Aura was led into the visitation room and the guards on both Simon's and Aura's sides of the glass stepped outside to give them some privacy. Aura looked good, despite her status as a prisoner. Her purple hair was down, reaching to the middle of her back, still curled into two sections. As they had done with Simon, Aura had been allowed to keep her clothing, minus her utility belt, much to Aura's chagrin. They had also not allowed Clonco to come with her, despite the robot's surprising desire to be with Aura. (When asked why he wanted to come along, he said simply, "So she can use me like she used to.")
"Why hello there, dear brother," Aura said lazily as she sat in her chair. She pulled her hair behind her ears and crossed her arms, smirking.
"Hello, Aura. How are you doing?"
Aura shrugged. "As well as I can do, I suppose. Clay, Apollo, and Solomon brought Clonco in the other day, and that dumb thing is as goofy as ever. Actually hugged me." She chuckled.
She does seem happier than before Athena's and my names were cleared, Simon thought to himself.
Aura rolled her eyes. "Well, you generally only visit me once a month, and you just came here two weeks ago. So I'm assuming you want to talk to me about something."
Simon felt a pang of guilt. "...Ah. You are perceptive, as usual." More silence followed. Simon tapped on the table with his index finger, then began lightly tracing crescent moons.
Aura sighed, obviously growing impatient. "What's wrong?"
"May we walk outside?" Simon was referring to the courtyard used for exercising. It would be empty around this time of day and would feel less restrictive than the room they were in right now. Simon felt incredibly nervous about this conversation.
Aura nodded. "Feeling nostalgic?"
Simon shrugged and called the guards in. They gave them permission to go outside, so the two were led deeper into the complex and out into a courtyard. Aura was handed a coat, which she graciously accepted. He was pleased to see that the small garden he had petitioned for was still there and taken care of, even without him around.
The two began walking the perimeter of the court. It was a beautifully sunny day, but it was still December, and thus still rather chilly, with a dusting of snow on the ground. "I... am unsure of how to begin. It is not an emergency or dire situation, but I am at a loss for words."
He cleared his throat. "It's about... Athena."
Aura raised an eyebrow, indicating he should continue.
"I have noticed that I feel... differently, lately. I always enjoy spending time with her, but lately... I have spent much time thinking about her when she is not there. Logically, I know what this means, but..." Simon tugged on his freshly-cut hair, a nervous habit from when he was much younger.
Aura did her best to hide her smirk. He did look a lot younger than he used to, especially with this lovesick puppy shtick he had going on. "But you don't want to like the little princess, do you?"
Simon grimaced. "She hates it when you call her that."
Aura laughed. "Actually, no she doesn't. She did when I called her that with malice, when I thought she'd..." Aura's eyes lowered and she cleared her throat. "But now that we're friends again, she loves that I call her that."
"Wait... You're friends?" Simon suddenly felt a lot more nervous.
"Oh, sure, she comes in every two weeks or so. Sometimes weekly. One day the judge even allowed her to take me out to ice cream. Supervised, of course." Aura smiled a sickly sweet smile, and the color drained from Simon's face. "She talks about you a lot, you know." She began mimicking Athena, complete with Athena's signature hands-clasped-under-her-chin. "'Oh, Simon said this the other day!' 'You wouldn't believe the joke Simon told me!' 'Simon showed me some pictures I drew for him that he said you kept for him. What's that? You don't remember having any pictures like that? I wonder where he found them then!' It's all so incredibly cute."
Simon turned toward the door. "Perhaps I should go--"
Aura grabbed the arm of Simon's coat. "Oh calm down. I won't tell her any of this." Aura waited for Simon to decide to continue walking with her, then smiled again. "So what's the deal? She seems head over heels for you, even if she's never said anything, and you're fully admitting right now that you have a bona fide crush on her."
"Well... I... got her a bracelet."
"That's usually a good idea."
"I went to give it to her, and we were alone..."
"I wanted to..." Simon looked away, suddenly incredibly embarrassed. This was a bad idea. You're so incredibly stupid.
Aura must have noticed Simon's face, as her own softened. "You wanted to what? Kiss her? Tell her? Simon, it's normal to be hesitant. Especially someone who has been through what you've been through. Of course all of this is new and scary, but it's not that bad." She felt a little hypocritical saying that, but it was true.
"I got her a bracelet, and it meant a lot to me when I picked it out. But then I began to second guess myself. It has a blackbird on it, and it's very beautiful if I may say so myself, but I felt so stupid standing there with this bracelet. And then she had me put it on her wrist, and I didn't want to let go of her hand... Ugh. This is obnoxious."
"Simon, continue. Please."
Simon sighed and closed his eyes briefly. When he opened them, he began again. "Well, I thanked her for her help. And I told her what the bracelet meant. And then things were quiet, and we stood there together, moonlight streaming into the room and reflecting off her eyes and earring... She was so beautiful--gods this sounds stupid--and then she hugged me, and I panicked."
"I... didn't want her to know."
A flash of understanding crossed Aura's face. "You didn't want her to read your emotions."
Simon nodded. "I separated myself from her, and overcompensated in pretending everything was normal."
Simon sighed. "I don't know if I'm romantically interested in her or if I just want the type of friendship that Justice-Dono and Terran have--"
Aura nearly choked. "Wait. Wait wait wait."
Simon looked confused. "Yes?"
"You want what Apollo and Clay have?" Simon nodded, slowly. Aura burst out laughing and slapped Simon on the back. "Simon... Simon. If you want what Apollo and Clay have... You want what you want with Athena. Are you that thick?"
Simon slowly put two and two together. "...Oh." Now she knows I'm an idiot. "I... I am just not sure if it is appropriate."
It was Aura's turn to be confused. "Appropriate? How? Because of your jobs?"
Simon shook his head. "No, because... well, I knew her when she was very young, and there is an age difference, and you and Metis..."
Aura slapped Simon on the back again, this time knocking him off balance. "Simon, she's an adult, as are you. The little princess is capable of making her own decision in that regard. As for me and Metis... Well, it is a little awkward, I suppose, but I never told Metis how I feel, and Metis wasn't into women. Athena knows all that."
"She... knows...?" This is not getting any better, Simon thought frantically to himself. "That makes this that much more awkward."
Aura sighed as they turned the corner. "Simon. Listen to me. The girl clearly has a crush on you. She's over the moon about you. I don't need that damn talking necklace or her fancy mood matrix shit Metis made for her in order to figure that out. I have a feeling you know it too, you're just being stupid. And I don't think Metis would kill you for dating her daughter, especially not after you almost died for her. ...Simon?"
Simon was silent for a moment, finally stopping in his tracks. Finally, he mumbled, "I don't know. Perhaps it is too risky."
Aura placed a hand on Simon's shoulder, and after a few moments, gave him a hug. Simon was completely taken aback, having not been hugged by his sister in roughly eight years, but he returned the embrace. They stood like that for a few minutes, while Simon awkwardly looked around, wondering what Aura was doing, but appreciating the comfort.
Finally, Aura pulled away. "You see how easy that was for me, Simon? I haven't hugged you in nearly a decade. And yet, I reached out to you, and you returned the gesture. Because for as much shit as I give you, you're my brother, and I love you. I know you love me, as well."
"So you have feelings for Athena. If I had access to any of my accounts right now, I would bet you several hundred dollars she has feelings for you too. So, dammit Simon, don't make the mistake I did." Aura reached under her glasses to wipe away a tear. "Tell her how you feel, and even if somehow I'm completely wrong--though I never am, let's face it--" (Simon wanted to remind Aura that she had thought Athena had killed her mother, but decided against it) "--and she doesn't feel anything for you, at least it's on the table, and you don't have to wonder for the rest of your life what that would have looked like. ...You don't have to spend your nights making up scenarios for how happy you two could have been together and how you should have been there to protect her and..." Aura clearly wasn't talking about Simon and Athena anymore, and was sinking to the ground as she continued to wipe tears away.
Simon caught her before she was able to sit down completely and the two sat, crouched, on the ground while Aura began sobbing uncontrollably. He felt incredibly guilty in that moment, realizing he had come to complain about telling someone he cared about them, when Aura would never have that chance.
After a few minutes, Aura gathered herself, sniffling, and pulled away from Simon. She dusted herself off and coughed a few times, shivering. Simon stood and dusted himself off as well.
"Look, just do it. Okay?"
Simon attempted to smile. "I will, for you."
"Don't do it for me. Do it for you."
The guards came into the courtyard to tell them visitation was over, and Simon and Aura walked back into the compound. Aura gave Simon one last hug and whispered in his ear, "Stop feeling guilty for things you aren't responsible for. Seven years is long enough to do that." As the guards led her away, she said casually, "Give Taka some fish for me." Simon nodded and was led out to the front lobby, where he signed out.
He had a lot to think about.