arm and put it behind Cloud's head, letting him know that he appreciated it.
"Hey Cloud, long time no see. It feels like I just saw you only what seems like a few hours ago. But I'm glad to see you all again. I thought I was a goner there. At least I'm back here now apparently, wherever here is," Zack said as he continued the embrace with Cloud.
Cloud continued to sob as he started to ramble. "I thought I was never going to see you again. We waited three days and didn't know what was going to happen, and I was so worried about you because I didn't want you to have left me again. But...it's kinda relaxing that we are finally reunited in the same place that you first left me…" Cloud trailed off while he sobbed a bit more and tried to compose himself slightly more.
Zack had a puzzled look on his face from some of the things that cloud had mentioned, so he had to get answers.
"Wait, you said three days? I know it had not been that long since I last saw you two. But, I guess that does make sense as time flows slower in the Realm of Darkness. I'm sorry I made you guys wait," Zack said as he looked over to Aqua and gave her a grin. "But, Cloud said the place I first left him. Does that mean?..."
"Yes we're in Radiant Garden now. I guess the door to light put us back into the world from whence we were taken originally. At least, that's what I was thinking," Aqua stated to Zack.
"Radiant Garden?! But, how is that possible. Any idea how I got here then?"
Aqua shook her head. "No, neither of us know. We were just talking about that as you had began to wake up. But at least you're here now, so it doesn't matter."
Zack thought to himself for a moment. If they were in Radiant Garden, then the only thing that he wanted to know is how he got there. He passed out, and then suddenly, he had woken up here. Cloud and Aqua didn't seem to know how he had gotten there either. After thinking a little bit more he decided that Aqua was right and that it did not matter. He pushed that thought out of his mind now as he wanted to focus on reuniting with his friends.
"Yeah you're right Aqua," Zack responded. "I'm glad to be back. Though, I didn't think I was going to make it. I'm actually surprised that I'm still alive and...hey! My wounds are gone. I didn't even notice until just now. Boy it's nice to be able to use this arm again," Zack said as he raised his left arm slightly and moved it around. "You must have healed me Aqua. Thanks."
Aqua nodded gently at Zack and just continued to look at him. Suddenly, Zack felt a tug on his shirt as he noticed Cloud trying to get his attention. He looked at his younger, though now older brother, and patted him on the head gently. "What is it Cloud?"
Cloud had a more serious look in his eyes now. "Well, you said that you were surprised to be alive. I guess that the battle with Sephiroth must have been very difficult. But, I have to ask...what happened down there? And where is he?" Cloud said questioningly.
At hearing that request, Zack looked down and to the side as he remembered the battle that he and Sephiroth had had what only seemed just a little bit ago. He released Cloud from their embrace then. He placed a hand on his stomach, as the thought of it all was painful to say the least. It was something that still did not sit too well with him, after learning of what had actually happened to Sephiroth and the darkness. He figured that he should tell them the truth though.
"Well, you don't really have to worry about him anymore. He won't be bothering anyone anymore. Though… in our final confrontation, I discovered he was a victim of the darkness as well. He had allowed it to control him to the point of madness. I tried to reason with him, but it didn't work. So I did what I had to do," Zack stated coldly as he bowed his head again.
Cloud and Aqua were a bit shocked to hear that about Sephiroth, as it was something unexpected. However, Cloud was admittedly more relieved about it. Sephiroth had caused him nothing but pain and suffering for ten years. He was happy that he was gone now, no matter what had happened to him. He was just glad that it was Sephiroth that was gone and not Zack.
"I'm so glad that you made it out all right though. We were both worried about you so much. I know that I said it before, but I was just so scared that you weren't going to be able to keep your promise to me and come back," Cloud said with an almost sad look in his eyes.
Zack ruffled Cloud's hair, which made the boy squirm a bit. "Ah don't you worry Cloud. You know better than anyone that I always keep my promises. After all, that's what a big brother does. Well, technically you're the big brother now since you are physically older. But you sure are acting quite childish for someone four years my senior now," Zack chuckled loudly as he finished his sentence and he saw Cloud turn a bit red at that comment.
Zack's attention was then drawn over to Aqua, who was chuckled quietly at the brothers talking. Zack scooted over closer to Aqua and smiled. "Ah Aqua, aren't you a sight for sore eyes." Zack reached around and placed a arm around Aqua and pulled her into an embrace.
Aqua smiled cheerfully as a little red started to show on her cheeks. "It's good to see you to Zack."
Zack pulled back from their embraced and looked Aqua directly in the eyes. "You were really worried about me weren't you?"
Aqua nodded. "After everything we went through of course I would worry. You risked your life to ensure Cloud and I got out of the Realm of Darkness safety. I can't thank you enough for that."
"Well," Zack started as he looked thoughtful. "You know there is a way to thank me. The date remember?"
Aqua's blush became far more prominent now as he looked away. But she ended up laughing a small bit. "You still are thinking about that after all this time."
"Of course, it was one of the things that kept me going," Zack smiled. "To see you again and spend a day with you. It was something I kept looking forward too."
Zack leaned his face in closer to Aqua's. She looked back at him, their faces right in front of each other. "You know," Zack started. "There also was that other thing too."
"The other thing?" Aqua asked as she kept her eyes locked with Zack's.
"Yeah. Just before you guys were brought back here. Don't tell me you forgot."
Aqua's eyes widened for a moment as she turned her head away again. Zack could see that her cheeks were still red. "Ah… N-No I didn't forget. Something like that… O-Of course not."
Zack closed his eyes as he grinned. "Well that's good to hear."
"You did catch me by surprise though back then," Aqua said. "But…"
Zack opened his eyes again as he looked at Aqua with a confused glace. "But what?"
Aqua looked back at Zack once more before leaning in closer to his face. She gave a small smile before gently pressing her lips against Zack's.
Now it was Zack's turn to be surprised for once. Just like the first kiss, it only lasted a short bit. Zack still stared wide-eyed even after Aqua had finished her kiss.
He struggled to find the words for the moment, but he almost couldn't even process it. Aqua had kissed him! She had just gave him a kiss without even saying anything. He didn't even know what to think for that. Finally though something at least came to mind.
Aqua laughed sweetly. "You're a hero now, aren't you? I felt like you deserved one after everything you've done."
Zack was a bit flustered as he did not expect Aqua to be as forward as he had been, especially with the way she had acted before. After a few seconds of just staring, he seemed to finally be able to collect his thoughts and process what had happened.
"Aqua...that means a lot," Zack said softly as he gave her her the biggest grin. "I guess though I am a hero now. And hey, I kept my promise to you as well. I told you I would be back once I became a hero, remember?" Zack prodded as he chuckled slightly.
"Yeah, you did keep your promise after all. I guess you really did take after Terra," Aqua stated as she thought about her other friend.
"Ah yea Terra! Now that we're back, we should find him. And Ven. It's been so long and I bet they've changed quite a bit."
Aqua bowed her head, knowing what had happened the last time she had seen both of them. But, just like with Zack, she had hope that after all of this time, things were okay with them. "You're right. I do want to find them. And I know you do as well."
"Well then it's settled. I guess that can be our next thing to do," Zack said with enthusiasm as he tried to stand up. However, his knees started to buckle on him, but Cloud and Aqua were ready and they were able to catch him by each arm to give him support. "Well, maybe I need to rest a bit more first though, haha."
Cloud and Aqua looked at Zack and nodded in agreement. The two of them accompanied Zack, one on each arm, as the trio made their way back into the town of Radiant Garden. Now they were all reunited and back where they belonged as they waited for the next adventure.
And there we go with the end of that chapter, and the end of this story. It's kind of bittersweet, as this is my very first fanfic ever. I am happy to have one finished, but I am also sad to let this one go as well. Though who knows, maybe there could be more later. :P
Anyways, I really hope that you guys have enjoyed this story and all that it has to offer. If you did let us know. Last but not least, I wanna say a HUGE thank you to RikuKingdomHearts for helping this story come to life and having it last as long as we have. Be sure to check out all the stories on her page as there are many there. (And also we have a new story up on her page as well if you want some more Zack and Cloud things. XD) Again, thank you all, and I will see you in another story!