“This is impossible!”
The words were a quiet groan, not meant for anyone’s hearing. The frustration in Aeris’s voice was unmistakable and therefore impossible for Sephiroth to ignore. From the day she had first come into his life as a squalling infant in a crib too far from her mother, Sephiroth found he could deny her nothing. She was the first person to require nothing of him. As such, he was compelled to offer her the world. He was lucky that she had never grown to take advantage of it. If anything, he could see that she often wished he would let her struggle a bit longer, so that she might learn to complete the troublesome task herself.
He paused at the bathroom door, listening as he heard Aeris’s wordless grumbling and the sound of something metallic crashing against the counter, “Aeris?”
“Seph?” The door swung open to reveal Aeris with one hand buried in her long brown hair, the other clutching a bit of ribbon, “Oh, sorry, you need in here?”
Sephiroth shook his head, “No, I could hear you and wanted to be sure all was well.”
“Oh.” She chuckled, “Sorry. I was trying to keep it down. I know you were reading.”
“My abnormal hearing makes it hard to miss anything in this house.”
That made Aeris pull her hands from her hair. She balled her hands into fists and stomped her foot, the picture of tiny rage, “What did mama say about you saying things like that?”
Sephiroth smirked at her show of temper, “That my abnormalities are well suited to our little family. She is also fond of reminding me that I possess free will and the ability to feel as I like about things. I am merely exercising those rights.”
Aeris only rolled her eyes at his logic, “I suppose I can’t pick on you, then. You actually talked about having feelings. Mama would be so proud.”
She turned to go back into the bathroom, but left the door open so he could follow her. The counter was strewn with a number of hair care products that Ifalna favored, as well as brushes, combs and hair ribbons. There was also a magazine half buried under a towel. Sephiroth could not make out the picture, but he could see quite a bit of blonde hair on the uncovered portion of the page.
“What is troubling you?” He asked, leaning a hip against the counter as Aeris plunged her hands back into her hair.
“I saw a picture in a magazine.” Aeris said, nodding to the magazine he had noticed before, “An actress who is in Loveless in Midgar wears her hair in his twisty braid thing. It’s so pretty! I’ve got long hair, so I figured I could do it, but I can’t get my stupid hair to cooperate.”
Sephiroth pulled the magazine out and looked at the image. The woman’s hair had been arranged in a high ponytail and then carefully twisted into a rope that hung down to the curve of her waist. The effect was quite nice and Aeris would look charming with her hair arranged that way.
“I can tie my hair back alright… I do it all the time anyway.” Aeris demonstrated by tugging her hair back and tying it up, “When I try to twist it, it gets pulled sideways and comes loose. The twist just ends up all flat and not all defined and pretty like the picture! Plus, my arms are killing me. This is a hundred times worse than staff training with you.”
When she began to twist her hair around, Sephiroth could immediately see the problem. He bit the inside of his cheek to keep from laughing when Aeris dropped her hair with a disgusted groan, “I braid my hair all the time! Why is this so much harder?”
He reached out and gathered her hair in his hand. His hands were gentle as he was well aware of the pain in having long hair. Despite his freedom from Shinra he had not cut his own hair. He had always enjoyed the length and privately told himself that deciding to keep it was as much his own choice as cutting it would have been. He allowed Ifalna to dye it periodically to help keep him in hiding. With the light brown color, he looked as much like her child as Aeris did.
“There is a trick to it.” Sephiroth separated her hair into two sections and wound the both tightly into individual twists. He then twined them together, twisting in the opposite direction, “The initial separate twists provide the stability and definition that you lacked before.”
It took him several minutes to tame her wild curls, but he was finally able to tie off the bottom with a second bit of ribbon and set the new twist over Aeris shoulder. He neatened the curls near her ears that were too short to be pulled back in the twist and met her eyes in the mirror, “Well?”
She stared at him, a little awed, “How in the world did you know that?”
“Honestly?” Sephiroth chuckled when Aeris nodded, eager to know for herself, “Rope. While we were on the boat years ago, when we first came to Cosmo Canyon from Midgar, I noticed a piece that had been cut and unraveled. That is how it is made. It has a very similar look, if you take the time to study it.”
“Which you did, of course.” Aeris teased, “Because you know everything! I should have just asked you in the first place. Thank you for helping me.”
Sephiroth nodded and rested his hands on her shoulders when she wrapped him in a hug. Her head nuzzled into his ribs affectionately, “You should know it is likely impossible for you to wear your hair that way without help.”
He could feel her shoulders slump under his hands, “Oh.”
“I suppose you are fortunate to have me around.” Sephiroth continued with a long-suffering sigh, “I’ve already proven I can complete the style to your satisfaction. I will just have to do it for you.”
Aeris looked up at him, gasping in delight, “Even if I want to wear it this way every day?”
Aeris giggled and tried to squeeze him to discomfort in her renewed hug. They both knew she would not be able, but he let her try anyway. When she began to ease away, he caught her hand in his, “Come, let’s go see if Deneh knows somewhere we can find a proper hair ribbon like the picture.”
“Or maybe a comb like she wears in her mane?” Aeris replied eager. She tugged on his hand, leading him toward the front door, “She’s got that one with the moonflowers on it that’s so pretty!”
Sephiroth followed her, smiling. As he often did when he was enjoying something that would have been considered beneath him only two years before, he tried to picture Hojo’s watching him. Sephiroth had been intended to be Shinra’s best weapon, a soldier meant to bring the world to heel. Instead, he was being led about by a girl half his height to find the perfect hair ribbon. Hojo would be horrified. Sephiroth grinned and vowed to find the perfect hair ribbon for Aeris’s new hairstyle.