The last theme song is by Debussy. I take this opportunity to say how pissed I am that this amazing composer was dessecrated by "Twilight". Everyone, go listen to "L'Isle Joyeuse" or "La Mer". Prélude á L'Après-midi d'un faune
Prélude á L'Après-midi d'un faune
Much to Leon's surprise, he managed to last through the rest of the day without suddenly imploding from sexual frustration, which was always a good thing. A lot of that he owed to Sora's idea to take a stroll down the windy beach instead of stuffing themselves in some obscure café where they wouldn't have anything to do other than stare at each other. They took their shoes off and walked on the sandy shore. At one point, she tapped his shoulder and told him he was it, then took off into a run. Leon took a moment to watch her as she leapt down the wet sand and splashed in the salty water, before taking off after her. Although she wasn't trying too hard, it took him a minute before he got to her and knocked both of them down in the sand, where he proceeded to, what else, kiss the living daylights out of her.
As it was a particularly cloudy day and the beach wasn't very full, they were actually in a very real danger of him doing a lot more to her than just kissing. However, just as things had passed the sweet and innocent side and headed towards getting white-hot, a particularly large wave crashed into the shore, drenching them both with freezing, salty water. They stood in shock for a few moments, before bursting into uncontrollable laughter.
The upside to this strange shower was that it occurred shortly before the sun broke through the clouds, so the two of them could lie on the beach and wait for their clothes to dry up. For a while, they chatted, but their conversation slowly lulled, until they just lay there and stared at the sky.
Sora was lost in thought, or, rather, blissfully thoughtless as she stared at the sky and regained her breath. The exhilaration from the exercise had done its job – she was blissfully uninterested in her own future. What mattered at the moment were the clouds, the sea, the perfect day and Leon. Her head automatically turned as she thought of her boyfriend and she noticed that he too had tuned out. Slowly, she pushed herself up on her elbow and watched him. One of his arms was draped loosely around her waist, but the other one was absent-mindedly combing through the sand and brought out from time to time sea shells and little stones for his examination.
At some point, he felt her stare, and turned to look at her: "What is it?"
"You, lying on the sand and looking at these shells." She said cryptically. "Do you realize how very delectable you look right now?"
He looked down on his body and raised an eyebrow. "Decadent, you mean. It'll be a small wonder if they let us into the hotel with how we look right now."
"Decadent, but in a good way." She said "You know, you never entirely fit into the starving artist stereotype before. That was what I used to think, when I first met you."
"Not all artists are recognized posthumously, thanks be." He replied. "You probably thought I was just wasting time, didn't you?"
"For how long?"
"When I didn't know you." She said "Then, after you saved me that Halloween, and then later, when I actually talked to you after you drew me, I began to see it."
"That look on your face, like the one you had right now. Dreamy, but also thoughtful. I don't know how to describe it. As if you were imagining something you really wanted."
"I was just looking at the shapes." He shrugged "Some of them might come in handy in a painting."
"See. That, that, that determination to make your dreams come to life. That's what I saw." She said, excited. "It's just like… like…"
"Like what you do with your dancing." Leon finished for her.
"Exactly!" she paused "Wow, did we just finish each other's sentences?"
Leon thought about it. "We did."
Sora laughed, trying to dissipate some of the tension she felt building up in her stomach: "Thank God the girls aren't here to see this, otherwise they would have made some crack about how the next step would be His-n-Hers tattoos."
Leon considered it: "We could do that."
She smirked: "If we have to make some obscene gesture to commemorate out bond, don't you think we should choose something we don't need to laser off later?" She had asked the question jokingly, but felt a pang in her chest when Leon gave her that Look.
The Look was a relatively new occurrence. Leon, of course, being a man of a few words, often communicated solely through body language and facial expressions, and thus had a wide array of looks to choose from. However, this one was new – pensive, evaluating, but also gentle and even a tad sad. It sometimes occurred right after Leon stopped in the middle of a sentence and lapsed into his own thoughts, but Sora had also seen it on certain non-related occasions. Like that time when she had been rummaging through the drier to find a leotard she had needed for the trip – he'd been standing at the door and suddenly, he had given her that Look. Or that one time when they lounged in the living room after a particularly tiring day, too lazy to even turn the TV on – she'd noticed it and called him on it, and he had immediately brushed it off with a comment about the weather.
She didn't know what to make of it. It probably had something to do with her, but Sora wasn't sure if it was a good or a bad thing. If she had to guess, she probably would have attributed it to the fact that he had probably never had a live-in-girlfriend before. It was a big step for her as well, she had to admit – sometimes the most silly, mundane things could send her into a state of shock, like their shoes in the hallway or their clothes, mixed up on the wash-line. They were something you didn't often notice, but when you did, they slapped your face like cold water. She sometimes had a hard time believing it was real, and wondering if she could really do it.
But those were rare, fleeting moments. Usually, Sora felt completely reassured in their relationship, mostly because Leon actually made an effort to make it work. Simple things, such as him cutting down the carbs and sugar from his diet so that she wouldn't be tempted to indulge, or accepting the empty tampon dispensers in the trash bin every month as something completely normal, made her feel less like his girlfriend and more like a permanent fixture in his life.
Which was why the idea that he may or may not be reconsidering that position made it all the more painful for her. She knew that, if he chose to put an end to it some day, she would be in considerable pain, but would accept it for his sake, pine a little and then get up and move on, somehow. But the closer they got, the more difficult it was for her to imagine that.
It didn't even occur to her that he was thinking about quite the opposite side of that equation.
For the last three weeks leading up to that trip, Leon had had plenty of time to consider, re-consider, evaluate, re-evaluate, and go through all the ups and downs and pluses and minuses of the idea. And then some. He had reached the conclusion that, should Sora get a job far away from him, he would simply move to the same town with her, but after he thoroughly discussed it with her. He didn't want to come off as a possessive jerk by merely assuming – there were entire new levels of humiliation hidden there, nor did he want to make her uncomfortable by asking straight out.
Now, if he married her, that problem would've been solved easily, but instead of making things easier for Leon, he found himself facing a billion possibilities. He didn't want to let her go, because the idea of some other guy being entitled to her smiles, her laughter, her love made him murderous, and another woman just wouldn't do. On the other hand, he didn't know if she wanted to get married so young. If she refused, would it be because she didn't see that sort of future for them together, or because she just thought it was too early?
And even after he convinced himself there was nothing to lose by asking her, there was still the question of the how? Oh, Leon had already found the Ring, that part had been easy enough. The delicate gold band was practical enough for her to wear it even at practice, but the ice blue diamond got the message across without a mistake. He'd been wearing it around his neck, under his and Sophie's christening medallions, ever since he'd bought it, not wanting to miss a chance to give it to her should the occasion arise. Which, as it turned out, was the best idea.
Leon briefly contemplated all the different ideas of asking her – taking her to a fancy dinner or a very high place to symbolize his desire to lay the world at her feet, arranging for a huge sign in the sky to announce his feelings to the said world, finding ingenious places to hide the ring for her to find so that he could spare himself the horrible moment of talking, spreading rose petals on a hotel bed… none of them were to his liking. For one thing, a public marriage proposal would embarrass her (and him) to no end, not to mention it would put her on the spot.
In the end, he chose to wait for the perfect moment.
And now, lying in the sand, with the sea lapping at their feet, it did feel like the perfect moment. The sun was shining in some strange angle, making Sora's vibrant hair look like it had caught fire as it blew in the wind, while her face glowed from the exercise. Her cheeks were flushed, her lashes were wet and she smelled of sea and sun and summer. She'd often thought of him as something not entirely human, but at that moment, it seemed to Leon like she was a creature from another world. If the prince from that fairy tale had woken up on time and seen the little Mermaid, he was sure that this would've been the vision that would have greeted him.
As if in a daze, he reached out to take her hand and gingerly kissed each finger, then the palm, than the other side of it. Then he moved up the arm, kissing the dip opposite the elbow, then her shoulder, neck, and finally mouth. He kissed up her jaw until he reached her ear and whispered: "Marry me."
He felt, rather than saw her body stiffen, and hoped that it was with pleasure. However, to his horror, when she leaned back to look at him, her eyes were wide and frightened. Leon didn't know what could've brought such a reaction on, but it did look like Sora was about to lose it anytime now, so he grabbed her hands and squeezed them.
"Sora, are you alright?" he asked, and then promptly kicked himself. Of course she's not alright, you blundering oaf, she's going to start hyperventilating any time now. He looked at her earnestly, hoping to decipher what was going on inside her head, but as usual, the workings of the female mind were lost to him. "Sora, please say something, please…" he pleaded.
"You… you want to break up?" she whispered in a small voice and her eyes filled with tears.
Leon blinked. Break up? What was that daft woman talking about? He'd just asked her to marry him, damn it! Had she misheard? No, he'd been clear enough.
And then his thoughts came to a screeching halt.
"No!" he exclaimed "No, no, Sora, I'm not trying to break up with you."
"But…" she mumbled, and it was apparent that she was struggling to keep her face on, because she tried really hard to keep the tears at bay.
"For God's sake!" He exclaimed as his hand came up to grab at the chain that hung around his neck "Sora, stop thinking about the past!" though it was his own fault for telling her "This is different."
She couldn't speak. She was afraid that if she would, she'd go into hysterics. So she listened to him.
"I know that marriage won't solve our problems. Hell, I'm sure it'll make new ones arise. But damn it, Sora, I can't do this anymore. Waking up every day and wondering if I'd be strong enough to deal with it, knowing that you're out there dealing with bastards like Allan or jealous harpies like May all on your own, if one day you wouldn't realize that you can't do this anymore and put an end to this simply because being with me does you more harm than good. I know this makes me sound like an insecure bastard, but damn it, that's what I am. I want to protect you. I want to be able to stand by your side, through good and through bad."
Her jaw dropped open. "Leon, that's…"
"I know, it's selfish and it's egocentric. Believe me, the last thing I want is to put you on the spot. I've never felt like this before – this intensity, this need, they're all foreign to me, and they frighten me just as much as they're probably frightening you right now. But I… I love you, I love you and I don't want to be parted from you, ever."
It struck him as odd, how hard it was to get himself to say those words, and then how easily they flew out. He realized with startling clarity that it was also the first time he had said these words out loud. Even if he had confessed his infatuation to himself, he had never confessed it to her, and that was probably why she was such a bloody mess now.
She was silent. Frighteningly silent. Her whole face had frozen up and he was afraid that she had been too shocked by his confession to move or speak. He wanted to shake her up, beg her to say something, anything, while terrified of what her answer would be.
"Please don't be afraid…" he begged, his voice no more than a whisper. "I'm sorry I startled you like that. We don't have to acknowledge it. I won't bring it up again, won't breathe a word about it. Just please don't be afraid."
"Oh, Leon…" she whispered and her eyes filled with tears again. Her hand raised and he was almost afraid she would slap him, but instead she just caressed his cheek and she brought his head up so that she could press her forehead to his. He touched her neck, her shoulder, her wrist, absent-mindedly, completely taken aback by the gentleness of her gestures. What did she mean by them? What?
"I love you…" Sora said, before ducking her head, cheeks flaming red as if she had just confessed a mortal sin.
"Sora…" he began to bend down to look at her in the eye, but she kept her gaze focused in her lap as her cheeks continued to burn with embarrassment.
"I'm not afraid, or mad for that matter." She said "You have… no idea how similar my feelings are. Ever since I got that offer I've been afraid of what would happen if I had to move away from you. I couldn't say anything because I was afraid of being petty and selfish and needy, but… but…" she hiccupped and the tears spilled "You have no idea how happy it makes me… to hear what you said… to, to… I'm sorry I'm being an idiot, I just…"
He curled his fingers under her chin and pushed it upwards, forcing her to look up at him, but Sora closed her eyes and covered her face with her hands, her body practically shaking with embarrassment. Gently, he pried her hands away and kissed her cheeks and lashes until they were devoid of tears.
"Sora, open your eyes…" he asked gently.
"No." she shook her head stubbornly. "No, please don't look at me."
"How can I not look at you?" he scooted over and gathered her in his arms, then started to whisper in her ear "You're the most kind, gentle and patient person in the world, I'm actually afraid that you'll end up having gray hairs talking me out of the stupid, impulsive things I do. You have the most beautiful face in the world, and I wish you stopped worrying about your figure so much. I love you for all that, but I love you even more for your courage and integrity. You never back down when you feel an injustice has been made, and you're not afraid to slap a man twice your size if he hurt your friend." She laughed at that. "You always keep me guessing, and it's fascinating, but it's more fascinating when you reveal a bit of yourself to me and I see the real you, in all your beauty. I love you."
"And I love you." She sighed. It felt like such a relief to say it. "We're similar in many ways – people call you cold, but they've never seen you when you're defending someone you care for."
"I guess you're right about that." He smiled. "Won't you open your eyes now? I can't stand sitting here and not seeing them."
Slowly, she complied. Her gaze was shy, but devoid of fear. She smiled, and it looked almost hopeful. "Were you lying?"
"About when you said you wouldn't bring that up…" She blushed "Because I… I want to answer…"
It took him half a second to realize what she was talking about. With a laugh, he pulled the chain from his shirt and held the ring out for her to see. "I shall be sorry if you didn't. Then this thing would go completely to waste." He looked around "I'm sorry there isn't a nice rock around here for you to sit on, but we could do it properly when we get home. Sora Naegino, we haven't known each other for long, but through slaps, animosity, reluctant friendship and then love, I think we covered a lot of the basis most couple need years to complete…" she laughed through tears. "I declare here and now that you're beautiful and perfect, body and soul, and if I have to spend the rest of my life trying to figure out what goes on in that head of yours, then so be it. Will you…"
"Hey there!" Somebody yelled from the pier just above them and Leon silently cursed a blue streak before both looked up. A young couple was looking down at them, their eyes wide and worried. No doubt they saw Leon hugging a lifeless looking woman and thought somebody had gotten hurt. "Are you alright?"
"Perfect! I'm proposing!" Leon hollered back, hoping that they would go away. Instead, their eyes went as wide as saucers, as if they had heard the word for the first time. He looked back at Sora, who was having a hard time restraining her laugher, and scoffed. "Oh, for the love of God, Sora, please marry me and don't make me have to repeat myself again?"
She broke out in giggles and finally managed through them: "Yes! Yes, I will!"
His face broke out in a huge grin as he took the ring off the chain and slipped it into her finger, then picked her up and twirled her in the air. They kissed, while their audience (which thanks to the interruption had augmented in less than a minute) applauded fiercely. They broke apart and looked up – Sora immediately buried her face in his chest to hide his embarrassment, while he smiled cockily up.
So that was how it felt like, to be on top of the world.
A/N - *Plays "Don't Wanna Miss A Thing" by Aerosmith*
Damn it, I hate it when I have to put an end to a fic. Especially one where I love every chapter and every review. Alas, the time has come and I must head out to new horizons.
First of all, I would like to thank all of you who read this fic, as every piece of work should see the light of day at some point. And if this story made you happy, I'm happy as well.
Big thanks for those of you who reviewed as well. I love, love, loo~ve reviews, and I love, love, loo~ve them even more if someone tells me that my story made them smile, relax, or just plain feel good. I hope you all loved the ending, cloudstorm101, LadyArcana81 (even if it's cheesy), snowmiddy, completeandtotalrandomness, Eccthlacine, firevixen73, sweet-yuuki, Daedreamer, laylatania, KitsuneNaru, FreedomIsPirateKey, Layla Hamilton, Conrii, The Phoenix Feather, green14girl, Clow Angel (I appreciate it when people politely point out when I forget something), Lita Maxwell (a new reader always makes me gush with happiness), sora29leon, Coconut123, Sarah8 (you WILL write a story one day), animefreak, nioLast (I always appreciate it when someone goes out of their way to greet me in Bg), Alpha Kan't Spell (don't worry, you'll soon get better and change the pen name), Madame Yuko, and everyone else.
And yes, I am such a dork I'd go through the whole page to find your names. If I missed someone or misspelled a pen name, my sincere apologies.
Tsukiakage, I'm so glad you liked the story, and I'm so sorry that the other one failed through. I hope you're not mad with me. mew-tsubaki, I always appreciate your comments, even if they're not on the review page.
Special thanks to flare-hugs, KAYBOP1, midnight blue08, ikutoJS for reviewing every chapter and sticking with me, even when I was difficult and overworked and blocked. Writing this fic wouldn't have been half as good without your enthusiasm and support. You guys are amazing *MWAH*
Big, huge, amazing "Thank You" with sprinkles and sugar on top to ILoveKuramaTooMuch and Royal blueKitsune, for being with me from the beginning, through sickness and health, enthusiastic bursts and author's block, depression and happiness. You have no idea how happy it makes me to see reviews of two+ paragraphs telling me what an amazing job I'm doing. Especially Royalbk, who bravely confronted her fear of thunderstorms with a chapter and who I hope will find her muse and write more Leon/Sora goodness. Kisses to you, guys.
Speaking of Leon/Sora goodness, you guys are probably wondering what I'm going to do next. Well, I plan on updating "La Dernière Nuit" tonight or tomorrow, and the new story (if it works out, as the last story I announced in an A/N got stuck for nearly a year) will come out, hopefully, on my birthday, if the muse doesn't get stubborn.
So, that's all for tonight, my loves. Thank you for being with me through this journey, and I hope I will see you for the next one.
*Bows and Exits*