Just Like You Protected Us...
Chapter 13: Wonderful yet Strange
I swirled the champagne in my glass, delighted that Beatrix had remembered I wasn't fond of alcohol and had brought me a drink that tasted nothing of it. I sipped the pale liquid, pleased with the fruity flavor it left behind, and smiled to the nobles that bowed and wished me well as they passed by the throne.
Across the room, I spotted Zidane talking with a few of the elderly noblemen, using his hands to emphasize whatever point he was making. He'd gathered a few of the heads of some of the more prominent noble families and was working out a plan to lower taxes for the people of Treno, while allowing a decent amount to fall back to the nobles so that they might not feel cheated.
The nobles, after having witnessed the prowess of my summons earlier that week, were suddenly eager to help. True, they'd mostly been cowed when Alexander had told them what for, but it was best to allow them their little victories. None would complain about the adjusted amount they would receive, that much was for certain.
Many of the houses even offered up large donations to start homeless shelters, taking after my example. While it shouldn't have had to come down to Alexander telling them off, nothing would have changed had he not. Tis better to ask forgiveness than permission, or so it would seem.
Zidane's gaze caught mine and he smiled. I smiled in return, taking another sip of my champagne.
The castle staff had thrown a celebratory party that was going on day three. Commoners and nobles alike were invited to the castle to eat until they could no longer see, and drink until they could no longer walk. While there had been a few too many drunken brawls outside the castle gates due to the drinking going on inside, the party was mostly a hit.
Even Regent Cid came to stay for a night. Eiko, dressed like a true lady, held one of the younger black mages in her arms as she swayed across the dance floor.
Dee, hand in hand with several of his siblings, filched cakes and hard candies from the tables and hid underneath them. It was a game I'd once played at parties when I was young; the table was the cave hide-away, and the cakes and candies were the treasures. Some small part of me still wished to be small again, so that I might play such silly games once more.
I hadn't even noticed when Zidane took up the throne next to mine.
"How's the party going, majesty?" Oh, he was such a jester.
"Delightful- just delightful." I took another sip of my drink. Had it been that full a moment ago?
Zidane chuckled. "I think we've got quite a bit worked out with some of the higher families."
He nodded. "I'll need you to talk to them as well, since it was only starter ideas I pushed their way, but I think the meetings will go pretty well. Once the party stops, I guess."
Was my glass empty already? Oh, drat.
"This is lovely- you should have some."
His smile always made me smile.
It was obvious I was some level of drunk. Alcohol wasn't something I'd ever taken to drinking before, but Beatrix had promised me that what she'd brought for me was a true treat. It was, and I found myself too inebriated to remember how many glasses I'd had. Every time I'd drink it empty, the damn thing just kept filling up again, and I could not, for the life of me, figure out how.
I yawned, suddenly very tired.
"Time for bed, Dagger." He read me like an open book, damn him.
"But the music is so pretty, and this champagne is just so fruity and delicious, and I need to be shorter so I can fit under the table and help the little mages steal cake."
He blinked down at me a few times before he lost his face and began to laugh. "I think it's bedtime; you've had a little too much to drink, and I'm sure you don't want to be puking in front of any of your guests tonight."
I scrunched my face up at him, expressing my frustration. "I do everything in a dignified manner."
"I'm sure I could. The opportunity has merely never presented itself."
He laughed again, and I smiled despite myself. "You sound so noble, even when you're trashed."
"I'm not trashed, I'm drink. Drunk. Drat."
"Stand up, and I'll take you to your room."
I stood, and the room spun. But, Zidane was there to ground me and make sure that the floor didn't try to fly up and hit me in the face.
Walking was harder than I remembered.
My bed fluffier, too, but that was okay.
Zidane smoothed out my hair, sitting me on the edge of the bed. He bent, took my feet from the cramped heels I'd been wearing all day, and helped me undress.
I think in any other state of mind I would have been wildly embarrassed. I was, however, too full of delicious fruity drink to do much more than laugh, which only made Zidane laugh, which, in turn, made me laugh harder.
He helped me into one of my night dresses, took the clip and crown from my hair, and pulled up the covers so that I was tucked in, nice and tight.
"You'll be here when I wake up, right?"
He smiled down at me. His muscles were relaxed, his face at ease. He was, slowly, finding the man he'd once been. "Of course."
And he was.
Curled up at the end of my bed like some giant, lanky cat, Zidane Tribal woke when I moved in my sleep and kicked him. His echoing, "OW!" woke me. I sat to apologize, worried I'd actually hurt him, but the room did a nose-dive and I almost fell off the bed.
He let out a soft chuckle, something that made me slightly irate given how large of a headache I suddenly had. "I'll be back with something for your head, gimmie a minute."
He was gone for eight minutes and sixteen seconds. I counted, the seconds timed by my heartbeat and the pounding of my head.
I'd never let Beatrix talk me into consuming something again. Ever.
Zidane helped me sit up, and gave me a glass of some strange, red liquid. I took a swig, and instantly regretted it. I made to pull the drink away from my lips, but Zidane pushed the end of the glass up and I was forced to drink it lest it spill all down the front of me.
"Ramuh's beard, Zidane! What is in that foul brew?"
He laughed again. "Better you don't know. Give it a little bit; you'll feel better."
"If I don't barf, first," I mumbled under my breath, wishing I had something to wash the taste of that awful drink down with.
Though it had been horrible, it wasn't long before I began to feel better. The room stopped spinning and I found I could sit without the overwhelming urge to vomit arising.
"Remind me to keep better track of how much you drink at the next party," he chided, placing a kiss to my cheek.
"Remind me to give you a good beating if you ever make me drink that awful stuff ever again."
"Hey, it was either that or go the rest of the day with a killer hangover. You're welcome."
I closed my eyes, rubbing the back of my lids with my knuckles.
"I hope we don't have anything important to do today," I whined.
There was a long pause before Zidane responded. "Well, there's one thing we have to do today."
"And what might that be?"
"I can't tell you."
I didn't like surprises when I was hungover. Though it was a new discovery, it wasn't any less true. "Why not?"
"You're just going to have to get dressed and meet me down in the second conference room in thirty minutes."
"What have you planned this time?"
He took my hand, kissed my scar, and left the room without so much as another word.
I scrunched my face, let out a heavy sigh, and began to dress without so much as letting a single foul word pass my lips.
One of my dresses was laid out for me, draped over the chair of my vanity. I donned it, a simple white gown with matching elbow gloves. I brushed my hair, tying it back with a blue ribbon at the end, and carefully placed my crown atop my head.
The halls were empty, which was something that surprised me somewhat. Usually, even early in the morning, the hallways around the throne room and the adjoining conference rooms were bustling with staff.
Eiko waited for me outside the blue doors of the second conference room, a bundle of flowers in hand. "There you are!" She sighed as she stomped her foot, motioning for me to stand next to her. Shoving the flowers into my hands, she pushed the doors of the room open and forced me inside.
My breath hitched.
There they were, all of my friends, neatly arranged in rows on either side of a red carpet. Standing at the end of the walkway was none other than one Mister Zidane Tribal, looking more smug than I think I could ever recall.
The silence that filled the room was broken by the sweet melody of a piano. Eiko, with a hand to my back, gave me a good shove. "Go get married, you dummy!"
I swallowed, not expecting something quite like what laid out before me. I slowly walked up the aisle, completely shocked beyond words, until Zidane reached out and offered his hand to help me up a few low-set stairs.
As the service began, everything around me drowned out. I found I could no longer hear the words of the priest. All I could do was stare at Zidane.
His smile slowly turned from smug to bashful, full of love. The twinkle in his eye let me know this had been planned out somehow, though where he found the time to concoct such an elaborate scheme escaped me.
I almost missed my line. Zidane gave my hand a squeeze, and the world came rushing back at me.
Surely that was not a blush I saw creep up his face?
My heart skipped a beat.
This was something I'd dreamed of since I was young; finding the man I loved more than life itself, and standing at the altar, hand in hand, as we were married. It all seemed like a dream; strange and fleeting, as if I wasn't truly in my body, or I was a little girl and only imagining all that was happening.
Then, he kissed me and I knew everything was real.
I don't truly recall what happened for a large part of the day, to be completely honest. I was too caught up in my own head to make much room for anything else.
Night came, and Zidane walked me to my, now our, bedroom. His fingers gently caressed the scar on my palm as we walked silently down the empty, darkened halls of the castle.
"Sorry it was all so sudden," he eventually mumbled. It was odd to see him uncomfortable with himself.
"It was rather worth the surprise, I think." I gave his hand a squeeze. "But..."
"Are you... doing alright?"
He stopped there for a moment, then kept walking with me until we were outside of the bedroom doors. I knew that he was in deep thought, formulating a decent response to pacify me, but the long silence did little to allow my nerves rest.
"I think," he began, as he opened the door and ushered me inside. "I think that there's no better cure for me than to wake up beside you each morning, knowing that you're mine forever."
I looked up at him, curious. "But is waking next to me enough to keep you here? I was next to you when you left me at Pinnacle Rocks: it was not enough to keep you by my side, then."
He sighed, and I knew he was weighing his answers.
"I'm not okay. I don't think I'm going to be okay for a while. But, I'm going to try my damnedest to be what you need, all that you need, and next to you when we wake up for the rest of our lives. It's not going to be a picnic. Some days will be hard, some will be easy." He paused and smiled. "I think, though, that as long as I have you to remind me who I am, I'll be just fine."
I smiled up at him, tears filling my eyes and causing my vision to blur. "Don't worry, Zidane; I'll protect you."
We fell to the bed, laughing and holding one another close.