Disclaimer: Final Fantasy VII belongs to Square Enix.
Summary: She was most beautiful in a storm. — Cloud & Aerith, Clorith, Cloris ( slightly AU )
The first time he stepped into the shop, he was buying flowers. It was Valentine's Day. A girl was sick in the hospital. He did not know her well. He admired her from afar, that's what he did. He had planned on telling her… how he had felt that day.
He was still young. A teenager.
He had no friends.
Time had passed and he can still remember it like it was yesterday.
He remembers thinking that he should go in when no one else was present. He didn't want to be recognized—let alone in a flower shop. With this in mind, he pushes the door open and becomes startled at the small tinkling sounds he hears above his head.
A hearty laugh comes from the girl at the counter. "Those are just the bells," she says, her green eyes twinkling. "I've always told my mother to get them removed."
"… Sure," he mutters, not really knowing how to respond. He observes her for a moment before turning his attention to the flowers. She seems about his age—maybe a little older. Either way, he wants to get out as fast as he can before anyone can come in and make fun of him.
"What are you looking for?" she asks. He looks up and is surprised at their close proximity. He backs away a bit and the girl laughs again. "I'm sorry. I startled you again." She, in turn, backs away to give him some space. "Mother says that I shouldn't do that to people." She laughs again and he finds himself looking at her in the eyes once more, but he quickly goes back to the flowers. He hears her footsteps fading away and without realizing it, he turns to look.
"If you need any help, just tell me," she says to him, smiling.
His lips open in small surprise. He has never heard anyone offer help to him before. Perhaps they had, but he had never taken the time to realize it. And if he did he'd never taken the initiative to accept it. But this time… This time…?
"What would you get for someone you love?"
He sees the girl pause in thought, but then smile again. "Ah yes," she says. "Today is Valentine's Day… isn't it?" He shrugs and strokes the petal of one flower. He hears her footsteps come toward him again. "Is that your favorite?" she asks him and he can hear the smile in her voice.
"I guess," he says. When there's no answer he turns to her and finds her looking down at the flower in deep thought. "What?"
"Nothing," she says, but takes his arm gently and leads him away from it. "It's just that you haven't seen the rest yet." They stop at one point and she points to one flower. "What about this one?"
"What about it?"
She laughs. "You don't like it?" She lets go of him and backs away to give him space again. Part of him likes that. "Take your time looking at the whole shop," she says.
"Tell me when you see something you like."
He takes his time to look. He looks hard at the flowers. He thinks and wonders what the girl's favorite color is… He had never taken the time to talk to her before. She always had her own friends and he… he didn't really have anything. But he ignores this and still looks at the flowers. He's fixated upon them until he hears the tinkle of the bells again. He thinks someone has come in and he makes his way to get out, but then he stops as he sees a figure outside.
He realizes it's raining.
And then he realizes that it was not someone who had come in, but someone who had gone out.
That someone is dancing in the rain.
The bell tinkles again and the girl comes in with her dress soaked, her hair soaked, yet he thinks she has never looked more alive.
"Did you find one yet?" she asks, turning to face him. "I'm sorry for walking out like that," she continues. "Did you have any trouble?"
He shakes his head but inside he's thinking, wondering what her favorite flower might be. He decides to ignore this and remembers the girl waiting in the hospital. He walks over to a series of white roses on display and nods to them. "I will take a dozen," he says.
She nods her head and walks over to the flowers, taking each one delicately as she counts them. He watches her all the while as she goes to the counter and wraps them carefully with her hands. She seals the package with a bright red ribbon. "These are on sale today because of Valentine's Day," she tells him, "so they'll only be for twelve gil."
He pays her and is about to leave when he pauses. "Why did you ask?"
For once, the girl is confused. "Ask about what?"
"My favorite flower," he says, all the while feeling quite stupid saying the phrase.
"Ah," she says, straightening herself, a smile on her face as always. "I always find it romantic when one gives their favorite flower to someone they love," she says. "But that's just me daydreaming." She waves her right hand as a sign of goodbye. "Good luck with today. I hope you do well."
There's a warm feeling inside of him as she says this, but he nods his head. "Yes." He opens the door and leaves.
That day he had begun to walk to the hospital, only to turn around at the last minute. He thought to himself to give it to her tomorrow. Only tomorrow never came because he didn't feel like giving them to her then.
And days passed as such thinking to do it tomorrow over and over again until the last rose already wilted and died.
The young man returns the next day to buy more white flowers for the girl he knew deep inside that he will never be able to give them to. He opens the door and he finds that his ears are welcoming the sound of tinkling bells.
The same girl is at the counter. "So it's you again," she says, smiling like she always did. "How did it go?"
He shrugs and walks over to the white roses again. "Can I buy another dozen?" he asks her.
The girl frowns. "Why?" she asks.
He shrugs once more. Silence hangs between the two of them. He can't say anything—he doesn't want to. And somehow there's a silent understanding between the two of them. Without him telling her, she knows. She walks over to him and puts a hand on his shoulder and presents him with twelve white roses already packaged and ready to go. She smiles at his astounded expression, knowing what he's thinking: Did she know he was going to come back again as a failure?
"This was going to be… for… someone else," she says. "But… I will give it to you."
He hands over the money – more than what he had paid on Valentine's Day, knowing very well that Valentine's Day was over. But she shakes her head and pushes the money back in his hands. "Be strong," she says to him. She makes her way back to the white roses and picks twelve more out. All the while he is watching her before leaving, the tinkling of the bells being the last thing he hears.
"Be strong," he repeats to himself. He finds himself making his way back to his house again, though, and placing the roses in a vase.
"I always find it romantic when one gives their favorite flower to someone they love…"
He fingers one rose in his hand, thinking about the girl he was going to give the roses to… but then thinking about the other girl at the flower shop.
"This was going to be… for… someone else… But… I will give it to you."
He never says it out loud, but he's wondering if he can keep the roses for himself.
Months pass and the roses eventually die, one by one. He goes out the next day to the same flower shop at the corner. He opens the door, hears the tinkling of the bells. As he does, the girl at the counter, who had been resting with her head in her arms, straightens up, longing in her eyes. A part of him felt warm, thinking that she was waiting for him, but as her shoulders slump back down onto the counter, he slowly begins to realize…
The girl looks up, but then back down again. "It's nothing," she says softly. She shakes her head a bit as if to remove something from her thoughts. "I'm sorry. I… Did you want to buy something?"
He still stands there, unmoving, but surveying the shop with his eyes. They focus on a pile of roses lying nearby that are already withered and dried.
"This was going to be… for… someone else… But… I will give it to you."
The girl looks at them from where she stands, following his gaze. She seems to contemplate the matter at hand, but finally says, "He didn't come." She smiles softly. "He was always a ladies man," she continues. "He probably found someone else." She looks back at her customer.
"And you?" she says. "What about you?"
He shrugs again, but he's thinking about the roses and he's thinking about the girl in front of him.
"… She liked them," he lies. He has on a troubled expression, but she does not see it. If she did, she did not address it.
Why did I lie?
The girl smiles. "How sweet," she says. "I'm glad… I'm glad that I gave them to you that day then." She's straightens up now, like that day when they first met. "Did you come here to buy more for her?" she asks. "I can give you a special discount… as a congratulations gift."
He nods his head and she goes to the white roses again and counts twelve in her hand, wrapping them up once more and handing them to him. He gives her twelve gil like the day they had met. Their hands brush momentarily and he feels his skin tingle from the surprising touch.
She smiles at him. "Thank you… I really am happy that you did it," she says. "That really made my day."
He realizes then that this is why he had lied. He nods again. "I hope… I hope he shows up," he says to her.
She nods her head as well in reply.
"Be strong," she says to him as he leaves.
Days past… then months… and then years. He grew older. She grew older. Yet they stayed the same.
He went in every day, buying a dozen white roses for the girl he would never give them to. He would never say it out loud, but he has gone in everyday to see her. She created small talk with him whenever he would go in. She would ask about his life. About school. She would ask him about his friends.
"I have no friends," he had said.
"You do," she had said.
When he left she would say, "Be strong," to him. Whenever she was feeling bad that day he would turn around and say back to her, "You too."
And although he talks a lot about himself after some gentle prodding by her, he finds himself interested when she talks about herself. He learns that she loved white roses, although he had learned this back during their first meetings. He learns that the man she waits for still hasn't shown up.
"Are you still waiting?" he would ask her when he walked in as he gestured to the white roses on display.
She would usually say, "Yes… I suppose." But one day when he had asked she had shrugged.
"I don't know."
After that he stopped asking.
He finds himself going faster than usual to the shop when it was raining, just to see her dance.
He had gone in one day when it was pouring and found her already dancing outside in the streets. She had that look on – the look that told him that she was still alive, even when her heart had been broken so many years ago. He had approached her this time. She had smiled at him, but went back to dancing. He had stood with her, watching as she twirled.
He wanted to do what she was doing, letting her spirit go. Letting her troubles fade away. But he was content with watching her because he felt that his spirit was letting go. He felt that his troubles were fading away.
They had entered the shop after that. She laughed talking about how the rain had felt on her skin.
He had learned to recognize this laugh even from far away, for she was the only one who he recognized that could put their head back and laugh to the skies without fear of being misjudged. And in this moment he smiled, thinking about the rain that day and thinking that he had felt something that she had too.
"I check the broadcasts sometimes," she tells him the day after. "I check to see if there are any signs of rain."
And then you dance.
She nods. "In the rain."
How does it feel?
She smiles a sad smile. "It feels like I'm washing away my troubles in the world."
You don't look like you have any troubles.
"I do. Everyone does."
… And you forget them in the rain?
"Not just in the rain."
"Just talking about it… Makes me forget. Makes me forget them for good… When I talk about it." She turns away, realizing how personal it was getting, and looks out the window, looking at the puddles left by the rain and the sun reflecting off of them.
He's silent now as well, but he wants to know.
"Do you want to talk about it?"
She stands up from the stool she was sitting at from behind the counter and goes to the white roses. She shakes her head as she counts twelve and wraps them up to hand over to him.
"Maybe not today."
He takes the roses from her and he wonders why she cannot tell him about it. He wonders what he can do to make her feel happy again—like that day after Valentine's Day. He watches her make her way to the back of the shop and he calls out to her, the roses feeling limp in his hands.
She turns to look at him.
The smile on her face is the most genuine one he has seen in his lifetime.
He walks back to the flower shop the next day. He goes quicker because it's raining. He frowns as he sees the girl standing in the rain, but not dancing with a smile on her face like she always did. When she sees him though, she meets his eyes with her own and she goes back inside. He cannot help but feel a warm feeling sink in his heart as he thinks that she has been waiting for him to show up.
And this time he is right.
He walks in, the bells tinkling above his head.
There is a stool in front of the counter. The girl takes her place on her own stool behind it and gestures to the seat, welcoming him to sit down. Silence is between them as she looks outside at the rain, but then back at him.
"Do you remember the first day you came in?" she asks.
"You know… When I asked what your favorite flower was?" This time he is silent, wondering where this is going. He follows her eyes to the flower he had pointed to her on that day. "That was his favorite flower," she tells him. "It's funny… How you both like the same thing…"
She turns to look at him again and he thinks that she was the only one who could make you feel the most important person in the room with just a glance from her. "You look like him, you know," she says. "I guess I felt something that day… When you came in. You two looked so alike… I… I wanted to ask you if you knew him… But…" She sighs and shakes her head. "I don't know… I guess I forgot about it as the days went on."
Do you want to ask me still?
She shakes her head. "No… It's ok. You two… Are different. I guess I figured that out as I got to know you more." She smiles and her green eyes shine with the dim light in the shop. "You became more different." She takes a deep breath. "For awhile… I kept thinking you were him… But now I know. You two are different." She laughs. "You even like different flowers now."
So you love him.
"I think I did… a long time ago," she replies. "Time passes… The feelings people have die out sometimes… And sometimes they remain the same." Her finger strokes random patterns into the counter. "Was it love? I don't know. Maybe it was…"
She nods. "Yes… Maybe it was fate for it to be like this." She smiles. "Part of me is telling me to let go… Part of me is telling me to wait for him. I've always decided to wait for him because I didn't want to move on… And I didn't know if I could or how I would be able to. Now that I want to… I guess… I will."
"Yes… You can say that. This is how I'm doing that I guess… And you… Thank you for showing me that I could."
She nods. "The days… I guess I felt like I had been dying… But when you walked in… When we talked… It felt like I was dancing in the rain."
Dancing in the rain...
"Yes… Dancing in the rain," she repeats. She rests her arms on the counter and rests her chin on the top.
A comfortable silence envelops them and the same warmth he felt when he entered seeps into his heart once more as she confides to him her pain and her story. As she sits there with her head in her arms and he sits across from her and as they look at one another they both know of the words that go unspoken between the two of them.
Valentine's Day has come.
It has been six years since their first meeting.
Six Valentine's Days.
He thinks about their time together and he thinks about the rainy day when she didn't dance. He feels… He thinks… He knows he wants to do something for her. He wants to give something to her after all she has given him. He spends the majority of his morning on his bed, thinking about what to do.
"I always find it romantic when one gives their favorite flower to someone they love."
His room—his home smells like the scent of white roses.
"You even like different flowers now."
The white rose is not his favorite flower.
He had thought of the rainy day when she didn't dance.
Now he thinks of the rainy days when she had.
With this thought in mind, he goes out.
"The bank flooded again."
Town gossip, he thinks and walks on, but he still hears their conversation from far away.
"Did you see the flowers?"
"Why did you ask?"
"Those purple ones."
"They're near the bank."
"What, so you like flowers now, Ed?"
A snort. "Idiot. Did you ever see them flowers in a storm?"
"Do I look like I go out when it's raining?"
"My favorite flower."
"I'm sayin' you should. Those flowers look real nice when the wind picks up. Don't look like much when it's sunny, though."
He turns to look back at the two men that were talking, but they are already walking in the other direction.
"Did you ever see them flowers in a storm?"
He recalls those words and he sees the girl dancing among the raindrops again, her hands spread open, welcoming the cool drops on her skin.
He goes to the hill. The river that had always flooded with water when it rained had returned to its normal state. He walks over to a bundle of purple flowers near the bedding. He takes one from the bunch and ties a white ribbon, which he had gotten from a gift shop, around a single flower.
He makes his way to the flower shop at the corner, feeling his heart beat rapidly. The bank had been farther from town than he had realized. By the time he makes it to the shop, it is already night. He frowns as he realizes that the lights are not open. He runs to the shop, feeling the flower in his hand.
He knocks on the door gently.
It opens and she is there to answer it. She smiles. "Cloud… It's late," she says. "What are you doing here?"
His breath is caught in his chest, but he wills himself not to mess up. "I lied to you."
She frowns. "… About what?"
He wants to avert his eyes to the ground, but instead he looks at her. "That day… When he didn't come… I said that I had given the roses to her."
She's silent, but she nods her head in understanding. "I guess… It's alright," she says. "You were trying to make me feel better… right?"
He doesn't answer, but turns away, not knowing how to continue their conversation. The girl spots the flower in his hands however, and puts a hand on his shoulder. "Iris," she says. "Is it your favorite?"
He's looking at her now and he nods to her. She's smiling now and holds it in her hands. "Why?" she asks.
"… They are the most beautiful in a storm," he says, but he's looking at her.
A/N. I had wanted to do something apart from Naruto and the like for awhile. I used King Kong's (2005 remake) "Central Park" by James Newton Howard as my sort of muse for it. You should really take the time to listen to it on YouTube. I'm sure the full version is there somewhere.
I feel like the end is kind of choppy… maybe I will edit it later.