Innocently By Archica

The memory is still very fresh in my mind, of the night our friend died. Aeris was slain, and Cloud was broken-hearted. In the depths of his despair, he wandered to my room at the inn, slumping against my door and nearly falling inside when I opened it. Looking back, he probably didn't intend to enter my room. He was probably on his way out for a walk when his strength failed him. I just happened to open that door before he could walk on.

He looked at me then, his eyes clouded with held-back tears and a sickened desperation that I could not possibly, at that time, comprehend. He said nothing as I helped him into my room and sat him down on the edge of my bed.

"What is it? Are you alright?" I asked him.

"Yuffie… Aeris is gone, isn't she? No matter what we do… no Phoenix Down or Life spell will bring her back."

I didn't know what to say. He already knew the answer. I noticed then that he was gripping the covers of my bed tightly in his hands, clenching them as if they were the only things in the world that he could still hold onto.

"I'm sorry. I know you two were close."

That's all I could think of. How generic, how typical. I don't think he even heard me. He lowered his head and looked at the floor, and for the first time in my life, I felt an inescapable urge to reach out and hold another person, to comfort someone. And so I did.

I wrapped my arms loosely around him, and he made no move to push me away. He was just still. It was long minutes before I sat down beside him and he turned to face me. He was looking right at me, but I felt as if he couldn't see me at all. He leaned in close and soon we were kissing, hands and lips and breath dancing upon each others' skin. There was a sense of loss in the air, a taste of pain in Cloud's mouth. He was a broken man, seeking comfort in the fastest way available, which happened to be in my arms.

The night was a whirl, and when I woke, Cloud was gone. The next day was awkward, but with daily battles and relentless traveling over harsh terrain, I soon forgot about what had happened. It was a fading memory, pushed into the back of my mind to wait until our lives had calmed down.

And then the end of our battles came, and through the haze of relief and celebratory victory parties, I began to look at Cloud once more, wondering if he still remembered the night we shared together. He was happy, for once in his life, and I suddenly realized I was in love. This man who had shown such courage and strength, had taken hold of my heart. He seemed so different from the lost boy who clutched my covers in his shaking hands. He was unattainable.

But there was one who could attain him, one who I had called friend and had fought along side. Tifa. She was beautiful and strong, and a childhood friend of Cloud's to boot. She was perfect for him, and their growing relationship sent sparks of white-hot pain through my chest. She would have him, and I would not.

I'm not quite sure what I was thinking that night, when I knocked on the door to Tifa's room and walked inside. Honestly, I thought I would simply talk to her about her feelings for Cloud, to find out once and for all if they were indeed a couple. I intended to tell her how I felt about him, and hope that she would have pity and at least refuse to flaunt him in front of me. But things rarely go as we plan.

She was friendly, as always, and she sat down in a chair. "Yuffie, I'm glad you walked over. You're the only girlfriend I have, so I wanted to tell you the news first!"

I shifted uncomfortably in the chair across from her. A knot was tying itself together in my stomach. "What news?"

Tifa extended a hand, and a beautiful diamond ring was resting on her finger. "Cloud and I are getting married!"

I stared at the ring, my heart sinking through my torso and down to the bottom of my left foot. There was an empty space within my rib cage, a void that had become immediately dark and frightening. Even I had no idea what horrible things were now lurking there.

I smiled. What else could I do? My life was turning to dust before my very eyes, and I could do nothing but smile. "Congratulations."

Tifa stood up. "I have a really good wine, I brought it from my bar back home. Let's celebrate together!"

She walked over to the desk in the room. Beneath it sat a small refrigerator, and she bent down to look inside it. "You're a little young for wine, but I'm sure just this once won't hurt you, right?" she asked without looking up, still searching for the bottle.

I stood up silently, and stepped over to her. I stared down at her form. She was so pretty, so nice. She was going to marry Cloud. I had to do something. I had to tell her the truth. I had to tell her about that night so many weeks ago, when Cloud and I had slept together. Surely that would cause her to rethink their plans. Surely they wouldn't get married!

Strange thoughts were swirling around in my brain, and I suddenly remembered why Cloud and I had slept together at all. Aeris had died. Cloud had been distraught. Wouldn't he be distraught if Tifa died?

I had a small blade in a holster tied to my thigh. It had always been there, worn high and hidden under my shorts. It was an emergency weapon, something I could throw at an enemy when all other weapons were gone. I fingered it in my right hand, watching Tifa. She was now my enemy. She was the only thing standing between Cloud and I. I had to do something. I just had to.

Before another thought had entered my mind, I had buried the blade into the base of Tifa's spine, instantly paralyzing her. She tumbled onto the floor, her eyes staring up at me in horror.

"Yuffie… why…?!"

I stood over her, panting. I reached down and jerked the knife from her body, only to stab her again in her stomach. Blood oozed out from her wounds as I placed the knife back in its holster. I felt dazed, dizzy.

She was barely alive, and tears were drizzling down her cheeks. "I… was so… happy… Cloud… he…"

And she was dead. I ran from her room then, terrified of being caught. I slammed and locked my door when I reached my room, and I felt like I'd seen a ghost when I passed the mirror. My face was covered in tears, but I hadn't even realized I was crying. I felt so emotionless, so empty. I didn't feel sad for Tifa. I wasn't even shocked by what I had done. I simply felt numb.

It wasn't until the next morning that the reality of the night before began to sink in. Tifa, my friend, was dead. I had killed her. I waited for agonizing minutes until I heard someone scream. It was Cloud's voice. Of course he was the one to discover her body. His voice was so pained, so sad. He was that lost boy again, that same desperate boy who would come to me for comfort. He was mine.

And he did come to me, just as I had hoped. It was just like it had been, nothing had changed. Again, the night was quick but passionate, and the stench of despair was so thick we could barely breathe.

I thought then, that Cloud would be mine and mine alone. There were no more obstacles in my path. No one could keep us apart now. We could be happy together. But the next day, Cloud was cold and indifferent to me, just as he had been before. I didn't understand. There was no more Tifa. There were no more battles. What reason could there be for his behavior?

I walked blindly to his room a week later, desperate to be held by him again, to comfort him and allow him to comfort me. I had to be with him. I loved him. He was everything to me. So I knocked hard on his door. "Cloud, it's me, Yuffie," I called, "Please let me in! I have to talk to you… please!"

Absently, I twisted the doorknob, and it surprisingly opened. Since when did he leave his door unlocked? I walked inside, stepping over the weapons and clothing that were scattered across the floor. I had never been in his room before, but I was shocked by how cluttered it was.

I finally reached the bathroom, where light was creeping out from underneath the door. I could hear water running, so I knocked on the door. "Cloud, are you in there?"

I opened the door, and looked around. The tub was so full of water that it was overflowing and spilling out onto the tile floor. I walked over to it and peered down.

It hit me then, that people can only handle so much pain and suffering before they reach their limit, their true limit break. And sometimes the only person you can hurt, the only person you can make to pay for this suffering, is yourself. Cloud's blue eyes were looking up at me from under the clear water, and I knew he was dead.

For the first time in my life, I truly understood loss. The pain I had caused Cloud had been thrown back at my face, cutting my cheeks with its razor sharp grip. I turned and glanced into the mirror hanging above the sink, and I couldn't recognize who was looking back at me. There was a girl with bright, happy eyes, and she was smiling at me innocently.

The End.

Notes: All right, for those who have been to my Cloud/Yuffie site and have read the original version of "Innocently", yeah, this is basically the same story. Allow me to explain. I started "Innocently" as a multi-chaptered story that would eventually have Yuffie killing Tifa to eliminate her as a threat. That's a theme I've wanted to do for a while. But I only wrote one chapter, and it was written way back, before I got my domain. This means that it was hosted on Geocities. Recently, I found out that Geocities had deleted that account, and that first chapter was gone. I didn't have it hosted anywhere else (I was lucky that "Saigo no Yakusoku" was on , or it would have shared the same fate). So I decided to simply forget the whole multi-chapter deal and condense the story into a one-shot. So if this one seems rushed or whatever, well, you know why.

It seems I simply cannot write a happy Cloud/Yuffie fic, even though I adore the pairing so much. I'll try though! Maybe it can become a personal challenge for myself!

Oh, and if you're a fellow Cloud/Yuffie fan, feel free to e-mail me. I have a Cloud/Yuffie shrine and my friends have Cloud/Yuffie livejournal communities and Cloud/Yuffie Yahoo groups. :D I'd be glad to point them out to anyone who is interested. Thanks for reading!