Work Header

Riding Out The Storm

Work Text:

Celes sat next to the bed, listening to Cid snore. Once, in a quieter and more comfortable time, the snoring might have been a distraction, and she might have been annoyed with him for keeping her from sleep. But she had learned to welcome the loud wheezes and growls that came from his open mouth. They kept her calm, and she would watch him nervously if he did not, until she saw his chest rise and fall with the next breath. If he was snoring, she didn't have to watch him; she knew that he was still alive.

She felt like she hadn't been outside of the hut for days, but it couldn't have been so long as that. It was very easy for her to lose track of time there. The clouds were so thick now that the day would only just be brighter than the night. The light from the old wood stove was dimming fast as the kindling was consumed; Celes wanted to find more, but there was nothing left in the house that she could risk burning. The heavy rains outside had kept her from scouring the tiny island for anything that could be used for fuel. There had never been much, but sometimes she'd found dried grasses or scraps of driftwood, things dry enough that she could use. But there wasn't be anything dry enough for days after the rain finally stopped; she would have to gather it and set it somewhere to dry it herself, and even if the sun came out and stayed during the day, that could take a long time.

At least the storm would provide them with potable water, although there was a new metallic taste to the rainwater that she didn't recognize. But it was the only water they had, so she had gathered what few pots and containers they had left to gather as much as she could. And she had caught as many of the healthier fish as she could on the day that she'd seen the storm approach, a smear of black against the red of the distant sky. Her magic felt slow and weak from lack of use, but she could still call enough ice to keep their food chilled; it would not spoil before this storm passed and she could find more. The magic took enough concentration that her head always seemed to ache with it, a slow throbbing at her temples, but she had borne much worse pain than that.

She turned her head to look at Cid's face, studying him as he slept. His skin had more color than when she had first stumbled out of bed. He'd been so pale and sickly then, his red mustache standing out in sharp contrast to his nearly-white skin, more dead than alive. Celes knew at once how sick he had been; she had seen enough wounded corpses in her time to know exactly what dying men looked like. But a diet of the healthiest fish that she had been able to catch had filled out the hollows in his cheeks a bit. Sometimes he even smiled at her when she brought him his dinner.

She sighed and shook her head. Maybe she was a fool, she thought, spending her time catching fish with what was left of her cloak and burning driftwood to keep him warm. Maybe she should be trying to find some way out, instead. He had muttered about it before, fitful half-waking murmurs about how she had to get out, how he couldn't let her die on that forsaken rock. She had caught him more than once out of bed, staggering back to lie down from the other side of the room; she had always told him to stop, that he would hurt himself. She had never asked what he was doing; she had let him have his secret. But there had been a feverish determination in his eyes, the look of a man who was trying to accomplish something more important than his own life.

His hand, still stiff and swollen with arthritis and age but at least warmer than it had been, was resting near her head. She turned her head around and kissed him there, a short peck on the back of his wrist, before pulling away. She didn't want to wake him, but maybe he could feel that she was there, and it would reassure him. He had called her his granddaughter and had taken care of her, the way that families did. At least, that was what she thought families would do; she could barely remember her family, in the years before the magical transfusion had overwhelmed her young mind and cast a white haze over her early memory. But he had worked to keep her alive, and he had sacrificed for her, because she was his family and people in families took care of each other. And when she'd seen him, cold and thin and pale, settle back on the bed with an odd finality, she had finally understood what that had really meant. That was why she had immediately marched out to find him food and warmth, to keep him alive.

What would she do, she wondered, if he asked her while he was awake to find a way off of this island, to leave him behind and go? She wasn't sure; she didn't think he could survive the trip, but she couldn't bear the thought of leaving him behind. All she knew for sure was that she was grateful that he had not asked her to go.

The thunder cracked overhead, and Cid jumped, the snoring stopping for a moment. She took a deep breath and put her hand on his arm, squeezing it until he calmed down, until the snoring started again. Then she could rest, listening to him over the pounding of the rains. This weather couldn't last forever, she reminded herself. They would ride out this storm, and she could bring him through. Everything would be all right.