This takes place before the game, but there are many spoilers for the game events themselves, so heads up.
Reaching the... Understanding
"That's enough for today," Master Eraqus announced to Terra and Aqua, who were intensely focused on the training regime set out for them. They paused, looking up at their master, who smiled. "For the past few days, you two have been training non-stop – and I know Ventus has been close behind as well." His smile widened as he saw his youngest ward shrink back behind the corner where he obviously had thought Eraqus hadn't seen him.
Ven banged his head against the wall, making a mental note not to hide in the future. It was just less embarrassing.
Ven stood to the side during Terra and Aqua's Mastery Exam, glancing between his friends, his master and the wizened guest overseeing the test.
'Yeesh, Master Xehanort looks creepier every time I see him,' Ven frowned, then saw the man leering suspiciously at him. 'Why's he looking over... can he read minds?' He jolted to attention, standing stock still. 'Don't think dirty thoughts, especially don't think about Aqua... shoot, I thought about Aqua! Okay, okay, calm down. Stand straight. Stand still – if you stand still he can't see you... or is that dinosaurs? Heck, even if it is, he's so old it probably applies to him too... why are there evil balls flying around?'
"Ven! Look out!" his friends yelled.
Ven blinked, and realised one of the balls was about to brain him. 'Oh snap!'
Back in the present!
"Thank you, Master," Terra said, bowing his head. "But we really are glad to train. It puts us much closer to becoming Masters ourselves." Aqua nodded in agreement.
Eraqus smiled at his students. "I am proud of your enthusiasm, but you all must know the meaning of rest. The test for the Mark of Mastery is still a long way off, and you all have been working without break. For your dedication, the rest of the week is free. Consider it a holiday for you all."
Ven poked his head from behind the corner. "Me too?" Eraqus' smile was answer enough, and he whooped, punching the air. "Thank you, Master!" he said appreciatively alongside Terra and Aqua. Their master's smile widened and he left, leaving his pupils to their own devices.
"At last, a break," Aqua beamed.
Terra chuckled. "Yeah, it's about time."
Ven grinned with his two friends, but as he saw Aqua smile at him his heart lurched, and he realised something.
This break was the perfect opportunity for his masterstroke plan, 'Operation: Woo Aqua and Totally Be Her Boyfriend'. Okay, so the name needed work, but everything else was pure gold. "Alright! I'll meet you two on the summit!" Ven said, turning to run.
"Hold up, one of us needs to clean up," Terra reminded him.
"I'll do it," Aqua volunteered. "You two go and have fun."
Terra grinned and nodded, and he turned to run after Ven, who was already halfway down the hallway. "Wait up!"
Ven skidded to a halt on instinct and let Terra catch up, somewhat annoyed at his friend. The two walked side by side down the corridors, but Ven's mind was entirely focused on the notes of his plan, burning a hole in his pocket with their need to be fulfilled.
"What's on your mind?" Terra asked, unused to silence around his friend.
"Huh? Oh, nothing..." Ven said, shrugging. He needed a good place to review the plan he had come up with the other night, but first, he needed to get rid of Terra. Fortunatly, he had an idea. "Aw shoot!" he sighed dramatically.
His friend glanced over at him. "What's up?"
"I... uh... I left my Keyblade back at the hall," he said apologetically. "Guess I've got to go get it back!"
Terra stared blankly at him. "Your Keyblade. You lost your Keyblade."
"Yeah?" the blond teen said... then the stupidity of his excuse sunk in. "Uh, I mean, the training one you made! Obviously!"
"Ah, okay," Terra nodded. "Want me to go get it for you? I'll be back in a second."
"Uh, sure! Thanks!" Ven said gratefully. Inside he was cringing – Terra would find it right away! He needed time to look over his plan! "Uh, and get my... uh... Firaga fluid! I need it for my magic project!"
"Firaga fluid, got it!" Terra called from down the corridor, already running back towards the hall.
Ven blinked as he disappeared around a corner. "Huh. That was easy."
Aqua was just finishing tidying up the hall when she heard someone walk in.
"Hey, Terra," she smiled, seeing her friend. "What's the matter? Did you decide to give me a hand after all?"
Her smile caught him off guard for a second and he forced down a blush. "Uh... yeah," Terra paused, then snatched up a broom leaning on the wall. "You know. Sweeping," he said with a grin, exaggeratedly dusting the ground. He awkwardly paused and scratched the back of his head as Aqua stared at him. "Well, I couldn't exactly say I wasn't, could I? Ven forgot something, so I came to get it."
"Better find it quick then," she nodded. "I'm almost done, we can go together."
Terra smiled and nodded, then glanced around for the training blade. He spotted it straight away, propped up in the corner where it usually was whenever Ven forgot it.
Now where was his Firaga fluid? Come to think of it, what did it even look like? Did it come in a bottle, or...
Several minutes of poking around the weapons closet came up empty, and finally gave up. "Hey, Aqua, where's the Firaga fluid? Ven said he forgot it..." he asked, turning to his friend who would probably know about that sort of stuff better than him.
"... Terra, there's no such thing as Firaga fluid," Aqua said, giving him a weird look.
"What? But Ven specifically asked for it..." he frowned. "Wait, so you mean..."
"Yep, he tricked you. Pretty blatantly too," Aqua giggled. "Oh, poor you. I hope this doesn't become a bad habit."
"Eh, I'm not that easy to manipulate," Terra shrugged.
"You make a strong argument," Terra said, convinced.
"Right, so go ahead and open your heart to darkness then," Master Xehanort said, trying not to laugh.
"Because you're apparently like an uncle to me, should I simply not question your motives?" Terra asked.
Xehanort paused for a moment. "... Yes."
"You make a strong argument," Terra said, convinced.
"Right, so go ahead and carry my big box that's obviously full of loot all across the island," Captain Hook said, trying not to laugh.
"Because you've only got one hand and thus are defenceless, should I also fight off anyone who attempts to take it?" Terra asked.
Captain Hook paused for a moment. "... Yes."
"You make a strong argument," Terra said, convinced.
"Right, so go ahead and tell me your bank account details," Scrooge McDuck said, trying not to laugh.
"Because you seem like a shrewd entrepreneur, should I also give you the details of my friends' accounts too?" Terra asked.
Scrooge paused for a moment. "... Yes."
Back to the present!
"Right... nothing gets past you..." Aqua laughed, just as the sun filtered in through the window and illuminated her like the vision of an angel.
And Terra panicked.
'Wait... what's with this situation? Oh crap... it's perfect! But I'm not ready! I haven't even finished finding a better NAME for 'Operation: Woo Aqua and Totally Be Her Boyfriend', let alone finalise the details!'
He took a deep breath and moved towards her, idly brushing his broom as a justification of his approach. 'Okay, just calm down and think. Keep it simple and don't rush this... I'm already kissing her, aren't I?'
Terra blinked and, sure enough, found his lips locked with hers, her arms around his neck and their tongues fiercely battling each other for dominance. After a couple of seconds spent confirming that it was actually reality, he broke the kiss, looking at her almost sheepishly.
"I... I don't really know what just happened," the older teen admitted.
Aqua blinked, dazed. "Y-yeah, neither do I..."
And then they were kissing again, both of them finally gaining some grasp on the situation. Aqua's mind was spinning and she didn't care, this new development feeling perfect and –
Ven's face flashed through her mind, derailing her, and she drew in a sharp breath.
Terra pulled away. "What's wrong?" he asked, almost fearfully.
"N-nothing, it's just... sudden," Aqua said, her beating heart like a jackhammer in her ears. "I just need some time..."
"Ah..." Terra fought back a wince.
"J-just so I can figure this out!" Aqua added hastily.
"Right," Terra said, nodding with a confident grin. "Yeah, okay."
Aqua smiled, relieved, and inclined her head towards the door, suggesting that they go catch up with Ven.
Right as they were leaving, Terra remembered what he was came to do in the first place and grabbed his old training Keyblade for Ven. As Aqua smiled at him while they walked to the summit, side by side, he made a mental note to thank his younger friend...
Right after he kicked his ass, of course.
On the summit, Ven was this close to pulling his hair out as he tried to figure out what sort of retarded demon had possessed him to come up with this idea.
His masterstroke plan of wooing Aqua turned out not to be so masterstroke after all as he stared at the desperate scrawl of notes he had made a few days before. 'I can't even read this! Except for the line about a picnic and to... regale her... with music...?' He paused, considering it. 'Well, I don't play any instruments, but it can't be that hard, right?'
Ice-cream painted the streets of Disney Town as Ven sat in the seat of the Ice-Cream Thingamajig, panting heavily with a mad look on his face.
"Please, no more!" Dewey wept, buried under an avalanche of strawberry cheesecake flavour. His brothers had long since fallen to the dairy barrage. "We'll try something else..."
"NO!" yelled Ven. "GET UP! I AM GOING TO PLAY A SYMPHONY, AND YOU WILL HAVE THE BEST FRICKING ICE-CREAM EVER MADE!"
"I dunno about you," Pete said to Queen Minnie, "But he's got my vote."
Back to the present!
Too quickly, Ven realised the problem. 'Wait, we don't even HAVE any instruments in the castle... argh!' he yelled internally, shredding the piece of paper and scattering it to the winds. 'Well, looks like it's my universal plan B...'
He pulled a piece of paper marked 'B' out of his pocket and opened it.
It read: 'Stare off wistfully into the horizon'.
Ven nodded. "Right. Let's do this."
Aqua was still giggling slightly at Terra's expense as they made their way up to the summit of the hill when they spotted Ven, perched on the stone bench and staring off wistfully into the horizon.
Aqua was caught by surprise, as she saw him as a peaceful breeze on an open plain, free and gentle.
But Terra didn't. Weighing up the wooden training keyblade in his hand, the older teen smirked as he saw an opportunity for revenge.
He nudged Aqua, snapping her out of her trance, and winked, taking aim with the wooden toy.
Aqua glared and shook her head.
Terra grinned and nodded.
Aqua shook her head, scowling.
Terra nodded, grinning madly, and hurled the wooden keyblade at Ven.
Aqua gasped in horror as it flew and stuck the blond teen square in the gut, knocking him over. Ven buckled over and fell off his perch on the stone bench with a thud, clutching his stomach in pain.
Terra winced, trying not to burst out laughing. "Hey man, you okay?"
"No... Ugh!" groaned Ven. "This is almost as bad as when that Japanese guy visited and punched me in the gut for no reason!"
Over at Square-Enix headquarters, Tetsuya Nomura grinned malevolently over his PSP, sitting on his obsidian throne of belt buckles, zippers and oversized swords. "Oh naive little Ven, I had my reasons... and that was just the beginning..." he cackled.
In Japanese, of course.
"Well, Ven, let this be a lesson to you," Terra said as solemnly as he could, forcing his chuckles down. "Never drop your guard."
"You turd! Try that again!" Ven yelled.
"Great, and now he's trying to cuss. Why did you make him do that?" Aqua sighed. "You know he can't swear to save his life!"
"Yes I fricking can!" yelled the blond Keybearer, proving her point.
Terra laughed and jumped away from the fuming Ven, running off.
"Get back here, you fricking jerk!" Ven yelled at his treacherous friend who was dodging his angry punches. "I'll never forget this!"
"Are you kidding?" the older teen laughed. "You have the worst attention span in the world! I'll bet someday you'll be on a big important quest, only to get distracted by a bunch of dwarves in a cave!"
"That would never happen!" yelled Ven.
"Hooray!" Ven cheered, lifting the final crate in the jewel mine to find Doc hidden underneath. "I found you! You make six, plus Dopey out there, makes all seven little men!"
"We're dwarves, actually," Doc corrected kindly.
"Oh, okay, but how does that..." Ven began, but trailed off as Terra's taunt from months before echoed in his mind. "Aw frick brisket!"
Back to the present!
"Fricking... Terra!" the blond Keybearer ranted incoherently. His plan, his perfect plan B had been utterly thwarted!
"Wow, you're really ticked, aren't you?" Terra laughed from a safe distance. "Aqua! Pat him on the head!"
"Yeah, good idea," she nodded, leaning down in front of Ven. "Would you like that? That always calms you down," she smiled.
"No it won't, I'm..." he trailed off as Aqua started ruffling his hair fondly. "Ah... hmm..." His eyes drooped and he slumped over, Aqua catching him and sitting down, placing his head on her lap as he dozed off.
"Aw... he's overtired," cooed Aqua, fondly stroking his hair. Ven murmured slightly in his sleep, snuggling in closer to her.
"Is he... purring?" Terra asked.
Aqua leaned in to listen. "I think so..." she giggled. Terra just shook his head disbelievingly and grinned at the sight. "I still can't believe he tricked you into looking for Firaga fluid," laughed Aqua, idly fondling her friend's hair. "It's like looking for a can of elbow grease."
"Oh, believe me, it won't happen again," Terra assured her.
"So where the hell is Vanitas anyway?" Terra frowned after freeing Master Xehanort from Braig's clutches. "I've looked everywhere, and there was no sign of him."
"Oh, he's... he's around," the old master assured him. "He's probably looking for... uh... Firaga fluid! He needs it for his dastardly plans!"
Terra laughed. "Well good luck to him! That stuff isn't even real!"
"Did I say Firaga? I meant Thundaga," Xehanort corrected himself.
Terra frowned, stroking his chin. "Hmm... this changes everything..."
Back to the present!
Terra grinned and rolled his eyes. "Well, looks like you're stuck. I'll... I'll see you later then?" he said. Aqua caught his meaning and nodded carefully, trying to silently say she was still thinking about it. That was good enough for Terra, who turned and made his way back to the castle.
She smiled, leaning back on the bench with her lap serving as Ven's pillow. The movement seemed to disturb him slightly as he blinked his eyes open. He glanced around in sleepy confusion before meeting her eyes. "You hopeless sleepyhead," she smiled at him.
Ven blushed and pushed himself up so he was sitting beside her, but he was still tired enough that he leaned into her, using her as a support. At least, that's what he would later claim was his reasoning.
The truth was he was freaking out as he realised plan B had come, inexplicably, to fruition.
"Sorry for falling asleep..." he apologised tiredly.
She smiled at him. "Hey, I'm here for you,"
"... Yeah?" he asked.
There was a moment where, as they sat side by side, their eyes met. Aqua couldn't stop herself from slipping her hand into his, and she couldn't move as Ven mustered up his courage and brought his lips to hers.
'This is probably the most bizarre day of my life...' Aqua thought in the tiny part of her mind not overloaded with bliss.
It was with a hint of regret that Aqua toured the streets of the vibrant Disney Town, the same place Ven had wanted them to visit together. "Ven... I wonder if you were here..."
She turned the corner and was met with a sugary apocalypse, melting ice-cream of every flavour painting the walls like the aftermath of the most delicious flood. People were caught up in the slow flow of the ice-cream, either moaning about stomach-aches or gleefully marching down the road to diabetes.
"Missy, you picked a poor day to visit," a resident, Horace, informed her later. "This is Disney Town's most bizarre day yet."
Aqua paused, soaking it all in. "Nope. No comparison."
Back to the present!
Aqua was quickly beginning to lose herself in the kiss, just like before when –
She froze as Terra's face flashed in her mind and she pulled away sharply.
"A-Aqua?" Ven asked, concern and a note of fear in his voice.
"I-I..." she struggled to find words, but her attempts died as she saw his crestfallen face.
She couldn't bear seeing that look on his face, and quickly rose, pulling away from his grip. "Ven, I... I know how I feel, and I see you feel the same, but... it wouldn't be fair. I'm so sorry."
Ven seemed stunned, only nodding mutely, and she decided to leave before she made things worse, quickly heading down the mountain path.
She froze as she saw Terra lounging in the castle courtyard. "W-what are you doing here?" she asked quietly.
Terra looked up at her in surprise. "Hmm? Oh, nothing really, I – Aqua, what's wrong?" he asked, voice full of concern.
"W-what do you mean?" she replied.
"You're crying..." Terra said helplessly. Fumbling around, he pulled a tissue from his pocket and handed it to her.
She took it lightly and touched her face. Granted, she wasn't sobbing, but there were definitely several tears escaping from her bottled up emotions. "I'm sorry," she said to Terra.
"For what?" he asked, but he had a sinking feeling he already knew.
"About before..." Aqua clarified faintly, and Terra's heart plummeted. "I feel the same, but... this isn't fair on either of you." She pushed past him and rushed up to the castle before he could respond, keeping her head low so she wouldn't have to see his face like she had seen Ven's.
Finally she reached her room, shutting it and locking it with her Keyblade. The sad faces of her two boys flashed in her mind once again, and Aqua shook her head to clear it, before glancing out her window.
The sun was setting, but she just shrugged and changed her clothes, getting into bed. It was still early, but she wanted the day to be done with, dammit.
'I can't have them both... but I can't leave either behind. Is this right?' she thought as she failed to drift off to sleep. 'Or am I just losing them both?'
Terra sighed dejectedly, fighting off any wayward emo urges as he strolled up the hill in order to clear his mind.
To his surprise he saw Ven laying on the grass, staring up into the sky. He smiled and shook his head at his hopeless friend. "Dozing off on the job?" he asked, walking up to him and nudging his friend with his foot. "You're lucky I'm not Aqua."
"Yeah..." Ven sighed, not grinning like Terra expected him to. "I don't think I can face her right now, after she rejected me..."
Terra blinked, his mind going blank. "What."
Ven didn't notice, sitting up on the grass and staring back at the castle. "After you left, I woke up, and we were sitting beside each other and... we sorta kissed..." He blushed at the memory, not noticing the frown on Terra's face as gears turned in his head. Ven's face fell. "But then... she told me it couldn't happen. That it wouldn't be fair."
"Well..." Terra began, but paused. He knew standard condolences would fall flat, Ven would see right through them. Instead, he sat onto the grass beside his friend and sighed. "Well, I know how you feel. Since the exact same thing just happened to me."
Ven did a double take. "What."
Terra grinned sadly, looking at him from the corner of his eye. "After training earlier I... sorta made out with her a bit. But she told me she had to think about it. Just now, she told me it couldn't happen." He chuckled a bit. "Now I'm especially glad 'Operation: Woo Aqua' never went ahead. That would have been embarrassing."
Ven froze. "How did you know about that? It was my most fiercely guarded secret!"
Terra blinked, and then burst out laughing. "Wait, you had an 'Operation: Woo Aqua' too? I thought I was the only one!"
Ven scowled in the face of the laughter, but eventually he started laughing along with him. "Sorry..." Ven sighed as they calmed down. "I messed things up for the both of us. I knew things would change, but I didn't think about you, and I couldn't stop myself from trying to... and now I screwed up everything."
"I guess I can't blame you, Ven," Terra sighed. "She's pretty amazing."
"Yeah," Ven agreed wistfully.
"Plus, you're, like, at eye-level with..." the older Keybearer grinned.
"Yeah..." the younger agreed dreamily.
They both paused, sharing a moment... 'contemplating' Aqua.
"This sucks... but I understand where she's coming from," Ven sighed after a while. "It's not really a matter of choosing one of us, is it? I mean, I really do think I love her, but if being with her means it hurts you, I..."
Terra nodded in agreement. "I know how you feel. I'd never knowingly try to pull something like that. I care about you just as much as her."
"Wait... are you... trying to proposition me?" Ven asked warily. Misreading the horrified look on Terra's face, he quickly added, "I mean, there's nothing wrong with that sort of thing, but... uh... I'd prefer if you were open about... you know... and I'm not really... uh..."
"What? No!" Terra exclaimed. "I'm not trying to do that! How could anyone think I'd do that?"
In Radiant Garden they were reunited after what seemed like an age, but they had no time to celebrate their reunion as the three giant Unversed they were chasing descended onto the battlefield.
Ven snatched his Keyblade up as the part he was chasing twisted to form the head.
Aqua summoned her magic to her fingertips as her quarry split into the arms.
And Terra just stared blankly as the Unversed he had been pursuing stretched out to serve as the united beast's legs.
'I was chasing its CROTCH?!'
Back in the present!
"Seriously, if I ever give you the impression, just tell me," Terra assured his friend.
Ven grinned. "Right, sorry about that."
They turned back to the setting sun and, after a pause, sighed simultaneously.
"We've opened up a can of worms, at any rate," Terra sighed. "This whole fiasco will be at the back of our minds forever. Aqua's always going to be worried we're trying to make her choose between us."
A crazy, impossibly stupid thought occurred to Ven. "What if... we didn't make her choose? Like... would you be okay with that?"
Terra frowned. "Uh, what? Weren't you just on my back about suggesting the same thing?"
"I'm not saying... both of us at the same time!" the younger of the two corrected hastily.
Terra still looked confused and a little sceptical, so Ven looked him straight in the eyes, crossing his arms. "Look. We both love her," the young Keybearer said frankly. "Neither of us wants to take her away from the other. And we're all together, all the time. If one of us did pair up with her, the other would just be a third wheel and that's not fair. This can go one of two way – either we can let what Aqua said stand and have this... 'what-if' hanging over our heads forever... or... we could both be there for her, without making her choose between us."
Terra stared at him, silently thinking about it.
"Well?" Ven asked hesitantly after a minute, then breathed a sigh of relief as his friend nodded.
"You make a strong argument," Terra said, convinced.
"Alright, so... yeah..." Ven nodded. "Okay. Then we'll tell Aqua tomorrow."
"The Master's going to be pissed if he finds out, so should we just keep it quiet?" Terra asked.
Ven paused for a moment. "... Yes."
She had managed to avoid them for the rest of the evening, but when morning came the situation didn't seem any brighter. She dashed away from the breakfast table before either could get a word in and sulked around the library for most of the day, before the feeling of being pent up started to gnaw at her.
Aqua couldn't get their sad faces out of her head, but she knew that was going to be the case. It was hard now, but time would help them all overcome their shared disappointment. She summoned up her Keyblade, pushing the thoughts back as she focused on the training rings on the hill, training in order to keep her mind off her dismal situation. Master Eraqus told them not to train, but right now, she figured what he didn't know wouldn't hurt him.
"Aqua!" two familiar voices shouted, and she cringed. Already? She wasn't ready to face them yet! And both at the same time?
She turned hesitantly, seeing them run up and catch their breath. "Oh, hey... what's up?" she asked with unconvincing cheeriness.
The two teens glanced at each other, and the younger nodded for the older to begin.
"In light of what's been happening between you and us," Terra began. "We've... well, we've spoken to each other and have come to... an understanding."
"But Master Eraqus must never know," Ven said insistently.
"What are you two talking about?" she frowned. Glancing between them, she saw their confident expressions without any doubt or worry about... suddenly what they were suggesting sunk in.
"You guys..." she said, her eyes shining. Ven and Terra smiled back, and Aqua lashed forward with her Keyblade, knocking the smiles from their faces. "You guys are idiots. It doesn't work that way!" she said, storming off to begin training at the practice rings.
'Honestly, what are they thinking?' she scowled to herself. 'It sucks, but those kinds of relationships... they can't work out. Not in real life.'
"She told the best bedtime stories..." sobbed Sleepy as he and the rest of the dwarves mourned Snow White's enchanted sleep.
"I'm so sorry," Aqua nodded sadly, before something clicked. "... wait... bedtime stories?"
"Yes... right after we had all gotten settled into bed with each other she'd tell the most beautiful stories..." Sleepy sighed.
Aqua blinked, and stepped away. 'Seven men! Seven men!' she screeched in her head. "Right... uh... I'd better go find that witch, shouldn't I?"
Doc noticed her shift in demeanour. "Young lady, are you alright?"
'Seven men! Seven men!' "Y-yeah, I'm fine. Better go avenge your, uh, lady's slumber!"
Doc stared at her. "'Our lady'?... young ma'am, I think you've got the wrong impression about us –"
"OKAYGOTTAGOBYE!" Aqua blurted, fleeing the scene.
Back in the present!
Terra and Ven groaned, pushing themselves up and casting quick Cure spells. "That could have gone better..." the younger groaned.
"Eh. It's early days," the older said, hopping up and sitting on the edge of the waterfall's cliff.
Ven climbed up to join him, and glanced at his friend. "You seem confident about this," he said.
"Well, it's an idea I think could work. I figure it's best to pursue it," Terra shrugged. "And we both know she's worth it."
Ven grinned. 'Stubborn as a rock. Well, that's good news for us...' Terra smirked lecherously as they watched Aqua train, and Ven frowned at the sight. "What is it?" he asked warily.
"Just thinking," he shrugged, feigning innocence. "Aqua's name fits her perfectly. She's cool and calm most of the time, but in the heat of battle, she just... boils. Know what I mean?"
"No. What are you getting at?" Ven asked, curious.
Terra stared at him like he was an idiot. "...She's hot."
"Oh. Oh!" Ven blinked, nodding. "Yeah, well you know what you need to cool down water?" Ven smirked, pointing a thumb at himself. "Wind."
"Ah, so naive," Terra laughed. "Cooling water down isn't always the best thing to do. It can be more fun keeping it... steamy. For instance, remember your science lesson last week? What happens to a rock in hot water?"
Ven scratched his head. "Uh, it gets hot... and expands... Oh. Oh! You've got a sick mind!"
"You and me both, buddy," Terra smirked, turning back to the sight of his friend fighting.
Ven was silent for a second, but as usual he couldn't keep that silence for long. "So... which one of us should be the first to... cool her off?"
Terra blinked, turning to gape at his blushing friend. Their eyes met, and an understanding passed between them.
Aqua kept an eye and an ear on them throughout her training, and fumed at their conversation. Those idiots were talking like it was a done deal! As if their brainless idea could actually work!
Feelings didn't work that way... did they?
A treacherous thought wormed its way into her imagination. Her in nothing but a few pieces of skimpy lingerie, draped across her bed with her two boys, neither of them wearing very many clothes either, her smirking like a cat as she slinked towards them, whispering a spell...
Zero Gravity. Oh my, yes.
She snapped out of the thought and viciously stabbed it to death with the right and proper part of her mind. What was she thinking!?
She stopped, breathless for reasons not entirely related to her training. She glanced over to her two friends and saw them engaged in a hectic match of rock-paper-scissors, and right away she guessed their intentions.
'Those idiots...' she thought. 'Maybe I should show them exactly WHY it won't work...'
After their fiftieth draw in a row, Ven's mind was reaching breaking point. 'Okay, calm down! Terra only ever chooses rock! So I'll pick paper! But... but he know I'll pick paper! So he'll fake me out and choose scissors this time! So I'll choose rock!'
Ven and Terra stared into each other's furious glares. "Rock-paper-scissors of DESTINY!" they cried, throwing what they knew in their souls to be the final hand in their battle.
They both chose rock.
"Fricking frick on a pogo stick!" Ven screamed, collapsing on the ground. Terra too sunk to his knees in disbelief at his clenched fist.
"Rock... why have you betrayed me?" he asked his hand in a haunted voice.
"Oh, looks like I win," said Aqua's voice. They both snapped their eyes up to see Aqua waving her hand, fingers in the shape of paper. "So the winner gets to choose which one of you spends the first evening with me after my hard day of training?" she asked in a coy tone.
Both Terra and Ven swallowed the lumps in their throats. "Uh..."
"Hmm... who should I choose?" Aqua went on. She gave each a look through her long lashes, then smiled suggestively. "Alright. I've made my decision," she said, striding past them.
Ven blinked, glancing unsurely at Terra. "Wait, so... him or me?"
Aqua looked back at them with a wide, knowing grin, then turned around, heading back into the castle. "Yes!"
Silence descended over the two boys as they realised the flaw in their plan.
"Wait, does she mean...?" Ven asked hesitantly.
"Damn, good move on her part," Terra thought aloud. "Do we stick to our guns, or..." He and Ven met each other's eyes and quickly looked away, red-faced.
"Alright... Aqua's trying to get us to drop this. But we must stay strong!" Terra declared stubbornly. Ven took a few steps back – his friend had the same expression on his face he usually did right before Master Eraqus warned him of the power of darkness.
'What have I done? I've created a monster!' "You... you mean...?" Ven gaped.
"If it's a bluff on her part, we have to call it," his friend replied adamantly. "Besides, you can't say you didn't expect something like this to happen eventually. Aqua's just trying to spook us."
"B-but, what if... you know," Ven said, his hands flailing about. "What if we... uh... 'cross Keyblades'?"
Terra winced and forced the mental image out of his mind, looking down at his friend solemnly. "I doubt it'll go that far, but if it does... just remember the first rule of men's bathrooms."
Ven nodded in understanding. "Death before eye-contact," they said in unison, and marched towards the castle.
Aqua kept the grin on her face as she walked up the stairs, relishing the looks of shock on their faces. 'Bingo,' she thought. 'There's no way they'll keep that attitude up now...' Her smile faded by the time she reached her room, and she collapsed onto her bed, feeling empty. 'There's no way it could...'
There was a knock on her door. "Just a minute!" she called, and moved over to her mirror with a tissue, dabbing her newly moistened eyes dry. Going over to the door, she opened it and was shocked to see both Terra and Ven standing there.
"Guys... what are you doing here?" she asked, confused.
"Well... you did win the match, right?" Ven said hopefully.
She banged her head on the door with a groan. "Guys... look, it's... it just can't work like that," Aqua said sadly, walking away from them. "I love you, both of you, but..."
"Prove it," Terra said, walking into the room. Ven followed him, shutting the door.
"What?" Aqua scowled. "Prove I love you? I don't have to –"
"No, not that," Ven corrected her.
"Prove it can't work out," Terra said. "There's always a way, Aqua."
She looked at them, radiating confidence and ease, and realised how far they were willing to go to prove their bonds. Not just to her, but to each other.
Could it be that she really didn't have to choose? They were already inseparable... she didn't know how long this state of being would continue. She couldn't exactly put words to the feelings, or description to the meanings. It was just... an understanding.
"I... but how could it even work?" she asked, clutching at straws as her justifications fell away. "Those sorts of things, have you ever even heard of them working for other people?"
"We're not 'other people'," Terra shrugged.
Ven grinned. "We'll figure it out. The most important thing is that we're all staying together."
"I..." Aqua murmured, feeling like a weight had lifted from her heart, but she couldn't give in so easily. "But there's no way..."
"There's always a way, Aqua," Ven said, refusing to let her slip away from them.
Aqua breathed in deeply, and the last of her reservations disappeared as their words found a place in her heart. "Okay, we'll... we'll try... but let's be certain on one thing."
Terra and Ven nodded in agreement, knowing exactly what she was thinking. "Master must never know."
She giggled, then glanced between them. "So... what now?"
Flash forward... about forty minutes.
"Agh? Zero Gravity?"
"Aqua, what the hell!"
"Sorry! That played out much better in my head!"
Eraqus wandered the quiet castle, wondering where his students had gotten off to. 'They're probably off stargazing on the mountain,' he thought with a smile, thinking of his pupils sharing a peaceful moment. Still, the castle was so quiet...
... So quiet, he could hear the slightest sounds. The whistle of the wind through the windows, the cracking of the cooling rafters and beams, the creaking of... bedsprings?
And a moan, coming from one of the corridors...
Instantly, he was on alert, creeping forward. There was a grunt from another voice that he barely heard, but he zeroed in on it.
It was coming from Aqua's room.
Was someone in there?
Were his students under attack?
"Who's there?" he yelled, grabbing the handle of the room. With a jolt of terror he realised it was locked. Time was of the essence – in his panic it didn't even occur to him to unlock it with his power. "Prepare yourself!" He roared, and reared back, charging for the door, his Keyblade appearing in a burst of light. Before he hit the door, he heard his students yelling in panic.
Eraqus burst into the room just as there was a flash of light. Taking the door nearly off its hinges, he looked up to see his three students, dressed in their magic armour but breathing heavily, as if they had just been in a battle.
"An enemy!" he barked, looking around for a foe that wasn't there. But he didn't see anything, only sheets and clothes strewn around the room. He looked up as his students, confused, and saw them standing awkwardly beside each other, weapons not even drawn as they diverted their masked faces away from him.
Eraqus frowned. "Remove your masks," he ordered, and the students obeyed. Their faces were red and slightly panicked, not even daring to fully meet his glare. "What is happening here?" he demanded angrily, but they remained silent. "Answer me!"
"Master... this is my fault," Aqua said, stepping forward. "Please don't be angry."
"No," said Terra, stepping in front of her. "It's my fault."
"Yeah!" said Ven. "Blame Terra, it was his idea!"
"What?" the older Keybearer reeled around to give a glare at Ven.
"Actually Master," Aqua said, "If I could change my comment, I'd like to blame Terra too."
"Et tu, Aqua?" the eldest Keybearer lamented.
"Well, he's right. You did start it," shrugged Aqua, setting off another wave of light arguing over who, exactly, was to blame for... whatever this was.
Their master released his weapon, confused and suspicious. Though their bickering had assured him nothing life-threatening was happening, he knew something else, something suspicious, had just occurred.
Then, it finally clicked in Eraqus' mind what they were doing.
Their shortness of breath.
The sheets and clothes strewn about.
Their armour hastily thrown on.
Their efforts to hide the obvious...
They were training! After he had explicitly told them to relax! But his anger and worry faded, replaced by amusement. Ah, they really were still children, so naive and eager to learn...
"I shouldn't be angry..." Eraqus told them apologetically. His students linked, staring at him in disbelief. "I should be proud! After all, who am I to judge you, just because you are young and enthusiastic? No, I am proud to see your bonds are so tight you would rely on each other like this!"
Aqua breathed a sigh of relief. "Master, I am so glad you understand."
"Well, of course I do," Eraqus smiled. "Why, I was the same when I was your age."
"... What." Terra said flatly, his mind going blank.
"I..." Aqua's mouth flapped uselessly as she tried to find words.
"Like..." Ven finally asked the question no-one wanted to ask, fearing the answer. "Like, with Master Xehanort and Yen Sid?"
"Why yes! Night and day, never resting!" laughed Eraqus, missing the cringing of his students. "Oh, we had some memorable times indeed. I was always the brashest of the three, encouraging both of them to cross blades with me without care for time or place." Ven's vision glazed over and he retreated to a happier place as he placed his hands over sightless eyes.
"Mind you, for all his stoicism, Yen Sid was equally enthusiastic," Eraqus continued, waggling a finger. "Like you, Aqua, he was always finding new ways of using magic – I never knew what to expect whenever he brought out his Key!" Aqua shuddered, trying in vain to shut out the images as her own kinky magical ideas betrayed her, taking form of the old wizard, slowly lowering his robes... she covered her ears to shut out the words, but the thought wouldn't. Go. Away.
"Xehanort was always a bit of a lone wolf, preferring to go solo, as it were," chuckled their Master, winking knowingly, "But he was a sneaky man and if I wasn't careful he'd often take me from behind when I least expected it!" Terra gagged, begging any deity that would listen to give him the strength not to vomit in his helmet as he clapped a hand over his mouth.
"Still, what I said before stands," Eraqus said sternly, crossing his arms. "I don't care how enthusiastic you three are about practice, I told you to relax! Go have a picnic of something, and leave your Mark of Mastery training for after you have recuperated!"
Ven blinked, his early retreat to his happy place making him the first to recover. "... Mark of Mastery training?"
The Master nodded. "Yes, did you honestly forget? I told you all to put Mastery training on hold for a while."
Ven's mouth flapped for a moment. "Oh. Oh! Yeah, they were training. I know I didn't have to keep my training a secret but, uh, you know us!"
Eraqus smiled. "Yes, you three really are inseparable, aren't you?"
Aqua glanced between Terra and Ven before smiling at the Master. "That's the idea, I suppose!"
He laughed, and the young Keybearers laughed uneasily with him. "But here I am, prattling on and wasting your time," Eraqus sighed, turning to leave. "Still, remember that I am here. You only need to ask and I'll gladly teach you some of the many tricks I've picked up over the years."
Terra, Aqua and Ven blanched, wincing horribly at the very thought.
"Is he gone?" Ven asked, pulling his shirt back on.
Terra craned his head around the corner to check. "Yeah. That was a close one. Now we definitely can't let him find out."
"Yeah, if he realises what he said..." Aqua shuddered, pulling her bedcovers around her to ward off the memory.
"Who do you think he'd kill first? Us or himself?" Ven chuckled nervously.
"Oh, himself," Terra shrugged. "Then his ghost would come back and murder us during a grievance threesome." Ven sniggered, blushing at the thought.
"Don't joke like that!" Aqua scowled, holding back a laugh. "I'm just glad he barged in before we could get too carried away."
"Because casting Zero Gravity while making out with your best friends isn't getting carried away?" Ven shot, grinning.
Aqua pouted, looking away. "That's it, out."
Terra smirked. "Fair enough. I don't think any of us could be in the mood after... that."
The three of them shuddered violently, then burst out laughing. Sharing a glance with Aqua, Ven and Terra nodded and left, going their separate ways for the night. She sighed and fell back onto her bed.
'Okay, now THIS is the most bizarre day of my life,' she thought with a smile. 'Wonderfully bizarre, but bizarre all the same.'
But her worries from before soon crept up and stole that smile from her face.
How long could this continue? How could they keep this strong enough to be unbreakable?
Her two boys were happy. They probably figured it would just work like magic.
But she knew magic better than either of them, and even magic needs effort and faith to keep functioning.
... A thought occurred to her. Maybe it could be magic. A magic of an unbreakable connection. She picked up her notebook and began jotting down ideas and thought for how it could work.
She realised, for something that could link hearts together like she wanted it too, it needed a symbol to embody it.
She remembered a story Master Eraqus had told them when they were younger. An island in the sea of stars, a bubble of childlike innocence and dreams, where a tree with star-shaped fruit grew. If you shared this fruit with someone you loved, you would forge an unbreakable connection, entwining your destiny with theirs.
Eraqus had mentioned sailors made charms inspired by the fruit, to grant a safe voyage with a connection that would bring them back to their loved ones.
Aqua looked down at her notebook and realised she had doodled three stars on the page. Maybe it wasn't the fruit that was important?
They could make this work. They could make their bonds unbreakable. "There's always a way..." she murmured softly to herself, and smiled.
Flash forward... to the end of the beginning.
Alone in the darkness, Aqua sat under the moonlit coast, staring into the hypnotic black waters. She stroked her Wayfinder, thinking of Terra and Ven. They were so far away... almost unreachable, but...
"There's always a way..." she murmured softly to herself, and smiled.
~~~ The End ~~~
Varanotes: Wow, there we have it. My first one-shot.
This is definitely a crack fic, but at the same time, it's also kind of a genuine look at their characters and their dynamic with each other. I don't actually ship this pairing at all (okay, maybe a little now), but as I was writing my subconscious demanded I try to do it justice. I am unable to write mindless zaniness, it seems.
Except for Ven literally not being able to swear. For that, the only excuse I have is that it's funny.
I think the only joke that might need explaining is the Nomura bit. Basically, I feel his stories like to punch characters that look like Ven right in the gut. 365/2 Days was just a series of body blows in the end there in that respect, and Birth By Sleep was little better after Radiant Garden.
I'm thinking of writing a spin-off of this, sort of a retelling of Birth By Sleep with all the crack I managed to squeeze into this story. Of course, my main story is still going to be "Fail to the King!" (any Disgaea fans out there, check it out! /end shameless plug) but I've got some pretty good ideas forming for this too.
Leave a review and tell me what you thought! Also, would you be interested in that spin-off crack fic? Help me out, man, and hit that review button!
Thanks for reading,