What's this? A sequel? OMG, what am I doing, I have no plot lined up! Oh well…we'll see what happens. ;)
For all of you who stumble upon this story, this is a sequel to "The City is at War", which can be accessed via my author's profile page. I would strongly advise reading it before you embark on this story (trust me, it will make a lot more sense that way). This story was born from the many pleas for a continuation of TCiaW (it looks way weird abbreviated…), so, here you go! This story is probably going to be more about all of the fun things that I kept from the first story because they didn't quite make sense, though I'll try to keep a firm grasp of (their) reality in the plot as well.
The sun was shining brightly overhead, causing sweat to drip down Squall's back and plastering the white t-shirt he was wearing to his skin. There was a soft wind blowing but in his opinion it wasn't blowing nearly hard enough to take some of the edge off of the heat. It was the middle of summer, Sora was off from school for break, and here he was, lifting huge boxes full of metal scrap onto shelves because Cid "couldn't reach the god-damned wrenches with those heaps of crap blockin' his way".
Two years had passed since he had returned from service and he was still, remarkably, working for Cid in his junk, er, pawn shop. Actually, there was nothing remarkable about it. Although Traverse Town's economy had picked up a bit, jobs were still scarce and he was still without any sort of higher education. In Along the way he had actually developed a fondness for the store and for the gruff blonde who ran it, not that it would stop him from griping about the heat. "Cid, turn up the air conditioning! I'm boiling alive out here!"
A shout echoed out from the front of the store, "Use the goddamn fan, Leon! I'm not turnin' up no AC when you have the back door open all the damn way! All the air'll get sucked right outside, might as well just burn money!"
Squall rolled his eyes and let out a small grunt as he heaved another wooden crate full of metal up onto a nearby workbench. He supposed the one side-benefit of all this was that he had yet to loose any muscle mass from his months with SeeD. Putting his hands on his hips, Squall surveyed the work he had left. Only about fifteen more boxes to stack up, shouldn't take too long, except the heat was starting to get to him. Not only that, but sweat was starting to collect inside his boots, causing his tracking anklet to chafe against his skin. "Could you at least bring me something to drink?"
Cid's answer was nearly immediate, "I'm helping a customer! Get your own damned drink! There's some tea in the fridge!"
Snorting, Squall pulled the bottom of his shirt up and used it to wipe off his brow. Figures that Cid would be shouting and cursing when he was waiting on a customer. Deciding that he had earned himself a break, Squall turned and walked back through the workshop to a beat-up old refrigerator pushed into the corner. Even Cid's tea sounded good to him right now, as long as it was chilled the taste didn't matter.
Grabbing a can out of the fridge, he pressed the cold aluminum to his face as he walked back towards the boxes, sitting down for only about a minute to gulp the liquid down before getting back to work. After all, the quicker he finished, the faster he would be able to get back home and relax.
His work ethic managed to carry him through another half hour of labor before his focus was broken by footsteps coming up the concrete driveway towards the open garage door. Straightening up, Squall wiped a fresh layer of sweat from his forehead before turning around, "Can I help…you…?" Squall's voice trailed off to be replaced with a small frown. "You're here early."
The newcomer smirked before stepping into the workshop, the sun catching on his blonde spikes before fading away as he walked into the shaded area, "Traffic was good. Which I suppose isn't too surprising, it being Friday afternoon. Everyone's heading towards Twilight Town for a weekend vacation at the beach; I was just lucky enough to be going the other direction."
Squall shook his head and returned to his work. He only had two more crates to stack up before he could leave. "I keep telling you, you don't have to make the trip at all. I'm not going anywhere, Cloud."
Detective Cloud Strife shrugged and took a seat at a rusty bench pushed up against one of the walls, his arms crossing over his chest as he watched Squall get back to work, "And every time I tell you that, as your parole officer, it's my job to check in on you. Besides, this has gone on for nearly two years now, you think you'd be use to it by now."
It was true. For about twenty months Cloud had been driving the two hours into Traverse Town every weekend and staying at the Leonhart's place until Sunday morning. He even came during the holidays, though his visits were typically shorter then. Squall still couldn't figure out why the detective did it though. The tracker around his ankle would tell Cloud exactly where he was and where he had been, and he wasn't showing any signs of any kind of relapse into criminal behaviors. He also knew for a fact that neither Roxas nor Axel came over to check up on Zexion or Riku as often, the two ex-cons only getting visits twice a month at most. The visits could have been for their relationship, if they had had one. What went on between the two of them was too confusing for even Squall to keep up with.
Ignoring the blonde staring at his back, Squall finished in record time and stood up to call back toward the front of the shop, "Hey Cid, I'm done back here, so I'm leaving."
The gruff man's response was once again nearly instantaneous, "That's fine. Be back early Monday, we're getting in a shipment of engine parts!"
Finally glancing back at Cloud, Squall wiped off his hands on his work pants. "Ready to go?"
The man nodded and stood up as Squall walked over to him, raising an eyebrow as the ex-SeeD drew closer, "You're covered in sweat."
Squall rolled his eyes, "Yeah, it's a little warm out today. The real surprise is that you're not covered in it."
Though Cloud was wearing a short-sleeved white button-up shirt, he was also wearing a tie, belt, slacks, and dress shoes. It was the closest thing to casual Squall had seen the detective in, as sad as that was. He had to wonder if Cloud even owned a pair of shorts. Not like he was really one to talk.
"I've been locked up in my air conditioned office all day going over case files."
"Relatively. Although ever since the three of you, nothing has seemed too exciting."
Squall snorted. "I'll bet." People, especially the citizens of Twilight Town were still a bit upset over their whole criminal scandal. Every now and again someone would even call him up asking for an interview, which he always "politely" declined. The one good thing about the whole ordeal was that his, Zexion's, and Riku's photos weren't widely circulated in the media so they could go places without being assaulted by townsmen.
"Speaking of air conditioning, I can give you a ride back in my car if you want."
"Thanks, but my bike's parked around back." Cleaning himself up as best he could, Squall motioned for Cloud to follow him outside before pulling the workshop's large garage door down. Cid would lock up from the inside when he was ready to leave, so he didn't have to worry about that. "I have to go by the grocery store to pick up some things for dinner."
"Need any help?"
Squall shook his head, heading for his motorcycle parked up against the sidewall of Cid's shop, "No…Actually, get some rice going. Dinner will go faster that way…" He paused, thinking back on how strange that sounded, before shaking his head again. Cloud helping cook dinner wasn't too odd of an occurrence, since he ate with him and Sora the nights he stayed over, but it certainly wasn't how a parole officer and his parolee were supposed to act. Trying not to think on it too much, Squall mounted his bike and snapped on his helmet, giving Cloud a small nod before roaring off toward the supermarket.
By the time Squall got home Cloud's patrol car was parked in the alleyway, leaving just enough room for Squall to park his bike beside it. Grabbing the bag of groceries from his saddle bag, Squall headed inside to find Sora sitting in front of the TV with his summer homework spread out in front of him on the living room floor.
Squall scoffed as he shut the front door, "Why do you even bother to bring your homework out if you never even look away from the screen?"
His younger brother, now a seventeen-year-old young adult, glanced up and playfully stuck out his tongue. "I'm getting some of it done! Mostly during commercial breaks…"
Sora looked more or less the same as he did when he was fifteen except he had grew a few inches and had gained some muscle mass back on his frame. He was still a short, lean kid, just less so now. Squall was happy to see the change because after so many years of being sick, Sora's health had finally begun to return in full. His immune system was still somewhat weak, but the teen was down to only having to take one pill a day and was actually able to play for and keep up with some of his high school's sports teams. "That's something I guess…"
Smiling, Sora sat up, "Besides, it's not due until the end of summer, so I still have lots of time before school starts back up again." Finally noticing the bag in his older brother's hand, he made to get up off of the ground, "Do you need some help with that?"
"It's fine. Cloud's in the kitchen?"
"Yup. He got here about fifteen minutes ago."
Squall nodded, "Food will probably be on the table in twenty minutes then."
Sora nodded back and turned around to face the television again as Squall continued on into the kitchen. Sure enough, Cloud was there leaning up against the counter with some papers in his hands.
A pot of rice was already cooking on the stove, just as he had asked for. Setting the bag of groceries down beside Cloud, Squall glanced down out of the corner of his eye at the detective's paperwork, "What's that?"
"Hm? Oh, it's just a case file that I didn't have time to finish reading up on at the station."
Interest slightly piqued, Squall looked over his shoulder as he began prepping the rest of their dinner, "What's it about?"
Cloud's blue eyes darted up from the paper to his face before a small frown played across his lips, "It would be morally and legally wrong for me to tell you, being a felon yourself."
"Right. And how does that make a difference?"
"Dealing with you two years ago nearly lost me my job due to all the rules I broke. I'm not interested in causing anymore problems any time soon."
And that was the end of that conversation. It was moments like these that put up barriers in between him and Cloud that sometimes felt impenetrable. They reminded Squall that the only real reason Cloud was there was because he was his parole officer and felt like he, being a convicted criminal, would never really be anything else in Cloud's eyes. Not that he could really say that he was any better than that; whenever he looked at Cloud he felt an attraction but he was also reminded of every single bad memory about being hunted down by the cops when he was still a thief.
Dinner, as usual, was a relatively quiet affair, Sora being the only one to really initiate any kind of conversation among the three. After a few tries, he finally got Cloud to talk about what Axel and Roxas were up to and Cloud admitted that Roxas would be coming into Traverse Town that weekend to check up on Zexion.
Squall completely ignored the warning glare the blonde detective sent him as the man revealed the news. If Cloud thought that he was going to go straight to the phone and warn Zexion about Roxas's surprise visit then he was in for a disappointment. It wasn't that Squall hated Zexion or anything, he just hadn't felt the urge call him up since they stopped doing, business together. Now Riku was another matter entirely; if Squall had his way the silver-haired hitman would get thrown in jail. It's not that Squall ever really saw him around, like he sometimes saw Zexion or Demyx walking around downtown. Oh no, he wouldn't have minded that. Even though he never saw Riku, Squall knew that somehow the assassin was keeping in touch with Sora when his back was turned. He didn't know what the silver-haired man was up to, but he didn't like it.
His thoughts carried him all through dinner and before Squall knew it he was sitting down on the couch with Sora watching TV as Cloud excused himself to the back room. That's how it always was with the blonde, he would just slip away to the back bedroom to work on his paperwork or on his laptop while Squall and Sora hung out. He was pretty sure it wasn't an insult to their company or anything, it was just that the detective still took on too much work and couldn't spare the time.
Perhaps noticing that although Squall's gaze were pointed toward the television screen, his eyes didn't actually seem to be focusing on the flashing pictures, Sora poked his brother's side lightly, "Hey…Squall? You okay?"
Blinking, Squall ran his hand down his face, "Yeah, just thinking…"
A lop-sided grin spread across Sora's face but Squall could tell that the teen was troubled, "You seem to be doing a lot of that lately. Is everything okay?"
"Yeah. Don't worry about it."
Sora's smile grew a little drier, "That's not fair; you get to worry about me all the time."
Squall snorted before reaching over to ruffle Sora's hair up, "Life's not always fair, Sor. Besides, nothing's wrong."
His little brother squawked a bit as his hair was mussed, patting down some of the wayward spikes with a pout as Squall pulled his hand away, "Fine. But if something's going on, I can help you know. I'm not a little kid anymore."
Satisfied, Squall leaned back against the cushions as he gave the seventeen year old a small smile, "I know…" His voice drifted off as he glanced down at the digital clock on the DVD player. 11:23pm. Was it already that late?
Following his gaze, Sora grinned up at him, "Tired?" When Squall only gave a short affirmative grunt, Sora grabbed the remote and turned the power to the TV off. Apparently neither of them had really been watching whatever it was that had been on. "You should be, you got up at like five this morning!" Seeing Sora begin to gather up his school stuff, Squall slowly stood up, "Are you going to sleep in tomorrow?"
"If I can. At least until eight."
Straightening up with his arms full of his summer homework, Sora grinned again, "Psh, that's not sleeping in! Come on, it's Saturday! It's not like we have anything better to do!"
"I'll need to get up to make breakfast—"
Sora cut him off as they both began to walk back down the hall towards their respective rooms, "I can scramble some eggs or something myself. You deserve a little break every once and a while. I don't want to see you out of that room until at least nine o'clock!"
Smirking down at the teen as Sora stopped at his own bedroom door, Squall gave a sloppy mock salute, "Yes, sir. I just don't want to hear any whining coming from you tomorrow about being hungry."
"You won't! Goodnight!"
Squall watched his brother slip into his room, shutting the door lightly behind him, before the older Leonhart turned and walked towards the backroom. After he had gotten back from his second tour, or the second half of his first tour, with SeeD, he had kept using his old room until a few months afterwards when he was finally able to come to terms with the fact that, as the new head of the house, he should really be using the master bedroom. It helped that Cloud had been using the room when he came over on the weekends to watch Sora…because of that, it had been a little easier for him and Sora both to redecorate their parents' old bedroom in order to turn it into a space for Squall. They had converted Squall's childhood bedroom into a guest bedroom and Cloud really should have started to sleep in there when he came over on the weekends but somehow he just never moved out of the master bedroom. It actually worked out well enough for Squall because, no matter whatever else was going on between them, he never minded sharing a bed with the blonde detective.
The door to the master bedroom was closed but Squall silently let himself inside, slowly closing the door as he let his eyes adjust to the darkened room. It looked like Cloud had already gone to sleep; he could just make out a messy head of blonde hair resting on one of the pillows. Carefully moving over to his dresser, he made short work of changing into a pair of sleeping pants then slipped over to the bed.
As the mattress dipped under his weight, a soft murmur escaped the detective. Waiting a moment to see if Cloud had woken up, Squall finally settled in only once he was sure that the detective was still asleep. Reaching out across the few inches separating them, Squall ran his fingers lightly through the other man's hair and pushed a few unruly blonde strands out of his face. He had been hoping on getting to bed before Cloud fell asleep so they could, well, so they could have sex, but it looked like the other had overworked himself again.
Squall pulled his hand back, a small sigh slipping past his lips, and rolled over onto his back to stare up at the ceiling, a good day's hard work and the warmth of his bed mate slowly luring him into sleep.
He felt heavy.
There was a bright light shining down on him, that and a whirlwind of sand blinding him through a blood spattered visor. Squall could smell the sweat dripping down his face, his ears ringing with incomprehensible words and the sounds of gunfire.
He was running, running forward, where to didn't really matter. Every now and then he'd recognize something; a collapsed building, a small rock wall, the chipped plaster on the corner of a house...Then, suddenly he knew exactly where he was. His view had opened up to reveal an opened courtyard. It was a landscape he had seen more than a thousand times running through his mind.
The world had gone silent except for the sound of his own panting breath echoing inside his helmet. He couldn't see them, but he could feel enemy combatants staring down at him from every direction, waiting for a single misstep to gun him down. Even so, his attention was captured instead by a lone figure running towards him.
He couldn't see the man's face but he could see blood running down the other's clothes as he stumbled forward, the front of the man's SeeD uniform blackened and charred. Squall was sucking air into his lungs in huge gulps now, his throat having constricted in horror, and picked up his pace, running with everything he had, his muscles pushed to the limit. Maybe this time he would be able to reach him. Maybe this time…this time…
The silence seemed to stretch on for an entire lifespan as Squall reached out his hand towards the wounded man; he was only a foot away, their fingertips almost touching…please, for god's sake, this time let him just—
Suddenly, the sand under his foot collapsed and a scream ripped from his mouth as the entire world seemed to explode, everything, the man, the sand, the buildings, his body, everything was consumed in flame as he was blown off of his feet. Every nerve was on fire as he began to fly head over heels—
"…Leon!" Squall let out a shuddering gasp as a voice pierced through the hellscape.
Squall felt a sharp sting on his cheek and gasped again, his breath coming in ragged pants as he felt another sharp sting slap the other side of his face, his eyes focusing just in time to see Cloud retracting his hand. The blonde was leaning over him, his brows furrowed in concern, "Leon, are you awake?"
"…Cloud? What…?" Pushing himself up onto his elbows, Squall gripped his chest, his breathing calming as he realized where he was. With Cloud, in his bed, in his house, in Traverse Town. Eyes closing shut again, he let himself fall back down onto the mattress, "Ugh…"
Some of he worry faded from Cloud's face, "Another nightmare?"
The blonde sighed and leaned down to rest his forehead on Squall's shoulder, "Ha…you scared the crap out of me. You'd think I would've been used to it by now."
Squall frowned, slipping a hand around Cloud's waist, "It doesn't happen that often…but, sorry." Occasionally, more frequently than Squall would probably like to admit to, he was still violently woken up by strange hybrids between nightmares and memories of his time with SeeD. After he had gotten back from duty, he had attended mandatory—you know you're in a bad line of work when it's mandatory—therapy sessions with a certified SeeD psychologist in town for six months. He hadn't thought it was necessary but maybe it had helped? If it had, Squall hated to think how bad it would have been otherwise.
He was brought out of his thoughts as Cloud let out a small grunt before placing a short kiss on Squall's shoulder. The action caused the remnant fear linger in Squall's mind to slip away and his hand slid up, his fingers dancing lightly across Cloud's pale back. "…What time is it?"
"Well if you'd bother to turn your head and look at your alarm clock, you'd see it's about seven in the morning."
"Seven? Hmm…Sora ordered me to stay in my room until nine."
Cloud chuckled, "Did he? That was optimistic of him. I guess you have two hours to get a bit more sleep."
Squall smiled slyly, "How about spending two hours to do something else?"
A small noise of surprise burst passed the detective's lips as Squall flipped them over so the blonde's back was pressed up against the mattress. Hovering above him, Squall intertwined their fingers, pinning their hands to the bed on either side of Cloud's head. Getting over his shock, Cloud rolled his eyes and blew a strand of Squall's hair out of his face, "What, I'm stuck in here with you too?"
Leaning down, Squall pressed a kiss against Cloud's neck, "It won't be nearly as exciting if you leave…"
Feeling the detective hesitate then slowly tilt his head to allow Squall better access, he knew he had won. "Well…I did pass out early last night—" Cloud's voice hitched into a moan as Squall moved his head up to connect their lips, the kiss quickly becoming more demanding.
It was times like this that really confused Squall. Parolees shouldn't be making out with their parole officers and yet, here he was, making out and planning to go further with a Twilight Town Police Detective. His only consolation over the whole matter was Cloud was just as guilty of creating the situation as he was. Outside of the bedroom he would hesitate to even call them friends but inside they were more like lovers than sex friends…Then again, now really wasn't a good time to be questioning things.
Just as Cloud had just gotten his arms wrapped around Squall's neck and the ex-soldier reached down to take care of their sleeping pants, a piercing ring cut through the mood. Groaning, Squall collapsed on top of the blonde as Cloud swore and snatched his cell phone off of Squall's nightstand. Feeling more than hearing Cloud's annoyed tisk, Squall glanced up, "Who's calling?"
"Don't answer it."
"I would love to, but it might be something about work—hn," Cloud bit back a moan as Squall nipped at the blonde's jaw, "h-hold on, Leon."
Squall growled but backed off and Cloud flipped his cell phone open, "You better make this fast, Ax."
From where he was laying, Squall could hear Axel on the other end of the line, the redhead sounding the same as ever, "What, is this a bad time?"
"You could say that. Why did you call?"
Axel laughed, "Alright, I'll get right to it. I'm not even going to ask what you're up to on Saturday morning. Do you have Riku's current home address?"
Squall muffled a small laugh in Cloud's shoulder as the blonde scowled into the phone, "Why would I know that? Isn't that something we have on file?"
"We do, but last time I went to find him, no one was there and it looked like the house had been abandoned for a few months. All the notices I try to send just get sent back to me, so it's kind of important that I figure this out, what with all the legal paperwork and crap that we have to deal with. That guy's been nothing been a pain the ass to try to keep an eye on."
"Yeah, I can believe it."
"Could you ask Leon if he knows anything about it? The guy might have a better idea about where Riku can be reached."
"Hang on a minute, I'll ask."
Having overheard the conversation, Squall had a response ready as soon as Cloud covered up the receiver. "I have no idea where Riku's staying. We don't really talk."
Cloud sighed, "That's what I figured." Pulling his hand off of the receiver, he continued his conversation with Axel, "Leon's got nothing. You might want to call Roxas up; he said that he'd be checking up on Zexion today, so he might be able to get some information for you."
Axel heaved a frustrated sigh, "Alright, I'll try it, but could you ask around again? I'm asking because Riku's tracking anklet says he goes over to the Leonhart house like two times a week, so I figured someone there would know what his address is now."
Stiffening up, Squall's eyes narrowed. Riku was coming over twice a week? When? When Squall was at work? Perhaps sensing his building rage, Cloud ran a soothing hand down Squall's back, "I don't think I've got any leads for you. You'll just have to use your detective skills and figure it out yourself."
"Ugh, fine. I'll give Roxy a call. Enjoy your weekend~!"
Cloud's nose wrinkled at Axel's sing-song tune and flipped the phone shut. Noticing that Squall was still frowning, Cloud set the phone back down on the table before yanking Squall down for another kiss. Grunting, Squall accepted the kiss but when they separated was still glowering, prompting Cloud to speak, "You didn't know about Riku coming over?"
Managing to read more in his scowl than most were able to, Cloud frowned, "Are you worried about Sora?"
Sighing, knowing that Cloud pretty much already knew what he was thinking, Squall just nodded, "Yeah…I don't, like the idea of Riku coming over when Sora's home alone."
"He seems to be doing fine."
Squall knew that Cloud was right; Sora hadn't mentioned anything and his little brother would have surely brought it up if Riku had been bothering him. It's not like Sora had changed or was behaving suspiciously either, so it shouldn't have been a problem. But that didn't mean that he liked the situation any better.
His thoughts were interrupted by Cloud's voice, "Hey, you can ask Sora about it later. Besides, if I'm not mistaken, you're not allowed to leave this room until nine. So…how about finishing what you started?"
"Hm? The mood isn't ruined?"
Cloud's smirk managed to pull a small, sly smile from Squall's own lips as his anger slowly subsided. "Not completely, no."
Roxas frowned as the cell phone in his pocket vibrated just as he shifted his car into park. He knew that ringtone. Yanking it out, Roxas stared up at a quiet apartment building. "Hey, Ax."
"Hey. How was the drive, Roxy-baby?"
"Don't call me that. The drive was fine. Anyway, what's up? I just made it to Zexion's place so I want to get in there fast to see if he's up to anything. If he notices that I'm here, I'm sure he'll be able to put anything he doesn't want me to see away."
"What, you too, Roxy? Everyone's telling me to talk fast today…Fine. When you go into check up on Zexion, can you ask him if he know where Riku's staying? Or at least a permanent address? I need to send him some shit through the mail, so I need a real address. Leon doesn't know anything and I would call Zexion myself but I figure he'd be less able to dodge the question if someone asked in person."
Roxas sighed as he stepped out of his car, his over-shirt nearly getting caught in the door as he slammed it shut. He was in plain clothes today, mostly because he had been too lazy to iron his uniform last night but also because he didn't want to stick out too much. And this was just what he needed, one more thing to have to try to pry out of Zexion. "Sure, I can't promise anything, but I'll see what I can do."
"Thanks, doll. Hey, are you going to get back into town tonight?"
Pulling his phone away from his ear to check the time as he started up the stairs to Zexion and Demyx's apartment, Roxas nodded into his cell. It was only ten in the morning and he had a few things to take care of, but if he made this quick he could be back into Twilight Town by five, "I should get back in time for dinner, why, you have plans?"
"How about I stop by your place with some food and a movie tonight? Neither of us are getting a day off this weekend, the break'll be good for us."
"Sure, that sounds great. See you then."
"Awesome. Stay safe, alright?"
"I'll be fine, Ax." One thing he hated about being a cop out on the street was how Axel, and Cloud for that matter, were so overprotective of him all the time. Hell, the entire station was. He was pretty sure he was the only new cop to be issued a pistol, three cans of mace, a baton, and two tasers. Did they really think he needed that much protection? Just because he looked young…and a bit feminine…and was short for his age…damn it, all of it just pissed him off sometimes, even if he knew that they were only looking out for him.
"Right. See you later then. Love you."
A smile flickered onto Roxas's face; even Axel could take the hint sometimes, "Love you too. Bye."
Ending the call, Roxas looked up to find that he had reached Zexion's floor and his spirits dropped a little. Back to work.
Sneakers scuffing up against the concrete floor, Roxas made his way down the open hallway towards the right address. The twenty-four year old let out a sigh; after all the times he had paid Zexion visits, he no longer needed to bother with looking up at the apartment numbers. He had just about reached the right door when he realized something was off.
The door to Zexion's apartment was slightly ajar.
The door was just barely open, but Roxas's blue eyes sharpened as his gaze zeroed in on the oddity. It was possible that Zexion or Demyx had just ran out for a moment, but then he hadn't seen either of them downstairs. Besides, something about the situation just felt off, and if Roxas had learned anything from his time as a rookie beat cop it was that it was important to follow his instincts.
Approaching the door more cautiously, his mouth tightened into a frown as he heard voices coming from inside. One of them was definitely Zexion's—he recognized the man's quiet voice—but the other was strange to him. Whoever he was and whatever they were talking about, he could tell that Zexion wasn't happy about it.
Wishing for once that he actually had thought to bring one of the many defensive tools the department had issued him, Roxas took a breath before straightening up and giving three sharp knocks on the front door before pushing it open. As soon as he knocked, the conversation inside the apartment had cut-off instantly and as he swung the front door open Roxas could see two surprised faces staring back at him. One, of course, was Zexion's, who hid his surprise fairly well, and the other belonging to an unfamiliar man. He looked rather unexceptional and gave off the distinctive vibe of being a low-ranking lackey, which made Roxas even more curious as to how such a man could be riling Zexion up.
Never one to miss a beat, Zexion took his sudden appearance in stride, "Ah, Roxas. I was not expecting a visit from you today."
Okay, that was a bad sign. Zexion never, ever called him "Roxas"; it was always "Officer Strife". Roxas hadn't even known that Zexion knew his first name. Deciding to play along, especially since he was ill-equipped for a serious confrontation, Roxas nodded, "Uh, ya, sorry to barge in like this, Ienzo."
Zexion nodded, Roxas seeing a pleased look flash though his eyes as the man realized that Roxas understood that something unusual was going on. Roxas had called Zexion "Ienzo" after all, an event that was even rarer than Zexion saying Roxas's first name. The third man in the room seemed uneasy, his eyes darting around in a way that set Roxas on edge. As Zexion spoke up again his voice was deadly calm as he brushed a strand of light violet hair from his visible eye, "What can I do for you?"
"Ah, I'm," Roxas shifted his gaze away from the strangers' as he thought desperately for a good excuse that didn't involve giving away that he worked for the police. Whatever was going on, it seemed like it definitely wasn't legal and he didn't want to add gasoline to the fire. "I'm, looking for Demyx?"
"It would be for the best if you came back at another time. I am afraid he is not here right now." Another oddity. It was Saturday, and Demyx and Zexion always spent Saturday at their apartment together. That's why Roxas always came to check up on Zexion on Saturday, because he knew exactly where they'd be.
Confused, Roxas almost missed Zexion's quick glance toward the back of the apartment. Figuring it was a clue, Roxas nodded after a short pause, "Alright, I'll come back later then."
As Zexion nodded a curt goodbye, Roxas slowly closed the front door again, having the distinct feeling that he was closing off a soon-to-be crime scene. Zexion had basically told him to get out, so the situation was definitely off. Not to mention Demyx had apparently run off or was hiding somewhere. As anxiety welled up inside him, Roxas pulled out his phone again and began to walk around the side of the apartment building. Zexion had given some indication that Demyx was in the back of the apartment so maybe he'd be able to gain access to the apartments through a back window or something. The walkway didn't wrap all the way around, but hopefully he'd be able to find a way over to a window once he was back there. And while he was at it, he knew he had to do something to calm his nerves so he raised his phone back up to his ear and speed-dialed his brother.
Cloud picked up on the second ring. "Hello?"
"It's Roxas. Listen, I'm at Zexion's and something seriously weird is going on."
He instantly had the detective's attention, "Weird? What do you mean weird?"
"I dunno, it's strange." Roxas tried to figure out how to explain himself without sounding paranoid as he rounded the corner of the apartment complex facing the side of the building, "There was a strange guy over, someone I haven't seen before, and he and Zexion were talking in the front room when I got there. The guy seemed really sketchy, you know? And he seemed to be ticking Zexion off. Anyway, Zexion pretty much told me to get out without letting on that I was with the police, so I left. It's just strange; I have a feeling something's going down here and I'm unarmed so I don't know what to do."
Cloud's tone was serious as he spoke next. "Are you still there at the apartment?"
"Alright. I'll be right over, and Leon says that he's coming too. I'll act as your backup for now and I'll call the local Traverse Town police and see if they can have a unit on stand-by, just in case something does happen. In the mean time, do you know where Demyx is? He's supposed to be there, right? It would be best to get him out of that situation."
"Yeah, Demyx is supposed to be here but so far I haven't—wait, found him!" Having just rounded the final corner to face the back of the apartments, Roxas caught sight of Demyx. He was sitting on the rickety fire escape stairwell in his pajamas and, judging by the open window behind him, it looked like the blonde musician had climbed out of a back window of his and Zexion's apartment to sit out on the rusted metal platform.
Snapping his phone shut, Roxas hurried over to the end of the real walkway and leaned over the railing, keeping his voice quiet so as not to attract the wrong kind of attention, "Hey, Demyx!"
The older blonde started, his head whipping around before he spotted Roxas and a strained smile spread across the easy-going man's lips, "Hey Roxas…! I didn't know you were visiting today?"
Roxas returned the gesture. Despite his rather business-like relationship with Zexion, Roxas genuinely liked the ex-criminal's boyfriend. "It seems like it's a busy day for you guys."
Demyx let out a nervous laugh, "Yeah, I guess you could say that."
Glancing to his side to make sure that no one was watching, Roxas turned his attention back to Demyx, "How about you come over here where it's a little more, you know, sturdy?"
"Ah, I would seriously love to, but I think I'm trapped out here. I already tried to get down to the ground, but this fire escape's so rusted I don't know if it will hold my weight!"
Looking at the fire escape, Roxas believed it. Then he checked the distance between where he was standing and the fire escape. It was a bit of a jump, but definitely doable. "How about you come over here then? Don't worry, I'll catch you if your jump's short."
Letting out another tense laugh, Demyx nonetheless rose to his feet, "Boy, you sure know how to make a guy feel more secure." Brushing off the boxer shorts he was wearing, the musician eyed the four feet he would have to jump warily. Roxas didn't envy him.
"Listen, if you don't feel up to it, you can wait there, but—"
Demyx shook his head and interrupted the young cop as he prepared himself for the leap, "No, I really wanna get off of this thing too. Alright…here goes nothing!"
If he hadn't been so worried that Demyx was going to hurt himself, Roxas would have laughed as Demyx jumped, his arms flailing comically. Reaching his own arms out, Roxas caught hold of the older blonde who had just managed to grab onto the outside of the walkway railing. Roxas grit his teeth and heaved the man over the waist-high barrier and sent both of them tumbling to the concrete walkway, Demyx landing roughly on top of the cop.
Pushing himself up, Demyx shook his head, "Woah, I'm not trying that one again! Sorry about falling on you!"
Roxas grimaced and rubbed the back of his head which had smacked against the floor. "It's alright…It was partly my fault…Anyway," Slowly standing up, Roxas looked at his parolee's boyfriend, "what's going on in there? Why did you climb out on the fire escape?"
Worry flashed through Demyx's eyes. "I'm not sure; I climbed out the window 'cause Ienzo told me to after there was a knock on our door. He seemed really nervous but he wouldn't tell me anything about it. When I saw you come around the corner, I was kinda hoping that you could tell me."
"Well, let's you get down to my car and you can wait there while I run back up here and see if Zexion needs any hel—"
Roxas was suddenly cut off by the ear-shattering bang of a gunshot followed by a loud scream, nearly causing Demyx to jump back into Roxas's arms. "What was that?"
"That shot sounded like it was coming from your apartment!" Turning around to face Demyx, Roxas was about to tell him to go downstairs and wait in the car when the man shoved passed him, his face panicked.
"No, wait, Demyx!" Roxas began to chase after him, "Wait! We should wait until Cloud gets here! Hey, damn it, stop!" Demyx, though, didn't seem to be listening at all and sprinted around to the front of the apartment building and then down the hall to his front door, leaving Roxas chasing after from behind. Even from the start of the hall, Roxas could see that the door to the apartment was now flung wide open, Demyx having already ran nearly to the threshold. Damn, the guy could run fast when he wanted to! "Wait! We don't know what hap—"
He was cut off by a sharp cry of alarm from Demyx, the man frozen in the doorway. Catching up in less than a second, Roxas pushed him aside to reveal what he had feared: a crime scene.
There was a large splash of blood splattered across the beige carpet near the front door and a small trail of blood droplets leading towards the entrance. It looked like someone had left the apartment; they must have run because Roxas hadn't seen anyone leaving the building when he had rounded the corner. Face pale, Roxas swallowed and motioned for Demyx to stay put before taking a step inside, carefully avoiding the blood splatter. He didn't immediately see anyone, but that didn't mean that the room was empty. He really, really wished that he had his gun with him. "T-Twilight Town Police Department! Come out with your hands up!"
Hearing a small grunt from behind the couch, Roxas tip-toed over to it, his heart pounding in his chest. They had heard a gunshot and by the looks of it someone had been fairly badly injured. If Zexion had pulled the trigger, he was probably safe but if the gun had belonged to the stranger and Zexion had been shot then he could very well be putting his life on the line. "I can hear you back there! I said put your hands up!"
There was a short pause before Roxas heard a murmured voice and all his fear left him in a long sigh of relief. "…That…would be rather, bothersome at the moment…"
He recognized the voice. It was Zexion behind the couch. Still, he couldn't take any chances and kept an authoritative tone to his voice, demanding a quick response "Do you have a weapon?"
Another small grunt and Zexion pushed himself up from behind the couch, his right hand pressing a handkerchief up against his left forearm. "Not the gun you are undoubtedly looking for…"
"Where is it?"
Zexion scowled, "Unfortunately it belonged to that hooligan who tried to shoot me. He took it with him when he ran out of my home. I suppose this means that you did not see him leave…"
"No, I missed him." Turning his head back, Roxas yelled back outside, "You can come in Demyx, it's all clear. Avoid the blood when you enter though."
Immediately after Roxas gave the okay, Demyx dashed into the room, dancing nimbly around the stains on the carpet and hurrying over to Zexion's side. "Oh my god, Ienzo, are you alright? What happened to your arm?"
Roxas saw a wince flash across Zexion's face as Demyx sat down on the couch next to him. "I would have preferred for you to remain hidden until I thought it safe to come and get you. I am, however, not hurt too badly." Pulling the handkerchief away, he revealed a small patch of blood welling up from a small flesh wound, "The bullet he fired merely grazed me; the moron had terrible aim."
Blinking, Roxas turned around to look back at the blood on the floor. "Then where did all that come from?"
A dark smile slipped across Zexion's lips only for a second and he raised his left hand to reveal a sharp and very deadly looking black knife clutched in his fingers, thick crimson dripping from the blade. Demyx reeled back at the sight and Roxas's eyes widened as Zexion answered in an even tone that did not befit his deed. "Though the idiot missed me, my counter-attack was much more effective. It was a case of complete self-defense, I assure you."
"I…I…" Roxas was at a complete loss of what to say. No way did he know the correct protocol for this! Today was supposed to be an easy day, just a quick check up, that's all. This had just devolved into a whole new level of police work. Just as Roxas was about to open his mouth to try again, he heard footsteps rushing up to the front door.
All three men in the apartment turned their heads as Cloud suddenly appeared in the entryway, Leon close on his heels. The Twilight Town detective's breath faltered as he looked inside before his mouth fell open, his blue eyes wide with shock. "What the hell happened here?"
Roxas could only shake his head and turn his gaze towards Zexion. Releasing a small huff, the older man seated himself fully on the couch as Cloud and Leon warily entered the room. "The man you, Officer Strife," Zexion nodded towards Roxas, "saw before was simply an overzealous flunky delivering a message. But, it would seem that we have a problem. The Organization has returned."