So, this was a series of drabbles I wrote for yamikonumber7 for her kind donation to help_japan, and which I've finally got round to cross-posting here. There's not much that needs saying about them: they're in very vague chronological order but are pretty much unrelated, there's some Terra/Aqua in the latter ones, and the tones of them seem to be all over the place, so you've been warned! Hope you enjoy.
Disclaimer: As always, Kingdom Hearts belongs to Square Enix and Disney.
A Rule To Be Broken
For all that his pupils were incredibly deft in combat, puberty seemed to have robbed them both of the ability to move with anything even vaguely resembling subtlety out of the training ground. In fact, they were so loud that Eraqus didn't even bother to look up when they went blundering past, instead just calling from his desk "And what are you all up to?"
He heard feet skidding to a halt, a bit of shuffling and then Terra blurting out "Nothing."
He did look up then from the letter he'd been trying to write to Yen Sid for an hour or so now (how to possibly explain all that had happened?) to see Aqua stepping forward to the open door, hands clasped nervously in front of her. Terra hovered awkwardly behind her, and behind him...well, Terra was so tall these days that all he could really see was a few tufts of blond hair and one wide blue eye, but he didn't even really need that to tell him they weren't alone- their guilty expressions said it all.
"Master Eraqus," Aqua began in that even tone that she always seemed to hope made her sound mature and diplomatic. Unfortunately for Eraqus, it usually worked. "Ven's been awake for three weeks now, and we thought...well, I mean, we thought it might be nice to show him the training ground." Her words picked up speed as she went, eyes screwing shut in that way they always did when she knew she was doing something forbidden but hoping for a good outcome anyway. "We know you said that Ven shouldn't go out of the castle, and that he needs to rest and get better, but we thought a bit of fresh air and exercise might do him good, and- and-" She faltered to a halt, the please don't kill us remaining unspoken.
Eraqus looked at them long and hard. For all Terra's rigid posture, there was a glimmer of something like uncertainty in his eyes, making all his attempts to look determined completely useless.
Aqua's eyes snapped open again and it was a moment before she found her voice. "S-sorry?"
"I said very well- go ahead." He let his expression relax and offered his pupils a small smile. "I'm sure you would all benefit from some time outdoors. You've spent far too long cooped up." Images flashed through his head of Terra and Aqua taking it in turns to rush back and forth on errands and to sit beside Ven's bed, determined not to leave him alone in case he awoke. "Just don't work him too hard, understand? He's not been very well and he won't be able to keep up with either of you until he's recovered more."
"We understand." Terra said, standing to attention as Aqua smiled and added, "Thank you, Master."
He nodded, looking at each of his pupils in turn before gesturing slightly to show that they were free to go. His smile widened a little as he heard them leave- no matter how dignified they tried to make their departure in front of him, he could hear them racing and stumbling down the corridor as soon as they thought they were out of earshot.
He turned back to his letter and suddenly realised that, for the first time since Ven's arrival, his spirits were raised again. To see his pupils so determined to carry on caring for the latest addition to their team, to see them so desperate to help him out even now he was on the mend was a sure sign of just how much they'd grown up without him realising. He'd never felt luckier to have them as his students.
And, with a bit of luck, Ven's arrival might stop them asking him so often for a puppy.
Next In Line
Terra is certain it'll be Aqua that Eraqus names as Successor. She always was better at following the rules than he was. She's learnt every lesson by heart, committed every technique to memory, and still barely pauses to rest between lessons and training. Everything seems to come to her so effortlessly, so naturally- of course it'll be her.
Aqua, meanwhile, is sure Terra's set to become Successor. There's a lot more of himself that the Master sees in Terra than the young man realises: the determination that powers his every move, the dedication to his training, the loyalty to his friends. Even though he never says it aloud, she can see that he relates to Terra in almost every aspect of their chosen paths- of course it'll be him.
Ven hangs back and watches his friends as they move forward. As the youngest, he's been here the shortest amount of time, and yet they make him feel as though he's always been there- they make him feel at home. He loves them both dearly, and the Master too, as the only family he can remember. That's why it's so difficult, knowing that one day the Master won't be here any more; that one day, one of his friends will have to step forward, separate, and take his place. He's terrified at the prospect of change just when he's become so settled. He never wants anything but for all of them to be here, like this, walking the same path together.
But his optimism wins out in the end, as it always does. So Ven watches and smiles and tries not to worry- of course they'll all be fine.
Aqua isn't surprised that these are the first words out of Ven's mouth, voice cracked and dry from years unused. Crouched in front of him, unable to meet his eye, she replies "It's...complicated, Ven. It's going to be harder to get him back than it was for the others to find us."
She feels him glance past her to where they stand across the room, these new friends who have sworn to help her however they can, and feels a rush of gratitude towards them. This barely feels real after so long trapped in the darkness, desperately clinging on to the hope of seeing the others to keep her going.
All of a sudden his eyes are back on her as he says "Let's go."
She blinks up at him in surprise. "Are...are you sure? I mean, you've not been up in a while..."
"No...I'm ready." He shifts on the seat, slowly stretching stiff limbs, face set and determined. "If it's going to be difficult, that's all the more reason to start straight away, right? Terra needs us, and we need him." He pauses and then all of a sudden his face lights up with that same brilliant smile she's been trying to remember all this time. "Anyway, he'd never let me live it down if he saw me sitting around much longer."
And then Aqua realises that she's smiling too, mirroring Ven's own grin properly for the first time in what feels like forever. There's a warm feeling coursing through her veins and it takes her a moment to recognise it as hope. She straightens up, saying, "You're right. Let's go."
She reaches down and Ven takes her hand.
Despite everything that had happened over the past decade, there were still some things that hadn't changed. One of these things came to light some months after their return, whilst exchanging gifts on the first Christmas they'd spent together in a decade.
"Wow, Ven! It's awesome! Thanks!"
Terra immediately put the present back down and caught Ven in one of their trademark 'manly hugs', complete with plenty of back thumping that soon turned into a competition over who would pull away first. He'd never had a problem with being affectionate with the younger boy- they'd always pushed and pulled each other around so much that a friendly arm around the shoulder or a brotherly hug really wasn't that much of a step further.
"OK, you guys. My turn now."
They broke apart at the sound of Aqua's voice (Terra slightly before Ven, wondering how many bruises his slaps on the back were going to leave him with) to find her watching them with an amused expression on her face. She stepped forward, holding out the small blue box in her hands towards Terra.
"Here, merry Christmas."
He took the box with a smile, finding as always that she'd wrapped it so neatly he almost didn't have the heart to rip the paper from it as suddenly as he did from Ven's, whose gifts were always hidden under a jumble of overly gaudy wrapping and too much cello tape. When he'd finally prised the paper off (as always ignoring Ven pretending to get out a stop watch to time him), he inched the lid off the box and stopped dead at what he saw lying on the tissue paper inside.
"I wasn't sure what happened to yours during...you know." Aqua said quietly when he didn't respond. She didn't need to say anything more for him to understand- there were still some things that the three of them couldn't talk about completely openly yet, still some things they couldn't or wouldn't say. "And it didn't seem right for you to go without. So I made another for you."
He nodded wordlessly as he pulled the Wayfinder from the box, wrapping the long leather cord around his fingers, feeling the five points of golden stained glass dig into his palm, and it was like the first one had never left. He wondered if she'd tried to make sure that it was as like the original as possible; knowing Aqua, he suspected she probably did.
"I...I hope you like it." she ventured, ducking slightly to try to catch his expression, which finally snapped him out of his reverie.
"Y-Yes, it's..." He coughed sharply, trying to force down the lump he could feel rising in his throat despite himself. "It's great. Thank you."
It took him a second to realise that she was still watching him, though thankfully with a smile on her face, and he cleared his throat again, hastily putting the box to one side to hold out his hand to her. This was always how it worked, at least since the onset of puberty: manly hugs with Ven, friendly handshakes with Aqua.
Now, however, she looked from him to his outstretched hand to him again, before saying in a voice that was somewhere between amused and despairing "Oh, Terra". Then all of a sudden she was stepping up and wrapping her arms around him. Taken aback as he was, it was a couple of seconds before Terra could reciprocate, but when he did, it wasn't as difficult as he'd thought. Maybe, just maybe, there was one tradition he wouldn't mind ditching.
He was glad she left out the backslapping element though. He was pretty sore as it was, and he had little doubt she could probably hit harder than Ven.
Happily Ever After
The wedding was everything they could've hoped for. The weather was wonderful, the church was packed out with their friends and the celebrations afterwards lasted well into the early hours of the morning. Terra was stunned that Aqua could possibly look even more beautiful than he'd expected, and Aqua was impressed by just how much Terra's dancing lessons had paid off, even if he was sworn to secrecy about his teacher's identity (she wasn't blind though- she could see Leon closely watching Terra's footwork from the sidelines).
Of course, one of the best things was that it answered all the questions they'd had on their minds for weeks. Like how often they'd been told it was "about time" (thirty four- thirty five if you counted the suspicion they both had that Master Eraqus was looking down on them, half amused and half exasperated). Or who would cry the most (Yuffie, surprisingly, who made her way through a box and a half of tissues during the ceremony alone, all the while threatening to go all ninja on anyone who dared bring this up later). Or who would get the most drunk (Roxas, aided and abetted by Lea, who came a close second). Or who would try to present them with the obligatory gift they couldn't possibly accept (that went to Cid, who waved off all their insistence that a Gummi ship was just too generous, and went back to trying to convince the bar tender to get him some tea).
Overall it was the most wonderful day they'd ever had. Although of course it was only really made perfect by the look on Ven's face when he accidentally caught the bouquet.