"Are you sure you can handle this?"

Leon was the only one who didn't notice the change that underwent Aeris at those words. Sora and his companions watched in a kind of mystified awe as her back straightened, as her chin came up with an air of defiant indignation, as her hands clenched tightly at her sides. And as Leon opened his mouth to add to his first question, Sora and the others shook their heads frantically, seeing the imminent disaster and trying to warn him of it. But he was oblivious and continued after another moment, "I mean, can you handle this by yourself?"

She spun around so fast that the tail of her hair struck him, whip-like, in the face. He took one step back at the expression on her face, and another when he saw the uncharacteristic, fierce light in her eyes. Realizing then exactly what he'd said that he shouldn't have, he answered his own question somewhat lamely, "Of course you can."

"I," Aeris said with heated emphasis, "am just as capable of defending myself—of defending this room—as you are."

Rubbing at his cheek with one hand, Leon nodded, trying somewhat belatedly to dam the tide of her ire that he'd unleashed. Aeris continued, advancing on him with slow, determined and decidedly threatening steps, "I may not wield a gunblade, or a sword that's ridiculously oversized, or a katana that's three times as long as I am tall, but I can—" Having closed in on him, she emphasized the word by jabbing him hard in the chest with one finger, "hold my own in a fight."

Leon looked at her with the expression of one who had just gained new insight, and that expression was mirrored on the faces of the others in the room. This wasn't the ever cheerful, always soft-spoken Aeris they were accustomed to—this was a woman who wasn't to be trifled with. Leon opened his mouth to say something, but she cut him off, standing on tip-toe to ensure they were face to face. "So stop treating me like I'm some helpless little ninny. This is just as much my battle as it is yours—or have you forgotten that this used to be my home, as well?"

Leon shook his head, and after another moment of glaring at him with an impressive amount of indignation, irritation and heavy warning combined, Aeris receded. Mouths agape, Sora and the others watched as she took a deep breath and then smiled sunnily at them all.

"Shouldn't you be going?" She asked.

Her query was met with hasty nods, and the room began to empty quickly. Leon was the last to leave, edging backwards towards the door while keeping his gaze, a little more cautious and suspicious than it had been before, trained on her. When he hesitated at the threshold her eyes narrowed, and he said quickly, "Well, if you've got it covered—"

"I do." She said calmly, and there was a glint in her eyes that warned against any further comments like the one he had first made.

"Then I'll be going," he said, still somewhat rattled by the sudden yet short change that had occurred in her demeanour.

"You do that."

And as Leon passed through the door into Ansem's study proper, he pitied any Heartless that dare make its way past that point.


Sol's Notes: I found the scene where Leon assumed Aeris incapable of defending the computer room to be amusing, so I decided to elaborate on it.