Title: Vanilla part 1
Author: Sorceress Fantasia
Pairings: LxC and a bit of RxS
Warnings: AU, romance, sap, fluff, humour, OOC-ness
Disclaimer: As much as I would love to lay claim to Cloud, I'm kinda scared of Leon's gunblade. So well, I don't own Kingdom Hearts and its character, and neither do I own the various Final Fantasies and their characters.
Note: This fic is inspired by the Japanese manga Eerie Queerie, so I'll mostly be referring to how schools work in Japan. That means students stay in one classroom the whole day, and basically everyone in the class is taking more or less the same few subjects. And this fic's theme song is Gackt's Vanilla. /sniggers/ And thanx to Hanae Da Firefly for proof-reading this chapter!
Summary: Cloud's only friend, Yuffie, had just died a few weeks ago. However, Yuffie can't move on to the next world and so she follows Cloud around in his daily life. And she just can't resist the opportunity to play the finest prank on Cloud by possessing his body and confessing to someone… LxC
When it rains, it really pours. And it pours enough to flood a desert as big as the Sahara. To think I had initially brushed it off as a stroke of good luck, being able to see my recently dead best friend again…
Cloud thought he was hearing her voice again. He was already so used to hearing that childish voice every morning, when she would burst into his room to wake him up and drag him to school. And sometimes, she would do the mock evil laughter of hers that she had perfected from watching television before she doused Cloud with a bucket of water. While it was irritating, Cloud didn't think he would mind it so much if he woke up wet again today.
Because if he did wake up wet, it would mean she was still alive.
Because if he did wake up to her evil laughter, it would mean she had not died all those weeks ago in that stupid car accident.
Cloud sniffed as he remembered her funeral, the heart wrenching cries of her parents and friends, and then seeing her coffin lowered into the ground. When the soil was finally pushed onto the coffin, he thought he was going to die along with best friend – his only friend. However, after two months, Cloud found that it wasn't as difficult to cope as he had initially thought. It was still a little awkward to do the things he had always done with her, but Cloud knew it was only a matter of time before he would move on. He was going to live his life happy, die, and then meet up with her again in the next world. Then, he would tell her all the things she had not been able to see, hear and feel. He was going to get double the happiness for her sake.
Cloud had a feeling that Yuffie would have wanted that; she had never wanted him to be miserable. Whenever Cloud had felt anti-social and unwilling to leave the safety of his bed, or in his younger days, reluctant to leave his room after a particularly bad run-in with the local bullies, Yuffie would always stomp up to his door, fling it open, and shout at him to either get his sorry butt out or she would drag him out herself while tugging at his blankets.
"Cloud Strife! You are either going to get up right now or I'm going to scream in your ear until your head splits!"
Yeah, that was how she would wake him up. Even the tone and the pitch were the same. It sounded so much like Yuffie's voice… But Cloud knew he had to be dreaming again. She was dead. She wasn't going to come back. How many times had he dreamt of his dead friend already?
That was when the dream started to scream.
Cloud was so shocked he practically jumped with a shout of his own, promptly falling out of his bed in a messy tumble, dragging his blanket with him to the ground. He shouted again when his head made contact with the ground, and with a lot of groaning, he slowly picked himself up, leaning against his bed.
"Warned you, didn't I?"
"What the…?" the blond groaned, raising a hand to his head where he could feel the throbbing pain gathering. He had to blink a couple of times before his vision focused, and then he lifted his head, ready to give his mother a death glare. But any further words Cloud might have spoken died on his lips and saw the translucent form of his recently dead best friend hovering above the ground in his room. She was still donning the sleeveless blue top with white prints and the khaki shorts she had worn during the accident, the outfit completed with her favourite hooded jacket and blue bandana, but they all were devoid of the blood that had once soaked them. Yuffie looked… clean, and if she wasn't floating and translucent, Cloud would have thought she had just barged into his room like she normally did. His jaw fell, and suddenly, that bump on his head didn't feel so excruciating anymore. "…Yuffie?"
Her smug posture immediately abandoned her, and she was left looking at him, bewildered. Almost trembling, she covered her mouth with a stiff hand. But just as suddenly as she had quieted down, this time, /her/ jaws fell open.
"You can see me? Cloud?" she exclaimed in joy, tears already welling up in her eyes. When Cloud nodded dumbly, she shrieked and leapt forward with her arms wide open, prepared for a massive hug. It had been so long since their last meeting, and Yuffie felt like she had to squeeze the life out of her best friend to compensate for all the time lost.
And she promptly passed through his body and overshot into the closet, her legs still hanging outside. Silence. Wincing, she floated back out, brushing imaginary dust off her lucent clothes as she did so. "Man, if I was still alive, that closet would have killed me!" she grumbled, glaring at the innocent piece of furniture as though everything was its fault.
"Yuffie, if you were still alive, you wouldn't have passed through me to hit the closet anyway."
"Oh yeah…" she laughed sheepishly, scratching her head.
That action suddenly hit Cloud as being abnormal, and he cocked his head. "Wait a minute, this isn't possible. Yuffie's dead. She can't be in my room right now," he muttered to himself, a bit of confusion tingeing his voice. Climbing to his feet, he clambered back into bed and dove back under the blankets. "I must be dreaming. A very realistic dream, but still a dream."
Yuffie slapped her forehead in frustration. "For god's sake! You just hit your head, and you still think this is a dream?"
"You're dead. You're not supposed to be here waking me up."
"Well, sorry to burst your little bubble, but I am here. And I can't seem to move on to wherever it is that I should be headed. So I'm pretty much stuck here."
Cloud threw his covers off. "But why? Why can't you move on?"
Tears quickly began to fill Yuffie's brown doe eyes, and her lips wobbled dangerously. "You don't want me around? Cloud doesn't want his best friend around anymore?"
Cloud would have squeaked if it wasn't so unmanly. A crying Yuffie was one of the worst things to ever see or experience; he had a whole album of traumatizing photographs to prove that. She had the tendency to ask him to play dress up or pretend to be her subordinate when she was about to cry. And now that Cloud thought back about it, Yuffie had never really cried. Tears were almost falling, but they never really fell. It was like her eyes were bathroom taps…
"No Yuffie, I'm happy to see you! Really! I'm just wondering… you know, why," he quickly clarified.
As he expected, her tears immediately subsided, and she sighed. "You know, one of my last thoughts before I died was about you."
"Even when I was still alive, you never went out much. You don't have any friends apart from me, and now that I'm dead, I don't want to leave you entirely friend-less. It's unhealthy, Cloud, to keep to yourself so much. So," – she smirked sagely, and Cloud had to suppress his shivers – "I've decided to help you make friends before I go!"
Suddenly, Cloud thought that maybe he hadn't missed Yuffie all that much after all.
If Cloud had missed Yuffie yesterday, he was definitely not missing her right now. For the past two months, he had all but forgotten all of the girl's character flaws. It was as though her death had muted out her nosiness, her loudness, her mischievousness and her occasional devious streak. Instead, all he could remember of the girl was the times she had forced him out of his cocoon, brought him out onto the streets and smiled at him as she commented on how good it was to feel the sun on their skins and the wind in their faces. He also remembered how she had demanded they become friends the day after he and his mum had just moved into the neighbourhood, and then quickly fought off the bullies who were teasing Cloud for looking too feminine for their comfort. Those were the good memories.
Now though, Cloud was suppressing the urge to groan as he buried his head in his hands, leaning heavily against his desk in the classroom. If one could not see the girl floating beside him and chatting a mile an hour, they would think that the blond was having a massive headache.
"Now Cloud, since you obviously don't know how to take care of yourself, we'd have to make sure your new friend will do it for you. So the person will have to be responsible, forceful if need be – god knows how many times I've had to force feed you cause you don't ever eat enough– and it's best if the person has lots of other friends, so you can make even more friends! Someone from your class would be really good, don't you think? I mean, sure, we were best friends, but me being in the next class made it kinda difficult to help you sometimes. Okay, that settles it! Your new friend will be responsible, forceful at times, popular, and from your class! Hey Cloud, do you want a guy or a gal for your new friend? You can at least choose their gender, you know? Cloud, c'mon talk to me!" Yuffie pouted at her friend's lack of response, wanting nothing more than poke at his face and pull her favourite spike of hair as his punishment. She was so concerned about his well-being, and he was ignoring her.
Floating upside down now, Yuffie was determined to get a rise out of her best friend. Funny faces would do the trick, she decided, and she was about to carry out her plans when a new voice interrupted her. Blinking, Yuffie righted her position and looked up. It was Aeris, Cloud's classmate.
"Cloud? Are you alright? You don't look too good…"
"What?" Cloud had to blink hard to make sure his eyes were fine. No one had ever really bothered with him in class before, and least of all Aeris Gainsborough, the sweetest girl in school who was part of the popular gang. But she really did seem concerned, from the way her brows were knitted slightly and the uncertain stance her body had taken. Cloud supposed he must be looking really bad for her to notice him, but it really wasn't too surprising: it was one of the side effects of hanging around Yuffie too much. He held back the urge to scrunch his face at that thought, and instead, he replied, "Erm, I'm fine. I'm just…"
"Nervous!" Yuffie whispered harshly, even though no one but Cloud could hear her.
"Nervous!" Cloud echoed, then it dawned on him what he had just said and he swatted at the side of his face irritably. To others, he looked like he was just swatting a fly. "No, I mean, I was just thinking about something."
Aeris was still frowning. "Are you sure you're alright?"
"Yeah, I'm fine. Thanks."
While Cloud was busy trying to convince Aeris, Yuffie's eyes had traveled behind the sweet girl and homed in on a guy who was staring discreetly but intensely in their direction. He was frowning, his brows furrowed together, but if one did not know him well enough, one would probably just brush it off as one of Squall Leonhart's –he insisted on being called Leon though- moods. After all, the man was known to be rather broody on his bad days, and he never laughed. He smiled sometimes, smirked and grinned most of the time, but he never laughed. Yuffie, however, had learned to read the man's body language pretty well from their brief friendship in the kendo club.
He was worried, but as always, pretending not to be. After all, it would really wreck his ice prince image in the eyes of his fangirls and boys, Yuffie snorted. Leon was easily one of the most popular guys in their school, and despite everyone knowing that he batted only for the other team, he had enough fanboys and girls to last a lifetime. In fact, if his fans were to queue up in a single file, the queue would probably extend from the school gates all the way to the next neighbourhood and then some. Ah, the drawbacks of being exceedingly attractive. Apart from that, Leon was also one of the top students in school with the results to prove it, and his family was pretty well-to-do as well, even though they were not particularly rich. All that probably just contributed to an even greater number of fans, something Leon definitely did not want, if his frequent glares and standoffish attitude to his fans were anything to go by.
He was like the complete opposite of Cloud, who was a loner and had no friends other than Yuffie herself.
Suddenly, a light bulb lit up in Yuffie's head, and a grin that could rival that of the Cheshire cat's blossomed on her face.
It was at that moment that Cloud had finally managed to convince Aeris that he was fine and slumped right back into his seat, turning around to see what his dead best friend had been up to in the last few minutes. Yuffie had the most amazing library of wacky ideas in her brain, and Cloud always thought that if he didn't check on her every once in a while, she'd do the most outrageous thing like leap onto a table and do the tango alone during lunch period. She had almost done that once, actually, and would have succeeded if he hadn't forced her back onto the ground.
However, this time he was too late. The second he turned around, he felt rather than saw Yuffie's out-of-focused face, and then there was a strange sensation tingling in his entire body. Suddenly, he found himself shoved to the back of his mind and someone else taking control of his physical body. He growled low in his throat.
'Yuffie! Get out! What do you think you're doing? This is my body!' he hissed, trying to push her out. But it was no good. Cloud had never won any of their wrestling matches when she was alive, so what made him think he would win after her death, even if the only reason why she won was because she played dirty? And she was a spirit now, for god's sake! How did a human get rid of an intangible spirit who had suddenly decided to take over his body? Nonetheless, he tried again. She didn't budge an inch.
'I'm going to give you the best present I can ever give you. You just wait and see,' Yuffie replied distractedly.
'I don't want it, whatever it is! Just give me back my body!'
She waved him off as though he wasn't even there, or that he was just a noisy distraction, and that agitated Cloud even more. Knowing how Yuffie's mind worked, this was probably the best opportunity to play the ultimate prank on him, possessing his body and then making him do something completely ridiculous. A few ideas came to his mind, and he blanched. Was Yuffie going to make him cross-dress and then participate in the local drag queen competition? Or was she going to make him imitate a kitten, purr and play with an imaginary ball of yarn, in front of the entire school? He shuddered at those thoughts, and was about to double his efforts to push her out when he felt his body moving.
It was a flex of his fingers at first, as though Yuffie was trying to get used to the body, and then it was a grin of satisfaction. He panicked, but could do nothing when Yuffie walked right up to Leon's table. Cloud had good reason to fear for his life when he felt Yuffie's smugness that was practically radiating in waves within their shared body; she was going to do something /he/ was going to regret for this life and beyond.
She did not disappoint him.
"Leon?" she asked in a voice that was laced with both nervousness and sweetness. It only registered a second later in Cloud's mind that it was his own voice, and he blanched. What in the world was Yuffie up to? Loners slash outcasts like him never walked up to a popular person like Leon and hope for a normal conversation. Leon probably didn't even know he existed, let alone know his name! And his voice! What had she done to his voice!? Cloud Strife did not just sound like a love-struck teenage girl!
To his surprise, Leon did not wave him off without even a sideway glance. Instead, he returned Cloud's gaze, and there was not even a hint of disapproval in those grey eyes. His eyes were soft, calm and accepting. Nervous even, although there was really no reason for Leon to be so. Perhaps it was because Cloud had never approached any of his classmates out of his own free will before.
Cloud tried to calm himself down. Maybe Yuffie was just helping him make a new friend, like she had said earlier in the morning. And Leon /did/ fit her bill of what a good friend for him consisted of: responsible, strong, and had lots of friends. So maybe it wouldn't be too bad. Making a new friend wouldn't be too bad. And so Cloud calmed himself down, mentally repeating 'Don't panic!' like it was a holy mantra.
And then Yuffie dropped the bomb.
Bashful. Fidget, fidget.
Less bashfulness, more determination. A shout.
"Actually I've liked you since last year! Will you please be my boyfriend?"
Leon's eyes widened considerably, and his group of friends had a few slackened jaws, but it was nothing compared to Cloud's mental scream. It was a loud and piercing cry, mixed with large amounts of wailing and sobbing. Still, even that was drowned out by the uproar in the class. The other students were either laughing loudly or cheering and whistling, or reeling from shock. Some had even dropped their books and files, piles of paper fanning out on the floor. A few boys looked scandalized even, but there were also a few girls who swooned and sighed contentedly.
Cloud wanted to kill Yuffie, and then commit suicide. He just needed to figure out how to kill someone who was already dead. But before he could act on those plans, the classroom's door was thrown open and the teacher marched in, a straw (this guy was such an avid smoker he felt awkward without biting on something) hanging from his mouth.
The teacher slammed his books onto the table and gave the class a quick once-over. A silent wake followed, and everyone hastily scrambled back to their seats like busy rabbits trying to escape the wolf's hunger. Mr. Highwind was starting to look like a savior in Cloud's eyes, and he had never been so thankful for the teacher's appearance.
Still, throughout the entire lesson, he couldn't help but feel Leon's heated gaze on him.
Lunch period came all too soon, but Cloud was prepared for it. Yuffie had long left his body, choosing instead to lounge behind every teacher's back and making funny faces at them and occasionally pretend to be the one lecturing instead, so he had complete control of his body. And once the bell rang and signaled the start of lunch, Cloud immediately zoomed out of class, ignoring everyone's cries (they were probably waiting for the rest of the drama to unfold) and Leon's repeated calls for him to wait for him. He did not stop until he had gotten to his secret safe heaven, which was a little corner behind the school warehouse and a large tree. It was shielded from everyone else, so it allowed Cloud to do just about anything he wanted without being noticed. Knowing that he was rather safe for now, he slumped onto the ground with a deep sigh.
"Cloud? Why did you run away so friggin fast? I had a hard time catching up, you know that?" Yuffie's voice drifted over before her translucent form slowly floated down to ground level.
He glared at her, as though he was willing for her to spontaneously combust.
"What the hell were you thinking!? What sort of stupid prank was that!? Now everyone's going to think I've got a crush on Leon since forever! I don't even like boys that way! Least of all the most popular boy in school who has everyone at his beck and call! Now he's gonna kill me. I know he will. And that is if his fangirls and boys don't get to me first!"
Yuffie unplugged her fingers from her ears, the bubbly grin never leaving her face.
"Well, this is your best chance to get a friend. This is high school, you know? Once you do something cool and big in school, everyone will notice you and try to befriend you! Besides, Leon's a nice guy. With him around, I'll feel safer leaving you alone. And are you sure you don't like other boys? In all the years I've known you, I've never seen you look at a girl that way, but I have seen you looking at boys before… Remember Sephiroth?" She leered knowingly at him, not even bothering to hide her smug smirk.
Cloud's scowl deepened at the mention of the star athlete in their junior high. Sephiroth was very much like Leon, popular and strong. The boy had hordes of fans of both sexes cheering him on whenever he had a match, or even when he was just training. It was amazing.
"That was different, okay? I was just envious of Sephiroth's muscles."
It was a plausible reason, really. Cloud had been born prematurely with a heart problem, and he had barely survived the ordeal. He was still suffering from his too early birth in fact, having a body that was too slim, too small and too weak. When all the other boys of his age were playing soccer, his mother was begging him to never engage in such rough sports because she was worried his body couldn't keep up with the rest. His doctor had advised against him doing anything too strenuous as well, so his mother's worries were not unfounded. As a result, Cloud became a bully magnet and it was only in recent years that the bully issues finally stopped, after he had gotten just enough strength to show them he wasn't going to go down without bringing them down with him.
But this was Yuffie Cloud was talking to, and Yuffie just waved the plausible reason off.
"Yuffie, remember Zack? The guy I rejected in junior high because I don't like guys that way?"
"He just wasn't your type. I mean, yeah, Zack was really cheery and optimistic, but I do all that enough for you. Who you need is someone who is," –she dipped her voice, lips curling into a dangerous smirk- "cool, suave, and handsome." She gave her bangs a careless flip when she finished, trying to look like what she had just described.
Cloud stared at her in disbelief.
"I've never even looked at anybody that way, if you haven't noticed."
"Well then, you can start now. And you can start with big eye-candy Leon."
"Hey, what's wrong with that? Leon is really handsome, don't you think? That's how he got all his fans anyway," – she shrugged offhandedly before fixing him with a pointed look- "You will become friends with him, at the very least. I'll make sure of that."
Cloud's eyes widened again. "No!"
Yuffie was startled at the shout, jumping a little. Then, her lips immediately began to wobble dangerously again, and tears started to water in her eyes. "Cloud doesn't like Yuffie anymore? Cloud doesn't like his best friend anymore?" Those tears were threatening to fall at any moment now…
"Okay! Fine, Yuffie! Just don't cry, for god's sake."
Her tears were gone right away, and a bright smile quickly took its place. Suddenly, Yuffie was looking like the perfect little angel again, and Cloud could almost see the halo above her head and white wings on her back. Not to mention the angelic beams shooting out from behind her.
Cloud felt like such an idiot.
Lessons had started by the time Cloud got back to his classroom, which was just the way he wanted it to be. That way, Leon would not have a chance to talk to him, and he could just escape again later when school ended. Hopefully, he would not get a detention for being late for class.
Gingerly, he managed a little knock on the door before opening it, muttering a soft apology as he did so.
The teacher, Ms. Trepe, just gestured for him to take his seat quietly. Cloud knew there was one reason why he liked her. Not one to look at a gift horse in the mouth, he quickly settled back down in his seat by the window. He sat alone, next to a seat that was made empty when the boy suddenly transferred to another school. It got lonely sometimes, but overall it was good to be able to have two desks all to himself. Humming a soft tune, he dug into his bag for his literature textbook. Yuffie hovered behind him, too tired to tease the teacher this time.
Suddenly, Leon shoved the book that was in front on him to his friend seated next to him and stood up abruptly. All eyes shot over to him.
Ms. Trepe gazed at him evenly, adjusting her glasses and putting her book down. "May I have the pleasure of knowing what you're up to, Mr. Leonhart?"
He returned the steady gaze. "I forgot to bring my textbook."
"What about the book you just pushed over to Riku's desk?"
"That's his. I just borrowed it."
"And what about the two books that Riku currently has?"
Leon gave Riku a look before the latter smirked and held up his hands like he was surrendering. "Ah, forgive me, Ms. Trepe, but one of these books is Tidus'. Right Tidus?"
"That's right, Ms. Trepe! I just lent it to Riku earlier, but now I want it back," Tidus, a blond boy, replied smoothly.
Cloud did not miss the blond stuffing his textbook into his bag earlier, but it seemed like everyone was buying his story. Either that, or they just couldn't be bothered. Ms. Trepe was incredibly patient…
She rolled her eyes. "Well then, Leon, share a textbook with Riku for today's lesson. Just remember to bring your own copy for the next lesson."
Leon did not miss a beat when he replied, "Riku hates sharing books."
A few girls, including Aeris, were giggling by this point.
"Language, Riku," Ms. Trepe warned, but her eyes held a twinkle of amusement. She had always had a soft spot for the three boys, who seemed to click with her better than any other students.
"I'll just share Cloud's book."
Cloud choked. He didn't even have time to protest or come up with an excuse, because Leon was already walking up to his table and pulling out the chair. A sudden wave of whispers and barely veiled giggles washed over the class, but it was quickly stomped out when Ms. Trepe cleared her throat. That did not manage to stop Yuffie from cheering like a crazed fan at her favourite soccer match, however. Willing for his friend to shut the hell up, Cloud cautiously pushed his textbook to the middle of the tables, almost like something, or someone, was going to bite his hand off if he reached out too much. When nothing happened, he quickly retracted his hand and put it on his lap, holding onto his pen like a lifeline. It was fortunate that the poor pen was an inanimate object, or it would have protested at the harsh treatment. That is, if it could talk. Cloud was suffocating it, the way he held it so tightly in his grasp, his knuckles rapidly turning white.
Ms. Trepe was going on and on about literature again, and bit by bit, Cloud found himself able to concentrate again. After all, Leon wasn't doing anything; he did seem content to only share the textbook. Slowly, he brought his hand onto the table and started to take down some notes like he had been doing before Leon's sudden stunt. He never noticed the other boy's eyes following his hand, riveted on his every move.
Behind them, Yuffie was trying to keep her snickers down. Cloud was always so easily lulled into a false sense of security, she sighed. But then again, that was what made him so irresistibly adorable.
Without warning, Leon's hand shot out with the accuracy of a snake and clamped down on Cloud's, wrapping his own around the soft, warm hand below. Cloud nearly squeaked, and he would have jumped out of his chair in surprise if he hadn't forced himself to calm down. He really didn't need to get into trouble in class, really. Frozen, the blond boy peered at their clasped hands as though he was making sure he hadn't imagined anything, and then glanced to his right warily. Leon was looking at him with a soft gaze, much softer than Cloud had ever seen the brunet give others.
When Leon noticed Cloud's eyes on him, his grip tightened and he whispered, "I was looking for you the entire lunch period."
Cloud swallowed uneasily.
"Am I that scary that you have to run away from me? That you couldn't just stay and listen to what I have to say?"
Cloud was sweating profusely by now, hoping against hope that there would be enough left of him to see his mother again.
"I don't even understand why it took you so long to confess your feelings. It wasn't like you had to be worried if I was straight."
Cloud wasn't listening anymore. He was too busy imagining how to kill Yuffie and saying goodbye to his mother. That was why he never noticed how Leon was squeezing his hands almost encouragingly.
He did notice, however, when Ms. Trepe's eyes fell unto him. She pushed her glasses higher, giving him and Leon both a pointed look. "Cloud, answer the question I just asked."
There was a question? If there had really been one, Cloud hadn't been listening. Even so, he stood up from his seat, grabbing onto his book and hoping that it would hide his face. He desperately tried to recall what the teacher had been going on about a minute ago, but it was no good. He just wasn't paying attention to her lecture then.
"Erm, I think… Err…"
"Lady Macbeth started to sleepwalk and wash her hands as she did so because she was feeling guilty over Duncan's death."
Ms. Trepe gave Leon, who had answered the question in Cloud's stead, a meaningful look before finally nodding. She ignored the brunet's intense glare, turning back to the still-standing Cloud. "I would appreciate it if you listened in class instead of letting your mind wander off. You may sit down now."
Cloud nodded sheepishly and quickly slunk back down, hoping to make himself look as inconspicuous as possible. It was made quite impossible, however, when the teacher continued, "And Leon, it would be good if you would just stop bothering Cloud."
Leon shrugged. "I'm not bothering him. I'm just answering his question."
She raised an inquisitive eyebrow, crossing her arms and sighing. Shaking her head, she gestured for Leon to say his piece quickly so she could carry on with the lesson.
And suddenly, everyone turned in their seats with baited breaths, wondering what Leon was going to say. This was hardly the first time someone had confessed their feelings to Leon, but the brunet had shot down every single one of his hopeful admirers, regardless of how pretty, intelligent or popular the person was. It was like Leon wasn't interested in having a relationship at all, or that he already had someone outside of school. It was one of the most circulated rumours of Radiant High, that Leon had a secret boyfriend who was perfect in every way, or that said boyfriend was a bartender at some sleazy nightclub. But as much as everyone had heard of all these rumours and joined in the speculation, no one could ever be sure. No one had ever seen Leon with anyone, apart from his friends, outside of school.
Riku, Tidus and Aeris, however, were all smiling knowingly. In fact, Riku's smile had a tinge of smugness to it and Tidus looked like he was about to crack up, if given the slightest chance. Cloud started to feel himself wilt rapidly under all the excess attention, almost like a deer caught in headlights, or a bunny surrounded by a pack of wolves with their eyes gleaming predatorily. He resisted the urge to whimper, and quickly wrapped his arms around himself.
Leon just sighed, raking a hand carelessly through his shaggy, brown hair. Yuffie recognized that gesture; the boy always did that whenever he was nervous, something he had done a couple of times before a major kendo match. She grinned, knowing what was to come now. That knowledge did not ease her anticipation, however, and she hovered behind Cloud anxiously yet expectantly.
Everyone's jaws slackened when Leon reached out and carefully pried Cloud's hands off himself, and even more surprised when Cloud let him. Any jaws that had remained shut earlier fell completely when Leon gently took Cloud's hand in his own, handling the blond's hand like it was made of spun glass. Some started to fall off their chairs when Leon started to slowly caress the pale hand, seemingly reveling in the small action.
The blond could only blink in disbelief, a shroud of surrealism overwhelming his mind as he felt his hand being pampered by the one person he'd never thought possible. In his mind, popular people like Leon would never stoop so low as to be so… nice to an outcast like him.
"Cloud, I just want you to know that…" –Leon took a deep breathe before lifting his head to gaze intensely into Cloud's eyes, a faint blush apparent on his pale face- "that I like you too. And… And I would like it very much if I could be your boyfriend."
Then, somewhere, a girl squealed.
It was like her squeal broke the dam, and suddenly, all the girls were either squealing or wailing in tears. The boys started to cheer and hoot (though a good number were crying as well), but none were as loud or jubilant as Riku and Tidus. Aeris was giggling insanely as she quickly snapped a few pictures with her cell phone. At the back of the class, Yuffie was jumping around for joy, yelling and screaming about just how happy she was. Ms. Trepe's eyes widened for a moment before she finally gave into the urge and smiled resignedly, shaking her head as she muttered under her breath, "Finally."
Cloud thought he was caught up in a nightmare. But when the scene before him did not fade away with a pinch, the whole thing started to sink into his mind and his heart began to pound.
Leon had just confessed that he returned his 'feelings'.
Leon liked him.
Leon liked him.
Leon liked him.
And now everybody knew.
It couldn't be.
It just wasn't possible.
He had to fix the whole thing immediately.
He had to tell Leon the truth, that he wasn't being himself earlier.
Yuffie, however, had other ideas. Before Cloud could say a thing, she slipped inside his body again and took control forcefully. Cloud screamed; she ignored him. Instead, she started to act all shocked, fluttering Cloud's long lashes and those mesmerizing bright blue eyes. That shock soon faded into coyness, all made perfect by the faint blush and slowly widening smile on her face. Or rather, Cloud's face. And then she was whispering with his voice, all the while cackling inwardly about how she should be nominated for an Oscar.
"I'd love to have you as my boyfriend."
The transformation taking place on Leon's face was amazing, and it was something Cloud would never forget for as long as he lived. It was as though those few simple words were a caressing and soothing breeze, carrying away the anxiety, the apprehension and the fear like leaves in the wind. A smile blossomed on his face, disbelief and happiness filling his eyes, and he squeezed Cloud's hands again. Gently, he pulled Cloud into a soft embrace, allowing the blond to rest his head in the crook of his neck. The smile never leaving his face, Leon buried himself in Cloud's blond tresses, taking a deep breathe as though assuring himself that everything was real. His hands ran down in soothing caresses down his new boyfriend's back. Yuffie, still in Cloud's body, pretended to blush and duck her head, snuggling deeper into Leon's embrace and hugging him in return.
The class cheered louder, with Riku and Tidus laughing at them, shouting that they should just get married right away. Or at least get a room.
Cloud felt like he wanted to cry.
For the rest of the day, Leon remained in the seat beside Cloud, insisting that he had forgotten to bring all his textbooks and wanted to share Cloud's. Everyone just kept giving the blond envious looks, wondering how in the world the little loner had managed to capture the heart of Squall Leonhart. Some others gave him the evil eye, but they were quickly scared off when Leon noticed them glowering at his new boyfriend and immediately returning their glares ten-fold. It was as though there was a murderous aura surrounding Leon, and they could just feel it in their bones. They shuddered.
There were also some who were rather neutral to the new development, like the teachers. Apart from Ms. Trepe who had given them a fond look before leaving the class, the rest of the teachers couldn't seem to care less about the new couple as long as they continued to pay attention to their lessons. The more playful ones had teased them gently, especially about Leon finally settling down and Cloud taking the initiative to open up for once.
Then there were also the ones who practically swooned and sighed over the latest development, happy that the stud of Radiant High had hooked up with a cute little guy like Cloud. It only meant more eye-candy for them, since it would effectively bring the blond into the limelight. Some girls just couldn't believe how they had completely overlooked such a cutie.
To Cloud, everything just felt like a huge mess. It wasn't like he didn't want to fix it, but every time he turned to Leon, the brunet would give him a disarmingly soft smile, and Cloud would find himself unable to say anything that might hurt him. And on the one occasion when he managed to force himself to say something, Yuffie had immediately taken over and made him say, "Is this really okay?" She then gestured to the two of them, like she was unsure of if Leon really wanted the relationship. Cloud paused in strangling and kicking Yuffie out of his body (not that he actually got to her because she ducked faster than he could react) when Leon pressed a gentle kiss to the back of his hand, and he froze up. When the other released his hand, he quickly snatched it back and cradled his arm embarrassedly, ignoring Leon's amusement.
Cloud stole another sideway glance at the brunet, wondering what he should do to resolve the whole problem. Leon was definitely not his boyfriend; he was Yuffie's 'boyfriend', since she was the one who had confessed. Vaguely, he wondered if the girl had a crush on Leon, and was just using his body to fulfill a final wish before she moved on. Then his eyes glanced over at the spirit who was attempting to tap-dance on the teacher's desk, and he shook his head. It was impossible. Leon wasn't her type, and she didn't give off the 'I love you' vibes either.
That was when the bell rang, signaling the end of the day. The blond blinked; he had been so out of it and absorbed in his problems that he hadn't even noticed it was so late already. But when he noticed his classmates shoving their stuff into their bags and running off, he shrugged his inattentiveness off and started to pack up as well. Yuffie floated back to his side.
He froze. Looks like hoping to get out of school before Leon could stop him was out of the question now…
Leon was running a hand through his hair again. "I just… Do you want to stay together for a while before you head home?"
"I… I erm…" Cloud was positive he had a blush all the way from the tip of his spike of hair to the end of his toes. Yuffie wasn't helping with her insane giggles and words of encouragement to take up his new boyfriend's offer.
Luckily, Riku decided to take a little mercy on him. Or maybe it was because Cloud looked red enough to combust, and he didn't want to get burned. Whatever his reason, Cloud was thankful when the silver-haired boy strutted over to them and hooked a casual arm around Leon's neck.
"I think you've gotten too besotted with Cloud to remember, but we have kendo practice in ten minutes. And we sort of need the ten minutes to actually get our butts over there before the coach attempts to beat us up with that sword of his," –he blew a raspberry to Cloud, to which the blond responded with a stiff smile- "Sorry to disturb you lovebirds, Cloud, but we're needed elsewhere."
Leon gave him a harsh nudge. "Don't flirt with Cloud."
Tidus, who had just finished packing his bag and walked over, snickered. "Getting jealous, aren't we, Leon? And to think it's only your first day together!" he said with a melodramatic voice, sighing dreamily at the end. Riku cracked up. Tidus then turned to Cloud and added, "You should be careful, man! I don't know what was going through your mind when you accepted Leon as your boyfriend, but since you're stuck with him, you'd better take care!" He avoided Leon's annoyed swipe and quickly ducked behind Aeris a few tables down. "Leon's got this insanely protective streak in him, and he's prone to jealousy! But he'll love you to death!"
Cloud was still laughing nervously as he watched Tidus yelp and quickly run out of the classroom. Riku was almost in stitches when he dashed out as well, but not before giving Leon one last reminder about their kendo practice. A few girls were giggling at the commotion, and one even asked Leon to "play nice" before leaving. Aeris waved them goodbye and left, all the while hiding a grin under her hand.
The commotion died off sooner than Cloud would have liked, and then it was just him and Leon left in the classroom.
"You still have practice," he noted nervously.
"You… want to watch us practice? I can get the coach to let me off early… then we can go somewhere together."
Yuffie was howling with laughter, clutching at her stomach. She'd never imagined the day that Leon would look so unsure of himself, not to mention so jittery. Too bad she couldn't handle a camera, or she would have run the batteries in her digital camera flat. Edging closer to her friend, she whispered into his ear, "Hey Cloud, just take him up on his offer! I can tell Leon's gonna love you to bits!"
It was as though her voice was a wake-up call, and Cloud suddenly got an idea. Averting Leon's gaze, he replied, "Kendo reminds me of Yuffie. I don't think it'd be a good idea to go, you know, to a kendo practice now…"
Yuffie pouted. Trust Cloud to use her as an excuse. But she had to admit, it was a pretty good excuse to hold Leon off for the moment.
Cloud was still looking at the ground after he had finished, hoping against hope that it would work. Almost everyone in school knew him as the shy, blond kid who tagged behind the ever enthusiastic Yuffie. Everyone knew they were best friends. And those who had turned up for her funeral knew he had been completely devastated by her sudden death. Of course, nobody knew the girl was currently haunting his every move…
Just when he was mentally calculating the odds of Leon letting him go, he was suddenly pulled into a warm embrace, his head pressed against another's chest.
"Le- Leon!?" he squeaked, blushing heavily.
Leon just tightened his embrace, resting his head in Cloud's blond hair. "I'm sorry, Cloud, for bringing this up."
The blond blinked, his resistance seeping away like water in a net. It had been so long since someone had hugged him like this, like they were truly concerned about him. Not since Yuffie's death. His own mother was too busy with her job to really stop for a moment to hug him, and tell him that things would be fine, that things would turn out fine in the end.
It was only when Yuffie whistled that he realized what he had been doing, and he immediately sprung away.
"Sor… sorry, I just…"
"It's alright. I guess we'll just have to hang out another day. Tomorrow, perhaps?"
Cloud wanted to tell him no, but Yuffie's warning look changed his mind. She would possess him if he refused anyway.
"Then I'll see you tomorrow. Bye Cloud."
When he was sure Leon was out of hearing range, he spun on his toes to glare at his dead best friend. It only irked him even more when she blinked and whistled innocently.
"This is all your fault."
By nightfall, Cloud had gotten a massive headache from hearing Yuffie's 'well thought-out' argument to justify her actions. Even after pulling the ultimate prank on him, she didn't seem a bit remorseful. In fact, she was downright gleeful about it, claiming that it would do him some good. Cloud seriously couldn't see how, because all the situation looked like to him was a perfect recipe for disaster.
It was a big dilemma too: tell Leon the truth and lose a potential friend and hurt Leon's feelings, or continue with the farce and worry for his chastity.
Just as Cloud would always remember the amazing transforming in Leon's facial expression that afternoon, he would also never forget the dismay and disappointment on Zack's face those years back.
Zack had been a source of emotional support just as Yuffie had been, in those dark days after his father had passed away in a work-related accident. He had always been the quiet, withdrawn kid in school, and his father's sudden death only made it worse. He didn't talk to anyone for days. Yuffie was too absorbed in her own misery, being a surrogated daughter of sorts to Cloud's family, to talk the blond out of his depression. That was when Zack had given him a nudge in his shoulder and asked him if he wanted to hang around, one fine day when Cloud had been sitting alone in an isolated stairway in school during lunch.
Cloud never understood why he agreed. It could have been Zack's smile, or that twinkle in his eyes. Or it could be because Cloud had needed someone at that moment to let him know they cared. No matter what, the blond never regretted his decision. And Zack had never disappointed him as a friend. He cheered him up because he wanted to, he pushed him to work harder on his physique because it was better for Cloud, and he always had time for him.
Zack was the guy who never got depressed.
But he eventually did, when Cloud rejected his feelings after a sudden and unexpected confession. His expression was one Cloud would never forget. Disappointment, disbelief, agony, pain… Something had broken in those violet eyes that day, and neither of them ever managed to fix it. Drifting apart seemed like the only conceivable consequence.
Cloud didn't want to hurt Leon the way he had hurt Zack.
Yuffie sighed, shaking her head and crossing her arms. A contemplative Cloud was a worrywart Cloud. In her opinion, the blond was just thinking too much. And he was getting depressed again, too absorbed in his mind and those dark ideas of his.
"Hello, earth to Cloud!"
She wasn't surprised when he rolled his eyes.
"Well, glad you're back. I'd thought for a moment that you'd traveled all the way to Pluto and gotten lost there."
"If I do, it's all your fault. If you hadn't pulled that prank with Leon, I wouldn't be thinking so much."
Yuffie stuck out her tongue at him.
"I just don't understand what your problem is. C'mon! You have Leon worshipping the very ground you walk on right now! You know, Leon? The guy who everyone in school would kill just to have a piece of? The guy with stellar grades, great family background, great friends, great personality like a rock, and handsome to boot! What more can you want? I mean, Cloud, would you just look at his body! When I was still in kendo club, I used to have to fend off all these fangirls drooling over him. Thank goodness we had a janitor to wipe up all the drool."
Cloud gave her a look.
"Yuffie, do you have a crush on Leon?"
She returned that look.
"In case you haven't noticed, Leon is gay. Not happy happy gay gay type of gay, but gay as in bats for the other team type of gay."
"Do you have a crush on Leon?"
"Name me one girl who hasn't had a crush on Leon in any point of her school life," she replied dryly. "But no worries Cloud! I'm not gonna steal him from you! And I won't allow any girls or boys to steal him from you either!"
"Yuffie!" Cloud growled. "I don't like boys that way, alright? I have nothing against homosexuals, but I am not one of them! Get that into your head!"
She sighed again, this time dramatically, and that was when Cloud knew she still wasn't listening.
"If you really don't like Leon that much or if you're not ready to be too intimate with him, then you gotta be assertive! You have to tell him what you don't want him to do to you yet! But really, I think it's best that you don't restrict him because you see, people tend to be more creative if they don't have restrictions. Can you imagine making out in the janitor's closet during lunch break? Or the school rooftop! Or even the teacher's desk after school! Oh, all the kinky possibilities! And you absolutely have to tell him that you're ticklish on your stomach and earlobes! Just remember to use condoms, alright?"
The girl laughed rowdily at the intense blush that popped up immediately, clutching her stomach as she spun around the room in amusement.
"Gods! I so want to take a photo of you right now and send it to Leon! Who knows? Your blush might turn him on!"
"My god! I'm not gonna talk to you anymore!" Cloud huffed, fighting to keep his blush down but failing miserably. Pulling the blanket over him, he covered his ears and tried to go to sleep. Yuffie's laughter died down a little, made even softer by the insulation of his blanket. Perhaps it was the massive headache, or it was simply because dealing with Yuffie sometimes took a lot of energy, Cloud fell asleep in a couple of minutes, snoring lightly.
Yuffie was still clutching at her sides, snickering softly in the corner of the room. She would at least give Cloud the chance to recuperate so he could face Leon tomorrow. Tomorrow was going to be fun, if what she guessed of Leon was all accurate. Protective to a fault, that man was. Not to mention romantic in his own sweet way, even if he had seldom shown that side of his. But she had a feeling it was going to surface a lot more now that he and Cloud were a couple. And god knew how long Leon had harboured a crush on the little oblivious blond.
That little piece of knowledge was something Leon had accidentally leaked out to Yuffie, but it was something he would never regret, she was sure. It was after one of their many kendo practices, when Yuffie had poked fun at Squally-Wally (her favourite nickname for him, and something he completely abhorred) for staring at someone so much. Leon had scowled, but did not deny. And Yuffie knew him well enough to know that anything Leon did not deny was in fact, the truth. Besides, one of Leon's closest friends, Riku, who was standing just beside them and so overheard the whole conversation, had merely hid his smirk and gave Yuffie an encouraging wink. That was when Yuffie knew she had gotten the best blackmail material in a very long time.
Sometimes, Yuffie felt like dangling the beautiful piece of information like a carrot in front of all the fangirls and boys just so she could do her perfect imitation of an evil and smug laughter in front of the entire school. And she would have too, if it wasn't for the fact that the certain someone Leon liked was Cloud, her best friend. Cloud would probably die from all the sudden attention.
Then, Cloud groaned and turned in his bed, causing his blanket to slip to his waist. The girl sighed, floating up to him to cover him better. Sometimes, it felt like Cloud would never grow up, and it was up to her to look after him like a big sister. She at least owed the Strife family this much. They had always been kind to her. But when she reached out, her hands only passed through the blanket like she wasn't truly there. Mind reveling from the harsh reminder of her death, Yuffie couldn't help but stare at her hands.
She could no longer help Cloud the way she had done before.
She couldn't even pull Cloud's blanket over him anymore.
She spent the rest of the night staring at Cloud's sleeping form.