Terra: Part II Chapter 7
The excitement of meeting her father for the first time in her life out-weighed the questions as to why he'd been away for so long. She just didn't care. A lot of people had been taken captive by the Empire, even more had been killed by them, so to have her father alive and in front of her was enough right then. She knew the story would come later.
It usually always did.
The story of her own life came out in spurts and choppy remembrances. He listened with rapt attention, his eyes crisp and alert as they examined her face and expressions. Relm liked it. The only other person who had seemed to look so deep at what she said and the feelings she tried to hide was Shadow. Maybe that was why she'd liked him. She had known that he couldn't be fooled or goaded.
Finally, after what seemed hours of telling him what she'd been doing all her life (which mainly consisted of the entire battle with Kefka and the Empire), she fell silent and just smiled at him. He returned her smile, almost hesitantly, and then dropped his eyes to the table top in her home. He seemed unsure and uncomfortable. It was almost as if he didn't want to tell her where he'd been or what he'd been doing.
"I know that you have a lot of questions, Relm."
His reluctance, surprisingly enough, affected her enthusiasm and made her reluctant. "Do you blame me?" Relm asked him. "Grandpa said you were dead a long time ago. Why else would you stay away?" Relm paused, watching his face. It was scarred and haggard. As if he'd lived his entire life in a prison cell where he was tortured and beaten each day. "Daddy, why did they take you and Mamma away?"
His face darkened with pain and the scenes of his life flashed quickly across his eyes. "For a lot of senseless reasons. The most important, to them of course, being the fact that your mother was descended from the Blue Magi."
Relm hesitated, actually unsure as to the wisdom of asking him what he obviously didn't want to relive. Her desire to know about her parents, however, made her press on. "Please. Tell me about her. Tell me about you. All I've ever known is Grandpa and I want to know more than that. I want to know about who I came from."
Her father looked up then, examining the bright expression in her eyes with a distant look. "You have your mother's passion. Looking into your eyes is like looking into hers."
Relm's throat tightened. "Really?"
His lips tilted upward in a slight smile and his eyes seemed to focus back on the present. "Yes. Your mother was a passionate artist that lived life to its fullest extent. Her beauty came from this. So has yours."
Relm looked down with a blush. Not very many people called her beautiful. She'd never even had it hinted at.
"I was amazed at the resemblance when I first saw you," her father said. "It was so uncanny that I was sure I was mistaken. After all, how could it be that simple?" His eyes became distant again and he looked away. "She would be pleased at all the things you have done. You have become a hero at a very young age. Not many can boast of such an accomplishment."
Relm changed her gaze to his face. "Haven't you done anything like that before? Even once? Were you always a prisoner?"
"In some form or other." He sighed. "Relm, I am so sorry. I did not mean to be away this long. Some of my friends are certain that I allowed myself to forget. It was less painful than remembering and coming home to pay the price for my absence. When I first escaped, I should have made my way here."
Relm sniffled, clenching her hands together as her throat tightened. "You probably thought I would be mad."
"It doesn't matter. I should have come. You deserved to have your father, as well as new memories of your mother."
They were quiet for a long moment and then Relm looked up. He was watching her. "Are you going to stay now, Daddy? Grandpa won't be happy, but I don't care. Please stay."
Her father stood and looked toward the stairs leading to the second story bedroom. "I will stay," he said quietly, "but I might not be welcome in this house."
Relm scowled. "If you're not, then I'm leaving. He's just a grumpy old fuddy-duddy anyway."
Her father turned a stern expression toward her. "Relm, he is your grandfather. Your mother's father. He has your best interests at heart and has never abandoned you. He deserves your presence in his life more than I do."
"But youre my father," she said passionately. "He has no right to keep you out of my life and I'll hate him if he tries!"
"You shouldn't hate him for doing that which he believes protects you. He loves you and has never hesitated in the showing of that love."
Relm crossed her arms. "I don't care. If you go, I go. It's as easy as that."
"Daddy, don't make me stay here if you have to go!" Relm insisted with tears in her eyes. "Okay, so he's doing everything - everything that drives me nuts - out of love. Okay, I understand, but I'm not going to stay. I'm nearly 13 and he still treats me like a baby! I want to grow up with my father, not him."
Her father studied her for a long moment before a reluctant smile broke out across his face. He chuckled. "Yes, you definitely remind me of your mother. She had much the same thing to say about him when I proposed and he refused. She told me that she would marry me because she wanted to. That his decision had nothing to do with her choices."
"Mamma said that?" He nodded and Relm was quiet for a moment. "She loved you a lot, didn't she?"
His face became slightly pale as he moved suddenly for the stairs. "We loved each other very much. We were happy. We were content."
Relm watched him climb the stairs and then dropped her eyes. 'Then why did you leave?' It was a question she didn't want to ask.
* * *
Clyde stood at the top of the stairs for a long and silent moment.
Might as well come in the rest of the way.
Clyde took in a deep breath and then stepped forward, his eyes focusing on his father-in-law as he sat in an armchair covered with a blanket. He examined Stragos pale complexion, his sunken eyes, and the constant tremor of his hands and knew: Death was coming.
Strago caught his gaze with a hard expression, his eyes not wavering. So, you came. She said you would, both Relm and Terra, but I never believed it. Why should I have? Itd already been 10 years. He pressed his lips together and gestured to the desk chair that was positioned across from him. Sit down.
Clyde sat without a word, holding Stragos firm gaze without a problem. Strago noticed and gave a snort.
Youve grown a spine, it seems. Never used to be able to look me in the face for a full five seconds before. Strago examined his face and adjusted his crossed arms. So, whats your excuse?
Clyde felt a spark of temper. I wasnt aware I needed one.
Strago raised an eyebrow. Oh really. You expected to be able to strut in here and take over as father and provider without any kind of word at all?
Clyde pressed his lips together and grappled with the refreshing freedom of anger and frustration. I came with an explanation and an apology. I did not come with any excuses for my actions in order to justify them to you or to her. There is no justification.
At least on that point we can agree, Strago said harshly. He paused as a fit of coughing robbed his breath and strength. When it passed, he regarded his son-in-law with a dark expression. Youve been gone a long time, Clyde. I guess Im being a bastard about it, but I want a damn good explanation. I think I deserve it. Do you have any idea what its like to raise a girl in a world like this by yourself? I couldnt answer her question about why her mommy was dead. Or why her daddy went away. I couldnt tell her when her daddy would be coming back again.
Strago took in a deep breath and rest his head back against the armchair as he examined Clydes pained expression, which still held his. 10 years, Clyde. Its been 10 damn years. He shook his head and closed his eyes. Prisoner of the Empire? How do you survive 10 years as a prisoner of the Empire without getting yourself killed?
You learn to do what they want. You learn to fade into the background. Clyde dropped his eyes to his clenched fists. I was a prisoner, a puppet, even while I was a free man.
Stragos eyes opened slowly and he took in a slow breath as he watched Clydes face. After a moment, he closed his eyes again. Sounds like a lot of other people, Terra and Celes to name a few. Youve met Terra and her husband, I suppose?
Thats been Relms family. Theyre the best thing that ever happened to her. They taught her a lot of things about life that she should have learned from you. Get to know them, Clyde.
Strago was quiet a moment. I suppose Relms already told you what shes been up to.
I guess youre a bit mad that I let her get involved.
Clyde hesitated. You had your reasons, I guess. The same as I did.
That, and shes as stubborn as her mother when set to do something.
Clyde smirked. I noticed.
Strago opened his eyes suddenly and caught his gaze. Im dying, Clyde, and I think you know it. If you had plans to come here and open this kettle of worms and then leave again, then you best tell me now so that I can make arrangements to have her stay with Terra and Edgar or Celes and Locke. She deserves a family. No, she deserves a father.
I know. I wouldnt have come if I didnt plan on staying. Ive been away too long, as you said before, and its time for me to take accountability. He took in a deep breath and dropped the old mans intense gaze. I left to make the world a better place. In a way, Ive done that. Perhaps one day Ill tell you how. Now Clyde looked up. Now I need to come back. I would have before, but as you say, 10 years is a long time.
Strago examined him for a long moment, another fit of coughing bringing a quick kerchief to his mouth to hide the blood that Clyde knew now hid there.
Im giving you a chance, Clyde, Strago rasped with a haggard breath, but only because I know Relm wouldnt have it any other way. Neither would Amanda, if shed lived. If you screw up, though, and Im not dead yet, youre gone. I dont care if it makes her hate me. Id do anything for her. That includes keeping her from you.
Clyde paused for a long moment, holding the mans gaze for what seemed an eternity. Finally, he took in a deep breath and reached forward to take the mans hand. He clasped it tightly. Im here to stay, old man. Amandas murderer is gone. The Empire is gone. My old life is gone. Relm is all I have left. Relm is all I need. I wont make the same mistake twice.
Stragos hand tightened in his and a spark of a smile flashed in his eyes. Good, because I can still take your ass.
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