Set in an Alternate Universe.
This Note is Important!
TerraAqua is a Minor Pairing because, in this story...
TERRA IS DEAD.
But he plays a very, very important role, despite being dead from the start.
Also, his epitaph is technically not mine. I just added to it, and modified it.
And I am unfamiliar with Marluxia, really.
I haven't played Chain of Memories.
That should explain my portrayal of his character.
*hangs head in shame*
I have forgotten who requested a MarluxiaAqua.
But this is still, of course, dedicated to that requester.
Oh, and if you get why Windy is the name I picked, it would make my day.
Because if you get it, it means you have been reading my other stories and my Author's Notes!
DISCLAIMER [I do not own Kingdom Hearts] DISCLAIMER
Where one flower withers, a new one can blossom.
"Good morning," came a greeting, following the ringing of the small bell that indicated someone entered the store. But Marluxia did not bother looking up from his workbench, knowing Aerith – the salesgirl he had hired – would tend to the customer. And, sure enough, the response greeting came.
"Good morning, Aqua."
Marluxia smiled. Aqua was a lovely name. And so he tore his eyes away from the flower arrangement he was working on in order to see what rose came to be named so beautifully. And, suddenly, his vision tunneled.
Why, though, he wasn't quite sure. She was beautiful, yes, but he has had his fair share of beautiful girls. There was nothing too striking about this one. Her clothing was plain; just a pair of jeans, a simple denim jacket over a white shirt, and black and white sneakers. She had no make-up – not that she needed it – and the only accessory she wore was a necklace with a blue, star-shaped pendant. The only thing out of the ordinary was her hair, which was cut boyishly short into probably a thousand layers, and it was the exact same color as the sky on a clear, spring day.
He watched her walk through the store, pick a few flowers, hand them to Aerith who expertly wrapped them up for her, then she left.
"Thanks, Aerith," she said, as she opened the door.
"You're welcome! See you tomorrow," Aerith answered.
As soon as the door closed behind the blue-haired girl, Marluxia stepped out of the semi-partitioned work area and walked towards Aerith at the counter. "Who was that?" he asked, keeping the curiosity out of his voice.
Aerith remained oblivious to his interest, and answered smiling, "That was Aqua. She comes twice a week, every Saturday and Sunday."
"Oh," Marluxia answered. That would explain why he has never seen her before. Despite being the owner of the store, he was not around often, especially on weekends. The only reason he was here on a Saturday was because a friend of his had requested – begged, rather – that he make five special flower arrangements for a very special girl.
Smiling to himself, Marluxia made a mental note to thank his friend, and to return tomorrow in order to see Aqua again.
The following morning, Marluxia paced around the aisles of his store, between the flower displays, waiting. Yesterday, Aqua arrived at precisely 9:45 am. It was now 9:40.
In the background, he could hear Aerith humming. He had given her the simple task of neatening up the work area so that when Aqua arrives, she would have no choice but to settle her transactions with him. He, too, began humming in anticipation.
Three minutes to go.
It was 9:47 am when the little bell rang and the door opened. There was no greeting, though. Aqua obviously noticed that Aerith was not at her usual spot. So Marluxia was quick to come into her view. "Good morning," he said, smiling.
She was confused, but only for half a second. "Good morning," she answered.
"May I help you?"
She smiled, clearly realizing that he worked here, though she did not recognize him. "Um, I'm fine, thanks," she replied, and she walked around the store. He debated whether to follow her, or to just stay put, but decided on the former. He kept a good distance between them, though, so as not to creep her out. Salespeople breathing down one's neck are never pleasant.
Her fingers lightly brushed the flowers and Marluxia smiled at how cute her thoughtful face looked. As she neared the counter and the work area, Aerith popped out for a minute from behind the lattice-work that served as the partition.
"Hi, Aqua," she greeted.
"Hi," Aqua answered.
Aerith then turned to Marluxia. "Sir, did you want me to put aside that arrangement you're working on?"
"No," Marluxia replied. "I'll still be working on that later. Just leave the desk as is."
Aqua had turned to face him, her expression amused. As soon as Aerith had returned to her task, Aqua asked, "Is this your store?"
"You know, yours is the best one," she said. "I used to go to the one that was closer to... To the church. But their flowers pale in comparison to the ones you have here."
A slow smile crept onto his lips. "Thank you." But in the back of his mind, he wondered briefly at the hesitation in the middle of her statement.
She held her hand out to him. "My name is Aqua," she said. "And you?"
He shook her hand, his mind noting instantly that her skin was soft and smooth as flower petals. "Marluxia."
If she thought anything of his outlandish name, it did not show on her face, which he was thankful for. Most people would follow up with a look of utter bewilderment, or would snort or chuckle. Aqua was merely smiling. "Nice to meet you," she said.
"The pleasure is mine," he answered and she looked away shyly. But the smile was still on her face, so he took it as a good sign. He spent the next quarter hour helping her pick out a few flowers – though she was avoiding the topic of what the flowers were for.
For several months, his routine changed, going to the store without fail every weekend rather than just the weekdays. His favorite days of the week quickly became Saturday and Sunday. Although Aqua only spent a maximum of half-an-hour in the store at a time – and that meant he only had one hour with her every seven days - they were always the best moments of the week.
He learned a little about her each time. She was studying at the local college, and she was one semester away from graduating. She lived quite close by with her older brother, Zack, and her little sister, Xion. Both her parents worked overseas. She has never been anywhere outside this little town, but she wanted to travel someday. She had a golden retriever puppy named Windy, whom she adored as if he was her baby. She brought him to the store once, after Marluxia said that he liked dogs, too. Windy promptly ate the tulips, so Aqua – flustered and embarrassed – never brought him again.
But despite knowing those things about her, Marluxia had yet to find out why it was that Aqua bought flowers every week. And they were always different – different flowers, different wrappings, different themes – which only confused Marluxia further. He tried asking many times, but she always found a way around the subject.
One Sunday morning, after Aqua left, Marluxia spoke to Aerith.
"Do you know what Aqua does with those flowers?"
The brunette shook her head. "I've asked her before, but she never gives a straight answer."
"Well, once she said that they were for someone special," Aerith murmured thoughtfully. "And after that, I never asked her again. Why?"
"Nothing, I was merely curious," Marluxia replied. For someone special…
"I'm going out for a minute, alright, Aerith?"
"Sure," the girl answered, smiling, and Marluxia hurriedly left the store.
Aqua left about five minutes earlier, but that was not much of a head start. Besides, Marluxia was not an idiot. On the day he met her, she mentioned that she used to buy flowers from the store closer to the church. A logical explanation would be that she buys flowers closer to wherever it was that she was coming from, or wherever she was going. The latter seemed likely, and so Marluxia headed in the direction of the church.
He walked at a brisk pace – almost running, really – and as he rounded a corner he caught sight of her several paces away. He slowed down, breathing deeply to catch the air he had lost, and followed her. His intuition served him well, as they reached the church and she went inside. She sat on one of the pews at the front and seemed to be praying. The flowers she had just bought were cradled tenderly on her lap.
Marluxia stayed at the door of the church, so it would be easy to hide in case she turned around. He felt like such a stalker, and hoped that what he was doing was not some grave sin. After about ten or fifteen minutes, Aqua stood up. Marluxia prepared to hide or run, but Aqua did not head for the front doors. She exited through one of the doors to the side.
Marluxia frowned, the puzzle pieces beginning to fall into place. He knew that the door she walked through opened to a walkway that led to a cemetery. He hastily crossed the church – though still paying respects briefly – and left through the same doorway that Aqua did. He saw her walk towards one of the smaller, less conspicuous headstones. She laid the flowers on the ground and just knelt there, her head bowed.
He felt his chest constrict at the thought of her hurting, at the thought that she might be crying. But what could he do? How would she react if she finds out that he had followed her, especially after her obvious reluctance at even revealing the purpose for those flowers?
She spent another ten or fifteen minutes by the headstone before finally rising to leave. Marluxia hurriedly sought a hiding place, emerging only when he was sure that she had gone. He then approached the headstone.
"Terra," he read the first name. Who was he, Marluxia wondered; a friend, a relative, a lover? Below the name was a short epitaph:
In life, and also after
His name is writ in water
Marluxia smiled weakly at understanding the double meaning, and at finding the answer to his earlier question. The first message was clear; he died long before his time, the epitaph a lament on how fleeting life was. The second message said that even though death has claimed him, a part of him remained; in Aqua. And so who else could this Terra be, but her lover? Someone special…
The following Saturday, Marluxia arrived late at the store. It was already past 10:00 am. He decided to enter through the back entrance, just because it was easier to get to, and stopped when he opened the door and the work area came into view. Through the lattice-work, he could see that Aqua was at the counter speaking with Aerith.
"He likes you, I'm sure," Aerith said. Marluxia stopped breathing, leaning closer to hear, but still being careful to remain hidden. He wondered who they were talking about, but had a logical guess.
"Don't be silly, Aerith," Aqua insisted.
"He asks about you often. And he never used to come to the store on weekends. That only started when he met you."
Now Marluxia was certain they were talking about him. For a moment, he felt annoyed that Aerith would talk about him like that, but he pushed down the frustration. This would give him insight into how Aqua felt about him.
Aqua shook her head. "That… That doesn't prove anything. He hardly knows me."
Aerith paused thoughtfully, her hand on her chin. Then, she said, "Oh, but he has been trying to get to know you, right?"
Aqua seemed to have no answer to that and Aerith laughed, clapping her hands once. "See? I'm right. He likes you."
Again, Aqua shook her head, more fervently this time. "He can't."
"Why not? He's cute and charming. He's smart. He has a good heart, really. He could use a better sense of humor, but he knows how to laugh, at the very least…"
"I know, I know," Aqua said. "But even if I did want to, I just can't."
"It's kind of personal," Aqua answered, and Aerith decided not to push the subject further. She wrapped up the flowers Aqua had chosen and Aqua left as soon as she had paid for it.
Marluxia felt conflicted. Yes, he liked her, much more than he would care to admit. In fact, so much more that it might not be sufficient to use the word like anymore. But he hadn't planned on asking her out, or making his feelings known. Not yet, anyway…
But now that the matter was out – thanks to gossipy Aerith – what if Aqua starts to avoid him? Could he handle not seeing her again? Of course not. But it was not like he could admit his feelings, especially now that Aqua just said she couldn't…
Her statement was confusing. She said, Even if I did want to… What did that mean? She didn't want to? But then she followed it with, I just can't. Did that mean that if she could, she would?
He knows why she can't. What could he do about it?
Marluxia closed the door quietly and headed to the church, where he knew Aqua would be. Sure enough she was there, sitting on the same pew, praying. Then, as she did the last time, she went out back to the cemetery, and knelt at the grave. This time, Marluxia was certain that she was crying. He could see her fists clenched at her lap, and her shoulders were visibly trembling. How he wanted to just pull her close and wipe her tears…
Soon, she left, and Marluxia took her place by the headstone. He felt stupid, but still he spoke aloud and angrily, "I know you are the reason. You are keeping her from moving forward."
As if Terra would really answer.
"Is she as important to you as you obviously are to her?" Marluxia asked. "What does she say when she speaks to you? Can you hear her? Do you ever answer her?"
Marluxia knelt down. "Listen…" he said. "I can never take your place…But I can make her happy. If you have been watching her at all, if you have seen her with me, you know I am telling the truth. You know who I can be for her."
A breeze blew, light and warm. Marluxia sighed, feeling just a little idiotic, talking to a grave. He stayed there for a minute or two longer, just looking at the letters engraved on the stone. He read the epitaph again and again, feeling more disheartened each time. Then, he noticed the dates written below the name. His birthday and death anniversary – October 25th – were the same, and it was on the coming Monday.
Sunday, the following day, Aqua did not come to the store.
Aerith commented on it, but Marluxia decided to act indifferent. He also kept it to himself that he knew Aerith and Aqua had spoken about him. What was the point in harassing the girl about it anyway? Besides, he was busy working on an extravagant set of flower arrangements, and he had to focus because he knew it would take him all day and he had to finish by that evening.
Aqua woke up on Monday morning feeling a little dazed. She stayed in bed for about an hour, just thinking about her dream. It had been so long since she last dreamt of Terra, her best friend since before they could even walk. She hugged her knees to her chest and pressed her head against them as thoughts of Terra overwhelmed her.
They used to be inseparable. They went to the same schools, had the same friends, and celebrated every single holiday and milestone as if they were family. Terra was the one who taught her how to ride a bike. She was the one who taught him how to swim. She was his very first – and only – crush, and she remembered how he punched her boyfriend in the face when he stood her up on prom night. He asked her to be his girlfriend not long after that.
He gave up a scholarship in a prestigious university just so he could study in the same local college with her, which was all her family could afford. They planned their future together. They went so far as to talk about names for their children; Sora was at the top of the list, but Terra liked Riku, too, and Aqua thought about Kairi for a girl.
The future that they dreamt of was so perfect. Their relationship seemed so promising, the kind that everyone envied. That was until…
Aqua grabbed her pillow and screamed into it. Why did she have to dream about Terra? Was it because today was his birthday? She did not want to think that today was his death-day, too.
She lay back down, thankful that she had no classes that day. Her dream was so strange. She was stargazing with Terra on the roof deck of his house – something they used to do very often – just talking. She could hardly remember what they talked about in the dream, except for this;
"Aqua, you know I want you to be happy, right?" he asked.
"Yes, I know," she answered.
"So stop looking for me. You know I am always with you."
She screamed into the pillow again. Terra always said that there were meanings behind dreams. But what could this dream mean? Was he trying to tell her something?
After another hour of lying in bed, she finally mustered the courage to get up and begin her day. She went through her weekday-morning routine; made sure Zack did not oversleep or he would be late for work, she prepared lunch for Xion and shooed her off to school, and then she fed Windy. Usually, she would play with the little puppy as well, but she was not in the best of moods that morning. After that, normally, she would be getting ready for her own class, but classes were cancelled today.
She looked at the clock. It was 9:45 am. If it had been a weekend, she would be at that flower shop, speaking with Marluxia. Despite herself, she smiled, but she caught herself quickly. What was wrong with her, thinking about such a thing at a day like this?
Sighing, she took a cold shower to clear her head, got dressed and left. She walked to the church, barely acknowledging that it was an exceptionally beautiful day. The sky was almost cloudless, the sun shone brightly overhead, and the wind blew cool breezes to offset the heat of the sunlight. She reached the church without incident and went straight to the cemetery.
Because her gaze was at her feet the entire time, she failed to notice that something was different about the headstone. It was impeccably polished, and the surrounding grass was trimmed. And it was adorned with probably a hundred flowers in just as many colors, overflowing even to the surrounding headstones.
The flowers arched in several waves around and above the grave, creating what she could only describe as a cluster of rainbows with sweet scents and soft textures. At her feet were even more flowers, arranged delicately and beautifully in glass vases. She gingerly ran her fingers over the petals, which were a little wet to her touch.
"Good morning, miss."
Aqua turned around and came face-to-face with the caretaker of the cemetery. He was smiling at her kindly, the way he usually did. Aqua was here so often that the caretaker had come to know her well. "I was wondering when you would come here," he said. He gestured at the grave. "I know this boy is very special to you, but these flowers must have cost a lot."
"I… What…?" she said, unsure what to say exactly. "Could you tell me who…?"
The caretaker seemed a little surprised. "I was told you were expecting this," he said. "A young man came last night – very, very late. He kept insisting it was important that he bring these flowers. He worked almost all night, saying that this meant a lot to you."
"What did he look like?" she asked, though she was already sure of the answer.
"Very, very odd," the caretaker answered. "He was tall, had long pink hair…"
Aqua laughed a little. Who else could it have been? She thanked the caretaker and he soon left her alone. Aqua carefully knelt by the headstone, wary of hurting the flowers, and she smiled as she pressed her fingers against the engraved name.
"Terra?" she asked. "Is this what you were trying to tell me?"
Marluxia walked into the store the following Saturday, a little apprehensive. If Aqua comes to the store today, it would be the first time he would see her after making his rather bold statement. He hoped fervently that it brought a smile to her face. But if it only served to drive her away…
He arrived at 8:30 am. Aerith was already there, having just opened the store, and she greeted Marluxia the way she normally did. Marluxia returned the greeting and promptly began pacing along the aisles, waiting impatiently.
He kept glancing at the clock so often that by 9:00 am, he decided to just openly stare at it. The forty-five minutes felt like an entire year, and as soon as it was 9:45, Marluxia turned to the door. Aerith was watching him the entire time, but chose not to react, other than humming rather conspicuously and smiling like an idiot.
After five minutes, during which Marluxia hardly blinked as he watched the door, Aerith suddenly spoke. "She isn't coming."
"She dropped by last Monday -"
Aerith giggled, amused. "Let me finish?"
Marluxia took a deep breath and gestured for Aerith to go on.
"Aqua dropped by last Monday, while you were out. She told me to tell you to meet her at the church, at 10:00 am today," Aerith said.
Marluxia narrowed his eyes at the girl. "You've known that this entire time and you only chose to tell me now?" he said, almost furious.
"It was her idea," she said in defense, placing her hands on her hips. "You think it was easy, keeping this from you all week?"
Marluxia chose not to retort and instead hurried out the door. Although, he returned just two seconds later, and grabbed and hastily wrapped a few flowers. It took a while, and when he was done, he wordlessly ran out again. Aerith was still tittering as he left.
Marluxia reached the church and paused to catch his breath. It would be improper to just dash inside so he walked in, breathing deeply. Aqua was not inside. He checked his watch. It was 10:30. He hoped she hadn't left and he went out the doorway at the side, heading to the cemetery.
He saw her immediately, standing with her back to him in front of the familiar headstone. He walked towards her, his heart beating unbearably fast, but his expression blank. When he reached her, he paused.
"Good morning," she whispered.
"Good morning, Aqua," he replied, careful to keep his voice steady.
She turned to face him and he was relieved to see that she was smiling. She looked a little confused, though, seeing three sets of flowers in his hands. "What…?" she asked, and he smiled, handing her one of the bouquets. It was a cluster of stargazer lilies.
"For you," he said.
She blushed a little, accepting it.
He then knelt at the gravestone and laid the second set of flowers in front of it. Aqua knelt down beside him and pressed her hand against the cold stone. She smiled at seeing that there was a ribbon on the flower wreath that read thank you.
"He means a lot to me…" she whispered.
Marluxia nodded solemnly. "I know."
"I… I followed you…" he admitted.
Aqua laughed a little. "Hmm. The caretaker told me you spoke with Terra."
Marluxia paled a little. He hadn't noticed that someone had been watching him. "I…"
"What did you tell him?" Aqua asked.
He hesitated for a moment, feeling a little embarrassed. "I told him… I could make you happy."
Aqua bit her lip. "Can you?" she asked, her voice barely audible.
"Well, would you let me try?"
Her smile was all the answer he needed. They spent a moment more in silence, both aware that a new chapter was about to begin.
When they finally left the church, Aqua noticed the third set of flowers that Marluxia still held.
"And what are those for?" she asked curious.
"Oh," Marluxia said, as if he had forgotten. He handed her the three tulips. "They are for Windy."
And as her melodious laughter filled the air, Marluxia promised in his heart that the world would hear that sound, every single day.