One Step at a Time

"Well, Keter…" Sephiroth said to his one-year-old son, "What do you want to do today? Your mother is doing the shopping in the city, and we're still waiting for those extra ship parts from Ivalice. We've got the whole morning and afternoon. What do you say?"

"Mama!" Keter exclaimed.

"No, we already covered that. She's gone shopping in town. We'll go outside, maybe? We'll go to the oasis and you can crawl around,"

"Eee-dee-dee-dee-dee!" Keter squealed.

"I have no idea what you're trying to tell me," Sephiroth said flatly.

Keter grinned, showing his few teeth. He leaned to the side and exploded into giggles.

"You have your mother's temperament," Sephiroth remarked.

Keter leaned over again and continued to laugh.

"Want me to help you?" Sephiroth flipped the baby upside-down and held him that way.

"Eeeeeeeeeeeeee!" Keter screeched as he flailed his arms and legs.

"I did that once with your mother when we were both little," Sephiroth told his son, "Only Mom saw me and read me the riot act for not holding her safely. I reminded her that she wanted Aeris to grow up tough, but she said that wouldn't happen if she got a concussion. As if I would drop her. Why do women never mean what they say?"

Keter blew a raspberry.

"So you agree with me. Very good,"

He flipped Keter over again and sat him back down on his knee.

"Brrrbrrrbrrr!" said Keter.

"My thoughts exactly," said Sephiroth.

Keter covered his eyes, and then flung his arms out, squealing and laughing.

"Er…no, Keter. Sorry. Your mother plays that game. Not me,"

Keter covered his eyes and then flung his arms out again.

"No, Keter,"

Keter stared at his father, looking disappointed. "Da-da?"

"Why don't I find you your rattle?" Sephiroth suggested.

"Ahhh!" Keter protested as he put his hands over his eyes again.

For Odin's sake, man! You played with Aeris like that when she was a baby! Why can't you just indulge the kid?

"Because I feel like an idiot now…" Sephiroth muttered out loud in answer to his conscience.

Keter began to whimper.

"Fine…" Sephiroth growled as he covered his eyes.

Keter giggled.

Sephiroth then took his hands away. "Happy?"

"Aahh!" Keter exclaimed, looking dissatisfied.

"Oh, Kjata alive, you want me to actually say it, don't you?" Sephiroth sighed.

Keter covered his eyes, and then flung his hands out again. "Eeeaaabaa!" he yelled.

"Err…close enough," Sephiroth remarked.

Keter banged his hands on the sofa impatiently.

"Where's Daddy…?" Sephiroth droned as he covered his eyes.

Keter giggled.

"...Peekaboo," Sephiroth managed to say flatly as he put his hands down.

Keter wore a giant half-moon smile on his face.

"Babies are amused by the strangest things," Sephiroth muttered, "All right…where's Daddy…? Oh, here he is,"

Keter squealed with delight.

"Where's Daddy…?" Sephiroth covered his eyes again.

"Mama!" Keter said happily.

"No, she's at the store," Sephiroth reminded her.

Somebody tapped him on the shoulder. "Peekaboo!"

Sephiroth spun around to see Aeris standing behind him, a very amused grin on her face.

"Oh god…" Sephiroth groaned.

"Sephy, that was adorable!" Aeris exclaimed, "Oh, I wish they had video camcorders here!"

"You're evil," the swordsman said flatly.

"You were playing with him!" Aeris gushed, "See? It didn't kill you!"

"I play with him all the time," Sephiroth defended himself, "I just prefer not to do silly things like that insipid 'peekaboo' game. I feel like an idiot,"

"Mama said you played it with me," Aeris pointed out.

"I was nine," said Sephiroth, "That was twenty years ago,"

"Oh, get over it," Aeris laughed, "You're so obsessed with being all stoical. You don't have to be that way all the time. Kids like to play. Papa says he used to play with you in the labs when you were a toddler. He says you loved when he'd get on his hands and knees and chase you,"

Sephiroth inwardly cursed the professor for blabbing that to Aeris.

"No one's going to think less of you for being a little silly with your son once in a while," Aeris reassured him.

"I thought you were supposed to be shopping," Sephiroth accused his wife.

"I was," Aeris explained, "But the sage downtown said there'd be a sandstorm soon, so I thought I'd better hurry home and save the shopping for tomorrow,"

"Dah!" Keter exclaimed from the other side of the room.

"When did he get there?" Aeris wondered.

Keter pulled himself to his feet, and began walking unsteadily towards his parents.

Aeris gasped. "Keter, you're walking!"

Keter clapped his hands together and giggled. He then fell on his rear.

"Uh-oh!" said Aeris, "Can you stand up again? Come on, little guy, you can do it!"

Keter apparently had lost interest, though. He began rolling back and forth, babbling incoherently.

"Doesn't have much of an attention span, does he?" Sephiroth remarked.

Aeris gasped. "No! He's talking to the spirits of the planet here!"

She crouched on the floor and stared at her son. His eyes had the same faraway look she had, that her mother had whenever conversing with the planet.

"Wow, you're full of milestones today," Aeris said to the baby quietly, so as not to startle him out of his trance. She then turned to Sephiroth and grinned. "You too!"

"That was a weakness, not a milestone," Sephiroth retorted.

Keter giggled and stood up again.

"Oh, you're back with us, I see," Aeris said jokingly to her son.

"Nom-nom?" Keter asked.

"Not yet," said Aeris, "You just had breakfast a couple of hours ago,"

"I was thinking of taking him to the oasis," said Sephiroth, "But if there really is a sandstorm coming, I guess there isn't much to do today,"

"Awww, sure there is!" Aeris pointed out, "We get to see Keter walking! Wait till we tell Gregor and the others! I'll bet Gregor gives him sweets when he hears that,"

"If that kid keeps feeding him junk food, he'll be too fat to walk," Sephiroth grumbled.

"No he won't," Aeris chided him, "Let him have his fun! Keter will be fine! Keter, go see Daddy!"

Keter clapped his hands excitedly and toddled over to Sephiroth, throwing his arms around his father's leg.

"Very good!" Aeris praised him.

"He'll be good and tired for his nap, that's for sure," Sephiroth remarked.

"I know. That never happens,"

"He may sleep for a couple of hours,"

"Then maybe I can get some reading done," Aeris said as she went over to the bookcase and pulled out a tome that the guild had sent her.

"I'll get the baby worn out," Sephiroth volunteered, "You get your reading done now, little mage,"

Aeris raised an eyebrow.

He called me 'little mage'. He only does that when he's horny…

Sephiroth picked Keter up. "Let's give your mother some peace and quiet. Then, you can be a good boy and give us some peace and quiet while you sleep,"

They left the room.

Aeris could hear the wind blowing. The sandstorm was already starting. It wouldn't be such a bad time to spend in bed with her husband while Keter napped…

"For Odin's sake, boy!" she could hear Sephiroth growling irritably, "I am not going to play that stupid game anymore!"

Keter began to whine in protest.

One step at a time…Aeris thought…for both of them.