Set in Disney Town.
This story was originally a one shot.
But it grew to annoying proportions and I am reluctantly turning it into two-and-a-half shots.
The Genres are Friendship and Romance because this story is tottering on the line that divides both.
I suppose I could leave you to decide what emotions they feel in the end.
DISCLAIMER [I do not own Kingdom Hearts] DISCLAIMER
A way to break free from destiny…
He scratched his arm with one finger, though more in annoyance at the suit than really to relieve an itch. He hated it, but it was what his Master required him to wear. In all honesty, he would sooner stroll about naked than wear this silly, skin-tight excuse for armor. Sure, its simplicity allowed him to move with ease, but it chafed his skin here and there. He liked the mask, but that was very little consolation for the rest of his outfit.
Sighing, he sat down, dangling his legs over the edge of the roof. He wrinkled his nose in disgust at the multitude of colors the town was decorated with. Even the buildings looked like blocks of cake and candy. In fact, the very spot he was sitting on was a disgustingly vibrant shade of blue with yellow accents. It was truly sickening.
He shook his head, knowing he had to focus. There were just so many things to hate that sometimes he wished there were more of him to spread the hate around. His Unversed weren't doing a good enough job at it. But, really, he needed to focus. Aqua was almost finished playing Fruitball – a stupid game in his opinion – and there was something he wanted to ask her…
He tapped his fingers lazily along the edge of the roof. Then he began to hum for a moment, until he ended up singing in a rather haunted voice, "All around the mulberry bush, the monkey chased the weasel… The monkey thought it was all in fun…"
He smirked as a whistle sounded, signaling the end of the game. Aqua did a little victory spin, which made the corner of his lips twitch in an amused smirk. Of course she would win. There was never a question of that.
The horse-man who had asked for her help with the Unversed approached her, congratulating her and thanking her for her assistance. And then a mouse in a disgustingly pink dress approached her, too, and started blabbing.
Vanitas tapped his fingers impatiently again. When were they going to stop hounding Aqua? Apparently never, as yet more citizens walked up to her, thanking her, too. He groaned, but decided to move closer – leaping down to walk in the shadows instead of bounding across rooftops – so he could catch her when she leaves those silly locals. Really, it was a petting zoo down there; a mouse, a horse, a dog, a…cow? Next thing you know, there would be a duck.
"Being popular is tough," he heard Aqua say when he drew closer, and the people – animals, really – gathered around her were all laughing.
Once they had stopped tittering, the horse-man said, "Well, we've got to clean up the Plaza now." The other locals around him were nodding, some sighing a little.
Vanitas snorted. Good luck with that, he thought. Before Aqua arrived, his Unversed already made quite a mess of the entire Plaza, not just the game field. It looked as though a giant bowl of fruit salad had exploded right in the center. And he smiled, remembering enormous bananas whizzing around like rockets and massive chunks of watermelon hurtling towards the walls.
"Let me help you," Aqua said.
Vanitas frowned immediately. Is she serious? After making him wait so long to talk to her, she was going to hang around longer with these goons?
"Oh, no! You have done more than enough for us," the mouse in the pink dress said.
He clenched his fists, hoping Aqua would take the hint and change her mind. But of course she wouldn't. She was Aqua, as if she could just…not help.
Sure enough, Aqua shook her head,, smiling. "I don't mind. Please, let me."
Vanitas groaned. What idiot begs other people to let her help them? Then again, it was one of the reasons why he wanted to talk to her… She was a sap for people in distress…
He walked away, knowing that cleaning the Fruitball Plaza would take the rest of the day. He would have to wait until tomorrow, it seems. As he rounded a corner, he wondered if he should just leave Aqua be. There were a lot of reasons why he should. His Master disapproved of him tailing Aqua. He hated this world and its rainbow color scheme. The ice cream shop was getting harder and harder to resist. And it was a stupid question anyway, what he wanted to ask her.
That is if he would even be able to ask her at all. And if she would even pause for half a second to listen to him… Which she probably would not, considering what transpired between them at Radiant Garden.
He scratched at his arm again, his nail clawing at the red veins of his suit, and he heard squeaks of laughter coming from behind him. He turned around, and it took him a moment to locate the source, simply because they were so small.
"What are you laughing at, pipsqueaks?" he barked at the pair of chipmunks.
They grinned at him – or, at least, it looked like they were grinning. "What are you dressed for, Halloween?" one of them asked.
He had half a mind to kick them but he needed to bite down his darkness or else Aqua would find him. He turned away from them, knowing his self-control would only last about four seconds on a good day. Today was not a good day.
In the back of his mind, though, he knew they were right. He was dressed rather stupidly. And as if by fate, he found himself standing in front of a clothing store. He looked briefly at his reflection in the shop window and thought, Perhaps if I dress more casually, it would be easier to speak with Aqua…
It made sense. She did not know who he was, and she did not have to know, so if he appeared dressed as a regular boy... He walked into the store, hoping they had more to offer than those frilly dresses and over-decorated shirts they had on display.
"Thank you so much," Aqua said, smiling, as the innkeeper offered her a room for the night free of charge.
The innkeeper grinned, "After everything you've done to help, this is the least we could do."
Normally, she would insist on paying for the accommodations, but she was too exhausted. Scraping dried banana bits off walls was tough. It reminded her vaguely of cleaning days at the Land of Departure. They were undoubtedly her least favorite days of the year, and she was sure Terra – and, later, Ventus – shares her sentiments.
Aqua went into the room she had been so kindly given, and smiled as soon as she stepped in. It was simple, neat, and quite cozy; finished in warm woods and soft blue furnishings. She walked over to the bed, which was at one corner of the room, right beside the window. She slipped off her shoes, armor, sleeves, and the cloths draped around her waist. Then she crawled onto the little piece of heaven.
She sighed contentedly, pulling the feather-stuffed coverlet around her and burying her face for a minute in the fluffy pillow. Her body was aching, her head was throbbing a little from all her troubled thoughts, and this truly was heaven.
After a while, she rolled over and looked out the window, admiring the brilliant white moon and the stars. Almost instantly, Terra and Ven came into her mind, making her frown sadly. She sighed again, sitting up, and opening the window. Her cheeks flushed suddenly as the cold air touched her skin and she inhaled deeply.
She rested her arms on the window sill and thought about her friends. She wondered where they were and if they were alright. Their reunion at Radiant Garden was not exactly enjoyable. She lowered her gaze from the stars because they only served to remind her more and more of her friends. And as she surveyed the Fruitball Plaza, which her window overlooked, she noticed a boy standing across the court. He was leaning casually against a wall, unmistakably staring at her.
Aqua frowned. It was very late for a boy to still be outside, all by himself. And just why was he looking at her like that? She suddenly felt self-conscious and she leaned back into her room, shutting the window and drawing the curtain. It was just a boy, but still. Something about him made her feel restless and uneasy. She pressed a hand over her heart and was surprised at the pace of her heartbeat. She took a few deep breaths until she finally calmed down. Her apprehension was unreasonable.
She lay down and turned off the light from the bedside lamp. She was certain that she will have forgotten all about that boy tomorrow. And, first thing in the morning, she would continue on her journey.
Vanitas watched her step out of the inn just an hour before noon.
"No, really, you have given me enough," she said awkwardly, politely waving the innkeeper off. "And I must be going now."
"You should at least stay until the Awards Ceremony tomorrow," the innkeeper said. "It is always the best day of the Festival."
Aqua smiled courteously. "I would, but…"
"Well, think about it," the innkeeper said. "I'll be sure to have a room open for you tonight."
"Oh, no, you don't need to do that," Aqua said, flustered. "Really, thank you very much, but I…"
"Now, don't be shy, dear," the innkeeper said, patting her on the shoulder.
As if finally realizing that arguing was pointless, Aqua just nodded. "I'll think about it."
And, at last, the innkeeper let her go and she breathed a sigh of relief. She shook her head a little, smiling, and Vanitas imagined the thought that must be going through her mind. People here are just too nice.
Aqua then began to walk away, and Vanitas followed her stealthily. He knew that she was searching for a secluded place where she can summon her Glider and leave. But he could not let her go, not yet. So he dug through his brain for a plan, until one finally hit him, in the form of a rather sizable rock he had stubbed his toe against.
He picked it up and scraped it as hard as he could against his knee, gritting his teeth against the rush of pain. Then, he flung the rock away as far as he could. Aqua was already some distance away from him, so he hurriedly sat on the ground, clutched his now-injured knee, and…wailed.
As expected, Aqua turned in his direction. Her expression immediately changed from one of confusion to one of concern and she ran to him.
"Are you alright?" she asked, kneeling down beside him.
"No," he said just a little annoyed at her stupid question. He made sure his voice was just a little higher in pitch, so she would not recognize him.
"What happened?" she asked as she examined his wound.
"I tripped…" he mumbled.
She smiled warmly at him. "You'll be alright; it's just a scrape."
Vanitas felt his eye twitch. It was more than a scrape, really, as little drops of blood began to gather around his knee. But he knew she was trying to make him feel better. He resisted the urge to just cast Cure – or hit himself on the head for scraping the rock just a bit too hard.
He watched as Aqua withdrew a water bottle from her pouch and poured some of the cool liquid carefully over his wound. He hissed a little when it stung, and she blew on it. After that, she pulled out her handkerchief and wrapped it around his knee.
"There," she said, once done, and she helped him stand.
He was quiet for a moment, then he remembered that normal people would say, "Thank you." So he did.
"You're welcome," she answered. "So, where are your parents?"
He glared at her. "Do not treat me like a kid."
"I only meant…" she began, but she let that sentence fade, studying his face. Then she frowned. "I know you."
He raised an eyebrow at her.
"I saw you last night," she said. "You were looking…at…"
She stopped and he wanted to laugh. He knew she was about to say that he had been looking at her, but she was probably thinking it was foolish to accuse a boy of such a thing. Vanitas, though, was not ashamed of having been caught staring at her.
"Yeah, I was looking at you," he said.
Her face flushed. "Why?"
He was not prepared to answer that. "Uhm…" he muttered. And then he blurted out the very first thing that came to mind. "You are very pretty…"
He mentally punched himself.
Aqua looked shyly away from him, and that amused him. She couldn't even take compliments from a young boy. Not that he thought of himself as a kid, or anything.
"Uhm… Well, uhm…" she stuttered with embarrassment. But she soon recollected her thoughts. "Why are you alone?"
He scowled. "Well, you are, too."
"Yes, but I am older than you."
"I'm not a kid," he said. He wondered if she was comparing him to Ventus. She probably was. "I can take care of myself."
That line seemed to affect her, and she frowned at him. "If that is true, then you would not have the need to say that."
"Well, it isn't like someone wants to watch over me," he answered.
"What do you mean by that?"
"He never cares what I do or where I go."
She tilted her head. "He? Your father?"
He snorted. "You could say that," he replied, smirking. "But I'd really rather you didn't. As if I would ever want to call him father…"
Aqua looked at him with a disapproving expression. "You shouldn't speak of your father that way."
"Would you stop treating me like a kid?" he snapped, feeling a rush of anger. He grabbed his head, digging into his skin with his fingertips, his eyes shut tight. He needed to stifle his darkness or else she would see right through him and he would never get to ask his question.
"Hey…" she said, her voice very soft. She had her hands on his arms, trying to lower them. "I'm sorry…"
It took him a moment, but he finally relaxed. "Listen, I -"
Vanitas held his breath, feeling the frustration begin to eat at his core. He and Aqua turned to the source of the interruption and saw the horse-man. Vanitas briefly entertained a mental image of doing something that wasn't very nice, but he held himself back.
"Horace, good morning," Aqua greeted politely.
"Glad to see you haven't left yet," the horse-man said. Then he noticed Vanitas. "Is this a friend of yours?"
Aqua turned to Vanitas, smiling. "Well, yes, I suppose so. If he'd like to be."
Vanitas looked up at her, wide-eyed. Before he could speak, Horace had taken Aqua's attention again. "Well, he looks like he could use a game of Fruitball, to turn his frown upside down," said the horse, and Aqua laughed. Vanitas felt that mental image tug at him again. "Anyway," the horse continued. "Queen Minnie wanted me to ask you if you wouldn't mind joining us tomorrow for the Awards Ceremony."
Her smile weakened. "I would love to, but -"
"It would really mean a lot to us if you did," Horace continued.
"But I -"
"I think you should," Vanitas cut in.
Horace grinned happily, in a way that made Vanitas recoil a little. "Come on, Aqua, what is one more day anyway?" the horse said.
She sighed. "Alright. I will stay until the Ceremony tomorrow," she replied.
Vanitas smirked. The girl really needed to practice saying No. And after a few more excited – although annoying and useless – blabs from the horse, he finally left them alone and Aqua sighed.
"Now what am I going to do for the rest of the day…?" she asked herself.
Vanitas looked up at her. "You could spend it with me."
He scowled. "What is so funny?"
She shook her head. "Sorry," she mumbled. "But… If you were any older, it would have felt like you were asking me out on a date."
"I am old enough to ask you out on a date!" he said angrily. And at the look she gave him, he quickly added, "If I wanted to, I mean. Not that I want to. But I could, if I did." He mentally punched himself again. Why was he acting like such an idiot?
She ruffled his hair. "I was just lightening the mood. Try not to be so cranky, okay?"
He shoved her hand away, frowning.
"So, we haven't really introduced ourselves, have we? My name is Aqua. You?"
"Van -" he bit his tongue.
She quirked an eyebrow. "Van?"
"Yeah, it's short for…" he let his voice trail, his frown deepening.
She laughed again. "If you'd rather not tell me, then Van is fine," she said.
Honestly, it was not fine. He did not want to be called Van. His name was Vanitas. Not that it was the best name in the world, but Van just sounded so… Normal.
"Van?" Aqua called, and he realized she had already taken a few steps away.
He caught up to her and she smiled. "How about a game or two?" she said.
He narrowed his eyes at her. "What kind of game?"