This was definitely all her fault.

Terra couldn't do anything to fight back. She wasn't doing anything out of the ordinary (so maybe it wasn't really all her fault).

Nothing changed.

Well, no, not entirely true...

Just how come suddenly he didn't want to see her as just a friend these past few weeks?

Truthfully, it scared him how effortlessly the desire for her became the dominating force in his mind. It was messing up his logic, his thinking and sleeping. So, at first, he blamed her because he didn't want to accept the change in his view of their friendship. They were just friends. Friends and nothing more as they had promised when they finally got over that childish fear of cooties years ago.

Friends end at romance. That's where lovers begin, and that's what he selfishly, secretly wanted them to become. Too bad Aqua gave off all the sexual interest of a celibate. That woman was not interested in romance, only in perfecting her magic skills. And, of course, her friends.

Terra just didn't want to do look at Aqua anymore. He wanted to blame her. Yet how could he get angry at her over when he got butterflies whenever she smiled at him during meals or walking down the halls? That would be the most pathetic argument he'd ever argue with Aqua in the history of their arguments.

He was trapped, and she wasn't even trying to get his attention.

Aqua was just being herself, just living and training toward their dream—which he would be doing too, but as of late, she had been alone with him in his dreams.

She was still the same Aqua who still bite her nails and had yet to outgrow the habit, still blew bubbles into her milk when she thought no one was looking, still cooed over Ven when he got stuck in lessons, and still gave him playful punches after their mock matches. She was still his oldest friend, the most dependable person in his life.

Aqua hadn't change.

Oh no. It was him that changed. His mind, heart and body decided to do it all at the same time, and Terra hated himself for it. What his heart yearned for wasn't in any way allowed. A fury rush thick and hot through his veins at his weakness, which was made apparent whenever Aqua was around.

He finally came to blame himself. And so, Terra wouldn't look at her anymore because that'd just be feeding the fire of his thirst. These days he wasn't just looking at her, but staring at her between her innocent glimpes at him with profane thoughts that would make her blush cherry-red.

He hated it.

He couldn't hate her so he hated himself and closed himself off more than he usually would. He started to ignore Aqua, and Aqua, being herself, wouldn't push him into talking to her, thinking she had upset him. This made Terra inwardly hate himself even more, but he was powerless to change his feelings. So he didn't try to do anything, either.

With the complicated emotional fiasco tangling tighter around them, nothing in their lives changed.

Life was as it should be...for a while, anyway.

The problem in his plan was a certain blonde boy noticed the cold silence between his two older friends getting colder by the day, and Ven had a grand dislike for silences.

Ventus was currently poking him in the head with his fork (the dull end, thankfully), no doubt wearing his sad-puppy face as he tried to get his attention. It was just the two of them at the breakfast table today, and an uneventful day it was going to be. The set schedule:

Finish breakfast, meet Master Eraqus in the courtyard with the other two, politely ignore Aqua, repeat training on whatever was set for today, think about Aqua, pester Ven, think about Aqua, get pesterted by Ven, try to stop daydreaming about Aqua, eat lunch, continue to ignore Aqua trying to talk to him, do solidary workout, continue to ignore Aqua, get pesterted more by Ven, bathe, try not to think about Aqua while showering, eat dinner, sleep, and dream about Aqua. Then repeat all the next day.

...he really needed to get out the castle.

"Terra, I won't stop poking your head until you respond."

He needed to go temporarily deaf, too.

"Terraaaa!"

Poke-poke-poke-poke-poke-

"Did you want something, Ven?" the man finally mumbled, his head buried in his folded arms on the table. He usually was good in the morning, but last night he wasn't able to get any restful sleep.

Miraculously, Ven heard him and the poking ceased.

"Yeah. Can you sit up?"

Flicking his long bangs back, Terra inclined back in his chair and placed his hands down on the arm rests. "You sound serious. What's wrong?" he asked in a level tone, staring at him from across the table.

Ven frowned, setting his utensil next to his empty porcelain plate. The windows beyond him were glowing with the morning light, sparkling through the glass like a river's surface. Another beautiful spring day.

"Yeah. I wanna ask you something, so try not to get mad...?" Ven fidgeted in his chair, unable to make eye contact.

Terra raised an eyebrow. "Okay."

Ven took a deep breath. "Aqua wants to know if she did something to offend you in the past weeks because she thinks you're mad at her even though you aren't fighting like you usually do, which is with your Keyblades—I mean, actually, you've just been avoiding her like she's a plague of brocelli, so can you just tell me what she did so I can tell her and you don't have to tell her, cause apparently you're avoiding her for whatever reason it is..." Ven sucked in air and fell silent, having the expert skills to babble all that in a single breath.

Just as Terra finally gathered his wits and opened his mouth, Ven cut him off again.

"Why've you been giving her the cold shoulder lately?" he continued, folding his arms over his chest as he gazed about at the high ceiling, as if it could speak and give him the answers. Terra tapped his fingers on the table while rubbing his temple with his other hand: once you got Ven talking he was like a train that never stopped, even if the tracks ran out.

Terra just had to wait and not throw his half-eatten biscuit at his head.

"I mean, Aqua can be overbearing with how much she worries but she just cares. She's the best at magic, and we're...well, not, so I don't know. It's just..."

"Ven, it's not—"

"I just hate seeing you guys so distant," the boy finished lamely, staring down at his lap. Terra's eyes widened, shocked.

"Ven...you've never used the word hate before." This was the first time he ever heard the young Keybearer say it. It had slipped off of Ven's tongue in a harsh, thick note. It was too unnatural to suit him.

Ven tucked his chin in with an apologetic glance up, looking very small and lost. "Well...I do feel that way. I hate seeing you being so cold to Aqua when you guys were good friends," Ven argued, staring back with glowing sapphire eyes. "You are still friends, right?"

Terra sighed, not wanting to trouble him with the truth. "Of course we are."

That seemed to be enough for Ven. He threw his dark thoughts away and smiled, standing up. "Right. Uh, I think we're running late..."

Terra smirked, shaking his head with a quiet chortle as Ven ran around the table to his side. "Your lung capacity is incredible, Ven."

"But is that really a bad thing?"

Terra grinned briefly, flicking him on the forehead. "No. But it can be in the wrong situations."

"Like when you're in a bad mood?" Ven guessed and nodded off. "Gotcha."

A large tan hand ruffled through his golden spikes.

"I taught you well," Terra noted softly. Ven snickered, folding his arms behind his head. They left the dining hall and made a swift journey down for the public courtyard. It was within the castle, a small niche of greenery and flora between the stone walls that opened up to the sky, an area of passing between the entrance hall and Master Eraqus' study.

The cracked stone walkways were edged with roses of many colors, with the wildflowers and sweet herbs swaying in the crisp breeze along the walls. There was even a couple of pear trees with stone benches underneath if they wanted to rest and enjoy the late spring air. Summer had almost arrived, and the beauty of the atrium was flourished at its height. The aroma of the flowers and fruit trees made them feel like it was a pocket of heaven they could get lost in.

Master Eraqus could often be found here at this time of year. Simply being in the presence of the world's wealth of beauty was a satisfying peace for him. His students considered it a blessing to have such a nice place of relaxation and training, so the Keyblade Master tried to hold some lessons here. Well, the non-magical lessons; fire spells bouncing between the walls would have caused literal hellfire.

Ven grinned, skipping into a jog as he headed for the center of the expansive gardens, careful not to run through the flowers (he received a massive punishment for making that mistake). A charming little fountain was crafted at the heart of the area, Ven's favorite part. He never seem to grow tired of waiting for any birds to soar down and play in the water.

Terra sighed, hooking his thumb on his belt as he slowly followed after Ven. He took a deep breath, feeling the knots of tension in his back melt away as he breathed in the flowers. Taking a turn for the fountain Terra lifted his gaze from the roses and froze.

His heart halted, his senses dimming to everything except to who he was watching. He didn't see Ven bounding up to the person, didn't hear his soft laughter or the wind or sunlight thrown down on him because nothing else mattered.

He saw her as a stranger or a guest of Master Eraqus would, not able to control it.

Aqua was standing by the fountain, half-turned to the boys. She was leaning on it with her arm draped over the round rim, having that elegant air of someone who had all the time in the world to spare. Light blue hair shielded her eyes, her gaze pulled down to the sparkling water as she watched a couple of bluejays flutter and tweet in the basin. If she were smiling or wearing her trademark pensive frown he couldn't tell. Either way he'd have thought it more beautiful than starlight.

In her late teens, Aqua was already in bloom as a overwhelming person, in beauty and virtue. She was an oddity, donning a short boyish haircut with a body that obviously belonged to a woman. Nonetheless, what set her apart from other women was her inner light, her wholeness and spiritual serenity.

So much the opposite of him.

Aqua knew who she was. She lived not in daydreams like most girls threw themselves into—she simply lived in her own time, her mentality far advanced into the next century. Her gestures were clues to her confidence and potential to rise above the ancient warriors in the Keyblade War, the tales she and Terra were told countless times by their Master. This Terra knew, and inwardly liked to believe he knew her better than anyone in all the worlds.

This was the woman he saw that morning, and it moved him deeply.

After seconds of gathering some courage, Terra stiffened his shoulders and lightly came down the path to her. For a moment he imagined himself as a lowly knight returning to report to his sovereign princess on the progress of their kingdom. The mindtrick didn't help; his heart kept banging in his chest, much too loud as his blood churred hot as he got closer to her presence.

He was fooling himself.

He was still scared to death.

Gripping one hand around his belt, needing to do something with his hands to get out his nerves, Terra came to a halt a few feet behind her. Gratefully, the splash of the water and song of the birds hid his approach. He blinked out of his daze to find Ven bouncing on the balls of his feet beside him, anxiously peering up at him.

"Terra, you okay? You look out of it," he whispered softly, the corners of his lips turned down in worry. Terra had to urge to say no, but he felt himself smile at Ven's concern and ruffled a hand through his hair again, making Ven giggle at the affection.

There was a soft 'hmm?' that made cold shivers roll down Terra's spine. Out of reflex, he brought his vision up as Aqua was turning around to them. He saw her true reaction, and despite his recent cold attitude, despite the distance he kept betweent them and hurtful, longing glares he'd shoot at her in the past weeks, Aqua's face lit up and she grinned. At him.

Not Ven.

Just...him.

"Terra!"

No no no.

He wasn't prepared for that, for her eyes on him—

"Surprised to see you within three feet of me," Aqua observed and folded her arms, tilting her head so her long bangs fell across her face. "Did Ven pout at you?"

Terra couldn't even respond, his eyes pulled open wide at her attention thrown on him. Ven, not watching Terra any longer, grinned impishly over at their female friend.

"Yep! It was all part of my plan. Just doing my part, y'know." He waved it off and started bouncing on his feet again. "Hey, where's Master Eraqus? I wanna ask him if I can spar with him this time..."

Aqua giggled. "Oh, no. You don't, trust me. He'll purposely pop your shoulder out of place to deflat your arrogance. He did it to Terra a few times in the past to kill his old ego, along with breaking a few bones..."

Terra inwardly cringed at those memories. The worst thing wasn't the physical pain, but being embarrassed in front of Aqua back then—that was how Master Eraqus cooled down his old cocky attitude. By completely whipping his ass in front of a girl.

Smart man.

"So, where is he?" Ven whined again, impatient to play fight.

"Gone."

Now Terra broke from his trance. "What? What do you mean gone?"

"Gone as in he had to be somewhere else. He left to attend to a guest that arrived earlier this morning. You guys were late to rise, so you didn't get to meet him," Aqua said and swung her arm out, a folded piece of paper between two fingers. "He knew how'd Terra react, so he left a note as proof." She smiled, earning a laugh from Ven.

"He left a note?" Terra gawked, reaching for the note.

"I just said that."

"I know," Terra bit off irritably as Aqua pulled her arm back. Without thought, he made to snatch it again but Aqua evaded by side-stepping away. Terra mentally kicked himself, glaring at this challenge she just trapped him in. Yet, he was strangely excited at the change to play at their old games of chase.

Unnoticed by both, Ven watched the festivities with a sneaky smile and decided to hold his peace about training. Maybe his talk with Terra was going to pay off, then Terra'd owe him a favor of his chosing.

"Can I see the note...please?"

Aqua hummed in mock thought, rolling her shoulders back in preparation. "Mmm, you can try and take it from me."

Terra made a swift dash for her. Aqua simply cartwheeled out of the way, landing into a patch of plain grass, careful to avoid the flowers. She giggled, relieved the two of them were somewhat talking again, even if she had to use bait to get Terra to literally run after her. She threw her hands out casually, twirling the note between her fingers.

"Slowpoke. Is that all you got?"

"Don't provoke me."

She playfully smiled back. "Is that a willing surrender on your part, then?"

He flinched, staring at her easy stance. Lifting his chin, he swung an arm out, a pull of heat in his spirit as he summoned out his lethal-looking Keyblade.

"Not likely," Terra smirked. Aqua smiled more and called out her own Keyblade, tucking the note in the white clothes wrapped around her waist.

Without a thought they charged forward, hearts racing as their weapons clashed in a splitting ring through the air. Ven 'ooo'ed at the power in their attacks; despite wanting to jump into the fray, he knew he had to hang back if they could somehow get back to normal.

Magic was out of the question in the courtyard, especially fire. So they only parried blows in a test of guile and speed, twisting and turning between the sparks the Keyblades were causing, the metal blades gnawing at each other's throats. Terra kept his face neutral, set on disarming her and taking the note. But that meant he had to get even closer to Aqua, and he had absolutely no confidence that he'd be able to hold back in touching just a little too much of her...

(Don't get too excited now, that boy is watching)

Terra stumbled.

Seeing the opening Aqua jumped back, diving down on one knee before flying up at him with a nasty uppercut. Ven gasped terribly as it scrapped up Terra's chest, the sharp tip curling up into to the bottom of his jaw.

A flush of blood spluttered down his shirt as Terra gargled in shock, swiping his free hand down his throat. Shining scarlet trickled down his body, but, thankfully, his throat avoided her blade's reach. He cursed under his breath, attempting to hide the cut.

"Terra!" Ven and Aqua shouted, both running up to him. Aqua, being closer, got there first, dismissing her Keyblade as she invaded his bubble of personal space. He cursed again and tried to turn away, but since Aqua got very very bossy when upset, she cradled his face in her hands and tilted it up to the sky to inspect the slash. She squinted, seeing the wound cut down in two separate parts, partly through the top of his chest with the rest scrawled below his jaw.

"Aqua, 'm fine," Terra mumbled, focusing on the fat gray clouds above, "it's just a scratch."

She snorted. "Oh yes, because scratches bleed profusely."

Terra rolled his eyes. She bent down, leaning forward and squinting as she peeled the top of his torn shirt apart to expose the damage. She started to trace the wound to see if a healing spell would be enough for it. Terra grabbed her wrists to get her to away from him because (ha ha) all the blood in his brain decided to take a detour down to his mindless cock during her inspection.

"Look, I really don't need you to take care of me," he softly hissed and lightly pushed her away. She stumbled, looking hurt but held her tongue. Terra saw her raise a hand out but he beat her to the punch, growling a "cure" without looking away from her glassy eyes. The green aura glowed over his flesh, healing it whole, though the shedded blood was still dripping down his body.

"See? I can take of myself."

"I know you can...uh, you should at least clean yourself off. Here..."

"I'll do it later," he snapped at once, making her freeze in her approach to him. He knew he was going too far with his temper, but he needed Aqua to back off and stop coddling him like he was some child.

She only put her hands down, looking down in guilt.

"I...I'm sorry, Terra," Aqua offered in a helpless, tender voice, not seeing it made him squirm. He really wished she'd step out of his reach. "I just wanted to help. You were hurt, so I wanted to..." Aqua caught her breath and flicked her eyes up, seeing him turning to leave. "Excuse me, where are you going?"

"Training on my own. You stay with Ven."

She took a step forward, folding her arms. "We want you here. And I don't like the thought of you being alone right now."

"Stop trying to play the wife," Terra mumbled, fists clenched tight as he kept walking. He just needed to get away from Aqua now before he did something he'd regret.

Her light footsteps advanced on him, her small hand descending on his shoulder as it gave a comforting squeeze. He paused, closing his eyes and digging his fingers into his palms, starting to shake just barely...

"Aqua, let me go and don't follow me."

How badly he wanted to round on her and hug her to him and touch her all over. He wanted to be selfish, but he wanted their bond to survive more. But it was so hard to let Aqua innocently touch him and just take it from her.

Aqua squeezed down on his shoulder again, softly coming closer to him, the front of her body almost touching his back. Her breath and scent washed over him, almost drowning him.

She toned her voice down to a whipser. "Terra—"

"Don't follow me!"

His raised voice tore through the air like a hurricane, making the far-off Ven jump. He lost his voice as he watched them do what he never intended. Fear and guilt swallowed down his voice, sucking his spirit into a tiny dark hole to escape.

Terra had spun around violently, almost knocking Aqua over. Somehow, she held her ground and didn't move back a step, though her eyes filled with slight fright, not understanding his reason for rage. She quickly fell back to her usual calm composure and straightened her back to full height.

"Don't tell me what to do, Terra," she warned icily, wary of Ven's silence. "You're staying here with us. Now calm down."

That angered him.

That set him off, how Aqua ordered him around like he was the child when he was older than her. That hypocritical statement she just threw at him, expecting him to swallow it down made him snap.

Her bright azure eyes dilated before he knew what he was doing, that he was seizing her shoulders to bring her closer, trembling in lust but mostly rage and hurt. It was so mixed together at this point he couldn't tell which emotion was the greater one. Her breathless, blushing face sent tingles through his veins and bones; he realized his hands were actually (finally) touching her bare shoulders. They were softer than he had dreamed them to be.

"Terra, what are you talking about?" she murmured, another warning to stop yelling in front of Ven. She narrowed her eyes as he swiped his thumbs over the skin of her shoulders. It took every bit of willpower not to let his hands drift down her bare back and force a kiss on her. Then she'd be just as angry as him. He wanted her to feel what she was feeling, what she was caused in him even though it was definitely not her fault.

He glared down on her and Aqua glared back with the ferocity of a vengeful lioness. Her hand cupped around his wrist, showing she was concerned about his trembling (if only she knew). He tried to ignore the all too familiar throb between his legs as they both refused to look away and surrender (I told you it's rude to stare).

Terra broke eye contact, roving his darkened gaze beyond her shoulder. He gripped down on her shoulders, controlling his anger. "No, Aqua, you don't tell me what to do, alright?"

She parted her lips open but Terra spoke over her, forcing himself not to stare at her dark part of him wanted her to cry for him, right there before him and be vulnerable, to show some weak emotions around him. So he started to yell, not seeing Ven quietly cry just beyond them.

"Don't you get it? Stop thinking you know what's best, what's better for me! You always do, you always have and you think you know everything. But you don't know what's best for me—I do! And I need to be alone right now, so please: shut up, stop nagging at me and let me go!"

"Stop yelling at her!"

The two tore their heated eyes from each other to their younger friend, instantly losing their fury at the sight of his tears spilling down his face. Ven hiccuped down air, the sight of his red-rimmed eyes like an arrow through their hearts.

"Stop fighting! I hate you guys fighting like this!" he pleaded with a throw of his arm, having no clue how to handle the situation. "Why do you have to be like this? Can't you just say sorry and be okay again? Why do you have to be mad at her, Terra?"

He got silence and avoided eye contact as his answer. Ven weakly clenched his teeth, shaking his head.

"No way this is happening, guys...please...say something!"

"Terra."

Terra stared over at Ven instead, wanting to bury himself in the deepest part of the planet. He was acting like such a monster, all because he wanted her the way he had her in his dreams.

The warm hand around his wrist fell away. "Terra. I think you should let go of me now."

He didn't want to let go of her, but complied. He already ruined the day and crushed the glow of their hearts.

Aqua didn't even look at Terra as he walked away, watching Ven try to stop crying. It was only when Terra's footsteps echoed away that she lifted her eyes to the sky, noticing grey clouds floating above. A laspe of thunder echoed above, making her smirk at the irony. The bright morning before was now darker and less promising. But she knew reality wasn't fairytale sunshine.

Aqua glanced back once before approaching Ven with a sad but brave smile. He looked up with a sniff, no shine in his eyes.

"I just wanted to help..." He shuddered, gulping down a sob. Her gaze softened. "I just don't want to see you guys hurt each other...I'm sorry."

"Hey, you did nothing wrong. You were just being a friend." She leaned down, putting her hands on her knees to be at eye level. Ven dropped his gaze until she cupped his cheek, wiping the salty tears away with her thumb. Feeling her eyes sting, Aqua quickly dropped to her knees and hugged her to him, petting at his hair as his sobs strengthened, both tasting bitter tears.

"Why are you crying, Ven? This is all my fault."