She never told anyone about her special blood. She never told a single man she knew-the number was up to two—about the planet and how it was more alive than anyone dragging their feet in the slums, an expansive demanding thing that talked to her when she slept.
But Sephiroth, he seemed to know something was different about her. She could see it in his eyes when she'd linger in the doorway of the church out of habit, stop herself from crossing the threshold too fast, and wonder aloud what lay beyond the small circle of her world. He knew without actually knowing, and she caught herself too many times wanting to share the explicit, crazy truth.
And yet he didn't question it, he let her be and ignored her idiosyncrasies with the quiet turn of his head, the broad wall of his back.
They were building some kind of strange friendship, one built on her onesided conversation and his companionable silence. He came for the peace of the church, why he stayed was anyone's guess. She wasn't one to get swept up in her own machinations, but she could sometimes see something like longing in his eyes, and very rarely she imagined it might be for her.
But if she were to take that, she would have to take his dark looks too, the ones that made her feel chilly, small, and too much like some kind of prey on the receiving end of a predator's gaze.
He was the worst kind of anomaly, the nagging, beautiful kind she wasn't sure she wanted to figure out until she realized she would have no rest until she did. She just knew a lot of things, and he set off too many different thoughts and voices in her head for her to hear anything that made sense.
Still, they were friends. She wondered what that said about her. She hoped that the soldier that fell through her ceiling would come back sometime, she thought that she might give him a date if he asked again.
She had to admit to herself, that she was lonely.
And then one day, Sephiroth came to stand over her as she knelt in her flowerbed. She could feel him behind her, despite his muted footsteps, she could feel his tempered, seething presence.
"What is it that confines you here?" he asked, voice carrying only in the small space between them. She looked up at him, though she can't imagine where she got the tenacity to do such a thing, especially when she knew she would have to lie. He'd know she was lying.
Maybe she wanted him to know.
"I'm not confined, I like it here." She stood up, glanced at her flower then back at him. "I feel at home here." It wasn't entirely a lie. But in the way his eyes remained steady on her face, she knew he'd heard the nuances, both pathetic and selfish that said otherwise. "I do. I just, maybe sometimes I wonder-" she left off. He waited patiently. When she didn't say anything else, he took another step towards her.
It occurred to her that he smelled like nothing at all, but all around her the air was noxious, sharp. She was dizzy with him so close.
"It may be for the better flowergirl," he said, and she could feel his words like a soft touch on her forehead, "to keep rare things protected."
She blinked, uncertain if she had heard his insinuation right. Rare. It was the first thing she heard and it made her heart flutter. But too soon, she didn't like the word at all. She liked it just as much as special. Both words always ended in isolation.
"I'm not a thing," she breathed, wanting to elaborate on what 'not things' wanted, desired, "and I can protect myself." She said firmly. There was a fleeting apologetic look.
"I didn't mean to insinuate—" he clearly struggled for the right words and she shook her head.
"No, I—I'm just being sensitive." She didn't want him to think he'd offended her, she didn't want to do anything to spoil his infrequent company. She wrung her hands. She looked back up at him, and felt the overwhelming urge to tell him some piece of the truth. "Sometimes you can't help the things you want." She said. "And too much of the time you want what you can't have, so why dwell on it?" she smiled then, something sweet and artificial.
Sephiroth hadn't said anything else, but just continued to watch her, that predatory thing rising in his eyes. Her skin prickled, not all unpleasantly.
"You should have them."
"The things you want." He said seriously. She felt like she was holding her breath.
"Whether I want it doesn't make a difference, I can't-"
"That shouldn't make a difference." He said and she fought the urge to laugh, albeit a little nervously. Of course he would say that, no doubt he was so powerful he didn't have to consider impossibility. "If there is something you long for, what stops you from simply taking it?" he raised an eyebrow. She frowned.
"Is that how you get the things you want? You take, regardless of consequence?" she said, trying to keep any judgment from her voice, any jealousy. He almost smiled, and it was a wonderful split second that very nearly reached his eyes.
"I didn't say that."
"Consequences can be considered afterwards, if what you want is sweet enough." Aeris sighed. So like a man.
"Is there anything you want sweet enough to risk terrible consequences?" she asked, finding herself smiling, despite herself. He inhaled slowly, silently, looked her in the eye.
By nightfall he had been long gone, but when she gathered her things and made to leave the church, he came in again. She thought it would be one of the nights they simply passed each other going different ways, but as she meant to pass him, she stopped herself.
"Sephiroth?" she said, still not without the tingle in her chest that always accompanied saying his name without the title. He looked on expectantly. She looked passed the open doors of the church. "There is something that I want. Somewhere I need to go." She bit her lip. "And I'd like if…you could come with me." She didn't know if she was being to bold asking something like that of him, or even why she just didn't do it alone. She could've lied and explained that she just wanted his protection, but she couldn't.
He nodded and she was unnerved by how unsurprised he seemed to be. But how obvious had she been the past few months, looking longingly out of the church windows, stretching her boundaries only in her imagination?
"Where is it you need to go?"
"The train station." She said, more quickly than she had wanted. He stared down at her, then moved to take the coat from his back. He held it out to her. She paused with her mouth open, didn't understand what he was doing.
"It's a long walk from here." He said, and she took the coat into her arms. It was sleek and surprisingly warm on her skin.
"People will recognize you." She breathed, realizing what a stupid thing that was to say until it was out of her mouth. People would recognize him even if he was missing limbs, or some feet in hair. "I can't." she said, and he looked at her as if to say that he wasn't the one who needed to be worried about being seen. Again, she wondered if he had her all figured out.
"Put it on." He said, settling the matter. With no room to refuse she slipped it on, and tucked her hair inside the high collar.
He stood barechested before her and she got the impression that she was more aware of it than he. Her face hot, she looked away and pulled the waist of his coat up and over her own hips so it didn't drag on the ground. With the material still gathered in her hands, she looked back up at to see him watching her, an unreadable expression his face, his eyes trained to the spot where her fingers had the coat hitched up.
"You're…" her smile trembled, "just a little taller than I am." she said in good humor, trying to end what was a strangely intense moment. He turned his back to her.
"We should start on our way."
Progress towards the station was made slowly, and she walked beside him, listened to his quiet footfalls. It was a chillier night, and she looked over at him as wisps of her hair were ripped from the collar by the furious wind. His hair had blown out backwards and all around him, giving him no trouble, as if the current was orchestrated just for him.
"I never understood how we could feel things like this under the plate." She said, still holding the waist of the coat in her hands like an overly long dress she was trying not to trip over.
"I believe there is a ventilation system, in addition to the staggered plates you see more in sector three." He said and she blinked.
"Is that why they say it's the sunniest in sector three?" she asked, looking around at all the closed stores.
"Yes. That and it is the most profitable."
"The brothels." Sephiroth said, giving her a sideways glance. She wasn't so surprised.
"Well, I was hoping to find work." she said and Sephiroth didn't seem so amused. There was a long, awkward silence in which she struggled to find something to break it.
"What about your flowers." He said finally.
"You could turn a fair profit selling flowers." He said simply. "Your church is one of the few places I have seen them grow around here." Aeris looked down.
"I never thought about it." She tugged the coat tighter around her. "Do you think people would actually want to buy them?" she asked, and then suddenly stopped short at a darkening shop window. "Oh." She breathed, looking in on the dress on display. It was white, with cornflower blue detail and lace. She turned away, but Sephiroth stopped her, grabbed her wrist with a swift, powerful hand.
She stilled, looked at him as he looked at the store window.
"We should go." She said, and he was silent. He took his hand away.
"Do you like it?"
"Do you like it, Aeris." He asked again, and her name never felt more like a weapon. Her breath caught, for he very rarely called her anything but flowergirl.
"It doesn't matter if I do." She said stubbornly, glancing at the pricetag. She bit her lip. "We should go. Please."
With that he turned away from the window, and they headed on their way.
The stairs to the train station were the rank transition from under to over. She was all abuzz, just thinking that in more seconds she would be on wholly forbidden territory. She could hear the wild racket of the trains clamouring above them. She froze at the bottom stair.
Sephiroth stopped and turned to regard her, muscles flexing faintly in his back.
"I…maybe this was a bad idea." She said, embarrassed and scared, Gaia, she didn't expect to be scared. Sephiroth could have been annoyed, she mostly expected he would be especially after he'd trekked with her all that way. But when he came forward, what he did was reach a hand out. Long fingered and still, she didn't take it right away, but when she did it certainly didn't do much for her nerves.
He had warm hands, and her palms burned electric against his. She wouldn't have been so nervous if he had used the same hand to strike her. But she was slowly learning that while he had the potential to destroy, while she could see it in him even as he stood before her, he hadn't once lifted a hand to do any such thing.
She needed to stop reading those newspapers. She tightened her hold on his hand.
"You should have the things you want." He said, voice extending to his fingertips where she could faintly feel it. There was a look in his eye then, and she was struck by the thought that her interest in him was somehow reciprocated. But why? She wasn't special, not in any way he knew. She thought of his visits, his looks, couldn't imagine they might actually have more than a little to do with her.
She took his hand in both of hers, pressed it beneath his coat to her chest. She didn't know why, but for once listened to an impulse without thinking. Her breath was short.
"Why?" she asked. He pressed his hand harder against the beat of her racing heart. "Why does it matter to you?" she asked, really wanting to know. He bent his head to look at the hand that lay over her heart, his hair fell into his face.
"You're different…from anything I know." He said, quietly. "I'm not sure I understand it."
"Sephiroth," her eyebrows furrowed. "I don't even understand it." She shrugged and his hand fell away. "I don't want to be different." She said, biting her lip. She'd never said it out loud before. His eyes were sharp.
"Don't be ridiculous." he said, "You would rather be like everyone else?" she almost flinched with the way he said it. She would have been offended if she didn't somehow feel he was coming from a place of experience.
"Haven't you ever wished for that?" He clearly hadn't expected such a reply. His lip curled.
"Never." Aeris crossed her arm over herself.
"That isn't the truth." She shook her head. "You know it isn't." He narrowed his eyes.
"If I ever wished for that, it was only because I was young and foolish." This time she did flinch. His words had been deliberately harsh, and she wondered how they could have moved from such a tender moment to this.
"Maybe I'm foolish then." She said, and Sephiroth seemed to suddenly understand the impact of his words. He seemed to regret them. The split nature of his character made her suddenly wary. "But then…why are you here with me?" He was silent for a while.
"Because, you have made me a fool." He said and she blinked. "I wonder how you are so kind, to those who don't even deserve it. I wonder how you smile in the misery in which you live, how you bear such apparent loneliness with such faith. I am a fool because we are so alike, and still I have yet to figure it out, or perhaps take the smarter route and surrender." He stopped, looked at the stairs leading to the station. "If I cannot understand it, or be moved to destroy it-" she gasped, "I will wait until I can take it for myself. And I will take it for myself."
Not entirely sure if she should feel flattered or threatened, the full weight of his burden was crushing. All this time she had walked around so oblivious, unaware. But there was something liberating in there, something that had her approaching the stairs, fist clenched. She began to ascend them, and he was at her heels.
His coat long forgotten, it dragged out behind her as she quickened her pace, swinging her arms with purpose now, getting higher and higher until she could see the platforms stretched out before them. When she reached the top, Sephiroth was there, standing right beside her.
The station was totally empty, and totally devoid of light. There was no sky, but deep inside she had known there wouldn't be. Standing in the actual station, it didn't seem such a big deal. But it was, and as a train flew passed, her mind flooded with visions of a woman dying on the track so long ago, her own tiny hands removing the bracelets from the woman's pale wrists.
She went forward, stood at the edge of the platform. She moved her arms just to hear her bracelets jangle. She stared down to the dark track, followed the fuzzy perspective of the long metal bars into the distance. She got down to her knees, and lowered herself down onto the track.
Sephiroth came down smoothly after her, no questioning. And she was grateful. Seeing the clumsy path the tracks made, he simply offered his hand and she took it sooner this time, used him to keep her step steady as they crossed the tracks together. She walked until the station opened out to sky, and when it did she stopped, stared up into the deep, incredibly velvet depths. It was darker, wider, and so much better than she remembered.
She realized she was still holding his hand, and when she let go, he was silent as she took one bracelet off and set it down upon on the track.
"This was the last place she was before she joined the planet." She breathed, remembering. Twenty three long seconds of a face much like hers, draining of color, saying it's going to be okay, just have faith and will all be okay. She wanted to ask her mother now, if having faith had anything to do with anything.
She turned to Sephiroth.
"I don't think it's so bad to be a fool, sometimes." He nodded, and she could hear the echoing whistle of an approaching train. They arranged themselves so that they stood between the tracks.
"Maybe." He said.
"Sephiroth?" she whispered, since they stood only a hair's breadth apart.
"You don't have to wait." She said, the wind blowing the coat she wore out like some dark cloak. "Even if you don't understand it now, or can't destroy it…" she left off, still mildly disturbed at the thought, "You don't have to wait to take it, not if I give it to you. And I…want to give it to you."
"How?" he said, sounding a little stunned.
"I don't know how, since I really only have myself to give. But that should be a start." That time, he actually looked stunned. She smiled. "You'll have to stay around." She said, but there was an undercurrent of fear in it having everything to do with him doing just the opposite. Her proposition wasn't totally selfless, for she suddenly couldn't imagine not seeing him, sinking back to that degree of loneliness he had tactlessly mentioned earlier. He was interested in the things in her she didn't understand herself, and she wanted to satisfy it, she wanted to solve her own puzzles.
And if she had any light to give, she wanted him to have it too.
She looked up at him, knowing she had just made herself his in so many words. All in one night, and right there he let her hair down, as his fingers and the wind tangled it up when he kissed her mouth, as she held his coat up and off the tracks as the trains went by.
Author's Note: Aeriseph bug struck again, and I'm loving it. This particular fic environment has been stuck in my head for a while and I'm so happy it is finally realized. I'm not sure it's finished, just because I have a lot of fun playing with these two, especially the scenario of Sephiroth getting to Aeris before Zack could properly girlfriend her. Haha. I imagine he'd be on that. So, I hope you liked! I enjoyed writing it.