A/N: This story was originally posted under the nickname, Autumn Noval. I created that nickname to mainly handle the C2 community "The General and the Martial Artist." However, since I don't have as much time to devote to that community, I'm going to hand over the reigns. I decided to put this story under my stories since technically I did write it. I apologize in advance if this confuses anyone.


Smoke and Mirrors

A bright flash of light distracted her momentarily. She turned expecting to see the horrid images of her past, but she was surprised by the dense fog that surrounded her. She couldn't see a thing as her senses eluded her. The heat of fire was replaced by a eerie chill and she could no longer smell the smoke or burnt flesh.

"Cloud? Vincent? Where are you?" Tifa shouted.

No response. She tried again, and again, and again. Still no response. Panic started to ensue after realizing the dire situation. She was alone. Her heart raced, pounding in her chest as she ran blindly through the thick air. Her voice was getting coarse as she continued to yell her teammate's names. They were standing next to her a few minutes ago as they were lead into an illusionary world Sephiroth created of her hometown. Except, it was of her hometown during one of the darkest nights of her life: the Nibelheim massacre.

Collapsing to her knees, Tifa cried out in aggravation. Tears threatened to spill over as she pounded her fists into the ground, but that did nothing to quell the anger and fear pulsing through her veins. She was so absorbed in her frustrations that she didn't notice the presence coming closer towards her until it was too late.

"Pretty things shouldn't do anything unnecessary that will cause them harm," a deep voice echoed in Tifa's ear.

Jumping up with her fists in front of her, Tifa gasped as she saw the owner of the voice. She should have known that everything was his doing. It made perfect sense. He would be the one to devise something as sadistically clever as this. The pain, the torment; everything that she was suffering from now was because of 'him.'

She whispered his name venomously. "Sephiroth."

The man in question laughed, ignoring the deadly glare of the martial artist. "Good to see that the fire in your eyes hasn't diminished a bit. If anything, I'd say it's burning even brighter than ever."

"Why have you brought me here? Where are Cloud and Vincent?"

"You needn't worry about your two friends."

"You killed them didn't you?" Tifa gasped.

Sephiroth shook his head. "They're still alive . . . for the moment."

Tifa's eyes widened. "Don't you dare harm them."

"And what will you do if I ignore your request?" Sephiroth narrowed his eyes at her, challenging.

Tifa didn't wait another second as she launched herself at the former ShinRa General. Her body flowed gracefully with her punches and kicks. She was a well-oiled machine when it came to hand-to-hand combat, but her opponent was certainly no slouch either. Sephiroth met each one of her attacks with careful precision. His eyes lit up with excitement, adrenaline flowing through his body like a drug. But Sephiroth knew that there was an even more addictive drug he desired, and that drug was currently fighting tooth and nail to kill him.

The fight continued as Tifa tried relentlessly to land a blow. Sephiroth smirked as he toyed with the martial artist. She was playing into his hands so easily it was like child's play. He was enjoying himself. However, the game had to end soon as time was short. With a speed that Tifa barely registered, Sephiroth grabbed her arms and pinned them behind her back as he hooked one of her legs and dropped her to her knees. She breathed heavily feeling the vice-like grip on her wrists as her captor held her in place.

"Why are you doing this? Why?" Tifa asked.

"Do you have any idea how long I have waited to get you alone?" Sephiroth said with a predatory gleam, his breath gently blowing against her hair.

Tifa stiffened. "What?"

"You do these things to me . . . make me feel. There's just something about you that intrigues me. Since I first met you all those years ago during my mission, you've captured my interest. And now . . . now you've become so much more than I could ever imagine. I've never met a girl like you before. You're special." Sephiroth's deep voice purred next to her ear.

Tifa's eyes widened as panic seeped through. "What are you going to do to me?"

"Nothing . . . unless you're willing."

"Get away from me you monster!" Tifa struggled to get out of Sephiroth's grip.

Sephiroth laughed. "Monster? Me, a monster? I hardly think so my dear."

"And why not? You murdered my father, murdered Aerith, you burned down my hometown, you've killed nearly everyone I knew and now you're trying to destroy the world."

"But don't you see. Everything has a purpose. Everything I've done is for a reason."

"What sick purpose could drive you to do all these horrible things?"

Sephiroth paused as he leaned in closer to Tifa's ear. "You."

"Me? What do you mean?"

"You're a smart girl, figure it out yourself," Sephiroth said as his lips brushed against her ear.

Tifa couldn't believe what she was hearing. Her father's death, the massacre at Nibelheim, Aerith, it was all a sick ploy to get closer to her. She knew that she had always attracted the unwanted attention of men, but never would she have guessed that she had peaked the interest of the mad-man beside her. Her body shook as she sobbed relentlessly. Tifa felt Sephiroth relax his grip only to pull her back to his chest in an embrace. His arms were wrapped tightly around her waist pinning her arms to the side rendering her immobile. She didn't want to be here, didn't want this man holding her as if she were his. But she felt a tinge of guilt. Was she really the reason the great General Sephiroth snapped? Could she have possibly prevented the deaths of so many if she relented to the madman when she was a young teenager or when they first started their journey to stop him?

"Why? Why put everyone through all this pain . . . just for me? Why this way? Why all the pretense?" Tifa whispered.

"It's all smoke and mirrors my dear Tifa. Smoke and mirrors," Sephiroth breathed heavily into her ear. "You're mine to keep and I'll take you the way I want with you giving yourself to me, willingly or not."

The mocking echo of Sephiroth's laughter rang through the foggy plane. Tifa shut her eyes trying to block the sounds of his voice, the feel of his touch. But it was all still there.

"No." Tifa whimpered. "No."

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Tifa woke up with a jolt as she panted heavily. She looked around and saw the familiar white walls of her bedroom and the concerned face of her husband staring back at her. 'Nightmare. It was just a nightmare.'

"Tifa! What's wrong."

"Just a nightmare Cloud. Sorry for waking you." Tifa said as she hugged herself.

"Shh, it's alright," Cloud tenderly rubbed her arms kissing her shoulders until she relaxed. After Tifa had calmed down enough he finally spoke again. "Want to talk about it?"

"I . . . it was about Sephiroth."

Cloud frowned, tensing up at the mention of his old nemesis. He tightened his grip on her and motioned for her to continue.

"It was really weird. Do you remember the first time we went to the Northern Crater? When you fell into the lifestream?" Tifa asked carefully.

Cloud closed his eyes and nodded.

"Well, there was a time when I was separated from you and Vincent. It was only a few minutes and I completely forgot about it, but I had a nightmare about that time."

"What happened?"

"Se-Sephiroth came and confronted me. I tried to kill him, but failed. He ended up talking to me about things, why he was out to destroy the world, and . . . and it scared me."

"What did he say?"

Tifa paused for a moment before answering. "Could you ever hate me Cloud?"

"You know I couldn't Tifa. No matter what you did." Cloud answered, confused.

"What if I told you that everything Sephiroth did, everything . . . it was all just to get to me?"

"What?"

"Sephiroth told me that he was trying to get closer to me. It doesn't even make any sense, Cloud. Why do the things he did? Why me?"

Cloud rubbed her arms gently. "Because you're a special girl Tifa. That's the only thing I can come up with. But none of that was your fault. None of it. Don't ever let him convince you otherwise."

"Oh Cloud." Tifa sighed as she closed her eyes and let her husband's warmth wash over her. "I don't know what I'd do without you."

"Same here Tifa. Same here."

The couple sat in silence. There was nothing that needed to be said between the pair as Cloud comforted his wife and Tifa welcomed his affections. She was slowly losing that underlying fear that gnawed at her heart after the frightful memory. But there was still an unsettling feeling that wasn't leaving her.

"Do you think that nightmare was a warning or a premonition? Why do you think I'm remembering that scene now of all times?" Tifa asked.

Cloud didn't answer her as he wrapped his arms around her a bit tighter and leaned back into the bed so Tifa was lying comfortably on his chest. "Don't worry Tifa. I'll keep you safe. Here, just rest here in my arms and sleep. Don't think about it anymore."

"You're always trying to keep that promise to me."

"And I've succeeded, haven't I?"

"Yes you have Cloud. Thank you." Tifa smiled and kissed her husband on the lips before shutting her eyes and succumbing to sleep. Yes, she was safe in Cloud's arms. Nothing could harm her here. Nothing.

After Tifa had finally fallen asleep, the smile on Cloud's face morphed into an amused smirk. Green bled into his brilliant blue eyes as they swirled and shifted into two cat-like slants.

"It's all smoke and mirrors my dear Tifa. Smoke and mirrors."