Life is Like an Onion
Life is like an onion,
Reality like a dream,
Layers and layers until nothing,
Reflection in a pale moon's gleam.
Amarant hated parties; the more he thought about it the more he hated them. Everyone was so happy and loud that he felt a headache slowly growing behind his eyes. He had never been a very sociable person, had never entertained the thought of so many people in such closed quarters, and now he couldn't comprehend what idiot had actually thought this up.
Why had he come to the party? Even he couldn't remember, until the reason walked up and began speaking to him.
"You look like you're sulking." The monkey-boy declared, dressed in his fine clothing. He would have looked striking if not for the tail poking defiantly out of the back of his pants. "Hasn't anyone asked you to dance?"
Ah yes, Zidane was the one who had convinced him to come, the little dimwit had annoyed the blue-skinned man until he given up. Just to spite the little monkey he hadn't worn a suit, although it seemed a petty victory now.
The 'little monkey' stood on his tip-toes now, looking into the tall man's eyes quizzically before a coy smile spread across his face, "Maybe if you had worn a suit one of these pretty ladies would-oww!"
Zidane's suggestive remark was cut short as Garnet cuffed his ear, managing to look both amused and exasperated all in one moment. "Ignore him." She told the tall red-head, "He's just annoyed that I made him wear a suit."
"Oh?" Zidane just didn't know when to be quiet, "But I look so-oww! Now what was that for!?"
"Hush." Garnet's eyes twinkled, softening the otherwise stern look on her face; she turned back to Amarant as she dragged her surly dance partner away, "Please try to have some fun Sir Amarant."
Amarant just sighed, trying to hide deeper in the shadows of the ballroom, wondering how much longer he would have to stay. When he could no longer stand the ache in his head he crossed his arms over his chest and closed his eyes, allowing all sounds to filter out of his head, becoming background noise, a trick he had learned early on in life. He appeared as a stoic gargoyle in the midst of beautiful dancing dolls, listening to the sound of his own heartbeat while they twirled to the rhythm of a song.
He stayed like that for several moments, eyes closed and arms crossed, until a quiet voice whispered into his ear, "You look to be enjoying yourself."
Amarant would have jumped, had he been the jumpy type, instead he opened one of his eyes and coolly glared at the person who had disturbed his almost meditative state.
Freya, one time warrior of Burmecia, stared back at him, intelligent gray eyes narrowing as she watched his face go slack with astonishment.
"Yes," she said tartly, tapping her foot angrily, "I am wearing a dress, do you have a problem with that?"
He shrugged, getting over the sudden shock and examining the female warrior more closely. He had no idea why she was so irritated; she didn't look unsightly in the least, quite the opposite actually. Though modest, the dress fit her nicely, the sapphire shade bringing out the color of her eyes and making them appear large and innocent, although they were burning with angry fire at the moment.
She held two glasses of champagne in her hands, one half-empty and the other seemingly untouched. He wondered briefly if they were both hers then realized it was none of his business if she wanted to drink herself into a stupor. Freya, however, had noticed the look on his face and, almost as if she had read his mind, raised the full glass up to him, "I thought you could use some alcohol." She said as way of explanation.
Slightly surprised but in no mood to show it, he took the simply shaped glass; it was dwarfed in his hand as it had been in hers. "I'll need about thirty more of these." He said sourly, looking pointedly at the crowd.
She laughed knowingly, "If only to quell the noise, huh?"
She took a place next to him on the wall, leaning against it and taking a delicate sip from
her glass. They sat in an uncomfortable silence, Freya wondering what she thought she was doing while Amarant, holding a now empty cup, was toying with the idea of getting another.
"So how did you get out of dressing up?" Freya asked, becoming somewhat desperate for conversation.
The red-head shrugged and walked away into the crowd, making Freya smile slightly.
Freya looked at her glass of now warm champagne, finishing it off in one gulp. She made a face as the tepid alcohol rushed down her throat, leaving a bitter aftertaste.
"The Taste of Life." She thought humorlessly, "Bitter as usual."
There was a soft tap on her shoulder and she turned her head to see Zidane smiling at her.
"You look nice." He offered, gesturing at the dress.
The rat-woman begged to differ but instead settled for saying, "Garnet threatened to rip off my tail if I didn't wear it."
The young man nodded sagely, recalling his own argument with the queen and its quick close when she had brought out a pair of scissors. "I know how you feel."
Freya's smile was lukewarm but it did nothing to diminish the air of sadness that hung about her like a funeral veil. The former bandit was worried; Freya's depression was like a deep hole that she was continually digging, covering up her downward spiral with fake smiles and half-hearted laughs.
'Where did Amarant go?' he thought angrily, 'He could have kept her company.'
He looked around the crowded room for the giant red-head whom he was sure would stick out like a sore thumb. After several moments of fruitless searching he asked Freya, as casually as he could feign, "Where did Amarant go?"
Freya pointed one claw-like finger in the direction he had left, unsure as to why Zidane was acting so strangely.
Zidane frowned, something he did rarely, and then sighed while his tail twitched agitated-ly behind him, "He could have at least asked you to dance.'
She smiled, this one more real than the others, "Thanks," she said quietly, "But I don't think Amarant is the waltzing type."
The image of a waltzing Amarant danced through Zidane's head and his usual goofy grin reappeared. "You never know, he doesn't really talk about himself, for all we know he could be a professional dancer."
"There you are!" a tiny voice called, and there was a sudden blur of movement around Zidane, ending with him lying flat on his back and the young Eiko Carol standing on his chest. "You promised you'd dance with me!" she said accusingly, tapping her foot angrily and leaning over so that their noses were almost touching in an attempt to frighten him into submission.
"Okay, okay, but only if you get off of me first." He gasped, trying hard not to smile.
The little girl complied, sliding off his chest and, to make sure he didn't get away, grabbing his hand and immediately pulling him toward the dance floor.
"Sorry Freya, I'll talk to you later, 'kay?" he called to her from over his shoulder.
She nodded, watching as he disappeared with the little summoner into the dancing masses.
The smile on her face faded, she watched the couples moving gracefully across the floor, cheerful dancers continually getting closer to their partners as the song progressed. It was a heartwarming scene but it only served to send the former warrior of Burmecia deeper into her shell. Her heart had been trampled, broken, and thrown away so much that it could no longer become warm with happiness.
'You're time for happiness has passed.' The little voice in the back of her mind informed her, 'It died, along with Fratley's memories.'
Something wet trailed down her cheek, and frowning, she reached up to brush it away, only to realize that more droplets were following its downward descent. 'Am I crying?' she wondered, anxiously scanning the room to see if anyone had noticed. No one had, everyone was too caught up in the moment of dancing to see Freya running toward the nearest exit, berating herself the entire way. 'How petty, to cry over nothing.'
She threw open the wooden door, feeling a blast of wind and realizing her mistake.
It hadn't been an exit, well, not really. The oak door had led out to a large balcony which overlooked a garden. The garden seemed to have been neglected for quite some time, but it appeared to be an organized mess, full of beauty that it couldn't have produced in tight little sections. Freya allowed the tears to fall down her cheeks, forgotten, in the face of such magnificence.
Flowers sprouted everywhere, species such as Monkshood with its poisonous purple-helmeted flowers mingled with the harmless bell-like pinks of Heather. Flower colors ranging from dainty white to bloody red spread across the ground in closely packed clusters so that not even a patch of dirt was showing. Ancient trees towered over the thousands of blossoms, like giant, unmoving guardians. Silvery, elegant White Willows shared space with Rowans and fruit-filled pomegranates, all of them stretching their branches into a star-filled night sky.
Aromas wafted through the air, both pungent and sugary sweet. Her sensitive nose flinched under the assault and she sneezed once, twice, a third time before she became accustomed to it.
There was a soft chuckle behind her and she felt the sudden electric shock of surprise, she had thought herself the only individual on the balcony. Turning quickly, she saw a tall figure hiding in the shadows, and while that alone failed to alarm her, the tell-tale glint of curved metal did. She instinctively reached for the spear she didn't have, remembering that she had left it in the hall with all the other weapons. Hissing several foul oaths, she immediately began to consider her chances. No weapon, no armor, very few useful magic spells, fear squeezed her heart as she realized the odds definitely weren't in her favor.
The stranger had frozen in the darker shadows when she had begun cursing, and then stepping cautiously out into the light, muttered, "Colorful."
Freya's calculations stopped, she had recognized the voice before she had seen the face.
"Amarant." She growled, hands on hips. "You brought your Claws?"
She could have sworn he was smiling as he raised the glittering claws up to the dim moonlight, "Never leave home without them."
There were several names she would have liked to have called him right then, none of them appropriate. She settled for giving him a cold glare, which he returned, although she could barely see his eyes, half hidden as they were beneath his crimson hair. She turned away first, which surprised her more than him. 'But then again,' she mused quietly to herself, 'I've been turning away from my problems a great deal lately.'
Gazing out at the wild garden, Freya tried to ignore the fact that Amarant was looking straight at her, patiently waiting for her to acknowledge him with a look. She was nervous, was he going to make fun of her? Did he want to start a fight? Her mouth curved upwards in a cynical smile as she recalled their first meeting. He had stared at her, in much the same way he was now, until, unnerved and significantly peeved; she had asked what he was looking at. If not for Zidane's quick intervention they probably would have battled.
"What?" she asked finally, voice not as venomous as it had been in their first meeting but still burning with an inner fire.
"You want to talk." It wasn't a question; it was a statement, as if he knew very well that she needed someone to speak to.
Her eyes widened in panic, had she become transparent in the last few minutes? Whirling to face Amarant, her panic flaring into irrational anger, she growled, "What makes you think I want to talk?"
He shrugged, and although the gesture seemed indifferent his voice was hesitant as he said, "I saw you crying."
Freya felt exposed, she hadn't even stopped to consider that he had seen her, she replied acidly, "I most certainly was not crying."
Amarant looked down at her, having the advantage in height, and she saw a momentary flash of emotion in his eyes but it fled too quickly for it to be identified. "My mistake." He murmured, turning away and walking back toward the entrance of the ballroom.
She had to make a choice now. Freya could either talk to him, tell him of the sadness that had been weighing down her shoulders, or she could let him walk away and spend the rest of her life stewing in a painful past and a dark future. But could she trust him? Would he just laugh in her face and walk away? She wasn't sure, and she didn't know if she wanted to risk it. But her heart wanted someone to reach out to so badly; the real question was, if she did allow it, for her forlorn heart to reach out to him, would he crush it? Or would he accept it?
Amarant had reached for the door, silently pushing it open, "You should stop second guessing yourself." He said quietly, "If everyone tortured themselves endlessly with 'what ifs' then nothing would get done."
His declaration surprised her, and for the second time that night she wondered if he could read her mind. So, closing her eyes tightly, and mustering all the courage she could, she said, "I-I'd like to talk to you Amarant."
He stepped away from the door, allowing it to shut with a soft sound but stood where he was, "I'm not forcing you."
"I know," the rat-woman replied, cupping her face with her hands, she felt so tired. "I want to talk."
He took a few steps away from the door to once again lean against the wall, examining his metal claws for a moment before saying, "So what do you want to talk about?"
Freya blinked, a moment ago he had seemed like he could read her mind, then she realized he wanted to hear it from her lips rather than guess at what was going on.
"I-I guess it all started when I discovered Fratley, the only person I had ever loved, had forgotten me, had forgotten us." She paused, this seemed like a good way to lose what little respect she had gained from Amarant, but he had asked and she had already decided to tell. She continued. "It seems like, when I realized that he couldn't remember me, I could no longer remember myself."
She walked to the edge of the balcony, laying her arms down on the steel railing and watching the flowers sway in the breeze to keep her mind off how embarrassed she would be later. "After my home, Burmecia, was destroyed I tried to pull myself back together to fight for the people who had survived and fled to Cleyra, it was their last stronghold and a way for me to redeem myself for my past mistakes.
"Cleyra fell, if you remember correctly, my people were left with nowhere left to turn and in that moment I swore that I would get revenge for them, that I would annihilate the person who had destroyed their lives. Kuja would pay for every drop of blood he had shed, every family he had torn apart, everyone he had hurt." She closed her eyes and let out a deep breath, turning to look at Amarant to gauge his reaction to her story so far. He was looking at her seriously, no longer examining his steel Claws as he had been before, his attention wholly focused on her.
"You don't have to listen to this Amarant." She said quietly, thin rat-like tail swishing about with nervous awkwardness.
"I said I would listen if you wanted to talk," he replied, still looking at her, "I'll listen until you think you're done."
"I can hear myself talk and I know what you must think of me." She said more softly than before, making him lean forward in order to hear her correctly, "And I agree, I do sound selfish."
He smiled at her, she seemed so unsure of herself that it was almost pathetic, "You can be egotistical once in a while." He assured her, "It's better than being a saint like you usually are."
Freya tried to glare at him but she felt too tired, as she had gone through the events of her life she had felt her energy draining out of her, and now she needed to sit down. As she searched for a suitable perch she asked him, "Have you ever heard the phrase 'life is like an onion'?"
Amarant would have been lying had he said that was something he had expected her to ask, and even as he was giving her a perplexed look he said, "Yes, I have."
"What does it mean to you?" she asked as she hauled herself up onto the railing upon finding no other seat.
Now he was very confused, "That some people can be rotten inside like onions but no one can see it?"
She was silent for a moment, choosing not to look at him and opting for a more comfortable view of the garden. "When I was very young my mother told me that life was like an onion because at first you start out as nothing, you have done nothing special, nothing that anyone will remember you for. But as you go through life you begin to accomplished things, things that add layers to your life, so that you become complex, so that people could never think that you had been nothing, like an onion.
"But now it's hard to remember my accomplishments, the layers that once made up my life, it's like someone peeled away the deeds I worked so hard for and found that I was nothing, that, in truth, I had always been nothing."
Her finger-like claws clicked against the metal railing, the only sound that filled the sudden and unpleasant silence.
"So you think you're nothing?"
Freya turned at the sound of his voice, surprised. He was looking directly at her, closer than she remembered him being when she had begun speaking.
"Do you know how many people admire you? How many people take one look at you and realize they can never measure up?" Amarant's voice was becoming louder as he went on, "In times of hardship you pulled through, when Fratley's memory failed, when your people were nearly destroyed, in the face of certain death you didn't waver, not once!"
She flinched, she hadn't known Amarant could be this angry, his eyes were burning beneath his unruly mop of red hair, fists clenching with untold rage, she was almost afraid he would knock her from the balcony.
"The only person who has dared lift away the layers of your life is you." His voice was quieter now, almost as if he spoke to himself, "We were all nothing once Freya, but the course of our lives changed all that, if you look too deep you'll lose yourself in your sorrow for things you couldn't have helped, things that were out of your control."
She absorbed what he had said, and even though she wanted to disagree with him she knew he was right.
There was a ghost of a smile on his face which promptly faded into a frown. His emotional shell had returned as quickly as it had gone and he no longer felt like talking, he walked toward the door to the dancing hall.
Freya blinked, stunned, and wondering if she had just dreamed up the whole conversation, he appeared to be the same cold Amarant he had always been. His next few words however, made her smile.
"I'm going to get a drink; your self-pity is enough to make anyone become a drunkard."
As he opened the door the sound of music soared through the night air, here he paused, undecidedly at the doorway before he turned back to her and said, "Now I have a question for you."
She raised an eyebrow, looking at him quizzically, and was blinked in surprise when the question finally came.
"Want to dance?"
'My work here is done.' Zidane thought as he watched the couple dancing. Freya didn't seem gloomy anymore, far from it actually, even when scolding Amarant for stepping on her toes she glowed with a happy light. Amarant also seemed more animated than usual, although his reaction was less apparent than hers. Zidane even thought he saw the taller man smile a few times which was quite odd in itself.
"I wonder what they talked about." He mused aloud.
He may have been surprised to find out it was onions.
Freya took a few more steps before turning back to give the dance hall a longing look. It was late, or early depending on how you looked at it. The sun had yet to peek over the mountains ranges but a soft pink glow had already begun to fill the sky, transforming everything it touched. The clouds turned to cotton candy, great swirls of it encompassing the sky while the mountains seemed to come alive under the touch, their beauty becoming more than just simple mounds of earth. Even Freya seemed different, her face softer, not as hunted looking, her eyes open and filled with hope that could no longer be denied.
"Its amazing how one person can change your outlook on life." She said quietly to herself, smiling at the memory of Amarant's disgusted face when he realized he couldn't dance.
There was a soft sound behind her and she turned to see none other than Amarant watching her.
"You look pleased." He snorted, walking past her with his usual shuffling gait.
"Something good happen?"
Freya nodded, trying to look solemn and failing miserably. "I guess you could say that." She murmured.
He glanced at her quickly, a look of puzzlement marring his usually emotionless face. She continued to smile, and then glanced up at the sky just as the sun rose above the horizon. The two of them stood together, letting the sun bathe their faces with a brilliant light, each of them thinking their own thoughts.
"Where are you going next?" Freya asked quietly, turning to him.
He shrugged, "Treno, maybe, I don't know."
"Mind if I tag along?"
He smiled, unfazed by her question, as if he had been expecting it all along, "If you can keep up."
"Oh, I think I'll be up to it." She replied before she leapt into action, running across the field of endless grass.
"Like a kid." Amarant muttered to himself, taking off at a much slower pace.
"Honestly Amarant, you're like an adamantoise, pick up the pace!" Freya called over her shoulder.
"Name calling, typical, what next?" he growled, although he wasn't really angry.
The two of them continued on that way, Freya calling out teasing remarks while Amarant mumbled unpleasant things to himself, neither taking the other very seriously and just enjoying the company.
The sun rose in the sky, casting its light onto the earth, reminding the partners that no matter how imperfect life could seem, there would always be another tomorrow, a bright future waiting just beyond the horizon. Life can be described as many things, an onion, a pain, a blessing, but in the end you need someone to share it with, someone to lean on when you're feeling like nothing, someone to remind you of what you really are when life no longer seems worth it.
Freya and Amarant walked side by side now, Freya having slowed her pace after getting weary of taunting the blue-skinned man. She smiled up at him, a warm feeling rising up within her heart, and, though she didn't quite know it yet, Freya had found her someone.
And 'nothing' was suddenly very far away.
Loneliness that eats the mind,
And barricades the heart.
Fear that stares with anxious eyes,
At the figures in the dark.
But when that darkness fades to naught
You'll come to realize,
That you were always something
In someone else's eyes