Set in Various Locations in the Birth by Sleep Universe.
I know it's been a while since I posted anything new.
Now while this isn't exactly new, it can't exactly be called old either.
And I believe it's better than nothing.
This is a... mirror to another of my stores: Deep Within.
(This was harder to write than that one...)
Same pairing, same idea, same keywords even, but Aqua has the lead this time.
I wanted to put more physical interactions in this one than in the last so the entries here are slightly longer.
I hope you enjoy reading this as much as you did Deep Within.
So I'll leave you to it!
DISCLAIMER [I do not own Kingdom Hearts] DISCLAIMER
MORE THAN MEETS THE EYE
Intense. Incurable. Inexplicable.
The masked boy was insane, Aqua decided. He was afflicted with something intense and incurable and inexplicable. That was the only logical explanation to his illogical behavior. Because, honestly, what sane person would laugh and say, "I'll kill you eventually. But right now, it just feels too good keeping you alive."
He hated the color blue. He said so himself, when they were fighting.
Aqua frowned, face flushed crimson. Well, it wasn't exactly her fault that her hair was blue, was it? And it's not as if she could've chosen the color of her eyes! Then she mentally slapped herself and shook her head.
Why should she even care what he thinks anyway?
Her cartwheels were effective evasive maneuvers so she used them often. Until he caught her just after a perfectly executed one, grabbing tightly onto her arm.
His Keyblade was trembling in his hand. His voice was laced with an unfamiliar kind of heat as he hissed, "If you do one more - just one more - damned cartwheel, you'll find yourself in a position you won't like, but I'll enjoy immensely. Got it?"
Aqua found other ways to dodge his attacks.
The way his gloved hand touched her in places no one else had ever touched; it was disturbing. Partly because, if he weren't her sworn enemy who was trying to kill her, she couldn't even describe those touches as offensive. They were too gentle, too light. As if he did them only out of curiosity.
He was an enemy, though, and he was trying to kill her. So every brush of his fingers against the exposed skin of her thighs, against the soft dip at the base of her throat... It was disturbing that she didn't mind them half as much as she should.
Aqua was frightened by how well she was getting to know the masked boy. Some familiarities were to be expected, such as her understanding of his fighting style, her recognition of the sound of his voice.
But then she'd also learned how to amuse him and she understood his expectations of her, as if she could tell just what he'd like her to do.
She also never expected, not in a thousand years, that she would ever feel the need to meet the expectations of an enemy.
"How do you know who I am?" she once asked.
"I've known you for a long time, Aqua. You haven't been on your guard enough."
She felt a frisson of fear. "Who... Who are you?" It was different from the first time she'd uttered that same question. Back then she'd just wanted to see his face. But now...
For some reason, he hesitated. "You'll find out... soon enough."
It was the first time he ever said anything to her without a hint of hostility.
Maybe it would have been easier to defeat him if he'd been a girl. Maybe, if he'd been a girl, she wouldn't have to feel like she was fighting some dark, twisted version of Ventus.
Aqua paused, watchful and wary as he caught his breath. They were both tired, they were both down on their last legs. She just wanted it to end, wanted him to walk away because she owed him that; he'd left her alive when he disappeared after their battle in Neverland.
Some part of her insisted she needed to return the favor.
Although he was evil and darkness and insanity, some part of her... was hesitant to kill him.
She was not an impulsive person. She liked to think things through. But when she saw Vanitas lying in the meadow, asleep by the looks of how evenly his chest rose and fell with each breath...
Quiet as a still lake but swift as a flowing river, she approached. She placed a hand on his helmet. And just as she was about to take it off - - -
His grabbed her hand so fast that she screamed.
"You didn't think it was going to be that easy, did you?" he asked, cackling.
And the answer was no, she didn't. She hadn't been thinking at all.
Aqua was almost jealous of Terra and his certainty of which side he was on. He made quick decisions of who and what to fight for. Then he fought head-on, without any hesitations or inhibitions.
Why couldn't she be more like him? Why, whenever her paths crossed with that of the masked boy, did she always hold back, and hesitate, and hope that there could be more behind his visor than the face of a monster...?
He pushed her down, pinned her body to the ground with the weight of his. A dozen Unversed materialized around them and held fast onto her arms to keep her from raising her weapon. Then Vanitas leaned down.
Close enough that the cold touch of his helmet against the tip of her nose felt almost a kiss. And as she waited for his next move, fear rippled through her core, laced with some other feeling...
Something that felt disturbingly like... anticipation.
"You started this! I never wanted to fight you!"
How the conversation found its way to that statement, Aqua could not be sure. He spoke and she answered and he reacted and everything just...
Vanitas shouted back: "Liar!"
It was unnerving, seeing her reflection on his mask.
In that shadowy mirror she could see her own fear and desperation, and it angered her to think that that was exactly what Vanitas could see. She wanted to look on his face for once, and all the emotions in his eyes, the way that he could scrutinize hers.
She summoned her Keyblade and he did his.
This time, Aqua swore to herself. This time, I'll see him.
He called her narrow-minded!
The nerve of him, being such a hypocrite, when all he could see were shadows and evil! All he could think about was to achieve his sick goals, never mind how cruel the means! When all he had was a heart of pure darkness!
Aqua stopped at those thoughts, realizing... She was being narrow-minded by thinking only negatively of Vanitas. She never let her mind stray to consider that maybe... just maybe...
She was beginning to look forward to running into him.
Not, of course, because she wanted to see him or anything of the sort. And definitely not because she liked the thrills she felt in his presence, or the hot rush of blood in her veins when they fought. It was certainly not his laughter sending chills down her spine.
It was... It was that he was a challenge, wasn't it? It was because she had never known any heart quite so dark as his and... And she was pitting everything she'd always known against him to... To prove that she and her master were right.
Or perhaps it was just that she and the masked apprentice were opposites. And, you know what they say, opposites do... attract.
"No, no, no!" Aqua screamed at herself, shaking her head. "That can't... That's not why I... I don't! Just no!"
Was that truly his purpose? To create a key and open a door that would unleash death and destruction upon the worlds? Even coming from his own mouth, Aqua refused to believe it.
"That... That can't be," she said, her grip on her Keyblade faltering. "No one is made to be evil, and hatred, and rage."
Vanitas laughed. "You'd be surprised to know how wrong you are."
Whenever she met the masked apprentice, it was like playing 20 Questions, except that she never got a turn.
So once, in her frustration, she hammered him with a series of quick strikes of her Keyblade. And when she had Rainfell's shaft at his throat, she hissed, "You will show me your face, and you will tell me your name, or so help me - - - !"
Her sentence was broken by his manic laughter. "Now we're talking," he said, lifting his weapon with such speed that he managed to shove hers aside and break free of her hold.
He leapt a few feet away from her. "I think you've actually earned it."
"Earned what?" Aqua said cautiously.
He flexed the hand that held his Keyblade. "My name," he answered, "is Vanitas."
Aqua felt so conflicted around Vanitas. Every part of her reacted differently in his presence.
Her common sense was on high alert, screaming warnings at her whenever he came close. Her body was instantly on the defensive, tense and ready for anything.
Her heart, though... For once, she wished she could ignore it because it was making her hesitate. It was telling her there was more to him than meets the eye. A part of her insisted that behind that mask was... something else.
Despite the fact that Vanitas was obviously trying to kill her.
Aqua looked up at the night sky with pain lining her face and horror shadowing her eyes. Was there not a single world out there that Vanitas hadn't plagued yet? Were all the stars in the sky now crawling with monsters and madness and mayhem?
Her clenched fists trembled. "I'll find you, Vanitas. And when I do, I'll - - - "
...I'll find out why you do all this. And why you kept me alive. And... what I can do to help you.
Aqua appeared behind him just as he reappeared and when he teleported again, she was at his side mere seconds later. She could feel his annoyance tainting the air as he angrily swung his Keyblade at her. She deflected his strike and pushed him back before teleporting closer to him to retaliate.
He defended himself with a blast of darkness that drove her back a few feet.
"When did you... How did you learn to teleport?" he asked, his tone dripping with venom.
She smiled with the slightest touch of arrogance. "From you."
"What?" His hold on his weapon slacked. For a moment, he seemed stymied. But then he laughed. "You learn quickly. If only I could say the same about a certain pathetic apprentice."
Her brows furrowed. But she had no time to ask what he meant because in half-a-heartbeat he was attacking her again, harder and harsher than ever.
"Now, Master Aqua... How about I teach you a few more tricks?"
That mask of his.
Whenever he was standing in front of her, she wanted to just run at him and take it off!
But Aqua knew she had to suppress that urge. He was dangerous. Very dangerous. And she had a feeling that if she gave in to her urges, he would be furious enough with her to go farther than he ever dared.
And she was certain that she wouldn't like what he'd do to her.
Villains could have a change of heart.
Aqua was stupid enough to say that aloud, in front of Vanitas.
His laugh came slowly, mockingly. And he answered, "Tell me, Aqua. Just how do you plan to change the heart of a villain who doesn't have one?"
Aqua ran into Vanitas almost as often as she did Ventus and Terra.
It made no sense. It was almost as if they shared a Wayfinder. Or as if he had some way of finding her whenever he wished.
She frowned, biting her lip. That was stupid. There was no way he would ever want to somehow be magically connected to her. Was there...?
It was the X-Blade that convinced her.
It extinguished that tiny, flickering flame of hope in her heart. He'd done it. And as he stood before her, with that damned weapon in hand, her heart finally hardened.
Aqua summoned her own Keyblade with as much conviction as Vanitas held his.
She was wrong, she could see that now. There never was any hope for him. Her efforts had been in vain.
Or, maybe... she had simply been too late in trying...
Aqua wanted to understand him, to see things from his perspective, to find out what it meant to not have to destroy darkness. To not have to... destroy him.
But he never asked the question. So she never spoke the answer.
If he had, though, and if she could...
"I can't make any promises."
Aqua blinked. "What...?" She had always known Vanitas to say things that made no sense but this one trumped them all.
"Haven't you been taught how to say no?" he said.
"What are you talking about?"
"Try this." He teleported right in front of her in the blink of an eye, and said, "How about we have some fun tonight, Aqua? You. Me. I can think of more than one way we can enjoy each other."
Her eyes widened and before she could think, she shoved him away so hard that he almost lost his balance. "No! Not on my life!"
"Ooh, harsh..." Vanitas answered with a laugh. "Now that is exactly what you should have said to Zack."