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Title: A Place to Come Back To
Author/Artist: Cyr Anomaly, chaos_anomaly
Rating: PG
Warnings: N/A
Prompt: Kingdom Hearts, Leon/Aerith/Cloud: a place to call home - Cloud still wandered, but they let him in when he was there.
Word count: 2800
Summary: Cloud returns to find things a little different from before...

A/N: orz Sorry about the lateness! I'm not quite satisfied with this and I've tried my best but I think I still missed the point with the prompt. *sighs* Much apologies!

“You’re back,” Aerith smiled, hands clasped behind her. She moved away from the stove the moment she heard footsteps come into her kitchen.

“I’m back,” Cloud nodded, ducking his head down, almost unable to look at her in the eye. His clothes were tattered, torn in some places and almost beyond repair. Tsurugi looked like it seen better days. Covered in grime and dirt, Cloud needed a shower and maybe a warm bed. What injuries he had weren’t visible but Aerith knew something was wrong when he first entered Merlin’s home with a limp in his step.

She turned her attention back to the stove when the tea kettle whistled, a sharp sound that broke through the almost awkward silence between herself and the blond swordsman.

“Everyone is out helping with the Restoration,” she commented, offhandedly, turning off the heat and moving the kettle to the side before rummaging through the drawers for the tea. The brunette mage stole a quick, covert glance at Cloud, noting the slight hint of pain in his face. He hadn’t moved from his spot when she first addressed him.

Gesturing toward an open chair at the table, Aerith continued, “The Restoration’s almost done, by the way. We just have a few more things to do and this place will be as good as new. Maybe even better than before?” She giggled softly, smiling as she turned toward him, two mugs in one hand and a box of tea bags in the other. “Tea?”

Cloud shook his head, refusing the tea and the chair. “I’m fine.” He shrugged but Aerith noticed it wasn’t as smooth of an action as it usually was.

Setting the mugs on the table, she placed the tea bags in them first before turning to retrieve the tea kettle. As she poured the hot water into each cup, she asked, “Are you sure? You look like you might need a drink.” Or a cure, she thought quietly to herself, wondering if it would be considered wrong of her if she sent a healing spell his way while he was distracted with his tea.

For a moment, she thought he would refuse again before he took a deep resigning breath and sat down with another jerky shrug of his broad shoulders, “…If you insist…”

“I do,” Aerith reaffirmed, nodding brisk before taking her own sit. On the stove, the pot of soup simmered, bubbling in the background. Her smile grew as she watched him take his first sip after a few minutes of silence.

Stirring her tea with the string of the bag, she glanced to the window for a moment, her other hand under the table. Her fingertips glowed out of sight as she silently summoned a Cure. The mage reached out and touched Cloud’s knee, the spell flowing stealthily into the blond’s body. “Leon’s not helping the others today. I think he said something about Ansem and Tron needing him?”

Cloud’s eyes jerked toward her. Aerith smiled at him, the back of her mind wondering why he looked surprised. Leon was his sparring partner, wasn’t he? Then Cloud should have been interested on where the gunblader was. Sighing, she continued where she left off, taking advantage of his bewilderment to cast another Cure on Cloud, “I don’t think I’ll be able to bring him lunch. Do you mind taking it to him? The others already took theirs when they left this morning but Leon…

“As usually, he forgot to take it.” Shaking her head, Aerith took a long sip of her tea, “I keep reminding him but I usually end up bringing it to him every day.” Oh, she understood why he was so absent-minded since Sora defeated Xemnas. The Restoration effort was taking up most of his mind but she still worried about him. He wasn’t eating that often, or sleeping that well. Even with her looking after him.

She suspected that the reasons why he couldn’t included more than just stress over the Restoration of their home.

“Don’t want to intrude if he’s busy,” Cloud murmured softly, setting down his now-empty mug before blinking in surprise. Aerith hid a smile behind the rim of her mug. So he finally realized he felt better. “This tea’s rather good,” the blond spoke, nodding slightly.

“I would hope so. It’s my special brand.” She laughed softly before standing up to put her empty mug in the sink. The mage turned toward the swordsman, “And you wouldn’t bother him. You came back, after all. He was worried about you too, Cloud.” She had a feeling he did, even if the Gunblader never said anything about it. “You’re not a stranger, you’re our friend.

Walking over to where Cloud sat, she placed her hand over his and the handle of the mug. “Now go take your shower. I don’t think Leon would appreciate you coming to see him smelling like you took a dive into the sewers.” She laughed, peeling his fingers off the handle.

“And Dinner’s going to be at seven tonight. Don’t be late and make sure you drag Leon here with you,” Aerith commented before turning her back on Cloud, “The others would want to know where you’ve been.”

Behind her, she could hear the chair Cloud sat in scrape against the flooring before footsteps faded away from the kitchen, hopefully toward the bathroom. Stirring the simmering pot, Aerith sighed softly, hoping that this time Cloud was going to stay.

Leon turned when he heard footsteps approach from Ansem’s office. He rolled a shoulder, straightening his spine from his slouching position. He should put chair in front of the Terminal but he hadn’t had the time. He was always busy with one thing or another. Something always needed his attention and Ansem was still getting used to how things happened in the Restoration Committee.

The older man may have once been their leader in the past but Leon was the newly appointed one when they (Aerith, Yuffie and Cid and the other survivors of the Heartless Attack on Radiant Garden) arrived in Traverse Town. It had been too much of a hassle to choose a new leader, Yuffie complained when they returned to what they once called Hollow Bastion.

He shook his head, waving away the memories of the past. It was not the time to reminisce. He had a visitor.

Leon’s eyes widened when a shock of blond hair and a man in black clothes appeared. He stared for a moment before schooling his face back into a stoic expression. “You’ve returned.”

Cloud nodded before holding up a bag. Leon could see a thermos peaking out of it. “I have.”
Inclining his head, Leon turned back to the computer terminal. He wasn’t surprised when Cloud came to join him, to stand next to him. They have sparred enough to gain something of a friendship between them and at times, something more.

After a long moment, he spoke up again. “They were worried about you.” More so after Tifa returned without the blond, dazed and confused.

“I’m sorry,” was Cloud’s reply.

Leon nodded briskly, unwilling to admit that he was worried too but he knew that the blond would be fine. He sparred with him enough to know what his true strength was. “It’s fine. You’re back.”

Fingers flying over the keys of the terminal, Leon kept his eyes on the screen before him than on the blond next to him. The silence stretched between them wasn’t awkward, nor was it comfortable.

His eyes stole a glance at the bag Cloud had with him. He had obviously went to see Aerith first. Or maybe unintentionally. He wouldn’t put it past the blond to walk into Merlin’s house to take what he needed before disappearing again. Hence why he told Aerith to keep watch over the home while the others worked.

She smiled at him when he ordered her, Leon remembered that much. He had a feeling she knew what he was implying without outwardly stating. Leon knew that she and Cloud had something. It was made apparent after they were reunited finally in the library of the Castle. He didn’t ask her about it, never thought he needed to.

Regardless, he shook his head once more and stole a glance at his companion, noticing that he was being watched. Leon shrugged, uncaring if he was being studied or not.

“If you want to be useful, you could try to find Cid and tell him I need him here immediately,” Leon spoke after awhile after turning back to his work. “Otherwise, there’s nothing else I have for you to do.” He couldn’t afford to offer a spar, not at this time, even though he wanted to.

He wanted to see how strong Cloud was now that he returned but in the back of his mind, he knew that if Cloud had gone by Merlin’s house, that even the blond might not be ready to spar either.

Leon scoffed. He could wait. He was patient enough and truthfully, Cloud could use the rest. “You look tired.”

Cloud turned and blinked at him with a questioning stare. “Do I?”

The brunet nodded, typing out a sequence of codes for Tron to look over later. “Wouldn’t be saying it if I didn’t think it, Cloud.” His lips twitched before he shrugged. “Cid’s over by the bailey unless Merlin and Ansem dragged him off to the library to do who knows what.”

He didn’t turn when he heard the blond disappear after placing the bag on the terminal’s surface, away from the keys. He listened quietly as the blond’s footsteps faded back into the castle before Leon returned to his work, uncertain if Cloud would do what he asked or if he would just disappear again.

The gunblader could only hope that this time, Cloud chose to stay.

It was late, long past midnight. Cloud stalked the halls of the castle that the Restoration Committee used for their residence. He thought they would use Merlin’s home for their sleeping quarters but not anymore. The last time he was in Radiant Garden, that had been the case.

He sighed softly, ghosting along the carpeted floors as he peered into the cracks of open doors and listened silently when nearing closed ones. Everyone was sleeping. His arrival didn’t disrupt their routine. Not that he cared. He was content that it didn’t.

Cloud didn’t want them to worry about him. He wanted them to live their lives without him holding them back.

The celebration was over. Everyone retired to sleep and get ready for morning. Tomorrow was a big day, or so Yuffie said, when she told him she was going to sleep and that he better still be in the castle in the morning. He said he would and he intended to keep that promise. The day after that, he didn’t know if he was staying or leaving.

Sephiroth was still out there, still alive. He had to defeat him, to make sure his friends were safe but for now, he needed rest. A hand gripped his shoulder and Cloud hid a flinch even though he was alone.

He almost died but somehow he managed to come back, though it had been days, maybe even weeks since his last duel with Sephiroth. He couldn’t remember. Not exactly. He was too busy trying to stay hidden and heal. He might have passed out for a while after the duel; he didn’t know. It was only a day or so ago that he found himself back in Radiant Garden.

His feet took him to Merlin’s house before he even realized where he was going. Cloud wasn’t expecting to find anyone, much less Aerith but the sight of her and the smell of her perfume put him at ease. He knew later that while he was drinking that tea she healed him. His body felt better though he thought it was only the tea at the time.

Aerith, his lips twitched as he remembered the look on her face from when he first appeared. He missed her and had hoped she was safe along with the others. He would never forgive himself if she was harmed by his nemesis, his darkness. He had to make sure that Sephiroth stayed away from them and so he took off to fight him.

But he had yet to become victorious.

Cloud sighed, shaking his head as he grazed his fingers along the walls, walking aimlessly throughout the castle. He paused for a moment, stopping in front of a particular room.

It was Leon’s personal quarters. He knew that from the one time he entered it before he left. Resting a hand against the door, he listened for the sound of restful breathing. He didn’t think much of the other swordsman during his time away from the Garden. He didn’t have to.

Leon was strong and the brunet bested him once or twice in the past during sparring. The memories of what would happen after spars made his lips twitch again as did the memories of Aerith and himself before the Heartless came. He had thought that once the danger was over that maybe they could resume where they left off but something, something during the celebration made him start to think otherwise.

Cloud saw the looks Leon gave toward Aerith, the soft smiles the mage returned to the gunblader. He recognized them for what they were, having been a recipient of them himself in what seemed an eternity ago.

He should be happy for them, that they moved on. It wasn’t as if he had anything serious with either of them before he left. What he had with Leon was more of a friends with benefits, if it could be called that.

Whatever he had with Aerith ended long before, when the Heartless first attacked.

Forcing himself to push away from Leon’s door, he turned and started to walk back to where came from when the door opened slowly.

Cloud paused and turned slightly.

“There you are,” murmured a voice he didn’t expect. Aerith opened the door wider, dressed in a nightgown before making her way toward him. “I suppose Leon was right. You would have made your way here.”

He nodded slowly, unable to speak as she smiled softly at him.

“I told you. He likes to wander,” Leon appeared in the doorway next, leaning against the frame, clad in only a pair of loose black cotton pants.

Aerith laughed, the sound made Cloud feel lighter in his chest as confusion enveloped his mind. What was going on? Why was she here? In Leon’s room? The blond shook his head and muttered, “Sorry.”

“What for,” the older man asked with a shrug of his shoulders, ”No one’s stopping you from making a late night patrol of the halls.”

“Aren’t you cold? You should be sleeping,” Aerith asked, looking up at him to study his face, “Yuffie’s not going to like it if you’re not here in the morning.”
Cloud glanced toward the corner, the darkness, “I’m not going anywhere.”

“Good.” Leon spoke from beside him. The blond looked up, surprised that the older swordsman managed to move without him noticing. “She whines too much when she doesn’t get her way.” Leon’s hand wrapped around one of Cloud’s biceps, the look in the brunet’s face uncharacteristically soft. “You might as well get some sleep. You still need it.”

Aerith grabbed his other arm and leaned up against him, “It’s a long way back to where your room is. You might as well sleep here. We have room.”

A blush colored Cloud’s face, “But I…”

“It’s only for one night,” Leon replied, slowly pulling the blond into the room. “You can have the bed. I have a couch.”

The mage’s brows furrowed, “Oh no. No one’s sleeping on the couch. The bed’s big enough for all three of us to be comfortable.”

Leon chuckled, a sound Cloud never heard him make before. Bare fingers graced over his arm before moving up to clasp Cloud’s chin. “How about it? A warm bed and a good night’s sleep? We don’t mind.”

“Just come in. We can worry about the rest in the morning,” Aerith continued, smiling once more before brushing her lips against Cloud’s.

The blond swordsman could have sworn she meant more than just a sleeping arrangement. “I… I don’t know. I wouldn’t want to intrude.”

“You’re not.”

“You’re not an intruder, Cloud. You never were.” You never will be, the words left unspoken filled the air.

Cloud sighed softly and stared at Aerith for a moment, then turned to look at Leon. Finally with a nod, he allowed them to pull him inside.

He could worry about the rest in the morning.


( 3 comments — Leave a comment )
Jan. 26th, 2010 11:44 am (UTC)
Eeeeee, that was so cuuuute~. The mental image of the three of them cuddling in bed will be with me for a week now. x3

And, despite what you say, all of them were so IC, you silly Cyr.
Jan. 26th, 2010 07:18 pm (UTC)
Lies! Leave me to my delusions!

...the original final scene was much better... *just keep going brain dead on writing it*
Jan. 27th, 2010 11:48 pm (UTC)
♥ I still think it was ~*~fabulous~*~ and ~*~adorable~*~.
( 3 comments — Leave a comment )



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