He’d been expecting a pretty ordinary day, to be honest. Waiting for the Games got pretty routine - eat train sleep repeat. Not a lot of excitement, but then he’d gotten plenty of that after he’d left Olympus the first time.
Monotony was a welcome change most of the time.
So he hears Hercules talking about out of towners dropping by and he’s honestly not too thrilled. He tries to tell the champ that, but Hercules just laughs. “No, no. These are friends of mine - and yours, for that matter.”
That’s enough to grab his interest big time. “What do you mean friends of mine? I didn’t have that many before,” he waves his hand around, not wanting to go into it, “before everything. And most of those haven’t come back.”
Hercules winces, but he pulls the smile back up pretty quick. “Zack, you’ll be happy to see them, trust me!”
And the thing is, he thinks as he watches Hercules rush across to talk to Megara, he kind of does. Because Hercules is a lot of good things, but a liar is not among them. He does take one more look, but Herc just waves at him like he’s pushing him into the vestibule, so...
He doesn’t see anyone until he reaches the arena, and honestly? He doesn’t know what to think at first. They look the same. Exactly the same as they did years ago, which makes no sense at all.
“Hey! Terra!” Ventus is waving him over, and Terra and Aqua are just smiling. He can’t say no, right?
It’s weird, though. Ventus only comes up to his shoulder, now. “Hey, squirt.”
Another thing that hasn’t changed - nothing kills that smile. At a guess it’s why he got along with Hercules so well back then. “Oh, nice. C’mon, man, I was asleep all this time.”
“Completely.” Terra cuts in, and there’s something in those eyes that Zack isn’t going to ask about. Though he does kind of wonder if it was there, even back then.
They end up talking forever, until they’re all getting a little hoarse and Terra actually points out that it might be nice to eat. Which is a little odd, and stranger that he and Ventus should abruptly vanish, leaving him standing there with Aqua and wondering why she looks a little... annoyed? Betrayed?
He can’t tell what she’s thinking, and he doesn’t want to stick his foot in his mouth so it takes him a minute to start. “So... huh.”
Aqua jumps like she’d forgotten he was there, and turns to look at him with her face burning.
“Hey, are you alright? We’ve been out here in the sun awhile, you might get sick!”
She gapes for a minute and then blurts out, “So how about that date!” like the words jumped out of her mouth before she could stop them.
He winces a little bit. “You remembered. But I. I’m not a hero, Aqua. Not hardly.”
She’s still blushing, but it’s fading as fast as she smiles. “We’ve heard a lot, about you and Sephiroth. Everything that’s been happening. Also, we’ve been learning lately that having darkness inside isn’t entirely a bad thing.” She reaches out to lay her hand on his shoulder. “So come on. Let’s go eat, at least?”
He thinks of Hercules telling him about Sora, and Sora’s friend Riku. He thinks of Cloud, lost in his own shadows and looking for his light. It’d be kind of stupid not to, right? “Sure, let’s eat.”