Disclaimer: I do not own Marlene, Cloud, Aerith, Tifa, Barret, Vincent, or any related characters, places, or planets. The universe-toting geniuses at Square-Enix do, though. If you want it, but them.

Author's Note: This story was written solely on an idea thrown out into the interweb by one MajinBakaHentai on her LJ, and I took it and ran with it. I hope everyone likes how this came out, but most of all I hope she enjoys it. (Warning: contains past-tense character death; this could be considered the sequel to It Ends With Me, so if you're read that you know what to expect here.)

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More Than A Memory

I walk through the empty streets, stopping here and there to see what my old haunts look like after all these years. Here was the bar, here was a trail of evidence that would have led the Turks to Daddy if he hadn't left, here's where Auntie Elmyra used to live...

Here's the first place I saw him. He was standing here, looking at Tifa with his back to me. I wouldn't see his eyes until later, but it doesn't matter now. This is the place I first saw him, and that's what's important.

He was pretty. That was all I thought at first--he was very, very pretty. Prettier than Tifa, and Tifa's a girl. I'd never seen a man prettier than a girl before, but after he showed up I'd feel like I was meeting them left and right. He had a friend--who I think is still around here somewhere--who had the prettiest hair and the scariest eyes I've ever seen. But he was beautiful, too, and nice in spite of his scariness.

But I didn't like his friend as much as him. Even if he could be even scarier than his friend sometimes, the moments when those blue eyes would light up brighter than the sun, like a flashlight shining through matching sapphires. Even if--according to Tifa--he hurt some people that didn't deserve hurting. He was strong, too, stronger than anyone else I'd ever seen, anyone I have yet to see.

I turn away from the place his feet once rested and continue my trek through the dead city. Has it really been so long since people lived here? Eight years since Kadaj died, so I guess there hasn't been anyone here since him. But if we missed him and his brothers before, there's a chance there are more hiding in this barren skeleton of a city. Maybe someday I'll look for them.

But not today. Today's a special day. I sigh and tighten my grip on the flowers in my hand. I picked them from Aerith's church, or what's left of it. It's amazing that the flowers are still there at all--everything else in this place is dead, after all. Even her.

I'm not supposed to be thinking about her today--this isn't her day. But I can't help it. She was one of the people he hurt, unintentionally. One of the people he left with scars, or he left dead. There are a lot of them.

So he hurt people; who hasn't? Tifa and Daddy, Uncle Biggs and Aunt Jessie...how many people did they hurt? I was too young at the time to understand what it meant when they talked about "busting the Reactor" and other things like that, but now I know. I understand, and it hasn't stopped me from loving Daddy, or Tifa, or anyone else.

Why would finding out that he hurt people making me stop loving him?

It was just a crush, at first. It was ten years ago, after all--I was barely seven years old when Tifa brought him home. He scared me a bit, too, though not as much as his friend with the nice hair. He made my head hurt when I looked at his eyes. I don't think I'd ever seen real Mako eyes before he came along. But, like seeing something pretty, after we met I saw more than my fair share. His friend had Mako eyes too, I think. But his friend's were red where his were blue. I like blue better--it's like the sky back in Corel, like the ocean that I'd never seen, like dying Materia, like ice. Red is just blood, and I'd seen enough blood.

But it turned out that those blue eyes spilled more blood in the Battle than the red. He killed so many people it hurts me to think about it.

I make it back to the edge of the collapsed Plate and climb back onto my motorcycle. I just wanted to visit, to pick up some flowers before I head up to the real memoriam--it's going to be dark soon, so I'll have to hurry. I gun the engine and race up the nearest hill.

How many people fell on his sword? How many people begged him for mercy and were still killed? I really can't help but wonder how many people he mowed down on his own motorcycle, so long ago. If I had been smart enough, mature enough to understand what the read spatters all over his skin and hair and clothes meant, then maybe I never would have fallen in love with him. Maybe.

I started out as just a crush, but I think everyone knew by the time the Geostigma boomed that it was more than that. I was only nine and I already never wanted to leave him. I don't know why, I just wanted to see him all the time. When he was nearby I felt safe. I could watch him kill a hundred men and I would still feel safest in his arms, bloody or not. And they were very bloody. So bloody that they stained everyone he ever held close, tainted everything he held dear.

He tainted Yuffie, just a little. He stained Tifa more than I think she knows. He turned Aerith's skin the same red as his hands.

But he never tainted me.

Whether it was because he wanted to keep me clean or because he didn't even notice me I don't know. That's the one thing I don't understand. He gave me a flower when I was little, so he must have at least known I was there. I still have that flower. It's dried and laminated, over the headboard of my bed back home, with four tiny words etched into the plastic.

More than a memory. Because Sephiroth never wanted to be only a memory, if the things Tifa told me he said are true, but that's all the madman is now. He is different, though. He's something more, because if he were to be anything else I don't think I could keep going.

I stop and dismount the bike, making my way up the rest of the hill on foot. It's hard, but it's the least I can offer. After all, he did so much more, went through so much more than anyone could ever understand.

I come over the edge of the hill and freeze in place. There's already someone up here.

He bends down and picks up the Buster Sword, drives it back into the ground, and kicks the flowers around until they're settled around the blade. From the way he moves I almost recognize him--I've seen that movement before. And that hair...it's pulled back now, but I know I've never seen hair that black on anyone but--

He turns and looks at me, red eyes glowing, and I can't help but jerk.

He doesn't look different at all. He hasn't changed a bit in ten years, aside from his clothes and the way he's keeping his hair. It's pulled back into a tail, high on his head, and not covering his face at all. He's pretty, too--prettier than I thought.

With a sigh he stands up straight again, reaching up to smooth the white button-up shirt he's wearing. I've only ever seen him in black before, so this is really strange. "I'm sorry," he says, his voice just as deep and smooth as I remember. "I was just about to leave."

The sound of someone's voice after so many hours of silence is jarring. It takes me several seconds to find my voice, and by then he's already started down the other side of the hill.

"W-Wait!" I race up the hill and catch hold of his sleeve, pulling him back. He's not that much taller than me, actually. Daddy's always said I was tall--I can't figure out why this matters right now. I think I'm just so surprised to see him, after eight years without a word and a decade without a hint of age.

He turns to look back at me.

"You can stay if you want," I tell him. I really want him to stay--no one ever comes with me anymore, they say it hurts too much. I want someone to watch.

He turns completely around and stares at me for a long moment. I'm almost scared of him again.

Then, "Thank you." He stands, waiting for me to turn.

Together we go back to the Buster Sword, then together te turn to the other blade, buried in the dirt as well. This one's more ornate and much newer. This one was his. I'm not sure when exactly it happened, or who it was that put it here, but it's been here since the end of everything. Since he fell, finally, and let it all end for good.

I reach into my jacket and pull out the flowers, coming forward to lay them down. I kneel and say a quick prayer, not to Gaea but to Aerith, and then stand back up and step back to stare at the sword in a moment of silence.

His friend breaks the moment. "Why do you still come?" he asks. "No one else does."

"Why do you?" I counter.

He smirks--almost, I guess it's more like a facial chuckle--and waits. I know I should answer first, but it takes a minute for me to finally back down. I'm stubborn, but not stupid.

"B-Because..." I falter. I've never said this out loud before. "Because I loved him. I still do."

His friend looks back at the grave marker and his smirk fades. "Then I suppose we are here for the same reasons."

And then his friend walks away and leaves me alone. I watch, turn back to the sword and kneel again as soon as the not-scary-anymore friend is gone. I smile, hands braced against the dirt. "We're all okay, all right? Don't worry. Even your friend is still all right--did you see him? He was just here a minute ago..."

I bite my bottom lip. "H-He's still here, but you're not. I understand that you can't be, 'cause if you were Sephiroth would come back, but I wish you were still here..." I take a shaky breath. "I love you. I love you and I miss you, Cloud. I wish you could come back like Sephiroth. I wish I could make a Clone of you to be with, just for a little while..."

It doesn't matter. Even if he hears me, even if he can come back, he won't. He'll never come back, at least not for me.

Because I'm not dirty like him. I don't understand.

But that doesn't mean I can't love him.

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