Body The FF7 characters, such as Aeris, Cloud, Yuffie, etc, all belong to Squaresoft.

I'd like to dedicate this story to FF7, Ryan, my supportive friends, God for giving me the patience to write this, and of course, my parents.

Note: There is light Tifa-bashing in this story, so don't say I didn't warn you.

6/28/00

Final Fantasy VII: The Last Traces of Childhood

Chapter 1 - The Beginning

Dear Diary,

Today was my first day at Midgar Academy High School. I can't believe I won't be finishing senior year in Icicle Innthere are only two more months left of school! Kalm is okay, but I hope Mom and Dad don't plan to live there permanently. I miss Zack and my other friends, I wonder how are they doing back at home? Zack better not have picked up some other girl from school or I'll kick his sorry butt! I know that Penny Arlington has had her eye on him for quite a while. She'd better behave herself! Anyway, I had a good first day at this new school. I met a few students whom I hope will become my friends. But aside from these friends, I've also made enemies with this stupid clique of girls, not to mention that they have the dumbest name

"Oh!"

A teenage girl cried out as someone shoved her and she stumbled to her knees. She stood up shakily and brushed the dirt off her pale pink skirt, and checked for anything dirty on her small red coat. Looking around at the huge crowd of students rushing to class, she dodged them and ran to a wall nearby. The girl felt herself getting pushed along the wave of the crowd as a final bell rang from inside the building. She groaned, ran up the stairs into the hallway and leaned up against the wall.

Soon, the scholars had emptied into their classrooms and the teenager took a breather. The overhead lights shone across the streams of her auburn hair as it flew around, wild and freely, in the wind. Her five foot, five-inched figure walked around clumsily in the hallway, searching for her first period class, her schedule card gripped tightly in her hand.

Ugh, I'll gonna be really late She thought. Will I get in trouble?

The girl quietly walked around the hallways, every corner confusing her even more. She could see a lot of doors leading to classrooms and stairs leading up, but she couldn't find her homeroom. The new student closed her eyes with a sigh and yanked her backpack closer to her. Suddenly, she felt someone crash into her side and she fell to the hard floor. "Uh oh! Sorry, I didn't see you!" A feminine voice from above apologized.

The teenager moaned and opened her eyes. A petite female, about a couple of inches shorter than she, stood in front of her fallen figure, a sheepish grin spread upon her Oriental features. Her short black hair hung behind her head and her white shorts were covered with cute little flower designs. She knelt down and her forest green eyes peered at the girl she had knocked over.

    "Hey, are you okay? I'm really sorry, I didn't mean to do that," She said.

"I-it's okay," The new student managed to reply, a light pink color flushing into her cheeks. "I'm just trying to find my homeroom; I'm already late for class"

The Asian girl extended her hand and helped the teenager up. She reached for the schedule card in the new student's hand.

"Hmm, you have English first periodroom 202 Hey, you're in the same class as me!" She exclaimed with a smile. "Come on, I guess we'll be late together."

The brown-haired teenager took her card back and smiled briefly. The girl next to her started walking foreword and turned back to motion for her to follow.

"So," She said as the two girls ascended up the stairs, "You're new, right?"

"Yes." The girl answered timidly.

The giddy student grinned. "Welcome to Midgar Academy! Last year, correct? Are you a senior?"

"Uh huh."

She giggled. "Don't talk much, huh?"

"Not really, I'm just kinda nervous." The maroon-coated teenager said with a dry laugh.

"You got a name?"

"Aeris. Aeris Gainsborough. I just moved to Kalm from up north." She told her.

"I'm Yuffie Kisaragi, nice to meet ya!" The Asian student said and gave Aeris a small hug, starting to giggle again. "Sorry about the accident. Guess I shoulda been paying more attention."

She stopped in front of a tall brown door and wrinkled her nose. Yuffie Kisaragi waved her hand at the door and glanced at Aeris.

"Here it is Better be careful, Aeris, the teacher can be a real witch to late students. But she might make an exception for ya, since you're new and all."

Aeris sighed. "Hope so"

Yuffie grabbed the doorknob and turned it. She opened the door quietly and stepped inside, beckoning Aeris to follow her to the room; the new student obliged and shut the door softly behind her. The teacher in the classroom was talking, but stopped when she noticed the arrival of her students. The rest of the class turned to glance at the girls as the teacher raised an eyebrow at Yuffie and lowered her glasses to look at the student.

"Miss Kisaragi, this is your second time in just this quarter," The young woman informed with a firm edge in her voice.

Yuffie cringed. "Sorry Ms. Phedra"

"Take your seat," She nodded toward the desks before her.

As soon as Yuffie rushed to it and sat down, the teacher turned her attention to Aeris. Surprisingly, her stern face melted into a warm smile.

"Ms. Gainsborough?" She asked. "The new student?"

"Y-yes," Aeris replied nervously and handed the teacher her schedule card.

"It's a pleasure to have you here at Midgar Academy, Aeris. My name is Ms. Phedra and I will be teaching your English course this year." The woman said after studying Aeris' card. She faced the new student and handed back the piece of paper.

"You'll be sitting in between Miss Kisaragi and Mr. Strife." The teacher informed Aeris, then turned toward her class. Yuffie caught Aeris' gaze and waved slightly at her.

"Cloud Strife, raise your hand." Ms. Phedra commanded.

A spiky, blonde headed student near the back of the room rolled his eyes, and reluctantly put his hand up in the air. The teacher smiled at Aeris and instructed gently, "Go on"

Aeris swallowed nervously and she walked slowly to her seat, feeling as if the rest of the class had their eyes on her. She reached her desk, took off her backpack and sat down with a relieved sigh. The auburn-haired teenager looked to her left as she unzipped her backpack and Yuffie grinned at her. Aeris gave her a small smile, then took out her notebook and a mechanical pencil, setting them on her desk.

As she set her backpack on the ground, her pencil fell to the floor. Aeris sighed again and reached down to pick it up. A hand grabbed it first and held the pencil out to her. The young scholar looked up into the cool blue eyes of Cloud Strife and she smiled shakily.

"T-thanks" She whispered as she grasped her pencil.

Cloud nodded briefly at her and their eyes lingered at each other for a few seconds, and then he turned back around to the front of the class. His long blonde bangs bobbed before his face and Aeris couldn't help remembering the cute twinkle she had noticed in his eyes when they had that quick moment of eye contact.

Get real, Aeris! She scolded herself. He probably already has a girlfriendbesides, remember Zack?

The student shook her head free of those distracting thoughts and listened to the teacher drone on. An hour later, the bell rang and all the students jammed their stuff into their backpacks, then darted out of the classroom. Ms. Phedra smiled reassuringly at the new girl as she cautiously left her first period and stepped out into the winding hallways. Aeris firmly grabbed the strap of her backpack with one hand and took her schedule card out of the pocket in her overcoat to see where her next room number was.

"What do ya have for second period?" A perky voice from beside her asked.

Aeris turned around and saw her new friend. Yuffie grinned and twirled a strand of her short black hair around a dainty finger.

"Um," Aeris peered more closely at her card. "Gym" She answered.

"Damn, I have that fourth," Yuffie pouted. "What about third period?"

"Science," The new student read off of the small card.

Yuffie groaned. "Argh, I got that class at sixth! Uh, any luck with fourth?"

"French." Aeris told her.

"Well, I got that next So, I guess I'll see you at lunch, okay Aeris?"

The seventeen-year-old smiled and replied cheerfully, "Sure!"

"Bye!" Her new friend called with a wave and rushed down the hallway. Aeris grinned at her retreating figure and then groaned as she realized she didn't know where the gym was located. The card slipped out of her hand and she knelt down to picked it up.

"I heard you had gym next?" Someone asked from above.

Aeris looked up and saw Cloud. His spiky bangs were hanging in front of his face and he was leaning so low that the soft strands almost contacted with the top of her head.

She answered nervously, "Yeah"

He smiled down at her and said, "Same here. We'd better hurry to the locker rooms before Roading starts yellin'."

Cloud reached his hand out to help her. Aeris grabbed the warm hand tightly and stood up. She brushed her hair back and shoved the card back into her pocket, her backpack strap hanging loosely around her shoulders.

"This way" Her new companion told her and gently tugged Aeris toward the staircase, still holding onto her.

He led her down the stairs and the two walked through several of the winding hallways. As they were walking, every now and then, some other guys would wave to Cloud, and a few girls gave him a flirtatious smile. Obviously, he was very popular at this school, especially with the female students. Aeris couldn't help but feel a twinge of jealousy at all the attention that her accomplice was receiving.

Stop thinking like that! Her mind silently scolded.

When the two reached a couple of doors, Cloud pushed them open and they went outside, around the school and paused in front of an area with two more doors leading inside a separate area.

"Girls' lockers are over there," He pointed to the door on the west side of the tall beige building. "Since it's only your first day and you don't have the gym clothes, just go in the locker room, put your stuff away and talk to Mrs. Freitas. She's the teacher for the juniors, but she's the one who opens the room for you girls." He informed.

Aeris chuckled softly. "Thank you, my walking guidebook." She teased him lightly.

A smile slowly spread across his face. "Only at your service, Ms. Aeris." Cloud winked at her.

"Hey Cloud!" A voice called. The two both turned around and saw a boy with dark clothes and black hair hanging outside of the boy's locker room, a slightly impatient look on his face.

Cloud shook his head with a smile and responded, "Hey Vince! Wait up!" He glanced back to Aeris. "See ya later."

Her helper raised her hand up to his lips and placed a gentle kiss upon it. He let go of her and ran to catch up with his friend. Aeris watched him disappear into the twin blue doors, then she let out a soft, dreamy sigh and walked to her own locker room. After going through the whole new-student-crap with Mrs. Freitas, Aeris was assigned a locker and received a combination lock. She went to her locker and stuck her backpack into the rectangular metal box. The teenager walked outside along with all the other girls in the locker room and followed some of them to another medium-sized building.

The girls she had trailed behind had plopped down next to the guys of their class. Aeris sat a little ways from them, shyness creeping up her nerves as she glanced at her new classmates. Shortly after, someone sat to her side and she was pleased to see that it was Cloud. He grinned at her and then gestured toward the front of the room when a tall man with stringy black hair arrived.

The teacher, Mr. Roading, told the class to continue their basketball unit and everyone stood up, rushing to get a ball as well as claim a court. Mr. Roading pulled Aeris aside as she started to follow her classmates, and he explained to her what he was currently teaching, what standards he graded by, and that she needed to order a physical education uniform as soon as she could find the time. He talked for the entire class period, and by the time the bell rang, Aeris was relieved when he dismissed the students. She ran back to the locker room and gathered her belongings.

"Science, room 301" She read from her card as she left the locker rooms and somehow found her way back to the school.

Aeris looked up from the card and stared blankly down the hallway. She sighed heavily, then started walking ahead, peeking her head around the corners for any signs of her next classroom.

Wish Yuffie or Cloud was here The teenage girl thought, as she glanced down another hallway, her backpack strap gripped tightly in her hand. She paid little attention to the path in front of her. For the second time that day, she felt another figure run into her. Aeris was pushed back a bit; she shook her head free of the collision and looked up at who she'd bumped into.

A girl wearing a small, tight tank top and tiny, blue shorts stood before her, a mean look on her face, her chest heaving as she breathed rapidly. Her dark, mussed hair was irritably tossed behind, onto her back as she glared at Aeris coldly. Two other girls were standing with a cocky tilt next to her, equally annoyed expressions plastered on them.

"What was that all about?" The leader of the trio asked.

"Sorry," Aeris mumbled.

She tried to step aside and continue looking for her class, but the three girls blocked her way and the leader sneered at the new student.

"You can't go; we haven't had a proper introduction yet. Ain't that right, girls?" Aeris' opponent asked rhetorically as a wicked smile spread over her dark brown lips.

"Excuse me, I have to get to class," Aeris said as politely as she could. "Can we get introduced sometime later?"

The leader shook her head slowly. "Tsk tsk, this chick's got an attitude problem. So, what's your name, little girl?"

"It's Aeris, now leave me alone." The new student commanded.

"Who died and made you the queen?!" Her opponent snarled. She raised a menacing fist and stepped closer to Aeris.

"Hey!" A voice suddenly spoke up from behind them. The four glanced back and saw a teacher poking his head out of a classroom.

"You ladies get to class!" He ordered.

The girl growled and hissed, "Damn Oh well, I'll get you after school, chick." She threatened and gave Aeris a fake, sickly sweet smile.

The leader ducked her head as she and the posse darted off. Aeris frowned at the retreating figures and then focused on finding her next period. Surprisingly, she found room 301 directly behind her; it was the class where the teacher had appeared out of and stopped the growing fight. The teenager grinned and eagerly stepped into her class.

By the end of third period, Aeris was getting tired of all the new-student speeches from her teachers, but she was starting to get used to finding her way around the school. She found her fourth period class, French, only a few minutes after getting out of Science, and had actually arrived to the room on time. Once again, the teacher took up the period by telling her all about the course.

Lunch came after fourth. Aeris had no trouble with finding the cafeteria; all she did was follow the huge crowd to the lunchroom. The teenager stepped into the large cafeteria after standing in line and purchasing her food, feeling slightly lost. She nervously brushed her dark brown bangs back from her face, and walked around, searching for an empty seat.

"Hey Aeris!" A voice called from her right.

She turned and saw a girl wave her hand in the air. Aeris squinted her eyes to see who it was, then smiled when she found out that it was Yuffie. The Asian student was sitting at a table surrounded by several other guys and girls, including Cloud and his friend from gym. Aeris went to the table and stood next to it timidly.

"Hiya!" Yuffie greeted. "Sit down!" Her friend gave her a small smile and looked for a spare chair.

"Aeris, over here," Someone said to her.

It was Cloud. The blonde-headed teenager grinned at the new girl and nodded his head toward the seat next to him. She accepted and sat down, pushing her tray onto the crowded table; inwardly feeling happy that she didn't have to site alone. Of course, sitting so close to Cloud wasn't hurting her mood at all.

"Hey," He said.

"Hi," She replied, wishing she knew how to start a lively conversation with him.

"Oh, by the way, this is my best friend, Vincent Valentine." Cloud gestured to the black-haired boy sitting next to him. Vincent nodded hello to Aeris and she waved at him.

"How's your day so far?" Cloud asked Aeris as she popped open her soda can.

"Okay, I guess." She answered. "I'm just a little tired of all these talks that teachers keep giving me."

Cloud shrugged. "You're new; they just wanna make sure you know the system around here."

"Maybe you're right," Aeris sighed. She ripped the plastic covering off her pizza and turned to face him.

"Um, Cloud?" She asked.

"Yeah?"

"Are there a lot of snobby cliques, with wanna-be-tough girls in them, at this school?"

"Not really," Yuffie chimed in. "Just one group of these popular bitches who think they own this school."

Aeris raised an eyebrow. "Really? Who are they?"

"The leader, I guess you could call her, is Tiffany Lockheart," Her new friend informed. "That is one girl with a serious attitude problem; she breaks the rules all the time, and sasses most of the teachers." Cloud said.

"Not to mention the fact that her specialty is making fun of people and flaunting her 'good fortunes' at some students," Yuffie added darkly.

"Ugh, I think I ran into her and two of her groupies after Gym" Aeris groaned. "She was about to get into a fight with me, but the teacher from my French class broke it up and she left, threatening to 'get me' after school."

"Don't worry Aeris, Tifa's weak," Cloud assured. "She just talks big; she never does anything herself, just orders her pet puppies to do all the dirty work."

"Geez, what a nuisance," She answered with a small frown.

"Hey, Cloud and I can back you up today if ya want!" Yuffie offered. "We know how it feels like to get involved with Tifa. If you just stand up to her, she'll back off."

The new student smiled. "Thanks, it'd be nice to have some support."

Conversation between the group quieted as everyone dug into their food. After a few minutes of silence, Yuffie began chatting excitedly with her other friends, while Cloud talked to Aeris about the classes and teachers. Halfway through the lunch period, someone walked by the friends' table and dropped a piece of paper in Aeris' tray, then scurried off. Curious, she picked the note up and read the contents:

Hey chick, thanks for getting me late to class. I'll show you my appreciation at the yard in front of the school. 3:30, be there or I'll just get you tomorrow.

-Leader of the Queens

Well, looks like this is the beginningthe beginning of my peer troubles Aeris thought with a heavy sigh and carelessly let the note fall back onto her tray. Yuffie, noticing what had happened, immediately grabbed it up and glanced at the paper, then handed it to Cloud with a look of disgust. He read it, crumpled the note up and threw it into a trashcan nearby the table.

"What an idiot," Yuffie commented.

"'The Queens'? What kind of name is that?" Aeris remarked wryly.

"Just some stupid name Tifa made up," Cloud said. "She and her followers think they own this place, like they're the queens of the school or something, I guess."

"3:30, eh?" Aeris snickered. "What is this, an elementary school fight on the playground?"

"You must not have read right, my dear," Cloud teased. "She said the yard, not the playground."

"Yeah, well, whatever!" The teenage girl replied and plucked an invisible piece of lint off his dark blue shirt. She reached into her backpack and pulled out two small bottles filled with a light blue liquid.

"Good thing I brought these Hi-Potions," She said.

"Aeris, you don't have to worry," Cloud told her, placing a hand over hers. "Yuffie and I won't let Tifa do anything to you." He noticed his hand and quickly pulled it away, flushing slightly. Aeris grinned at her friends' assurance and put the bottles back into her pack.

"I'm done eating," She announced and stood up, then turned to the boy sitting next to her. "Cloud, could you or Yuffie please show me where my next class is?"

He shrugged. "Sure, why not?"

"What do ya got for fifth period?" Yuffie chimed.

"Calculus, room 108." Aeris read aloud after taking out her card.

"Really?!" Her energetic friend asked. "Hey, Cloud and I are in that class too!"

"That's an honors course with only a small class of seniors," Cloud explained. "The teacher gets kinda rough on us sometimes, so watch out"

Aeris smiled. "Doesn't matter to me, I love math."

Just then, the bell rang and the lunchroom got even noisier as everyone jumped up from their seats, stacked their trays at the table, and scrambled out the doors. Aeris' table did the same, and then she, Cloud, and Yuffie grabbed their backpacks and ran to their next class.

Author's Note: Hi there, thanks for reading; please review if you have the time! Should I continue this story?