Disclaimer: I don't own Final Fantasy 7 (though I do own a copy of the game, Advent Children, Dirge of Cerberus, and Crisis Core) and also this is my story, so yeah.

Author's Note: Hello all. I'm back. As part of an agreement with a friend, I was to update all of the stories that needed updating, and this one was definitely one of them. The story has been in my head for some time, just brewing away. All I needed was some motivation to get back to work. So, without further ado, here we go.

Important to note, I always assumed that the team in FF7 got along well, just so we're all clear.

Tifa woke up, and everything was fuzzy for a few moments. She lay in bed, trying to remember her dreams, catching a few pieces here and there, when suddenly things started rushing back.

Aerith was alive! She sat straight up in bed, and became dizzy as a result. She tried to straighten out her thoughts. If it all hadn't been a dream, Aerith was downstairs right now, alive and well.

Tifa got up and quickly got dressed. She went to the door and stopped. No, this was crazy. It had to have been a dream. There was no way that Aerith was alive. It was too good to be true... wasn't it?

She opened the door and walked downstairs. She heard noises in the kitchen, and assumed Barret must be fixing breakfast, as he was usually the first one up. She went into the kitchen and was met with a very unusual scene.

Vincent Valentine was standing there against the wall, and near him sat Cloud, who was being served by Barret. And in between all of this, sitting serenely at the table, sipping a cup of tea, was Aerith.

Tifa froze. Everything in the kitchen stopped. For a moment there was absolute silence. And then there wasn't.

"AERITH!" cried Tifa, her voice filled with a happiness her friends had not heard in a long time. She rushed forward and literally jumped at Aerith. Aerith, with amazing speed and grace, was able to put down her tea and open her arms to receive Tifa, with Barret holding her chair steady. Tifa grabbed Aerith and hugged her tight, burying her face in her shoulder.

"I missed you so much," said Tifa, tears forming.

"I missed you too," said Aerith, resting her cheek on top of Tifa's head, also tearing up a bit. She hugged Tifa back for a while before the younger girl finally let go. They smiled at each other for a moment, and then Tifa stood up. She suddenly felt a little embarrassed.

"I, uh," she began stuttering. "Um, sorry, I..." She trailed off, unsure of what to say.

"It's alright," said Aerith, smiling at her. "I'm happy to see you too, Tifa." Tifa smiled back, and sat down.

"I just... there are so many questions," Tifa began. "I mean... we..." She looked to Cloud and Vincent, who had each grown somber, knowing what Tifa was going to say. "We were each right there when Sephiroth came down. He... well, we couldn't... we tried everything. Phoenix downs, healing. I even summoned the Phoenix. Nothing worked." A few tears left Tifa's eyes, rolling down her cheeks. "We lost you."

"I know," said Aerith. "I felt the pull. I could feel, from the other side. I felt all of your efforts to bring me back. But there was really nothing you could do."

"But now you're back," said Barret, placing a plate of food in front of Tifa. "An' you put Tifa in such a good mood that I'm surprised she didn't wake the kids." Tifa looked at the clock, a bit more embarrassed now than before. It was early in the morning, around 6. She was actually fairly surprised that she hadn't woken Marlene and Denzel.

"Sorry," said Tifa. "I was just excited." Barret smiled.

"So was I," he said, chuckling. "I'm surprised I didn't wake you up. I mean, I come down here and what do I see after more than three years? Aerith's smiling face, sitting pretty as you please in the kitchen, sipping some tea." Vincent offered a rare smile.

"You should have seen him," he said. "He jumped up and down and then ran and picked her up. I thought he was going to knock something over when he started spinning her around."

"I was so happy I didn't even see this vampire over here," said Barret, smirking in Vincent's direction. Tifa looked to Cloud suddenly.

"You haven't said a word since I got down here," she said.

"Sorry," said Cloud. "I just... well, I keep thinking I'm going to wake up. This all seems too incredible." Aerith put a hand on Cloud's arm, and he covered her hand in his.

"I know," agreed Tifa, smiling at Aerith again. "Still, I'm really confused. Does anyone know what's going on? Aerith, do you know anything about this?"

Aerith opened her mouth to speak, when she was interrupted. "The Flower Lady!" exclaimed a small voice. The adults all looked to see Marlene burst into the room and run over to Aerith. Much like Tifa, Marlene jumped into Aerith's arms and hugged her. "You came back! I knew you would!"

"Hello Marlene," said Aerith, hugging her tight and smiling.

"We all missed you," said Marlene, looking up into Aerith's eyes. "You aren't gonna leave us again are you?"

"Not if I can help it," smiled Aerith.

"Good," said Marlene, grinning. "We took care of the flowers for you."

"Oh?" asked Aerith.

"Yeah, Cloud and I did, and some of the other kids." Aerith looked happily from Cloud to Marlene.

"Thank you both," she said, "and I'll be sure to thank the other kids when I see them." She looked up at the kitchen door. Yet another person had arrived. "And who might this be?"

"My name is Denzel, ma'am," said the young boy, stepping into the kitchen.

"Very nice to meet you Denzel," said the woman in pink. "My name is Aerith. Did you help Marlene and Cloud with my gardening?" The boy nodded. "Thank you." Barret got out two more plates and continued cooking breakfast. Vincent, surprisingly, stepped away from the wall and went over to help him, motioning for Barret to sit down and relax.

As Barret took his seat, they all looked back to their newly recovered friend. "So?" asked Barret. "Like Tifa was askin' earlier. Any idea how you came back?"

"Not entirely sure," said Aerith. "You see, when I was with the planet, I was aware of many things that were going on. I spent a lot of time watching over all of you. But then there was darkness."

"You mean when Kadaj, Loz, and Yazoo showed up?" asked Tifa. Aerith shook her head.

"No," she said. "I remember their presence, but that wasn't the darkness I was referring to. It was a little bit after that. Everything suddenly got... hmm, how can I describe it? Well... everything felt cramped up. Everything, all of the planet's energy just got crushed together, and I couldn't really see anything. Then, after a while, everything suddenly expanded again, but I could only see a little bit. I saw you all, but that seemed to be all I could see. I felt more disconnected from the planet. More like I was about to be back on the planet instead."

"What does all that mean?" asked Barret.

"That is a little confusing," said Cloud, scratching his head.

"I think I know," said Vincent, coming to the table with two plates. He set them done in front of Marlene and Denzel, and then took his place on the wall again.

"You do?" asked Tifa.

"Yes," he answered. "I'm a little surprised that you all don't have the idea, it all happened so recently. Omega Weapon." The others were quiet. They indeed remembered the event. It had nearly ended the planet. "Omega Weapon's purpose was to gather the Lifestream and move it to a new planet should the need arise. Aerith is one of the Cetra, the ancients, and therefor has stronger ties to the planet. She would be among those most aware of the Lifestream, even after death. When Omega began to absorb the Lifestream, he must have taken Aerith's spirit as part of it. When Chaos... when I defeated Omega, all of the Lifestream he had gathered was restored to the planet."

"That explains the sudden compression and expansion I felt," said Aerith.

"But that doesn't explain, well, her," said Tifa, gesturing to Aerith.

"Think about it," said Vincent. "If Omega's purpose was to take the Lifestream to a new planet, then the Lifestream, once released, would create new life again, don't you think?"

"That makes sense," said Cloud thoughtfully.

"Once the Lifestream was put back into the planet, new life sprung up," Vincent continued. "Plants came back to life, and everything grew green again. And Aerith, who'd been taken along for the ride, must have found her way to her body again. And as you saw last night, her body was encased in pure Mako."

"How did that happen?" asked Denzel.

"My guess," said Vincent, "Is that upon her death, the planet decided to honor the last Cetra. That particular lake was already a special place. Once her body sank to the bottom, hidden Mako must have reacted to it, and encased her body. Not only did that preserve her, but it also seems to have repaired what we could not. That's my guess, at present."

"So," Tifa said, attempting to clarify everything, "Aerith's perfectly preserved and repaired body received her spirit when she was released back into the planet?" Vincent nodded.

"Wow," said Barret. "That's... well, that's just somethin' else isn't it?" The others nodded in agreement. They all looked back at Aerith. She looked back at them and smiled, a bit puzzled.

"What?" she asked.

"Well," asked Marlene. "Is Mr. Vincent right?" Aerith closed her eyes for a moment, still smiling. Then, after a short while, she answered.

"I really don't know," she said. "It seems likely enough, but I really don't know yet. Maybe the answers will come to me later." She yawned, suddenly feeling very sleepy. She blinked a few times, but her eyes grew heavy. "I know I slept for a long time, but I still feel very tired. I hope no one minds if I go take a nap."

"Of course we wouldn't mind," said Tifa. "You've been through a whole lot. I don't think coming back to life would be easy by any stretch of the imagination."

"Here," said Cloud, standing up, "I'll take you up to my room and you can sleep there."

"Don't worry about it Cloud," said Tifa, also standing. "You got to stay with her all the way back home. Let me take her up to bed." Cloud looked at her curiously, but Tifa smiled at him reassuringly. He conceded, and Tifa led Aerith upstairs. While the others finished up breakfast, Vincent just silently watched them go.

Tifa took Aerith up to Cloud's room and helped her to bed.

"Tifa?" asked Aerith, sleep having not quite overtaken her yet.

"Yes, Aerith?" asked Tifa, pulling the sheets over her friend.

"Are you really happy to have me back?" Tifa looked at Aerith for just a moment before happily answering.

"Of course I am," she said, giving Aerith a hug. "I can't wait til you can keep awake longer. We have so much catching up to do." Aerith fell asleep with a happy look on her face, and Tifa quietly crept out of the room. She carefully closed the door, turned around, and leaned against it, slumping down to the floor.

'Of course I'm happy to have her back,' she thought. She drew her knees up and hugged them to her chest. 'But now that she's here...' She didn't want to think about it, but she knew what would happen now. She saw the way Cloud and Aerith had been looking at each other.

She closed her eyes and took a deep breath, trying to clear her head. Now was not the time to be thinking about all of that. The most important thing was that her friend was back. They hadn't known each other long when Aerith was first alive, not long by Tifa's standards at any rate, but in that relatively short time she had made a huge impact on all of their lives.

Nothing had been the same since they had met the flower girl, and nothing would ever be the same again. Tifa smiled though, despite the fact that all the grinning she'd been doing was starting to hurt her cheeks. She smiled because a very dear friend was back. What had been stolen from them had been returned.

Aerith was home.

Well, there you have it. You know, I'm glad it took me this long to do this chapter. Vincent's explanation was something I came up with possibly before I started this story, and it hasn't changed much since then. However, I was never sure what to do after he explained things. But, now I think I've got it. And for anyone wondering, yeah, I believe Vincent's explanation is the correct one. Omega's interference would have affected several things, and in this case it brought Aerith back. More on that in future chapters.

You can expect somewhat regular updates from now on. You see, a friend of mine gave me a deadline to update all of the stories that I needed to update (NINE) did I wait til the very last minute? Absolutely. However, this same friend gave me a second deadline, a continuous one, and so now I will be updating twice a week starting next week. If you wish, you may thank her in the comments, and I will pass that thanks along to her.

Til next time!