Chapter 6 – Urban Sprawl

<<–Preamble/Prelude
<–Chapter 5                                                                                                    Chapter 7–>

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.
Disclaimer: I did not create and therefore own no rights to the featured artwork. I was unable to locate any source or artist for the work seen above, so therefore am unable to request permission or even give credit. If you are the creator of this phenomenal piece and you do not approve of me using it for my fanfiction, please let me know and I will remove it immediately from this site and all others where it is used. If you are the artist and are fine with me using it, please give me your information, and I will gladly update this site and all others. I apologize profusely that I was not able to locate the source in order to request permission prior.
“When true hearts lie withered and fond ones are flown,
Oh who would inhabit this bleak world alone.”
-Thomas Moore “The Last Rose of Summer”

Chapter 6 - Urban Sprawl

Out on the street the lights slid to yellow, dribbling away the sector’s arrogance in rue. Everyone in the slums lived and died by those lights, even those who presumed to judge. Aeris wondered if lurkers from below came here in reflected red, and she shivered til she felt the tall presence above and peered up with a hopeful smile. Sephiroth couldn’t comprehend how she could trust him so quickly. Just that morning she’d screamed to awaken in the corruption of Mako light, but now she was looking up at him as though he wasn’t her murderer. Beyond the cold reek, which hadn’t subsided, he could smell they were close to the edge. The yellow lights were causing a scurry of humanity as people interred themselves behind doors.

“Oh look!” Her soft voice lifted in glee and Sephiroth paused in her joy. The Cetra was crouched to a crack in the street where from the fissure issued a flower. Her small hands were cupped around the frail bud as she looked up at him in delight. She was amazed that such a life had managed to be untrampled by careless feet. “We must be close to the city’s edge. How else could such a thing grow?”

“It could’ve sprung up as you walked by.” Surprise followed in the wake of a smile. She consistently managed to pull that expression from his otherwise empty face. “Will you pluck it, little one?”

“No.” She decided standing up. “It’s survived this long. It deserves a chance to bloom.” He tilted his head as they shared that smile, which endured til they reached the fence.

Aeris’s gasp could’ve been a whimper as she clutched at the cold links. Up and up it soared still below the plate that bore down in darkness. She could see where that ended, but the distance still shadowed the world beyond Midgar’s pall. Through the holes she could fit her slim arms, but nothing else would pass, and the hard steel chilled her forehead as the flower girl sobbed in defeat.

“Aeris…” The low voice was soft from above and the Cetra turned her head. He was standing right beside her with a frown of the perplexed. “Little flower, there’s no need to weep. I’ll just cut through this barrier.”

“N-No, Sephiroth, you can’t do that…” She wiped her cheek with the back of her hand before returning to her lost freedom. Doing so made her miss the raised brow that almost pulled amusement.

“Why not, little one? It would free you from the slums and any others who could make it this far.”

“I know…” She sniffed and looked back at him, cheeks spotted and eyes still wet. “It’s just I don’t remember this fence before, but it must’ve been raised for a reason. Probably to keep something terrible out.”

Or to keep people in, he thought, but didn’t let it darken his tongue.

“Do you remember it when you came to Midgar?”

“Yes, but I was able to find a gate and locks mean nothing to me.”

“Oh yes, of course there’d be a gate!” Her face brightened to this revelation.

Sephiroth cast his gaze to the left before turning to pierce the right.

“The closest one to the south is two miles away and north is beyond the fence curve.”

“You can see that far?”

“Yes,” he admitted, surprised by her awe, but hiding it in the mask. “There’s only one way to go, little one…if you won’t let me cut through.” And he gave her again that slight almost smile that gave his passive features such light.

Aeris shook her head. “The fence must’ve been built to keep something terrible out, and there are enough monsters and murderers within.”

There will be one less of both after today. But he kept that dark thought quiet as he bound his forelocks at the crown. Aeris refused to bite her lip, because if he asked her what was the matter, she wouldn’t know what to say. He shook silver out, took two steps forward and slid gracefully to his knees.

“Wh-What are you doing?” Her hand found her heart for moonlight so splayed on black.

“If we can’t go through, we must go up, and I will carry you there. But since I need my hands for climbing, I’ll bear you on my back. Do you trust me in this, little flower?” The flower maid had never once imagined that cat eyes could hold such grief. She laid a hand to his cheek so smooth like marble pulsing warmth.

“I trust you completely,” Aeris whispered.

Crystalline emerald searched a face that could hold no deception before he looked away and tilted back his head as arms so slim slipped around his neck. Sephiroth shut his eyes when she could not see, as Aeris slowly inhaled. Never in this life or the one before had she smelled anything so good. The hair still free blanketed his shoulders so the epaulets weren’t so cold. It was softer than curtains of moonlit silk and held his scent in its endless folds. Aeris only wished that she could breathe deeper, wondering if she were enspelled.

Sephiroth turned and there she was…her lips so close to his own. If he but smiled, they’d surely meet and her joy would disappear. The despair that rose made no sense so he concentrated on his next task, laying a palm to the hands at his neck to make sure they were secure. Against his back her heart more than doubled and filled his ears with her fear.

“I didn’t mean to frighten you, little flower…” It was softly said, but at that low resonance the blood flooded her veins even more.

“N-No, you didn’t frighten me. You didn’t frighten me at all…”

I suppose, he thought, she must be excited to be leaving the dark slums behind. This eased his contrition as he closed one hand around both of her fragile wrists. The little Cetra’s heart could’ve sundered her ribs, as her breath came in choppy bursts.

“Aeris?” he murmured with deeper concern. “Are you alright, little flower?”

Ah, dear friend, the Cetra thought, it’s worse when he says my name. “Y-Yes, I’m fine,” she answered in whisper, as the Planet laughed soft through her ears.

“I won’t let anything happen to you, Aeris,” Sephiroth promised as he stood. “Will you be able to hold on?” He peered over his shoulder. Behind his lips his teeth clenched tight to bear the sight of her face so close.

“I-I think so.”

“If you feel yourself slipping, let me know. I won’t let you fall, little flower.”

“I know you won’t, Sephiroth,” she whispered. “Just like I know you won’t hurt me again.”

He stared hard at her tight shut eyes as she trembled upon his back. “Alright. I’m going to let your wrists go. I need both hands for climbing.”

“…okay.”

She half opened her eyes and summer held emerald for a moment that stretched til he turned. Sephiroth unwrapped his long fingers and Aeris clasped her hands ‘til they ached.

His head was raised for the goal in sight eyes bright in concentration. The space in the links were a bit small for his hands and smaller still for his boots, but the former general had done harder tasks, and bent metal was small price for her safety. His biggest concern was not jarring the maid so he lessened his speed for her sake.

“You know you’re as white as my lilies,” she said, the thought spilling into his ear.

“You’re very pale, too, little one,” he replied, the hint of a smile within. Nowhere in his voice was the arduous task. Nowhere in his breath was exertion.

“Yes…” Aeris admitted. “But I’ve never seen the sun. Your skin is lighter than your hair, and you know you smell amazing…” Oh gods, why did I say that? What is wrong with me?

If Aeris didn’t hear the chuckle she’d never believe it was real, and the flower girl wished to see his face where it would be displayed.

“You just say whatever comes to your head, don’t you, little flower?”

“Well…” she considered clinging tight. “If it’s nice, why not?”

“You are so very innocent and kind within it all.” In the echo of mirth sorrow still lay, and Aeris laid her cheek against his.

Sephiroth kept his head tilted up and tried to ignore the soft call of her skin. The distance to the top was not half achieved, but he could make out the landing up there. Nearly fifty feet higher above rose the plate and it stretched still beyond the fence. The edge of the disk would’ve blurred in the distance for eyes that were not made to see.

Aeris didn’t know how it was possible for him to keep up this rapid pace. Beneath the pauldrons his arms worked ceaseless as the flower girl’s ached to hold on.

“Little flower,” he murmured slightly turning, but keeping an eye ever up. He stopped with one hand gripping the fence and the other around her wrists. The once general frowned in doubt of his choice at such a slow set pace. “I’m so sorry, Aeris. I thought it’d be better to climb slower so you could hold on.”

“Y-You were climbing slowly?” The tension in her hands was easing so augmented by his strength.

“Yes. I can go faster, but if you feel yourself slipping, you must immediately let me know. Do you still trust me?”

“Always,” she whispered, the word a sweet burn in his ear.

He glanced back for just a second and down where the ground yawned below. The span of space between him and it didn’t even draw a twitch, but before memory could encroach for a higher descent, he forced his mind back to this task.

The wind from his speed streamed back through pale hair as equally as through chestnut, and the scent it called forth would’ve mesmerized her if Aeris wasn’t shocked at his swiftness. Like silk through water he ascended the fence, barely touching the chains as he passed. The flower girl wanted to tell him that this was far smoother, but she’d lost all her speech to bare awe.

Only a few feet above him now the landing now jutted. It topped the steel fence and he had to reach up with one hand still gripping the chains. “Hold on, little flower. I have to lean back.” Aeris forced her grasp tighter and bit her lip now to offset the pain in her hands. Her fingers were numb and she could only pray that they wouldn’t unlace.

With one hand on the top Sephiroth let go, leaving the toes of his boots between links. There was a split second for gravity’s chance, but he caught that force unawares. The maid on his back deterred not his strength as he laid both palms flat to cold steel. He pulled himself and Aeris up until his boots could find the landing. Guilt flooded the Cetra for the grip at his neck as Sephiroth stood tall to take a few steps. Then down he crouched so her feet touched steel, but she was too afraid to move. He gently took and unthreaded her hands as one would a delicate knot. Drawing the maid around, he searched her face, and she missed the smile for her shut eyes.

Aeris flung her arms round his neck, face to face this time. Sephiroth’s lips parted, but silence had found him for the sobs that echoed the gloom. He wrapped the Cetra in his arms as she wept her fear away, while each tear pierced his broken soul that no armor could protect.

“I’m sorry, Aeris. I’m so sorry…we should’ve found a gate. I could’ve carried you easily there instead of risking your life.” He stood then though his head bowed low to bathe her in silver fragrance. The flower girl blinked up washed in moonlight as emerald gleamed grieving down.

“No…don’t you dare.” She forced the tears leave her voice. His hand rested between her shoulder blades, fingers curled on memory’s pain. “You’re…just amazing.” Salt glistened with awe. “This must be a hundred feet high.”

“Don’t praise me yet, little flower,” he said. “We must still find our way back down.”

She stiffened with fear and he stilled his tongue, cursing his directness. Aeris craned her neck to view the other side, but couldn’t see the fence. The landing was wide enough to walk two by two so long as one’s step wasn’t wide. Sephiroth looked only at her as her soft braid swept over his hand. He was like a statue of alabaster in black for if she noticed she’d pull away.

“H-How are we going to do that?” the little Cetra shuddered to ask. She pulled herself closer and his eyes opened wide at the inverse of rational thought.

“There’s only one way. Do you trust me still?”

“Yes, Sephiroth, always.” A quivering smile lifted her lips to ease the doubt on his face. He swept her up swiftly into his arms before she could fashion a gasp. The minute squeak was far more embarrassing, but the former general didn’t judge. His expression could not help but soften as she slid her arms around his neck.

“You must promise me one thing, Aeris,” he said. “You must keep your eyes ever closed.”

“That won’t be hard,” the Cetra admitted. “They were closed the entire way up.”

Sephiroth tilted his head and the half smile wavered. “And yet you noticed my pale as your lilies. Did it burn through your sealed lids, little one?”

“I…uh…” Fire flooded her cheeks and she had to cool them against his armor. The leather at his collar hid her face, though her heart turned quickly traitor. The half smile he’d worn, though small and unseen, disappeared with swift chagrin.

“I didn’t mean to shame you, Aeris.”

“No, you didn’t at all.” He still heard it clear through the leather. “I…I was thinking about it for a long time. I don’t know why I said it then.” She lifted her head and froze in the beauty of a winter pale angel’s face.

Sephiroth’s brow arched and he almost asked the maid what held her so entranced, but the edge of the landing was at his toes and he said instead, “Shut your eyes.”

Aeris obeyed without question though she was regretful to lose that sight. Green light pulsed against her skin, and she buried her face in his hair.

“I have you, little flower,” he promised, and then the wind whipped the silk scent away. It would’ve been cold but he radiated heat as his arms closed around her tight.

I have you… Those words should’ve brought raining horror. They should’ve driven her mad with fear, but in this moment they were the most wonderful words that she could ever hear. The foul upward gale tried to claw the little Cetra, but its strength was no match for his. Something struck it hard. The wind whimpered so beaten before ceasing its cry in defeat.

“Little flower?” The sweet name returned her lost smile. “You can open your eyes now. We’re down.”

But she couldn’t, not yet, while her skin still shivered slowly warmed by his heat. Her face was hidden in the leather near his neck, but Aeris could still sense his pain.

“Please, Sephiroth, don’t put me down yet. Just…give me a few moments more.”

“Aeris, I’ll hold you as long as you wish.” He hardly dared move for this grace. She was as delicate as the lilies she cultivated with her frail limbs around his neck. When her eyes opened, they were uncertain like lost leaves, but the summer green flooded his vision far fairer than emerald that gleamed so cold.

The flower girl smiled up at him and his lips parted in awe. Hers were so pink against creamy skin, and he lowered his eyes for her gratitude. He could never undo the horror he’d wrought and did not deserve her thanks. Aeris tilted her head curious to his thoughts, but let him have them to peer around. It was rare she was granted so high of a view so she basked in it despite the sight. On this side of the fence nothing existed but the castoffs from above. Crates and containers bigger than houses, offering more luxury than the slums. More vehicles, some opulent, more mostly junk, all made equal down below. But beyond all this, Aeris saw whiter light and caught her breath in hard held elation. Sephiroth’s gaze lay in that direction, too, and she was envious for his better sight.

“How did you do that?” If her voice wasn’t expected he gave no outward sign. The former general half lidded eyes so the slivers were not so apparent.

“Some things are better left unsaid and are not meant for innocent sight.” He put her down then, but kept his hands on her shoulders with a look that asked if this was allowed. Aeris smiled at him in assurance letting her gaze travel up the fence. The landing they’d come from was shadowed by distance, and she slowly shook her head.

“I’m no glad I never tried to leave the city alone. Even if I could’ve gotten through that sector, I could never have made it past this.”

“There are other gates, but they’re certainly locked, and who holds the key is unknown.”

“They’re probably-” she started and a glow tinged her cheeks as something scuttled within the gloom. Sephiroth snapped his head toward the sound, as his left hand shaped itself for the sword. He sniffed but smelled only rats in proximity, though farther the reek grew more foul. Electric intensity rode his skin for the soft belly beneath his right palm.

“I’m sorry, little one.” He dropped his hand before stepping back and away. Aeris, in giddiness, turned bemused quite curious for his chagrin.

“You don’t need to be,” she assured him. “You were just…protecting me.” From the gloom his eyes gleamed, and he reached for his crown before shaking the silver locks loose. Aeris remembered how good moonlight smelled, and her hands tightened behind her slung bag. It was maddening to wonder how such hair would feel between her slim, soft fingers. She turned her head as he came to her side, praying this stay unknown.

“Keep to my right,” he told her, “just in case I need the sword.” There were no lights in this edge of the city, the ones still standing long turned to husks. Sorrow ringed her heart for what had been lost and what was still being destroyed, but the Planet sent music to lighten her soul and assure her it wasn’t dead yet.

“Your…” She cleared her throat. “Your hair…the bangs are similar to mine.” She smiled at him through her own.

“So they are, little one.” His glare pierced the shadow astride a tank and what lurked there scampered away. “I always brushed it myself,” he remembered. “I would suffer no other’s touch.”

“But…I was just touching it,” Aeris reminded and she thought his lip twitched slightly up.

“That’s different,” he said offering a hand to help her over what once was a bridge. It spanned nothing now and was only a hindrance where it had once been an aid. Aeris held his fingers tight after he’d jumped down, but it was beyond her means. So Sephiroth reached to pick the maid up as if she were as light as a leaf. Aeris tight gripped forearms so strong beneath the leather black. With her feet on the ground he kept his hands still as green light illumined his lashes. She wet her lips and he lifted one finger to tilt her chin in the air.

“You’re not just anyone, Aeris,” he told her, “and I don’t mind you touching my hair…”

“You don’t?” she whispered unseeing the thumb that slowly crept to her lip.

“No, little flower…I-”

A snarl had him whirling with sword pulled from the air as he pushed Aeris behind. Dizzy from moments so fast torn away, the flower girl peered warily round. Sephiroth stalked forward, face fallen to mask, to witness a gruesome feast. Creatures that may have once been dogs turned monstrous by Mako mutation. Even after a hundred years, the horrors of the past still slunk, and he frowned in the gleam of the Masamune, shivering gaze away from his face.

“Aeris,” he called reaching back with right hand and his attention to the beasts. Their eyes glowed faintly as their jaws crunched bone, but the gleam did not best Mako green. Sephiroth took her hand and hurried the maid past before she could see withered fingers.

The monsters were everywhere and he kept the sword pointed as their feet skimmed over brown bone. Aeris would’ve prayed, but her heart stole her pleas to pound hard in her throat. Sephiroth heard and squeezed her hand gently, bringing the maid close to his side.

“I-I thought bone was white…” It wasn’t really for him, but he flicked his gaze to the side. The flower girl shook in slivered scrutiny and wished she’d held her silence.

“Only bleached by the sun.” He returned to their path ensuring his were the only lit eyes. “Bone is far different than stories make seen, especially covered in rotting flesh.”

She shuddered and Sephiroth bowed his head, damning his directness.

“Were they trying to get out or trying to get in?” Aeris avoided a lump of bright plastic. Bits beneath her boot had scattered like stained glass, but it had once been a child’s toy.

“Out,” he replied, pulling her forward as the shadow of the plate dissolved.

No sun graced her skin. It was hidden by storm that sent silent rain to the ruins. Stone as grey as the shimmering air went farther than Aeris could see. Neither bird, nor flower, nor even grass blade broke this deathly view. Midgar’s ruin continued even beyond the desolation beneath the plate, but Aeris raised her head with lips half parted and didn’t even blink for the rain. Soft it tangled in braided hair held tight in the threadbare ribbon.

“Aeris?” She turned and summer green widened to witness what light did to him. Even hidden by clouds the daylight paid service to white fire and paler skin. He’d banished the sword as the air shimmered around him, and she wondered if beauty could shine. A line of water slid down his face, a tear from silver strands. It avoided being cut by exquisite cheekbones to trace the line of delicate jaw. Tumbling down his neck, the leather straps caught it, and Aeris had to shift her gaze.

“You’re weeping, child…” Sephiroth said softly, drops lit in the heat of his gaze.

“It’s…just the rain.” Aeris tried to deflect.

“I can smell your tears.”

She swallowed then and let them run, mixing salt with heaven’s pain.

“You kept your promise.” She drew near, and he tilted his head confused.

“What promise? That I’d never hurt you again?” Sephiroth looked away. He shook his head to tight clenched jaw, unable to face admiration. “That’s not a promise, Aeris. It’s an obligation to decency. I should never have hurt you before…”

“You promised to take me out of the city,” she insisted, standing in front of him now. “You promised to protect me and you did both.”

Sephiroth’s lids half shaded his eyes as he looked down at the maid. Fists tight to his sides, the leather gloves would’ve screamed if they’d been given a voice. “I owe you so much, little flower. More than can be repaid. Even if I had this life and the last, my soul could never be cleaned. This small thing…this little promise is nothing to praise me for.”

“It’s everything.” Her voice broke and she lifted her hands to his chest. “Can’t you see that? Can’t you see what it means?”

Sephiroth sighed, “I haven’t quite yet. I also vowed to ensure you’d be safe.” He gestured to the wastes and the shadows behind. “We’re still in the midst of desolation and you need someplace safe to rest.”

“I’m always safe with you…” She was biting her lip and only utmost control kept his gloves intact.

“I’ve passed this way before.” He measured his words as if each one were precious gold. “A harsh, bitter barren, robbed of all life when Midgar rose above.”

Emerald eyes narrowed as he witnessed her wince, but she nodded to acknowledge the truth. “Yes…because of this city the Planet can’t bear so close to its vicinity. It’s…awful. Midgar just sucks it dry even after all these years.”

“It’s worse than you think, Aeris,” Sephiroth admitted. “Not even all the reactors are active. The one in the second was running full force, but where you lived there was barely a pulse.” Only a scratch. He held that in silence and her shudder was shushed in the rain.

“But,” he added, “what I mean to impart is the next path is rough terrain.” When he laid his hand over the maid’s frail fingers, she shut her eyes with a smile. Sephiroth couldn’t comprehend her reaction, her heart’s jump with no trace of fear, but he remembered that he had once been a general, and a task now lay before. “I’ll carry you through and swiftly…if you’ll but allow.”

“I trust you, Sephiroth.” And when he swept the maid up, her smile nearly broke him.

Aeris kept her eyes soft closed, sliding slim arms around his neck. She’d been trying her whole life to see the sun and avoid death down in the darkness, but the latter had still found the maid and now held her gently but tight. She opened her eyes and there he was masking sorrow behind his face. The Cetra ran fingers down his smooth cheek, barely realizing he now walked. It couldn’t be fear in grief’s grey mist for what could make him afraid? Do you know you’re beautiful? She wanted to say it, but bit her lip instead. Aloud she murmured, “That’s so strange.” And he lifted a silver brow.

“What is, little one?”

Aeris half blinked for his voice was so quiet to soothe.

“Well…” It was hard to concentrate with that face so close, the gorgeous, angelic features. “Your hair’s moonlight, your skin darkens snow, but your eyelashes are full black. It’s incongruent, but…so lovely.”

When he smiled, she caught her breath and thanked the gods he looked away. “Just another part of my design, little flower, an arrangement of genes and cells.” Though the words were sad, his smile was real. Talking to her was an undeserved joy. She was enthralled by the smallest of details and never held back her awe. Pain shot through his heart as he remembered again what he had stolen away.

“You keep saying that.”

“Because it’s true. I am so because of design.” Beneath his boots the stony ground seemed marble and not rubble and ruin and rot.

The fingers on his cheek curled ever slightly and Sephiroth slid his gaze back to her. Below those long lashes that she had so praised, his pupils were thinner than thorn.

“You attribute everything to your ‘creators,’ and never to yourself.”

“I have nothing to attribute, Aeris, save for pain and death.”

“Not to me.”

“Not this time…”

“This time is all that matters.”

Sephiroth looked away as he quickened his pace, and she barely noticed them clearing a chasm. Below a stone staircase that had no end, he avoided the sleeping monster, gracefully traversing a path no wider than his boots. He hopped to a high bridge broken off in crumbled stone that screed beneath his feet as he slid.

I don’t deserve to touch her, he thought, covering the small hand on his cheek. Her smile rivaled the glow from his eyes for not even Mako gleam marred her face. Aeris laid her cheek to his still smiling unknown to his pain. He was so warm beneath her soft skin, and he smelled more than amazing. Held in his hair, the scent wove miasma that would color the greyest of dreams.

“I’m so glad you’re good now, Sephiroth,” she whispered, her lips a hairsbreadth from his ear. He ran now along a deep defile, scanning for means to cross.

“You believe I am?” the once general asked, pausing where the gap narrowed slight.

“Yes,” she insisted, “you saved me in darkness and then brought me out to the light. I wish I had a fraction of your strength.”

“You have all of my strength, little flower.” He backed away from the edge. “For as long as you have need.” The wind clawed at her braid as he tore through the air, leaping an impossible distance. “Being good does have its advantages though.” She peered up as his boots scraped loose gravel.

“Like what?”

“Being able to hold you.” Sephiroth smiled again, and Aeris sat up to press a kiss to his cheek. She laid her head to his shoulder which cooled her pink skin, as his jaw dropped below emerald wide. The Cetra was grinning with her eyes shut and he could hardly bear her joy.

“Aeris…you-”

“I have to thank you. I-I’m sorry to interrupt.” But he was beyond glad that she had. “For this. For safety. For keeping your promise even if you don’t think you did.”

The way narrowed and bent to the side, so Sephiroth increased his speed. Aeris was forced to hide her face in his hair lest her breath be stolen away. The former general ran so fast his boots grazed the wall and for an instant they were horizontal. It was a dark tunnel where trains had once churned and where once there’d been a full floor. Neither darkness nor gravity had power this day, and Aeris silently thanked the Planet. Even amidst squalor that proved the damage so done, her dear friend still sang in her ear.

“You’re…you’re just…you can probably run for hours-”

“Days.”

“Days on end.” The passing wind trailed the end of her words as she jerked her head toward him. Sephiroth was impassively looking forward, focused on the next obstacle.

“…days? Really?”

He nodded. “I was designed to be flawless.”

“You weren’t ‘designed,’” she huffed, pursing her lips, and he couldn’t hide his amusement. Her stubbornness was quite endearing. “You were born like everyone else.”

“I was created in a lab, little flower. It is the most appropriate word.”

“No.” Aeris shook her head and sadness lifted his lips. “You’re a person not a monster.”

“And you’re kind beyond measure, but nothing will change the truth.”

“One truth doesn’t lead to the other, and you now know your mother’s name.”

Upon a peak he stood tall, but the great heart sank at those words. The height did not equal the fence in Midgar, but Aeris still shut her eyes. Nothing beat the wind back, but he took most of the shock and left little to nothing for her.

“I’ll never believe you’re a monster again.” She squeezed her arms around his neck, and Sephiroth realized in bittersweet pang that she was trying to hold him. He shifted his grip around the small maid with a lift for a silver brow. When Aeris glared up, he shook his head amazed at her defiance. “And you’re not my murderer anymore either. You’re my protector now…”

That bowed his head and she was then lost in a sea of whirling white.

“I’ve never protected anyone before.”

She pursed her lips. “But…you were in SOLDIER. You were a general. You were…the Great General.” He shut his eyes hard, and she wondered why that title would garner such pain.

“That was different…” he finally said. “There’s a certain reciprocity among brothers-in-arms, but even before my will was twisted, I destroyed far more than I saved. This…” He held the flower girl closer so green called to green cross their lashes. “This is better. Protecting you has a far greater purpose than anything I’ve ever done.”

His boots crunched on gravel that tried to quell grass, but the earth was reclaiming its own. Warmth bathed his face and he stared up forgetting that sunlight was not meant for him. For he carried this flower and if any deserved such it was a rose that once bloomed in the slums. Her one hand had fallen from around his neck to rest upon her soft belly, but Sephiroth couldn’t look there for long without the stab of endless guilt. He turned to her face, but summer was sealed behind her thin eyelids.

“Aeris,” he whispered peering back up to the rainbow that swirled through the clouds. The spray had now softened to cover his face in tears he could never weep. She didn’t respond and Sephiroth gazed back down to a miracle beyond his dreams.

“You fell asleep in my arms…” It could not be believed as her breath stirred soft his hair. “How can you trust me so, little flower?” His low voice caused a beautiful smile to light her face brighter than day. The Cetra turned towards him, tiny hands curling soft against his chest. “Only the innocent, Aeris…” he whispered. “Only the innocent could fall asleep in a monster’s arms.” But though she wasn’t awake to argue, the dark thought dispelled in newly freed daylight.


Author’s Note: Finally out of the slums. and drawing closer to some of my favorite parts.  I’ll try not to be too much of a shameful narcissist (even though it is my name).  Chapter 7 A Calm and Private Place will be up next Friday May 8!  Thank you all so very much for your continued support!

<–Chapter 5                                                                                                    Chapter 7–>

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7 thoughts on “Chapter 6 – Urban Sprawl

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