Rose of Mideel Chapter 8


By Chocobo Goddess

Aerith couldn’t remember a time she’d enjoyed a conversation so much. It’s funny, she thought, I’m sitting here with one man who murdered me, and another who hates company, but they are both turning out to be the most entertaining people I could ever talk to.

Right now, Vincent was pretending not to smile at one of Sephiroth’s anecdotes about ShinRa’s follies. Aerith marveled at the transformation in both men. She hadn’t known Vincent too well before her death; he had been a reclusive, angst-ridden man who hated himself for not being able to save his lover. Now, though he was still quiet, she saw the re-emergence of a dry wit and wry humor. He seemed to be more relaxed around people, probably due to his time with AVALANCHE. They were subtle differences, but visible.

Sephiroth, however, was a far more dramatic change. Aerith knew from Cloud’s and Tifa’s stories that he had been distant and cold. Even Zack, her old boyfriend (who had been his main Lieutenant and had known Sephiroth better than anyone), had described a serious, humorless man with a superiority complex. And even though no one ever saw Sephiroth smile, Zack had still considered him his best friend. Interestingly enough, Sephiroth seemed to have welcomed Zack’s sunny presence in return.

And now, here was that same man, sitting across from her at the foot of her bed, legs crossed at the ankles in front of him, laughing. He stretched comfortably and grinned. Aerith returned the smile, happy to see him so relaxed. She giggled when Vincent made a sarcastic comment about someone both he and Sephiroth had apparently known.

I hope this is what it’s always like, she thought, closing her eyes and smiling to herself. This warmth, this belonging. I’ve never felt like this. I like these two, more than I ever thought I would.

“Feel like sharing with the rest of us?” Vincent’s quiet voice cut through her thoughts.

She opened her eyes and rested her chin on her knees. “Sorry. I was just thinking about how nice this is. I wish Cloud could see us.”

“Aerith,” Vincent said, “Cloud could have been in here the whole time, and he still wouldn’t accept it.”

She sobered. “I know,” she answered sadly, looking down at her hands.

He shrugged. “He has his reasons. You can’t expect him to change his mind right away.” He looked at Sephiroth. “If ever.”

A knock at the door ended that conversation. Tifa stuck her head in, looking apologetic. “Sorry to interrupt, guys, but Cid says we’re almost to Nibelheim.” She tried not to cringe when she said the name of her former hometown in front of the man who had destroyed it. “Vincent, you should get ready to disembark.”

He nodded, a strange expression crossing his face as she hurriedly left. “Hmm.”

“What is it?” Aerith asked, mystified.

“Something about Tifa…she’s acting oddly.”

“I think she’s just uncomfortable around me,” Sephiroth put in. “She has as much reason as Strife to hate me. Though I don’t ever get the feeling of hostility from her the way I do from him.”

“Hmm,” was all Vincent said again. He seemed unconvinced. He nodded to both of them, then slipped out the door.

Aerith flopped backward onto her pillows. She stared up at the ceiling, biting her lip. “So now it’s down to Cloud, Tifa, Cid, and us.”

He stretched out beside her, propping himself up on one elbow. He hadn’t kissed her since that first night when she woke up. He wanted very badly to do so now. Instead, however, he contented himself with staying by her side. If she went for a walk around the airship, he was always half a step behind her. When she slept, Sephiroth made himself comfortable in a chair by the bed. There were a few times when he needed to soothe her, when she had a hard time coming to terms with the loss of the Planet’s voice. He had learned to recognize when she was about to burst into tears, no matter how much she tried to hide it.

Since the initial discussion with Vincent, Sephiroth had been contemplating his new-found emotions. The Planet had claimed that he loved Aerith. He was amazed at the instant attraction, although he had sensed something more behind the Planet’s words. Then, after a day or so of worrying about it, he had merely accepted his feelings. He decided to enjoy what he’d been given, and chalked his new personality up to a lack of Jenova cells this time around.

Now he smiled fondly down at her. “Have you thought about where you want them to drop us off?” He twined a lock of her hair about his fingers, admiring its color.

“I wondered what you thought of Mideel to start with. It’s off-season, so it’s quiet, and neither of us have any ties to it, so no enemies or friends to contend with. Kalm was my second choice, but it’s far more populated. At least Mideel is a resort town, so it won’t be crowded most of the year.” She snuggled back against him, spooning her body to his. It felt as if they’d been like this a hundred times.

He let go of her hair to place his hand at her waist. A little pleasant warmth traveled through him when she covered it with her own. Her neck was right there, her ear just inches from his lips. He forced himself to think clearly. “I have no problem with that. I’ve always liked Mideel. It’s warm, but not as busy as Costa Del Sol.”

“Okay, then, we’ll ask Cid to take us there. Has the Planet said anything about our mission yet?”

Sephiroth shook his head, making her laugh when one of his bangs tickled her. “No, it hasn’t. I get the feeling it’s waiting for you to be at a hundred percent before throwing another responsibility at you.”

She sighed, melting further against him. “Good. I just want to get back on my feet.”

They lay like that for a few moments. Sephiroth fought an internal argument with himself, won, and was just about to give in to his impulse to place a kiss on Aerith’s neck when an alarm sounded out in the hall. “Damn,” was all he said, leaping up and going to the door.

Cloud was standing there, hand raised as if about to knock. He glowered at Sephiroth, but jerked his head toward where Masamune stood in the corner of the room. “Grab that, and follow me.”

Aerith appeared beside her bodyguard, eyes large and frightened. “What’s going on?”

Cloud and Sephiroth both moved as if to calm her. Each realized what the other was doing and their angry stares met above her head. Fear gave way to impatience and she waved a hand between them, breaking their concentration. “Hello? Guys? Just someone tell me what happened.”

Cloud held Sephiroth’s gaze for a heartbeat longer, then turned to her. “We got a report of a black dragon in the area, heading this way. Cid was gonna take a few hours while we’d landed to fix the starboard motor, and we can’t take off. I’m getting every able fighter together to meet it before it can reach the Highwind and do some damage.”

“A black dragon, here?” Sephiroth snorted. “I thought we eliminated them years ago.”

Cloud sneered. “Yeah, well, we kinda cut that whole mission short, y’know? Something about the whole town burning down, maybe you remember.” Hatred made his voice thick, and sharp as his sword.

“Stop it, Cloud!” Aerith cried. “Just stop it.”

“Don’t worry, Aerith,” murmured Sephiroth, “It doesn’t bother me anymore.”

Cloud’s electric blue eyes flared dangerously. “You bastard—,” he began, but Sephiroth cut him off wearily.

“I meant that the things you said don’t bother me, Strife. I wasn’t talking about the act of burning down Nibelheim.” He pulled a short coat on over his sleeveless turtleneck, then drew on his boots. By the time he was done, Cloud was leaning against the wall impatiently.

Aerith grabbed a woolen wrap from the chair. “I’ll go with you to the deck.” Both men tried to protest, but she shooed them out and followed anyway.

Out on deck, crew members ran in different directions as Cid yelled and cursed at them. Cloud nodded jerkily at him before crossing directly to the ladder. Sephiroth began to go after him.

Then time stopped. Sephiroth looked around. He appeared to be surrounded by statues, everyone stopped as they were in one moment; like colorful sculptures, caught in mid-stride, mid-word, mid-thought.




Who’s there?


What do you mean? What’s happening?

Seph, you need to watch out.

Who are you?


Why? Tell me! Is she in danger?

No, Seph, but you are.

“Are you coming or not?” Cloud’s voice broke the spell, and sound came rushing back to him. It was as though nothing had happened. Men still ran every which way, Cid still pointed and shouted orders, and Cloud was still standing on the ladder, about to descend. Tifa stood near him, avoiding everyone’s eyes.

Only Aerith seemed to notice anything was wrong. She reached up to touch his face, worry evident on her features. “Seph…”

The cold feeling of danger wouldn’t subside. He felt it working its way from his heart to his fingertips, curling like black smoke through his body. Where Aerith touched him, however, it shied away, leaving only her warmth behind.

He finally gave into the impulse he’d been fighting for days. Without warning, Sephiroth pulled Aerith against him and kissed her. A mild surprise went through him when she immediately threw her arms about his neck. She seemed to feel the same unease, and clung to him as though afraid to let him leave.

The Planet sent fiercely whirling streamers of red and orange, tinged with black worry. Sephiroth didn’t care, his mind was full of Aerith, Aerith, Aerith…the way she tasted, the way she felt, the tiny noise she made when their tongues met and he tunneled his hands into her hair…

I should have just done this sooner, he thought, but why do I feel like this is my last chance?

Unsettled, but euphoric, he reluctantly let her go. All action had stopped on deck, but this time, it was for real. Cid’s mouth had dropped open, the forgotten cigarette barely dangling from his lip. The crewmen had frozen in place, all watching them in astonishment.

Cloud, as expected, was furious. He seemed about to leap back over the rail, but got himself under control. Tifa said something to him and he answered tersely. Dazed, Aerith shook her head to clear it.

“Be careful, Seph,” she whispered, “Something is not right.”

The Planet’s words echoed in his mind. “I know. I’ll be on my guard. When I get back, we can discuss our plans.” His forehead rested against hers. “Wait here with Tifa. I’ll be back soon.”

With that, he leapt over the side of the ship, the uneasy feeling growing with each step as he descended to the ground.

Chapter 9

Final Fantasy 7 Fanfic