Final Fantasy - All Series Fan Fiction ❯ Sympathy for the Damned ❯ Part 23 ( Chapter 23 )
"Sympathy for the damned"
"Zidane, you come here every year, and every year, I tell you he's not coming back," Garnet said crossly, putting her hands on her hips. "I know you feel like you've got to honor his memory, but may I remind you that one good deed doesn't turn a villain into a saint?"
Zidane crouched down and picked up a dried leaf, turning it over and over between his fingers. He and his wife stood at the base of the Iifa tree, where they came every year since the day he returned to Alexandria. The overgrown, gigantic roots formed a labyrinth around them, and in front of them stood the crumbled remains of the statue of Leviathan. "I hear what you're saying, doll. I don't blame you for getting tired of doing this, but this time, I've really got a feeling. I had a dream last night-"
"You've had dreams about him nearly every night, for the past five years!" Garnet interrupted, "If I didn't know any better, I could swear that you were in love with him!"
Zidane smirked up at her mischievously. "You know you're the only girl for me."
"Kuja wasn't a girl," Garnet reminded him with a scowl.
He laughed. "Could have fooled me." He stood up again and embraced her, kissing her forehead. "Listen, Dagger…I know it's hard to understand, but Kuja and I had some kind of a link. Maybe it was because of how we were both made, I dunno. All I know is, despite all he's done, I do care about him. And no, I don't think of him as a girl, even though I make jokes about it now and then. It isn't like that. I care about him like he was a brother of mine. A spoiled, snooty, troublemaking brother, but still, a brother."
Garnet smiled and returned the embrace. "I suppose I know that, Zidane. It's just that you come to this place as though it's a shrine to your biggest hero. We've built Kuja an epitaph in Alexandria…could you not just pay your respects to his memory there?"
Zidane nuzzled her hair and frowned, trying to think of how to make her understand. She was right the first time, about him believing that Kuja was coming back. He had never actually seen the other genome die, and he couldn't shake the feeling that Kuja was still alive somewhere…possibly trapped. "Now I know how twins feel when one of them is hurt," he murmured without thinking.
Garnet pulled back and stared at him in confusion. "Twins? What are you talking about, Zidane? You need to accept the fact that Kuja is dead."
He shook his head stubbornly. "He isn't, sweetheart. I know it. Last night, I spoke to him. He was hurting bad, and something was after him. He wanted to give up and die, but I think I convinced him to keep going. I know it sounds crazy, but it's true! I also know you don't have a whole lot of love for the guy, but like it or not, he's a part of me. Will you help me out, if I'm right about this?"
"Help you out how?" she questioned warily. Her dark eyes were still looking at him strangely, as if he had rabies. Zidane couldn't really blame her.
"Just try not to hold the past against him too much, if he does show up. He's going to need help. We can keep an eye on him, if it'll make you feel better, but I promise you, he's not going to cause any trouble."
Garnet shook her head. She'd had this argument with Zidane before and she thought that she had already made it clear that IF Kuja ever turned up alive, she wanted him in custody and watched over at all times. "Why do I have to keep repeating myself, Zidane? Don't you trust my word?"
He nodded, and his blue eyes were quite serious on her. "You know I do. I don't trust your emotions, though. A part of you never accepted that your Mother did the things she did because she wanted to. You still want to blame it entirely on Kuja. You still want to believe that he brainwashed her. He was part of the problem, but not the symptom, Dagger."
Her face reddened and she almost lashed out at him in anger, but she made herself take a couple of deep breaths and calm down. After a moment, she nodded. "Very well. You're right, Zidane. At least partly. I can't help but feel that if Kuja had never appeared and tempted my Mother with power, she might not have gone down the path that she did. I understand that as far as her death goes, she attacked him, and not the other way around. I understand that he retaliated. I know all of this, Zidane. But, it would take a sincere apology from Kuja himself for me to ever even consider forgiving him, and as much as I want to believe you, I truly don't think he's coming back."
The moment she finished speaking, the air was filled with the crackle of energy, and brilliant bursts of light blinded the couple. Zidane hollered her name and shoved her to the ground, covering her protectively with his body. Both of them squinted against the painful light and looked up to see a hole forming in the air above them.
"What the hell?" Zidane said in amazement. It looked sort of like the portal from Gaia to Terra, but it was smaller. He swore and rolled aside, taking Garnet with him, as a form fell through the flashing portal and nearly landed right on top of them. With a few more cracks and pops, the mystical doorway vanished, taking the blinding light with it.
Zidane cautiously removed his weight from Dagger and crawled to the still body that lay on the ground. His heart thundered in his chest as a breeze picked up the dirty scarf covering the person's head and revealed a thick mass of silver, violet-streaked hair. He reached the person and carefully rolled them onto their back, noting the almost feminine curve to the slim, black-clad hips. He also noticed the limp tail that sprouted from the person's backside, which was so dirty that it was impossible to tell what color it was.
Dagger sat up and stared with huge eyes as her husband rolled the person over and pulled the scarf off of their head. "Well, I suppose this makes me wrong," she said in mystification.
There, lying at the foot of the Iifa tree beside them, was Kuja. He wasn't moving, and he looked like he had been through a war. His face was streaked with tears, dirt, and some sort of white paint, his clothing was torn, and his hands and fingers were bruised and bloody. Zidane scooped the sorcerer's slender body up and cradled it, shaking him gently. "Don't tell me you're dead," He whispered, "come on, Kuja. Breathe."
A weak gasp and a cough rewarded Zidane for his efforts, and he grabbed the water bottle strapped to his leg hastily and unscrewed it. He held it to the cracked, bleeding lips and whispered encouragement, allowing some of the cool liquid to dribble onto them. Kuja's decorative eyelids fluttered, and his mouth moved. Zidane tilted the sorcerer's head and held it steady as he carefully poured some water into his mouth, and Kuja swallowed.
Garnet stood up, still staring at the returned sorcerer with shock and surprise. "I…I'll contact the men on the airship and have them bring a stretcher," she said through numb lips.
Zidane tore his attention away from his "brother" long enough to give Garnet a thankful smile. "You're doing the right thing, sweetheart."
She returned the smile feebly. "We'll see. Just let it be known now that I hold you responsible for him, dear."
"How is he doing, Dr. Tot?"
The eccentric little man was practically jumped on by Zidane the minute he came out of the bedroom they had put Kuja in. He patted the young man's arm soothingly. "Take it easy, son. He's just dehydrated and a tad feverish. I've cleaned him up and given him a mild sedative and some water, but I'm more worried about his mental state than his physical one."
Zidane shared a confused look with Garnet. "His mental state? What do you mean?"
The doctor sighed and removed his little round glasses. He began to clean them with the edge of his plaid shirt as he explained; "I wish I knew where this fellow has been. I took some samples of the soil on his clothes, and it's not native to Gaia. It isn't from Terra, either. Kuja has been through some powerful trauma. Tell me, do you know anyone named `Sefy?' He keeps calling that name, and a few minutes ago, he opened his eyes and looked at me. You'd have thought I was a demon! He tried to shove me away from him and he even tried to cast a spell, but the poor lad was too weak, and he passed out from the effort."
Garnet shot Zidane a look that said she thought this was a huge mistake, and Kuja's violent reactions proved it. He sighed and rubbed his temples. "That's funny…in the dream I had last night, he was shouting for someone with that name, too. I think wherever he's been for the past five years, this `Sefy' person was with him. I think they died to get him home, too."
Both his wife and the doctor looked at him with skeptical expressions. Tot cleared his throat. "I see. I won't bother asking how you know all this, since I've learned how unusual genomes can be. I have a theory about genetic empathy between you fellows, but I don't want to jump to conclusions. I think it would be a good idea to have Kuja guarded until he recovers and has regained his senses."
"You believe he could be dangerous?" Garnet asked with an expression that said she already knew as much.
Tot's eyebrows lifted when he caught her meaning. "To other people? Possibly. To himself? Most definitely. After listening to the lad mutter in his sleep, I'm convinced that he could be suicidal. That's why I want you to have someone guarding him day and night. He isn't in his right mind at present, and he needs a lot of care."
Zidane swallowed and gave Garnet an expectant look. His concern for Kuja made him sensitive to the way she had automatically implied that he was likely to go on a destructive rampage. "Well, is it okay with you if I watch over him, or would you rather slap him in chains and throw him in the dungeon?"
"Zidane, that isn't fair," she said with wide eyes and a blush.
All the anger drained out of him and he hugged her. "I know, I'm sorry. I just feel like you're looking for any reason at all to toss him out and forget about him, and I'm kind of stressed out. I'm sorry."
Garnet shook her head and leaned into the embrace, resting her cheek on his shoulder. "I'm sorry too. Your instincts are partially right, but not because I want revenge. I'm passed all that, Zidane. I'm only concerned for the well being of my people, and I'm having difficulty digesting all of this. I just can't think of him as some poor, wounded boy, right now. Not until I know that he won't go back to his old ways the moment he gets better." She pulled away to stare into the genome's eyes. "Promise me, Zidane. Promise me that you won't let your feelings for Kuja cloud your reason. If he starts to behave like a criminal again, I don't want to have to fight you over what will need to be done."
"I…I promise," Zidane said reluctantly. "Only because I know in my gut that I'm right about him. He doesn't have any reason to go back to doing the things he was doing before. He's free of Garland, now." He frowned and looked back toward the door, reminded of one very important thing by mentioning Garland. "By the way…you said that other than some dehydration and fever, Kuja's healthy."
Dr. Tot nodded. "Indeed, he is."
"That doesn't make any sense, now that I think of it. I was ready to be scrambling for some way to cure what Garland did to him. Do you remember me telling you about how he designed Kuja to `wear out' after some time?"
"Yes, I recall that. There are no signs of any deterioration in his body, nor any diseases or viruses. If you like, I can run more tests tomorrow, when he's stronger."
"That might be a good idea," Zidane replied, still frowning, "his life was definitely on a timer, the last time I saw him. He was getting weaker and weaker every minute. Could something that serious just go away?"
Dr. Tot lifted an intrigued eyebrow. "I assume that Garland programmed some sort of genetic disorder into Kuja when he created him. Perhaps his mysterious sojourn to wherever he's been cured him, or perhaps it merely put it into temporary remission. I believe, with your permission, that I should test him often for symptoms. I should hate for it to come back and kill him because of a lack of precaution on my part."
"Yeah, we should be careful," Zidane murmured, hugging Garnet more tightly. It would suck if Kuja came back and got another chance at life, only to weaken all over again and die. It would also suck if he hung himself or did something else that was equally stupid. "Looks like I'm the babysitter," Zidane said, trying to grin. He couldn't help it…he was afraid for Kuja.
-To be continued