She sells her last flowers to a group of children she knows and smiles when they divvy up the blossoms so that each of them have one before they take off, probably to beat Scrooge McDuck to closing time and buy the last bars of sea-salt ice cream of the day. Aerith lets herself chuckle a little, hefts her now empty basket onto her arm and finally leaves her spot by the wall that protects the edge of the marketplace plaza from a sheer drop.
It's still nice out - the sun not even ready to set just yet and she waves goodbye to the shopkeeper of the item store before making her way towards the residential streets. Today had been a good day, she decided to herself. No Heartless throwing themselves at the townsfolk from the shadows. Not a single Nobody stepping out of the eerie distortion that preceded their arrival into a world.
Perhaps Cid will have taken a break from his coding and be outside the house they still occasionally shared with the rest of the Restoration Committee, chewing on his toothpick. He always looked relaxed, at least to her, when he took those breaks.
She wonders where Yuffie is and whether or not the ninja will make it back to one of the houses before dark comes. Yuffie's good about that, most of the time. None of them particularly like the night since they first lost their homeworld, though living in Traverse Town had lessened some of the lingering fear and discomfort.
Nights in Radiant Garden are mild things, she's come to remember. The city is still under repair - will be for some time to come - but the working lights and glow of the security system go a ways towards dispelling the dark. It almost reminds her of happier days, easier days when she'd been a girl by her mother's side and -
Something tickles at the back of her mind, tugs at the strings of her heart. It spreads - filling her chest with a gentle warmth she can just remember from a time when she hadn't known the word 'Heartless' and all it could entail. The tickle becomes a quiet calm, an almost surreal quality to it as she carefully turns a corner as she tries to process this feeling and stay aware of her surroundings at the same time.
She knows this feeling. Can almost articulate what it means into coherent thought.
It's like coming home - another piece of something that had been missing sliding back into place where it belonged.
"Want me to carry that for you?" A voice asks, familiar and strange all at once.
Aerith freezes, head half lost in what the little voice inside is trying to tell her and turns her head to look. And then she's staring, not entirely certain whether what she's seeing is real or a dream or something in-between.
It's him. He's changed, yes - grown up since the last time they'd seen each other, but it's him, no mistake about it. He still has the same blue eyes - blue like the sky, right - and the thick mess of unruly black hair she remembered. Just longer. Spikier.
He's right there and she's rooted in place, chest too full and her senses so full of a half-forgotten sweetness that it hurts. Looking into his eyes, seeing him smile - that familiar smile, bright and boyish and a little shy - she knows that it really is him and not some waking dream the worlds are showing her.
He takes the basket from her before she drops it, gentle as though he doesn't want to jostle or startle her. Those blue eyes are searching her face and Aerith finds herself wondering what he sees.
"You okay?" He asks, very obviously trying not to fidget as he holds her basket in his gloved hands. When she doesn't say anything at first, he shuffles his feet and reaches up as if to rub the back of his neck. "I.. I - uh, see that I was right." He says carefully, eyes flicking down and then back up to her face. "You look really cute in pink."
I wore it for you, some part of her says. Every day, even after...
"You still owe me that date." She says instead, coming back to herself in slow increments. Aerith watches his brows furrow, then lift as the memory clicks. She's able to manage a smile as the faintest bit of pink dusts his cheeks - one of them scarred, she notices. A little 'x' shape.
"You are absolutely right." He unfolds from his slightly hunched posture - he's taller than she remembers, but then she knows that she's changed too. He smiles, perhaps not as bright as she recalls, but it's his smile and that's all that matters. "If you don't have any plans already, would you like to join me?"
He offers his arm to her, just like in the old days, and Aerith feels the pang in her heart sharply for a moment as she slowly reaches to accept.
His face softens and for a moment she can see the sadness he's gotten better about hiding.
"I'm sorry I was so late." He says carefully. He's warm and solid, smells like old leather and a bit of weapon oil and magic. "That I kept you waiting for so long."
Aerith straightens her back, folding her arm comfortably around his and relishes in the feeling. She makes a decision and smiles - her brightest, happiest smile - just for him.
"Well," she tells him warmly, taking the first step forward onto another street and pleased when he follows. "We have time. We can make it up to each other, how's that?"
He relaxes, relief soft and tender in the sky blue of his gently glowing eyes. "I'd like that."
They watch the two make their way down the street and pretend that they can't hear what's being said. For propriety's sake, of course.
"And to think," a voice drawls slowly, fingers tucking red hair behind an ear "that he put up all that fuss about coming back in the first place."
"It's been a long time." Another, deeper, voice replies with a hint of regret. "I can't really blame him for wondering what's changed. If it would have been better to continue on somewhere else."
A scoff is his answer for that, followed by the wave of a hand.
"They look happy enough to me. That's good enough, don't you think?" The first speaker's mouth quirks on the left side, smirking for a moment before softening into contemplation.
"It's a start." The second one agrees, smiling. It's a small, faint thing. But it's there.
"Well, it's done and over with on our part. I'm certain that he can take it from here. I, for one, don't want to be accused of being a peeping tom on someone else's happiness."