~*Throwing Caution to the Winds*~
He always brought out the more wild part of her.
Aqua was, generally she supposed, a level headed and intelligent girl.
In certain company.
With Ven, yes. With Master Eraqus, definitely. With Terra? Er…sometimes. Today was not one of those times.
Ventus had recently begun practicing a speed-based battle style with their mentor, choosing to take advantage of his swiftness. The blonde haired boy was the fastest of the apprentices, even quicker than Eraqus himself. Their Master thought it was something he could use against any enemies he may encounter.
That left Terra and Aqua alone. As the two oldest pupils, Eraqus trusted them enough to be able to train without his constant supervision. So, deciding to practice outside instead of within the golden chained castle in The Land of Departure, the pair was enjoying the warm late afternoon sunshine as they went through their exercises.
Aqua liked the gardens. They coiled around the castle in elegant spirals, with white marble flower boxes and the like bearing beautiful foliage that were always in full bloom, regardless of the seasons. One had to be careful not to fall over the edge and down the mountain, but it hadn't happened yet, and probably never would. It was there that she and Terra could be found, perfecting their skills, too busy to talk to one another.
Or, at least Aqua was. She had been so intent on the ball of orange fire in her hand, trying to hold it there for as long as she could, that she didn't notice her companion until he tapped her on the shoulder. She shrieked; the flame disintegrating with a puff of dark smoke.
"I didn't mean to startle you," Terra laughed, taking a step back and raising his hands as if in surrender.
Aqua huffed, crossing her arms and wheeling to face him. "Can I help you?" She teased.
Her friend's dark eyes closed as he mused thoughtfully, "When was the last time it had been just us?"
Confused, she brushed her hair back with one hand. "For an extended period of time? Well, before Ven came, obviously."
"Exactly." Terra ground out from between his teeth. The anger she felt rolling off of him in waves perplexed her even more. Aqua was, if anything, good at reading people. Even if she chose to ignore what she saw sometimes, her heart always knew the answer.
"Are you mad at Ven?" She let a small amount of hostility creep into her voice as a warning.
His eyes snapped open and he glared down at her. She was once again reminded of how much Terra had grown from when she had first met him. "Ven? Not really. I'm mad at you." He jabbed a finger towards her chest and she took a step back. "Only because we have a new friend doesn't mean you have to…devote all of your time to him."
Aqua resisted the urge to roll her eyes. Was that what this was about? He was jealous of her for spending time tutoring Ven and inviting him to everything they did? She had just wanted the youngest apprentice to feel welcomed and loved, since the memory of his black-blue, almost soulless eyes the first time he had arrived had haunted her dreams for a long, long time. The stare of someone that had lost all that he had to give.
"Terra," she began carefully, trying to convey her feelings. "I didn't mean to offend you or anything. I just really like Ven, that's all. He's sweet."
His face soured and he turned away. "Oh, wonderful."
Aqua fought to control her temper. She grabbed his shoulder and turned him back around. He did so reluctantly. "What's gotten into you?"
Terra suddenly looked awkward. "Huh? Nothing. You're right. I'm just being stupid. Sorry."
She released him and started absently pushing a strand of her blue hair back, searching through her mind for a way to sufficiently apologize. Terra closed his fingers around her hair and gently placed the troublesome lock behind her ear. "I mean it," he murmured, his warm breath ghosting across her skin. "I wasn't thinking when I said that. Don't look so guilty."
Aqua smiled, taking his calloused hand—since he focused on mêlée fighting, his skin was scarred—and squeezing it with both of hers. "No, you're right," she decided. "We haven't done anything, just the two of us, in a long time. We've still got a few hours before the Master expects us…let's just go."
She didn't miss the way Terra's shadow-blue eyes brightened at the prospect, but regardless he inquired, "Where?"
She flicked through her memories of Terra before Ventus, back when she had always known someone had been missing from their lives, but not really knowing just who it was. She had been younger obviously, inexperienced, and even though she had always been more responsible than Terra, her maturity had certainly come with age…
Aqua's impish grin appeared on her face, a mischievous smile she hadn't worn in a long time, way back when she didn't have to be the voice of reason amongst two testosterone fueled boys going through puberty and determined to fight everything in their way.
Terra's pleased smile evaporated, just like that. "Oh no."
"Oh yes," Aqua winked. "You know what we're going to do?"
Her compatriot and fellow apprentice craned his head to look up at the sun. It was near the point when it would start to go down, but was only currently hinting at descending. "Why do I get the feeling I'd rather go back to training?"
Aqua shrugged and opened her palm again, letting the fireball return. "Go ahead then, I need the practice." His hand was suddenly over hers again—she was, once more, stunned at how much bigger he was than her—and she sensed the icy touch of Blizzard magic as he snuffed the golden embers out.
"I didn't mean it," he sighed theatrically.
She giggled, just a little, one hand covering her mouth. "Do you want to know what we're doing, then?"
Terra raised his eyebrows. "Something really stupid and juvenile. We're wrestling wild boars?"
Aqua scoffed. "Give me a little more credit than that. I'd go for something with more…eloquence."
"Eloquence? And yet still stupid?" He answered skeptically. He tightened his hold on her fingers and Aqua hardly noticed, too busy enjoying his reaction.
He tipped his head to the side thoughtfully, brows furrowed, eyes slightly narrowed. "We're going swimming with the fishes."
"No, but it does have to do with water." Aqua decided to give him one more shot.
"Only large body of water around the Land of Departure is that lake…what, are you going to dive into it from the cliffs?" Terra snorted with laughter until he saw her nod and grin. He paled. "Whoa, what? Hold up…"
"That's exactly what I'm going to do."
"Are you insane? Doesn't Eraqus call you the mature, smart one?" Terra sounded almost as if he was pleading with her.
Aqua clicked her tongue. "Sometimes I get tired of being that person. I want to be reckless…just once."
"Well, I'm being mature. No way."
"We did try to scale the tallest mountain here when we younger," she reminded him.
Terra scowled, shifting his weight from foot to foot. "Yeah, but we did that together."
"We could do this together," Aqua suggested softly.
There was a momentary silence that lasted exactly four heartbeats. She heard him groan slightly. "Okay."
She gaped at him, eyes wide. "What? Seriously?"
"Okay. We'll cliff dive together. But not too high."
Aqua perked up. "Race you there! To the biggest body of water in the Land of Departure!" She playfully flicked his nose and that was enough of a shock for him to ease his grip on her hand. She sped off down the garden's roads and followed them out to the wilderness, hurtling through the forest and trees so fast that everything became a brown-green-black blur. Of course, she could never outrun someone like Ven this way, but it was just her and Terra this time, and the eldest pupil didn't have a prayer of catching her.
As she pelted along, Aqua felt younger. All of the responsibilities she had shouldered, the careful maturity and level headedness that was her trademark, had been shed—(even if only for a minute)—to reveal the daredevil Aqua underneath that she had learned to reign in long ago so she could protect her friends.
She was throwing all caution to the winds, and then trying to outrun it.
Terra called her name from somewhere far behind her, she could hear his loud footsteps, like a bear lumbering after a bolting wolf. She couldn't help but think that if Ventus had been here, he'd be like the cheetah far ahead that never had to slow down.
A twinge in her heart, a guilty one. But she really didn't have to include the boy in everything, Terra was right. Sometimes they needed their moments alone.
The landscape gradually sloped upwards until the trees thinned and a flat meadow materialized as if from nowhere. The greenery dropped unexpectedly down, and if one hadn't been careful, they could have ended up stepping right into empty air. Aqua dug her heels in, the metal shoes scraping thin furrows in the dirt, and came to a halt a safe distance from the cliff edge. She picked her way carefully along the lip of the cliff, finding a safer area lower down that wouldn't be considered an extremely dangerous spot to jump from. Below, the deep, glassy blue lake reflected the sun's light—it really was beginning to set now—and seemed to have become a yellow void in the emerald woods. The sky stretched all around her, vanishing from her view once it passed the far horizon, studded with fluffy white clouds.
Aqua heard Terra's approach as he made his way to her position, his breaths coming quick and harsh. "You…need…slow down!" He gasped, kneeling over and placing his hands on his knees upon reaching her.
She laughed and patted his shoulder. "I'm sorry, Terra."
"It's alright. So," He straightened up and gazed down at the watery expanse. "This doesn't seem like such a ridiculous height."
"My common sense hasn't totally left me yet."
"Hmm. Well." He took her hand again—when had he grown so much?! They had once been near the same size!—and coiled his fingers around hers in a vice-like grip. "Let's get this over with, shall we?" Terra gave her a sharp smile, his eyes shining, and she knew he was enjoying this.
Aqua looked at their joined hands, then at the drop. It seemed awfully far all of a sudden... "Shouldn't we…?"
"I mean, metal shoes aren't the best to go swimming in…"
"We might want to check to see what kind of creatures live—"
Before she had finished, Terra shouted, "Three!" and catapulted off of the cliff side. Aqua shrieked involuntarily, but her friend just gave a whoop of joy, and they continued their rapid freefall. Everything seemed to be going both fast and slow at once. It was the most incredible, exhilarating feeling of weightlessness she had ever had, but at the same time, the concept of hitting the water was terrifying. Aqua couldn't have told you how long the drop lasted, she just knew that they were falling, and the only way to go of course was down.
The splash was enormous, shooting a veritable pillar of gold-blue water into the heavens. The lake water was warm at least, thanks to the sunny weather, and the liquid was clear and clean. It took some doing, but Aqua managed to regain her senses. She scrambled upright, kicking for the surface, Terra doing the same.
Underwater, their eyes met, and Aqua wondered if she had the same expression of exultation that he had. Of course, she guessed, it could have easily been adrenaline. Probably was. She didn't care at the moment.
Great. Now I'm an adrenaline junkie.
Terra never let go of her hand the whole time, leading her towards the shore, swimming almost like some kind of shark, gliding through the water with undulating movements of his body. He dragged her onto the sandy lakeshore, and Aqua pushed her soaking wet hair back, blinking to clear her eyes as a stream of water ran out of her clothes in pale rivulets.
"Well," she remarked as they sat together in a patch of sunlight that was poking past the trees, illuminating a flowery field. The foliage waved in the invisible breeze, dancing and bending their heads to their respective partners, blue and pink petals twirling. "That was fun."
Terra laughed from deep inside of his chest, the kind that she loved to hear above all else. It was a sound he couldn't fake, no matter how hard he tried, only capable of doing it when he was truly happy. There was a clear difference between the octaves when it was faux. "Okay, that was stupid and pointless and Eraqus will throw a fit…"
Aqua grimaced at the thought of their Master; they were certainly going to get it. But she didn't care at the moment, trapped in her little golden world of bliss, spun out of sunshine, water, excitement, and earth.
"But, it was excellent. I'd do it again!" He crowed, folding his arms behind his head and falling back onto the soft grass with a thump. The sun's rays were drying their clothes out, and Aqua found that it wasn't going to be necessary for her to fabricate a fireball for them. She stretched out beside him, their shoulders touching, breathing in the fragrance of the flowers, the sweet breeze, and the strangely familiar scent of Terra's skin.
They sat in silence for a while, not saying a word. Aqua watched a butterfly float away, its red wings carrying an iridescent sheen that was so breathtaking that she was utterly captivated by the sight of it. Terra surveyed nothing, as far as she could tell, his shadow-cobalt eyes closed.
His eyes…have always been that way. Darker than mine, darker than Ven's, she mused. Ventus had eyes like the sky, infinitely blue and bright and filled with sunshine that never permanently faded away. She didn't know what her own eyes were like…
"What do you think of my eyes?" She found herself asking suddenly. It was a stupid question, but she didn't want to retract it. It was out already after all.
Terra opened one lid lazily. "Where'd that come from?"
"Just wondering," she answered innocently.
He hummed, eyes slipping closed again. "Your eyes? They're…lighter than mine. And they're like the ocean. They pull your gaze towards them, or push it away. It depends. When you're happy, it's like everyone has no choice but to look at you and be happy too. When you're mad, it's impossible to maintain eye contact. That's what I think. The tide coming in and out."
Aqua twirled her hair around her finger, watching a ladybug travel along the leggings of her pants. "Oh."
"What about mine?"
Aqua thought about that, biting her lip. "Your gaze is so hard." He flinched, for some reason. "Not in a bad way. When you look at people, you have such a steady way of staring that it's almost intimidating. So serious."
"Oh," he sighed, his tone unreadable.
Aqua propped herself up on her elbows and, after a brief heartbeat of hesitation, put one hand on his chest. "But when you're happy, your eyes show nothing else. It's so nice to see, I can't really explain it."
Terra looked at her, and she was suddenly acutely aware of how close their faces were. She felt her heart hammering in her ribcage.
But she didn't move away.
"That's okay," he breathed. "That's fine. What do you think…of Ven's?"
Aqua hoped he wouldn't compare himself to the blonde. "Ven…his eyes are like the sky. When he's happy, the sun is there and just warms everything. When he's sad or—sometimes—angry, the clouds have come and…it's like the warmth is gone and you just want it back, no matter what." She took his face in both of her hands without realizing what she was doing. "But he's not you. No matter what I think of Ven, he's not you. Don't ever forget that. He won't ever be. Don't think, Mr. Keybearer," she teased lightly. "That only because he's my friend that you got replaced."
"I never thought that," Terra objected quietly. She wondered idly why they were whispering. Maybe because they were closer than ever.
"What did you think?"
"I thought you…I thought you…"
Aqua knew Terra well enough to recognize his floundering. She decided to save him the trouble. "It's not like that," she disagreed.
He looked both pleased and unhappy, a mixture of the two, as if feeling bad for his friend. He put one of his hands on hers to hold it there on his face, smiling with something like hope. "What about us?"
"Us." Aqua repeated, the words carrying more than just a plural. It meant so much more to the two teens, away from the world, in their personal meadow near a lake turning blood-red in the sun's dying light. The radiance was fading from the clearing, shadows creeping in as if to watch the pair, waiting for her answer to the question that might change her life.
"We could happen," she told him, the timbre of a promise in that three word sentence. She felt Terra's free hand gently press down on her back, and she needed no more guidance than that.
The mature Aqua that acted as the reason behind her two friends might not have been able to do what happened next, but the more reckless Aqua certainly could.
The touch of his lips was soft and warm against hers, and it was something she was entirely unfamiliar with. She felt the blush inflame her cheeks before she had a chance to think of much more than that. She twined her fingers in his dark brown hair, stroking it absently, some part of her that wasn't completely lost in the kiss registering the rough texture. She felt the familiar rumble in Terra's chest as he snickered—quietly, but she still couldn't believe it—and then she found out why. His tongue skimmed over her lower lip, and she almost lost it right there. He wrapped an arm around her, still so very careful, holding her encouragingly in place without making it impossible for her to leave, if she really wanted to.
Softly, she kissed back, his mouth leading hers in strange patterns that set her blood on fire, and even her cool temperament couldn't resist its inferno. Terra's hand trailed up to her face, leaving behind a path of flame that felt even hotter in comparison to the cool air, and began brushing her hair back in a way she did recognize.
Whilst Aqua was too shy to do anything, Terra sure wasn't. He sat up without moving his lips from hers, ensnaring his arms around her, leaning against the brown trunk of a nearby tree. He gently stroked his fingers down her throat, her back, along her face, the pressure of his mouth both increasing and decreasing, as if he was fighting some sort of force.
In response, Aqua delicately caressed his back and hair, but her hand always returned to his face, following the ridges of his jaw with a slow seductiveness she didn't even know she could do. Terra made a strange sound, sort of like a groan, but he wasn't in pain…was he? The prospect made Aqua open eyes she hadn't even realized she had closed, and she saw Terra staring right back at her.
They finally broke their kiss—not before Terra gently nipped her lower lip, dragging his teeth across the sensitive skin—and Aqua had to repress a sound of her own. Regardless, a squeak escaped before she could stop it.
For unmeasured moments, they couldn't even speak. They just looked into one another's eyes, letting their breathing relax, Terra's warm arms still wrapped protectively around her, as if to guard her from all of the problems in the world.
"Are you okay?" He asked at last.
"I'm…better than okay." Aqua smiled. "I don't know what to say."
"If you want me to play nice, you shouldn't touch my face like you did earlier," Terra joked, but his eyes were darker than usual. Or maybe it was just the lighting.
"Who says I want you to play nice?" Aqua smiled and leaned against his chest, listening to his heartbeat for a minute. She reluctantly sat up, extricating herself from his hold, nodding at the twilit sky. "We should get back."
"We should. But we'll return to this spot, right?" Terra asked casually.
Aqua laughed. "Definitely."
The Aqua that returned to the Castle was the one that Eraqus would expect. Well-mannered and mature, apologizing for coming home so late, explaining that they had gone for a walk in the forest, got to talking, and had simply lost track of the time.
Their Master wasn't too upset—in fact he just smiled a lot—and let it go.
Ven was undyingly curious as to why their clothes were slightly damp still, and Aqua told him they had done something really stupid and irresponsible.
"Take me next time," he griped. "The Master spent the last few hours hammering the mechanics of speed dodging and rolls onto me."
Aqua promised she would take him next time she and Terra went before going to her room to change clothes.
Terra was waiting for her, leaning against the door to her personal chamber, arms crossed. He said nonchalantly, "We'll have to find something else reckless to do."
She smiled. "Somewhere not near here?"
He grinned in response and leaned close. "Or maybe somewhere close by..."
Aqua blushed and darted into her room, and downstairs, Ventus jumped at the unexpected sound of Terra's deep laughter.
Well, that was my first SERIOUS attempt at a kissing scene. I hope it wasn't a total epic fail, 'cause if it was, I'm going back to writing my normal brand of fluff.
Dedicated, as always, in no particular order, to Kiome-Yasha, Dani-Chan-Sprite-Monster -13-, and UnVeRsEd, with the latter being very patient as I wrote this since I've been working on this one for a bit.
Please, honor me with a review from that button down there, much appreciated.