<–Chapter 10 Chapter 12–>
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.
Banner Artwork Disclaimer: The featured artwork for the banner is entitled White rose I and was created by the very talented Deviant Artist RemusSirion who was gracious enough to grant me permission to use it here. The picture has been slightly altered from the original. All rights belong to the artist, and links are included for both the artist page and the work.
*******MAJOR CONTENT WARNING*******
Consistent and sustained graphic descriptions and mentions of rape/ sexual assault, sexual slavery/bondage, slavery, human trafficking, physical abuse, graphic descriptions of violence, mental abuse, emotional abuse, psychological abuse, body shaming, starvation, torture, forced pregnancy, forced childbirth, miscarriage, forced miscarriage, abortion, and other potential disturbing and triggering topics.
Aeris’s second letter of self-reclamation.
It’s been fifty-five days since last I was used, and I never will be again. My general promises that every day and every day proves it more true. I’m his Aeris and his alone. Brutal men can never have me. I cry and cry when I think about that…how I’ll never again be abused. I’m his. I’m his. I’m forever his. He guards me. He shields me. I’m safe. He tells me the best and most wonderful things like just how cherished I am. He could hurt me so badly, but he hasn’t. He won’t. He’s gentle. He’s careful with me. I live in a palace by the sea under his endless protection.
I can stand on my balcony by myself without being too afraid. I love the smell of sand and sea and the wind that slips through my hair. I’m so high up and I can see so far where the ocean caresses the sky, and that’s never steel (though sometimes it looks it) so I know I’m not back in the slums. I have shoes or slippers to wear if I need to protect my feet from the chill. I never have to walk barefoot on concrete and have it rip up my skin. I’m still in my room within Heaven’s Gate. Still utterly safe from all harm.
I visit my therapist once a week, but the other doctors are now every other. She’s a woman (of course), and I can see her struggle with some of my worst abuse. I feel awful about that, but she says it’s her job to help me with these things. If my general’s there, he’ll hold me tight and promise again that I’m safe. That whatever brutal thing I endured will never happen again. I was hurt very bad for so very long, but now my general has me. They hurt me, but it wasn’t my fault. It was wrong and now I’m safe.
I thought the doctor would read all of my letters, but she just glanced at them while we talked. She says these notes are more for me to write about what I want. I’m also okay to now see her alone, though I don’t mind if my general hears. There’s nothing I’ve told her that he doesn’t know, and she’s glad I have someone like that. She speaks of him fondly, not changing her words whether or not he’s there. She also repeats what he always says: no one’s allowed to hurt me. Then she told me something strange…like the letters, these sessions were mine. I don’t have to tell him anything, but I don’t know why I wouldn’t. He knows everything anyway, but my general also agreed. I told them both I had nothing to hide. My Great General saved me from absolute horror. He picked me up and took me away. He fed me and cleaned me and tended my wounds. He clothed me and let me rest. He allowed me to heal, and he’s never used me, beaten or hurt me at all. He thinks all that’s nothing, but it’s everything. There’s nothing I am he’s not seen.
My general told me he was created to be the best of them all, but when I asked him what he should be best at, he bowed and shook his head. We have that in common…we both were abused to fill another’s need. I’ll kiss his hands because I’m so thankful that he has such wonderful strength. But he was tortured to be so great, and that makes me feel so guilty. I love that he’s stronger than I could imagine, but I hate that he was hurt. He didn’t deserve it…just like he tells me. Neither of us did. But he insists that what happened to him is nothing to what I suffered. I don’t know if I believe that. I could shut my eyes and read the pain that flows beneath his skin. The memory there is deeper than shadows, more hidden than tears in the sea, but I can see it sometimes in his face when he sheds the mask for me.
My general’s beauty can’t be described even if I had all my words. He promises me I’m beautiful, too, that I’m his perfect rose. I hide my face and hold my sobs. Why is he so kind to me? I can’t be like him. I can’t, I can’t! He’s perfect. How could I compare?? He has long silver hair like moonlight and ashes and his emerald eyes brilliantly glow. That’s from the “Mako.” The word called a chill to stir in my veins’ memory. The mists in my mind part just a bit and I can see swirling green, but then it just melts to the sight of his eyes where the light dances around slivered black. Just like a cat’s, but it never grows beyond that sickle state. With regular eyes, the pupils get bigger whenever they need more light, but he doesn’t need it. He carries his own, framed by lashes too long to believe. They’ll tickle my face sometimes when we kiss, and I’ll giggle and squirm for more. I could swim in that sea of silver silk, and I want the fragrance to live in my nostrils. He just chuckles gently whenever I say this and kisses me soft on the brow.
He’s never once hurt me with his strength. It’s only for my protection. I love, love, love when he closes me fully in his powerful arms. I just breathe in his angel’s scent, terrified to exhale. What if I do and this fades with my breath? What if I’m back in Midgar??? Just writing that name makes me want to crawl under my desk and hide. But hiding only made it worse. When they found me, they hurt me more. My general promises never again. I’m here with him now forever. He vows that he has me, and I cling so hard to him and that beautiful truth. He’s pure, solid muscle without any give. How did they make him so strong?
It’s not just protection…it’s not just care, he’ll do anything I ask. There’s nothing I want he won’t give to me, but I only want to be safe. He gave me books, and never grows angry at any words I forget. When he reads to me the rich sound of his voice vibrates through his chest. It makes me skin tremble in the best of all ways as I sit on his lap. Gathered in his arms and bathed in warmth from blankets, embrace, and love. With my eyes shut I can just believe that this is all life can contain. All it will and all it did. My past is erased for brief instants. It always comes back but the present and future will always and ever be this.
If he’s in his office and I come upstairs, he never gets mad or annoyed. I can climb on his lap and nestle right in, and he’ll gently stroke my palms. With the off hand that’s not using the mouse. Then kiss me on the crown. He always has blankets just for me or one of his great, black coats. I can curl against his chest and nap anytime I want. His hair shields me, too, an ice washed cloak that’s silken but never cold. Sometimes he’ll pause in the midst of his work to close me in both his arms. Tell me he has me, call me “his Aeris,” as I drown in his wonderful scent.
It doesn’t matter what he’s doing, he always has time for me. I can watch him work, ask any question, and he’ll always and gently explain. He’ll even let me do some things, though I’m always afraid I’ll mess up. I tilt my head back just to make sure, and his expression is always so kind. If I look too worried, he’ll squeeze my hand and kiss me ever so soft. Anywhere on my face, it doesn’t matter. I love the press of his lips. It’s like with him I was made to be kissed, held, caressed, and cared for.
Everything that touches my skin now is soft. He won’t allow anything rough. It’s sensitive and I bruise so easy. I bruised so easily…before. He’s never bruised me. He’s far too careful to every let that occur. His other hand either holds his phone or navigates the mouse. I can just imagine his thorn sharp eyes darting through several screens. Sometimes he’ll need to release me to type, but his arms always find me again. He’ll squeeze my middle, and if I’m half-sleep I’ll give a squeak of surprise. He’ll put what he’s doing aside for a moment and make sure he didn’t hurt me, but he never has…not even once, and he’ll sigh, relieved, before kissing my brow. His expression is always so mild, though the Mako gleam blazes bright. If I wasn’t there, he’d keep the screen dim, so low I could barely see.
There’s nothing he’s ever said or done to make me believe I’m worthless. He says protecting me gives his life meaning, but didn’t it have that before? He’s the Great General and the Mayor of the Whispers. He has a purpose whereas I have none. But he tells my purpose is to be happy and well, and his job’s to make sure that I am. He looks so sad whenever he says this, and his Mako eyes swirl misty green.
Sometimes my general has to make calls, and I smile as I lean on his chest. My eyes will drift close, and I can just listen to that voice so rich and low. There’s an authority about it he tries to subdue, but it’s impossible to hide. One time, though, he was on the phone and I…interrupted him. I shook so hard I thought I would die. I interrupted my great master! I dared to speak while he was speaking and talking to a man. I froze in the light of his emerald eyes as the pupils turned thin as a blade. This was it. He’d beat me bloody and throw me through a wall.
“Give me a moment,” he said to the phone, and I shook in mindless fear. Men do not wait for people like me. He was going to hurt me so much! I was on his lap and in his arms. There was no chance of escape. The one on the phone would be happy to hear the needed and brutal correction.
“Master,” I cried, “please master I’m sorry! Please don’t punish me. I didn’t mean it…to interrupt.” I covered my face as I shook and sobbed waiting for that first blow. My only hope was that it would kill me because he’s so very strong, but it never fell. It never fell. All I received was a kiss. Then his arm went round my waist as he gently pulled me closer.
“Aeris, my flower. I’ll never hurt you, and you’ve ever right to your questions. You only want knowledge and I have the privilege of helping you, little one. Can it wait a moment until I finish?”
“Yes, master of course it can.” I was still shaking as I leaned against him, my heart a frantic hum. His own was so steady as ever and always, and I shut my eyes blessed with this grace. He wasn’t angry at my offense. I’d been flung through a wall for far less. There was nothing that angered my great general…not when it came to me. No, that’s not right. He does hide pure wrath when he thinks about what I suffered, but that’s not for me. It’s for the ones who hurt me for so very long.
Gentlest fingers threading through mine cut the web of those thoughts. I don’t remember what I asked now or if I remembered it then. His eyes were half veiled but the light glittered through the veil of those glorious lashes. I reached up for him, and he bent to me, cupping my cheek in his hand. His kisses are gentle and yet behind them is a power that shivers my skin. But it’s not frightening. This shiver is different. I’m not really sure what it means. All I know is my insides feel funny when I’m with my Great General. It’s like there’s a fish swimming in my belly, and my heart forgets how to beat. Then it remembers ten times as quick like it’s going to fly out my chest. I open up and my pulse beats hard in the place where I was most hurt. It’s not like pain now, but I don’t understand why his hands on my skin make it “worse.” He calls me his Aeris or his “little flower,” and I feel like I’m in bloom.
He’s never hurt me in any way, but his hands make me feel weaker. It’s a different kind of weakness though, almost a sleepy one. I’m more aware of every soft touch, every brush of his palms on my skin. I’m the one who starts that lip to lip in the new way I so love. He’s careful about that like everything else and always lets me go first. He never forces me to do anything. He’s the gentlest man I’ve ever known. He’ll just sweep me up and when our skins touch, I melt into his embrace. I never want to leave his arms as they close around. I want to live in the breath of silver hair as our kisses spin lovely between. No one could snatch me from utter protection. His hands would crush their bones. I know he can do that and yet with me, he’s always oh so careful.
He always asks to “take care of my back,” and then he more than does. Powerful hands press and massage what pain I have away. They glide up my spine beneath my top, so he can center on this one spot. It doesn’t hurt any more than the others, but he always concentrates there. Silver hair spills over my skin while his palms caress my sides. He doesn’t care about the lines plastered all over my belly, and just that moment I forget, too, as I tilt my head back and up. My life is now so wonderful I’m running out of words. I love, love, love his hands on me. Their strength can never be matched. His grip is firm, but that’s as far as it goes. He’s never ever rough.
No man can use me, not anymore, because I belong to him. But…he doesn’t own me. It’s not the same. I’m just his to love and protect. I know I’m safe now, but men terrify me. I’m so afraid of them. Just the thought of them touching me…no no no no no! I don’t want their brutal hands on my skin. Never EVER again. They beat me and used me. They tore my insides. They broke my fragile fingers. He won’t let them touch me. He won’t let them hurt me. I’m always safe with him, but what if we’re out and I get lost? What if a man finds me?? I have nightmares about that all the time, my general disappearing. We go someplace outside Heaven’s Gate and suddenly he’s gone. Like he stepped away as he did in that dream, and I’m theirs for the taking again. No, please, no! Don’t let them find me! They’ll beat me and use me forever! They’ll punish me for forgetting my place and acting like a person! I don’t want them to hurt me again! I just want to be safe and warm. Please, please, please let me be safe…let me be safe at last.
I have a home, a room, a bed, more clothes than I can count, more blankets than I could ever need. I’ll never be cold again. And jewelry, too, so many gems could blind me with their shine. My favorite are emeralds, though, because they’re like his eyes. They still can’t compete with that lovely light that never stops pouring down. I could wear different rings on every finger and still not repeat for a month. Necklaces, too, and shining headbands, but no bracelets. I don’t want those! They remind me of shackles. They scraped my skin off and that hurt me so much. Both my wrists and ankles have healed, but I still don’t want them around.
My general apologized so much to me after that one incident. That still makes me shake…his apologies, but he says that’s what should occur. If you hurt someone, if you frighten them, you should apologize. I just wish that I could braid my hair though my hands are getting better. I can at least brush and pull it back into a ponytail. I can’t tie the ribbon, but he’ll do that for me and let me practice on his hair. I hate my fumbling fingers, but he’ll just kiss each one. Shake silver forward as I sit on his lap, and let me play with it while he works. It never tangles, and he doesn’t mind. It’s so silken and smells so good.
It’s odd to see women clothed and not chained on our walks around his town. Even though that’s the way it should be, because no one is forced to be bare. No one’s allowed to beat them or use them or ever hurt them at all. And…they all know it. They always have. It’s both illegal and wrong. Even the ones who are near my size walk around unafraid. I try not to think of what would’ve happen if they’d been…there with me. I try not to think of the ones who still are, while I sit her so safe and so warm…
My general tells me that it could be darkest night and no one would harm me or them. If that ever happened there’d be “repercussions,” which is the same thing as punishment. People are punished for doing bad things not for being weak. I shook at that because then I feared that one day I would do something wrong! What if I broke a rule or law and had to face consequences?! My Great General lifted my chin and assured me that’d never occur. There was never anything I could that would warrant such an action. I tried to imagine myself in the Whispers during the later eve, but I started to shake so badly had I been standing I would’ve passed out. If a man appeared, he could just grab me and use me as much as he wished! He’d rip my fine clothes and punish me for daring to dress like a person. I’m still so afraid, but I’m trying to remember that that’s no longer my life. If one of them tried that, I could scream and my Great General would come. He’ll never let anyone hurt me again. What I lived through was “abomination,” and when he says that, his eyes burn the night.
It’s summer right now, next will be autumn then my general says winter is next. He found me in spring, and I hide my face against his unyielding form. I know about winter. I looked it up. It’s the coldest season of all. I saw pictures of snow. It looks like his skin, but my general’s always warm. I don’t want to be cold! Never again, but he promises I never will. I won’t ever have to leave Heaven’s Gate if I don’t want to face the chill. He promises me that I’ll have warm clothes, but the cold could still creep cruelly through. He won’t lie to me and says this is so. It could cut across exposed skin, but in Heaven’s Gate it’ll always be warm. I’ll never be cold in my home.
Spring is a time of new beginnings, and he tells me this one is forever. Forever. That means beyond all years, all time ‘til eternity’s end. Longer than I was ever abused. This future one day will best that. It won’t ever end, this beautiful life. It’s all I’ll ever now know. These are the times I do truly wonder if he was my angel of death.
Sometimes I’ll only half-sleep on his lap lulled by his scent and his voice. When he talks on the phone, that low timbred purr vibrates my skin through his chest. I love it more than anything when he gently rubs my hands. If I squirm too much, though, when he’s typing or talking, he becomes instantly…ready. He’ll stop what he’s doing, mid-sentence or word, and I can’t help but stare with wide eyes. He’ll glance down at me with an assuring smile, though it’s always slightly strained. If he’s on the phone he’ll apologize, then lay his lips to my brow. If he’s typing, he’ll gently murmur, “So playful, my little rose.” I don’t want to ever be an annoyance or ever force him to use me. No, no, never that! Though he tells me I couldn’t, I don’t want to test that truth. But he’s nothing like those brutal men…he’s nothing like them at all.
I’m so grateful for that, because he could fully destroy my fragile insides. Terribly, horribly, worse than the others, but…he never will. He’s nothing like that, even though he wants me all the time… He’s always so ready when I’m on his lap, especially when I’m facing front. If I lean forward, he gets readier. I’m so glad, he’ll never just take me. I…can feel how enormous it is. It’s the biggest one I’ve ever felt, and it’s not even out of his pants! How much he could hurt me if he wanted to. How badly he’d rip me apart… I’ve tried to thank him for not using me, but it’s the one thing he won’t let me do. He says it’s an abomination, something that should never have been, but I’m so grateful…he has to know, how grateful I am he won’t.
So, it doesn’t matter how ruffled and short any of my skirts are. He doesn’t care if I’m just in a shirt or only wrapped in a blanket. I look back and up to always make sure, at his lovely, angelic face. What I see there always assures me I’ll never be forced again. All other men were ruled by…that part, and they used it to hurt me.
I never want my general to hit me, though he promises he never will. I…do believe him, but I’m still so afraid one day I’ll do something wrong. He also says this will never happen, but what if he doesn’t know? What if there’s something he doesn’t realize will enrage him and I do it one day?? I know he vows he’ll never hurt me and from the first day to this he hasn’t, but I was hurt and abused for so long, much longer than fifty-five days. No one will ever hurt me again. I’m here in Heaven’s Gate. They can’t find me. They can’t use me. It won’t be allowed. No man can touch me ever again unless I give him permission. This stands for even my Great General. I can give him this command.
My general promises all the men living who hurt me will have their due. Then something dark fills his emerald eyes. It’s like that mist we both carry, but he doesn’t want to look through his own. He shuts them fast whenever that gathers to dispel it across the light, but I reach for it because it’s a promise that what happened to me wasn’t right. I bury myself in his embrace at that with uncontrollable sobs. I don’t deserve this! I don’t deserve him and everything he’s done for me, but he strokes my cheek and kisses my crown, vehemently denying. I deserve it all: the clothing and jewels, my beautiful room and bed. I deserve him and Heaven’s Gate. Somehow, he thinks he owes me.
When I’m in his arms so safe and warm, I sob because those days are dead. I’m…truly safe, and it doesn’t matter how vulnerable and naked I am. I’m not vulnerable, because I have him. They can’t ever hurt me again. I get to live here in paradise with my wonderful general. I don’t care how black his one wing is, he’s an angel of light to me.
Nothing is better than falling asleep wrapped in the strength of such vows. My Great General protects me now. He completely cares for me, but he also makes sure I can care for myself. He never wants me to feel helpless, but there’s nothing I could want or need that he’d fail to provide.
I…can actually write this now and not to collapse from fear. I’ll never be raped or beaten again like I was for a hundred years. I’ll never be forced to give birth to children I’ll never hold or see. I’ll never be called “useless” again because I’ll never be used. I don’t have to imagine strong arms around me, large hands locked at my belly. I don’t have to imagine because it came true. I’m forever safe with my Great General. I’m finally safe at last.
<–Chapter 10 Chapter 12–>