Fandom: Kingdom Hearts
Disclaimer: I owneth not KH nor any Square character mentioned herein. No profit is being made.
Characters/Pairings: Leon-main, Full Cast, many FF cameos.
Summary: Post-game Hollow Bastion. What awaits those from Traverse Town?
Notes: Rating is for language, disturbing content, gore, and sexual situations in this chapter and others.
Not pushing, not taking, they just stayed there, dragging out a nearly chaste kiss until the emotion swirling within Leon overflowed.
"No," he said, pushing Cloud away. "Not yet. Not..."
Turning, he almost ran back through the room, following the twisting turns of the castle hallways until he was outside, working his way back towards the village.
Any time before, when they'd... Why had Cloud waited until...? There was too much to think about, too much to do. Cloud would understand. He'd have to. Time could not be allotted for the trials and tribulations of starting a relationship, of all things. If a relationship could even be started... Somehow, the thought of meaningless sex was even worse. Because really, it wouldn’t be meaningless, at least not to him. And that kiss, that kiss was not meaningless, either.
"Squall!" Leon looked up from where he’d been watching the motion of his boots on the uneven stone that formed roughly hewn steps that had seen far better days. A figure with black hair was waving to him from below, down by one of the still pools of aged, rotting water.
"Your sister was looking for you," Zack said once Leon had gotten a bit closer. "Not really looking for you though... She wanted me to tell you that if you saw anyone with mage skills to send them her way."
Leon nodded. That was fairly typical Ellone - not there but passing along messages as though she were. It wasn’t even noon - were things progressing so well so quickly?
"And... well, Sephiroth and Doc N are working on getting all the bodies moved to Doc N’s place. And... then we’ll bury them, I guess."
"There are... that many?" Leon asked, pausing on the trail. He knew that there would be casualties, of course - anyone who would have died in the last nine years would have gasped their final breaths somewhere around sunrise. But... The town wasn’t that large. Surely there couldn’t be that many... Surely... there wouldn’t be many more?
"A couple dozen, maybe," Zack replied, motioning for Leon to keep following. "We’re still looking though. How about in the castle?"
"Where you just were," Zack replied, awkwardly pointing back up behind them at the towering building. "I mean, you did go up there for a reason, right?
Right. That’s what he should have been doing. Something useful. Because everyone else was being useful, after all. And Ansem had certainly done some bizarre things in that castle. There might be survivors and there might be victims. But… other than Cloud, he hadn’t seen anyone. Probably... it was too late. Not everyone could come back from the void, after all, and likely not the ones Ansem had tainted first, probably slaughtered.
His stomach turned and Leon was thankful he’d had nothing to eat yet. Still, he dropped to his knees, his body trying to expel the nothingness inside him.
"Hey... Hey!" Zack had an arm around him suddenly. "It’s okay... whatever it is, it’s okay. Squall..."
The wetness around his eyes, that was not the beginnings of tears, just from his body, just from... Somehow it was only just hitting him what Ansem had done, what Ansem was... and all that time, the time nine years before when...
What had he wanted to give himself to?
Zack was holding his hair back, clutching him in what any other time might be much too personal an embrace. He felt absolutely damaged, the personal strength held onto for the last nine years was dying inside him and turning black, wanting to be vomited from his body along with the final bit of stomach acid he spit into the stagnant pool before letting Zack guide them both back to their feet.
"I don’t expect you to tell me," Zack said, shaking his head. "But if you ever want to..."
"I’ve had enough confessions today," Leon interrupted, looking down at the village. "And besides, right now survival is what’s important."
"I can send Elena up to the castle," Zack said a moment later, once they were walking. "She’s in the way otherwise... wanting to be important, I guess. Do you remember her, Squall?"
"Not really," Leon admitted. "And I go by ‘Leon’ now, if you don’t mind..."
"Leon," Zack repeated. "Might take a little getting used to."
"Everything might get a little getting used to."
"Yeah, well I guess I need to wait for everything to sink in before really..."
They were almost at the bottom of the path now, where the grade didn’t need actual stairs to go upward. A man all in black was waiting for them, standing stern as if he’d been watching their entire descent.
"Sheriff," Zack said cordially, acting as though he were about to tip an imaginary hat to the man.
"I think you want me on your side," came as reply.
"We’ve got to work together. While... while I was away, I stayed in a town of survivors from many worlds, and it worked. Not perfectly, but it worked," he said, meeting a dark gaze.
"I was only offering assistance. I’m still the one in charge of upholding the laws..."
"Laws aren’t really anyone’s biggest concern right now," Leon snarled. As if somehow there was anything more important than those that survived, food... taking care of the dead. Just for a couple days... it should be okay to borrow, maybe even steal, should be okay to break some glass and a few doors to help anyone beyond helping themselves. The things they needed... needed, not just wanted, should be in a realm no lawman should bother glancing towards. "Avert your eyes if you have to."
"I just want to make sure petty rationalization doesn’t become a plague. See, I agree with you. But unlike the military, I cannot outright condone your actions."
Zack narrowed his eyes. "Not this again. I don’t care how much you hate the General. This is..."
"Ridiculous." Leon pushed past Zack and past the sheriff, not bothering to look back. Petty, indeed. Whatever bad blood still ran between Sephiroth and Sheriff Tseng was going to have to be shoved aside for the time being, if not buried completely. Half of it was Lord Ansem’s puppetry anyway... Leon shuddered at his own thoughts.
Still, Ansem had requested the military presence and invited General Sephiroth from the main kingdom hundreds of miles away. Zack and four others made up the entire unit, double the size of Tseng’s two-man patrol but not yet as effective. And while the law handled the... law, the military handled ridiculous defensive things, like taking care of a rabid dragon and... Leon really had to think, since he was too young at the time to actually join up and only caught bits and pieces from his father.
Oh yes, that time Tseng’s two lackeys had gotten severely plastered and had needed a proper military escort home... that was half of the problem right there.
Turning a corner to head into town, Leon felt a slight pang of guilt over leaving Zack out there to deal with Tseng, but somehow he knew that Zack could handle himself.
Doc N, also known but certainly not better known as Doctor Nusakan, had both residence and clinic across town, which is where Leon suddenly realized he should probably head. So far he’d been all of not useful, something he wasn’t exactly proud of.
"Oh!! Squall!! A favor..."
Leon turned to seek the source of audible double exclamation points. From a window to his left dangled the top half of Rikku... Nope, absolutely could not remember her last name. Something hard to pronounce, as if the vowels had been swapped...
"If it’s for Ellone..."
"No... See, Paine and Yuna and I are collecting clothing. Because no one’s clothing fits anymore and we thought maybe we could have a store... But not a buying store, just a trading store. Like if you brought in your old clothes for someone new to wear, you could get something new to wear, too!" Rikku beamed, long braids bouncing against the window frame.
"Sure," Leon replied as he kept walking. It was an admirable idea, especially after seeing some of the cobbled together outfits being worn by the townsfolk. He wasn’t sure what he would be wearing, either, save for borrowing Laguna’s clothing. And already he knew he’d be teased for growing his hair out nearly as long, but to actually shrug on Laguna’s awful casual must-be-colorblind clothes? Leon rolled his eyes at the thought. Maybe someone would trade in some nice utilitarian leather. Or at least something resembling the nice military fatigues Zack had on. Zack had at least been at the end of his growth spurt nine years ago.
His name... finally. But he didn't want to turn to see what Sephiroth wanted. Because he wasn't anywhere near Doc N's yet. That only meant that he would have to turn and face death, even if it was a death already faced and beaten.
"General." He turned anyway, looking back over his left shoulder, wondering if somewhere in his mind was a better map of town so he knew if he should dare head into the house Sephiroth stood near.
He would have joined the military, for lack of having any clue what to do with himself. Ansem would have wanted it... Ansem had done all the orchestration, oh yes... Was, was Sephiroth, no, had Sephiroth been a puppet? Or a string-puller?
At one point, he'd actually thought they looked alike, but no... different faces and skin tones, different eyes...
"Ellone was looking for you," he said, the thin line of his mouth turning upward in the sort of smile Leon did not find himself liking.
"So I've heard," Leon replied. "I haven't seen any mages for her, though."
"I was going to ask for assistance with a pair of bodies," Sephiroth said, eyeing Leon once over. "But you look a little green already."
"I can help," Leon said quickly. Anything to move his mind. He did not want to dwell. He did not want to get stuck on the one thing that would break him.
"Are you sure?" Sephiroth asked, gesturing to the house. "Three bodies, actually... proof that... proof that reconstructing the universe was not done by a fair god."
Leon paused with his lips parted. 'And what are you?' he dared to ask, wondering if a patch of feathers still lingered on the General's back.
The things they'd done in the last nine years... What of them could ever be explained to those who'd simply lost time in the abyss?
Following Sephiroth into the house, Leon was back out into the street again, vomiting what felt quite like his entire skeletal structure out into the alleyway separating that house from the next.
Why did everyone have to hold his hair like he was child or drunkard...? Why couldn't he be just a little bit stronger?
"I'm okay," Leon said, pretending his legs weren't shaking.
"You don't have to go back in there."
"I know." Leon had never really thought about Sephiroth's eyes before and the fact they did not belong to anything human. But after playing poker in the not-so-distant past with a trio of talking ducks, nothing should really be so strange.
"You're going to anyway?"
"Yes," Leon replied, pushing the unlatched door back open. He winced as he took a step forward to let Sephiroth in behind him, but he didn't look away. No... This was reality. This was something to face.
"I think... I never realized just how pink and red we are on the inside," Leon said, watching as Sephiroth knelt to separate two of the bodies that were obscenely intertwined.
"Leon... Rationalize however you want, but these two had no chance," Sephiroth said, paying no heed to the blood staining his hands as he tried to tuck entrails back into the body of a young woman. "Go find some blankets so we can take them to Nusakan. There's a cart in the street."
Leon nodded, walking around the third body to search a dark hallway for bedrooms. It didn't matter now, what of this family's belongings were used as their funeral dressings. Pulling thick covers off a bed, Leon dragged them back through the hallway to the main room.
Maybe it wasn't so much the blood or even the splayed flesh, but maybe it was the expression of sheer anguish on the woman's face. Sephiroth was trying to close her wide eyes, smearing blood on her face as he did so.
"Here," Leon said. "Which will we do first?"
"Him," Sephiroth said, pointing at the body laying by itself, pooled blood freshest around it.
"He didn't have to die."
"He chose to," Sephiroth interjected quickly. "Without them... why live?"
"That's not... That's not the way to think."
Sephiroth grabbed a blanket and spread it on the floor.
"Leon. Either help or leave," Sephiroth reached for the man's upper half, grabbing it and pausing for Leon to reach for feet.
Once bundled and ignoring the slight bit of blood still dripping, the pair carried the first body out to Sephiroth's cart.
"Have there really been that many?" Leon asked. "Zack said..."
"Perhaps two dozen, counting these," Sephiroth answered, laying down another blanket. "The child in this one."
Leon winced again, trying to hold back his stomach's impending revolt. He wondered how far along the woman had been in her pregnancy and knew that the horrified expression left on her face had to have formed in the split second of being between coming back from the void and having a body nearly her own size come tearing out of her body.
No wonder... No wonder her husband had chosen not to carry on. Nothing could clean the house now. Nothing could clean his soul...
Leon shook his head, not realizing just how carefully Sephiroth was wrapping the bodies, certainly with more respect than needed to be displayed in such a situation.
Maybe he hadn't judged the other man properly. Maybe beneath those strange, unworldly eyes was someone perfectly normal and simply so tightly wrapped in a shell...
Or, listening to the sound of meat landing in the cart with just a little more force than necessary, Sephiroth really was a cold god trying to be human.
Sighing, Leon helped wrap the last of the three bodies and after taking one last look at the dark, sticky stain still setting into the hardwood floor, he closed the home's door. A horse would have been nice, Leon thought as he went to grab one of the hand-cart's handles, forcing his body a little too close to Sephiroth's in the process.
Strangely, he hadn't seen any dead animals yet, just those that were elderly and lingering near homes, their confusion nearly as apparent as their owners'. Perhaps in that way, the dark void had been kind. But to not return some things and to return... those in the cart they were towing the last few blocks to Doc N's place. Dug into a hill with a backroom cooler than anywhere else in town, it was the best place - save for the icy depths of the castle for temporarily storing bodies.
They'd have to dig... Leon hadn't even thought of that. He thought the mages would help with the fields, growing food quickly, but could their power be put to such a gruesome task.
But everything would be catalogued first, step by step. There was no way to rush through everything. Normalcy would certainly have to be earned.
His hip kept brushing Sephiroth's thigh, their height difference making itself apparent as their strides were awkward and mismatched.
"I ran into Sheriff Tseng," Leon admitted after they'd cleared the first two blocks. "I think... He'll be trouble."
"I'm sure," Sephiroth replied, voice cool. "But at least one of his deputies has been helping us as well, so I believe right now there's no use in petty spats."
"Will people really be able to adjust to this? Once it sinks in?"
"You think too much." And Sephiroth was silent for the rest of the trip.
Quickly the pair unloaded the cart into the back of Doc N's clinic, lining the three bodies up beside a row of others.
"Yesterday, nine years ago, I remember cleaning the clinic and wondering what it would be like to be a doll in a child's dollhouse, walked through actions each day," Dr. Nusakan said, turning from a metal exam cart to address the pair. "Only now to realize the horror that would be!"
Looking away, at the bodies, Leon didn't speak. The earthen floor would hold the blood. The place would smell of death for long after the dead were buried. Secretly he'd always though Doc N to be a little crazy, but he was also a powerful mage and had shown exceptional physical skill during a plague of monsters some... quite a few years before. Perhaps not crazy, just out of place in such a small town.
"We are no puppets," Sephiroth finally said, smirking. "Do your job."
"Has anyone gone to the cemetery yet?" Nusakan asked, finally leaving his grisly task and adjusting his glasses, looking slightly more sane than he had the moment before when coming out of introspection.
"Not that I know of," Sephiroth replied, glancing over at Leon. "Leon?"
"I can go," Leon said after a moment. "Or I can find someone..."
"I believe the owners of the Cafe have lunch planned for noon," Nusakan interjected. "Which it nearly is."
"You'll need to round up a few strong people to help," Sephiroth said, after nodding in Doc N's direction. "No Quake spells in the cemetery - just digging."
"But lunch... right?"
"Think you can handle it?" Sephiroth asked before looking down at himself and the blood that streaked his body. "I doubt it would be a morale boost to show up like this."
Doc N chuckled. "We're about the same size," he said. "Borrow something of mine for now."
"The girl-gang..." Leon began, before wondering if they would still be considered that. "They're starting a clothing-swap over near the path to the castle. Just in case..."
"You'll likely need new attire," Nusakan said quickly as he went to clean his hands, leering perhaps a bit much. "As will most of the younger members of the town."
"Those three were very much into dressing themselves up -- are they safe to clothe others?" Sephiroth asked with a chuckle as he accepted a spare uniform from Doc N's closet. Leon led the way out of the back room, thankful to leave that scene behind.
"Perhaps we'll be thrust into a fashion renaissance," Nusakan suggested, motioning to a small change room that Sephiroth could use.
Food did not sound appealing. And listening to Sephiroth and Doc N talk as though they hadn't just stepped out of a room full of people who never even had a chance was not making Leon feel any the better about anything.
He would have been better off staying up in the castle, trapped between the heat of Cloud's body and his memories of temptation by darkness.
The door was still open, and as soon as Doc N had looked the other way, he slipped out and headed off towards the cemetery.
Drink Lemonade! Tip Your Waitress!