He doesn’t know—he doesn’t know what to say, what to do, and just the knowledge that he knows absolutely nothing is enough to make him panic. Because normally, he knows what’s going on.
You don't become a thief without being aware of what’s going on around you, without having a knowledge how the world works (in one way or another).
“I... Are you sure?” he asks, and his voice comes out quiet, and serious.
Garnet blinks—surprised—because maybe she had been expecting some other reaction. Joy? Some sort of hilarious quip? Anger?
How do people usually react to this sort of thing?
Zidane shakes his head, and pulls her to him. “That’s not what I...”
“ 'Tis all right,” she says, and leans her head on his shoulder, tone a little curious. “But, yes, I am positive.”
His tail flicks behind him, and his grip on his wife tightens, because what else can he do? He doesn’t know what to say or what to do. How do you react to this?
“I have that meeting with Cid today,” she tells him gently after a time.
With a nod, he releases her, and on her way out, she plants a kiss on his cheek. Moving over to the window, he looks out across Alexandria, this place that is so much a part of Garnet it’s part of her name, this place that has partly become his place, too, but is still mostly hers. The place where their child will grow up and live and love.
He’s going to be a father.
Or, rather, he’s becoming a father. Because nearly anything male can become a father, but being one is another matter entirely.
How can someone who’s never had a father, be one? Because the closest he’s come was Baku, but he can’t imagine treating his own kid that way, but what other way is there?
There are so many ways to screw this up, he knows, but he can’t screw this up. It’s not his life or even Garnet’s life that he’ll ruin—it’ll be someone else’s. Someone who won’t stand a chance if he messes up.
Zidane shakes his head, trying to clear it, and then stands. To the library.
The Royal Librarians look at him in surprise when he asks whether there are books on parenting. And then one of them understands, and pretty soon, Zidane wants to sink into the floor, because all of them are peering at him with these knowing little smiles, and they don’t know, they can’t know. All they know is that soon their will be little feet but Zidane won’t know what to do with the person attached to those little feet.
Will it be like him? Will it look like him? Will it look like Garnet? Will it be like her? Will it have a tail? Will it be a he or a she? Will it be something that looks like neither of them? Is neither male or female? What if it’s a Black Mage?
Panic wells up and this is silly, he knows it’s silly, but he can’t stop, because what if? What if it is like him? What if it is nothing like him?
What if he does this all wrong and Garnet hates him?
The librarians are all telling him things at once, and he just watches them, trying to calm himself down, and then, someone, some miracle-worker, hands him a book.
On Parenting, it says on the cover, nice and simple.
He takes it and scurries off, and the librarians watch him leave like they aren’t quite sure what just happened.
Frankly, he’s not quite sure what’s happening, either.
By now, he knows the castle pretty well, and he finds his favorite hiding spot, the place he goes when he finds the palace life flabbergasts him, or Garnet and he aren’t getting on as well as they typically do, or whatever it may be.
It’s got a bench, a view of Alexandria, and is mostly shut off from everything else. And right now, he just needs the time to collect his thoughts and read a little.
He flips to a random page and begins to read:
Your child is relying on you to set the example. What they see you do, they will copy and respond to.
Great. So every single mistake he makes will be mimicked.
Zidane shuts the book and leans against the wall.
Two days later, Garnet finally corners him. “You have been avoiding me,” she says, and there’s no trace of hurt in her eyes or voice.
It’s a fact.
“Zidane, if the idea of having a child makes you uncomfortable, I am capable of—”
He cuts her off by gripping her hands. “No, no, no. I just... It doesn't make me uncomfortable,” he says and she tilts her head to the side, curious. “It terrifies me. I never had a father, Garnet. How do I...?”
She relaxes, and even smiles a little. “ 'Tis not like building an airship.”
“No! It’s not! There are instructions for that, and if you mess up, you can start over again! But building a person is different, harder! And you don't get any second chances!”
For a while, they’re silent, and then she wraps her arms tight around him, and he pulls her in close, until they can only hear the sound of each other’s breathing.
“This is new for me as well,” she says after a time, “We shall learn.”
And he just sighs into her hair, and says, “We’ll have to, won’t we?”
Most people who confront him say the same thing:
“Congratulations! You’ll be a great father. So, what names are you thinking about?”
And then, they seem shocked when he responds, “I have no idea.”
Because Garnet’s been pregnant for one whole month and he should already know what they're going to name this kid he hasn't even met yet.
Zidane leaves then, and goes back to reading the parenting book that always talks about all the things you can do wrong, but never actually tells you what to do. Seriously, what do you do when the kid skins its knees? Laugh and help it up? Freak out? Watch it get up?
It’s not even here yet, and he’s already exhausted.
The first person he goes to is Freya. She’s not always in town, but today she is, and he’s known her for what feels like forever.
“Hey,” he says, and she looks up from her drink, and her mouth twitches in the corners.
From her, that is a full out grin, and he tries to give her his most heart-warming smile, but he can tell it’s lackluster, because she frowns and sets her drink aside, and looks at him with her dark, dark eyes. “What troubles you?” she asks.
“I’m becoming a father,” he says, and then he glances down, at the walls, and the ceiling. “But I don’t know how to be one.”
She looks at him thoughtfully, and then lifts her drink back to her lips and takes a long sip. Her spear sits well within arms reach and her back is, as always, to the wall. “Perhaps. But how can you learn to be something you are not, yet? When the time comes, you will have opportunity to learn.”
Zidane takes a seat next to her. Neither of them speak, and the bartender wordlessly hands over a drink; he nods his thanks and then takes a long sip.
“Thank you,” Zidane says once he’s drained it. “Might I invite you to dinner, ma’am?”
The corners of Freya’s mouth tilt upwards again. “Indeed,” she says, and reaches with a single fluid motion for her spear.
They leave together, and he feels a little better, laughing with Freya about the old times.
Amarant is a little less supportive. In fact, when Zidane tells him the news and his worries, Amarant laughs.
“It’s not funny!” Zidane says, “I don’t know the first thing to do!”
“And you think I do?” Amarant asks, folding his heavy arms across his chest.
Thinking about it for more than a second, he deflates a little. “No.”
“Then why ask me?” Amarant points out, with a crooked grin. “Rest assured, Tribal—no matter how rotten a father you are, you’re doing better than I would.”
It’s meant to be helpful, but Zidane just sighs as Amarant starts to laugh again and places a huge hand on his shoulder.
Next, he speaks with Vivi. The young Black Mage’s eyes crinkle underneath his hat when Zidane approaches. “Hi,” he says, “How are you?”
“Pretty good. What about you?” Zidane replies.
Vivi giggles mischievously. “I am well. The moogles and I have been inventing a faster Mognet... But they do not think it will work.”
Sometimes, Vivi can just be a little weird—frankly, Zidane’s both terrified and excited about what solution Vivi has figured out for Mog Net. But that’s not why he’s here. Nope, he’s here to unload his problems onto eight-year-old mages.
“Garnet is going to have our baby,” he blurts out, and Vivi blinks at him for a few moments.
“Zidane?” Vivi stops for a moment, then tilts his head to the side, his hat drooping comically. “How are human babies made?”
And of course that’s where this conversation would go. Because anyone could have seen this coming, but of course Zidane was too worried about his own problems to realize he might have to explain the creation thing to the kid.
“Ah... Well...” He thinks for a moment, about what Garnet would say, about what Baku would say, and then he grins.
Because he’s Zidane Tribal, and, technically speaking, he’s neither of them.
“Human women, like Garnet, get pregnant, or with child, when a human male, kinda like me, implants them with seed,” he declares, and then grins. “And the new baby lives in the mother's stomach for a few months until they decide they’re ready to come out.”
Vivi thinks this over for a few minutes. “Oh. Okay. Like planting seeds in a garden.”
Very seriously, Zidane nods, but he’s trying to keep a smile back.
“But the thing is... I’m becoming a father, but I don’t know how to... Act like a father.”
Silence hangs over them both for a few moments, while Vivi examines him, and then his eyes crinkle in the corners again. “You’ll be a good dad.”
“Say hello to Garnet for me!” Vivi says, and then he’s gone, because, you know, little Black Mages are so very busy. Too busy to spend time with old friends.
And improving Mognet is way more important than unborn babies.
He doesn’t actually go speak to Steiner, rather, Steiner seeks him out with the determination he’s come to expect. “You have gotten the Queen with child!” Steiner declares, and it’s half accusation, half jubilation.
His armor clinks around as he holds out his hand, in congratulations, and Zidane thinks about shaking it, and then just scratches the back of his head. “I...”
“You will do right by the Queen!” Steiner declares in a loud voice, and people are starting to look at them.
“Of course I will!” Zidane snaps, his tail flicking in frustration. “I’m more worried about ‘doing right’ by the kid!”
Steiner stops at that, and blinks at him, his round eyes widening in surprise. “You are worried about fatherhood? But you are...”
“Totally at a loss! I never had a father, Rusty!”
“Have you tried the library?” Steiner asks after a moment. “They have books on every subject, surely you could find something of use.”
Sometimes, he wonders if it will ever be worth it to talk to Steiner about something that isn’t honor or duty or the Queen, because the man never understands anyway. Zidane sighs, and reaches out to pat the other man on the shoulder.
“I’ll do right by Garnet,” he says, and Steiner beams, and frankly, Zidane’s starting to think that the whole world is more excited about this whole fatherhood thing than he is.
Zidane takes Quina out to dinner a few nights later, and can’t help but grin. It’s a new place in town, crisp and clean, and the food smells great. Quina can hardly be contained.
“Me hungry. We eat now?” Quina keeps asking, and Zidane laughs.
“Soon,” he says, “Soon. Actually, I wanted to tell you something.”
Quina looks at him expectantly, because while Quina usually runs on an excess of energy, and really only thinks about eating, Quina can also listen and be serious when it’s needed.
“Garnet is going to have our kid,” he says.
Silence, and then all at once, the table’s gone flying across the room, and Quina is holding him, spinning him around and around and around, exclaiming, “Me so happy, me so happy!”
And there it goes—his desire to do anything but laugh, and go with it. Because Zidane’s never been much for excessive worry, and no one ever seems to be as concerned as he is about this whole fatherhood thing. There has to be a reason for it, right?
And, if Quina’s thrown aside the thought of food for him and his news, it would be cruel to say, Yeah, but I don’t know what to do with it. So he doesn’t, and just holds onto Quina for dear life.
Eiko actually confronts him before he can tell her. “Zidane!” she calls, and then runs to catch up with him.
“Hey,” he grins and looks down at her.
“Garnet is having a baby!” she declares, like he doesn’t already know. “You’re gonna be a dad!”
Well, maybe it’s normal for kids to state the obvious? Or maybe it’s just normal for Eiko? He’s not sure, but either way, he grins. “Yup.” He taps himself in the chest with his fist.
“Better not mess up! Moogles raised me, and I came out fine. You better do at least half as good!”
And he just splutters out a laugh—because, if nothing else, he’s hoping he can be good as a moogle. But, then again... Eiko was raised pretty well. “Stiff competition,” he says and then laughs again. “I’ll do my best.”
After all, that’s all he can do, isn’t it? Him and Garnet, together. All they can do is their best.
It will have to be enough.