The smell of flowers invaded his nose, bright sky blue eyes taking in the rather small looking brick building with surrounding gardens standing in front of him. The large grass lawn was neatly kept; bushes and colorful flower arrangements decorated the lawn, flower beds sat under each window, the boxes painted different colors. To the right of the front entrance was a large cement sign, the gold covered letters reading Miracle Gardens Mental Institute.
"Keep up, Sora."
The brunet frowned, jogging to catch up, "Uh… isn't this place a little small?"
"But you just got your masters. There's got to be somewhere bigger… a place with more opportunities?"
"Sora the bigger places want to hire someone with a doctorate."
"But Squally can't you get something better, like your own practice maybe?" Sora whined, running a hand through his already unruly hair.
Squall heaved a sigh, "No. Grads need field experience to write their thesis so they can get their PhD and you need a doctorate to have your own practice. I talked with the owner of this place; she's willing to give me a trial period so she has a chance to see my abilities. And if you ever call me 'Squally' again, I'm going to dangle you off our balcony…" The younger of the two glanced up at the slight pause, "By your ankle."
Sora grinned, "You'd have to catch me first."
Squall made a thoughtful noise as his hand attacked the renegade spikes in a thorough messing. He piloted the shorter boy toward the glass doors, shoving the back of his head lightly. The two entered, eyes taking in the elegantly decorated reception area. Large glass windows made up one wall, allowing light to illuminate the room. Multi-colored chairs lined the two other walls while a white desk sat in the far corner.
The older male made his way over to a young looking brunette girl who sat behind the desk, an overly bright smile on her face, "Hiya!" She chirped, "Can I help you with something?"
"I'm here to see Dr. Gainsborough." Squall frowned at her. He never did like excessively cheery people, though Sora was an exception.
Sora stood beside the taller brunette, looking at a beautiful vase of flowers perched beside the computer. He noticed a piece of cardboard folded in half with the name Selphie Tilmitt written in green highlighter, it had been placed at the front of the desk as a makeshift nametag.
"She'll be right out to greet ya, so if you wanna have a seat." Selphie motioned with her hand towards the row of chairs across from her.
Shortly after they took a seat, a tall brunette woman walked into the room and right up to Squall. "Hello, my name Aerith Gainsborough. You must be Squall; it's a pleasure to meet you." She said, thrusting a hand out to him.
"Actually just call me Leon," The brunette male shook her hand then motioned to his side, "And this is Sora."
Aerith smiled sweetly, "It's so nice to meet you Sora. You may call me Aerith."
"Same here." Answering her smile with one of his own.
After a brief conversation the elder two headed off down the hallway just behind the desk. Sora slouched in his seat, blowing a puff of air at a stray bang hanging in his face. Squall had told him before arriving that he'd probably be a while but the seventeen year old was stubborn and didn't want to sit at home alone.
The blue eyed boy was so wrapped up in being bored that he had totally missed what the only other person in the room had said, "Huh?" He stated dumbly.
"I said, 'Are you here for a job too?'"
Shaking his head, "Nah, I just tagged along with my brother."
Selphie pouted slightly, "Aww… that's too bad. We need more cuties like you working here."
The brunette's cheeks tinted a faint pink before he glanced away, waving a hand to dismiss the compliment. Nothing more was said between them and Sora lost himself to his thoughts while he waited.
"… and I completely understand. I don't wish to pry any further but from what you've already told me, you seem to be in desperate need of work."
Squall sighed, long hair swishing as he nodded, "Yes, I am."
"As I said over the phone I am willing to hire you on a probationary period and if I feel you are capable of doing the job I will give you a position here. You have one month."
Sighing, the brunette male got up from his seat, "Thank you for this opportunity."
"One more thing before you go…" Aerith paused, her green eyes scanning the papers in front of her. Squall glanced down, acknowledging her with a quiet grunt. "How old is Sora?"
A sweet looking smile appeared on her face, "I was just wondering what his plans are for the summer."
Sora jumped out of his seat, rushing to catch up with his brother's long strides. He caught the glass door as Squall pushed it almost forcefully open and followed him into the parking lot.
"Squally! Wait up!"
Steel grey eyes glared back, "I'm warning you Sora, when we get home…"
"You'll what, Squally?" The younger brunette said puffing his cheeks out.
An arm wrapped around his neck before he could even blink, pulling him into a vicious noogie. Sora yelped, hands reaching up to save his poor scalp, "Ack Squall… stop! I'm sorry, I'm sorry!" He shouted as he squirmed in the older male's arms.
Squall released him and gave one last glare in his brother's direction before turning back to the car. He unlocked the doors, Sora slamming his shut once he was comfortable.
"Must you always do that?"
The smaller boy waved a hand, "Yeah whatever. Tell me what she said."
"I've got a month to prove myself. We start tomorrow."
"That's awesome!" Sora cheered before the words completely registered, "Wait… what?"
An evil glint entered the steel colored eyes, "I said 'We start tomorrow'."
"What do you mean 'we'? Squall you know this is my last summer before university! I wanted to spend it with my friends!" The blue eyed boy whined.
"We both know that wasn't possible Sora, besides we need the money. We can't afford to live, pay off my schooling and yours on just my salary." He frowned slightly at the large pout on the other boy's face, "It's a good paying job, I couldn't turn her down."
"It wasn't your choice to make." Sora huffed, cranking his head to look out the window.
Squall didn't respond deciding it's better to let him cool off a bit so they can discuss it like mature adults. Otherwise their conversation will consist of bad name calling, mostly on Sora's part. The long haired brunette started the engine, pulling out of the parking lot.
He sighed loudly at the sulking boy next to him, "Would ice cream make you feel better?"
"Maybe," Part of a pouty face could be seen through the reflection of the window, "But I get whatever I want."
"Fine, but you're going to work tomorrow."
Sora's lips twitched upward in a half smile, "Okay."
A solitary figure stood surrounded by darkness, bathed in a single spotlight. A feminine voice drifted through the emptiness.
'Why?' Her voice, a soft whisper in his ear.
"… I don't know."
'I loved you long before I ever saw you.'
His form shuddered as he collapsed to his knees, "Please… I'm sorry…"
'How could you?'
"It was an accident!"
'You're a murderer.' Her soft voice became harsh.
His hands reached up to cover his ears, "Just stop… I didn't mean-"
Squall burst into the screaming teen's room to find the boy sitting straight up, stark white with tears streaming down his cheeks. His hands fisted tightly into the sheets as if trying to ground himself in reality. The older brother slipped into the room, all the way to the bed and pulled the other into a tight embrace. They rocked slightly, the only sounds being the comforting words from Squall and the quiet sobs from Sora.
"I had that dream again." He spoke as soon as his breathing had evened out enough to speak coherently.
Squall knew exactly what the other was talking about. It had occurred many times before. The older brunette didn't speak only continued to rock the both of them.
Sora pulled back just enough to see his brother through the darkness, "Squall, are you sure I should be working there?" He sniffed as his hand reached up to wipe carelessly at an eye, "I mean I'm not qualified or anything and really I'm not even sure I'm all that sane either."
"Of course you're sane, don't be an idiot." A rare smile spread across his face, "Dr. Gainsborough said that you don't need any experience and I know for a fact that you're perfect for the position."
Gun metal grey met sky blue and that reassuring smile returned as well, "Because you know how to make people happy with just a smile. I think you're going to help those people a lot, I mean you're better with people then I am and I went to school for psychology."
Sora smiled back, throwing his arms around his brother, "Thanks Squally."
The older male hugged back, ignoring the nickname this time.
So when Sora walked through those glass doors the next morning, he wasn't nearly as nervous as he thought he would be. He followed Squall past the desk and into the hallway he and Aerith had disappeared down yesterday. Selphie gave the two a quick 'hi' and a little wave as they passed, Sora grinning, waved back.
At the end of the hall was another door, only this one seemed sturdier with a large glass window in the top half. There was a security system connected to the door, a card scanner placed next to the handle. The older male slipped a card out of his pocket, flicking it over the reader. The small blinking red light flashed green and a buzzer sounded allowing the two entry. On the other side of the door, Sora was curious and wanted to go check out the new area. He refrained from scurrying off but his eyes took in all that they could see.
To his right were two doors, one with the name 'Dr. Aerith Gainsborough' etched into the wood while the other was blank. Straight ahead at the end of the hall was another door, mostly open, the word 'office' on the front. From what he could see, the inside was plain; a table with chairs, a counter, appliances strewn across the top and cabinets. A row of lockers stood at the back of the room and he could see that further into the room was some kind of shower area. Next to that was a nurse's station, completely enclosed by wood on the bottom, glass and windows on the top. Sora could see the desk snaked all the way around the inside leaving only the door open, papers and clip boards littered the surface and two chairs were crammed in what small area was left. Notices were taped to the inside of the glass, letting the patients and employees know events and whatnot. Right across the hall were the phones. Three booth like wooden areas sat against the wall, he couldn't see inside the booths but Sora could only guess there were seats and the phones, of course.
A tug on his sleeve turned his attention back to the door with Aerith's name on it which had opened and was waiting for him to enter. Once seated, Sora took the time to look at the rich mahogany desk and bookshelf. A file cabinet sat just off to the side of the desk, a little darker grey in color from normal ones but matching the wood nicely. The shelves were over flowing with books, almost all about psychology and the human psyche. The desk was neat with a lamp on one edge and a tray on the other, a few folders lay open in the middle.
Dr. Gainsborough sat behind the desk, a warm smile on her face. She was speaking to Squall about his duties when a knock on the door silenced the conversation, "Come in." She said sweetly.
A blonde haired youth poked his head in, "You called for me?" He asked, glancing around with dark sapphire eyes.
"Yes Roxas come in," Aerith stood from her chair, "I would like you to meet Dr. Squall Leonhart. He will be the new psychiatrist."
"Hello Doctor." Roxas held a hand out to the brunette.
Lips turned slightly down as he shook the shorter boy's hand, "It's just Leon."
Motioning with her hand, Aerith pointed to the other brunette, "And this is Sora, he's our new orderly. I would like you to show him around and let him know all his duties."
Sora let a lopsided grin hang on his face, "Hi, nice to meet you."
"Yeah… same here. Come on the lockers are this way."
The two teens left Aerith's office and straight into the room with the lockers. Upon closer inspection, there were indeed showers further into the room and slightly off to the side. Roxas pointed to a few empty lockers telling him to pick one. Sora picked one of the top ones, quickly slipping off his jacket and pulling on a white smock looking thing that all the employees wore.
The blonde told him the rules about being late, without proper attire, and so on. He spoke briefly on certain unpleasant duties, none of which Sora was willing to mention again or do if at all possible. Roxas then led him down the hall, "And this is the nurse's station."
A surprisingly familiar looking blonde girl sat inside, Sora was shocked to see such a resemblance between the two in front of him. He stood gaping while Roxas and said girl smiled at each other.
"Namine this is Sora." The blonde male smirked, glancing at the brunette, "Sora this is Namine… my twin sister."
"Hello Sora." Her shy voice was heard through the window.
Realization struck him when Roxas' words sunk in; his smile faded for a moment, "Oh that explains the resemblance! It's nice to meet you Namine."
"She's one of the nurses that hands out the meds and handle phone calls between the patients and their families. Any calls to the phones over there have to be approved by the nurse on duty."
"There is a phone in the employee office if you ever need to use it." Namine added to her brother's speech.
Blue eyes followed the blonde's hand to the wooden booths and back, nodding as he went, "Good to know."
"This way Sora, I'll show you the cafeteria next." Roxas said waving to the girl behind the glass, "When I'm done showing him around we'll come back and talk for a bit."
Namine waved them off as the boys continued down the hall toward double doors on the left. The word 'Cafeteria' was printed on a metal plate above the doors. Sora took a moment to take in the huge room; large tables with benches were positioned throughout the room. On the far side was a long counter with trays at one end and a cooler with drinks at the other. As they walked passed a few tables toward the doors on the other side, the brunette noticed that there was someone behind the counter. A tall man with dirty blonde hair had his back to the two boys but turned at Roxas' voice.
"Yo Cid! New guy," Roxas yelled, pointing at said new guy, "Sora."
The man turned, his pale blue eyes locked directly onto Sora, "Well I'll be Boss Lady finally hired some more worker ants for this joint."
Sora watched as a toothpick bobbed up and down as the man spoke, "Hi." His voice echoing through the empty area.
"Name's Cid, I'm the cook here. Don't like my cooking you can damn well starve."
Sky blue orbs glanced from the scruffy looking man to the blonde next to him, "Do you always scream at him from across the room?" Sora whispered.
"Yeah, it's easier for the deaf old coot to hear that way."
"I heard that, ya little bastards!" Cid shouted shaking a fist, "Get the hell outta my kitchen!"
Roxas bolted through the doors, Sora in tow, both laughing loudly. They slowed to a walk as the two entered another room, this one was brightly decorated, the walls painted a warm orange. A couple of bookshelves stood in the corner across from the door, tons of books, games and puzzles filled the shelves. A small round table with four chairs sat between them, a half finished puzzle spread across its surface. Further in the room was a fairly large TV, movies cases strewn in front of it. A well worn brown couch was positioned in the middle of the room.
Sora noticed a few tuffs of red hair sticking out over the top and wondered who it could be. A glance to Roxas proved he wasn't going to say anything, the blonde just motioned for him to follow. They silently passed behind the couch and were almost out the other door when a loud bang was heard. Sora saw a flash of red and black before he heard a cry from Roxas. Rubbing his eyes quickly, the brunette realized the blur of color was really a person moving at high speed. He also realized that the person had latched onto his tour guide and was spinning him around wildly, Roxas demanding to be put down.
An instant later, Sora was doubled over in laughter unable to hold it back any longer, just the sight of the blonde being spun around, yelling at the taller red head was too much for Sora. The two stop at the sound of laughter, both sets of eyes locked onto the brunette, a green pair amused and a blue pair glaring.
"What the hell is so funny?"
Choking on a laugh, "No-nothing." He straightened slightly.
"Whoa, Roxie who's the newbie?" The unknown person asked as he smirked at Sora.
"It's Roxas!" He hissed, glaring down, "That's Sora; now put me down Axel!" Said redhead dropped the blonde back to his feet, shrugging his shoulders.
"Hi." The blue eyed brunette smiled as he waved.
Grinning brightly, Axel circled Sora glancing at him up and down. The brunette squirmed under the intense gaze.
"He's a cutie Roxie, where'd you find this one?"
Sora's sky blue orbs widened in embarrassment cheeks tinting a dark shade of red and when Axel saw this, his eyes glinted with mischief. Roxas, on the other hand, was watching the redhead and elbowed him in the ribs before he could humiliate the poor boy further.
"Knock it off! God Axel, leave the guy alone!"
Emerald spheres looked at the blonde, "Aww… don't worry Roxie. You know I only have eyes for you." He cooed, smirking.
Growling lowly, Roxas rolled his eyes and grabbed Sora's wrist, dragging him from the room. The brunette glanced back to see the other fall over the couch in a fit of hysterics. His wrist was yanked harder and he was pulled from the entrance.
"Ignore him." The blonde hissed. The statement sounding very much like a command to Sora's ears.
Retrieving his hand from Roxas' death grip, he decided to speak, "Who was that?"
"That was Axel, a patient here." Sighing once, he continued, "He's a pyro. Despite how 'normal' and I use the term loosely, he seems to be; the way he talks he needs to be in here."
"You mean the stuff just now?"
"Nah, that shit he says to annoy me. He doesn't just like to burn stuff, the guy really thinks he can control fire."
Sora stared wide eyed, "Control?"
"Yeah says he can manipulate the element or something. He uses 'It got too big to control' as his excuse when he burnt down his last two apartments and a school. Shortly after that someone brought him here."
The brunette made an 'o' with his mouth, rushing to match his steps with the blonde's. A short ways down the hall was a glass door leading outside, a keycard reader next to it. Sora stopped in front of the door, light blue eyes staring through the glass. A few trees were spread elegantly thorough out the area, sun peeking around the leaves. Lush grass covered the ground with brightly colored flowers and manicured bushes nicely placed around the edges.
Roxas turned back when he realized his companion wasn't at his side. When the blonde arrived beside him, Sora pointed, asking, "What's through there?"
"That's the garden. Aerith made it so the patients have a nice place to be when they go outside."
The brunette tilted his head slightly, "Oh, it's beautiful."
"Yeah, she should have been a botanist or something like that," Roxas continued down the hallway, leaving Sora to catch up, "A patient needs permission to go outside and they need to be supervised while they're out there, hence the locked door. You need to check the patient off on the clipboard in the nurse's station, if their name isn't on the list they can't go outside. Their doctor decides that so don't ask…"
The two rounded the corner, bright blue eyes staring down the hall. Doors lined both sides and stepping closer to the door straight ahead, he could see a rectangular metal plate beside the door. 'Cloud Strife' was the name printed on it. Sora glanced through the open door, a blonde, older than him and Roxas sat on the bed; his blue green eyes stared off into space as he rocked slightly.
Taking a step into the room, Roxas held up his hand, waving a bit, "Cloud… Cloud this is Sora. He's going to be working here."
The rocking stopped as those eyes gazed up. He didn't speak only gave off a look of complete confusion, glancing between the two standing in the doorway.
The brunette felt a nudge to the ribs, "Say hi." Was whispered next. Sora looked to Roxas before turning back to Cloud, "Uh… Hi Cloud."
Cloud watched them a moment longer before dropping his gaze back down and started rocking again. Blue met blue as the two teens glanced to each other; Roxas shrugged leaving the room to continue with the tour.
Sora followed closely, glancing from side to side trying to read all the names. They were half way down the hall when the brunette finally gave into his curiosity, "So… um... about Cloud…" He trailed off; he didn't want to make it sound like the guy was defective or anything.
"It's a long story, one I don't really want to talk about…" The blonde sighed heavily, "But the gist is he was in a car accident, he survived but was in a coma for two weeks and when he woke up he thought he was some else."
The teen directed his attention to his feet, a sad look on his features, "That's horrible! How di-" Sora started but the tone in which Roxas spoke changed his mind.
Roxas stopped at the end of the hall, turning to speak but the brunette hadn't been paying attention and ended up crashing into him. The blonde stumbled back a few steps but Sora had been sent flying to the floor.
Sapphire orbs stared at the sprawled figure, an obvious smirk on his face, "A little clumsy are we?"
Sora glanced up, his bottom lip protruding out in a prominent pout, "It's not my fault! You stopped without warning!"
"Uh huh… yeah… okay." Roxas snorted out a laugh as he reached down to help his new co-worker up. Once Sora was back on his feet the blonde continued, "As I was about to say, that door there is the solitary confinement. Any patient acting out violently against us or another patient is placed here and sedated until they're calm enough to come out." Pointing at a door hidden slightly by the wall.
Sora spun around to leave, rotating almost face first into the wall. He opened his blue eyes after having closed them instinctually and staring back at him wasn't the white of the wall but a small gold colored plate, a name engraved on it. The brunette took a step back and turned to look through the small window within each door, a safety precaution he assumed. The unknown patient inside was sitting on the bed legs crossed, hunched over what appeared to be a sketch book. Shoulder length sliver tresses cascaded down around the book, completely covering his face, eyes and most of what the boy was drawing.
Roxas, who had been half way down the hall again before realizing he was alone, twisted around, "Hey Sora, what's the hold up?"
"What about him?"
"What about him?"
The brunette frowned slightly, "Well you introduced me to every other patient that was in their room, why not him?"
"He's a special case, it's not like I purposely forgot him or anything. Even if I did introduce you it wouldn't matter, he hasn't spoken a word to anyone since he was eight."
"Eight years old?" Sora's bright blue spheres grew wide, "And how old is he now?"
The brunette couldn't help but choke on his air. The guy hadn't spoken in ten years and he was already a year older then Sora. The teen couldn't image going ten minutes without talking let alone ten years.
Glancing back in the room, he made a decision, "I want to meet him anyway."
The boy's statement was unexpected by the blonde standing next to him, "What?"
"I said 'I want to meet him'." And with that, the brunette threw the door open, waltzing right into the room.
The occupant of the room jumped a good foot in the air, knocking his sketch book to the floor in his attempt to get as close to the wall as possible. Sora stepped closer, trying to get a better look at the teen's face only to find it completely covered by his silvery locks. The more he moved toward the bed, the more the other seemed to try to blend with the wall.
The brunette stopped at the edge of the bed, reaching down to pick up the abandoned book. It lay open on the page the boy had been working on, a sunset, the ocean racing into the distance with a small island in the foreground. The picture was beautiful and made Sora want to look through the rest of it.
Resisting the urge, he stood again and placed the book next to the silver haired patient on the bed, "Here, you dropped this," He paused and when no response came he continued, "My name is Sora and I just started here," Another pause, "And well… er… I'm sorry for barging in like that but I just wanted to introduce myself and say hi… I guess I'll leave you be then." Sora turned back toward Roxas and the door but glancing over his shoulder he added, "I really like your art; maybe sometime you could show me the rest."
The brunette sighed when the boy didn't even look up at him and turning back the two left, closing the door behind them. If either teen had looked back before closing the door they would have noticed a pair of bright turquoise spheres watching a certain brunette intently.