'Curiosity killed the cat'
(but satisfaction brought him back)

Though she would never admit it to anyone, it fascinated her. Simply fascinated her.

And she couldn't think why, exactly, either. Gaia was inhabited by demi-beasts too, like Freya, but this was different, probably because everything was natural except that. Plus, it stuck out like a gem among stones, always moving, dusting the ground when he sat and swinging when he walked. Despite being incredibly unnatural, the thing suited him well.

She watched it swing from side to side, an unwitting tool for portraying unspoken emotion.

Suddenly, Zidane turned and Garnet quickly averted her eyes to the ground. She flicked them back to his but realised (with a sigh of relief) he wasn't looking at her but behind, azure gaze fixed on the countryside they were trekking through, slight frown marring his complexion. Scanning the environment for possible enemies. He looked intense, ready for anything.

Then he noticed her stare and threw her one of his stupid grins, obviously exuberant that she was looking at him instead of vice-versa, for a change. She returned his cheeky smirk with a wan smile and he turned back, apparently satisfied.

As soon as she was certain he wasn't looking again, her gaze slid back to what fascinated her so: his tail.

Strangely, when she first met him outside her chamber two months (an eternity) ago, it wasn't the first thing she noticed. As cliché as it sounds (and she would never admit this to anyone either) it was his eyes that struck her first. Unusually large and perpetually alight with aplomb, indiscreetly divulging emotions that most would attempt to hide. When he'd first approached she had witnessed a flirtatious sparkle (that had yet to dissipate and she wondered it ever would) and craftiness that made her instantly wary. Knowing what she did now, she recognised them as the eyes of a thief. But after getting to know him she saw within those depths an unyielding, heroic persistence that verged on recklessness, and a deep kindness she had yet to witness in another person.

Anyway, Garnet hadn't noticed his furry appendage until he had made her vow to kidnap her and was leading her into a different room. Trailing behind him she spotted his tail, thrashing back and forth with excitement, and nearly cried out. For an awful moment her thoughts flew to a story her father had told her as a child. The villain in said tale was a demon who wore the skins of human beings as a disguise while he carried out deceitful crimes, but one day, in a moment of recklessness, forgot to hide his tail, and thus was discovered.

It sounds positively awful thinking back, that she had initially likened Zidane to a demon. She had watched it, half scared and half intrigued, as it whipped the air, seeming to move on its own accord. At first she had wanted to shout: "You have a tail!" but thought that would be rather impolite and gauche, and he probably knew anyway, so she kept that little gem to herself.

Zidane never mentioned it, but then why should he? People don't suddenly bring up their arms and legs in daily conversation, and she was sure Zidane viewed his unusual asset as nothing but another limb. Besides, back when she'd first met him she'd yet to see the world. Perhaps somewhere it was normal to have a tail? She didn't want to seem ignorant, so simply didn't ask.

But now she had crossed most of Gaia and was yet to meet someone of human appearance with such an extraordinary extremity.

And this only fanned the flame of her fascination.

When she was positive -absolutely positive - no one was looking, especially Zidane - for being caught staring was most discourteous - she would contently watch its erratic habits with unquenchable interest. Her mother had owned a cat once, and it seemed to display all the traits the cats' had. When he was angry or agitated it thrashed and twitched. When he was sleeping it curled along his thigh, motionless. When he was happy it twitched delightedly and when he was thinking it was content to swing its lazy course side to side.

Like it was doing now.

Suddenly (but not for the first time) an inexplicable urge to reach out and touch it sifted to the forefront of her desires. It was swaying hypnotically a metre or so in front of her. Tantalising. Beckoning.

Garnet shook her head. She couldn't just reach out and touch it! She wouldn't reach out and impartially stroke his arm so why would a tail differ?

She sighed and reluctantly dropped her gaze to the grass beneath her feet. They were currently trekking across a plain so vast the cloud's shadows could be seen ghosting across the green surface, thick blots of grey sliding across the landscape like boats on smooth seas. The sun was bright in the sky but it was blessedly cool. Said variables made for perfect strolling conditions - aside from the occasional interruption of roaming monsters.

Garnet was currently tagging behind their small crowd. Steiner usually wouldn't allow her to fall behind but the plains were flat so they could see and hear anything coming by quite a distance. Eiko was skipping ahead picking wild flowers and adorning her hair, Freya lost in thought behind, Amarant a distance apart (loner as ever), Quina somewhere nearby and Zidane and Steiner not far in front of the princess. She could hear their gentle tread on the earth and the distant call of birds.

Her eyes flitted up and were inevitably drawn to Zidane's tail again, still waving idly back and forth like a furry metronome.

She recalled the only time she'd seen him use his tail for anything productive. It had been pure luck that she caught it, when they were seated around a campfire. She hadn't been watching him particularly, had just glanced at him once or twice to find he was sharpening one of his daggers. His brow was furrowed with concentration as he expertly slid the blade along a flat rock he'd found, sparks bouncing off the weapon like soldiers abandoning ship. By chance, she looked up in time to witness his tail curl around the hilt of his other dagger, lift it clean off the ground while he was sheathing the sharpened one, then hand it to him, before thumping back onto the dusty earth and twitching away.

For a moment she had simply remained motionless and lost in a stupor of amazement, slight revulsion and admiration. From then on the appendage ceased being likened to cats' in her mind, and more to a monkey's. Cat's tails definitely weren't strong or agile enough to pick things as heavy as weapons up. Well, she hadn't seen a monkey do that either, but she knew their tails were burly enough to support their weight from tree limbs. Maybe because Zidane had the intellect of a human (though Steiner would brusquely disagree) meant he could meticulously manipulate its actions.

She continued to scrutinise the tail. Its fur was a dusky blonde (a shade darker than the hair of his head) and didn't look particularly luscious. It was thick and coarse, probably not smooth and silky like she'd presumed before closer inspection (when he had been sitting in front of her, attention elsewhere) proved otherwise. This didn't perturb her desire to touch it, though.

Garnet watched with unabated interest the passage of the furry limb until she simply couldn't resist any longer. Gaze flicking side to side, she made sure no one was watching, then slowly extended her arm, heart thumping in her chest.

Then a thought came to her. What if he turned and found her fixedly staring at his behind with her arm outstretched?

She barely managed to swallow an inappropriate snicker and failed to prevent the blush from creeping into her complexion.

Still, she didn't lower her arm and now her fingers were tantalisingly close the tip of his tail. She prayed to the eidolons that no one witnessed this. There was something perverse about the whole thing but she simply couldn't resist and gave a sudden lurch forward.

Her fingers brushed the very end of his tail. It twitched violently, then resumed its normal path. He either hadn't noticed or mistook the feathery touch for an insect, because he showed no sign of being disturbed.

She bit down a giggle and considered doing it again. If she did it a second time would he notice? Would he turn around? What would she do then? Perhaps it was safer just to leave the subject - and the tail - well alone.

But it was still alluringly close and now she was getting all giggly and silly.

Suddenly dizzy with inexplicable confidence she leaned forward and instead of skimming the end of his tail, slid her fingers along a large portion of the length.

Zidane lurched a little and spun round, scratching his behind. Garnet nearly walked into him and feigned a look of mild surprise and indignation.

"Hey!" she said. "Be careful, Zidane!"

The thief didn't move and stuck his bottom lip out, frowning. He looked so confused that it took all her resolve to prevent the burst of laughter from escaping her lips.

"Oh… um, sorry," he said finally. "I just thought… never mind."

"What are you saying to the princess, you rapscallion?" Steiner's voice boomed from nearby.

Garnet waved a hand dismissively. "Nothing! It's nothing!"

Zidane resumed walking but beside Garnet instead of in front of her, much to latter's dismay. The princess sighed and stared at the grass crunching pleasantly beneath her feet.

She had been right; his tail was coarse like horse hair and she had an inkling that it would be firm, wiry, muscular. Not like a cat's tail at all, but more dexterous than a monkey's. Unique.

Garnet wanted to spare him a fugitive glance, but wagered it wouldn't be so fugitive because he'd notice immediately. However, she did mange to study him out the corner of her eye and he seemed unfazed.

They walked in comfortable silence.

Still, the playfulness - a trait she so rarely displayed and it was probably thanks to Zidane that it was showing at all - still hadn't left her system and she longed, now, to find out whether it was as strong and muscular as she assumed.

She waited a few more minutes until his suspicion (if there was any) faded before feigning interest in a cluster of flowers at her feet. She dropped to her knees and, as she had hoped, Zidane carried on walking, casting nothing but a glance of mild interest. She smirked jubilantly to her herself and stood up, reclaiming her position behind him, but slyly this time, thoroughly enjoying her little game.

His tail had resumed its casual sway and she felt a mischievous smile tug her lips. Making sure no one was looking again, she darted forward and fully grabbed the end of his tail.

This time, Zidane released a high-pitched, unmanly yelp, skidding to a stop. She felt the hairs stir beneath her palm and realised that his entire tail had bristled like the branch of a pine tree. She let out a childish giggle before quickly releasing the appendage from grasp.

Zidane turned so violently for a terrifying moment she thought he was inclined to strike her, but thankfully misjudged the severity of his reaction. He glared fiercely instead, rubbing the base of his tail and shouting: "What the hell, Dagger?!"

She blinked up at him guilelessly, biting her lip in an attempt to appear innocent though truthfully it helped prevent the impish grin perking her lips from spreading further and revealing her delight.

Zidane seemed anything but delighted, however, and he was no fool. She had undoubtedly grabbed his tail and obviously wasn't about to admit it and was poorly attempting to mask her glee with a confounded innocent expression that infuriatingly made his anger ebb away into slight irritation and confusion.

"Ho!?" Steiner bellowed, suddenly alert to this situation. "What goes there?! What are you doing to the princess now, you heathen?!"

Freya snickered. "Can't we leave you alone with the princess for two seconds?"

Zidane's jaw dropped and he peered round, obviously offended by the incorrect accusations thrown at him. "B-but…!"

And now Garnet was getting embarrassed. He'd tell them what she'd done and goodness knows what they'd think of her! She could feel the blush spreading already!

Zidane cast her another questioning look and sighed, defeated. "Nothing. Dagger accidentally stepped on my ankle."

Garnet perked up, elated and surprised at once.

"Well, firstly, there's no need to make such a fuss! Secondly, the princess is not to have abuse thrown at her like some common wench, is that understood? And thirdly -"

"Alright, Steiner," Garnet coaxed, pulling him away, ashamed that Zidane should bear admonishment for her behaviour. "That's enough."

She ambled away, too embarrassed to risk another glance in Zidane's direction, and continued the trek beside Steiner.

The feel of his fur lingered upon her fingertips. She had undoubtedly discerned the muscle beneath the coat, hinting at a strength he rarely paraded. She entwined her hands behind her back, a mischievous smile splitting her fingers, and imagined Zidane's tail twitching with irritation when he noticed her satisfied expression.

Hee, hee, I'd had this batting around in my head for some time. Man, I write too many of these fluff, drabble thingys. But the possibilities are endless! I wish I knew someone with a tail lol. I might do a second more… um… intimate chapter, if you know what I mean ;) If people like this chapter, that is! You know what to do!