Disclaimer: Nope, don't own Tekken.
Author's Note: Wrote this the moment I saw Steve's ending (and then when I saw Leo's as well, keysmashed everywhere). I was fortunate enough to have a friend get the game early, sooo yeah. Either way, I'd be lying if I said I wasn't ridiculously grateful for this piece of plot for both Steve and Leo. Here's to hoping it follows through in Tekken 7. Enjoy!
"You'll be alright, Steve."
"Why are they doing this to me, Doctor Kliesen?"
"You're too young to understand."
The ache in his arm reminded him everyday that he wasn't like everybody else.
As he watched the cold rain from outside his drizzly apartment window, Steve wondered about the only good memory, the only good person who graced those horrible times in the Mishima Zaibatsu. Where he was, to them, more a rat than a human, more a test than a success, more a task than a life.
He shut his eyes, remembering her kind face and the blonde hair that framed it, and he wondered where in the world Emma Kliesen was today. He wondered if she still participated in such experiments, or if she had transferred to a different unit. Many times he found himself wondering what life for her was like on the outside, where the sun was the light.
She had been so different to the other doctors. She reminded him of warmth, and of the good he had heard in vague conversations. She always greeted him with a smile, and there were times where she tried to give him a treat, only to be yelled at by those awful others. The awful others reminded him of the bitter cold, like the floor, and unfortunately, it was these men that tended to him more than Emma.
The storm raged on, drowning London and stealing all of its electricity. Blackouts rolled across the buildings, and his apartment was no exception. Candles glittered in the far corners of his humble, immaculate abode, adding a sense of mysticism and weariness. He placed a hand on the frosty window for a moment and sighed as lightning roared across the sky once more.
Destroying the laboratories did not liberate him like he thought. Not at all.
Shaken and upset by the notion, Steve curled up in the seat. He gripped his knees and tried to remember to breathe, and that the past was behind him – yet, it continued to surface, seeping through the coming cracks. He tried to think about boxing, about the thrill he felt with every swing until sleep took him. But sleep was no kinder, turning his buried memories into more vivid dreams.
"Just breathe. It'll only hurt for a moment."
"I can't... It burns, it hurts to breathe."
"Steve, it'll only hurt for a moment."
"Don't you lie to me. Don't lie to me like they do."
His coach told him one day that since his return from the Fifth King Of Iron Fist Tournament, he had become more cold and withdrawn. He shook it off, throwing a few warm up punches before requesting an extended run through the usual exercises. His coach merely bowed his head and went through the motions with the British boxing champion.
Yet, as the months crawled on, Steve didn't feel any better. It was as though his anger towards the Mishima Zaibatsu had been partially melted – destroying the labs did feel good, but it wasn't enough – and then refrozen with every memory that resurfaced. He remembered the needles, being held down, 'NT01', crying from the pain, from being unable to understand, and then passing out.
He also remembered Emma and her soft smile, gentle pats on the shoulder, and she at least tried to give him encouraging words, unlike the awful others. She at least tried to get to know him. She treated him like the human that he knew he was. She called him Steve instead of NT01, she would walk him around the unrestricted areas of the laboratory, and she would tell him stories. It was those stories that he held onto through the pain – myths about minotaurs and legends about lake monsters.
One day, he came in for training, only to find that his coach was waiting for him outside. Tightening his grip on his duffle bag, Steve cautiously inquired, "Is there a problem?"
"The war, Steve," he growled almost sarcastically, "The war is the problem. All your majors have been cancelled," he expected the look of surprise, but he did not expect it to fade so quickly, "Without sponsorship, I can't train you, and without a trainer, you can't participate. I'm so sorry."
No emotion crossed his voice or his being, "Go."
The coach paused for a few moments, shuffling about on his feet, before leaving. Steve watched his reflection vanish in the glass door, until he too turned to leave, heading back to his apartment to rot. Without his livelihood, he knew he would crumble faster into the memories and into the hate.
So he waited.
"Tell me about your life outside of here."
"Well... I don't know where to begin."
"From the top!"
"Smarty pants... Well... I have a daughter."
"A daughter? Does she wear pink dresses?"
"Haha! Hardly. She doesn't like girly clothes."
"Then what does she wear?"
"That's not really important, Steve. But she's a good girl. She reminds me a lot of you."
"Is that why you're... nice to me?"
"No, Steve. I'm nice to you because you deserve to be treated like the good boy you are."
Dishes continued to pile up. Laundry went unattended. Rubbish remained.
Steve had only ever felt this worthless once before in his life, and by remembering that feeling, he continued to fall further into the dumps. He hadn't known that boxing was his escape from the Zaibatsu's horrors until it was forcibly removed from him by the very beast he'd been trying to hide from.
It was getting to the point where he was avoiding mirrors and reflective surfaces, because he didn't want to see the child in his mind. 'NT01' and all it represented was supposed to be long dead, and he'd be damned if he would allow himself to feel that small again. Yet...
Frustrated, he crossed the room and opened the door, intending to head out. A walk in the park would do him good, right? There would be fresh air, sunshine, friendly faces – things he could not have as that six-year-old boy in that stupid laboratory with the awful others. It would remind him of how fortunate he was to be away from there, and who it was who sent him to a good family in London.
As he grabbed his coat from the hanger and threw it over his shoulders, Steve closed the door, locked it and travelled down the tall, winding stairs. Once he reached the bottom, passing silent, empty rooms, he noted the letters that were jammed into his post box. The top most, though, was the one that intrigued him the most. His name was scrawled across it with very poor penmanship, and it amused him.
So as he tugged it from its prison, tore open the envelope and began to read, a smile began to pull at the corner of his lips. He looked up and outside to the white snow caking the pathway and the street's gutters; he stuffed the memories into the back of his mind as he advanced on the outside world, intending to respond to the letter received from Paul Phoenix.
"What do you want to be when you grow up, Steve?"
"I haven't – ow! I haven't... really thought about that."
"You should. You're going to be great."
"If I ever get out of here, maybe. Even then..."
"Don't ever doubt yourself, Steve. You will be great."
He was roused from his memory by a loud rumbling on the plane. Steve lifted his head and looked around, noting that a few people were reading amidst the darkness. Rubbing his temples, he looked back out the window and into the black, resting his forehead against the cold glass.
"I wonder if they'll ever stop..." he mumbled to himself softly.
"It's good to see that you're awake, at least," the girl beside him said, turning the page of her novel. Steve noted the title – he had read it before, it was about mob bosses – before gazing up to the girl. Her neat, golden-brown hair swished slightly when she turned to look back, "What? You were kicking the seat in front of you. You're lucky no one is sitting there."
Steve laughed nervously, not knowing how else to respond. He looked back out the window, beginning to count the stars he could see.
Soon enough, the girl pressed gently, eyes glued into the book once again and following every letter, "Sounds like you had a bad dream. If you confront what's bothering you, it should make sleep easier to attain. Even if you can't overcome it, accepting it will make going through your days easier."
Steve incredulously glanced at the woman before bringing down the emotionless mask. She smiled a little before sliding further down her seat, slowly detaching herself from reality.
He let what she said sink in slowly – maybe it wasn't right to actively try and destroy the memories. They did shape him, after all – it was a part of him as much as the scar it left. Maybe it was best to just try and accept what had occurred and move on. Maybe it was best to shut out that part of his life forever – but he had tried that before and look where it got him. Maybe he should find a counsellor.
I'm sick of maybes.
He pulled his jacket closer around his body and waited to land in Tokyo. His left arm throbbed and his eyes began to burn.
"Steve... I'm sorry. I never meant for you to get involved in this."
"Wait... Don't leave me."
"I'm sorry, Steve."
"Don't leave me alone!"
At signups, he did not see Paul or Marshall. They must've been here earlier, or they were damn late. At any rate, he was in no mood to wait around for them and exchange pleasantries – he was still very tired from the flight.
As he scanned down the list of names, searching for his own, his heart catapulted itself into his throat when he settled on a particular surname. He noticed the signature beside it, indicating that this person, this... 'Leo', this relative of Emma Kliesen's, was indeed at the tournament.
"Are you alright sir?" the woman asked, impatient at his delay.
Ignoring her, he signed quickly, stuffed the clipboard back into her hands and immediately began to search for water. The cooler, fortunately, was nearby, and as he snatched up a plastic cup, poured the liquid into it and then sculled it, it did not cool the fire he felt inside. Steve had come to the tournament on agreement with Paul and Marshall to help them with the prize money, and to widen his experience against multiple styles – he had to remember that.
Or is that what Steve simply kept telling himself?
He soon found himself in his room. His bag was neatly placed at the foot of the bed, and the room, although awfully small, felt like a sanctuary of sorts away from dreary old London and the boxing he had snatched away from him. As the Brit began to pace back and forth, accidentally stubbing his toe against the wall in one instance, he decided that yes, he would find the relative and ask of Emma.
"Who... are you?"
"Are you NT01? Steve? Is this you in this photograph?"
"I-I... Yeah... But... Who are you?"
"Doctor Kliesen sent us. Now be quiet and come with us."
True to Emma's word, Leo, her daughter, did not wear dresses.
Steve watched as her exuberant face monitored each and every competitor that walked past her. She was very excited to be here, but if he squinted, he could see that behind her shining blue eyes, she was troubled. He wondered if she would speak with him if he approached. He then wondered if he could approach. He wasn't very good with people. Too shy, too quiet, and understandably so.
He looked back down to the photo in his gloved hand. Leo looked very much like her Mother. Strong features, bright eyes, blonde hair and a stern yet cheerful disposition. There was an adventurous side of Leo that he had never seen or recognised in Emma before, and pinned it to be her own. It was charming.
Soon enough, Leo stopped a man. Lei Wulong was his name, and Steve smiled at the memories, at the assistance that the man provided to him in the previous tournament. Lei peered down his nose at the youth, grinned and asked what he could do for her. Leo then began talking rapidly and making height gestures, "Have you seen a woman about this tall? She looks the same as me. Her name is Emma. Ever heard of her?"
Steve blinked. Lei shook his head, as expected. Leo bowed, thanked him for his time and let him leave. Leo then frowned, rubbed her face and left the vicinity, heading to what he assumed would be her first match against one Kazuya Mishima. And for that, he frowned for her.
For her to be here... something must've happened to Emma. His stomach heaved.
"She will be your Mother, as I am to be your Father."
"I understand that we'll be a lot to take in Steve, but please understand that we are here to love and care for you. I hope in time you will learn to trust us just as you trusted Doctor Kliesen."
"Would you like some cookies, dear?"
"...What... What are... cookies?"
He quietly followed her back to Germany, after the Sixth Tournament and the supernatural events that had occurred. He stayed in the same town as her for a little while, just watching and waiting for what he hoped would be the right opportunity to approach. The remnants of Jin's forces didn't make it any easier – they kept tabs on the Iron Fist participants, apparently. Leo, though, remained oblivious.
He soon began to ask around, "What do you know of Emma Kliesen?"
Some would merely glare at him and then scuttle off. Others would say in broken English that they did not speak it. And then there were some who merely offered him a sympathetic, sad smile before turning away. He felt increasingly frustrated by every answer, but also all the more heartbroken, particularly when those sad smiles became more regular.
A man in a bar answered him one rainy day. He was cross-eyed and spoke strangely, but he gave the answers that Steve required, "Emma was murdered a long time ago. Workin' for that goddamn Mishima Zaibatsu... She was warned about going there!" he slammed his fist on the table before sighing, "She just wanted to do what was best for Leo. To comfortably provide for her and all that after her Father left. Her grave is in the nearby cemetery. It's not a long walk."
And so he journeyed to it, not bothered by the sloshing mud around his feet at the entrance. He read the many headstones until he found the name 'Emma Kliesen', and once he found it, he was surprised to find that he could hold back the tears. He was a lot colder than he thought, and it sickened him.
She gave him a life, and it had more than likely cost her, and Leo.
In shame, he covered his face with his hand and tried to remember her smile.
"Son... I know the nightmares are hard. But try to go back to sleep. I'll be here."
"I am no one's son, Mr Fox."
The next time he went to visit the grave, he felt a little weaker in spirit. Weaker because the realisation really hit him – the woman who made his life possible was gone and he couldn't thank her in person. That he was the reason that she had lost her life, because everyone knew of the Zaibatsu's repercussions.
He ran his fingers over and spoke to the gravestone for a while, to Emma, thanking her for being such a beacon of support and caring about him during his time at the Zaibatsu as NT01. He asked her exactly what had happened, because all he knew was that it was by a company. He wondered what man was brave enough to kill that smiling face.
"I feel really indebted to you," he then said after a slight cough, placing a letter and a lily in the shadow of the stone. He hesitated, stuffing his hands into his pockets and smiled, looking up at the autumn sky, "You gave me a life and a good family. And for that I can't thank you enough, Emma."
And as he walked away, head now downcast, he exhaled and began his plans to wait for a reply.
"I'm going to box, Mum."
"I really like it! I feel like... it's where I belong. Do you understand what I mean?"
"Indeed I do. Then box you shall, my little champion. Let's look around for a place to train you."
He was in the bar again, a few months later in the winter, when he heard whispers going around the place about the Kliesens. He was surprised to hear that they were such a popular topic, but the town was quite small, and everyone seemed to know each other.
Oddly enough, nobody asked about him.
"Her Father's still not come back, even all of these long years later. It's such a shame," one remarked, downing more of the beer in her hand, "Probably much too busy spelunking to really care or know what's going on in his family's life... Or he's dead at the bottom of some gaping gorge."
The other, a short and stocky male, stroked his thick beard and leant forward on the desk, "You heard about what happened a few months ago, ya? She tracked a G-Corporation train and got something or other... I don't quite remember now!"
"Something about a letter too?"
There was silence, but the beer flowed on. The clink of glass echoed in the otherwise dim vicinity. Relatively pleased with what he heard, Steve stood, slid money towards the barkeep and left, a small smile tugging at his face.
"I'll do you proud."
"We're already so proud of you, Steve."
"Well I'm going to make both even prouder."
When he arrived, half-eaten by the bitter white of nature was a letter.
'I want to meet you, NT01.'
So he held it in his hand, sat cross-legged on the ground, and waited for her. Steve rubbed his hair every so often, shaking off the drops of snow that would fall gently from the sky. He pulled his jacket closer to his body, watching the sun cross the sky, and he almost fell asleep; but then he heard footsteps.
He looked up, finding Leo standing there, an unreadable expression on her face. She scratched her head, cleared her throat and asked sternly, "You're the one who sent me the letter?"
He stood, rolling his shoulders, and his left arm ached. He looked at Leo, noting that she was so similar to her Mother, and it made him frown for a fraction of a second as the chill became stronger, "Yes, that was me."
"So you're NT01."
"Don't call me that," he warned, clenching his fists.
Leo smiled sheepishly, "Then what should I call you?"
It took her a moment to register the name, to register his fame – her blue eyes bulged for a moment before she settled, "The middle-weight champion?" A small nod, "Wow I... I'm surprised that of all the people in the world, it was you that my Mother would speak of when she came home."
"She talked about you a lot at the Zaibatsu as well."
She hesitated. The news that Emma Kliesen worked for the Mishima Zaibatsu before working for G-Corporation still shook her to her core. It was unexpected and unwelcomed news. She folded her arms and then remembered why she came here, why she came to speak with NT01, "It's because of you that my Mother is dead."
Steve said nothing. He knew.
"She told the Zaibatsu that you died during the experiments for the devil gene program. That you were a failure," she shook her head and dug her fingers into her arms, "She lied to protect you and then died for it!"
His lips twisted, now that he knew why he was being experimented on. Now that he knew why he was in pain, and why. Heihachi Mishima was, and still is indeed a power-crazed fool.
It was then that he noticed the woman's trembling bottom lip and glassy eyes as she began to cry through her words, "I should be so angry at you... You took my Mother away from me! The only family that I had left!"
Steve could've remarked how she was fortunate that she had a real family to begin with. He could've told her that it was Emma's choice to lie to the Zaibatsu and then suffer for it. He could've told her what Emma had done for him – comforted him, cared for him, cared enough for him to give him a chance at life outside of the Zaibatsu and a good family. He could've said so many things, but instead, he remained quiet.
What had he become, he wondered. When did his nightmares shape him into someone so frosty, he wondered.
As she wiped at her eyes, having said what she needed to said, she began to turn away. NT01 – Steve – whatever – now knew of the pain that he had made happen. But as her boots crunched through the snow, he began to speak, "Emma would always tell me about her little girl. The one who never wore a pink dress because it was, to her, uncomfortable; and then she would tell me that stuff like that wasn't important in the world.
"She would always tell me that she loved to go out with her Father on explorations and was an incredibly fast learner. She mentioned once or twice that sometimes it felt like you loved your Father more than her, but she said she could understand why – he was always out finding new things, and she was cooped up in a laboratory."
"I love my Mother," Leo hissed, clenching her fists.
"She knew. And she loved you an awful lot too, Leo. She was a good woman."
There was rustling. Leo turned to find that he pulled out a photograph, the one that she had seen on G-Corporation's database. Exhaling, she looked to Steve, "And so did you."
"She gave me a reason to fight," he remarked flatly, pocketing the image once more.
The howling of the wind soon filled her ears. Straightening up, Leo understood. It was her Mother's choice, and she shouldn't be mad at the person who had been through so much at the Zaibatsu. Losing a parent was hard, but she couldn't imagine what such a torturous event would've been like. And then to be thrown out into something unfamiliar...
"You're brave," she simply said.
Steve laughed a little, "Not really."
Soon enough, she found herself crossing the distance and giving the boxer a hesitant hug. As expected, Steve did not react immediately – it was hard to be warm, for him – but he eventually did respond by hugging her back and letting her cry a little on his jacket. That was okay.
It was he who let go first, put his hands back in his pockets and then said, beginning to walk away from the site with the German, "Tell me more about your Mother."
And so as Leo began to share stories about Emma, about how she was really good at making pastries and spoke of him often at home, she felt her pain melting away slowly. And as Steve listened, like névé snow, he began, again, to thaw.