Set in an Alternate Universe.
I imagined the setting to be my university, specifically a place that we call the Sunken Garden.

If you have read my other stories, let me warn you a bit about this one.
It is slightly more corrupted than my other works. Just slightly.
And if you have read my other story Colors of the Heart, you can look at this as a continuation.
One where Aqua and Vanitas are both in college.
And Aqua is introduced to a world where Vanitas is no longer an anti-social kid that everybody hates.
Hahaha!

I hope all the flashbacks (in italics) don't end up confusing you.

This is dedicated to Lilac Phoenix.

DISCLAIMER [I do not own Kingdom Hearts] DISCLAIMER


HEARTTHROB

What is the matter with you?


"Hey!" Vanitas snapped. "What is the matter with you?"

"Huh?" Aqua mumbled, as if she had just returned from some random asteroid in some far off universe, and crash landed straight into the north pole; she was back on earth, alright, but not quite where she should be.

"Are you even listening to me?" Vanitas asked.

"Uhm…" she muttered. Because, honestly, no she hasn't been listening to him. She was busy staring into his eyes and thinking…

"You know what I really love about him? Those golden eyes! They are just so…" and the love struck girl squealed.

Aqua flinched, hearing that familiar voice whispering from the aisle right next to the one she was at. She knows better than to eavesdrop. She was raised with better values than that. But it was difficult to walk away. How many people did she know with golden eyes? Just one: Vanitas. It was not a common attribute after all. And she had a feeling that she knew this girl. This would not be the first time that she overhears…

"I know, right?" replied the friend of this love struck girl, who was clearly just as smitten. "It makes him look so mysterious!"

"I know!"

They giggled, the sound of it sending unpleasant chills along the spine of the blue-haired eavesdropper. She made sure to stay hidden behind the massive bookshelf while carefully pushing aside the books so she could see who it was that had the gall to talk about her boyfriend like that. And through a gap between two rather massive encyclopedia volumes, she caught sight of a pair of brunette heads.

She frowned, recognizing them. Selphie and Olette, two freshmen girls who shamelessly wore their hearts on their sleeves. And frustratingly for Aqua, the hearts they displayed held the name of her boyfriend. Breathing deeply, she decided to just walk away before her feelings of annoyance blew out of proportion, but then…

"Aqua, we've been looking for you!"

All the color drained from her face as she turned around and saw Cloud and Leon. The very last thing she needed was someone calling out her name, but she tried to maintain her composure. "Uhm, hi, guys," she said a little awkwardly. She heard the sound of hasty footsteps and out of the corner of her eye she saw the two brunettes walking hurriedly away.

"Do you think she heard us?" Olette asked, followed by a sharp "Shh!" from Selphie.

And just as quickly as she paled a second ago, Aqua's face suddenly became flushed with color. Cloud and Leon looked at her questioningly. "Are you okay?"

She managed a nod.

"If you have some time to spare, we were going to ask you about that project in STS…"

She smiled sadly at them. "I'm sorry; I'm meeting up with Vanitas. Maybe tomorrow, at lunch, okay?" She hardly acknowledged their nods as she left the library, more eager now than ever to find Vanitas.

"Look, Aqua, if you're going to space out every two seconds, I'm leaving."

She took hold of his hand. "Please, no," she said.

He stared at her with that half-angry, half-amused glare she knows so well.

"Sit down, please?" she pleaded, and he sighed, taking his place again beside her on the park bench.

"What is the matter with you anyway?" he asked.

She laid her head against his shoulder. "I'm just a little distracted…"

Those cheerleaders were very distracting, waving around those red and white pompoms, bouncing in their short skirts, and flaunting their rather sizable assets. Why did there have to be cheerleaders at a Track Meet anyway? Normally, Aqua would not be giving them so much thought, nor would they be annoying her like they were now. Bouncing and flaunting like that was their thing, and who was she to judge them for that?

But today…

"Oh, Vanitas!"

It was a testament to the high pitch and insane volume of the head cheerleader's voice that Aqua was able to hear that from way up in the stands. The cheerleader in question was down on the field, just at the edge, waving excitedly for the boy whose name she had just squealed out.

Aqua watched with a furrowed brow as Vanitas approached Yuffie and the cheerleader handed him a bottle of water. Knowing Vanitas, Aqua was sure he did not say a word of thanks as he took the bottle, opened it, and finished its contents in one go. Then he handed the empty bottle back to Yuffie and returned to the track, where the rest of his team stood.

This situation was normal and acceptable on all levels, if only Yuffie did not cling to that bottle as if it was her lifeline. And if only she would stop staring at Vanitas like that…

Aqua almost did not see that Vanitas nodded at her, acknowledging her presence. She smiled, her frustration allayed slightly by his nod, and she waved at him. Her frown returned, though, when one of his team mates – Wakka – waved enthusiastically at her. Out of politeness, Aqua waved, too, although she only had eyes for Vanitas.

"Are you sick, is that it?" Vanitas questioned.

"No, I'm not. I'm fine, really."

He looked at her with disbelief and annoyance. "I could take you back to your dorm, if you're not feeling well."

She shook her head. "I'm not sick, and I really don't want to head back to the dorm just yet."

Aqua dug through her bag, looking for her room key, but before she could find it…

"Vanitas said yes?" She stopped searching for a moment at hearing that coming from within the room. She recognized the voice to belong to Yuna, one of her roommate's best friends.

"Yes, he did," her roommate, Naminé, answered. "I didn't think he would."

"You are so lucky, Nami! I'm jealous!"

"I don't know how Aqua would take it, though. She doesn't even know that I… like Vanitas…"

The last part was said at a much lower volume, but not low enough that Aqua did not hear. And it would be an understatement to say that Aqua felt her heart wrinkle up and die right then and there. Vanitas said yes to what, exactly? And she definitely did not know that Naminé liked him at all! She found her keys, unlocked the door, and stepped into the room.

Her roommate, Naminé, was sketching on her bed. That was nothing new; Naminé was studying Fine Arts and she was always drawing. What was new was that Yuna and Tifa – her best friends - were in the room, too.

"Hi, Aqua," Naminé greeted, in a tone that sounded just a little surprised. "You're back early."

"Yeah, my last class was cancelled," she said. She greeted Yuna and Tifa before placing her bag down, sitting on her own bed, and slipping off her shoes. "So," she asked carefully. "What's up?"

The three girls exchanged very subtle looks, then Naminé said, "Well, Fine Arts is having a collaborative project with Athletics. We are supposed to create an artwork with an athlete as the focus, and… I asked Vanitas to be my model."

"Oh, what did he say?" Aqua asked.

"He said yes," Naminé replied.

Aqua smiled, relieved. So that was the question that Vanitas said yes to. "Great."

Naminé tilted her head slightly to one side, looking a little confused. "You're not upset?"

"What, no, of course not…" Aqua answered, frowning slightly. "Or should I be? Does this project involve… nudity?"

All three girls blushed at her words. And though Aqua was sure that Naminé was blushing because she secretly liked Vanitas, she tried not to wonder why Yuna and Tifa reacted that way, too.

"No, no," Naminé reassured her. "All I was planning is some sketches of him in the field…"

Aqua smiled. "Then I'm not upset at all. And I would really like to see your drawing when you finish."

"Of course."

Still smiling, Aqua quickly preoccupied herself with a book, trying to keep her emotions in check. She was honestly not upset about the artwork, of course. But the thought of her roommate having a crush on her boyfriend? That was very upsetting indeed.

Vanitas shifted on the bench so that his head was on her lap and she was playing with the spikes of his hair. "Are you going to tell me what's on your mind?" he asked.

"No… It's nothing…"

He frowned at her, but decided to say nothing more. He rummaged through his backpack, pulled out a pack of cookies, and began eating. It was not just any regular pack, though. The paper bag was pink, littered with hearts, and adorned with a red ribbon.

"What is that?" Aqua asked, taking it from him.

"Hey," he hissed, but she was already reading the little tag attached to the ribbon.

Her eyes flared. "These are from Kairi?" she asked.

"Yeah, so?"

She pushed him off her lap. "What do you mean so?" she snapped. "The tag says, To Vanitas. Love, Kairi. And you say so?"

He glared at her. "Are you saying I can't have cookies from Kairi anymore?"

Aqua paled. "Anymore? What do you mean by that? How often does she give you cookies?"

"Twice a week, I think."

"For how long?"

"A couple of months."

She narrowed her eyes at him. "You have been accepting professions of love from Kairi twice a week for a couple of months?" she questioned.

"So?"

She glared at him. "Why are you accepting them at all?"

He glared back, and suddenly grabbed her bag. He held up the keychain she had attached to one of the zipper pulls. "You accepted this from Riku, didn't you?"

"What does that have to do with anything?"

"You are forbidding me from accepting – what did you call it – professions of love from Kairi, but you are allowed to accept this from Riku?"

"That is entirely different!"

Vanitas scoffed at her, brandishing the keychain. "Aqua, this is a dolphin with a pink heart for a tail fin! How is this different?"

Infuriated, she ripped the keychain from her bag and flung it away, as far as she could. "Are you happy now?" she asked.

He grabbed the bag of cookies, dumped the contents at his feet, and crushed them with the heel of his boot. "Are you happy now?"

They stared at each other for a moment, Vanitas glaring, Aqua breathing heavily. For a while they just sat there, both enraged, until Aqua finally succumbed. "I am so sorry, Van…" she said, leaning against him.

"What is the matter with you today?" he asked for the nth time that afternoon.

"You have no idea what it's like…"

"What are you talking about?"

She pulled away from him so she could look him in the eye. Her brows were furrowed. "Don't you have any idea just how many girls want you?"

It took him a second, but then he threw his head back, laughing.

"Van!" Aqua said, hitting him on the shoulder. "I'm serious!"

His features took on a more teasing aura as he gazed at her with a glint in his eyes.

Aqua blushed and turned away, only to have Vanitas pull her gaze back towards him. "Explain," he said, smirking.

She shook her head.

"Tell me, Aqua," he demanded, still in that same teasing tone.

"Just… I just know so many girls who…"

She could not finish her sentence and Vanitas chuckled. "Many girls who want me?" he asked. "For every girl you name, Aqua, I can name a guy who wants you."

She stared at him. "I doubt that."

"Try me."

She hesitated, and he said, "We could begin with Riku and Kairi. Obviously, Kairi loves me, if her twice-a-week professions of love are anything to go by. And Riku is crazy about you. And it is all your fault that they broke up."

"You are making that up," Aqua said, frowning.

Vanitas chuckled again. "From what I heard, it was a case of Riku saying the wrong name during a very sensitive situation. Kairi broke up with him on the spot."

Aqua felt her cheeks burn as she processed this information. She looked away from Vanitas. "And knowing that doesn't upset you?" she asked.

He scoffed. "Of course it does. Why do you think Riku dropped every single class I was in?" He laughed. "I think he's planning to shift courses next semester."

Aqua remained silent and Vanitas, with a very amused expression, said, "Now tell me, who are these many girls?"

Aqua still hesitated, but under Vanitas' stare, she finally gave in. "There's Selphie, and her best friend Olette. They talk about you all the time."

Vanitas frowned. "Oh, them," he said, as if he had always known. "As if I will ever be interested in them. And for you, we have Cloud and Leon. Those two have been fighting over who you would go out with first. Actually, I believe Leon has put up his car at stake, and Cloud laid down his motorcycle."

"They what?" Aqua asked, incredulous. She admits that those two always seemed to be looking for her, always asking when she was free, but she never even considered that they might actually have a hidden agenda. "How do you know that?"

"You're my girlfriend. No one makes a move on you without me knowing."

"And you're not stopping them?"

He smiled in a rather sharp way. "Do I need to?"

"I… What kind of a question is that?"

"Are you going to dump me for one of those losers?"

"No, of course not."

"Did you even know that they liked you at all?"

"No…"

"So, do I need to stop them?"

She sighed, giving up, getting the feeling that this entire situation was becoming a strangely twisted form of entertainment for Vanitas.

"Who else, Aqua?"

"Yuffie."

"The cheerleader," Vanitas hissed, as if it disgusted him. "She made up a cheer for me, did you know that?"

Aqua did not, and she had no idea how to react to that, but the expression on her face was somewhere between shock and troubled amusement. Vanitas went on. "And we have Wakka. He joined the track team because he thought you were into runners."

She smiled a little. "Well, I am. Just one runner, though."

He smirked. "I know that," Vanitas answered. "Any more?"

Aqua hesitated again, but Vanitas was still staring at her and the weight of it created a pressure that was just impossible for her to fight off. "The last one is… Naminé."

"Your roommate?" Vanitas asked. This time, he seemed a little surprised. "Interesting."

Her brows creased. "Why is that interesting?"

"My roommate likes you, too."

"Tidus?" Aqua asked, laughing a little. "Are you sure about that?"

"If you have been wondering why he's walking around with a black eye, it's because he keeps your picture under his pillow," Vanitas replied casually. "It was careless and stupid of him, if you ask me."

Aqua leaned back on the bench, sighing.

"Are you done?" Vanitas asked.

She nodded, seemingly having lost the ability to speak. He smirked slowly as he stared at her, and her cheeks began to grow pink. "What?" she asked.

"I had no idea you were so insecure. Insecurity breeds jealousy, Aqua. And jealousy is so unlike you."

And her face became redder than a setting sun. "Sorry…"

"Why are you apologizing?"

"I should have known better… And I assumed that you didn't know what this was like, not knowing that…" She stopped, still furiously blushing.

"Funny that I trust you more than you trust me."

"I… I do trust you," she said.

"Of course you do," he mocked in a strangely sultry voice.

"I do," she insisted. "I just overreacted, especially about Kairi."

"If you would make me cookies, we wouldn't have that problem."

She frowned at him. "You'd like that, wouldn't you?"

"As a matter of fact, I would," he answered.

Aqua sighed. "Alright, I'll make you cookies."

He laughed, bringing his face very close to hers, his body following suit. "I'm starting to wish you were this insecure more often," he whispered, his voice changing dramatically from humorous teasing, to teasing of an entirely different kind…

"V-Van…?" she stuttered, leaning away from him.

He brought his hand against the back of her neck – stopping her. She gasped a little as he pulled her to him, his lips finding hers. Her eyes shot wide open for a moment, but then they slowly closed and she whimpered softly against his kiss. He growled hungrily in response, biting on her lower lip.

They shifted around on the bench until their legs were intertwined, their lips locked the entire time, and they had become a tangled mess of growls and whimpers. He wrapped his arms possessively around her, holding her close. She had one hand buried in the chaos of his hair and the other one gripping the edge of the bench for dear life.

She was as soft and sweet as she had always been, and he was just as rough and passionate as he was the first time. Neither one of them could get enough of the other, and even the need for air was all but forgotten, their breathing reduced to hasty gasps and shaky breaths. And after a fleeting moment that, in reality, was an entire five minutes, Aqua pushed him away.

"Vanitas…" she murmured, breathless. "I… Uhm…" She had bowed her head slightly, her chin tucked close to her shoulder, and she was looking up at him through her dark, beautiful lashes.

"What?" he asked a little sharply, annoyed that she was resisting him

"We should go," she said softly, throwing shy glances at the many eyes now staring with various degrees of envy in their direction.

Vanitas felt a pang of anger. It was as if he had been given a sip of the finest wine and he just was not willing to leave until he owned the entire winery. But Aqua was denying him that. And it was not helping that her skin was flushed with excitement, and there was an obvious gleam of thrill in her cerulean eyes, visible just beneath her lashes. She looked so captivating, so delicious, so wanting…

A frustrated groan, one that was almost a low snarl, rumbled from his chest as he leaned away from her. "I hate it when you do this," he said, trying to extinguish the flames that engulfed his core.

Aqua laughed a little, almost timidly, as she lovingly tugged at his hair. "Van, all I said was that we should go…"

He stared at her. Was she saying what he thinks she's saying?

She blinked once, slowly – the coyness stirring the embers within him – as she murmured, "I said nothing about stopping."


END

Thank You

~Alacquiene~