The Promised Land

"Someone I love went back to the Lifestream, too..."

Her eyes were gently shut, eyelids covering the emerald irises that were devoid of the light of life. The wind teased away his tears, the night was dark, and the water parted with gentle ripples, its surface clear and pure. Like the brightest materia...but no materia can bring you back, can it?

He smiled bitterly, arranging his precious package in his arms as he waded out to the center. He couldn't bring himself to let her go just yet, and he stood for long minutes, just watching her. Her hands were still clasped in prayer position, and he remembered the alter, where she had called upon Holy to save them all before she was struck down.

Even in death, she was beautiful.

He remembered...when he had crashed through the roof of her church. He thought he was going to die until she looked down at him, green eyes sparkling with curiosity and relief. She had offered him a flower, and he had given her a single gil in exchange. Their fingers had brushed.

It was the start of something new.

Gently, he tugged at the silken strands, and her hair spread around her where it touched the water. He pocketed her ribbon. He would give it to Marlene, he decided, like he had done with the flower. He couldn't resist running his hands through it, and the corners of his mouth turned up slightly. She would say that it looked messy. He thought she looked angelic.

He knew that he didn't have much longer. He knew that he would have to go soon, he knew that it was not his time and that he could not join her, he knew that he would have to avenge her first. He knew that there were people waiting for him, people who cared, and yet...he looked down at her sleeping face.

For once, he wanted to be selfish. For once. He was tired of leading, was tired of having everyone look to him for guidance when all he wanted was to be with her. He thought of going down with her, thought of letting the Lifestream take him too. They would dissipate together, and spend forever with each other, in the heart of the planet. He did not fear death. But he feared living without her, his source of inspiration, the gentle girl that tended the flowers. His savior.

Slowly, reluctantly, his hold on her loosened.

He watched as the water gently embraced her, her shadow sinking beneath the waves. His heart shattered—when he finally lost sight of her, he knew he could never love another. There would never be another quite like her. Everything about her—her touch, her eyes, her smile—it was all unique. And he knew he would see them again—he knew now what he had to do. There was no forsaking it, it wasn't an option. He would fulfill his destiny, and then...he would come back to her.

He stood on the riverbank, watching the gentle flow of the waters where she was lain to rest, and he whispered a promise.

"Someday, somewhere in the sky, may we meet again...Aerith."