Garnet ponders both Zidane's idiosyncrasies and the differences between them as she goes about her journey with him.
Constructive criticism is desired and appreciated.
“Leaves in Your Hair”
The sun was high in the sky, cradled by overstuffed white clouds. A flock of birds flew overhead, whilst bees and butterflies flittered around the flowery field. Garnet took a deep breath of the clean summer’s air. It was warm today without being hot. It was the kind of weather she loved.
Eiko had convinced Vivi to pick flowers with her. She told him they were going to make crowns with them. He nervously obeyed, sneezing at the pollen and falling on his face all the while. Freya let Eiko put a flowery crown on her helmet and then sat down under a willow tree by herself. Garnet smiled at the sight of a floral crown on the dragon knight. She liked seeing something more feminine on her friend. The princess considered going over to talk to the Burmecian woman for a moment or two, but then opted to go in search of the tailed thief in the group.
She saw him sitting under another tree, sharpening his daggers. She wasn’t entirely sure what she would say to him once she got over there, but she was confidant that her company would be wanted. Zidane had seemed tense lately. Garnet couldn’t even begin to pinpoint anything Zidane could possibly be thinking, but it was clear something was on the normally cheerful boy’s mind. He kept going quiet during walks and he’d been sneaking off, too. When he came back (usually in the early morning hours), he’d be empty handed, which told her he wasn’t going off with Choco. He was always happier when he came back, but in a few days or sometimes even hours, he’d revert to being a trifle off.
‘Perhaps he’s just needed time to himself to think,’ Garnet thought.
She wished she could understand the mind of a teenaged boy. Girls were so much easier! She passed by Quina as she made her way over to the thief and couldn’t stop herself from wondering what the Qu’s gender was.
‘Is it possible to be both genders at once?’
She slowed her pace as she drew closer and closer to Zidane. He hadn’t noticed her yet, staying true to his current task of dagger sharpening. Garnet put her best smile on and bent down to speak to the seated thief.
“Might I sit with you for a moment or two?” she asked cheerily.
“Of course you can,” he replied, moving over to share the shady spot with the princess. “I’ve always got a ‘moment or two’ for a pretty girl.”
She sat down next to him, tucking some black hair behind her ear. She smiled when he tipped his head back to shake his messy blond locks out of his face.
“Would you like me to tie your hair back?” she offered.
She turned her head away from him quickly; she hadn’t expected to say that out loud. It wasn’t too terribly forward, but it wasn’t something a princess should be offering to do for a member of the opposite sex.
“No thanks, I’m alright,” he replied, much to Garnet’s relief.
She composed herself and then turned back to watching Zidane sharpen his knives. He slid the blades along a round, flat rock. Sparks were going off at the contact, though it was harder to see them in the daylight. Garnet sighed and bit her plump lower lip. She wanted to know why he kept running off at night.
“If I’m not being too bold,” she began. “Might I ask why you’ve been so crestfallen lately?”
“Crestfallen…?” he echoed, knitting his eyebrows together in thought. “Oh! You mean depressed? I’m not depressed.”
“You seem so.”
“I do?” he laughed. “I’m fine!”
The princess smiled again. She wasn’t sure why, but she loved hearing Zidane’s laugh. When his laughter stopped, his bright smile replaced itself with the all too familiar flirtatious one.
“I am flattered that you’re worried about me, Dagger. It’s so nice to be in the presence of a young woman who’s both beautiful and kind.”
Garnet rolled her eyes and smirked back. She’d long since learned to take anything Zidane said in that flirty tone of voice with a grain of salt. The tailed boy let out another happy chuckle, setting his daggers aside and leaning back into the tree trunk.
“So, how come you’re not picking flowers with Vivi and Eiko? I thought you liked making flower crowns. Is it that you just couldn’t bear to be away from me any longer, my dear?”
“Oh, you,” Garnet half-groaned, rolling her eyes again. “Hm, if you were any kind of gentleman, you’d ask a lady how she’s doing.”
“How rude of me,” he said flatly. He wanted Garnet to flirt back. Even if the attraction wasn’t reciprocated, flirting was fun. He refused to let her suck the fun out of it! “How are you doing?”
“I’m well, thank you. I love this weather. It’s perfect. I like this field, too. The flowers are so pretty…”
“So what?” she asked, confused.
“You didn’t answer my question. How come you’re not picking flowers and making crowns with Eiko?”
Garnet froze then. What should she say? She hadn’t known Zidane for very long, though she was quite comfortable around him. How would he take it if she answered honestly and said she was concerned? She knew he’d probably appreciate that she cared about him, but what if he took it the wrong way and ended up with a guilt trip? Or - and this was probably highly unlikely to happen - what if it made him mad? She really couldn’t think of an instance in which saying “I was worried about you” resulted in the other person growing cross with her, but Zidane was rather unpredictable.
She’d only seen him truly angry a small handful of times. One time, Amarant had ticked him off after a long trek through a canyon on a too hot day with no food or water. After setting up the tents, Zidane had stormed off somewhere. He returned about four hours later, relaxed and content, and with a little hint of rum on his breath. Another time when he’d gotten upset, he left and returned in the afternoon of the following day smelling vaguely of cigars. The one constant in his disappearances was the content state he’d be in upon return. Garnet really wanted to know where the blond boy was going, but she couldn’t help having a strong feeling that it was deeply personal.
“Huh?” she squeaked rather dumbly at being jarred from her thoughts.
“Lost in my eyes, Dagger?” he chided.
“Don’t tease me!” she yelled in frustration, getting up and stomping her foot.
Of course, she managed to stomp it right onto the tip of Zidane’s tail. He yelped and jerked it away.
“What was that for, eh?!” he growled.
“I’m sorry! I didn’t m-mean t-to…” she stammered. This wasn’t the first time her habit of stomping her feet in anger had gotten her in trouble. “Is it alright?”
“No, I’d rather people didn’t step on me,” he snapped.
On him…? That was the first time it fully clicked with the princess that Zidane’s tail was in fact a body part and had feeling in it. She tried not to cry. Zidane could see the guilt on her face and melted. He decided he shouldn’t have yelled at her like he did. She hadn’t hurt him intentionally.
“It’s okay. I’m fine,” he said warmly. He patted the ground so she’d sit with him again. “Wait, turn around?”
She did so, slowly recovering from the spat just moments ago.
“You’ve got some stuff in your hair,” he mumbled. “Like, leaves and those oak things.”
She stiffened as she felt his gloved fingers gently pulling the bits of foliage from her long black hair. A part of her cringed at how dirty her hair had apparently gotten just from sitting down on the ground. It got routine trims back in Alexandria, but it had been a long time since it had last been cut above her waist. She wondered if it might be worth it to have it cut to about the middle of her back. That was the shortest she was willing to go.
On the other hand, her scalp tingled at the feel on someone touching her hair so tenderly. No man had ever touched it before, aside from her father of course. It brought back memories of conversations she’d overheard from the maids. They would chatter together about men they were interested in, about dates, about…other things…and Garnet had yet to experience any of that. She’d danced with some boys at social functions, but she’d never gone on a formal date. This encounter with Zidane probably didn’t count as a date, but she couldn’t be entirely sure. She wanted to have a boyfriend. She wanted him to be a kind and strong man, both physically and emotionally. She wanted her first kiss to be at the top of a tower or a bridge, with a full moon and a clear, starry sky.
“You’re all good,” Zidane said with satisfaction.
Garnet looked over her shoulder to thank him. She saw him settling back down in his former place in the shade, picking up his daggers to sharpen. The princess found herself strangely somewhat disappointed that the contact between them had stopped. The tingling feeling in her scalp hadn’t gone away and her heart was fluttering. She wondered if that was what a first kiss felt like. She felt breathless.
As she tucked a lock of hair behind her ear, she stole another discreet glance at Zidane. Nothing had changed about him. He still had his blue eyes and messy blond hair, but he looked different somehow. He was…
The princess could not place what had changed in his appearance, but change had occurred. Maybe it was because he’d touched her hair? That seemed silly; she’d danced with some boys before, which always required physical contact, and they were always exactly the same after the dance was over.
‘Is this what a ‘crush’ is?’ she wondered. She shook her head; the thought was absurd. Zidane was a thief! Her eyes bugged out of her head. Had she basically called her friend a lowly, common criminal? ‘That was awful…I’m more grounded than that, aren’t I?’
Eiko came bounding up to the pair with a pink and white flower crown in her tiny hand. She wore a vibrant smile. Vivi trailed behind her. Neither Garnet nor Zidane could ever quite tell what kind of facial expressions the little black mage was making, but he still looked happy. His front was also covered in dirt and grass stains.
“We made you this, Dagger!” the little girl said happily. “We’re going to make you one next, Zidane.”
“It’s lovely, Eiko! Thank you,” the princess said warmly.
She let Eiko place the crown on her head. She looked at Zidane, who was off in his own little world, still sharpening his daggers. Eiko continued to tell him about how she was going to make him a crown out of some little blue flowers Vivi had found under a tree, even though the blond boy clearly wasn’t listening.
Steiner called the four of them over, telling them how it was getting dark and that he had found them a place to spend the night. The group walked to the inn in silence. The wind had picked up, so Garnet carried the delicate crown in her hands. She watched Zidane, who was walking ahead of her, still trying to pinpoint what was so different about him.
‘Maybe it’s just because I’ve become more aware of his tail,’ she decided.
After all, she was a princess and he was a thief. He was also an actor, but he’d even said himself that Tantalus mainly stole valuables. Garnet had grown up believing the fairy tales and stereotypes set out for a princess; she should pick a strong, noble, honest and gentle man to be her king. The only problem she was seeing with that semi-unwritten rule was that Zidane, the thief, fit those qualifications.
She’d been adopted into her family, which was a rarity. Maybe it was time for other class changes as well.