Phone Conversation

She's facing a wall, a giant, smooth wall. It's made of rock, and there's some dappled surfaces among its front but for the most part it's smooth. It's as much as she can see, disappearing into shadows. It's pitch black, the rock. There's a small light source hovering somewhere above her right shoulder and every time she thinks about it she turns, quickly, to try to catch the source of the light.

Instead it seems to remain a rather annoying 'fairy' that hovers just over her shoulder and out of sight.

Still, she faces the wall with intense and unwavering eyes. There has to be a crack, a weakness in the wall. There has to be a way to scale it, or find a way around it.

But it's as if she's at the bottom of a well; there is no other passage out of it other than up. She tips her head backwards, looking towards a dim ring above her head. It's at least thirty feet above her and the walls around her, while dappled do not have deep enough crevices to find footholds in.

There is no escaping this place.

Not by physical means, at least.

She tries, though, futilely to climb the shallow holes in the smooth walls. Her fingers and toes slip through the shallow indents in the wall and she swallows, feeling a pressure build up behind her eyes.

She screams.

She jolts up right in her bed, a phone ringing quietly on the night stand.

She's covered in sweat, cold in the humid night. She knows she hasn't cried out in her fear; she doesn't hear Marlene rushing up the steps to see what is wrong. It's happened more times than she's wiling to admit and she hates to acknowledge how much the girl has a sixth sense about things.

The buzzing vibration of her phone is louder than the actual ringtone; she doesn't have to look at it though, to know who it is.

She flips it open, hesitates a moment, and presses the phone to her ear.

"Cloud," she whispers into the phone.

There's silence on the other end, much like there usually is on the late night, random calls.

She sighs, rolling her eyes, and blinking back tears. "Cloud-

She begins strong, ready, finally, after months to tell him off. To tell him how to deal with his own issues, how to deal with his own conflicts. She's sat around long enough silently waiting for him to open up about everything that's happened. It's pathetic to wait around for him, and she hasn't waited for him in a long time. In fact, most nights, her phone is on silent to keep this from happening, to keep from becoming the hapless friend...but it's been so long since she's spoken to him. And it's been so long since she's left her phone on over night.

This must be something special, or at least it must be something he wants to explain.

"Tifa," his voice is hoarse, quiet. Even more quiet than normal.

She swallows, pressing a palm into her eye. "What is it? I'm sleeping."

He grunts, softly, "I know."

She suppresses a laugh and presses her lips against the receiver. "Cloud."

"Tifa," he whispers.

It jolts her to hear her name on his lips, kind of like an electric shock.

"What," she hisses again into the phone, rolling back on to her pillow, thinking of the last time his head rested on that pillow. Thinking of the last time they looked at each other and knew each other.

"Do you know?"

She holds back a scoff and a chuckle, "Know what?" she spits. "Do you know how long it's been since I spoke with you?"

"Too long," the voice on the other end replies. "Sixty-eight days to be exact."

"So why do you suddenly care to know how long it's been since we've spoken?" she bites back at him.

"Tifa," he says again, but it's more of a groan this time.

"Cloud," she says, a little more uneasy.

"Did I ever tell you?" he asks vaguely.

"There's a lot you never told me," she chuckles. She's on her feet now, her toes snug in her slippers, a woolen robe on her shoulders.

"Are the kids asleep?" he asks.

"Yes," she replies gently, maneuvering her way down the steps in the dim light. The kitchen is quiet and she quickly fills the coffee pot and sets the drip.

He waits patiently a few minutes before asking, "How strong is the coffee?"

She laughs, unwillingly. "Strong enough. Although, probably not strong enough to get you home."

She hears a muffled cough on the other line. "Probably not."

She doesn't say anything, opening the fridge and rummaging for eggs and bacon.

"Well the kids will need breakfast."

"Yeah not for two hours."

She tries to ignore him. "Okay, you're going on speaker phone ingrate."

She clicks the button, tossing the phone nonchalantly onto the counter beside of an empty bowl. Grits, she thinks, that will be easy.

"Better than mute," she hears his gravelly, low voice reply.

"Why did you call?" she suddenly asks, flipping the burners of the stove on high. "Why don't you come by? Denzel is itching to see you, and not because Yuffie doused him in itching powder the last time she was here."

There's nothing for a moment. She thinks that should have at least gotten some reaction, if he weren't distracted. For a moment she thinks he's hung up but she hears that quiet, white static in the background.

"Cloud?" she asks, a little more shakily.

"I'm in a bit of a bind," he replies, almost as if no time of his has passed.

"What do you mean, 'in a bit of a bind'," she spits back. Two eggs are cooking in the pan, three strips of bacon. She stirs the boiling grits with her other hand. "Cloud if you need back up-

"It's a bit late."

"Yes, it's a bit late for pancakes," she replies sourly. "But I think we can manage."

"No," he says a bit quieter. "It's a bit late."

She flips the burners off; the bacon is cooling in paper towels, getting nice and crispy. The eggs are finishing up in the cooling pan, and the grits, well, the grits are finishing up in the pot. A Nibelhiem specialty. Boil the piss out of them, as her mother used to say.

"What are you doing," she says gently, looking at the phone on the counter.

"Hunting," he grunts.

"No!" She surprisingly shouts, and scoops the phone up quickly, switching the speaker off and praying that Marlene and Denzel don't hear anything.

"No," she says softer into the phone. "No."


"No," she replies with force. "You, you don't get to do this."

She presses the phone into her ear.

He chuckles, and she hears it, muffled. "Do what?" he asks.

"Pretend!" she hisses.

"Pretend what," he coughs.

"Cloud," her voice is desperate. "Please, where are you?"

"It's beyond that."

"NO! - No- no, you can't." The grits pot is starting to boil over.

"You can't pretend!" Her voice is shrill, inhuman, beyond what she wants.

"Pretend what?" his voice is a whisper, but gravel at the same time. It's cement, something that sticks to her skin and won't let go.

"You can't pretend! THAT YOU DON'T LOVE ME!" she shrieks. Her heart is pounding in her chest.

There's a beat of silence, of white noise, of nothingness on the other end of the line.

"Tifa," his voice, so quiet.

"What's wrong?!" she cries. "I'll come and save you!"

"I can't- I just wanted to know."

"Where are you? I'll find you!"

"I just wanted to know...I love-