Disclaimer: Squaresoft owns all (except for Rafe. He's all mine.)
Author's Disclaimer: Seriously, this is the first non-yaoi fic I've ever written. I'm chalking it up to the fact that Cid gets such a bad rap in the game... I'm hopeless for championing the underdogs. When you see Cid in the game he's a middle aged school headmaster. Portly, tweed, sweater vests, thinning hair, absentminded and ineffectual. His wife, on the other hand, is knock down gorgeous with the face and figure of somebody half his age. He gets ragged on a lot in fics.
But the thing is, they really are a close couple. Cid goes to pieces when Edea's attacked - you find him crying his eyes out because he's so upset about it. And Edea really does seem to care about him, and she's no fool. So, says I (waving my underdog flag), maybe there's more to Cid then meets the eye.
So the Nyquil bunnies took over and I came up with this. A little trip back into the past, before the Sorceress Wars or SeeDs, when one woman first found her Knight in the unlikliest of places.
A Knight of Honor
The whistle was low and long and filled with wordless appreciation. "Damn. Would you look at that?"
If the man who had whistled was expecting a similar response from the other man beside him, he was disappointed. His friend hadn't even looked up, head burried in his open book bag as he searched through the jumbled contents. "Look at what?" he asked distractedly. "I can't..."
"Oh, for pity's sake!" Reaching out, the whistler grabbed his friend's hair, pulling the other man's head up and swiveling it towards the door of the lecture hall. "At that! Look at *that*!"
'That', the second man discovered when he had righted his knocked askew glasses, was a slender young woman who had just entered the room. She hesitated by the doorway, books clutched to her chest, looking over the tiers of seats. When another group of students came in behind her she started, backing out of the way hastily. Only after they had gone by did she edge into the room, quickly taking an empty desk low in the front where there were few others seated.
"Oh," the second young man said vaguely. "She's new, isn't she? Yes, very nice." Pulling away from his friend, he turned his attention back to his books. "Rafe, have you seen my pen? I can't seem to find it."
"'Nice'?" His friend echoed in disbelief. "'Nice'? The best pair of legs I've seen in all of Galbadia, and all you can say is 'nice'?" He shook his head. Reaching out, he plucked the pen from where it was stuck behind his friend's ear and brandished it at him in exasperation. "Cid Kramer, you're hopeless!"
Bemused, Cid took his pen back, tucking it safely into his breast pocket. "I said she was very nice, didn't I? I suppose you're going to ask for her phone number."
"Darn right," Rafe grumbled. "A girl like that..." But the instructor had entered the room and Cid wasn't paying any attention, engrossed in his textbook and sheets of notes.
Girls - old, new or otherwise - were the last thing on Cid Kramer's mind two afternoons later as he hurried to the library. A twelve page paper on economics was, in his opinion, a bit more important. To hear Rafe talk, he was deranged.
"It's not crazy," Cid had protested. "It's my grade point. Yours," he'd added pointedly, "could do with all the help it can get."
But Rafe wasn't having any of it - he never did - and they had seperated after class, Rafe and a crowd of friends to a local cafe and Cid to the library. It was quiet there, cool after the spring sunshine, and Cid breathed a small pleased sigh as he dumped his books down in a study compartment and went looking for the texts he needed.
He had found one of them on the topmost shelf and was stretched to the tips of his toes, swearing softly as his fingertips just brushed the spine of the book and only served to shove it back farther, when a slim hand reached up past his and effortlessly plucked the volume down. Startled, Cid stumbled back.
It took him a few gape mouthed moments to place where he had seen her. It was the girl from their class, the one Rafe had spent half of the session going on about when he should have been taking notes. Cid had only glanced at her in passing, but up close he could see what had so captivated Rafe's attention.
A pale flush spread over her cheeks as he looked at her. She dropped her eyes, holding the book out, a stack of her own volumes held in her other arm. "Here," she said, her voice low and rushed. "I'm sorry. You... ah... you looked like you were having trouble." The flush deepened and she ducked her head, long strands of dark hair tumbling forward.
"Thank you," Cid replied automatically, reaching out to take the book. He had to tilt his head to look at her - tall and willowy, she was several hands higher than he was. Many people were and he'd grown used to it, but there were times - like just then - when it only made him feel clumsy and embarassed. "I couldn't... ah... I mean...." He could feel his own face heating and cursed himself silently with a few choice phrases he'd heard Rafe use. The other man should have been there - he would have known what to say. Cid, even at the best of times, was never the charmer of ladies that Rafe was.
Nervously wiping his palm against his hip, he thrust his hand out hastily. "Cid Kramer. I, ah, I saw you in class the other day. History. Are you new here, then?"
It was awkward and stuttering and he watched in dismay as the girl hesitated. After a moment, though, her slender hand reached out and warm fingertips lightly brushed his own in the ghost of a touch. "Linnelt. Edea Linnelt," she whispered. "Yes, I... I just transfered here." She drew back, looking away quickly and Cid fancied she was as embarrased as he was. "History, you said?" She fumbled through the books she held, frowning slightly. "Then you'd know... There was a book the instructor said I should get... He wrote it down for me, but I haven't looked yet..."
Relieved, Cid smiled. Books were a subject he knew better than faltering small talk. "Oh, it's probably the Sorceress history. 'From Myth to Threat'. We were studying it just before you came and he said it would be on the final test."
Edea paused and Cid watched the soft flush drain from her face, leaving it pale and wane beneath the frame of her hair. "Oh," she said faintly. "Oh. I... I've read it." She pulled her books closer to her chest, stepping back. "I... need to go. I'm sorry. Um... thank you. Really."
"If you need anything... notes or something..." Cid started to offer, but Edea had already turned away, her dark skirt rustling around her calves as she walked. Rafe had a point, Cid had to admit to himself. She had superb legs.
And his luck in such things, as always, was holding at rock bottom. Sighing, Cid gathered up his own books and, swearing at himself for a clumsy fool, went to bury himself in the subject of economics, far far from the image of a heart shaped face or the perplexing mystery of the opposite sex.
"I'm telling you, the Dollet team didn't have a chance! I mean, what, someone forgot to tell them they were playing that day? It was a massacre..." There were general sounds of agreement around the cafeteria table as Rafe, fork waving in emphasis to his speech, held sooth on the subject of hockey.
Seated beside his friend, Cid only nodded at the appropriate pauses. A book was propped open in front of him as he mechanically ate his lunch, oblivious to the talk going on around him.
"...the goalie and this *huge* fight broke out..." Rafe broke off, jerking his head towards the cashier's line. "Damn, there she goes."
Heads craned to look and one of the other men laughed. "Don't tell me you've got it in for the ice queen, Rafe!"
"Hey," Rafe protested defensively. "A guy can dream, can't he?"
"Yeah, well, don't get your hopes up," another friend told him. "She's stone cold. Can't even get the time of day from her."
"Just because she turned *you* down..."
"She thinks she's better then us. Walking around with her nose in the air..."
Cid, glancing up from his book, caught a glimpse of dark hair and slender arms. He had nearly forgotten the incident in the library weeks earlier and when he spoke up he surprised himself almost as much as those around the table. "Edea."
All eyes turned towards him. Embarassed, Cid shrugged, shoving his glasses up. "Her name's Edea." Silence and more staring, making him uncomfortable. "Um... I met her in the library."
"You..." Rafe broke off, shaking his head in astonishment. "Damn. Will wonders never cease?" Abruptly laughing, he slapped his friend on the shoulder, making Cid wince. "Way to go, Cid. Maybe you're not so hopeless after all!"
"...'not so hopeless after all'," Cid repeated under his breath. Sighing, he glared at the steam covered mirror in the small dorm bath, swiping a hand across it angrily.
If he squinted slightly he could make out his own reflection. His hair, dark with water from the shower, straggled in trails across his forehead and over the back of his neck, dripping down his spine. Pushing it back with both hands, he turned his head from side to side.
It didn't matter how much he squinted. It wasn't going to get any better. Too short, too pale, too thin, his face too round. He wasn't out of shape, but he wasn't *in* shape either - nobody would ever mistake him for an athletic type. He looked like what he was - a book geek. Someone's mousy librarian.
Snorting, he scooped up his glasses from the counter, wiping the steam from them with the corner of a towel and shoving them on, ignoring the way they only fogged back up again. Rafe... Rafe was good looking. Rafe had dark wavy hair and a winning smile and a charming manner. Rafe had a date with a different pretty girl every other weekend.
Cid couldn't remember the last time he'd had a date, and no matter what Rafe thought he wasn't about to embark on a brand new social life by asking out the most unapproachable girl on campus. Even if he had run into her in the library once. He groaned. Oh, yes, and that had certainly gone splendidly, hadn't it?
"Forget it, Kramer," he told his hazy reflection sourly. "Rafe's wrong. You are hopeless."
Nonetheless the next day found him, thanks to some demon in his subconscious and a good bit of egging on by friends, waiting outside the door of Edea's morning class. He had borrowed one of Rafe's shirts and taken pains with the usually disarrayed fall of his hair. "You look fine," his friend had reassured him over breakfast.
"I can't do this," Cid had whispered breathlessly through numb lips as they walked the halls. He had tried to turn around but Rafe had grabbed his shoulder, pushing him up against the wall beside the class door.
"Yes you can," the other man had told him firmly. "It's easy..."
"What am I going to say to her?" Cid had burst out. Fumbling his glasses off, he pulled down one shirt sleeve to wipe at them frantically. "I can't do this, Rafe. I just can't do this."
"Yes, you *can*," Rafe had repeated. "Look, she's going to come out that door. Just say hello, be polite - you're good at that!" Grabbing the glasses out of Cid's nervous grasp, he slipped them back onto the other man's face, pushing them up into place. "You don't even have to say the word 'date'. Just... ask her if she'd like to go get coffee or something." He sighed, exasperated. "Or if she wants to go study in the library, or if you can help her on that history paper - anything!"
"Oh gods," Cid moaned. "What... what if she turns me down?"
"Then it's you and every other guy in this school, yours truly included," Rafe replied wryly. "At least you got her name. She wouldn't even give me that."
Taking a deep breath, Cid nodded slowly. "Okay. I... okay." But when Rafe started walking away he reached out, panic stricken, to grab his friend's sleeve. "Where are you going?"
Rafe waved a hand dismissively. "You'll do better if I'm not hanging by your side." Seeing Cid's wide eyed look, he relented. "Look, I'll be over there by the stairs, alright? Just right there. You," he pushed Cid back against the wall again, "wait *here*."
"Right," Cid muttered, hunching his shoulders slightly. "Right. Wait here. This is insane."
It was possibly the longest handful of minutes in his life. He could feel the flush rising in his face and his lungs didn't seem to want to draw a decent breath of oxygen. Leaning his head back against the wall, Cid closed his eyes, trying desperately to collect himself.
The opening of the classroom door nearly made him jump out of his skin. Starting up, he frantically smoothed back his hair, barely noticing the first crowd of students as they surged past him into the hall.
Edea, her dark hair swirling behind her, ducked between two other students and slipped into the hallway, the heels of her sandles clattering briskly. Cid took another quick breath and pushed himself away from the wall, but before he could move to her side another man from within the classroom brushed past him. "Hey, wait up, would you!" the man called after her.
Edea couldn't have helped hearing him but she didn't reply. She kept her gaze straight forward, her steps quickening. The man hurried after her, reaching out to grab her wrist. "Come on, I was just trying to talk to you... don't be that way..."
The two came to an abrupt halt as Edea stopped in the middle of the hallway. Turning, she swept the man in an expressionless glance, her gaze centering on where his hand was wrapped around her wrist. "Let go," she told him coolly.
"Are you always this hard?" the man demanded irritably. "You don't have to be such a little prima donna about it. I just wanna talk!"
"I've heard your 'talk'," Edea hissed, keeping her voice low. "And I'm not one of your little conquests! Let go!" She pulled but the man kept his hold on her easily.
Cid had seen enough. He wouldn't, later, be quite sure what prompted it - he wasn't the gallant type and he'd never had delusions of being a knight in shining armor. But the rudeness of the man spurred something in him and before he could think about it he surged forward, reaching out to grab the man's shoulder and shove him, bodily, away from Edea.
Surprise gave him leverage against the taller man and forced the other back a few steps. Putting himself in front of Edea, Cid drew himself up to his full height, shoulders back and chin up. "Leave the lady alone."
Startled, the other man could only gape at him for a moment. Gathering himself up, he laughed, a sharp little burst of sound. "Or what?" he asked pointedly. An arm's length away, he stood easily a full head taller than Cid did, solidly build and confident.
There was a crowd gathering in the hall around them. Cid felt Edea's slim hand on his arm, tugging urgently at his sleeve. "Don't," she whispered, but Cid was already sliding his glasses off. Folding them, he thrust them back at her, never looking away from the other man. "Hold these," he told her urgently.
He couldn't read the finer details of the man's expression any more, but he didn't need to. "Look," the other was saying. "This is between me and the lady. It's none of your damn business."
"If you touch her again," Cid ground out, "then it's between you and *me*. Leave her alone." His heart was pounding hard against his ribs, his entire body tense. He hadn't been in a fist fight in years, not since the casual wars of children on the playground. He thought, in the babble of voices around him, he heard Rafe call his name.
The first shove against his shoulders made him stumble back and he lashed out, more surprised than anyone when he felt his knuckles impact something solid. It hurt, the shock of it going up his arm unpleasantly.
The shock of someone else's fist against his cheek was a thousand times worse.
The blow snapped his head around, bright pain flashing across his eyes as it burst outward from the impact. A hand grabbed the front of his shirt, fisting in the material and pulling it tight around his neck as it dragged him forward and a second blow exploded in his chin.
"Stop it!" Edea's voice, high and thin and fragile, reached his ringing ears. "Oh don't, please... *Stop*!"
It was cold, a fierce wind straight off a glacial flow, bitterly chill and dry. It blew past Cid in a rush, howling around his ears. The force of it struck the other man, ripping him away from Cid and throwing him bodily back, his bulk crashing into the far wall.
The silence from those gathered in the hall as he slid down it, crumpling in a heap on the floor, was resounding.
Stumbling, Cid barely caught himself from falling. There was the sharp tang of blood in his mouth, where the inside of his cheek had split against his teeth. Coughing, he braced himself, turning to make sure Edea was all right.
She stood behind him, one fist pressed tight to her lips. Her dark eyes were wide and stark in her pale face, the color drained from her expression. "No," she whispered, her voice pained. "Oh Hyne, no..." Her breath caught on a little sob. "I didn't mean... I didn't..."
"Edea..." Trying to catch his breath and keep his head from spinning, Cid straightened painfully, extending a hand. "Edea, it's alright..."
"No!" Her books crashed to the ground, scattering across the floor when she dropped them. The students that surrounded them fell back as she whirled, letting her slip past them, her faltering steps retreating though the echo of her sobs lingered.
"Edea..." Cid took a shakey step but hands caught him, holding him back even as they held him up.
"Cid!" It was Rafe, all incredulous grin and bright eyes. "You little idiot... I don't believe you! That was insane..." He paused, the grin fading. "Crap, your face..."
"'s okay," Cid mumbled. His lower lip felt three times as large as normal and his entire skull throbbed. "...glasses?"
"Here, hold on..." Rafe bent, retrieving the thin frames from where Edea had dropped them, peering at them critically before handing them to Cid. "Looks okay. Didn't break or anything."
Cid had to steady his hands to unfold the frames, gingerly slipping the earpieces on. It helped to bring the world into focus, though the dizzyiness didn't really abate. Blinking, he glanced around them.
Several upperclassmen had already begun dispersing the crowd, urging the onlookers about their business before the faculty could notice the disturbance. Several students had gathered around his opponent, trying to bring the other man around.
There were, he realized in a sort of stunned disbelief, a sheen of heavy translucent ice crystals coating the wall around where the man had fallen.
Books and papers were scattered at his feet, a pen resting against one of his shoes. Bending slowly, though Rafe tried to hold him up, Cid reached to pick up one of the books.
"...Get you an ice pack," Rafe was saying, trying to get a better look at his face. "You're gonna have a beautiful bruise..."
Cid wasn't listening. The volume in his hands was 'From Myth to Threat', the Sorceress history that Edea had claimed to have already read.
It has been theorized by the more tolerant that a Sorceress may only be a physical vessel for her power - a conduit for energies which she, in actuality, becomes a servant to. Regardless of theory, history does seem to bear witness that a Sorceress, once she begins to utilize her power, will come to rely upon it more and more; and that power, no matter how benign the initial intent, is primarily capable of destruction.
-- "From Myth to Threat, a History of the Sorceress Through the Ages"
It was growing late, the afternoon shading into the brilliance of sunset, when he finally found her. The rooftop of the main campus hall was a quiet place, reachable through a janitor door and a series of narrow back corridor stairs. Cid had never been up there before and he couldn't have said how or why he found it then - his feet seemed to follow a wordless call and he only knew, somehow, that she was there.
Her dark hair, long and loose, fell around her in a wind tousled cloud, strands of it picked up and whipped around by the evening breeze. She sat on the rooftop, tucked up against the side of a small maintenance shed, her legs and skirt folded under her. She looked less than half her age.
A bit awkwardly, Cid stepped out onto the roof and let the door to the stairs swing shut. Rafe could be as bad as a mother chocobo with a single chick when he wanted to be - he'd been after Cid half the afternoon with ice packs and bandaids and antiseptic and pain killers, bragging to any of their friends who stopped by about the fight in the hall and every retelling of it had Cid's part of it a little more impressive sounding. From where Rafe had stood, Cid found, it had looked as though Cid himself had thrown the other man off; troubled, he didn't correct Rafe's storytelling. Cid had let him fuss, grateful for the help; it had been hours before the sharp ache in his head subsided, only to be replaced with the more permanant dull ache of bruises and cuts that was probably going to linger for the next week.
It had given him time to think. In the end, when he had sent Rafe out for the evening with the promise to rest and behave himself and then promptly, once he was sure the other man was gone, slipped on his shoes and gone searching - well, he still wasn't quite certain, in the end, what he thought of his own conclusion.
Somehow, all of the myths and legends and textbooks facts slipped away like so much mist through his fingers as he looked at the slender, slumped figure curled in upon itself on the tarpaper rooftop. She had taken off her sandles, leaving them jumbled beside her, and the tips of her bare toes peeked out from beneath the edge of her skirt.
He swallowed, clearing his throat. "...Edea?"
She started up, half rising as she turned towards him. She wasn't crying any longer but the stains of dried tears tracked across her pale cheeks, smudged with dirt where she'd rubbed at them with hands dusty from the rail of the stairs below. Her eyes were wide and frightened and he held up a hand, trying to reassure her. "It's alright. It's just... just me. Cid Kramer."
Slender arms wrapped around her, hugging tight to her chest. Her voice was low and husky at the edges from crying. "From the library," she whispered, and he felt oddly grateful that she remembered. "And... and this morning..." her voice faltered and she broke off, her expression crumpling as she looked at him. "Oh... your face!"
Gingerly, Cid raised a hand. His cheek and eye were swollen, bandaids covering his chin where knuckles had split the skin. He'd taken one glance in the mirror - he really did look a sight. Wincing slightly, he dropped his hand again. "It looks worse then it is," he assured her. "My friend patched me up; he said it's really not that bad. I just bruise easy."
He could have groaned; it was an idiot thing to say, but Edea didn't seem to mind. Climbing to her feet, she stepped forward hesitantly. Her hands clasped each other, twisting slightly as she wrung them. "I'm so sorry..."
Cid tried to grin but the expression was painful and he had to settle for shrugging slightly. "It's alright," he repeated. An awkard sort of silence fell and after another moment he took a breath, letting it out slowly, and extended the book he was carrying. "Um... you dropped your things," he reminded her gently. "I picked them up. They're back at my dorm."
Edea recoiled from the title of the book, her face going whiter than it already was until Cid feared she might faint. "You saw," she whispered numbly. "Oh gods, you saw..."
There was really nothing to say to that. Cid nodded.
He thought she might begin to cry again but after a few deep breaths she gathered herself up, a fragile sort of composure wrapped around her. "Sev?" she asked, looking as though she was braced for the worst.
"Don't worry," Cid told her. "I heard he's alright. Just a bit of a bump on the head."
Edea breathed a low sigh. "Thank Hyne. I thought..." she stopped, the words unvoiced, but the fear was all over her.
Cid walked over to the little brick shed, easing down to sit with his back against it. The rooftop was warm through his trousers, radiating the heat of the afternoon sun. Putting the book down, he nudged it slightly with one foot. "You're a Sorceress, aren't you?"
There was a heavy pause before Edea replied, voice broken. "Yes."
Another silence, broken only by the distant sound of the street below and the soft whistle of the wind. Finally, Cid nudged the book again, harder, sending it spinning out across the rooftop. "You know," he said quietly, "books aren't always right."
When he glanced up the look on her face was unguarded and incredulous. "Don't you care?" she whispered. "I could have killed him!"
"You didn't," Cid pointed out reasonably. "In fact..." He paused, rubbing ruefully at the ache in his cheek, "you saved me from quite a beating." He grinned a little, lopsidedly. "I'm afraid I don't make much of a Knight." He meant it as a small joke, an impulsive thing to say, but in the quiet after his words Edea only looked at him and finally, slightly, nodded, as though he had said something much more profound.
The wind was picking up as the sunset painted the rooftops in shades of fire. Shivering slightly, Edea came to sit beside him, the shed at their backs blocking the worst of the breeze. Her gaze was on her hands, clenched silently in her lap. The soles of her bare feet were a dusky grey from the tarpaper.
After awhile Cid slipped his glasses off, the earpieces rubbing uncomfortably across his swollen eye. "They say Sorceresses inherit their power," he said quietly. "When...?"
"I was five," Edea replied quietly. From the corner of his eye he watched as she rubbed at a smudge of dirt on her wrist. "My... my aunt used to say it was good that my parents weren't alive to see it." Her words came out in a tumbled rush and Cid found he ached for the old pain that colored them. "She said if they hadn't already been dead, then my inheriting that power surely would have been the death of them."
"What a spiteful thing to tell a child!" Cid exclaimed.
"It's true," Edea said. She was wringing her hands again, slender fingers twisting around each other. "It's awful. It hurts people. I... I try not to, but sometimes... like this morning... I don't *mean* to!"
"Of course not!" Cid said hotly, half turning towards her. "How could anyone think you meant to? You're not some bully, hurting people because you think it's fun. That was self defense. He was being an ass and that's no way to treat a lady!"
"I'm not a lady," Edea protested softly. "I'm a Sorceress."
"I don't think the two are mutually exclusive," Cid said. He had, while sitting with an ice pack cradled to his cheek, skimmed over the history book once more. Somehow, all of the queens and high priestesses of history, the attrocities and blood shed... none of it, not a single word, lingered when he looked at Edea. She was none of those. She was only herself, a slender young girl with a fragile beauty, and already the events of the morning when her power had crackled around him like an arctic storm seemed dim and distant and somehow unreal. There was only Edea.
She was looking at him, her expression unreadable. She had, he found himself thinking, the most unusual eyes. Almond shaped and ringed round with dark lashes, they curved at the corners, rather like a cat's eyes. They seemed to change color with her mood, from hazel to chocolate brown and the deep dark of an oncoming storm.
He found himself wondering what color they were when she was happy.
He slid his glasses back on, pushing himself to his feet abruptly. "Come on," he said, extending a hand to help her up.
Edea shrank back slightly. "Where?"
Cid shrugged a little. "Out," he replied blandly. "For icecream. My treat. There's a great place a few blocks from campus.
She blinked, but let him take her hand and pull her to her feet. "For icecream?" she echoed wonderingly.
"It always cheers me up," Cid explained, bending to retrieve her sandles and hand them to her. She dusted her feet off, slipping them back on. "If you're eating icecream then things can't be wrong. And I think we both could do with about a triple scoop sundae dose of cheer."
She looked like there might be dozens of things she was about to say, but in the end what emerged was "What kind of icecream?"
Cid considered. "Mint rocky road and cappuchino," he suggested, "with strawberry topping. And toffee bits."
Edea just stared at him. Finally, abruptly, she laughed. It was short, a brief, incredulous sound, but there was real humor in it and it warmed Cid to hear it. "Are you serious?" she asked, and she was smiling, her eyes the bright tone of sunwarmed polished mahogany.
"Well," Cid replied blandly, struggling to hide his own smile, "if we did, we could say we've done something no one else has."
She considered, her head tilting to one side. "Chocolate topping," she suggested quietly. "And whipped cream. I don't really like strawberries."
"Anything my lady wishes," Cid told her gallantly, and the words didn't seem so awkward or strange on his tongue any more. Edea looked startled, then smiled again, and her smile seemed to wash away the ache of his bruises. He cocked his arm, offering it to her.
She hesitated, then stepped forward, her slim hands sliding gently around his arm. "My Knight," she whispered softly.
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