Content warnings: None, just some good old-fashioned fluff.
Notes: Special thanks to Annie for being my beta!
The marketplace was as colorful and bustling with life as it had been when she first visited it with Jack. The blazing desert heat did nothing to dissuade its customers from eagerly feasting their eyes on and handing their money over to products that were non-aquatic, edible, or beneficial to them in surviving the journey in any way. It was something that left Ashi puzzled yet curious. Seeing that there was no harm in looking at items that had no use to them anyway, she moved among the crowd towards these various booths.
Vases, statues, jewelry…they were all nice to look at, at the very least, but so were plants and breathtaking views of landscapes--things that required no payment. Maybe it was the fact that they were all crafted by hand that made them so impressive? But the value of that diminished when you considered it's made from a stranger and not from someone familiar.
She scanned the crowd to see an elephant creature purchasing a tiny wooden box from a booth with another elephant--one she presumed to be its mate--standing behind it, covering its eyes with its enormous ears. The elephant paying turned around to its mate, holding out the box, and said something inaudible that caused the other elephant to uncover its eyes. The other elephant opened the box with its trunk and let out a trumpet of joy. Ashi raised an eyebrow. One thing was made clear to her when witnessing that exchange: these items made by strangers were far more valuable when you received them from someone important in your life. But what could that little box possibly contain to make such a large creature so happy? She proceeded onward towards the booth.
"Open your eyes."
Jack did as he was told. A small, light brown-colored wooden box sat cupped in the hands Ashi held out in front of him.
"Now…open the box."
Again, he did as he was told; slowly, carefully opening the lid. His heart swelled with excitement--it had been so long since he was given a gift of this sort, something he'd previously long accepted he'd never receive again because he had no need for them. But Jack's inner child couldn't help but jump giddily with joy at being surprised with a present like this, and the anticipation of what other surprises could be hidden within the gift.
He lifted the lid fully open and gasped. Inside the box was a wooden, painted ladybug with colors different than what he'd normally see on them--its wings were red, but dotted with yellow spots, and its green head bore a pair of white eyes with black irises that lent it a wholly endearing appearance. And it moved! Its little body jiggled in place, and Jack couldn't help but childishly snatch the box from Ashi's hands to survey it closer, shaking the box so the bug would jiggle around some more. He let out a laugh of delight at the creature, then, looking back at Ashi, quickly recomposed himself.
Ashi returned the laugh, hers of different sort of amusement. "I saw it in the marketplace and it made me think of that time we were on that island. I wanted to give you something…to show how much I cherish that memory."
"It…hm!" Jack coughed with slight embarrassment. "It is lovely, Ashi. Thank y--oh!"
The inside of the lid had the following written on it: I ♥ You
Heat rose to Jack's cheeks. "I…this is truly a special gift. I do not know what words could possibly do justice to conveying my gratitude…"
"How about you read the lid out loud," Ashi said with a sly grin.
Jack gulped and gathered his nerves. "I…I….I heart…you."
Ashi smiled and shyly tucked a lock of hair behind her ear. "I 'heart' you too."
Additional notes: If you're curious about the item in question.