Leon had honestly chosen one of the worst times to retire. The Hunger had finally been destroyed after over a century of fighting it, the Bureau of Balance had been rightfully renamed to the Bureau of Benevelance, Barry and Lup were back where they belonged, the Voidfish had finally been reunited with their child and the world below was safe once more.
Lucretia liked to stand on the balcony or the stairs and survey the courtyard, overlooking all the changes that had been made in such a short span of time. When Taako wasn’t with Kravits and Lup wasn’t with Barry, the twins were attached at the hip just like they used to be so long ago as if nothing had ever changed. Magnus spent a lot of time in the workshop that Lucretia designed for him, producing buckets filled with beautifully handcrafted ducks and ornate furniture, happier than Lucrita had seen him in a long time. Merle sometimes brought his kids to visit the base, and spent most of his free time tending to his garden, watching the flowers bloom. Davenport still carried on with his previous duties, but now he remembered the mission that had taken up most of his life and words spoken other than his name was the greatest gift Lucretia could ever give him. When Barry wasn’t in his lab, he and Lup finally spent some well-deserved time with each other, able to touch and love and smile again, and wasn’t that just wonderful in itself?
It made her more than happy to see her old friends- her family, really- eventually able to find peace. Finally, with the world no longer in any danger and The Hunger destroyed, her family would be able to relax, no longer having to run from death and destruction, they could finally have some peace and-
The heavy door to Lucretia's personal chambers was flung open and Leon stood on the threshold, one hand still on the door, eyes bulging and face red, a large briefcase clutched in his hand that was stuffed so full with clothing that the leather bulged outwards, stray socks sticking out of the clasp. “Leon?” Lucretia turned away from the window. “Is everything alright?”
Panting, Leon shook his head as if trying to regain his bearings. “Madam Director, I’m just- I’m so very sorry, I truly am, but I just can’t be here any longer. I tried my hardest to stay, despite the hardships that have come to slap me hard in the face- and believe me, there have been many, three to be exact- but I can no longer resist my common sense.” He took a deep breath, stood up straighter, puffed out his chest, and looked Lucretia in the eye. “I’m resigning.”
It felt like a slap to the face, honestly. After everything she had done for him, after everything she had rebuilt for all of them, after the many long years that they had worked together… “Oh,” she frowned. “I’m not going to lie to you and tell you that I’m not disappointed. We’ve been working together for so long I… well. I respect your decision. But may I ask why you’ve made the choice to leave so suddenly? I thought that you enjoyed working for us. And now that The Hunger is gone, there’s a lot less danger out there, especially for those of us who stay up here on the base.”
On the verge of fuming, Leon shook his head and licked his lips. “Uh- no. It’s not that. I’ve had a great time working here, really, it’s been a dream come true. I’ve loved working the Gashapon and handing out prizes to my fellow employees, it makes me happier than I ever thought it would, really, but-”
Apparently not noticing Leon’s increasing agitation, Lucretia continued. “I mean, if the pay is what’s bothering you I’m sure we can arrange a raise. There are not many people up here at the moment and the employee rating has dropped considerably since the evacuation, and I am the Director after all, so if your income is really what’s been bothering you, I’m sure I could sort something out that was more attuned to your needs.”
Leon chewed on his cheeks, his foot tapping impatiently on the ground as Lucretia began to pace around the floor of her office with her hands behind her back. “Director, if I may…”
Pursing her lips, Lucretia continued. She was on a roll and she just couldn’t stop. “Let’s be honest, your work ethic has been incredible, and to my knowledge, you haven’t had any problems with other members of staff. And we’ve just saved the world! Everything we’ve been working towards all these years has finally been accomplished! We no longer have to live in panic and fear all our lives.”
“Yes, Madam Director, I understand that, but-”
Stopping her pacing, Lucretia sighed and smiled sadly at the gnome. “But I suppose… it is your right to leave. I cannot stop you, though we have served each other well all these years if I do say so myself. It would be rude of me to not accept your judgment. Just please, tell me, what is it that has made you feel this way? From your own words, not my own useless rambling. What was the final straw that broke the camel’s back?”
Before Leon was able to speak, there was loud laughter from the courtyard and Lucretia couldn’t help but turn away from Leon to glance through the glass. Lup and Taako were sitting together by the fountain, shoulder to shoulder, and Taako’s large hat had suddenly become a fedora and he held a walking stick in his hand, and his stylish wizard's attire had transformed into a prim-and-proper tux. Lup was laughing at him so hard that she was snorting, and Lucretia could hear Taako mocking someone, and she couldn’t help but wonder what poor soul they had encountered on their journeys that was now made as nothing more than their entertainment.
“It’s lovely, isn’t it?” Lucretia mused. “Seeing them together again. Reunited. A whole. You know, I remember how inseparable they used to be, and I’m very pleased to see that that hasn’t changed, even after all this time-”
Her musing was interrupted by a frustrated, high-pitched sound from Leon and she turned to him in surprise. It looked like any minute, steam was about to blow out of his ears. “I’m leaving,” he seethed, and Lucretia had the feeling like his anger wasn’t directed at her. He pointed out the window with a finger trembling with rage. “Because now there’s two of them.”
Frowning, Lucretia looked to where his finger was aimed at, to where Lup and Taako were laughing at the fountain, but now Taako looked like a little gnome holding a large tome, a long grey beard, a grumpy expression etched into his features, a familiar bracer on his arm… oh. Lucretia looked between Leon and Taako, and while the clothes were different, the resemblance was uncanny.
“Do you see,” Leon hissed. “Do you see what I have to put up with? Do you know how much therapy he has put me through? How much I dread going into work because I perpetually fear that I might see him and his band of idiots? Do you understand my horror? And now there’s two of them! No, I’m sorry Lucretia. I just can’t do it anymore!"
Lucretia covered her mouth with her hand to keep from laughing, and she pretended to stroke her chin in thought instead. “I see.”
“Now that there’s two of them- twins for god’s sake! - my torment has been multiplied! Doubled! And what if the other two idiots come in? It’s not just Magnus and Merle now, no, now the girl has a boyfriend and Davenport suddenly expects things from me and soon enough the Grim Reaper will come in threatening me to give his boyfriend better items! It’s random I tell them, but still, they refuse to listen!”
“Leon, if I may…”
But Leon continued with his rant. “And you know what’s worse? What makes my blood boil?” He had dropped his case now and was waving both his hands around as he spoke. “They know how to do it! They know how to put the coin in the slot and turn the crank! I’ve seen them do it, but they only do it after they patronise me and knock me to the ground and kicked me while I'm down!”
Lucretia held a hand up and Leon paused his speech. “They injured you never said a word to me about it?”
Leon waved her off with an impatient hand. “Metaphorically and emotionally.” Lucretia relaxed slightly. “But what I was saying is that they only do all of this to torment me! They know just how to push my buttons and they never follow directions! I mean, come on, how hard is it to put a coin in a slot and turn a leaver? How hard! No amount of bribery and begging could convince them to listen to me. And you know who the worst one was? Who hurt me the most? Who took the most joy out of teasing me and tormenting me and giving me nightmares about going into work?”
“Well,” Lucretia said, trying to keep the laughter out of her voice. “I imagine it was Taa-”
“Taako,” Leon continued as if Lucretia hadn’t spoken. “And now, there’s two of him. Two! I hardly knew how to deal with one, now I have to deal with him and his twin sister! What are they going to come up with next, hmm? Are they going to somehow destroy the Gashapon and take all the items without needing a coin? Are they going to cast a spell on me to make me look like an idiot? Are they going to prank me? Or- dear god- are they going to get me to like them?”
“Leon,” Lucretia said, biting her lip. Her face was betraying her humour; she just knew it. “I feel like you might be over-reacting, just a bit.”
Crossing his arms over his chest, Leon stomped his foot hard on the ground, the case flopping open and all the contents spilling out onto the floor of Lucretia's room, and he looked her in the eyes. “I won’t do it any more, I won’t.”
Taking a deep breath, Lucretia nodded. “I… understand your distress. That would be a hard task for anyone to deal with. But… if I may… I think that there may be a solution to your troubles without you having to quit.”
Leon looked curious yet sceptical. “I’m all ears, truly, I am. Anything is better than this hell.”
“We are in need of a new treasurer.” Lucretia continued. Leon raised an eyebrow. “If you were to take up that position, you would have very little contact with anyone but the very few necessary personnel, and you would no longer have to be in charge of the Gashapon.”
His eyes lit up. “And I wouldn’t have to interact with Taako and his sister ever again.”
“If that’s how you’d like to think of it, then sure,” Lucretia said. “If you’d like, I can finalise the necessary paperwork immediately, but if you’re still so head-strong on leaving…”
But Leon was already shaking his head before she had even finished speaking. “No, no, that won’t be required any more. I would happily take that transfer if you were to offer it to me.”
“Then it’s final,” Lucretia smiled. “Go back to your quarters, Leon, and take your things with you. Tomorrow morning, you will receive the paperwork and someone will escort you to the treasury.”
“Thank you so much, Madam Director,” Leon almost sobbed as he fell to his knees and began to collect his fallen clothing and stuff them back into the briefcase. “You have no idea how much this means to me; I don’t think I’ve been this happy in a very long time.”
As Leon collected his things, Lucretia didn’t say anything but stood there with a thin smile, and when he finally backed out of the room, closing the door behind him, Lucretia sunk into her desk chair and laughed into her hands.
A few days later, she was visited by Taako, who had a very strange look on his face. “Hey, Lucretia?” He said and she turned to him, putting her tea back down. “We just went to see Leon at the Gashapon, but it was being controlled by some other dweeb. Where’s he gone?”
Lucretia was wrestling with her morals. “He’s been transferred,” she said carefully, trying not to give anything away. “To a different, more secure and safe position.”
Pouting his lips, Taako fluttered his eyelashes at her and clasped his hands over his chest. “Please Lucretia? We just want to see how our good friend Leon is doing, honest. We just… we miss him, that’s all.” Even after all this time, Lucretia knew when he was lying.
But even so, she loved him like one would love a son, and it was very hard to say no to him. After everything that they had been through- that she had put him through- how could she ever deny him anything? He deserved the world, they all did, Magnus and Merle and Lup and Barry and Davenport- they all deserved the world. But… she was the director… and she had a duty to look after her employees…
“I’m afraid that I’m not at liberty to say,” she said over the rim of her teacup, and Taako seemed to deflate a little. “But if I were you, the first place I would check would be the treasury. I heard that one of our senior members of staff has taken up the position as the treasurer because he was very unhappy with his previous employment. I can’t tell you who it is though, you do understand.”
There was a glint in Taako’s eye that Lucretia both missed and dreaded. “Oh Lup, my dear,” he sang as he turned away. “It has just occurred to me that I haven’t actually given you a tour of the treasury yet.” But before he left the room, he quickly turned around and placed a kiss on Lucrita’s cheek before running back after his sister.
Raising a hand to her cheek, Lucretia returned to sipping carefully at her tea and mentally preparing herself for the shit-show that was to ensue.
Oh, how she had missed her family.