Author's Note: Before I began, let me say that I did not write this story save for fixing some of the spelling and grammar mistakes, and adding a few things during the editing process. Someone else I know wrote this for me before she vanished off the face of the planet. This was written 5 years ago, and I wish I could've gotten her permission before I did, but because I haven't been able to get in contact with her, I'm going to do something bold and post it for her in her memory. I don't know what happened to her, and I could easily claim that I wrote this story by myself, but I can't do that as a person with integrity. Because she is unable to, I might end up continuing this story by myself, or I may just leave it as a One Shot, which is why I hope you all read, review, and enjoy this story, and for the person who wrote this; I miss you, wherever you are.

Disclaimer: I do not own Final Fantasy or Disney.

Prologue

Aerith

Cloud rested himself on the wall behind him, allowing his weary body to take a break, and closed his eyes. He had been fighting many creatures lately, defending his loved one. He was lonely, mostly, but then he met her. That girl he had met not too long ago, her pink dress swaying in the wind. Her long, brown, braided hair trailing along behind her as she fought off a small, black creature. He had known it then, and he knew it now. He loved her. He loved the girl named Aerith Gainsborough.

And as she approached him that day, for the last time, he just wished she could know that. He wished he could build up the courage to let her know that he had feelings more than that of a friend for her. As she softly said his name, he thought it was his imagination. He imagined her in his mind quite often, listened to her soft voice calling his name. But when she said it again, he opened his eyes. She was standing there, smiling at him. Her glowing blue eyes sparkled in the sunlight. Cloud glared back at her, expressionless. Smiling wasn't his thing. She timidly loosened her red petticoat, awaiting him to say something. When he didn't, she began their final conversation.

"Cloud, we've discovered what those blackish-creatures are", she began. Cloud did not respond, but instead closed his eyes again. He heard Aerith sigh, and his heart thumped in his chest.

"Have you heard...of the man named Ansem?" she said. Cloud's head nodded slightly, indicating that he had.

"Yes, well...he researched the darkness in people's hearts. According to what I've heard, he...he created these creatures, called the Heartless." Cloud opened his eyes again.

"Heartless?", he said. Aerith nodded.

"Squall wants to talk to you about it. Yuffie and I will go find Cid." Cloud sighed, and then stood straight.

"Where to?" he said. Aerith led him to a tall building, laden with all kinds of relics hanging on the outside. He heard a storm coming in the distance, but thought nothing of it.

He stepped inside, and followed his love into what seemed to be a library. A fire was crackling on the opposite side of the room, and Squall was looking into the flames. Aerith turned to go find Yuffie, and Cloud grabbed her arm. She turned to him, an alarmed expression on her face.

They stood there, like that, for a moment, staring at each other. Finally, Cloud released her, and spoke his final words to her.

"Be careful, Aerith." She gawked at him, then nodded solemnly and ran out the door. Cloud turned and looked at Squall.

"What do you want, Squall?", he said. Squall turned and stared at him. Thunder boomed outside.

"You got a thing for Aerith?", he said. Cloud cracked his knuckles.

"That's none of your business, Leonheart." He said. Squall stifled a chuckle.

"I see. She's explained to you about the Heartless, right?" he said. Cloud made no attempt to answer.

"Well, these things have been stealing people's hearts left and right. We gotta get rid of them before there are enough to pose a threat." Again, Cloud did not say or do anything. The thunder boomed again, and you could hear the wind whistling around outside. They stood there, glaring at each other, and suddenly, Squall pulled out his Gunblade and swiped at him.

Cloud, instinctively, pulled out his Buster Sword and defended himself. Squall grimaced at him, daring him to make a move. Cloud fended him off calmly and quickly. They charged at each other, about to swing, when they heard a scream.
Not just any scream. It was Aerith's scream. A scream that made Cloud's blood curdle to hear it. He swung as hard as he could at Squall, knocking him backwards, and ran out the door.

He saw her there, lying crumpled on the moist ground as a gargantuan Heartless towered over her. Cloud ran full speed at it, preparing to swing. He ran into a blue arm, attached to the black robes of the ruler of Hell: Hades.

"No, no. I've got something better for you, kid." And they disappeared in a wisp of black smoke.