There were flowers in the back yard. A thousand vibrant blossoms spilling over the edge of the flower beds that they'd always meant to do something with but never really go around to it. Paler blooms carpeted the yard from the fence to the base of the stairs. Yuffie was certain that they hadn't been there the night before. She was also fairly certain that she hadn't put them there.
She stepped out into the yard, pulling her robe shut tighter against the early morning chill. The grass was damp beneath her feet. When she was in the middle of the yard she crouched down and fingered a delicate white flower. Her eyes slid closed and she inhaled the sweet fragrance. It made her remember- wide green valleys beneath brilliant blue skies that she'd never seen could never have seen would never see because they had been destroyed long before she was born –sitting in the gardens with her mother as a child.
There was the sound of booted footsteps, of a heavy braid brushing against cloth.
Yuffie looked up. "Aerith."
The flower girl smiled. "Yuffie." she said, her voice exactly as Yuffie remembered it. Soft and sweet and kind. It was a voice that had always put Yuffie at ease when she was scared or angry. "Sit and talk with me for a while." The flower girl lowered herself gracefully to the ground and Yuffie followed her example.
Yuffie waited for Aerith to speak. She wasn't sure exactly what you were supposed to say to your dead friend when they popped into your garden. Her dead friend who looked exactly as she had before the sword went through her, except for a depth in her eyes and a lightness to her movements because she no longer carried the Planet's fate on her shoulders.
Aerith laughed. Her laughter reminded Yuffie of temple bells on New Years. Slates were wiped clean in her laughter, people were given the hope of starting over, of moving on. "This… isn't what I had expected." Aerith told her. She laughed again. "Not what I expected at all."
"Me either." Yuffie admitted.
Aerith smiled at her, so beautiful it hurt. Yuffie had never begrudged Cloud his love for the flower girl. Not even when she had been young, amazingly selfish and brimming over with false arrogance. Aerith had been the only one in AVALANCHE to notice the ninja's crush on their not-quite-stable leader. She had noticed almost before Yuffie did. She hadn't been kind about it- that would have been insulting. Instead, one night while they had lay on the end of Yuffie's bed, drinking orange soda and laughing about Cloud and Aerith's Wal Market escapade, Aerith had suddenly said:
"I think I really love him, you know."
"I know." Yuffie had been resigned to defeat for the first time since she had run away from home, because Aerith was beautiful and smart and determined and kind and just so wonderful- no sarcasm at all. Yuffie hadn't even been able to be bitter, because Aerith had been a friend from the beginning. A better friend than Yuffie had ever had before.
"You like him too, right?"
Yuffie had debated for a moment on shaking her head and denying any attraction, but that would have made her feel like a stupid, immature teenager- she might have acted like one, but in truth she had long since left her childhood behind- so she just nodded, feeling uncharacteristically shy.
Aerith had then startled her by making a toast, "May the best woman win!" She had said it like she actually considered Yuffie competition. When Yuffie had looked puzzled, Aerith had said, "As long as he's happy, I'll be happy. So no matter which of the three of us he chooses, I'll stay by him. And I think you and Tifa will, too." She'd giggled. "Of course, I'd prefer it were me!"
And it would have been, had been, until– they all moved but not fast enough and the sword tore through and Sephiroth smiled a madman's smile because she was leaving –Aerith had died, and left the spot beside Cloud vacant.
"Are you happy, Yuffie?" Aerith asked.
Yuffie didn't need to think about the answer at all. "Yes." She was happier than she'd ever been before.
"I'm glad." the Cetra said. She reached out and brushed the tips of her fingers across a small green bud that bloomed at her touch. "For both of you."
Yuffie swallowed around the sudden lump in her throat. "Thank you."
Aerith reached out and took Yuffie's hands in hers. The touch was feather light and burned faintly, but not unpleasantly. "You'll take care of him for us, won't you?"
Yuffie almost asked who 'us' was, but then she remembered a worn out SOLDIER uniform and a second hand sword and thought that she might know. She nodded.
"Good. We were so worried about him." the flower girl smiled and leaned forward so their foreheads were touching. "We love him so much. And he loved us. And now he loves you."
"Loves you." Yuffie corrected.
"Of course." Aerith smiled, and her eyes seemed to reach deep inside of Yuffie, to the core of her fear, her doubt. Aerith's hand moved to the still flat plane of the ninja's stomach. "You're going to have a beautiful baby." She reached up and stroked Yuffie's hair. "So don't worry."
"We're leaving him to you, then." Aerith pulled away. "I'll see you later. Make sure to have lots of embarrassing Cloud stories to tell us!"
Before Yuffie could say anything else she was alone in the garden, dew soaking through her robe.
The back door opened. "Yuffie-" There was the sound of bare feet padding across the porch. "Hey. Where'd all the flowers come from?"
Yuffie turned and saw Cloud looking around, perplexed. She stood slowly, plucking a few flowers before making her way to Cloud. She looped her arms around his neck and drew him down for a good morning kiss. "Aerith sent her blessing."
There was a flicker of sadness in Cloud's eyes, followed by happy surprise. "That was nice of her."
Feeling calm and content, Yuffie nodded. "Yeah. It was."
Later while Cloud made breakfast Yuffie searched around for a vase, and failing to find one stuck the flowers in an empty sake bottle that she then sat on the kitchen window sill. A soft breeze came through the window and filled the room with the soothing scent.
I'll take good care of him, she thought. I promise.
Author's Note: Yes. I had to put Aerith in here. I love Aerith. And Zack. Zack will eventually get a moment in this. I won't be able to help myself. I am a Aerith/Zack/Cloud shipper at heart.