Update: This year is already better for many reasons, but for me especially there’s more art from Bethany to grace my eyes. I feel like we’re our own worst critics, and it’s for this reason and many fellow creators need to show love. I adore the lighting on the piece at the end of the chapter, especially with the ocean out the window. Words can sadly not capture my feelings for Aeris’ expression, so I’m afraid you’ll have to look. As always, you can find her work on Art Station, Deviant Art, and Twitter, so please follow here there!
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 Gainsborough. It has been slightly altered from the original. All rights belong to the artist, and a link to the location has been included.
*******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.
Unable to walk or even crawl, Aeris is at Sephiroth’s mercy.
Every day Sephiroth knocked on the door, steeling himself against whimpers. Then he would ask, “May I come in?”
And “Yes, master…” would be the reply.
The hush of the sea would frame his arrival as surely as split emerald light. Silently silver and pale angel face with dark leather draped around.
At his approach, still safe in her bed, Aeris’s belly clenched. He’s going to fed me. I-I’m going to eat for the second time this day.
Her struggles to rise were unbearable so he’d scoop the Cetra up. Clutch her so careful within her covers, while she whimpered to dark, fading dreams. A shake of his head would sweep over moonlight, regardless of morning or eve.
“You’re safe, little flower.” That rich baritone ever slowed her quake. Aeris blinked up in what wished to be joy washed in cold emerald unfreezing. Caught by sharp slivers narrowed like scythes that would never cut her flesh.
Sitting, he’d cradle the maid on his lap to offer her glistening cup. She gulped gratefully, as ever she was, with her hand over his warm and hale. Desperately gripping with feeble fingers, translucent nails jagged and thin. Her grasp was too weak to damage a child, and Sephiroth’s skin was enhanced. White as new ice and smooth as the marble it mocked, though with lack of grey veins.
In just a few days he’d learned how much water to offer in each interim. She’d spluttered and coughed only one time to a flood of apologies. Afterwards, thick and nourishing soup warmed her depleted flesh. Though her “failures” and weakness in holding the spoon painted tears down Aeris’s face.
“No matter how long it takes, little one, I’ll do this thing for you.”
“But what if I never can, greatest master?”
“Then I’ll do it forever, my Aeris. But I think you will. The doctors will help. You’ve all the time to heal.”
She wept through the meal, wept to be fed, wept to be warm and safe. Aeris would beg him after each. “Please let me eat again. Greatest of masters, m-magnificence, I don’t want this to be my last meal! It’s so good, master, so good to be full. Hunger’s not eating my flesh.”
“Aeris, I promise, you’ll never be hungry. I’ll always take care of you.”
“Thank you, great master. I’m sorry I’m weak.” Her head lolled to the side. Pale lids fluttered wing-like. He shifted his hold to rest her cheek against his chest.
“Weakness is not a crime, my Aeris,” he said with a kiss to her brow.
“They always beat me, gentle master. Please don’t…you’re so strong. Your power, your strength-”
“Is all for you.”
“Please don’t ever beat me. I’ll do anything…” She attempted to spread her legs.
The general hid horror that bled into rage as he shielded her in his arms. “No, little flower. Never and no. You’ll never be forced to choose that.”
She kept sobbing and shaking in abject fear that he would still use her. How else could she pay for this glorious treatment? But the horror never occurred. Sephiroth merely cleaned her tears with a handkerchief of silk. Lowering his head, he kissed her once more and slid stringy hair to the side. Afterwards prose and poetry soft swirled through Aeris’s ears. The general could hold the thick tome in his hand, while cradling her in one arm. Eyes sharp as slivers sliced through each word, but his low voice rendered them sweet.
Aeris stared at him in absolute awe, wrapped in his coat and embrace. The look beyond worship he couldn’t accept, that pure reverence undeserved.
“You must be a god, greatest of masters, the highest of the high.”
The Great General recoiled in horror as the past poisoned Mako in mist. Utter revulsion and agony filled him for the false faith in her heart. Were she not in his arms, Sephiroth would have immediately knelt before. “No, little one, never and never. I am not a god. You’re far higher.” The Cetra whimpered ‘til his thumb caressed her cheek. “They abused you, my Aeris, for so very long that you believe this foul lie. I’m only a man through all my enhancements.”
“Men only hurt me, perfect master. You have to be something better. You’re not like them. You protect me. You’re like…an angel of light. You let me eat. You let me rest. You haven’t beaten me yet-” She choked on her sobs as he kissed her cheek.
“And I never will, my little flower. You’ll never be beaten again.”
“I can never repay you for this, greatest master.”
“There’s nothing to repay. You owe me no debt, and you never will.” He lifted her higher without any effort ensuring his coat still enclosed. Her piteous whimpers rending his heart so rage and grief bled through each wound. All she wants in this whole wide world is to be safe and warm. To be “allowed” to eat every day. To never be used and beaten. Things that are given. That should just be granted. This flower wants nothing else. Not clothes not jewels nor even a bed are what she’d most wish for. My poor Aeris, you’ll have everything. What else can the fallen give?
Each day after breakfast he’d carry her to the window so sunlight could bless her bruised skin. Filtered through glass and translucent drapes, it was never enough to harm. Aeris would stare, lips parted in awe, at a sky that was not made of steel. Tears would then slink down her shrunken cheeks, but her sobs were now silenced by light. Both from above, one golden, one green, both benevolent in their fall.
“This is your world now, Aeris,” he’d tell her, with Mako bright cast at the sea.
“Does it go on forever, greatest of masters?”
“Yes, little one, in a way.” He sighed at the title but couldn’t hold grief for the innocent awe unmatched. “Land’s interspersed, but truly this world is covered by endless blue.”
Aeris shuddered a bit at the sight of great waters and hid her face near her guardian’s neck. Sephiroth murmured words of sweet comfort, while kissing her temple and cheek. He promised the Cetra eternal joy. He’d care for her forever. The sun caught high waves seeking deep wrinkles to reflect brief blinding white. It dimmed not one blink of emerald so bright nor made his low voice less sincere.
“I can stay here forever with you, greatest master?”
“That’s right, my little rose.”
She clung to his shoulders while shuddering sobs emptied the Cetra out. Sephiroth shut his eyes and held Aeris closer, repeating again those sweet vows. That century of torture was forever over, and she was finally safe. Never had shoulders been so solid nor strength so effortless. Her weeping cut through the threads of a heart meant to bear war and death. Sliced to the core as closer he held her to stymie the trembling increased.
She’s weeping because I won’t hurt her, he thought. She sobs to be safe at the last. Every tear shed is because she’s cared for, provided with what she deserves.
Aeris was dressed in his shirt, covered in blankets, and wrapped in a great leather coat. Her belly was full. She was no longer thirsty, and she’d sleep on the softest of beds. All she could do was weep tears renewed in gratitude’s disbelief. I’m cared for a guarded by my perfect master, the greatest master of all. I can’t be alive. I don’t want to be. Life could never be this.
His arms closed around her ever secure as if Sephiroth divined her thoughts. Pacing in silence before the wide window so the winter white sands came in view. But Aeris’s eyes were all for him and how sun enhanced moonlight hair. Only bright emerald could paint silver bangs as they hung in front of his face.
Life can’t be strong arms holding me close wrapped in his coat warm and soft. He paused in his motion to lay lips to her temple, and Aeris shut hollow eyes. Life can’t be kisses blessing my skin and a low voice that only ensures. Life can’t be emerald spilling its light upon my face with such care. I’m taken care of in every way, and he hasn’t used me even once. That broke a resolve that had little to hold, and she keened upon Sephiroth’s shoulder. Quaking and sobbing in terror profound that this reprieve would come to an end. Kindness would freeze in cold emerald eyes, and he would throw her to the floor. It was already strange, kindness in cold, and yet it lined every long lash.
He’s the greatest of masters and yet I’m not treated like the lowliest slave. But I am! I am! I have to be! Then why is he caring for me? Why hasn’t he hurt me? Why does he hold me? Why can I eat every day? A-And he prepares it. He soils his powerful, perfect hands making food for a wretched slave. He wraps me in blankets and even his coat to make sure I’m covered and warm. The smooth of the latter lay under curled fingers for more leather clothing his shoulders. H-He always carries me in his strong arms because my legs don’t work anymore.
The tiny maiden, tortured and torn, could now no longer walk. She was so weakened by endless abuse her legs would work no more. Shrunken and shriveled, they uselessly dangled over his thick forearm. Aeris hid from both Mako and sun, burying her face in moon silk. Sephiroth stopped walking and pressed the maid closer, so careful not to crush.
I’m worthless and broken. She shook to the thought, and his low voice again brought the soothe. I can barely crawl, yet I’m not punished. Why? Why does he hold me? Why does he care?! He hasn’t dropped me, beaten or used me. I’m so tiny, and I’m so weak, yet I’m never threatened. He lets me sleep as long as I want whenever I have the need. I could sleep right now wrapped in his arms, and I’ll wake here or in my soft bed. My bed. How? Nothing is mine, but my master says that’s not true. I’m utterly helpless, but he’s helping me, and never once has he been rough. He’s gentle. He’s kind, and I should be beaten for being a terrible slave.
“Gentle master…why are you gentle? Why are you gentle with me?”
The general sighed and shook his head. “Because you deserve it, my Aeris.” He laid perfect lips to her dampened brow, as the waves painted sands in near silence. “But I don’t deserve to be called your ‘master.’ I’m not and can never be. I don’t own you.” He cupped her thin cheek, warming her face in his palm. “I now protect you from the filth that thought it did.”
“Please…” she whispered in utter terror, scrabbling for his large hand. “I want you to be my master. You won’t let them hurt me. Your stronger than strong. You took me from my horrible life! Please say you have me! Please say I’m yours!”
“I have you, my Aeris, and…you are mine. You’ll never be unsafe again.” They both sighed together, one resigned, one elated. She’d no concept of being free. She had to be a man’s property, and rage limned his pale lids and dark lashes.
“Wonderful master, glorious master, the greatest master there is…” It shivered into his silver lined ear, and he wanted to slaughter them all. Now. No delay. His face sprayed with blood, his fist filled with pulverized bone. “I’m utterly helpless, perfect master i-in your powerful arms. I can’t fight you. I’ll always obey. I just don’t want to be hurt. You could crush my wrists…break each fragile bone. Please, greatest master, don’t hurt me. I can’t run away. I can’t walk. I-I can barely crawl. I’m at your mercy, and I’m so afraid.”
“You’ll never be hurt, little flower.” He relinquished his wrath with the vow. She needed softness, gentle words. Rage would not serve her purpose. The little maid swallowed, and he cleared trailing forelocks so they brushed the tears on her face.
“Thank you, great master. Thank you so much for holding me in your strong arms. I’m sorry…I’m sorry I’m so weak. Thank you for not punishing me.” The little maid’s desperate words were a burble, a mixture of murmur and tears.
“Aeris, my flower.” He kept his voice low, and the vibration soothed her frail form. “You’re not mine to punish. I’ll never hurt you. Those days of torment are past.” A gentle kiss blessed her clammy brow before moving to her temples. “You never need apologize, my rose, especially not for that. It’s not your fault you were abused, and you’re protected now.” He shifted her over to just one arm as effortlessly as two.
Aeris trembled and wept on his shoulder where her tears gave the leather more shine. There was nothing the tiny Cetra could do against such endless strength. If he turned merciless… A great strangled cry won the war against ravaged throat. More than life, she wanted mercy, and death would be worth such a prize. She forced her head up to face emerald fire and that empty, pale, angel’s face.
“Gentle, so gentle,” the Cetra maid whispered as if louder would break tender spell. “Please just be gentle. Never be rough. Please never be rough with me, master.” A shudder tore through her, freezing her hand as she waited the squeezing crush.
“I’ll never be rough with you, little flower. You are not meant for abuse. What they did was more than wrong. I’ll always be gentle with you.” Emerald fell on her wane summer eyes, lending them light to brief bloom.
“I love gentleness, master.” Aeris kissed his cheek, hoping that he’d be pleased. “I love that you’re gentle with me. My skin sings whenever you touch it.”
He caressed the tiny hand still beneath, engulfing it in a warm palm. “There will never come a day, little rose, when I’m not gentle with you.” Kissing frail fingers front and back, he hoped to prove his words.
“That’s all I want, master. Gentleness,” she sobbed. “That’s all I ever wanted…” She locked scrawny arms around his neck, frailer upon broad shoulders. Please, please, please, let this be real. Let me be in shielding arms. I want it so badly! I want to be safe. Please let him be my protector.
Softly kissed fingers caressed his face, and Sephiroth shed wrath with slight smile.
“I have you, my Aeris.” His ever promise. The vow that meant everything.
“Can I just live in your arms, greatest master?” She didn’t want to peek. If he said no. If he threw her down…
“If you wish, sweet, little rose.” The smile turned sad, and Aeris squeezed closer, shaking with feeble forced grip. His embrace answered, strong and assured, but never too tight in its crush. She rested her chin on leather clad shoulder and heaved a shuddering sob.
“This can’t be real, master…”
“It is, little flower. I promise you’re in my arms. You live here now.”
“In your arms, greatest master?”
The general chuckled. “I meant the Whispers, little rose, but if you wish to call my arms ‘home,’ that would be the highest of honors.” Lifting her head revealed light unfaded and a world that didn’t melt. Sephiroth placed his brow to hers, and she closed her eyes to silver sweep. “Aeris, my flower, all of my strength is for your eternal protection.”
“But you’re so strong.” Her bottom lip trembled, but she refused to surrender more tears.
“I know, little one, and it’s all for you.” How else can I pay back my crime? Pale lids sealed tighter, and he shook his head, moving the maiden’s in tandem.
“I’m so weak, great master, too weak to stand.” Weariness made her head spin. “My legs…they don’t work anymore.” Attempting to move them left only a twitch for muscles so atrophied.
“They will again, Aeris. You need time to heal.”
“I don’t know how I stood in my church, greatest master…”
Awareness was fading swift. Aeris bobbed in a sea more silent than Dreaming where brutal dark waited below. Then light breathed upon her in clove-scented sweet, vanilla frost wreathing round.
“I still have you, Aeris. I’ll never forsake you.” Her murmured words broke his heart. Forged for war and shaped by eugenics, they still ripped through every thread. Though corruption bound it together, that did not relieve the pain. Spinning away from the window still bright, Sephiroth walked back to her bed. “You did what you thought you had to endure. I should’ve just picked you up.” He glared out the glass so slits pierced the day, cutting their way back to Midgar.
In the crook of his neck, silvery spill made a soft nest for the weary. The general shifted those thorn thin pupils, but they would never cut her. Benevolence warred with rage within. She was safe now and always would be. Would that she believed. It’s my job to prove it’s so, as it is to keep her safe. My sins can’t be cleaned no matter how much the misted past might fade. At least I can serve her. Let me be your angel. Even the fallen can beg…
Sephiroth laid her back in her opulent bed, her head sinking deep in the pillows. Aeris whimpered even half sleep to the general’s renewed guilt. Her hands weakly slid off shoulders so wide, and he was tempted to hold her for longer. Faugh, more than selfish. The bed has more comfort. Would you deprive her of that? Several thick blankets covered the Cetra even as she cocooned in black leather. She fitfully turned her face to the side, and he covered her cheek with his palm.
“You’re safe, little flower,” he assured her again. “When you wake, they’ll be lunch for you.”
Perfect lips twitched a bit as the general remembered she’d yet to catch midday meal. Sobering swiftly, he then recalled reasons for the missed repasts. Ensconced in the bed, Aeris struggled to free at least one arm from under the covers. Sephiroth helped her, lifting the leather so she could clutch at his great hand. As always. the general caressed her knuckles, sliding his thumb gently down. Never have fingers been so frail. Mako boiled as he found the old breaks. Their healing was varied, and emerald cold burned for not a one had been spared from abuse.
“Rest as long as you need, little flower. If you need me, you only need call.” He left the drapes open on her bed but drew the ones at the window.
As he suspected, Aeris slept through lunch, not waking til aged afternoon. The whispers of eternal waves parted her lids at the seams. They were slightly stuck with drying salt, slumber’s residual tears. Terror filled her as it always did the moment awareness dawned. If she opened her eyes, where would she be? Was the sea just the rush of her blood? I’m warm, she thought. So very warm, but what if I’m just dreaming? Gentle light hummed when she took the chance, the lamp beside ornate bed. Aeris focused on it until summer blurred, moisture burning until she blinked.
A low voice called jolt to quicken her heart, and the door slightly shook to his knock. Always she answered, always she waited for kindness to come to an end. She’d use it up, and the beating would kill her until she revived to rape. The general entered with only permission, slowly approaching the bed.
“It’s dinner time, Aeris.”
“F-Food time, master? It’s food time again?” Her lip trembling as she gazed at glory. By the bedside, he fell to his knees with more grace than the world could contain. Always in black, always resplendent. Aeris buried both hands in his one.
“Yes, little flower, shall I pick you up? Do you wish to eat here or downstairs?”
Torn through tears because she had choices, her sobs would split bitter stone. She squeezed his large hand as hard as she could, and the general kissed her brow.
“Your kitchen, great master. Th-That’s right, isn’t it? You’ll take me to eat down there?”
“More dining room, Aeris.” He rubbed fragile fingers with a brief smile for her awe. “That’s slightly nicer, and you deserve only the best.”
“The chairs are so soft there, greatest of masters. I like them. They don’t hurt me.”
“Does it hurt you to sit in my lap?” His pupils sharpened in concern.
“No, gentle master. I love being held…I love being held in your arms.”
He halved his eyes so light rode long lashes, retuning his face back to mild. Picking the Cetra up took no effort, so he gathered her in his embrace. Held still in blankets and black leather coat, she barely suppressed her sobs. It happened each time Sephiroth swept her up. Aeris just wanted this mercy. The maid couldn’t process it was hers forever. That this was her life from now on.
“I have you, sweet one,” the general promised, as two long black coats now trailed down. With easy strides and silent boots, he’d bear his charge downstairs. She kept her face hidden, not daring to look, as she whimpered and begged for grace. Pleading with him to never drop her as she feebly clung to broad shoulders. It wouldn’t matter. She was too weak to hold if Sephiroth let her go. Or she’d open her eyes back on Midgar. Her lip near bled to cage screams.
The gentle kiss saved her once again laid so soft on her brow.
“I’m sorry I weep all the time, perfect master.”
“You’ve nothing to be sorry for.” Down marble stairs he carried the maid, as she clung to his neck breathing fast.
I’m finally safe. I’m finally safe. I’m finally safe at last. No one can beat me or hurt me again. No one can use me now. I won’t be starved or chained anymore. I won’t be left naked and cold. The floodgates full opened. She couldn’t stop sobbing, “soiling” silver hair. Her frail, weakened limbs trembled on strength that could easily uproot mountains. This power utterly shielded her now. It was all for this helpless maid. She couldn’t believe after one hundred years she’d never be abused again.
As Sephiroth carried her through the living room, Aeris forced words through her tears. “I begged them, great master, all of the time. I pleaded with them not to hurt me. I’d do anything, anything at all not to be beaten like that. Not to be used so brutally, not to be chained and starved. They always did.” She wished she could pray to a Planet that still sang in her ears. “They’d beat me harder for begging them, master, and then laughed as I silently wept. I-If I was too loud, they’d do even worse…”
Sephiroth turned with tightly sealed eyes, stopping before the set table. The general feared nothing except his own darkness, save corruption that lived in that light. It could burn down the world and once nearly did, but now he was in control. They could not be dormant, those alien cells. They were part of him, bound to his blood. That entity eldritch though no longer ruled. Its destruction had been long assured. The cells that existed no more felt the pull. There was no longer horror to draw. And yet the Great General never lost fear for in his heart now was dark fire. To hear the last Ancient, the one he had killed, whose death would not cease from his soul, to hear her say men whom she’d died to save had done this changed him to a monster. A nightmare to stalk those crumbling slums where laughter would drown in raw screams.
When Aeris looked up, his face was as stone, empty save Mako in roil. He’d opened his eyes to let the flames dance through what the future would bring. Her tiny hand trembled to touch his cheek, shocked for warmth hidden in snow.
“Perfect master, wonderful you…you haven’t hurt me at all. Not even once. Not even a little. You’ve taken care of me.”
“And I’ll continue to do that, Aeris.” He sat her down as the day died in light. Cerulean faded, swallowed by sea and scored with the fires of dusk. The little maid breathed the scent of warm soup as Sephiroth settled her coverings. The blankets atop, the coat draping over her dangling legs to the floor. The Great General couldn’t care less about that. Far worse had sullied black leather.
Aeris wished she could show him more gratitude for softness against ravaged flesh. She wasn’t now chained and bleeding on concrete, while blood stained and sowed rust on iron. When her stomach grumbled, she caught his great hand before Sephiroth could offer her spoonful.
“You’ve never punished me for being weak, master.”
“Weakness is not a crime, little flower. What happened to you was.”
He filled up the spoon, and she whimpered to take it. Her eyes shut to nourishing warmth. The Cetra chewed slowly. It tasted so good, and she still feared the next wouldn’t come. Licking her lips to catch residue til they reddened in danger to chafe.
“No one should have to endure what you suffered.”
She clutched his hand for the next taste. Attempting to practice some inch of control. Her fingers near slipped from his wrist. It was too large for her feeble grip so the general gave her his free hand. Palm offered up as a nest for frail fingers, as hale as it was warm. Evening had painted the night sky with stars when the Cetra was done her repast.
“Master?” she murmured satiated and warm. “Will you read to me again?” The maid had sat back with her head turned aside but opened her eyes to look up.
“You know I will, Aeris. Shall we stay down here? Spend some time in the living room?” He picked her up slowly, clearing stray hairs, and Aeris just floated again. Her head came to rest in the crook near his collar, and a gentle kiss fell on her brow.
“I’m safe, greatest master,” she breathed out in awe.
“You’re always safe now, little one.”
Is he carrying me now? His step is so smooth I can hardly tell when he walks. I’m so warm… Dreams flitted like sprites through her mind. She cowered a bit to that darkness. The grip around her delicate body tightened to remind. Those foul nightmares shrank, but remained still lurking, awaiting next moment to strike.
“I’m so weak, master, so very weak.”
“You’ll grow stronger I promise, my flower.”
Rustled pages teased her ears, as one arm held her tight.
“I’ll never be as strong as you.”
“Strength comes in many forms.” Sephiroth whirled about and that wind stirred vanilla. A forelock caressed her face. “No matter how strong or weak you might be, you did not deserve your abuse.” Sitting on sectioned couch with her in his lap, he opened the book Aeris loved. The maid curled fingers against the black shirt revealed between silver lined buttons. Untiring, steady Sephiroth read to her until dreamless sleep granted her grace. It was what her days consisted of mostly, slumber in bed or strong arms.
One day while she napped, always safe and warm, Sephiroth knocked and warily entered. Guilt squeezed a heart that war couldn’t break, but he couldn’t leave this to chance.
“Aeris?” he called. “My Aeris…” Again. By her bed the Great General knelt. Hair bound at the crown, his forelocks still flew before those circling braids. The glint of his pin shone on leather black, an augment and never a best.
Aeris whimpered softly, as his low voice soothed, promising her she was safe. Her heavy head rolled against ornate pillow, and summer eyes fluttered opened. Green called to green so emerald ignited what withered instead of bloomed. Groggily groaning, the maid tried to focus and managed to free her small hands. Guided by light she reached for that, and Sephiroth held them in his warmth.
“I’ll return soon, my little flower. I promise you’re still safe.” She blinked confused, but still squeezed his hand as he pressed a long kiss to her brow.
Mako bled guilt that he kept hidden, but he would be swift as a strike. It wasn’t urgent, but still should be handled. He was the mayor after all. Never had Sephiroth locked his doors, but he’d do so now. He was certain she’d slumber the entire time, but the general had to be sure. The unbearable thought of her vainly calling tore his heart to shreds. “Master, great master, please I’m afraid! Where are you? Please don’t forsake me!”
The Cetra sighed, slipping back into sleep, and he stood casting emerald down. Her tiny body continued to heal from unimaginable abuse. Shielded by covers and always a coat from any stray wisps of cold, the opulent mattress encased fragile form and luxurious pillows her head. Whimpers still assailed her breath as scraps of horror tried to invade. Sephiroth had taken his leave by then albeit with trepidation. It was thankful for task would’ve stayed unfulfilled had her guardian heard wordless pleas. If dark grew too bold, she’d jolt awake briefly to veils that encased her in splendor.
I’m still here, she thought, breathing out slowly as the rest of her thoughts turned amorphous. When she woke once more it was to a voice her nightmares would not dare to fight.
He always apologized that she must have soup, and the words made the Cetra’s head spin. Soup was food. How could it be bad? She could eat whenever she hungered. Soup was for evenings, later with bread. Mornings were oatmeal and fruit. He’d offered her others beside that first orange, a red sphere with skin thin as hers. Then longer yellow with creamy, smooth flesh and smaller round ones that burst juice. Nearly as good, he gave her their names, and Aeris tried hard to remember. She wanted to ask for them by title, growing dizzy when it wouldn’t come. Tears would soon follow, which Sephiroth always cleared, and he gently accepted description.
“It’s well, little flower.” Another assurance. Another promise she wouldn’t be harmed. He cupped her chin, sharp to match the gaunt cheeks, stroking it with gentle care. “You won’t be punished if you forget. You won’t be punished for anything,”
As the week aged, the day grew nearer when Aeris’s clothes would arrive. Sephiroth mentioned this event quite often while she sat wrapped in warmth on his lap. Upstairs in his office, while the general worked on mayoral obligations. Always he guarded his little charge as she mostly just slept in his arms. Aeris had begged him to not leave her, for the nightmares had been relentless.
Sporadically, Sephiroth stroked her cheek, an idle touch as he smiled. It grew gentler when the general looked down, though that caught him surprised. Rarely did mirth move porcelain mask. Neutral benevolence ruled his face. Better than the opposite I suppose… But to Aeris he was pure angelic. She didn’t care that he was fallen. A lie…she does not know. Though kindness did tame Mako light but little, his lashes helped catch the cold fall. Not that she’d care since glacial emerald brought more joy than golden sun. If the maid whimpered he’d stop in his task, no matter its merit, draw her up and kiss her on the brow. The Cetra remained his first concern for the Whispers were already healthy.
It made Aeris dizzy and sorely confused that he was there at her beck and call. He was the master. She was the slave, but it didn’t work like it “should.” He cared for her in every way. Beyond gentleness greeted his touch. Nothing rough bruised her delicate skin. No brutal thrust tore tender flesh. Everything, everything’s gentle and soft. I’m kissed and caressed, never beaten.
His arms were so powerful yet ever careful when picking the Cetra up. Sephiroth made sure to mind all her bruises as they were treated to aid in the fade. He did that, too, administered treatment whenever necessary. He’d rebind her limbs after cleaning her wounds and spreading salve on tortured skin. She would just watch with hollow green eyes not even daring to hope. Per doctor’s orders, the dressings were changed twice every day. Once in the morning when she awoke and in evening before final sleep. In a week’s time when she went back, they’d reevaluate her condition.
Aeris wished she had words for how much she loved the moments he swept her up. As easily in one arm as with two, Sephiroth carried the tiny maid. She could wrap skinny limbs around his neck, rest them upon his broad should, bury her face in sweet scented hair that breathed vanilla and frost. There was nothing in this entire world better than his arms. He’d murmur so gentle, “No one can hurt you.” Before standing to glorious height
My great, perfect master…he cares for me now. I’m his and no one else’s. For the first time in a hundred years, I’m finally, finally safe…
He was “not being chained,” “not being beaten,” and “not being used anymore.” He was food and water, warmth and rest, kisses and gentle touch. He was “being held in the strongest arms. He was “being laid down on softness,” “wrapped in warm blankets,” “being comforted, calmed,” and the promise of paradise true. He was utter protection, kindness, and care, the smoothest of hands on her skin. He was gentle murmurs, quiet smiles, and beyond gentle touch. He was immense, eternal, and absolute strength, and the tiny Cetra would sob. He was everything she’d ever needed, her fortress impenetrable. Though she couldn’t walk nor barely sit up, though merely crawling would be a battle, Aeris would never in time eternal be forsaken again.