~*No Longer*~

It had happened, somewhere along the way. He had grown up.


Radiant Garden was just that—radiant.

It was vibrant, full of life, with beautiful mosaics and flowing water. The buildings were all neat and tidy with decorative, elegant signs complete with overhanging flowers. The famous "Rising Falls" were visible in the far distance, a silver cascade of nature defying splendor.

Laughter filled the air, chatter too, accompanied by the echoes of footfalls and silent smiles. All of this beauty was rather lost on one young woman slouched dejectedly by a fountain shaped like a howling wolf, its jaws parted to release a clear stream into the air, only to have it splash back inside the basin.

The blue haired girl stirred slightly and lifted her head to read the nameplate on the wolf's pedestal with an expression of mild interest.

A Song of Change

Trailing one finger idly across the swirls that adorned the gray statue's base, Aqua smiled faintly as she listened to the constant gurgle of the water landing. She had an affinity for water, it always calmed her down. Currently, she was worried about the rumors she had heard about Terra, and even worse, the tales that had stretched across the universe about Master Xehanort and Vanitas.

But she had to find Terra. Her master was counting on her. What if he was falling into darkness?

"A munny for your thoughts?" A voice growled behind her.

Aqua leaped up, whipping around to face the source of the sound. She drew her Keyblade with a startled gasp, seeing the creature before her.

It looked like a lion. A big red lion with dreadlocks, tribal feathers, a mane that was more like the ruffle of a horse, golden anklets, and a tail-tip that seemed to be on fire. But the beast didn't seem to mind, so Aqua assumed it was normal. She grimaced as he turned his head and she saw one of his eyes was missing. In its place was a scar shaped like an X. He had black tattoos, too, and the number XIII stamped on one shoulder. His one tawny orange eye was fixed on her own azure blue.

Realizing he was just as intelligent as she was, and since no one else was panicking, Aqua put away her weapon. The creature flicked its flaming tail in acknowledgement of the action.

"Well…nothing. I'm looking for a friend, and I'm just resting for a little." She didn't really feel like talking, but the big feline looked genuinely sympathetic.

"Are you? What does he look like?"

"How did you know it was a boy?" Aqua asked, a little surprised.

"I just know," was the simple response, though he looked amused.

"He has dark brown hair…taller than me…blue eyes, shoulder armor, too."

Her companion flicked his ears in surprise. "Really? I expected you were searching for a blonde boy with cobalt eyes."

Aqua was stunned that he knew her other friend. "You mean Ven?"

"Yes, he's here, looking for you. He just asked me if I had seen an 'Aqua', and you matched his description perfectly." The cat smiled slightly, revealing a jagged canine.

Aqua didn't really know what to say, so she asked instead, "Who are you?"

"I am Nanaki, son of Seto. I hail from Cosmo Canyon."

She bowed respectfully. She could tell by the scars and his appearance that Nanaki was a warrior. "As you know, I'm Aqua. A pleasure to meet you, Nanaki. Where is Ven at now?"

Nanaki pointed with his tail towards a cluster of trees that formed a small park across the city, visible from their current vantage point, which was on a ridge, a little higher than most of the Garden. "He told me that he was searching there next. That was only a few minutes ago."

"Thank you." Aqua dipped her head, and he growled a little in acceptance.

Before the great cat turned to leave, she asked a little hesitantly, "Excuse me, I don't mean to be rude, but I've seen no one like you before. What are you?"

Nanaki made a gruff sound in his throat, and she knew he was laughing. "An informed question, for sure. But difficult to answer. I am what you see. Good day, and good luck, Miss Aqua." With that he padded away on silent paws.

She stood there for a few moments, speechless, then she smiled and threaded between the lanes of the city, weaving through the crowds, making her way towards the grouping of green leaves and whitish brown branches that created the small hideaway, almost separate from the rest of the world.

Aqua paused a moment before stepping into the tiny, sun dappled glade. The patchy shadows waved on the ground, and she let her gaze study their movements for a few heartbeats before lifting her eyes.

Standing there, looking at her with an expression of pleasant surprise, was Ventus. The light streaked through the gaps in the branches, highlighting some of his blonde hair with golden sunspots. When he shifted his head, the sapphire pupils of his eyes seemed to glitter for a moment. "Aqua! There you are!"

She took a shocked step back as he caught her in a massive hug, spinning her around briefly with astounding strength for his size before placing her down. He had grown, she thought to herself. He seemed a little taller, a little more mature, and there was a small glint of something hard and determined in his eyes.

But, in his entirety, it was still the Ven she knew.

He kept his hands on her shoulders—a fact she was uncomfortably aware of—and he gave her a silly grin that was his trademark. "I'm glad I found you! I've wanted to tell you something for a while now, and someone gave me the idea to do so."

"Someone?" Aqua echoed questioningly.

Ven nodded, dropping his arms and smiling from ear to ear. "Right, 'someone'. Now, um…" He rubbed the back of his head, suddenly nervous. "Well we've been friends for a while, right?"

She nodded, not sure where he was going with this. She shifted her weight from foot to foot and waited for the rest.

"Terra, you, and me. Right? I've always been the youngest. By a few years."

"Two, almost three." She corrected with a faint smile.

Ven grimaced. "Yeah. Two, almost three…But, have you noticed something?"

Aqua checked his gear, his clothes, his eyes, face. Anything on his person that might reveal a new item, or what he was trying to show her. Seeing her scrutinizing stare, he gave her a little grin.

"It's not on me. Not really. I mean, it sorta is…" He swallowed nervously and mumbled, "I have something to tell you."


"I've grown up."

That strange comment made Aqua pause for thought. She had just been thinking that, really, but she hadn't really considered if Ven had seen himself like that. "You grew up?"

"Yeah." He took an uncertain step toward her. "I'm not a kid anymore, Aqua. I…I can be brave and strong and smart for…for you, if that's what I have to do."

His words hit her like a rock avalanche, one after another. "Ven…"

He lifted his blue eyes hopefully, and no matter what he said, she still saw the child, the little boy, the kid chasing a wild dream staring at her through those sapphire orbs. Youthful. Young. Naïve.

But maybe she always liked that…He'd need someone to go to for help and direction until he could walk alone.

What was she thinking?! They were friends! Just friends. Right?

Taking a shaky breath she said so softly that it was almost a whisper, "Are you…"

"Yes. Or I'm trying to. But you understand, right? You always do. I think." Ven scuffed one of his metal shoes on the leaf strewn floor. "Or are you and Terra…?"

"I'm not with Terra." She replied carefully. "But Ven, I don't—"

"Why not? What's the problem? Is it my age? It's not like it's a huge difference!" He snapped, narrowing his eyes.

"W-Wait it's not that." She said hurriedly. "I just don't know, Ven."

He sagged dejectedly. "Oh…"

The look of disappointment on his face was unbearable, and Aqua gently caught him in a hug. "Oh, Ven…"

"It's not a crush, either. I'm positive." He muttered to himself, closing his eyes. He seemed to have read her mind, for the thought had barely crossed it before he had spoken. He pulled back and looked at her, staring at her with such a powerful gaze that she felt as if she had been speared.

"Ven…I…" Unable to find the words, she dropped her head and studied her shoes, but he surprised her by tilting her head back up, fingers lingering a second longer than necessary. He gave his usual endearing smile.

"I didn't mean to…conflict you, Aqua."

"It's okay."

"Want to think about it?" He offered.

Relieved, she nodded. "Yes. Please. I'll…get back to you."

Ventus smiled. "Okay." It seemed that was that, until he suddenly pressed his lips to hers.

The touch was brief, but perfect, as if something she had been missing had unexpectedly returned. She closed her eyes briefly, stunned, feeling her entire body relax under his influence. Peculiarly enough, the only thing besides the pleasure that her mind could think about was, He's so inexperienced—why is he such a good kisser?

He pulled back, offered a cheery wave, and turned around without a backwards glance, striding out of the small sheltered meadow, grinning widely.

Aqua sat down underneath a birch tree, leaning against the white bark, unable to say anything. She couldn't even think straight. She closed her eyes and simply let herself bask in the memory of what had just happened.

A thought reluctantly brought itself to the front of her mind. She had to go and find Terra. Shame followed after that, realizing all the time she had wasted. She got to her feet, still dazed, and that's when she saw the single reddish eye in the tree above her.

She recoiled in alarm. "Whoa!"

Nanaki dropped to the ground lightly, flicking his fiery tail close to her face. "Well. You've been halfway asleep for almost two hours."

"Were you watching Ven and me?" Aqua asked, almost offended.

"No." He said it so clearly that it was blatantly obvious that he was not lying. "I came over here a few hours ago, and you were here before I. You could have been here much longer than I know of."

"Oh…sorry." She muttered, too confused to say much else.

"How did it go?" inquired Nanaki amiably.

"It was perplexing." Aqua ran a hand through her cerulean hair. "To say the least. He likes me."

"Do you like him?"

"Well…that's the problem. I don't know. And he's younger than me, like a little brother!"

The feline shrugged. "But he is not your little brother by blood, correct?" When she nodded, he continued. "Therefore, maybe you simply have to accept that he grew up. Your heart often knows the answer to life's riddles, but I have to assume you can't hear its answers. Or you're ignoring them. Good evening." With that Nanaki turned and walked off, out of the small wood, back into Radiant Garden.

Aqua sighed, even more mystified than she had been, and closed her eyes. She immediately thought of Ven, young Ven with his windswept blonde hair and sapphire eyes…

And the way the sun had spotted his hair…

And just maybe, she accepted that he wasn't a kid any longer.

Aqua smiled to herself. "You grew up, Ven."

Still lost in her memories, she headed for the city.

And reconsidered an opinion of a certain boy that was no longer a boy.


Okay, since I wrote Make Believe, a TerraxAqua fan fiction, I decided to write a VenxAqua one.

Mind dropping a review? I don't know how good it was, honestly.

To anyone wondering, Nanaki, otherwise known as Red XIII, is a character from Final Fantasy Seven.

This was a gift for RawkstarVienna! Hope you enjoyed!