I know this story's been done many times; but I feel like hurling a new spin onto it. This is more for my own amusement than anybody else's. If you don't like it, don't read it. Flame me if you like—my room is cold and I could use the warmth. And as you know, constructive criticism is always appreciated.

An Unlikely Partnership

This is an FFVII fanfic by kleptomaniac0. The characters are not mine and never were. Otherwise the Advent Children designs would look much, much cooler, and Sephiroth in CG would not look like a crack addict insomniac. I swear to God, he looks horrible. His Ehrgeiz MS is so much better.

There was no sensation of awakening, no slow relapsing into consciousness. One minute she had been surrounded by the Lifestream's warm green glow, feeling like she was back in her mother's loving arms. She had felt safe, and secure, and warm. The next instant that warmth had slipped away, replaced by a biting cold that was an almost physical assault. She shivered in her thin pink dress and red jacket, teeth chattering, as she frantically rubbed her arms for warmth. The immense chill she was feeling told her she was alive, if nothing else did. Cold did not exist in the Lifestream.

"Planet," she thought, "Thank you for bringing me back to life! But couldn't you have put me in Mideel, where it's nice and warm?"

The Planet did not reply. Aeris sighed and blew on her chill fingers. Her breath steamed spectacularly in the icy air. She got up and jumped up and down, trying to move the blood in her veins. She looked around for an exit, but all she saw around her was cold hard rock. Though slightly discolored and warped from Mako, it was still impermeable. She sighed heavily and looked around. Surely there had to be a way out. Going up was as good a start as any.

She had to tramp around for a bit before finding a crevasse in the rocks that looked promising. Climbing wasn't her forte, but Aeris gamely wedged herself into the crack and pulled herself up, inch by inch, to reach a thin ledge some twenty feet above the ground. It was very narrow, but across from the ledge there was a small, flat cliff she could hop onto, about ten feet away and three feet above. It was too far for a normal human to jump onto, but then again, Aeris wasn't a normal human.

She breathed deeply, summoning her Cetra powers. They were what allowed her to heal without materia, and, to a small extent, fly. True, she could not blaze through the air as the Cetra of yore had been able to, but managing a longer than normal hop was certainly not beyond her.

Air billowed up beneath her feet as a delicious sensation of weightlessness radiated throughout her; Aeris sprang lightly from the ledge, drifting through the air like a bird, before landing easily on the small cliff. She stumbled a bit as her feet touched ground, gravity reclaiming her with a jolt, and Aeris yelped as she tripped over something that lay squarely in her way, hidden by the edge of the cliff. She fell onto her front, scraping her palms on the cold rock as she tried to catch herself. Her knees banged painfully into the stone, making her curse. Cursing still, Aeris looked over her shoulder to see what she had fallen over. The epithets died on her lips.

"Oh, no." She whispered in horror.

There was no mistaking the long silvery hair or the powerful leatherclad frame, but still Aeris hoped beyond all reason that the man she had tripped over was NOT Sephiroth. More than anything else she did not want to face the man who had killed her so easily, with scarcely more than a thrust of his silvery sword. She gulped hard, trying to quell the flutters of fear that raged in her stomach. She was shaking so badly that it was good thing she was sitting down; otherwise, she might have fainted from shock and fear. Her mouth was dry, her throat locked up, and she felt so cold that the arctic air around her was positively tropical. Every instinct in her newly awakened mind screamed RUN RUN RUN, but her body, frozen with fear, would not obey.

Time ticked by. An eternity seemed to pass before Aeris regained some small control over her rigid body. If her legs had galvanized first, she would have run for her life, run as hard and as fast as she was capable of, run until the memory of her silver-haired murderer was lost behind her. But as fate had it, her hand moved, and trembling, she reached out to gingerly touch Sephiroth on the neck. His skin was very, very cold, the tendons underneath as hard as rock. Her fingers trembled as she felt for a pulse. If there wasn't one, then he was dead and she had nothing to fear. But if there was one...

Oh god. She felt a faint throb underneath her fingertips. She jerked her hand back, gasping in terror. There was a pulse! He was alive! He was alive! Oh, to gods above and below he was alive!

"Maybe it was just my hand," Aeris thought shakily. "It's cold. I'm shivering. It's probably just my hand. Just my hand."

She repeated the words over and over inside her head until the words churned into a mindless litany, one that nonetheless calmed her racing heart and stilled her frantic, birdlike breathing. Many minutes ticked by before Aeris could stop the shaking in her hand—and check his pulse again.

"Why am I doing this?" She thought, frowning. "I already know he's dead. It's like I'm deliberately trying to torture myself by checking again."

Thump. Thump.

"OH GOD!" Aeris shrieked in fear and scrambled back, ramming into the stone behind her. Her scream rang off the walls, echoing up the passage in shrill, distorted tones. But her terror was not absolute: despite her fear, she did notice that Sephiroth remained where he was. In fact, he didn't even flinch.

That was odd. SOLDIERS, Aeris knew, had extremely sensitive hearing. Her shriek should have made him wince in the very least. But he hadn't done a thing.

It was then that Aeris noticed the dark red stain sprawling like a crimson sheet underneath Sephiroth's inert body. It was faintly shiny, and when Aeris breathed the scent of copper filled her nostrils. Her heart chilled. Aeris had been in battle enough times to know what the dark stuff was. Sephiroth had been bleeding, and by the size of the dark stain he had lost an almost fatal amount of blood. Yet his heart had still been pumping when Aeris had touched him.

"He's going to die soon." Aeris realized. The stark fact of this paused her for a few long moments.

Then she got up and smoothed down her dress. Well, let him. He could die. He had killed her, after all. She would have no mercy for him, as he had had no mercy for her. She turned to go. But something held her step.

"Can I really just leave him there...?" She wondered.

The more she thought about it, the more uncomfortable she felt. She had never turned her back on anything in her life, whether it was on a task or on an injured person. Hesitatingly she looked over her shoulder.

Sephiroth lay on the ground, in the exact same position he had been before. He was too injured to even move. Without her help he would die. A pang of guilt stabbed Aeris in the chest. Despite her feelings toward Sephiroth, she could not let him die.

"Oh, I hope I don't regret this." She thought grimly as she summoned her Cetra heritage. Wind whipped up around her, flinging her hair into a wild brown mass around her face. Her palms filled with light, forming a glowing ball that glowed warmly in the arctic air. With a gentle sigh she swung her hands forward, and the healing wind swirled down to brush over Sephiroth. As the breeze stirred his fine silver hair and carried the faint sound of a groan back to her ears, Aeris suddenly realized the full horror of what she had done.

"I've revived a monster."

The shock of her actions hit her like a rush of icy water and Aeris gasped, covering her hands with her mouth. As though in response, Sephiroth twitched, coughing hoarsely. The sound made Aeris freeze, and she was riveted in shock and horror as the once-powerful general slowly pushed himself up onto his hands and knees. Blood suddenly spurted from his leatherclad arms, spattering the ground around him with lurid red. His long hair, matted with blood, draped over his figure and stuck wetly to the wounds on his front.

"Ugh!" He grunted as his arms gave way and he collapsed, dropping onto his side with an almost painful thud. Groaning, he rolled onto his back, one hand pressed tightly over his stomach.

Aeris gasped in horror. Some sword wound had slashed neatly down the center of his chest and stomach, nearly bisecting him. A wave of nausea swept over her as she saw the raw mass of bleeding intestines that he vainly tried to cover—or keep in. His arms were hacked down to the bone, red flesh and hot blood steaming in the cold air. His expression was frighteningly vacant, with his mouth hanging slightly open and his eyes half-closed and unfocused. Maybe it was a good thing he was out of it, Aeris thought—had he been fully conscious, the pain would have crippled him. Despite her fear of the man, Aeris could not help but feel a powerful wave of pity sweep over her. Even to a lunatic, who could do such a thing?

She dropped to her knees, summoning her heritage again. As the second healing wind swept over Sephiroth, she watched as slowly, the wounds on his arms disappeared, leaving only pale, smooth scars to mark where they had been. The wound on his stomach seemed to shrivel, slowly covered up by the same white tissue. Aeris was so intent on watching the wounds close that she did not notice Sephiroth's eyes sharpen and roll over to look at her—at least, not at first.

Some sixth sense made her skin prickle and she turned to look at Sephiroth's face. A scream burst from her lips as she saw him regarding her, his green Mako eyes even and unreadable. As she scrambled back, a hand pressed over her frantic heart, a slight smile touched his lips.

"You." He whispered, blinking slowly. His voice was devoid of all strength, only barely audible in the still air. "Ce...tra."

Aeris nodded, her lips pressed together tightly. She clenched her hands into fists in an attempt to control her fear.

"What about it?" She asked challengingly, although her voice was weak and shaky.

The hand over his stomach, still bloody from his half healed injury, twitched. "Heal..." He whispered.

Aeris scowled. "I don't know what made me do it," She said, "But I'm not doing it again!"

"Thanks."

The single word stopped Aeris cold. She blinked a few times, unable to process what he had just said. Had Sephiroth, the great SOLDIER commander, the strongest swordsman in the world, really said...thanks?

She struggled to come up with a biting remark, but nothing readily surfaced. Still, she didn't want to give him a 'you're welcome', because what had he been welcome to? A fleeting moment of her bleeding heart nature, that was all. It wasn't like she had been really trying to save his life or anything. Aeris settled for hugging her knees to her chest and wrapping her arms around her shoulders. It was still very cold.

Sephiroth didn't seem too put off by her silence, but he sighed softly and closed his eyes. Aeris was suddenly seized by fear.

"Hey!" She shouted and scrambled forwards, hovering over him. "Don't go to sleep! I didn't heal you so you could die again!"

He opened his eyes and looked up at her. He was still smiling. Well, smirking was more like it. There was an irritating expression in his eyes that made her certain he was laughing at her inside, and the faintly sardonic tilt of his mouth confirmed that. Aeris was sure many women found his somewhat cocky smile attractive, but she wasn't one of them. Well...it was attractive, but she wouldn't melt over it. He had killed her, after all. She would never forgive him for that.

Aeris sat back on her heels and regarded him stonily. What was she going to do now? She had healed him, and in a twisted sort of way, that made him her responsibility. She very well couldn't leave him lying on the rock, alone and freezing. Good lord, he was wearing even less than she was! He had his pants and boots, and that was all. Even his omnipresent sword was nowhere to be seen.

Alone, weak, half-naked, and unarmed. It was hardly the condition she could leave somebody in. Maybe if Sephiroth had been able to stand on his own two feet and say something more than broken syllables, Aeris would have been able to walk away, but his pitiful state of weakness made something in her wrench. Her fists tightened. Damn her softhearted nature!

She huffed angrily and her breath swirled out in a massive misty cloud. Again Aeris became aware of how acutely cold it was. If she didn't get warmer, and soon, she would soon die. And so would Sephiroth.

"So I'm in charge of him now, is that it?" She thought bitterly. Sighing in exasperation, she called her Cetra powers a third time. His emerald green eyes flicked to the glowing ball of light in her hands, and she saw them light up as he recognized it as healing magic. Almost protectively Aeris held the healing wind away from him, watching his face. When his glance shifted from the magic ball to her, she addressed him in firm tones.

"I'm going to make a deal with you." She said, her voice almost as cold as the air around her. "I'll heal you; and in return, you don't kill me. Deal?"

"Oh, what makes you think he's going to keep that promise?" Something in her asked acidly.

"Deal." Sephiroth breathed. He smirked again. Was that expression engrained on his face? Aeris half thought so. But just because he had an infuriating smile didn't mean she'd withhold healing. With a sigh of exasperation, she released the healing wind and let it flow over Sephiroth's body. Under the soft streamers of light, the stomach wound shriveled to nothingness. Aeris tensed as Sephiroth twitched and then rolled onto his side, pushing himself shakily up. At last he managed to push himself into a sitting position. Even sitting, he was a good head taller than Aeris was, and Aeris couldn't help but feel a wash of fear. Physically, he was just intimidating.

"Thank you." He said, dipping his head politely. His voice was deep and mellow, seductive almost.

Aeris scowled. She would not be taken in by his honeyed tones. Instead she said, "Remember the deal."

He smirked and bowed to her a little mockingly. "Of course. I never renege on my promises."

"Bullshit!" Popped out of Aeris's mouth before she could stop herself.

Sephiroth was not bothered. "If that's the case, why bother to cut a deal with me in the first place?" He asked, his tone reasonable and a little cajoling. "My dear woman..."

"My name is Aeris." She said sharply, her green eyes narrowing. "And I'm not your 'dear' anything!"

His green eyes narrowed too, but only because he smiled in amusement. "Aeris." Sephiroth murmured thoughtfully, and then bowed to her a little mockingly. "And you already know who I am."

"Of course!" Aeris snapped, rising to her feet. "You're the one who killed me."

Sephiroth looked up at her, his face unreadable. Aeris glared down at him, daring him to defend his actions. In their silence, the cold wind gusted through.

"True." Sephiroth said. Then, in an almost cheerful voice, he added, "But you're alive again."

Aeris stared at him. "That..." She sputtered. "That's not the point!" The young Cetra threw her hands in the air, struggling between confusion and anger. "You killed me!"

"I did." He said, nodding. His tone of voice was insultingly conversational, as if he were talking about the weather instead of her murder. Aeris wanted to scream at him, but it was obvious that to Sephiroth, the end justified the means. She was alive again, and that was all. No real harm had been done in his eyes.

Aeris huffed angrily and folded her arms across her chest, half in anger and half to warm herself. The air was still bitingly cold.

Sephiroth put his hands against the ground and pushed, grunting as he levered himself onto his feet. He tottered unsteadily, as though he had never walked before, and Aeris watched in disbelief as slowly, undeniably, he began to tip over backwards. Sephiroth's eyes widened in panic and he windmilled his arms, trying to regain his balance. It was an almost comical picture. Aeris would have laughed, but he was going to tip right over the edge of the cliff.

"Oh no!" Aeris gasped and lunged forward, grabbing a thick lock of his long silver hair. He yelped—actually yelped—in pain as she yanked back, abruptly reversing his fall. Sephiroth pitched forward and Aeris shrieked as he collapsed on top of her, knocking her to the ground. She wiggled out, or tried to. He was heavy. "Get off me!" She snapped.

"Sorry," Sephiroth apologized, looking sorry. Despite his expression, Aeris darkly wondered if he would have stayed where he was if she hadn't ordered him to move. In any case, he rolled off and got to his feet a second time. Aeris watched him warily in case he tipped over again, but this time he seemed steady enough, although there was an unhealthy shaking in his limbs. He was still very weak.

He tilted his head upwards and looked around, his Mako eyes searching. Aeris looked at him for a moment before asking, "Do you know the way out?"

"Yes." He replied. He looked at her, his eyebrows quirking in amusement, and asked, "Do you want me to show you?"

Aeris's cheeks flushed with the warmth of anger. She didn't mind asking for help, but asking it from an enemy galled her, particularly when that enemy knew she had no other option. Would he make her beg for his help? Aeris looked away, scowling. "Just point me in the right direction." She muttered.

"Which one?" he asked. "There are many tunnels in these caves, but only one exit."

Aeris huffed in exasperation. She would have sworn he was trying to make things difficult, but she had the smacking feeling that it was the truth. "So I'm supposed to follow you, is that it?" She asked bitterly, looking up at him.

Sephiroth nodded once, and it was a graceful motion that sent his white-silver hair rippling like a sheet of satin. The bloody mats in it rather ruined the effect, though. "Exactly. It'd work out better in the long run if you did." He said.

Aeris looked at him suspiciously. "What do you mean?"

Sephiroth gestured at himself with one large, fine-boned hand. It could have been the hand of an artist or a musician, Aeris thought—why had he turned it to killing? "I can deal with any of the monsters we meet, but if I get injured, I wouldn't have a way to heal myself."

Aeris interrupted. "I thoughts SOLDIERS had, like, super-fast healing powers."

For a moment he seemed to hesitate—and then Sephiroth shook his head. "An urban legend." He said dismissively. "Our bodies are tougher and harder to injure, but our healing rate is only about three as fast as a normal human's. It's not enough to make a real difference in a life or death situation."

Aeris mulled over his information. If what he said were true, it would explain why he had been bleeding out so badly only a few minutes before. Aeris wondered what else about SOLDIERS was a myth.

"If you come along and heal me," he said, continuing—Aeris pulled out of her thoughts—"then I'll survive, and you also can make it safely to the exit. From there, you can run off and rejoin your friends."

Aeris's heart soared. To see the others again—to see Cloud! It hit her then how good it was to be alive. She looked at Sephiroth, frowning.

"What will you do?" She asked. "After we get to the exit?"

Sephiroth smiled. "That's for me to know." He said evenly.

Aeris scowled. No doubt that would be all she was going to get on the subject. Still, she had to know... "You're not going to try and bring down Meteor again, are you?"

Sephiroth threw his head back and laughed, the sound nearly making Aeris jump out of her skin. It was not a frightening or maniacal sound—rather, it was pleasing to the ear, like the tolling of deep-toned bells. Sephiroth looked at her, amused.

"You must think I'm stupid." He chuckled in humored tones, shaking his head. "After what happened last time, I'm not eager to repeat my...endeavor. Besides," Sephiroth said, shrugging, "I don't have anything to gain from it."

He didn't have anything to gain from it? Hadn't he wanted to become God, or something like that? Aeris was confused. There was more to his story than he was telling, but she couldn't put her finger on it. She would, though. She had to find out what he was up to.

"And stop him if he's going to do something crazy again..."

Sephiroth was looking at her with slightly narrowed eyes and Aeris suddenly felt like a bird under a cat's paw. "What?" She demanded a little hotly.

"Are you ready to go?" He asked.

Aeris felt a momentary flare of anger. He had just assumed she was coming along with him! She felt insulted—that he had read her so well. But then again, what choice did she really have? It wasn't like she could handle the monsters in the crater alone...

"Yeah," she said, and off they went.

Author's note:

Ta daa! Chapter one done. Now, some of you may be thinking, "Oh my god! Aeris is so bitchy!" but remember—in the game, she never comes across as the oh-so-sweet, Belldandy-like persona that everyone depicts her to be. She's generous, yes, and nice; but it takes a rare type of woman to squeeze a guy into sexy clothing and have him hit on other men. Just because she wears pink does not mean she's an archetypal maiden. Aeris has color, damn it, and humanity. Plus, she's only 22—that's barely out of childhood, in my eyes. If she comes across as mean, GOOD! Anybody in her situation would be. However, she won't be such a witch throughout the entire story, so don't get too crazy out there...

Now, others of you may be thinking, "What the $&? Sephiroth's a wimp!" To an extent, that's true. Can you imagine the man just tipping over? But there's a reason for his weakness, which will be revealed later. As for his character; I never saw him as the cool, haughty aristocrat or the angst-ridden, outwardly seeming tough man. I write him as I saw him in the game, pre-madness; cool, calm, and ultimately calculating. In my opinion he likes to stand about twenty feet back from every situation so he can look at it with an objective eye; it makes things easier on him. Don't worry, though—there will be some Sephy-angst at some point in time. Just not soon.

So, with that all said...bye!