Update: We have another illustration from the wonderful artist Bethany Funnell. She hasn’t updated her sites yet with the work, but I’ll drop the direct links to it once she does. Until then you can find her on Artstation (linked above), Deviant Art, and Twitter!
Update #2: Here’s the direct link to Deviant Art!
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 Sephy and was created by the very talented and gracious Deviant Artist Eeveetachi. The picture has been slightly altered in appearance and to include the chapter number and title. All rights belong to the artist, and the image is used here with their permission. Links are included for both the artist’s page and the work.
*******MAJOR CONTENT WARNING*******
Consistent and sustained graphic descriptions and mentions of rape/ sexual assault, sexual slavery/bondage, slavery, human trafficking, physical abuse, graphic descriptions of violence, mental abuse, emotional abuse, psychological abuse, body shaming, starvation, torture, forced pregnancy, forced childbirth, miscarriage, forced miscarriage, abortion, and other potential disturbing and triggering topics.
Aeris finds comfort in Sephiroth’s protection while soothing his heart made for war, and despite the reasons for his “creation,” the term “general” is sweet from her lips. Though the past still haunts both and not even he can shield her from all its affects.
He put Aeris down and fell to his knees, covering his face to silver in spill. It shimmered upon the fine wood floor beyond the door of Heaven’s Gate. The great black wing was lowered behind, swallowing darkness and giving it back.
“Master, dear master, whatever is it? Why are you in so much pain?” She desperately searched for that angel’s visage, but it was hidden behind his large hands.
“I’m a monster, Aeris. You didn’t see them. You didn’t see their faces.” They forget what I am. They forgot what I did, but I’ll always remember…
The little maid blinked in utter confusion before turning her gaze to the floor. His black wing shuddered upon the smooth wood, impossible in span. Leaning forward, she circled his neck within easy reach now of her arms, and with frailest fingers stretched forth her hand to let her skin bask in soft fronds. Where leather let off and that wing emerged was seamless in transition, and Aeris smiled beneath shuttered summer to what could supply her thousands of pens.
“Your feathers, master…they’re so soft, and they smell so good like you. It’s like in between your lovely scent dwells and slightest movement will breathe that glory.”
The fallen’s hands slipped to reveal frozen light, and he stared at her in amazement. Her check was pressed so soft to his as she blessed corruption with peace.
“Look at me, Aeris. The truth is revealed. This is what I am.”
“Master, I love it. I love what you are. This is just another part. You protected me with this, too, when that…horror tore through the sky.”
Agony tortured his stricken face as Sephiroth hid it once more, while she stroked both wing and hair unable to decide which was softest. Aeris kissed his hands and that raised his head in torment and utter awe. Emerald unblinking searched her expression, desperate to find the revulsion, but she only stared back in utter elation and joy so abundant she quaked.
“It’s like you looked into the heart of darkness and surrounded it with light.” A careful finger brushed those lashes, and he dared not even blink.
“I became the heart of darkness, Aeris, and the residue clings to my soul.” The great wing lifted to curl just slightly around the little maid. She kept gazing at him in adoration and something beyond even awe. Leaking from summer with emerald ignite, and Sephiroth could not take the pain.
“I knew you were my angel, master, my beautiful angel of light.”
“How Aeris?” He clutched her face between broad and careful palms. “How can you say that? Look at me. This right here is my truth.” The black wing shivered as rain slashed the windows and the fragrance of feathers arose.
“Then your truth is your glory…the best thing I’ve seen. I never want to stop looking at you. I want this to live behind my shut eyes. No nightmares could ever find me there, if you guard my dreams with your light.”
He shook his head and fumbled for words. She had to understand. I can’t tell her all…no, not yet, not until she can care for herself. I’m a horrible monster for forcing a lie to be created in my silence, but if she knew…if she knew what I’d done, she’d never allow my protection. “I’m a fallen angel, little one. Can’t you see that now?”
“Fallen, great master?” Disbelief scrunched her brow as slim fingers still played with soft feathers. “How could you fall? There’s no one so full of grace.”
The Great General placed his forehead to hers and sadly shook his head. He sealed his lids, but the light ever burned like the eternal guilt at his core. “Even the graceful can climb too high. Even greatness must know its place.”
“There’s no one greater than you, master. No one could ever be.” She took a deep breath and nearly grew weak with the wonderful scent still around. In muted Mako she stared still in awe at that great wing high above. “Can you fly with it?” Her little voice lifted as she prayed it could for him. Sephiroth’s eyes flew open wide, and he gaped at her genuine awe.
Surrounded by horror, lit by corruption, in the shadow a monster’s wing, this tiny maid that he had murdered could only ask the most innocent thing, and though the fallen did not want to believe, there now could be no doubt. Her past is still far worse than this. She doesn’t care I’m a horror.
“I…can,” the general finally replied, and her face erupted in glee.
“How fast can you fly, greatest master?”
“Faster than you can blink.”
Crooked tendrils blazed through the still seeping sky and the resounding roar made Aeris shriek. “Master, please, master! Hold me again! I’m so frightened…so frightened of that.” She flung slender arms around his neck, and tears stained silver hair.
Sephiroth stood to his glorious height and wrapped the small maid in his arms. With barely a hush his wing disappeared and no shadows were left in its wake. Crooking one finger, he called up the lights so Heaven’s Gate was flooded. Muted but warm as the rain pattered down while the sky still muttered complaints.
“I have you, my Aeris,” he promised his rose, “you’re safe here and nothing will harm you.”
“Wh-what is that, master?” She chanced a quick glance to the weeping window. Then a flash of white fire made her wail, and she buried her face in his chest. Sephiroth peered down in some concern though he couldn’t cage the small smile. The dream of flight and his great black wing held no fear for the little maid, but a natural occurrence from this world she had saved made her quake in its “enemy’s” arms.
“It’s a thunderstorm, Aeris, though we rarely have them.” He gazed through the glass to the sea. It was barely disturbed by this brief interlude of theatrics from the sky. No gale brushed its surface and the waters cared not for the branching bright streaks from above.
The Cetra gazed up to absorb every word, and the general sighed to unearned adoration.
“B-But what’s that white fire that rips through the sky and that…terrifying roar.”
“That’s lightning and thunder, little flower,” he said hoping knowledge would assuage her fear. “The former is caused by electrical charge and the latter is the delayed sound.”
“I-Is it…c-could it hurt me?”
“Lightning can strike, but you never need fear that, my rose. You’re safe in here always.” He cupped her raised chin, and Mako blazed brighter in promise. “And I’ll never let anything hurt you.”
She started to sob when he picked her up and kissed her on the brow. One of the shoes dangled from her toes before dropping to the floor, but maiden kisses now rained upon him, and no green eyes took notice. Both sets were closed, and he smiled in the midst of the sweetest gift bestowed.
“I don’t care what you think you are, master,” she whispered upon his lips. “You saved me. You protect and care for me better than anyone ever could.
The general lifted the tiny maid higher and laid a warm palm to her cheek. Even sightless Aeris felt Mako glow and answered it with summer. She stared into what he’d call the heart of darkness, those pupils thinner than thorn, but she saw only light that swirled around in endless repeat and return.
“My strength and protection will always be yours. I can never take away what I owe.”
“I love your strength, master.” She quivered with glee, and Sephiroth couldn’t help his low chuckle. “I love your kisses.” Happiness overflowed when he laid another on her brow. “I love your height.” She kicked her feet slightly and slid her palms over black leather. “I love how wide your shoulders are.” His forelocks licked at her pale throat, drawing a squeak and a quiver. He’d half a mind to question her until she continued her little “list.” “I love your scent, master. You smell amazing, better than soup or tea. You smell like an angel. It has to be true, and I love how warm you are. I’m never cold when you’re holding me, and you’re so gentle and kind.” Her little hands continued measuring his shoulders. “I love your strength so much.” She lifted a palm to lay on his cheek. “Only an angel could have such a face.”
Sephiroth could hold no mask for her as agony warred with joy. “You…mentioned my strength twice, little flower.” The veneer of mirth retained a wane smile.
“I know, master.” Aeris pressed her cheek to his as she hugged her protector again. The general wrapped her in both arms to hold his little rose close. “I love it so much.” She shut her eyes as his grip tightened fighting the quake in her voice. “I love it…so very much. I wish I had the words to tell you how much I love your strength. How grateful I am that you have it and you use it to protect me. You never ever tire master…”
“No, little one, I don’t.”
“And you could hold me forever, couldn’t you?”
“Yes, little one, I could.”
She lifted her head, but kept fingers woven in the silk skein of his hair. Sephiroth shook his forelocks away to give himself a clear view, and Aeris’s smile could’ve lit endless night to the brush of those bangs on her skin. “You’re never going to beat me, master, or u-use me like those men. You’ll just protect me with your strength and ensure I’m ever safe.”
“Yes, my rose,” he whispered in joy. “Is that why you love it the best?”
The Cetra’s brow furrowed with her slight pout. “I love it all, gentle master. Your strength keeps me safe, but your gentleness means that you’ll never hurt me.”
“You’re utterly right, my little flower.” And she kissed him again before pulling back to trace the shape of his lips. Sephiroth cocked his head to the side as her finger continued its quest.
“What is it, my Aeris?” he murmured low to not disturb her brush.
“They’re so beautiful, master.” Pondered so sweet. “What’s this called?” She’d stopped right where the upper dipped down, and Sephiroth smiled behind the gentle press.
Emerald was sheared through the long fringe of lash as the general halved his lids. He sighed, but couldn’t hold onto much woe as he answered the little maid. “It’s actually known as an ‘angel’s bow,’ Aeris. I could not make this up.” He shifted her easily back to one arm and oh so gently thumbed her lips’ apex. “You have one, too.”
“I do?” She was so innocent it hurt his broken heart. “It can’t be as perfect as yours though, master.” She kissed the end of his finger, as the thunder was hushed by the rain. Sephiroth wore his crooked half smile that he feared hid less and less. His steps were measured and his boots ever silent whether on carpet or wood. Aeris laid her head over the general’s heart, which beat strongly still through black leather. Fragile fingers slipped inside his coat to be caught between shirt and velvet.
“Oh, master you’re wearing that soft substance again!” She glanced up with a full-fledged smile.
Sephiroth chuckled as he kissed her brow. “Of course I am, little flower. I always wear a coat with lining whenever we go anywhere. In case you grow cold or are tired or frightened, I can just wrap you in this.” He mused for a moment in the living room. “In fact I could’ve done that tonight.” Regret replaced consideration for what the populace had endured. It matters not…they may almost forget, but history knows what I am. He glanced almost mockingly at the door, not expecting an angry mob. It’s raining besides, another deterrent and resistance to any flame. The once fallen sighed, losing all mirth, but not missing the irony.
Then he smiled to the press of small hands within leather and the scent of joy’s tears. Yesterday dissipated as he gazed down and tomorrow just froze in its place.
“Gentlest master, I love being warm.”
“Are you cold, my little rose?” Emerald narrowed in alarm as she pulled herself closer to him.
“No, master, I’m fine. I’m not cold at all. I just love being wrapped in your arms.” She deeply inhaled with her head on his chest so his angel’s scent swirled through her lungs.
Long lashes settled against his pale cheeks as her chestnut crown couched beneath. Caught in this moment, this sweet here and now where his victim adored all he was. My victim? My flower? The one is long dead. Will the flower in bloom reign eternal? Can such a thing be? Can that sin be forgiven? Can my horrible past be expunged?
Revealing the gleam as if newly awakened, Sephiroth set Aeris down. He unbuttoned his coat, exposing lined velvet before sitting beside his rose. She wasted no time in scrambling over to climb on the general’s lap. He expected this, but elation still bridged the threads of his tattered heart. Gathering the Cetra into his arms, he cared not that leather brushed the floor.
“Is this well, Aeris? Do you want this?” he asked to ever ensure.
“Yes, master, please. I want this so much. I love sitting on your lap.” She wiggled about with unbridled glee, and the general found swift cause to sigh.
“I’m a very lucky man, my flower.” He placed a slow kiss to her brow. “That you allow me to hold you and touch you…despite what others have done.”
“Master,” she whispered, her green eyes now huge. “I never want anyone else. Please never let men touch me again.”
“I promise none ever will.” Endless lashes swept over his cheeks as he lowered his gleaming gaze.
“I mean any touch, master.” She clung to his neck, quaking within his great coat. The general augmented her warmth with his arms for she needed his strength far more. “The doctors are alright because they’re all women, and they just want to help me, but no men, master. Please no men. Don’t let any man touch me!” She buried her face in Sephiroth’s chest, sobbing as memory clawed.
“Aeris,” he murmured, pulling her close, always careful with his power. “No other man will ever touch you. None are allowed without your consent. That’s the law, my little flower. It’s always your choice, and I’m blessed that you allow me. I will never abuse this privilege, my flower. I’ll never hurt you in any way.” She stared up past her tears, and through them Mako was purified by fear turned to joy.
“I-Is it true, master? No one can touch me without m-my permission?”
“That’s right, little flower. Never again,” he vowed to her once more. “Along with the law, I guard you now, and I will beyond all tomorrows. I will never let anyone touch you again if that is not your wish.”
“I belong to you, master.”
“You’re mine to protect.” And Sephiroth kissed her brow.
“I love it when you kiss me, master, and every gentle touch.” He slid long fingers upon her cheek, and she melted into his warmth. This is real. This is true. He’ll always protect me. The Cetra gripped his solid wrist with fingers slim as the hope of spanning it. “I only want this. I only want you. I love your hands on my skin.”
The Great General could only stare down at those words. He could never grow used to this. That she would desire the curséd touch of his once bloody palm, but everything in his flower’s pose proclaimed this impossible truth. The hand to her cheek slipped slowly down, leaving the memory of fingers there, and a tiny sound escaped her throat that forced him turn away. Gripping elbow to elbow easily, her protector still marveled at the maid’s minute size.
Aeris just let the thrum of his heart prove what she’d always wanted. Over and over that steady rhythm proclaimed a wish long lost. For so, so long she’d been raped and beaten, and now, finally now, she was safe. For fifty-one days, my life has been this. For fifty-one days, I’ve been his. For fifty-one days, I’ve been held and protected. I’m utterly safe in his arms.
The instant the tears wet her pink cheeks he did nothing but murmur assurance. While the rain pattered softly like slipper shod feet and the sea shushed beneath to the drops. She was truly safe. She was truly here. She was only his to protect. No one would ever hurt her again, and the kiss on her brow proved this promise.
“I’m the luckiest man ever to breathe, my flower,” he said against her skin. “Thank you for letting me be your protector, for finding some use for my strength. Thank you for making this house less empty…for giving me purpose at last. What would I be without you, my Aeris?”
“You’d be Mayor of the Whispers.” She blinked sweet confusion up. “I-I would still be beaten and used without you…” A soft silver skein sealed her eyes as the past horrors howled behind. They could not be broken, but Aeris was safe and shielded in so many ways.
“You’re right.” Shame tinged those low said words. How dare I begin to compare? “I would be, but what does that matter against what I am for you?”
Aeris reached up and the press of her lips began like the coyest of maids, but she held it there longer, clinging in quiver to his always solid shoulders. Her tongue was as shy as the first buds of spring, but at the instant of touch, she grew bolder. He tasted as sweet as a dream of winter warmed by vanilla heat, and now so invited Sephiroth drowned in cool summer as he cupped her chin. He did not need to see her lips to know they bled deepest pink. As deep as can be without crossing over to where red would hold blushing sway. He softly chuckled to her tiny nibbles against his bottom lip. Slender arms quaked against black leather, as her tentative tongue twined with his own.
The general slid his palm to her cheek, stroking soft skin with his thumb. He kissed her gently when her turn was done, though tempered strength still made her shiver. Mako smoldered on her face without burning and Aeris shone within that gleam. She opened her mouth, but could not remember how words were meant to be said, and that careful hand slid back down so his thumb could pass over her lips. She laid little kisses over that digit and did not know why he looked so sad.
“Aeris, my Aeris…” His lashes like wings spread out along frost white cheeks.
He dug his fingers beneath her braid and pressed their heads together.
“May I release your hair?”
“Y-Yes, master, you m-may.” Still strange to permit, forgotten the instant his large hands unbound fragrant chestnut. The ribbon above relinquished its hold, and the soft waves came tumbling down. The general’s fingers slid through the sweet mess as his forelocks caressed her cheeks. Still pulled at the crown enough moonlight was free to make the hidden sphere jealous.
Sephiroth lifted her chin again and gazed down at his little flower. Aeris tried not to blink to catch all of his beauty, but it replenished every time. The general let his lids seal for a moment, as if fearing that Mako lit lies. Even in blindness emerald still gleamed and he saw only her afterglow. He pressed his lips gently to her brow first, then temples and then dewy eyes. Then slid them along the bridge of her nose stopping briefly on both of her cheeks. The tears there were sweet seasoned by skin so pinkened and blushing in light. He pressed his lips against hers once more, and they opened to the song of his tongue. Tasting her mouth like the finest of wines as he pulled the Cetra closer.
“I love protecting you, Aeris,” he said in the space between.
“I love being protected by you, master,” she answered. “No one can hurt me now.” Their lips, hairsbreadth parted, met again, calling her to this dance. The music their own, spun through dual joys so no portion was untasted. He caught her muted moan but still heard and wrapped both his arms around. Turning his head to the other side to miss not one ounce of her taste. Then pulled from her mouth with the promise of more only by the maid’s behest.
Aeris laid her head to his chest and closed her eyes to his heartbeat again. It never wavered. It never changed, and it could lull the sleepless to rest. The little maid sighed in order to rouse. Slumber would not steal this dream. Gazing up, she saw endless lashes spill dark on winter skin. If I just brush them they’ll tickle my hand. Just the thought brought giggles of glee. That tilted his head as a small smile played with the corner of perfect lips. “I love your eyelashes, master,” she told him. “They’re so lovely and long. No one else could even best half.”
Brief mirth escaped as Sephiroth brushed the maid’s lids, and Aeris blinked to the brief flutter.
“Yours are longer, great master.”
The general sighed, but the motion did not quell his smile.
“I love the way your eyes glow, too.” She curled her fingers within that light. It was regret that lowered his lids so Mako lined the seams.
“You love that corruption, do you, my Aeris? The pupils sharp as a scythe?”
“Master,” she whispered, staring up through the gleam with no fear for those slivers so slim. “I love, love them. I love, love it all. More loves than I could ever say…”
“Aeris…” He took her tiny hands in his one, blinking several times. The Cetra swore the very air bowed before these wings he did not have. “I love every single finger.” He kissed them all to the maid’s squirming joy. Lowering her head with green eyes lifted, she pressed her lips to one large knuckle. The trembling increased in her gratitude that never once had he struck her with this. Passing a thumb over her hand, he divined this source with no delving. “Never, my flower, never again.” And she lifted her head for full kiss. Silver trickled over her throat in the after for her gaze couldn’t leave his face. “I love the way you look up at me, Aeris, in those moments you dwell without fear.” His free arm closed around the Cetra, and her joy spilled out in a hum.
Sephiroth’s eyes opened to hold her as full as his embrace, and the swirling burned solely pure. “I love you, Aeris. I’ll never leave you. You’ll never be hurt again. I’ll always shield you. I’ll always protect you. I’ll be whatever you want. Your guardian, your hero, your…angel of light. Whatever you need me to be. Forever and ever, my little flower, you’ll never want again. All of my strength and all of my power belong to you alone. You may think you’re my slave and you may call me ‘master,’ but I belong to you.” He prayed and prayed though he had no right that his unblinking eyes caused no terror. “My primary job, my sole occupation is to ensure you’re happy and well.”
The Cetra could not stop her sobs as tears darkened the black of his shirt. Her own breast heaved, lifting heart necklace high so it reflected that emerald light. The Great General released her hands so they could curl against his chest, and he wrapped her again in both arms. You’re the monster who stole the breath from her throat. Never forget what you are-
“Master…” The rasp released in reluctance. “I love you, too. You have to be a dream. Life can’t be this…this wonderful. It has to be a trick.”
She hid her face and breathed deep between sobs just waiting for glory to fade. His angel’s scent and steady heart were augmented by murmurs sweet, and the words didn’t matter. She just needed something to tether her to his truth. Wary fingers pressed to his chest as the tiny maid was enfolded. It remained solid to her feeble press so Aeris sniffled but dared to glance up.
“You….you’re still here. I’m still here…with you…in paradise.”
“That’s right, my Aeris.” She squeezed her eyes shut to that low voice so dear.
“You’re…beautiful, master. Glorious, lovely. You have to be a god.”
The hiss of agony flung his head to the side, flaying his soul through sealed Mako. Aeris gasped to the utter torture the general could no longer hide. Reaching up high, her palm found his cheek, and though tension eased the pain remained. Sephiroth covered her little fingers but shook his head to decry those words.
“No, little flower, never and no. Never could I be that. You must not know…you must not know. You have the greater pain. I’m your protector. You’re higher than me. That, too, is an absolute.” Sephiroth took the deepest breath, holding it before exhale. Silver bangs shivered to tickle her cheeks and catch tears’ residue. The seam of green brightened, and he let himself witness her pure adoration. It made no sense, her worship or love, but it grew more immense by the second, and the soft, little sound as she squirmed on his lap proved corruption was pouring such, too. But it can’t be corruption if it holds something pure. He tilted her chin as he searched. Aeris wet her lips still looking up and Sephiroth would never deny her. Trading who entered and keeping the balance until ecstasy quaked through her core.
“Master,” she murmured with fingers so woven in the weft of silver hair. “I…know you want to use me. I can tell and…it’s alright.” Sephiroth’s face turned to porcelain mask as he stared at this guileless maid. “I can tell you want me so very badly…more than any man has ever before. That’s what I’m for, master. That’s why I live, and it must hurt you to want me so much. You’ve given me all the time in the world, a-and I’m not torn anymore. You’ve waited so long. You’ve never used me. You…deserve it for being so kind.” The greatest of generals looked at the Cetra in unmitigated horror. Cupping her chin in the curve of his fingers, he could not even form a response. “It’s alright, master…” she said as she shook, sealing summer, and waiting for pain.
“No, Aeris…” he whispered, forcing his quiet when all of him wanted to rage. “It’s not ‘alright.’ I’ll never use you. You’ll never be used again.”
“But you want me! A-And have for a very long time. I can t-tell when I sit on your lap…”
Sephiroth tried to slide the mask back, but gave up and just bowed his head. “My tiny flower…” He lifted his lids in shock at her still adoration. “All of the want in the world does not rob you of your choice. You will never more in all eternity just be taken when a man wishes. That was more wrong than when-”
The general’s eyes widened as his mouth snapped shut, caging the damned words before their escape. Then he remembered the abomination that swam within light and quickly veiled them again, but Aeris squeezed his hands, while he shook his head to something else as wrong.
She should not ever be comforting me after what her life has been. He tentatively let one emerald eye gleam to her ever awe tinged with confusion. “You don’t owe me anything, Aeris, and you never will.” If you remember what I did in the past, you’d realize I owe you the sky. “Your flesh is not for my or anyone’s taking. You were not made to be abused. You are neither a commodity nor a payment. You’re a darling, precious, little maid whom I vow to ever protect.” He laid his other hand over hers even smaller in his grip, and the Cetra cried against his chest for it was too wonderful to bear. “You’re a person, my Aeris, and as of such you have choices about what happens to you.”
“But you saved me, master,” she had to insist for it didn’t make any sense. “You took me from horror and brought me to joy. You do everything for me.”
He stroked her cheek with the back of his hand. “I could save you a million times and care for you ‘til eternity’s end. In fact…” He tilted his head to the side and the gentle look softened bright light. “The latter is my wish. Nothing gives me the right to just take you. That choice must be yours alone.”
The little Cetra scrunched up her face as salt still shimmered there. “You mean…some women actually choose to do that?”
Sephiroth retrieved a handkerchief and cleaned the residual grief. “They do, little flower, but…they’ve never been used like you. No one ever has…”
Aeris stared at him for several long moments, searching his face for the joke, but Sephiroth only gazed down sadly and rubbed her little hands. Her brow furrowed above her summer eyes as she tried to make sense of it all.
“Why…would any woman choose to be hurt like that, master?”
“It’s never supposed to hurt like that.”
“It always hurt me, master, b-because I’m defective.”
“No, little flower, you are not defective.” He released her hand to clench one fist so as not to crush tiny bones. The other hand continued to massage the fingers that had been so abused. “There is nothing wrong with you, Aeris. It hurt because they hurt you.”
“It always hurt, master…” She leaned against him, torn between past pain and the present. Sephiroth slid his arm around her, and the Cetra reveled in his strength. He always knew how much power to use to reassure but never harm. “No matter how often I was taken, it h-hurt me every time. I could be used fifty times in one day, but each time always hurt.” He could never shut his eyes tightly enough to match the agony she’d endured, but the general bowed his head still to kiss her crown and promise again she was safe. Her trembling subsided because she remembered she was with him in paradise. In Heaven’s Gate by the Dreaming Sea in his nice, little town. It was ethereal and like the dream the whispering waves proclaimed, but it never wavered, and deep emerald light illumined her face with the truth.
“It shouldn’t ever hurt, my Aeris. Never in that way.”
“I never want to be hurt like that, master. Please, no, never again!” Even enclosed in warm, powerful arms, her shaking could not be quelled. She buried her face in his unyielding chest, which muffled her piteous wails, but sadly Sephiroth was cursed with senses that would always let him hear. “I-If you want to use me, I’ll just endure, but please don’t hurt me like that.”
Silver hair shivered against her pale throat as the general clenched hands on his elbows. The Cetra still quaked wrapped in his arms, hiding her tearstained face. One hand attempted to shield it as well, as she whimpered for how that’d been futile. The Great General slid one forefinger down the slender bones and knuckles, and Aeris involuntarily gripped in response to that brush. The soft press of his lips just made it sweeter when he rubbed her delicate hand, letting her squeeze as hard as she could to remind her of his promise.
“I swear it by light by darkness by blood, you’ll endure no such horror again. I love you, my Aeris. I’ll always protect you. There’s no ‘payment’ I will demand. There’s nothing you owe. That’s not the way it should ever work, and that’s not the way it will.”
“But…how else could it be, master?” She chanced to look up and witness his emptying sigh.
“Sweet and gentle, never rough, and always by your choice. But…” Sephiroth held up a finger to forestall any reply. “As of right now, you cannot consent, because you can’t tell me, ‘No.’”
“I’d never refuse you, master!” she promised catching his uplifted hand, and the general nodded as he sighed again to the press of her lips to his skin.
“That’s just what I mean. If you can’t say, ‘No,’ you can’t say, ‘Yes,’ and besides…you’re still calling me, ‘master. We’re not even equal in your eyes.”
“You are my master, my gentle master, the greatest one of them all. I’m not equal to you. You’re ever above, and you always will be.” She desperately clutched and kissed his hand, praying he would be pleased. Sephiroth sadly slid his fingers beneath her trembling chin.
“I’m not,” he gently negated and hoped his tone would soften the blow, but Aeris still hid her face in his chest and shook in the warmth of his coat. She whimpered as memory tore her back to the torments of the past, but that low voice was soothing against her small form, and it cracked foul memory’s chains. The Cetra swallowed another sob and dared look up again, and Sephiroth refused to let sorrow sunder his gentle smile.
“Well,” he mused, “if you insist on that ‘title,’ I shall have to give you one, too.”
The Cetra blinked quickly and he thumbed her cheek wicking away new-found tears. “B-But you already call me ‘your little flower,’ ‘little rose,’ and ‘little one.’ You…call me ‘your Aeris.’” She pulled herself closer and he answered with tighter hold. “I’m your Aeris and no one else’s. I belong to you, alone.”
She turned her head briefly to kiss his palm, and the general was caught in swift shock. The centuries peeled back their layers, and he silently begged it to cease. I have no right. She’s suffered far worse. I was the cause of all woe…
“I love you so much, master.” Her voice brought him back. “I love everything you are. You’re gentle and kind yet so very strong, and you protect me with that strength.”
“I always will, Aeris. This strength is for you.” He covered the little maid in his embrace. Her tiny hand rested on his massive forearm where the muscle made mountains seem meek. Soft palm slid over his thick skin in wonder at what lay beneath. Sephiroth chuckled at her distraction and unbuttoned both coat and shirt cuffs. The Cetra gave a squeak of delight as her palm was allowed beneath. His skin was so warm it was like a furnace was lit beneath the pale. Her other confirmed in the space between buttons at the front of his shirt.
Sephiroth cocked his head to the side, sweeping silver soft over her throat. The little maid shuddered but did not stop her quest much to his content. Pushing back the sleeve that contrasted so greatly with smooth skin mocking snow. The silver hair there was soft to the touch and held his scent in its weft. Tiny fingers swished back and forth this incongruence that should’ve been cold. She pressed slightly at first and then a bit harder, but could not depress even an inch. The layers and layers of muscle beneath would never begin to allow. As though solid steel dwelled beneath pale veneer that gave off endless heat.
The Great General turned his forearm over, observing her in gentle mirth. He half shut his eyes to her tracing bright veins that swam beneath his skin. They were visible from wrist to elbow, and Aeris followed ‘til his sleeves grew too tight. She’d allowed her other hand to join this rapt examination.
The kindest one I’ve ever “endured,” he realized as fingers couched themselves in his clutch. Sephiroth curled his own, gently caressing that tender palm, and Aeris squeaked with a little jump at the flare of sweet sensation. She bit her lip while blinking up, and the Great General lifted her chin.
“May I, little flower?”
“Y-Yes, master, you may. I-I want to kiss you forever.” Her protector smiled at innocent words then gently teased her tongue with his own. This prompted the maid to shyly enter and only after that did he answer the call. The interplay, the back and forth that he hoped would declare them equals.
She’s higher than me. He never forgot, as his hand covered one half of her face. But equal to her would be a large step.
The Cetra fell against his chest when the kissing dance was done. Breathless but joyful did Aeris so sigh in time to the beat of his heart. Remembering this curiosity, too, she parted the black shirt for smoother pale. “You don’t have any hair here, master,” she realized, peering between the seam.
“No,” Sephiroth gently laughed. “I don’t, my little rose.”
“Why?” She peered up with summer eyes huge and a smile splayed on dewy lips.
He stroked her cheek with the back of his hand, shaking his head in the face of her sweetness. “I just don’t. It wasn’t part of my genetic design.” And memory stole a portion of joy. He gazed out the window to the timeless sea that gave up part of it in each wave. Burning emerald pierced through the past then Sephiroth half-blinked as it shriveled. Never gone but lesser to hide within his memory’s folds. Tiny fingers ran over his chest, and his perfect lips slightly curled.
“M-May I unbutton this, master?” she asked, trying to see more from the limited space. Her protector bent to kiss her brow while assuring the maid she could. Aeris undid one tentatively and slid her small hand inside. “It’s just like your arms…there is no give,” she murmured as she tried. “The skin here’s just as smooth. You’re…so perfect, gentle master,” she whispered, wiggling a bit in her place. Sephiroth caught her little hands, laying his lips upon both.
“The veneer can be deceiving, my flower.” Aeris lifted her head quite confused. “What one appears is not usual all, except you who are innocent.” He kissed her brow, and she squirmed again, unable to contain such joy. “You knew my name the day we…met. I’m sure you remember it still.”
The flower maid swallowed squeezing his fingers as they wrapped carefully around her own. “Y-Yes, master, of course I do. You’re the Great General S-Sephiroth.”
“That’s right, Aeris.”
“What does ‘general’ mean, master?” She ran her digits along his thumb.
The sigh lifted his chest as she shut her eyes, gently moved by sorrow’s breath. “It was my once designation, little flower, a very long time ago. A general is…the highest ranked officer in…a military operation.”
“So, you are the highest!”
“No.” Blood leeched from the Cetra’s face in fear she had displeased, so Sephiroth swiftly kissed the cheek that was fast waning to pale. “Do you remember how I told you I was the strongest?”
“Y-Yes, master…” she barely breathed.
“I was the highest because of that, and…other things best left unsaid. The title still lingers on in this future. Everyone calls me that more than mayor, my current title more true.”
“Ge…” She bit it back as Sephiroth lifted one brow, but his smile unbound her tongue. “Ge…General…” Aeris glanced away, adorably shy, and the so-named kissed her cheek. “My general…” she whispered and gleam could’ve bled with the happiness that overflowed.
“Yes, Aeris, yes…I’ll be ‘your general.’ I am yours to command. It’s still higher than I deserve from your lips to my ears, but it’s far better than ‘master-‘”
“You are my master.” And the smile turned sad with his sigh. The Cetra searched his face so confused she forgot the interruption.
She forgot even more when he caught fragile fingers to carefully rub her soft palm. Blessing the mask that held a stone smile, Sephiroth recalled broken bones. This flower will never be broken again, he reminded himself for his peace. Never used, never beaten, never chained, never starved.
“You know you’re safe now, don’t you, my Aeris?”
“Yes, master…” Her voice broke. “I want that. Please let me have it. I want to be safe.”
“You are safe, my flower. It’s yours. It is done…as it was from the day I found you. I have you. You’re here with me, safe in my arms. No one will ever hurt you again, and I hope I no longer cause fear.”
Through speech he’d continued circling his thumb to massage her little hands, and eyes of green summer rolled up to close in the pure pleasure of this touch. Aeris loved when he rubbed her hands, the sweet caress of powerful fingers. She could only watch for barely held moments his large hands engulfing her own. Before the careful press both drove out pain and made her eyes flutter to shut. What waited behind was not horror now, but pure joy to this act of care.
“I just can’t believe I’ve no need to fear. I’m so terrified I’ll do something wrong.”
“What could you possibly do wrong, little one?”
“I-I don’t know, master.” She clutched at his hand. “And that’s what makes me afraid. Wh-What if you don’t know what’ll anger you, a-and I do it and make you beat me…” The warmth of his broad palm did not still her shiver for the quake did not come from the cold.
“Oh Aeris…” He lowered his forehead to hers. “There is nothing you could ever do to ‘make’ me beat you. Merely the thought is repugnant. Even something neither of us has ever thought of could prompt such a terrible thing. You did nothing before to cause your abuse. They chose to hurt you, my Aeris. You never did anything wrong.”
“N-Nothing I did ever stopped them, master. They always, always hurt me.”
He kissed her brow and tiny hands before holding his flower close. Aeris heaved the sweetest sigh, and he tightened his arms with care. Gazing down to ever ensure his promise would always be kept.
“There is nothing you could do to cause me to hurt you. Such a notion is absurd. I will never hurt you, Aeris. This is as true as the light pouring from my eyes. You can’t make someone hurt you. They choose to do so unless the harm was accidentally caused. If I was holding your wrist and you suddenly wrenched it, then I would’ve hurt you without intention.”
“But master,” she said with a blink and a tear, “w-wouldn’t I have hurt myself?”
The general kissed the salt away. “No, little one. The fault would be mine because I’d have been holding you. Your injury would lie on my soul.” As the one from your past…that wound only in memory.
The little Cetra pursed her lips, pensive as she nestled closer. “I don’t know, general…if I turned my wrist, it seems the fault would have to be mine.”
Sephiroth laughed aloud and she gasped to the low vibration against her body. “Is this a lover’s quarrel, little flower?” he asked, and Aeris froze in his grasp.
“N-No, master, no I’m not a-arguing! I’d never disobey!”
“You’re not disobeying,” he ensured the Cetra, sliding his palms to her delicate shoulders. “You’re expressing your opinion. I always want you to do that, Aeris.”
“Yes, what you think. You disagreed with my assessment. That’s ever and always your right.”
“Well…” She shut her mouth quickly, glancing away before she’d begun. Sephiroth cupped her chin in his hand, stroking it with his thumb.
“What’s the worst thing you can see yourself doing?”
Aeris shuddered. “Well…what if I b-broke something important to you.”
“Like my phone or a laptop?” His brow arched up. The little maid gaped then nodded, biting her lip, and Sephiroth peered up at the ceiling. The chandelier dimmed was still glorious with light winking off glass panes. A smile just barely coated his lips, and then he looked back down at her. “There’s nothing more precious to me than you. Phones can be replaced, laptops rebought, but you, little one, are my Aeris. No plate, no cup, no chandelier can compare to one hair of your head. A million gil worth of broken treasures is nothing to one of your bones.” She covered her face with one shaking hand, and he gently stroked delicate knuckles.
“Well…wh-what if I were truly disobedient?” It was muffled inside her palm.
The general tilted his head to the side. “Since you’re not mine to command, disobedience is quite impossible.” He stilled a finger on her covering hand, and Aeris lowered the veil to his smile. “I’d actually relish your ‘disobedience,’ as I enjoyed your ‘disagreement.’ It might prove to you the truth.” He cupped her cheek and one finger dangled to tantalize the side of her neck. Aeris stiffened again, and he halved his lids for this was not in fear. “I will never hurt you, my Aeris,” he murmured, “and I’ll tell you this every day. I will never grow tired of saying the words to ensure you you’re ever safe.
He kissed her as soft as her sweet, maiden ones, and it was Aeris who asked for entry. Though gentleness reigned, the power behind caused shudders to spill through her skin. Her thin fingers splayed on the breadth of his arm through this claiming that always ensured. When he parted from her well used lips, the general slid his cheek along hers. The wispy hair around her ear brushed his “angel’s bow.” “My Aeris…” he whispered, softer than shadows the two words that lit through her heart.
The maid squeezed her hands against his chest, the knuckles taut through thinned flesh. “I used to dream…” Her voice was high to fight the crushing past. “I-In the beginning of closing my eyes, and when I opened them, I’d be home.” A half sob escaped, but Aeris refused to let tears steal her voice. “Then I forgot what ‘home’ even was. I…I’m sure I had one once. Like so many things it’s lost in the mists of my Midgar memories.”
“They’ll come back to you one day, little flower,” Sephiroth said with no joy. Aeris threaded her fingers through his, and he shifted her upon his lap. The Cetra sniffled and a silk swath appeared to clear her face of latest tears. It was splotchy and reddened and her eyes gleamed with pink rimming the summer round. Grateful, the little maid gazed up at him, and the trust that she bore pierced his soul. A sorrowful shake of his head sent swaying moonlight against her tender skin.
“B-But you, master…g-general.” His lips twitched up slightly he stroked her soft hand. “With you I can start to remember. This is my home now…” She peered in such awe, and the fallen’s heart tore between beats. “All of it. This house, your mayor’s mansion, your general’s estate, this p-palace…it’s mine, too. I live here. In this beautiful place b-by the sea in this town you protect.”
His elegant lashes spread their splendor against his winter white skin. “This is your place…your palace, my Aeris. Heaven’s Gate is open to you.”
“Every day this life grows better, and I don’t want it to end! I don’t want to blink and wind up back in darkness, chained and cold…waiting for pain. I’m so afraid, master. So, so afraid that one day I’ll wake up back there. That time will repeat and I’ll have to relive all those hundred years.” She was squeezing her fists as tight as she could as whimpers stole every breath. Despite its betrayal, Aeris fervently begged the Planet to show her mercy, and though Sephiroth could not hear her prayers, he still held her close. She was his to protect. His arms were a shield. The wall of strength better than any fortress.
“Do you remember, Aeris,” he said staring down so his forelocks spilled over her crown, “when I told you what I could to your chains?” That low, gentle voice permeated his chest, and her body relaxed despite terror. She was warmed by his coat and safe in his arms, as the sea shushed the storm outside.
“I…remember, Great G-General.”
The sideways smile lifted his lips, and he brushed them over her cheek. I’d rather my name, but it is a start. Steps as small as she.
“You said you could crush them to crumbling dust.” She stared at her fingers in his own. Her protector immediately lifted her hand for the softest kiss.
“That’s right, and what I could do to their bones…less than pulp in my grip.”
“Master, I…” Summer eyes were so huge they took up the whole of her face. Trembling like loosened leaves in a gale, and Aeris turned aside with a shudder.
“Yes, my flower, what is it?”
“I…” She swallowed, trying to still the tremor laced with unbridled fear.
Sephiroth enclosed her tight in one arm so he could slide a lock of chestnut away. “I always have you, my little rose. No one can hurt you now. They no longer hold sway over your words. You can always speak freely with me.”
He sat up straighter and silver spilled over to tease itself along her cheek. Aeris wet her lips as she searched his expression, but found nothing but sincerity. A tiny squeak escaped instead of words wanted then a long, ragged breath held her sob.
“It’s alright, little one,” her general assured. “I have you. You’re with me. You’re safe. Whatever you want, whatever you wish, you only need say the word.” His arms closed around her in strength beyond real, and it was all for her.
“I…want you to punish them, master…” she whispered so low even dust wouldn’t dance, but Sephiroth heard it as emerald pulsed grim and cold as the frozen north. Not even summer could melt Mako light so crystalline around slivered pupil. It receded as swirls of green spun around, but Aeris did not look away. “They hurt me so much, and I could nothing…nothing to stop the pain. No matter how good, no matter how quiet, no matter how I obeyed their…commands, they still always beat me, they still always starved me, and they used me every day. I know they were stronger and s-strength has its rights, but-”
“No one has the right to hurt you.” He said it so low with eyes bright as poison, and Aeris wet her lips as she blinked.
“You tell me that, master, all the time. You tell me how much it was wrong. I…want you to hurt them…” And then Aeris sobbed. The general laid his hands to her shoulders. Rubbing them softly to move to her back, as the little maid stilled her sniffles. “I’m terrible, awful…I’m so very sorry. I shouldn’t want anyone hurt.”
“I think, my Aeris.” Sephiroth cupped her chin. “In this circumstance, you have the right.”
“I’m so selfish though, master.”
“How are you selfish?”
“Th-The others…the other slaves. They hurt them, too. They’re hurting them now while I’m here with you in paradise.” The Cetra keened with her hands to her face, and Sephiroth bent his brow to her crown.
“Aeris…” The power was back in his voice, and it shuddered the air after storm. “You cannot be selfish. You cannot be blamed. You deserve this paradise.” He lifted her tear stained face to his light. “Believe me. It will be done. The wheels are in motion. The task has been set. Judgment is calling their names.”
For the briefest of moments within emerald eyes, Aeris saw endless fire, and the skin on her back twitched up as though clutched in a pitiless claw. Sephiroth’s face was empty as stone, the only thing living cold Mako. It had burned away all that was gentle about his angelic features, and for the first time in that unblinking gaze, the Cetra knew ancient horror. Then he shut those swirling orbs so tightened lids veiled the light. Both silver brows near knit together, as the Great General lowered his head. Little fingers were shaking against the bared skin between parted buttons, and slowly for fear of what would be revealed, the fallen re-opened his eyes. The Cetra found that she could breathe again as the twinge in her back released.
“I’m so sorry, my Aeris.” Sephiroth turned away, then her fingertips brushed his cheek. Sliding his gaze back over to her, he allowed himself briefest surprise. She was staring at him with her lip in her teeth and adoration in summer eyes. It only faded when she yawned, and the general laughed so low.
“I’m sleepy, master. I mean…general.”
“You may call me whatever you wish. I’d prefer my name, but if you like ‘general,’ I’ll relish the word in my ears.” Mako burned mischief. “Though I do like it when you say, ‘my.’ That makes us a bit more even.” She caught his other hand for her own kiss, refusing to give into tears.
“Yes, my Aeris. I’m yours for all time.”
She tried to answer, but yawned again, and his chuckle made innocence bloom.
Gathering her up in his powerful arms, Sephiroth laid his brow smooth to hers. Without hesitation or even a thought, she threw skinny limbs round his neck. Pressing her lips so softly to his, and her tongue did belie “maiden” kisses. Sephiroth buried long fingers in chestnut while cupping the back of her head. Turning his slowly, he entered her lips in the gentlest penetration.
“You’re so glorious, master,” she whispered after. “Impossibly strong and so tall.”
“And you’re quite the flatterer.” His smile was sad and yet undiminished, bowing his head to undeserved praise. She squirmed in his clutch and just slightly bemused, Sephiroth set her back down. To greater surprise, she bounced off his lap, stumbling a bit to stand. Aiding her balance with a hand to her waist, the general stood once she was steady. Aeris gazed up in utter awe, releasing the air she forgot she had captured. Angel scent filled her lungs at next breath, and her knees wobbled as though made of water.
She sought his palm, and the general fought his pain when the tiny maid leaned against him. But he still closed her in his full embrace with nary even a thought. Clasping one hand around his own wrist, he pressed both against that soft belly, and when Sephiroth pulled his little rose close, her high hum of joy bound his heart. Silver hair trickled down Aeris’s cheeks, spilling over her shoulders and chest. She drowned in the seas of scent held by velvet before her tantalized nose.
With a smirk, he gave her middle a squeeze, and the once flower maid sharply squeaked. The general nearly laughed to her glare. If I pointed it out, she’d instantly crumble back to a frightened slave. I’d relish her ‘backtalk’ and disagreement to prove us more equal than none. He opened a hand against her tender belly, his fingers in fine caress there.
“Is this well, little one? I didn’t hurt you, did I?” His gaze narrowed in scrutiny.
“It’s wonderful master. I love it so much. You’ve never hurt me at all.”
Sephiroth sighed to the false title’s return, but still bent to touch lips to smooth brow.
“G-General…you can k-kiss me again. I-I always want you to kiss me.” She turned on her toes, and it was done with no other word between. Squeezing the forearms locked at her waist, near trembling to their solid strength. “You’re protecting my back, master,” the flower maid whispered, “no one can take me from behind.”
Sephiroth threw his gaze towards the sea, but the dark waves could offer no solace. Subdued after storm but never chastised, they sung lullaby to the shore.
“No, Aeris…” The Great General forced the words out as Mako burned pain through the glass. “No one can take you from behind.” He clasped both his elbows as if to protect her from a past neither could change. Her face drifted up and soft sounds of bliss loosened some of his torment.
“You’re beautiful, master. Do you know that? How are you so perfect?”
“I was designed that way, little one. Forced to be flawless. Made to be perfect. The greatest have farthest to fall…”
Aeris’s head spun at the raw words, for each blink revealed more perfection. “They did a good job. You’re so beautiful. The best thing I’ve ever seen.”
The general nodded, but it held no pride only acceptance and sorrow for truth. “Yes, they did. I was just what they wanted, a specimen…made to be used.”
“Oh, general no!” She laid hand to his, and Mako seared in utter shock. “N-No one deserves to ever be used. Y-You told me that tonight.”
Sephiroth slowly rolled his palm to couch hers smaller within. He shook his head so silver soft swayed below the jewel at her throat. The pink heart twinkled and tried to rival her skin that now held healthy twinge.
“You will never be used again, little flower, and now…neither will I.” Shifting his gaze to meet hers with surprise as the truth of the future dawned. “Though I’ll be of use to you, if you will allow.”
She attempted to answer. Instead yawned again. A sliver of guilt sliced his mirth. He scooped the maid up. She was wearing one shoe, and Sephiroth half smiled at that. One shoe as I have one wing. Its fellow was on the floor by the stairs, and he gracefully picked it up. Held in his one arm, Aeris was too busy nestled against his neck to care.
“You’re so much bigger and stronger than me, general. I love it…I love it so much.”
His low laugh echoed against her ribs, and she drowsily opened green eyes. Perfect features were set in a smile that was truer than ever worn mask. He kissed her softly on the brow than both cheeks and chaste on the lips. “Would you not prefer to be bigger and stronger? Then you’d need me never more.”
“Master, I need you!” She clung then in terror to the “wall” beneath leather black. Hiding her face from the past and its torments, the little maid whimpered and shook. “I’ll little and frail. I’ll never be strong. I’ll always be weak and helpless.”
“That’s what they taught you.” Dark drowned a voice that was ever so gentle with her. “You may be little, but you are not weak, and you’ll never be helpless again.” He sighed, smoothing the hair from her cheek, but not forcing her show her face. “I will always be here to protect you, my flower, but there are ways you can defend yourself.”
“Th-There are?” Her whisper was near lost in soft silver, but his ears still found it so trapped.
“Yes, there are.”
“H-How could I ever ‘defend myself,’ master? Men are so much stronger.” She couldn’t stop shaking, recalling the whips and fists that had met her defiance.
“I’ll show you, my Aeris.” His voice soothed her heart as his arms sent the tremors away.
“I wish I could believe no one would hurt me regardless of your protection.”
A kiss to her cheek turned the whimper to sigh. “You don’t have to believe it. It’s part of my job to prove it and guard you still.”
“I want that, my general. I want that so much. I don’t want to go anywhere I’m not safe. Please don’t let them find me! I’ll do anything, master. Anything! I don’t want to be hurt again…”
Sephiroth thought as he ascended the stairs that this was the very same pleading…the same plaintive cries, the same desperate screams her abusers had cruelly ignored. They’d beaten her bloody, chained her in cold, and raped her every day.
I…answered her prayers, he realized in rue. I’m what she was begging for. He blinked several times, staring down at the terrified maid in his arms. “I will never let anyone hurt you, my flower,” he murmured sincere in her ear. “Do you know how safe? Do you know how revered? Do you know how loved you are?”
Gingerly Aeris lifted her head to find her Great General first. The light from his eyes bathed her face in soft gleam. He’d tempered it only for her. The sliver still shimmered sharper than thorn, but Aeris could never be cut.
She drew out her breath and peered around for her guardian would never lie. Her room swam in focus where soft breezes danced with gauzy inner curtains. The carpet below was silent on boots but would shush calmly beneath her bare feet. Her desk by the corner with her laptop closed and her phone charging by its side. She bit her lip slightly. She’d forgotten to bring it on their little walk. It doesn’t matter. I was with him. There’s nothing else I would need. Then her bed with its clothes turned back and prepared for her weary form. Aeris yawned again and the strong grip around was replaced with that welcoming seat.
“Master?” She gripped his arms at release, and Sephiroth went down on one knee. She whimpered at that. It still didn’t seem right. He was higher than her and should tower.
“Yes, my Aeris?” he asked mildly as the tamed Mako on her face. The sweet epithet still caused a soft quiver to flutter from belly to heart.
Clutching his fingers as tight as she could, the Cetra fought hammering heart. “Will you…” She couldn’t face him. “W-Will you hold me tonight, while I sleep?”
“My little love.” He kissed her brow. “I’m so glad you asked this of me. I would love to hold you every night, if you would but allow.” She threw her arms around his neck, and broad palms slid down her back. The arc of her spine lifted a silver brow, which stayed arched when the maid kissed his cheek. Disengaging himself ever carefully, Sephiroth stood to depart. “Call me when you’re ready, my flower.”
“Th-Thank you, my…general.” She still clutched his hand, running her thumb over the broad, solid palm. He smiled, threading their fingers for a moment before slipping them off again. “Thank you for letting me change my clothes out of your presence. I…wouldn’t want to t-tempt you.”
The fallen froze as though carved out of marble and even his hair defied sway. He spun around so slow on his heel with silver brows tight together, and in the dim his winter skin gleamed like years of solemn snow.
“’Tempt’ me, Aeris? What do you mean?” His voice turned flat as he frowned.
She clutched at the bed clothes with quivering fingers, while emerald eyes sliced through the air. “I-I…” The maid stammered caught like a fly in the weft of Mako light. Swallowing down the rising terror. She had to answer him now. He’s still my master, never forget. The past beat her cruel as the lash. “I know you want me, g-greatest master.” He clenched his large hands into fists. The wind through her window could not best sharp breath, but the flower maid forced her speech forth. “A-And I wouldn’t want to cause you to…act.” The last word was bare whispered while Sephiroth glared at the past that had broken this rose. He sighed to shake silver away from his face, took a step, Aeris cringed, and he stopped.
“My flower…you could be naked as the day I found you, and that could not ‘cause’ me to act. There’s no amount of ‘temptation’ in the world that could ever ‘make’ me rape you. There’s not enough ‘enticing’ on the Planet that made any of them do the same. Nothing you did and nothing you said made them hurt you, little one. You are innocent of all wrongdoing. The fault lies solely with them. You are not ‘tempting.’ You are not ‘seductive.’ You were a terrified, little maid whom they abused for their own twisted pleasure.”
As Sephiroth spoke, Aeris untied her fingers from the twisted bedclothes. She stood with her little hands clasped before and the sight nearly forced his voice fail, but the general had been made to endure, and he fought this highest pain. Following her slow approach with eyes that glittered colder than emerald ice. “Those heinous acts belong to your abusers. You own nothing of them.”
The little Cetra stood before him now with eyes that haunted without hollows beneath. Keeping them on her guardian’s face, she tentatively touched a tight fist. The release was instant and its pair followed suit as slim fingers glided upon. She laid her head against his chest as she tied their hands together. Sephiroth wrapped her in his free arm, and her presence spread warmth through his heart. Silver hair whispered over her cheeks as the Great General gazed down through long lashes.
“There is nothing you could ever do to ‘make’ me hurt you, Aeris, and everything we do is your choice. It can be revoked with only a word.” He raised their hands slowly, unthreading the fingers to lay his against her soft cheek. The flower maid curled her own on his chest, the curve of muscle still cause for pure awe. Sephiroth kissed her brow before stepping back, and she quelled her disappointment. “Whenever you’re ready, you only need call.” He smiled for the near and sweet future.
In his own room, the Great General checked his phone after he’d hung up his coat. It still smelled like her much to his delight that caused the slightest smile. Even in joy, Sephiroth was subdued for too often it had been ripped away. My life of torture was nothing to hers and part of it was my fault. She cannot claim that. It can’t be allowed. The innocent bear no blame. But though his perfect face seemed passive, the fallen knew no sweeter truth. She loved him. A miracle barely believed, an incongruence that transcended time. He gritted his teeth, and the fist near his heart clenched enough to make dust from stone. No, it’s not true. She loves a lie. She knows not what I am. She could not love me with such knowledge…no one ever could. How dare I allow her speak such words and not reveal the truth? Long fingers ripped through silver hair that still fell in perfection. He whirled to the window before the dark sea and tortured himself with the stars. She could not forgive me. All that I did…heaven mocked him with what he had lost. The darkness between is far worse than what pierces its back from beyond the veil. He bowed his head to rub his temples unable to stare there for long.
Sephiroth lifted his face as her little voice filled his heart. It was barely breathed and down the long hall, but he kept his ears shaped for her call. Ever and always for her need was his job, her wants his life’s obligation. Swiftly to his rose he went, needing no wing for that flight. Her door was closed so the general knocked and waited with smile prepared. A frantic shuffling greeted his summons, before the maid opened the door.
His bright gaze slid over, and he tilted his head as a smile brushed perfect lips. She’d believed him about the lack of temptation. As soon as I spoke the words. Shedding her garb without any fear of standing naked before. Just in case though, he stepped slightly back so his towering height wouldn’t loom. Without judgment or lust, Mako swept over, bathing this flower he loved. The little maid only quivered a bit to look up at her great guardian. Her bangs framed her face, brushing their tips along her stark collar bones.
“General?” she whispered again.
“Yes, little one?” He kept his voice gentle. “Is everything well, my Aeris?”
She shuddered at that, and her naked toes curled into the thick, lustrous carpet. Lifting her hands, she stared up at him, and the sight tore the threads of his heart. “I-I…” I ask him for so much. Silver locks spilled on black garb. He was so tall the Cetra’s neck ached already from his height.
Summer eyes fluttered, and Aeris swayed hard before absolute strength closed around. His embrace sealed her tight in his full protection, and the tiny Cetra sobbed. Sephiroth crushed her so carefully close, and she shook in pure joy to be held.
“I have you, my Aeris.” His voice stroked the air and swam through her skin like a purr. The little maid melted into his hold, as his arms slid securely around. She squeezed her eyes shut, frail fingers curled tighter than her bare toes.
“It’s so easy to hold you, little one, so easy to be gentle.”
“I-It’s not difficult?” She lifted her face and washed it in moonlight hair.
“No, not at all.”
“B-But how do you temper your strength?”
The general chuckled with half-veiled eyes, but emerald just blazed even brighter. Framing her innocent face in his light so Mako reflected in pure. He smiled down. “Even though it’s immeasurable, I still know how much to exert.”
“So they…so th-they didn’t h-have to-“
“No, little rose.” Empty rage swallowed his smile. “No one ‘had’ to hurt you, my Aeris, no matter what strength they proclaimed.” His perfect lip curled as he shook his head. Silver strands stroked her soft skin in anathema to hideous wrath, but she stood on her toes and reached for his face, and a portion receded for care.
“If you can be gentle…”
“They could’ve been, too.”
“They always said it was my fault…”
He suppressed the hiss, though slivered eyes narrowed in dire need to strike. “It is never your fault if someone hurts you. I don’t care how fragile you are.” He took the hand astride his face, his thumb whispering over frail bones. “Have I…ever hurt you, little flower? Have I ever bruised your tender skin?”
“No, general,” she whispered. The brush of his thumb had moved to her palm, and she shuddered within his hold.
“I’m stronger than all of them put together.”
“Even stronger than that, greatest master…”
“Just so.” He bowed his head, hating the sound of that false title’s return on her lips, but Aeris was blinking with a slight pout, pondering the implications.
“And…you’ve never hurt me. Not even once, a-and I’m naked in your clutch. Th-They choose to hurt me.” She swallowed her fear.
“That’s right, little flower, and that choice will have consequences…”
His pupils receded into glacial cold as though winter had eaten their hearts, but Aeris continued to stare unafraid at what her abusers would scream to behold.
“I love, love, love that you’re gentle with me.”
“You deserve the gentlest touch.” He brushed her cheek with the back of his hand, and she melted into the caress. “It’s all you ever deserved.” When Sephiroth looked down at her, endless love and care broke through the death in cold light. The Cetra wet her lips, and he cocked his head, letting slight smile return.
“A-Am I truly yours and your alone?”
“You’re mine to protect, little one.” I have a tiny, naked maid in my arms who trusts me beyond all tomorrows. How am I so blessed to not only guard her, but have this allowance as well? She…loves me. Her murderer. Faugh, it’s a lie. If she knew your truth, she would scream. She loves the hero you wish you could be, the one who died in the mists. You are the monster born from the flames. You, with your alien cells…
“I think it was worth it,” Aeris whispered.
“What was?” His brow furrowed between narrowed eyes.
“A-All of it, master. E-Everything…to be allowed to live in your arms.”
“Oh, dear gods, Aeris. No, never say that. My protection is not a reward. This is what you always deserved and all you should’ve known.” He cupped her trembling chin in his hand, and Mako eyes blazed with fervor. “You did not have to be dragged through hell to dwell in Heaven’s Gate.” He bent briefly down to kiss her brow, and Aeris quivered to silver sweep. A curl of lip cracked his sorrowful mask, and Sephiroth tilted his head and remembered. “I heard you call me, little one. Is everything well?” he asked.
The Cetra blinked bewildered up, eyes darting in slight dismay.
“Did you just want me to hold you?” The general chuckled with no judgment in his half smile. She bit her lip, resting her chin against silk backed by steel.
“Oh…yes, great general. Everything’s well. I…do love when you hold me, though. I-I don’t mean to be a bother, but I don’t have any more of your shirts. F-For sleeping.” The little maid swallowed to add. “None of them smell like you anymore…”
The glide of strong arms from around her bare flesh sent shivers down Aeris’s spine. Without second thought, he finished the task she’d partially started downstairs. Slipping out of the long sleeves, silk slid from his shoulders.
“I have one for you right here,” he said. “May I, little one?”
He knelt when she nodded and wrapped her in black fabric before nary a gasp could form.
“Is this well, little rose?” Emerald pulsed soft. Perfect harmony for that low voice. Weakened knees pitched Aeris forward, right back to his waiting arms. Sephiroth picked her up this time, and she rained kisses on newly bared skin. Walking into the room, he sat her on the bed and knelt to place brow to brow.
“You’ll always be safe, my Aeris,” he promised, “and I’ll always take care of you.”
Rising Sephiroth shook out his hair, sweeping her in sweet, silver spill. She threw her head back so strands stroked her throat, and the maid’s teeth found her lip once again. Moonlight washed over what had to be marble, and stunned silence caused rouged lips to part.
Aeris had only seen pictures of statues, but knew they weren’t half so well-made. Summer green widened on what she had felt, and her fingers twitched as she blushed. Those tiny digits wished to trace the shape of each muscle, chest fore seen and the abs cut below. Her fingers could fit in the spaces between, and the warmth would make winter skin lie. She’d slide over those shoulders that now only served as a surface for silver to spill. They’d go on and on behind her shut eyes, and he’d chuckle and kiss her so soft. Nibbling her lip, the Cetra could see how he’d scoop her up in just one arm, but he wasn’t outlandish. His form fit his frame. He could never be overdone.
“I’ll return soon,” the general promised, departing, and the maid closed her eyes in long blink. This did not wash the last image away nor the smile from Sephiroth’s lips.
When the gentle knock stirred her door again, she called for him to come in. An unbuttoned black shirt covered him now with pants that came down to mid-calf. Both old garments that still looked resplendent on alabaster skin. “General, please hold me…” Aeris whispered, and before her heart beat it was done.
Sephiroth swept her up and kissed her smooth brow before answering the call of her lips. She kissed him and kissed him and kissed him again, wishing for endless breath. Her slender arms around his neck could not compare to how his covered her. Both of them now for he wished to be selfish and not deny what she would allow.
“I want to sleep in your arms every night.” The words were poured right in his ear. No smile so bright could ever express what such a wish did for his soul, yet he was afraid if he showed too much joy, it would be ripped away. Though Aeris’s terror was far more proven, the fallen still feared the same. “Please, my general. Please will you let me? I love being in your arms.”
“My Aeris,” he whispered, “you never need plead. I would’ve begged you for this grace, but I’d never force you to take my touch. It had to be your decision.” He carried her to the bed with its fluttering drapes and laid the little maid down. She near burrowed into the opulent mattress, quickly checking the foot of her bed. Couched near the board were soft, folded blankets, and Aeris sighed at the assurance. Luxurious pillows beneath her head prompted another deep breath. The Cetra shut her eyes long between blinks as her little hand curled against.
The bed bowed a bit as he slid in besides, and she tamed tears as strong arms closed around. The lower one glided beneath her small form, supporting his rose with no effort. His other above completed the task of holding Aeris secure. Silver spilled over to wash a face she refused to re-stain with salt.
“Is this well, little flower?” His low voice behind tilted her head back and up. There was no angle that could taint his beauty, and Aeris turned to pull herself closer. Sephiroth kissed her on the brow before she reached up for his lips. He glided his hands up the curve of her spine as the little maid led the dance. Then he turned his head to taste her mouth like the dew from a morning rose.
“Great General, I love when you kiss me. It’s so gentle and sweet.”
He cleared a long bang from her face while her slender limbs circled his neck. “I’m glad you love it, my Aeris,” he murmured. “That’s how it will be between us. Gentle and sweet, never rough, and only if you wish.”
She nestled her head beneath his chin to hear the strong beat of his heart, more sincere in pulse and thrum than the world that had left her bereft. “I love kissing you…” She yawned again and he pressed one to her crown.
“Thank you…” Sephiroth shut his eyes tight and braced himself for those next words. “…thank you so much for protecting me, e-especially today on our walk.” He jerked his head up, emerald burning bright in shock on that flawless mask. Aeris gazed at him in full adoration, and her guardian drew her near. She was so soft against his chest, and her sweet summer scent filled his nostrils. Laying his lips against her brow, his low voice hummed against tender skin.
“Always and ever, my flower, I will. There is no better task.”
“You’re the best protector,” she murmured, and sealed summer missed the torture and joy on his face. A brush of silver caressed her own, making the flower maid smile. “Are you going to sleep, too, master? I know you didn’t last time.”
“I’ll shut my eyes so the light won’t disturb, but no, little one, I won’t slumber. Sleep calls the nightmares and horrors from which I can never hide.”
She lifted her innocent gaze again where Mako half veiled still burned. He hated that she should be held in such light, but it could never taint her. And in full darkness I could still see, find her and keep her safe. Is something abysmal somehow made good if used for purer purpose? He lost what threads he had of these thoughts as she reached to kiss him on the brow. The softest pink lips that smoothed away creases if only for this small time. He bowed his head into the press wondering how she could bless him so.
“I hope you don’t, my general. You don’t deserve it at all.” And there was no weapon the fallen had to fight this kind of pain.
Aeris then squeezed his arms in reminder, and his sorrow turned more bittersweet. Obeying her wishes, he tightened his grip to pull her against his chest. His pulse matched immortal thrum of the stars, as steadfast and eternal. Her sigh released the weight of this day into the little maid’s count, and Aeris’s face was a portrait of joy at having so great a protector.
Sleep took her quickly under emerald watch, and Sephiroth then shut his eyes. Not to rest (as he had said) but rather to think and plan. What he would make her. What books he would buy. What jewelry she might like. The offer from Myrna for wine and tea. It could be an important step. Myrna was female, as was Emaline. They could go when her husband was out. When she is ready. No moment before. Our tomorrows are limitless. In the darkness, the fallen allowed a full smile to cover his face. His Aeris was safe as she slept in his arms. She’d nothing to fear in this night.
“You owe me.” The low voice crashed through her bones, and his hand was a vise on her crown. Without any effort and empty expression. This was nothing to him.
He was her master, the Great General. His strength would make mock of full armies. What was she, a tiny, weak thing, to defy what such greatness desired? She sobbed and begged him to have mercy, but it was like pleading with marble to yield. Forcing the Cetra to her knees, her pushed her face down in silk sheets. The mattress muffled wailing cries with no more care than he. Shrieks escaped even that smothering press when his readiness pressed on her rear. Fabric and buttons could barely contain what wanted to run her through.
“You owe me,” he told the Cetra again, and she struggled to his amusement.
“Please, master, no! Please don’t use me!”
“You dare give me commands?”
He pulled her head back with a grip to the skull that could crush bone with barely a squeeze. The strain on her neck tore tears from green eyes, and the little maid wheezed through her throat.
“I paid for you. You’re mine by right. I’ll take whatever I wish.”
The first brutal thrust destroyed healing flesh, and Aeris’s scream could break mountains. The next one destroyed what she knew of torture, and more demolished her concept of brutal. What she believed ruthless for one hundred years was wholly obliterated, and absolute strength, which gave him this right, retaught her what merciless meant.
Annoyed by her shrieks he pushed her face firmly back down into the mattress. Agony ripped the sobs from her throat, as she bled from the ruthless assault. The Great General annihilated all of the progress that he’d paid good gil to repair, but it was his gil, and she was his slave. She was his to impale.
And when he’d had his fill, he pulled from the ruins, a dripping and bloody sword…
Sephiroth parted the lids of one eye so searing green sheared through long lashes. Sunlight dimmed before thinning pupil, as she sea hushed the dawning shore. He did not yawn, only frowned as his other iris appeared. Did I fall asleep? he pondered in shock though none was betrayed on his face. The fallen attempted to call back last eve, but its webs were elusive and dim. No nightmare assailed his memory, but the general had lost some time.
A high noise caused him to glance down to Aeris still wrapped in his shielding arms. Well, one arm at least, her guardian thought with a slight quirk of his lips. The lower fully around the soft form right below her soft breast. Like a steel band encased in smooth skin with a large hand cupping her side. She was so tiny it was more than enough to hold his flower secure. Her stomach and lower were fully exposed, girded by rumpled, black shirt. In morn light and Mako, stretch marks split her flesh, as profound as white whip scars. The flaccid belly against his hold was riddled with pink thick and thin. How often the Cetra was forced to be host would ever be written in flesh. He carefully tightened that arm around and laid a brief kiss to her brow.
His other hand though made thin pupils sharpen to the sight of his palm on high hip. Her frail hand was atop the breadth as though she had placed it there. Despite that, Sephiroth blinked several times and anguish filled each inhale. Have I breached some wall? The little maid then wove their fingers tighter together. Summer stayed sealed, but just that brief motion relieved his current woe. Still he thought it best to move his palm up to her little waist. As his touch glided over, Aeris arched her spine, pressing her rear against him. The firm flesh of her bottom met something far firmer, and the Cetra squeezed her lids tight.
He sighed, both events now painfully common (though one was less comfortable). Her initial squeak faded to whimper once Sephiroth eased himself back. But stubborn in slumber, she sought him again, and received a much thicker poke.
You would think I wanted nothing more than to penetrate this little flower. His expression stayed mild belying the issues for no lust stirred in his mind. Just elsewhere, it seems, he wryly thought, though he knew it was still base reaction. He thanked his preference for buttons not zippers, but the dry wit did not last long.
Her scream tore his heart far worse than his ears as she struggled within his grip. Shrieking and writhing, Aeris pushed at his arms, and the general let her go. The little maid tumbled across the bed and would’ve crashed to the floor, but Sephiroth was swift still as her sobs flayed his soul, springing up before she could drop. The Cetra still fought now with the winding sheet, but her flailing limbs just made it worse.
He laid her back on the mattress as Aeris still screamed, and a small hand popped free of its bonds. Her knuckles clacked against his jaw, which neither hurt nor stalled his efforts. He wasn’t injured nor did he care when nails raked against his cheek. Gently, the general tried to unwind her from both prisons inside and out. The latter was easy, so Aeris was free to curl into a trembling ball. She desperately tried to cover exposure with her rumpled shirt.
“Please, please stop! It hurts so much. You’re ripping me apart!”
“Aeris, I’m here. No one will hurt you. Whatever you dreamt is no more.” His low voice held that power that he only used when worse horrors captured her heart. Summer flew open, and she wailed again to undying light around slivered pupils. Sephiroth sealed them and turned his face, appalled to have caused her more fear. Panting breath assailed his ears punctuated by piteous whimpers. He sank to his knees beside the bed, and silver hair swept her stomach.
The skein of soft winter made Aeris blink as the sun filtered through gauzy veil. Sea song and gull blew through the window that led to the balcony. My balcony, she recalled, gazing up then at her angel. His head was bowed with forelocks spilled more silver than northern snows, and Aeris couldn’t help but twist tiny fingers through moonlight and ashen silk. She unclenched her thighs. There was no pain, no bleeding, and no torn flesh. He hadn’t raped her. He hadn’t hurt her. That vision was foulest lie.
She flung thin limbs around his neck, and Mako slowly parted. He knew what to do and held her close, while inhaling that summer scent. With no effort, Sephiroth stood, shielding a tremble that was not for cold. Aeris hid her face in silvery seas wishing to drown in the fragrance. Her old life still sent torment’s dreams seeking to poison the new.
“I have you, Aeris. I have you always. No one can hurt you again.”
“I dreamt. I dreamt…” Pain choked her voice and he kissed her on the brow.
“It’s well, little one. You don’t have to tell me.”
“I dreamt…” She curled a hand on his cheek. The scratches there were fading fast, but their sight froze in her tears. Hiding now from sure to come wrath, Aeris cowered in his arms.
Emerald fell on Sephiroth’s cheek where her shaking palm had rested. Neither her nails nor knuckles had hurt and the marks would soon fade before pale. He kissed her again and tried gentle smile, but her face was buried once more.
“I-I st-struck you, master.” It was muffled in his collar, but the fear could never be lost. She shook so hard he grabbed a blanket though the general just wished this mere cold. “I…struck you…a slave hitting a master, and you, the greatest of all. The Great General…y-you…please, master, please don’t punish me!” She clenched her hands beneath silvery shroud. “I’ll do anything. I’ll submit to you! You’ve waited long enough…”
“Oh, my Aeris…” Sephiroth whispered, “what nightmares have you known. What…did I do to you, little rose? What did this dream contain?”
“You…” she swallowed, “you…raped me, master.”
He closed his eyes hard and wished that blindness would take his curséd sight. The sea breeze stirred that moonlight hair so it caressed the maid in his arms. His bowed head laid his bangs against her exposed and fluttering throat. Each breath held a whimper she could not contain as if her flesh was once more ripped apart.
I have no right to any pain, the general thought without pity. She was so hurt for a hundred long years that it now haunts her with lies. He couldn’t imagine she’d want his touch, but that thought died before it full formed. The little Cetra clung to his neck, slender arms upon his broad shoulders. The incongruence made no sense. He’d hurt her, but she wanted this? Understanding was not necessary though. Only his Aeris mattered. What she needed. What she wanted. Assurance that she was safe.
“I am so sorry, little flower, that you were forced to dream something like that. I can’t imagine the hurt and fear you must’ve felt in that vision. I can’t imagine the hurt and fear you must’ve felt before.” He held the Cetra more securely against the deep beat of his heart.
“You’re so strong,” she sobbed in his ear. “It doesn’t matter in waking or dream. I love your strength, master. P-Please don’t ever use it against me like that.”
“No, Aeris, never. You’re mine to protect. I would never rape you, little one.”
“Y-You said that I owed you.”
“That’s not true either. You owe me nothing and never will.”
Aeris opened her eyes to swimming silver and lifted her head to his beautiful face. A forelock obscured, so she pushed it away, while Sephiroth gazed through his long lashes.
“Thank you for not using me, master,” she whispered, and he held the sigh that this was not done. It had just come later after a night where not saying it cost her dear.
As if her past must punish her for not thanking me for this ‘grace.’
“You will never be used, my Aeris. You’ll never again be forced to bear. Little flower, this world belongs to you, and your life will be wonderful.”
Author’s Note: I know it’s been a long time between updates. This chapter took almost three months to edit, and I’m still not sure I’m completely satisfied with its pacing, but I feel it’s time to move on with the story. I’m hoping to have at least one more chapter up before November when I’ll be taking a hiatus from editing to participate in NaNoWriMo with the hopes of actually reaching the 50k word goal towards a novel. Afterwards, I’ll attempt to fit in editing between that work, but I can’t make any definitive promises, since much of it depends on my health.
In terms of this chapter, I wanted to talk about my use of the term “angel’s bow” instead of “Cupid’s Bow.” The former seemed to make more sense given the original setting lends itself more to Norse Mythology than Classical, and invoking the winged beings I did fits far better with the situation.
As always thank you all so much for reading!