Cloud Strife stared at his mother's sleeping face, wondering when she was going to wake up. He sat down and rubbed his eyes sleepily while watching her. Eventually, the small three year old fell asleep beside her.
Someone gently stirred him, and he yawned, looking up to see his mother smiling down at him.
Cloud, time to wake up! she said happily, lifting him into her arms. He smiled and buried his face in her neck, taking hold of her hair. Come on, let's go find daddy. she said. She walked out the door and into another part of the house where Cloud's father sat at a desk, working. He looked up and grinned, standing up.
Cloud! How's my boy? he asked. Cloud turned and a huge grin broke out on his face, reaching his arms out to his father.
Daddy! he said.
Yes, that's me! his dad said, taking him from his mother and hugging him. You're going to stay with some friends today, remember? A bit of uncertainty appeared in his eyes and his father chuckled.
I want to stay with daddy. he said quietly.
Sorry darling, we have work to do today. his mum said. You'll see us this afternoon though. Cloud pouted but nodded slowly.
Well then, go to mummy and she'll take you to the Lockhart's place. his dad said, handing him back over and sitting down to continue with his work. Cloud was taken out of the room and outside, where his mother took him next door to the Lockhart's.
Thank you so much for agreeing to look after him! Mrs Strife said, shaking Mr Lockhart's hand as he took Cloud.
No problem. Besides, Tifa could do with some company. Mr Lockhart said, talking about his three year old daughter.
Oh yes, they'll be such good friends when they're older, what with all the time they spend together. Mrs Strife said, smiling at Cloud. He grinned up at her and then they parted, Mr Lockhart taking him inside to find Tifa and Mrs Strife going back over to her house.
We can go now, honey. Cloud's with Mr Lockhart. she said as she entered the room her husband was in.
Ah, good. Mr Strife said, standing up and putting his stuff into a briefcase. We'll have to talk to the president about something first, though. his wife nodded her head and together they left, certain that Cloud was in good hands.
Cloud sat beside Tifa with her father sitting on the couch across from them. He was reading a magazine while keeping an eye on them at the same time. Neither of the children said a word as they were both shy.
Finally, Mr Lockhart put the magazine down and sighed, looking over at them with an amused smile.
How about we play a game? he suggested.
I'm sleepy. Cloud said quietly.
Let's play a game! Let's play a game! Tifa said excitedly, clapping her hands together. Mr Lockhart paused, having absolutely no clue what he was supposed to do now. Please daddy? Tifa begged, her little eyes looking up at him in the adorable way only she could do.
Well, maybe a bit later when Cloud's feeling more awake. he said kindly.
But I wanna play now! Cloud doesn't mind, right? she asked, turning her face to look at Cloud. He turned to look at her and she smiled. He shrugged and she turned back to her father with a huge grin.
All right, what do you want to play? he asked. Tifa shrugged, an expression of adorable indecision on her face. Okay, I'll go get some toys for you two. Mr Lockhart stood up and walked out of the room, finding some toys and bringing them back for the two kids.
After playing for a while, Cloud fell asleep on the couch and Mr Lockhart took Tifa to her room so she wouldn't disturb him.
Cloud woke up suddenly with the sound of ringing and rubbed his eyes, now recognising the sound to be the telephone. He looked around and saw Mr Lockhart walking towards it and picking it up, answering with a smile. Cloud closed his eyes to try and go to sleep, turning over onto his side and curling into a small ball.
What!? he heard Mr Lockhart say into the phone. He put his small hands over his ears, wishing to just fall asleep again. His eyelids were so heavy. You have got to be joking! Why was Mr Lockhart speaking so loudly?
Daddy? Cloud pushed himself into a sitting position and looked over to see Tifa peering around the door at her father. He looked up at the man on the phone and his eyes widened to see the look of horror on his face.
How could this have happened? Mr Lockhart asked. Tifa walked forward slowly, making her way over to Cloud and pulling herself up onto the couch.
I'm scared, daddy looks upset. she said quietly. Cloud looked at her and smiled slightly, putting an arm around her.
I'm here. he said. She smiled and leant against him, falling asleep. But Cloud's inquisitive eyes kept looking up at Mr Lockhart, wondering what was wrong. Life was simple and happy, so why was he upset? He saw some water sliding down Mr Lockhart's cheek and frowned.
The phone was hung up and Mr Lockhart looked over at Cloud, shaking his head slowly and then turning away to hide his tears, leaving the room. Cloud soon fell asleep and a small smile appeared on his face as he entered the world of happiness and dreams.
When Cloud woke up, Mr Lockhart carried Tifa to her own room and quickly returned, sitting beside him.
Um, Cloud, you probably won't understand much of what I'm going to say, but I need to tell you because there isn't really any one else that can. Mr Lockhart began. Cloud looked over at the window and saw that it was beginning to get dark. That meant he'd be going home soon!
I'm hungry. he said.
Cloud, please listen. I got a phone call before and I was told something very important. Mr Lockhart said. Cloud remembered that. He had spoken really loudly. I need to tell you about your parents. Cloud looked up at him, confused.
Are they leaving me here for another day? he asked. He didn't want to stay here for another day! He wanted to go home to his mummy and daddy and sleep in his own bed.
I'm really sorry, but they're gone. Mr Lockhart said quietly. Cloud continued looking up at him with his large eyes, not understanding what was meant by that sentence.
Where'd they go? he asked.
Cloud, I'm so very sorry. Mr Lockhart said, quickly reaching up and wiping his eyes. Your parents are dead. Cloud froze, he even stopped breathing. He knew that word.
Don't lie to me. he said quietly, taking slow breaths.
I'm not lying, Cloud. I'm sorry. Mr Lockhart said. Tears rolled down the little boys cheeks and sobbed shook his entire body. His eyes welled up and he collapsed in a sad wreck. Mr Lockhart reached for the boy, trying to hug him to make him feel better, but he was pushed away. Cloud slipped off the couch and ran for the door, jumping a couple of times before finally getting the door open and running out. His small feet wouldn't carry him far, but he had to go home and find them to know everything was all right.
He ran across his front lawn and up to the door, banging on it desperately as he continued to sob. Mr Lockhart walked up behind the boy and picked him up, trying to calm him down.
Cloud please, calm down. he said. I'm sorry that this has happened, but everything will be all right.
Mummy! Cloud called, his whole body squirming to get away. Daddy!
Cloud woke with a start and sat up, forcing himself to breathe slowly again. He hadn't stopped having nightmares ever since his parents had died in a car accident. He rubbed his eyes and stood up, getting changed and stumbling down the stairs to get breakfast. Mr Lockhart had sent him to an orphanage, which was where he lived now.
He was the only one his age at the orphanage as all the other kids had either run off or were a lot younger. He was now eleven.
Finishing breakfast, he was about to leave when Tifa walked in, smiling and running over to hug him. She had grown into a beautiful girl and loved all the kids at the orphanage, feeling a great compassion towards them.
Hey Cloud! she said, letting go of him. I was just stopping by to say hi. Me and some of my other friends are going to climb Mt Nibel. I'll see you in a bit, okay? she said, smiling broadly still.
Uh, sure. he said, running a hand through his hair.
Cool! See ya! she gave him a wave and ran out the door again. It only took Cloud about five minutes to decide he was going to go with them. He was out the door and heading towards the famous mountain, wanting to go with them but not be seen as her other friends didn't like him as much because he was an orphan.
Up ahead, he could see her and three other friends already running towards the mountain, smiling and laughing. Sighing, he trudged after them, allowing a large distance to grow in between. Soon enough, they were climbing the mountain.
Tifa, you sure about this? one of her friends asked cautiously, pausing for a breath. Cloud ducked down to hide as Tifa turned around.
Of course! Come on, we'll make it to the top. she said, smiling at her friend and continuing to climb.
Sorry, I'm gonna head back. her friend said. It's too difficult. she admitted. Tifa turned back around and shrugged, nodding her head.
Sure, I'll see you later okay?
Okay! her friend began climbing back down and Cloud knew he couldn't hide from them. Tifa and the other two had continued on, and then Tifa's friend saw Cloud. What are you doing here? she asked, shocked.
Climbing a mountain. he said, pushing past her and climbing higher.
A while later, the sky was darkening and there was a cold wind. They were about half way up and another of Tifa's friends had turned back, saying that it was too scary with all the rustles of leaves and such.
Tifa and her last remaining friend were up ahead, walking along a very old path that was on the mountain. Cloud slowly followed, glancing up at the sky every now and then. He definitely thought it was going to start raining.
Tifa, I know I'm gonna sound like a scaredy cat but that storm is looking really fierce. her friend said.
Oh. That's okay! You go head back, I'll keep going. Tifa said enthusiastically.
You sure? By yourself?
Yeah! I'll be fine! Cloud walked to the side of the path, ducking down behind some bushed as Tifa's friend walked back down the track. Tifa continued walking and Cloud quickly followed.
Just as they were nearing the top, the rain began to fall. Cloud rolled his eyes at it and tried to keep focus on Tifa as the dark clouds made it hard to see. Tifa stepped onto a rope bridge, swinging dangerously.
Tifa! Cloud called, rushing forward. That bridge wasn't strong enough after all the years, he could tell just by looking at it. She turned around, squinting through the rain and smiling when she saw who it was.
Cloud! Come on we're almost at the top! she turned and continued across the bridge. Cloud desperately ran forward, grabbing on the ropes and slowly making his way across.
Tifa, come back! It's going to break! he said. Tifa paused and looked over her shoulder at him.
What's going to break? she asked.
The bridge! Come on! he reached forward to take her arm, slowly edging backwards again with her.
No, Cloud, I'm almost at the top! she said, struggling against him.
Please Tifa! It's dangerous! he begged.
I have to do this Cloud. You can go back though.
I'm not leaving! If you go, I go. he said stubbornly. Tifa smiled.
Great! Then come on! she turned back and continued across.
Be careful! Cloud said, glancing down at the drop and gulping. Tifa nodded, finding his concern amusing. The rain slowly began getting heavier, and the wind swung the bridge from side to side. Hurry! Get to the other side! Cloud said. Tifa took another step and her foot went right through. She screamed, falling through the bottom of the rope bridge and only just managing to grab onto it again. Cloud yelled, jumping forward and taking hold of her wrist, desperately trying to pull her up again.
Cloud! she screamed, the sound echoing around the mountain. Cloud couldn't breathe. He couldn't lose Tifa! He could see her fingers going white as they held onto the rope, and inch by inch he could see them slipping.
Hold on! he said, blinking rapidly to keep the tears from falling, slightly glad for the rain that disguised this.
I can't! she yelled at him, fear in her eyes as her other arm floundered about trying to grab on. That was when her fingers slipped and she dropped a foot further, almost wrenching Cloud's arm out of it's socket as he held on tightly. He yelled in pain, reaching his other arm down to get a more secure grip.
Everything'll be okay! Cloud called to her, trying to make her feel better and also trying to think of a way to get her up easily.
Don't let me go! she screamed, chancing a glance downwards and closing her eyes tightly from fear of the distance there was to fall.
You have to help me! Cloud said, slowly wriggling backwards and trying to bring her hand up to the ropes again. He heard a slight creaking and looked up at where the rope was tied to a wooden post which began leaning with the weight.
Cloud looked back down at her and noticed that her hand was inches from grabbing the rope. Come on, just a bit further. He clenched his teeth in concentration and heaved again. The wooden post gave a groan and the rope bridge bounced, causing Tifa to slip again.
Don't let me fall! she screamed, once again squeezing her eyes shut in an attempt to shut out all the terrors that were happening around her.
I won't! he called back, his own eyes shut in pain as his arms took the strain. The wooden post heaved again and Tifa screamed, tears streaming down her face even though they couldn't be distinguished through the rain.
Please Cloud! I'm scared! Cloud fought the urge to tell her he felt the same, knowing it wouldn't do any good. The bridge swung again with the wind and Cloud opened his eyes to see Tifa's body swinging like a rag doll.
Just hang on! he said, once again trying to pull her up onto the bridge.
I'm not holding on! You're holding me! Tifa objected fearfully, wondering for a moment whether he was going to let go. Cloud took a breath and began pulling her up again. There was a flash of lightning which Cloud saw out of the corner of his eye and he braced himself for the thunder which would follow. He almost had Tifa at the rope when the thunder roared, a lot louder than Cloud had expected and jolting him.
Sorry! Cloud said, panting as his hands began slipping and Tifa sobbed continuously beneath him.
Don't let go! she begged, her voice quieter and almost unheard with all the noise of the storm going on around them. His hand slipped further and Tifa bit her lip to stop herself from screaming, struggling and trying to grab on herself. Maybe you should just go get help! Tifa suggested, looking up at him and blinking to keep the rain out of her eyes.
Not until you're safe! he said, fighting against the wind which threatened to throw him over the bridge.
You can't do this by yourself Cloud! You're not strong enough! Tifa said. Don't try and do something you can't do! You'll only hurt yourself. Cloud almost let go of her, shocked at how blunt she was being. Did she want to fall? There she was, dangling from a rope bridge in the middle of a storm being held up only by Cloud and she was saying he couldn't manage.
I won't let go! Cloud said, not adding 'I promise' to the end as he knew he was horrible at keeping promises. Tifa knew that too, so it would be better if he didn't say it. He had always promised to do things at the orphanage and then never done them, or promised Tifa he'd hang out with her one day and then run off and hid because he didn't want to be around her friends.
Promise me, Cloud! Tifa yelled, as if she had read his mind. He looked down at her, a sad frown on his face as he considered saying it or not. Another gust of wind blew and the bridge swung dangerously, provoking a squeal from Tifa. Please! she said.
I promise I won't let go! he shouted, feeling guilty immediately after saying it and trying to ignore the pain in his arms. His fingers slipped from her wrists and in an instant he found himself holding tightly to her hands, the rain making them slippery.
Cloud! Tifa's heart beat fast in her chest and she thought she was going to die. How long had they been there, simply holding on for their lives?
Don't look down! Cloud said, trying to reassure himself with thoughts of her friends coming back with her father to help them.
I already did! Tifa called back in annoyance. A faint flash of lightning and a loud crack of thunder signalled that the storm was getting worse. Cloud glanced over at the wooden post holding the bridge up again and almost died in fright. It was almost completely leaning on its side, the wind tossing it around limply. There were only moments before it would be ripped out of the ground and they would fall.
A slight idea began forming in Cloud's mind, and before he could figure out whether it was going to work or not, he acted. One of his hands let go of Tifa and she screamed, tightening her grip and trying not to slip. He slowly inched sideways towards the wooden post while being careful not to rock the bridge too much.
What are you doing? Tifa screamed, more tears spilling from her eyes.
Just hold on! I'm going to swing you to the bank! Cloud replied, eyes fixed on the solid ground that was inches away from his hand.
No! It won't work! Tifa sobbed, terrified of what was going to happen. Cloud's fingers grazed what was dirt earlier on that day but had been turned to mud. There was no way he'd get a firm grip on it. Tifa was right. Another blast of wind sent Cloud toppling sideways while still holding Tifa's hand, pulling on the rope bridge and ripping the wooden post right out of the ground. It felt like he was flying for a moment, until Tifa's screams penetrated his thoughts and he realised he had let go of her hand in the shock and they were both free-falling.
He had broken his promise again, and he had actually begun to think he was going to be able to keep it.
He looked at the sides of the mountain as he fell, wondering how long it would take to reach the bottom and whether he would die on impact. He heard a thwack and looked down just in time to see that Tifa had landed in the water before he himself splashed in.
The impact of his fall had been lessened as Tifa had loosened the water when she hit it first. Cloud felt a wave of sickness come over him as he swam to the surface again, taking a deep breath and trying to ignore the headache. He looked down at his arm and saw a bruise slowly appearing. Looking around to find Tifa, he saw her floating face-down a few metres away. Struck with sudden fear, he hurriedly swam over to her.
Tifa? he asked, slipping his arms around her and pulling her over to the nearest bank, lifting her up onto it and laying her down gently. Tifa, please wake up! he pleaded, biting his lip as he saw the blood on her forehead and arms. He glanced up at the dark sky through the clouds and wondered if anyone would realise they weren't okay.