By Serena Gainsborough
Later that evening Aerith stood outside of the cavern staring up at the stars, her small form draped in Sephiroth's coat. After the incident with the strange man Sephiroth had grown quiet and Aerith could tell from his tense and stern expression that he wished to be alone in his thoughts. So she came out here to look up at the sky she had wished she could see again all those times back in Midgar. Aerith looked down at the water as she suddenly thought of her mother. A faint memory tugged in the back of her mind from the time she was seven years old, just before she and Ifalna escaped. Aerith had been sitting on a windowsill looking up at the sky, a small ragged stuffed bear in her arms. For as long as she could remember she had looked outside the barred window wishing to run outside and play. Placing her small hand on the cold glass pane, Aerith sighed. Just then a gentle hand fell on her shoulder, the voice equally gentle.
"My dear, it's time to go," said Ifalna softly. Aerith turned and embraced her mother before sliding off the sill. Taking Ifalna's hand Aerith smiled up at her mother. To this day Aerith still could clearly remember what Ifalna looked like at that very moment. The light from the city outside highlighted Ifalna's face but her eyes were kept shadowed by her hair. It was almost as if Ifalna was always sad.
"I never knew why you were always so sad," Aerith whispered to herself as she raised her eyes heavenward. A shooting star streamed across the velvet sky, vanishing in a blink of an eye. Aerith smiled softly, knowing her mother was in a better place. Right now Ifalna was probably watching over her daughter in the arms of the father Aerith never knew. Aerith then wondered if she would ever get the chance to be a mother then shook off the thought with a chuckle. There were more important matters for her to think about than motherhood. Possibly had she been a normal young woman she would have the time but when she remembered why she and Sephiroth were in hiding Aerith closed her eyes. He was still out there somewhere, looking, planning. Aerith shivered, pulling the coat closer to her. Realizing she had spent far too much time outside Aerith turned on her heel and proceeded back for the cave, bracing herself as the cold water poured over her.
Sephiroth was seated on the floor Indian-style, his head raised and eyes closed when Aerith stepped in from the waterfall. He seemed to be in some sort of meditation so Aerith crept quietly toward the fire spring to warm herself from the cold. Sephiroth's hands were resting on his knees, his fingers curled toward him as he inhaled and exhaled slowly. Sweat glistened off his forehead, neck and chest. It looked as if he had been exercising relentlessly before choosing to meditate. Aerith simply stared at him, too afraid to disturb him in this, his inner peace.
"It's all right, you won't bother me," Sephiroth said suddenly, startling Aerith. Aerith was so surprised that she loosened her hold on the coat wrapped around her, letting it slide off her shoulders and almost off her upper body before she realized what was about to happen and gathering it at her bosom. Placing one hand in the center of her covered breasts, Aerith tried to slow her erratic heartbeat. Sephiroth resumed his meditation while she started walking toward him again. Coming to a stop before him Aerith knelt down, her form close to his. Her hands reached for and took hold of Sephiroth's, closing her small fingers over his larger ones. Sephiroth opened his eyes and stared at the young woman before him. His coat, obviously much too big for one so petite, had already begun to slide off her body. It was a fact Aerith seemed not to notice as she stared into Sephiroth's eyes.
"Why are you meditating?" she asked softly, drawing her gaze downward. Her fingers caressed his gently and slowly, causing Sephiroth to be assaulted by sensations he was not yet accustomed to. Though overcome with the need to pull his hands from hers, Aerith's gaze held Sephiroth in place. Pure fascination kept Sephiroth from tearing away.
"I..I do this to relax myself," Sephiroth replied, swallowing. Aerith nodded, then removed her hands from his to creep up his well defined arms before coming to his shoulders. Her touch made Sephiroth want to shiver visibly but he restrained himself, simply staring into her eyes. She was so close to him now, so temptingly close. Tension settled between them, the very same they had felt back in the Forgotten City. Aerith looked into his ice blue eyes, searching. Suddenly Sephiroth took hold of her and brought her close to him, his lips on hers instantly. They clung to each other tightly, hands roaming over the other. In that one explosive kiss all their feelings were relayed to the other. Aerith pulled away from Sephiroth, breathless. Sephiroth reached up and ran his hand down the side of her face, brushing some of her hair away.
"Aerith, how do you feel right now?" he asked softly. Aerith smiled at him warmly before throwing her arms around him, laying her head on his shoulder. Sephiroth held her close to him, closing his eyes and exhaling. Perhaps they would be able to find peace at last.
A scream echoed throughout the dimly lit cavern, alerting Aerith from an otherwise peaceful sleep. Sitting up as quickly as she could she nervously looked around. The light of the fire fountain shone behind her, illuminating her body in a heavenly glow. Standing up, Aerith searched the cavern for Sephiroth. She suddenly saw the shadowed figure of a man hunched over in a dark corner, his head down. Aerith crossed the floor toward him, her heart pounding in fear. She could see he was trembling.
"Sephiroth?" Aerith asked nervously, reaching to touch Sephiroth's bare shoulder. His skin was hot to the touch, causing Aerith to draw her hand back with a gasp of surprise.
"Don't- don't look at me," Sephiroth rasped. Aerith was about to say something but Sephiroth suddenly broke into furious coughing, then bowed his head as he retched. Aerith began to tear as she pressed her hands against her mouth in fear. Sephiroth then fell onto his side after one last whooping cough, the fire's light shining upon his sweat-drenched back. He lay there, part of his long hair draped over his shoulder and the rest spread onto the floor. Aerith knelt next to him and with a mighty effort rolled him onto his back. What she saw made her cry out. Sephiroth's eyes were wide and staring straight up, his mouth partially open. His skin appeared discolored, but Aerith could not stop looking at the blood that trailed down the corner of his mouth, running in a red jagged river onto the floor. Aerith reached for his face slowly, tears falling onto the floor before her. His skin was so hot only a moment ago, now it was as cold as the empty feeling that welled inside Aerith. She broke down, throwing herself over his damp torso. Her fingers curled within his long hair, her tears mixing with the sweat that had developed on his chest. All she could think about was what she was going to do now that the one man she had helped set free and eventually love was gone. No, he can't be gone...I refuse to believe it!, Aerith thought as she raised her head to stare at him once more. But that hope started to fade almost as swiftly as it came to her. Drawing herself closer to his face Aerith leaned down and kissed his open mouth softly.
"I'll find some help. I won't let you die," she whispered to him softly as she drew away. Running her hand over his eyes to close them Aerith got to her feet and turned to retrieve her small red jacket and Princess Guard. Something inside her told Aerith that Sephiroth was still alive and she would not rest until she found help for him.
It had been a number of hours since Aerith left the cavern, but during that time the struggling soul within Sephiroth's unmoving body screamed to get out. An internal war raged on, Sephiroth trying desperately to return to consciousness but held at bay by the cold hand of Jenova. Jenova laughed as Sephiroth failed to wake from his death-like state.
"I have you now, Sephiroth. Your end will be slow and painful, I promise you," Jenova said from her suspended position above Sephiroth's spiritual form. Sephiroth snarled at her and angrily tried to claw his way to the surface but a blast from Jenova remedied that. Sephiroth fell with an angry grunt at her feet, his long hair draped over his bare shoulders. Getting to his hands and knees Sephiroth raised his head to glare at the abhorration that was Jenova.
"I destroyed you...," he said through gritted teeth. Some of Jenova's tentacle-like projectiles snaked around Sephiroth's torso and neck, bringing him closer to the dreaded visage of the alien. Sephiroth pulled at the tentacles around him, trying to free himself but froze when Jenova's form morphed into that of a villager from Nibelheim.
"I was outside tending to my vegetable garden when you appeared and chopped me down!" Sephiroth cried out and renewed his effort for freedom. The villager faded away to that of President Shinra. Sephiroth almost laughed out loud at that.
"That pompous fool deserved to die!" Sephiroth snarled. President Shinra cracked an evil smile on his bulbous face.
"No Sephiroth, or should I say the great Sephiroth?" Shinra chuckled before continuing. Sephiroth glared hard at the image before him, determined not to fall at Jenova's power.
"You are already dead." With that Shinra faded away to reveal a great cavern somewhere, surrounded by ancient branches and in the center a large deposit of materia. Sephiroth squinted at the materia, then cried out when he was face to face with himself. His reflection suddenly opened his eyes and smiled evilly at Sephiroth.
"This is your true body, Sephiroth my son. It awaits you in the Northern Crater to begin the Reunion!" Jenova said. Sephiroth could not keep his eyes off his other form encased in crystal. Was he truly dead? Jenova laughed, sensing Sephiroth's confusion and disbelief.
"The form you are in now is nothing more than a shell. It is going to die unless you join me again and become your true self," Jenova said, coming behind Sephiroth and wrapping her snake-like arms around his neck. Sephiroth barely noticed her there, his eyes locked elsewhere. Suddenly he reached behind him and tore Jenova's cursed arms from his body. Jenova hissed angrily as Sephiroth pulled free and leapt away from her.
"I will never join you again- never!!" Sephiroth shouted. Jenova morphed again, this time into Aerith. Sephiroth clenched his teeth as Jenova-Aerith approached him, her eyes pleading.
"I don't know what I would do if you died, Sephiroth. I'd be all alone and scared," she said as she came to a stop before Sephiroth and embraced him at his waist. Sephiroth's whole body tensed and he ruthlessly pushed her away.
"Don't you dare use Aerith against me, witch." Aerith got to her feet and laughed as she extended her arm, the Masamune sprouting from her palm. Sephiroth stared at this new twist in silence, unsure how to react. Aerith cocked the sword exactly like Sephiroth and smiled.
"If you do not join, you will die. And the Cetra girl will be the death of you." With that Aerith charged Sephiroth and buried the Masamune inside him. Sephiroth cried out and fell to one knee, his hands wrapped tightly around the blade. Aerith pushed the blade deeper into Sephiroth's middle, smiling the whole time. Sephiroth finally fell onto his knees before her, blood coursing down from his open wound and onto the floor. Just then a weak voice assaulted Sephiroth's senses. It was Aerith's voice, his Aerith calling to him. Looking over his shoulder Sephiroth could see Aerith's form hovering above him, her hands clasped before her and tears spilling from her eyes. Seeing her in pain brought forth new purpose within Sephiroth and he got to his feet, despite the gaping wound in his middle. He broke into a run, leaving behind Jenova's taunting images and voice. He reached for Aerith's hand, a smile on his face as he floated upward into consciousness once more.
Sephiroth's body arched upward, then his head tossed from side to side as his eyes flew open and breath returned to his deprived lungs. Sucking in air as if he had been held underwater for hours, Sephiroth slowly sat up. A dizzy spell assaulted his senses and he groaned, placing his hand on his forehead. Recovering his vision Sephiroth looked up. The fire fountain hummed with its unearthly glow in the back of the cavern, Sephiroth's black coat atop the stone ledge beneath it. Sephiroth remembered everything now. He had been sleeping peacefully with Aerith in his arms when he was overcome with the urge to retch and ran to the far side of the cavern to do so. He had begun shaking violently as well, but when Aerith tried to help him that filled Sephiroth with more fear than if he were at death's door. He didn't want her to see him in agony, let alone witness the discoloration in his skin due to the sickness within his cells. He had then slipped into a comatose-like state, his soul being dragged deep within the recesses of his psyche. What had happened to Aerith he did not know. Getting to his feet, Sephiroth headed for his coat and Masamune. He noticed blood on the end of his sword and looked down on himself where the Jenova-Aerith had stabbed him. A small trickle of blood had made a red stream from a small cut down his belly. Frowning Sephiroth slipped into his coat, buckling it at his waist before leaning over to get his sword. He had to find Aerith, that was his first priority. She must have left in search for help no doubt, believing Sephiroth to be dead. The only place she could go would be Midgar, but that was too far. Sephiroth sighed and nodded to himself. She would go to Cosmo Canyon and seek out Jack. Turning on his heel, Sephiroth left the cavern and passed through the waterfall into the night. The peace he had hoped they would find would have to wait as Sephiroth climbed up the sloping cliff toward more level ground.
On to Part 3.
Back to Forever.