Final Fantasy VII
Notes: The characters are not mine and the story is! This was written for Lisa's birthday, using the prompt Inevitability at 31 Days. Happy birthday, Lisa! I hope it's a great one! I'm sorry this isn't longer; it wanted to be short. I hope I didn't get any details wrong.
It was bound to happen someday. Cloud had always known that.
Marlene had only been four years old when the threat of Meteor had loomed over Gaia, forcing AVALANCHE to give their all in fighting to save the world. Marlene had met Aerith and stayed with Elmyra. Later, she had been kidnapped by Reeve. She had seen as Meteor had begun to rock the Planet and as Holy and the Lifestream itself came to save them.
She was almost seven now, and still she had continued to view the Planet and its people in trouble. It had been only been several months since the healing rain had washed away all traces of Geostigma among the infected. So many were still trying to piece their lives together after the spread of the illness.
Cloud often traveled to the spot where Zack had died, the hill in the wastelands marked by the Buster sword. It had been barren for years, but recently flowers had started to bloom. It was one more miracle to add to the list, a symbol of life reviving and going on. Cloud had stopped short, stunned beyond belief the first time he had seen it.
Marlene was delighted. The last couple of times Cloud had gone to the grave, she had asked to go too. Cloud had complied. Today Marlene was sitting sideways on Fenrir, swinging her legs as she watched Cloud adjust the old sword in the ground. Several yellow flowers were spread in her lap, precious gold that she would take home and have Tifa put in a vase.
"What was Aerith like?"
Cloud froze, looking back to Marlene in surprise. "What?"
Marlene looked at him with wide, innocent eyes. "What was Aerith like?" she repeated. "It's been a long time and . . ." She glanced down at the flowers. "I don't remember her so much anymore. And I . . . I don't want to forget her."
Cloud stood, coming over to the motorcycle. He wiped his hands on his pants, debating in his mind what to say. Even though he had known this would likely come up sometime, he had not thought on how he would deal with it when it did.
Maybe because it was something he did not want to confront. He had never wanted to think about Marlene beginning to forget Aerith. There were times when he was not sure he remembered her so well, either. He would lie in bed, his arms behind his head as he stared at the ceiling, and think about her mischievous smile, her playful teasing . . . the sadness that sometimes flickered in her emerald eyes. Then he would realize that he could not quite recollect her face or her voice or the way she laughed and he would sit up as the pain gripped his heart.
"What do you remember about her?" he said at last.
Marlene shrugged. "I remember she loved flowers," she said. "And she always had that ribbon in her hair. Why did she wear it?"
"I don't know," Cloud said. There were a lot of things about Aerith he did not know. They had spent weeks together on their journey to stop Sephiroth, but it had not been enough. Aerith had kept a lot of her secrets right up to the end.
"I think I remember her smile the best," Marlene said. "And how warm it felt when she hugged me."
Cloud smiled a bit. "I remember those things too," he said.
"Aerith was really brave." Marlene bit her lip, looking down again as she blinked away the tears that were threatening to fall from her eyes.
Now Cloud's voice caught in his throat. "Yeah." He followed Marlene's gaze to the flowers. "She really was."
He laid a hand on her shoulder. "You still remember a lot about her," he said.
Marlene thought about that, then nodded. "I guess so," she said.
"The most important things." Cloud straightened. "Are you ready to go home?"
This time the answer came quicker. "Yeah." Marlene slid off Fenrir, gathering the flowers carefully in her hands. She waited while Cloud climbed on, then got on in front of him.
As he started the engine and maneuvered off the hill, Marlene's matching pink ribbon waved in the breeze.