She knew what she would find before she reached the door. It was quiet inside, and cold. The screens all around flickered with static, the recordings played out, the sad story told.
And Sephiroth stood in the middle of it all, back turned, head bowed, stone still. Aeris said nothing. She reached out to him, but drew her hand back as his chest heaved. There was no sound. No sound from him at all. Aeris closed her eyes and exhaled. She wrapped her arms around herself against the invading cold.
She waited till her feet felt grounded on the floor again, when her weight did not shift off-center of its own accord. When she opened her eyes Sephiroth still stood where he had been. His head tilted back, as if answers lay on the ceiling. Aeris sighed and stepped over to the console. Her fingers went over the controls she had learned too well. One by one the lights and screens turned off.
When she turned around Sephiroth was looking right at her, or through her. It was hard to tell. The glow in his eyes had dimmed. He raised his chin. “You knew?”
She nodded. “My mother told me,” she said, looking around at the equipment that dominated the room. “And then I saw these.”
Sephiroth’s chest moved as he took a deep breath. He turned away, spinning on one heel to give her his back again. It was snowing outside again, Aeris thought, studying his tall frame against the far window. They would have to walk back in the cold.
As if he thought the same, Sephiroth shivered. His shoulders drooped and he seemed to curl in on himself. “They told me he died,” he said, arms hanging limp at his sides. “They told me he died, but they never said how.”
Aeris felt the threat of tears she thought had been all cried out. “I’m sorry.”
Sephiroth shook his head. “It’s not like you did it,” he said, and they both ignored the way his voice cracked. He looked back over his shoulder, nose a little red. From the cold.
Aeris swallowed against the lump in her throat and almost choked. “It wouldn’t have happened if he hadn’t stepped in to protect us.” She closed her eyes against the burn. “They wouldn’t have come for him at all if my mother hadn’t- hadn’t had me.”
She crumpled and fell. She hit something large and warm
instead of the cold, hard floor. He didn’t say anything. She didn’t either. They stayed inside all night, and afterwards blamed it on the snow.