Second chances and lessons learned

Chapter 1; A second chance to live. Or not-?

Authors note: Yesh this is AU. With this stated I know that some aspects of the plot may not fit together with those of the games or movie, so there is no need to write in and tell me this. This is not my first fan fiction although it is my first published one. I never had enough nerve or time to put one up. So with that in mind please be nice or I most likely won't be putting more stories up, lest not for awhile. However that does not mean that constructive criticism is not allowed. All I am saying is that I do not want someone to write in and say 'Dude that sucked' or the like. Oh and one last thing. As far as I know the game and movie never state any holidays that are celebrated by the characters. With this small missing fact I am simply going to call this holiday being celebrated at the beginning of the story Christmas. I know that with the lifestream and all, the back-story of Christmas does not fit in with their world but hey, I needed a holiday and a Christmas movie was playing on TV at the time when I started writing. Enough said. So just ignore the religious side of the holiday and just take it as being a day they celebrate.

Happy Reading!

Disclaimer: If I owned it I would not be sitting here writing a fan fiction, I would be off writing the script to another movie or thinking up another game. But I do not own it, so you are stuck with this cheesy fan fiction instead of that new game/movie.

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Everyone deserves a second chance for even the wicked can receive worse than they deserve.

'Cold. So very cold.' That was pretty much the only thought running through the head of the silver haired youth. The streets were mainly emptied and for good reason, a driving wind of sleet and snow blew hard across the landscape. Already several feet of the powdery white stuff had accumulated upon the ground. The blinking lights all around him seemed to shout out the fact that this day was indeed Christmas. Well Christmas night. With the set of the sun went any chance of warmth, not that the sun had done much in that department anyhow. With no money and no real friends to turn to the man was really in a bind.

"Let's see you get yourself out of this one, Kadaj" he muttered bitterly to himself.

A leather clad hand rose to his face to brush his hair away, granting him a better sight of the city surrounding him. Midgar. Rebuilt from the many different tragedies that had plagued it for years. Each house was decked out with multi-colored bulbs and strands of green plants. In the open windows were glimpses of parties that were being held.

"Great, just great. I get a second chance and to do what? Freeze to death? Great calling if you ask me" Kadaj said sarcastically to himself.

Numbness had slowly been spreading through-out his body for the past few hours. He stopped his trek to look into the nearest house. A slight look of longing spread across his face as he watched the family inside move around the house. There were three young children within the said house, each one undoubtly playing with the new toys they had received just a few hours ago. The parents were sitting at the dining room table, sharing a meal. Kadaj grinned slightly; it was truly a beautiful sight. A simple, normal family enjoying each others company. He cocked his head to the right for a moment, still watching them until one looked up and spotted him. The woman who had seen him stood slowly and started to make her way to the door. She was confused and slightly saddened at the sight of the youth standing outside and alone in this weather.

As the door opened Kadaj jumped slightly "What are you doing out here?" the woman asked in a warm voice. She could tell by his profile that he was quite young but not a child. Still that was no reason not to care that he seemed stranded in the middle of a snow storm.

"Oh, nothing. I was just taking a break from the party back at my house and wanted to go for a short walk. I was just heading back" Kadaj muttered to her. He didn't want to bring her down; he didn't want to intrude upon her family. That was why he had not stopped at any of the houses he had passed so far. They were a family, he was an outsider, he did not belong with them and he never would. He knew that.

"In this weather?" the woman asked with a knowing tone. Both knew that excuse was not going to hold up. The woman, who went by the name of Piper, had thought that he was perhaps a runaway.

"I'm fine, really. Don't worry about me. Just get back to your family, okay? Enjoy your evening" Kadaj replied, a slightly pleading tone to his voice now.

"At least come in for a bit, there is plenty of food to go around and no one would mind. As soon as you're warmed up a bit you can leave. No one will make you stay" Piper insisted. "Come on Hun" she added, opening the door wider. Kadaj resisted the urge to roll his eyes at being called 'Hun' and instead walked towards the door. Staying for a few minutes would not kill him, perhaps it would even help him. It would be nice to regain feeling in limbs such as his arms and legs.

"Good, that's the spirit. Oh, what is your name? Mine is Piper, my husband is named Kevin and then there is our three children. Fala is the oldest, Aubrey is the middle and Nessa is the youngest."

"Kadaj. My name is Kadaj" he replied, not bothering to come up with a fake name.

On the other side of the town within a brightly decorated building was a large group of old friends. Alas it was Cloud and company.

"Hey, how about some more drinks Tifa?" Cid asked, lighting up yet another cigar. The atmosphere was uplifting and cheery within the building.

"Haven't you had enough yet?" Questioned a pouting Marlene.

"Is that a trick question?" Interjected Reno. With that Marlene shook her head and laughed. So many people were gathered within the building, Cloud and his friends of course, along with anyone who wanted to show up.

"Come on Marlene, lets go play" Denzel urged, bored with the chatter of the older lot.

"Sure" came her reply. The two ran upstairs to where their toys and gifts had been piled after they had been opened.

"It's nice" Tifa commented, sitting down beside Cloud after she piled more drinks on the table.

"What is?" Questioned the spiky headed blonde. "This. Sitting here together, celebrating. It's just so nice to be here after all that has happened" Tifa said, making herself clear. Cloud nodded in agreement, it was nice to sit back and take a brake after all the recent and not so recent events.

"Yeah, I think I know what you mean" he said after a moment. Everything seemed so nice, so perfect. Cloud sighed softly as he gazed around the room. Everything and everyone just seemed so much happier. After the geostigma victims were healed and peace ensued everything seemed brighter. Barret stood and made his way to the stairs, checking on Marlene no doubt. Nanaki was laying in the corner, swaying his tail slightly as he talked with Vincent. Yuffie bit back a yawn as she waved her hands around, deep in conversation with Reeve. Cloud took a sip of the drink in front of him and leaned back into his chair. The room was warmed by a fireplace that cast different shadows along the walls closest to it. This is what held Cloud's attention as Tifa stood to grab herself another drink with a smile. He watched the fire dance around within the pit and smiled softly, remembering one who could not be here tonight. Aries. He knew that he owed her a lot for all the help she had gifted to him over the past few months. He just wished she could be here, be alive. He missed her but he knew she was alright. He knew he had to let her go, and so he had. On the subject of death his mind flickered briefly to the topic of Kadaj, Loz, and Yazoo. His so called brothers whom had died awhile back. Or so he thought. He slightly wished that death had not been the outcome for them but at least they had finally found peace just as he himself had.

"What are you thinking about?" questioned Tifa as she sat back down.

"Aries mainly" Cloud offered up the information. Tifa nodded, understanding. She had also been doing a lot of thinking about her as of late.

"Come on, cheer up. There is a party to be had" Tifa urged, nudging him slightly. Cloud nodded, looking from the fire to her and smiling. Cloud stood and walked over to the window, Tifa following close behind. They both just stood there, looking out of the window into the night. Snow still drifted downwards in heavy sheets and the moon reflected off the fresh snow.

"It's so peaceful out" commented Tifa.

"Yeah, it is and it looks nice out now. Although those thoughts will be different come morning when I am knee deep trying to shovel snow" Cloud responded with a laugh.

"Suck it up" Tifa countered with a smile. She leaned against the window frame as they lapsed into a comfortable silence. Both were content to simply stand there taking in the sight of the moon-lit scene before them. Every now and then one of them would raise their glass to their lips to take a sip or two, besides these small movements they remained still for a few moments.

As Kadaj walked into the small house he nodded to the occupants. He made his way to a chair and very nearly collapsed into it, catching himself at the last second he managed to make the movement look graceful. He was tired and worn out and very thankful to be inside a warm house even if it was only for a few moments. He smiled as a plate of food was set in front of him.

"So where are you from?" Piper asked, after informing her husband of whom this person was and why she had let him into their house.

"Here" Kadaj replied, starting into the food, seeming to find it very interesting all of a sudden.

"So why aren't you at home with your family?" Kevin spoke up now.

"I- well it's a long story. I don't really want to talk about it now" Kadaj stated.

"Well you can always stay here if need be" offered Piper.

"No thanks" Kadaj said, forcing himself to decline the offer. After twenty minutes of talking and eating Kadaj stood.

"I should be going" he stated as he twitched his fingers, glad to have feeling fully returned to them. Piper and her husband both eyed the youth with sad eyes.

"Do you want any food to take with you? Any extra clothes or maybe a blanket? I even have some extra gil you could have" Piper said, getting up and grabbing various items before Kadaj could refuse. Even as the words "there is no need..." crossed his lips a little sack was being pushed into his arms. The sack contained some food shoved quickly into containers, a blanket along with a change of clothing and a piece of paper with a number written upon it. "That is our phone number, feel free to call if you ever need help. The clothes are my brothers, he moved out and left some things behind. They may be alittle big on you but they should do. And here take this" Piper spoke as she shoved some gil into his hand. Kadaj looked at her for a moment. It was odd that this woman would go to such lengths for a man she had just met. Knowing that refusing would get him nowhere Kadaj nodded, taking the money.

"Thank you. This really does mean a lot" he said to them all.

He turned, walking towards the door and glanced at them all for a second before pushing it open and walking outside once more. No less than a half hour later a very ruffled Kadaj was beginning to think that perhaps warming up was not the best idea he had ever had. At least before he had gone into Piper's house he was numb to the cold, now he could feel every piece of sleet as it hit him and he could sense every flake of snow that settled itself upon his body. Now lugging his small pack of belongings he walked down the street. Perhaps he could find a vacant hotel to stay the rest of the night at now that he had money. Though he doubted it, they all seemed full with visitors from out of town who had come here for the holidays. Blinking a few times to clear his groggy head Kadaj pressed on, covering much ground. An hour or so later he felt at the end of his rope. He leaned against a building for a moment to catch his fading breath. Bringing his hand up to wipe snow from his face Kadaj groaned. He could not last in this weather much longer, this was a given. He picked up his pack, which he had set down and he pushed off of the building and started walking once more. A few yards away he tumbled into the snow. He pushed himself up, brushed off and tried walking once more. However this time proved just like the last and within a few yards he was face down in the snow once more. After repeating this process a few more times he gave up and let his tired body relax into the snow. Knowing he was a fool for doing so he fought to open his eyes but only ending up growing more and more tired. Clutching his pack to him he started to fall asleep as more and more snow fell, slowly starting to cover him.

"What's that?" Tifa asked as she noticed a object slowly making its way up the road.

"It's probably nothing" Cloud assured her, stretching slightly and turning to face the room once more. He started walking back to his seat when Tifa caught his arm in her hand.

"Cloud I think it is a person" she insisted, still staring out of the window.

"Tifa, who in their right mind would be outside in weather such as this?" Cloud countered.

"I don't know, humor me and let's go check it out."

Sighing he nodded. "Sure, let's go check it out if it will get you off my back" he said rolling his eyes with a laugh.

Tifa lightly hit his shoulder "Aw c'mon you" she said, shaking her head as she walked towards the door.

"Yo, where are you two goin'?" Barret asked from across the room. Marlene was now perched happily upon his lap.

"I have to check out a mystery person for Tifa" Cloud replied, rolling his eyes again.

"Person? Out there? No chance, no one would go out in a storm like this" Barret said.

"Told you" Cloud laughed as he looked at Tifa.

"Just come on" she urged. As both of them walked outside and pulled the door shut behind them Tifa looked up the street. She could no longer see the person...

"See Tifa, it was nothing" Cloud said, turning back towards the door as he laid his hand back upon the knob.

"No wait" Tifa said, seeing a object that looked to be covered almost completely by the falling snow. "Come on!" she called over her shoulder to Cloud as she ran towards it. Sighing Cloud ran after her. Upon nearing the object both could clearly tell that it was a person. Tifa shot Cloud an 'I told you so' look. She approached the still figure, dreading that the person might already be dead. She knelt down beside them and gently turned the body over so that person was laying on their back. She then gasped. She knew who it was in an instant and looked to Cloud in surprise. Cloud had also gasped slightly as he stared at the body before him.

"Kadaj...?" He muttered, not believing what he was seeing.

"...Brother...?" came the faint reply. Not knowing what to do Cloud stared back at Tifa. Tifa tried to take control of the situation. She would not leave Kadaj out here to freeze to death, which is what he was on the verge of doing. No matter what he had done in the past she didn't want to sit by and watch him die when he was mere yards away from safety.

"Kadaj? Kadaj, can you hear me?" She asked the figure laying before her.

"...Yes..." he replied after a long moment.

"We are going to get you to safety. Okay?" She said as if she were talking to a child.

"..Okay" was the only reply received. Tifa stood and motioned for Cloud to pick up Kadaj. Nodding Cloud bent down and picked up the younger man. He was slightly surprised by how limp the man was, he seemed almost like he was already dead. He weighed so little and seemed so frail, which was a contrast from how strong he had been the last time Cloud had seen him.

"Brother... you came..." said a very disorientated Kadaj as he lifted an arm and wrapped it around Cloud's neck. Cloud was slightly uncomfortable with the closeness but pushed that thought away as he pointed to the bag Kadaj had dropped and mouthed for Tifa to grab it. Turning to walk back towards the building they had just came out of Cloud kept his eyes glued upon Kadaj's face. He grew slightly worried as Kadaj's grip about his neck loosened.

"Kadaj..?" He questioned warily.

"Hm...?" was the small reply. Cloud pulled open the door with one hand as he tried to balance Kadaj so that the action would not cause him to fall. Using his foot to open the door the rest of the way Cloud walked into the room.

"Hey, welcome back" Cid yelled from across a table. But the noise slowly died down as the people within the room noticed Cloud, and the person he was carrying. Cloud raised a hand slightly, warding off all their questions for the meanwhile. Without a word Cloud walked up the stairs in silence. Tifa followed the two as they made their way towards the small room that was at the top of the steps. Cloud laid Kadaj out on the small bed and leaned against the wall. Tifa set his small pack down upon the ground and raised her eyes to met Cloud's.

"So what are we going to do?" she asked of him.

"Well we would be no better than him if we just let another person die" Cloud stated.

"So we're going to help him?" Tifa asked to clarify the situation. Cloud spared a glance to the small body laying upon the bed. Kadaj curled up into a ball, still seeming to be asleep or dazed.

"Yes" confirmed Cloud. Cloud picked up the small pack that Tifa had carried up with her. He looked into to see what Kadaj had been carrying with him. Seeing the contents he sighed. It was painfully obvious that Kadaj had nowhere to go and that he had been living on the streets for quite some time. "How in the world are you still alive?" Cloud muttered. As far as he knew all three brothers had perished in that final battle with Sephiroth. But that could not be because here was one of them and this one was alive, if only barely.

"You got a second chance Nii-san... I did too" Cloud jumped slightly hearing Kadaj speak. He had thought the young man to be asleep.

"But how?"

"Mother, Sephiroth, Aries, I don't know. All I know is that I was brought back. A small... mako pool... on the outskirts of Kalm. I came back...there. Rejected by the lifestream perhaps..? Given a second chance maybe? I...don't know. But I sure will not complain about it." Kadaj's voice was hardly even loud enough to be called a whisper. He paused mid-sentence to recover his breath often as he spoke.

"Yazoo? Loz? Were they given another chance as well?"

"I... wouldn't know... haven't seen them."

Cloud nodded, though he was unsure if Kadaj could see him through his now half lidded eyes. "Rest for now Kadaj" said his own tired voice.

"Can't though. Their after me. Will you help me Nii-san? Don't.. Please don't let... them get me" Kadaj seemed delusional.

"Them? Who is them? And why do they want you?"

At this Cloud received no answer from Kadaj.

Cloud glanced over to Tifa. "We should leave him alone to rest" he mouthed wordlessly to her across the room. Though re-thinking his thought Cloud glanced over to the other man and thought that perhaps it was not for the best for him to be left alone. He motioned with his head for Tifa to leave, he would watch over Kadaj as he slept. First of all to make sure that he was fine through out the night and second of all, just because he was helping him did not mean he trusted him.

And so the next few hours passed by with Cloud sitting watch over Kadaj whom would mutter every now and then in his sleep something alone the lines of "Their after me, help! Their coming!"

Author's note: Yeah, hi it's me again. So there is the first chapter. Not a lot of action but I did not think it would take that long for them to meet up. The next few chapters will have more action in it and the plot will begin to devolpe. I will get the next chapter or so up really quick unless something really bad comes up. Please review so that I know what to keep and what to throw out. And also I do have a semi-plot in the works but please offer up any ideas that you have towards a plot, if I use yours I will credit you in the story and give you a cookie. One last thing I promise. I am starting a Beta search for this story. If you would like to be my Beta please contact me and let me know. If no one wants to become my Beta then I will continue to use spell check as my lovely Beta. Well that's all for now, next chap. up soon, see y'all around!