Set in the Land of Departure, and a Made-Up World.
Occurs shortly before Ventus makes his appearance.
Originally did not intend to publish this.
But I dreamt that I did, and so here we are.
This is dedicated to more people than usual. Hahaha!
This is for Fantasy0Girl, Aqua Azul, AquaStormXIV, and Penamesolen.
DISCLAIMER [I do not own Kingdom Hearts] DISCLAIMER
A very small price to pay
For a moment of perfection.
Aqua was the most boring person Terra has ever met. And it drove his seventeen-year-old mind to insanity, seeing someone so beautiful be so…dull. She was too dignified for her age, a total stickler for the rules. He knew it was not her fault, though. She was the first apprentice, after all, and living for a year alone with Master Eraqus must have caused irreparable damage to her sense of humor. And those days she spent being babysat by Master Yen Sid could not have been of much help in giving her the right definition for fun.
Terra wanted to change all that, before it was too late for her. At fifteen, she should be rebellious and high-spirited. She should be complaining about their unreasonable training schedules, and their strictly planned missions, and all the rules and laws they had to abide by.
But Aqua was just…
She was just like Master Eraqus.
Terra wanted to find the real Aqua, buried beneath those organized layers of formality. He knew she was in there, somewhere. He heard it in her laughter, rare as they were. And he saw it in the way she smiled, and the way she looked at him with amusement whenever he made a fool of himself. He wanted Aqua the girl, not Aqua the Keyblade Wielder.
He loved that part of her, and he thinks he may have just found a way to draw it out.
"Terra, no," she said for the hundredth time as she lightly brushed the sleep from her eyes with her fingertips. She leaned against the frame of her bedroom door, sighing. "What would the Master say?"
"Who says he has to know?"
She raised her eyebrow at him in disbelief, as if he had just suggested that they set the castle on fire, and he couldn't help but laugh a little.
"Aqua, we both know what will happen if you tell on me," Terra said, grinning. "But after the punishment and the lecture, you know I will just go back to bothering you. And I will keep bothering you until you finally give in for once."
"No," she said, still resolute.
But he had a reasonable offer prepared. "Listen, if you do this with me, one time, I will never bother you about this again." There was a shimmer of interest in her eyes, and Terra knew he now had the upper hand. So he continued, "And on the off chance that we get caught, I will take all the blame. I swear."
She considered his proposal. It was a tempting offer. A one-time rule-breaking deal and she would be free of him forever. One guilt-ridden night was a small price to pay for an eternity of peace, right? He would never wake her up in the middle of the night, or pester her in the library, or annoy her every single time that the Master was not around.
"You will never bother me like this again?" she asked to make certain. He nodded. "Alright. You win. What is your plan?"
Terra smirked. "First, you're going to have to dress warmly," he said.
The trickiest part was sneaking out of the castle and walking far enough from it so as to be able to inconspicuously open a portal to the Lanes Between. But once those hurdles were crossed and the distance seemed sufficient, everything else was simple.
At their chosen departure point, Terra stopped and faced Aqua. "Is that it, you sure?" he asked her for the third time since they left the castle, referring to her clothing. She was not as bundled up as he hoped she would be.
"Terra, how cold could it be, wherever it is we're going? And, you said it yourself; we will not be staying long."
He did not want to argue further, or she might change her mind. He donned his armor and summoned his Keyblade Glider and she followed suit. Then, he opened a portal for them. With one last exchange of nods, they soared through the portal and into the spaces between worlds.
The journey was short and uneventful. Terra has made this trip twice before, with the Master, and those trips were enough for him to memorize the way.
Soon, they burst through a portal in the sky and into a new world. Terra hastily landed and dismissed his Keyblade and armor. Aqua did the same, and the moment her helmet was gone and he saw her expression, Terra could not stop himself from smiling.
"Where are we?" she asked softly, her eyes sweeping their surroundings. There was the unmistakable look of wonder on her face.
"Winter Town," he answered.
A smile began to grace her lips. "Terra… This is beautiful…"
And it was.
The picturesque village they were currently overlooking was blanketed in snow, and even more of the fragile white flakes continued to fall from the night sky, like sleeping stars. The little windows, lit golden from within, stood out against the darkness of the night and whiteness of the snow. There were evergreen trees scattered here and there, and bordering the town, sporting crowns of white fluff and brilliant lights in different colors. The houses, too, were decorated with the same tiny lights, giving them the appearance of having been showered with colorful glitter.
"Come on," he told her, taking her hand. "It gets better."
Aqua followed him down the low knoll they had landed on and he led her through the village. The smile was perpetually on her face as she began to absorb the details. Up close, she could see that the lights were of different shapes as well as colors. The decorations were numerous and varied. There were star-shaped lanterns everywhere. Lighted figures of angels stood around the houses, and some even on the roofs. Wreaths and ribbons in red, green, and gold adorned the doors and hung from the eaves.
She could also hear soft music and singing whenever they walked closer to the houses. Now and then, other couples would walk by them, arm in arm, or downright embracing. Children would also run by, laughing or chattering excitedly. There was an obvious air of happiness. The entire town was in a festive, yet at the same time subdued, mood.
"Is it always like this?" she asked him.
"No, not always," he answered. "I mean, it snows all the time, but the lights, the decorations… The locals only put those up once a year. There is a holiday they celebrate here called Christmas. And I think that tonight is Christmas Eve, the most important night of the season."
Aqua stopped walking and Terra did as well. "What's the matter?" he asked her.
He studied her for a moment and realized she was trembling slightly.
Frowning, he draped his arm around her shoulders. "Are you cold?" His voice was full of concern.
"I'm fine," she said, smiling up at him.
"You're not a very good liar, Aqua," he said.
"Alright, I'm cold. But please don't say I told you so."
He chuckled a little. "It's my fault. I should've just told you where we were going so you'd know how cold it'd be. I just really wanted all this to be a surprise."
She looked up at him. "Why?"
"Just because," he answered, averting his gaze from her. "We should leave, before you freeze on me."
"No, not yet. Please?"
Terra smiled inwardly. While he was worried that the cold might be causing her great discomfort, he was thrilled that she was interested enough in the place to want to stay, despite this being against the rules. "Okay, well, we should at least get out of the snow."
They walked a little further, into the heart of the village, and found shelter in one of the pavilions there. These, too, were decorated like the houses were, and the evergreens surrounding them were covered with lights.
They sat down on the bench in the center of their small pavilion and Terra held Aqua close to him. She welcomed the warmth of his embrace with a sigh.
"So tell me about Christmas," she said.
"I don't know much about it," he admitted. "I have no idea where the idea for Christmas comes from, or why they celebrate it here, but I know that they celebrate it as families, with their loved ones."
"What do they do, then?"
"I think, tonight especially, they'd be having a private sort of feast together. And then they sing songs, or share stories."
"Well, I think they also have to give each other gifts."
She raised an eyebrow. "They have to?"
"I think so. It's a rule, I guess," he said, grinning at her. "Then they put up decorations together, like around the house, and on the Christmas tree."
"What is a Christmas tree?"
He frowned a little, as if a puzzling thought just crossed his mind. "Well, it's a tree they keep inside the house. I don't know; they put all their presents under it."
Aqua laughed, both at the description of the Christmas tree and at seeing the look on his face. "Seems a strange way to store gifts…"
They laughed together for a minute and Terra felt he had broken through those guarded layers of hers. This was the Aqua he liked, the one whose company he wished he could have more often.
"Thanks for bringing me here, Terra," she murmured.
"You're welcome," he answered.
The two of them fell silent, just taking in the calming sights and listening to the faint music in the air. Just as they were beginning to feel almost drowsy, giggles sounded from behind them. Turning around, they saw a group of three children standing just at the edge of the pavilion, looking at them.
"Did you kiss her yet?" asked one of them; a boy with red hair peeking out from beneath the bonnet he wore. He had on a cheeky grin, matching the glint in his eyes.
"Huh?" Terra asked.
Aqua, too, was confused.
Another one of the kids, the little girl with short black hair framing her face, pointed up, directly above where Aqua and Terra were seated. "Didn't you see the mistletoe?"
The two keybearers turned their gaze upwards and saw that overhead hung a sprig of some evergreen plant bearing white berries. Neither of them knew what it was, or what it had to do with kissing. Apparently, their incomprehension was evident on their faces because all three children giggled again.
The girl went on to explain, her blue eyes shining with amusement. "When a boy and a girl meet under mistletoe, they have to kiss."
Terra noticed that Aqua suddenly stopped breathing.
The first boy laughed. "Guess you didn't know, huh?"
The third child, also a boy but with blond hair, added, "Well, now you do. So what are you waiting for?"
Aqua had her eyes turned anywhere but at Terra. "We really shouldn't… I don't think that's appropriate," she said, her voice barely a whisper.
Terra held back a snicker. Of course Aqua would say something like that. "They said we have to," he said, looking at her expectantly.
"They can't be serious…"
"I think they are."
The red-head spoke up again. "Just kiss her already. It's a rule, you know." That statement was followed by exclamations of agreement, and another bout of giggling.
"Well, you heard them," Terra said.
Aqua was clearly flustered. "Terra, no," she pleaded softly. But she spoke with even less conviction than she did when refusing to go along with his plans earlier at home.
"Why not?" he asked her.
She lifted her eyes to his. "Why are you even asking that? Do you actually want to?"
"Yes." He did not miss a beat as he replied.
Aqua lowered her gaze again, biting her lip. She was obviously surprised by his answer and his confidence. "Terra…" she said, but it seemed she was suddenly at a loss for words. He could sense that she was nervous.
Their audience of three giggled again and Terra stood up from the bench to walk towards them. He then told them in a hushed voice, "Hey, she's a little shy. If you could help me out a bit and go hide or something, that'd be great." He grinned at them and they nodded, scurrying off. The red-head was winking as they went.
Terra then went back to sit with Aqua. "Is that better?"
"Not much," she answered.
He cupped her cheek in his hand and murmured, "Don't you want to, Aqua?"
"Terra… We really shouldn't…"
She looked up at him with the same incredulous expression she gave him earlier. As if he had just suggested that they set the town on fire.
"We're in an entirely different world, Aqua," he said. "We're playing by a whole new set of rules. So, seriously, says who?" She had no answer and he smirked. "Besides, you didn't answer my other question. Don't you want to?"
In response, she slowly licked her lips, ending with her teeth grazing over her bottom lip. And that was enough invitation for Terra. He raised her gaze to meet his, and as their eyes slowly fell closed, their lips touched. He felt her skin grow warm against him, and he thought he could hear her heartbeat quicken. Their kiss was soft and innocent, short and sweet.
And it would have been perfect, were it not for the whoops and cheers that resounded from the three children, who had hidden behind nearby trees. Then again, as Terra saw Aqua smile shyly in a way that he was sure matched his own sheepish grin, he decided maybe those cheers only added to the moment's perfection.
They returned to the Land of Departure much later than they intended.
And that would be the first and only time that Aqua ever broke the rules, because the moment they returned home, their Master – who had been angrily and worriedly awaiting their arrival – locked the Lanes Between.
Terra, though, decided that it was worth it.
So, he probably will not be able to see another world for several years; maybe not until he becomes a Keyblade Master. And who knows when that would be, or if it would ever happen at all. But that seemed a small price to pay compared to seeing Aqua smile every day, and hearing her laugh more often. There was no sound or sight in any world that he wanted more than that.
And what are a few years, what is a lifetime even, when compared to one perfect night, and one perfect kiss, with Aqua?