When Leon hears the door creak his first instinct is to take cover, to see who or what it is that’s entered the same room. He has no time to react to anything, though, not before Ashley yells an excited “Leon!” and runs straight at him.
“Ashley,” Leon greets, surprised but undeniably relieved, happy that she’s alright and back under his watch. What he doesn’t expect is the way she basically throws herself at him, hugging him as tight as she can. He doesn’t even remember when someone actually hugged him, and it takes his brain a moment to catch up to it. Carefully he loops his arms around her, holding her like she might just break if he holds on too tight, patting the back of her head soothingly.
He's relieved when she lets go, but at the same time he kind of thinks he could get used to hugs.
There’s a surge of warmth in his chest and he feels a little like she’s his little sister, entrusted in his care. It isn’t exactly what this is, they still barely know each other at all, but being constantly thrown into life and death situations has the tendency to speed up all sorts of bonding. He just wants to keep her safe and bring her home.
Which, eventually, he does.
Later, when they’ve gone back to their usual lives, which means wildly different things to them both, they stay in contact. First it’s only random phone calls and texts every now and then, always instigated by Ashley. Usually she wants to talk about what they went through, seeking support from the person who saw how it was, what she had to endure. Leon talks her through the bad memories whenever he can. It’s not like he has too many people in his life, he’s going to have to hold on to the few friends he has.
When Ashley finally gets over her awkward little crush on Leon, everything gets better. Turns out, Leon’s thought about having a little sister wasn’t too far fetched. Eventually it gets to the point where she sends him more memes than he knows what to do with. What is he supposed to reply to a picture of a cat accompanied by haha looks just like you? Usually he says nothing, but it doesn’t seem to deter Ashley in the slightest.
Leon doesn’t mind. He thinks it’s kind of nice.
Leon has never understood why Claire loves having large groups of people over, but every now and then she manages to coax Leon into attending one of her barbecues. Not that Leon doesn’t like spending time with her, or some of her friends, but he always feels kind of out of place in big crowds and he doesn’t like feeling that awkward. He’s certain it doesn’t really show, he’s good at putting up a front and pretending like he’s in his element, even when he’s so out of his depth.
He loves Claire, though. She’s even more of a little sister to him than Ashley is, and he would throw himself into a fire for her. She comes to him for heart-to-hearts, spends time on his couch in her PJs eating junk food, and pesters him about his (lack of) love life. And when she realizes that Leon has developed an embarrassing crush on her brother, she begins to drag Chris along whenever she can.
Come to think of it, Claire kind of sucks.
But yes, the barbecues, they’re always for over twenty people and in Claire’s tiny backyard, where there’s never enough room to get a breather and get away from the crowd. Leon suspects that’s the entire plan, especially since Claire keeps trying to come up with stupid excuses to throw Leon at Chris. Oh would you two bring out the beers, oh you two could go buy more salad dressing, oh you two could man the grill, oh you two should get a fire going so we can roast marshmallows…
Leon flees before Chris manages to catch on. The man isn’t stupid, after all.
A while later Claire finds Leon hiding – although he would never admit that out loud – in the corner of the yard, leaning against the wall and just watching Chr– people from afar. He’s nursing a bottle of beer that he has barely taken two sips from, and shamelessly Claire grabs the bottle from his hands to down half of it in one go.
”I’m sorry,” Claire says, then, looking like she’s had more than one drink to get up the nerve to actually apologize. “I know life isn’t a romantic comedy and that I shouldn’t meddle.” She smiles at him, soft. “I promise I won’t interfere anymore.”
Leon shrugs a little, not knowing what to say.
“I just want you to be happy,” Claire continues, honest and open, “and I figured that if my dumb big bro can do that, then why the hell not. But I mean it. I won’t push. When you make a move.” she stresses her words in a way that makes Leon want to protest, but he doesn’t, “you should do it because you feel it’s right.”
Then Claire hugs him tight. She smells like smoke from the fire and something sweet, her hair soft against Leon’s cheek as she practically snuggles closer, holding him for what he thinks should probably be entirely inappropriately long for a hug. He’s kind of used to that by now, though, at least from her. He’s known she’s a hugger ever since they actually started hanging out together. He just hooks his arms around her and waits until she decides she’s had enough, taking the time to enjoy human closeness himself.
What Leon doesn’t expect is Claire dropping her voice to a low whisper. “He’s available, you know. Hasn’t dated anyone in months.” … so much for her not meddling, then.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” he murmurs into her hair, hoping the darkness hides the traitorous blush that’s creeping up to his face.
Claire snorts. “Sure you don’t.”
Everything hurts. Leon can’t even begin to differentiate the aches as it’s like every single muscle in his body is screaming for him to stop, to rest, to find some goddamn painkillers at least. His arm is probably the worst off, and although he can move it and knows it’s not broken, he’s sure that in the morning the bruises will be a thousand times worse than now.
Slowly he approaches Rebecca and Chris, watching how Chris gently administrates the antidote and how Rebecca’s every breath seems a little easier than the one before. He’s glad they’re all in one piece, at least for now. Another crisis averted, and once again they’re still standing. Distantly he wonders when the day will come that their luck runs out and they’ll end up like Arias, splattered on the ground.
Rebecca is already sitting up, pushing the mask off her face, and she says something to Chris that Leon doesn’t quite catch from where he’s standing.
But then Chris is up on his feet, takes two long steps to cover the distance between them, and the next thing Leon knows is how he’s being enveloped into a warm, gentle hug. It’s like his entire universe narrows down to the solid chest he’s pressed against, to the shared warmth, and automatically Leon’s arms go around Chris in return as if it’s the only thing in the world that matters. Distantly he feels soft lips against his temple, but he decides it’s all in his imagination.
The thing is, Redfields are huggers. Leon knows this. It’s not the first time Chris has hugged him, not by far. Yet it’s the first time he feels like… he’s being held. Like he’s something to be appreciated, something precious and important. It’s something Leon has never thought he’d want, much less need, but here they are and his heart is damn near bursting in his chest from the way Chris not only has his arms around him but is also gently rubbing his back. Usually Chris’ hugs are all strength and nearly smothering, but this one is so wildly different.
When Chris slips one hand to the back of Leon’s neck, cards his fingers into the soft strands of hair, Leon has to bite back a sob. He manages to keep up appearances, shows no weakness, unless one counts the way he turns his head and presses his forehead into Chris’ neck. They’re both grimy and downright filthy from the day they’ve had, but Leon doesn’t mind, instead just inhales deep, allows himself to relax.
Way too soon to Leon’s liking Chris pulls back, and for a second neither of them knows what to say. Chris smiles a little awkwardly, but the way he looks at Leon is so soft, there’s no mistaking the emotions behind it, and suddenly Leon knows.
Rebecca breaks the moment as she surges forward and hugs Leon tight, pressing her nose into his chest as she holds him with all the strength she has. “I’m glad you’re okay,” she whispers, and doesn’t move until Leon finally manages to hug her back for a moment. Then she withdraws, giving a shaky smile. “Now, shall we go save the world together?”
She walks off, expecting the two to follow her. They do, but as they walk side by side Chris throws his arm over Leon’s shoulders, like it’s the most natural thing in the world. Subtly – he hopes at least – Leon leans a little closer, and the warmth radiating from Chris almost makes him forget the way he hurts every-fucking-where.
Out of his foundling little sisters, Leon gets to meet up with Sherry the least. So whenever it happens it's usually just the two of them, catching up over takeout and pretty much nothing else. Sometimes she just wants to watch whatever brainless reality TV is on, making running commentary on it, lying on the couch with her feet in his lap. Sometimes she wants to talk, easily veering into deeply personal topics. Leon just rolls with it. He doesn't really mind either.
It's always nice. She never expects him to bare his soul to her in return, and if something close to that happens she listens, attentive and caring. Leon thinks it might've helped him learn to actually talk about things, sometimes. He still takes his time, waits until he's ready. There’s no taking back words once they’re out there, so he likes to be prepared.
Sherry seems to notice how he's even more quiet than usual, but she doesn't comment on it. She keeps the conversation light, harmless, and when she gets up to leave she pulls him into a tight hug.
Being hugged and hugging back is getting easier for Leon. Without hesitation he returns the embrace, laughing when she pretends to be utterly shocked by it. "It's good to see you," she mumbles, heartfelt, and he returns the sentiment. It's always good to see her. Even though he knows she's capable of taking care of herself, he worries.
Eventually Sherry pulls back from the hug, and that's when a strange expression flickers on her face.
"Is that a hickey?" she asks, staring at his neck, and Leon thinks he should really be insulted by how surprised she sounds. He's not that much of a social recluse, he has friends and he's had relationships and he's... well, not really that offended because as far as she knows it has been quite a while since he had anything going on for him. Even now... it's all so new he doesn't feel like he can talk about it. It's superstitious and childish, he realizes that, but it still feels like speaking about it might jinx it. So he doesn't.
Instead he just tugs on his collar self consciously. Even though it's too late by now. "No."
Sherry levels him with a look. "Liar." She doesn't push, though. She knows he'll tell her when he wants to, and there's no rush. Their friendship isn't based on them knowing everything about each other, and it's no less for that.
She shrugs on her jacket, leans in to ruffle Leon's hair for god's sake. Which of them was the older one here, again? "Take care of yourself," she practically sing-songs, and with a promise of getting in touch soon she's out.
With a sigh Leon smooths his fingers through his hair. Women.
“I hate men,” Claire groans as she sinks deeper into the cushions of her couch. Her legs are thrown over the backrest, the colorful pillow pressed against her face muffling her voice effectively. Vaguely she waves her hand to the general direction of the doorway, where Leon is standing, leaning against the doorframe. “Except you. You’re passable.”
Leon snorts, uncrosses his arms and takes a few tentative steps forward. “Is that why you called me here?” He takes a seat on the armrest of the recliner, unsure what exactly he should do. “To gripe at me?”
“No.” Claire sighs, sits up and reaches for the bottle of wine on the coffee table. She takes a long drink from it, forgoing using a glass, and growls at Leon as he arches an eyebrow at her. “Don’t fucking judge me. I just got dumped. I’m heartbroken. You should let me cry against your shoulder and complain with me how men are all assholes.” She pouts, and there’s probably a hint of truth in the words as she apparently hadn’t wanted to be alone. Yet she doesn’t exactly seem devastated.
“Men are all assholes,” Leon repeats obediently, a grin tugging on his lips. “Such dicks, the bunch of them.” He pats his shoulder, then, giving her a questioning look. “Is it now time for the crying?”
Claire laughs and Leon counts that as a win. Then she stands up, steps closer, and demandingly tugs on Leon’s sleeve to make him get on his feet. “Not crying, necessarily,” she mumbles and as soon as she can she practically sinks into Leon’s chest, making a pleased little hum. “But I do need some quality cuddles.”
“You should’ve called your brother,” Leon says, but nevertheless wraps his arms around her and holds her close. “He gives better hugs than I do.”
“Hmm, you would know,” she mumbles, and pulls back enough to take a sip of wine from the bottle she’s still clutching in one hand. “Or do you even have time for hugging with all the sex you’re having?”
Immediately Leon flushes, but thankfully Claire can’t see it with the way she has buried her face into his shoulder again. “Shut up.” He doesn’t bother to comment on the assumption, as wrong as it is when it comes to not having time for hugs. Turns out that as huggy as the Redfields have always been, he hadn’t even seen half of it before he got together with Chris. Now his entire life is filled with hugs. Casual hugs in the morning by the coffee machine, hugs goodbye and hugs to say hello, sleepy hugs and tight hugs and shameless cuddling.
Leon kind of loves it.
Then there’s the sound of a key turning in the lock, before the door creaks open and Chris steps inside. He doesn’t say anything, only raises his eyebrows and grins, more than a little amused especially when Leon gives him an exasperated eyeroll. He pushes his hands in his pockets and just stays where he is, watching the two people closest to him hug it out.
“Chris I know you’re there,” Claire eventually mumbles against Leon’s chest, not moving an inch. “Come here. I heard group hugs are so in these days.”
Chris shrugs, and wordlessly throws his coat onto the backrest of the couch as he approaches. Then his arms are around Claire and Leon both, and he presses as close to them as he can.
To Leon, this feels like family.
Leon gasps as his eyes fly open in the darkness, heart beating rapidly in his chest as the last lingering remnants of the nightmare slowly bleed out of his consciousness. He hasn’t had one of those in a while. Once upon a time the nightmares used to be so frequent that he has all but perfected the ways he can push them into the back of his mind, force himself to relax, and brush it all off. At least for a while.
Now it’s easier, though, because he’s not alone. There’s a warm presence right next to him, an arm thrown across his chest, a leg pushed between his knees, and a face so close to his shoulder that he can feel the even breaths. For a good while he focuses on every single breath Chris takes, matches his own inhalations to the same rhythm, and he can feel the tension melting away.
Still fast asleep, Chris hugs him closer, as if sensing something’s wrong. That makes Leon smile. Carefully he shifts, snuggles a little bit nearer. It’s a bit too cold in the room, if one asks him, but Chris likes that, and Chris is like a space heater anyway, so it all works out.
Apparently Leon’s movements weren’t as subtle as he’d hoped, as Chris stirs, forcing his eyes open just a little, to sleepily blink at the other man. “Why are you awake? Something wrong?” he asks, voice still thick from sleep, cracking a little from lack of use.
“Nah,” Leon smiles and shakes his head, “go back to sleep.” He uses the moment to get comfortable, though, not needing to worry about waking Chris up now.
Chris seems to be on the same page as he is, and together they shift until Chris is on his back, one arm holding Leon against himself. There’s a quiet moment where Chris rubs slow circles into Leon’s back, and Leon shamelessly focuses on the sound of Chris’ heartbeats. “You sure?” Chris asks finally, even though he seems to be halfway back asleep already.
Leon sneaks an arm around Chris’ waist, and hugs him tighter for a second. “I’m fine.”
And, really, he is. More than fine.