A/N: (lifts face from hiding it in a corner) I wrote something based entirely on pre-game release theory and speculation. I have never before allowed myself to do this. I wait until the game comes out then see if I'm right. But this time, the idea just wouldn't leave me alone, especially given recent info about BBS. So come 2010, I can find out if I have to make this AU, or if I will get to point back to this fic and yell, "I SO TOTALLY CALLED IT!"

Disclaimer: Hey look, Nomura made even more cool characters which I get to not own!

North Star

She walks home slowly, wanting to take in everything her senses possibly can about the town around her; wanting to memorize every detail. She doesn't know when she will see it again, and she doesn't want to forget a thing while she is gone. She turns the corner out of the shopping district and quickens her pace, training her eyes straight ahead onto her next turn. She almost reaches it before she hears the shout.

"Hey Aqua!" She sighs; of course someone who knew her would have to find her here. She puts on a smile and turns to where Cid is chatting with a few of the construction workers trying to rebuild the giant stone archway that, until very recently, served as the main entrance of the shopping district.

"Hi, Cid!" She shouts back, focusing on him rather that the rubble behind him.

The aging shipbuilder gave her a crooked smile. "Heard our little warrior princess was gonna be a master! Good luck tomorrow, kiddo! You make your folks proud, y'hear!"

Aqua's smile slips a little, but she quickly renews the grin. "Thanks Cid! See ya!" And she continues on her way, forcing her gaze away from the pile of crumbled stone.

"Tell your Grams I said hi, okay!"

She smiles genuinely as she calls over her shoulder, "Will do!" She doesn't see how Cid can still be so cheerful so close to that place. She doesn't see how anyone can be cheerful so close to that place. She knows that not everyone was affected like she was by what happened, but there was still nothing cheerful about the situation. After all, there were people standing underneath that archway when it fell...

She feels the weight of the sight of the collapsed archway lift off her shoulders as she turns the corner onto Fountain Street and she slows to a casual stroll again. She hoped the arch would be rebuilt by the time she got back. That was one thing about this place she could definitely do with forgetting.

Two blocks later she turns another corner and pauses outside of an old two-story stone and grey-brick house, photographing it in her memory, taking note of the tiniest details, from the petunias in the flower bed to the patches of rust on the numbers above the door frame to the scorch mark on the drainpipe from when she'd first learned Fira. She smiles and enters the house, glancing around the parlor for signs of life.

"Grandma! I'm home." She barely makes it in the door before the plump old woman has bustled into the room and wrapped pudgy arms tightly around her torso.

"Oh, there you are; my little grandbaby, all grown up and about to take the Master Qualification Exam!" Her grandmother squeezes her tightly before releasing her to take out a handkerchief and blow her squat red nose. "You girls are just growing up so fast on me!" Aqua just smiles and rolls her eyes at the old woman's over-emotion.

"What smells so good?" Aqua inquires, as the scent of something spicy drifts into the room.

Grandma claps her hands and laughs. "Your favorite, of course! It's your last night at home; I wanted to make sure you had a good meal before you set off! Oh! That reminds me! Got to go make sure that soup doesn't boil over!" She turns and waddles toward the hallway to the kitchen. "Little one's been waiting all day for you to get here!" She calls back. "She's been driving me up the wall!"

Aqua giggles and steps more fully into the room, not bothering to relax yet, as she can already hear the tiny footsteps pounding down the stairs.

"Aqua!" Sure enough, the little blur of red and white rushes through the doorway, and Aqua squats down and spreads her arms wide to hug the little girl as she flings her tiny arms around Aqua's neck.

"Okay, not so tight, I can't breathe."

The little girl giggles and lets go, big blue eyes scrutinizing her big sister as she kneels in front of her. "You owe me a story. You didn't tell me one yesterday or the day before, and this is the last time I'll get to hear one before you have to leave!"

Aqua frowns, tucking a short lock of red hair behind the little girl's ear. "Sorry, Kairi, I was just too tired. But I promise I'll tell you a long, exciting story tonight." She grins, hoping to return the smile onto her little sister's face. "And just think, after I come back, I'll have lots and lots of exciting stories to tell!"

Kairi's eyebrows knit together and her little mouth twists into a frown. "You will come home, won't you, Aqua?"

The older girl just blinks for a moment, her smile sliding off her face at the child's inquiry. She quickly replaces it, albeit with a hesitant smile and answers, "Of course I'll come home! Why would you ask me something like that?"

The child lowers her head but not her gaze as she softly answers, "Mom and Dad didn't."

The smile drops off of Aqua's face at this and her heart breaks at the seriousness in her little sister's eyes. She really doesn't know what to say to that. She just really, really, doesn't. Her gaze falls to the hardwood floor for a moment as she considers what she can do to rectify this situation.

She raises her eyes back to meet Kairi's and gives her the most reassuring grin she can muster. "Hey, lemme show you something." And she scoops the little girl up into her arms and carries her up the stairs to her room.

------

"Aqua, you two just go on home. It's past Kairi's nap time anyway. We've just got a few more things to get from the shopping district, and then we'll be home."

------

"…no, you have to criss-cross the string through the holes in the shells. Here, let me help." Aqua pulls her sister closer into her lap and wraps a hand around Kairi's tiny fist, helping her guide the needle through the holes in the thalassa shells. "There you go, see, you've got it!" The little girl giggles at her success, and watches with rapt attention as Aqua picks up the charm she'd been making to demonstrate the next step.

"How come you tie it twice?"

"So that it doesn't fall apart. Remember how to tie that kind of knot? Like shoelaces? There, you've got it."

Aqua watches the clumsy little hands as they shape the shells into a star and scratch the tiny design of a face onto one of the prongs. She laughs. "Is that supposed to be me?"

The tiny head in front of her bobs up and down. "Yup. See, this one's your head, and these are your arms, and these are your legs!" Aqua's eyebrows quirk upwards in silent acknowledgement of Kairi's creativity.

"Aqua, what are you doing?"

"I'm drawing you onto mine, what does it look like I'm doing?"

"That's supposed to be me?" Aqua glares at the owner of the disbelieving tone.

"Yes, as a matter of fact, it is."

Kairi turns her head to look Aqua square in the eye. "Aqua," she declares authoritatively, "You can't draw." The older girl's shoulders slump as she gives Kairi a playful glare.

"Well, aren't you nice? We ought to take you back to the hospital, see if they give us a refund." Peals of high pitched laughter start to bubble from the little girl's mouth and it brings a smile to Aqua's face. She returns to finishing up the charm, but works to sustain the laughter. "Maybe we could exchange you for a little sister who is actually nice."

The giggles last long after she stops talking, and they make for nice background noise as she helps Kairi put the finishing touches on her charm.

"There, look at that," Aqua says, holding up the two finished star-shaped shell charms. "Know what they are?" She asks, glancing down at Kairi. The little girl is looking at the charms with wide eyes.

She shakes her head. "What are they?"

Aqua draws her closer. "There's a world out there where there is a fruit that can bind people together. These charms are made to imitate that fruit. Legend has it that these charms will bring people back together." She lowers the charm she has made into Kairi's hands. The little girl cradles the talisman in her hands never taking her eyes off it as she clambers out of Aqua's lap to sit cross-legged opposite her. She holds up the charm to the light and admires it with wide eyes.

"Yours is prettier than mine," she notes sadly. Aqua holds up Kairi's charm; smiling at the clumsily knotted string and awkwardly overlapping shells at the center, as well as the shaky, but lovely, lines of the drawing etched into the 'head' shell.

"Well, it was your first one. And I think it is very pretty." Kairi smiles at this, and Aqua captures the image and stores it somewhere deep and special inside her, along with all the images of things she never, ever, ever wants to forget. It goes right next to the image of her mother's smile, so she can remember how much they look alike.

"Kairi?" Aqua's smile turns serious as the little girl looks up at her. "I'm going to keep this charm with me no matter where I go, and one day it will bring us together again. You understand?" The little girl nods. Aqua draws her close and hugs her tight. "No matter what happens, no matter how long I have to be gone, we'll be together again. I'll always be there for you. I promise."

-----

The next morning when Aqua walks out of the house and looks back to see her grandmother and Kairi standing in the doorway, she pats the clumsy childish thalassa shell charm in her pocket and trusts that it will bring them together again.

Aqua is not one to break her promises.

And as she turns away and walks off down the street, she gets the overwhelming feeling that this is one promise that it will take her a very long time to keep. But that charm remains close, even when she dons her armor, even when the worlds fall.

And she still has it, eleven years later, when a bottle washes up on a far away shore and a prison door deep underneath the city of Radiant Garden finally swings open…

Fin

A/N: If you didn't catch it, her parents were among those underneath the archway when it collapsed.

SO; why I have formulated this sort of fangirl theory/speculation/wouldn't-it-be-cool-if. We know that Aqua's connected to Kairi somehow, and I figured that since they look so much alike and both originally come from Radiant Garden that they must be related. And especially since we've seen Aqua with those shell charm things in the latest trailer, and they are the same kind of charm Kairi made, I figure Kairi had to learn how to make that charm from somewhere, and it makes sense that Aqua might have been the one to teach her. And that final bit refers to seeing Aqua, albeit fully armored, in the Room of Sleep or whatever that is in that one new cutscene from KH2 Final Mix. So the cute little idea of Aqua teaching Kairi how to make the charm bred with the plot bunnies and bugged me to the point that I had to write this. Come next January (or later, actually, since I don't plan to spoil myself) we'll see if I was right about any of this. If nothing else, the KH girls need some love.

Now that BBS is out in Japan, DON'T INCLUDE SPOILERS IN YOUR REVIEWS!!! I don't wanna know if I'm right yet or not, okay! I ain't spoiling myself…yet.