DONE. Left these two til last. My babies, hehe. Speaking of which, keep an eye out for 'Foundations' (Brick By Brick's sequel) it'll be up next week maybe? Maybe...

(Last chap colour was brown. Man, you guys, I thought that was a hard one, haha! This one is hella easy anyways.)

Thanks again for the reviews, one final note will be much appreciated!

Part 6
Heart Shaped Bruises

Some thief, she thinks with a wry smirk. It's one thing to be good at sneaking, quite another to let someone sneak up on you.

Despite her advantageous viewpoint, she takes the time to contemplate his latest trick, and sighs in light of his hopelessness.

Still unaware of his hideout's infiltration, Zidane sniggers into his hand, tail swinging playfully not far from where she stands, silent as the fall of autumn leaves.

She looks down upon the castle's private vegetable patch, though 'patch' is quite a laughable description in this case, for the imagery it arouses of quaint plots does not justify the ploughed expanse beneath her. A square at least the size of the castle's Great Hall is thriving with plant life, every seasonable vegetable she can name and more, all lovingly tended to by countless professional gardeners.

And currently, it is under attack.

She and her unsuspecting partner stand on the zenith of a grassy slope beside an oak, which overlooks the scene of chaos at a reasonable distance. She squints hard to make out the fruits of his lame humour and spots fat balls hopping between green leaves and budding vegetation. It takes her a moment to figure out what they are (for a moment she thinks the pumpkins have come to life) but when she realises their nature she fights to suppress another despondent sigh.

Oglops. Dozens of them. And the poor gardeners and stray Pluto Knights are running amuck trying to catch them, some simply fleeing from the little monstrosities, and some trying to kill them. There are people wielding shovels, watering cans and carrots. People seeking refuge atop overturned wheelbarrows and people shrieking like Bahamut himself is overturning the fertile plot. It is havoc and she marvels at how these harmless bugs can overturn what she'd thought to be such an orderly environment.

She turns her attention back to Zidane, who still snickers like a child. She creeps closer, then grabs his tail and gives it a slight tug. Of course, he reacts like she's yanked it straight from the socket and yelps something unmanly. He spins round, all guilty and defensive and scared, but when he recognises his assailant the roguish grin returns.

"Ehehehe… Busted."

"Busted, indeed." She tries to sound stern, but she just can't vanquish the playful smile. His mischievousness reminds her of old times, when she wore her overalls instead of queenly smocks and campfires lit their tents in dancing hues. "And what do you think you're doing?"

He scratches the back of his head. "Ah… I'm… harvesting?"

"With oglops?"


Dagger shrugs, unable to neutralize his innate misbehaviour. "Well, it's certainly a novel method, I'll give you that."

Thinking he's been let off the hook, his tone becomes light as he declares: "I call it… Tribal Ploughing." He throws a casual arm around her shoulder and waves to the chaos below with the other, as if showing off a marvellous kingdom. "Nothing beats a good ploughing from the Tribal, as you very well know."

"As I…?" (It takes a moment to dawn on her; she's always been slow with his crude humour). "Zidane! Really… Anyway, who's going to sort all this out?" She gestures to the bedlam.

Zidane chuckles. "I think the Pluto Knights are handling it well enough."

They look across at the armoured men, whose squealing is better suited to children. Two are huddled in each other's arms atop a water barrel, while another tries his best to squash the pests with a spade. Dagger can't help but giggle.

"It's harvesting time anyways," Zidane amends with an uninterested yawn. "Man, I'm beat. You wanna hit the sack?"

"It's hardly past six, you lazy oaf." She turns her attention back to his trick. "Aren't you at all guilty? Look how the oglops eat the vegetables! All those lovely pumpkins…"

Zidane wrinkles his nose. "Bleh. I hate pumpkin soup. Hey, you know what we should do? We should carve them up! I used to do that when I was a kid, you know, put all weird faces on 'em and stuff."

Dagger raises an incredulous eyebrow. "I've never heard of such a thing! Look, you go and carve your pumpkins or whatever. I'm going to have to tidy up your mess. Wherever did you get all those oglops anyway?"

He grins and winks, so she knows she'll never find out, and for some reason she gets a bit angry. "Zidane, you do know I'm going to have to clean up this mess, don't you?"

"What? Nah. You got people to do that for you. Rust-a-lot's lackeys –"

"I'm going to have calm the gardeners. They're going to be furious – no, no I wont tell them it was you, but I'm going to have to think of some excuse – where all those oglops came from for one! – and then I'm going to have to arrange the importation of more vegetables because clearly we're going to be short a batch, which means I'm going to be receiving more paperwork than I need – and you know how much paperwork I get as it is –"

Zidane's face screws up with concern. "Sorry…"

She ends her rant and turns away, waves him off with a crisp, "Oh, forget it."

But he doesn't forget, and he is sorry, and he thinks hard of a way to make it up to her.

The first thing Dagger notices when she enters their chamber much later that night, isn't the snoring thief sprawled atop their bedcovers, or his unclean dagger discarded carelessly upon the carpet, but the large pumpkin with a heart carved out of its side. It is lit from within by a single candle, so upon the wall the brilliant silhouette is highlighted in shades of gold. It's terribly cheesy, but she's touched anyway, and plants a lingering kiss on his cheek before tucking him in and blowing out the candle.

Lying beneath the covers, she decides he's definitely worth the trouble, but she isn't cleaning the slimy mound of pumpkin innards off the carpet. She's had enough of cleaning up his mess. At least for today.