Rose of Mideel Chapter 3
Pride vs. Desperation
By Chocobo Goddess
The storm blew itself out sometime early in the morning. Sephiroth woke with a mineral taste in his mouth and stiff muscles. The room was bearably warm, but not nearly enough to be comfortable.
At least it was better than the biting cold of outdoors.
I couldnt have killed her in Costa del Sol, he thought with dark humor. No, I chose this frozen wasteland for its symbolic value. He sighed. Aeriths breathing was still difficult, but her temperature seemed to have stabilized. Gently, he extricated himself from the bed and covered her with most of the blankets, taking some and fashioning some kind of shirt for himself. He stretched, feeling like hed fallen off a cliff. The rest of the chair fed the fire, and he looked around for more fuel.
Hmm, he mused, There were other houses. Maybe they have something I can use. He made sure Aerith was tucked in well, then braced himself to go outside.
The air sparkled in stillness, a striking contrast to the night before. Sephiroth trudged from house to house, looking for anything useful for shelter or the fire. His search turned up several tattered, half-rotted blankets and a couple of firelogs. Those should be perfectly dry by now, he thought, grinning. How long have they been seasoning? A thousand years? Two?
The last house made him swear aloud when he looked inside. Of course, stupid man, she stayed here the night before she died. Her friends must not have realized that shed left her belongings here. Annoyed that he hadn't found this house sooner, he set down the rags and entered the room.
It was interesting what one could learn about someone, just by looking at the things they carried with them. The sturdy brown leather bag contained a notebook, a change of clothes, and some small personal effects: a red feather, some smooth stones (not materia, he noted), a couple of pens, bandages, and basic first aid items. Under the well-worn sleeping bag he found a small parcel of rations, with a can of soup and some dried meat. Best of all, a battered but still working PHS revealed itself when he moved the food. He quickly rolled everything up into the sleeping bag, slung it over his shoulder, and grabbed the firewood. He trotted back to the house where he had left Aerith, silently thanking any gods that heard him that she had been a practical person.
She moved when he stamped the snow from his boots. The fire was beginning to die down again, so he fed one of the logs to it. He popped the lid on the soup and placed it atop the stove, then turned to check on his companion.
Aerith blinked sleepily as he sat on the bed, testing her forehead with the back of his hand. She was still feverish, which worried him, but she no longer had chills, which meant at least she wasnt getting worse. He brushed one of her bangs back off of her face. "Hi." A slight smile tugged at his mouth.
"Hi," she answered weakly.
"I found your things in one of the houses. Including this and these." He held up her sleeping bag and the extra clothing. "I want you to get changed as soon as possible. The dress youre wearing is still damp, which isnt very good for you right now. Think you can manage it?"
His smile softened. "I didnt find any materia, but we have a little food. The soup is cooking, so to speak, and when youre able to sit up, well talk about what to do next. All right?"
She nodded. He covered her with the sleeping bag and put her clothes on top of it. With a faint blush, she pulled the blanket over her head and began moving around underneath it. A few minutes later he found a pale, thin arm offering a damp dress and jacket. Taking the ruined items, he chuckled as the hand then groped blindly for the clean clothing, grasped them, and pulled them under the blanket.
The soup seemed to be as done as it was going to get. Sephiroth tasted it, then looked through the bag of rations for something to serve as a spoon. He was in luck; again, Aeriths practical nature had stood her in good stead. He found a small mess kit consisting of a fork, knife, spoon, and cup, all kept together on a split metal ring. Separating them, he stirred the soup and let it cool a moment while he filled the cup with snow to melt.
When he returned, she was struggling to sit up. Sephiroth went to her side and helped her get settled.
"Wwhy are you helping me?" she asked breathily. It was difficult for her to focus completely.
He didnt look at her, busying himself instead with the soup. "This is my penance, remember? I protect you this time around." He held the full spoon in front of her. "Eat."
"You dont think I can feed myself?" she asked, nonetheless opening her mouth obediently. The soup was too salty, the lumps of chicken too soft, but for the moment it was the most delicious thing shed ever eaten.
"No. Youre still too weak. Now, I have an idea," he paused as he gave her another spoonful, "The PHS still works. I think," and another, "you should call your friends."
Aerith bit her lip. "D-do you think th-thats a good idea?" She shuddered, not a good sign. It looked like her chills were starting again. "I mean its not like th-they would believe Im a-al-live "
Sephiroth caught her just as she slumped to the side. She fainted again, he thought, Dammit, she needs a real doctor! He helped her lie back down and covered her securely with the sleeping bag. The PHS caught his eye. Grimly, he made a decision. Whether they trusted him or not was neither here nor there. Aerith needed immediate medical attention, and to hell with what the others thought.
He reached an operator, then waited while his request was put through.
Come on, he thought. I know youre there. You have to be there. This is the only number I know.
He was about to disconnect when a click and a disgusted growl came from the other end. "Is your hair on fire?"
"I said, is your hair on fire?" The dark voice enunciated each word carefully. "I ask, because that is quite possibly the only reason for anyone to want to bother me at this ungodly hour."
"Hes dead. I killed him and ate him, just like I do to most people who call me because they have nothing better to do. Now will you leave me alone?"
"Vincent, Aerith needs your help."
A pause, then, flatly, "Aerith is dead."
Sephiroth closed his eyes. "No, Vincent, she is not. She is alive, but perhaps not for long. I am sitting here just outside the Ancient City looking at her as she burns up with fever."
"Who is this?" The voice became suspicious. "What kind of sick joke,"
"Vincent!" Sephiroth roared. "Aerith is dying! I cant help her any more! The Cetra and the Planet thought it would be a good idea to bring her back to life. I am powerless to help her. I called you because I knew you still lived in Nibelheim. Get someone out here now and bring a healer of some kind!"
"Oh, my gods you are not him. You cant be him."
"You arent. I dont believe this. I was there. This is someones idea of a very bad joke."
A long silence. "Youre him, arent you?"
"And you really are trying to help her, arent you?"
Sephiroth thought he heard the names of three separate gods being invoked in the background. "Where did you say you were?"
"Ancient City, in the house closest to the City gate. Vincent ," he glanced down at Aerith, who was watching him with a pained expression, "Come soon." He signed off the PHS and tossed it on top of her other items.
She yawned and snuggled down into the blankets more. "Is he coming?"
Sephiroth winced at the thinness of her voice. He sat back down on the bed, lowering his face into his hands. Exhaustion was beginning to catch up with him. "Yes, I think he is. I had to convince him that you and I were alive."
She sighed. "I heard. Your shouting woke me up."
He looked at her. "Im sorry."
"No, its ok. I would rather not sleep now." She pulled one arm out from under the blanket and took his left hand. "I have such bad dreams."
He stared at her hand in his for a moment, then covered it with his right. "I know the feeling."
"Do you think the Planet is angry with me?"
His brow furrowed. "Why would you think that?"
"I cant figure out why it doesnt answer me." Her eyes began to drift closed. "I call and call and it doesnt answer. Ive never been without it " her voice faded.
"Aerith?" He became alarmed. "Aerith? Wake up!" He shook her shoulder. No response. "Aerith!"
He tried in vain to wake her, desperately shaking her and cajoling her to open her eyes.
AVALANCHE found them later that evening, both of them feverish and unconscious, her faintly-breathing form cradled carefully in his arms.
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