A/N: Through it's not necessary to have read it; it's the sequel to 'Agony Aunt Leon'. The first one mutated beyond a drabble, this one mutated and now has several extra arms and legs and is frothing at the mouth in a slightly insane manner. So; enjoy!
A/N 2: Recommended listening; Mission Impossible Theme (especially if it has the awesome squirrel in it).
Leonharts' Engagement Service
He didn't want to get up yet. He was too sleepy and far too comfortable where he was.
Leon breathed in deeply, Rinoa's flowery scent drifting up his nose. He buried his nose deeper into the crook of her neck, smiling contently to himself. This was the way to wake up in the morning. Even though something felt wrong. But what could be wrong? Life was wonderful. What more could he ask for? Lying there in a large comfortable bed, his beautiful wife in his arms, drifting awake after a really good night, though perhaps he could do with a couple of hours more sleep, the sun-
Leon opened his eyes. That was it: no sunlight, and the reason soon became apparent – it was still night, a time that traditionally lacked said sunlight. He frowned slightly, easing his arms away from his sleeping wife and his brain into a functioning state. Why was he awake when it was too dark to be anywhere near dawn, and after the night he just had, he should have slept right through till mid-morning, especially with nothing to wake up for, unless his daughter had woken him. However, lying there, the air was still. Not a whimper from his baby girl. His eyes drifted shut again.
There was still the rather pressing matter of what had woken him up, but then as there seemed to be no immediate danger, it didn't really seem so important. After all the last time he had woken up in the middle of the night it had just been…….
Leon's eye flew open again and he quickly propped himself on his elbow, looking towards his door. He suppressed a groan; he had to be kidding.
"Cloud, what the hell are you doing in my room?" he hissed. "Again."
Cloud opened his mouth to reply and Leon cut in, "Quietly," glancing at Rinoa. This better be a life or death situation. Hell, if it wasn't now then he'd make it one.
"I need your help again." Cloud stepped up beside the bed.
Leon stared at his friend in disbelief. Was he serious? Had he seriously just come into his room at God knows what hour to ask him for advice again? He could have sworn that he had made his feelings on the matter perfectly clear last time. It's not as if he'd been particularly subtle on the subject. He'd all but written; 'DON'T EVER, EVER, WAKE ME UP AT 3AM AGAIN TO ASK FOR LOVE ADVICE', on his sword in pink flashing letters and repeatedly hit the blond around the head with it. Now he had come to him while Rinoa was in bed with him. The couple weren't even wearing any clothes.
This time the matter of the hour paled in comparison. "I am in bed with my wife. You don't come into somebody's room when they're in bed with their lover." It seems as if he should have had that talk with Cloud after all.
"That's why I waited till now."
Leon's mouth fell slightly open and he stared at the other man. He did not just say that; he couldn't have just seriously said that. Cloud looked back a little puzzled by Leon's reaction. He was serious. What in the world would he say if Rinoa woke up now? Leon searched for the right words to describe his feelings on the matter.
"Cloud, get out," he hissed. Yes, they were the words.
"Before Rinoa wakes up."
He was cut off by a shuffling from the bed. The two men froze, and Leon felt a cold knot of dread; Rinoa was waking up.
Leon turned back to Cloud, "Now! Quick! Get out!" Leon grabbed him to spin him round and propel him towards the door, causing Cloud to stumble somewhat off balance.
Rinoa made a small noise. "Squall, who are you—" she started sleepily, turning to her lover. She halted when she spotted Cloud, with what appeared to be her husband grabbing onto him. She blinked, and then squinted. "Is that Cloud?"
Leon and Cloud remained silent, frozen, and unsure how to proceed in this more then slightly awkward situation. Leon tired to grasp for kind of excuse to reasonably explain away Cloud's presence, letting go of the other man.
"Good morning Rinoa," Cloud offered lamely.
Leon's forehead slammed into his palm. Smooth, Cloud, really smooth.
"Good morning Cloud," Rinoa replied, sounding amused, "and to what do we owe this early morning pleasure?" She sat up, taking care to keep herself covered with the sheet. "Unless…" soon a wicked glint had appeared in her eyes. She playfully slapped her husband's arm. "Squall! How could you!? And with Cloud of all people?" Leon tried to bury his face deeper into his hand; she just had to find this funny, didn't she. Cloud just looked rather confused.
"I had no idea Cloud was your type." Comprehension dawned on Cloud and his eyes went wide, mouth moving wordlessly as she continued in mock horror. "After two years of marriage, I find out the truth. What about our little girl? It's because I'm bad in bed, isn't it. I'll get better, I promise, just give me another chance. And you…" She turned to their unwanted guest. "Shame on you, Cloud, for dating Aerith while sleeping with my husband. She'll be devastated." She sighed heavily, clearly enjoying every moment of this. "I guess we'll just have to console each other, and take revenge by giving you a taste of your own medicine. I'm sure we'll be a great comfort to each other."
Leon desperately pushed away the images playing in his mind. Now really wasn't the time for that. This situation was already embarrassing enough without letting his imagination get carried away with Rinoa's implications. At least he was doing better then Cloud though, whose face had gone bright red as he quickly stood back from Leon.
"No," he rushed out. "I just need to talk with Leon."
Leon was tempted to point out to him that Rinoa was winding him up, but then the more sadistic part of his mind butted in and said, 'No, it serves him right. Perhaps now he won't do it again, or he might even just go away now.' Besides, seeing Cloud this flustered had to be the funniest thing he'd seen since one of Merlin's spells had 'accidently' gone awry and hit one of Cid's computer, which just happened to be the one annoying the magician most at the time. The machine had sprouted legs and run out of the house and down the street. Cid had been forced to run after his machine for the rest of the day, swearing loudly, until the spell had worn off.
"Ooooooh," Rinoa exclaimed. "This must be about Aerith again." It was amazing how she got there, considering Leon was still trying to shake off Rinoa's images from his mind completely.
Cloud nodded and Leon resisted the urge to crawl under the bed to curl up and sleep in peace and, perhaps more importantly, to hide. This wasn't a conversation he had wanted to have last time and nothing had changed in two years. Why Cloud thought he was the best candidate was beyond him. No one else felt he held the answers to all their problems, and, definitely, no one else thought he had to be woken up to do so.
Rinoa didn't seem to mind in the least; on the contrary, she patted the bed, smiling brightly. "Come sit down then."
What!? No! Let's not encourage people to just walk into our room in the middle of the night to ask stupid love advice questions. He shot her a look which he felt perfectly summed up these feelings. She returned his look with one of her own. One that only a wife can give her husband. One that clearly stated that while he was a respected leader and fearsome warrior, she was lord and master of their bed, so what she said went and if he didn't like it then there was always a perfectly good couch downstairs.
In the meantime, Cloud sat himself down on the bed, looking relieved.
"So Cloud," Rinoa began, sounding as if she was having far too much fun with this. "What is it this time?"
Leon rested his back against his headboard, realising that the only way he was going to get to sleep now was to get rid of Cloud as quickly as possible.
Cloud looked away from them, red rising to his cheeks again. Oh great, this was going to be just like last time; another embarrassing and awkward conversation, at a ridiculous time, when all he wanted was to get back to sleep. Cloud better have a damn good reason for coming this time.
However, there was one small improvement over last time, well – two if you included that small fact that Leon wasn't quite so tired and therefore wasn't quite so likely to fall asleep in the middle of the conversation. This time he had Rinoa there. Despite it being incredibly embarrassing to have her wake up in this situation, it was also a large comfort to have someone there who actually knew what she was talking about; namely, someone who wasn't him. He was just dreading what Cloud was going to ask about this time.
Cloud took a deep breath, and once again, Leon though about how this better be urgent.
"I want to propose to Aerith."
Beside him Rinoa gave a little squeal which covered his groan; this was going to be another long night.
"That's wonderful, Cloud!" Rinoa was practically bouncing off the walls. Well, he didn't think it was wonderful. It meant he wasn't going to get any sleep any time soon. That was it. He was going to start locking his door at night. "So, how are you going to do it?"
Oh, this was gonna be good. What would Cloud think a good idea of a proposal was? Reciting bad poetry? Bringing home the corpse of a heartless in her honour? Or maybe leaving her a not-so-romantic letter telling her that if she wanted to marry him then she'd have to come find him in the deepest depths of…wherever the hell he used to disappear to?
"I don't know," Cloud said, looking at his hands.
Oh dear, Leon was quickly catching on to what was going on.
"That's why I came to Leon," he admitted.
Definitely going to be a long night. Leon pinched the bridge of his nose.
"Cloud, what did I tell you last time you asked me for advice?"
Cloud thought for a moment before venturing an answer. "Don't write it in a letter?"
Leon took a deep breath. "Try again."
Cloud thought again. "Tell her I love her?"
"Probably a good idea, but not what I was looking for."
Cloud took time to think again and Leon prayed for the patience not to strangle the other man. Beside him his wife shifted the sheets around her body. He opened his eyes and, shifting them to the woman, he saw her wearing a small secretive smile. He moved his hand slightly, giving her an inquiring look, but before she had a chance to shake her head, Cloud had answered.
"Not to wake you up in the middle of the night to ask you for love advice?"
Oh, so he had got the 'hint', which left the frustrating question of why he still came. He swore, at times the man could be as airheaded as his namesake. "No, but a very good point to come back to."
Rinoa's smile grew wider and he finally thought he might know what she found so damn funny; he sounded just like a teacher. A teacher talking to a very dim student who didn't understand the problem in front of him; but then, he could never be quite sure what Rinoa was thinking at times like these.
When Cloud started to think again, Leon decided to save him the trouble. There was one thing he wanted to do less then deal with Cloud's proposal problem, and that was to sit here all night wait for Cloud to stumble across the answer that only might just prevent said discussion.
"I told you that I couldn't tell you how to tell Aerith that you love her." He was tempted to ask Cloud why this was the case – but then, he wanted to get rid of Cloud before his daughter started walking. Besides, he didn't think he stand it if Rinoa burst out laughing saying that he'd missed his calling as a teacher. "The same applies here."
"You don't have to tell me everything, just help me like last time."
'That wasn't the only thing like last time,' he thought bitterly.
"Of course!" Rinoa exclaimed, "You have to propose in the right way. So, you should make yourself comfortable. Take your shoes off and come sit in the middle." She patted the bed again, near the centre, obviously very excited and generally having the time of her life. She seemed to be one step away from calling a slumber party and making them sit around talking about how Cloud should propose while giving them both makeovers and insisting that they do each other's hair. Given a chance, she'd probably run downstairs and grab a large tub of ice cream and the tray of Aerith's cookies for them all to share over the matter.
Cloud looked uncertain, taking in the disbelieving look Leon was giving his other half. He bet even Cloud knew what that look meant. What!? Get comfortable!? Do you want to get any more sleep tonight?
Rinoa, seeing the problem, waved a dismissive hand. "Oh, ignore Squall; he's just a little grumpy because you woke him up. We'll be happy to help."
Oh no we bloody well won't, Leon mentally corrected as Cloud nodded, kicking off his shoes and coming to settle down in the centre of their bed.
This was something Leon never expected to experience, or even wished to, but he did have to admit that to anyone looking in – Cloud barefoot, sitting cross-legged on a large bed that the Leonharts were currently occupying with only a sheet to protect the couple's dignity – the scene must have seemed hilarious. It was a thought that suddenly made him very paranoid of would-be guests.
"So," Rinoa said cheerfully. "How can we help you?"
"And why can't it wait till morning?"
"Squall, that's mean."
He crossed his arms. "I'm mean? I'm the one who was woken up in the middle of the night. I think it's a valid question."
"Well, it's not," Rinoa said. "Now, I think we have a friend to help."
'You mean pain in the arse to help,' though Leon didn't dare say the words out loud.
She gave him that look again, the one that promised the couch if he didn't behave. She would do it as well, and worse still, she'd throw him out without a blanket and clothes. It was just his luck to fall in love with a sorceress.
Then, out of the blue he came up with what seemed like an ingenious idea.
"You need a ring." His comment made the other two turn to him again. Rinoa bore a suspicious look on her face. That I-know-you're-up-to-something-to-get-back-to-sleep-and-I-may-not-know-what-it-is-but-let-it-be-known-that-I-disapprove, look.
Leon continued, "When you propose, you need a ring. It can take weeks to find the right one, so there's no point in discussing this until you have one. In the meantime, you'll just forget most of what we say, or you may think of something better."
Rinoa's suspicious look didn't fade, but she didn't say anything, which he supposed mean that, even if it was an obvious ploy to get rid of the other man, what he said did make some sense.
"A ring," Cloud repeated.
"Yes, a ring," Leon confirmed. Surely that was obvious, even to Cloud. Cloud fiddled with his apron. He knew the man could be dense at times in these matters, but even Leon knew you were supposed to have a ring. Or at least to propose in the way Cloud was talking about. To be fair, he may have exaggerated when he said it would take weeks to find a ring, but hell, if he didn't know he was supposed to have a ring, then he won't know how long it would take to find one.
"Like this?" The other man's voice inquired.
Leon looked down at Cloud's hand. The son of a bitch….
Sitting in the palm of the soldier's hand was one engagement ring. Leon stared; it was all he could do. Part of his brain insisted that Cloud was cheating.
"Cloud, it's beautiful!" Rinoa said gleefully, almost as if it was meant for her instead of her friend. "Aerith will love it."
Yes, it was beautiful, which made Leon wonder how Cloud had found it and picked it out. He would have half expected the man to go into a battle shop and pick a ring from the accessories shelf. He almost suspected that Cloud had simply found the ring on a heartless, especially when considering the way he presented the ring to them, as if he'd found the thing lying around and wasn't really sure what it was. However, this did leave the rather puzzling question of why a heartless was carrying an engagement ring in the first place. He severely doubted that said heartless was just off to propose to his heartless girlfriend, when the 'bad man' came along and killed him, leaving his heartless girlfriend heartbroken, as heartless are by name and nature… well, heartless.
Leon resisted the urge to shake his head. He must be more tired then he thought if he was thinking so much about trivial matters. It didn't matter whether or not Cloud had found the ring on a heartless. Though it did make the whole scenario a lot less romantic:
"Aerith, will you marry me?"
"Of course Cloud! Oh, it's such a beautiful ring. It must have cost a fortune."
"Don't worry the heartless dropped loads of munny, as well as this ring."
Leon scolded himself again. Heartless didn't carry engagement rings, despite what other random items they seemed to carry around with them. For instance, munny. Why the hell do heartless need money? It wasn't as if they saved up for a mortgages, or went on shopping sprees with their girlfriends.
No, even if Heartless did carry engagement rings, he was sure Cloud wouldn't give Aerith one that he had found.
"Did you pick it out yourself?" His wife's voice brought him out of his far-too-strange thoughts, deciding again, that he wasn't designed to be woken up in the middle of the night to play advice counsellor.
Cloud nodded, a ghost of a smile appearing at Rinoa's praise. Leon continued to stare at the ring, his mental tirade answered. With the amount of heartless Cloud hunted, he could have brought this ring weeks ago, which brought forward a very interesting question.
"When did you buy this?"
The smile vanished from Cloud's lips. "A month ago."
Rinoa's eyes widened in surprise. Leon didn't react; he would have been more surprised if Cloud had only just bought the ring. He just wondered how long it had taken him to pluck up the courage to buy the thing in the first place. They weren't like Sora, who, if he proposed, would whisk into a shop, buy the ring and immediately ask her to marry him. Actually, he'd probably do it spur of the moment without a ring, or even make his own out of gold painted pasta. He bet the girl would find it cute and sentimental as well. It reminded him why he hated those kinds of people.
It had taken Leon nearly two months to work up the courage to buy a ring, but in his defence, he did propose quickly afterwards. He'd found the right shop with the right ring, and then proceeded to visit the shop everyday, munny in pocket trying to work up the courage to just go in a buy the stupid thing. One month, and several narrow escapes from the girls, later, the shopkeeper had eventually come out and asked him, in a very patient voice, if he'd like to buy the engagement ring. He'd been surprised at first that she knew why he was there, but then there couldn't be many reasons why a guy would turn up every day for a month to stare at a display in a jewellery shop window.
He vaguely wondered if Cloud had been stalking outside the same shop window for weeks before the same shop keeper had decided that he'd scared away enough customers and that he was going to buy that damn ring. Probably; there weren't many jewellery shops in Radiant Garden anymore.
"If you've had the ring for a month, then why haven't you proposed?" Rinoa asked.
"And what difference will a few hours make?" Leon was hit by a sense of familiarity, or perhaps that was just Rinoa's hand. He glared at Cloud, rubbing the back of his head lightly. "If you even think of saying it's because you're leaving, I will personally make sure that you never have to worry about how to give that ring to Aerith."
Honestly, he had it all figured out, and Cloud really wouldn't have to worry about giving the ring to anyone; of course that was mainly due to the fact that he'd have to buy a new one instead. Though he got the feeling the flower girl would be less then happy with the new turn of events. Rinoa would also be annoyed with him; she'd make him go with Cloud to get a new ring. Though it would be worth it just to hear Cloud explain why he needed a new ring and where exactly the old one was now.
Cloud looked down at the ring box cradled in his hand. "I don't know if I can."
Leon and Rinoa shared a puzzled look.
"Propose?" Rinoa asked, watching Cloud give a little nod, his eyes never leaving the ring.
"I don't think-" Cloud paused to rephrase his answer, and Leon realised that he'd never actually seen Cloud nervous before. Not really, not until now. For the first time this night he felt some sympathy for the other man. If he didn't get sorted now, he may never. This feeling was diminished, however, by the little… alright, large… voice in his head saying that it was bloody typical of Cloud to find his courage at four in the morning. Did this guy even run in the same time zone as the rest of the city? Why was he even up at four o'clock? He wasn't even in his night clothes. What could he possibly have been doing that lead him to decide that now was the time to act?
The courage bit he did understand on some level though. Who knows how many of his ideas seemed better when he was lying in bed, removed from the reality of it all. Like making Cid help Aerith arrange flowers to decorate Tron with. He couldn't remember why it was such a good idea at the time or even why it was so important, but he suspected it being two a.m. and the bottle of wine, or two, had something to do with it. Needless to say, when he saw Cid the next morning, he didn't utter a word of the suggestion.
Whatever Cloud's reason was, his mind would not stretch as far as to be used as an engagement service, certainly not at this time of day when every sane, and insane, person was asleep. Apparently Cloud thought his role was not only Agony aunt, but also morale coach. He drew the line at playing cheer leader while Cloud proposed to his lover. For a start, he was very sure he'd look terrible in a mini skirt.
"I'm nervous. I'm scared she'll say no," Cloud settled on.
'No shit,' Leon's brain settled on.
"I don't want her to reject me," Cloud continued.
That was unspeakably obvious. People generally don't propose to people they don't want to marry. It does defeat the whole purpose of the gesture when you're hoping the other person is going to say no. You may as well not propose and just save yourself the time and effort.
His wife made a sympathetic sound and, shifting the sheets so she could hold them up with one hand, reached out to rest her other one on the blonde's arm. "Don't worry Cloud; I'm sure she'll say yes. She loves you very much."
Cloud looked at her gratefully, "I want to do this right."
"Of course you do, and we'll help you get it right." There's that 'we' again. She was very keen on that word tonight, especially considering he had shown no interest in helping out the other man.
Encouraged again, Cloud looked to Leon. "How did you propose?"
Rinoa's hand left Cloud as she started giggling. "Oh, you don't want to take notes from how Squall proposed."
Leon felt the red rising to his face, his pride hurt.
"I don't?" Cloud looked curiously between he two.
"Definitely not," Rinoa confirmed, still giggling.
The older man looked away stung. It hadn't been that bad. So it didn't go smoothly, or very romantically, but she'd said yes, hadn't she, so it couldn't have been a complete failure.
He felt her head on his shoulder, and looking down he saw her smiling more then a little teasingly. "But it was very Squall," and so she was content.
There was silence in which Cloud digested this information and Rinoa's hand found its way into her lover's.
Well, he supposed he could forgive her this time. She was, after all, currently the main one helping out Cloud.
A cry cut through the night causing the couple to drop each other's hands. The little Leonhart was awake, and she wanted attention.
Leon freely admitted that he wasn't always eager to deal with the early/late night demands of their daughter, but he did recognise an opportunity when it presented itself, screaming itself even. Now was the prefect chance to escape. He swung his legs off the bed and onto the floor. He could hardly be blamed if he had to stay with his child for an hour, maybe even two, rather then taking part in this 'wonderful' conversation. After all, the baby did come first.
However, no sooner had his feet touched the floor then something touched his arm. He looked back to see Rinoa's hand stopping him, a mischievous smile in place. "Oh no Squall," she said, too innocently. "Don't worry dear, I can handle this easily. She probably wants feeding. You stay and talk to your friend. He did come to talk to you." Her tone clearly showed that she knew she was doing the opposite of what he wanted.
But… that just wasn't fair! It was like showing cake to a kid and then saying they couldn't have it, or telling Yuffie that she had to return all the things that she'd stolen. His wife could be a heartless woman at times.
She turned to their guest. "Erm, Cloud, could you close your eyes?"
Both men looked blank. She shook her head, still smiling. "Well, I didn't think you were that type, but if you really feel that strongly about watching me dress I think that Squall might have something to say about it."
At the moment of getting dressed, Cloud snapped his eyes closed. He didn't need Leon's glare telling him that he would close his eyes or be proposing with two black eyes. The younger man even turned away, though that was probably to hide his embarrassment more then anything. For a hardened soldier, the guy really did blush a lot.
Letting the sheet drop away, Rinoa stood and quickly found what she had been wearing earlier that night, and then quickly discarded it. Leon raised an eyebrow, not saying a word and she playfully pointed a warning finger at him in response. The slip had many uses, but walking around the house was not one of them.
Opening a drawer she quickly found something more appropriate for, well… anything. Throwing a dressing gown over the top she made her way to the door, stopping briefly by her husband to kiss the top of his head and tell him to 'have fun', ignoring Leon's frown. She was definitely enjoying this far too much.
"She's gone now." He turned back to Cloud.
Cloud opened his eyes. Silence. Oh, this was going to be fun. Cloud was thinking, and from the looks of things, Leon knew what he was going to ask.
"No," he said, beating Cloud to it. "So don't ask."
"I didn't say anything."
"I know what you wanted to ask, and the answer is no. I won't tell you what happened." Leon gave him the 'shut up and deal with it because there's not a chance I'm going to tell you' look.
"But she still said yes."
Cloud looked at the ring again, and Leon recognised the look as the one he must have been giving his ring just after he had bought it. He'd spent a good portion of the rest of the day staring at the ring, wondering if his senses had taken a holiday to Destiny Island and were currently playing volleyball with Sora, Riku and Kairi, while drinking cocktails from a coconut. He had decided that if Rinoa said yes, they could stay there on permanent vacation.
Leon settled himself back against in bed, watching Cloud, wondering when exactly Cloud would let him get back to sleep. A sudden thought chilled him to the bone; what if Cloud wanted to plan his proposal with him completely? That was it! This had to end as quickly as possible. He knew about as much about proposing as he did about making daisy chains. There was one thing he was worse at, and that was comforting people, and from the way the younger man was looking at the ring, he was gonna need some. Damn it. Stupid Cloud.
A yawn tried to force its way past his lips and he clamped his mouth shut, taking a deep breath. If he just stayed quiet, maybe even let a yawn or two break free, maybe Cloud would just go away and let him go back to sleep.
Regrettably, the plan was immediately thrown away. His stupid conscience wouldn't let him do that. That was another thing he was beginning to hate, if it wasn't for his conscience then all this would be a lot simpler because he would have thrown Cloud out of his room by now and told him never to come back again. Unfortunately it was forming a habit of kicking in earlier these days, and it also seemed to enjoy stealing his wife's voice when doing so, making it almost impossible to ignore it. Right now it was doing a prefect imitation of Rinoa, complete with hand gestures and little bobs, telling him to stop being such an arse and say something to put Cloud's mind at ease.
The Rinoa-voice-stealing-conscience won. Mentally cringing Leon ventured forward. "Rinoa's right." Cloud looked up, confused and Leon found himself once again cursing Cloud for his slowness, making Leon say more. "Aerith loves you, a lot."
She'd have to, to put up with Cloud. Not that he supposed he was much better, he admitted. Another reason to love Rinoa.
Cloud gave him small smile. "You think?"
No, I think she hates you and that's why she's put up with your years of disappearing, and waiting patiently for you to return. That's why she's happy that you've stopped doing it now. Oh, and she definitely shares your bed because she thinks you're the scum of the world.
Leon settled on 'I'm certain' out loud.
Cloud seemed to relax, leaving Leon rather stunned. He hadn't really actually expected that to work. Now this was a once in a life time event, this might even mean that-
"All I need to do now is figure out how to propose."
Damn it, he knew it was too much to hope for.
The door creaked open and Rinoa poked her head round. "Figured it out yet?"
Cloud shook his head.
"Didn't think so, that's why I bought something to help this little party along."
Leon was suddenly reminded of his observation earlier. He looked at her suspiciously.
"It isn't ice cream?"
She laughed, "Well, I thought everyone would like this a bit more," she produced a bottle of wine with three glasses, "but if you'd rather have ice cream, I can always take it back."
Leon chose not to dignify that with an answer. She closed the door with her foot, making him wonder how she'd opened the door with her hands full in the first place. Before settling down again she handed both the men a glass of wine and he resisted the strong urge to bypass the glass and go straight for the bottle.
Soon he was sipping from a generous glass of wine, welcoming its warming and relaxing effect. Now this would make the night more bearable. Maybe he could drink enough to make him fall asleep, though judging from the bottle, he doubted there'd be enough for that.
"So," Rinoa began, almost bouncing with excitement. "You need to decide how to propose."
After a short pause Cloud ventured a comment. "Leon says it needs to come from me."
Leon was beginning to be convinced that the other man was the lost king of the state of obvious (and stupid questions). Right now there were hundreds of peasants looking for their missing king, getting nowhere because they keep stating facts like, 'Well, he's not here,' and 'He's not in the throne room,' or even, 'Do you think we should probably form a search party.'
"That's very true," he said. "So why don't you go figure that out and then come back when you're done and tell us."
Rinoa lightly smacked him round the head.
"Why don't you try practicing on me now," she suggested, taking a sip of wine. "Come on. Practice on me."
"What?" Cloud said, voicing Leon's mental cry.
"Practice on me." She repeated. "Just pretend that I'm Aerith and you're trying to propose to me."
Leon took a gulp of his wine; he was going to need it. This was going to be good or terrible, depending on your point of view, and he honestly didn't know which to think. Except that more wine was good; in fact, the more the better. This all depended on them getting Cloud to say anything at all. The man was having enough trouble just proposing, he didn't think he'd have an easier time doing it in front of two people to rip apart. On the flip side, Cloud had already drunk half his glass already, and more then likely some false courage with it. He was proven wrong right when Cloud's face hardened with determination.
Just as Leon was taking another sip of wine Cloud burst out, "Aerithiloveyouwillyoumarryme?"
Leon snorted into his glass and proceeded to choke half to death. Rinoa took his glass to prevent him from spilling any wine over their covers. As he desperately fought for breath he heard Rinoa say, "You'll have to go slower than that."
Leon laughed. Well, he tried to; it came out more of a hacking cough as he continued to fight for breath. There was a clunk of glass as Rinoa set the glasses down so she could deal with her husband, still talking Cloud through the matter. "Try again, this time bit by bit."
Leon felt his airways clear and the hand left his back to hand his glass back. Yes; Cloud was terrible at this.
Cloud took another drink, "Aerith I love you..?" It wasn't really a statement, more like a question.
Wow, Cloud really knew how to sweep a woman off her feet. 'Sweetheart, do I love you? Because, I'm really not sure myself. Oh, and while we're on the subject; do I want to marry you?' She'd just fall immediately to his manly charms.
He rubbed his forehead, taking another reassuring gulp of wine, nearly finishing his glass. Damn, these were small glasses. Strange that he'd never noticed it before. He'd have to go out and buy some larger ones at some point.
"Are you telling her you love her or engaging her in a discussion on the matter? You need to sound sure about it. Sounding as if you're ready to run away at any moment isn't going to help."
"Be confident," Rinoa encouraged.
"You know I'm not good with words," Cloud accused quietly, eyes trained on the wine.
Sometimes Leon had to wonder if Cloud had a brain in that head of his. Oh, more wine, he noted as Rinoa refilled the men's glasses, finishing the bottle. As he drank, he tried to get his mind back on track. Ah yes, Cloud's seemingly empty head. Or maybe, he'd just been hit one too many times on the head by heartless. He remembered someone once saying that every time you were hit on the head you lost a few brain cells. If that was the case then surely Cloud was brain dead by now. However, then the same would have to apply to Leon himself; he'd be half brain dead just from the number of times Rinoa had smacked him round the head tonight.
"Then don't use words."
"How do I do that?"
How the hell should he know; in the form of interpretative dance?
Luckily Rinoa saved him. "Keep it simple. Don't try to say a whole speech."
Rinoa was a genius, he decided. How did she come up with these things? But then, that could just be the wine and sleep deprivation speaking.
Cloud drank deeply again; he was getting through his drink almost as quickly as Leon, unlike Rinoa who was still halfway through her first glass. Even Cloud could probably tell who the comfortable one in the group was.
"Aren't I supposed to take her to dinner or something?"
Rinoa waved her hand again. "You know, Cloud, that's not important. You don't need all that. Surprising her will be a lot better. Romance is good, so romantically surprise her. Be certain and confident. That's very attractive. Just remember that she loves you. Now let's try again."
Leon set his empty glass down, waiting to see what little treasure Cloud came up with this time.
'Oooo, good start!' Leon thought sarcastically. "That's not confident," he pointed out. "At least not last time I checked. "
Rinoa shook her head. "Imagine I'm Aerith; the love of your life who you want to marry. Speak from the heart, really mean it. Now ask again."
"Imagine you're Aerith," Cloud repeated, draining his glass.
Suddenly Cloud leaned forward, his lips brushing Rinoa's. Cloud's eyes slid half closed while Rinoa's widened and Leon gawked, his brain having done a belly flop out of his head in a bid to escape. Apparently there was only so much his mind could take before it too had the urge to self-destruct.
"Aerith," Cloud's voice low and had more passion in it then Leon could remember it ever having. "Marry me."
As Cloud seemed to lean forward again Leon snapped out of his idiotic daze. With a small stab of annoyance, much in the same way that Sephiroth is a small stab of annoyance, he grabbed the back of Cloud's collar and pulled him away.
"That's my wife," he stated stiffly. "Go kiss your own girlfriend."
Cloud blinked himself back to reality. "You said to act as if it was Aerith."
He was really going to have to have a talk with Cloud one of these days. He'll comprise a list of things to tell and then spend a whole day explaining to Cloud why he shouldn't do these things, preferably while drinking their way through Tifa's bar supplies. Number one would be times to ask for advice. Number two would be when not to take things literally.
Before Leon had a chance to actually retort by making Cloud lose a few more brain cells, Rinoa giggled, sounding dazed for the first time that night. The two men turned to her and she spoke. "Well, that was certainly a surprise." She drained her glass.
Cloud's eyes widened, remembering something. "I forgot the 'I love you'"
"Oh, I think you'll be fine without it."
"Really. If you propose like that and Aerith refuses then I think we'll know she's a heartless."
Well, that was the most ridiculous thing he'd heard that night – quite an achievement in his mind. Aerith smiled far too much to be a heartless…. Also, she wore far too much pink. He could count the number of times he had seen a heartless wearing pink on exactly no hands.
Cloud blinked; once, twice, thrice. He was really beginning to nail this imitation of an owl; the only way to complete this act would be to sit in a tree in the middle of a night, hooting. He even had the 'not sleeping when everything else with a brain was' thing sorted.
When Cloud spoke he sounded shocked, not that Leon could really blame him; if he was perfectly honest with himself, he was just as surprised that Cloud had nailed it, and he wasn't talking about the owl impression. It was the only thing that stopped him beating some common sense into Cloud, and that he knew Cloud wasn't actually trying to seduce his wife. There was another one of those thoughts that made his mind rebel; Cloud trying to seduce Rinoa. He could feel his mind crashing shut at the mere suggestion.
"I have it? I got it right?"
Rinoa laughed. "Yes Cloud; you got it right. Now," she threw her feet to the floor and started collecting empty glasses and bottle. "I think we're pretty much finished for the night, so I think it's time for me to clear up." She stopped before the door, turned and gave Cloud a final smile. "You'll do fine Cloud, but good luck anyway," and she stepped out of the room.
They watched her go. "I got it right," Cloud stated dumbly again.
Leon sighed, letting go of Cloud's collar. "Yes, you got it right. Just don't wake her up now to do it, and before you ask why not; a) your breath smells of alcohol, I can guarantee that she won't like that, and b) not even that proposal will save you from waking her up at this time. In case you haven't noticed, people don't take kindly to being woken up in the middle of the night." Cloud, at least, had the decency to look embarrassed at this point. Leon continued, "Rinoa knows what she's talking about, so just remember what she said; be confident and really mean it when you say it. You'll do fine."
Cloud smiled his small quiet smile. "Thank you."
Leon shrugged. "I'm just summarising."
Cloud shook his head. "I mean for everything; this time and last time. You didn't have to help me. You had every reason to just throw me out at any point and refuse to help me. Even last time after you told me to go away, you still came and helped me. You could have thrown me out tonight as well." Not if he wanted to avoid his wife's wrath, he couldn't. "Thank you."
Leon soon found a smile tugging at his own lips. "You're welcome, but if you even think about waking me up for advice on the next stage of your relationship, I will kill you." He would like to avoid that. It'd been even harder to try and explain away blood on the carpet to Rinoa, and then he'd have to bury the body before he went to back to bed, so he'd get even less sleep then normal.
Cloud stood from the bed and hesitated for a second. "If Aerith says yes, will you be my best man?"
Leon stared at Cloud as if he had asked Leon if he would mind if he lit up a small moogle for a quick smoke. This was… unexpected, to say the least.
He smirked. "Only if you promise never to come into my room and wake me up at some God forsaken hour for anything less then mortal danger or the immanent destruction of our world."
Cloud continued to smile. "I think we have a deal."
"Great. Now. Go away and let me get back to sleep."
Rinoa walked back to her bedroom door, smiling contently to herself, humming lightly under her breath. She paused briefly at the door to listen. No sounds. Which either meant the two were sitting in silence or, and the far more likely answer, Cloud had gone back to bed.
She twisted the door handle and stepped inside. As she expected Cloud had left and Squall lay on the bed. The steady rise and fall of his chest hinted that his wish had finally come true and he was fast asleep again. Still smiling, she closed the door behind her and flicked the lock into place. One interruption she didn't mind, but two she might take objection to. She shrugged out of her dressing gown and wondered if her clothes should follow suit. No, there would be no reason to tonight. She slipped back under the covers, but rather then going back to sleep, she turned to the peaceful form of her husband and watched him, turning over the events of the night in her mind.
Her smile broadened as she brushed hair away from his face. Leaning forward she planted a kiss on his brow. "You really do have a big heart, you know," she whispered. "And a wonderful soul; I think I am a very lucky wife."
"Then don't invite strange men onto our bed at night." Squall's response surprised her, but soon she was smiling again. Squall's eyes opened, and he reached out, gently pulling her towards him, guiding their lips together, and her eyelids fluttered shut.
As they parted he sighed, "What would I do without you."
"Oh, I don't know," she whispered. "Sleep with Cloud instead?"