Life, or Something Close to it

By mihoyonagi

She was a princess, and I was a thief.

Don't call it cliche. Call it what it is; a damn fairy tale, if there ever was one.

I can't even tell you how it started, because it didn't start so much as -boom- happen all at once.

Tantalus gets hired, legitimately, by nobles from time to time. We are treasure hunters if anything else, but theater people through and through. When there is no treasure to hunt or steal, we earn our bread by preforming. You'd be hard pressed to find someone in our band, even the musicians, who doesn't know how to act their way out of just about any situation.

So, when Regent Cid, an apparent old friend of the boss – yeah, don't look at me, no one else knew, either – hired us to kidnap Princess Garnet, we all felt pretty smug.

I mean, come on; the adrenaline trip of a lifetime, and one hell of a claim to fame? We'd have been stupid not to take the job.

And that's how I met her. Blank and I were supposed to slip something in her drink, then snatch her away when the entire city was watching the play. We'd never, in a million years, think the princess actually wanted to be stolen up.

I'm a ladies man, so I couldn't help vowing to kidnap her when she asked. It's in my nature. I see a pretty lady in need of some help, and I can't help myself.

So when did it all turn into such a mess?

I made some lewd jokes. I grabbed her ass once; hey, don't look at me like that. If you saw such a nice supple rump climbing a ladder just inches above you, you'd have to be gay not to give it a good squeeze. Yeah, she was pretty mad about that.

Where was I?

Oh, yeah, the wonderful mess I'd found myself part of. It wasn't just one or two things that spiraled out of control. It was the whole damn journey that no one could reign in.

I remember when we got back to Alexandria for the first time, after her mother died. She was crowned queen and... Ifrit below, I fell into such a depressive mess over knowing that I could never have her.

I'd never really realized how much I'd started to care for her until that moment. I saw her, on the walkway above me, and couldn't say a damn word. I wanted to tell her how beautiful I thought she was. I wanted to ask her to come back, to travel the world with us, with me, again.

But I couldn't open my mouth. I couldn't say a thing.

How's that for pathetic? Pussy whipped, and I hadn't even gotten any yet.

Man, I drank my weight in alcohol in those couple of days. I tried to join back up with Baku and the others, but he wouldn't have me. Gave me shit for not going after my treasure. Asshole. Not about the telling me to stuff it and go after Dagger; no, that was good advice. He just made it sound so poetic. Poetry coming from Baku is akin to poetry coming from a goblin; no one wants to hear it. Ever.

But, through thick and thin, Dagger and I were always there for one another.

I told her the story of how I grew up when we visited the village of the black mages. Poor Vivi was so distraught, and poor Dagger didn't know what to do as it wasn't within her power to help. I could tell I won points for the story I told her, even if she thought I was poking fun at her at first.

I was there for her when she lost her voice. That entire ordeal was so hard on all of us. Kingdoms crumbling before us, people dying left and right. It's no wonder she couldn't take it; I'm surprised she made it to the end, considering how she was raised. Royalty isn't accustomed to see shit like that.

Ah, but she's the type of woman who's always full of surprises and never one to disappoint.

She was there for me when I found... well, I can't call it my home as that's not really what it was. Where I was from? How I was born? Who I was meant to be?

I lost myself for a while, then.

Sounds stupid, like the kind of thing you read in shitty literature, I know, but it's the truth. I was so caught up in what I'd been told – about how I was born to bring an end to so many lives – and I just didn't think I could go on.

But she was there for me, even when I didn't know where to go or what to do.

And she waited for me. Two and a half years I was stuck at the bottom of that Bahamut-forsaken tree. Two and half years since I'd last seen her, heard her voice, stood next to her in battle.

Yet, the moment I threw off that cloak on stage, she ran toward me and to hell with everything else that happened that day- the moment she jumped into my arms was the moment I knew everything was perfect.

And, like an emotional ninny, I proposed that same day.

I know, way to build up anticipation.

To be honest, though, I don't think she minded so much.

Two weeks later, it didn't really matter any more. As soon as the reception was over and we were out of sight, I picked her up, carried her across the whole damn castle so no one could find, or bother, us and...

I've had women before. I've had sex, yeah.

But with Dagger, there was more to it.

The way she looked at me with those beautiful eyes of hers, the noises she made, the way her breath hitched when I'd found the perfect spot to kiss. It doesn't get old. I had her what felt like a hundred times that night, and each time it felt like the first; new, invigorating.

She's all that is good in life.

There are none more perfect than her, and when I tell her so she blushes still, curls up next to me and asks me to kiss her again.

But, the kisses never last. I've got no self control when it comes to her. One kiss leads to another, and another, until we've got no clothes on and the nobles are going to be pissed off because we are making them wait but neither of us can find enough to give a damn about anything going on beyond the walls of our bedroom.

She's like a damn drug.

There was some trouble a few days after we got married. Fairy tales end with 'happily ever after' but what people forget are the nobles with sticks up their asses who think they are important enough to change peoples' minds about everything.

One of the families was pompous enough to actually demand that Dagger divorce me and take a rightful, high-born as king consort.

Now, don't get me wrong. I didn't marry Dagger to get promoted from street performer who filches shinies in his spare time to Prince Consort. I married her because I love her, and was no way I could go the rest of my life without waking up next to her.

But these jackasses paraded around like they knew everything, and I'm not one to let stuff like that fly.

So, much to Steiner's dismay, I let them have it.

"I might not be noble born, but I know a hell of a lot more about the world we live in than some stuffed-shirt jackass who was born out of a silver chocobo egg. I've suffered hunger. I've been homeless. I know what it's like to kill a man, and to watch one die. I've traveled the world ten times over, saved it more times than my fair share, and now you think disrespecting me is the right thing to do just because I wasn't born into the same social status as the rest of you?"

I admit I was a little harsh. The whole room fell silent until Beatrix started to laugh. She and rusty escorted the family out, chiding them for thinking it acceptable to demand a queen to do anything considering all she was guilty of was falling in love, and wanting happiness for her kingdom.

Dagger was still pissed off at me, though. I don't blame her. Well, not much. Those nobles had some pretty big balls to come into her court and puff their chests like that, but I couldn't just back down after something like that.

Still, she steamed for the rest of the day. After dinner, we retired to our room and I tried to get her to talk to me.

"Zidane Tribal, you know more about the world and its hardships than most could ever imagine, but that is -not- how things are said in royal court."

She rolled over and went to bed, leaving me feeling like quite the asshole.

So, when she woke up the next morning, I presented her with a bouquet of flowers (picked from the royal gardens, but don't tell Beatrix or she'll have a cow). It took her a moment to smile, but when she did I knew that I was forgiven, at least for the day.

And that's when things started to change. That's when I started to change.

People say that you shouldn't change to suit the person you're with, but that's not completely accurate- at least not in my opinion. See, I love Dagger, but she was a queen. She had queeney things to do. So, had two choices: I could either stay the way I was raised, and never be part of solving problems the kingdom was having, or buck up, sit through a shit ton of boring speeches, brush up on my vocabulary, and just learn how to live in the castle.

Now, a lot of it was easy, but that's only because I'm an actor and know how to fake it. There were parts that were harder than others – like learning what damn fork to use when eating, even though there are at least seven of the little bastards on the table next to your plate and it shouldn't matter because they are just fucking forks, people – but if I was going to be anything other than the husband of a queen I was in serious need of getting my shit together.

I secretly asked Doctor Tot for lessons when he was visiting. He was a ton of help for a man whose total body mass was roughly fifty percent nose (see, I can sound smart and be a smart-ass).

She found out, of course, because I'm shit at keeping personal secrets, especially from her. She told me she was disappointed in me for not asking her for her help. I told her I was embarrassed that I had to be helped in the first place.

Half a year later, and many lessons it's to be added, I was feeling pretty good about myself. I still didn't have the fork thing down, but Dagger admitted, in secret, that she thought it was kind of stupid too, and that she just tried her best most of the time. She had better things to worry about than forks.

But, as I began to attend meetings more and more, and as the days wore on, things changed. Or, at least, Dagger changed.

It was subtle at first. She began to space out more often when we were alone; she wrung her hands, as if there was something bothering her.

I'm not the type of man to demand answers, either, and I felt it was only a matter of time before she'd tell me, or someone, what was bugging her. She didn't. Two months she went by, and things got worse.

Last one night, I heard her get up and leave our bedroom. She planted herself on the balcony, shut the door, and cried into a pillow so that she wouldn't wake me.

But, seeing her like that made me swallow my 'she'll talk to me eventually' mentality and march right out the door. I dropped to my knees next to her, tossed the pillow over my shoulder, and begged her to tell me what was the matter.

"I don't know how to tell you this..."

I rolled my eyes. "It doesn't matter how you tell me, just tell me."

She did, and I just about fell over.

"I'm pregnant."

How do you respond to that when it's the absolute last thing on your list of things going through your mind. I grabbed her legs for support, looked into her eyes, and blurted, quite stupidly, "Really?"

She was quiet, just nodding a silent yes.

"Is this why you've been so upset?"

She blushed, looking away from me. "I didn't know how to tell you. It all just seems so sudden and I'm not sure if either of us are ready, and-"

My kiss cut her off. I smoothed out her hair, helping her to her feet so I could gather her in my arms.

What was there to say to that? Sure, I hadn't even thought about having kids. I guess, what with the being royalty and all that, it was to be expected at some point.

So, six months after that night, our daughter was born.

Let me tell you something. Nothing is scarier on the face of Gaia than a woman, in labor, screaming at you. I never new Dagger could yell like that. Hell, I didn't hear half of what she was saying- all I knew was that for nearly three hours of my life, I was scared beyond all reason and didn't have a single clue about what was going on or what I was supposed to do other than let Dagger hold my hand (and by hold my hand I mean she gripped it with an iron fist and crushed all the bones in my fingers).

I knew I was going to be a father. Doting on Dagger, her tummy swollen like she'd swallowed a melon, made me feel full of purpose and useful. I brought her ice cream and fried rice in the middle of the night. I rubbed her sore feet at the days end. I didn't really understand what it was like to be a father until I held my daughter in my arms for the first time.

We named her Ridly, based only on the fact that we both thought it pretty.

Well, we were contemplating Cornelia, given our ties to Lord Avon's play and all, but everyone told us it was cliche and expected, so we found a name we both liked. Sure, we could have just named her Garnet till Alexandros the XVIII, but where is the fun and originality in that?

Dagger began to teach her to be a proper lady when she turned seven.

Daddy showed her how to pick locks when she turned seven and two days.

What? You can beat the street out of me, but no one can break me of it completely.