Appointment With Destiny Chapter 9
It was almost dark they reached their destination. Specially made to land on ice, the helicopter sat down outside Icicle Village. A motor driven sled took them right to the front door of a small house on the north side of town. The crew unloaded their bags, took them into the house, then ran back to their sled and took off. Having prevented Aeris from entering the house while their bags were taken in, Sephiroth finally led her to the door.
"Ready?" he asked.
He swept her off her feet into his arms. Aeris gasped and threw her arms around his neck.
"What are you doing?"
"In this world, it's traditional to carry the bride across the threshold," he said.
"Oh. I forgot." Aeris blushed. "They do that where I come from too."
Sephiroth carried her over the threshold and put her down on the other side. He turned around to shut the door and Aeris jumped as if she'd been shot. He noticed.
"Uh-no." She turned even redder.
"I don't know about you," said Sephiroth, but I can't wait to get out these things."
"Now?" Aeris' voice was a squeak.
He gave her a strange look.
"I was talking about my sword and gloves."
"Oh." The relief on her face was unmistakable.
Sephiroth watched her closely. "Why don't you go on up and change into something more comfortable?"
She turned pale.
"What are you going to do?"
"I'm going to get the champagne out of the refrigerator," he replied.
"Oh." Aeris didn't move.
"I don't drink."
"Neither do I," he replied. We had club soda at the reception, but just this once, we'll have a real drink. A private toast to each other."
She still didn't move.
"Something else?" he asked.
"I-I can't reach the top hook of my dress by myself," she said in a thin voice.
"Come here, I'll help you."
Aeris went to him with all the enthusiasm of a condemned man taking the last walk.
"Turn around," he said.
She did. Sephiroth found the hook in question and unfastened it. He pulled the zipper down a little way, admiring her smooth unblemished skin. Aeris jumped away from him with a look of alarm.
"What are you doing?"
"I was just lowered your zipper, to make it easier for you to reach."
"I can do it!"
"Are you sure?"
She nodded vigorously. There were red spots of color on her cheeks.
He smiled at her. "Go on and change."
Aeris looked toward the stairs and back at him.
"I'll wait here," he said gently. "Our bedroom the first room at the top of the stairs."
Aeris turned away and hurried up the stairs feeling Sephiroth's eyes on her back. She glanced back once to make sure he was staying put.
Sephiroth smiled to himself. He went into the kitchen. A bottle of champagne lay on it's side in the refrigerator. He took two glasses and the ice bucket into the livingroom. He went outside and scooped up a bucket full of snow. He brought it back into the house and sat it on the coffee table. He pushed the champagne bottle into the middle of the snow and sat down on the sofa to wait for the return of his bride.
She came down half an hour later. Whatever she was wearing was hidden a long pink satin robe. With her hair still piled on top of her head, Aeris' frightened eyes looked very large and very green, against her flushed skin.
"We've been standing most of the day," said Sephiroth with a friendly tone. "Come on over here and sit down."
Aeris came to the sofa, but sat on the opposite side as far away from Sephiroth as she could get.
Sephiroth opened the bottle of champagne and poured a drink for both of them. He had to stretch a little to give Aeris her glass. His fingers brushed her hand as she took it. The blush on her face deepened.
"To us," he said, clinking his glass against hers.
"To us," she repeated, hearing the doubt in her voice.
She only took a tiny sip wondering if Sephiroth was trying to get her drunk. There was something disconcerting about the way he kept watching her, as though he was reading her somehow. Aeris had dated a few times in her own world, but she'd never allowed herself to be caught up in a situation as intimate as this before. She wished with all her heart that she could do more than take the redness out of her eyes by concentrating. Aeris wished she could open the portal right now and dive through it head first. She dropped her eyes to the beautiful ring on her finger. Sitting across from her new husband, Aeris had absolutely no idea of how she was supposed to behave.
Sephiroth set his glass down. I'm going to change. I'll be back in a minute or so."
Calm down, she told herself. She looked up to watch him go and caught him looking back at her. Wanting to sink into the floor, Aeris dropped her eyes again.
When Sephiroth came back he wore black Satin pajama bottoms. Nothing else. Aeris drew in her breath sharply, reminded again of how she'd been momentarily attracted to him in Cumbria. Elmyra was right. If she wasn't sure about anything else, Sephiroth was pleasing to the eyes. Aeris wanted to look at him directly, but she was too embarrassed. She kept her eyes on her drink instead.
Sephiroth hesitated in the act of sitting down on the opposite end of the sofa.
"Is something wrong?"
"No." Her voice sounded strange to her.
"Are you sure?"
She nodded, not trusting her voice.
Sephiroth sat down and picked up his drink.
"You looked absolutely beautiful today Aeris."
"You still do."
Aeris glanced at him, then dropped her eyes again. It was hard to look at him without letting her eyes stray. She felt strangely warm.
"What?" She was spinning the glass around and around in her hands.
"Look at me."
Her hands began to shake. The liquid in her glass threatened to splash over the rim.
"Look at me," he repeated.
Aeris swallowed hard.
"Aeris." Sephiroth spoke in a soothing tone. "Please look at me."
She looked up quickly, trying to keep her eyes on his face, but her eyes betrayed her. They swept over his body and worked their way up to his eyes. Aeris felt as if her face was on fire. Any minute Sephiroth's eyes would widen in shock, she imagined, and he'd hurl the bucket of snow in her face to smother the flames.
"You don't have to be afraid of me," he said.
Aeris opened her mouth to speak, but nothing came out.
"Why don't you take the pins out of your hair?" he asked. "I've only seen it loose once."
Aeris sat her drink down on the table and reached up to touch her hair. Her fingers were still trembling as she pulled the pins out one by one. When the last strand of hair fell free, she dropped her hands in her lap and looked at him again. Her eyes reminded Sephiroth of a bunny peeking from under a hedge. He let his eyes travel over every golden brown tendril, admiring the way it glowed in the light.
"I want you to wear it loose all the time," he said. "You can pull part of it back with a ribbon if you want, but don't wear that braid. I like it this way. It makes you look like an angel."
"Is it as soft as it looks?" Sephiroth held his hand out hesitantly. "Can I touch it?"
Aeris' eyes widened even more. "I guess so."
Sephiroth moved closer, only a few inches away and reached out to run his fingers through her hair. His touch was gentle but Aeris had to fight the urge to move away. She wondered if he could hear her heart beating as loud as she could.
"You have such lovely hair," he said softly. He moved closer, adjusting his body so his bare chest brushed against her shoulder. Her breath quickened. Sephiroth leaned closer and rubbed his face against her hair. Aeris didn't understand what she was feeling or how to handle it. Sephiroth reached out gently and turned her face to his. When he leaned forward and brushed his lips against hers, Aeris suddenly pulled away from him and sprang to her feet.
"I could use a drink of water, how about you?"
He just stared at her.
"I'll be right back," she said. "By the way, where's the kitchen?"
He pointed. She went.
In the kitchen, Aeris' hand were shaking so hard, she spilled more than half of the water out of her glass, before she could drink it. She poured what was left and tried again. This time she almost dropped the glass while she was holding it under the stream of water.
"Are you okay in there?" called Sephiroth.
Aeris sat the glass down on the sideboard and braced herself against the sink head down. She didn't want any water. She just needed enough time to get her head together. On one hand, she still thought Sephiroth was one of the most handsome men she'd ever seen, but on the other hand, he was still a stranger and she didn't know how to feel about being alone with him.
"I can't do this," she whispered. "I can't!"
"I'm okay," she called back. "I'll be right out!"
Aeris picked up the glass and filled it one third of the way. She gulped down the liquid and took a deep breath. She tried not to look as frightened as she felt when she went back into the living room. Sephiroth patted the sofa next to him. Aeris hesitated, then sat next to him reluctantly.
He put his arms around her on the backrest. His fingertips brushed her shoulder. Aeris squealed and jumped as though she'd been electrocuted..
She gave him a guilty look. "I'm sorry! It's just that I . . . I . . . "
"It's all right." Sephiroth gave her a reassuring smile. "I understand."
Sephiroth wanted to take her in his arms and hold her close to him, but he didn't want to frighten her anymore than she already was.
"When you were younger, you probably thought like me, you'd grow up, date, fall in love and marry," he said. "You were probably just as shocked as I, to find out you were predestined to belong to someone who was a stranger to you."
Aeris nodded. Her eyes were very bright. He wasn't sure if it was because of the light or because she was on the verge of crying.
"I had an advantage over you," said Sephiroth.
"You knew all about this when you turned eight." Aeris dropped her head and looked at her hands again. "I wasn't ready for this. I'm not ready now and I'm not sure I'll ever be."
"I knew about it, yes," answered Sephiroth choosing to avoid the rest of her comments, "But I dreamed about you too. You never dreamed of me did you?"
Aeris shook her head.
"That was because Lascinda never wanted to marry Jerin. She had no reason to dream about him," explained Sephiroth. "Jerin on the other hand wanted Lascinda very much. He was obsessed with her. His desires have been passed down through the generations over the years. We're only free of it, when we lose the battle against the Cetra. If we as losers, weren't able to be free of the curse when the battle was over, we would never marry or produce a heir to carry on the fight for the next Cetra bride."
Aeris raised her face to him. She still looked frightened, but that familiar spark of anger was present now. "So the only reason you want me is because that pervert Jerin is lusting after Lasinda through you!"
Sephiroth raised an eyebrow. "Not quite."
"Explain it to me then," she said. "I don't understand!"
"Jerin is dead, but his desire for the Cetra bride was awakened in all of us," explained Sephiroth. "We desire the Cetra bride just as much, but as men, not as an obsession. If we lose the bride, we go on with our lives, meet someone new and marry. Jerin never married. He never got over losing Lasinda. For the rest of his life, no woman could compare with the one he lost. His one descendant came through the rape of an innocent girl. He killed her a few months after his son was born."
"Elmyra said all of his descendants have one son and die. What happened to Jerin?" asked Aeris.
"Jerin placed his child with a powerful family, then went back to the hill where he lost Lasinda. He drank himself as close to a stupor as he could without passing out. With a suicide note tucked in his pocket, he fell on his sword and killed himself. He didn't want to live without her."
"Why is Heidegger still alive?" asked Aeris suddenly. "I thought Jerin's descendants had a son and died."
"I don't know. My father and I think he's still alive because the curse was going to end with me. Either that or he would have died if I lost the fight."
"Oh." Aeris couldn't think of more to say about that.
"We are told about the Cetra bride when we're eight," continued Sephiroth but it's not until the last six months before the battle that we are consumed with the fever to have her. That's when the dreams start. It's meant to inflame us into fighting harder."
"So now you own me," there was trace of bitterness in Aeris' voice. "I'm property!"
"You're not property. You're my wife," said Sephiroth softly, "And more than anything else right now, I want to hold you in my arms."
The anger fled from Aeris' face to be replaced by a look of wariness and fear.
"I'm not going to hurt you Aeris. I care about you too much."
"Why?" Her eyes were glowing again as though they were moist. "You don't even know me."
"It's hard to see a woman's face in my dreams for six months and not care about her, " said Sephiroth. "You don't know me Aeris, but I feel like I know you. I've always known you."
"I don't know you!" Aeris wrapped her arms around herself.
"You're my wife. You'll know me better than anyone on the Planet."
"Sephiroth . . . " Aeris dropped her head again.
"Come here," he said, opening his arms to her."
She looked like a rabbit caught out in the open now. "Why?"
"Lean against me."
Lean against his bare chest? Aeris felt her face heat up even more.
"Relax," he said. "Come here. I just want to hold you."
Aeris leaned against him timidly and he closed his arms around her. She was filled with conflicting emotions.
"I'm just property," she said in a sad voice. "You own me."
"No I don't," he said turning her face to his. "I love you Aeris."
Her fear expression gave way surprise.
"How could you love me? You don't even know me." she said.
"I've dreamed of you for six months," he said. "I've had plenty of time to get to know and love you."
"But that was just a dream, nothing more."
"It doesn't matter. I love you."
Aeris realized with a start, his eyes were no longer expressionless or unreadable. She could see his heart and was dumbfounded by her discovery.
"But the way you acted, when we first met . . . " her voice faltered.
"That was part of the spell," said Sephiroth. "Had Jerin captured Lasinda before she fled, he wanted her to know who was in charge. To him, she really was property. It's possible he would have beaten her too, for running from him. Jerin didn't want her because he loved her. He wanted her for what she could give him. Part of his attitude was transmitted into the spell on his line. Even if we didn't feel the same way about our Cetra's as Jerin did, we can't help ourselves. I wasn't able to NOT be a little short with you. I'm sorry."
"Are you totally free of Jerin's spell now?" she asked.
He raised an eyebrow and smiled. "Not quite."
Aeris wondered if her face could pass for a traffic light or a stop sign.
"Lay your head on my shoulder," he said.
Sephiroth put his arms around her. They sat that way for a time. He could feel her heart beating rapidly. He didn't try to kiss her. In time her heart slowed to a steady beat. Sephiroth put his hand under Aeris' chin and raised her face to his. He ran the tip of his thumb gently against her edge of her lower lip.
"I want to kiss you," he said, "But not if you don't want me to."
Aeris hesitated. Indecisiveness raged behind her eyes, then she nodded.
Sephiroth leaned forward and kissed her lightly on the lips.
"How's that?" he asked. "Does that give you the heebie jeebies?"
She blinked in surprise. "No."
"How about this?"
He kissed her a little longer this time.
"Do you feel the urge to run into the bathroom and wash off my touch?"
Aeris gave him a faint smile. "No."
"What about this?"
He took her face in both hand and kissed her the same way he had in the church. Aeris was breathless when he released her.
"Was that so terrible you'll have nightmares for days to come?"
She gave him another smile and shook her head. "No."
"Then is it okay if I kiss you like this?"
He pulled Aeris closer. The warmth of his body was alluring.
After a time, he released her. "Do you still want a glass of water?"
"If you don't like the way this makes you feel, I'll stop."
"I don't mind."
"You don't mind if I stop?"
Aeris put her head down for a moment. She looked up again.
"I don't mind if you don't stop."
Sephiroth smiled and kissed her again. And again. And again.
Shortly thereafter she was kissing him back.
When he held her closer still, Aeris slid her arms around him and threw her fears to the wind.
* * * * *
Back in the Shinra tower, the President paced the floor angrily.
"Damn it Hojo!" he snarled. "I told you to leave the girl alone for a while and there you were antagonizing her at the wedding. We'll still get what we want from her, but we can't afford to make Sephiroth suspicious right now!"
"We wouldn't have to worry about Sephiroth if you use my alternate plan," countered Hojo. "We could use her any way we want!"
"I don't want Sephiroth out of commission yet!" snapped the President. "Until we get this AVALANCHE thing under control, I need him alert and ready."
"But I could do so much more if we do it my way!" said Hojo angrily. "The rest of your army should be able to take care of AVALANCHE!"
"I SAID LEAVE HER ALONE!" The President slammed his fist on the desk with each word. "Let her enjoy her husband for a while. We can afford to wait."
Hojo frowned and turned his back to the President to stare out of the window.
"She'll get pregnant sooner or later," said the President. "If it takes too long, we'll find another way to ensure her cooperation. Be patient."
Heidegger leaned back in his chair.
"I can't wait to get my hands on some new military technology," he said. Think how much more powerful our army will be!"
President Shinra nodded. "We'll have Sephiroth to thank for our success. Too bad he won't be around to see it happen."
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