Author's Notes: You're going to have to excuse this. I'm a big angst fan, in case you didn't notice. Don't worry, it'll lighten up soon. Severe cuddle warning. If you don't like two guys cuddling...what the hell are you doing reading my stuff? How did you get this far?

Bring Me Home

Chapter Three - Nightmares

By tir-synni


Even in sleep, Zidane's tail refuses to loosen its hold. I'm not complaining, nothing of the sort. I'm just wondering how I'm supposed to get his food. Well, Baku should be back soon. He'll take care of it. Or make one of the others. I'm betting on the latter.

I sigh and cuddle against Zidane's sleeping form. His blond head was resting on my chest, and I could feel his breath rustling my clothes. For the hundredth time since he fell asleep, I check his temperature. I can't help it. Even his breathing is strange, kinda harsh and wheezing. It's like he's having trouble sucking in breaths. I tried hoisting him up earlier, but all he did was cuddle against me and choke. I quickly settled back down, and when I did that, he quieted. I haven't made any more moves yet.

"What's the matter with you, Zidane?" I ask him, petting his hair. He's like a kitten. He loves being petted, so I do it whenever I get the opportunity. "You've never been sick before. You never even got colds like the rest of us. Why are you so sick now?"

One hand stroking his hair, the other feels his forehead. His temperature is still high, but at least it isn't any higher than earlier. That's a relief, at least.

A soft mewl interrupts my thoughts, and I refocus on Zidane. His pretty face is scrunched up, and his tail tightens painfully around my thigh. I recognize what's happening: a nightmare.

Zidane's never told me what he dreams about. Most times, he didn't remember. Sometimes, I was sure he did, by the haunted look in his big blue eyes. But he would never tell me. Were they different ones? Were they always the same? Is this a repeat of an earlier nightmare? But he had not had them for years. Did his excursion with Kuja bring them back? I ground my teeth together. Just another reason to get pissed at Kuja.

"It's okay, Zidane," I coo softly, rocking him in my arms. "Blank's here. Shhh! Blank's here."

The Genome mewls again, and I kiss his temple gently. Even sweaty, his hair remains silky soft under my lips. I close my eyes at the thought, still rocking him. The movements come automatically. Even years dormant, I still know what to do.

"It's all right, Zi," I whisper. "You're back with Tantalus. You're back with your family. You know we won't let you go this time, right? Of course you do. You'd be the same way with us. You always are. Tantalus takes care of each other, remember. I'll take care of you now. Shhh!"

Aw, shit. I can feel his temperature rising against my skin. Zidane meows and shudders against me. I don't know whether it's his nightmare or his resulting movement, but I have to wake him up now. I scowl. Dammit, I was hoping to let him sleep until the Boss and Cinna returns. Then I wouldn't have to leave Zidane, and Zidane would still have something to eat when he wakes. Oh, well. I can't let his fever get worse.

"Zidane!" I hiss, shaking him. He growls softly at the movement, and I'm sure now that all feeling is gone from my leg. Now that I think about it, I think it's been gone for a while. "Wake up. Come on, wake up. Zidane!"

With a gasp and start, Zidane's eyes fly open. He's still trembling, but mostly, he calms down when he realizes where he is. He looks up at me, and he smiles brilliantly. Next thing I know, there's a happy Genome curled up in my lap, his tail now wrapped around my

waist."My hero!" he quips. "Tell me, do you charge an hourly rate?"

It takes a moment for me to get my head together. Zidane's in my arms. He's awake and he's aware and he's in my arms. He's holding me. Whoo, boy! It's different when he's conscious.

I swallow hard. "Wh-what?" I stammer. Real smooth, Blank, I mock myself. Really smooth.

Zidane flashes me another smile, even as he relaxes back. "So you aren't my knight in shining armor? Please, it better not be Steiner. No, wait, he'd be a knight in rusty armor, wouldn't he? Ha!"

I can't help a smirk. Yep. No matter how much time has passed, he's still my Zidane. Damn, how long have my thoughts been possessive like this?

"What was your dream about?" I ask, changing the subject.

Zidane's smile fades, and he cuddles against me. I happily let him. "I never really understood them before," he comments softly. "I used to never remember them. I only knew I didn't like them. And then I started remembering them, but I still didn't understand them. All I knew was I hated them. I never really understood until we went against Garland. Then the nightmares came back." He glances up at me from under blonde lashes, his look mildly reproving. "You weren't there to keep the nightmares away."

I stare at him in shock for a moment, even as I hold him tighter. I...I never imagined Zidane would think something like that, nonetheless say it. It had always been Zidane that watched out for the members of Tantalus. That's how come we took it for granted that, when the Boss passed away, Zidane would ultimately be the leader of Tantalus. I knew I helped him with the nightmares, but I didn't realize it had such a big effect on him.

Zidane doesn't notice my surprise. "My was a memory," he whispers softly. "I never knew that. I never knew for sure until...." Then he shakes his head sharply. It doesn't erase the pain in his expressive eyes.

"Zidane?" I ask worriedly. Zidane's moments of weakness are few and far between. He allows very few people to see them. He's a natural protector, and he believes the people under his charge won't have faith in him if they see him as weak. I guess it comes from living on the streets before Baku picked him up. I have the same habit.

Zidane smiles weakly at me before attempting to haul himself out of bed. I immediately put a stop to that. The little idiot! He should know better!

Zidane shoots me a hurt look but settles back. "I'm hungry," he announces, looking up at me expectantly. "And thirsty. I can't explain if I can't talk."

I can't help but roll my eyes. Moment of weakness: lasted all of thirty seconds. "I'll get you some food and drink, your highness," I reply drolly. It doesn't matter if he could explain or not. Zidane could always talk.

Smiling wickedly, Zidane replies innocently, "I've been told I could pass as a prince of the Genomes. Does that count?"

Apparently he gets bored with my dumbstruck gaping, because he waves me imperiously out of the room. That does it. When he's back on his feet, he's never playing another royal role in a play. It goes straight to that brat's head.

Huffing, I nonetheless hurry to get Zidane's things. If after all these years of silence, Zidane will finally tell me the source of those horrible nightmares, I'm not going to stall it off. Despite what Marcus thinks, I'm not stupid. That's Cinna. And his hammer. I wrinkle my nose in disgust. What the hell is the deal with that damn hammer?

Shaking my head mentally, I bring back some water, bread, and cheese to Zidane. When he makes a face at it--I knew he was going to do that!--I smirk. "You're sick. Sickees don't get heavy food."

Zidane growls. Even after all these years, I still remember the phrase he used on me when I got sick. Heh heh. Payback's a bitch.

He nibbles on his food in silence as I sit beside him. I bite back a smile as I notice he immediately wraps his tail around my leg again. I'm not the only one clingy after the long absence. I hate to see when the others realize he's alive. Especially Ruby. Ha! That should be some fun.

After a bit, Zidane raises his head again. I recognize the look in his eyes from countless past occurrences. He's ready to tell his story.

"I had the nightmare again that first night with Kuja," he reveals. "Wrapped around me like he was, he couldn't miss it...."

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