Set in the Land of Departure.
I needed a breather from the darkness and the seriousness of my other story, Escape.
So I wrote this. Which would explain why this whole thing is so silly. The title itself is really...awful...
It's the kind of story that makes you go, "I totally knew it would end that way!"
And the introduction is just there simply because, well, I had to stuff it there.
Enjoy! I hope...
DISCLAIMER [I do not own Kingdom Hearts] DISCLAIMER
THE STUFFED BUNNY
He would get that bunny someday…
[Introduction / Several Years Ago]
Master Eraqus paled, his breath caught in his throat. "N-no… Aqua, don't cry…"
Her little blue eyes began to brim with tears as she breathed out a small whimper. Terra, already on the other side of the playpen, was busy strangling her stuffed bunny.
The Master desperately waved his hands in front of the baby girl, trying to get her attention. She looked at him, her expression pitiful. Master Eraqus grinned as wide as he could, covering his eyes. "Aqua! Where's the Master?"
"Here I am!" Master Eraqus uncovered his eyes and wiggled his fingers on either side of his face. Aqua was still frowning… And then she suddenly smiled, eyes shining with delight
Sighing with relief, Master Eraqus turned his attention to Terra. "As for you…" he said, grabbing the bunny and returning it to Aqua. She promptly cuddled it and brushed its cheek against hers. "Perhaps an hour in the corner will temper your bad behavior."
He lifted Terra up only to set him down in a secluded corner of the room. Terra stared defiantly up at the Master for a moment, and then turned his attention to Aqua. She wasn't looking at him, too preoccupied with snuggling against her bunny. The little boy frowned. He would get that bunny someday…
[Present Day / A Year or Two before Birth by Sleep]
Terra knocked on her bedroom door, stifling a yawn. "Aqua?" he called. "Are you up yet?"
There was no answer and he sighed, groaning about having to wake so early. But the Master seemed adamant that they begin training before dawn today. "Make certain they wake on time, Terra," the Master had said the night before. "I'm counting on you."
So he knocked again. "Aqua…" he said, dragging the last syllable.
Still no answer, so he turned the doorknob, opened the door, and poked his head in. "Aqua," he started, but he stopped talking as soon as he saw her. She was still in bed, fast asleep. In her arms held close to her chest was her stuffed bunny.
Terra narrowed his eyes at the inanimate creature, and the thing stared right back at him with its beady black eyes, mocking him. "After all these years…" he mumbled. He took a deep breath, and shouted at the top of his voice, "Aqua!"
She sat bolt upright, a frightened scowl on her face, and her Keyblade materializing in her hand. But even then, her hold on the stupid doll was secure. She looked at Terra, and her expression softened to one of exasperation. "What… Is there an emergency?" she asked tiredly.
"Yes, and no," he said. "The Master wants us to head to the Training Grounds. Now."
"Oh," she muttered, glancing out her window. "Is he aware that the sun is not even up yet?"
"Unfortunately, yes," Terra answered.
Aqua yawned and gave the bunny a quick hug as she fell back on the bed. "I'll be out in a minute," she said.
Terra grimaced. "Yeah, okay," he grumbled. "I'll go get Ven."
She mumbled something that sounded like, "Yeah, sure, you do that…" and he hurriedly left, not wanting to see her share any more intimate moments with that stuffed animal. He shuddered as he thought of its beady, black eyes. It was mocking him, he was sure. It had been mocking him his entire life and he was sick of it.
When all three of them were awake, dressed, and ready for training, they headed out to the Grounds. Ventus was dragging his feet, Terra kept slapping his own face, and only Aqua looked awake enough not to walk over the edge of a cliff, but just barely. Still, they somehow made it to the Training Grounds, despite the lack of light, the freezing morning air, and the fact that all three of them were groggy to the point of carelessness.
They stood there for a second in silence, until Aqua spoke up. "Where is the Master?"
He was not waiting for them where he should be.
"Maybe he overslept?" Ven offered sleepily.
Terra smacked him on the back of the head. "He never oversleeps, Ven," he said in defense of Master Eraqus. Although he, too, was annoyed that the Master was not there to meet them.
"What is that?" Aqua suddenly said, pointing towards the tree. On it, a card was nailed. Terra approached it and tugged it off.
"It's a note for us," he said, seeing that it was labeled TAV.
He read the note aloud;
Good Morning, Terra, Aqua, Ventus.
Did you sleep well?
There will be no training today.
For a long while, none of them spoke. Terra was shaking, resisting the urge to crumple the note and set something on fire. Ven was scratching his head as if it were full of ants. And Aqua was rubbing her temples, her brows creased.
"Well, I am going back to bed," Aqua finally said. She did not hang around to wait and see if either of the boys would do the same and they let her leave.
When she was gone, Ventus lay on the grass, sighing. "How could I forget?" he groaned.
Terra smirked. Last year, Ven had been the butt of all their jokes, simply because he was new to the holiday. The boy swore he would get back at them this year but – like always – his short attention span worked to his disadvantage.
"The day is not over yet," Terra said.
Ven frowned at him. "But you would be ready for whatever I have in mind, because you're here and… Well, you already know!" He groaned again and Terra laughed.
"How about Aqua?"
Ven looked quizzically at the brunette. "You want me to prank Aqua?"
"Why not? She has always been spared from pranks, except from the Master. I think it's about time she gets a good dose of it."
"She never pranks us," Ventus reasoned.
Terra shrugged. "Since when did that exempt someone from April Fools?"
Ven eventually nodded, agreeing with Terra. After all, he hardly ever questions the older boy, and Terra already had a plan in mind, smirking as he thought of it. Oh, you little rabbit, you are so going to get it today… And he could already feel an insane kind of happiness welling deep in his heart.
Later, after breakfast, when the sun had finally risen to a decent position in the sky, Ventus sat on the kitchen countertop watching Aqua do the dishes.
He breathed deeply, his speech prepared. He needed to get permission to enter her room. The problem with having a fellow apprentice so proficient in magic was that she could seal her bedroom with a barrier, which she did during the day. It was only when she was in her room that the door was left unlocked, such as at night.
So, making sure he remembered the words and the process he and Terra had discussed earlier, he said, "Hey, Aqua… You wouldn't happen to have an extra Potion, would you?
"Oh, what for?" she said, not looking up from her task.
"I just need it."
She stopped for a minute and looked suspiciously at him, as if she had just remembered what day it was. "Ven, are you going to be using this Potion to pull a prank?"
He shook his head. "No."
"Yeah," he answered, hopping off the counter. "I mean, come on, Aqua! What kind of prank do you think I could possibly pull using a Potion?"
She smiled awkwardly. "You're right, I'm sorry," she said. "I have some in my room, inside a green box that you can find at the very back of the third drawer on the left side of my dresser. Got it?"
"Yeah, sure, thanks!" he said and he bolted out of the kitchen, hurrying to her room.
"Did you get it?" Terra asked Ven.
They were outside in the gardens, hiding just behind the largest tree there. They were sure Aqua would never find them because she was in the library, reading up on something, and she could spend hours in there without stepping out once. So Ventus grinned impishly, revealing the stuffed bunny. He and Terra exchanged a quick high five. "Now what?" Ven asked.
"Now, we hide it," Terra answered. He drummed his fingers against his chin, looking around for the perfect hiding place. It was when an acorn fell on his head that an idea hit him, and he smirked devilishly, looking up at the tree where a little brown critter was scampering along the branches.
Aqua was not fond of squirrels. At all.
It was mid-afternoon when Aqua finally left the library and went to her room. She had screamed; a loud, fearful one that echoed through the hallways.
Ven had been expecting it, and so he was waiting for her at the Gardens. It took a moment and a few more shouts of Ventus before she finally found him. Panting, she said, "Ven… When you were in my room, did you…?" She stopped, noting the look on his face.
"No…" she hissed. "Why…? How could you…? I trusted you!"
"It's just a joke, Aqua," Ven said.
"You said you weren't going to pull a prank!"
"I said I wouldn't pull a prank using the Potion," Ven corrected, grinning.
Aqua clapped a hand over her eyes, sighing. "Where is it?" she breathed.
Ven pointed at the large tree behind him, specifically at a hollow in its trunk.
Aqua gasped. "You…" And then she all but burst into tears, choking on her words. "Ven… I… No… Why did you…? Why there…? How am I ever…?"
Ven frowned. Had their prank gone too far? How could a stuffed animal mean so much to her that she would react this way? "Aqua…" he began, his hand halfway to her.
She looked at him, her eyes filled with tears. "You have no idea how important that is to me…" she murmured. "Please… Ven, please…"
"Aqua, don't cry…" Ven pleaded. "I'll get it back, I swear."
And he spun on his heels, heading to the tree. He climbed it expertly and he sat on the first branch where he could best reach the hollow. He peered into it and started digging stuff out. But all that was there were dry leaves, a few acorns, some twigs…
He began to panic. "Where in the world is it…?" he groaned. He was sure this was where he and Terra had hidden it.
Just then, a few squeaks sounded from the branch above him. He looked up, and a lump grew in his throat. A rather large squirrel had its teeth buried in the bunny's neck. "You little…" Ven hissed. "Give me that!" He clambered higher up the tree, just as the squirrel leapt onto the upper branches.
Below him, Aqua was watching apprehensively. "Ven!" Aqua called, knowing that the branches higher up were weaker and might not support his weight. "Stop, that's dangerous! Just leave the squirrel alone, we'll get it some other way!"
But the boy ignored her, climbing higher and higher until the squirrel had nowhere to go. He grinned. "I have you now," he said. He reached for the stuffed bunny but as his hand closed over its foot, the branch that was supporting him snapped.
"Ven!" Aqua shouted. But he recognized two other voices mixing with hers, too, and he was sure they were from Terra and the Master.
He couldn't tell how many branches he tore through as he fell, and his eyes were shut tight, but he felt it when Aqua caught him. They were both on the ground and he was on her lap and in her arms.
"Ven," she breathed, her tone still sounded a bit frightened, but also clearly relieved. "It wasn't worth you getting hurt, you know…"
Opening his eyes, he groaned. He could see the Master, Terra, and Aqua looked at him worriedly. His hand was still closed over the bunny's foot. "I got it," he said, a half-grin on his face. She took it from him and placed it on the ground, shaking her head.
"You are hopeless," she mumbled. "You should have stopped when I told you to."
"I made you cry," he said.
She laughed a little. "No, you didn't," she reassured him. "But you were cutting it close there."
He groaned again, his body aching in several places from the fall. "I get why you don't like squirrels," he managed to joke.
And before Aqua could answer, the Master, who had already knelt beside her, interrupted. "What happened?" he asked.
"It's a long story…" Aqua answered.
Master Eraqus took Ven from her, carefully in case anything was broken. "It was my fault," Ven said. "I'll never do it again, I swear." The Master managed a smile at hearing that typical answer from his youngest apprentice.
"I'm sure," Master Eraqus replied as he stood with Ventus in his arms. He then frowned, noticing his eldest apprentice who was watching the scene with a rather blank expression. "Terra," he said. "Are you alright?"
Terra blinked and realized he had been standing in a daze since seeing Ven fall from the tree. "Y-yes, Master," he stammered.
The Master questioned him no further, concerned about Ventus. "Aqua," he said as he walked towards the castle. "I will need your help."
"Yes, Master," she said, hastily following.
As she passed Terra to follow the Master, he asked her, "He's going to be okay, right?"
Aqua stopped for a minute and nodded, smiling a little. "You heard him," she said. "He's talking like his usual self, and I'm sure that means he'll be fine." Then her smile faded into a frown and she pressed a hand to her chest. "I… I don't know what I would have done if anything happened to him. It would have been all my fault…"
Terra opened his mouth to speak, but his voice had gone. And Aqua left, chasing after the Master. Terra watched her go with a heavy feeling in his heart. Both Aqua and Ventus blamed themselves, but neither of them was at fault. This was all his doing, just because he was annoyed with the stupid stuffed bunny.
Speaking of which, he noticed that Aqua had left it on the ground. He walked towards it and gingerly picked it up. It was in a horrible state; its head was practically falling off, it was caked with layers of dirt, its ears, arms, and feet had notches where the squirrel had gnawed at it, and it only had one beady black eye left.
Terra sighed, his chest heaving with an incredible amount of guilt.
"How come Terra hasn't come to check up on me?" Ventus asked as Aqua carried a tray of food into his room. It was already very late – too late for a proper dinner – but it had taken quite a while to ascertain that Ven had no serious injuries. Now the Master had left and the younger apprentice was lying in bed with instructions to stay put so he could recover.
Aqua chuckled a little as she set the tray on is bed so he could eat. "Terra locked himself up in his room," she answered. "He'll bug you when you're a bit better, I'm sure. I think maybe he doesn't want to bother you while you're healing."
Ven shrugged and began eating; swallowing whole portions of his dinner rather than chewing them down, which Aqua took as a good sign. She ruffled his hair affectionately, then took a deep breath, and said, "Ven… I…"
"Shush," he said with his mouth full of food. "You're going to say sorry, aren't you?"
"Well, don't," Ven said, swallowing and promptly shoving another heaping spoonful into his temporarily-empty mouth. "You are really weird like that, Aqua, apologizing for something you didn't do."
She frowned at him. "I…"
"Don't!" Ven said, waving his spoon in front of her.
She laughed. "Okay, I won't."
Just then, there was a knock on the door. They turned to see who it was and Ven grinned. "Terra! And here I thought you didn't care that I could have cracked my skull open."
The brunette chuckled. "I'm glad to see you're feeling better."
"No thanks to you!" Ventus sneered teasingly, grinning. "You know, I just realized, if anyone is to blame, it's you!"
Aqua, who had been smiling, suddenly frowned. "Don't tell me…"
Terra frowned sadly. "Yeah, sorry…"
"That prank, it was your idea?" she asked and he nodded.
Ven laughed. "Yeah, the whole thing was all his idea."
Terra smirked. "Well, thanks for trying, Ven."
The blonde frowned. "Thanks for trying? Should I say you're welcome? Because, okay, you are, but not really. I mean, I fell off a tree!"
Aqua started laughing and ruffled his hair again. "Yes, you did, but it really doesn't show. Now finish your dinner because you have a lot of resting to do."
"She's right, Ven, eat up and then go to sleep," Terra agreed. Ven continued attacking his food and Terra cleared his throat. "Aqua, could we talk for a minute?"
She sighed. "I already forgive you; you don't have to hurt yourself trying."
He frowned. "It's not that," he said. She turned to face him, scowling a bit, and he grinned. "I mean, yes, I'm sorry, and please forgive me, but there's something else I want to say."
Aqua gave Ven one more head-rub then she stood and walked out of the room with Terra. She closed the door after her, just in case she and Terra were about to have a serious conversation. Ventus never could absorb serious conversations well.
"Alright, what is it?" she asked.
Terra cleared his throat again and only then did Aqua realize that his hands had been behind his back the whole time.
"Terra…?" she asked suspiciously, and he revealed what he had been hiding.
She gasped. "What did you do…?"
"I fixed it," he said. "Or… I tried to."
She took the stuffed bunny from him. He had cleaned it and sewed it up. Imperfectly and almost horribly, her mind noted, but her heart was overflowing from the unbelievably touching gesture. "Terra…" she murmured.
"I know it looks different…" he mumbled, looking away from her and scratching the back of his neck, his face tinged a faint shade of pink.
Aqua was blushing, too. He had added brown scraps of cloth onto the head of her stuffed bunny, arranging them into spikes for hair. He had replaced the black eyes with a pair of blue buttons. And he had sewn strips of red cloth in intersecting diagonals across its chest.
"He's…amazing," she breathed. "Thank you…"
"Yeah?" he asked disbelievingly. "Honest?"
"Well, you're welcome," he said.
She held the stuffed animal close to her chest. "What's even better is that his name suits him perfectly now."
Terra frowned at the girlishness of it all. "It has a name?"
She smiled at him. "Terra."