Title: The Show Must Go On
Author: bnomiko
Rating: PG-13 / R to NC-17
Pairing(s): Zidane x Kuja, Zidane + Dagger, Blank + Marcus
Spoilers: through the end of the game
Disclaimer: "The Show Must Go On" and "These Are the Days of Our Lives" are performed and recorded by Queen. Final Fantasy IX is the creation and property of Square Co., Ltd. This is a not-for-profit fanwork and I do not own any of these characters.
Summary: "Take care of Kuja." Zidane wondered if he'd misunderstood what Garland had meant by that. A canon inspired tumble through the events at the end of the game and beyond, hitting Kuja's issues along the way.
Archived at: http://www.phenixsol.com/Miko/FF/

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The Show Must Go On

Epilogue: These Are the Days of Our Lives

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You can't turn back the clock, you can't turn back the tide
Ain't that a shame?
Ooh, I'd like to go back one time on a roller coaster ride
When life was just a game
No use in sitting and thinkin' on what you did
When you can lay back and enjoy it through your kids
Sometimes it seems like lately, I just don't know
Better sit back and go, with the flow

Those were the days of our lives, yeah
The bad things in life were so few
Those days are all gone now but one thing's still true
When I look and I find, I still love you
I still love you

- "These Are the Days of Our Lives," Queen

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Amarant's stride carried him down the worn footpath towards the mountain lake that bordered the small town of Nil. It had been a while since his journeys had brought him this way.

He may have been a bounty hunter, but that didn't mean he'd do anything for money. Spying wasn't something of interest to him; he wasn't here to check in on any former criminals and write up a report or anything like that. He was just visiting. And if he happened to pass through Alexandria later on, any informational tidbits he happened to drop was just part of conversation, nothing more.

As he approached the small lakefront cottage, Amarant heard hammering sounds. Once he got closer, he spotted a couple of men carrying wood to the back of the house. He didn't recognize them, but the slender figure standing on top of the roof was a familiar silhouette.

"What are you doing up there, you fool?" Amarant yelled, shielding his eyes from the sun with one hand.

"Oh, hey! I'll be right down," Zidane yelled back. He quickly wiped off his hands on his overalls, looked around, and then decided the fastest way off was to just somersault off the roof and onto the ground below.

The redhead simply shook his head as the blonde landed gracefully and strolled over to greet him. "Still a little monkey I see."

Zidane merely grinned at the bigger man, his tail swinging with lazy grace behind him. "What brings you here?"

"Just needed a boat," Amarant replied, though his eyes were drawn to some random swatches of paint on the wall behind the Genome - a few different shades of aqua and a bright chocobo yellow. Apparently he'd walked in in the middle of a remodel.

Zidane nodded. "I can do that." He paused, calculating whether he could spare a bit of time, then asked, "Want something to drink?"

Amarant shrugged. The lemonade last time hadn't been bad. "Sure."

Zidane nodded and walked his friend up the porch before sticking his head inside to ask Kuja to grab some lemonade.

"So what's all this hammering about?" Amarant asked when Zidane came back and sat down across from him.

"I promised Kuja we'd build a proper bedroom. We'll repaint the place after that, once Kuja decides on the colors." Zidane shrugged, not really caring about the color scheme, as long as his partner was pleased with it. "And while we're at it, we'll whitewash the cabinets inside as well, and maybe get new curtains? It'll look nice once we're done. A lot cheerier than before."

Amarant's brows beetled a bit. A bedroom? He wasn't going to ask about that. Nor was he going to point out that the paint colors Kuja were considering were a match for Zidane's coloration. Though he wasn't sure what else there was to talk about, really. Zidane seemed to be doing well in any case - a smidge taller than when they'd last met, and a tiny bit broader. He'd probably never catch up to Kuja in height though.

Kuja came out a moment later, his young cat swirling around his feet, all white fluff with a touch of marmalade. The former mage was dressed in a white blouse and corset like the ones that barmaids often wore, and fitted capris. The pendant Zidane had gifted him was now on full display, a flicker of flame just below the base of his throat. There was a hint of confusion in his eyes, but he wasn't unfriendly and in fact managed a slight smile as he placed a glass of lemonade on the table. "Hello."

Amarant grunted, then, realizing that the sound could be misconstrued as being dismissive, gave a nod in greeting as well. He gulped down some of his drink, then looked around again before asking, "So this is it, then? You two really plannin' on just living quietly in this no-name town for the rest of your lives?"

Zidane rolled the question around his mind for a minute, then said, "If you'd asked me that as few years ago, I would've said, 'Heck no!'" He laughed. "But now... I don't need to be a hero. I don't need the fairytale. Sure it's quiet here, but it's home - it's our home - and that suits me just fine."

"Home" was overrated to someone like Amarant, who was always on the move. He couldn't say he saw the appeal. "I bet you're gonna be bored in a matter of months."

Zidane smiled. "Well, I didn't say we'd stay home and never leave again! We already got permission to travel to Lindblum next month. After that... well, Mikoto had asked us to visit, so I guess someday we will."

"After the wedding though," Kuja reminded him.

"Wedding?" Amarant yelled, causing both Genomes to stare at him. Neither one thought the big man's voice could pitch that high.

It was Zidane who figured things out, after a moment's pause. "Clyde and Millie from the general store are getting married this summer, and Kuja's not yet done with the bridal veil." A big grin settled on his face as he added, "Why, what did you think he meant?"

"Geez..." The redhead scrubbed at his face, as if that would wipe away his embarassment. "Damn idiot," he muttered, though he didn't say who it was directed at.

Zidane simply shrugged it off.

Amarant took another swig of lemonade, then asked, "Ya really think it's a good idea to come out of hiding so soon? They barely got the wanted posters off the walls."

The young thief shrugged again. "I just wanted to give Kuja the chance to get to know everyone in Tantalus better, so we'll only be there for a few days. We probably won't be spending any time out in the city proper. But if anything does come up..." He trailed off, sighing and shutting his eyes, as if pushing the possible risks out of his mind. Or perhaps, pushing aside the thought of what he'd do to those possible risks; Zidane hadn't let his combat skills deteriorate for good reason. Then his eyes opened again and he looked over at Kuja, before his tail reached out to curl around the other Genome's, and began slowly stroking down its length.

Kuja flushed, though it was so faint it could almost be waved off as a trick of light, except for the fact that his mouth had curled up slightly at the corners as well.

Amarant coughed behind his hand. Zidane had been annoyingly whiny when he'd been forced to face the fact that his and "Dagger's" destinies would send them their separate ways, right before she was to ascend the throne. His proposal to her later on had been no less over the top, taking advantage of a full theater production and live audience. But somehow, this quiet, little moment of flirting affection screamed out Zidane's feelings much louder than all the wailing he'd supposedly done in the tavern before he'd gone to wish Garnet well in her new role as queen.

The bounty hunter figured he'd overstayed his welcome. He'd only come for a boat, anyhow. "Thanks for the lemonade," Amarant said, tilting the glass in salute before raising it to his lips and downing the rest.

"You're welcome," Kuja said, picking up the empty glass. "Would you like a refill?"

"Nah, I'm good. Gotta get going. But thanks."

Zidane smiled. Although the two men had barely exchanged more than a handful of polite words, there wasn't any tension between them either, like before.

"Let's see about that boat, then," the blonde said, rising to his feet. Amarant stood as well, and the two headed down to the dock, as Kuja and Silky disappeared back inside.

"Any messages to pass on?" Amarant asked offhandedly, once Zidane finished preparing the requested rowboat. He figured the answer was no, but no harm in asking.

"Not this time," Zidane said, but after a moment's thought, he added, "Well... if anyone asks, I'm good. We're good. We're happy."

"Yeah, even I can see that." Amarant chuckled, and stepped onto the boat. "See ya, and thanks."

Zidane lingered on the dock to see him off. It was always good to see an old friend. And once the boat had vanished around the curve in the shoreline, he turned and headed back towards the house. He had a bedroom to work on, after all.

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Author’s Notes:

March 2, 2022