Been a while hasn't it?! Here ya go~!


Loud Whispers V – Friends Like These

His alarm was blaring in his ears earlier than he appreciated. The weekend was gone.

He rolled over to shut it off, but before he could lift his hand, the noise was silenced.

"Thanks Vince," he mumbled.

Vincent sat up against Cloud's dresser. The night before, he'd fallen asleep reading on his friend's bedroom floor, and woke up in the middle of the night with a blanket and pillows.

"Thanks for making sure I didn't freeze."

Cloud muttered something else before turning back over and shrouding himself in more cover. Vincent left him alone, leaving the room to take a shower.

An hour and a half later, the two were on their way to school. Cloud asked Vincent to drive. Even though it was a short fifteen minutes, Cloud wanted to get as much sleep as he could before the day even started. And he didn't feel safe behind the wheel in his state.

When he parked, Vincent shook him awake.

"What time did you go to sleep?"

Cloud shrugged in reply. He opened the door to get out. "I don't know. After four, I think. You fell asleep around midnight."

Vincent sighed. "The insomnia?"

The blond only nodded in response, swinging his jacket over his shoulder. The bell for the first class rang.

/~/

Tifa turned the lock and pulled her locker open with a sigh. She hadn't spoken to her father since he left, and she sure did not like leaving things the way they had. Apologizing was not an option; she just wanted to know why. Even though it was a reoccurring issue, it still pestered her when she thought about it. They were her best friends after all.

"Morning!"

She looked beyond the steel door to a bright smile. The brunette's features softened.

"Good morning, Aerith. Had a good weekend?"

Aerith nodded. "Zack and I had dinner on Saturday. A romantic one. It was great. Much different from our other dates," she giggled. "I know, I sound so girly."

Tifa's smile widened. "No! That sounds great. Finally treating you like he should!"

They laughed quietly together, even though the halls were still full.

"So, your practice sessions went well?"

"Yeah." Tifa closed her locker, stuffing her book into her backpack. "Yep, everything went really well. We're having practice again tonight."

"Oh! Well, speaking of, have you seen Vincent? If I wasn't working this weekend, I was with Zack. I've been meaning to give him his ring back."

The brunette looked quizzically at her. "No, I haven't seen him or Cloud yet today. I think they're coming to school together."

"Oh… well, if you see him before –"

The bell rang then, cutting Aerith off.

"If you see him before me, let him know okay? See you later!" Aerith left Tifa with a wave.

Tifa waved back, before heading for her history class. She tried to be excited – it was her favorite subject – but she found enthusiasm difficult. Every time she thought of history, she thought of the people in her class with her.

Or rather, one girl in particular.

Nope. Not today. I am not letting Priscilla ruin my day today. I woke up in a good mood, I saw Aerith and we talked, everything is going to be just fine today.

As she walked into class, she hummed a tune she had recently written. Priscilla was not there yet, and Tifa took her seat. The class was beginning to fill up, but she tried not to pay attention to who was coming in. She got her notebook and pen out of her bag and sat them on her desk, before rummaging around some more.

A tap on the shoulder alerted her. She looked up to see Zack smiling at her as he walked to his seat in the next row. She gave him a slight wave, before sitting up straight. In the corner of her eye, she saw her.

Good day… Good day… Good day…

"Good morning class!"

Tifa focused on the teacher, her gaze unwavering. The lights were turned down a few moments later. A documentary appeared on the projector screen.

Out of the corner of her eye, she saw Priscilla giggling with a boy on her other side. Tifa huffed and took notes from the movie. Priscilla glanced at her and smiled. She began to take her own notes.

"You can't have him Lockheart. He's mine."

Tifa ignored her comment, furiously writing down information. The other girl scoffed.

"Oh, come on Tifa. Don't be selfish. You can't have all the men to yourself."

The brunette paused, then muttered, "I think you already have that taken care of."

Priscilla snickered. "Please. At least I don't lie to my friends. They know my flaws. You try to hide everything from them. What kind friend are you supposed to be?"

Tifa huffed. A good day does not involve kicking people in the face. That is frowned upon by society.

"So you're proud of being a slut?"

The girl's eyes narrowed. "I always know what I'm doing. I'm not a drunk whore."

Tifa's gaze snapped to Priscilla, who smiled immodestly and went back to her conversation with the boy. Tifa could feel the heat rising in her face, but devoted her attention backs to the screen in front of her.

Zack watched this interaction from a few rows behind. What was that about? He knew Priscilla and Tifa didn't like each other – he could tell just by being in this class every other day. Well that was quite interesting…

At least he was more entertained than most days in history; otherwise, he would be asleep. A nap sounds good actually.

Minutes later, the bell awoke him from his slumber.

"We'll be continuing this documentary next class. Have a nice day!" the teacher tried to shout as people bustled out of the room.

Tifa gathered her things slowly to avoid another confrontation at the door. Once she saw Priscilla was gone, she sighed. Now she had a headache, and it was only her first class. The next wasn't going to give her much help in her current mental state.

In the hallway, a hand gently grabbed her shoulder. She looked up to see Zack.

"Saw you talking to Pris."

Tifa snorted. "Saw you were asleep again."

"Hey now, let's not change the subject." He smiled at her. "Why don't you like her? I mean, I know her reputation, but I just ignore the bitch. You two really go at it!"

She rolled her eyes. "I don't have to like everyone Zack. And she annoys a lot of people, not just me." She sighed. "I have to go to math okay? See you at lunch?"

He nodded. "Of course!" he called over the crowd with a wave.

Ugh, great. That's what I need. A hound on the trail!

Since she had to pass by her locker again to get to her class, she stopped to put her history book away. As soon as she turned around, someone was hugging her.

"How was history?"

She groaned into his chest. He let her go.

"What happened?"

Tifa just shook her head, closing her locker. "I'd rather not. Let's just move on with our day, the past is the past, blah blah blah." She began to walk toward the end of the hall.

Cloud laughed at her. "Feel good today?"

She nodded. "Yes. Fully recovered! How's Vincent? Has he been home?"

"No. He refuses to go until he runs out of clothes again—"

He stopped when he noticed her staring into his face. Cloud raised a brow.

She was beginning to see creases under his eyes.

"Tifa…"

"You're still not sleeping, are you?"

He sighed. "I'll be okay." He wrapped an arm around her shoulders and smiled softly. "Come on, let's go to math class. We like math class."

Tifa groaned again.

/~/

Zack sat in his seat, trying his hardest to listen. But Hojo was just so hard to listen to.

Does he just drone on and on? And half the crap he says is crazy! How did he get hired…?

Vincent was a few rows away. Zack chanced a few peeks at the him, who looked even less enthused than he felt. More like bored out of his mind.

"We will be doing a dissection today. Find a partner – do not delay."

Zack smiled, taking the opportunity. As students moved to the back of the room with the tables, he slid into the seat across from Vincent at one of them.

"No, Zack, what are you doing?" He almost seemed to beg him to leave.

"Hey there, Vincent. How's your morning going?"

"Worse now," he muttered. Some students were distributing lab equipment.

"Oh, don't be that way. Why do you dislike me so?"

Vincent didn't answer.

"Well, I wanted to move on anyway. What's up with Tifa and Priscilla?"

Vincent blinked. "What?"

He looked up at Zack. The latter repeated his question. Vincent replied with a shrug. "I don't really know. Tifa doesn't talk about it much. Why?"

Zack sighed, resting his chin in his palm. "Guess I'm just curious. They nearly ripped each other's throats out last period. I thought Tifa was going to have an aneurysm."

Vincent side-eyed him.

"Okay, maybe it wasn't that drastic, but I assume you know what kind of tension I'm talking about?"

The red-eyed boy nodded, but did not say anything. He didn't know what to say. For one, he didn't want to talk to Zack in the first place, but especially about something so sensitive. Even though he and Tifa were friends, there are just some things that people should be able to keep to themselves.

"Vincent?"

He sighed. "I don't know, alright? Like I said, Tifa doesn't talk about Priscilla if she can help it. She just… I guess she tries to ignore her existence."

Zack hummed quietly in consideration.

Vincent left the table to retrieve the rats they were supposed to be dissecting, now that they were available. He did not want to talk anymore – he didn't want to speak in the first place.

Please don't ask me anymore questions, he though sourly.

He sat back down at their end of the table, placing the tray in the middle of them.

"So, you really don't know?"

Vincent growled at him then, picking up a scalpel.

"Well, I guess you don't know…"

/~/

Finally. Reprieve!

Zack bit into his sandwich as he waved Cloud over from a few tables away. They greeted one another in a unique handshake, before Cloud sat down. He yawned.

"You look as bored as I've been. My day doesn't really start until after lunch unfortunately."

Cloud smiled. "I see…"

Zack sighed. "Yeah. History's boring. And Hojo freaks me the hell out."

"I'm just glad I didn't get him this year."

"Lucky bastard…"

Cloud laughed, crossing his arms on the table and resting his chin. "Is he really that bad?"

Zack threw his hands up in exasperation. "He's creepy!" He shook his head. "You know how you have to do research in college for science degrees? I would never volunteer as a test subject for him."

"Wow, Zack. I never knew anything got to you like that."

He laughed. "Oh no, Cloud. No natural thing does. Hojo's just not natural, that's all." Zack drummed his fingers on the table in thought. "Can I ask you something?"

Cloud raised a brow. "Hm?"

"What's the deal? I mean, do Tifa and Priscilla really hate each other that much, or am I just hallucinating?"

The blond raised his head, alert. "What happened?"

Zack shrugged. "Not too sure. I could have sworn Tifa was going to jump across the desk though."

"You're exaggerating."

"Maybe I am…"

He sighed. "It's complicated, Zack. They actually used to be friends."

Zack's eyes widened. "No."

Cloud only nodded in response. A second later, he looked up and smiled.

Zack's vision was covered by what he assumed to be hands. A girl giggled behind him. He grinned.

"Hello Aerith dear. I was just thinking of you."

Cloud put his head back down on the table. Aerith sat down next to Zack and kissed him on the cheek.

"Was he really Cloud?"

"Of course. He thinks of nothing else."

Aerith laughed. "Right," she drawled, before taking out her lunch. "So, how's everything going with you, Cloud?"

He shrugged. "Fine, I guess. Not really much to say; it's only Monday. How was work?"

She smiled brighter. "It was wonderful. The flowers are really coming in well at this time of the year. It's much different from Kalm."

"How so?"

"Well, usually the flowers that are blooming here now don't do so until the spring there. It's opposite here." She took a few bites of soup. "But, I like this season. All the changes…"

Zack finished his sandwich. "I love hearing you talking about the shop. It's beautiful."

She looked at him. "Oh Zack, please don't start getting sappy now!"

He laughed and hugged her, kissing her forehead. She giggled.

"Cloud, aren't you going to eat anything?" Aerith asked once she realized he didn't have a lunch.

"Not hungry. I'll probably eat later during class or something."

She nodded. "It's the early period, isn't it?"

/~/

Yuffie walked toward the courtyard with every intention of eating and studying. Usually she could multitask and ignore the circus around her, and she figured that today should not be much different. Besides that, she enjoyed the sun.

"Hey!"

She turned around to watch Priscilla walk up to her.

"Oh, hey. What's up?"

"I called you the other day! You okay?"

Yuffie's brow furrowed. "Yeah… Oh!" She shook her head. "Sorry, I was at Tifa's. And I've been studying all weekend for a test next period."

Priscilla's eyes narrowed. "Why were you at her house?"

"To make sure she was okay. She was really sick on Friday." Yuffie inwardly sighed. Why am I explaining myself to her?

The other girl shrugged. "Whatever." She looked at her nails before asking, "She seems to get sick a lot, doesn't she?"

"What do you mean?"

Priscilla looked behind her and smiled. "Nothing. Anyway, I have to go. Get some notes from Rick. I'll see you later!"

Yuffie watched her walk away and toward a guy down the hall, before they turned around a corner and out of sight. She shook her head again. Why does this day seem so long already?

Once outside, she looked for a table near a corner with little to no people. As she scanned the grounds, the first person she noticed was Vincent coming in from the other side. His eyes were downcast, his head bobbing lightly to the music playing through his headphones. Yuffie waved to catch his attention when he looked up, but he didn't see her.

Instead, his gaze left the ground and went straight to his left – and to a table.

Yuffie followed his eyes, and slouched slightly. Aerith was leaving the table and meeting him halfway. She smiled at him as he took the headphones off and let them hang from around his neck. Yuffie couldn't hear what they were saying, and a moment later she saw Aerith take a ring off of her finger and hand it back to him. He slipped it on before joining arms with her and heading for their table.

She found that she was barely hungry anymore. I'll just go to the library instead…

She heard someone call her name, but ignored it as she walked back into the school. A girl ran right into her as she turned the corner, and she dropped her book.

"I'm sorry!"

Yuffie huffed, wondering why she was apologizing. I was watching where I was going! She realized then that it was Tifa.

"No, I am. I was reading something." Tifa bent down and grabbed the book, handing it back to her. "Sorry Yuffie."

Yuffie have her a small smile. "It's fine. You look a lot better Tifa."

The girl blinked. "Thank you…?"

She wanted to smack herself. "Not that you… don't usually. I just mean…"

"Oh!" Tifa smiled back at her. "Thanks. Yeah…" She shook her head. "Sorry, again. I'm a bit scatterbrained right now. Just have a lot on my mind."

"No, it's cool!" Yuffie adjusted her grip on her book. "I need to go study anyway. I'll see you around."

Tifa bit her lip. "Uhm, yeah. Sure Yuffie."

/~/

"Yuffie! Hey!"

When Zack turned around to greet Aerith and Vincent, he spotted his cousin near the west entrance of the school. She never really eats with us.

"Yuffie!"

But, as if she didn't hear him, she walked back inside.

Zack huffed, turning back to their little group. "Do I not shout loud enough?"

Cloud laughed. "It's a pretty big courtyard with a lot of people Zack."

"He still talks really loud," Vincent mumbled. Aerith snickered, patting Zack on the hand.

"Hopefully she can join us tomorrow!"

Vincent nodded, before giving a slight wave to their approaching friend. She seemed in a hurry as she slid in the seat next to Cloud. He moved over to give her more room.

"What time is it?"

Zack checked his watch. Tifa groaned.

"There's only ten minutes left in lunch?!"

Cloud looked at her out of the corner of his eye, before taking a bag of chips out of his book bag. "Where have you been? You disappeared after math."

She took a deep breath. "I've been running all over this school looking for Ms. Crescent. She gave our papers back on Friday, and I left before that class."

"Doesn't she usually eat in the teacher's lounge?" Vincent asked.

Tifa exhaled loudly. "Well, I went there, and they told me she wasn't there. Then, I went to her classroom, but it was locked. I went to the office, and they said she was in a meeting. On my way back here, I ran into her and she gave it to me!" She sighed again. "So, here I am!"

"Happy to have you!" Aerith rejoined.

As Tifa ate her food, she remembered her previous encounter.

"Hey, Yuffie seemed kind of down. Is she okay Zack?"

He nodded. "Yeah, she just has a test today. Maybe that's why she went back inside. Didn't think studying out here was a good idea."

"Hm…" She bit her lip. "Yeah, I kind of rammed right into her looking at my essay."

Zack burst into laughter. Cloud and Aerith smiled.

"How did you do that?! She's not that small!" Zack roared.

"I don't know! I didn't mean to!" Tifa buried her face in her hands as the others laughed. She felt a smile creep onto her face, before she suddenly succumbed to the laugher that had spread around the table. When lunch was finally over, she didn't even register that she had barely eaten her food.

/~/

Finally.

Another ten minutes and he might have died across his desk. His ancient civilization class bored him near to tears. Aerith took a supreme interest in it that he could not understand, but when test time came around, she proved to be extremely useful.

Grabbing his backpack, Cloud slung it across one shoulder and departed the classroom as the bell chimed overhead. He was elated that the day was over, but anxious to make it back home.

He exited the school through a door down the hall from the class. The sun was warm but he could feel the familiar chilly winds of fall. The snows will start soon. He sighed.

Someone howled a few yards away, in the parking lot. He narrowed his eyes and glanced in the general direction, though he already knew who the culprits were.

"Cloud!"

He continued to ignore the person calling his name, though it was no use. When he walked into the parking lot, someone draped an arm around his shoulders and began to yank him in the opposite direction of his car.

"Hey buddy. Let me talk to you for a second."

"Thomas, I really don't have time for this."

"Sure you do. I've missed a couple of months of school, you can spare a few minutes with me can't you?"

Cloud swore. Thomas had just got out about a week ago and he was already causing trouble. This cannot be anything good.

"Are you trying to go back?"

Thomas shoved him against a car. "Are you trying to get hurt? I wouldn't have gone the last time hadn't it been for you."

He had to laugh. "You couldn't have thought that I would join you on that ride."

"Come on Cloud, you can trust us. With friends like these, who needs enemies?" Thomas gave him a snarling smile. "How about we take another ride? Just me and you. No witnesses."

"I'm sorry, Tommy. I don't swing that way."

Thomas swung at his face but Cloud hit it away. Someone wrapped an arm around his. He looked up.

"Excuse me Thomas, I need to borrow Cloud. He only swings that way for me. Sorry to let you down."

Vincent pulled his friend away from the fury in a heartbeat. Cloud would have laughed had it not been for his current mood.

"Thanks. You didn't have to do that."

Vincent shrugged. "Sure, I did. My purpose in life is to ruin yours remember?" He hugged Cloud's arm tighter. "Now everyone can think we're gay lovers and best friends. Isn't that splendid?"

Cloud pushed him away laughing. "Yeah, just great." He checked the time on his watch. "Hey, are you going home with Tifa?"

Vincent nodded. "Yeah, I was planning on it. You headed home?"

"I need to pick up my stuff. I'll meet you guys there."

"Sure thing."

Cloud climbed into his car. A few minutes later he pulled out of the school and began the drive home. His mom would still be at work at this point, that much he knew. And by now the mail should have been delivered…

He was right on both accounts. Cloud immediately went for the mailbox and rushed into the house to search among the various envelopes. But none were addressed to him. In a rage, he threw all of the mail against the kitchen wall with a shout.

It's been a month! And nothing…

He sighed. Band practice. Cloud decided he would focus on something else for now. He could worry about a lost letter later.


See ya around~!