----x. Renegade Hearts
Chapter 1: City of Lost Souls

Traverse Town. The city of lost souls, a place for people who have no where else to go. Who have no escape, no haven, to return to. That's why I'm here. I have no place to go.

The black-cloaked figure walked steadily through the night. Footsteps – his own – echoed eerily in the erratic dripping of water from the roofs. His silently purposeful walk barely disturbed the copious puddles that reflected a dark night sky filled with stars. A wisp of silver hair escaped from under the concealing hood, and a pale black-gloved hand rose automatically to push it back.

She sighed. Alone, as always, on the eve of his death. She thought sadly, pushing her small lithe body out of the plain wooden chair. If Aerith was here, she'd be some comfort. But she's in Hollow Bastion. "Maybe I could go talk to Cloud." She mused out loud. "But I don't know where he is tonight, he didn't tell me. Cid went with Aerith – she can't pilot a Gummi ship on her own – and Cloud… he would be training. Or remembering." She added sadly, a touch of bitterness tainting the seemingly careless words.

She lifted a plain silvery-grey cloak from a hook beside the door and pulled it over her shoulders, automatically securing her Conformer shuriken to her belt at the same time. One hand pushed the heavy bolt on the door back, the other clutched her cloak closed against the icy wind that would hit once she was outside. Shaking ink-black bangs out of her eyes, she stepped outside into the deserted First District and shut the solid wooden door on the small, sparsely furnished room with the slowly dying fire.

The house seemed no less empty than it had when it had been occupied moments before.

His feet followed a pre-described path, like a methodical dance, unknown even to himself. They took him along straight streets with winding side alleys, up a rickety ladder and over rooftops, grey cobbles and slippery red tiles alike making no difference to his journey. How could it? He didn't know himself where he was going. Why he was going.

Back down the other side of a building, but he barely noticed. Nothing affected the one thought that stood out in his mind. Not the rain, the darkness, the feeling of danger and apprehension that loomed larger in his mind with each pace he took. I have to go. But what will happen?

It's cold… but he is colder. Well, a tad gloomy there… but it's true. He's not even here anymore. Why did it happen?

Her indigo eyes roamed the path ahead, checking for anything that might cause her to misstep. Her shadow, caused only by the occasional street lamp as the night was moonless, stretched out behind her some of the time, at others just a squat black shapeless form beneath her ever moving feet.

She shivered. Shadows… they're the reason you aren't here with me. The darkness took you from me.

And another star went out with a slight flicker far above.

Buildings loomed all about the tall slim stranger. Shadows made the nearest walls seem like bottomless pits, and the farthest appear to be nameless nightmarish creatures, dredged from the deepest pits of Hell to haunt the worlds and prey upon the unsuspecting. Not the innocent. No one is ever truly innocent. He thought with a tiny smile of mockery, and glanced at his surroundings.

I must go.

He quickened his step.

Fingers of straight black hair brushed their way across the young woman's face. With one hand, she pulled the strands back behind her left ear. The icy wind protested, attempting to tug it away from her control again. She scowled; a faint tinge of irritation cut through the lingering apprehension. It's so cold… why am I out here? There must be some reason I came… no one should be this insane.

She hurried onwards, towards the market area in the Second District.

He glanced up, up at a sign nearly obscured by age and neglect and a wind that whirled snow around and around, partly clouding his vision. He mouthed the words silently: Second District.

Shouldering the massive doors open, he entered the District through the impressively large portal.

She stopped suddenly, unable to explain or fight off the sudden blanket of dread that settled over her shoulders like a cloak of doom. What is it? She thought, fear rising up in her chest.

She stood in front of the First District exit to the Second, indecision weighing heavily on her. Fear gnawed at her heart.

He moved faster and faster. He was nearing his target, without knowing what his target was.

Around the corner…

quicker, quicker…

…out into a broad cobbled area…

The sign across the market place, as he assumed it must be, said simply "Traverse Hotel".

His lip curled bitterly. Temporary accommodation in a place where none leave. Where's the sense in that?

He stepped out into the centre of the District.

Heart in her mouth, she shoved one door open and raced through. Her heart was pounding, her small hands sweaty on the shuriken she now gripped, her booted feet moving swiftly.

She halted suddenly at the wrought iron carving that decorated the top of the mosaic fountain. There.

Her heart plummeted. Her mouth dried almost instantly. Not again…

A black-garbed figure was fighting for his life in the centre of the market place against thousands of black Shadows.

Not the Shadows…no, I can't deal with shadows, I need light… not again!

Where did they come from? He fought on furiously, face totally composed. He didn't care if they had no conscious thought. He would show no weakness, no emotion, to anyone. Especially not his enemies. I won't die like this. Not beaten by a mere Shadow… not by a thousand mere Shadows!

Whirling to catch three Shadows in mid-air with his weapon, he stopped suddenly, stunned. A young woman watched him from the First District entrance, her white face horrified.

A Shadow pounced for his unprotected back. Ripping its long black claws through his cloak, it sought the heart greedily. He fell forward, and the Shadows swarmed.

"Nooooooooo!" the word burst from her lips before she could stop it. In desperation she threw her two shuriken she'd grasped since she had left the house at the writhing mound of small black Heartless. Five vanished instantly, their hearts flying up, and seven more moved in to take their place.

The young woman leapt the elevated wall down to the overwhelmed stranger, whipping out two more shuriken and hurling them as well. The second they had left her hands, she gripped her Conformer with both hands and rammed it swiftly into the back of a Shadow.

I can't let it happen again!

He couldn't breathe. Darkness filled his mouth, his nostrils… it crept into the pores of his skin… ripped gashes down his right thigh… tiny creatures clamoured to touch him, feed on him, suck the life out of him… remove his heart –

It stopped suddenly as he was yanked upright. One last Shadow, the one that had brought him low, clung to his frame, and was vanquished as it was jerked from his back. He gave one brief gasp of agony, then straightened almost fully to look at his saviour.

It was the girl. She gave one curt nod of acknowledgement and somersaulted over him so they were back to back. He understood her meaning immediately: now we fight. He hefted his weapon in agreement- the Heartless were aptly named. No reason they'd wait around for introductions, he thought with the barest trace of humour.

Two Shadows sprang at him, one at either side. He slashed right through one and kept going through the other coming from the right, severing the head and an arm from the rest of its small body. He gave a small tight grin of satisfaction as the bodies shuddered and vanished, the glowing hearts spiralling into the sky. You deserved that.

At his back the woman was holding her own quite easily against a deluge of Shadows. Bottom lip trembling, she was slicing the small Heartless with a massive shuriken, not being far enough out of range to throw the smaller ones. Pah. This works just as well anyway- already sent six to their… do Heartless even have graves?

The silver-haired youth caught the corner of her eye and gave her a grim smile as though he'd just heard her thoughts. She smiled just as bleakly and battled on.

It proved to be only a dozen more Heartless they had to fend off – the rest slunk, sank or scattered away after more of their number were destroyed by the dangerous duo. The ninja girl watched them go with satisfaction, wiping her large shuriken clean of the black blood on a small scarf which she then tossed away. Tucking that and the four smaller throwing stars she'd first thrown back into her artillery-type belt, she turned around to the stranger she had just defended.

A gasp choked her throat for a split second and she ran quickly to him as he sank to his knees, black hood obscuring his face. A tendril of darkness stroked his arm for a moment then fled across the cobbles, unnoticed by either of them.

Hauling him up to lean on her shoulder, she pushed his hood back on impulse, gazing curiously at his face. Sharply defined marble white features were set off by a set of aquamarine eyes, almost hidden by the long sagging lashes. Straight silver hair down to his shoulders framed the nearly angelic face.

He managed to catch his breath painfully, and looked down at her inquisitive face. The dark indigo eyes surveyed him with interest. "Who are you?" He asked her, mainly to stop the look.

"Me? Yuffie Leonhart – I mean, Kisaragi. Are you going to be right enough to get back to my house?" She looked him over suddenly with more concern than curiosity. "And who are – oh, God. Is that a Keyblade?" her face, before pink-cheeked with exhilaration, suddenly drained itself of colour. "But there's only one Keyblade…"

"There are two." He informed her, lifting his weapon to show her with a slight smile tugging at the corner of his lips. "I'm Riku."

Edited and redone for obvious reasons. The main one being because I love Ann so, and if I can't get the damned writer's block out of the way then I might as well make the rest of it interesting for her. Uhm... just because, Ann. Goddammit Cloud. There.