The Forgotten Capital. It didn't look like, in the past two years, it had changed more than it had over the past hundred. The only change that Cloud Strife could recognize was how bitterly cold it was there. It was cold everywhere, that's just how February was.
He'd made a special trip here, though, and was glad that the Fenrir and a new overcoat were keeping him warm. He was lucky that the paths hadn't iced over. He sped into the city as far as the Fenrir could go, but eventually, he had to save the rest of the gas in its tank so that he could get at least to a town along the way where he could fill up.
Reaching into the bag that his packages were usually held, Cloud carefully pulled out a bouquet of the flowers from the Sector 5 Church, preserved in a safe chemical and kept in a plastic container.
He couldn't think of a more appropriate present for Aerith's twenty-fourth birthday.
There were other things in the bag aside from the neatly cut flowers, tied in a pink ribbon. A drawing from Marlene, a cupcake in a bag from Tifa (though he didn't know how much good that would do), and Vincent, Yuffie, and Cid had all pooled together to buy a pink cell phone with a specific number. 237-4844. A-e-r-i-t-h-g.
Cloud didn't know why, but he saved the number in his cell phone address book.
Carefully, he trekked down to the pool where her corpse had been laid, slipping and tripping over the ice that covered everything. He was slightly worried; what if the pool had iced over?
Though, sure enough, it had. And he saw quite a spectacle.
In the center of the small pond, Aerith's body was trapped inside the ice, her hair sprawled out around her, her hands clasped over her abdomen. She lay so peacefully, near the top of the pool. Cloud could touch her if he really, really wanted to.
After making sure that the ice was thick enough, Cloud carefully slid onto it, crawling over on his stomach toward her. "Happy Birthday," He huffed, setting the picture, cell phone, cupcake, and flowers down beside her. "Aerith."
The walk back up was much harder, not because of the ice but because of the image still fresh in his mind. He climbed onto the Fenrir and drove back home silently, only speaking to thank the man at the gas station he re-fueled at.
He opened his cell phone to call Tifa, to tell her he was nearly home, when he saw across the small LCD screen, the indication "NEW MSG". Flipping it open, he saw 'Aerith' on the message ID, and the simple text "Thank you."
He smiled and pocketed the cell phone, deciding to surprise Tifa. And he never questioned how he got a message from someone trapped beneath the layer of ice.