"You've grown," she sobbed, smiling broadly all the same. She was quite oblivious of the crowd cheering behind them.

"So've you." He grinned back at her. He didn't try to hide his own tear-rimmed eyes. Zidane never was one to be ashamed to cry -not that she had ever seen him cry until now.

He was holding onto her, something of disbelief shining in his bright blue eyes. His hand was as warm as she remembered, resting in the small of her back. He ran it up, up to her shoulder, her collarbone, her neck, her jaw. A tingling feeling followed the trace of his finger.

"I missed you. I missed you so much."

"How.. how long was I gone? How long has it been?" he asked her softly. He held her face, her dear face, the face that had haunted him and comforted him ever since..

he held her face in both of his hands. Nothing more, nothing less. Nightmares could come later. For now, there was sweet Dagger, sweet Garnet. She held onto his hands with both of her own. He couldn't remember ever noticing how her hands were so much smaller, so slender and so fine, compared to his own. He couldn't remember ever getting to hold her hands like this, he couldn't remember her ever holding his like this, the way she clutched them now.

"How long..? How long? Oh Zidane, it was forever, a thousand times. A thousand times a thousand, weeks and weeks of nothing but waiting for you." She said, shaking her head at him, still torn between tears and laughter.

"I missed you too." he whispered. Daring to believe this was true, after so many dreams of this moment. After dreaming for what felt like years.. for all he had known it had been a few seconds, but already, a few seconds away from her had been like an eternity, had been like heavy booted feet stamping out the bonfire that was his soul. He closed his eyes and pressed his face to her bare shoulder, and gently kissed her soft skin. She still carried the same scent about her. Lily, and vanilla, and a whiff of iris and citrus blossom.

He ran a hand through her hair, automatically. It was soft, still dark brown. Some things didn't change. He lifted his face to hers, where she met him, so much expression in her dark, dark eyes.

"Your hair! It's gotten so long.." He sounded enthusiastic at first, then his voice trailed off, as he realised what it meant. When he had last seen her, her hair had been above her shoulders. It now fell down to her waist, even past it.
"How long?" he murmured to her, eyes pleading.

"Beloved.. " she sighed. The others had gathered around them, standing in a circle, almost, around them, watching, waiting. They knew where the attention lay, with both Garnet and Zidane.

His face tightened a little. She had never called him Beloved before. But then, he had never called her Beloved before today either.

"Five. Five years. We're both twenty-one." She said to him, swallowing back something more she might have said. She saw his eyes narrow a little in incredulity, his brow draw together a little.

"Five years?" he breathed, and shook his head, not willing to accept it. "No.. no, I couldn't have left you alone for so long.. it couldn't have taken me that long.. I-I don't understand-"

"Love.. hush. 'Tis well. I told you, a thousand times forever, without you. But you are here, and that's all that matters. You made it home to me." and her tears started again, and she kissed him, because that was really what she had wanted to do all along.

And bewildered, and anguished, and lost and frightened though he felt, he realised that the wearying journey home had been for one reason, and for that reason alone, and it was enough that he stood here as he was, and could come home to her, and meet her kiss. His response held no fire to it, only a tender, careful, not quite hesitant but sweetly shy passion. She was his, she had waited for him. Long though five years were, he had stayed sane with the promise she had demanded of him.

It had cost her her heart to ask of him to think of her, even as he left them, but it was only then that she had accepted she loved him, she wanted him, so it had to be then that she commanded his love. With Steiner's back turned, with the airship's humming filling the background, she had pulled him to her desperately and kissed him, not knowing what to say, how to say anything anymore. She had seen the surprise and hesitance in his eyes, along with the enjoyment, obviously. It was her first kiss. She hadn't wanted to know the how-manieth kiss of his it was. That kiss had been soft, too, like the soft of their relationship, the respect, the gentle teasing and the acceptance of each other, and the learning from each other. When they parted again, there was pain filling his eyes.
"Dagger.. I.."

"I know. I know you have to do this. I didn't think I would understand but I do. I still hate you for it, but I love you, and I want you to know that. As long as you come home to me again.. but first, save your brother." And she kissed him again, briefly, sort of as another promise. And she pulled away from him, and turned to walk back to the airship. As she walked back to it, he called after her and ran up to her, and kissed her back, and murmured his promise again.
"Be safe, Garnet, Dagger. I love you too. I promise I'll come home to you."

And they separated.

Years of a turmoiled, uncertain soul ran through his tired brain as he felt her lips on his, and as he felt her tongue, as he deepened the kiss softly. He was home, he was alive, he was with her and nothing else mattered. They were twenty-one, he could live with that. She certainly didn't look worse than when she was sixteen.
"I wish I hadn't missed all those years.." he said when they let go again.

"I wish the same. Time stood still after the last kiss you gave me.. nothing meant anything anymore until you were there again, until now.."

Perhaps Vivi might have stepped forward and tugged Garnet's dress in his darling, subtle manner, to keep things relative, to keep them both from losing themselves to the world, but Vivi was, as Zidane just now noticed, not there. A questioning glance to his Queen, but she shook her head and smiled at Vivi's sons.
"He.. stopped, not too long after you were lost to us. But look, he left us his children, and we love them dearly, even as we miss him."

He sighed, and sent a prayer up to Vivi, his protégé, his protector, perhaps.. sent up a prayer and a thank you.
Then he buried his face in Garnet's hair, and let her hold him tighter, and let the sunshine envelope him as he had never dared hope it might again. Home again, at long, long last.

For her, it was simply as if, for the first time since the day she saw the world change, it truly changed to where she wanted to live.

A/N: finally got over my boredom with the game and went on to defeat it. So I know the finishing cut scene of FF9 at last! 'Oh, so that's what they meant with crystal. Anyways, was attacked with a desire to write a mushy vignette. *pours on excess romance* hell yeah we need it! romance baby, romance! *shivers at self*
"Good night, good night!" XD