<–Chapter 15 Chapter 17–>
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-DISSIDIA AND WAS CREATED BY THE Wonderfully TALENTED AUTUMN-SACURA and is used here with her permission. 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.
Author’s Note: The picture used in this chapter is the outfit I was describing in Chapter 5.
Aeris receives something she always desired, while Sephiroth battles his guilt.
Aeris had glimpsed the roof of their house, but she’d never set foot above. By Sephiroth’s office were stairs leading up, and the little maid gingerly stepped. It had been a few weeks past their night conversation, and she’d heard noises from above. Scraping and scratching had trickled down, making Aeris jolt up in concern. Once she’d had Myrna over for tea, but her neighbor sipped through without startle. The maid pressed a knuckle to her pursed lips, holding the questions in.
The day following her “meeting” with Miers she’d texted her friend contrite.
Myrna…I’m so sorry about last night. I hope your husband wasn’t angry.
Aeris had been ensconced on the couch wrapped in one of her blankets. Sephiroth was out, but doors and locks granted security. E-Even if he is angry, he can’t get to me. He can’t come in here without my leave…a-and even if, even if he could, I could call my Great General. He’d be here in less than a blink. He…wouldn’t let him hurt me. B-But what if he punished Myrna??
Miers wasn’t angry and even if he was, he doesn’t matter in this regard, dear.
Aeris tried to wipe her eyes, but a single tear blurred the screen.
But…I was rude to him in his house.
You were frightened of him. That’s not rude.
Well will you tell him I said I’m sorry?
I will do no such thing! You don’t apologize for being frightened.
Will you let me make up for the plate I broke?
I will not. Plates are replaceable, floors can be cleaned, and I’ve already made more pie.
Aeris had sat for several long minutes fidgeting with a corner of blanket. The sea in the west was shimmering gold, and the excess splashed over the screen. Biting her lip and nibbling a knuckle, the Cetra pored over the words. Then swiftly lest her courage failed typed:
Does your husband ever hurt you?
The mere seconds between question and answer seemed an eternity. A hundred years…no. That time is gone. It’s over, it’s done, I’m safe. Aeris whimpered and squeezed her eyes shut, but neither sea nor sun deigned to change. The window was open, and she breathed past her fear that they would come bursting in. She need not even press a button, but merely order the call. I could command it as he says I can him… She gripped the phone tight as it dinged.
Gods no! And I’ve never hurt him either. Has the mayor ever hurt you?
Well then there you have it, my dear, and I’m sure you’ve never hurt the mayor.
How could I ever hurt my general?
There are quite a few ways to hurt men, dear.
Aeris could almost hear the “older” woman’s snicker, and she blushed though she did not know why. The little Cetra did truly want to apologize to Myrna’s husband, but just the mere thought of speaking to him made her heart convulse. She’d told Sephiroth who gazed down at her gently while soothing the maid in his arms. Like Myrna he saw no reason for any apology, though he did understand, much to his wrath, why his flower felt that she should.
Now she ascended the high steps at dawn, yawning a bit at the hour. Her guardian had asked if the time was well and she agreed for the glint in his eyes. Only that gave away there was something to see for his face had smoothed its expression.
Aeris was a bit surprised she wasn’t tired by the top, when once only a single step would’ve felled the Cetra maid. But I’m no longer starving and wretched. Her pale skin now nearly glowed. No more did hollows pool beneath summer, and soft cheeks flushed rosy and bright. Her lips even deeper as the little maid smiled and paused in her ascent. Her beautiful guardian stood right behind, lighting the way before. Steps below so kissing him now was a task eased by false height.
“Even before you see your surprise?” the Great General murmured around. She felt the smile against her lips as she tasted his again. Sephiroth captured her waist in his hands while silver washed over her own. She clung to those shoulders so covered in leather nor did he realized when he picked her up. She was so small, his power so great, and the motion came so natural. It also took nothing to open the door and carry her out to dawn’s grace.
Salt freshened wind spilled their forelocks around, and the sun, despite brightness, was gentle. Sephiroth gave her tongue a reprieve to kiss her on the brow. The maid shut her eyes as was her wont with her arms around his neck. Though every day was eternal heaven, Aeris took nothing for granted.
“Do you wish to see why we came up here?” he asked, smiling behind his closed eyes. The fallen could only see red through his lids, but her joy in his arms still bled through.
“Is it for the sunrise, dear general?” she asked, as she kissed him again.
“Is it not, little flower,” he said afterwards, “though the light will assist in reveal.”
Aeris squirmed a bit in her guardian’s arms before laying her head on his shoulder. She breathed in his scent as Sephiroth gazed down, unable to speak past this vision. There was no care for secrets within her bright smile. She was happy to just be with him. So long as she had that, nothing else mattered. Because she knows not your foul truth. Ever and always, guilt would remind him that love endured only through lie. It squeezed his torn heart in unbreakable vice, but that press could not seal the dark rents. Sephiroth’s face contorted in torture for moments he could not hide. He fought with his pain to mask the ruin for if she saw, he’d be undone. The truth would come spilling from his lips, and her hatred would break him more.
Aeris played fingers through that silver mane as though strumming a moon-wrought harp. She couldn’t care less where he was carrying her now, though the roof prior was unseen. I can look anytime now that I know it’s here. I’m sure the sunsets are so lovely. I can see all of that because of him. Slender arms tightened around his neck, and that helped stem the tears of joy, but at the touch of his lips to her brow, a few dewy pearls escaped.
“I’m going to put you down, little flower. Will you keep your eyes closed for a moment?”
“Yes, general,” the Cetra promised as her soft shod feet met solid surface. The morning air was still cool to the brush of white waves upon the sands. For the waters eternal, but never obtrusive, seemed almost curious, too. Aeris leaned back against his broad form, giggling as he veiled her eyes. The giggle turned to gasp as his other hand opened against her tender belly. She bit her lip, tilting her face slightly up to expose the sharp pulse in her throat.
“Is it well, little rose?”
“Yes, general, always…” She lifted her hands to his one.
“Good,” he replied, and Aeris half shuddered to the low voice against her back. “And hopefully, this is well, too…”
Sephiroth slid his palm from her eyes, and the maid blinked away the brief haze, but even without vision the smell of rich earth would’ve woken her Ancient awareness. The closest of shoes had been thrown on her feet: soft, white and slippered affairs. Dark loam beneath was staining the toes, but Aeris could not have cared less. She fell to her knees before the rich beds that had been laid on the roof of the Gate.
Unseen was her guardian’s cringe of remorse, as he backed away hiding a hiss. Lifting his hands with fingers like claws, as if warding off sight of the past. Sephiroth blinked quickly, attempting to cleanse it with tears ever unshed. I have no tears. They were not made for monsters. Her hum of joy battled his dark…despite the fact that her small hands were clasped, despite the sight of the maid on her knees. He could not erase it, the blood and the sword, it laid upon this sweeter present.
Aeris dug fingers deep in the earth that had been brought here just for her. In the upper terrace of this section of roof, her general had fashioned such space. No pews to disrupt, no boards to be sundered, and the Cetra’s tears watered the ground. That haven was gone even though it still stood. As desecrated as my poor flesh. Oh, my general, what you have done…how can you give me back more? No flowers grew there. It was only rich earth, but the most beautiful thing she had seen. No. She sniffled and twisted around to the vision of glory in light. The breeze streamed pure silver over sleek black and emerald light spilled down his face. His head was bowed low, nor did Aeris know why as she stood to rush back to his arms.
Sephiroth swept her up with nary an effort, the scent of earth warm on her skin. The Planet and Cetra were beyond kin, they were near indistinguishable. For others mundane, there was a connection that transcended both life and death, but he would be other, alien, tainted. The wrongness…it swam through each cell. And yet…and yet she’s in my arms, the antithesis of my foulness.
“General…” she sobbed, “my silver angel.” That title sealed palest lids. The fringe of his lashes covered his cheeks and brushed against chestnut hair. “You…” She clutched his chin, kissing him hard through the veil of brightening sun. Sephiroth could only answer with love this union he did not deserve. Though guilt wracked him for weight of the falsehood, her gratitude still filled his heart.
“You do everything and more for me. How did you…?”
“It did take some time.” He laid his brow against his flower’s, recalling the ones he’d earlier borne. They were by the beds, gathered ere dawn, though her shock had robbed Aeris of notice. “I was hoping I’d finish before summer’s end.” Regretful he gazed at the earth she had knelt by, for the promise of autumn was nigh. “There’s still some time, and if anyone can, you can raise life from the dust.” He put the Cetra down again, but this time she caught his hand.
Bemused, the general let Aeris lead him to what he had given his rose. She knelt again and Sephiroth had to answer by falling with grace to his knees. Jolting a bit at such glory brought low, she retrieved those long-picked blooms. The maid hadn’t lied and not one had full faded. The general thumbed the dahlia’s folds. Scent was diminished, but Sephiroth had no doubt that in time sweet fragrance would flow. The little Cetra tucked each blossom in, using her hands to scoop away dirt. Rising, the general returned to the doorway where there was room to stow needed tools.
“I wasn’t sure what all you’d require,” he said as tears bleared summer eyes. “So, I just bought the best of all. If you need more, just let me know.”
Never in this life or last had the Cetra had such tools for her toil. Neither rusted nor crooked nor prone to splinter in her tender palm. She nearly smeared her tears with soil until a silk handkerchief beat her hand. Gazing up to her guardian kneeling once more, as she was, before the rich bed. She finished setting of the other blossoms for it mattered not that they were different. Flowers should never have bloomed in the slums without sunlight or warmth for their splendor. The salt wind and sea weren’t conducive to what the dawn sun now thoroughly blessed, but Aeris accepted a long time ago that somehow she was miracle’s conduit. They would grow and prosper and summon fair others. She hoped lilies would answer the call.
She wept tears of joy in Sephiroth’s arms when her offerings to the world were replanted. He could not care less that her small hands were soiled with that which gave life to all. Save me. It is horror that fills me veins and eyes with the light of life. He wrapped her securely in his embrace, and his tiny flower sniffled.
“N-No men can reach me h-here in my garden.”
“That’s right, my little rose. You alone decide who’s allowed up here.”
“J-Just like in my room?”
“Just so. This space belongs to you. Whatever you want to do up here, whatever you wish to grow. We could put a cover over the beds to protect them from wind and chill. You, as well, when the season grows colder, if that’s what you wish, little one.” He lifted her chin and Mako flooded with love grieved but undying. Despite glacial green, despite slits like shards, it was impossible to hide. Aeris buried her face in his chest, squeezing her little fists hard.
“N-No, general. This is utterly perfect. They’ll get plenty of sun and rain, too.”
“They’ll die in the winter.” Though he was direct, regret still tinged every word.
“Th-That’s okay, too.” She shuddered to reminder in wind.
Summer was dying. But summer eyes never will. He swept the little maid up.
“You can fill Heaven’s Gate with myriad blooms, and through your innocence they will endure.”
The sky had turned darker despite the dawn, and Sephiroth smelled the oncoming storm. The rain would be gentle. There was that at least, but heaven’s spleen terrified her. The Great General frowned at the mere thought, swiftly carrying his flower inside. It would be a day filled with hot tea and savories, gentle talk and gentler touch. Kisses sweet and passionate, and work done while she dozed on his lap. The best days of all…if that’s what she wants. The fallen would never presume.
Now when Sephiroth returned home, he’d smile to hear her “upstairs.” She’d be humming her little flower song, and he’d look up despite lack of sight. In her roof garden, she could see all the shore and the sea that went on past forever. The homes of their neighbors were easily viewed, and her sight even stretched to the Square. At night the stars fell down on blooms that could’ve sprouted in just an eve’s span.
Safe in her garden and guardian’s arms, Aeris would scan such expanse. Sephiroth only marveled how she was immune to the blackness in between. It cursed him forever, but light was far worse. The stars would never forgive him. All of the cosmos knew of the horror that swam beneath pristine skin, and moonlight mourned it shared the shade of hair hued by corruption. Then Aeris would turn her gaze to him, and the judgment of heaven dissolved, but he hated himself for the lie of omission that allowed love to burn ever bright. She sees the stars. I see the darkness, the foundation on which they are laid…
Aeris did notice his phone now rang more, and her general was swift to answer. His voice was clipped and curt in command with a coldness to match his eyes. He was also concise so she was unsure whom or what he was ordering, but if they were touching, each muscle grew taut, and she’d whimpered so softly in fear. No matter the moment, he’d catch her small hand to rub it ever so gently. Lifting it high for a silent kiss between the starkly spent words.
“I never want you to be angry like that…a-angry like that at me,” she’d tell him after the call was done and his phone was hidden away.
“My little flower, I wasn’t angry, but I’d never speak to you in that way.” He sighed and kissed her slightly damp brow. “Sometimes I have to use my old title, though I wish the world would forget.” Then the kettle whistled and Sephiroth rose to warm and sweeter summons.
She still went to visit with Myrna or Nellie and invited them over for tea. The latter more often for Aeris was wary of a repeat of that other night. Her neighbor would pat her hand and laugh softly, assuring the maid it was well, but Aeris still shook at the thought of repeat, and Myrna’s mirth faded away.
“There’s no shame, child, in being afraid, especially in light of your past.”
“Especially since it was unexpected,” Nellie added with wine stained lips.
Sephiroth said nothing and just threaded her fingers in the warmth of his one hand. Aeris blinked blurry amongst friends and love, utterly safe as the sea sighed in peace.
Now he’d be in his office and she’d be in her garden sometimes of a warm, early eve. As he had imagined, the Gate was now filling with flowers of all types and hues. She’d asked him, of course, for Aeris always asked, and Sephiroth always told her she needn’t. His office, his room, even the hallways were now blessed with fragrant blooms. She’d asked for vases, and he kissed her brow then showed a site where they could be bought. Aeris blushed for she always forgot that such purchase was possible. Sitting on his lap as she perused the selection, while her protector enjoyed her delight.
“General, I…I do want to go some day to the places where these can be found.” She’d twisted to look up at his face, and Sephiroth traced the line of her jaw.
“I know you do, Aeris, and one day you will. Whenever you’re ready, my rose.”
Vases of crystal, silver and gold, filigreed and grand. They filled Heaven’s Gate with sweet offerings of petals so soft to the touch. Aeris now dwelled amongst myriad blossoms as a flower maid always should, but no lilies came to her high seaside garden, though the number of beds had increased. She didn’t mind truly. They dwelled in the mists of memory past that long horror. Yellow had been their hue long ago, but the last she recalled had been white. Then shadow had fallen on shivering petals. She’d remembered she’d turned in annoyance…
By gods’ grace her general had been there when she’d screamed, and he flew up the stairs to the roof. Scooping Aeris up as her voice finally failed, and she clung to broad shoulders and shook.
“I have you, my Aeris.” He repeated it over with no ounce of impatience to give. “You’re here with me now, forever safe. No one will hurt you again.” Weariness forced her tears to cease, and she slept with head cradled in silver. Concerned emerald fixed itself on her face as the general took her inside. When she awoke she was still in his arms, and long lashes did soften cold light.
The days only shortened, but Sephiroth would still worry if it were close to the light of noon. He’d glance up from his work as though slivered pupils could sheer through the ceiling to check. Her tender skin would easily burn even with sun protection, which she often forgot since for century’s time, the sun did not exist. The Cetra was good about such now, especially after some mishaps. Frowning, the general paused over the keyboard to recall her flesh pinkened in pain. Cure and aloe allayed the burn, but could not ease the care in bright Mako. Afterwards Aeris heeded the time or went up when the sun was more mild. Evening’s rays lent cerulean hue until the blue bled to full black. She’d watch the transition bathe the lonely shore; her hands clasped to this daily awe. No matter how often Aeris saw sunset, she never was less than amazed, and if Sephiroth held her from behind, the Cetra’s joy just overflowed.
I’m allowed to be here. I’m allowed to be safe and witness this light every day. He’d squeeze her soft middle, and she’d tilt her head back to the forelocks that spilled on her brow. Tiny, soft hands would descend down to his, as he bent for a kiss.
“You always make sure my hands go on top,” she whispered, still lost in that dance.
Slight smile lifted one side of his lips, as Sephiroth stood straight again. “Of course, I do, Aeris. You’re better than me. This truth will never change.”
Still looking at him with wider eyes, she slid her small hands beneath his. The general laughed and shook his head, and he wished it held more joy than rue. He switched the position, spreading his finger so her smaller ones fell in between. Pursing her lips, Aeris burrowed her hands beneath the warmth of his own. The low purr of laughter halved Sephiroth’s lids where jade burned like earth bound suns. Conceding defeat or at least a tie, he placed one of his palms over hers.
In his office now, one very clear eve when no wisps disturbed the mauve sky. Sephiroth studied his computer screen, working on autopilot. He leaned on his desk with his chin in his hand, slivered eyes cutting each word. Thoughts of his Aeris brought a slight smile to the normally porcelain mask. Only a mask when I’m not with her. With my rose, my face is true. He sighed while pinching the bridge of his nose. His office was dark per the norm. The screen had been dimmed to the lowest setting, while the ending day splayed light elsewhere. Evening had come to the side of the Whispers where Sephiroth’s workspace dwelled. It mattered not, though, to eyes that could pierce the darkness beyond the veil. Extra light neither hindered nor heightened preternatural sight. Aeris would gaze there, though, with no fear. Her soft lips lifted in glee.
Emerald narrowed in forced concentration as his thoughts sought to drift away. He imagined his Aeris asleep on his lap with his one arm draped around. Her head would be laid against his heart, her tiny hands warmed by his own. Perhaps she’d concede in her peaceful slumber to let her two cover his one, and the general would smile at this small victory, though losing was no cause for grief. He would not care that now one-handed he must complete mayoral tasks. It might take longer, but that wouldn’t matter for Aeris would be in his arms. Time could never move slowly enough for this ever perpetual joy. Once she finds out what I truly am, I will never touch her again. I’ll never hold her and whisper, “You’re safe.” I’ll be the cause of her fear.
He bowed his head briefly, returning to work to click for the next banal screen. Thankful at least that his job was simple to one with a masterful mind. Not that these tasks were remotely hard, but they were easier due to design. Manipulation and will had been given to him, and he’d been wholly trained for command. None would’ve seen, except perhaps Aeris, the wince that twitched solid shoulders. It was both a blessing, but also a curse, for he truly could multitask. Do work by rote as thoughts left to wander and wish for his sweet flower’s presence. Sephiroth sighed for mere thought was now needed for what wriggling had wrought before…
“General?” The tiny voice filled every fissure in the fallen’s broken heart. Surprise ruled his face before he could cage it, as Mako fired the night. Framing her, to his shame, in the light of corruption as the Cetra shone brilliantly through. She’d been dressed in brown on ascent to her garden, and the skirt had been long to her shins. But that was no more and light ruffles now ruled, barely brushing her thighs. On her feet were soft flats, pale lined in silver to match the trim of her garb. She’d picked them for love of his moon washed mane, but there was no way they could compete. Her hair had been braided to circle her crown though her bangs still flew long and free. Sephiroth had rendered such care earlier, but the headband had been her own doing. The one made of diamond and silver leaves, now reflecting cold emerald glow. One little hand was squeezed at her heart near the diamond drop at her throat, and the myriad rings that adorned tiny fingers glittered with only his light.
Guilt and terror burned through his soul as slivers froze on her face. Aeris’s head was cocked to the side, swishing long bangs on her breasts. The general noticed. He couldn’t help it to another huge heaping of rue, but worse was the fear that he had done this…that he had compelled her to come. Somehow, someway, without his behest, he’d reached into Aeris’s head, planted the seed that he wanted her and forced her descend to his side. How else to explain this sweet flower’s presence at the height of his lecherous thoughts? The screen went dark and only his eyes troubled the new made eve.
As if indeed Aeris was pulled by his pain, she rushed into Sephiroth’s arms. Soft white fabric shivered on black, as he locked the maid in his embrace. He was always so warm in his winter skin, and she settled on his lap with a sigh. The maid lifted her face, exposing a throat where rapid pulse hummed on pale flesh. The general shut his eyes as he took what she offered, ashamed of what lurked in sealed Mako. She’d never stop screaming for his base desire, but Aeris just squirmed even more. And so their tongues danced to the beat of their hearts, the steady and the thrum.
“Why did you come to me, my Aeris?” His voice as low as the burn in his eyes. He’d locked the small maid in the wall of his arms, a fortress forever unmatched.
“I wanted to, general…” She reached up, and he kissed her hand before fingertips stroked his cheek.
“Did you for true?” Sephiroth cleared the bangs from her innocent, lovely face. Aeris lifted to kiss him again, and he could only match her desire. The high little moans turned emerald to jade behind his tightly sealed lids, and when she descended his “problem” was worse. The Cetra could not care less. In fact, she plopped back down quite hard to the most exquisite torment.
“Yes, my general,” the flower maid whispered, as her lifted limb slid down black silk. It fell to his forearm, thick and strong to Aeris’s endless ardor. The muscles mocked marble as Sephiroth tightened the fist beside his elbow. The Cetra glanced down and stroked the taut tendons on the back of his tortured hand. It could not be helped. He opened for her so fragile fingers could slide in between. “I always want to be near you, general,” she murmured to softened jade. “I love my garden and love our friends, but in your arms, I’m home. I mean…” She blushed and he kissed the fresh pink. “I know that Heaven’s Gate is my home now unto f-forever, but…” She shook her head, and Sephiroth had to smile, though sorrow tinged its edge.
“I understand, Aeris. It’s just hard to believe…like a miracle lit with my own curséd eyes. They were not meant for miracles, my little flower.” He shut them but his lashes still gleamed. The Cetra bit her lip, brushing their length carefully with her thumb. They tickled it as he blinked emerald back open, half-smile ever unsurprised.
“Your arms were the first home I ever had when you carried me away…clothed in your coat, wrapped in your strength. I was finally, finally safe.”
“So, you don’t feel a compulsion to come to me, Aeris?”
“I always feel drawn to you…”
He winced as though struck. He couldn’t look at her, but her sweet voice still rang in his ears. Tender palms and tiny fingers clutched at the might of his hands, and the fallen had to open the other one to allow her touch slip softly through. The little Cetra blinked up confused, weeding through grief with summer green. Warmth and love flowed eternal and strong, but sorrow still strangled his heart.
“Whatever is it, dear general? D-Do you not want me to-”
“Dear gods, my Aeris. I want you so much.” The rasp tore the words from his throat. Now she’ll scream. Now she’ll struggle. Now she’ll beg for release. She’ll be terrified that I’ll be like them, but I never could treat her so. She’s my little flower and mine to protect. She’s…still here upon my lap. She’s not afraid, because she doesn’t know. That’s why I’m still blessed with her presence.
“I…know, Great General.” She wiggled a bit and gazed up with her lip in her teeth. All speech left his tongue as that perfect face held the guilt of a child caught stealing sweets. “Whenever I see or…just think about you, I…feel myself open up.” A flush filled her cheeks, but this was not shame, and all trace of his mask sheered away. “It’s not like the others. It’s not that at all. With them…” Shaking, she hid her face. The general caressed her cheek with his knuckle and kissed the top of her head. The cool of her crown was warmed by his lips, as Aeris just breathed his scent in. It was wreathed around her in promised protection, a vow that could not be dissolved. “But…you’re not them,” she raggedly breathed. “You’re my silver angel. My general, my protector, my hero, my love. All you do is care for and guard me. You’re beyond beautiful and now some of my dreams aren’t nightmares anymore. They’re…about you and your gentle touch, but I always wake up too soon…”
Sephiroth tried to steel his expression, but jade bled from widened eyes. He blinked several times, beating the air with lashes that could’ve mocked wings, and another deep sigh only confirmed his problem was just getting worse. He wanted her more than he’d wanted godhood (though he’d never truly sought that), and it would take nothing to lift the maid up, undo buttons, and drown in rich dew. He’d ease her down slowly, and unblinking eyes would never leave her face. He had to be sure. He could not be remiss. Hurting her was an abomination. They’d hurt her so badly…torn her apart. She’d never endure that again. The fallen’s ears would be shaped to hear torture. Her “No, no, no! Please stop!!” Pleas screamed unheard for a hundred years would be obeyed before the first sob, but maybe, just maybe the walls of their house would transcend echo chambers of joy…
“S-So I want you, too, my general.” So languid, so fluid was she on his lap, utterly safe in his arms.
“Oh, my Aeris.” He shook his head, bangs brushing that lifted face. “I don’t want you to want it because I do…” Her lips were so pink within glacial emerald it smoldered back to jade. “We have to be sure that it would be right. You must see yourself as my equal. You’re higher than me, but equal is better than how you see us together. Even now you still can’t speak my name…”
The Cetra’s skin tightened and every hair stood as her pupils shrank down to pinpoints. Sephiroth cupped her soft cheek and murmured sweet words to soothe the maid’s fears away.
“Though…” He cocked his head with a smile forlorn. “You have stopped calling me ‘master.’”
“I…like ‘general.’ You h-haven’t hurt me for using that.”
“Nor would I hurt you for using my name. Nor would I hurt you for anything, Aeris.”
The Cetra refused to soil her eyes with incoherent sobs. The utter sincerity in his low voice to this ever and always sweet vow. She laid a small hand to his solid chest so pale beneath the black shirt. I’m on his lap, wrapped in his arms. I’ll never be hurt again. He loves me. Why? What have I done to deserve such protection and care?
“My Great General…”
He bowed his head. “You, of all people, call me that…my once honored designation.”
“D-Do you not like it?”
“It’s not that, my Aeris…it’s not that at all. And I love it from your lips.” He covered the hand on his chest with his own, a shield and never a cage. “It’s…odd to be honored with a title I never chose to have. I sit here in eternal disbelief at how much you love and you trust me.” Based on a lie. It clenched his jaw as tightened teeth ground together. “It’s…more than a gift of light little one. It’s more than words can ever say, but…” A sliver of emerald appeared through his lids, still lighting all of her face. “I don’t want to force you to do anything, and…I was thinking of you, little rose.” He thumbed her cheek, and Aeris leaned towards his touch with a tiny sigh. “Before you came, you…dwelled in my thoughts.”
Her head jerked up as he turned away to hide the sorrow sincere. Clasping the hand that caressed her cheek, the Cetra squeezed it hard. Gently, so gently, the general returned the press per their little “game’s” rules. It was possible that Aeris could take a bit more than the slight pressure he dared exert, but Sephiroth could still center on once broken bones, and mere thought of her past clenched free fist.
Aeris gazed up at her great silver angel as the wind from the sea stirred his hair. Even as evening covered the sands, the chill could not reach her with him. She wondered what palette had dared bear his image for thick lashes drawn on so long. Then she recalled he’d been born in a lab, and her heart hurt for ancient pain. He’d hate her grief though and indeed he turned back with scrutiny thinning his pupils.
“You’re afraid…” She swallowed for that thought seemed absurd. “You’re afraid your…thoughts called to me. That you f-forced me into your arms.” It trailed off in whisper, but his forlorn face confirmed that her notion was true. The Cetra shook her head and wet her lips so pink glistened like a dew stained rose. Jade burned his lashes, igniting foul thoughts augmented when Aeris shifted. She leaned on his chest with both hands curled. “I always want to be near you.”
“But is that just my desire? Has it wormed its way into your head as I did be-” His lip curled up as he jerked away to hide terror in utter disgust. You still can’t do it. You still cannot tell her. Remain a coward, a villain, a monster. Stay selfish and bask in her joy in your arms, but you cannot hide from your lies.
“Dearest general…” She laid her head to his heart that even in anguish beat steady. A lock of moon silver was twisted around one of the flower maid’s fingers. His bangs slithered over to Sephiroth’s revulsion that they resembled pale snakes on her skin, but Aeris just sighed to capture his scent so he turned her whole world into light. “You saved me and you protect me now. You’ve given me the world. No one will ever hurt me again, a-and if they tried, you’d never allow it. You’d stop them, Great General.” Aeris swallowed as her lids fluttered fast, and Sephiroth ran a thumb down her lips. “There’s something about me, despite your grief, that brings joy to your life.”
“Before you, my Aeris, I had no life. I just went through the motions.”
“And I had even less before you…” She gripped his solid wrist with both her hands as Sephiroth pulled her closer. In guilt, the fallen cursed himself that he would dare compare, but the maid gazed at him with such adoration each thread of his heart was cut. “There’s never a time when I don’t think about being in your arms. I imagine how wonderful it will be, but my thoughts can’t compete with the truth. And now here I am, and it’s so much better…” Tears broke through the summer veil.
Sephiroth leaned over and kissed both her cheeks, tasting salt that was sweet on his lips. Aeris turned slightly to catch their perfection parting to the press of her own. Thick, gentle fingers opened so slowly on the shivering skin of her neck, and the Cetra had to cling to his arms as her pale thighs willingly spread.
You will not ask her. Ask her. No. Never. She moaned in his mouth with a writhe. Sephiroth held still, but deepened the kiss in a desire to taste every breath. Only his clothing kept them apart, the buttons tortured and strained. He ended the kiss so exquisitely slow, his breath like warm cloves on her face.
“We think of each other…” The low roll of his voice echoed from his chest through her bones. It offered absolution for just a brief moment before rue crept through revelation. “I only hope my thoughts don’t tamper with your will.”
“Never, my general,” the little maid said with her lips parted in waiting. He gave her her wish, and Aeris’s fingers buried themselves in moon silk.
May I have you, my Aeris? He’d breathe against her pale throat. Hear her cry, “Yes.” Sweep her up and carry her to bed. He’d lay her down gently and cover his rose with more kisses than stars in black skies. Each one would erase a white scar of torment, and her skin would be unmarked again. Blessed with nothing but eternal kisses and washed with his silver hair. There’d be no rush. There’d be no force. There’d be only infinite time. The general would bathe in his flower’s delight. Taste every petal, revel in dew, let her cries meld with his steadfast heart. Then only when pleasure had felled every limb and sapped her voice to a whisper of breath, he’d ask her again, “May I have you, my Aeris?” and light her face as he entered her slow. She’d be tiny and tight, but he’d be so careful…pressing their brows together. He’d refuse to miss one nuance of joy, one flicker of ecstasy, and just as important, he had to ensure that no moment of pain occurred. Never with me…never again…
Sephiroth opened his eyes of hot jade. The little Cetra still had her face lifted, lids sealed with the grandest of smiles. Forever she’d kiss him, drown in the taste and scent of vanilla and frost. The pink in her cheeks had spread to her neck and further down silver lined breasts. Sliding his hands over his elbows, the general clasped them tight. He’d never breach the sanctity of her flesh, not without her permission. Sephiroth knew it would just take one question, but he still was unsure of her “Yes.
“I can’t help but think of you, Aeris. You’re innocent, precious…and you love me.” The final word tore his rich tone. “That last is incongruent.”
He searched her soft face as love eternal continued to pour from her skin. The general was trying to be logical in his endless self-loathing, but with a mere head tilt, the Cetra fought it for veneration never ceased.
“How do you love me? How can you, sweet rose? How can who you are love what I am?” A monster and an abomination, the worst horror this world has seen. I’m ever a coward. Why don’t I tell you? I fear your hatred so. I who feared nothing for so very long, lost to despair and wrath. You deserve to know. I can…just disappear. I’ll still care for you, my Aeris. If that’s what you wish. If that’s what you need. This is your Heaven’s Gate. Having a house is merely convenient to something inhuman like me. I don’t really need to “live” anywhere. It’s just a creature comfort.
Tears slid down her cheeks to augment the pink, though Aeris could not have said why. Perhaps desperation raining down from Mako light brighter than dawn. The hollows beneath were now darker than hers, his flowing as hers ebbed away. She raised a hand and stroked his cheek, wishing to draw out the pain. Lifting to ease the stray forelock aside before plopping back down on his lap. The general winced at the moment of contact more ashamed of his base response. Guilt had torn those thoughts to shreds, but they reformed to battle with sorrow. He still wanted her more than anything, and her squirming just made it worse.
“Dearest general…how could I not love you?”
You love me for foulest lies. Sephiroth lowered his face, while he rubbed her small hands, and his conscience destroyed the once fallen. You love me because you don’t know what I am, and my selfishness keeps it that way. You’re utterly happy just to be near me, wrapped in my arms, safe and warm. You need me no more, but you don’t believe that. Your cruel past still always clings. Men terrify you and yet you’ve no fear of me whose crime may have caused all. What if my killing you caused this to happen? He could look at her no more. The gratitude that he did not deserve, the adoration that ripped him apart. My cowardice shames me. In all of my strength with all of my power it claws. You think I’m a hero, someone to worship, a marvelous angel of light. That light is corruption, that angel is fallen, that hero died long ago. You see what remains, the veneer that mocks beauty, but can never erase what I’ve done…
“General, I love you. I love you so much. I-I think you need to hear that.” He lifted her hand to lay on his heart that now held more ache than beat, but it was still steady, stoic and strong, and she brushed her lips on smooth skin. “I think,” the maid whispered, “you need to hear that like I need to hear how I’m so safe. I love you, dear general. I never want to leave. I just want to live in your arms. Please…” The Cetra suddenly shuddered and buried her face in his chest. Sephiroth scanned this change in alarm, holder her close to relieve her quake. “Please don’t ever disappear! I don’t want to live here without you. I…don’t care where we live though I love Heaven’s Gate, our neighbors, and the Whispers, but…I love you more. Even though I’m much better, I…I still need you.”
“I love you, my Aeris. I’ll always keep you safe.” He stroked her cheek, his mask veiling awe as he tried to understand. “I’ll never leave you, little flower. How could I and miss this sweet bloom?”
She sniffled and dared to peek up with one brightened eye. He was wearing a smile only for her that grew truer the longer he gazed. Then Aeris’s stomach voiced a complaint for the evening was now full told.
Sephiroth gently laughed, “Are you hungry, my rose?” He slid one arm beneath her knees with the joy of small palms on his shoulders. Effortlessly the general stood, pushing work to the back of his mind. Caring for Aeris was far more important than mayoral tasks that could wait. She kissed his cheek and kissed it again, sliding her arms ‘round his neck. A sweet little hum filled the fallen’s ear. So unworthy…was his guilty thought, but he still turned to face her and had to accept the kisses both sultry and chaste.
Later that evening when she was abed and he’d finishing up his work, Sephiroth was undoing his belt to change into clothes for the hunt. That task was done with minimal fuss, but his fingers faltered below. Several buttons were loose and more were missing. How the hell did that happen? He glared at the garment, and then emerald widened recalling base desire. Truly? He sighed with renewed gratitude at how much he hated zippers.
The General grudgingly let lesser guilt reign when Aeris would seek him out. Rarely, just rarely, his thoughts would be taken by something other than her. Sometimes a request would require some work or he’d need to take or make a call. If he were out about mayoral business, he was all neutral benevolence. His perfect face that passive mask with eyes halved to quell alarm. Not that he needed such shielding here. He was just used to it. Though he’d been mayor for quite a long time, he still had to remind himself. That the populace’s gratitude was real and not feigned. He was of use, but he wasn’t used.
But with his Aeris…nothing but love and awe spilled from her at every sight. Subliminally, he was always aware of her coming before it informed conscious thoughts. He’d glance up from his work, before bracing himself for the joy of her touch. She’d climb on his lap and settle right in, and he’d sighed behind tightened smile. He’d instantly know she was bare where it mattered without ever having to look. He hated the thoughts that assailed his foul mind for having both them and his lies. I want to pierce those tender pink petals and watch her every reaction. Ensure that ecstasy rules each inch of flesh, and she forgets her past full of pain. Thumbing her lips to soft flower kisses, for a moment the fallen knew peace. The reprieve wasn’t long before guilt full returned that he even gave thought to their joining. Faugh…you’re both fallen and foolish in pride. The same act can’t erase the other…
He’d murmur, “My Aeris…” His arms closed around, as he covered her face with kisses. The Cetra would gaze up as one dropped on her brow, and his lips remained there for long moments. Stretched past forever to mists beyond now where neither of their pains could reach.
<–Chapter 15 Chapter 17–>