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I'm not sure how many times I had told him to trust in me, but I still wasn't sure. Maybe I was just telling Cloud that to reassure myself. But he can't stop Sephiroth, and I..know how to.
I knew from the moment I laid my eyes on Cloud that he was the one. His eyes were so clouded, and so confused..I had wanted to help with his confusion. A small smile crossed my lips as I remembered how I'd agree to go on a date with him if he were to be my bodyguard.
I rushed into that.
Am I rushing into this? legs hurt. I'd run through the forest and fought my way to this place. My Princess Guard was lost...but I wouldn't need it. Shivering slightly, I stepped across the glass pillars that were protruding from the water. Shadows danced against the waters edges, flickering into dancing figures and making the marble walls seem foreboding. Once I reached the crystal staircase, I slowed my pace. When I reached the bottom, though, this feeling hung in the pit of my stomach.
It was too quiet.
The water against the pillars hadn't even stirred and they made no sound at all as they lapped against it gently. It looked like a sheet of glass rather than water. I hesitated slightly on the last pillar then finally stepped forward onto the domed alter. The moment my foot touched down, relief flooded my system.
I could hear their voices again.
Walking to the center of the marble alter, I slowly lowered myself to my knees, raising a hand behind my head. Tugging at my bow, I felt something small and round roll into the palm of my hand. I sank down onto the alter, gazing into the swirling materia orb.
It was my mothers.
I closed my eyes and hugged the orb close to my chest, clutching both my hands together. Lowering my head, I silently began to prepare myself for prayer. The materia would respond, I just know it will. Holy needs positive energy, and with my help...everyone will wish for Holy to work. Cloud won't have to take this upon himself any longer.
I blinked and opened my eyes again, gazing around at my surroundings. I placed the Holy materia back into my bow and tied it, patting my hair down. Letting my hands drop, I just stared out at the reflecting water against the white walls.
Maybe that was good, I realized. Now I can pray without distraction. Taking in a slow breath, I raised myself back up onto my knees, clasping both of my hands together and bowing my head. The voices grew dimmer and I could feel them distort their words. They were now repeating something. I strained to listen, but my own thoughts intervened. Clenching my eyes tighter, I blocked it all out and held onto one stream of thought.
My own.
After awhile, I opened my eyes slowly and gazed up. I widened my eyes in surprise upon seeing Cloud. His face was so bright, and I couldn't help but smile. I opened my mouth to say something to him when all of a sudden a shadow fell across me. A stream of voices rushed me and I felt my body tighten and my lungs felt like they were being squeezed.
I cried out for Cloud but my voice was too weak and their flooded me.

* * * *

Cloud cried out and rushed Aeris' body, catching her as she fell. Sephiroth raised his arms in victory, throwing his head back and letting out a hollow laugh.
"No...Aeris.." Cloud said softly, stroking back a stray hair from her pale face.
Sephiroth slowly lowered his arms and stared blankly at them both before opening his mouth to speak.
"How can you even begin to cry?" He asked.
Cloud jerked his head up at Sephiroth, tears evident on his cheeks, "Why wouldn't I have reason to?! killed her. Aeris.." he spoke in a low voice, holding Aeris' limp body against his, cradling her head.
"Aeris won't be able to cry, smile, get mad..." he continued, staring down at her. Sephiroth snorted once, his feet raising up from the alter and glided a few feet into the air.
"Those emotions are meaningless to a being like you. Because Cloud you are..."
Sephiroth trailed off, looking off to the side as a Jenova-LIFE formed in the middle of the alter. Cloud took hold of Aeris' still body and skid to the side of the domed alter, crashing into the side. He set her body down, tearing himself away from her face to unsheathe his buster sword. With a loud cry, Cloud plunged himself into battle.

"...A puppet." A low voice spoke and it seemed to echo through Cloud's head. He felt his breath catch into this throat.
"..A...puppet?" He answered back before catching himself and falling back into reality.

After the battle was won, Cid and Red XIII looked at Aeris one last time before Cloud took her in his arms and started the long flight up the stairs. His fingers were trembling but his arms were numb. He kept on imagining that he heard her heart-beat, and that Restore would have saved her. Red XIII walked beside Cloud while Cid lagged behind, keeping his head down to keep from looking at any of them. Red opened his mouth speak but turned his head the other way and kept on walking, knowing full well that nothing he could say would help anything now.
They finally reached the summit of the Cetran house and Cloud clasped Aeris' body closer to his own, wading into the shallow end of the lake. He didn't feel the need to cry since his eyes were burning but when he looked down at her peaceful face, he felt his composure start to shake. Cloud set Aeris' body onto the surface of the water, holding her up with his hands. Sliding one hand to hers, he wrapped a hand around it, wishing with all of his heart that she would grasp onto it.
Stepping back, Cloud let her go.