Title: Blush

Thank You's: Thanks for the reviews, guys, or specificallySomeWhereFarOff,Coffee-Flavored Fate,Paranormal Medicine,Jackidy, and Silver Tears 11! They make me all happy inside, and inspire me to work on future chapters instead of… you know, studying. And unimportant stuff like that. (cough)
Also, many thanks to Coffee-Flavored Fate, who is bearing the brunt of my insipid ramblings to beta my KH fics. Sankyuu!

Notes: My usual apologies for the slowness in updates. It's midterms month, and I'm still working away on those law school applications. I swear I don't seem to remember college applications being this troublesome.
Anyhow, a change of scenery in this chapter, with a focus primarily on Leon. It's about time he got some spotlight after all.
On a random note, the rating went up because of Axel's potty mouth. Not because there will be smut in the future (there won't). But that's a good thing because while PM can curse up a storm, she can't write smut to save her life (although it does have the potential to be permanently blinding).

chapter 3

When questioned about it later, Roxas would vehemently argue that he really had possessed no intention of going with Axel to the city. For one thing, such trips were expressively forbidden by Xehanort. Granted, Roxas had no idea what the reasoning behind that was, considering how Demyx was the only one who ever had any interest in going out anyway. But while Roxas might not have respected Xehanort's decisions, he most certainly did respect the man's ability to enforce said decisions, often through the most cruel and unusual punishments (he still shuddered when remembering the incident with the pink bunnies).

The other, somewhat more significant reason why Roxas did not want to go to the city was because of a tiny, tiny suspicion that Axel's plan was going to send them all straight to hell even if they didn't get caught. In fact, considering how it was Axel, that was more or less guaranteed. This clearly meant that he would be doing everyone (except Axel, but he just wasn't that important in the grand scheme of things) a huge favor if he did what gut instinct told him to do, which was to knee Axel in the groin and stop this idiocy from continuing.

Unfortunately, this was something easier said than done, particularly when you have the equivalent body of a fourteen-year old girl. The only reason why Roxas got his way with the rest of his family was because Axel backed him up, and the only reason why Axel backed him up was because the pyromaniac was a pedophile at heart and liked the fact that Roxas looked like… well, a fourteen-year old girl. But when push came to shove, Roxas found that short of batting his eyelashes at Axel—and there was no way in hell he was going to go that far, fate of the world or not—or miraculously gaining the muscle structure of say, Lexaeus, he simply didn't stand a chance when Axel was determined. The idiot had even gone so far as to handcuff them together, to ensure that Roxas would not under any circumstance be sneaking off to inform someone of what Axel was planning.

Honestly, Axel just didn't give him enough credit. Roxas would never have done such a thing; no way was he going to let somebody else have the satisfaction of punching Axel in the face a few times.

Much to his disgust though, Axel was denying him the pleasure of doing even that. Usually Axel was game enough (or simply too love-smacked to care) to let Roxas do whatever he pleased—as long as it did not cause permanent damage or affect the hair, anyway. But today the red-head was being terribly uncooperative in the 'Let Roxas Beat the Shit Out of You Because You Totally Deserve It' department, which meant the blond had to settle instead for childishly kicking Axel in the shin every few steps. He didn't care that this made them an odd sight, the two of them walking through the town in ridiculous black cloaks (to conceal their identity, Axel explained) while the taller of them yelped every so often, his cries of pain countered by Roxas's snappish, "Take that, you moron."

"You know," Axel hissed after the fifty-sixth kick, "if you really want to show your love to me that badly, couldn't you just send flowers? I hear chocolates are also good, particularly when it's on your naked—ouch! Shit!"

"Do you really want to finish that train of thought?" Roxas hissed back, eyes flashing.

Axel seemed to miraculously develop a sense of self-preservation. "No?"

Unluckily for him, Roxas was not the type of person to appreciate this very significant development as he simply said, "Good," before kicking Axel for the fifty-eighth time.


While Axel would have argued that he had been punished enough as it was (eighty-nine kicks and counting), it was Roxas's personal opinion that only splitting the idiot's head open with a dull rock would be 'sufficient' retribution. In fact, in his opinion it might actually be too close a call, since it was not as if Axel used that organ in his head for anything except for basic life functions. Simple proof of this fact could be found in Axel's so-called plan, which was in a way so utterly brilliant that if it somehow managed to succeed, they were all doomed.

"You have got to be kidding me," he groaned as Axel grinned at him with misplaced triumph. "What the hell were you thinking? No, wait, don't answer that. I really, really don't want to know."

"But Roxy, where's the fun in that?" Axel asked with such cheer that Roxas's urge to throttle him increased three-fold.

"Don't call me that," he snarled. Much to his fury, Axel only grinned so he continued angrily, "In fact, if you ever call me that again, I swear I will gut you."

"Violence doesn't become you nearly as well as that schoolgirl outfit Mansex made you-"

"Shut up!" Roxas yelled. "Not in front of the idiot!"

Now, Leon could not help but take offense to this gross inaccuracy, and he expressed his displeasure by glowering at the insolent brat. After all, if wasn't as if he was actively participating in this… farce. Like Roxas, he would have been perfectly content to mind his own business if Axel wasn't so determined to further screw up his already majorly screwed-up life. Of course, one could argue that since he was already having a shitty time, anything Axel could throw at him wouldn't make it that much worse anyway.

But then, considering the kind of reputation Axel had for causing trouble, he wasn't about to hold his breath.

"He's not an idiot," Axel defended, and Leon might have thanked him (with the help of heavy drugs and group hugs, anyway) if this had not been immediately followed by, "Think of him as a perfect opportunity to spice up Emo Boy's love life! A once-in-a-lifetime chance! A golden shiny wire of hope! Got it memorized?"

"No, I don't 'got it memorized'," Roxas snapped, heavy sarcasm lacing his words as he repeated Axel's catchphrase with undisguised loathing. "I honestly cannot believe that even you could think this was a good idea. Asking some random… guy to get Zexion to fall in love with him? I've seen him around the palace! He's a guard!"

For reasons discussed previously, being a palace guard was not, as Roxas pointed out, going to win any points in your favor. Between the hideous uniform, horrendous working conditions, and paltry pay, only the truly desperate (or truly idiotic, as there were occasionally those who joined in the desperate desire to 'serve their country', not realizing that by doing so they were subjecting themselves to pain and humiliation) were willing to work there. Now, whether Leon was that desperate or just plain stupid, neither were qualities Roxas was looking for in a future brother-in-law.

A real brother-in-law, mind you. Not a brother who happened to be with another brother, technically also making him a brother-in-law despite the laws of nature going haywire and jumping off a cliff faster than you could say 'lemmings'.

"I already told you," Axel said with exaggerated patience. "His name is Leon, and he's-"

"-going to somehow seduce Zexion without forcing Vexen to make a love potion, yeah, I got that part. But who is he? What do you know about him? He could be a serial killer for all you know!"

"Standing right here," Leon grunted, but his incoherent defense of his character was drowned out by Axel's cheerful response.

"And what exactly is the problem with that?"

Roxas smacked the palm of his hand against his forehead. "And here I was under the assumption that we were trying to help Zexion. Not mess him up even more."

Even as he said the words, Roxas realized the immense flaw in the statement. It made sense, considering how the two brothers seemed to detest each other. Well, the majority of the family had some issues with everyone else, even those who seemed to get along fairly well. But when there were thirteen siblings fighting for recognition and affection from a single man, there were bound to be a few toes stepped on in the process. No wonder Xehanort had been able to take over the palace so easily, what with all the inter-family fighting constantly distracted Ansem the Wise. He wouldn't be surprised if his previous step-father had been almost glad to be banished because… well, being alone in the darkness meant that at least there wasn't anyone he had to argue with.

"That might have been your plan, but it's not mine," Axel informed him simply.

Roxas groaned, realizing that this was a losing battle. So he turned instead and appealed to Leon. "Why in the name of Ifrit are you agreeing with my idiot of a brother? What's in it for you?"

"But of course he's doing it out of patriotism and goodwill," Axel said before Leon could respond. Not that Leon was going to anyway. For one thing, it was just terribly out of character. Since when did Squall 'Leon' Leonhart respond to anyone? Since when did-

"You're blackmailing him, aren't you?!"

… well, granted, there was the little matter of those damned pictures.

"Now Roxas," Axel managed somehow to sound completely hurt, as if he had been accused of no less than burning puppies. "How could you think so lowly of me?"

And as a matter of fact, Axel did actually derive pleasure from burning puppies. And kittens. Which might account for Roxas's bellowed, "Because you're blackmailing him!"

"But it's for a greater good! A good where a certain person with a stick up his ass will finally get laid."

"Axel, seriously. Stop talking," Roxas ordered, but this only prompted Axel to swing an arm around the blond. This movement was immediately reciprocated by a punch to the nose.

Leon blinked, deciding that it would probably be best if he did not even attempt to comprehend what was going on between the two siblings. He did, after all, have more important things to worry about. Like his apparent role in Axel's master plan, which was, as has been noted quite vehemently, not what one would term voluntary. Which could make the entire 'seduction' thing all the more difficult, considering how it was him, it was seduction, and it was Zexion.

Zexion, whose angry scowl was currently perfectly replicated on Leon's own face.

The very idea of seducing anyone was laughable. At least, it would be if Leon laughed. And Leon did not laugh. He rarely smiled. Smiling was for people who were happy, and he was most certainly not happy. Hence, the angry scowl, which clearly stated that he was not a happy person but an angry, unhappy one, and why would (ignoring the entire blackmail thing) an angry, unhappy person go around seducing random strangers?

Particularly random strangers who were part of the royal family which had a reputation of being oddly psychopathic and prone to murdering people without due process of law?

"Aw, you're adorable when you're ineffectually angry."


And why, one (or in the specific case, Roxas) might justifiably ask would someone like Leon be willing to do something as ridiculous as seducing someone he barely knew? Who he in fact did not want to know, considering how their last, thankfully short, meeting had gone?

Maybe it was because he didn't really have anything to lose.

It was a somewhat fatalistic approach, this entire 'what do I have to lose?' sort of mentality. After all, in a world where optimism was as commonplace as bouncing bunnies, Leon might have been able to brush aside the fact that his current existence was completely and utterly not where he wanted it to be, and would probably stay in that rut for the rest of his existence. It was strange, considering how Leon had relatively few expectations out of life (a result of being utterly pessimistic about everyone else, no doubt). He did not expect people to help him out of goodwill, nor did he expect life to be 'good'. Life was nothing to be poetic about. It was just going from one day to the next, until your organs collapsed out of utter boredom and decided they'd rather be decomposing than functioning.

And people wondered why Leon was not more popular at parties.

"Shit fuck ow!"

But then, all of that had changed when he met Cloud. It wasn't a lightning striking sort of thing. It was… more along the lines of being saddled with a mood-swingy blond who at some times seemed to parallel him completely. Life sucked, get over yourself. And then he was able to tell himself that hey, maybe life sucked, but at leasthere was someone who agreed with him. Except then Cloud would get all… well, he'd start tossing around the word 'mosey', and as if that wasn't bad enough, he'd disappear for stretches to hunt down some silver-haired psychopath named Sephiroth.

Cloud never was able to fully explain that little obsession to satisfy Leon, but then Leon knew he probably wouldn't be satisfied until Cloud stopped running off like that. It was very detrimental to the pattern of life he had created, where disruptions were about as welcome as a psychopathic clown living in a tower and blasting random villages left and right whenever he felt like it.

Needless to say, it was not something he dealt with well. It was hard enough for him to open up enough to let anyone else into his determinedly solitary life to begin with. It was much harder to realize that the person he had allowed in didn't want to stick around on a permanent—or evenmeaningful—basis.

"Take that, and that, and that!"

"Goddamn it, Roxas, will you just stop?!"

Throughout this argument-slash-show of brotherly-to-the-point-of-suspiciously-romantic affection, Squall 'Leon' Leonhart only listened with half an ear. For he was very busy thinking about the note that Cloud had left on the bed, the one that simply said 'I'm sorry. I can't. Don't hate me.' (or at least that's what Leon thought it said. It was hard to tell with Cloud's handwriting. He would have to get Aerith to look that over later). It still hurt no matter how many times it happened, which begged the question of why he let it. It was the same as saying that Leon was practically a world-class chump who let himself get hurt over and over again. He knew, after all, that Cloud was obsessed with Sephiroth, even if he still didn't know precisely why that was. Yet it still didn't stop him from letting Cloud come back to him each time he returned after another failed (as Yuffie termed it) 'Sephiroth Search'.

Or letting go without a fuss when he left again.

Oh yes, Leon was a moron, a masochist, a glutton for punishment. Those were all nice ways of describing his deficiencies (and looking back to his very brief meeting with Zexion just a few weeks prior, just the tip of the iceberg if he agreed to this plan). Well, not that he had a choice considering… those.

Leon eyed Axel warily, wondering if perhaps he might be able to overpower the man and steal back those pictures. With Roxas's help, it was quite possible… but knowing the bastard it probably wouldn't be enough. Besides, he wasn't the kind of person to ask for help. Although he was deriving serious pleasure from watching Roxas kick Axel in the shins like that.

And even though he was technically committed to this plan regardless of his own wishes, there was still the tiny matter of how he was supposed to go about it. Knowing Axel, the guy probably wasn't going to be offering too many pointers in that department. No, he had a feeling that if anything, this was going to be—if it was happening to anyone else, anyway—one of those 'delightful' comedies of errors that would either lead to true love or complete and utter hell.

He had a feeling he knew which was more likely.

With those thoughts and problems running through his head along with the proposal before him, Leon had quite a bit to think about. It was a wonder that his head had not yet started to steam up as if on fire from all that pondering. So he reacted in the only way he knew how.


This heartfelt, dramatic, and most importantly vague pronouncement was met by two stares.

"So… that's a yes, right?" Axel asked.

Leon glared at him—presumably irritated that his own catchphrase was being questioned—and repeated through gritted teeth, "Whatever."

"Guess that's a yes," Axel grinned.

Roxas just sighed. He had a feeling that this was going to be a very long and tiring experience, and he wasn't even one of the main actors.

Unfortunately, Axel chose this moment to break out in (high-pitched) maniacal laughter. At which point, even Leon, lost in the throes of his despair as he was, knew that he was totally and utterly screwed.

"You know," Roxas said as they walked back to the palace, "there's another flaw in the plan besides the fact that you came up with it."

"And what is that, Roxy?" Axel asked cheerfully, for he was in a good mood seeing how he had just screwed people over. Nothing beat messing up lives, nope indeedy!

"Don't call me that. But I'm referring to the fact that of all the people you had to choose from, you ask the guy who doesn't have a romantic bone in his body."

"What makes you think he's not a closet romantic?"

Roxas rolled his eyes, resisting the urge to grab Axel by the hair and slam his head into the nearest wall. Repeatedly. Perhaps the only thing that stopped him was, again, the fact that it wouldn't make much of a difference anyway. "He spent the entire time glaring at us, Axel. That's not typically the sign of someone who is reading bodice-ripping novels and crying over the plight of the milk maid's long lost love. He's more likely a serial killer with the emotional range of Saix."

"Saix can be quite emotional, you know."

Roxas gave Axel a look as he snarled, "Saix only had two emotions: sociopathic and sex haze. Neither of which is conducive to the entire 'falling in love' business. And what are you expecting, exactly? That he'll glare at our brother until Zexion suddenly swoons and falls into his arms?"

"Something like that," Axel replied with a shit-eating grin. "Actually, I thought it was a match made in heaven. They both like to glare, they both have no emotions, they both have six-foot poles stuck up their-"

"You're an idiot, you know that?"

He grimaced as Axel again flung an affectionate arm around his shoulders, cooing, "Yeah, but I'm your idiot."

"Sometimes, I really wish that father had drowned you at birth."

End Notes:
Points to you if you get the reference 'golden shiny wire of hope', double points if you know who the psychotic clown is (heart), and triple points if you know where that note comes from (here's a hint—it involves a post-it note). Maybe I should actually keep track of who can keep up with my random references….
I debated offering points for the Leon's head-steaming reference. Um. Bonus half point if you get that one?
And no, I'm not sure if anything will come out of this point system. Maybe I'll offer short-fic to people who get the highest score at the end of this mess, haha. Although I guess I wouldn't be able to stop anyone from cheating that way, which would sort of suck… err, who knows? Let's just play it by ear! Feel free to toss out suggestions, although nobody ask for fanart. Unless you want to be blinded. Because I'm really good at blinding people.