ardwynna: (Aerith)
Title: After The Fall
Chapter: Four
Fandom: FFVII (Marriageverse AU)
Characters: Aeris/Sephiroth, cast, OCs
Rating: PG
Words: 2243
Story: Prologue | Ch. 1 | Ch. 2 | Ch. 3 | Ch. 4 | Epilogue
Summary: Aeris and Sephiroth try to move on from a devastating loss.


Whenever the phone rang early in the morning, Sephiroth answered the call. Only the base would ever need to ring the house while he was in the middle of frying tomatoes for the breakfast plates. Usually. “Good evening, have I reached the residence of Commander Sephiroth and family?” began a terribly tired voice. “Wait, hold on, it’s morning for you, isn’t it?”

Sephiroth looked around. “Yes. Takeda-san?” Ella was sipping her chocolate milk and waiting patiently for her eggs. Aeris came around the corner, just as he considered calling for her. She caught him looking at her. ‘Takeda,’ he mouthed at her and marveled at the spark that came to her eyes. She was growing radiant again. “I’ll put you on speaker phone,” he said, hitting the button and running back to his frying pan.

“Good morning, Mrs. Sephiroth,” Takeda said.

“Good evening, Yuki,” Aeris said, holding on to Ella and smiling. “You don’t have to be so formal.”

“Yes, I do,” Yuki said, sighing. “Protocol, you know. They're still making me read it off a handwritten scroll.” He cleared his throat. “I am pleased to announce that Her Imperial Grace, Princess Yuffie of the House Kisaragi was this evening delivered of a boy, fourth in line for the throne of Wutai. May the sun never set on our glorious nation. Uh… yada yada, the usual stuff about illustrious lineage and all that junk. You’ve heard it before. Uh, the royal chancellor’s looking really appalled at me right now.”

Aeris laughed. Sephiroth closed his eyes, reveling in the sound. “How many times have you read it now?” he asked.

“You guys are number twenty-eight. Sorry, all the noble houses of Wutai get priority and then I just dial randomly from there. The fancy written version will be in the mail.”

“How are you holding up?” Aeris asked, resting her cheek against Ella’s bright head. “Did she throw anything at you this time?”

“No,” Yuki said. “Threatened to alter my anatomy as usual, but I figure if she hasn’t done it by round three, it’s not going to happen.”

Aeris laughed again, and Ella laughed too, though Sephiroth was sure it was just to keep her mother company. “We’ll let you get back to duty then. Try to get some rest, okay?”

“I’ll try.”

Sephiroth fixed the plates, setting the extras in a serving dish in case Aeris wanted more. He set a little plate with a puppy pattern on it in front of Ella and watched her eat while Aeris wrapped up the call. “You didn’t want to tell him?” He didn’t have to say what.

“Let’s not steal their moment,” Aeris said, savoring a mushroom between her lips. “We have time.”

-.-.-.-.-.-.-


They made the announcement at Ella’s birthday party, after the song had been sung and the presents opened and Sephiroth’s special chocolate cake was making its second round. Everyone had come despite the midwinter chill, a gesture of solidarity after their last somber gathering. Ella herself was too busy with presents to care about having any moment stolen. Tifa and Yuffie hustled Aeris off to a corner for some girl talk. There was some squealing involved. Sephiroth didn’t want to know.

He slipped through the living room, past Vincent trying to stay unnoticed in the corner, past Barret and Cid devouring cake like nobody’s business, past the latest scion of Wutai’s Imperial line spitting up on Tuesti. Cloud joined him in the kitchen.

“Refill?” Sephiroth offered, holding up the fruit punch Aeris could not get enough of these days.

“Please,” Cloud said, holding out his glass. “So, twins.”

Sephiroth nodded, eyes on the stream as he poured. “Surprised me too.” He had not even heard them, so content were they with each other’s company. Ella was proving the exception, the only one had reached out searching for him from within the womb.

“Aeris looks happy.”

Sephiroth made his little sound again, but he knew Cloud would have understood him without it. Cloud went over the the fridge where the printout of the ultrasound was stuck. He squinted at the black and grey blur, maybe slightly better at interpreting it for his experience. “Looks kinda big. Just going by the measurements on the side there.”

Sephiroth walked over to stare at the picture in question. “She’s about three months along.”

“Three-“ Cloud turned. “Three months? That long?”

“Yes,” Sephiroth said carefully. “What’s so surprising about that?”

Cloud shrugged. “I just thought, you know, seeing as she threw you out for a while, it was a little more recent than that. Hmm, makes some sense though. Pregnancy hormones can do a lot to people.”

“She wasn’t pregnant when she tossed me out,” Sephiroth said, realizing the angle his words opened up only after the fact. Just as he feared, Cloud’s face got that perplexed expression that said he was trying and failing to line up all the obvious facts.

“Then…”

Sephiroth let go, hung for a lamb as he was already. “She came to the office and had her way with me.”

“Aw, oh, God! I did not need to hear that. What is wrong with you?” Cloud spun on his heel and went to toss his glass in the sink.

“You wouldn’t let it go. You could have just dropped it.”

“You didn’t have to bring it up!” Cloud held onto his head in both hands. “Seriously, you bastard.”

There was a part of Sephiroth that never tired of watching people squirm, a part just shy of the raw sadism he was capable of. The part that loved playing with Cloud, to be honest. That part was really happy right now. It had been so long. He tried not to smirk. The ladies came to the kitchen door.

“Everything okay, boys?” Tifa asked.

Cloud braced himself on the kitchen island. “Everything’s fine,” he said. “Just business as usual.”

Sephiroth shrugged when Aeris looked his way. “You heard the man.”

“Alright,” Aeris said dubiously. The tilt in her brow let Sephiroth know she was keeping an eye on them. He smiled back, just a little turn in the corner of his mouth, to let her know he liked that. He liked that a lot.

-.-.-.-.-.-.-


The snows left, the ice thawed and while new leaves sprouted, fresh green and tender above their heads, the earth at their feet turned to mud. “Ella, don’t splash,” Aeris called out. “You’ll get mud all over your dress.” She wriggled her way out of the car, one hand pressing the small of her back and another supporting her rounding middle.

“Everything okay?” Sephiroth asked, coming around.

Aeris looked up at him and smiled through the discomfort. “Just the normal tension on the ligaments.” As usual, she was sailing through the pregnancy, built for breeding. Sephiroth felt a pang of regret that their bloodlines were so opposed. She would never have all the Cetra children she desired as long as she was set on him as the father. But the test results were good this time, he assured himself, watching Aeris make her way up the hill. Everything would be fine.

He walked behind Aeris to catch her in case she should slip on the wet earth. She waddled, there was no other word for it. The two little boys inside her were growing well for having to share the space, with no sign of one leaching off the other, as sometimes happened with twins. Sephiroth kept his eyes on her as they neared the hilltop. Ella had already arrived there ahead of them.

Sephiroth thought he was ready. He thought he had put it all behind him. But while Aeris smiled and cried out with joy about how tall their little sapling had grown, he felt the old coldness inside him extending its winter chill. No. No, it wasn’t fair. Aeris marveled at the new branches, soft and supple with leaves of translucent green, while Sephiroth’s heart thudded like a trapped animal inside the prison of his body.

“It’s growing so well,” Aeris was saying, fingers ghosting along the tips of tender leaves. Sephiroth nodded, feeling the cold sink into him in all the places that had grown used to being warm again and it hurt, hurt so much he did not think he could keep standing. “Look at the new leaves!” Aeris was saying. “It’s almost as tall as I am already.”

Yes, Sephiroth agreed, it was growing well, growing out of the blood and bones of his little boy and getting two more back didn’t make up for losing the one, especially when it had involved so much pain and all that suffering. Then he did fall, knees hitting the dirt and sinking in with the weight of him while Aeris cried out and Ella stopped spinning in the grass all around them.

“Seph, what’s wrong?” Aeris knelt beside him, as close as she could with her belly in between. She took his face in both hands and turned his head to meet her eyes. “Seph, talk to me.”

His mouth was moving but what came out was only a sound, a cry. His eyes burned but while Aeris held his head he didn’t dare pull away, not in her condition. He saw Ella come up behind Aeris, standing directly on her little brother’s resting place, holding on to the tree whose roots reached down to where his little heart had been.

Sephiroth reached one hand out to the grave and fell forward, fingers clawing in the dirt. He could feel Aeris’s warmth against his side, her arms draping around his back. Ella bent down, curious. “Daddy, what’s wrong?”

“Your brother,” he choked out, “your baby brother. He went away.”

Ella blinked and stood again, one hand gripping the young tree for balance. “Not far,” she said.

“Oh, Seph,” Aeris cried, arms encircling him. “Sweetheart, it’s okay, it’s okay.” She held him as close as she was able, between her belly and his heaving shoulders, rocking him back and forth. “Nothing ends, you know that. It’s okay. The Planet sent him on.”

“How do you know?” Sephiroth’s breath began to hitch and there was a terrible pain spreading out from his throat.

“It’s just the way it is, Seph. Gaia says he's okay. I wish you could feel it.”

“I… I…” His face crumpled and his curled into a ball on the ground. “It was such a short life."

“Seph…” Aeris draped herself over his back, “He was loved. He is loved. That's all any life needs."

"But I wasn't ready to say goodbye." The words escaped in a hoarse whisper.

"They say ‘goodbye’ now," Aeris said, feeling tears well up in her own eyes. "Let it out. You’ll feel better.”

Sephiroth slumped his head into her lap. There was movement inside her, pressing against him. “Did you let it out?”

“Of course I did, love, all at the beginning, remember?” She stroked his smooth cheek, while Ella stepped forward to pat her father’s bright silver hair. “Don’t hold back, Seph,” Aeris said. “Just let it go.”

So Sephiroth put his arms around his family and curled his spine until he was a heap on the ground the way he had been wanting to do since the funeral and nearly every moment since, and cried and cried until the stars came out to light the way home.

-.-.-.-.-.-.-


“And we’re all done here,” Dr. Delano announced. “Good job, Aer. You too, General.” Sephiroth nodded weakly, not ready to let go of Aeris’s hand just yet. A few stray hairs escaped his cap, sticking to his dampened skin.

“Go check on them,” Aeris said, giving him a little shove. “Bring them over.”

Sephiroth stumbled over to the warming bed where their newborns lay. “Hmm,” he began, wondering if it was okay to take the face mask off yet. “Which twin is which?”

Dr. Delano pointed at the one putting up the bigger fuss. “In the business we call the first one Twin A. Twin B came in a few ounces lighter but there’s nothing wrong with that. Go on, wheel them over. I’ll bring Big Sis in to meet them.”

Sephiroth paid careful attention to his feet, to the smoothness of the floor, and rolled the walled cot over to Aeris’s side. “Here they are,” he said. “Ready to hold them?”

“One at a time,” Aeris said. “I’m going to have to get used to this.”

“Me too.” Sephiroth hovered over the bed, pondering which twin was which again. Twin A’s face was crumpling, fixing to wail, little feet kicking out of the blanket he had been wrapped in. Sephiroth grasped one foot, noting the tag there that Aeris had filled out beforehand. As usual, she had put down something convoluted and Cetran for him to try to make sense of, or at least shrink into a decent nickname. “Hmm… Ari?” he asked. Aeris nodded, holding her arms out for her new middle child.

Twin B was quiet, eyes closed, contentedly yawning. Sephiroth parted the blanket just enough to get a look at the tag. “Rei,” he said, tucking the blanket back into place, hoping the names caught on. Growing up 'Sephiroth' had been problematic enough.

“Here’s Big Sister,” the doctor announced as Ella came running up. She climbed up into Sephiroth’s lap, claiming her firstborn rights. Sephiroth laughed against her bright hair, scooping her up for the introductions.

“Here’s little Ari,” he said, turning to Aeris, who had hushed the boy quiet effectively by nursing him.

“Noisy baby,” Ella said, wrinkling up her nose.

“And this is Rei,” Sephiroth said, leaning over the bed for Ella to get a closer look. Rei opened his eyes, staring straight at his big sister.

“Hm,” Ella said, looking quite pleased.

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