<–Chapter 24 Chapter 26–>
Disclaimer: Final Fantasy VII, its characters, and settings are all property of Square Enix so I can take no credit nor claim any ownership of that. I do take some credit for the story’s plot.
Banner Artwork Disclaimer: The featured artwork for the banner is entitled White rose I and was created by the very talented Deviant Artist RemusSirion who was gracious enough to grant me permission to use it here. The picture has been slightly altered from the original. All rights belong to the artist, and links are included for both the artist page and the work.
*******MAJOR CONTENT WARNING*******
Consistent and sustained graphic descriptions and mentions of rape/ sexual assault, sexual slavery/bondage, slavery, human trafficking, physical abuse, graphic descriptions of violence, mental abuse, emotional abuse, psychological abuse, body shaming, starvation, torture, forced pregnancy, forced childbirth, miscarriage, forced miscarriage, abortion, and other potential disturbing and triggering topics.
Aeris learns to cherish the beauty of winter even as she worries over the new aspect of their relationship.
The sky and the shore had become one, blended to winter white. Not even the sea dare disturb monochrome. It murmured within its grey shroud. Frost painted lace upon the large window leading out to the balcony. A winter tableau scattering light as the day waxed coldly around.
Heaven’s Gate guarded a far different world where the little Cetra still slept. Sunk in her own sea of blankets and pillows where the mattress couched her within warmth. Delicate fingers curled upon softness, one set held near her face. Thick blankets had been pulled up to her ear, though chestnut swam over the folds. Behind soft shut lids, she clutched at dream webs that made her slightly frown. Not quite a whimper escaped from her lips, and she was happy to just let them go.
Just to ensure no dark would catch her, Aeris opened her eyes. That green’s bright was summer unstolen, though winter still ruled the air. Not here. She yawned, deliciously warm and wriggling with delight. She blinked several times, always to ensure that this life was the truth and no vision, but it was more a formality now. Two hundred and seventy-one days. It’s been that long since last I was raped and beaten. The maid slipped a hand over her slender neck with its shiny scar circled around. The only chains allowed there were of her own placing, bearing jewels of adornment not harm. Her wrists and ankles had them, too. My entire body’s a scar.
The hand at her neck slid slowly down, brushing past sensitive breasts. Tingling erupted at near memory of much larger ones cupping there. Sweet and bitter fought for place as her fingers skimmed over each line. Horror was spoken all over her flesh, but his touch was rewriting the tale. Aeris skittered down her quivering belly where the worst of the marks did play. She was going to quickly bypass this space, but she lingered through gritted teeth. This…this held life. Th-They forced that on me. She clenched her hand hard on loose, pink skin, layered with stretch marks and scars. Her knuckle brushed lower and Aeris did pause, her brow wrinkling over shut eyes. This is my flesh, a-and these are my fingers. But brief melding ceased at the gate. Rolling to her back with a large yawn, opened legs made her breath come in bursts. She had to remember that she wasn’t there, and this pain was not like the last.
A knock on the door brought her head to the surface, and the low, “Aeris?” filled her with warmth. In one hand her general perfectly balanced a tray containing full breakfast. There was no waver. Not even the tea would dare spill against his command. The black sleeves of his shirt were rolled up with the leather, tight against thick forearms. Aeris sat up to his approach, locks framing her nakedness.
“Awake at last, my little flower?” he said with a grin, flares shimmering through emerald bright.
“I-Is it late, Sephiroth?” She startled a bit as the wind battered upon the glass. Flinging a wide gaze over her shoulder, Aeris pulled covers around that slim span. Noiselessly, Sephiroth set the tray down before seating himself by her side. Leather and silver flared as he did so light rested upon dark and sleek. The Cetra instantly leaned against and just as swiftly his arm wrapped around. She buried one hand in the warmth of his palm, closing her eyes with a sigh of the blessed.
The general blinked down for several sweet moments, nearly forgetting she’d asked him a question. This lovely rose is wrapped in my arms, as bare as the day I found her, but now free of fear as she’s free of chains. May the first never hold her again. He circled his thumb on her tender palm, and the sweetest hum slipped from her lips. The scent of mint tea seeped between vanilla, so she turned her face into his hair.
“It’s afternoon, my little flower. Did you not see my message?” The chuckle caused her lift her head to smoldering emerald green. “Your slumber was heavy as well as long. You must’ve slept through that report.”
Aeris wondered briefly where her phone was, but didn’t really care. His presence confirmed it wasn’t a dream before tender flesh caused her slightly wince. Mako missed nothing, and dampened elation dug a brief crease between his brows, but Aeris just wiggled closer to him unable to cease her sight. She wished like him she could forestall blinks, for summer craved winter undarkened.
“Mm,” she murmured, “my Sephiroth…the most beautiful man in the world.”
The so-named did sigh, but still cupped her cheek to kiss her on the brow. That brief pressed shut the Cetra’s eyes, but shivering silver rewoke them. He tilted his head, his smile returned at last half ways on perfect lips.
“No…I’m wrong.” She reached for his face, which lowered for the “true” assessment. “You’re not the most beautiful man in the world…you’re the most beautiful person.” Sliver split emerald could not cut his grief at innocent observation.
“It is wrong, my Aeris, for it’s unfair.” A kiss warmed her little hand. “The assessment’s unjust. My beauty is tainted, because I’m not human for true. It isn’t right to compare. It’s not fair to others who have no corruption. I don’t ever deserve to be human, Aeris. I can never claim that name.”
The little Cetra rolled her eyes, and Sephiroth suppressed a sad laugh. Her sass and fire were returning, the latter a strange match for his own.
“You claim all the time your blood’s corrupted, yet your loveliness just shines through, and…besides that you’re better than human. It was humans who…” She suppressed a shudder. A deep line grew between her brows, as the maiden’s pulse ached with the past.
“Yet…I did worse.” His sorrow called echo that Aeris’s soul rejected.
“You did what was forced, and you’ve been forgiven.”
The loveliest ache hollowed his heart of all but her absolution. It caught him so hard, Sephiroth didn’t notice her struggling to lift his large hand. She wished to lay a soft kiss to each finger with several to spare for his palm. Peering then over to the breakfast tray, Aeris was delighted to reach for the tea. Lavender mint sweet stained her lips, but she frowned when she found no black coffee.
“Where’s yours, Sephiroth?” She asked and then offered up her own cup. His smile returned, though he still shook his head. Her nature would never change.
“I had some prior while I made this for you.” He did consent to take the teacup. Aeris clapped her hands with delight at the breakfast still warm on the tray. Her blankets slipped down so only waved chestnut covered the little maid, but she couldn’t care less as she buttered a scone before dipping it in runny eggs. Pushing the messy mane back from her face, she accepted some tumbling crumbs. Aeris’s thanks were ever sincere when he returned her tea, and she happily sipped at the sweet brew, while her free hand found his mayor’s pin.
“You’re so dedicated, my general.”
Sephiroth glanced down.
“You wear this even when you don’t go out.”
“I must, little flower, just in case, and I actually did venture forth.” He covered the hand so near to his heart that steadily ached with pure love. “It’s why I messaged you this morn in case you woke alone.” Beyond gentle he squeezed her fingers. “I didn’t want you to believe I’d left you with no regard.” With all of her strength she returned the crush he’d never use against her. Shaking her head to ensure her love she’d never think so ill.
“D-Did something happen in the night? Are the Whispers okay?”
“Yes, everything’s fine, my little flower. It’s nothing to worry about.” He kissed her crown, all protector again, as residual fear brought a slight quake. “One of the windmills lost a blade, frozen off in the night.” He retrieved his phone and thumbed the bright screen, and the motion drew Aeris’s gaze. “I was notified early this morning of it. It’s automatic when one breaks.” His lips quirked up beneath slight mist. “Much can be monitored through my phone. Technology is now more an aid…” He gazed at the hand curled around the device, but refused to allow more guilt. He’d been forgiven. She’d just said so, and he could not forsake those sweet words. “No one was hurt, and it can be remedied when the weather clears.”
“Can the blade be fixed, Great General?”
“Alas, my Aeris, no.” He slid the phone back into a pocket, and she re-attached their hands. “Once broken, some things will remain so. It can only be replaced.”
Threading their fingers tightly together, love lit her summer eyes. “Some ‘things’ are better even if broken and irreplaceable.”
“Indeed, little one.” He bowed his head. “Some broken things retain their use.”
“Things are used,” she reminded him. “W-We’re people and never will be. N-Never again…not you and not me. I…want to protect you, too.”
He sat up to a regal height and closed his arm closer around. Aeris added her other hand to his one, gazing up with quivering lip. Her expression, though, was resolute…until he tickled her tiny fingers. She giggled to Sephiroth’s mild, brief smile as he considered his tiny protector.
“I’d love that, my Aeris. It lessens my pain knowing I have your forgiveness.” He cocked his head with a truer smile. “And how are you feeling, my rose?”
“Well…” she started with spots on her cheeks. “My insides do hurt a little.”
A stricken look replaced all joy, and Sephiroth would’ve recoiled, but Aeris held tightly to his hand, and he would never deprive her.
“Oh, Aeris, I’m sorry. I’m so very sorry. I should’ve been more careful.”
She rolled her eyes with a click of her tongue. “I couldn’t have asked for more care.”
“I could’ve tried,” he replied darkly, but Aeris just shook her head.
“If you’d been rough, I would’ve cried, and you’d have instantly stopped.”
He gave a long blink while slivers thinned in sharp consideration.
“And th-this pain is different. It’s like…sore muscles after taking a lengthy walk.”
Sephiroth drew her closer to his side, searching her face to ensure her words. She loves me too much and may think a lie will ease my burdened heart. No…she couldn’t. She must speak the truth. She’s too innocent to bear a falsehood.
“It’s not like before,” the small Cetra whispered, reaching again for his face. One hand followed hers to clutch at his cheek, thumb caressing her soft, little palm. “I-I’m not torn. I’m not in agony.” She squeezed her eyes shut against memory. “It’s not like the day…the day you found me and the thousands of dark days before. You didn’t hurt me, Sephiroth, e-even though you could. You were so gentle, so very gentle and slow. I never knew it could be that way.”
“It’s the only way it will be.”
“Thank you so much for that.” She looked away, and Mako blazed to fear in the mist. “There were times when th-they did that…t-tore me so badly I bled for days. It hurt to move. It hurt to breathe, b-but if I cried I was beaten…”
He sealed emerald tight and wished he could kill them over and over again. Then find their spirits in that endless swell and tortured them all beyond time. But that is the horror taunting my soul. They are dead, and the Planet will judge them. It is not for me. I’m not a god. Faugh to court such fallacy…
“You s-see? Even angry, you’re still so gentle.” She continued to grip his tense hand.
“I’m not angry at you, my sweet, little rose.” His rich baritone remained low lest his voice raise to ire, lest he frighten her so. Sephiroth sighed and granted himself the sight of her lovely face. “I could never be angry at you, my Aeris. My wrath is reserved for that filth.”
“But they’re all dead now, Sephiroth.”
“I know.” Emerald flame, though, lived on. It mellowed though as she stroked his cheek, flowing peace through tiny fingers. He kissed every one, and jade caught the fire as he half-grinned at her still naked state. The Cetra squirmed, though not on his lap, then squeaked to her still tender flesh. Regret felled his face and made Sephiroth glad for the forelocks obscuring his sight, but then Aeris laughed and patted his hand before wetting her lips til they shone. Turning more towards her, the general bent his head to taste the first kiss of the morning. Thumbing her cheek, he kissed her again, though this time the maid led the dance.
After her shower, as Aeris dried her hair, she noticed the tray was now gone. More tea did remain still warm in the pot, and the maid sipped it through tears of joy. The ceramic rang to the clink of her rings as she kicked her stockinged feet. A longer, white skirt flared up in her glee, while lavender sweetened her tongue. Had he not knocked, Aeris would’ve heard nothing of the general’s silent return. Glancing up with a gasp, she beckoned him in one-handed to finish the brew. Then set it down before hopping up in the grasp of his proffered hands. The wind stroked the panes, swirling crisp snow against unyielding glass, and she twirled toward the din still in his clutch with awe overriding her fear. Nor did the shudder, quivering soft, hold any inch of terror.
“And what would you like to do today, Aeris?” he asked so she swung back around. Over one shoulder, her ponytail flew, brushing a bang on its way to her knees.
“C-Can I see this new snowy world?”
“Of course, you can, little one. It’s frigid though. I must warn you. Did you still wish to go out?”
“I th-thought the cold didn’t affect you.”
“It doesn’t, but I’m still aware. Though such bite won’t break my flesh, I can still gauge the pressure.” Despite winter skin, his smile was warm as Aeris turned up his palm. Her fascination with him never would cease to small fingers tracing the lines.
“Well…I have plenty of warm clothes now.” She stepped fully into his arms. As natural as breathing, they closed around, and she lifted her face with a sigh.
“You do, my Aeris,” he assured, Mako light filling his lashes.
“I-It won’t be too bad, will it, Sephiroth?”
“It’s quite bitter out, little rose. The wind is cruel to cast the snow forth in herald of its cut.”
She pulled herself closer, but did not hide her face. Words of frost did not sap his fire. Silver bangs slid against hers more honeyed in emerald, and his arms locked at her lower back. Aeris had risen onto her toes as if yearning for winter light, and as always, the general relieved her quaver so her feet did ascend mundane perch. She tittered a bit flexing them there, stretching each toe in midair. It’s so easy for him it’s almost unnoticed, and I’m still nowhere close to his height.
“It’s your choice, my Aeris, as ever and always.” Emerald smoldered despite its own chill. “The roof or veranda or perhaps about town?” A brow lifted at the last.
Swallowing, the Cetra held his gaze as she drummed dainty fingers. Sephiroth checked amusement for such pointed play occurred against his chest.
“The v-veranda I think, a-and I’ll dress in layers. If it’s too cold-”
“We’ll come back inside.”
A buzz made her jump, and he held her tighter, but it was just the Cetra’s phone. Sephiroth set her down ever gentle so Aeris could answer the summons.
“You’ll never just drop me, will you, general?” she asked clutching the phone to her breast.
He narrowed his eyes and shook his head, appalled that she’d ever consider. “Never my flower.” Then kissed her cheek before letting her attend to the message. It caused a sheepish if giddy grin, and he hid what mirth that drew. Suspecting it Myrna or possibly Nellie, though a second buzz opted for both.
She had white boots patterned pale grey like swirling mist through the suede. High to the thigh, over thick stockings, beneath a heavy white skirt. Aeris buttoned her shirt and slipped on a sweater of ivory wool so fine. Then a coat lined in faux fur, far better than real, light fawn, hooded and long. He buttoned it for her for gloves made fingers stiff, and his could be bare for this task. His brow creased a bit when he wrapped round the scarf, but Aeris smiled broad in delight.
Aeris flexed her hands inside stiff white gloves, leather prior unworn. She wouldn’t give up on the sliding door knob, and Sephiroth had no need for impatience. Half hung in the heavens, the sun near blended in to a sky more milky than blue. The wind feigning fierce while up in her room seemed more subdued at her sight. Or rather his, the little maid thought, stepping surprised on firm surface. Small pools of water shone brighter than coins, shivering in indecision. Their true form was ice, but heating beneath denied them this solid state. Her boot tip disturbed this strange dilemma so Aeris could approach frosted rail. Walking through the frozen air was like passing through winter in stall. It was surely cold, but perfectly still as if granting the Cetra reprieve.
The beach was no more though the hue was the same, white sand replaced with pale colder. The grey and white mere slid on the shore, more silent than slumbering hush. It truly dreams now, Aeris considered with a gasp to breathe white before. Warmth turned to frost dissipating in swiftness, though each moment produced more and more. She laughed to the sight and slid down her scarf, gulping than as the cold clutched her chin. A far crueler grasp than her Great General who remained ever not far behind.
The mist of new breath fought the mist of her past, and warmth flooded the Cetra’s cheeks. No longer naked and no longer chained, her body had resources now. Only her face was exposed to freeze, and her warmed blood could readily battle. Not even the railing, where heat did not reach, could clutch her through all of her clothes.
A sonnet of sunbeams spread over her face reflected from crystalline snow. Despite the wane orb owning no sway over air seething cold. It shimmered like stars to come down by day. But with no judgment for glittering green. She had to look back at her silver angel who could’ve been winter’s king. His gaze scanned the ocean, and a shudder took her for how emerald was colder than air, but it wasn’t fear that shook her bones. Never fear at all. Determination held his grieving gaze as only slivers slid. With his hands clasped behind, Sephiroth neared the railing, still cutting the endless sea. He allowed himself turn to then scan the town, his constant vigilance. The pin shone as always upon his lapel, but neither vision nor phone caused alarm. He completed his survey where he’d begun, and glacial light softened on her. Features so rendered in beauty and cold, flesh formed to withstand war’s heart had only one purpose now for all the ages, and that slight smile wore eternal peace.
A skirl of wind sliced like a knife, some of its boldness returned. Aeris sucked in her breath at the bitter shock, lifting her scarf back up. Silver hair gleamed like hanging winter undisturbed by snowy dust. It fell from the eave, and Aeris stepped back into his waiting hands. Around slim shoulders his long fingers curled, and more than cold now blushed her face. She’d tucked her bangs behind her ears to garner additional heat. Buried now beneath her hood, the cold had had time to dig comfort out. From above, his lips did descend, blessing her shivering brow. Sephiroth held it for short, lovely moments, but even ending it lessened no warmth.
Back inside Aeris blew out her breath more than thankful the next wasn’t frost. The residual cold from the open door couldn’t withstand the Gate’s heat. She peeled off her gloves and slid off her coat, leaving Sephiroth hold the latter. Rushing to the kitchen to his mild bemusement while he stood with the garment in grip. She wanted to beat him to the task of preparing hot chocolate and coffee. Pulling her boots off while on the run, Aeris left them so heaped behind.
Both bitter and sweet soon swirled through the air, as the little maid searched through the cupboards. She braved the refrigerator’s chill before peering into their pantry. Humming so sweetly in her indecision for something to nibble on. Too early for tea (though it was past noon) but Aeris wanted a snack. The cold dried her lips, but whet appetite, giving her belly cause to complain. Compromise came with a large apple and a few choice bits of cheese, but as she carefully sliced latter, the little Cetra froze.
“What is it, Aeris?” a low voice asked, as she teetered upon her stepstool. Sephiroth caught her instantly, folding the maid in his arms. She reached a bit higher upon her stand to lodge her crown under his chin. Blinking to match her hard pounding heart, the Cetra clung hard to this moment.
“It’s just…it’s just…” She shook her head, unsure how to speak near coherence. Sephiroth stroked the long chestnut tail, where winter still chilled the soft strands. He rubbed her bare shoulders and slim upper arms, which weren’t cold, but still blessed his touch. “I’m a bit hungry, b-but I passed over things that I could readily eat. I r-rejected food without even thinking u-until I found what I wanted.” Shuddering, Aeris stared wide through mist, her vision beyond their large kitchen.
The general brushed a palm over her cheek, and she pulled back with her hands on his shoulders. The light from his eyes spilled their understanding, uncut through the fringe of long lash.
“You wished for a bit of apple and cheese before it’s ‘officially’ tea.” Kissing her brow, he tightened his arms, and the little Cetra swallowed. “You can have whatever you wish, my Aeris, at any time, day or night.”
“I-I know that, general…” She would not sob and squeezed her eyes shut to fight it. “It’s just that I passed over so many things, more than I ever saw in a year.” He bowed his head, silver bangs hushing over her slender shoulders. “Two hundred and seventy-one days ago, I would’ve wept to see so much food…n-not only for bounty, but also because I’d never be allowed to eat any. I-I’d have been beaten for letting my vision fall within even an inch. And now…a-and now I searched through it all, deciding just what I want.” It couldn’t be held, the harsh sob escaped, and he held her as tight as he dared. “Before I’d have blessed scraps from the floor…”
“You never need choose that again. It will never be even an option.” Mako sliced past, finding the pain that still tormented her so. “It’s a cruel memory of a horror you never deserved.”
The coffee pot dinged, and mist coalesced around slivers to reform bright emerald. He glanced at counter, marble grey veined, where she’d been preparing her snack. The chocolate soft bubbled in its saucepan. They had packets, but she liked it real. He sniffed with a smile, while she sniffled below, but they both caught the scent of rich sweet.
When she lifted her head, gentle silk left pink but dried cheeks in its pass. Leaning forward, she brushed silver back from the leather-bound wall of his shoulders.
“I don’t need my tiptoes to reach you now…” Aeris realized while thumbing his lips. Long lashes fluttered above sideways smile that nonetheless held all his joy. Her kiss turned it truer for only with her did he have no need to hide.
“Nor do I need to bend, little flower. At least-” he grinned “-not quite as much.” Soft, swifter kisses assailed her ripe lips, and she tried not to quake, but failed. “Of course,” he murmured right in her ear before sliding his mouth down her jaw, “I could always just pick you up.” His hands glided over her shoulders and arms, less than feather brush, yet her skin tightened to phantom touch, and she leaned against him harder. Along her back his broad palm passed, and it was Sephiroth’s turn for memory, but though he recalled that fateful spot, Aeris just squeezed herself closer. Shaking in joy when his hands caged her waist, and the general fulfilled his promise. She giggled while resting her hands near his neck and kissed him again, but far harder. The mirth shared between tore through regret, and the pieces withered behind. Though he had no doubt they’d reform again, in this moment, just summer could bloom. Her sweet stained his tongue like the finest tea, and behind his sealed lids he found light. But it wasn’t Mako. No, not this time…for there they dwelled hand within hand. There is no corruption wherever she dwells. Even bathed in foul light she’d be pure. Does it work both ways? In my flower’s presence, could my soul truly be clean?
Whipping the air with her bare heels, the flower maid could’ve been floating. His grip on her waist was steadfast and firm, effortless without any force. Sephiroth could just hold or toss her high if he wished, nor did Aeris have doubt of his catch.
“I love this Great General. I love it so much, b-but would you put me down?”
He did without question or hesitation, lowering the maid to the floor. Ever so careful, ever so slow until her soles met the warm wood. Aeris gripped the leather sleeves to keep his arms around.
“Oh…I love this, too.” Slim fingers curled on the shirt between his unfastened coat. Sephiroth tilted his head to the side, bemused for a bit to her meaning. Realization dawned then on his angel’s face, and he sighed for how darling she was. Bending low, he kissed her cheek before retrieving two mugs for their drinks. Filling them both, he took them across the room to the kitchen table. The seats were as plush here as the dining room, and a small chandelier hung above. Aeris had stowed her stepstool away seamlessly into a fold. Grabbing her plate of cheese and fruit, she squeaked as she, too, was scooped up.
“Still well, little flower?” he asked with concern, helping steady her repast. The Cetra glared up, biting her lip in attempt to hinder amusement. She wiggled a bit within his one arm, resting her head on his shoulder.
“Of course, Sephiroth. It’s always ‘well.'” A giggle stole through for his speech. Never once mocking. She loved his low voice. And the…archaic terms he might use. She popped an apple slice into her mouth unable to wait any longer. A-And I don’t need to. I’ll never be hungry…starving like that again. He carried her one armed, while Aeris squinted to a low resonance beneath her ear.
“Are you…humming, general?”
The rumble so ceased, and he darted his gaze her way.
“Ah, yes, you caught me. I apologize, Aeris. I couldn’t carry a tune in a jar. I was just mimicking you, little one.”
“I didn’t even know I was humming!” She hid a giggle behind one hand, and his half-smile increased.
“You were, little one…is your joy so fulfilled you don’t notice when it leaks in sweet song?” The miracle thinned that eternal mask that he wore less and less around her.
“I…suppose it does.” Aeris pouted a bit when Sephiroth set her down. Sinking into the cushion, the Cetra brightened again when he seated himself beside. The maid closed her eyes, sipping her chocolate and leaning against his side. I’m really not dreaming… She licked lips stained sweet, and his arm swept completely around.
Sephiroth drank coffee from a mug black as the brew and too big for both of her hands. Slim fingers tangled within his at the thought, and he automatically rubbed her knuckles. Gazing about their ornate kitchen, the general caressed skin with no sight. The tiny warmth against his side was more than he deserved. She’d deny me my guilt. She loves when I touch her. She allowed me to taste sweetest flesh… He blinked at that, opened his mouth, and figured he’d fill it with coffee. The bitterness there could not contend with the little maid’s clutch on his hand. Both of them thankful to forces unknown. She has been longer forsaken. Protectiveness filled him, so Sephiroth sat taller, turning toward her with silver cascade. He flicked locks away from her half-filled cup. Avoiding stain was a skill early learned.
It wasn’t long after that he made a late lunch. Cheese and fruit was a meager meal. Aeris replied to her impatient friends, their queries erupting deep blush. She was happy the seat beneath her was soft as she glanced furtively toward Sephiroth. Tea was now steeping. The smell made her smile, more than happy he was unaware. He’d feel so guilty, and it’s really alright. It’s nothing like it was before. Myrna agreed. Nellie was drunk, and her messages were beyond lewd. Covering her face, Aeris shook her head, but her palm didn’t hide any fear. Even so sotted, her friend wouldn’t cause any bad memories to flare. Only one time, the drink had outdone her, but Myrna was quick to riposte. Nellie had reddened with far more than wine, burbling swift sorries throughout. It had been accepted when Aeris could breathe, nor had her friend erred so again. Augmenting regret was a gift of wine, sweet blush as if match to her rue.
As the day aged, Aeris stood by the window, wringing her hands towards the dusky sea. The sun had grown strong to melt hanging ice, though it dripped slowly to mock the orb’s might. Night was fast creeping, and even the eve would not long hold grip on the time. The little maid did not even realize her whimper as she’d been immune to her hum, and that spot on her back pulled tense to caress so Sephiroth stilled his hands.
“Are you well, little flower?”
“Yes, general, I-I’m fine.” Her lip weathered her teeth’s assault. Catching her hands, Sephiroth gently squeezed. Her return was feeble as her first day. Summer held sky and paled to set sun. Even her phone seemed an enemy now. She’d glance at it often, matching the time to dim that came creeping with night.
After dinner Sephiroth asked if she wanted him to read to her. That seemed to sunder her strange vigilance, as Aeris flounced with glee on his lap. Her normal position for a beloved time, and she wiggled as was her wont. Tilting her head back in sweet expectation of his low voice caressing her skin. His smile grew stiff before gritted teeth for immediate, profound reaction. It mattered not that she wore longer skirt. Her squirming was still the same. He closed his eyes hard, imagining lashes clasped like hands in prayer…but then other thoughts invaded his mind for her skirt buttoned up in the back. With her permission I could go from the top, but I’d prefer to start from below…to see how many before I could spread the fabric over my lap. She’d dwell beneath, wiggling and warm…oh so warm to near match my heat. Entry would be flawless, careful, and slow. I’d want her to welcome me back…
The Cetra sat utterly, painfully still, and all of his lust dissolved.
“Little flower, is something wrong?”
“N-No, nothing, general.” The flesh on her back was taut as a skein of skin stretched over a drum, and Aeris rubbed her arms where no cold did dwell but touch of memory. She’d abandoned the button up shirt overtop of her smooth, pink, camisole, suddenly wishing for extra cover as her hands scrabbled for the book. “Wh-What about this one?” She flipped through the pages in near desperation, and they tumbled until one did suffice. The volume was large, and she struggled to lift until he bid her still.
Slowly, Sephiroth picked up the tome one-handedly before her eyes. His hold as always was effortless with no tremor in fingers or arm. That low voice wove words ever beloved as the flower maid followed along. She reached for his hand in the midst of the verse, thinking of how he had lied…for melody filled each deep syllable without the need of song. Pulling his free arm around her waist, the maid’s heart beat to her still tender flesh. That kept her eyes glassy even while leaning against his solid chest.
The heart locked within wrought steadier rhythm, and Aeris could not help but drowse. Vows of safety and care inundated each eternal beat. For two hundred and seventy-one glorious days, this had never been untrue, and against him miasmas of wintry vanilla mocked the frozen eve. Clear as crystal and cold as the north, the latter could not breach the Gate. The only cold within Heaven came from bright emerald, split around pupils so slim. Aeris sighed sweet and just let his voice caress where she melded upon. The words didn’t matter. He could’ve repeated or awakened the night with her name.
The strong arms around her were always sure as Sephiroth easily rose. Verse was forgotten as poetry faded to leave sweet memory. Up to her room, he carried his flower where kisses like rain blessed her face.
“My Aeris,” he murmured, “how safe you are, and how safe you’ll always be.” Sephiroth smiled before gazing down…where her expression stole pieces of joy. When he went to lay the Cetra down, she remained sitting stiff. Her quiver was slight like a thread taut with cold. But eyes of green glass with slivers cut through were designed to weed such out. She looked up at him as he stood above with all color bleached from her skin.
Sephiroth crouched and took her small hand, so limp and damp in his heat. “Aeris, my flower, whatever is it?”
It finally overflowed. She could not hold tears despite their uselessness for a hundred suffering years. Sobbing in anguish, she covered her face, as he folded her back in his arms. Hoping past hope that this would give aide, that his flower still relished such comfort. Her slender limbs fell on his broad shoulders so silver rained over them both.
“I-I’m sore, Sephiroth…”
“I’m sorry, my Aeris.” He closed Mako eyes in full shame.
“D-Don’t be. I-It’s alright.”
“No…it’s not. You’re weeping, my rose. I hurt you…as they did before…”
Aeris sniffed long to her deep inhale, pulling back to see his face. He kept his head bowed and his bright eyes half opened, but the slivers shied off to the side.
“I-It’s not that. You were…beyond gentle. I’m just a-always tight…” She shook to the image those words brought up, dredged from dark memory. She’s always tighter than a dream…the wench has a miracle cunt. A piteous wail buried her face by his neck where the spilled silver did nothing but welcome.
“I’m right here, my Aeris. That old life is dead. I’m right here…” He could only repeat.
“You didn’t hurt me…” Her voice was still hollow, but echoed within was that truth. “It’s just…it’s just…” She shook her head spilling over long bangs. Sephiroth slid tear-soaked locks to the side, and more tears ensued at the gesture. Flinging her arms around him again, she pulled herself close as she could. “I don’t want to be used!” she sobbed in his ear. “I’m still sore. It’ll…it’ll hurt!”
Beyond her vision emerald flooded, washing the room with bright cold. He blinked several times, cutting the light, but making no dent in his guilt. “Oh gods, Aeris.” His breath barely paused. “Oh gods…” He owed the Cetra his sight. Stroking her cheek still pale as old bone, the caress caused the maid to look up. “Do you believe I would just take you, while you were in such a state?”
“But you had me before. J-Just last night.”
“What does that matter, my Aeris?”
“Doesn’t it mean I’m always for you?” Confusion creased her brow.
“No, little flower, not at all. You’re for yourself and whatever you wish. You owe nothing to any man. You are not for me in that way. You are mine to love and protect, and that’s all you will ever be.”
“But you want me. I-I can tell, and we…coupled last night. I’m not giving you something you’ve already had.” His leather coat muffled her newest sobs, but enhanced, the general heard.
“Aeris, you cannot deny me something that was never mine to take.” He sighed then stood to sit beside, and it was she who retook his hand. Her two in his one, and Sephiroth leaned to press protection onto her brow.
I-Is he not going to take me? she thought wildly, though the notion made less than sense. The door had been opened that previous eve. He wanted more than one taste of her flesh. She’d discovered that hard truth on his lap. Gazing up past the long silver bangs, the Cetra tried to make sense of it all.
“You want me.” Jade rippled through swirling green light. “A-And you used me last night.”
Utter grief felled his angel’s face. “I hope I didn’t use you, Aeris. I hope you enjoyed it, too. You seemed to do so, little flower, but if not-”
“I enjoyed it, my general!” A spot of rose stained stark, wane cheeks, as her thighs realized they could part. Aeris blinked in relief to loosened muscles. She’d no idea they’d been so clenched.
“I’m glad in that, Aeris. You’ll never be used.”
“N-Nor will you, dear Sephiroth.”
“I don’t matter nearly as much.”
Stubbornness pushed her lower lip into pout. “You matter very much to me, and…and we promised,” the Cetra remembered, “neither of us would ever be used again.”
“That’s right, we did.” He cupped her cheek, and his lips twitched as though they’d remembered a smile. “You were never meant to be used, my Aeris.” The memory disappeared. He solemnly blinked so very slow, and she answered with several swift flutters. “Our coupling once or fifty times means nothing for any next. The first could be last, the fiftieth final. It’s all whatever you choose. Once does not mean forever, my flower.” He kissed her in her bemusement.
“I…definitely want to couple again.” She caught a kiss meant for her cheek. Leaning forward with her head back and up, and his one arm circled her waist. “J-Just not when I’m so sore.”
“I’m sorry again for that, my flower.” He bowed his head, and she pressed their brows. “You’ve been through so much…rape and abuse, and I brought you back to that time.”
“No.” Though soft her voice was as sure as the tide upon Dreaming Sea. “Sephiroth, what we did a-and what they committed aren’t close to one and the same. They hurt me. They… raped me.” She squeezed his hand as hard as she could, and he answered her carefully. “You never have. I-I have a choice. I have nothing but choice.” When the Cetra kissed his palm, his skin tightened to both joy and pain. Both increased when she looked back up, bathed in such endless benign. “You’re nothing but gentle, gentle with me. The soreness is only that. I’m not torn apart…I-I’m not bleeding. I owe you so much, general.”
“You owe me nothing, little flower. I am the one with the debt.” He thumbed her lower lip still in slight pout. “I’ll never force you, my Aeris. What we share is a precious gift.” A sudden small smile bloomed on perfection as he cocked his head to the side. “In fact…there’s something we could do, if you so wish, little one.” The tip of his tongue wet his upper lip. Tracing that deep angel’s bow.
“You’d do that without taking me?” Aeris’s gasp heralded a giggle.
“Why wouldn’t I? I believe that was our first…encounter.”
“Because I refused your other touch!”
Sephiroth nodded in accord. “That’s always your right, as I stated.”
“But that’s not fair!”
“How is it not?”
“I’m giving you nothing in return.”
“That’s quite untrue, Aeris.” The bright jade relit, gleaming to make the stars false. “Supreme satisfaction is quite exquisite and besides I enjoy the act.” When he bent low to her, his lips brushed her ear, while silver shivered soft skin. “I could spell out the verse I read you tonight.” The whisper spread heat to her core. “Though,” he mused, and Aeris couldn’t tell if the soft bite to her lobe was deliberate, “I read quite a few. It might take a while. You know I can’t spell that fast…”
Her breath caught a whimper that held no fear, but fulfillment released cries far louder. Untroubled silver accepted slim fingers that tightened enough to tear. It never would. No split nor sunder would dare to mar what moonlight would ever mourn. Never had “words” been written so lovely like a pondering poet so slow. She finally begged him…begged him to stop, though Aeris need never use pleas. Her breath matched with moans could not function with words as more waves shook her from deeper seas. It was the feeble push upon his low crown that stopped Sephiroth in mid “sentence.” Tossing back silver, he left her spread thighs where the long skirt had just been hiked up. Splayed on the bed, the maid couldn’t sit up, so the Great General laid down beside. Gazing down at his little rose in quivering splendor unbound.
Clothes were exchanged to more match the night (once she could perform such tasks). Aeris left the top of her black shirt unbuttoned. She now had no fear of bare skin.
As always Sephiroth checked Heaven’s Gate to ensure her it was secure. While he was gone, she stood by her window where the stars tried to best winter’s haze. Emerald light scattered upon the clear glass before the descent of large hands. Shielding her shoulders as his pauldrons did his, Aeris gazed up at the best of protectors. He picked her up, and the flower maid sighed when his arms became her whole world. She fell asleep before he laid her down into endless luxury. Tiny fingers twitched upon his shoulders as Aeris curled into her love. The kiss she recalled upon her brow. I’ll never be raped ever.
It was a shame her nightmares disagreed…
Aeris woke screaming in Mako seared air, which made the glow burn the pale morn. The general would never grow used to that sound, yet this made him bitterly glad. Never would Sephiroth wish for a time where her terror did not rend his heart. Swords could be thrust and bullets could pierce. He’d trade this torment for them all. Before he could seal those baleful eyes, Aeris flung herself into his arms. Grief bled confusion as he closed his embrace. She comes to me ever for comfort. Why? When corrupt light must’ve drawn fear… Aloud he vowed, “Aeris, I have you.”
The little maid breathed in silvery fragrance, vanilla sweet with winter’s rush. But never cold. No…never frigid. Fear stalled despite the grey dawn. There was much more of winter behind the thin curtains. Within, just the pale of it burned. The sky might mock iron, but only in hue. There was no plate to keep in the dark. Aeris laid fully on Sephiroth’s chest, beneath those strong, steady arms. He chanced to half-lift shielding lids, enough for emerald to bleed. The Cetra pushed moonlight away from his face to view the beloved sight. Forgotten her breath stolen in rush. Forgotten the dry tongue on teeth. Forgotten the phantom pain searing her flesh, as she tickled those glorious lashes. Not one blink disturbed continuous stare for Sephiroth trusted his rose.
“My Aeris, what frightens you this quiet morn?”
“Please don’t take me like that.”
Sephiroth scowled as terror curled the Cetra upon his chest. “Take you like what, little one?”
“Take me from behind!”
Her guardian sighed and lowered his head briefly onto her crown. Her scent stalled his sorrow for only a moment, but that instant held all of time. She is a true Ancient. He knew that truth now after those years of foul lies. Eons flashed brief through his mind. Sephiroth gasped, nearly drowning in memory from deepest swells. All memory…mine, the Whispers, the stars, the darkness that binds all between. It’s…not just the Planet. That swell fills the void singing in the endless darkness…is that what called it? Is that how it knew? Does the consciousness pulse like hot blood? The white shore could sleep, and the sea might be dreaming, but the ocean in her conquered time. All of his strength and dark-wrought enhancements were nothing compared to hers pure. Knowledge unfiltered sealed corrupt eyes for such could not leak upon truth. It was gone in a breath, and he held her tighter, renewing his vows ever deep. Above all this flower would have his protection for she was the last guardian.
“Aeris, do you wish to couple that way?”
“No, general, never, never!” A quivering ball was shielded by silver, and the Cetra curled up even tighter. Behind her lids, horror still played in utter disregard.
“Then, we never will.”
Simple words spoken in rich baritone uncoiled the little maid. “Y-You won’t take me from behind?” she asked.
The general’s lip curled in disgust. “As you were raped, little one? No. What we do is always your choice. You will never be taken by force, my Aeris, regardless of what you so dreamed.” Rouge flooded her cheeks, and Sephiroth shifted to place their brows together. “I won’t lie. I have…thought about it.” Her skin blanched like a withered rose. “But…” The general held up a finger as chestnut locks tumbled forth. The motion turned useful to clear it away, revealing an uncertain face. “It’s your choice in how we will couple.”
“I never want to. Not like that!” She disappeared against him again. Kissing her cheek, he found an ear where assurance could forever flow. With heartache he promised, as Aeris still keened, “Please, general, never hurt me like that! It always hurt when they bent me over. I never want you to take me hard. I don’t want to be brutally plowed! Please, oh, please, my Sephiroth, don’t ever do that to me! Please don’t force me from behind. That’s all they ever did. That’s all they did for a hundred years. As hard as they could, so deep that I tore, each thrust harder and harder!” Ripped through memory’s awful pain, Aeris continued to sob. “I’ll do anything, anything, anything, master, not to be hurt like that again!”
All Sephiroth could do was hold the small maid, each stroke of her hair paired with promise. Never would she endure such again. Those days were dust and dead. He had her. With such words, his steadfast arms tightened. Every ounce of his strength meant for her. He may have been crafted to bring war and death, but that purpose had died with the past. Now all his might and all of his power existed for Aeris alone. Yes, he might use it to aid his commission, but she ever held the key.
The tiny Cetra quaked against him, her great and eternal guard. Warm skin, solid chest, that hale embrace, sealed around as assurance went on. His arms were better than the thickest of walls. They bested the mightiest fortress. Nothing could reach her. They were impenetrable…and so, too, was she if she wished. Aeris was safe, as sure as salt deep stained the sea. Sephiroth cared nothing that some wet his hair, bled from summer in tears. All that mattered to him was lips to her brow, pressing the truth of protection. A silver bang slid itself over her crown, but a smile would not dare crease his lips.
“My Aeris,” he murmured, “I’ll never be rough, and we’ll couple only as you wish. We’ll only couple if you wish. There is no obligation. The only one that lives is mine to you forever more.” He sat up fully and effortlessly with the Cetra held high in his arms.
She quaked still against him so the general wrapped a blanket around to augment. Her lids fluttered open with wind shuddered panes, but her breath just held angel’s scent. “I’m safe…” The squeak still came through in whisper, and another kiss uncreased her brow.
“Always, my Aeris. Always and always.”
“I only want you to touch me.”
He’d heard it before…a myriad times, but the privilege still lowered his head. Humility was not a trait well known, but the general basked in it now. “Then only I ever will.”
“Please don’t ever let men touch me!” Her tiny hands scrabbled for purchase, thankful his hold was secure. “I only, only want you. Ever and ever you’re all I want. No other man can touch my skin.”
Sephiroth turned to that stricken face. In emerald deeps, pure Mako swirled. The description ever a lie for the foul, but she saw no corruption, just light. He parted his lips, and then wet them in close.
“You…” The words faltered while he fought his awe. He could never grow used to this love. Oh, he returned as much as was given, but the once fallen still bore disbelief. “You’re…mine alone, Aeris, as I am yours. If any man touched you without your permission, I’d rip off his offending hands. Crush every bone in his wretched body unless you commanded me stop. I’m your general. Never forget.” He bowed his head, but hers met his brow. Lifting her face, a tentative kiss loosened those taut silver brows. The perfect arch above doorways of light, spun from the heart of the north. “I’m beyond thankful you’ve given me privilege to caress your tender skin. I’m allowed to hold you.” His mouth slightly twitched as if sorrow just might allow smile. The slender finger tracing his brows was scoring deep lines in his rue. “I’m allowed to kiss you.” Chaste to her lips, the general took what she’d always permit. Her leave was her right. And it’s so much better. Only filth would want this in fear’s way. “You’re given me so much permission.” He scrutinized her with re-knitted brow. “You know that can be revoked.”
“I-I know…” Aeris whispered and the frozen sea echoed, coating its cold on the shore. She marveled at how the windows allowed the waves’ voice, but kept the chill from the air.
“Good.” A half-smile bloomed on his lips, and Aeris let herself look around.
I’m still in my room held tight in his arms. It’s two hundred and seventy-two days. Mice whimpered louder than the Cetra did at realization her count had been late.
“Are you hungry, my flower?” His low voice pulled her back to a world of paradise. “Did you want to dress first?” The chuckle was deeper, and Aeris blushed before kissing him full.
She just slipped on shorts beneath the black shirt, and Sephiroth eased her tangled hair. Berating herself for not braiding it up, though her general fought for the blame. “I could’ve done this, Aeris, I’m sorry.”
“No, it’s fine, Sephiroth!” Her vanity was dark, but he needed no light, and the white of the sky was reflective. “I should’ve remembered. I mean it’s my hair.”
“This is true, but you were distracted.”
The brush caught a tangle that he gently eased, and Aeris watched him through the glass. It would’ve taken the Cetra hours to unwind the thick, chestnut morass. The little maid squirmed as she flung her head back for the tease of his bangs on her throat. Sephiroth bent to kiss her brow so those forelocks slithered low. Thick fingers tested his handiwork, sauntering through with no snag.
“Shall I braid it, my Aeris? Do you wish for a ribbon, comb, or crown to adorn?”
“B-Braid it low? Maybe two meeting?” It happened so swiftly, she gasped. His fingers swam through newly brushed hair, circling around her crown. He left her bangs free as she usually wished and fastened the tail with a clip. When Sephiroth finished, he gripped the braid’s base and gave a slight tug to her shudder. Pinkened lips parted already prepared for the kiss that did descend. Long forelocks spilled upon creamy thighs, as she curled her hand on his cheek. Something to hold to, though never mundane. When he deepened the kiss, her grip fell.
Sephiroth helped her up when their union was finished. At least for the moment, he thought. There will be others…and others and others so long as my Aeris allows. She was able to lay her hands atop the powerful ones round her waist. Grateful her feet had no need to remember the balance required to stand. His form was unyielding, protection unmatched, devotion to her beyond ages and never had summer yearned for such cold that was anything but frigid.
Author’s Note: Never fear, smut lovers, the next chapter will be full of it. I wound up splitting this chapter up because it was 40 pages on Word, and the vibe after this drastically changes. As usual I have no ETA on when it’ll be posted. I never know how long it’s going to take.
<–Chapter 24 Chapter 26–>