<–Chapter 14 Chapter 16–>
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 IS OF UNKNOWN ORIGIN AND SOURCE. IT HAS BEEN SLIGHTLY ALTERED IN APPEARANCE AND TO INCLUDE THE CHAPTER NUMBER AND TITLE. ALL RIGHTS BELONG TO THE UNKNOWN ARTIST.
*******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.
Author’s Note: The pronunciation of “Miers” is “MEERS,” rhyming with the name “Piers.”
A terrifying encounter makes Aeris question if she’s truly as safe as she hoped.
The month was drawing to a close as Sephiroth sipped coffee and worked. There were orders and permits to be reviewed and he had only himself to blame. Thoughts of his Aeris stole through his mind, and he lowered pale lids with a smile. Emerald fought jade as he gave a small sigh. She was visiting Myrna again. Though she’d go through bouts where she’d beg and beg to only be close to him. The general would shake his head confused for never would he deny her.
“I kn-know I’m supposed to visit with friends and go out to s-see the town…”
“You’re supposed to do whatever you wish, and you being near me grants my own.” He’d kiss her and wrap the maid in his arms, and she’d settle so safe on his lap. Napping or reading it made no matter. She was in her angel’s arms. The general would often pause to gaze down, unable to believe. She was more than an answer to a prayer, for he had no right to such plea.
As always, he’d answer all questions posed for often routine work. Her glee made even his interest pique for simple tasks mundane. He’d moved his screen from the back wall for the sake of summer eyes. Since they were home, her white skirt rode short and high upon her hips, though the arch in her lower back drew his grief even as pale skin peeked out. She was asking a question with her finger raised against the prompting screen. Locking an arm around her small waist, Sephiroth leaned forward, as well. Locks of silver caressed fluttering throat before washing the soft breasts below, but the general kept his eyes to the fore, patiently picking his words. When she squirmed against him, it caused a brief pause, and he hoped the caesura was seamless. Guilt and shame flayed Sephiroth raw with nary an inch of relief. He forced his mind still for she’d tilted her head to call him for a kiss, and the general could no more deny his rose than he could cease his self-judgment.
But the Cetra, too, would grow a bit guilty though for far different reasons. She loved Heaven’s Gate and her general more, but that shining outside held a beacon. She wanted to know this future world so different as he had vowed. Thus far he’d been true and nothing had hurt her. B-Because I’m always with him. Even when I’m not, his protection still holds. Everyone knows that I’m his.
Earlier the general had gone out to meet contractors in Wesker’s Square. The fountain’s foundation was old and cracked and needed to be repaired. His phone tolled to confirm and slivers slid over, reviewing what had been agreed. He closed the note before lifting the mug back to his lips again. Caffeine had no effect on Sephiroth, but the taste woke past unjaded. What he drank now was a far cry to what he’d endured on campaigns. That could’ve been squeezed from the very rag used to wipe the counter. Now that he could have the best, the general did not shun it. It was one of the few memories he could summon that didn’t cause soul crushing pain, though the wall between still must be maintained against a past that swirled blacker than dregs.
His phone lit up bright, but emerald shone brighter to the only true light in his world. Then slivers narrowed to his furrowed brow and he lifted to the phone to say, “Myrna.”
“General! General, please come quick. It’s your Aeris, it’s-”
And he was there. Uncaring the terror such appearance would cause, though the guilt would find him after. He stepped through the air into Myrna’s kitchen and only did not call the sword. Lemon and cloves spun through the warmth where light dimmed to clinging eve. The first thing the general saw was Miers scratching his head by the door. Myrna and Nellie were crouched near the counter where the edge of it made a corner. The thrum of a heart howled through Sephiroth’s ears, a buzzing that could not endure. Beside the two women was a shattered plate, and the remnants of pie stained the tiles.
No, he realized, not two, but three. Our neighbors are blocking my Aeris.
His stride was silent, but two faces still lifted with eyes wide to white. Later remorse would rack him for that, later regret would claw, later the general would battle his guilt for frightening citizens so. For making not only his neighbors but friends see the sheer horror he was, but Aeris was staring stark through spread fingers, and the white nearly swallowed pale green. The two others parted before his advance though Myrna kept a hand to taut shoulder.
Sephiroth slid to one knee before her in a cascade of silver light. It covered the Cetra in what had to be winter’s envy in grief. In this glory’s shroud, he took her hands and sealed his brow to hers. The whirr of her heart slowed to a patter like frightened mice trapped in a jar.
“Aeris, my Aeris. I’m right here. What’s happened, little flower?”
But only a whimper assailed his ears, as the maid tugged at her hands. When he let go, she flung slender arms round his neck in a quivering sob. The general took that as his cue and gathered the Cetra up. Without any effort he rose to his feet and took a step before glancing back. A brief nod to Myrna showed pure gratitude before Sephiroth slid away.
Aeris buried her face in his silver hair where vanilla frost took her tears. Heaving sobs shook her like the past’s cruelest blows, and the general wondered who he could kill.
Only the ones who did this to her and of them just the ones who still live…but it won’t matter. It won’t stall the past. That stands as eternal foundation. He paced in the breeze that fluttered her curtains. Only an instant had tortured his choice to bring his flower here. He’d not asked permission to enter her room, but knew she felt safest within. And in my arms…that strange miracle. Would that they could fade her fear. He tightened them anyway ever so careful and placed a soft kiss to her brow. “I have you, my Aeris, and I always will. We’re back in your room, little one. The sea’s just as silent, the sand just as white. There’s no moon, but starlight abounds. Nothing will ever hurt you here, and I will always protect you, my flower. This promise can never be undone. This vow can never be broken. It is a geis laid on my heart. I had nothing before you but the wall I’d built up against the bleeding past. Nothing else matters to me as you do. You are my prime obligation. I have you. I shield you. I love you, my Aeris. Whatever you need is what I will be.”
Sniffling, the Cetra lifted her head and with red bleared eyes stared at perfection. Silver bangs hung before his face and cold emerald sheered right through. Winter light spinning amongst thinnest pupil could only pour forth adoration. Aeris pushed forelocks behind his ears for she wanted all of the shine. He wore no coat just a normal black shirt, and his shoulders were solid as armor. The Cetra wanted to lay her head there and bask in his endless strength. A-And I can. Now and forever. He’ll never deny me that privilege.
“General…” Her voice was undone by the sea, but she swallowed and tried again. “Thank you for coming for me. Th-They didn’t know…they didn’t know wh-what he could’ve done…”
“Who could’ve done what, little one?”
“Th-The man. I was in his house. His place. I was his for the taking.”
Sephiroth froze before the wide window as the breeze bathed chestnut and moon.
“Are you talking about Myrna’s husband Miers?”
“Yes, master…” The sob nearly drowned out that word, but the remnants still shut his eyes.
“Aeris, my flower, I know you’re afraid, but will you look at me.”
Fragile fingers squeezed his shoulders leaving no dent in black fabric. With a shuddering sigh the Cetra obeyed, and he was still just as perfect. With head bowed low and eyes half shut so emerald lit dark fringed seam. He lifted that gaze directly toward her, a stare that would chill mortal hearts, but Aeris could find no malice in cold and laid her hand to the warmth of his cheek.
“No one has the right to ‘take you,’ no matter where you are.”
“B-But it was his house and I was there. If he’d r-raped me, it would be my fault.”
“No,” Sephiroth said with such vehemence Aeris let out a high gasp. The rage made the slivers in emerald like knives to cut through the light without mercy. “The only fault in rape, little flower, lies with the one who does the deed. No one has the right to use you so.”
“N-Not even in their own house?”
Sephiroth covered her hand with his and gently enfolded her fingers. “No, my Aeris. Your rights are inalienable. It doesn’t matter where you are, what you’re wearing, or what you’re doing. No one has claim on your flesh.”
Summer green darted amongst burning emerald. She knew she was safe always with him, and Heaven’s Gate was her haven. B-But rights supersede in another man’s house? That was hard to comprehend.
“Master…I-I mean general.” Her eyes widened. “I…I’m trying to understand. B-Before-”
“Before was more than wrong.” He kissed her on the brow. “And don’t be frightened if you slip that false name. I’m not angry at that, my flower. The worst I can be is sad.”
“I don’t want you to be sad, dear general,” she whispered.
“Don’t worry yourself about that. Grief is the oldest thing I have known, but that doesn’t matter right now. What matters is that you know you’re safe no matter where you go.”
“I’m safe because everyone knows I’m yours.”
And Sephiroth sighed again. Aeris blinked several times confused as her fingers curled on his cheek. His warm palm remained on top, as he threaded his own carefully through. “You don’t belong to me in that way, little flower, but all the Whispers do know we’re together.” He could not remain in sorrow at that truth making winter skin so gleam. A slight smiled lifted his lips as pure emerald bathed her with all that his heart contained. “They know you dwell under my protection-”
“The best protection there ever was.”
He kissed her cheek at the sweet interruption, overjoyed it brought no new fear.
“Yes, my Aeris, I hope it is, and remember I told you of laws.”
“Laws…” she whispered, as the breeze answered hushed, spinning their bangs together. Sephiroth nodded, increasing the wedding of chestnut and moonlight hair. “And…decency, right, general?”
“That’s right,” he affirmed. “It is well-taught and thus well-known what’s acceptable and what is not. Rape is a heinous crime, my Aeris, on a similar level to…murder.” He gently severed their forelocks in grief, as Mako scorched hard shut lids. But the image was ever seared on his soul, and when the Cetra laid her head near his heart, the tearing threads tortured it more. And yet it still beats as strong as ever, as if unaware of how torn. I should be dead. I should be bound in the deepest of all hells, and yet I’m allowed to hold and protect this innocent I once slew…
“I love that I’m protected not just by laws, b-but by you, Great General. I love, love, love how strong you are and how you’ve never forsaken me. You came even when I didn’t call. You knew I needed you.”
“Myrna called me, little flower. She’s a good neighbor and a better friend. Also,” he added with a wry quirk of his lips, “I doubt she would be very supportive of a husband who’d hurt you so. Nellie would also have much to say about such an atrocity.”
“Does…r-rape not happen here, general?” Aeris swallowed as she peered back up.
Sephiroth cocked his head to the side, and a forelock slid over her throat. The pulse there jumped up several beats, and his lashes were tinged in jade. “I won’t lie to you, Aeris. It’s still possible, but it would be treated as it should: a heinous crime, an abomination, and the victims would be protected.”
“Like me…” She trembled harder but not in fear, rather in elation. His powerful arms tightened around, and Aeris could’ve wept in joy.
“Yes, like you, my little flower, and they’re also heeded.”
“Like me, too…” she whispered this time, and a few tears did dampen her cheeks. Sephiroth was swift to kiss them away before he needed a handkerchief.
“That’s right, little flower, though the next part for you is still in its machinations.”
“’Next part,’ general?”
“Judgment, my rose.” A stone drum would’ve cracked to his voice. “Where I took you from, rape was…normal.” His teeth ground at that word. “What you lived through every day. Only in Midgar could such horror be, a sign of a world fallen apart.”
“Wh-What have you done when it’s happened here?”
“There’s never been such a report.”
“M-Maybe the victims a-are too afraid.” She hid her face again.
“That is always possible, little flower, but everyone knows how wrong it is, and what hand would be dealt.” He considered a moment, saved from full sorrow with her head nestled beneath his chin. “When you spoke with the doctors and told them your story, what reaction did you receive?”
“They were so, so kind to me, general. They…listened and they were sad. They were like you in telling me that none of it was my fault…” Her little hand squeezed his unyielding shoulder, as that compassion washed her like bright hair.
“And when we went for your procedure?”
“They treated me so well. I-In fact…” Aeris looked up and emerald gleamed with stolen stars. “No one here has been cruel to me. No one who knows has treated me badly. They’re…all so kind and you’re the kindest.”
“And cruelty would not be tolerated. What happened to you would not be endured and will be dealt with in due time.”
“A-And how is that?”
“Unmercifully.” Cold Mako fire shot through his eyes. The stars receded and even the sea emptied itself of all hush. Somewhere Aeris knew she should be terrified of this sight. That such cold could dwell in his living heat should’ve brought the Cetra full horror, but her past contained far greater wrong than even those slivered eyes.
“Besides murder, my flower, there is no worse crime, and that’s debatable.”
“General…I’d rather be dead. T-True death wouldn’t hurt like that.”
“You will never have to make that choice in now or eternity. There is a mantle of protection over you, Aeris, that will ever and always endure. Remember all the ways you’re safe.” He forced his eyes shut to shield the rage that the time was not yet now, but opening again to her innocent awe cooled emerald back to calm. “Remember all the ways you’re protected.”
“You’re the greatest protection of all.” She wiggled a bit in his arms, and Sephiroth couldn’t help but chuckle that the motion wasn’t just reserved for his lap. He shifted her a bit and laid a large hand over her tender belly. It tortured and yet relieved the fallen that he now guarded what he had once torn.
“I’m blessed to be that. Blessed by you.” The Planet wouldn’t and shouldn’t bother. “You’re also safe here in Heaven’s Gate in your room in sight of the sea, and you’re safe in the Whispers, as well.” His smile grew greater in gazing at her absorbing all of his words.
Aeris yawned and his laughter melted into that night without a moon. Terror did tire the tiny maid and now she was safe in the strongest embrace. He carried her toward her waiting bed, and soft smiled to her next question.
“What does it mean to be married, general?”
“I suppose you’re asking this because of Miers.”
“Yes,” she murmured as he cradled her easily in one arm to pull back heavy covers. “I…know both Myrna and Nellie are married, but I’ve never thought about it before.”
“Well,” he considered, sitting her down as he realized she was still in her clothes. “It’s like being a couple, but more official.” He sat beside and she leaned against, placing both hands in his one. Sephiroth wrapped his free arm around as silver hair made her a veil. It fanned out behind him to serve as a rival for the moon that had hidden its face.
“What do you mean by ‘official?’” she asked, peering up through that skein.
“There’s paperwork and legalities.”
“Le…galities? You mean…like laws?”
“Yes, little one, by law when you’re married, you gain certain rights.”
Aeris hid her face against his chest, shuddering with tightened fists. Sephiroth rubbed the back of both hands as his brows pulled close together.
“S-So Myrna’s husband has the r-right to rape her.”
“Gods no, Aeris, never.” He laid a finger to her cheek, which called summer back to him. Despite the anger for what she had borne, Sephiroth still smiled for her. “There are no laws that negate your rights. Those are absolutes. Marriage doesn’t render your flesh for the taking. You don’t become less of a person in union.”
Tears of relief streamed down her face, and the general cleaned them away. Giving her the silk when most were cleared in case she needed it more.
“When two people are married, what they have joins together.”
“But…I don’t have anything.”
“Dear little flower, that’s not true at all. You have this house, your possessions…and me.”
“But these are all the things you’ve given me!”
“Does that make them any less yours?”
Her lower lip stuck out a bit as she pondered, and he returned her hands to his warmth. Sephiroth tilted his head to the side. Her expression was beyond endearing. She blinked several times as she tried to consider the puzzle that he had presented.
“Aeris…you adore me,” he gently said, breaking through her thoughts. “You let me hold you, protect you…love you. Love is worth more once it is given and is priceless when it is shared.” She squeezed his great hands as hard as she could, and he bent to taste her lips. Salt stained and pink, the harsh dew they bore still tasted sweet to him. “You’ve given me more than I could ever deserve,” he murmured against her mouth, “and I’m happy I could give you the world.”
“But I don’t want the world, Great General. I-I only want you.” She pulled closer and he tightened his arm around the little maid. “I just want to be here…warm and safe in your arms with your angel scent all around.” Sephiroth closed his eyes and inhaled summer sweet. “Right here is heaven…within its Gate, a-and it’s all because of you.”
“I’d lavish you with luxury, my Aeris.”
“But you already do, general.”
He laughed softly at that and sat back up, tossing his hair so it stroked her skin. “I’d shower you with more, but what you want is beyond easy to give. I’d protect you, my Aeris, without your love or even the privilege to touch you.”
Sephiroth lowered his head to that, even as Aeris clutched his hand. Pulling it to her tender belly so his palm covered the soft expanse.
“But…I do love you, general, a-and I love your hands on my skin.” Another dress was the Cetra’s garb this day so it stood in the way of true touch. Then she yawned, a full one with a squeak to his low and gentle laughter.
Only his rose could draw such joy from so tortured a soul. And she doesn’t even know how tortured I am…that sobered him quite a bit.
“We’re a couple, right Great General?” Even sleepy she wouldn’t presume. Her head had grown heavy, but he was always a solid place to rest. Untiring, steadfast, watchful, and strong, Aeris knew no better shield. He’s more than that…so much more.
“That’s right, little flower, we are. I love, protect, and care for you, and you bring me nothing but joy. That’s all I want, Aeris, your happiness. Nothing else matters more.”
“I love you, too, my general.” She caught slivers in summer eyes. Never did Mako burn so bright than when he spoke of love. All of the emerald swirled together as the pupil receded so slim. As though it wished to banish the darkness that dwelled within crystalline light.
“You’ve given me that gift…”
“How could I not?”
If you knew… He turned his head as forelocks caressed her throat. She reached to kiss the sorrow from his lips, and he smiled sadly as was his way. Keeping eyes shut lest she be drowned by what light would unleash. Each beat of a heart made for perfection tormented the fallen worse than death. Burdened with love it did not deserve. A love crafted from false pretense, the moment she knows-
“Could we be married, general?”
“You’d…want that, little rose?”
“Why wouldn’t I?
Because I’m a liar and abomination. Because I slew you on an altar of light. Because…you’re the Planet’s daughter, and my blood is tainted with what sought to destroy this world. Sephiroth lowered his head to hers as he rubbed her delicate hands. Aeris only just quelled joyous hum at merely being in his presence.
“You must be able to freely say ‘yes,’ and you can’t do that yet, little flower. Just like coupling.” He gave her his gaze with a gentle, sideways smile. “I’m…just the first man you’ve trusted in a time that’s centuries old.”
“I trust you so much general,” she insisted, tightening her grip again. Her slender wrists ached, and he must’ve sensed this to slide his fingers atop. He barely pressed down and lingered but briefly before returning to tender palms. Aeris let chestnut spilled over his arm to lay a kiss to the back of large hands, and Sephiroth sighed as she peered up with an expression begging for him to be pleased. “I more than trust you, my angel,” she whispered. “I love you beyond what trust can contain.”
He had to turn away at that, unable to bear this truth. Beyond all Sephiroth wished he could just accept the love unconcealed from her heart, but the black filter of past could never allow the fallen to see past the blood.
“Therein lies the problem, my Aeris. I helped you in dire need. I…” Torture bowed his head to the brutal truth, and it was the maid’s turn to pass a thumb over the broad back of his hand. Perfect lips quirked up at that briefly before guilt overrode any comfort. “I don’t want you to just love me because you see me as your rescuer.”
“You are my rescuer, though, dear general.” She pulled herself closer to him. Sephiroth returned his arm around and both her hands to his.
“Yes…you see me as such.”
“Because you are.” And just for a moment, the centuries parted to return the Cetra’s old voice. Summer turned rigid as gathering storm and pursed lips would accept no debate. Delight swam swiftly in emerald gleam for such an unyielding stance. This was the Aeris he’d wanted to see from the very first day they’d re-met. The willful blossom that even while broken would still stand against the night. Abuse had deep buried, but could never destroy what the Ancient would always own. His lips blessed her brow for several long moments, as he wished his next words could dissolve.
“You believe I am, as you think I’m an angel, and for you, I will be, but…” He sat back up and Mako shone in rue. “There may come another one day to your heart when you’re free of the burden of fear. One you’ll love even more than me once your safety-”
“No, no, no! Never and never!” She flung her arms around his neck. Shaking with sobs as deep as the ones that had wracked her earlier. Sephiroth lifted his rose in his arms where her cries were still clear against silver. “I’ll never love anyone like you, general. I never want to leave your arms. You’ve give me all and asked for nothing. You didn’t even ask for my love, but…I knew you loved me before it was said, and maybe even before that. There’s no one else I could ever love. You’re perfect and I’m yours. Please, please, please, don’t ever make me leave you.” She raised her head to stare straight at shocked rue. Trembling fingers curled at his cheek, as Aeris swallowed the worst of the tears. “You promised I’d never be without. Even if I had everything in the world, I wouldn’t want to be without you. I…know I’m afraid. I know I’m still healing, but my love won’t ever change. It’s…an absolute.” She buried her face near his neck again, and Sephiroth stared robbed of all speech. The deep glow of emerald bested lamplight and not even the stars could compare. Then her sobbing shook his soul and the Great General held his rose closer.
“I will never make you leave, my Aeris. This is your home forever and more for as long as you want and need.”
“I’ll always want it, and I’ll always need you.” Mako eyes still gleamed in close. Through his thin lids to light every vein so the fallen could only see blood. “Every day,” Aeris whispered, “every day I think, ‘There’s nothing else he could possibly do to make me love him more. He’s done everything so often and more, but then…then you’ll lay your hands on my skin, pick me up, or read to me. You’ll call me your ‘little flower,’ and I realize how wrong, how wrong I was and how lucky I am to be yours. Without you I…I…” She shuddered and speech shut off as Sephiroth murmured soft.
“You’re safe, little one, ever protected. You will never be…without me.” The joy that brought her filled his tattered heart, only its greatness keeping it whole. When she lifted her head to bless him with a kiss, Sephiroth half-feared that would tear it apart, but he ever endured the pain of her love as embrace claimed these moments so sweet.
The Cetra had to stop when her breath came too quick, and she blinked down at disheveled clothes. Between fear and kissing, though she was glad for the latter’s work in dispelling the first. Summer blurred on rumpled garb as Aeris widely yawned. She laid her head on her guardian’s shoulder and tried to focus on his lovely face.
“It’s late, little rose, and this evening was harsh for a flower still trying to bloom.”
“I feel bad, general…”
“Whatever for, Aeris?” He tilted his head to the side.
“Myrna is always so nice to me, a-and I left without saying goodbye.”
“Under the circumstance, I think Myrna understands, but if you wanted you could always call or send her a text tomorrow. She wouldn’t care either way.”
The general stood with her still in his arms as effortlessly as ever. The Cetra wanted to marvel at that, but she only yawned again to his mirth. Her feet were bare and he narrowed his eyes, wondering about her shoes. Not that it mattered. She had hundreds of pairs and they could easily be retrieved. Her dress was soft ivory with a gold buckled belt to cinch her soft, little waist. The clasp had released and those shoes must’ve fallen in the throes of her prior fear. Unending wrath for the true source awoke from that fount without an end, and Sephiroth thought then of his own phone and the follow ups he’d have to seek. But for now…
“Do you want me to stay with you, Aeris?”
“Yes,” she whispered blinking up, “I…always do. Stay with me. Hold me. Keep me safe…I’m so safe when I’m with you.” She flung a slim arm over his shoulder, a solid wall covered in black.
“Then I’ll stay, little flower. I just want to make sure I’m not intruding.”
“Never, general.” The Cetra shut her eyes to just let his scent wreath her. I could just sleep like this…safe in his arms, surrounding by silk, lulled by his heart and the sea. She almost did until a low chuckle lifted her gaze again.
“Did you want to sleep in your clothes, little one? It might be uncomfortable.”
“Oh…” She blushed and Sephiroth halved his lids, curious to the source of that pink. Another yawn heightened his mirth. Suppressing the next, Aeris pulled herself up using the general as support. She tried to hold his gaze, but her cheek slid against his, and her face couched itself near his collar. Angel scent pooled so sweet she could drown, as silver silk stroked her soft skin. “Will you help me get undressed, general? I’m…exhausted from this eve.”
“Of course, I can, Aeris,” Sephiroth replied, “as long as it’s well with you.”
“Mmhm,” she mused with still shut eyes. “I trust you, general. It’s always alright, and you’ve seen me bare before.”
“That may be true, but it’s always your choice if I see you bare again.”
Using all of her strength Aeris lifted her head to kiss him on the cheek. Sephiroth returned it to her brow before shifting her to one arm. Using the pillows, the general created a buffer against the headboard. He sat the Cetra against this soft wall and she only just kept upright. Her head tilted back, but her smile remained in pure elation for her current life. I’m sitting on softness with my back against pillows, and my general is right here. Slim fingers curled on cool comfortable sheets, which would be wonderfully warm quite soon.
Aeris expected hands behind her neck, unlocking the ties of her garb, but the scrape of a drawer parted her lids as she saw him retrieve her night things. Sephiroth could not help the mirth at the shirt, black as the one he was wearing. She had a section just for them and the shorts she’d sometimes wear. The latter were usually lighter in color to contrast the back of “his” garb. Gazing back at the bed, Mako softened to sweetest sight. The gentler pulse of the room’s ornate light could not paint love for her vision.
“Is this well, little one?” The low voice roused her, and Aeris blinked rapid summer. He was standing above, holding both garments in the grip of one large hand.
“Yes, of course…” Wispy voice trailed off with a yawn, and this time his hands did the expected. Sephiroth kept emerald gleam on her face, ensuring no fear was forced through. The white dress had buttons half down her back, stopping (of course) where his fingers full froze, but Aeris arched forward and gave a soft, “Mm,” as gentle tips brushed her spine.
The white dress was easily lifted away, and he hung it back in her closet. Unsure exactly where she would want it, Sephiroth put it with similar garb. By the time he returned, Aeris was trying and failing to reach her bra clasp. Stilling small hands and with them the whimpers for weariness sapped coordination.
“Still well, little rose?” he had to ask, and she smiled and went for his lips. He bowed to take the maiden kiss as his forelocks slid over her belly. He hated the whip marks far more than those stretched, though he hated those for their source.
“One time,” she whispered with her chin to his shoulder as the general deftly unclasped. The bra was slipped off, and he frowned at the lines the garment had made on soft skin. “I f-found a blanket, general.”
“Did you, my Aeris?” He gazed at her shoulders. Gentle hands rubbed them, and the deepest of sighs stirred silver hair in her breath. He kept caress brief as Sephiroth considered he’d tend to her back better tomorrow. Mako closed hard as he fought the far past and how unworthy he was of her love.
“Y-Yes, general. It was tattered and torn. N-Nothing at all like these.” Her hand swished the covers. There were three folded back along with the sheet, each one heavier than the last. She had covers and blankets of all hue and kind. Half their number could made Aeris weep. Smoothest black fabric slid over her skin, and the Cetra just basked in his sight. Long fingers were swift in fastening down the shirt so it covered her thighs. “I remember I cried because I had this small way to be warm.” Refusing to let another tear fall, Aeris turned away. She would not shiver, but the rest of the memory was written in her scars.
“You will always be warm and safe now, my flower,” Sephiroth promised with a kiss to her brow. He attempted to pull the shorts over her feet, but she shook her head and pushed at her hips.
“Please…” she begged as that task, too, failed her, and the general could only obey. Sephiroth slid her underwear down, discarding them in the apt bin, and at no point did Aeris cringe away from thick fingers near that tender part.
“Thank you,” she whispered, and he neither knew nor cared if this was for promise or aid. The general made another, that he’d come back, before venturing to his own room.
Quite a few of her books, clothes, and jewels inundated Sephiroth’s space, and he grinned to a cup stained with dried dregs in memory of savored tea. He could not hide the mirth at beloved invasion of what had been so sparse a space. There were even several blankets that still held her scent and so proof of her comfort and warmth. Every part of both his house and heart and been conquered by this tiny flower, and the general knew no greater joy could’ve made this estate a true home. For her chamber though, he wanted it hers so he left little within. There might’ve been a large mug for his coffee, but it was Aeris who needed the room.
The Cetra could not help but wake to the sight of her Great General’s return. In his normal night things, always full black, open shirt where white shone between seams. She bit her lip to imagine her fingers not making one dent in that strength, but Aeris was blessed with much, much more than mere imagination. He silenced the light that fell from above, but the Cetra still gleamed in his own. Tempering her joy so tears would be quelled as he enclosed her again his arms. The low chuckle broke against her soft skin as the maid traced the curve of each muscle. Or she tried to…being far too tired and there were too many to count.
“You’re so kind to me, dear general…” she mused with her ear to his heart. A silver brow lifted as Sephiroth wondered when sleep would finally win.
“What else could I be, little flower?”
“You could’ve been like…them.” She hid her face near his collar bone. The shirt was smooth, but his skin was smoother from where she pushed it back.
“Never, my Aeris.” He kissed her crown, as night winds swayed diaphanous curtains. “I could never hurt you.” Again…
“General…” Aeris raised her head and his pupils thinned in focus. Not even halved lids and lashes resplendent could hide adored scrutiny.
“You like that title, don’t you, little flower?” His palm covered half of her face. One day, little flower, please say my name, unspoken but unforgotten. I ache for that curse to escape your lips, for that whisper to reach my ears. “I could never be like them, my Aeris, and soon they will die in torment. I would kill anyone who tried to hurt you.”
“B-But wouldn’t you get in trouble?” Summer darted wild across his face as the general stroked her cheek with his thumb.
“Doubtful.” He glanced away. “Murder is a heinous crime, but rape is far more atrocious. There’s never an excuse for rape, but killing, well…” Sephiroth slightly shrugged. “Killing could be argued.” He shadowed the light with those glorious lashes as he returned his gaze to her. “Raping and beating someone like you is a far worse crime than that. I’d take the punishment so deemed.”
“No, general no!” She clung to his neck and her guardian blinked in surprise. “I don’t want you to be punished. N-Not for me. You don’t deserve that!”
“It’s well, little flower.” Sephiroth held her closer. “I doubt I’d be held in fault. I…seem to have a way of escaping trouble.” He grimaced. “I earn more chances than I deserve.”
The Cetra sighed appeased and was so relieved he half-feared manipulation, but there was no conscious will behind it, and such past was deader than dust. He’d been himself for a century more, and not a day passed where he didn’t regret. Perhaps I don’t escape trouble, he considered, with tattered heart and heavy soul.
“Did you like your job as general?” Aeris murmured, as waves of sleep lapped at her mind.
“Like it?” Sephiroth gazed out to the shivering stars with brow tightly knit together. “No, Aeris, I hated it, and I loathed whom I worked for, but…I was good at it. I was outstanding. I excel at killing, little one.” He hated admission, but refused to lie nor believe as she pulled even closer. I’m planning to kill as we speak, he remembered before the kiss took him sudden. Mako sheared open for less than a blink then he shut it again for this sweetness. Cupping the back of her head in his palm, Sephiroth claimed only the willing.
“You were probably the best,” she murmured between kisses so deep and yet gentle. Always and always he entered her slowly with only the maid’s invitation.
“I was the best, little flower.” It hummed through their mouths pressed together in joy. “But I deserve no laud. I was designed to be that way, and I was…thoroughly trained.”
He let her lips recuperate as silver covered his lowered face. The Cetra slid a palm to his cheek, seeking the pain through emerald so cold. He’d hidden the mists behind brilliant wall, but Aeris could see the past shine.
“Hm?” It was only a half-smile, but the joy it held was full.
“It’s so dark around your eyes like the shadows have come to stay. You’re so lovely, though, even with the shadows. Your beauty just burns right though. No…” she mused and the fallen’s heart ached with the weight of this innocent’s love. “That’s not right. You’re not beautiful despite it. You’re beautiful because of it, but with or without it makes no matter. There are so many absolutes about you.” Her kiss cut through pain that could never be sundered, and yet he was more than grateful.
“I don’t need to sleep, but when I don’t, there are some minor effects.” At least now…
“When’s the last time you slept, general?” She curled her fingers again on his cheek. Sephiroth wished to tell her to not be concerned, but her lips pursed before he could say.
“It’s been a while, my rose.”
“Will you sleep tonight?”
“You don’t like sleep?”
“I’m sure I did long ago.” He gently placed his brow to hers and didn’t taint her with curséd light. “I’ve never been innocent, my Aeris, and now sleep will call horror’s sight.”
“E-Everyone was innocent once, general. I’m sorry you have nightmares, too.”
He clutched her hand so carefully, desperately shaking his head. Not me, little flower. I’ve always been tainted…fouled by what fell to this world. It swims in my veins, and lives in my bones. The corruption pours out of my eyes…
“No, little one. It’s not the same. You deserved none of your torment. You are the true angel bound wrongly in hell. My nightmares are all my fault. They are my penance for being a monster.”
“But…you aren’t a monster. You’re my silver angel. I…can’t be what you are.”
“No, you can’t, because you’re far better.”
“I’m your guardian.”
“You’re my silver angel, the best of them all.” She said with a stubborn set to her face.
“That is precisely what makes me so monstrous.”
“The fact that you’re an angel?” Aeris asked skeptically. Sephiroth loved the glare that she did not notice nor would he point it out. She’d quake in terror at defiance and probably call him “master” again.
“Yes, little love.”
“I don’t think so, Great General.” She pushed a forelock behind his ear, and Sephiroth gently smiled.
“Your purity paints me in light, little flower, a far greater one than my own.” And mercy allows me to hold you, too. Something else I don’t deserve. He slid his palms down her tender sides, and the tiny Cetra shuddered. Concern instantly turned to awe as emerald smoldered to jade.
“You…are painted in light,” Aeris could barely whisper. “So much your eyes are leaking.” The little maid sighed and shivered once more, but it was joy that prompted her quake. She closed her eyes and nestled her head near his heart as her breathing turned steady.
Sephiroth gazed down still rubbing her back, glad she was succumbing to slumber. Sweet, little hums of utter contentment filled the rents in his heart.
“General?” the Cetra murmured half sleep.
“Yes, my Aeris?” He smiled, though sightless, to her little voice.
“My general…” she murmured and though emerald burned low, the joy bested his grief for small moments. “My gentle guardian.” Sephiroth laid his lips to her brow and smiled behind the press. She would bless him with titles but not yet his name. He could almost imagine its echo. “T-Tomorrow is the hundredth day…”
“Is it, my Aeris? Should we celebrate?”
She tried to focus on his face, while sleep swam in summer eyes. Even through haze it coalesced in perfection before drifting view. “E-Every day’s a celebration, general…every day I’m here with you. It’s like a thousand heavens, b-but…” Aeris started to tremble and Sephiroth crushed her close, in careful control of his strength. “What if all this fades…” The Cetra whispered with her green eyes wide to the white. “A hundred days for a hundred years. What if this is just a reprieve?” Her shaking increased to a torment of whimpers as the general pulled up her blankets. Letting the warmth of them soak through her skin and lending his own in embrace. Aeris cowered curled into his chest, shuddering to the memory of blows. “Please, general, please don’t ever leave me! Don’t let them hurt me again. I don’t want to go back. I don’t want to lose this. Please, please keep me safe!” She hid her face in the folds of his shirt where it opened against warm, winter skin, and the slide of those arms around her small form accompanied the low, patient voice.
“I have you, my Aeris. You’ll always be safe. A thousand days, million days, all. They’re yours, little flower, they belong to you, but Midgar’s days are numbered…” Molten Mako swallowed his pupil so darkness cut cold against cold. Aeris still trembled, but did not turn away from wrath that would make grown men scream. “Count them, my flower. It will not be long. That hell will not hold you again.” She saw then the flames that rose in his eyes, a reflection of both past and future…
Awash in this fire that did not burn her, Aeris heaved a long sigh, and Sephiroth blinked in horror’s regret at what he had shown his dear rose. But she nestled her head against him again, so her crown was couched under his chin.
He could not help the chuckle as subdued Mako shimmered down.
“Yes, my little love?”
“C-Can I have a garden?”
Shock stole all words as Sephiroth stared down at the top of Aeris’s head. The Cetra shyly lifted her gaze as though afraid of what she would find. Shivering emerald colored his face, and though his lips parted, he still could not speak.
“I-It doesn’t have to be a big garden, general,” she conceded in haste. “J-Just somewhere I can plant my blooms. M-Maybe grow more. Maybe grow lilies…i-if lilies still exist. I’m sorry to ask! You’ve given so much. I don’t want to be selfish, mas-”
A palm to her face silenced that title before it could taint her lips. Sephiroth laid his brow to hers so long lashes tickled her lids.
“Dear gods, Aeris…dear gods of course. Yes. You can have a garden.”
“Really, general?” She squeezed his broad shoulders like steel beneath black silk.
“My flower, I hoped every single day that you would wish this of me. This is not a request. It should be an order. I only have one question.” He tilted his head and looked so happy that Aeris wished she’d asked him sooner. “What blooms do you already have?”
“The ones that you brought me…they’re still alive.”
Mako eyes narrowed to her earnest face. “But…they died when I plucked them…” He sealed that light tightly shut. All his mirth faded awash in the blood of the unforgiving past.
“And yet they still ever bloom…” Tiny fingers answered the palm to her face, and her smile fought hollow despair. “They’re on my balcony. I don’t know how, but their splendor never fades.”
The Great General turned to kiss her palm full, knowing their secret of life. He sighed and the wind of his breath stirred her bangs and tickled the edge of her lashes. Aeris was too tired to giggle so she just locked her fingers behind his neck. Sighing as well, she closed her eyes to the steady beat of his heart. She would not cry. Exhaustion refused and she would also not disbelieve. I’m here with him forever and ever. And the shift of strong arms confirmed. Closer and closer they held the small maid secure but never too tight.
He pressed his kiss against a crown so blessed with sweet smelling hair. It wove a miasma he could not resist and the promise of sweet slumber beckoned. Aeris was in his arms and that called to hope that nightmares would leave him tonight.
But he dreamt of white roses spattered in blood that screamed as their petals were torn…
<–Chapter 14 Chapter 16–>