To Heal Her Heart

- Chapter Two -

It was some time before Leon finally cooled down from the rage he felt at himself for harming a teammate. It was the first time he could remember ever doing such a thing to one of their own. He remembered how he had run from Sora and the others and still felt that he could not face them yet. Not until he knew whether or not Yuffie would be okay.

When that thought crossed his mind, he decided that it would not be difficult to sneak into Merlin's home and find out. Even if he could never apologize for what he had done, even if it had been in the thick of battle, he should have been able to pull his blow. It was not completely his fault that his reflexes were that fast and his teachers had been that good, but remembering the blood upon his blade, he could not help but feel the guilt that came with spilling blood without good cause.

He stealthily made his way back to Merlin's abode and quickly dealt with any Heartless that he came upon. Once there, finding Yuffie's room was a simple matter and it seemed as if she was in the room alone. He approached the bed and looked down upon the pale, brave ninja. The fact that she was still breathing was a good sign. He wondered just how badly he had injured her and whether she would be able to forgive him. One thing was sure, he was not certain he would be able to forgive himself.

Leon's brooding thoughts were cut short when a voice drifted from a darkened corner, breaking the silence in the room.

"Don't worry," Leon spun around and watched as the familiar form of Cloud emerged from where he had been leaning against the far wall, concealed by the shadows. Cloud moved across the room to stand with Leon beside Yuffie's bed. "Aerith says she'll be alright." He informed the gunbladist, gently placing a reassuring hand on the other man's shoulder.

, Leon shrugged the hand away. "Whatever."

Cloud sighed as he let his hand drop back to his side. The two stood in silence, staring at the sleeping girl before the blonde spoke again. "I wondered when you would show back up again."

Leon debated answering the half-question from the other warrior. "I almost didn't." He whispered. He looked down at Yuffie. "I should never have harmed her like that."

"It was an accident. Could have happened to any of us." Cloud pointed out.

"But it shouldn't have." Leon broke away from Cloud and moved over to the window, looking out. Another moment of silence passed before… "Do you ever think… that we've been fighting for too long?"

"Eh... " Cloud shrugged, "It gets tiring sometimes."

Leon scoffed softly. "It feels like I've been fighting forever. Ever since I can remember it's been evil no matter where you go. You know what I'm talking about."

"The shadow hearts..." Cloud murmured, nodding.

Leon nodded as well, "Ever since they appeared, it's been… We've been lucky, I guess. But today I was careless. Feels so stupid. This… this kind of tragedy has never happened before."

"So? Everyone makes mistakes - that's what Sora and Aerith tell me all the time."

"Yeah, yeah. I know, okay? But nearly losing a team member by my own hand… What if this is a milestone… The first of many? And definitely not a good one."

"It's not going to happen." Cloud iterated firmly.

"Again." Leon mumbled morosely.

Cloud glared and decided to follow it up with words. "How about this thought. If you do accidentally impale a team member on your gunblade again - I'll kill you. At least then you won't have to live with yourself." He paused a moment, giving the threat time to sink in. "Anyway, you're sorry, and no one died." He finished, crossing his arms.

"Thanks…" Leon gave an amused chuckle. "I think."

Cloud chuckled as well. "Going to stay, then?"

"I'm still not sure if I should. What will the others say?" Leon asked about the second worry that he had.

Cloud sobered up as well. "The others understand. Accidents are easily understood in the midst of battle."

"In the midst of battle is one thing, but what about after?"

"Leon, I know even Yuffie will understand. Never startle a warrior in the midst of battle." Cloud stated the oldest rule of combat.

Leon finally nodded. "I'll stay, then." He almost smiled. "If they decide to lynch me in the morning, I guess we'll have our answers, won't we?"

Cloud nodded. "But they won't. Have some faith in your teammates." He pulled up a second chair. "In the meantime, you can help me watch over Yuffie until Aerith comes to check on her in the morning."

The two men sat in companionable silence through most of the night, every once in a while one or the other dozed off for a few moment's sleep. Leon was on the verge of doing just that when the small form they had both been keeping vigilance over began to moan softly. He looked over to see Yuffie shifting restlessly upon the bed.

Worrying that her movement might cause her injury to reopen, Leon rose from his chair and moved to stand at the right side of Yuffie's bed. Not sure of what to do, he looked to Cloud, who was still seated in his chair, watching with worry in his own eyes. The two men looked on in uncertainty as Yuffie's movements began to grow more volatile. She moaned pitifully, her eyes rapidly moving beneath her lids, indicating that she was ensnared in an apparently intense dream.

Or nightmare…

Leon was reluctant to touch her or say anything, unsure that the sound of his voice intruding upon her obviously already disturbed subconscious wouldn't, in fact, make the situation worse. Cloud seemed to have no qualms, however, as he rose from his chair and moved to the other side of the bed. Seating himself on the edge of the mattress, the blonde proceeded to reach out and place his left hand upon Yuffie's now perspiration beaded brow. Leaning down, he began to whisper reassuringly into the ninja's ear.

'I've never seen Cloud act so gentle before...' Leon thought to himself as he continued to watch the other man continue to sooth away Yuffie's agitation. The gunbladist stood awkwardly as he witnessed the ninja unconsciously turn and proceed to snuggle into a surprised Cloud's side.

Leon shifted nervously, his discomfort at witnessing an innocent yet tender scene was evident. Not to mention there was this foreign sense of… was it contempt he felt causing his stomach to clench in such a way? That was the only word he could come up with to describe what he felt as he watched Cloud futily try to rise from the bed, only to be met by Yuffie's arms wrapped tightly around his waist. Apparently, the presence of another source of warmth was all the ninja needed in order to settle back into peaceful sleep.

He sighed in resignation when he realized that in order for him to gain his release he would more than likely have to wake Yuffie up. "It looks like I'm stuck." He muttered to himself.

Leon looked on, a half amused expression on his face. "Need some help?" He asked, half jokingly.

"I think I can manage." Came the smooth response as Cloud proceeded to gently and carefully work his way out of Yuffie's semi-embrace.

Once he had gained his release, Cloud turned to Leon. "I should go patrol. You think you can stay with her till Aerith comes in in the morning?"

Leon nodded, still a little nervous about seeing the others. "I suppose I can do that. Will you be back in case the others decide to lynch me?"

"They won't lynch you," Cloud sighed, becoming serious. "It was just an unfortunate accident."

"So you keep saying." Leon grumbled, crossing his arms defensively. "There is no guarantee that the others will see it that way."

Cloud shrugged. "Might as well find out what they think now." He said. "It's best not to let anger fester."

"Let's wait until morning." Leon countered. He was not looking forward to the confrontations he was sure were coming. "No reason for everyone to lose sleep over this."

Cloud shook his head. He knew that no matter what he said, it simply would not sink in. Leon was stubborn like that, and until he had actually faced the others and saw for himself that there would be no hostility on their friends' parts, he would continue to worry. The blonde waved a hand dismissively and he walked across the room, using one of the other man's favorite words as he reached the door.


And without looking back to catch Leon's reaction, Cloud left.

Leon was at a total loss for words. He stared at the bedroom door for a moment longer before turning back toward the bed and its occupant. He took in her pale appearance, made even paler as she was basked in the moonlight streaming in through the window. She looked so helpless. So… fragile.

And it was all his fault.

He winced and couldn't help but wonder what the others would do to him. If the morning would find him tarred and feathered, or worse, drawn and quartered. A good skewering was in order, perhaps. He knew that worrying about it was useless, but couldn't stop himself from doing just that. He yawned suddenly and realized how late it actually was. He gazed again at the sleeping Yuffie and decided to follow her example. Pulling his chair closer to the bed, he settled down, crossing his arms on the mattress to use as a pillow for his head before quickly falling into a light doze.

Meanwhile, Cloud patrolled the streets of Hollow Bastion, keeping a keen eye out for any and all things Heartless as he thought over the situation with Leon and Yuffie. H knew how guilty Leon was feeling for accidentally harming Yuffie. Hell, if it had been him, he most likely would feel just as bad. He knew the others wouldn't hold it against Leon, but just in case, he made a note to talk to the them prior to their seeing Leon the next morning.