I own nothing. Just playing.

Chapter Eleven

The Warmth I Feel

Buffy's Point of View

"You can't have everything. Where would you put it?"

~Steven Wright

I had almost forgotten how much stuff was in my trunk. I had been pulling things out of the damn thing for well over an hour and there was still no end in sight. Cloud had poked his head in to tell us that the airship was heading back towards the crater where Sephiroth had summoned the meteor, so we could see if there were any clues to where he had gone and what his next move might be, and we would be there in the morning. Vincent almost looked like he wanted to disagree, as did I, but none of us said anything until he shut the door.

Tifa coughed gently as she saw what I was sure was a rather traitorous expression on my face.

"Sorry," I said, completely chagrinned. "You'd think after all this time I'd be better at taking orders from other people. But, I gotta say, it's easier to listen to Cloud than it was to the under-washed over-make-uped pirate I started with."

"Hey, what're these?"

I looked up from the round goblin dream crystals I was twirling in my hands. Tifa held up a blue velvet bag in one glove and a glowing orange ball in the other.

"Spheres," I said simply. I was being intentionally obstinate, but at the withering glare the female martial artist shot me, I amended my statement. "In Spira, spheres are used to record. Like videos." I shrugged. "I don't know if you even have things like that here. But some of the people I was traveling with decided to start recording our little adventure so I wouldn't forget any of them. That's what the bag's full of."

"Wow!" Tifa exclaimed, turning the sphere over in her hand. "Is there a way to watch them? How do they work?"

I shared an amused glance with Vincent, who had been lingering on the edges of the conversation, trying to pretend he wasn't at all interested in the items I was pulling out of the trunk, but I knew better. I had seen him eyeing the sawed-off shotgun Dean Winchester had given me. I was thinking of letting him use it if he could find ammo for it.

"Yeah," I answered finally. "I have a projecting sphere player Rikku gave me for my birthday last year." I scoured the trunk and pulled it out. It was a large cube with a recess for the sphere to sit in. I took the bag from Tifa and dug through it to find the one with the #1 scratched into it. Popping it into its designated slot, I observed my roommate and the curious girl as they watched the sphere glow bright and project an image onto the gray metal wall.

The picture was of a man, his arms outstretched, clearly holding the recorder facing him. He had bright, carrot-colored hair that stood high off his head. He scratched his stubbly chin and then grinned widely.

"Rikku, it's recording now, ya?" he asked, glancing off to his right.

A blonde girl poked her head into view. "Yep," she said cheerfully. "Go ahead."

"Uh…ok. Hey, Buffy. It's Wakka, ya? We…"

"What're you doing?" came a curious voice and the bright blue eyes and the sun-bleached hair of Tidus peaked over the taller man's shoulder.

Rikku came into frame again. "Well," she began, " we know Buffy's going to have to leave after she finishes helping us, you know? We're recording her a sphere so she doesn't forget us."

Tidus grinned widely at the two would-be filmmakers. "Somehow, I doubt she's going to need this to remember, but I'll help you anyway."

We watched as they went through the party, introducing teammates and giving me basic messages of well wishes for when everything was all over. Only two people were missing from the lineup.

Tidus took the sphere recorder and broke away from the group, stepping outside the inn. And find the missing members he did, standing on a grassy outcropping overlooking the water and the brilliant orange and pink of the sun setting over the Mi'hen Highroad. Auron and myself.

I wore all black, as I often did now, my hair loose and slightly moving in the mild wind. Auron stood to my left, his long red kimono-type coat fluttering faintly in the breeze.

As we watched the forms facing away from the camera on the cliff, Tidus began to speak softly.

"You're with him a lot, aren't you, Buffy? Sometimes I wonder what you talk about. You told me that the two of you are more alike than anyone you'd ever met, but I don't see it."

In the image, we saw as I bowed my head and Auron reached out to put his gloved hand on my shoulder. I remembered the moment vividly. It was when he told me he was dead and no matter the outcome of the quest, when it was over, he was finished. I thought I would be leaving then and even had he lived, I wouldn't have ever seen him again anyway, but it didn't matter. The multiverse was a far better place with him in it. But, of course, I didn't leave Spira until a few years later, and his loss affected me more than I had ever guessed it would.

Image-me nodded at something Auron said and turned back towards the inn. My hands were in my pockets and I stared down at the ground, not looking at Tidus and his sphere recorder at all.

As I drew even with him, his hand snaked out and grabbed mine. I turned my face up to look at him. My eyes were slightly glassy but there were no tears and my face was blank.

"Are you all right?" Tidus asked, concern coloring his voice. "What did he say to you?"

My recorded counterpart smiled tiredly. "I'm fine. And what he said isn't important."

The figure turned and was only two steps further when Tidus asked another question that made me stop. "Do you love him?"

I heard Tifa gasp and look at me like she was watching a beautiful love story in the making. I kept my eyes on the picture, not wanting to see the pity on her open face when she realized that, had that been the case, it would have ended sadly.

That adventure hadn't been my story anyway. But then again, none of them really had. Not since leaving Sunnydale.

My image turned slowly and squinted at the blond young man, eyes flicking down to the sphere recorder in his hands.

"I love all of you," I had said guardedly.

"No," he said impatiently. "You know exactly what I mean. Are you in love with him?"

My image turned completely around and stared out of frame at where Auron was standing. "In another place and time, I could have been. But not here and not now. I try not to make a habit of falling in love with the people I meet in my travels. Only ends in heartbreak."

The recorder turned and showed Auron still with his back to it, looking into the sunset, and when it swiveled back, I was gone.

"Damn," Tidus muttered.

The image moved closer to Auron until it was apparent he was standing next to, but facing, the older Guardian.

Auron's left eye was scarred over, so he was forced to turn his head completely around to look at Tidus. Behind his sunglasses, I could see his eyes flick down to the sphere and then back up, presumably to Tidus. "What do you think you're doing?" he asked gruffly.

"We're making a sphere for Buffy. When the pilgrimage is over and she leaves to help other people, we don't want her to…well…forget about us," came the young man's voice.

Auron turned back to watching the sunset without a word.

"So…you're the only one that hasn't recorded some kind of message for her," he continued. "And since you guys seem to be so close, I thought you might want to. Here." He thrust the sphere into Auron's hand. The image was only that of the older man's gloved fingers and the grass. "I'm sure whatever you have to say should be said alone. And don't over complicate it.

Tidus could be heard walking away and Auron was grumbling under his breath. But finally, after a few moments, he held up the sphere and looked into it. The wind ruffled his gray-sprinkled black hair.

"Remember, Buffy," he said quietly, "every story must end. You chose your destiny. Believe in it." He stopped speaking when a huge commotion erupted behind him. He dropped the sphere and pulled his sword from where he had stuck it into the ground, whirling about to face the threat. The sphere was perfectly positioned on the ground to catch all the action.

The door of the inn had been thrown open and I could be seen chasing Rikku around the building. As we flew past the front again, my image leapt into the air, hovering with what was perhaps impossible hang-time for a human, and landed in front of the young blonde girl. I dropped and swept a leg out, knocking her legs out from under her. She landed hard on her back, and as she groaned about the unfairness of it all, I pried the necklace from her straining fingers. Image-Buffy pulled Rikku to her feet.

The younger blonde moaned and rubbed her backside. "Oh, poopie! You big meanie!" she whined. "How'd you even know I took it? I mean, I took Auron's prayer beads this morning and he still hasn't noticed, you know?"

A foot came into view in the foreground. A large black boot. And then a low growl sounded through the air.

Rikku spun to face the noise and the sphere recorder, then slowly backed away with her arms held up in a surrendering gesture.

Auron growled again, taking a few steps forward and the recording of me smirked. "Do you hear that? It's the sound of the Reaper calling your name," I teased.

The little thief looked panicked. "Come on, Auron," she pleaded. "It was just in fun, you know? I was practicing!"

The elder guardian shifted his grip on the sword. "Pray…now!" he shouted as he charged at her.

"Praying!" Rikku screamed as she turned and took off full tilt away from the red-clad madman who was intent on taking the beads back by force.

Tidus and I were visible in the background of the image, clinging to each other and almost collapsing under the strain of our laughter. Every few moments, Auron and his prey crossed the screen.

Finally, Rikku tossed the beads away and leapt behind me. As the man retrieved them and attached them to his belt, my image turned around and grabbed Rikku gently by the shoulders. "I hope this means you won't be stealing from us anymore?" I asked with an arched eyebrow.

She shook her head vehemently and Tidus lead the traumatized thief back inside. My image turned to smile serenely at Auron and then followed them.

The red-clad man, a legend in Spira, walked back toward the recording sphere and picked it up. He stared at it for a long moment. "Had we but world enough and time," he muttered before the image went blank.

I gaped at it long after it had stopped playing. It was one thing for me to admit it. It was something else entirely to hear him allude to it.

"What happened to him?" Tifa asked softly. "I mean, that sword you carry…it's the one he was carrying, isn't it?"

"Yes," I answered distractedly. "He was dead. The whole time I knew him. Unsent. When we won, he was able to move on. He gave me his sword, his sunglasses, and his prayer beads before he…left."

"The beads in your hair," Vincent observed from his place in the shadows on his bed. His face betrayed nothing as usual, but if I looked closely at his eyes, I thought I could see a warmth there. A sympathy.

"These are the only ones that were left," I said, reaching up to finger one of the small blue ornaments that hung from the six braids interspersed throughout my hair. "I was holding then so tightly while I watched him go, I crushed most of them by accident."

I slowly began loading things back into the trunk. I'd had enough emotional upheaval for the afternoon, and even though I saw Tifa wistfully eyeing the rest of the spheres, I didn't want to see any more. I didn't want to see the celebrations they had recorded after Sin was finally gone, or the sphere of Yuna's wedding, or the one I made of Rikku getting all flustered while I teased her about her secret love, Gippal. I had tried so hard to make a life in that world, believing it would be the last one I would ever see.

But things generally don't turn out how I plan them. And besides, I would have, eventually, outlived all my friends. I couldn't imagine what seeing them grow into elderly people would have been like. And seeing them all die with nothing but myself as a constant. In this world, provided we managed to save it and survive, somewhere out there was someone else that would live forever. When all this was over, I planned to find them somehow. I didn't like the prospect of facing eternity alone.

Who would?