Goodbye, but not Farewell

Chapter 21

Cloud's face froze. Horror was written all over it. What had happened? War? Why? How?

Too many thoughts and too little answers. All he knew was that he had to get back, had to help his family. Even if it meant abandoning this here. The search for Zack. Sorry Ashe

"We have to return! Something has happened. Tifa says we are at war!" Cloud yelled and suddenly every pair of eye was fixated on him.

"What happened?" Alastair inquired, but all Cloud could answer was "No idea." But Tifa did seem very upset. Cloud's heart was racing, his palms sweaty.

For a moment he had to be selfish. Why did I leave Tifa for Ashe's dead boyfriend? Why risk them being in danger when Ashe doesn't want to be here anyways? None of his thoughts made sense. All he knew was that he had to be back with his family. His family.

There were too many thoughts clouding his thinking. "We are going back." Cloud said facing the floor as if he was trying to find something there. Some sort of clue.

Neither Alastair nor Ashe said No.

Having forgotten for a moment why she was up there, up on this hill, she turned around to focus on that very old man that seemed to hold so many grief and secrets. She was struggling inside whether to stay with him as he was seemingly dying, but decided to go with her friends. I am sorry Zack, but I believe all is lost. I can't chase a ghost… It is time to say goodbye.

They made their way back to Nibelheim as quickly as possible. Weather had gotten nastier, rainier and windier, which delayed them more than they had thought. Finally after many hours they recognized Nibelheim's outskirts and soon they found themselves close to the market place where it was only a minute's trip to 7th Heaven.

"Anyone there?" Cloud yelled as he slammed the door to the bar open.

"Oh thank god you are here!" Tifa said with a tearstained face as she clung tightly to Cloud. She shortly glimpsed at Ashe. Partly in an apologetic way, partly in an angry way.

It wasn't long until Marlene and Denzel followed. The family was reunited.

"Theirs is, mine's not." Ashe silently thought but smiled at the two kids anyways. What right did she have to wish bad on others just because her love died in battle.

"So what happened?" Cloud asked, finally freeing from Tifa's tight hug.

"I don't really know. Suddenly shops blew up, bombs were laid. I don't even know who is doing this!" Tifa explained, her face clearly indicating she feared they'd be next.

"We will be ok." Cloud said, caressing her face. "We will handle this."

And by we, he meant him, Ashe and whoever was available to fight.

Ahse's selfish side was about to surface yet again.

(Ashe's POV)

I need to save your ass again, right Cloud? So you can be happy with your family whilst I have to be on my own. Do you even think about those around you? It's not all about you. You might have been lost once but now you have found what you always wanted. What about sharing this. What about sharing the love…the gratitude. Neither of us wants to die, but if we do, we are not leaving someone behind. Only you do.

I felt horrible for what I was thinking, but part of me was mad. Part of me was jealous. I might have started out as the girl that had given up on her love, but inside I had come to believe that he was still out there. You, Cloud, made me believe. Now I am back to giving up on believing and saving someone's ass.

But either way, he was my friend, he was always loyal and he tried to make me feel better. I owed him more than I could imagine right now.

Another bomb went off somewhere, The glasses in the cupboard were slightly shaking. Marlene shrieked.

(Ashe's POV End)

Cloud reached for his sword. "We have to go out there and fix this."

Everyone was staring intently at him, but it was already decided. Either they went and fought or they'd go down right here and now. And deep back in his head Alastair knew that Cloud had said these words to make his kids feel like he was the father he never had. The protector.

Ashe smiled at him, indicating that she was ready to kick some asses. "You are the man!" she exclaimed and reached for her guns. "Let's do it!"

xxx

There were a bunch of men dressed in black. A few women among them, judging from their figure. Most of them wore masks, some didn't bother. Yes, it was war. They had just killed an old man, gunshot wound to the head. And all they did was dropping his motionless body to bleed out on the streets.

Cloud drew his sword and tried to stop some bullets from hitting the building he was standing in front of. Ashe was a close-combat fighter and ran right into the crowd, taking a few down.

It was then that Alastair yelled "They are taking them!"

Cloud had no idea what he was talking about, but ran to their rescue.

They had broken into 7th Heaven and had taken Tifa and the kids, loading them onto their truck.

Cloud almost dropped his sword at this horrible scene. His mouth felt parched and his legs wobbly.

Time had seemed to stop.

Quickly he sprinted towards them yelling for them to stop.

Suddenly he heard a gun going off, the bullet hitting flesh. In the corner of his eyes he saw someone falling to the floor. All he saw was light hair. But he had to get to Tifa, Marlene and Denzel.

And as he was running towards the truck that had already started its engine and was about to drive away there was a bullet soaring past him.

"Don't worry, they wont get far with a flat tire." He heard a female voice saying, pressing the words out with her last strength. The one he had heard before. It was Ashe, lying in a puddle of blood besides him. She had a gunshot wound to her abdomen. Blood was streaming. If this is it, if I am going to die here and now, I'd love to have one last hour with you, one last moment to see your face, touch you, feel the love. I'd give it all. I'd give it for you….

"You wont have to go that far…" someone whispered just when Ashe felt a hand pressing something onto her wound. Who are you?

Cloud was frozen to the spot. He didn't even notice Tifa running up to him to embrace him in a hug. It can't be…

x x x x x x x x x x x

Sorry if this chapter sucked or seemed rushed. I guess I am blocked lately.