When I was growing up, I always scoffed at the tales of love that so many girls in Nibelheim had espoused. I don't remember if my father loved me; he died long before I could even form a memory for him. My love towards him is only that of duty. Any feelings I have are merely because he is my father, and society says I should honor and care for him.

My mother loved me distantly, as one might love a treasured possession. I don't know why, but she never held me close. Some might have said Father's death scarred her. Others might have said she had been too young to have children. All I knew was when other children ran to their mothers when they were hurt, I struggled along on my own. I did care for her before she died at Sephiroth's hands and still honor her memory, but I will never love her to the extent people seem to expect of a son.

Tifa loves me with the love of a dreamer. The others think I don't see it, but I do. I saw the signs often enough in SOLDIER. But what everyone doesn't seem to understand is that she loves an image of me that she created. I do not lover her, no more than I love the town that shunned me for years. I did once, but that was long ago when she represented the only chance of recognition I had. She is a piece of my past and I will defend her though I doubt I could ever love someone who stood by while others humiliated me at every turn.

If I had never met her, I might have though I still loved Tifa.

But she-

She is kindness incarnate; her smile is a healing balm. Her hands hold my heart but I have no fear of betrayal. She guards my feelings even as I guard her side, and she is adapt in her art as I am with my blade. She is gentle, loving and forgiving. Far, far more than I ever have any right to wish for, with the amount of blood I have on my hands.

As I kiss the woman I would gladly take as my life mate for the first time, I find myself believing in all of those love stories. Surely, with Aeris at my side, I could accomplish anything. Even destroying Sephiroth.

"Cloud? Are you alright?" Her eyes are green and full of life while looking at me with worry, noting the depth of my thoughts.

I smile slightly and squeeze her hand. "I'm fine. Let's go; the others will be waiting. It's time to get this show on the road."

Note: Set in game, before Cloud figures out he wasn't in SOLDIER, hence some of the comments.