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: The marker of a week. Rinoa. Cloud.
Notes: Rating is for language, disturbing content, gore, and sexual situations in this chapter and others.
Three days later, Leon had finished cleaning, moving, and otherwise changing everything in his life so that he lived, completely and fully above the weapons shop in the apartment across from Zack.
Which was why he was eating a warm, hearty dinner at Laguna's anyway. As much as he wanted to be away from Laguna and Ellone, he didn't want to be away from them in other contexts. Actually, he had never realized just how intelligent Ellone really was. Besides helping him hone a few of the spells he'd shown her, she'd been perfect to help him pack. She didn't ask questions, other than to decide if things really needed to be kept.
He didn't keep much.
"How's Cloud?" Laguna asked, dropping half of his forkful of carrots on his lap. "Eep!"
"Good," Leon replied. He was going to head back over, after dinner, but he was waiting to announce that once things managed to get more awkward.
He knew what was coming. He kept talking.
"Sephiroth has been sitting with him most of the time."
"The General certainly has a different edge to him," Laguna said. "Not soft, just... very protective. But those two... were together when the world... stopped?"
"Yeah," Leon replied, almost amused at Laguna's wording.
"Are they... boyfriends?" Laguna blushed at his own question.
There it was. Leon wondered if it would be more appropriate to move his plate to hit his head against the table or just stand up and find a suitable spot on the wall.
Then again, he wasn't exactly sure how to answer that, either.
"They might have gotten back together," he finally said.
Laguna knocked his juice glass over.
"Oh!" Ellone jumped up to run over to the sink for the dishtowel. "Um..."
She mopped at the juice in silence while Leon tried not to meet Laguna's nervous glances.
He was going to have to break down and let Zack make him dinner. It would be safer.
"So you're going to be working with Sergeant Zack?" Ellone finally asked. "That's good. Where did you work while, um... Well, you know."
Leon shrugged. "You name it, I probably did it. Washed dishes, fixed roofs, moved furniture, whatever. Aerith took in laundry once we could afford a machine. Cid at least had his gummi ships to actually earn an income."
"I'll have to thank him," Laguna said quickly. "He must have been a good influence."
Table or wall. The question remained.
"And Uncle Laguna is putting out the first new issue of the paper soon," Ellone added. "We might need paperboys again."
Of all the things Leon had nearly forgotten about - delivering papers at daybreak (with Cloud at his side, wearing those awful metal skates that went over his shoes because he couldn't afford a bike yet) had to have been near the top of the list. It was why he knew the town so well. Why he'd been able to go right into the wealthy district and find the people he wanted to find.
"I should probably be going." His plate was empty. "I promised Cloud that I'd stop by."
"Say hello to Aya for me," Ellone replied quickly as she tossed the soaked towel at the sink and sat back down. "Tell her to call me about going to the clothing place."
Messenger service. Done that, too.
"I will," Leon said as he stood. "Goodnight."
"Night," Laguna echoed, still looking just a little uncomfortable.
Once out of the house, Leon stretched and looked up at the setting sun. Life was going on. Things were calming down. He and Zack were planning a grand re-opening for the weapons shop in a few days and he knew that after checking in on Cloud, he'd likely be up all night cleaning and re-arranging things to match Zack's apparently unparalleled vision for the place.
Cloud had been suitably amused at the stuffed chocobo and sword, thankfully.
The walk to Cloud's mother's house didn't take terribly long - likely not long enough. In his memory, it was a real trek, even on his bike (where was it, anyway? Laguna's shed?). But youth did tend to make distances that much longer and anticipation always...
Aya had the door open before he could even knock.
"Saw you coming," she said hurriedly. "Good timing, as the General is insisting on taking us out to dinner as Cloud has become... fairly annoying."
"Cabin fever," Leon diagnosed without even seeing the patient.
"Keep him entertained," Aya ordered. "And help yourself to the fridge."
"I'm the babysitter, now?" Leon asked. He wanted to sigh.
"Yes!" Cloud's mother appeared in the doorframe. "Now Aya, stop giving Squall such a hard time and let him in the house."
"Sorry," Aya said softly as she stepped aside. "But hey, are you going to have any really good sales when you open shop? I want to learn to fight."
"Yeah," Leon said. He could almost imagine Aya with a gun or sword. And then she could be a sheriff like she wanted. "Sure. And Ellone wants you to call her about getting clothing."
"Right." Aya closed the door and smiled.
Leon shook his head as he knocked once on Cloud's bedroom door before opening it. He'd already managed to get over the strangeness of a grown man surrounded by the leftovers of his youth. Still, asleep with one hand clutching the stuffed chocobo, he didn't look much older than thirteen.
"You're going to be easy to watch," Leon whispered as he grabbed one of the adventure books from the pile beside Cloud's bed and opened it to the first page. He'd read it, he knew, but he didn't remember a single thing about it.
Leon looked up to see Sephiroth standing in the doorway in a nice set of civilian clothing.
"He tried escaping again."
"Wouldn't you?" Leon asked as he set the book down.
"After hearing about you and Zack and the weapon shop, yes," Sephiroth admitted. "But we can talk later. I have two lovely ladies to take on a date."
Leon didn't trust him. Not at all. He'd heard too many stories from other Traverse Town residents about a silver-haired man who'd stormed through their worlds leaving destruction in his wake.
But for the time being, he could read and watch Cloud, who had three more days in bed and two weeks after that of completely limited movement.
He was nearly halfway through the book when Cloud finally stirred.
"Morning," he said as he set the book down.
"Sleep spell?" Cloud muttered as he opened his eyes. "Bastard."
"Sephiroth said you tried to escape," Leon explained. "He probably thought it was for the best."
"Mom probably made him," Cloud replied as he blinked a few times and reached to touch the bandages on his mid-section. "She's the one who caught me."
Leon was not wholly surprised. Cloud's mother had always been very good at keeping Cloud from getting out of the house, just not always good enough.
"You're reading that?" Cloud questioned a moment later when he got a good look at what Leon was reading.
"I'm starting to remember it," Leon commented, tempted to chuckle. "But aren't these nothing compared to what we've been through?"
"Yeah," Cloud admitted. "Never thought about it that way. Should probably give them away, anyway. I'm not going to read them again."
"I wonder if anyone is going to want to read adventure stories for a little while..."
"I don't know," Cloud said. "Are there dragons in it?"
Leon tried not to smile. "No, not this one."
He handed it over, not bothering to mark his page. The ending of the book didn't matter.
"You know what we're going to have to do," Cloud said as he flipped the book over to read the back.
"What?" Leon asked, giving Cloud a few seconds to frown at the jacket and toss the book to the end of his bed.
"Go find another dragon."
Wanting to laugh, Leon only shook his head. That was the Cloud he remembered, who would fall and trip and stumble but still want to keep going. For awhile, after hearing about Cloud's deals with the dark god of another world, Leon had been afraid that he'd lost his friend forever. But if...
"On a really dry day," Cloud added.
Finally, Leon chuckled.
"Okay," he said. "We'll bring Cecil, too. Do you know him?"
"Only from listening to the adults talk when we were younger," Cloud admitted. "I wonder if anyone will care if there are three of them sharing that house now."
"Old habits die hard," Leon commented. "People will talk about anything they find interesting."
They sat in silence for a minute, neither one entirely sure where the conversation should go. Leon had a dozen things he wanted to ask or tell Cloud about, but for some reason the words just didn't come. He kicked back a bit in the chair.
"Cards?" Cloud finally asked, gesturing to a deck on the dresser across the room. Leon hadn't noticed them there, but he hadn't really looked, either. The other night, when he'd been partners with Zack, they'd stumbled home so late in the night that he remembered close to nothing about it the next morning. Certainly, he wouldn't have remembered where a deck of playing cards had ended up.
That just seemed to be a Zack thing, Leon assumed. It wasn't terrible, and he knew he could afford a little irresponsibility after so many years of having to worry about the needs of others before his own.
"Cards," Leon agreed as he got up to get the deck.
"One week," Leon said to the wind as he walked through the cemetery. He didn't let his gaze linger on the freshly turned earth to his far left where grass seed had not even had time to root despite being scattered by some of the town's children who didn't know of anything else to do with themselves.
The town had never been particularly large - the school had never had more than three teachers at one time. It had never needed more than three. But two of them had not come back from nothingness, and the third was now too aged to deal with a classroom of children in the bodies of adolescents and teenagers who looked like adults but knew little past playing.
A week had passed before Leon had even thought about it. Time was moving onward. He could recall that feeling from Traverse Town - a sudden realization that days were slipping by because everything had reached a workable balance. Or, perhaps, that he was home.
Looking up, to the sky, Leon could see the castle clearly rising above the rest of the town. That was one thing that everyone had decided to wait on. Other than Sephiroth, who continued to look after the machinery between shifts looking after Cloud, who was equally temperamental, no one chose to linger near the structure.
Leon wasn't sure that it was any sort of fear or apprehension though - the more he thought about, the more he realized that most of the town just needed to worry about themselves for a bit before worrying about empty buildings and the castle and everything other than surviving. The dead were buried, and there was enough food. No dragons lurked nearby and everyone had clothing thanks to Yuna, Paine and Rikku's efforts.
He paused in front of his mother's marble angel before reaching to touch its cheek.
"Brought you these," he said as he reached into his jacket pocket and pulled out a strand of glass beads. There had been a bit of guilt upon finding them in Yuna's grasp, but he knew his mother would forgive one not-handmade gift. And Yuna had sold them for a decent price, almost as if she knew.
Looping the beads over the angel's head and straightening them quickly, Leon turned to head back into town. No reason existed to linger in the cemetery, after all.
He looked over to see a woman running between headstones, her long skirt billowing around her to make her look almost ethereal. In the fading daylight, she looked beautiful.
"Rinoa." Smiling, Leon paused to wait for her.
"Squall...Leon, ah, um." Rinoa still sounded like a teenaged girl, Leon noted quickly. "Ellone was looking for you and I volunteered to come find you."
"Oh," Leon muttered. In a way, that was a little better than Rinoa looking for him on her own. As attractive as she was, she was still fifteen inside. "About the school thing? There's going to be a discussion for that tomorrow evening."
Rinoa shook her head. "Nope! All the mages are meeting in the square and Ellone wanted you to come. You're not a mage, are you?"
Leon paused for a moment. He certainly did know a few spells, but he wasn't a mage.
"No," he said as he reached to take her hand almost without thinking - the sort of thing he'd do for either Aerith or Yuffie when it was getting dark or raining, because no matter how well either of them could defend themselves, contact was the most reassuring thing he could imagine. "I know a few spells, but I'm not a mage."
"Okay." Rinoa took his hand and smiled. "Can I ask you a question?"
"You're going to ask no matter what I say," Leon surmised as he gave her a bit of a pull-start towards town. Otherwise, they were going to stand in the same spot, on top of the tomb marked only as 'Garland' until the sun rose again.
"Hmm. You're right. So... what are other worlds like?" Rinoa seemed almost excited about the answer, as though he'd been on wonderful adventures and hadn't had to do his best every day to keep alive.
"The food is different," he replied after a half-dozen steps. "And there are different intelligent races out there, not just people who look like us."
"Did Lord Ansem know about them?" Rinoa asked quickly. She glanced up at the castle and mis-stepped, almost falling as Leon kept moving forward.
"Are you okay?" Leon asked as he grabbed her, catching her arm and righting Rinoa. For a second, she seemed dazed and then blushed.
"Sorry," she said. "You've really changed."
"You're sorry I changed?" Leon asked curiously. He knew what she meant, but hearing it was another thing.
"I... liked you then, before, ah... to me it's not long ago, but you've kept living," Rinoa explained. She tried to smile and tried to meet Leon's gaze but couldn't. "You're so different."
"He knew," Leon said bluntly, ignoring Rinoa's last statements. "Ansem knew exactly what he was doing the entire time. I'm sure of it."
"Why, then? You knew him, didn't you?" Rinoa questioned. They kept walking, finally leaving the cemetery just as Leon spoke.
"I'll never know why," Leon admitted. In the past, that had eaten at him and made him raw on the inside because he should have known everything there was to know about the man he'd put so much trust in. "The important thing is to keep going right now, not wonder why things happened before. We'll learn from his mistakes."
"You grew up," Rinoa stated before sighing. "I'll grow up too, right?"
"Yeah," Leon replied. He squeezed her hand as they walked in silence. He'd been too worried about himself. Obviously there were many more people who needed helping. But he would be a terrible teacher and role model. Perhaps Aerith...
"Mages," Rinoa said almost absently as they stepped into the square. She was correct, though. Leon had never realized how many mages lived in such a small town. But just as there was a high number of warriors who'd escaped the military for a quiet life, mages seemed to be drawn to Hollow Bastion as well. He was sure he couldn't even name all of them, from summoners to healers and those who normally dealt in unique, offensive magic.
Rinoa let go of his hand almost nervously, checking to see if anyone had noticed.
"I'll see you, Leon." There was a trace of sadness in her voice as she offered him a little wave before joining a couple of her peers. But Leon knew it was just as well - it would save a heartbreaking confession later.
"I see you've got yourself a girlfriend." Aerith's voice always made him feel comfortable, no matter what ridiculous thing she was saying. Even when they bickered like the siblings they played the roles of for nine years, he didn't really take any of it seriously.
"No," Leon answered as he turned to face her. "I think she understands, though. And you - you've been busy."
Aerith giggled. "Those are just rumours. I want to take everything nice and slow, even if you don't."
"Sounds like rumours, again," Leon quickly replied.
"Well, I didn't think you really moved in with my childhood crush because you two were suddenly lovers," Aerith admitted. "Though that'd be kinda hot, I think. I mean, if... I should go find Ellone."
"I should too," Leon said. "So that's to say you're absolutely not..."
"Absolutely not anything anyone at all," Aerith said as they started to walk across the square, neither one looking at one another, each picking up the other's pace and trying to go faster until they were almost both running and definitely both laughing.
"Me neither," Leon stated just as Ellone stepped forward. The crowd fell silent as she stepped up onto a bench and even Leon was held in the instant thrall his sister created.
"Thank you," she said with a smile before holding her arms out, palms flat. "On behalf of Hollow Bastion, thank you. On behalf of everyone you've helped feed, everyone you've healed, and everyone who simply needed a guide, thank you.
"While there is food, and though life is going on, I'd like to ask that all of us who are able to give of ourselves to do so, whether it be a haste spell on vegetables or helping shape the mind of one younger than you. While our army unit and sheriff and volunteer fighters keep us safe, we..."
Leon stopped listening to Ellone's words, wondering instead when she became so mature. Unless she'd always been that way and he'd just been too young to notice.
"Hey..." Yuffie stepped up beside Leon, whispering her greeting before giving him a friendly punch that said more than words. He hadn't been ignoring her, after all. There had just been so many other events and at times, he had to admit, the lack of her presence had been somewhat startling.
Still, as he reached to cuff her shoulder in response, finding a happy medium was going to be necessary. The old, the new, and the lifetime in between - all of it had to become something real.
And Ellone kept speaking until the excitement in the crowd grew louder than her single voice.
Drink Lemonade! Tip Your Waitress!