Author's Note; Hey everyone, this is the revised version of chapter one as I felt the story could be cleaned uup somewhat. SO thanks for rading and please let me know what you thought. XxxxxxxxxxxxxX


"Bye Dad!"

Only the brunette blur told of how Kearie Strife raced past, grabbing an apple from the customary fruit bowl in the centre of the table and almost tripping over her untied lacer as she did so; the teenager was half-way out the door before one could even blink an eye.

"Kearie, your homework!"

Cloud called this as he lifted the numerous copies from the sideboard and held them out as his sixteen-year-old daughter raced back in and took them with a grin and a shake of her head, cursing her own absent-mindedness. She kissed him on the cheek as she ran back out of the room; she'd have been in a bit of bother if she walked into school lacking the previous night's homework load.

"Thanks Dad, see you later!"

The father shook his spikey blond head and smirked in response to this shout, emanating from the direction of the front door. He then set about running through the invoices of booked deliveries to be run that day, he then picked up his key for Fenrir and walked into the dark front room of the building. The room was only a mere shadow of the bar it had once been- with it's dust-coated seats and tables, the derelict stools and disused counter, behind which still lay an expansive menagerie of alcohol and glasses; all patiently standing on their shelves, waiting eagerly to be used…but they hadn't even been moved for almost sixteen years now…not since she'd left and they most likely would be never moved again.

Why?

That question still plagued him ever waking moment, night and day…and Cloud suspected that it would do so for eternity. He and Tifa been happy together, or so he'd foolishly assumed…when he'd proposed she'd asked if he'd been sure of what he'd wanted, and Cloud had adamantly told her of how he 'd never been so sure of anything before in his life, as all love-struck young men do…they'd married two years after his defeat of Sephiroth, then their daughter had been born eleven months later…Kearie had been a healthy baby and had been brought home a mere three days after her birth- the bills were all being paid and they'd had no debts to worry about…the couple had been married and in love, a fact the blond now bitterly questioned every day. But none of the constant questioning seemed to change the fact that he'd woken up one morning to find the other side of their shared double bed disturbingly cold and empty, for some time in the night, for reasons unknown to anyone, Tifa Strife had simply upped and left…taking a few measly items of clothing and a picture of their family…

The days and weeks that had followed had been nothing short of gruelling, both physically and mentally; Kearie had only been a four-month-old infant and Cloud had needed to be there 24/7 to take care of her, Marlene and Denzel had no idea what had happened their mother-figure, and on top of their incessant and unrelenting questions, the two kids had started the new school in Edge and as a result of this, money had become painstakingly tight and Cloud had been forced to shut down 7th Heaven as he just couldn't afford to keep that business afloat anymore along with the Strife Delivery Service. AVALANCHE and the Shinra group had been his biggest support during that time; Yuffie, who had since married Vincent, Elena and Shera would arrive in the mornings and get Marlene and Denzel ready for school before nine, whilst he gave Kearie her first feed…Rufus Shinra had generously made a few of his Turks available to aid the young blond with the Strife Delivery Service also. Along with all of AVALANCHE, nobody in Edge could believe that the young mother had just simply disappeared like that…if Cloud had been the one to vanish so unexpectedly, it was true that people wouldn't have been so unbelieving…but Tifa?

It hadn't taken long for the imminent rumours to formulate; stories had spread far and wide, all depicting different scenarios to explain Tifa's abandonment of her cherished family. The couple had always appeared happy, but many had heard that Cloud had had a love before her and maybe Tifa hadn't been able to cope with being her husband's second choice in love? Though some believable scenarios had materialized from these outlandish tales, the truth remained that nobody, except for the very woman herself, knew why Tifa had seen it fit to walk out on her family. Nobody…and this fact had led to her abandoned husband blaming himself over and over, becoming so reclusive that he bordered dangerously upon depressed, but his friends had rallied round and set the blond back on track before he teeter off that particular verge…but the question still hung bitterly in his mind and haunted him when no one was looking; Why?


"Kearie, you're late…"

As she heard the teacher's voice speaking this lightly, the attractive youth turned towards her teacher and smiled apologetically whilst explaining why she'd just walked into her double-period fifteen minutes late and looking rather flustered as a result of running most of the way from her home.

"Sorry, Miss, I slept on it…again."

Though slightly annoyed to have her class interrupted, the Biology teacher couldn't remain angry with the teenager for long; the youth had a way of smirking so apologetically that she normally evaded any penalty work of any type.

"Just don't let it happen again, now do you have your homework today?"

"I do…and I have the punishment work done aswell!"

Kearie smirked widely as she spoke the last part, rooting her copy out of her seemingly-endless schoolbag and proudly handing it to the female teacher, also pulling out two A4 sheets and trying to un-crumple them as best she could before handing them over aswell. The teenager waited for her teacher to run an eye over the work and nod, signalling that she could find a seat; she then shouldered her bag and walked down the classroom, finding a seat beside her best friend, Selphie, who happened to be the daughter of Tseng and Elena. The class then bore on as usual; mind-numbingly boring as half the students unintentionally fell asleep, having been unceremoniously dragged from their warm beds by aggravated mothers and fathers.

As she opened her folder and began to take down some notes, whilst elbowing Selphie awake, Kearie felt her phone vibrate in her uniform pocket, it having been put on silent as phones were prohibited in class. The girl waited for her to teacher to exit the room, the woman having to photocopy something or other, before pulling out the mobile and reading the text from her father.

"Held up Gold Saucer with Dio, cn u go to Denzel's aftr school?"

She hastily lowered the phone beneath the desk as the teacher returned, not willing to be caught with her phone out yet again. As the class resumed and she feigned interest in her lesson, Kearie's fingers were deftly typing put a reply to her father's query beneath the surface of the desk, before sending the message and slipping the mobile back into her pocket, just as a paper ball hit her in the head. She looked around and spotted the culprits; Bobby Shinra, Steven Highwind and Jamie Valentine…the three idiots of the class. As she looked back with a poignantly blaming glare, Bobby whispered in a falsely arrogant voice.

"No phones in class, Strife…tut, tut!"

The girl responded with a choice, two-fingered gesture in the direction of Rufus Shinra's son and then, with want of a better action, she turned back to the board and read the information on Monosaccharides, Disaccharides and Polysaccharides…as if being in school wasn't enough punishment to an easily-bored teenager; but they also had to cram your head full of useless information and complicated names that you'd never use in a normal lifetime. Though now engrossed in the lesson as the teacher had announced of a revision test next week, Kearie soon found her long hair beginning to get in the way.

"Selphie, d'you have a spare go-go?"

"Yeah, sure-oww!"

She handed over the black go-go that'd been round her wrist, exclaiming in pain as one of the three idiots threw a pencil eraser at her and hit her rather forcefully on cheek. Selphie then frowned, picked up a pen and let it fly at them, hitting Jamie in the forehead in retaliation for the red mark already visible on her left cheek. Kearie laughed as she leaned her head backwards and scraped her long ebony hair up into a ponytail, using Selphie's go-go to tie it up. Her side-fringe remained down as a few strands framed her face, drawing attention to her reddish-hazel eyes…just like her mother's…or so she'd been told by Marlene once.

As he cut Fenrir's engine and walked through the streets of Kalm, searching for the house to which he had to make the delivery before heading to the Gold Saucer, Cloud pulled his phone from his pocket, hearing the alert tone. He opened the message from his daughter as he continued to walk.

"Sure, u gonna end up in the battle arena again? Lol!"

He laughed to himself as he read the message; knowing Dio, that was exactly where he'd end up for the rest of the day…and also the reason he'd purposefully decided to leave the Gold Saucer delivery until last; even after all the years, Dio was still interested in his fighting ability and every now and then brought up the topic of the keystone that he'd lent to the blond and his friends…which had yet to be returned. As the sun emerged from behind a cloud, casting a sunny exposure upon the small town of Kalm, it momentarily caused his golden wedding band to sparkle…almost sixteen years and he still refused to take it off… and would continue to do so until he found out why she'd abandoned them. With these heavy thoughts still on his mind, Cloud located the house addressed to the small delivery…he knocked on the smooth dark wooden door and called out.

"Strife Delivery Service!"

Footsteps were heard on the other side and after a few seconds, the smooth door opened, only for him to be faced with an old friend. Reeve blinked once or twice as his wife, Shalua, appeared behind him, and then broke out into a good-natured smile as he clapped the younger man on the shoulder.

"Cloud! Long time no see!"

The Commissioner of the WRO wasn't exaggerating when he said this- the man hadn't been to Edge in over four or five years now, and neither had his wife. Following what could have been a monotonous morning, Cloud ended up having a catching-up kind of conversation with Reeve, who now had two daughters; ten-year-old Hailey and four-year-old Jennifer...only then bidding the family farewell and reluctantly heading for Corel and hitching the tram up to the Gold Saucer. A lot had changed; new people arriving and familiar ones whom you'd never imagine, just upping and leaving…why?

A/n- Thanks a million for reading and please let me know what you thought!! XxxxxxxxxxxxxxxX

Author's Footnote; The character 'Selphie' is in fact Selphie Tilmitt from FFVIII- I always thought she suited the role of Tseng and Elena's daughter.

Also, I'm aware that Shalua Rui died in DoC, but this fic may be slightly AU as I've decided to have her romantically involved her with Reeve.