Cloud had made it about one-hundred miles, but still had about fifty to go. What was worse was that he had made it to the plains, which slowed him down significantly.
"Dammit! I won't make it," he growled, tightening his grip on the handles. He took out his phone and glanced at the past calls. He sighed and went to Tifa's number, his mind pending on whether to call or not. With a defeated look, he pressed the 'call' button and waited. There was a long pause, then a voice.
"Hello, we are unable to connect your call. Either the number you dialed is unauthorized or disconne-" stated a robotic voice before Cloud shut his phone.
"Shit!" he yelled in frustration, shoving the phone back into his pocket. He could have cursed more, but he was too worried to care.
Twenty-five miles. Twenty miles. He was getting more nervous as he neared Midgar. As he saw the city over the next few miles, he noticed no buildings stood over the height of the city boundaries. He felt his heart beating right out of his chest. He could hear screams and crashes sounding throughout the city. Now all he could do was hope that they were safe.
The screaming became louder and louder as the boundaries of Midgar got nearer. He rode into town, people separating to let him through. He glanced around him at the horrible sight he was faced with. People were crying over the dead under buildings, the already poor now homeless and injured, wandering around the streets. He thought he saw two familiar faces, but shook it off. The streets were lined with injured citizens, and as he went, Cloud felt his hope dwindle away.
Right when he spotted '7th Heaven', he saw the destruction it had endured. It's support beams were near the break point, and most of the upper floor had fell to the space below. Please be alright, he thought and rushed off his bike and into the destroyed bar. "Tifa? Marlene? Denzel?" he shouted in the what seemed an empty store. He stumbled around debris of of wood, glass, porcelain, all kinds of materiel, but he couldn't find any sign of life.
He walked to find the demolished stairs, then looked to the floor. He spotted something interesting: bloody footprints. His heart lurched sharply as he decided to follow them. He reached a pool of blood, then the footsteps led outside, led by slightly larger footprints. They're too small to be Tifa's, he thought with panic, looking around until he saw an outstretched arm in his peripheral vision. He ran over to it and felt the wrist. Still a pulse..., he thought, but wasn't at ease just yet. He looked to a pile of wood that had fallen from the ceiling of the second floor. He began hastily removing the pieces of wood until just a few remained.
"Tifa!" he yelled. "Please, hold on," he whispered and looked her over. He now knew where the blood was coming from, and he wasn't sure he'd be able to get it out. He stood up and ran outside to the bike, getting his sword out of a hidden spot. He then kicked the compartment shut and raced back into the bar. He lifted the sword and began to saw the wood protruding from her side. He successfully cut it to where it stood a foot out of her, so he could at least move her to a safer spot. Trying to remove something like that was even more dangerous in a building that was on the verge of collapsing.
"You... came," Tifa groaned, smiling slightly with her eyes closed.
"Talking might make it worse," Cloud warned, trying to find a way to gently pick her up without moving the wood too much.
"You remember... that promise?" Tifa choked out, still grinning.
"I won't let that happen, Tifa," Cloud said sternly, lifting her head up slowly.
"I'm not.... so sure.. I'll make it this time," Tifa said, lifting her arm and slinging it around Cloud's neck.
"Please, don't say that," Cloud replied and delicately lifted her body from the ground.
"Well, I don't... feel all that... optimistic..," Tifa groaned, laughing quietly.
"You're laughing, aren't you?" Cloud mentioned as an attempt to raise her spirit.
"True..," Tifa muttered, opening her eyes slowly. With her eyes open, she saw the destruction the earthquake brought, then began thinking. "Hey, Cloud?... What made you come?"
Cloud remained silent as he carried her, making it to a place that seemed stable, at least long enough to help Tifa to his fullest ability.
"Cloud?" Tifa asked suspiciously as he slowly leaned her against the wall.
Cloud, now ignoring Tifa, looked for something to help him remove the wood in her side. Sighing after he realized he'd have to take it out by hand, he sat to her side and leaned in close to get a better look at the protruding beam. He could tell this wouldn't be much fun, for neither him or Tifa.
Tifa, joining in his sigh, relaxed her body and closed her eyes. He won't answer me for a while.., she thought, then opened her eyes to look to the side.
Making sure his gloves were on tightly, he got a grip on the wood with one hand, placing his other hand on her stomach to keep her from moving too much. Would it be better to take it out fast or slow? Slow would be better, not as many risks, but that will take up more time and cause Tifa even more pain. Then again, if I do it fast, I could just end up hurting her even more..., he thought, trying to decide on something. With his hand shaky at the thought he'd hurt her more, he started pulling upward on the object.
Cloud felt Tifa grab his shoulder tightly in an attempt to forcefully silence her scream of agony, and she was doing a pretty good job of that. Cloud deeply breathed in and pulled a little bit faster, but not too much, still in fear of causing her more harm. After a while, he was relieved to almost have the thing out, he was also glad that Tifa seemed to be having an easier time copping with the pain, seeing as he could finally feel the blood circulate through his arm once again.
A few minutes passed, and he jerked out the tiny piece of the object that was still lodged in her, for he didn't think that small of a piece could hurt her, especially since it was near the surface anyway. He heard Tifa let out a sigh of relief, sensing that it was finally over. Cloud couldn't imagine how that could have felt, maybe something like a giant splinter in your side? Didn't sound too comfortable, and he knew it wasn't, and that's all he needed to know.
Cloud now looked around for cloth to put on the wound. I would look for something, but I can't just leave Tifa, he thought. He placed his hand on her wound and pressed down, using his sleeve to patch up the wound on her back. It was hard to block both wounds, but bhe managed. "This will have to do until I can find something to cover it officially," he said and sat next to her, sighing.
Tifa groaned at the pressure, but settled down shortly afterword. "Are you hiding something, Cloud?"
Cloud shook his head, looking down to the cracked cement below. "No, it's nothing," he told her.
"Then tell me... why you came," Tifa stated, leaning sideways on Cloud's shoulder. "After all this time... why did you decide to come now?"
"Because Marlene asked me to," Cloud stated, looking to the side opposite of Tifa.
"Is that the truth, Cloud?" Tifa asked, closing her eyes.
"...... Yeah," Cloud answered slowly, his head beginning to feel dizzy again.
"Really?" Tifa egged on, leaning in closer.
Cloud remained silent as Tifa waited for an answer.
"Well?" she pressed, placing her hand on his that covered the gash on her side. "So that's it..," she mumbled.
"...." Cloud still didn't utter a word, but his hand flinched slightly from the sudden contact. "Just rest, ok? You need it," he finally told her, avoiding the question yet again.......