Project: Trinity

Chapter One: And in the Beginning...

Author's quickie: "What's up?" to all the readers out there! [especially Cloud-Aerith-Leon supporters!] This isn't my first fanfiction, but it is my first pertaining to Kingdom Hearts [Great game, although I do wish there was more FF in it]. One note: This is will be very long. And for a reason. And this takes place in the midst of Kingdom Hearts; meaning, everything happens when Sora's on his little journey to seal up the keyholes.

Disclaimer: I own my plot, I own my myself, but, unfortunately, I do not own Kingdom Hearts. Nor Aerith. Nor Leon nor Cloud nor...[rambles on].

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The sunlight filtered in through the lace curtains on her window, casting warm rays on her face. She stirred faintly, her eyelids parting to reveal a pair of luminous green eyes. A yawn escaped out of her mouth, and she smiled briefly, stretching out on her comfortable plain white bed. Aerith blinked, tilting her head as the faint metallic sound reached her ears. She smiled yet again, shaking her head.

Silently she got up out of bed, and walking over to her dresser, yanked a brush through her hair a few perfunctory times. Yuffie had always complained that brushing her hair was a great waste of time, since Aerith's hair was always naturally straight and smooth; no wind dared to rifle up her braids, unless it was one of her own calling. Yet there was something calming, something soothing, in the normality of the act. Soundlessly her feet passed over the medium-sized dulled pink jute rug in the middle of the floor, and, stooping down quickly, she picked up from the box a white T-shirt and a simple white skirt that brushed her ankles, made out of bleached cloth.

Quickly she changed out of her nightgown into her clothes, making sure she stood out of the view of the window, even though there could quite possibly be no one else in District Two except Leon. Still, better to be safe than sorry, Aerith decided to herself. Because you're sorry enough already. She shook her head to clear her thoughts, and slid her feet into her weaved khaki-coloured sandals. After giving herself a last glance in the mirror, she walked out of her room, shutting it gently so it wouldn't disturb Yuffie, who was (it could be heard) snoring loudly in the third room. Silently she walked down the stairs, scanning the kitchen even though she knew he wouldn't be there. Sighing to herself, she reached into the refrigerator and pulled out half a dozen eggs, slices of bacon, a carton of orange juice, and a jug of milk. Setting the bacon out to defrost on the counter, Aerith snapped open the door of the bread pantry and took out a loaf of fresh bread. Sliding a heavy metal pan onto the stove, she turned on the fire, waiting for it heat.

The sounds of ringing metal were still going strong, even louder from the kitchen. Quietly Aerith walked to the backdoor, swinging the door open softly. She peered outside and couldn't prevent a smile from appearing on her lips.

He sent a sharp glance over at her before taking another swipe at the metal bar. As his gunblade struck the bar, it glanced off, but not before making a serious dent in the metal. His breathing just barely above normal, he stopped and looked at her pointedly.

She smiled and shrugged carelessly. "I knew you'd be out here, preventing me from sleeping in late with that inferno racket of yours." It was light, teasing banter, something that she would do often to provoke moody, taciturn Leon into at least talking with her.

"Yet I don't see Yuffie complaining about it, do you?" he responded swiftly.

"Yuffie would sleep through a bomb attack," Aerith pointed out bluntly. Leon didn't answer, sullenly admitting defeat. She grinned and said, "Practicing, again? You haven't even eaten yet. Give it a rest." Leon looked at his gunblade before wordlessly turning his back on her and started hitting the bar again. She sighed and shook her head, a bit hurt. Leon didn't seem to value her presence much, and was always silent unless she prompted him to talk with her teasing. True, Leon was pretty much always silent, even with Yuffie; but still, Aerith wasn't accustomed to that sort of frigidity. Well, maybe once upon a time... She turned back into the kitchen and dutifully began preparing breakfast.

Once she was gone, Leon swung his blade with all his might at the bar, frustrated again and again as the bar held firm. Frustrated at his inability to cut through the damn bar, yes; but frustrated, also, at himself. What was he trying to hold back? There really was no reason for him to be so cold to Aerith, nor to anyone, especially since they had all lost something special. There was that bond that they all shared; but even more, it was the bond of friendship. Something he had learned to treasure, the hard way. Self-consciously he willed himself to be more amiable next time he talked to her, but old habits die hard.

The air crackled with the aromatic smell of crisp bacon as she finished frying them and slid them, thick and juicy, into plates, two slices for her and three each for the others. Swiftly she crackled open two eggs and scrambled them, frying the other four while a dousing a hint of salt on two. The slices of bread that she had popped in the toaster whizzed into the air with a twang, and she scooped them up and spread light margarine on one side and left the other bare, repeating the process again. She laid out a bagel and chives cream cheese out on the table, and placed the plates laden with steaming food next to their respective glasses of juice or milk. As a final touch, she set the napkin holder in the center, making sure it was within easy reach.

Stepping back, Aerith surveyed her work critically before nodding to herself, satisfied. A little hesitant, she made up her mind and walked to the back door again, opening it slightly to watch him.

He was still at it, slamming into the bar with incredible stubbornness. He seemed not to notice her, so intent on bashing the target to a cinder, that Aerith stayed silent to watch him. Sarcastic, cold, indifferent...he reminded her so much of Cloud. Cloud, whom she didn't even know if he was alive now, who hadn't known she was alive then. Fate was a jealous, spiteful thing. She clutched her chest; thinking about the past was a painful, torturous experience. Better not to rehash the memories up where they could hurt, she reprimanded herself.

Clang! Metal struck metal as Leon swung his weapon, a slight grunt escaping his mouth. Without turning around, he asked gruffly, "What is it?" Shock jolted her out of her thoughts.

"You-you knew I was here?" she asked, jarring into consciousness.

He stopped his practicing to give her an obvious stare. "Of course I knew you were here. What am I, an amateur?"

She smiled sheepishly and bowed her head. "Sorry. Guess I forgot what an all-mighty warrior we have amongst us."

He scowled, though he was trying hard not to. "I know when somebody's mocking me."

"Oh, and who would that be?" she said lightly, pivoting around, about to re-enter the house. As if in an afterthought, she tilted her head back to look at him for a moment, smiling hesitantly. "Breakfast is ready, Leon." Without waiting for an answer, and expecting none, Aerith stepped into the bright, sunny kitchen that smelled so wonderful, like fresh-cleaned laundry put up to dry in the meadow. She sighed, propping her elbows up on the worn but homely kitchen counter, and a brief smile flickered past her face. If only those days weren't taken away from her...

"Awwhhh...!" A yawn interrupted her thoughts, and she turned around to stare at Yuffie, who was shuffling down the stairs in her slippers and long-sleeved pajamas.

"Awake, sleepy head?" Aerith laughed, taking in Yuffie's tousled mangle of short hair and tired eyes. "You're the last one."

"Um." Yuffie said, too tired to answer. She sniffed the air in the kitchen, her face intent. "Is breakfast ready?"

Aerith laughed and waved a hand at the set-up table. "You bet." Yuffie's face immediately brightened a few notches as she spied the food.

"Apparently someone was too lazy to get up before nine-thirty," Leon said as he walked in through the back door.

"Aw, shut up, Squall." Yuffie said, plopping down on a seat. "We can't all be early larks that wake up before the crack of dawn."

"It's Leon." He said in irritation, crossing over to the sink and proceeded to wash his hands. "And the Heartless don't sleep."

"Psh. Why are you so intent on this whole good-versus-evil stuff?" Yuffie replied, starting to shovel her scrambled eggs into her mouth. Her mouth worked to simultaneously chew and talk. "Don't be so narrow-minded."

Aerith could sense Leon's building tension and quickly intercepted it. "Guys, come on; just leave it alone, okay? The food's getting cold."

Yuffie shrugged and continued eating, and Leon approached the table and sat down, scowling at the childish girl. Aerith sent Leon a warning look, pleading with him to stomach Yuffie's bouts of immaturity; he glared but kept quiet. Yuffie began, "See, Squall, you never see Aerith being so mean to me--"

"It's Leon, damn it!" Leon swore, annoyance spiking his voice.

"Geez! You don't have to shout! You're even worse than Cloud!" Yuffie yelled back, her anger overriding her discretion. Aerith's face whitened, and her lower lip trembled as soon as the word was out of Yuffie's mouth. Cloud! Her heart still beat painfully every time she heard his name. Yuffie gasped and clamped a hand over a mouth, sending a terrified look at Aerith. Leon stared puzzledly between the two of them.

Aerith placed her fork down beside her untouched plate with a soft clink. Something cold gripped her heart, and a dull throb began to beat a war drum in her head. Slowly, painfully, she placed a hand to her forehead. "I-I think I'm not very hungry. Sorry." She stood up almost mechanically, and shuffled towards the front door. Yuffie, knowing she had committed a gaffe, gave her an apologetic glance.

"Aerith!" she squeaked out, squirming in her chair. "I-I didn't mean to...I mean, uh..."

Aerith turned back to look at Yuffie, an unreadable look on her face that disturbed Leon's usual calm demeanor. "Don't worry about it, Yuffie," Aerith said monotonously, her normally expressive green eyes clouded and carefully blank. She looks...Leon thought worriedly, ...strange. It was a look he wasn't completely able to put a finger on, something he had seen before but had long forgotten. "I'll be back soon."

"Aerith!" Yuffie tried once again, but this time, Aerith had disappeared out the door without another backwards glance.

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[Picks up later in Chapter two. Don't forget to read and review! [hey, that rhymed...! I'm such a loser... --;]