Go Not Gently
and how they lived
lady i swear by all flowers. Don't cry
-the best gesture of my brain is less than
your eyelids' flutter which says
we are for each other: then
laugh leaning back in my arms
for life's not a paragraph
And death i think is no parenthesis
- ee cummings
I never saw him again.
I don't know how I freefalled without dying; maybe it was Madeen or Phoenix, for I had no magic left in me to float, I barely had energy to breathe. Maybe it was the last slowing from our enormous rip in the sky; maybe - maybe - it could have been anything. Whatever the case, it was less than an hour later when the Blue Narciss found me, floating, just about dead, far too late for a battle they hadn't managed to come to.
Life's a bitch and then you die.
I never saw him again.
What do you do, when it's all over?
There was no 'happy ending'. There wasn't an 'unhappy ending', though, either - it wasn't an ending, he had not abandoned me for an ever-after. I walked zombie for the next two months, blank-eyed; I couldn't speak a word to anyone, I couldn't laugh, I couldn't smile. I couldn't even meet Zidane's eyes, or my mother's, or anyone's; and then, well, you start getting tubby around the middle, and it's obvious you're in a delicate condition that isn't overeating. I hadn't even really believed I was pregnant. Which helped me fit in, because hardly anyone else believed that I could be pregnant, too, except for Garnet; and she sat me down on her bed and unbuttoned my dress and prodded me a little. She told me very softly that I didn't have to carry it; they wouldn't be so cruel as to make me carry it, if I didn't - and I woke up.
"No," I said, eyes wild. "No. No no no."
(Because I suddenly wanted it more than anything in the world. Me! I hated babies.)
So she lay me down, head in her lap, smelling like fresh linen, and I told her everything until it was dark in that room and she had to light candles. Poor Dagger, who'd had her own miscarriage out of worry for me, with her long dark hair and the tears in her eyes. There were no recriminations, and just the stroking my hot little brow as all the words came out. They tumbled over each other; I got ahead of myself; I left out chunks; she held me.
"It's all right, Eiko," she said. "It will be all right now." And I wept, but it was different this time, and when I stopped I didn't start again for months.
And so everyone was told, and they treated me like glass until I stepped very hard on Zidane's foot about three times. I couldn't bear Lindblum just yet; so I stayed in the palace of Alexandria, with my mother, with Garnet and Dagger, and Amarant came and he and I used to take long walks on the castle walls. He told me I was a fuckin' little idiot; and finally I laughed, and he held me, all clumsy and too tight as if he'd never really hugged before. (For my baby shower, he gave me an Elixir, three potions, four new pencils and the most horrible booties in the world that Freya had apparently knitted. I think he was more than a little in love with her. It was the best present I received.)
My mother rose to the situation beautifully, and took it all in her stride; so did my father, who looked a little more bewildered about it but kept on patting my back as if that might help. It took a while for my parents and I to be able to touch hands again, for them to touch me without nervousness, to not look at me sometimes as if - even - I know Garnet had told them an expurgated version of the tale.
I love you, Mama, Papa. Thank you. I'm sorry.
So I threw things, and grunted, and stomped around, which made everybody else feel better, and I even got married - would you believe it - out of social nicety for the Regent's daughter; it was in paper only, because I kicked up more than a little snit at the idea, and my poor husband turned out to be a rather lanky-boned airship engineer from the academy whom I had known in passing, very gentle and self-effacing with thick glasses, and his name was Alun. We hardly saw each other, at first - I was preoccupied with the baby, and totally averse to being married - again - I already had a husband, I did, I did, I /did/. White Tango. Black Tango. I had been married. I had.
She was born in the summer, red-faced, squealing, summoner's nub and Genome's tail just like Cornelia. Garnet was my midwife. I called her /Vita/, which is another word for life, and different than Vivi's; Vivi was /vivisect/, and she was /vitality/. She had pale feathery lavender hair which stood up every which way, and big green eyes, and for a long while I couldn't look at her either.
They took me back to Lindblum. I got a new pair of glasses. I was Eiko Fabool once more, with a new baby, and a /husband/, and Garnet had warned against the whole damn thing but I threw myself back into engineering and cut my hair until it was short again and some of the scars faded. Alun and I had seperate rooms - poor man, he had the most things thrown at him, I think - and I would sit in mine without even Vita, who had her own nanny, and I would look outside my window at the ballet of airships and my rebuilding city and want the dusty dryness of the Desert Palace. I wanted motheaten tapestries. I wanted the screams of antlions. I wanted Black Mages. It was all gone for ever.
Madeen/, I said, lit up by sunset and loving nothing one dyed-red evening, /Madeen, did I go mad? Am I still mad? I want things I'm not supposed to want and I'm not sorry. I'm not. I just can't.
Eiko, he whispered, let me tell you about Madonna, and we touched again, and I forgave him, and he forgave me. Motherfather. Mog.
Nothing happened much, apart from the little day-to-days that make up the grind of life; I built my airships, and fixed my engines, and worked on coolant, and every so often I remembered to be a mother - Alun did most of that, thank God, and it's because of him that Vita only grew up very strange rather than absolutely nutters. (Alun had a wickedly dry sense of humour - I grew to love him, never like that/, but enough for us to coexist as peaceably as possible.) She was quiet, and she was old before her time, and impatient with things; she liked ruffly panties and dressing up, which only gave Zidane /mild heart attacks when he saw her come trotting round corners like a miniature panic. Cornelia adored her half to death, for which Vita was longsuffering; the people who were furthest apart were herself and I.
I loved her. I just didn't know how to touch her. She was a Black Mage from the day she was born, without ever needing to wear the blackface, without ever telling anyone; she once set fire to the curtains by accident and claimed candles, when she was six. (The only thing I was surprised about was that she'd been so clumsy. She was brilliant, sharp, not at all easy to find adorable. I sure as hell didn't.) I was twenty-seven.
I was Regent when I was thirty, taking on the role I'd never wanted, because my parents wanted a chance to finally retire. Vita was nine, and stranger than ever, as grown-up as a woman ten years older than me. Princess Vita. Queen Regent Eiko Fabool. I didn't know how the hell I got there; how my mind had let me; part of me was dancing out on the sand and would be forever, a part of me dead and gone, up there in the darkness of space. I had turned the world on its axis. I would never be the same.
"Mother," Vita said to me one morning, "mother, we're wasting time - we need to go to the Desert Palace."
(To describe the choking noises that ensued would be totally beside the point; just pretend I did and that they went on for ten pages, because my daughter needed to helpfully thump me on the back before they subsided. Nobody had ever told Vita - of it - of anything. Maybe Garnet had. /I hadn't/.)
(It was only later that I discovered one of her Eidolons was Queen Ashura, which explained a little, I suppose.)
"Please don't say boring things like 'why'," my daughter continued, patiently. "That'd be tiresome. I need to go; you need to come; I can't do it alone, I don't have the words to explain. It's been long enough, Mother."
I looked at her, all long pale hair, tail swishing like a cat's in the gaslight, calm and patient and totally alien; I took her in my arms and thought the wings will be coming soon and we left for the place where she had been - ostensibly - conceived. Zidane had offered to bomb the holy hell out of it for me, once. I'd thought of trees in a treeless land, and said no.
It was long past rain season. Bits of the roof had fallen in, now; the sand was going to wear the building down to rubble. The doors opened for barely a touch of Vita's hand; they swung open, as if inviting her home - inviting me home - and we walked past the long corridors near the docking-bay into the huge hot cathedral of the Grand Stairs. My eyes were full of ghosts. I couldn't even notice as she lead me, struck half dumb, a total idiot in the midst of her self-assurance. Our feet turned west; I looked at the ballroom that had been smashed; I looked at the bathroom with the window that couldn't be closed; she lead us on, surefooted, following a call, to the Black Mage Graveyard.
(I never asked how she did it. I don't think she would have told me. She had more Kuja in her than anything else, and it sounds cruel but she did, white-hot and fragile and slightly disdainful of anything that could not immediately keep up with her brainpattern. She was certainly bloody nothing like /me./)
"Vita," I whispered, "what have you brought us here for? You have ten seconds to tell me everything, and I don't want any of your lip, so make it good, you understand me?"
"Fulfilling a promise," she sighed, annoyed. "I should have done it years ago, but I didn't know how. Then I worked out if my body could do it, and it can; I haven't tried, but it can, I know it, I won't make a mistake."
"I don't know who you got your babbling from. Oh, wait. Yes, I do."
The trees were laden with their precious parcels, still strong and beautiful, flowers all around the feet as the roots drank greedily at the soil. Little Iifa trees. My daughter did not give me the chance to indulge in that nostalgia, that smell, that /buzz/. The air was thick with something like the promise of Mist; and there were lights, blue lights, and all Vita did was raise her hands. Her fingers were like conductor's batons; she waved them, as if bringing the first chord to earth, and there was song:
The souls of the Black Mages cracked.
(I was thirty. I think I aged twenty years in half a minute's worth of heartbeat.)
(I'm sorry I forgot, Vivi.)
The souls of the Black Mages cracked; bloomed; gave fruit; and then they shimmered and disappeared and the trees were alive with limbs, dripping with them, noise and breath and heartbeat as a full hundred prepubescent boys stretched their arms out on the limbs. Black Tango's promise, Black Tango's curse. They opened their mouths as one; took breath. (For the first time in her life, Vita Orunita laughed.)
All of them black-haired. All of them golden-eyed. All of them flesh. There was confused chattering; they swarmed out of their trees like bugs, like birds, like butterflies, the balance put back in black to white, all of them naked and pulling on coats and reaching for hats. They touched ground; a horde of them, looking at us, rather shy. Some of them were gangly; some of them were plump; all of them were different, like the seeds you scatter in your garden and come up wildflowers, slow dawning recognition and my daughter was laughing and -
(Oh, Vivi. I wish you could have seen this.)
(Rain ran to me. I was reborn.)
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