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.
Artwork Disclaimer: I did not create and therefore own no rights to the featured artwork. The link to the source is located here; however, I was unable find a way to contact the artist for permission. If you are the creator of this piece and if 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.
Warning: Brief discussion of rape.
“…here I have lamely related to you the uneventful chronicle of two foolish children… But in a last word to the wise of these days let it be said that of all who give gifts these two were the wisest. Of all who give and receive gifts, such as they are wisest. Everywhere they are wisest. They are magi.”
-O. Henry “The Gift of the Magi”
The Whispers welcomed them always with dusk shadows soft and the ocean itself once again. Sephiroth had brought them back to the beach right in front of her house. Our house, he thought with eyes bleeding light. The fallen can truly dream. He put Aeris down but drew the maid close where the sea spray joined salt on her face.
“You heard what I said, didn’t you, Seph?”
He shut his eyes so beset by torn heart.
“The Planet told me.” She glared quite annoyed down, digging a boot into damp sand. “It was keeping the secret like a spoiled child. My petulant, stubborn friend.” The world laughed gently like a wise mother who knows the right time to divulge.
“I did, Aeris. How could I not? But you need some time to rest. If you would…” His hair tumbled over blessing her face and he cared not that it tangled with salt. “If you wished, I’d…want you to come.”
“Of course I will, Sephiroth! You don’t even have to ask.”
“How shall I request it then, little flower?” The smile played gentle with his perfect lips, and she blushed as he squeezed her soft waist.
Their house was gleaming in the end of day, catching the last streaks of sun. She inhaled a scent untouched by the slums, vanilla and frost wreathed around. Her slumber in Midgar had really done nothing, and Aeris yawned as he scooped her back up. This is how it’ll be. She curled into his chest where the sound of his heart was less heavy. Forever and always. The Planet soft chuckled as Aeris slept safe in Sephiroth’s arms.
She awoke to a better dream in his embrace and kissed his eyes to close. The ribbon was first and her soft hair fell down, teasing his marble flesh. He steadied his hands to not tear her dress as ashen locks tickled her throat. Aeris’s fingers still couldn’t believe that he was whole again, but not even a scar marked the place where death had torn full through. Just like me. Then her thoughts were scattered, as his brow locked to hers.
Rapt concentration ruled Sephiroth’s face as he carefully entered his rose. She always had to be gently coaxed open. Ever so willing with each petal soaked, but still she was so fragile. Only I am allowed this privilege, he thought in utter awe. Only I can have her. Only I will. She is forever mine. He had to go slow to kisses in silver, but gentleness was a gladly paid price. She was so tiny, so very taut. Having her needed sweet patience, but within their union the light curtain was waiting like moonlight in emerald drenched stars. The fallen was more than worthy now, and the song of his name proved that truth. Sephiroth kissed her brow and let his tongue part her lips in afterthought of what she’d allowed.
Aeris just lay there, head flung toward the window, sun painting red on her lids. She thought she heard the shower, but it could’ve been waves lapping the thirsty sands. The smell of breakfast still made her smile though she lacked the strength to sit up. Opening her eyes, she saw shining darkness, the bundled leather coat. Here were the wounds, large enough for her hands to both fit comfortably through. It made it her sad as the dangling straps brushed her palms with their sundered ends. Coats can be fixed, she thought as she heard that low voice calling her name.
Jade struggled fiercely to merely look down at his beautiful, open flower. She’d be ever willing to his every embrace and just as taut as before. Sephiroth found her bathrobe and helped Aeris sit while her kisses blessed him like rain. “I don’t think I could behold you like this,” he admitted, slipping the garment around, “and not beg for another taste.”
“Greatness shouldn’t beg.” She smoothed back his hair, noticing the bangs were getting longer. He closed the little maid in his embrace and wished memory could be as kind.
“They wanted this once, Aeris…” he murmured to shield hidden pain.
“What do you mean, Sephiroth?” Her slim fingers curled on his chest.
“They wanted me to…breed with you. When it was believed to be an Ancient, and I a Cetra, too.” He lifted her chin with apology riding the Mako light in his eyes. “When you came of age, but you know what that means…they would’ve had me rape a child.”
The flower girl gazed up with no judgment or fear. “It always comes back to blood.” He lowered his face so her skin was washed with silken silver hair. “It doesn’t have to be anymore, you know.” She laid a palm to his cheek, and his long lashes lifted to give his beloved that light. “They didn’t want this. This is love and happiness unbound. They wanted a product, another creation to bring them closer to power.” She shuddered and Sephiroth kissed her brow to sunder what never would be.
“No one will ever hurt you again, Aeris,” he promised, holding the flower maid closer. “You will no longer live in fear. That time is over. Those days are dead. I will always protect you.”
“You’re my guardian angel.” Her laugh was high and sweet, and Sephiroth gently smiled.
“I suppose I am, little one,” he said. “There’s no penance sweeter than this.”
He caught her pink lips as their bangs tangled together, and amid that he swept her up.
“Are you going to carry me everywhere now?” she giggled until he froze. Guilt fell like an iron wall, and Aeris touched his cheek so sorry that she had caused wound. “You know I don’t mind. I love it in fact…being wrapped in your strong arms.” Those words smoothed away the crease in his brow, and she kissed him to ease the pain. “I would like to shower before eating breakfast.” She twirled a moonlight lock.
Sephiroth smiled and carried her there, leaving the Cetra to her ablutions. He noticed his coat still draped on the bed, tracing the rents with narrowed eyes. After showering he’d thrown on his pants and black shirt whose long sleeves covered bracers. Sighing, Sephiroth took the coat to the closet. It really was part of the bitter past, but the general liked it for it had been his. It fit him and contrasted his pale. Though he had no true pride for his appearance, black brought out his beauty the best. The winter skin, the silver hair, and emerald shimmer eyes laid over with dark made everything gleam. He was glad of two closets where he would not taint her own clothing with leather in blood, but then as he hung it, his boot rustled plastic and emerald cast eyes were turned down.
It caught him again, the pink and the red, stained with the blood of the heart. As the shower replenished his flower within, the general gripped that relic. I’ll make this right, too. Always obligation. This first and then finally my last. I’m so sorry, mother. I swear I am coming. I promise you that, but this must come first for she is still living…and I owe her everything.
Aeris wore her white dress to his pleasure as he halved the smolder in his eyes. Somehow as always he knew what she wanted, and lavender tea was the perfect warmth.
“When do you want to go, Sephiroth?” she asked, but he only shook his head.
“It doesn’t matter, little one. The dead can always wait.”
“But you can’t.” Aeris caught his hand, gazing up at a face that hid sorrow.
“I waited a lifetime and then some more.”
“And that is far too long…”
She yelped to the blare of her ringing phone then huffed in exasperation. “Really?! You’d think the boy would know by now.” Sephiroth laughed as he kissed her brow. Aeris sighed, but couldn’t help the smile as those gentle lips blessed her skin.
“Well if you do wish to run off with him, you’re wearing the perfect dress. Who could resist this?” He lifted her chin and the Cetra frowned at grief barely shielded. “I would be more broken, but I’d only kill him if he hurt you, my little flower-”
“Oh, Seph, stop it!” She caught and kissed his hand. “After all we’ve been through, after all we’ve seen, do you really think that would happen? Besides…” Summer softened and Sephiroth slightly smiled at all the matched longing there. “Do you think anyone anywhere in all worlds could compare to the Great General Sephiroth. You make me forget everything with merely a touch, and you’re probably not even trying.”
He did chuckle at that not trying to hide his pride or relief as he brushed at her neck. “I’m fairly certain I could make you forget your own name without any manipulation…”
“Yes…” she whispered as the world below laughed, spinning light song through her ears. Its rejoicing had not once ceased and she’d had to beg it for some quiet. “B-But I should at least talk to him again, face to face. It’s only fair…” Her expression was beseeching, and Sephiroth took her hands, unable to accept what he saw.
“You don’t ever have to ask me, Aeris, for anything you wish to do. You know I’m not that kind of man.” The bright smile made him tilt his head. “What is it, little flower?”
“You called yourself a ‘man’ and not a monster like you always have before.”
“So I did…” He rubbed her soft palms with his thumbs looking over at the uncovered window.
Aeris hopped up and over to him, throwing her arms around his neck. Sephiroth answered without any choice the sweetest demand in the world. She wanted to climb into his lap, but knew that would delay her plans. The general wanted to crush his rose close, but then he’d be lost in her scent. She’d probably fall asleep, which would be an advantage if he could bring himself put her down, but gazing at this innocent in his embrace would be the best gift he could ever receive.
“Alright.” She kissed him swiftly, tongue flicking quick. “I’m going to grab my shoes upstairs and go from there. He’s usually in the square,” she sighed. “I guess waiting.” Rolled eyes proved gentle annoyance.
“I’d wait for you, too.” He dug beneath her loose hair and kissed his flower back. “Go, little one…before you do not. I’ll clean up breakfast. No protests from you, this time.” Sephiroth waylaid them before they could form, letting her go as he stood up.
Aeris grabbed his hand as she tilted her head, biting her lip for his magnificence. Obey his command, you silly girl! Stop mooning like a maid. He’ll always be here when you get back and he’ll always carry you home. It was her own voice and not the joyful Planet, and Aeris escaped to skip soft up the stairs. Sephiroth watched her, the warmth on his fingers unfaded by her release.
Frantically, Aeris searched for flat shoes. She wanted to be quick as could be. The sandals she first wore with her current outfit were not meant for swifter travels. They didn’t really match, but she found a yellow pair and slipped them on without caring. Whirling to the bed, the flower girl gasped. The great black coat was gone. How did I miss that when I got dressed?! She tore through her closet before she remembered. Glancing out the bedroom door, the clink of dishes met her ears. She still had to be fast for at any moment she could always find him before. The last thing Aeris wanted was for Sephiroth to catch her. He deserved this surprise and sliding open his closet she found the coat after rummaging deeply through. Thank the gods he removed the epaulets. But she still gasped under the leather’s weight. It smelled more like him than dark, bitter blood as she slung the coat around her neck.
Gathering the material in her little hands, Aeris staggered into the hall. The water was running, hiding all sounds, though she’d never hear him anyway. Terrified she would turn her head, and see her inquisitive angel, Aeris forced herself sneak to the house’s back door, and didn’t breathe ‘til she stood outside. The flower maid had no intentions of seeking out Edwin, but she had to go far across town. Near to the pier where the tradesmen dwelled and tanners could be sought.
Sephiroth heard the upstairs door close and ceased his cleaning farce. It never took him that long, which is why he insisted on doing the mundane task. He’d braided his bangs, pulling them back to bind them at his crown. She liked this look and it kept silver hair from obscuring his vision as much. Once upstairs he found the dress swiftly, plastic rustling in his fists. He sidestepped without thought to the center of town, keeping himself below the first. It wouldn’t do to appear in the midst and scare the poor townsfolk to death. Neon light cut through thin veined lids, and the general made a decision. Midgar had torn it. He was done with the farce forever and ever more. He opened his eyes to pure, endless emerald uncut save for slivered dark. He was what he was. There was no changing that, and Aeris loved him still.
Stepping into the sun, the sound of his name turned the general’s head in shock. He should’ve been invisible and then realized it was an outside bar’s TV. The happenings of Midgar had spread quickly with surprise the city wasn’t already abandoned. Sephiroth’s curiosity narrowed cat eyes as he approached still hidden within. But the greatest shock came when his name was respoken and vitriol did not lace like a curse. He was…favorably portrayed and the headline asked question, “Has a great hero returned?” The barman grunted at that, wiping down the counter as Sephiroth moved his hands. Glad he was unseen for he must look a fool gaping at the screen. Stepping back and away, he clung to the plastic that re-tethered him to his past grief.
The shop that he needed wasn’t too hard for the general to locate. He shimmered into vision behind her back, and the woman attending loudly shrieked when she finally turned.
“I apologize. Please, don’t be afraid,” he said as she clutched her heart.
“Oh dear gods, dear gods, you’re him.”
“I am.” He wouldn’t deny.
“And…you saved the people of Midgar.” She braced herself against the counter.
“That’s more debatable,” Sephiroth replied.
“That little Cetra…”
“She’s why I’m here.” It was the truest response to give.
The woman caught better breath around fear. “We learned about you both in school…” She took tiny step closer with furrowed brow. “I never quite believed you were evil.”
“You’re very kind,” the general allowed, “but I’m not here for that discussion.” Ever so slowly he laid the dress down, the plastic crackling like dry leaves. The woman pushed up her wire glasses and glanced down at what he had brought.
“Gods and martyrs…” She jolted back as if the package before would burn.
“You’re right about one,” Sephiroth mildly said.
“Please do.” He gestured and was pleased the seamstress held her ground at that.
With utmost care, the woman unwrapped the garment from its cocoon. It was musty and brittle where bright blood had bloomed, but there she did not touch. Sephiroth forced himself to behold what his madness had wrought. The rent was far smaller than should be allowed for what it had taken away. Clean and straight it almost disappeared, but the blood made the story too true. Browned by age there was no scent but the dusky cold of the slums.
“I could fix the holes. They’re clean and straight, but there’s nothing I can do for the blood.”
“I want a new dress made to this form and fit for my flower’s small size.” She gave him a glance for that sweet epithet, frightened again for those emerald cut eyes. “That’s why I brought this. It seemed easiest to show you what I would want. I don’t care the cost. Money means nothing. Just tell me when it will be done.”
He stepped back home when the business was finished and the arranged pick up had been set. Out of her sight for he didn’t want fear to follow him anymore. With luck she would gossip and spread the great tale…after the dress was done. Aeris wasn’t back so he walked out to the sea, greeting it like an old friend. Night would come soon and there would be monsters for him to hunt down with the sword. Wryly, Sephiroth considered he really didn’t want to without his great leather coat. Red on black and blood on leather, the stains would never show.
His flower returned before dusk did descend and prior to his full blown concern. She was tired and hungry so he asked her no questions though trepidation trembled within. It was singularly impossible for Sephiroth to believe she’d chosen him when he was a monster. He remembered his reference to himself as a man, but there was always that voice to decry. Though Aeris falling asleep in his arms after dinner couldn’t help but shatter full grief. The light faded around them as the stars shivered out, and his eyes lent their gleam to the darkness.
Everyone in the Whispers now knew who they were, and to Aeris went deference. She wanted that as much as he wanted the terror that hounded his steps, but she had her magic, his sweet, little flower, and by association tempered all fear. It was smoothed away like a stone in the sea for all knew what he’d done to her.
Their neighbors invited them over some eves to sip spirits until she hid giggles. Sephiroth sadly couldn’t get drunk, but the taste of the wine was still sweet. Both Myrna and Nellie (when her children were abed) could barely keep him in their sights. Even alcohol didn’t loosen their tongues for how beautiful he was. Both of them would whisper in Aeris’s ear, silly as simple schoolgirls, while the general raised a brow. He could hear every word, but figured discretion would serve him in this case. The flower girl always meant to ask them if their parents had escaped from Midgar. The Whispers were only fifty years old if the bellhop could be believed. But in warm light surrounded by friends and love, Aeris realized it didn’t matter.
She was saved the indignity of stumbling home by Sephiroth who was always sober.
“You’re drunk, little flower,” he said quite amused to her splayed in his embrace.
“And you’re beautiful…” She tried to pull herself up for a kiss, but missed and hit his jaw.
The general chuckled, shaking his head. “Am I now? Did you do this quite often?”
She managed to whisper something in his ear that would make a Wall Market whore blush.
“I think that would be a very poor idea given your current state.” He kissed her brow, but said this in all seriousness, opening the top door to their house. Soft darkness yielded before his brilliant eyes, and she was already asleep in his arms.
As the days turned to weeks the flower girl wondered when her general would wish to depart. He still watched the window haunted with longing as she slipped her hand into his.
“Whenever you wish, you know we can go,” she assured him threading their fingers.
“I know that, Aeris. It will be soon. I’m just…preparing myself for that judgment.”
“What judgment, Sephiroth?” She leaned on his arm sliding a palm down silver ash hair.
He only smiled sadly, shaking his head, as his eyes cut the distance like frost.
So Aeris took a wedding much to her relief for her flowers were growing quite wild. Roses and daisies and lilies as well, all mocking sea foam white. They adorned the table and reading room where prose and verse mixed with their scent. Sephiroth had memorized nearly all of her favorites, but the love song was best on his tongue. The blossoms were paired with ribbons far fairer than the one that had long tied her hair.
“Do you need help, Aeris, bearing this over?” he asked with skin tensed for response.
“No, I’ll be fine.” She soft smiled up, the arranged blooms in her arms.
Sephiroth’s gaze was sharp to his rose overburdened and hoped she wouldn’t think less of him. She’s done this before, he forced himself remember, and I’ll only be in her way.
The flower girl was already exhausted after delivery and walking all the way cross town, but she still clapped her hands to the restored leather, as new as the day it was made. By some magic or skill the rents were full gone and the straps were back in their place. Every buckle glittered like stars on the night black skin, and the craftsman allowed greater pride to creep out in what could’ve been his best work.
“Oh thank you, thank you!” Aeris exclaimed, and the man’s grin turned quite sheepish. It wasn’t everyday a beautiful woman thanked him most profusely, but he knew who she was (and who she was with. Who else could such a coat be for?), and wasn’t foolish enough to believe her gratitude was anything more than it seemed. The leather was placed into a garment bag, and Aeris shouldered it for the long journey back.
“Will you be alright, miss?” the tanner asked, holding open the door.
“Yes, I’ll be fine. It is a long walk, but the end reward is more than worth it.”
Dusk was descending down on the pier, limning the sky with honey and roses. Aeris took the town’s main road that led around Wesker’s Square. She fended off offers of succor, polite but adamant. This was her gift and she’d not allow weakness to keep it from being fulfilled. The Cobblestone Way was glimmered in moonlight as her feet scraped along the high bridge. Nellie’s light was on and her neighbor waved down when she saw her friend pass by. Aeris weakly smiled without strength left to return the amiable gesture. She was more than grateful for the garment bag now for she felt much less guilty to drag. The flower girl leaned against her back door, cooling her brow for a moment. The knob was slick in sweaty palm, but it finally obeyed her request.
“Little flower?” a low voice called quite close, making Aeris jump.
“Sephiroth? ” Her own voice quavered. “W-Why are you up here? Why are you sitting in the dark?”
“I create my own light, little flower, but it pales before you. It pales like a dying black flame.”
“I-I thought you’d be downstairs.”
“I was waiting for you…”
A burst of strength renewed her step, and Aeris pulled her burden behind. Into the bedroom where a strangled cry had her dropping it full to the floor.
The years peeled away like a stubborn rind concealing a fruit never seen. In past bare before both pink and red but no blood to mar that color. Hung from the canopy, swirling down from their bed was her dress from long ago. The dress that had seen the buds in her church before they had ever bloomed. The dress that had borne the earth on her knees as she knelt to tend to their growth. The dress that had proved her the “pink ingénue” though she was streetwise to the slums. The dress that had held her even past death and wove her blood between its threads. It was here perfect in every seam, and she sobbed as her legs near gave way.
Sephiroth caught her hands gently as he slide to his knees.
“I’m so sorry, little flower.” And she would’ve laughed if tears did not now rule her face. “I invaded your privacy.”
“Seph…” Aeris lifted one hand from his and laid it on his cheek. “I think we’re far past you ‘invading my privacy.’”
He pressed the soft palm into his skin, half-smiling to answer, “Indeed.”
“H-How did you do this? How did you know-”
“Do you want to ensure it fits?” The only light in the bedroom came from his eyes and the moonlit sea casting shadows. He remedied that with a gesture, flooding the room with softer white.
The flower girl nodded so he rose with grace, whispering gently, “May I?”
She’d always say yes and didn’t once shiver to the chill on her back when bare. The jade made her smile, fed heat by his heart, but he whirled to close hands on the dress. Sephiroth was sad to hide her perfection but knew she’d allow sight again. Now was her time to bask in a memory he only hoped would be sweet. Let her remember what these clothes were and not what I took away…
Twirling in emerald, slivers held her perfect, unblinking, unhindered, and still.
“I never knew beauty until I saw you.” The light rode along his long lashes. Aeris rushed toward him, clutching great hands and stood on tiptoe to reach for a kiss. Her hair was high braided with bound ribbon white, while their bangs tangled as tight as their tongues.
“Sephiroth…” she murmured against his lips in the darkness made by his shut eyes. “I…have something for you, too.” His half grin was quite mischievous, but then she stepped and turned away. The general found cause in that to bless the seamstress for the dress fit every curve. He tightened his hands behind his back when she bent to pick something up, but then curiosity tilted his head for the strange bundle there. “Ah, it’s so heavy…”
He relieved her struggle, looking the garment bag up and down. Glancing over his shoulder while she bit her lip, Sephiroth hung it where her dress had been. The canopy creaked to greater weight, and nothing prepared the general for shock when he did unzip.
“A-Aeris…what is this? Did you…did you truly…?” He stripped the covering from the leather, and his eyes cut the black as they raced.
“I did. You deserve it. I know how you love it-”
“Not even a fraction of how I love you.”
She wrapped her arms around his one. “I know that you still missed it. Well?” She gazed up at him with a grin through her tears. “Aren’t you going to try it on, too?” Silver pulsed with emerald as he turned to her, and she found herself asking, “May I?”
The Great General sank back to his knees so his little flower could reach. Her delicate fingers undid the buttons as she swam in his eyes without fear. Alabaster skin was still as smooth beneath her palms, every muscle still just as distinct. He caught her hands and kissed them, still awed by the praise that flowed endlessly from his rose. Standing he swirled the coat over his shoulders and shook silver hair free from its clutch. Like moonlit fire it flowed down his back and called hidden gleam from each buckle. Aeris fixed the straps on her tiptoes while Sephiroth gazed motionless down. She’d left her top buttons open, and the sight right below stilled his breath.
“So you managed this by lying to me about seeing another man?” The mirth helped tame the want a bit, though Aeris gasped as he caught her.
“Well,” she considered, teased by his scent as she laid her head over the straps. “He’s not really a man.”
“You know what I mean, little one.”
“Are you angry at me?” Her worry made mirth break in rue.
“Angry. Aeris…you fixed the coat I killed you in.”
“And you replaced the dress in which I died.”
Sephiroth held his flower closer, lowering his head to her brow. A sudden memory made him smile, and the surprise in that made it more pure.
“Dinner’s waiting downstairs. You must be hungry. This coat is too heavy for you.”
“It was quite a task.” She shook away sleep for her belly demanded attention.
“Then…let us go.”
She was insatiably curious why it was dark as he led her down the stairs. I suppose he doesn’t need to turn on lights. They’re really for my benefit. That made her wonder why he’d failed in that now when the table came into view. If the sky had been clearer the stars would’ve mourned in misery to be so mocked. He widened his eyes, letting Mako light sweep over the banquet of glittering bright.
Aeris had never seen so many rings. They near spilled off the surface. Silver and gold and platinum bands of every different type. And the stones…the myriad stones would make a miner weep. Each cut, each shape, each twist of the band adorned the dining room table. She tried to speak, she truly did, but the effort made her shake. She leaned on a chair as emerald glow lit every facet of this offering. Normal light waned in his gleam on the rings, but Sephiroth still lit them for her. Aeris could barely see him so blinded by tears, as beauty washed in blur. He was at her level, down on one knee as he took the Cetra’s hands.
“I wasn’t sure which one you’d want, so I just bought them all.”
Author’s Note: I need to mention the quote for this chapter since that story inspired this sweet interlude. The Gift of the Magi by O. Henry, which you can find in its entirety here is a far sadder tale than this installment. It’s very short and I highly recommend you read it. The quote is from the final lines. I figured they were appropriate for this exchanging of gifts 🙂
Seph not being able to become intoxicated is a part of my quite extensive headcanon about him and it’s based on concepts from two other fandoms. One, he’s an angel (Dogma) and two, he’s a super soldier (Captain America). As much as he’s gone through, you’d think the universe wouldn’t be that cruel. I; however, am not the universe and figured I’d give our fair couple some sweet satisfaction to make up for the hell I put them through.
The 25th and final chapter will be posted next Thursday (yes, not Friday, and I’ll explain why when it happens) September 3. It is called Doorways of Light.
Until then I thank you; the story is almost at an end.