· Woah. Okay so it's been a while since my last chapter. Sorry .;;
· Having read over the last 12 chapters, lost my plan, and such, this probably won't take the direction I originally planned, but it won't be very different.
· Probably still rusty, but with such gaps between chapters, that's just how it's gonna be. Apologies.
Chapter 13: Family.
The Highwind landed a short distance outside of Kalm, and before long, a knock sounded on the door of Barret's home. Once again, Barret answered, opening the door to be greeted by a host of familiar faces.
"Cloud, Tifa... Aerith. So you're really alive," his voice softer than usual, stunned, until he remembered himself, "Well, come in, then! Don't be standin' round like a fool!"
Smirking slightly, Sephiroth stood to one side, as the others, grinning, walked into the house, then followed them quietly, this moment was theirs, not his.
As Cloud and his companions entered the house, Elmyra Gainsborough descended the stairs and saw her daughter. Shocked for a moment, a hand held to her heart, it took her a moment to realise the reality of the situation. Her daughter had been returned to her.
Hearing her name, Aerith looked to see her adoptive mother standing at the foot of the stairs. Tears coming to her eyes, she ran to her, embracing her tightly, "Mother!"
"Oh, my, Aerith, it… it's really you. I'm so glad you're safe…"
While mother and daughter embraced, another reunion went on only a few feet away. After Tifa let go of Barret, and let her attention be drawn away by Marlene, Cloud, grinning slightly, shook Barret's hand firmly.
"Good to see you again, Barret."
"Same to you, Cloud… but what's the occasion. Not like ya to make social calls."
A brief chuckle at Barret's bluntness, and Cloud opened his mouth to reply, but Sephiroth cut him short. "That can wait. You all haven't seen each other in... I don't know how long. Matters will become very difficult, very quickly. Take a moment to relax. We can wait until tomorrow for a mission statement. I will be outside for a moment."
"Nonsense. You'll sit down and have a meal with the rest of us, young man." Sephiroth had already turned to leave when he heard the voice, and Elmyra pondered briefly if her words had been a good idea. The tension between the youths was thick in the air, but they would need to learn to be comfortable around each other, if they were going to manage in their trials.
Chuckling silently for a moment, Sephiroth nodded, "If you insist… thank you, Ms Gainsborough, for your hospitality," his voice calm and even as ever, as he went to the table, and seated himself, the others staring a moment before following.
As a family, the heroes ate, and drank, some talking more than others, all thanking their hostess sincerely afterwards. After all, they had all lost their own families in the past, and it had been a long time since they had eaten such a delicious meal.
"Well, guys, it's getting dark, and we've got a long day ahead of us tomorrow, we should get some sleep." The idea was Cloud's, of course, but all agreed.
"I'm afraid we've only got the one spare room, so I'm not sure where to put you all."
"It's no matter, Ms Gainsborough, I will stay at the local inn, I wouldn't want to impose."
"I'll do the same, mom, and Cloud and Tifa can have the spare room."
"Are you sure that's okay? You shouldn't have to sleep in an inn with family nearby…"
"Don't be silly, mom, it's only for the night, we'll be close by, and this way everyone can sleep in a bed."
"Well… alright, then, if you're sure that's best, I'll see you i-"
Elmyra was cut short by the sound of a knock at the door. On his feet instant, Sephiroth strode to the door saying no more than, "I'll get it." He opened the door, and on the other side, saw two face. One was most certainly familiar, ghostly, it was the face of a man that looked no older than himself, yet was old enough to be his father. Vincent Valentine. Yet the other was unfamiliar.
Memories that weren't his own shot through his brain, playing one after an other, flowing torrentially within his consciousness. The Planet's knowledge, filling in the gaps in his own knowledge, replacing Jenova's lies, as a small defense against Her influence. He had never met this woman before, but he knew her.
For the first time, Sephiroth's voice caught. Emerald eyes wide, he was shocked, and could barely get the word "Mother…" to squeeze out of his throat. His eyes fixated on Lucrecia, taking in every detail. So small, frail, pale as a ghost, just like Vincent, ruined by Shinra and Jenova.
"Sephiroth… m-my son," tears came to the ghostly woman's eyes as she saw her son for the first time since she had given birth to him. Stepping forward, she held him tightly, as if afraid to let go, her voice hoarse. "I'm so sorry, Sephiroth, so sorry…"
Stunned, Sephiroth was clueless as to how he should react standing there, he looked down at her, hands moving to her shoulders gently. "It… it's okay, mother, none of this was your fault. Stop blaming yourself."
For a moment, Vincent watched mother and son, before nodding softly and walking into the house, to catch up with his former allies.
It was strange, and a testament to the impact ShinRa had had on the General's life, Aerith thought, that despite Sephiroth's ability to read people, he was rarely sure of the right thing to say in situations such as this. It brought a smile to her face that on this occasion he had chosen well.
Watching for only a moment longer, she turned her attention back to the table. This was definitely an interesting little development, though she couldn't help but wonder how Sephiroth would deal with it.
For his part, Vincent, never one to mince words, walked to the table, stating simply, "Evening, everyone. It's been a while."
After a brief pause, the one-time allies burst into laughter, and greeted their comrade.
Before long, Sephiroth returned to the table, Lucrecia following quietly behind him. His gaze met Vincent's, and the two nodded briefly. They both knew why they were here, there was no need for further words. Besides, neither was good with awkward situations, and the last time they had met, they had been enemies.
Turning to the others, Sephiroth spoke in his characteristically even voice, "Barret, Cloud, Aerith, Tifa, Ms. Gainsborough… this is Lucrecia, my mother. Now, we had all better get some rest. We have a long day ahead of us tomorrow. So sleep well… and thank you, again, Ms. Gainsborough, for your hospitality."
With a nod, which almost seemed a bow, Sephiroth turned, a distant look in his eyes, and strode in his usual manner, out of the house, Aerith, Vincent and Lucrecia following, the former with a polite goodbye, and a quick hug for her mother, the latter, both with no more than an acknowledging nod.
Of course, the four who left the household all checked into the local inn, and before long everyone was resting, waiting for sleep to take them.
Vincent and Lucrecia, of course, lay, or rather sat, together, needing no sleep, being what they were. Lucrecia's head resting on Vincent's shoulder, they spoke softly.
"Sephiroth… he was just as you described him, love, he looks so strong, but… his humanity, they stole it from him."
"I wouldn't give up on his humanity yet, Lucrecia. There's guilt in his eyes," just like my own, he thought, though he kept it silent, "and Aerith is with him, she will keep Jenova at bay, and Sephiroth… it is just a suspicion, but I think he is protective of her. I think he will be fine."
"…You're right. It's too early to despair. Besides, he's so strong, and with the Cetra, and their allies, Jenova will be hard pressed to succeed where she has failed before…"
This is Lucrecia, my mother… the words played over and over in Tifa's mind as she lay next to Cloud, her head resting on his chest, each off in their own little world.
In the rush that had been their mission to stop Meteor, Tifa had forgotten about their little stop in Lucrecia's cave. Sephiroth had a mother. In her hatred, she had almost killed him. The whole situation was… confusing. He had killed her father, almost all her friends and family. Revenge had been a simple idea, but what if Sephiroth had died, and they had still come here, and met his mother? Wouldn't she just bad as him? Or, worse, as bad as he had been, now that he had changed. And what of this change? That she couldn't begin to understand. Lastly… she had run him through with his sword, and he had… she shuddered at the thought. Should she be scared of that, or relieved that he was on their side?
It was all too confusing, but Cloud seemed to understand, she would talk to him, when they had time, now she would sleep.
So. Jenova's alive. Sephiroth is sane. Aerith is alive. And it's all happened so quickly. A smirk played on Cloud Strife's lips as his eyes cast a sapphire glow on the ceiling. This was how things were meant to be. Dangerous, and in need of his sword, and with his former idol, now mentor, at his side. For now, not even the shadow of a doubt passed through his mind. He would prepare, he would wait, he would fight. Jenova would fall. He wouldn't let a lack of confidence hinder him.
And for now? He would rest…
Lucrecia. My mother. My real mother. And to think, I had never seen her before… How was he supposed to feel? Joyous, to meet the woman who gave birth to him, when he had never once seen her before? Sorrowful, mourning yet another thing that ShinRa had taken from him? All he felt was minor irritation that he felt neither – he was long past mourning what part of his humanity he had been denied – and sympathy for his mother, who had had her only child taken from her at birth.
Things would be awkward, he was sure – he had no idea how to act toward her, but he knew he would most likely just treat her like everyone else, what else could he do? Besides – he needed to stop thinking on these things, take his own advice, and rest.
So, lying on his back on the floor near Aerith's bed, he closed his eyes, and let sleep take him.
As the green glow on the ceiling suddenly disappeared, Aerith smiled. Turning to one side, she glanced over the edge of her bed, watching him resting, peaceful. So calm, so peaceful, he doesn't even seem to resent the thought of needing help, anymore… That was certainly a good sign. A sign that the great Sephiroth was becoming more human.
Watching him, her mind wandered back to another time, so many years ago, when he had needed her help. Her mind's eye recalled a kiss, her first, given by him… and she wondered, cheeks reddening slightly, why that memory had been the most prominent.
This time would not be like the last. Now, Sephiroth was stronger, and the Planet's weapon against Jenova. She knew Sephiroth was strong enough to defeat Her influence, and then defeat Her, utterly. Jenova would fall.
And thus, in the comfort of her confidence in Sephiroth and the others, Aerith, never a warrior, and thus unable to fall asleep at will, curled up, and let herself drift off…
And so our heroes slept, each wrapped in their own thoughts and dreams, to prepare for the day ahead.
Author's Notes:Generally quite pleased with that chapter. Found it extremely difficult to do the bits between Seph and Lucy. Not pleased with that, and expecting much difficulty in the future. Damn. Sorry it's been so long, but this chapter was longer than the last few, so be happy! D Read and review me, peoples!