A/N: I wasn't going to write more to this, but I saw a doujinshi scan that made me HAVE TO do this. I actually have another few bits written to. Amarant is such a softie.
Night is falling and they are still way too far from Conde Petie for Amarant's liking. Eiko had since gotten off of his back – figuratively and literally, with much damage to the bounty hunter's image – and is now at the rear of the party again, yawning hugely and looking absolutely exhausted. Not like the rest of them aren't tired themselves, but she's the one who's been making it obvious.
Finally, Zidane waves a hand. "Alright, I guess we should set up camp. We're not going to make it through the pass tonight."
Eiko makes a content noise and they find a place near some huge boulders. Amarant rolls his eyes and immediately picks a spot far away from wherever the group is planning on setting up tents and being sociable. Just because he's decided to follow them and see what makes Zidane tick doesn't mean he has to be nice about it.
Steiner, Vivi, and Zidane set down their packs and immediately go through them to find the tent. Amarant's always been amazed at how compact people have made tents – you could fit four or five in one satchel if you had that many.
He raises his head again to look at the three, and it looks like the rust-bucket's going to pop a vein. "How could you have-"
"Steiner," Dagger sighs, sitting against the rock not too far from Amarant, who shifts into a meditative position. He figures, if he looks like he's intent on actually mediating or thinking, they'll leave him alone.
The knight clanks and Amarant feels his eye twitch. He's already gotten on the bounty hunter's nerves.
"We don't have a tent," Zidane shrugs, "No big deal. It's clear out, anyways. Help me find some wood for the fire, Rusty."
The two end up gathering more wood than anyone would possibly need for just one night's fire, and Amarant growls lowly as they set up the fire a little too close to him. Without the tents, the group will be spread out more. He won't be solitary, damn it.
They end up cooking random meat from Madain Sari – one smart thing about the brat is that she knows what she's doing when it comes to traveling – and eventually Dagger and Freya both end up falling asleep against the rock.
Amarant rolls his eyes and watches the four awake people sit around the fire. Zidane yawns and stretches. "Well, I guess we better decide who's going to take first watch."
Steiner doesn't immediately volunteer and Zidane looks confused by this, but Amarant doesn't even know the damned guy so he can't see why that's strange. "Amarant," the monkey finally calls, "Would you wake me up in a few hours?"
"You're giving me first shift."
"Basically, yeah. Is that okay?"
The two kids are sitting on the side of the fire closes to Amarant, and Zidane says, "Goodnight," before going to lay down kind of near Dagger but not close enough to earn any reproach from Steiner. The knight, too, eventually retires to sleep between the monkey and the princess, drawing a smirk from Amarant. The knight isn't stupid, then.
Vivi and Eiko are talking and then Eiko stands up, looking suddenly determined. Vivi looks scared and confused and so Amarant decides he should be careful – rightly so, because Eiko's now tromping over to him.
She leans down to try and look him in the eye – good luck, kid, that's why he wears his hair in his face – and gives him an obnoxiously young, big and toothy grin.
"Thank you, Ama-chan!"
His first response is, understandably, "You call me that one more time and I'm going to kill you," but then he thinks for a moment and asks, cautiously, "...For what?"
"For carrying me!" she exclaims. "Vivi said I should apologize, but why apologize when I didn't do any harm to anything?"
"You did harm to my reputation," the bounty hunter grumbles and leans back, closing his eyes. "Go to sleep, brat."
"But I'm not tired!" She frowns, kicking dirt up, "And the ground is all hard..."
"Go sleep next to Zidane, then," the hunter sighs, smirking when she makes a strangled squeaking noise.
"I don't want to!" she says.
Amarant opens an eye to find Vivi standing next to Eiko, only looking at her and trying to avoid his gaze. He frowns slightly – the kid is more powerful than he had expected and this worries him slightly. Kids shouldn't have power.
"E-Eiko, we should go leave him alone," the little mage says in a voice much quieter than Amarant's used to hearing from kids. Then again, he wonders if Vivi's even really a kid...
"Why?" Eiko asks, crossing her arms, "It's not like he can just go to sleep any time soon. He's got first watch."
"Do you even know what I'm watching out for?" Amarant asks, raising an eyebrow.
"...Well, no. Kuja?"
He snorts. "Monsters that will eat you, brat. Do you want to distract me so a monster comes up and eats you?"
"They wouldn't dare," Eiko insists. "I have Vivi here with me."
The little mage blushes and looks away.
"He'd kick their asses!"
"Eiko," Zidane groans from his side of the rock, "Please go to sleep. You were just saying how tired you were...
The girl sighs and looks around for a place to lay down.
"It's all hard," she whines quietly.
"Sleep on Amarant then," Zidane exclaims through a yawn, "We're all tired."
"Damn it, Tribal, don't give her any damned-"
Amarant's cut off mid-tirade as the girl nods and instantly flops into his lap as if he's a glorified recliner.
"Brat," he snarls, glaring at her viciously.
The girl looks at him, blinks, and then turns to Vivi. "Come on, Vivi! He's comfortable."
Amarant doesn't know exactly what he's feeling, but it definitely makes him want to kill something. He supposes that fact's written across his face, because the mage steps back and stares in wide-eyed fear.
"Ama-chan, stop scaring him," Eiko grumbles, punching him in the chest and leaving no mark whatsoever.
Amarant winces and then sighs. She's got her lower lip trembling again and he hates kids who cry, so he shakes his head and leans back against the rock, closing his eyes.
A few hours later, Zidane wakes up on his own, sitting up and stretching his arms, before standing and making his way to the near-dead fire. "Amarant?" he whispers into the dark.
"I just wanted to see if you were awake. Did Eiko go to sleep?"
"I'm going to murder you."
Zidane looks beyond the fire and sees Amarant with Eiko in his lap, Vivi sleeping against him. The blonde smiles and Amarant's surprised that there's no mockery in his expression. "You can go to sleep now," the monkey says to the bounty hunter, "I'll take my shift."
Amarant doesn't respond, instead looking down at the kid in his lap. She's a lot less annoying when she isn't talking.
If Lani could see him now...