BEFORE YOU READ!!!!!
CHAPTER NINE HAS BEEN ~*SUPER EDITED*~! Which is, like being edited, only better.
There are new scenes in there that I forgot to include when I posted it the first time (yes, I am quite the idiot) that change things a bit. This chapter will, for the most part, not make sense if chapter nine is not reread.
Seeing as how it's been forever and a day since my last update a backtrack would probably be needed for you awesome, lovely, incredible people who decide to continue reading even though I'm a lame promise breaking flake, but I like stating the obvious anyway.
For those still reading, thanks loves
So It Goes
Both men ran through the cozy streets of suburbia as if their life depended on it, jackets barely in place as the cold wind whipped mercilessly at their faces. The lights of the houses had long since been turned out, and countless families slept oblivious to the destruction taking place a few blocks away.
As soon as they broke away from the cul-de-sac could Cloud and Leon see the yellow orange flames licking the night sky in a vain attempt at total destruction. But because the sky was out of reach it settled for consuming whatever was in its path. The sight of the flames brought back memories for Cloud, and his eyes widened in panic,
'It can't be!' he thought.
The video store was on one of those strips found in modern cities where businesses were packed so tightly together they could communicate through Morse code on shared walls. Every business on the block was packed so tightly together that dropping something heavy in one store would disturb at least three. And yet, despite their close proximity and the metaphysical certainty that each and every store on the block should be up in flames by now, only the video store was consumed by the near blue fire. Leon spotted Yuffie rushing towards them, hopelessness and desperation chasing away her usual mischievous grin.
"How?!" Leon managed to cough out. The air surrounding the store was black with smoke and thick with the scent of the burning merchandise inside.
Yuffie's shrug was exaggerated by the weight of her defeat. "Who knows? I saw the flames from my apartment and called Riku."
The said owner stood precariously close to the wild flames, staring into the space as if it somehow was going to spit out the answers he needed. Sora stood a few feet away; arms wrapped around him as he stared at the burning store through tear filled eyes. The store was Riku's entire life, it was more than just his job it was all his hopes and dreams, his future. Just when something resembling success had finally come around it was unfair that it had to be crushed so violently.
Meanwhile, memory after memory began to assault Cloud one after the other, past experiences made more vivid by the heat of the fire and the crackling sounds of buildings destroyed. This type of precise, controlled destruction was not natural or a coincidence. It was not the product of a freak accident or an unfortunate twist of fate. This type of destruction was created, and Cloud knew of only one being that could, and would cause this.
A handful of black feathers, as if on cue, fell from the sky like a sinister snow. In a mere second Cloud took off, logic clouded by anger, in the direction he felt they came from.
"Cloud!" Leon exclaimed, taken aback by the blonde's sudden movement.
Cloud stopped, turning towards the other and trying to communicate as much as he could to the other with just his face. Although he didn't know what the blonde was thinking and why, the look on Cloud's face told him that whatever it was was important; so Leon nodded to the other before turning his attention to the fire.
The brunette made his way closer to the fire, moving so he was standing next to Sora. He contemplated trying to comfort the other but thought better of it. He knew he wouldn't be able to even if he could make himself try, so he simply settled for squeezing the others shoulder as he continued on to Riku, half worried the silver haired boy was going to throw himself into the flames.
"Riku." He said quietly, carefully observing the boy.
If he heard him, Riku made no movement to acknowledge the fact. The blue-orange flames of the intense fire reflected twin renditions of the destruction before him in wide, aquamarine orbs. Leon placed a hand on the others shoulder, half an attempt at comfort, half a precaution lest the other attempt anything crazy as the sounds of the fire trucks sirens got louder and louder.
Just when Cloud thought he lost the others trail, more black feathers fell like breadcrumbs leading him home. The silver haired angel stayed ahead of the blonde, controlling the pace and direction. Cloud knew following the other to Shiva knew where was a bad idea, but he couldn't think of any other option.
The trail stopped in the clearing of a manmade park he remembered him and Leon having lunch at months ago that felt both very recent and a lifetime away. It was completely deserted, leaves long gone from the large, imposing trees and ground nearly frozen beneath his feet. Cloud could not hear or see the other but he felt his presence around him, knew he was there.
"Sephiroth!" he exclaimed, annoyed with the others manipulative games, "Face me!"
Sinister, bell like laughter seemed to encompass the entire park like wind from no particular direction as Sephiroth gracefully descended from his perch above, landing without so much as a rustle of fabric. "I'm here, Strife. Facing you." He said, ever present smirk gracing his features, "What now puppet? Tell me."
Cloud cringed at the use of the old, maddening nickname. "Why would you do that to the video store?! Riku has nothing to do with this!"
"Hmm? Do what to what video store?"
"Don't play dumb! I know it was you!" Cloud exclaimed, patience running thick, "And I know about you talking to Leon."
Sephiroth shrugged, "The boy needed to be taught a lesson. Meddling in affairs that don't concern him."
"Whatever concerns me concerns him!" Cloud exclaimed, fists clenching at his side, "He's my boyfriend."
Sephiroth's gaze darkened, "You're sentence is to suffer."
"My sentence was to live a human life! What happened from there on was up to fate!"
"I will make sure you suffer." Sephiroth said through clenched teeth, "He will regret ever laying eyes on you; Slowly but surely I'll destroy him, and you'll watch." He said, inching forward till every word till he was so close his eyelashes cast shadows on Cloud's cheeks in the dim moonlight.
Despite the rapid beating of his heart Cloud didn't let his gaze falter. He knew he was no match for the other as an angel, as a human Sephiroth wouldn't have to exert the slightest effort to destroy him. Yet, the desire to protect Leon made his inevitable destruction meaningless. He would protect him no matter what. 'Maybe this is what love is,' he thought as his narrowed blue met green.
"Over my dead body." He said quietly.
Sephiroth smiled; raising a hand to stroke the others cheek "That. Can be arranged."
Both men turned at the interruption, Sephiroth glaring at the other angel.
"Aerith?" Cloud asked, "What's going on? Why're you here too?"
The brunette smiled, giving Sephiroth a smug look, "I have excellent news." She said.
"Is there any other information you have?" the fireman asked the group of employees, standing around the fire truck as the others worked to put out the mysterious fire.
"I got a call from one of my employees, who saw the flames from her apartment. That's it…" Riku said quietly, still staring at the burning video store.
The fireman, a blonde who Leon thought had said his name was Demyx something or other nodded, smiling in what Leon guessed was supposed to be reassurance, "It's unfortunate but it happens sometimes. Freak electricity accidents, good thing for insurance huh?" he said before walking away.
"My entire life was in that store," Riku said quietly, watching the dying flames give way to charred rubble, "Everything I owned, everything I work for…"
"It's not the end!" Sora exclaimed, trying to cheer his boyfriend up, "We can rebuild it, I'm sure insurance will cover most of it anyw-"
"It's not that easy!" Riku snapped angrily.
Sora looked down dejectedly, hurt by Riku's outburst. The older man sighed, running a hand through his silver hair. "I'm sorry Sor, it's just…." He wrapped his arm around the other's shoulders and Sora returned the gesture, pulling him into a full hug.
"I know," Sora said, rubbing comforting circles on the others back.
Leon exhaled deeply, rubbing the bridge of his nose. 'This was definitely not an accident,' he thought, eyes resting on the now completely destroyed store. There was a charred, empty place between the two shops on either side of the video store whose back wall was the only one still standing. Leon couldn't help feeling like this was some sort of message from Sephiroth, a warning or a threat.
He narrowed his eyes, 'I'm not giving up.'
Once the flames were out and the fireman had enough information for a full report and had pulled away, the four observers stood before their former place of employment, surveying the damage.
Riku sighed, kicking the remains of an unidentifiable DVD case across the road. "Talk about unlucky."
Yuffie sighed, "This sucks."
"So what happens now?" Leon asked, folding his arms across his chest.
Riku shrugged, "At this point, I have no idea. I'm not sure if it's worth rebuilding."
"WHAT!?" Yuffie and Sora exclaimed at the same time.
"No! Riku! You have to rebuild the video store!" Yuffie exclaimed, "It's our second home, and it was doing so well."
"Do you not enjoy it anymore?" Sora asked.
Riku ran through tangled hair, "I don't know anymore. I have to think about it. I'll call you all sometime this week and we can meet up. I'm going to get some sleep; you all should do the same."
Cloud didn't know how to feel. The news Aerith brought him was wonderful, in a sense it was the chance he had been waiting for for months. Yet, at the same time the thought of it made his heart sink.
Cloud and Aerith walked in silence back to Leon's house. When they got to the front Aerith turned to Cloud, smiling in understanding.
"Sephiroth has been called back, and I'm to return tomorrow. You have until then to decide what you want to do." She said, hugging him, "Whatever you decide I'll support you."
Cloud smiled, returning the hug, "Thanks."
Once she had disappeared Cloud sighed, dragging his feet up the steps to the door. The inside of the house was dark and Cloud frowned, wondering if he should have returned to the video store before coming here. He climbed the steps, noticing the light on in Leon's bedroom. The brunette was standing at the window, staring out into the night looking for nothing in particular.
"Hey," Cloud said, catching the others eyes in the glass.
Cloud stepped into the room, sitting on the bed, "How's the shop?"
Leon turned around to face the other, leaning against the wall, "Gone. It was Sephiroth wasn't it?"
Cloud sighed, "I'm positive it was, but he didn't admit it."
Leon nodded, "I guess even if we could prove it there's still nothing we can do." he said, suddenly looking thoughtful.
After a moment of silence, Cloud took a deep breath, readying himself for the direction the conversation was going to take. "Aerith brought me some news."
"Your lawyer?" Leon asked.
Cloud nodded, "About the case."
Leon said nothing maintaining his poker face save the sudden tenseness to his jaw.
"It's been reopened. I'm to report back for reevaluation, but they have no control over me anymore, if you don't want me to go I won't go. Just say so and I won't even think of it."
Leon sighed, rubbing the bridge of his nose, 'This is a great night,' he thought exasperated. His eyes were heavy, he smelled like smoke, he was hungry, and all he wanted was to curl up and go to bed and not wake up until everything had sorted itself out. He sat down on the bed, resting his elbows on his knees and his head in his hands. He felt a sudden rage rising up within him for Sephiroth. The man was responsible for his entire world being turned upside down and all he wanted was a chance to wrap his neck around the others-
"Leon?" Cloud said quietly, carefully observing the others body language for his reaction. When he got no response he reached out to put a hand on the others shoulder, "Leon, say something please. Anything."
"What do you want me to say?" Leon snapped, instantly regretting it. 'Don't take it out on him,' he told himself, 'Calm down. This could be your last night together, don't end on a fight.'
"Tell me not to go!" Cloud exclaimed.
"I won't tell you that. This is the chance you've been waiting for." Leon said quietly, "A chance to clear your name."
"I don't care about that anymore." Cloud said, as soon as the other had completed his sentence, "I don't want any life that isn't here with you."
Leon couldn't stop the intense satisfaction rising from his gut at hearing those words. For a moment he thought of telling the blonde not to go, of packing their things and moving away and starting over somewhere fresh. But his earlier meeting with Sephiroth came back to haunt him, dissolving the selfish fantasy like a blade through a cloud of smoke.
"After all you've been through, "Leon said, lifting his eyes to meet pleading blue, "The least you deserve is to be free of that psychopath. I'm not going to take that away from you, no matter how hard it's going to be for me to let you go."
They sat in silence, each going over their own thoughts in their head. Cloud studied his hands, trying to keep his emotions in check.
"So this is it?" he said finally, staring intently at the man next to him, who in such a limited amount of time had come to mean everything. "We come crashing into each other's lives to find love and then throw it away?" he couldn't stop the hysteria from tugging at his voice. It was a mash of anger and sadness and desperation, it was the most intense thing he'd ever felt and any second he felt he'd burst into tears against his will.
"We're not throwing it away." Leon said matter of factly. In this moment he was completely and totally unsure of every of his life but this one. What they had couldn't be thrown away. As if to reinforce this Leon raised his hand to grip the back of Clouds head, bringing his own forward so that their lips met in a passionate kiss that was heavily laced with desperation.
Cloud returned the kiss with equal ferocity, hands quickly finding their way to the hem of the others shirt and underneath, carefully roaming the expanse of cool flesh, memorizing each and every curve and dip of the others body. Leon mimicked Clouds actions, pushing the others coat off, breaking the kiss briefly to remove Clouds shirt, and then his own before descending on the other again. They were both all too aware of just how important this was. It was this moment they'd recall for the rest of their life, and it was this moment they'd desperately try in vain to forget when the ache got particularly bad.
When Leon awoke the next morning the blonde was gone. The dark curtains had been drawn so the sunlight filtered in a bleak and dreary grey. He sat up, the covers falling easily around him, and placed a hand on the side of the bed, feeling no lingering warmth. It was as if the other had never existed, and he might as well have not have. Repeating the story to anyone would sound like an elaborate dream, or some drug induced hallucination. Who would believe that a man had fallen out of the sky and into his home, capturing his heart and changing his life forever?
But regardless of whether Cloud had been real or imaginary Leon's life had been changed. He had previously strolled through life without ever having known anything else other than the life he was living, and therefore couldn't be moved to long for more. But the blonde had entered his life and begun to fill a void the brunette was not aware of even possessing. Then, before he could completely seal the hole in Leon's heart he was gone, leaving the brunette all too aware of its biting existence.
Leon ran a hand through his hair, suddenly exhausted despite having just woken up. With a sigh he stood up from the bed, crossing over his discarded clothing to the window and opening the curtains. He didn't flinch when the sunlight hit his dark adjusted eyes, he merely lifted his gaze to the impossibly blue sky wondering what the other was doing, and envying the endless clouds for now possessing the one he no longer did.
His eyes caught the sight of a folded piece of white beneath his phone on the nightstand, and he turned to it, letting the curtains fall closed. Cautiously, he lifted shaking hands to slip it out, sitting on the bed before flipping it open. There, in slightly slanted but legible handwriting was his name. After a deep, shaky sigh he read on, two sentences lacking any type of embellishment or complexity that meant so much none the less.
This is not goodbye.
I love you.
Drops of moisture fell onto the paper and Leon had to lift a hand to his face to feel them in order to be sure they were his own. He could not remember another time he had cried in his entire life. His heart felt strangely wounded, like someone had been pulling, and pulling on it in a vain attempt at destroying it but left the job half done. The bruised, tired muscle continued to beat against his will and Leon could do nothing but let the tears fall.
He knew, in his heart that the blonde needed to say those words more than he himself needed to hear them. The blonde needed to delude himself with naïve notions of happily ever afters, but Leon knew the difference between life and the stories in the books the other enjoyed so much.
Leon knew Cloud would not return.
"I've decided to rebuild the video store," Riku said, twirling the coffee mug idly in his hands as he observed his former employees in the quaint coffee shop a few blocks away from where the rubble that was Hollow Bastion Video. "I understand that you can't wait for it to be completed and that I can't be so selfish as to ask you all drop your jobs and return once it is but it's too big of a part of our lives to just throw away. I just thought you all should know I wouldn't do that."
Sora beamed at his boyfriend, wrapping his arms around the other boy in a loving hug, "I'm behind whatever you do 100%!" he exclaimed, placing a kiss to the others jaw.
Leon's entire body ached at the sight, at the memory of the feel of holding someone else in his arms but he bottled it away, appearing the ever stoic and reserved man he always was.
'Life goes on,' Leon thought, vaguely registering Yuffie's shout's of happiness. 'You're entire world flips upside down, but it means absolutely nothing.'
"Isn't that great Leon!?" Yuffie'd exclaimed, pulling the other out of his thoughts.
"What?" he asked, not having heard a word that was said.
"Riku was able to work something out with the insurance company, if we want, we can continue to get paid as employees helping to rebuild the video store!" Sora exclaimed.
"So whaddya say Leonheart?" Riku asked with a hopeful smirk, "You in for a few more years stuck with us?"
Leon lifted his coffee and took a sip. Things would return to normal. It would be as if the blonde had been nothing more than a passing dream.
"Whatever." He said, causing Yuffie and Sora to cry out gleefully.
Life would go on.
"We the court, find the defendant not guilty and the previous ruling and sentence null in void." Namine said, banging the gavel to signal the end of the review.
The courtroom erupted into cheers and Cloud vaguely registered Namine turning to order Sephiroth placed under arrest before he was tackled in a hug from Aerith.
"Cloud! We did it! You're innocent!" she exclaimed, laughing happily. Cloud returned the gesture, almost too shocked to comment. "You can get your wings back!"
Cloud grinned, happy to have his name cleared. He was innocent and life could go back to normal. He could return to his job at a higher rank before and live out his days eternally as an angel. Here he had everything he wanted, except for one thing. Cloud felt his heart pull a bit as he remembered Leon's grey eyes, and the rare but none the less exceptional smile the brunette would occasionally grace him and only him with.
"I'm so sorry for all that you've been through," Namine said, smiling at Cloud fondly, "But you're finally free to return to where you belong."
Aerith grinned, "Welcome home."
Cloud nodded, this was his home. This was where he belonged, and yet it didn't feel that way.
"Whoa, Looking good!" Yuffie exclaimed, sipping her coffee from the sidelines with Riku.
"It's coming along amazing!" Riku said in agreement, sitting casually on a pile of wood.
"Lazy bums," Sora muttered darkly, straightening the last letter on the new store sign and unraveling the 'Coming Soon' banner to hang over it.
Leon smiled inwardly from where he stood, holding the ladder straight. For the past seven months they'd all been working diligently to restore the video store to its former glory, and with the help of a construction team it was now almost completed.
Sora signaled that he was done, and Leon moved aside so that the other could climb down.
"Great job babe," Riku said, enveloping the other in a loving embrace, gracing the other with a sincere kiss.
Leon felt his clumsily repaired heart deflate. The last seven months had been spent with every waking moment thrown into work, often times he worked harder than the professional construction workers. Riku, Sora, and Yuffie knew it had something to do with the blonde who had suddenly disappeared from their lives, but knew it wasn't something Leon was ready to talk about just yet.
Although while he was working Leon was able to forget, once he was alone with his thoughts it all come flooding back to him and he couldn't ignore the gnawing ache any longer.
"Sun's setting," Sora remarked, hand resting comfortably in Riku's.
"The rest of the workers have gone home," the silver haired man said, "I guess we should too."
"See you guys tomorrow!" Yuffie exclaimed, gathering up the empty coffee cups and waving her goodbyes.
"Later Leon," Riku said.
The brunette nodded.
"You have a good night ok Leon?" Sora said, with such empathy and sincerity that Leon felt his heart swelling up back to normal a bit. He smiled, ruffling the others hair before turning on his way.
Riku and Sora exchanged wide eyed looks at the unexpected behavior before Sora laughed and dragged his boyfriend along.
Leon stared straight ahead as he walked, painstakingly careful not to look at any of the places or things that would remind him of the blonde. Every morning he woke up wishing to forget everything that had to do with the previous year, but he couldn't. He knew that the others statement had been nothing more than naïve self assurance, but it didn't stop him from hoping. But a week passed, then a month, then two and that hope disappeared, leaving behind only a wider hole than the brunette had ever been aware of. He wanted to forget, but he knew deep down that was impossible.
Never the less, just as he predicted, life went on. He was alive, and he supposed that it was a start.
But he would never truly be whole. He figured, he couldn't ever expect to, living this way.
He saw the mass of blonde spike peeking above the neatly cut bush from the beginning of the block and his heart dropped from his chest. 'It's not him, it can't be him.' He thought, using all the self control he had not to dash over to his house.
There, sitting on the steps leading to the front door sat Cloud, looking exactly as Leon remembered him every day. He stood up when he saw the brunette, smiling nervously. "Hey."
Leon's eyes widened and he took a step forward, pausing on the pathway, afraid that if he walked any closer the blonde would disappear. "Cloud." He stated the verbal confirmation that the man in front of him was indeed his lover.
Cloud nodded, taking a few steps toward the other. "I thought I'd use the door this time but I didn't have the key." He said, laughing sheepishly.
"You're back?" Leon asked quietly. He half expected to blink and find that the blonde was merely a figment of his imagination.
"For good," Cloud said, "If you'll have me" he added nervously, it suddenly dawning on him that the brunette may have moved on. "I understand if you won't, seven months is a long time after all. You're probably mad at me, I wouldn't blame you, I'd be mad at me too. I shouldn't have come I'm being stupid I'm sorry to bother-"
"Damn it Cloud," the brunette growled, crossing the distance between the two of them and ending the blondes rambling with a fierce and passionate kiss. The blonde returned it with equal intensity, raising his hands so that he could tangle his fingers in the brunette's hair, cut since the last time he saw it. This time, their hands moved with the same amount of care and precision as before, only now they were rediscovering instead of memorizing.
Cloud smiled into the kiss, breaking away from the other for much needed air. "Don't you think we should take this inside?" he said. "I think one of the neighbors is watching from her window."
"Mm screw her I don't care," Leon mumbled pressing kisses along the curves of the others neck. Everything about the other was intoxicating. The feel of him, his smell, his touch, Leon was going mad with the assault of it all.
"Didn't know you were an exhibitionist Leon." Cloud joked, resting his arms around the other, "What else has changed since I've been gone?"
Leon rolled his eyes, pulling away and moving to unlock the door, "Happy dear?" he said sarcastically, flipping off the nosy neighbor who hastily disappeared, white curtains falling shut.
Cloud walked up the steps, wrapping his arms around the other once more, "You have no idea." He said, pressing his lips to the others once more.
"Don't ever go anywhere again." Leon said, pulling away to glare pointedly at the other.
Cloud nodded, "I won't, I promise."
Leon smirked, capturing the others lips once more. Without breaking the kiss he slammed the door behind them.
They had a lot of catching up to do.
YAYYY!! Angel's Tale is finally DONE. I originally wanted to get this done by christmas, but let's just say I got a bit sidetracked ^^;
I did keep my promise of updating before the new year however so WOO HOO. I wrote and rewrote this chapter and am still not completely happy with it but what will be will be.
Thanks so much to everyone who's read/reviewed/favorited/alerted this story. Thank you all SO MUCH for your kind words that kept me going, and for those of you who've stuck with me for so long THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU x1,000,000. I don't think there are words in any language to express just how much this has meant to me.
I hope you enjoyed this ending and story, don't forget to review!
Thanks for reading ::hearts::
once again, I creepily profess my love for you & hug you against your will ::smile::
[[Also, anyone who's read beautiful disaster I'd really love & be grateful if you'd take the poll in my profile! Thank you!]]