A/N: This is the LAST and FINAL chapter for "Strategy." I thought I had two chapters left, but then I reminded myself this is Leon's story, so I'll only be alluding to the main events happening in KH 2. I would like to thank all my readers, old and new, for staying with me during this tumultuous year. I salute you all with a hearty Gongagan Wake-Up Call.
Fandom: Kingdom Hearts
Summary: Babies are born. Organizations crumble. The Light shines on.
Pairings: Cloud/Leon (Squall), Cid/Vincent, Sephiroth/Zack, Riku/Sora
Warnings: Yaoi, MPREG no longer, Surprising Vincent and Baby, Big Brother Sephiroth, Keyblader Sora and Friend, Chocobo Protects His Own, Daddy CID! And Cid-inspired Cursing, Mommy and Puppy leave the Light on, Old Estharian Sex Change, Old Hojo Sex Enhancement, Ref. KH2 Plot and Dialogue. Vincent Valentine is from Final Fantasy 7. In my AU, he is Sephiroth's father and Riku's grandfather always.
Disclaimer: I do not own any of the characters in this fan fiction, except for Lucy "Junebug" Highwind, Princess of the Darkness.
Chapter 20 - Baby Mine
Cid felt miffed, when Vincent's third trimester finally rolled around, and the Missus still remained on the roof.
With his sanity returned to him, Vincent calmed the Captain remarking the long wait would soon end.
Like most of his dealings with the Dark Angel, Cid should have asked Vincent to be more specific.
Cid rolled over in bed, smiling to sense a familiar warmth returned to him. "About time ya landed, Baby."
Opening sky blue eyes, Cid stared directly into a smaller pair. "HOOOOOLY SHIIIIIIIIIT!"
Flying out of bed, Cid's back hit the set of drawers across the way. "Vince? There's a baby in our bed!"
Wearing a soft cotton nightgown, Vincent remained laying in place. Neither he, nor the baby, batted an eye at their beloved's antics. "Silly Daddy. Where else would my Princess be?"
Cid slowly edged forward. Eyes glued to his newborn daughter. "Not that I'm mindin,' but wasn't she supposed to be cookin' fer a couple more months?"
Waiting until Cid laid back down, Vincent handed the baby over with a rare smile. "According to Merlin, demonic pregnancies require less time to gestate. In actuality, Lucy is a month late. Aerith and Merlin helped me with the birth. Since the labor was so fast and easy, they did not feel the need to wake you. Please do not be angry, Cid. You have been under so much stress. I wished for you to have one night of true rest."
Awestruck, Cid cradled Lucy close, grinning when she grabbed tight hold of his pinky. "Ah won't lie, Vince. Ah'm relieved Junebug takes after you. Mah ugly mug suits me fine, but ain't fittin' fer a princess."
Resting his head against Cid's upper arm, Vincent played with Lucy's other hand. "Look closer, My Love. While she may take after me, she has the Highwind coloring. I fear her golden hair and blue eyes shall deceive many. A Princess of Darkness should not seem like an angel. Yet here she is. Chaos is quite pleased."
Cid kissed the top of Vincent's head. "Ah bet he is."
Bending over, Cid lavished his baby all over with kisses. Pausing, for a moment, he jerked up with a curse.
Vincent quickly checked Lucy. Unable to find anything amiss, he gently petted Cid's arm. "Cid? What's wrong."
Cid stared off into space, for a long time, until he met Vincent's concerned eyes. "Growin' up, me bein' a boy, mah Mama jest let me run around with a nappy on. Whenever Ah rolled around in shit, she'd hose me off and push me back outside. Leon already said he'd do the same with Zack. Sorta figured we'd do the same with Lucy."
"Look at her, Vince. Ah thought Chaos was talkin' out his ass, but Junebug's a Princess through and through. She should be wearin' lace and velvet. The sorta shit this workin' man can't afford. She should've had a king fer her Daddy, instead she got stuck with this old, sad dumbfuck."
Turning Cid's head, Vincent comforted him with a soulful kiss. "Do not fret, Captain. This very matter has already been taken care of. On my behalf, Aerith spoke with the three fairies, Flora, Fauna, and Merryweather, who have set up a new clothing shop in the Marketplace."
"The trio agreed, if our babe arrived looking anything like me or Sephiroth, they would be happy to make our baby's clothing for free. Our baby will be a living advertisement, but I believe it a small price to pay, since she will no doubt be stared at anyway."
Releasing a big sigh of relief, the proud grin returned to Cid's face. "Havin' a hard time lookin' away meself."
Nestling closer, Vincent wrapped his arms around Cid and his bright-eyed princess. "Lucy loves you My Sky. She loves her Daddy with all her heart."
Tears raining down, Cid raised his baby up. Kissing her forehead, he smiled to feel tiny hands wipe his face. "Right back atcha, Junebug. Right back atcha."
With the eradication of the MCP, and decimation of most of the enemy during the Heartless Battle, the amount of Heartless and Nobodies appearing in Radiant Garden dwindled to a mere handful.
Heartened by this wondrous occurrence, the whole village recommenced Reconstruction at almost a nonstop pace.
Since his presence was no longer needed overlooking the Dark Depths, Sephiroth proved his worth by hauling heavy machinery, and organizing the 'troops' in Leon's stead.
Awaiting the birth of Zack, the Lion was now happily assigned to near 24 hour couch and bed rest. Swollen ankles propped up on pillows. Mind preoccupied with his Puppy's constant chattering and dreams of the future.
Cloud took a vigilant, unblinking stance on the roof. The false Sephiroth and Organization remained at large. The Beast would die before either party came near his resting Kitten and unborn cub.
Teleporting into the Committee House for lunch, Sephiroth sat down next to a humming Leon. He smiled at the glowing belly. "Is Beloved well today?"
Placing his book to the side, Leon clutched Sephiroth's hand. Blue-grey eyes dancing with merriment. "Oh, he's fine. However, we need you to close your eyes for one moment."
If anyone else, but Zack's Mommy, had asked him, Sephiroth would have refused in a heartbeat.
With an air of uncertainty, Sephiroth closed his eyes. Two seconds later, the eyelids flew up when a small bundle dropped into his arms. Glaring down, he stared into wondering eyes of aqua blue.
Cid clapped his shocked step-son on the shoulder. "Well, don't jest sit there! Say hello to yer sister! Gotta do it quick, though. Vince says it's her feedin' time soon and mah Junebug gits ornery without her vittles."
Sephiroth stared down at his sibling. Reaching out with the Darkness, he smiled to feel her overwhelmingly strong response.
Lucy stared back up at her big brother. Grabbing onto his forefinger, she cooed.
Sephiroth raised his gaze to meet Leon's beaming face. "I agree with Father Chaos. Death to all suitors."
Brow furrowing with concern, Leon petted his belly, hearing Zack's distressed whine for his new playmate. "Don't be hasty, Sephiroth. In the future, I'm sure Lucy will meet a wonderful person who will treat her with love and respect. Right, Cid?"
Walking to his computer, Cid shrugged. "Ah'm with Sephiroth on this one. Includin' mahself, Ah found all men to be horny perverted cheatin' lyin' bastards. Pretty sure it'll be sheep to the slaughter, when Junebug hits puberty, but Ah figger it's a good way to keep in shape."
Sighing, Leon sat up to argue, when all eyes turned to the door, which suddenly slammed open with a bang.
To Leon's shock, Sora flew across the room, slamming into the couch. Uncharacteristically, he reared up snarling. "Let me at him, Cloud! I'm Zack's uncle! I have to protect him!"
Clomping forward, an enraged Cloud held up one hand, stopping Sora cold. "Shut up. You said enough back there. If Kitten didn't love you so much, I would have let you fight him. It would serve you right to die for being stupid."
Slowly shuffling in and closing the door, a guilty Goofy and Donald looked on.
Petting a shaking back, Leon held Sora's hand. "Sora? What are you still doing here? I thought you left for Twilight Town this morning."
With tears of rage streaming down his face, Sora stared at the floor. "With Lucy being born so early, I wanted to make sure Zack would be safe, before I went to fight the Organization. I know I swore to stay away from the false Sephiroth, but I've gotten so much better with my fighting skills. If Cloud hadn't interfered, I really think I would have beaten him."
Glancing up, Leon's heart sank to see Goofy glumly shake his head behind Cloud's back. "Hyuck. Sorry, Leon. We tried to stop Sora, but the false Sephiroth showed up. Before we could get away, he started sayin' all these mean things to make Sora angry."
Hugging his little brother close, Leon rubbed his head against Sora's . "What did he say, Sora?"
Twisting around, Sora dried his tears on Leon's steady shoulder. "The false Sephiroth said once Zack was born he would take Zack far away, where we would never be able to find him. He said Zack was his gift from Xemnas for killing Cloud. Xemnas wouldn't care as long as he had you."
Growling, Sephiroth could feel the Darkness rising inside him. His murderous thoughts were hastily halted by a harsh yank of the hair and a reproachful look of sky blue eyes. Shaking his head, he rocked his sister in his arms. He had almost crushed her small body in his rage. "My apologies, Lucy. I must remember these are only words. My Beloved still resides safe inside his Mommy."
With a coo, Lucy stuck a hand in her mouth, along with Sephiroth's hair, falling straight to sleep.
Clasping Sora close, Leon's weary gaze met Cloud's glowing sad eyes. "I guess it's time."
Raising one hand, Cloud brushed his fingers down Leon's soft cheek. "Yeah."
Releasing a deep breath, Leon drew Sora away. "Sora? We've had this planned out, since Zack's conception. Aerith promises me this plan will work, but I need you to follow my directions. No arguments. Understand me?"
In defiance, Sora stuck his lip out. Meeting Leon's unblinking Lion's glare, he quickly backed down. "You want me to go straight to the Gummi Hanger and fly to Twilight Town. No detours. No matter what happens."
Smiling, Leon brought Sora in for another hug. "See, Zack? Your Uncle Sora's so smart. He's going to find the Organization's hideout and kill all the bad men who made you cry. Right, Sora?"
Lower lip trembling, Sora leaned down and gently kissed Leon's stomach. "Yeah, Zack. I'll find Kairi, Riku, and make sure those bad men never bother you or Lucy again. I promise."
Sora smiled when Leon's belly glowed brighter in response. Rising up, he walked to the door. Like always, Goofy and Donald following close behind him.
Half-turning, Sora waved a hand. "See ya soon."
Receiving his adoptive family's well wishes, the young hero swiftly turned and strode out the door.
Cloud gently laid Leon down for his afternoon nap. Laying beside him, he cupped his Kitten's dear face. "Don't cry. I won't be gone long. Once he's dead, I'll look for your Light and find my way home. Promise."
Embracing Cloud tight, Leon rubbed his tears on Cloud's sweater. "I miss you already. I don't want to give birth to Zack while you're gone. But if I give birth to Zack, while the impostor's still here, he'll try to steal my baby from me."
Cloud ran sure hands up-and-down Leon's arms. "Relax. Remember the plan. I take care of the impostor. While I'm gone, Sephiroth protects the family, and Sora rids the Worlds of the Organization. Sis swears the plan's rock-solid."
Leon choked out a tear-filled laugh. "Aerith keeps saying I worry too much."
Cloud buried his nose in Leon's hair, inhaling his loved one's scent. "You wouldn't be my Kitten if you didn't."
Raising his head, Leon surprised Cloud with a deep kiss. Moving away, he nuzzled yearning lips with a seductive purr. "I love you, Cloud. When Darkness's Abyss calls out to your soul, remember your Kitten and cub are waiting at home. The Darkness can never provide your Beast what my Light, love, and body can."
Growling low, Cloud clenched Leon near. Bringing his love in for a brutal kiss, he drew blood, and left Leon gasping for air. "Dammit, Kitten. I have to go fight. Don't start something I can't finish."
Leaving a trail of kisses along Cloud's jaw, Leon smiled, while his hand crept underneath Cloud's battle skirt. "Typical SOLDIER. Only thinking of one way to do things. You need to think more like a SEED, Cloud. There's more than one way to shine a sword."
Hearing Cloud's indrawn gasp, a smirking Kitten quickly showed his Beast what he would be missing in the long days to come.
"Ah don't know, Son. Ya sure yer comfortable sittin' on this wooden bench? Ah got it cushioned up the wazoo, but wood's wood."
Leon gifted Cid with a fake smile. "Cid, I'll be fine. Sephiroth's on the roof. Aerith will sit with me. Yuffie's keeping lookout over the Borough and Tifa has Cloud's back. Go sit with Vincent. I know you want to spend more time with Lucy."
Bending down, the Captain gave Leon a quick buss on the head. "Stay strong, Son. Ah can't recollect how many times the Missus went fightin' through the Darkness. He'd always try to shove me away, but Ah'd wait him out. Look at mah reward. Ah'm old, near broke, with an ornery newborn Princess on mah hands."
Leon beamed up at Cid. "And you couldn't be happier."
Cid's cocky grin lit up his face. "Fuck yeah! Gotta shovel through the shit to get to the shinola, Ah always say."
Hearing the door open, the pair turned to see Aerith walk out. "Cid? Vincent wants to nap with Lucy, but he can't sleep without hearing your voice."
Grin widening, Cid clapped Leon on the shoulder. "Shinola, Son. Nothin' but shinola."
Watching Cid walk inside, and shut the door, Aerith sat down next to Leon. "Shinola?"
With a laugh, Leon shook his head. "Just Cid being Cid."
Grasping Aerith's hand, Leon's false mask of bravery fell away. "Sis, can you tell me what's happening? I thought I would be able to sense something, but I can't, and Sephiroth's shielding Zack from the false Sephiroth's interference."
Tilting her head, Aerith's gaze became unfocused. "It's hard to tell. All I can feel is rage, pain, and anger. The condensed Darkness isn't helping. Tifa is doing what she can, but she's a deterrent at best. The best I can do is tell you when to shine your Light the brightest to help."
Leaning in, Aerith smiled at Leon's glowing belly. "Think you can do that, Mr. Quiet Scaredy-Cat?"
Rolled up in a tight little ball in Leon's womb, Zack didn't have room to wave his hands. "Mommy! Make her take that back! I'm not a scaredy-cat. I'm a brave SOLDIER hero!"
Sniggering, Leon petted his upset belly. "Yes, you are, but you're also a worried Puppy who doesn't want his Daddy to get hurt and go away. It's okay to be scared, Zack. I am too."
Leon groaned when Zack pumped his fist in response. "Oops. Sorry. Don't be scared, Mommy. I'm here. I don't care what the other Sephiroth said. I'd never leave you or My Angel alone. Just see him try and take me away! I'll pee on him and punch him in the eye. The other Sephiroth won't want me then."
Clasping Aerith's hand tight, Leon wrapped his arm completely around his belly. "Oh, Puppy. You have no idea how precious you are."
Aerith nudged Leon's shoulder. "To tell the truth, Zack never did. It's what makes him so special."
Smiling at Aerith, Leon's eyebrows furrowed, seeing Aerith suddenly straighten up. "Sis? Is it time?"
With a quick nod, Aerith unleashed her full Light.
Hastily closing his eyes, Leon did the same, feeling Zack respond.
On the roof, Sephiroth shielded himself from the onslaught of Light. Despite the pain, he kept his vigil. With the commotion, this would be a perfect time for the Organization to strike. Death would come, before the enemy came anywhere near his family.
Leon still had no idea what was happening. All he could do was shine his Light and hope for the best. His concentration was finally broken by a soft touch to the shoulder.
Retracting his Light, Leon opened his eyes, hoping to see Cloud's beloved face. Hope quickly turned into despair, when he looked into Tifa's sad eyes. "Oh no. Oh gods, no. I lied. I can't do this alone. Bring him back. I'll do whatever you want. Just bring my husband back."
Releasing Aerith's hand, Leon wrapped his other arm around his belly, and began to rock back-and-forth.
Leon's mental retreat was put to a stop by a firm hand to the shoulder. He raised a tear-stained face, shocked to meet Sephiroth's piercing emerald eyes.
Sephiroth made sure he had Leon's full attention. "You cannot give in, Zack's Mommy. Beloved needs you now more than ever. While others cannot see into the Darkness, I can. Rest assured, Strife has the upper hand on the doppelganger. He may not be home soon, but he will return. However, you must shine your Light for him to see. Without your Light to guide the way, he truly will be lost forever."
Collecting himself, Leon placed his hand over Sephiroth's. "Thank you, Sephiroth. I will be alright now. I know what I have to do until Cloud returns."
With a firm nod, Sephiroth returned to the roof.
Leon placed a comforting hand on his belly. "Puppy? Please don't be quiet. I get scared when you're quiet."
Inside, Zack positioned his head to rub against Leon's hand. "Don't be sad, Mommy. You're not alone. I'm here. Remember? I'll be your hero until Daddy comes home."
Accepting Aerith's warm embrace, Leon rested his head on her shoulder. "I'm fine, Zack. Even when Daddy comes home, you'll still be my hero."
Tifa surprised Leon by sitting down, on the other side, and wrapping her arms around Aerith's. "For once, I agree with Sephiroth. Cloud kicked ass from the beginning. He'll be home before you know it."
Jumping down from the Borough, Yuffie somehow squeezed her small body behind everyone seated. "Ooh! Group hug! Lemme in!"
The adopted siblings stayed this way from twilight onward into the night. All doing their part to bolster Leon and Zack's Light, calling their lost loved one home.
Two months later, Leon's front porch wait was disturbed by an unexpected arrival.
As innocent as you please, Sora sauntered up with a sullen-looking Sephiroth look-a-like in tow.
Spying the held hands, Leon guessed instantly who the other boy could be. "Hey, Uncle Sora. I suppose congratulations should be in order."
Blushing hard, Sora quickly dropped the other boy's hand. "Riku! I said I'm not ready yet."
With a familiar snarl, the boy named Riku grabbed Sora's waist and hugged him tight. "And I said I don't care. You ate the Paopu fruit, and the neck scar isn't going away, so I guess you're stuck with me."
Grimacing, Sora brought his hand to his neck juncture. "You liar! I wondered why Nala kept asking me when my cub would be born."
To Leon's surprise, Vincent suddenly materialized next to him. "Who are you?"
Scratching the back of his head, Sora shrugged. "Uh, Missus Valentine- Highwind? Sir? Ya know who I am. I'm Sora. Your other adopted son?"
Riku smacked Sora on the butt. "He's talking to me, Sora. What's it to ya, Old Man?"
Using his butt muscles, Leon inched away from the demonic host standing next to his bench. He was relieved to also see a wide-eyed Sora step away.
"Father, why have you not punished this child for his impertinence?"
Riku wheeled around to view a stomach guard. Aqua blue eyes traveled far up to gaze into a familiar looking face. In a few years, he would probably be seeing the same visage reflected back to him in a mirror. Having fought the Darkness recently and won, he failed to bow down to the might before him. "Like I said to the other Old Man, what's it to ya… Old Man?"
Luckily for Radiant Garden's well-being, Aerith appeared to salvage the situation. "Sora! When King Mickey sent me the missive, I had no idea you would be arriving so soon."
Sailing past Sephiroth's tense frame, Aerith survived Sora's hearty glomp. "This must be Riku. We've heard so much about you. King Mickey sends his regards and is glad your mission has gone well so far."
Unable to hold any animosity, under Aerith's soothing Light, a rare grin lit up Riku's face. "I should have known Mickey would still keep tabs on me. Can you write and ask him to start the wedding stuff we talked about? Sora just wants me to meet the family, before we fly off to Twilight Town."
Letting Aerith go, Sora punched Riku in the arm. "I said give me two years, you hard-headed ass! Has it been two years yet? No!"
Halting Sora's tirade, Aerith gently touched Riku's arm. "Riku? I believe you have some of your own family to meet too."
Crouching, like a caged animal, Riku surveyed his surroundings. Wary eyes alighting on Sora's concerned frame. "Yeah, I sort of have an idea what it might be. But whatever it is , I'm not ready for it, so I'll stay at the Gummi Hangar if it's all the same to you."
With a quick pounce, Sora grabbed on to Riku's waist. "It's not all the same. Don't go, Riku. I won't be able to find you again, if you leave me."
Returning Sora's embrace, Riku shook his head. "So says the guy who doesn't want to get married."
Sniffling, Sora hid his face against Riku's shoulder. "Shut up."
Per usual, the romance was broken up by a harsh curse from Cid. "Vince! Where the fuck are ya? Ah don't know whut's up with mah Junebug, but she's raisin' a fierce ruckus."
Stomping outside, holding a squirming newborn one-handed, the Captain squinted at the scene. Striding up to the new visitor, he looked the boy over with a discerning eye. Making a quick decision, he hauled a yelping Sora away with one hand, and dropped Lucy into a surprised Riku's arms with the other.
With a satisfied grin, Cid watched as his Junebug calmed down. "Well, that settles it. Yer kin. Hey, Vince! So this is whut ya looked like befer the Turks? Chaos's been wrong all along. Don't matter what age y'are. Ah still woulda fucked ya."
Dancing in place, Cid hooted in glee, while a disgusted Vincent shot at his feet.
Backing away, Riku clutched the baby close. His retreat halted by Sephiroth's firm hand holding his belt. Not knowing where else to turn, he looked to the older man for guidance. "I can't be a part of this family. Everyone's crazy. It's not too late for me and the baby. There has to be a way out. There must be a way out."
With a grim face, Sephiroth resolutely dragged a whining Riku into the house. "Foolish boy. We are Valentines. There is no way out. There is only atonement."
Catching Sora's eye, Leon patted the seat next to him. "Seems they'll be busy for awhile. Since Zack's taking his afternoon nap, let's catch up on this mission you've been working on."
Before he took his seat, Sora looked away. "I did what I set out to do. Kairi's home. I found Riku and we destroyed the Organization. There were some things Xemnas said, before he died, about you and Vincent…"
Leon held up one hand. "Sora, you don't need to tell me. The false Sephiroth spelled out exactly what Xemnas had planned for me and my baby. I'm sure he had the same ideas about Vincent. To be frank, now the Organization's been destroyed, I don't care anymore. My baby's safe and you returned to us alive. Enough of this. Let's talk about something else."
Plopping down, Sora rested his head on Leon's shoulder. "Big Brother, I love Riku. I really do, but he makes me so mad sometimes. I thought once we reunited we would be one of those dream couples who never fight."
Laughing, Leon held Sora's hand. "Sora, let me tell you a little secret. That sort of couple doesn't exist. If it looks that way from the outside, usually one or both partners are repressing a lot of hurt feelings. From what I can tell, your relationship with Riku is moving along fine. He's a little hard-headed, but you seem to know ways to get around it."
Sora grinned. "Yeah, I do. It's just… When I get angry, I scare myself, thinking I may have been happier if I had never found him again."
Leon rested his head on top of Sora's. "When the anger ends, do you feel the same way?"
Sora sighed, with a pout. "No. Riku apologizes for being an ass. I apologize for slugging him. Then it starts all over again."
Leon interlaced his fingers with Sora. "I must confess, I'm glad you're making Riku wait to get married. While you may have searched for him all these years, I don't think you've really spent quality time to get to know each other. Two years is plenty of time to become familiar with the people you've now become."
The light returned to Sora's eyes. "Thanks for being my big brother, Leon."
Leon kissed Sora's forehead. "Anytime."
Hearing another fruitless attempt from Riku to escape, Sora decided to stay outside a little longer. "Say, Leon. When Cloud disappeared the first time, how long were you willing to wait for him to come back?"
Leon smiled in remembrance. "Say, Sora. When Riku was missing all those years, how long were you willing to search for him?"
Sora stared out towards the Borough. "Forever."
Smile growing wider, Leon placed a hand over his belly. "Ditto."
Leon's due date finally came. Like clockwork, his water broke, and the whole Committee readied themselves for the momentous birth.
There was only one problem, besides the father still missing. Zack didn't want to come out.
"Aerith! I don't know how, but make Zack let go of my hipbones!"
Wiping the sweat from her brow, Aerith once again laid hands on Leon's swollen belly. "He's not holding on to your hipbones. It just feels that way."
Closing her eyes, Aerith centered herself on the panicking little hero inside.
"No! No! No! My Daddy's not home yet! I have to help Mommy with his Light. I promised!"
Ignoring Leon's screams for his Gunblade, Aerith waited until Zack noticed her. "Zack? You can still help your Mommy when you're born, except he'll be holding you in his arms."
Aerith smiled, sensing Zack's resistance faltering. "Yeah, but it's not the same."
At wit's end, Aerith went for the clincher. "What about Sephiroth? He's been waiting all this time for you to be born. If you keep on fighting, he'll think you don't want to see him. He'll be sad again."
Smile growing wider, Aerith opened her eyes. "Okay, Leon. He's ready."
Flopping back onto the bed, Leon was too tired to smile back. "That's good, because I wasn't kidding about the Gunblade."
Two hours later, Zackary Laguna Strife entered the world with a hearty Radiant Garden Wakeup Call.
Aerith hastily cleansed and clothed Zack in a light blue sleeper and cap. She then placed him in Leon's arms. "I'll give you a moment before I let people in."
Barely hearing Aerith, Leon continued to softly weep. Unwrapping the warm blanket, he counted tiny fingers and toes, kissing each one. Seeing Zack shiver, he quickly bundled his joy back up. "Thank you for trusting me, Zack. I'll be a good Mommy. I promise. When your Daddy comes back, he'll be the best Daddy ever. You'll see."
Zack endured all this with big blue eyes centered on his Mommy. He wished he could talk to him like he could before, but all that ended with his birth. He could only bathe Leon in waves of Light and Love, hoping his beautiful Mommy understood.
Feeling his baby's response, Leon covered Zack's face with kisses, inhaling his sweet scent. "I feel you, Baby. I understand."
Mother and newborn rested for awhile, before a hesitant knock roused Leon from his slumber. "It's okay, if you want to come in."
Leon smiled to see a somewhat frightened Sephiroth walk in. "Come here. I keep thinking he'll fall asleep, but I think he's been waiting for you."
Waiting until Sephiroth sat down on the bed, Leon placed Zack into his arms.
Staring down, Sephiroth gazed into a pair of eyes he had long believed he would never see again. Unashamed, he began to cry.
Raising one finger, Sephiroth brushed the digit along Zack's delicate cheek. "See the wreck Jenova and the Darkness has made of your 'angel.' If you wish to shun me, I understand. However, I shall do everything I can to rectify my mistakes and win your love once again. Can you love me once more, Zackary? May I truly call you my Beloved?"
Taking firm hold of Sephiroth's forefinger, Zack sent a direct wave of Love and Light at his silly chosen.
Emitting a shocked gasp, Sephiroth choked on his tears. "I once cursed the Gods for taking your Light away from me. I should have known you would never allow mere fate to keep us apart. I apologize, Zackary, for doubting your commitment to me and our love. It will never happen again."
Leon softly petted Sephiroth's shoulder. "With Zack's birth, Sora and Riku should be returning in a few days. Although you two got off to a rocky start, I really think Zack will make things better. Perhaps you and Riku need to spend more time together. From what Cid tells me, he e-mails Vincent almost every day now."
Rocking Zack, Sephiroth uncharacteristically snorted. "Being the jubilant Grandfather he is, my father will accept my newfound son, no matter what he does or how he behaves. As for me, I've found Riku snobbish, arrogant, condescending, and downright rude. He may be highly advanced in the skills of Darkness, but there is much he needs to learn about life."
Leon couldn't help but laugh, when Zack yanked Sephiroth's hair.
Peering down, with a grumble, Sephiroth's frown became downright stern. "Do not give me that look, Zackary. I was a much more forgiving individual when we first met."
Sephiroth swore, when his hair received another hard pull. "By the Gods, I do not care if Father cries for a month, I am hacking this all off tomorrow. I will argue this matter with you no further, Zackary. I am Riku's father, therefore I shall handle the boy. He needs discipline and he shall receive it, whether he likes it or not."
Leon counted to three, before Sephiroth received another hair yank. "Am I missing something here? Aerith warned me I wouldn't be able to communicate with Zack once he was born. Can you talk with him through the Darkness?"
With a harrumph, Sephiroth kissed Zack on the forehead, and handed him back to Leon. "No. It is another thing Riku and I have argued about. He should wait before getting married. I married Zack when he turned eighteen years old. We lived together night-and-day until Nibelheim. If I cough in the other room, Zackary will know what I'm doing. The concept of privacy is virtually nonexistent."
Removing Zack's sleeping cap, to palm already spiking black hair, Leon beamed at Sephiroth's dour expression. "Isn't that a good thing?"
Refusing to admit defeat, Sephiroth flipped his hair with a dismissive sniff. "Whatever."
Glancing down, Leon knew it was too soon, but he could swear Zack was grinning.
Three months later, Leon rocked Zack while sitting in his rocking chair, placed next to the wooden bench in front of the old Committee House.
Since Leon refused to leave his waiting post, Sephiroth moved Zack's Mommy's comfy chair where it would do most good.
Leon beamed, watching Riku spar viciously with a supremely smug Sephiroth.
While it had been more for Vincent's and Lucy's benefit, Riku, along with Sora, had decided to relocate to Radiant Garden for good. Although he swore he didn't need any help, the extra training from his father didn't hurt either.
Spying a hint of red from the corner of his eye, Leon directed his smile towards Vincent, hiding in the shadows. "Has Cid discovered any new information on Riku's birth mother?"
Shrugging, Vincent placed a slumbering Lucy on his other shoulder. "Riku acknowledges his adoption, but has no further details. His Destiny Islands records only show his adoptive parents' names. Everything else has been erased or never existed to begin with. Although Sephiroth and I did not need them, the DNA tests prove Riku to be Sephiroth's biological son, and my grandson. This is all the information I need."
Turning back towards the action, Leon watched as Riku gathered up a huge ball of Darkness to throw in his father's direction.
Sephiroth regarded his son's effort with a sneer, until his enhanced ears picked up a strange noise. Realizing what it could be, he flew towards Riku.
Deflecting the ball of Darkness with one swipe of Masamune, Sephiroth tackled an astonished Riku and flew him out of harm's way.
A mere second before a large impact left a huge crater in front of the Committee House.
Leon slowly emerged from the open entranceway, where he and Vincent had dived with the babies.
Cradling a wide-eyed Zack carefully in his arms, Leon ventured a hope-filled look down into the new hole.
Coughing out two lungs full of dirt, Cloud sluggishly crawled his way out of the crater. Flopping on his face, he rolled onto his back.
Squinting from the afternoon sun's harsh glare, Cloud smiled to see two familiar faces. "Hey, Kitten."
Kneeling down, Leon kissed Cloud over and over, while Zack patted his face. "You're home. You came back to me."
Wincing, Cloud gingerly sat up, embracing his sobbing Kitten and cub close. "Your Light guided me back, Squall. The Darkness tried everything to control my Beast. But the thought of you, and our cub, kept me from falling back into the Abyss. It was the only thing that could. Thank you for not giving up on me."
Cloud frowned, feeling one of his spikes receive a harsh pull.
Drawing back, Cloud smirked to see a pair of reproachful Mako Blue eyes. "I just got back and you're already hassling me? Fine. Thanks, Zack, for helping your Mommy while I was gone. But I've returned, so you can go back to being a baby. Hey, did he just stick his tongue out at me?"
Smiling, through his tears, Leon handed a laughing Zack over for Cloud to hold. "It's a recent thing. Yuffie denies it, but I'm pretty sure it was the first thing she taught him."
About to stand up, Cloud was surprised to feel a large scarred hand clamp onto his shoulder. Looking up, he paled to see a perturbed Captain, without cigarette, viewing his destroyed front yard. "Mighty big hole ya left on mah porch, Strife."
Trying once again to stand up, Cid's vice-like hold kept the dusty Chocobo grounded. "Scared the Missus too. Can't seem to git him outta the room."
Cloud gulped. "Uh. Sorry?"
Cid shook Cloud's shoulder, but still didn't let go. "Apology accepted. Hell, once Ah git Lucy out from under him, Ah might git another baby out this."
Standing up, Leon petted the arm holding Cloud down. "Cid, can you let Cloud go? I want Aerith to check him over."
Cid clapped Leon on the shoulder, before giving Zack a fly-by nose tweak, earning him a loud raspberry. "Chocobo's fine. Jest need to git one thing straight befer Ah set him loose."
Cloud surrendered with a sigh. "Unlike the first hole, I swear to fill this hole up tomorrow, so no small children, or cigarette smoking Captains will accidentally fall in."
Smacking Cloud on the back, making him cough up another lungful of dirt, Cid turned to Leon. "See, Son? Ya can never stop yer kids from bein' stupid once. Jest make sure yer kids learn not to be stupid twice and they'll grow up jest fine. Now, if y'all excuse me, Ah have to go dig mah Junebug out from under her Mama."
Finally able to stand up, Cloud wrapped his arm around Leon's shoulders. "Please tell me Zack wasn't receiving the 'Captain's Education' while I was gone."
Leon stopped short. Balancing Zack on his hip, he gifted Cloud with a Light-filled smile. "Okay. I won't tell you."
Groaning in despair, Cloud followed his Kitten, closing the door behind him.
Peering down, from his vantage point on the roof, Riku shuddered. "I don't care what you say. There has to be a way out of this family."
Practicing his katas, Sephiroth sighed. "You shall find a way to leave, then Sora shall dazzle you with his Light once more. Zackary did the same throughout our marriage. Heed my words, Riku. Once a Highwind has you in his sights, adopted or not, you are done for."
Reminded of Sora's warm Light, Riku felt a goofy grin move across his face. Raising his hands to his visage, he slumped back against the chimney. "Atonement. Huh?"
Reminiscing on Zack's brilliance, Sephiroth's stern features softened momentarily. "Yes, my son. Sweet, sweet atonement."