I'm sorry it took so long, and for such a short chapter! As it's the last chapter, I'm putting the afterword first, so bear with me.
O wow, 23 chapters, wtf? I intended this to be 3 chapters and LOOK WHAT HAPPENED. I think it's somewhere between obsession and having too much time on my hands haha. I loved this fic more than any other I've done I think, simply 'cause I love exploring Zid and Garnet's relationship. It has been so much fun to write and I hope I've realistically built upon the characters portrayed in the game – and filled in the wtf moments for the curious.
However, I'm not so sad this fic has ended. Why? Well… ah… :scratches head sheepishly:… I have a follow-up planned. :listens as the whole fanfiction community groans: No no no bear with me here! It wont be as long as BBB – not by a long shot –it's just gonna look into how their relationship unfolds after the game. Anyways, it may or may not happen. I'm working on other projects (that aren't and are fanfiction) but doing these gives me a welcome break and much needed practise. Sooo… yeah. Keep an eye out for the follow up which will (if ever done) be called 'Foundations' – it might be under the 'M' section. Ohoholemonplz.
Which actually brings me onto something people keep subtly hinting/wanting/bitching about. No, none of my fics, including BBB, contain lemon - just mild lime. As I've said, I try and make their relationship realistic, and with all the war business going on and considering Garnet's introvert personality, I just can't see them doing anything quite so serious in-game. Simple as that.
Last but not least, THANK YOU TO ALL MY REVIEWERS. Gad, I can't even explain how much you all mean to me! All the crits and kind words and support have really egged me on – even through losing my job (twice) and breaking up with my ex. You guys are like… the best cyber friends ever! Special thanks to Myshu for putting up with my bitching over PM – haha she knows what I mean. And I'm sorry if I don't reply to all your reviews; please believe me when I say they mean so much to me!
Right then. Now that incredibly long A/N is over, please enjoy the epilogue. Thanks again, and drop one last review on your way out! Ciao for now.
(Confessions Of A Sleeping Mind)
"To be your friend was all I ever wanted; to be your lover was all I ever dreamed."
Zidane Tribal couldn't sleep.
And that was quite an anomaly for him. While Zidane would describe himself as 'enthusiastic', most would insist this so called enthusiasm was, in actual fact, hyperactivity (in fact, Baku would fervently insist upon it), yet despite this, the Genome could fall asleep anywhere, anytime and under any circumstance. And he was almost impossible to wake.
So why did he find himself fidgeting like an oglop in a vegetable patch after such a tiring night? Was it the thoughts of the animated Black Mage roaming somewhere ahead? The thoughts of Kuja still on the loose and reaping devastation? Remnants of adrenalin from the battle with the Zaghnol? Knowing that Dagger was virtually naked less than a metre awa-
No no no don't think about it don't think about, man, seriously anything but that -
And as his thoughts unravelled like a ball of yarn, he eventually concluded that, yep, it was probably the whole near-naked thing that was keeping him up – in more ways than one if he thought about it too much.
Zidane shuffled restlessly, kicking at the blankets he'd long since pushed off. How could he sleep at a time like this? He was wet and cold and miserably horny and he just couldn't untangle his thoughts enough to bloody well sleep.
Two more minutes and frustration got the better of him. He rose and clambered toward the flap of the tent. This awoke Vivi – but only partially – who mumbled something that might have been concerned if not curbed by sleep. Zidane reconciled him huffily, knowing the little mage wouldn't remember a thing in the morning, then clambered out into the wet night.
Outside, the thief observed the rain glumly. Zidane didn't mind such weather in normal circumstances (it made for low visibility, excellent for sneaking), but its insistence had begun to grate even his sturdy nerves, as the conditions thwarted what might have been a pleasant trek; the rain was a patient, cruel enemy.
Still, there were some plus points to the weather. Like how Dagger's shirt had soaked into a film so transparent it revealed enough bosom to keep Zidane happy for half the trek. That had been great. He'd been close enough to see them prickle with goosebumps at one point. And the way the material clung to the skin he just knew that her corset would be all wet too which meant that all the skin underneath would be wet which would make it feel slick under his touch –
Now he was hopelessly horny. And as Zidane usually did when he worked himself into a state, he stashed himself from prying eyes and got rid of it the old fashioned way. When he emerged a while later, he felt vaguely sleepy and congratulated himself on killing two birds with one stone. He returned to the tent with a self-satisfied quirk to his lips.
Quiet as he could manage, Zidane crept through the opening and buckled it closed behind him. He turned to crawl into his sleeping space, but came up short, faced with an unusual predicament. Tangled in a net of blankets, Vivi was sprawled across half the tent with his feet against Dagger's back and his head on Zidane's pillow. Nonplussed, the thief blinked stupidly at the mage, then edged forward intent on mending this minor setback.
"Wake up," he whispered, and prodded the mage's arm.
Vivi groaned and batted the intrusive hand away with languid movements. However, his eyes opened, flickering like candles caught in a draft, then drooped into sunset crescents. They might have been eerie in the darkness if they had belonged to anyone but Vivi.
"Huh…mm…aa…?" came the response.
"Move back," Zidane said. "You've moved across the tent. Budge up."
Lambent eyes opened further as Vivi considered his position, then he did indeed move up – just not in the direction Zidane had intended. The mage scrunched himself into the far corner of the tent, his giant hat sticking from the bundle of blankets like some absurd mushroom.
Zidane considered the mage, then the remaining space, then the sleeping princess. His conclusion was as good as it was bad and he fought against his own carnality to do what he knew was right.
"Uh…I don't think you should sleep there," he said.
Woken again from his slumber, Vivi sounded almost irritated (as irritated as Vivi could sound, anyway), and he bleary offered, "Don't worry about it. No one will mind."
Again, Zidane's gaze lingered on the sleeping princess. His tail skimmed the tent's canvas in agitation. "She'll be angry…"
With the note of irritation gone (replaced instead with an indifference so cloudy he was obviously on the brink of sleep) Vivi reassured, "Naw, just get up early, she wont notice I've even m… moved…"
"You could just move over…"
But the boy was asleep. A nebulous ball of blankets. Five seconds passed and Zidane could actually determine snoring.
Despite the dilemma, even Zidane's head felt full of the cobwebs hailing sleep, and he patted the remaining snarl of blankets dumbly and tried to convince himself that sleeping next to Dagger wouldn't be so detrimental. I could get up early, he reasoned. She wouldn't even know. Or I could just explain… She'd understand, right? Right … Right? Aah, gods, I can't think straight!
His self-sought answer wouldn't matter anyway, because Zidane was already arranging the two blankets Vivi had magnanimously left behind into something resembling comfortable. He was shivering madly and distantly wondered why he had given himself a hand in the rain anyway. But such ponderings could be left to the morning, he decided, as he settled beneath the covers to sleep.
Unfortunately for him, sleep was still as distant as the morning sun.
As the thief shuffled to get comfortable, the mound beside him that would have resembled Dagger if not for the wreath of shadows, met his movement with her own and Zidane stiffened like a hunted mu.
When her shuffling didn't cease, Zidane stupidly whispered, "Sssh go back to sleep."
At first he'd thought his ingenious plan had worked, as only the light pattering of rain could be discerned. But alas, he had failed. "Zidane…?"
Oh shit she's gonna kill me.
He uselessly tried, "Um… no?"
"Oh Zid, it's only you. I thought… I thought…" She trailed off here and her breathing became even again. Zidane took this as cue to resume his own breathing and shut the hell up.
He lay on his back and stared at the dark thickets of shadow burrowing like bats in the niches of the tent. Vivi's gentle snores chorused the rain and somewhere nearby an owl hooted. Zidane's lids drifted downwards and his thoughts became a blur.
Wide awake again. This time. This time he wouldn't get away with it.
But she didn't answer. Zidane gingerly propped himself on one elbow and peered with a frown at the muddle of blanket and flesh beside him. She moved as he did so, nearly frightening the life out of him, and he leapt back with an expression that must have been hilarious if there were anyone awake to witness it. When he recovered he found the princess on her side, facing him.
"Look, I can explain," he began in a hurried whisper, "I went out and uh… well I went out and walked around for a bit and then I came back in and Vivi… Vivi was… wa…"
But Dagger was asleep. His eyes had adjusted to the darkness now and her face was a pallid beacon against the grey. He could determine her thick lashes pressed against her cheeks, and, more alarming, he suddenly noticed that she'd managed to push the covers down so now they lapped at her waist like the tide of some coarse ocean.
The thought of not looking crossed Zidane's mind – for a second anyway. He swallowed noisily as he observed the exposed cleavage, the tightly drawn bask that made the curve of her waistline so much more alluring, the tops of her thighs before they sank into petals of material. Her arms were resting neatly against the ground, her dark hair plaited and damp and snaking down her back in an onyx cascade.
Zidane pursed his lips, caught between wanting to go to sleep and looking at Dagger all night long. He decided that prolonging the latter a few more minutes couldn't hurt, so propped himself on an elbow again and failed to conceal a crafty grin.
"Oh shi –" The expletive was half way out his mouth but he managed to restrain it, clamping a hand so hard against his lips it almost hurt. His heart raced like the wings of a humming bird and he waited to be rebuked. Yet Dagger's eyes remained closed.
Apparently, she was still asleep.
But why in Bahamut's name would she be saying his name in her sleep?
"Hehe, sexy dream," he chortled to himself and settled back down again with various sly thoughts itching his brain.
"Zidane," Dagger said again, in a manner that was tender as a feather-touch and so breathy it could have been a sigh. "Hold me…"
The thief sniggered to himself, deciding that yep, it was definitely a sexy dream, but he had enough respect for Dagger's privacy to keep his hands to himself, so he refused her offer.
"Zidane… don't leave me…"
The grin dropped; the eyebrows arched. What was that? She sounded close to tears. Despite the softness of her voice the quaver was almost tangible.
Caught a little off guard, Zidane whispered, "Dagger?"
She stirred slightly, her lids shifting as she searched the enigma of her dreams, and she let out a distressed whimper before imploring, "Zid… don't go… don't go…"
The tone distressed him and now her restless movement seemed tormented. Overwrought with concern and desperate to quell her anguish, Zidane shifted a tad closer and draped an arm across her waist, hoping to console the princess.
And it worked. Her shuffling subsided and her breathing quietened and she even curled into him like cat pining affection. He willed his heart still while trying hard to omit the insistent press of her breasts against his bare chest. Good job I got it all outta my system earlier, he thought soberly.
Good job indeed, for when she moaned in a way that was nothing short of sensual, jolts of pleasure jerked from the top of his spine to the tip of his toe. He was about to move away lest anything unsavoury arose, when Dagger snaked an arm around his waist and squirmed even closer.
Oh gods, I'm gonna be deep shit in the morning, was all he could clearly think at the time.
Still, he decided to enjoy it while it lasted and contented just breathing the perfume of her hair – rain and… what was that? Some kind of a flower? Lavender or something. Zidane wasn't too good with plants but it smelt good either way so he wasn't complaining. And she was keeping him warm. And she was much softer than the dirty old travelling blankets he usually slept in… In fact, a guy could quite get used to it all.
"Ssh, Dagger, go to sleep." Zidane ran a hand through her damp hair. She pressed further against him, sighing in a way that was decidedly content, though she didn't quiet like he'd hoped.
"Mmm… hope you never go away."
"You… you ah… you're mine."
Zidane snorted with laughter. "Oh yeah?"
"I… I want you…"
"Why, princess, I had no idea you could be so forward."
"…to stay with me."
"You want me to stay with you?"
Dagger sighed heavily and mumbled into his chest, "Yeah, but… forever…"
No reply. As selfish as it seemed, the thief feared she'd gone to sleep and with it, his one chance of fathoming her feelings, so he prodded her gently, causing her to stir again.
"You really want me to stay with you forever?"
She sighed softly and shuffled, apparently uncomfortable. Zidane loosened his grip but she tightened hers, so he settled.
She mumbled random words into his chest between protracted sighs and desultory movement. He smiled to himself, hushing her if she became fitful and responding to her seemingly unhinged conversation with his own. After some time, her banter became more intelligible, even if its meaning remained ambiguous.
"…have to decorate…"
"The castle… flowers… I want white… white roses…"
"Mother likes roses… but… but they can't be red, no, not for…a…a wedding…"
"Oh so you're getting married now? I didn't even get an invitation!"
"Blank… or… Steiner…?"
"One of them I think…"
"B-blank! You'd chose Blank over…?" Zidane trailed off, fighting the unbidden surf of jealousy. He retorted gruffily, "Err… Sorry to shatter your dreams but I don't think either of them feel that way about you, Dag."
"Not for me… for… you."
"Geez. Again… not sure they feel the same way. Your dreams are pretty crazy, you know – "
"Your best man…"
She went quiet though, forehead pressed just below his collarbone and breath slight against his skin. He tried hard to scour meaning behind her rambling – a meaning that didn't involve what her admission immediately brought to mind. Because she couldn't mean that she – that they – that her dreams were… of them getting… Because that couldn't be right because Dagger was a princess and he was thief and there was no way on Gaia or the twin moons or anywhere in the whole universe that someone like her would consider someone like him.
Why? Because that was just stupid. An incongruous fairytale that kids believed in. And Zidane had learnt the hard way that life is far from the whimsical stories read in books. While Zidane made the works of a thief look facile, years of hard, illicit labour with little reward (for always, it seemed, their money went on food) would always be enough to humble his boasts. Year of spending nights hunkered on street corners wanting for nothing and everything, where the happy ending of children's book seemed as unreachable as they were implausible.
So to think that he, a simple street urchin who could barely recite his timetables and had not one worthy qualification under his belt, would catch the eye of Garnet Til Alexandros 17th was inconceivable. In the forefront of his mind he paraded his ability to woo any woman with a few smart words and chivalrous actions, but he knew, deep down, someone like Dagger was completely out of his league.
Zidane stared at the shadows. The rain had stopped. The owls were quiet. The monsters were still. He examined the tender emotion building in his chest, wondered what it was and when it had come about – and so sneakily too! It held vague resemblance to the fever that had once gripped him in the marshland, but this one he didn't fight. He accepted it with a mixture of confused apprehension and rapture.
He said, "So we're getting hitched then, eh?"
Dagger didn't answer, but this time he didn't need her to.
"If things work out. I… I'd like that. I'd like to be with you and… look after you. For as long as you need me. And that's a promise, and my word is better than any pansy wedding vow. Okay?"
She wriggled a bit, still half asleep. "Okay…"
Awed, Zidane shuffled closer to her, burying his nose in her hair, knowing but not caring the retribution of an oblivious Garnet in the morning.
He fell asleep tangled in her limbs, breathing her scent and absorbing her warmth, and dreamed of white roses.