It wasn't anything special. It was not a miracle that drew them together, no defining moment when they suddenly realised that this was what was meant to be. There was no supernatural force or divine being that had interceded and neither of them had ever believed in fate... In the simplest possible explanation, one day they were friends and the next it was simply more natural that they would be together rather than continue as they were - like pieces finally falling together, fitting easily into a puzzle that they'd never been able to complete.

It was only then that they'd realised, they'd found what they were looking for.

Cloud's knuckles grazed lightly over the strong line of Leon's jaw, tracing down to the edge of his chin in a deceptively gentle caress. It was the first time they'd been gentle with each other – their meetings usually characterised by the chemistry that led them to pin each other against the nearest hard surface and engage in rough, hot sex.

He'd only just realised how beautiful Leon looked when he slept. Relaxed, without the concern that usually professed itself in knotted brows, his hard gaze and the tight line of his mouth.

Different – but not in a bad way.

He preferred Leon in this state, in a way that only Cloud would see him... defenceless. It made him feel...

Leon's eyes fluttered open and the strong arms around his waist tensed.

"Cloud?..." he murmured softly, relaxing and pulling him closer. Cloud dropped his hand and let himself be tugged onto his boyfriend's chest. Their foreheads were pressed together, their breathing slow and even, breath intermingling as Leon fell back into a lazy doze.

This was what made this – him – different. Cloud decided, allowing himself to relax his head down onto the pillow. This uncharacteristic gentleness. This comfort. It... made this – whatever they had between them – special.

And he never wanted to let that feeling go.

At first, they lived through their seldom moments alone together. There was no consistency in the way they cared for each other. Leon, as a leader, dedicated his heart and mind to Hollow Bastion in a way that allowed no room for anyone or anything else. He couldn't afford the time or the emotion, not if he wanted to succeed in accomplishing something truly great. Meanwhile, Cloud would withdraw into his thoughts, forgetting all else, reluctant to tarnish his newfound feelings with memories still plaguing him the way they did.

Leon's hand tensed around the hammer he'd been using. The nail he'd driven into the wood of the wall seconds before was bent at an unusual angle, and therefore had to be removed. A light growl passed his lips as he spun the hammer and used the opposite end to tug out the offending metal.

He held it between his fingers, studying the bend, before throwing it onto the growing pile at the base of the structure and picking out a new one.

This could take awhile.

"HEY LEON!"

He looked up. Sora, Donald and Goofy were bounding towards him, planks in their arms and a bucket of nails dangling from Goofy's fingers. Sora threw him a grin as he dropped the word by him, and Leon stood to greet them, a hand on his hip.

Just as he opened his mouth, however, Sora blinked.

"... I thought that wall was supposed to go over there?"

Leon paused and turned, staring at the construction he'd made such slow progress on. It came out from another at an angle he could now tell was uneven and not even attempting to follow the chalk lines he'd drawn on the concrete base. He scowled lightly as he realised his mistake, unable to suppress a frustrated twitch of his eye.

"Thanks Sora."

Sora paused, seeming to hesitiate. Leon waited – he always did this while he was choosing his words.

"... Leon – are you okay? You don't seem... with it, lately."

He dismissed him with a wave of his hand, turning away to dismantle the wall.

"I'm fine Sora." He assured him with his back turned, waiting until the brunet and his friends had left before raising a hand to rub at his eyes.

"I'm... fine."

Then, as time passed, something started to change.

Leon could no longer go so long without Cloud on his mind. His weakness grew, his emotions betraying him, leading him further and further down a path he did not want to travel. He'd never trusted another person to the extent that he wanted to trust Cloud; he'd never been able to. Nothing had changed. When one lived life in a certain way for so long, anything different was an insurmountable challenge – and as much as he felt for Cloud, he didn't think he'd be able to do it.

But he'd had to try...

"Her name was Rinoa," He'd said slowly, quietly, determinedly looking away.

It was in the reflection of Cid's monitor that he'd seen Cloud look up, frozen in place and obviously unwilling to let this moment pass, eyebrow raised in an invitation – reassurance that he was listening. He should have been, it was the first time Leon had ever spoken about his past. Honestly, neither of them had ever known if he would, Leon unable to bring up the topic and Cloud unwilling to pry; but now that he had, neither were going to question it.

"She was... important to me. I met her at my graduation ball, when I became a SeeD." The persistent tapping of keys paused as Leon's hands abruptly trembled and he clenched them on the edge of the table, still staring unseeingly at the far wall.

"Next thing I knew I was sent on a mission to help her, to aid a rebellion. I didn't think much of her – she was loud; obnoxious even. All talk and no brains." His lips flickered.

"How wrong I was... she was all I needed to motivate me into being the leader I needed to be. I underestimated her, and... she ended up becoming one of the most important people in my life."

No more was said, and soon the typing continued as Leon returned to his work. He'd allowed himself a single thought spared for a reaction as he searched for his reflection, but Cloud hadn't moved. Leon might not even have thought he was listening, if he hadn't chosen that moment to speak.

"Her name is Tifa..."

And through their consolation, understanding grew and gave way to love. Time not only passed, but blurred – a whirlwind of new memories to replace those both men hated and feared. Now that the line had been crossed, both Leon and Cloud could find comfort in each other and their relationship could grow as it had always meant to. Their moments no longer became moments, but a constant. Leon had changed his thinking. Now that he'd let Cloud in, he could give him everything he had – everything he was – without fear.

If Cloud could only learn to do the same.

"He could help, y'know."

Cloud's sharp eyes pinpointed Tifa on the ground below him, staring up at the rooftop with a hand on her hip. He cursed himself for not realising she was there, having been too engrossed in his thoughts to notice. For a SOLDIER, it was an unforgivable slip.

She sighed and pulled herself up, using a pipe trailing down the brickwork to lever herself to the top. Within moments she was beside Cloud, standing over him in the same position she'd been in before.

Cloud frowned. Didn't she ever take the hint?... was he really asking himself that question?...

"Help?..."

Tifa rolled her eyes and sighed. "You know what I'm talking about, Cloud. We've been over this."

He shifted uncomfortably, looking away. They had been over it – more than once, but if he hadn't wanted to pursue the topic the first couple of times, he didn't understand why she wouldn't just leave it alone.

The silence dragged on between them, until it was again broken by Tifa's voice. Only... it was something different to anything Cloud had ever heard. Rather than the vaguely admonishing tone she often used to try and convince him of something, it was a broken plea that cracked her lips and penetrated the night air.

"Cloud – please... I know that he relies on you. He trusts you. I've seen it in the way he looks at you... I've heard it in the way he says your name." She dropped to her knees before him, forcing his gaze. Bright blue locked on black, and Cloud couldn't look away.

"Please trust him like he trusts you. I care about both of you too much to see you throw it all away because you won't let him in... all he wants is to help you. Please, won't you try to let him, Cloud?"

It wasn't the look in her eyes or the truth in her words; it was their history together and the trust born from all those years that led Cloud to nod.

"I... can try."

Over time, Cloud would learn to let Leon in, to use him as a support – to rely on someone else like he never had before... until their relationship was built on a solid foundation of trust as strong as any other. But it wasn't perfect – nothing ever was... and as with most almost-perfect things in the world, this came with a price. Arguments, however seldom, had the ability to hurt both of them beyond any level they'd ever known. Whether it was resolved or ignored in favour of the bigger picture, the time spent fighting took a toll on them both to the point where it was difficult to think of anything else.

"He hasn't been home in awhile..."

Leon looked at Aerith out of the corner of his eye. She stood at the sink, staring out the kitchen window, as though she could decipher Cloud through the torrents of rain that pelted down on Hollow Bastion. He shrugged lightly and went back to sipping his coffee.

It was early – just past dawn – but the swordsman hadn't been home the past two days. It... did worry Leon, he didn't want to give the impression that it didn't, but he knew Cloud would come home when he was ready. Aerith, on the other hand, didn't have so much faith.

"He'll be home soon." He said emphatically, setting down his mug on the table.

She turned.

"Leon, you have to talk to him." She said gently, gaze unwaveringly focused on his eyes. He could never resist that look. "It's been raining the last twenty four hours – and you know Cloud. He'll come back sick, if nothing worse."

Leon sighed heavily, hand rising to pinch the bridge of his nose with his index finger and thumb.

"He won't listen to me anywa-"

"He will." Aerith said faithfully, wrapping her arms around herself, tilting her head as her eyes continued to bore into him. "He loves you, Leon..."

Leon's lips twitched into a frown. Love?... well, maybe.

"I'll think about it." He resolved, pushing back his chair as he stood and walked away from the table. Whether or not he decided to follow Cloud, he couldn't take much more of Aerith's 'persuading'.

Despite how stubborn either of them acted, however, everything would always work out in the end.

"Cloud?"

He hesitated, arms folding defensively as there was no response. Cloud didn't move, didn't turn; gave no acknowledgement of Leon's presence whatsoever. It's what he should've been expecting, but it didn't make it hurt any less.

Leon's gaze hardened as he waited for a response, only after a couple of seconds wondering if he'd even been heard over the sound of the rain falling heavily on them both. His hair was beginning to cling to his face, soaking his jacket and dampening to fur of his collar, but Cloud looked as he always did – as impervious to the rain as he was to everything else.

He looked... perfect.

Leon exhaled heavily and shifted his weight. It was only after another couple of minutes, however, that the silence was broken again.

"... did Aerith send you?"

He paused, aware that his answer could determine whether or not Cloud would bother listening to whatever he had to say. He considered lying, saying that he'd come of his own accord, but he knew that he wouldn't be believed. Maybe, in this situation, it was better to go with the truth.

"... yes."

Cloud turned and Leon looked up, surprised at the smirk on the other's face.

"She does have you wrapped around her finger, doesn't she?"

Leon paused, almost shocked. Wasn't he still angry with him? His surprise was evident on his face, apparently, because Cloud's smirk only grew.

"... you don't think I'm still angry with you, don't you?"

Leon shook his head and turned his gaze to the ground, frowning, brows knotting in concern. Why hadn't he known this? Didn't he understand? Was there something he didn't know about Cloud? What did he yet have to learn – what had he gotten wrong...

He almost jumped as fingers alight under his chin and tilted his head up, soft lips meeting his own. His eyes slid closed as he returned the kiss tenderly, arms winding around Cloud easily. He was surprised to find him trembling and tightened his grasp, pulling him into a warm embrace.

And life would go on.

Every day, every week, every month would bring new challenges and new feelings. Of course there would be problems, things that neither of them knew how to deal with... but as long as they could rely on each other, they would find a way. Whatever the future would bring, both Leon and Cloud would persevere.

But this time, they'd do it together.