Set in Various Locations in the Birth By Sleep Universe.
For the purpose of this story, the Universe as seen in the game has not been changed.
The continuation of Shattered Hearts
This is the Final Installment of the All It Takes One-Shots
(I promise, no more will follow)
You need to have read All It Takes, Remembrance, and Shattered Hearts in order to understand this story.
I originally planned to write this as a multi-chapter story.
But somewhere in the middle of the third chapter, I decided against it.
This is dedicated to Fantasy0Girl
DISCLAIMER [I do not own Kingdom Hearts] DISCLAIMER
LISTENING AT LAST
~Shattered Hearts / Continued~
Her shattered heart seeks yours as well.
"The Gods are my only hope, Hercules… Please…"
Watching over the city, Hercules thought back on the words his friend had said.
"They are my only hope of finding her…"
He wondered if he had made the right choice.
The Gods do not hold audiences with mortals. But he could not deny Zack, not after what he had done. This was his fault; he had convinced Zack that Aqua was nothing more than a memory, that if he did not move on, her empty promise will consume him. If he had been a good friend, if he had encouraged Zack rather than feed negativity into his mind, perhaps that nightmarish evening would have been a blissful reunion rather than the torturous parting that it was.
He remembered Zack running towards him, hand clenched into a fist, possessed by a fury and sorrow such as he had never known. Zack had punched him square on the jaw, and Hercules could only stare at his friend in shock.
"She was here!"
At first he did not understand, but when he saw the tears that ran ceaselessly down his comrade's face, it dawned on him. Zack fell to his knees, his fists slamming repeatedly against the ground, screaming. He had known Zack for years; from their days as novices, to their days as heroes. They fought the same battles, shared triumphs; together they conquered challenges and braved dangers no one else dared to face. In all that time, he had never seen Zack in pain even half as great as this.
He closed his eyes for a moment to dispel the memory. He could not have refused to help Zack, regardless of how foolish the mission he was on. Hercules turned skyward, wondering where Zack was now, hoping against all hope that he would succeed.
Zack was only vaguely aware of the impressive wings that beat on either side of him as Pegasus bore him to Mount Olympus. He paid no mind to the earth and seas below, or to the clouds and golden sunlight, and the warm breeze that surrounded him. The thrill of flight meant nothing at all; the pain of his dying heart was too great for anything else to matter. His only desire now was to find her, to hold her; all other pleasures were meaningless.
The winged-horse maneuvered intelligently through the obstacles that surrounded Mount Olympus. From his vantage point, Zack could see that it would be dangerous for a mere mortal to climb the mountain; there were far too many steep inclines, to many loose plates and narrow ledges, too many dangerous rock beds waiting to meet fallen climbers with death. The wind that howled ferociously was cold and biting. And the clouds and fog that enclosed the mountain brought with them thunder and lightning.
But as Zack was astride the magnificent steed, all these deterrents meant nothing. Pegasus was accustomed to making this journey. He knew how to weave swiftly and safely through the dark storm clouds. He was able to avoid the massive fog-obscured rock formations that bordered the mountain, as if he had memorized their heights and locations. Even the bolts of lightning could not catch the winged-horse.
Soon, they broke through the barriers that shielded the peak of Mount Olympus from view below. Pegasus landed securely on the mountain summit, and Zack found himself in front of a massive golden gate. It was surrounded by beautifully colored clouds and bathed in golden light that seemed stronger than sunlight.
He was walking towards the gate, with Pegasus trotting behind him, when a voice stopped him.
"What is your purpose here, mortal? And how is it that you come borne by Pegasus?"
"Almighty Zeus," Zack said, his tone respectful, and his head bowed, when he recognized the figure that approached from the other side of the gate.
"I recognize you, Zack," the God said, as the gates opened. He raised a hand skyward and the clouds and light parted to reveal the starry skies. Zack looked up, recognizing his own constellation. "You are a renowned hero, and a friend of my son."
Zack was about to speak, when even more of the Gods and Goddesses of Olympus approached. Hermes eyed him curiously, and then grinned. "I knew it. He has Pegasus with him. No mortal could make that climb without some help."
"Now, Hermes, let us first hear what the man has to say," Zeus said. His intimidating aura seemed softened somewhat, and Zack felt a small hint of amusement at recognizing some traits that Hercules had clearly inherited from his father.
"I know his purpose," said one of the Goddesses – Aphrodite – and she glided gracefully towards Zack. "I can see it in his heart." She touched a finger to his chest, and drew out a stream of white and blue light. She stepped back, still drawing on the light, and, with a flick of her wrist, it took form.
Zack's breath caught in his throat. Before him stood Aqua, or, rather, a likeness of her in light. She was turned slightly to the side, her head bowed, and her hand on her chest. There was a faint blush on her cheeks, her eyes shimmering shyly. He recognized this memory; it was when he asked her for a date.
"You seek her," the Goddess said.
"Yes," Zack answered quietly, watching sadly as the image of Aqua faded.
"You will not find her here, not in this world. And no matter how much longer you wait, she will never return."
"What do you mean? You cannot help me find her?" He heard the desperation in his own voice.
"She is not from this world. And so she is beyond even our reach."
Zack's brow furrowed. "I don't understand."
Aphrodite stepped away from him, and it was Athena who spoke next. "The girl you seek is a Keyblade Wielder, a traveler between worlds, a peacekeeper and a guardian of the balance between light and darkness. In some ways, we can say that she does not belong to any world. As a matter of fact, their existence is a highly guarded secret."
"Then where can I find her?"
"You need to understand, first, that there are more worlds outside this one than you can possibly imagine. To attempt to find her would be unwise; it is likely that you would simply be travelling from world to world, lost, alone, without ever succeeding."
"I will find her!" he said, determined. "Please, show me the way."
The Gods and Goddesses turned to one another and were silent for quite a while, as if discussing the matter. Finally, Zeus nodded, and Athena said, "We will show you the way, but the moment you leave this world, we can help you no further. A great darkness separates this world from the next, and you can lose yourself in that darkness. Your life and your heart are at risk. Should the darkness consume you, you will cease to exist."
The Goddess shook her head. "I am not certain that you do. We know only how to open a doorway to the spaces between worlds. We do not know how to travel through them. You may be suspended there, unable even to reach another world. Your search might end just as soon as you begin. You might remain adrift forever; is that a sacrifice you are willing to make?"
Athena said no more, and Aphrodite approached him. "Her shattered heart seeks yours as well." The Goddess raised her hand in front of her, and tiny slivers of light convened at the center of her palm. When the light faded, Zack recognized the mirror he had broken. She handed it to him with a smile. "Stay strong for her, call her heart with yours, and she will find you."
He accepted the mirror, and the blessings of the Gods. He thanked them profusely and respectfully as they opened the gateway for him. He stared at it for a moment. It was surrounded by pulsating shadows and dancing sparks of lightning. The very center of it was a black hole. He could not see beyond it, and therefore he could not know what awaited him on the other side. He clutched the mirror tightly in his hand before keeping it in his pocket so he would not lose it. Then, his heart beating wildly in his chest, he stepped into the darkness.
Aqua stared listlessly at the skies, seated on the trunk of a tree that leaned towards the sandy shores and the ocean. The clouds drifted by slowly, as if telling her to just breathe, to slow down and forget whatever pained her. She sighed softly, as the breeze blew the scents of the sea towards her, as though attempting to clear her mind. She always found it calming to be on this island, alone but for the whispering wind and the dancing seas. In this world, it almost felt as though everything was perfect, everything will be alright.
Her heart suddenly shuddered painfully, causing her to flinch, and she gently placed a hand over it. "When will you heal?" she murmured.
She closed her eyes for a minute and focused entirely on breathing, trying her hardest to calm her heart. But she felt troubled, as if something was terribly wrong. She studied her surroundings, but found nothing amiss. Whatever the disturbance was, it was elsewhere. Knowing her responsibilities, although not knowing exactly what caused the troubled feelings, she decided to leave.
Sighing, she stood on the tree trunk and summoned her Keyblade Glider. As soon as she was completely clad in armor, she mounted the Glider and soared through a portal into the lanes between. She allowed her instincts to guide her, giving her heart complete control. She did not need to travel very far before she found herself drawn towards something adrift in the darkness.
Her brows creased in worry, realizing that it was a person, and she hastily soared towards it. However, when she drew closer, her heart stopped beating. She recognized him. Zack... Her hesitation lasted only a second. She held his unconscious form to her, the pain in her heart suddenly rising to excruciating levels, and headed towards the closest world where she knew she might find help; the Mysterious Tower.
"Master Yen Sid," she greeted the wizened old sorcerer. He was standing at the window, gazing up at the stars.
"Aqua," came the reply. He turned around and watched as she carried an unconscious man into the room and set him down on the floor, leaning him carefully against a wall.
"I found him adrift in the lanes between," she said, making certain to keep her tone void of emotion. "Can you help him?"
Yen Sid approached them and knelt down to study the man. He looked thoughtful; his eyes glazed over in thought, but he did not speak. He simply did what he needed to do, while Aqua watched, equally silent.
When he was done, he stood and faced Aqua. "It seems he has been adrift for a long time."
"I cannot say."
She felt her heart shudder once more, but she kept her composure. "Will it be alright for me to leave him here?"
"Is he a friend of yours, Aqua?"
She hesitated, and eventually chose to disregard the question. She faced Yen Sid, bowing slightly. "Thank you for your help." With that, she turned around to leave. The sorcerer placed a hand on her shoulder.
"This is unlike you; ignoring the instincts of your heart."
Aqua did not answer. She allowed her gaze to fall on Zack, letting her concern – her unbidden, sincere love for him – show for a moment. But then her eyes grew cold. He did not want her love, he had chosen someone else. And with those thoughts, she walked away.
She returned to Destiny Islands.
The sun had set and the stars were shining brightly overhead, but she was oblivious to them. She paced back and forth along the shoreline, breathing deeply, desperately trying to soothe her tormented heart.
"Enough, please," she pleaded. The agony was becoming too much to bear.
She summoned her keyblade and walked into the water. When the water reached her thighs, she stopped. And with several graceful, spinning movements, she stirred the water around her, lifting them into the air. The water surrounded her like glass that had become soft as cloth, forming arches around and over her.
As they circled her, guided by her keyblade, she froze them. Now she was shielded on all sides by sheets of ice, curving beautifully around her. She gazed up at the sky, the frozen waves leaving an opening just overhead. Her heart ached and her eyes brimmed with tears. Even the stars sought to hurt her, his constellation gazing down at her. With another swing of her keyblade, more water rose. She froze them as well, until she could no longer see the stars.
She dismissed her keyblade and stood in her icy cocoon, maintaining the freezing temperature with magic emanating from her every fiber. Tears continued to fall silently, but she did not cry out. She pressed her hand against her heart, wondering once more when it would heal. She allowed the cold to overwhelm her, until her breath came out as mist, and her entire body trembled. For a while, this physical pain protected her from the anguish of her heart.
Then, when breathing became too difficult and her tears were running dry, an unexpected sound resonated around her. The ice shattered, struck by a massive sword. The shards of frozen water fell around her and melted slowly in the sea.
"What do you think you're doing?" came a reprimand.
She was about to turn around when a pair of strong arms wrapped tightly around her waist. She could feel his warm body pressed against her back.
She gritted her teeth, her brows creased, and she pulled away from him. She whirled around. "Do not touch me," she hissed. She was still trembling, but whether it was still from the cold or another reason entirely, she could not be sure.
"Aqua…" he said, reaching for her.
"Stop it!" she shouted. She had summoned her keyblade, and was pointing it at him.
For a moment, he held an expression of sadness. But it was quickly replaced by a look of firm resolve. He grabbed her keyblade by the shaft, wresting it from her grip, and flung it to the side. It faded in a burst of light. She did not summon it again as he rushed at her, taking hold of her wrists.
She strained against his hold, her eyes shut tight. "Let go!" she screamed.
But he did not. If she wanted to be free of him, it should have been easy; she was a trained fighter. But no, her resistance was only half-hearted. He knew this, and so he did not let go.
The water splashed vigorously around them with her thrashing until they were both soaked. "Stop, Aqua," he said softly. She ignored his request. She kept her eyes closed tightly, her face turned away from him.
He held both her wrists with one hand and laid her hands on his chest. He then wrapped his other arm around her waist and held her to him. She stopped.
"Just let me hold you," he whispered, "for a minute, please…"
She was listening to his heartbeat, feeling the rise and fall of his chest as he breathed. "Why?" she asked, though she did not pull away, even as he relaxed his hold.
He did not answer. He did not know what to say.
"I want you to leave, Zack," she said when he did not reply. She took a step away from him, and looked into his eyes. "I want you to leave," she repeated, as though to tell herself as much as to tell him.
"You don't want that, Aqua," he said boldly, challenging her.
She walked away from him, back to the sandy shores. He followed her. "Why did you save me?" he questioned when they had left the water.
Without turning to face him, she answered, "I had to. It's what I'm supposed to do."
"Don't give me that!" he yelled, frustrated. "Are you saying you saved me because it was part of your job, is that it? Tell me the real reason!"
She turned around, her expression angry. "What are you asking, exactly? If I could have just left you out there to die? The answer is no, Zack! I couldn't…leave you…"
She looked away from him again, the anger in her eyes fading to an obvious gleam of pain as she placed her hand over her heart. He moved closer and placed his own hand over hers. "Does this mean you're hurting…? When you do this…?" he asked softly.
Aqua remained quiet, and he deftly carried her into his arms and sat down on the sand. She was seated on his lap, his arm supporting her lower back, his other arm across her lap, and her hands on his chest. She leaned her head against his shoulder, her forehead against his neck.
She studied his face with her hand, brushing her fingers lightly over his lashes, touching his lips, tracing the intersecting scars on his cheek. "You have changed so much…" she whispered.
He smirked. "My memories did not do you justice. You are more beautiful than I remember…" He reached into his pocket and pulled out the mirror. "I believe this belongs to you."
She accepted it, touching it carefully with her fingers. Now that she was holding it again she felt as though her connection to him had been restored. She wondered how she ever found the strength to leave it, to think that she could simply forget.
Aqua looked up at him, and he gazed down at her. She truly was more beautiful than he remembered. He contented himself for a while on simply seeing her, memorizing her, breathing her in. Then he leaned forward slowly and she let her eyes fall closed. He caught her lips with his and a growl escaped him. The hunger within him from more than a decade of longing was finally sated. She sighed softly against him as he kissed her gently, lovingly. He cradled her lips tenderly between his and brushed his tongue over them, tasting her, but did nothing more.
When he released her, she bowed her head again and did not speak. He respected her wish for silence and he simply held her. If she wanted to stay this way forever, he was sure he would concede. And so the hours passed; the stars disappeared and the sky eventually began to lighten.
"Zack…" she whispered. "Do I have a place in your heart?"
She spoke softly, hoping that in a whisper he would not hear her pain.
"My heart has always been completely yours, Aqua…"
"But… Then why…?"
He took her hand and placed it on his chest. "I just didn't listen…"
A shy smile found its way onto her lips and the pain in her heart faded, replaced by pure rapture. He held her closer against him. The sun began to rise then, bathing them in soft, warm light. "A Goddess told me your heart is shattered. I want to fix it, if you would let me, if you want me to."
She laughed a little and the sound of it filled him with happiness. Shyly, she murmured, "Please."
He buried his fingers in her hair and kissed her softly. "Will you make me another promise?"
He smirked; a smile that was just so Zack. "Be mine."