+ Johnny, My Dead Hamster +
+ Chapter 1/? +
Leon opened the door, and there was a boy he had never seen before standing on his front porch.
The boy blinked back.
Finding a boy on his door step was unusual for a number of reasons, not least of which that Leon himself, newly a quarter of a century old, was himself no longer a boy. Just a few days ago Aerith had flicked away his first gray hair with a twinkle in her eyes and a nonchalant, "Grandpa Leon, hah."
"Hi," the boy said, thankfully shredding the hateful image of a gloating Aerith.
Leon blinked, attention swirling back to the boy.
An unsure smile was playing around the boy's lips, as if he was afraid that Leon would smash the door into his face any second now.
Which was closer to the truth than he probably knew.
"U-Um," the boy began, cocking his head to the side and giving Leon a tentative smile. "U-Um."
And that's when Leon did what comes most natural to people with his kind of social competency. Which is, saying "I'm not buying anything," and then proceeding to close the door without another word, until –
A tattered white sneaker stepped into the track of the door. "Whoa." The boy was holding up his hands like a bank robber post deed. "Whoa, wait. Wait, I'm not – I'm not selling anything."
Leon let out an eloquent groan and let the door creak open again.
The boy's brunette hair was glistening, his baby blue hoodie sagging around him. It took Leon a second to put two and two and surmise that it was raining.
A beat, and Leon said, "I don't need to be saved either. In fact, I'm a satanist about to perform a – a ritual with Latin hymns and chicken blood." That had been Aerith's advice as well: to claim you're a satanist when cornered by those 'YOU'RE GOING TO HELL' bumper sticker sporting and tin can wielding religious people in the street.
(Sometimes, Leon wondered if maybe, just maybe, she was just fucking with him. However, he was not about to test this theory in a situation where her advice might actually come in handy for once).
The boy – blinked. A small smile tugged at the corners of his eyes that reached his eyes and spilled out of them in azure blue-hued amazement. "Oh. Oh, that's – that's cool. I guess." And then he actually started to bounce on his feet, and Leon dimly noticed how his glistening hair ebbed and flowed in a wave. "Can I watch?"
"What?" Leon blurted.
The boy's eyebrows quirked up as he attempted to wriggle himself past Leon. "The ritual," he said, in a way that one would use to say, 'the beeeeeach, dude'.
And then Leon actually hesitated, because there was – there was something about this boy that didn't sit well with Leon, there was something that – reminded him of someone, and he just couldn't figure out who – (surely it couldn't have been that boy on the cover of last week's special report about drug-addicted, unemployed youths he had seen on the issue of Twilight Sun lying crumbled in his backyard –)
He's slipping out of his sneakers, some part of Leon's brain registered. And then he was shaking his head and spraying glistening drops of rain everywhere.
Most importantly, he was doing all of this inside Leon's house.
"What are you doing in my house?" If the sharpness of these words could have left a physical wound, the boy would be bending over clutching his gashing stomach wound right now.
The boy looked up now, surprise broadening his features, driving his large blue eyes adorably out of focus. "Dude," he said, slowly, as if testing his voice after a long period of not using it, "you don't know who I am, do you?"
Okay, or maybe just a paper cut.
"No," Leon snapped. A beat. "Also, I'm not called 'dude'."
"Ya, I know," the boy said, bending down, picking up his discarded sneakers and aligning them, right next to where they had left glistening arcs of wetness on Leon's linoleum tiles.
Leon's eyebrows twitched at the sight.
"I know," the boy repeated, straightening his spine and meeting Leon's eyes. "You're Leon."
Leon rubbed his fingers against the bridge of his nose, the red carpet of his imagination rolling out in front of him, deranged teenage drug addicts waltzing down along it. If Cloud heard about this --
"Cloud sent me," the boy said.
Leon's brain immediately leapt to panic without stepping by logic's for a cup of tea. "Cloud?" He took a step closer, alarm perched atop his voice. "What's wrong with him?"
The boy blinked, smoothed down his baby blue hoodie and started to shift his weight on his socked feet. "Um. No. Nothing's wrong with him." The first hint of pink settled in his cheeks. "Cloud told me to come here. He said," and with that he drew his eyebrows into a frown and lowered his voice a few octaves, grumbling, "'Go to my friend Leon if you need a place to sleep.'" His features softened, smile breaking his lips and flashing a wink of white teeth. "That's what he said."
"That's what he said," Leon repeated dumbly.
"Yeah, that's what he said." The boys eyes slid to a point somewhere behind Leon, pupils dilating.
Leon's eyes fell to the floor, voice drowning out. "Cloud did, huh? Well, then. But who – hey?!" He spun around, catching the boy-shaped silhouette speeding down the hallway toward the kitchen. "Hey, where do you think you are --"
Second later, they had both flung themselves into Leon's brightly-lit kitchen, and the boy had his nose in the air – and by God, it was wriggling, by God it was, wriggling like a – like a –
"Eh, sorry, Leon," the boy said, eyes flexed upon the fruit tray sitting in the corner of the kitchen counter. "I was just --"
A rumbling sound suspiciously emanating from the boy's stomach tore through the kitchen.
'Oops' expression layered over his features, the boy snapped down his head to glance at his stomach. Then, he threw Leon an apologetic look, complete with the drawn shoulders and the eyebrows sloping down at the outer corners and – that damn nose of his was wriggling again.
Leon continued another doomed-to-failure negotiation with his blood pressure. "Fine," he pressed out. "Eat. But," he added quickly before this wet ball of energy could pounce on the fruit bowl, "First, who are you?"
"Oh." The boy breathed. Then, his eyes widened. "Oh! Right. Oh, right."
He stuck out his hand then, small and sun-kissed and with those boyish fingers that were broader at the tip than the base and proclaimed, "I'm Sora."
Leon frowned, looking at the outstretched palm. He wasn't going to take that palm yet. He still wasn't 100% certain that the boy wasn't an oversized toddler with a hunch for playing with arsenic. And possibly radioactive.
"Sore-ah," Leon repeated.
The boy shook his head, messy brown bangs whipping his face. "Close, but nah. So-ra."
A beat. "So-ra," Leon said, in the skeptical way that one uses to humor a punk-haired eccentric when they proudly proclaim to be the living and breathing incarnation of Kurt Cobain.
"Yeah," the boy said – for his part, in a tone that one could have used to say, 'awesome'. "Uh," he said, raising his head to scratch the back of his head, "That is – my parents were in some sort of cult when I was born. It's a long story. Probably involving chicken blood and Latin hymns. But hey, it's not me but bro who drew the ass card this time – at least I'm not called Cloud."
"Oh," Leon said. "So I guess you are Cloud's brother." A frown. "Not Roxas-brother, though." He hadn't known Cloud even had a brother other than that other scowling ball of doom that Axel was attached to like he was some sort of umbilical extension.
"Yeah. Not Roxas-brother." The boy fidgeted then, toes nudging the floor, hand shaking in the air, blue talons of his eyes yanking on Leon's.
Leon didn't know then that this would be the beginning when he sighed, uncrossed his arms, and took the boy's hand into his for a small shake. He didn't know then that everything would spin out like thread from an infinite spool held in the milk-white palm of Sora on an otherwise ordinary evening in mid-autumn.
He didn't know then, but he had this feeling.
And then, after they had shaken hands with the kind of grim expression of an Indian chieftain accepting collaboration with a rival tribe whose bones he'd much rather use to fertilize his fields with (on Leon's part) and the sunniest smile this side of town (on Sora's), they broke apart in silence, Sora shoveling down all of the fruit Leon possessed before moving on his bread, pasta and even the Halloween candy he kept stashed away at the bottom of his drawer, and Leon wondering with the eyes of a man who was waiting for the King's decision whether he would be hanged or awarded a Medal of Honor.
Then the boy flashed him another one of those smile that made his damn nose wriggle in a damn familiar way that Leon couldn't place and therefore hated.
And Leon looked away.
Leon came from a relatively wealthy family, and while 'wealthy' was sadly not synonymous with 'sane' in any way, shape or form, he figured he'd drawn a pretty okay ticket in the family lottery, overall.
Despite his father Laguna having once again proven the fact that former action stars with syrupy accents shouldn't be governors (if he had to have Laguna's famous movie line, "I'll be back, Dragonzzz!" quoted back to him one more time...) and despite his stepmother Edea adopting children with a gotta-catch-'em-all Pokemon attitude and having a penchant for dressing up like a bartender at the transvestite version of Moulin Rouge –
Despite all that, Leon loved his parents, they loved him, and Leon's childhood and teen years had been pleasant, if not exactly normal. As with most young adults, though, the fact that his home had been rather stable didn't mean that he fancied living with his parents any more than he fancied having his attachment to his artfully-arranged belts removed, which had prompted young Leon to pack his bags and move to Traverse Town the spring he had turned 18.
His parents had both cried the day that Leon had moved out, though Leon to this day insisted that the wetness in his own eyes had been from the rain drops gathering in his lashes and trickling down along his face, no really. The parting gifts he'd gotten from his parents had been as ecletic and indulgent as they were: a pack of condoms with a hand-written note ("Just in case you ever feel the ugre, be save, and remember dady loves you!" and yes, complete with spelling mistakes), underwear of questionable masculinity and a sweet assurance that yes, of course, pink kittens cuddling giant hearts was a suitable thing to wear for an 18-year old boy, and -- oh, and a house. A generous one, set in the heart of Twilight Town.
The rain drops had gotten a lot more persistent at that point. Stubborn little bastards.
But well, due to previously outlined circumstances of wealth, Leon was fortunately (or perhaps rather unfortunately) able to store all five-foot-six, approximately 130 pounds of BOY in a guest room located just on the opposite side of the master bedroom.
Which is where we re-join our heroes, oh joy.
"Your room." Leon pointed at the door. Then at the white door down the hall with a the picture of a hamster on it, courtesy by the ever-loving Aerith. "Toilet." A beat. "Don't make a mess."
"Um," Sora said, shifting his weight from one foot to the other. "Um... I sort of. Hm." He gave a quick, embarrassed laugh that made Leon wonder how he managed to make the place swell like a concert hall with even such a brief sound. "Don't have anything to wear. As in, at all."
Leon paused. Turned back around. Let his eyes travel over the boy standing in the hallway, over the wetness blotched over his hoodie down to his shorts (and who wore shorts when it rained? Or at all?) and the baby-smooth calves down to the wrinkled toes beneath tennis socks of questionable cleanliness.
Leon looked back up at his face, noticing that the boy's eyes were blue, almost supernaturally so in the superficial flood of corridor light, creasing and bending with mild embarrassment.
He suddenly became aware of the sound of the rain, a steady sizzle like static in the background.
"Right," Leon said, his voice raw in his throat. Then with a sigh and an undercurrent of 'what in the world did I do to deserve this', "Right."
He turned around and shrugged into his own room, leaving the door open by way of invitation, and stormed over to the closet looming in the corner of the room. He could hear the hesistant creak of the carpet as the boy set foot into the room behind him while Leon yanked open the door and started going through piles of clothes.
"Whoa, your room's so clean," Sora said. "God, mom would love it."
Leon said nothing, too caught-up in his task of finding suitable clothes. The slacks he'd gotten from Cloud for his 25th birthday? Oh, no well in hell he was going to let dirt-streaked boys anywhere near that thing. And something told him Sora wouldn't appreciate any of his leather outfits either (though that made for an interesting mental image, for all the 0.01 seconds Leon allowed himself to entertain it) –
He unceremoniously flung a bundle green striped pajamas at the boy with an affluent, "Wear this."
Leon could hear Sora catch the clothes, and didn't need to turn around to visualize him clutching the bundle to his chest as if it were an infant, probably with a sunbeam smile on his face.
"Thanks so much."
Leon looked over at the wall, watching how the last of the sun laminated it with the last rinsed-out ribbon of pink. "Just wear it."
Shuffling of clothes behind him. Too much shuffling. Screech, said a zipper and squeak, answered something in Leon's head before --
"Not in here."
The shuffling stopped. "Oh. I-I'm sorry. I'll – go change in my room, then."
And then the door finally fell back into its hinges and silence descended upon the room, even the drill of the rain on the roof fading into the background. Leon closed his closet, went over to his bed, and let the sheets sigh beneath his weight when he let himself fall flat on his back.
He stared up at the ceiling. And stared. Stared, because he knew that as soon as he let himself contemplate just what exactly had happened today, just when he let it all snap into sharp focus inside the shimmery stream of his consciousness, he would lose his mind, and that would be a bit of a waste.
Even so, he couldn't help but lift his hips off the bed just slightly to let his hands dig into the back pocket of his leather pants, couldn't help but pull out the sleek cell phone and couldn't help but flip it open above him.
The letters of the text message glared down at him.
'Please take good care of him. I'm sorry for everything. - Cloud'
But before the emotions could swim to the surface, Leon snapped the phone shut and cut right through them with the precision of a scalpel.
Everything was calm again, quiet again. Even the storm of his chest calmed down enough for Leon to stumble toward a dead sleep when he rolled over onto his side and buried his face into the sheets.
The last thing he thought before falling asleep was that the sheets still sort of smelled like him.
The next morning, Leon sipped on his coffee and watched the way the rain dripped from the leaves of the oak beyond the window in a long gray linkage of individual beads. It was very much the usual way in which he spent his mornings, except that today had been the first morning since that one night a month ago that he hadn't expected his morning to be usual.
The boy didn't show up.
Leon had considered knocking, he really had – and he had only given up after giving the door the evil eye for so long that he the door had started giving it back, and that had truly been too creepy for Leon to put up with any longer.
He looked down into his coffee, at the flecks of liquid diamonds the sun poured into it riding the wavelets, and did what he did best. He frowned.
Then, after he had lost count of how many times he'd internally called himself a moron for accepting boy-sized FedExes without so much as even asking for the return address, he got up, wrote a note for Sora (in painstakingly clean letters, of course – he actually cursed and went to prowl for an eraser when he'd sloped his t too far to the right), and, once we was both satisfied with the note and had assured himself that there was a high likelihood he'd find his house in one piece once he came home, left for work.
Because, see. Leon was an artist.
Okay, okay. Technically.
Or, perhaps he wasn't so much an artist as he had always been in love with the image of an artist, really. Always been in love with the blue-veined bohemian, the artistic bruises of sleep-deprivation standing like stains beneath weary but fiercely intelligent eyes. Artists, the dreamers of society, the ones both both fluttering high above the ordinary eight-to-five-and-random-cable-movie crowd and tragically pinned to the ground by the scientifically-minded general public.
The reality was nothing like that, of course. To Leon, it was mostly a euphemism for 'teaching credit-starved imbeciles how to draw fruit baskets' and circling the home phone like a vulture in hopes of receiving a phone call from the nearest art publishing company or rich art collector and ascend the ladder to artistic stardom.
Because yeah, being an artist? Not as easy as you'd think.
"Sooo," Axel sing-songed in the hymn of death, emerald eyes slicing from the the espresso machine he was currently operating over to Leon and back before adding in a voice ladled with sugar, "You been hearing anything from Cloud lately?"
Oh yeah, another thing that Leon had to put up at work, other than teaching credit-starved imbeciles how to draw fruit baskets: putting up with co-workers who resembled oversized hedgehogs and liked to dramatize his social life.
Leon had an on-going bet with Demyx if Axel would just one day explode from glee. He figured his chances today were better than usual.
"Where did he run off to again?" Putting his hands on the counter, he rolled his eyes up toward the ceiling in a show of thought. "Midgar, wasn't it?"
Leon gave a non-committal shrug.
Axel twirled around on the spot, raising the cup of coffee to his lips.
Leon was pretty sure he did it to hide the grin spreading on his face like a drop of ink spilled on a silk blouse.
"You guys were pretty close." He stopped to take a dramatic sip of coffee. "Just wondering why he hasn't showed up in a while, is all."
Leon was also pretty sure that he'd be gesturing dramatically right about now if that wouldn't probably involve spilling steaming-hot coffee all over his shirt.
Axel had always had a penchant for the dramatic like that.
"To have him disappear like that, I mean," Axel elaborated, mellifluous inflection pouring forth like syrup. "That must suck, man."
Leon pinched his nose. "Axel, you and subtlety don't fucking match."
Axel gave an elaborate shrug, the kind that started in his upper arms, then migrated to his shoulders and made the head perched atop his spine bobble. "All right, then. Just saying you must be butthurt your best friend and the only guy to ever understand your – how did Yuffie put it again?"
"Lack of any discernable enthusiasm for life," Leon said tonelessly.
"Right," Axel said, his index finger flying to point at Leon. "That he – bang!" His finger jerked empathetically. "That he left you for that loony ex back in Midgar."
"Thank you for your apt psychological assessment. Have you considered a career as a therapist?"
Axel's face lit up. "I'd be a great fit for that line of career, huh?"
"Sure." Personally, Leon had always thought Axel needed to become a soap opera writer. He was pretty sure he watched that stuff anyway, if the numerous times he'd caught him singing the theme song of 'All my Children' under his breath was any indication.
Axel gave another one of his elaborate shrugs. "Hey, no need to misunderstood this, yeah?" He took another sip, swallowed, latched his candy-green eyes onto Leon and said, "I was half-expecting you not to catch up on the fact you were butthurt, is all. Considering how in tune with your feelings you are."
Leon's eyes darted over to the clock mounted on the wall of the tiny break room, counting down the minutes to the beginning of his next class. Only five more minutes --
"And I heard he sent you a brat, too."
Axel shrugged again, smug smile pulling across his lips. The summer sun dappled pale red on his wild net of hair. "Yeah, I got the news."
"Who told you?"
Axel bent forward with a grin, coffee cup dangling in his hand. "Guess."
Leon groaned. "Remind me never to make friends with guys with a whole armada of younger brothers ever. Again."
Axel grinned, tapping his temple with his index finger. "Got it memorized."
Leon forced himself to down the last of his coffee – bitter, blah, just a bit more, gotta go to class – then scrambled to his feet, collecting the books strewn across the table. He threw a silent greeting to Axel over his shoulder, stalked to the door, flung it open, and was gone.
And then he wasn't, because Axel's voice stopped him dead in his tracks.
"He got kicked out, you know."
Leon could hear the cup of coffee making a clirring sound as he put it back down on the counter, presumably to continue his tradition of pantomimically underlining every word.
"The kid, I mean. Sora, right?"
"Yeah," Leon said, hand dropping down from the door handle. "Sora."
"Though don't ask me why," Axel said, interrupted by a slurp and a spitting sound. "Gah, this coffee tastes like ass."
Leon was mature enough not to say, "Well, you'd know all about tasting ass now, wouldn't you?"
But just barely.
"Don't ask me why," Axel repeated, picking up his thread of conversation. "All I heard from Rox was that there was a big fight – oh, apparently there was a big screaming match with china breaking and all that shit – and then he was gone. Sora, I mean. 'S what I heard. So maybe it's more correct to say 'he left' rather than 'he was kicked out', but – technicalities, right? Anyway --"
"That's – great," Leon said. Mostly because he couldn't think of anything better to say. He considered asking why Axel didn't take up Sora then, if he had a walking and talking cheat sheet for Politics of the Strife Family 101, but decided he didn't want to know.
"So, to summarize --"
Leon could visualize him lean back against the counter right now and craning his neck like a turtle.
" – You're stuck with a strange teenage kid who got kicked out of his home and is the younger brother of the very guy you've been pining after since he first tight-pants-supermodel-glasses-sexy-sexy-motoroil-smell strutted into very college and signed up for your life drawing class."
Leon didn't need to turn around to know he was enjoying this immensely.
"Co-oh-rrect?" Axel sang in the hymn of Thanatos.
Question: if Leon ever managed to perfect his Death Glare, would he be charged with murder, and if yes, before or after he managed to pack his bags and flee to Cambodia?
Since Leon was still in the process of smoothing out the kinks in his stealth weapon, "Something like that, Axel."
"Leon, Leon, Leon." If Axel's voice had a color right now, it would be pulsing red with exuberance. "You're fucked, you know that? F-U-C-K-E-D. Got it --"
"Shouldn't you be memorizing what time you have to go to class to?" Leon snapped, then stepped out of the doorway he'd been standing in for the past few minutes, and flung the door shut behind him with a rattle that -- chilled to the bone.
Or so Leon hoped.
When Leon pulled into the drive way that evening, he was relieved to see that a) his house was still standing, and that b) there weren't any new boy-sized FedExes waiting in the dripping rain outside of his door today. So far so good.
He pulled through the veil of rain that was still drooling from the gray block of sky, shrugged out of the car, and sprinted through the rain to the door. The warmth of the house greeted him like the breath of a beast, and he sighed in small contentment as he stashed away his car keys and slipped out of his leather boots.
To Leon, his home was truly his castle. Even if, much like Mario, he always seemed to be greeted by that pop-up that his princess was in another.
He found Sora quickly (he only had to follow the trail of lights blazing out of the light bulbs, really), and when Leon spilled into his living room, a pair of piercing blue eyes frolicked toward him from above the kitchen table, warm and welcoming and attached to a boy slumping over said table with half an apple held in his hand and the other half bulging his cheeks.
"Welcome home," he greeted through his food, actually waving with one hand, as if that spot of brunette and sun-kissed limbs and sparkling cocktail blue eyes was somehow hard to miss amidst the glaring white of Leon's kitchen.
Or somehow hard to miss, period.
Leon averted his eyes and stalked over to the coffee machine, still feeling the boy's eyes on the side of his face. "You're still here." It wasn't a question.
Silence. Munch. Munch. Swallow. "Yeaaah. I was thinking of – this being a bit more than a one night type of deal?"
Leon gave him a look.
Sora nearly choked on his apple. "I don't mean --"
"Whatever," Leon bit, shuffling for his newspaper and ignoring the urge to rub his temples. "I may be an asshole, but not asshole enough to kick you out in the rain." A pause, followed by the rustling of the newspaper. "For now."
"So," Sora said, obviously angling to climb down the conversational ladder to less hostile altitudes, "Cloud said you're an artist."
Leon looked up from his newspaper, face suitably uninterested.
Sora was still sitting on the bar stool by the counter, munching on an apple held up by a propped-up hand above casually fanned-out legs beneath the table.
There was something – almost cute about watching the boy eat, Leon thought. Stuffed cheeks bulging against post-shower damp hair, jaw munching busily. Like a --
"So," the boy said, cheeks deflating when he swallowed. "Are you? An artist, I mean."
Leon swallowed, then gave an inward groan, shredding the mental images and shooing them back into the corners of his mind. Stupid, to reminiscence about -- well, whatever now. He sent Sora a look over his newspaper. "Something like that."
The boy's eyes lit up, pieces of apple raining out of his mouth when he said, "Oh yeah? That's awesome."
Leon eyed the piece of apple on the counter.
"I kind of always wanted to be an artist, too, you know? Soooo -- were you in the same class as Cloud? Did you --"
Bubbles of spittle. There were. Bubbles of spittle that. That gleamed beneath the morning sun falling in through the windows and. And slithered around the pieces of apple strewn across the table. And.
"-- meet him in class? Oh, right." He leaned forward a bit on his stool, legs kicking beneath the table. "Cloud said you met in class when you were in college. That's cool. I want to go to --"
Spittle. On his. His table. Spittle.
"-- the same college. After I graduate I mean. Uh. I mean, obviously."
Leon's eyebrows twitched.
"Uh. Leon? Is something --"
"Hasn't it occurred to you," Leon said, voice strained as if trying to choke him, "that you're supposed to clean up after spitting on someone's kitchen counter?"
Sora's face fell. "Huh?" He looked down, catching the spit sparkling like merry diamonds beneath the light, no doubt. "Oh. Oh." He blinked. "Oh, I'm sorry, I'll just --" he put the apple down, shrugged, fisted the sleeve of his hoodie, and –
"Not with your sleeve," Leon snapped. "There's tissues right next to you. Several."
"Oh. Oh, of course. S-sorry about that." Sora leaned over, snatching a few tissues out of the box. "Sorry," he said, while rubbing at the wet spot, smearing the spit all over the counter –
All right, at this point, the gleaming wetness was just mocking Leon. Seriously.
To his benefit, he tried to be angry, he really did – but that was before he caught that apologetic, embarrassed smile on Sora's face – the one with the sloped eyebrows and the grin that showed the white wink of his teeth, skinny teenage shoulders drawn up toward his ears – and somehow, the rant he'd carefully written in gleaming (urgh) gothic font in the scroll of his mind evaporated with an empathetic poof.
The chair screeched along the floor. Leon rounded the kitchen table and went over to the counter, wrinkled his nose – and then started to pluck the tissues out of box one after the other before cleaning the mess with the eyes and the shoulder slope of the utterly defeated.
Sora twitched. "I'm sorry."
"No, really. As a guest of the house, I should observe the rules." He hung his head low, and it looked like along with his entire posture, even his spikes were dropping. "I'm sorry."
There was a twitch in the space between Leon's eyebrows, like a hammer pounding a nail right into the spot that sent his nerves into seizures all around it.
You're fucked, he remembered the gloating face of Axel's. F-U-C-K --
"By the way, I'd just appreciate it," Leon said while tossing the tissues away and reaching for another, voice strained, "if you didn't make this whole debacle known to everyone at Twilight Town."
Sora twirled the apple core in his hands, eyes squinted, trying to find the last few bits of edible fruit. "Huh? What do you mean?" He took a crunch, mandibles busily working around the apple, bits of fruit juice glistening at the corners of his lips.
They looked kind of nice set against the evening sun filtering through the blinds.
Again, that twitch between between Leon's eyebrows. "What I mean," he said, throwing away yet another crumpled piece of tissue with a practiced aim at the trash can, "is that your brother told my co-worker you're staying with me."
And then, it happened. Or almost.
Sora's mouth dropped open.
Leon could see, in a pink-and-red slide show of doom, how the pieces of apple fell victim to gravity and tumbled down, down toward the shiny surface of his kitchen counter which they would rain on to sully and ravage like black rain a fertile land, or some slightly less dramatic metaphor, and then –
Sora snapped his mouth shut at the last moment –
- only to then boom an empathetic, "WHAT?" which, less-empathetically, caused the squishy, gooey, entire content of his mouth to catapult out of his mouth and splatter itself all over Leon's face.
And time coalesced around them. Sora sat there, pure SHOCK sprawled in impressive, gothic font letters all over his face. And Leon froze in mid-movement, feeling the half-eaten bits of apple slither down along his cheek and drool off his jaw, and Leon was aware of everything, the heat of the sunshine through the window, the slow hissing sound of the coffee machine, the tick and whirr of his blood pumping through his veins, faster, faster --
A piece of apple dropped down from Leon's jaw. He peeled open one eye, and then the other, to look at the boy sitting on the other end of the table.
Huge eyes, Leon thought. Huge eyes were staring at him, lips slightly parted in shock, and then Leon's gaze seemed to finally snap him back to his senses and he jumped in his seat as if a blitzkrieg of electrical current had sizzled through him, and he nearly jumped on the table when he reached for the tissue box, plucked a tissue, two, then –
Leon caught his wrist in mid-movement. Felt it still against his grip. Bored his eyes into those giant pools of blue and said, "You're out by the morning. You hear me?"
With that, he let go off the boy's wrist, jerked himself up from the seat, and tried very hard not to sprint toward the bathroom squeaking and screaming like a gay high school boy waking up with words 'SLUT' written over his face in neon pink magic marker on the first day of school camp.
He tried, and succeeded only because he was still clinging to his last shreds of dignity. Perhaps he'd never learn.
Thirty minutes of showering and scrubbing at his skin until he bore striking resemblance to Sebastian, the crab-red music teacher that Leon had once shared a room with on a teacher's excursions (shudder) later, Leon sauntered back into the living room, tugging at the towel wrapped around his neck.
There was no Sora in the room, not in the kitchen area, and not in the living room it was adjoined to. There was no trace of him either, save for his red storm jacket hanging off the back of the kitchen chair like a flag of surrender.
Ironically, Leon didn't really know how to feel about any of this anymore, so he decided to do what most men did when they couldn't figure something out: drink a beer.
And then, when he went over to the fridge, ready to yank open the door, that was when he saw it: the note stuck to the fridge on which it read, in childish blockletters:
I'M SO SORRY ABOUT WHAT HAPPENED.
PLEASE DON'T KICK ME OUT OKAY?
IT WON'T HAPPEN AGAIN. I PROMISE. 1000 PERCENT FOR SURE MY MANLY PRIDE PROMISE!
There was a 'pormise' that Sora had scratched out, as well as a few messy scratches over a misspelling of the word 'manly'. Dog-eared and ratty, there was even a stain of questionable origin blooming like piss on the top left corner.
Leon was just about to rip off the note, crumble it and to hell with this insolent, bratty, rude, useless little kid when he noticed that he had attached the note to the fridge with a hamster pin.
A cute, brown, smiling cartoon hamster with its beady little black eyes shining and its rosy paws raised.
Leon blinked at it.
The pin blinked back, and Leon thought, 'Johnny, oh shit, he reminds me of Johnny', and then, of course, Leon's hand dropped to catch his face in a groan of frustration, he proceeded to scratch at his skull, tug at his hair, and otherwise proceed to act like a madman before he remembered the last bits of vanity he possessed and he decided that if he had to be a madman, he'd rather be a madman with a beer than one with no hair, and thus found himself slumped against the couch with his legs fanned out, a beer in his hand and a haunted look on his face minutes later.
It started as an itch in his throat, really. An itch that swelled in his throat and made his stomach extend and then jerk inward, until it finally tumbled into his mouth and then out of it in one long, drawn-out chuckle, and then another, and then another.
Because even Leon knew that sometimes, when life just made no sense anymore, when everything was just so crazy it seemed like a group of the Goddess equivalents of hickey soccer moms somewhere in the Universe had decided to make you their reality TV show, you just had to laugh.
And so he did, until his stomach hurt and he had drowned more cans of beers than he remembered drinking in a long time. Not since last year's New Year, when Aerith and Yuffie had dressed him in girls' clothes and named him Lea and Axel had said he liked the name so much he wished he had it, and the more he drank, the more absurd it all seemed.
And somewhere in the hall way, while Leon chuckled to himself a boy stood huddled in the corner and took a deep breath of relief.
In Midgar, there's this saying: in ten years, even a mountain changes.
Sora was sure that some things never did, though. Such as ---
Ring. Ring. Click. "What?"
Roxas never answering the phone with his name for example.
"Why did you tell him, you dick?"
Or Sora getting straight to the point, either (the fact that he didn't sound very threatening when cursing notwithstanding).
Static blitzkrieg spat into the receiver on the other line of the connection.
Sora wriggled a little, feeling the bed on which he was currently lounging on rolling beneath him (stupid water bed). "Yo, say something." Sora propped himself up on his elbows. "You weren't supposed to tell him about this. How could you just --"
"Look," Roxas said, and Sora could practically hear the frown in his face, "Axel won't tell anyone else, so just chillax, man."
"He told Leon, dickhead. And I almost got kicked out."
"Because of Axel telling him about – him knowing you were staying at his place...?" Roxas groaned. "All right, just spill."
Sora paused. Blew up into his bangs again. "Well, there was some... incident involving some pieces of –very delicious and red – app – Wait. Wait, what am I doing? I'm mad at you here." He re-schooled his face into a suitably angry expression, sturm and drang, hooza, here comes the knight. "What if Axel rats this out all over town? Your boyfriend has a looser mouth than the nutcracker, and don't you tell me he doesn't." There, he'd sounded suitably scary this time. Sora couldn't help but smile in pride, which sort of ruined the effect.
Static. Buzz. Buzz. "He's not my boyfriend." Roxas somehow still managed to sound like a brat even hundreds of miles away.
"Beside the point."
The sigh of the tortured on the other end of the line. "I didn't even tell Axel about that. He can't rat because he doesn't know." A pause, then a low, snide comment, "Happy now?"
Sora paused. "Serious? You told him that –?"
"Yeah, I backed up your story." Sora could just visualize him roll his eyes. "Thank me later." A pause. "I kind of did tell him you had gotten kicked out, though."
At that, Sora jumped to his feet, shoving his index finger at a non-existent enemy, "Oh, screw you, you – uh," he flailed his arms before re-gaining his balance on the water bed. "Okay." He took an experimental step on the bed. "Okay, so." He cleared his throat. "HOW COULD YOU TELL HIM I WAS KICKED OUT YOU TRAITOR --"
"I didn't tell him why, okay? I didn't." Quieter, "He doesn't know you got kicked out because of him. Or them. Or that thing, heck, I don't even know."
"Roxas," Sora warned darkly. "I swear to you, if mom ever allows me back in the house, I'll fertilize the lawn with your bones until they grow into cherry trees."
"You already used that one before," Roxas said. Sora could hear him munching on chips now. "Remember? Back when we were thirteen and I ruined your reputation by taping a sign saying 'I watch Sailor Moon every day' onto your back?"
"Roxas." When Sora was really angry, he always said his name like that. It sounded like Rokzaz.
Roxas sighed, and Sora could hear him transfer the phone from one ear to the other, probably to open a can of coke. "Listen, Axel won't tell anyone else, all right? Just trust me for once in your life." The pop of the can opening, then the sizzling sound of the foam raising before smoothing into a disc. "Not healthy to be so suspicious."
Sora frowned. "The last time you pulled that line, you let your Star Wars action figures film Kairi's Barbie under the shower, and then claimed I had done it when mom walked in on us."
The sigh from the other end of the line was positively nostalgic. "Oh yeah, that one was awesome, right?"
Getting Sora, whose face seemed like a perpetual orbit of light, to frown, took quite a bit of irritation. He could now feel the beginning of it settling as tension between his eyebrows.
Some things never changed. Be it bullying older brothers or worse older brother or --
"Look," Roxas said, effectively arresting Sora's attention with the urgency in his voice, the playfulness finally gone. "He won't find out. I swear. Just – just trust me, okay?"
And Sora knew that was a much of an apology as he was ever going to get from Roxas, so he just said his quick thanks, hung up, listened to the montonous drill of the peep peep peep for a while before flipping his cell phone shut and flinging it against one of the pillows.
He didn't have much choice but to trust in Roxas, and hope for the best.
The odds didn't seem too promising.
Author's Notes: Ohhh, Sora, are you hiding something? WHAT? WHAT are you hiding???
Oh, we should shut up and wait for the next chapter? 'Kay...
So, a lot of fandom friends I have are kind of confused with my love for Leon/Sora. They don't really get it, and often ask me, "why? Why do you like this crack pairing? It makes no sense to me."
Well, this fic tries to explain the why. This is why I like Leon/Sora: because I like what could be more than what is. Because I always thought they made a gorgeous couple, with Leon such an introverted loner and Sora such a burst of light and energy, and goddamn, I just like it.
Just don't tell Riku, hehe. (I do like Riku/Sora, too, psst).
(Btw, if you were confused at Leon's characterization: I base him more on how he was in FFVIII, plus some of my own fanon, because I think it makes him more interesting, personally. I like Leon when he's a bit of a socially awkward dork in spite of all the cool-sexy-sexy-leather-sexy because, well -- it's more interesting?)
It's going to be a multi-chapter, I have the fic all planned out, but I don't know how long it'll be exactly.
'Till next time!
(btw, reviews make author enthusiastic in pants!)