Ah, I dunno what the hell this is, other than a time killer and pretty weird, I guess. At any rate, it's drabblish (surprise, surprise). The worst thing is I can see this becoming more than a oneshot. Maybe. Bleh. Anywho, drop me a review on ya way out, please? Enjoy!
Zidane's arrival into Tantalus was both a blessing and a curse, and even then the former could only be acknowledged in hindsight.
Baku blithely shrugged the addition off with 'The more the merrier', though things were never that simple. His timing was bad financially and space wise, as the dingy hollow beneath the clocktower was newly founded, barely furnished and in the middle of an unauthorised renovation. Baku was busting ass just to keep food on the table, skittering around the law like a rat dodging a street lamp's light, with only a smattering of unruly kids to pick pockets during the day and some lazy assholes that he intended to give the boot once the building work was done.
But Zidane had found Baku as much as Baku had found him, one unsuspecting late summer's day, and Baku couldn't deny fate – or a potential investment. When the kid literally collided into him on the street, all but traumatised from being chased by three uniformed men, a loaf of bread in his trembling hands, barefoot, dirty, clad in rags and eyes like chips of sapphire glinting something terrified and pleading, Baku found he didn't have the heart to say no when the Lindblum Pedestrian Guard asked if the child belonged to him. He had to dish out the money for the bread, and a fifty gil fine for the theft, and little did he know that that was just the start of his problems.
For one, he couldn't even speak Gaian. They barely managed to discern his name, through much pointing and pantomime. The weird tongue he occasionally gibbered was far beyond anything Baku had ever heard, and on top of that he was horrendously malnourished, very, very young and more feral than a Fang. Baku knew it would take some work until the kid was a useful – and much needed –pair of hands in their struggling troupe.
But one person was particularly taken with him, albeit in a way that was far from helpful, and a touch unethical. The six-year-old in question had been hassling Baku for a pet since he'd given the kid a place to call home years before, and was brusquely refused with a curse and cuff each time. Now the joke was on Baku because the kid treated the unfriendly, untalkative, tailed creature hiding under his bed like a bloody animal.
"Here, kitty kitty," Blank cooed to the darkness, squatting on his haunches and clicking his fingers at the large, wary eyes glowing blue in its mantle. "C'mere, tut, tut, c'mere, would'ja?"
"Quit that," Baku scolded and stomped his foot when Blank deftly ducked out of the inevitable cuff. "He aint a bloody cat jus' 'cause he's got a tail! Just leave 'im alone and he'll come out in his own time!"
Blank tossed a mutinous glare Boss' way, then returned his attention to the closet of shadows. "Zidane, come out and play, would'ja?" he enticed, shuffling closer. "Do you like playin'? There's a ton o' cool stuff we can do but if ya gonna act like a right dick then ya'll never know, right? Besides yer gonna make Boss angry and he ah... he's right scary when he's mad. You don't wanna see that, trust me."
Unperturbed, the eyes continued to shoot flints of wary hostility at the intruder, calculating though they were, perhaps in an attempt to decipher what the hell the kid was jabbering on about in the first place.
Blank's six-year-old patience finally broke, replaced by a courage that had experienced too few bites instead of barks to validate its recklessness. He dropped to his belly and wormed forward, hoping to join Zidane in his den. Unfortunately, Zidane wasn't in the mood to share, and the moment Blank breached his refuge he lashed out with one dirty, bare foot, landing a blow on Blank's forehead with a muffle smack. The redhead yelped and scooted back so fast he hit his head on the bed's wooden frame, which actually hurt more than the kick, and did a clumsy backwards roll across the rug.
"Ouch you stupid – Bad kitty! Boss, boss Zidane kicked me on the frickin' head!"
"Hehehe," was all the sympathy Baku offered, and Blank scowled into the darkness and hissed, "I'll get you fer that!"
"I dunno, man. Boss is gonna flip his lid when he finds out," the voice of seasoned reason argued over Blank's impetuous plan.
"Yah, but he wont, right? You aint gonna tell 'im, right?"
"No it's just –"
"Then quit worrying."
"I don't see how I've been dragged into this..." Marcus lamented, picking an incisor with his thumb nail. "I mean, he didn't kick me. And anyway Cinna kicked you yesterday and you didn't do anything to him."
"That's different," Blank reasoned. "This kid is new. He needs to know you can't just go kickin' your bros around, right?"
"You kicked me yesterday too..."
"That's different!" Blank yelled, then dropped a devious gaze to the clay bowl in his hand, in which pink goo shone iridescent in the rich afternoon sunlight, smelling of spirits and liquorice. As Blank stirred it with a wooden spoon he rationalised, "Anyway, Boss'll thank me in the end 'cause this is gonna get that kid out from under the bed. I mean, he can't stay under there fer much longer."
"He's only been under there two days... You're just mad 'cause you're too scared to sleep on the bed anymore."
"Am not! Don't matter none anyhow; the potion's done."
Blank's parents had been apothecaries before they'd perished in the Narrow's Fire, and for better or worse he'd retained some knowledge of mixing potions and medicine, the ingredients deviating into more questionable substances the deeper he sunk into Lindblum's underworld. Regardless, Baku encouraged his ability in hopes he might blossom into something like the troupes' doctor some day, free of charge, of course.
Blank emptied a packet of Cinna's candy into the bowl and swirled it together, ignoring Marcus' drawled warning about Cinna's possessive disposition when it came to food, especially food Blank had scouted from under his pillow.
Once this was done, Blank fished out the potion-soaked candy and deposited them on the floor, within easy reach of the reclusive kid's shadowy domain. "Here ya go," he announced chirpily. "Grubs up, kitty."
"He's not a cat..." Marcus made a point of it.
Ignoring him, "Alright, let's hide!"
"He's not even a demi-cat..."
"Will you get over here, already?"
"This is a stupid idea."
"He's never gonna fall for this."
But he did. A few weighty moments after the older boys had scuttled behind a chest, a furry limb slid out of the darkness like an exotic snake, twitching its head left and right as if it had eyes. Then with a careful flick the candy was swept under the bed, and the sound of crunching heralded success.
"No shit," Marcus allowed, impressed eyebrows practically breaching his hairline. "He totally fell for it."
"Told'ja," Blank couldn't help but gloat. "Now we gotta wait to for the potion to take effect, and then we can drag 'im out."
Blank's grin was ear to ear not a quarter of a bell later as he peered down at the boy sprawled across the carpet in the damning light of open space, insentient as a bear in winter. Arms akimbo and open-mouthed, indescribably filthy, skinny and smelly, he looked vulnerable and not very kitty-like at all.
"Alright," Blank said, propping little hands on hips. "We gotta block up the bed so he can't run away again."
"That seems kinda mean," Marcus reflected, scratching his head. "I mean, what if he's proper scared? You dunno what this kid's been through."
Blank scoffed away his concern, busy pushing a large chest toward the frame of his bed. Marcus could only shrug and offer his help, wondering if there were better things to be done with his time than stuffing books under a bed.
"So... ah... what are you gonna do when he wakes up?" he worried.
"Show 'im who's boss!" was Blank's logical response. Then he retracted, "Well, aside from Boss, of course. But maybe he'll wanna play after or somethin'."
"Um...I don't think..." but Marcus cut off the sentiment. Some lessons were best learnt the hard way, Boss would lecture, and Blank wasn't likely to listen anyway. "If you say so."
The kid didn't want to play when he woke up.
His head was throbbing like it had been hit with a hammer, the skeleton of a headache fleshing out behind his eyes that were blurred and hurting. He flexed his tail experimentally and a small groan escaped through chapped lips, but he could definitely feel his limbs, which was a good sign. That realisation heralded the next: he was in daylight and there were people above him.
Blank's idea of having a playmate vanished when Zidane realised he was no longer within the safe confines of his shadow-dipped castle; he shot up and head-butted Blank between the eyes.
"Yee-ooOOWW!" Blank wailed, stumbling backwards and clutching his thoroughly abused head.
Zidane bounced off the floor like his tail was on fire, breathing erratic and eyes racing to every corner the hideout had to offer. His reflexes drove him back to the bed, but he barked something horrified when his plan was severed by boxes and books. He twirled, but then Blank was on him, using his bigger six-year-old weight to pin the blonde to the floorboards. Somewhere in the of cobweb of scaffolding overhead, the builders working on the clocktower's refurbishment bellowed something that could have been scolding or alarmed; Blank's ears were ringing so loud he neither cared nor heard them.
He delivered a sweet knock to Zidane's jaw with his balled fist, and again to his chest, but the blonde recovered at an alarming rate and managed to kick him off. He used the respite to gain his footing and spot a potential safe point in the slim crook beneath a wardrobe, but the redhead caught him by the tail and he fell forward, knocking his chin on the boards and biting his tongue. Enduring the pain, he rolled and kicked Blank in the face, tail slithering free of insistent fingers, but now he was mad, and instead of fleeing to the next hidey-hole he leapt on top of the redhead and returned the punch to the jaw.
So they scrapped like rabid squirrels, neither trained in combat though both with some advantage: Zidane was quick and nimble while Blank was bigger and ferocious, though either way it remained an unruly mess of flailing limbs and puppy yelps; they rolled around a rug biting and pulling and kicking and yelling until the ruckus was broken by an even more frightening sound.
"What in the name of Odin's bloody balls is going on?"
The brawling thieves froze mid-fight, Blank's hand tangled in Zidane's hair and Zidane's hand pushing away Blank's face; both wore expressions of terror, caught in the act like an oglop in a vegetable patch.
Baku loomed in the doorway, disbelieving and furious, looking like a wrathful god for all his bulk was worth.
Silence answered. Even Marcus shrank back, the accessory that he was.
"What, ya'll gone deaf, dumb and stupid? Mother of fuck, Marcus, I leave you to watch these two simpletons for one fuckin' hour and they're bitin' eachother's asses off like flea-bittin' dogs!"
"And you!" Baku thundered, a furious finger cocked Blank's way like the bolt of a crossbow. "What did I tell ya about leavin' him be?"
Blank and Zidane were still frozen in their violent hug, the latter of which only had an inkling about what was happening. Ironically, of all the people who came and went outside his sanctuary of beneath-the-bed, Baku was the least of his concerns; he did save him from the scary men and give him food and a warm place to sleep, afterall. So when the boss crossed the space and plucked both he and Blank up by the scruffs of their neck he only bleated a weak protest.
"Now," Baku said, voice level and stern as he propped them on their feet opposite one another. "Say yer sorry, Blank."
The redhead slung him an indignant look. "Buh-but!"
Baku's glare could have levelled a mountain. "What was that, kiddo?"
Blank gulped thickly and turned his gaze to the blonde opposite, who stared back at him with an expression that was half oblivious and half wary. "Suh-sorry. I just wanted to be f-friends," he offered, fighting off the hotness around his eyes.
Zidane blinked stupidly at him, then at Boss, who nodded and gestured at Blank and said, "Say yer sorry, Zidane."
Zidane looked at Blank and conjured the first grin they'd seen yet, all impish mischief on a beaten up face that boded ill of things to come. "Yar soree, Zidane."
Baku rolled his eyes. "Good enough, I suppose."