Note:    I do not own Final Fantasy VII.

A/N:  This fic was inspired by fantasymichelle14's fic Friday the 13th.  It's got a similar feel to it, but it's obviously quite different.  Nevertheless, I thought I'd give her credit for fueling my muse.

And then there were two

Chapter 1:  Awake

            Cold: that was the word to describe his feelings . . . no its feelings.  The creature had lost most of its sense of humanity from endless experiments and exposure to mako.  It was once a man who could understand and comprehend the word 'cold,' but now it relied on pure feeling disregarding any words to describe the sensation.

            The creature tried to ignore the nagging tingling of its freezing limbs hoping to drift back to eternal sleep.  But try as it might, the cold was seeping into its body and preventing it from returning to its previous catatonic state.  There would be no more sleep, at least not until the creature was able to fight off the frigid air.

            It struggled to move and generate some heat, but was restrained by leather bindings strapped to its arms and legs.  Flexing its muscles until the sinewy tissue was about the rupture, the creature managed to break free from its holdings only to be blocked by a solid door with a small glass window.  The anthropomorphic being curiously peered out the window to see nothing but darkness.

            Trying to poke its head through the clear glass, the creature was only capable of steaming the glass with its breath and banging its head against the hard surface.  Frustrated, anger and brute strength outweighed all logic as the creature broke the door holding it imprisoned in the pod.  Stepping out of its cell into the inviting darkness, the creature finally reentered the world that it had long forgotten.

***

            The morning sun beat down on the placid earth as three members of the group called AVALANCE slowly worked outside in the front yard of the ShinRa Mansion.  The mansion had always been the site of superstition and intrigue, but for Vincent, Tifa and Cloud it was their home.  They had agreed to stick together after defeating Sephiroth and dissolving the ShinRa Corporation that had ruined all of their lives.  Neither of them had a place to call home thanks to the corrupt company, so they chose to inhabit the ShinRa mansion and convert it to a livable abode: taking one thing from the company that only gave pain and misery.

            They had already refurbished the interior and eradicated all the monsters still living in the mansion.  It had taken them a few months, but the house was finally habitable.  Practically all traces of ShinRa had been removed from the mansion and now it became a site of determination and perseverance as each member of AVALANCE hoped to put their desolate pasts behind them and start anew.  There was enough room in the mansion for every member to have their own private room; however, visits from the others were becoming rarer and rarer as they each became immersed in their own daily lives.  That left the entire house for Tifa, Vincent and Cloud, though one member of the trio had wished to share her room with another.

            Tifa Lockheart, one of the heroines of the AVALANCE group, whose strength both physically and emotionally became a pillar to the organization.  She kneeled at the edge of the garden pulling out the various weeds that rooted themselves into the fertile soil.  Looking to her right, she saw a flurry of golden spikes shooting out above the brush.  Cloud was working diligently to rake up all the dead foliage that had accumulated over the years.  He had been her justification to fight for a better life since she joined AVALANCE.  He was her inspiration and cause for falling in love.  Yet her object of affections, her rationale, had been quietly ignoring her pleas for love as the image of a certain green-eyed flower girl had already taken his heart. 

            Tifa still kept a bit of hope that one day Cloud would notice her as their conversations have been getting friendlier with each pass, but her affections were drifting.  She let her eyes turn to the left where the dark and mysterious Vincent Valentine stood with his back to her as he trimmed the hedges.  She had caught his gaze upon her more often than not and though she tried to ignore it at first, her heart would beat with excitement whenever she saw him.  He had always been very courteous with her, letting his courtesy extend to something a bit more than a simple amicable gesture here and there.  He was doing everything that she wished Cloud would do and it tore at her heart. 

            It took her some time to finally admit it, but she was growing a subtle attraction to the quiet member of their group.  It was probably all the chivalrous actions he unconsciously did, like holding the door for her and standing up every time she entered or left the room.  She had gotten used to his gentlemanly manner: it was his nature.  Now she understood how ladies could fall so easily in love with their knights in shining armor.  Tifa felt like a real woman when she was around Vincent.  He treated her like a lady and gazed at her like a revered goddess; something Cloud had only done with Aeris.  Vincent's stares would usually last for a fraction of a second, but she had never seen his eyes shine as brightly as when he looked at her.

            She knew that it would take some time before she would completely give up her pursuit of Cloud, but she also desperately wanted to reciprocate Vincent's unspoken affection.  Her mind was telling her to forget about Cloud and open up her emotions to Vincent.  Deep down inside she knew that this was the best decision.  However, despite all her silent musings and even girlish conversations about the topic with Yuffie, love always turned a blind eye to reason.  A part of her still kept hoping that she would eventually have her first love.  If the opportunity ever arose, she knew she couldn't refuse: confusion had never been more apparent than now.  Hopefully, her heart would soon awaken and open its eyes to someone she can truly love whether it be Cloud or Vincent.

_____

A/N 2:  I'm going to finish this fic by October 13th even if it means that I have to put the other two fics [The Search is Over and Who's John ShinRa?] on hiatus (which probably will happen).  Just so you know, it's going to be four chapters long.  One down, three to go!