Disclaimer: I do not own FFVI, as much as I wish I did. Square Enix does.

Warnings: lots.

Author's Note: Well hasn't it been a while? Oops. I wonder if anyone still reads this thing…


For the Empire

Time had gone by slowly, melting away second by second. That morning's training exercises felt years away, and yet they were only a few hours in the past. The troops had been glad to see him back out in the field, even if he was no longer their commander.

That should have meant something.

Kefka straightened his green uniform, turning one button slightly so it faced upright like the rest of them. Each brass button bore the Imperial seal, as did the patches on the cloth pauldrons draped over his shoulders. This dress uniform, with full cloak, insignia, polished fittings, was not something he would usually wear, and even when he did, it was grudgingly.

A sigh filtered through his lips. The Emperor ordered it, so he would follow. He always did. If he did not like the direction of the Empire, that was because he did not understand it, and his lack of understanding was because, surely, the Emperor did not reveal everything to him. He did not know the full picture, and he was fine with that.

A short knock sounded on the door, three in quick succession. The banquet was ready. Kefka smoothed out his cloak one last time, trying his hardest to ignore the ripple of scars across his face, blatantly obvious in his reflection. They were not fading.

Straightening his shoulders, Kefka turned, opening the door and walking out. His cloak billowed behind him, green and brass waves. If Kefka had not been so worried, he might have been an intimidating sight with his strong gait, straight shoulders, level gaze, and smattering of scars. Even with the worry, his presence commanded a quiet sort of reverence, palace workers scurrying out of his way and standing at attention until he passed.

It was not something he ever thought he could get used to.

The guards at the door of the dining hall made him wait until the loud, flamboyantly dressed man just inside the door announced his presence. Everyone in the hall gave a hushed clap until he came to stand at the Emperor's right hand. The clap was more formal than of any use, as far as Kefka could tell. He wished they would not bother.

This was a special occasion, though, and required special measures. Even the Emperor himself was dressed more lavishly than usual, a feat Kefka had not thought possible at first. He was even wearing some obnoxious form of headdress with enough gold on it to probably make a small suit of armor out of, not that gold would do any good for armor in the first place. At the very least, the gold could have been used to help rebuild areas decimated by the war.

Drinks were served, the usual choices of red and white wine, along with a few other, more exotic drinks, from villages which were new to the Empire. Kefka was hardly paying attention to the selections, however, gaze roving all of those in attendance. They were mostly scientists and the rich of Vector, but there close to the side of the room was Leo.

Kefka smiled, despite what proper etiquette might say. Leo looked down, smiling into his cup, which he quickly raised to hide his mirth.

He probably would not be quite so nervous if Leo was allowed to sit closer.

The Emperor lifted a bell, ringing it, the clear, sweet noise cutting through all conversation immediately. Kefka fought the urge to roll his eyes; was it really so hard to tap a fork against a glass for attention, rather than getting a specially fashioned bell? It was the Emperor's prerogative.

With a slow lurch, the Emperor stood, face lifted high, a broad grin spreading across his lips, partially obscured by his long mustache and beard. He lifted his glass high, everyone else in the room raising their own glasses in anticipation.

"Tomorrow, our Empire enters a new era." The Emperor's smile fell, lips stern and thin. His voice boomed with surprising strength over the gathering, everyone sitting slightly straighter at the sudden change. "The world has not yet seen the kind of soldier we are about to produce."

The words washed over Kefka, settling like a hard, festering rock in his stomach. He did not like where this was going. They did not need a new breed of soldier. They needed to end this war before more lives could be needlessly lost.

"May I introduce to you my trusted council and the General of this revolution in warfare, Kefka." The Emperor turned towards him, holding out his arms to showcase him.

Slowly, Kefka stood. He held his glass with both hands to hide just how much he was shaking. He forced a taut, uncertain smile, the room erupting in applause.

"To the Empire!" The Emperor thrust his glass into the air, crimson wine, like blood, sloshing over his fingers, dribbling down his arm and into the hem of his exorbitant robes.

Everyone in the room except for Leo thrust their glasses high too, echoing his call. In unison, they drank. Kefka slowly lifted his own glass, not nearly as high, and tipped it back, draining it. Leo took a sip of his own, never removing his eyes from Kefka. He looked worried, but more than that, he looked hurt.

0 0 0 0 0

A hand grabbed his arm, spinning him. Kefka's progress halted immediately. His knees bent, stance spread, arms rising out of reflex.

It was Leo.

Kefka stood there, defenses raised, for a moment longer, not sure what to think. His mind was still spinning with the announcement, with the promotion, with the headiness of the wine slowing down his usual smooth logic. After a moment, he straightened his stance, running a hand over his uniform to smooth it, though the cloth was perfectly pressed.

They stood there, a heavy silence between them. No one passed them in the hall. It was a back corridor, almost to Kefka's secluded sanctuary of a room. He was looking forward to the privacy of that chamber, of removing his stifling uniform, so much so he had not even noticed Leo behind him.

"I found out at the same time as you."

Leo closed his eyes and wetted his lips. Every muscle of his face seemed taut, as though he was holding back a flood of emotion. Quickly, Leo passed his gloved hand over his face, shielding that strained expression for a moment. He rolled his fingers over his temples, messaging them in slow circles. His frown was still visible.

"You know my stance on this war."

"And yet you are going to be the premier soldier fueling the fire." Leo spit the words. The hand by his side trembled as he clenched it hard. It was a wonder the seams of his glove did not pop under the pressure.

Kefka looked away. It was like a slap. The fog in his mind began to pull back, thoughts less sluggish. "He told me they had found a way to end the war without any more lives lost."

"More powerful soldiers will not solve anything."

"He said it would make the resistance surrender, so there would not have to be any more fighting." Kefka couldn't look at Leo. He couldn't meet that gaze.

"At what cost?"

Kefka shifted from foot to foot, trying to stall, trying to find anything to divert attention from the question. There was nothing forthcoming. To anyone else, he just would have told them that they were too low in the chain of the command, that it was only on a need to know basis. He could not do that to Leo. Not with the feelings he found himself fighting with.

"What cost?"

There was no more stalling. "The last report I heard said that the process is… unstable." Kefka forced himself to look up, only to see Leo wiping quickly, subtly, beneath his eyes. The soldier blinked furiously, though Kefka could still see the water in Leo's eyes.

Kefka stepped forward. He took another step, wrapping his arms quickly around Leo, squeezing. He buried his face in the taller man's shoulder. He smelled of wilderness and the slight musk of sweat. It took all Kefka's will not to inhale deeply. "Cid told the Emperor that he needed more time to refine the process, to make it safe. I didn't realize…"

Leo returned the hug, holding him tightly. Kefka relaxed in that grip, if only slightly.

"I… I don't know what drives him anymore…"

"But you will do anything, for the Empire." Leo whispered those words against his hair, pressing a soft kiss to the blond locks. Kefka pressed his face deeper into the crook of Leo's neck, mumbling against it. It was better than having to speak and actually face the truth.