Andros stared glumly out the window of the MegaShip. Millions of stars dazzled their special spark at him. He grinned lop-sided, his gaze finally spying one particular star that shone with brightness. His grin faded, as memories came crashing back upon him from almost no where. . .
"Andros!" The voice was of a six year-old Karone, two days before the fateful kidnapping. Her blonde hair bounced on her shoulders as she waited for Andros to join her in the line at the ice cream stand.
"What kind do you want?" Andros questioned, patiently reading the menu of the choices. "Chocolate? Mint? Strawberry?"
"Mint." She said decisively with a bright grin. "And a cherry!"
Andros chuckled, patting his younger sister on the shoulder as they walked up to the counter for their turn. "Alright." Andros smiled as Karone bounced and told the ice cream man what she wanted. "And I'll have chocolate and vanilla swirl."
Eating their ice cream cones happily, the two siblings walked down the dirt pathway in the park. They soon came across a blonde boy of eight who was clowning around with other kids. "Hi Zhane," Andros smiled.
"Andros!" The blonde, Zhane, cried with a smile. "I've been waiting to see you." Andros and Zhane were inseparable friends. At age six, when they had attended the same Kindergarten class, they had protected each other from the bully kids who picked on them for their small height. They were both short kids, but would soon grow out of it when older.
"Don't I get a greeting?" The young girl pouted. She smiled charmingly at her older friend. "Hi Zhane!"
Zhane smiled back, "Heya Karone. Been a good girl for your brother?" She nodded, flashing a smile showing her gaping gum where she had lost her front tooth.
"Yeah." She turned, and began chasing after a squirrel, squealing with delight.
"She's so cute," Zhane murmured softly. Zhane turned and smiled at Andros. "You're lucky to have a sister. Especially as cute and fun as her. I wish I had a sister, or even a brother."
Andros nodded, smiling. "I know I'm lucky to have her."
Andros sighed, his eyes filling with tears. Some brother I turned out to be. I couldn't even save her from her worse fate! Kidnapped and turned into the Princess of Darkness. . .
"It's all my fault." He muttered, "I could have done something. It's never going to be the same again." His eyes turned glassy and he stared out the window with a frown. "I'm sorry Karone. So sorry. . ."
"Andros?" Andros turned, the chair squeaking lightly in protest. His eyes widened as they landed on Ashley. He quickly rubbed an arm across his face, hoping to hide his fallen tears.
"Hey." He replied softly, and turned back to stare out the window. "How long you been there?"
"Not long." She admitted. She walked up behind him, placing a hand onto his shoulder. "Are you okay?"
"No." He said softly, then smiled bravely. "But I'll be alright. Don't worry about me."
"It's my job to worry," She told him sternly. "Besides, I. . .Enjoy worrying about you."
"You do?" His voice was elated with surprise, and a tinge of almost suspicion. He wasn't really that used to people caring. The idea of the team, after so long, was still a very foreign concept for him to grasp.
"Yes." She whispered lightly. Her voice softened even more, and he had to strain to hear it, even then barely visible, "I love you so much I have too."
He turned slowly in the chair, facing her with a look of utter shock. "You love me?" He asked in a voice barely above a whisper.
She nodded, bemused at his expression, "More than you'll ever know."
Andros smiled at that, and took her right hand into his. "I'm glad you told me this." He said in a soft voice. His eyes raised to hers, "I. . .Love you too."
Ashley smiled back, a single tear creating a damp path on her blushing cheek. She reached her arms around him, and hugged him tightly. "Thank you for telling me that," Her voice lowered to a whisper, "I've dreamed of hearing it for months."
He smiled, then turned around, loosening the grip she had around him. "But. . ."
Ashley stiffened at the mention of 'but.' "What is it?" Her voice asked bravely, but he knew it was breaking her heart to ask.
"But. . . I'm not ready for any relationship." His sigh was forced as he remained quiet. "I'm. . ."
Ashley stared down at the floor, not saying a word. What could she say? She didn't want to force him into anything he didn't want to do. It was his choice; No matter how much she wanted something. "I'm sorry." She whispered at last. "I just. . . I guess I hoped you felt the same way."
Andros smiled softly, "I do love you, Ash, more than you do realize, but I'm just not ready for a commitment. I want to. . .Well, be single for a while before I jump into anything with you. I'm just, scared to settle down."
He sighed, then looked up at her with haunted eyes, "I don't trust love. When I let my guard down to love someone, she was ripped from me before I could utter a word."
"Karone?" She asked. He nodded, and she put a hand sympathetically on his arm. "I understand, Andros, but. . ." She smiled timidly at him, "When you are ready for someone, will you let me know?"
"You'll be the first."
Ashley nodded, a sad smile twisting the corners of her mouth, and placed a kiss on his cheek and turned away, before another comment could be spoken between them and left the bridge.
Andros stared out the window, a expression of sadness etched on his face. Maybe I should have taken a chance. I love her, and she loves me, but. . . Andros merely shook his head and then began preparing for that day's scanning.
"Someday, things will work out between us." Ashley whispered, her eyes trained to his silent, working form. She smiled to herself, and turned on her heel, looking for her friends so they could get ready for that day's activities.
Have you ever, have you ever...