Chapter 51: Endings
Sephiroth adjusted the collar of the button-up shirt Aerith had picked out for him. While he liked dark red, he didn't feel it fitting on him. Though, he mused, he would have been just as uncomfortable in any other garment of clothing he owned. He was, after all, surrounded by people he had once fought tooth and nail against.
The events that took place in the hospital room when Sephiroth had broken down at Aerith's bedside had shaken her friends to a point where, while Sephiroth was sure a great many of them still harbored a least a little hate toward him, they would at least tolerate his company. This proved truthful as Sephiroth sat, uncomfortably it is to be added, in the midst of her friends, sipping champagne and laughing at jokes that were shared.
She was the center of attention that night, and Sephiroth knew that was how it should have been, at least for the occasion. Everyone had gathered for food and friendship, celebrating Aerith's return not only to health, but to them.
All of her friends stood around her, all offering a warm hand on her shoulder at some point of the night. She glowed with appreciation and happiness.
Sephiroth stood partially in the shadows of the house, against a corner piece of the kitchen counter-top, nursing his drink and trying his best to stay out of everyone's way. He'd had his fun with Aerith that afternoon, making love well into the hours of dusk. It was time for her friends to enjoy her company, and Sephiroth, though he felt slightly possessive of his little flower girl, would have to learn to share.
Earlier in the night, after most of the guests of the night had arrived, Sephiroth was distracted by a knock at the door. Not wanting whoever was at the door to disturb the festivities, he opened the door himself and bade the figure inside.
The woman Sephiroth hadn't recognized. He thought, at first, she was someone from the village who had come for a visit of some sort. She was short, her curly hair pressed up into a bun at the bottom of her neck.
"May I help you?" Sephiroth tried his best to smile down politely at the woman, though he was unsure as to why he suddenly felt he knew her.
She looked up at him, cocked her head to one side, and smiled. "I'm here to visit my daughter."
Sephiroth instantly knew where he knew the woman's face from. When he and Aerith had stopped briefly in Midgar, they had stayed a few nights at the house in the slums. The woman's face was from the photographs Aerith had plastered to the wall of her bedroom.
It was her adoptive mother.
A started cry sounded from across the room. "Mommy!"
Aerith's bare feet pounded across the wooden floor of the cottage as she ran into the embrace of her mother.
A sight so warm had never before presented itself in front of Sephiroth.
He looked on as the two women sank to the floor in one another's arms, weeping tears of happiness.
That had been nearly an hour ago.
The tears had long since subsided, but deep feelings lingered within Sephiroth. He had taken so much from the flower girl. It was a miracle she even looked at him twice.
He took another drink from his glass, the ice at the bottom shifting.
Vincent was at his side when Sephiroth turned to refill his drink.
"Quite the party you've got going."
It was strange, speaking again. That which Sephiroth had lacked for months had been given back to him when he realized he had to move on. It was odd, not using his notebook to communicate any longer.
Vincent took a sip of his own drink. "I talked to Yuffie," he offered, a hint of uncertainty under his voice.
As if she had heard her name, the young ninja looked up and exchanged a small, private smile with the gunman. She winked, then turned her head back to the conversation she was having with Tifa.
Sephiroth contemplated the notion. He assured himself that with the wink Yuffie had offered Vincent, talking wasn't the only thing that had happened.
Vincent seemed calm. Well, calmer than usual. Perhaps he had found peace.
A young child peeked her head around the corner of the island in the kitchen. Her large brown eyes looked up tentatively at Vincent, then to Sephiroth. Her hair was dark, and her skin pale. Sephiroth knew her to be Marlene, Barret's daughter. "Is there any more melon left? Papa ate what was left on the table."
Vincent raised an eyebrow, then turned to Sephiroth as if eager to gage his reaction.
Mustering up as kind a smile he was able to, Sephiroth walked past the island counter and pulled the fridge door open. He had never been good with children, but he was at least going to try for the little one. Pulling a plastic container free of the lid, Sephiroth crouched down and offered the bowl to Marlene.
Marlene, in her innocence, cocked her head and gazed up at the large man who was offering her a bowl of fruit. "Papa says you're a bad man, that you hurt Aerith and did lots of bad things."
The statement caught Sephiroth by surprise. He hesitated before he answered.
"I did some bad things, yes, but I'm changed now."
Marlene blinked a few times, as if processing Sephiroth's words. "Papa says that you're mean, but if Aerith likes you then you can't be all that bad."
Sephiroth chuckled as he offered the bowl again to the child. She eagerly took a few pieces of the sliced melon and placed them on a paper plate. "Everyone makes mistakes. Mine were just bigger than anyone else's." There would be little use of sugar-coating his words.
She seemed to contemplate his statement for a moment before she smiled up at him. "Nobody's perfect."
"You're absolutely right. No one is perfect. But we need to try the best we can."
Again, Marlene tilted her head up at the general. She looked, too, toward Vincent, curious. "Will you come sit with me in the living room? I have no one else to talk to."
Sephiroth paused, unsure.
Apparently sensing his unease, Marlene grabbed at his hand and tugged. "Bring the melon; we can all have some."
He followed her, lead by the the tiny grip she had on his hand, into the living room. Several heads looked up when the two of them squeezed their way past a few sets of legs and onto an unoccupied sofa. Marlene sat first, patting the cushion next to her and indicating a wish for Sephiroth to sit. Unsure of what else to do, Sephiroth merely sat next to the child and meekly accepted a slice of melon when she offered it.
Someone in the room cleared their throat, and Sephiroth became painfully aware that all of Aerith's friends were staring at him. He swallowed, uncomfortable.
"Will you tell me about all the places you've been to? I've only ever been to Kalm and Midgar, at least that I can remember. This is my first trip over the ocean."
Sephiroth took a deep breath. "I've been all over the world."
Marlene curled her toes, excited that a grownup was taking interest in her and was willing to answer her endless string of questions. She offered him another slice of melon off her plate. "Have you ever been to Costa del Sol? My travel book says it's the best place in the world to have a vacation!"
Red chuckled from across the room. "It's very hot there. My nose was dry for days. That's all I remember."
The inhabitants of the room laughed and a great deal of the tension was lost.
"The world is a big place, and I've been to nearly every corner of it. But nothing really compares to the feeling you get when you come home. Where would you like to hear about first?"
With this, ladies and gentlemen, I bid you farewell. I hope you enjoyed reading my story – it only took me three years to finish it, haha. If you have a question or a comment that you'd like to send to me directly, feel free to drop me a line at mihoyonagi at yahoo dot com. Be on the lookout for the companion fic to Unspoken, Reason to Live, featuring Yuffie and Vincent from the same fic-universe.
Until we meet again!