He remembered there was cold.
The waters surged, the waves pulling him further down.
He was coughing, the liquid going into his lungs and stabbing at his eyes.
He tried to push himself further, trying to get towards her.
He could see the panic in her eyes, and the terror.
He was kicking with all of his might, his power as a nation-to-be seeping in to give him extra strength.
His lungs were straining, begging for air.
He watched as her eyes started to drift shut, the fight leaving her.
He gave one final kick, reaching her figure within seconds.
His direction propelled upward, need of oxygen and adrenaline causing him to shoot up faster than his downward approach.
He finally broke through the surface, green eyes wide with panic as he sat her on the shore, immediately trying to pump life back into her frame.
The sunlight had been harsh that day. It nipped at the skin, leaving red welts on anything exposed, causing sweat to trickle down the body in places that sweat should never be. The air was heavy, pressure and humidity condensing into one dominating and unforgiving atmosphere. The world around them was languid, even the birds too hot to sing.
Two children sat by the cool waters of the lake, immerged in the liquid up to their knees. The two were young, and weren’t entirely bothered by the heat. They held hands and laughed together, finding innocent humour in the simplest of things.
The two had successfully evaded their three friends, all most likely hiding in the trees with their fair skin. “They’re not strong enough to fight the sun like we can!” The girl’s laugh and smile was contagious, the green-eyed boy turning his head towards the trees to stick his tongue out at his other friends. He gained a giggle and a splash for his troubles, the two almost falling into the water completely, laughter falling around them.
The day went on, getting gradually cooler as the afternoon progressed. The three fair-skinned boys came out from hiding, the five racing each other through the bluebells. The girl soon threw herself to the ground in fatigue, smiling as she stared up at the clouds. The sound of the boys arguing soon caught her attention, her eyes widening as she caught wind of the debate.
“I’m the Knight! I’ll protect her from the wicked wizard!” The palest boy soon started to chase his brother through the field, the bushy-browed blond shouting insults and pleas over his shoulder.
“Don’t make me curse you! Francis, help me!”
The eldest male chuckled, shaking his head at his cousins, and approaching her, taking a seat. “I think it should be her decision, non? After all, a princess deserves the right to choose her prince.”
She smiled, hugging the blond. “Thank you, Francis.”
He patted her back, shifting as the other boy approached them, frustration clear on his tan skin. “Déjala en paz, imbécil.”
The blue-eyed blond tsked at the brunette’s words, letting the girl go immediately, confusion on her face. Her eyes cleared up soon enough, excitement in them. “Toni! Wanna be my prince?”
She never noticed the red cheeks that came with his excited nod, too happy to focus. “Claro, princesa.”
“Yay!” She jumped up and hugged him, placing a kiss on his flaming cheek. Attention focused on another task, she missed the amused laughter of the blond boy behind her, and the sounds of embarrassment coming from the brunette.
“Oi! You two!” She approached the other two, who made their way over to her, throwing in pokes and smacks along the way. “I’m the princess, and Toni’s the prince. You have to listen to us now!”
Red eyes narrowed slightly at the brunette, annoyance in them. “I should be the prince.”
The green-eyed blond elbowed him. “This is her choice. Shut up, you idiot.”
The five stayed in the field until long after the stars were shining, the fireflies dancing among the flowers. She held the hand of the brunette for most of the evening, reveling in her princess status, and entirely oblivious to his flustered expressions and deep blush.
The boys’ grandfather eventually came to collect them, leaving the girl at the shore. Before allowing them to leave however, she pulled her “prince” back to her.
“Here. I made this for you.”
He opened his hand, a small charm on a piece of twine looking back up at him. “What is it?”
She giggled. “It’s a present, silly!”
He bit his lip, green eyes looking down at the ground and feet shuffling. “Gracias…”
She smiled, giggling. “You’re so silly, Toni!”
The boy frowned, his pride kicking in. His eyes shot back up, and he stuck his tongue out. “No I’m not! You’re the one that’s silly!”
She frowned, her eyes watering slightly. “That was mean!”
He shuffled again, kissing her cheek. “I’m sorry…”
He tried, over and over again to get her to move.
He was there for hours, tears and sounds of frustration passing from his frame as he tried over and over again to revive her.
The two of them were closer than the others, often sneaking out in the middle of the night to play along the lakeshore. It was their secret place, a world entirely their own. He was the prince, happily playing and dancing with his princess under the stars.
One evening it was raining, the droplets pelting relentlessly against the world outside of the forest. She was hypnotized, trying to get him to come out and play with him in the falling liquid. He followed slowly, his eyes watching her carefree dance.
Neither acknowledged how slippery the grass had become, nor how tumultuous the waves of the lake were. It was far from their attention.
Spinning, jumping, singing, and flying. She was doing all. Her eyes were closed, her arms extended like an eagle in flight. They were laughing, both enjoying their chaotic waltz. Sparkling eyes opened, flashing to her brown-haired companion. “Bet I can swim further than you!”
She waited for no reply, running and jumping into the water. Panicked green eyes watched, his feet automatically following, running faster as she dove, and didn’t come back up. “(Y/n)!”
The boy took a running jump, not even acknowledging the pain of the stones beneath his feet as he pulled off his shirt in mid-stride, his only concern to rescue her.
It was there that Romulus found him, the boy shattered and broken, not entirely understanding what was happening.
The Roman sighed, rubbing his neck.
How could he explain this?
But he didn’t have to.
Antonio heard his approach, olive green eyes shooting up to meet brown.
“Can you bring her back?”
The words were heavy, heartbreaking, and the reply would be harsh.
“Spain… You know we can’t.”
“But you can do anything!”
“Antonio… I can’t. I’m sorry.”
The greens were disbelieving for several moments, flickering between the hollow girl and the man he had thought to be all-powerful.
Suddenly he blinked, looking back at Romulus with hard and emotionless eyes.
“I understand, Grandfather.”
Centuries later, a pair of olive eyes scanned the surface of a familiar lake, one he had often visited as a child. The man was missing his usual smile, his mood nostalgic and dim. His thumb traced a small charm around his neck, his other hand gently holding onto a red carnation.
“It’s been another year, (Y/n).” A soft sigh passed the man’s lips, his voice shaking in restrained tears. “I wanted to come sooner, but my Boss has been keeping me busier than normal.” A wry chuckle. “He’s worried that I won’t make it through all of this.”
Silence reigned for a moment, he losing himself in his thoughts. A cool breeze circled around him, almost embracing him in the gentle yet slightly playful current. He smiled slightly, closing his eyes and relaxing.
The birds were softly singing in the few trees that remained of the once endless forest. The waves of the lake shore lapped softly against the now sandy beach, and cicadas were calling back and forth to one another. He could feel the sun peaking out between the grey clouds, hanging low with the threat of a rain shower. A small smile crossed his lips, his eyes slowly opening again.
“Abeulo once told me that I need to let go of the past. He taught me that there are some things bigger than me, and that there’s something greater out there for me. Nunca confié en él.”
Silence greeted him once again, circling around him in an ominous calm. “I couldn’t believe him. For years… Sólo quería estar contigo de nuevo.” He chuckled slightly, his fingers leaving his charm to run through his hair in nervous habit.
“Eventually, I was able to see what he meant. Dios tenía un plan, después de todo. I just didn’t realize it. I missed you too much to care. But then…” He smiled, a memory flickering through his thoughts. “Then I realized that you never wanted me to hold back. You were my first love… And you still give me the courage to carry on.”
He paused for a moment, collecting his thoughts. “Someday I’ll see you again, amor. My life would have been entirely different if you were still here, and I still have days where I wish you were.”
The man moved, his chocolate locks shifting in the breeze as he stepped across the small beach, the waters lapping at his bare feet. He inhaled, closing his eyes as the cool water and cool breeze worked their magic, a content grin replacing his sad smile. His eyes flashed open again, a dim fire rekindled within them. “I don’t know when I’ll meet you again, but someday we will.”
A tanned hand lifted the red flower to his lips, his nose inhaling the scent. He closed his eyes, his lips pressing a small kiss to the petals. “Todavía te amo.” His whisper nearly disappeared into the breeze, his heart pooling into the single phrase.
Slowly, he knelt down, gently placing the flower on top of the waves, releasing it with a small push towards the open water. His eyes followed it for a few moments, his body straightening back to its full height and small smile gracing his lips. “Feliz cumpleaños, (Y/n).”
He turned his back to the water, the muscular figure making his way towards the nearby park, the sounds of children circling around him, bittersweet happiness lingering in the cool summer air.