Fandom: Kingdom Hearts 2
Disclaimer: No ownership implied, no profit gained. This is a fanwork.
Summary: Cloud returns from a final encounter with Sephiroth. Leon asks a question he doesn't know the answer to. Admissions and Omissions.
Notes: for Blacke Crosse, yaoi_challenge Xmas exchange 2006.
"Yuna found him?"
"Somewhere," Tifa said. "She didn't say where."
"Why didn't you tell me?" Leon asked. He didn't really need to ask - he could understand their logic no matter what it was.
Quite simply, despite Cloud having returned, he hadn't really come back.
"I was hoping he'd wake up after a day or two," Aerith admitted. "He was quiet before, when Cid picked him up, but..."
She sighed. Tifa merely frowned and glanced toward the bedroom door.
"He just needs to snap out of it," she said a moment later. "He'll eat and everything. He knows who we are, he just won't..."
"Talk," Aerith interjected. "No talking and I think he just sits in the dark all day."
"He hasn't said anything?" Leon questioned. He was torn between running to Cloud and heading home to prepare an offering to the faeries. Their price would be fair for any information they could offer.
Aerith and Tifa looked at one another for a few tense seconds.
"No," Tifa said.
Leon knew she was lying.
But for all the times Leon had stood shoulder to shoulder with Cloud, he was still an outsider in their little group - he was older, he didn't quite understand the whole thing with...
Leon frowned. Cloud wouldn't tell him anything - but Yuna would. And if not Yuna, Rikku. And if not her, well, Paine was quite sensible.
"Can I see him?" Leon asked, less querying permission than trying once more to get at whatever the girls weren't telling him.
They were both silent. Aerith seemed to be obsessively folding her dishtowels and Tifa was simply pacing. Neither answered.
"Fine." He hadn't even taken his jacket off - he couldn't even remember why he'd stopped by. Why had he stopped by? Cid had asked... It didn't matter. Did Aerith always fold laundry on the coffee table?
How long had they lived together?
At one point he was sure that he'd developed a little inner-Aerith, who mainly giggled and pointed out the times when he was being simply terrible to deal with. He could hear her, now, chiding him for ever having left to claim a bit of space as his own.
Especially with Cloud missing. All he'd done was worry about himself.
He didn't bother taking his jacket off.
Sure enough, the bedroom was as dark as it could be with the afternoon sun fighting around the edges of mini-blinds that had seen better days. Blinking a couple of times and squinting, Leon wasn't terribly surprised to realize the dark lump on the bed was Cloud, knees drawn up to his chest with his arms around them. His fingers were laced together, looking very strange without his usual gloves.
Leon looked down at his own hands. He'd started wearing gloves back after he'd gotten to Traverse Town; he hadn't wanted to feel anything. Not emotionally, not physically. The gloves cut off most of the sensation, though he'd leaned it back over the years. His body had compensated.
"Cloud?" Leon asked as he let go of the doorknob to cross the room, barely noticing as the door swung shut on its own. The house was a little lopsided - it just had to be gravity at work, right?
Not looking up until Leon sat on the edge of the bed, Cloud's eyes locked on Leon with just the barest flicker of recognition.
"Squall," he whispered.
"Yeah," Leon replied. He wanted to shake his head and sigh. Not 'Squall'. Had he ever been 'Squall' to Cloud? "Squall."
Cloud looked away, towards the window and the afternoon sun peeking in around the edges, making the walls look eerily red. And then he settled back into position, head down.
"How's your back?" Leon asked a moment later. He wanted to reach out and rest his hand on Cloud's knee or shoulder or something. Anything. There had to be some dorky comment lurking somewhere in Cloud's mind, waiting to burst forth. Or some smart-mouthed jibe.
But there was no response.
"Must be healed by now," Leon continued. "Did it scar?"
Still, Cloud didn't respond. Normally another scar wasn't worth mentioning, but Cloud... he'd seen the scars on Cloud's body and winced. He'd hated making another one, but Cloud had asked so calmly for help.
"What's one more scar, right?"
For a minute, Leon waited, looking over every inch of Cloud, trying to figure out what else was wrong with his friend. The gloves almost could be blamed on Aerith or Tifa. They'd probably tried to get him to wash.
Nothing else stuck out.
"You can come stay with me," Leon said as he shifted to sit cross-legged on the bed. One of his socks had a hole in the bottom, something Aerith thankfully hadn't seen when she'd ordered him to take off his boots. "There's a spare room. Or the basement, if you'd prefer."
"Are you injured?" Leon tried.
Finally, after another five minutes and another five questions that went unanswered, Leon swung his legs back over the edge of the bed and stood.
"I'm going to go talk to Yuna," he said as he reached over to very lightly touch Cloud's shoulder. Letting his hand linger, Leon waited for Cloud to move - flinch, look up, whatever - but there was no response.
"I'll come back first thing tomorrow."
As he turned to reach for the doorknob, he thought he saw movement. But turning back, Cloud was sitting in the exact same position.
Leon sighed and quickly exited to the main room of Aerith's house.
Both Aerith and Tifa turned his way. Aerith had refolded all of the towels and seemed to have moved on to matching socks.
"We don't know what to do," she said softly. "Leon... what we did to him..."
"Was what he wanted," Leon said firmly. He could remember that day vividly, every soft cry from Cloud and Aerith chanting spell after spell. There had been so much blood, yet Cloud had stood up right away and turned, glaring at the leathery black wing and swearing that he would be free.
Had Cloud found freedom? What was its price?
"I'm going to talk to Yuna," Leon said as he nodded in Tifa's direction before heading for the door.
"Yuna said you were covered in blood," Leon said as he sat down on the edge of Cloud's bed the next morning. "Was it your blood?"
Cloud had shifted into a fetal position. An empty soup cup was sitting on the bedside table.
"Was it Sephiroth's?" Leon tried a moment later. Tifa was still asleep on the couch. Aerith had mentioned something about a shower. He knew he was early, despite being tired. Of all the things he hadn't thought of offering the faeries as compensation, sea salt ice cream was on the top of the list.
Electric blue eyes met his. There was something in there for just a second...
"Yes," Cloud softly said. He shifted a bit before moving to sit just how he'd been the day before, but with the blankets pooled at his feet.
"Is he dead?"
"He doesn't die," Cloud said firmly, his voice little more than a rasp. Leon wanted to get him some water but didn't want to risk Cloud's sudden responsiveness. "But he's quiet, for now."
"You were used to him," Leon surmised. "Can I get you some water?"
Cloud slowly nodded. Leon rushed from the room, returning quickly with a coffee mug of probably-not-cold tap water.
Amazingly, Cloud took it and drank.
Cloud's hands were bare. Leon wondered what they felt like - if they felt like his own. If Cloud was finally feeling beyond the muted level he'd always been trapped at.
"You don't have to deal with it all at once," Leon said. "Or alone."
Cloud didn't say anything, but he did glance down at the end of the bed.
"Yuna," he said a minute later, after Leon had settled onto the bed. "She... I should... thank her."
"Probably." Somehow, a barely-talking Cloud was more frustrating than a silent one. Leon was tempted to invite Cloud somewhere, out, but he'd never done that before. Cloud just showed up, whenever or wherever. Cloud had his own motives and missions, whatever inside him that drove him...
Leon tried to think of something - lightcycle racing in the computer, pestering Cid, pissing off the cliffs - and failed. But maybe that was for the better - telling Cloud what they were going to do wasn't any better than how Cloud had been.
"What do you want to do?" Leon asked.
"What have you always wanted to do?"
"Be free," Cloud replied. There was a pause. Leon could hear water running elsewhere in the house. "I didn't think it would hurt."
"So what do you want to do?" Leon thought he was doing fairly well with the whole guidance counselor thing. At least he thought that was what guidance counselors did. He wasn't sure - school, for him, had ended quite abruptly when he was sixteen.
He still didn't know who won that war off in Ivalice - history class had been cut a little short.
"Where did Yuna find me?" Cloud asked. "My sword..."
"Paine has it under lock and key," Leon said quickly. "But you don't need it."
"Oh. I... don't."
Cloud stretched his legs out and turned his hands over to look at his palms.
"So what do I do?"
Leon glanced at the wall. He wondered if he'd leave a dent first or if he'd knock himself unconscious first.
"Get up, take a shower once Aerith's done, have breakfast, see if Cid has any work, stop off for ice cream, buy something silly from the ducklings, have lunch, help me clean my basement..."
"I get it," Cloud said. He stretched.
"Your gloves," Leon commented, wondering if Cloud even knew.
"Too much blood," Cloud replied.
Leon had never been particularly fond of the layout of the house Cid had found for him, but it was a reasonable size and the holes in the roof only took two days to patch. The worst part, since he didn't care that the kitchen was too small, was the cave-like hallway. Lacking any direct exposure to daylight, extra-wattage bulbs and fresh paint couldn't help it move beyond miserable and gloomy.
Nearly a week after Cloud had moved into the spare bedroom, a storm blew in during the night. Leon hadn't really thought much of it - rain was rain, after all. When the green digital readout on his alarm clock blinked out, he crawled out of his bed and headed for the kitchen. He had a flashlight there, and candles.
Halfway through the hallway, he collided hard with Cloud, who had to have just slipped from his own room to see what was happening.
"Power's out," Leon muttered as he leaned back against the wall. "Sorry. You hurt?"
"No," Cloud said quickly. "Flashlight?"
"Kitchen," Leon replied. He reached out and managed to touch some part of Cloud. An arm?
"Squall." Cloud reached back and Leon froze. That name hadn't slipped from Cloud's mouth since that first day, and he knew Cloud wasn't talking about the storm.
"C'mon. There are some candles, too."
Yet he didn't move. Not as Cloud reached back and grabbed hold of the t-shirt he'd worn to bed.
"Do you think Aerith and Tifa are okay?"
Leon reached to pull Cloud's hands away - enough so that they could at least get to the kitchen without half-groping one another on accident. The noise that escaped Cloud's mouth was a strange one, and at first Leon thought it had something to do with his question, but no - it was the touch.
Sensation. The first time they'd actually made contact with each other.
"I'm sure they're fine. Tifa's probably still asleep," Leon said. He didn't let go of Cloud.
Perhaps that was all the reassurance Cloud needed. A dozen protests and excuses raced through Leon's mind as Cloud quickly kissed him and pulled away, only to try again before they moved one step further from the cover of the black hallway.
But those dozen protests and excuses - not a one of them was true.
He didn't let go of Cloud's hands as he awkwardly leaned forward and kissed Cloud in return, a little unsure of their exact positions and hoping he wasn't going to mash their noses or knock their foreheads. Not lingering, he pulled back and waited.
"So what do you want to do now?" Cloud asked, his voice almost playful. Leon shook his head. That was the same question he'd asked Cloud.
"Flashlights and candles are in the kitchen," Leon replied as he finally took a small step in that direction. "Might have a deck of cards."
They crashed into each other again.
"Might be a long night," Cloud said once they untangled themselves. He slipped behind Leon.
Single-file. Likely safer.
"Oh?" Leon asked. The storm was picking up. There would be roofs to patch all over town come morning. Hopefully Cid wouldn't mind if they both slept in.
"Yeah," Cloud said, reaching up touch Leon's back in the exact spot that Leon knew Cloud's scar would be, healing but likely always going to be present. "There are a few things that I should tell you."
Drink Lemonade! Tip Your Waitress!