Author's Note: Just a little 'what happened with Marlene after Loz took her' one shot. Obviously, not a romance. ;) I did proofread, but if I missed anything, I apologize! Enjoy!

Disclaimer: I love to play with the FFVII characters, yet sadly, I do not own them. No suing please and thanks!


Tears

Marlene happily followed Tifa as they wandered around the shopping mall. It had been two weeks since Cloud had stopped the reunion and vanquished Sephiroth once more. Denzel and Cloud were both cured of their Geostigma and the world was again busying itself with returning to normal. Life was beginning to look like it was taking a turn for the good, finally. But Tifa was still concerned about the child who always put on a brave face for everyone around her. Marlene had been taken by the remnants and she had still not told Tifa anything about the time she had been gone. Even though both Tifa and Barrett had tried to convince she could trust them, she had remained tight-lipped. It was beginning to worry her and made her imagination run wild. Even though the remnants were dead, Tifa still vowed to find a way to make them pay if they had done anything to Marlene while she was in their care.

Letting Loz get the best of her in church would be something Tifa looked on with shame for the rest of her life. She had allowed him to get the upper hand by doing the same thing he done initially…she had underestimated his strength after the blow she had delivered him. He was a formidable opponent whether he had his weapons or not. She was convinced that even if the playing field were even, it would be difficult to predict a clear winner. Despite the bulk of his frame, he moved quickly and was very agile. He had even been able to land on his feet after her quick kicks to his face and that had impressed her, especially since he was able to counter her attacks as soon as he landed.

But with her admiration of his fighting skill aside, seeing him towering above Marlene while she was helpless on the ground behind him, was one of the most terrifying moments in her life. The last thing she had seen before passing out from the exhaustion and pain was the absolute terror on Marlene's young face. She would never forgive herself for letting him get his hands on her.

And she was still berating herself as she and Marlene took a break from shopping to eat. Marlene watched the woman who was like a mother to her and knew it was finally time to tell her what had happened between her and the larger remnant.

"Tifa?" she said quietly.

Tifa snapped out of her mental lecture to herself at the sound of her name. She smiled as she focused on the girl in front of her. "What is it sweetie?"

"You shouldn't keep punishing yourself," she said.

Tifa looked at her in surprise. "What are you talking about?"

"It's not your fault that the big scary man took me away," Marlene assured her.

"What makes you think I'm even thinking about him?" Tifa asked, surprised at the child's easy interpretation of her thoughts.

Marlene smiled slightly. "Because you always scrunch your nose up when you think about stuff like that. I know you think you failed me that day in the church. He only beat you because he cheated…and he even admitted it."

Tifa stiffened slightly as she realized Marlene was finally ready to tell her about what had happened after he had taken her from the church. "Marlene, are you sure…?"

"I have to talk about it some time and right now you look ready to throw yourself off a bridge as punishment," Marlene said with a dramatic roll of her eyes.

Tifa smiled slightly. "Well, if you want to tell me what happened I'm all ears."

Marlene nodded and smiled reassuringly. "After you told me to run, he turned to look at you again."

"Just run!" Tifa gasped before passing out.

Loz frowned and turned to look at her once more. He walked towards her and knelt over her once more. He reached down to touch her again, but was stopped by a small pair of hands tugging on his large bicep.

"Don't hurt Tifa!" Marlene cried angrily as she pulled against him with all her strength.

"Relax kid," he said with a smirk. "I'm wasn't gonna hurt her."

"You were too!" Marlene argued petulantly. "You were going to hurt her with that…thing on your arm! I saw you pick her up!"

"A smack in my head changed my mind," he said as he freed his arm from her grasp and proceeded to pull off one of his gloves. Marlene watched with a frown as he held the back of his hand under Tifa's nose. He smirked and looked at her. "See kid? She's still breathing." He pulled his glove back on and got to his feet. "Now, let's go."

Marlene gaped up at him. "Are you crazy? I'm not going anywhere with you!"

She turned to run, but he easily grabbed her by the back of her shirt and lifted her off the ground, making her squeal in surprise.

"Listen kid, you and that box of materia are coming with me. So we can either do this the easy way," he said as he held up his arm and flipped the handle of his weapon into his palm, holding it near her face. "Or we can do this the hard way." Marlene gulped and paled slightly. He narrowed his eyes and smirked again. "That's what I thought."

Marlene didn't struggle as Loz powered his weapon down while shifting her so he was carrying her in one arm before leaning over and pulling the chest of glowing materia into his other arm. He walked out of the church and took both Marlene and the chest over to his bike. He frowned as he tried to figure out the best way to secure both her and the chest on his bike. He looked down at her before sighing.

"Okay, listen kid," he said roughly. "I'm gonna put you down, but if you run, I'm gonna go right back in there and finish off your friend, got it?"

Marlene nodded and obediently stayed beside him once he had set her on the ground. She watched him strap the chest to the back of his motorcycle as she considered his threat against Tifa.

"You know, you shouldn't go around threatening girls," she finally said. "It's not very proper."

He raised his eyebrows before laughing slightly. "No, it's not. But it worked, didn't it?"

"And scaring little girls borders on evil," she continued as she narrowed her eyes. "Didn't your mom teach you better than that?"

His smile disappeared, his face clouding over with sadness. "I never knew my mother. That's what we're trying to find. We want to find mother."

Marlene frowned as she watched him turn away from her, his shoulders hunched slightly. She was confused. He looked like a grownup, but in that moment, he seemed like a kid. She was startled when his phone rang again. He straightened his shoulders and flipped open the phone with a growl.

"What?" he snarled. He blew out an angry sigh as he raised his gaze to the sky. "I'm coming as fast as I can. Well, brother's friend was a lot stronger than she looked. Yeah, I've got the girl and another surprise for Kadaj. No, I was not just crying Yazoo. Shut up."

Marlene jumped at the violence with which he slammed his phone shut and she trembled when he turned his icy glare on her. He watched her tremble in his shadow before turning away from her and dropping himself onto his bike. He turned and looked at her expectantly.

"What?" she demanded. "Where am I supposed to ride? I'm a little kid! If I get on the back, I'm going to fall off!"

He rolled his eyes again before reaching out and lifting her onto the bike in front of him. He started the engine without a word and accelerated away from the church. Marlene instinctually grabbed the bar that connected the two handles of the bike together. She felt like she was going to fall. She had only been on Cloud's Fenrir a few times and even when she had, he didn't drive nearly as recklessly as he normally did, but the silver-haired man cared nothing of her fears…he even seemed oblivious to her panic until she allowed a cry of panic to escape her lips.

Loz slowed the bike to a halt and looked down at her. "What's the matter now, kid?"

"You're driving like a maniac!" she fumed. "I thought I was going to fall off."

"You're not gonna fall off," he said as he rolled his eyes. "You'll get used to it."

She frowned and nodded slightly. "If you say so."

He watched her lean forward and replace her hands on the bar, but he noticed her hands trembling before she grabbed the metal bar. He started the engine again and put the bike into gear as he again took off across the Wastelands, but this time without a word, he slid one of his arms around Marlene's waist and pulled her closer to his body so she didn't feel the turns as much. He was surprised when she seemed to relax in his grip while she held on to the arm around her.

Kadaj narrowed his eyes at Loz as he observed him dismount from his bike. He was holding the girl who lived with Cloud protectively as he rode into the Forgotten City and he even swung her up in one arm before he retrieved the box of Materia from his bike. His brother was far too sensitive and he could tell he was already feeling attached to the child in his arms. He decided the child had already received too much attention for one day and decidedly ignored her as Loz set her on the ground along with the chest and stood back.

Kadaj noted that even though the girl had clung to his brother while on his motorcycle, now that she was on solid ground again, she was trying to escape him, but he foiled her escape attempts easily by holding her against his leg with only one hand keeping her in place. So, his brother wasn't as soft as he feared. Kadaj approached the materia and smirked.

"Look at what brother was hiding," Kadaj said with a smirk. "Powers forged in the Lifestream."

Marlene watched the two men talking and when Loz released her to look more closely at the materia, she began to quietly back away from them, getting ready to run. They were so wrapped up in their plans that neither of them noticed her walking away. Once she was sure they had forgotten about her, she turned away from them and began hurrying into the forest.

"First I need a word with brother," Kadaj muttered. "He likes to pretend he's not part of the family." Out of the corner of his eye he could see Marlene trying to escape and he smirked maliciously. "How it breaks my heart," he snarled before sending a blast of energy past Loz and into a tree that dropped in front of Marlene.

She squealed and jumped back, hitting a wall of flesh as she did. She turned around and looked up, gasping as she looked up at yet another silver-haired man. Though he was more feminine looking than the others, something about his calm demeanor scared her.

He smirked down at her before raising his eyes to his two brothers. "Lose something Loz?"

He stepped past Yazoo and gripped her shoulder in one hand. "I'll take care of her," he grumbled.

"Keep her out of our way," Kadaj snarled. "Yazoo and I have to prepare the other children."

Yazoo watched Loz and while he enjoyed teasing his older brother, he could see that Kadaj had gone to far. "Don't cry Loz," he said sincerely before turning and following Kadaj.

Loz snorted and gave Marlene a light push. "Let's go kid."

"Why's he so mad?" Marlene asked.

Loz shrugged. "He's always mad. He told Yazoo to have me bring you with me, so I have no idea why he's so angry that you're here! He's too moody."

Marlene watched the big man lead her to a corner where it was obvious they had previously used it for a fire area. She sat on one of the fallen logs surrounding a cold fire pit and observed the man in front of her. He looked like Denzel or ever herself after Tifa had punished them for misbehaving. His eyes seemed a little shinier than normal and she remembered his frequent denials of crying.

"Why do your brothers ask you if you're crying all the time?" she asked quietly.

He shrugged. "Probably because I cry sometimes."

Marlene's eyes widened slightly. "You cry?" she asked in surprise.

He glared at her. "Yeah, so?"

"But…you're a grown up!" she sputtered, surprised by both the fact that he was grown man who cried and he actually admitted he cried.

"Grown ups cry," he said defensively.

"Well, I've seen Tifa cry," Marlene said contemplatively. "But she's a girl. I hardly ever see any boys cry, especially men. Although, I have heard Tifa tell Yuffie that Cloud needs a good cry to make him feel better."

"Tifa cries?" he asked. "Why would someone so strong cry?"

"Why do you cry?" Marlene countered. "You're very strong if you can beat Tifa."

He smirked slightly. "I only beat her because I cheated. And I cry because my brothers tease me. Does someone tease Tifa?"

Marlene frowned. "No…but sometimes Tifa cries because Cloud leaves her alone with us and disappears for days or even weeks without telling her where he's going."

Loz frowned and nodded. "She gets lonely?"

"Well, yeah," Marlene said with a frown. "Why wouldn't she?"

He shrugged as he looked at his hands. "She's just so pretty and fun to play with. I can't imagine her being alone." He looked up at her suddenly and blushed before turning away from her again. "I mean, isn't she brother's…Cloud's girlfriend?"

Marlene shrugged. "Not really. He lives with us…sometimes, and they're both like a second mother and father to both Denzel and me, but… it's not like that between them. Cloud is sad all the time and it makes Tifa sad too."

She was surprised to see a look of anger flicker in the remnant's eyes as he got to his feet and paced agitatedly. "Brother is so arrogant," he muttered.

"Why do you care?" Marlene blurted out. "I mean you don't even know us. What does it matter if Cloud's arrogant and runs away too much or if Tifa cries sometimes? You want to hurt us all."

Loz looked at her with a frown. "I only hurt people who stop us from finding mother."

"Tifa was telling you the truth in the church," Marlene insisted. "Your mother wasn't there and you didn't believe her."

"Everyone says they don't know where mother is," Loz said bitterly. "So someone is lying."

"You've never met your mother, huh?" Marlene asked.

He frowned sadly and shook his head. "No."

Marlene smiled sadly. "Me neither. Tifa is the closest thing I have to a mom and…now…I don't even know if she's okay!"

Loz tilted his head to the side and watched her put her head in her hands and cry. "Hey, don't cry kid. She's fine. Remember she was breathing when we left."

She raised her tear-streaked face to look at him venomously. "You wanted to break her!"

He looked slightly horrified at her accusation. "What? No! I didn't want to break her! I enjoyed playing with her. If Kadaj wasn't so mean, I'd…I would have asked if I could keep her…after the reunion and everything."

"What do you mean you want to keep her?" Marlene asked. "You can't keep a person."

"Why not?" he asked with a sincerity that startled Marlene. "I want to play with her again."

Marlene wanted to press him further, but stopped when Yazoo approached them. He looked at her, making her cower slightly, before looking at Loz.

"Kadaj is ready," he said.

Loz shrugged carelessly. "So? I'm not ready."

Yazoo sighed patiently. "Loz, you know how he can get. Just forget it. He has, so just let it go. Once the reunion with mother is complete, he'll be back to normal."

Loz couldn't stay mad at his brother for long and eventually smirked and nodded. "Okay." He got to his feet and looked at Marlene. "Come on kid."

As Marlene watched Kadaj lull the children to his side by claiming the planet was angry with them because they had a 'gift', she could see why Loz was intimidated by him. He seemed crazy to her, but as she watched the abandoned and homeless children listen to his lies, she could see the idea of having somewhere to belong was outweighing the sense to see Kadaj was just using them. She could see Denzel and she knew Denzel blamed himself for Cloud's frequent disappearances and was easily being pulled into Kadaj's hands.

"Denzel," she said as she tried to pull away from Loz, but his hand held her securely in place. When she looked up at him to glare at him, the silent plea in his eyes made her stop. She looked at Kadaj and he was glaring at her before he turned to continue his vile speech. She waited until he wasn't looking at her before sticking her tongue out at him in frustration. When she felt Loz's leg twitch slightly, she looked up and saw him and Yazoo, both trying to contain their silent laughter. She suddenly had the urge to join them in their laughter at their brother's expense, but the sight of Denzel lifting the now black water to his lips made the laughter die.

"Denzel," she choked out as she again to tried to move, but was stopped by Loz again. All she could do was silently watch him swallow the water and wash away his own thoughts. Saddened at the loss of her friend, Marlene buried her face in Loz's thigh. His hand that had previously been restraining her now held her comfortingly.

Kadaj was impressed with himself as he exited the water. "Everything is right on schedule. Brother will be here soon and he will have a nasty surprise waiting for him when he sees the children waiting for him. Loz, let the little darling find her friend."

Loz frowned slightly. "Will the kids hurt her?"

Kadaj shrugged carelessly. "Not if she minds her own business and doesn't get in their way when brother comes."

Loz waited until Kadaj was out of earshot before looking down at her. "Go find your friend, but don't get in the way. When brother comes, you hide or you'll get hurt."

Marlene frowned, but reluctantly left his side before threading her way through the crowd. As she walked away, she could hear Loz talking to Yazoo.

"I hope she hides," Loz said.

"You seem invested in the girl," Yazoo said thoughtfully. "Why is that?"

"She's like us," Loz said. "She never met her mother either. Brother's friend isn't her mother."

"Too bad," Yazoo said with a smirk. "You like them both so much and you would have a ready made family…if mother allowed it."

"Whatever," Loz said dismissively. "I like the kid, but not…"

"You're a bad liar, Loz," Yazoo said with a smirk. "And don't let Kadaj catch you crying again."

Loz gritted his teeth as he pulled out his gun. "Shut up."

Marlene was distracted from her efforts to find Denzel by the familiar sound of Fenrir's engine. Then she heard the distinct sound of gunfire. Everything was happening so fast. Loz and Yazoo were firing at Cloud and he had just pulled out his sword, ready to fight the silver-haired trio...until the children stepped into his path to protect the three men. She spotted Denzel and grabbed his arm to pull him away from everything, but he just stared straight ahead into Cloud's oncoming bike. She gasped as Cloud swerved to avoid the children, opting to send his bike skidding and sliding from his bike landing in the circle of the children.

Kadaj moved closer to Cloud and began taunting him. Marlene tried to push through the children to reach Cloud, but they kept her back. She huffed in frustration and called out Cloud's name. Kadaj turned to glare at her and it was all the time Cloud needed to jump to his feet and attack the youngest remnant. The gunfire started again and Marlene hid behind a tree to avoid getting caught in the crossfire. She peeked around the tree and watched in amazement as Loz sped towards Cloud and attacked him. Cloud blocked his attacks, but she had never seen a person attack Cloud with just his bare hands while Cloud wielded his sword. He was either crazy or just so caught up in another one of his 'games' that he didn't realize the danger he was putting himself in being that close to Cloud with no weapon.

Soon Loz and Yazoo were fighting Cloud high above the trees. All she could do was stay hidden and hope Cloud beat them…though she hoped Loz wasn't hurt either. She heard more gunfire and when she peeked out again, she saw a massive red object cover Cloud while firing at Kadaj. Then it disappeared and the forest was silent.

"That was fun," Loz said with a smirk as he and Yazoo returned to Kadaj.

"Yazoo, gather the children," Kadaj ordered. "I'll follow you. Loz try to find brother. If you can't find him in half an hour, catch up with us. Where's that brat you found in the church?"

"We have the boy," Loz protested. "You don't need her too."

"Are you questioning me?" Kadaj demanded.

"No, but…"

"Because it sounds like you are, Loz," Kadaj continued threateningly.

"The girl ran away," Yazoo interrupted. "I saw her run away when Loz broke the tree. I would have said something, but we were too busy with brother."

Kadaj finally shrugged. "No matter. The children will find mother and then no human will be allowed to survive anyway."

Once Kadaj had left. Loz looked at Yazoo. "You saw her run away?"

Yazoo smiled serenely and pointed in her direction. "Actually, she's hiding over there. Listen, Kadaj won't let you keep her or brother's friend so it's time to say goodbye."

Loz nodded sadly as he watched Yazoo walk away in the same direction as Kadaj. He then turned and walked towards the tree Marlene was still hiding behind.

"Kadaj is gone kid," he said gruffly.

Marlene came out from her hiding spot and looked up at the man who was like a giant to her. "Are you going to bring me to your brother?"

Loz shook his head as he got to his knees. "Big brother went that way. You should hurry so you can find him and his friend."

"What about you?" she asked.

"I have to go with my brothers," he said.

"Cloud will help you," Marlene insisted.

"Uh-uh. He's probably mad about what I did to…um, Tifa," Loz said. "He won't help me…I'm just a remnant. Go on. Get out of here, kid."

Marlene nodded and slowly began to walk in the direction he had told her Cloud had disappeared, but she stopped and looked at the man in front of her before walking back to him.

"Thanks for keeping me safe," she said as she hesitantly hugged him.

He was surprised and really didn't know what to do, so he lightly patted her back with one hand. She pulled back and looked at him with a shy smile before going back towards where Cloud was heading.

"Hey, kid," Loz called as he got to his feet. She turned and looked at him once more. "Tell your friend I'm sorry I was rough. I get carried away when I play."

She nodded before running into the brush in search of Cloud and Vincent.

Tifa looked at Marlene in shock. All this time she had been imagining horrible things being done to the little girl because she had refused to talk about it. After hearing her story, Tifa had only one question at the front of her mind.

"Marlene, why didn't you want to talk about it earlier?" she asked.

Marlene lowered her eyes. "I was afraid you and Cloud and daddy would be mad at me."

"Why would we ever be mad at you?" Tifa asked softly.

Marlene raised teary eyes to look at Tifa. "Because I kind of liked him even though he was a bad man. He hurt you and he tried to kill Cloud. Please don't be mad at me!"

Tifa got to her feet and knelt beside Marlene before pulling her into a hug. "Honey, I'm not mad at you at all. You have a big heart and he kept you safe. He didn't hurt you at all, did he?"

"No," Marlene said in surprise. "He was like a big kid. If he had come with me, Cloud would have helped him. Why didn't he come?"

"He was a part of Sephiroth," Tifa tried to explain. "Even if he had come back with you, Sephiroth would probably have tried to use him to get to Cloud."

Marlene looked up at her with such sadness in her eyes. "All he wanted was to find his mother."

Tifa hugged Marlene. "I know, sweetie. Let's go home."

Cloud was sitting at the bar as Tifa locked the door to Seventh Heaven after saying goodbye to the last of her customers. He looked up at her as she moved behind the bar and began cleaning the dirty glasses.

"Denzel said Marlene told you what happened while she was with the remnant," he said softly.

She looked up at him and nodded. "I was afraid he had hurt her, but she was afraid we would be mad at her because she actually liked him."

Cloud raised his eyebrows. "She liked him? He seemed a little blood-thirsty to me."

Tifa smiled. "Me too. But she said that he just really wanted to find his mother."

"Jenova," Cloud muttered. "When will Sephiroth learn that she is not worth the pain he puts himself and the rest of us through?"

Tifa shrugged. "He's even more insane now, if that's possible. You know, Marlene wanted Loz to come with her so you could help him."

Cloud snorted. "I could barely help myself. How did she think I could help him?"

"You know Marlene," Tifa said. "She has faith in everyone…even a remnant of Sephiroth. Sometimes I envy her that innocent trust."

Cloud smiled and nodded. "I know what you mean."

Tifa was silent for a moment. She dried her hands and went around the bar to sit on the stool next to Cloud. He turned to face her and she smiled sadly. "You know, that big lug was like the four of us."

Cloud raised his eyebrows slightly. "Really? How so?"

"He just really wanted his mother," Tifa said. "Just like how you and I, Denzel and Marlene, miss our parents. After hearing what went on between him and Marlene, I feel kind of bad for him. I hope Aerith found him and took him to the Promised Land, Cloud."

Cloud smiled slightly. "You may envy Marlene's faith in the world, Tifa, but you have one hell of heart to feel anything for a man who was a part of Sephiroth."

Tifa ran a hand through her hair and laughed bitterly. "You know, if my father hadn't been killed by that bastard, I could almost feel bad for him too."

"That's why our customers call you the Angel of Seventh Heaven, Tifa," Cloud said with a smile. "You care for everyone…even if they don't deserve it. Just leave the glasses for tonight. We can do them in the morning. We both need a good night's sleep."

She nodded. "You're right." She leaned in and kissed his cheek. "I'll see you in the morning. I'm just going to shut off all the lights."

He leaned in and hugged her. "Goodnight Tifa."

She watched him go up the stairs before quickly extinguishing the lights. She could see it was a clear night so she decided to step outside to look up at the sky. The stars seemed just a little bit brighter than normal and that made her smile.

"I don't know if you can hear me, Loz," she said softly. "But…thank you for keeping Marlene safe."

She smiled slightly before walking back into the bar and locking the door again. The remnants were gone and so was Sephiroth; Marlene and Denzel were safe; Cloud was becoming the man she had always known he would grow up to be and she was finally happy. She now had hope that the tears they had all shed over the years were gone for good…and she hoped that Loz too had finally stopped crying in the Promised Land.