Internal Perception, External Apperances
By Mirror and Image

Red XIII once mentioned something called karma; that whatever you have done in the past will return to you in the future. I think that must have been what's happened to me.

My greatest sin was not giving attention to one shy, bullied little boy because I was too absorbed in what was happening to me. Now the reverse is happening, and I deserve every minute of it.

I miss Aeris. She was my best friend. She was so giving, so loving, more so than I ever was. She had this innate ability to see right through you, to your inner spirit. I think she knew all of my secrets within the first five minutes of our auspicious meeting. But it wasn't a menacing knowledge; quiet the contrary, you always felt relieved when Aeris was watching you with her knowing eyes. There was a maturity in her, a depth of centuries it felt like, and she was always willing to share it with you, even if you were never quite ready for it.

We had a pact, she and I; an unspoken pact that whomever Cloud chose, the other would gladly step aside. Honestly, Cloud's already chosen, and chosen her. I knew that a long time ago, and in spite of contrary belief, I'm okay with it. You see, if you love someone, you want them to be happy first. Cloud is, was, happy with Aeris, and I wouldn't presume to intrude upon that. Besides, it's Aeris, if he had to pick anyone, I'm glad he picked her. She can heal him, can lift him up in ways that I can't.

I remember when we met; she had come to rescue me from Don Corneo, and had somehow managed to convince Cloud to dress as a girl to do it. That conversation was so laden with double meaning and implications. When she said she came "with" Cloud, I was so disappointed, but she had me figured out in a second and immediately started to reassure me, even as I steadfastly denied my feelings for Cloud. I didn't think I was ready for them yet, and I knew Cloud certainly wasn't, so I wanted to protect him.

That is the big difference between her and I. I want to protect Cloud, she wants to love Cloud. I saw it in how they are together; she openly flirted with him, and laughed wonderfully when he squirmed. She was so open, about everything, and yet at the same time so private. I think she talked to me more than anyone else aside from Cloud, and I still don't know how she and her mother managed to avoid the Turks for as long as they did. There were times, late at night when she was particularly tired, where her entire frame would drift off and she sagged under her own weight. Her mind was so far away in those moments, and when she "came back," she would have some new piece of news or revelations. I think those were the times she was speaking to the Planet.

I can't even imagine what that must have been like, to have so many voices flittering back and forth in your head. How could she stand it and still be so... happy?

But that was Aeris. In spite of everything around her, she was always so happy. All I can ever be is cheerful, optimistic. That doesn't always mean that I believe in it, or that I can't be just as forlorn as everyone else. But not Aeris.

I think that's what attracted Cloud to her. A man so desperate, so lost, so alone, could find hope, happiness, and love in her. Their love could save each other. It sounds so stupidly cliché when I say that, but that's what I see.

I do love him, more than anything. But he doesn't see me anymore. It hurts, I won't deny that, it hurts strongly, but I can bear it because I know that he was happy with her. Besides, we're still best friends, and I get a lot of satisfaction in that. We have a really good relationship as it is now; and while I know that someday I will tell him I love him, for now I'm afraid, because I don't want to lose what I have.

... That's my fundamental problem. I'm a creature of fear. I don't want to lose anymore people; not my mother, not my father, not my town, not Cloud. I'm too scared of loss, of what the repercussions would be if I made such a drastic statement. Tack onto this the uncertainty of Cloud's mental state - which in and of itself caused intense terror in me, so much so there were times I couldn't speak - and I found myself locked in stillness. And so, for now, I'll keep quiet.

Cloud says he's beginning to understand; the Lifestream, the Promised Land. He says he can find her there, Aeris. I'm not sure if that's a good thing, a healthy thing. But, at the same time, I want to see her too. I want her to smile knowingly at me and then deliberately pair me with Cloud somehow; to giggle and try and train with me even though her strength is horribly weak; to turn around and beat me soundly in a magic competition; to share a tent with me and talk until dawn; to do all the things that we love about her.

Her presence continues to heal us, even when she's gone. Cloud managed to pull himself together in the Lifestream, and I have more faith than ever in him. I no longer doubt him, and I can feel, in small pieces, that I doubt myself less and less. Cloud has avenged her, and has some gratification in that. I don't think he can forgive himself for her death. That will stay with him for a while, but I'll stand by him like I always do.

The time will come that he will move on, and forgive himself. I'll do my best to help him through that. Maybe when that's all over, I can let him know I love him.

In the Highwind, we watch as Holy and Lifestream race to Meteor, and next to me, I see a cherished friend in pink, her hands clasped in tight prayer.

Go to Part 2