A/N: A short drabble that just kept on growing till it was over 4000 words.
Agony Aunt Leon
Leon's mind began to resurface from his dream, and his eyes briefly flickered open in the darkened room. Something had roused him from his sleep, but he didn't know what. It was still dark, so it was far too early to have been his internal alarm clock, and he heard no noises. He lay still. He didn't feel like he was in danger, so what had woken him?
Opening his eyes, he glanced at the bed side clock before letting them roam around the room. He'd only gone to bed a few hours ago, so something must have woken him. His eye fell on a figure by the door, half hidden in shadows. He squinted at his mystery guest. "Cloud?"
The figure nodded and stepped forward, closer to the bed. This was an unexpected turn of events. Why on earth was Cloud in his bedroom in the middle of the night? Scratch that, why the hell was Cloud in his bedroom at all?
"Cloud, it's three in the morning. What are you doing here?"
Well, that was wonderfully unhelpful. While it was nice that he had decided to tell someone before slipping out of existence again, he didn't understand why he had to be the one he chose to tell. Nor did it explain why it had to be at three in the morning.
"Couldn't that wait till morning?" If not, couldn't he have just left a note?
"I want to leave as soon as possible."
Fine, but that still didn't explain the rather pressing matter of why it had to be him he woke up, or even why he had bothered to mention it to anyone at all.
"You don't normally tell people when you're leaving."
Cloud stepped closer to the bed. "I want to talk to you."
Resigning himself to his fate, Leon sat up. He'd be lying if he said that Cloud hadn't awoken his curiosity; after all, how often was it that Cloud wanted to discuss something with him. However, most of his curiosity was over taken by the thought, 'and this couldn't be discussed at a reasonable hour because…?'
"Isn't this more of an Aerith thing?" He rubbed his face in a vain attempt to take away some of the drowsiness.
"I can't," and there was a short pause before he said, "It's about Aerith."
Leon looked up from his hand. His mind, still sluggish from his untimely awakening, seemed to be working at half its normal pace. There was something there, in what Cloud had said. Leon looked up at the blond in the dark, who seemed to be finding the wood grain pattern of the floor fascinating and…. Leon squinted. Was he blushing?
Why would…….Oh. There was a deafening 'click' in his mind as he inserted 'Tab A' into 'Slot B'. Leon shook away the horrible innuendo that his mind turned that into. Cloud wouldn't come to Leon for advice, it was stupid, it was absurd, it was-
"She's becoming important to me."
Oh God, it was spot on. This was ridiculous. Why the hell, out of everybody in the house, would Cloud come to him? It was like the blind leading the blind. Ok, so Leon had some experience in these matters, so it was more like the blind being led by the blind man with a walking stick.
He let a groan escape him. "I'm really not the person to talk to about these matters."
Cloud looked up at him, seeming to decide that the floor was unworthy of his attention anymore. "You have a girlfriend."
The statement was simple and stated as if this should explain everything. Leon tried to grasp whether he had been insulted. The way Cloud had said it sounded suspiciously like 'If you can get a girlfriend, then I sure as hell can. Now tell me – how did you trick her into it, Scarface." No, he was sure that that wasn't what Cloud had meant to imply. This is why he shouldn't be woken up after only a few hours sleep, and to deal with love problems of all things.
Cloud watched him as he rubbed his face muttering a 'Yes, I do.' He was suddenly glad that Rinoa wasn't here, but then Cloud wouldn't sneak into his room when he was sharing his bed with his lover, would he? After a moment's thought he decided that he should probably talk to the blond about this.
Leon, getting his mind back on track, tried to arrange his thoughts into some semi-balance of sense. Cloud's comment hadn't really helped. So he had a girlfriend; Cid had been married, surely this qualified him to give advice in the matter more then him. However, he could see Cid taking even less of a liking to being woken up to play agony aunt then himself. Oh, he'd be the agony aunt alright, it just wouldn't be advice that he would be giving out. Aerith, who was the natural first choice, was out of the question. So who was left? Tifa and Yuffie. To go to Tifa would be insensitive, and Yuffie…. Well, he'd rather ask for love advice from Sephiroth. It wasn't that Yuffie was necessarily bad at giving advice. It's just that she had a habit of creating crazy plans that would go horribly wrong. Though, to be fair to the young ninja, if he was Cloud, he'd rather go to the Yuffie then himself for advice. However, this did put Sephiroth worryingly high up the list of people to go to for love advice.
Cloud was still watching him, standing rather awkwardly beside the bed. There was a look in Cloud's eyes which Leon couldn't place, but his mind nagged at him, telling him that it was rather important in understanding Cloud's decision. His bedside clock ticked away, seeming to vocalise the mechanics of his brain. Tick, tick, tick, tick. His mind worked at half its normal pace. Tick, tick, tick, tick. Stupid sleep-clouded brain. Tick, tick, tick, tick. It even took a moment for his brain to work out the pun it had inadvertently created. Tick, tick, tick, tick.
Cloud looked away and it seemed as if he was getting ready to say this was all a very stupid idea (and Leon would have to agree with him), and not to worry about it. After all, that's what Leon would have said.
He could almost hear the alarm clock ringing out his epiphany. Cloud wasn't coming to him because he was the best person to be giving the advice; it was because, out of everyone in the group, Leon was the most similar to Cloud. It was a 'if you can get a girlfriend, so can I' matter, it just wasn't an insult. Leon was sure that he would have been flattered if it was any other time of day. He was also sure, that if it was any other time of day, it wouldn't have taken him half as long to work it out.
Sighing, he resigned himself fully to his fate, and indicated for Cloud to sit down on the bed. Cloud, looking rather relieved, complied. Leon pushed aside the part of him that was mentally beating him round the head, telling him that he was a complete idiot. All he had to do was keep quiet for a minute longer and he could have gone back to sleep.
No, Cloud was his companion and, he supposed, his friend; he couldn't just brush the other man off. He knew that the blond must be finding this just as uncomfortable as he was. The difference being, of course, that Cloud had brought this on himself, but it wouldn't hurt to hear Cloud out. However, if Cloud even tried to breach the topic of sex, he'd find himself in the hallway quicker then if he'd asked Tifa if it was 'that time of the month' and the newfound knowledge that she could make Cid seem polite and gentlemanly. No, Leon decided, he was sure Cloud definitely wouldn't go that far.
"I'm leaving," Cloud repeated. "But I don't want to make Aerith sad. I don't want her to worry about me."
"Then don't leave." It was a long shot, he really didn't think that Cloud would turn round and praise him for his ingenious thinking, but if there was a chance that it got rid of Cloud quicker, he was willing to give it a shot. Besides, ten minutes ago he would have put it in the same likelihood of Cloud asking relationship advice from him, and look at them now.
Judging from the way Cloud pointedly ignored the suggestion, he also thought it was a long shot. "I don't think she really believes I'll come back again."
Leon couldn't resist. He asked, "Will you?"
Cloud looked up. "I don't want to leave, but it's important. I'll come back. I want to come back to her. I need to put her mind at rest."
"Of course she's worried about you. She doesn't know where you disappear to or what you're doing. You could be dead for all she knows, or you're hiding away somewhere."
"I won't die. I'll come back."
"She doesn't know that. She doesn't know that you want to."
"How do I make her understand?"
"You don't make her understand. She isn't Tron or a dog. You have to try to reassure her."
"I don't know how to put her mind at rest."
Leon sighed. Cloud could be ridiculously dense at times. Even he knew the answer to this one. When half-asleep Leon was getting relationship answers quicker then you, you knew it was bad.
"Do you love her?"
"What?" Cloud looked utterly bemused.
"Do you love Aerith?"
Cloud paused, and then, slowly but surely, nodded.
"Then tell her. At least then she'll know you don't want to leave. It's not as if you throw around declarations of love to anyone."
"That's it?" Cloud asked, actually sounding surprised. "'Tell her you love her'?"
Leon glared at him. He'd had enough. "If you don't want my advice, then don't wake me up at three in the morning for it." 'In fact,' he thought, throwing himself back down onto the bed, and turning his back to the other man, 'Just don't wake me up at 3 in the morning again.'
"Leon, I'm going to do it."
Leon felt a hand on his shoulder, shaking him from his rather pleasant dream and back into the gloom of his room. Leon looked up groggily at Cloud's face hovering above him. He didn't have the slightest clue what he was talking about. He may as well have come in and declared that he was a demon cat coming to reap his soul, for all the sense it made.
"I'm going to take your advice; I'm going to tell Aerith that I love her."
What the-? Oh for the love of…
The memories of their last conversation cam back to him.
Leon groped for the alarm clock on the bed side table and, seeing what the time was, swore. He couldn't have been asleep for more than an hour; no wonder he felt awful. He idly wondered two things; firstly if it were possible to beat Cloud to death with the alarm clock, and secondly if Rinoa would kill him for destroying her clock in the process. He reluctantly decided that Rinoa probably would kill him.
"So why did you have to wake me up again to tell me this?"
Not that it wasn't a good thing that Cloud was opening up and talking more to people, and confessing his love to Aerith, he just wished it didn't have to be at such an insane hour of the night. Did this guy not sleep?
"How do I do it?" Cloud asked.
Leon stared up at that man, "Cloud, I can't tell you how to confess your love. "
Cloud blinked. "Why not?"
Leon groaned; honestly Cloud was denser than even him. "Because then it isn't you confessing your love, it's you repeating words I've said, that aren't about Aerith. It wouldn't be about your love, so it'd be completely pointless." Really, he would have thought that was obvious. He closed his eyes, hoping that Cloud would take the hint and leave. But then, Leon realised, that would go against some higher power's master plan to keep him from sleeping tonight. It was probably doing it for shits and giggles as well. Wake Leon up and put Cloud and him in the most socially uncomfortable conversation that prevents him from having more then 3 hours sleep, and see how long it takes for Leon to kill the other man.
Leon was drawn away from his anger at the non-existent deity by Cloud's next question.
"How about a hint?"
What did Cloud think this was, some kind of written test? Circle the one you want: A. Aerith B. Tifa C. Cid.
"She's a flower girl; give her some flowers," he joked deadpan.
Cloud was silent a moment. "Where do I find flowers at this time?"
Leon swore for the second time in as many minutes, and opened his eyes to see Cloud looking a little thoughtful, but completely serious. He never knew that talking to Cloud could make him want to bash his head against a wall so much. He fixed Cloud with a look which he hoped got across that he felt that Cloud was as good at this as a stuffed moogle.
"I wasn't serious."
"So I shouldn't give her flowers."
Leon ran a hand through his hair. That was until it was stopped by the bed underneath him. It seemed to mock him, reminding him of what he would so much rather be doing now.
"Cloud, come back in a few hours, after I've had some sleep. You may as well just leave tomorrow, or even this evening now."
"No, I need to leave tonight."
"And I need sleep," Leon replied irritably. "What are you going to do at this time? Not even the milkman is up. What are you planning to do? Wake Aerith up and say, 'hey, I'm in love with, just thought you should know. Well, see you later, I'm going now.' Yeah, I'm sure she'll love that."
Cloud looked a little abashed. "That's why I came to you."
"I've been up till midnight patrolling. I am tired. I will be happy to help you at a sensible time of day." Well, maybe happy was a slight exaggeration, but in his current mood he'd agree to teach Cloud how to make daisy chains, or let Rinoa paint his nails if it meant that he could go back to sleep.
"I can't leave it till later."
"Then figure it out yourself. Come back later or don't, just let me get back to sleep." Leon glared at Cloud, though he suspected that he looked more like he was falling asleep.
Cloud looked remarkably like a kicked chocobo and Leon felt a twinge of guilt. Cloud quickly stood and muttered, avoiding his eyes, "I'm sorry. I shouldn't have disturbed you."
Too damn right, he thought, watching Cloud quickly vacate the room. Closing his eyes he prepared to drift back into sleep. Sleep, however, had other plans. Apparently teaming up with the unknown-and-nonexistent-higher-power to make is night as awkward and uncomfortable as possible. No matter how much he tossed and turned, sleep won't come and his conscience seemed to have come out in full force, pointing out that he had been very cold to Cloud and very unfair. He didn't know what had happened to the cynical part of his brain that wanted nothing more then to go back to sleep, by whatever means. He had a sneaking suspicion that his conscience had killed it and buried the remains so that it could attack him in full force. Reminding him that yes, he had gotten rid of the blond – in fact, he had probably gotten rid of him for good – and good luck getting him to open up again. Did he see that look of his face? All so he could go back to sleep. It didn't help that he had Rinoa's voice in his head, scolding him.
Groaning for what felt like the hundredth time that night, he rolled out of bed. Stupid Cloud, he thought, looking round for some trousers. Stupid Cloud and his stupid kicked puppy to put all kicked puppies to shame look. Swearing under his breath, he made his way downstairs to find Cloud.
Cloud was sitting at the main table when Leon entered, glaring at a sheet of paper. Leon felt another pang of guilt when he noticed just how lost Cloud seemed. Judging from the way he was glaring at the page, his new grand plan was getting advice from a sheet of paper.
When Leon shut the door Cloud finally looked up. If he had looked surprised when he realised someone was in the room, it was nothing to when he saw it was Leon. Throwing himself in the chair opposite Cloud he said, "You really want my advice?"
Looking somewhat relieved, Cloud nodded.
"Be honest and just say how you feel." Well, unless of course your feeling was something along the lines of 'Nice rack, Aerith, fancy a quickie in the alley?' though he suspected that even Cloud knew that.
Cloud nodded again, staring at the page as if it held all his answers, still looking lost. After a long pause he said, "I'm not very good with words."
Now that was the truest thing the blond had said all night. Cloud was as good with words as Yuffie was with sitting still.
"Don't worry, Aerith know that." Hell, everyone else did.
Now that Leon was closer, he noticed that there was writing across the page, though most of it was crossed out. Most of the page was covered with smudges and angry blotches of heavy crossing outs rather then anything actually legible. Curious, Leon plucked up the page from in front of the other man. Leon barely noticed Cloud's eyes widen as he read the first line, 'Dear Aerith'. His head found its way into his hand, reading just far enough to confirm his own fears. He shot Cloud an incredulous look, or he would have if Cloud would meet his eyes.
"Advice number two," Leon said, screwing up the piece of paper, ignoring Cloud's shocked look, "Don't tell her in a letter."
Cloud looked as if he was going to say something, his eyes trained onto the ball that used to be his confession. Leon beat him to saying anything. "And if you say anything about having to leave tonight I will personally chock you to death with this." He looked round the room for the bin. "You can't tell her in a letter." Finding the bin, he took aim, threw… and missed. It bounced off the wall and landed several feet away from its intended destination.
Dragging his full attention back to his friend, ignoring the rather annoyed look he was being given, he answered, "You should give her the respect she deserves. You're not children anymore; writing a letter instead of telling her is just running away from what happens afterwards – the consequences. If you're leaving straight after, the least you can do is tell her to her face and give her a chance to talk to you, and to accept or reject you."
Leon had surprised himself, he actually sounded as if he knew what he was talking about, and he idly wondered when he came to know these things.
Cloud looked awkward. "I can't wait-"
Leon cut him off. "She's an early riser, if you really have to leave today, then tell her as soon as she's up, it will only be a couple more hours."
Cloud rose, looking uncertain. He took several steps away from the table, not really going anywhere, just… thinking. Leon rose as well.
"Surely your pressing business can wait for a couple more hours. It'll cheer Aerith up."
Leon smirked as Cloud stopped his stroll; it wasn't pacing, the 'great' Cloud didn't pace. Besides, Leon got the impression that one had to move with purpose in order for it to be considered pacing.
At that moment the door opened. "I thought I heard voices. What are you doing up at this time."
Leon turned to see the object of their discussions standing in the doorway looking rather sleepy and confused, still clad in her nightdress.
Her eyes fell on Cloud, who looked amazing like a rabbit caught in headlights, and her mind working quickly put two and two together. Her face fell and she looked away, eyes looking watery. "You're leaving again." It wasn't a question.
Leon was slightly impressed at how quickly she caught on, but then, if he had been any less with it when Cloud had woken him up, he would have been wondering why the hell there was a chocobo on his bed and, maybe, how it had magically evolved hands.
"Yeah," was all Cloud said, looking away from his love. Leon could have sworn that he had seen Cloud's cheeks colour lightly when he saw the girl standing there in her nighty. Leon hid a smirk. If that made Cloud go red, then he should have seen some of the slips that Rinoa wore to bed. He tore himself away from the rather pleasant place his mind was going, unhappy at having to return to the very awkward silence. For a moment Cloud looked as if he was going to say something, but instead he walked to the door.
Oh, no he didn't! No, he bloody well wasn't. Cloud wasn't walking out now. Not after waking him up twice, at 3 in the morning. Not after only allowing him to get a few hours sleep. Not after dragging him into this ridiculous and uncomfortable situation. Leon was not going to let Cloud walk out after not even trying. He'd be damned if he let Cloud just walk away from this now.
"Cloud wants to talk with you."
He ignored Cloud's glare, a mixture between shock and betrayal, sending his own glare which promise a painful death if the other man dared back out of this, and walked towards the door.
He stopped besides Aerith as he left to say, "Just do me a favour; don't let him go until he tells you." She nodded and he left them alone. If Cloud didn't tell her, then he would personally find him, even if he had to go all the way to Kingdom Hearts and drag him back, kicking and screaming if need be. No, he corrected himself; Cloud wouldn't be kicking and screaming, because he would break every bone in his body for bailing on them. It would also mean, he realised, liking this plan even more, that the younger man couldn't run away again.
Leon made his way up the stairs. He was lucky really, with Rinoa. Aerith loved Cloud, he was sure of that much, but she would wait for Cloud to make the first move. She would lightly flirt and hint, but she would wait for Cloud to make the first really step. She wouldn't bridge the void, which meant that if Cloud never did it, nothing would ever happen.
Rinoa didn't have the patience to for that. She wouldn't stand around waiting for Leon; she knew that he would never make that vital step. So, she'd simply marched into his heart and made herself at home. She's erected a tent and raised her flag before he'd even realised that she had set up camp and claimed his heart as her own. For that, Leon could not be more grateful. If it wasn't for that then he wouldn't be looking forward to her return when she would once again be sleeping in his arms.
Entering his room, he quickly went to his bed, not even bothering to remove his trousers. If he had been in a better mood, he would have admired Cloud for what he was about to say downstairs. Cloud was now doing, or he better bloody well be doing, something that Leon could never have done. Not until Rinoa had gone first. Cloud was a braver man than him.
His final thought before drifting back into blissful sleep was that when Rinoa returned, he would have to tell her that he loved her.
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