For anyone who wanted me to lengthen 'Fur Beneath Her Fingertips'; this is for you.
(Brick By Brick)
The Gargant and the Very Angry Princess
"Y-you're going to do what!?" had been her initial reaction.
Garnet couldn't boast to be much of a daredevil; after all, she'd lived ninety percent of her life within the confines of a castle under the attentive eyes of her raucous bodyguard and the Alexandrian Soldiers. However, over the past few months her previously dormant courageousness had suffered a rude awakening, and every time she would start to feel a sense of accomplishment regarding an audacious stunt and take pride, he would do something to make it appear as dull as a dictionary.
"Ya heard me."
Like riding a wild Gargant in an underground mining cavern armed with nowt but a pair of dilapidated daggers and a wilting flower that smelt highly unpleasant despite its vibrant colour.
"You… you're not serious, though? Surely…"
But the ebullient sparkle in his eyes, the abrupt grin and the thrashing tail all but confirmed her suspicions and she sighed somewhat theatrically before impetuously remarking, "Well, you're not getting me on one of those things, Zidane. I really do believe that there must an alternate method to accessing these switches… I mean –" she lowered her voice "- look at the miners. They hardly look like they could scale a flight of stairs without becoming short of breath, let alone ride a wild Gargant…"
Zidane dismissed her trepidations with a blunt snort that was thrown about the expansive caverns of Fossil Roo in an eerie echo. "Nah, it'll be quicker this way, trust me. Those lazy, old farts will be wishing they weren't half as nimble and stupid as me."
"Err… oh. Nothing. Just wait here, okay? I'm gonna look for a Gargant and pull any switches that might open up a tunnel for us."
"Really, I think it would be better if – ah! Zidane, wait!"
"I'll be right back!" came the reverberation of the disappearing thief.
Garnet groaned and squatted upon the nearest boulder, swinging her legs over the side and resting her chin on her palm.
"Don't be sad, Dagger," a little voice comforted beside her. "He'll be okay."
Garnet turned her attention to the anxious mage and smiled wanly. "You're right. I do wonder sometimes, though. I just don't understand how someone can be so impulsively reckless. I don't think he even contemplates the possible consequences of his actions half the time. I mean, what if he fell off? Or the Gargant injured him? Or led him to a dead end and he had no way to return? Or if–" She stopped when Vivi's growing anxiety blossomed into outright fear and she quickly scavenged her consternations. "Ah, err… But you're right. That would never happen to Zidane. He's too lucky."
"Oh, it's not luck," Vivi said assuredly. "It's skill. And bravery." This he followed with a wistful: "I wish I was as brave as Zidane…"
Garnet embraced a wave of affection for the child and playfully tugged the rim of his hat. "I think you're very brave. In fact, you're one of the bravest people I know."
"Aw…" Vivi crouched down, embarrassed.
Despite Vivi's words of assurance, Garnet made herself as comfortable as possible on the rocky protrusion because Zidane's 'be right backs' and 'just a seconds' were usually the foundations of a good few hours of delay… without exception.
So she lay on her back and stared up at the distant ceiling, arching away like the roof of a chapel. It was huge, forty feet from the ground, she reckoned. Vines grappled the fissures and moisture seeped from the pores like mournful tears. The cavernous space magnified these sounds of dripping water into a pleasant, if somewhat disquieting, musical lilt.
The lower floor was a cobweb of rope ladders, bridges and crudely carved pathways. Miners wandered along these questionable conduits with practised ease, grubby and gruffly spoken, wielding their pick axes like weapons and claiming 'staggering' finds worth half what they boasted.
A sudden commotion bought her senses back with unpleasant abruptness and she sat up, groping for her staff and expecting some sort of beast to emerge from one of the numerous tunnels that riddled the cavern with all the intricacy of an ant's nest. Vivi was on his feet, too, quavering but equally alert. Typical, Garnet thought, that they were going to be attacked when Zidane wasn't around.
After a moment the rumbling and rustling sorted itself into a stampede of footsteps that resonated from one of the tunnels high above, and both companions turned their gaze likewise, anticipating trouble.
Garnet's staff danced out of numb fingers when the 'trouble' scuttled into view.
A wild Gargant entered their cavern, its sturdy legs clinging to the complex network of entwining flora that weaved its way along the ceiling. It snapped its manacles when it spotted the two and its black eyes swivelled in their sockets, though it seemed far from alarmed by their presence. It was probably more concerned about its stowaway.
Zidane Tribal, clinging to the back of the upside down beast and likewise facing the same direction, released hold of the Gargant in a cringe-inducing display of audacity and balance long enough to offer a cheery wave and an impetuous grin while hollering: "HiVivihiDaggergonnagocheckoutsomemoreandseeifthereareanymoreswitchesover –"
His hurried sentence was abruptly severed when the Gargant disappeared through a funnel adjacent to the previous.
For a moment the only sounds that could be heard was the moisture dripping from walls and the distant clang of the miner's tools meeting rock.
Then Vivi summarised his feelings with a rather anticlimactic: "G-gosh…"
And however anticlimactic is might have been, the princess failed to find a better word to summarise her sentiments other than: "Goodness..."
She couldn't say she wasn't startled (Zidane was full of surprises) because she had been expecting a crazy stunt somewhere along those lines. So in the end all she gave was a deferential, "I guess we better wait for him."
So she reclaimed her reclined position atop the unaccommodating surface and closed her eyes, taking advantage of the small respite to unwind her weary body.
However, an inactive body doesn't necessarily equal an inactive mind, and Garnet's thoughts and worries plagued her like a swarm of angry wasps. Thoughts and worries of poor Beatrix and Steiner, of her wrathful, greedy mother – a woman she barely knew anymore – and of the citizens victims of a brutal war.
In a desperate attempt to elude the black feelings she tried to turn her thoughts to something else…
…and found herself thinking of Zidane.
Zidane Tribal. Now there was name she wasn't going to forget in a hurry – even if she wanted to. Never in her life had she met an individual such as he: boisterous, vivacious, raucous, lewd and scandalous. He could shrug just about every insult off with utter nonchalance, considered himself above the law and boasted every bad habit Garnet had ever been instructed not to have.
Though his character was far from one sided. Zidane bore an innate kindness that would be extended to anybody anywhere; whatever race, status, class, location and circumstance, Zidane would wordlessly offer his hand in aid. Sure, he made his feelings toward the nobility of certain communities apparent (Steiner lectured him for a great length of time after he spat at one of the more arrogant members of the upper-class) but she knew, deep down, that if ever one were in trouble he'd voluntarily offer his assistance, no matter the risks.
It perplexed her no end; his endearing desire to help people, herself included. She often found herself fruitlessly questing the reasons behind his courageous motives. Never had she met someone as selfless as Zidane. Sure, Garnet had a whole army to fight for her, but with him it was different. He didn't do it for duty, for fame, for money or for promotion; he did because he wanted to help her. And that earned him a rather special place in her heart…
…even if he was a complete lunatic.
"Hey guys I'm back!"
The pair looked up and spotted an upside down Zidane on another upside down Gargant, grinning wildly and waving an arm - as if they couldn't spot him in the first place.
The tailed boy preformed a death-defying somersault from the creature and landed dexterously upon the wooden platform some way below, whereupon he favoured Garnet with a grin she had grown accustomed to over the months; it was always displayed after he'd completed a feat meant to impress her.
Garnet was far from impressed, however, especially now the boy had given the word 'dishevelled' an entirely new meaning. His usually unkempt hair was now a bird's nest of grimy tangles courtesy to his upside down position on the Gargant; his clothes hideously askew.
"Alright guys, I've cleared the way. We can go to the end of the tunnel and get the hell outta here!"
"Hurray!" Vivi exclaimed.
"No yummies here," Quina said grumpily, emerging from one of the tunnels. "I glad you find way out."
"So um… where do we go…?" Garnet asked, peering round at the labyrinth of passageways. "There's so many tunnels…"
"Oh we're not using the tunnels," Zidane said, sheepishly scratching the back of his head. "Err… don't worry, it wont take long!"
Garnet graced him with a sceptical glare. "What are you talking about?"
The thief pointed skyward. "We have to ride the Gargant!"
"There's no other way! Don't worry, you wont fall."
The princess huffed and stared dubiously at the vines grappling the ceiling. Vivi followed her gaze with equal disinclination.
"Um… I don't think I can hold on to the Gargant," he muttered.
Which Zidane dismissed with, "Don't worry about it. Everything'll be fine. Quina you go first."
The Qu cocked its silly head at the genome, who was scooping down to pluck a flower from the rocky surface. Whatever was going on in his/her mind (and Garnet had never come close to discovering unless it concerned food), the creature obviously reached a conclusion and h/she Quina trundled up to the boy.
"I do this only if I can eat flower after," it said.
Zidane rolled his eyes and held the yellow flora aloft. "Yeah, whatever. Okay, there's some niches in its outer body shell which you can hold on to. Slip your feet into the lower plates, there's a kind of gap…um, it's hard to explain but you'll know when you jump on – ah! Here it comes!"
True to his word, the giant creature emerged from the shadows with long, eager strides and Garnet watched with wide eyes as it detached its two front legs from its perch and bent backward to snatch the flower straight from Zidane's hand. Far from perturbed, the boy grinned and petted its shiny hide.
"Jump on then!"
"I no jump from here!" Quina argued disbelievingly. "It too high!"
"Oh c'mon, that's crap and you know it! Just try… hurry before it goes!"
The Qu mumbled something obscene under its breath and jumped. Garnet was almost positive the bubbling thing wouldn't reach the giant beetle, but after a few attempts he/she managed to cling precariously to the Gargant's hide and release an exalted eeeyah! that was somewhere between fear and joy as the beast began to move.
"Don't jump off until you come to the end!" Zidane shouted after it. "Next to a load of steps!"
That said and with Quina departed, the tailed thief turned to the princess with a smarmy grin. "Your turn!"
Garnet took a step back. "No way. There's no way I'm going to be able to hold on to that thing!"
Zidane advanced, the unnerving smirk steadfast on his features. "Don't be silly, Dagger. If Quina can do it then so can you." He held out his arms. "I'll lift you on!"
Garnet backed herself against a rocky wall and extended her arms. Her palms sought his chest and she tried to push the advancing thief away. "D-don't Zidane! Stay away! I'll fall! I don't want to – n-no! Let go of me!"
Heedless of the princess' cries Zidane bent down and tipped her over his shoulder. Flabbergast, she kicked him as hard as her uncompromising situation allowed, earning a muffled 'oof' but nothing more, and he walked with maddening flippancy to the cluster of flowers sprouting near the mouth of the tunnel.
"Gods darn you, Zidane Tribal, put me down put me down right now, I command you to put me down!"
Zidane laughed and Vivi rung his hands nervously, the beginnings of a protest occasionally forming intelligible words that stopped short of becoming anything influential.
"You'll be changing your song in a moment or two," Zidane drawled ominously. "But hell, I guess I can't do it like this…"
"What? What?" Garnet yelled fearfully, blood filtering to her head as she beat her fists against Zidane's back. "What are you talking about? Put me down, darn you!"
The thief hoisted her back to her normal position and gently lowered her to the ground. With her feet securely on terra firma she turned the most furious glare she could muster to the boy, who was inches from her face and wearing another infuriating grin that, if she was correct in her interpreting, spoke of mischievous things to come.
"How dare you! I utterly refuse to ride that blasted Gargant now and I'll have you know that… wh-what are you doing? Don't do that! Put that flower down right this instant! Put it down, I say!"
Zidane's grin grew and grew until a set of perfectly even teeth (an oddity considering his urchin roots) was gleaning in the dim lamplight. He stuck his tongue between said teeth, expression positively roguish, as he extended his flower-clutching hand above him and snaked his other round Garnet's waist.
Still unsure of his exact plan but getting an awful whiff of how it was going to end nonetheless, Garnet attempted to push the boy away with all her meagre strength. When that failed the princess resorted to a brusque warning that she hoped would disengage his arms…
She leaned forward and nipped him hard on the side of his neck.
"Ye-ouch!" was his initial response, followed swiftly by, "Ooh, kinky."
Garnet lurched back, face turning red, and forgot about her struggle long enough for Zidane to reinforce his death grip around her waist. His eyes averted to the gaping mouth of the tunnel yonder and she heard, with growing terror, the sounds of a Gargant approaching.
The fear overlapped the initial anger and she threw Zidane a pleading note instead. "Please don't make me do this I'm scared! I wont be able to hold on! Please don't throw me on it I swear I'll fall and I'll –"
"Throw you?" Zidane laughed, his voice almost eclipsed by the oncoming creature. "Who said anything about throwing you?"
Garnet blinked and the Gargant's shadow fell across them. It clicked its wings and leaned down to seize the plant from Zidane's hand.
The thief threw Garnet a fleeting glance and flashed a grin that was somewhere between reassurance and utter petulance. "I'm not going to throw you… I'm going to carry you."
Just as the Gargant was departing Zidane leapt from the ground with Garnet still in his arms and she shrieked as the ground was whisked away beneath her feet and her cheek hit his collarbone and the hard surface of the Gargant struck her back and the world took on a terrifying angle. Previous anger forgotten, she ensnared Zidane in her own death-grip, breath coming in panicked bursts as the ground began to move beneath her and the Gargant clicked its disapproval at the added weight.
"Don't move Vivi, I'll be back for you!" Zidane's yell rumbled in Garnet's ears.
As the Gargant picked up the pace with alarming speed and the ground became an unnerving blur beneath her vision, the princess squeezed her eyes shut and rested her head against Zidane's shoulder.
She heard the unbelievable sound of his chuckle. "Geez, don't be so scared. I'm not gonna drop ya."
Nothing on Gaia could have reassured Garnet at that moment. The abrupt twist and turns of the beast made Zidane's body lurch drastically from side to side, the occasional piercing shriek emitted from the disgruntled (though far from belligerent) Gargant rendered her hearing momentarily disabled. Her heart was going faster than she'd ever known before, and her breathing refused to slow.
"Hey, hey, calm down would ya?" Zidane's voice rode the waves of her trepidation and she felt his hand rub circles on her back.
"Goddamnit Zidane don't you let go don't you letgodon'tyouletgo –"
"Okay, okay! Calm down, woman!" And the hand retreated.
After a moment spent reining her breathing under control, Garnet mustered the courage to open her eyes. The walls rushed past and the ground was nothing but an indistinct shadow beneath a worryingly long fall. She gulped and her eyes continued to wander, desperate to fix on something that wasn't moving faster than a Lindblum aircab – anything gods darn it all answer this one bloody prayer and -
She found Zidane.
That little smile was yet to leave his features and his eyes, alight with aplomb, were fixed on the armoured back of the Gargant. His hair hung at a ludicrous angle from his dirt-streaked complexion and ruffles of lace shivered in the wake of the furious gusts of air.
He was rather handsome… in an untraditional sense. In a raw sense. Yes, that was the word. Raw. Garnet had been witness to many a good-looking prince and noble in her time, though Zidane differed to them, somehow. Their looks were often the result of attentive cleaning and expensive altering techniques while Zidane's was…was… cruder. Certainly, those members of nobility were attractive too (the subject of many a girly crush), but in a very different way, and she suddenly realised she preferred the way Zidane looked to the way –
Woah, woah. Wait a minute. Was she admitting that she was attracted to Zidane?
Okay, maybe she was… just a little bit. She had to admit she found the balmy snub of his nose (Steiner described it as a 'peasantry feature') and the gentle slope of his jaw quite enamouring. And she especially liked how blue his eyes were… really, really blue… and all sparkly…like the sapphires in her mother's crown or the sea or -
"Got something on my face?"
Garnet blinked. Zidane's gaze hadn't shifted from the Gargant's back.
"I don't have to be looking directly at you to see you lookin' at me, y'know. I know it's hard to take your eyes off something so damn fine but you could at least be a little bit more subtle about it."
Garnet flushed crimson as the accuracy of his joke struck home like an arrow, and justified her actions with: "I never noticed how dirty you are."
"I'm dirtier in bed," he countered and it took her a moment of confused interpreting to comprehend his meaning and gasped when she finally had it.
"You've no shame!" she scolded and he snickered his response.
The Gargant took an abrupt turning and Zidane wobbled on his perch. Garnet renewed her grip, squeezing the breath from his chest until he almost choked.
However, her fear was slowly dissipating, which unfortunately lent time to become aware and abruptly mortified by her rather unlady like position and his rather carnal one.
In her hurry not to be dropped she'd not only encircled her arms about his middle but her legs as well and she clung to him not unlike a baby monkey clings to its mother – though others might be inclined to describe her position in less innocent terms.
Zidane had his hands and feet lodged into parts of the Gargant's armour and she suddenly admired his strength for holding both him and another passenger upside down like this. However, this did little to quell her unease at the erotic position, though she could hardly see a way around it. Unless...
She wriggled her hips to try and ease her legs into a more accommodating arrangement. If she could just inch her ankles further down then -
"Ooh, that feels nice. Keep going."
Garnet stiffened, anger and humiliation drowning her senses and sought the scolding words that often blossomed so easily, but in the end she merely sounded upset and hiccupped: "Z-Zidane.. d-don't…"
The boy winced. "Sorry. That was going a bit far, wasn't it? I was only joking. I'm sorry there isn't a better way of doing this but I knew you wouldn't have been able to hold yourself up for this long."
Garnet softened a little. He was a lewd bumpkin at times but really, he was only trying to do what he thought was best. No, she wouldn't have been able to hold on for so long and they both knew it. Once again Zidane had helped them all escape a troublesome situation by doing what he thought was right.
"It's fine," she said eventually. "Forget about it."
Zidane nodded, expression grim now, and concentrated on keeping them both aloft.
Eventually, the ride came to an end at Zidane's warning, and he leapt off with Garnet still clinging to him to with desperate fervour. He landed on two feet and straightened. Garnet's heels clacked against the stone floor (ah dearest, sweet, loving floor!) but she staggered to keep her balance and they clung to each other in a clumsy attempt to aid their equilibrium.
And then for an inexplicable, dizzying moment, Garnet didn't want to let go. She kept her arms locked about his torso, fingers entwined at the base of his neck, with his hands pressed firmly against the small of her back. She heard the steady drum of his heart and felt the rise and fall of his chest and suddenly she was just so glad that he was there… kind, wonderful, helpful Zidane who would put everyone and everything before his own welfare.
"Are you okay? Still dizzy?"
The vibration of his voice thrummed pleasantly against her cheek. "Mmm. Still a little woozy."
His fingers mischievously trailed up her spine before deftly tugging the end of her long hair. "You don't seem very dizzy to me. I think you just want some lovin'."
Disgusted and ashamed at once, Garnet pushed him away with a flourish. "You're ridiculous," she berated. "Go and get Vivi; he's waiting."
Zidane blessed her with a lewd wink and ambled away in the direction of another knot of yellow foliage. It wasn't along until he was upside down on another insect-like beast, tail hanging beneath him like one of the many vines above.
"Boyfriend o' yours?"
Garnet startled and turned round to find a squat, bearded miner grinning broadly, pick axe hefted over one shoulder. "I… I beg your pardon?"
"Ah…er, no. We're just friends."
"That's what they all say," the man laughed with a wink. "If you don't mind me asking, why was you hitchin' a ride on the Gargant, anyways?"
Garnet shrugged. "It was the quickest way to the exit."
The miner blinked and thumbed his nose before ushering a short, brash bark of laughter. "Who the hell told ya that, now, I wonder? Sure aint the slowest route but it sure as Bahamut aint the fastest, neither. I told that kid he could go down the third tunnel and he'd be 'ere in no time but –"
"I told that there boy he could get to the exit if he just went down a few tunnels but obviously he insisted on using the Gargant. Funny that. Wonder why?"
Garnet abruptly turned to the gaping hole in the wall and replied, "Oh, I have a few ideas…. ZIDANE TRIBAAALLL!"
Even when the echo of Garnet's enraged yell reached him it did very little to wipe the satisfied smirk from the devious boy's visage and he muttered, "Eh heh heh…I am such a stud."
But seriously… it's all well and good to show Zidane nimbly riding the Gargant to all ends of Fossil Roo but can you really imagine Garnet doing such a thing? I mean… I can't even do a push up, let alone cling to a giant beetle-thingy upside down! I know it's just a game and all but c'mon people! How the hell did Zidane get his little troupe across?
Well, that's where fanfictioners like me come in, I suppose ;-) So expect more zidag related fluff and more filling-in-the-stupid-gaps. For more info on this fic just go to my profile.
Free cookie to anyone who reviews :-) Suggestions are always welcome. Oh, by the way, does anyone think I should do chapters from Zidane's perspective? Just a thought.