Looking back, he wasn't sure what that hardest part of the ordeal had been. You could say that her initial disappearance, and the terrible three months in which they looked for her in vain, wondering if she was alive or not. Maybe it was the brief flash of hope he had felt when the police said they had found her, only for that hope to be crushed when he realized that they had found her body. But maybe the hardest part was the funeral he was attending right now.

"Aqua affected all of us, and was..." the speaker trailed off. Ven didn't really care what was being said right now; he was too lost in his own thoughts of regret. He didn't even notice how much he was shaking, or the tears that were streaming down his face.

~~~~~~~~~~~
"Ventus, we have to go now..." his brother trailed off, tugging at his arm to get him to stand up. He mindlessly obeyed, surprised that his muscles could even function that much. Roxas pulled him along, past the crowd, where he caught glimpses of morbid conversations.

"I feel so sorry for the..."

"Why'd someone do that..."

"What kind of sick fuck drowns a highscho..."

The conversations stopped when he was pushed into a car by his brother, the door slamming shut behind him.

The entire world seemed to gob y in a daze. But that wasn't unusual, right? He just needed some time to accept that his best friend, Aqua, was gone, and then his life would go back to normal, right?

Wrong.

His life could never go back to normal. The part that had made it cheery and bright was gone, leaving a void that was sucking any potential for normalcy into it.

The day they got back to school, he had tried to talk to Terra during lunch as if things were normal, but it just wasn't the same without Aqua, who had always started the conversations. He had tried to answer questions in science as if things were normal, but it was impossible without Aqua, his former lab partner who had always given him the answers.

His other friends started to notice the effect her death had had on him about week later. He had stopped laughing as much, he talked less, and he even moved into his own corner of the cafeteria, just so that he could be alone. He was irritable and snappy to anyone who tried to talk to him.

Without Aqua, the could be no 'normal' Ventus. She had been his reason to laugh, to smile, to try and make friends.

Everyone else moved on eventually, so he had to pretend he had, too. He had mastered the routine of telling whoever asked him if he was okay that he was, and he had perfected the fake smile that went along with it.

~~~~~~~~
The remainder of the school year passed quickly for Ven. When Spring rolled around into Summer, and school got out, his twin finally insisted on intervention, forcing him to come and stay at a 'friend's' lake house with him.

"C'mon, Ven! You've been mopping around all year and you need to get out and talk to people again!" Roxas pleaded as they got into his car, putting the key in the ignition to drive them home.

"For the last time, Roxas, I don't want to go to your stupid lake party thing!" Ven argued back, buckling his seatbelt before turning to his brother, arms crossed.

"A bunch old friends will be there, Ven! You'll have fun, I promise!"

"No I wo- Roxas, where are we going?" Ven asked, suddenly concerned by the fact that Roxas had just turned in the exact opposite direction they needed to go to get home.

"To the Lake House!" Roxas replied with a devilish smile. "I packed you some stuff, it's in the trunk. And Mom knows where we're going, so don't freak out."

Ven replied with several profanities, a few warnings about how this could be called kidnappings, and many insults that would make a nun cry.

And at that, Roxas just laughed.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Contrary to what his twin had said, Ventus was quite certainly not having any fun at all.

The 'bunch of old friends' Roxas had mentioned were all down by the lake, playing in the water and generally having a good time. And Ven was fine with that, as long as they didn't bother him from his vantage point in the shade of an awning by the lake house.

"Hey, Ven! Stop sulking around in the dark and come and have some fun!" Roxas shouted at him.

Speak of the Devil...

Eventually, his bothersome twin got him to sit on the edge of the dock, with his feet dipping in the water.

"Are you gonna get in, Ven? I mean, I made you wear a swimsuit for a reason!" went his brother again, trying to get him to 'have fun'

"Do you know how deep this water is..?" Ven asked as he stared into the depths uneasily, ignoring Roxas' question.

Roxas was suddenly graced with an idea, and acting on it would probably end hilariously. Sneaking up behind his brother, he replied, "Well, the dock goes pretty far out, and I hear this lake is pretty deep. Why, are you scared, Venny?"

"Of course not! And don't call me th-!" his answer was interrupted by his brother suddenly pushing him straight into the cold, deep lake, prompting laughter from Sora, Xion, and Riku, to name a few, who had witnessed the spectacle from afar.

~~~~~~~~~~
Ventus was a good swimmer, so this situation normally wouldn't worry him at all. He'd just rise to the surface, climb back onto the dock, and throw his brother in, in any normal situation.

But it seemed that Ven's life had forgotten how to be normal.

The blond first noticed that something was horribly, terribly wrong when he felt a thing, no, a hand pull down on his foot, preventing him from swimming back to the surface. The second indication of something not being right was when he felt something tightly embrace him, as if it was hugging him.

The embrace tightened, slowly squeezing the breath out of him. He was running out of air, and the water was slowly pushing harder and harder on him as he was dragged deeper and deeper down.

The tight hold on him loosened, making holding his breath a little easier. But when he tried to swim upwards, something simply pulled him back down.

Shhhh, don't be scared. You're safe with me, Ven. Nothing can hurt us down here...

That voice... Why did he recognise it?
Slowly, he opened his eyes, only to be met with another deep blue pair. A mere seconds after that, a face seemed to form along with them. A face that he had been longing to see for so long, but at the same time knew that he never could.

And yet...

Here she was.

Aqua...?