A/N: First of all, to all of those who have read this story during the last twelve years and followed or reviewed and whatnot: I thank you from the bottom of my heart. I am deeply indebted to all of my readers, and it wasn't until I came in contact with a coworker that also enjoyed fanfiction that I was inspired to pick this story up again. I apologize for my twelve year absence from , and I hope that some of my original readers, and of course new ones, will enjoy this story greatly. I am completely revamping the story, doing the entire thing in third person, and I will be scrapping what is posted as "chapter 2 & 3." I have grown tremendously within the last dozen years, as has my writing style, and I hope you will all come with me on this new journey. If I get rid of anything that any of you feel is a vital part of what was written so long ago, please leave a message in the comments. Keep in mind however, I do have rather grand plans for this story. It has been a long time since I've played the game, but I have been reading the wiki for it avidly, and along with providing incredibly pleasant moments of nostalgia, it has given me some great ideas. As always, please, if you do read, leave a review. It's the reviews that give me a sense of direction, and if they are earnest enough, they could very well influence the course of this story. I hope you all enjoy! - The Acid Rabbit

-A Turning of the Tides-

~ The Brother's War ~

1

Garnet paced back and forth over the lacquered mahogany floor of her bedchambers, twirling her long raven locks around the first finger of her left hand. Her shoes tapped quietly on the wooden panels, and her hair swished as she turned about face. Her temple pulsed with annoyance, her brow furrowed in irritation. On the other side of the room Zidane sat on her expansive bed, the great oak posts extending to the ceiling, holding a large silk canopy embroidered with swirling flames, designed to match the hemming. Zidane ran a leather-gloved hand through his short blond hair, the fading sunlight streaming in through the window shining off the brass buttons on his cuffs. He sighed heavily, adjusted his vest, and buttoned one of his brass cufflinks. He looked towards Garnet, still pacing.

The sunlight was bouncing off her ebony hair, creating a glowing aura about her. She tucked a strand of hair behind her ear, looking at Zidane. Her brow creased; she sat down at the seldom-used mahogany table.

"Why?" she asked. "Why do you hate him so much? He's your brother; you're supposed to love him," she said.

Zidane threw his hands up in the air, huffing in aggravation.

"He tried to kill us! He tried to destroy the entire world! How can you forgive that?" he exclaimed.

Garnet gave him a hurt look.

"How could you say such a thing?" she whispered. "He's changed. He's a merchant sailor now, and besides the little he requires to live, he gives everything he makes to help the citizens of Alexandria and the outlying lands. He has chosen a life of servitude to the people of this kingdom. How much more can he repent?"

Zidane stood slowly, and walked to the large bay window. He stared out at the harbor, his eyes focusing on the purple and crimson streaks of light slowly sinking below the distant horizon. The fading sunlight gleamed off the lazily shifting water; boats were coming in to dock and heading out to sea as gulls called from overhead. People moved to and fro, hefting crates of cargo onto ships and heaving them off to be sold at the local market. He took notice of one particular brigantine, painted black with an intricately carved wooden maiden at the helm that bore a slight resemblance to Queen Garnet. The sails were splendid, great white, billowing in the wind.

The ship was named the RAS Paragon, and it belonged to his brother Kuja. It was a massive ship, thrice as large as the rest of the freighters that docked in Alexandria harbor. It was a bold move on Kuja's part to purchase such a massive vessel, especially with steam-powered airships quickly becoming the most popular mode of transport for both the public and cargo. Since the dispersion of the Mist, most models of airships had failed, and steam-powered airships were the only vessels that continued to function. Despite the rapidly increasing demand for steam airships, Kuja had secured a decent living importing goods with seafaring ships from the outlying continents and exporting general goods from the three kingdoms.

Zidane was outraged by the seeming audacity of it all. Just five years prior, Kuja had tried to destroy the entirety of Gaia when his attempts to prolong his own life had failed. And nearly three decades earlier, he had left Zidane alone to die as a child, when he was supposed to care for him. Although Zidane had been too young at the time to truly understand the events occurring around him, the hindsight knowledge that his older brother had left him to die out of jealousy was an emotion that he refused to let dissipate.

"He could start by bringing back all the people he killed," Zidane spat. Specters of all the people he had known, good people, flashed before his eyes. He felt his blood boiling in his veins at the sight of Burmecia, Lindblum, and Alexandria lying in ruins. "He has the power; why doesn't he?"

Garnet's eyes dropped. She didn't say a word; she didn't know why he wouldn't bring back all the casualties of the past war. She had her theories. Perhaps Kuja was too overwhelmed by guilt to be able to face those he had killed, and their loved ones. Perhaps he chose not to return them to life as some sort of self-penance he had chosen to impose upon himself. Or, though she dared not admit it to herself, perhaps he simply did not care enough to actually do so. The numerous possibilities were always at the back of her mind, like a lackadaisical task that was simply too mundane to acknowledge in light of her pressing concerns as Queen of Alexandria.

"Do you hate your brother because you think he's still evil," Garnet asked, "or because I have feelings for him?" The question came as a surprise even to her. Her lips voiced the words absent command from her mind. Although she assumed that Zidane had surmised her feelings towards Kuja, she had never voiced those feelings to him. As the words slipped past her lips, a feeling of apprehension came over her, and she worried what reaction Zidane would give to her words.

Zidane continued to stare out the massive bay window, overlooking the slowly cresting waves of the ocean. He crossed his legs, leaning against the windowsill. The gentle breeze coming in rustled his bangs, and he brushed them out of his face, the dying sunlight glinting off his ice blue eyes. Despite his silence, Garnet felt more than apprehensive at his movements. Every motion he made was accompanied by a subtle yet profound sense of violence, one that she had not witnessed since their battle against Necron.

Just then, the door to Garnet's chambers opened, and in walked General Beatrix, Captain of the Queen's Guard. Zidane looked away from the harbor and settled his gaze upon Beatrix. She walked with an air of authority, of confidence. He had met her several times in the past, and he knew she was not a woman to be trifled with. While Adelbert Steiner was Captain of the Knights of Pluto, it was General Beatrix who commanded the most respect within Castle Alexandria.

"Lord Zidane, Lord Kuja humbly requests your presence at the castle moat," Beatrix said.

Zidane's gaze never left Beatrix. His brow furrowed slightly, and his lips curled into an almost imperceptible grin. And so it begins, he thought to himself. He stood erect, checked his cufflinks, brushed back a lock of hair, and began towards the door.

"I shall meet him presently, then." He smirked at Beatrix, and strode past her towards the door. As the chamber door closed upon Zidane, Beatrix let out a slight shudder.

Once Zidane had left, Beatrix turned her attention towards Garnet. She looked at her queen, at once taken by the beauty that she held in such stark contrast to the late Queen Brahne. Although the sun had finally set, the horizon was still a melting pot of colors; the deep crimsons and exotic yellows cast in through the bay window cast a mellow golden glow to Garnet's rich raven locks.

Garnet was truly the epitome of beauty in Beatrix's eyes, and she sighed when she thought about that fact. As she walked the length of the great oak table in the center of the room and sat down on one of the cushioned chairs, running her hand over the intricate wooden carvings that decorated the oak, scenes of the Great War of ancient times depicted in the carvings and inlaid with shimmering samite seemingly pulsing beneath her fingertips, she felt a strange sense of inferiority. Despite all that she had been through in the past five years, and all that she had shared with Garnet, Beatrix was still reluctant to view her as anything other than her Queen. Beatrix's sense of duty had been forged under the harsh tutelage of Queen Brahne, and despite Garnet's desires to see their relationship on more equal footing Beatrix held her sworn duty in highest regard.

In Beatrix's mind, she was but a humble servant to the Queen of Alexandria. However difficult her job, she would always be the last line of defense between her Queen and any threats, whether outward or inward. Since she was a young girl that was all she had desired: to one day be able to protect her Queen. Upon becoming a woman, her desires had been realized, albeit not in the manner she had expected.

2

The crimson hues of the sunset were rapidly fading to starlight. The night sky was growing dark, and the soft cries of gulls were replaced with the sharp, ephemeral swish of bats wings. The water in the moat surrounding Castle Alexandria gently lapped midway up the cobblestone walls. Crickets chirped in the wet grass, mosquitoes buzzed about, and fireflies flickered in and out of existence.

Kuja stood next to the moat, listening to the gentle lapping of the water, comforted by the slow, rhythmic patterns he heard. In his mind, he was at peace. His body, however, was taught with apprehension. He felt a great pit within his stomach, and he nearly jumped at every chirping of a cricket. He had gone over what he would say to Zidane nearly a thousand times, yet every time he recited his own words in his head, they seemed to come out wrong. Or was it that he simply expected them to come out wrong? He couldn't be sure. The only thing that he could be sure of at this moment was that he had to confront Zidane, for better or worse, once and for all.

He glanced cautiously towards the archway leading from the castle proper to the moat. It still stood empty. By this point, Kuja wasn't sure which would be worse: to face his brother, or to hide from him. Both solutions seemed equally viable to him. He glanced down at his hands and noticed they were shaking slightly. It was the suspense of the impending meeting that was eating away at him worst of all.

In an effort to calm his nerves, he looked across the moat towards the city. Dusk was still gathering, and with it the lights of the city of Alexandria. Beyond the moat, the lights of the city dotted the horizon like so many fireflies. The taverns, the opera houses, the inns; these were the mainstay of nightlife in the kingdom of Alexandria. Once the blacksmiths, general traders, and political offices had closed up for the day, it was the night venues that came alive. Their lights would keep the city alive for several more hours, before finally retiring in the twilight of the morning.

Behind him, Kuja heard a faint metallic tapping. The slow rhythmic beat of each tap sent shivers up his spine.

3

As he passed through the final archway separating the grounds of Castle Alexandria from the surrounding moat, Zidane was lost in a fury of thought. Despite the widespread peace that had ensued during the last five years, his mind was filled with the tumultuous events that had taken place prior. In his mind, had he never known of his biological connection to Kuja, his life would have been much simpler. It might even have been, dare he say it, perfect. He secretly pined for the old days as a member of Tantalus; his life had been so simple then. Each week had held another goal in mind: go here, perform this act as a distraction, steal everything that could be carried from the mark, and get away clean. The entire system had been perfect. And he had chosen to throw it all away on a pretty face.

That pretty face had changed everything.

Zidane grumbled as he walked, and his thoughts were quickly interrupted. Lost amidst his own mind, he had not realized where exactly he was walking to until he arrived.

As he passed through the final arch, Zidane found himself looking at his elder brother. Kuja's ivory hair had two stark white feathers mingled with it, strands falling down over his chilling blue eyes. His lips were thin, his cheekbones defined. He wore white silks that billowed around him, contrasted by the purple pauldrons that adorned his shoulders. Zidane watched as Kuja turned to face him, a smile spread upon his face. It infuriated him. He didn't even deserve to be alive, let alone hold a lordship. The hypocrisy made him see red.

"What the hell do you want?" Zidane shouted.

Kuja seemed hesitant to speak. The smile on his face was quickly replaced by one of apprehension. Things were going to go very badly indeed.

"Very well" he said. "Small talk aside, I'll be straight to the point. You have feelings for Garnet. This I know. I also have developed feelings for her. I'm not entirely sure when it happened, or even how I truly feel about her, but I know that I care deeply for her. I thought out of respect that you should be the first to know," Kuja replied.

The words seemingly went in one ear and out of the other. The true magnitude of their meaning was lost on him. Although he had heard every syllable, none of it was truly comprehensible to him except the idea that Kuja had feelings for Garnet. It was an injustice that he could no longer suffer. Zidane could no longer contain his rage. With blind fury guiding his hands, he lunged at Kuja with the sole intent of killing him.

4

Garnet stood peering curiously at Beatrix. Beatrix was General of the Queen's Guard, the woman trusted with ensuring her constant safety. Five years prior, during the conflict with Terra, she had proven herself to be utterly loyal and indefatigable in her duty. Her legendary sword, Save the Queen, had proven true in its name on numerous occasions. There was no one in the kingdom that Garnet trusted more. And yet…

"You look flushed, Beatrix" Garnet said simply, in the tone of a passing companion.

Beatrix's head jerked sharply at the comment. She locked eyes with Garnet for a moment, and then quickly looked away. Against her will, Beatrix blushed a deep crimson.

"I'm not sure what you mean, your majesty" she replied curtly. Although she understood exactly what Garnet was hinting at, she was loath to acknowledge it. Her first commitment was to her duty. Any other entanglements that she found herself in were her own business.

"Beatrix, how long have we known each other?" Garnet asked. She looked squarely at Beatrix as she asked the question, not in an authoritative manner, but one of simple inquiry.

"Nearly a decade, your majesty."

"A decade is a long time. More so during times of conflict. You have been my most loyal soldier, and are much deserved of your title as General. Yet, I would ask more of you, if you would be willing." Garnet's words were spoken plainly, but held an air of petition.

"Your will, my hands, your majesty. Simply name the request and I shall see it attended to" Beatrix replied without hesitation.

Garnet's words came to her hesitantly. She spoke slowly, choosing her words carefully.

"I would ask… that you not look at me as your queen" she said.

Beatrix was taken aback by those words. She had spent her entire life dedicated to her service to her queen, and now her queen was asking her to relinquish every ideal she had upheld since she was a child. As incomprehensible as it was to her, her sworn duty dictated that she obeyed.

"As you wish, your majesty" she replied promptly.

"No," Garnet pleaded. "That's exactly what I mean. I want you to stop calling me 'your majesty,' and to cease groveling before me the way the rest of the staff and soldiers do!"

"Apologies if I have offended you, your majesty" Beatrix replied.

Garnet stifled the shout that desired escape from her throat, and instead only sighed. She looked directly at Beatrix, hoping her next words would breach seemingly impenetrable barrier.

"Beatrix, you stood with me and this kingdom during its darkest days in recent history. I know how committed you were to my mother, Queen Brahne. Yet, I am not she. I would not have you serve in the same capacity as she did. My mother viewed you only as your position demanded. I feel like I have learned more of the woman beneath, and if you would be willing, I would learn more yet. Although I regard the rest of the Alexandrian soldiers with sovereignty, I would not have our relationship be so. I would…" Her voice faltered for a moment, the words she desired seeming forever beyond the grasp of her voice.

"I would have us be as sisters" Garnet managed at last.

Beatrix looked curiously at her queen, honestly unsure if she had heard properly. The idea of such an informal relationship betwixt herself and her queen was nearly inconceivable. Yet, the idea of it was exciting in its own right. During her service to the late Queen Brahne, such an idea would never have surfaced in her mind. However, after the events of the Terran conflict, everything had changed. Garnet had assumed the throne at such a tender age, yet she had been more experienced in the ways of the world than any monarch to sit upon the throne of Alexandria in the past hundred years.

In addition, nearly every existing alliance and treaty between the three kingdoms of the Mist continent had fallen in the wake of the Terran conflict. It was such a tumultuous time, filled with such widespread treachery and disorder on all sides that the old alliances had fallen. Once Garnet and Zidane and their group had finally brought an end to the conflict, restoring order from the chaos had been a monumental task. The other kingdoms had been left to fend for themselves, to restore order to their own borders. Alexandria had been no different. It took several years, but Alexandria became once again prosperous, as did the kingdoms of Burmecia, and Lindblum, which had suffered the least of the three.

In light of the new age that had dawned in the wake of the Terran conflict, Beatrix was heartened at the thought of such a close relationship with her Queen. The idea of being more than a soldier, a sister as Garnet had put it, was nearly overwhelming. Although she knew in her heart that she would never be able to truly live up to the commitment as Garnet wished it, that she would never truly be able to forsake her lifelong duty as protector to the Queen, she welcomed and even cherished the idea of being as close to a sister as she could to her queen.

"Very well," Beatrix began slowly. "If you wish us to have a relationship beyond that of Majesty and Subject, I shall oblige."

Beatrix's eyes fell downwards towards the floor, a habit developed from long years past. At first she did not notice it, but after a moment, she overcame the habit with great mental effort.

"If that is what you so wish, I will do my best to fulfill your desire…" she said slowly. The last word hung in her throat, seemingly unable to escape, until she at last forced it past her tongue. "… Garnet."

At the mention of her name, Garnet could not help but smile. She understood how difficult this process was to Beatrix. Although she had been a headstrong child, the majority of her life she had been raised as a princess, expected to act and behave a certain way, constantly under eyes of scrutiny. Had she misspoke or made a wrong gesture, it had reflected upon her mother, the Queen. Likewise, Beatrix received the same scrutiny as a member of the Alexandrian Guard, the personal protectors to the Queen. One casual misstep could have sent either of them tumbling from the graces of their superiors, albeit Garnet was allowed far more missteps in her youth than Beatrix had been.

With a gentle smile, Garnet tenderly embraced Beatrix. She tensed stiffly at first, obviously unaccustomed to such graces, but after a moment, Beatrix noticeably relaxed. Her hands came up upon Garnet's back, and she gently returned the hug.

After a moment, the two released their embrace and stood staring affectionately into each other's eyes. Garnet smiled, and Beatrix returned the smile in kind. Words were not needed to express the new understanding the two had come to.

"Beatrix, I -"

As Garnet began, the door to her chambers burst open. A winded, visibly exerted member of the Alexandrian Guard, wide-eyed and panting, leaned upon her knees in the doorway.

"General Beatrix, Your Majesty…" she panted. Both Garnet and Beatrix rushed to her side, Beatrix placing a commanding hand upon her shoulder.

"Gain your breath, soldier. What is it?" she questioned.

After several more deep breaths, the soldier stood straight. She looked directly at Beatrix, her face a pale mix of apprehension and urgency.

"General, a fight has broken out at the moat" she said, still trying to catch her breath.

Beatrix was slightly perturbed by the response of her subordinate. Fights were common throughout the city. She relied on her soldiers to properly handle acts of disorderly conduct. A drunken brawl was not of such import as to be brought to her attention. Yet, as the soldier regained her breath, she could tell by the trepidation upon her face that something was different. Something was vastly wrong.

5

By the time they arrived at the moat, both Garnet and Beatrix were out of breath and panting. Sweat beaded upon their foreheads and caused their clothing to cling stickily to their backs. The sun was steadily sinking below the horizon, casting orange and crimson hues upon the gently lapping waters surrounding Castle Alexandria. Gulls cried overhead, circling their traditional evening resting place, now obviously incensed at the unwanted intrusion.

The two of them found Zidane and Kuja locked in mortal combat.

Upon seeing the two men she cared most about in such a state, Garnet's breath caught in her throat. Covered with cuts and lacerations, she could see Kuja using his magic to heal what wounds he could, but his attention was so focused on Zidane's movements that he had little time to tend to his injuries. He was taking the path of a pacifist in this battle. Had he chosen to employ his Black Magic, Zidane would have stood little chance. Garnet had bore unfortunate witness to the vast destructive magical powers that Kuja possessed five years prior, and she knew just how terrible they could be. He had only been defeated through the concerted efforts of their group; had Zidane faced his brother alone, death would have been the only possible outcome for him.

Garnet felt a curious gratitude towards Kuja for holding back as he did. Although she knew the massive, widespread destruction that he could reap, she admired the mind that was able to hold back in light of such circumstances. A slight smile graced her lips as she thought about the man Kuja had become compared to the man he had been a mere five years ago.

As her gaze settled upon Zidane, Garnet felt overwhelmed by a mix of emotions. Before her was the man that had once stood against the ultimate evil threatening their world, the man that had cast aside the knowledge of his birthright in favor of doing what he had deemed to be good. Although she had been so young at the time, Garnet could not help but remember how taken she had been with him. He was so headstrong and cocksure in every action that he took. In the beginning, she was unable to think of him as ever making a wrong decision.

Throughout their journeys, however, she had come to realize that he was only human. Or rather, as human as he could be.

Garnet watched, horrified, as Zidane pressed his attack upon his older brother. His twin daggers arced through the fading light like diamonds, the final remnants of sunlight glinting off their every migration. His movements were graceful, fragile, and intent to purpose. Zidane moved as a dancer would, simply, slenderly, albeit with more deadly force than had ever appeared upon stage. He seemed to dance around Kuja, circling him upon the precipice of the moat, his daggers an extension of his hands, animosity inlaid within his expression.

Garnet felt a dull numbness in her muscles; her arms and legs refused to work. Every fiber of her being was screaming at her to lunge forth and stop this ridiculous altercation. Yet she found her feet rooted so firmly rooted in place, her legs unable to move, her voice unable to sound from within her throat. Time seemed to slow as she watched the confrontation unfold. She witnessed Zidane's dagger slice neatly towards Kuja's throat, the blade coming within mere centimeters of his windpipe. At the last second, Kuja stepped back, narrowly avoiding the razor blade's cutting edge. His slender white hair billowed forth as he moved away from the dagger, and a small lock was cut cleanly away by the stinging blade.

As he stepped back, Garnet watched as Kuja lost his footing on one of the cobbles inlaid upon the walkway beside the moat. He shifted his weight to the left to compensate for his loss of balance, and as he did so, Zidane's dagger arced through deadening twilight, came crashing down upon Kuja's left shoulder blade, slicing hastily through the muscle and tendon. Kuja cried out as the blade clove neatly through his flesh and sinew, as a hot knife through a cake of butter. The force of the blow drove him to his knees, and as he fell, a hot spray of blood erupted from the gaping wound, dousing his alabaster robes a sanguinary shade. He coughed violently, spitting out bubbled blood, and his hands went to the blade impaled in his flesh, but even as he did so, the dagger was quickly being withdrawn.

As he withdrew his dagger from his older brother's shoulder, Garnet noticed a sense of bewilderment wrought upon Zidane's face. The startled look, which she only glimpsed for a moment, sent a chill down her spine. As quickly as it had appeared, it was gone. Amidst the chaos, she wasn't entirely sure that what she had witnessed was real. That look of bewilderment, of alarm, reminded her of the beginning of her journey with Zidane.

When she had been trapped within the Evil Forest, imprisoned within the tendrils of a plant come to life, she had seen that look before. When Zidane had been so focused upon freeing her, so intent in his emotions that nothing else had mattered, he had first tapped into his inner powers. He had been so focused upon his goal of freeing her that his inner energies had finally reached their breaking point, and, boiling to the surface, erupted in a spectacular release of power that she had only read about in long-forgotten legends. What she had witnessed that day was the power of Trance, the ultimate culmination of spiritual and physical energies within a single being.

As he entered that state, Garnet witnessed the same overwhelming mix of alarm, fear, and sudden implacable power that now graced his face for but an instant.

Zidane staggered back a step, his bloody dagger still clutched tightly in his fist. He stared blankly at his brother, the seeds of comprehension far beyond his distant eyes. Garnet locked eyes with him for a moment, and within his sterile blue gaze she saw nothing of the man that she had fallen in love with years before.

Now that the altercation was finished, Beatrix rushed to Kuja's side. She caught him just as he was about to collapse upon the cobbles.

"Garnet, heal him! Quickly, before it's too late" she shouted.

Garnet was still lost in a daze, barely able to comprehend the events that had just unfurled before her within a matter of minutes. A mere hour ago, things had seemed so simple. There were difficulties to overcome, true, but it was nothing that she couldn't deal with. Yet now, everything was-

"Garnet!" Beatrix shouted.

Garnet blinked rapidly, shocked out of her thoughts.

She glanced about, noticing quickly the highlights of the situation: Zidane, standing several feet away from Beatrix and Kuja, his face lost in shock, blood dripping from the tip of one of his daggers; Beatrix, cradling Kuja's slumped form in her arms, shouting something at her. Her gaze drew upwards slightly, and she saw the last crimson rays of the sun beginning to slip below the horizon; that singular memory would remain etched upon her mind for some time to come.

As her senses finally drew back to her, she was able to make out Beatrix's screams.

"Garnet! You need to heal him! You need to heal him or he won't survive!"

Suddenly, it was as if her body was acting of its own volition. She hurriedly moved forwards and knelt beside Beatrix and Kuja. She passed her hands several times over Kuja's torso, sensing, studying, probing the depths of the damage that had been done. She looked directly into Beatrix's eyes and solemnly nodded. At the unspoken command, Beatrix gently laid Kuja's body upon the cobbles.

Beatrix stood and backed away several paces, watching Garnet begin her work. In the corner of her eye she kept a steady lock upon Zidane, who remained unmoving. He seemed as shocked by the turn of events as she and Garnet were. One hand remained clutched securely upon the hilt of Save the Queen, just in case it was needed.

Garnet knelt over Kuja's nearly lifeless form, tears beginning to form in her eyes. She raised his head slightly, testing to see if he was conscious. His eyes locked briefly with hers, and in their gaze she could only detect a myriad of emotions too complex to unravel. As quickly as their gaze had locked, it fell away, and Kuja's eyes rolled back in his head. His body began to convulse, shaking rapidly upon the cobbles. His tremors were so violent that his head began to smack against the stone beneath it, and the thought of permanent damage sent a twinge of fear through Garnet.

Quickly, she placed her hands on either side of Kuja's head. She muttered a short incantation, one she had been taught as a young girl by a person she could not remember, and Kuja's convulsions abruptly ceased. Garnet breathed a sigh of relief. He was now unconscious; she could begin the painstaking process of healing him relatively uninterrupted.

With a final glance to Beatrix, she nodded, and then turned back to Kuja.

Garnet placed her hands gently over the massive wound in Kuja's shoulder. Although he was unconscious, she saw his body jerk at her touch. The wound was fresh and deep; blood was pouring from it, and she feared that he would quickly bleed out if she couldn't stop it. Concentrating every thought she had upon the task at hand, Garnet sought the calm, silent center of herself. It was a process that she had gone through many times before, albeit never in such drastic circumstances. She closed her eyes, shut her ears, and blocked out every aspect of the world she lived in. She turned inwards, seeking her center, and brought forth Kuja's wounded form into that twilight world.

She felt her hands. She could feel Kuja's flesh beneath them, alive, twisting, bleeding. She was able to feel every rip and tear, every damaged sinew, every torn thread. She could feel the beating of his heart, increasingly slowing, and she could feel the faint pulse of his blood as it coursed ever less rapidly through his veins. Deep within the core of her being, she could feel his life force draining inexorably away.

Gritting her teeth, she steeled herself.

Garnet closed her eyes and focused her mind upon the wound beneath her fingers. She felt the broken strands of flesh, ragged and lacerated by the serrated edge of Zidane's dagger. She concentrated on the threads that were damaged the worst. Her breathing slowed, and she rapidly became caught in an ephemeral twilight between worlds.

Slowly, painstakingly, she forced the first thread closed. The two jagged tendrils twitched with renewed life, jerking about wildly at first, then floating resolutely towards one another. As they connected, a tiny spark flickered, and the broken strand wavered for a moment more before sealing together again.

As soon as the first thread was sealed, Garnet moved her consciousness on to the second. Again, the broken tendrils twitched, sparked, and then came together. The second thread was easier than the first, and as she moved on to the third, then fourth, then fifth, the process began to hasten rapidly. With every fiber of muscle, she was acclimating herself more and more to the fundamentals of Kuja's life force. The more aligned she became, the easier it was to knit his flesh back together.

Thread by thread, sinew by sinew, Garnet worked. Somewhere outside of herself she could feel perspiration beading upon her forehead, noticing the occasional drop rolling down the side of her face. Absently, she thought she noticed a gentle breeze glancing across her face. None of it mattered anyhow; she had one task at hand, and her concentration was focused solely upon healing Kuja.

The minutes melded into hours, and the hours seemed to drag ever onwards, weighing heavily upon Garnet's mind. She was putting forth every effort that she could, but somewhere in the back of her mind, dimly, she knew she couldn't keep up the effort. There was so much damage; she wasn't sure that she would be able to heal it all.

At last, the final tendril secured itself to its twin, and she felt the wound close completely. After so many hours of focused exertion, Garnet was left drained. Her muscles felt weak, and her mind felt so exhausted she feared she might pass out. Slumping back upon her heels, she at last opened her eyes. The fading twilight stung at her eyes, unendurably bright for such a late hour. As her eyes slowly came back into focus, she glanced up at Beatrix.

"Beatrix," she began. Her voice was hoarse; her throat felt as dry as a desert. "Why is the sun still up?"

Beatrix looked perplexed. She cast a hasty glance towards the horizon, then settled her gaze back upon Garnet.

"Your majesty, it's still evening. You've only been healing Kuja for a few minutes."