Of Fortune, Friendship, Fate, and Fish
Summary: In which a talk of poetic symbolism while fishing leads to
something more for Amarant and Freya, and Steiner wins a bet.
Disclaimer: Heh...my previously forgotten disclaimer. I don't own them, and
they don't like me. As with most of the people I write about, they wish I
would just get a life and stop bloody well picking on them. They are, as
far as I know, owned by Squaresoft. Thank-you.
Notes: Wow! I'm uploading a whole, complete story all at once! [Checks her
own forehead for fever] At the same time, though, many things have remained
constant. In the grand tradition of my stories, this takes place at some
point that I don't think existed in the universe. All I know is that it's
intended to be before Memoria.
Oh, yes. And I know next to nothing about fishing, so I'm kind of just
putting in what sounds like it makes sense to me. I don't know if dried
worms can be used as bait; I just assumed. I apologize if I have offended
the delicate sensibilities of any great fishing gurus out there. :o)
As always, flames can be sent to email@example.com, or can simply be
left in the reviews. However, if your review contains a great deal of
profanity, or any unnecessary comments about my sexual habits, or those of
my mother, I would appreciate it if you sent them to me at my e-mail
I love mail. [Giggles]
And now, oooooooooooooooooooooon with the shooooooooooooooooow!!!
Part One: Fortune and Fish
It was late afternoon, that time of day when the sunlight turns pale and
clear, almost as though it has lost all enthusiasm and energy, and is
looking rather forward to turning in for the night, if the moon would just
hurry the hell up and rise already. If the day is especially warm, the
beating of this pale, yet intense heat down upon them can make people feel
drowsily as though they might also rather like to turn in for the evening.
This particular day was a very warm one, and Zidane Tribal was no exception
to the common mindset of people.
Yawning and stretching, he came to a stop.
"Okay, guys," he announced, glancing around the small clearing and tossing
his pack against a tree, "this looks like a good place to stop for the
"But, Zidane, it isn't even dark yet! It won't be for a few hours yet,"
Dagger protested half-heartedly, glancing superritiously about the
clearing. It was a cool, shady spot, about twelve or fourteen feet in
diameter, and surrounded by spruces, pines, and birches on all sides.
Nearby, the babbling of a small brook could be heard. 'It is a pretty
"We're stopping already? We could easily keep travelling a good two hours,"
Freya informed him dubiously, though lacking _very_ much enthusiasm.
"Yeah, I know we could, but...nah," the young man grinned. "It's a perfect
spot, and I think Eiko and Vivi are getting tired."
"We are not!" the little girl declared petulantly, tossing her pack into
the pile with the others, and then running to the small mage's aid as he
collapsed atop the pile.
"Come to think of it," Zidane continued, "we could all use the chance to
relax a bit."
"Relax!" scoffed Amarant, striding into the clearing and leaning against a
tree, crossing his arms. "I've half a mind to just keep going."
"I'm sure no one would mind if you did," Steiner assured him icily.
"Hey, enough, okay, guys?" Zidane pleaded. "Let's not start any fights."
"I was not the one starting a fight," the Knight of Pluto declared airily,
crossing his arms.
"Hmph!" Amarant replied eloquently, trying to cross his own, but finding
them already crossed. He pouted. Or would have, had it been less glaringly
out-of-character. Zidane shrugged.
"Okay, sure. Anyway." The young thief was rustling through the group's
packs. "Let's start handing out tasks. Dagger, you and I can get the fire
"Alrighty," the dark-haired girl replied, stifling a yawn.
"Vivi? Eiko? You two wanna go look for some berries?"
"Sure!" Eiko chirped brightly, taking Vivi by the hand and tugging him from
his less-than-comfortable repose on the pile of knapsacks.
"We're low on our food supply. I'd like to save it for some time when
there's nothing in the area to catch. There's plenty in this area. There's
a pond not far from here - about quarter of a mile that way - where there
are probably tons of fish. Amarant? Freya? You guys wanna go do that?"
Amarant shrugged and stalked off. Freya, with an impatient sigh, jogged
after him. Zidane raised an eyebrow. 'Hope that wasn't a mistake...' Aloud,
"Steiner, Quina, you guys wanna set up our bed-rolls and tents?"
"Okay, Zidane," Quina replied cheerfully. Steiner heaved a long sigh.
"Of course. Come along, Quina. Let us get started."
"Hey!" Freya called out to the red-haired man. "Wait!"
With a sigh, Amarant came to a halt.
"What?" he demanded impatiently, not turning around.
"Where are we going?"
"To get fish. Where'd you think?"
"...But isn't the pond that way?" she asked, pointing to the left.
"We aren't going to the pond."
"But I thought we were to be catching fish."
"We are. No fish in that pond, at least none bigger than my finger. Can
tell that by the location and depth."
"...So, then, where are we going?"
He pointed ahead, to where the trees thinned into a small stretch of flat
grassland, which then dropped off sharply into a rocky decline leading down
to an equally rocky shore. They walked on in silence until they reached the
"What are we using to fish with?"
He glanced at her.
"I found the fish. You make the fishing rods. That is, if you think you can
do it decently."
With that, he turned and darted down the hill. "Right," Freya murmured,
starting toward a large tree on the edge of the nearby forest. She stopped
beneath it, gazing up into the leafy canopy. 'Now, how does one go about
choosing a branch for a fishing rod?' Spying a branch about five feet long
and about the width of a carrot, she took hold of it and wrenched it from
the tree. She repeated the process with another relatively suitable branch,
and then took a spool of string from an inner pocket of her coat and wound
a length deftly about the end of each branch four or five times. She
chuckled; never let it be said that she could be caught unprepared. Picking
up the makeshift fishing rods, she strode back to the decline to the shore.
As she prepared to jump, a voice shouted up,
"Hey, rat, what the hell's taking so long?"
Rolling her eyes, she jumped from the top of the steep hill and landed
lightly on the sand next to Amarant.
"Here," she said, shoving one of the sticks at him. "Take your fishing
He eyed the stick warily.
"Eh, I suppose it'll serve the purpose well enough," he commented finally.
"If you've something to say about my craftsmanship, just say it!" she
requested mock-tearfully. He sighed.
"Sometimes I worry about you."
"Shut up and follow me."
Shaking her head, she followed. The sandy beach ended abruptly. 'Oh, won't
this be fun...' she thought, gazing warily at the widely-spread pile of
boulders that jutted up from it.
Five minutes later, she had discovered just how much fun this would not be.
The gods must, she decided, have been in a very sadistic mood when laying
out this rock bed. From up ahead, Amarant made an impatient noise.
"Hold on!" she called back severely, warily testing a boulder with her foot
to ensure its sturdiness. Finding it safe, she leapt to it and searched
around for another nearby. "Scrambling about on a pile of rocks isn't
exactly how I fill my days, and I would just as soon not break my neck by
trying to step on the wrong one."
"If it weren't so closed in here - " She glared balefully at the jagged
canopy of boulders above them, extending almost to the surface of the water
in most places. " - I could just jump, clear all of them at once, but."
"But if you tried to do that, you'd jump right into another rock, and I
don't think that helmet of yours breaks rocks," Amarant finished with a
chuckle. She halted and stared at him in mild surprise. 'I suppose the
mental image of me leaping right up into a rock and falling back down again
must be rather amusing.' As a ridiculously slapstick idea made itself
apparent, she laughed in spite of herself. Amarant turned around, gazing at
"Nothing," she assured him, scrambling onto a different boulder and
preparing to leap over to his. He stepped aside to give her room as she
landed. Her foot hit a patch of still-wet seaweed, and he shot out a hand
to steady her before she slid right off the rock, and narrowly avoided
being impaled by a fishing pole as she flailed.
"Careful," he warned solemnly as she struggled to regain her footing.
"Slippery here." She glared at the smirk that he was obviously fighting.
"I meant to do that."
"Yeah, I believe you," he assured her, then proceeding to climb down a
sudden sharp drop in the rock pile. Freya peered over the edge of the
boulder, carefully avoiding where the overhanging rocks almost touched said
edge; at the bottom, the rocks were set much closer to the water, about a
foot or so up from it. They could probably just fish from there. Amarant
misinterpreted the reason for her hesitation.
"You gonna need help getting down here?" he called.
"No, I'm fine," she declared, tossing her fishing pole down and beginning
to edge her way down the pile after it, blindly searching for a certain
handy-dandy shelf-like protrusion she had just seen while looking down.
"That drop's bigger'n you are; you aren't gonna find the shelf that way,"
the redhead informed her, arms crossed.
"Alright." She crawled back to the top of the pile, rolled over, and began
edging down on he stomach, then let go of the top to let herself fall.
"Of course..." Amarant mused with a hint of a grin, "that shelf's a bit
loose; you might want to avoid it altogether."
His words were quite muffled by the sound of rocks bouncing off of rocks
and tumbling to the ground, as well as by Freya's shriek of dismay as she,
too, bounced off of the rocks and tumbled to the ground.
Amarant knelt next to the pile of rocks and offered the dazed Burmecian a
"Did you mean to do that, too?"
"I didn't think that drop'd hurt you, or I'd have said something."
"Freya? You okay?"
A pause. Then...
"Hold on. I'm still trying to decide."
Her wry smile, however, told him that she wasn't hurt. She took his hand
and he pulled her to her feet. She glared at him.
"And stop laughing!"
"I'm not laughing."
"You're laughing inwardly."
"No, I'm not."
"Then stop smirking!"
"I'm not doing that, either."
"...Fine. Let's just go get fish."
"Heh...there's a line you can't use just anywhere."
She walked to water and sat cross-legged on the edge of the rock.
"Erm..." she began as Amarant sat down a couple feet away, "what do we use
And hooks, for that matter?"
"...You didn't get any worms or hooks?"
"...Was I supposed to?"
"It's part of the fishing pole, isn't it?"
She sighed. "I'll be back," she informed him, beginning to stand. He
stopped her with a hand on her shoulder.
"Don't worry about it. I thought you'd forget; I've got some crap."
"...That's fascinating, but what are we going to use to bait these fishing
He stared at her incredulously for a moment.
"...Are you drunk?"
"No! Why would you think that?"
".Never mind." He pulled a small canister from the small bag he carried.
Prying off the lid, he set it between them. "Just tie a piece of that wire
onto the string and stick one of these suckers on the end."
She peered into the canister, lifting an eyebrow.
"I didn't know that it was a common practise to dry worms."
"It is if you fish while you're travelling and haven't got time to always
be digging for bait. Do you know what happens when you put a can of fresh
worms in a bag that you're carrying around in the sun all the time?"
"No, but I'm guessing you do."
"Couldn't get the smell out. Had to burn the bag and get a new one."
"Ah. Fascinating. I would have thought that it was the movement of the worm
that attracted the fish. But then, I've never been a fish," she admitted,
delicately plucking a worm from the canister and threading the bit of wire
through it. He watched, amused.
"What? You afraid of bugs or something?"
"No!" she declared indignantly.
"You're such a _girl,_" he commented, smirking.
"Are _you_ drunk?"
"What, you mean you're not?"
"Of course I'm...what on earth are you talking about?"
"I don't know."
They both let the strings drop into the water, and sat in silence for a
time. The late afternoon had given way to early evening, and the light was
dimming, casting a purplish hue over the scene. The sun, preparing itself
to set, reflected off the water in a myriad of golds and pinks and oranges.
Gradually, the pile of fish between them grew as the supply of bait
dwindled. 'That's four, and they're pretty big...I'd say that's enough for
everyone,' Amarant reflected, mentally tallying up an estimate as to how
much everyone would eat. 'Eh, get a few more to be safe.'
Although he would have died the death before admitting it, he was glad now
that the group had stopped for the night. He was actually quite enjoying
the little fishing trip. The water at this time of day was, he reflected,
nice to look at, and the spot was a pleasant one: sheltered from stronger
winds, and nice and quiet. He was also, he conceded reluctantly, rather
glad that Zidane had sent Freya with him. He smirked. 'Better than being
sent with anyone else - she talks less.'
He watched her carefully. She had taken off her helmet and set it on the
rock beside her, and her hair - somewhere between white and silver, he
decided - swept over her shoulders, falling to the middle of her back,
stirred by a soft breeze sweeping in from over the water. His gaze lingered
for a moment on her eyes. The contrast of their bright green against the
white of her fur and the pale silver of her hair was startling. He smiled
'She's pretty nice to look at, too, once she takes off that damn hat and
stops trying to be intimidating...' He started in surprise as this thought
meandered its way through his mind, and looked away immediately, staring
out over the water. 'Where the hell did THAT come from?'
At the sound of a soft laugh, he shot her a questioning look.
"I was just waxing ridiculously poetic about the symbolism of climbing over
"...This is gonna give me a headache, isn't it?"
"I don't have to tell you..."
"Go ahead. I could use a good laugh."
"I'll thank you not to refer to my metaphor as 'a good laugh,' Mr. Coral."
He gave a wordless grunt, pulling the line from the water and baiting the
fishing hook again. She shot him a sideways glance.
"So, do you actually want to hear this?"
"Alright. I was just thinking that trying to get safely from one rock to
another is much like when one starts out on a new facet of life. It means
leaving behind something that you know is safe, but of course, you also
know you can't stay there forever."
"Be pretty boring to stay on the same rock for eternity."
"Not only that, but the tide comes in, and you get all wet."
"Erm...alright. Either way, a person must move on. You can try to step on
the next rock over, very lightly, testing it at first, making sure to keep
most of your weight on the safe rock, but this is no way to live.
Eventually, one must simply take the plunge and leap to the next rock.
Sometimes it is sturdy, and you may continue on with your life. Sometimes,
it isn't, it comes loose, and you fall off, landing somewhere you never
meant to be. So, in essence, it's all a matter of taking a leap of faith,
or clinging to the same rock for years because you know it's safe...what?"
She frowned in mock-offence at the sight of her friend's shoulders shaking
"I knew this'd be good for a laugh," Amarant finally said with a sigh.
"I told you it was ridiculous."
"And you were right. Although, ridiculous as it is, there may be something
"Please tell me you aren't serious."
"No, really. So many people are so bloody scared of change, the thought
gives them a nosebleed."
"I suppose that's true everyone at some point..."
"So they let themselves cling to things that they hate, or things that'll
never be able to make them happy."
"And they let it make them bitter because they're missing out on life, and
they don't know who to blame, because they're cheating themselves out of
living. And, of course, no one ever admits that they're the one behind
"Also true in some instances..." She shifted to turn back to the water,
puzzled. What was making him so vocal about his thoughts on this? He
"So eventually, they start blaming everyone else, and start pissing on
"What a lovely bit of imagery," Freya commented, wrinkling her nose. "But I
think you're a bit too hard on people. Not everyone is the cause of their
"Maybe not, but you choose how you deal with your problems," Amarant
"It can be a very difficult thing to deal well with some things," Freya
replied softly, looking down.
"Yeah, it can; it can also be incredibly damn simple."
"It can be difficult to know the difference."
"What's to know? If there's a place to move, you move."
"So, running from pain is better than remaining in a safe place?"
A silence. Amarant gazed thoughtfully at the water for a moment.
"They can mean doing the same thing sometimes."
"Look, Crescent, there's a difference between running from pain and moving
on with your life."
"So, what is the difference?"
"I don't know, but it's there."
"I'm afraid you'll have to back that up; I'm not quite sure what you mean.
I don't think you can simultaneously run away and refuse to move on."
He scowled at the vague hint of mockery in her tone, the first tendrils of
anger rising through him.
"Alright," he declared defiantly, "let's use you as an example."
She gazed at him, eyes narrowed. Her fishing pole, forgotten, slipped into
the water with a small sploosh.
He unwisely ignored her expression, and less wisely still continued with a
smirk, setting his own makeshift fishing rod aside, then turning to face
"That man of yours; how long have you been looking for him?"
She drew in a sharp breath, clenching her fists.
"Don't bring him up..."
"A long time, right? Four, five years? You spend all this time looking for
a man who left you on his own; why?"
"He had a reason..."
"I think it's because you're afraid to move on; you're afraid of being
"Afraid of being alone?" she repeated incredulously. "I've been alone for
these past years because I've been searching for him!"
"Yeah, but even if he isn't there, you still define who you are by him."
"I don't want to discuss this any longer," she choked out, hating the sound
of tears in her own voice.
"Tough," he shot back ruthlessly, suddenly furious. Furious with her for
willingly allowing herself to be hurt, with that man for bringing her pain,
and with himself for bringing it up, for deliberately going after raw
nerves...and, at the same time, for caring that his words made her eyes
grow dark with pain. He shook his head. "You asked. Deal with it. Now,
while you're running from the pain of being alone, you're chaining yourself
to a man who doesn't even remember you, a man who, for all you know,
doesn't want you chained to him and never really did. Maybe you don't want
to have to define who you are without him; or maybe you like having the
memory of a man better than you'd like a real one around, because that way,
you can have the relationship the way you want it."
"You are absolutely out of your mind! How do you claim to know anything
"Oh, I don't claim to know; I'm taking a guess. But if it's so crazy, why
are you so angry?"
"I'm angry because what you're saying is downright insulting!"
"And it's even more insulting because it struck a nerve? Hey, deny it all
you want. Maybe it is all crazy; I'm no psychic or head doctor. All I know
is you're afraid to move on; afraid you might fall."
"Please drop it."
"Why? Because it hurts?"
"Because I don't think you're in any place to talk. Because I want to know
what it is you're running from."
"What I'm running from?" he repeated tightly with a short bark of laughter.
She shivered, whether from the breeze of early evening or from the glare he
had fixed her with, she was unsure. She wrapped her arms around herself and
returned the gaze unblinkingly. For a moment, they were both silent.
Finally, he continued. "Well, it isn't the knowledge that I've spent the
last five years of my life searching for someone who can't even remember my
name, let alone ever loving me. Have you ever thought," he continued,
taking in her stricken expression, her eyes bright with unshed tears, with
a grim satisfaction, "that maybe there was another reason he left? If he
really loved you so much, why the hell didn't he take you with him?"
Freya sprang to her feet with a sharp gasp, sending the last hour's worth
of fishing skittering back into the water from whence it came. But of
course, what mattered fish at such a moment, when one was confronted with
the question that had lurked in one's mind for years? She tensed,
physically fighting back tears.
Taking in the mingled fury and anguish in her expression, Amarant wondered
it perhaps he'd gone a bit far, and braced himself against the inevitable
barrage of kicks and punches. None came. After a moment, he glanced up, a
voice at the back of his mind telling him that this was probably a foolish
thing to do; she might take the opportunity to go for the eyes...if she
could get to them through his hair. He needn't have worried; a quick glance
about him showed no sign of her.
'What the hell...?'
He peered about him more searchingly. Finally, he caught sight of a flash
of red scrambling from rock to rock at the top of the large pile.
'Huh...running away, eh, Crescent? Not the best way to make your point...'
He turned indifferently back to the water, pointedly ignoring the voice at
the back of his mind that whispered to him that upset people were not
careful people, and that she'd had enough trouble with those jagged, wobbly
rocks when she'd been calm.
'Not my problem.'
'But she could get hurt...'
'And why should I care?'
'You're the one who upset her.'
This gave him a moment of pause.
'And you know you're worried...'
'No, I'm not.'
'Oh, you know you're going to go look for her - why not just go now and
'I'm not going to look for her,' he thought with an air of finality.
Fifteen seconds later...
"I hate you," Amarant muttered aloud to the voice at the back of his mind,
hauling himself onto the top of the pile, carefully staying down to avoid
hitting his head on the rock canopy, which sloped down sharply to almost
meet the edge of the drop.
'Aww, thanks, punkin'!' it giggled, sounding, at that moment, oddly like
"Don't make me punch you," he growled darkly.
'Now, that would be rather self-destructive,' it giggled back impishly.
"Oh, shut up." He crawled beneath the overhanging rocks and then stood up
and glanced about.