The Second Incarnation Part 10

Internal Torment

By Shelly Ichishita

Tifa felt like crap. She hadn't seen Cloud since last night, Yuffie was still peeved at her and to top it all off she had heard Ellie and Nia excitedly discussing Cloud's attributes; namely his toned body. She almost cried as she cleaned the fish that Yuffie had caught. Tifa was just sliding the guts out of the last one when she saw him in her peripheral vision. Cloud was entering the villa; he probably just got back from the beach, considering that he was only wearing a pair of surf shorts. Tifa wasn't aware of it but she had turned around to get a better look. Cloud had gotten quite tan during the time they spent in Costa del Sol; the tan really accentuated his muscles and the smoothness of his skin. She raised her hand to brush her hair back, and realized that she had just smeared fish guts in it. She began to swear under her breath. As long as Cloud didn't see her looking like this she'd be fine.

Cloud started walking towards her. As he approached Tifa could see who was accompanying him, Ellie and Nia. They were talking and laughing at every stupid joke Cloud told. Tifa struggled internally with the urge to burst into tears, in all the years that she'd known him she had never seen him so happy, except for the time he spent with Aeris. She turned back to the sink. Better to forget last night, she thought. He may want her physically but he needed to be with someone who could make him laugh and forget about his life, if only for a second.

"Hi Tifa!" Ellie called out to her.

"Hi," Tifa responded quietly. She wished that she hadn't decided to cook the fish right now. She must look awful and smell even worse! She looked at Ellie and Nia, they had borrowed a couple of bikinis from Yuffie and Tifa had to admit that they looked great. But what was most disconcerting was the way Cloud looked. He hadn't dried off completely and there were rivulets of water running down his muscular chest. His surf shorts skimmed his hips and Tifa found herself looking at his navel and the line of downy blond hair that led to... Oh well, she thought. Better not think of that.

"...Help?" Ellie was speaking to her, Tifa realized.

"I'm sorry, I didn't catch that."

"Do you need some help?" she repeated as Cloud quietly left the room.

"Thanks, I could use some." Ellie and Nia washed their hands and Tifa handed the girls the cleaned fish. "If you could start to steam these it'd be a great help."

"How do we do that?" Nia asked.

"Well, wrap the fish in those leaves and place them in the bamboo steamer over the pot. I've already set the water, temperature and timer so just take it off the stove when the timer goes off." Tifa washed her hands and started for the door. "I'm going to shower and pack," she touched her fishy hair. "I only hope that I can get the smell out."

Tifa gathered her things and stepped into the bathroom. She felt the rush of steam against her face and she realized that someone had beaten her to the shower. She was just about to gingerly step out when the shower curtain moved. A hand reached out and grabbed a towel then that hand drew back the curtain. Tifa was frozen in place as Cloud stepped out of the shower. "Hi," she gasped. "I didn't know that anyone was in here."

He smiled. "That's alright," Cloud took a step forward. "I'm just about done now." He came closer to her and reached out an arm. Tifa took a step back. Cloud's face fell a little and he quickly grabbed the black cotton pants that hung on the door behind her. Tifa felt like a fool. Of course he was only going for his pants, he probably didn't want to spend another minute in here with a pervert like her. He quickly slipped the pants on under the thick towel and left.

She was an idiot! Tifa screamed at herself as she undressed. A couple of days ago she would have taken advantage of the situation but now she knew that she couldn't. It was a good thing that there wasn't much hot water left, she was going to need an ice cold shower.

Cloud stood outside the bathroom, his back pressed against the door. He tried to think of all the reasons why he shouldn't be attracted to her; she was his closest friend and he didn't want to lose their friendship, she wasn't attracted to him, and there was a possibility that Aeris was back. But somehow all he could think about was the way she always lit up the room, even when she was covered in fish guts.


Vincent reached for his head. He felt groggy and disorientated. He touched his forehead and quickly brought his hand in front of his eyes. There was a dark red stain on his fingers. Vincent touched the stain to his lips and drew them back suddenly when the metallic taste filled his mouth. Blood. Vincent stood shakily. He knew that the blood on his hands wasn't his, probably some monster he had killed as the Chaos Beast. The last thing he recalled was losing Reeve and transforming.

A cackle of crazy laughter broke Vincent's concentration. He stumbled and found himself propped against a large desk. Vincent looked around; he recognized his surroundings. He was in the same room that Reeve had disappeared from. Regaining his balance, Vincent walked slowly to the metal door.

The door slammed shut with a jolt and Vincent found himself on the ground again. The crazy laughter filled the room again, threatening to drive Vincent mad by osmosis. The laughter quickly cut off as the numerous computer screens in the room turned on. A revolving image appeared on all of the monitors. Vincent stood and moved towards the closest screen.

"How does it taste?" the voice asked through the speakers.

Vincent backed away, the voice sounded familiar. The voice sounded like... "Hojo." Vincent whispered.

"Precisely, old friend." Hojo's voice rasped. "But you haven't answered my question. How does Reeve's lifeblood taste?"

Vincent denied Hojo's allegations, "I could never..."

"You don't sound so convinced Mr. Valentine," Hojo cackled. "Maybe I should show you..." The computer screens turned black once again, only to be replaced with a surveillance video.

Vincent watched with a horrified whimper as the video progressed to show his transformation into the Chaos Beast. He knew what came next; he would add the murder of a friend to his list of sins. It happened so fast that Vincent prayed it was all a nightmare. That he wasn't standing in Shinra Headquarters, that he wasn't listening to Hojo's laughs, and that he wasn't watching Reeve being torn apart by the Chaos Beast on the monitor. Vincent slumped to the floor, too weak with grief to move.

The metal doors opened with a groan. A tall woman with ginger colored hair that fell into her eyes walked through the doorway. "Vincent," she smiled and held out a hand to him.

Vincent looked up. "Lucretia?" he tried to stand.

"Shh, don't move darling." Lucretia approached him. "I have a gift for you."

"Lucretia, now's not the time. We've got to leave. Hojo's back." Vincent couldn't keep the desperation out of his voice; he would not let Hojo get his hands on her again. He lifted himself up. "Please, let's leave."

"No. First you must see my present." She smiled as she touched his cheek with her free hand. Her other hand moved to reveal her "gift." Lucretia cackled as she lifted Reeve's severed head by his hair.

Vincent's screams of betrayal and agony mingled with Hojo and Lucretia's insane laughter and echoed throughout the deserted building.


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