Set in Olympus Coliseum.
(By the way, not a fan of Thebes, so there)
If Aqua had taken Zack up on his offer.
DISCLAIMER [I do not own Kingdom Hearts] DISCLAIMER
ALL IT TAKES
If he'd known that was all it would take, he would've said it earlier.
"That won't really be necessary."
The Keyblade Master smiled politely at the young warrior before her. As inviting as it sounded, to take a break and celebrate her becoming champion of the Games, she simply had so much to do. Her Master relied on her, and her friends were still nowhere to be found.
With her mind preoccupied, she almost missed what he said next, "How about one date?"
She immediately felt her cheeks grow warm. "Oh! You mean – No…" she said, stepping back and raising her hands up in front of her in an attempt to regain her composure. "I have to leave right away… Besides, I still have so much training to do…"
She turned her face away from him to hide her blush, but the coyness in the way she looked at him from the corner of her eye only spurred him further.
"Come on, Aqua," he said, smiling at her. "All I'm asking for is one date.'
"Please, Zack, I – I really can't…"
"And if you could, would you?"
"I – Yes…"
"Well, why can't you anyway? Just spend the rest of today with me, just until midnight."
She stuttered, struggling for a response, and all that came out was, "Sunset."
"That's an hour from now!"
She mentally kicked herself. Was she seriously negotiating the terms of this date? She was unjustly getting his hopes up, when she knew she truly had to leave…
"Zack, I really can't stay…" She said, trying to repair the damage.
"Alright, alright, just until I can show you the stars. Please?"
He was smiling at her so hopefully; his brilliant blue eyes alight with optimism. He had that face that reminded her so much of Ventus when he was pleading with her to hide him from Terra, or to play a game with him. She, sighed, knowing she was fighting a losing battle.
"Alright, you win," she said. "Until you can show me the stars."
"Yes!" Zack exclaimed happily. "Come on, I know just where to take you."
He took her by the hand – an action that surprised her – and led her away from the coliseum and towards the city.
"There's a festival later, and they usually start at sunset."
'Hmm? A festival?" Aqua asked half-heartedly.
Her lack of enthusiasm went unnoticed, and Zack explained, "You know, Athens might look like a pretty serious town, with the temple and the coliseum, and I know those gold statues probably give off the wrong message… But it really is a lot of fun here. There's always some kind of festival going on."
"I see," she replied.
He was chattering all the way, unaware as to whether she was listening or not. As she sprinted to keep up with his eager running, she wondered what she could have gotten herself into.
I wonder where Terra is now…
Aqua was only vaguely aware of Zack leading her through crowded streets. She had pried her hand loose from his, carefully, and had not allowed him to hold her again. She took no notice of the colors or the lights that surrounded her. The various attractions of the festival were of no interest to her at all. She was careful to respond to Zack's questions, but her heart was not in the conversation. There was simply too much on her mind.
Thrice, as they made their way through the sea of delighted people, Aqua wished time would speed up. But as skilled in magic as she was, that was far beyond her capabilities. So she endured, though in her impatience the hour to sunset seemed an entire day in itself.
So when the sun finally met the horizon signaling the end of the day, she was thankful. The diffused light of twilight promised that the stars would soon reveal themselves.
"So," Zack said, "time to see the stars."
"Sure," Aqua said, a relieved smile on her face.
Zack, walking beside her, tried again to take her hand but she subtly sidestepped to avoid him. If he noticed her unwillingness, he said nothing and just walked on. He led her wordlessly to a hilltop just outside the city borders. He sat down on a boulder at the top of the hill, and she was seated on the ground, leaning on it. From their vantage point, they could still clearly see the colorful lights of the festival, but it no longer interfered with their view of the night sky.
"So what do you think?" he asked her as the stars twinkled overhead.
She looked up. "I used to stargaze like this with my friends…"
He was quiet for a minute, hearing the longing in her voice. Then, clearing his throat, he said, "You know what they say about stars?"
"Yes, they say that…" she stopped herself. They must not be made aware that there are other worlds. "That stars are like hearts filled with light, shining down on us like a million lanterns." It was not a lie, but neither was it the complete truth.
"Hmm, who told you that?"
"A friend of mine."
"I've never heard that before…"
She smiled weakly. "Well, I come from somewhere very far away from here…"
"Oh… Well, d'you know what constellations are?"
"Technically, they are pictures in the night sky." He slid down the boulder so that he was beside her. He pointed towards the stars, connecting them like dots on paper. "The Gods place heroes among the stars to honor and immortalize them."
Aqua glanced at him. He was smiling.
"Someday, when I become a true hero..." He did not finish his sentence; he simply allowed his words to trail off pensively.
They were silent for a long time, just stargazing. Aqua wondered once more where her friends were, what world they were exploring now. She closed her eyes briefly. I've wasted enough time.
"I have to go," she said, standing up. "Thank you, Zack."
"You're leaving already?"
"Okay…" he murmured. The tone of his voice made her hesitate. But she regretted her hesitation immediately, for he added, "I know you didn't have any fun tonight."
She bit her lip. "No, Zack, I -"
"It's okay," he said, grinning up at her. But his smile did not reach his eyes.
She felt a pang of guilt. She should have made more of an effort… "Zack… Why did you ask me on a date?"
He raised an eyebrow at her. "I have never met anyone like you, Aqua, you're different, special. You're an incredible fighter. You're determined and strong-willed. You're more of a hero than I am, but at the same time, you're soft-spoken, modest… And, I mean, just look at you!"
"What do you mean?" she asked; her brows furrowed, her head tilted very slightly to one side.
He sighed, exasperated. "Give me another half hour, and I'll show you what I mean."
"But… I really need to go," she said.
"I - Alright, half an hour," she agreed, deciding that the less she argued, the faster she could leave. However, she again mentally kicked herself. She never should have asked him those questions.
He led her hurriedly down the hill and back to town. She was frowning behind him, unsure where this was going, but she followed nonetheless. He led her back to the festival, through the crowds, and to the bazaar. He looked here and there, as if searching for a particular stall, and eagerly laughed when he found it.
"Here," he said, leading her to a stall selling an assortment of products made of glass, pewter, and silver. She had to admit, the fragile glass figurines were startlingly detailed, using both colored and clear glass. The pewter and silver were polished to a perfect shine. Zack, however, was uninterested in these. He picked up a small, square object and handed it to her.
The storeowner huffed disapprovingly at Zack's lack of care in handling his merchandise, saying, "You break that, kid, you pay for it."
But Zack simply dismissed his comment, watching Aqua intently.
Aqua stared at the object. It was a small, mirror, with a thin frame of white glass surrounding the reflective surface. She looked at her reflection briefly, noting that she currently looked worried, tired, and impatient. She turned back to Zack, sighing.
"I'm sorry, I don't understand…"
The young warrior looked at her with a shy smile. "Aqua," he answered, "you're beautiful."
He said it with shameless sincerity, as if it was the most obvious thing in the world. But it was something she had never been told before. She looked at her reflection again. Her cheeks were now flushed with color. "Zack, I -"
When she looked back up at him, he had paid for the mirror. "You should keep that," he told her. "I think you're going to need it to remind you."
She blushed deeper. "I…"
"I know, I know," he said, grinning again. "You have to go."
"No," she said, looking at him with the first genuine smile of the evening. She shyly took his hand, her fingers intertwining with his. "I was going to say… I can stay until midnight."
(Continued in Remembrance)