A/N: This is a random one-shot that I felt inspired to do today. Basically, Aerith is reflecting on her life after she is dead. I'm not really sure where I'm going with this, but it is definitely a one time deal. Sorry Aerith fans!

The Burdens of an Ancient

Aerith stood in a flower patch, hands folded in front of her. A sigh escaped her lips, an unusual sound for her. Normally, she was so confident, so positive. But today wasn't one of these times. Although the Lifestream was full of bliss, she didn't partake in any of it today. She stood alone, basking in the memory of a former life.

After losing her mother at a young age, she found herself unsure of her life's purpose deep inside. Oh sure, she appeared absolutely grounded, but it was a charade. Inside herself, the chaos couldn't have been greater. A sense of superiority sometimes ran through her brain, which she hated. She knew that it was true, and she didn't want it to be that way; she wanted to be normal.

Nobody understood how she knew some of the things she knew. Sometimes, she would just come out and say the silliest things. And though people didn't believe her at first, they soon discovered that she was indeed correct.

Like one time...Elmyra, her adopted mother, was downstairs making dinner. And then, all of a sudden, Aerith felt such a deep wave of sorrow that she gasped audibly. Before she knew what was happening, she was downstairs, telling her mom not to be sad. Then her lips said what her heart already knew...Elmyra's husband was dead.

Word came a few days later, proving that she was correct. Elmyra was devastated.

Soon after that, a man came, wanting to take her away because she was special. She screamed and said that she was nothing special before running. Everyone knew that wasn't the least bit true.

The flower girl shook her head, kneeling down in the flowers. It wasn't all bad; at least she had the chance to love before her inevitable death. For once in her life, she had met people who didn't treat her special because of her "abilities". It started with Cloud and Tifa, then Barret and Nanaki and the others came into her life. And things couldn't have been better; she loved having friends.

But this love, it was only friendship. Her romantic interest was another young man who had come to her in quite a special way. It was Zack, who at that very moment was relaxing in the Lifestream. Doing what, she didn't know. At that moment, she was too lost in thought to be concerned about it. They would find their way back to each other...they always did. She smiled faintly; love truly did conquer the grave.

To her surprise, sorrow sometimes hit her square between the eyes. She didn't understand; wasn't this place supposed to be totally free of hurt and sadness? At one point, she asked other spirits in the Lifestream and discovered the Ancients could still feel most of their earthly emotions, even if not to the full degree it had been before. Again, she felt very alone.

The loneliness was slowly killing her inside (was that possible, since she was already dead?) Either way, it wasn't pleasant to feel this way. Another memory from her shattered life reappeared in her mind, making a lone tear leave her eye. She could see it in her mind's eye.

There she was, kneeling on an alter in the City of Ancients. She knew what she was doing there; she was saving the planet. And in exchange for this, she gave up her life. Long before that horrific sword pierced her, she knew that her time was coming. Being with Cloud and the others allowed her to have dreams—dreams she had never seen before. And one was her mother (her real mother) telling her how to save the planet. Just by the graveness in her voice, Aerith knew this was going to be the last thing she ever did.

Yet she went anyway, knowing that it wasn't a decision she couldn't make on personal preference. Of course she wanted to live. But it wasn't up to her.

She went willingly, like a lamb to the slaughter.

The moment she looked up and smiled at Cloud, successful in her summoning of Holy, she knew what would happen. Though her peaceful facial expression didn't show it, she knew Sephiroth was about to attack her. Her life flashed before her very eyes, something she had thought only happened in books or stories. Then it was all gone...only a world without pain appeared with her now.

For three years now, she had been wandering through the Lifestream, never dissolving into it. She wasn't ready to yet; her heart was too uneasy. At first, it was because of the suddenness of it all. Then, when she saw Cloud struggling in the land of the living, she felt a desire to stay connected to him and help him in any way she could.

This goal was accomplished, and yet she still was not alright. "I didn't do enough," she'd tell herself so often. "I need to keep watch over my friends, they need me." Deep down, though, she knew she was holding on because of her own selfishness. She didn't desire to lose grasp of all she had worked so hard to keep hold of. Though it would happen eventually, she wasn't ready yet.

Aerith started to cry, teardrops falling onto the flowers. Perhaps her life was much like the flowers. They grew where people needed them. And she had been with the people who needed her for that time. Then, once the flowers have done their job, they melt back into the earth and help new flowers bloom.

Yes, maybe the memory of her would spur others on. Suddenly, that was good enough for her. The hope of a new day...for all her friends, and for herself.

Finally, after a long period of unease, she drifted off with the flow of the Lifestream, sorrow leaving her at last.