Peace at Last
"Roxas!" Sora waved happily and Roxas waved back as he caught sight of his twin and began to make his way through the crowded quad towards where Axel, Riku, and Sora were anxiously awaiting him. "You're late. It's not like you to be late."
"You act as though I had a lot of a choice in the matter." Roxas grumbled as he took his customary seat next to his boyfriend. "Cloud and Leon were arguing about something undoubtedly stupid and then Cloud almost burned them both to death with the coffee pot on accident. I was lucky to get out of there alive."
"I don't see how you've survive this summer much less this morning." Axel quipped and Roxas smacked him lightly upside the back of the head before settling in a little bit closer. "So how are the dynamic duo? No one's really seen them much at all this summer… Other than Yuffie of course but I guess that's kind of to be expected."
"They are just as annoying and unflappable as usual." Roxas ran a hand through his bangs. "But they don't seem to be doing too bad all things considered. They've mostly been focusing on their business and they really did help me this summer since my internship folded at the last second. They kind of let me pick up a lot of the experience I needed with them… Though I'm not really sure when I'm going to need intense shredder experience in the real world."
"They had you shred their papers for them?" Riku asked and Roxas shrugged.
"I really don't know what they would have done had I not been there to shred for them." Roxas rolled his eyes at the predictable antics of his older brothers. "Leon's so busy running in and out talking to lenders and clients and nobody trusts Cloud anywhere near that damn thing. They either would have been swimming in papers or swimming in emergency room bills for continuous reattachment of Cloud's fingers had I not been there to do it for them."
"Why don't they just get one of those nice shredders that have the finger sensors on them like anyone else who has an issue with spacing out while doing menial tasks would?" Riku asked, actually kind of curious to know the answer. It wasn't like Cloud and Leon were hurting for munny at all. Their number of clients had tripled throughout the summer and the munny from the bet that hadn't gone into their vacation had been invested with all the anal retentive preparation that Leon could muster. "I think it would be worth it in the end."
"The funny thing is that they do have one of those fancy shredders that won't let you run the machine if your finger is in the way." Sora was the one to point this out as he had been the one unfortunate enough to have been dragged along on that particular shopping trip. "This doesn't seem to stop Cloud from attempting to kill himself with it every time he uses it though."
"What can I say? The man defies physics. I could probably write a wonderful dissertation on all the ways he constantly bends reality to either suit him or to make others scratch their heads in wonder." Roxas rolled his shoulders back until they popped and then sighed heavily. "You know, living with them wasn't all that bad all things considered. They're actually a lot more normal than most people give them credit for."
"That's kind of like saying car accidents are more normal than plane crashes." Riku pointed out. "Yeah, plane crashes might happen less often, but when they do it's a lot more devastating than a simple car wreck."
"I know you did not just compare my brothers' relationship to a plane crash." Sora huffed in disdain and Riku quickly backpedaled in the best interest of his sex life.
"So you don't mind living with them?" Axel asked as he had no interest in Riku attempting to cover his ass. It happened so often that it lost a lot of its entertainment value. "I mean, that's got to be awkward for you I'm sure what with them being…. Together and all."
Roxas shook his head and shrugged. "Actually it's not all that bad. They kind of keep to themselves and they aren't complete assholes. They know that I would be uncomfortable if they ran around the house making-out in their boxer shorts or whatever else they do when no one's around. Honestly, staying with them this summer was probably one of the best things I could have done for myself, and Leon's convinced me to get a double major in business which will put me head and shoulders above most other applicants when I'm looking for a job after college."
"Wow… They really did teach you stuff this summer, didn't they?" Axel rested a hand on his chin as he regarded his boyfriend carefully. "There's something you're not telling me."
"You haven't told him yet?" The four boys looked up curiously as Cloud proved once again that he had an uncanny knack for showing up when there was a perfect one-liner for him to use to get into a conversation. "Come on, Rox, you were all gung ho about it when we offered and now you're acting like it's not a good idea or something."
"Really? You two really had to come here right this second?" Roxas sounded rather exasperated, which he was. He loved his brothers and he was happy for them and he even didn't mind living with them for the most part, but they were still the absolute most frustrating people he knew. "Why are you even here?"
"Tradition." Leon answered smoothly as both men took up chairs at one end of the circular table. "We've all been meeting here on the first day of school since you boys started high school forever ago. You don't think we would stop now?"
"I half hoped you would, though." Roxas muttered more to himself than anyone else. "But, no, I haven't had the chance to talk to him in private yet as he just got home yesterday and this is the first time I've really seen him. I'm about to have to tell him, though, aren't I?"
"Well, it's more like ask him, but do go on. We're listening." Cloud smirked happily and both men settled back into their chairs to watch the show.
"God damn it I wish you two would stop doing this kind of shit." Roxas groaned and turned to his boyfriend, desperately trying to ignore the curious looks of Riku and Sora and the mildly entertained looks of Leon and Cloud. "So, uh, Axel…. Cloud and Leon apparently have been making a shitload of munny recently…"
"It's a truly wonderful thing." Leon commented from the peanut gallery. "Opened tons of doors and all that shit."
"If you two aren't going to help, then you should just shut up." Roxas sent his older brothers a glare worthy of actually registering for the duo and they fell silent, though Cloud couldn't quite resist pantomiming eating popcorn. "Anyways, my asshole brothers are ridiculously rich now and have no need for such a tiny apartment when they could be living it up somewhere where there's not a twenty percent chance of there being a meth lab on the property, so they offered the place to me since the lease is paid for up to December of this year thanks to Mom, and I was kind of wondering if you would like to move in with me there…"
"Hey! What if I wanted the apartment?" Sora knew that he shouldn't ruin the moment, he really did. He knew that it was extremely rude of him to not allow Axel to answer and he was pretty sure he would apologize to Roxas about it later, but if there ever was a knee-jerk reaction that you just can't avoid it's complaining when a sibling gets something that you weren't even offered. And Sora was the older twin to boot! "That is so not fair."
"Life isn't fair, Sora." Cloud shot back, obviously excited about being able to jump back into the conversation without Roxas being able to get too pissy at him since Sora started it. "Besides, Roxas and Axel have been together for longer than you and Riku have. It's about time they started to get their act together."
"You also have yet to go to our apartment even once since we signed the lease whereas Roxas lived with us all summer. That means he gets first pick since you obviously don't care about it." Leon explained "But if there is something you want that we can help you with other than finding a place to live, we'd be happy to discuss it with you."
"Hey, I didn't even want to accept the apartment anyway." Roxas said in his defense. "The only reason I agreed to even ask Axel was because Mom has the rent covered for the rest of the year, not them. They've spent more than enough munny on us in the past few years. They don't need to be buying us places to live, too."
"What are you talking about?" Sora wasn't quite sure where this was going, but he wasn't as confident as he had been going into this portion of the conversation. "They won't even buy us dinner for the most part."
"That because they're too busy keeping us in school." Roxas huffed angrily and crossed his arms over his chest. "They don't have to buy us dinner."
"Damn it, Roxas, did Mom tell you that?" Cloud rolled his eyes in more frustration than any real anger. "I knew she was going to drop the ball, Leon, you told me she wouldn't but I knew she would."
"Mom didn't tell me." Roxas admitted after a brief half second of debate over whether or not he should let his mother take the rap on this after all, but he figured she would be more believable when denying it than he would be. "I figured it out on my own after I looked into scholarships halfway into my freshman year here and they told me I was already covered through a trust fund up to graduate school. It wasn't that hard to call the bank at that point."
"I don't know whether I should be proud about how smart you are, or upset that you ruined the surprise." Leon studied Roxas curiously for second. "I think I'm going to go with proud."
"Hey, Leon… I think Sora's about to freak out. Maybe we should like go somewhere before that happens so we can truthfully tell Mom we weren't even there when he had a heart attack this time." Cloud was eyeing his younger brother with a mixture of smugness and actual trepidation. He was pretty sure that Sora was going to be okay after this newest revelation, but there was always that little one percent that made it seem like a good idea to get out of the area so as not to have this mental breakdown pinned on him.
"No…." Sora took a deep breath and closed his eyes for a second to gather his thoughts. "No, I'm not going to freak out. I'm so over freaking out about everything, but I'm not happy that you two never told us about this either. Why don't you ever tell us about anything?"
"Do we really have to discuss this now?" Cloud rolled his eyes and slumped down deeper into his chair. "You've have all summer to bring up us not telling you things you think you need to know, and you've picked right now to do it?"
"You've been even bigger hermits than ever before this summer." Riku pointed out. "In fact, if you hadn't promised Roxas before everything blew up that he could come and stay with you this summer then he probably wouldn't have seen much of you either."
"That's true." Roxas was quick to jump on his older brothers. Yeah, they had done a lot for him this past summer, and most of it was things that didn't have to do, but that didn't mean they deserved a free pass for what had happened the year before just because they were being nice and friendly now. "And even with me living there, you didn't talk to me about anything all that important. If it wasn't work related you weren't exactly the most talkative."
"Of course they weren't going to talk to you over the summer." Axel bit his lip, but figured he might as well finish what he had to say. Maybe it was time for him to stop thinking of Leon and Cloud as ticking time bombs waiting to beat him into the ground and start thinking of them as normal people who just wanted someone for their baby brother who wouldn't be the biggest idiot to ever walk the planet. "Why would they sit you down and have a personal conversation with you when they knew that the rest of us were going to want the same answers sooner or later? They didn't want to have to explain themselves twice so they put you off until they could get us all together."
"You know, maybe Mom was right about giving you a bum rap as far as your intelligence goes." Sora scratched lightly at the nape of his neck. "That actually sounds like exactly something they would do."
"We are still sitting right here listening to every word you're saying." Cloud reminded the group of boys in front of him. "We don't appreciate you talking about us like we don't exist."
"But Axel is right." Leon spoke up and took the conversational reigns away from Cloud for the time being. They were really going to have to work on Cloud's issue with sticking his foot in his mouth soon, but now was not the time. "Though I would like to think that you didn't take us helping you as us being guilty or something, Roxas. You really did work your ass off this summer and we wouldn't have been able to do a lot of the expansion we managed to get done if it hadn't been for you there to pick up the slack and make sure Cloud wasn't hiding in the bathroom when he was supposed to be working."
"Keeping tabs on Cloud was the hardest job of all…"
"Don't I know it." Leon snickered. "But fine, we've been found out and I guess you all deserve some kind of answers… Oh, and I guess you also deserve to know that we're not mad at you any more… If we ever even were mad at you. You're our brothers, even Riku and Axel, and we honestly kind of expect you to do stupid shit from time to time."
"And all that stuff you did for us after you figured out the others were way too much into it for their own good or for our good was pretty cool." Cloud added in. "So I guess it wasn't as bad as it seemed at the time and we weren't right for being angry in the first place. You thought it was a joke in the beginning just like we did and then you tried to protect us when you found out it wasn't as funny as you thought it was going to be, and we appreciate that…. And you'll probably never get to hear me say anything like that ever again so you'd better bask in it now while you have the chance."
"We'll bask later." Riku rolled his eyes at Cloud's over-dramatization. He was coming to find more and more that Leon and Cloud said and did a lot of things they didn't mean for the sake of blustering about as though they were tougher than they really were. Of course, they were tough and they weren't people he would ever take lightly, but they did over-exaggerate how much they disliked humanity in general in Riku's opinion. "Answers to our questions now before you distract us long enough that it's time to go to class, please."
"You haven't asked any questions yet." Leon pointed out. "And you didn't say that this was going to be free story-telling time either."
"Alright… So how long have you two been 'going out' for lack of a better term?" Axel was the first to pose a question as he figured Sora and Roxas would be too embarrassed to ask their brothers anything of substance and Riku had gotten to a place in his mind where he didn't care about Leon and Cloud's reasoning behind anything. He was more than ready to chalk this whole thing up to a lost cause and get on with his life.
"Well, we chose to count from October fifteenth of our eighth grade year for reasons that are absolutely no one's business so it'll be ten years in October." Leon did some quick math in his head. "But if you count the times when I was with Rinoa, or that brief period Cloud was with Sephiroth…"
"Which we won't because math makes my brain hurt." Cloud elbowed Leon in the side and the brunette stopped his calculations with as close a pout as he was liable to come. "So ten years then, anymore questions?"
"And you two were just okay with each other going off and dating other people while you were supposedly together?" Roxas was the one to ask this question. "I find that hard to believe."
"It's the truth, though." Leon shrugged easily. "We've done a lot of growing up where it comes to relationships since high school. Back then we didn't know what we wanted and we weren't exactly willing to settle when we still had questions, so we went out, answered our questions, and then came back again. I'm not going to say that those times when we were dating other people weren't hard times, or that we weren't jealous deep down or whatever. They were just things that we had to do for ourselves before we could be ready to take that next step together I guess."
"Let's put it this way…" Cloud sighed. "Leon had issues, he worked them out. I got pissed because he laughed when I told him about Sephiroth asking me out so I did what I did to spite him. I got into a shitload of trouble and came back having learned my lesson. This story is closed now and will not be re-opened for future viewing. New topic, please."
"Are you still mad?" That was a very important thing to know as far as Sora was concerned. Leon and Cloud could hold grudges and for the most part people they were mad at didn't know it until they struck years later. It was a scary thought.
"We were." Leon admitted. "We were really mad for a long time. We were mad at pretty much everyone but Yuffie since she had the brains to come running to us the moment she found out about the bet, but we're now only mad at some people. We know what you and people like Kairi, Naminé, Tifa, and Yuna tried to do for us and we know that they would never have wanted to hurt us. That's not saying that all of you playing along was a good thing to do, but we aren't going to penalize you for it."
"Plus Mom would kick our asses if you two disappeared or something." Cloud popped his neck. "Though the thought of making you disappear was tempting for awhile there."
"I don't think I want to know exactly what you were planning." Roxas muttered to himself. "Fine, so this is over? We're just going to go on as though it never happened?"
"Well, it's not going to happen again, is it?" Riku pointed out. "Luxord disappeared to greener pastures a month ago and the betting ring was tipped to the campus police so they've pretty much been closed down. Besides, who the hell would be stupid enough to want to do something like this all over again?"
"No one I can think of." Sora agreed. "These bets were supposed to be harmless ways to have fun throughout the year, but this, this wasn't fun or harmless."
"And thus why there are going to be no more bets ever." Leon stated with an air of finality. "Sure, there are some people out there who didn't learn their lessons from this, but the majority of people did, and we're about ninety percent sure that no one is going to be making any delayed moves in the name of revenge."
"We would be one hundred percent, but we really can't account for anything Seifer or Sephiroth might think to do." Cloud shrugged easily. "But Reno's actually been really helpful this summer so the odds of either of them getting the jump on us are lower than we ever could have hoped."
"That's actually ridiculously good to hear." Axel let out a sigh of relief he hadn't known he'd been holding. "Reno's been moping around his apartment ever since New Year's Day and my aunt has been at her wits end trying to get him to not be all depressed and shit."
"And we've already apologized to him." Cloud offered up in reassurance. "As much as we tend to fight on a daily basis, we are friends and he's apologized for all the things he did last year and for not taking into account how I might have felt about a lot of what happened before attempting to pressure me and by blindly helping Seph."
"Epic." Axel nodded happily and sank back into his chair, fully content for the first time since that very day last year.
"So it's just over?" Sora asked hesitantly, still not quite believing that everything had turned out alright in the end. He was very much still waiting for the other shoe to drop and it hadn't quite hit him yet that there just might not be another shoe. "Just like that? We're just going to move on like nothing happened?"
"Well, yeah." Cloud rolled his eyes. "I think that if we were taught anything this year it would be that you can't change something that happened in the past. Yeah, last year sucked major donkey balls and yeah, we probably still have every right to be mad at each and every one of you, but what's the point? I'd much rather still have friends outside of Yuffie and I'm pretty sure we'd both rather still have brothers as opposed to enemies or a set of people who are constantly looking over your shoulders waiting for us to attack."
"Holy shit…. Mom has been right all those years." Roxas' eyes widened in surprise and Sora gasped in the background. "You can be mature when the situation calls for it. Fuck, who knew?"
"And you two can just go fuck yourselves for all I care." Cloud grumbled as he realized that he had finally after all those years of pretending, messed up and allowed his younger brother to see the maturity he desperately tried to pretend didn't exist. "Don't you have class or something?"
"They decided to follow in your footprints for once and have Valentine's eight o'clock Creative Writing class." Riku offered up helpfully. "I don't know why they decided to do this other than it seems to be the easiest class in the world and they don't want to do serious thinking this early in the morning anymore."
"Ah, wise choice." Leon was smirking happily and he waved off Cloud as the blonde elbowed him in the side. "I think you'll find Valentine's class to easily be the most interesting semester of your college careers."
"I sure hope not." Roxas grumbled to himself. "I don't think I can handle another 'interesting' semester."
"I hear you, brother, I hear you." Sora mumbled in agreement and both boys cringed as they heard the familiar screech of a overly hyper Yuffie Kisaragi from across the now quite crowded quad. "Dear god, what is she doing here?"
"She's meeting us here." Leon offered up by way of explanation as both he and Cloud got to their feet. "We've got something we promised her we'd do together this morning and we figured, hell, why not just meet her in the quad again for old time's sake."
"It's also none of your business." Cloud added as they waved one last time before intercepting Yuffie before she could make it to the table and quickly turned her around to disappear into the crowd.
"You know what?" Riku asked as they moved too far for him to see any longer. "I don't think I want their business to be my business anymore."
"I know I don't want their business to be my business anymore." Sora let out a loud exhale.
Sora and Roxas somehow managed to stumbled into their eight o'clock Creative Writing class one minute before it was due to start no thanks to their boyfriends who thought they should further emulate their older brothers by being late to the one class they really and truly never cared about. They did not agree, and it seemed as though the professor at the front of the room seemed to be siding with them as far as the tardiness was concerned.
"Well, well, well… I have to admit I was slightly concerned when I saw your names on my list that you would be out to continue on your brothers' legacy of intense laziness and a high disregard for structure and learning." Professor Valentine looked a little happier than he usually did and Sora and Roxas took that as a good sign. They had been half worried that Professor Valentine would treat them like crap merely because their brothers had driven him up a wall for the past four years. It seemed like he was more willing to focus on the fact that Cloud and Leon were gone from this school and would never darken his doorway again. "However, do not think you will be getting any special treatment just because I am unfortunate enough to know your elder siblings."
Sora and Roxas nodded solemnly. They had never really known Professor Valentine other than through their brothers' stories and through the rare times they happened to see him walking through the campus, but he did have a reputation for not being one to mess with. How Cloud and Leon had managed to be such pains without ending up dead was another one of those unexplained mysteries that they almost didn't want to know the answer to.
Professor Valentine spared them one last contemplative look before swirling up behind his podium and sending the class one of his best glares, fully confident for the first time in four years that he was going to get his morning class back under the control that only fear could bring.
And things were going so well, too, freshmen were cowering, sophomores were rethinking their decisions to take what they had thought was going to be an easy course and the few juniors and seniors that had somehow stumbled their way into this lecture were frantically attempting to come up with ways to get out of this with their GPA's intact. Sora and Roxas were just trying to blend into the shadows at the end of the middle row they had chosen.
It was the perfect beginning to the perfect semester until the classroom door slammed open five minutes after the start of class.
"Hey, Professor Valentine! Did you miss us?"
And sure enough, standing there in the doorway were the last three people Professor Valentine (or Roxas and Sora for that matter) wanted to see ever again. Yuffie, of course, was leading the charge with her ever present minions Leon and Cloud behind her, each one with the absolute most wicked grins on their faces.
"What the fuck are you two doing here?" Professor Valentine seemed to be caught between wanting to rip their arms off with his teeth and curling up in a ball and crying. He should have known that it wasn't going to be that easy.
"You didn't think we were going to disappear just because we got our bachelor's degrees, did you?" Leon asked as the trio surveyed the classroom, catching sight of where his brother's were trying to avoid eye contact at all costs.
"Yeah!" Cloud chirped happily. "We're graduate students!"
Some of the students cheered, being fully aware of what this meant for the rest of the semester as far as this class went. A lot more entertainment than they had been expecting and a much more relaxing morning class.
Sora and Roxas just slammed their heads down on their table and refused to move for the remainder of the class period.
And Professor Valentine did something he never thought he would do….
A/N: AND IT'S OVER!!! OMG!!!.... I don't even know what to do with myself now that this is done and done and done for good! I will say that this has been amazing for me and appreciate each and every one of you who has reviewed, whether you reviewed once or every single chapter. You are my bread and butter. You are my life! And as such everyone who submits a signed review to this epilouge will receive a personal response from me with oodles of thanks and love!
Also, a fun fact for those who care... Not counting author's notes, but counting chapter titles this fic is exactly 207,726 words and 374 pages.... I don't even know how that happened. I don't think I WANT to know how that happened.....
OMG..... So, uh, I have an idea for a new story already! I haven't actually started it so expect maybe a one-shot or two before the first chapter on that one comes out, but I do have a name for it. So be on the lookout for Convince Me, another Cleon epic from the one and only Scout!!