Disclaimer: I am not responsible for creating Aria or it's predecessor, Aqua. Kozue Amano made those, and might I say they are a job well done!

The air is calm this evening in Neo-Venezia, disturbed only by a gentle breeze, the sound of the waves, and the distant crackling of a fire on the beach that is 5 minutes from Aria Company.

Autumn has always been a season that Akatsuki can't decide if he likes. On the one hand, it brought hospitable weather and good food, along with many festivals and beautifully colored tree leaves. But on the other hand, it was also a season of great nostalgia, forcing people to begin looking back on what had been done in order to determine if they're year or life has been productive or not.

But for the moment, such things are not entirely in his mind. He's sitting on a bench a little ways away from the beach where Akari, Alice and Aika are sitting. Normally he'd be with them, but tonight he is keeping his distance from the three Primas out of respect.

Tonight is the night that a gondola has died.

The undine culture is foreign to him, so he can't completely wrap his mind around the concept of a "dead gondola". He knows it initially means that a gondola can no longer be used; not even just to transport things. It can't float, it can't be rowed straight, and it can't be used safely, so it has lost its purpose. But he can't exactly think of this whole thing as if a person has just died.

Just a few days ago he'd been visiting Akari at Aria Company to see how she was doing. It had been a while since he'd seen her, as his work had been rather strenuous. Now that autumn was here though, he could start easing up in order to adjust the machinery in Ukijima to fit a cooler climate. Hence, he was able to visit her more often. While talking to her over a cup of black tea, Akari got a call from Aika that told her to come to Himeya quickly. The Salamander had come along because he was curious as to why Aika sounded like she was about to panic. Naturally, they rushed there as fast as they could, but were a little surprised to see Aika looking perfectly alright.

"Akari, you made it! Ah…why did you come, Ponytail?"

"Don't be ridiculous," he said, trying to catch his breath from the running they'd just done. "Weren't you panicking?"

She ignored the remark, which she could have shoved right back in his face, and instead asked Akari to follow her to the gondola inspection shop nearby. When they got there, he noticed Akari's face suddenly grow surprised. He looked at her and followed her line of sight all the way to a regular brown gondola sitting on the gondola stands. He didn't find out until later that the reason she looked so shocked was because that was her old gondola.

The man who had bought the gondola to help carry packages had apparently gotten into a slight fiasco out in the harbor. It had been a busy morning, and the gondola had collided with another small boat. Akari's first question was, of course, if the man rowing it was okay. The gondola inspector replied that he only fell into the harbor, and made it through the whole thing without so much as a scratch. But the gondola itself was mangled, it's keel split right down the middle and its front cracked open.

After talking for a few minutes with the gondola inspector, she walked up to Akatsuki.

"Akatsuki, do you know how I could find Woody at this time of day? I'm going to need his help."

"Hm? Help with what?"

She looked back at the gondola, sadness slowly coming over her expression. "…I'm going to take the gondola back with me."

He thought it was strange, but helped contact Woody to carry the gondola. It was only a short amount of time before Woody came, and he promised he'd do his best to carry the gondola gently so it wouldn't fall apart in midair. As she rowed back, she offered for Akatsuki to stay at the company until it was time for him to go back to Ukijima. He was hesitant to accept, as she looked rather out of sorts, but decided to stay so he could help her if she needed him.

After Woody dropped off the gondola, Akari talked with Aika and Alice about the best course of action. For once, Akatsuki did not interfere. Although he didn't know how someone could become personal with a gondola, he knew it meant a lot to her. He could see it by the look on Akari's face every time she looked at the damaged boat.

They decided to burn it. It couldn't be repaired, as the damage was too great, and its wood was old so it couldn't be used for another boat. There was the option of sending it to a boat graveyard, but all 3 undines had visibly shivered at the suggestion. So they decided to send off Akari's beloved boat by way of funeral pyre.

Out of respect for honoring the boat, he'd stood nearby as Akari lit the fire underneath her boat, which had been propped up carefully on the sand. Aika didn't tease him about being there or even asking him why. A few minutes after, he felt he had no place there, so he turned to walk off slowly to a bench that was on the sidewalk nearby. Aika looked at him as he was about to go, giving him a small nod as a thank you. He nodded back; even he knew when he wasn't needed.

When he sits down, he mulls over everything. Try as he might, he can't think of an inanimate object in such a personal way. After all, he's a Salamander. He worked with machinery each day, but he had never felt a deep connection with the machinery other than being happy when it worked. He always thought it would be ridiculous to think of such a thing like one would a person or a friend; a thing so wholly without feeling or thought process.

However, as he watches the smoke float up in the air from the beach, he begins to understand what this boat had meant to Akari. To an undine, a gondola wasn't just a boat. It was a constant companion and provider for their work and life, almost like a silent parent who subtly helped their child achieve their dream. And although he still can't fully comprehend the intimate partnership between woman and boat, he acknowledges the sending of Akari's gondola with a bit of his own sadness.

He can hear Akari's soft voice as she talks either to Aika and Alice, or maybe even to the gondola. Perhaps she is talking of the memories she shared with the broken boat. Come to think of it, he had been on her gondola more than a few times, and each time he had been with her he'd created a good memory. And whenever he'd looked at her as she rowed her gondola, she had been hopeful. Hopeful of the what the future was going to bring, and hopeful for the day when she would become a Prima. Now as he looks at her, her pink hair longer than it used to be and her face more mature, he can see the change. Each early step of her journey to accomplish her dream had been put in motion by the old boat that is now burning and sending it's swirling ashes into the evening air.

He smiles, wistfully but gratefully, as he stands up and bows in the direction of the beach, unbeknownst to the Primas. And after he straightens his back up once again, he silently thanks the gondola for helping Akari with her dream as the last embers of the fire go out in the distance.

Wow, I never though I'd get around to writing something else for Aria! *laughs*

This is an expansion on the vignette "Death" from my other piece of Aria writing titled "Acqua e Cielo" (Water and Sky). I suppose that it could depend on your point of view whether this is Akatsuki x Aria or not, but I like them as an item, so I had that in mind (sort of) when I was writing this. This is probably more of a friendship thing though.

Well, let me know what you think! I hope it's not too repetitive. If you find time in your busy day, please give me a critique. Feedback is very appreciated!

Have a wonderful day/night.