He settled himself down in the grass, sighing as he looked ahead of him. Below the cliff on which he sat, Cloud Strife saw the city of Midgar. A city that had once houses an evil empire ready to take over the world. Greed had run Shinra, and greed would have killed the world. He was happy it was over. Now the planet would be safe, at least for a time.
His eyes went back to the patch of ground in front of him, and the large sword sticking from it. He had carried the sword everywhere he had gone, in hopes of becoming the man he loved and admired most in his life. The man he owed so much to. He hadn't been able to achieve such a dream, so he had kept the sword as a memento. A key to the past and memories he wished he would never forget.
Now, he had returned it. He wasn't ready to move on, but he had to. Time would not stop and wait for him, so he must grab hold of time and run with it.
"Hi Zack." He whispered, feeling his eyes burn. Two words, a city and a sword. He didn't want to break down. Not now. This was a happy day. It was a celebration day. Behind him in Kalm, balloons were being let go, a band played loud and clear, and the people of the planet cheered. They would live to see tomorrow. Because of his companions. Because of him.
"I-I faced Sephiroth." What a stupid thing to say. Zack knew this. He could see him. He had watched him from above, he was sure of it. In those last moments, he had felt it. Felt his hand on his shoulder, felt his spirit merge with Clouds own. Their blue eyes had become one and their will had bonded. Zack owned the victory as much as Cloud did.
"I- you know this already." He sighed, closing his glowing eyes, thinking. What to say. What to tell. "I hope Aeris is with you. I didn't mean to- I tried hard Zack, I really did. I never meant for her to die. I never meant for her to be killed."
Tears rolled down his cheeks now. He felt weak, and pathetic. He remembers the times the boys used to pick on him, back in his hometown. 'Aw, looking at little cry baby Cloud! Cry, cry, cry! Is that all he ever does?! What a pathetic boy! No wonder Tifa never plays with him!'
He straightens up and gritted his teeth, wiping away the tears on his sleeve. "Sorry. You'd have laughed at me. I shouldn't have done that. I'm a grown man now. Tears… those are for children."
'Common Strife! Get up! An enemy wont wait for you to sit and cry in battle!'
' Ivy, give the boy a moment!'
' Fox, if I give him a moment, then he'll always take a moment! If he always takes a time out then he's not going to last to long in this world!'
"Ivy would have laughed." He shook his head. Yes, he though, Ivy would laugh. She'd have teased to. Teased and poked at him in till he was mad. Once he was mad, he'd lose control and fight. That's what she had wanted him to do. Ivy had a reason to pick on him, back then. She'd wanted him to live.
And he had. "You remember Ivy, I hope. I hope she's there with you now. Her, and Fox. I always preferred Fox. She was kind and gentle… But Ivy is the reason I live today. She never let me give up. And you didn't either."
He laughed a little, smiling. "R-remember the time we used to go down to the lake, just to get the girls mad? You'd drag me down there and we'd hid behind a bush, and you'd spy on the two while they swam. You always said you didn't mean anything by it; you just loved getting Fox wound up. Remember the time Ivy saw you? I swore she was going to drown you that day."
He shook his head. It had been quite a sight, seeing the tall, dirty blond haired 18-year-old rip Zack from the shore and throw him in the water, trying to keep him under in till he turned blue. He kept popping his head up, chocking but grinning, and that had made Ivy Sky even madder, so she would throw herself on him and drag him under again and again. If Fox hadn't been there, Cloud was sure Zack wouldn't have lived to see the dawn.
"And, do you remember that time you tried to fix the lighting in the inn, in Costa Del Sol? You had handed Sephiroth the end of a wire, and I have no idea what you did, but I swear he jumped 5 feet into the air. He looked as if he was going to skin you alive. You had to sleep on the beach for the nigh, and it started to rain."
He smiled. "But I went out with you. We took the rap together. You had told me that the only reason I had come out there with you was because I was terrified of Sephiroth and if he decided to come out on the beach and kill me, that you would protect me."
He smiled, looking at his reflection in the sword. "Yeah, I guess one of the reasons that I went out there was because of fear… But you were my 'big brother', and you wouldn't let me go out alone…. I wasn't about to let you."
He shook his head now, laughing a little. "Listen to me. This is insane. Talking about the past, which I'm sure you don't want to hear about. You always told me live for the moment and forget yesterday, because that was behind us now and nothing could change it." He paused, looking back at Midgar, and the rubble that it had become.
"But I can't let go of you. It's been about five years now, and I haven't forgotten you. I haven't moved forward much. I keep looking back and seeing your face and hearing your laugh. The same goes with Aeris. I would see you both, you in my place in some of my memories. She loved you, and she saw you in me. She knew it was you, sitting next to her all those times. Now I understand what she meant, when she said she wanted to meet me. I wasn't right there… You were."
He swallowed; realizing tears had again fallen down his cheeks.
'I suppose even the best warriors get to cry, right Ivy?'
'…I knew her all my life, Zack. Do you understand what she meant to me? Do you understand how much I admired her, loved her, wanted to protect her, for just these reasons?'
'I understand. You were hard because you didn't want her to face a downfall. You were mean because people in reality are mean. You hurt everyone with you blade and your words because people out there would do the same to us. I understand Ivy. I'm not trying to pick on you, I'm trying to show you: Tears aren't a weakness. They are an escape. They don't show breaks along the surface of our soul… They show our soul is filled with love for the ones we cry for.'
"But that's alright…" He whispered," You two are together now. You've found one another and… and I didn't mind living your life. You touched so many people in so many different ways on this journey, Zack, and…and I did as you asked. I didn't let you die in my mind. I wasn't going to let your memory fade with time. You told me to spread your story and your life… I did."
He stood now, just as the sun began to sink and spread pinks and blues into the clouds, and he sunk his hand into his pocket. From it, he pulled a pink ribbon, slightly dirty and beginning to fray on the very tips. He silently tied it around the swords hilt, smiling.
"I miss you both, and I hope that someday, when times takes me, we will all meet again."
With the last goodbye, he turned from the sword, eyes on the grass as he begun to walk away. Thoughts swam in his head. Memories of people he had lost, memories of people he wished had lived and had been with him all this time. Ivy, Fox, Zack, Aeris, and even Sephiroth crossed his mind. Every one he missed a little, and he wanted them to be here again.
'But there isn't any changing the past, Cloud Strife,' he though, sitting himself atop his motorcycle. His eyes ran along the handlebars, then to his gloved hands, ' There is no bring back the dead.'
He looked back over at the sword, for the final time. His eyes widened in surprise, and he rubbed them to make sure it wasn't a trick of the light. What he had seen before was gone now, but it still frightened him.
Standing next to the Buster sword was a man with black spiked hair, and a young woman with a flower basket.