Flowers for a Flower Girl

By Mary-Alice

Tifa was worried. Cloud had gone out of New Midgar six months ago...he'd thought he'd be back in a month, but...

Anyway, it had been a late day at the bar, and she was heading home to her duplex apartment. She was almost there when suddenly, she heard a chocobo's wark. It was Cloud...he looked kind of bedraggled and tired, leading Goldie over to where he lived. He tied the chocobo up and went inside to his apartment. Why's he home so darn late, I wonder? What kept him? She stood around a while, thinking about going to ask him now. She decided not to since Cloud was tired. Just as she was about to turn away, there was a muffled curse, and Cloud threw out a trash wasn't closed properly, and a sleeve popped out. Curious why Cloud would throw away clothes, she went over there and pulled on the sleeve. It was a shirt all right...a shirt that had been cut by some kind of weapon and had old bloodstains on was ruined. Ewww!, she thought. She put it back in the bag. But how did he get in a fight with someone or something with weapons, anyway? There's nothing or nobody that uses weapons over by the Northern Crater...Well, I'll get him in the morning...

She headed over to her apartment for the night.

That morning, after Tifa had gotten to the bar, she saw Cloud walk in. Aha, maybe now I can find out what happened... She motioned him over and made sure Viden, the bouncer, knew she was likely to be distracted...just in case some trouble started. Not that trouble was likely to start this time of the morning, but it never hurt to be careful. "Less likely" didn't mean it couldn't happen, after all. Cloud saw her and came up to the bar where she was and sat down. He asked for some plain orange juice; Tifa didn't think anything of it since it was a bit early for anyone to want any booze. She got it for him and sat on the other side of the bar. She smiled at him at him and then said, "Cloud! Nice to see you, but...what took you so long to get home? And why did you get home so late? I saw you..."

Cloud sighed. "Long story, Tifa..."

Tifa leaned over. "We got time...c'mon, spit it out..."

Cloud nodded, took a deep breath, and began...

"It all started when I made it to the Northern Crater. I went in carefully to its center and called out for Aeris...She showed up. We didn't get to talk long, though before it happened..."

"What happened?"

"Well...there was a big flash of Mako and Lifestream, and then the world just...melted away. Next thing I knew...I wasn't home any more and Aeris had somehow been...brought back to life...Don't ask me why or by what power, I don't know. Aeris doesn't know exactly why it happened either, though it didn't last long."

"Huh? What do you mean?"

Cloud proceeded to tell her about a guy named Ramza, how Aeris had gotten killed...again...and an adventure in a world not his own. Tifa kept his glass full; the story went on for quite some time. He promised he'd show her his journal of the time later.

By the time his tale seemed to have started to wind down, it was getting to be lunchtime. Tifa had a habit of taking a walk around lunchtime, so she made sure that one of the help in her bar could handle things while she was out, got them both lunch, and they walked out.

As they left the bar, Tifa said, "How did you end up getting back?"

" day when Ramza...kind of ran off, (I don't know what happened to him) I went to bed in a inn one night and...well, woke up in the snow in the Northern Crater. Afraid I used a nasty string of cusswords that would've made Cid blush!"

Tifa laughed. "I wouldn't blame you if I heard you. Waking up in the snow is awful."

They passed a flower stand; Cloud paused there to buy a bunch of long stemmed roses in a vase (fifteen gil). Tifa then said, "What happened after that?" They walked on, Cloud leading the way.

"Well...after I'd finished cussing, I went back down inside the Northern Crater. Aeris was there. She said hello and told me it had been months and that when she'd gotten killed, she'd somehow been snapped back to where it had started. "Like I was thrown by a rubber band" she said. She found out I was still upset about her dying and chewed me out a bit. "You need to quit dwelling I died. I was willing to die if that's what it took to stop Sephiroth back then. I knew it was a possibility that using the White Materia would kill me. And this time...when I got resurrected and got killed...nothing you could've done, okay? Don't be sad, I'll be watching over you. I'd rather see you happy...and maybe find your Promised Land...instead of looking around for something you can't catch!" I then said, "Promised Land? What do you mean? I'm not dead!" She then said, "One of the Cetra that died before me told me that sometimes, if a person is VERY lucky, you can find a piece of your "Promised Land" when you're still alive. I'd rather see you do that..." That's when I finally understood why Aeris died...and the whole thing. Finally found my own peace about the matter."

Just then, they came to a fence really overgrown with had a gazebo roof. Cloud opened the gate and went in. Tifa followed. She knew what this was. This was a memorial to Aeris that Reeve had built when he had gotten New Midgar built. It was a small flower garden, with a bubbling pool in its center. In the center of the pool was an island with a plaque on it that said:

New Era 1987-2009

Cloud quietly left the flowers by the plaque and bowed his head. Tifa heard him mutter, "Thank you....Aeris..."

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