Note:    I do not own Final Fantasy VII. 

A/N:     This chapter contains a lemon near the end.  Be warned!

Chapter 4:  Death and Desire

            The three AVALANCE members shamefully hiked down the mountain path.  Today had been a dark chapter in the history of AVALANCE, one that would take them many years to forget.  They chose to travel the rest of the way in silence as they contemplated the mistakes they had made and the things they could have done differently. 

            Tifa felt uncomfortable with the lack of conversation.  She needed to talk to someone before she broke down in tears.  She didn't want to cry or appear weak, yet she was.  Tifa held her arms folded across her chest hoping the warmth would calm her.

            "Tifa, are you alright?"

            Tifa turned to face Vincent who wore a concerned expression.  He truly was an observant man.

            "I'm much better now, thanks for asking," Tifa smiled, instantly cheering up.

            Vincent nodded his head in acknowledgement and kept close to her in case she needed a shoulder to lean on.

            Tifa looked over at the tall man and blushed as she saw him smile back.  She let her eyes drift to Cloud who walked a few paces ahead.  His shoulders were slumped and his fair frayed.  The deaths of the travelers were weighing heavily on his conscious.

            She questioned whether or not she should take a risk and talk to him.  He had such a bad habit of bottling-up all his frustrations.  She was afraid that he would keep everything inside until he burst without ever telling his friends he was hurting. 

            Quickening her pace, she cautiously approached Cloud.  "Cloud, I think we need to take a quick break."

            Cloud didn't seem to hear her at first as he continued to walk.  His mind was too preoccupied to listen.  He felt like a failure again.  He had failed as a Sephiroth clone, failed to save Aeris and failed the small group of travelers who needed a safe passage to Rocket Town.  He didn't want to tell their surviving family members that they were gone.  Cloud also realized that he never caught any of their last names, yet another proof of his incompetence.  He wasn't sure how he was going to contact their family when he didn't know whom to call.

            He would have continued to wallow in his own doubt were it not for the gentle tug on his sleeve.  Cloud turned to face an extremely worried Tifa.

            "Cloud, are you ok?  I think you need to take a break, we've been walking nonstop for over an hour now."

            He didn't want to walk back home before it got too dark.  The sun was still visible along the horizon.  It wouldn't be too long before it would set.  He was about to object to Tifa's suggestion, but all the decisions he had made today ended in someone's death.

             "Yeah, we probably should take a break," Cloud resigned.

             The trio didn't have much further to go before the ShinRa Mansion would appear over the bend.  They all sat down on some nearby rocks to stretch their legs and drink some water before they had to resume their hike.  No one was certain about what to say, they could have complained about the aches in their legs or the hunger in their stomachs but that conversation would have been too superficial.

            Tifa was the first to muster the courage to speak.  "Do you think its dead?  I mean, really dead?"

            "I certainly hope so, Tifa," Cloud sighed.  "I just wish there was more we could've done to protect them.  Maybe we should've called everyone up like Yuffie and Cid so no one would have had to die."

            "You tried your best Cloud.  They all know you did.  We just weren't expecting it to be so fast and powerful," Tifa said, trying to consul him.

            "Maybe you're right Tifa.  But I feel like I failed them."

            Tifa wanted to hold him, to stroke his head and tell him that everything was going to be fine.  She didn't want to see him hurt.  She slowly started to close the distance between them and Cloud looked up just as she was about to put her hand gently on his back.  His blue eyes held a frantic gaze, as if he were a frightened child who had lost his parents.  The bright glint of an unshed tear briefly flashed in Cloud's eyes before he blinked it away. 

            Cloud buried his head in Tifa's arms and let his frustrations flow freely.  He needed to hold her, to convince himself that she was still alive and not going to leave him.  It pained him to see her so worried for his well-being.  He should be the strong one to hold her when she needed to cry.  He should be comforting her and stroking her hair, whispering comforting words into her ear.  But he wasn't because she was much stronger emotionally than he was.

            Tifa held Cloud closely to her breast while she felt his hands close around her body seeking comfort and reassurance.  She feared that he would revert to a catatonic state similar to how he was in Mideel when they found him after losing him in the Northern Crater.  She didn't think she could bear to live through that again.  It pained her too much to see such a strong man reduced to an incoherent mass.

            The pair was too engrossed to notice their dark-haired companion turn his back to them in a mix of defeat and anger.  Everyone was clouded with emotions that it was almost too late to react before Vincent finally noticed the scent of burnt flesh. 

            "Tifa, Cloud!  It's here!"

            Vincent's warning came in the nick of time for Cloud to see the creature lunge towards Tifa's back with its sharp talons ready to rip through her flesh.  He couldn't see her die by the hands of this monster.  Quickly putting his hands on Tifa's waist, Cloud twisted her body around so that she was safely away from the monster's talons, but in doing so put himself in the range of the attack. 

            He never yelled or cried in pain as he felt the razor-sharp claws rip into his back and pierce through his body.  He could feel warm blood slowly trickle down the sides of his mouth as he watched Tifa's horrified expression.  She didn't have any blood on her shirt besides his blood and the dried blood from her previous injury: she was safe. 

            Cloud was dying and he knew it.  He regretted never killing the monster that preyed on all the travelers.  He was never able to keep his promise to them, but he could die knowing that he did fulfill his promise to Tifa one last time.  He saw that she was crying now, he hated to see her cry.  He felt the gentle call of the lifestream pulling him away from the living world.  He prayed that Vincent would be able to kill the monster and take care of Tifa where he failed. 

            Two warm hands held his body as it collapsed forward.  He felt his head resting against Tifa's lap as she heard her pleas to live and open his eyes.  He never knew that he had closed them, but he let his eyes focus on Tifa's face one last time before he would close them forever.  She was still beautiful despite her tears.  Cloud could hear gunshots off in the distance and knew that Vincent was taking care of the monster.  He looked back at Tifa and saw behind her the apparition of someone who shouldn't be alive, someone who he couldn't save or confess his love to before his chance was lost. 

            He closed his eyes one last time before letting her name escape his lips, "Aeris."

            Vincent saw the monster running towards Tifa and he quickly drew his Death Penalty to fire at the monster.  Before he could aim, Cloud had already grabbed her and pulled her away from danger.  Vincent breathed a soft sigh of relief before firing a few seconds too late to save Cloud.  He stole a brief glace at Tifa to make sure she wasn't harmed before continuing his firing at the badly burned monster. 

            The scent of burnt flesh and gunpowder filled the air along with the screams of pain from the monster.  Vincent hoped that riddling the monster with bullets would distract it from Tifa.  He smirked at his success as the monster came barreling at him like a charging bull.  Vincent let the monster hit him with its full force, triggering his transformation into the fearsome demon, Chaos.

            The monster slunk back in fear and confusion as he saw the human change into a demon.  The monster lunged at Chaos with one if its talons, but only had its wrist caught by the demon who was twisting it until bones broke.  Chaos grabbed the monster by the throat and flew up into the air with the monster in tow until they were far enough away for anyone to hear the creature's screams of pain.

            "You . . . you promised me eternal life if I did your bidding," the monster stuttered in a deep guttural voice.  "The swordsman is dead, why?"

             "You hurt the girl, my Master never wanted you to hurt her.  You dishonored his agreement," Chaos grinned flashing his sharp teeth.  "Now you're mine!"

            Chaos ripped through the monster's flesh like paper and reduced the once strong creature into nothing more than mincemeat.  The demon licked his claws clean of the creature's blood and laughed maniacally as he dropped his enemy's remains along the mountainside. 

            The demon flew back to where his master's companions were and allowed his master to regain control as he landed on the soft ground.  Vincent walked over to Tifa who was crying over Cloud's dead body.  He had a gaping hold in his stomach from where the creature stabbed him with its talons.  No cure or revive spell could repair the damage done to the swordsman.  Cloud Strife was lost to the world forever and Vincent Valentine didn't care.

            Vincent's main concern was for Tifa who would need time to mourn for her childhood friend.  He quietly walked over to the girl and kneeled beside her trembling body.

            "Tifa, Cloud's death has been avenged," he said gently.

            Tifa turned to Vincent and flung her arms around him while letting her sorrows be heard by the stoic man.  "He tried to save me Vincent.  He tried to save me and there was nothing I could do but watch."

            "Don't blame yourself.  He saved you to let you live," he said as he stroked her silky hair.

            "I know.  I know.  It just hurts so much," she said as she wiped her tears away.  "At least he's with Aeris now."

            Vincent noticed how she said that with a hint of pain and jealousy.  He wasn't sure what Cloud had said to her before he died, but Vincent knew that the man's last thoughts were not of the beautiful raven-haired girl mourning over his death. 

            "Come on, let's get back home.  I'll take care of Cloud's body."

            Tifa only nodded her head in agreement as she let Vincent lift Cloud's body up with ease.  She took Cloud's Ultima Weapon and the pair walked the rest of the way back to the mansion leaving behind the death and carnage that took place in the mountains. 

            Vincent lay Cloud's body in a coffin situated the in the mansion's basement while Tifa put the Ultima Weapon across his body and his arms across the precious blade.  It was late and they would have a long day ahead of them.  Everyone had to know about the death of the leader of AVALANCE but tonight was too late for Vincent or Tifa to make the announcement to the world.  For now his body would remain safe in the basement and the world would get one night to subconsciously think that the planet's protector was alive and well.

            Tifa allowed Vincent to escort her back to her room to rest.  She ate and showered answering to the needs of her body.  The last thing she needed was sleep, but her mind was racing with too many thoughts to rest.  She was in deep mourning for the death of Cloud, but that was not the only reason why she was so distraught.  Her mind drifted to his last word.  She knew that she could never compete with Aeris, even though the flower girl was dead. 

            Tifa had hoped that Cloud would allow his heart to love her, but she realized that he never could ignore his love for Aeris.  A part of her heart died as she felt a mixture of relief, pain and anger.  At least now, she knew who her heart would choose as the last traces of her affections for Cloud were locked in the coffin down in the basement. 

            Letting her mind thing about the mysterious Vincent Valentine, she thought about all the unrequited feelings she held for him and he held for her.  Now she wouldn't have to deal with the guilt of betraying her love of Cloud for another man.  She wanted to go to Vincent, but Cloud's death still haunted her memory.  Tifa knew that she had time and did not have to rush into a relationship, at least not now.

            She lay down on the bed, exhausted from the day's events.  Her eyes wandered to the book she had been reading.  Turning to pick it up, she sat up straight and started to read to get her mind off of the horrific sights she saw today. 

            At the point where she stopped, there were still three people left alive after everyone else had been murdered.  She read each page in anticipation of discovering who the killer was, but one by one the characters died until there was no one left, not even a killer.  Tifa put the book down quietly as she thought about the day's events.  She and Vincent were the only one's left and in the novel, a man and a woman were the last two survivors until the man was shot and killed.  The woman, in utter despair, was found hung leaving no survivors in the novel except the policemen who found all the bodies. 

            Tifa shivered in fear as she felt alone and cold.  She knew that Vincent wouldn't leave her, but she was also affected by the ending of the novel that she worried he would end up like the man in the story.  Why does everyone have to die?  First Bryan, then Andy, then Marie and William.  Also, Cloud.  Is Vincent next?  She did not want to take any chances tonight or make the same mistake as she did with Cloud.  Vincent had to know her feelings before something horrible happened again.

            Vincent dressed after his hot shower and lit the fireplace that kept his room warm at night.  The flames were dancing here and there as if they also knew of the victory that he celebrated today.  He removed all the guns and materia he carried with him on today's mission and opened his desk drawer.  His eyes caught sight of the folded piece of paper Tifa had used to draw a map of the Nibelheim Mountain paths. 

            He pulled the sheet of paper out and unfolded it revealing the crisp black lines that Tifa drew, which were covered with think red lines of blood.  The blood was both Vincent's and the creature's: a pact signed in blood by the pair last night along the mountainside.  He smirked as he saw the contract come to a close with the death of his rival, Cloud Strife.  He quickly ripped the contract in half and tossed it into the hungry fire.  Vincent watched the flames consume the paper, destroying the only piece of evidence tying him to Cloud's death.  Now there would be no more obstacles in between him and Tifa. 

            No sooner had the paper finally burnt to ashes did a gentle knock interrupt his silent reveries.  Vincent turned to see Tifa standing at his doorway in a long white robe.  He slowly soaked in her image as she wrapped her arms around her shaking body.  Underneath her robe, Vincent could see bits of her red silk slip peeking out of the white fabric enticingly.

            "Are you alright?" he said slowly while closing the distance between them.

            "Vincent, I . . . I'm so scared," Tifa said letting small streams of tears gently fall down her face.  "I've seen too much death and I'm afraid."

            "What are you afraid of?" Vincent asked gently as he wrapped his strong arms around her protectively. 

            Vincent hated to see her cry.  He knew that it wasn't part of her nature to break down emotionally.  Tifa was a strong girl, but everyone has their limits and she reached hers today.

            Tifa buried her head in his chest and savored his warmth.  She did not want this moment to end.  She knew that the monster was finally dead, but then they had thought that twice before the creature killed another member of their party.  She feared that the creature wasn't killed and would break through the glass window and kill them both while they stood there in each other's arms.  She didn't want to die without at least knowing or experiencing true love.

            "I'm afraid of losing you," she said as she filled tilted her head back to gauge his reaction.

            She could see the corners of his mouth tilt up in a smile as she felt his lips firmly press against hers.

            "You'll never lose me Tifa.  I promise you that," he said before partaking in another deep kiss.

            She felt his hands roaming her body and yank at the robe.  Tifa didn't resist as he pushed the offending garment off her body, leaving her in her red slip and nothing else.

            Vincent stepped back to see her full figure in the slip that revealed her long legs.  Her eyes held a hint of unbridled lust and slight trepidation.  She was a virgin, he could tell.

            "Do you want to?" Vincent asked, determined not to let his desires override Tifa's wishes.

            Tifa stared back at Vincent, barely able to contain the urge to leap into his arms and feel his lips again.  She had never experienced anything beyond a simple kiss.  She had always wanted her first time to be with someone she trusted and she trusted Vincent.

            "Yes," she said as she reached out for him.

            Her one simple word was the invitation he needed as he resumed his previous fondling.  Tifa wasn't certain what Vincent was planning or what she should do, but the tender touches of his kisses all over her body ignited a fire deep within her.

            Vincent gently pushed her against the wall and let his trails of kisses trek lower and lower on Tifa's body until he found that special place.  Tifa gasped as a surge of pleasure ran up her spine.  She kept her hands gently on Vincent's head, running her fingers through his fine hair.  He pulled one of her legs to rest along his shoulders giving him better access to her private place.  She tasted like nectar off of an exotic fruit.  Vincent worked diligently as he listened to her soft pants that only grew louder with each taste. 

            Tifa felt a tingle form in her body that only grew and grew with Vincent's gentle touch of his tongue and lips.  Her heart beat erratically and a sudden wave of pleasure surged through her body like a tidal wave.  She drowned out the sound of the roaring fire with her screams of ecstasy. 

            Beads of sweat trickled down her body and clung to her slip as she watched Vincent wipe his face of her moistness.  She leaned in and kissed the remaining bits off his face as she clumsily tried to unbuckle his belt.  It wasn't something she had experience with and it took her a few minutes to figure it out.  After she successfully unlatched the restraint, she curiously let her hands snake down into his boxers to find her prize.

            Touching Vincent was like squeezing the rock hard muscle of a lean man.  She let Vincent remove her slip as she returned the favor and helped him out of his shirt and pants.  The couple stood there kissing with only the fire to warm their bare bodies.  Vincent bent down and took Tifa in his arms planting gentle kisses on her lips and body.  He carefully laid her on the bed and climbed on top of her.

            "I'll be gentle."

            "I know," she said nervously.  "Before you start, there's something I want to tell you."

            "What is it?" Vincent said as he continued to kiss and massage her body.

            "I think I love you," she said as she went in for a deep passionate kiss.

            Vincent smiled as they broke the kiss and replied, "I know I love you, Tifa."

            That was all she needed to hear from him, to know that she was finally going to experience love.  He kept his mouth locked with hers as he finally sunk deep inside her.  Their bodies interlaced themselves in the building passion and ecstasy that encompasses the act of lovemaking.  Vincent kept his eyes locked with Tifa's and when red mingled with red, two souls found the deep passion of love that would never falter so long as their hearts beat in time.

            Vincent opened his eyes and smiled warmly as Tifa rested her head on his chest.  She was everything he had hoped she would be and more.  He had made love to many women, but none of them held as much passion or intense feelings as his experience with Tifa.  She truly was an extraordinary woman.

            "Savor it while you can Valentine, she's only a mortal."

            "Will you ever let me have a moments peace?"

            "You should know better," Chaos chuckled.  "But you know how to make this precious moment last forever."

            "I could never curse her with that."

            "So instead you'll watch her grow old and die?  And I thought you had feelings for this one with all the effort you put into getting rid of . . ."

            "Shut-up Chaos!  What do you know about love?"
            "Not much, but I do know that you're head over heels for the girl and if she were to die, you'd make my life a living hell for the remainder of all eternity."

            "Looking out for yourself as always I see," Vincent snorted.

            "And you.  You know what they say, a happy host is a happy parasite," Chaos laughed.

            Vincent knew Chaos was right.  He couldn't live without her touch or her smile.  He had been devoid of love for far too long and finally found a woman who cared for him as he her.  He didn't know if Tifa would want to spend the rest of eternity with him, but he knew that he couldn't sit by and watch her wither and die of old age if he had the power to prevent it.

            "Do you and your friends swear that you'll never harm her?"

            "We all swear it.  Demons' honor," all his monsters echoed in unison.

            "I never knew that demons had honor."

            "We don't.  We just thought it'd sound better if we said it," Chaos laughed.  "But seriously, I will ensure her safety.  I like her, she's strong."

            "As long as your attraction for her remains unrequited," Vincent warned.

            "Like I said, a happy host is a happy parasite."


            Tifa shifted restlessly as she felt Vincent move.  His soft skin suddenly turned into a cold reptilian texture.  Tifa's eyes shot open as she looked over to where Vincent would have been only to see herself lying naked next to Chaos.

            "Chaos!" she screamed.

            But the creature only held a finger to her lips to silence her.  Tifa pulled the covers up to her chest to try and hide her bare chest.  She didn't know why one of Vincent's monsters had decided to make an appearance.  She hoped that it wasn't going to happen every time they slept together.

            "Hello Tifa," Chaos said as gently as possible.

            "Hello . . . Chaos," Tifa said timidly. 

            "My Master wants to make you his forever."

            Tifa blushed when she heard these words.  It felt strange coming from a demon, but she knew that he was telling the truth.  The only thing that puzzled her was why he was here with her now.

            "Why did Vincent let you out?"

            "To grant you the gift of immortality," Chaos smirked as he took one of his talons and slit a line along his wrist until black liquid started to slowly trickle out of the cut.  "Drink."


            "My blood will grant you eternal longevity.  Drink it.  It's what my Master wants," he said as gently as he could while flashing his razor-sharp teeth.

            Tifa looked into Chaos dark eyes and shuddered in fear.  He was a powerful creature that could tear apart a human like paper and easily killed the mako-creature.  She knew that he was a force that needed to be respected and never angered. 

            She watched the oozing black blood trickle down Chaos's wrist.  She had heard Vincent mention his immortality as a curse rather than a blessing.  She knew that she was in love with him and could see herself living with him until their dying days, but while she grew old and died he would stay young and live forever.  Tifa wasn't sure if she wanted to commit herself to becoming immortal.  She would have to sacrifice many things and forfeit a normal life.  It saddened her to think that she would have to watch all her friends and her friends' children die while she thrived.  Could she take this chance?

            Her mind drifted back to Vincent, the man who was offering her this gift.  Her heart didn't have the pull of two men to cast it into confusion; it now had to choose whether Vincent was the one.  Did she love him enough to spend an eternity with the mysterious, yet handsome Vincent Valentine?  She closed her eyes and took a deep breath as she finally made her decision.  Tifa held Chaos's wrist and put her lips up to the black liquid sucking the fluid until she felt it flow down her throat.


A/N:     Finally done with this story, now I'm going to take a break before I resume my writing on my other two stories, The Search is Over and Who's John ShinRa.  Hope you liked the finish product and thanks to The Highwaywoman for reviewing my fic.