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21 May 2007 @ 03:10 pm
Undone - Leon and Irvine  
Title: Undone
Authors: gardensgnome & lntora
Characters: Squall 'Leon' Leonheart & Irvine Kinneas
Fandom: Kingdom Hearts 2 & Final Fantasy 8
Theme Set: HW2
Theme(s): #32 - off-balance & #7 - drained
Warnings and Notes: minor cowboy angst. and tis a long read ^^;

The room looked strangely smaller with the bed occupied, well at least to Leon's eyes. Shrugging out of his jacket, he hung it on the empty bedpost opposite Irvine's hat. Looking from the hat to its unconscious owner, Leon rubbed his temples and worked on clearing his mind, thinking through recent events and filing them away.

Both Cid and Yuffie really looked surprised when Leon first arrived with Irvine held tightly in his arms. He had felt their eyes watching his every move, their steps heavy on the stairs as they followed him, both silent but he knew there would be questions. There were many questions, asked in hushed tones after he'd gotten Irvine comfortable in his bed, boots off, hat and duster draped over the end. Leon had shooed them from the room, answered what questions he could while putting together a tray of food and drink, and a basin of warm water for a wash down. Yuffie had helped carry it all back up to his room, food on the small table beside Leon's plush chair and basin of water on the chest that held everything he owned. He'd shut the door in her face, after a quick thanks and a request to find Aerith and send her to him.

Flopping down in his chair with a deep sigh, Leon kicked off his boots, flexing his toes as he picked up a cookie and munched on it, gloves soon joining his boots on the floor. He really had no idea how or why Irvine was there in Radiant Garden. He could remember the last time he'd seen him and it bothered Leon a bit that Irvine hadn't aged a single day since he'd volunteered to go with Matron to Esthar.

No point worrying, I'll get my answers when you wake up, Leon thought, standing and checking on Irvine one more time.

Seeing the sniper still sleeping, Leon frowned a little as he turned away. Pulling off his shirt, lion pendant thumping against his chest as he dropped it on the floor, he leaned out his window, grabbed a drying washcloth off his tiny clothesline, and dropped it into the basin of water. Wringing it out, Leon got to work on wiping the sweat from running off his skin.

I'll shower once Irvine is awake. He'll probably want one too, Leon thought, looking out the window at the sky and the clouds floating by as he washed his arm. Guess this will have to do for now.

Irvine was caught somewhere between sleep and other. Other because he didn't know if he could call it being awake. At this point, Irvine wasn't sure he could call it reality. The only safe place felt like sleep, so he'd tried staying there for as long as his subconscious could. It was remarkably easy while he was being held, but whoever it was had put him down, making it harder to cling to that dream-like state of being. Voices somewhere in the middle didn't help matters, either. Finally, his subconscious lost the fight, leaving the cowboy to slowly return to whatever version of reality Hyne was kind or cruel enough to thrust on him.

'"If caught and rendered unconscious, try not to let your captors know you're waking up. Remember the correct hand placement on your captors' head to break the neck. Make a proper identification first if the situation permits, but escape is the priority unless overwritten by the mission specs. When in doubt, leave no witnesses."'

It was almost funny how the words from his G-Garden instructor came back to him. That one had been worse than any SeeD, but his instructions helped keep a lot of them alive, Irvine included. Remembering it now, he tried to keep any noises of pain to himself as he worked on an internal check. Slightly achy but nothing that would slow him down. This was a good sign. He didn't feel any restraints, another point in his favour. Almost meant whoever had him was either new at this, incompetent, or that secure in holding him wherever he was. Irvine only hoped it wasn't the last one. He felt a few layers too light, so some of his clothes had been removed, including his hat. That was bad. He loved that hat, and would hate leaving it behind, though he would if need be.

'Better to lose my hat than my head,' Irvine thought sourly. Figuring he was for the most part physically okay, the sniper slowly opened his eyes just a sliver, peeking out through his lashes to get as much of a look as he could. Nothing seemed familiar. The sun was still up from what he could tell. It seemed he was on a bed, which Irvine wasn't going to complain about at the moment. Finally, and most importantly, someone was there with their back to him. Male from the looks of it.

'Nice definition. Almost a shame to kill him.' Irvine flexed his fingers, already planning the best way to grab the guy's head and rework his neck alignment, only to freeze when he noticed the belts. Four belts. Three too many. Only one man he knew wore more belts than he actually needed.

'Fuck!' It all came rushing back then. The lab, the explosion, knocking Matron out the way. Weirdness times ten, then...

It was impossible on all accounts. The hair was too long. There was a few scars he knew weren't there the last time Irvine caught him in the showers. But he knew, he knew despite logic screaming it shouldn't--couldn't be so. But Irvine knew who it was.


Turning at the sound of his given name, Leon dropped the cloth in the bowl and approached the bed, smiling a little at his old teammate.

"You're awake. Good. You gave me quite the scare," Leon admitted, reaching out slowly and placing his hand on Irvine's forehead. "No fever...Do you feel up to drinking something? Perhaps something to eat?" he asked as he retrieved the tray of cookies and fruit, offering it to Irvine.

At first no words were spoken as Irvine could only stare at Squall. And it was Squall. The scar on his forehead left no room for doubt. Squall, somehow much older in a span of hours--was it hours? Considering he didn't even know where he was now, Irvine couldn't be sure of that much. It might not be hours but...

Irvine derailed that train of thought quickly. He didn't even want to consider it until he had more answers.

And now Squall was offering him fruit and cookies. 'What the hell!' Irvine had a brief flashback of when Matron would do the same whenever they were sick or just feeling down. Only Irvine didn't think Matron ever had to deal with one of them falling into a semi-quasi-abstract-timeshift reality. And he was reasonably sure cookies and fruit were not going to help.

Ignoring the tray, Irvine gestured to the whole of Squall and simply said, "Explain."

Placing the tray back where he got it from when he realized Irvine wasn't going to take any, Leon paced the floor at the end of his bed, gathering his thoughts.

Explain? So much has happened though and it's all going to be quite a shock to you, he thought, sparing a glance at the waiting Irvine. How am I supposed to tell you that almost everyone is dead. That Selphie and Seifer are the only ones I've heard about from Sora and that they don't remember anyone called Squall. That I've seen them in their new lives and left them be as they are happy, happier than when we were all together. What can I possibly tell you that isn't going to send you into shock?

"I don't know where to start," Leon said, returning to the bed and sitting down facing Irvine. "You're in my room at Radiant Garden and I've been living here for about 2 years. Before then I was at Twilight Town. This will be a shock and I'm sorry but..Garden...Balamb and everything...it doesn't exist anymore as far as I know," Leon said, turning his face away. He was still uncomfortable discussing the events that had taken his homeworld away. Even Cid didn't know the full story but the pilot knew better than to ask too many questions.

Leon pointed to a glass of water. "At least drink something, Irvine. Going on how long it's been since I saw you last, it's probably been quite some time between meals."

It didn't register for him, at least not yet; Irvine didn't react to what Squall initially said. Oh he would pretty soon, but right now there was the matter of what he actually meant for Squall to explain, his age. And that had to do with time, which right now Irvine was certain his had become skewed somewhere along the way. Especially with Squall mentioning the last time he must've eaten.

"Matron and I ate a couple of hours before we went to see Odine, which by my clock--" Irvine stopped and looked at his watch, glad at least to have something to help him figure out the time he had been in before trying to resolve it to where he was now. "--was only a few hours ago."

And that's when it really began to sink in. Not the fact of everything being gone; Irvine was still too detached to connect with that. No, now he understood the possibility, if not fact, that he was extremely far removed from his natural time. Swallowing, he looked at Squall, feeling his throat close up as Irvine forced the words out.

"There was an explosion... how long have I been gone?"

"You've been gone longer than a few hours, Irvine. Matron did say you weren't dead...just lost to us," Leon said sadly before a bark of laughter erupted from his throat. "They all probably thought I was mad that first year you were gone. Odine really hated seeing me walk into his office and more than once Laguna put a restraining order on me to Odine could work in peace."

Snorting at the admission that he'd made a pest of himself, Leon stared into his glass and thought on what Irvine had said about his last meal and where he and Matron had been heading.

"You're still seventeen," Leon said slowly. "It's like time stopped for you."

Looking up, Leon watched lavender eyes closely as he told Irvine how long he'd been gone.

"Irvine, I'm twenty-six now."

Irvine did some quick calculations in his head, mainly to stave off the growing shock. 'Twenty-six? He was eighteen this--when I saw him. Eight--eight years? I lost eight years somehow.'

The sniper swooned. Only sheer force of will kept him from passing out again, though he did fall heavily back onto the bed. Irvine stared at the ceiling as the thought kept repeating itself over and over in his head.

'Eight years...'

"You're saying..." Irvine paused. How he managed to get his voice working was a miracle to the teen at that point. "...you're saying that explosion--I got knocked to Hyne only knows where for--for eight years?"

Eight years.

Eight years and somehow everything was gone. Eight years and only three of them were left, but only one could remember. Eight years gone between two blinks and a sneeze. Eight years before reality pulled him back just to shove one tremendous foot in his ass for shits and giggles.

Eight years.

"If this isn't a dream," Irvine said after a moment, "and you're really Squall, then the only thing you can offer me in the way of drinks had better be at least one-sixty proof, because I'm going to need it."

"No dream here, Irvine. Sorry," Leon apologized softly, standing up and setting his glass aside. Taking a step forward, he leaned over Irvine, reaching out to rest the back of his hand on the sniper's forehead.

"Cid might have something you can drink but not until Aerith has looked you over. All I can offer is some fruit, cookies and water. Oh and a hot shower if you feel up to it. I know I need one after running back here carrying you."

Standing straight again, Leon picked up a wedge of apple and bit into it, watching Irvine closely. He'd had a hard time coming to terms with possibly never going home but he'd also seen his world destroyed by the Heartless, had known there wasn't really anything to go back to. For Irvine everything was still fresh in his mind. He could probably remember exactly what Matron's voice sounded like or the smell of the Training Centre after the environment system had made it rain. Leon didn't really remember those things, his mind now filled with events since then.

"You wanna eat or shower, Irvine?" Leon asked, popping the last of the apple in his mouth. "Staying here and doing nothing but thinking will only put you in shock."

Irvine's eyes fluttered closed, fighting back a sudden bout of tears as the simple act of Squall's hand on his forehead nearly undoes the sniper. It isn't the act itself; Matron had done the same thing countless times, and even Selphie on occasion, whenever they thought he was sick. No, it was the fact that Squall did it really brought everything home, because the Squall he knew wouldn't have done that. That meant he had changed. That meant, even if Irvine still couldn't face what Squall told him about everything just yet, he knew Squall couldn't have been the only thing that changed. Everything had changed, except Irvine himself.

Where does an eight year removed throwback fit into now?

"Zell said letting Odine work on more time compression experiments was a bad idea. I didn't really want to be the living proof of him being right, though."

He tried not to, but having said that, Irvine couldn't stop the rush of memories as everyone's face crowded into his mind. He'd just seen them that morning. Zell complaining about the hotdogs. Selphie already planning the next Garden party. Quistis going over the new class schedule. Squall doing his best to brood just because Rinoa was doing her best not to let him. Matron...

He didn't know why, but knowing he really wouldn't see the only woman he knew as a mother again suddenly hit the cowboy from all sides. Hers had been the last face he'd seen. Ironic, as it was the very first face he saw in his earliest memories.

At that moment Irvine wanted to do nothing but curl up and surrender. The idea of just laying there until his body quit working was appealing in some numb sort of light. There was a strange and disquieting beauty to closing his eyes until he faded away.

The teen did turn to his side and fold up, crossing his arms over his chest, his back to Squall. His voice was thick and muffled as it emerged from the centre.

"So they're really gone? Even Matron?" Irvine physically and emotionally pulled in on himself, asking the one question he knew he'd probably never get an answer for. "Then why am I here?"

"None of us expected Zell to be right about Odine. He apologised and never said anything like that again," Leon said as he placed his hand on Irvine's shoulder and squeezed it comfortingly like he'd had Aerith do for him many times. "I don't think any of us were quite the same after your...disappearance."

Leon was telling the truth too. He'd become obsessed with harassing Odine and it had taken many months for Zell to regain some of his usual cheerfulness. Selphie had been inconsolable, returning to Trabia Garden right after the day Irvine would have turned eighteen had passed. The previously planned party at the Garden had turned into a small farewell bonfire on the beach where they had played as children, not that any of them had wanted to say goodbye. Quistis had been the one to pack Irvine's belongings and send them to Martine, who had sent them to Matron, unable to believe his best student was gone.

Sighing, Leon looked at Irvine's back, pondering his last question.

"As far as I can tell, yes, they're all gone. Or perhaps on some other world I don't have access to, like Seifer and Selphie were until I met Sora. No one really knows why we are all here and not...gone like others we know. I asked myself that same question many times in my first year here. Not found an answer yet but when I do, I'll share."

Walking around the bed, Leon grabbed a towel off the back of his door and came back to the bed.

"Come shower, Irvine," he said, holding out his hand. "I'll lend you a robe while the moogles clean your clothes."

The teen didn't reply. He didn't want to do much of anything, let alone shower. A part of him wanted to know how Squall could sound so calm, but he reminded himself that Squall had lived through it. For Irvine, it was as though someone had picked him out of his natural time, fast-forwarded reality by eight years, and dropped him in the middle of it. And it wasn't even a case of everyone had just moved on; Irvine could probably have coped with the notion of his friends having new lives. But that wasn't the way it happened, apparently.

"That's not what I meant," Irvine said after listening to Squall try and answer his last question, before the offer of the shower. But he couldn't explain it beyond that. Logically speaking, it made sense for Squall to be there, to be older and have survived whatever happened. Why Squall and not the others Irvine couldn't say, but even if it had been somebody else, they would have been older too, and would have lived through it and survived. What made less sense was how the teen had simply disappeared for eight years, only to get dumped back out. Where had he been those eight years? Why did he not age? Why was he brought back now? But Irvine found he couldn't articulate any of this very well and didn't bother to try.

'Maybe it's punishment,' he thought, but for the life of him Irvine wasn't able to see what he could have done that would merit such an extreme consequence. If it was because of Ultimecia, then why only him? It wouldn't make sense, nor would anything he did while training as a sniper and a SeeD. His hands were a lot less stained than some others he knew in both B and G. So why--

A hollow, empty laugh emerged from the fleshball Irvine had curled himself into. In that moment he knew there had been one act, one sin the he and he alone had committed that would land him where he was now. Nevermind that it'd been duty. Nevermind that she had forgiven him, even saying there was nothing to forgive. It made perfect sense once the thought revealed itself to him. Irvine had done it, and now there was hell to pay.

"So this is what happens," the teen rasped, "when you try and kill your own mother."

Unfolding himself, Irvine turned over, then sat up, swinging his legs over the edge of the bed. The sad curl on his lips was hardly a smile, but it was all he could offer.

"So how does one begin to repent for something like that, anyway?"

The laugh made Leon shiver a little. It was not a cheerful sound, nor were the words that followed.

"No, Irvine," Leon said, quickly kneeling before the seated teen and grabbing his shoulders. "If this were a punishment we'd all be here. Selphie, Quistis, Seifer, Zell...Rinoa too because she was helping us. It would not just be you and me."

Leon looked up at Irvine, wondering if he was reaching him at all. How in Hyne's name did Aerith deal with me when I was like this? Besides healing my battle wounds, what did she do to help?

She certainly didn't shake sense into me, Leon thought, removing his hands from Irvine's shoulder when the urge to do just that became a little too strong. He reached out and placed a hand on Irvine's instead.

"There's nothing to 'repent' for, Irvine," Leon said, fingers curling around Irvine's as he spoke. "Matron forgave each of us. You have to believe in her word. She would never lie to us."

Standing, Leon looked down at Irvine and tugged on his hand, stepping away from the bed and pulling a little harder.

"C'mon, Irvine. This place doesn't have unlimited water like Balamb."

Though he knew Squall was trying to comfort him, Irvine only shook his head in response. He knew he wouldn't be able to get Squall to understand. All of them, whether through adoption or blood, had found a family. But for Irvine, matron truly was his own family, his mother. Yes, they all had fought her; they had to defeat Edea, no question of it. But Irvine was the sniper. He was the one they went to G garden to get personally. His job, his only job, was not to fight, but to assassinate her. He alone looked down the scope. He knew what would happen, or rather what should have happened. Not a day went by he wasn't thankful that she had managed to stop the bullet.

The only hell worse than the one he was in, was one where he lived with the memory of seeing Matron's head shatter in red through his lens.

'Do I have the right--do I even deserve to think of her as my mother after what I did? Nothing to repent? You're so wrong there, Squally.'

Irvine didn't resist as Squall pulled him to his feet and towards the shower. He honestly didn't care one way or another, but if Squall insisted he take a shower, then he might as well. Irvine didn't see where it mattered, in truth, but fighting Squall on it would take energy and emotion, and Irvine was severely depleted on both.

The bathroom was on the stingy side of space. The teen was surprised they could both fit given how little room was in there. The shower likely was the most open part in there, but it seemed able to fit a couple of people inside. Irvine noticed there was a second door on the opposite wall from where they came in, likely leading to another bedroom since he spotted washing items for two people instead of just one.

His body felt weighted down, leaving Irvine to lean against the wall as he turned distant eyes back to Squall. "Where should I leave my clothes then?" he asked, cooperating since it was the easiest thing to do at the moment.

Smiling gently when Irvine finally got to his feet and allowed himself to be pulled along, Leon took them to the bathroom.

"Just leave your stuff on the chair by the window," Leon instructed as he turned on the water and grabbed a towel and clean robes from the too tiny cupboard in one corner "A moogle will be along shortly to get our clothes for cleaning. It’ll likely be back in an hour or so, plenty long enough for a shower, real food and for Aerith to look you over."

Water temperature just right, Leon's fingers quickly worked at his belts, the heavy strips of leather draped over the towel rack. Pants and boxer-briefs shucked off, Leon tossed them towards the chair and hopped into the shower.

"When you're ready, Irvine," he called over the water, leaving the door open just enough so that he could keep an eye on what Irvine was up to.

Seeing Squall getting into the shower earned him raised an eyebrow from Irvine. Unfortunately, he couldn't muster up one of his usual racy comments. Instead he simply stripped down as well, leaving his clothes where told to. Without much thought, Irvine stepped in behind Squall, only to curse and slam back against the shower wall.

While his mind may have been going numb, his body was anything but, and Irvine was painfully reminded of that soon as the steaming water hit his skin.

"Shit! Squall, that's fucking hot!" Hands dropping to protect more vulnerable spots, Irvine hissed as it left his chest unguarded. "And I don't mean in the sexy way either!"

"Hmm?" Leon inquired, pulling his head from under the hot spray that was working on his neck muscles. What Irvine said finally sank in and Leon hit the cold-water leaver, upping water pressure and lowering the temperature some.

"Hell, Irvine, I'm sorry," Leon apologized, stepping aside to give Irvine access to the now cooler water. "Damn."

With Irvine now as naked as he was, Leon checked over the wet skin, looking for anything that might need attention right away. It was very strange to see Irvine's body fully unchanged, still slim of hip and muscles lightly defined, shifting under tanned skin. Leon hid a smile at the thought of Aerith trying to fatten Irvine up. He also ignored the way his mouth watered a little from seeing all that bare skin up close. Now really wasn't the time to be thinking of those kind of things.

"How, um...what was the explosion like? I'm not seeing any marks," he said,

The cooling water was an immediate relief; Irvine sighed as soothed reddened skin. With the hot water no longer boiling him, Irvine's previous despair returned. He had to resist reaching out to turn the hot water off altogether. He'd heard about people doing it a few times at G but didn't understand until an instructor explained it to him.

'"It's been said that freezing is actually a pleasant way to die. That coupled with the psychological need to go numb is probably what pushes a few people to do that. Fortunately it's the least successful form of suicide for anyone to try."'

While he couldn't say if he really wanted to commit suicide, Irvine did have a sudden empathy with those people about wanting to be numb.

'This sucks. Dammit, how do I pull myself out of this one?'

Feeling his ponytail growing heavy, the teen reached up and back, grumbling about having forgotten to take it down as he removed his hair tie. Keeping his head and eyes down and his hair now obscuring his vision, the only parts of Squall that Irvine could see were from the knees down. He knew his brain must be on something when he looked at the brunette's toes and thought of an old children's rhyme.

'This little piddy went to the market...'

"Hmm?" It took a few minutes longer than usual for Leon's question to register on Irvine's dysfunctional thoughts. "What was--I don't know," he answered truthfully. "Even as I was pushing Matron out the way I gave myself up for dead. Didn't matter. I know it was my job but I'dve done it, mission or no mission."

Long fingers ran through dripping auburn, Irvine's eyes still down and focused on Squall's toes. "Didn't think, just had to save her. I heard from some of the explosive experts at G that being at ground zero doesn't even hurt. It's over before you blink. I just--I dunno." The teen paused, trying to get his thoughts in order. "I... I felt a kind of jerk, not really painful, then... then..." Irvine trailed off. There were a few flashes, but it was like trying to catch a butterfly; the images flittered just on the edges. And between those was just stretches of blank spots. Nothingness and--

"Cold. I c-can't remember anything else, but Hyne, it was cold."

Irvine turned away, distancing himself from the echoes of that cold. It wasn't something he wanted to remember right now, if ever.

"Um, you got a washcloth I can use? Don't wanna stay in here too long or we'll get pruney."

"You did what any of us would have done, Irvine," Leon reassured the sniper, resting a hand on a wet shoulder that he squeezed while reaching for the washer on the shampoo rack. "Even without it being a mission, protecting Matron is something that's natural for those she raised. Is also why it was so hard for you to go against her, the only one out of us all to know who she really was."

I'll have to make sure Irvine tells Aerith what he's told me. For there to be no marks, perhaps he was displaced before the explosion actually hit him. I'll have to ask Cid about that. Also finding out exactly where Irvine has been all these years will help. Could he possibly have been here the whole time? Leon wondered when Irvine mentioned it being cold wherever he had been.

Holding out the washer, Leon grabbed the soap and held it out as well, intending to borrow Yuffie's loofah and shower gel just for today.

"I have shampoo too if you want to wash your hair now that it's wet."

Shaking his hair out his eyes, Irvine took the cloth and soap, murmuring a soft thank you. Lathering both up, he concentrated on washing as he considered Squall's offer of shampoo.

"If you have any conditioner, then sure. Otherwise it's too hard to comb out." He wanted to shampoo his hair, but no way he'd do it without conditioner. He learned that lesson the hard way back in G.

Lifting his arm a bit, Irvine thought about some of Squall's earlier comments The sniper realised there were a couple of names he didn't recognise, but he was only just now thinking to ask.

"Um, by the way, who's Aerith? And I'm guessing this Cid isn't the same one I know, right?"

Leon's reply about the conditioner began as a half laugh, half snort and ended as a chuckle. "Yes, I have conditioner. My hair is still shorter than yours and yet I regret each time I forget to condition."

Loofah gelled up and leaving a trail of bubbles over Leon's skin, he gave some thought to Irvine's question.

"This Cid is definitely not our Cid. He smokes, swears, drinks, is a pilot and scratches himself in public. Nothing like Cid...er...Headmaster Cid. You'll probably like him," Leon said with a grin as he swapped the loofah to his other hand. "Aerith...she's a lot like Sis...and Matron...and Quistis I guess. Very calming to be around, sensible. A good listener too. She and Tifa both seem to have a thing for Cloud. Yuffie on the other hand doesn't have a thing for Cloud or for anyone. Seems to enjoy bugging me for some reason...lot like Selphie used to...Ah sorry, seems I've turned into a bit of a gossip. Don't say anything to Cid about the scratching thing, k?"

Leon's blush had little to do with the earlier water temperature, his ears heating up slightly as well. He ignored it and rummaged through the bottles of body wash and shampoo and face wash and foot scrub.

"A-ha, here it is," he said, handing over a small bottle that actually held much more than it appeared thanks to Merlin's magic.

Having finished washing his body, Irvine stepped under the spray a bit more to let the lather rinse off. He accepted the conditioner with a nod, then looked at where Squall got it from and just grabbed a bottle of shampoo himself.

"Nobody sounds familiar to me, so guess you'll have to do the intros," he said.

Starting with the shampoo, Irvine quickly worked it into his hair. He wanted to ask if everyone Squall mentioned had gotten there the way Squall had, but decided against it. The shower wasn't the best place to have that sort of conversation. More to the point, if they all had landed there because their own worlds were destroyed, the sniper was fairly certain they wouldn't want it brought back up. He also considered asking about the new names Squall mentioned just now, but figured that could wait.

"Since I don't know this Cid, I doubt if I'd just go up to him and talk about his scratching," Irvine pointed out after Squall asked him not to mention it. "'sides, it's doesn't make for great conversations, trust me."

Irvine stuck his head under the stream, rinsing out the shampoo. He usually did two washes before conditioner, but since it was a shared bathroom, he didn't want to hog it for too long. Instead Irvine grabbed the conditioner and worked that into his hair, combing it through with his fingers from root to end. It was more necessity than vanity; combing through it without a proper condition was more hassle than conditioning it right from the get-go.

Giving it a couple of minutes, Irvine when back under the water for a final rinse, ending his part of the shower.

"So what'm I doing after this? You said something about seeing this Aerith person, I think."

While Irvine had his head fully under the water rinsing out the shampoo, Leon very discreetly washed himself, rinsing off when Irvine let the conditioner do its magic on his hair.

"Introductions won't be a problem," Leon said as Irvine rinsed his hair out one last time. "They are a good group of people, good friends. If they seem like they know each other better than I know them, that's because they all came from the same homeworld. I have no idea how that worked out but I know they didn't arrive here together and that some of their friends are still missing."

Leon carefully stepped around Irvine and opened the door. Cooler air rushed into the shower and he shivered a little.

"You'll get to see Aerith if she's arrived," Leon said as he hopped onto the mat, quickly grabbed his robe and put it on, holding out a second robe for Irvine. "She's our healer I guess. I was a mess when I arrived and Aerith...grounded me. If I hadn't met Aerith, Cid and Yuffie I likely would have gone insane. Getting dragged here was worse than going through time compression."

The cooler air wasn't as bad to Irvine when he stepped out after Squall. He took the robe with a nod of thanks, then grabbed a towel off the rack for his hair.

"I don't want to think about anything remotely related to time compression right about now," he admitted, slipping the robe on before working the towel through his hair. Feeling crowded in the small bathroom, Irvine went back through the door they entered in, moving to sit on the edge of Squall's bed.

"Given that I disappeared before--whatever happened happened, I'm guessing it was different from how you got here. Suppose I need to figure that out."

Irvine was trying hard to think about the situation in a calm manner. It was the only thing keeping him from falling back into that pit as he had earlier, and now wasn't the right time. Later, perhaps...

"How long we need to wait for my clothes?" he asked, trying to keep himself distracted. Glancing around the room, he turned back to Squall, giving the brunette a narrow-eyed look. "We are going to wait for my clothes, aren't we?" The alternative didn't sit well with the teen; he was in no mood to go walking around some strange place wearing only a bathrobe, even if Squall felt comfortable doing so.

Draping the second towel on the rack about his neck, Leon followed Irvine back into to bedroom shaking the water from his ears.

"Clothes?" he asked, only half able to hear as he had fabric in his ear as he headed towards the chest at the end of his bed. "We don't need those," Leon shook his head and rummaged around. "Yuffie promised to save us some soup and bread from lunch so I figured we go eat while waiting. By the time we're done and Aerith has checked you over, the moogles will be done cleaning and then you'll have your gear back. Until then you get to wear these," Leon said, tossing a pair of soft cotton boxers at Irvine. "I promise they are clean."

Pulling another pair from the chest, Leon slipped them on under his robe and tightened the belt as he stood up.

"You ain't got anything my housemates haven't already seen...although Yuffie was totally by accident when she barged into Aerith's bathroom," Leon muttered, distracted as he closed the chest with a heavy thunk. "Ready to go?"

Scowling, Irvine took the boxers, quickly slipping them on even as he gave Squall a hard look.

"I don't care what your roomies have or haven't seen, they ain't seen mine, and contrary to popular--or previous--rumours, I don't go around randomly flashing my goods to strangers." Huffing, he sat back on the bed, arms folded over his chest.

"I'm not that hungry, and I feel more or less okay. I can wait until my clothes are done before we need to go anywhere. If you're hungry, go ahead. I'll just wait here."

Irvine turned to the window, thinking in his mind at least that the matter was settled. After all, perfect strangers did not go roaming through other people's houses wearing only a bathrobe. It wasn't something Matron had ever explicitly told him, but the cowboy was almost positive it just wasn't done.

Smiling at the huff, Leon stepped up behind Irvine and rested a hand on his shoulder.

"Irvine, do you really think I'm going to let you out of my sight after so long?" he asked softly. "Sorry but you have no choice in this and if you say no one more time, I'll carry you down there."

Turning towards the door and the smells of Yuffie's soup, Leon grabbed the sleeve of the sniper's robe and headed for the door. He would carry through on his threat if he had to.

He wasn't letting Irvine out of his sight for a long while.