Just Might Break Through
Disclaimer: I don't own Kingdom Hearts, its characters or storyline. The same goes for the movie Enchanted. I do own this little thing.
So I watched Enchanted the other day and I felt all giddy for fairytale romance afterward. I adore that movie…and Prince Edward can be the answer to my love's duet any day. So of course, what do I do when given such lovely muse-fodder? I throw Leon and Tifa into it and turn on the blender. I tried to keep them all in character, so please bear with me on that front. Also, when perusing what the Kingdom Hearts version of Andalasia would look like, somehow Giselle's cottage house ended up in a tree…yeah…why not? Enjoy!
"There has got to be an easier way to get here…" Leon grumbled, hanging onto the edge of the brick wall of the fountain.
Water was falling in a shimmering aquamarine deluge down the massive brick well, crashing over his head in the process. Trying to keep his vision clear of the water and keep his grip on the brick, Leon found footholds in the mortar and started to push himself up. The interior wall of the fountain proved slick, however, and his boots wouldn't gain any purchase, so he slipped, ending up hanging from his fingers again.
"For the love of—" He spat out more water, looking down the well.
The cylindrical depths seemed to stretch into nothing…Yet somehow their Gummi Ship had been pulled into this world's entryway. One minute they were just flying along, and the next…he's hanging in a bottomless fountain, the Gummi Ship is gone, and Tifa—
"Tifa?" He rotated his neck, but she wasn't hanging there with him. "Tifa, are you up there?" He called out of the fountain.
"Hello? Who goes there?" A loud, dramatic voice answered.
Okay…That was not Tifa…but he was dangling in a friggin' well, he'd take what he could get.
"Hey, is someone up there?" He shifted, feeling the water compromise his grip on the wall.
"Fear not, peasant! I shall save you from your watery demise!" was the response.
Gritting his teeth, Leon managed to find one good foothold on the wall and pushed himself up. He heaved until his head cleared the top of the wall. What lay beyond the white brick and shimmery water was so bright and colorful that it assaulted his eyes and nearly made him lose his grip again.
He got his arms over the top and hastily pushed his wet hair, which had been plastered over his eyes, out of his face. Before he could begin to get a leg out of the hellhole, two arms grappled under his elbows, physically dragging him up and out of the fountain.
As his center of gravity cleared the wall, Leon rolled off the brick, landing in a rumpled, drenched heap on marble floor. He spat out water and panted to get his breath back. This opportunity was promptly denied, however, as the person who'd pulled him out suddenly grabbed him and hauled him up to his feet.
"Ha-HA! You are safe, stranger! I have saved you!" The loud man laughed merrily, obviously very pleased with himself.
Staggering on his feet, Leon regained his balance and wriggled free of the other man's grip, catching his breath and pushing his hair out of his eyes again, utterly wrong-footed.
"Yeah…thanks." He grunted, gaze finally landing on his…rescuer.
The guy was tall, dressed head to toe in some elaborate purple costume, with massive shoulder padding, each the size of his head. A sheathed sword with a golden handle hung by his leg…and he was wearing purple tights and heeled boots. On top of that, he seemed to be striking some sort of pose…wide stance, hands on his hips, chest puffed out, too-white smile taking over half of his face.
What kind of nut—
"Rejoice, peasant! I have rescued you from the bottomless depths of the wishing fountain!" The man regaled with an exaggerated arm gesture.
"…right." Leon straightened, looking around again.
As his eyes adjusted to the sudden barrage of color, he realized they were in a giant courtyard. Enormous white brick walls rose tall and thick, complete with spires, around the gardens and bridges and gazebos and other décor. And he had thought Disney Castle was overkill with the landscaping…
He turned around to face the fountain again. Overlarge sculpted trees flanked the towering porcelain well. The water was falling into the shaft from a few ornate openings several meters over his head. The glittery, shimmery hue to the water was unnerving and he stepped away from it, turning back to the purple-costumed man.
"Where am I?" He asked.
"This, sir, is the grandest courtyard surrounding the castle, and that," He gestured to the fountain, "is the famous wishing well which draws in many villagers from all yonder corners of my kingdom! And I—" More over-the-top gestures. "am Edward, prince of this realm."
Leon lifted one eyebrow at the guy.
"Now," The eccentric person—Edward, apparently—faced him. "Who are you? From what distant land do you hail?"
"Uh." Was all Leon managed, still reeling from all the colors and…wild arm gestures.
The self-proclaimed prince looked perplexed. "Do you not remember your name or where you are from? Perhaps some foul, villainous force befelled you!" He eyed Leon's dark clothing, "Or…perhaps you ARE the villain!" he bounced back a step, one hand flying to his sword. "Answer me, sir!"
Leon lifted a hand, "Leon. My name's Leon and I'm not…a villain."
Edward immediately relaxed. "Oh, okay." His smile returned. "You have obviously been through much, good sir! Come! Let us talk!" He swept an arm around Leon's shoulders, aiming them both toward…ah, there was the castle.
Leon looked around again. "Actually…I'm looking for someone."
"Oh?" Edward spun back around so fast it was almost a twirl. "A friend? An ally? A cohort against the forces of darkness?"
"Um…sure." Leon ducked out from under Edward's arm. "Her name is Tifa and she—"
"Ah! Of course!" Edward punched one hand with his other fist. "You are on a quest to find your maiden!"
"My maid—what? No." Leon shook his head, growing irritated. "We were on a mission together and got separated. She has long dark hair and her name is Tifa."
"Tifa!" Edward almost sang the name. "A beautiful name for a beautiful maiden indeed! Today is your lucky day, Leon, for I, Prince Edward of Andalasia, am here to assist you!"
And before Leon could protest, Edward had grabbed his arm and was dragging him toward the castle.
"Hello? Oh my goodness, are you all right?"
The woman's voice was high pitched and was extremely enunciated. Good thing for that, because half of the words slurred together into a mess anyway. Tifa's mind felt muddled, like she had been on the other side of a gong when it was struck.
"Look, everyone! I think she's waking up!"
Tifa groaned and lifted a hand to her head, finding a large lump on her forehead. She was lying on something cushioned and soft, and wherever she was smelled strongly of oak. Gathering her wits, she shifted her limbs a little and found no pain besides the ache in her skull.
"We were all so worried!"
She opened her eyes a little, peering through her eyelashes at her immediate surroundings. She was in what appeared to be an open small room, wood floors, knotted wooden walls, and bare rafters. The young woman leaning over her had large, shining blue eyes and impossibly silky red hair tumbling over her shoulders and down her back.
"Wh-at?" Tifa grunted, pushing herself up.
"Yay! Oh, I'm so glad you're all right." The woman clapped her hands, bouncing back on her heels. "We found you in the woods. You must be terribly lost to have ended up way out here."
Sitting up, Tifa waited for the vertigo to pass before looking around again. The living room-ish place had perfectly round windows with tree leaves dangling in the sunlight. What drew her attention first, however, were the rabbits, chipmunks, birds, and deer that were sitting there, watching her.
She started slightly, nearly rolling backward off the pile of cushions that she had been placed on.
"Oh! Do be careful." The woman swept behind Tifa, holding her shoulders. "You hit your head very hard. We were all so worried!"
"Right…you said that…" Tifa said, waving her off and looking to the woman. "What happened?"
"Well…my friends and I were picking flowers in the forest…and we found you lying there with a bump on your head." The woman explained, using her hands in extravagant gestures.
Tifa squinted one eye at her, not responding to that immediately. "Right, right…Okay." She rubbed her head again, "The last thing I remember, I was going into the world entrance with—Leon!"
Her outburst made some of the birds unseat themselves, fluttering around the rafters before settling back on the furniture. Tifa looked around, but she saw no sign of her partner. If she had seen Leon standing there, amidst all this flowery, ruffled, cheerfulness, she probably would have laughed.
But she didn't see him, so she panicked.
"Leon? Who is Leon?" The woman asked, hands held delicately in front of her.
"My partner." Tifa said, standing up despite her protesting skull. "We must have crashed or something—Did you see a Gummi Ship anywhere out there?"
"A what-kind of ship?" The girl tilted her head. "I don't understand."
"Er—" Tifa walked over to the window. "It's a…nevermind…We had to have crashed and gotten split up." She rambled, half to herself. "He could be hurt or stuck in a tree or something—"
"Oh my." The woman touched her chin in concern. "I have never sailed on a ship before, but I never thought it could be so destructive and dangerous!"
"No, no, this ship…er…'sails'…in the air." Tifa gave an absent flying gesture. "It's not important right now. Right now, I have to find Leon."
"Your partner." The woman said softly.
"Right." Tifa looked out the window and looked down. Her expression went flat and she turned back around. "Your house is in a tree."
"Of course." The woman smiled. "I have been waiting here for a very long time."
"Waiting?" Tifa blinked, looking at the woman again.
The girl had a dreamy, far-away look on her face. "Yes. One day, I know, a brave, noble prince will come and find me here. Then…we'll go away from here and be together forever…After true love's kiss of course."
Tifa's eyebrows shot up. This lady was a few sandwiches short of a picnic. "I'm sorry…Who are you?"
"My name is Giselle." The woman did a curtsy. "And these are my friends." She gestured to the wild animals that were still loitering about in the living room.
"Ah, h-hi." Tifa gave a little wave to the creatures before looking back to Giselle. "I'm Tifa. Now…um…Is there someone else—any tree neighbors or anything—who I could ask if they've seen Leon?"
Giselle looked thoughtful. "As far as I know, we are the only ones in this part of the forest."
Tifa dropped her hands to her sides with light slaps. "Of course you are." She crossed over to what she supposed was the door to leave.
"Where are you going?" Giselle asked curiously.
"I've got to find Leon, preferably before he finds me in a treehouse surrounded by Snow White's wildlife brigade." Tifa remarked, opening the door.
"No, you mustn't!" Giselle cried enthusiastically, crossing over to her.
"Why not?" Tifa asked.
"It's nearly dusk! The mountain trolls do their hunting after nightfall. It's too dangerous to go out alone!" Giselle explained theatrically.
Tifa looked at the girl flatly. "I can handle myself."
She climbed out of the door and onto the rungs that served as a built-in ladder down the torso of the tree. After all that time spent looking for Cloud, now she had to look for Leon. Typical men.
When Edward started humming and singing to himself, Leon started to truly regret taking this mission instead of the one Sora and his friends were on in Atlantica. Then he remembered that world's merpeople re-configuration and the sea witch Ursula's…musical…battle methods.
He'd take this nutcase over that mess.
"Look, Edward—" He started.
"PRINCE Edward." The man emphasized, lifting one hand.
Leon sighed, "Right, right…This really isn't necessary. I appreciate the help, but I don't need—"
"Nonsense, good fellow." Edward clapped a hand on Leon's shoulder. "A knight cannot call himself a knight without a steed!"
"But I'm not a—" Leon gave a low growl of exasperation as his words fell on deaf ears.
Edward stepped into the stirrup on the white stallion and swung himself acrobatically into the saddle. Leon slapped his forehead with one hand, running it down his face before looking around. The royal stables were the size of the entire marketplace of Radiant Garden.
"Come! Come!" Edward beckoned toward the other saddled horse. "Your damsel could be distressing at this very moment! Awaiting such a strong, gallant knight to save her!"
"Clearly, you've never met Tifa." Leon grunted, eying the horse.
The chestnut stallion snorted at him.
This was almost the last thing he wanted to get involved in, but this Edward guy was eager to help and knew this world inside out. Leon had no idea how to get out of these stables, much less the castle grounds and the rest of the world.
"Fine." He groaned, climbing up onto the horse and awkwardly settling into the saddle as the horse shifted its weight back and forth away from the wall.
Edward beamed and snatched up the reins, "Now, let us embark on this quest to save your lost maiden!"
"How many times do I have to tell you? She's not my—" Leon tried again to explain.
"I vow to aid you until this venture ends in victory!" Edward declared.
Leon hung his head in defeat. "Fine…just…great."
Edward whipped at the reins and his horse turned obediently. "Let's ride, Destiny! You too, Majesty!"
The chestnut stallion, Majesty, reared just enough to make Leon clamor for the reins, and then marched after Edward's white horse.
Maybe looking for Tifa on his own, on foot, without any assistance, would have been the more efficient way to go, Leon thought grimly.
Any other thoughts he had were rattled out of his skull as both horses bolted at Edward's command, shooting out of the stables and across the grounds in full gallops. Having ridden a horse only twice in his life, Leon clutched at the reins and tried to remember the basic commands. Magic or Magenta or whatever the Hell this horse's name was, it seemed to know where it was going, because it and Destiny bounded together through the front gates.
The rolling hills and swooping valleys of Andalasia were laid out before him now. The expansive mountains and crystalline lakes would have been breathtaking in any other instance. Unfortunately, most of Leon's breath had been ripped out by the horse's insistence on going from zero to break-neck in three seconds.
"Where did you last see the fair lady?" Edward asked, hair whipping about in a way that only someone dressed like him could pull off.
About twenty miles above your head, Leon considered saying, but went for silence instead, looking around for himself. If the Gummi had crashed and he…had somehow ended up in the fountain, then Tifa could be anywhere. There wasn't even any smoke to indicate where the ship had gone down.
"Whoa!" Edward pulled in the reins.
Both horses screeched to a stop so fast that Leon nearly flew past the head of the one he was riding. He managed to adjust quickly enough and ended up standing in the stirrups. Edward was standing straight up as well, shielding his eyes with one hand and scanning the horizon determinedly.
Leon squinted in the near-darkness of the opposite horizon, unable to see any sign of a Gummi or a recent crash. Some of the trees shifted several miles away and he blinked.
"Hm, trolls are out already." Edward chimed. "Ha-HA, but we shall not be deterred!"
Trolls…of course…why not? Leon suddenly felt very naked without his Gunblade, which had been left on the Gummi…wherever that was. He eyed the sword at Edward's hip. Hopefully this simpleton knew how to use that.
A loud shriek cut across the soft air, echoing off the stone face of the mountain sides. It was too high pitched to be Tifa, but it was definitely someone in trouble. Leon and Edward both looked in the direction of the screaming.
"What cry for help is this?" Edward declared.
Leon rolled his eyes and saw the trees beginning to move in what resembled a line toward the screaming, somewhere deep in the forest. With a grunt, he shifted in the saddle and somehow managed to get Majesty to face the right direction.
"The forest is a dangerous place at this hour." Edward informed. "But no troll shall stand in the way of a knight to his damsel!"
"I told you, Tifa is NOT a damsel and I'm NOT a kni—"
"Ride, Destiny! Onward, Majesty!"
The two horses bolted into action again, and the word tore itself out of Leon's mouth.
Tifa was still ten feet from the ground when Giselle screamed. The surprise of it nearly made Tifa let go of the tree. Grabbing the rungs sturdily, she glared up at the tree house.
"What?" She hissed.
Giselle's hands were at her face, her eyes wide in the post-dusk glow. "I thought I heard a troll!"
Tifa groaned, pressing her forehead to the tree for a moment before looking back up. "Well, what do trolls sound like?"
A low, rumbling snarl roared through the whistling tree branches, along with the sound of heavy footsteps and splintering trees.
"Like that." Giselle warned.
Tifa lowered herself a few more rungs before dropping in a short freefall the rest of the way. The forest floor was thick with foliage and leaves, and it cushioned most of the shock from the drop. Dusting herself off, she looked back up the tree.
"Thanks for your help, but I can really handle it from here." She said.
"But, what if you meet a troll?" Giselle said, starting to climb down after her.
"I'll take care of it." Tifa shrugged, squinting as she scanned the surroundings.
"But—but you haven't a weapon or any kind of—" Giselle said, grabbing a limb to steady herself as she descended.
"I've got all the weapons I need on me at all times." Tifa adjusted her fighting gloves. "Please, just go back to your home. I need to find Leon."
"Yes, so you keep saying, but don't you have it backwards?" Giselle shimmied down to stand beside Tifa.
"No…I don't think I do." Tifa lifted an eyebrow.
Giselle clasped her hands in front of her. "You must have hit your head harder than I thought. Everyone knows that the prince is the one who seeks the maiden, braving all dangers and rescuing her from all peril. Then they ride off together into the sunset, they are married, and live happily ever after."
Tifa eyed the woman strangely for a moment before a helpless laugh escaped her. She shook her head and started walking.
"What's so funny?" Giselle walked after her.
"Just…all of that. You really believe that?" Tifa said, trying to figure out which way was north.
"All of what?"
"That…that mess you just spoonfed me. Princes and maidens, riding off into the sunset and happily ever after?" Tifa smiled. "How long have you been stuck in that tree?"
Giselle looked confused. "But you said Leon was your partner."
"Yeah…at work. We're soldiers. Allies. We run missions together. Trust me, Leon is not 'knight in shining armor' material." She chuckled. "Those don't exist anymore, trust me."
"You're wrong." Giselle shook her head all-knowingly. "You may not see it, but I'm sure this Leon of yours is the perfect knight for you."
"And who says I need a knight?" Tifa said, trudging through the woods.
"Why do you not want one?" Giselle countered.
"Because that whole philosophy is flawed. You're seriously going to wait in a tree your whole life for some guy who may or may not ride up on a valiant steed and rescue you?" Tifa asked.
"My prince WILL come and we WILL share true love's kiss. I know it." Giselle said dreamily.
Tifa spotted a clearing in the forest. "Good luck with that. Me? I'm going to save myself here, and probably Leon too, since he's probably—"
Another louder roar echoed through the trees toward them, and Giselle clutched onto Tifa's arm.
"It's getting closer." She whispered. "Please, let's go back."
Tifa looked to Giselle. "You can go back. You'll be safer up there, but I HAVE to get out of here."
Before I start to think that waiting for Leon to find me in a tree is a good idea, she finished inwardly.
Giselle seemed to see a lost cause and pulled Tifa abruptly into a farewell hug. "I wish you all the luck and fortune. It was lovely to meet you."
"You…you too." Tifa patted her arm awkwardly. "And don't worry about me, I've dealt with worse than trolls before."
"What could be worse than a giant, mean-tempered troll?" Giselle asked.
Tifa looked into the trees, narrowing her eyes at the coming night darkness. "Blondes."
She hadn't taken two steps after that when the trees to her left exploded and a massive, green, blubbery body stomped through the forest at her. She screamed in surprise, diving out of the way.
As Edward and Leon flew over a brook on a rickety white bridge, a second scream cut through the woods. Leon recognized it immediately.
"That was Tifa." He sat up a little, scanning the trees.
Edward looked around as well. "There's a troll nearby. I'd recognize that foul stench anywhere."
Leon ignored that statement and gripped the reins more tightly, sliding his heels back into the horse's flanks, signaling for it to move forward.
"Come on." He ordered.
"Nay, you must charge in with gusto!" Edward pumped a fist. "Trolls take a firm sword and a strong will to beat."
"No kidding." Leon nudged the horse forward.
Majesty snorted and trotted into the treeline. With a frown, Leon urged the stallion more firmly and the horse picked up the pace to a run. This time, Leon was prepared for the transition in speed and ducked with the movement. This time, Edward followed.
Soon, Leon understood what Edward had meant by 'foul stench'. During the war against the Heartless, Leon had smelled some pretty rancid things in his travels…The smell of Andalasian mountain troll definitely ranked in the top five worst aromas. The air was heavy with the smell of body odor and swamp water. It was almost overpowering.
Then the sound of splintering trees and heavy footfalls raked his attention back to the situation. He slipped into battle mode like a second skin. From the screaming, there were two women, possibly more, including Tifa. He could only hear one set of footfalls that were heavy enough to be a troll, but there could be anything out there from Heartless to Nobodies to…unicorn zombies.
As Majesty and Destiny carried them closer to the conflict, Leon spotted the familiar flash of a Fire Spell through the trees. Edward charged ahead with his more accomplished horsemanship, but Leon kept up as best he could manage.
"Fear not, fair maidens!" Edward bellowed. "I will rescue you!"
A startled cry sounded to the right and Leon got a glimpse of the troll, a 50 foot, blubbery green creature stumbling around and swatting at something. Edward was bee-lining toward the monster, so Leon took the other route toward the cry.
Majesty leapt over an over-turned tree and Leon tightened his hold on the horse in surprise. The stallion obediently halted at the command. Taken off guard, Leon staggered, and his weight shifted to the side. To avoid toppling off the horse like an idiot, he swung his other leg over, letting gravity drop him back to the thick underbrush.
Another fearful yell made him look up. A woman with long red hair was climbing across a thick tree branch to escape the troll. The branch was roughly twenty feet high, and he could tell by the way she was moving that she wasn't an experienced climber. He left the horse where it was and hurried over to stand under the girl, looking back toward the battle.
He could hear Edward cackling as he slashed at the troll's head, having somehow shimmied up onto the beast's shoulder. As he looked over, Leon saw Tifa moving by the troll's ankles, kicking at its legs to try and trip it and send it crashing to the ground. The blows made hard, packing sounds of flesh against flesh. She looked uninjured.
"Oh!" The woman above him yelped.
Leon looked up in time to see the woman lose her grip and topple away from the branch she had been clinging to. Taking a step backward, he could do little more than catch her. She landed bridal style in his arms. Something was weird about this world: she had fallen nearly twenty feet, but the force of her impacting his arms was like catching a body pillow.
"You…you saved me." The woman's eyes were way too large and way too blue and way too fixed on his face.
"Er—right." He set her down on a tree stump. "Are you all right?"
"I'm…wonderful." She continued to stare at him.
"Uh…good." He shifted away from her uncomfortably.
"LEON! If you aren't BUSY, I could USE some HELP!" Tifa yelled, being thrashed to and fro in one of the troll's fists.
He had never been so relieved to see a giant monster thrashing around. Escaping from the woman's wonder-struck gaze, he hastened over to the battle. Edward had produced a rope out of nowhere and was attempting to hog-tie the troll. The creature held Tifa's entire torso in one hand, though her arms and legs were wriggling and struggling with all her might.
Assessing the situation, Leon took one step to help, but Tifa beat him to it.
"Fira." She clapped both hands onto the thick green skin of the troll.
Flames erupted around the troll's wrist and it roared in anger and pain.
"Hey! That huuurts!" It boomed.
Because of course the troll could talk, Leon thought with a grimace.
"The maiden is a sorceress? What is this?" Edward exclaimed. He looked to Leon, "Quickly! I shall distract this foul beast while you rescue your princess!"
"Your what?" Tifa choked.
The troll was apparently fed up with Tifa and ready for a new toy. Annoyed at Edward's persistent wrangling with the ropes around its ankles, the troll nonchalantly tossed Tifa like a ragdoll. Leon's eyes glued to her plummeting form and he heard the red headed woman scream in fear for her.
He broke free from the paralysis that had gripped him and ran toward where she had been thrown. The momentum carried her into the broad side of a tree. She impacted hard and then dropped the several feet to the ground, landing miraculously on her feet before dropping to her hands and knees.
Somewhere to his right, he heard the other woman cry out. "Watch out!"
If the forest floor had been any less cushioned by leaves and underbrush, the impact with it would have easily broken any bones that weren't rattled by Tifa's body slam with the tree. As it was, she managed to more or less nail the landing before staggering off balance to her hands and knees.
She looked up at Giselle's warning to see Leon a few meters away, hurrying over to her, all the blood gone from his face. Beyond him, that crazy purple guy had by some stroke of luck managed to tie the troll's ankles and wrists together. With its balance compromised, the creature was swaying dangerously and beginning to keel in her and Leon's general direction.
Joints still protesting from the collision, Tifa lifted a hand to point out the danger to Leon, but his eyes were stuck on her. The need to make sure she was all right was forcing him to forfeit the attention he would have allotted to his surroundings.
The troll toppled forward, casting its moon shadow over her and Leon. The other guy leapt like a gazelle off the beast's shoulders, landing in a perfect kneel beside the white horse he'd ridden in on. Leon reached her, paused, and managed a half turn to look up at the keeling troll.
Seconds before they would be pancakes, wonderful. Tifa glanced to her right and saw a short drop off. Gritting her teeth, she shoved herself up on one leg and shoved her shoulder into Leon's chest.
"Move!" She grunted.
Pushing off her leg, she rolled hard to her right. Leon was knocked off his feet by the unexpected shove. She felt more than saw his reactions kick back into gear as one of his arms suddenly locked around her ribs and she kept rolling, pulling them both down into the drop off.
The wall of the ditch was solid mud, and they both landed in the shallow trench five feet down with wet flops: Leon on his back and Tifa perpendicular on his stomach. The ground around them trembled as the troll collapsed face first into the grassy spot where Tifa and Leon had been two seconds earlier.
"Oh no! Oh my goodness! Tifa?" Giselle was calling frantically.
Tifa was reluctant to move as she felt mud cake her entire backside, from her skull to her ankles, but she pushed herself up onto shaky elbows and looked down the trench. Leon was coughing for breath, and she realized she'd probably crushed half of his ribs.
"Okay?" He grunted at her.
"I'm fine." She said, looking up out of the ditch.
"Good…then get off me." He feebly pushed at her shoulders, too winded to do much else.
Tifa pulled herself off of him and leaned against the wall of the ditch. Leon subsequently sat up and maneuvered onto his knees before shakily getting to his feet. Prince Shoulderpads the Purple appeared, standing triumphantly atop the hulking troll, peering down at them merrily.
"Good to see you both are well! The troll is felled, and the day is won!" He declared, sheathing his sword dramatically.
Tifa lifted one eyebrow and looked to Leon, who just shook his head, silently begging her to just go with it for now. After re-gathering their breath and their wits, they climbed out of the muddy trench and onto the level ground where Giselle and the other guy-Edward, Leon told her his name was-were.
"I'm so glad you're all right!" Giselle gushed, looking like she wanted to pull Tifa into an embrace. Her mud-slaked person made the woman hesitate, and then she opted for just grasping both of Tifa's shoulders affectionately.
Edward just stood there, grinning like an idiot. Tifa smiled back because, damn his charm, the prince's spirits were infectious. Luckily, Leon was immune to all things happy, and just frowned at the grumpy troll.
"And you—you rescued me!" Giselle fell upon him like a suction cup.
Leon shifted awkwardly. "…Whatever."
"And you're so humble!" The woman's eyes practically sparkled.
Tifa's eye twitched. "Did you seriously ride in on a horse?"
Leon looked at her and pointed at Edward. "His idea."
Tifa glanced sideways to see the prince checking his teeth in the reflection of his sword's blade. She looked back to Leon incredulously.
"He was very persuasive." Leon grumbled.
"You saved us both!" Giselle continued. "You are so brave and strong and—"
"Oh no." Tifa lifted a hand, "I saved HIM, thank you very much."
Giselle looked at her. "But I saw him battle that horrible troll…"
Leon pointed at Edward again, "His idea."
Giselle didn't turn around, all eyes on Leon. "It must have been Fate that brought us here today."
Tifa cleared her throat loudly and in annoyance slid just between Giselle and Leon. "Trust me, he's not your type."
"Type?" Giselle tilted her head.
Tifa slapped herself in the forehead, gripped Giselle's shoulders, and physically turned her toward Edward. "He…er…felled this…mighty…guh…troll." She said. "Leon fell off a horse and rolled in the mud. You do the math, honey."
Edward did an elaborate little bow and promptly struck a pose. "It is true, I defeated this foul, snarling monster! You are safe, fair maiden, for I am here to protect you!"
Tifa heard Giselle practically swoon and she turned around to see Leon staring up at the trees, frown back in place.
"What?" She followed his gaze. "Oh, you've got to be kidding me."
Their Gummi Ship was lodged in the thick, upper canopies of the massive forest trees.
"Remind me again," Leon grunted, having climbed up into the trees and being forced to balance on a branch to work on the engine. "how I ended up with this job?"
Down below, Tifa was wiping mud off her person with a large blue towel. "Because my rock crushed your scissors." She snickered.
Leon frowned, looking down at her. "We really need a new conflict resolution procedure."
"Do you need help?" Tifa looked up at him with an innocent grin.
"No." He grumbled, "I do not need help."
"Fine, have it your way." Tifa started climbing up the tree.
Leon rolled his eyes, unsure whether to be relieved or annoyed at this point. Edward and Giselle had offered to help them, but Tifa had assured them they could handle it from there. Fortunately for Leon's gag reflex, the two suddenly-soulmates kept making goo-goo eyes at each other and bursting into song. It hadn't taken too much to convince them that Leon and Tifa had this whole Gummi thing covered.
The horizon was beginning to brighten with the coming dawn, and one of the prince's subjects, a tottery man named Nathaniel, arrived to dispatch with the troll and lead Majesty back to the royal stables. The plump man didn't seem too enthused about conversation, and for that, Leon was grateful.
Clamoring up into the Gummi's cockpit, Tifa offered a shit-eating grin from the other side of the cracked windshield. Leon glared back at her and finished tweaking the engine. It should work well enough to get them back to Radiant Garden. Reconnaissance of Andalasia would have to be delayed…again.
He was definitely sticking this one on Sora next time. If that kid could suit up as a merman and battle with his vocal chords underwater, he could handle this sugarcoated pop-up book fairytale place.
"What?" He mumbled, closing the hood and finding Tifa still smirking.
She had tied her hair up in a ponytail: it was an odd look on her.
"Nothing. It's just…funny." She shook her head, trying the ignition.
The engine snorted and chugged to life, sounding none-too-happy about the rude awakening. Leon climbed across the hood and awkwardly maneuvered through the trees to the other side of the cockpit. The first manner of business upon climbing up here had been to clear away the branches and canopy that was locking the ship in place.
After chopping at the mess for nearly twenty minutes, he had cleared most of the area around the Gummi. It would take some navigating, but they should be able to lift the ship right out of the hole.
"What's funny?" He felt obligated to ask, closing the doors on the ship and dropping with an exhausted sigh into the seat next to her.
"This whole world is funny." Tifa chuckled, testing the rudder and thrusters on the control panel.
Leon lifted an eyebrow at her but didn't say anything.
"I mean…castles, princes, valiant steeds, and daring rescues…None of this is real." Tifa went on. "It's ridiculous."
"Whatever." He shifted and started testing his side of the control panel.
"I'm serious. That girl was willing to sit in a tree house waiting for that Edward guy to come take her away. You saved her from that fall and she was ready to jump your bones." She snorted.
All the safety functions were working. One of the portside guns wasn't responding, but they'd just have to risk it.
"And damsel in distress? Please." Tifa was going on. "If anyone was a damsel in that situation, it was you."
Leon looked up from the board. "What?"
Tifa faced him. "You were running at me, back turned to the enemy like an idiot, and if I hadn't tackled you into that ditch, we'd both be dead."
He pointed at her. "I had things under control."
"Ha!" She rolled her eyes, laughing. "So, if you're the damsel, does that make me your knight?" She laughed louder. "Talk about a backwards fairytale. It's about time. Sheesh."
"I never said—oh forget it." Leon gave a surrendering gesture and focused on gearing the Gummi for flight.
After fifteen minutes of infuriating wiggling and forward-reverse-forward-reverse-forward-reverse shifting, between them they managed to get the Gummi out of the cocoon of messy leaves and branches and into the higher atmosphere of Andalasia.
Tifa looked thoughtful for a moment, gazing through the windshield. "Oh, for it all to be that simple." She said quietly.
Leon directed the Gummi out of the Andalasian airspace and out into the blackness of outer space. They had both been to worlds just as candy-colored and hopelessly romantic-infested as Andalasia. Fairytales and princesses and staple 'happily ever after's weren't all that rare in their line of work. He wasn't sure why she was getting all ruffled about this one.
Tifa was stuck in her own tree house of sorts. Mentally anyway. Whatever had happened to her during the war with the Heartless and after, it had taken a wrecking ball to her way of thinking, her way of life, and now she was just as confused as the rest of them.
He could understand that.
But this fairytale business…She was on her own there.
Still, the thing about tree houses was that sometimes you fell out of them.
If Tifa fell out of her tree house, Leon vowed to be there to catch her, whether she liked it or not.