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Title: Aftershocks
Fandom: Kingdom Hearts
Part: 4/??
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.
Rating: M
Summary: Leon thinks too much. Yuffie declares a slumber party in Leon's room. The first day is finally over.
Notes: Rating is for language, disturbing content, gore, and sexual situations in this chapter and others.

There was no real difficulty in determining that a grassy section towards the back of the cemetery was more than large enough for the number of bodies Leon had seen in Doc N's clinic.

The ground had never been particularly hard, either, definitely not in the cemetery. He knew - he knew too well...

Sitting down in front of a marble angel, Leon reached out to touch the lettering on the base. Raine Leonhart Loire.

Ellone had adopted the name Loire despite it not being hers, but Leon, even at five years old, had been angry enough to throw that name away to be Squall Leonhart.

And just Leon, now...

Strings of beads hung around the angel's neck, looking crisp and clean. He'd always lied and said that he wasn't the one that left them, one each year on his mother's birthday.

Leon made a mental note to round up some beads and add the eight or so strands that were now missing. He'd nearly forgotten the tradition.

Sighing, he stood. He knew how soft the ground was.

"You're lucky," Leon said as he turned to take another look at the empty patch of earth to the rear of the cemetery. "The world is insane now. I wouldn't want you to see me like this."


Leon spun around, realizing he needed to stop being so damned surprised that people he'd barely associated with before were suddenly seeking him out.

"What?" he asked, taking one last look at his mother's grave before paying full attention o the curious gaze of a girl he could think of as being perhaps called Jessie.

"Oh good, that is you..." she continued, "Mister Cid sent me to get you. I've been looking all over."

Shaking his head, Leon was a little appalled - he didn't need everyone to take care of him, after all.

"Tell Cid that I'm fine," Leon said a moment later when it became apparent that he'd either need to answer or risk being permanently trapped in her eyes. It was a look half child and half adult, so utterly confused that Leon just wanted to look away but couldn't.

"But he said you had to come," she insisted. "I can understand why you'd want to come here though. My dad is here..."

Great. Not only did he have the entire town playing babysitter but he also had a girl trying to catch up on prime years of teenage angst.

At least Cid hadn't send Cloud, Leon thought, finally nodding as a signal that he was ready to go.

"So... you know what happened, don't you?" Jessie asked as they walked.

"Yeah," Leon replied. "But I thought Cloud already explained."

"Yeah, but..."

"Ansem was a bad man," Leon said quickly, trying to make this as short as possible. "And because he wanted something for himself, he sacrificed this world."

"So how did everything come back?" Jessie asked, glancing up at Leon with those hypnotically lost eyes.

"There's a hero now, for all worlds," Leon explained. "We have to have faith in him and those traveling with him."

"Other worlds..." Those eyes were suddenly wide like a child's. "Oh..."

"Lots of other worlds," Leon continued. "But it wasn't as fun as it might sound."

"You probably feel just as weird as everyone who stayed here," Jessie commented, popping back to a teenager and falling into step beside Leon.

Leon almost chuckled since that really did sum it up completely. But the understanding of one not-child was instantly marred as they reached the Cafe and Leon found himself looking into near-glowing blue.

Cloud. His brain hadn't even processed most of what had passed between them just a couple of hours before and he still, by effect, had no idea what to say.

Because it wasn't that the idea of a relationship was horrible - it wasn't. However the thought of trying to make something work amidst confusion and already mixed emotions did not sound like a good idea. He was trying to be practical.

Besides, Leon knew that romantic attachment often developed within small groups of travelers or refugees - he didn't want to get involved only for Cloud to realize his feelings were just a random whim brought on by swirling insanity.

Cloud. He was worried about Cloud, which meant...

But Cloud turned, walking away in such a manner that Leon couldn’t just leave Jessie to follow. Besides, Cid wanted something and it might just be important.

Cid was sitting at a picnic table by the Cafe, the remains of several lunches scattered on the table. A man and woman sat at the table near him, neither one seeming to be particularly with him but certainly both were somehow integral to his life or he would not have let them stay - or they wouldn't have tolerated his language and constant smoking, at least.

"Leon! Get the fuck over here!"

Yet Leon found himself really liking Cid, potentially because his bad traits were also his good traits, save for his habit of cussing in front of impressionable demi-children.

Complying, Leon waved Jessie away as he slung a leg over the picnic bench.

"We have digging to do," Leon said, eyeing Cid's companions for a moment before speaking. He was fairly sure that he wasn't going to get introduced.

But damn, Leon did know the man he was sitting beside - it was Vincent Valentine, original contender for sheriff some years before but too wild to actually get the position. Leon wasn't overly sure he' would even call Vincent one of the 'good guys', but it was certainly better to have him working for apparent good.

The woman, however, was a bit beyond the reaches of Leon's knowledge. He had been only sixteen at the last chance he'd had to see any of these people. And he had definitely had other things on his mind.

"Yeah, Doc N mentioned that," Cid said, lighting a cigarette and glancing off for a moment. "They're still serving food, y'know..."

"I'm not hungry," Leon replied firmly, shaking his head.

"Raine would want you to eat," the woman said, attempting a maternal glare but failing, obviously from a lack of experience.

"Shera, shut the fuck up. If he wants to starve himself, it's his choice," Cid chided.

Shera, that did sound familiar, but...

"You knew my mother?" Leon asked. "You're too young to..."

That was met with a happy giggle.

"I worked for her as a chambermaid in the castle," Shera admitted. "I read books in the library in my spare time and Raine actually introduced me to Cid and convinced him to let me be his apprentice."

"She's been a fuckup ever since," Cid added, flicking ash onto the ground.

He'd... he'd nearly forgotten that his mother had worked for Ansem, nearly as a personal assistant at times.

Surely, no, she had just gotten sick - Ansem couldn't have, wouldn't have... in a way his mother had delivered him right into Ansem's arms...


"I'm still not hungry," Leon concluded, wanting very much to have somewhere he could go to be an able body and lose himself in menial work where he didn't have to think. He didn't want to think. He was afraid of where his thoughts would go.

"Your sister organized the mages," Vincent said suddenly. "They headed to the fields just before you made it back."

"Cloud went with them," Cid added. "And Aerith, of course. You may want to join them. You look fucking restless."

"Yeah..." Leon admitted. But he did not want to go where Cloud was.


All four turned to where a blonde woman in a cook's apron was grabbing dishes from the tables.

"No one stayed to clean up," she complained. "Don't suppose any of you..."

And that is how Leon spent the rest of the afternoon up to his elbows in soap suds.

Leon readily admitted that he did not know the sort of ingenuity existed for five people to cook dinner from a hodge-podge of ingredients and make it enough to feed a whole town.

But truthfully, Leon was just very happy to have finished the dishes in time to use them again. He was also quite happy to not have dropped any of them after the lady he was betting on to be Zack's sister told him that most of the dishes had been donated since they obviously didn't have enough for everyone.

At first he had thought Shera was going to stay with him but no, she chased off after Cid like a lost puppy.

"Don't suppose you'd like to stick around after dinner," the blonde cook said, ignoring currently nonexistent health codes as she hopped up to sit on a counter. "And I know you didn't have lunch..."

"If you'd seen..."

"I just said that you didn't have lunch," she interrupted. "I wasn't beating you upside the head about it."

"You want me to eat something," Leon surmised, reaching for a new batch of utensils that had appeared.

"You're doing a good job," the cook replied. "I don't want you to faint from hunger and leave all the work for me. But I'm also a little surprised that a man re-introduced as a fierce warrior was so quick to volunteer to do dishes."

She swung her legs in silence for a minute, not watching much but the movement and the floor before she hopped down and headed off towards the ovens.

"We survived by doing what we could," Leon said to himself, leaving out the part where he had washed dishes for a few years to have enough money to help feed Aerith and Yuffie because he'd never expected Cid to do it on his own.

When the cook returned a few minutes later with a plate of food, Leon didn't say a word even as she tried to joke about making breakfast. But he did dry his hands in order to eat.

Sneaking in and out of his bedroom window had never been particularly difficult, but that had been nearly a decade before and he had been a decent bit smaller then.

Leon tumbled headfirst onto his bed, wishing he'd remembered to put his practice sword away nine years ago - the hilt felt horrid against his lower back.

And he hadn't had a chance to try to find clothing either, so as he stripped down in the dark, he started to imagine how ridiculous he would feel in the morning while wearing only a towel or blanket and trying to borrow something of Laguna's without Laguna laughing like a complete idiot.

"Can I borrow a pair of pants?" Leon tried in the dark. He started laughing. It was ridiculous. The world was ridiculous. Everything was just too fucking overwhelming. He didn't want to wake Ellone up, though. He grabbed his pillow and tried to stop laughing what he knew was the laughter of someone too close to the edge.

The day had been much too long for his comfort though - too many things had happened. Those bodies were likely still laying in Doc N's building, not that they'd suffer any harm in the cool darkness, slowly becoming more dead and less human and no longer his worry anyway.

He swallowed hard.

Cloud. They'd been best friends - no, they were best friends.

Just as he'd gotten the last of his damp, filthy clothing off, Leon heard a very distinctive tap at his window. Their stone house was older and hard to heat, so the windows were small and high. Climbing up on his bed, he peered out to see Cloud already half up on the rain-bucket below, ready to come through like he had hundreds of times in the past.

"Leon!" Cloud called, reaching to slide the window open at the same time Leon did.

"Shh..." Leon hushed him, reaching for Cloud's hands to pull him through. The awkwardness was gone - vanished in a puff of nostalgia. And understanding, Leon thought, of what the day had been like.

Both men fell into a jumble on the bed, chuckling as Cloud cursed at the practice sword jammed into his back, finally dropping it down between the bed and wall as he sat up and looked at Leon.

"You're naked," Cloud commented.

"I washed dishes all night," Leon replied, heading for his closet in hopes that he had some fairly stretchy sweatpants left. He assumed that elastic didn't die in the void of darkness, but he wasn't exactly sure. "Wet..."

"I... I'm sorry." Cloud sat looking at the ceiling, his eyes averted as Leon stumbled through his closet in the dark, finding and pulling on a nearly-comfortable pair of sweatpants.

"It's not you," Leon said. "It's the world. It's everything. Once we aren't breaking down doors to drag corpses to the street, maybe we..."

"Leon... Squall..."

"It's been a hard day."

"Yeah," Cloud agreed. "It has."

"You came here just to apologize?" Leon asked a moment later, realizing that Cloud hadn't moved.

"Couldn't sleep not knowing," Cloud admitted, finally looking at the floor instead of the ceiling.

Leon knew that feeling much too well. And Cloud was Cloud. After all, he hadn't been the least bit surprised by Cloud's actions for most of the day - everything but the kiss.

"Stay," Leon said almost before realizing he was speaking out loud. "I'll find you something to wear and some blankets so you can sleep on the floor. Just like you used to when Aya..."

"Aya is still Aya," Cloud interrupted. "Headstrong. Un-agreeable."

"She's probably right, though," Leon suggested, hoping that practice sword wasn't within Cloud's reach.

Halfway through digging in the dim light for something for Cloud to wear and trying not to pause as each piece of clothing threw memories at him, Leon sighed. The distinctive tapping of stones against his window certainly seemed to be the soundtrack for the evening.

"See who that is," Leon said, fairly sure he'd found a pair of pajamas that would slide over Cloud's slimmer form without trouble.

"Yuffie," Cloud reported back a second later, bedsprings creaking as the blond climbed up and slid the window open.

"Pull her in," Leon commanded. He was fairly sure he knew why she was there. She'd spent years sleeping with him - sleeping with him - when she was younger. And even though she had thrown off most of the nightmares and neediness of her youth to become a strong ninja, Leon had never been too entirely surprised when she slipped into his room even as a teenager when she had too much on her mind.

"Slumber party?" Yuffie asked, landing on the bed as Cloud jumped aside.

"Sure," Leon deadpanned, handing the pajamas over to Cloud. "I suppose you need something to sleep in, too."

"Um... Yeah," Yuffie admitted. "Sorry to drop in, literally, but things were just too weird at home."

She flopped onto the bed, looking up at the ceiling as Cloud started to pull off his own clothing in favor of the pajamas. Leon wondered just why his ceiling was so interesting. But instead of watching it or even watching Cloud and wondering when they'd all gotten so sensitive to each other's bodies - he'd have to run Yuffie through baths when Aerith was too busy trying to stitch their clothing together or making dinner or any of the other thousand things she'd been trying to do at fifteen - he plunged back into the closet in search of an oversized t-shirt or something for Yuffie. And blankets. But those were easy enough to find, along with a few throw pillows he'd herded from the living room when he was thirteen in order to always have something on hand for when Cloud arrived halfway through the night.

"Here..." Leon said, tossing the shirt in Yuffie's direction. "I don't suppose anyone is actually tired."

"Kinda," Cloud admitted, looking strange in Leon's old, threadbare pajamas. Harmless and young, really, Leon thought. If Yuffie hadn't been there, he would have considered recanting his declaration of waiting until things were a little less weird.

He wanted to thank Yuffie for being there.

There was a tap at the window. Leon wondered if he'd start laughing again. There were only a few people left that he at all expected to appear outside his window...

"Sephiroth!" Yuffie announced, bouncing up topless to peer out. "Guess I should put something on..."

"Here," Leon said, pushing past her to step up on the bed and slide the window open.

"The hydroelectric generator seems to have gummed up," Sephiroth said, frowning. "So there's no power at the castle right now and I can't even get down to fix it until morning."

"You can see in the dark," Cloud said, climbing up beside Leon.

"I can't borrow tools from Cid until morning," Sephiroth replied firmly. "I'm sure Ansem had them but I don't know where."

"So why are you here?"

"Why are you, Cloud?" he asked, green eyes bright in the moonlight.

"Slumber party," Yuffie said, popping up beside Leon. "I say we should let him in."

"Only if we actually sleep," Leon said flatly. "Sephiroth comes in and I give everyone a pillow and a blanket and we all sleep and then in the morning we never speak of this again. Unlike the rest of the town, we actually are our ages!"

"He's too big for the window," Cloud stated, glaring out again.

"I might be," Sephiroth said with a smirk. "But I'm not worried."

"Huh?" Yuffie tried to reach out the window but in a crackle of magic, Sephiroth vanished. Before the three could turn around, the same crackle echoed behind them and as they turned in unison, Sephiroth was standing there looking a bit less like a demigod and a little more like a tired man looking for a floor to sleep on.

"Pillows. Blankets. Sleep." Leon reiterated. He was ready to go sleep on the sofa. If anyone - anyone - dared show up at his window after this, he was not going to even look to see who they were. No, he was going to... something. Something bad. Throw water balloons or something.

It was just too ridiculous. Everything was. Not even capable of being annoyed that Cloud was suddenly engaged in a whispered conversation with Sephiroth and Yuffie hadn't budged from his one-person bed, Leon pulled blankets and pillows from his closet and tossed them on the floor.

And he'd slept in tighter spaces with Yuffie beside him after all. And he'd kinda assumed Sephiroth and Cloud had a past of some sort. So...

He knew where Cloud had dropped the practice sword, if anything did happen. His mind was tired.

"Shove over," he muttered, making sure he and Yuffie were between different layers of blankets as he pressed himself between her and the wall. He'd have to sleep with an arm draped over her. He could do that.

Still whispering in hushed tones, Sephiroth and Cloud seemed to be settling in as well. With one last bit of curiosity, Leon peered over Yuffie to see that they'd ended up in almost the same position, save that Cloud was using Sephiroth's usually-hidden wing as a blanket and that Yuffie had a hand dangling off the bed to rest in one of Cloud's.

Leon smiled. They were clinging to what they had.


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