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Title: Luminaries
Fandom: Final Fantasy VII:
Disclaimer: No ownership implied, no profit gained. This is a fanwork.
Characters/Pairings: Cloud/??
Rating: AA
Summary: Cloud watches the luminaries burn, til Zack tells him to go to bed.
Notes: For morigor55.

"Don't stay out for too long," Tifa said as she smiled and closed the door.

Cloud glanced up only for a moment. He hadn't seen paths of luminaries since Nibelheim, yet in the wake of being saved from the geostigma - being saved in general, the old traditions were returning.

He wondered if it would snow, just to perfectly compliment the Darkest Night festival. Inside there was an endless supply of food and gifts waiting for morning, once the night was over.

The luminaries were to guide home anyone lost. Most every apartment building and shop had them clustered around the doors, spilling out into the street in a wash of flickering candles.

Really, they were just stirring up ghosts.

Denzel had lit one for his family, and Marlene (selflessly) for Barrett's wife. Tifa had lit one for her father. And Cloud...

Cloud hadn't had anyone in mind. He'd simply lit the candle and walked away, settling on an empty crate near the door to the bar so that he could watch to make sure both Denzel and Marlene's candles stayed lit.

His - he didn't care about his.

"Of course you don't," came a voice from the shadows to his side. "If you lit a candle for everyone..."

"I'd cover the street," Cloud replied as he finally looked over at his companion. There was room enough for two, but no more. "Sit."

"Ah, you think I'm staying, huh?"

"Maybe I'm dead. You did wave..."

"That was more of a 'See ya 'round' wave," Zack corrected as he hopped up onto the crate. "And in case you're wondering, you aren't the only one who can see me. But..."

"Tifa wanted me to ask you something," Cloud interrupted. "It's the sort of thing you'd find amusing."

"Try me," Zack said. He was already smiling.

"How can you be wearing the clothing that I took from you?" Cloud questioned.

Zack started laughing, without explaining. Cloud glanced over at the old, large-bulbed NOMA strand-lights that dangled down beside the door. He'd had to do a little work to get them to light, and he still had no clue where they'd come from. But the expression on the children’s' faces - that had been worth it.

"I don't know!" Zack finally admitted. "I really don't know. I've never thought about it. I've never... thought about what I'm wearing. Or why."

Cloud watched the luminaries for a minute as a breeze blew down between the buildings. But a couple of them only flickered, before again shining brightly in the darkness.

"You should go in," Zack said after a moment of absolute silence passed between them. "It's getting cold. Might snow, even."

"That's it? You came all this way to tell me to go inside?" Cloud glanced at his friend.

"Yep." Zack reached to muss up Cloud's hair, in five seconds easily putting every last bit out of place.

"Fine." Wind. The wind had done it. Had to be.

Cloud slid off the crate and turned to look at Zack. No one was there.

After unplugging the aging, large-bulbed NOMAs, Cloud went inside, not at all surprised that the lights were all off. It wasn't a night for drinking - Tifa was likely already asleep.

He didn't bother turning anything on; his own eyes were enough with all of the candle-light coming in from all sides. Cloud wondered what the street would look like from the roof, be he didn't care enough to actually go look.

There was still a strand of lights on his dresser, but the cord had been damaged. He'd meant to fix them, but...

As he opened his bedroom door, Cloud was surprised to see them on, tacked to the wall in three places leaving them hanging in uneven arcs. The paint was chipped on some of the bulbs, shining white light through eerily.

ShinRa must have bought out NOMA... probably couldn't get replacement bulbs anymore.

Had Tifa...? He reached to touch one of the lights, wondering if it was warm or not.

And then he heard the noise behind him, weight making one of the boards creak underfoot.


"Followed the luminaries."

The strange light from the multi-colored bulbs was even stranger reflected on silver hair (and the clothing, again, but Cloud refused to ask exactly why it was that the dead clung to their clothing).

"I didn't light one for you," Cloud said quickly, trying not to let a bit of emotion slip into his voice. He knew that if he was supposed to be dead, he'd already be dead (and wearing the same clothing).

"Then why were you sitting out there?"

Cloud didn't flinch as a gloved hand brushed against his cheek.

"I was watching," Cloud said as his visitor moved closer, pulling Cloud to him.

"Remember when...?"

Cloud was the one who kissed him, instead of the other way around. They didn't have to talk. Talking wouldn't be good. Words would...

"I'm not really here."

"I know," Cloud said. "I know you aren't. But you fixed my lights."

He turned, glancing at the clunky bulbs reflecting against the hastily painted wall.

And then he realized his error.

"Lights," he repeated to the empty room.


Cloud closed his eyes a moment, before walking to the window and peering outside. Every single luminary had gone dark.

After unplugging the lights on his wall, sure that they wouldn't do a thing if he ever plugged them in again, Cloud silently crawled into his bed and closed his eyes.

The darkest night would be behind him.


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Disclaimer: I don't own it, I'm just playing with it. All titles and characters belong to their respective creators and companies.