Now, I know you're wondering why I've started another fic, but let's face it… I'm a dork and I can't seem to stop myself. Now this fic is for the very cool ObsessiveCompulsiveValkyrie, who is also writing an awesome ZackTifa fic for me, so check out, "Fill My Blank Page," which is under my favorites. Her prompt for this story was this one: Cloud is a member of an ecoterrorist group who is scarred from being a member of a child militia and Tifa is a sadistic mercenary on a team with her two older brothers.

Now, this fic may seem OOC, but I promise that it will be explained soon. Tifa is also kind of bitchy and unnecessarily violent as well as OOC, but I think it's a good change from her being the kindhearted girl in all of the fics out there. There will be an explanation as to why she is the way she is too, but that'll be in the next chapter. Also, this is a major post-apocalyptic AU, and all main characters from the games have different roles while this fic follows some of the DoC events.

Warnings: Blood, violence, and language(each chapter will have its own warnings), so please read if these things don't bother you. You've been warned, now enjoy!

Disclaimer: I don't own FFVII or any of the characters used in this piece of fiction. I am making no money off of them.


Coming Undone


He had been discovered. His only job to keep his stomach full and his head on his shoulders—literally—had been to make his way into the enemy's camp and listen in on the main tent. But he had been caught, his hair giving him away like a beacon of light in the dead of night. He was still running, his lungs burning in his small chest, and his heart threatening to escape in fear.

The loud crack of bullets hitting the tree he had passed only seconds before made a small noise of fear escape through his lips and he ducked, throwing himself into dense shrubbery and hoping that no one had seen him do so. But his plan backfired and he felt the ground fall from under him as he rolled, giving way to a slope. He didn't know how long he rolled, feeling rocks and branches scrape at his body, cutting and making him bleed until he finally came to a stop with a small groan of pain at the bottom.

He could hear his pursuers shouting and attempting to figure out where he had gone; it was possible that someone may have heard his fall. He stayed still, trying to keep his sounds of pain as quiet as he could manage, but he could feel the trickle of blood traveling warm and slick down his cheek from his split eyebrow, and one of his wrists ached from landing on it.

"Burn it all down," said a cool, deep voice. "And go to the closest town. Kill all of the children."

A ragged sob lodged in his throat, and he heard some grenades go off too close to him. The fire spread quickly over the dry land he had rolled down through, and it all went up faster than he could follow. A pain filled scream echoed over the roar of the fire as the flames licked at him, ate at his flesh… and he rolled to make it stop, but it was too late. His skin had been damaged and it throbbed painfully. None of it mattered because he had to get away from the fire and warn the others. They would kill his friends, and it was all his fault!

He ran, but there was only so much that his little body was willing to give, especially after the injuries he had sustained. He had tried to do his job, tried to get the information they had wanted, but it hadn't been enough! So many kids dead because of him. It was all his fault. For being weak, and for not being good enough to do what had been necessary. He was a failure. A failure!



"Wake up kid."

Someone was shaking him, and he sat up with a start, blinking his eyes in the darkness. He stared up into the familiar frown of Barret's dark face and realized that his breathing was shaky. "What time is it?" he asked, feeling his throat dry, and still hearing the echoes of gunshots and roaring fires from his dream.

"Sun isn't up yet, but I could hear ya having a bad dream," said Barret. "Wanna talk about it, Spike?"

He shook his blond head. "I just need to fight it off," Cloud said, standing and grabbing his massive sword from the corner of his tent. "I'll be in the surrounding area, scouting for monsters."

"We're going into Rocket Town to see if we can get any information on the people I want to hire to help us. We're losing our defenses, kid. We need these characters," said Barret seriously.

"You mean these mercenaries," Cloud spat, feeling disgust at the mere thought of them. People who worked for the highest bidder deserved nothing but their scorn. How could he respect them when they would sooner work for their enemies if they had enough gil to pay them? But Barret was right. They were losing against Weiss and if they didn't do something quickly, they would be really dead, really soon.

"I'll be back in thirty," Cloud said before stepping out of his tent. He let the cool air surround him for a second, and basked in the moments before the sun completely rose. It was those moments, when everything was serene and quiet that he felt at peace with himself, at least for only a few minutes. Then he began to move through their camp. His tent had been located towards the outside, near the trees, since he was one of the best fighters and the most alert. The resistance slept in one of the last forests left in the world, and also the biggest. Weiss had searched for them, but the only thing that had kept them alive so far had been moving to different locations every one to two weeks; it was like living like a nomad.

Cloud couldn't remember the last time he had slept on a proper bed and not a cot, but there were no major cities left, only small towns where the people lived in fear of Weiss and his unpredictable attacks. It had been years since the planet had been alive and healthy, but it had all gone to waste and damaged lands around them.

A man known as Weiss had left the world in ruins in his attempt to take over, and all that had been left of the resistance in the major cities were scattered soldiers looking for a way to survive without being discovered. Cloud didn't know how a band of rebels had managed to hold out against Weiss for so long, but they had. The worst part about it all was that they were still losing. Only last night they had gotten word that Weiss had taken over Bone Village, where their comrades had been massacred without mercy.

Cloud honestly didn't know what Weiss would do with the wasteland that the planet was becoming, but he wasn't willing to sit back and let it happen. Taking care of his morning business before anything else, Cloud took a moment to wash his hands and his face in the nearby stream. He stared down at his left hand and clenched his fist as he felt the lick of flames of so many years ago. The skin there was scarred to the point of looking melted, as if someone had thrown candle wax over his hand and arm, reaching an inch or two before his elbow. At least it didn't take up his entire arm, but it was there as a reminder of those who had died when he had been a scared ten year-old informant, recruited into the rebels' army, when first the war had started.

The scar was a part of him now, and though he had grown used to it, he hadn't let anyone see it aside from the leader of the resistance; his right hand was thankfully unmarked except for a few scars from cuts.

He had never blamed Barret, or anyone else for what had happened to him. The death of those children who had once been his friends and had been murdered because he had been discovered would always be a great weight he carried on his shoulders, even now, thirteen years later. He was twenty-three, scarred and bitter, and he feared that there was nothing that would be able to change that. He also knew that there was a great possibility that he would die before he saw his twenty-fifth birthday, and a part of him had made peace with that fact. He just hoped that this battle with Weiss ended soon.

Rustling in nearby bushes put him on alert and Cloud drew his sword slowly, taking a fighting stance. The surrounding area of their camp had been cleared of monsters for days now, thanks to him, and the remaining scent of blood from their kin had kept other monsters from wandering too close. He smirked to himself and let loose a breath when he saw a chocobo step through. It looked like his morning would start out a little slow, he realized, inserting a chocobo lure materia into his bracer.


Stepping into the dingy atmosphere of a bar in Rocket Town, Barret gave Cloud a nod and the blond walked off to take a seat in a far corner where he could get a clear view of the entire bar. There were very few people scattered, sitting at tables and nursing drinks. Rocket Town wasn't an important town for their enemies, therefore it had been left alone, but the town was rundown and had very little resources. It was the reason why there were so few bar patrons and why it had been the perfect place for the meeting with the man who would set up an encounter with the mercenaries Barret wanted to hire. After ordering a beer so that he wouldn't look too suspicious, Cloud took a look at each individual seated around the bar.

After only a few seconds, he was able to deduce that one looked out of place. The man was sitting in the opposite corner from his, with a black cloak that fell over thin shoulders, obscuring his face and only exposing the tip of his nose. The rest of his garb was meant to conceal weapons and add bulk when there obviously wasn't much, Cloud mused.

What made his senses stand on edge though, was the weapon strapped to the man's back, deceptively thin looking, but it looked like some variation of a katana, a weapon Cloud had heard was only seen in what was left of Wutai. The face lifted, and Cloud got a glimpse of dark wine before the hood of the cloak fell lower. Cloud blinked and turned his attention back to Barret, who was now talking to the bartender. The dark man nodded and paid for his beer before gulping it down in a few seconds. Then he turned and motioned for Cloud to follow him out the door.

"What'd he say?" Cloud asked.

"That we should talk ta Highwind."

"Who is he and why would he know about these people?"

"They're old friends, says the bartender. I'd be suspicious if I hadn't been told that Highwind used ta be a pilot, back when ShinRa was prosperous. Anyone connected to ShinRa or the WRO must hold a grudge, and I'm counting on that fact so that he'll help us."

Cloud nodded and felt a prickle of foreboding run down his spine, as if they were being watched. He faked a stretch and tried to look behind him, but he didn't catch any suspicious movement. "We should hurry. I have a bad feeling about all this."

Barret nodded and they quickened their pace. He had learned to not doubt Cloud's instincts because they were rarely wrong. He was a good kid, with a sad past, and Barret had come to care for him like the son he had never had and had once upon a time wanted. Shaking himself out of his thoughts, Barret and Cloud came upon a house almost at the other end of the town. There was an airship hangar a distance away, and the house looked a bit run down. He pushed past the ragged picket fence and approached the door, Cloud behind him, before knocking twice.

"…the fuck is it?" a loud voice called from inside.

"We're here ta see Highwind."

"What for?" A blond man came up to the door and gave them both the stink eye.

"Business," Cloud replied this time. "Can we come in?"

Highwind grunted and opened the door, casting a look outside to make sure that no one had followed them, or that it wasn't some type of trap. He shut both doors and guided the men down into the basement. "What do ya need?"

"We want ta hire some people. I was told that you were the one ta talk to," said Barret.

"Hire them for what?" asked the blond, lighting up a cigarette.

"That's personal."

"Well shit. I won't be able to get them to come unless I tell them what it's for. If it's something dangerous, they'll want to know if they're risking their asses and for how much."



Barret nodded. "Cid… how can we trust that you won't say a thing?"

"It's against Weiss and Deepground, isn't it?" Cid asked, letting out a long cloud of smoke. "Recognized the kid's hair. You're part of the resistance, right?"

Cloud shifted and his hands opened and closed in agitation. "Can we trust you?" he repeated.

"I want in, and I knew it was only a matter of time before you came calling for help," Cid muttered, turning to shift through some papers. He pulled out one and showed it to them. "Weiss owes me."

Barret took the paper and read through it in seconds before passing it over to Cloud. It was a newspaper clipping of the death of some Shinra workers, and among them had been one Shera Highwind… "Wife?"

Cid nodded once and took a longer drag from his cigarette. "You want to hire the Triad of Blood, don't ya?"

"We want to hit one of their base cities, but we don't have enough people. We heard that they took out Gongaga last month and we want to hit Nibelheim next," Cloud said.

"Because of the reactor?" Cid questioned, taking back the newspaper article and placing into a dirty box, which could've possibly been a jewelry box once upon a time.

"We want to cut off their feet from under them," Barret said.

Cid nodded and was about to reply when an explosion sounded off outside. All three took the stairs two at a time, and Cloud was swinging his massive sword around before they hit the front yard. The direction from where they had come from now had black smoke rising from it, and Cloud realized with a start that it was coming from the bar. "Someone knows we're here," he said, looking at Cid.

"Don't look at me!" yelled Cid. "I was with the both of you!"

"There was a suspicious man at the bar, and right before we came to your house I felt like we were being watched. Someone must've heard about our meeting," said Cloud.

Barret let out a dark growl and his prosthetic hand shifted and turned into a massive gun. "We gotta help these people," he said.

"I'm gonna get my airship warmed so that we can get outta here. Tell the people to get to the hangar or they're all toast," Cid said before he took off at a run.

Cloud nodded at Barret and the both of them ran towards the danger. They knew that Deepground took very few prisoners; the rest of the people in the towns they passed through were usually massacred. Some of the young women were taken, and Barret shuddered to think of what happened to them.

When they arrived, troops of Deepground soldiers were dropping down on them from helicopters that had started to circle and had begun to fire at everyone they saw moving. Cloud ran forward and swung his sword above his head once before bring it down on some soldiers cocking their guns to fire at a family. They went down, sliced cleanly in half, but he didn't stop to check them. He quickly moved on, cutting through the hundreds that had seemed to come out of nowhere and were setting fire to what had been left of Rocket Town.

Bullets from Barret's gun were easy to identify and separate from those of their enemies, and Cloud knew that the older man could hold his own, so he had nothing to worry about for the moment. Well, except for the helicopters, which had noticed his blond head and were turning for a better shot at him. He dove to the side when a missile was launched, and watched as a group of establishments went up in a wall of fire and smoke behind him. He impaled a soldier running towards him before he turned and severed the head of another, grimacing as blood splattered his gloves.

The sound of another missile being fired reached his ears and he turned, watching as if in slow motion as the weapon raced towards him. His stance shifted, and he gripped his sword tighter, hoping that the move worked. As his blade rose, something black dove at him and they rolled, while behind him, another explosion nearly deafened him, followed by the tingle of materia over his skin. The black blur stood quickly and took off at a run, pulling a serrated katana from his back and cutting through the soldiers with deadly accuracy and little effort.

Cloud recognized him as the guy from the bar and frowned, wondering what his intentions were. He was still keeping his face hidden, and Cloud was fairly certain that he had been the one following them. Clenching his fists in rage at being saved like some infant, he took off after the figure and made it a point to kill more soldiers than the other guy.

Above them, one of the helicopters exploded and the rotor blades fell, still turning and deadly, slicing through some of their enemies as both Cloud and the other guy dove back and out of the way. Cloud got to his feet and surveyed the battle; there were only about twenty soldiers left. A figure in red dropped down in front of Cloud and gave him a nod before pointing his gun towards a soldier's head, firing off one round from a triple-barreled gun.

"Who are you?" Cloud yelled over the roar of fire and more gunshots.

"There is no time for introductions now. My brother is directing the survivors away, but more soldiers will arrive if we do not leave."

Cloud grunted. "The hangar…"

"We know," the man in red cloak and black leather said, motioning towards the figure in black. The guy nodded and before he could take off at a run, he turned his katana around and rammed it under his arm, cutting into a soldier that had been creeping up behind him.

"We gotta go, kid," Barret yelled, grabbing Cloud by his elbow and pulling him along. "That guy there says that they're getting reports of more soldiers coming and I'm running outta ammo."

Cloud nodded and ran, watching for the guy in black. Something about him was making him wary, but they had helped, so Cloud would give them that. The roar of the airship made him turn to look as it left the hangar and closed in on them. Someone dropped down a rope ladder and the man in red directed them to all go before him. Once they were safely on board, Cid took off at amazing speed towards the sky.

"Where are we going?" Barret asked, entering the cockpit.

"First we need to lose them assholes and make sure that they ain't following us. Then we're heading towards the outskirts of Gongaga. We have a secret hideout there," Cid replied.

"That ain't necessary. We have a place in the forests of Kalm, and I think that with some maneuvering, we can camouflage the ship," Barret said. He turned to the man in red and black, and grunted. "Who are you?"

"I'm part of the group you were seeking. There must've been someone watching out for you because Weiss was quick to send his men to capture you," said the man.

Cid took a step away from the controls and one of his aids, who had been working in the ship before the attack started, took over. "This is Vincent. His brother Nero is somewhere on board, and that's Tifa," he waved towards a figure sitting near the ceiling of the airship, on a metal beam.

Cloud looked up with wide eyes, watching the woman as she sat with one leg dangling over the beam, and the other raised at the knee. Her features were still hidden, but he could tell that she was cleaning her serrated katana from the blood. "How do you know them?"

"Old friends," Vincent replied before Cid could give his own colorful version. "What job did you have in mind?"

"An attack on one of the towns that Weiss controls," said Barret.

"Let us go and speak of this in private," Vincent said, motioning towards the door.

Nero, the other brother chose that moment to step in, and Cloud watched him in curiosity. With amber eyes and jet black hair, he had an air of Vincent, but Cloud wouldn't have known that they were related. He was wearing some sort of mask on his face, and a blue suit. What drew Cloud's attention though, were the two guns on the thigh holsters he carried. They looked expensive and deadly and Cloud had no doubt that they had had their fair share of kills.

Nero looked up towards his sister and motioned for her to come down. "I need you to help me with something."

Tifa dropped down in one jump and landed nimbly on her feet, pushing back her hood. The force of her wine colored eyes met Cloud's blue and she gave him a cold look before she walked away with her brother. Cloud couldn't help his eyes as they followed the motion of her hips, especially with the form fitting pants and high boots she was dressed in. He could tell that inside of her left boot, there was a hidden blade, and that there was an outline of a gun at her back. It wasn't noticeable to the untrained eye, but he had been in the rebel group too long, and had been taught how to see dangers for him to not be able to catch at least half of the weapons she carried. There were probably more, in places more craftily hidden, Cloud knew.

"Put your eyes back into your damn head," muttered Cid. "That one there is untouchable."

"Why?" Cloud asked, genuinely curious.

"She'd sooner slit your throat than kiss it." He lit up another cigarette. "She's also the deadliest one of the three, so I suggest you keep your distance from her."

"I'm not looking for anymore problems," Cloud muttered, rubbing one of his wrists above the material of his glove. "Is there somewhere I can wash up?"

"Yeah. Grab a room below and settle in. We'll sure as hell need some type of briefing or meeting later on to know what plan you and your boss have in mind," Cid said before returning to steer the airship.

Cloud grunted and walked out of the room slowly, shaking his head. How the hell had Weiss known that they would be in Rocket Town? The only way he could think of was someone from their camp having talked too much, or someone was playing double agent. It couldn't be Wedge, or Biggs… but after the death of Jessie, the both of them had gotten into a drinking problem and when there wasn't an impending attack on their enemies, they were usually drunk off their asses. Cloud figured he would have to talk to Barret about them sooner rather than later.

Wandering down towards the lower level of the airship, Cloud decided to try a random room to see if it was empty. But as the door 'swooshed' open, he realized that it wasn't. Tifa was standing in front of a mirror, toweling her face with a damp cloth and in nothing but her boots, pants, and a bra.

Cloud flushed in embarrassment and floundered around for something to say. An apology, you idiot! his brain screamed at him. But she beat him to it with a snide remark.

"Didn't your mother teach you how to knock?" she asked, turning away from him again, and continuing to wash her face.

"My mother died the day I was born," Cloud snapped, annoyed by her attitude.

Tifa's shoulders seemed to sink slightly. "Sorry," she muttered, so low that he almost missed it.

"It's fine. We don't know each other, so you couldn't have known." He stood at the doorway for a moment until Tifa set down the towel and turned to look at him.

"Is there something you need?" she asked.

Cloud shifted and a slight blush crept up his neck as he tried to keep his eyes on her face; it really was hard, considering the fact that she was more endowed than any other woman he had met so far. "No. I guess not," he said before he walked off. Well, she sure as hell was one rude bi—

"Hey," he heard Tifa call him.

The blond turned to look behind him, taking note that she was wearing a jacket and was zipping it up. "What?" he asked rudely, exhaustion from the battle and from the travel before it catching up to him.

"I saw the way you fought. The sword… where did you get it?"

Cloud felt his chest ache at the memories. "A friend gave it to me a long time ago. He died too." His last comment had been unnecessary, especially considering the fact that she was a stranger, but he had felt compelled to tell her for some reason.

Tifa nodded once and zipped her jacket higher when she noticed his blue gaze on the cluster of scars traveling across her collarbone. "Get some rest," she said flatly, before she was gone.

Cloud watched her go with a small frown and then shrugged to himself. She didn't look like the bloodthirsty mercenary he had heard stories of, but he had seen her fight, and the efficiency and lack of remorse she displayed were something to be admired, and feared. Cloud wondered why she had become that way, since even he had his moments of grief every time he took a life. Deepground soldiers had been people once too, but Weiss' secret scientist had been cranking out enhanced soldiers every month, and he and Barret had learned a while back that he had used average people that he captured to produce his army.

He and Barret also had a plan to find that lab where the experiments went on to blow it to pieces. It would be a huge setback for Weiss' power structure. Finding himself an empty room, he set down his sword near the bed and pulled off his shirt to take a shower in the small bathroom located inside his room. There would be time enough to discuss a new way for them to defy death soon enough.


"Nibelheim is one of the most guarded."

Vincent grunted and nodded. "It makes you wonder if they're hiding a secret there."

Tifa sighed and found her eyes shifting to the blond standing next to Nero. He'd been stealing glances at her for a few minutes now, and though it irritated her, she couldn't say that she really minded. He was a looker. "Can we do it or not?" she asked, pushing away her annoying thoughts.

"We can do it," Nero started. "But there's one thing we haven't discussed yet."

Cloud's blue eyes slid to her before he looked at her brothers. "We can pay you half now, and half after it's done."

"Afraid we might run off with your gil?" Tifa snarked.

"Anything can be expected from a mercenary, right?" Cloud countered.

Tifa's hand slipped over her thigh and over the knife hidden in a pocket there, almost as a knee-jerk reaction. Vincent gave her a warning look and she crossed her arms over her chest, glaring right back. "It is almost a sure thing that you will lose fellow soldiers if you go with us."

"We need you to be our muscle while we take out the reactor," said Barret. "We have our best tech working on some bombs, while we've had others gather the designs of these reactors so we know where best to hit. Everyone who goes into battles with us knows the risks and they make the decisions themselves. They ain't forced."

"They'll get in the way," Tifa said coolly, beginning to pull her long hair from the braid it had been in. "Vincent and I can take the DG soldiers while Nero takes out the reactor. Your people don't need to go."

"You're seriously full of yourself," Cloud snapped, getting closer to the circle of people that had been discussing the mission, and as a result, closer to Tifa. "You can't possibly take Nibelheim the same way you took Gongaga. Nibelheim has twice as many soldiers because of the reactor."

"Care to test that theory, canary?" Tifa asked, taking a step towards him too, even as Vincent pushed her back.

Cloud felt his anger rise inside him at the jab at his hair color. Really, what was wrong with being blond? "Any day, princess. I'm not adverse to the idea of hitting a girl. Especially when she's asking for it."

"Enough!" Vincent finally snapped. "Unless you want to wait the meeting out in your room, cool it," he hissed at Tifa, who looked like she wanted to knock her own brother's head off, but she nodded curtly and took a few steps back. Vincent looked at Cloud next, but he merely stared right back, unfazed. "Stop goading her. I know you do it as a result of her needling you, but there should be one of you who shows an ounce of maturity. If it's not her, it should be you."

"Kiss my ass, Vincent," Tifa grumbled.

"Act like a child, expect to be treated like on," Vincent replied.

Nero just kept an impassive look on his face and ignored his youngest sibling and the blond. He could see that eventually they would end up fucking each other; it was really only a matter of time until the tension exploded. And though it was pretty disgusting to even consider it, he realized that his sister probably needed it.

"This is one fucking dysfunctional group," Cid commented, handing Barret a cigarette and they both lit up.

"Shit, tell me about it. I'd never seen Cloud so easily riled up," Barret muttered, loud enough for only the blond pilot to hear.

Cid snickered but abruptly cut himself off when Tifa's gaze snapped to him. Damn, but the girl had gotten good at the intimidating thing. Despite the fact that he had known her for roughly two years, and that he cared for her as a daughter, she scared him sometimes. She had a high body count, and it seemed that every time she returned from an attack, she was covered in blood. Cid had to guess that that was the reason why she wore black. He knew that her past hadn't been good to her, especially considering the three years she had spent under Weiss' captivity, and Cid got the feeling that she would never be truly okay after that time. He gave her a small nod, and she countered it with a softening of her frown and a slight nod too.

"I think that before we get to your hideout, we need to make a stop by our hidden stash of weapons. I am running low on ammunition, so is Nero, and we may have some things that can be used to take out the reactors," Vincent said.

"I'm assuming your help won't be free," Cloud said, calm.

Nero smirked at the man. "The area where we left our weapons is infested with monsters now. It'll take some doing to get passed them."

Cloud cracked his knuckles as his eyes met Tifa. "I'll clear a path."

"After I get through them first," Tifa said.

"Give it a fuckin' break," Cid said in annoyance. "We'll all chop through the fiends together. No need to get into a friggin' competition. Not now."

"Cid's right. We don't have the time to bullshit around. Weiss may still be on the lookout for us. Kick each other's asses once we're back at camp," said Barret.

Vincent let out an irritated sigh and shared a look with Nero. He was getting tired of the situation and it had only been a few hours since it had started. Might as well get some rest while they all could, and before Tifa and Cloud killed them all of a migraine.


The area where The Shera—Cid's airship—had settled down in was nothing but massive caves in an area where there was no wilderness and no life other than the monsters lurking. Cloud and Tifa were the first up, since they were the muscle, Cid followed with his own spear-like weapon, and Barret, Vincent, and Nero were last, since they would take care of the fiends that escaped the first three.

The monsters were of a variety that Cloud hadn't seen before, which meant that Weiss' scientist was at it with his experiments again. Shifting his massive buster sword, he cut through the first group of fiends as if they were paper, noticing that Tifa's serrated katana was as sharp and effective as his weapon. He also had to stare when he saw that way she killed the monsters. Instead of one good swipe at the throat, she drove her weapon through their skulls, causing an unnecessary mess once she pulled it out.

"Got a problem with my method?" Tifa asked, turning her sword with a quick movement of her wrist.

"You like to inflict the most amount of pain possible. I get it," Cloud muttered, marching ahead of her.

Tifa grit her teeth and raced ahead of him, taking out the monster he had been about to impale. "You know nothing about me," she snapped, ignoring the monster blood now staining her boots and gloves.

"Nor do I wish to know more," Cloud added, noticing the way her eyes filled with rage, making them take on a more reddish hue.

She was in his face in seconds. "You and I have a serious problem."

His own eyes were beginning to glow in his anger as he faced her. The monsters were forgotten as they stood in their own little bubble of fury and dislike for each other. "Really?" he asked, voice dripping with sarcasm. "And what do you plan to do about it?"

Bullets were still raining around them as the rest of their party took over in the task of taking out the monsters that had begun to swarm out of their hideouts. Grumbling from their companions was drowned out by growls and howls of pain as bullets pierced some monsters and killed others.

Tifa kept her burning eyes on Cloud as she lowered her stance and then swung her blade in an arc, slicing through three throats almost simultaneously. "I plan to deal with it as soon as we have the time. Besides, I think Vincent and Barret are getting tired of shooting," she said before turning and beginning to slice through the monsters once more.

"Tired? I ain't tired," came Barret's indignant reply. Vincent just ignored the immaturity all around him and said nothing.

Nero approached Cloud, following after his older brother and sister and paused. "I think she likes you."

Cloud gave him a bewildered look. "What? Why do you say that?"

Amber eyes were amused. "You're still breathing, aren't you?"

"She kills people she doesn't like?" Cloud asked flatly.

"Slits their throats," Nero said, unperturbed by his own words.

Cloud looked disturbed. What kind of people had they run into? Barret was out of his mind in even thinking that hiring the mercenaries would be a good idea. "And you're okay with it? You've watched her do it?"

"Hmm," was Nero's only reply before he walked away, casually shooting monsters.

By the time they reached the cave, they had left a trail of dead monsters, gore, and blood on the dusty landscape. Tifa didn't look like she minded the blood, but she did complain about getting new boots, since the ones she was wearing would be stained beyond any help. Cloud watched her as she and her brothers went through the steel cases, all filled with weapons and ammunition, until she came to one lone, flat box.

Her face remained collected, but her eyes, her eyes seemed to dim as she opened the box and inspected its content. Her gloved fingertips slid over something silver and sharp, and as if feeling his eyes on her, her gaze snapped up to his. She gave him an aggravated look but said nothing on him observing her. Tifa then grabbed the weapon she had been inspecting, and Cloud saw that it was an oversized shuriken. She strapped it onto her back then, and proceeded to load up with mastered summon materia and a few other blades that looked right at home in her hands.

"Here," she said, throwing a small box at him.

"What's this?" Cloud asked.

"A mastered cure and restore materia," said Tifa, beginning to walk off.

"Being nice to me now?" he asked, removing the orbs and swapping them with his own unmastered ones.

"You'll need them for when I break your face, remember?" she asked, smirking.

Cloud rolled his blue eyes and let out a long sigh. This would prove to be the most difficult of his battles, he realized. Having a bloodthirsty mercenary who apparently liked him—but acted like she would rather kill him—nearby would try on his patience.

"Let's move out, we need to get these ta Reeve," Barret called from the mouth of the cave before he took hold of the handle of a large container, while Cid took the other.

Making sure that her braided hair wasn't within reach of the sharp weapon at her back, Tifa moved out of the cave with the others. She and the blond had started out on the wrong foot, and it seemed it would keep being that way for a while. She would've remained silent and disconnected from their employers had it not been for the fact that they were the rebellion responsible for making Weiss' life hell. In that respect, they were on the same page and she would've gladly helped, even without pay. The destroyer of the planet owed her three years of her life, and so much more. It was about time he paid his dues.

I want to mention that this fic(as well as being an interesting prompt) was inspired by four things. The first would be Aveira's stories, "Rogue," and, "Preliator," which are great fics, so go and read those too. Also, Korn's "Coming Undone," and, "Animal I have Become," by Three Days Grace were the other sources of my inspiration. I really hope everyone enjoyed this, and Valk, sorry it's a day later than promised. I can't say when I'll have the next chapter, but I promise to hurry, since this fic has me itching to write more and quickly. LG is not forgotten, so don't worry(if you're a returning reader). Thank you so much for reading and I hope everyone had a good holiday!