The Only Flower

(or "Memories")

By Miss Moony

Disclaimer: I do not own Final Fantasy.

Note: This is an extremely cheesy story I wrote while putting off my French homework. I don't know what the inspiration for it is, I think I was listening to Aeris's theme or something. Flames are not only expected, but welcome: I think I deserve it!



Cloud Strife sat impatiently in a quiet café, staring at the cold cup of coffee that he'd ordered steaming hot, but had come to him as a cup of ice. He hadn't complained, knowing that in the Slums, no one got what they wanted, and he was no exception. He tore his eyes away from his incredibly interesting "meal" to gaze out the window at a small boy holding a flower in his hands. Cloud shifted in his seat, peering out at the streets of the Slums, studying the child. He wore a wrinkled t-shirt that had probably once been a bright blue, but now dull and faded, and his shoes were worn and thin. The boy was surrounded by poverty and waste, but in his hands he held a small blossom; it was yellow, though Cloud couldn't place its name, and it seemed to fuel him with a delight that shielded him from the despair and anguish radiating from the people around him. Cloud frowned as he saw someone come up behind him and grip the boy by the shoulder, whipping him around. The man began shaking the boy furiously, forcing him to stumble backwards, clutching the flower to his chest and muttering something, his face pale and his eyes wide. Cloud assumed the gnarled man with grizzly brown hair was just a petty thief trying to hold the kid up for money, and the ex-SOLDIER rose to his feet. He hurried out the door as he saw the man grab the flower and crumple it in his hands, spitting at the boy's feet. A few moments later he stood by the child's side, glaring at the thief who'd threatened him. The boy cowered near Cloud's feet as the offender sneered and slowly walked away.

Once the threat had disappeared, Cloud turned to the intended victim, sizing him up for any injuries.

"Are you all right?" he asked, looking down at the small child. From up close, he could see the dirt in his ruffled blond hair and he shifted uncomfortably as the boy's stunningly green eyes began to spill over with tears.

"What's your name?" He asked, after struggling to think up a way to get the kid to calm down, and deciding a distraction would be best. The child didn't reply at first, but then quietly, between sniffs, Cloud made out a small voice.

"Max." He said, then looked up, blinking. "Yours?"

"Cloud."

"Thanks, Cloud." Max turned his head downwards, examining the petals as he stooped, delicately picking them up, one by one, and cradling them in his hands. Cloud frowned as a thought struck him.

"Where did you find the flower?"

A bitter look crossed Max's face as the tears spilled over again, and he let the petals fall to the ground. Wiping an arm across his eyes, he pointed a chubby finger down the street. Cloud look in its direction, feeling his chest tighten as suspicion overwhelmed his emotions. He knew what was down there. When the boy spoke, what he said only confirmed Cloud's thoughts and caused painful memories to fill his mind.

"There's a church down that way." Max's voice cracked in his despair, but Cloud wasn't really paying attention. He felt his breath catch in his throat, and he gawked for a moment, unable to move or even breathe. After what seemed like an eternity, but must've only been a few moments, he came back to reality, gasping for air.

"Take me there." He croaked. Max nodded, and to Cloud's amazement, he reached up and grabbed the older man's hand, leading him up the street. Cloud allowed himself to be dragged, his mind wandering. Of course, he already knew which church the boy spoke of, and where it was, but it was so easy to pretend he didn't have any memories confected to that place. If he tried, he could imagine that his chest didn't hurt when he thought of it. He found it incredibly difficult, however, to tell himself that he didn't want go to back there. It would have been so much easier to stay away, to forget the boy and the flower, and never allow his thoughts to drift back to the place where he'd first met her.

She'd been a vision, then. He'd believed that he'd died, and the angels he always denied the existence of had felt the need to send him their most beautiful messenger, no matter how undeserving he was. His heart had stopped, but it had been revived with greater vigor and energy than he'd ever felt before, fueling his reason for being and his motivation for living. But it hadn't lasted long enough. His heart had stopped again, but it had been when he'd seen her eyes as the sword plunged into her, leaving her lifeless on the ground. He'd often placed a hand to his chest since then, groping for a pulse, and even though he'd found one, he still felt dead.

His mind came back to reality as he felt his feet step on moldy wood, the boards groaning under his weight. He ignored its protests and moved further in, drawing a sharp breath, his eyes studying the features of the inside of the Church. Max dropped his hand, stepping back and studying the expression of grief that appeared on his face. Everything was exactly the same as it had been that day. The hole in the ceiling that had been left by his fall was still there, giving one the feeling that they were staring out from the inside of some angry beast's mouth. A wave of intoxicating nostalgia filled him and blurred his vision, or that's what he thought until he realized that his imperfect eyesight was too be blamed on the tears that were threatening to leak out onto his cheeks. He blinked them away, harshly shaking his head and silently scolding himself for being so childish. Aeris was dead, and no amount of prayers or tears would bring her back, regardless of the sincerity behind them. He frowned severely as he heard sniffles, and it took him a shocked moment to realize that they were not his own, but Max's.

"What is it?" he asked, trying to sound soothing. He hesitated, not sure if he really wanted to get into detail, "Why are you crying? There are still plenty of flowers." Cloud waved an arm towards the bed of plants, and it was obvious what he'd said was true. Dozens of golden blossoms bloomed around the church, sprouting in healthy patches, giving no hint of withering away. Oddly enough, though Cloud smiled at this, there was no evidence of his violent entrance from just a few months ago.

"No. . ." Max's voice sounded dry, as all the water in his boy was going towards making his tears. "I liked THAT one. It was the prettiest. And then. . . he just came and took it away from me! He didn't care that I loved it, he didn't care that it made life prettier, he just saw it and crushed it. . ." His voice had steadily grown into a shout, before he'd broken down into uncontrollable sobs. Cloud was stunned by the young man's speech, and his eyes drooped at his obvious sorrow. He didn't move to comfort Max, though he wanted to. He somehow knew that if he tried to hug or touch the boy in any way, he, too, would collapse into a fit of sorrow.

The situation felt all too familiar. Bitter feelings and loneliness attempted to overwhelm him, as he remembered the way she'd smiled at him, green eyes sparkling. He looked down at Max, noticing his own emerald eyes and spiky blond hair. Thoughts dared to come to mind when he knew it was dangerous, but he let them in. If Aeris had lived. . . If they'd married, and had children. . . would they have looked like Max? He shook the thought from his head, concentrating instead on what Max had said.

Aeris had been the most beautiful thing he'd ever seen. Aeris had been his favourite. And Sephiroth had come and crushed her, along with what few joys Cloud had. He shook his head, turning his eyes to the flowers, hoping for a distraction. He really did find it strange how they had recovered from his fall so quickly, their petals and stems not even bent. The only proof he had that he'd been there was his memory, and that would have to be enough, because that was all he had left of Aeris, as well. He started, his eyes widening. It would have to be enough.

"Max. Hush." He said, grasping the small boy by the shoulders. "Strop crying and listen." Max lifted a wet face upwards, his eyes slanted in grief as tears flowed from them. Cloud had been struggling with the right words to say, but as he saw the look of strength in Max's face, his determination not to cry, Cloud quickly found his inspiration.

"It's true. It was the most beautiful flower, and you'll never see it again. You may find another, but no matter how radiant it is, it won't ever be the same flower. The man took from you the thing you loved the most, and it may seem like you lost everything, but. . . you still have the memories. Your flower brought you a happiness that can never be forgotten, even in a place like this. . ." Cloud say the confusion on Max's, aiding in the speedy return of his sobs. He shook his shoulders slightly, speaking more quickly as what he said filled his own heart and mind.

"But if you just remember it. . . Just close your eyes, and think of it. Think of its beauty, and it scent. . . then you'll always have it with you." He wasn't sure if Max really understood what he was saying, but his own eagerness for moving on seemed to shine through, affecting the boy as he wiped at his eyes with his hands, attempting to dry all the tears away, and he reached up, taking Cloud's hand again.

"Thanks." He said. Cloud smiled softly.

"Ditto."

He'd never see Aeris again, but that didn't mean he couldn't love her. He could still think of her and remember all that she'd done for him. A memory couldn't replace her, but a memory could allow her to live on.

Aeris was one flower that would never be forgotten.'



~~

All right, that's it, I'm sorry! I honestly have no idea what the point of that story was. If any of you readers has an idea, please review and tell me about it, cus I'd like to know what was going on in my mind. And for those few people who might've actually liked it. . . wow!

-Moony