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 A Season Too Short

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I’d love to live in truth and not in seeming.

Do you want to waste time wallowing in your own regrets, Auron?

Not really.

I didn't want to die, either.

She is waiting for my answer. The grain of our losses is much the same, except that, Yevon unwilling, she'll keep walking into the light when I have faded into the Farplane's shadows.

Why does she reach for a fading candle to warm her hands? This woman is wise. She understands I am no hero, just a man driven by oaths beyond life's ending to keep plodding forward. She doesn't believe in legends.

"Autumn," I say.

"I thought so." She smiles coy victory. Only Lulu could make me succumb to small talk in the grey hour before dawn, while our fellow guardians doze. "You come from Bevelle, where the leaves blaze brightest before they fall."

For a moment I do not understand, and then I remember: "Besaid has no winter."

"There are the storms. I learned most of my magic in the rain."

I catch a glimpse of the girl she was, standing at the edge of the temple platform, raptly watching armies of black clouds rolling off the ocean. Lightning drills atolls in the distance. Her eyes flash. She raises white arms, daring the thunder to find her. Her black hair trickles down her shoulders, braids undone by pounding rain.

Pyreflies. They hold my battered frame together. They also distract. It is not always my memories they mirror. That one, so vivid I can taste the scent of rain-slicked jungle, must be hers.

We have more important matters to worry about. Pilgrimage. Guarding a summoner who confounds Yevon and guardians alike. Fighting a Spira bent on killing us.

But still I am arrested by her alabaster shoulders shining in the hollow light before dawn. Unbowed. Young. A statue of beauty, a will-o-wisp to tempt one who has no business pondering such things.

"And you?" I say, willing away distractions. "Which is your favorite season?"

"Winter, of course." Her hand folds over my own. My flesh is cool beneath her touch, and that should be warning enough. She is no fool.

"I'd think you would be tired of endings."

"Perhaps." Her chin lifts with bleak pride.  I realize with a chill that she has accepted her own death sooner than I have mine: she does not expect to outlive Yuna. "But there is the lightning. It burns brightest just before it's gone."

I draw her wrist to my lips. Her fingertips brush my cheek, tracing the buckled scar on the right side of my face.

It would be so easy to pretend I were still alive. Damn the woman for tempting me to try.

"The lightning dies." I release her hand. "But you will see the spring."

I feel her eyes on my back as I walk away, seeking Kimahri to rouse him for the next watch.

The sun is rising. It belongs to her, not to me.