Disclaimer: I do not own Final Fantasy VII or any of its characters.

I haven't touched any of my fanfiction in years. Since 2009, to be precise. I have started my own original novel which will be my main focus, but I think it will be good for me to do this as a side project. I no longer have any interest in Naruto, if any of those old readers happen to be reading this, but I consider restarting Rich and Famous as well. I like the concept, and I still like the characters, it's just the manga/anime has gone well past the point where I stopped caring. But I often feel guilt for leaving this and R&F unfinished, and like I said, it'd be nice to work on some less-serious pieces than my novel on the side. I think my writing has grown the past few years. We shall see.

- - -

The Weak, Strong, and Insane

Chapter 1: Cloud Strife

Cloud Strife slowly made his way up to the Shinra building, looking up at the six floors. It loomed over him, looking gleaming and perfect in the sunlight; a building for the elite, that chewed up and spit anyone else out. Up ahead, a small group of guys were loitering around, talking in whispers. Cloud veered to the side, making sure to give them a wide birth. Though the avoidance tactics helped, soon-to-be peers still managed to notice him and looked him up and down, throwing sneers his way.

As he got closer to the main doors, for the first time he began to feel nervous. He shifted the strap of his bag to his other shoulder and ran a hand through his hair, as pointless as it was; it was always going to remain a complete mess. He hesitated a moment outside the doors, leading to someone behind him roughly shoving him aside. "Get out of the way, Tiny." Cloud only responded with a glare, which he did very well.

He followed the other student and his silent friend through the doors, surprised to see the large light-gray room he walked into was pretty bare, as opposed to grand and ornate. Elevators lined the back wall, with a map of the building in front of them. In the middle was the check-in desk with a line, which Cloud joined.

Soon enough he was in front of the desk, behind it sat a built bald man. When the man looked up and saw Cloud, he snorted. "Kid, this is the Shinra building. If you're looking for the ballet try-outs, try two blocks over." Ha ha.

Cloud leveled a glare at him, which resulted in the man quirking an eyebrow. "I'm in the right building."

"Sir," the man added, waiting. Cloud remained silent. Irked, the man curled his lip and looked over his papers. "Name, then."

"Cloud Strife."

A moment passed of the man flipping through a few sheets and sliding his finger down one, then he slid the paper over to Cloud and placed his finger next to his name. "Sign." After Cloud did so, he jabbed a thumb over to the door in the corner. "Go through there, wait with the other cadets. Good luck." The last statement was drenched in mockery, most likely meaning 'I hope you get stabbed quickly' instead.

Cloud went through the door, finding himself in a short hall lined with windows and another door at the end leading outside. As he went through that one, he found himself in a large walled off area, with many other new cadets milling around. He made his way through the area, feeling a few stares on him, searching for a relatively clear space and felt relief when he saw a bench on the far side.

He settled himself on it and hunched over to try to make himself look smaller, though many of the cadets would joke that he was small enough already, and watched the others. Everyone else ignored him now, thankfully, and stood around talking with friends or doing some practice fights with their fists.

After a while, he sensed the presence of someone else to his left, accompanied by a shadow, but he ignored the person. Time passed like that for a minute or so, with the stranger standing there standing, and Cloud steadfastly refusing to acknowledge his existence. In that short time frame, though, a few other cadets were elbowing each other and looking in their direction.

The stranger broke first and spoke up. "Hey Spiky, aren't you going to be polite and say hi?" Cloud felt a flash of annoyance—who the hell ever called someone that?—and finally looked at the stranger. The first thing he noticed was that the other man had no room to be poking fun at someone else's hair. The second thing he noticed led to the revelation of why they were drawing stares; the man wore a 1st Class SOLDIER uniform, a rank everyone in that area aspired to be.

1st Class SOLDIER or not, Cloud gave him his trademark Icy Stare to show him he wasn't welcome. Of course the man didn't care, and just shrugged and tossed Cloud a grin. "Give me your name and I won't call you Spiky?" he said, making it sound like a question.

"Screw off."

The higher-ranked man kept smiling, bouncing on the balls of his feet, for all intents and purposes looking like a child. He didn't even chide Cloud about speaking to a superior like that. Then he came even closer, reaching over to mess with Cloud's hair. "Don't see many blonds. Do you dye your hair?"
Cloud jerked backward, shocked at his audacity, and before he could do anything else a whistle sounded to get the attention of the cadets. His attention is instantly diverted when he noticed who sounded the whistle: President Shinra, and next to him, 1st Class SOLDIER and Cloud's inspiration, Sephiroth.

The latter stood there like a very mancing statue while the President began to speak."Welcome to Shinra, new cadets!" he began. Cloud already didn't think much of him, just something about his air. He couldn't help but notice the President's thinning hair was also blond—why didn't this annoying man next to Cloud go bother him about it?

The President continued, blathering the usual greeting nonsense. He dramatically waved an arm over to Sephiroth, who stepped up to speak. "I'm sure I don't need to introduce myself. The papers I have here have the information for your rooming assignments and your classes. I will call your name, you will get your paper." With that, he began.

As he went through the last names alphabetically, Cloud left the bench to get closer, hoping the SOLDIER that was bothering him would go do something else with his time. Shouldn't he be on some important mission or something, instead of harassing cadets about their hair? Some of the names Sephiroth had to call twice, the second time his impatience obvious, as some of the cadets just stood there gawking at the man. Cloud swore to himself he would impress the silver-haired elite.

When it came time for his name to be called, Cloud walked straight and proud, trying to look the part of a professional soldier. That worked well until he stumbled over someone's foot that was intentionally stuck there, something he should have noticed. Sure his cheeks were burning slightly, he stood in front of Sephiroth and gave the man a salute. "Sir."

Sephiroth quirked an eyebrow at him and looked him up and down, probably wondering why Cloud was even here. 'Join the club,' Cloud thought. Sephiroth said nothing to him, just handed the cadet his information and called out the next name.

Cloud turned away to walk out of the mass of cadets, accidentally locking eyes with the other messy-haired guy. Cloud frowned, the man grinned and gave him a thumbs up. Cloud found it was the perfect time to view his information.

His instructor was a man named Sergeant Kihara. Classes were six to noon, off on weekends, lunch at noon, supper at seven. Room number was 203, his roommates names being Reno and Maro. He was sure they'd get along swell.

Sephiroth must have been finished, since the President was speaking again. "Study hard, exams will be in nine months. We only accept the best of the lot." And Cloud was going to be just that.

The two men left and after a while the cadets followed them back inside the building, chatting excitedly about the famous Sephiroth. Cloud lagged behind, but regretted it when someone fell into step with him. Didn't need two guesses to know who that was.

Ramping his obnoxious up a level, he grabbed Cloud's paper from him and studied it. "So, Cloud Strife, room 203." He handed the paper back to him, who almost ripped the paper in half jerking it back so violently, and propped an elbow on his shoulder. "Want me to show you where it is? I don't mind helping out." Cue innocent grin.

"No," he snapped, and managed to squeeze into one of the elevators. Right before it closed between the two, he noticed the other man just kept smiling and looking intrigued by his behavior. Cloud wished he would just back off.

Luckily the elevator Cloud hopped in on a whim opened on the second floor. Cloud was jostled as everyone else shoved past him to get out first, his bag roughly being knocked to the ground. After everyone was out, he tosses the bag over his shoulder once again and headed to his room, which was one of the first few, conveniently enough.

He wasn't quite sure what to expect with the rooms, but his was pleasant enough. Not terribly small. A bunk bed sat in one corner, a single bed in the other, with two tables between the two. Three pairs of dressers at along the right wall, and a desk and computer on the left.

A bag sat on top of the single bed, and its presumed owner was putting his clothes in the far left dresser. Long red hair was pulled into a ponytail, and he turned around when he heard Cloud walk in, revealing red tattoos underneath both eyes and a pair of—Cloud was baffled—goggles on his forehead.

"Yo, you staying in this room, too?" he asked. After Cloud nodded, he grinned and walked over, offering his hand. "We're roomies, then. I'm Reno. You?"

Cloud studied him for a moment. Absolutely no hostility came from him, and if they were going to share a room, it wasn't probably the best idea to piss him off for no reason. He took the man's hand. "Name's Cloud."

Before any other conversation could be made, a third guy with slicked-back black hair swaggered in, not even looking at the other two. He dropped his bag on the single bed, casually throwing Reno's bag at the floor of the bunk.

Reno gaped at the newcomer, obviously dumbfounded, before finding his voice. "Uh, yeah, what the fuck do you think you're doing? Move the bag."

The third guy flicked his over to Reno, looking at him like he was an insignificant insect. He opened the closest dresser to begin packing, and finally spoke for the first time. "Someone else's clothes are in my dresser."

"No, you're snooping in my dresser. Take your shit and put them in one of the other two."

The guy walked up to Reno, getting right up in his face. Reno's hands were clenched, but it was obvious he knew better than to get involved in a fight before the first day even started. "Ass," he spat, and walked over to shift his belongings to another dresser.

Cloud had stood there the entire exchange, and the other guy's eyes finally fell on him, and he let out a guffaw. "You're a cadet?"

Cloud narrowed his eyes. "Obviously."

"You're better off being shown where the janitorial closet is. I could break you like the twig you are just sneezing in your direction. This will be entertaining." Entertaining was one word for it, Cloud thought.

He finally turned his attention to getting ready to bed, leaving Cloud to pack his things in the third dresser. He headed to the bunk beds to see Reno tossing his bag on the top bunk, leaving Cloud with the easily accessible bottom bunk. Their eyes met, and Cloud gave Reno a thankful nod, who just smiled in return. Might not be half bad, then.