Barret goes everyday for flowers, but he’s been watching for a long time.
She’s always there at the corner, smiling with her long brown braided hair, offering flowers to passersby. It’s always struck him as strange that she’s able to find live ones—not plastic or sewn fabric—but the ones he remembers in his dreams, when he still had two hands.
She never asks who he is, even though they see each other every day. Instead, she just hands him a pink bloom, smiling and nodding; but Barret knows she knows more.
He’d first seen her with the leader of the Turks by coincidence. It’d been in a dark tavern in the lower sectors, so the pristine blue had stood out.
The pair had stayed there for a while, sitting at corner table together, grim looks on their faces as they murmured some conversation that eventually made her start to cry. Figured that a paid killer would make her cry—poor girl all in pink, shiny hair, selling flowers.
But it was from her that had Barret learned that appearances are deceiving, since he knows she also includes a special brand of wisdom with her flower sales.
“Mornin’,” he greets, pulling the scarf closer around his neck—a gift from Tifa. “Bouquet, please.”
The girl in pink studies him with slightly raised eyebrows, but then smiles, as if she knows something no one else on the Planet does.
“Of course,” she replies. “Let me just get something to wrap it in. How many papers do you need wrapped around the bouquet?”
“One,” Barret replies awkwardly, stamping his feet in the cold. “if you have it.”
He knows that she has one through seven.
She nods agreeably with a slight shrug. “You know the conditions?” she asks as she wraps a bundle of pink flowers in paper. “No refunds.”
“Yeah,” he grunts, handing her a thousand gil as he takes the flowers.
“Nice doing business with you,” she replies, leaning down quickly to tuck the wad of gil into her boot.
Barret holds the bouquet as he rushes to get back onto the train and Sector Seven, trying to look nonchalant.
It’s wet, and people aren’t paying attention, bustling past him to get a seat, and he rides with the flower tucked inside his vest carefully, holding one of the poles with his hand.
The walk back to Seventh Heaven isn’t eventful, even though he’s prepared for the worst, gun arm loaded.
He cocks it nervously once he’s in Sector Seven, circling with a series of clicks that no one pays attention to because of where he is.
No one stops him, and he gets back to the bar sooner than he anticipated.
“Hey,” Tifa greets him from the bar. She’s recording their liquor stock on an inventory sheet, testing the spouts, looking tired.
“It’s cold,” Barret greets her, stamping his feet on the ground. There’s no snow under the Plate, but sometimes, the ice that accumulates on the metal does drop down some frost. Either way, it’s freezing.
He crosses the empty bar, holding up the flowers. Tifa nods, her eyebrows raising as little as she takes an empty, cracked vase from under the bar and fills it up with water.
He carefully unwraps the paper from around the stems, then the plastic around them that’s keeping the dampness from bleeding through to the paper.
The bouquet of pink flowers flares out as he drops them into the vase, spreading like a burst of life in the dingy bar.
Tifa looks at them for a long minute before turning her face away.
“Those are nice,” she says, her words raw and edged. “They remind me of places.”
Nonetheless, she smiles as she looks up, leaning her weight forward against the bar, fist clenched.
Barret smiles back at her, unrolling the paper and unfurling it across on top of the bar.
“‘Lotta straight, even lines on here,” he remarks, looking down at the Mako Reactor plan on the mottled bar. “Might wanna mix ‘em up, right?”
Tifa never stops smiling as she nods. “Yeah,” she agrees, straightening her posture as she rocks back on her heels.
She motions toward the backroom. “Might want to put it away for now, right?”
Barret nods, rolling the plan up as carefully as he had put the flowers in the vase with his remaining hand. He turns to walk toward the back room.
“She sold it?” Tifa asks suddenly. “Fair and square?”
“Fair and square,” Barret nods immediately. “She ain’t no snitch. Know her from way back, at least by sight. Only flower seller in Midgar I ever seen that wasn’t peddling ones made of scrap. Real as the day they was born.”
Tifa nods curtly. “I’m going to get ready for tonight.” She frowns down at the bar, biting her lip, and Barret watches in veiled concern. She hates it when he worries over her.
“This is real,” Tifa says finally, looking up at him to stare with bottomless brown eyes; but he know she isn’t talking about the flowers anymore. There’s something missing in those eyes, something like the light that Barret sees in Marlene’s eyes every day. Tifa’s eyes have no sparkle, no life that the real flowers do, not even hope now that they have a set of Mako reactor plans.
“Yeah,” Barret replies after a moment of charged silence, “it’s real. And all it takes is a little spark. Jesse’ll be right on it, and then...” he grins, feeling cocky suddenly, “it’ll all be okay.”
“A little spark,” Tifa echoes, nodding as she crosses her arms over her chest.
“Yup,” Barret nods as he takes their precious treasure to the back, kicking the floorboard away and setting it down underneath the floor, as gentle as petals on a grave.
Light, spark, change—it’s coming, in Tifa’s eyes, and in Midgar.
Barret cocks his Gatling gun arm—one for luck, two for revenge, three for an empty chamber.
One, two, three.
He knows at some point, though, the fire in the middle of luck and emptiness will erupt, and nothing will ever be the same.
He’s ready as he gently positions the floorboard in place, hiding it there like a precious thing.
Judging from how cold it is, Barret thinks that it must be clear above the plate—probably lots of stars in the sky. A cold cacophony of small lights, like an explosion in the black sky.
A fateful, beautiful spark of lights, there in the dark.