Set in the Land of Departure.
I wrote this because my heart needed reassurance...
And while writing, I was not thinking clearly, so this story might seem a little... Unrefined?
Anyway, this is supposed to be a little look into the relationship between Master Eraqus and Aqua.
It might not fit canon, but I wish it did.
DISCLAIMER [I do not own Kingdom Hearts] DISCLAIMER
His little girl was all but little now.
She grew up too fast…
He could handle Terra. The boy had been mature since he was six, always focused on his one ambition, always with that serious look on his face. In fact, it was almost as if the only thing that changed about the boy was his build. He just grew physically. So it was easy for Eraqus to accept the changes.
But Aqua? It was difficult for him to see her so…
"Master, would it be alright if I read this?"
"Certainly, Aqua," he answered, nodding, not even bothering to check what book it was that she was inquiring about. Knowing her, it was probably an instructional book, perhaps about some advanced spells.
She paced around his study, opening the book and flipping past the first couple of pages before finally settling on one. She ran her fingers down the page, her eyes flitting back and forth. She did this often, hanging around in his study. In fact, of his three apprentices, only Aqua dared to spend this much time in his presence.
Eraqus watched her thoughtfully, almost sadly, but he was careful not to let that emotion show on his face. He just embraced it in his heart, painful as it was.
His little girl was all but little now.
He missed her at the age of four, when nothing made her happier than climbing up into his arms, wrapping her little arms around his neck.
"Master, please?" she begged, her arms raised and her hands opening and closing in the adorable way children do when they want to be picked up. As if Eraqus could really resist her.
"Oh, alright," he said as he lifted her into his arms. "But only for a minute."|
He chuckled and began walking along the mountain path. "You should learn to use your feet, Aqua."
She poked his abdomen with the toes of her shoes. "I already know how," she said, giggling.
He also missed her at the age of seven.
"It will not hurt you, Aqua," he insisted, holding the squirrel out to her.
She had been frightened beyond belief when the little brown critter suddenly fell on her head and clung to her hair. She was almost in tears, really, mumbling something incoherent and shaking her head.
Even now, Eraqus knew that Aqua remained wary of the little tree-dwelling creatures, and he laughed a little at the memory.
She turned to him. "Master?" she asked, clearly wondering what he could have possibly found funny in such a stark, serious-looking room.
He just smiled, and chose not to reveal the real reason for his amusement. "If you plan to stay and read that here, won't you sit down, Aqua?" he queried, realizing that she was still pacing around the room with that book in hand.
She smiled with slight embarrassment and sat down on one of the armchairs set against one side of the room. She then tucked one foot behind her ankle, lay the book on her lap, brushed her hair back, and continued reading.
Eraqus wondered when it was that she began to sit like that. He remembered her at eight years…
"Aqua, sit properly," he said. She was sitting on one of the armchairs in his study. She was leaning against one armrest, rather than against the back, and both her feet were on top of the other armrest.
At his request, she only leaned back further so that her head was hanging over one side of the armchair. "Do I have to?" she asked.
She sighed a little, but did as she was told. "I'm sorry, Master. Is this better?" she asked, now using the armrests for their intended purpose.
"Much better, thank you," the Master replied.
So, it was probably his fault. Sometimes, he needed to learn to cut them some slack. And sometimes, he just needed to be reminded that they were only children. He recalls one night, when Aqua was nine…
His apprentices were not allowed in his bedroom. He had expressly forbidden it. Yet, here was Aqua, standing at his doorway in the middle of the night.
"Is something wrong?" he asked, sitting up in bed.
"I had a bad dream…"
He thought it was very childish to be frightened by something as trivial as a dream. But Aqua was a child, and so all he did was sigh. "Come here, Aqua," he said kindly.
She closed the door behind her when she had stepped into the room. Eraqus held back a frown, seeing what she was dragging with her. It was a stuffed toy she had sewn herself, quite a remarkable feat for a child her age. Unfortunately, it looked a lot like a certain Heartless, with its beady, yellow eyes. But Eraqus could not tell her that.
He allowed her to climb into his bed and he wrapped the blankets around her. She lay slightly curled on her side, and he told her to close her eyes as he repeatedly ran his fingers through her hair. He knew that action soothed her and she was fast sleep within minutes.
It was the first of eleven nights that she came into his room because of a nightmare. She never spoke about the dreams that plagued her, and he never asked. He wished he had, though. He might have been able to offer more comfort. And that was just one of many things he regrets with Aqua.
Eraqus admits that he was apprehensive at first, taking on a second apprentice. He was concerned that he might not be able to give them both his best, as he would be torn between them. And he was even more anxious at choosing the little girl. Could he really handle all the issues that a girl deals with growing up? Would he be enough for her, the way he is enough for Terra?
And he wishes that he had never revealed that weakness. Because the moment it became apparent to Aqua, she did her best to make it easier for him. It was not that he told her outright. She simply noticed. She realized that there were many things that he could not help her with, and there were many things she might say or do that would be awkward for him. She became more independent. She gradually became more like Terra. Her affectionate disposition towards him changed to one that was simply respectful and civil.
"Master?" Aqua asked, frowning at the book. "Could you explain this one to me?"
He nodded for her to approach, and she stood up from her seat, bringing the book with her. He had been right; it was a book about advanced commands. She was asking him about Magic Hour.
"This might be too advanced for you, Aqua," he said, though he did not believe it himself. There was not a single command that Aqua attempted to learn, and failed. But she was taking her training too seriously. She was growing up too fast…
Aqua frowned a little – she always did when she was denied new knowledge – but she did not argue with her Master.
"I will teach it to you when you are ready," he said to appease her. Although he was well aware that he was being unreasonable and foolish, preventing her from learning this new command.
Still, she seemed satisfied and, taking the book, she returned to her seat.
"Aqua?" he asked.
She looked up at him. "Yes?"
"How old are you?"
Her lips curved into an awkward smile, while her brows creased in confusion. "Sixteen," she answered.
Eraqus nodded. "I see…"
"Ask me again when you are sixteen," he told her.
Her young face scrunched up in annoyance. "That's…" She paused for a minute, counting with her fingers. "Ten years from now!"
Eraqus chuckled and embraced her, just because the expression on her face was irresistibly cute. "It's sooner than you think Aqua."
And it truly was. Where did those ten years go, he wondered, as he watched Aqua turn her attention back to the book. Before she could resume reading, though, there was a knock on the door.
"Come in," Eraqus called, and Ventus poked his head into the room.
"Good evening, Master," he said, grinning.
"Good evening," the Master returned the greeting.
Ventus then turned to Aqua. "Terra and I are going to the Summit. Do you want to come?"
A smile lit up her face and she nodded. She returned the book to the shelf and made to leave with Ventus, when Master Eraqus said, "Aqua, hold on a minute."
She turned to him. "Yes, Master?"
Eraqus paused. What was it exactly that he wanted to tell her? He stood up from his desk, and gestured for them to walk ahead. Ventus and Aqua exchanged puzzled looks but said nothing. They left the study, the two apprentices walking ahead of the Master.
As they made their way down the hallways, Aqua brushed her fingertips along the pristine white walls and Eraqus remembered yet another memory.
His shout definitely sounded angry, and she dropped the crayons, spinning around to face him. Her lips began to tremble as she cowered before him, and he hadn't even begun reprimanding her yet.
He tried to organize his thoughts as he looked down at her. Several crayons were littered at her feet and the once-clean walls of the hallways were filled with various shapes and colors. And he had half a mind to punish her, but the drawing she was currently working on caught his eye.
She had drawn him. And on his shoulders was a drawing of her, reaching up to the sky. They were in a field of colorful flowers with butterflies fluttering about. The only thing missing was the sun.
He breathed deeply. "Aqua…" he said again, softer this time.
"Sorry, Master…" she said, her gaze to the floor.
He knelt down and lifted her chin. He smiled at her. "I think you forgot to draw something."
He picked up the yellow crayon and handed it to her. Then, still on his knees, he lifted her up so that she was on his shoulders and she could draw the sun high above them.
They reached the front doors and Ventus eagerly threw them open, bounding outside. He hopped hurriedly down the steps. "Come on, Aqua, we shouldn't keep Terra waiting," he said impatiently, because Aqua was taking her time walking.
"We'll get there when we get there," she said. She was only halfway down the steps, and Ventus was already running in circles around the center of the Forecourt.
Eraqus sighed sadly, standing at the doorway. Aqua was once like Ventus…
"Master, why are you so slow?" she teased, tugging on his arm as they made their way down the stairs.
"Aqua, please, you might fall," he said, worried. He held onto her wrist, frowning. "Calm down, we'll get there when we get there."
"Aqua," he said.
"Yes, Master?" she said, stopping just as she reached the bottom step. Ventus, too, stopped spinning around to look up at the Master.
Eraqus turned to the youngest apprentice. "Go on ahead, Ventus, I just need to have a word with Aqua," he said.
Ventus nodded. "Yes, Master," he said, and he headed down the path leading to the Summit. As soon as he was out of sight, Eraqus turned to Aqua.
"Come here," he said, and she climbed back up the stairs to him.
She was frowning with concern. "Is everything alright, Master?"
He did not answer for a moment. He just looked at her. She had changed so much, but whenever he looked into her eyes, he still saw the little girl who wanted to be carried around all the time, who was afraid to sleep alone because of her nightmares, who wanted to spend afternoons chasing butterflies and watching birds fly by.
Eraqus stepped forward, closer to her, and very slowly he embraced her. She held her breath as he wrapped his arms tightly around her with one hand resting on the back of her head and one arm draped over her shoulder blades.
"Master Eraqus?" she asked uncertainly.
He remained silent, and Aqua tentatively returned his embrace, clearly no longer used to such affectionate gestures from her Master. It lasted for only a moment, and then he released her. He cleared his throat as he stepped back.
She was looking at him questioningly, but before she could ask anything, he said, "You may go now, Aqua."
For a second, her questioning expression remained, but then it was quickly replaced by a warm, loving smile. She leaned forward and kissed him lightly on the cheek, and Eraqus knew she understood. Then she turned around and headed down the stairs, eager to get to where Ventus and Terra were surely waiting for her.
Eraqus watched her go with a smile and a slightly lighter heart, realizing something that he wished he had realized sooner. Aqua might not be a little girl anymore, but she was still his daughter. And the thing about daughters is… They never truly grow up.