Adventures of Youth|
Edgar looked up from the papers strewn about his desk. A smile brightened his face when Terra entered followed close behind by Gau. "Good morning," he greeted as he stood. He went around his desk and completed the statement with a kiss on each of Terra's cheeks before tightly clasping Gau's extended hand. He returned his smile. "What has brought you to us this morning, Gau?"
Gau looked briefly over at Terra before answering. "Come for learn. Speak more better. Write. Read. Want know much."
Edgar nodded along with the statements as he crossed his arms. Then he sent his bride of three months a tender smile, which she returned with a slight flush, and looked back toward Gau. Eagerness danced across the young 15-year-old's face. "Good for you, Gau. Good for you."
"Edgar, we were hoping that you could watch the children for a couple of hours each day for the next few weeks," Terra said as she came to stand beside him.
Edgar changed his gaze to her upturned face. "Of course, dearest. It would be my pleasure." He moved his eyes to meet Gau's. "Work hard, young man, or we will exchange words."
Gau grinned before following Terra from the room.
Edgar turned back to his desk, sorted through the different papers there, and then gave a brief nod before turning to exit his office. His duties to his kingdom seldom allowed him the opportunity for time alone with Terra's adopted 'brood', as Sabin had once titled them. The children shared their meals, with the occasional early-morning breakfast set aside for Terra and himself, but Edgar hadn't had an occasion to truly spend time alone with them. While a part of him didn't want to admit it, he looked forward to the adventure and the opportunity.
And so the adventure begins, he told himself with an accompanying smile. Good luck, old man.
He halted outside the door of a room specifically modified as their play-room and reached out to open the door. Ten pairs of eyes lifted to immediately zoom in on his unexpected presence. Gasps were heard before a wave rushing figures surrounded him.
"Hello, children," he greeted with a tousle of hair here and a touched nose there. "It seems mamma has the exciting duty of teaching Gau how to read and write. I'm afraid you will need to make due with me for the next few weeks."
That thought didn't seem to bother them. They set right to work in dragging him forward and begging him to watch their newest production. He laughed and did as he was told.
The door opened, but none of the pairs of eyes turned from their rapt attention on Edgar's face as he continued to read them the story. "Metal against metal clashed for a day and a night, yet still the hero would not allow the evil warlord passage. 'Why do you fight the inevitable?' he roared, striking a blow that jarred the hero's teeth. 'I shall kill you to pass into your land in any regard. Surrender and I may spare your life.'"
The children took in a deep gasp and leaned forward.
"'I would rather die than surrender to your evil plots, Alrog,' the hero uttered through clenched teeth. 'You will not pass.'" Edgar briefly glanced up, catching Terra's soft expression as she leaned against the far wall beside the door to watch. He smiled and continued reading. "'I will do what I please when I please,' the warlord laughed. 'Stand against me and you perish.' The hero struck fiercely back, lunging and slashing with renewed fervor. 'No! I will be victorious!' the hero shouted, and his voice was filled with purpose and righteous anger. 'How, pray tell, shall you purchase your victory?' the warlord ridiculed."
"Punch 'im in the nose!" one of the boys shouted.
"Spit in his eye!" came another.
Edgar's eyes twinkled, and he heard Terra giggle. "'I purchase nothing. Evil shall not be victorious of good!' The warlord laughed, blocking strike after lunge after slash with what seemed little effort. 'Poor deluded soul. How little you know of the workings of power.'" Edgar closed the book to a chorus of "aww"s. "I'm sorry, children, but I do believe mamma has come to announce the arrival of dinner."
Terra stepped forward then. "I have. Aren't you hungry?"
Children leaped to their feet with squeals and giggles before hurrying from the room and heading toward the dining room. Terra watched them go with a smile before facing Edgar again. Edgar set the book on the side table and stood to make his way to her side. He greeted her with a kiss. "Will Gau be staying?"
Terra took hold of his hand as they proceeded from the room. "Yes, but not here at the castle. He's wanted to camp out on the desert for a while, so that's where he's going to be." She sent him a sidelong glance. "How did it go?"
Edgar chuckled and met her gaze. "You worry for me?"
Terra smiled. "No, Edgar, I only wanted to make sure everything went all right. You haven't ever been alone with the children." She wrapped her arms around his and rested her cheek against it. "I'm glad it went good."
He reached across to caress her hands. "As am I, love-light. I am only sorry that I haven't taken the opportunity before now."
"It's enough that you've become a part of their life at all, Edgar. It's been so long since they've had a father."
Edgar knew how frightening that prospect could be.
Edgar compared the numbers from that months ledger to the previous with a slight frown. "Now that can't be right," he protested absently. There was a knock. "Come in," he called, and he promptly reached across the desk for a different viewing of the kingdom's expenditures compared to its receipts. "This is odd. Hm." He only vaguely heard the sound of feet entering his office and approaching his desk. "Yes?" he asked without looking up. "What can I do for you?"
A soft-bound book was set in front of him, neatly placed on top of his ledgers and papers. He blinked and looked to his left. He smiled. "Well hello there, little miss." Then he noticed all ten children had gathered around his desk. He chuckled and helped brunette, seven-year-old, and cute-as-a-button Tyrian onto his lap. "It seems I had forgotten my assignment of playing with you today," he told her with a serious expression. "Do forgive me."
She giggled as she nodded. "Its okay. Mamma just told us to find you and be very quiet."
"And you did a very good job indeed. Now," he said as he stood, lifting Tyrian into his arms with little effort, "what did you have in mind for this old king today?" All the children raised a different coloring book with wide smiles. Edgar chuckled. "I see. I have my paperwork and you have yours. Delightful. Although..." Edgar looked down at the papers and books on his desk. Then he picked up the coloring book Tyrian had placed there and stepped away. "I believe I shall trade pens for pencils for right now."
The children cheered, gathering around Edgar to give possible selections and suggestions of colors before moving as a group to the conference table in the room. Edgar smiled.
Terra searched the library, the play-room, the dining hall, and all of the children's favorite haunts within the castle. The children were simply nowhere to be found. "Chancellor, do you know where the children are?" she asked his passing figure.
"I believe they are with his highness in his office."
"Oh. Thank you."
"You're most welcome." Then he moved on about his business.
Edgar's office had been the one place she'd thought unlikely for them to be. She smiled and moved toward the room, carefully and quietly opening the door to peek her head around. Terra blinked in surprise and stepped further in, watching in amazement and growing adoration as Edgar and the children compared artistic insights and suggestions while gathered tightly around the conference table. When Edgar reached across the table to borrow the red pencil from Alyxis, he caught Terra's gaze and hesitated. Finally, he retrieved the requested pencil, set it beside his picture, and lifted said picture for her to see. It was an admirable recreation of herself as an Esper 'angel'. Terra gently smiled, her heart warming and her soul bonding even closer to this gentle man who was both friend and lover. Then she blew him a kiss. Edgar caught it and brought it to his lips as his eyes spoke to hers.
Terra looked up from the book she helped Gau read. There was clanging and shouting coming from the hall. She sent Gau an apologetic smile. "I'll be right back. Keep sounding out that word, Gau. You'll get it."
He nodded and refocused his eyes on the page as Terra stood and made her way to the door. She opened it and took a startled step back. There in front of her was Edgar, wooden sword in one hand, giggling child under his other arm, and a myriad of other children gathered around him in what must have been a battle of epic proportion.
"What on earth?" Terra asked.
All eyes focused on her. Edgar straightened, doing his best to hide both the sword and the child behind his back as he smiled. "Oh. Do excuse us. Um… Oh dear."
Then the group turned and fled down the hall, squeals and giggles colored with adult chuckles. Terra watched them disappear down the hallway with a giggle of her own and a slow shake of her head before retreating back inside and closing the door softly behind her.
So it's going well then?"
"There's the bad days, of course," Sabin confessed as the brothers made their way down the outside hallway of the castle, "but I push past and do my best to not let it happen again. The personal issues between employees is definitely a different story."
Edgar smiled. "Yes. Those definitely become an interesting aspect of daily life."
Sabin laughed. "Yeah, and I can't just spout what first comes to mind, either. I have to think first and speak second. If I didn't, I wouldn't have any help at all. It's been a hard thing to learn."
"At first I am quite sure you refused the lesson," Edgar put in as his eyes focused on a specific point ahead.
Again, Sabin laughed. "Yeah, well, after losing more students in the first week then there are days, I figured something should change."
"How ever did you reason it should be you?"
"I made the mistake of asking Terra. Man. She let me have it right between the eyes when I told her what I'd said."
Edgar chuckled. Then he halted. "Blast."
Sabin continued on a few steps before halting and turning. "What?"
Edgar moved to lean against the wall and lifted a foot. "I do believe there is a stone in my shoe."
Sabin smirked as he relaxed his stance and crossed his arms. "We can't have that, can we?"
Edgar motioned ahead. "I'll be along in a moment."
Sabin nodded and turned, heading again to the exit of the castle. Splash, Splut "Ack!" Sabin wiped the water and flour from his face and eyes as he turned on Edgar, who was very quickly retreating back the way he'd come, chuckling and then laughing as he went. The sound of squeals and giggles came from above, and Sabin raised his eyes. Blonde, brunette, and red-head disappeared from view.
Sabin reluctantly smirked. "I'll get you, brother!" he called after the closing door. Sabin chuckled with a shake of his head. "Maybe."
Ah. Your highness."
Edgar paused his trek to the chocobo stables and turned, facing the Chancellor with an absent expression as he, instead, planned that day's adventure with the children. "Yes, Chancellor?"
"There has been a bit of a problem with the gentleman whom we wished to purchase the building from."
Edgar's attention focused. "The one in South Figaro? For the Academy?"
The Chancellor showed a piece of paper. "It seems the offered price is not to his liking."
Edgar took the paper with a frown, reading through it with growing disgust. "Bah. The love of money…" Edgar shook his head and then continued down the hall with the Chancellor falling into step beside him. "I suppose we will need to determine an alternate plan. Perhaps we can contact the gentleman in Jidoor… what was his name? Waldo? Perhaps he would be interested. I seem to recall him mentioning the possibility of moving to Thamasa."
"I will send an invitation for him to come and speak with you, highness."
Edgar shook his head. "No. I will make my way there today with the children. Prepare the wagon, and see that a lunch is packed for all.I will inform Terra."
"The children?" the Chancellor repeated with wide eyes. "Surely this demands your sole attention, highness."
Edgar halted and faced the Chancellor. The king's expression was resolute and firm. "Chancellor, my kingdom is important, yes, but so are my wife's children. I thought I made it clear they were to be treated as if they were my own?"
"O-Of course, highness." The Chancellor bowed. "I'll see to the preparations right away."
Edgar curtly nodded. "Good."
The Chancellor hurried away. Edgar adjusted his course to the library where Terra was preparing for Gau's lesson that Gau currently played with the children. Edgar opened the door to the library. Terra apparently searched the bookstocks for something specific, fingernail between teeth as she did so. Edgar smiled slightly and made his way to her, coming up behind to wrap his arms around her and place a kiss on her neck.
Terra brought a hand up to caress his cheek before turning in his arms to place a kiss on his waiting lips. "Hello," she whispered against them.
Edgar kissed her again before stepping back, capturing her hands in his as he smiled down at her. "I'm afraid I will be kidnapping the wee ones for a bit longer than the previous days, love-light."
She arched an eyebrow. "Oh? Where are you going?"
"It seems we've had a bit of a hiccup in our plans for the Academy."
Terra's face showed concern and disappointment. "He won't sell?"
Edgar shook his head. "He's decided he wants more money. So I've decided to speak with the gentleman in Jidoor. And," he placed another kiss on her lips, "I thought the children might enjoy the chocobo ride as well as the overall adventure."
Terra gave his hands a squeeze. "They most certainly will." She examined his expression. "Are you sure it won't cause problems for you? Gau won't mind a day off from studying. He's doing really well."
Edgar smiled down at her as he kissed first one hand and then the other. "I don't mind, dearest. I've been having fun, as have the children, and I believe it has been the best vacation from the rigors of kingship that I could have asked for. Save our honeymoon, of course."
Terra giggled, lowering her eyes as her cheeks flushed. "Edgar…"
"I also believe that is the most attractive shade of red." He kissed her hands again. "I'd best be off to gather the children from Gau and send him here to you. Have fun, and don't work the boy too hard."
Terra nodded as she raised her eyes, wrapping her arms around him to give him a firm embrace. "You have fun, too." She looked up and smiled. "I'll see you tonight, Edgar."
He fondly brushed her cheeks and lips with a single finger before lightly touching and caressing her lips with his. "Until tonight, love-light."
Terra lightly pushed open the door of the girls' room. She leaned against the door frame, resting her head against it as she watched Edgar gently tuck them into bed. The trip to Jidoor had taken the entire day, and the children had returned in a groggy state of satisfied exhaustion. They hadn't even had the strength to tell her what had happened.
Edgar finished the duty of securing the last girl's bedding before sitting on the edge to gaze down at the sleeping girl with an absent smile. Terra watched the scene with a growing tightening of emotion. I wish I could paint as good as Relm. This is a picture worth keeping. Edgar smoothed some of the blonde curls from Cera's face. Then he leaned forward and placed a kiss on her forehead.
Terra smiled, pushing away from the door frame to come further into the room. She stood behind Edgar and placed a hand on his back. "Did you have fun?" she whispered.
"More fun than I had thought possible," he replied in an awed tone.
Terra leaned against him, wrapping her arms around him as she rested her chin on his left shoulder. "I'm glad, Edgar. They've been having fun with you, too."
Edgar placed a kiss on one of her arms draped over him and released a slow breath. "I am glad of that. I had hoped that I was not boring them."
Terra kissed his neck. "Dearest Edgar, you're all they talk about. It's been wonderful to hear."
Edgar brushed more hair from Cera's peaceful face before carefully rising to his feet, bringing Terra around with a hand holding hers. He drew her close, enfolding her in his arms. "I had no idea being a father would feel this way, Terra. No idea at all."
Terra closed her eyes as tears wet her cheeks. Her children were finally getting their family.
Edgar heard a shriek moments before the clear sound of tears echoed through the hallway. A concerned frown darkened his eyes as he opened the door to the specifically designed play room. Nine pairs of eyes met his before they rushed to surround him, as had become their custom. A single figure continued to remain distant, though, standing in the near direct center of the room while rubbing her eyes with her hands and sniffling in a clear showing of distress.
Stories and explanations spilled forth as quickly as Cera's tears did. Edgar nodded and listened to each one, still not sure what had happened, before making his way to the weeping seven-year-old. He knelt and gently took her hands from her face. She hiccupped with tears and blinked up at Edgar, wetness glistening on her flushed cheeks.
"Cera? What has happened?" he asked softly as he gently squeezed her hands.
The other children held back.
Cera sniffled several times in succession. "They won't lemme be it," she said, and the comment was accentuated by occasional hiccups.
Cera morosely nodded. "I wanna be it, but alls they wanna lemme be is the finder. It's no fair."
Edgar smiled, giving her hands another succession of squeezes. "No, I don't suppose it is."
Edgar released her hands to pick her up. Then he steadied her in one arm as he turned to face the rest of the group. All the children had their arms and hands behind their backs while lightly tapping the floor with first one foot and then the other. They were the picture of guilt. Edgar released a breath as he gave a slight shake of his head. Then he moved to the armchair set aside for story time and carefully sat, adjusting Cera to his lap.
"Come close, children. It seems we need to have words regarding the importance of teamwork, sharing, and fairness."
They "aww"ed but approached without further protest, gathering around Edgar with continued expressions of moroseness. Some held the arms of the chair; some continued to stand a little back from him, and still others rested their hands or arms on his knees or legs.
"She takes too long," one of the boys mumbled. "If Cera's it, we never get to play before dinner."
Edgar changed his eyes to the blonde eight-year-old. "How do you propose she improve, Robbie, if you don't allow her the opportunity to do so? Instead of preventing her from playing with you, why don't you help her?"
"Help her?" Robbie asked as he stepped closer. He leaned against the arm of the chair. "How?"
Edgar rested his hand on the boy's head, giving his hair a rub. "How do you teach anyone anything, Master Robert? You show them. Isn't that how I taught you to use the boat? I spoke you through it, doing my best to answer your questions."
Robbie lowered his eyes to the arm of the chair and picked at it. "I guess so."
"It's the same thing for playing 'it'?" one of the other boys asked. "Really?"
Edgar chuckled as his eyes focused on the red head and green eyes of Peter, one of the older boys – he was nearly 10. "Of course, Peter. Such is the way any of us learn what is important to know in this life."
"Even you, Papa?"
Edgar blinked as he focused a shocked expression on Cera's face. It was the first time one of Terra's children had called him that. To Edgar's surprise, it sounded right and felt better. His smile returned, even through a slight, tell-tale tightening of his chest. "Yes, Cera. Your mamma has taught me a great many things. In fact, she still does. As do all of you. Life is a continual process of learning."
"Could you teach me how to play 'it', Papa?" Cera asked with wide eyes.
Edgar gently brushed the tears from her cheeks. "I will teach you all that a father should." Then he rested his hand on Robbie's head yet again before moving his gaze to each and every child gathered around him. "This I swear, children."
"A father?" Robbie asked softly.
Edgar moved his eyes to those of the young boy. "If you will have me, Robbie."
The boy's eyes glistened, causing tightness in Edgar's own throat. "A father?" the boy repeated.
Edgar forced a reassuring smile as he again tousled the young boy's blonde hair. Cera rested her head against Edgar just as several of the other children rested their cheeks against his knees and legs. "Yes, Robbie. A father. A friend. Someone to teach you. Someone to lead you." Edgar paused, wiping the tears from the boy's cheek. "Someone to love and protect you. Just as your mamma has done."
Robbie slightly nodded, his eyes still registering shock.
Edgar brushed the hair from the boy's face, and then he moved his gaze to those children gathered alongside the others. He touched heads here and there as he carefully leaned forward. "And what say you, children? Is there room enough in your lives for your mamma and myself?"
They all squealed, leaping to their feet as Cera slid from his lap to dance at his feet as well. Then they were tugging him to stand, pleading with him to teach them how to fish; how to fight; how to swim; and how to play 'It'.