Lunaludus Scribex

PRELIMINARIES: None of this belongs to me. Final Fantasy VII, and all worlds, characters, etc. associated with it, are the property of Square-Enix. Square-Enix is not afflilated in any way, shape, or form with the creation of this story (a fact for which, I suspect, they would be profoundly grateful). I have made liberal usage of their characters and settings in this story; this was done without Square-Enix's knowledge or permission, and is technically an infringement of Square-Enix's copyright. As this story is, at the most pragmatic level, free promotion of the Final Fantasy franchise, it is hoped that they will regard this story (if at all) with a benign ignorance.

If you paid a wooden nickel for this story, not only have you been drastically overcharged, but whoever charged you has done so illegally, and I disavow any association with said individual(s).

This story is archived in .txt and .htm format, along with my other works, at my website, The Codex Scribanus. In the highly unlikely event you wish to have a copy of this story for your own archives, you will find distribution guidelines there.

This story would be much worse than it is--assuming I had managed to finish it at all--were it not for my prereaders, Shack and especially Kami, who put me back on track when I lost control of the next-to-last scene. I owe you guys big time.

This story was inspired by Tamerine's "Case Against Final Fantasy VII," one essay too many expounding on Aeris' Noble Sacrifice (TM), and a passage from The Passion and Death of Jesus Christ by St. Alphonsus Liguori.

Now, sit back and either enjoy the ride, or (more likely) enjoy thinking of what you'll do to me at the end of it...

The Author

Left foot.

Right foot.

Left foot.

Right foot.

Eyes forward.

Left foot.

Right foot.

Back straight.

Left foot.

Right foot.

Hands at her sides.

Left foot.

Right foot.

Hope that no muggers attack.

Left foot.

Right foot.

At the moment, she couldn't have defended herself.

Left foot.

Right foot.

Just concentrate on walking.

Left foot.

Right foot.

Forget the panicked mob that had nearly trampled her to...that trampled her.

Left foot.

Right foot.

The mob was dangerous.

Left foot.

Right foot.

The mob led to--no! She wouldn't think of it.

Left foot.

Right foot.

She would concentrate on walking.

Left foot.

Right foot.


Left foot.


Right foot.

Left foot.

Right foot.

Walking was safe.

Left foot.

Right foot.

It didn't lead to...

Left foot.

Right foot.


Left foot.

Right foot.

What were they running from, anyway?

Left foot.

Right foot.

Stupid question. She'd felt it herself--heck, the entire Sector had probably felt it.

Left foot.

Right foot.

It sounded like an explosion, but...

Left foot.

Right foot.

But it was huge. She couldn't think of anything that could have caused that.

Left foot.

Right foot.

People just didn't build that big in the slums. They couldn't.

Left foot.

Right foot.

But if it wasn't a slum building, then that just left...

Left foot.

Right foot.


Left foot.

Right foot.

Of course--the reactor!

Left foot.

Right foot.

But who would be crazy enough to go after Shinra?

Left foot.

Right foot.

She shuddered. Forget "would." Who could?

Left foot.

Right foot.

They certainly hadn't gone by her afterward.

Left foot.

Right foot.

Everyone she'd seen was running around in a panic.

Left foot.

Right foot.


Left foot.

Right foot.

Everyone except--

Left foot.

Right foot.


Left foot.

Right foot.

Almost home, now.

Left foot.

Right foot.

Not much longer.

Left foot.

Right foot.

Almost back to the house, the garden, the sky.

Left foot.

Right foot.

The sky.

Left foot.

Right foot.

Such a beautiful color.

Left foot.

Right foot.


Left foot.

Right foot.

The same as--

Her knees buckled. She blindly threw up her free hand, bracing herself upright against the charred husk of what was once a tea house.

No! Not now! Not here!

But it was too late. She could only clutch her basket to her chest, and hold on for dear life as the memory flooded over her.


Slowly, she opens her eyes and looks up...

A figure approaches...

A man.

A massive sword strapped to his back...

His clothing gashed in several places...

A finely chiseled abdomen...

Arms taut, corded muscles rippling with barely-concealed power...

His face.

Sharp and angular...

A never-ending field of planes and valleys...

Catching the shadows, accentuating them...

Mako eyes.

Eternal blue, deeper than sea and sky together...

Twin sapphires, glowing in the night...

She stares helplessly, falling into them...

Drowning in them...

They widen slightly as he reaches down to her, and--

With a loud sob, Aeris Gainsborough fell to her knees and retched.



A Final Fantasy VII Fanfic


Lunaludus Scribex


It wasn't all that cool out this evening, and technically, she was indoors.

Aeris built a fire anyway.

The light was a bulwark against the stifling darkness--an aspect of the Planet she'd never even considered before she left Midgar--while the smoke drove away the insects--an aspect of the Planet that had gone from a necessary irritant in her garden to a full-blown menace in the wild.

She dug the firepit a couple of feet in front of the giant shell she'd claimed for the night, and surrounded it with loose stones from the pathway. Kindling was dragged from the forest, and while she rued her lack of foresight in not taking a Fire materia when she left Gongaga, she did have a knife, a flint, and plenty of practice.

What I wouldn't give for a match right about now. Or a lighter.

Not that she was complaining. Much. Since her escape from Midgar, her life had improved exponentially. She had seen the width and breadth of the Planet, had carried out long-cherished dreams and found new ones to take their place. Shinra was only an occasional menace, now; with his resignation, Hojo was, for all intents and purposes, gone, and the Turks were preoccupied.

She had learned more about who and what she was than she had ever dreamed possible...and what she had learned exceeded any of her expectations. Indeed, it often stretched her belief.

It still seemed like something out of a storybook, when she really stopped to think about it: last of the Cetra, heir to all that they enjoyed--heir to the entire Planet, really!--charged, by her own existence, with its care and defense.

And, by virtue of that last one, Sephiroth and Jenova's worst enemy.


She could feel him lurking nearby, seething; but she was not worried. Here, of all places, she had power. He could not seriously harm her in this place unless she allowed him. And even if she did, he couldn't kill her.

He would never be able to kill her.

A smile graced her lips as she lay down by the fire. That had been the most unexpected, most welcome improvement of all.

She'd won. She'd won! For the first time in her life, Aeris was well and truly free. For as long as she could remember, the nightmare had stalked her; but now, she stalked it in turn. It was weighted, shackled, and collared--and Aeris held the leash. She had no intention of letting go.


-Midgar area, six months ago-

"Come on, stay...stay...crap!"

The support pole teetered, then tipped, and for the tenth time in as many minutes, Aeris let go and jumped back, allowing the tent (in theory, anyway) to collapse to the sunset-stained grass. She kicked at the heap in frustration. This was ridiculous!

She heard a soft whuffing sound off to the right, and glared over at her traveling companion. "Do YOU want to do this?"

The creature Hojo had dubbed Red XIII lifted his head and cocked it to one side. He held her eyes for a few seconds, then eloquently lifted a single thumb-less paw for her inspection.

Aeris felt the blood rush to her face. She turned away with an explosive "Hmph!"--and toppled to the ground, as the canvas refused to let go of her foot. She didn't move for a long minute, trying to regain her composure while listening to the whuffing sound again coming from her crimson companion.

What a terrific idea, Gainsborough. Leave Midgar. Seek your legacy. Get tripped up by an idiot-proof tent and laughed at by an overgrown fleabag.

"Aeris?" Aeris turned her head to find Red regarding her with mingled amusement and concern. "I don't think you're supposed to use it as a blanket."

Aeris' response was brief and anatomically impossible.

"Such language." Red's chuckles subsided as Aeris climbed to her feet and reached down to the tent once again. "You've really never done this before, have you?"

"What was your first clue?"

Red's tail swished lazily from side to side. "I'm just a bit surprised, that's all. I never expected to meet a Cetra who couldn't even set up a campsite."

Aeris sighed. "Red, I've lived in Midgar since before I could walk. When would I have had a chance to learn?"

"You should have said something before we left for Kalm." Red shook his head. "Cloud would have taken you with him if you'd...Aeris? Are you all right?"

Damn, he noticed. Aeris took a deep breath, and tried to relax. "I'm fine, Red."

Red's eyes narrowed. "Aeris, it might not be any of my business, but did something happen between you and Cloud?"

"You're right, it isn't any of your..." Aeris closed her eyes and sighed. "No, of course not."

"You've been acting uneasy around him since we broke out of the holding cells. You won't look him in the eye, and you stiffen up whenever he comes around--the same way you just did a minute ago." Red cocked his head. "If I didn't know better, I'd think you were afraid of him."

"Afraid?! Don't be silly, Red."

"If you say so." Something in Red's voice caught her attention, and she looked back at him. "You were all but throwing yourself at him in Hojo's lab. Whatever you're worried about now, you weren't then."

"That's because I was looking down."


She started. "Nothing!"

"...All right."

Aeris breathed a quiet sigh of relief as he finally let the subject drop, and bent down to examine the tent again. "I don't suppose the Planet would set this up for me if I asked nicely."

"Well, you'd know that better than I would."

Aeris chuckled. "I guess I would, at that." Maybe if she restaked the base...

Red padded alongside her as she pulled up the first corner. "There are many books about the Cetra back home, but there isn't much about what they can actually do."

Aeris paused, and glanced over at him. "Really?"

"Well, maybe it would be more accurate to say that there's too much." Red chuckled again, that strange whuffing sound. "So much of what we know about the Cetra is practically mythic in origin. There's no way of telling which records are accurate, which are exaggerations, and which were made up out of whole cloth. If half the stories are true, you could have torn down the Shinra tower with your bare hands!"

Aeris snorted. "That's a bit beyond me, I'm afraid. What other powers am I supposed to have?"

"What aren't you supposed to have would be a better question." Red paused a moment in thought. "The Cetra were supposed to be able to control the Planet. They could manipulate the earth, calm and stir the seas--even summon raw materia, by some accounts. They could talk to animals, control them, have them fight for them. They could heal with just a touch...a few histories even claim they could see the future!"

They widen slightly as he reaches down to her, and--

Aeris laughed loudly. "Now that's REALLY far-fetched! It would be nice to have, though." She glanced down at the canvas heap. "I would have known to learn to pitch a tent before this. Ah, well...here we go again!"


She paused and looked back at him. "Yes?"

"This time, try using both support poles."

-Costa del Sol, three months ago-

Aeris stared at the ceiling of the inn and breathed deeply. She focused on the sound of the waves from the beach; if she listened hard enough, she reasoned, then perhaps she could ignore the frantic pounding in her own chest.

Hojo. She'd never expected to see him again...no, she'd be honest. She'd hoped she would never see him again. Just the thought of him brought back a whole host of unpleasant memories, beginning with the sterile white-walled labs in the Shinra tower and ending with her hands covered in her mother's sickly sweet blood; meeting him again so far from Midgar had shaken her badly.

And then he had the...the gall to off-handedly ask after her mother's health--as if the godforsaken bastard hadn't shot her himself as she fled! Twice!

Aeris growled softly in the back of her throat--then blinked, as there was an answering rumbling from outside. She caught an angry murmuring from the Planet, and gulped as she realized It had picked up on her discontent.

Uh-oh. Happy thoughts. Think happy thoughts. Puppies. Flowers. Um...Hey! No use in flooding the beach--Hojo has already left.

She knew. She'd checked.

Fifteen draining minutes (and a dozen very happy surfers) later, she let herself collapse back on the bed. Talking with the Planet was nice in theory, but she didn't think that was supposed to mean It was plugged into her brain twenty-four hours a day!

Her eyes snapped open as a pair of booted feet clamped down the hallway at a relaxed, even pace that could only belong to one person. Oh no. Please, no. Not him. Not now, of all times, PLEASE!

"Aeris? Are you all right?"

Damn it! "I'm fine, Cloud, really. Just tired."

His eyes widened, and Aeris slowly clenched one fist where he couldn't see. "Is it because of Hojo, or..."

Aeris shook her head. "No, I don't think so. I don't know why I'm so tired." She bit her lip, hoping Cloud wouldn't call her on the blatant lie. He didn't, just looked at her expectantly--and Aeris realized she didn't have any idea what to say. "Um...it's a nice inn, anyway. You don't realize how nice indoor plumbing is until you do without it for awhile, you know? I mean, you'd know--you've done this sort of thing before, right? In SOLDIER? Anyway, I'm going to shower later, if Barrett ever gets out of that bathroom. It's been so long since we've had a chance to--" Too late, she caught Cloud's incredulous expression out of the corner of her eye and slammed her teeth shut on the words.

We were in Junon two days ago, you babbling idiot!

"Are you sure you're okay, Aeris?"

Not good. Definitely not good. She closed her eyes and took a deep breath. Well...when in doubt, stick with what works. She forced herself to roll over on the bed and look up at him with wide, innocent eyes. "Cloud? What do you think of me?"

Cloud's brow furrowed, and he crossed his arms. If she hadn't been looking for it, Aeris would have missed his jaw clenching. "I don't know," he said after a moment. "I don't understand anything." He hesitated, then shook his head, not saying anything more.

And not moving, either. Oh well. Better than nothing, I guess. Aeris sighed and rolled onto her back again. "...You're right. Even I don't understand myself. I wonder...what part of me is like an Ancient? What's an Ancient supposed to be like, for that matter?" She closed her eyes. It was easier when she didn't look at him. "Am I supposed to be more like Sephiroth? Or Jenova? Are they supposed to be more like me? Or maybe we're all misfits. I wish I could have asked my mother about it, but she's...or that scientist for Shinra--the one Hojo replaced. What was his name?"

"Professor Gast."

"Or Professor Gast. But he's dead, too...returned to the Planet. Everyone who could have explained what I'm supposed to be doing is no longer alive--except for maybe Hojo, but I wouldn't want to learn anything from him." She softly blew her hair up off her eyes. "It's strange, isn't it? I don't understand it...Ahh! I'm going around in circles. I wonder if there's any answer to...this..."

She opened her eyes, and her voice died as he caught and held her gaze with his own.

She stares helplessly, falling into them...

Slowly, as if in a trance, Cloud reached down to grip her shoulder--and Aeris jerked back, flipping away from him and onto her side. She felt his gaze pound into her back, and curled into a ball, clutching her knees to her chest.


"I'm going to sleep." The bed creaked as he leaned over her, and she scrunched her eyes shut. "Please, Cloud! Just let me rest."

For a moment, nothing happened. Then, the pressure on the bed eased, and a moment later, she heard Cloud's boots march down the hall. She finally opened her eyes when she could no longer hear them, and let out a long, shuddering breath.

There were days when she wondered if this was really worth it.

-Gongaga, two weeks ago-

Aeris did her best not to flinch as the alcohol-soaked cloth touched the bruise just below her left eye. It hurt; Cloud--or whatever had possessed him--hadn't been holding back. But with everything that had happened, she knew this was no time to allow her weaknesses to dominate.

"Are you all right?"

"I'm fine. Tifa..."

Tifa looked up, and Aeris let her hand drop back into her lap.

Besides, I'm not the only one hurting here.

Tifa's frame was a tightly-wound study in misery. Her face remained expressionless, but her shoulders were bunched, and pain and frustration rolled off her in waves.

She certainly had reason.

Aeris cringed again, and not entirely from the pain. Asking Cait Sith about her prospects with Cloud had seemed like a great idea at the time, but it might have worked a little too well. Cloud had well and truly gone over the edge, and Tifa...

There was probably some irony in the situation--sitting in a room that used to belong to her first love, having bruises Cloud had caused treated by his first love...and knowing that, had their positions been reversed, Aeris would have been hard pressed not to add a few bruises of her own.

She blinked as Tifa sat back and wiped the sweat from her brow. "They're healing up well. Another week, and they should be gone."

Aeris groaned. "A whole week..."

Tifa shook her head. "It's not like we're going anywhere, is it?" she asked bitterly.

"No change, huh?"

"No. He just lies there..." Tifa shook her head again. "He looks so...peaceful."

Aeris shuddered. Peaceful. Cloud hadn't been peaceful down in the pit, eyes wide, fists flashing again and again and again and again as he reached down to--


Her eyes snapped open, and she smiled weakly. "Sorry."

Tifa frowned. "Aeris, what happened down there? I can't believe that Cloud would just...and now Sephiroth has..."

"Yeah." Sephiroth had the Black Materia...because Cloud had given it to him. That was the part she couldn't believe--Cloud, under Sephiroth's control? How had that happened?

It did explain a few things, though.


Maybe this was the time. No, this was the time; she'd never have a better opportunity. Aeris let out a breath, and turned to face Tifa. "I might be able to do something."

"Do something? What?" Aeris ignored her and looked around the room. Ah, there was her pack. Still filled with clothing. "Aeris, where are you going?!"

Aeris slung the pack over one shoulder. Food wouldn't be a problem. The tent, on the other hand, was, but a sleeping bag should suffice.

She turned to leave, and found Tifa blocking her way. "Aeris! We can't go now! Not when Cloud's--"


Tifa sucked in a sharp breath. "You're not serious."

"You're not a Cetra, Tifa." None of you are. "You'll only get in my way."

Aeris took another step forward, but Tifa grabbed her shoulders, halting her progress. "Aeris, you can't do this! Not alone!"

Aeris just looked at her.

"What about Cloud, Aeris? What are we supposed to tell him when he--" Tifa gasped. "That's it, isn't it? That's what this is about."

Aeris blinked. "What?"

"Aeris, Cloud isn't like that. I don't know what happened, but that wasn't him!" Tifa's grip tightened, and she closed her eyes as she took a deep breath. Aeris' eyes widened. She's...crying?! "You don't need to leave just because of that..."

Aeris felt sick to her stomach. "Not just because of that, Tifa." She isn't. She can't be. "But I have to go. There will never be a better time."

"A better time? A better time?!" Tifa shook her head. "No. I won't accept that. There is no good time to run away from a man who...a man who loves you!"

Aeris' mind raced. She'd given up. Tifa had given up. Of all the things that could possibly have happened, that she had prepared for...this one wasn't even on her radar. "Cloud doesn't love me, Tifa," she said, stalling for time.

"Yes he does!" Tifa's voice went up sharply, and Aeris nervously glanced past her. The last thing she needed was for Red or Yuffie--or, Planet, help her, Barrett--to hear this. Bad enough that Tifa was here! "Don't you get it, Aeris? You've won! He loves you, and--"

"I don't love him, Tifa."

Tifa jerked back as if struck. Aeris cursed silently, but held her gaze steady. Like it or not, she had just passed the point of no return.


"You heard me."

Tifa's arms dropped limply to her sides. She just stared at Aeris, her mouth working silently. Then she closed her eyes, and took a deep breath.


Aeris' head rocked to the side, and the pain from her bruises flared up as stars exploded before her eyes. Before she could catch her balance, Tifa grabbed her shoulders again and slammed her against the wall. "You cold-hearted, miserable two-faced bitch!" she hissed. "How could you, Aeris?! How could you do this to him?"

"Tifa, I'm..." Wait a minute. "To him?"

"Just what did you hope to accomplish here? Every day for the last six months--every single day, Aeris! You flirt! You press! You do everything in your power to make him yours, and now that you have him you're just going to toss him out with the garbage?!"

Aeris blinked, desperately trying to parse the situation into something she could comprehend. Tifa was furious...for Cloud?

"Do you get your kicks going around breaking men's hearts? Is that it?" Tifa stepped back and gazed at her with stunned disgust, as if seeing her for the first time. "This must have been your crowning achievment. 'Be my bodyguard for a date.' Such a smooth delivery. Tell me, Aeris, how many men did you have to practice that line on to get so good at it? Did you ever bother to see what was left of them after you were finished? Did you?"

You sound like you're speaking from experience. An unfamiliar emotion began to trickle through the stunned fog that had enveloped Aeris' mind. It was hurt and angry, and with a bemused start she realized what it was: righteous indignation.

It had been so long since she'd felt righteous about anything.

"You had to know what was going to happen," Tifa raged. "You had to. You just didn't care! You could have stopped this at any time, but no! You went ahead, reached into his chest, ripped out his heart, threw it on the floor and danced on it! You could have walked away anytime you liked! But no, you had to--"

Indignation vanished in a bubble of clean, white-hot rage. Aeris might not have been a martial artist, but she had grown up in the slums; she knew how to throw a punch, and Tifa was on her back before she realized what hit her.

Aeris glared down at her. "Do you think I didn't try? Do you think I wanted things to turn out this way?" She stalked forward, and Tifa scrambled to her feet, backing away as she did. "Oh, I walked away, all right," Aeris spat. "I tried to leave him behind. I figured in a city as big as Midgar, I'd never see him again. And what do you think happened? The very next day, he dropped out of the sky and landed on my flowerbed!"

Tifa opened her mouth, but Aeris talked right over her. Three minutes of desperate planning and six months of further contemplation flowed from her tongue, and after all this time she'd kept it bottled up, it felt good. "Tell me, Tifa. What happens when you stretch a rubber band, then let go? It snaps back! What happens when you squeeze a ball, then let go? It expands. Do you get it, Lockheart? Do you understand what I did?"

"No," Tifa snapped. "You didn't want to be around Cloud, so you decided to make him fall in love with you! I don't understand that at all!"

Aeris laughed scornfully. "Fall in love with me! Just what kind of a man do you think he is?"

Tifa stared at her, uncomprehending.

"You were there with him in the cell back in the Shinra building. Do you remember? What did he do when I mentioned our date?" Aeris didn't know for certain, but she knew what she had expected even then--and she had seen nothing in the six months since to make her believe differently.

"...He flinched."

Bingo. "Exactly. I've been crowding him at every turn. He draws back, I follow. I've pressed him, I've thrown guilt trips at him--for Pete's sake, I made him wear drag back at Don Corneo's! Cloud, falling for me?!"

Aeris made no effort to hide her contempt. And she thinks she loves him. "If you really believe that, Tifa Lockheart, then you don't know Cloud at all."

Tifa's mouth worked silently. She stared woodenly ahead, unable--or unwilling--to face the woman she had thought was a rival any longer.

Aeris left without another word.

Aeris groaned as the light beat down on her eyes, slowly working its way through her unwilling lids and drawing her out of her slumber. Mornings were not her favorite time of the day; even here, in the City of the Ancients, she groaned and stretched and muttered dire imprecations at the sun. A sharp pain in her lower back cheerfully informed her that she'd slept on it wrong last night, and, just as she did every morning, she wondered why she was here instead of in her comfortable bed in Midgar.

And then, just as she did every morning since she had left Gongaga, she remembered.

Cloud Strife was not here.

Cloud, the man whose eyes she would look up into as she died, was clear on the other side of the world...with no idea where she was...and every reason to avoid her, even if he knew.

She frowned slightly. Something about that didn't quite sound right... But she quickly shook it off. She had more important things to think about. Her desperate plan had succeeded beyond all hope; once the Planet was safe, there would be nothing she couldn't do.

As if in response to her thoughts, she felt a small presence behind her. She reached up to her hair ribbon and felt, to her delight, a faint tingle. Finally!

Holy was ready. Tonight, she would be able to descend into the depths of the City. Tonight, she would summon Holy and stop Meteor. Tonight, she would put an end to Sephiroth and Jenova's plans, once and for all.

Tonight, she would begin the rest of her life.

But that was for tonight. Today, she would relax. Today, she would refresh herself, mind and body. With a small nod of determination, she climbed to her feet and headed for the City proper. The sun was brilliant, the sky was blue, and the pool was waiting for her.

It would be a beautiful day.


"He who trusts in himself is a fool." (Prov. 28:26)