Premonitions II-C: Crisis Core

BY : Hippo_and_Friends_with_Benefits
Category: Final Fantasy VII > General
Dragon prints: 702
Disclaimer: I do not own Final Fantasy VII, Crisis Core, it any characters therin. I am not making any money here.

Chapter 25: Shock and Awe

July 2, 0002

July 2 began just like any other day. I woke up in my apartment and went straight to the shuttle station. I was headed for Costa del Sol to meet up with Gehrig and, eventually, Aerith and Zack. I was especially looking forward to seeing the former. It would be the first time I had seen her since Costa del Luna.

MEANWHILE...

Zack woke up and climbed out of bed. He noticed he was alone in bed; he and his girlfriend had booked a room in Costa del Sol the night before. It was one of those rooms with a bedroom, sitting room, and kitchen, and he could smell something cooking. He rubbed his eyes and walked out of the bedroom, concluding that his girlfriend was making breakfast.

His hunch was confirmed when he noticed that Aerith was at the stove. Her back was turned to him, and she was wearing a pair of skinny jeans that really flattered her butt.

It was kind of funny since that was what Zack looked at first. As he scanned upward, he realized that her back was bare.

"What are you doing?" he asked in surprise.

"Making breakfast!" she replied with a smile. "Topless!"

She turned towards her boyfriend, trotted over to him, and kissed him.

"Any particular reason?" he asked.

"Seriously?" she replied. "I just wanted my girls to be free. I've slowly realized that's an advantage of having a boyfriend."

Aerith then returned to the stove.

"Unless we have company, I'll be going around the house in just my pants," she informed him. "Or maybe just my shirt."

"I would like that," Zack admitted.

"I bet you would!" she giggled.

She then turned around again, mainly to give Zack a view.

Then, suddenly, she got a look of horror on her face.

"Shit!" Aerith exclaimed as she immediately covered her breasts with her arms. It was one of the few times she used profanity when not having sex.

"What's wrong?" Zack asked.

"Tobin walked by!" she exclaimed as she glanced at the window. The curtains were mostly closed, but not perfectly. "Do you think he saw me?"

"I doubt it," Zack assured. "I don't think he even knows we're here."

MEANWHILE...

I can back that up; I didn't see her. Aerith's knockers were the last thing on my mind. I was on my way to the boardwalk to meet Gehrig.

She had texted me a few minutes before, saying she wanted to talk about something. I wasn't sure what it was, but there was something I wanted to talk about as well; today, I was going to ask her to be my girlfriend.

I spotted Gehrig at the end of the boardwalk. She was wearing a white tee shirt and a pair of black athletic shorts. She was in the process of tying her sneakers.

"Hey, you!" she greeted as she stood up and hugged me.

"What are you up to?" I asked.

"Going for a run," she replied.

"I can see that," I said as I noticed her attire.

"Yep, in my white top and black shorts," she said. "This is what I usually wear when I do something athletic." She paused, and put her hand on her hip. "Were you expecting me to show up naked again?"

I quickly shook my head.

"How far are you going?" I then asked.

"Five miles," she answered.

"Five miles?" I asked. "The boardwalk's only half that."

"I'll go to the other end," Gehrig explained as she sat down to do stretches. "Then I'll come back."

"Have you ever run that far?" I asked her.

"Nope," she dismissed. "But I've made a decision, and that's why I texted you to meet me here."

"What's that?" I asked.

"I don't want to play softball anymore," Gehrig replied. "I want to do track instead."

"What made you decide that?" I asked.

"Softball's starting to bore me to tears," she replied. "I'm spending almost half the time sitting on my butt doing nothing. I think it's time for a change."

I nodded and became silent. This was also the time to tell her what was on my mind. But, as usual, I became nervous. This was a lot bigger than anything else with her.

"Just say it," Gehrig suddenly commanded.

"Say what?" I asked.

"You're quiet," she replied as she stood up. "And you've got that look on your face like you're gearing up to ask me something."

"You're good," I sheepishly admitted.

"Tobin, my dear," she said, "I can read you like a book by now."

She was no doubt right. We had gotten to know each other really well ever since we met at Aerith's sixteenth.

"Well," Gehrig continued, "why don't you ask your question."

"Well," I began, "I was just thinking. About the carnation and everything."

"Still surprised it was me the whole time?" she asked with a smile as she put her folded hands behind her back.

"Kind of," I laughed. "I didn't know you felt that way about me."

"Well, I do," she enforced, still smiling. "Anna Gehrig Cline likes you. Get used to it."

"Well," I continued in a somewhat shaky voice. "Um...I..."

Gehrig smiled again and put her hand on my shoulder.

"It's okay," she assured me.

"Gehrig," I finally got brave enough to ask, "will you be my girlfriend?"

She lowered her arm for a moment.

"Oh, I have an answer," she said.

She took out a pen and a slip of paper, and wrote something on it. She then folded it and handed it to me.

"My answer's inside," she explained. "I'm going for the run now. I'll be running to the other end of the boardwalk and back. Don't open it until you see me coming," Gehrig ordered. "Promise?"

I nodded, though I knew the suspense would kill me.

"Hug me for luck?" she requested.

I hugged her as requested. This time, I wrapped my arms around her waist.

"Don't open until you see me coming back, you hear?"

"You have my word," I assured her.

Gehrig smiled.

With that, she turned and began to run. She was a fast runner; at that moment I thought she would excel on the track team for sure. The way her ponytail waved as she ran, it almost looked as if it was propelling her.

A few moments later, she was out of my view.

"Well, Well," said a familiar voice.

The smell of marijuana told me right away that it was Cid.

"New girlfriend?" he asked.

"Maybe," I replied as I turned to face him.

"What do you mean, 'maybe?'" he asked as he puffed his joint.

"I asked her," I told him. "She wrote her answer on a folded slip of paper."

"Read it," Cid commanded.

"I can't," I dismissed as I shook my head. "She made me promise to wait until I see her coming."

Cid sighed, and took another puff.

"She's saying 'no' in the most chicken way possible," he warned.

"What do you mean?" I asked him.

"I'll bet you she's not coming back," he replied. "You'll be waiting here for hours, but she's not coming back."

Cid strolled off a few moments later.

What he had said hit me somewhat, but I had to deal with the possibility he might have been right. I was tempted to open the slip of paper, but I didn't. He could have been wrong as much as he could have been right. So I waited, eyed the horizon, waiting for Gehrig to appear.

It takes about ten minutes to run a mile, and Gehrig was running five miles, so I clocked her return at fifty.

Fifty minutes went by. Gehrig did not appear. I didn't make a big deal out of it; I could not expect her or anyone else to be superhumanly perfect.

Then an hour went by. I didn't worry too much. I figured she slowed down so she wouldn't get too tired. We were taught that trick in gym class.

Then ninety minutes went by. I still didn't worry. I guess that she might have stopped to rest. It was ninety degrees out that day, and even someone as athletic as Gehrig might find it too much.

Then two hours went by. I peered down the boardwalk. There were shops, beach goers in varied states of undress, and a tramcar that kept repeating "watch the tramcar, please" over and over again. But there was no sign of Gehrig.

I stood there for another hour, waiting for Gehrig to arrive.

But she never, ever did.

LATER...

It took several eyewitnesses accounts for me to piece together what happened with Gehrig on that fateful day.

As it turned out, Gehrig had reached the other end of the boardwalk and turned around. She quickly got the attention of just about anyone on the boardwalk; she was the only one running. I actually don't think you're supposed to be running on the boardwalk, but security didn't care.

As she kept going, she began to get cheers and applause. One little boy reached out his hand, and she high-fived him. She was becoming a celebrity of sorts, and realized that her decision to switch sports was the correct one. Smiling, she continued her run, where I stood at the finish line.

She was about a mile from her destination when she began to struggle to breathe. At first she kept running, but eventually she slowed down. Her breathing became easier.

Then it became more difficult again, so she stopped. She gripped her knees, struggling to catch her breath. This time, her breathing didn't improve.

It got worse instead. She started taking deeper, labored breaths.

"Are you alright?" asked a middle-aged bystander.

"I...can't...breathe!" she gasped.

"I'm calling an ambulance!" announced another bystander as she pulled out her cell phone. "Hang tight!"

Gehrig nodded through her labored breathing. She still held onto both her knees. A moment later, she was only holding onto one knee, because she was gripping her left shoulder and displaying a look of agony on her face. Tears were coming from her eyes.

"Oh my God!" she cried, forgetting about her inability to breathe. "My arm! My arrrrm!"

And then, without warning, Gehrig toppled over, landing on the hard wooden floor of the boardwalk.

The paramedics arrived two minutes later. They did CPR and eventually employed the defibrillator. I was not there, so I don't know for sure how long they did that. But, eventually, one of the paramedics shook his head. They called it, lifted Gehrig onto the gurney, and covered her with the white sheet.

Gehrig had suffered a heart attack. One at the age of seventeen. She died instantly; she was gone before she hit the wooden flooring.

"It's like being struck by lightning on a sunny day," the pathologist would tell the hysterical Mary Ellen.

An autopsy that night would reveal that Gehrig's heart was larger than it should have been, and that her arteries were narrower. It was something she had been born with; nothing could have been done.

And that was the end of Anna Gehrig Cline.

July 5, 0002

Gehrig's body was taken back to Midgar. Her funeral was held a few days later. She lay in an open casket, wearing a modest pink dress that she never wore in life.

Mary Ellen wailed hysterically, as did Aerith, to a lesser extent. Of course, the latter had Zack to support her.

Meanwhile, Cissnei had come to support me. Instead of her Turk uniform, she wore a black dress. It was somewhat of a relief that she was as supportive as she was.

I was beginning to regret calling her annoying.

July 7, 0002

Zack and Aerith were in the church. This time, it was Zack standing, and admiring the flowers. Aerith, meanwhile, was sitting in the corner.

"You know," Zack said, "maybe I can make you a double wagon? One with two carts. That way, you'll be have to make fewer trips back down here." He then turned to the sitting girl. "And it'll be faster and safer."

He turned to see Aerith's head bobbing up and down, and he could tell right away that she was crying.

She had lost her best friend, just as Zack had the previous January.

He slowly sat down next to her. He could see that tears were streaming down her face, and that here eyes, and face, were bright red.

"We were going to be each other's maids of honor!" she sobbed.

He slowly moved behind her and wrapped his arms around her, just like she did when Angeal died.

Aerith immediately clutched his arm.

Slowly, Zack began to lose his balance, and the two of them gently fell on their sides, pressed against each other in the fetal position.

"Please don't stop holding me," she sobbed. "Please."

"I'll never let you go, Aerith," Zack assured her. "I love you."

"I love you more," she replied through her tears.

July 9, 0002

Two days later, I was in the lounge of my apartment when I spotted something on the floor; it was the note that Gehrig had given to me. It must have fallen out of my pocket.

The one she told me not to read until I saw her again.

The one that contained the answer to whether she would be my girlfriend.

I did see Gehrig again, in an open casket at her funeral, and I realized I was free to read it. I slowly sat down on the floor, and cautiously picked it up.

I had almost forgotten about the note after all that happened. On the rare occasions that I did remember, I felt it no longer mattered. Still, at this moment, I was curious at what might have been. I slowly opened the note, and saw what it read.

"Dear Tobin...YES! XOXO, Gehrig."

She had said yes. Now I knew why she wanted me to wait. She would've jumped into my arms and kissed me.

As I realized this, my eyes began to sting.

My best friend is dead, I thought. And she wanted to be more than that. We really would have made such a great couple.

I thought about the time she had fallen asleep on me back at Gold Saucer. It had become one of my favorite memories. I thought about her beautiful singing that I would never hear again.

Finally, it was my turn to wail hysterically. I began to sob, and my body began to shake. I had finally realized in full what I had lost.

And yet, ironically, it was also that moment I had finally realized in full what I had.

I felt a pair of arms wrap around me from behind. They felt gentle and welcoming.

Of course, they belonged to Cissnei.

"It's okay," she whispered. "I know you're hurting. I'll do anything to make you feel better."

It did reassure me somewhat. I knew it wouldn't bring Gehrig back, but I was a relief I still had some who cared. It was a shame I had overlooked it the whole time.

"Gehrig will always be with you," Cissnei assured me. "We can go trick-or-treating again this year to honor her."

"I'd like that," I chocked back.

She hugged me more tightly; she was practically a constrictor.

I had found her annoying at first. I couldn't believe I did. Now I found her nothing but assuring and comforting.

It then popped in my head again.

My best friend is dead.

Long live my best friend.

July 10, 0002

The next day, it was time for Cloud's mako test.

It was practically a circus; with a chair for Cloud to sit in, and a balcony for spectators. President Shinra was there, as was Heidegger, Scarlet, Reeve, Palmer, and Rufus.

Hojo was standing beside Cloud, operating a device attached to the wall.

As for the man of the hour, Cloud was strapped into the chair, with an intravenous needle inserted into his arm.

"Are you ready?" Hojo asked him.

"I'm ready," Cloud replied.

"The subject is ready!" Hojo called to the balcony.

"Begin," President Shinra ordered.

Hojo turned to the console in the wall and turned a key. A moment later, a neon fluid began to flow through the clear, plastic tube that disappeared into Cloud's arm.

Cloud immediately began to feel a burning sensation. It first started in his arm, where the needle was. The sensation spread throughout his body in two seconds flat. He couldn't describe the pain; it was worse than anything he had ever felt before.

Cloud couldn't jerk his body, as he was strapped tightly to the chair; all he could do is scream. His neck and arm veins became visible, and his eyes began to bulge.

And then, it was suddenly over. Hojo unstrapped him, and Cloud immediately toppled to the ground.

"He's failed," Hojo announced in a casual tone of voice.

When Cloud regained consciousness, he looked up to see President Shinra kneeling over him. He had a look of anger and disappointment on his face.

"You will never make SOLDIER," the president began as he smacked Cloud across the face.

Blood began to ooze from his nose, but Cloud was too weak to do anything about it.

"The moral of this story, Mr. Strife," President Shinra continued, "is to know when to stop." Then he grinned. "My son."

Cloud, still too weak to talk, widened his eyes.

He didn't say that, did he? he thought.

"That's right," President Shinra continued. "I knew you were Claudia Strife's boy as soon as you joined the infantry. But I knew you were one of mine ever since she gave birth to you. I knocked her up nine months before you were born and simply did the math. Not that I ever intended to visit. I only have one real son and he's standing on that balcony!" He pointed to Rufus and walked off.

Cloud, with sheer overwhelm, passed out again.

LATER...

I was there, of course, because I was cloaked. Zack wasn't; only the top executives were permitted to watch. He did know Cloud's mako text was that day, but he had no idea of any results until around six that evening.

That was when he spotted Cloud, who had since recovered, marching in disappointment down the hall.

"Feeling alright?" Zack asked.

"Like a new man," Cloud replied sarcastically.

And his eyes were now glowing sky blue.

And this concludes the first half of my journal.

What a downer, huh?

THE STUFF THE MIGHT HAVE GONE UNNOTICED...

Gehrig's death was a shock, but it wasn't hard to see coming. One, she does not appear in the present day. Two, Tobin exclusively refers to her in the past tense. Three, as another classic character is about to return, an original one, much like Durham, had to be given the boot. Four, Gehrig had received a lot of exposure in the last several chapters (both figuratively and literally)-a sure sign a character is about to be killed off.



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