Disclaimer: I do not own any characters from the Kingdom Hearts universe. I write this for fun, not for profit.

Author's note: So, I wrote this quite a while back. See, for my headcanon, no matter what else may happen, Aeleus and Aerith were definitely in love. There's a long story behind it all (okay, maybe not that long), and this is just a drop. Maybe one day, I'll write the whole thing… When I finally freakin' finish Memories of the Broken. ._.;

Now, these two are a rather happy couple… but there were a couple of people who weren't happy about it… A rather young apprentice whose relationship with Aeleus could only have been strengthened if they had been actual blood relatives.

Anyway, enjoy! Some lovely het for you, fandom! 3

Gentle Hands

His name is Ienzo, and he is the youngest out of all the apprentices.

Unfortunately, that's all that Aerith knows. The brunette gives a pout at the thought as she continues to trek up the long expanse of stairs that lead to the castle courtyard. It's a bit ridiculous, for her to get all worked up when there's no reason to. Still, she finds it odd.

The eccentric, brilliant Even, she's met. Dilan was stoic up until Braig slung himself over the other man's shoulder. Xehanort... Well, Aerith spared only the briefest of introductions with the dark-skinned man. Her heart seems to warn her of him.

She's even met Ansem the Wise himself! Oh, how surprised she was to discover that the brilliant ruler of their thriving city was, in a way, an eccentric old man with a kind smile and a fondness for sea-salt ice cream.

However, she's yet to meet Ienzo, Elaeus' closest friend, some one she's only seen in the past when she barely knew who the shy, strong scientist was. The dark haired boy always stuck to his side then, smiling with genuine love at his older friend while they roamed amongst the many displays of flowers. Ever since she's started to go out with Elaeus, however, his companion is always absent...

Well! Aerith sticks her head up in a way that some would mistake for pride. Her friends would recognize the stubborn glint in her eye and the brilliant smile on her face. He won't get away this time. Ienzo is another Aerith knows is close to Elaeus, perhaps as close as she is to the gentle giant. Her curiosity is just screaming to get to know this enigma, this mysterious boy she only ever hears about from Elaeus but never has actually met. That's about to change, she thinks to herself as she hitches up her sundress. Usually, Elaeus is the one to come to her for their dates. It's a first on her part to go up to the castle on her own.

Finally, after what seems like eons, Aerith finishes her climb. She takes in a deep breath of air, and tugs on the pink ribbon that's wrapped around her wrist. As she pulls her hair back, sweat dribbles down the back of her neck, and she makes a face. Honestly, this ribbon is the best present she's ever received. She really will have to thank her neighbor's daughter some day... Little Yuffie is so sweet, although a tad over-adventurous.

As she raises her head, the first thing that Aerith sees as she opens her eyes once more is a large, wonderfully laid-down path that leads up to the castle doors. On both sides of it lie brilliant green grass and flourishing trees that provide excellent amount of shade. It's a bench underneath one of those that catches her attention. Oh, certainly, the bench is no doubt excellently crafted, but that's not what's interesting. What's interesting is the black-haired teenager sitting on it, a heavy tome in his hands. Looking completely relaxed with its head on his lap is a large, beautiful Chocobo with brilliant sanguine feathers. As she straightens up, the bird opens its beak up in a yawn, and the young man absentmindedly pets its head, still completely absorbed in his book. As Aerith sneaks closer, she's able to see the large, elegant print of the title: In Aere Aedificare.

A smile trickles across her face. A large, complicated looking book, a white lab coat.... Ah, so this was the elusive Ienzo.

Finally, once she's close enough, Aerith reaches over and lightly taps the young apprentice on the shoulder. "Excuse me-"

Ienzo jumps at the contact, and the book slams shut while he looks up at her in a comical expression of surprise. The sight almost makes her giggle, but her smile falters at the suddenly dark expression he sends her. It's clear he's trying to hold back, but there's no mistaking the frown that's twisted across his face or the way his eyes are now startlingly dark as he stares at her. "Oh," he says softly, hugging the book close to his chest. "Good afternoon." Looking bewildered, the Chocobo raises its head, so that it's looking over Ienzo's shoulder. "Elaeus will be out soon, so you won't have to wait long." There's something venomous in his voice as he says this, and Aerith tries to figure out what dark emotion that is as Ienzo continues. "Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to go back inside. Master Ansem has requested that I help out with Even today."

The lie is fairly see-through, but the boy doesn't seem to care as he gets up, looking almost flustered as he tries to make a beeline for the castle doors. Aerith doesn't give him that chance, however; with a bright smile, she darts in front of him, looking innocent with her hands behind her back. "Oh, I don't mind waiting," she says with a laugh. "Actually, I came here because I wanted to meet you. Your name is Ienzo, right?" She tilts her head to the side, still smiling. "Elaeus talks so much about you."

Relief seems to flicker through his eyes at the mention of this, and Aerith finally begins to realize what the young boy is feeling, even as his face quickly turns sullen again. "A pleasure," he says, tone dry. "Elaeus has spoken much about you as well. Now, if you'll excuse me-" Quickly, he tries to maneuver around her, his Chocobo anxiously following behind.

"Wait-" She begins, and her hand reaches out for him-

"Get away from me!"

Suddenly, he lashes out, and his hand smacks into her own. Aerith winces, and her hand retreats to her chest, although she herself does not take a step back. Ienzo stares, eyes wide before he ducks his head down, looking almost ashamed as his face flushes. He doesn't seem to know what to do besides stand there with his head bowed and his fists shaking. A soft crooning noise seems to come from the Chocobo and it gently nuzzles the teenager's arm.

Softly, as if she's a ghost, Aerith reaches out to him, and her hand rakes through Ienzo's black hair in an almost maternal fashion as she murmurs, "I'm sorry." Ienzo's head snaps up in surprise and he stares at her, confused. She smiles at this and tucks some of his hair behind his ear. "You must love Elaeus very much, and I'm taking him away from you... I'm sorry." She gives a small, almost embarrassed laugh. "You see, I'm afraid I can't stop loving him. But you will never have to worry." Carefully, she takes a step forward, with Ienzo still staring into her eyes. One of her arms wraps around his shoulders, and she pulls him into a soft hug, resting her cheek on the top of his head. "He loves you so very much as well, Ienzo, and I know that I'll never be able to take your place in his heart."

They stay like that for a moment, and Ienzo simply doesn't seem to know what to do. He simply stays completely frozen in Aerith's arms, with one arm wrapped reassuringly around him and the other petting his hair. Finally, shaking, he reaches up with his free hand to grasp hesitantly at the pink dress the brunette wears, and opens his mouth to say he doesn't know what-

The castle door makes quite the audible noise when it opens, and at its click, Ienzo whirls away from Aerith, completely red in the face and hugging his book to his chest tighter then ever. Still looking back and posed in the doorway is Elaeus, who hasn't seem to have noticed the two standing on the pathway yet. "Yes, Master Ansem, I'll be back before sunset!" he calls back into the castle before he looks outside. His eyebrows rise in surprise, and Elaeus begins, "Aerith, what-"

Then Ienzo barrels right past him, his head ducked down in either anger or embarrassment; it's almost impossible to tell. The older apprentice makes a small noise of surprise, but is unable to give chase, especially once the Chocobo shoves past him as well, after her beloved master. "Ienzo!" Elaeus calls rather helplessly, and makes a move as if to try and follow the absurdly quick pair. A delicate hand on his arm stops him, however, and Elaeus looks back down at Aerith, who seems completely at peace.

"Don't worry about him," she says, and reaches up to tuck a wayward strand of auburn behind his ear. Suddenly, she smiles, and it's the most beautiful and reassuring sight in the world to Elaeus. "I think everything will be fine from now on."

-----------

"Ienzo?"

The young apprentice doesn't respond, and still stubbornly tries to climb the tall rolling ladder all the way up to the top of one of the library's bookshelves. Ansem smiles in amusement at the habit. Ienzo always has the oddest hiding places to retreat to when he's flustered. Completely at ease, Ansem walks over to the bottom of the ladder, where an anxious Imogen also awaits, her feathers ruffled up in anxiety. "Ienzo," Ansem calls again. "Will you please come down? I'd like to talk with you, if you're not too busy."

Ienzo pauses for a moment, his face still hidden and one hand still paused over another rung, before he slowly begins his descent once more. Even when he's finally off of the ladder, fists shoved into his coat pockets, Ienzo doesn't look up. Ansem doesn't seem to mind, however. He just smiles genially and holds out a sea-salt ice cream to Imogen, who takes the treat with relish. To Ienzo, he offers one as well, accompanied by the cheerful words, "Would you like one as well?" The treat is out of his hand before he can say 'Chocobo', and Ansem just gives a chuckle as he leans against the bookshelf. As can only be expected, he has an ice cream in his hand as well. It is his favorite, after all. "She is certainly a nice woman, isn't she?" he asks as Ienzo mimics him by leaning against the bookshelf.

For a moment, Ienzo doesn't reply and just sticks the ice cream into his mouth. Finally, he says quietly, a heavy blush decorating his face, "She's not as bad as I thought she was."