An Unlikely Partnership

This is an FFVII fanfic by kleptomaniac0. The characters are not mine and never were. Otherwise the Proud Clod wouldn't be such a $& to defeat.

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As Sephiroth and Aeris walked on, more and more monsters came out to attack them. Aeris really appreciated Sephiroth's skill then; not only was he a master swordsman, but he apparently had a knowledge of martial arts that would have given Tifa a run for her money, and his greatly enhanced strength was enough to make any monster pause. Still, he wasn't invincible. After a violent tussle with a dark dragon that eventually ended with the dragon beating a retreat, Aeris stepped forward and looked at the long gash on Sephiroth's arm, which bled freely from shoulder to wrist. Sephiroth was glaring at the retreating figure of the dragon, apparently oblivious to his injury.

"Damn it," he growled softly.

"Leave it be," Aeris said, concentrating on her materia. "You chased it off; no need to kill it."

"It might have had a weapon with it!" He snapped, and suddenly noticed what she was doing. "You're healing me?"

"Well, you could bleed to death otherwise," she said, and released the Cure3 spell she had built up between her hands. She frowned as the sparks veered away from his arm. "What the...?" She tried again, and her frown deepened as the magic refused to heal him. "Well, that's crap!" Aeris huffed, drawing on her Cetra powers. Those, at least, still worked, and Sephiroth watched keenly as her magic healed him from the inside out, knitting muscle and sinew before skin rather than carelessly sticking everything together.

"I wonder why the magic didn't work..." Aeris said aloud, perplexed.

"Some reason," Sephiroth said vaguely. Changing the subject, he asked, "How are you? Tired?"

"Me? No," she said, shaking her head. "You?"

"Not at all," he said. "Let's get going. I don't like staying where there are monsters around."

But apparently, no matter where they moved, there were monsters. As they darted in, found Sephiroth too powerful, and leapt back, Aeris noted with concern that her silver-haired companion was visibly beginning to tire.

"Why don't we take a rest?" She suggested as he leaned forward, his hands on his knees. "You look—" She stopped, aware of his pride, and revised her sentence. "I mean, I'm feeling really tired."

Sephiroth shot her a look of annoyance, but it was muted by the sweaty strands of hair sticking to his face and chest. "Alright," he growled, throwing himself onto the ground. "Ten minutes."

Aeris sat cautiously a small ways away from him. Sephiroth sure seemed bitchy right now. What had happened to his cool demeanor? As Aeris watched, Sephiroth picked up a nearby rock and closed his fist around it, his knuckles turning white with the strain. Her eyebrows shot up in surprise as the rock fractured, making an audible crack in the still air. Sephiroth stared at the rock, a look of growing horror on his face, and hurled the stone away with a snarl of frustration. Aeris heard it hit something and clatter to the floor in pieces.

"What's wrong?" Aeris asked, finally unable to resist.

Sephiroth clasped his hands together, pressing his knuckles against his lips. He seemed angry, brooding—and a little scared. "I'm weaker than I should be," he said, not looking at her. "I should have been able to crumble that."

Aeris frowned. "You're...weaker? But why?"

He laughed bitterly. "It's the Curse of the Planet."

"Curse?" Aeris repeated, her frown deepening.

Sephiroth looked at her. "Don't you wonder why I'm alive?"

"Well..." Aeris said doubtfully. "It's always possible you could have survived..."

Sephiroth shook his head firmly. "Cloud destroyed me in body and soul," he said tightly. "I'm only alive now because the Planet wants me to be."

Aeris jerked in shock. "Why?"

"To torture me," Sephiroth said with a certain relish.

"That's not possible!" Aeris exclaimed. "The Planet's not petty like that!"

"So says the Planet's chosen!" Sephiroth spat, his eyes becoming very bright. "Your precious Planet is punishing me for siding with Jenova by taking away every power she gave me and making me immune to its powers. That was why the Cure3 didn't work."

"But wait!" Aeris cried. "My powers..."

"Every Cetra is a microcosm of the Planet," Sephiroth said. "You no less so because of your mixed heritage. Every time you heal me, you temporarily supersede the Planet's curse."

"So..." Aeris choked, her mind racing. "You..."

"I'll wake up every morning," he said in a voice of forced calm, "disemboweled, bleeding, and unable to heal myself until the end of my natural lifespan, upon which I will not rejoin the Lifestream; I'll stay here forever, a crying ghost. I don't need to eat and I don't need to sleep; those things would heal me, so of course they are denied."

"That's horrible!" Aeris exclaimed. Though she was overjoyed to be alive again, the idea of never being able to go back to the Lifestream's comforting warmth was too terrible to comprehend. As for a lifetime for eternal suffering...

"Punished by circumstance and then punished for my punishment," Sephiroth muttered, half to himself and half to her. "I've been fucked since birth."

Aeris shook her head, both to banish his statement and her own shock at his fate. "Don't say that!" She said strongly. "I'm sure there's a way to lift the Curse."

Sephiroth snorted. "Knowing the Planet, the cure's not anything I can do myself..." Glancing at her, he said, "And you have no reason to help me. I killed you, remember? What's to say I won't do the same once the Curse is lifted?"

That stopped Aeris cold. In truth, Sephiroth's curse was all that was keeping her alive right now. No doubt Sephiroth would make better time through the Crater alone, and if he were healthy, he could hurt her any way he liked...

Sephiroth looked away, his eyes a dark, stormy green. "Be glad I'm incapacitated," he said softly. "Be very, very glad."

But she couldn't be, not really. Aeris was disturbed. Always she had thought of the Planet as a nurturing presence, a warm one that suffered silently despite all the pain its children inflicted on it. The idea of it being able to be petty disturbed her.

"Yes, he sided with Jenova, but he was still born as one of the Planet's children... How could it do this to him?"

Sephiroth sighed gustily and got to his feet, not looking at her. "Let's go," he said shortly. "We've wasted enough time."

Aeris pushed herself to her feet, unable to look at him. For no good reason, she felt ashamed. "I'm sorry," she said, and instantly regretted it as Sephiroth turned around and glared at her.

"I'm not so low," he growled. "That I need your pity."

His bad attitude grated on her nerves. Aeris put her hands on her hips and snapped, "Well, excuse me! You got it anyway. Or what do you think I keep healing you for?"

Wrong answer. Aeris realized this as Sephiroth's eyes, just as green as hers but infinitely alien, flashed with burning light. She tensed in preparation for a blow, but one never came. Sephiroth just glared at her, his eyes practically dripping venom.

"Mutual gain," he grated out. "I guide and protect you, and you keep me from dying. Remember?"

"I remember," Aeris snapped back, flushing. "I just wish you weren't such an ass all the time!"

"And I wish you weren't a princess, but we can't have everything we want, can we?"

"This is exactly what I'm talking about!" Aeris yelled, pointing at him. "You never stop insulting me or annoying me—"

"And you think I like this arrangement?" Sephiroth roared, stunning her into silence. "I was the most powerful person on the Planet! Even before the Jenova fiasco, no one could command me! And now I'm at the mercy of my own fucked-up body, my goddamn genes, and a little pink flower girl who's never suffered a day in her life!"

Aeris later recalled hearing something distinctly snap. "Never suffered?" She repeated, taking a step toward him. "Never suffered? You bastard!" She swung at him with the Princess Guard, her rage increasing when he dodged. "My mother died right in front of me! How's that for suffering?" She swiped again, clipping his cheek with one of the Princess Guard's wings. "A labrat for seven years!" Swipe. Duck. "And let's not forget hearing the screams of the Planet every day until I felt like my ears would bleed!"

Leaping into the air, Aeris turned the Princess Guard knifelike and brought it down on Sephiroth's head in an impressive imitation of Cloud's Braver Limit Break. The jarring impact sent waves of pain up her arms, but Aeris didn't care. As Sephiroth reeled, cursing, she landed and swung at him again, catching him in the side of the head. He staggered and she screamed, "I didn't suffer the same as you, but don't ever say that I never hurt a day in my life! And unlike you, I didn't go running to the first voice in my head!"

"So what prompted you to summon Holy?" Sephiroth demanded furiously, no less frightening for clutching his head in his hands. "What made you decide to follow AVALANCHE? You were only following the Planet's will!" Following her example and stabbing his finger into her breastbone (it did not occur to either of them at the time that he could have put his finger through her breastbone), he snarled, "The only thing that separates you and me is circumstance. In my shoes, you would have gone to help the only one who ever cared about you as a person, not a tool."

"Jenova doesn't care about you!" Aeris cried, staring at him in disbelief. "Jenova's a devouring alien who eats planets! She tried to make you her Angel of Death, and—"

"I KNOW!" Sephiroth bellowed, and the sheer number of decibels he was blasting at her made Aeris stagger back a pace. His eyes were shining brightly, flickering like strobes around his pupils and though Aeris was sure they weren't reflective of his mental state, she couldn't help but edge back a little as he took a couple of deep breaths, his rock-crushing hands flexing as if he wanted to close them around her throat. As many people did before they died, Aeris frantically reviewed her last actions.

"I shouldn't have said Jenova didn't care... I mean, he probably knows that by now. I didn't need to throw his stupidity in his face. Why did I do that? How come he makes me so angry so fast?"

"Enough of this," Sephiroth said suddenly, making her jump. "Are you ready to go?"

"That's just spooky, how he turns his temper on and off," Aeris thought with a little shudder. A dull ache was building in her breastbone where he'd poked—and stabbed—her.

"I said," he repeated in a voice of mock patience. "Are you ready to go? Because there's still a very long way to go until we're free of each other's company."

Aeris blinked, and her eyes narrowed into a glare. Assholish Sephiroth; this she could deal with. "Lead the way," she grated.

Wordlessly Sephiroth whipped around in a furl of silver hair that caught Aeris full in the face and she spat out strands of mercury white as she stalked after him.

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Author's note:

More screaming. Fun. But it seems a tad unnatural to me and I don't know why... Suggestions?

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