February 3, 2012

A/N: The last chapter. For old readers who noticed this in their inbox, feel free to re-read. You'll be pleasantly surprised that I decided to fix this thing up. But, if you're happy just reading the end, go for it. So more notes below:

This fic was stashed and forgotten for a very long time. And for that, I apologize. Everyone has assumed that it was over and satisifactory. And for the most part, it was. However, I had a few loose ends I wanted to tie up. This last chapter was started back in 2008, I believe. So it's been "in progress" for at least three years. Holy cow!

At first, this fic was dropped because real life started creeping into the picture, and I lost interest. I'd grown a little shameful of its writing enough to rewrite the whole thing! (Sidenotes, pah! Be honest, do you guys actually care about sidenotes? :I ) But then it turned out to be really fun.

Anyway, this brings us to the last part. While this chapter was wrapped up for the sake of being finished, I do hope you enjoy it. C: Because it's three years old it's not exactly the greatest writing, but I fixed it up a little as I went along. There may be a distinctive point where I picked it up again years later, but maybe not.

Here is the end, folks.


Cinderfella

Chapter 16—The Prince Who Saved Him

"So, how are they doing? What did the doctor say?"

"They said that he was just fine. Sora's just a little sore with some bruises and cuts. He might have a minor concussion as well. Riku's fine too—he's got a bit of a black eye though."

"That's good. I can't imagine if Sora had been seriously hurt. Well, I mean, the whole ordeal was serious, but you know what I mean."

"Yeah." If anything worse had happened to Sora, he would have gone crazy. The thought ate his mind away during the short silence.

"Listen, I already asked my parents about this: did you want to come over for Christmas for a while? You can eat dinner here and then go back to Riku's."

Cloud hardly noticed the sign of what was to be when his heart fluttered slightly.

"Yeah, sure, that sounds great. What time?"


Cinderfella – The Prince Who Saved Him


"Well, it's not much, but here." Cloud handed Sora a large package. "I… was honestly doing last minute wrapping, so there's more than one present in there. Sorry…" Cloud fingered the sheets on Riku's bed, feeling a little ashamed for his gift.

"No, don't worry about it," Sora chuckled. "I don't care. You didn't even have to get me anything. Actually, I feel kind of bad, all I got you was some CDs…"

"Sora, don't worry about it; just open your stupid present."

Without any further argument, Sora peeled off the paper off the box, and then opened it to reveal its contents. There was an assortment of gifts—a few CDs, a bag of Hershey's kisses, some t-shirts folded on the bottom, a book titled The Red in Your Eyes, and a few packs of gum. Sora eyed the gum questionably in its random appearance, but who could turn down gum?

"Thanks, Cloud!" he said, holding the box closer to him and smiling. "You don't know how much I needed shirts that fit." The only shirts Sora owned were hand-me-downs from Cloud, and because Sora's build had always been smaller than Cloud's, all the shirts were slightly too large for poor Sora. "This is more than enough."

"I'm… glad." The two brothers sat in the bedroom, a sudden silence filling the space. Both wanted to say something to show their gratitude, but neither could find the proper words to express themselves.

"You think we should go out there?..." Sora asked, nodding his head towards the living room where Riku's family was celebrating around the Christmas tree. "I mean, I don't want to intrude, but…"

"You're not intruding." A voice approached the doorway, belonging to Riku. "We just finished opening presents, so we're gonna have Christmas breakfast. Besides, you two can't celebrate Christmas in my room. That's just… stupid." Riku chuckled to himself which brought a smile to Sora's face. Cloud remained impassive. "What do you say?"

Sora's lips upturned into a grateful smile. "I'm coming." He kicked his feet off the bed and balanced himself quickly. Turning on a heel, he offered his hand to his elder brother. "Cloud? How about you?"

Cloud opened his mouth to decline the offer, but before words could resound, his stomach beat him to it. The growl made it clear that the blond was hungry and ready to be fed. He remained silent, trying to find his way to worm out of having to go to the breakfast table, where he would be…

"I'll make sure Sephiroth doesn't get within a few feet of you," Riku assured. "You're not gonna sit in here alone, are you?"

Cloud looked like he was contemplating what to do, before nodding hesitantly and rising to his feet slowly. "If you say so."

Sora's hand, however, was still hung in the air because Cloud hadn't taken it. He shook it slightly as if to say, "Come on, take my hand!"

But before the blond could catch the hint, Riku snatched it and kissed the knuckles softly, one by one. "This hand's mine."

A strong blush came over Sora's face and he looked over at Cloud. Riku had neglected to mention that Cloud knew about their relationship, and didn't realize what he had done to make poor Sora turn such a bright shade of red.

Cloud forced a chuckle, because though he was sincerely happy for the two, the pain in that moment overwhelmed him. "Weren't we going out for breakfast?"

Sora wretched his hand out of Riku's grip and shouted in agreement, trying to force back the blood that had rushed to his face as he made a beeline for the dining room. Cloud peered over to Riku, an eyebrow slightly raised. "Sora doesn't know that I know… does he?"

"Er… no. I kinda forgot about that." Riku scratched the back of his head. "Listen, I… is there…"

Cloud gave him a bewildered look. "What are you trying to ask?"

Really, Riku didn't know himself what it was that he wanted to ask. How much does Sora mean to you? or Are you mad at me? or something like that. That look in Cloud's face when he realized that Riku and Sora were together was bothering Riku, and he wanted to know. Though he wasn't always this curious, it did concern Sora, and it was almost… scary to find out what the older brother was thinking.

However, it was Christmas. If the answer was a more dismal one, Riku didn't want to break the spirit of the holiday. So he let the unasked question remained unasked, and instead he broke a smile and asked, "Is there a possibility that you're going to Leon's house today?"

The expression in Riku's face was hinting that there was a special relationship between Leon and Cloud. The other blushed slightly, knowing that there could be… and his mind relived the few moments when Leon kissed him like that…

"Yeah, I'm going over there for dinner. No problem with that, right?"

Riku shook his head. "Nope. We'll just have one less place at the table tonight. But, let's have breakfast first. They're all probably wondering what's taking us so long." Riku took the lead and headed for the kitchen, Cloud shortly following behind.

The aroma of cinnamon, eggs and toast wafted into Cloud's nose as the two walked in. Riku took the empty place next to Sora on the left, while Cloud took the right. Luckily for Cloud, Sephiroth was on the exact opposite corner of the table. It was more than likely intended.

Although the group were enjoying the breakfast in the holiday's glow, Cloud couldn't help but be a little downhearted with Sora and Riku together. His eye kept darting to them, as the boys exchanged short glances.

But what made Cloud's stomach turn was when he saw Riku's hand curl itself around Sora's hand underneath the table. The younger, who blushed so little it was hardly notable unless pointed out, tightened the grip slightly to the paler hand.

Some deep of him realized that he felt alone.


Cinderfella – The Prince Who Saved Him


"Hello, come on in," Leon's mother greeted as she opened the door. Cloud muttered a soft "Hello," under his breath, feeling completely embarrassed that this was the first time he had actually found the opportunity to meet Leon's parents. Though it really shouldn't have been a big deal… for some reason Cloud made it feel like a big deal.

"Just in time! Dinner is going to be ready in a few minutes. I'm Squall's father, Mr. Liore." He held out his hand to shake, and Cloud took it gingerly—until he felt his hand being whipped up and down almost violently. "It's nice to meet you."

"Nice… to meet you…" the blond replied, fighting the urge to make a comment. His hair was long and dark brown, nearly like his son's hair. In fact, he looked strikingly like Leon…

"I'm actually surprised that Squall asked to have someone over for Christmas dinner. He hardly has friends over at all…"

"Squall?" Cloud blinked, confused. It was noted in the back of his mind that Mr. Liore had said Squall before, but it had been only been a passing word in the greeting and was implied that it was Leon's father. But now that Leon himself was being mentioned, it was like a faint light suddenly growing brighter in Cloud's mind.

It was Mr. Liore's turn to be puzzled. "You mean—oh. That's right, he introduces himself as Leon…"

"Squall?" Cloud thought. "His first name is Squall? I… didn't know that…"

"Dad!" And there was Leon, flying down the stairs in a flustered hurry. "I told you, I hate that name!"

"What's wrong with it?" his father said. "I think it's perfectly fine."

Leon gave a growl and shook his head angrily. "Just… just forget it. He knows now."

"What's wrong with the name Squall?" Cloud asked, but it seemed like no one had regarded the fact that he had, in fact, seriously asked the question.

"Dinner!" Mrs. Liore called, beckoning the boys in with a wave of her hand.


Cinderfella – The Prince Who Saved Him


"Why didn't you tell me Leonhart was your middle name?"

"Didn't seem relevant," Leon muttered, palpably upset that Cloud had found out his actual first name.

"Squall Leonhart Liore… It has a nice ring to it."

"No it doesn't!" Leon took a hold of a piece of paper that had been lying on the tabletop and quickly pressed it into a ball. He kept smashing it in until the corners became sharp enough to bite his palms.

Cloud had never seen Leon lose his temper this badly. He had seen him lose his cool a little, like the time Leon just grabbed him and started to kiss him—

He stopped that thought right there, immediately afraid that his face would flush in response.

"But, I don't get it…" Cloud said quietly, trying to figure out why something so trivial would make Leon so livid. "What makes you so mad about it? What's in a name? For God's sake, my name is a thing in the freakin' sky."

"But the sky is something beautiful," Leon replied quietly, his anger quickly cooling into a sudden calm. "And it describes you. But Squall?... it's so stupid."

"No, storms are beautiful in their own way." Cloud did his best to hide his face from Leon as he started to feel his cheeks heat. "I mean, I like them."

Ugh, he's gonna think I'm an idiot!

When Cloud glanced up from the bed, he saw that Leon was staring at him blankly. Just what was he thinking? Was Cloud sending him mixed messages? He couldn't stop thinking about that kiss, but something was holding him back. He was too nervous. What would happen if he let something happen?

Leon could see the hesitation in Cloud's face.

It's okay. But I wish that if he would want to move forward, he'd come to a decision about it…

Cloud closed his eyes and let the world around him melt into haze. Before he knew it, he was falling asleep.

However, Leon didn't know that Cloud was actually drifting off until Cloud started to lean forward into a fall. He caught the sleeping boy in his arms awkwardly, and moved him to lie on the bed. His face was soft and oblivious that time was still moving forward.

I know Riku was expecting him, but I'd like to watch him sleep. Just for a little while.

Leon kissed his cheek and then touched it softly with the pad of his thumb. "I love you, Cloud."

"I love you too…"

Leon felt like he had a lump in his throat. Did he say what he thought he said?...

Cloud rolled over towards Leon in his sleep, grabbing a fistful of sheets. Leon realized that Cloud was most definitely asleep, and though was responding to Leon, it could have meant anything in the world of dreams.


Cinderfella – The Prince Who Saved Him


Sora and Riku were sitting side by side on the older's bed. Both dressed in Riku's clothing (which fit a little too large on Sora, but he didn't mind,) they were about ready for bed. The parents suspected absolutely nothing, as Riku had informed them that Sora was going to sleep in his room and they were sharing the bed.

There were some benefits to same sex relationships, Riku learned…

Sora had his hands clasped loosely in his lap, and settled on staring at them. Riku knew that stare—it was the same one after their date at the amusement park. It was a gentle coyness that he had about him when it came to those situations. Sitting alone in silence, absorbing each other's intensities—Riku wanted to know how it made Sora's heart feel.

Because in Riku's heart, it was like he was flying without ever leaving the ground.

"Hey…" Riku touched his hand to Sora's, who looked at him with a slight tinge of surprise tracing his face.

"What is it?" he asked quietly.

The older smiled, and stared straight into those blue eyes. "I…" He wanted to say something dramatic, something with meaning. Something you heard in the movies—a long, romantic line—maybe a metaphor. But the only thing he really could think to say was the most cliché line of them all. "I love you, Sora."

"I… love you too, Riku." The younger was pulled in for a kiss, and without moving, they stayed there, taking in the moment as if time were suddenly stopping.

With the release, the air intake was audible. The boys looked at each other and compulsively, their smiles widened ever so slightly. The silence was more powerful than words could ever say.

Riku lunged in for another kiss, pressing hard against Sora's lips—who pushed just as hard back. Sora felt numb to the world around him—including the stinging in his cheeks from the fight—and everything in him was focused on that one person in front of his eyes.

Sora was the first to pull away, but his lips were still barely touching Riku's. The older boy proceeded to lean back and put his hands on Sora's small shoulders. A smile lined his lips as he stared at his boyfriend.

"What do you see in me?" Sora asked. "There's nothing special about me. I'm…"

Riku cut off Sora's sentence with an answer. "The question you should be asking is: what don't I see in you?" Riku's eyes darted away to the floor as he struggled to collect the myriad of thoughts swimming in his head. "And… well, there isn't anything I don't see."

Riku reached to trace his finger along Sora's cheekbone, but as soon as his finger graced skin, Sora twitched and pulled away. "What's wrong?" Riku asked, suddenly afraid that Sora had grown too shy.

"My cheek still hurts…" He looked away in shame, covering the sore spot with the palm of his hand.

"I'm sorry…" Riku's fingers trailed down Sora's hairline. At least it wasn't what Riku thought it had been.

"It's okay. I don't mind. It just stings, is all…" His lips puckered and were pulled off to the side of Sora's face, as if Sora were in thought.

Riku drew the brunet in, limbs and all into a warm embrace. "You sure you're okay? I wasn't too hard on you, with the bruises and all?"

"Nope." Sora's scrunched lips spread out into a full smile. It made the cut throb with the pull of skin and muscles, but ignored it. "You act as if nothing happened to you." He pointed to the black eye.

"I can take it. It's not that bad." Riku's mouth broke out into a small grin. "It was all for you, and I would never take it back."

Sora's smile became fuller if it were possible. In reply, he buried himself in the entanglement of Riku's arms. Riku combed the brown spikes between his fingers, as he whispered, "Merry Christmas, Sora."

Muffled from within his arms, Riku heard the reply, "Merry Christmas, Riku."

Riku wrapped his arms a little closer around Sora, who snuggled in closer in response.


Cinderfella – The Prince Who Saved Him


"Where's Cloud?" Sora bolted straight up in bed the next morning. Riku, who had curled his arms around the boy, was shocked in a state of (somewhat) awareness.

"Eh? Whaddaya mean?" Riku grabbed a fistful of sheets and rolled over for more sleep.

"He was supposed to wake me up when he got back! Oh my god! What if something happened to him?"

"I'm sure he's fine. He was with Leon, you know."

"…what does that mean?" Sora looked back at Riku, but only saw a head full of silver and a bundle of blue.

"What, not obvious?..."

"What does that mean?"

A chuckle made its way from the sheets. "He probably stayed over at Leon's house. I wouldn't worry too much about Cloud."

"…I don't get it. What's not obvious?"

"They're good friends." Well, more than good friends, it seemed. At least in one of their eyes. Riku knew what infatuation looked like. "Maybe they caught up in something and fell asleep."

"You sure?"

"I'm sure." Riku gave up. Sora wasn't going to catch on until he saw them making out. Now that was a weird thought…

Sora scratched his scalp slightly. "Should we just wait for him to get back then?"

"Yeee-up. In the mean time, let's go back to sleep." The older boy shifted in the bed to get comfortable, but Sora wouldn't have it.

"What? It's 9:30 in the morning!" Sora's hand shook Riku in an attempt to wake him up. Riku however, did not like this.

"Yeah, too early."

"9:30 is sleeping in, silly!" Riku rolled over to glare at Sora, but as he saw Sora's smiling face, the reason dawned upon him.

Ansem probably had Sora up early all the time. Sora hadn't been given even the normality of sleeping in until one o' clock like many teenagers their age did. His heart gave in, and he rose from the bed. A cheer escaped Sora's lips.

"Okay early bird, what do you want to do?" Riku rubbed the back of his head as he walked towards the dresser.

"Um… I don't know," Sora replied. His gaze landed on the window. For some reason, the blinds looked really bright, especially for this hour…

Riku spun his head around when he heard the thumping footsteps of Sora running to the window. "Snow!" he shouted as he tugged the blinds open. "Riku, look! It's snowing outside!"

It was amazing how Sora could be so excited over the cold, white outdoors. Snow reminded Riku about that night when he was standing outside in the cold with Sora, waiting to find shelter after his first (and final) meeting with Sora's father.

Well, the man who took him in, anyway.

When Riku paused to think about it, he wanted to know about Sora's real parents. All he knew was that there had been some accident, which is how he wound up at Ansem's.

But was it okay to ask? Was it too soon? Sora was obviously sensitive to the situation, but Riku's curiousity was itching. Was it worth asking though? Why bring the happy mood to a dismal one before the day had even begun?

"Riku…" Sora's shining eyes slanted. Not a good sign. "I don't think I'll be able to stay here with you."

Sora must have been thinking about the same thing. "Why do you say that?"

"I don't know if you can just stay wherever you want when your father fails you. I don't think it works that way."

Riku paused. "Everything will work out. There's no use worrying about it."

Sora bit his lip as he looked into Riku's eyes. Suddenly, he saw his father's green eyes in Riku's. Closed caskets. Drunk driver, shattered bottles of booze, face meeting carpet. Bruises, cleaning, lies, emptiness, loneliness… parentless… Suddenly, Sora couldn't breathe; the world was turning white. He could feel his heartbeat in his throat.

"Sora! Sora!" Riku was now gripping Sora's shoulders. "What's wrong? Are you okay?"

In those few moments, the haze cleared. Tears instantly rushed down Sora's slightly swollen cheeks. Riku looked legitimately scared.

"You okay? What's the matter?"

"Panic attack," Sora exhaled. He fell into Riku's arms, who faltered slightly when he almost didn't catch both of their weights.

"Panic attack?..." Where did that sound familiar?

That's right. It was the day that Sora was sick at school, when he got hit in the head by a volleyball. However, this wasn't surprising: if Riku was Sora, he may have died from the stress that Sora must have been going through.

"Why don't you sit down?"

"No, no… I'm okay…" Sora clasped his boyfriend's shoulders with his hands to support his own weight. "It's gone. I don't feel anything anymore."

"You sure?"

"Yeah, I'm sure."

"Okay, then let's go outside." Sora looked up Riku, who had a small smile on his lips. Riku would do anything to take Sora's pain away; anything to distract him. At least until Sora was ready. "You like the snow, don't you?"

Sora's mood made a sudden turn for the better. A grin the size of the ocean plastered his face. "Yeah!"

Mission accomplished. But only for now.


Cinderfella – The Prince Who Saved Him


Outside in the snow, Riku watched as Sora bumbled through the snow in his own clothes. Everything from the orange hooded jacket to the black sweatpants were all oversized on him. The sweatpants were tied as tightly as possible around Sora's skinny waist, but still needed constantly to be pulled up. Sora donned his own sneakers, because there was no way he would have made it in Riku's big boots.

Riku, on the other hand, fit comfortably in his usual snow gear. Perhaps it was because he just didn't care and wore several layers of shirts under his jacket, a pair of jeans, and snow boots. Not exactly fitting for winter weather, but it would keep him warm enough.

Sora had rolled a ball of snow some distance away. Riku didn't have to guess what flew past his face a few seconds later.

"Hey!" Riku really wanted to retaliate, but he knew that the doctor had said to take it easy with Sora because of the concussion he'd incurred recently. Sora, totally oblivious to that instruction, was readying another snowball. "Don't you dare throw another snowball at me! I don't want to give you another concussion, so you're fighting an unfair battle!"

Sora halted for a moment, and then stared at the snow he'd gather in his hands. And just like that, he'd let it fall away and plop onto the ground. But Riku knew that Sora's mood had quickly overturned—because his smirk turned into a frown in a matter of moments. "I'm such an idiot…"

"Don't take it so hard." Riku shuffled his way through the snow, sensing Sora's declining mood. "It's something that anyone could easily forget about. I'm just worried about it."

"But I don't deserve it." Sora dropped on the snow-covered ground, some of the snow gathering around his waist. "I'm just a pain and…"

Riku fell in the snow next to Sora and wrapped his arms around him. "You deserve it, and before you even say it, you're totally worth it." And Riku would repeat it for forever until Sora believed it.


Cinderfella – The Prince Who Saved Him


Leaving the courthouse was a melancholy time for everyone. Although Ansem was sent to jail without much doubt, the whole situation left the air stale and heavy. Sora found himself dragging his feet to Cloud's car.

Riku walked alongside his boyfriend with his hand held in his own. He wished that he could make the pain go away, but he knew that no matter how hard he loved Sora, he couldn't heal those wounds. They would heal with time, and new memories together would wash away some of the worst ones. But their freshness was holding Sora—Sora, who although could smile and laugh, doubted himself and his whole world.

But Riku would see to it that Sora would begin to believe in himself. Definitely not today, probably not tomorrow. But maybe next month, and the one after that, and then after a year… well, he would make it happen.

As they approached the car, they saw that Leon had been waiting for their arrival. Riku just had that gut feeling that it was time to give the two alone time. "We're gonna go for ice cream," Riku offered, dragging a confused Sora alongside him. "I'll text you when we're done."

Before Cloud could command them to come back, Riku turned on his heel to turn in an opposing direction. "See ya!"

"Wait, why are we going—"

"I'll explain on the way…"

When they were out of earshot, Leon was the first to speak. "So, how did it go?"

Cloud's face broke into a small smile. "I have full custody of Sora now. So Riku's parents are letting us stay with them until I've found a job and enough money to move out with him." His eyes strayed to the ground, away from Leon's piercing stare. He didn't look up until he saw Leon shuffle a little.

The next thing Cloud knew, he was being offered something from Leon. "I know it's a little late, but I finally got your Christmas present."

"What? You didn't have to—"

"I know."

They stared at each other for a moment, until Cloud dared to ask, "So what… is it?"

"Two tickets to your favorite band," Leon explained, "Hang Me on Tuesday."

"What?Hang me on Tuesday? How did you even get those?"

"Well, that's why it took so long for me to get these for you," Leon said with a roll of the eyes. He obviously went through a great ordeal to acquire them. "But that's not important. You can have these… on one condition."

"A condition?" Cloud jested. "Gifts don't come with conditions! That's like the… opposite definition!"

"The condition can be considered your gift in return then," Leon said. "All you have to do is just accept this as a date. As in, let me take you for dinner, then to the concert, and maybe somewhere romantic afterward. That's all I ask."

That's all? Cloud thought, That's an awful lot to ask for!

But then as Cloud pondered over the thought, was it that much to ask for? All Leon wanted was a chance… the chance that Cloud had been hesitating to take without thinking about it. It was time to make a decision, it seemed.

And with a smile, Cloud took the tickets in his hands. "Fine. A date it is then."

The end.