Disclaimer: Nope, don't own Kingdom Hearts.

Author's Note: Hiya, thanks for clickin'. I'm new to the Kingdom Hearts section in terms of posting stories (but not for reviews though, lol). I'm more found in the Tekken section at the moment. Once I'm done there or have run out of ideas for fics, though, I plan to come over here and post a story or two. Dunno what about yet, but whatever, I'd like to do one. But for now, this Leon x Aerith oneshot'll do.

The oneshot itself was just randomly thought of, like most of my stuff... It just pops up without reason. lol. I guess I just had to write. I chose the references to flowers and stuff because Aerith in Final Fantasy VII is a flower girl. Duh. And and and yeah. Wow, this is becoming a big, fat author's note -.-

Oh, btw, this is set during Kingdom Hearts I, so I've left small, petty little facts that way (yes yes I've played CoM and KHII, and stuff, lol, I'm not some noob or anything in regards to facts or anything... -sweat drop-). Anyway, hope you enjoy it. Toodles.


WITHERING ROSE


She was a rose that had grown out of bad soil. A rarity in the worlds, always bright, always happy, and eternally peaceful. She was always smiling. There would never be another rose like her, or any other flower for that matter, that would even compare to the beauty this one radiated.

But every rose has its thorns. Each thorn on the stem is not her own, though. They were planted there by another, fused into the body, and had grown sharper and sharper over time, to the point where to even think of the thorn sent pinprick shivers down the stem.

Everyday, she waited for him. She waited for him, despite the weather, and was still bright, still happy, still peaceful... still smiling. The thorns never got to her. They never grew wildly and choked the light from her. At least, that is what she felt. She felt unrestricted, and felt that she was freely waiting there for him.

In the eyes of another, the thorns couldn't have been any more pronounced. Everyday, her smile seemed to fall further down, seemed to shrink, seemed to lose its radiating grace. It was as if the rose's petals were drooping closer to the ground, shrivelling upwards, as the stem continued to bend. It made the crease lines in his forehead deepen.

The shimmer of her emerald eyes slowly faded away. They were dull now, like leaves, no where near as interesting as they once were. Her posture, once so straight, tall and rigid, so proud, went the same way. Just another hunched form from many ordinary worlds; the light, the hope, taken away, only there now by a thread, by a single ray.

A rare flower without her sunlight, being slowly choked by the villainous shadows.

"Cheer up. He'll come back one day," A fellow youth had said many times, tapping her shoulder comfortingly.

"Thanks, Yuffie," She would reply with a slight smile, not looking at her once, though indeed appreciating the support. She would remain standing by the door of Traverse Town, still looking out for her pick of the bouquet. The flower she felt was the most special, but it didn't feel like a fellow flower to her - more like the sun. The one she wanted by her side, to stay with for the rest of her withering days.

Yuffie always reminded the reticent warrior of a daffodil. Cheery, bright, fun... But she wasn't a rose.

Roses were beautiful and mysterious. They were bright, happy, proud, and enchanting. Far from the temporary charm of a daffodil. The daffodil could only brighten up someone's day for a short period of time. The rose's light lasted for the whole day itself, even after the sun had set.

Days had drifted by, falling like leaves. The rose always remained rooted to that same spot, tall and alive, looking out for her sunlight. She kept her eyes out for liquid blue eyes, and shining blonde hair. She thought she had seen him once, but the boy in question was far too small to be the one she waited for.

As the said days went, he stood outside Cid's Shop, watching her. She sometimes waved at him, and at other times, did everything to avoid his gaze. But irregardless, his cold, steely blue eyes were fixed on her, observing each and every detail, watching how the rose drooped down, as she fell painstakingly slowly from grace because of a selfish youth who wouldn't come back to her, like he had promised.

One day, today, he walked over to her, seeing how she was particularly down. The brightness had been covered. The happiness had dissolved. Her peaceful aura morphed into a distraught one... And above all, the thing that he had noticed most of all, was that her smile was no longer there on her pink petal lips.

Aerith Gainsborough had withered.

She didn't ask him why he had suddenly strolled over - a far break from his routine. She already knew. She could sense it. She could sense the questions in the back of his mind, such as 'what's wrong?', 'why aren't you smiling?', and above all 'who're you waiting for, and why are you still waiting?'.

"He's not coming back... is he, Leon?" She whispered forlornly.

His mouth twisted into a sympathetic scowl. He placed a gloved hand on her bare shoulder, and shrugged. At least this way, if he gave a shrug, he wasn't conforming to either answers. He wasn't giving her false hope, or damning the truth. He wasn't straightening her back up, and he wasn't crushing the petite rose under his heavy boot.

He didn't know who she was talking about. She never told them about her shining flower. He was referred to as 'he', mainly. And it was this 'he' that infuriated Leon more than Ansem. This person, this childish man without a name, had withered the most beautiful flower he had ever seen. The one he thought would never give in to the torments of the world, to the villainous shadows.

"He promised... that we'd meet again. He promised me that he'd come back."

"Well he's obviously not very good at keeping promises, isn't he?" He quipped quietly, hand now off her shoulder.

Silence. Aerith looked up at him after a while, glassy emerald eyes shimmering with unshed tears, "What if he's dead?"

"Do you think he's dead? Does it feel that way inside?"

A pause. Gainsborough looked away, back at her slim fingers, which were currently curled, unsure of whether to feel pain or love from her shining flower. It took her a moment to answer him, her voice at first small, but later being firm by the end of the sentence. It was accompanied by a nodding head, "I feel he is still alive. He's not dead."

Leonhart nodded, silent support shining through. He lifted his head a little more, his dark brown hair moving, hugging the sides of his face, as he looked past her and to the door of Traverse Town, "Then don't feel sad. There's no need to wither now."

When he looked back after a brief pause, the rose seemed to stand up a little taller, as though the stem had been straightened. Her emerald eyes were a little brighter again, and her smile was back on her face. With that smile alone, the beauty and mysteriousness was slowly coming back, as though they had never left in the first place. As he turned to leave, going back elsewhere, keeping an eye out for the Keyblade's Chosen One, he knew that the rest of the attributes would come back soon enough.

As the weeks passed, he could see the remnants of the withering rose fade away. It was coming back to life, as though the light had finally burst through completely, giving her what she needed. It was as though his words had given her something more to hold onto, to wait for her sunlight. The thorns didn't damage her like they used to, and she no longer lied to herself about the damage either.

The life was completely back on her face by the time Sora, their light, their hope for the future, had arrived. She was just like she used to be when they first met - beautiful, mysterious, bright, happy, proud, peaceful and enchanting. The attributes of a rose. Or rather, how he saw roses.

And it continued to shine through thereafter. The problems that the worlds were facing didn't phase her hope. They didn't bend the rose like 'he' once did. She kept standing tall and proud, still waiting, but no longer so desperate. More hopeful than anything else. She was more focused on the important goal of helping out Sora, Donald and Goofy, giving them what they needed, supporting them where she could, pointing them in the right direction, and so on.

Leon sometimes wished he could be that strong - to be in the face of danger and still hope.

The rose was more alive than ever once the battles were over. Joy overwhelmed everyone and everything, and Aerith was no exception. Leon saw this, and, for once, also smiled. Her smile was contagious and it always had been. He just felt that now was an appropriate time to show it.

He, the rose, and the daffodil had long been celebrating on their own, cheers of joy ringing throughout the halls of Hollow Bastion. Cid, their other good friend, had gone to the enterance of the library, having heard footsteps, expecting Sora, Donald and Goofy, or even the Beast or something.

It was when he returned, toothpick half hanging out his mouth, did Leon watch Gainsborough's joy shine through, like a sun getting through to a rose that was thirsty for the sun's rays, once her emerald eyes spotted the stranger behind her friend, "This guy said he was lookin' for ya."

The small steps towards the man in a red cape were clearly shy and joyous, though she did her best to keep the former underwraps. Liquid blue eyes. Shining blonde hair. Just the way the rose remembered her sunlight, as he too approached her, standing before her now.

There was a hidden look in her eyes, one that, to Leon at least, screamed 'you're back' in a tearful manner. His eyes returned the same, and though he couldn't see underneath the cloth that had half covered his face, he was sure there was a smile on his lips as well.

"Cloud."

Leonhart could see the corner of the man's lips now. He, or now known as Cloud, was definitely smiling. It was a silent confirmation.

He was happy, deep down, in all honesty. The rose had found her sunlight, and she could bloom wholly, something he, nor Yuffie or Cid, or anyone else, had seen, though did wish to see at least once. He knew that the attributes of the rose were deep and seemingly endless down her kind and gentle soul.

At least the withering rose has found her sunlight.

He nodded to himself firmly, pleased that the person who infuriated him more than (a now dead) Ansem had finally hauled himself before the woman who had waited for him for so, so long. Her quest for the sunlight was complete. After so long, it was complete.

In terms of pain though, the physical scar across the bridge of his nose paled in comparison to the ones that were inside of him. But it didn't matter. He was never going to be her sunlight, her rose, no matter how hard he sometimes wished. Above all, he wanted her happy, no matter what he felt.

He wasn't one to wither about it, though. Then again, he was never her rose.