Set in the Land of Departure.
DISCLAIMER [I do not own Kingdom Hearts] DISCLAIMER
TRUTH BE TOLD
Why does Aqua have such soft hands?
Ventus puffed up his cheeks as Aqua ran her hands very gently over the scrapes on his arms. Thanks to the rock that he was sure was not there only a moment ago, he had taken a rather nasty tumble across the Forecourt, skinning his arms as he tried to break his fall. She was sighing, her brows creased in worry and concentration as the warm, green light that pulsed from her fingers slowly healed his injuries. Ventus mumbled thanks as the stinging pain subsided.
"How many times do I have to tell you? You have to be more careful," she berated him, her tone both frustrated and concerned.
"Yeah, I know," he said, his cheeks flushed. "You've told me a million times, I get it, okay?"
She frowned sadly. "Ven, I just don't like seeing you hurt…"
"Cut me some slack," he groaned. "I'm never going to learn anything with you breathing down my neck all the time. Just back off, Aqua!"
For a second, there was a shift of color in her eyes. The clear, cerulean blue suddenly paled. But the change lasted only a second, hardly long enough for Ven to notice. "Okay," she said, her voice barely a whisper. "If that is what you want." She smiled weakly at him before turning around and heading into the castle.
Ven resumed training, practicing some offensive strikes with his Keyblade, thinking that Aqua was such a nag. He didn't need her fawning over him as if he was a helpless baby or something. He didn't need her telling him right from wrong, good from bad, safe from dangerous. He can take care of himself.
Ventus was late for dinner. Extremely late. He fell asleep on the Summit, again, even though he tried very hard not to. It was the sunset, and the warmth, and the soft grass, and the wind. They were just working together to make him drowsy all the time. Usually, Aqua would come looking for him, but not today. He wondered why she didn't.
The Master, Terra, and Aqua were already seated at the table waiting for him. Master Eraqus gave him a stern look as he ran hastily into the dining hall and to the kitchen. He grabbed a plate, a glass, and a knife and fork, then he dashed back towards the dining table. But he managed to stumble along the way, and the rather fragile objects he was carrying clattered and shattered against the ground.
He shut his eyes tightly for a moment, not wanting to see the Master looking at him with exasperation, or Terra grinning in a mocking way, or Aqua and her worried and sympathetic gaze. When he opened his eyes, though, only the Master and Terra were reacting as he expected. Aqua was just staring at her plate, not bothering to acknowledge his latest blunder.
He hurriedly cleaned up his mess, with the Master harshly reprimanding him, while Terra went to the kitchen to grab him a new set of dinnerware. He turned to Aqua, but she still was not looking at him. He couldn't help but feel a little worried; this lack of concern was so unlike her,
After dinner, which ended much later than usual, Ventus followed Aqua out of the dining hall.
"Hey, Aqua," he called.
"I'm going to go train a bit more before bed. Want to come with?"
"No, I'm really tired," she replied. "Good night, Ven."
He frowned. She never lets him train alone at night. Never. He watched her walk away from him, wondering if she really took what he said to heart.
He felt a hand on his shoulder and turned to see Terra grinning at him. "Want to spar?" the older apprentice asked.
"Yeah, sure," Ven replied, forcing a grin on his face.
They walked out of the castle and to the Summit. Once there, Ven summoned his Keyblade and assumed a half-hearted offensive stance. "Ready when you are," he said glumly.
Terra, though, did not summon his own Keyblade. He was standing with his arms crossed over his chest, frowning. "Okay, I think there's something we need to talk about," he said.
"Did you pick a fight with Aqua?" Terra said, smirking knowingly. "It's obvious something's up between you two."
Ven puffed up his cheeks, dismissing his Keyblade, and ignoring the question.
"Come on, Ven, what did you do?"
Terra leaned against the back of the stone bench and ran a hand through his hair. "Nothing? You sure? Because, you know, you just did the impossible."
"What? Make Aqua angry?"
"She isn't angry, trust me," Terra said. "She looked pretty torn up, though."
Ventus frowned. He wasn't sure he preferred that to angry. "I didn't mean for that to happen…" he mumbled.
"So what did you do anyway?" Terra asked again.
Sighing, Ven began to walk in a circle, kicking a rock around as he did. "This morning, I kind of told her to cut me some slack. I said I wanted her to back off."
"Did you mean it?"
"Well, yeah, I guess," Ven said, kicking the rock a bit harder. "She was getting on my nerves."
"Oh. I guess there's no problem, then," Terra said. "She's just giving you what you asked for."
Ventus stared at Terra. Something about what he said seemed so horrifying. "But… This won't last forever, will it? Aqua still… She still cares about me, right?"
Terra chuckled. "Just listen to you," he said. "I thought you wanted her to back off."
Ventus puffed up his cheeks again. "I don't anymore…"
The chuckle grew into a hearty laugh. "You should've thought of that before you told her off. You've got one messed up head, Ven. You wanted it just this morning, and now you don't anymore?"
Ven kicked the rock at Terra, and it missed his side by inches. "Alright, you've had your laugh. Are you going to tell me what to do or not?"
The oldest apprentice laughed just a bit longer, and then he smiled. "Simple. Just, you know, let her take care of you."
"Tell her the truth. Admit that you actually need her."
For the third time, Ven filled his cheeks with air.
"I'm serious, Ven. It's obvious you only said those things because you got a bit annoyed," Terra said. "You have to fix this, and saying sorry probably won't cut it. You have to show her that you want her to care about you."
'How do I do that?"
Terra smirked. "I'm sure you'll be able to come up with something. Eventually."
Ven sighed and chewed on his lip. How was he going to show Aqua he wanted her to care about him when she's doing her best not to?
Her indifference went on the following day, and the one after that, and even the one after that. It went on for a full week, and Ventus still had no idea what he could do. He was at a loss for words around her, especially because she wasn't even ignoring him. She was just acting oblivious to his moments of carelessness.
He missed the way she would rush to him worriedly if he accidentally ran smack into a column, and the way she would tell him to stop jumping around before he hurt himself, and the way she would offer to help him up whenever he tripped and fell. He had to heal his own wounds now and, maybe it was just in his head, but they hurt so much more than they used to, back when Aqua still cared.
"I give up, Ven, I just can't win against you," Aqua said as Ven wrestled her thumb to submission. They were supposed to be stargazing, as they sat on the rocks bordering the Summit, but Ven had suddenly challenged Aqua to a thumb-wrestling match. As always, she could not refuse.
"You're really horrible at thumb-wrestling, Aqua," he said, forcing himself to grin.
Terra laughed behind them. "She's horrible at any kind of wrestling," he said.
Aqua laughed with him, and Ven followed suit, but only half-heartedly. She seemed so normal, while he was so broken up over their situation.
"Aren't you going to let my poor thumb go now, Ven?" Aqua asked as their laughter died down.
"Oh," Ven said, releasing her hand. "Yeah, right, sorry."
She rested her intertwined hands on her lap and turned her gaze to the stars. Ven kept his eyes on her hands. "Hey, Aqua…" he said.
"How come your hands are so soft?"
She laughed a little. "What?" she said. "Why are you asking such a silly question?"
"Well, they are," Ven said, his cheeks flushed with color. "Mine are so rough, I guess from all that training, but yours are just… Really, really soft. And you train even harder than I do."
She smiled at him, her expression very warm. "Ventus, when you have cast Cure as often or as many times as I have, the scars no longer sink in…"
Ventus could not sleep that night.
"When you have cast Cure as often or as many times as I have…"
Just how many times had she cast Cure for him? He never bothered to count, and never showed how grateful he was for each and every time.
"…the scars no longer sink in."
Were there other scars he didn't know about? Scars he couldn't see?
He crawled out of bed and headed out of his bedroom, troubled. As quietly as he could, he walked towards her room. He let himself in – she never locks the door – and stood by her bedside. She was fast asleep, dreaming it seemed, because her lashes fluttered a little and her fingers flexed.
Seeing her sleeping so peacefully made him feel so many things at once; gratitude, concern, guilt, regret, longing…
How could he have ever asked her to back off? How could he have hurt her feelings, when all she wanted to do was keep him safe, protect him from harm?
"Aqua," he called, touching her shoulder. "Wake up…"
She stirred and opened her eyes. It took her a moment, but she eventually realized who he was. "Ven, why are you still awake? What are you doing here?" she asked, pulling herself up to a sitting position.
"I… I just feel so scared… I can't sleep," he said softly.
"Oh, I see…" she said. There was a faint shimmer in her eyes, as if she was entertaining some deep thoughts.
"Aqua… Would it be okay if I slept here tonight? With you?"
A smile tugged on the corner of her lips, but she stopped it quickly. "Are you sure you want to do that?" she asked.
Ventus climbed into her bed, lying on his side and pulling the blankets around him. "Please stop it, Aqua," he begged. "The past week has been a nightmare. I want you to care about me again, please. The truth is I need you, okay? I really need you…"
Now, she was unable to stop the smile. "I know you do," she murmured. She lay back down, facing him, and fondled with his hair. His cheeks slowly grew warmer.
"I'm so sorry…" he said.
"Shh… There's no need for that," she whispered. She wrapped him in a tender embrace as he placed his arm around her waist, his face buried against her neck. She continued to run her fingers through his hair and he felt comfort and security in her touch.
"I missed you. The things I said, I… It will never happen again," He pressed himself even closer to her and he tightened his hold around her.
"Ven, no matter what you say or do, I love you. I will always take care of you. Remember that," she said.
He smiled. "I'll remember."
He closed his eyes and, for a few moments, just focused on the feel of her pulse and the sound of her breathing. It was soothing to have her so close to him, comforting to know he was still and always will be in her heart. Just as sleep threatened to overcome him, he touched her face, willing himself to speak just one last, coherent thought.
"Aqua, one more thing…"
"I love you, too."