"Oh...um hey Leon." Cloud said hesitantly, not at all looking the lusterless color of his eyes.

The air hung cold in sharp-set silence.

Leon only acknowledged Cloud for a second, then his gaze fell immediately on Seifer.

Seifer—in spite of all he had said earlier to Cloud—had acquired a certain air of hesitancy. His eyes darted from Cloud to Leon and an unsure smile crept over his lips. He didn't much like being stared at.

"Hey?" Seifer said to test the water.

"What...are...you doing?" Leon asked timidly.

Cloud tipped his head to the side. "Erm...nothing." He figured Leon was probably angry about Seifer lying so casually on his bed; something he knew would be a problem later. However, a thought ghosting in the back of his mind whispered that he wasn't even touching the surface. Something was definitely awry. The usual dry, disapproving demeanor of Leon's character was lacking, in fact it wasn't there at all. "Is everything okay?"

Leon wasn't listening; his gaze was fully focused on Seifer.

"Hey," Seifer said nervously. "Why are you looking at me like that?" He glanced over at Cloud who was staring at Leon with a mixture of bewilderment and curiosity. He had the sneaking suspicion that Leon was off balance somewhere in his demented little head, but he was still a little uneasy.

Leon's eyes were wide as if he were suddenly blinded by some furiously bright, yet nonexistent light. He couldn't move, the air was gone. Anger, fear and hatred struck relentlessly at Leon's heart; he could feel it, the almost tangible aching pang in his chest.

He had to get out.

Fingers fumbling for the door knob, it seemed impossible to get the knob to turn properly until the door opened suddenly, and Leon stumbled out of the room.

"Leon, wait!" Cloud called, accidentally rolling off the bed.

"Jeez," Seifer commented. "You must have really pissed him off for him to be scared. Maybe you really did kill his mother..."

"Shut up!" Cloud snapped, quickly picking himself off the floor and wrenching the door open.

Preparing for a long chase was unnecessary, Cloud found as Leon was standing only a few feet away from the door, hunched over and trembling. Now there was not doubt, something was very wrong. Leon was hurting. He admitted he didn't really know what he was planning to do after he had actually found Leon, especially after finding him so quickly. Maybe he had hoped to come up with an idea while chasing after him, but now there was no time to think. Still, he knew he had to do something.

Approaching with caution, Cloud placed a gentle hand on Leon's shoulder, but he jerked away.

"Don't touch me."

"Leon—" Cloud wanted to help so badly, but he had no way of doing anything if he didn't find out what was wrong. Cloud and Leon were never very close, but now more than anything he wanted to be. It was as if he were in second grade again, feeling guilty for teasing Leon to tears. He wanted to apologize, to console him, to comfort him, anything to get Leon to stop crying. He just needed to know what it was he had done. What was it he had managed to do to upset Leon so badly?

"...I told you he was crazy." Seifer commented as he stepped from behind Cloud.

At the voice, Leon backed into Cloud's firm chest. His eyes darted around.

Seifer raised an eyebrow and circled around the two until he was facing both of them. He slung his jacket over one shoulder and placed a hand on his hip.

"What is with you?" He asked smartly.


Cloud's eyes widened. It wasn't he Leon was acting so strangely toward, but Seifer...? He placed his hands on Leon's shoulders. They were trembling slightly.

"Seifer, I think you should go home."

Seifer raised his hands defensively. "Way ahead of you." He backed up. "See you later Cloud," and with one final questioning look at Leon, he strolled casually back to his room.

Cloud waited until Seifer's form had disappeared completely before turning Leon around to face him.

"Hey, he's gone now."

Leon gasped, apparently unaware he was caught in Cloud's firm but gentle grip. He stared into his eyes for a moment then shoved Cloud away from him.

"Leave me alone..." He entered the dorm and slid down against the wall Cloud's bed sat next to.

"Hey...wait a minute!" He followed Leon back into their shared room genuinely flabbergasted and a little bit hurt. He kneeled down in front of Leon, holding onto his shoulders again, this time looking him sternly in the eyes. "Leon, you have to tell me what's wrong."

"...No I don't..."


He turned away from Cloud, refusing to look him in the eye, but he could still feel Cloud's boring into him, emitting honest concern. Cloud was trying to hold it together. It was just like how he had felt on the bench earlier...

"Cloud please..."

"I'm not leaving until I know what's going on with you. You're acting completely out of character, and it's freaking me out." He pressed closer. "What's wrong?"

Leon pinched the bridge of his nose. He could feel a slight burning sensation behind his eyes, but he wouldn't allow himself to cry.

"Tell me what's going on."


"...Are you mad?"


"Did I do something?"

"Yes..." Leon grunted. "No...Yes."

Cloud raised an eyebrow. "So...then what is it I did, that I didn't do...but apparently did?"

"Just...leave me alone."

"I can't do that." Cloud said holding onto Leon's shoulders even tighter. " I have to know what's wrong...so I can fix it."

Surprise overwhelmed Leon's features. "Why would you want to do something like that?"

"Um..." Cloud himself didn't exactly know the answer to that question, so he probably wouldn't have been able to translate it out to Leon. All he knew was that helping him was something he really wanted to do, and he was intent on doing it if it took all night.

"Because...I hate watching you get upset." He spoke softly. The answer was simple but clear. He was helping because he hated seeing Leon sad, miserable, upset, troubled, worried or angry, woeful, distressed, bitter, unhappy or annoyed...but above all, he couldn't take it when Leon was like this. The thought broke his heart, just like it did when he was younger, only now he understood what he was feeling.

Gently, Cloud moved a hand from his shoulder to rub Leon's neck. "Tell me why you're so sad, why Seifer scares you so much..."

Leon's mouth hung agape. His eyes were trapped in Clouds, he couldn't escape his gaze. The one thing he didn't want to do, he found himself wanting to do. Cloud's words were so soft and gentle. He wanted to tell him everything regardless of how he would react or even what he would say. He wanted to spill all of his emotions now and wait for the repercussions later.

Fingers trembling and eyes tearing again, he broke himself from Cloud's gaze and stared at the floor.

"Seifer..." He felt Cloud shift his weight. "...raped me..."

Cloud stopped rubbing Leon's neck. He sat very still. The small space they were sharing was encased in ice. He could feel Leon's skin prickling under his hand. "What...?"

"You heard me." Leon said stiffly. "That night when you went to that party… I let you in...but..."

"...But Seifer let himself in..." Cloud said breathlessly, recounting what Leon had said earlier right before he left. Cloud knew he should have run after him... "But...where was I? Why didn't you call for me?"

"You passed out the minute you came home. You didn't hear me."

Cloud's heart stopped beating. How could he have slept through...Why didn't he wake up when...Why, Why, Why?

He didn't even realize that something so unspeakable could happen under his nose...

Tears began streaming out of his eyes.

And the next morning when he woke, he didn't even remember seeing Leon, just Seifer as they both hastily readied themselves for school. The thought of even leaving with him was enough to make him hold Leon tighter.

He brought both hands up to cup Leon's face. "I...I don't know what to say..."

Leon frowned and jerked his head away. "Don't say anything. Just shut up and leave me alone."

"No." Cloud said holding his face again. "I won't leave you alone."

"What? Cloud you're—"

"I won't leave you alone," He leaned his head into Leon's until their foreheads met. "Never, ever, ever again. I will never leave you alone."

"Cloud..." He was shaking. The contact was warm; surprisingly welcome as were Cloud's strong arms encircling his body protectively. It was at that moment that Leon realized how comforted he had felt with Cloud's declaration to fall back on.

He liked this feeling of ultimate security.