|A Different Beat
Author: lanesa PM
it takes strength to find yourself. [zell]Rated: Fiction K+ - English - Chapters: 2 - Words: 6,005 - Reviews: 17 - Favs: 11 - Updated: 01-04-02 - Published: 01-03-02 - id: 527771
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
You gave me wings, and I reveled in flight.
As far back as he could remember, there had been Silas.
Stepping inside the cool entrance hall of the Dincht house for the very first time, Ma had taken firm hold of his small hand and led him to the man waiting patiently beside the coat rack.
"Grandpa Silas," she had told him surely, kindly.
And the tiny boy with wide blue eyes, tousled blonde hair, and patched clothes a size too big for him had glanced up solemnly at the burly old man whose feet were clad in shiny red sneakers. He had been intimidated at first, taking in the lean cords of muscle that bunched the man's arms, but as soon as he caught the sparkle in the warm grey eyes and the hint of a lopsided grin he knew he had finally found home.
Home. He'd never had a real home before. Before, he had thought home meant wind-blown shores and sheltered coves, weatherworn lighthouses and the echoes of children's laughter. But now—now home meant sunny Balamb piers and golden afternoons, playful salt breezes and cobbled alleys, cerulean skies and friendly-faced townsfolk. Home was Ma Dincht's home cooking, a cozy room of his own, and home was Grandpa Silas. Silas with his baggy clothes and red sneakers, the mischievous glint in his eye even with his age, his booming laughter, his jumps and spins and spunk and energy. How Silas would say his name, "Zell," and even though he was still merely a little boy he had swelled with pride. For Silas had a way that made Zell feel wanted and loved from the day he first came. It didn't matter that he wasn't related by blood and that Ma had adopted him, what mattered was that he had found complete love and acceptance for the first time in his life.
It was Silas who first taught him how to laugh. Not just giggling and chuckling, but real laughter.
"You can go through life in two ways," Silas had told a Zell rapt with curiosity. "You can take life with all its trials and tribulations seriously, carrying an eternal burden upon your shoulders, or—you can laugh your way through it. You can take life with lightheartedness."
Watching Silas with all his vivacity and exuberance, Zell had learned.
The day Zell came upon Silas's worn oak trunk was the day his life changed forever. Small hands running eagerly over fading paint, rusting brass clasps, splintered wood aged smooth, a quiet gasp of delight had escaped him as the cover sprang open. For inside lay a window to a time long past; untarnished by the dust of ages.
Stiff cargo jacket and pants neatly folded, polished black combat boots, metal tags hanging on a single chain, belt studded with bullets, row upon row of shiny, gleaming medals and badges. But the most wonderful treasure of all lay in the center—a wooden-barreled revolver, shining silver and gleaming metal illuminated in all its glory by golden rays of sunlight. Little boy hands had instinctively reached out to stroke it, but Silas had come in, and shaking his head affectionately he had taken the weapon away, gently reproving Zell: he wasn't old enough, not quite yet.
But Zell watched in wide-eyed wonder as Silas had taken the items out of the chest one by one, faraway nostalgia in his old grey eyes.
Medals were taken out, carefully polished once more by shirtsleeves; gnarled hands ran chinking through the bullet-studded belt; the revolver was held and cradled. A piece of parchment fluttered to the floor, and unable to resist, Zell picked it up, taking in at a glance the 5 number code and the untidy signature of Silas Dincht, underneath which was scrawled a insignia of what looked like a jagged black squiggle. It smelled of spice and time, of ages and ages hence, and Zell inhaled greedily.
"I was in the military…Garden," whispered words, almost to himself, as Silas softly fingered navy and cargo, brushed wrinkled hands over glinting medal. His eyes were quiet; memories of far-flung days and comrades long gone reflected in them. "…Some of the best years of my life."
As Silas knelt there, framed by golden dust motes swirling through rainbow tinted glass, he finally looked his age—old, tired, and wise beyond his years.
"Teach me how to fight, Silas—please." Thumb and forefinger extended perpendicular formed a mock gun, pointed in the direction of the lone fisherman sitting on the pier.
Bang, Bang, Bang. Zell cavorted around, giddy with wild dreams of starched uniforms, steel-toed boots, dog tag chains, polished rifles and revolvers.
Amusement sparked in the old man's eyes. "I'll teach you how to fight, all right. But there's no hurry." Met with a wide grin, he reached out to ruffle untidy blonde hair.
"Boy, when I get my first gun, Silas—" Zell was cut short as a strong hand covered his own small fist in a grip of iron. Suddenly Silas's eyes were the grey of steel: cold, hard, unrelenting; shining with distant determination.
"No. Not a gun." He crouched down until steely grey was eye-level with bright blue. "Zell, listen to me. You don't need a gun in battle. If there's one thing I've learned in this life it's that a person needs to depend upon himself in a fight. Not to rely on a weapon of any kind—but to rely on himself alone. Yes, I'll teach you how to fight. And though you're still young, and I hope to Hyne you won't have to experience the horror of warfare for many a long year yet, I will teach you how to fight with courage, with dignity, and with honor."
The little boy listened, and as he listened he saw the flash of sorrow, pain, pride and fierce joy that shone in grey eyes, all at once tumbled and rolled into one. And the boy wondered why, but more importantly, he wondered how.
Zell's education began on the day Silas first hung the beaten and battered punching bag in front of him.
"A punch, a kick, a spin—require grace, cadence, rhythm. Courage. Dignity. Honor. Remember that, Zell."
Puzzlement etching his features, Zell had looked to Silas. "What do you mean, Silas? I don't have the slightest clue what to do."
But the old man only produced a crooked smile as he melded into the background. "Don't worry. You'll see. You'll find your own dance, follow your own beat. You were born with it."
Zell drew near the punching bag warily, brow furrowed in concentration. What did Silas want him to do, exactly? Just start…hitting? He felt like such a fool.
But the bag seemed to call out to him, and reluctantly he let his arm swing out. The first hit stung his small fist and he recoiled, startled.
Courage. Dignity. Honor.
The words echoed in his mind, and with new resolve he began his dance.
Elbow tucked in, forearm perpendicular to shoulder, fingers curled tight; the blood pounding in his ears and the oh-so-satisfying thud that accompanied each blow manifested as a song, a beat, that only he could hear, and he moved his feet, his arms to the rhythm. A jump, a spin, and up kick and right whirl, back step, left fist fly, back leg forward, right fist to the side, bring it forward, up down, around, fly; thud thud smack smack.
Why, this wasn't so hard after all, for one strike led into another and all you had to do was kick, swing, step step; follow, follow the beat.
Time stopped, everything else in the world was merely a blur. There was only him, him and the bag in front of him. He came jolting back to the present only when a hand was placed on his shoulder and he spun around to look into the eyes of Silas, grey orbs burning with quiet satisfaction.
"I think that's enough for now, Zell."
Martial Arts. The word was foreign on Zell's tongue, but it soon did not matter, for as the days rushed by in a whirl of color and motion the art itself became a part of him, found its way into his very soul.
There were many more training sessions after that, too numerous to count as the months flashed by. Bitebugs and caterchipillars on the grassy knolls outside of Balamb, sparring with Silas upon the hills that dotted the Acauld Plains. As time went on and the little boy began to grow up he came into his own, watched always under the knowing gaze of Silas. There were no training manuals or instruction booklets, no instructors or classes; there were only Silas's presence and the beat that throbbed in Zell's ears. For he seemed to know already what to do, as he began his careful exploration of his own steps and agile twists and thrusts.
Then after each session there would always be special time with Silas, when Silas settled himself down in the wicker rocking chair and took Zell into his lap, where story after story was told of days long past in military academy; stories of recollected missions and remembered comradeships. Zell would listen wide-eyed with wonder at first, contented and happy in Silas's arms where nothing could go wrong, right before he drowsily fell into pleasant dreams to the lull of Silas's words.
Perhaps his carefree days with Silas were too good to last. Ma had always said that nothing lasts forever. But that didn't mean he wanted it to end. Forever stretched before them, infinite, and they had hardly even spent half of that time together yet. There was still so much time left to be spent together, so much time, and he wanted it back; wanted it all back.
But on that rainy morning when Zell was twelve, Silas was gone. Gone to a sleep from which there was no awakening, into a land of eternal rest.
"Zell, it's a natural part of life, there's nothing anyone can do about it. We just have to accept it and go on with our own lives. That's how Silas would have wanted it." Ma whispered soothingly to him as she cradled him against her.
Zell had buried his tear-streaked face deeper into the folds of her apron. "No Ma, it's not that. Silas didn't say goodbye, he didn't tell me he was leaving I thought we were always gonna be together I didn't know—" He took a shuddering breath as fresh sobs wracked him. "He didn't say goodbye to me."
Ma looked down upon the tousled hair of her son and wetness stung her own eyes. "Oh, Zell. He didn't need to say goodbye. He's not gone, not completely. Silas is still with you, he's in you."
Upon Zell's bed was a package. A package he knew, with merely a glance, that was from Silas. But it didn't stop Zell from running. He tore out of the house to the hill—the hill where he and Silas always trained upon, in a silent turmoil of rage and grief and helplessness, clutching the paper package to his chest. And the rain beat down upon him as his own tears eventually stopped and a hollow emptiness took its place.
As he tore open the package in a tumult of frustration out onto the muddy ground tumbled a pair of gloves—glinting metal, supple fabric; perfect in every way. He knelt down in quiet surprise, reaching out a finger to stroke the weapon, as a wave of images washed over him.
Silas with his flips and jumps broad grin deep chuckle the crinkles at his eyes when he smiled laughter that echoed as he knelt there with swirling dust motes looking into his trunk spunk and energy lightheartedness afternoons tucked warm into strong arms baggy clothes wisdom and energy red sneakers follow your own beat rhythm cadence dignity honor remember that zell wrinkled smiles callused hands…
…Zell clutched his head as a fresh wave of tears assaulted him and streaked their way down his cheeks.
It wasn't fair it didn't make sense why did he leave why did you leave me?
It was then he realized that he was still a child, after all. A little boy who was lost and didn't know what to do, trying vainly to grasp onto something that was rapidly slipping away.
As the afternoon crept away the sun finally broke through the clouds, its golden rays smiling upon the ground. Zell felt the light of the sun shining upon his tear-streaked face, bathing him in a warm caress, and far off, he thought he heard a deep laugh echoing through the land. Untangling himself from his curled-up position upon the grassy knoll, he reached over to where his gloves lay yet untouched. Slowly he sat up and pulled them on, ever so gently. He marveled at the way they spanned his knuckle, wrapping his hand securely but lithely bending as he flexed his fingers. He wondered how long Silas had saved these, where he had gotten them, these first pair of gloves.
A scrap of paper drifted to the ground from the opened package beside Zell, and he picked it up. On it was scrawled the same insignia of a jagged black lightning bolt he had once seen long ago, along with two words.
After a long while he finally stood up, looking over the rippling plains of Balamb spread before him. He remembered Silas, how he had been a proud fighter, a mighty warrior. He remembered his own dreams, long before, a youthful echo of Silas. And as he remembered, he Knew. Knew what to do, at long last.
Lifting his head, Zell faced the blanket of endless cerulean above him.
"Silas, I'm going to Garden."
A/N: Right…when I was writing this, I clearly wasn't thinking straight, because now I realize that Silas couldn't possibly have gone to Garden, for it couldn't have been established that long ago. But for the sake of this story, I ask my readers to kindly forget that one little fact and proceed with the story! ^_^ Otherwise I would have to rewrite the whole thing, and I don't think I would enjoy that much. So let's pretend that Garden is indeed old enough for Silas to have attended in his youth, shall we? This is part I of II; part II coming up soon! Reviews will be a much appreciated confidence-booster. ^_^