“Sheena, babe. It’s now or never.”
“I know what I’m doing, okay?! And don't call me that!” Sheena gripped her arms tight, pacing back and forth inside the house. Not like her status as Chief allowed her much time for luxury, and with some of her friends visiting Mizuho again, she couldn’t waste this opportunity.
Zelos sat on the floor, shifting every so often and so goddamn unused to Mizuho’s seating arrangements. “Seriously though. Little Angel’s only here for a bit anyway. Us former Chosens gotta reassure the new world and all.”
“Oh my god, just shut up.” Sheena pushed back her hair, knowing she messed it up again for the billionth time. “Okay, I’m ready. Now back off and don’t leer for once in your life.”
Zelos just shrugged, already prepared for Sheena to crash and burn.
“I’m just saying,” Raine was postulating, looking down at the outdoor grill set that some locals were using to cook up their fish supper. “If you add a nice confectionary taste to it… say some strawberry tarts, or some pudding, it would really balance well with the crispiness of the food.”
Usually where Genis would calm his sister down, Colette only approved of it, delightfully clapping her hands. “That’s such a creative idea, Professor!”
Sheena, who was just a few feet away, ignored the nightmarish dinner suggestion, and walked straight up to the ex-Chosen girl. “Hey.”
Colette turned around, her smile never wavering. “Sheena! It’s been so long. Sorry, we were both just traveling so much, or we would have visited sooner.”
“Oh, that’s um, that’s not a problem at all!” Sheena responded with too high of a voice. She cleared her throat. “Not like I wasn’t busy being Chief and all! I don’t think even Lloyd and Genis have stopped by yet.”
“Oh, that’s right. They’re really working hard on gathering the Exspheres!”
If they continued this conversation, Colette would just start talking about their friends and all they were doing, all while Raine side-eyed with some suspicion. But she would stand her ground. She would do what she came to do, what she had wanted to ever since Colette had kindly asked for her name despite being marked for assassination.
Colette, would you like to go out with me? Like, to have lunch? In, in a date kind of way? Not just as friends. Unless you want us to be friends? W-why am I messing up in my own fantasy?
“Colette.” She said suddenly, just dropping the name from her mouth like a lead weight. The addressed girl gave Sheena her full attention. Then blinked when nothing followed up.
Sheena started again. “Colette,” she said once more, but still… that was it.
“Um, yes, Sheena? I’m still here!”
God damn it she was so cute. Sheena took another breath, clenched her fists, and leaned forward to give it her all. “Colette!”
Colette flinched from the loudness of her voice. So did Raine, who frowned disapprovingly. “Excuse me, there is no need to shout.”
Faced with the Professor who never really trusted her, and the wondering eyes of the girl she liked, Sheena was faced with a decision that would define her from then on.
She hightailed it out of there, right in front of her friends and people.
“Man, Sheena. I didn’t think you’d blow it this bad…” Zelos shook his head, leaning away from one of the house’s windows once she came back in.
“You were watching!? I told you to lay off!”
“Clearly you need a master to show you the ropes. Here, lemme practice one of my best pick-up lines.” Zelos winked, flicking a strand of red hair over his shoulder. “Or I could just go over to angel face herself and demonstrate-”
“You’re going to do nothing to me, or to Colette, unless you want a knee to your stomach.” Sheena took another breath, loosening up her limbs as she prepared herself once again. “I can do this. So just… stop trying to make me feel bad about it.”
Zelos had a serious look on his face, all traces of his amusement gone. “Hey, I know you can do it, Sheena.” Then a grin. “But you can’t blame me for enjoying all the trial and error stuff going on, too! Ah, the beauty of first love~”
“Hello there, young lady! Are you here to buy my secret notebook?”
Colette shook her head. “Oh, that’s okay! I’m sure we got that the last time we were here, too!”
“Ah, I recognize you now!” The shopkeeper was the only one of his kind in Mizuho, though he still dressed in his traditional ninja garb as he doled out his deals. “Then that means you’re on the lookout for an assortment of secrets. Or maybe… you’re looking to be my new secretary? Eh?”
Colette blinked. “No, I don’t think so!”
“Well, I have all sorts of other secretive wares that you might be interested in-“
“Oh, a doggie!” Colette gasped at the little canine seated by the stall, a Shiba Inu with a wide smile and a short wagging tail.
“Ah, that’s my dog, Secretariat! Please no petting.”
How is he able to… do that actually? But Sheena had no time for worrying about mysterious shopkeepers and their weird way of talking. She walked up to Colette again, breathing out a sigh of relief when she saw that Raine was nowhere in sight.
Colette still had her good hearing though and turned quickly to Sheena. “Hi! I was wondering where you went!”
“Chief Sheena! Are you here to share some sec-”
“No thanks, I’m good.” Sheena closed her eyes for a moment, then faced Colette again. “Look, I just- I mean, um, I want to ask you something!”
“Oh, of course!” Colette waited there for Sheena’s question patiently.
The wind blew through the trees in the following awkward silence. Even the shopkeeper had to turn away, no longer so confident about his secret wares.
“Do you…uh…” Sheena’s mouth went dry instantly. Not even with Lloyd had she been this weird about it! “Do you… are you having fun traveling with Raine?” Why am I so bad at this?
Colette looked a bit surprised at the question, and… there was something else in her eyes. But it went away before Sheena could observe it better. For an information-gathering ninja, Sheena couldn’t really read people well, she realized…
“I have! It’s been so helpful having the Professor along when we’re traveling to the other cities. We’ve also been trying to help the half-elves we come across whenever we can.”
“That sounds good! Great!” Sheena said probably way too enthusiastically. “I mean, I think I might not do so well traveling with her myself, what with her cooking and all.” She kicked herself mentally for the comment. Why would Colette want to hear her trash talk about her own teacher?
“Oh, that’s fine. I actually…” Colette looked to the side, then leaned forward towards Sheena with a conspiratorial air. “I can control my tastebuds now, so it’s never bad when I eat her cooking! And it makes her happy, too!”
Dang, with that handy ability, they really did make the perfect traveling team. And also, just the way Colette tried to whisper her a secret was so adorable. She had to take her chance now.
“Hey, so, I got something else to tell you…” To prepare herself, she drew a big, deep breath.
And it was then that a giant bug flew right into her mouth. “Ack!”
Colette, worry etched in her features, held up her hands. “Oh! Are you okay?”
Not really, I just swallowed a bug! But she didn’t say that. She just continued to hack and cough.
The dog yipped loudly, and the shopkeeper stood back a little, probably weirded out by his Chief. Colette wasn’t moving away, however. She rushed to Sheena, placing gentle hands on her cheeks. Oh goddess oh what the hell she’s touching me she’s so close. “Just! Um, try to breathe! Should I get the Professor?”
Even after everything, Sheena still didn’t feel much affinity for Raine, but maybe that was better than dying because of a bug. This was so dumb! And gross!
But eventually, she turned away from Colette to cough out whatever bug that just decided to ruin everything. Just. Everything. But she didn’t see a bug? Did she swallow nothing? Like actual nothing?
Colette would have seen it, right? But she was still there, holding Sheena’s face in her soft hands. “Sheena?”
“W-water! Just! Um!” Sheena flinched, sneakily getting out of Colette’s hold like the top ninja village Chief she was! And then stumbled slightly as she did so. “I need water bye!”
Colette stayed in place, hands held over nothing as she watched Sheena bravely run away from her again.
“Hey, Sheena. Third time’s the charm, ain’t it?”
Once the ninja crawled out from under the tatami mat and her overwhelming embarrassment, she stood before Zelos and sighed. “I guess.”
Zelos was reaching into his pocket. “Here. This also swoons moi whenever the ladies do this for me!”
“That better not be a dirty euphemism, I swear to-”
“Some cookies! I mean, most people give me fish or whatever, but I remember Colette having a bit of a sweet tooth.” He tossed a small bundle of chocolate chip cookies to Sheena, who caught it deftly in her right hand despite being halfway deep in depression.
“I just give her this?” That seemed far too easy… So easy that even I can’t mess this up!
“Exactly,” Zelos then said as if he could read her mind? Could he read her mind? Please that would be a nightmare.
“Just give her the sweet cookies, and then go and sweet talk her. She’ll be all over you before you know it.”
Well, how could it get any worse?
What was it about Colette that she liked so much anyway?
Sheena had never connected well with anyone, certainly not in her village, even though it seemed most people accepted her now. And she definitely didn’t connect with that loud-mouthed Chosen, no matter what anyone thought! But even as she was ordered to slay Colette, something kept putting her off it (besides falling into pits).
One night, before joining Colette’s group, she had snuck into her room at an inn, kunai in hand, ready to slit her throat. But the moonlight had hit her hair in just a certain place, making Sheena blink rapidly. The girl had been pale, tucked deep underneath the covers and, for a short moment, Sheena had wanted to kiss her. Even Zelos wouldn’t have been this creepy.
But she had wanted to and had even reached out to stroke away a few strands of the girl’s hair from her face before she realized what she was doing. She had then promptly leapt out of the window in shame.
There had been other, less-weird happenings afterwards, such as sitting next to Colette by the campfire, or staying near her when the girl would stumble over a rock in their path… and then they’d both just fall over. Still, Colette never seemed to mind. The light feeling in her stomach always fluttered whenever Sheena was near her, zapping away at her voice.
Luckily, this would be a lot more different now. She would talk more! And just giving her some cookies wasn’t as weird. Or as creepy. Hopefully?
“Sheena! Are you okay now?” Colette was already rushing towards her before Sheena could prepare herself more. Had she been waiting? “I got so worried when you started choking…”
“It’s- it’s okay! Happens all the time.” Did I really just say that!? Sheena blushed, grasping the cookies tightly in her hand. “Colette, sorry, but I wanted to tell you something… and maybe it’ll be easier if I give you something instead.”
At that, she saw the wonder in Colette’s eyes, a soft smile lifting her cheeks. Even after all she had been through, she managed to be so excited and happy at times. Sheena couldn’t help but admire it fully. “You mean like a present?”
“Yeah, like that.” Okay, here goes. With a deep breath, Sheena raised up her hand that held the cookies, to present it to Colette with all the love she felt. This would be her first gift to Colette… maybe something they could even look back to, as they went on their date. Yes, she could do this! “Colette, will you go out-”
She flung the cookies straight past Colette’s head….
Straight past the small river that ran around the Chief’s house…
Straight past the startled shopkeeper tending to his not-so-secret dog…
…And right into Raine’s face as she walked up the path. Cookies exploded everywhere in a crumbly mess.
“Why do people keep throwing things at my head?!”
For the third time that day, Sheena ran away again past a wide-eyed Colette, basically stumbling into the swinging panel of the house head-first.
Even Zelos didn’t have the strength to make fun of her anymore.
“I’m an idiot and I should just die.”
“That’s more my line, you know,” Zelos was saying, but Sheena could tell his heart was not in it. The guy didn’t even laugh obnoxiously. That’s how she knew she messed up so badly.
She eventually was convinced to leave the house instead of burying herself under a kotatsu to wallow in her misery. Though getting a few stares here and there as she walked through the village, it was at the very least with amusement instead of vitriol? That counted for something?
Ugh, she still wanted to die though.
It was already time to say their goodbyes to Colette, and Sheena was less than thrilled. She couldn’t even force a smile. She had one task! Just one! And she couldn’t even do that. At least Zelos wasn’t making fun of her anymore. He looked about as disappointed as she was, occasionally patting her back in comfort without making it creepy. Even if he did, she didn’t have the energy to smack him anyway.
They both came near the village gates, where Raine saying something quickly to Colette, and Colette was talking back. Raine then shook her head, but Colette looked so adamant, until the Professor could only shrug. This was followed by Colette rushing over to Sheena.
“Sheena!” she shouted so suddenly, it brought the ninja out of her funk.
“I have something to ask you! Um, would you, um, would you please go out with me? Like on a date, I mean? Like more than friends? But just friends is fine too…”
“I think you’re very nice and so much fun, and you’re always looking out for me! If it’s okay, could we maybe go out to Meltokio next week? There’s supposed to be a festival and I’d like to be with you for that!”
Zelos nudged Sheena in the ribs. “Say yes, idiot,” he hissed.
Colette smiled wide at that. She even did a little hop on her toes at the answer. “That’s great! So, I will see you there next week? Or should I come here?”
“The Chief here would love to be picked up by her angel, as long as you both got some Rheiards!” Zelos said helpfully.
“Okay! I will be here next week! I’m so excited!” Colette reached out for a hug, which Sheena only had enough sense to return. Then once she stepped back, Colette gave her a quick kiss on the lips. Both were soon blushing fiercely.
“Ah, sorry! I just… got a little carried away.” Colette smiled nervously, but still so cutely. “I’ll see you later!” Then in a whisper. “M-maybe we can have some cookies at the festival…”
Soon she ran off back to Raine, who while clearly not approving, gave her precious student a gentle smile for her initiative.
Once both left, Sheena was still standing there, stunned.
Zelos patted her back again, this time with a little more enthusiasm. “Guess you got lucky there.”
Yeah. Yeah she did, and she was so glad for it.