Disclaimer: I do not own anything related to FFIX or its affiliates.
Zidane was always a fan of theatrics; he thought, what better way to show everyone I was all right than to take center stage in "I Want to be Your Canary?" When he disrobed himself and stood center stage, he saw the faces of most of his old companions wearing the same mask of confusion and delight as his love, Garnet til Alexandros XVII. But she wasn't the vulnerable Garnet he had kidnapped from Alexandria so long ago...she was now Dagger, the strong, confident woman who helped him save the world.
He had come from hell and back with the desire to survive. He needed to survive, not only for himself, but for her and his companions, to show them that their adventure would not end on such a sour note.
When she flew into his arms, he spun her lightly and held her back to stare into her beautiful chocolate brown eyes. The irises were so large and endless he felt himself falling deeply into them, having the warmth of her smile and aura surround him completely.
She playfully beat his chest several times before embracing him completely; Zidane smelled the sweet fragrance of lilacs upon her and felt at peace for the first time in as long as he could remember.
Too long, he thought. I've been gone too long. Don't let me go, Dagger.
"How did you survive?" she whispered into his ear, the wetness of her tear smearing upon his cheek.
"I didn't have a choice," Zidane answered. "I had to live. I wanted to come home with you. So...I sang your song."
Dagger broke her embrace and stared at her beloved; he was no longer the brash thief who she had begged to spirit her away from Alexandria. There was a degree of gentleness and charisma to Zidane that was ever-present, a virtuous trait that made others want to be around him.
Save the Queen, the majestic sword that had once been used against Zidane and his companions, was hoisted into the air by Steiner and Beatrix, the sword gleaming as the sun's light hit it at a perfect angle. All of the citizens of Alexandria were toasting to their queen and her beloved's return.
Zidane took a look around and saw his companions: Amarant, with his crimson hair and bulging form, clapping along with the others, much to Zidane's surprise. Eiko was jumping up and down with Mog, her Moogle, and Freya was wiping the tears that fell from her eyes. Steiner and Beatrix still held Save the Queen atop the queen's balcony, and Quina had just run out of the kitchens with the others, wiping a giant pink hand upon her apron and jumping with glee.
Vivi... Where's Vivi?
Sitting in the front row was his dear friend, clapping. But behind him, there was another who was wearing the same garb. And beside them, more of the same.
"Hey, Dagger?" Zidane whispered into her ear. "Which one of those guys is Vivi?"
"None," she replied, with a hint of sadness to her voice.
"He's not here?"
"No," she replied sadly.
"Well, we can just go get him then, can't we?" He flashed his famous grin to her and saw that her face held a look of dismay to it. His grin disappeared entirely and he shook his head. "What happened?" he asked
"Vivi..." Dagger could not finish her sentence. She kissed Zidane lightly upon the cheek and said, "He stopped, Zidane. Not too long ago."
A dagger found its way into Zidane's heart. Stopped? Shaking his head, Zidane's brow shrunk, his lips parting to a frown. "It's not possible," he said, "I was supposed to come back to everyone. Everyone."
"There's a letter I think you might want to read, Zidane."
Zidane nodded lightly, turning to face the crowd with his queen. "Later. When I'm alone. Is that all right with you?"
Dagger nodded. "Of course that's all right."
Hours later, sitting on a chair that donned golden dragons on both points, Zidane held the letter Dagger had mentioned in his hands. He had been staring at the letter for an hour now, unable to open it out of fear of what he'd find. The embers in the fireplace were dancing, mocking him, tempting him to open the letter.
What am I afraid of? he thought, running his index finger and thumb against the soft papyrus. Why, Vivi? Why you?
Taking a deep breath and exhaling a moment later, Zidane wiped his brow and carefully unfolded the letter, reading it line by line.
Kuja... What you did was wrong... But you gave us one thing... Hope... We were all created for the wrong reason, but you alone defied our fate. We do not want to forget this. We want your memory to live on forever...to remind us that we were not created for the wrong reason-that our life has meaning.
I always talked about you, Zidane. How you were a very special person to us, because you taught us all how important life is. You taught me that life doesn't last forever. That's why we have to help each other and live life to the fullest.
Even if you say goodbye, you'll always be in our hearts. So, I know we're not alone anymore.
Why I was born... How I wanted to live... Thanks for giving me time to think.
To keep doing what you set your heart on... It's a very hard thing to do. We were all so courageous...
What to do when I felt lonely... That was the only thing you couldn't teach me. But we need to figure out the answer for ourselves...
I'm so happy I met everyone... I wish we could've gone on more adventures. But I guess we all have to say goodbye someday.
Everyone... Thank you. Farewell. My memories will be part of the sky...
Zidane wiped the tears that fell from his eyes, smiling sadly. He shook his head in his contemplation, wondering how a simple creature like Vivi could suffer such a fate as a finite lifespan.
A door opened behind Zidane, but he remained as he was, not turning to see who the visitor was. The clank of heavy armor gave its wearer away almost instantly.
"Rusty," Zidane said playfully, "you'd never make it as a thief with all that armor, you know?"
"Apologies, Zidane," the formal knight responded. "Might I bother you for a moment of your time?"
"You can stop with the formalities, Steiner; it's only us in here, you know. Speaking of which, aren't you supposed to be guarding Dagger?"
"Her Majesty is being guarded by Beatrix; no harm shall befall her so long as Beatrix is on watch."
Love, Zidane thought, love fills his breath when he mentions Beatrix. However, Zidane believed the very same thing Steiner did; Beatrix was a formidable swordsman who had taught his party that she was a force to be reckoned with on more than one occasion. If Dagger was with Beatrix, she was safe.
"That's reassuring," Zidane said, folding the letter once again and placing it on his lap. "Come grab a seat."
Steiner did as he was told, sitting on a seat that was beside Zidane. "I take it you read Master Vivi's letter?" he asked directly.
Zidane nodded and said nothing.
"You know, I was with Master Vivi when he..." Steiner swallowed hard, the last word sounding almost muffled as it passed through his lips. "...stopped."
"I just don't understand it," Zidane said. "I thought it'd be different with him, thought he was going to be the exception, you know? I thought he was going to live forever. It's hard knowing I won't see him again. He doesn't even know I'm alive."
Steiner shook his head. "When Master Vivi showed signs of stopping, I traveled with Her Majesty to the Black Mage Village. He seemed smaller than I remembered, yet bigger all the same. The others...they drifted to Master Vivi, listened to his wisdom and council, made him their leader. Can you believe it? Little Master Vivi, leader of the Black Mages."
Zidane smiled at the thought; shy Vivi always fixing his cloth hat, shifting it this way and that, shy Vivi who had no confidence. ...Shy Vivi, who questioned his existence and wondered why he existed at all. And yet...he grew to become a leader. Zidane felt another tear fall from his eyes; he was proud of him.
"Master Vivi never once thought you had died, Zidane. Even when he was writing the letter, he said to me, 'Sir Steiner, will you make sure Zidane reads this when he comes back?' I was heartbroken, Zidane, to see him like that, his eyes dimming, the aura around his skin dissipating. But I would not lie to him. I told him that you were gone for months, that you were surely dead even though none of us cared to admit it. And do you know what he said to me?"
Zidane shook his head but sat up curiously.
"Master Vivi placed a hand upon my breastplate and said, 'Faith, Sir Steiner. Have faith. He will return.'"
"Is that when he stopped?" Zidane wondered.
Steiner shook his head. "When Her Majesty left, I remained by Master Vivi's side, to remain with him in his final days. I broke my vows to Her Majesty, Zidane. I abandoned her to remain by my friend's side. I chose him over duty, over everything that I had pestered and threatened you with when our journey first began. You were right to call me a fool in rusted armor."
"Are you kidding me?" Zidane said, jumping out of his chair and pointing at Steiner. "You are captain of the Knights of Pluto, a maniac who wielded fire, ice, and lightning swords into battle, a knight who cleaved his enemies in two. I saw the passion and fire that burned in your heart and eyes, Steiner; it burned for duty and for your companions. You saved us many times, more times that I can count. You are not the fool, Adelbert Steiner; I'm the fool. I hope you can forgive me for all that I've done and said to you."
Zidane extended his hand and Steiner, looking at it before giving his own, gave it a hearty shake. "Nothing to forgive, brother. I am glad to see you safe, as is Her Majesty."
Steiner headed for the door before Zidane stopped him. "Steiner, when Vivi...you know...how...?"
"He was at peace. He knew his time was coming...knew it for a while at that point. I could not see it because of his aura, but I knew he was smiling, Zidane. He was smiling when he stopped. It's strange...how such a little thing can affect you so much...how such a little thing like Master Vivi could just cease to be."
Steiner's voice broke and he brushed a mailed fist against his left cheek to stop the tear that fell upon it.
"Master Vivi wanted me to make sure you read the letter when you returned, so my promise is fulfilled. I mean to return to Her Majesty. Until next we meet."
Steiner saluted and spun on his heel, heading for the door once again.
"Did he say anything to you when he stopped?" Zidane called out. "I'm sorry, that's insensitive, I just...I don't know."
Steiner stopped once again, his back turned to Zidane. He looked to the ceiling of the room, but Zidane knew what he was really looking at...the sky beyond. "'You are more than just a knight, Sir Steiner,' he said to me." Steiner's voice began to break once again. "'You are a dear friend and a faithful companion. Live. And live merrily."
Zidane knew not to press the subject; he and Steiner were consumed by the silence of the room. He wanted Vivi there with them now, to pull the two apart as they fought like they did so long ago.
"Such a little thing," Steiner repeated, leaving the room.
Author's Note: Just a little story I felt like writing about Vivi, Steiner, and Zidane. I always felt sad knowing that Vivi was dead by the end of Final Fantasy IX. Vivi is, in my opinion, one of the most important characters in the entire series; his character is beautifully written, and we grow along with him.
When I first played Final Fantasy IX when it came out, I was a 15 year old boy. I remember playing through being most concerned with Vivi and his story, where he came from, where he was going, how he was feeling. A boy that age questions many things in his life, and sadly, I connected with Vivi and felt that I grew with him as his story concluded, to see how confident he became, how accepting of his fate he became was nothing short of inspiring to me, even if "he's just a video game character." Vivi's story came around full circle, and I'm actually happy that the developers ended it the way they did without making an excuse that would've suggested otherwise.
Viv's story ended, he stopped, but the relationships he made along the way are evident in the others, specifically Steiner and Zidane, who I felt grew the most with Vivi during the course of the game. I hope you all enjoyed reading this as much as I enjoyed writing it. Please be sure to read and review to let me know what you thought.