A/N: So I've had a million ideas for Sephiroth and Aeris floating through my head, but I went back and played FFVII, Crisis Core, and even read the books (where the ideas came from—Sephiroth was supposed to be her lover originally, not Zach!). I wanted to make sure I knew his character the way we see it now as opposed to how it was after FFVII. I do, and I love him even more in Crisis Core.
I plan to churn a few of these out in the next months, kind of as side projects, and I hope everyone enjoys them. I know this pairing can be hard to find on here. And there is some AU in here, obviously. You've been warned.
Enjoy! R & R if you liked or have any constructive criticism.
"How did you get silver hair, Sephiroth?" she asked, twirling a piece of it around her pink-tipped finger.
"I'm not sure. My parents, most likely. I have never seen photographs of them, so I cannot be sure that it did not come from an ancestor further back, but…" he gave her a look, his cerulean eyes soft and shining, "I have always envisioned my father as tall and handsome, with the same hair. Ridiculous, I know, but-"
"Not ridiculous. Everyone wants parents, Seph. Even me."
It was the first thing she had noticed about Cloud when they met—his eyes. She had seen them before. His hair was a quick second, so light and soft and flowing with the breeze, just like her memories suggested his had once.
She guessed early on that he had taken her observation of him, her notice of his physical features, as a crush. She knew he was falling in love with her even though she tried to make it obvious she couldn't feel the same for him. But it never changed his actions, so she just let him be. She couldn't stop staring at the reminders before her—reminders that he had once existed and touched and been touched—and she couldn't help but want to hold onto whatever tactile representations of the man she once loved she could find.
So she made mistakes.
She was still human.
But she had enjoyed it, too, something that hurt not only her but the mental version of the man she locked away deep in her soul. He would never let loose with her, never just be and enjoy life. So when Cloud had agreed to do so, when Zach had agreed to do so, she had taken their invitations and enjoyed herself with the ones that would. Her mind could then build the little scenarios, changing them and letting them morph into fake, vague memories of the things she had wanted to experience with him that he had never allowed.
"Have you ever been to the rides, Sephiroth?"
"No," he said, his amusement plain. There was a tiny smile on his thin, aristocratic face, and she fought the urge to jump up and kiss him in the middle of the road. He wouldn't like it, she knew.
"Why don't we go? Oh, we could have so much fun!" She skipped around him in a little circle, her eyes lit up in joy. "Just you and me, the rides, the races, maybe even the beach before we come home…"
"Tseng would kill me."
"Oh, who cares about what he thinks?"
"You should," he said, and she could see a furrow forming on his forehead. He was trying to keep her out of Tseng's line of fire, but she had no idea why.
And things had changed. She had a group of people to lean on, now, a group of people to make memories with, but it wasn't the same. They weren't him, as much as she cared for them.
She was smart enough to know that she couldn't take them with her, couldn't drag them into what she was doing—she had to protect them. And she wanted to be able to actually speak to him one last time. Just one more conversation before the end she knew was coming. She had told him it would be this way. He hadn't listened when she warned him—completely wrote off everything he had been told about Ancients and her and how much they could possibly know. He didn't care, most likely. He had always had his own thoughts about destiny and fate.
But she had learned early on to heed the warnings of her mind.
So when she felt the darkness creeping in, when she felt him getting closer, knew what she had to do, she did it. He wasn't himself anymore, hadn't been for a long time. There was only one thing that could defeat the parasite she had felt—it was sickly, grotesque, attached to their dying planet and feeding off the life force of their mother—and she had to retrieve it herself for them to use.
So she left, alone, and she waited in the city long forgotten, the city haunted by broken dreams.
"He's a nice guy, you know."
"I know," he said darkly, and she felt a tremor run down her spine. "I've been sending him to you. Has he been protecting you?"
"Of course he has," she replied quickly, her mind spinning as she tried to think up another topic. She didn't want him focusing on Zach, on what she might have said or he might have said or any conclusions he might draw about their behavior.
"Good." His hand came up to brush against her hair, so soft, and she felt herself melt at his touch. But she couldn't, he had forbidden it, and her lips twitched as she repressed her words. "Let him protect you, Aeris. I cannot."
"Because, I cannot."
It was actually day when he finally appeared, even though it was close to night already. His hair shone in the sun, sparkling and dancing in the rays of light. Her muscles quivered with the remembered sensation—cool, silver, soft strands—but she just sighed, leaning back against the railing.
And God if his hair wasn't as flawless as the day she first touched it.
He leaned against the wall opposite her, all black and tarnished silver next to the gleaming stone. God, how she wanted to just touch him, just one more time. One more slide of her fingertips against warm skin.
But it wasn't meant to be that way.
"I warned you, Aeris. Why did you not listen?"
"Who knows?" she said, shrugging her shoulders. There was a flicker of amusement before his face was stone, again, and it pulled such emotion in to her chest her heart ached.
"Why did you never listen to me?"
She felt herself give him a slow, soft smile, his exasperation sending memories flitting about in her mind.
"Stop, you foolish woman. You should have run. You should have stayed with Cloud." His brows furrowed together and she felt the tension in the air rise. "Foolish child."
"I am not a child anymore, Sephiroth. I'm not that little girl that you have to run and rescue."
"You go to your grave like one. No struggle. Why did you not have the sense to run as far away from me as possible?"
If he had only let her say earlier...
She saw him jerk, felt the triumph of getting a reaction out of the shell of the man she once followed with her heart attached to his back by ethereal strings. A reaction. A definite reaction beyond his fate, his destiny, his quest driven by the parasite she swore her friends would defeat.
She fingered the white materia in her hand—his eyes were glued on it, now, apprehension and something like hope shining in his eyes, warring for his heart—and she saw the man she had once loved. The man that had played with her, taken her for ice cream late at night and watched as she picked flowers in the fields near her childhood home. Her smile turned brittle as she swallowed down the grief she felt, the sympathy for the betrayed, beaten man in front of her. He had been so good, once. Burned so bright.
The strings were still there. They were stretched, pulled taut by the time and distance between Sephiroth himself and the impostor in front of her, strings that had to travel deep inside his soul to find the man he had been.
She could no more leave him, turn from him, than she could turn from her own heart.
"Because, I cannot."