Freya awoke in a proper bed.
She knew it was a proper bed because it had pillows, and didn't smell like grass, and because there were no red strands of hair to tickle her face. Odd the things you begin to associate with your bed.
"Good morning, Freya."
She turned her head and blinked blearily at the person watching her, trying to sit up as she realized who it was. "Fratley? Where… where am I?"
"You're in Treno." His hand came out to brush a lock of hair away from her face. "You'll be pleased to know your name's been cleared. The Mayor made a formal apology to King Puck."
"Aah. That's a relief." Freya propped herself up against her pillows, taking a deep breath. There was still a little twinge from her ribs, but other than that, she had most likely been properly healed.
"Aye. I… I hope we can go back to Burmecia when you're ready," Fratley said awkwardly. "The city is in much need of us as the Dragon Knights, and King Puck said he would like to start the training again, so that we could have a legacy…"
"Burmecia," she breathed. Back to Burmecia. Rebuilding a city, all by herself, with the aching loneliness again of Fratley. Could she make it again?
She had to. But -
"I'll go back," she said quietly, and watched Fratley's face light up. "But not yet. Go back before me, and I'll come with you soon."
"What must you do first?"
Freya grinned to herself. "Make an offer."
He looked puzzled, but didn't question. "Are you sure you do not want me to travel with you - "
"Quite sure," she said firmly, then put her hand on his. "Fratley… we're not the same as we used to be."
He looked down and nodded, his voice almost a whisper. "I… know."
"I don't know whether you'll ever get all your memories back." She had to steel herself, or else her heart will break. "But I can't live waiting for that to happen. We can't both live waiting for that to happen. We have to live for the future, for the present."
"And your future… does not see me as a lover."
Her fingers tangled with his, her eyes burning fiercely. "I don't know what the future holds, Fratley. If it sees you as my lover, then I'll embrace it; if it does not, I'll embrace it still. However, I do know one thing it does see; I will always love you. Nothing can ever change that."
His voice trembled slightly now, their hands clasped. "I love you too, Freya, now and always. That is all… I ever need."
Freya smiled at him warmly, looking as if a great weight had been lifted from her shoulders. "My dear friend. Travel back to Burmecia and I promise I'll join you there later."
"As you wish, my lady."
"But first…" She pulled the covers back, smoothing her clean tunic down her front. "Where's Amarant? I need to talk to him."
Fratley steeled himself inwardly. "Uh… he's not here."
"What?" She spun around. "What do you mean? Is he in the city?"
"I don't know. He left after giving you to us at the place you hid."
She looked utterly aghast. "Where did he go?"
"I know not. He didn't say. He just left."
Freya issued a string of expletives that would have made the red-haired drahken proud, flinging on her leather jacket and breeches before cramming on her helmet.
"Freya, you're not well enough to go anywhere yet," Fratley protested as she viciously grabbed the Dragon Hair.
She ignored him and promptly strode out the room.
"Women," Fratley sighed, shaking his head.
Amarant Coral didn't give a damn about a lot of things. He quite pointedly didn't give a damn that he wouldn't be there to see Freya wake up. He didn't give a damn that he didn't give a damn about that situation either, and what's more, he didn't give a damn that he didn't give a damn that he didn't give a -
He sighed. Not giving a damn often gave him quite a headache.
He slumped down in the little clearing that he and Lani had camped out in so often, back against a tree. Even after walking for days, something was intricately wrong inside his head. He'd been more alone than this many times in his life; why the hell couldn't he cope?
Why did he even care?
Amarant rubbed his forehead. The first mistake he had made was to offer shelter for her when Rohgn came along. No, wait. His first mistake was to even look twice at her when he'd gone with Zidane. He'd l - liked her from the start.
Well, fuck that. Fuck Fratley, fuck Freya, and fuck him for being stupid enough to get involved in the first place!
He quietly pulled a shred of cloth out of his vest. It was a piece of the tunic she'd worn until it fell apart; Freya had washed it devoutly, but eventually it just fell into rags. It still smelt exactly like her, and of Aless, and if he closed his eyes he could still remember both -
"Damnit!" he howled. No! No no no!
Amarant heard the familiar crackle of footsteps on the leaves behind him, and folded his arms sullenly. No reason to appear anything other than what was normal in front of his partner. "You're fuckin' late, Lani," he grunted.
Crimson jacket and long spear slumped beside him tiredly as Freya shook her hair, taking off her helmet. "Sorry to disappoint," she said sardonically. "Only me."
"What the hell are you doing here?"
"Why, thank you. I'm utterly glad to see you too."
Amarant was at a complete loss for words. "How… where… how did you know where to get me, you stupid rat?"
"If I didn't know how to track you by now, I'd be a very poor dragoon." She was glaring at him, but her eyes were soft. "Now, why the hell did you run off on me?"
"Why should I have hung around?" he countered. "You don't need me any more, and I never needed you in the first place."
"Ah-ha." Her voice could have emanated from the Ice Cavern. "Pardon me for thinking you cared enough for me to be there when I woke up."
"You're a fool," the drahken said flatly. "I don't care."
"Look at me in the eyes and say that, Amarant."
He turned around and looked at her, and the words on his lips died. "Oh, fuck it," he said in defeat.
They sat in quiet silence for a little while, listening to the wind through the trees.
"What does it mean?" he asked abruptly.
"Pardon?" Freya asked, genuinely confused.
"What you called me back in Aless. Anam cara."
"Oh!" She blushed pinkly, then dug her hand inside her coat, carefully ripping out some of the brightly red lining. "Give me your hand. The one with the claw."
Confused, Amarant did so. Her claws deftly wound the cherry-coloured material around the metal base of his weapon, tying it tight enough so that it could not come apart.
"It means soul friend," Freya said quietly. "It means we're bound, intricately and tightly, just like the cloth I place on you now. You don't have a tail, so your weapon is the next best thing."
Amarant looked at the ragged yellow strip on her own tail. "That came from Fratley," he guessed.
"His old coat. Yes."
He looked at it for a long while, then the forlorn strip of red decorating his claws, before sighing and tugging off a long frayed piece from his own vest. "Here," he grumbled.
Her face lit up, and almost tenderly she interwove the dark green of it with the yellow, tucking and tying and pulling it tight.
There was another long silence.
"What're you going to do now?" Freya asked after a while, voice subdued.
"…Wait for Lani. I guess. I dunno where the hell she is…" An idea struck him. "Maybe she left a message or something." Amarant stood and dug his hand into the hollow tree they usually stuck their flimsy, digging around in the dank opening to see if his fingers struck paper. Eventually they did, and he brought it out.
'Dear Amarant! I guess it's my turn to be lucky in love and all that stuff eh? The nice
man I met has turned out to be the love of my life and I've decided to
get married to him. He's much older than I am, but he's in love with me
too and he's a doctor as well (read: loaded!) I can't be a bountyhunter any more. I
decided that here. I'm getting old and none of my family ever lived past
thirty anyway so maybe I can break it huh! Anyway, Jules and I are
engaged. I'll invite you to the wedding, not like you'd come anyway you
bastard. Come and see me some time in Treno okay? I'm very happy. Jules says I make him laugh. The best and most beautiful ex-bounty-hunter ever, Lani (Tot)!'
I guess it's my turn to be lucky in love and all that stuff eh? The nice man I met has turned out to be the love of my life and I've decided to get married to him. He's much older than I am, but he's in love with me too and he's a doctor as well (read: loaded!) I can't be a bountyhunter any more. I decided that here. I'm getting old and none of my family ever lived past thirty anyway so maybe I can break it huh! Anyway, Jules and I are engaged. I'll invite you to the wedding, not like you'd come anyway you bastard. Come and see me some time in Treno okay?
I'm very happy. Jules says I make him laugh.
The best and most beautiful ex-bounty-hunter ever, Lani (Tot)!'Amarant wordlessly handed the piece of paper to Freya. She scanned it down.
Then both of them doubled over and laughed until they cried.
After they had laid down on the ground and gotten over the phenomenon that the words 'Lani Tot' made them explode into sniggers, Freya rolled over and grinned at her comrade. "So now what are you going to do?"
The red-haired man sobered and looked up at the sky. "Shit. I dunno. Go back to bountyhuntering or something."
"You know what I mean."
She took a deep breath and sat up a little, bracing herself on her hands, looking down at his face. "You know… there's always another option."
"Sell my body to lonely ladies on the street?"
Freya burst into giggles at that thought, then smacked his shoulder gently. "Be serious, you idiot. No… I was wondering if… you'd like to come back to Burmecia with me."
That got his attention. "What?"
"Help me rebuild," she begged. "You could also help train the children. Hell, you're a legal Burmecian citizen - you were born in the mountains above the damn city, Amarant. I… I want to bring you back home."
"Why?" he demanded, sitting up to look at her. "I've never been wanted by anyone, Freya, why start now?"
"You know why!" she exploded, then sighed, both of them looking down. "I - I just - "
Amarant stopped her this time, placing one finger on her lips. "You don't need to say it," he said gruffly. "Gods know you shouldn't feel it, let alone say it. You're insane, woman."
"About as insane as you, anam cara."
Both lay back down again on the loam.
"So," Amarant started after a while. "Burmecia's bloody full of rain, isn't it?"
"Yes." She rolled over on her hip, suspicious. "Why?"
"No reason… just trying to get used to the thought of being damn soggy all the time."
Her heart leapt. "You're going to come with me?"
"Not like I have anything better to do, rat. Ow! Hey, get off me, woman! I'm only going for my own personal benefit! Not yours! Get off!"
The little area rang with the half-angry sounds of a drahken being hugged.
And when fate's road is chosen, what do you do?
Forget about it? Ignore it? Wander aimlessly away? Try to let fate play out once more with a more suitable ending?
Fate may write your destined path, but you get to write your own happy ending.
Life's odd that way.
To my brother and my nasty evil beta-reader, Piett, without whom I would not know the difference between a spear and a pike, and without whom this would have devolved long ago into an OOC lemon;
My lovely, lovely reviewers - Byrn, Sachiko, Nik, Celetina, Avery, Akakay, all of you cool amazing people, without whom I would have given this up long ago and gone back to playing with my FFIX dollies;
The characters themselves, who most probably wanted to go on strike many times after the inevitable screwups;
Rohgn: Can't hear you, basrii. Say it - hey, can I do this scene again? I haven't got the feel of the character. I just need more… time to meld…
Amarant: Oh, for fuck's sake… all you need to do is bloody foam at the mouth and look evil. What more feel do you need?
Rohgn: Bursts into tears Abuse, abuse, abuse! It's all I get! And Guardian can't spell my name right half the time! That's it! I'M GOING BACK TO MY TRAILER!
Freya: Am I so ugly?
Amarant: Probably… I just haven't looked yet.
Freya: Then maybe you should so we can clear the matter up!
Amarant: ...Mmmmmhmm. Nice rack. Now wiggle.
Me: HEY! That's not in the script!
Freya: What IS it with this fanfic and me being nude?
Amarant: Stop complaining and take one for the team!
The people on Uncreativity's forum, for helping me discuss the exact
nature of Amarant's skin colour and helping me celebrate Amarant
Butt-Appreciation Day (please don't ask); And you the reader, who has just taken the time and effort to read
this behemoth. I thank you from the bottom of my little heart! - Guardian
And you the reader, who has just taken the time and effort to read this behemoth. I thank you from the bottom of my little heart! - Guardian