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Path of Seduction Chapter 4

By Ardwynna Morrigu

“Finally! Bout damn time you got your head straightened out, Spike!” Barret marched into the gloomy fishing village that had once been all of Junon. Now it lay in the shadow of Shinra’s largest military base. The name ‘Junon’ hardly brought to mind images of fish any more. Aeris studied the dank, shadowed ground. She could not help wrinkling her nose at the odor coming in from the harbor. Still, the homes seemed well cared for. Shinra had not stripped lower Junon’s inhabitants of their pride.

Beside her, Yuffie was craning her neck up in awe at the massive walls of Upper Junon. “Wow….Damn Shinra!”

“Hm. The elevator’s guarded,” was all Cloud said.

Aeris busied herself looking around the town again. Very few people were out in the streets but they all seemed to be elderly, or hardened from eking out a living from the sea. She noticed a woman tending a very well kept garden nearby and her curiosity was instantly peaked. Before the rest of Avalanche noticed what she was doing she made her way over to the fence.

“Hello. I was just admiring your yard.”

The old woman straightened up quickly with a suspicious look in her eyes, but she turned instantly sunny on seeing a petite girl clad in pink. “Oh were you now, dear. It’s an awful lot of work to keep it this way, what with the base blocking the light for most of the day.”

“I can imagine. How do you keep the shrubs so healthy under these conditions?” The woman could clearly see that Aeris’ interest was not feigned.

“Well, twice a year I bury a dead fish near the roots. Light’s scarce but there’s been no shortage of dead fish since that base was built.” The woman broke off chuckling at the pitiful joke.

Aeris could only sigh but she was pulled from a slow slide into misery by the sudden approach of a little dark haired girl with enough sunshine in her smile to light up the entire town. “Good morning, Mrs. Lane! Good morning, Mrs. Lane’s pretty friend!”

“Good morning, Priscilla. Be careful by the water! You hear me, little lady?” Mrs. Lane waved.

“Yes, Ma’am!” Priscilla bounded down the steps and out of sight. Mrs. Lane shook her head.

“Kids! Where they get their energy from, I’ll never know! And it’s just not safe to play in the water anymore. Not like when I was her age. Now there’s all kind of scary things living there, eating all the fish and anything else they can get too.”

Aeris was shocked by the last part “Oh dear! Shouldn’t someone keep an eye on the girl?”

Mrs. Lane shook her head, “No use really. Priscilla’s stubborn and she’s been living here all her life. She’s only known this place the way it is now so I suppose she’s used to it. She knows enough to look out for herself.”

“Still, I’d like to be sure she’s okay. And I’ve never seen the ocean before.”

“Really now? You do have an inland look to you. There’s stairs down behind the house. There’s not much to see there anyway, but a pitiful sea’s better than none, I suppose. Take care of yourself. I think that young man yonder would be beside himself grieving if anything happened to you,” the woman gestured with a tilt of her head and a twinkle in her eye. Aeris turned to see Cloud watching her carefully, paying no attention to Barret’s current rant. She turned away, blushing. That was not right. Sometimes, when he looked at her with such unnatural intensity, he seemed like a completely different person. For some reason the look in his eyes brought the memory of running water to her. Mrs. Lane had turned back to her weeding. Aeris quickly left in search of the steps before anyone in Avalanche saw her face.

She was halfway down when Yuffie caught up with her, having practically flown down the steps. “Heya, Aeris! Going to see the sea? Heh heh, see the sea! I’ll come with ya. Cloud and the bunch are just gonna spend the next few hours picking up supplies in this little barrel o’ fish. I told ‘em I’d be down here when they need me. Man, this place is dull. I bet it’ll be a whole lot more interesting inside the base, if we can even find a way in. Oh hey, what’s that?”

Aeris looked up in time to see a sliver of grey cut the water like a knife. She stood mesmerized as a shrill whistle pierced the air. The grey flash shot upwards, trying to reach the heavens, then flipped a few easy somersaults on its way back down. Aeris stumbled slowly down the steps to the edge of the water, next to Priscilla. “Wow! Is that a dolphin?”

Priscilla turned around, “Yeah. Never seen one in real life before, huh?”

“No, I haven’t.” Aeris was almost speechless. Yuffie bounced up and down excitedly.

“Did you make him jump like that? Can you do it again?”

Priscilla grinned, “Sure!” She brought the whistle to her lips, more than happy to show off her friend’s skills. The three girls stayed on the beach for a long time, the older ones completely entranced by the sight and the youngest bursting with pride. Aeris took a moment to watch the little dark haired girl. Priscilla practically radiated joy and the freshly bound lifestream that had gone into her existence pulsed within her. Aeris closed her eyes for a moment as an unfamiliar tingling ache built up low in her belly. It was Yuffie who saw the disturbance in the water behind Mr. Dolphin, a dark swirling shadow moving straight towards the splashes in the harbor. She drew her shuriken.

“Aeris, go get Cloud.”

Aeris reluctantly turned away, “What?” Yuffie’s face was uncharacteristically serious. Priscilla blew her whistle but Mr. Dolphin only clicked in the water, refusing to jump.

“Hey, Mr. Dolphin, what’s wrong?” The ripples in the water turned into a towering wave and Priscilla screamed.

Yuffie threw her shuriken out like a lightning bolt, yelling at Aeris, “Go get Cloud!”

Aeris turned to run up the stairs as the wave crashed down splashing at her heels. She did not dare to turn around at the hiss behind her, instead focusing on running to Cloud without tripping on the soaked hem of her dress. Cloud was already running towards the noise when she found him. He caught her as she ran breathlessly trying to explain, “In the water…something in the water!”

“Stay up here! Barret, come on!” The men were off and running down the stairs before she could say another word. Tifa and Red ran close behind. Against Cloud’s orders Aeris turned back to the scene, falling pitifully behind the others.

The sight of a water snake towering over her friends stopped her dead in her tracks before she was halfway down the stairs. Barret was firing off rounds like a madman. Yuffie’s shuriken was only a flash of silver in the air. Cloud, Tifa and Red were throwing every spell they knew at the beast, but something was not quite right. The ache in Aeris’ mid-section grew sharp. Priscilla was no where in sight.

“No! No, Priscilla!” Aeris ran down to the battle, guided by fierce instinct. “Cloud! Find Priscilla! Please, you have to find her!” Cloud’s eyes widened as he heard her. Without a word he ran straight into the water, ignoring the monster above him. Aeris cast the strongest fire spell she could at it, wanting to make it feel the burning she felt inside. Only later, long after, did she know why her Cetra body ached so.

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“Man, children sure do talk a lot!” Yuffie grumbled. She did not see the glance Tifa and Aeris shared. Priscilla had been eagerly following them around after Cloud had rescued her. She was eager to tell them everything she knew about Junon fishing village and the base that peaked above it. Her grandfather allowed it in the hopes that Avalanche would at least temporarily keep her out of trouble. Despite the frequent admonitions from all sides that she was extremely lucky to be alive, Priscilla treated her entire rescue and resuscitation as if it were an adventure. Tifa supposed it was, for someone who lived in a quiet little fishing village, though she herself had had enough of ‘adventure’ in her own little mountain town.

“And Mr. Dolphin’s really strong too. I bet he could toss one of you all the way up to the military base level. He can jump higher than that on his own and you should see the size of the logs he can balance on his nose. Sometimes he does a tail dance in the water with a log, if I ask him real nice. Bet if I asked him he would take one of you for a ride,” Priscilla continued on, obviously beyond caring whether anyone was listening or not. But someone was listening.

“You really think he could toss me up to the base, sword and all?” Cloud seemed speculative. Priscilla looked him over.

“Well, sure. You’re not that big.” Cloud frowned a little at that. “But I don’ think he could toss all of you up. He’ll get tired you know.”

Cloud crossed his arms, chin in one hand, looking thoughtful. “I can’t go in through the main elevator, even though I’m in my old uniform because I have no ID, so Mr. Dolphin looks like my best bet.”

“What about the rest of us, fool?”

Tifa grimaced slightly, then sighed, “Don’t worry, Barret. Remember how the guard acted when we talked to him earlier? I think I can get us in.”

_______________________________________

Sephiroth leaned back against one of the crates in the ship’s cargo hold to snatch a brief moment of rest. The puppet had followed his call into the city and made it onto the ship. Shinra was aware of his presence as well, as he had intended and, just as he had expected, they had not been able to pinpoint him. It still amazed him how far they had fallen without his guidance.

The rushing sound of the cargo bay doors sliding open stopped his thought. He huddled down against the crate in absolute silence. Light footsteps echoed off the bulkheads. Sephiroth peered through the sliver of space between the crates to get a glimpse of the newcomer.

It was an ordinary trooper, and a skinny one at that. Were they letting any undersized runt into the force these days? And just how lax had the training become anyway? The little trooper had absolutely no stamina or sense of duty, sneaking off to take a rest, panting from the very weight of the uniform. He lacked upper body strength too, and had no idea how to handle his weapon. One might think that he had never held a gun before in his life.

Sephiroth soundlessly drew his blade as the trooper weaved a path between the crates to a spot near the former General’s hiding place. Sephiroth had no grudge against the trooper himself, reserving his rage for the trainers and commanders who should have seen that the young one was properly fit before being given an assignment. Still, he would not risk being found too soon and if the soldier’s life was the price of secrecy, he had no qualms about doing what was necessary. He focused all of himself on the little one, hearing the soft breathing in the helmet and the rustle of the slender body in a uniform two sizes too large. The soldier stepped backwards, aiming for a crate to sit on while reaching up to undo the chin buckle on the helmet. It sealed his fate.

Sephiroth sprung out from his corner, a silent, savage hunter, and in the space of a heartbeat picked the soldier off the floor and pressed the little body hard against the wall, holding his sword to the exposed skin of the trooper’s throat. Only the odd familiarity of the trooper’s scent stopped him from opening any arteries. He glared down at the helpless little one for a moment, trying to cover his confusion. There was a long pause.

Then the trooper let out a small, high-pitched squeak. Sephiroth dropped his sword and roughly removed the trooper’s helmet. A messy brown braid tumbled out and wide green eyes stared at him. Within moments, the expression turned from terror to one of sheer outrage. Sephiroth grinned.

“I knew you smelled too good to be a soldier,” he gently set her down so her feet could touch the floor but did not lean back for her to move away. She was obviously mad at him, but she held back any outburst she may have had, whether out of fear or something else, he did not know. Instead, he focused on just how good it felt to be pressed against the length of her body. He grinned again. She grew angry and struggled to lash out at him, but he held her too firmly. He relaxed his hold as her struggles grew more fervent, not wanting to hurt her. “Take it easy. I’m not going to hurt you. If I wanted to I could have by now.”

Aeris stopped trying to kick her way out of his grasp and turned to stare up at him. How dare he be so amused by the situation? He had held a sword to her throat, for crying out loud? Against her will, memories of a walk among the trees and what had happened after flooded her mind. Her blood tingled in her veins and the dull ache, the restless longing deep in her belly stirred once more. She noticed for the first time just how close he was to her and it seemed that he had noted it as well.

He leaned down and caught her lips in a fiery kiss, one that she matched with equal passion, driven by the fire in her blood and the burning in her belly. She barely even noticed when he picked her off the floor again and pinned her firmly against the wall, determined not to let her get away. Somewhere in the back of her mind it occurred to her that this was terribly wrong, that she should stop this before it got completely out of hand, but the very scent of his body was driving her to do things she never thought she would have dared. Neither of them heard the door slide open again, but the shout that followed arrested their actions.

“Oh my God! It’s Sephiroth!” Aeris and Sephiroth pulled away from each other with a jerk, though he still hid her with his body. “He’s here! He’s here! And he’s molesting a trooper!” The soldier ran off yelling, raising the alarm. Sephiroth groaned softly and thudded his forehead against the wall while Aeris looked on, surprised.

“More fire to that rumor, I suppose,” he sighed. He looked down at Aeris, “Go find your friends.”

Aeris stepped away when he let her. “They’ll come after you,” she said dryly. He could not tell if she wanted him to escape or not.

“I will be alright,” he answered anyway, lightly caressing her cheek before vanishing like a weak flame that had been suddenly blown out. Aeris stepped back with a gasp. Was he still on the ship? She fumbled with her helmet as the ship-wide alarm began its wailing. She was thankful for the headgear that she had found stifling before. Now it could cover the blush on her face and her lips, reddened from kissing. How could she tell Avalanche what Sephiroth had done when her own actions were just as damning? How could she have kissed him back like that? Why?

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It was the middle of the peak tourist season and Costa del Sol was bustling. There were tanned people strolling down the streets in as little as possible, something that could be considered decent only in a seaside resort town. The annual beach volleyball tournament was in full swing and all the stores had street side sale racks, giving the main shopping district the appearance of a giant, colorful flea market.

After an exhausting run-in with Sephiroth and the monster that he called his mother, Cloud had agreed to let the team have what was left of the evening off to rest. It had taken some pleading from Tifa, some whining from Yuffie and one look at Aeris’ exhausted, troubled face before he approved. Barret had opted to catch up on his sleep at the inn. Red had found himself a cool corner to watch some children playing soccer and Cloud, not relaxing for a moment himself, had wandered off to find the more practical stores in the area. This left the women all to themselves.

Within minutes Tifa and Yuffie had cajoled Aeris into browsing the shops with them despite her pleas for rest. “Get a swimsuit. Then you can nap on the beach and get some sun at the same time,” Tifa was unusually enthusiastic and Yuffie was even worse.

“Sunbathing is for wimps. Ya gotta get into the water and ride the waves!”

“Um, I don’t know how to swim,” Aeris protested weakly.

Yuffie seemed briefly surprised, “Huh? Oh, yeah. You’re from Midgar. It’s just so weird to me, you know. Growing up where there’s no water source, I mean, because Wutai’s the home of the Great Water God and we’re practically born swimming.”

“Yuffie! Aeris! Check these out!” Tifa waved them over to a street side sales rack offering a variety of swimsuits. “These aren’t half bad,” she held up a rather small, crimson two piece. “What do you guys think of this one?”

Aeris chose her words carefully, “It’s nice, but you might want to check for another size.” Yuffie was more straightforward.

“Yeah, Tifa. One good wave and you’ll just pop out of the top.” Tifa examined the swimsuit, glanced down at herself in dismay, then gave a wry smile.

“It’d make Cloud’s eyes pop out of his head for sure, but as much as I’d like to see that, it’s not good to give away too much too early.” She sighed, but eventually found a black one-piece that suited her perfectly.

Then Yuffie began her quest for the suit that met every one of her exacting criteria. It had to be able to stand vigorous sand friction, offer good support and fit so that it would not budge when a hard wave crashed. It also could not be too old-fashioned or any shade of pink, yellow or orange. She flitted from store to store with Tifa following eagerly behind to offer advice and opinions. Aeris trailed behind, almost wilting in the heat of the afternoon like a spring blossom. All she wanted was some solitude to sort out her thoughts. It was going to be a very long afternoon.

__________________________________

Aeris was glad the others were out enjoying Costa del Sol’s nightlife. She needed some time alone, to think. What had started out as a short trip from the inn for some fresh air was turning into a long walk, her thoughts weighing heavier with each step. She paid no attention to the cool breeze that tangled her loose hair as if the chestnut strands were a new toy. The wild dance music faded and the colored lights grew dimmer as she headed toward the beach. She paused to remove her boots so she could walk barefoot on the sand.

The lounge chairs and beach umbrellas had been packed up for the night and the sand stretched out into the cold darkness before her. The moon cast a watery glow on the tide that rushed up to her feet and pulled the sand away, leaving her with the sensation that she was sinking slowly. As Aeris walked, she watched the splashes of water her feet made turn silver as they caught the moonlight before falling back into the translucent wave. ‘Silver…,’ she bit her lip in frustration and sighed heavily.

She lifted her eyes from the water and glanced down the beach, stopping dead in her tracks. Seated on the sand a long way off was the very cause of her consternation. He was leaning forward, resting his arms on his knees, staring intently at the inky ocean. For a brief moment Aeris considered turning back before he saw her, but in that mere moment the man sensed her presence and looked her way. His gaze went through her like a bolt to her heart. There was no escaping the intensity of those glowing green eyes.

Sephiroth smiled, “Aeris,” his voice reached her as a whisper despite the distance between them, “Come sit by me.” Aeris hesitated. Sephiroth chuckled. “Come on. You know I don’t bite.” Aeris walked forward wondering why she had wanted to run in the first place. As she approached, she saw that Sephiroth had removed his coat and was using it to sit on. His heavy shoulder armor lay on the ground just beyond him, the dreaded masamune secured between them. Sephiroth leaned backwards on his hands as she came to stand by him, giving her a full view of his well-muscled chest and stomach. “I’m just taking in the view,” he was saying, “You?”

“Uh, yeah,” she mumbled, her eyes never leaving his body.

“Really?” He tilted his head to meet her eyes. She blushed and looked away quickly. “Sit down, Aeris,” he moved aside to make room for her on his coat. She put her boots down on the sand and sat, trying to keep a decent distance between them. Sephiroth seemed satisfied by her action and turned his gaze towards the rolling waves again. As far as she could tell, his attention was solely on the ocean. They sat quietly for a while, Sephiroth watching the sea and Aeris trying hard to do the same. She could hardly keep from sneaking glances at the handsome man beside her.

She bit her lip again. Why was she sitting next to a homicidal maniac? Why could she never remember that he was the very madman they were chasing? She was probably mad herself to keep letting him get so close to her, talk to her, touch her…

She hung her head down rapidly as the questions weighed her down. Sephiroth noticed immediately and turned towards her. “What’s the matter, Aeris?”

“Nothing. I’m alright.”

“Are you sure?” He leaned closer in concern and took one of her hands in his. Aeris shivered. “Oh dear! You’re cold,” Sephiroth used the opportunity to put a strong arm around her. “Did you know that in the tropics the ocean gets very warm at night? If you’re cold we could go for a swim.”

Aeris barely managed to whisper her reply, “I don’t have a swimsuit.”

Sephiroth’s lips brushed her ear as he replied, “Neither do I.”


Chapter 5

Ardwynna Morrigu's Fanfiction
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