Author's Note I don't remember the exact location of the Midgar church, Aeris' house in the slums are so I'm just guessing here. Thanks for reviews! It's what keeps me writing.

I apologize for the long wait, my mother just passed away last year from cancer and I've been very busy during the time she was ill until the time she passed away. Thank you for the understanding.

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Disclaimer: I don't own FF7 and I most definitely don't own Squaresoft/Square Enix. All original characters belong to me. Take them and I'll take your kidneys and your liver as payment.


Secrets of the Lost
Chapter 4: The Secret Garden
By: Silver Countess

"Do you think this would work?" Iiane quietly asked his commander, his blue eyes scanning the huge area for any sign of the rebel group. "I don't like it." They were hidden behind the several massive steel pillars, and they were not alone. Several men from their division were also hiding from different standpoints, all of them waiting.

Sephiroth gave a soft grunt in reply, his own green eyes narrowing in the semi-darkened area. They were in one of the main Mako Reactors, a huge expanse of metal and machinery that used the Planet's life blood as fuel to run half of the populated area in the upper plate. "I know," his voice was quiet. "But at the very least we are prepared."

Iiane gave a soft snort. "Murdering bastard," he gave a slight hiss. "I swear it, one day, I'll have the supreme pleasure of wrapping my fingers around the dog's throat," he said with so much hatred that surprised even him.

Sephiroth remembered his brief encounter with Tseng and his frown deepened. The man did not waste in niceties, and he got to the point rather quickly before he even got the chance to warm the seat of his chair. The Turk had revealed that Heidagger was going to drop the plate earlier than he was supposed to and he would do it irregardless if the rebels were captured or not. Of course information like that didn't come at a price.

"He can't get away with that can he?" Iiane asked him.

Sephiroth nodded his head slightly. "Tseng didn't say it outright, but I figured out that our beloved General would want us included in his list of casualties." He could hear Iiane swear softly some more under his breath. "The plan isn't so hard to figure out. He makes a show of being here, maybe catch one or two to bring home as a trophy, and leaves us to handle the rest. We chase the rebels possibly down to the plate while Heidagger pushes the buttons and brings the plate crashing on top of us."

"What did Tseng ask in exchange for that information?"

The voice was curious, and it was a question that Sephiroth had expected him to ask. "A favor for a favor," he replied simply not wishing to expound on his dealings with the head of the Turks.

Something caught his eye then, a movement at the far right of the darkened area. If the map of the mako reactors were accurate there should be a service stairs there. Sephiroth raised his hand to silence Iiane and pointed. Iiane followed with his eyes and nodded, sulking back to the shadows as they began to move into position.

It didn't take too long and soon enough Sephiroth could see some shapes moving in the darkness. He could also detect voices given the distance…he did have very good hearing. He heard… three distinct voices so far and the shadows that moved confirmed his suspicions. He raised three fingers and pointed to the right and left. He could hear shuffling from behind him as several soldiers moved into position.

Barret looked around nervously, squinting in the darkness. "Everything looks clear," he said in a gruff whisper as Cloud and Tifa followed. Cloud looked around, frowning heavily. Something didn't feel right.

"Hurry up with the bomb, Tifa," he told the brunette who was leaning down attaching the bomb.

"I'm going as fast as I can," she hissed back, heaving a sigh of relief as she pressed the timer, the red digital numbers flashing 60 seconds and counting. "Okay it's set lets get out of here—" her words were cut off when they heard a familiar laugh.

"Rebels!" The modified voice, boomed as Heidagger stepped out with several SOLDIERs behind him. He held a megaphone in his hand as he continued to bellow at the three rebels. "You will surrender at once!"

Cloud's eyes narrowed dangerously as he saw more SOLDIERs come out. He took out his Buster Sword, even as Tifa raised her fits and Barret raised his gun arm. It was a trap. They were prepared for them.

"Not unless you want to die," Cloud replied calmly. "The bomb is set to go off in less than sixty seconds…" he gave the briefest glance at Tifa who took out a summon materia. "That's not the only thing," he continued in that same voice, "The others have set several bombs on the lower levels. So it might be a good idea if we all just leave this place…Now." Heidagger looked baffled as if somehow the idea of the rebels having a back-up plan was beyond him.

"Take your pick," Cloud's smile was chilling as the fat general spluttered, his face becoming red in anger. "I'm sure by now the bombs are all in place," he gave the barest of nods as Tifa suddenly unleashed a Summon.

Heidagger's commands were muffled as the appearance of the Summon Ifreet as it began belching out fire at the surrounding SOLDIERs. Cloud began to yell. "Go! Go!" he urged them as they all ran toward the exit.

Just beyond several pillars were Sephiroth and Iiane, rounding up the remaining rebels and dismantling the bombs when they heard the commotion and the sounds of men shrieking and moaning in agony.

"Dammit! Can't that fat asshole even catch them right?" Iiane bellowed as he and Sephiroth stood up and began to run.

They ran toward the source of commotion just as they saw Ifreet blast his way through the regiment of soldiers as the rebels began running away.

Sephiroth did not hesitate and for once was glad of his supernatural abilities. It didn't take long for him to overtake them, blocking their exit with the massive 7-foot long no-dachi in his hand. The rebels stared in shock as they faced the one man they did not expect to see: the silver haired demon of Shin-Ra.

"You aren't going anywhere--!" but his words were cut off as a massive explosion hit them. They were all thrown off balance by the explosion as the ground beneath them shook violently. A huge part of the floor groaned as it collapsed, falling into the lower plate below. Around him the smell of burning chemicals and flesh filled the air as both SOLDIER and rebel struggled to escape the death trap.

The first explosion was followed by another, this time the ground beneath Sephiroth's feet groaned and swayed violently, throwing him off balance and sending him sliding towards the precipice. With supreme effort he caught the edge of a beam just in time before he was hurled off it.

"Sephiroth!" he could see Iiane make his way toward him, his hand reaching out to grab his.

"Idiot!" Sephiroth snarled at him. "Get out of here! You need to evacuate the area!"

"Not without your goddamn stupid hide I'm not!" retorted the red head, his hand just mere inches from his. There was third explosion somewhere in a distance and the ground moved crazily beneath them, the sound of grinding metal filling the air.

Sephiroth heard a loud creak and looked up. He saw that the beam he was holding to was giving way.

"Don't let go you asshole!"

He tried to hoist himself up, using his other hand to grab his when he felt a lurch. There was the sound of sickening groan of metal giving way, as Sephiroth watched, as if in slow motion, the beam itself collapsed and with him, Sephiroth began to fall.

"NO! Sephiroth… SEPHIROTH!!"

-oOo-

Sephiroth…Sephiroth…

A soft voice whispered at him from the darkness.

Sephiroth…!

He groaned, as he felt soft hands touching his cheek.

Never forget your promise…

"Sephiroth..."

He felt the darkness fade away, slowly being replaced by a startlingly bright light even as a shadow hovered about him. He felt feather-light touches touch his cheek, and warmth that slowly began healing his broken body.

Yes…he remembered falling and the explosions that came prior. He remembered a battle, a plan that went terribly wrong. Falling…from such a vast height…wait, if that was such what had happened then shouldn't he be dead?

He had difficulty opening his eyes as he forced himself up to a sitting position. Sharp pain coursed through his body, gritting his teeth as a hiss of pain escaped his lips.

"Please…don't move yet," a familiar voice spoke softly to him. He forced his eyes to open, adjusting to the bright light. Slowly he regained his vision and what he saw…made him question his sanity.

A woman hovered over him, her eyes closed as waves of mahogany brown hair cascaded down her shoulders like a cape. She wore an off-shoulder white gown, seed pearls lining the bodice as a circlet made of platinum and semi-precious stones settled on her head like a crown. There was a soft almost unearthly glow around her as he noted with surprise the motes of energy that flowed through her hands and to his body.

She looked every inch a queen and he wondered if what he was seeing was a dream.

Those coral lips moved in a silent prayer and suddenly the room was filled with a blinding flash of light.

He instinctively closed his eyes against the light and when he opened them again, he saw Aeris looking down at him. Sephiroth was no longer sure if what he was seeing things or not. He considered the fall might have damaged his brain somehow. There was also a possibility that he had died and that he was seeing an angel.

He was probably staring for a long time because those coral lips tugged slightly upward into a slight smile. All thought was robbed from him, which would probably explain why he said those words.

"I'm dead."

Those magnificent green eyes blinked as she suddenly laughed, her voice was like a clear bell and it felt so good just listening to it. Now if only she wasn't laughing so hard, then it wouldn't feel too insulting…

"You're not dead," she finally replied after she recovered from her laughter. "But it's a miracle that you are alive."

Sephiroth forced himself up as Aeris carefully assisted him. "It was quite a fall you took, you were quite lucky to be alive." She pointed to a patch of ruined flowers, which confused him since if he was at the lower plate, there shouldn't be any in the area. "Those softened your fall."

"How?" he looked around and finally noticed that he was in an old abandoned church, some of the light that filtered from and through the remaining stained glass windows gave the area a rather holy feel about it.

"The place is HOLY that is why the flowers can thrive here." She replied smiling looking at him a little shyly. "I suppose…this makes us even?"

Sephiroth had to smile at that. "Maybe," he gave a slight nod, noting Aeris' surprise as he retrieved his sword that was placed beside him. "I gave you dinner the last time. I don't suppose you could extend the same courtesy." Wait…did he just…flirt?

Aeris seemed taken aback by his forwardness and she suddenly began to blush madly. "Well, I'm sure I can arrange something. I could invite you to my place for dinner tonight. My mother would be happy that I've brought company for a change."

Then that would mean that she seldom had guests around. No resistance, no hesitation. Interesting…

"But first I need to fix the garden a bit," she smiled as she bade him to sit on one of church pews.

"What do you do with those flowers?" he asked her as he settled down, noting with some surprise that he no longer felt any pain from the fall. He still had some bruising here and there but it was nothing compared to the injuries he should have sustained. She was quite a healer, not even the finest materia healers in Shin-Ra could rival what she did. Not with the type of injury he would have sustained considering the height from which he fell from.

"I sell them," she replied. "It isn't much but it helps with the expenses at home."

"Oh."

She seemed to sense his unease at the fact that he just trampled her source of income. She gave him a reassuring smile. "Don't worry the flowers will grow back again. Besides, I still have my flower garden at home to fall back on."

So this is the woman Tseng mentioned. That would explain why those goons have been after you. Sephiroth mused to himself. "You must live close by."

She seemed hesitant in answering as she nodded. "Yes, sector 6 actually. It's not too far, we're in sector 5."

Sephiroth was familiar with the area. "You live and work in a dangerous place." Aeris seemed to smile at that, placing a yellow blossom in her basket.

"Only if you're careless. The entire slum area is dangerous, but we all do what we can to survive."

Sephiroth nodded, enjoying this little repartee. It was strange how he could be so comfortable with someone he barely knew. Aeris didn't seem to mind his company either and she acted as he had been a friend since forever. If she was who he thinks she is, she should be running away the moment he had crashed into the chapel. He looked up then and saw the hole in the church ceiling. Aeris followed his gaze and smiled.

"You frightened me. At first I thought an angel had fallen from out of the sky; that was of course until I saw your sword." Her cheeks had that becoming blush as turned away to look at her lap, dusting off her hands as she began to stand. "I'm glad I brought my healing materia with me."

"You have quite exceptional talent in the healing arts of materia magic," Sephiroth stood as well, then frowned when he remembered the woman he saw earlier. "Was anyone with you when you healed me?"

She shook head, as she finished fixing the flowers neatly in her basket. "No, I was alone…no one else comes to this church except me."

Then that must be an illusion…or a dream perhaps? He was starting to have a headache the more he thought about it.

Aeris felt his gaze and she blushed. "I think you've hit your head a little too hard." She picked up her basket and dusted her skirt. "We should go then, the earlier we get back the earlier I can make dinner for you."

Sephiroth nodded as he escorted Aeris out of the old dilapidated church. Outside, the area itself was strangely deserted, well except for the unconscious drunk snoring away, there wasn't anybody in sight. Yet he felt like they weren't alone somehow, like someone else was out there, a presence that just skimmed the edges of awareness. It was predatory and…angry.

And then it was gone. Was it a monster perhaps? The slums aren't just the home of the unfortunate and downtrodden but other things as well, like monsters--mutated humans or animals that were exposed to the Mako reactors also lived in the slums.

The place wasn't just pitiful. It was also dangerous.

"My house is this way," she pointed to the direction they would be taking. "Let's go." Sephiroth nodded, taking his place at her side, his hand resting on the hilt of his sword.

A pair of green eyes watched the two, hatred shining as it gazed on the silver haired man. Anger boiled inside him, as he watched him walk away with his woman…What does that filth know about the prize he speaks so casually with? Does he even know the treasure that was only an arm's length away? Of course not…the son of Jenova knows nothing.

His gaze turned to the woman beside Sephiroth and the anger that was in his eyes was replaced by lust, his blood hot with desire as he took time to drink in her flawless features.

She belonged to him…and only him. And he will make sure that it was going to stay that way.

-oOo-

The walk was surprisingly uneventful. The presence of the formidable General had kept the more belligerent out of their way. Even the monsters that usually plague the area were mysteriously absent. Still there was something in the air that bothered the General somewhat, enough that he constantly looked around him, scanning the immediate vicinity for any sign of danger.

Aeris noticed this, frowning slightly in worry as she looked at him. "Is there something wrong?" Sephiroth could only look at her, noting the worried gaze and shook his head slightly.

"Nothing alarming," he replied in a smooth baritone with the barest hint of emotion. He felt no need to make the vision beside him worry. Vision? He was amused at the thought, but he could hardly deny the mysterious, innocent beauty the woman seemed to glow with purity as anything but.

"Oh, that's good then," she smiled hiding her worry. There was something…she sensed something out there. A presence that felt strangely familiar…and yet alien and foreboding at the same time. An ancient dread…like that feeling of knowing the boogey man that your mother tells you to scare you to obedience is hiding in the shadows watching you or her.

She shivered. She could feel it. Eyes in the darkness…looking at her.

She mentally shook her head as she forced a smile. She wasn't six anymore! It was stupid to believe about childhood monsters. There were other bigger monsters out there, besides with Sephiroth beside her, who would be insane enough to try anything? With that thought, she continued leading the handsome SOLDIER to the direction of her home. "We'll be near my home soon. I hope you don't mind stew for tonight."

The walk wasn't too far, as they both turned to a corner and duck into a narrow alley to reveal an enclosure, a part of the plate ceiling gone to reveal some sunlight shining into another flower garden, as a small well-kept house stood under the remains of the upper plate.

The place…was strangely serene, an oasis of peace in the middle of squalor and violence. It was nothing short of amazing, as he looked around and felt no sense of danger…even the strange beasts that haunted the slums were not present. It was similar to the atmosphere in the Church, and were his ears deceiving him? He listened carefully…yes, he could hear the twittering of birds…

Aeris smiled as she took his hand gently, interrupting his train of thoughts as she led him through the swept path and to the door of the two story house. She opened the door, stamping her foot on the rug and went in. "Mom? I'm home!" she called out, placing her empty basket on top a side table and shrugged out of her shawl and hanged it on the old coat rack.

An old woman stepped out of the kitchen, her features starkly different from Aeris. Her gray hair had been blonde once, her wrinkled eyes though kind was shaped differently. Perhaps, Aeris looked more like her father?

Those old eyes widened slightly with surprise and slight wariness. She had recognized the silver haired General, but instead of showing fear, she gave him a motherly smile as she turned to Aeris. "Welcome home, dear. It seems you've brought home a friend."

Aeris smiled warmly. "Mother, this is General Sephiroth, which I'm sure you probably know. He was the one who saved me from the thugs chasing after me from the clinic," she giggled nervously. "General, this is my adoptive mother Elmyra."

His widened slightly in surprise as he gave a slight but respectful bow. She's adopted… "Pleased to meet you, madam."

The wariness from Elmyra's eyes disappeared replaced with a more genuine smile. "Well now, we can't have your knight in shining armor to just stand there, Aeris," she chuckled, ignoring her daughter's sputtering and blushing as she ushered the General and her daughter to the dining area. "Come in, come in…we're about to prepare for dinner. You are joining us for dinner, are you, Sephiroth?"

The woman's motherly way, made him pause and he nodded. "I'd be delighted."

-oOo-

Iiane was swearing as she plowed through slums, the smarter folk avoiding the clearly agitated SOLDIER. He had found the place where Sephiroth had fallen off from the explosion, expecting the worse when he entered the old Church. But instead of seeing his friend's corpse, he saw only some debris, crushed flowers, some blood but no Sephiroth.

He was relieved to say the least. It meant that Sephiroth somehow miraculously survived the fall. Then again there were many stories about Sephiroth that would be described as feats of superhuman endeavor, a few that he himself saw first hand.

But the question now was, where is he?

He spied a bum and walked over. The man looked at him fearfully, noting his glowing eyes as part of SOLDIER. He raised his hands showing that he held no weapons and gave the old man a disarming smile. "Hey, no need for that. I'm just wondering if I could ask you a question…"

The old man looked at him warily. "I don't have nothin' you need…" watching as Iiane took out some bills and showed it to the man who looked at it with greedy eyes. He smacked his lips suddenly a light in his eyes. "Perhaps I've been hasty…"

"Indeed," he grinned. "Now all I'm asking is the whereabouts of a friend of mine…tall, wearing black leather, silver hair, long nasty sword, always scowling…" He saw recognition flit on the old man's eyes and suddenly look wary.

"Him…yeah I saw him, he was with the girl from the Church," he replied cautiously, gripping his bottle. Iiane could tell he was hesitating.

"With a girl…?" he repeated. The old man looked at him, old eyes squinting at him as if assessing him. Well whatever it was he was looking for he seemed to have found it.

"Yeah, the flower girl…Now look here sonny, I know you're SOLDIER and all, but that girl's done nothing to you," the old bum replied heatedly. "You're not here to hurt her are you? She saved your friend after all."

Iiane's eyes widened. "Really now? Well don't worry I'm not here to hurt a little girl. I'm just after my friend."

Old man snorted. "He fell to the church with a loud crash, everyone here thought Shin-Ra had gone and done us in."

"So where is he now?"

The old man hesitated, even as Iiane placed a few bills on his hand. "This is for telling me that my friend's alive," he spoke, his voice kind. The old man still hesitated uncertain if he should continue.

"You did promise you won't hurt her, right?" the old man rasped. Iiane nodded. "Alright then, follow me. I know where they're going…I heard them talking about dinner or something as much…"

-oOo-

Much to Aeris' relief dinner had been…remarkably pleasant. Sephiroth as expected didn't talk much, her mother taking over the awkward silence with her motherly chattering much to her dismay, and although he didn't verbally compliment on her cooking either, the look of appreciation in his eyes not to mention accepting her mother's offer of second helpings without a word of complaint told her plenty.

Given her prior experience to the kind of food they served, her food probably tasted like a King's feast in comparison.

Her mother though had given her that look, more like glances throughout dinner; that hopeful, yearning look that perhaps she had finally relented and found herself a boyfriend—a misconception she plans to correct, once they were safely out of earshot.

Like right now, Sephiroth was lounging in the living room while she and her mother were busy cleaning the dishes in the kitchen.

"Well..?" Elmyra glanced at her daughter expectantly. "Are you going to tell your mother just how long this has been going on?"

"Mom…" she winced, as she began drying the newly rinsed dish from her mother. "Nothing is going on between me and Sephiroth. I only told you that he rescued me from a bunch of hoodlums from last time, that and I healed him from a nasty fall he took earlier."

Elmyra didn't seem to be convinced. "Of course not, it's a little too much I suppose for an old woman like me to wish that a dashing young man like him would sweep you off your feet and take you away from here." Then she sighed wistful. "Do you have any idea how beautiful your children would be if you ever married him?"

"Mother!" Aeris gasped her face flaming. "Mother, shush! He'll hear you!" she added in a very strained whisper.

The woman chuckled, her grey eyes twinkled merrily. "Ah so you don't deny the fact that thought crossed your mind?" This sent Aeris into another fit of sputtering and blushing which made Elmyra chuckle, before her expression turned serious.

"He's from Shin-Ra though, do you really think this is wise?" her mother asked her in a softer tone. Aeris was aware of her concern, Shin-Ra have been after her all her life…and the last incident proved just how desperate things were getting.

"I know, but…he didn't hurt me, not the first time either when I was carried…" she blushed, "…to his room. I was in Shin-Ra's private property; he would have easily brought me to Hojo or even went after me when he found out what I am. And yet he didn't. Even now he hasn't done anything, or even suggested I go back. All he was concerned about was seeing me home safe."

Elmyra thought long and hard at that even as she wiped her hands with her apron when they were done washing the dishes. "I…suppose. If you trust him that much then I guess there's no real harm," then smiled adding as if an after thought. "It's a cool night out, why don't you show your new friend the garden? Mr. Handerson just installed the garden lights earlier and I wanted to see if they worked."

Aeris was just relieved that the rather embarrassing conversation was over that she readily agreed, missing the sneaky look in her mother's eyes as she went out to look for the silver haired SOLDIER.

She saw him then, looking over the pictures of the mantel, his eyes looking over an old photograph of Elmyra and her late husband. She knew he would recognize the uniform as one of Shin-Ra's. He turned then as if sensing her presence.

Aeris stepped closer to his side and smiled gently looking at the photograph he was looking earlier. "He was my mother's husband…he used to be part of the Shin-Ra military…a SOLDIER like you. Unfortunately he had died a long time ago and I never got the chance to meet him."

He didn't reply but he was politely listening, his eyes had drifted to the picture and to her while she spoke, making her blush at the way his eyes seemed to be studying her.

"Anyway," she continued nervously. "I was wondering if you would come with me to the garden outside." She noted the slight frown that marred his chiseled features.

"It's late," he pointed out with a glance to the clock that chimed softly in the wall across. "You are to rest." It sounded more of an order than a suggestion, and Aeris couldn't help but feel a twitch of annoyance at being told what to do.

"It's not really all that late…besides, it's only the garden and my mother wanted to see if the newly installed lights were working." She watched the barest flicker of emotion cross his face as he nodded finally. Aeris smiled as she led him outside again, to a small path that led to the gardens.

-oOo-

It was night time apparently, as evidence to the night sky they saw through the hole in the plate. Usually being in the lower plate, night and day made little difference…except perhaps that the only illumination this little place had was the hole in the plate, and the patched up fancy looking streetlights that was probably salvaged in a dump somewhere.

Aeris looked up to the garden her lips parted in a small gasp, those emerald eyes wide as she looked at the now glowing multi colored garden lights. "Oh wow…" Sephiroth followed her through the clever looking trail leading to a platform that housed blooms so exquisite that he began to wonder again that how could a thing of such beauty and fragility can grow in such a dismal place?

"Isn't it beautiful?" He heard her ask taking him away from his thoughts as he watched the soft lights glowed against her skin and hair, her emerald eyes luminous making her look far more ethereal. He had seen hundreds of gardens of his time owned by the wealthy in the upper plate, including the extravagant garden owned by the President's late wife could not compare to the serene beauty of this slip of a woman in her tiny garden right now.

He asked the same question again, only this time he wasn't thinking about the flowers.

"I should find a way to thank Mr. Handerson, don't you think?" she asked him, that smile of hers that seemed for reasons unknown made his heart do the slightest skip.

"Hn."

She laughed softly at his 'reply'. "I hope I'm not boring you, General Sephiroth."

"My name alone…will suffice."

Aeris smiled, her cheeks tinted with the lightest blush. "Alright…Sephiroth then," her voice was softer now, that smile tugging the edges of those lips and for a moment he wondered about those lips of hers. Would they be as soft as they looked? Tasted as sweet?

His eyes drank the sight of her, taking an almost unconscious step toward her as thoughts none to innocent about her flitted across his mind. It made his blood sing with need, a desire he would normally find unwelcome, he now welcome with open arms.

Thoughts of his duty, his responsibilities to Shin-Ra and his promise were suddenly shunted off into a dark corner of his mind. All he could think of, all he could see was her. Feel her, want her…need her.

He saw her pause, those eyes of hers impossibly wide, looking so much like a small animal caught in the gaze of the predator, frozen and unable to move as he slowly approached her. Sephiroth couldn't help the smirk that graced his lips when he noted the blush on her cheeks, or her ragged breathing. He was so close almost enough to inhale the fragrance of her scent—a lovely combination of tea and fruit— mixed with the flowers and notice the pulse that beat erratically at the base of her neck.

"Sephiroth…?" her voice, he noticed was uncertain, breathless and he couldn't help but look in her eyes before drifting to her lips again, now parted slightly perhaps to speak or protest…but when nothing came he took it as a sign. His gloved hand then gently touched her chin and tilted her face up toward him, his eyes never leaving hers as he lowered himself closer still, his lips now a hair's-breath away from hers before pressing them lightly against her own in an almost chaste kiss.

His lips brushed against her initially almost innocent, before kissing her a little deeper. He teased her, his tongue tracing the gentle contour of her lips, feeling her shiver slightly in response.

The woman underneath him at first stood stock still in shock, those eyes seemed to widen even more before fluttering slowly closed, the softest of sighs escaping her lips at the kiss. He felt a smug satisfaction go through him upon seeing her surrender.

But like all things in his life at the moment, something had to ruin everything. And that something came in the form of a familiar voice shouting his name.

"Sephiroth! Of all things, this is NOT how I thought I'd find you."

Aeris gave a particularly loud gasp breaking the kiss, her eyes snapping open in mortification. Her cheeks were flaming in embarrassment as she recognized the voice that interrupted their kiss.

Her first kiss.

Her usually sharp mind was now reduced to incoherent babblings. Her heart was racing, her cheeks were so warm…and her lips tingled from the kiss that made her knees weak. She turned away from Sephiroth, missing the way his eyes narrowed slightly in annoyance at the interruption, missed the barely audible growl that rumbled softly against his throat.

"Iiane." His voice was smooth and cool and totally in control. So unlike her, shaking her mouth barely able to form any words, in her head she could hear her voice shrieking at her reminding her that she had just been kissed—not by an ordinary man, but by General Sephiroth.

"So after giving me a near heart attack from that fall you took, not to mention tried to look for you this is the thanks I get?" he sounded more relieved than angry or annoyed. "You could have called you know, at least tell me you were alive."

"Hn."

Aeris watched them. Sephiroth had returned to his usual cool and commanding exterior. Gone was the predator that stalked her earlier, his eyes that gleamed when he looked at her and kissed her with a kiss that would stop the sun, instead there stood the man that led armies, the legendary SOLDIER that men feared and respected.

"Well?" Iiane sounded irritated, arms crossed an eyebrow raised. Sephiroth didn't grace him with an answer, meeting his gaze with his own. The red haired SOLDIER sighed in defeat. "Okay fine be that way. But if you ever decide to fall off the face of the earth, I'm not going to bother to look for you."

"Iiane," Sephiroth's voice was now slightly strained.

Iiane grumbled a bit and his expression turned serious. "We need to get back to base. Heidagger is already having kittens when his plan literally exploded in his face. As much as I enjoy seeing Heidagger being shrieked at by Hojo for having 'killed' you in such a stupid mission, it would be best if we get back and reassured them of your good health."

"And the rebels?"

Aeris could feel her blood grow cold at that simple statement. Then she remembered, Avalanche was supposed to launch a mission to bomb the reactors.

"They got away, but that's not the real problem," Iiane replied his voice growing tighter. "The President is pushing through with dropping the plate on sector 7 tonight." He didn't realize his mistake until he heard Aeris gave a horrified gasp.

Before Aeris could do anything, she found Sephiroth's grip around her wrist as she was practically dragged out the garden, half stumbling as she tried to keep up to the General's furious pace. "What do you mean they're dropping the plate on sector 7?!" she cried out. Her friends! She needed to warn them somehow!

Sephiroth dragged her to her home, almost kicking the door open and brought her inside. His eyes were hard, his voice cold and commanding. "You are staying here."

"I will most certainly not!" Aeris snapped back in defiance.

Now this time she thought she heard him growl. "You. Will. Stay here."

She was about to protest when her mother came into the room, her face concerned. She had heard the commotion apparently. Sephiroth turned to her, his face unreadable and unbending.

"Madam, you WILL keep your daughter here. Lock her up if you must, but she is not to leave this house."

"You can't lock me in my own home!" Aeris protested, "I need to warn my friends!"

Elmyra looked from the unyielding General, the serious faced Iiane and then at the fuming Aeris. She nodded much to Aeris' dismay.

"Her room is on the second floor, first door to the right. I have the key."

"Mother!"

Sephiroth wasted no time then, instead of having do drag the now angry young woman, he simply lifted her and hefted her over his shoulder and walked to the direction of her room. Aeris pounded his back with her fists and yelling at him to let her down.

He let her down. It was only when Aeris realized he had dumped her into her room. "You are to stay here." He repeated again. She was going to snap at him when the door slammed closed and the door locked with a very audible click.

Aeris stared stunned at the locked door, suddenly infuriated at the handsome man who had imprisoned her in her very own home. That…that…arrogant, pompous jerk! How dare he order me around like some soldier! She kicked the door viscously, and gritted her teeth painfully at the pain of hitting her poor abused foot at the door.

She glared at it instead, hearing the front door close. Sephiroth and his friend had left. If the man thought he can keep her there without helping her friends, he was sadly mistaken! A plan began to form as she waited for a minute to pass to make sure he wouldn't be still in the area as she prepared her escape.

Hands reached for her shawl wrapping it around her securely as she opened her window, pushing the shutters wide. The coast seemed clear. She began to climb out the window with practiced ease. She had to escape and warn the others.