Leon’s migraine was almost to the point of making his vision blur but he just had to muscle through it. After all, no matter how frustrating, no matter how many times he had to repeat himself, no matter how many times he’d done this and still hadn’t perfected it…He loved them.
He loved them, but he hated this.
“Cereal aisle!” Sora cheered, dashing down the aisle with Roxas and Riku right on his tail. They'd already made a mess of the produce section with Leon getting after them about touching things that weren't theirs.
Grocery shopping with children was hell, pure and simple. He avoided it whenever possible and Cloud was of a like mind. Only taking one of them could be okay but taking more than that was a miserable experience.
His normally well behaved children turned into lunatics who had to touch everything.
Leon followed them with a heavy sigh and caught the middle of a conversation between them.
“Put it back.” Riku hissed with a tone that said it wasn't the first time. He hated to repeat himself and Leon could relate.
“But i like this one.” Sora whined.
“It’s the one we usually get.” Roxas said, also not seeing the problem.
“Put it back.” Riku said, yanking the box from Sora’s hands and tossing it back onto the shelf so hard Leon was afraid he’d create an avalanche of cereal boxes. “Daddy will get that. We always get that. Don’t waste your treat on that.”
“But i want it.” Sora whined, still not seeing the point.
Riku practically growled at him. “No. That does not get to be your treat. Get something else.”
“Riku.” Leon said, trying to go for patient but he already sounded exasperated. “Do not yell in the store.”
Riku winced and threw the twins a dirty look like it was their fault he got in trouble. Honestly, food shopping turned even his mild mannered sweet boy into a little monster.
Leon followed along with the cart, grabbing granola bars and cereal because Riku was right, the boys needed breakfast foods so that was something he’d be getting regardless. A rule he had to make the boys happy was that each of them could pick a snack to share throughout the week. One each. Roxas almost always held out for ice cream but Riku and Sora’s choices consistently changed. It was one more reason for Riku to watch their choices like a hawk. It was his snack for the week too.
“But i wanted it…” Sora pouted.
“It’s in the cart, Sora.” Riku snapped. “Now pick something else.”
“Noodle aisle!” Roxas cheered and heading off ahead of all of them, not bothering to see how far behind Leon was.
“Roxas.” Leon called. “Stay where i can see you.”
“I’m right here!” Roxas called back and Leon felt his head throb. He loved his children, really he did but he often thought about hiring one of his students to pretend to kidnap them. Maybe then they’d listen.
It wasn’t a crime to think it.
“Stay where i can see you.” Leon repeated, pulling out his phone to look through the grocery list Cloud and Aerith had compiled. Aerith cooked enough at their house to have a say in his shopping. "Or else." The ominous threat was usually enough to work. They bot weren't quite at the age where they wondered what 'or else' meant but they knew it would be bad.
“Can we have spaghetti?” Sora asked a few beats later when Leon actually rounded the corner. “I like spaghetti. Look at all the noodles! Can we get spaghetti with the ones that look all twisty?”
Leon didn’t even care, he followed along behind them and grabbed the noodles that Sora pointed out.
“Can we get the sauce in the jar?” Roxas asked.
“Papa always just makes it.” Riku answered as if it were a funny notion.
“Peaches!” Sora yelled. “Aunt Yuffie brings those for snacks. Can we have peaches.” He stared up at the shelves of cans and Leon momentarily felt his heart lodge in his throat. It would take nothing for his free spirit of a child to start digging through a sea of canned fruits and vegetables and end up squished. Fortunately, Riku's hand on his arm kept him from doing just that.
Leon sighed tiredly, not sure why grocery shopping always felt so foreboding with the boys. “We have real peaches in the cart already. We don’t need the canned ones.”
Sora beamed, “It can be my snack!”
“No.” Riku said quickly. “We already got the others for snacks. I don't want more.”
“But i want them.”
“Stop…” Leon sighed again, shooing them along in front of him. Kindergarten had them all feeling like big kids so at least he didn't have to deal with them trying to climb in the cart anymore. He hadn’t minded it to be honest but it was the constant wanting to get in and out that killed him.
“Bakery!” Riku asked. “Oh, daddy can we get muffins!?”
“Muffins!” The twins echoed, already moving closer to press their fingers to the glass of the display. He was getting dirty looks from the employees on the other side but he ignored them. If fingerprints were ruining their day then they had nothing to truly complain about.
Leon wished his headache away and ignored the plea, knowing something else would quickly distract them anyway. He grabbed all the breads on the list and snuck in a pack of cookies for the boys later. They’d no doubt spy it in the checkout line but for now it was enough of a surprise.
“C’mon.” Leon repeated tightly. “Put it back.” he continued when Sora tried following along with a single muffin. “You can’t share that.”
“Daddy…” He whined.
“Put it back and let’s go before you get left behind.” Leon said. Cloud had once told him that his tone was so matter of fact that the kids were sure to believe that he’d actually leave them. Silly boys.
He made it a whole three aisles without a new pulse of pain to his temples. Riku was carrying around a box of cheez-it’s and Sora had a bag of marshmallows. The marshmallows had been a surprise but frankly...whatever.
If that’s what he wanted he was sure Cloud would find some way to dispense them so they lasted the week. It would only take once for them to realize that they weren’t the worthwhile snack they’d hoped for.
“Don’t touch.” Leon snapped in the meat section when Sora and Roxas started poking at the meat wrapped in plastic. “I don’t care if it’s wrapped. It’s raw food. You haven't washed your hands, and it’s not ours. Hands to yourselves.”
“Okay, okay.” Roxas grumbled. “Not hurting it.”
A woman passed by him, giving him a look of one hundred percent understanding. It was something he hadn’t noticed until after he had children but parents could always spot other parents in these situations. Those without kids didn’t know why Leon couldn’t handle all three of his kids at once and those with kids empathized.
He remembered once seeing a woman with six kids and he had actually smiled at her when he brushed passed her. The woman had to be a saint to have so many kids and still be alive. She’d looked oddly grateful that Leon didn’t bite her head off about something that wasn't her fault.
People were assholes.
“Sora.” Leon said, frustration in his voice. “Stop running.” He grabbed the brunette by the back of his shirt after he’d succeeded in running into two different people. He hauled Sora closer. “Put your hand on the cart, do not let go until i say so. If you can’t walk around the store like a big kid you’re going to stay by me.”
Sora pouted hard and reached out to hold onto the cart. It was also enough to startle Riku and Roxas into behaving but that would only last maybe five minutes.
Leon went through his list again and was ready to end this trip as quickly as possible. He didn’t know how people browsed through a store with kids to look after. The only part that went quickly was Roxas knowing exactly what ice cream he wanted. At some point Sora and Riku were bound to get sick of sea salt ice cream but they could pick their own and didn’t.
“Stop. Stop.” Leon said in a stern voice when Roxas tried to climb up the shelf to get the ice creams he wanted. By the end of the trip, all three of them were holding onto the cart and looking dejected. Honestly, this wasn’t fun for anyone.
“Daddy.” Riku muttered, pointing to the coolers at then end of each check out line. “Can we get drinks?”
“If the three of you can actually listen the rest of the way home, yes.”
It gained him three cheers as they went to pick out their own flavor and only the knowledge that this painful experience was almost over kept him going
People wondered while he would rather get a babysitter so he could shop alone instead of taking his kids with him and he honestly didn’t understand why that was strange. He could love his babies to death and still not want to deal with them while doing a chore.
His best shopping trips had always happened at midnight with Cloud anyway. He probably had a few more years before shopping with the boys was anything but a nightmare. His saving grace was the fact that the grocery store didn’t have a toy section.
Check out was simple enough and Leon always watched the boys carefully in the parking lot. Fortunately they had been trained to look both ways for cars and never ran out into the street. Cloud had once nearly pulled Riku’s shoulder out of its joint when he was smaller after pulling the small boy out of the way of a swerving car in a similar parking lot. Since then Riku have been vigilant and like with most things, the twins followed his lead.
When they were finally home they each got to carry a bag inside and greeted Cloud happily who had opened the door for them with a welcome home smile.
“Uh oh.” Cloud muttered after only glanced at Leon’s face. “Daddy looks tired.”
“Needs a nap.” Riku muttered, dropping his bag on the kitchen counter. “He’s grumpy.”
Leon’s eye nearly twitched, carrying in the rest of the bags himself just to not have to make a second trip.
“Long nap.” Roxas agreed, pulling out his drink from the bag he carried in along with Riku’s and Sora’s.
“Mhm.” Cloud snorted. “Who got in trouble at the store?”
“I didn’t mean to knock into the lady.” Sora said instantly, cheeks going pink. He always confessed so easily.
Cloud hummed and smiled faintly. “Why don’t you three go play, please. Pour those drinks into your cups with the lids. I do not want to find out they’ve spilled in your room.
“Kay. I can pour.” Riku said, happy to have a job while Cloud sauntered towards Leon was who unhappily putting things away.
“Lion.” Cloud purred against his ear, hands sliding to his hips. “You survived.”
Leon grunted again but arched into Cloud’s touch. “Mm.”
Cloud pressed against him, leaving no space between their bodies. “Proud of you.”
“Can i have marshmallows?” Sora asked, distracting Cloud from his teasing and holding up the bag.
“A what?” Cloud frowned, pinching Leon’s ass where the boys couldn’t see. Marshmallows were apparently not a snack. “No. Dinner is soon. We’ll take those and make smores later this week.”
“Really?” Roxas gasped. “Cool! Like with fire?”
"Like in the microwave."
“Was a good choice after all.” Riku muttered in though. They'd never made smores inside before he was evidently trying to figure out how that would work.
Cloud hummed, waving them from the room. “Go play, babes. Dinner will be soon enough.” With a chorus of agreement the boys ran off and Cloud threw Leon a look as he continued putting things away. “Marshmallows?”
“Don’t judge me.”
A surprise laugh was startled right out of Cloud as he went right back to his spot pressed against his husband. “Fine. You are grumpy.”
With a smile, Cloud dragged his hips against Leon’s. “I think i bought us a little time. We’ll shut the bedroom door and i’ll make your headache feel better.”
Leon perked up, a breathy sigh leaving his lips. “Yeah. Sounds good.”
“What can i say, you faced your worst nightmare, i’d say that calls for a reward.” The groceries might have only been half put away when Cloud dragged Leon to their room, but moments like these needed to be stolen.