A/N: So I tried to write something longer but OH WELL HERE'S THIS.

Also crap I forgot page breaks why does it take them out *cries*


It was a couple hours of painful worrying before the man came to the doorway. He looked less than cheerful this time, though. Tifa sprung up, composed herself, and walked over to him. "Is he...?"

The man wrung his hands. "Well, I wasn't able to get all the bullets out. Some are just too deep, or they're in places that, if I messed with them, would probably kill him in no time. I didn't want to do anything without your approval." he pursed his lips, thinking.

Tifa stared at him, unsure of what to say. He was the doctor, not her! But she didn't want the man to die. If would be all her fault, for not taking him to a hospital... But the man had told her not to, so what else could she do? "Is there anything else?" She decided it would be best to leave it up to the doctor.

The man put a finger to his lip and thought. "Well, if I had a Cure materia, it would make things a lot easier... He might actually survive if I had that. You have any?" He looked at her expectantly.

Tifa frowned. She could get one, but it would cost a lot. She couldn't afford that and the doctor's payment. If they needed anything right then, it was money. "I don't have one on me..."

"Oh, and don't worry about money! If you get me a Cure, then just give me that as payment. It helps me, because then I don't have to go out onto the streets to find one!" He smiled. "Does that make it easier?"

Tifa bit her lip, then nodded. "I'll get one. Please keep him alive...!" She turned and left him. She told Jessie and Biggs to hold down the fort, and to make sure Marlene stayed in bed, then she ran out into the streets.

She figured if she was going through all this trouble to save a man she barely knew, she might as well go all the way. So she put her thoughts of cost aside, and went to find a Cure. She might be able to find one on the street, but she was in a hurry. She knew there was a shop in Sector 5 that sold materia, and that would take a while, but that way it was almost guaranteed that she would get what she needed.

And so it was. The shop had two in stock, so she bought one and left. Her walk was uneventful, since she didn't stop for anything else, and she didn't bother paying attention to the goings-on around her. All she cared about was saving this one man. If she could save one person, who knew what else she could do? But it was also reversible—if she couldn't save this man... then what else could she do? So she hurried back.

She pushed her way through the doors and found Jessie sleeping in one of the booths. Biggs looked over his shoulder from his seat at the bar. "Hey, I helped myself to your tap. Did you find it?" He probably had a talk with the good doctor about why his friend had run out the door so quickly.

Tifa nodded. "I got it. You guys can go home now, if you want. You don't have to stay." She bit her lip, sorry that she was causing so much trouble.

Biggs smiled. "In a bit. Don't worry 'bout us, kay? Go help your friend in there." He turned back to his drink without another word.

Tifa smiled gratefully, then made her way to the back room again. The doctor himself was slumped in a chair in the corner, snoring away. Tifa shook him awake.

"Daaaaahjabahaba... wha? Oh! Hi!" The doctor rubbed his eyes. "I must have dozed off. Did you get it?"

Tifa held out the Cure to him. She couldn't help but think this had better work, or there was going to be trouble.

The man got back to work. Usually people had to learn how to use materia, but this man looked quite able, as if he'd had experience already. He healed the wounds he had already taken bullets out of, then started to work on the ones where he hadn't. Tifa watched as he focused on one hole, and the green glow that seemed to envelop it. The doctor scowled in concentration, gradually pulling the bullet out magically and healing what was behind it simultaneously. Finally, it popped out and the doctor grabbed it, grinning.

"One down, about twenty to go!" He giggled, then started on another one.

Tifa turned and left. It was a little too much for her to look at. Bullets just popping out on their own? Such was the power of magic, apparently. Not to mention the man was riddled with holes... It was a marvel he was still alive. She went back to the bar, where Jessie and Biggs were just leaving. She said goodnight to them, and sat down to wait some more.

The doctor worked on into the early morning, and stopped only to ask for a sandwich. Tifa ended up falling asleep at the bar, and the doctor had to shake her awake. She rubbed her eyes and looked up at the doctor. In spite of the grin he wore on his face, he looked much worse for wear. It must have taken a lot out of him to heal that many wounds.

"Well, he's not dead yet. And I don't think he will be for a long time! Well, he might, but my point is, if he does die, don't blame me. I did what I could for the man, which was a lot. So..." he rubbed the back of his neck. "I should be on my way, then?"

Tifa blinked. It was done? She could go in without freaking out now? "There's nothing more you can do?"

The doctor shook his head. "He's all healed up. If you're lucky, his body should get over the shock and he'll wake up today. If not, then later." He laughed. "But yes, I should get going. Thank you so much for the opportunity! And if you ever require my services again..." He opened the doors to leave. "... you know where to find me." He bowed, and left.

Tifa watched him leave, then smiled. Maybe everything would be alright after all. Saving one man was a nice start to ridding the world of evil, after all.


The first thing he noticed was his throbbing head.

He groaned. This was nothing new. What ditch had he fallen into this time? He must have passed out after hitting the ground a final time. He figured out which way was up, then motioned to push himself up. When his hands sank into something soft, his eyes shot open, looking around. Then he fell off the sofa he was lying on.

He hit the floor with a loud thud. He groaned again, then realized something. He wasn't in excruciating pain. He wasn't deathly exhausted. And he felt like he might be able to stand up properly, and maybe walk without dragging his feet. He was a little tired, and his head hurt a little, but… it was strangely bearable. Almost like he was healed or something!

Then he realized he was in someone's house.

He blinked. How the hell did he get there? The last thing he remembered was falling over in the dirt... oh wait. He fell multiple times. But the last time, he was definitely in Midgar. Right after he saw that huge pair of tits-

OH.

He scrambled up, tripping and almost falling back on his rear end, but he caught himself right before. He was in some girl's house. At least, that's what he deduced from the situation. Why was he in some girl's house? Why wasn't he in horrible pain? He thought for a moment, as he looked around the room more. It was sparsely furnished, with a sofa he'd just fallen out of, a couple end tables, a desk by the window, and a rug by the door. His Buster Sword was leaning against the desk in the corner. He sighed with relief. Whoever helped him (he was assuming someone had helped him, since he was no longer doubled over, ready to die) hadn't intended on stealing anything from him. Then he examined his poor blade. It was chipped and scratched all over from his numerous battles, and covered in dirt. Angeal was probably reprimanding him from the Lifestream right about now.

Then he noticed the voices outside the door. There was a low, indistinguishable murmured voice that was answered by a more powerful, definitely male, voice. They sounded like they were arguing. Zack didn't want to barge in on a sensitive situation, but he really wanted to get some answers. He carefully opened the door and slid out, not making a sound. He crept closer to the voices, eavesdropping...


"No, you're not getting' it, Tifa. What I'm askin' is, why the hell is there a SOLDIER in the back room!?"

Tifa tried to calm the man. "Barret, you'll wake Marlene-!"

Barret grunted in frustration, the muscles in his jaw rippling. He spoke in a slightly quieter tone. "Alright, why's there a SOLDIER in the back room? Ya know we can't have that!"

Tifa bit her thumb. "If I told you he was a friend, would you believe me?"

Barret frowned deeper. "Tha' depends on if you're lyin' or not. Why'd you be friends with a SOLDIER?"

Tifa wrung her hands, anxiously. "He helped me, back before I came here. He saved my life. I owe him at least this much." She frowned at the floor, unable or unwilling to meet his gaze.

Barret visibly clenched his jaws tighter, thinking. "We can't afford ta have anyone ruin our plans-!" He raised his gun-arm all of a sudden, pointing it behind her.

Tifa gasped, then turned around. The man was standing there, hands raised to show that he was unarmed. He gulped.

"T-Tifa...?" He seemed unsure of himself.

Tifa knew that without a doubt, this was the man she thought he was. "Y-Yes-! You're okay...!" When the man didn't put his hands down, she turned around and put herself between the two men. "Barret, he's unarmed! He's not going to attack us."

Barret grudgingly lowered his arm, not taking his eyes off the man for a second. Tifa turned back to the man, who lowered his arms warily. "How are you feeling?"

The man patted himself, as if reassuring himself that he was no longer full of holes. "I feel great! I mean, I've been better, but I'm a lot better than I was before..." He rubbed the back of his neck awkwardly. "Did you help me...?"

Tifa nodded. "We found you at the train station. You looked... terrible." She frowned, and looked away.

Barret grunted, and warily let down his guard. Tifa was okay with the man, but he still couldn't trust a SOLDIER that easily. "I've got stuff to do. Don't let 'im do any shady stuff while I'm gone!" He went out the doors.

The two stood, shifting awkwardly as they struggled to further the conversation. Tifa finally spoke up again. "I don't remember your name, I'm sorry."

The man's eyes brightened. "Oh, it's Zack! Zack Fair." He put out his hand instinctively, then looked down at his filthy gloves. "Oh, that's dirty. Whoops…"

Tifa stifled a chuckle. "Would you like a shower...?"

Zack's gratitude shone on his face very clearly. "Yes, that would be amazing. Uh, we'll talk after?"

Tifa nodded. "You might ah, also want some new clothes."

Zack looked down at his tattered, grungy shirt. "Oh, yeah. I can wear these until I get some...!" He fished through his pockets and pulled out a couple gil coins, his excitement waning. "Oh..."

Tifa just tried to keep his spirits up. Yep, may as well go all the way. "I'll get you some, don't worry! You can pay me back later."

Zack looked like he might cry from the hospitality. No one had treated him like this in years. "Thank you so much, I owe you a ton of stuff, I promise I'll pay you back tenfold!"

Tifa cut him off before he rambled on. He hadn't changed in five whole years, it seemed. "It's okay, just go shower! It's upstairs on the left. I'll be back with some clothes, okay?"

Zack nodded. "Okay. Thank you so much, Tifa. Really." He turned and went up the stairs, leaving Tifa alone.

Tifa smiled. So he was fine. That was great! Next step was to find out what had happened to him... and what his ties to Shinra were. He seemed like he could be trusted, but she couldn't help but worry a little. Here were so many things that could go wrong about her situation. But... there were also many things that could go right. She thought about these things as she went out the door.


Zack made his way to the bathroom and closed the door, the corners of his lips upturned slightly. After such a long time of feeling alone and discarded, it was almost alien that someone would lend him a helping hand. He felt lighter, as if this simple act of good will was holding him up against the repressive forces of gravity itself—when really it just felt strange to not be so damn exhausted, and anxious, and—

He clenched his jaw, the genuine feeling of happiness in his chest slowly dissolving. It felt wrong to feel happy right now. It was just too soon. He didn't blame himself too much though, since he really was grateful. He'd forgotten what it felt like to have help, and… he didn't know if he could accept it. He didn't want anyone else caught up in his quest for vengeance. However he liked to color it—a revolution against tyranny, saving the world from pollution and corruption—it was just color, a nice veneer painted over the top of it. In truth, all he wanted was for Shinra to fall for what they'd taken from him. He'd tried to keep his head up, be optimistic and grateful for what he still had… but when they took Cloud, it was the last straw. He was all out of forgiveness. He placed his hands on the counter and clenched his fists, head hanging. He tried to at least calm himself down enough to look nice for Tifa. She was the only friend he had, now.


A/N: I didn't know how to end, whoops. Hopefully I will write more now because poor Zack muse is driving me nuts.