Author's Notes: Leon/Aerith lime. I really couldn't help myself. Set in the first game, before Cloud is found.

Disclaimer: I own nothing. As usual.

Hurt and the Solace

The first night she went to him was a week after she'd come to Traverse Town. She'd woken from a dream with a startled sob, tears slipping down her cheeks from half-remembered images of a world loved and lost. Trembling and breathing quickly, she had risen like a ghost and found herself in his room, weeping silently and utterly aching for something she could no longer put a name to.

Aerith had been surprised to find him awake, sitting by his window in the dark, starlight finding the shadows in his face as he turned to regard her impassively. She'd stood there, unashamed of her disheveled hair and dark eyes, falling to pieces as he watched.

"Why does it hurt so much?"

Her voice was quiet but stripped of it's usual gentle command. The raw edge of it made him jerk and he'd used the movement to get to his feet, hands still at his sides. Looking back, she knew he had been unsure of her, of people in general. He was used to silence and long stretches of loneliness, but now that he was gathering followers he had to piece together a new way of living. At that time, he had not known what to say to someone's else pain.

Instead, he'd simply taken her by the arm, his touch so light she couldn't remember it afterwards, and escorted her back to her bedroom.

Leon never answered her question.

The second time she went to him they'd just barely survived another Heartless battle and he'd been scored down one shoulder by ebony claws. She had been tending to Yuffie at the time but had caught him out of the corner of her eye, the great rents in his shirt visible as he turned slightly to speak to Cid. She lost track of him sometime afterwards but found him again a few hours later when everyone else had fallen into an exhausted sleep. He was in his bedroom, sitting by the window again and she had not said a word, simply motioned for him to take his shirt off and unrolled the first of the gauze.

The wound was long but not very deep and she'd washed and bandaged it as delicately as she knew how. Leon never made a sound but she could tell he was in some kind of pain, his hands were curled into fists so tight his knuckles were white. When she finished, she laid her hand over one of his, easing that desperate grip with slim fingers.

"Everything's alright," she told him, "We're still here."

For that was Leon's greatest fear, that once again he would lose everything he cared for.

She knew of the woman that haunted him, just as she knew she would always look for a man's profile on the street, blond and withdrawn. Their mutual loss was what made her understand him, made her want to help him somehow. Being the defender of Traverse Town was a heavy burden and the personal price was quite high.

How high was measured the night she got up to get a drink of water and stumbled upon Leon sitting with his elbows against the table, his head in his hands. He was just sitting there, but something about the curve of his back, the way his hair hid his expression broke her heart. Tears sprang to her eyes and she must have made some sort of sound for he lifted his head and captured her with a look of such internal agony that she flew to his side without wings.

She meant only to hold him, to offer what comfort she could, but the moment her arms circled his neck and his forehead came to rest against her collar bone she felt something jump inside of her. Immediately, her own loss and sadness welled up in her and soon they were clutching each other almost painfully, as if trying to hold on to something with all their might.

His breath trickled over her skin as her fingers threaded through his dark hair and his mouth met hers, open and almost awkward in its need. There was some shuffling and Leon's hand on her waist and then they were falling into his bed, her hair melting over the sides as she felt his weight press her down. The feeling of him against her was so comforting, the knowledge that he was real and heavy and not some hazy afterimage of a dream so beautiful she felt her heart ache again for an entirely different reason.

His hands were gentle but firm and when they came together it was almost too easy. He kept his eyes shut tightly but she didn't mind. She let him imagine her as he wished her to be, her arms around his shoulders as he surrendered himself.

In the days following, life continued much as it always had. There was no awkwardness. It was almost as if they had reached some sort of understanding. He needed her to ground him, to bring him back from the abyss when he got too close, and she needed him to remind her she was still herself, still alive and searching. It was mutually beneficial.

And then one night, as he lay over her, locks of her hair curled around his wrists, he spoke lowly.

"It hurts because change is inevitable."

She looked up at him, spiraling still and felt her heart flutter wildly.

His eyes were open.

The End.