Back with another story of these two babies! Enjoy~
Disclaimer: meh, you know I don't own it.

"Hey, Aqua, do you want to-"

"How many times will I have to tell you to leave me alone before you actually do?"

Sora froze by the door. Aqua was reading a book on the couch, and her poisonous snarl surprised him.

"I'm sorry, I didn't mean to…"

She gasped, realising he was there. "Oh, no, Sora, not you! Excuse me, I just wasn't talking to you."

Sora scanned the room. There wasn't anybody else here. Just Aqua and him. She noticed his glance and smiled. "I was just… Reading out loud?"

She didn't sound pretty convincing, but that was the best excuse she could come up with. Sora nodded, accepting it.

"We are leaving for Olympus in twenty minutes. Do you want to come?"

"Sure, I'd love to."

"Great! Meet us in the hall when you're ready." The boy smiled at her and closed the door.

"Phew, that was close! Just a little more and he would have thought you were crazy. Which you are, to be fair."

Aqua darted a furious glare at the boy leaning against the wall behind the door.

"Leave me alone, Vanitas. I don't need your comments to ruin my life."

"Well, you know, I wouldn't be haunting you if you didn't literally ruined my life."

She put her hands on her ears, shutting her eyes really tight. "You are not real. You are not real. You are not real."

"Exactly!" He laughed. "Isn't that wonderful? I'm just a product of your imagination. Meaning that no matter what you do, you will still hear my voice. You, and nobody else. Until they all realize you have gone insane and all leave you behind."

Aqua felt sick. Since that day Riku and Mickey saved her from the Realm of Darkness, two weeks ago, Vanitas had been following her everywhere. A ghost, an hallucination, all she knew was that no one else could see him, could hear him, and he wasn't exactly of the best company. Always making fun of her, teasing her or reminding us of her past mistakes, of her painful memories. Opening up any wound that would start to heal. If he was a product of her mind, she wondered why exactly she was punishing herself that much.

She didn't tell anyone, of course. Not even Master Yen Sid. What would be the point? "Hey, I think the Realm of Darkness messed so badly with my mind that I now am stalked by a former opponent"? They couldn't do anything for her. All she had to do was to find out why he was haunting her, and make him disappear. Find out what was wrong with her.

"Olympus, here we are!" Sora cheered, almost running out of the Gummi ship.

"Urgh, there's so much light here. It's blinding me."

"If only it could make you shut up." Whispered Aqua to her ghost. His mask was hiding his face, and she was glad it did. The only look she ever had of what could be under that helmet of his… She'd rather never see Ventus's face like this again.

"Did you say something, Aqua?" Riku asked, looking at her with a frown.

"I said it's been a while since I came here."

"So you've been here before?" Sora's eyes were sparkling, and Aqua chuckled.

"Yes. I was looking for Terra, and I entered these games… I was the champion of one of the branches, and Terra apparently was the champion of the second one."

"Tch. Show off."

"We were supposed to fight to know who would be the grand champion," continued Aqua, ignoring Vanitas's intervention, "but in the end Terra was already gone, so we never did."

"That's so cool!" said Sora with a big grin. "I don't want to boast or anything, but I've won every single one of the Coliseum trophies. Several times."

"You're definitely boasting." Chuckled Riku. "Come on, we were here to check if everything was alright."

"Oh, I wish I could throw a few Unversed here and there. They made your Tournament really fun, didn't they, Aqua? Don't you lie, you had fun here."

She gritted her teeth but remained silent. There would be no point in answering, and the others wouldn't ignore her talking to herself forever.

"Sora, what a surprise! And you are… No, you can't be! Aqua?"

She smiled at Hercules. "It has been a while."

"You haven't changed at all!" The man was staring at her in awe, and she couldn't help but laughing.

"I wish I could say the same about you, but… It looks like your training worked well. I'm glad."

"He's right, though. For a woman almost in her thirties, you still look like a baby." She quickly shot a cold glare at Vanitas before smiling back at Hercules. "How are you doing? Is Zack still around?" She looked around with a frown. "Is Phil still around?"

If she would have gladly met the other hero in training (was he now as tall and strong as Hercules?), she didn't mind not seeing the satyr anywhere. His attitude towards her creeped her out.

"Afraid that little satyr would flirt with you again? No worries, I'm sure you're too old for him now."

"Zack? I hoped you'd know more than I do. He left soon after you, saying that becoming a hero took more than just physical strength, and that he would train somewhere else. I've had no news since then."

"Oh. I see."

"He's probably dead by now, you know. Something over dramatic, betrayed by his kin, his blood mixing with the rain on the dirt…"

Aqua clenched her fists and took a deep breath in. Ignoring Vanitas was much harder than she thought.

"Everything okay?" Asked Riku, putting a hand on her shoulder, concerned. Vanitas cackled childishly.

"Yes, yes, I'm fine. I just hoped… I'd see Zack. I hope he's alright."

"If he trained with Phil, there's no way he wouldn't be fine!" grinned Sora. "So now, tell me, Herc, anything weird to report lately?"

"Well, there are these monsters who still show up occasionally, but nothing alarming. Phil is using them as training material for the new recruits. Would you like a bit of training destroying them?"

"When you think of it, Heartless are born from the heart of people, right? Don't you think it's ironic that you spend your days smashing these hearts, and that there even are games where you have to destroy them?" Even without seeing his face, Aqua could guess his smirk. She wanted to punch him, but she doubted it would have much effect. She never tried touching him, yet she guessed she would just go through him. He wasn't real anyway.

"Not today, I'm afraid." Politely declined Aqua, under Sora's and Riku's frown. They probably wanted to have a bit of fun, and she felt guilty for taking that away from them - but she couldn't get Vanitas's words out of her head. They used to be people, having fun destroying them is wrong. Even if we are setting their hearts free.

"Let's go home for today, okay?" She kindly asked, smiling at her friends. With a sigh and a disappointed look, they agreed. Vanitas scoffed but didn't say a thing.

"Why do you think you are here?"

It was the middle of the night, but she couldn't sleep. She had been staring at the ceiling for an hour now, and Vanitas was crouching on the armchair. She was concerned about his shoes on the furniture, but had to remember he wasn't real and he couldn't damage it.

"What, do you dislike my presence?"

"I do, but that's not the question. It feels like you are here for a reason. My heart wants me to understand something, but I fail to see what it could be. Any idea?"

He remained silent for a moment, which was unusual. But after a while, he sighed and answer.

"I have no idea. I'm not even sure how I am able to think, if I am just an illusion of some kind. All I could say, you would already know it, right? Don't bother asking me."

She fell silent. He was right. How could he answer when he was just an hallucination? But as she was about to turn back and try to sleep, she heard him chuckle.

"Anything funny?"

"Nothing you would find interesting."

"Come on, share that with me. I'm curious about what you think fun is."

He took a deep breath in (did he really need to breathe?) before answering.

"It's nothing funny, really. It's the sweet irony of my existence."

"What do you mean?"

"All my life, I've been nothing but Ventus's other half. He's never been called Vanitas's other half, you know. He was the original, I was the leftover. And now that he's gone… That we are gone, I'm still nothing but an hallucination from your brain. I guess I've never been meant to be my own independent person."

Aqua stared at the ceiling in silence. "That's sad."

"Is it? It's just your brain that's making me pitiful. If you remembered me correctly, you wouldn't even have thought a single second that I had a sad life."

"I guess you're right. You've always been a freak, after all. Good night, Vanitas."

She heard him chuckle once again. "Yeah. Good night, Aqua."

She didn't sleep well. She emerged from a very dark nightmare, her bed a pool of sweat. But, at least, that nightmare helped her understanding what was wrong with her. She finally understood what her heart had been trying to tell her.

"We're headed for this new world today." Offered Sora. "It's called Corona. Will you join us?"

"Sorry, I have plans of my own for today." She smiled politely.

"Plans of your own? Don't you need friends to make plans?" scoffed Vanitas, appearing out of nowhere, and sitting right next to Sora. Of course, the teenager had no idea she was seeing someone next to him, so she did her best not to look at what was supposed to be an empty seat.

"Okay then! If you need anything, Kairi and Lea must be around training. See you later!"

"So, what's this plan of yours?" Vanitas asked once Sora was gone. "Unless you just wanted to get rid of him? I could get it, you know. He's pretty annoying."

"I would chose his company over yours anytime, you know." Aqua sighed, finishing her breakfast. "And you will soon see what these plans are, anyway."

After quickly washing up, she put her shoes on and left the Castle. They went through what used to be the main place, and she stopped, thoughtful.

"Tell me, Vanitas? Back then, when we fought, right here… I tried to take your mask off. Why did you stop me so quickly?"

He chuckled. "Well, if you had seen how good I looked, you would have fallen for me, of course."

She smiled, another theory in her mind. "Unless you had Terra's face, I doubt that would have happened."

She started walking again, but it took him a few seconds before he followed her. "Wait a minute. Wasn't that a confession? So you really had a crush on him?"

"Does it matter now? Oh, shut up now, there are people."

"You're the one who needs to shut up, not me, remember?"

She rolled her eyes before gently knocked on a massive wooden door. An old man with a very long beard opened.

"You know, you should be careful of old men with beard. The last one I met wasn't a nice fella."

"Hello, Merlin." She spoke loud enough to cover Vanitas's voice, even though she was the only one who could hear it. "I hope I'm not disturbing you."

"Oh, hello there, young one! We were just about to have tea. Would you like to join us?"

"I would love to, but I'm afraid I come for more serious matters. Is Cid here?"

The old magician let her in. The pilot looked relieved to see her, sitting at the table with a cup of tea in front of him.

"Ah, Aqua! How can I help you? If there's anything, anything, please tell me."

She smiled. "Actually, I was wondering if you would mind taking me to another world today. Sora has taken the Gummi ship, so I thought that perhaps…"

"Gladly." Cid had almost jumped out of his chair. "I'm afraid the tea will have to wait, Merlin! I can't let that young woman in distress. Know what? Don't wait for me. Have the tea without me, it's okay, I won't blame you!"

He pushed Aqua outside and slammed the door behind them before Merlin even had time to speak.

"You really are my saviour. Five more minutes with him and I would have gone crazy. Do you know what it's like, talking to someone so stubborn he won't listen to you?"

"Tell me about it." Aqua said, sliding a glance to Vanitas. The boy gladly flipped her off. She rolled her eyes once again.

"So you want a ride in the Highwind? Where are we going?"

"That, I would like to know too." Vanitas sighed. Aqua took out of her pouch a piece of paper and gave it to Cid.

"These are the coordinates. And do you think you could get me that other thing too?"

Cid frowned as he looked at the paper, but said nothing. Aqua walked to his spaceship, where he joined her five minutes later, giving her a box. "What you asked."

She was silent for the whole flight. Vanitas tried to talk to her several times, often with provocations, but she ignored him all along.

"We're getting closer!" Announced Cid, and Aqua closed her eyes. What she couldn't see, she supposed Vanitas couldn't either.

"Oh I know, I know! This is a surprise party! My birthday surprise party! Am I right?"

"It can be dangerous out there, missy. You sure you want to go alone?"

She summoned her Keyblade and stared at Cid. "Don't worry, I can take care of myself."

Cid scoffed and opened the gate. "I won't move until I'm forced to, and nothing could force me to move that baby. Take your time, whatever business you have here, I'll be there when you come back."

"Thanks a lot, Cid. I shouldn't be too long."

She took a deep breath and exited the airship. Vanitas gasped.

"Why are we here? Out of all the places in the universe, who could you possibly expect to meet here?" Then, after thinking a bit, he added. "You're not planning to kill yourself, are you? See, even though my existence is fake, I still kind of enjoy it. If you die, I'll return to nothingness."

She shook her head, sadly smiling. "I'm not planning to die. I think I just know what my heart wanted me to do, and I am following it."

He crossed his arms, but she didn't add anything else. Instead, they just walked, and walked again, until a very familiar place.

The Keyblade Graveyard. And the exact place where Aqua and Vanitas's final fight happened.

Aqua kneeled to the ground and opened the box Cid had given her. She took out of it a bouquet of flowers and put it on the ground. She lowered her head, staring at her knees.

"Aqua? What are you doing?"

"Never once have I regarded you as a real someone. You were a monster trying to hurt my friends and me. It was easier this way, I guess. No second thoughts when it comes to killing monsters, I've been trained for that my whole life."

She raised her head, looking at him, and tears were prickling her eyes.

"But I guess that deep down, I knew. You were born from Ventus's heart. You were just like him. You were a child. And yet, I destroyed you… No. I killed you. I think that's why you are haunting me."

Her voice was trembling, but she refused to stop talking.

"Talking with you helped me understand. When you said that Heartless carried a heart, and yet we found it fun to destroy them. And when you said you never had a proper existence. I've never thought you might want an existence of your own, because I never thought of you as a human being." She barely stopped a sob, and there was no stopping the tears now. But she wasn't completely done either.

"That's why I came here. I've come to beg forgiveness. I have taken the life of someone who was just lost. Instead of helping him, I rejected him. I don't know if I can do anything to atone for that, I just…" She broke down, her forehead on the dusty ground.

"I think I've messed up your life quite a lot too. Let's call it even."

She heard soft steps sounds behind her. But she was prostrated to the ground, crying her soul out, and she didn't want to hear what an hallucination made from her heart had to tell her. After all, wouldn't it just tell her the words she wanted to hear?

"However… Lilies? I would have rather had poppies. Or dandelions. Something that don't die that easily." She heard him pick up the flowers and scoff, before throwing himself sitting on the ground. At first, she didn't react, until she realised… He picked up the flowers? How so? She finally lifted her puffy red eyes to him.

There was something different than the usual hallucination. Something she couldn't just point out. He tapped his coat to take the dust away. She frowned. A coat?

"Hello Aqua."

She sat back on her knees, and carefully reached out for him. When her hand touched his shoulder, she gasped and quickly folded her arm back. She could touch him. He was there. He was real.

"Va-Vanitas? Is that really…"

"Yup. Safe and sound. I lived, bitch." But his last words lacked of venom, as if it was more of a joke than an actual insult.

"And I heard that cute and cheesy speech of yours… Did you mean it? Do you really want forgiveness?"

She stared at him - which led to staring at her sorrowful face in the reflection of his helmet.

"More than anything."

He scoffed, before freezing and glancing behind him. "I know, I know, I will say it!" Who was he talking to? There was no one.

"You see, I, uh… I think I'm looking for the same thing as you. Forgiveness."

"What?" She heard him right, but somehow, his words made no sense. Was he really Vanitas? Wasn't he just another illusion? Perhaps she was suffering of a heat stroke, and this was all another hallucination.

He sighed. "I've ruined your lives, because I had no other option. Because I've never been told right from wrong. Because the old fart told me that I would be free. But now… I guess I'm… Sorry? I've seen that trusting him didn't bring me anything good." He took a deep breath in. "Aqua, I'm sorry for all that I did. Do you think you can forgive me? And no matter your answer, know that I have long forgotten that sordid murder thing. I'm alive, after all, am I not?"

She threw her arms around him, and he stiffened. It was probably the first hug he ever received.

"I've never been good at staying angry at someone anyway. We've both been pawns in a game we couldn't control, haven't we?"

He carefully closed his arms around her. "I guess we have. And I think we still are."

She heard a chuckle, but that didn't come from him. It came from the other him, the hallucination, standing right behind them. He gave Aqua a thumbs up.

"You know what? I don't think I was here out of your culpability. I think that the day you destroyed me… him, a fragment of his heart found its way to yours. But now that you found him, I can go back." He slowly faded away, and Aqua felt a strange emptiness, followed by a warmth in her heart.

"I suppose that doesn't make us friends?" She softly asked, her chin resting on his shoulder. He scoffed.

"I don't think so. See the coat? I'm still part of the bad guys. But this time, my objective is the same as yours. I'm just going to make sure they never find Ventus."

She smiled. "Your other half." She heard him gasp.

"That's the first time… Someone acknowledges him as a part of me, and not the opposite."

"I think you both are distinct persons. He's my friend, and you are my…"



He chuckled, and so did she. "That's fine with me. I have to go now. See you around… Rival. And don't you go haunting me again."

"Only if you leave me alone, Rival."

She smiled and she knew that under his helmet, he did too.

There will be a second chapter, telling Vanitas's story! I hope you enjoyed this first part. I'd like to write some more (actual) VanQua, but I'm lacking inspiration (and have lotsof stuff to write). Hopefully I'll find some inspiration soon!

I'd love him to get some kind of redemption in KH3, as long as it is a good one. It's totally fine if he remains a sassy villain, though!

Also, I wasn't planning to add any swearing in there (I don't use much swearing in my fics), but I love the "I lived, bitch" meme too much, sorry about that XD