A/N: I think I've finally got this where I want it, and then I realize it's still stupid…. On a less interesting side note, my PS2 has finally decided to kick the bucket…too bad, I really wanted to play FFXII again. Figures. Anyhow, thank you for your continued support and help with this story. I've had a lot of fun writing it. One more chapter, I suppose. I think I've been dragging this thing out too long.
As the airship settled the churning in Tifa's stomach seemed to increase tenfold. Vincent cast a glance her way, she shook her head and he continued on his way, leaving her alone on the ship with the crew.
She frowned, the feeling fading as she took a few deep breaths.
"Teef? You gonna come fight or sit in here doing Lamaze?" Yuffie quickly stifled her laughter at the pale shade Tifa had turned. She rushed to her side. "You ok? You're pale…and your skin is all clammy…" Yuffie drew her hands back quickly from Tifa's shoulders.
"Something…something is wrong." She shook her head, the fear that had gripped her so suddenly now gone.
"Um…you got a bun in the oven?" If there was one…or many things…that Yuffie lacked, the most important would have to be tact.
"Oh, come on Yuffie! I'm serious…I'm not sick I'm just sure something's wrong…very, very wrong!" She hissed. Yuffie had the grace to look sheepishly at her feet. "Never mind, lets just get out there…" Tifa stood suddenly, dragging Yuffie out behind her, nearly tripping over the Conformer on the way down the ramp.
"Took ya long enough…what, had to powder yer fuckin' nose er what?" Cid glowered at the two of them as Tseng prepared to give them a rundown of what was going to happen. Yuffie caught Reno staring intently at the ground, careful not to look at anyone specific, and for an instant she felt a pang of pity for him.
"Nothing, it's fine Cid. Sorry we made you wait." Tifa coughed to try and loosen the lump in her throat.
"The mako has corrupted the creatures organs. From the samples we collected in Nibelheim it appears as though the creature has developed a sort of…tolerance, if it could be called that, to the mako. While many essential organs are in the process of shutting down it seems the heart, lungs, and brain are all functioning as efficiently as ever. Behemoths are incredibly strong and tenacious when it comes to their survival. Having no natural predators, they have no fear. We were lucky in Nibelheim, Rocket Town may not be so lucky…" Tseng rattled off what statistics they had on it. Yuffie listened intently beside Tifa, nodding when appropriate.
Tifa watched the thing, a good ways off, as it lazily drug one massive paw across its face. Blood and saliva drizzling slowly from the open wounds, the very skin tearing like tissue paper. She choked back the urge to vomit as its unfocused eye traveled toward her. She felt a wave of sympathy, sorry that the carelessness of others had led to this.
"How big was this leak, Reeve?" He looked up, startled.
"It was just the facility, maybe a one mile radius…not very big at all. The good news is that just because it's saturated in Mako doesn't mean it's spreading the radiation or any toxins." Tifa nodded, still feeling ill at ease.
Yuffie opened her mouth to say something and stopped short. She felt it before she heard it, the slight vibration of the earth sent a shock through her body and she felt the first wave of panic set in. She looked up in time to see the behemoth bearing down on them at incredible speed.
"MOVE!" She screamed. The behemoth was on them like an avalanche of rotting flesh before she'd had time to catch her breath. Reno dove for her and hitting Vincent with all his weight, narrowly missing the beasts tail as it swept wide and slammed into one of the helicopters. Reno leapt to his feet, his baton ready, and charged with Elena and Rude toward the monster. Elena and Rude both landing several shots in its left haunch, slowing it down a good deal and offsetting its balance.
Yuffie scrambled to her feet beside Vincent, winding Conformer up and letting it fly before she ran toward it. It screamed in pain and rage as the massive shuriken sliced through it's right side.
Cloud helped Tifa and Barrett up, Cid was already on his way toward the beast with Nanaki and Cait at his side. Reeve produced a pair of goggles and gloves that appeared to allow him to operate Cait Sith from a distance.
"Its body is poisoned more than they thought…it's like the experiments in SOLDIER, they tested animals...most died, some became these invulnerable monsters." Cloud noted, adjusting his swords. Tifa watched with the slightest bit of sorrow as Vincent fired a volley in succession with Elena, Tseng, and Barrett that brought the beast down heavily on its left side.
"What does that mean, exactly?" She frowned at her own scathing tone, looking away. "I'm sorry."
"No need." He answered mildly, watching her intently. "This thing is dying, we need to put it out of it's misery. It's faster and stronger, but its body can't withstand the effects of Mako." Another silent nod.
"This never would have happened if those people had learned from their mistakes." She met his ice blue eyes, anger and hurt burning through her own. "Nibelheim can't withstand anymore attacks like that. By Ifrit's fire, of all places to take up the Mako torch again…what were they thinking?"
Cloud shook his head, not knowing what else to say. "C'mon. They need our help…" He strode purposefully toward the airship as Tifa took off at a brisk jog after the behemoth and the swarm of people driving it back.
Just beyond where they landed was a small crater, where they planed to dispose of the creatures body. Barrett and Vincent took point, driving the animal back. Yuffie, Reno, and Cid were in close, trying to lure it back toward the massive hole. Elena, Rude, and Tseng were flanking from the left, its most wounded side, while Nanaki and Cait Sith focused on the right.
As Tifa watched she felt something twist her gut, something was about to go terribly wrong and she knew it. Cloud had started Fenrir, which caught the beasts attention as he went charging toward the thing. Tseng and the Turks had regrouped while Vincent, Barrett, Cid, and Yuffie ran back to Tifa, Reeve, Nanaki, and Cait Sith.
"Ok, Cid and I can draw it toward Cloud. Vincent, you and Marshmallow here should go with Tseng and Rude…Tifa, go with Elena and Reno…and take Nanaki and the robot with you, you five should come up behind it…it's vision is totally messed up…actually, I'm pretty sure it's nearly blind." Yuffie quickly spouted out her orders, everyone nodding briefly and separating.
She and Cid mounted two chocobo's and took off as quick as they could toward Cloud, who had managed to keep the creatures attention until now. Yuffie swung left while Cid went right, both leaping off their respective birds and straight at the beast. Yuffie let Conformer fly, slicing a massive gouge all along its left shoulder. Cid flew straight up, a pale white light surrounding him as he dropped back down and slammed Venus Gospel into the beast with such force it collapsed, howling in rage and pain.
At that moment, Vincent, Barrett, and the Turks opened fire. Between the roar of the behemoth and the guns, Tifa felt like she might actually go deaf. She closed her eyes briefly, concentrating all her energy on her next attack.
"YUFFIE!" Her eyes shot open at Cid's scream. Yuffie had missed her mark and the massive tail made a solid connection, slamming her so hard into the ground she bounced a few times as she was thrown a good fifty yards away, a shard of the now shattered Conformer landing a few inches from her head. Cid ran like a man possessed, and as he ran Tifa could hear the Shera's cannons firing. Turning, she saw the massive airship had lifted off and was opening fire on the beast as it attempted to give chase. It snarled, foaming at the mouth, at the ship. Tifa couldn't hear anything for a moment as everyone seemed to attack in unison. Barrett was firing everything he had, all the Turks had opened fire, Cloud was charging on Fenrir, a familiar blue glow surrounding him. Fenrir's casings all opened at once as Cloud leapt up. She watched, fascinated for a moment as he effortlessly preformed omnislash.
She ran her heart out, giving it everything she had to get to Yuffie. Cid slid to the ground, fumbling with her. His hands trembled and he never looked more shaken.
"Brat, you open your fucking eyes! Yuffie!" He roared at her, fury taking over when fear failed him. Tifa nearly ran him over as she came to Yuffie's other side, her hair had fallen loose and pooled around her. Blood trailed from the corners of her mouth and down the right side of her face. Her arm was twisted at an unnatural angle, broken in several places. Her legs were spattered with blood though appeared to have escaped greater harm. The worst damage was her chest, Tifa could feel her broken ribs. Yuffie shuddered before vomiting blood and gurgling as she gasped for air.
"Hang on, sweetie, we're here, we're here." Tifa said in a wobbly voice as she fumbled for a cure and recover materia.
Cid turned back to the creature. It was down again, wailing in pain as the final stroke of Omnislash landed. The creature fell, bellowing. Vincent stood at the head with Cerberus drawn. Three shots and then silence. Reno and Rude went to work with explosives and a few fire materia. Cid turned back as Tifa continued mending Yuffie the best she could.
"I've stopped the bleeding, but I can't repair the broken bones…" She turned to him, her face pale and glazed with sweat. "Her ribs have punctured her lung, I need to get her to a hospital!" Yuffie coughed, crimson flecks covered Tifa's shoulder and neck as she held her close.
"Give her to me." Tifa's face shot up, a cold glare marring her face. "I'm the best pilot there is and my chopper is faster than that airship. I'll get her to safety, I swear it." Reno spoke softly, unfazed by the burning glare from the martial artist.
"I will go with him." Vincent spoke up after a moment of silence. He remembered well how good a pilot Reno was, and there truly wasn't anyone who could out fly the cocky alcoholic.
"That bastard better not hurt her, Vince." Cid growled.
Reno simply stepped aside to allow Vincent by to collect Yuffie, not rising to the bait. Rude stepped up, nodding and patting him on the shoulder.
"Godspeed." He whispered, stepping back by Elena and Tseng. Reno nodded, running toward the one remaining helicopter.
"Vincent, I-what-she's…" Vincent met Tifa's watery eyes, silencing her.
"She will be well again, Tifa. She has come through worse." She nodded, a small sob escaping her as Vincent lifted Yuffie gently from her arms. Tifa looked down at her own blood coated hands and clothes, tears falling freely. She glanced up again in time to see Reno lifting off, praying to every God she could think of, throwing Zack and Aerith in for good measure, hoping Yuffie would be ok.
"We should clear the area, those explosives were made by Rude…no telling how big the explosion may be." Elena warned, gently touching Tifa's elbow. She jerked around, startled.
"Oh, right…" She followed quietly. Elena felt a pang of something akin to sadness when she watched the Avalanche team members file onto the airship. Not a single one smiling in their victory or even talking. Cid was quietly giving orders and making arrangments for the Turks aboard his ship.
"You might as well come along, unless you know how to put that chopper back with a few paper clips and some duct tape." Cid gave a half hearted attempt at humor.
"That's Reno's specialty." Rude answered softly. "We're grateful for the lift." He and the other Turks made their way up the ramp and to the helm behind Cid.
"We should try and catch up to Reno." Cloud suggested softly.
"He's likely already dropped them off." Tseng stated. "He is the fastest pilot in service." Cid chuckled at that, sure the airship was a bit slow and sluggish, but she could out muscle a helicopter and it's cocky pilot any day.
"Then we head t'the damned hospital." Cid fired up the thrusters and sent the airship off, jarring everyone at the sudden burst of speed.
Ok, I felt a little bad for picking on Reno half the fic so I gave him this one opportunity to redeem himself somewhat. I know this is a super short chapter and kind of rushed, however I'm completely at a loss for what else to add…enjoy.