Title: We're Not Alone Here

Characters: Denzel, Cloud, Maybe Tifa (if I don't hate her atm)

Summary: I love Denzel, he's so cute. And Cloud can be a good dad sometimes. Here's how their relationship started.

Okay, last draft! I think I got it right this time. Bleh. Here you go peeps.


Prelude

It was a relatively nice day in sector 5, with the sun shining, and birds flying in the sky. Though the only reasons Denzel could see the sun and the birds were the gaping holes in the Plate above him. There are probably more holes that Plate left standing up there... he thought. That's usually what happens when things are hit with tremendous force-they break. Duh. Anyway, it was a nice day. But the warm sun and the sound of birds isn't what brought Denzel to sector 5 today. Well, it may have been, but he didn't really know anymore. Really, he was just wandering around, looking for food.

He was starving. When was the last time he'd eaten anything? Oh well, it didn't matter. He was still alive, right? He was beginning to doubt even that, given all of the things that had happened lately. First the Plate being dropped on sector 7, then the whole Meteor crisis that destroyed most of Midgar... now Geostigma. Not to mention his only friends had either died or abandoned him. It all made food trouble seem just a little insignificant.

All the crap going on was making it really hard to smile. There was absolutely nothing to be happy about. Well, maybe the sun, but that's it. The only reason there weren't any black clouds, and a giant Plate above him was Meteor. And with Meteor had come the end of life as the world knew it. Shinra was destroyed, along with the entire city. It seemed the giant piles of rubble, and the broken Plate were the only remnants of the great city. And Denzel was all alone in it.

He'd never been this truly alone before. At first he had his parents, their friends, his decent life above the Plate... stuff was normal. Then when the Plate dropped, a friend of his father's, Arkham, took care of him for a little bit. He was a very nice man, and he did what he could to care for the boy. And then when Denzel wandered off and got lost, another person was there to help him-Ruvi. She took him back to Denzel's new, and rather bare house, and decided to care for him herself. She took care of him fir the rest of her life, until Meteor. However, even after everything ended, Denzel was able to find friends. Gaskin gave him work, and the other children worked with him to find supplies to build a new city on the outskirts of Midgar. Even after Gaskin died, Denzel still had friends.

But that was months ago. Because of all their hard work, Edge was built very nicely, and grew to the point where an orphanage was set up. Because of its prosperity, people stopped coming to the Secor Seven Search Team for supplies. The kids started to starve, and thus, left for Edge. But Denzel couldn't go there. That stupid coment he made to Rix about eating rats... that ended the search team, and their friendship. He couldn't face Rix again. Even so, why should he bother to go to a place built from the ruins of his home? It would be just like the Slums, wouldn't it? Poor and dirty, full of disease and pollution... there was no reason to. So he stayed in Midgar, wantering around, trying to find some rats. But there were no rats-they probably all died from the pollution and destruction.

So that's how he got here, alone and demotivated from pretty much anything. What reason was there to live anymore, when all of his friends and family were gone, and the ones who were still living didn't want to see him? There was none. So why should he keep going? Well, he was only a little boy to begin with-death was a little scary to him. The unknown was always like that. Maybe it only got worse from then on. So he stayed in this plane of existence, even if it meant he would be alone, and starving to death.

That didn't mean he had to move anymore though. He sat down tiredly, glad to give his aching muscles a rest. Should he keep looking for food? There wasn't anything but rock, dust, and broken girders all over the place. What else was there to hope for? Nothing, Probably. he thought to himself. Suddenly he felt something wet on his forehead. That was kind of weird since there was little water around here, and he hadn't been running around in it... he brought his hand up and felt his forehead. When his hand felt wet, he pulled it away, expecting water, or perspiration.

His hand was black.

He sat for a second, staring at it. Great. He thought. Was Geostigma out to get him, too? Well, nothing mattered anymore. Maybe it would take him quickly and without much pain. He looked up towards the huge gaping hole in the Plate above him, and noticed a building that looked like it was still standing. What was it, a church? That's what it looked like. He stood up, taking his trusty metal spear along with him. So far it hadn't done much good for hunting, but it did help with climbing and moving pieces of rubble out of the way.

He noticed a bike was parked outside the church, a motorcycle. It looked really shiny and new-something Denzel hadn't seen for over a year. He walked closer, curious as to how it got there. Then he noticed the phone hanging on the handlebars. He smiled, the first in a long time. I'll borrow it for a while. he thought. It would be fun it worked. He reached across and tried to grab it, but his arms were too short. He walked around to see if the other side would make things easier, and saw that he could just reach in and pull it out. He wiped his dirty hands on his filthy clothes, hoping to keep the shiny phone as clean as possible, then looked around for the owner. When he was there was no one, he reached in and yanked the phone out.

It was a bulky phone, meant for an adult's hands. He stared at the burnished case, wondering what exactly to do with his new found toy. Well, phones were meant to call people, for one. But who would he call? He didn't have anyone... He looked up through the hole in the Plate, thinking. Well, it wouldn't hurt to try. he thought. He flipped open the phone and dialed the number for his home in sector seven. As it dialed, he imagined the phone ringing among the rubble. Maybe someone would find it and pick up. Then he would have someone to talk to.

It only rang once before the phone made up its mind. "Your call to sector seven cannot be completed at this time. Your call to sector seven cannot be completed at this time."

Of course it couldn't. The phone he was calling was probably crushed beneath tons of rock and metal, along with everything else he knew.

"Your call to sector seven cannot be completed at this time."

And his parents, they were probably buried too. If they weren't, they would have come and found him. They loved him that much, didn't they?

"Your call to sector seven cannot be completed at this time."

They would have hugged him close, and told him everything would be okay, that he wasn't alone in this god-forsaken world. They would never abandon him like everyone else had. They would never, ever let him go. At least, not if they could help it.

"Your call to sector seven cannot be completed at this time."

He lowered his head and ended the call. That woman's voice was way too happy-sounding for him to stomach. He felt the anger inside of him, just like that time before he met Ruvi. He held the phone up and prepared to smash it on the ground. He wanted to break things, everything. Why should that voice be happy, when he would never again feel joy, or love, or ambition, or even the gentle human contact that every person needed to survive? He hated it. All of it.

"Uhhh!"

He yelled it weakly, both because he was starving, and he had a sudden thought. He looked up at the phone and brought it back down, glad he hadn't smashed it. The owner would probably be mad, anyway. He checked the missed call log for anyone who might be able to help him. Maybe he could find out who the owner of the phone was. As he scrolled down, he noticed one number had been calling the owner an awful lot. Maybe it was someone who really cared about the owner, and who really wanted to talk to whoever that was.

Maybe it was someone who would care, at least a little bit, about Denzel.

He dialed the number for the Seventh Heaven. It sounded like a nice place, at least. Maybe there would be a nice lady on the other end who would talk to him for a while. But wait... he was using this phone without permission. What if the owner saw him? What if the lady wasn't nice at all? He panicked, and right as the phone picked up on the other end, he hung up. His heart pounding, Denzel tried to figure out what to do next.

He didn't have much time to think, because a couple seconds later, the Seventh Heaven called him back. He jumped, frightened. He thought for a moment, as the phone rang. should he pick up? What if the person got mad at him? What if that person scolded him and hated him? What if they just didn't care about him and hung up? He wouldn't know what to do. But then again, none of those outcomes could be any worse than the situation he was in right now. He made up his mind, and accepted he call, slowly bringing the phone up to his ear.

Before he had even brought it up halfway, a voice spoke. It was a woman's voice. It sounded nice.

"Cloud? It's so rare for you to call! Did something happen?"

Denzel stood there for a moment, unable to form words. Cloud? What kind of name was Cloud? Was that the owner of this phone, and the bike? What kind of person was he? Who was this woman who thought she was talking to Cloud? Then he realized he was supposed to say something back. But he wasn't Cloud, so he couldn't speak for that person. He was speechless, but he figured he should make some kind of indication that he was there.

"Uh-" his voice caught in his throat. What was he supposed to say?

The woman sounded concerned. "Cloud?"

Denzel found the courage to actually speak, and decided he just wanted to talk to this woman. She was another person, someone who wanted to listen to him, right now. "No, I'm not."

There was silence for a moment as the woman processed what she had just heard. "Who are you? This is Cloud's phone, isn't it?" She sounded uncertain, as if she had made a mistake.

Denzel knew she was right, that this phone wasn't his. But he didn't know who the hell it belonged to, or who this Cloud was. "I don't know. I don't know what I should do. Please..." his voice trembled, and his eyes began to water. He sniffed, and brought his arm up to wipe his eyes.

The woman heard him. "Are you... crying?"

Denzel didn't know what to do. He didn't have any idea what to do. And he didn't even want to think anymore. He just wanted to sit there and cry, like any normal child would have in his position. He shouldn't have to figure these things out, that's what adults were for! But no, all the adults in his life abandoned him, or died. It wasn't fair. Nothing was fair. He just hoped the woman on the other side wouldn't hang up, and that she would keep talking to him.

Then the pain struck. It hurt more than anything he had ever experienced. His head throbbed, and felt like someone was stabbing him in the brain with a hot, metal stake. He cried out, and held his head, dropping to his knees. The phone slipped from his grasp and clattered to the ground as he gripped his forehead. The woman cried out, worried.

"Is something wrong? Are you okay? Cloud, Cloud! Are you there? Please pick up!"

Denzel couldn't hear her over his own throbbing head. He held his forehead, the root of the pain, and felt a sticky substance. I don't want to die. he thought. I just found someone to talk to me, to listen to me and worry about me, I don't want to die yet! Please don't let it be black, don't let it be black... He opened his eyes, and looked at his hands. They were pitch black. Geostigma.

So that's it then. He was infected. There was no cure. He was going to die. Maybe, if he tried to sleep right now, he wouldn't wake up. Then the pain would be gone. Maybe he'd see mom and dad, and Ruvi, and Gaskin, and all of the other people who had cared for him, and died. The thought gave him a shred of happiness in the growing chasm of despair where his heart used to be. He let himself go limp and hit the ground, closing his eyes, hopefully for the last time.


Cloud was happy. He liked to spend time there in Aerith's church, smelling the fresh scent of flowers and old wood. Is was as if by coming here, he could feel her, be with her once again. But it was never the same. Aerith was dead. So was Zack. He'd never see them again. Even so, being here brought back pleasant memories. Sometimes he felt like he could hear the young woman's voice, her laugh, her motherly tone...

But now it was time to head back. Tifa was probably calling him over and over, like she did. He had taken to leaving his phone outside during his visits, to avoid being disturbed. He'd missed lunch again, but that was usual. Why did she always have to call him? He came home eventually... Nothing could really stop him from getting anywhere, and it's not like Sephiroth was going to pop out and try to kill him again... He stood up from the pew he had been sitting on, brushing off his clothes. He caught a powerful whiff of Aerith's flowers and shut his eyes, breathing in deeply. He wondered how these flowers weren't dead yet, since nobody was taking care of them anymore. He'd try, but he figured he'd just make things worse. They didn't need him.

The doors creaked as Cloud pushed them open, and boomed as he let them go and close themselves. Cloud took a look around, and satisfied that everything was as he left it, he turned to go get his bike. It was right in front of the church, just as he'd left it. He stopped as he heard a voice.

"Cloud, pick up! Please!"

The voice was distorted, like on a phone. It was coming from behind his bike... he rushed over and looked around his beloved Fenrir, and found his phone lying open on the ground. He also found a small child. While both of these developments were puzzling, he figured he should probably pick up. It sounded like Tifa, anyway. He knelt next to the child and picked up the phone.

"Tifa? Is that you?" He hadn't bothered to check who had called. He knew her voice all too well.

"Cloud? Oh thanks the goddess, Is there a boy with you?"

Cloud looked at the boy in front of him. "Yup," he said simply. What else was he supposed to say?

Tifa sounded relieved, albeit a little bit. "Okay, is he okay? What happened?"

How the hell should he know? All he knew was there was a random kid out here who had probably messed with his phone, and prank called Tifa or something. Probably tried riding the bike, too. " I don't know, I just got here."

"Well check! He sounded like he was in pain!" Her voice was frantic.

Cloud rolled his eyes, glad she couldn't see him. He took off his glove and felt for the boy's breathing. It was erratic, but it was there. "He's breathing, but he's not moving."

There was silence on the other end, for once. Cloud secretly relished this. It was rare for her to call him and be talking the whole time. "Is there anyone else there? What about his parents?"

That was a dumb question. What idiot kid would go wandering in the ruins of Midgar-which could collapse at any moment-if they had a nice home, and parents to live with? This kid was probably an orphan, a dumb one at that. Then again, Cloud came here often... he shook the thought away; he didn't want to name himself a hypocrite. "Nope, there's no one here."

Tifa thought for a moment. Cloud focused his attention on the kid in front of him. He didn't look good. Cloud gently rolled him over to see his face, and his eyes grew wide. There was a large black smear on his forehead, and a puddle of black near where his head used to be. Pus oozed down the boy's face like dark tears. Cloud could only stare at the sight. Geostigma had stuck again.

"Poor kid..."

Tifa spoke again. "What? What's wrong?"

Cloud tried to sound calm. Well, he was, actually. There was nothing he could do for the kid. He was going to die, that was that. "He has Geostigma. It looks pretty bad."

Tifa gasped. "No... he's so young..."

Cloud winced. Of course. he thought. Diseases don't discriminate by age. It doesn't matter how old you are, it's stil deadly. He didn't want to think about that anymore. He'd already seen too many die that way.

"Could you... bring him back with you?"

Cloud would have done a double-take if Tifa were here with him. Had he heard right? She wanted him to bring this random kid-a Stigma victim at that-back to the bar with him? It was contagious, right? Was she stupid? He didn't think it was a good idea to ask her using those specific words, so he changed them up a bit. "Tifa, I really don't think that's a god idea-"

"Cloud, he has no one. Are you just going to leave him there to die? How could you do that?"

Great. Now He was the bad guy? The last time he checked, he never hurt anyone without reason. He just wasn't a bad guy. And this kid... he had a reason to leave the kid behind. He was deadly. He didn't want Tifa to get hurt. And Marlene... Barret would destroy him if he knew Cloud was the cause of their pain. He wasn't going to let anything happen to them. He would protect them from whatever tried to hurt them. "Tifa, really, it's not-"

"Please Cloud. Don't make me come down there myself and drag you both back here, because I will. If you leave that boy there, you're no better than Shinra!"

A pang of guilt hit him. What she said was offensive, but true. Shinra didn't care about the sick or hurt. Especially the contagious. If anything was dangerous to the company, it was eradicated. It was good that the company was destroyed a year ago, along with everything else. But now, if Cloud left this kid here...

"Alright. But be careful around him, okay?"

Tifa was smiling. "Thank you, Cloud. Hurry, okay?"

"Gotcha." Cloud hung up.

He knelt there, hesitant. Then he sighed. "Great. Okay, okay. I'll do it." He reached over and pulled the boy up under his armpits, and lifted him into the air. "Geez, you don't weigh anything, do you?" He turned and set the boy onto the back of his bike, making sure he could hold himself up. He noticed the boy wasn't really all there, that his eyes were vacant. "Tifa said to take you home kid." He turned and threw his leg over the side of the bike, settling himself in front. "Grab on."

He felt something thump against his back, and figured it was the boy. He turned his head to look as he heard whimpers come from the boy's mouth. He figured the boy was too weak to hold on himself, so he drew his arm back and grabbed the boy's hand, pulling it in front of him, keeping the child secure. He felt the boy's hand shaking, and looked down. The whimpers continued, and Cloud's eyebrows furrowed in sympathy. It must have been painful.

He really didn't want to bring the boy back with him. It would just be one more person he wasn't able to save. But, well, Tifa was very convincing when it came to these things, and not giving up. He sighed. "Alright, let's get you home."

He revved the engine and sped off towards Edge, leaving the church behind. Well, maybe it's hopeless. he thought. Maybe there is no cure. But that's no reason to stop trying, right? Maybe there was a chance he could save someone for once. He smiled at the thought.


Ah, prelude is done! Basically all we get in On a Way to a Smile, but in much more detail. Also, with the dialog, I took the words from the online novel because the English version of Advent Children Complete makes Tifa sound like a bitch. I mean, I hate her and all, but I don't think she'd speak that way to a child. Urgh, now I'm angry. I hate English dubs. Anyways, I used the online translation of the novel for the dialog.

Is good, ja? =D Alas, this is not over. I will write more, because this fic is meant to tell of Denzel's and Cloud's relationship. I love what I have in store for them... and I do hope you do as well, otherwise I can't hope for a career in writing. Bleh. Anyways, reviews are nice. They make me feel like I'm not just writing this for myself (I'm really not, I write for you guys!). So yeah. Kaarina out.