Author's Notes: Not my first Leon x Aerith, and likely not my last. I have too much fun with them. I do not own them, however, oh no, never that. Set during the second game.

One Cold, Pale Morning

It was a cold, pale morning when the Heartless attacked the house.

She was never sure what prompted them, whether it was the malfunctioning city-wide security system that gave them the opportunity, or whether they could simply no longer refuse the temptation of so many strong hearts. In the end it didn't really matter. The attack could not have come at a worse time. Cid had fallen asleep in the computer room near Ansem's library and was still there, snoring loudly with his head in the middle of a technical manual. Only Aerith and Yuffie remained, sleeping soundly, for Leon, their moody warrior, had risen early for his usual rounds.

Aerith was the first to awaken, feeling something not quite right shiver up her spine. It was a misty morning and the sun had not yet risen above her windowsill, the air in her room still somewhat cool as she slid her legs out from under the covers. The old floorboards creaked with age as she rose, dressed only in a flimsy nightgown and following a feeling. She didn't bother with shoes or a wrap, green eyes crinkling with worry as she tried to discern what was wrong.

The hallway was silent and barely lit and Aerith trailed one hand along the wall as she walked, her bare feet making no noise. Yuffie's door was closed and Aerith could hear rustling as the ninja tossed in her bed, restless with the same feeling that had pulled Aerith from her dreams. A little further down, she found Leon's door to be open, his bed looking barely slept in. That was no surprise but she felt her heart sped up a little at the thought of him outside, alone with shadows.

It was only when two pairs of bright yellow eyes blinked and wobbled at her from the stairs that she realized the shadows were not out, but in.

For a moment she was frozen, utterly shocked by the notion that there were Heartless inside their home, the one place she had thought them safe. They slid and wiggled towards her and she saw there were more coming up from the first floor, crawling along the walls like flattened spiders.

Making a sort of strangled sound in her throat, she turned to her right and dashed through Leon's open door, long hair whirling around her as she spun in a circle, looking for anything she could use as a weapon.

There was nothing.

Leon did not keep many personal possessions and all of his useful weapons he would be carrying. Unless she was going to fight off the Heartless with an old boot or a blanket, she was out of luck.

And then she spotted the window.

Without a second thought, she ran to it, pushing out the cracked window panes until they rebounded against the shutters. The outside air was chilly and she shuddered with both the cold and her own fear. Down below, the street was deserted, not a light to be seen in the other houses. Glancing behind her, her eyes caught the sight of the Heartless as they entered the room, they're round heads bobbing at her in a manner that made her stomach turn.

She told herself she had no choice and ducked through the window and out onto the roof.

Immediately her feet slipped on the dewy tiles and she fell, gripping the windowsill at the moment, the rim hitting her ribs hard enough to bruise. She could hear chittering in Leon's room and the sound pushed her to find her feet, her fingers finding purchase on the steeple of the dormer.

Yuffie's window was not that far away but between there and Leon's window there was nothing but open air and slick roofing. There was nothing to stop her from sliding right off the edge and falling to the street below.

Aerith's face drained of color but she did not look back. There was no where else for her to go and she had to warn Yuffie.

In the end she crawled across the roof, her nightgown sticking to her skin from the misty air and the wet tiles under her knees. She slipped twice and felt her legs scrape as she scrambled upwards, heart pounding and head whirling a little from the height. It was an utter relief when she could reach out for Yuffie's dormer and bang on the window glass.

"Yuffie! Wake up! There's Heartless in the house! Yuffie!" The last was a scream as Heartless flowed out of Leon's window in their flattened states, hurrying like little blobs as they slunk over the sill and down onto the roof. They came right for her and she felt her skin crawl with terror.

Yuffie's window opened outwards and the ninja blinked sleepily at her. "Aerith, what in the-- AHH!" Yuffie tumbled back at the sight of the Heartless, giving Aerith enough room to duck inside, greey eyes wide in her white face.

"Yuffie, we have to get out. The Heartless are inside." She moved towards the door, vaguely feeling Yuffie run to the corner of the room to make gripping that huge bladed star of hers, her other hand full of something else, something smaller.

"Aerith, take these." She slipped fingerfuls of throwing stars into Aerith's cold hands. "Just throw them at any of the little buggers, 'cause we're going to make a run for it!" Yuffie's voice was high and almost joyful as she flounced towards the door, eyes glinting.

She jumped out into the hallway with a Hiya!

The Heartless, who had started to congregate around Leon's door, turned their heads as one, beady eyes fixing on the two women. Aerith swallowed almost audibly but Yuffie moved forward, somehow managing to look ferocious in a nightshirt and gave a loud battle cry.

"Take this!" she cried, and sent her weapon spinning down the hall. The Heartless scattered and Aerith lurched forward, realizing that Yuffie was going to make a path for them down the stairs and out the door.

That plan worked well until they reached the kitchen and Aerith found their way blocked by Heartless coming in from the courtyard. To her horror, Aerith was seperated from Yuffie by a handful of them dropping from the ceiling. The ninja, deep into the throes of battle, didn't notice, following her star as she threw it back the way they'd come with an angry scream.

Aerith moved backwards as the Heartless skittered towards her, and her reaching hand found the tea cups she had set out to dry the night before. With barely a thought, she threw them as she had thrown Yuffie's small stars and watched them shatter, sharp edges slicing through a few of the Heartless only for others to take their place. She was being overwhelmed. If she could just find one her kitchen knives--

"Aerith!" Yuffie screamed from the stairs and Aerith half saw one of the Heartless jump for her, ready to push her down into the mass of whirling shadows at her feet. There was no time to react, she could only stare, horrified, as the thing came at her.

Then something burst through the courtyard door, a dark streak of fury, and the Heartless in front of her disappeared in a silvery slash of steel.

Leon was in front of her, gunblade in hand, and as he glanced back at her, she saw real fear in his face. Not fear of his enemies or that he could not win, but fear for her, fear that he had almost come too late.

"Aerith?" Her name was a little hoarse on his tongue and his eyes roamed her face with an intensity that took her breath. She clutched the countertop behind her for strength.

"I'm alright," she managed, hearing his unspoken question. "I'm not hurt."

He nodded once but his eyes stayed on her a second more before he turned to engage the remaining Heartless. She stayed where she was, pressed into the corner of the kitchen as he and Yuffie made their way upstairs to deal with any stragglers. Five minutes later he came back down the stairs alone, gunblade still in hand as his gaze found her. He paused a few feet away, as if unsure of what to say or do.

"Aerith," he said quietly, and her body reacted before she thought. Eyes filling with tears, she staggered into his arms, fingers curling into his jacket as his free hand rose awkwardly to rest against her back.

She didn't cry, just stood there shuddering against him, face turned into his shoulder. His arm tightened around her in concern.

"You're freezing," he said, and she could almost feel his eyebrows draw together as he frowned.

"I'm sorry," she replied, almost automatically, "It was just so surprising..." She trailed off a little, her voice growing soft, ashamed. "They frightened me..."

"I came back because I saw you on the roof." His voice was curiously strained and she tilted her head to look up at him. "I was up in the bailey and...there you were, being chased by Heartless." He paused for a moment and she saw something flicker in his dark gaze. His arm unconsciously tightened again, pressing her closer. "I ran back as fast as I could."

He didn't say it, but she knew, at that moment, that he had been afraid, too. Reaching up, she laid her palm against his cheek and he blinked at the touch, watching her.

"Thank you," was all she said, but it seemed to be enough. His eyes cleared and she tucked her head beneath his chin, a little sigh escaping her as she felt his body heat start to warm her.

"Are you still cold?" he asked, when he noticed her trembling.

She answered after a long moment, eyes closed.

"Not anymore."

The End.