I don't know how I came up with this one... I think it started when I had flash of inspiration in the form of a mental image of Zidane and Blank sitting drunk in an air cab station in Lindblum. I started writing, and, well, this is the end result. :/
I do like it – it's one of the better fics I've written I think. I worked tirelessly to finish it, because when something grabs my attention it really grabs it... I just wish I could show as much dedication to my studies. -.-
"No, no, no, no, no! Argh, dammit!"
Zidane watched miserably as the air cab sped off into the distance. He checked the time, though he knew already the next one wasn't due for at least an hour.
"Man!" Blank wheezed, coming up behind him. "What now?"
The tailed boy turned to his fellow Tantalus brother and scratched his head wearily. Blank had a half-finished drink clutched in one hand, and Zidane took a moment to marvel that he hadn't spilled it in their mad rush from the pub to the station. Then again, he himself had an unscathed bottle of some drink or other wrapped up in his tail – he thought it might be ale, but he'd stopped tasting his drinks hours ago.
"Sleep in the station?" he suggested with an admirable level of clarity given the sheer volumes he'd drunk that night. The cold air outside – and the promise of the beating of a lifetime when they got back to the hideout – had sobered him somewhat.
"No way, man," Blank frowned. "It's freezin' in 'ere. An' besides, you know what happens to folks that sleep on the streets."
Zidane knew – he was usually the one who did it to them. "Blank, we're the thieves in these parts."
"Yeah... And I s'pose we don't have much worth stealin' after that piss-up anyways."
That was true. He didn't check – that would only make the sting worse – but his pockets were so light, Zidane didn't think he had two gil left to rub together.
"We could always wait on the next cab," the younger of the thieves mused, falling on to his backside, careful to keep his tail (and drink) safely out of the way. He grabbed the bottle and took a hearty swig. "We'll miss curfew, but Boss might be sleepin' when we get back... And anyway, if we don't show up till morning he'll skin us alive!"
"We went over this," Blank sighed, taking a seat next to his friend. "I'd rather get beaten up when I'm good an' sober. Ya know how hard it is to block when you can't even see straight?"
"But the last time we were out late the night before a job, he used Cinna's hammer..."
Blank shuddered. "I remember. I was shittin' blood for weeks."
They sat in silence for a few seconds. When Zidane broke it, he sounded excited. Of course he was. No one got as excited about a job as he did. Anything involving booze, danger or girls, and Zidane was all over it. This job they were leaving for tomorrow would involve all three.
"So, this Princess we're snatchin' next week... You think she's hot?"
"That's what the rumours say," Blank drawled disinterestedly. "Say she's got long, silky hair like chocolate, an' big dark eyes that could make a man weep." He looked over then, and Zidane caught the lewd grin from the corner of his eye as he took another swig. "And apparently she's got a killer rack."
"Can hardly wait!" Zidane laughed. His mirth died quickly though, when he considered a recurring question he'd had since the Boss first told them about the plan. "Why d'you think the Boss wants to kidnap her anyway?"
Zidane had come at that very question from several different angles, and he still couldn't figure it out. It just didn't make sense. The Boss had never been one for kidnap. He hadn't involved himself, or Tantalus, in the activity before, and he'd made a point often enough to say that while kidnapping some nobleman's daughter and claiming ransom would undoubtedly get them richer faster, it was a cowards game. "Thievin' takes skill!" he'd said on more than one occasion. "Kidnappin' girlies is for them as has no skill."
Zidane rather thought that it was less a question of skill and more a question of morals, but either way the sudden change of heart was unusual. And naturally, anyone who'd asked had been pounded senseless.
"Who knows?" Blank shrugged. "She's a princess. He could make more than a pretty penny in ransom."
"Yeah, but he's never done ransoming before," Zidane pointed out. "You know how he feels about it."
"Mm." Blank swallowed down the last of his drink. "Maybe he's in the market for a girlfriend then?"
Zidane immediately dismissed the idea. "Nah, that ain't his style. 'Sides, don't ya think this is all a bit extreme if all he wants is a bed buddy?"
Blank gave him a pointed look. "I've seen worse."
"An' just what the hell does that mean?" Zidane countered defensively, tossing his empty bottle across the cab concourse. It rattled noisily, spinning across the concrete until it rolled to a stop just short of the loading bay. The night attendant, an older guy with a slightly hunched posture, threw a distasteful look at the raucous pair but said nothing.
"It means what it means," Blank snorted. "You've done some pretty extreme stuff to get girls in the sack before."
Zidane wrinkled his nose. "I prefer to think of it as cavalier..."
"You prefer to think you're the better lookin' one too, but that don't make it any less bullshit."
"Uh, last I checked, I've scored waymore chicks than you, dude," Zidane pointed out petulantly.
"Quality over quantity, Zid," Blank countered with a smirk. He held up a hand as Zidane puffed up to make an impassioned retort. "Hey, yours may be pretty, but mine can do tricks."
For a moment, the tailed thief looked like he might argue anyway. But after a moment's deliberation, his mouth snapped shut and he muttered a grudging, "Touché."
He had, after all, heard about some of the 'tricks' Blank's girls could do – and he defied any hot-blooded male not to be just a little jealous.
"Damn straight," Blank crowed with a superior grin. He jabbed a thumb at his chest. "Respect your elders, bro."
Zidane huffed dramatically, but there was a sparkle of mischief in his blue eyes when he said, "I'm still better lookin'."
Blank snorted, but offered no retaliation. Arguments with Zidane had been known to last days. He'd once gotten into an argument with Cinna over the pros and cons of the hammer versus the dagger, and it had lasted three weeks! That was a Tantalus record. A different, but not entirely unrelated record had been broken by the Boss at the same time – it was the highest number of consecutive beatings he'd dealt to a single member in so short a time scale. Surprisingly, Zidane hadn't been the recipient of said beatings. The only explanation the Boss had ever given was that, "Cinna should damn well know better!"
Zidane, who was always ready for a good bickering match, actually looked disappointed for a second when he realised Blank wasn't going to take the bait. But his head was so fuzzy from the copious amounts of alcohol that he didn't bother to pursue the matter, instead shrugging and leaning back against the wall.
After a while, Blank noticed Zidane's tail flicking from side to side. Just the tip and just the tiniest of movements, but it gave such a feeling of foreboding that he almost groaned aloud. Most people who knew Zidane well knew that a flicking tail was never a good sign.
"I'm thinkin'..." the blonde thief said suddenly.
"Does it hurt?" Blank joked half-heartedly.
"Shut up!" The tail started flicking faster. "I was just thinkin'... I've never pulled a princess before."
"You've never pulled a guy either, but I don't see ya chomping at the bit to try that."
"Oh ha ha, wise guy!" Zidane sat up. "You don't think I can do it." It wasn't a question.
"You're right," Blank agreed freely. "Not only do I not think you can do it, I'm fairly certain you'll get yourself killed in the attempt."
"Killed? How?" Zidane frowned.
"Uh, hello? Zid, this is a princess we're talkin' about. You lay so much as a finger on her, and it's a hangin' offence!"
"Pft! They'd have to catch me first."
Blank thought about that for a second. His knee-jerk reaction was to snort and tell Zidane to get his head out his ass. Sure, he was one of the best thieves Blank had ever seen. He was fast, and subtle as a shadow – he could steal the boots from under a man's feet, and be in the next town before the poor sap even suspected. But no one, not even Zidane Tribal, could out run an army. Not forever, and – if the rumours about Alexandria's General were true – not for long.
But the more Blank thought about it, the less certain he was. After all, how many times had Zidane disappeared when he got into serious trouble with the authorities? And not just by slinking off down an alley somewhere either, but totally and completely vanishing, without the slightest trace.
Blank remembered when his fellow Tantalus brother was just ten; Zidane had tried to rip off some paintings from the Lindblum Museum of Vintage Art and, lacking the finesse he was possessed of today, he'd naturally gotten busted. He somehow escaped the guards though, and went missing for three whole months. He'd hidden so well that even Tantalus hadn't been able to find him...
"As if a princess would fall for you anyway," Blank shrugged, changing tack.
"With a face like this?" Zidane grinned. "How could she resist?"
The red-haired thief sighed. "You're gonna go for it no matter what I say, right?"
He scratched the back of his neck thoughtfully. Frankly, he was starting to feel sorry for this princess. Gods only knew how intense Zidane could get when he was determined. And when there was gil involved, he was damn near unbearable! Still...
"Well, I might as well make some money outta this." Zidane's excitement was palpable – the only thing better than a challenge, was a challenge with money riding on it. "A hundred gil says she knocks you on your tail."
"A thousand says she's mine in a week," Zidane countered.
"A week?" Blank scoffed. "Pft. You can take all the time ya want, Zid – that's how confident I am. In fact I'm so confident, let's make it two thousand."
"Deal!" Zidane exclaimed enthusiastically. "Now that's what I call easy money!"
Blank got to his feet unsteadily. He hadn't really drank that much, at least not compared to Zidane, who could hold liquor like it was water. But as he tottered over to the concourse's exit, his vision was more than a little blurry, and his legs seemed to have roughly the same molecular integrity as oglop oil.
"You haven't won it yet," he grunted, trying to feel out the first step with his foot.
"Where are ya goin'?" Zidane asked, offering his struggling comrade no assistance whatsoever.
"C'mon," Blank called back over his shoulder. "I've had enough of freezin' my ass off here. I'm goin' to Ruby's for the night."
Behind him, Zidane grimaced. Frankly he didn't know what was worse – being beaten senseless by the Boss, or having his ear chewed off for waking Ruby.
The wedding had been... well, it had been a lot of things, if Zidane was honest.
Happy, because it was the happily ever after everyone had been waiting for (and none more so than himself, of that he was utterly convinced). Beautiful, because nothing else would do for the Queen of Alexandria, and because Dagger – by her very presence – made the world around her a beautiful place.
But it had been sad too, in it's way, because Vivi's sons had been there, and while they were more than welcome, their similarity to their father made the latter's absence more keenly felt than ever.
As Zidane stood alone on the bank of the canal, looking out over it's glassy surface, he wondered if Vivi was out there somewhere, watching them. The little guy had had a soul – for Zidane, there had never been any doubt about that. He wondered where the souls of good people went when their bodies died. He wondered where Vivi's soul was now; he wondered if he'd get to go to the same place when it was his turn.
Zidane twisted his head to see who had shouted him, and grinned when a familiar faced filled his vision.
"Blank!" He rushed forward to clasp his fellow thief and brother's arm in a show of solidarity. "What's up? Enjoying the party?"
A scowl crossed Blank's face, and Zidane had to suppress a snigger. He knew exactly what that look meant.
"It'd be a lot better if Ruby would get off my damn case," he grumbled. "When are ya gonna pop the question ta me, Blank?" he said in an exceptionally poor impersonation of the feisty actress's voice. He spat to the side. "I swear, she's drivin' me nuts!"
Zidane released his arm and they sat down together on the steps. He threw Blank a sly sideways glance after a while, and it was a testament to his acting prowess that he managed to keep the amusement out of his voice when he asked, "Why don't you?"
"Why don't ya ask her to marry you?"
Blank paled. "Don't even joke about that."
"Aw, c'mon! Ruby would make a good w-,"
"Don't! Don't even say it!"
But Zidane had a long history of doing the exact opposite of what he was told, and he wasn't about to change it now.
"Wife," he enunciated slowly, smiling a cheeky smile when Blank groaned as though the word caused him physical pain.
Blank offered no explanation for his reluctance, and Zidane, too selfishly drunk on his own happiness to care, didn't bother to ask. He suspected he knew anyway, because it hadn't been so long ago that the thought of marriage (of even being with one girl for longer than a week!) had made him more than a little nauseated too.
Zidane cocked his head, nose wrinkling in distaste. He loved Dagger more than life itself, but his new title... Well, not so much. "Say what?"
"Mm?" Blank raised his head. "Oh, I was jus' thinkin'. It wasn't that long ago you were a thief, like the rest of us. Now you're Prince Consort of Alexandria. That's one ritzy title bro."
Tail twitching restlessly, face an indignant frown, Zidane protested. "Hey, I'm still the best thief out there. Being Prince anythin' doesn't change who I am."
Blank laughed, deep and heartily. "I wasn't challenging your skill, idiot! I'm just sayin', it's... weird."
"Yeah," he relaxed a little, folding his arms behind his head and leaning back to look at the star-studded sky. "It feels like just yesterday we were fixin' to kidnap her, and now..."
They lapsed into a companionable silence.
Behind them, back at the castle, they could hear the faintest sounds of merriment as the nuptial festivities continued. No doubt Dagger was still flitting between the various nobles, testing the waters, finding out who supported her decision to marry a man of common blood, and who would need watching in the future. Zidane was already plenty aware that Alexandria's upper class had mixed opinions of him, and though he had a disdainful attitude towards the nobility in general, he knew he'd have his work cut out for him, getting them to accept him.
But that was a worry for another day. For now, he just wanted to enjoy his wedding day. He wanted to drink with his friends, to reminisce about the old days and joke about the future. And later, when the party was over and he and Dagger were alone, he wanted to make their first night as man and wife one she'd never, ever forget.
Frankly, the nobles could damn well wait.
It was as he was thinking about how time had flown that he remembered.
"Don't think I've forgotten," he said suddenly, startling Blank out of a peaceful reverie.
"You owe me two thousand gil – I got the girl didn't I?" Zidane reminded him, a self-satisfied grin on his face. "Cough up."
Blank made a face. "You married a Queen! What the hell do you need gil for? An' besides, I thought you said you could do it in a week."
Zidane shrugged. " I seem to recall you sayin' I could take all the time I wanted. A bet's a bet."
The red-head opened his mouth to protest, but Zidane's argument was flawless so he quickly snapped it shut again. "Gods damn it, Tribal," he sighed at last. He untied a pouch from his belt and dumped it sourly in Zidane's waiting hand.
"Much obliged," Zidane smirked, tying the pouch to his own belt. It looked more than a little out of place considering his uncharacteristically formal clothing, but Blank supposed there were few who would comment on it now that he was Prince Consort.
They stayed by the canal a while longer, enjoying each other's company as they bantered back and forth just like old times.
Eventually they agreed they should be heading back to the party, and it was as they climbed the stairs by the fountain that Blank casually commented, "Ya know, last time I visited, I noticed there weren't many female Genomes in Black Mage Village."
"Yeah..." Zidane's eyes narrowed suspiciously. These were technically his sisters they were talking about after all.
"Well I asked Mikoto, and she says it's 'cause the genetics for males are easier to build than the ones for females," he said, ever so nonchalant. "She said it happens in nature too, for all kinds of species, but somethin' about the Genomes makes the difference stronger."
Blank met his eye, a glint of mischief in their hazel depths. "I bet five thousand gil your first kid's a boy."
Zidane grinned eagerly. "I'll take that bet."
Some things would never change.