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20 August 2008 @ 10:36 pm
Choosing Drabble  
The sunset bathed the beach in brilliant colors of which she could not name. Hundreds of unfamiliar figures milled about their business. Tears were shed, laughter shared, and despite the noise of the crowd, the island felt strangely quiet where Aeris stood, a short distance from where the others prepared. Her green eyes studied the horizon as she partook in the silence that threaded through the island. So many had prepared for this moment, if only in the back of their mind. Years for some, months for others.

She'd never really considered it. Not really. Why should she have? Her life there had been complete, and she had somehow managed to do what she had set out to do, despite not remembering it. Most of all, her friends were here. Cloud and Zack, too. The two who had most shaped her life for the better, and the two she could definitively say she loved. Perhaps not really before the island, but the two years she'd spent here with them had taught her so much more...taught her what was really important, and what it meant to love. She'd never really wanted to go home.

Except...now the collected population of the islands are separating into groups. Those traveling on the grand ship Dawn Treader to follow the doorway home, and those remaining behind on this island. Those who had made lives for themselves, those with responsibilities, and those who had let go of home, and could not let go of their own island. And she...

She could not say with which she belonged.

Most of those who had died in their world chose to remain. Some chose to return, and continue their journeys.

She wished they had more time to decide. She wished there was more than one chance...but the device, whatever it was, would only last for just one transfer, and the Dawn Treader would not wait long. After all...the scientist who had discovered it had given the island more than ample notice to decide. A small voice in her mind held unkind thoughts toward whomever it was, but she could not begrudge him such a wonderful discovery. While science had always caused her heartache and trouble, it was perhaps the best news many of them had heard since arriving here.

Her other friends stood in the distance, preparing for the journey, and wishing well those who would stay. So many she had known, so many she had never expected to see or befriend. Many, also, whom she did not recognize upon their arrival, but others of her friends had. She would have wished they could have all stayed or gone tomorrow, but such a thought was impractical, even to her own thoughts. Some needed to return. Some needed to stay.

A slim hand appeared on her shoulder, and she did not need to turn her head to know it was Tifa. "No one will blame you, no matter which choice you make."

She smiled lightly, glancing over at her closest friend. "I will."

"It's alright not to go, if that's what you're thinking. They might be able to get it working again, anyway."

"No..." Aeris smiled softly, lifting a shoulder in a shrug. "I can't. The Planet needs me."

"It worked even though you came here, right?" Tifa frowned lightly. "What's to say there still won't be a duplicate out there, huh?"

Aeris breathed a half-laugh. "I couldn't leave it to chance. Nor even a duplicate. It's my responsibility." She turned to look over at Tifa. "It's what I was born for."

"You weren't born for anything Aeris. We make our own decisions."

"I'm making mine."

"Are you going to tell him?"

Her smile was tinged with sadness. "Of course I will."

"It's not goodbye, you know. Not really."

Aeris only smiled and walked down the beach to where Cloud and Zack were speaking. Their expressions were grave as they turned toward her. She summoned a small smile, threading her hands together in front of her. It was Cloud who spoke first. While unusual, it didn't really surprise her in the circumstances.

"Aeris...?"

Zack turned to stare at the ocean in silence.

"You know...no matter what, we're all going to meet again!"

Zack was the one who spoke this time. "Yeah, I know."

She took a few steps further and threw her arms around the dark haired boy. "This time it's my turn to promise."

He stiffened momentarily, before pulling her into a tight hug. "I'll look for you. Every time it rains, I'll look up for you and wait. All of us will."

She smiled softly. "I'll be back."

"You'd better be. And that goes for you, too, Cloud."

"I will be." Cloud's deeper voice was serious and determined. "I'll look for you, too. In the Lifestream."

Aeris nodded, stepping back from both of them, and managing a bright smile. "We'll find each other! And next time no more goodbyes."

Zack nodded. "Definitely."

The call from the Treader sounded, and she threw her arms around his neck again, fighting down tears. "Take care of them, Zack. Angeal, Sephiroth, all of them."

"You take care of Cloud and the others, too."

She nodded with shimmering green eyes, and smiled. "I'll keep them out of trouble."

Zack grinned and nodded, before shooing her off in the direction Cloud was walking. "Next time!"

"Next time." She smiled briefly, before turning to run to catch up to where Cloud and Tifa were walking hand in hand, and climbing up the docking ramp.

She watched the spot on the island where he stood long after the island faded from view, and Holy surged through her consciousness.