Final chapter! Woohoo! This ditty is dedicated to everybody who read and reviewed this collection. You guys are awesome and you all get a lifetime supply of super special awesome potato casserole and my love.
Disclaimer: I don't own Kingdom Hearts, its characters or storyline. These ditties are mine, as are Duke and McCallister. Enjoy!
100 – Only We Two in Blue
War makes you cling to people.
War rips away the people to which you cling.
War makes you cling to people you never thought you would.
Peace rips away the people you never thought you would love, but loved anyway.
Tifa opened the door to the apartment just in time to see Leon punch a hole in the wall to the left of her bedroom door, accompanied by a roared: "MOTHER FUCKER!"
…and that set the tune for the evening.
Papers looked like they had been violently thrown from the table to the floor, and there were shards of what had probably been a glass strewn on the floor, where they'd landed after being hurtled at the wall.
Leon pulled his fist out of the broken drywall and shook off the plaster from his arm, breathing heavily. Tifa was still standing in the doorway, unsure how to proceed. In the blind rage, it took a few seconds for Leon to realize Tifa was there. When their eyes met, the expected control and default lax expression did not come back to his face. Instead, he just walked into his room and slammed the door.
Tifa stood there for a moment, hand still on the key in the knob.
"Well…okay then." She said quietly.
Still not quite processing what she'd just walked in the middle of, she tugged her key out of the lock, closed the door, and stepped carefully across the living room. Tossing her bag in her room on the bed, she double took and saw Duke curled up near her pillows. Tifa tilted her head. Duke usually curled up in Leon's room.
Further disconcerted, she stepped out of her room and looked to Leon's door. It sounded quiet on the other side. Her eye was drawn to the hole in the wall, which was at her eye level. In nearly five years of knowing him, Tifa had never…never…seen Leon lose control like that. He was the posterchild for composure. Throughout all of the drama and emotional turmoil of the war, he'd taken it all in stride.
What the blue blazes had finally gotten to him?
Tifa bit the side of her lip thoughtfully and stepped around the broken glass toward the small closet where the brooms and cleaning supplies were kept. Tugging the broom out of the mass, she slowly started sweeping the shards of angry glass into a pile. Leon had been acting off for the past three weeks. Running himself ragged, hardly eating, barely speaking, never sleeping, and up to the ungodly hours working on that growing stack of files, the files he always hastily put away or was careful not to leave…lying…around…Her eyebrow rose at all the papers strewn about.
No, she looked away, sweeping the glass into a collector and dumping them in the trash. After making sure she had found all of the sharp glass, she chewed a fingernail and looked over at the papers again.
Well…she couldn't just leave them lying around like that…
Glancing at his door out of some bizarre sense of caution, she knelt down and started picking up the papers splashed on the floor. For the majority of the past month, Leon had been accumulating and researching these papers like they were a map to the Holy Grail itself. Whatever they were about had to be just as rare and twice as valuable to him if he was investing this much blood and sweat into it.
As Tifa gathered the papers into some semblance of order, she noticed that they were about…nothing. Population variances on Enchanted Castle, attack patterns on Deep Jungle, Allied presence numbers in Olympus: it was the most random compilation of statistics that she had ever seen. In addition, there were folded up grid maps with notes in a coded shorthand even SHE couldn't decipher. Security camera print outs, Allied station blueprints, social network trees, and several handwritten eyewitness accounts to…petty crime…None of it had any common thread.
She straightened and set the pile on the table. The manila file folder lay closed near the middle of the table. It was unmarked except for two letters: RH, written in Leon's tiny, compact handwriting near the corner. Perplexed, she paused as she heard the shower start running through his door.
Trying to get Leon to talk about feelings was like trying to get water out of a rock. Tifa had quickly stopped trying to coerce him into sharing anything; he was so determined to internalize everything, fight his battles alone, and generally keep everyone shut out. She bided her time, finding the bread crumbs and following along the dotted line to what had molded him into what he had become…Lord knew he wasn't going to tell her shit.
There was no secret operation or mission that would have that kind of code…And none of the worlds or weapons or even soldiers had those initials, that she was aware of anyway. And since she knew the man would never tell her what was wrong, she had to use the power of context clues to figure it out herself.
So, with a huff and a hum, she thumbed through the top of the paper stack.
For the better part of the hour, she skimmed, glanced, and read parts of the file: reports, statistics, newspaper clippings, maps, security photo printouts…and she was more confused than ever. Leon was definitely looking for something…elusive…and she followed his train of investigation to so many dead ends, she was surprised he hadn't punched a wall sooner.
Then, like a hammer to the forehead, it hit her.
Tifa set the paper she was holding back to the table and shifted her chair backwards from the stack, averting her gaze. Of course. That would be the only thing strong enough to finally make him crack. Feeling suddenly uncomfortable, she stood and walked over to the couch, slumping down onto it and rubbing her forehead.
Now it was starting to make sense. After three weeks of following a promising lead, Leon had hit another dead end, or maybe the trail had gone cold, and he was back to Square One, once again, and Rinoa was still missing. Enough to break anybody, but she had never seen Leon break before…not really, honestly, truly break…like he had an hour ago.
The shower had stopped and Tifa chewed on her fingernail, staring at the opposite wall, her back to the bedrooms. This…this was an area she had no experience in. When he was annoyed with idiots at work, when he was pissed at the Council, when he was stressed to the point of not knowing his own name: she knew how to handle all of this. Sad was…not a color in Leon's crayon box. But he had always been there when she was dealing with Cloud's death and all of her emotional distress after that. He had never asked for emotional support from her and he had never seemed to need it. Well, now she got to stretch her comforting muscles, after months of disuse. Problem was, she was more likely to get physically thrown out of the room if she tried to help him.
Before she could talk herself out of it, she stood and walked over toward Leon's room door. It was still quiet on the other side. Pushing her hair out of her face, she lifted one hand to knock, paused, and dropped her hand instead over the door knob. She gave it a salutary jiggle and, when she received no 'go away's or 'leave me alone's, she turned the knob and slowly opened the door.
One lamp was on and, in a joint effort with the white walls, lit most of the room. Leon was sitting on the edge of the bed farthest from the door, back turned toward her. His elbows were on his knees and his head was in his hands. The knuckles of his right hand were already bruising purple and blue from punching the wall. He looked…hopeless.
Wincing, she opened the door further and took two tentative steps into the room. He had to be aware of her standing there, but he gave no physical acknowledgement of her. That was fine. She hadn't really been expecting anything. Folding her arms awkwardly in front of her, she glanced around the room, searching for a way to open this box, poke the bear, and let all that ugly and all that hurt spill out, and let him know she could handle it. Hell, he'd definitely seen her at her lowest point, now she was seeing him at his darkest hour. They'd call it even after this.
Tifa drew a deep breath and closed the gap between them in slow strides until she was practically standing right beside him. Leon didn't look up and she didn't say anything. The only indication he gave that he was aware of her at all was moving his hands from the sides of his head to his face, forming a net of fingers to hide what the curtain of his hair didn't.
She exhaled and sank to sit beside him on the bed. "Ten years is a long time."
His shoulders tightened and drew closer defensively at her soft-spoken words. "Twelve." He replied, voice thick and hoarse.
She swallowed and knit her fingers together, forearms across her knees. "Even longer."
"I just—" He cut himself off, running a hand over his face and staring at the floor. "—I'm tired."
She bobbed her head in understanding to that. He was five colors past tired at this point. He looked purely drained and exhausted, emotionally and physically. And there was something else that she couldn't quite put her finger on at the moment.
They sat like that for a minute or so, neither saying anything.
Tifa looked to Leon after that long minute, wishing that he would just open up to her. She had never given him reason to be suspicious or wary of her. Someone else had ruined him and his trust before she had come along. She averted her gaze again, looking at her hands.
"I saw the file." She confessed.
He breathed in deeply and didn't answer for several seconds. "Why?"
"Well…it was all over the place…Hard not to see the contents." She said, half apologetically, half innocently. She looked to him again. "Leon, this isn't healthy."
He exhaled and rubbed the back of his neck, not responding.
Tifa swallowed again. "This…this hunt, this obsession…It's going to kill you if you don't—"
"Don't what." He whispered flatly, finally looking at her.
His eyes were red and bloodshot, the skin around them puffy and swollen. He looked flushed and pale all at once and his eyes were just…so…completely naked and raw that she choked on whatever she'd been about to say.
"If I don't stop?" He said, voice rasping. "I can't stop looking…She has to be out there…somewhere. And I have to find her…Even if it does kill me."
Tifa sighed and lifted her arm, draping it over his shoulder so that her palm was flat over the crown of his head. "Leon…" She said gently. "You're stupid."
He blinked at her.
She ruffled his hair lightly with her fingers. "And if you give up and die on me, I will kill you."
He didn't look amused at her attempt at banter, and she pursed her lips.
"Look." She looked at her hand briefly. "I'm not saying that you should stop looking. I'm saying…take care of yourself. Don't disregard everything else, everyone else, for a maybe."
He looked away from her. "It's more than that."
She tried not to look too eager with this tiny opening he was giving her. She waited for him to continue on his own.
"For twelve years, I've been looking for her…twelve years…and all I've found are dead ends, cold trails, and migraines." He grunted hoarsely. "You'd think…if I'm looking for her, and she's looking for me…we'd…there'd be a…" He trailed away.
"You think…she's not looking?" She tried to help his word dilemma. "It's a big galaxy, Leon, it's hard to find someone even when—"
"You never knew her." He said lowly. "Her resolve was iron-clad. If there was a will, she could find a way. What if…I mean…Twelve years…It's a long time to wait for someone."
Tifa paused, trying to get this straight. He thought that not only was Rinoa not looking for him like he was looking for her…but she had replaced him? Did he think that little of himself? He was looking at her, as though for some kind of answer, and she wished she had one for him.
God, he looked so…vulnerable. That was the word she had been looking for. Vulnerability had an odd effect on Leon's face. That kind of raw, broken, trusting vulnerability was…beautiful. Definitely worth the wait.
Yet the quiet question was screaming from his eyes: what's wrong with me? As though not finding Rinoa after so long had rendered him flawed or dysfunctional. This couldn't have been further from the truth, in her eyes at least. But there would be no convincing him otherwise unless Rinoa herself walked in and declared it.
Well, he'd just have to make do with Tifa.
Leaning into his comfort zone, she knocked her forehead affectionately against the side of his head and briefly kissed the top of his temple.
"If Rinoa tries to replace you, wherever she is, then she's stupid too." She said quietly, ruffling his hair again.
Leon didn't look particularly cheered up at her remark, but he didn't pull away from the contact with her either. Taking confidence from this, she started to lean back, but something made her pause. When she hesitated, he looked at her. Unexpectedly, blood began to heat her face and she cleared her throat.
"Have…have you replaced…her?" The words seemed to tumble out of her mouth.
He paused this time, looking at her good eye intensely for a moment before his gaze flickered to her ruined one, under the patch. Slowly, he lifted one hand and slipped one finger under the elastic band of the eyepatch by her ear. She stiffened slightly, but didn't stop him as he tugged the patch away from the empty socket, revealing all of the ugly, mangled scars covering that side of her face.
Now they were both naked, in the most important sense of the word.
Wordlessly, Leon trailed two fingertips over the mutilated skin and she closed her good eye briefly, swallowing hard. She opened her eye to see him staring hard at her again, his face closer than it had been when she closed it. She started to open her mouth, but he leaned in closer, and his lips were warm as they pressed against the worst of the scarring, where her eyebrow had never grown back.
That entire section of her face tingled and a strange sensation blossomed at the base of her skull, spreading over her scalp and giving her goosebumps. The kiss was brief and soft, and then he was pulling back slightly, looking at her again.
"You are not a replacement." He said firmly. "You're…Tifa."
Something about the way he said that, all serious and awkward and with still bloodshot eyes, that Tifa felt like he was—Her thoughts were interrupted as he started to lean closer. She sat a little straighter, leaning in as well until their lips met.
She tilted her head just slightly, eyes drifting closed as the kiss deepened and, for a moment, the world spun around her in a slur of colors. He tasted like minty toothpaste. Some of his hair, still damp from the shower, tickled at the side of her face. She smiled through the kiss until they both withdrew, looking at each other, faces still just inches apart.
After a long moment, Leon said quietly. "I'll fix the wall."
Tifa chuckled at that. "Oh, I know you will." She leaned in just so. "Or I'll kick your ass." She whispered.
He smirked. "I believe you."
She stilled, soaking in the closest thing to a smile he'd given her in the last month. Then she remembered why he had been so burdened. Rinoa Heartilly. Tifa rubbed her forehead and stood.
"It's been a long day. I should—" She made an absent gesture. "—there's…uh—"
"You should sleep…get some sleep, I mean…You're practically a caffeine-zombie right now, and I need—"
"—to eat, because I am STARVING…"
"Duke." Tifa looked back to Leon as if she'd had an epiphany. "She's in my room right now because you're a caffeine-zombie and she thinks you don't love her. I need to cook something—"
"TIFA!" He snapped and she looked at him. A dry smirk curled the corner of his mouth. "Shut. Up."
Tifa stopped talking and just looked at him with a wide-eyed expression. She lifted her shoulders as if to say: what do you want now?
Leon looked amused with her, though his eyes were still glassy with exhaustion and emotional trauma.
"Sit down." He slapped the mattress lightly beside him.
She mustered a glare, not appreciating being ordered like a hapless child, but sat on the opposite side of the mattress from him. He didn't say anything after that, just turned and sank to his stomach on the bed and dropped his head on the nearest pillow, eyes fluttering closed.
Tifa paused, glanced around the room in confusion, and shifted. "You—"
"Shh." He lifted a hand, not opening his eyes. "Lie down and go to sleep."
"Shh." He shushed her again.
She scoffed but reclined onto her back, snatching up one of the other pillows and resting her head on it. Oh, she hadn't realized how much her head hurt…and her shoulders ached…She was exhausted. With a sigh, she let her eye close.
"I'm so tired." She quietly moaned after a moment.
He grunted in agreement.
"Let's deal with all the other crap tomorrow, huh?" She offered.
He didn't answer.
Opening her eye just a sliver, she saw that his breathing had leveled out and he was motionless. Out like a light. With a soft sigh, she looked up at the ceiling.
"S'what I thought." She murmured, feeling her eyelid grow heavy as well.
He just needed permission to let go and be less than super-human for once.
"You're welcome…stupid." She grunted and rolled onto her side, curling up with her back turned toward him.
She licked her lips, tasted toothpaste, and smiled to herself.
They could figure out what that kiss had meant tomorrow.
So Tifa let herself be less than super-human and soon drifted off to sleep as well.
A/N: The title of this one was taken from a trivia tidbit from Disney's Beauty and the Beast, where Belle and Beast are the only two characters in the entire movie who wear blue.
Special shout out to all of my lovely reviewers! Fantasy0Girl, kikofreako, LadyTeefStrife, KMSaum, ilovefetamorethanyou, iVanillelay, Handwritten, , Leonlover1515, Atramentous Love, imej., SoulEaterDark, The Glaistig, justagirl8225, and, last but certainly not least, Kiss of the Breeze: thanks for reading and sticking with this collection! I hope you enjoyed it!
More Leon and Tifa writing is on the way, and I am taking prompts, so if you have a specific request, PM it to me. I'm planning a full length Leon and Tifa story, tentatively titled As the Sun Sets on Mushroom Clouds, so be on the look out. Also, to vote for the pairing name of these two, see the poll on my profile. I have also created a Leon/Tifa-shipping community, called Matters of the Hart, so if you find any fics that would fit this pairing, feel free to share it there.
You all have been great! Til next time!