Hey everyone, surprise update! Thanks to those who reviewed last chapter and those that added to faves/alerts.

Sorry we haven't thanked you properly, but I'm literally off to work right now! So enjoy!


Chapter Thirty Six

It was raining. It's hadn't rained for such a long time Midgar, that the people who lived there could barely remember the feeling of rain against their skin. Dark clouds hung in the night sky and occasionally cracked with thunder and lit up area.

Tifa's eyes slowly opened but all she could see was nothing but a dark blur. She groaned when her head suddenly began to pound and she slowly tried to raise her arm to touch her throbbing head. Her hearing was still quiet and muffled but she was sure someone was talking to her. Someone's gloved hand suddenly touched her shoulder and made sure to keep her down.

The ground underneath her felt damp but the cool floor was comforting to her pulsing head. Slowly her thoughts began to rush back to her, running through Shinra, finding an unconscious Zack, dragging him out, the cold corridors, freezing in a man's presence, in Sephiroth's presence, attacking him, trying to protect Aerith, his bone crushing attacks, the gun shots and someone's voice, Cloud's voice.

With that thought Tifa wrenched herself upright. The muscles in her stomach bunched together and she felt a jolt of pain run through her. "Teef?" She finally made out someone's voice and she blinked a couple of times to clear her vision. She turned to see whose comforting strong arm had wrapped around her shoulders and she was met with a pair of brilliant glowing blue almost violet eyes. "Hey." His voice seemed relaxing and comforting and it wasn't until her vision finally cleared did she recognise the man in front of her.

"Zack?" Tifa recognised his handsome and charming smile straight away and pulled the man closer to her. "Are you okay?" She quickly asked, remembering his unresponsive state.

He chuckled once, his laughter making his chest rumble. "Just come around myself." He replied with a small laugh. You could always trust in Zack to make you smile. Tifa slowly let the Soldier go and stared up at him. His face was pale and gaunt, but his eyes still twinkled as they always had before. There was a strange smell to him that reminded Tifa of the reactor back in Nibelheim."You okay?" He asked, his mako enhanced eyes scanning her face for any other wounds. His lips turned up into a smirk before his violet eyes locked with hers. "Aerith must have fixed you up." He smiled, before the thought hit him.

Aerith! Zack thought suddenly, where was she? He threw himself to his feet, waving his arms out to keep his balance. Zack glanced around the ruined area, looking for the trade mark pink amongst the fields of grey and black, like she would stand out like the moon in the night sky. Was she safe? Had he seen her earlier? Had he been dreaming? His thoughts were all a mess and were still slowly coming into place like a jigsaw.

"Zack!" His prayers were quickly answered and he twists rounds when he heard her melodious voice. He watched the woman he loved rush towards him, she kicked dirt up behind her as she raced through mud and her hands were bunched into fists as she clung onto her pink dress to help her run. Her hair was soaking wet and the pink ribbon he'd brought for her drooped in the rain. She ducked as she raced into the small tent that had been pitched up away from Midgar. Zack caught a sight of the city and saw the rubble that it had become, but for the time being that could wait, Aerith was here and that was all that matter.

The moment Aerith got in his reach he caught her hand in his own and brought him close to him, wrapping his arms around her tight. He felt her fingers cling onto his sleeveless shirt as she buried her head into the crook of his neck. Her skin was cold to touch and a shiver ran down her spine making Zack pull her closer, running his hand up and down her back.

It felt like years since he held her like this. He could remember the fear when he couldn't find her all those days ago. But everything was forgotten and all he could think of was that Aerith was here and she was alive. "I'm so sorry." She whispered so quietly, that even Zack just managed to hear her. He closed his eyes tight as she slowly began to shake from her silent sobs.

"Dilly dally, dilly dally." He mumbled with a smirk, remembering Aerith's trade mark words.

"Shilly shally." She answered back quickly, her head still buried into his chest. Zack was sure he heard her small laugh and tightened his grip on her.

He slowly returned his gaze back at the ruined city, his eyebrows furrowed as he tried to remember anything to do with the state that it now stood in. "What happened...?" He asked slowly. Aerith gently pushed out of his tight embrace to face him.

Tifa watched as Aerith slowly explained what happened to the black haired soldier before she looked for her own Soldier. Where was Cloud? She could fear slowly starting to rise inside of her and a lump formed in her throat. Was Cloud okay?

"Where's Cloud?" She asked abruptly, cutting Aerith off mid sentence. Her voice was croaky and she forced her gaze away from the ruined city to her pair of friends. She knew how much Zack would want to be with Aerith right now, but the foreboding fear inside of her made Tifa fear for Cloud's safety.

"Yeah, where's Spiky?" Zack asked with a casual smile. "Thought he'd be here watching over me!" Zack smirked once more and glanced to Aerith and saw her solemn expression.

Tifa leapt to her feet, ignoring the dull ache in her stomach and her aching legs. She caught Aerith's arm and pulled the ancient gently to face her. Aerith's glistening green eyes almost gave away everything Tifa needed to know. The woman's face was smeared with dirt and her wet hair clung to her face. There were faint bags under her eyes and Tifa wondered how much time Aerith had spent trying to heal everyone she possibly could. "Aerith?" Zack asked quickly, his voice turning a little more stubborn and demanding.

Tifa watched as Aerith swallowed the lump in her throat and licked her dry lips before slowly opening her mouth to try and speak.

"He's alive, isn't he?" Tifa asked harshly. Had Cloud been fighting Sephiroth alone? Had Vincent abandoned him to bring herself, Aerith and Zack to safety? Tifa turned and glanced at the ruined city and then at the hundreds of people around them. Why was no one out looking? Why was the Shinra army just standing around?

"Vincent's out looking." Aerith finally answered. Tifa ignored Zack's mumbled question on who Vincent was and kept her gaze on Aerith.

"He left Cloud?" Tifa controlled her voice to the best of her ability, so she wouldn't end up screaming at Aerith, even though it was wasn't the other woman's fault.

"The building was collapsing." Aerith quickly replied, finding a resolve to keep speaking. "Cloud ordered Vincent to get everyone out. I couldn't carry both you and Zack alone."

Tifa saw the colour drain from Zack's face and the soldier turned on the spot, clearly looking for his trusty Buster sword. "And Sephiroth was there?" He asked, as if to check that he hadn't been imagining everything. Aerith nodded. Zack spun round once more and sighed aloud.

"You have to stay here, you're not well enough." Aerith answered firmly, although knew Zack wouldn't sit and wait for his friend to return.

Zack shook his head, his black spikes slightly damp from the rain. "Sword or no sword, I'm finding Cloud." His violet eyes locked with Tifa's for a moment and then to Aerith.

"Okay." Then ancient agreed with a smile. Zack wrapped Aerith's hand firmly in his and took off, pulling the woman along behind him with Tifa by his side.

There was another crack of thunder and the whole of Midgar lit up from that one flash of light, before being plunged into darkness once more. The first few drops of rain began to fall and Cloud blinked as the cool water touched his cheek, before the rain began to fall faster and harder. The sound of the water crashing against the ruined buildings filled the silence and soon enough puddles began to form around his feet and rushing down the buildings. Cloud's grip tightened around his sword as he held onto it tight, looking for the silver haired man.

Shinra HQ had already begun to crumble when he and Vincent first ran in so he knew he only had a few moments to find Tifa and Aerith and hopefully Zack and leave.

The sound of Aerith crying Tifa's name had sliced through him and he'd rushed through the building, following his heightened hearing to find the pair.

He and Vincent had rushed to the depths of Shinra and to the basement, where Cloud's eyes had landed on the silver haired man's back. Vincent had been the first to act, firing round after round at the man and drawing his attention away from the two women further down the corridor.

Cloud had frozen when he'd spotted Tifa's crumpled form and the rage inside of him suddenly built up more and more. He'd rushed forwards and smashed is sword in Sephiroth's and sent the man flying backwards and smashing through the walls. The building had creaked and Cloud ordered Vincent to get the pair out. Leaving him alone with the mad man.

They'd both rushed out of the crumbling building and Cloud had lost the general in the process.

So he stood in the freezing cold rain that ran down his back and strained all his senses to hear any single noise that might give away the man's position.

There was another crack of thunder and Cloud glanced around, taking a chance of the sudden light to spot the man and sure enough Sephiroth stood on an opposing building. His infamous blade still shone in the dim light and the rain ran down his leather coat. His long silver hair clung to his face and hid part of his features, but the twisted smirk and glowing green cat like eyes could still be seen.

"Sephiroth!" Cloud shouted above the rumbles of thunder. He heaved his blade back up in both hands and gripped onto the hilt, ready for any single movement the man would make. He knew he needed to take every chance he could to stop the man, but at the same time, make sure he didn't give any chances for Sephiroth to take. "Stop this madness." He answered, knowing the general would hear him perfectly fine.

Would he be able to get through to Sephiroth? Maybe convince him to see the truth of his actions?

Sephiroth's smirk grew and Cloud couldn't help but feel his fear start to grow. There was a reason why this man was the general of Shinra's army and that thought seemed to constantly repeat in his mind.

"This planet deserves to rot." Sephiroth answered, his voice still silky and calm, clashing against the insane words he was now saying. "You fools took this planet away from mother and for that, you all deserve your punishment."

Cloud's grip tightened on his blade once more. He once looked up to this man, wanted to be him and wanted to have everything he had. But the man that Sephiroth was, was now long dead and in his place was a shell of a mad man with a horrific past and desired nothing more but revenge for what had happened. "Your mother is dead." Cloud answered, wondering if Sephiroth ever came across anything of Lucretia when he'd been pouring over all the information in Nibelheim.

Sephiroth's smirk slowly vanished and his eyes narrowed as he slowly moved his stance. "I will destroy this planet and everything on it." He murmured back.

Cloud didn't doubt for a second that the man before him was capable of causing so much damage and silently wished Zack was here with him. He was sure he'd seen Zack with Aerith, but wasn't sure enough to say that he had definitely seen him, but if that was the case, should he have waited for his friend? So that they could face the man in front of him together?

Cloud pushed all those thoughts out of his mind. There was no point thinking like that now, he had a job to do. He had to finish Sephiroth right here and right now, to save all the people he cared about from suffering under Sephiroth's hand.

With renewed strength Cloud spread his stance, ready to fling himself towards the infamous general and start their fight. "You really have lost your mind, Sephiroth."

The group stood on the edge of Midgar, staring at the crumbled city and demolished plates, unable to believe that a metropolis once stood here. That this city was the height of Shinra's engineering and in little more than a day it had been reduced to nothing.

Zack looked to the people besides him. Barret had barely changed, but Zack knew something must have happened over the time that they'd been together, as he highly doubted that at the beginning of their journey that Barret would never have agreed to risk his life for a SOLDIER.

Tifa stood a little further away from the group, but her eyes were burning with determination to find Cloud and nothing more. Aerith was next to him and knew she wanted nothing more but to find Cloud too.

The two others, Cid and Nanaki that Zack had been hastily introduced to stood behind them. Yuffie the young Wutai teen, he was sure he'd met before but didn't have time to question the black haired girl. It brought a smile to Zack's face, knowing that Cloud was unaware of how many people actually cared about him and would risk their lives to find him.

"We shouldn't split up." Zack began, grateful that Barret allowed him to keep his role as leader. Had Cloud taken over for him, whilst he was gone? Had Cloud changed a lot whilst he'd been away? "Not with Sephiroth around." Zack added. But Midgar was a big place and finding Cloud may take hours in this place, maybe even days if they all feared the worst had happened.

"We don't have time!" Tifa answered back, her eyebrows knitted together. Her hair was wet and clung to her pale face. Her hands were already tightened into fists.

"Right." Zack agreed, at least Tifa and he were thinking on the same wavelengths. "Barret, Yuffie, Cid. You take that route." Zack ordered quickly, pointing to his left. He was going to at least try and say what sector of Midgar that was, but now there was no point. He could barely tell the sectors apart anymore. "Tifa, Nanaki, that way." He added pointing right in front of him. With a nod Tifa had already raced forwards with the red furred animal besides her. "Me and Aerith will take the right." He jabbed his thumb in that direction and watched as the remaining three followed his orders. "That wasn't hard." He answered with a smile and turned to Aerith.

Her small smile reassured him and he took her hand in his. He wished he had his sword with him, almost feeling naked without it's reassuring weight, but he couldn't spend time searching for the weapon, he needed to find Cloud first.

"Let's go."