Hm...let's see. I was going for a sort of crazy feel in this chapter because of Cloud's Mako poisoning. Again, I think I got it, but I'd like to hear your opinion of my work. This is also based off a scene from the game, though this is from the original one, and is Tifa's flashback. I actually went to the beginning of the game and checked the details...such as they were that needed it.


I don't remember the walk, except that it was long and that at some point it started to rain again. I stumbled and even fell several times, the steady scratch of my sword in the dirt breaking until I managed to stumble back to my feet and continue on. Sometimes I would fall over a rock, sometimes because my legs stopped wanting to hold me up. Finally, I found myself against something huge and impassible. I stood staring at it until something touched my shoulder, turning me slowly around. There was a voice…at least; I think it was a voice. And…maybe a face to go with it, I don't know. I tried to speak, to tell the voice I didn't understand, but nothing came out. The thing touching my shoulder pushed, making me trip toward the wall, the voice continuing to speak – yell? – quietly in my ear. I tried again to say I didn't understand, and this time I got out a weak moan.

The rain stopped suddenly and I tripped, only managing to stay upright because of the thing on my shoulder. I brushed it off, tripping slightly as I stumbled away. The voice was louder, I think calling – Did this one chase me? – after me, but I kept trying to walk. I think people stared when I stumbled past, covered in blood and mud, and dragging my huge sword. I tried to get away, I didn't like – did I? – them staring at me. Finally, something caught my foot and I sprawled on the ground, the blade skittering away across the stones. Getting up was hard, and I considered crawling the rest of the way like I had – had I? – last time. – When? – Finally, I managed to stand and lift the sword, walking on again.

The ground under my feet dropped away suddenly and I fell again, the sword jumping away. A crack rang out and pain – pain? – laced through the back of my head, making black blotches amid the green. I slumped back, breathing heavily, as I watched a large, dark blob hurry across my vision. I remember the sword…the sword was important – Why? – and I had to have it. I strained to reach the hilt, my fingers finally curling around the pommel. The effort – there was no effort – it took to pull the sword onto my lap surprised me, leaving me drained as I let my head loll forward.

Something wet brushed against my arm and there was a loud, sharp noise near me. I flinched, a tiny movement, and then wet thing was there again, pushing against my hand. I ignored it – what was it? – and stared at the green stones by my feet. Something above me, maybe a voice? Pain lanced through my head; what was happening? What had happened? A moan escaped me suddenly, surprising the dog by my leg enough that he paused his pat-seeking. The voice spoke again, softer and maybe sympathetic. I tried to tell him to leave me alone, and groaned slightly.

The dog left, though it didn't go far by the sound of its barking, and then the blob – who? – beside me left too. In its place came another one, and another voice with a hand placed gently on my head, near the sharp pain.

"Are you all right?" The voice made sense, and it was soft like the last one.

"Oo…uh…agh." The pain…my whole body hurt! – Did it? Why? –

The blob became smaller and wider – the person kneeling in front of me. A face appeared – Did I know it? – and I tried to focus through the sea of green. "Uh…uh…" The pain again, as I tried so hard to know her. "Tifa?" Was that her name? – Who's name? – The pain made me clutch my head, almost begging for relief. "Tifa…?" Yes! That was the face! I was suddenly on my feet, my face pulled into a smile – A smile? – as things slid painfully into place. I knew her, she and I had grown up – Had we? – together. Tifa climbed slowly to her feet, her long brown hair swinging slightly behind her. I brushed a bit of damp hair from my face, the smile growing. "Tifa!"

Tifa looked confused, as though she didn't recognize me. But it lasted only a minute, before her face broke into a smile of its own. "Oh, Cloud!"

– Cloud? – I hefted the heavy – Heavy? – sword. "That's right," – That's right – "I'm Cloud." – I'm Cloud, SOLDIER 1st Class. –

"Is it really you, Cloud?" Tifa's face was slightly flushed with excitement, "I never though I'd find you here!"

I brushed the strand of hair from my face yet again, "Yeah, it's been awhile." – Has it? –

"What happened to you?" The excitement was replaced with concern, "You don't look well."

I didn't look well? I felt – like I'd been shot – fine. I shrugged easily, "…Yeah? It's nothing, I'm okay."

Tifa turned and took a step away, staying silent. That was normal though. Pain lanced through my head and I clutched it again, was it normal? How did Tifa normally act? Tifa…more memories slid slowly into place, and I knew. By the time Tifa had turned back around, I was fine. – Fine? No… – She smiled slightly, her brows barely furrowed in thought, "How long has it been?"

The pain again! I shook my head to dislodge it. How long had it been? When had I last seen her? …Five years… – Did Tifa know? – Yes, just before the Sephiroth Incident, when I'd left Shin-Ra. – I'd left Shin-Ra? – Tifa was staring worriedly at her feet and I brushed at the stubborn strand of hair, "Five years."

Her head snapped up and she stared at me blankly, her hand on her chin in thought. The expression she wore tinged suddenly with worry and I shrugged, "What's wrong?"

Tifa shook her head slowly, "…It's really been a long time." I nodded and she bit her lip, "What are you doing now? Here? Did you…make it to SOLDIER?"

The pain wasn't so bad this time. I was a SOLDIER, – Since when? – should I go back to Shin-Ra? Wait…I quit Shin-Ra…The answer was suddenly there, I was a mercenary. Realizing Tifa was still waiting, I shrugged, "Yeah, I was in SOLDIER." Tifa noticed the past tense and her expression changed from curious to confused. I smiled slightly, "I quit after…after Nibelheim. I've been working as a mercenary since." – Had I? – The more I thought about it, the more unsure I was about what had happened since I'd last seen Tifa. But what else would I have been doing? Tifa had nodded slightly, so I assumed she believed me, even if I didn't myself. I glanced back, saw a train, – How long had that been there? – and realized that must be what I was doing. "I'm going to go up on the plate to look for a job." The train whistled shrilly and I glanced back over my shoulder again, "There's my ride. It's good to see you, Tifa. Where are you? I'll come see you when I get the chance."

"Um…Cloud, wait!" Tifa grabbed my arm as I turned, and I raised an eyebrow. "I…I've got a…a job for you. You can work for me – us. For us."

"Who's 'us'?"

"AVALANCHE. We're an anti-Shin-Ra group." Relief swept for a second across her face, "…You'll be paid, of course. Barrett won't admit it, but we need the help."

I thought it through for a second, I had decided I would take all the jobs; boring, easy, hard…anything that paid. Tifa was tensed up, her grip on my arm a little harder than it need be. "What kind of help?"

"You'll do it?!" Tifa's face broke into a wide smile and she started dragging me away from the train station. "I'm so glad! Our base is at my bar in Sector 7." I let Tifa pull me along as she talked on about her bar and the little girl that she looked after there.

It wasn't until we were walking through the Slums and she had released me that she changed topic. I had started to tune her out and was only half listening when she asked, "Cloud, is this…? Why are you covered in blood?"

Covered in blood? I looked down at my shirt and noticed the stains of red…How had that happened? – Don't you know? – Blood. Logically that would mean I was in a fight…I repeated the end of that to Tifa.

"A fight? Where? Why?"

"Outside of town…" I answered vaguely, hoping she'd let it go. She frowned in worry, but thankfully did let it go. I turned my head under the pretext of looking at the stores and tried to remember. The fight…it had been outside of town, but against who? It was against…Shin-Ra? I frowned, making a passing boy run for cover, I had fought Shin-Ra? Yes, because I left. The whole thing made sense, didn't it? – Does it? –


See the pretty little purple button down there? You know you want to push it...Push it and let me know what you thought of this. Please?

Oh, I'm thinking about changing the title to "Final Dirge". Will you guys let me know what you think of that? Should I change it or is the one right now good enough?