<–Chapter 11 Chapter 13–>
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.
CHAPTER ARTWORK DISCLAIMER: THE FEATURED ARTWORK FOR THIS CHAPTER IS ENTITLED aerith AND WAS CREATED BY THE Extraordinarily talented hatori0322. THE PICTURE HAS BEEN SLIGHTLY ALTERED IN APPEARANCE AND TO INCLUDE THE CHAPTER NUMBER AND TITLE. ALL RIGHTS BELONG TO THE ARTIST. LINKS ARE INCLUDED FOR BOTH THE ARTIST’S 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 must make her biggest decision since her rescue two months ago.
Sephiroth wandered around the kitchen with his phone couched in his right hand. Heavy boots made no sound on the floor though his hair whispered against his coat. He could silence that, too, if he so wished, but there was no need for stealth now. During his hunt, he’d thought of his rose and how she slept safe and secure. He did not smile to not crack the mask, but emerald filled the darkest corners. No monster that evening could stand a chance against a righteous protector’s wrath, and the Great General only wished it was Midgar that burned within his sight. Not yet, the reckoning will come at its proper time.
Returning as the seam of dawn spilled its light along the sky’s edge, Sephiroth landed and tossed his hair back, his wing folded to shiver away. A few feathers floated on lifting breeze and he followed them as they twirled. Somehow the vestiges of his horror didn’t trouble the fallen now. At least not as much, the general pondered while black pinions swirled away. Peering now at his house resplendent, he imagined Aeris again in his arms. Her slender limbs around his neck, her head upon his shoulder. She’d beg him to fly as he faced the sea, and his wing would appear just for her. The sky would not stall him even at night where the stars would grant him a reprieve. They did not forgive him and they never would but with her he could dwell in their midst. Would she be frightened? Would she be elated? Or would they combine into something much more?
He looked at the Masamune, blade now clean in his hand. It never would hold onto blood. The general closed his eyes to that thought for he had seen it so painted. It just took a flick to scatter dark rain upon stone or sea or sand. He wanted to lay the sword at her feet and ask his flower for forgiveness, but terror would fill her to fall to her knees, begging him for mercy. Sephiroth scoffed in utter disgust as the sands barely held his boot prints. It was drier up here and the wind swept away any signs of a once angel’s presence. Perhaps not once, he thought as he climbed the steps to the veranda. To her I am an “angel of light.” Innocence can make anything true…
After his customary shower and change, the general ventured downstairs. She was still sleeping, and he wanted to hold her, but would never go uninvited. Though Aeris had told him that she’d always want that, she wasn’t awake to refute. Besides she’d be up soon and he’d yet to mis-time when breakfast was ready for her. As the tea brewed, he’d retrieved his phone to perform a daily check. Nothing was amiss in the Whispers, no tragedy had struck overnight. None ever did, and he still sometimes marveled at how easy a job this was.
The town did have some sporadic issues. A windmill would fall, a solar panel would slip. And Sephiroth thought it hilariously apt that he’d be called to fix such things. Everything comes full circle. He’d shake his head as he glanced at the message. For the latter, they were inconvenient to access without using flight or step. As for the former, well, though those poles were thin, the entire structure was quite heavy. The general could easily lift one handed what would take fifty men or a crane. Holding it in place until what was broken could be mended and fastened again.
Unlike his old jobs of general and pawn, running the Whispers made him content. It made him feel useful instead of used. I maintain instead of destroy. There was little pomp and no circumstance in the sleepy, seaside town. He’d taken over after the last mayor resigned near a hundred years ago. At the end of each term, Sephiroth would’ve gladly conceded the job to some righteous other, but righteous or not none ever applied, and he also took no payment. Time and absence make for fine interest, and his past job had paid him well. I suppose when one “works” for a corrupt corporation, the spoils are apt to be sweet. His mayor’s salary was returned to the Whispers for he’d no need of it. Even now with his Aeris whom he royally lavished, money didn’t mean anything. He could buy her the world if the world had a price, though neither of them wanted that now. He had been content to be merely mayor, but protecting her gave his life sweetest purpose. The Whispers were simple and prosperous, and anyone of fair mind could manage, but guarding the Cetra was more than a privilege, it gave the fallen a way to atone…
Sephiroth tightened his empty fist in thinking of far older pasts. Humanity had learned a hard-won lesson and no more troubled the ancient swell. Now all could flourish without the silence that infests an ethical lack. I am the result of that ethical lack, he pondered, now pacing slow. Without it, the Whispers would lack their strange mayor, and my flower… He glared through dark time. Midgar of course had been the Planet’s blemish the day it was raised from dust. He drew a deep breath for it would take nothing to step through the veils of distance. He could be there in less than an instant and his sword could taste rich blood again. Fire would cleanse it, all of that rot and horror to make a maid scream.
The time has not come. Sephiroth clenched his teeth, careful with the grip on his phone. He’d broken one the week of her finding, crushed it to dust in his hand. Wrath had flowed through him at what she’d endured, and he could not bear her piteous cries. He’d been returning from some mayoral task when they were remembered to his ears. Her weeping and begging him not to rape her as they had done. The utter fear and abject terror that he would treat her the same. It had been only a few days after he’d found her. She still expected the sword to fall.
He’d had his phone out as he entered the Gate, and heard the plaintive, “Master?” Tears and terror had coated her voice and his fist tightened without his behest. Shattered glass and sundered circuits coated the palm of his hand, and Sephiroth could only glare down with cold eyes and only himself to berate. He thankfully had a backup phone for any emergencies, and, answering her, he’d cleaned his palm so as not to greet her with the shards. At least with Aeris the general knew this wouldn’t come to pass. No matter how angry he was at her treatment, nothing could make him hurt her. His phone was just a mere device and easily replaced. Her tiny bones were beyond priceless and broken by filth before. Within his grip, they’d be protected from cruelty forever more.
Scrolling through news, Sephiroth paused with half grin as he cocked his head to the side. He’d seen the piece the day it came out, but it amused him again in reread.
Mayor Sephiroth Crescent was seen out in Wesker’s Square yesterday evening with Aeris Gainsborough, the pretty little maid he rescued. Our normally reserved and reticent mayor seemed quite protective of the young woman, and when a sudden downpour sent everyone running, he made an umbrella of his wing. He “stepped” away not long after with Miss Gainsborough in tow.
The final portion sobered the fallen, but a measure of relief leaked through his gloom. Though Sephiroth believed there’d been no concern, it was comforting to confirm his true form hadn’t caused a riot. He liked living here. He liked having some purpose, and of course now he had his Aeris. The thought of her brought a new shine to cold Mako as his lips lifted in faintest smile.
There’d been other articles written about him, and he’d even agreed to some interviews. In a mayoral capacity of course. He refused to speak of the past. It was well known, bound to the ages, recorded for all of time. Sephiroth had no need to soil his tongue with what would ever foul his soul. There had been one foolish and green journalist who’d invoked a particular name. Empty emerald froze him deeper than the shimmering lights in the north, while a winter mask covered the general’s face, colder than century’s snow. The name choked his voice to stick in a throat that was too paralyzed to swallow, and though frost unending flowed from those eyes, the interviewer wished to twist as though burned. Sephiroth did not blink, uncaring now what those eyes did to mortal hearts, and it hammered with force upon tightened ribs to the glare of the fallen’s fell past. There was no salvaging that talk’s remains, cut bleeding by slivered pupils, though Sephiroth had held mild surprise to find the beginning of it had been saved.
He heard the teakettle before its sharp whistle and went to answer the call. There was newer technology to facilitate this, but the old way was more than sufficient. Less nuanced tastes could not tell the difference, but the general always knew.
The whisper came from above.
His head jerked up in the midst of a pour, but nary a drop was spilled. The sun was halved by sky and sea, its light splashing through the split curtains. Dawn’s celebration tried to paint silver, but moonlight would always reign there.
Aeris’s door was slightly open, but Sephiroth knocked anyway. A heavy robe puddled at her feet above her face tripled in mirrors. She’d managed to trap her hair in a high tail before loosing the garment’s tie. White knuckled fingers held it wide open. Tension had shaken them still.
The whisper swallowed a scream, her gaze glued to the form in the glass.
He strode smoothly over to take tiny hands. Her covering draped as she let him. Allowing her fingers to be lost within his and their eternal warmth.
“Aeris, little love, whatever is it?”
New hollows bloomed now beneath green. The tears of summer rained down her cheeks, flowed over a fragile mask. She tugged at her hands, and Sephiroth let go, as they slowly returned to her robe. He already knew before the seams parted what would fill wintry eyes.
Fresh marks clawed her stomach, webs thick and thin, like a spider both wine drunk and wild. Pink morass meshed with whip scars spread in myriads over her flesh. Only frail fingers held onto their white clenched over that burgeoning belly.
Aeris attempted to slow her breath, but it slipped past her lips far too fast, and emerald swept over her stomach’s distention until the maid fell in his arms. Only the great sea spoke for long moments filling silence which curled horror’s edge.
“What do you wish to do, little one?” He let Mako paint her a light crown.
“It’s not going to survive, master,” Aeris barely breathed. “N-None of them did…I’m defective.”
“Aeris, you are not defective. The ones who hurt you were.” Sephiroth bent to kiss her crown before crouching down before. He tossed the silver from his face so emerald lit nothing but care. “Whatever you wish, whatever you want, that is what we’ll do. Do you remember what I promised?” He cupped her damp cheek while she shook her head before laying her hand atop his. Shutting her eyes to skin so smooth as it filled her chilled palm with warmth. “I vowed you’d never be forced to bear ever again, my rose.”
The little Cetra swayed half in fugue as if reality had fissured. Her master, no, her Great General had carried her from hell. Picked her up effortlessly in his arms and borne her to paradise. He’d given her everything she could want or need, but best of all promised her safety. Each gentle kiss and every caress proclaimed this eternal vow. Forever and ever she’d live in his arms, protected, warm, and loved. Her rapists, her chains, and all her abuse lived only in darkest past, but it had still found her and twisted her flesh with the spoils of last victory.
“Aeris.” His low voice sundered her thoughts and the Cetra slowly looked up. He was so kind and so indulgent, not punishing her inattention.
“They still found a way to hurt me, master…even though I’m now here safe with you. B-But after this…it’ll be better. I’ll never have to bear again.”
“You won’t be forced to do so now. There are ways that provide such a choice.”
A querying whimper escaped her throat as Sephiroth stood back up. She followed the general with darting eyes, searching his face for the jest. He now wore no mask to return the maid’s look in unhidden grief. Taking her tiny hands in his one, he rubbed her fingers with his thumb.
“I-I don’t understand. I’m…breeding. That means only one thing.”
“It meant only one thing in that hell known as Midgar. Here you will always have options.”
He picked her up and carefully so before the sobs drowned her voice. Holding her close, he walked towards the window so Aeris could recall daylight.
“How is that possible?” She tried to curb tears and not soil such glorious hair. Sephiroth gently stroked her back and assured her he did not care.
“There are procedures, little flower, that will cease this condition.”
She sniffed and blinked up to the sunlight that had shed its rose in late morn. Unfiltered light flew through the window, igniting dewed cheeks with new day. The Cetra slowly turned towards her protector whose brow wore his care with a crease.
“What if…” She swallowed. “What if I did have it, and if i-it lived?”
“Then I’d take care of you both. Nothing will change what I vowed. Or,” he considered, “if you wished to not to keep it, there are also options for that.”
Aeris’s face screwed up again and she hid it against his shoulder. “You’ll always take care of me, won’t you, master?” It was hoarse against his ear.
“Yes, Aeris, I always will.”
“A-And you’ll make sure I can care for myself?”
“That’s right, little flower. I’ll take care of you from now til forever, but also ensure you can, too. These things are not mutually exclusive. I love caring for you, my Aeris, ensuring you’re safe and well, but I never want you to feel helpless or under my command. You are not mine to command. I’m yours.” He tried to smile true. “I’m your Great General.”
She buried her face against his neck, but Sephiroth heard her choice clear.
Aeris’s arms squeezed tighter around. Hiccupping sobs had stolen her voice. Though cruel revelation now shaped her poor flesh, his shoulders were still just as solid. His low voice in murmur remained ever gentle, his strength as assured and immense. He wouldn’t forsake and he’d never beat her for this “inconvenience” of flesh. My fragile bones won’t be broken again…my tender skin never bruised. Aeris clung to her general as tremors then claimed her drawn from the worst memories. How she’d been punished for daring grow “useless” to some of her cruelest assaulters. What they had done to the tiny, frail maid. What she’d been forced to endure… She sobbed as that past was ripped to the fore while his low voice promised her all. She’d never be treated like that ever again. Sephiroth vowed and vowed. He was her protector. She was his Aeris. Those days of abuse were now dead. Aeris burrowed deep into his angel’s scent, letting it inundate every breath as silken silver flowed. It covered the maid as did his embrace while rage and sorrow warred.
Now, more than any time before, Sephiroth wanted to kill them all. Stalk through the slums like darkness incarnate, sword weeping the blood of the slain. They’d attempt to hide, but he’d seek out their thoughts and rip through their minds for the truth. Even death’s shadow would flee from the sight of an angel’s righteous vengeance. Emerald burned cold to wither daylight that would whimper before such wrath. Her face was full hidden and for that he was glad as the mask he wore could not hide the rage. He was a monster despite all the years of trying to prove the inverse. The thought of the shrieks of those who’d hurt her brought the pale of satisfaction. He would not be content until tongues of torture filled his ears with their screams. It would still not suffice for he could never make them endure even a tenth of what they deserved. The can never suffer enough to pay for even an instant of pain from this innocent flower. Closing his eyes, he only saw blood through palest lids.
The general had to force himself back from this future for Aeris needed him now. Peering at her softened the emerald to pulse protectively down at his rose. Look at her now, as she is, forever safe in your arms. Going after the filth that hurt her so is only your selfish desire. You should be ashamed. That time is not yet, and this flower needs you now. He tried not to think of how often his Aeris had been in this position. How she had cowered not in shielding arms but rather to brutal blows.
The little maid wept as she told herself over, He won’t let them hurt me again. I won’t be beaten because I’m now useless. I’m not…I’m not at all. I’m…Aeris and he’s my silver angel. I’m safe wrapped in his arms. She didn’t want to open her eyes as he tightened his embrace. Only he’ll touch me. Only he can. He’s the only man allowed.
Just one eye emerged through soft silk so soaked with a thousand tears. Her arms were stiff from clinging so tight. She bit her lip and unclenched her fingers. The reddish tinge around verdant green didn’t dull their natural shine, and each blink renewed the summer within before Aeris shut them to lay maiden kiss. She quaked in the midst as through this soft union, all promises were renewed.
More chaste kisses pressed his lips before she brushed a moon lock away. “W-Will you call, general?” she shyly asked to Sephiroth’s bittersweet smile. “I…wouldn’t know what to say.”
“Of course, I’ll call for you, little flower. I’ll also put it on speaker.
He carried her over to the high bed, setting her down as he sat down beside. The little Cetra leaned against as her guardian put his arm around. Retrieving his phone, Sephiroth entered the now frequently referenced digits. As the tone faded and rose again, he rubbed her little hands. In those brief moments, the general wondered how her condition hadn’t been caught. She’d gone to the doctor’s twice a week that first month under his care. They tested for it…but just that one time, the first day I brought her there.
It was Mathilde who answered the call, and the Cetra relaxed at known voice. Sephiroth spoke first but his light fell on Aeris as he kept his caress on her hand. The little maid managed a few whispered questions as free fingers scraped her belly. The receptionist answered the ones she could and assured the doctor would handle the rest. There was an opening that afternoon, and though she shook, Aeris said that was fine.
“Thank you so much, general,” she whispered when that ordeal was done. He let her keep his silk handkerchief, crooking a finger beneath her chin. The smooth brush of his thumb occurred without thought, and she pressed her lips firmly upon.
“It is nothing, my flower, nothing at all. I’m happy to do such a task.”
Aeris clutched the arm around her waist, tugging it to beseech. Sephiroth lowered his brow to hers, answering easy request. He was even more careful for the slight swelling pushing against her sides.
“I’m so glad you called, Great General. I would’ve said…silly things. L-Like ‘breeding’ instead of ‘p-pregnant.’ I don’t know the right words…what people say. I…don’t know how to talk.”
“That’s not true, my Aeris. You are doing so well, and no one would mock your speech. No one here would be that cruel. If they were, they’d answer to me…”
She whimpered as her stomach turned, an ironically empty drum. He recalled to his remorse that she’d not yet broken her fast. Standing, Sephiroth offered his hand, but Aeris instead reached up. He easily slipped her into his arms and carried the Cetra downstairs.
“Thank you…” she breathed in a silver swathed ear, and he turned to kiss her brow. “I’m so safe, general. I’m so, so safe…” She quaked beyond all joy.
“Everyone should have some place, Aeris, where they feel completely safe.” The half-smile grew on his lips as the stairs flew beneath his boots. “I’m overjoyed that yours is with me.”
“E-Even now with what they…did, I’m still so safe with you.”
“Yes, Aeris…” He put her down in one of the ornate dining room chairs. Their opulence had been extraneous before, but the plush cushion made such difference now.
The Cetra sank in with a little, “Mm” before lifting the warm cup of tea. Sephiroth sat beside, sipping coffee while she buttered toast to quell her stomach’s ache.
“Do you have that safe place, general?” she asked between nibbling bites. Suppressing the whimper from the cruel vision of vomiting in the midst of hard thrusts. Wheezing breath covered the clatter of toast against her waiting plate.
As always. a strong arm slid around her as gentle lips pressed to her brow. The murmuring soft, “I have you, my Aeris,” infiltrated dark memory.
“I know,” she whispered. “You always have me. You’ll always keep me safe.”
“That’s right, little flower.” He spread his hand out protectively over her belly. The lump was not large, his hand was far bigger, and the Cetra placed over her two. Silver swirled ‘round like a second embrace and Aeris chose when to break it.
“I usually don’t think about my safety. It’s something I take for granted.” The coffee mug stalled an inch from a sip as emerald cut mists with their gleam. “It’s…a luxury I now can enjoy. I never really worry about such things, and I hope one day you can, too.” He took a long drink and set the cup down, grimacing at her awe. “Once I was beholden to…corruption, but courage quashed it all. My power remains an absolute though, and with it, I can protect you. I can make it so that you’ll always be safe, and there’ll be no place you go unsecure.”
Aeris blinked the slight damp from her eyes, and he passed a slow hand through her hair. She imagined walking around the Whispers with her guardian by her side. It quickened her heart in anticipation and shocked her with lack of terror, but then blue skies descended to iron and he melted into that grey…
But in this fair moment the sun was still shining, and there were still eggs on her plate. Residual tea swirled in her cup just a sip away from the dregs. I’m here, she remembered. I’m here with him. She reached over to squeeze his hand. Sephiroth slipped his thumb beneath, caressing that fragile palm.
After breakfast when all had been cleaned, Aeris sat at the front window. Peering out at the sea beyond with slim fingers against the glass. She’d shed her robe for pink and white, the skirt slashed through with pale. The bows on her shoes were a rosier hue, matching the ribbon in her high hair.
“General?” she asked to his approach as Sephiroth stowed his phone in his coat.
“Yes, my Aeris?” He sat beside and, as always, she leaned against. His circling arm pulled her to him so gentle and yet so secure.
“What does the word ‘whore’ mean?”
“It means a person who exchanges sex for gil, gifts, or other valuables.”
“A-Am I a whore, general?”
Her great protector gazed down at her in softened Mako light. Her little face was lifted in earnest but held no trepidation. “No, my Aeris, you are not. Where did you hear this term?”
“I-I read it in one of my books. Is there something wrong with being a whore?”
“No, little rose, there isn’t, but that is not what you are.”
“B-But I was taken so many times. I was used for all of those things. M-Men would give my masters gil to be able to u-use me.”
Sephiroth drew the Cetra closer and she climbed willingly onto his lap. Her ear to his chest allowed his heartbeat to battle the screams of the past. He squeezed his flower with so much control of his strength to never harm. Her pink and white clothes in innocent hue that nothing would ever negate. It wasn’t contingent on any foul action. Like his strength it was absolute.
“You were used, my Aeris. Victimized. Paramours aren’t treated like that.”
He sadly smiled, cupping her chin in his hand.
“Yes, little rose. ‘Whore’ is…obsolete and considered quite uncouth. Paramours, mistresses, courtesans, though the latter’s a bit out of date. They have options where you had none. Forced bondage nullifies that. You never had a choice in the matter nor were you ever paid.”
Aeris turned into her general’s chest with finger curled at buttons’ part. He rubbed his knuckles beneath her chin with stark light for her instant reaction.
“Paramours are merely another profession anyone could choose. Nor is it always about coupling. Some only trade gil for their presence. They decide whom they wish to service and how and negotiate the price.”
“Wh-What would happen if someone hurt them? Or did…more than was agreed?”
“Laws protect paramours like everyone else. There would be consequences.”
“S-So if someone used them l-like I was u-used…”
Sephiroth shook falling hair from his face, and Aeris basked in silver sweep. “Harming anyone as you were harmed is a crime no matter the victim. It’s taken just as seriously be it their first or fiftieth time.” He continued to stroke her hand while she covered her face with the other. “It is so, little one. I promise you that. I’m overjoyed we’ve none of that here…especially now that you’re with me.” Mako flared searingly bright. Even behind her hand, the heat found the Cetra and made her lift her head. “Now that I’ve seen the direct results, it’d be difficult to…curb my riposte.” She squeezed his hand as hard as she could and he answered her ever gentle.
When afternoon came, Sephiroth picked her up and stepped through the seams to the doctors. Aeris kept her face buried near his lapel in sweet smelling silver hair. Mathilde greeted them with a dreaming sigh never fully concealed. They didn’t wait long and Aeris was happy for tremors now ruled her skin. She’d no precedence for what would occur. Her condition once meant one thing. In adoration, she looked up, as the general carried her through the halls.
The doctors as always were kind to her with an added measure today. Her guardian remained ever by her side to the Cetra’s request. He held her small hand in between his warm palms intermittently kissing her temple. His sharpened pupils bored through the monitors while Aeris turned away. So Sephiroth pulled closer to provide his shoulder to lay her head upon. The gentle glide of warm gel on her belly was near soothing as his caress. She shut her eyes to gentler fingers and the thrum of his voice on her skin.
Afterwards, the doctor told her the sooner it happened the better. There’d be no pain. They’d see to that. She’d be under for it all. Aeris didn’t understand what that meant, so the process was gently explained. The little maid trembled a bit at the thought of what seemed forced sleep. At least with true slumber, she’d been able to wake at any and every cruel thrust. Though thinking it now, she wasn’t quite sure that was the kinder option.
“That will never happen again, little flower,” Sephiroth promised his charge, and she clung to his neck and cried that past horror before swallowing hiccupping sobs.
“Wh-When can we do it?” She looked up at him.
“Whenever you wish, little rose.”
“C-Can you stay with me?” She started to tremble and he took her tiny hands.
“Aeris, I will not leave your side. I can always make some arrangements. There’s nothing I’d need do that couldn’t wait.”
As always Sephiroth kept his promise when the time of her choosing arrived. Holding her hand as drugs coursed through the other and his emerald eyes lit misted past. Aeris’s lips lifted in beatific smile while the gates of sweet slumber swung closed. The last thing she heard was his low gentle voice, the last sensation his lips on her brow.
The story began again as it ended with her frail fingers ensconced in his palm. She flowed like slow honey through deep glassy sands and drowsily smiled up. So weakly she tried their “squeezing game,” and, relieved, he gently answered.
“Aeris, my flower, how do you feel?”
She tried to answer, but fell back asleep, dreaming silver and limitless light. She was quite confused for they stood hand in hand where petals rained down from the sky, yet his angelic face held greater shock and more blinks than a fluttering light. Aeris was so startled to not dream of rape that she woke with a tiny, soft, “Oh…”
She peered over in the soft glow of eve, and the Great General was resplendent. He’d leaned his head against the tilted bed with bright eyes lightly closed. A book was sandwiched between his two fingers and splayed open upon his crossed thigh. Through his thin lids she could see Mako light igniting both veins and pale. Aeris squeezed his hand to reveal endless emerald brighter than fading day.
Her lower body lay listless and light, but Aeris could still move her legs. Not enough to walk, but she had no need, and the bed though narrow was warm. I’m never unsafe. I’m never in danger. She stared up at the reason why. Sephiroth rubbed her tender palm as her joy tore his broken heart.
Breathing deep the fragrance of flowers infiltrated his angel’s scent. The lights were dim and dusk filtered through the open blinds of the window. It painted a room so strewn with petals that she could’ve been queen of the blooms. Amongst them and of them the Cetra sat up, her fingers still tangled with his. The colors were white to soft hued pink. He’d remembered that was her shade.
“I had them delivered.” He stroked her frail wrist, and Aeris looked up in the dim. Slivered pupils cut the light and yet it could not be diminished.
She wanted her other hand in his, but a tube’s tug made her cringe. Sephiroth reached over and gently stilled her, brushing a few vibrant blooms. “It’s alright, little one,” he murmured, his lips against her soft skin.
She gazed at the myriad flowers and the moonlight half-shielding his face. The nightstand, floor, and part of the bed were blanketed in blooms. Wreathed in silver, surrounded by flowers, protected by eternal strength. She threaded slim fingers through his thicker ones.
“Are you in any pain, my Aeris?”
Fuzziness was leaving her head with no discomfort in its wake. Aeris gaped at her legs beneath the blankets unable to ken this strange future. Wonderfully strange, the Cetra realized and for now her memories slept. She saw only him in her inner eye as he filled her vision now.
“I’m…not, general. I feel a bit odd, but I’m not in any pain. Nothing hurts…” She gazed at her stomach, and he released her so slim fingers could check. The skin was more wrinkled nor did Aeris need sight to visualize the new webbing there. Glancing over at her silver angel, the whimper died before it could form. I don’t need to be fixed, that’s what he’d say, a-and I don’t need anyone’s approval. She didn’t press down for fear of inviting a pain to surpass the numb, but even lower Aeris wasn’t torn, and that truth made the Cetra’s head spin. It’s 70 days…I haven’t been used…r-raped in 70 days. I haven’t awoken to a brutal thrust nor a sharp boot in my side. She was bleeding of course as would be expected, but was shocked that blood, too, held no pain. The others…she thought, ashamed to forget as a sniffle stalled her tears.
Sephiroth slid his arm beneath her, running fingers down her slim arm. “I’m right here, little one.”
“The others, master…” He did not wince to the title, understanding now when it was used. He still loathed the name for all that it meant and why she need call him that now. “The…other slaves in the slums. Please…” She begged through rising sobs.
“It’s well, little rose. You don’t have to ask. This is your time to heal.”
The doctors allowed her to leave that evening for the general would take care of her. He’d stay by her side morning and night, never more than a whisper away.
“I’m so sorry, master.” She wept to all’s shock. Sephiroth looked down confused. She’d clutched solid shoulders with her little hands and attempted to hide her face.
“Whatever do you have to be sorry for, Aeris?”
“I’ll be a burden again.”
“You were never a burden before and could never be one now. I love protecting you, my rose, and ensuring you’re happy and well. I have the means and the ability. You’ll receive the best of all care. You are my Aeris. That’s not a burden. It’s a privilege I do not deserve. You are priceless, my flower.”
“But you paid for me.”
“I paid to free you. That’s not the same. There isn’t a price I wouldn’t have paid. You’re worth more than all the world’s gil.”
The Cetra lifted her trembling eyes, and he laid a kiss right between. Atop he wore only a button up shirt for his great coat wrapped her round. It was one of the velvet lined ones, of course, over layers of blankets.
It took Aeris some time to adequately fix a pen in her little hand. She stuck out her tongue in rapt concentration, happy to just need her name. She had several prescriptions and narrowed her eyes to focus on what they were for, but she was assured it had been written down, and the sigh of relief calmed her heart. She needed to rest so they wanted the maid abed the next few days. They warned potions and pills might make her drowsy, which was another reason for sleep.
When all was signed and given and told, Sephiroth stepped back through the seams. He always performed this alien act where no one could observe. They knew what he was and what he had been. He needn’t remind without cause. It was enough in the square that night. He tried to curb bitter rue, but then his Aeris hummed soft in half sleep and curled closer in his arms. They were back in her room, and Sephiroth gazed down at the beautiful, dreaming face. Are they kinder now? the fallen thought. Have even her dreams been made safe? He was not foolish enough to believe that the end of a century’s worth of nightmares, and indeed when the general laid the maid down, she whimpered to the loss.
“I’m right here, my flower. I’ll always be here. I’ll never leave you forsaken.”
Bleary green tried to focus on silver and the perfection that floated among. Though happy her fingers could still find his cheek, she was relieved his lips pressed to hers. Aeris was unsure she could manage without tumbling off the bed. No…that wouldn’t happen. He’d never let me…never let me fall.
Sephiroth made her soup with savory meat to replace nutrients lost. Her preference was perfect at this time, though he was grieved for her simple tastes. It came out of nothing, for that’s all she had for over a hundred years. He’d give the Cetra whatever she wished, but she was overjoyed with simply soup. Perhaps one day, he thought as she ate, we’ll go to that bistro we passed. When she’s no longer afraid of abduction and rape…when she’s ready and no moment more. He’d made her tea, too, which she gratefully sipped, and then Sephiroth ensured she could stand. Gripping a hand that never wavered within her quaking two, Aeris rose with only some effort, and he easily steadied her. She was wobbly, but could walk without falling, and she had her general for support. Sephiroth pushed the bed close to her bathroom to make that trip easier, and Aeris just watched with dew laden eyes her great guardian’s effortless strength. Night was now fallen and the breeze full of summer still cooled to the tides of the eve.
“It’s never too hot here, my Aeris,” he told her with his arms wrapped around from behind. “Even in season’s height.” He sighed as his thoughts were drawn to the north and the ever cold swirling there. Does she remember that horror? That…wrongest of wrongs, and what would she do if she knew? If she knew I was…that in at least bitter part? He fought desperation, but the weight of this truth burned his soul. They stood by her window to face evening’s sea where the ripples reflected starlight. Sephiroth’s expression was tinged with regret for his hands locked beneath her heart, but Aeris exhaling a high, humming sigh, merely rested her own upon his.
Only her ignorance grants her such bliss. If she knew… He shook his head. Luminous silver caressed that pale throat and the moon above darkened in envy. The Cetra jerked her face sharply up meeting his falling light. Sephiroth lowered his lashes like wings and enclosed her in tighter arms. More than careful to temper his strength and not squeeze her lower belly. The general made sure her palms stayed upon contrasting so white upon black. A moonlight forelock swept her cheek and he cared naught for moistened salt.
“You’re safe,” he whispered. “You’re always safe now. I’ll never let anything hurt you.”
“My general…” she barely breathed for tears still wanted her voice. Sephiroth smiled gently down as her tiny hands gripped his arms. The sea hushed the sands, and if Aeris shut her eyes, she could almost catch its deep truths. “Thank you,” she began and he braced himself for the words he knew would follow. “For…protecting me.” Mako flew open and slivers shrank smaller so nothing but endless light spun. Aeris took a deep breath to forestall the yawn, but it happened against his chuckle. The general stood to his full height, and the maid gazed up in awe. To be so tall, to be so strong… But it doesn’t matter that I’m not. It doesn’t matter in the least. There’s…nothing wrong with my size. The past was still waiting behind her mind’s blur, but even knowing that, she was at peace. I am in my Great General’s arms. Another yawn took her to his still gentle laugh. “You…” She reached up for a hanging forelock, twirling it round her finger. “You’ve never let anyone hurt me, general. The moment I s-saw you, everything changed. From that day I was never used. I s-stopped dreaming long ago about being picked up and carried away, but you proved it could happen. I’m…so grateful.” She did not sob, but tears overtook her, and the little maid bowed her head.
“Aeris…” he started, “I understand why you’re grateful, but what you endured was abhorrent. You never should have been in that situation. They’d no right to treat you that way.” He narrowed his eyes as silver spilled more. “Do you understand what I mean, little flower? You should’ve never had such need of me.”
“I…do, mas..g-general.” She bit off the end of the first word, as his lids lowered to that false name. “But I did need you. I needed you so much, and once you were there I was safe. I…understand now that that shouldn’t have happened, but it did, and now I’m so grateful. Please accept my gratitude, general. I…know how much you hurt.” Emerald flew open in bare shielded shock as the mask tried to descend. She stretched up to caress his cheek, and he tilted his head to her touch. “You didn’t have to buy me that day. You could’ve just…let it go on.”
“Aeris, my flower…” He shook his head. “I couldn’t leave you in that place. The moment I saw you, I knew what would pass. There is no power in heaven or earth that could’ve stopped me that terrible day.”
“No, master,” she whimpered, and he shut his eyes to that loathed title’s returned. The Cetra bit her lip, and he cursed himself for her stiffness in his arms. “That day wasn’t terrible…not to me. That day was wonderful. You came…out of the darkness I’d live in forever. You came and you took me away.”
“I had to, my flower. Do you understand what I mean? There was no way I couldn’t have helped you.” Oh Aeris, one day I must tell you the truth. My obligation to you is eternal. It will never be ended and never absolved and…I’m beyond joyous for that. Not what I did. No…there’s nothing but anguish, but I’m allowed to protect you. Please… He could ask neither gods nor the Planet, yet Sephiroth still soundlessly begged. Please when I tell her let her anger be such that she wants to watch me suffer. I would take her abuse if she’d but allow me to guard her forever more.
She yawned again with a little squeak, and Sephiroth sealed his eyes for torn heart. Turning her head against solid marble, Aeris breathed in his angel’s scent. Standard weariness was bad enough, but this was augmented. “Will you…” she murmured as her general tilted his head. “Will you read to me, my general?”
His lips twitched to this better name. “Certainly, little rose.” Carefully, Sephiroth picked her up, and Aeris kissed his cheek at ascent. He turned to her and her lips found his as her hand tried the breadth of one shoulder. She loved how it could not be conquered and how easily she was held. Without realization her general now couched her in the effortless might of one arm. That left his other hand free to explore the spill of chestnut hair. Their communion was ever a sightless affair, but eyes don’t hold all vision’s domain. Behind them in joy within Heaven’s Gate, the penitent and innocent dwelled.
He sat her down upon his lap wrapped in the softest blankets. There’d been other stray kisses and both gentle laughter and high giggles from general and maid. She’d asked him to help her change into night things for her limbs were too awkward to manage, and though Aeris believed her tremble was slight, Sephiroth always noticed. He cared not for her bareness and was more concerned with ensuring she was covered and warm. Swift fingers buttoned up the large black shirt, as Sephiroth grinned to its origins. The smile grew brighter to her turning her head to draw his scent from the collar. Now on his lap, she yawned once more and he kissed her on the brow.
“Poetry, story, or both, little flower?” he asked his tiny charge, and when she started to weep he gently soothed her, thumbing through one of the books.
“Beloved, gaze in thine own heart,
The holy tree is growing there;
From joy the holy branches start,
And all the trembling flowers they bear.”
He read her a story and then other poems even after she’d fallen asleep. A full smile still painted Aeris’s lips for the echo of his voice through her skin. It never once faded nor did his eyes dim, the latter shining through splendid lashes. When the last word was spoken and all tomes were closed, Sephiroth gazed soft at his rose. Her slumber was peaceful with help of concoctions that held even her nightmares at bay. She knows she’s protected, he realized in shock it pouring so sweet from her skin. Emerald eyes darted over the Cetra in horror of shadow’s past. Am I…? But he wasn’t. No conscious control was boring into her mind. She was giving this freely. This utter abandon. This complete joy that she was safe. And…with me. His heart so perfect ached to this truth. Every moment spilled her love to him, and Sephiroth sealed his eyes for it was sweetest pain. Too much for his battered soul. Adoration and joy and… Forgiveness?? No, never. I must be mistaken. She wouldn’t forgive me. She doesn’t know! And I deserve none of it. Not love, not joy. Nor this sweet innocent’s trust. What I have done can never be paid for. What I wrought cannot be made clean…
He laid her down and took the chance that she’d want him to hold her. Guilt flooded a heart that Aeris still blessed, but he could not let her go. Won’t let her go. This is your will, that hideous monster that caused… He shunned it, refused it, would not give it name as emanations of love filled his darkness. She…doesn’t want me to let her go. He blinked, glancing down at the Cetra. Her soft pink lips held brightest smile as Aeris peacefully slept. Her head was tossed back as she basked in his arms, and Sephiroth tried to make himself believe. He did not want his selfish desires to be what he really felt, but there was no way he’d ever think what flowed from her skin to his. These thoughts were not of his design. This faith not of his making. He had no faith…not in himself save for what guilt would demand, but Aeris saw nothing but beauty and light. He was her angel and nothing more.
Author’s Note: NaNoWriMo? What’s that? I’ve been struggling this year with the new novel. I’ll go into more detail when I restart my State of the Writer post, but the beginning has given me such a headache. I’ve gone back to outlining, but I needed to feel productive, so I’ve been editing this when I haven’t been writing. I don’t feel guilty, just annoyed. It’s the story that prompted me to write this one for “practice,” but I suppose practice makes perfect…I have no idea what that’s supposed to mean.
The poem Sephiroth reads Aeris is “The Two Trees” by William Butler Yeats. It’s another one of those obscure meta references because you know I’m presumptuous AF. The trees in question could potentially refer to the Qabalistic Tree of Life, which is made up of the 10 Holy Sephiroth. I’m not the only writer to do things like this :p
<–Chapter 11 Chapter 13–>