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It feels so strange, materializing in another world, one of emerald grass and sapphire skies and little else to bother it—it’s the one place he’s found, across all the many worlds and realms, where Cloud doesn’t feel any darkness.

He exhales, letting himself bask in that ephemeral peace, and then he drifts forward, like in a dream. When he first came here, he thought it was a dream. There’s nowhere in the waking world this devoid of shadows. The light around him stains orange as he walks, into reds and purples, until the sun’s setting on the horizon, and he’s in view of the little hill. Cloud quickens his steps, only to recede again—he tries not to let himself get too attached to this wondrous feeling. It won’t last. He doesn’t belong here. He never will, no matter how hard he tries, and it’ll only hurt more to invest his heart in the simple, pleasurable company he’s found. He’ll just lose everyone he loves again.

He wanders up the gradual slope all the same, up to where a single tree is silhouetted by the stars. The sky’s fallen into velvet navy blue, punctured by the white moon, big and gleaming and strangely friendly. But everything here is like that. Cloud strolls to a familiar log, and a familiar figure is perched on it, kicking idle feet without a single care in all the world.

Cloud comes to sit down beside the honey-coloured bear. Winnie the Pooh turns to look at him, and Cloud obstinately stares forward. He doesn’t like looking into Pooh’s black eyes, because they’re just too good, and they offer sanctity that Cloud isn’t ready for. Pooh rumbles, soft and quiet, “I wondered when you were going to come back. We missed you, you know.”

We. Cloud’s not sure he cares for any of the others. The others all have problems, not as grave as his, but enough to consume their weak existences anyway—and Pooh’s gluttony doesn’t seem to bother him one bit. That’s the respite Cloud needs. He wonders faintly if he should’ve brought Pooh ‘a small smackerel of honey,’ but then, he doesn’t know how to drag true matter down into a book.

He can fetch some in this world later, if he dares to let himself linger long enough. In the meantime, he only grunts, “Thanks.”

Pooh makes a humming noise. He reaches his rounded paw over to place atop Cloud’s, strangely warm for someone full of stuffing. At least, that’s what Pooh purports to be. Cloud can’t imagine anyone not full of blood.

Cloud can feel his cheeks staining lightly pink. Maybe he isn’t ready yet for contact. He inches his hand away, and Pooh gives a little sigh, but patiently allows him the space. Maybe Pooh knows that he is wearing Cloud down, just slowly.

Cloud watches the stars twinkle in the distance, Pooh’s support lovingly nestled at his side, until Cloud can bear to let himself sleep right on the grass, and Pooh snuggles gently into his arms.