Disclaimer: Azure Dreams is a product of Konami Co. Ltd. I am making no profit from this story.

Adagio

"It's called an adagio."

Nico started and turned towards the voice only to find Koh perched on the highest weight-bearing branch of the tree behind her house. She placed her hands on her hips and pursed her lips, though she couldn't hide the smile in her eyes.

"What're you talkin' about, Koh? An' why don't you get on down from the toppa that tree before you hurt yourself."

Koh pushed himself off his seat and dropped down to the ground in front of his childhood friend, slinging an arm around her shoulders. "You remember! The music in the park just two days ago? I saw Chero packing up and leavin' for Haruka, he said! Before he left, I asked him what melody it was he taught us."

Nico wrapped her own arm around Koh's waist as they began to stroll toward the same park they had just spent the last two afternoons in, learning to play the cello and retelling some of Guy's old stories of his travels and adventures.

"And he said it was an adag-ih-whatsit?"

"An adagio. Fancy soundin' word, huh? Very… cultural." He wiggled his eyebrows as he delivered the last word, teasing Nico for her sometimes snobbish pursuit of anything she deemed culturally enriching.

"Ya know, you sure aren't as funny as ya like t' think you are," Nico snipped. She let go of Koh's waist and tried shrugging out from under his arm, but he held fast to her narrow shoulder.

"Aw, don't be like that, Nico," Koh pleaded. "You know I think it's great how you're always tryin' to make Monsbaiya a better place to live. I was just messing around."

"Hmph," Nico breathed; she unceremoniously dropped onto one of the benches and looked up at her childhood friend. "Why?"

" 'Why' what?"

"Why is it called an adagio? If you're so cultural you should know."

"Uhhh…" Koh scratched his head for a bit, finally shrugging in defeat. "Beats me. All Chero told me is that an adagio is a slower piece of music. It takes its time."

"Takes its time, huh? …Kinda like us." Nico's eyes dropped to the ground and she blushed furiously at the boldness of her words. Nico stared at her hands, gripping the bench as she waited for Koh to reply; moments passed in silence, and Nico began to panic. 'Why didn't I just keep my mouth shut?' she berated herself. 'He's going to ask me what on earth I'm talking about! He obviously doesn't see me as anything more than his rowdy childhood friend.'

But while Nico was wondering how she would ever make it out of this situation with her dignity intact, Koh squatted in front of her, lifting her chin to make her gaze to meet his own. And when he looked into her aquamarine eyes, he suddenly understood why all the other boys in town were so kind to her. It wasn't just her innate goodness and her sympathy for the problems of other people, it wasn't her feisty nature that drew the town boys to her. They talked to her, and brought her gifts, because she had grown into a beautiful woman.

Seeing her every day of his life had allowed Koh to see Nico like no one else in this town could- he saw how desperately she wanted to help the people of Monsbaiya and the pain she felt when others hurt, he saw an ambition in her unlike anyone else in town, and he saw the hurt feelings behind her anger. But it had also numbed him to her physical beauty- the way her hair, pulled up off her neck because of the desert heat, shone in the sun; or how feminine and delicate her body really was, despite the tough air of independence that surrounded her. He had never before noticed the gentleness of her eyes or the softness of her lips. But he noticed it now, and Koh vowed that he would make up all the time he had spent looking at Nico without really seeing her.

"Yeah, Nico, kinda like us."

Koh leaned in carefully, giving Nico plenty of time to pull away from his kiss, but she never did; instead, she leaned in as well, meeting her friend in the middle of the short space between them. And when their lips finally touched, they moved slowly, taking their time.