III

The smile that lit up Cloud's face warmed Leon to his soul. It was a look he immediately treasured and hoped to see more of in the future. "It won't be easy," Cloud warned. "I never assumed this would be easy."

Leon snorted. "To the contrary," he said, playfully flicking Cloud in the forehead. "If you're involved, it's bound to be as simplistic as possible."

It took a moment before Cloud narrowed his eyes. "Did you just call me mentally deficient?" he asked.

Leon's eyes widened. "Oh, no," he said dramatically, "you must be evolving faster than I thought if you understood that one."

"Asshole," Cloud huffed, before brashly licking a trail up the side of Leon's face. Leon heartily voiced his annoyance and pushed at Cloud, entirely adverse to having his face loaded with spit. Cloud easily fell to the bed, pulling Leon with him so that the brunet was on top of him. At the scowl Leon gave him, Cloud merely grinned and scrubbed at Leon's face with the man's own shirt, pulling it off completely in the process.

"Crafty," commented Leon dryly once his shirt was flung to some corner of the room.

"Aren't I?" Cloud answered cheekily, leaning up to capture Leon's lips at the same time. He loved the way the taller man's body fit against his, the way Leon's fingers automatically twined in his hair. Even better than that, he loved the feel of warm skin underneath his fingertips as he smoothed his hand over Leon's chest and up towards his face. Cloud eagerly swallowed Leon's moan of appreciation, tracing his bottom lip with his tongue as they pulled apart.

Leon remained silent, his eyes trained on Cloud, as the blond lightly touched his lips and the bridge of his nose. "Can I ask you a serious question?" Cloud said, looking to Leon's eyes for permission.

Leon nodded, and he could feel the moment of hesitation in Cloud's fingers as he touched them to his scar. "How'd you get your scar?" Cloud asked softly. It was something he'd never asked before, because he hadn't wanted to pry. Leon never volunteered the information, either.

A shuttered look crossed his face, and he tried to suppress the shiver that ran down his spine at the memory. "Someone who I thought was a friend gave it to me," Leon said dully, "when he found me cutting. He grabbed my hand to stop me, and I lashed out instinctively. I cut him across the face, and then he grabbed the razor from my hand and cut me back. Never saw him again after that."

A distressed look crossed Cloud's face, and his fingers froze. "I'm sorry," he said, pressing an apologetic kiss to Leon's lips.

"Don't be," Leon said, averting his gaze. "Wasn't your fault."

"Still," said Cloud, kissing at Leon's neck, "he hurt you. I'm sorry you had to feel that pain."

Leon sighed, realizing there was no arguing with Cloud. "Whatever," he sighed. "Thanks."

Cloud hummed his approval, running his fingers over the scar once before curling his hand around Leon's neck. Their lips met again, just a gentle press, and then Cloud lay his head against Leon's chest with a heavy sigh. For a few moments, the only sound he paid attention to was the heavy thud of Leon's heartbeat in his ear. It was soothing.

"Hey, Leon," Cloud asked as something suddenly occurred to him.

"Yeah?"

"Are you, uh..." He trailed off, a little bit unsure of how to approach his next question, but decided to go with his usual blunt tactic. "Are you gay?"

Leon closed his eyes for a second, and then stared straight up at the ceiling. "Um," he replied. "Not that I'm explicitly aware of." He'd been in only one serious relationship before, with a girl named Rinoa Heartilly, and he had genuinely enjoyed it while it lasted, but he couldn't recall ever having been attracted to another guy. Except Cloud, apparently, and he hadn't even noticed it.

"Huh," said Cloud passively. "That's really interesting."

Leon let it go for a few seconds before he asked, "Why's that?"

Cloud laughed, a short chuckle that warmed Leon's skin. He propped his head up on his arm so he could look Leon in the eye. "I'm not gay, either," he said, eyes shining with mirth.

Leon looked at him with puzzlement, and raised his eyebrows. "You mean you've—"

"I'm not gay, Leon," Cloud interrupted with a snort, his grin fading.

Leon smirked. "Could've fooled me," he couldn't help but jibe.

Cloud gave him the strongest glare he could muster. "Why would you assume I'm gay?"

Leon sighed impatiently. "I never said I thought you were gay. I just thought you had...you know," Leon said, scrambling for words. "I thought you'd done this before or something," he finished lamely.

Cloud's frown grew sterner. "And why is that? Is there something about me that just screams, 'I like to fuck guys up the ass'?"

Leon fought the urge to smack himself. "No," he said. "But if you're going to be like that, the excessive hairdo doesn't help your cause." He ran his hand through his hair, making it stand on end. "I'm sure all the girls wanna fuck a guy who spends two hours longer on his hair than they do," he said sardonically.

Cloud's eyebrows lifted. "Oh? You wanna go there? At least I'm not the one walking around looking like a fucking bondage queen," Cloud attacked with a scoff. "Seriously, at any given moment, you're wearing six belts too many. What's wrong, tired of men grabbing your ass?"

Leon turned on his side, propping up his head on his hand. "I know you wish you had that problem, Strife," he said snidely, "but don't be jealous."

A sharp blush spread across Cloud's cheeks as Leon laughed. "I better be the only one grabbing your ass from now on," he grumbled.

Leon stifled his laughter and gathered Cloud back into his arms, patting him on the head. "Don't worry," he said, trying to appease his new lover, "I promise you now have sole grabbing rights."

"Good," Cloud growled.

They lay there in silence again, getting used to each other's presence in a new way. There wasn't anything really different about the way they were draped over each other, except maybe the possessive arm around a hip, or the gentle fingertips tracing over a shoulder; they'd always been obscenely comfortable in each other's personal space. There was something different now, and they both knew it, but they didn't know what it was. Was it how close they'd come to losing each other? Was it the sudden revelation of too much personal information? Was it love?

No, they'd always loved each other. They just never knew it.

"Something's different," Leon observed.

"Yeah," agreed Cloud, a little too quickly.

"I hate you," said Leon, for old time's sake.

"Hate you, too," answered Cloud casually.

They each waited a moment. "So where do we go from here? In all seriousness," asked Leon.

"Why are you asking me?" mumbled Cloud.

"...Aren't we in this together?"

"Yeah, but," Cloud said, "I told you I don't have the answers. I know just about as well as you do where this is going. But what matters is where we want this to go. Clearly—" he gave Leon an extremely pointed look—"we both have problems. But just as clearly, we're willing to help each other out, right?"

Leon looked thoughtful for a moment. "It's up to us who we are," he said finally, "and what happens from here on out. There's no...right or wrong, just what's good for us." He looked to Cloud for confirmation, and then continued when he nodded. "So...it's okay if it's a little different. It's still good."

"Eloquent as ever," Cloud snorted, and Leon flicked his forehead.

"Fuck off," he said mildly.

"Bite me."

The two of them grinned at each other. Everything would be just fine.

"So, now that we're dating, I'm setting some rules," Cloud said, changing the subject.

"Rules?"

"Yeah."

"...Like what?"

"Next time we end up on top of a bridge together, you're buying the fucking beer."