Garnet ponders both Zidane's idiosyncrasies and the differences between them as she goes about her journey with him. Chapter 3 up.
Constructive criticism is desired and appreciated.
“Your Night Out”
In the couple of weeks since the terribly awkward incident involving Garnet, Zidane and an unnamed chubby blonde, the group had set up camp in yet another blooming field. Slowly but surely, Garnet was becoming more and more able to look Zidane in the eyes. Very, very slowly.
Even though the field was lush with flowers, it had more than a few bald spots which housed more than a few too many rocks. Not just little pebbles, but rocks. The currant entertainment for the afternoon was watching Zidane try and find a comfortable place to sit. No matter what he did, he was getting poked with a rock somewhere on his person. His grumbling made Eiko laugh and she was following him around.
“I hate where we are right now!” Zidane declared.
As night descended on the field, Freya deemed it her turn to catch the meat for dinner. She brought back three rabbits, skinned and picked cleaned of undesirables. It was stuck on a makeshift spit and slowly cooked, courtesy Steiner. The group ate mostly in silence, with some pleasant conversation in between. Zidane was still squirming uncomfortably. Garnet watched his face closely, excitement growing in the pit of her heart when the look the blond boy got before sneaking off somewhere crept up onto his face.
“What’s the matter, Zidane?” Garnet asked innocently. “Can’t get comfortable?”
“No,” he replied grumpily.
He suddenly became interested in the tree branch hanging above him. Deciding it was sturdy enough to hold him, he hopped up on it, then let his body drop down and hung from his tail. Feeling triumphant, he continued eating his dinner.
“You’re going to choke, Zidane,” Freya warned.
“I’m fine, Mom,” Zidane replied cheerily.
Everyone was silently waiting (wishing?) for the blond to choke after proudly declaring he wouldn’t, but he didn’t. After the group had finished eating, they sat around the campfire making idle conversation. Zidane still hung from the branch and Garnet kept her eye on him as discreetly as possible. If he was going to run off, she wanted to tag along.
Sure enough, when everybody else crawled in their tents for the night, Zidane headed out on his own. Garnet checked her appearance, fixing her hair in the process, then bundled herself up in her white mage cloak and ran off after him. He was faster than she expected him to be and it occurred to her that he might be trying to lose her. Even though she kept losing track of him, she remained persistent and smiled to herself when she found him lying at the top of a fairly steep hill. He was looking at the stars with his hands folded under his head. Garnet approached him quietly, paranoid that he’d run off if he heard her coming.
“Might I sit with you for a moment or two?” she asked. She kept her voice soft this time.
Zidane silently patted the ground next to him, tucking his arm back under his head. Garnet gingerly sat down beside him. Nervousness found its way into the pit of her stomach; she felt like anything could happen.
“Is this what you do when you leave at night?” she asked. “You come look at the stars?”
“No, not always,” he replied. His cheeks were flushed slightly. “What are you doing here?”
“I came looking for you…” the princess trailed, suddenly whishing she hadn’t told him the truth.
“Oh yeah? Why’s that?”
“…I wanted to know where you go…I was curious…”
Zidane slowly turned his head to face her. His blue eyes were half-lidded and hazed over with something Garnet had never seen before. He reached up and caressed her cheek with a gloved hand. Garnet looked back at him with a sense of wonder in her eyes. Zidane sat up, brushing her dark, silky locks back. The princess froze; she wondered if Zidane was going to kiss her.
He didn’t; he simply stood up and held his hand out to her. She took it shyly, getting up slowly. The blond boy no longer looked like a thief with a tail to Garnet; he now resembled lust and temptation. She wanted to kiss him, but it wasn’t proper for a princess to make the first move. She’d have to wait for him.
“Where did you want to go, Dagger?”
“I…don’t know. What do you normally do when you sneak away?”
“…Some things are better left unsaid,” Zidane dodged. He scratched his chin for a moment, thinking the night’s game plan over carefully. “Want to start with a walk?”
‘Is this a date?’ Garnet wondered.
Zidane led her down the hillside, helping her out when she thought she might trip and fall. Garnet’s whole body felt warm and tingly. She’d never been allowed to have this sort of alone time with a boy before and it absolutely thrilled her. A streak of envy began coursing through her; she wanted to have this sort of freedom all the time like Zidane did. She pushed the envy away and continued following the blond boy. She tripped on a root.
“Yes, thank you,” Garnet said. She eyed his tail. “You don’t fall often.”
“Nope,” he agreed, pulling her up.
“Does your tail help balance you?”
“I guess so,” Zidane answered. He flicked his tail around so they could both see it. “I really don’t give it much thought.”
‘Of course that’s what it does, Garnet! What else would a tail be for?! And why would he be spending any time at all contemplating a limb he was born with that is perfectly normal to him?!’ Garnet mentally berated herself.
“Shall we?” Zidane asked, reaching out to the princess again.
Garnet obediently followed. She wasn’t sure what to say or think, but somehow, it didn’t really matter. Nothing seemed to matter to her right then except for Zidane. She watched his messy ponytail sway from side-to-side as he walked. Another gentle breeze went by, making even more of a mess of Zidane’s hair.
The hillside turned into a thin valley. It was blooming with flowers, fireflies, and residual moisture from a light rain shower earlier in the night. The moonlight made the raindrops sparkle and Garnet looked ahead to Zidane again. She could tell that the blond boy had somewhere specific in mind, but she didn’t want to leave. She wanted to stay there with him forever.
“Zidane? Do we have to-”
It was just then that Garnet noticed he’d been carrying something. He spread the blanket out on the ground, patting it so Garnet would sit with him. She did, lowering her hood and shyly looking away.
“Is this what you do when you leave us? You come here?”
“No, not always,” Zidane replied. “I go hang out around town mostly. I thought this would be nice. There’s cherry trees here.”
He stood on his tip toes, pulling the lowest branch down. He plucked off a few cherries, tossing a couple to the princess. He let go of the flimsy branch and it snapped back up, releasing a few more cherries as it did so. Zidane sat down next to Garnet, popping a cherry into his mouth.
“They’re good,” the princess said.
Garnet had never had cherries before, due to her parents’ belief that they were bad for their daughter’s teeth. She suddenly learned why they’d thought that when she bit down on something hard. She managed to separate it from the rest of the fruit, eyes darting around as she wondered what it could be and how she was going to get it out of her mouth.
“…You’ve never had a cherry, have you?” Zidane asked, trying not to laugh. He broke when she gave a shake of her head and an awkward squeal. “It’s okay; it’s just the pit. You know what you do with the pit? You spit ‘em out!”
Garnet’s dark eyes bugged out of her head as she watched the thief spit a cherry pit out onto the ground beside the blanket. She didn’t know much about food that hadn’t been pre-made for her, but she did know herself and she knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that she absolutely would not spit.
“Oh, it’s fine!” Zidane chided. “You’re just with me, no one important.”
Garnet covered her mouth with one hand and pulled the pit out with the other. She set it aside in the grass, hoping her companion couldn’t see it. Zidane watched her with a blank face, slowly raising a blond eyebrow. He turned his head to the side and spit out another pit.
“I’m not trying to gross you out,” he insisted. “I just want you to loosen up.”
“…Why did you say you’re no one important?” Garnet asked softly.
“I’m not. I’m not a noble or a scholar or anything fancy like that. I’m just a member of Tantalus who would like to enjoy these cherries with a lovely young lady. Now, have another!”
He tossed a cherry at her again and much to the princess’ surprise, she caught it. She chewed it carefully, not wanting to risk biting down hard on the pit again. Once she’d isolated the pit, she clenched her fists and spat it to the ground like Zidane had told her to. He started laughing again, pleased that she was letting go of feeling she had to be so prim and proper whilst in his presence. Garnet blushed a little, then returned Zidane’s smile.
“What else did you have in mind tonight?” she asked.
“Shouldn‘t the gentleman ask the lady what she wants to do?” he asked with a smirk, remembering their conversation under the tree a few weeks ago. It made Garnet smile.
“What would normally be doing if you’d come here alone?” Garnet asked eagerly. She wanted nothing more in that moment than to understand Zidane’s world.
“…Things…and…stuff…like that…” the blond boy babbled, his blue eyes the size of the moon.
“Well, what kinds of ‘things and stuff?’ Do you go away to think?”
“…Yes. Let’s call it that. A lot of thinking…” Zidane replied, eyes still large and looking down slightly at his right hand. Feeling like he’d just cheated death, he composed himself. “What do you do when you’re all alone?”
“I look at the stars,” Garnet said. She stood up to walk around, taking in her new surroundings. “The view was never as nice or clear as this. I’d barely even left the castle before you came along, though I certainly wanted to. It’s nice seeing the world.”
“I can’t ever imagine spending so much time in one place,” Zidane mused.
He stuck to his spot on the blanket, watching Garnet explore the little clearing. The princess glanced over at him, eyes widening a bit when she saw the same expression he’d worn on the hilltop was still there. She didn’t know what to make of it or what it meant, but clearly, it was something deeper than his usual cheeriness. She wanted to get to the bottom of it. She wanted to get closer to Zidane.
Creeping over to him, Garnet cautiously knelt down before the blond boy. She pushed some of his messy hair out of his face, but then let it all fall back to the way it was. Brushed-back hair just didn’t suit him. She didn’t know what she should do next. She still wasn’t even sure if this was a date. Next thing either of them knew, Garnet was throwing her arms around Zidane and hugging him tightly. He wrapped his arms around her gently, squeezing her warmly. She tightened her grip on him and he did the same.
“Is everything okay?” he asked.
“Yes,” she said, her words muffled by his hair. “I just wanted to be close to you.”
“That’s nice,” the thief replied with a smile. “I like being close to you, too.”
It was a little weird for Zidane to be holding so closely the girl he’d tried to kidnap. He and his Tantalus brothers had seen Garnet only as a money source; never once did it occur to him that there may be something else to the lovely princess. The more they stayed like that, the less and less Zidane felt it was right to keep her nearby. She wasn’t supposed to be associating with thieves and wayward fighters. He was growing a conscience and he didn’t like it.
“Dagger? Maybe I should take you back. Steiner’s probably looking for you.”
“Too bad for him. I want to stay right here with you.”
Zidane sighed and Garnet snuggled in closer to him. He held her tight, making her feel safe and warming himself up in the process. It occurred to him that this was probably the first time he’d ever held a woman without the intention of getting anything in return. He didn’t want to steal jewels or money from Garnet, nor did he want sex from her. He just wanted to hang out in a forest clearing with her. He wanted to let her pretend he was her knight in shining armor and Garnet absolutely believed him to be.
She took in a deep breath, enjoying how he smelled like rain. That had always been one of her favorite smells. She liked how he dressed for comfort and no one else. It was something she still couldn’t do herself. She wore her leather overalls because they weren’t something typical of a princess, but they were still of the highest quality. She still wanted to look nice for all who saw her. Right then, she only wanted Zidane to see her. She’d brushed and restyled her long hair for him. She found herself liking the feeling of getting all gussied up for one man rather than for the sake of keeping up appearances in the presence of nobility.
“I want to stay here with you forever,” Garnet whispered.
Zidane continued staring forward, his breathing still even. Despite growing fond of the princess, he kept in mind that they’d have to part one day. That wall was crashing down and he felt himself rapidly becoming attached to her. He didn’t want to leave her, either. He didn’t know what to say to her, so he simply held her tight.
“No matter what happens,” Zidane said firmly. “I’ll always stick by you, even if we’re apart. Always.”
Zidane didn’t know how much he could give a princess, but he hoped she could at least accept that as the truth.