Title: Love is a Virtue; Jealousy, a Vice.

Pairings: Squall/Cloud unrequited Zax/Cloud and Reno/Cloud

Summary: Cloud has always had an antisocial streak, preferring to stick to groups of people he knows he can trust. However, when he goes away to an elite prep school for the summer he finds it difficult to maintain that streak, especially when he finds himself in the company of his rival school.

Side note: Forgot to upload this yesterday when my beta (I think she wants to kill me because of how often she's had to read this particular part) sent it back, but here it is today: Thirsty Thursday, instead of Whiskey Wednesday. I love how in college, weekdays have party names.

Warnings: Pg-13, cursing and naughty thoughts about an oblivious blond. This is shonen-ai.

Chapter Fourteen: Discretion is a Virtue, part 2/3

"I heard you actually did well. Didn't trip the alarms or anything," Paine commented.

Yuffie was sitting in a small room adjacent to the main room in the infirmary. There was only about an hour left to the testing, and luckily, there were little to no injuries on Shinra's side to take up Paine and Dr. Nooj's time. Paine was currently wrapping Yuffie's left leg in some gauze to stop the bleeding from the small scraps she had obtained when she ran through the forest. "There weren't any alarms," the brunet pouted, crossing her arms.

Nooj shook his head. "What an outdated family tradition."

Paine finished wrapping, and applied medical tape. "You don't break tradition, Nooj."

"It's wrong; we no longer live in a time where a family's skill needs to be tested using the old ways. It's bad enough that Rikku went through the same thing, and she's not even really apart of Yuffie's clan."

"We're like family," Yuffie protested, standing from the chair she had been sitting in, "and it proves that I am someone to my father. I know that stealing is wrong, but it proves that I am independent of my family; that I can rely on myself, and my own talents to get me through."

Nooj nodded, "I agree that there should always be ways to prove your independence from your father, but this tradition could only have been acceptable decades ago. To continue to practice it still puts immoral ideas into the heads of today's youth. Such as stealing, no matter what it proves. Aren't I right, Dr. Paine?"

Paine smiled sadly and pulled Yuffie to the chair to sit so she could work on the other's leg. "It's tradition," she repeated once more, adding on as an afterthought, "and I'm not a doctor."

"You two are intolerable," Nooj shook his head in annoyance. The sound of a door opening caught the attention of the three. "Excuse me," Nooj walked to the door, "there might be some injured students that need to be taken care of." He frowned at Yuffie before opening the door, "I will be back, though, to continue this lecture."

He left, and Yuffie gave a sigh of relief. "I know he cares, but sometimes I wish he wasn't such a good friend of the family and I could tell him to back off."

"Nooj is Nooj." Paine continued wrapping the other injured leg, "you're bound to have different views than he."

"I know, but why can't he be more like you, huh?"

Trying not to smile at that statement Paine finished applying the rest of the medical tape. "You're just used to me more because I was around your family with your cousin when she spoiled you."

"True, true." Yuffie grinned, feeling better about everything now. These long weeks had not gone by as quickly as she would have liked. The training, the tasks, and everything else Yuffie had been taught to prepare for were like some mini horror fest, but with cute outfits and a cheerful coach. Rikku had made sessions fun, and when Gippal had finally decided to join in the debates over the best way to disarm some of the best security systems had been amusing, but there was only so much a girl could take. "I'm exhausted," Yuffie concluded, stretching and yawning.

Sitting next to her, Paine gave a displeased look. "You're going to have to get away soon. The examiners have been talking to some police, and have even allowed them to go into the forest. They'll begin searching the buildings soon."

"Augh! Can't they just wait until morning to try and find me?"

Paine shook her head. "Just what did you steal anyway? Normally there isn't too much of a fuss until later, and you even said there weren't any alarms."

"This," Yuffie reached into the side pocket of her shorts and pulled out a white, almost translucent small sphere. "Isn't it gorgeous? It's owned by the same woman who does the Materia line."

"So that's what you decided to go after? I thought that Rikku would have shown you how to avoid security.

Yuffie shook her head, saying, "That's the thing. There wasn't any, which is surprising since Materia is a very popular line. It's just a small shop where she lives. I was slipping out of the window into an alley to head here when I was spotted and the police were called. I tried to slip into the forest, and I even tried reaching Cloud on his cell phone earlier to ask him if I could stay with him."

"There was a reason why we wanted you to go around the forest."

"I know, I know. I still say these boys need more of a life."

Zax was getting extremely annoyed. Why the hell wouldn't this Garden student just go down already? Reno was watching from the sidelines, nursing a cut he had gotten when he had tried to jump from the tree to the ground, clearly amused at the way the blond Garden student was able to dodge almost all of Zax's attacks. True, there were speckles of silver paint of the guy's jacket, but that wasn't enough to knock the blond out of the game.

Zax's next swing only managed to get air, and the blond managed to strike at an area that was more than suitable to put Zax out.

"Gotcha!" The blond whooped, and Zax turned in to the attack and this time managed to leave one big streak of silver paint across the blond's chest.

His opponent scowled, "that's unfair! I got you first."

"You cheating Garden bastards always play unfair," Reno shouted back.

Zax checked the time on his watch. "We've got twenty or so minutes to get back to the school. You're not worth my time," moving towards Reno, Zax ignored the protests from the Garden student, "let's get going Reno; if we hurry, we might be able to catch Cloud in this mess."

The two of them continued to go up the path to the school, using a series of small physical markings that Reno had left to allow them to get back to the main path. Once on it, the trek up to the school became surprisingly easy when compared to the past few hours of sitting up in a tree.

"Man, the first thing I'm gonna' do when we get back is to get this bandaged," Reno waved around his injured arm for emphasis, "and then I'm going to call Elena and get her to go out on that date with me."

Zack brought his sword up to comfortably rest on his shoulder, thankful that the blade was dull and that he didn't like this particular shirt since the silver dye from his blade was soaking into it. "Really, well first thing I'm going to do is grab Cloud and see if he wants to join me down at one of the bars."

"Actually, that sounds nice."

"Or, better yet," Zax said cheerfully, "I just remembered that I might still have some sort of alcohol in my room-" tensing, Zax pulled Reno to a stop, careful not to grab the redhead's injured arm.

They were close to the Shinra campus now, less than a hundred feet. In front of them was a figure that Zax had come to dislike, even though he didn't even know the man.

Squall Lionheart continued his own walk on the path leading up to the Shinra campus. There was a good chance that he'd find Irvine there, who would be with Cloud, and he could properly talk to the blond.

Ignoring the sound of footsteps behind him had been easy. Squall had already considered himself out of the game; the fight with Seifer had been exhausting, and a new one that was bound to come with Cloud would be only more arduous. However, the yelling of 'hey you' couldn't be as easily ignored from the men behind him.

Turning, Squall could see in the moonlight the figures behind him, and decided to humor them, "What do you want?" he snapped, impatient to wait any longer to get everything over.

"You're Squall, right?"

Squall looked at Reno, "Correct, now, if you'll excuse-"

"I'm only going to say this once: I really don't appreciate what you did to Cloud," Reno said, beating Zax to the chase.

Squall raised and eyebrow. His curiosity piqued for a moment, but became quickly a mask of indifference. "Whatever."

Zax took in the sorry state Squall was in. The man was covered in gold paint, which was splattered and smeared over a black jacket and pants. A large rip on the front of the jacket exposed a white undershirt with a crimson color bleeding through. None of the teams had red dye, and the moonlight only provided him with so much light to see by.

"You're going to the infirmary first," Zax said, his voice taking an air of command.

Reno looked at his friend in disbelief. "You've gotta' be kidding me."

"I'm serious, Reno," Zax said.

Squall was becoming irritated, "and what if I don't want too?" he challenged.

"Then I'll drag you there myself. I want to enjoy taking you down for Cloud, and that means that you're getting that injury on your chest treated first whether you like it or not."

"And take this as well," Nooj instructed, handing Cloud a pain reliever.

Cloud took it and swallowed. Irvine was sitting next to him looking uncomfortable, clearly unhappy to be on Shinra's campus again.

It wasn't like he had a choice. As soon as Auron had seen the Garden student helping Cloud out of the forest, the examiner had come over and pointed out where the infirmary was with the intention that Irvine go there too.

"Well," Irvine mumbled, standing from his chair next to Cloud, "I better get back to my own school now."

Nooj gave a slight nod in agreement, and Cloud gave a small wave goodbye to Irvine. This would probably be the last time he would see the man, even if he did forgive him, given that he never wanted to come back to this camp, school, or whatever it was again.

Irvine was already out the door when a commotion began outside. Nooj went to the window, and pulled the white, sheer curtain aside. "Looks like some people don't understand that other students have been resting after the exam." Cloud got up from his chair and walked over to the window to see what Nooj was looking out. Squall was dragged through the main door at that very moment. Zax had an arm around the brunet's midsection, literally forcing Squall down to sit on a chair. Nooj frowned, but walked over, asking what had happened.

"Cloud!" Zax said, noticing Cloud standing by the window. Cloud was staring in shock at his friend. Zax was absolutely filthy, hair matted down and shirt starting to come apart by the seams.

"What happened?" Cloud asked, seeing that Reno was in nearly the same state, except for an injured arm.

"Oh, this is what happens when you hideout in a tree for a few hours," Zax answered, grinning cheerfully.

"I thought you left me behind. I waited forever for you, Reno, to come back."

Reno huffed at Zax, "I told you so."

Zax was about to answer, when the door leading to the back room opened. "Cloud!" Yuffie nearly pounced on the blond. "I thought I heard your voice".

"Yuffie!" Cloud was shocked. Hadn't he told her to wait in his room?

"Yuffie?" Zax and Reno echoed, sounding surprised as they looked at her. Her bandage legs were a little unusual, but other then that and the mischievous look on her face, she looked like a good person.

Reno ignored Nooj treating Squall to take a step towards Yuffie. "I'm Reno, nice to meet you. By the way, you have amazing taste in magazines."

"Why thank you," Yuffie said, blushing.

"So we finally get to meet Cloud's girlfriend," Zax clapped a hand on her shoulder, and before Yuffie knew what was happening she was given a hug by him.

Squall growled at the statement that Zax made. Girlfriend! Hadn't Cloud said that she wasn't? Nooj was pressing something wet, most likely antiseptic, on the cut that Seifer had managed to cause and Squall hissed in pain. Irvine gave his friend a worried look.

"How many times do I have to tell you, Zax, Yuffie is just a friend!" Cloud sighed, "And besides, there are more important matters going on here."

Squall let out a breath that he hadn't even realized he'd been holding. Dr. Nooj looked up from his crouched position at him, curious by the brunet's reaction to Cloud's statement.

"Important matters?" Reno asked, looking curiously at Yuffie and then to Cloud.

Cloud was about to open his mouth to explain when Paine came out of the back room to stand by Yuffie, wanting to hear the blond's explanation too. Cloud stared in shock at the nurse before taking a few steps backward to stand securely next to Zax. Zax had taken a few steps backward as well, so that now Cloud and he were behind Reno. Everyone in the room was watching Cloud and Zax curiously.

Squall turned his attention from Nooj, who had stopped bandaging him for a moment, to Irvine. Irvine looked just as confused as he felt.

"Is there something going on here that that Squall and I shouldn't be apart of?" Irvine asked, cocking his head slightly to the left in confusion.

Doctor Nooj started laughing and resumed bandaging Squall, and Cloud and Zax looked offended. "Oh, it's nothing really. Just, Paine isn't going to suck out your souls, boys, I promise. She's a good nurse."

Paine smirked. She put a hand on her hip as Yuffie giggled beside her.

Squall and Irvine were puzzled. If Garden truly knew that Shinra was this idiotic there wouldn't even be a rivalry between the two schools.

"Well, uh, important matters." Zax coughed from behind Reno while looking slightly sheepish, "What were they again, Cloud?"

The blond began to explain when Nooj cut him off with a harsh "No". Nooj had finished bandaging Squall and was frowning at Cloud. Cloud may be Yuffie's friend, but this certain situation wasn't something that other people should be so casually told about.

Nooj stood from his crouched position; the white coat he was wearing swept the ground as he did so. "Cloud, I know you're worried about Yuffie, but perhaps now is not the best time to explain the situation." Nooj went on, saying that Yuffie should concentrate on getting out of the mess, and then maybe there would be time for an adequate explanation.

Yuffie wanted to protest against Nooj's suggestion. How could he dictate her life like that? Even if it was important that the situation, how to get away and not become caught, be resolved quickly, she should be the one saying that! Not Nooj. Cloud was just going to provide background information, and that was okay. She was about to actually protest verbally except for Paine's hand wrapping around her upper arm. Yuffie looked at Paine who just shook her head.

Zax felt like he could cut the tension in the room with a knife. The white walls of the small infirmary suddenly felt as if they would start to close in if someone didn't say something soon. Zax knew that this was on him. He had to say something to draw the tension away, something relaxed, but still sincere. Something like-

"Is there anything we can do to help?"

Zax stared at Irvine. Since when did Irvine think that he could do Zax's job?

Reno growled beside Zax. "Like hell you are."

Nooj felt himself shaking his head. Was he like this when he was younger? So pugnacious?

Yuffie, meanwhile, felt like slapping the men in the room. Reno was verbally lashing Irvine to pieces now, and the other man was responding in kind, and the only thing that kept it from becoming a full out brawl was Zax and Cloud keeping the redhead back. Mostly Cloud, though. Zax was prepared to let Reno go, as long as he saved Squall for him.

"Yuffie's Cloud's friend! Since we're actually friends with Cloud, then we'll be helping them," Reno practically growled.

"It's the least we can do for Cloud, and it isn't like we've never talked to Yuffie before, too!" Irvine responded back. He turned to Squall, who was still sitting on the chair, "Right, Squall?"

Squall shrugged. "Whatever."

Yuffie could nearly imagine the waves of irritation coming from Paine, as the nurse sighed. "Maybe I should go to the freezer for some icepacks," Paine said, turning to leave for the freezer.

Huffing, Yuffie glared at the boys who were still fighting. When glaring didn't work, she reached down and pulled off one of her boots.

"Ouch, what the fuck was that for, Yuf'?" Cloud cursed, rubbing at where Yuffie's boot had hit him. Great, not only did his stomach hurt him from when Seifer had attacked him, but also now, his chest was going to bruise from a shoe.

"Don't you curse at me, Cloud Strife. I'll tell your mother!" Yuffie snapped. "Besides," she paused for a moment to pout, "I was aiming for the idiot you were trying to restrain."

"I am not an idiot," Reno announced. "If anything, Zax's the idiot here for bring a Garden student back to campus."

"Hey! I had a good reason too." Zax protested. Beating a man down that was already injured wasn't as much fun.

"I can fix this on my own," Yuffie announced, balancing awkwardly with only one boot on her foot.

"And your cousin wasn't the one who shaved Gippal's hair off for his sixteenth birthday," Paine said sarcastically. She walked out again from the back room and approached Cloud, who still couldn't get the image out of his mind of Paine sucking souls out to obtain eternal youth, to hand him an icepack. "I've got two more of these left in the freezer. Just remember that if you decided to lunge at each other," she added, addressing Irvine and Reno. "And you," she turned to Yuffie, "Don't throw things. That's another thing your cousin Rikku does too."

"But-" Yuffie started to protest.

"Why don't you all just sit down and shut up for a moment and let me speak."

Nooj was grinning. "Sounds like Dr. P has a plan."

Paine resisted rolling her eyes at Nooj. "If you keep talking like that you're going to convince me that you didn't cut your license from the cereal box."

Side notes:

No notes are good notes, right?

In the next part (3/3) of The End, Paine comes up with an adequate solution to Yuffie's dilemma. Riku, Kairi, and Sora appear. Simba, the kitty, goes missing, and, oh, Cloud continues to be injured by various projectiles.