'I'll tell you a secret. Something they don't teach you in your temple. The Gods envy us. They envy us because we're mortal, because any moment might be our last. Everything is more beautiful because we're doomed. You will never be lovelier than you are now. We will never be here again.' – Achilles, Troy.
It felt like the world was holding its breath. The stars didn't dare whisper to one another across the cosmos. The moon was hanging still and silent, a guardian over the sleeping world.
They were waiting. Waiting for the dawn. For the dawn that would speak of either damnation or salvation.
The hidden Elven village was devoid of life – even the stream running through the houses had quietened its babbling to a murmur.
She barely rustled the long grass, her footfalls sure and soft. Beneath the trees bending and swaying in the warm breeze, their golden-green leaves dancing above her head, Sheena strode ahead. Her fingers slid through the wavering tips of grass, a soft caress of nature.
Damnation or salvation. Either way, the fates of herself and her friends would be decided.
Lying in bed, she had felt an overwhelming urge to get up, to walk out, and embrace the warm, silent night. To try and embed the memory of the sweet smell of grass, the feeling of the wind ruffling her hair, the sounds of nature surrounding her into her memory, to lock them away in her heart. She might never have this chance to appreciate her mortality again, and it was this thought that had chased her from her bed and out into the forest.
When was the last time she had truly appreciated this? Appreciated the sights and sounds and smells around her. Appreciated the steady rhythm of her heart, sustaining her with every soft thump. Sheena took a deep breath, feeling her lungs fill with precious oxygen, and tilted her head back to the heavens. The ethereal luminescence bathed her face in a pearly glow.
He had never seen her look more beautiful.
Zelos stood in the shadows of the forest watching her. She stood in a pocket of starlight, her eyes closed and her dark lashes dusting shadows across her cheekbones. He took in her curvaceous figure, her violet-tinted hair, her full pink lips, and felt his heart react to every aspect of her, pushing harder against his ribs in a desperate attempt to call to her.
"What do you want, Zelos?"
Her murmur was softer than the wind, and her brown eyes met his unflinchingly, yet carefully veiled. He took an almost automatic step towards her, right into the patch of starlight. She watched his hair flare into life, looking almost bright enough to burn her.
Burn her like he'd burned her before. She'd learnt her lesson.
"You weren't in your room."
"No." She turned away, tilting her head up to the heavens once more.
He frowned slightly at her curt reply. He was sick of her distance, sick of her avoidance, and sick of her brusque answers. "You know I didn't mean it," he whispered.
She sighed and opened her eyes before swinging her gaze back to the man at her side. "Didn't mean what?"
He reached out with one pale hand and wrapped long, strong fingers around her wrist. She immediately pulled away, and the look on his face almost made her feel guilty.
"I knew you'd be hurt," he murmured, taking another step forward until her shoulder was brushing against his chest with every breath they took. "But you have to know that I didn't mean to –"
"Didn't mean to make me regret placing even an ounce of trust in you?" she hissed, venom present in every word. She resolutely kept her eyes staring straight ahead.
He flinched and bowed his head slightly. Her arm twitched when a stray lock of his hair grazed her bare skin, and she shivered. "I'm sorry." His words were hot on her ear, and she felt that heat seep straight into her veins, like fire igniting trails of oil.
"I know you are," she whispered. She turned her head until they were cheek to cheek, his skin smooth and cool, marble, against hers. "I know you're sorry, and I know you did it for a good reason." She drew back just far enough to catch a glimpse of that infamous blue, before continuing in an airy whisper, "But sorry doesn't replace trust."
"Then what does?" he asked immediately, his eyes capturing hers with their intensity.
A humourless laugh slipped past her lips as they quirked into a sad smile. "It's not that easy."
Another warm breeze rushed through them, stirring the tops of the grass and the tips of their hair. The leaves rustled and whispered above them, gossiping about the torn couple below.
Zelos' throat felt dry and tight, fear clenching it in a firm grip. He wet his lips and bent his head closer, searching her dark eyes for any sign of her feelings.
All he found was hurt.
"Do you really want to face tomorrow," he said hoarsely, breathing hard, "hating my guts, but knowing that you're just being stubborn and denying yourself?"
She sucked in a sharp breath and pushed him away roughly. "How dare you? Don't pretend to know how I feel!"
"Then tell me!" He ignored the warning flashing in her eyes and approached her again, only to be shoved back another step. "Tell me, so I can understand and make it right!"
"Zelos, stop it!"
"Just tell me!"
"I said stop –"
His blue eyes were dark now, thunder rumbling as a storm brewed. "Are you scared? Is that it? Or do you hate the fact that you could care for someone like me?"
"You betrayed me, Zelos!" she suddenly screamed, her face rippling with emotion. "I thought you'd left us to die! And then you had to be a heroic bastard and save me..." She struggled to draw breath as anger clouded her mind. "And now I-I feel like I don't know you! You're not who I thought you were, a-and... and..."
"Sheena, I –"
"No! Damn it Zelos, I'm not supposed to care about you!" Tears began to slide down her cheeks, tears of anger and guilt and sadness that spilled over as her emotional tempest raged around her. "I'm not supposed to care when you do something nice for me. I'm not supposed to care when I remember everything that's happened between us, all the days and nights we've spent together. I'm not supposed to care that you tore my heart a little that day. I should hate you. I wish I could hate you."
Silence, save for the gossiping trees, engulfed them. Sheena's body heaved with every turbulent breath she took, and she desperately tried to wipe away her tears and restrain her emotions once more. Zelos was breathing hard, his face drawn and pale after her torrent of words.
The realisation struck him with the force of a tidal wave, washing over him, infiltrating every cell in his body, filling him up until he was brimming with the overwhelming emotion. Words would never do it justice, and so he took three fast strides towards her, grabbed her arm and stole her breath in a hot kiss.
She melted against him for a second, her senses overwhelmed with him. The feel of his hand tangled in her hair, the woody, masculine scent of his body, the taste of his feverish mouth. It was too much.
She ripped away from him when her wits finally reassembled, and slapped him hard across the cheek, his head snapping to the right with the force.
Her hand throbbed and stung, much like her heart.
He lifted his eyes, those captivating eyes, and met her wavering gaze. Sheena felt her fingertips, her knees, her heart, all trembling and shuddering as warring emotions and thoughts and feelings clashed within her body.
"Do you really want to face tomorrow hating my guts, but knowing that you're just being stubborn and denying yourself?"
With only the smallest hesitation, Sheena threw herself at Zelos, lifted herself as high as she could and caught his lips again. His arms immediately tightened around her and they kissed for all the times they had not, for all the times they had wanted to. Her shaky knees must have finally given out, for a second later they found themselves lying amongst the sweet-smelling grass, still kissing desperately.
Zelos finally drew back slightly, breathing hard, and stared down at the goddess in his arms. Her hair was tousled, her cheeks flushed and her lips pink and slightly swollen. She hadn't yet managed to open her eyes, and her breathing was just as unsteady as his own he noted with satisfaction. The swell of emotion crashed over him again, and he felt his lips move without his control.
"I love you."
Sheena stopped mid-breath, her eyes popping open reflexively. Zelos was hovering over her, one hand resting on the curve of her waist and the other propping him up, his eyes wide with shock at his own admission. But as she let out a shaky breath she saw the shock start to melt away, and happiness filled his eyes, so bright they shone like the stars above.
"I love you," he whispered again, almost in awe. His fingers reverently traced the curve of her cheek, the swell off her tremulous lower lip, before sweeping away a strand of violet-tinted hair. "I can't believe it. I love you."
Despite her astonishment, she couldn't help the tiny smile that curled the corners of her mouth. "Trust me, no-one's more shocked than I am," she gasped, chest heaving.
Love. Was it even possible? Or did he say that to every fling that passed his way?
He felt her stiffen slightly beneath him and searched her face for a hint of what was wrong; all he could detect was the slight clenching of her jaw, and the way she cast her eyes down. Doubt stole over him, leaving a cold trail of terror up his spine.
What if she didn't feel the same way?
"I know it's crazy," he blurted, causing her eyes to snap back to his, the brown darker than ever. "It's crazy and you must think this is some kind of joke, but Sheena..." She couldn't contain the shiver at the sound of her name coming from his lips. "I do. I do, and I can't explain it, it's just there and I know. I just know that I love you. I've never said those words before in my life, and I never expected to, but there you go. I guess the possible destruction of the world does crazy things to your head." His breathing was laboured at the end of his babbling, his throat gripped by fear and anticipation.
Sheena couldn't help the chuckle that escaped at the end of his tirade. "Damned idiot," she whispered. She weaved a hand into his flaming hair and pulled his head down so she could kiss him. As their lips brushed softly, she felt the storm within her calm, her heart filling with the same emotion she could see shining though his eyes. "I love you," she breathed against his lips.
He drew away a few centimetres, his eyes tracing her face as she let him see all the love she held for him, until a crooked grin lifted his thin lips. "Oh good," he said, chuckling hoarsely. "That could have been embarrassing otherwise." A peal of laughter echoed around the clearing until he ducked down and met her grinning lips once more.
"What d'you think will happen tomorrow?" Sheena whispered some time later, as she sat between Zelos' legs, her back resting against his chest. She felt his strong arms tighten around her waist and his exhale brush against the back of her neck as he contemplated her question.
"I'm not sure," he admitted eventually, rubbing his thumb against the silky skin of her hand. "Lloyd'll fight Kratos. If he loses, everything'll go to pot, and we'll have wasted months of our lives on a hopeless crusade."
Sheena glanced over her shoulder at him and raised an eyebrow. "Wow, Zelos, you're certainly optimistic," she drawled.
He elbowed her lightly and laughed as she elbowed him back, although much harder. "Or, Lloyd will win, in which case you strut your sexy Summoner stuff – ouch! – and hey presto, we have Origin on our side."
She sighed and turned back to look up at the pale grey sky through the gap in the trees. "He has to win."
"How can you be so sure?"
Zelos brushed a kiss against her ear and tightened his arms around her again, pulling her closer. "Because he has something to fight for. Kratos only has himself to worry about. Besides, after fighting Yggdrasill he'll be able to kick Kratos' ass no problem. It'll be good for them both."
"I guess," she murmured, resting her head against his shoulder. "They need to work things out, and if fighting to the death is the only way to do it then... I guess that's how it has to be." A couple of minutes passed in silence as they pondered the approaching day that raced closer with every passing second.
"What then? What do we do when Lloyd wins?"
"We save the world, babe."
"Easier said than done."
"I know. But someone has to give it a shot."
Sheena grinned and pressed a kiss to his smirking lips, just as the first rays of the deciding dawn stole over the horizon.
A/N: Wow. There it is, I guess. The ending isn't exactly what I planned, but I couldn't make myself add anymore. It just seems... right? I'm not sure. I'll probably end up re-doing this chapter.
ANYWAY, I would just like to thank all my readers, whether you reviewed or not. Your support has seriously encouraged me, and stopped this from becoming another one for the never-to-be-finished file, so THANK YOU!
Don't expect anything new anytime soon, I could barely get this out. Maybe at Christmas. Who knows :) Ciao for now m'dears!