Disclaimer: Final Fantasy VII and its respective properties belong to Square-Enix.
Introduction: So what is this? Call it my literary experiment, attempting to tackle the ever mysterious social jungle known as high school and how much of an impact the day to day events can have on altering various peoples lives that associate themselves with it.
"SHARDS OF PANE"
He'd been awake since 6:10.
A quick shower, a 15 minute review of yesterday's school notes, a breakfast consisting of a plain bagel with a glass of milk and a peck on his sleeping mother's cheeks and he was all ready for what the rest of the morning had to offer.
He stopped in the tiny living room and turned on the news, quickly listening to the latest headlines making the morning. Running a hand through his hair, he opened the door to the house and picked up the newspaper before stepping back inside the living room.
More headlines pertaining to tensions in the Middle East, the shaky economy and rampant corruption in politics.
Cloud sighed and neatly folded the newspaper, laying it on the small kitchen counter. He turned back to the TV, as the anchor woman discussed what the new recent tax changes would mean to everyone. He listened attentively, blinking slowly in the process as he bit carefully on his left thumb.
Checking his watch, he noticed it was now quarter past seven and promptly turned the television off. Although school didn't start for another hour, he always wanted to arrive well in advance to review.
Slinging his backpack over his shoulder, he opened the door again, this time cracking a light smile at the sight of the beautiful sunny morning. Just another step closer to graduation and off to the Ivy League in the fall hopefully, provided he maintained his immaculate GPA for that scholarship.
Although it could have been a grind at times, he would truly miss high school.
Jumping into his old blue Civic, he fired the still serviceable car up and made off towards his destination.
Coming to a stop, he began panting lightly from the 40 minute jog.
A quick check of his clock and he shook his head in dismay, disappointed with his time. His body was dehydrated and needed water. He placed both hands overtop his head and walked the remaining distance towards the gym of the school.
He looked up at the sky and quickly at the sun for a second, turning his eyes away. Light beads of sweat poured down his forehead, followed by a quick use of his sleeve to remove the perspiration.
"Hey Seph," a group of females waved to him as they passed by. He nodded in reply and gave a single quick wave, continuing towards the gym.
He entered the newly renovated building and trekked down the empty hall, the crisp morning air immediately giving way to a warmer, air conditioned climate. Briefly stopping at a water fountain, his lips made contact with sweet tasting, filtered ice cold water. Quenching his thirst, the feet moved towards the locker room, stopping briefly by the trophy cabinet. He stared with mild fascination at all the accolades achieved by students throughout the school over the years.
His calm turquoise eyes shimmered as the morning light trickled through the numerous windows of the facility. Curious irises moved around rapidly, taking in the sights before looking away, satiating their desires for the morning.
Blinking softly, he turned and headed towards the locker room where he pulled out his duffel bag, emptying his body wash and towel from it. Stopping momentarily, his alert eyes looked up, noticing an orange haired individual sitting in the far corner, staring back at him.
The kid nodded. "Sup Sephiroth."
"Hey," Sephiroth nodded in acknowledgement, unsure of whom he was.
Treading towards the shower, he stepped in, allowing the cold water to turn warm before stepping underneath. Immediately, he moved back out and stared at the tap for a moment, his dripping hair partially obstructing his view. Without second thought, he fully turned the tap towards the blue side, allowing the stream to turn uncomfortably cold.
Once again, he stepped underneath the water and began to apply body wash.
"Oh my God, you have to run now!" she hissed, unable to contain her gleeful smile.
"But I'm just having so much fun. What's the worst thing he could do?"
"He'll kill you. I swear. My dad totally will."
The sound of footsteps from outside the door were becoming clearer as Zack scurried around the room, collecting his shirt and slipping it on. He charged to the window and opened it up. Turning around, he flashed a mischievous smile and winked. "Later babe."
"Go!" she cried in hush again, letting a laugh slip.
He slid through the window, momentarily slamming his elbow on an edge during the frenzy. Wincing in pain, he quickly adjusted the grimace into a sheepish grin and treaded out on the roof, carefully navigating his way towards the end. Looking down at the front yard below, he swallowed some air and jumped, landing into a roll before getting up awkwardly, limping for a few seconds before taking off down the street.
"Woooooo!" he shouted ecstatically at the top of his lungs, euphoria pumping within his veins. he continued running down the street elatedly.
She giggled in delight, enjoying the moment yet genuinely terrified for her boyfriend's well-being at the same time.
She watched him scurry over to the window and climb out, clumsily banging his elbow along the way. Bringing a hand to cover her mouth, she suppressed a laugh and slid out of bed, immediately throwing a large black shirt over her topless body that went all the way down to her knees.
"Honey, are you awake?" she heard her father on the end of the door.
"Gonna be late for school. Want me to drive you later?"
"Nah it's okay. I got Tifa coming to pick me up in a half." She eagerly waited, listening for his footsteps to disappear. A few more seconds passed before they did, his figure descending down the staircase.
She smiled and threw herself back on her bed, laying sprawled out for a moment and enjoying the moment in pure bliss.
Today was going to be perfect. She knew it. The start of the morning often determined how the rest of the day would play out and this one was slated to be exceptional.
"What the fuck are you staring at Valentine?"
Vincent, seated on the bleachers, turned towards his friend with a scowl. "Your ugly visage in the morning." He turned back and looked off across the field as he lustfully watched a group of four attractive females walking towards the library.
To him, they were cunts. Shallow, materialistic whores who offered no depth.
"Visage? Way too early for that shit man."
"Whatever." Vincent ignored him and continued staring, his steely eyes analyzing the scene. He squinted as he witnessed Sephiroth walk by the females, his eyes switching focus from them and onto the athletic silver haired student.
Unconsciously, his eyes narrowed even further as they automatically traced the unaware student's path into the gym.
"You lookin' at that punk Sephiroth? He's a pretty boy bitch."
Vincent swallowed carefully and slowly looked back out onto the field, pulling out a cigarette. "Who gives a shit? You got a light?"
"Cid, where are you?"
"Underneath the fucking car," he exclaimed, pushing himself out from underneath, revealing greasy fingers and a stained face.
"The swearing sweetie. Please tone it down. You're not going to school like that I hope?" she cried out, kneeling down to rub some grease from his face away.
"Shera, I got time. Relax." He pushed her hand away and picked himself up. "Did you make anything?"
She smiled sweetly and stood up as well, extending a brown paper bag and a plastic cup forward. "Apple strudels and I got you tea as well."
"That's why you're the best." He bent down slightly and planted a kiss on her cheeks.
"Eww. Cid!" she slapped him with the brown paper bag across the shoulder. "You've got grease all over your face. Go take a shower already. We gotta go soon."
She frowned, lips quivering. "Do you want to repeat high school a third time?"
Sighing, he rolled his eyes. "Fine, fuck it," he grinned, throwing a rag on the floor and closing up the front hood of his Camaro.
"Cid…" she scolded, glaring at him in frustration.
He rolled his eyes. "Yeah, yeah, the swearing, whatever."
"Hey dad," she called out cheerfully as she passed her father in the kitchen, quickly wrapping her arms around him from behind and planting a kiss on his cheek.
"Morning kiddo," he briefly placed a palm on her wrapped arm. "How'd you sleep?"
"Good, I guess." She stopped and opened the fridge, pulling out a banana and an apple. "I mean like, it's been better the last few nights I guess.
"What do you have today?"
Peeling the banana, she took a bite. "Ah, nothing really. I'm picking up Aerith because she absolutely doesn't wanna be late this time. She's got a test later."
"Is that all you're having for breakfast?" he father asked, slight parental concern on his middle aged face.
"I got this apple for later too." She rolled her eyes. "Dad relax. "I'm going to buy lunch, don't worry."
"It's just… Well you're already so beautiful. I don't want you thinking you barely have to eat to keep your figure. I'm sure all the boys won't stop staring."
She chuckled and shook her head in amusement. "Dad… I'd rather not be talking about boys with you if you don't mind. I gotta get ready."
"Kay sweetheart, I'll see you when I get home from work. Have a great day."
She nodded and left the house with her bag, jumping into her Miata. First, a quick stop at the gas station before heading over to Aerith's, who she knew still wouldn't be ready.
Reno quickly shielded his face as another large fist came crashing into his wrist, sending him sprawling back and toppling over a kitchen chair.
"Ungrateful prick!" the older man roared. "Don't you ever talk back to me boy, you hear?"
"Will you stop it?" his step-mother yelled, fear abundant in her voice. "He's learned his lesson."
"Smartass will never learn till ya beat him straight!" The gruff man stepped forward, forcing Reno on his back, legs brought up in a defensive position, ready to kick. "What're you gonna do? Kick me with them weak legs of yours?"
Reno heaved forcefully, his heart feeling as if it were stuck in his throat, adrenaline firing at an all-time high. His senses and equilibrium were on full alert and he was ready to unleash his kicks from his position on the floor if his step-mother's boyfriend came any closer.
"Just leave him!" she screamed again desperately.
"Better be prepared to fight back if yer gonna be a smartass!"
The man stepped forward once more, within striking distance and Reno put all his force into sending his right leg forward, his boot connecting with the lower left kneecap of the older man.
A dull, hollow sound was emitted, followed shortly by a quick cry of pain as his attacker fell back, clutching his knee in agony.
"Reno!" his step-mother screamed, streaming tears having fully ruined her cheap makeup.
"Fucker broke my shin! He broke my shin! You're a fucking dead man!"
Reno quickly got up and jumped out the porch door and into the morning.
She was careful and very precise when it came to her craft in the earlier stages of the morning. Skimming the aisles of the convenience store as inconspicuously, she casually brought her eyes up from time to time, glancing quickly at the cashier.
With eyes going back down on the items around her, she carefully grabbed a bag of Smarties and looked back up once more. The cashier was handling a customer purchasing a scratch and win ticket. Once more, her eyes descended on some gum, which she expertly picked up two packs of, one stealthily being slipped up her sleeve.
Again, she peered through the aisle and at the cashier. He was as oblivious as he would've been this morning coming in. Her eyes calculatingly swept the rest of the small shop, taking notice of an elderly man by the fridges, contemplating a selection of dairy products.
She bit her lip and looked up as the door opened, yet another customer walking in. Her eyes quickly landed on the cashier's, who much to her sudden surprise, looked straight back at her. She could feel the heat rising throughout her body as she became uncomfortably warm inside her tiny sweater and highly self-aware.
It was now time to stop lingering.
Walking through the aisle, she carefully made her way towards the payment area as she picked up a chocolate bar and discreetly hid it up her other sleeve.
Approaching the cashier, she offered a beaming smile. "Hey."
"Hello, how are you today?" the middle aged cashier asked.
"Oh I'm good." She slipped the single pack of gum onto the table.
"Is that all?"
She stared at him confidently, face never faltering. "That's it."
"You ready to go sweetheart?"
Marlene nodded, running up to him, her tiny arms outstretched. He couldn't help contain the smile that escaped his lips as he put down his coffee and kneeled down, scooping her up in his large arms as she embraced him.
"Daddy," her child-like sing-song voice always brought a new light to his day.
He put her back down and brushed some hair from the front of her face. "Okay, Daddy has to go to work now, so are we ready?"
"Why can't you teach at my school?"
He chuckled, grabbing the keys and exiting the home, his daughter by his side. "Because they pay better at high school," he joked, which was only partially true. "Come on sweetheart." He held her hand as they descended the steps towards the SUV.
"Can I ride in the front please?" She pleaded so innocently.
He sighed, looking down at the most adorable thing in existence and nodded. "Just today. No, just this morning actually. I wouldn't be a good dad keeping you up front."
"But I'm a big girl now!" she stomped her tiny feet, hands on her hips.
He stared down at her intense eyes and sighed, secretly hoping she would remain young and innocent forever.
"Reeve, are you coming down? Breakfast's ready!" his mother's cries came from the kitchen down below.
This always surprised him considering the scope of their elegant home and how far it would take the sound to travel all the way up the spiral staircase, down the hall and into his room.
He fixed his button shirt, adjusting the collar and finished combing his hair. Staring outside across the lush garden, his eyes averted over towards his grand figurine collection across his dresser.
Gravitating towards them, he stopped, fingers cautiously brushing over several anime figures and statues.
"Reeve!" his impatient father shouted. "Your mother's calling you!"
He shut his eyes, rubbing the bridge of his nose. Only one more semester and he would be out of this hell hole, away from this shallow, vapid society. He would go as far away as possible, hopefully to Harvard or Yale and be forgotten in the east coast; away from the tyranny of all the simple minded, emotionless vampire hordes he was surrounded by every day. With all their wealth, why couldn't he have attended a private school?
Glancing at his figurine and model collection once more, he took a deep breath and left the room, descending down the stairs and into the kitchen. He greeted the housemaid along the way and entered the dining area where his father and mother were already seated.
"Good morning dear," his mother spoke without looking up from her newspaper.
His father looked up at him impatiently. "What took you so long? Haven't I always told you that time is money?"
"You go out in the real world and your perfect grades won't help you if you can't adapt to the environment. We're not gonna be there to coddle you, so straighten up."
"I'm gonna go to school."
"Good, start the day early and be perfect. It's the only element to success." His father put down the newspaper. "I'll have the driver get ready for you."
His clenched fists went off like charged blasts in rapid succession, one after another, continually invoking a violent destructive force on their target.
He grunted fiercely, ignoring the sweat on his eyelashes, dripping down on his cheeks. The tip of his nose was also wet with perspiration.
His fists continued unleashing a barrage of fury over and over as the punching bag fell back from the explosive impact.
Several more minutes of sustained high intensity exertion ensued before he paused, panting desperately as he lifted up a portion of the wife beater to wipe his face.
Checking his watch, he felt satisfied with his workout for the morning, grabbing a bottle of water and instantly consuming all of its contents.
Picking up his sports bag, he threw it over a shoulder and headed towards the change room, walking through the training room, into the cardio floor, past the indoor pool and finally into the change room. The area was still dimly lit, and so he flipped all the remaining switches, flooding the area with electric vision.
Taking a seat in a far corner of the lockers, he proceeded to unwrap the bandages covering his fists. He sat there for a few moments, tidying up all his equipment and beginning to undo his laces.
The opening of the main doors to the change room invited his attention as he glanced up, witnessing a grey hooded figure walk in. His entire front chest was drenched in sweat and upon recognition of the mysterious aqua irises, Genesis immediately knew who it was.
As if on cue, the student looked up, completely oblivious of another presence in the room.
"Sup Sephiroth," Genesis stated.
"Hey," the other man barely acknowledged, immediately looking away and moving towards his locker.
Genesis looked on bitterly, berating himself for even addressing him by his name in the first place. Of course the mighty Sephiroth would be far too important and self-absorbed to even possibly know who he was.
Shaking his head in dismay at himself, he threw his training equipment into his bag and waited for Sephiroth to finish so he could shower.
Neatly tucking away all his lecture slides for the rest of the day, he got up from the desk and stared out the window, his small, fragile frame taking in the morning sunlight. Through round spectacles, he squinted gazed off towards the track, noticing two dark hooded individuals sitting up high on the bleachers.
With slight interest, his orbs carefully shifted as they took in other sights, witnessing a few students passing by here and there, including a group of girls walking past a hooded jogger.
"Hojo," a calm, serene voice interrupted his sightseeing, prompting him to turn around in response.
His professional demeanor softened, if only for a brief instant, as a crack of smile surfaced. "Lucrecia. Didn't know you came in so early this morning."
"Oh you know, I became too complacent yesterday and left everything for today. I should go prep for the morning labs."
"Okay," he nodded, studying her intensely.
She smiled politely. "How are you this morning?"
He shook his head and shrugged. "Another fresh day with exciting possibilities. Another set of challenges trying to make students actually care about science."
She laughed and nodded. "Well, you just have to mix it up, try to keep up with what they like today and sprinkle that in with what you're teaching." She stopped a second. "Okay, I have to go prep." She turned and walked out of the class, leaving Hojo standing by the window, gazing at the empty door with hands in his pockets.
He continued driving down the empty street and turned left into a wealthy neighborhood. His Volvo SUV smoothly rolled across the wide pavement as the numerous beautiful trees planted across the sidewalk produced a mesmerizing reflection off the spotless windshield of the car.
He turned on the radio, listening to the morning news about the oil crisis and grunted in amusement, rolling his eyes about the irony of driving a gas guzzling vehicle while this bit of news came on.
"What can you do… right?" he muttered under his breath.
Several more minutes of careful maneuvering went by and he proceeded past a gated area and up a shallow incline as he passed a series of very expensive homes.
Finally coming up alongside a large, three story, San Diego décor mansion, he slowed to a stop and parked the car, jumping out. The crisp morning air was beginning to warm up, being far friendlier than when he'd first left the house. It was shaping up to be a beautiful, warm sunny day he presumed.
Climbing the steps to the main entrance, he ran the doorbell, waiting several moments before a maid answered. "Hey," he greeted.
"Rufus, good morning," she responded warmly. "You here for Elena?"
He nodded. "Yeah, is she ready?"
He sat in his chair inside the office and leaned back, taking a moment to relax. Exhaling slowly, he looked up at pictures along a tall cabinet of his peers.
Swallowing carefully, he leaned forward in his chair and began looking over papers once more.
Several minutes passed before his eyes fell on the calendar, tired irises attentively locked on the dates all set to come.
This was the last semester, he had to remind himself. Just a few more months to go in the school year and he would retire at last. When he had first begun as the principal of the school, he had never envisioned the position taking such a toll on his body and mind every day, testing his limits.
Fights, instances of drug use, delinquency, acts of insubordination, frequent suspensions, and the occasional drama free day were what he often had to look forward to throughout his tenure.
Twelve years of trying to rein everything in would soon come to an end and it would be someone else's problem. No more stress and exhaustive hours away from his fading son.
Beneath it all, he was torn about leaving it all behind and placing the burden on someone else as opposed to looking out for his own well-being, as his doctor often suggested he do.
"Come on Rude, time to get up."
He groggily turned in his bed, pulling his sheets up to cover his face.
His mother forcefully ripped the sheets away and opened the blinds, flooding the room with much needed light.
He immediately shot up and reached for his shades on his night table, slipping them on.
Sighing, his mother stared down at him worriedly. "Honey, maybe if you didn't wear those all the time and talked more, you'd have more friends." He shrugged and stood up, brushing past her and towards the washroom. "Why don't you wear something different today instead of all that black?"
"No," he replied curtly.
She sighed again, closing her eyes painfully. "Rude, you have to help me here. You can't just spend the last semester of school on your own. You want to graduate with memories don't you?"
He turned to her, a conflicted expression on his face, it was difficult to tell with the shades on however. "What does it matter? I've made it this far on my own. What's another couple of months?"
Taking a slow drag of his cigarette, he exhaled thoughtfully, puckering his lips and controlling the smoke escaping. He turned towards his hooded companion and attempted to trace his friend's gaze. "What the fuck are you staring at Valentine?"
The other man was silent for a while, sitting still. Tseng was unsure if he had heard him or if he would respond if he did at all.
Finally, the dark haired man turned to stare at him mechanically. "Your ugly visage in the morning."
Tseng frowned. Okay, he thought, just another strange quip from his equally strange friend. "Visage? Way too early for that shit man."
He appreciated his companion's witty, sardonic sense of humor but sometimes, especially this early in the morning, he simply wanted a straight response.
Once more, his eyes traced a path from where Vincent was looking and they immediately laid rest on a familiar hooded figure.
Sephiroth. He immediately recognized him. Oh how he despised him and his seemingly perfect nature and temperament. People such as them didn't fit in very well with people of Sephiroth's nature.
Taking another drag, he exhaled, never taking his eyes off of him as he headed towards the gym.
"You lookin' at that punk Sephiroth? He's a pretty boy bitch." Which pretty much summed up what he meant to both Vincent and him.
She shut her eyes, blocking any attempts at flaring tears from escaping as she lay face up in her bed.
Her father rolled off the bed and stood up, picking up his button shirt and slipping it on. She knew he still had his eyes fixed on her and it was very important then and there that she not visibly break down and weep in front of him.
"You're not going to cry are you? Remember what we talked about?" his stern, but deceptively soft voice travelled in her ears. "Elena? Look at me," he authoritatively commanded.
Choking back a sob, she hesitantly pried her eyes open, a thin pool of clear liquid rolling down her spotless face.
"Elena dear, are you awake?" Her mother called from far downstairs.
She kept her eyes focused on the plain ceiling and instantly, an image of her father appeared overtop, as he brought down his arms beside each shoulder, pinning her, his face and body only a foot above hers.
"I'm your father, you understand?"
She nodded, her tear stained eyes blinking profusely. "Yeah…" she cried softly, her voice on the verge of cracking. She wouldn't give him the satisfaction of seeing her completely break down.
"Good," he whispered, bending down and planting a tender soft kiss on her mouth. "Now get dressed and come downstairs." He stood up and left the room.
"Elena!" her mother shouted once more. "Rufus is here!"
A/N: Safe to say, by now you've figured out this isn't a typical high school fluff piece of any nature. Stay tuned.