"When I was young, I rued the idea that I was the only person of my kind," Sephiroth reflected, "When I found out that I was part of a race of shape-shifters, it explained so much. I rejoiced in knowing I wasn't a complete freak of nature. But I also used to rejoice in the fact that I didn't get sick like others do. Now that woman had to go and give me this…'Changeling Pox',"
Medea, the Seraph ex-cop who had aided Avalanche on their quest to stop Jenova from destroying the world, had been struck with the aforementioned virus strain, which only the Seraphim were susceptible to. Her daughter Onyx, one of Keter's friends, had likely exposed him to it when she had come over to play with Keter. Fortunately, none of the children were sick.
Now Sephiroth lay in bed with a terrible rash, fatigue, and muscle weakness.
"'That woman' saved you from madness, keeping you nice and stable for me to marry," Aeris quipped as she held up a thermometer.
"Summons alive, how do people tolerate using that thing?" Sephiroth groused as he eyed the thermometer warily.
"See, this is the problem with you never being sick until you were exposed to Seraphim illnesses," Aeris sighed as she inserted it in his mouth, "Now that you can get sick, you're being the biggest baby I've ever seen,"
Sephiroth began to protest.
"Don't talk!" Aeris scolded him, "Wait until it's ready!"
A minute later, the device beeped. Aeris took it out.
"A hundred-and-eight?!" she exclaimed.
"I thought I felt cold," Sephiroth mused.
"We need to get you to a hospital!" Aeris panicked.
"Aeris, relax. I know this kind of fever would cook a human's brain, but I'm fine. Remember when I was sixteen and got lost in the desert? When they found me, I technically had heatstroke, but I was ambulatory, and I was coherent. Stop treating me like a human,"
"Now would you please scratch my back?" Sephiroth asked as he rolled over, exposing the spots on his bare back.
"Again?" Aeris complained, "Like I said- you're such a baby!"
"I'm not," Sephiroth argued, "You don't itch the way I do. How could you understand?"
"I understand my hands are cramping up from scratching your back for the past two days,"
"Fine. Maybe Keter can scratch it,"
"Absolutely not! You want him to get sick too?"
Sephiroth rolled onto his back. "Medea said that children should be exposed early, since all they get is the rash, nothing more. Us adults are the ones that are dying here,"
"Dying?" Aeris picked up her pillow and whacked Sephiroth in the face with it.
"You just hit an invalid," Sephiroth accused her.
"And the award for best dramatic performance of the year goes to…"
Just then, Aeris' PHS rang. She reached for it and answered it.
"Hello? Oh, hi, Tifa…oh no, really? Well, I guess I shouldn't be surprised. His DNA test did come back as 31% Seraph, so I guess it makes sense that he would be prone to the pox. …Well, you could borrow my garden rake. You'll be using it to scratch Cloud's back if he's as big of a whiner as Sephiroth is,"
"You women…" Sephiroth growled as he adjusted the black gloves he always wore.
"Seph, take off the gloves," Aeris told him as she hung up, "You're in bed. You're safe,"
Sephiroth shook his head. "I don't trust my body right now,"
"Your hands aren't going to combust just because you're not feeling well,"
"How many fires did Mom and the Professor have to put out thanks to me when I was thirteen? I was scared I might burn down the entire town one day,"
When Sephiroth was undergoing puberty, he had discovered that his hands were prone to bursting into flames if he was hit by sudden stress. While his skin always remained intact, his surroundings often suffered damage. Thankfully, industrial-strength fireproof gloves were easy to come by in Corel, and since then, he always wore a pair just in case.
"I'm ill. I'm…weak. Right now, this is the best way I can protect my family,"
"Fine, fine," Aeris sighed.
Sephiroth sat up. "Really, Aeris. My back is driving my crazy,"
Aeris playfully shoved her husband back. To both their surprise, though, Sephiroth fell back hard.
"My god, I'm sicker than I thought if you could take me down like that," Sephiroth whispered, shocked.
"Yay! I'm stronger than you!" Aeris cheered, "Wow, I never thought I'd see the day!"
"You cheat," Sephiroth said pointedly.
The door opened, and Remi walked in.
"Mama!" she whined, "Itchy!"
The toddler rolled up her sleeves, revealing a rash on her arms.
"Oh no!" Aeris exclaimed, "You've caught the pox!"
"Itchy, Mama!" Remi repeated herself.
"Oh, I know, Remi," Aeris said sympathetically as she picked the two-year-old up and scratched her arm, "Let's put some lotion on you, and put you to bed, alright?"
"No bed!" Remi howled.
Just then, an idea occurred to Aeris.
"What if," she said, looking at Sephiroth, "you stay in bed with Daddy? You can watch TV, and he'll scratch your itches, and you can keep each other company? How about that?"
"Yay!" Remi cheered.
Sephiroth smiled. "That sounds like a great idea,"
"It's settled, then," Aeris said with a grin, "Let's get you ready, and then you'll come back here, okay?"
"And now, I'll only have to look after your brothers," Aeris said as she carried Remi out of the bedroom.
Two minutes later, Aeris carried Remi back inside, smelling like calamine lotion. She set Remi on the bed, who threw her arms around Sephiroth.
"You love your daddy?" Aeris asked her.
Remi nodded happily. Sephiroth smiled and ruffled her hair.
"TV?" Remi asked.
"Okay," he said as he picked up the remote and turned the TV on.
"Cactuar Cub-house," Remi said.
Sephiroth cringed. Cactuar Clubhouse? That children's show had to be the biggest pile of drivel he'd ever seen. He would have rather she had asked him to play 'tea party' with her than watch that nonsense. However, Remi was definitely not a 'tea party' girl.
"It's not on right now," Sephiroth lied, knowing full well that the show came on every morning at 8:00.
"You can't fool her, Sephy," Aeris giggled as she changed the channel to Remi's show, "Kids are uncanny that way. They can't tell time by looking at a clock, but they know when it's time for something to happen. Like how Keter's always known when it's lunch or dinnertime, even when he doesn't see anyone cooking. Who are you texting?"
"Zack. I need a beer,"
"A beer will knock you out. You know that,"
Aeris snatched the PHS from him. "Listen, Seph. Try to understand something here. We have children. Young children. They like certain things, that we, as grown-ups, sometimes have to dumb ourselves down for. That's life. Suck it up and man up,"
"She'd better not expect me to sing along to the songs,"
"Please. She may be only two, but she's not brain dead. She does know there are some things that Daddy just does not do. Come on- I don't even sing along. And yes, it's a mind-numbing show, but she loves it,"
Remi was bouncing up and down excitedly.
"I told you kids don't get hit very hard by the virus," Sephiroth pointed out.
"Should I bring Keter and Aleph in here too, then?" Aeris asked.
"Three small children in one bedroom?" Sephiroth looked nervous.
"Fine, fine," said Aeris, "I'll leave you two to watch TV then,"
She left the bedroom and went toward Aleph's room. The infant was awake, staring at his mobile. Aeris smiled. Her youngest child was easygoing, like Keter was. Maybe the males in the family were simply easy babies. She wondered if Sephiroth had been that way.
She knew there was no one to ask, though. After Lucrecia had died, and Vincent had "disappeared", her father had been so wracked with guilt that he'd gone on a sabbatical, and did not return to the Jenova Project until Sephiroth was two.
"Hey, little man," she said to Aleph, "You ready for breakfast?"
"I'll take that as a yes," Aeris said as she picked the baby up.
"That was excruciating," Sephiroth said flatly as he watched the ending credits to "Cactuar Clubhouse" rolling.
Remi had calmed down a bit, now that her show was over.
"Come here," he said as he gently pulled his daughter over to him.
Remi lay down with her head on Sephiroth's shoulder.
"Are you sleepy?" he asked her.
"Ya," the little girl replied.
"I know how you feel," Sephiroth yawned, "This sickness makes me tired as well. How about we take a nap together?"
"Sounds perfect," Sephiroth yawned again as he closed his eyes.
Aeris looked around the living room. Aleph was in his cradle, and had been fed and changed already. Keter was playing with his action figures in his room. It was Saturday, which meant Aeris wasn't doing research for the guild that day. Perfect time for her to read her latest book, which she had ordered from Ivalice.
She sat down on the sofa and opened the book, picking up where she left off.
Two minutes later, she heard a loud crash from the kitchen, and immediately rushed over there to see what had happened.
Remi stood near the counter. In front of her, a jar of dumbapple marmalade lay shattered on the floor.
"Remi, what are you doing?!" Aeris exclaimed, horrified, "Wasn't Daddy supposed to be watching you?"
"Daddy sleeping," Remi answered cheerfully.
"Sleeping? Oh, for Odin's sake…!"
She scooped up Remi under one arm, and once she reached the master bedroom, swung the door wide open with her other hand.
"Sephiroth!" she yelled.
The ill swordsman jumped awake.
"What-? Wait- you were supposed to be asleep!" he said to Remi accusingly.
Remi smiled and shook her head.
"No, she knocked down a full jar of dumbapple marmalade," Aeris said pointedly, "Imported from Banora. Expensive. Why weren't you watching her?"
Sephiroth glared at the toddler. "We agreed to take a nap. She did not keep her end of the bargain,"
"Two-year-olds don't bargain,"
"Keter was always good at taking naps,"
"Remi is not Keter,"
Keter walked in, carrying two pieces of bread. "What about me?" he asked.
Aeris did a double-take. "Is that dumbapple marmalade on the bread?"
"Yeah, since there was a big mess on the floor, I thought if I cleaned it up using these, I can do two things at once. Make a snack, and help clean,"
"Throw that out right now," Aeris ordered him, "There might be broken glass in there. Remi knocked it down when your father fell asleep and wasn't watching her,"
"I'm to blame for our daughter being sneaky?"
"Remi ruined the dumbapple marmalade?!" Keter squawked, "Remi, I'm gonna send you to the moon!"
Remi blew several raspberries at Keter.
Sephiroth threw the covers over his head, trying in vain to drown out the arguments and accusations. He was simply thankful he had insisted on wearing his gloves, or else he'd be sick and homeless right now.