Bear with me on this. It was completely inspired from a dream. I wrote the draft as soon as I woke up – in fact, it was so clear in my head that when I did wake up, for a bizarre sleepy moment, I thought I HAD written it. I'd like you to use your imaginations for all of the questions left unanswered, but if it's killing you of course you can ask. It won't be everyone's cup of tea, but I just had to write it. /Edited typos and other junk. Shouldn't write in mornings lol.
I hope you enjoy, and if you did, please leave a review, I'd be interested to hear what you think!
Kind of Like Fate
The ending hadn't been to Zidane's liking at all.
There had been no theatrics, no meaningful line to wrap up the dialogue, no dazzling special effects. The words rolled between them like a lead ball. The truth was always cold and brittle, crunched out in awkward words that didn't capture what they'd been through or show promise for the future.
'Uh… so… yeah. See you around. I guess. Well. Bye.'
Rather it had been heated, at least. Something to ignite even a pittance of emotion, so it was not just a cold, hard lump that sat in his chest in the form of something dead and half-forgotten.
For the sake of his sanity, he fled Alexandria, and in all the seven years that had passed he had never returned. Not once.
Now he was living the life he'd expected to live. Lindblum again. Still in theatre. Still a thief – the best in the king-and-queendoms, he would claim. Got his own place. Blank (who lived with Ruby now) made one crude jab at the fact he was still living at home and Zidane bought himself a rundown flat there and then. It was part of a rambling three-storey building slotted into the back end of the Theatre District, but it suited him. He bought it mainly because of the balcony. It only had one chipped railing left and the foundations were tenuous, but he occupied it at night regardless, glaring up at the stars and Terra's moon. It was difficult to fall asleep with a roof over his head. Difficult to fall asleep without company, period.
Didn't matter now, because it was daytime. He sat in the clocktower, one booted foot on the table, tilted back on the wooden chair, staring at the cogs in the ceiling. He could hear Cinna shuffling around in the kitchen muttering to himself. Marcus was snoring in the bunk. Boss was late. Blank was late. Outside he heard the town crier yelling, probably something important, but Zidane didn't focus on the words and then they were drowned out by an aircab, which were noisier now – if more efficient –courtesy to Cid's design.
Regent Cid. Another face he hadn't seen – voluntarily – in years. With Baku's unlikely friendship to the regent of Lindblum Zidane would not have been unwelcome in the castle, despite everything. But he didn't go. A little voice insisted it was fear that stopped him – fear of running into her – but he listed a million excuses before acknowledging that.
He felt bad for not seeing Eiko, but inevitably Eiko came to see him. Every month, in fact. With moogles. She was as impetuous and hotheaded as ever, especially since she'd recently celebrated her thirteenth birthday. She was so damn sharp that even Zidane had a hard time matching her banter. One day, she counted off on her fingers how many suitors she'd scared off, concluding the list with a grin so wicked it made even Zidane a little proud, even though Eiko's future was as much out of his hands as hers had been.
Eiko never mentioned her. Zidane never asked. She berated him only once because he didn't show up for their reunion at the Black Mage Village (nor had he shown up since). He went, of course, but a week later. For Vivi's sake. She branded Zidane a coward and stupid, and he acknowledged this shamelessly. He told himself it didn't hurt. He'd moved on.
"How's the other half?"
Cinna's voice jerked him back to the present, but his mind was still tangled in the past, so he spluttered, "Wh-what? Who?"
Cinna missed his tone and flatly provided an answer. "You're an idiot. Reena, duh."
Zidane grunted. "S'over."
Cinna whistled and plonked his mug of coffee indelicately on the table. "Record time. Three days?"
"You didn't even count? Geez. Womaniser."
The insult stung; reminded him of his teens. "M'not."
Cinna shrugged it off. "Whatever. Damn, Boss is late. If I was this late he'd beat the shit outta me. You'd think that man would settle down with age – or at least appreciate that we aint kids no more."
"Speak fer yourself," Zidane idly insulted as his gaze settled on the cogs again, as he rocked the chair back and forth on its stubby legs.
Marcus woke up a few moments later and helped himself to coffee. He complained that boss was late. The second bell of the afternoon rang. Outside the town crier was still busting his balls and everything in between spreading the news. He was passing by their grubby window now and Zidane winced at his loud mouth.
"Geez, wish he'd shut up already," he muttered, and no sooner had his wish been made that it was granted.
The bell crier was shadowed by a large man, features unidentifiable through the dirt streaked window but the Tantalus boys would have recognised him in a snow storm. The front door was unceremoniously kicked open following a quiet conversation with the crier, and Blank and Baku entered. Their eyes fell on Zidane, who lifted his eyebrows expectantly.
Baku grunted. "Weren't you listenin', boy?"
Blank groaned and threw up his hands. "Wasn't anyone listening? That guy's been blurtin' it all over the damn city fer hours."
Blank told him the news. Tantalus watched Zidane's reaction carefully. He remained silent for several moments, only the clunking of cogs and the intrusive hum of the aircabs breaking his weighty pause. Indecisive, he looked to Blank for guidance.
The redhead was wearing the barest of smirks. He raised an eyebrow. "Well?"
Zidane went on alone. It was faster that way. Simpler. He even hopped through the window of a moving aircab because there was not time to wait for another. He'd landed on an unsuspecting gentleman who was inclined to give him a black eye if Zidane hadn't been that extra second faster, ducking and weaving throughout the entire journey while his mind uneasily dissected the news.
At any rate, he was out of the city within twenty minutes – record time – and Choco was as fast as ever to respond to his summons. It was raining out there. Not so unusual considering the valley and marshland, but for some weird reason Zidane had had the right of mind to snatch someone's cloak before he jumped off the aircab. Now he pulled the hood low over his eyes and urged Choco through the mud.
Crude roads of flattened peat had been constructed since the Mist's disappearance, which in turn meant an absence of monsters, but they weaved and winded in such a tedious fashion that it was faster for Zidane to cut across the fields. Something was guiding him to the place he needed to be. He couldn't pinpoint what it was. Instinct maybe.
The rain ran in streaks off the oiled leather of the cloak and dripped off the beak of the hood. He kept his eyes open, fixed ahead, eager but wary, even when the rain forced its way in and stung them. The clouds were so thick and bruised that the land had been thrown under a blanket of temporary night, yet the path was clear to him.
The flat plains gave way to a hill of steep gradient. Some distance from this his instincts told him to stop. He reined Choco in, who twittered nervously and shook the moisture from his golden feathers. Zidane's eyes trailed to the peak of the hill. He spotted three – no – four campfires. One might have been the light from a shack… a house? Made of stone, for it shone dully in the sparse light of the storm. It looked derelict.
Around the base of the hill were more campfires. A scattering of chocobos. Even at this distance Zidane could hear the drumming of rain of armour. The Alexandrian army. Twenty of them, perhaps. A good effort, he conceded, but it wouldn't work. This was a thief's job.
Zidane dismounted and dismissed the nervous bird. He pulled the cloak around him and fixed it with a clasp, intent on using the heavy rain and false darkness for cover.
It was easy. The Alexandrians were as hopeless as ever, possibly more so since Rusty's retirement. Zidane grudgingly admitted that things like this might never happen if only Rusty was still captain instead of head of castle affairs. No matter. It made his job easier, afterall.
He slipped between their ranks using brush for cover and by staying close to the ground. His booted feet were silent; the muddy turf yielded to his every footstep. Rain eliminated every superfluous noise. The climb was a little more treacherous. The hill's side was a slippery slope that threatened him with discovery, but he hooked his fingers and all but clawed up its side until he found a safe haven behind a rock to observe those camped on the null.
There were twenty visible, Zidane guessed. Wisely taking cover beneath wooden boards from any archers that might be inclined to add arrows to the downpour. The house was indeed derelict; a one storey square house with gaping holes in its roof. And they were simple bandits, by the looks of them. Tatty clothes and beaten up daggers, probably not a gil between the lot of them. It might have made any other man sick, but Zidane was a bandit at heart too, and could empathise with them in more ways than one.
But right now they had something he wanted, so they were the enemy.
It would be difficult. He might not be able to take them all on at once, though he doubted they were skilled fighters, but that wasn't the problem here, was it? A surprise attack might cause them to panic and do something rash, and then he would have succeeded in only making things worse.
A sneak attack was his only option. But they were stationed so close together: a man to every window, on the roof, three on the door and others scattered in twos around the peak. Inevitably he would be detected, but hopefully not before he gained access to the house.
To scope for weakness in their defences, Zidane painstakingly commando crawled around half the hill, and in that time the Alexandrians had begun to shout propositions up at the bandits, who declined their offers. It went back and forth for a while, until something the Alexandrians said must have fuelled their interest and – luck! A group was called to regroup with another, leaving a blind spot open for infiltration. When they were clear of the area all that remained were two bandits guarding a window. They were hunched over facing one another, smoking and playing cards. Zidane reckoned he could take them out.
They didn't know what hit them until Zidane's daggers were in their throats and the cards in their hands were crimson. He dealt with them simultaneously, sparing only a few seconds with the first to clamp his hand over the bandit's mouth to stop his scream before moving on to the next. Luckily for him, shock was a great silencer.
They fell soundlessly into the mud but Zidane's luck ran out when the bandits around the corner decided to patrol. They spotted the bodies and the hooded figure brandishing twin daggers and halted.
In the three seconds it took before the bandits cried for help, Zidane made his decision and launched himself through the window. Glass exploded in bright, lancing sparks and the world spun. He felt a rush of warmth from the fire inside before this was eclipsed by the pain of hitting a glass-carpeted floor.
No time for pain. He sprang to his feet, hoping to catch them off guard. He spent a dizzying second scanning the room – five, no six? – before propelling himself into the nearest person, slitting their windpipe. The second bandit watched the blood spurt dumbly from his comrade's throat until Zidane's dagger found his heart.
The bandits recovered from shock and charged. The room they were in was small and furnished with chairs and tables; it granted no space for fancy manoeuvres. Zidane fought with his teeth gritted, relying on essential skills, instinct and luck. He was grazed, bruised and cut, but in the end, they fell to his daggers, one by one.
There was a breathless moment where Zidane wondered what had happened to those occupied outside, but then he heard the clash and yells of the soldiers and knew they were commencing their own assault. Successfully, by the sounds of it.
Momentarily safe, Zidane stood straight and scouted the room proper while wiping sweat and blood from his forehead. He might have noticed the unadorned stone walls, the guttering flames in a soot-streaked stove, the broken plates smashed upon the rotten wooden floor, but he didn't. His eyes were fixed on a single chair, shoved in the corner of the room like a beaten dog. It was the only chair that hadn't been toppled in the fight, and the only chair with an occupant.
Their eyes met for the first time in years, and it was like Zidane's innards were flushed out through his feet.
"Zidane." Spoken not as a question nor out of fear, but as a simple statement. Her eyes shone with emotion. The wry tilt to her pink lips looked so out of place in this room of bloodshed. She sat straight like a queen, even though her hair was a thicket of tangles down her back and her wrists and feet were bound with rope. Her dress was drenched and mud stained from where she'd undoubtedly been dragged uphill and there was bruise on her cheek like a black kiss, yet still she remained the picture of perfection. "I knew it would be you."
Seven long years seemed to blur into a meaningless scrawl as he stared dumbly into her fiery eyes and said, "Hey, Dag. Sorry I'm late."