Title: Hero Complex

Fandom: Kingdom Hearts

Author: Nietzsche's Itch

Characters: Cloud, Hercules

Genre: Friendship/Hurt/Comfort

Rating: T

Status: Oneshot, Complete

Disclaimer: I do not own Kingdom Hearts

Summary: Hercules reminds Cloud what it means to be a hero. Set after Hercules carries Cloud out of the Coliseum in KH1

Hercules, smiled, pulling the heavy doors of the Coliseum shut behind him as he exited. He would be glad to go home, or to Meg's home at least, having been promised a hero's repast for all his hard work protecting the Coliseum and battling the heartless. He humbly acknowledged that Sora and his friends had done their fair share of the work, more than earning their titles of junior heroes, but he was here, they were not, and his stomach was already rumbling in anticipation.

As he was about to leave however, he caught sight of a figure slumped against the base of one giant pillar, recognizing him with surprise as the mysterious swordsman who had struck a deal with Hades, and who he had carried out unconscious. It seemed he had his reasons for doing so, and Hercules was well aware of how Hades could talk in circles. He did not hold the mans actions against him.

Although, he was curious.

Debating for a moment, he had finished his training early, and arranged to meet Meg at sundown. He could spare a few minutes to talk to the stranger.

Cloud's eyes flickered upward as a tall shadow loomed over him, glaring wearily at the cheerfully smiling face of this worlds resident hero. Hero, his least favourite word in existence. He was in no mood to talk.

The tall warrior sat down a reasonable distance away, not invading Cloud's personal space, but still close enough to carry on a conversation.

"Hey," Hercules greeted. Cloud gave a noncommittal grunt in response.

Hercules soldiered on, undaunted. "I didn't catch your name earlier, I'm Hercules by the way."

Cloud sighed, realizing the other was not about to leave him alone. "Cloud," he said shortly. Hercules grinned.

"Cloud...that's a great name," he enthused "Cloud's are free after all, drifting across the sky..."

He started when the blonde let out a growl. "Just because its my name doesn't mean I'm like one," he snarled "its just the name my mother gave me."

His tone turned morose on these last words, and Hercules surmised the lady in question was in the care of the Gods now.

"I didn't say you were, I was just saying is all," he said reasonably. Cloud shrugged and stared stonily at the massive sword balanced in his lap.

"I'm not free," he muttered, not meaning to be heard.

Hercules blinked. "You look free to me, what's holding you back?" he asked.

Cloud clenched his fists. "Memories," he hissed. The warrior nodded understandingly.

"I get what you're saying," he agreed "I've failed more times than I want to think about." Cloud flinched.

"Have those failures resulted in people you want to protect dying?" he asked caustically. Hercules suspected they were getting close to the root of the problem.

"No, but there were some close calls. Phil tells me that a true hero never gives up, and never stops training, so that's what I do. I train as hard as I can so I'll always be strong enough to protect those people," he said softly. Cloud shifted his gaze to him, frowning harshly.

"And if you try your hardest, if you still fail, if those precious people that depend on you are...lost, what then?" he bit out.

Hercules' face fell, but he answered nonetheless. "You start at the beginning, and you train, to protect those you still have."

Cloud made an anguished sound. "Zack protected me, and he died. Aeris tried to protect all of us, and she died too," he whispered. Hercules felt pity well up in him for this tortured soul, who had suffered more than his fair share of tragedy and yet, was still here, sword in hand, still willing to fight.

"They died as heroes, to protect the ones they loved," he said consolingly "and they will be remembered for their sacrifice."

The blonde stared at him with deadened eyes. "And what about those left behind?"

"They need to try their hardest too, to honour the sacrifices they made," he told him. Cloud said nothing to this.

"And because," Hercules continued "if they loved them enough to die so that they could live, they wouldn't want them to be sad over their deaths, right?"

Cloud thought of Zack, peppered with bullet holes, and still wearing a smile. His peace of mind that he had become a hero, and had protected Cloud. Then Aeris, who had no such aspirations, but who was spoken of with reverence and devotion even before her death, by the slum dwellers whose daily drudgery was brightened by her flowers. And by everyone else after she died. Selfless, kind-hearted people, who had spent their lives trying to make other people smile.

Trying to make Cloud smile. Too often, he had shied away from them, and chosen to allow himself to withdraw into quiet despair, refusing to see any of the positive qualities they insisted he had.

Maybe it was not too late to grant them that. An honest smile.

Hercules beamed as Cloud smiled, only a subtle upturning of lips, but a real smile.

"That's better," he laughed. The blonde twitched, apparently having forgotten he was there. Hercules chuckled.

"Thank you, Hercules," he murmured quietly.

The hero grinned. "No problem, even heroes need a little help sometimes too, right?" he asked. Cloud looked at Hercules, confident and at ease with himself in a way Cloud had never achieved, and was briefly envious of this comfort.

"Am I really a hero?" he asked, needing reassurance, even if it was from a stranger who had for some inexplicable reason chosen to try and make him feel better.

The other smiled. "You wouldn't be here if you weren't," he declared, rising to his feet and brushing himself off. Cloud chuckled quietly.

"Hey, I'm on my way to my gir-my friends home for supper, would you care to join?" he offered, knowing Meg would cook enough to feed twelve heroes, and still have plenty for leftovers. She would not mind an extra guest at the dinner table.

Cloud was startled. "I wouldn't want to intrude-" He was cut off.

"You won't be, she always cooks too much," he assured him. Cloud opened his mouth to answer, but before he could, his stomach did it for him, by way of a loud rumble. Hercules laughed.

"That settles it, come on," he said, holding out a hand to help him up. Cloud hesitated for a moment, then firmly grasped the proffered hand. Perhaps he just had not been listening all this time, and Tifa was right, allowing others to help him was not a sign of weakness.

As they set off, Hercules chattering amiably by his side. Cloud let himself believe that the warrior was right, that he had not given in the darkness, and he still had people he strove to protect made him a hero. He had friends, and it was time to start being a friend back to them, not a wraith who turned up like a bad penny every couple of months and saved their lives, but would not give any more of himself.

And making some new friends might not hurt either.