Cid leaned against the kitchen sink, arms crossed at his chest as he stared down his housemate. Currently occupied by his coffee and a smattering of blueprints on the kitchen table, Leon remained unfazed.
“Ya know, you could’ve just used Cure.”
Blinking, the brunette paused in his writing, and for the briefest of moments felt like a child being caught with his hand in the cookie jar.
He stared down at the sketch of the water system with mild irritation, both at the complicated outline before him and the unwavering stare he felt from across the room. Cid had been persistent as ever, a teasing lilt to his voice whenever you were mentioned, or a grin that resembled a cheshire cat whenever he was caught admiring you across the table at dinner.
Aerith and Yuffie were surprisingly quiet, tiptoeing around the subject for the most part, partially due to being too occupied on getting you acclimated.
And Leon, for the first time in a long time, didn’t know what to do.
“Mornin’, sunshine. Coffee or tea?”
As if on queue you appeared in the doorway, mumbling a quiet good morning and, probably due to a lack of sleep, a request for coffee in response to the mechanic. Despite how much he tried not to look in your direction, Leon’s eyes inevitably wandered, even for the briefest of moments.
You sent him a tired, but genuine smile, lips tilting up just the slightest. You looked like you had just crawled out of bed, the outfit you had on last night still hanging off of your form. Your arms were crossed in front of your chest, hair mussed and pushed out of your face as best as it could be, while pink dusted your cheeks from the chill of the morning air.
Cid cleared his throat, causing the both of you to jolt, the pink deepening on your cheeks. Leon did his best not to shoot him an irate glare, instead engrossing himself back into his work. Every once in a while your conversation would drift to his ears, the pencil in his hand pausing as if to make sure the mechanic didn’t say something stupid.
“Hurt your hand from cooking up too much magic?”
You scoffed, pausing for a bit before waving your free hand nonchalantly. “Just...burnt myself making some tea. I think I’d rather it be from magic, though.”
Leon’s lips titled up in amusement, falling just a bit when he failed to notice the two other presences who had entered the house. Yuffie had crossed the small living space in seconds, bounding up to you to gently examine your hand in concern. “Ouch- did you have to wrap this yourself? You should’ve woken us up!”
A beat of silence, and for a second Leon looked from you to Aerith, who had taken a seat across the table with a knowing smile on her face. He had a feeling she knew- she always did.
You shrugged nonchalantly, voice surprisingly steady when you spoke.
“Cato used to get scraped up all the time when he was little, so I’m pretty used to it.”
A cheesy smile took over your features as you lifted your bandaged hand to playfully poke Yuffie on the nose. “Plus, if I recall correctly, there was also a certain someone who used to get into quite a bit of mischief, too.”
She blinked, cheeks puffed out in embarrassment as she mumbled to herself.
“ Yeah, yeah… ”
“So, what are the plans for today?”
Aerith’s calming tone had everyone immediately looking in her direction. She looked from Cid to Leon, hands crossed in her lap and expression softened. Straightening his posture, Leon glanced over at the mechanic before tapping into the to-do list that was constantly running through his mind.
“The restoration site near the castle entrance could use extra hands restoring the walls. Cid can go to the reactor since power is still cutting in and out in the east…”
The brunette stopped for a moment, letting out a frustrated sigh.
“I’ll go to the castle, since there are still some of Maleficent's vines blocking off some of the rooms.”
Everyone nodded in understanding, except... you .
“What can I do to help?”
Leon blinked, taken aback by your sudden inquiry. You had helped with minor tasks around town, patching up homes or helping Aerith with the gardens at the world’s entrance, and it was designed that way.
He was pushing you away from anything that put you near the edge of town, anything that could put you in danger.
“Leon, why don’t you take (y/n) with you?”
Aerith was regarding him expectantly, green eyes connecting with his. He clenched his jaw, biting back the harsh ‘no’ that wanted to crawl from his throat. Her intentions were kind- she didn’t mean it.
But it took every ounce of control Leon had in his body to give a steady, affirming nod.
There were still Heartless, far and few between but they were still there . The vines were nothing but a nuisance, seeing as their source of power had vanished-
And you had no magic. No weapon. Nothing .
You would be company, at most. Company he wanted .
But what the hell would he do if you got hurt?
Leon watched as Cid slapped you on the back, nearly having you tumble forward with coffee in hand. “Well, it’s settled then- breakfast, and we’re out.”
Your footsteps echoed ominously upon the scuffed tile, the darkened hallway having a shiver run up your spine.
This was not a palace that was free of sins, that much you remembered.
“Do you...always go here alone?”
The brunette at your side glanced your way, nodding solemnly before turning his attention forward. He was stiff, the tension in his shoulders and expression undeniable. His gunblade rested on his shoulder, hand curled tightly around the hilt as if ready to strike at a moments notice.
This was a clean-up job- a search to find a solution to rebuilding the land faster than by the hands of the small group of citizens that were left.
But Squall was acting downright off, his chilly exterior having your stomach drop. He was hiding something, but did you even have a right to pry?
You continued to pass by broken rooms and crumbling walls in silence, so enamored by the prospect of what had happened within this place that you barely registered the gentle tug on your arm that brought you to a halt. As your eyes connected with Squall’s in confusion, you moved to look forward. Vines, dark and angry completely covered the doorway before you, effectively blocking your path. Aerith had explained that witch’s role in the world’s destruction just days prior- these remaining roots were just a snippet of her power. She remained, even in apparent death.
Squall released his hold on you, stepping forward with his blade drawn.
You easily complied, a feeling of frustration passing briefly at being unable to help him.
He moved gracefully, blasting at the vines with a few fire attacks, their weakened state causing them to crumble quite easily. He reached for the handle, pushing the door open just slightly to survey what lay beyond. A few tense seconds, and he waved for you to follow.
“Another research space…”
You brushed past him, the sound of Squall flipping through discarded files that lay upon a nearby computer desk filling the room. Your eyes roved over shattered beakers, blacked-out computers, files upon files, and...
A pedestal in the far corner of the room.
There, remaining unaffected by the chaos around it, rested a large, shimmering stone.
The familiarity had you immediately stepping forward, a sense of peace washing over your form like a balm. Your lips titled up into a small smile-
“A holy stone… I can see why she had this sealed off.”
You stepped carefully around the rubble to pick up the blue gem, examining it with interest. With glass crunching beneath his boots, Squall moved to stand beside you. “What...is it?”
Holding it out for him, he gently took it from your grasp.
“I used to help Gran run the jewelry shop back in Twilight Town. Every once in a while, the Moogles we traded with would bring rare stones from other worlds...And that one-”
It began to glow, feeding off of the energy around it.
“Is a physical formation of pure light, something that, if cared for and wielded correctly, can perform phenomena beyond our comprehension… I gave Sora one, it was smaller, of course, to protect against the darkness.”
“...Do you think it’ll help?”
You tilted your head at his inquiry, a fondness blooming in your chest in response to the curious expression on his face. The tension he held all day was appearing to wash away, blue eyes soft as he looked from the stone to you. “I can only hope. It’s powers are hard to track, but if it’s willing, maybe it can assist in restoring the world to what it once was. Though if we find more, the chances might go up...”
Nodding, Squall handed it back to you, and you placed into the satchel at your side.
“Let’s grab the undamaged files and head out.”
You followed his lead, gathering as much information into your arms as you could.
By the time the two of you made it out of the castle’s winding hallways and up the ravine trail, the sun had already begun its descent. Leon watched as you cradled the paperwork to your chest, recalling your resistance at allowing him to help.
He scoffed, lips tilting up in a small smirk.
You were still so stubborn.
You were looking at him with a raised brow, eyes glinting in the orange glow of the sunset. He looked away, his attention returning to the path ahead.
You hummed, the comfortable silence that followed only broken when you reached the edge of town. You had begun to slow down, eventually coming to a halt, eyes trained upward. For the briefest of seconds, a flash of worry crossed Leon’s features, before he took note of your softened expression.
“I saw this everyday, twenty-four hours a day, for nearly ten years...”
His eyes followed yours, taking in the wisps of clouds that were painted in some mix of pink and tangerine. And, with a sense of amusement at his own self, realized that he had been back in his home world for over a year-
And he had never really bothered to look up.
He was always enamored with the thoughts of everything else- of the things he lacked, things that he wanted, things he had to get done and get done now. Being stuck on a world of inky blackness for years, one where the few lights that dotted the skyline would blink out and die, knowing those were worlds…
He didn’t want to look.
“...but I don’t think I’ll ever get over how beautiful it is.”
Leon shifted his attention back to you, watching the way your hair moved gently in the breeze, before one of the many questions that had been gnawing at him slipped off his tongue. “Do you miss it?”
“Yes, I always will… Gran and Cato, they’re family, and I love them, I love them with every ounce of my being...”
Slowly, you turned to gaze back at him, a faraway expression on your face.
“But I always knew I wasn’t meant to be there. I had to line the pieces up- I just didn’t think it would take so long... I'm were I belong, I'm sure of that.”
Your lips slowly lifted up into a smile, your arms shifting to hold the files just a little tighter, and Leon couldn’t help but suck in a breath. With the sunset behind you like that, you were nothing short of stunning.
He was, to his own annoyance, totally and utterly awestruck-
But he shouldn’t of been surprised- you were, and would always be the one to bring out this side of him. This welcomed force that made him breathless and left him fumbling, this force that knocked his usual confidence down in seconds flat and he liked it. He liked the way your eyes shone in the light, the way that the features he had loved so much had changed and conformed over time yet they remained the same.
He loved the way your lips tilted up, and he loved remembering the way they used to feel against his.
He loved how daring and kind and stubborn you were-
He loved you then, and he still does. He always would.
“Squall, are you alright?”
The brunette blinked once, then twice, and turned to leave, his heart still pounding in his ears.
“We should hurry back… the edge of town can be dangerous at night.”
He needed to ask Merlin a favor, after all.