Disclaimer: I do not, and I never will, own FFIV.
A/N: The final chapter. This is the first multi-chap story that I've ever completed, and it wouldn't have happened without you lovely readers. Thank you SO much for your support. This was lots of fun to write, and I hope it was fun to read. Without further ado, I bring you the conclusion.
Baron was crowded this time of year. Despite the fact that she and Edge were technically there for the gathering of the heroes and whatever political messes Cecil wanted to dig into this year, for the rest of Baron, today was just a celebration of life and love. The world had been saved – and the Baronians, like the rest of the world, weren't about to let such a good opportunity for a festival go to waste. The marketplace was full of hagglers and laughter, musicians played at street corners, and several makeshift stages had been set up for dancing and competitions. There was even a street set aside for chocobo racing.
Therefore, Baron was noisy.
It wasn't much better inside the castle. Rosa and Cecil's children were reaching that age where they were loud and obnoxious, and worse yet, they could run. They weren't the only children around, either; the children of nobles and servants alike played together today, and they were constantly getting underfoot. Palom wasn't helping matters. He had joined in their games, and egged them on shamelessly, all while alternately running from his sister or trying to convince her to join in the fun.
By the time the second day rolled around, Rosa had managed to corner Rydia and had pulled her aside to a relatively quiet corner of the castle for tea and conversation. They kept the talk light and comfortable at first, but Rosa finally stopped dancing around the subject and Rydia reluctantly answered her questions and allowed her to cast libra.
"Well." Rosa ended the spell and smiled at her warmly. "Everything seems to be fine."
Rydia returned the smile. "Thank you. Though I still don't know why you wanted to check. I told you I felt fine."
"Just because you feel fine doesn't mean that everything is fine," Rosa warned. "And this is your first time. Better to be safe than sorry."
She winced, chagrined, and stared down into her rapidly cooling cup of tea. "Sorry."
Rosa brushed off the apology with a wave of her hand and rose to her feet, offering the same hand to Rydia. The summoner glanced up from her tea, smiled, and accepted the help. The two women strolled leisurely down the hall, time not of the essence. It was Rydia who spoke into the comfortable silence, trying not to break it. "Rosa?"
"What's it like?"
Rosa's mouth twisted into a half-smile. "Painful," she replied wryly, "but amazing."
Rydia considered the answer for a moment as they arrived in the large gathering hall that had been set up as a combination ballroom and dining area. Most of the others were there, but Rydia noted the lack of her husband with only a hint of concern. Palom and Porom were at it again, and young Theo and his siblings weren't being particularly quiet. "It's worth it, then," she decided. Beside her, Rosa laughed.
"Definitely." The elder woman smiled at her and hugged her gently before sighing and directing her attention towards her children. "Those three…"
"Go be a mother," Rydia suggested, amused by the exasperation Rosa showed as she planted her hands on her hips. "I should go find Edge anyway."
"He's not here?"
"No. It's probably too noisy for him right now."
One of Rosa's eyebrows rose, curious despite herself. "It's not that loud."
Rydia chuckled. "Loud and noisy aren't the same thing," she explained. "Besides, this is the first gathering since he lost his vision. I wouldn't be at all surprised if he decided to leave for a while."
Rosa nodded in understanding, but her mouth thinned into a serious line. "You need to tell him, Rydia."
She rolled her eyes. "Yes, mother."
"I mean it."
"I know." Rydia nodded. "And I will. I promise."
"Good. Go find that husband of yours." Rosa's face softened and she aimed another smile towards Rydia before the queen of Baron set off to separate her children, who were arguing over something simultaneously, their voices melding into a cacophony of sounds and syllables. She watched them for a while as Rosa got right into the thick of things to sort it out, and when Theo and Sophia finally apologized, glaring all the while, Rydia took her leave.
Edge had no idea where he was. It was quiet, though, and it was outside, and that was all he really cared about. He was fairly certain he'd stumbled into one of the castle's many courtyards, thanks to the scent of flowers that had assaulted him as soon as he'd stepped outside, but he'd gotten used to the overpowering smell and sat, relaxed, on a stone bench.
It was nice out here, he decided. Despite the fact that it was still midmorning, it was cool, and he wondered if the courtyard was covered. The noise that he'd come out here to escape from had receded to faint strains of laughter and the occasional, muffled, high-pitched shriek of a child. Noise from the streets of Baron didn't reach here, for which he was devoutly thankful. He didn't want to find a new hiding place, not when this one was so pleasant.
Familiar footsteps sounded nearby, drawing closer to him and stopping by a pillar that he'd discovered when he was trying to find some place to sit down. "So this is where you went." He could hear the grin in Rydia's voice, and it brought an answering one to his face as he twisted to look in her direction.
"It was noisy," he replied simply, holding out a hand. "Join me?"
"That's what I thought." Her hand brushed against his in acknowledgement of his request, and a moment later Rydia settled down next to him, leaning comfortably into his side. "It's nice out here," she said after a moment.
"Where is 'here', anyway?" Edge wanted to know. Rydia laughed.
"One of the courtyards," she replied flippantly. At Edge's exasperated sigh, Rydia relented. "It's on the west side. That's all I really know. It's not like they named these places or anything."
Edge huffed. "They should," he told her seriously, schooling his smile into a line. "Warn innocent passers-by as to just what they'll be experiencing when they come into one of these things. 'The Rose Courtyard'," he added, losing the battle to keep his lips straight, and was rewarded with another bell-chime of laughter.
"There are a lot of roses here," she admitted before she sighed. "Edge…"
"I didn't do it," he replied automatically. She nudged him with her elbow to shut him up, and he complied.
"Actually, you did," she told him pointedly. "Or at least, you definitely had a hand in it."
"Is this leading up to you explaining that thing that you haven't explained yet?"
He hid his grin as Rydia groaned and turned to bury her face in his shoulder. "You're making this difficult," she complained.
Edge chuckled and snaked his arm around her waist. "Take your time," he suggested. "I'm not going anywhere. Those kids are far too noisy for my tastes."
Rydia shifted. "You love kids," she pointed out, sounding uneasy. He nodded agreeably.
"Of course I do. That doesn't stop them from being loud, noisy, irritating little monsters," he replied, matter-of-fact.
His wife sighed and rested her head back on his shoulder. "You'll make a wonderful father," she murmured softly.
As someone who was used to looking underneath the underneath and picking apart people's words and actions to find the true meaning, Edge caught onto her inexpert confession right away, a smile blooming on his face as Rydia finally told him what he'd guessed at weeks ago. "Well," he allowed, rather than break the peace by falling flat on his face in a faint or by whooping in joy, neither option one he was particularly given to anyway, and finding shock to be a boring response, "you have been getting rounder."
"Don't make me call Bahamut on you," Rydia grumbled, pushing him half-heartedly. "Why can't you just react normally for a change?"
"Because normal is boring," Edge replied immediately. "Besides, my dear Rydia – you're terrible at keeping secrets."