Chapter 14 – Forget Me Not

<<–Preamble/Prelude
<–Chapter 13                                                                                                Chapter 15–>

Disclaimer: Final Fantasy VII, its characters, and settings are all property of Square Enix so I can take no credit nor claim any ownership of that. I do take some credit for the story’s plot.
Artwork Disclaimer: The below picture is located here. It was neither created by nor does it belong to me.
Author’s Note: It’s been a while since I’ve given you a music recommendation.  This one is for after the break (marked by this symbol * if you were wondering), and it adds a poignant layer to an already bittersweet part.  Sarah McLachlan’s Full of Grace. Listen while you read if you wish and let me know if you think it fits, and if you do think it fits, you might enjoy the video slideshow I made of it found here.
“Somewhere inside of me there will always be the person I am tonight.”
-F. Scott Fitzgerald “Tender Is the Night”
“Remember, I’ll never leave you
If you will only
Remember me…”
-Josh Groban, Troy “Remember Me”

Chapter 14 - Forget Me Not

Every day Sephiroth woke in heaven, though he never slept. Aeris lived in his arms from night until dawn, from dreams until waking joy. He wondered as she kissed him with the fervor of prayer what he’d done to deserve this grace.

“I forgive you,” she’d tell him often of a morn, knowing the words he so desperately needed. The tormenting demon would cringe from the blow, then sink its claws even deeper.

“I know you do, Aeris.” He’d lay lips to her brow before rising to make her breakfast. It was domestic and simple and he enjoyed it far better than entrails and blackened blood.

Some days he’d tie his moon-washed hair into a long queue trailing. Others he’d bind bright braided forelocks back behind his crown. Sometimes he’d twist it in complex four parts, fingers flying down moonlit silk. Aeris would watch hardly able to follow, as he smiled to her reaction. She asked that her own be done in this way, and the general gladly obliged that wish and enhanced it by showing her how.

If the weather were fair, he’d open the windows, and she did so even if not. Shutting her eyes to the wisp of the rain on the sand and the sea and the stones. So long as no thunder troubled the sky the flower maid was at peace. By the window she’d sip her coffee or tea depending on what he had made. In the morning it varied or might just be both, and she found she would want what he’d brewed. The lavender or the rosy tea or coffee with hints of nutmeg.

She always insisted on cleaning up. “It’s only fair,” Aeris said to his frown. “If you cook then I should clean.”

“If you insist, little flower.”

“I do, Sephiroth. I’ll forget how to cook for myself…” Her gaze followed the long braid flung over his shoulder as a smile lifted her lips. “You’re spoiling me, you know. What will I do…when you’re gone?” She turned away as he caught her face.

“You took care of yourself for so very long, Aeris, and never once needed me.”

“I needed you that night in Midgar, and I needed you to escape.”

He traced the shape of her lips with his thumb. “I was…of use to you, little one, and glad that I could be.”

“You are so much more to me than just ‘use.’” She caught his other hand in her own. “I would never ‘use’ you, Sephiroth,” she told him, eyes shining in morning’s light. He lowered his face and kissed her brow before tasting the tea from her lips.

The flower girl put away her old brown dress, though the white one she often wore. The pink dwelled in both of their silences that never touched nor crossed. She bought other dresses of various hues that fulfilled the sea’s approval. Whatever she wore awoke summer in her eyes whether playful early or seasoned green. Sephiroth still wore black, but hung up his coat in exchange for button up shirts. Just one was white and tried to match his long hair’s pristine hue. It made him envision an endless blood dance where he couldn’t avoid the drops. Blooming red vision shut his eyes as his flower whispered his name, but that made it worse for white stained to pink, and his teeth ground against the memory. The long sleeves caught her teasing as she unbuttoned the cuffs and wondered again how he wasn’t too warm. Her laughter then stopped like a steel dammed brook. Beneath the fabric the bracers dwelled, and her face fell as she glared up.

“You’re always bound.”

“I’m meant to be, Aeris. The cold steel will ever remind me-”

“No one should be reminded of that.” It was sharp snapped as her voice cracked in pain.

Sephiroth smoothed his cuff and held her close as they stood on the front porch. Sea breeze and light had beckoned her there, and their hair lifted in the swell. Aeris clenched her fists and fought the words that wanted to flow from her lips. Her guardian laid his hand between the blades of her shoulders, and she banished her tears for his sake.

Shoes rarely graced the flower girl’s feet now that she was home, and fewer things gave her greater joy than walking the sands unshod. Sometimes with Sephiroth by her side, a shadow to undying light. No monsters came creeping, not in the day, especially since he was near. The greatest “danger” Aeris faced was growing too weary from walking too far, but even were she alone and the strand stretched long, it was almost a promise that he would appear. Though Aeris might say for he loved the sweet words, “Sephiroth, will you carry me home?” The Cetra need never ask.

“Nothing would please me more, little flower.” And he’d lift her into his arms. Aeris would cover his cheek in kisses til he turned to catch her lips. Then she would cling with pleading, muted prayers that this not fade away.

When evening descended the general would often seek the monsters that lurked beyond town. Through the mountains and sea strand Sephiroth hunted where the Whispers faded to silence. He would dress in his leather and armor once more and call the Masamune to hand. It was still like an old friend for he could not blame it for the horrors he had wrought. Every monster he killed made Aeris safer as he caught his face in the sheen of the blade. It has only one use…and that is to kill. Maybe that, too, is my purpose. I’m killing right now…to protect her, but death will always be death. That’s all I am, a bloody sword. That’s all I’ll ever be good for.

Whenever he hunted he went in between to seek the beast that had cast him out. Through the grey world he searched, but the black sun showed nothing, and the white sky revealed even less. If Sephiroth remained still, if he were as silent as his marble skin’s statuesque pale, then beneath his feet that world echoed murmur of fell things moving below. The infinite scratching assailed his ears, but it was brief like a scream cut short.

Aeris always held to his vow. “I promise I will return.” And the kiss that lingered on her lips sealed those words within. Night was when monsters were the most active, though she never saw or sensed any near. She’d visit her neighbors that lived within the separated tenement above. It had been turned into three, and the children there had their families all intact. Their parents were curious about the maid, but never recalled her guardian. She sipped their tea (and sometimes wine) and wondered if he had made them forget.

But there was one thing that lay unforgotten at night as she dwelled in his arms. When their breath and their hearts matched the sigh of the sea and kisses seared her skin without burn. When he read to her and the words, “Let us go…” made her cling tight to his neck. When each wave marked time, and she wanted the ocean to stop and give it back. When the dawn was her rival when once she had pleaded to see just a hint of that light.

When she saw him…by the window in a rose drenched eve, and he had stood there for hours. His great leather coat swept the back of his knees and his pauldrons mocked dying day. His boots drank the darkness that would soon swallow all with only starlight and moon for reprieve. Silver hair lifted but slight to the breeze as to only acknowledge its brush. The window was his heartless master trapping that emerald gaze, as he paced back and forth tethered to the pull that would not let him escape. She could bask in light and sea song from her perch, but he trudged in sorrow that tore his heart’s threads.

Sometimes his name from innocent lips would pull Sephiroth away. His pupils so slim would ever so soften to the sight of his little rose. But not this night, Aeris thought as she emerged from the den reading room. This night he is dressed as if he must hunt. He never struggles like this in those clothes. He just…goes to kill though there is no joy, but right now he is killing himself.

Swallowing, the flower girl breathed deep and drew strength from the Planet below. Child…it called, but she gave no answer and the world murmured but did not now sing. His boots were silent where her bare feet would creek, each step shooting pain through her chest. Back and forth, his eyes ever north and each motion in agony’s grace. It was like watching a dancer upon shattered glass, raw and bleeding and torn, but the beauty of each step could no more be denied than the blood that seeped slow from cut feet. His heart is in tatters and I can do nothing…nothing but let him go.

“Sephiroth?”

The wince that lifted those taut, solid shoulders could barely be registered. Tearing his gaze and heart more in the process, the once general faced the maid. His gloved hand grazed the window, the fingers due north as Aeris slowly approached. He awaited her nearness, needing it now before he could dare to speak. This tiny flower whose forgiveness trumped reason, whose trust defied all odds. She was clutching her book, her ever companion close to her soft chest. His lids lowered to hide it, what couldn’t be thought, but what came to his mind without prompting. I want her beneath me…crying my name with the sea and the stars for witness. It couldn’t be spoken. It couldn’t be asked. You’re a monster. You’re filth. You’re lower than worms, and she is not for you.

“It’s time…isn’t it?” Aeris blinked up, squeezing her book ever tighter.

Her voice had grown small for how close she was, and it took all that he had to say, “…yes.”

The Cetra’s lips parted. Though the brief noise was caught, he still heard the echo. Slowly, she placed the book on the cushions, but the quake of her hand betrayed her. “I…I knew this day would come…I just…” Sephiroth fell to his knees so swift she was startled, taking her hands into his. The great general was gone. Replaced by him…but that only made him greater.

“Why are you crying, little flower?” She looked at him sharply for it was unrealized as dusk lit the dew. “This should be a happy time for you. You’ll be rid of me. You’ll be quit of your killer. Your life can begin anew.”

She pressed her cheek against his knuckles as he knelt there in silence. “Do you think I suffer, Sephiroth, when I look at you? Do you think you cause me pain?”

“I think you’re kind, my little flower, and give even your murderer grace.” He lowered his head in the splendor of silver so she could see the part in between. “My heart bleeds from within when I look at you…how can yours not do the same?”

“You really don’t remember,” she whispered searching his face rife with light.

The gleam grew pale in his confusion. “I remember far too much, Aeris, to ever truly forget.”

“You protected me before. In Midgar…in the labs…in that horror from so long ago.” She squeezed his hands so hard that hers hurt, and his lips parted, but all words were lost. “When you told me how you were beaten, but you didn’t remember why. I was the reason. It was because you tried to stop them from hurting me.”

Sephiroth drew back from her, face stricken and paled by the Mako burning bright. Then rising quickly he returned to the window looking now back through the past. The memories were jagged and scuttled like rats through the dark recesses of his mind for some words carry fire to burn even a tongue that could bear the fiercest flame.

“We were…we were just children. Your mother….she was still alive…” It was like it trickled from some unknown source, the knowledge that had been so lost.

“They tried to hurt me.” She reached for his hands as he jerked his head down in shock. “They often succeeded.” Aeris couldn’t help the shiver just as he couldn’t help pulling her close. “But sometimes you stood in their way. You gave me reprieve and then I could hide from the needles and testing and pain. I had track marks all over my arms, but the Planet…it took them away.”

“The corruption healed mine.” He touched her soft cheek. “Those memories died when you did, Aeris. I wish I still had that. I wish I remembered I was your protector even if it did no good.”

“It did everything…” she told him. “I escaped, Sephiroth…because of you, but you never did, not even now after a hundred years. That prison…it still cages your heart. You have to let it go.”

He turned away and shut his eyes, but the light limned his thin, pale lids. “My heart’s made for war and death, little flower.”

“All hearts were made for love.” Beyond the sea, beyond the wind it rang clear through to the Planet. “Despite what else might be in them. Love is the default.”

“Hate has eaten my heart, little one.”

She laid her ear to his chest. “Then what do I hear beneath the pale?”

“The remnants of once greatness.”

“That’s not true, Sephiroth.”

The general shook his head in vehemence. “A monster shouldn’t love a rose. It…shouldn’t be allowed.” His damning words were desperate to deny as he closed her in his arms so Aeris swam in silken scent that tumbled from his hair.

“You said once you didn’t need light to see, but that’s not true either. You just…carry your own, and yet you can’t see what’s right before.”

“I had this light when I was the darkness.”

“You know it’s not the same.” She wet her lips where salt dry stripped, and he ignored the kiss that called. “It all comes full circle, Sephiroth, and you’re my protector again.”

“Oh Aeris.” The beckon spoke his name and he turned to the mauve seam of eve. “You don’t need me now. You don’t need me here. You’re safe in this place, little flower.”

“Just because I’m safe it doesn’t mean I don’t need you.” Her hands squeezed to fist against his coat straps as she tried not to think of tomorrow.

“What could you possibly need me for?” he asked, and she sobbed into his chest. It was too much to stand, his utter self-loathing, as Sephiroth tilted his head confused. “You’re safe in the Whispers, little flower, in your pretty seaside house. No one here will ever hurt you. You never need to be afraid again.”

“I’m safe because I’m with you…held tight in your arms.” She pulled herself closer laying her head to skin that made winter warm. The heart so called beat hard in her ear, its brokenness echoing through her bones.

“I’m the only murderer here, Aeris,” he told her, “and when I’m gone, there will be no more.”

“You said you would leave me some place safe. The safest I’ve been has been with you.”

“That was true once.” He cupped her cheek. “But it isn’t anymore.”

“It’ll always be true, Sephiroth.” The wind chilled her skin so gooseflesh grew taut, and the breeze caressed moonlight hair. “What will you do…?” He covered her shiver with his leather clad arms. “When you’ve found her…and she’s forgiven you?”

“You have that hope, Aeris?” For he carried none. “You have that hope she will? I have to find her…find where she lays so I can pay my respects. I owe her my accursed life. For that she deserves an apology…” His low voice died flat, but the north loosed the tether so he could give her emerald then. It was like diving into a well of light, but at the bottom was only despair.

“She does forgive you,” Aeris said softly. “I know it’s true. You…don’t have to go.” She bit her lip, and Sephiroth bowed his head. “Beneath the lights it’s cold and bare, but here, there’s-”

“You and summer?” He slid his arms fully around her as the night awoke infinite stars. The general sighed, his gaze pulled again, tied between fate and desire. “I don’t deserve the paradise of holding you in my arms. My due is what waits in the north.”

Aeris laid her cheek against his chest, squeezing her eyes til the darkness burst. “I’m so selfish…and I’m so sorry. I know what you have to do. I didn’t forget you promised, and you can’t break a vow to the dead.” She lifted her face and he cupped her chin, hating his flower in grief. The words were written in his eyes. Don’t apologize to me, and if turmoil didn’t hold her, Aeris would’ve smiled to his thoughts laid so plain.

“What else do they have but that, little flower? What else can the living give?”

“The dead can wait forever, but she’s waited long enough. You have to resolve your past before you find your future, but…”   She slid slim fingers across his skin. “What will that future be?”

“I have to hunt the darkness that lurks in between. The one that ripped me from your side.” His face froze in glower as Mako brushed his cheeks, shadowed only by his lashes. “I’ll disappear there. My last obligation to rid the world of the echo in my blood.”

Aeris turned into the black leather so warmed by his white skin. The sob tried to ravage her throat again, but the flower girl forced it back down. “You don’t have to live in the shadow of that pain. This world has space enough for you.”

“No, little one, I haunt this world’s memory. It need not suffer my presence.”

“You’re haunted, Sephiroth…” She traced the pale against the straps. “Like the ghosts you skin so shames. This world ‘suffers’ you as much as I.” You can smell my skin and hear my heart, but you can’t tell what it contains? “Come back to me…” It was less than a whisper near lost in the sea. “When you find what you seek. Don’t disappear into darkness alone.”

He buried his fingers beneath her braid where the ribbon trailed down on his hand. Tilting his head, he saw himself in her eyes, but only his horror appeared in cut light.

“You want me to come back…to live here…in this beautiful place…with you?” It was absurd and he was incredulous, but she couldn’t be insincere.

“I want that more than anything, Sephiroth. More than freedom or rain or light.”

“Oh, little rose.” He slid his palm across her neck, and her spine arced as she gasped. Jade tried to smolder, but he forced it to quell as it fed that strange fire within. “How can that be? I’m the monster that took your life. I’m the horror that slinks through the world’s blackest dreams, the foulness that taints its blood. I’m imminent darkness, black winged death…”

“You’re not that anymore!”

“Some things can never change, Aeris.”

“You’re right,” she conceded giving him that. “The past is what it is, but the future can always be better.”

“It will be better I promise. You deserve so much better than me.” He bowed his head as his fingers found the place upon her back. “And memory can be the worst of wounds…I’m so sorry, little flower. I didn’t mean for this to be…”

“You didn’t mean for what?”

“For me…” he whispered and emerald bled shame, “to fall in love with you…”

He sealed his lids as her soft voice wove whispers over his heart. Aeris slipped her arms around his neck to shock that released Mako green. Where was her horror? Where was revulsion? Neither pressed against his lips. Neither dwelled in her throat when his tongue danced with hers. There was none in the curve of her spine. She stood on her toes in moonlit silk, and what she murmured called elation and pain. This flower had stepped between the cracks in his heart and found what he was inside. She was not frightened. She was not disgusted. It only drew her in. Wrapped in his arms and swathed in his hair, she knew silver was better than gold. From the haze above the moon emerged and the general watched beauty blossom in cold. By bearing this witness, Mako gleam also held her before Sephiroth shifted his gaze.

“This is the light you should be bathed in.” He passed a hand along her braid where the moon coiled within. “Not this horror from my eyes.” He cupped her cheek, curling his fingers on the softness of her skin. “Someday soon,” he forced himself say, “one will come who’ll be worthy of your love. Forget me.”

Her tears renewed in the depths of the sob. “How could you ever ask that? How could I ever forget?”

“Forget me, Aeris.” He clutched her arms desperately, but kept so careful with his strength. “I’m less than nothing. I’m your murderer…” His eyes turned neon as downtown lights flooding the room like the tide. Let her forget me. Let her forget…let her be happy here. He didn’t know whom he asked for prayer is futile coming from one so accursed.

“No…” She shook her head, voice cracked by tears. “And that won’t work on me.”

His shoulders slumped beneath the armor. “My little flower,” he begged, “please forget me. I don’t deserve to be a memory…” She stood on her toes, kissing the spot right over his ailing heart, and Sephiroth knew then that he had failed. He searched her face and tried to make sense of what couldn’t be shining there. “You’ve been so lonely for so very long you’ve become infatuated with your murderer.”

“I’m not infatuated with my murderer,” she told him. “I’m in love with my protector.”

“No.” He shook his head harder, spinning silver against her face. “You deserve so much better than your murderer’s filthy touch.” His hands suddenly stiffened, but Aeris clung to them, leading his palms down her sides. Without his bidding they locked around the small waist as the general stared in utter shock.

“Your touch isn’t filthy, Sephiroth.” She glared up, wavering between anger and pain. “It’s…more than divine, and you are not my murderer. You’re not a monster. How many times must I tell you that?”

“A thousand. A million. I just can’t believe…why are you kind to me, Aeris? How can you forgive me? Why do you love me?” He couldn’t say any more. His lips were parted, but no words would come. He had nothing within him to comprehend what was written on her face, but he had to cup it with one palm, his unblinking light ringing soft. “What did I do to deserve this?”

“You really can’t see it,” she whispered. “You really don’t know. You’re blinded by your guilt.” She didn’t know how else to show him his touch had become the most wonderful thing in the world. Even the Planet so ancient below had no answer to give. It could only spill what increased through its dear daughter’s soul as it bled through to whom she adored.

Sephiroth pulled her tight to his embrace, half-lidded eyes no match for the light. She was so stubborn and innocent, so petulant and brave. She’d follow me north if I allowed. He hid the horror of that with a tentative mask and bent to kiss her brow. “You’ll remember me no matter what I do, and suffer in its embrace. Have you forgotten what I did to you, Aeris? Have you hidden the memory that lives in your bones?”

“I’ll never suffer for your memory, Sephiroth.” But she buried her face in the folds of his coat as he gently rubbed her back.

Being allowed to touch her…being allowed to hold her. It will become a faded dream. I don’t want it to go away. I don’t want to lose this…the memory. Memories are all I have, and she is the only one I will cherish. But his other obligation, it called so loud and would torture him until he answered.

She wanted the kiss and he could no longer deny her though it was flavored with summer tears. He held her close as if he could somehow bind her shape to his skin. Her soft limbs would linger around his neck, the brush of her braid beneath his fingers. The blush of her lips would color his own and her moan would be trapped in his throat.

Hiding her face in a fold of his coat, Aeris breathed deep of his wonderful scent. She wanted it to live within her nostrils so every breath would smell like him. Around her his arms tightened, and the Cetra clenched her teeth. Time would not freeze no matter how hard she prayed. The soft waves proved this cruelty, but she tightened her fists on the leather and resolved to hold on for as long as she could. Aeris couldn’t imagine him ripping her away. That would pain him as much as her, but he would call her attention with that low, tortured voice, and his great eyes would bleed their plea.

“Stay with me…for one more night.” She spilled her own before he could, and Aeris felt the sigh lift his chest.

“I can’t do that, little flower.”

“Why not?”

Because it’s all I want in this world. Mother, have mercy…it’s all I want. “If I do,” he told her lifting her face, “I won’t be able to leave you in the morning.” A night breeze tumbled his hair against leather and metal, but gently spilled it against her skin. “I won’t be able to bear a day that’s not wholly full of you.” Her lips were so pink from their embrace, it took the general’s full will not to re-taste them. “If I leave now, I can always remember I was with you in the light…but night is for monsters and makes me realize I deserve to be without you.”

“I’ll come looking for you!” Aeris exclaimed, her voice tinted with wild.

“No, little one.” It was hushed horrified. “You mustn’t ever do that.”

“Why mustn’t I?”

Sephiroth’s heart surged to her note of stubbornness but greater fear for her tamped it down. “Because where I’m going neither roses nor lilies can bloom.” He covered one half of her face with his palm so Aeris answered it with her own. His hands were so much larger. His skin was so much thicker, but no calluses scratched tender flesh. “You’re like the moth that dreams of the fire, the flower that pleads for the frost, but I’m not the light you should be seeking for petals will wither in ice.” He fought gravity to lift his lips, but this did nothing to shake his grief. “Dearest child-”

“I’m not a child,” she interjected sick of sorrow, full of despair and wondering how he bore it for so long.

“You’re the Planet’s child,” he told her with the calm she could no more hold.

“So are you,” Aeris insisted.

“I’m the Planet’s curse.”

She shook her head and squeezed his hand, angry now that nothing she said could ever assuage his guilt. “You’re just calling me ‘child’ so you can forget, so you can leave without a qualm.”

“You know that’s not true.” He hid his pain at the accusation, but Aeris had learned to look for such now, and she kissed his palm to take it back. “How could I forget you?” Sephiroth slid his blessed hand beneath her chin. “You’ve forgiven me. My soul is blacker than star gone skies, but your memory will be my light.” He loved her in a profoundly sad and broken way, but that made it no less true.

As if blown by the wind, he stepped once away, and Aeris half-stumbled with partial cry. The once general clenched his fists so hard that had he long nails they would’ve cut through his flesh. Everything in him told him to go back, to wrap this innocent in his arms, to sweep her up and never stop kissing her, to satisfy both their desires…but if he touched her again, he’d hold her forever, and obligation would flay his soul.

“You know when you’re gone night will come to my heart. It will never be bright again.”

“No, little one. Don’t ever say that,” he pled as pale tears washed her face. “You have so much light to give, and only a little can break the foulest darkness.”

“Please,” she whispered and the Planet beneath wailed like an echoing banshee loud. She wanted to clap her hands to her ears, but his voice stilled the shattering cry.

“No, Aeris, please don’t do that. Don’t ever beg for me.”

“I-I want to give you something.” Sephiroth slightly cocked his head with one brow lifted high. Aeris fought tremble just looking at him, but it now held nothing of fear. He was the great general, yet he was still him. Purpose made all of the difference. She lifted one hand and caught the pink ribbon, and two fingers was all that it took. Her soft hair came spilling around her small frame and a booted foot took a step closer. Mako seared the half of his lids that were lowered and drowned her in jaded flame. He wanted it running over his hands, tangling between his fingers. In imagination chestnut swirled with silver against her fragrant flesh. Aeris looked down at the scrap in her hand then tilted her face back and up. He was right there before her, and she could melt in his arms, but they both wanted that too much.

“When…when I died,” she began to his quick frozen face, “my friends tied ribbons around their arms. They did so in remembrance of me…as if they could forget.” The thought brought poignant song through her breast, the Planet harmonizing sweet lament. She bit her lip to his utter blank face, seeing through cracks what roiled behind. “W-Will you allow me?”

Sephiroth sank slowly to his knees as if pulled down by the earth and bowed his brow to hers. “You honor me, Aeris,” he whispered in sliding his left arm from his coat. “Beyond what a general’s glory could hold.”

And though her vision was faded from lingering tears, she still managed to tie it around. There was no depression beneath pale skin for where the knot was laid. Like sculpted marble completely solid to her slim fingers tracing down. Sephiroth peered at the pink scrap of past before slipping his coat back into place. Wrapping his other arm around her waist, he called a squeak with his lips hot to hers. He stood without effort, bringing her up to his height and tasted her tongue like the water of life. Through his lids he saw the pulsing blood, but his mind’s eye held sweeter memory.

A blast of cold shattered them both from this moment, the breeze instantly gentle again. Each slipped from each other, and Aeris cupped his face as he held her up with his right arm. A deep heavy sigh bowed the general’s head when he put the flower girl down. The second step away was harder than the first as he trailed her side in soft brush. She held her dress in now sore fists from squeezing her hands too tight. He seemed to be fading in night’s new grown shadows, and there was nothing to stop what was next.

“I can’t watch you go, but I won’t look away. Please don’t leave while I can see.”

“I won’t, little flower. I promise you that.”

But then she blinked and he slipped without sound between the seams of this world. If sound could call anguish, the Whispers would fall to the brief cry from the depths of her throat. Stumbling to that space and the air that had filled with vanilla and frost without cold. She stopped her lips from shaping his name, pressing her palm to the kiss that still warmed. Aeris kept blinking and fervently prayed that each one would bring him back, but in her beautiful house by the whispering sea, he was forever gone. The sight that she’d dreaded had grown so dear, and she would never see it again. The flower girl fell back and the cushions caught her as the stars pricked their tears on the window.

Please, she prayed, please, please, please, but the Planet grieved along with its daughter. Chastising and keening and wondering why she’d let her protector go. I had no choice. I couldn’t keep him from the need of his very soul. Dearest friend, how can you be so cruel to what must be your saddest child? She held to the stars that shimmered in tears knowing this at least they could share. They sky is the sky and he gave that to me. When I look up, I’ll pray he can see it.

That night in her bed so empty and large, she clung to one of his shirts. It smelled just like him, though she hated the tears that would sully the memory’s scent. Sleep came to take her by sealing her eyes against the onslaught of empty grief, and her final thought was she’d give up her life to hear “little flower” so low just once more.

*

It was cold, but that never touched his heat. It was white but his skin burned paler. The Icicle Inn shadowed in snow that could not hide the northern lights. Behind the clear sky, green called to green, and the glow laid a path through the heavens. But right now Sephiroth did not care as he looked at the room so stark. It was fine enough for what was missing could not be found in a thousand steps. The tears in his heart had been sutured with her, so he had to hold her there. Everything else could bleed through the rents, but love, it would remain.

His awareness was drawn to the taut on his arm, the ribbon that circled his muscle, and that reminded the general of something else, another gift he had been given. Reaching into an inner pocket, Sephiroth drew the dead lily forth. Mako light bathed it as his sight traced the petals so withered and torn, but then his eyes opened wide to the white for the flower forget its long death. Before him it opened, the petals grew whole, and cloying scent made his lips part. I’m the bearer of death. She’s the bringer of life. This is my flower’s doing…this lily to bloom in my curséd hand. He held to it even on the bed, letting his gleam wash the blossom. Not even his unholy light stemmed its blooming, so saddest smile lifted his lips.

He never meant to sleep for sleep called the darkness that dwelled behind his eyes. There would be nightmares. There would be vengeance from all of those he had wronged. His true destiny was always darkness, not this innocent and her light. But there was the chance…the very slim chance that he would dream about her. With Aeris, he’d been as close to happy as he could ever be, and he loved her with every piece of his shattered, broken heart. It was worth it for horror, for torture, for pain to take that very slim hope. Though Sephiroth would never be allowed to forget the scrape of cold steel against living bone, and when he shut his eyes, that day’s tears spilled across his face.

End Part I
The General and the Rose


Author’s Second Note: I’m sure many of you really hate me right now.  I accept that as my due.  Remember what his two tasks were: see Aeris safe and find his true mother’s grave.  Also remember there’s an entire second part with eleven chapters, so do not give in to despair…at least not yet.  Part II begins next week with Chapter 15 Moonlight and Ashes.  I thank you all, old readers and new ones for your likes, comments, and support!

<–Chapter 13                                                                                                Chapter 15–>

8 thoughts on “Chapter 14 – Forget Me Not

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