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: Old habits die hard, old thoughts linger. The mages are tired already. And Leon gets the opportunity of a lifetime.
Notes: Rating is for language, disturbing content, gore, and sexual situations in this chapter and others.
Leon almost wanted to laugh once he was inside the castle. It was no different than when he'd left it the day before, save that the air seemed even more still and there was no sound other than the soft splash of the fountain in front of him.
Turning, he saw Zack offering him one last friendly wave before heading over to the lift to the damp bowels of the castle. But if the lift was working without magic, the generator had to be okay.
"Yuffie?" he called, wondering which way she would have gone. Normally he would have checked the library, but if she was looking for anything of value...
Before his mind could complete the thought, he was running for the lift stop. As he stepped onto the first lift, he looked up, both thankful and horrified to see the ninja darting through the passages and lifts a few stories above where he was being gently deposited. He knew where she was headed and he could certainly understand her reasoning.
But if there was anywhere that he really didn't feel like going and certainly didn't want to pry Yuffie away from, it had to be her destination - Ansem's personal suite.
"Yuffie!" Leon stepped into the narrow hallway and mentally let out a sigh of relief when he saw her still carefully picking at the lock on the door.
"Where's Sora when we need him?" Yuffie moaned, pulling the hook she'd been using away from the door. "This thing won't open!"
"Magic," Leon said before he realized he shouldn't have mentioned that little fact at all.
"How do you know that?" Yuffie asked, bouncing up and striding over to Leon. "What spell? I bet I can do it."
"And the key," Leon finished. "Both, at once. He was... secretive."
There. That should hold her. She would have to give up for the time being.
"We'll have to find the key then," Yuffie declared. "But... that can probably wait, can't it?"
"Yeah," Leon replied. "Why don't we check some of the guest rooms or the maid's quarters?"
"I bet there's gold in there," Yuffie bemoaned, giving the door one last look. "And diamonds. And..."
"I don't think anyone in town would want to wear his clothing," Leon commented. "So we can just leave it for now. Remember why we're here."
"Fine," Yuffie said. "Hey, can we pick out rooms, then? We are moving up here, right?"
Leon was silent. He had declared his burning desire to get away from Laguna and Ellone, after all. And there really weren't that many places to go in town, at least not on such short notice.
"Wouldn't it be better to ask Sephiroth first?" Leon asked finally, after they were safely back on the lift and his mind had stopped reciting the scattered words that made up the spell to unbind that strange lock.
"But the castle isn't his, is it? I mean, he does live here but... I don't know," Yuffie declared with her hands on her hips. "Maybe we shouldn't take anything other than food, for now."
"This from someone who was just trying to get the diamonds that Lord Ansem didn't even have," Leon said, a smile forming on his face before he realized what he's just said.
"How do you know?" Yuffie asked as they switched from one lift to the next, her shoes silent on the passage between even as Leon could hear the sound of his own boots. "You were in there once?"
"Yes," Leon said. "Once upon a time."
"Tell me?" Yuffie asked. Smiling at him and dressed in his sister's clothing, she was almost endearing enough to pull the truth from him. But not quite.
"Nothing much to tell," Leon said. "Sorry."
"Right." Apparently Yuffie took that as a cue to be quiet and not get on Leon's nerves any more than she might already be.
Grabbing onto the back of Yuffie's shirt as she leaned over the side of the lift to see who was below, Leon already knew the voice was Zack's.
"Zack!" Yuffie cried, waving. "Everything okay in the basement?"
"The water is a little high!" Zack replied before waiting for their lift to stop to continue. "But I think it's just a build up from the night. Still, I guess either I can check it later or see if Sephiroth is heading back this way."
"We need to talk to him," Leon said as he finally let go Yuffie. She stuck out her tongue and he did his best not to remind her of all the times when she was young that she'd quite nearly fallen off the lift because she'd wanted to hang over the side.
"About moving in? I don't think he'd mind," Zack said, shrugging. "As long as he has enough privacy and all."
"I'd rather ask," Leon replied.
"I'll move in if you do, Squall," Yuffie chirped before correcting herself. "Leon!"
"Why don't we find some food to take back to the café in town?" Leon suggested. "It's still early and I'm sure they still need canned things."
"Spoilsport," Yuffie retorted as she bounced off towards the kitchens.
"Y'know, if you do want to talk about it...," Zack started once Yuffie was out of sight.
"I don't," Leon replied. "There's no point in dwelling on things I did or didn't do nine years ago."
"Or, since I haven't seen you lingering around anyone but your instant little sister, who you did or didn't do," Zack corrected.
"You're the one dwelling on it. But you can't go back and change your decision. There's just one direction - forward."
By the time they made it to the kitchens, Yuffie already had half the cupboards flung open.
"Looks like Aerith only scratched the surface here!" she cried, waving. "Let's take everything we can back."
"Just what we can carry," Zack decided. "Remember that someone does live here. And that you'd like to. If no one in town is starving, we can save these rations a little longer."
"Zack has a point," Leon agreed. Despite Zack's sense of humor, Leon did know the soldier was skilled in both tactics and combat. Any advice Zack could give, at least on the battlefield, he would willingly take.
"Mmm. I want some of this jelly," Yuffie said as she dug in the cabinets. "I remember we always had sandwiches with it. Has it really been nine years?"
"Only for some people," Zack said, holding out his hands. "Let's head back and get lunch. Maybe Seph will be there..."
"You're really friendly with him, aren't you?" Yuffie asked. "I was kinda scared of him at first, but..."
"He kept Cloud safe," Leon finished. "Even if they didn't always get along."
Zack smiled and Leon flashed to a fading memory of Cloud chasing after Zack, wanting to hold a sword bigger than he was. That was right - they were friends too.
Aerith offered a limp wave to the trio from where she sat in a faded wooden deck chair near the edge of the open-air section of the café.
"Hard at work?" Yuffie asked, bounding by.
"I'm out," Aerith replied softly. "But we have fresh vegetables."
"What?" Leon asked, roughly working the logistics of just how many spells a person would have to cast in order to make just a few plants leap to maturity in 24 hours and then multiplied it by an amount capable of feeding a group of people.
"Yeah... Aya was still there. Ellone collapsed, but she'll be okay when she wakes up," Aerith said. Yuffie came out to collect the jars that Leon was still holding. "Rosa..."
"I thought you were with Sephiroth," Zack said.
"Oh, I was earlier," Aerith explained. "Trying to do too much, I guess..."
"Don't wear yourself out."
"We're going to try to do a field of wheat tomorrow," Aerith replied, frowning. "After that... Whatever Ellone and Cecil decide, I guess."
"Are you sure that you're up to that?" Leon asked. Aerith hadn't done more than that pitiful wave the entire time they'd been talking.
"Don't worry about me," Aerith replied before smiling. "This is what I've always trained to do."
Leon nodded. In a way, he understood. Aerith was a mage. She'd always been a mage. And this was a task for mages. Still, he knew he'd worry. Nine years of making sure she was safe wasn't going to vanish in an instant.
"Well, we brought down some more food from the castle," Zack said as he reached to take Aerith's hand. "Those of us who are only good for grunt work will concentrate on just that."
Aerith laughed. "That isn't all you're good for."
Turning, Leon didn't think he had any part in their flirting. He thought of Aerith as a sister, certainly, and didn't need to think about her involvement with anyone.
Stretching and walking out into the sunshine just past the café, Leon considered heading off to the cemetery to look for Sephiroth. But he knew he couldn't leave Yuffie just yet. And she probably wanted lunch. There had been a few other people clustered in the café, after all, speaking in the hushed tones of those unsure of what would come next.
"Leon!" Sure enough, her voice broke the near-quiet just a moment later. But it was comforting, having someone who would call to him.
He turned, not at all surprised to see her holding two jelly sandwiches, just like they used to get in the castle.
Smiling, he accepted one of them and pointed towards a far picnic bench. They would sit and eat. And then they would see what would come next.
Leon looked up at the sound of thunder, completely surprised to see dark clouds gathering towards the horizon. There had been rain in Traverse Town on occasion, but not thunderstorms.
But the rolling wasn't from the mages, Leon knew. Not even together could they call up something like what was brewing. The storm was nature, pure and simple, getting itself back together as well.
Leon smiled when he saw lightning flicker between clouds. Storms had never frightened him.
Then he realized that Yuffie was clinging to his arm.
"I'd forgotten storms," she admitted. "It surprised me a little."
"Nothing to be scared of," Leon reminded her.
"I'm not scared of anything," Yuffie said defiantly. "Storms or monsters or heartless or Cid when he's grumpy. It just surprised me."
"We should get home, though," Leon said. "You to your home, me to mine. Nature has decided that neither of us is going to be moving anywhere today."
"We didn't even find Sephiroth," Yuffie muttered, not letting go of Leon yet. "He's good at hiding."
"He can teleport, if you've forgotten. He's probably the strongest mage we have. We may have just been looking in the wrong places," Leon commented.
"Then let's go back to the castle and wait!"
"But..." Yuffie began, only to be interrupted.
"Tomorrow is nearly as good as today," Leon said. "Tomorrow I'll pick you up after breakfast and we can check into YuRiPa's shop for clothing and then go track down Sephiroth."
"I can't stay over?"
"Spend some time at home," Leon suggested. He did want to get home to see Ellone. What Aerith had said earlier at the café stuck in his mind. In the back of his memory, he knew that using too much magic at once tended to make her feel faint, but if she'd actually blacked out for any period of time, there was a bit of cause for concern.
The thunder crashed through the sky once more and Leon wasn't surprised as cold, stinging rain started to fall.
"Bye, Leon!" Yuffie exclaimed, letting go of him to dash off towards her house.
"Bye," he replied softly, feeling a little guilty at the relief that welled up in him. Peace. Quiet. Even the rain wasn't that terrible as he walked slowly towards Laguna's house.
He could hear Laguna and Ellone in the kitchen as he walked through the house, not bothering to disturb them as he headed to his room. Things were still strewn all over from earlier, when he and Yuffie had boxed up quite a bit of his clothing. But straightening up was a simple task and in just a few minutes he had things looking as they had been, including the wooden practice sword being returned to rest on his bed.
On the edge of his dresser sat a set of hooks that he'd meant to put up so he could hang it, over his bed but beneath the window. There was no point, now, but nine years ago he'd really just needed to find the hammer that Laguna had misplaced.
Ellone's voice shouldn't have surprised him, strong over the rain that was still fiercely hitting against his window.
"Just cleaning a bit," Leon replied. Ellone certainly did sound okay. But when he turned to face her, the dark circles under her eyes were telling.
"Packing," Ellone commented, pointing to the piles that had been made by the closet.
"Yes," Leon admitted. "I... care about you and Laguna, but..."
"You've been living on your own up until now, right? Or with the others - I understand," Ellone said. "Laguna and I have talked and we really don't expect you to stay. Just don't you dare go out in this storm."
Thunder crashed overhead, making Ellone jump.
"I'm not going anywhere tonight," Leon replied. "Not with a storm like that. Besides, I'd almost like to see the castle generator last the night once before trying to move there."
"Castle?" Ellone questioned. "Laguna- Laguna told me what the fight was about. You'd..."
"That's history to me," Leon lied.
"I feel silly for asking you about Aerith," Ellone continued. "And I'm a little unsure if I should ask about anyone else..."
"You probably shouldn't," Leon said flatly, turning back to piles he hadn't even quite consciously made.
"Oh, well... Laguna's going to make dinner and, um, I'm going to make sure he doesn't catch as many things on fire as I did this morning."
"You should rest, too," Leon said. "I saw Aerith before lunch and she looked like a zombie."
"But she's amazing!" Ellone replied. "She's strong. Sephiroth, too. I wonder if they're related - they look alike. I should ask..."
As Ellone wandered out of the room, Leon remembered to move his practice sword before flopping onto his bed to listen to the rain. The solitude was welcome and a nice change.
And before his mind could wander too far, he reached down into the space between the bed and his wall, to the very corner that he could just squeeze his fingers into to grasp at cool metal.
Yuffie would kill him if she ever found out. Part of him wished she would. Pulling out the bronze-colored skeleton key, Leon wondered what he should even do with it. Ansem's nice, secluded room could be his, complete with memories of the only time he'd uttered the simple-yet-disjointed spell and clicked the lock open to slip into Ansem's bed if only to be too nervous for anything but a deep kiss and a suggestion of sleep.
After that, it had always been his room of the castle. Creamy whites and reds, royal and inviting, wrapping themselves around the room to spin even more when Ansem's hands had pulled his clothing away to guide his body to a state of arousal that he hadn't even completely understood at the time.
The rain was still coming down, hard enough that no one would dare climb up on the rain bucket for fear of slipping in and being soaked. His door was closed. Hopefully either Ellone or Laguna would knock.
And guilt. Every time he let his memory replay those moments, he hated himself more. And every time he used those memories above any other to work his body to release, he was amazed that the heartless hadn't just spirited him away to become one of their numbers.
Minutes later, shaking his head as he cleaned his sticky hands with the edge of a sheet, Leon wondered if he had thrown the last nine years away completely or if there really was no way to escape the past keeping a firm grasp on his mind. And heart.
By the time Leon had arrived at Yuffie's house, he wasn't at all surprised to see a gaggle of girls in the yard, talking with Yuffie. The sun was already fairly high in the sky, due in part to Laguna needing a hand patching a hole in the roof that had surfaced midway through the night over Ellone's room.
"Leon!" Yuffie exclaimed, bouncing to her feet. "Hope you don't mind if I take a raincheck. I..."
Glancing at the group, Leon nodded. Yuffie was a young woman and needed to be with her own kind, too, especially the aspiring ninjas of the group.
"It's fine," Leon replied, waving to the few girls he recognized. He could only wonder how they'd react to the gesture, but he also didn't care. Other things were on his mind, like finding Sephiroth. "Tomorrow?"
"Yeah... But if you talk to Sephiroth you had better come tell me right away!"
"I will," Leon said, offering her a wave as well before heading towards the fields. If Sephiroth didn't show, Leon decided, he could at least offer some of his own magic towards the daily task. Ellone would already be there, as would Rinoa and Aerith and the rest of the town's mages.
Leon turned to see who'd spoken to him. He knew who Kain Highwind was quite well, a young but retired ex-dragoon from the capitol who'd moved out with his 'very close friends' Cecil and Rosa to escape a bit of a scandal over his chosen relationships. But Leon didn't really want to say that he'd sometimes secretly watched the man in the mornings, spear flashing in the sunlight.
"Mister Highwind," Leon finally said, a little embarrassed that it had taken so long to reply.
"You're quite the fighter now, aren't you?" Kain commented. "Apparently Ellone babbled quite a bit to Cecil about your exploits while the rest of us were cast into nothingness."
Leon hoped he was smiling. That was Ellone all right.
"Did you need something?" he asked, glancing from the bottom to the tip of the spear that Kain was holding. Golden. He thought of Kain as golden.
"Apparently there's a wayward dragon out past the fields," Kain replied. "I was thinking of heading up a party."
A dragon hunt. Leon remembered being sixteen and on his hands and knees begging Laguna to let him go on a dragon hunt.
"Count me in," Leon said, smiling. "When are we heading out?"
"An hour," Kain replied. "We'll meet at the edge of the fields."
And as Kain headed off towards a different part of town, Leon could only imagine the look that would form on Yuffie's face when she found out that she'd missed a dragon hunt. Right before he would have to duck a very large shuriken.
Drink Lemonade! Tip Your Waitress!