Valhalla Chapter 6
By Chocobo Goddess
Though the large hall was filled with hungry fighters, drinking and talking and laughing, Ellie sat alone at her table. She picked at her food and waited for Sephiroth to join her.
Of course hes not coming. You knew it. Hes a jerk, but he DID apologize for being mean. Herc says to give him time Huh, time. The one thing I have in plenty.
A hush fell over the room as Sephiroth strode in, lost in thought. He barely looked up as he moved, almost instinctively walking around tables and avoiding the other fighters as they ate. Many were surprised to see him here. Sephiroth normally took his meals alone, in his room. Or perhaps he never ate; there were those who believed he simply did not need food.
She looked up at him. So, the Great Sephiroth just saunters in whenever he feels like it.
He made his way over to her and took a seat, still saying nothing. He was preoccupied. Cloud had given him quite a bit to think about. He stared down at the empty plate before him.
"So you actually decided to come?" she asked peevishly. Should I be flattered that he deigned to grace me with his presence?
"Mm?" He glanced up at her, brows knit. "Oh, yes. Sorry I'm late." Silence again.
Sorry? Well, thats a new one. "You look like you worked out."
"Yes." He seemed ill at ease. The room noise regained its former level of raucous laughter and male voices comparing battle stories.
"With any one?" Oh, quit fishing for him to say something. You are sounding stupid. She began to drum the table with her free hand.
"I...had a match. With Cloud Strife." He looked up at her again. "I knew him once."
"You two talked?" She arched her eyebrow. Cloud Strife never spoke, never paid anyone any attention. He was aptly named, for his head always seemed to be lost in the clouds. But he still fought when asked, and he would win. Shed patched up plenty of overconfident warriors after theyd gone a few rounds with him. "Does he even speak?"
"Yes," he replied, but did not elaborate.
"Oh." The awkward silence descended again.
Ellie was trying to think of something else to say when a young man ran up to them. Paying her companion no heed, he said breathlessly, "Miss Healer? Could you come take a look at my friend? He almost choked on his food. He says hes okay, but "
"No, its all right. Hes the one at the bar? Excuse me," She said, glancing at Sephiroth. "Not that youll notice Ive gone," she muttered under her breath as she walked away.
He nodded absently, still deep in thought. If he had been standing beside himself, hed realize she was completely correct. It barely registered that shed left the table.
Why would Strife care about second chances? Why would he want me to even think about it? I ruined his life. I nearly destroyed the Planet. Not that it matters the Planet died anyway. All my work to conquer it, all the work of those who stopped me, was for naught.
It made sense, then, all at once.
That's what he means. There is no past, there is nothing but our own memories. This place is all that exists for us now. Valhalla, he thought, lips twisting into a rueful smirk, Where the heroes battle day after day until the end of the world. We are all...dead, in some way, here. He looked down at his long-fingered hands, still clad in black leather gloves. Some of us died in truth, like me. He drew his gaze around the room. Some of us merely died in our minds...like Shadow, or Strife, when our worlds died.
His eyes met Angus's mischievous visage, and he groaned inwardly when the burly redhead weaved his way over to sit down by him. Gods and Planet both. Anyone but him.
"What arrrrre ye doin here, Sheph? Trying to get a bit of a lay in wit the healer?" Angus guffawed with a complete lack of tact. His words slurred a bit. One could wonder how much, exactly, hed had to drink.
Sephiroth tried to ignore the man. But how did one ignore a six-foot-tall, three-foot-across Scotsman with fire-red hair and a booming, ale-strengthened voice? "What is that supposed to mean?"
"Ye know, have some fun wit the lass?" Angus winked, grinning sloppily. "Orif ye dont eat, do ye not fuck either?"
Sephiroth's face was a mask of marble. "That is none of your business." He would not kill the man. He would not.
"Ah-ahh, thats what they all say when they's getting lucky! I mean really, ye had me worried. I was sure ye werna human fer a while!"
Green eyes snapped with cold fire. "I am not human. Thank you for reminding me." The only other outward sign of his anger was the absolute stillness of his body. But if he fought with this man, here, then Ellie would have to deal with the outcome. She would give herself over for the life of this odious man, because Sephiroth WOULD bring him close to death. No one had yet died, here. Would Angus be the first?
"Whooo, boy, no need ta get upset, jes a friendly lil chat. Yere shure ta get in good wit her!" Angus roared with laughter, slapping the table. "Shes so stern in th day, she MUS be a wildcat."
"Must I, now?" Ellies furious voice came from behind them both.
"I KNEW you were a jerk, Sephiroth, but I had no idea you would be THIS low!" She threw some munny on the table and glared at him before turning away.
"Wait" He had no idea how to deal with something like this.
She whirled on him, poking a finger into his chest. "Gods, what do you think? That the whole damned universe owes you something?"
"Well you sure as Hel act like it."
He'd never had to explain himself before, and he wasn't going to get a chance to now, it seemed. "If you just"
"I was stupid to even try to talk to a pompous ass like you!" She stormed away, bumping roughly into Hercules. She hurried onward, mumbling a hasty, "S-sorry Herc," as she went.
The hero watched her leave, confusion writ across his pleasant face. Ellie, of all people, was crying? His eyes lit upon Sephiroth, who looked as if hed swallowed a nail, and suddenly the reason for her tears became clear.
Sephiroths face burned, his fists clenched as he watched her go. Movement from Angus behind him brought him back to himself, and his anger found its target. He stood so fast that his chair clattered backward. One hand shot out and caught the Scotsman by the throat.
The room fell silent again
Angus was too inebriated to react. Clutching at the hand that was squeezing the air from his throat, he choked, "Whas yer problem?"
"SEPH!" Hercules rushed up to the men, trying to come between them. "Put him down, he's just drunk!"
"It doesn't excuse his behavior." The silver-haired man spoke evenly. Angus's face was slowly turning purple.
Hercules stepped in closer, forcing Sephiroth to look at him. "And it won't excuse yours. Let him go. You can fight with him another time."
Sephiroth glared at him, but released Angus abruptly. As the Scotsman fell gasping to the table, he spat, "When you're sober, I will challenge YOU." A low murmur ran through the room. Sephiroth had NEVER challenged anyone.
Angus coughed loudly, looking more than a little green.
Disgusted, Hercules pointed at him. To Anguss friends, he ordered, "Get him out of here. NOW." They rushed to obey him; no one wanted to face both Sephiroth AND Hercules. The other fighters were silent and still, hoping to remain unnoticed. Hercules wasnt fooled. "And all the rest of you, get out of here or get back to your business. Go!"
The fifty or so fighters present, all battle-scarred veterans and the best from their respective worlds, suddenly had somewhere else to be. Hercules RARELY got angry, but when he did...well, no one wanted to be in his way. Once the room had emptied, servants included, Hercules turned back to the still-fuming Sephiroth. "What the heck happened? Fighting with the others, thats not like you."
He received a groan in reply as the former General slumped into a chair. Hercules grew concerned.
"Seph? Hey, are you wounded?" He sat on the edge of the table, peering down at the other man.
"No, why?" I blew it. Completely, utterly blew it. I knew I would. I should just stick to solitude; at least it's familiar.
"I saw you and Cloud in the arena. That was " he searched for a word to describe it, "That was the most awesome thing I have ever seen! Our fight wasnt even that spectacular. The two of you were really going at it. And then you were talking to Ellie "
"Don't remind me." Sephiroth scowled.
"So I thought Cloud " Realization dawned. "Zeus, you werent hurt at all! You were honestly trying to talk to the woman, weren't you?"
Ellie. How did I even think I'd have any kind of chance? "Yes, Hercules. I was TRYING to talk to her. It was a stupid mistake, one that I'm certain to never make again." His voice was low and bitter.
"Whoa now, wait up. Why do you say that? Shes mad, sure, but women get that way. Just go and tell her youre sorry."
Sephiroth looked up wearily. "She thinks I was bragging about getting her into bed. That's why I wanted to kill Angus. After that, you think shed listen to me now?"
"Well, you werent bragging, now, were you?"
"Of course not!" He stood and began to pace. "Hel, even when I was an enlisted man, I never said things like that."
Hercules almost laughed, his smile returning. "Then go tell her so. I mean, seriously, shell be able to tell whether you are lying or not."
"Are you and Strife in on some joke or something?" Sephiroth asked, agitated. "Both of you keep telling me to go talk to her. Well, I did, and all Ive accomplished so far is to make her hate me. She doesn't want to talk to me."
"Strife talks?" Herc shook his head abruptly. "Thats not important. Ellie doesnt hate you. Otherwise, why would she cry if what you thought didnt matter to her?"
"Yes, we talked. He was once my student." Sephiroth stopped pacing. Ellie was crying? "She was crying?"
Herc's smile faltered. He had a soft spot for crying women. "So go talk to her! You can take on Cloud Strife like that, but you cant tell a woman youre sorry? Come ON, Seph."
"But I didn't do anything to be sorry about! And I'm still getting blamed for it!" Dealing with human emotions was frustrating! "Why cant everyone just behave in a rational manner? It would make so many things easier."
"And boring." Herc propped his chin on his hand.
"If you could predict the world, then what would the point of it be?" His blue eyes were calm, but serious. "I mean, really. If we knew everything already, then what the heck is the point?" He sighed. "If you care about her crying they maybe you should fix it. Even the healers need healing."
Sephiroth snorted. "This is ridiculous. I was almost a god."
"Yeah, so what? So was I." Herc gave one of his patented Hero Grins and stood.
Sephiroth shook his head. "I should not have to worry about such petty things." But Ellie's words came back to him, even as he said that. It doesn't matter who you were, just who you are now... He sighed. "Fine. I will go and try to talk to her, but she won't want to hear it."
"You'd be surprised." Herc made as if to go, then turned around. "Seph?"
"You ARE upset that shes crying?" There was an unusual slant to the question, as if he wondered whether he was imagining things.
Defeated, Sephiroth sighed and buried his face in his hands, admitting, "Yes."
Herc put his hand on the other man's shoulder and bent down. "You know," he whispered in the silver-haired man's ear, "Regret is something that only a human can feel." With that, he gave Sephiroths one last pat and walked out the door.
Sephiroth stared after his...friend, he realized with a start.
Then he, too, stood and left the empty room to search for Ellie.
The healer ran past the awards and medals in the gallery, not really seeing them. She didnt bother to stop her tears. She was past the point of caring who saw her. What did anything matter anymore? Life was empty. She could be as busy as she wanted to be, heal as many people as she could, but she was still left with nothing at the end of the day. Except, she thought miserably, the pain that healing brings to me. Sephiroth had twisted the blade she had put in her own heart just as she thought to remove it. He was just trying to sleep with me. Gods, even here, are all men alike?
She had thought that this place, this man was differentthat maybe she could have something here other than her own pain. She just wanted something, anything, to hold on to and call her own. She had thought that the silver-haired swordsman would understand, he who had been through so much and had pain of his own. Perhaps they could have found something in common. He was from her world; he would have made a good friend.
Not that the idea of sleeping with him hadnt crossed her mind. She remembered the newscasts, back when he had been Shinras famous General. She would be lying to say she hadnt thought about it. But to hear him bragging to Angus as if she didnt matter! Was he truly only thinking about her as long as she held promise for a night? Was Sephiroth only a man, like the one she had thought loved her once? Was he no different than that one man who had told her hed call, had sworn to help her, and never had? The one who had left her with nothing but weak assurances?
Ellie sagged against the wall and put a hand over her stomach, remembering. All those soft words in the night Marc had spoken they had been just words. She had called him weeks later, when she had found out. The SOLDIER had told her he would return, that he would take care of her. But the promises had been just idle words; no actions, no reality.
She wondered if, instead of Valhalla, she truly was in Hel.
And Sephiroth himself, like this whole existence was he also a dream? Was he just like that man who had stranded her, all words and dreamland, with nothing to hold on to? With nothing real? At least that one-night stand had left her with a reason to live. Her son.
But even Bryn had been taken from her.
No, she reminded herself harshly, He wasn't taken. I let him go. I could have saved him. I let him go
He'd have been Sora's age now, fifteen or so. Ellie remembered his breathing, his fever, the way his eyes begged her to help him. She had been his mother! It had been her place to protect him, to love him, to keep him safe with her very life. She had been the best healer for miles, but she had been afraid to use her whole power, knowing it would kill her. What if she'd gone all the way, given over her life for that of her son? Wasn't that the sort of thing a mother was supposed to do without hesitation? She could almost hear his questioning voice in her head even now, his last breath, as she heard it every night she didnt go to sleep in utter exhaustion: 'Momma I '
What did that say about her, then?
He had been dead for a year when the Planet was destroyed. Poor Planet; it had had only a few years of peace after Shinra, after the Lifestream repelled that meteor over Midgar. And then, nothing. The blank emptiness of her life consumed her. She had let go of the one thing that needed her to fight for it. All she could be afterward was an empty husk, with no life, no purpose. Then she had found herself in Valhalla.
Hercules and Phil had been wonderful. They gathered all the survivors of the Planet together. Somehow, all the fighters had come to Olympus. It drew them like a magnet for other people who were like her, husks of the living. They were all people without ambition, fighting each other endlessly.
Ellie hadn't understood them, not for the longest time, until it hit her one day. They fought because it made them feel alive. She couldn't feel alive, she didn't deserve to. But then the reason for her to be here, too, became clear. There came a day when a SOLDIER recognized her and asked her to look at his broken arm.
That began her new work. She healed everyone, using every scrap of knowledge she possessed to mend scrapes and bruises, set bones, stitch gashes closed. Somehow, her collection of herbs increased. People found seeds, or brought plants from other worlds that could still be accessed. Cid, a pilot from Rocket Town, had a shop in Traverse Town now. He made sure to send her whatever he came across, books and plants and medicinal supplies.
She gave everything of herself because she had no meaning any longer. She worked, she moved, she bore the pain because it took her energy. It let her sleep at night without hearing the pleading voice of her son. Yes, Ellie had been busy for how long? Time really had no meaning here. She woke up in the morning, worked throughout the day, went to bed at night, and did it all again the next day. How many days had she spent like this? How many nights? All she cared about was that exhausted minds could not dream.
What a busyyet emptyexistence.
Is this Valhalla, she thought, Or is this my Hel? Why else would I fall into the same kind of man? Why would I even think there could be anything for me? The answer was simple. She only wanted to have something, to have anything. She had worked hard here for a long time; what did she have to show for it? After all her years of loneliness and pain, she still had nothing to hold onto. Her punishment was to remain here, alive when everything else she knew was gone, saving these warriors from themselves. Ellie wondered how many of them thought about anything beyond the next match, when she held on to their lives while giving her own. Would she let them die, too?
Even with all this pain in her life, she was still alive. Wasn't she?
Ellie had been afraid to go to the brink of death to save her own son but even if she had, where would he be now? Here? Dead?
Perhaps hed be stranded on some other world, with nothing. It was the worst feeling to have nothing. Everyone else here felt that way on some level. She could see it in their eyes. All that they had known had been taken from them. But they were so sure they could start anew. What, though, would happen if it was all taken away again? She wiped her eyes and looked down on the coliseum. The massive bricks felt so sure and solid right now, but would they be there tomorrow?
"I hate having nothing..." she said to the empty night.
The dark sound of leather flapping in a sudden breeze, the whisper of feathers upon feathers came up behind her. Before he even spoke she knew who it was. Was he here to laugh at her? To hurt her? Was that what he had found to live for, tormenting her? "Ellie," Sephiroth's voice spoke softly, "Do you truly have nothing?"
She hoped there was enough anger mixed with her pain when she spoke. "What do you care?" She wouldn't let him see her cry. He was just like Marc, she reminded herself. But there was something about his voice. Though it had the same softness Marcs had possessed, there was something else within its ebony depth.
He sighed heavily and leaned against a marble pillar. "I know what it's like, that is all." He remained in shadow, a starless silhouette against the night sky, though his eyes glowed like neon. "I merely came to tell you that I wanted to kill Angus for what he said. It was untrue."
He had come up here? To apologize? She fought the urge to turn around by straightening her back.
"I had no designs on you." He frowned at her silence. She could tell, somehow. "Angus should have his mouth sewn shut."
Abruptly, she laughed, the image was so absurd. "Was that a joke? From you?" She wiped her eyes and turned around. It occurred to her that she might have been mistaken. Sephiroth had been avoiding Angus since they met they hadnt said more than two words to each other. Could she trust him? Heavens, if they still were there to hope to, she wanted to.
His head cocked to the side, a purely innocent gesture. "If it made you laugh, then yes, I suppose it was. Though I half-mean it." He walked at last into the now dim starlight. It was sincerity, as deep as his voice. He couldn't hide it, nor was he trying to. "You were crying, weren't you?"
His excuse made sense. In all honesty, she couldn't think of him joking with Angus. And yet, he was still a man.
"Whats it mean to you?" She didn't want to say it, but she did. What must she must look like, with her eyes red and puffy? Would he think all those tears were caused by her misunderstanding? With a wordless stutter she turned away, hugging herself. Now that she wasnt feeling so lost, she realized how cold the night had grown.
"I did not mean for you to. I am...sorry." Sephiroth waited for her to say something. He didn't know what to do. Neither of them moved, though he wanted to go closer to her as much as she needed him to. "Ellie?" he said at last.
She hugged herself closer. "Apology accepted."
Some of the tension left him, but his wing shifted itself as if it couldn't get comfortable. Now what? Strife and Hercules said nothing about what happens after an apology. They both just said to do it. He cleared his throat. "The, ah, night is cool, is it not?" He, the man who could have been a god, was nervous? What was there to be afraid of? Being alone?
"Yes, it is." Her voice was subdued. "Strange, because its so warm during the day. The nights here are much colder than they were in Junon."
"Are they?" She could hear him behind her, turning his head to look out over the peaceful hills. "I do not remember Junon sometimes. So many places on the Planet are like a dream to me." It seemed like he was about to say something else, but again he fell silent. Sephiroth found himself giving in to some invisible force that begged his body to shelter hers from the wind.
"Does it even bear to remember if it is all gone?" She leaned back, almost wishing he would hold her but not wanting to ask. She could hear him moving.
He sighed softly. "I don't know." His boots clicked on the slate of the floor as he stepped closer. "Ellie," he murmured, "Are you cold?"
She looked over her shoulder with red-rimmed eyes, then looked away. "Yes." That had been worry on his face. First sincerity, and now concern?
"Here, then." His arms opened, the black wing flexing out and mantling about her, drawing her backward. Or was she going back on her own? It didn't matter. "You should not be out here without a wrap," he chided gently. "You know that."
She sunk into the embrace automatically. "I don't have a wrap."
Sephiroth's breath ruffled her hair. He could get used to this. "You should get one, then." His arms tightened.
Ellie bit her lip. "You know, truly, I don't have anything."
"Stop saying that." There was a firmness in his voice, but it was not an order.
"What do I have, then? What do any of us have?" Tears threatened again. "What good would it do to have things if they will just be taken from me?" The pain they all felt was real. Their old lives had been the dream, and this place was real. Sometimes she wished that she could sleep again.
The ebony feathers were soft, silky, and warm. This time, she felt his chest move, taking a deep breath in as he spoke. "Perhaps, then, it is not things one should desire. What if this is a second chance?"
"A second chance?" She seemed to weigh it a moment, "I think I like that idea." She had been ready to let the familiar despair overtake her, but now that he was here, she felt something stir within her.
"Do you, now?" His head had moved down, closer to hers. "I am learning about the concept. Slowly, I admit, but I am learning."
"Well, then teach me about it?" She wound her fingers with his, holding onto him.
Sephiroths chin rested upon her shoulder, his arms about her, pressing her back against his chest. He smiled and chuckled softly. "I think we will most likely be teaching each other."
She smiled, almost happy this time. "It sounds like a plan to me. Who knowsmaybe Sora will save us all and we will have something to live on while we find something to live for."
"Hmph." he snorted. "He will have to train, then. But until he is ready, we can always fight to keep this little world together." On a whim, he placed a single kiss on her temple. "Would you be willing to fight, O healer of Valhalla?"
Shocked at the contact, she turned quickly to face him, her hands clasped to her chest. "What was that, Sephiroth?" Her heart started to flutter. In that moment, Ellie made up her mind.
A slightly embarrassed smile quirked his lips. "Taking a chance, I suppose." He had let her turn around and step away, but his hands still rested on her shoulders, and his wing still curved about her. It was all he could do not to pull her to him. Now that he had her, he wasn't letting go.
"Well, can't you do better then that?" With that, she stepped closer and met her lips to his. He almost staggered back at the feeling. Their arms wrapped about each other, both pulling themselves closer. For Sephiroth, this was the first kiss hed ever meant; he needed it as much as he wanted it.
For Ellie, it was the first moment in years that she felt alive.
Then there was fire, arcing between their lips, feeding itself in the mixed desire and need they shared. They could swear that it could be seen, even as their eyes closed and the embrace deepened. The spark that started grew, warming them despite the chill of the wind. The stones of the coliseum that had been so sure were not there anymore. They were just a man and a woman in an unstable world. There were only the two of them and something new.
That night, as another distant sun went out, two people found what they needed in order to move on. And even if they opened their eyes to find they had not a stone to stand on, THIS time they would never let go. They had it at last, in this shadowed gallery, under the light of disappearing stars. They each had found something to hold on to.
Before you all review and tell me that I misspelled Hel, let me explain why I did that. Yes, it was on purpose. In Norse mythology, Hel was the name of the Land of the Dead, named after the goddess who ruled it. Because Final Fantasy VII uses so many references to Norse names and places, I thought it fitting.
Second thing Id like to mention is DRAKONLILY is my HEROINE. She is the only reason this and the previous chapter were even written. Not only did she talk most of these two chapters out in YahooIM with me, she ALSO did some major fleshing-out of the last scenes. Thank you, lil dragon. As always, you are the best. *gives cookie*
So, one more chapter to go. Hope youve enjoyed it.
Kingdom Hearts Fanfic