Warnings/Spoilers: Aeris's past, vaguely.
Author's note: I don't know that this is actually canon-compliant, especially with compilation games.
Of all the things that Jessie knows about Aeris that maybe no one else does, the most disquieting one is this – she has a number.
It's tattooed on her left shoulder blade in flat black ink, faded with the years. The numeral II, just like that, cryptic and self-contained as numbers always are. Inexplicable.
“What is this?” Jessie asks once, tracing the outline half-concealed by the strap of Aeris's sundress, because she's never been good, exactly, with tact, with recognizing what not to poke at. Aeris shifts and draws away, pulls her knees up to her chest.
“That?” she says. “That's nothing much,” and some laughing words about teenage rebellion, a rueful embarrassment that doesn't – quite – account for the tension in her shoulders, the distance in her eyes. And Jessie's been a terrorist for a long time. She knows misdirections, alibis, she knows the rumors they've never been able to confirm, and more than anything else, she wishes she hadn't mentioned it at all.
Jessie doesn't go back to Seventh Heaven that night.
She hadn't planned to let the visit run late, because she's not used to this, because she doesn't want to impose. But she's almost out the door when Aeris catches her arm with unexpected strength, startling urgency, and asks her if she wants to stay.
She wants to. Of course she wants to.
More than that, she catches the echo of something old and barren wound through the syllables of those words, and finds herself certain that right now, Aeris doesn't want to be alone. But they don't talk about numbers again, or any kind of rebellion, or anything much except old stories, and gardens, the voice of the Planet and the mechanical engineering of Midgar. Aeris watches her from somewhere far off and holds her hand tightly, and after a while, they don't talk at all.
And later, tangled in Aeris's narrow bed, buffeted by the roar of traffic above her and the slow thunder of trains, Jessie lies awake and listens to the restless thoughts chasing themselves in circles through her head. Back before she joined AVALANCHE, she used to work at fixing things. There's nothing that gets to her more than seeing something that needs fixing, and knowing that she can't.
“Hey, Aeris?” she asks.
Aeris shifts in her arms, blinking in the half-light, presses a kiss to Jessie's collarbone and murmurs something sleepy. She looks so peaceful, long hair falling loose around her shoulders, the mako glow in her eyes almost faint enough to be nothing more than light reflected. The tattoo is stark against her skin, and it's easy to forget that just because Jessie knows the outside of someone, the salt taste of skin and sweat and the shape of old ink, that doesn't mean she'll ever know the things that matter.
“Promise you one thing,” she whispers. “When we finally bring those bastards down, it won't be just for the Planet.”