Warmth

Note from Aeris: I. Am. SOOOO sorry, you guys!! I really didn't mean to wait this long, but as my classmates would know, I'm the *worst* procrastinator. The story was kinda thrown aside when an invader came in (*hackcough*…FFX…*coughhack*) I kinda *gulp* forgot about it… But I had a weird dream of the continuation of this story, so alas, here we are!

I guess this could be counted as an AU, since it changes the flow of the storyline. But it isn't as extreme as an AU like Sakura was. The other characters are…where they are when you don't call on them, I guess.

Note: By the way, Sephiroth didn't spill it on himself, he spilled it on the floor. If he had poured it on himself, the whole world would be gone by now. Thank you.

Anyway. Let's get on with it.

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It was her.

Sephiroth apologized quickly, and set more then enough money on the counter, not even bothering to stay for his change when he bolted out of the cozy café and into the snow.

He knelt behind a sign, and acted as if he was tying his shoe. Sephiroth carefully watched the group enter. She turned her head left and right dazedly. She seemed very pale… And very cold, as usual.

She was there, in front of the Inn. Carefully being escorted inside, her disposition suddenly looking very frail.

What's wrong with her?

As soon as she disappeared into the inn, he quietly followed her, pulling his trench coat around him. He shuffled into the inn, breathing in it's potpourri scent. Sephiroth watched as she stumbled and Cloud caught her in his strong arms. He gripped a thin banister pole, snapping it under his hand.

After leading her into the room, he picked her up, borrowing one hand to pull back the warm, thick covers, and laid her down softly on the sheet. He tucked her in tenderly, knelt by her bedside, placing one hand to rest on her cheek.

Tifa pulled up a chair for Cloud, and, talking in soft tones, nodded and ran out of the room.

Sephiroth evaded quickly as not to be noticed, and then continued to gaze at her.

* * *

Aeris breathed harshly under Cloud's hand. Sweat soaked her pale face, her head laid on the soft feathery pillow. Cloud watched over her worriedly, rubbing her cheek fondly.

"Aeris? Aeris, are you still awake?" He called soothingly to her.

"mmhmm…" She answered.

"What hurts?"

"Everything…" She moaned.

"Alright, alright, just calm down now… get some rest. We'll see how you feel in the morning, okay?" Cloud rubbed her cheek soundly until she closed her eyes.

While everything was dark to her vision, she felt his hand onto her forehead again, and then tucking her in closer. Her hair made quiet shifting noises as he let her hair down from it's locks. She then felt her boots being taken off, and heard them be set by the door. The warm hands returned to her face, caressing her cheek carefully.

Aeris finally sighed, and fell fast asleep.

Cloud rubbed her shoulder for a moment, stood up, and left the room, quietly closing the door behind him.

* * *

It felt like it was long ago. But now nobody is really sure it happened at all.

Ifalna knew it was coming. She just didn't know what to do. In the middle of the night, she would break down crying, too frightened to think.

Whenever her mother cried, little Aeris would, too. Her mother would hold the baby girl close, sobbing.

But she knew it was coming.

When the day came, Ifalna tucked her little baby into a black dress, after changing into one herself. Ifalna was ready. She was ready to go… home.

* * *

The little green-eyed toddler cried. The horror her emerald eyes had seen was enough to cause a fully grown adult to break down.

"Mommy! Mommy!" the child sobbed.

Little Aeris was alone in a cold cell, shivering and sobbing. The walls, floor, and ceiling were all steel, bearing the familiar six letters everyone feared, "Shinra."

Aeris laid down on the floor, unable to see in the darkness. She moaned piteously, looking at the tiny window of bars unhappily.

Suddenly, a light outside the window flicked on.

Aeris backed up, wrapping her arms around her knees. Was this an angel to take her away? She hoped it was so.

Yet, instead of an angel with grand white wings, another sort of angel entered. He was thin and lanky, he obviously hadn't been eating much, his long silvery hair held in a ponytail with a black satin ribbon. He wore a battered white tank top, and white shorts, torn and frayed at the ends. The boy carried a tray, holding a small piece of hardened bread.

"Who are you?" Aeris asked, full of wonder at the angelic boy who entered.

"Are you new here?" He asked, his voice calm.

"Yes…" She whimpered.

"Here," he offered the tray, "Some food to eat."

Aeris politely took the bread, and nibbled on it, even though it was overcooked. The boy sat down and watched her, blinking his amazing green eyes. After she had finished, she laid down on the hard metal floor.

"Why are you staying here?" Aeris curiously asked.

"I'm your cellmate. My name's Sephiroth!" He smiled.

"I'm Aeris." She smiled back.

* * *

Months had past since they had met, tiny Aeris had grown accustomed to the place she lived in, but it was winter now.

The girl's pink cheeks were now pale as sheets, she shivered heavily, unable to control her massive shaking. Her breath was visible in the air, eyes bloodshot from the dryness. She was scarcely able to breath between shivers, huddled in her corner.

"Are you alright?" Sephiroth questioned, almost immune to the cold.

Aeris could only whimper.

Sephiroth approached her, and felt her shoulder. The child was freezing to the core, shivering heavily, hypothermia setting in to her tiny body. He watched her shiver for a long time, and then sat beside her, and took her into his arms. Aeris stopped quivering as badly, warmed by his body heat. She tucked her head under his chin, and sniffled.

"Thank you…"

Aeris closed her eyes and sighed, sound asleep in under a minute.

* * *

Sephiroth slipped in after making sure Cloud was gone, and froze.

He stood there for a long while, dripping melted snow onto the floor. His green eyes were wide, awestruck. He wanted to run to her, and throw his arms about her, but he couldn't find the strength to move his legs.

It was her.

Slowly, Sephiroth inched towards her, the beautiful details of the girl's little body becoming more apparent with each step. He crept to the chair, and sat down, rigid.

And there she was, sound asleep, curled up in front of him. He cautiously lifted his hand, and placed it on her cheek.

"You're hot?" Sephiroth raised both eyebrows.

She shivered in sheer opposite, and nuzzled her head against his hand. Sephiroth blinked, and rubbed her cheek with his thin fingers.

She was slowly beginning to wake, he kept her asleep by petting her hair. After making sure she was completley asleep, Sephiroth reached down, and took her into his arms.

"Don't worry." He said, speaking to the sleeping child, "When I… take this planet for mother…."

He smiled brightly. "I'll make sure you're warm."

"Aeris-chan…my Aeris-chan…"

He smiled warmly at her.

Continued in Chapter 4….