Disclaimer: I don't own FFIX.

I wrote this on a plane. I'm pretty sure that contributed to my choice for the setting... Please enjoy, and don't forget to tell me what you think!


"I don't believe you have anything to gain from speaking to him, other than giving him the pleasure of taunting you one last time, your Majesty."

General Beatrix stood at the end of one of the halls lurking in the dregs of Alexandria Castle, blocking the one door that was bolted with heavy slabs of iron. Almost as if that door were a portal to someplace else entirely different from the regal propriety of the castle, it smelled of the earth, of trapped water and cold rock. And underneath, the resonance of blood.

"I'm not one of your soldiers, Beatrix," Queen Garnet snapped, standing there expectantly.

And General Beatrix fought the concerned frown that nearly showed. "It's with good reason that I only allow my most trusted to interact with him, and that I forbid even those few to exchange words with him."

Then she sighed. "It's what he wants, your Majesty. In your state of mind, his words would have sway over you. Just like he had control over your mother, Queen. Do you think she would have given him more than a passing glance had your father been alive?"

"My mother was good and kind. But naïve—like I was once," Garnet added after a fuming moment.

"I'm not having this conversation, Beatrix. I command you to allow me to speak with him."

They were both silent.

"Yes, my lady," Beatrix said, eyes lowering as she opened the heavy door and followed the Queen of Alexandria down the dungeon steps.

It was dark, and what little air there was became quickly consumed by the smoky torches. Beatrix lingered at the top of the steps. There was nothing else for her to do but wait and be silent.

"Good evening, my liberating angel."

Garnet said nothing. It bitterly pleased her to see that the previous weeks in this suffocating mausoleum proved as debilitating to his precarious condition as she had hoped.

She drew nearer until her hands lighted upon the bars. A wraith lived inside the cell.

"Have you chosen my final resting place yet?" Kuja whispered in a sultry breath. Days upon days of breathing in that smoke had withered his voice to a pale echo of what she remembered. "Personally, I'm torn between the ruins of Madain Sari and the shattered remains of Cleyra."

Garnet primly crossed her arms over her chest. "Kuja, in a few years, Gaia will forget that you ever lived. I'll see to it personally."

He sighed, and leaned back against the grisly wall. He had stopped wincing at the grime after the first week. "Such temper," he sighed to the ceiling. "You were so much sweeter when you were in my little brother's arms…"

"And whose fault is that," she seethed. Then Garnet gathered her composure, and cleared her throat. "Does it surprise you that you were found guilty? Did you ever believe that there was a possibility that justice's blind eye might let you slip?"

Kuja laughed hoarsely. "My, the more time you spend with me, the more poetic you become. I'm glad to be such a positive influence," he told her, returning his gaze to her eyes.

"You might cultivate the presence of a queen yet, child."

Her knuckles gripped white against the bars, as if they were the only thing keeping her from strangling him personally. "How dare you speak to me like this?!"

Kuja looked at her blankly for a moment before averting his eyes to his fingernails. Suddenly, they became the most encompassing source of interest in the entire dank room.

"This isn't about my war crimes, little princess. You spent so much time listening to my brother's do-gooder babble that under different circumstances, you would find it in your pretty heart to forgive me. No, this is about him. And the fact that he's gone, and I'm here."

"You're only willing to suspend your ugly, wrathful nature," he continued musingly, "as long as you're getting what you want. How else could you have tamed the Leviathan so effortlessly?" he said and smiled.

"But the fact that I'm alive and Zidane isn't… it's unbearable to you. So behind the guise of justice, you take your vengeance on what's left of my pitifully short life. Why should the rest of the world be happy when you're suffering—you want blood on your hands to soothe the pain. Just like your mother did, Princess Garnet."

"Queen," she told him forcefully. "Why don't you listen to yourself, you hypocrite. I certainly won't listen to any more of your deceitful words."

"Then why are you here? Don't you want to be deceived? Don't you want to indulge in your fantasy that having me executed will bring him back to life? Isn't that why you come to see me so often?"

Garnet's voice softened to a hush. "Why are you still here?"

She watched him as he held up his hands, as if there were a chain linking his wrists together. "Because I'm to be killed. I'm your prisoner, Queen Garnet til Alexandros."

"So you want to die?"

"Is the thought of my inability to escape really that incomprehensible?"

She skeptically glared at him, and Kuja's hands fell to his side. "How is that little half-grown black mage friend of yours?"

"He's dead!"

"Of course," Kuja said, nearly inaudible. "Those rag dolls were never meant to replace a soldier, only to supplement one's forces until the army is fully gathered. Did you ever have a rag doll when you were a child, princess?"

"Queen. And no. Mine were china. Porcelain."

At that, Kuja smiled. "But even as a child, you knew the difference between playing with a rag doll and playing with a porcelain doll, correct? Rag dolls are toys to be loved, abused, until cherished to shreds. Porcelain dolls, though, are different altogether."

"You set them on the highest shelf, or perhaps behind a glass case. So their existence is a much lonelier one, but they never wear out from constant play and love like rag dolls do. But even then, they break. You drop one, or you forget about them entirely until one day they simply fall from the shelf."

"The black mages are given one year's worth of magic before they cease to move. I suspect that I've been granted twenty-five. So you see, dear princess, I don't have much time either way."

"So what's keeping you from escaping and spending your last days immersed in whatever debauchery you choose?"

"Do you want to find him or not?"

Garnet paused. "What?" she breathed. "He's… alive?"

Kuja curled his knees close to his chest, and folded his elbows over them. Before he laid his head on his arms, he shrugged. "That depends," he whispered, his voice drifting into the stale air.

"On what?"

"On what type of doll you prefer," Kuja breathed. His eyes were only half-closed when they turned to glass.

"Kuja…?" Garnet breathed.


"He's gone, your Majesty. I suppose being imprisoned in this cell only hastened his death," General Beatrix said gently, as she delicately pulled Garnet's grip from the bars.

"What?" Garnet demanded to no one, looking into Kuja's still eyes, his stopped body. "No. He can't die. Kuja, I won't let you die!"

And she realized that she had heard something like those words before, from Zidane. But he had spoken them for an entirely different reason.