When a Friend Goes too Far
He looked over at Tifa who slept soundly next to him. He brushed the few strands of hair out of her face and smiled. For some reason, he couldn't get to sleep.
He got out of bed and walked to the window. The full moon shown on the water and the leaves blew in the wind. "What's wrong with me?" he asked himself. "Why can't I get to sleep?" He sighed and looked down.
"Cloud?" He turned to look at Tifa. She had awoken, probably from his stirring.
"Why aren't you asleep?" She got out of the bed and walked over to Cloud, placing her hand on his. "Do you feel alright?"
Cloud looked down at Tifa, her silk nightgown shining in the moonlight. He smiled and chuckled. It didn't seem that long ago when she would've kicked his butt for seeing her like this. "I'm fine, just restless."
"Oh, well, now I'm awake to, thanks to you." She smiled and kissed his cheek.
"Who said I was complaining?" She wrapped her arms around him and sighed.
Cloud put his arm around Tifa's waist and stared out the window. Suddenly, something moved quickly that caught his eye. "Tifa, did you see that?"
"See what?" She looked outside and shrugged. "There's nothing there."
"I must be seeing things."
"Why don't we go into the kitchen and get some cocoa, okay?"
He nodded and let Tifa go as she walked away. He glanced out the window one more time and left.
In the kitchen, Tifa placed a cup of cocoa in front of Cloud and sat down across from him. She smiled and took a sip. "Feeling better, Cloud?"
"Yeah, thanks." He downed his cocoa and closed his eyes. Tifa was the best cook in the world, but tonight he couldn't savor the flavor. He was distracted.
"What, Tifa?" He asked moodily. She looked taken aback, then she looked down and walked out of the kitchen and up to their room. As she passed by, Cloud apologized, but she ignored him. He put his forehead in his hand and groaned. "Man, I'm such an idiot."
Suddenly, Cloud heard Tifa scream. He darted up the stairs and into the room. "Tifa!" She lay on the floor, her nightgown slit across her thigh and covered in blood. "Tifa! What happened?" he asked, kneeling beside her. He ran his hand through her soft, silky hair and laid the other on her cold, wet, bloody leg.
"Cloud… he came." she whispered. She looked up at him, revealing her red, swollen cheek. "He... was… here."
"Who was?" He studied her cheek more closely and discovered claw marks. "Who did this?"
"It was…" She was having trouble talking with her swollen mouth. She pointed out the window and said, "out… there…"
Cloud jumped to his feet and sprinted to the window. "Where are you?" he yelled. "You coward!" He grabbed his Ultimate Weapon from its reserved spot hanging over the bed and leaped out of the window. "Show yourself!"
"It's been a long time, Cloud." That voice. That cold, emotionless voice. It was unmistakable. Cloud turned and saw, leaning against a tree, the silhouette of the man who had injured his wife.
"Why did you do that to Tifa? What possessed you to do such a thing?" he demanded.
The man stood straight and turned to face the man with the sword. His cape fluttered in the wind as his long hair waved slowly about. "Why did I? Why indeed. Have I gone insane? Have I committed another sin? Perhaps I'm seeking answers. Or maybe I'm simply searching for the questions." His red eyes reflected the moon's light as he smiled.
Chapter 2, Deliberating Reasons
“I don’t know what’s going on with you, but you leave Tifa alone, you hear? Don’t you dare touch her again! Or-”
“Or you’ll what, Cloud Strife? What will you do to me, kill me? That would only help me on this quest.”
“Help you?” Cloud asked perplexedly.
“Indeed. Then, I could control Life Stream and find the questions and answers.”
He raised an eyebrow and spat, “Why are you searching for questions? That doesn’t make sense!”
Vincent smiled and replied, “Life is simple. You have questions that you must answer. Without questions, there is no life. I’m saving life itself by destroying it. Why? So that questions can be asked and answers can be found. It’s that simple.”
“Maybe, Cloud Strife, but insanity is what gave us life. Look at Hojo. Without him, we’d have no life. We owe everything to him, you and I.”
“I owe him nothing!”
“Oh, but you’re wrong,” he stated. “You will see, Cloud. You will see.” Vincent frowned as he turned, the wet grass squeaking under his heels. He left without saying another word.
“Vincent!” Cloud yelled, “I’ll get you for this. I don’t know what has gotten into you, but I’ll get you!” He ran back into his house, dropping the Ultimate weapon on the living room floor. “Tifa!” He jolted into his room where his wife was still lying on the floor.
“Cloud… did… you…?”
“Yes, I found him. He didn’t make any sense. I’m not sure what’s up with him. He’s not acting like himself.”
Tifa smiled as her husband pulled out an X-potion from the dresser drawer and sprinkled it on her. “Let’s call the others and tell them what happened. They won’t be happy, but they need to know.”
Cloud nodded and grabbed the PHS from his bedside table. He quickly called the others and notified them of Vincent’s sudden burst of insanity. They agreed to meet in Costa Del Sol in the morning. “Alright, Tifa, let’s get back to bed and try to sleep. We have to head out early tomorrow.”
She nodded and climbed into bed beside him. “Goodnight, Cloud.”
Cloud leaned against the wall and gazed out the window. He and Tifa had arrived at Costa Del Sol early that morning. It was now just after noon. No one else had shown up. He only hoped Vincent hadn’t gotten to them first.
“What do you think cause him to do that?” Tifa asked.
“I’m not sure. For all we know he’s being controlled by another mad scientist trying to exact revenge on us for killing Hojo.”
She smiled and snickered, “You’d figure they’d be thanking us.”
Cloud chuckled and continued to stare out the window. He tried to think of a reason why Vincent would do such a thing. He had helped them to save the world and seemed like an ally. Of course, he hadn’t seen him since the defeat of Sephiroth. It was as though he disappeared. Why did he decide to come back now? Why did he attack Tifa? He couldn’t think of a single plausible reason for it except that he had driven himself insane.
He raised his eyebrows as Yuffie passed under the bridge that led to the docks. She stopped and held her hand above her eyes as she looked around. Then, she bounced into the bar. Cloud waved slowly at her as she walked over.
“Hey, Cloud!” she said rather loudly. She turned to Tifa and gasped. “My…! I didn’t know it was that bad!” She looked upon Tifa’s injured cheek with disgust. “Well, I guess he’s finally lost it, eh? I knew there was something strange about him! I mean, you could just tell by looking at him!” She plopped down on a stool and ordered a drink. By now, Cloud had tuned her out. He had turned his attention back to the window.
No long afterward, everyone had arrived. Cloud and Tifa updated them on the episode that took place the previous night as they pondered Vincent’s reasons for his aggressions.
“I don’t know,” Cid said. “Maybe the *&!# boy finally lost his mind.”
Cloud shook his head and stated, “It’s not that simple.”
Barret growled and spat, “Let’s just go kill ‘im and get it over with. It’s not like we were all buddy buddy with him.”
Red glared at the gun-armed man. “No. That would solve nothing. We must find the answer to this if we want it to end.”
“Look, this might sound stupid,” Tifa suggested, “but let’s travel together like we did back when we were in AVALANCHE, okay?”
Cloud closed his eyes and agreed. He knew better than to go against her when she got an idea.
Chapter 3, The Letter
Cloud opened his eyes and sat up. The group had stayed the night in his villa to avoid wasting money on the hotel rooms. He walked out of the bedroom door and growled. “I forgot to go wake up the others down in the basement!”
He turned around and saw a blue envelope taped to the door. “What the…?” Pulling it off, he broke the seal and pulled out a yellowed piece of thick paper. He looked positively revolted as he gazed at the blood drops scattered across it. “What sick person would do this?” He opened it and read:
Ah, my dear Cloud,
I see you’ve gotten the others involved. How like you. You could never really handle anything on your own now could you? Even to the very end of the journey, you needed your so-called friends to help you. Even now, you need your lovely wife Tifa by your side. You haven’t discovered the bliss of loneliness. But I can tell you; I know it all too well. At times it envelops me, depriving me of life and happiness. Yet, it brings me great joy. Do you know why? Of course you don’t. You wouldn’t understand even if I told you, now would you? No, of course not.
Did you forget me, Cloud Strife? Did you forget what you did to me? No, you haven’t, have you? You could never forget your meaningless victory, could you? Ah, Cloud, if you could only see me now. How ironic life is, eh? I’m sure you are wondering exactly what I’ve been talking about. Don’t worry. Soon, you will know. You will know everything. I shall show you the happiness of loneliness. I shall show you the truth that lies deep in every man’s heart. Only I, a man who was devoid of everything, including my own body, can truly understand happiness. Don’t you want to understand, too? Don’t you want to join me and your first love? Of course, the decision is yours. Make sure you choose the right one.
He crumpled it up and growled under his breath, “Vincent…” He couldn’t fathom what had caused Vincent to become utterly insane like this. “What drove you over the edge?” he wondered allowed, stepping through the door to his bedroom where his wife still slept. “Tifa, get up!”
She slowly opened her eyes and pushed herself off the bed. “What is it, Cloud?”
“I’m going down to get the others. I’ll tell you the same time I tell them.” He ran down the stairs and woke up the rest of AVALANCHE, telling them he had important news. They grudgingly went to the living area and listened to Cloud as he read the contents of the letter.
“That sick bastard!” Cid yelled. “What the hell does he think he’s doing righting *@#$ like that in a #* letter? When I get my *#*&@* hands on him, I’m gonna spear him and roast his ass for dinner!”
Cloud shook his head and said calmly, “I don’t think it’s Vincent doing this.”
“What the hell are you talking about?” Barret yelled. “Who else could it be?”
“Oh, it’s Vincent’s body, alright,” the mercenary pondered, “but I don’t think he has control of himself.”
“How d’ya figure?” the fowl mouthed pilot asked.
“Well, it says that he was once ‘devoid’ of his body. Vincent’s never been dead. He’s been in a coffin and experimented on, sure, but who hasn’t? I mean, I think maybe, just maybe, somebody else who was once dead has taken over Vincent. The clues in the letter all point to that conclusion.”
Tifa sighed and replied, “Well, how did they get Vincent, then?”
Yuffie gasped and yelled, “Oh! I should’ve said this!”
“What is it?” Reeve inquired.
“Well, remember how Vincent or I wasn’t there after Sephiroth died?”
“Well, that’s cause he fell off into the Mako. I tried to save him, but I couldn’t. You guys just left without me. I’m just lucky I stole - err - borrowed the Bahamut materia. I summoned him and made him fly me to Wutai.”
Cloud growled and shouted, “Why the hell didn’t you say that earlier? Damn it, Yuffie!” He was so mad that he almost couldn’t see strait. “How could you hide that from us?”
“Well, you deserved it for leaving me! I bet you’ll think twice before trying that stunt again!”
He clenched his teeth and stomped outside. He just couldn’t believe how stupid the teenager was. She had no concept of the real world whatsoever.
He took in a deep breath and started to think. “So, Vincent fell into the Mako. So that person must’ve taken over there. It could be anybody that’s died, though.” He sighed and slammed his fist against the hard wood of the rails, shattering them. “It could be anybody, damn it! Anybody at all!”
Chapter 4, Love is the Clue
Cloud ran a hand through his hair as he took in a deep breath. “Who is it? Who is that sadistic?” A warm, soft hand squeezed his as he turned to see whose it was. “Tifa?”
“Cloud… about that note…”
“Yeah, it’s odd. I don’t recognize the writing style at all. It has to be someone who knows us. That could be anybody, though. We did save the world, after all. Everyone knows who we are…”
“Cloud… that part about your first love…”
He blinked at her and said, “What about it?”
“He was talking about Aeris, wasn’t he?” Her knuckles turned white as she griped what remained of the rail.
“Tifa…” He turned away and shook his head. “You know I didn’t love her…”
“I know…I just asked if he was talking about her…”
“Yes, I imagine he was. He’s a sick, twisted fellow, whoever he is.”
“He knew us. He knew us personally before Aeris died.”
Cloud raised an eyebrow and stared at his wife. “What?”
“Only those who knew us while Aeris was alive assumed you loved her. That eliminates a good deal of people.”
“Yes, it does, doesn’t it? But, it could even be Hojo…”
“Or maybe someone like Hojo in many ways,” Tifa offered.
“Are you thinking-”
“-what I’m thinking?” she finished.
“Do you really think it’s him?” Cloud asked doubtfully.
She sighed and replied solemnly, “I don’t really know, Cloud. I really don’t know.”
Red stepped out of the door and surveyed the damage. “So, what’s the plan, leader?”
Cloud thought silently for a while before saying, “I guess we should go to Nebelheim.”
“If what Tifa and I suspect is true…”
“I see. I’ll inform the others. When will we leave?”
“Tomorrow around noon. We’ll take the Highwind.”
Red nodded and reentered the villa to inform the others of the plan.
Chapter 5, Cloud’s ’Other self’
The mercenary looked around. He was standing in a pool of Mako. The green reflected on the walls and ceiling of the closed cavern he stood in.
I told you. I can’t die.
“Why are you using Vincent?”
I love the irony.
“What? How is that ironic?”
Oh, but you should know. You’ve already figured it out…
A loud buzzing filled Cloud’s ears, bringing him to his knees. “AH! I…thought…I…stopped…this….”
Cloud, you’ll never get rid of me. I am you.
Oh, but I am. I was always there.
“No…!” He was pulled beneath the Mako. The green liquid flowed into his mouth, filling his stinging lungs.
“NO!” He jumped out of bed screaming, cold sweat trickling down his forehead.
Tifa’s hands grasped his as her sweet voice murmured, “Are you alright, Cloud?”
He looked to her and nodded. “Yeah, I’m fine. Don’t worry about it.” He climbed back into bed and kissed his wife goodnight before falling asleep.
The Highwind shut off as the passengers stepped off the plane. “Welcome to Nebelheim,” Cid said. “The birthplace of all that’s wrong with the world.”
“HEY!” Tifa snapped. “Cloud and I were born here!”
“Exactly,” Cid laughed. She put up her fists and he shut up.
“Anyway,” Cloud stated in an annoyed tone, “let’s just go in. I’m going to check out the Mansion, alright?” Before anyone could say anything, he took off into the town.
Memories of his journey flooded his mind as he ran down the stairs to the basement. A sudden chill ran down his spine as he passed by the room where Vincent’s coffin lay. He stepped through the door and stood face to face with the vampire-like man. Vincent’s eyes flashed green like the Mako Cloud was trapped in only the night before in his dream.
“Let’s be truthful here. I’m not Vincent. I don’t wish to go by that name.” He brushed the long black hair out of his eyes as a smile with no humor behind it stretched across his face.
“So, what do I call you?” Cloud sneered.
“You can call me Cloud if you like, since we are now the same.”
“You’re not me.” He clenched his fists and grunted.
Vincent sighed and shook his head. “You’ll never understand, will you? Haven’t you put the clues together yet?”
“I think I know who you are, but now I’m not so sure anymore.”
“Cloud, you know who I am. When my real self died, I simply inhibited your body. That’s part of the reason you were so ‘mixed up’, as it were.” The now green-eyed man laughed with a mournful tone. “Then, Hojo recreated me. Though I hate to admit it, he was a true genius. You see, not all of myself entered you. Some went to Lifestream, as natural. He managed to find my remaining consciousness and fuse it with an artificial ego to create the new me. Alas, you killed me again. But, thanks to the man you see standing before you, I live on. How ironic…”
“Damn it, man! How is it so ironic?” Cloud yelled, his anger getting the best of him.
“Why, this man you see before you was the one who loved my mother. He was supposed to be my father, I guess you could say.”
Chapter 6, Meeting Sephiroth
“Sephiroth,” the dark haired man answered.
“…So, it all makes sense…That’s how you were able to control me back then. You were a part of me.” Cloud shook his head and turned away. “Why would you hurt Tifa? Why are you doing this?”
“To show you the bliss of loneliness,” the cold voice echoed.
“But why? I’m happy with my life as it is.”
“With your friends and wife? Oh, Cloud, there’s so much more. Together, we can take control of Life Stream. Together, we can rule everything. You nearly destroyed me the last time we met. I know that together, we will be unstoppable.”
“Still bent on world domination, eh? There’s more to life, Sephiroth, than ruling the world.” Cloud ran his hand across a few spikes and turned to leave. “I’ll face you again if you ever get brave enough to use your own body.” He moved to leave, but something was holding him back. He couldn’t move at all. “Seph…ir…oth…”
“Cloud, you can’t resist me. You know in the end, I’ll win. I’ve learned how to completely control that section of myself in you. Now, you are forever my puppet.”
“No..!” Cloud clenched his teeth and used every bit of willpower he had to move his hand to his sword. He grasped the handle and slowly turned to face his old foe. “I’ll…de..feat…you…a..gain…” He slowly dragged his feet across the dirt floor as he neared his opponent.
Vincent laughed and threw off his cape. “You’ll never defeat me like that. Perhaps you should call your wife to come help you.”
He grunted and lifted his weapon above his head, ready to strike the possessed man. “I’ll…get…you…!” He closed his eyes and called forth every bit of willpower in him. For some reason, in the distance he could hear Tifa calling him. It kept coming closer and closer until it seemed as though she was right beside him. This somehow comforted him and gave him enough strength to swing his sword down, slashing through the person in front of him. Tearing flesh and a choked scream echoed from the walls and vibrated in Cloud’s ears. Yes! he thought, I got him for good this time! There’s no way he’ll come back from that!
He opened his eyes and gasped, dropping the heavy weapon at his feet. “Tifa…?” She stood silently, blood dripping from her torn shirt and covering the floor below her. Her eyes rolled back as she fell into his arms, motionless and lifeless. “Tifa!” He held her close, shedding tears for the warm, thick liquid that poured down his arms, chest, and legs. “How…? How did you get down here? Tifa!”
A haunting laugh resonated throughout the closed, small room. “See, Cloud? If you had never loved her, this wouldn’t hurt you at all. See how loneliness is wonderful? You don’t have to deal with this pain.”
Cloud pulled his Life materia from his hilt and cast Life 2 on her. It didn’t affect her in the least. He tried pulling a Phoenix Down from his bag and sprinkling it on her, but that didn’t work, either. “Oh, what have I done to you, Tifa? What have I done? Why? Why did you come down here? I told you to go to the inn! I was supposed to be the only one down here!”
“Oh, but Cloud, you are.”
“What?” From the fallen woman’s mouth, emitted an ear shattering screech that shook the walls. Tifa became jet black, and melded into some ghost-like creature. It flowed into his open mouth and spread throughout his entire body. The pain was indescribable. It felt as though someone was ripping him apart from the inside out. He collapsed to his knees and landed on his face, the world around him becoming dark.
Hello, my puppet. Your master has returned.
Chapter 7, The Black Mist
Tifa blinked slowly as she woke up. She gazed outside the window and squinted at the early morning sunlight. “Cloud? Are you up?” Running her hand over the other side of the bed, she noted that he apparently had left. She got out of bed and wandered to the bathroom to look for him. No one was there. She looked in the lobby of the hotel, but still didn’t see him. “I…guess he didn’t come home at all last night,” she said shakily, fearing just what this must mean.
Quickly running into her room, she threw on a pair of blue jean shorts, a white t-shirt, and her hiking boots. “He must still be in the basement!” As she slipped her gloves on, she knocked on the doors to the others’ rooms and dashed down the stairs, running out the door.
The dark mansion leered over her as she entered the building in search for her love. “Cloud! Cloud, where are you?” She ran up the stairs, entered the bedroom, and bolted down the poor, wooden stairs that led to the basement. “Are you in here, Cloud?”
“Here I am, Tifa.”
“Cloud!” She turned around and saw him standing in the entrance of the basement. “Oh, thank goodness you’re alright!” Tifa ascended the stairs and hugged him. “I was so worried when I woke up.” After a few moments, she pulled away, fear in her eyes. Normally, he would have hugged her back. Normally, he would have said, “It’s alright, Tifa. I’m here.” Normally, he would have had a heartbeat. “Cloud? What happened to you?” She looked up to him and gasped. His eyes were cold and green instead of warm and blue.
Cloud stared down at his wife, though he felt no love for her. If she were truly worried, she would’ve come last night. “If you were truly worried, you would’ve come last night.”
“But, Cloud! I thought you were still searching! I was tired, so I went to bed early. I just thought that--”
Silence her. Cloud reached out, picked her up by the collar of her shirt, and raised her over his head. “You will be silent. Everyone will be silent. The world shall be silent. The world shall die with the name Sephiroth on its lips.”
Tifa struggled to free herself, then kicked him in the abdomen. “Sorry, Cloud!” He collasped, dropping his wife. She landed awkwardly on her feet, causing her to lose her balance. She waved her arms, trying to maintain her footing, but was unable to stop the inevitable. Falling back, she tumbled down a few stairs, then fell off them all together and landed in the center of the steps. “Cl…oud…” Gazing toward the library, she saw Vincent slowly crawling towards her, his eyes back to the normal red. Then, her vision blurred until it became completely dark.
Cloud started to tremble as he coughed uncontrollably. It wasn’t because of the pain in his stomach. No, it wasn’t that at all. He was fighting for control of his body. “Seph…ir…oth…!” he shouted, trying to banish the crazed man from his mind. “You’re… not… a… part… of… me…! You… had… to… enter… me…to… take… over…!”
Then how could I control you before?
“I…don’t…know…! Some kind…of…telekinesis…” Cloud screamed, his shouts echoing throughout the mansion. “You…won’t…win!” The black mist poured from his mouth and fell towards the floor where Tifa lay. Cloud gazed lazily at her and yelled, “Tifa! Move!” She couldn’t hear him, however, as she was unconscious.
Cloud couldn’t bear to watch, though he couldn’t take his eyes away. The black mist was upon her. It would only be a matter of seconds before it reached her. Suddenly, though, a black and red figure fell on her, and the mist entered it. “Vincent!”
Chapter 8, Tifa’s Predicament
Cloud closed his eyes and turned away, gritting his teeth. He couldn’t believe it. Sephiroth was dead. He himself had killed the crazed man over a year ago. Then, suddenly, over night, he had come back, attacked his wife, threatened the mercenary, and possessed him yet again. It was almost too much to comprehend. “Why did he have to come back? Why?”
“Cloud, don’t you understand?” He jumped slightly at the closeness of the voice. Glancing up, he saw Vincent standing over him, reaching down to his face. The possessed man gently lifted Cloud’s chin and drew in so close to him that when he spoke, Cloud could feel the warmth of Vincent’s breath on his lips. “My dear puppet, I am going to save the world. Don’t you see? Didn’t you hear its screams so long ago? Those cries are getting louder. I will find the questions. They shall be asked. And the world will seek the answers, thus giving it life.”
“You’re insane… Life is more than just seeking answers to stupid questions!” Cloud growled.
“You’re still blind. Loneliness. Ah, simple loneliness. If only you had experienced the pain of true loss. The pain of losing everything. Then, you would see what life was about. You don’t know the meaning of life until you die!” Vincent started to draw in closer to Cloud, and he smiled maniacally. “But don’t worry. I can show you what it all means. I can open your eyes to the truth.”
Cloud tried to pull away, but his muscles were frozen. As he stared into Vincent’s eyes, he noticed some flickering gold. “No…You won’t…control…me…!” Cloud closed his eyes and tried to find something, anything, deep within himself to help fight Sephiroth. No! I have to fight him somehow! I have to use something…like inner strength! But the only time I was able to overcome everything was when…Tifa helped me. That’s right! Tifa! Cloud opened his eyes and glared into the unnatural green in front of him. “Tifa! Tifa Strife! Wake up!”
She felt so dizzy. She slowly opened her eyes and saw gray blurs. After a few moments, she could see straight. However, she almost wished she couldn’t. The first thing her eyes observed was Vincent holding Cloud so close to him by the chin it looked like he was going to kiss her husband. Almost as if by reflex, she jumped up and started to sprint up the flight of stairs. Drawing back her fist, she prepared to plant her gloved hand in the middle of Vincent’s back. However, he had other plans. Her fist came flying down, but she was too slow. The possessed mad man spun around and retaliated with his claw. Tifa froze as the sharp metal fingers entered her stomach, tearing her insides. “Cl…oud…” she gasped before falling back. “Run…Cloud…!”
Cloud’s eyes popped open as rage boiled inside him. “SEPHIROTH!!” He jumped up, raising the Ultimate Weapon over his head. “DIE, YOU BASTARD!”
Vincent just smiled at him and said, “Would you kill your ally and friend just to seek revenge?” Now, Cloud hesitated to drop the blade. “I didn’t think so, my little puppet. If I were you, I’d be more concerned with your wife. You might still be able to save her.” He laughed and jumped down the stairs and disappeared in the shadows.
The mercenary fell to his knees as he picked up his wife. “Tifa, I’m sorry.” He pulled out his Cure materia and started casting away, slowly healing her. “There, you should be fine, now.”
She started shaking and cried into his chest. “Oh, Cloud!”
“What’s wrong? Do you need to be healed again?”
“No, it’s not that. It’s…I should’ve told you, but then Vincent came that night. I was going to tell you the next morning, but we were so busy. I’m sorry.”
“What is it?” he questioned nervously. “What’s wrong?”
“I can’t…I… I can’t fight anymore, to put it simply. It would be too dangerous.”
“What do you mean? You’re not making any sense!”
“Cloud, I’m…I’m pregnant. I’m sorry. I’m…I’m so scared, Cloud.”
He sat in shock for a moment before whispering, “The baby wasn’t hurt during that attack, was it?”
She shook her head and responded, “No, he hit me right under the ribs. The baby should be fine.”
He held his wife close and stared off in confusion. “You’re…going to have a baby? My baby? And then this happens? And Sephiroth only narrowly missed killing you and our child.” He Cloud began to tremble with rage again. “Damn you, Sephiroth!” he whispered under his breath.
Chapter 9, Goodbye, Friends
Cloud stood in front of his window, his arms crossed tightly over his chest. He should have been enjoying the simple pleasure of sleep, yet he stood tense. He should have been smiling, yet his lips formed a hard, tight line. He should have been happy, yet his was angry and afraid. His wife was going to have his child, yet he didn’t rejoice. No, this only helped fan his fear to life. Tifa could’ve handled herself before. He wasn’t worried about her being injured that much before hand. Now, however, that courage had been killed. She was pregnant. She couldn’t aide him in battle anymore. It would be to dangerous for the baby. Vincent had only narrowly missed killing it hours before.
This thought brought along a new chain of wonderings. Vincent. Vincent protected Tifa. He had finally gotten rid of Sephiroth somehow, yet he sacrificed his mind and body again to save her. Even when he separated himself from Sephiroth, that mad man only entered me. So, no matter how hard we try, we can’t send him back to Life Stream. The only chance is to kill the person being possessed.
“Cloud? Come to bed,” Tifa pleaded. “Please, you need your rest to regain your strength.”
He turned and faced his exhausted wife. She gazed wearily into his eyes as she pulled back the covers. A slight smile took over the corners of his mouth, making Tifa smile as well. “Alright. It’s pretty late.” He climbed in the bed and Tifa threw the covers she had pulled back over him.
“Good night, Cloud,” she yawned, rolling over to get comfortable. He reached out and held her in his arms. Doing this helped make him feel more secure, like he was protecting her and the baby from any outside force. Soon, he fell victim to slumber.
An awful smell filled Cloud’s nostrils the next morning, waking him up. He rubbed his eyes and looked to his left to wake Tifa, but she was not there. Suddenly, he became aware that the smell was that of fresh blood. Slowly, he turned to his right, and what he saw nearly made him faint. “TIFA! What the hell happened?” She stood over Vincent’s body, blood covering the walls, the body, and Tifa.
“Cloud, you’ve finally awakened.”
“Tifa? What’s going on? Who are you?” he shouted, jumping out of his bed. His eyes darted around the room, searching for his Ultimate Weapon.
“Don’t bother looking for your sword. I’ve taken care of it.”
“You didn’t answer me! And what did you do with my sword?”
“Cloud, Vincent entered the room, intending to kill you and your lovely wife. However, she protected you. She attacked first, fending him off for a good while. I knew he was getting weaker and he couldn’t fight back for long, not against her. So, I merely…transferred hosts.”
“SEPHIROTH! YOU GET THE HELL OUT OF TIFA RIGHT NOW!!”
She turned to him, a wicked smile playing on her lips. Her eyes flashed green with a slight flicker of gold. Cloud closed his eyes, turned away, and darted out of the room. In the lobby, he found Barret, Cid, and Yuffie lounging on a couch and chair. They looked at him with surprise as he bolted into the room, breathing heavily in his boxers.
“Cloud? What the *@ do you think you’re doing? Just because you finally got --”
“Cid! Shut up! This is way more serious! Tifa killed Vincent and now Sephiroth’s taken her over!”
The group looked at him with shock before jumping up and jolting up the stairs. “Cloud! If anything happens to her, I’ll kill your spiky-headed ass! You hear me?”
“Loud and clear, Barret…” Cloud answered, still searching for his sword. When he reentered his room, though, he no longer had to search. Tifa held it in her hands, pointed directly at Cid. “Tifa! Fight him!”
She gazed at Cloud and laughed. “’Fight him’? Oh, Cloud, surely you have learned by now that you can’t fight me. In the end, I shall win! And I shall save the world!” She glared at Cid mockingly, daring him to attack.
Cid, being very prideful, pulled the Venus Gospel from his back and spun it around. “You’re going down, you #$*%&^!!!”
Tifa laughed again, twirling the sword around and eventually discarding it to the side. “Come on. Don’t keep me waiting.”
Cid growled, thrusting his spear forward. Tifa easily dodged it and kicked him in the gut. Barret aimed his gun arm at the woman and fired, injuring her leg. As she screamed, Yuffie threw her Conformer at her, slashing her arm.
“STOP!” Cloud yelled. “Don’t touch her!”
“Why not?” Yuffie demanded. “She’s possessed! We can’t just let her go crazy on us!”
He balled his fists and said in a dangerously low tone, “She’s pregnant. If you hurt her any further, you might cause injury to the child.”
Tifa stood up and gritted her teeth. “Get…out…!” Unfortunately, she couldn’t quite force him out. “Cloud…Cloud…”
“What?” he asked desperately.
“Send him…back…to…Life Stream… Kill me…!”
“No! I can’t…!”
“KILL ME!” Her eyes wavered between brown and green as she fell to her knees. “There’s…no…other…way! I…don’t…want…to…hurt any…one!”
“But… The baby! Our child…”
“He won’t…live if I…am poss…essed!” She started to tremble all over. Her strength was fading, and she feared she wouldn’t be able to make Cloud understand. If Sephiroth continued to control her, she’d only be forced to kill her friends, possibly the world. “Do you…really…think…he’ll…allow me…to have…the child…? Please…for…the…safety of the…world! Kill me!”
He picked up his sword and held it high. “I…can’t!”
“Do it! Hurry!” she pleaded.
Finally, Yuffie did something unexpected. She charged forward and knocked Tifa back. “Die, you idiot! I never want to see you again! Do you hear me, Sephiroth? Do you hear me?” She swung her Conformer down swiftly. However, it was for naught, as a black mist flooded from Tifa’s mouth. Yuffie couldn’t stop her weapon. It cut Tifa down, killing her. The black mist swirled in the air before disappearing.
Chapter 10, The Bittersweet Victory
Cloud sat in the corner of a new room, tears flowing from his glowing blue eyes. “Tifa… All those years. All those years of chasing after you, and right as I finally caught you, you were torn away… And I was finally going to be a father. I was going to be something that I never had. But… That bastard…” He covered his face and wept into his hands until dawn, when he finally fell asleep.
Yuffie stared into nothingness as she sat on her bed, blood staining her weapon, hands, and clothes. “Tifa… She died because of me… I…I killed her. She was going to be a mother, and I killed her!” Tears formed in her eyes, though the eyes themselves showed no emotion. “Sephiroth… I left before I could finish him off. But, it’s still my fault for killing her. Her blood is on me, not him…” She heard something over to her right, where the window was. She turned slowly and saw the black mist. “That’s right. Come on! I dare you! Then, they’ll kill me and I won’t have this pain anymore, and you’ll come with me, you freak!” She jumped up and glared angrily at the mist. “COME ON!” Just as she requested, it entered her by way of her mouth. Her vision blurred until she could no longer see, and she fell to the floor, unable to control her body anymore.
Red rested beside Barret, his eyes cast low. “So, she has passed on. And Vincent has also fallen victim to Sephiroth. I see…” He sighed heavily, unable to talk any further.
Suddenly, his ear twitched as the clicking sound of Yuffie’s door opening and closing reached him. He stood and walked to his door. “Barret, please open this.” Barret did as he was asked and went back to his bed to sob alone. Red looked out the door and saw the ninja looking around, a smile making its way up her lips. Her eyes were glowing green, occasionally flashing with a bit of gold. Red charged forward and head butted Yuffie in the side, knocking her to the ground. “BARRET! CID! CLOUD! GET OUT HERE!” he barked as he jumped on Yuffie, trying to hold her down. “HE’S BACK!”
The old AVALANCHE members charged out of their rooms, all but one with tear streaks running down their faces. Cid twirled his Venus Gospel around, getting ready to attack. He glared at Yuffie and held the weapon only centimeters from her neck. “You little $*! You have no idea how much I hate you, you *#$*^&! Taking people’s bodies like a *&%$!$* coward!”
“No! Cid, don’t!” Cloud pleaded. “Don’t make the same mistake that was made with Tifa! Please, don’t!”
Cid looked to Cloud for a mere second, though it was a second too much. Yuffie threw Red off, pushed the Venus Gospel away, and threw her Conformer at Cid, landing it right in his abdomen. He coughed painfully before sliding down the wall. “**(&$*&(%&$()&$#*&$#*&%%^!&$&!($*^$$~!!!!” He pulled the wheel-like weapon from his stomach and coughed a bit of blood. “I’m…not…going down… with… out… a… fight…!” He thrust the Venus Gospel at Yuffie, but she easily dodged it and laughed. He growled with pure hatred and anger before pulling himself up and pulling out his PHS. “Highwind…I need assistance, now!” He thrust his spear forward with every bit of speed he could conjure, striking the young ninja through the middle. “Now, you die, you son-of-a-bitch!” He swung the weapon to the right, sending it and Yuffie out the window. Right as she hit the glass, the black mist left her. Then, Cid heard the sound of the huge salvo coming towards her. “No! Stop! Don’t attack! Don’t attack!” he yelled into the PHS, though it was too late. The missiles hit her, tearing her to pieces before incinerating her body. “No! Damn it!” He fell to his knees and held his stomach, blood rushing over his hand as he did so.
Thumping filled the air as something heavy started ascending the stairs. “Sorry I’m so late, guys! I’m here, now, though!” Cait Sith’s voice called. “I figured I’d use the robot instead of coming myself incase we needed to fight.” He came to a halt as his eyes fell on Cid. “Oh, no! What happened?”
Barret turned around and, very quickly, loudly, and with a few vulgarities thrown in, told Cait Sith a very condensed version of what had happened. Then, he turned back to Cid and pulled out and X-Potion. “Here, buddy. This should help ya.”
Cid raised his hand and shook his head. “No. After that, I’d rather die.”
Barret growled and yelled, “Shut th’ hell up! Ain’t nobody else dying but Sephiroth, you hear me? Get yer sorry ass up and take the damn X-Potion before I have to make ya!”
Cid coughed a bit more before finally taking the healing solvent from Barret. “Fine, you *$#&%. You’re never satisfied, are you?” He poured the potion over him and closed his eyes. His wounds healed, though it didn’t matter. He had made up his mind. He was going to die, and that’s all there was to it. He’d take on Sephiroth, even let him enter his body. Then, he’d die, taking Sephiroth with him. “Hey, tell Shera I said bye, will you?”
“What th’ hell you talking about?” Barret asked, fear flashing in his eyes.
“I have a plan. You’ll see.” He stepped forward to the black mist, still levitating in front of the window. “Come on, now, you *$%&^$&*! Don’t keep me waiting all day, you hear?” The mist didn’t move, but seemed to mock Cid and laugh at him. He poked it with his spear a few times, and it finally entered. Cid’s vision blurred, but he wasn’t about to let Sephiroth have him. “Now you die for the final time!” He shoved his spear into his stomach and laughed while coughing from the pain. “Barret! Finish me off! Don’t let him leave before I die!”
Barret aimed his arm and turned away, letting the bullets fly. Cid smiled at his friends before the bullets hit him. He fell to the floor, lifeless and bloody. The mist, however, did not go on. It poured from Cid’s mouth and immediately entered Red. “No!” he yelled before slumping over.
After a few moments, he soon stood and smiled at Cloud, Barret, and Cait Sith. “You fools! You’ve killed your friends and family, just to send me on? None of your are strong enough to make me go back! None of you! Your attempts only aide me! Without you in the way, I can finally save this dying world!” He laughed maniacally before charging at Cloud, madness swirling in his green eyes.
Cloud, however, didn’t see madness, but a plea for help. Red couldn’t handle having Sephiroth in him…controlling him. He held his sword forward, preparing to injure him enough that Sephiroth couldn’t use him, but not enough to kill him. Just before he attack Cloud, though, Red stopped and started trembling. “No…! I…I won’t help you!” He jumped out of the window and started heading for the mountain.
“What’s he doing, Cloud?” Caith Sith asked.
“He’s…going to kill himself. He thinks he’s possibly strong enough…to hold on to Sephiroth.”
Barret growled and also jumped out the window. “He ain’t going up there alone! I’m gonna make sure Sephiroth’s gone!”
“Barret!” Cloud yelled. “What will you do if he takes you over?”
He looked up at the mercenary and said, “I’ll have no choice. There’s only one way to get rid of him, and now I know. I ain’t saying I’m the strongest, but I can damn well try to take him with me. We’ve lost so many of our friends… I’d be damned if I let him take over the world. I have a kid to protect! Reeve, if I don’t come back, watch over Marlene, will ya? Give her to Aeris’s mom, a’ight?”
Cait Sith nodded. “Sure thing. I only wish I could aide you, but this mechanical body can’t be possessed.”
Barret laughed and replied, “You’re helping me by making sure Marlene is gonna be a’ight.” He looked to Cloud and ran towards the mountain, ready to face his destiny.
Cloud fell to his knees and stared into nothingness. “It… all happened… so fast… Vincent… Tifa… Yuffie… Cid… and now Red. Soon, Barret will probably join them… DAMN YOU SEPHIROTH! DAMN YOU!” He beat his fists against the wall, making large cracks and causing plaster to fall on him.
Cait Sith hobbled over and said, “I’m…sorry, Cloud. I wish I could’ve gotten here earlier.” He gazed down at Cid’s body and grimaced. “I…I’ll tell Shera what happened and…and that he said goodbye.”
Cloud became rigged as a yelp echoed from the mountain, soon followed by a few gunshots. Then, after a pause, one gunshot filled the air. “No…They’re…both gone!” He picked up his sword and readied himself. “Tifa, I’m coming.” Before long, the black mist had come back and smacked Cloud in the face, knocking him to his back. It entered him, quickly taking over.
My puppet. Why do you all so quickly dispose of yourselves? Don’t you see that you’re only helping me? It’s so curious…
Cloud laughed at the voice in his head and told it, “We’ll just see about that!” Somehow, he managed to wrap his own consciousness around Sephiroth’s, locking himself to the mad man. “Try to escape me, now!” Cloud held on to Sephiroth with every bit of mental power he had. Sephiroth couldn’t get free. He tried, but it was for naught.
Damn you, Cloud Strife! I can’t accept defeat from you again! Not this time! This time, I’m saving the world! You can’t stop me!
Cloud raised his sword and held it to his neck.
No! I must get free! I must to save the world!
Cloud smiled and whispered, “Here I come, Tifa.” He felt the cold steel tear through his flesh, and he felt Sephiroth still in his grasps. He started to feel the sensation of flying, and he still held to Sephiroth. Now, he felt himself entering the earth, still holding to Sephiroth. He was in Life Stream, and Sephiroth was still bound to him. He had won. He had killed Sephiroth once and for all, and he was now forcing him to meld with Life Stream. Now, he could no longer terrorize the world. Cloud would’ve smiled if he had a mouth. He would have sighed if he had breath. And he would’ve held out his arms as his wife neared him if he had arms. Tifa, let’s be a family here where no one can harm us. His consciousness, Tifa’s consciousness, and the baby’s consciousness flowed together through the Life Stream.
A scientist waited at home, making tea. She waited for the man with the big dreams, the man who finally went to space, the pilot whom she loved. A pink blur caught her eye, and she gazed out the window. Cait Sith was approaching, and she smiled. The pilot was surely following him. He was just a little behind since he had to check his ship.