Terra's eyes dilated. For a second, he thought he went blind. His chest pinched much too tight for him breathing. He staggered to a slow, dazed walk, watching Aqua fall into the sand. Her blood still slipped and dripped around her fallen body, quickly dying the sand a shiny scarlet. And she moved no more.

That couldn't have been real.

"Aqua..." He paused, watching wind blow over her body, rustling her mystic cerulean hair out, the only part of her that moved.

She wasn't moving, and she was still bleeding.

That couldn't be what he was seeing behind Master Xehanort, this horrible sight of her.

"Aqua...?" Terra whispered again, staring desperately for a faint twitch from his friend to indicate life. He felt light-headed, breath pitching irregularly as he waited and waited and waited and waited and nothing of her moved.

Tears glossed over his cobolt eyes, unable to believe she was...wasn't here anymore.

He jerked his watering eyes away to the horizon, his mouth pressed down to supress any tears burning away his weakness. He scratched his nails over where his heart. Somehow he was still standing with this hole in him bleeding his agony and sorrow and pain and confusion and why couldn't he have run faster?

He started to shake his head, cursing the desert and cursing Master Xehanort a thousand times over. For a moment, he tried to not believe, to not accept this. He did not just lose a friend, a friend he had felt...

Now he would never be able to tell Aqua what he always wanted to tell her.

Terra closed his mouth, shoulders twitching to a hunch as he shook his head again. He was going to cry like a fool. He didn't didn't care Master Xehanort was watching him, waiting to fight, needing to be killed, to be slaughtered like Aqua was.

That thought, knowing that thought, was too much for the strong-willed man. He couldn't take it anymore. He couldn't be strong knowing she was forever gone in such an inhumane way.

Terra threw a sand-sprinkled hand over his mouth, stiffly fell down to his knees and simply dry-sobbed under Master Xehanort's gaze. The action shook his big body with the emotional agony, a pitiful sound of mourning pushing out of him. His twinkling eyes squinted at the golden sands for an answer, gripping his palm against his mouth as he cried like he was dying.


Orange eyes narrowed at him, pitying the Chaser's feeble, cracking voice. It was the most pathetic sight of Terra.

"Why would you need to-to do you-I can't, y-you—" Breathing loud and fast, Terra pressed both hands against his face, trying to keep his mind and heart from shattering. His Keyblade dropped forgotten to his side as he gently rocked back and forth. Two hot tears squeezed out of his closed eyes, dribbling down his dusty face.

"How does it feel, Terra?" the elder Keyblade Master he was kneeling before asked. "To know you failed to stop me from letting her die...what does your heart want?"

Terra slumped forward on his elbows, teeth bared at his damn voice.

A few drips of salty tears plopped onto the sand as his sunburnt body started to tremble, with anger or sadness he wasn't sure.

"You must hate me. Detest this mission. Want nothing more than your friends...did you honestly think you'd accomplish your mission without some losses, Terra?"

Breathing loudly Terra pressed a hand down on his left knee, forcing himself to rise and face him and her. He didn't want to see her or he'd completely lose it—

"Get up!" Master Xehanort barked, his Keyblade held out. "Fight me, Terra!"

There was no need to feed the fire. Terra was already trembling with anger and fear, up to his full height. His Keyblade laid beside his feet as he started to march up to the orange-eyed man, head bowed.

"Terra...do you want to know why Ven is vital to my plans?"

He froze in mid-step for a brief second but kept moving forward. The old man knew what to say to save himself.

The anger boiled into inhuman fury.

"Ven...Ven is just a warrior easy for you to pick on," Terra said hoarsly, knowing he didn't understand the full picture but not caring he didn't. With each passing word his line of vision slowly lifted to pierce Master Xehanort's. The elder man remained indifferent but his eyes narrowed in suspicious curiousity. "You're after something I can't understand...I know that now. But I won't let you take it!"

"Ven is much more than just a Keybearer, Terra," the old man responded. "He has uses you or Aqua do not. Aqua is especially expendable to my goals. She will get in my way in she becomes a Master."

Terra came to a solid stop in front of Master Xehanort. His glassy eyes fell to the red sand around Aqua in the moment. Dark eyebrows creased together, feeling his heart clench uncomfortablely.

Swallowing Terra stared straight up at him, resolve frozen ice cold in his eyes.

"Don't label Aqua as something expendable...me and Ven are her friends...we need her. We both need Ven, just like they need me. We're friends, and you won't destroy my friends! I may not be strong enough to defeat you on my own yet. I don't know what this means...what'll be left for us after all this. Whether you fail or we prevail, I don't know what will be the result, or how many innocent lives will be effected by our actions. But..."

A slash of air whistled around his waistline as he twisted, his Keyblade igniting in his grasp. Master Xehanort flicked his gaze down, but didn't move his own weapon to shield himself.

So Terra rammed force into Master Xehanort's abdomen, the blade striking through at an upward angle. Xehanort kept his mouth shut but his dilating eyes were proof he wasn't enjoying this, having underestimated the the pain of his attack. He curled his fingers, bringing out his black Keyblade.

Hot wind slashed between Terra's legs, knowing he had to hurry up with him and get to her. But he couldn't let this chance go.

Now he had to chose which was more important.

Hot wind slashed between her legs and the ringing in her ears was dulling her hearing.

One sense done, four to go.

Her eyes unsealed and then shut again, unable to feel her body but she knew she was standing up. Touch gone. Now only three senses left.

She had to be dreaming.

The desolate scenery blurred as her blue eyes arched upward to find the sky. She felt herself opening her mouth in question. Numb, she staggered, the sensation she was still laying down confusing her body that was propped up on sore feet. The rushing clouds were the same color as the sand she was...was standing on...

Everything hit her like a train, the blaze of Terra's distant horrified eyes piercing her heart to flutter fast.


Aqua clutched at her heart , her hair moist with cold sweat as she forced herself to take a deep breath.

What happened? Where was she now? She remembered she couldn't take all the sensations, the pain, and just rolled over to die as Terra ran for her.

"Where is this, heaven..." Gripping down on her knees Aqua pushed up into a full stand with wooziness, staring out the barren wastelands. She felt lightheaded and could smell copper on her right arm, but when she inspected it, it was devoid of blood or any wounds. Aqua swallowed. "...or did I somehow descend from death...right into hell itself?"

High above the mortal Chaser, a flame of gold that was the sun was settled on a throne of jagged, cold cliffs, but the sunlight felt cold. She shivered and balled her fists, sighs from the earth blowing the orange dirt in eerie breezes.

Her blueberry eyes narrowed, inspecting the wastelands. "Where am I?"

"One who knows nothing can understand nothing."

Aqua spun around, finding Master Xehanort picturesque against the filthy, fleeing winds behind him, as if he commanded the air to fan behind him. His glowing citrus eyes pierced her in place, but Aqua never was a coward that ran away. She lifted her chin, glitters decorating her irises.

"Did we...did Terra kill you so now we're together in the afterlife?" she asked and smirked faintly. She knew Terra could do it.

The aged man didn't appear to hear. "It will all come together here."

"You be silent, traitor!" Aqua spat, bursting into a jog closer to him. Glancing back once at the sun situated on the omnimous cliffs, she faced him. "Explain yourself."

"Emotions are the chains that connect every heart to me...if I were to contuse the dark emotions of the heart...you would all fall into my hands."

Aqua blinked rapidly, parting her mouth open. "The d-dark emotions...what are you talking about? No one can do that, that's just mind tricks."

The Master smiled at her. "What are the dark emotions, insignificant one?"

"Mistake one, sir-I am not trivial trash," Aqua whispered, emphasizing her words with brittle ice edged in her voice. "What happened to you, sir?"

His smile didn't falter. "Anger, hate...greed, pride...envy..."

"Are, are you accusing me...?"

"What does Terra think of you, Aqua?"

The woman twitched, biting her tongue to not gasp aloud. It was so sudden, this question she wanted the answer to. Now she knew this was a pointless nightmare of her fears.

She paddled through all the memories in her mind that were centered on Terra. She remembered their awkward first meeting, the training sessions

Though Terra was older, they were mature and their minds often ran on the same lines. But, when they had opposing opinions and couldn't settle to a compromise, it erupted into a tense, heated battle the next morning...until one of them seriously injured the other—and then the other'd be apologizing like a depressed sinner until the injured one got annoyed ("Aqua, stop saying it's alright. Losing control of my anger is inexcusable, and it's not exactly chivalrous of me...")

Well, she wasn't smart enough to run from Master Xehanort in the desert earlier. Her heart got to her head, and she still had no idea if she was dead.

When Ven was integrated into their duo, he changing it into something better, a sibling-like trio. Fun and heartwarming and the best though it was, it was also strange because Aqua held a hidden attraction for Terra. And with Ven, the attraction couldn't stay alive. She demanded herself to simmer her old feelings to a platonic level, else it would divide their bond of budding friendship.

It didn't help that Terra grew up even more, ahem, well-endowed with all that muscle.

So, to take her mind off of Terra, she had volunteered that she train extra with Ven, and their master happily complied at the choice, praising her for getting more involved with Ventus. It didn't have the effect she hoped for. Terra was gathered at the meeting with their master, too, and he wasn't exactly jolly. He stared at her with a haunted, almost betrayed gaze when their master approved on her private training session for Ven. When Aqua made her way over to talk to Terra, he pivoted around and paced out the room with a much-too-rigid back.

Now that she looked back on it, she figured how she hurt him by unintentionally excluding him. Did she betray him by reaching out to Ven, betray his...heart? No, that was foolish thinking. Terra wasn't interested in dates and luxury, only in becoming a Keyblade Master like her. The man was too goal-oriented to care about what her personal life...right?

"He...we..." Aqua took a deep breath, the corners of her eyes wet. "We're just acquantices, sir. Friends...we trust each other. But Ven's still new at this and he's my other friend, so I'm going to help him!"

"I say Terra's jealous."

Aqua nearly jumped out of her shoes at this different voice. It sounded young and masculine, but it couldn't be familiar...

With her heartbeats flooding through her ears, Aqua turned around and saw a dark figure with a dark heart on his chest, his body completely covered in the dark suit. Instinctively she took a step back and made to summon her Keyblade, staring at the helmet that covered his face.

"Who are you?"

"You were never supposed to betray him that way."

Aqua grit her teeth down, trying to ignore him. "This is a dream, a spell of some sorts. I'm going to wake up from this any second. Terra will wake me up right now..."

"But I think Terra cares more about the power the darkness offers than your feelings."

"I know when I'm being lying to," she hummed to herself, hands clamped over her ears.

"And you'd be lying if you say you aren't curious to know what Terra feels for you...if anything remotely strong,"Vanitas scoffed. He nailed her heart there. Aqua narrowed her eyes, biting the inside of her cheek to keep her tears at bay.

"Of course I am. But, stopping you and your master is more important to me right now—"


A gust violently hit her in the stomach, making Aqua stumble back.

Waves of something wet and stinging coiled around hers ankles and wrists. They were like angry snakes, pulling her down to her knees. Her Keyblade crackled into gleams and glitters of white light before disippating, leaving her alone with her heavy thoughts and this demented creature.

Now she was bent to his mercy.

She glanced around for Master Xehanort, but he must have left, vanished within the desert winds.

A crunch of marching boots made her freeze. She didn't flinch; she may have been at a severe disadvantage, but she wasn't going to submit. Wiggling her tied hands to her side, she reached into her pocket, pulling out a blue star charm between two fingers and raised it in front of her.

Aqua sighed. "Terra...Ven...Master Eraqus...everyone..." She took a deep breath, closing her eyes. "I will not give up. Surrendering won't save anybody." Folding her hands around the charm, Aqua concentrated on Terra and Ven, thinking back to when she gave them star charms identical to hers. A legend in one world stated if certain charms were shared, they'd reunite together one day.

Right now, she just wanted out of this nightmare.

"—wake up, Aqua."

"Huh?" The woman opened her eyes, looking up at the sky that just spoke to her. "I'm trying to wake up! What am I doing wrong?"

Vanitas was suddenly gone, her wrists and ankles were free, too. This should be the part where she truly opened eyes and woke up.

"What's going on?" she hiccuped in panic, looking this way and that. "Where is the light...or am I already gone..."

"Aqua, don't die! Wake back up, please. Aqua!"

She reached up for his voice, her vision going white.


Heat, sand, and a familiar scent engulfed Aqua when she breached consciousness. The scent, she had to reach that scent...so she pulled on her last scrap of willpower to open her eyes. As Aqua opened her eyes, she sprang up and her forehead collided into something hard that yelped in pain.


"Agh!" Aqua rolled back on the sand, her battle wounds rippling back to life under her skin. She curled on her uninjured side, moaning in pain as a big shadow loomed over her.


"Your head hurt me!" she exclaimed quite out of character. She was ready to cry. First her arm got gnawed on by an Unversed, then Master Xehanort fought her, she had the craziest nightmare, and now Terra was headbutting her.

This world was not fun.

The Chaser held her breath as a shadow curled over her. Hissing in agony, she clutched at her right arm, numb and sticky and too limb and heavy for her to lift. She could feel the tears prickling to squeeze out of her shut eyes, the pain from her little scuffle getting heavier. She blinked rapidly, trying to calm her mind when she saw Terra staring down at her. It confused her, for it looked like he had been...crying?

Terra? Crying?

Wow, this desert heat was getting to her.

She gaped at her friend, then felt hot for his body heat was smothering her. Then it fell on her.

Her eyes widened, unable to respond.

Terra, hugging her? Now she knew she needed to get him out of the sun.

"Wait," Aqua croaked, staring up into his glassy sapphire eyes when he pulled back. She grabbed his arm. "Am I alive or not?"

He breathed out, eyes brightening and smiled. "Of course you are. Who do you think I am, thinking I'd let you die?"


Terra lost his happy smile when she averted her gaze. Swallowing, his hand gently brushed the back of her neck. Aqua stifled down her squirming as it felt ticklish to her (and she was not about to let Terra know she was the ticklish type, for then he'd tell Ven who would relentlessly attack her with tickles).

"Wait, don't get up. Hold on," Terra said firmly, thinking she wanted to get up. He reached into his pockets for several potions. Gently, he sat her back against his raised leg, uncapping one while keeping his body as a shade for her face. He lifted the first potion near her cracked lips. "Drink up, slowly. You need to get some energy back into you before we move. Then we'll go search for a place to rest," he said. "All this sun and heat isn't good for us, especially you in such a weak state."

"I'm fine."

Terra gave her a dry look. "No, I'm fine. You're not."

She didn't fight, obediently sipping down the potions. Terra's eyes seemed faraway throughout it all, not really seeing her as he helped her. When it was done, Aqua felt better. Not the best, but actually a bit better. The heat was slightly more bearable, and her arm had some feeling back in it.

Terra gently laid her back down before standing up, pivoting around in a circle to search. Search for some sign of life, preferably Xehanort.

He clenched his fists and wiped the sweat from his face—the old man got away.


"What's wrong?" Terra raced over to her side. As he slid down to his knees, he saw she was looking at him quizzically and not hurt. He schooled his face behind a calm mask. After what happened, he was having trouble being his usual calm, confident self. "Aqua, we'll be fine."

"Terra—no, not that. What happened? Did..." Aqua gasped, sitting up so fast she almost smacked into Terra's face again. Thankfully, Terra leaned back just enough as she rounded on him "His apprentice! They were...where's Master Xehanort? Did he get Ven?" she ended in a fierce tone, turning around to face her friend.

The man hung his head, slowly breathing out.

"No, he vanished. I tried to catch him..." He sighed, looking out to the dusky sky. Aqua relaxed, grateful Ven wasn't here to see what happened to her. "But I couldn't leave you here." He grabbed fistfuls of sand and bowed his head to her. "I tried so hard," he whispered in the most broken voice Aqua never wanted to hear. He sounded defeated, confused, like he wasn't not good enough.

As if Terra was ever not good enough...

She reached out her good hand, heart racing as she slowly (stupidly)flattened her hand over the left side of his sweat-dampened chest. He flinched, looking up with lost eyes, not understanding her body language. Before he could speak, Aqua leaned forward, wrapping her good arm around his neck and embraced him.

"You're okay, and I survived—let's be thankful for that. Tomorrow will be another day to fight," Aqua whispered. "Today, let's just rest. I think we need that."

Terra stiffened but didn't push her off. She buried her face into the crone of his neck.

"Hey, It's alright," she said, feeling his uneasiness at such close contact. "I have you, Terra. It's over for now, okay? I have you, not Xehanort."

It overwhelmed him, the sincerity in her voice. Terra shut his eyes and put his arms around her loosely. He suddenly felt weary, too world-weary.

"...you have me?" he mumbled, sounding so tired.

Aqua nodded. "I got you. Always, Terra."

He hugged her just a bit tighter. "Thanks."

After a couple of seconds of embrace and beautiful thoughts, Terra let go and leaned back, nodding in encouragement at her. "Come on. I'll carry you, and you help me look for some sign of civilization. That way it'll be a fair share of work. Deal?"

Aqua pushed her bangs back, falling back in a sit. "Deal."

After helping each other brush the sand from their clothes, Terra hefted Aqua on his back and started their exodus from the desert. He had to pause once and glance back, a fiery determination in his eyes.

"I don't understand him, or why I still trust him."

Aqua flickered her eyes open.

"I even...I admired him." He sounded ashamed of his blind faith. "I think I still do."

Aqua pressed her forehead against his shoulder. "I did, too. Master Eraqus thought good of him, all those stories he told me of him and Master Xehanort becoming Keyblade masters...we all did."

"So how—"

"I. Don't. Know," Aqua forced out through clenched teeth, getting cranky. "Just please, not today, Terra! No more of it today! I've had enough. Tomorrow we'll try to figure it out. Just not today, enough for today!"

Aqua realized yelling wasn't needed at that particular moment.

Nonetheless, Terra slowly started to pace away from chasing Xehanort, head bowed down while his heart ached to find their target.

It got quiet quickly.

Because when Aqua told Terra to do something, Terra did it and unknowingly did it in a way that made the woman feel like she kicked a starving puppy.

Minutes of smouldering heat and silence passed as Terra traveled on, looking around for an oasis or a wandering nomad. He swallowed, wishing he hadn't drank all of his water. He forgot the way back to that big stadium he spotted earlier.



"...never mind."

Aqua lowered her head back down. Now everything was awkward.

Should she apologize for raising his voice at him, or just talk like they always did and act like it didn't happen? She squirmed, deciding to go for a casual approach.

"Hey, Terra. I'm a bit uncomfortable back here...umm, could I, you know..."

Terra frowned, glancing back just enough for him to meet her wide blue eyes awaiting him. He sighed, letting go of her thighs and bent forward slightly. Aqua's heart exploded like fireworks at what happened next.

Terra maneuvered her body around his, grabbing her side as he swung her around firmly and swiftly until she was cradled in his arms, her head laid against his sweat-dampened chest. Fixing his hold on her, Terra start walking again, carrying the baffled Aqua bridal-style with a far away expression as if nothing important happened.

...this was not suspected. This was not what she aimed for, having wanted to walk beside him so it'd be easier to talk. But then he did this, and this made it more uncomfortable to talk.

Great, Terra, thank you, Aqua thought, hoping she wouldn't pass out at random now that she was closer to him.

Terra was an intelligent man, yes, but he could be so dense to her stutters. Apparently in Terra's brain, 'could I, you know...' meant 'could you carry me like we just got married, honey bunch?'

Blushing furiously at the thought of Terra carrying her to their honeymoon bed, Aqua thunked the side of her head against his hard shoulder, hating her overactive mind. This didn't go unnoticed. Terra's face went through a spasm of sorts before his dark blue eyes locked on her, looking very concerned.

"Do you want to lie down, Aqua?"

Could the gods just have pity on her for one minute! Or at least bless Terra with enough sense. Ven was better at getting what her stutters meant, and he was years younger.

"Uh, no, I'm fine. Just a little light headed," she said and wiped her forehead. Terra looked at her with more worry, though. Aqua mentally kicked herself while avoiding eye contact; where was her earlier courage when she attacked Master Xehanort?

He let it go, jaw clenched as he stared over the sand dunes. "I saw this battle stadium of sorts not too far from here. It should be easy to find. I'll find you someplace cool to rest there, alright?"

"Alright. Thank you."

Terra nodded absentmindedly, not looking at her.

Well, then!

The Greek gods were not Aqua's favorite people now! They must be on vacation, laughing down at her from Mount Olympus as they threw her prayers over their shoulders. Battle stadium meant fighters would be there. Fighters were mostly men (as Aqua unfortunately noticed was the subscribed behavior in most worlds). Men meant potential friends for Terra to mingle with and fight since fighting didn't involve awkwardly comforting people of the opposite sex that had their arm almost chewed off by a blue monster.

Aqua knew what he wanted to do. 'I'll find you someplace cool to rest, alright?' was Terra's polite way of saying 'You're acting weird, so I'm gonna tuck you in bed and go try and bash guys' skulls in to let out my frustration at losing Master Xehanort, okay?' Curse the desert heat for animating her mind so.

Aqua took a deep breath and rested against him, exhausted.

They wouldn't be able to talk. Rarely had they alone time within the recent months. And if it wasn't their Master Qualification Exam paranoia, Ven stuck to their sides like jelly. Which wasn't bad. Aqua liked jelly, and she loved Ven, and Ven loved Terra like an older brother, looking up to him more than her ("But Aqua, you're a girl. And...Terra's not. It's a guy thing, okay?" Ven explained one day when the two were doing chores for Master Eraqus).

Well, Aqua didn't feel the same way as Ven did about the man carrying her. She wasn't about to blab that to Terra.

He might drop her and flee. Then she'd get eaten by the vultures and ants, so Aqua didn't talk.

Still, she had to get over her shyness and just talk to Terra like she did Ven. Yeah, maybe that could help. Except...Ven didn't have a really nice chest. Terra had a very very nice chest, which she was currently staring at since Terra was zoning out.

Aqua decided she liked Terra's shirt because it was of a thin material, so it left nothing to the imagination.

Oh, how she loved this shirt he was always fond of wearing.

Aqua bit the corner of her mouth, memorizing the lines and broadness of his chest. Oh, how she ached to reach out and touch him. She wondered how his sweaty, tanned chest looked in the scorching sun, how her pale hands would look on it...

Whoa there! Now the desert heat was making her horny. Was Aphrodite, the goddess of love, stalking them?

Aqua contemplated banging her head against Terra's shoulder again. Now she was avoiding talking to him by thinking naughty thoughts.

She peered up at his troubled face. How could she bring him out of his dark brooding? How could she pull him out of that place he always ran to when he has things on his mind? He was always trying to shoulder the burden alone. She just wanted to share it with him.



Oh yes, he didn't ignore her, maybe their relationship wasn't in shambles. "Do you think dreams can come true?"

"Some of them."

"Only some?" Aqua asked softly, wishing her head was resting on the left side of his chest so she could hear his heart. Inwardly, Terra was grateful she wasn't because she'd have heard how bad his heart was racing for the past few minutes. He was carrying Aqua like...well, bridal-style.

Bride, Terra thought suddenly. That was a funny word to him.

Bride bride bride bride—does Aqua even think of being a bride like other women? How would Aqua even look in white satin, staring back from behind a veil—stop! Focus back on the conversation. What was she talking about again? Dreams?

"Well, yeah. I mean, reality isn't a fairytale," he said calmly, a trickle of sweat dripping down his temple. He allowed himself to smile. That was a pretty good answer. He should talk philosophically more often. And the desert heat must really be affecting his thinking. Why on earth was he imagining marriage?

Was that goddess Aphrodite spying on them? Or maybe Eros? Master Eraqus told them the tales about the gods of this world a long time ago. They were always interested in the lives of the humans, and the two of them certainly fell in that category.

Terra suddenly disliked this world.

Aqua made a soft grunt, bringing out of his thoughts. He looked down as she was wrinkling her nose. He sniffed, immedieatly wanting to be sucked down into the sand.

He smelled really bad.

They both smelled like sweat and just plain smelly.

Aqua started to giggle, seeing his appalled expression. She pressed a gloved hand over her mouth. "We both smell."

"I noticed."

That made her giggle harder, tears smudging the edges of her eyes. Terra let out a breath of laugh, looking down at themselves, sticky with sweat and dried blood.

"We need a bath. I had no idea saving you would get me so dirty," he confessed, grinning brilliantly down at her. "Next time I'm charging you if I have to rescue you."

"I didn't want to be saved. You did that on your own. Plus, you were pretty late there, hero, so your price is automatically reduced."

Terra snorted, rolling his eyes. "Last time I save you."

Aqua shot an offended frown up to him. Terra stared back for the span of two seconds before dissolving into deep, hearty laughter. Immediately she laughed with him, almost feeling like it could last forever.

The rest of the walk was more comfortable, and Aqua didn't have to mentally kick herself until they arrived at their destination.

They found out the battle stadium was called the Olympus Coliseum, sharing the same name as the home of their great gods. It turned out the beautiful place wasn't so crowded as she anticipated. But it was noisy when a goat person started to talking to them.

When he (she caught his name, Phil) started flirting with her without any dignity, Terra kept getting fidgety. And very much like an animal was with its mate, almost growling.

Almost. Terra doesn't growl. He sneers while looking unimpressed and intimidating. So Terra just sneered at Phil, holding the sweaty-n-smelly Aqua closer.

Still held in his arms, Aqua polietly ignored them. She was staring up at the orange and coral-pink sky, watching puffs of white in the distance float over the horizon. The two males finally developed more civil conversation, Terra explaining their situation (and why they smelled so bad, which Phil loudly noted).

She roved her vision over to Terra's face, watching his chocolate-brown hair flutter in the evening breeze. His deep, soothing voice thrummed through her body, making her curl her toes and feel all feather-light in her naval.

Just as Phil was agreeing to give them food and shelter for the night, something pounced on him. Actually, it sort of flew at him in a laughing blur of black, white and bright yellow.

That sort of thing doesn't happen everyday for the Chasers, so Aqua practically screamed at the surprise, her hand flying over her mouth. Terra stumbled back, his grip tightening on her, afraid it was Vanitas. He put on a fierce look, ready for battle. He broke out of it quickly, seeing the attacker grin and wave at them.

"Hey, guys!"

"Ven?" Aqua choked a sob, grabbing her throat. The two could only stare at the cheerful boy as he rushed up to them, looking breathless but pleased.

"Yeah, Aqua? What's wrong?"

"You're okay!" Terra and Aqua shouted, the first saying it as more of an angry question.

Ven brushed his nose, looking concerned and with it, extra cute. "Of course I am. Why wouldn't I be?"

"Master Xehanort, we saw him in the desert! Did you see him, was he here?" Terra asked at once, not noticing Aqua frown and turn her head away. Ven twisted his lips in a quizzical frown, looking between them and folded his arms.

"Actually, I did," he said, causing Aqua's stomach to twist. "But he just disappeared and didn't do anything. Least, I don't think he did. He was talking to me about something he wouldn't say...it didn't make sense. There were a bunch of Unversed when he left, but we took care of them."

Terra raised an eyebrow, thrown off at his answer and how normal he was. "What do you mean by we?"

Bright-eyed, Ven ran behind him and pushed him forward toward the coliseum doors. Terra started to complain as Ven started to chat about the battle that happened and Aqua couldn't stop smiling. She closed her eyes and squirmed closer against Terra, wanting to cry. The happiness, them back together...the peace of this moment wouldn't last. Xehanort made sure of that.

As Ven was opening the grand doors, the cooler air washing over them, Aqua sighed in relief and drifted down into a black sleep.

Fortunately, it was a dreamless nap Aqua experienced this time. She didn't mean to fall asleep. It just happened. So when the blue-haired wonder felt herself starting to awake, she felt disoriented.

Her nose twitched, smelling burning wood and meat far off. There were bubbles of whispers nearby, like her head was underwater. She was laying on soft, thick blankets, cocooned in its warmth. She was so tired, not having the strength to open her eyes.

After a few minutes, footsteps echoed around and all was silent.

Now she opened her eyes, afraid someone was watching her.

"Hey, you're finally awake!" Ven chimed out, bending over her to give a hug. Aqua leaned her head in, too groggy to return it. Ven pulled back, clearly too bouncy to go to sleep. "We just ate supper. There's some saved for you out by the bonfire."

Aqua turned her head, blinking the sleep out of her eyes.


Ven beamed gently, the light of his smile putting the sun to shame. "Hi."

Automatically, Aqua smiled back. "You're up to something..."

"What, me? I'm the good one out of the three of us, remember?" Ven reproached and pouted, his sapphire eyes holding an impish gleam one could mistake for boyish joy. Aqua closed her eyes, throwing her good arm over her face.

"Where are we? I remember falling asleep as we walked inside..."

"Which is here," Ven said, patting the cold ground. "We're in the entrance of the coliseum. Hercules got you those blankets. We didn't want to move you, and they don't have any available rooms for us, anyway. That way leads back out to the front area." He pointed out a dark doorway to his left. "And that one leads to the stands and the fighting arena," he said, pointing in the opposite direction. "The guys set up a bonfire out there with supper, so go out there if you're hungry, okay?"

"No, I'm fine," she lied, not ready to face people just yet. She squirmed, turning on her side. She gasped, looking down at her body. Her arm was mummified and uncomfortably stiff, but there was no pain anymore. Come to think of it, her body didn't feel like it was about to boil from heatstroke, either.

"Who gave me bandages?"

Ven blinked. "Terra did. They gave us some and Terra wouldn't let anyone come near you. Expect me, of course," he laughed, folding his arms behind his head and leaned against the stone wall, smiling at the darkness of the room. His blonde spikes were a sharp contrast to the darkness under the firelight.

"Terra told me to watch him do it so I would know the correct way to apply bandages on wounds. It didn't look that hard, but you know him. He always had to make a big deal about battle situations, and he was saying I had to be very gentle with girls and all that. I defended you and said you're too tough, but he just wouldn't agree with me. Which is weird, considering you beat him in a lot of sparring matches back home."

Aqua tore her eyes from the boy now staring up at the ceiling and rubbed her forehead. She liked how Ven always trusted and opened up to her, but absorbing a Ven babble with a headache pulsing in her head was hard.

She decided not to brush him off, setting her injured arm down on the blankets.

"Was I, um, you know..."

Ven scratched the back of his head, understanding her stutter. "Oh, yeah. You were snoring again."

Aqua groaned, slipping under the blankets. "In front of strangers, too. In front of Terra. Great."

"Aww, come on, Aqua. We're like family," Ven said in an attempt to cheer her up. "I really doubt Terra cares about you snoring. Besides, I think Zack likes you, so don't worry. You weren't that unappealing."

"Who's Zack?"

"The guy who helped me fight the Unversed. He's under Phil's wing, training to be a hero with Hercules. He's really cool! Oh, and he asked me if you had a boyfriend."

Aqua's eyes practically popped out of its sockets, her face burning up.

"You told him I did, right?" she pleaded, not wanting to do the date thing with Xehanort strong on her mind. She just wanted to sleep and dream of Terra's chest. She peeked over the edge of the black blanket in time to see Ven frown and shake his head, the firelight dancing with the shadows of the night around him. He cocked his head to the side.

"No, because you don't..." Ven trailed off, shining his blue eyes down on her. Aqua reacted by sliding the blanket over her eyes to hide. She shushed her racing heart, not knowing Ven start to smile in a very sneaky manner. "Ooooor, do you? Are you keeping a secret from me?"

"I have no idea what we're talking about. Go get me dinner, please."

Ven smiled more. "Sure. And you aren't all together with, oh I don't know, Terra?"

"No," she answered so quickly Ven knew she had herself convinced. He sighed.

"I bet that would make Terra sad if he heard that. He seems more stressed than us with this mission, even though he doesn't show it. I think it'd make him happy if he knew how you felt for him, and you know I always give good advice."

"Eh?" She shot up, leaning forward to poke his nose. "Keep this out of other people's business, Ventus!"

"Aqua, why are you blushing—"

"I'm not blushing, I'm flushed with anger!"she all but screamed, making Ven cower back and cover his nose. She was still recovering from her injuries as well as smelling bad, being hungry and realizing she had an unhealthy addiction for daydreaming of Terra's chest.

She simply had enough for one day.

"Okay, sorry. I didn't mean to upset you," Ven mumbled and bowed his head. "I'm sorry. I was only trying to cheer you up."

Aqua lost all her spite at seeing him sad. She lowered her gaze. "No, I'm sorry. I don't know what to think right now. So much happened yet there isn't any answers in it." She balled her fists, bringing up her legs and setting her head down on her knees. "I thought this would be easier somehow, the three of us doing this together...but now..."

Ven frowned, staring at her tired form, not knowing what to say to help out.

They sat quietly, dwelling on the mission they were so far failing to fulfill. It all seemed easier back home, safe in the Land of Departure. Now, Terra didn't seem quite like Terra and Aqua, someone Ven thought was unbreakable, was tearing at the seams.

Without thought, Ven stood up and hugged Aqua again, wanting to melt all the pain away. They didn't try to speak, which made everything more comfortable. Aqua leaned against him for a moment before reaching inside her waist sash, touching the blue charm that hung on a chain around her waist.

"Hm?" Ven pulled back, looking over to see what she was doing.

Chuckling humorlessly, Aqua showed it to him. To her delight, his face instantly lit up, his hands digging in his pockets and the green star charm was swung out in front of her blurry eyes.

"I still have this. I'll never lose it," Ven promised, "and I know Terra won't, either. No matter what happens, we'll always find each other when we need to be together. Like tonight." He laughed. "See? Your charms do work, Aqua, so please don't cry."

Aqua gave him a half-smile, wiping at her wet cheeks. "You're right. These charms do work. Why is it so easy to believe the future will be brighter around you?"

"Because I'm the cute one!" Ven answered without shame. "You said I was when we first met, remember?"

Aqua laughed, shaking her head. "Compliments have made you arrogant, I see."

"You're the one that installed the idea in my head. And they make me confident, not arrogant! There's a difference."

Aqua laughed without restraint at this, hugging her sides as she rolled down on her back. It felt so good to talk like they always did. Ven smiled at her with warm eyes, holding his charm over his heart. He broke from his daze, realizing someone was standing at the doorway. He gasped under the laughing Aqua: Terra was leaning against the wall with crossed arms and a curious expression, cleaned up and smelling much better than Aqua. Ven had to wonder how long he had been standing there.

Terra frowned, ready to retreat back outside and give them privacy when Ven waved at him.

"Hey, you get in here! It's bonding time," he said. Aqua froze and covered her mouth, quickly stopping laugh fest. Ven groaned, ruffling a hand through his hair. "Aqua, you weren't suppose to stop laughing. Now Terra's going to run away."

Terra narrowed his eyes, his corner of his mouth quirked up. "Why would I run away from my friends?"

"I don't know, you tell me!" Ven said in exaggerated modesty. Terra walked up, watching his two friends watch him. "Maybe you're afraid of being happy, that whenever things start to go right, something must go wrong. So that means you're afraid of being happy with us, because you'll be afraid when you can't protect us. But that's just a guess." He ended his babble with a spirited smile, staring at Terra with his old admiration "And you're too strong to be afraid of that stuff. Besides, we're not weak. We'll all be Keyblade Masters together. It's our dream."

Terra walked past him toward Aqua, patting his shoulder with a brave smile as he went—Ven didn't know he hit the nail on the mark. He wouldn't let Ven know his burden of fears.

"How are you feeling?" Terra asked, kneeling in front of the female Keyblader.

"Much better. Thanks to you," she said in a lower voice, ducking her head so the peeping Ven wouldn't see her face for anymore blackmail. Terra held out his calloused hands.

"May I?"

"Oh, yeah," she said in a voice not her own, stretching her mummified arm out. Gently, he ran his fingers over the bones of it, testing for fractures and any swelling. A shiver rolled down her spine, and she had to grip down on her thigh to keep from squirming. Thankfully, Terra looked over his shoulder.

"Ven, come here. You're still not done with your lesson on this."

The youngest Chaser practically flew to their sides at the chance to watch them interact. If he were a canine, his tail would be wagging.

He sat down to complete their triangle and stayed silent, watching Terra carefully unroll the bandages and explain the procedures. Aqua shot the blond an aggravated look to leave her alone, to which Ven shrugged and folded his arms behind his head, instantly becoming the epitome of innocence and relaxation.

More like an evil imp, in Aqua's eyes at least.

"Ven, you're not watching," Terra said, irritated when he saw Ven not looking down at their blue-haired friend's arm. He furrowed his brow, seeing the young boy send Aqua a silly grin while wiggling his eyebrows suggestively. The brunet whipped around to Aqua, making her jump and cover her blushing face in time to hide.

"What are you doing?"

"Nothing!" they chorused at once. Unimpressed, Terra kept staring at the young woman. She crumbled under his intense gaze, lowering herself on the ground and buried her face in the pillow.

"I was practicing my whistling."

"No you weren't. I didn't hear you."

"That's because I was practicing. Stop being difficult and ask Ventus."

"She wasn't whistling," Ven said immediately.


Copying Terra's behavior, Ven knelt down and grabbed the confused brunette's shoulder. "Come on, Terra. You're not a bad guy. So do Aqua this favor, she's tired and has had a very stressful day...see..." The boy forced Terra to turn and stare down at Aqua, which took quite a lot of force. "See, okay, basically, Aqua has been thinking how you would look without your shirt—"

"I want my bath now!" Aqua shouted at her pillow, which did not deserve her receiving her frustrated anger. Since her face was pressed against it, the two boys didn't understand what Aqua was asking for. And her strange behavior at that (well, Terra was the only one in the room that didn't understand).

The male Keybladers peered down at Aqua's back with round eyes. The blonde one decided to interpret Aqua's message in his own way.

"I think she's asking you out, Terra. Do you accept?"

"What...out to get her dinner? I will if you want to stay in here. She should get some bed rest after being out in the desert so long."

Ven chuckled like the little evil imp only Aqua knew the teenager could be. "Oh Terra, I don't think it's food that our friend wants to eat."


Terra's eyes widened as he fell back at the wave of energy. He looked over to see Ven pummeled into the ground. He looked back at a disheveled, wild-eyed and red-faced Aqua, sitting up with her glowing Keyblade held out, water drops spilling on her blanket.

"I...have no idea what is going on between you two, but stop this childish fighting. We have an important mission to accomplish, remember?" Terra said firmly, wary at the two's recent strange behavior. Maybe his two younger friends just weren't cut out for this hot, arid atmosphere. Ven grumbled, standing up and holding his jaw, his face inflamed a light red from Aqua's emotional attack.

"You didn't have to hit me. I was just trying to lighten the mood. This is something I have to do, help you out."

"You didn't need to disclose unimportant information to Terra."

"Aqua, your feelings are important."

"Stop it," Terra cut it, now off the edge of his patience. "Both you, Master Eraqus is counting on us! You two stop bickering over this. Not keeping focused on the mission could get you killed as seen today. We're hunting down Master Xehanort and his cohort, not taking a vacation! Why do I feel like I'm the only one trying to fix the grave state of things?"

With that, Terra stood up and stormed back out to the bonfire, not caring he how horribly he hurt his friends in his temper.

She balled her first and kept her eyes downcast as uneasy silence smothered the room, her insides shredded into ribbons. Ven was in a similar, but less angry with a guilty look in his dark eyes.

He looked up to her just as she took a deep breath and started wrapping her arm back up, bangs fallen across her eyes.

"I'm sorry. I caused all of this, I should go apologize to him."

"No, Ven," she hissed sharply, eyes on the brim of flooding over. "Let him cool off if that's what he wants. Just wait, of course unless he runs off for Master Xehanort again. I can't believe he accused me of not worried about the mission..."


Ven didn't know what to do, feeling so horrible since this was all his fault. He clutched his charm, lip trembling. A hand came down on his shoulder, and Ven wished it wasn't Aqua.

"I'll talk to him after I take a bath. Can you show me where it is?"

He didn't answer, but he showed her where it was. They had to circle around the building in the starlight. Ven pointed into the room, a small place with veils covering the square pond. Aqua started to take off her shoes and armor. When Ven posed as guard at the doorway, Aqua turned to him and folded her arms.

"What? Phil might try to seek a peek," Ven said, also folding his arms. "Not like Terra is here to do this."

"Nice try. I can take care of myself. Go talk to him, I know you want to."

Ven's eyes were uncertain, but he hopped on the balls of his feet, ready to find their older friend. "Are you sure?"

"Yes. Now leave before I get sentimental and change my mind."

Ven was already walking away before the sentence was finished. Aqua smiled, running to the doorway to shout after him.

"Hey, I'm still the master around here! Try to remember that for more than an hour!"

As the boy was rounding the corner, he spun around and gave her a mock bow. Aqua laughed with him, fist pressed over her giddy smile.

At least they were still the same.

"Thank you, Ven!"

Feeling more whole, Aqua led herself back to the bath. Undressing was more of an ordeal with her wounded arm. After a few minutes of slowly untying the knots to her halter top and peeling of her thigh-high socks, Aqua sunk into the cool water, letting out a sigh of relief. She made sure to keep her injured arm laid over the edge as she cleansed off the sweat, sand and blood from her numb body.

Thankful to be clean again (and not having sand in places she thought impossible), Aqua hefted herself out, wrapping one of the towels laid out as she stood up. Throwing the second over her wet hair, Aqua tip-toed to the door, creaking it open to scan for any wandering men in the night. She pursed her lips when she heard the rings of clashing weapons in the distance and familiar laughter.

"Boys will be boys," Aqua muttered and closed the door. She sighed and bent over to her clothes. "At least they're in a better mood." Now she wondered if she should interrupt their male-bonding.

It took twice as long for Aqua to dress. She wondered why on earth she wore such a complicated outfit.

Slipping on her armored shoes, she ruffled her cerulean hair free of water drops. She froze, hearing her stomach growl out for nourishment. Quickly praying to the goddess Hera to watch over her, Aqua deposited her towel and exited in a whirl.

Her heart was getting noisy as she walked back around the coliseum for the front. Acting like a spy for no good reason, she hurried back through the entrance and crouched as she exited out to the fighting arena, staying in the shadows of the building.

Aqua gasped as she saw the glory before her.

Stone stands, bare of any fancy decoration, faced the area. They were probably able to hold a couple hundred or more, Aqua estimated. She blinked over to the arena. It was as plain as the stands, smaller than she expected (which meant less room for long-range attackers) in the shape of a square. An obelisk was stationed in each corner, and upon the battle stage were Terra and Ven standing in front of the vast bonfire in the center.

Without rhyme or reason Aqua hid furthur, sliding out of the doorway and along the wall into the darker parts. She tilted her head against the gritty wall, breathing sporatic and fast. She gasped in awe when she looked up. A sea of crushed diamond bits were veiled in the obsidian night sky, twinkling brighter than sunlight.

She raised an eyebrow, forgetting how beautiful and dangerous the night was. She smiled up at the sky, but a deep voice that caused heart-hiccups in her chest made her look back down.

"Are you sure he didn't hurt you, Ven?"

"Yes. I am fine. How many times are we going to circle around with this question? I'm fine, I feel fine," Ven said, shoulders slumped down. Terra stood with a black blanket clutched around his shoulders, similar to the ones she was sleeping in earlier.

"He hurt Aqua. We thought you were in a similar state."

"Wait. You told me those wounds on her arm were bites from the Unversed."

"It was him all the same," Terra snapped, making her jump despite being far from his anger. Ven didn't even flinch, watching his older friend sigh and bow his head, eyes hypnotized by the dazzling dance of the fire. "Believe me, Ven. I just need more power. If I can't defend my friends, I'm worthless as a warrior...and as a friend."

Aqua lowered her eyes and rubbed her throat. So, the bits of information she heard while world-hopping for him and Ven, all the wicked ones telling her that Terra hunting for more darkness to harness in his heart...they really weren't lying to her after all.

No, they weren't. She just didn't want to believe Terra would do such a misdeed. And even knowing this, she still didn't want to push him away.

He was doing this to protect her and Ven.

"But why would you do that when we don't want it?" Aqua mumbled, knees knocked together. As if on cue, her stomach growled so loud she was sure the boys heard it. She hugged her middle, falling down to sit as her heart pounded. Why was it suddenly quiet?

Maybe she was delirious, or maybe she was too hungry to think, or maybe she just somehow developed pyromania in two seconds, but Aqua found herself walking toward the fire before she realized it.

Waitwhat? First Ven, now her own limbs were betraying her and dragging her to Terra? She just couldn't escape the big lug.

Or maybe Aphrodite did stalk her after all...

If Aqua had lost all her wits, she would have hit her legs. Instead she just glared down at them.

Ven and Terra were confused when they heard their female friend shuffle over toward them suddenly, her head bent down. They exchanged looks as she stepped up to the edge of the arena and lifted her head.

She gave a lame wave. "I'm hungry."

"Huh? Oh, uhh...I'll...get you some grub, wait here!" Ven exclaimed at once, a bit too cheerfully. He scampered off in a flash, afraid Aqua would pull him back by the ear. But he went unnoticed. Terra and Aqua were staring at each other, their eyes like the bright stars stolen from the sky above.

They didn't move as Ven's shoes crunched over the sand in his sprint, and only when Terra couldn't hear it anymore did he resume his state of staring at the huge fire, leaving her to stare at his back.

She put a hand on hip and shook her head.

"He's not going to get me food," Aqua stated knowingly, letting a soft smirk overcome her. "He wanted us to talk even though you're not in the mood."

"Are you hungry?"

"I'm going to lie and say no."


Her stomach growled again. She opened and shut her eyes, flexing her fingers. Her stomach was being unhelpful tonight.

"You still have to ask? You."

Terra turned around sharply, looking as vulnerable as he did when she woke up from her nightmare.

"What about me?" he asked in challenge, holding his blanket with one hand around his throat. Unwillingly, he slipped one foot behind him when she took a step forward, a fierce fire in her eyes.

"You know what. Stop running in circles around me. Do not take me for a fool. You think I'm blind and deaf, Terra? This idea that you need darkness, do you really believe that?"

He averted his gaze. "I'm not running. And, I do need it. I'm different from you and Ven. You don't understand me."

"Fine. I don't understand you. But are you sure? You sure chasing Master Xehanort isn't just your disguised way of saying you're running from us and doing things me and Ven never asked of you?"

He nodded numbly. "Yeah..."


Aqua's face shadowed, studying his closed-off posture, not even giving her the respect to look at her and say the lie. The crackling fire seemed too loud now as her chest rose and fell deeply, ready to do something drastic, something stupid.

Aqua bit off a grunt of panic. Before she let the urge to run away take off, she stomped up to Terra and grabbed him by his red straps to get his attention. He stumbled forward, almost crashing into her.



Aqua closed her eyes. "Sit. Down."

Terra didn't object and lowered himself down, never tearing his wary eyes off of her. The eye contact wasn't helping her.

She sat across of him, mirroring his posture with folded legs and an arched back. Setting her chin on the heel of her hand, Aqua stared at him in the firelight, squinting at his smooth, bronze face. She sat like this for a minute, listening to her heart beat at a calmer rate.

She tapped her fingers against her cheek. "Hi."

Blink. "Hi."

Tap tap tap.

Terra frowned, letting his blanket fall behind him. "What is it, Aqua? If you're tired, you should rest."

"Thinking," she bit off irritably, studying his whole body.


"I am thinking. Stop trying to send me away."

He stared at her, unable to figure out her eyes. He watched the firelight flicker an ethereal orange glow over her milky skin. He had to wonder if he was dreaming; she didn't appear to be flesh and blood under the fire glow.

Suddenly she moved, her face lightening up as if she found her destination.

Terra wasn't there, though. "Aqua?"

Her hands reached out to cradle his face. His back arched at her touch, soft as a dove's wing.

"No. No running," she ordered softly, thinking he detested her touching him. "You have to sit here and hear this. I may not understand you, but I want you to understand me."

He felt something like fluttering in his stomach. She traced her thumbs over his cheekbones, watching the tension dimish as she stroked his face, watching him lose his dark thoughts under her hands. What was she doing to him? Was she casting a spell, or was this just...well, Aqua?

She grinned gently, blinding this thoughts away. "This is what I always wanted to tell you."

Terra's mouth opened slightly, eyes widening just a bit. Aqua licked the roof of her mouth and swallowed. She straightened to sit as tall as she could and breathed out. Her heart hiccups wouldn't go down. Unbeknown to her, Terra was experiencing the same sensations.

"Terra, I...I need you," she barely whispered so no god but the one before her could hear. No stopping now. She was doing it, taking Ven's advice like always.

She swallowed. "I need you...so badly, so desperately. I'm loving you too much. It's most unwise and greatest thing I've chosen to do in my life, falling in love with you..." She stroked his face and she saw it, saw him soften under her touch and it felt better than any magic she ever cast. The swell of her emotions pushed the sludge of tears out, making it hard to see Terra's own surprised, glassy eyes. "I need to know if you feel something like that for me. You're still here, right now, right here. And I'm still here, I'm not leaving. This moment is us. So don't think of anything but this blue-haired fool here in front of you and be honest. Be not afraid of me."

She sucked in a deep breath, licking the tears that were falling over her lips. Terra was holding onto her wrists, originally to pull her hands away.

Now he was unable to push her away, but too afraid to bring her closer.

"If what you feel for me is as strong as my need for you," Aqua continued throatily, controlling her tone better than he was with his face, "we'll figure it out. All of us," she insisted with a nod. "And if it's not...just...tell me, okay? I don't want you to be afraid of me, ever," she forced out, tears trickling down fast. She took a deep, shuddering breath and let go of his face. "Tell we what we are so we can move forward. Let me in so I can let you out."

She looked down at his lap, aware of him rubbing little circles in her wrists with his thumbs. His unfocused eyes were on her face, unaware of his hands' actions. He was thinking, worried, disappointed, confused. Scared?

Aqua wouldn't blame him. She just spilled her heart down at his feet, and the male species tend to get freaked out of sentimental confessions from women. He had every right to leave. She had no defenses for whatever he would speak next.

She looked up when he gripped down on her wrists to get her attention. He slowly open his mouth, striving to figure out how to communicate himself.

"I want you to be happy."

Aqua laughed, a bittersweet noise. "Quite the vague answer. Can you clarify for me, I'm still dense from the heatstroke." She ducked her head down again, wiping the back of her hand against her nose. She sniffed, a disgusting wet sound to her ears and clutched her cheek in embarrassment. "I'm sorry, maybe we should forget today ever happened. I just wanted to make you happy, too. No matter what, I'd do anything for my friends."

Acting like she didn't interrupt him, Terra's rough hands slid up her arms and rested on her shoulders. "...and I don't want to hurt you."

She nodded at her lap, smiling sleepily. If this was a dream, she never wanted to wake up.

Suddenly, his hands seized her face with aggression, impatience. It turned her heart into raging thunder below her neck. Her eyes had dilated, but she didn't dare lift them: his voice, his hot breath was washing over her, melting the marrow of her bones.

"You started this, so I'm going to finish it."

Mystified at the wording, Aqua glimpsed up and reddened, practically tasting his breath now with how close he was.

She grabbed his arms to stop him, eyes filled with anxiety.

Terra allowed himself a lazy smirk before he leaned in sideways and captured her lips, not letting her retort or berate his wooing. She knew she loved it. He was just proving it to her.

Closing her enlarged eyes, Aqua parted her lips and kissed back. A blissful whimper was stuck in the back of her throat. Terra chuckled and grinned comfortably, arrogantly, licking her teeth before sucking tenderly on her lower lip.

Her hands fell from his arms, slender body swaying as she relished in this ecstasy. She opened her mouth when he licked her lips again, realizing he wanted in. As soon as she did though Terra slowly pulled back from their lip lock, cobalt eyes half-closed. She frowned with a groan, holding her arms out for him to come back.

Terra was amused at the irony. He was being patient and gentle, and it was her who was impatient and hungry.

He smiled mysteriously as he laid back down on his blanket, leaning back on one elbow. He raised his hand to the bonfire beside them, wrinkling his forehead in concentration. With a flick of his wrist and a bit of magic, he killed the grand fire into withering embers.

Aqua stood over him, nudging her foot into his side. He winced at her pointy shoe before peeking up at her with raised eyebrows.


"You didn't finish."

He rolled his neck around, cracking it. "I did. You just didn't understand it. Now, I'm going to sleep..."

Aqua opened her mouth but paused. Slowly she raised one eyebrow and clicked her teeth together, decrypting his hazy smile. He didn't move, forever smiling up at her.

She flicked her hair out of her lidded eyes, slowly falling to her knees next to him.

"Oh, I think I can understand if we do that again..."

Terra grinned as she leaned in, nuzzling her nose against his. In the gravity and heat of the moment, their lips found each other in the deep darkness, now without any source of light as they shared a couple of chaste kisses. It felt more dangerous now that the fire was dead, more risky and hot since it was hard to see clearly. He felt the goosebumps overcome him as he traced a hand down her spine, wanting to make this last forever. Aqua made a soft sound of surprise, opening her eyes as he kept tracing her spine. He slid his hand back up, cradling the back of her head to hold her gaze.

She felt her body heat up again, unable to look away as she licked her lips.

"If you won't leave, I can't guarantee I'll have honorable intentions to sleep peacefully," Terra whispered in threat, leaning over to kiss the corner of her mouth.

He groaned in contempt when Aqua gave a final kiss in answer. With a breath of laughter, she sat down and pulled back, using her thumb and forefinger to turn his face up. He parted his lips with misty eyes, caught off guard. Her nails grazed his cheek as she smirked wickedly, azure eyes aglow under the starlight.

"Neither do I."

He gawked stupidly, blushing under her tempting gestures. She was really serious?

Like flipping a switch, Aqua shot him dry look and zapped his hopes away.

"In your wet dreams, 'Keyblade Master.'"

"Talk about below the belt," Terra breathed out in a flimsy exhale, grateful her knees weren't settled between his legs at the particular moment. Aqua tricked him. Aqua was beautiful and caused fluttering sensations in his stomach. Most of all, Aqua was evil.

Evil evil evil evil evil—

Terra lost his chain of chants when lips brushed over his jaw, leaving feather-light kisses as they traveled over his face. One hand gripped down on his thigh as the other grabbed the back of his neck. She trapped him. She was evil and beautiful and evil. He could only tangle his hand in her hair in wretched waiting as she kissed the side of his neck slowly, rising up to kiss his ear and nibble it in teasing. Now he was getting impatient and hungry.

Role-reversal was cruel.

Aqua couldn't stop smiling in triumph as she leaned back around. Terra let out a sigh as she kissed his eyes.

"Let me finish what you failed to."

Their eyes narrowed on sync as they inched forward, noses tickling and giggles shared they kissed over and over and over...

Below the enchanted sky and the Greek gods' eyes sat two young boys high in the stands. They sat with their elbows on their knees, one with blonde spiky hair and a peaceful smile, the other with black spiky hair and a frustrated brow.

Zack sighed in defeat, cheek cupped in his hand. "Man, I was going to ask her out..."

Ven's smile widened as he side-glanced him. "You still gonna, aren't you?"

"Maybe. If he's not around."

Ven smothered his laugh into his arm, afraid his friends would hear. "But that's wrong, Zack. Come on."

"Yeah, but still. I think she's nice—"

"And not interested. Just let it go. Look at them. Seriously, look at them!" Ven shouted in a whisper. He stood up and pointed down at the kissing couple quietly talking and laughing. Figures they would chose a battle arena to be their bed instead of silk sheets. "Zack, I think that ship has sailed," he stated firmly.

The boy scoffed, scratching a thick eyebrow. "You're not helping my pride here, Ven."

"I'm trying to help you. Look at Terra and look at you."

"I bet I have a cuter smile than him. We could compare and let Aqua pick the winner!" Zack suggested with a raised finger, perky at the chance to compete.

Ven shook his head, trying so hard not to laugh. "Some girls would think so...but somehow, some girls think Terra's brooding and inability to understand their 'I-really-like-you' clues is cuter."

"Women are confusing," Zack groaned, hanging his head. "I just can't win. What's wrong with us and better about him?"

Ven turned around and grabbed his shoulder, eyes crinkling in happiness. "Don't give up. You can still win on the battlefield. Being a hero is your dream, right? Then focus on that, not going out on dates. I bet if you do, you'll get asked out by the perfect girl."

"Easier said than done," he mumbled, standing up and stretching. He finally tore his eyes from the arena. "I'm going to bed. You?"

"I'll sleep when I'm ready," Ven answered cryptically and sat back down. He rested his hands on his legs, looking up at the starry sky. "I feel like it's alright for me to be here since they're here. It's hard to explain, the three of us..."

Zack rolled his eyes, but flashed him a sincere smile as he waved goodbye.

"Good night. See you in the morning."

"Night, Zack," Ven called out as the warrior left in silence, humming a melody to himself. Ven smiled at Zack's back before facing forward. He tipped his head sideways and blinked at the curious sight before him. Aqua and Terra were now laid on the blanket and looking up at the divine sky of diamonds. They were talking quietly about something in hushed, serious tones now. But, they had their star charms out, idly letting them swing into each other as they talked about what, Ven decided not to find out.

The blonde Chaser smiled sadly, running his fingers across his green charm. In the morning, their mission would carry them into the sky, into other worlds and rip them apart once more. Fate would not escape them, it would take them and swallow them. What it would do to Aqua's body and Terra's heart, Ven didn't know. He didn't know understand this was happening or why it had to happen.

He knew the three of them would forever chase each other down, even if a thousand years crashed and passed and their game of hide and seek was still not won. Ven knew that this day would need to be remembered as a reminder that this was far from what they could be.

Ven rocked back and forth, taking a deep breath. Exhaling, he peered up to the heavens above and smiled up to the thunder god.

"Thanks for listening to my prayers, Zeus."

Though far away and knowing they couldn't be seen, the king of the gods and his wife smiled back at the three mortal Chasers.