Part 3: Future – With The Dawn
I laugh to myself about that night two years ago. I was fourteen then, a tender age to some but I think my tender age ended when I was about eight. I walked in on Ruby having a shower. It was um...quite an eyeful to say the least. I swear I didn't mean to! She didn't lock the door okay? But boy was she mad. If she hadn't of been naked I'm sure she would've chased me all around Lindblum throwing her hair brush at me like she did to Blank whenever he was late for something. Needless to say she made sure she locked the door after that. Aw man, those were the days.
And what about these days? Living in the palace...it's so boring.
I stand up on the rooftop, needing to rid myself of some energy. I look to my right, turn and then make a running jump to the adjacent house. A couple of slates come loose and slide to ground, crashing onto the floor. I lose my balance slightly and my arms whirl to stay on the roof.
Then I do it again, jumping from each roof like a cat, the stars whirl above my head.
Dagger's gonna be furious when she finds out I've been out all night. She'll probably start to get suspicious. Thinking about it...when was the last time I've had a full nights sleep?
I stop and scratch my chin to think about that. I laugh suddenly.
Man, I didn't think that living in a castle would take it outta me so much!
I sit down on the roof again, arch my legs, wrap my tail around my ankle and rest my head on my knees. I close my eyes and wonder if Baku would ever accept me back again. But could I really do that? Abandon Dagger? 'Cause hell I still love her! ...I think...I think? Do I doubt my love for her?
I open my eyes and suddenly realise that it is lighter. Dawn is coming. A pink strip, distant but glowing, arches its back like an animal over the horizon. The stars still litter the sky though.
'Gwahahaha! What ya doin' up? Thought ya didn't like getting' up early!'
I startle and can hardly believe my ears. 'Boss?'
He stands behind me, the same old Baku that I remember, his goggles fixed firmly over his eyes, his large stomach wobbles over his green trousers as he laughs, a wide tan belt hangs loosely down his middle. He scratches his purple beard and chuckles to himself.
'Well boy, arne't ya gonna answer me?'
I look down at the street below, and suddenly wonder if I woke people up jumping on their roofs. 'I...um...just wanted some fresh air, that's all.'
He smacks me round the head and I cry out.
'You're my boy, ya can't lie to me, have ya forgotten that as well?'
'I haven't forgotten anything!' I cry angrily, rubbing the back of my head.
A few of the slates shudder as he sits down next to me and looks at the fading stars. There was a peaceful silence then and I felt very comfortable.
'What are you doing on a rooftop, anyway?' I ask.
'Gwahahaha! I was strolling round lookin' for summit I could steal when all of a sudden a couple of slates come crashin' down on me head! Imagine my surprise when I look up and see one of my boys jumping 'cross the rooftops like an acrobat, you little scoundrel! Thought ya might be chasin' summit so I followed ya.'
Another pause. And then pain shoots through my neck as he slaps me on the back of my head again.
'You still aint answered my question!'
I sigh. I could never lie to him. 'I don't like living at the castle. It's boring. I...I miss being in Tantalus...'
He laughs again and it vibrates through the air, irks the peace and the coming dawn. 'Course ya do,' he said. 'And I'll let ya in on a little secret. We miss you as well. You're...part of the 'gang'...as Marcus put it the other day. We'd like ya back but –'
I jump up and nearly lose my balance again while shouting, 'Then take me back! I wanna join Tantalus again! We can start again like none of this has ever happened, y'know, go round stealin' treasure and stuff!'
I can hardly believe it when Baku turns away and shakes his head sorrowfully. He says, 'No Zidane. I don't want you to join again.'
His voice sounds very gruff and strained. All I can see is the back of his head and the bulge of his back. He has his head in his hands.
'Ya heard me. Don't want ya back again. You don't belong among us anymore.'
I felt very peculiar. My eyes were hot, as if I wanted to cry but they are lumps of stone that can't weep tears. My heart feels very heavy and I want to scream and lie down and run away and stop talking all at once until all I can do is just stand there numbly watching the inert body of my boss.
He sighs, a very thick and heavy sound and he rubs his face with his hands. 'It's not that you've changed a great deal,' he begins to explain, 'It's just that I know you wouldn't be happy if I let ya back in. And I...hate seein' ya unhappy.'
A rage burns within; sending white-hot sparks jumping inside me. 'How do you know what I want?' I scream at him. 'How could you possibly understand how I feel? I hate it there! I hate it so much! None of them care about how I feel; they all want me to be a different person; someone that I'm not! But how can I be? I wish none of this had ever happened! If you don't like seeing me unhappy then let me back in! Baku! Are you even listening to me?!' My voice cracks and I'm panting, clenching my fists in fury.
There's a pause. And then he stands up and turns. His face is very serious and he looms over me like a mountain. His arms shoots out and I brace myself for the impact. But none came. Instead I felt his hand on my shoulder and a he exerts a gentle pressure, pushing me down onto the cold tiles again. 'Sit down, boy,' he instructs.
I glare at the coal-black slates moodily.
'I didn't believe a word you just said,' he tells me, sitting down in front of me. 'Cause of what ya told me – when was it? – six, seven months ago? Do ya remember?'
I search sketchily through hazy memories, find nothing, and shake my head.
'Alright then, lemme ask ya another question. Why are ya livin' in the castle now? If ya get it wrong you get a punch, got it? 'Cause it's a simple question that even Cinna could answer right.'
'Because I have too.'
I didn't particularly want that punch from Baku – man he could swing one when he wanted to! – but I was so stubborn and angry that I just couldn't bring myself to say the answer I knew was right. So I got a black eye for it.
He knocks me flat and I skid slightly across the tiles and stare up at the sky. The navy blue is being chased away by pinkish hues and golden ribbons of light now streak the horizon, a thin disc peers over the earth's side, rimmed with cotton clouds.
'Now tell me the truth,' Baku says softly.
I want to cry. I really do. But I can't. So many conflicting emotions are eating me away. So I just said, 'I live at the castle because Dagger lives there.'
'And...I love her.'
'Gwahahaha! Weren't so hard, was it? Feel better now?'
'Heh-heh-heh. Ya know, I remember after you moved into the castle, you and Dagger had a real scrap. Remember?'
I ease myself up and touch my swollen eye. 'We've had loads of arguments.'
'Nah, not like that one I'll wager. You were so angry you came barging into Ruby's mini-theatre and told me everything. You said she'd been trying to make ya act more noble like -'
'She still does,' I growl.
'Lemme finish! So anyway, ya came back the next day, all bleary eyed and tired looking with a big stupid grin on ya face sayin' you and ya chick made up. Everyone asked how but you only told me. Remember now? It was about six months ago?'
And it sparks then, as suddenly as a firework but as delicately as a flower blooming. The memory washes over me and images transcend above my subconscious and drift into my reach. Yes, I remember now. I was furious with her, in fact, I'd been so angry I nearly lashed out at her. I couldn't though – I never will...but I said some stuff that...to put it lightly...I really regret saying. I could hardly believe the insults I was throwing at her even as they were coming outta my mouth! She...her face...how did I forget? She just withered before my eyes and burst into tears. I knew I'd hurt her real bad but I was...too stubborn to say sorry.
I'd gone to Ruby's place and told Baku everything. I pretended to be angry even though the guilt of what I had said was spreading through me like a disease. Baku saw that, I knew he would, that's why I told him. I honestly thought it was over between us; I had finally pushed our relationship too far and I'd lost the only woman I love.
But no, I was wrong.
I had returned to my chamber via the window, so I wouldn't run into her...or Steiner for that matter, and was so exhausted I'd drifted off to sleep almost immediately. I remember, later on, I awoke and looked across to see Dagger snuggled into the hollow of my shoulder, my arm draped around her fragile form. She was sobbing and trying to stifle the sound by covering her mouth with her hands.
'Dagger?' I had whispered very quietly.
She had jumped and stared up at me through scared and watery eyes. I remember thinking how beautiful she looked.
'What is it?'
She put her arms around me and sobbed a little louder. 'I...I had a nightmare...'
'I...I...dreamt that...you died and – and – and...I was all alone again...I was really scared because th-there was no one else in the Castle and- and I ....I kept calling you but you...you...you...' She sobbed harder and couldn't finish what she saying. She buried her head in my shoulder, her dark hair sticking to her oval face, lily-white in the moonlight.
'Hey, it's okay,' I reassured her, stroking her head. 'I'm not gone; see? I'm not about to go dying on you. I'll be here with you always; I'd never leave you. I love you.'
'You...you really wont leave me?'
I was surprised for some reason. 'Of course not! I'd never even consider leaving your side, ever! How could I?' I took a deep breath, lifted her chin and looked into her chocolate brown eyes. 'I'm...I'm sorry...for earlier. I love you.'
She sniffed and managed a smile. 'I-I love you too...Zidane.'
I cannot hold them back any longer and all the frustration, anger, hate and guilt just flow out of me in the form of tears. I bury my head in my hands. How could I forget such a thing? I've been such a prick toward her! I was actually considering leaving her all alone and rejoining Tantalus again! How can I be so selfish? All she's ever done is care for me...and this is how I repay her?
'I don't deserve someone like her,' I said to the silent Baku finally, wiping my eyes. 'I'm an idiot.'
He laughs loudly. 'Well I wont deny the idiot part, but...you do deserve her. Ya spent ages tryin' to win her heart, didn't ya, eh? It's gonna be difficult, I can imagine, but you gotta pull through it... for her.'
'S'alright! You may not be a member of Tantalus anymore but ya still one of me boys as far as I'm concerned, got it? But promise me one thing...'
'Make sure ya mug a couple of them nobles when they come to the castle...ya know, some nice jewellery and stuff...then come show us and we'll spilt the cost, eh?'
I laugh. 'Is that an order?'
I stand up and thump my chest with my hand. 'Alright, if I can't join Tantalus again then I might as well make do with what I've got eh?' I laugh lightly. 'Baku, I...er...I...'
He waves a hand. 'Ya don't need to say nothin', boy.'
I nod. 'I'm going back to the...um...I...I'm going home now. I'm going back to see Dagger...and say I'm sorry.' I turn to leave, edge my way to the lip of the roof then pause, and turn back to see Baku looking after me, the fresh light bathing his face with golden hues. 'But,' I say, 'I wont forget everything you taught me. Ever. And I'll come back and see you guys soon, 'kay?'
With that last comment I leap off the roof and hit the cobbles below soundlessly, and begin to run toward the gleaming castle, back towards my future wife.