It's been ten years since Cloud defeated Sephiroth for the second time, but a new adversary rises, more dangerous than Sephiroth or Jenova ever were. Marlene and Denzel are tossed together in this particular little plot bunny, a bit older, a bit more mature and a hell of a lot more stubborn. Enjoy.

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Prologue: Resolve

Marlene could feel her, always there, always watching, like a guardian angel. She knew she watched Cloud, too. Marlene also knew that she had loved him like Tifa did, but Marlene never knew why the flower lady chose to watch her.

"Marlene?" The girl turned away from the cityscape to see Denzel squirming in his bed. The Geostigma on his forehead gave him such awful headaches and there was nothing Marlene could do for him.

Sit by him and hold his hand, whispered her voice in Marlene's mind. Every time she talked to the little girl, Marlene felt calmer and more in control. Sometimes she could almost see her out the corner of her eye. Aerith.

"It's going to be okay, Denzel," Marlene assured the boy, smiling as his dark blue eyes hazy with the pain as his hand squeezed her's. "I'll look after you."

Edge celebrated Sephiroth's defeat and the eradication of the Geostigma with weeks and weeks of endless festivities. 7th Heaven was overcrowded with everyone staying in town for the party, but even with her big miss-matched family around Marlene felt out of sorts and Denzel was beginning notice her sour mood.

"Marlene?" He was hovering by the doorway to the room they were sharing with Barrett. Yuffie and Tifa were bunked together in Tifa's room. Cloud, Vincent and Cid had taken Cloud's room and Reeve and Red had found a couple of spare couches to crash on.

"Hi, Denzel."Marlene turned back to the cityscape, now brightened with fairy lights. She'd taken out her hair for the night, carefully tucking away the pink ribbon in her dresser. It was her ribbon. Aerith had given it to Marlene just before they took her; Shinra.

"Are you okay, Marlene? You look sad." She smiled at him as he came to stand by her, taking Marlene's hand in his. He smiled back, his cheeks going pink. She'd seen Cloud's cheeks turn like that when Tifa smiled at him.

"They took you, Denzel. They hurt Tifa. They hurt Cloud. They took me. They hurt you and all the other children. I just watched. I couldn't do anything. It was just like when they took the flower lady. I'm sick of feeling helpless," Marlene sighed, turning her eyes back to the cityscape once more, fighting back rebellious tears. She chewed on her bottom lip, defying those tears.

Denzel wrapped his skinny arms awkwardly around her shoulders, squeezing her tightly, but not as tight as Barrett. Barrett's hugs were bone crushing.

"We're just kids, Marlene," reasoned Denzel, stroking his fingers through Marlene's loosened hair. It felt nice, soothing. It reminded her of when the flower lady had brushed her hair, plaiting it before tying her ribbon in the braid.

"I don't want to be a helpless kid anymore, Denzel. Tomorrow I am going to ask Tifa to teach me how to fight. And if she won't teach me Yuffie will," Marlene added, determined. She wasn't going to let anyone hurt her family again. She felt the flower lady smile in the back of her mind.