Atonement Chapter 5

By Faye Locke

Sephiroth sat on the divan, staring blankly at the black stone in his hand. What more do you want from me, Aeris? He had thought he had repented for the one terrible deed the Ancient had told him of. The stone's color proved otherwise. In the corner of his mind, he thought that telling Jyleth of the cave and aftermath might have been what Aeris had wanted. Yet the stone was still black. He had gained nothing from telling her other than Jyleth's hate.

Why had he told her? At that moment, it had seemed like the right thing to do, but, in retrospect, it seemed absurd. He had nothing to gain, and everything to lose. His thoughts strayed from what he had revealed to her to what had led to the confession. Combing her hair…why had she asked him to do that? He couldn't refuse. To touch her hair brought a desire alive in him that he had only felt once before - in the cave. What was it about her that made him lose control? When he had kissed her, all he had wanted was control. Control over her. He hadn't been thinking, just needing her. Or, perhaps more accurately, wanting her body under his control. Which was exactly what had happened before. Wanting control over her but not having any control over himself.

He stood, suddenly very tired. What would tomorrow bring? he wondered. It wouldn't surprise him to find Jyleth gone in the morning. What reason did she have to stay? To her, he was a reminder of her painful past and ruined future. He walked down the hallway, pausing before her door. Muffled sobs came from the other side of door. He stood there for some time, unsure. He wanted badly to comfort her, but it seemed that his presence would only distress her more. Against his better judgement, he placed his hand on the doorknob, slowing opening the door.

The lamp in the room had not been lit. The only source of illumination was the dim moonlight streaming in through the window. Jyleth lay across the bed, oblivious as she sobbed into a pillow. Her hair, now dry, spread around her in a frizzy mess. Sephiroth hesitated a moment more, then stepped through the doorway and into the room. He concentrated a moment, lighting the lamp. The sudden illumination alerted Jyleth of his presence. She sat up quickly, realizing who had lit the lamp, then lunged of the bed, concealing something in her hand as she did so. As she came closer, Sephiroth realized she was holding a dagger - where she had got it, he wasn't sure, but she was coming at him with it, aiming directly at his heart. Reacting without thinking, Sephiroth grabbed her wrist and stopped the knife just inches from his skin. With his other hand, he caught Jyleth's fist, which started to move the moment he stopped the dagger.

For a moment, their eyes met, and Sephiroth was overwhelmed by the intensity of her anguish. His grip loosened on her wrist. The thought came to him that perhaps Aeris had been teasing him when she said that he could eventually return to the lifestream after atoning for his wrongdoings. Perhaps the Ancient had just wished to see him strive and suffer, to watch him waste his life away over a damn stone in his hand that stubbornly glared back at him from its black depths every morning. He wouldn't play that game. If he was to die, then better now, by one who… who he cared for, then later, at the hands of one who hated him, or maybe worse, wasting away from the infirmities of old age.

"If that is what you wish," he said, softly, just barely over a whisper, as he bowed his head and dropped his hands, "Then I won't stop you." Jyleth said nothing, but the blade moved forward, until the tip just touched his skin. A small bead of blood welled there, glistening wetly as it slowly moved down his chest. Jyleth stared at it for a moment, transfixed.

"No," she said hoarsely, dropping her hand to her side. Sephiroth stood very still, not sure what do next. Jyleth raised her head, meeting his eyes once more. Her face was still wet, her eyes still shining with unshed tears, but the sorrow wasn't quite so deep. Confusion flickered across her features, revealing the conflict of her emotions. She reached her hand up to his cheek, caressing it softly, then pushed back a stray lock of hair. Exhaling sharply and muttering something that sounded vaguely like a curse, she turned away from him abruptly, walking back to the bed and sitting down heavily on the edge. Mutely, she examined the blade in her hands, but not truly seeing the metal.

"I never…never touched another woman after…you," he said slowly, feeling the need to explain his affected past from the incident. He moved a few steps toward her until he stood at the foot of the bed. She didn't look at him. Tentatively, he sat down on the bed, running his hand over the cover. "It drove Hojo mad, to think that he would never be able to continue his experiments on my offspring. He was constantly throwing women - even girls, sometimes - in my path, hoping one would catch my attention. But I could never feel anything toward the poor creatures, other than pity. And after Mother came-"

'Mother?" Jyleth interrupted, her voice still hoarse. He looked up for a moment at her, but her head was still bowed, red locks obscuring her face.

"Jenova," he explained, returning his eyes to the bedspread, "I still think of her as Mother…she wanted me to call her that… after she came, I was too caught up in her plan to even think about women. I think she might have had something to do with that - she wouldn't have wanted any competition for my devotion, nor would she have liked me to have had any ties with the planet that might affect our - her - plan.

"Why did Jenova have so much power over you?" Sephiroth looked up, this time finding her looking at him. He met her gaze silently for a moment, still haunted by the memory of the alien whose heritage he had shared.

"She came to my at my weakest moment. She filled me with love when I needed to be loved most. She gave me hope when I thought there was none. She…gave me purpose when I felt that my only purpose was to be Hojo's lab rat." Sephiroth shrugged, then shivered. "And power…I can't explain the power she brought me. It was…intoxicating. The moment she touched me, I knew there was nothing that I could not do… with her, I could be…" Sephiroth shivered again, more violently, clenching his hands tightly into bloodless fists.

"Jyleth, it was not a good time for me - or my sanity. I was overcome by greed. I can't reason it away anything other than ordinary human greed. She fed my needs just enough for me to long for more, addicting me to her." He shook his head, slowly unclenching his hands, watching the blood returning to his fingers. "I was doomed the moment I went to Nibelheim. I wonder, sometimes, if that wasn't another part of Hojo's twisted experimentation with me. To see how I would react to the truth of my origins. Perhaps he thought it would break me, make me more compliant to his needs."

"No matter what you did, it's too late to change it," she said, raising a hand to his face, stroking his cheek gently with her fingers. His skin was damp with sweat, caused by both his memories of Jenova of Jyleth's touch. "And it's too late for me to stop feeling the way I do about you." She closed her eyes and swallowed hard, laying her head on his shoulder as she fought the tears the threatened once more.

Sephiroth wrapped his arms around her, bringing her against his chest. Many long moments passed as they sat silent, holding each other. Finally, Jyleth moved and raised her face once more to meet his eyes. He leaned down to kiss her, just a light brushing of lips. She moved her hand behind his head, pulling him down to her, making his intended chaste kiss turn into something much more intense. Sephiroth pulled himself away, gasping for breath. Her kiss had stirred more in him than just memories.

"Jyleth, I'm sorry," he apologized, standing to put some distance between them. "I did not come here to…to…" he trailed off, not able to finish his sentence. Turning his face away from her to hide the steady blush he knew was rise in his face, Sephiroth silently cursed his lack of control. Why couldn't a kiss just be a kiss? "Goodnight," he said, leaving before she could say anything more to him. He fled to his room, shutting the door tightly behind him.

Jyleth stared at the door, trying to sort her conflicting emotions. She hadn't wanted Sephiroth to leave. Comfort was what she wanted most, yet he was also the source of her pain. When he had first stepped into her room, all she could think was that she wanted to kill him. But his willingness to allow her to plunge the blade into his heart had made her really think about what she intended - and that his death wasn't going to ease her pain. In fact, killing him probably would have caused her more anguish. When did this become so complicated? she asked her weary mind. No blinding intelligent reply answered her question, but she already knew the reasons. During the time she had spent in Sephiroth's mind, neither of them had given any thought to the growing bond between them - after all, she had no true body, so nothing could have ever become of it. But now - now they both had her physical self to deal with - a body that had desires, lusts, and feelings Jyleth hadn't truly experienced in over five years.

She loved Sephiroth. Jyleth knew that. As much as she had ever learned to love, she felt now toward him. And he also was subject to an attraction toward her, although she did not know the depths of his feelings. Jyleth sighed deeply, hugging her knees to her chest in thought. She didn't want to sleep alone tonight. The memories of… the cave, so many years ago, still lingered in her mind, threatening to bring about another crying fit. She needed to be held… she needed to be comforted… she needed to know - now - that the touch of a man did not mean pain and humiliation. Having reached her decision, Jyleth stood and left the room, walked the short distance to the door to Sephiroth's room, pausing for a moment before taking the doorknob in her hand. Thinking is not what I need to be doing now, she told herself resolutely, pushing a lock of hair out of her face as she opened the door.

Sephiroth was lying on his bed, still wearing the same clothes that he had been practicing in that morning. The thin trail of blood on his chest was gone. He sat up the moment she walked in, swinging his legs over the edge of the bed. The tie that held his hair back was gone, now allowing his hair to fall forward over his face.

"Jyleth?" he asked, starting to rise, pushing back his hair with an irritated gesture. She moved forward swiftly, placing her hands on his shoulders and pushing him back down.

"No," she said, slowly kneeling on the bed, one leg on either side of him. She placed her hands under his jaw, raising his face up to hers. "Don't think," she said, lowering her head until her lips hovered just over his mouth. "Not now, not tonight," she breathed against his lips before kissing him deeply. Sephiroth was still for a moment, but soon he responded to her invitation, just as she knew he would. She shuddered, trying not to pull away when he wrapped his arms around her waist, pulling her down and closer to him. Swallowing her panic, Jyleth slid her hands down his neck to his shoulders, pushing the vest off. He shrugged it away, then broke the off the kiss as he picked her up and lay her back on the bed.

"Why… what…" Sephiroth couldn't form an articulate question as he lay beside her, propping himself on one elbow. He touched her face with a shaking hand, brushing away a tear with a puzzled look. She swallowed again, closing her eyes. Pulling his hand back, afraid he wouldn't be able to control himself if he continued to touch her, he wouldn't be able deny the need that burned so fiercely. She didn't answer immediately, reaching for him instead, pulling him down to her.

"I have to do this," she whispered softly. Her quiet tone didn't quite mask the fear and heartache she was feeling. Yet still, she didn't seem to want to move away from him. Her hand touched his cheek, then slid down his face until her fingers cupped his chin. "I can't sleep - not with those memories." She kissed him again, running her hands down his back. "I can't hate you," she whispered in his ear as he moved his mouth down her jaw, tracing her neck with his lips. "It's too late…" she trailed off, closing her eyes and relaxing under his attentions. Sephiroth didn't argue furthur, using a tiny bit of magic to douse the single lamp before giving in to the desires of his body.


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