Riding a chocobo was definitely an experience, and Aeris wasn't entirely sure she'd care to repeat it. She wriggled slightly in the saddle, hoping to find a more comfortable way to sit. At least it was a lovely day for a ride. Outside the pall of shadow and pollution that surrounded the city of Midgar, the sun was bright and the air was scented with spring flowers. Her chocobo wandered along after Zack's, occasionally pecking at the colourful flowers. She shifted her weight again, hoping they didn't have far to go.
"We're almost there," Zack said with an encouraging smile. "See those trees up there?" He pointed, and Aeris nodded. The trees weren't too far away. "That's where we'll stop. I brought a picnic, and there's a pond."
"Okay." Aeris smiled at him and took a deep breath of the fresh air. She was so used to the stink of metal, soot, and chemicals in the city that she rarely noticed anymore; it bothered her only when she left her church and stepped from the sweetness of her flower garden into the dull filth of the slums.
When their chocobos stopped in the shade beneath the trees, Zack swung down off his bird easily and looped its lead rope loosely around a tree branch. The chocobo settled in to investigate the local vegetation. Aeris prepared to slide off her own chocobo, but Zack simply wrapped his hands around her waist and lifted her off as though she weighed nothing. She grasped at his shoulders in surprise as he set her gently on the ground. She wouldn't have thought, looking at him, that he'd be so strong.
"Here, just toss this around a branch and tie it so he doesn't wander off," Zack said, his fingertips caressing her lightly as he let her go. "I'll get the picnic out."
Aeris found a branch to secure her chocobo and turned to see that Zack had spread out a fluffy dark-blue blanket and was arranging food on plates. She limped over to sit next to him and investigated. He had brought sandwiches and chips, and...was that fresh fruit? She shook her head slightly. Of course, he was in SOLDIER, and they took good care of their members.
He caught her watching him and laughed, plucking a grape from the stem and holding it to her lips. "Hungry?"
They fed each other bites of sandwiches and fruit, giggling like children. Later, they lay on the blanket cuddled together beneath the wavering shade, watching the leaves flutter in the breeze. Aeris stole glances at him from beneath lowered lashes, enjoying the faint smile that played across his lips and the way his lashes showed thick and black over his eyes. She wanted to run her fingers through his hair and see if it really was frozen into those spikes, but she was a little nervous about it. He was different than the slum boys she knew. He carried himself with a confidence they couldn't hope to match. They stumbled through their narrow little lives, aspiring to little more than the next drink, and he set out to change things.
"Aeris?" Zack murmured.
"Stop thinking so hard, and enjoy yourself." He turned, fingertips trailing from her wrist, up her arm and along her shoulder to her throat, ending with his hand cupping her cheek lightly. He looked deep into her eyes before he leaned in to kiss her, so gently at first she might have imagined it.
Her lips curved against his in a pleased smile as she curled her arm around his neck and took his advice.