Author's Note: *singing* "Here I go again on my own".... hehe... okay, yeah, I'm singing a song from the 80's, so shoot me. Anyways, I'm going to go ahead and start this story before Vulpes Lapis kills me with her impatience for it. Of course, the basic premise of this story was her idea to begin with. She just gave it to me to write. Anyways, let's do it!

By the way, I'm in a very "write-y" mood tonight, that's why I'm starting this already even though I just finished my other story less than an hour ago (as I start this).

Oh, yeah, we're going to pretend that the sun actually comes out in Traverse Town. Perpetual darkness can't be good for people, I mean, you need sunlight.

Um.. timeframe: Sometime in the middle of the game. You know, after Sora has already met Leon, Yuffie, and Aerith, but before he seals Kingdom Hearts.

[Disclaimer: I own nothing, got it? Nothing, I tell you. Nothing!]



Chapter One: Hellfire

Sprawled out on the cot that had been set up in the Red Room of the lone hotel in Traverse Town, a teenage ninja crinkled her eyes and threw her arm across them as the bright sun shone through the window, releasing its brutal rays across her face. As she mumbled incoherently, the ninja rolled over to face the opposite wall and escape the sunshine, only to find a pair of bright green eyes staring at her beneath chestnut bangs. The owner of these eyes let out a soft melodic laugh as her roommate threw a pillow at her in an attempt to make her go away.

"Aerith, no one in their right mind gets up this early," the still prone ninja muttered as she pulled the blankets over her head after giving the brunette a chilling glare. "And I am still in my right mind, so leave me be."

"Yuffie, Yuffie, Yuffie," Aerith scolded gently. "It's nine o'clock. That is not early. Why, Leon's been up since daybreak." The green-eyed woman tapped her chin in thought with one of her long fingernails. "And I know for a fact that you don't want people to think he's better than you. So, get your rear in gear and get up."

The rustling of the blankets and the lump moving from the head of the bed to the foot led Aerith to believe her roommate had heard her. And some disgruntled mumbling told her that this was going to be harder than she had originally thought. "What was that, Yuffie? I couldn't quite hear you," she asked laughingly as she began to pull some of the blankets off.

Gripping the blanket tightly with both hands, her fingers turning white with the effort, Yuffie rolled herself up into a ball and buried her face as deep as she could into the blankets. "I said make me," she muttered a little more coherently this time.

An uncharacteristically sadistic smile appeared on Aerith face as she assented to the ninja's request. "Okay, you asked for it," she chided as she quickly grabbed the blanket and yanked it off the bed, pulling the girl off with it with a loud thump.

Yuffie crawled out from underneath the pile of blankets and scowled at her so-called friend. "That was a dirty trick, Aerith. I never would have expected it from you. Me, maybe. But never from you." She stood up, smiled, and pretended to wipe away a tear. "I'm so proud. I'm beginning to rub off on you. I can't wait til I tell Squall and Clo--" She broke off when she saw her friend's expression at the almost mention of her lover's name. "I'm so sorry, Aerith," she began as she reached over to hug her.

Aerith waved her off and smiled wanly. "Don't worry, Yuf. I'm learning to come to grips with the situation. I can only hope and pray that Cloud's still out there somewhere, safe and warm." Shaking her head gently to remove the thoughts, she picked up the blankets from off the floor and began to make up the small bed the Yuffie slept in.

"Are you sure you're okay?" Yuffie asked quietly. "'Cause, you know, you can always talk to me about anything whenever you want. I may not give the best advice in the world, but I'll always listen."

"I know, Yuffie," Aerith whispered as she walked to the closet and pulled out a pink dress from among the other pink dresses on the hangers. "But, right now, we have to get dressed or we're going to be late."

Yuffie furrowed her brows in confusion and looked at her roommate strangely. "Um... late for what Aerith?" she questioned as she rifled through the dresser to find her green halter top and khaki shorts.

Rolling her bright green eyes, Aerith turned around from the closet and glared in a very non-Aerith way at the ninja. "Don't tell me you forgot." Yuffie cringed slightly beneath her glare and grinned sheepishly while pushing a hand through her short ebony hair. "Yuffie, it's Leon's birthday. We're supposed to meet him at the café for a birthday breakfast."

"What?! No, it can't be! Today's only..." she paused as she frantically looked around the room for the calendar she had purchased the month before, finding it buried beneath a pile of clothes next to her bed. Flipping it open, she gasped at the date. "You're right. Today's August 23."

Finally deciding upon a dress, a pink dress, Aerith carried it to the bathroom to change, hollering through the shut door, "Since you apparently forgot his birthday, you can sign the card I got for him and we'll tell him the gift is from both of us, okay?"

Sighing, Yuffie laid the clothes in her hand and searched through Aerith's half of the room for Squall's present, finally finding it in the top drawer of the dresser. She picked it up and fingered the ribbon on it, which was, thankfully, blue and not pink. "Hey, Aerith, what'd you get him?" she hollered across the room.

The bathroom door creaked open as the pink clad woman came out, brushing her long hair as she walked across the room to Yuffie. "A book about magic. He's been saying that he wants to work on his magic, so I thought this might help." She reached back into the dresser and pulled out a card, handing it to the ninja. "Here, sign it."

"Yes, mother," Yuffie muttered sarcastically as she grabbed a pen and signed it, not even reading the card. "Are you through in the bathroom, now? 'Cause I really want to take a shower."

Making a waving motion with her hands, Aerith signaled for Yuffie to go ahead. "Just, don't be too long. We're going to be late as it is."


For the fourth time that morning, Leon looked down at his watch as he impatiently drummed his fingers across the oaken table top in the café. "10:30," he grumbled under his breath. "They were supposed to be here at 9:30." Just as he was getting ready to leave, he saw the two familiar figures walk into the room, waving madly at him as they came towards him.

"Sorry we're late, Leon," Aerith immediately apologized as she sat down across from him, placing the bag she carried next to her. "But, Yuffie," she jerked a thumb in the ninja's direction, "decided to take a long shower."

"Hey, you don't want me to stink, now do you?" the teenager retorted as she made Aerith scoot across the booth seat so she could sit down next to her. "Besides, we aren't that late."

Leon raised an eyebrow and gave her one of the penetrating icy blue stares he became famous for. Or infamous, depending on your perspective. "You're an hour late. I was about to leave," he growled as he signaled the waiter over to take their orders.

"Aw, Squall, you didn't think we forgot about your birthday, now did ya?" Yuffie teased as the waiter made his way across the crowded room to their table.

"It's Leon. And what do you mean my birthday? Today's not my birthday, is it?" Running a hand through his long russet hair, he tried to remember today's date while Yuffie gave the waiter her order, causing Leon to grimace when she ordered her usual pancakes. How anyone could possibly eat something with that much sugar this early in the morning was beyond him.

Aerith shook her head in disbelief at Leon as he ordered his breakfast. "Leon, how can you possibly forget your own birthday?" she questioned before asking the waiter for an omelette. "I mean, you only get one once a year."

The waiter left the trio alone after taking their orders, leaving them to discuss the date. "Just tell me what day it is, Aerith," the stoic man finally demanded.

Yuffie rolled her eyes, answering before the flower girl had a chance. "Duh! It's August 23, Squa-, er Leon." She reached across Aerith's lap and grabbed the present from out of the bag and placed it in front of him. "Here, we got this for you. I picked it out myself," she lied, giving the woman next to her a covert glance as she did so.

Taking the gift in his hands, Leon carefully untied the bow and started to gently take the paper off, much to the Yuffie's dislike. "C'mon Squall, just rip it open like normal people do!" she cried as he continued to take his time with it, just to annoy her further.

"Leon," he responded automatically to the name she called him. His eyes widened as he saw the title of the book. "You picked this out for me, Yuffie?" Raising his eyes to hers, he gave her a stern glare.

She began to shift in her seat uncomfortably while Aerith stifled a small giggle. "Um... yeah. Why?"

"Are you calling me a dummy, then?" he asked, strangely calm as a fire burned in his icy blue eyes.

Yuffie's indigo eyes flew open in shock as she quickly shook her head. "No, of course not. What are you talking about?" She reached across and grabbed the book away from him, reading the title aloud. "Magic for Dummies." She swivelled in her seat and glared at her roommate. "Aerith?" she growled.

"I thought you said you picked it out, Yuffie," Leon smirked as he caught her in her own lie. Allowing a small smile to grace his lips at the ninja's anger, he lifted the envelope and pulled out his card. "Did you pick the card out as well, Yuffie?"

"Um... uh... that depends on what it says. Yeah, that's it," she faltered as he opened the card to read it to himself. "So, uh... what's it say?"

Leon closed the card and looked at her with mirth showing in his eyes. "You should have read it before you signed it." Before Yuffie could retort, the waiter arrived with their food, much to her delight as her stomach had been demanding to be fed since she arisen that morning.

"So, Leon, is the book to your liking?" Aerith asked as she picked at her omelette with her fork. "I know you said you wanted to work on your magic and I thought that book might help." She daintily slipped a bite of her breakfast into her mouth as she awaited his answer.

Swallowing the bite of bacon in his mouth, Leon nodded. "Yes, this book will offer a great deal of help. It looks as though it'll take it in a step by step manner so I shouldn't have any trouble figuring the stuff out." He frowned as he happened to look across at the girl across from him, seeing her drown her pancakes in a pool of syrup. "How can you eat that, Yuffie?"

"Hm? Oh, this. Easy, like this." She demonstrated by cutting a large bite off and shoving it into her mouth, managing to spill a little syrup on her shirt in her hurry. "Oops," she muttered as she quickly grabbed a napkin and began to dab at it while Aerith and Leon gave her annoyed stares. "What? I was hungry."

Leon tiredly rubbed his eyes and went back to eating his bacon and eggs, trying to ignore the teenager across from him. "Thank you, Aerith, for the gift and for the card."

"Hey, what about me? I gave it to you, too." Yuffie gave him an indignant look while Aerith rolled her eyes and shook her head.

Before Leon could answer, a scream came from behind the Third District doors, causing him to jump up and grab his Gunblade, which had been leaning against the wall behind them. "Yuffie, do you have any shuriken?" he demanded as he started out of the café.

"Yes, of course I do," she called as she lurched to her feet, taking one last bite of the pancakes before following him, leaving Aerith alone at the table. Yuffie ran across the First District, trying to catch up with Leon, who was already passing through the doors of the Third District, ignoring her pleas for him to wait for her.

Upon reaching the doors herself, Yuffie took a deep breath and pushed through them, sizing up the scene in front of her. To the left, a few shadow heartless prowled in their slightly bouncy way as they searched for prey. On her right, a handful of Blue Rhapsodies floated in the air, blasting the few townspeople remaining in the district with their blizzard spells. And, in the center of the district, a couple of Red Nocturnes flew around Leon's head as he attempted to slice them with his Gunblade.

Deciding the heartless present were relatively harmless, Yuffie rubbed her hands together greedily at the thought of the munny she and Leon would be collecting as soon as they defeated the creatures. She turned to the shadow heartless first, whispering, "You're mine," as she drew her shuriken out of her pouch.

Delicately flicking her wrist, the shuriken in hand flew through the air and through the shadow heartless that had been quickly approaching her, causing it to dissolve into an oozy black cloud. Its brother heartless looked at it in confusion for a moment before deciding to attack Yuffie full force.

Her grin widened as she saw them coming for her, back flipping out of their reach and shooting her shuriken at them as she did so. As each one caught one of her ninja stars in their body, they, like their brother, became nothing more than a black cloud, disappearing as soon as it formed.

"That was so easy," Yuffie crowed as she turned to where the Blue Rhapsodies were still congregated, sparing a quick glance at Leon to see that he was still trying in vain to slice the Red Nocturnes which simply flew out of his Gunblade's reach. Summoning her magic, Yuffie cast Fira upon the Blue Rhapsodies, making them convulse before falling to the ground and vanishing.

"Hey, Squall, need some help?" she called as she calmly gathered the fallen munny gems and items the heartless had dropped. Looking over her shoulder, she saw that he had vanquished all but one Red Nocturne, which continued to fly just out of his reach.

Leon momentarily dropped his guard as he turned to scowl at her. "It's Leon, and yes, some help would be nice since you seem to have done the easy part."

"Easy part, huh? I took out twice as many Heartless as you did, buddy," she muttered as she trotted over to middle of the district, where he still swiped at the Nocturne. "This is how it's done." With that, she calmly called upon her magic again and cast Blizzard, but not before the creature released another fire blast that, thankfully, hit the concrete and not them.

But as the concrete exploded in front of them, Yuffie heard Leon cry out in pain, something she hadn't heard since the Heartless first attacked Hollow Bastion nine years ago. "Squall? What's wrong? Where are you?" she called through the dust flying around them.

"I can't see. Some of the concrete chips flew into my eyes or something," she heard him call from her left. Sticking her arms out in front of her, she blindly walked towards his voice, dragging her feet as to not trip over him.

Her leg bumping into something, she lowered herself and felt it. "That you, Squall?" she questioned hesitantly.

"Leon, and yes it's me." His voice sounded strained, as though he was trying to not let her realize how much pain he was truly in. He felt her drop down beside him and place her hands on his shoulders as they waited for the dust to clear.

Finally able to see in front of her, Yuffie looked at the man sitting on the ground, his hands held over his eyes. "Squa-, er Leon, let me see your eyes," she prodded as she gently took his hands in her own and pulled them away.

Clenching his blue eyes tightly closed, Leon turned away from her. "No, they'll be alright in a minute. I just need to give them time to clear the debris out." He felt her place her hands on his cheeks, forcing him to face her.

"Leon, open your eyes," she commanded, her tone of voice leaving no room for disobedience.

He tried to open them, only to snap them back shut when the pain hit him. "I can't," he hissed in pain. "It hurts to open them."

Panic began to take over the young ninja. "Leon, open them and tell me if you can see anything. Please," she added as an afterthought.

Slowly opening his eyes again, he struggled to see something, anything around him, but only saw black. "I can't see anything, Yuffie. I can't see anything," he admitted in defeat.

Biting her lip, Yuffie took his arm and pulled him to his feet. "Come on, let's go find Aerith and see if she can heal them." Sighing resignedly, Leon allowed the girl to lead him back into the First District after he insisted on her stopping to let him grab his Gunblade.


Author's Note: Okay, whacha think? Let me know in a review. By the way, this story is really the Vulpes Lapis's. She just gave it to me to write because she has a lot on her plate right now. So, voila! I'll be writing it for her with a lot of her input into the making of it. Hope everyone enjoys it.

By the way, I suck at battle scenes, but I hope that the one I did up there was better than some of the earlier ones I've done. That's mainly the reason why I avoid battle scenes like the plague.