Disclaimer: I own nothing and am making no money with this fic. As this is a crossover with well over thirty or so characters owned by others take my word for it, I own only the extra's and possibly five other characters and the plot only.

Title: High School Sucks (It truly does)

Rating: T-MA

Pairing (s): Feel free to guess.

Series: My gawd really. Multiple.

Genre: Adventure, Romance, Sci-Fi, Drama, Drama, Drama

Warnings: All of them lol. Violence, language (Ed, Duo, Yusuke, Inuyasha, Naruto and many others' fault), oh, and high levels of drama, angst, and chaos will ensue, believe me.

A/N: This chapter I would highly consider just a glimpse into these young peoples' lives that were borrowed from many of the Anime's, Manga's, and RPG's I am a fan of. You will find in the following chapter that much is yet to be learned.

Part 1-Chapter 1

The city of dreams, the city that never sleeps, and yet in all the grander it still had but only half of the city now possessed after the machina war many still looked to the city as the place where dreams could come true. What many seemed to forget was that like every city, every location, and every person, dark secrets still lay in the folds of the nicely coveted and idealistically constructed view of the grandest and largest city in all of Spira. Two high schools, both with the most notorious reputations as the best schools around and the public schools where the most promising of students graduated from had completely different crowds of students entering their walls.

For one, in the high standing reaches of the city that mirrored its past grandness many of the students knew nothing of what it was like to fight for your life on a home front behind your own front door. They knew not of the hardships of struggling not only to get by but also to eat that night or survive the night or provide for the only family you had left. They also never had the tragedy of a violent day in the city touch them or anyone they knew for they lived above the ground level of the city that was effected. For those at this acclaimed school life was simple, constant, and boring in comparison to those who attended the only school to rival them.

The other, located on another end of the city, which was very much the opposite in every way life was a struggle at every turn. It wasn't in the run down parts of the city, the slums, or the violence of the streets because of the poverty and desperation. Struggle could be found amongst the middle class living in suburbs where houses looked eerily the same as the next one on every block and on every street of the neighborhood. It was the battlefields in which many had to fight in the places they called homes. The battles fought with the ones they should be able to trust and depend on; or just the battles that had to be fought to survive. Knowing what it was like to have to fight, to have to chose, to win and to lose shaped many of the lives of those in this side of the city and made it so those attending this school were very diverse.

The other two reaches of the city and their schools reflected the first two, one of a ground level living of true living and the other caught in the seams of living a life sheltered and guarded from what one would consider to be real. Without the glass to look through in the southern and eastern parts of this great city those from these reaches of the city also viewed things in a different light siding with those who wished to keep the city standing on its own and outside the world of the temples and Yevonites from the most politically powerful city of Bevelle. The ongoing tension between those in Zanarkand at every point and the religiously run reaches of Spira remained as heated and notorious as it once was. The war that had ensued in the past was what gave birth to how the southern and eastern parts of the city were currently.

Presently the main concerns of the citizens were centered on the ongoing events of the high schools in their part of the city. The single college in the city was often the center of attention. the students attending the high schools was where the people of Zanarkand were able to watch those that would one day become the leaders, celebrities, and powerhouse, independent, politicians the city often produced. Naturally, the focus centered on those located in East Zanarkand and those attending the high school were best known in that part of the city due to how much some of the students' parents made an impact on what was going on throughout Spira.

E.Z. High was not the only high school in the eastern reach of the city; it was merely the best one and the rival school of the prestigious North Zanarkand Private Academy. With such knowledge, it was only common sense that everyone would have their eye on those attending and making their mark at the school. Whether it was through those on the Blitzball team, cheerleaders, academic team members, debate team members, or even just members of the choir, watching those who were well known and obviously possessed talent and intelligence was the pass time of many of the citizens of the city. When the professional Blitzball teams were not going head to head against each other and moving on to compete in the tournament in Luca then the blitzball teams of North and East were more than enough for entertainment.

Saying that the well-known and often watched students of both schools were already treated as celebrities would be a bit much, though many of the citizens viewed them as such from the sidelines. Laws were passed years ago that kept a great deal of the inhabitants of the city from fan mowing the students of either schools as it were. Curfews and laws that were enforced made certain that everyone was allowed to live their lives with some amount of privacy and not be mobbed by fans or kept up all night by phone calls, emails, or other forms of fan service. However, of course, the school website was where many could express their opinions and the students often warned one another away from keeping up with what the website said.

But of course, that is hardly the point of this story. When it comes right down to it no one really cares about how much the citizens may love to treat the students like celebrities. No, the main concern is getting to know why the students are so worshiped as it were and then learning the inside scoop about the students that will never be told by some reporter or fan. So moving along we will go into just who these kids are, what makes their lives so hard to handle, and generally why they have every right to say that High School Sucks, in the most simplistic of terms.

To much was going on all the time for him to keep up with it all, he did well enough to keep up with which job he had to go to and when on most days. Staying in touch with his best friend was an accomplishment thanks to the fact that they both worked the same job at the same time before heading over to the same place to cool off and wind down. It was summer vacation before the start of their junior year in high school and that meant working long hours to save up the money needed to survive the school year and if they made enough save up for the things needed when they finally did get kicked out of the house.

It is with a heavy sigh that the tall, tan, athletic, blond haired, cerulean eyed young man gets to his feet from where he was previously sitting on the dock and turns to regard the houseboats along the docks. He'd grown up here in the family owned houseboat his father had acquired from his days as a famous blitzball player for the Zanarkand Abes, the mainstream, star team that remained the undefeated team within the city. They went to compete in the tournaments every year in Luca even though its' once star player had since retired more than ten years ago. His name was well known throughout the city not just due to his fathers' reputation but one he'd build for himself playing for E.Z. High as the middle fielder for the Varsity team since his freshmen year.

Making Varsity his first year in high school was an accomplishment that required hard work and a grand show of talent and skill but making varsity his first year at the most acclaimed high school in this part of the city was an even greater accomplishment. However, even his love for the sport and his prowess at it wasn't enough to free his mind of stress and worry. Dressed in a pair of black slacks and a yellow muscle shirt with yellow, black, and green steel toe boots he looked more like a construction worker most of the time in his bright colors than a well-known high school celebrity.

His naturally spiky hair helped the tan skin and the color of his eyes stand out when combined with his chosen clothes. On both of his hands were leather gloves meant to protect his hands from the heavy sword he had to wield working as a hunter and to help hide the scars that ran along them from countless fights. One would never guess from this young mans' cheerful, optimistic attitude and often aloof and oblivious act around his peers that he indeed had to fight an endless battle behind the closed door of the boathouse in which he gazed. It was indeed grand and what one would expect from a retired professional blitzball player, white in color with an upper level where two bedrooms and good-sized bathroom were located. Then the lower level with a good-sized living room, decent dining room and kitchen and master bedroom fit with a full bathroom made up the interior. The deck around that was well in size and pristine in comparison to what lay behind the closed doors and curtained windows.

With a shake of his head Tidus Benshi, one of the two sons' of the once famous and now washed out Jecht Benshi turned his gaze to the hill at the end of the docks that would lead to the paved parking lot where his own run down, rusted, used, green jeep was parked. Going to work was the last thing he wanted to do after having been up all night helping at the diner he had frequently spent the majority of his youth at but he needed the paycheck to pay for the very jeep parked in the parking lot. Gas and insurance were not cheap and neither were the bills his father had decided he and his brother had to pay now they were old enough to work.

He checked his pockets for his wallet, keys, and phone before he put his hands in his front pockets and made his way towards the lot. The only good thing about the job he was headed to right now was that he could walk there if he needed to, it was only about two miles down the road from where he was at another set of docks. The meeting place for all the hunters was actually a run down boathouse fit with lockers inside of it where their uniform shirts were stored. Their weapons were stored on the actual air ship that picked them up and brought them back when their shifts were over. At times teams were sent to what every called Hunter's Isle to fight off powerful fiends, shadows, or whatever other threats lurked there and most times, they were just dropped off along the other boarders of the city to protect it. They never worked the boarders of their own parts of the city since it may hinder their judgment and they might get emotional if anything got out of hand.

The way Zanarkand was as far as the actual layout of the island was that it was one large mass of land with four focal points. Nevertheless, reaching out from those four points were smaller, arm structured parts of land that were like sand dunes but more of it was above water than not. Those points were the boarders where fiends and other threats frequented to try to breach the city. Sure, they had soldiers that guarded the entry gates along the actual boarders where citizens actually lived but the hunters helped them out by lowering the number of threats that approached those gates and walls.

If not for the war, one thousand years ago and the constant tension from the Yevonite and Bevelle then the walls wouldn't even be up regardless of the threats, they had their own military and plenty of the kids sixteen and up throughout the city were taught in school how to fight fiends so no one was actually helpless. However, because of the history of the city and the too many narrow escapes of it being demolished and the flow of nearly constant travelers wanting to live in the city called for some control of who could live in the city and the extra security. It was not that bad really, considering the new security measures did provide jobs for retired soldiers, adrenaline junky adults and teenagers, and kids who could always use the extra help sharpening their senses and learning to fight. In addition, it was great for unleashing some pent up frustration and anger in his opinion.

Glancing at his watch on his right wrist he shrugged and decided he would walk to work, he could be there and not be late walking. Moreover, his best friend had no doubt caught the bus to this side of town and would meet him there. After work they would head to the diner and chill out and probably end up suckered in to doing the boring paperwork side of the secret organization the owner of their favorite diner had set up to help kids like themselves or just hard up kids period. This organization he referred to was known by its members and founders as Zones. Basically a bunch of kids who lived with abusive parents, were orphans, or just had really stressful or hard lives got together on Sundays to vent, learn, and well be reminded that they weren't alone in whatever it was they had to deal with.

Knowing you were not alone in dealing with a violent, abusive, washed out, drunk father who proved to you when you were a kid that he could be homicidal, sadistic, and fucked up enough to kill your mom in front of you really helped with the coping thing. His best friend had witnessed the same thing and thanks to the 'celebrity' status and all the power that came with it as well as the fact that both of their fathers were rather liked by the cops, the politicians, and the general public meant no amount of prosecution or confession proved enough to put their asses behind bars. Therefore, as he and his own brother did his best friend and his younger brother had to deal with living with their fathers even after the bastards killed their moms in cold blood and nearly killed them at the same time.

Then there was also the point that not only did he have that in common with his best friend both of them also seemed to be the one their fathers' zeroed in on when they were angry. While his older brother was often times left alone and even praised now and then by his old man when it came to Ed it was his younger brother Al that was treated like an actual human being. Did they resent their brothers' for their fathers' obvious favoritism? No, not a chance in the world they did, reason why had to do with the fact that they knew the truth behind that. Their fathers only messed with one of their sons' because that way the public wouldn't believe them if either of them decided to take the chance of saying something to anyone that might actually make the assholes pay.

Blinking out of his thoughts at the familiar sound of his cell phone ringing he dug it free of his pocket and flipped the black flip phone open to answer with a grin and what his best friend called his annoying greeting; "Yo, whats' up?"

"One day our boss is going to call you and fire you for that greeting and I am going to laugh."

"No he won't," he replied with a laugh, "because I pay attention to who is calling before I answer."

"Did you decide to walk to work?"

"Yeah," he raised an eyebrow despite the fact that the other blond on the phone couldn't see it before asking dubiously, "Why?"

"Because at your pace I am still going to beat you there," he turned and looked behind him at his friend's words to see the bus coming up the road behind him. He laughed and then smirked before he said, "you won't if you don't jump out and run on your own two feet," then he closed his phone, put it back in his pocket and took off at a sprint with a laugh. He could feel the glare on his back as he ran the remaining mile to the docks and heard the heavy footsteps of his friends' booted feet coming up behind him not but a few seconds after his own boots hit the wooden planks of the docks leading to the boathouse near the shoreline.

His best friend stood next to him inside the rundown boathouse with a familiar smirk on his face before the two laughed at their own childish antics. Now the shorter but tougher and considerably smarter blond stood out even more than Tidus himself did. The gait to his walk was due to the heavy automail that made up his left leg and the way the weight of the right automail arm through off his balance when compared to that of someone without the replacement limbs. In the time since the two of them had worked for the cash it cost for the more sophisticated and durable prosthetic limbs the shorter blond had adapted and made up for the loss of his limbs. Nevertheless, he still hid their existence behind long sleeves, gloves, and pants not wanting others to see the scars of the fact that they were there.

His longer blond hair was golden rather than sun kissed and always tied back in a braid. He also hardly wore anything other than black leather pants with a black tank top and a black long sleeved shirt over that which really only made his hair color and his unique golden eyes stand out even more. He wasn't as tan as his taller friend was but he wasn't pale either. The skin tone he had was definitely closer to sun kissed and actually a natural tan that had only darkened over the year and a half of working as a hunter. You had to look close to see the freckles along his cheeks and the bridge of his nose but neither of them ever looked quite that closely at one another.

Now that they finally made it to their destination, they had at least half an hour to kill before the other hunters arrived and then another twenty before the airship arrived to take them to their assigned destinations. As one made his way to the locker to find his work shirt the other pulled out his own silver flip phone from his left back pocket and dialed the phone number for one of the duo that he knew was working the same shift and had better head here or start running before they were late. As the Night Crew Leader, or so his boss had called it, he had to make sure every member of the night crew showed up on time.

He scowled at the water in front of him when after four rings he still hadn't gotten an answer, hung up and called the other number knowing that either one of the two he was trying to get in touch with would be around the other. These two were best friends and while he knew he could usually count on one of them showing up on time when they didn't work the same shift, the pair hanging out together often forgot they had to be at work. After the third ring, he finally got an answer and all but growled into the phone, "You two better be headed this way."

"Chill Ed, we are, I drug him on the bus not ten minutes ago."

"Why did it take you so long to answer the phone then," he replied to the other. Older or not these two idiots got into more than enough trouble just walking through their neighborhood without pissing off their boss who ran and funded what the hunters did. Thinking about the last time these two had shown up late and how he was the one lectured was enough to set his teeth on edge about being made the damn Crew Leader. Why throw more responsibility on him when these two idiots had worked for the guy longer than him, because they pulled shit like being twenty minutes to an hour late once every three months or so, more frequently during the summer than not. The only reason they still had their jobs was because they were so good at it and happened to be willing to work past curfew despite the trouble they could get into if they were caught being anywhere but at home past curfew.

"I would much rather cuss out the local bum than-"

He pulled the phone away from his ear due to the shouting of someone into the phone before he heard the laughter of several people he could guess at following that. When the others' voice came back on the line, he continued scowling wishing he could punch the guy for making him nearly go deaf from his antics.

"We will be there in fifteen so don't worry about it."

"Whatever Yusuke, if our boss ever bitches me out about what you and Duo do again I'm recording it and making you two listen to it for hours on end."

There was laughter then, "Yeah, I get it, the only reason we've been on time lately is 'cause we actually thought you were a decent guy. But such threats might make us change our minds."

He growled which caused more laughter on the other end and hung up the phone before shoving it into his pocket. He wasn't cut out for this 'management, crew leader' crap. He'd rather just go back to working as a bus boy or waiter or even a cook at Ella's diner. But the pay as a hunter was better and the hours were pretty decent when you didn't count having to pull doubles during the summer like he had to do today. The shifts were already ten hours and pulling a double meant twenty with a two hour break between the ten hours that he hardly ever got to actually rest during because he was too often assigned to the clean up crew at the end of the shifts. But the extra two hundred gil an hour almost made it worth it, he needed it to save up for the motorcycle he'd talked a guy into holding onto for him with about ten thousand gil. He only needed another five thousand before he had all the money he needed to pay for it and then he could focus on setting back money to pay for the gas, insurance, and getting the hell out of his fathers' house after he graduated from high school.

Maybe all of them could just move into Ella's or something when they graduated until they found places of their own, hell he knew more than enough of the seniors that had graduated this past school year did that before they went along with the roommate idea to pay the rent and bills. Why the hell those three didn't take on working as hunters, which was better pay even if it happens to be the most dangerous job around other than being in the military or a cop, was beyond him. At least one of the guys that had graduated was smart enough to stay with his job as a hunter, but he also had to keep his job as the night manager at Ella's diner on top of being a Team Leader for the hunters during the day shift.

When that guy ever got any sleep he had no idea. It gave him a headache thinking about all the people he knew because of his involvement in Zones, further influenced by his best friends' involvement, and then of course by that same friends' persistence to help out as much as they could. Not that he wouldn't have done that without the prompting but now they were the ones the older woman who was very much like an older sister and the among the few adults they all trusted turned to when things got bad. They didn't just stick together to tell each others' stories, have some feeling of comradeship in knowing they weren't the only ones' whose lives sucked, or to learn to better defend themselves and get some tutoring to keep up with school with such crappy, hectic, stressful lives on their shoulders, the group was also the reason a lot of them were still around.

The diner was the meeting point they ended up at when things got too rough or too dangerous, when one of them was so beaten up they could hardly move or see they went to the diner. When one of them felt like they couldn't take it anymore and was ready to just shoot their damn parents or whoever made their lives a living hell they went to the diner. It was a refuge, a sanctuary, the only safe ground they had and only place they knew they could go to get a moment to breath, to revamp, and remember why the fuck they couldn't just leave or escape and had to keep going back. A lot of them knew they wouldn't be believed, then there were the ones that couldn't leave because they had siblings protect and worried about someone finding out and charges being brought up and then that leading to separation from the only family they had.

Everyone had their own story, their own hellish life to survive, and they had one another and the adults that ran Zones, looked after them, nursed them back to help, kicked them in the ass when they needed to remember they couldn't give up, and kept them from getting killed. They all had one anothers' phone numbers, had code names, knew the phrases to be said out in public to keep things under wraps. And each and every one of them depended on and looked to one another to keep them going and keep reminding them that it wouldn't last forever and that they would get out and had to keep going because someone did care and damn it they weren't the only ones dealing with this shit.

He sighed and brought his left hand absently up to his face to fun through his bangs only to wince at the sting that ran up his arm and shot through to his shoulder reminding him of the still healing gash along his forearm from the last glass bottle that was broken over his arm and nearly broke it. The brusing was still healing and made his arm even more sore in combination with the gash that he'd stitched himself so he could go to work that night. It was only about three days old so of course it hadn't healed yet, it wouldn't for a while and he refused the magical healing from Ella because he didn't much care from being healed through magic, which he didn't get at all, because it just felt weird. He didn't like scars but he had more than enough to not much care about adding one more.

"Got a lot on the mind or somethin'," his best friend said suddenly making him blink and look at him standing across the way on the other end of the ramp. With a shrug he replied, "Yeah, happens to those of us with brain cells."

He smirked at the glare before heading for the lockers to dig out his shirt and thoughtlessly pulling the black shirt he was currently wearing over his head and tossing it into the locker before pulling on the other black shirt he'd earned over the course of the last two months of working doubles and another more vigorous set of 'tests' that pushed even his skills with alchemy and his experience as a hunter to the limit. He would be turning seventeen in little more than four months from now and since he had turned sixteen he'd worked as a hunter mostly with the ambition his best friend had, to get the hell out of the home in which they lived.

He slammed his locker door shut and pulled his braid out of the back of his shirt as he found himself lost in his thoughts about all that had happened over this past summer. It was already hard enough being a teenager, hormones, emotions, sorting through what you wanted to do with the rest of your life, it was enough to give him a headache thinking about it all. But this past summer had certainly been the icing on the cake as far as stress was concerned. Not really wanting to think about that and how it still made his chest feel hollow and his heart felt tattered and in pieces he turned back to regard his best friend just as voices of the other hunters echoed in the mostly empty and run down boathouse.

"Geeze, we should really fix this place up, add a radio or something so at least its not so damn quiet in her," the brunette with his braided hair and his black slacks that looked worn out and as though they'd been through hell. Well in this line of work that was hardly unexpected, golden eyes met violet ones for a moment before a grin spread across the elders' face.

"Yo, Ed, my man, you should put a word in about my being promoted or somethin' dude."

With a snort the shorter blond turned away from the other and his friend just as a few others made their way into the boat house. He knew without having to look who was scheduled to work tonight, one of their very few female hunters, who was often times teamed up with one of the older hunters known simply as Gaya who held a day job at the diner much like his own best friend did, had the night off. He couldn't help but wonder how the two of them could do it, working almost eighteen hours a day no less than five days a week was something he didn't think he could do regardless of how much he needed the money to break free from his father.

With less than five minutes to go before the airship arrived to pick them up and take them to their assigned destinations he finally turned to regard everyone gathered around him. There were really only six of them present with one having the night off, but others hunters from other areas of the city would be dropped off in the east reach while all of them were spread out through the other reaches of the city. In all he knew there were at least fifty hunters on duty every shift with no less than five apprentice summoners or healers spread out in areas where they could get to the minimum of six hunters at a time. The groups were never larger than five and only those dawning the black shirt he was currently wearing were ever sent out on their own.

Glancing at everyone around him he smirked at the haughty glare he received from an older white haired young man. That was Gaya, starkly pale blue eyes, pale skin, the same height as himself, who was mouthy on a good day and greatly annoyed all the time. He was among the few to climb the ranks of hunters in a short period of time having just taken on a job as a hunter over the summer after he'd graduated from E.Z. High. One of the most experienced hunters in their small group happened to be the elder brother of his academic team comrade Sasuke, though the elder Uchiha was definitely less controlled at times with a short fuse that made it impossible for him to work with the other.

He did admire his skill having seen it in action, although brash, brutal, and based on brute strength instead of strategy it was easy to notice that he was just as deadly as those of the Uchiha clan were acclaimed to be. Most of the time he acted indifferent and highly annoyed with the world in a rude way that was the opposite of his younger brothers' stoic indifference and the cutting edge to his words when he finally said something. Dark brown eyes narrowed at him challengingly to which he returned the glare smirking when a thought came to him in regards to the lose way the other wore their dark hair instead of braiding it or tying it back. The red shirt was not from lack of skill merely lack of wanting to go through the trials required to get the black shirt Ed wore.

He was younger than both Inuyasha and Gaya and yet he outranked them both and had less experience than the Uchiha did. But his willingness to go through what one had to endure to acquire the black shirt rank was more driven by his needing to know the dark secret the founder of the hunters was hiding and needing to find answers to questions he could never voice aloud. Pulling himself out of those thoughts he turned towards the water just as the sounds of an approaching airship made its way towards them. It was going to be a long night and an even longer morning. He couldn't help but think back on what Duo had said about him putting a word in to have the other promoted and how that brought up thoughts of why he'd accepted their employers' demand to have him go through the program. It was that or lose his job after he'd missed nearly a week of work too lost in a world of grief and despair to care much and he still found himself trapped in such a place from time to time.

To say the diner was slow would be a contradiction, it was packed, the bowling alley was full, the bar was packed and filled with smoke so thick a non-smoker could cough up a lung if they walked inside, and the diner was so packed their was a line outside where customers had to wait for tables to open up. They were given drinks and most of the ones waiting for a space to open up seemed content to wait outside and talk amongst themselves. Her feet were killing her from having to skip her break because of how busy they were and after being on her feet for nearly five hours straight she was working on pure adrenaline now. Sure, she was used to this job having worked in this diner before she was even legally allowed to, she wasn't even legally supposed to be working here right now and certainly not past one in the morning. Here she was, the summer before her freshmen year, six months before her fifteenth birthday, waiting tables at the only place that felt like a real home to her.

It was another hour before she managed to have a table open up in her section and she headed to wear the hostess was working, she happened to be the girlfriend of one of E.Z. High's acclaimed blitzball team, also her boyfriend and her would be seniors this year and also captains of their respective sports. She was a cheerleader and member of the honor choir, President of the Choir, and her boyfriend would be Captain of E.Z. High Blitzball team for his second year this coming up school year. They still had at least five weeks left in summer vacation for which she was grateful. The reason the older young woman was only a hostess and not waiting tables was because it had become too busy when the shift started and she had only taken on this job two days ago, hardly long enough to handle this massive a crowd regardless of the fact that the other was working at a particularly busy coffee shop before she'd applied here.

"Lenne, I have one table open, booth," she said as she came within hearing distance. The older girl turned to her with a nod, her ponytail sliding down her back as she turned back to look outside at the waiting line of young adults. She said just before stepping over to the door, "I have a group of four out here but the group of six has been waiting longer."

Misaga took in a deep breath, her slight figure showed her true age while her confidence when it came to this job made people realize she knew what she was doing and was more than capable of carrying the heavy trays of food even for a family of seven without any help. Her hair was tied back in a braid that was in thus curled into a bun to keep her hair out of her face and from being grabbed, she'd had a drunk customer actually grab her hair once and hadn't stopped her brother Duo from threatening to castrate the older man for his actions. The red polo and black slacks they had to wear she was grateful for, at least she didn't have to wear a skirt, yet anyway. The bartenders and those on the floor in the bar had to wear skirts and red tank tops, she was still feeling apprehensive about Ella asking her if she would be willing to work the bar once she was sixteen since she was more than capable given her waitressing talents.

"I'll take the six, Momo should have an open table soon as well," she emphasized her words by glancing towards the older brunette who was cleaning off her table and smiling to her family of five as they made their leave. Lenne nodded once and stepped through the door holding it open for the leaving customers with a smile and a kind wish of goodnight and be careful's to make the customers smile in kind. She turned and made her way back towards her section to make the rounds and check on her customers. She had ten tables in all tonight and while she usually had fifteen on slower nights she also had a break every four hours. None of them, only the cooks who had to take breaks every three hours or they would get too hot and really fall out, had a decent break.

She took orders for desert on her second round after clearing empty plates and refilling drinks and handed the orders over to Max who worked nearly every night now since Tidus had a job as a hunter at night now. She missed Tidus, while Max was definitely more than experience the other two cooks they had couldn't compare to the prowess of the kitchen when Max and Tidus were running it, with Aeriel as the backup with Tidus to mostly prepare the cold foods like salads, slice bread, or dress the hamburgers and plates. Now the other girl was all out cooking because the cook from day shift that was switched to nights, Logan, couldn't keep up with the orders and dish them out as quickly as Tidus could.

They'd also hired more waiters and waitresses, friends of Duo and Yusuke's to make up for Gaya and Tidus moving over to work days instead of nights. Days were busy sure, but nights, especially summer nights were crazy. She took drink orders for her table of six and delivered their drinks to take orders for entres and side dishes before going into the kitchen to make the side orders. They had to make the nachos, the chips and dips, the side salads, and any other of the many assorted appetizers since the kitchen had more than enough to do with the actual meals. Working mechanically from over a year of doing this she made the orders without consulting the ticket she'd written down as she'd pocketed her ticket book and could memorize orders from larger groups but wrote down the orders for the sake of the kitchen anyway.

Carrying the medium sized tray out of the kitchen she deftly turned raising the tray above her head just in time to avoid Mace, one of the newer waiters working here who jumped back colliding with the counter sharply enough to make her wince when he did to avoid a disastrous collision. She nodded with a smile, "Sorry," then made her way towards her table to hand out the smaller orders. Refilling drinks, making another round, then returning to take the orders from her new table she headed back to the kitchen to take out the deserts of pastries, cakes, and sundaes having to return at least three times to get all the orders before she made the rounds once more and headed to the kitchen to lean back against the door leading to the office and take a breather.

Grabbing her now luke warm bottled water she drank half of it quickly before she took a deep breath and made her way over to the sink to wash her hands and face and grabbed a clean bus towel to dry off with. She wanted nothing more than to sit down and eat and let her hair down for just a little while, her head was already pounding and her feet ached fiercely pronouncing the pounding in her head. She must be coming down with something, she felt oddly weaker than she should even staying on her feet for six hours straight. She jumped when a hand gently touched her shoulder and looked up to see the concerned face of Ella.

"Misa, are you alright?"

She tried to force a reassuring smile but failed considering the look in the older woman's eyes. Ella was of average height, burgundy hair she wore in a braid most of the time and that braid was turned into a bun on the nights she worked, like now. She also wore the same red polo shirt and black slacks and tennis shoes she required her employees working the diner to wear and her eyes changed colors with her moods. Right now they were a deep, dark blue, which meant she was upset. She couldn't begin to what could be upsetting the older woman considering the countless possibilities.

"You need to take a break, every single one of you need a break," the older woman said with a look around at the bustling kitchen. With that her gaze turned back to her youngest employee, "I want you to go into the office and lay down before you fall down," when she made to protest that she had customers the older woman cut her off before she could say a word, "that wasn't a request Misaga."

With that the older woman turned to regard her brother and Aeriel who were working quickly despite the exhaustion that was obvious in the way their expressions were drawn; "Both of you go with Misa into the office. That's not a request, I will take care of the customers outside, more than enough of those brats out there have worked for me once before and owe me favors."

"Ella, they come here to eat, not work."

"Yes, but too bad. Those on the floor have been going non-stop for six hours, not one of them has had a proper break, proper meal, or rested. My cooks are going on empty and even the rest of this place is in the same condition."

"I told you we should have opened a second place on the other end of town."

"And let you run it, I know, unfortunately losing the cook that was the best one to replace you to the Hunters' pay threw a wrench in that plan. Please just help me round these kids up and get them to stop and breath for a minute before they all fall out from pure exhaustion."

"Fine," the older man said with a sigh, his long brown hair was slick with sweat from cooking and it was a wonder his face wasn't covered in pimples and acne from all the grease cooking entailed. Unlike the rest of the workers he wore a black T-shift with black shorts that came two inches past his knees with black boots. That further reminded her of when the younger of the Benshi brothers had worked nights with her and the rest of the usual night crew. He never wore the uniform, having worked at the diner even before she had and having started when he was twelve as a bus boy, moving up to waiter, then going on to be a cook when he was fifteen and the owners, Max and Ella, deciding he would be the best one to manage and run the kitchens at this diner should Max open up another diner like it in South Zanarkand like he wanted.

Max was taller by at least three inches than his older sister, his long hair reached the middle of his back when he wore it down, and his blue eyes were always dark, like the ocean at midday. His eyes didn't change colors like his sisters' did but there was much hidden in the depths. He was also the more laid back, although more sarcastic and less sympathetic of the owners. Everyone that worked here or were otherwise associated with Max, his sister, and his sister-in-law Genelle, looked up to and admired the three. It had a lot to do with the fact that not only did they have the best food in the city, they had an adjoined arcade and bowling alley to appease the teenagers who frequented the diner, and they had a bar attatched for the adults who wanted to come and relax after a hard day.

The majority of the customers had either worked her once before or were former Zones' members so they were not only loyal customers but loyal to the three inspirational owners. The three taught all of them how to have pride in themselves and pride in whatever work they did because at least they were doing something. They also made everyone that came to them feel as though they were part of a larger family and for some that meant everything because a lot of them had no families at all or no idea what a real family was supposed to be like. She watched lost in her own thoughts as the two walked out of the kitchen and offered a distracted smile to the older, silent, red haired girl as she motioned towards the door leading to the office and the bunk room.

Behind that door was a world completely hidden from everyone that wasn't a direct part of it. In the office were medical files, personal files, school files, on every one of the kids Ella and her family had ever helped or were currently helping. Not only that, but the cabinet behind the desk was where medical supplies were for times when someone was injured, and then the bunk room where each of them had lockers and where there were enough beds to accommodate every one of the kids Ella helped. Not only was this place a place to come for a job when you needed the money but weren't quite old enough to work, or simply just because you needed the money to support yourself or help in supporting your family, it was a sanctuary. She could come here and know she was safe from harm, her father couldn't reach her here and no one who came to this place would ever hurt her.

As she sat down heavily on the couch to her left of the desk she could feel the exhaustion weighing heavily on her in that moment of relaxation. The silent older girl sat down letting out a contented smile that caused a giggle to rise in her own throat. The soft smile she received in return made a smile curl her own lips, Aeriel wasn't a rude girl, she was mute which was why she didn't talk. If not for her time working with her she would have never learned to speak sign language, though often times it seemed as though her and Tidus could communicate without the needs for signs. There were certain sounds the other could make, a small but quaint hum in the back of her throat, a hiss of air between her teeth, and she could whistle.

She wished the other could speak, could laugh, could express her emotions through sound but in a ironically silent way the other seemed to have come to terms with the loss of her voice. She didn't know what had caused the pale, blue eyed, kind young woman to lose her voice but at times the shadow that would cast over her eyes when she thought no one was watching had made her realize that it was not a pleasant experience. It could well have been violent, as many of them seemed to have that fate in common that led them to this place. All that she knew was that the other had no family known to her or anyone else, that she lost her voice before she arrived and met Ella and her family, and that she had graduated from high school three years ago but didn't want to leave the diner behind obviously since she was still here.

The two of them looked up when the footsteps of others came into the room, Maxi, Mace, and Lenne were ushered into the room with Max behind them telling them to sit down. Lenne took a seat next to her when the two girls moved over to make room for her. Her brothers' friends, both with pale complexions, dyed dark hair, and looking as exhausted as she definitely felt sat down on the couch in front of the desk heavily with long sighs. Before long Momo, Shezka, and Logan came to join them filling up what little couch space was left. When Ella came back into the room she stopped in the doorway to say to her brother; "Make them all eat and rest for at least an hour, I'll get the rest of the staff to take a breather outside for a bit."

"This is the first time you've called in ex-employees to cover so many shifts at once."

"This is the first time it's been this insane here, not even the bowling alley was spared this crowd."

"It's the summer, what else did you expect?"

"Yeah, well Gen' needs to come back soon before I go insane, or we all do."

Max smirked, "You're just missing your wife."

"Of course I do, I had some of my best employees take nights off on me at the worst time of year. You need to knock some sense into those two."

"Maybe you should call in a favor and have them switched to days-"

"Can't not with how that bastard works the hunters," Ella said with a glare before letting out a tired sigh, "Rest, eat something, and stay in here for an hour. Not one of you better be on your feet or on my floor until eleven thirty. Hopefully it will calm down by then."

"How're we supposed to eat if we have to stay off our feet sis?"

Her glared darkened and Misa had a hard time stifling her giggle as the older woman answered, "I ordered pizza twenty minutes ago. You can get up to answer the damn door and pay for the foor with the money in my drawer. But that's it."

"What am I, a child?"

"More often than not," she replied to her brothers' sarcastic question with a smirk. She closed the door and it was locked behind her before her brother turned to the door, sighed, pulled the hairnet off to let his tied back hair breath a bit, then took residence in the chair behind the desk. Nights were generally long, and generally over by about two in the morning when it was really slow after the midnight rush, which tonight was blended with the dinner rush that was how busy they were tonight. Even though she worked the four to two shift more often than anything this was the first time she'd worked an entire six hours without one break to eat or sit down or just catch her breath. Glancing at the others around her they all looked tired and more than ready to call it a night, even Max looked purely worn out and he and his sister and sister-in-law had owned this diner and run it for well over fifteen or so years now.

It was remarkable how old the three owners were in comparison to the early twenty appearance they all had. She was merely told it was a curse not a blessing and told to drop the subject. While all of them had to come clean about their home lives, troubles, and nightmares at the Sunday meetings information was being withheld from them about their guardians, that seemed to be the most fitting title for the three, guardians. They did that to the best of their abilities, while they couldn't stop the violence from happening they ensure that all of them survived and kept on going, kept trying, kept believing one day they could escape and have their own lives. They gave them a place to come to when it all seemed to become too much or just when they needed somewhere safe to stay. She was pretty sure every one of those in Zones would rather just live here, in the bunk room at the back part of the diner that was off limits to all who were not involved in Zones or with the three in some way, but they couldn't because of the laws and the trouble it may very well cause.

In this grand city those who were abused were more afraid of the places they could be sent to or that they would be separated from what little family and friends they had around them to speak up about what went on at home. None of them were foolish enough to believe they would simply be sent to the orphanages' throughout Zanarkand or that they couldn't or wouldn't be sent to the farthest reaches of Spira. It was something those of famous, powerful, aristocratic families feared because coming clean meant giving up everything because they would have to be sent away for their own 'safety.' Those were were deemed as impoverished with parents who never stood out and could be discarded to prison without repercussions from their fans, followers, or comrades were more often than not sent to Djose, a rumored temple where Yevonites believed and practiced slavery; Bevelle, a religiously run city with more regulations and rules than there were waters in Spira. They were under strict religious rule with strict military rule to back up and uphold the religious, Yevon based, laws.

There were also the islands, Kilika and Besaid which were without a doubt behind the times and followed the teachings of Yevon strictly. Then there was also the possibility of being sent to Bikanel, which wasn't all that bad considering that those from Zanarkand were liked and well received by Al Bhed because the two were known allies who viewed Bevelle and the teachings of Yevon realistically in her mind. Reading history books had and being able to think on her own had taught her to question everything and there were gaps and discrepancies in what those who worshiped Yevon told of the past and what she learned from the signs all around her in her own city.

When a knock at the back door came she jumped from the sudden way she launched herself from her thoughts with the instinctual reaction due to her father. Too many times he would bang and kick and sometimes knock lightly on her door or that of her brothers' to rouse them. He would switch back and forth when it came to her how he would address her. At times he was kind, despite it being the middle of the night school or not, and would make her believe he was a good person, could be a good father if only he didn't drink so much, but at those times if she slipped up even once and said something he didn't like he was more vicious and violent than on his louder, ruder nights. She preferred to have him bang and kick and beat on the doors, preferred he yelled and cussed, and forced his way through her door despite the dead bolt and the chain lock Duo had put on her door.

Now those new locks gave her older brother the warning he needed to jump to her aid but during the summer, like now, when he didn't get off until three in the morning and with Heero working a second job even after spending ten hours working the day shift as a hunter, she didn't bother returning home unless she absolutely had to. Most of them would spend a great deal of their summer vacations here at the diner in the bunk room, but they could only stay a week at a time before they had to spend a few days at home because otherwise the law would step in and create problems for Ella. She sympathized with the Elrics, Benshi's, and Uzumaki's simply because their parents could and would call and cause problems if they decided they missed abusing and degrading their children and wanted them home.

As her stomach rumbled its hunger she decided it was best to ignore the thoughts about all that had transpired in the last few months to give in to her hunger. She still had an hour, possibly two considering the work it took to clean tables, dishes, restock everything, clean the floors, split up between a handful of them did little to lessen the task it was still hard work and she couldn't force herself to go on much more without food. She smiled at the aroma and sight of the pepperoni pizza and the soda's next to the boxes of pizza. Grabbing a plate as she stood in front of the desk with the others as soon as Max set them down she also grabbed a soda and then took three slices deciding she would get more if she could eat what she had. It was a bit humbling that such a simple thing as food and a cold drink and a place to sit could make her feel like a queen at the moment.

"Rose this is ridiculous, you can't work yourself to the bone and then simply ignore all of us when you are home," her mother said from the other side of the door. The young woman of sixteen with a medium beige complexion, waist length brown hair, and dyed pink bangs found it darkly amusing her mother was expressing such concern for her right now considering their history. Her mother's words were beyond ironic to her in the sense that her mother was being entirely hypocritical. On top of that, such concern was a farce at best; never would she believe her mother or father truly felt such concern over her well being or happiness. Not after all that had happened and after the way both had acted after what she considered the darkest time of her young life.


A/N: This story is huge, just a heads up. It is so large of a story and a project of sorts for me that it is actually in four parts and each part has a considerable amount of chapters to it. So far Part 1 alone is going to be eighteen or nineteen chapters. Well thanks for reading, hopefully the length won't scare you away.