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: Dragons are not a simple prey. Cloud falls. Leon finds something to occupy his time.
Notes: Rating is for language, disturbing content, gore, and sexual situations in this chapter and others.
"This your first time?" Zack asked, reaching over to run his fingers along some of the decoration of Leon's gunblade.
"Yeah," Leon admitted, happy that he wasn't doing something ridiculous like jumping up and down. He was - in his mind - actually, but that certainly wasn't worth mentioning. "Laguna..."
"Probably with good reason," Zack finished, smiling. "Can I give you a word of advice, then?"
Nodding, Leon wondered if the soldier had any damned clue how appreciated his advice truly was - on anything.
"I was going to mention this anyway... to both you and Cloud," Zack continued. He pointed out towards the place beyond the fields where trees became thicker and wild creatures roamed - a place children were told to avoid and where the warriors amongst them went to hunt in the name of community safety. "This is a team thing. We all do this together. Whatever heroics you think you have planned..."
That was cause for concern? Leon chuckled. He'd already decided that any and all glory could go to the golden Kain Highwind. Just landing a blow or two on the beast would be more than enough to satisfy his ego - at least this first time.
"Hey..." Cloud slid up behind Zack, looking a bit like the soldier's photo-negative - light hair and dark clothing a contrast to Zack's dark hair and tight white shirt. The only thing that the two men had in common was the pair of matching swords glinting in the late-morning sun.
"Looks like Kain called out everyone," Zack said before reaching over to muss Cloud's hair. "He told me that he'd talked to you both. Guess it is about time that Spikey got to fight a dragon!"
"I could send you flying," Cloud said flatly as he reached back for his sword. Leon could read the amusement on Cloud's face though. He knew that his friend was just playing. And the chance to show off to his mentor... Leon knew that Cloud did have something to prove.
"Oh could you?"
Leon could see the sparkle in Zack's eyes as he spoke. A split second later he had to jump out of the way as swords crashed together right in front of him.
Very rarely had Leon ever had a chance to step back and watch Cloud fight. Either he was sparring with his friend himself or Sephiroth was wiping the floor with the pair of them. And Leon was impressed, if only to see two men so well matched, locked in what would have appeared to any other spectator as a fight to the death. The wide smiles on their faces told a different story, however.
What neither of the swordsmen had realized was one of the first things that Leon had considered while watching them swing their weapons into another crashing pause; that thunderstorm had left the ground soaked.
So when Cloud slipped, they both slipped, too focused on trying to outdo the other and not enough on their footing.
"Somehow, I do not feel safe."
Glancing back, Leon realized that the rest of the party had arrived. Beyond Kain's shoulder was Kuja, a bit of a surprise. Leon knew that the actor was also a mage, but he had no clue that he qualified as powerful enough to go along on such an expedition. Though he could understand the mage's discomfort at seeing two of the party half-covered in mud before things had even gotten underway.
The woman at Kain's side only smiled before glancing back over her own shoulder.
"We're waiting on one more," she said.
"He's here," Cloud said quickly, his mouth still parted on the second word when the air crackled beside him.
Leon was half-waiting for the general to slip in the same mud that had two of his finest still scrambling to their feet.
"Sir..." Kain said, saluting quickly in perfect unison with the woman beside him.
"Ah, General..." Sephiroth said, sliding to the woman's side with a rare smile.
"Just Celes, please. If each of us who left the king's army was still called by rank, half this town would be caught in a permanent salute," she replied. "You've learned a few tricks..."
Wanting to keep eavesdropping on the pair, Leon's attention was pulled away by Cloud's smile.
"I'll get him next time."
"I know," Leon replied, answering a questioning nod from Kain with a nod of his own.
They were heading out.
Tromping out to the edge of the trees didn't take long, and while Sephiroth and Celes spoke softly to one another, Leon stayed quiet. Cloud didn't stray far from his side, most of the mud on his clothing brushed into dark smears that at least made him look like he'd seen a far greater battle than one against his instructor.
Zack kept close to Kuja and Kain, trying to get a little enthusiasm from the pair for his grand idea of reopening the weapons shop.
Looking at each other and the exact way they chose to break the silence between them, both men started laughing.
"Aya's out working again today... not too concerned about where I am, at least," Cloud said.
"Ellone just seems tired," Leon admitted. "I don't know how long they can keep this up."
"And we have two mages with us, today," Cloud said, gesturing subtly at Kuja and Sephiroth. "We've fought things worse than dragons..."
Leon shook his head. "I'll trust Kain on this. If he thinks seven of us are required, it's probably because seven of us are required."
"I know." Cloud sounded almost like he was going to say something else, but he started softly chuckling instead.
"Kuja... I've been wondering how he can walk so gracefully, but that's a float spell, isn't it? He's keeping dry by staying above the mud," Cloud said, pointing down to where the blacks and purples of Kuja's outer robe were swaying just above the earth.
"Yeah," Leon said, having only realized that little fact a few minutes before Cloud. "Makes what we managed to learn seem silly, doesn't it?"
"Float is an elemental defense," Cloud noted.
"So are wings," Leon replied, slipping a hand over to poke at Cloud's back. "You're good at keeping yours hidden, though."
"Now kids..." Zack dropped a step and slid between them, throwing an arm over each of their shoulders and marching them along. "I think Cloud's caused enough trouble today."
"He started it," Cloud commented.
Leon wanted to laugh. They'd had this fight before, or something similar to it. He'd been ten, Cloud had been eight. There was a toy pop gun involved. And the rest was a little blurry.
Suddenly Kain held a hand out, gesturing for them to stop and stay quiet.
Leon could see Sephiroth's smile as the silver-haired man nodded.
But he definitely couldn't see what the three fighters in the lead had already picked up on. A second later, though, he heard it - a long, almost angry cry echoing through the trees and taking up residence in Leon's head, locking itself in his memory.
Letting go of Cloud and Leon, Zack stepped forward, drawing his sword. Kain pointed.
And then Leon saw the beast that had howled out its existence just a few seconds before. Terror prickled at him, threatening to freeze him in place. Heartless were nothing, no matter their size and strength, compared to the creature that towered above their group and seemed to be moving forward.
By the time he realized he was running along with the rest of the group, the fear had dissipated. This was what he was now - this was what he could do. He was a protector. A fighter. For everyone in town who was struggling to move forward.
This was what he could do.
The dragon looked both old and mean, a male, Leon recounted from the dragonology book he'd absolutely memorized when he was twelve. Horns jutted from its head, curling at the tips with age. And small wings, vestigial, were tattered. A land dragon - perhaps the only thing that had kept the crazed beast from crashing right into town... it just hadn't made it yet.
Leon knew the creature saw them only as dinner. He wondered if he could get a shot off - or even if it would do anything. He knew to aim for the head or neck first and to go for the underbelly once the beast had fallen once. But the back and sides of the dragon's hide was surely too thick for even their swords to do more than chip off ancient scales.
Armor flashing in the sunlight, Kain jumped, spanning the distance between the rest of the party and the dragon in seconds, impaling his spear into the back of the creature's head before being thrown off to the side, landing hard on the ground but mostly upright.
"Kain!" Cloud cried, lunging forward. The dragon turned, suddenly finding Kain a bit less interesting and even stopping the useless clawing at where Kain's spear rested as it spotted the loud appetizer charging it.
"Cloud..." Leon knew Sephiroth's voice well enough to recognize it without turning. "Cloud!"
Cloud froze as if he was being physically restrained, unable to do more than block fangs with his buster sword for the few seconds before Sephiroth and Celes had flanked him, each swinging but not doing enough damage to do more than further infuriate the beast.
Leon had finally landed a blow on the beast, surprised at how easily he was deflected even off what he thought might be a bit of soft flesh. He was thankful when he heard Kuja finishing up a successful spell, though blinding the dragon didn't seem to be doing much good as it thrashed at all of them.
"Dammit," he muttered, glancing over to where Celes had taken a step back, her arm bloodied. And Kain had broken his spear free of the beast only to impale it again, the next blow doing just as little good as the first.
Together, Cloud and Zack were charging forward, swinging their busters opposite one another and trying to bring them together at the creature's neck. Zack slipped as he jumped, managing to smash the flat of his sword into the dragon while Cloud found himself caught by the beast's claws, sharp and deadly despite being attached to slight, withered front limbs.
"Cloud..." Leon connected, getting a shot upward into the dragon's jaw. A rush of blood covered him and he heard the beast cry out in something close to agony. It dropped Cloud, turning instead to blindly search for whatever had struck him.
Kuja hit it with another spell, one that dropped the dragon down and exposed its stomach.
But instead of going for the killing blow like the others were, Leon dropped back and raced for where Cloud was trying to get to his feet.
"Squall," the blond muttered, grabbing at Leon's shoulders as Leon knelt down. There was blood - more blood than there should have been.
"Stay still," Leon replied, pushing Cloud down. "You're hurt."
"Let me see." Pulling the remains of Cloud's shirt up, he could hear the cries of victory behind him. He wasn't even sure how Cloud had managed to try to get up. The scratches were deep, gashed through skin and muscle, across Cloud's side. The dragon had done to Cloud what Cloud had intended to do to the dragon. "Cloud?"
He was met with silence as he attempted the first healing spell he could manage to find the words for.
Now Sephiroth was behind him. And Kuja. And Kain... He was healing what he could, but Yuffie had always been more of a healer than he was. So was Cloud. Usually he concentrated on hitting things...
That was about when Sephiroth pushed him away and vanished in a painfully sharp crackle.
"Leon." Zack was with him, guiding him off the wet ground to turn and see the equally decimated dragon, midsection split open. Celes had pulled part of her outfit free to wrap her arm and she offered Leon a silent but understanding half-smile.
"He'll be okay," Zack continued. "Don't ever doubt what Sephiroth can do."
Leon couldn't disagree. There wasn't a single other person anywhere in his mind that he would trust more explicitly with Cloud, other than perhaps Aerith. And even Aerith had limits - certainly one of them being that she couldn't teleport.
"Poor noble beast," Kuja noted, finally standing on the soft ground as he leaned down to rub the top of the dragon's head. "I doubt this lost one will be the last to trouble us."
"I agree," Kain said. "We did well this time around."
Kain smirked, pulling up the thin chainmail he wore and also slipping up the shirt he had beneath it to show long, white scars crossing his stomach in an interruption of the tan of his skin. Not so golden underneath.
Leon reached to touch the trail of scars. "You..."
"Anyone," Kain said, "regardless of skill or luck, risks everything when dealing with dragons."
Even Laguna had left the house by the time Leon made it back, a little surprised at how sore his body was from just that little excursion. Despite thinking that he and Cloud had somehow become stronger thanks to their time spent battling legions of heartless, neither one of them had done more than climb to the skill level of their mentors.
Leon tossed his clothing into the laundry tub, running cold water as he continued stripping. Everything washable went in, making the water a grotesque pink as both Cloud's blood and the dragon's blood started to lift from the fabric.
Cloud. He knew he wasn't ready to share a bed with his friend but he couldn't deny the panic that had gripped him when Cloud hadn't responded to his voice. And the feeling of utter defeat when Sephiroth had whisked Cloud away. He didn't even want to understand the depth of the relationship between the two men - Cloud hadn't really tried to explain either.
His fingers were numb by the time he pulled his clothing out of the water, draping each piece half over the sides of the tub. Ellone would want to wash it all again, he knew. Thankfully Laguna had loaned him a few more sets of clothing, though stopping off to see what the girl gang had assembled sounded more and more like a good idea.
Yuffie would forgive him. And he needed something to occupy his mind until he knew Cloud was somewhere that he could go and not be in the way. Hopefully Sephiroth had taken him to see Doc N, perhaps the most skilled healer in town and certainly the most qualified to take needle and thread to Cloud's stomach.
With a new shirt and his leather pants and jacket, Leon decided that he really did need to find both an extended wardrobe - and lunch. While Kain had offered Leon a share of the dragon's tasty heart, Leon found himself quickly refusing. No matter what sort of delicacy it was, Leon wanted to wash his hands, quite literally, of the beast.
Knocking the drying mud off his boots as he left the house, Leon headed for the cafe. Halfway, he heard a joyous yell followed by several more. Turning in his path, he headed towards the river that ran along the town and helped fill the pools around the castle.
Fish. They were yelling about fish. Not just a few fish, either, from what Leon saw when he made his way to the docks. Many fish, as though they'd received the first blessing for their second chance at living.
Already someone had started a fire and was roasting some of the catch. And amongst the men and women gathered along the riverbank, Leon quickly spotted Cid, still flanked by Vincent and Shera.
"Cid!" Leon called, sliding down the bank to where the three sat, each with a fishing pole in hand. Already Cid had a bucket of fish shoved between his body and Shera's.
"Leon! Come to catch a few fish with us?" Cid asked. "Shera, give Leon your damned pole and go cook some of these up."
"Of course," Shera replied, smiling weakly as she offered her pole up to Leon. "Pleasant fishing, Squall."
Leon didn't bother to correct her. He could already imagine how delicious the river's bounty would taste, cooked just enough to be warm but not overdone and dry.
"Weren't you with Kain Highwind?" Vincent asked, glancing over at Leon as he sat down.
"Dragon," Leon said quickly. "Yeah."
"A dragon!" Cid laughed. "So you found it. Did..."
"Cloud was hurt," Leon interrupted, getting that statement out of the way. "I don't know anything else."
"Leon..." Vincent sat quiet for a moment. "That was an accepted risk."
"That's what Kain said," Leon replied. "I'm... trying not to worry."
"Then you're in the right damned place," Cid announced. "Fishing is completely free of any fucking care in the world!"
"Cid, show a little compassion," Vincent said, before falling completely quiet as the end of his fishing rod bounced and dipped a couple of times.
Leon shook his head. He knew well enough that Cid was showing compassion in the only way that Cid knew how.
And he was quite thankful when Shera handed him a crispy chunk of fish.
With a ristra of fish slung over his shoulder, Leon chuckled as he passed by YuRiPa's shop. The door was open and beckoning to him, but he didn't dare just march in complete with fish.
In fact, while sitting in relative silence with Cid and Vincent, he'd done quite a bit of thinking and decided on a slightly better plan for action. The first thing he needed to do was talk to Sephiroth about living in the castle. There was no point in gathering clothing that he would only have to move.
And to find Sephiroth, Leon knew that he'd have to find Cloud.
But not until he'd done something with the fish.
His own house was still quiet when he slipped through the back door and left the fish in the seemingly cool-enough ice chest. So far, the power had been flighty and flickering, but enough that perishable food was finally an option.
And without any other thought in his mind, Leon locked the door and headed back across town in hope of finding Cloud.
Notes: Reviews are always appreciated. Thank you so much for reading!
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