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Final Fantasy VII

My 7th Heaven
By Schwingl [ 08-08-01 ]


Cloud sat at the bar at 7th Heaven, drinking lazily from a G&T. Tifa was minding the bar tonight. She stood behind the bar, mixing drinks busily. She glanced up at him and smiled, then went back to preparing drinks. Cloud sighed and stood up, leaving a tip on the bar, which Tifa quickly moved to pick up. Cloud left the bar and picked up his Buster at the drop-off out front. Tifa wanted to keep the place in good condition, and she made sure of that by disarming everyone that wanted service.

It had been two years since they had beaten Sephiroth, and since then, Cloud’s life had fallen apart. He’d gone to selling his services as a bodyguard and hit man. He’d been around the world all over again, and it wasn’t any different. After the fall of Shinra, another powerful conglomerate had stepped in, presumably to restore order to the chaos that was the government. They stepped in and soon became as powerful and as dominating as Shinra had been. There was no bright future in sight for Midgar, and the idea of staying here didn’t appeal that much to Cloud. He walked down the stairs of 7th Heaven, throwing his Buster over his shoulder. Tifa burst out of the bar behind him, and grabbed his arm.

“Where are you going?” She asked, turning him around.

“I’m leaving,” he stated, pulling his arm free.

“But its been forever since we’ve seen each other,” Tifa said, then smiled impishly. “I was hoping I‘d get to see more of you.” It took Cloud a moment to realize what she was saying. The fact that she stuck her tongue down his throat and her hand down his pants helped tremendously.

“Really?” He asked, pulling away from her lips.

“Just let me finish my shift,” she grinned, squeezing his ass firmly. “Then we can get to business.” Cloud smiled as he checked his Buster back in and followed Tifa back inside. Tifa poured him another drink, which he quickly finished. In about a quarter hour, he had gone through three more drinks and Tifa had finished her shift.

About a year and a half after hearing about Aeris’s death, her mother had died, leaving the house as public property. Tifa had bought it and she now lived there, tending the gardens as she hoped Aeris would want. After picking up Cloud’s Buster, they headed to Tifa’s house, Cloud mostly stumbling, while Tifa worked on a bottle of vodka. Finally, they reached Tifa’s house and she opened the door while Cloud leaned woozily against the building. Tifa looked out past him at the calm garden, the faint scent of its flowers caressing the night air, and saw, for a moment, Aeris’s pale form moving among the flowers. Tifa shrugged it off as something from the vodka and pulled Cloud into the house behind her. They clambered up the stairs and into Tifa’s bedroom, Leaving Cloud’s Buster in the hallway. Tifa sat him down on the bed and started removing his armor, and it finally fell to the floor with a clatter.

“Now then, big boy," she smiled at him, “for the unveiling of your fantasies.” After that, the rest of the night was lost in a vapor of sweat and alcohol.

Cloud woke up in Tifa’s room, his head pounding. He shook his head slightly and a wave of nausea hit him. He looked around for his clothes and armor and slowly strapped them on. He planned on leaving as soon as possible, and that meant a set of wheels. He should be able to get a set somewhere, he thought through the haze of his hangover. He plodded down the stairs, picking up his Buster on the way down and hefting it over his shoulder. Tifa was in the kitchen fixing breakfast, apparently unaffected by the large amounts of alcohol she had consumed the previous night. Cloud gingerly tried to tiptoe past the kitchen without being seen, but apparently Tifa noticed him.

“You’re staying for breakfast at least, aren’t you?” she called into the dining room without even turning around. Cloud simply sighed, pulled off his Buster, and leaned it against the wall. This was exactly what he was trying to avoid. This was the sort of thing that happened when you had sex and were too tired or drunk for pillow talk. Cloud liked to refer to it as “the morning after speech.” Tifa brought in two plates and set them down, then briskly walked into the kitchen and brought back the drinks, both water. She sat and quietly ate her breakfast, bacon and eggs with a side of toast. Cloud ate his as well, trying to ignore his headache. Tifa decided to start the conversation.

“When are you leaving?” Cloud finished chewing on his bacon before he answered.

“As soon as I can get a job or a pair of wheels,” he answered, rubbing his forehead.

“You know,” Tifa continued, “that I could use a good bouncer.” Cloud’s eyebrows shot up.

“What happened to Barret? Wasn’t he your bouncer?” Tifa sighed a deep sigh of regret.

“He left with Marlene for Kalm because he said that she deserved a better life than working in a bar in some slum.” She raised her eyebrow hopefully. “So, do you want the job?” Cloud sighed sadly, then finally gave in.

“Fine,” he said, then raised a cautionary finger, “only until I get a set of wheels. After that, I’m gone.” Tifa smiled triumphantly as she shook his hand.

“Good. I guess you can start tomorrow, open to close.” Cloud didn’t care anymore. She had him by the balls now, and she was proud of it. He didn’t care if she basked in her victory. He’d be out of here soon enough. He smiled wanly at her.

“I just think I oughta tell you that I’m gonna get drunk again tonight.” Tifa smiled her impish little smile.

“Oh really? Are you hoping for a repeat of last night’s performance? I must admit, you performed very well.” Cloud sort of shrugged in an offhand manner.

“Well,” Cloud said, pretending to think as he scratched his chin, “not really a repeat. Doing the same thing over and over can get boring.” Tifa’s grin broadened, and she chuckled.

“You didn’t seem to think so last night. As I recall, there was something in particular you did very repeatedly.” Cloud shrugged again, his lips pulled into a half smile.

“Well,” he said, “I was drunk at the time, and you can’t blame a man for what he does when he’s drunk.” Tifa’s eyebrows shot up.

“Are you trying to say something?” She asked, popping her knuckles suggestively. Cloud smiled at the implied threat, realizing that her fighting spirit was what made her so sexy.

“Nothing at all,” he said. “I’m not saying anything.” Tifa looked him over as if sizing him up.

“Well, that’s good. If you don’t mind,” she said, picking up the plates, “I’ll pick this up and go tend the garden.” Cloud sighed.

“I’ll be sleeping through this hangover, then. Wake me up before you leave for the bar.”

“Alright,” she called from the kitchen. Cloud plodded up the stairs, noticing as he passed the banner on top that the creaky boards still had not been fixed. He rubbed his forehead as he walked into Tifa’s room and took off his armor. He lay down on the bed, head throbbing, and finally managed to get to sleep.

***

Cloud’s hand shot out and grabbed Tifa’s wrist as soon as she touched him. When he saw it was her, he let go and sat up. “Sorry,” he said, swinging his legs over the side of the bed. “I guess I’ve been traveling too long.” Tifa rubbed her wrist as she backed up.

“That’s alright, I probably should have known better anyway,” she said as she picked up his armor and helped him strap it on. He shifted it around until it was comfortable, then stood up. He looked out the window and noticed that it was already starting to get dark.

“How long have I been asleep?” he asked as he followed Tifa downstairs.

“Most of the day,” she answered, “if you don’t count till three in the morning.” Cloud picked up his Buster and swung it over his shoulder as he walked out the door. Tifa paused a moment to lock the door, and the two of them walked on to the bar in silence. The rest of the night went as usual, with Tifa working the bar during her shift, yet Cloud, surprisingly, didn’t drink as much as usual. He was still relatively sober when he decided to leave to see if he could find a set of wheels somewhere. Finally, he found someone willing to part with a motorcycle, one competent enough to handle the open plains and mountains he’d be crossing. Now that he knew how much he needed, he knew how long he’d have to stay in this God-forsaken town. By the time he got back to Tifa’s she was already home, waiting with dinner on the table.

“You’re getting an earlier start tomorrow, so you need to get to sleep soon,” she said as she picked up their plates. Cloud grunted his acknowledgement and went upstairs to the guestroom, where he pulled off his armor and climbed into bed. He lay there a while trying to figure out why he hadn’t left already. Midgar wasn’t that thrilling of a place, and it stank from all the pollution. The way Tifa hung off of him begging for his attention was somewhat annoying, but the sex more than made up for that. God, that woman had stamina! But, for some reason, something bugged him. He ignored it and went to sleep.

***

Cloud woke up and strapped on his armor, then headed downstairs. Tifa was out tending the garden, so he snuck out the door with his Buster and left for the bar. He got there a few hours before opening, so he decided to loiter around for a while. As he wasted time, a familiar face caught his eye. Sure enough, Elena from the Turks was out there, watching him. Instead of trying to lose her, he decided to face her head on. As he strode up to her, he noticed that she didn’t bother trying to hide the fact that she was watching him.

“Any particular reason you’re following me?” he asked, laying his hand suggestively on the handle of his Buster. She laughed at him, her eyes glinting.

“You always were ready to kill someone, weren’t you? Always eager to wave that big thing around.” Then she gave him a direct look. “Any other big things you wanted to show me? I’m always... open to new experiences.” She laughed as she walked away, leaving Cloud standing confused in the alley. He couldn’t understand. This had been the woman who had tried to kill him over a year ago, and now she wanted in his pants? He simply told himself to forget it as he made his way back to the bar. The bar was open now, and a few patrons were making their way inside. Cloud stopped by the weapons check-in point.

“Hey,” he said to the stocky man working there, “I’m the new bouncer.” The man stared at him for a moment.

“You’re him? Hmm. Spikey blonde hair. Must be you that Tifa told me about then. You’re a little spindly to be a bouncer. Oh well, good luck.” Cloud raised an eyebrow.

“You think there’ll be many fights?” he asked, looking at the steady line of patrons entering the bar.

“Nah,” the man replied, “most people just come here to drink. I think Tifa’s temper is what keeps ‘em in line.” Cloud couldn’t help but laugh at that.

“You know,” he said as he turned to go inside, “you may just be right.” The bar hadn’t changed much in the two years Cloud had been gone. The only difference now would be that the secret basement had been converted into a storeroom. Cloud found himself a chair in an advantageous corner of the bar and sat. The night passed on uneventfully, and at about two in the morning the bar closed.

***

This routine became the basis of Cloud’s life for the next few weeks. Every day, Elena would stand outside the bar and wait for him, then simply walk away. It bothered Cloud to no end until he finally couldn’t take it anymore. He approached her in the exact same alley he had first time.

“Just what in the hell do you want with me? You’ve been following me around for weeks now.” Elena laughed again, a mocking laugh.

“Poor Cloud, has it been so long for you that you don’t know what an offer sounds like? I can fix that. Come with me.” Cloud started at that.

“That’s none of your damn business,” he growled through gritted teeth. “Why do you suddenly want in my pants so bad?” Elena laughed again.

“I’ve always wanted you, Cloud,” she said, stepping closer. ”Couldn’t you tell? That’s why you’re not dead yet. I could’ve got snipers to pick you off the first time I saw you.”

Cloud was getting pissed off at her superior attitude. “Yeah, so?”

“So, you silly boy, I wanted to see who was the better - or should I say - bigger man: you or Tseng.” Cloud gaped incredulously at her.

“You slept with Tseng?” Elena nodded. “So all you‘ve been following me around for was because you wanted to see who was a better screw?” Elena laughed again.

“That’s right,” she smiled, “so do you feel... up to it?” Something about the way she could seem so brazen made her seem extremely appealing to Cloud. The way she could simply walk up and be so bold. Cloud thought about it. He had enough money to leave with the paycheck he had gotten yesterday. For some reason, he decided to go for it. After all, he had nothing to lose.

“Of course,” he smiled at her. “I hope you’ve got a physical therapist ready, ’cause you’ll need one when I’m through with you.” Elena smiled back at him.

“God, I love it when men get rough. Let’s go get a drink.” Cloud and Elena walked into the bar and ordered drinks, and after about an hour or so, Tifa came in for work. As soon as she saw Cloud and Elena, she stormed over, her face dark with rage.

“What the hell are you doing with this bitch?” she screamed.

“Calm down, Tifa,” he said carefully. “I‘m just here to tell you I‘m leaving.”

“With that slut?” she screamed, “After she tried to kill us, and after we...”

“I hate to interrupt,” Elena said, holding up her glass, “but I believe I need a refill.” Tifa glared at her.

“Get it yourself tramp!” By now several who had come in before the shouting started had found there way out. Elena sighed.

“I think we’re gonna have to leave, if the service doesn‘t get any more courteous.” She stood and began walking out.

“Then leave, you whore!” Tifa shouted after her. Then she glared at Cloud. “Well?” Cloud started.

“Well what?” he asked, raising an eyebrow.

“Choose between her or me Cloud! Now!” Cloud sat still for a moment, then stood up. Tears welled up in Tifa’s eyes. Then he turned to leave. “You bastard!” she screamed, and swung at him. Cloud rolled forward to avoid her fist, and she fell to the floor, crying. Cloud stood up, dusted himself off, and walked to the door.

“See ya later, Tifa,” he said as he walked out. He followed Elena down the stairs of 7th Heaven and to the train station. They boarded the train in silence. “Ya know what?” he said as the train pulled out, “Forget it. Go home to Tseng. I’m not in the mood anymore.” Elena looked at him.

“Don’t tell me you’re letting that scene in the bar get to you.” Elena looked puzzled for a moment. “Then why did you follow me?” Cloud looked at her as though the answer was obvious.

“I have to go pick up my wheels.” Elena’s face hardened for a moment before she moved her eyes to the floor.

“Oh. I see.”

***

The PA system announced that the Sector Six stop was coming up, and the train’s incessant rattling filled the cabin. Soon the train began coming to a stop.

“You love her, don’t you?” Elena asked accusingly. She glared up at him, her face streaming tears. “Answer me! You love that brunette bitch more than me, don’t you?” Cloud gaped at her. What was wrong with her?

“Whoa, whoa, calm down. I have no idea what you’re talking about.”

“How can you pretend there’s nothing between us? After these few years we’ve known each other, you just throw me away like some cheap whore!” What IS her problem? Cloud thought as the train pulled to a stop.

“Whoa, what’re you talking about? There was never anything between us.” Elena gasped in shock, her eyes displaying the horror of betrayal.

“You bastard!” she screamed, and slapped him smartly across the face. The train doors opened, and she ran to them. “You’ll pay for this one day, you bastard.” With that, she ran down the platform. What was up with her? She must be mentally unstable from all the killing she had to do. That must have been it. She’s just deranged, Cloud thought as he rode on to the Sector Five stop, where he walked off the platform and through the slums to find the man with his motorcycle. After he found him, Cloud handed him his money, 3000 Gil, and began walking his motorcycle to the gates of Midgar. As he approached the gates, he realized that this had been his life: always arriving or leaving somewhere. Always looking for a new job. He sighed as he passed through these gates for what he hoped was the last time. He climbed onto his motorcycle and flipped it on, and its mako engine puttered to life. Cloud kicked off, and was soon driving into the horizon, the cold autumn wind behind him, headed who knows where.

Meanwhile, Elena was wandering through the slums, with really no reason to live. She remembered that she had Tseng, for all that did her. The one she had loved blatantly refused her. She remembered how her relationship with Tseng had started. At first she had started sleeping with him to get ahead in the Turks. But after a while, Tseng started to get serious, and possessive. And abusive. He was a complete control freak. He absolutely would not tolerate any other men in her life. And soon he started to keep her with him continually, because he didn’t trust her away from him. Elena pulled the picture of Cloud that she kept with her out of her coat pocket and stared at it. This was the man she was meant to be with, not that overbearing bastard Tseng. But why didn’t he want her? Was there something wrong with her? Elena jumped when she rounded a corner and found Tseng, who was looking for her.

“Where the hell have you been?” he shouted at her. Elena quickly dropped the picture behind her and stepped on it, sinking it into the mud. “Where the hell have you been for these few weeks? Your ass has been disappearing for weeks now!” Elena lowered her head and braced herself. Either he was going to beat her or scream at her, and she was ready for either one.

“Have you been seeing someone?”

“No, Tseng,” she whispered, “I’m not seeing anyone. I’d never do that to you.” Tseng took a deep breath and let it out slowly.

“Alright, alright,” he said, putting an arm around her shoulders, “let’s go home.” As Tseng pulled her along, Elena looked back at the corner of the picture that was left. One last try, she thought, one last try, and if he doesn’t accept me, then I’ll end it all. I can’t go on like this.

***

A few years ago, the chocobo farm to the east of Midgar and Kalm had made a tiny profit from being the only service to offer passage into the southern regions via the swamp. Unfortunately for them, some pedestrian had come across a mountain pass that effectively avoided the swamp. Since then the ranch had gone almost out of business. Chocobo racing was still popular, so Dio had bought up the ranch and left it in the care of its former owners. Cloud passed it without so much as a glance. Chocobo theft wasn’t common enough to constitute the need for a guard, and he didn’t feel like hanging around a chocobo farm anyway. He had avoided Kalm simply because he didn’t want to meet up with Barret. Taking a job with him was what had started the whole thing two years ago, and asking for trouble wasn’t in Cloud’s itinerary.

Cloud spent the next few days riding across the plains and south through the mountain pass, stopping at night to rest. Soon he came to the end of the mountain pass and began crossing the rolling hills north of Fort Condor. All the time he couldn’t shake the feeling that he was being followed. He drove on, keeping his manner unconcerned, just in case he was being followed. On several occasions, as he sat around his nightly campfire, he’d see movement just far enough away to be unidentifiable, and would then fade into the night. Several days later, he began pulling into Junon. He decided that he needed a boat, and soon. He wanted to leave everything that had happened behind. Seeing as how night had already fallen, Cloud figured that he wouldn’t be getting a boat, so he pulled to a stop in front of the local inn, turned his motorcycle off, climbed off and checked in for the night, getting a warm bath and a soft bed to sleep on.

Cloud woke up, strapped on his armor, went downstairs to eat, and rode down to the docks to see if he could charter a boat. Luckily for him, he didn’t have to. Cid was in town refueling the Highwind, and happened to be trying to talk a shipping company into selling out. Cloud happened to walk in on their conversation and hear some of Cid’s colorful vocabulary.

“What the hell are you doin’ here?” Cloud shouted at him. Cloud had learned that the best way to get Cid’s attention was to be just like him, which was bawdy and as profanely loud-mouthed as possible. Cid turned around, grimacing.

“And just what in the name of a one-legged midget whore do you want, you spikey-headed blonde bitch?” causing Cloud to start in mock shock.

“I’m hurt!” Cloud said as Cid took a long draw on his cigar.

“Yeah? So what? So are a lot of whores in Midgar from being ridden too hard.” Then Cid laughed, obviously pleased with his own joke. “What’re you doin’ here?” he asked, leading Cloud out the door. The man sitting at the desk behind them started to protest, but Cid waved him off.

“The usual,” Cloud said as Cid led him to the elevator that led to the airport, “looking for jobs wherever I can get them.” Cid laughed.

“That sounds about right. But don’t ever take them slim-pricked charters. Ever. They’ll suck you dry faster than a cheap whore can suck your dick.” Soon the elevator came to a stop on Cid’s personal landing pad, where Elena stood waiting for them wearing a Turk uniform. “Speaking of cheap whores,” Cid said as he stepped off the elevator, “what are you doin’ here?” Elena glared at him, seething with hate.

“Shut up, you foul-mouthed masochist pig!” she growled, then turned to Cloud, tears welling in her eyes. “Please,” she sobbed, “give me one more chance, please. I can’t live without you. Please. I’m sorry for what I said on the train. Please.” She fell to sobbing as Cid looked quizzically at Cloud.

“It’s nothing,” Cloud explained, “she thinks we had a relationship. She’s completely crazy.” Elena gasped in shock, then fell back to sobbing.

“Fine then,” she said, reaching into her coat. “My life’s not worth living if I can’t have you.” She pulled a gun out of her coat and held it against her head.

“What the hell are you doing?” Cloud screamed as he tried to wrestle the gun away from her. Cloud finally pulled it from her and reared back to throw it, then, after a moment’s thought, handed it to Cid. Elena fell to the floor, sobbing and pounding her fists in impotent fury.

“Why are you doing this?” she cried, looking up at Cloud.

“Doing what?” he asked, looking down at her.

“Torturing me!” she screamed. “Every time you turn me away is like a knife in my gut! Why?” Cloud stared at her. She was completely delusional.

“You’re crazy!” he shouted down at her, “You’re damn crazy! You are delusional! I never loved you! Get that through your head! We never had a relationship!” Elena sobbed louder and louder at each statement, until she finally screamed, a piercing scream, stood up and ran toward the edge of the landing platform.

“Damn it, she’s gonna jump!” screamed Cid. “Someone stop her!” Workers suddenly swarmed toward her, intent on stopping her. Cloud stood by and watched, not believing that Elena could be so irrational.

“Why didn’t you let her jump?” he asked Cid, watching the workers subdue her.

“It’s not good for business,” Cid replied. “What, did you think I’d gone soft on the bitch?” Cloud watched as the grease monkeys brought Elena over, who by now was an emotional wreck.

“Get her put in a good hospital somewhere, boys,” Cid instructed, “and you’ll get compensated.” Cloud and Cid watched as they dragged Elena kicking and screaming to the elevator. Cloud stood silent for a moment then laughed.

“I guess I’ll have to thank you, man,” he said, patting Cid on the back, “you just got rid of a problem that’s been buggin’ me for weeks.” Cid raised an eyebrow at him.

“Oh really? Why didn’t you just kill that psycho whore the first time you saw her?” Cloud thought about it for a moment, then shrugged. “That’s your problem,” Cid said after taking a draw on his cigar. “You don’t know what you’re doin’ half the damn time.” Cloud shrugged again.

“Yeah, I suppose,” he said, “but that’s part of my charm.” Cid laughed uproariously.

“Charm?” he asked, “Is that what you call it? Well, did you know where you were gonna be headed, or were you hopin’ to charm me?” Cloud thought for a moment before he shrugged.

“Wherever you’re headed is fine with me," he said, then began climbing the ladder to the Highwind with Cid behind him. After checking to see that his motorcycle had made it on board, Cloud simply went to the crew quarters and went to sleep, and in a few hours woke up. A few crewmembers were asleep, so he quietly walked his way up to the deck. Cid was there, watching the ocean eddy under them.

“Exactly where are you guys headed?” Cloud asked as he leaned against the railing. Cid looked over at him.

“Icicle Inn,” he said. “Why? I thought you didn’t care.” Cloud pounded his fist on the railing.

“What the hell am I supposed to do there?” he shouted. “It’s a damn popsicle stand! And why are you goin to that forgotten corner of hell?” Cid laughed.

“Popsicle stand? Well, those people just happen to be fond of trying to light each other's asses on fire.” Cloud stared at him quizzically. “I’m making a fortune just freighting those chile spices they grow down in Mideel up here. Speaking of Mideel, your little girlfriend should be on her way there.” Cloud glared at Cid as he took a draw off his cigar.

“Look, you little prick,” Cloud growled, pointing a threatening finger at him, “I’ve already told you! She's crazy! There was nothing between us, and there never will be!” Cid started slightly at that.

“Whoa there, junior, calm down. I didn’t know you were so sensitive.” Cloud simply glared at him and stormed off, leaving him to watch the sea alone. They came to a stop at Icicle Inn, where Cloud adamantly refused to get off, and so stayed with them until they stopped at Junon again. He now refused to go anywhere with Cid, and promptly left on the next charter.

***

After she had composed herself, it was an easy task for Elena to dispatch the grease monkeys on the way to Mideel. Cloud had rejected her again, and denied her the escape she needed. She was pissed now. She now knew that she deserved better than him. Anyone that could turn away such a distraught person as herself was obviously as heartless, if not more so, than Tseng was. He had made a fool of her, and now he was going to pay. After a while, she landed the plane she had commandeered outside town. She thought about the best way she could completely crush him before annihilating him completely. Finally, it came to her. She searched through the survival gear of the plane and found a small utility knife. She held it up for a moment, looking at her reflection on the blade’s polished surface, then lowered it to her thigh. She drug it across her leg, cutting through her suit and into her leg, releasing a flow of crimson. She smiled as she cut herself again, happy in the knowledge that soon she would have her revenge.

***

He arrived at Costa De Sol in a few days and promptly went to the house he kept there. He had bought it two years ago when he had the cash. It had been simply sitting there, collecting dust, and Cloud figured that it was about time he used it. He got himself a bath and a hot meal, cleaned his armor, and tried to go to sleep. Unfortunately, he couldn't. Why was everything going wrong? First things screwed up with Tifa, and then he blatantly ignored Barret, who he really didn't like that much anyway, and then Cid, a guy he thought was relatively okay. It must be that stupid bitch Elena. She must have been screwing things up. But the question now was how to fix what she had screwed up, and how to make it so that she couldn't screw anything else in his life up. He couldn't think of anything other than to go back and apologize to Tifa and hope for the best. But first he had to get enough money for a charter, and that could take a few weeks. He found himself a job as a bouncer in the bar down the street, a completely boring job, seeing as how Costa De Sol was a resort area, and most people got their drinks from the bars on the beaches. The only thing that kept the bar going and its workers from going bankrupt was the patrons that lived or had hotels too far back from the beach and didn't like tanning.

Surprisingly, it only took two weeks for him to get enough money for a charter headed to Junon. The entire time, he couldn't help but wonder how Tifa was going to react. After some thought, he realized that he probably wasn't going to see Cid again for a long while, and Cid was getting old, so he'd probably forget. The boat had barely finished tying its moorings before Cloud leaped his motorcycle over the side and onto the dock, sending workers leaping into the harbor to get out of his way. He sped through Junon, knocking people left and right. Suddenly, a shot rang through the air, sending people to the ground and Cloud flying from his motorcycle. He landed with a heavy clang as his motorcycle faltered and skidded to a stop, sending a spray of sparks through the air. After a moment, Cloud sat up, holding his shoulder. He moved his hand and looked at his shoulder pad, which now had a severe dent in it. He looked up at Tseng as he walked out of an alley holding a smoking gun.

"Damn," Tseng said as he walked up to Cloud. "I knew I should've aimed for your head." Cloud started to get up, but Tseng leveled his gun at him. "Now, now, I wouldn't want you to get away, you rapist asshole." Cloud gaped at him incredulously.

"What the hell are you talking about?" Cloud asked as he tried to sit up.

"She's in therapy now because of you, you son-of-a-bitch!" Tseng screamed at him.

"Who?" Cloud screamed back. Tseng's face blackened in rage.

"Don't pretend you don't know, you bastard!” Tseng shouted, clenching his fist. “My Elena is in the hospital because of you! And now I'm taking you out!" Cloud felt a sinking feeling in his stomach as he remembered what Elena had said on the train. She had done it. She had ruined his life, and now she had lied to Tseng so he would kill him. Cloud closed his eyes and bowed his head, waiting for the clap of gunfire that would be his doom. Tseng pressed the barrel of the gun against Cloud's forehead, forcing his neck back. He could feel Tseng's breath against his face. "Open your eyes, asshole. I wanna look you in the eyes when I shoot you," he growled, pushing the gun harder against his forehead. Suddenly Cloud understood why Tseng hadn't killed him right off. He wanted vengeance; he wanted a sense of justice for the lie that Elena had told him.

"Look," Cloud said slowly, "she's lying. I didn't touch her. She's crazy. She came to me wanting a good screw. I told her to go home. You can ask Cid, if you can find him." Tseng suddenly backhanded him.

"Shut up! Don't even try to lie to me!" Cloud could feel the gun trembling in his hand. "And as for your little whore of a girlfriend Tifa," he continued, his grip on the gun becoming more controlled, "I've got someone on their way to take her out." Tears began welling up in Cloud's eyes. Tseng saw them and began laughing exultantly. "That's right, cry, you little bitch, cry! Cry like Elena was crying when she came home, beaten half to death! Cry like that little slut Tifa will when she hears you're dead! Cry!" Cloud's eyes tightened a second before he grabbed Tseng's wrist with his left hand and slammed his right into his elbow, dislocating it with a wet pop. Tseng fired a shot ineffectually past Cloud's head and dropped the gun to cradle his arm. Cloud clapped his hand over his ear in pain as he rolled away. He stood up, his ears ringing like a church bell, and ran back to his motorcycle, unable to hear Tseng screaming at him. All he cared about now was getting back to Midgar to save Tifa. He sped through Junon and out onto the grassy plains, oblivious to pedestrians.

He spent a few sleepless days traveling to Midgar, stopping only when he was too exhausted to go on. During those few days, he came to an epiphany: he loved Tifa. No matter how little he thought he cared, he loved her. He had loved Aeris, and now Tifa.

***

Elena smiled as she watched the country roll idly below her. Breaking out of Mideel’s hospitals was more than easy. She was on her way to kill that bitch Tifa. She quivered in anticipation of the suffering that would bring Cloud. She would soon be landing outside of Midgar to take care of her. She looked curiously out onto the plains below at the small black dot that was obviously headed for Midgar as well. She set the plane on autopilot and looked down at the thing with her binoculars. She immediately recognized it as a Turk vehicle. Obviously, the Turks had official business in Midgar. She knew that the Turk vehicles all came equipped with a CB radio, so she picked hers up and tuned it into the Turk’s frequency.

“This is Elena of the Turks, badge number 487-189, calling Unnumbered Turk vehicle, what is your current mission? Over.” She waited a moment, then a voice crackled through the radio.

“Mission is the assassination of one Tifa Lockhart.” Elena blinked in surprise, then began swearing.

“Hold position,” she called into her mike, “I’ll be down shortly.” She’d be damned if Tseng was going to ruin her plans now.

***

Cloud burst through the gates of Sector Seven, motorcycle going full blast. He careened through the streets of Sector Seven, blindly driving towards 7th Heaven. A thunderstorm broke out in the cold night above him as he swerved to a stop in front of a crowd of patrons standing outside of the bar. The place had been decimated. Cloud leaped off his motorcycle and grabbed a man by his shirt collar.

"What happened?" he shouted. The man wrenched himself free.

"I dunno. Some woman and a few others in suits came in and started shootin'." They both turned around when a shotgun blast came from inside the bar. Cloud swore and pulled his Buster over his shoulder as he ran up the stairs of the bar. He burst through the door of the bar and began to shout for Tifa, but caught a shotgun blast in the chest, knocking him back out the door and halfway down the stairs. His Buster went flying into the crowd, sending people running. There was a short burst of automatic fire, followed by another blast from the shotgun. Tifa came diving out the bar door, shotgun in hand, landing on Cloud, who by now was covered with blood.

"Oh my God, Cloud!" she screamed, clambering off him and dropping her shotgun. "It's the Turks! C'mon! Let's get you outta here!" She desperately began dragging him down the stairs until Elena stepped through the door at the top. Tifa dropped Cloud and leaped up the staircase, spearing Elena before she had a chance to bring her Uzi to bear. They slammed against the wall off the bar. Tifa grabbed Elena's hand and slammed it against the wall until she dropped the Uzi. Elena saw an opening and slammed her knee into Tifa's gut, knocking the wind out of her. She doubled over, gasping for breath. Elena slammed her fists into Tifa's back, knocking her to the floor. She reached for her Uzi, but was cut short when Tifa rolled over and hooked her legs, throwing her through the railing and to the ground below, where she landed with a wet thud. Tifa paused for a moment to catch her breath before she leaped down after her.

Cloud watched through a haze of pain as Tifa pulled Elena from the ground and proceeded to beat her senseless. As Cloud watched, he remembered why he had fallen in love with her in the first place. She had been completely devoted to him, and now, even as he was dying, she fought for him. It was painfully obvious that Tifa was a much better fighter than Elena was, and soon Elena was on the ground, unconscious. Tifa looked back at Cloud, then turned to a man who was standing in the crowd.

"Get an ambulance! NOW!" she screamed, "Before YOU need one!" The man paused for a moment before Tifa lifted her fist, sending him running. Tifa ran to Cloud and pulled him the rest of the way down the stairs, setting his head in her lap. "Hang on Cloud, an ambulance is coming! Just hang on!" Cloud looked up into her eyes, his own streaming tears.

"You were always so devoted," he rasped, then coughed up blood.

"Be still," Tifa said, running her fingers through his hair, "we're together again. It'll be all right." Cloud coughed again.

"I wanna let you know that I always loved you," he said, "but I was to scared to admit it. I was afraid I'd lose you." Suddenly a calm lassitude came over Cloud, and he looked up to the top of the stairs. Aeris stood there, beckoning, a smile on her face as she came down for him. Cloud smiled and laughed, sending himself to coughing. "She's here," he rasped, letting his head fall back into Tifa's lap. " Aeris has come for me." Tifa stared into his glazed eyes for a moment, before she realized what he was saying, and she sobbed as her heart sunk.

"No! Cloud, fight it! Stay with me! I need you!" She clutched him desperately, sobbing. "Tifa," he said as he reached up to stroke her cheek, "just remember that you're always loved." Then he looked to Aeris, who was at the bottom of the stairs. "I'm ready," he said, then laid his head in Tifa's lap. "Goodbye." With that, he closed his eyes and breathed his last. Tifa clutched him, weeping uncontrollably until the ambulance arrived, and the paramedics pulled her away from him and put him in the back, then drove away.

"Why?" She screamed to the uncaring sky. "Why?" That bitch Elena had taken from her the one thing that meant anything to her. It was her fault! Tifa walked to the steps and picked up her shotgun, then turned looking for the bitch. By now the crowd had dispersed. She was nowhere to be found. She must have slipped away while the paramedics had picked up Cloud. She pumped the shotgun, and the empty shell fell to the ground with a chilling clatter. "You're mine now, Bitch!" She shouted into the night. "You hear me? Your ass is mine!" With that she slung the shotgun over her shoulder, pulled Cloud's bike off of the ground, started the engine, and drove off into the night in search of Elena.

Author's Notes: Here ends the story. It's my first fanfic, and my second publication of any kind (My first was a school newspaper). Keep an eye out for the sequel to this; entitled My Final Heaven, where Tifa goes in search of Elena to avenge her lost love, Cloud. I’d also like to thank Marcus, Casey and Pamela, without whom I could not have finished on time. Many thanks and lots of love.




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