A/N:Hi! This is my first fanfiction, so please be kind and no flames.
*o* - beginning/ending of flashback sequences
~o~ - changes in scene
Disclaimer: Final Fantasy VII, its characters, locations, vehicles, abilities, creatures, and such all belong to Square Enix. The gums belong to Wrigley's. In other words, I own nothing except for the plot.
Chapter 1: Cures
How did I get into this mess? Cloud thought in anger and angst. He was miles away from home, injured, without a means of transportation, with no way of contacting anyone (not true), and tired. Cloud suddenly recalled what had occurred to leave him in this condition. The images played through his head rather vividly. Oh…now I remember…
Heading home from Kalm, Cloud had been speeding down the road on Fenrir. He had just finished a delivery for a very irritable client. The client had been a nagging old woman. She was not pleasant in the least and made Cloud do extra work without paying for it. Talk about cheap! Cloud thought agitatedly.
Once he had finished doing her bidding, he ran to his motorcycle and was booking it home at a break-neck speed. He was quite pissed off and restless after dealing with the hag. The blonde could not wait to get home so he could rest before his next delivery the following day. Hopefully the next one will be less demanding, he thought.
Quite suddenly, he was pulled out of his reverie by the sound of warking. He saw a flock of yellow chocobo across the road making all kinds of noise. Cloud slowed to a stop as he waited for the birds to finish their onslaught. "Shouldn't there be a chocobo crossing sign or something?" he asked aloud.
After the flock had finished blocking his path, several loud roars then pierced the air. Cloud looked in the direction the chocobos had fled from. There was a large group of monsters that had been hunting the flock. No wonder, the blonde thought. I now understand why the chocobo truly crossed the road. He revved his motorcycle and started riding away. He felt somewhat sorry for the chocobos but he figured that they could fend for themselves.
Then, more growls and roars were heard and they seemed to be getting closer to him. He turned his head slightly to see that they were now tailing him. Why the hell are they after me now? They were just chasing…I loathe being a chocobo head, he thought.
The creatures did indeed believe he was a chocobo. They thought he had strayed away from the rest of the flock in an attempt to escape the horde of creatures. They were content with that because they thought it would make for an easier dinner.
Cloud lowered his head in an attempt to gain momentum for an escape. He pressed a button on the right handle of Fenrir and the storage racks for his combinable sword flung open. He grabbed the largest of the First Tsurugi's multiple swords from the rack on his right side.
Cloud turned his head to see if the monsters were getting closer, but it was too late. Several members of the pack had already lunged themselves at him. At that point, one of the creatures knocked him off his bike and clear into a mound of rocks on the side of road. His head bashed against the rocks and he fought with himself in vain to maintain his consciousness. Some of the monsters had approached and were standing over him and from what he could tell, they were hungry. I'll be damn lucky if I make it out of this alive, Cloud thought. With that, everything went black.
When Cloud regained consciousness, his body was sore and limp. The blonde also had a headache and the rather gigantic bump on his head from he hit it earlier did not help at all. With a groan, Cloud slowly sat up and leaned his back against the rock for support so he could examine his injuries. Aside from many bruises, numerous scratches, and the welt on his head, his only actual injury was on his left leg. Cloud's leg was bent at a rather odd angle. Great. I broke my stupid leg, he thought.
He looked away from his throbbing leg to have a look at his surroundings. The monsters were gone, his sword was lying right beside him, but he could not see Fenrir. Did it get stolen while I was unconscious? he asked himself.
Then, a glint of something off in the distance caught his eye. A bit of a ways off there was a metallic-looking heap in the middle of road. Cloud's curiosity caused him to want to get up and have a better look at the metal pile, but he did not want to further injure his leg.
What to do? Cloud thought trying to formulate an idea. He glanced at his sword and suddenly got an idea. He grabbed the weapon and used it and the rock to get to his feet. Using his sword as a make-shift walking stick, Cloud limped his way over to the heap. When he got right in front of the pile, he felt like he was about to cry. He assumed that while he was knocked out some of the creatures had mangled his motorcycle. It did not even look like a motorcycle anymore. It was mutilated into a metallic piece of shit.
Cloud did not know what to do. He was miles away from Edge and did not want use his cell phone. It just was not like him to call. Normally, people called, left a voice mail because he never picked up, and he would listen to what they had to say and not call them back. That was just how things worked.
So being the person that he is, Cloud decided to limp all the way home.
Damn chocobos! If they didn't exist none of this would have happened, Cloud thought very angrily. He had convinced himself that the chocobos were to blame for his misfortune. This was not particularly what was on his mind though. He was pondering over why he had not been eaten. It was a miracle that he had managed to stay unharmed aside from his injuries while he was knocked out. I guess I have an angel watching over me, he thought.
He had been trekking for about a day and a half when Edge finally came into view. He was so elated to see the town that he started limping as fast as he could. He ignored all the strange looks that the other citizens were giving him as he passed them by. All he cared about was getting home to 7th Heaven and his comfortable bed. Oh, and Tifa, Marlene who was currently in their care while Barrett was away, and Denzel, an orphan who Cloud and Tifa recently took in. He could not forget about them.
The blonde man was nearly breathless when he reached the bar. He stared at the front door for all of five seconds in awe and thankfulness before reaching for the doorknob. He turned the knob and pushed the door open, listening to the ring of the bell just above the door before quietly limping inside. He looked around and saw the bar and restaurant was customer-free as the establishment was mainly visited by regulars during the evening hours. The whole place was utterly spotless from Tifa's overly excessive cleaning (it was a nervous habit of hers). Cloud heard no stomping or shouting or laughter from the upper levels of the building and looked over at the clock. It read 2:13, which meant that Denzel and Marlene were still in school. The blonde then looked over at the dark-haired barmaid behind the counter. Tifa was staring at him wide-eyed and seemed completely frozen. Cloud became somewhat fidgety under the intense gaze of her burgundy eyes.
"I'm home…" Cloud said sheepishly, breaking the awkward silence in the air between them. The young woman blinked and a split second later had jumped over the counter and was to him.
"Cloud, what happened?" Tifa asked in worry. She had been fretting about Cloud since he had not come when he was supposed to, not that it was surprising. He had been like this ever since Aerith's and it was obvious that he was still in mourning. Tifa had tried to convince herself that that was merely all it was, but something just did not feel right. She had been absolutely correct.
"I'll be fine," he replied collapsing on the floorboards. "Just get me some elixir."
Tifa ran to the kitchen to get what he asked for. She looked through the cupboards with hasty desperation until she found what she was looking for. The brunette ran back to Cloud and placed the substance in his hand.
What the hell is this? That was the chocobo head's first thought when he saw what Tifa had given him.
The elixir he was familiar with was a red liquid that came in a glass vial of the same color. This thing was not red. It was certainly not in a glass vial and it most certainly not a liquid. It was a small, solid yet bendable rectangle that was wrapped in hot pink foil-like wrapper.
"What is this?" Cloud questioned pointing at the rectangular object. He was quite confused as to whether this was a joke or not, but immediately knew Tifa was not kidding around when he saw her looking at him expectantly. She was being serious.
"That is Elixir. It's a new gum that the grocery store a few blocks down started carrying. Just try it," she explained giving him a pleading face.
Cloud's heart skipped a beat at her expression and he felt his cheeks flush ever so slightly. He knew this feeling all too well. It was that exact same feeling he always got whenever he was around Tifa. This feeling had been there since they were young and it had yet to dissolve. He had always liked her for who she was, but sadly, he did not have the guts to openly express how he felt. This feeling made him feel nostalgic and though he would never admit it to anyone, he would do anything for Tifa. So, without another word, Cloud unwrapped the piece of gum and stuck it in his mouth.
Cloud chewed the gum slowly. He tasted the gum's berry flavor on his tongue and felt it flowing down his throat. He then suddenly felt a huge wave of energy surge through his system. The lump on his head, bruises and cuts were gone and he felt his leg cease its incessant throbbing.
"Well that worked nicely," Cloud said to Tifa who was beaming like an idiot because it had actually worked.
"Hooray!" she cheered.
"Now if only there was a gum that could cure Geostigma," Cloud stated in a miserable yet somehow joking manner, glancing down at his left arm. The two of them had prayed for a cure for quite some time for both him and Denzel, whose condition with the disease was far worse than Cloud's own. Despite these saddening circumstances, they shared a laugh, albeit it being somber one.
Meanwhile, Aerith and Zack watched the two. They had been watching over Cloud since he was attacked. Aerith had used some of powers to shield Cloud while he was knocked out and she and Zack had guarded him from beyond the grave while he was making his way home. The deceased couple was still keeping an eye on him to make sure he would be all right.
After hear what Cloud had just said though, the Ancient girl had an idea. An insanely brilliant idea in her own opinion.
"I'll do it," Aerith declared suddenly, her voice filled with determination.
"Do what?" Zack asked curiously.
"I'll make a gum that'll cure Geostigma for Cloud," she clarified and set right to work. In a matter of a few seconds, she had conjured up a piece of green spearmint gum that contained the properties of the healing water she used when she performed a Great Gospel. "Perfect!" she exclaimed as she gazed at the gum in satisfaction.
"Um…" Zack said in hesitation.
"Well…now that you have the gum, how are you going to give it to Cloud?" At this, the Cetra's face then settled into a mold of thoughtfulness, determination, and frustration. That was a serious issue. They were dwellers of the Lifestream and Cloud was still among the living. She had not thought that far ahead and had been simply working on impulse. Pacing back and forth, she pondered as of how she would get the piece of gum to her dear friend. Abruptly ceasing in her footsteps, she had another idea.
"I know! But first…" she said trailing off as she went digging through her pockets and pulled out a pen and a small sticky note. Zack watched her curiously as she scribbled hastily onto the sticky note.
"So now what?" he asked when she had finished and stuck the note to the gum's wrapper. Aerith turned to him and the bright smile that usually graced her features seemed to have grown even more radiant in Zack's opinion if such a feat were even possible.
"Now we materialize the gum to Cloud!" she said excitedly and transported the two of them to the bar in spirit as to not arouse a huge commotion by their sudden appearance. Tifa was listening to Cloud's account of his trip home with both of them sitting on the hardwood floor when the deceased persons arrived.
"Wait! So, they really thought you were a chocobo?" Tifa asked finding the very notion of it to be hysterically ridiculous.
"Well, they must've," Cloud stated, "otherwise they probably wouldn't have come after me."
"Maybe it's a sign that you need a new hairstyle," she giggled.
"Hey!" Cloud pouted, but took no great offense of the remark. He continued on with his tale. "Anyway…"
Zack watched as Cloud and Tifa chattered with a smile on his smile. They at least seem to be in good mood, Zack thought happily. The pup turned to the flower girl standing next to him. He quirked an eyebrow at the sight of what he saw.
Aerith looked like she was a pitcher at the mound about unleashed a fastball upon whoever was up at bat. However, she was not gripping a ball. It was the gum. Her emerald green eyes were precisely locked on the target in front of her, her gaze chillingly unwavering. The puppy followed her stare and saw that the brunette was aiming at the back of a certain chocobo's head.
"You're going to materialize it to Cloud by throwing it at his head?" Zack asked in realization.
"Yep," Aerith replied. "That's the plan." She chucked the piece of gum at the blonde's head and hurriedly sent herself and Zack back to the Lifestream for the sake of not wanting their presence being sensed.
"What on the Planet…?" the chocobo head mumbled while scratching the back of his head. He looked over his shoulder to see what had him. Cloud saw nothing out of the ordinary aside from the yellow and green object that was only a few centimeters away from him. Cloud picked it up and saw that it was a piece of gum in a green wrapper with a yellow sticky note attached to it. It read, 'Enjoy!' and bore no signature.
"Hm…that was weird," Cloud said while he unconsciously unwrapped the piece of gum, spat out the piece of Elixir into the green wrapper and put the new piece of green gum in his mouth. He chewed it a little bit, tasting the mint flavor and suddenly felt a rather soothing tingling sensation on his left arm. "I feel…" he paused trying to think of the correct word, "different."
"Different?" Tifa asked in bewilderment. "How?"
"I'm not sure…" the blonde said rolling up the sleeve on his left arm. He hardly had to look at it to see that it was different indeed. He had been cured! The black sores from the stigma had completely vanished. Cloud just stared at his arm in disbelief. Tifa scooted closer to Cloud to look at his arm. She too stared in disbelief at the healed limb, but only for a second. She burst into joyous tears and embraced Cloud affectionately. Cloud became paralyzed with shock from her hug that he just sat there stone stiff for a moment.
Hug her back, he commanded himself and his body reluctantly complied by hugging her slightly if not rather awkwardly. Cloud always had a difficult time dealing with these types of situations.
Tifa pulled out of the hug saying, "We should give the gum to Denzel!"
"Let's not," Cloud answered.
"But why?" she asked confused.
Chocobo head sighed. "Because I don't think he'd appreciate us giving him ABC gum, no matter how magical it is," Cloud explained. "Besides, Denzel has OCD to begin with."
"Good point." She had forgotten about that. "Then, let's just keep this between us, okay?" Cloud nodded in agreement. "So, back to your story. What happened next?" Tifa asked wanting to hear the rest of the tale.
"Let's see…where was I?" Cloud paused briefly. "Ah yes, the monsters…"
"Yay! It actually worked!" Aerith cheered gleefully. She was so ecstatic at her accomplishment that she began skipping and dancing about.
"I just can't believe you actually pulled it off," Zack said in admiration, but apparently Aerith did not take it that way. The flower girl halted her prancing and turned to glower at the poor, misunderstood puppy.
"Are you doubting my abilities as an Ancient?" she accused, placing her hands on her hips. Zack was almost scared shitless under her glare. He loved Aerith dearly, he truly did, but sometimes she could be just plain scary despite her cuteness.
"No, no," he replied trying to arrange his words carefully so that he would be back in the girl's good graces. "I was just amazed at how you did it. That's all."
"Oh, well thank you," she said with her chipper disposition immediately returning.
Desperately wanting to know the answer to a question that had been eating at him for quite a good bit, Zack asked, "What did you put in that gum anyway?"
"The magical rain I summon whenever I perform a Great Gospel, duh!" she stated as if it were obvious.
"Oh…" he said unintentionally creating a moment of awkward silence.
Aerith quickly interrupted it by saying, "I'm gonna go make some more!"
"Why?" Zack asked. "Cloud's already cured."
"It's for just in case if he ever needs it again," she said and began making more magical pieces of gum.
"Have fun!" Zack shouted as he walked away to go talk to his also deceased friend and former mentor, Angeal, about how nutty his girlfriend just recently started being.