A/N: Ok, wow, looking at the header for this fic makes me so nostalgic. So many things have changed since I first started writing this, and it's original incarnation is a decade old and yet it still isn't finished. I'm rewriting this alongside a playthrough of ffix so my memory of the game is nice and fresh. This chapter is actually a rewrite of a rewrite, which I apparently I didn't post it. Whoops. I'd like to ramble on some more, but I'd prefer you get to the actual fic.
Lightning flashed over the stage and thunder rumbled, signaling the start of the play. As the tragedy was laid out before her, Queen Garnet smiled coolly, tightly gripping the hand of her soon to be Consort. This play had always left her mother in tears, bawling out about how sad it was. She had never understood it, baffled how someone would sacrifice one's life for another because of a little thing like love. In a way, it was fitting that this was the play chosen to be put on in remembrance of her mother, considering how she had met her end.
As far as the kingdom, as far as the world knew, she was the perfect daughter, absolutely devoted to her mother and her subjects. Reality was quite different; she cared little for the ants that made up her country and her mother? Well, the poison she had slipped into her cup had quite a bit to say about that. Soon the entire world would fall before her.
She genuinely smiled at the prospect, releasing her prince's hand to adjust her glove, watching the actors dance out at her command. "Are you enjoying the play?" She asked casually, finally looking at her captive. She had thought it very fitting that his black formal wear contrasted with her white gown as his blonde hair contrasted with her dark.
Prince Zidane of Lindblum had been promised to her since his adoption by her Uncle Cid and Aunt Hilda had been finalized. Their parents had wished for them to unite their two countries and end the endless wars that had plagued them since their founding. It had only been later when she had realized her true heritage that she had realized what he was. With him by her side, everything she wanted was within her grasp.
He smiled nervously at her, fiddling with his own gloves. "It seems to be a different adaptation from what I've seen before," he admitted quietly, eyes not on the stage but placed firmly on her. He had been acting strangely since he arrived, eyes watching her every movement as if expecting her to turn into a monster at any moment. Or, she smiled to herself, eyes growing cold, summon one.
Not that she would need to. Here in Alexandria, the seat of her power, all she'd have to do to damn him was lift a hand and point. Her guards would take care of the rest.
"It's interesting," he continued, moving from fiddling with his gloves to smoothing out the wrinkles of his trousers. He hadn't stopped moving since he had sat down, it was beginning to worry her. She reached out for his hand again, encasing it with both of her own. She pretended not to notice when he winced and shuddered at her touch. He would be over that soon enough; tomorrow they would be wed and he would be hers forever.
He would learn to love her, everyone else had.
"Are you feeling well dear?" She asked, genuinely concerned for his well-being. It wouldn't do to have him falling ill so close to the wedding. That would certainly set more than a few alarm bells off. "You are turning a little green around the edges," she paused, considering her next words. "Perhaps you should go rest, we want you to be at your best tomorrow." She smiled, patting his hand once before releasing it. It was phrased as a request, but the soldiers standing at either side knew it was an order and moved to escort him out.
He smiled wanly at her, relieved for the reprieve from her presence. She knew his skin must be crawling from being in close contact with her for hours, and she delighted in it, feeling like she was avenging the part of her that had once been in love with him. He stood gracefully and bowed to her. "Until tomorrow, your majesty." As neatly as any of her soldiers, he turned on his heel, striding out like he was the one in command.
She watched him go, a smirk on her face. "General Beatrix." She said casually, not even twitching an eyelid as the woman appeared by her side.
"Yes your majesty?"
"Make sure he returns to his quarters."
"Yes your majesty."
Prince Zidane sighed as he walked towards the royal apartments, mind wheeling with thoughts of how to escape the situation he had found himself in. It was like he had stepped out of real life onto the stage. His fiancee had taken an about face turn in personality, going from a sweet girl he could see tolerating for the rest of his life to something... Well, he wasn't quite sure what had happened to her, but something had.
She had killed her mother, taken control of the country and was currently aiming for dominating the entire continent. Before he had left Lindblum he had heard of the Alexandrian armies advancing on Burmecia, and upon arriving he had discovered proof. If he refused to marry her, their countries would go to war, and if he did marry her, something bad was going to happen. He could feel it down to his very soul.
"Your highness." He nearly jumped out of his skin when General Beatrix's voice rang out behind him, having stopped in the middle of the walkway as he thought. He turned to face her, trying not to look like he was plotting his escape. She regarded him coolly, a faint smile on her face.
"Her majesty has asked that I ensure you return to your quarters." Her voice was calm and each word said carefully. "She hasn't ordered me to make sure you stay there," she said helpfully, watching his expression change from chagrin to surprise. She offered her arm and he took it gladly, allowing her to lead him back.
"If you go down the stairs and to the right from here, I believe you'll find a group of men willing to take you away from here without involving Lindblum." Beatrix commented as they walked over the bridge separating the Queen's quarters from the rest of the castle. Zidane glanced at her, one eyebrow raising in a decidedly non-royal gesture.
"What?" He began to say, but was silenced by her elbow 'accidentally' connecting with his ribs. She smiled at him, walking him to his door and watching him step in. She didn't say anything when he stepped right back out, instead she bowed at him and walked out to distract the guards from his 'escape'.
"Uh, this doesn't look like the way to the bathroom." The young black mage stated, trailing after his red mage teacher as she stalked confidently through the palace, supposedly searching for a restroom. She glanced at him, red eyes dancing with amusement.
"That's because it's not," she said, more entertained than she should be at her student's confusion. She flipped her hair over her shoulder, adjusting her hat as she scanned the hallways for guards. "Good, I didn't think we'd get this far without any trouble."
"Miss Skyvra..." The black mage was obviously not trying to whine, just divine what craziness his teacher was walking them into now. The newly dubbed Skyvra grinned.
"I don't think they agree with you." He pointed and she followed, blinking. Two guards had been hiding in the shadows doing something that she wouldn't let Vivi figure out until he was older. They drew their swords, ready to protect their castle with their lives.
Skyvra looked at them and then shrugged, snapping her fingers once. Before they could even blink, the guards were encased in a foot of solid ice. "You know what they say," she commented to her young ward, "can't rescue a prince without breaking a few heads."
"I don't think anyone says that," Vivi said, gripping his staff tight as Skvyra kicked the ice a few times to make sure it was solid, then walked off whistling as if she hadn't done anything at all.
"What do we do if the Prince doesn't come this way?" The silver-haired thief/actor asked, leaning against the castle wall as they waited. His partner in crime sighed, shaking his head.
"Relax Kuja, he'll come." The redhead, known to the world as 'Blank' stated confidently, tearing his eyes away from the hallway long enough to glare at his 'brother'. "If he doesn't, we'll get him before the play ends."
"If I'm not mistaken, I believe the two of you are looking for me?" A smooth, cultured voice interrupted, making them jerk in surprise. While Blank had been talking, the Prince had walked up. He was exactly what they had been expecting, a black clad noble with long blonde hair, more suited to a life of leisure than thievery. If he knew how to use a weapon, it was only recreational.
Kuja made a show of studying him for a moment, Zidane stared back. He wasn't impressed, but he knew that one couldn't judge a book by its cover, even if it was clad in last year's fashion and purple to boot. His teacher had taught him that, like Dr. Tot had formerly taught the Princess, she had taught him. Of the two, her lessons were probably more practical.
"We're here to kidnap you." The silver-haired thief announced in a manner eerily similar to Zidane's aforementioned teacher. He blinked at him, tilting his head to the side. Before he could think of responding to that, someone behind them spoke:
"Who is here to kidnap who?" The voice was female and very familiar, Zidane turned to find his teacher smirking at him, hands on her hips. Behind her lurked a small black mage child, likely the new student she had mentioned in her last letter. He sighed, turning back to the men who were just as confused as he would have been if he didn't know here.
"I thought you said we were lost," a quiet voice said, followed by the sound of a high-heeled boot connecting with someone's foot and a small yelp. Kuja and Blank exchanged glances, the latter sighing while the former shook his head.
"Can we please get on the airship before someone finds us?" Kuja demanded, scowling. The Prince rolled his eyes as Skyvra grinned at him.
"No worries lovely purple man," shes stated ignoring Kuja's indignant huff."I froze..." she paused, counting them off on her fingers, "... seven of the guards on the way here. No one is looking for us." The two thieves stared at her, Zidane didn't even pretend to be surprised at this.
"Let's hurry." With that, he started walking, Skyvra and Vivi following immediately, Kuja and Blank a little more sedately, on alert for guards chasing the red menace.
Thanks to all for reading and reviewing over the years, I appreciate it.