Updated A/N -- 5/7/2008: Please read! This story began as a oneshot and is now multi-chaptered. However, I've decided for the sake of completion and also of compactness to put them both together. Hence, what follows below is the original oneshot. If you are looking for the larger story, that begins in the next chapter (i.e. push the blue arrow up there). If you have not read the oneshot yet, I suggest you do not unless you want some parts of the story to be spoiled. However, it is there if you want to see where this story began or if you want a sampling to see if you'll like the longer version.

Everything following in this chapter is from my original post.


Description: A LeonxCloud oneshot inspired by the Ashika Sakura story of the same name. Six years ago, Squall's love left him, and he has been unable to move on. What will he do when the man he thought lost finally comes home?

This is very light shonen-ai. It's nowhere near as graphic as the original story. Still, if you hate boy love, don't read it.

Disclaimer: Kingdom Hearts belongs to Square-Enix. This should be nothing new to anyone.

A/N: I will probably make this into a multi-chaptered romance similar to my others at some point, but I don't have the time right now. So in order to just get it the heck out of my head, I wrote this instead. It's a bit different from my normal style since I didn't take as much time to delve into emotions and motivations as I usually do, but I hope you like it anyway.


Come Home

Tonight is the night. He has no more doubts. Everything is perfect. He has spent the last few weeks planning this night and the last few hours setting it up, even going so far as to put rose petals on the bed. Tonight will be special, a night to remember. Tonight, he will make the love of his life his lover.

He sits on the couch, breathing slowly in and out to calm himself. In spite of this, when the doorbell rings, he jumps up with such excitement that he nearly trips over his own feet. Internally berating himself, he forces his nervousness down and crosses to the door. His hand pauses briefly on the knob as he takes one last breath, and then, he opens the door.

Blue eyes the color of the sea gaze at him from that perfectly-sculpted face. "Hello, Squall."

He smiles and steps back to allow the other entry. But when his love stops just inside the entranceway, he frowns in confusion.

"Aren't you going to take off your coat?"

"No." The eyes drop and shoulders slump as a hand runs through seductively-messy blond hair. After a small sigh, the eyes raise again, and he can see something unfamiliar in them. Something hard.

"Squall, we have to break up."

His eyes widen as he stares, stunned. "What?"

"I'm transferring. To a school back home. And …" The sweet voice he loves so much pauses. The words it speaks sound strained. "I'm getting married."

This time, he cannot even form a reply. His body has frozen; his voice has died.

"Remember a few months back when I went home to comfort a high-school friend? I'm going to marry her. She's pregnant."

"B-but …" He swallows, forces his throat to function. "But why? If she needs help, there are other ways to support her! You don't need to marry her!"

"The child is mine, Squall."

His world splinters and slowly, piece by piece, begins to fall apart. His virginal dreams for the evening warp, wither, and die. His blond angel has cheated on him. With a woman. And now … now

Soft lips press against his in a gentle kiss. When they pull away again, they whisper, "I'm sorry."

It is not until the door closes that he realizes that the other has gone. He does not know how long he stands there, but when his feet begin to move again, they take him to the bedroom. He runs his eyes over all the preparations he has made, and his heart shatters. He throws his head back and roars his distress. Wildly, he flies about the room, knocking over the ice bucket that holds the wine, throwing unlit candles to the ground, and ripping the petal-laden sheets from the bed. His anger burns. His pain screams.

When he finally tires himself out, he curls up on the floor in a corner. His room is a broken mess, just like his heart. He notes with detachment the rose petals scattered everywhere -- blood -- and the ice that has begun to melt into the carpet -- tears. Shutting his eyes, he vows that as soon as he recovers, he will go to the nearest bar and fuck the first person he sees. Something inside him breaks a little more at that thought; he curls in on himself a bit more and cries himself into unconsciousness.

xXx

Six years later.

The ringing of the bell above the door snapped Leon out of his daydream. Looking up, he recognized a regular customer and gave him a polite nod. The elderly man smiled and nodded back. His regulars knew that Leon never smiled and had gotten used to it. It was just one of the things that made Lionhearted Books so unique.

"Hey, Leon, you okay?"

The stoic bookstore owner turned to find one of his employees standing behind him, a basket of cookies in his hands.

"Yes, Demyx, I'm fine."

"Oh," Demyx replied with his customary bright smile, "because you looked like you were out of it for some reason."

Leon grunted and turned back to his computer where he had been inputting ISBNs before his thoughts had wandered. None of his current friends knew of his old heartache, and he had no intention of ever telling them. It's been six years. Why do I still think of him?

To steer the conversation away from dangerous things, he asked, "What did you bake this time?"

Demyx somehow smiled even wider and held the basket out for Leon to see. "Peanut butter cookies. They're kind of small. What do you think? Twenty-five cents?"

Leon looked into the basket and assessed the cookies. "Yeah, that seems about right."

"Okay!" The younger man proudly placed the basket in a small display case next to the register and turned to the blackboard behind him to write up the price.

"Oooo, cookies! Lemme taste!"

Leon sighed and rubbed the bridge of his nose as the owner of the high-pitched voice suddenly appeared as if from nowhere. He knew exactly how this next scene would play out. It happened nearly every day.

"Yuffie! Those are for the customers!"

"Aw, but Demy, you always bake so many! Just one. Pleeeease!"

"No. You want one, you need to pay for it."

"Okay. Leon, take it out of my paycheck, will you?"

Leon grunted as Yuffie reached into the basket and pulled out not one, but two cookies. He wasn't going to take fifty cents out of her paycheck, and she knew it. After all, Demyx's daily baking adventures in Leon's kitchen upstairs were just a way for the struggling musician to pay Leon back for the free room he had provided him. He wasn't about to enforce strict rules on the treats. They were part of the charm of the store. Customers loved finding out what Demyx had felt like cooking for the day, just like they loved seeing what flavor of exotic coffee Leon had brewed. For some people, the books were just an added benefit.

"Wow, Demy," Yuffie said around a mouthful of cookie, "these are good!"

"Thank you," Demyx replied, puffing out his chest a bit. But when Yuffie grabbed another one, he quickly ran over and tried to protect his hard work. "Don't eat them all!"

"This one is for Leon," she announced with a grin. Holding the cookie up to Leon's face, she wheedled, "You want to try them, too, don't you Leon?"

"Yuffie, you are invading my personal space."

"But it's so yummy! Now say aaaaaahh…"

"I will fire you, you know."

"No you won't. You love me too much." Before Leon could reply, Yuffie's shorts began to sing. "Ah!" she cried, dropping the cookie on the counter. "My phone!" She dug into her pocket to answer it. "It's Vincent!" she announced happily.

"Yuffie," Leon sighed, "you are working. Your boyfriend can wait."

"Aww, but it's a slow day," she whined as she flipped the phone open. Bringing it to her ear, she gave the two men a wave and wandered off to the other end of the store for some privacy.

As Leon rolled his eyes at her, Demyx came up beside him and leaned his elbows on the counter. "Man, I don't know why you put up with her."

"Because when there is work to do, she does it well," Leon replied. He turned his eyes back to his computer. "She's right. It is a slow day." Which is how I fell into the trap of thinking of him. Damn.

Demyx made to comment further, but a sharp shriek from the young adult section made him freeze. A second later, both men had leapt into action, rushing around the counter and down the aisles towards the source of the noise. They found Yuffie on her knees, one hand clutching the phone to her chest. Tears flowed freely down her face.

"Yuff!" Demyx cried, dropping down beside her. "What happened? He didn't dump you, did he? If he did, I'll --"

She shook her dark head as her shoulders began to shake with emotion. "No, it's … a friend of mine from school. … There was an accident. … She's … she's dead. She was the sweetest, most beautiful person in the world, and she's dead." Yuffie lifted streaming eyes to Demyx's sympathetic face. "She was only a year older than me."

"Oh, Yuffie," he breathed, gathering her up in his arms. "I'm so sorry."

She put her head down on his shoulder and sobbed. Leon watched for a moment in quiet support before deciding to return to the front and leave them alone for a bit. Yuffie would need some time to mourn, and he wouldn't begrudge her a second of that time. He understood all too well the pain of goodbyes.

xXx

Leon was cleaning up the children's corner after a puppet show when Yuffie found him. Smiling gently, she knelt down beside him and began to help.

"Hey, bossman, can I ask you for a favor?"

Leon lifted an eyebrow at her. Yuffie seemed the type who would always hound friends for favors, but surprisingly enough, she never had. "What kind of favor?" he asked.

"You remember that friend of mine who died a few months ago?" When he nodded, she continued, "Her husband is planning on changing jobs, and the one he wants is around here. He and his two boys are coming in this weekend to look around at houses and schools and stuff. I'm supposed to pick them up at the airport, but I don't have a car." She turned big, pleading eyes to him and finished, "Could you drive me and help pick them up?"

Leon gave her a half-smile. "Sure. Not a problem." Considering how many times he had driven Demyx to and from places, one trip to the airport for Yuffie wouldn't be much trouble.

She smiled brightly at him. "Thanks, Leon."

That afternoon, he hung a sign in the window stating that they would be closing early on Friday, and he made sure to mention that fact to a few customers who he knew had irregular hours. When Friday itself came, he and Yuffie closed up, wished Demyx good luck on the performance he had that night, and climbed into Leon's hybrid. Yuffie had brought her own CDs and sang along to them as they drove. Thankfully, Leon was in a good mood, so he didn't mind that much. However, he flat out refused when she begged him to join in.

At the airport, the young woman led the way to Baggage Claim, still singing quietly and skipping like some child. Leon followed her, shaking his head.

"So," he said when they had arrived and she had finally stopped, "you never told me this guy's name or what he looks like."

"I didn't?" she asked innocently as she scanned the crowd. "Well, he's young, blond, and cute, and he'll have two rugrats in tow." She craned her neck around for a bit before jumping and crying out, "Oh! There he is! Cloud! Over here!"

Leon froze.

Cloud?

"Yuffie!" a too-familiar voice answered from the other side of the luggage carousel.

"Cloud!" she yelled and took off.

Leon watched in horror as Yuffie ran straight for a young man with messy blond hair, a beautiful face, and eyes the color of the sea. She wrapped her arms around his neck, and he reciprocated, smiling brightly. That smile was blinding. It burned Leon's eyes. It pierced his chest and skewered his heart.

"Where are the rugrats?" Yuffie was saying, looking around.

"We're right here," a younger voice said.

"And we're not rugrats," another complained.

Two young boys walked up, returning from the direction of the restrooms, and they flanked Cloud on either side. They were identical in appearance except for their hair and their smiles. The brunet grinned joyfully, throwing his arms around Yuffie and squeezing tightly. The blond had a much smaller smile on his face, wistful and a bit sad, as he hung back by the older man. Both boys looked about fifteen.

"How was your flight?"

"It was fine," the brunet answered, "although Dad got airsick."

"I did not," Cloud replied, cuffing the boy lightly on the head.

"Oh come on, Dad," the blond said. "You were practically green."

Yuffie laughed. Leon felt nauseous.

Dad?

"Okay, let's get your stuff and go," Yuffie said, grabbing a suitcase out of Cloud's hand. "My boss Leon graciously agreed to drive you to your hotel, so be sure to thank him, okay?" She turned and indicated Leon who had not moved from his original spot.

Those blue eyes followed the direction of her hand and finally, finally noticed him. As their eyes locked, Cloud's face blanked out and his body stiffened. In those beautiful eyes, Leon could clearly see everything that was also currently raging within him. Shock. Horror. Pain. However, the fact that Cloud was also experiencing these emotions didn't mean anything to Leon. He had suffered far, far too long to care.

Yuffie and the boys had begun to move, but they stopped when they realized that Cloud had not followed. "What's the matter?" Yuffie asked, looking between the two adult men. "You guys know each other?"

Cloud did not answer her. Instead, he took a single step forward and whispered, "Squall?"

Leon did the only thing he could think of. He turned and walked away. And when he got to his car, he got in and drove home, leaving the four of them behind.

xXx

Someone knocked on his door. Leon ignored it. Instead, he buried himself further into his blankets and tried to sleep. It had been hard what with tears stinging his eyes and the phone ringing off the hook. At least the calls had stopped about an hour ago.

"Leon?" Demyx's voice called softly. "Leon, I'm coming in."

He heard the sound of the door opening and feet padding across the room towards him. The bed dipped as Demyx sat down. He smelled of cigarette smoke and alcohol thanks to the bar he had played in that night.

"Leon," he said, "I know you're awake. I can feel your tension from here." When Leon refused to respond, he sighed and continued, "There are ten messages on the machine. Nine are from Yuffie. Did you really abandon her at the airport?" He waited for a heartbeat just in case before telling him, "She caught a cab and is home okay. Her friends are at their hotel. She demanded you pay her for the cab fare, but considering the amount of free food she's gotten, I think you're even." He chuckled a little, but the amusement quickly left him. After another pause, he said, "The last message was from someone named Cloud."

Leon tensed. The way Demyx had said that made it rather apparent that Cloud had left a personal message on the machine. The younger man's tone held far too much knowledge for it to be otherwise. Internally, he cursed. He hadn't wanted his friends to know of his past pain because then they would want to help. Leon didn't want help; all he wanted was to be left alone to suffer by himself.

Thankfully, Demyx seemed to realize that Leon was too upset and that it was too late at night to do anything. Gently, he said, "If you want to talk about it, I'll be here. Good night."

He rose and began to leave, but Leon rolled over and stopped him.

"Demyx?"

"Yeah?" the blond responded, hope in his voice.

"Call Yuffie and tell her she's fired."

He rolled over again and slammed the pillow over his head. After a silent minute, he heard the door close behind Demyx as the other man left the room.

xXx

The next day, Leon opened the store on time as usual. He had really wanted to stay in bed all day and possibly the next, but he was too sensible to allow his business to suffer because of personal problems. He also didn't want to disappoint his customers. On Saturday mornings, two of his friends came over to put on puppet shows and do crafts in the kids' corner.

As laughs and giggles resounded from that corner of the shop, Leon sat at the front counter and leafed through publisher invoices. Yuffie's usual shift started soon, and he wondered where she was right now. He regretted firing her so suddenly, but he had been in shock and had needed to lash out at someone. Perhaps later in the day he would call her and apologize. Maybe even offer her her job back if she'd take it.

He sighed as he entered payment information into the computer. So, Yuffie's sweet, wonderful friend had been the same woman who had stolen Cloud from him. What was her name? Aerith? Yes, that sounded right. Yuffie kept calling her "Aer" like she was a puff of oxygen. He paused, fingers hovering over keys. Cloud and Air. It was appropriate. Too appropriate. He pinched the bridge of his nose and fought down a surge of sadness.

Caught up with trying to keep himself under control, he didn't notice when the door opened or when a familiar small figure approached him. Only when two hands slapped down on the counter did he pay attention and look up.

"I'm looking for a job, and I hear you have a position open," she announced with a grin. "Whaddya say?"

Leon blinked at Yuffie for a second before softening into a rare smile. "You're hired," he said softly. "Get upstairs and help Demyx with the snacks for the kids."

"You got it!" She bounded around the counter and up the back stairs without looking back.

Morning turned to afternoon without incident. Yuffie seemed to have forgiven him in that cheerful way of hers, and Demyx seemed content to stand back and let Leon handle things on his own. For a short while, Leon allowed himself to think that the incident last night would not in fact have any effect on his life other than to reopen wounds that he would tend in his private hours. He should have known better.

He was brewing a new pot of coffee, listening to Demyx chatter about some band or other, when the bell over the door chimed.

"So this is where our Ninja Aunt works. It's cool!"

Leon froze, eyes wide. He knew that voice.

"Yeah, it's pretty nice. Amazing that it's lasted what with Borders and Barnes and Noble devouring everything else in sight."

He knew that voice, too. His stomach dropping into his feet, he turned his head over his shoulder to view the new customers. Two teenagers, one with messy blond hair, the other brown, stood just inside the door, appraising his store. As he looked at them, their twin pairs of blue eyes came to rest on him, much to his complete horror.

"Hi!" Demyx greeted them, oblivious to his boss's distress. "Welcome to Lionhearted Books. Anything I can help you with?"

"Nah," the brunet smiled at him, coming farther in. "We're here to see our Aunt Yuffie."

"Oh," Demyx replied. Then, his face brightened as the pieces clicked. "Oh!" He threw a quick glance at Leon who still had not moved. "Well, she's working in the back right now. Want me to go get her?"

"No, that's okay," the boy said. He stuck out his hand with a grin. "I'm Sora. This is my brother Roxas. Nice to meet you."

"Demyx. And this is the owner, Leon. Good to meet you, Sora."

"Hey, Sora," Roxas called. He had wandered up to the counter and was examining Demyx's creations for the day. "M&M chocolate chip cookies."

"Seriously?!" Sora cried. He dashed up to his brother's side and placed his hands on the glass. "They're my favorite!"

"I know," Roxas chuckled.

"Want one?" Demyx asked, moving behind the counter. "Only fifty cents."

Sora dug into his pocket and pulled out a crumpled dollar bill. "Two please!"

"What's with your coffee selection?" Roxas asked, looking up at the blackboard. "You have some strange flavors."

Demyx paused in the act of removing Sora's cookies, much to the boy's dismay, to reply, "Leon selects all our coffee. He buys free trade beans and grinds them daily. It tastes awesome!" he announced proudly.

"All right. I'll try the Mexican Chiapas."

"Excellent choice!" He gave Sora his cookies and turned to pour the coffee when he noticed Leon standing there with the empty pot in his hands. "Ah! That's the one that's out, isn't it?" When Leon nodded, still not trusting his voice, Demyx turned to Roxas and apologized.

"It's okay," Roxas replied, looking at Leon with clear, calm eyes. "I'll wait."

Swallowing, Leon turned back to the coffee and finished up his task. He turned back to find both boys looking at him again. It was unnerving. Trying to ignore them, he pushed past Demyx and went back to the computer, hoping to hide from their gazes by concentrating on accounting.

It didn't work. "Hey, Leon," Sora asked, before he could even boot up the program. "Are you the one Dad's in love with?"

Leon inhaled so sharply that he choked. Dumbfounded, he whirled around to stare at the teenager. The boy looked at him innocently, half a cookie still in his mouth.

"What?"

"Are you the one Dad's in love with?" Sora repeated. "You love him, right? That's what it looked like last night."

"We always knew Dad didn't love Mom," Roxas explained, leaning one elbow against the counter and propping his head in one hand. "At least not like a guy is supposed to love his wife. He loved her more like a sister, I guess. But Sora and I always figured he loved someone else, the way he would sometimes space out and look sad."

"Yeah," Sora agreed. "And then last night, after he calmed Yuffie down and got us a cab and got everyone where they were supposed to be --"

"Dad's responsible like that," Roxas interjected.

"-- after all that," Sora finished, "and after he thought we were asleep, he collapsed into a chair and just cried for the longest time."

"And it wasn't like the way he cried for Mom either. This was just heartbreaking."

"Yeah, we'd never seen him cry like that before."

"So," Roxas insisted, "is it you?"

Leon looked away, unable to bear those twin gazes. "It's none of your business," he mumbled.

"Of course it is!" Sora replied. "He's our Dad! We want him to be happy!"

"What did he do?" Roxas asked brazenly. "Break your heart or something?"

"If he did, you should forgive him," Sora immediately added. "And soon. We're going back the day after tomorrow."

"We'll be back at some point, but it could be awhile. It'd be better if you start making up now."

Leon frowned at the both of them and their meddling. "Sorry, but I don't feel like taking the advice of teenagers today."

Roxas snorted at him. "Oh yeah, and leaving us in the airport was real mature."

Now severely irritated, Leon glared at the small blond, but Roxas didn't flinch. In an attempt to break the tension thrumming between them, Demyx stepped in, holding a little styrofoam cup.

"One Mexican Chiapas," he chirped, setting the cup down in front of Roxas. "Here you go."

"Thanks," Roxas replied. "How much do I owe you?"

Demyx opened his mouth to answer, but Leon cut him off. "Take it." When both blonds looked at him in surprise, he growled, "Take it and get out."

Roxas sighed. "Come on, Sora," he said, taking his coffee and moving for the door.

His brother nodded, but before he moved away, he dug in his pocket again and produced a piece of paper. "Here," he said as he slapped it down on the counter in front of Leon. "The number of the hotel we're staying at and our room number. And at the bottom is Dad's cell phone. Call him, okay?" He gave Leon one final smile before following after Roxas.

Leon stared at the paper on the counter. The numbers sat in three neat little rows. Sora's handwriting probably. He wanted to completely ignore it, but for some reason he found himself slowly reaching out and picking up the paper in his fingers.

"Hey," he called to the boys before they could leave. When they had turned to look at him, he said, "My heart has been dead for six years. I can't forgive and make up just like that."

"We know," they chorused.

Briefly, they smiled at each other before Roxas continued, "We're perfectly aware that it will take a long time."

"That's why we said you should start now," Sora finished.

They turned together and pushed out the door, Sora throwing a final goodbye to Demyx over his shoulder. Leon watched them through the front windows as they moved down the street. His fingers closed around the small piece of paper in his hand, but instead of throwing it in the trash like he intended, he slipped it into his pocket before he turned away and went back to work.

xXx

Sunday night, and the clock read 9:07. Leon stood in the dark amongst the shelves of books, breathing in the smell of paper and fresh bindings mixed with the lingering aroma of coffee that had brewed earlier in the day. Ten minutes. He would give him ten more minutes, and then he would walk up those stairs, pull the phone out of the wall, and curl up in bed to sleep.

Three minutes passed. Four. And then, just as the clock switched over to 9:12, he saw it. A figure in a long coat coming this way, hair gleaming gold as the streetlights caught it in passing. Leon didn't move as it approached; he simply stood and watched as the other man walked straight up to the door and peered into the darkened building, trying to see inside in spite of the lack of illumination. Finally, those blue eyes seemed to see him, for his concentrating expression lifted and he waved slightly.

Leon walked over and unlocked the door.

"I got your message," Cloud said quietly as he entered the closed bookstore. "Sorry I'm a little late."

"It's all right," Leon replied in an emotionless tone. He turned and began walking to the stairs. "Follow me."

Without stopping or turning around, he led Cloud to his apartment on the second floor, through the main room, and into the kitchen. Once they were in front of the refrigerator, he asked, "Do you want something to drink? Coffee? Water? Beer?"

"I'll have a beer if that's all right," Cloud answered, his expression a little uncertain.

Leon retrieved the requested drink and one for himself before heading into the main room and sitting down on the couch. When Cloud followed, he gestured for the other man to join him. Cloud did so, sitting awkwardly, still wearing his coat.

"So," he said after a moment, "you wanted to talk to me?"

"No," Leon answered, "your sons wanted me to talk to you."

Cloud looked up at that, surprised. "Sora and Roxas did?"

"Yes." He took a sip of his drink and commented, "Those two, they're adopted, of course."

"Of course," the other replied with a small laugh. "I'm only ten years older than they are, after all."

"What happened to the baby?"

Cloud's face fell. He gazed down at the ground and said simply, "Miscarriage."

"Hn," Leon responded, not wanting to express sympathy just yet. "Even so, you stayed with her."

"Of course I did," Cloud replied bitterly. "You have no idea how terrible a miscarriage is for a woman. I couldn't just leave her."

"Not right away," Leon countered coldly. "But that was six years ago." He glanced at the blond out of the corner of his eye. "How many times did you try before you decided to adopt?"

Cloud flinched, confirming Leon's suspicions. "Three," he eventually admitted.

"Hn."

They sat in silence for a long moment, neither one looking at the other. Finally, Cloud took a breath a little larger than the previous ones and confessed, "I didn't know you were still here. I thought you must have moved on by now. If I had known, I wouldn't have come. I would have looked somewhere else for a better job. I …" He turned the beer bottle around and around in his hands. "I didn't want to drag all this back up again."

"I believe you."

Cloud nodded to acknowledge him before continuing, "I just wanted the best for the boys, you know? The schools here are really good, and this new job pays more and has better benefits. Age-wise, I'm more like their big brother than their father, but I love them as much as I would if they really were my sons. And I've messed my own life up enough …" He trailed off, eyes closed. Leon waited patiently, seeing no reason to interrupt him. Eventually, he stated, "I made a mistake, Squall. A big one. Maybe someone else would have waved it off and ignored it, but I couldn't. I had to take responsibility for my action, stupid though it was. Even though it hurt so much, even though I hurt you, I had to. Or I wouldn't have been able to live with myself. I wouldn't …"

This time when his voice died away, he leaned back into the couch and covered his eyes with a hand. Leon had caught just a glimpse of the beginning of tears in those eyes that he loved so much before pale fingers hid them away. Unbidden, the memory of the previous day's conversation with Cloud's sons floated into his mind. He had tried to hide it, but the other man had also been unhappy all these years. Leon had always assumed that he had been the only one who had suffered. The cold, brusque way in which Cloud had broken up with him had made him think that his love had not really loved him back. He realized now that Cloud had suffered just as much if not more than he had.

Carefully, he reached out and covered Cloud's free hand with his own. The unexpected touch jolted Cloud's hand away from his face, and Leon saw the tears he knew were there.

"You did the right thing," he assured him. "As much as I hate to admit it, as much as it hurts, I have to say you made the right decision. You did the right thing."

For a long moment, Cloud just stared at him. But then, he hung his head and began to cry in earnest. He flipped over the hand that Leon had touched and laced their fingers together, squeezing tightly as if to ground himself. Leon sat there and let him cry. The ache within his own chest had actually eased a little. As much as he wished that Cloud had never made that mistake that tore them apart, he felt as if he finally understood and could at last begin to move forward. Perhaps he could even forgive his angel enough to give him another chance.

When Cloud had cried himself out, Leon withdrew his hand, leaned back into the couch, and said, "So, tell me about this new job."

For the next hour and a half, they talked. About work, about family, and every so often, about memories. They talked and smiled and laughed, and the whole time Leon felt warm and comfortable. When Cloud finally stood to leave, citing his early flight the next day as the reason he had to go, Leon rose with him and slipped a hand around his elbow as he led him down the stairs and to the front door.

"Hey, Cloud," he said once he had unlocked the door but before opening it to the night. "When you come back again, how about I take you out somewhere?"

Cloud smiled. "You mean like a date?"

"Yeah."

"I'd like that." His smile turned into a smirk as he added, "After all, I'd like to get to know you better, Leon."

They both laughed at that. Leon opened the door for him, but before Cloud could pass through, a sudden desire gripped him. Impulsively, he grabbed Cloud's arm, spun him, and pressed a gentle kiss against his mouth. It lasted only a second, not enough time for the blond to react either positively or negatively.

"Safe trip home," Leon whispered when he pulled back. He kept his eyes lowered, not certain whether or not he wanted to see the other's reaction.

But Cloud's fingers found his chin and pushed it upwards until he was drowning in those seas he adored. "'Safe trip back,' you mean," Cloud corrected. "That house was never my home. My home is elsewhere, and I promise that this time I won't stay away for so long." He leaned forward and initiated a second kiss, tender and innocent, but still full of meaning. Then, he had slipped through the door and disappeared into the night.

Leon shut the door and locked it, walked up the stairs to the second floor, and returned to his own rooms. Once the door had shut behind him, however, he allowed himself to feel the frantic beating of his revived heart and the warmth that had filled him from head to toe. He leaned back against his door and smiled into the dark.

"Come home soon."


A/N: Well, it didn't turn out exactly how I wanted, but considering doing it the way I want would involve chapters, I'm quite happy with it. At least now the break-up scene and the airport scene are out of my head. Please tell me what you thought, and be sure to add an alert if you'd like to know when I get around to expanding it.

-- Karai