Note: This is my first story so I'd love suggestions and comments. I'm sorry about any grammatical errors, I have no beta... :/ uhm, there are some parts I don't like, but I'm just glad I'm actually writing something.

Hope you like it! Review please :D

By the way, I don't own any characters, Square does.

The last day of school.

Seventy percent of the senior—now former senior—population were scattered haphazardly around the house of Tifa Lockheart. Of that seventy percent, approximately sixty percent were drunk or high off their asses.

In the living room, the stereo blasted a vulgar Buckcherry song at maximum volume. Most of the occupants were sprawled out on various pieces of furniture. In the kitchen, ex-students drunkenly stumbled to the keg for another cup of beer. Tifa gingerly stepped over the unconscious body of Aerith Gainsborough as she led a very drunk Reno through her trashed living room to the stairs.

In the next room, Kairi and Riku finished their line of coke and doubled over with laughter. They didn't even notice Axel dash by them toward the bathroom. In the next room, Yuffie jumped onto the pool table and proceeded to lift up her dark blue tank top; fortunately, Sora was able drag her down before too much could be revealed.

Zack Fair proudly rasied his arms victoriously as he slammed his empty shot glass on the table; having beat Sephiroth's previous record of 6 shots. Sephiroth stumbled out of the room, his drunken friends having turned their attention to Zack.

Tifa's house was complete chaos. Beer cans and empty cups littered the floor and tables of every room, the bathrooms smelled rancid, chairs and sofas had been moved across the room, and other pieces of furniture were crooked or on the floor. Fortunately for Tifa, her father was rarely home.

Namine and Roxas, two of the more sober members of the party, were talking in the foyer near the stairs when a blond haired man was suddenly hurled in Namine's direction. She gasped, almost screaming as she quickly moved out of the way. Cloud Strife slammed into the wall next to her with enough force to knock a picture frame from the wall. No one but Roxas and Namine seemed to notice what was going on, not that any of them could do anything about it anyway.

Roxas tried to reach out to Cloud, but from the corner of his eye saw a figure quickly approaching. Squall Leonhart stormed up to Cloud's limp body and grabbed him by the collar, lifting him up harshly. It was then that Roxas saw Squall's face.

His face was bleeding. A long gash ran from the top of his right eyebrow, down the bridge of his nose, to the top of his left cheek. His eyes were bloodshot and red, and there was no doubt that his cheeks were stained with tears, mixing in with some of the blood dripping from between his eyes.

Namine stood in horror as Squall held Cloud against the wall.

"Why!? WHY!?" Squall shouted in Cloud's face. Their faces were so close together Cloud couldn't turn away; instead he shut his eyes tightly. The blond's entire body was trembling but he remained still. When he didn't respond, Squall pushed him further against the wall before releasing him.

Without another word, Squall turned and stormed out the front door.

Cloud could only slump to the floor as his knees finally gave out. He stared at the door until the tears spilled from his eyes, and he wept.


Present

It was a beautiful Saturday morning, despite it being mid-January. The sun was shining brightly, creating the illusion of crystals on the freshly fallen snow. Cloud slowly opened his eyes, letting them adjust to the intensity of the light. He stretched his arms over his head and yawned as he rolled over to glance at the clock. Eight thirty-one. Perfect.

Cloud threw the covers from his body, feeling the cooler air brush over his bare chest. He slid his feet into his fuzzy slippers and headed towards the kitchen.

After starting the coffee-maker, Cloud sat on the window seat in his living room and looked at the city below. It really looked like it was going to be a good day; perfect for a ride on Fenrir, Cloud's beloved motorcycle. The streets had been plowed early in the morning so there was no ice. Maybe he could go to park and paint; he hoped it wouldn't be too cold.

The shrill cry of the coffee-maker tore Cloud from his thoughts. As he poured himself a cup, adding quite a few teaspoons of sugar, the phone rang. He glanced at the caller ID and smiled.

"Hello, Tifa, how are you today?" He asked cheerfully.

"Well, well, look who's in a good mood this morning. You must have gotten laid last night," was the sarcastic response from the other side.

Cloud couldn't help the faint blush the spread across his cheeks. He knew she was teasing, but he couldn't help it.

"Oh, Cloudy, I'm just messing with you," Tifa said chuckling, knowing all too well Cloud's reaction.

"Yea…uh…whatever. Anyway, what's up?" He asked taking a sip of his coffee.

"I know it's early, but I was just seeing how you were doing," Tifa replied gently.

Cloud's eyebrows knit together slightly. "I'm fine," his tone a little colder than he expected.

"Okay, I'm sorry…it's just that, you know, I want to make sure—"

"Tifa," Cloud cut her off sternly. "I said I'm fine," he said calmly.

"It helps to hear you say it," She replied quietly. Cloud could hear the faint sigh of relief she let out. He knew she was worried about him, but it made him feel like a child when she would check up on him. So Cloud's past wasn't perfect, maybe he had gotten caught up in some bad situations, but he hadn't used in four years...

"Oh, Cloud, have you heard from Kairi lately? I left her a message last week, but she never called me back."

"I talked to her about...," Cloud paused to think, "two weeks ago, right after she got out. She said she was moving back in with Riku," he finished, moving to sit on the couch in the living room.

"Really? I mean…do you think that's a good idea?" Tifa asked worriedly.

Cloud considered this briefly before replying. "I tried to tell her but she won't listen to me. She thinks he's doing better and that she can help him…" He paused sighing. "I don't know."

"I think you should go and see her," Tifa said quickly. "Reno and I are going to my father's this afternoon for the weekend."

"Is he okay?" Cloud asked concerned. Tifa's father wasn't very old, but his good health was deteriorating fast.

"Yes, he's fine; he just wanted some company, that's all." She paused, her tone becoming worried again. "Will you please go and see her? For me?" she pleaded.

Cloud sighed and ran his hand through his messy spikes. "Alright, I'll go over in a couple of hours."

Tifa let out the breath she was holding, "Thank you, Cloud."

"Yeah, sure."

"Look, I have finish packing, but I'll be back Tuesday, probably in the early afternoon, I'll call you then, okay?"

"Alright, have fun, and tell your dad I say hi."

"Sure, bye-bye," she said, suddenly much more cheerful.

"Bye."

Cloud put the cordless on the table and leaned back on the couch with his coffee. He sighed again. He hated going to see Kairi. He loved her to death, but she always looked so tired and sick, and his heart clenched in his chest just looking at her. It's true that he hadn't seen her since she was released from rehab, but he didn't want to see the same broken girl again. Ever since high school she and Riku had been into drugs. At first it was just cocaine on the weekends, but after graduation, it got much worse. Speed, acid, heroine, painkillers…anything they could find really. They lived together for a few years, but then Sora finally forced Kairi into rehab last year. He tried to help Riku, too, but he was in much deeper. When Kairi got out two weeks ago, she was able to get a small job and an apartment on the other side of the city. When Cloud talked to her last, she was still sober, but said she was moving back in with Riku.

Cloud shuddered involuntarily, thinking about the past. He quickly finished his coffee and went to the bathroom. He pulled his prescription bottle from the medicine cabinet and pulled out two capsules. He stared at them in his palm…A strange but familiar feeling washed over him. He held his hand over the sink, ready to let the pills fall down the drain.

'I don't need these anymore…what's the worst that could happen? I don't need them…'

Cloud squeezed his eyes shut and quickly willed his thoughts away. He shoved both pills into his mouth and took a swig of water from the faucet, swallowing them with ease.

Cloud brushed his teeth and took a quick shower before returning to his bedroom to get dressed. He pulled on gray knit shirt and a pair of dark blue jeans. He finished a few chores around the house and then grabbed his jacket and keys and headed out to see Kairi.

It was much colder than he had thought after all. He intended to take Fenrir, but quickly changed his mind. He walked to the back of the apartment complex to his sleek sports car.

People thought being an artist wouldn't get him anywhere but clearly Cloud had done something right. He had a small gallery a few blocks away, and he was a mini-celebrity around the city. He made a good deal of money off his work, frequently autographing prints and being hired for personal jobs. He made quite a fortune collaborating with a local interior designer for an apartment building. Painting also helped him relax and take his mind off of things. Cloud couldn't imagine himself doing anything else.

When he pulled up to Riku's apartment, he let out a long sigh. He couldn't stand seeing his friends living here. There were trash bags spilled all over the sidewalks, windows were shattered and put back together with boards. A stray dog was digging in the dumpster in an alleyway and an old man sat on a bench in a drunken slumber.

Cloud slowly approached the front door, which looked like it could fall off at any moment. He lightly pressed on the doorbell and waited. Unfortunately, there was no answer. He tried again. Nothing.

'Should I just go in? He contemplated. The worst thing is that she's sleeping…but I promised I see her…'

After another minute of deliberation, he decided to try the door. After using a little force, he managed to push it open. The door creaked as he slowly peeked his head inside. It was pretty dark, but he could a see a faint light at the end of the hallway. He could make out the faint shadows of some chairs in the side room. The wallpaper was peeling off, and the carpet was duct-taped to the edge of the wall. 'Good god,' he thought.

"Hello? Kairi, Riku, are you here?" He said loudly, but not shouting. There was no answer. He stepped completely in the house and started down the hallway careful not to trip on the tears in the carpet. As he reached the kitchen, he turned the corner.

"Kairi…? Oh my God!!" He saw Kairi lying on the floor lifeless, her upper lip stained with blood.

"Holy shit, Kairi! Cloud ran to her side, shaking her shoulders and tapping the side of her cheek. "Come on, wake up!" He pulled out his phone and dialed 911.

"911 Emergency," the operator answered.

"Yea, I need an ambulance right away. My friend, she overdosed. Sixteen Destiny Road," Cloud said quickly, trying to stay as calm as possible.

"Okay, an ambulance is on its way. Can you stay on the line until they arrive?"

"Uh, yeah, I can," Cloud said, a little distracted.

"Can you tell me the victim's name?"

When he thought of Kairi as a victim, he felt his stomach flip.

"Her name is Kairi, Kairi Gainsborough," he said, becoming more nervous by the second.

"Is she breathing? Do you know CPR?" The operator asked, at least she sounded a little concerned for Kairi.

Cloud put his head over Kairi's and tried to feel her breath on his cheek. It was faint but he was pretty sure she was breathing.

"She's breathing, but it's faint. I don't know CPR or anything," Cloud conveyed to the operator.

"No, it's okay. If she's still breathing, CPR isn't necessary. You said she overdosed, do you know what kind of drugs she took?"

Cloud hadn't even looked around. He briefly took in the look of the shabby kitchen, but focused on searching for some sort of drug. He looked on the table and sure enough was a bag with a white powder inside. A razor was lying next to a small pile of what looked like the same substance. Cloud knew better.

"Cocaine," He replied. "But she took heroin, too."

"Okay, there isn't much you can do right now, the ambulance should be there soon."

As if on cue, Cloud could hear the faint screech of the sirens from down the road.


Cloud had been in the waiting room of the hospital for approximately two hours. He had barely moved a muscle. God did he hate hospitals. The endless expanse of white hallways, family members crying as a doctor told them their child, or parent, or lover just died, the horrible smell that seemed to float through every hallway. The memories of losing your closest friends…

"Excuse me? Sir?" He heard a small voice nearby. He figured the voice was directed to someone else, but soon realized that he was the only one in the area. He lifted his head coming face to face with a very young woman wearing the signature long lab coat. She had blonde hair that was pulled back, leaving two strands lose, framing her face. She wore glasses and her skin was pale, but smooth. She stared at Cloud nervously, clutching her clipboard against her chest.

Cloud blinked. "Uh, yeah?" He answered, trying to come to his senses.

"You're Mr. Strife, correct? I'm doctor Trepe. You came here with Ms. Gainsborough?" She asked, seeming a little bit nervous.

"Yes, I am. How is she?" Cloud asked eagerly.

"You're her brother…? Or is she your girl—?"

"No, no. Just tell me how she is," Cloud didn't mean to get so testy, but why couldn't doctors just tell you what you wanted to know without the interrogation. Shouldn't he be asking her all the questions?

"Right, I'm sorry. It's just for the records…" She tried, trailing off.

"I'm a close friend, that's all."

"Okay, that's fine," she replied quickly. Cloud gave her an impatient glare, and she finally got the hint. She flipped a page of her clipboard, scanning it. "She's doing fine, right now. She first consumed cocaine and must have confused the heroin when she—"

"I know what happened," Cloud quickly interrupted. "But she's okay now, right?"

"Oh, um, yes, she's awake actually, if you'd like to see her. Thankfully, it wasn't a large amount of either drug; she should be able to go home tomorrow. However," her face sank, "you may want to get some help for her, maybe re—" Doctor Trepe cut herself off seeing Cloud drop his gaze to the floor once again.

"…Right. She's in Room seven, down that hall," she pointed to the hallway to Cloud's left, "feel to stay for a while. Do you have any other questions?" She asked gently.

"No, thank you," Cloud replied standing up.

She nodded, flashing a faint half-smile, before walking down the opposite hall.

The door to Kairi's room was open slightly and Cloud knocked lightly before pushing the door open. He saw Kairi lying on the hospital bed, an I.V. in her arm, various machines flashing and beeping. She stared at him as he entered, but quickly turned her head to stare at the white ceiling. She didn't say anything, nor did she move. Cloud moved to her bedside and pulled over a nearby chair. He looked up at her and saw that tears were falling from her eyes. Her expression was still blank, and she didn't move. This was the Kairi he was afraid of seeing. She looked sick and her face was extremely pale. She had large dark circles around her tired eyes. Her lips were dry and cracked, her hair was thin and tangled, and she looked like she hadn't eaten in weeks. God, where the hell was Riku? Like he could do anything for her. Tifa was right, he only made it worse.

"…Cloud?" she asked quietly, barely a whisper. "I'm…I'm so…sorry," she still refused to look at him.

Cloud sighed and put his head in his hands, resting his elbows on his knees. "I can't stand seeing you like this. You have to stop, Kairi…"

Her eyes slid closed. Cloud spoke again, "Where's Riku? Why wasn't he home with you?"

She swallowed before replying, "I...I don't know…He left last night…I…I thought it was…" she stammered, trailing off.

"This isn't your fault, Kairi," he paused, "but you know, you have to go back, I won't let you be alone after what just happened," Cloud said sternly.

"…Okay," she replied quietly.

Cloud stayed next to her for the next couple of minutes. Neither of them spoke. All of sudden a silver-haired man burst through the door, panting.

"Kairi!" She lifted her head and looked at him, her expression never changing.

Cloud turned in his direction and narrowed his eyes. He never liked Riku. If it wasn't for him Kairi wouldn't be in so deep. He kept giving her more and more, and like a helpless child she gave in.

"Riku," Cloud ground out.

Riku looked worse than Kairi. The circles under his eyes were darker and his face was dirty. He wore an old sweatshirt, duct tape lying on the side, probably trying to patch up a tear. His jeans were ripped and dirty, and the soles of his shoes were dangerously close to falling off. Though he had muscle, his face looked like a skeleton.

Riku turned his attention to Cloud. He knew Cloud despised him, he attempted to choose his words carefully, "Hey, man…thank god you found her…I—"

"What?" Cloud interrupted coldly. "You were off getting more drugs? Is that it? What the fuck is wrong with you?" Cloud couldn't contain his anger; he would wring Riku's neck.

"Cloud…please…." Kairi tried to calm him down. He never heard her.

"She just got out of rehab; she was doing fine until you had to fuck it up, like you always do!" Cloud shouted at him, walking up to him.

It was Riku's turn to be angry, his eyes hardened and he stood his ground in front of Cloud's terrifying glare. "Hey, back off! Who are you to talk!? If I remember correctly, five years ago you were living under a fucking bridge begging for spare change to buy more…oh what was it again?" He paused, acting like he couldn't remember what he was saying. When he continued he looked Cloud straight in the eye. "Oh, yes, I remember now; crystal meth? Yea, you really liked that shit didn't you? If it wasn't for your little girlfriend Tifa and all those pills you take, you'd probably be dead," he finished still looking at a seething Cloud.

"Fuck you, Riku. Fuck. You. You're worthless; you've been knee deep in this shit since high school. At least I got my fucking life together. At least she," Cloud pointed behind him in Kairi's direction, "was able to put her life back together until you came and ruined it all over again."

"Ha! Don't make me laugh. She's the one who came back to me. She crawled up to my doorstep like a lost child, begging me to take her back in. I couldn't bear to see her in pain, I just gave her what she asked for," he said, smiling cynically.

Cloud's expression turned to utter disbelief and confusion. He turned to Kairi, who looked at him with wide, shining eyes.

"Cloud…I…I…" she sobbed.

He had to get away. He couldn't deal with this anymore. Shoving Riku out of the way he stormed out of the room into the hallway, breathing hard. His thoughts were scattered. He didn't know where he was going but his feet were simply moving and he just went along. Shit, what time was it? How long had he been waiting here?

All of a sudden someone was in front of him and he crashed right into their chest, stumbling slightly before the other caught him. Thankfully, the collision had distracted him from his mental battle. He swore under his breath and looked up at the person he had just ran into, ready to profusely apologize. But, something stopped him as he looked the man in the eyes.

'Those eyes…that…scar…Oh my God. No. It can't be.'

The man had dark brown hair that spilled over his shoulders. His skin was tan, his eyes were a stormy-grey, and right between them was…a scar.

Cloud's stomach churned inside of him and he suddenly felt as if he would vomit. Squall Leonhart looked down at him, his eyes filled with as much, if not more, surprise and horror as Cloud's.

"…No, its not…it's not really you…it can't be…you…" Cloud stuttered, his mind a jumble of memories. "All these years…it's not…"

"…Cloud…it really is you," the man said, his expression softening ever so slighty.

Cloud swallowed hard, his throat suddenly dry. He couldn't speak, his vision was becoming blurry, and before he knew it tears were spilling down his cheeks.

"Please, Cloud…" the man reached out his hand.

Cloud instantly slapped the hand away. "Don't touch me," he said, venom dripping from each word. "I hate you."

Quickly retreating his hand, Squall was now the one who couldn't speak. There was so much he wanted to say, but every time he opened his mouth nothing came out. It didn't matter, Cloud was already walking away. Now, it was Squall who cried.


"Cloud? Are you here?" As he turned the corner of the hallway and looked into the room, he stopped and smiled.

Cloud was slumped over his desk, his head buried in his arms. His unfinished homework scattered around him. His headphones were blaring; Squall could hear them from across the room. He walked over to him, carefully removing the headphones.

"Hey, Cloud, wake up," he whispered in Cloud's ear, lightly shaking him.

Cloud grimaced and groaned, mumbling a little bit as he shifted in his now half-asleep state. He slowly opened his eyes, and met Squall's grey ones. He smiled. "What time is it?" He asked yawning.

"About 5:30," Squall answered.

As realization dawned on him, Cloud's head shot up. "Shit! Squall, I'm sorry! I fell asleep, I—"

"I'm not mad," Squall chuckled. "When you didn't show I just wanted to make sure you didn't mugged on the way or something."

Cloud sighed and smiled in relief. "I'm sorry, I really am."

"Well, since you left me waiting today, and made me go out looking for you, I think you should make it up to me," Squall said suggestively.

"What did you have in mind?" Cloud asked grinning.

"Oh, I don't know…something along the lines of this…" he trailed off as he leaned in to capture Cloud's lips.

"Mmm…I think I can do that," Cloud said breaking the kiss briefly, only to press his lips against Squall's once again. He stood up and leaned against the side of the desk. Squall pressed closer, his hands moving to grasp his hips. Cloud wound his arms around Squall's neck as he melted against him. Squall's hands began to wander a bit, playing with the belt loops of Cloud's jeans, before drifting lower over his pockets. Suddenly though, he stopped as he felt something oddly familiar in one of Cloud's pockets.

As he broke this kiss, Cloud looked at him with a confused expression on his face. "What…?" He froze, however, when Squall pulled a small bag with a white substance inside from his right pocket, holding it in front of his face.

Cloud slowly removed his hands from Squall's neck, placing them lightly on his chest. "Squall…I…"

"Jesus, Cloud," Squall cut him off angrily, taking a step back. "When will this shit end?"

"Squall, please, I just…I only got a little…I…"

"Forget it," Squall growled, tossing the bag on the floor at Cloud's feet. He turned swiftly and stormed out.

Cloud dropped his head and bent down to retrieve the bag. He clutched it tightly in his hands. He tried to fight back his tears, but a few escaped and slid down his cheek. He quickly stood up and ran to the bathroom. He kneeled in front of the toilet, breathing heavily. He looked between the bag in his hands and the water.

He opened the bag and held it over the bowl…but he stopped. His mind was screaming for him to get rid of it all, but his body wouldn't move. He withdrew his hand, closing the lid. As a few more tears fell, he whispered to Squall, hoping by some miracle he could hear him.

"I'm sorry…I'm so…sorry…"