Howdy everyone~ Here's my prompt challenge fic~
His head hurt like a bitch.
What the hell happened last night?
He remembered drinking with a few friends, then leaving the bar with Tifa. But past that his memory was blank. Dark and empty. And very painful.
He noticed white noise in the background before he opened his eyes. When he tried to open them, he realized that one eye was swollen almost completely shut. The pain from numerous bruises around his body seeped into his mind then.
Were we… mugged last night?
He faintly remembered a couple of guys stopping them on the sidewalk. It was dark; the streetlamp had just gone out seconds before.
No… we weren't mugged. They asked for me by name.
One of them had a steel pipe in his hand. Another had a bat. The third was the one talking.
He instinctively moved to block Tifa, even though he was well aware she could take care of herself.
"What do you want?"
"Well… you. You were that guy's friend right? What was his name… Zack? Yeah that sounds right." The man smiled. "He thought he was tough, but he begged for mercy in the end."
Cloud swore, but Tifa held him back. She wasn't easily frightened but she was also more levelheaded than he was.
"Cloud let's go," she urged.
The man with the pipe smirked. "Oh pretty, we can't just let you go. We want you too."
The second with the bat snickered.
Tifa took a step and growled.
Cloud didn't like how this was looking. He'd been in plenty of fights before, and plenty of them were dirty so that was nothing new. But this… this unsettled him.
"You killed Zack?"
"I sure as hell didn't give him the mercy he prayed for."
That fight was brutal. He remembered lunging in. He remembered Tifa fighting tooth and nail. He had never seen her fight with such ferocity before. She knocked one of them unconscious, and Cloud was about to do the same.
There was a loud pop! sound.
He remembered Tifa screaming.
As he tried to gage his surroundings, which was hard enough with the headache, let alone just one eye, he saw barrels and crates everywhere. The room was large and empty, save for him strapped to a chair and the cargo. The white noise he'd heard was coming from a radio on the floor next to him. There was no point in speaking into it.
He tried moving, but whoever had tied him up had done a good job.
What the hell?
A lock turned. He looked over to the door on the far side of the room. Three men walked inside, and he recognized them to be the same three from the night before. Cloud growled.
What do you want?
"Cloud Strife. Age twenty-three. Five foot seven. Blood type AB." The leader flipped over Cloud's license. "And a motorcycle specification. We saw your bike outside the bar. It was pretty sweet. You've got taste."
"Where's Tifa?" he barked.
"Relax. She's fine. Little worse shape than you, but she should be fine… if you cooperate."
One of the men – Cloud remembered him as the one with the pipe – walked in his direction. His head was bandaged and one side of his face was bruised terribly. He's the one Tifa took care of. He allowed a small smile despite his situation.
"How's it feel getting your ass kicked by a girl?"
He snarled, before punching Cloud on his left side. Cloud spit blood.
"Better when you know she's bleeding somewhere." He turned the radio on.
Cloud snapped at him. "Where is she?" he yelled.
His eyes snapped to the radio. "Tifa?"
Her voice was so light and pained. He hurt him to hear her like that.
"Tifa, where are you?"
"I'm… I'm okay. I don't know – "
"Tifa Lockheart!" The leader was reading off of her license now. "Age twenty-two. Five foot five. Blood type B." He squinted. "And an organ donor! What a nice girl."
Cloud heard her cough, before spitting. "Tifa, are you okay?"
"What do you want?" she screamed through the radio. There was a thud, and more spitting.
"Unless I ask you a question, I would advise you don't speak. My accomplice there with you can get quite testy."
It was silent on the other end.
"What have you done to her?"
The leader sighed. "The sooner you stop asking questions, the sooner you can participate in our little game and… probably take her to a hospital."
"What do you mean probably?!"
"What did I just say about the questions? Besides, she's not the only one you need to worry about."
The man standing next to him flicked on another knob of the radio. The leader began reading from a third license.
Cloud's eyes widened. No.
"Age twenty-four. Five foot three. Blood type O." The leader chuckled. "Her blood could really help Tifa out couldn't it?"
Cloud stayed quiet. What have they done to Aerith?
"Don't worry so much sport. Aerith's barely hurt, just a scratch. She can fend for herself, but was much easier to subdue than the feisty one. She came willingly when she saw the two of you in the street."
He gulped. "Aerith…"
"I'm okay Cloud." Her voice rang through the radio. She didn't sound afraid, though she was very cautious.
"I know about Zack. They told me."
He hung his head. "Why?" he asked.
"Because your buddy Zack was sniffing around in things that he had no business knowing about."
"He was doing his job!"
"And we made sure he didn't finish it."
"What do you want with me?" Cloud' voice was low and might have even been threatening if he wasn't strapped to a chair.
"He gave you a lot of information. You two agreed to take care of one another's families if anything were to happen to the other yeah? You and Aerith are real close, but you were while he was alive anyhow. And your girlfriend…" The leader paused to study Cloud's face. "Okay so, maybe Tifa wasn't your girlfriend, but I'm sure she would have said yes if you had the balls to ask her. Of course now it might be too late for that."
"What do you want with me?!"
"I want you to choose!"
The man Cloud recognized as the one with the bat the night before took out a device. It had one blue and one red wire on it. He took out a wire cutter from his other pocket.
The leader took the device from him and walked up to Cloud so he could see it better. "See these two wires? The red one connects to a bomb, as does the blue one. If I cut one of these, then the bomb it connects to goes off. And one of your friends dies."
"No!" Tifa was hit again.
"The red wire will trip a bomb in Tifa's location. The blue one is for Aerith. I want you to choose who dies."
Cloud was terrified, but didn't show it. "No."
"Choose one, or they both die."
"Because this is much more fun than what we did to your friend. And you'll think twice before 'doing your job.'"
The leader shrugged. "Maybe. But I'm also impatient. You have five minutes, or I cut both. We'll leave the three of you to talk it out." They left.
Two doors on the other end of the radio closed as well. Cloud assumed Tifa's and Aerith's guards had departed as well.
"I can't… I can't choose."
"You have to," was Aerith's voice. "Cloud, we'll understand. It's okay."
Tifa spit again. "There has to be another way! Can you get out maybe?"
"In five minutes Teef?" He struggled. "Against chains and metal?"
She huffed. He could imagine her face on the other end. She refused to admit defeat in most situations. Tifa might be more levelheaded but she could also be more stubborn than he.
"There has to be… something! Anything…"
Aerith sighed. "Our guards aren't coming back. One of us is… going to die." She paused. "They told me about Tifa's injuries. If you don't choose soon she might bleed out Cloud."
"Unless you choose me," she said softly.
"Tifa!" He shook his head. He couldn't… he couldn't kill her. But Aerith… He'd sworn to protect her. What was he doing now?
I'm a murderer either way.
Tifa took a deep breath. Cloud could tell breathing was becoming harder for her.
"Tifa, are you okay?"
"Does it matter now?"
"Of course it matters! Don't say that!"
She coughed. "Cloud, I… I don't know." She spit again. "Choose me, Cloud."
"No! Stop talking like that!"
"I'm might die anyway!"
He heard it then. Her voice broke, but she maintained its steadiness.
"They shot me Cloud. The fucker with the bat broke my ribs and that one shot me in the thigh. I'm bleeding all over the place. I can barely think. If you… if you choose Aerith I might die anyway and then what? You'd have lost the both of us."
She's telling me to put her out of her misery. "Tifa, please… Don't make me do this."
"I'm… I'm not making you do anything. I'm just telling you what's happening on my end." She coughed. "You promised Zack you would protect Aerith."
"And I promised you the same thing. Tifa, please!"
"It's okay Cloud." Aerith finally spoke again. He realized that she had been praying this whole time. "We won't blame you." She sighed. "You can't save everyone, and you can't blame yourself when there are casualties." She paused again before saying quietly, "You know, you're a lot like Zack, trying to save everyone around you, even when you know you can't." She sniffed.
"I miss him," Aerith whispered.
The door slammed open. Cloud flinched at the noise, and the three men appeared once again.
"I assume you've made a decision."
Cloud focused on the ground. He couldn't think. I can't choose.
You have to.
I miss him.
"It's okay," he heard Aerith whisper through the radio again.
Cloud shook his head. "I…"
The leader huffed. "I guess not." He took the wire cutter from his partner.
Cloud said something but it was barely audible.
"I'm sorry, what was that?"
"The blue one," he said again, his eyes on the floor.
"Cloud no!" he heard Tifa shout.
Aerith didn't say anything. It was silent on her end. Please, say something. Say anything! Let me know you don't hate me.
The leader smiled. "Very well then."
"I don't blame you, and I never will."
The leader cut the blue wire. There was a hiss, and then a massive explosion. She didn't make a sound. Her radio cut out not even five seconds later to be replaced by white noise.
He heard Tifa's quiet sobs. He closed his eyes and felt numb.
The three left. Moments later people were swarming the room. He blacked out.
When he came to, he was lying in a hospital bed. His first thought went to Tifa. When a nurse came by, she told him that Tifa was resting and in critical condition, but the doctors expected her to be fine. He was in serious condition himself, but he should turn out okay.
He nearly asked about Aerith, but the explosion rocked his mind.
He covered his face with his hands and silently wept.