Disclaimer: I tried to buy them on ebay, but someone with a faster net connection sniped them out from under me, so I unfortunately do not own the characters here. L
A/N: This is a slightly AU post-game story. Sephiroth has been 'redeemed', is once more in command of the army and is married to Aeris. The Planet is under attack.
The Right Moment
Shattered glass crunched under the Commander's feet as he stepped softly into the dark room, a harsh break from the soft sinking of footfalls into lush carpet. He paused, one hand on the half-open door, looking down at the floor and the shards he stood in. Just a little bit of glass really, radiating out in a fine fan shape in front of him, the pattern the shards had scattered in after impact with the door. A good impact at that, with hardly a piece being recognizable as the fine crystal wine glass it must have once been. The dim light from the hallway caught the shards afire, lighting them to pinpoint sparkles, a carpet of stars. So pretty. She would have thought so.
She would have thought so, were she awake to see it. But she lay fast asleep in the large bed just a few feet away, and he dared not wake her. Not after coming home so late to a cold, dark house to find the good china set out, unused on the table, two fine tapers burned down to stubs on the candelabrum. Soft music had been streaming out from the entertainment center, forgotten and abandoned in the darkness. And now this broken glass under his feet, as much a victim of his unintentional thoughtlessness as the woman lying in the bed, with a bottle of fine red wine, nearly drained, on her nightstand.
Truthfully, he had not meant to forget. But then, he had not really meant much of what he had done in his life. And now that his life had meaning, he berated himself, one would think he would cherish the one that made it so. He stepped inside, stealthily as a mountain cat, though nervous as its household cousin. Perhaps, with the help of the wine, she was too far gone to notice his tardiness, something which had become all too normal for them, he feared. What with his position and the state of the world being what it was, his was not an easy job.
So much time away from home, drilling the troops, mapping out new defenses. Always, always convening and debating and arguing and strategizing and praying that the one he did it all for would remain safe, that the next strike would be nowhere near the house on the plains. Wasn't it worth his lengthy absences if what he did could keep her safe? Every soldier needed something to fight for. Everything he did was for her, to keep her safe. And so far, it had worked. She was safe.
But not happy. He pondered this as he silently eased himself out of his uniform, wondering exactly when the first seeds of fretful longing had sprouted in her. The ongoing war took its toll on all, military or not. How could he have brushed aside its potential effect on her? She was closer to military life than any civilian, married to him. The tension and concerns that he brought home with him…. how could he have assumed that they would not affect his bonded one?
Slowly, he reached for his sleepwear, readying himself for bed with spare precision in the darkness. Did she know that he did it all for her, that when the casualties were skyrocketing and his forces were losing more ground by the day, thoughts of her being far away from the invasion front, safe, were all that kept him going? Was it not enough that she gave him hope in a world of bleak tomorrows? Was she too worried by it all to take comfort in the fact that she was everything to him? Couldn't she be happy with that?
He sighed, softly easing himself under the covers, taking care not to jostle his love though she was too deeply asleep to notice. He turned on his side to face her, but did not reach out, his arms stilled by the sleep-softened look of sorrow on her face. The questions raced unbidden in his mind, stirring up guilt in their tracks. How could he have been so neglectful? What good was her safety if it kept her in the dark about his own condition? Had he not heard of the many deceptively cheerful letters sent to his men by their loved ones far away? So many thoughtful notes, lightly perfumed, sealed with kisses, elegant script that hid one question too sensitive to be asked directly, beneath the layers of news about family pets or the weather.
'Will you come back to me?' they asked.
Did she wonder if her own warrior would return to her at the end of it all? Or if she would instead find a uniformed officer, gravely official, standing on her doorstep? He could think of no way to ease her worry, if that was indeed the cause of her growing despondency. He dared not bring her to the front, though the base had ample accommodations for officers' families. He wrote and called as often as possible, though perhaps for her, it was not often enough. Every time he was able to return to her, if just for a few hours, she clung to him desperately, barely allowing him to leave the bedroom, much less the house. And always, haunted green eyes drank in the sight of him, greedily watchful of his every move, as if they had never seen him before.…or never would again.
He had been willfully, stupidly blind to ignore the gradual fading of her spirit. Despair in her eyes was ever more painful than in his heart. So he had turned away, choosing not to see it, pretending that his love's eyes were still bright, her smile carefree, that her laughter, now so rare, did not hold that hollow timbre. Dear Gods above, it hurt too much to think about it. He had been so selfish, ignoring her pain because seeing it hurt him more. His chest grew tight and he shuddered in the darkness. Of every oath he had sworn, he had broken the one that mattered to him most. If, after all he had done to make amends, hell still waited for him, this alone convinced him that he deserved to suffer. How could he have let his love descend into such melancholy when he had vowed on his very life to protect her and care for her above his own welfare?
So many questions. Too many, really. Some he was too tired to puzzle out an answer to tonight. Others he was not sure he wanted answers to. She had sounded so excited when he had called to tell her that he would be home for the entire week. She had urged him to hurry to her. 'I miss you,' the words unspoken said, 'I need you….Come back to me.'
He thought of the melted candles on the table, almost wistful. It had been too long since they had shared a truly special night together, taking the time to enjoy each other's company instead of only desperate, frantic couplings, overshadowed by his always impending departures. He had not meant to be late, truly, but that would hardly matter to her after the effort she had put out to surprise him. He shifted on the bed, edging close enough to feel her warmth and gingerly draped an arm around her. As he drifted into sleep he hoped he would be able to make it up to her in the morning, and perhaps somehow, make her happy. He so rarely had time to be with her. He could not bear the thought of spending the entire week so close to her, unable to bring her joy.