I started this story last night because I just couldn't sleep. It's a depressing story and I apologise in advance.
Warning - Themes of self-harming, attempted suicide, same sex relationships, and much more. (It's rated M for a reason)
Disclaimer - I do not own the characters, they belong to Square Enix, but the idea is mine.
Please review, but don't hate me for writing this. It just had to be done so I could sleep again.
I don't belong
Have you ever felt like you didn't belong? Like the life you were living wasn't the one it was supposed to be and that somewhere along the way you had gotten lost? Cloud couldn't help but feel this sometimes, well maybe more than just sometimes. He often felt that this place wasn't where he was supposed to be, not that he knew where he should have been, but he just knew this wasn't it. It was like he was living a life that wasn't his own, or wasn't the right one for him.
He had dreamt of being a soldier, had believed that working for ShinRa would be the answer, but it hadn't been. All the torments from his home had been revisited upon him in Midgar, the horrors and shame of the past not left behind as he had hoped but born anew in this place. Once again he was picked on by his peers, because of his looks and withdrawn nature, the adults never really caring to help him, only content that he work hard and not cause trouble.
He had started out just like all the other cadets, trying hard to fit in, but it had been hopeless from the start. His blonde hair and blue eyes made him stand out from all the rest and his smaller frame made him appear weak and vulnerable. While his mother had always been proud of his beauty and sensitive nature, as far as Cloud was concerned it was a curse to his existence. Because of it he had learnt to put up a wall against the world, to be independent, unable to trust anyone and to survive alone, because there had never been and never would be a person to accept him for who he really was. So he had closed himself off from them all focusing his efforts on his studies, on his training, and on making himself stronger. The only problem was, in doing this, he was also losing himself. The walls he built up becoming strong and fortified so that not only did they hold out the pain but also held all that he was deep inside so that all to quickly he became a prisoner within himself.
He had been a cadet for just over six months when something changed in his world. It had been a normal day of training and Cloud had performed well, easily defeating the partners he was assigned to for sparing. He may have been smaller than the other cadets, but this only helped to make him quicker and he easily took them down using their own strength against them. While his instructor was pleased that the boy wasn't a complete waste of time, the cadets he had disarmed where seething with anger at the blonde. The class had been dismissed to shower and change before heading to the canteen for dinner as normal, but several cadets had another plan in store for Cloud.
It was normal for the blonde cadet to shower last, preferring to wait for the majority of the other boys to leave before allowing himself to relax. He was not a fan of the communal showers, knowing that it only made his delicate form more obvious, and his shy nature always making the experience unsettling for him. Today appeared to be like all the others as he waited patiently in the locker room, until most of the bodies had left, and the room was quieter. He undressed quickly and made his way to the showers choosing the one in the corner, which was far enough away from the remaining cadets, to give him some privacy. Even now he didn't allow himself the chance to relax, didn't give in to the hot water as it beat down on his aching muscles. This was never a place where he wanted to be for long. He had washed quickly, knowing that his nakedness made him vulnerable, and hurried back to his locker drying himself as he moved.
Cloud had managed to put his trousers on and fasten them by the time the first boy came into view. He had picked up his ShinRa issue t-shirt, but let it fall back onto the bench as he saw two more cadets moving in behind him. He clenched his fists, but kept them at his side as a fourth cadet came into view. His body began to tighten ready for the attack, he knew this routine, it had happened before. The muscles in his shoulders and across his chest and back became more enhanced as his arms came up, his body slowly going into a defensive stance. The cadet in the front smiled at him, but it was a cold snarl and Cloud knew he would feel pain. They didn't say a word, but moved forward as one against him.
They had beaten him, made him their punch bag, relieving all their frustration onto him. Their blows had rained down on Cloud for what seemed like an eternity to the blonde cadet. He had tried to fight back, to defend himself against their anger, but when it was so many against one he really had no hope. They had finally stopped their assault and left him alone in the locker room, broken and bleeding on the cool tiled floor. He had laid there for a while allowing the hurt to flow through him, trying to focus it and bury it deep within him. No one had come into the room since they had left, no one had come looking for him when he hadn't arrived at dinner. No one had missed him, but then again, they never did. A different pain made its way through Cloud's body, something more agonising than the physical pain of his wounds, it was the knowledge that he was alone, that this was how it would always be.
Cloud rolled himself onto his side biting back the cry which threatened to escape his lips, instead releasing a deep breath which hissed through gritted teeth. He pushed himself up until he was sitting on the bench and slowly observed the new damage to his body. Fresh bruises marred the pale skin, some re-covering old bruises, while others made new patterns on the beaten flesh. His head slumped forward against his chest in defeat as he realised that it would never end, that this was worse than the life he had left behind at home, that he was now trapped in this nightmare as a cadet in the ShinRa army.
Have you ever heard a voice in your head and known it wasn't your own? Have you ever heard it whisper things to you which were wrong, that went against everything you believed in? Cloud had begun to hear that voice, had begun to listen to it sometimes. He knew it was not his own, that it was something he should ignore, but the walls he had built up were so strong now that his own voice was locked away tightly. The new voice had been growing louder recently, more confident as it offered him comfort, as it promised of a way out. It was now as he sat in the dark that the voice spoke words of hope into his mind, that it soothed the hurt and betrayal of his supposed allies and offered a way to end the pain once and for all.
Cloud was tired now, tired of being strong, tired of suffering for the benefit of others and tired of fighting them all. He sighed deeply as the voice reminded him that he didn't really belong here, let it speak to him of somewhere else, of somewhere better than this. He gave up on his beliefs that life was a gift, that it was worth living, that he would find his place in time. He let the voice in and gave himself over to it now, no longer caring that it only lied, that the promises it made were really a betrayal of everything he had fought for.
He stood slowly, ignoring the pain which coursed through his body, and reached slowly into his locker. It only took him a moment to find the small knife, which was about the size of his palm with a small black handle and sharp silver blade. It had been a gift from his mother when he had joined, something to keep him safe and to remind him of home. The blade had indeed reminded him of home, the hurtful memories cutting deep into his heart. He had kept the small blade in his locker not wanting it, but not wanting to lose it either. It had been something to mark the start of a new life, now it would be something to end it as well.
Not bothering to finish dressing Cloud made his way back towards the showers, his bare feet carrying him across the smooth tile floor with ease. He found his normal spot in the corner, out of the way, and turned the cold water on. He bowed his head under the steady stream of icy water, letting the cold flow over him, though him and soak into him. He closed his eyes and let out a slow breath as the numbness took hold, consuming his body, mind and soul in its bitter grasp. He had shut himself off from everything now, no longer caring about the world around him, and let the voice guide him surrendering himself to it.
He opened his eyes and looked down at the small blade in his hand and held it tightly in his grip. He couldn't help but notice that his skin had taken on a slightly blue tinge when he raised his other arm up in front of his body. The voice was gentle as it reminded him that this was normal, that cold would make the body numb, that it would help to ease the discomfort. He smiled softly to himself as he let the voice guide his hand to the upturned wrist, as it coaxed him to place the sharp blade against his exposed wrist, felt its joy as he drew the metal across the delicate flesh.
There was a moment when nothing happened and the voice seemed to hold its breath in anticipation, then the skin opened up and the blood began to flow steadily from the wound. The voice cried out within his mind, but it wasn't in pain. Instead the joyous sound seemed to be filled with both pleasure and the sense of release. Cloud couldn't help but smile to himself as he considered that perhaps this was the way he would have felt if he had ever been intimate with someone. If there had been someone he could love and would love him back, as they shared in life's pleasures.
The voice quickly hushed the thought away and reminded him that this was for the best, that he had no love, that his world only held pain. Cloud looked down at the blood as it flowed from his wrist and stared as the red liquid poured from the deep cut and fell to mix with the water as it was washed way. The smile faltered slightly as he realised that this was what his life had come down to, a waste being washed away down the drain.
His grip on the blade slipped a little and he staggered forward falling against the hard tiled surface of the shower wall. His body was becoming heavy and hard to control as it slid down into a crumpled heap on the floor. The voice in his head screamed now, shouting at him to finish the job properly before it was too late, to cut deep again and let all that life flow from his veins. Cloud laughed softly at himself and it was strange to hear, almost distant in his mind, as the knife slipped from his fingers and clattered to the floor beside him.
Darkness was closing in around him and it was so beautifully quiet. The sound of water falling was calming to his ears, the cold having taken away the pain as promised. He let his body slump against the floor, no longer able to keep himself sitting up. From here he could see the water and blood mixing as it created beautiful patterns on the white tiled floor, so pretty he thought to himself as he watched the swirl of colour move. His breathing was becoming softer now, and his heart was slowing, but he felt no fear. A small smile graced his lips as he realised that the voice had been right, this was how it should be, that soon there would be no suffering.
"Is someone in here?"
Cloud blinked slightly at the sound of the voice, had it been real? It didn't sound like the voice in his head, and it sounded strangely familiar.
"I'm coming in so you might want to cover up, whoever you are."
The voice was warm and kind and it made Cloud's heart ache a little. He knew that voice now, it was after all his only source of kindness in this hell hole.
Zack stepped round the corner a second after the words had left his lips and froze as he took in the sight before him. Cloud lay half dressed in a sprawled out mess beneath the running water. Even through the mass of bruises, that covered his body, the soldier could see that the blonde was deathly pale, save for the faint hint of blue on his skin. A sickening feeling began to rise in Zack's chest as he looked into the cadet's eyes and saw they were glazing over in his head. A head which was tilted to one side surrounded by pooling water and ...blood.
"Oh Gaia, Cloud, what happened?" Zack cried running to the cadet's side and falling to his knees beside the blonde.
The water and blood soaked into his uniform as he quickly crabbed the cadet's body and dragged it out from under the shower. The movement caused a scraping sound of metal against tile and Zack glanced over to see the small blade lying beside the blonde's body. It was then that his eyes shot to Cloud's arm and he saw the source of the blood flow.
"Cloud, why?" he whimpered desperately grabbing the wounded arm and applying pressure to stem the blood flow.
His eyes shot to the cadet's distant ones and he almost choked on the sob which was rising within him. The blonde was a good kid, sure he had it rough, but he had always seemed so tough and able to handle it. Zack scolded himself for not paying more attention, for letting his feelings for Cloud interfere with their friendship, and for keeping his distance when he had obviously been needed. Just by looking at the cadet's beaten form he could see that the abuse had been going on for a while, the various sized and coloured bruises covering the trembling body in his arms. Zack mentally screamed at himself for not noticing sooner. He knew Cloud had always kept the marks hidden away under his uniform, but the soldier should have understood the pain in the blonde's movements better, should have known it wasn't just from training.
"I'm sorry," Cloud breathed his voice barely a whisper in the room.
Cloud looked into Zack's horrified and desperate eyes and suddenly felt a different kind of pain. The pain of knowing he had given up, that he had abandoned the one person who had been kind to him, the one person he had loved. He didn't want Zack to be here, didn't want to see the hurt this was causing the soldier, but his body was useless to him now. Having no other choice of escape he closed his eyes and tried to block out the voice which called to him, the voice which pleaded with him to hold on, the voice which told him that he was loved.
Cloud blinked his eyes open slowly, his heart aching as it tried to beat a little faster, as he stared up at the soldier. Zack's eyes were red and Cloud was sure he could see the pink tracks of tears on the man's cheeks. His mind raced at what he had heard, of Zack's words of love for him, words of need to have him in his life, his fears of being without the cadet.
"Zack?" he barely whispered.
"That's it Spiky, stay with me." Zack begged the limp form in his arms, as he desperately dialled the medical unit on his phone.
Cloud tried to focus as Zack's lips moved above him, but the words were becoming little more than a faint blur of sound in his mind.
The darkness was closer now and the promise of freedom, though still strong, was slowly becoming something to fear. He didn't want to go now, didn't want to give up and die. 'That's right' a voice within him shouted, 'you're dying and you don't want to die'. He let the shock of the moment ride through him, recognising the voice as being his own. The other voice, which had led him astray, was disappearing now and his own voice was shouting to be heard. The walls he had built up around his world were being broken down as his soul fought to survive, as his heart fought to be loved. Oh Gaia he was loved, Zack loved him.
Cloud grabbed hold of that thought and held on to it tightly. He loved Zack and Zack loved him, and if he died now he would never get to know that love. He cried out against the injustice of it all as his heart began to falter, as the rise and fall of his chest became less and his body cried out at the loss of the precious blood which it needed to survive.
"Cloud!" Zack's voice was shouting for him, trying to bring him back from the threatening darkness.
He opened his eyes meeting the soldier's and for the first time, since his suffering had begun, he let himself cry. The tears ran down his face carrying his fear and weakness with them, as he let the despair within him be reflected in his eyes. Zack's face screwed up even more and fresh tears rolled down his cheeks.
"Cloud, why?" the soldier breathed his voice tight with anguish.
"Hurt ... so much ... no one ... wanted ... me." Cloud managed to breath as he desperately tried to explain before it was too late.
"Why didn't you talk to me, I could have helped you, I would do anything for you." Zack cried heartbroken that Cloud hadn't come to him.
"So ... rry."
Zack watched helplessly as the cadet's eyes began to flutter and closed again, as the heart beneath him began to slip in its beats.
"No! You stay with me, you hear!" Zack shouted shaking the blonde violently.
Shouts from the other room could be heard, and running footsteps pounded against the floor, as several medics flew into the room. They didn't hesitate when they saw the unconscious cadet, such things were rare but not unheard of, and by the look of him he was already in a bad way. They quickly set to work attaching various bags of fluid to the cadet through needles in his good arm and wrapped a tight dressing over the slit wrist, allowing Zack to remove his hand safely. A stretcher appeared from somewhere and Cloud was quickly lifted onto it.
Zack watched in silence, his body shaking from the shock, as Cloud was carried out of the room and towards the infirmary. He stood alone for a moment, knowing he should follow, but unable to move from where he stood. One of the medic's had turned the water off and now the white floor looked disturbing, as the small swirls of blood stained water created a marbled pattern on the tile. The small knife shone brightly in the light and Zack found himself staring at the blade, which he recognised having seen it once before. He quickly picked it up, placing it safely in his pocket, then hurried after the medic's to be by Cloud's side.
As he ran he prayed to anyone who was listening to let Cloud live, to give him a chance to know love and not leave this world having only felt pain. He swore to the heavens that he would protect the cadet better, would admit his feelings and show the kid that he was loved, and made a promise that he would die to keep the blonde safe.
He wasn't sure if anyone was listening, but somewhere within his mind a voice, which was not his own, spoke and told him everything would be ...alright.