Alright guys, I'm going to take this chance to thank you all for staying with me this far. Your reviews have made me happy, and so, we come to the epilogue of 'First Snow'. There will be a short companion fic. More details on that at the bottom.
Fandom: Kingdom Hearts/Final Fantasy VIII
Pairings: Leon/Cloud and others
Standard Disclaimers Apply.
He hid his memories in the top of his closet.
He always disappeared for the first snow.
I want to know you better than this.
Not just who you are, but why.
And when your eyes will be on me alone.
Hey, would you miss me if I were gone?
Would you know what you'd lost?
Even the memory of your touch is too much
to bear when you're not here.
I want you to know me.
Not just who I am, but why.
But the words get stuck in my throat,
and I choke.
The difference between hello and goodbye
no longer means a thing, if you're not here.
So much has happened I can't even cry anymore.
Someday, maybe, we'll cast away our pride and fear
and learn how to smile
together after all these years.
When Cloud awoke it was to find Leon standing by the window staring out at a white landscape.
The blonde sat up and rubbed at his eyes blearily. It was 2 in the morning. That's when he realized…first snow. It was the first time in all the years they were together that the brunette was still in the room on a night like this. From the blanket on the nearby rooftops, Cloud could tell it had been snowing for quite some time. He didn't want to disrupt his lover's thoughts, but at the same time, he wanted to know what had changed. After a moment's deliberation he asked, "Leon?"
Leon turned, that now familiar nostalgia in his eyes. "Will you come with me?" he asked.
Maybe it was just the way the moonlight played off his skin, but something about Leon looked terribly vulnerable and young when he asked that. Cloud was surprised, but happy. That Leon had asked him to come meant that he finally trusted him. He got up, wrapping the blanket around his slim form and padded over to the window where his lover stood in leather pants. Goose bumps danced down Leon's arms. He was cold, but didn't want to leave the window and so had determined to suffer through it for now.
Cloud wrapped his arms around Leon, the large blanket draping around both of them and leaned up on his toes to kiss Leon on the mouth.
Leon wrapped his arms around the other man's waist and watched the emotions darting through Cloud's magnetic blue eyes.
"Always," Cloud answered, leaning his head against Leon's shoulder, turning his gaze out to the first snowfall of winter and feeling incredibly at peace being able to share this with his lover for the first time. "Always."
Leon's embrace tightened around the blonde and he kissed his temple, the end of his nose, and then his lips. It was the sweetest, most adoring kiss they'd ever shared. Leon thanked whoever was listening once again that Cloud was so stubborn. Some days it was incredibly frustrating, but if it wasn't for that stubbornness Leon was sure they would have broken up ages ago. He was thankful for that.
For the first time, Leon didn't run off at the first sign of snowflakes. Tonight he let himself stand by the window with Cloud a while, kissing gently, embracing, appreciating the romance of it all that Irvine had taught him so long ago. He was sure the cowboy, rest his soul, would understand. In fact, he was fairly certain that Irvine would be glad to know he wasn't going to spend the rest of his life in mourning. Still, that didn't mean he would ever forget, and it seemed as if Cloud understood that and was finally willing to accept that.
"Dress warm," he told the blonde. "It's a long walk."
Cloud looked up quizzically but chose not to ask. He would find out soon enough where Leon had been going in the middle of the night all these years and was willing, at last, to wait. He leaned up once more, kissing Leon softly on the lips. He didn't have to say anything to communicate all the most important things, but threw in a simple "take your own advice" as he padded over to the closet and threw a sweater at the brunette.
Leon hadn't been kidding. They trekked through the restoration site, around toward the distant castle and through a series of caves. The entire time, Leon didn't let go of Cloud's hand. He didn't move unnaturally fast, periodically pausing to get his bearings. He only came here once a year and a small rock slide here or there made him backtrack and come around another way, but eventually, just as dawn was beginning to kiss the sky, Cloud found himself beside Leon on a snowy plateau that he'd never happened across before. He decided this was because it was in the middle of nowhere and that most likely, to Leon, therein lay its appeal.
As Leon led Cloud further toward the center, carefully shaped stones could be seen, at least half a dozen of them, but the one Leon stopped in front of made Cloud lean more firmly against his lover. It was a graveyard of sorts. He knew there were no bodies underfoot, but as he let his eyes roam over the stone tablets he could see exactly what it was. 'Irvine Kinneas. Laguna Loire. Zell Dincht. Selphie Tilmitt. …' Cloud's hand came over his mouth. All this time, all this jealousy… and Leon had been visiting graves, paying respects.
Leon let go of his hand and reached into his pocket, laying a white rose on each of the graves in memory. It was careful and ritualistic, and when he was done he paused and took a deep breath, taking Cloud's hand and leading him first to Laguna's headstone. He wanted to say something important, but thought it was silly. He knew Laguna couldn't really hear him and even if he could he didn't know what to say or how to explain, so after an extended moment he pulled Cloud along to Irvine's grave.
Cloud understood how much this took for him to do. It was no easy task to tell the man you'd loved that you were going to move on. Leon licked his lips and turned to Cloud, taking both of his hands in his own and locking his eyes, something he was often hesitant to do. "When we're alone," Leon said quietly, "you can call me Squall, but only you. It will be our secret."
Cloud couldn't help the small smile. His eyes lit up at the permission. "Squall," he said gently, getting used to the feeling of the word in his mouth and finding it very intimate. Temperamental, but intimate, just like his lover. He understood now, so much more that Leon didn't know how to say. Squall was the name Irvine had used for him, a name that reminded him of so much love and pain that no one but someone he would move heaven and earth for was worthy of it, no one but a lover could say it without bringing back all those painful memories.
But Cloud's thoughts were distracted when Leon let go of his hands to fumble around in his jacket pockets. After a few moments he produced a small and very familiar box, opening it and pulling out a gold band. He warmed it in his fist before lifting Cloud's left hand again. It couldn't be! Wasn't that Irvine's ring?
"I think he'd be glad that someone was using it," Leon answered. "And nothing would make me happier then marrying the man I love. …heartless permitting."
Cloud, overcome by emotion, launched himself at the brunette, arms tangling around his neck and accidentally knocking them both back into the fresh snow.
"Should I take that as a yes?" Leon teased, gracing Cloud with one of those rare, yet genuine smiles.
"Yes!" Cloud declared more firmly than was his fashion. "Yes. Always yes. Forever yes. As many times as you want me to say it."
"You might regret that last part," Leon answered, pulling Cloud into a deep kiss as the snow slowed to a stop around them without their noticing. "I don't think I'll ever get tired of hearing it."
Again, Leon's mouth descended over the blonde's. They didn't find anything else important enough to say out loud for a very, very long time.
Well guys, that's it. I hope you've all enjoyed the story. As mentioned earlier, there will be a companion fic to this story that will be something like a sequel, only not. The pairing will be Seifer/Zell and it will be filed under Final Fantasy VIII rather than Kingdom Hearts, though references to events from this fic will be present. The working title is "For What It's Worth" so keep an eye out for it. I expect it will be out sometime within the next two weeks.