Filling In The Blanks
Disclaimer: I don't own Final Fantasy IX or any of its characters.
Chapter 74: Feeling For You
"What's wrong, Love?" Fratley leaned against Freya as they sat comfortably on the bed in the inn. A few birds cocked their heads and chirped, sitting on the wooden windowsill, as though coaxing an answer out of the Bermecian.
She sighed, brushing her long fingers through her silvery hair. Her hat and jacket had been abandoned uncharacteristically on the floor, her boots not making it much further. She lounged in her white, sleeveless blouse and gold colored pants, more at ease than she'd been since before arriving in Dali last year.
Fratley had taken off his jacket, hanging it on the hook behind the door, while he leaned both of their weapons against the dresser directly across from them. His boots were next to Freya's – her state of stress more important than his tidy nature.
"I cannot stop thinking of this Visionary Cotex spoke of…"
"Why do you bother yourself with such details?" He asked, that poker-face grin back on his face like it had been earlier in the day.
"Do not pretend you do not know that their story is laced with lies."
"But why lie? We are no one to impress?"
"You know very well we are more impressive company than the others they have come across as of late," she snapped at him in irritation. When he answered her with an unreadable expression she sighed, running her hands again through her hair.
"Freya, does it matter if they pride themselves on this subject?"
"Yes," she insisted, her shoulders slumping forward, "they tend to leave out the most important part of the story…"
He chewed his lip for a moment, unsure if he should comment on her statement or not. He knew there was more to her mood than he originally thought, but he really hadn't any idea this Kalipso troubled her so much.
"Please explain it to me, Love."
She sighed, glancing out the window before pushing off the bed, leaving Fratley staring at her back. She clutched the branch that made up their windowsill and leaned out, resting her chin in her palms. Her blue eyes cast out on the pond that quickly led into the waterfall. Cleyra used to be such an enchantment to her as a child… Why now did it disgust her so much?
"You did not know my mother…" She mumbled as the start of her story.
He shot up straight, his eyes frighteningly surprised. "Your mother?" He parroted with confusion.
"I know the name Kalipso," she said again, and he narrowed his eyes. She was speaking in similar riddles as Cotex earlier in the day.
Both of them knew very clearly, the story of the Visionaries, but while Fratley commented on the authenticity of it many times during the day, Freya hadn't said one word, and was completely for avoiding the subject altogether.
She turned to her fiancé with carefully guarded eyes. That troubled him the most. The woman had always been extremely shielded, ever since he'd met her, but over the years Fratley had become her confidant on top of her friend and lover, so what he saw was a tender Bermecian with a rough exterior, with both positive and negative opinions on things that others couldn't seem to fathom about her. To see those walls go up around him pricked his nerves into more alertness than he could remember from any battle.
"How?" He probed in a whisper. Mirroring her earlier movements, he wound his arms around her waist from behind, breathing in the scent from her hair. She, however, didn't relax into his arms as he thought she would, so he stepped to the side, leaning out the window with her.
"She was my mother's –" Just as Freya seemed ready to plunge into her story, the door burst open as Steiner stomped in.
"Steiner?" Fratley asked after a brief and silent communication with Freya that they would finish later. "What is the matter?"
"You seem to be quite popular around here, Fratley!" He crossed his arms, an angry expression flitting across his face.
Both Bermecians raised an eyebrow, "Oh?"
"The people of Cleyra clearly do not wish to hear all of Steiner's pre-war stories about the notorious Pluto Knights," Beatrix answered, snickering as she walked in the door. She flicked her hair over her shoulder and crossed her arms, sticking her hip out to the side. "Steiner doesn't like competition and Fratley, you give plenty of it…"
The latter gave a bellowing laugh as he pushed off of the windowsill. "You are truly a delight, Steiner!" He called out in a loud chuckle. "Some good old friendly competition!" He offered, and ignored the man when he glared.
Beatrix let out a small chuckle before finally noticing the proximity of the two Bermecians and Fratley's hovering stance. A blush threatened to overtake her face as she stood rigid. "Steiner, perhaps we should find Dagger…"
"We just got here –" he started, but she crossed her arms and raised an eyebrow at him.
"Don't tell me you're whining about being tired… You've been too pampered lately."
"Me?! How about you?!" He stormed over to her, his expression perplexed. "I recall you didn't even have to wear armor in Lindblum –" She glanced at the two Bermecians and winked, shuffling backwards and away from the howling man.
"You're getting fat Steiner," she snickered, knowing that he would take the bait and follow her for the next couple of hours demanding an explanation she didn't have, and would never give him.
"Fat?!" He roared, bewilderment taking over his body. His normally creaky footsteps boomed across the floor, rapidly closing the distance between the two of them. "Beatrix, how could you say such a thing to me?! After all that we've been through!" It sounded like he was about to go spouting off about their entire relationship and rivalry from the beginning, and for a moment, Freya felt bad that Beatrix realized their situation and took on the chore of getting Steiner away from the premises.
Fratley stared after them with an amused expression on his face. "That woman will never hear the end of his ramblings…"
"I almost feel bad…" Freya sighed, a smirk creeping onto her face.
"Almost?" He chimed with a playful ring.
She let out a low chuckle; that comical situation suddenly put her in a more relaxed mood than she'd anticipated. "Almost…"
"Freya, Love…" He started, turning towards her and cupping her face in his hands. He brushed her bangs from her face, slipping the loose hair behind her ear before leaning his forehead against hers. "You are my everything…"
She let on a ghost of a smile and wrapped her arms around him tightly. "I am glad we are together…" She murmured to him, before looking up at him and planting a kiss on his lips.
"When this war is over… we are going to have a life together that was worth the wait…" He whispered to her, a dazzling smile curling on his lips.
"My dear Fratley," she let out a breathy laugh, so light it sounded like a sigh. "We already have a life together, that I would not trade for all the peace in the world."
He chuckled, "The knight is leaving you," he raised an eyebrow. "You are going soft, Freya."
It was her turn to flick on the charming smile, and she poked him lightly in the chest, the superior air of collectiveness never leaving her, "I simply decided I love you more."
"What took you damn brats so long?!" Baku barked, sending a glare at the two who slowed when they descended upon the group. "If you were having sex in that camp I swear –"
"Ew!" Cinna slapped his hands over his ears, "Too much, Baku!" He yelled at their leader. "That's disgusting!"
"Just because it's never happened to you," Marcus commented off-handedly. Cinna stared dumbfounded at the other Tantalus thief.
"Are you guys going to let him talk to me like that?!" He demanded of his team.
"Yup," Baku said, turning around. From the lack of response to his lame joke, he realized something must have happened to the reserved couple that they didn't want to discuss right now, and he would respect that. "Let's go a move on – we're almost there…"
They followed the mountains for the next few hours, walking at a slower pace than any of them would have suspected. Their boss decided that all of them were tired – especially Vivi, who had fallen asleep waiting for Blank and Ruby – and didn't want to drain them completely before they got to Treno.
Talk was limited, and Baku allowed an hour break for rest. Only Zidane and Zenero stayed awake through the whole rest – the Tantalus leader found even himself dozing off after only a few minutes.
By the time the sun peaked over the horizon, a light festering in the northeast where the mountains were lower, they saw the artificial light disappearing in the air. The faint glow of spotlights tinted the brightening sky, while closer to the ground, still dark, were a million flashing lights and flickering movements. The closer they got to the city, the louder music wafted through the air.
"The City that Never Sleeps…" Cinna murmured, wonderment, even after all these years, still entering his tone.
"This must be Treno," Zidane pointed out numbly. He vaguely remembered the sights and sounds from outside the city; the blonde figured he'd have a few blasts from the past when they finally entered.
Blank chewed on his lip until he tasted copper in his mouth. He knew he wasn't the only one who recalled the painful panic from the last time they were in this city. An out of breath Blank had reached Tantalus after the sun had set, tears in his vision. Nobody could understand him for at least five minutes until he finally screamed that a creature had taken Zidane. After that, nobody needed to hear the rest of the story until later, after they had panicked and searched for him until the city succumbed to the next morning's light.
His eyes slid uneasily to Marcus, who moved forward with his hands shoved angrily into his pockets. So he wasn't the only one angry that Zidane was going back to that place either. He rubbed his tired eyes, knowing that being in a terrible mood when they entered the city wouldn't help them at all.
Zidane was nearly oblivious to the tight feelings of those around him. A grin was unconsciously taking over his face – the life from the bustling city too infectious to ignore. A little more bounce spruced up his step, and impatience was starting to grip him. But as his excitement rose the closer they got to Treno, the more the blonde realized that nobody else shared his enthusiasm.
"Okay, I'll bite," he broke the nearly hour-long silence (besides a comment here or there), "Why does everyone look like they're attending a funeral?"
He had spun around, walking backwards with nimble grace so he could see the expressions everyone wore when he asked. Ruby seemed so far gone in her own little world, that nothing he said would bring her back, but the others' reactions were the same.
Their faces blanched, and all of them slowed, eyes widening, like they seriously didn't know why Zidane was asking the question he was. Marcus and Blank huffed, tearing their gaze away like the genome had personally offended them, while Zenero mournfully closed his eyes, too tired to deal with the conflict of the question. Cinna walked ahead of him, so he didn't get a chance to see his face.
Baku stumbled in front of them, tripping clumsily over himself and almost face-planting into the grass. Luckily, everyone missed his over-step, so he turned around, forcefully stopping their trek forward.
"Are you fucking joking?"
Zidane jumped back, blinking.
"You little asshole! You might have been back for a year and a half now, but you are still a fucking idiot!"
The blonde sported a look of offense, as he glared at his leader. "What the hell is that supposed to mean?"
"We lost you in Treno," Marcus commented, much calmer than Baku. "You remember being taken away by that thing… Treno is where it happened."
The blonde suddenly realized why his funeral comment might not have been the best way to phrase the mood, and heat rose to his cheeks. He scratched the back of his head and shrunk down a little, eyes averting to the ground. With a bow of his head, his eyes flickered back to his team with a sheepish spark.
"Guys… I'm sorry I –"
"Let's just keep moving," Cinna suggested quietly, pointing towards the city. For the first time in a long time, he wore a look of maturity far superior to the rest of them. For the first time, Zidane got a glimpse of what the thief had been like after he'd been abducted.
A sinking feeling knotted up his gut, feeling more like an anchor than dread. Realizing he set the mood lower than it had been before, he turned without another word, submissively following Cinna, his previous mood about the city slandered.
"Papa, what's going on…" Her soprano voice was laced with sadness, confusion flitting over her face. "Where's Mama?"
He squeezed her long hand, glancing down at his daughter. His pointed ears swiveled back and forth as he listened to what was going on inside their house. Rain continued to pelt down over them, and he pulled his daughter close in an attempt to shield her from the large, icy drops. She'd been sick for the last week – much like her mother had been – and he didn't want her falling more ill than she already was.
The tall, lopsided buildings of Bermecia towered over him, and he had to turn away from the sudden light that illuminated the house.
"Is our house okay, Papa?" She asked, curiosity threading through her tone. "What's that light?"
"Hush, Freya…" He pleaded with her quietly, still clutching the small child like a lifeline, hoping that if he held her close enough, she wouldn't ever disappear. She wouldn't go the same way his wife did.
She was silent for a few minutes as shouts erupted from inside the building, until she began to squirm. He held onto her tightly as lightning flashed above them, the skies crying for the loss of one of its beautiful creatures.
He watched on, trying to be brave for his only daughter, as soldiers started filing out of the house. A group held a casket-type box, the wood gleaming beautifully in the rain. He knew on the inside, it was his wife, and that he would never have the courage to tell his daughter that her dead mother passed right by her that day.
Out next came a Bermecian around the same age as his late wife, long silvery hair falling down over her shoulders, the red and white Kimono she wore sliding across the slick grass.
"Auntie!" His daughter yelped, running forward and clutching her leg tightly.
"Kalipso…" Her father spoke her name with so much bitterness, the woman stepped back.
"Will Freya still be okay here? I have other duties I must attend to now…"
He didn't answer, so she proceeded to talk to the child lovingly for a moment, before peeling her off and making her exit from the yard.
"Do not walk away like you did not just steal the soul of another!" He yelled furiously at her.
Kalipso wheeled around, her young eyes shining with determination and an air of superiority she hadn't had when she entered the house. "Francesca was dying, you fool… Do you not see that her Visionary Powers were hurting her as she died? Would you not want her to pass seeing her husband and daughter – not visions of the future that she would never really see?!"
"Do not pretend like you are not happy," he grumbled at her with hatred. Freya glanced back and forth between the two adults, confused. "Do not pretend you are not excited that you got Francesca's visionary powers! Do not ever forget that you were not born a Visionary, but you stole it from your own sister!"
"She could not die so young," Kalipso explained, folding her hands together against her chest. The kimono made her look like a doll. "A visionary must live on until a descendant takes her place… They could not have her die without a replacement, so they gave the power to me."
"But you desired it… You desired it so much, you were willing to sit in the same room as your own sister – suffering from a sickness, just so you could gain her power and status and move it to Cleyra!."
"Do not be ridiculous," she scoffed, "Nothing you say will change that it was right for Cleyra and Bermecia."
"But it was not right for your family…" He growled, eyes locked on her though he didn't dare move a step.
"I shall be leaving for Cleyra tomorrow. If you do not have enough wits about you to take care of dear Freya, still so young, send her with me."
"You will not take my daughter from me as well!"
"As you wish…" She answered, before she strode away into the mist.
Freya watched on as her aunt left, confusion still coursing through her body. Her father broke down, falling to his knees and sobbing. She wrung at her hands, unsure of what to do. "Where's Mama?" She whispered, though her voice was swallowed by the loud crackle of thunder above her.
Freya awoke with fright some hours later. The moon was shining into the makeshift window, creatures chirping merrily in the calm night.
Stretching out her long limbs, she realized Fratley had abandoned the bed, opting out for the lounging chair diagonal from the bed. With a light smile tracing her lips she sat up, flicking the hair from her face. He was curled around himself – so uncharacteristic of a long Bermecian like him, and yet so characteristic of Fratley. During many times they'd spent together, she found him curled up, instead of utilizing the space around him.
With a jolt, she realized that the dream of her past she'd just had, she hadn't shared with her fiancé yet. Did he still want to know? Of course… He always wanted to know when things were bothering Freya.
In the dim, silver lighting of the room, she stood up and tiptoed to the window. Poking her head out, she saw Dagger and Beatrix talking in the grass just in front of the inn, Steiner and Quina nowhere to be found.
It must still be early… She thought to herself before turning around. Debating waking Fratley, she decided he needed his sleep more than he needed to know this particular piece of her past. For now, she would let him slumber, and told herself later, she would be sure to let him know what was going on…
"Did you have a fun first day in Cleyra?" Beatrix asked conversationally.
"It feels like a vacation almost," Dagger let on a grin, even though she knew Beatrix wanted to talk to her about other things. "Things are very relaxed here," she stole a glance at the brunette, "something we don't see a lot of anywhere else."
The older knight nodded, before leaning back on her hands and looking up at the stars. "It is strange being able to see the stars," she said again, "I am hoping all of our teammates are seeing much of the same."
Dagger thought about Treno. While she'd never actually been there, she'd heard about all of the luxurious places, blasting music, and bright lights. She doubted, if Tantalus had made it there already, that they'd be looking at the same sky.
The teenager sighed, knowing that it was time for the conversation to come. "Yes?"
"What happened with you and Zidane before we left the marsh?"
She clutched her hands around her knees a little tighter, and chewed on her lip. "Well… I guess I don't really understand it myself…" A sad expression swept across her porcelain face as she stared at the woman next to her. "He told me to move on, and forget about him." Squeezing her eyes shut, she urged the tears away. But luck was never quite enough on her side, and the first few spilled down her cheeks.
Beatrix's eyebrows knitted together with concern. The girl was obviously hurting – no matter how relaxing the wavering grass was, or the moonlight sky illuminated their surroundings in an almost heavenly glow – it wasn't going to stop until she could make the blonde thief explain.
"But why would he do that to me? Why would he tell me he's in love with me, only to explain that I should let him go?"
"He doesn't want you hurting, Dagger… You should know that more than anyone else."
"Doesn't he realize that I'm just as hurt, and would be just as broken if he were to die?" The words sounded harsh to both of them, and the raven couldn't stop the tears from falling now. Curling up tighter than she'd been before, she tried to push her problems away from her.
For her entire life, Dagger had addressed any problem that came at her with a very diplomatic and mature view. But when it suddenly came to her own heart, and the bit of happiness she had managed to snag in the harsh years of war that surrounded her and her people, she didn't want it. She would avoid the problem at all cost, until, like it had that morning in the marsh, it hit her square in the face.
"You know Zidane…" Beatrix shrugged, trying not to sound bitter about the boy. Though she and Steiner had agreed that not being together would be for the best – no matter what – Zidane was an idiot. They had gone too deep to back out now, and she didn't like that he was hurting Dagger so badly… Especially since they had a long, torn road ahead of them before Tantalus and the Elite group would meet up again. "He's always insisting that detaching himself from others is the best thing, when it's really not… He tries to make everyone happy."
Beatrix's words rang true. She recalled the retelling of Terra for many weeks after Tantalus had returned, and about how he sacrificed a lot to save the resistance, and was willingly, over and over again, putting his life on the line, when the people close to him only wanted him to stay safe.
"I do not think his mind set will last… While you are angry with him, and missing him, I suppose Zidane is probably better at hiding it, but he is missing you too…"
"How can you tell from half way across the continent?"
"You and him were no secret… And his feelings for you – just the way he looked at you, and the way he protected you and talked to you like you were both equals… those instances and his love for you were no secret either."
She gave a frustrated groan, letting herself fall to the side and lean on the brunette. Beatrix slung an arm across Dagger's shoulders. "Once we get out of this mess, things will be better…"
"I wish I could tell that the future would be as bright as you say…" Dagger muttered.
"If only…" The woman mumbled, closing her eyes and humming a soft tune from the girl's childhood. She recalled the tune all the way back to the boat ride out of her kingdom when she was hardly old enough to walk by herself. It was the same tune she found herself singing when she was alone – or during the treacherous storm while they were at Ipsen's Castle that she sang to Zidane. Her exhaustion finally sunk in, and she fell into a slumber for the first time that day.
But before her mind was too far gone, the mystical story of Kalipso rang about in her head, and she realized she could see if the future had a chance of being as wonderful as everyone promised.
It was decided. No matter what kind of lying she had to do to the rest of her team…
She would seek out Kalipso tomorrow.
"Is she finally asleep?" Freya asked from her spot, almost silently, on the bench behind them.
Beatrix didn't jump, knowing very well the Bermecian had been there the whole time. "At long last…" At the woman's words, Freya stood and meandered closer to them, picking up Dagger, and cradling the young girl in her arms. "Thank you," Beatrix mumbled, brushing the hair from Dagger's face.
"So much war should not be put on the shoulders of such a child."
"She's strong… Just not all the time."
"It will only get tougher from here on out, Beatrix," The bermecian warned wisely. "For all of us…" She tacked on as an afterthought.
Neither knew of what was to come, but both of them full-heartedly agreed with that statement.
A/N: Well most of that was pretty impromptu, I hope you liked it anyways! I wasn't planning on stopping there, and I know the end was a little shaky, but that's okay!
Can't wait for what's to come! You guys are going to love it I'm sure! Leave me some love!