Hello all, welcome to my new story. It's a sequel to "The Red Crown Around Your Door."

This story is much darker than Red Crown, so if you want that happy fluffy ending, Zidane took the other choice, not this one. Well, okay, there is a fluffy happy ending here, but the characters work hard to get there.

Well, it takes a while for there to be the FMA elements. And save Truth-God-World-One-All-You showing up at the end of the first chapter, there aren't any FMA characters for the first two chapters. Currently, I have most of the scenes up to... oh... chapter 9 written. I have three or four of them half-way plotted, and after that... I have no idea, but I'm aiming for this story to be around 20 chapters. Even if not all of them will be this long.

Disclaimer: You think if I owned these fandoms I'd be writing fanfiction of them? Well, okay, actually, I totally would, considering my brain loves to make cracky stories involving my original characters as well. But if I had any ties to Squenix besides as a consumer of their goods dated up to 2008 this would have been made canon during the merger. Or at least an official Alternate Universe story for FMA. (Well, at the merger, I probably would have made Zidane Pride or (More likely) had him replace Ling as the new Greed but was it really that… Oh yeah, story!) Mel and Joey are characters I came up with myself, as well as the posthumous character Alex.

Ladies and Gentlemen of (And maybe LJ) for your teeth-gnashing and epileptic-tree planting, Spark the Clairvoyant (aka Petrelg) not-so-humbly presents to you, the second part she could write for her crazy Multiverse, "The Messenger." (Once again shamelessly stolen from the theme of the same name by Your Favorite Enemies.)

Zidane felt uncomfortable in the finery he was given by the servants of Alexandria Castle. Was there anything wrong with his normal wear when meeting with Garnet? She may have been queen, but she was also a close friend of his, and certainly she had the power to request him as-is.

He sat straight in a chair of the entryway, waiting for her to make her appearance. He half-expected her to show up dressed as a maid, before he reminded himself that he could see through her attempts at disguise in an instant.

"You're here," he heard her say. He looked up and noticed how her face lit up. "I'm so glad you accepted my invitation." Unfortunately, she was dressed in finery even beyond what he saw her wear at her coronation.

He laughed a bit nervously. "Why would I turn down an invitation to spend time with you, my beloved Dagger?"

She smiled at him. "It's been so long," she said. "I wasn't certain if you still loved or even remembered me."

"I would never forget you." He stood up and offered his hand for her. "How about a nice walk around the grounds before whatever you planned?"

She took his hand. "Of course, I was planning on doing something before the dinner we'll have together. It can wait a little while."

The two talked about little as he enjoyed the gardens surrounding Alexandria's Castle. He enjoyed simply having the company of the woman he loved the most. She seemed to think the same with him.

He felt guilty about his decision.

You might be able to beg that thing to change your price, he sensed.

He dismissed it. I'm making what little time I have with my friends left the best it can be. I'm keeping my promises these days.

He'll miss her face so much, especially how it lit up when he spent time with her.

"Your dinner is ready," he heard Steiner say.

"Thank you," Garnet said.

Zidane grinned. "Yeah Rusty, thanks."

Steiner glared at him.

"I'm sorry, thank you, Bert."

Steiner took a deep breath. "I suppose that's as polite as you can get."

"Only to you, the General can get as much respect as she desires."

He heard Garnet laugh, trying to keep it the ladylike giggle that was expected of her, and failing in that attempt. "Maybe we should listen to him."

Zidane nodded. "Your wish is my command, milady." He gave a full bow, blessing his ears with her laugh again. He followed her through the halls to a small table away from the parts of the castle she granted the public to see.

"Surprised?" She asked.

He nodded again. "I was expecting something… larger, a great table."

She shook her head gently. "It is just us, so I desired something private."

Once again, he found the silence to be a blessing as the two ate. He tried to do so with a bit more class, as if to show the Captain just how gentlemanly he could be.

Even if you hope she can move on without you?

Yes. I'm like this so she would have wonderful memories of me, until she forgets.

It would be easier if you were rude to them all, then they'd want to forget you.

"I never knew this side of you," She said. "You practically dove into the food when Uncle gave you that feast."

"The one you poisoned with the sleeping herb I gave you?"

She laughed.

"You were never so good at deception, your Majesty."

"And I suppose you think yourself to be the master of it?" she asked. "You all took the parts with your names when you performed I Want to Be Your Canary on my birthday last year."

He forced a smile. "It was a bad joke. 'Oh look guys, there are parts in this play with our names, let's play them. The Queen would never guess your name really is Zidane.' Marcus wanted to do that again, if I didn't insist on taking the role of Marcus this time. He has a thing for Ruby, you know."

Garnet laughed again. "Be my Marcus," she said. "Should I be Cornelia, I desire you to be Marcus."

"You want me to kill myself because I didn't get the message that your father trapped you?"

You're missing the point, you idiot.

I'm not missing it by accident, you know. I don't want to have to refuse her. Not so soon.

"Zidane, I don't need any rescuing anymore." She stood up and walked next to him. "I always wished that Marcus and Cornelia could have had a happily ever after, like in fairy tales. And as much as I feel Cornelia would have been content in a small house with Marcus…" She took his hands in hers. "I felt that Marcus was too noble to not become royalty. I feel the same for you."

He stood up, surprised that his eyes fell onto her forehead naturally, instead of meeting her own. "Dagger, this is so sweet of you." He looked away, knowing he'd agree if he saw her face at that moment. "But I can't. I – I wish I could tell you what you want to hear, but I can't."


He sighed. "I can't tell you… yet." He was so weak. "Give me some time. Things happened while I was gone."

When he looked back, she was upset.

"Garnet, I love you, I really do." As she opened her mouth, he added "and there's not someone else. While I was gone, whenever my thoughts were free, and they were free often, so don't try that excuse either, they would head to you, how much I missed you, your smile, your eyes, your… everything! Now I'm back with you…"

She nodded. "It's the reverse, you can't stop thinking of what happened when you were gone. You need time."

He kissed her. "Exactly. Thank you for understanding."

When he left, he knew she was crying. He ended up unable to tell her no, yet he knew she felt like he did. He wondered if any of Tantalus thought that he wasn't going to return that night. Idiots. Even if he had made his choice the other way, he'd return. Garnet was correct in her assessment. He was noble in spirit, now. If someone was asked about his behavior a year ago, the answer would have been the opposite.

His answer hurt him too.

Just as last year, Garnet had come to Lindblum to watch the Festival of the Hunt, telling her uncle about how Zidane had every intention of marrying her. He was a little upset by her assuming he was going to say yes, but he couldn't give her a "No" at the time, so he had no one to blame but himself. He wanted to take part again, just for the thrill, but since he was so close to Garnet, Hilda had carefully insisted that they didn't want to be accused of nepotism if he won. Zidane watched as Freya tried to see Cid, Hilda, and Eiko over something that was bothering her. He couldn't quite make it out. He jumped onto a strange half-shelf between the grand pillars of Lindblum Castle to hide. A strange blond man ran into her and said something which bothered her as she stormed towards him, away from the other man.

"I know how you feel," he said, surprising her. He elaborated when she looked at him. "They won't even let me in to see Cid."

She laughed. "I didn't think your ego would inflate that much. Just because you got a knighthood from him for being a favored actor and you saved the world doesn't mean you're that important."

"I'm going to be Prince Consort of Alexandria," he said calmly. Two could play the game which Garnet was playing. "Which means we would be practically family." He laughed. "Imagine that, three of us who saved the world, family."

She gave a grin, a sight he had rarely seen since the disastrous date the two had when they met. "So you proposed?"

He shook his head with a smirk. "She did. Although, to be fair, I actually haven't agreed yet."

Freya paused briefly. He could tell she was thinking through something. "What?"

"The time I was gone… it was long, wasn't it?" He found his voice distant, as if trying to force the images of Amestris onto her, hoping that she would understand, even if no one else did.

She nodded. "I'd say it was around six months." He gave an innocent look, pointing at himself with one hand, a look that probably no longer worked now he was seventeen. She laughed again. "Don't act coy, I saw you begging the rest of Tantalus to put more effort into the play this time when I visited Lindblum two months ago."

"I thought so," he said solemnly. Again, he tried to send her his memories, feeling Kuja chuckle in his mind at the very idea of it. "Things happened during it. I don't really feel like talking much about it, but those things… they haunt me."

She stepped forward, taking his hand in hers. "When you sleep?"

"During the day," he said truthfully. His dreams were his escape. His hopes for her understanding didn't seem likely, so he fell into a half-lie. "I don't want Dagger to take this fractured man I am now." Kuja laughed at that. "I want her to have the old me, the one she fell in love with."

He took his hand from hers and jumped down. He found her hands comforting him on his shoulders. "We all change, Zidane. Just look at me."

He faced her and gave a small smile. "Maybe not go completely back," he said. "But… I'm just so uncertain these days. I just want to be certain of something." That was true, despite his inability to say why just yet. He needed more time before he could tell them.

Four months hasn't been enough?

Shut up.

She smiled back. She was one of his strongest friends these days. It seemed she found herself in the same position as him, only with one person instead of whole worlds. She loved Fratley though. He was once the world to her. There was no difference between the two.

"You love her," she said. "And she loves you. We all care about you. Do I need to remind you of how you have your friends?"

You're not alone, Kuja added, before Zidane mentally shooed him away from the moment.

"Thanks Freya, you're always great help for me." He embraced her. "You're like… I dunno, a big sister or something."

She was hesitant at first, but then returned the embrace. "If that's what I am for you, then I guess it is fine."

His hug tightened, and he quietly whispered "I'll miss you." He would. The two stayed like that for a moment before he turned to leave.

"Oi, Zidane!" She called out to him before he turned the corner he intended to take.

He stopped and turned with a hint of a smile. "What is it?"

She grinned. "If I win, you give her an answer. Today."

He nodded. "Got it, Freya."

Freya had won the Festival, and was given her chance to speak with Cid, Hilda, and Eiko freely about whatever had bothered her. The strange man stood by the door, trying to listen in, to Zidane's amusement.

"Zidane," Garnet said, walking to him. "I've given you some time to think."

I want more.

You'll always want more.

The man looked at the two.

He forced a smile. "Sure, but how about we head somewhere more private." He tickled her hand with his tail as he found himself walking to the lift.

"Where are you taking me?" She said, a smile lighting up her face.

"Our place," he said, hoping she knew where he spoke of. "It is still there, right?"

She nodded. "How sweet of you."

When they reached the small rooftop garden, he sighed. It was the moment of truth.

"You make it so hard for me," he said. "I can't marry you. I want to, but I can't."

Her eyes opened in shock. "What do you mean? Did you lie about having someone else?"

"No," he said reflexively. "The place I went. It's tied to here in a way that I can make Gaia better if I try to fix what's wrong there. I leave Gaia for good in eight months."

She held his hand. "What aren't you telling me?"

"I'm leaving, for the greater good. You'd have a much better life without me. Not just you, everyone here."


He looked at her. The original shock changed to depression. "No," he said. "I… I have to do this. It's a bargain. I can't stay here and know what I know."

"Fine," she said, holding back tears. "Just, try not to let there be anyone you love more than I."

He held her in his arms and kissed her deeply. "Don't worry Dagger. I don't think I could even if I tried."

She's tamed you.

Maybe, but I like that bit of taming. She was fair enough to let me go.

"I won't either, Zidane. No matter what you say."

He was in the lands near Cornelia. His dreams often were. He often ran through the forest with Bartz, one of the first of these dream people he met and knew to trust.

"Oi! Bartz," He shouted over his shoulder. "Hope you're not letting me win just cuz I'm engaged!" Even if he wasn't, it was worth saying it just to see Bartz's face. He was, after all, the second youngest of the champions.

Bartz stumbled, earning a chuckle from Zidane. Zidane jumped up to a tree branch, swung halfway, and ran back to his friend.

"What did you say?" Bartz said, almost yelling. "You're engaged? But you're… what? Sixteen?"

"I'm seventeen now, and even if I were, sixteen's old enough," Zidane said. "At least in many of the countries on the Mist Continent."

Bartz put an arm around Zidane, getting him in a headlock. "Awe, Zidane's all grown up and getting married. We've got to tell the rest of the guys. Especially Squall."

"Oi! Let go!" Zidane grabbed hold of Bartz's arms and tried to remove himself, but this time, Bartz seemed stronger. Not good. He was planning on just letting Bartz know he was joking. Don't let the others know.

"Not a chance, Zidane. C'mon." He dragged Zidane out of the forest. Tidus was trying to get Squall and Cloud to play a free-for-all round of Blitzball. Terra and the Kid were watching with amusement, their feet in the water, and shoes to one side of them. The Warrior and Cecil were in a friendly sparring match with Firion refereeing.

"Attention everyone!" Bartz said loudly trying to get the attention of the others. Zidane found a weak spot and slipped out of Bartz's headlock. Now he just had to sneak to the forest without him knowing. "I have great news."

Screw that idea, he was running. He could beat most of the others in speed at any time. Just a bit further and he could easily claim that he happened to wake up before…

"Zidane is getting married!"

That. He heard a splash. Tidus showed up in front of him. "You're younger than me."

"Different worlds, different rules," Squall said politely getting out of the water and throwing his coat back on. "He once told me that he beat a friend in a drinking contest and ended up drunk in public. I figure if he's allowed to drink, he can get married."

Zidane gave a smile, leaping over to Squall. "Thank you, Squall. I owe you one."

"You know, you've never told us about your sweetheart," Tidus said. "What's she like?"

"Tell me about Yuna, and I'll tell you about Garnet."

"Sure. Yuna's so amazing. She's light on her feet, her hair is a light brown that hits just below her chin…" Tidus rambled on finishing with saying "And she helped me defeat Sin once and for all."

"It'll be hard to prove I'm more in love with her. It all started when Cid got Tantalus a job to kidnap his niece, the Princess of Alexandria."

"You told us about that. It didn't go as planned."

Zidane nodded. "Her mother, then Queen Brahne recognized who played Princess Cornelia in the fourth and fifth acts of the play, causing that breakdown I had the second time we all showed up here."

"So, you found a cute maid?" Firion asked.

Zidane smiled. "I found the Princess. Now known as Queen Garnet til Alexandros XVI."

It earned a stare from many of the others. Perhaps not the best of ideas.

"Well, due to all sorts of crazy things, the ones I told you about, it took us a while to get to Lindblum, and then we somehow got wrapped up in preventing the end of the world, we had a lot of time to get to know each other. I made some great friends during the journey too, like Vivi, let his soul rest in peace, Amarant, who forgave me for being an idiot as a kid, and even some of those I found opposing me."

Tidus smirked. "I know what you mean. It's not just Yuna that I love. There's also Wakka, Lulu, Rikku, Kihmari, and Auron."

"And Faris, Lenna, Galuf, and Krile."

Zidane grinned. "Thanks. But… Cecil, how's Rosa?"

"She's fine, and I have news for all of you as well. Even if I wish Kain could hear it as well. It seems that we are to be gifted with a child."

"You should name your kid Tidus!"

"Naw, Bartz is an awesome name!"

Zidane chimed in with his own name, as well as those of a few of his others.

"I'm glad you all have suggestions," Cecil said. "But Rosa and I feel that, should he be a boy, to name him after my brother."

Cloud looked at him skeptically. "You want to name him Golbez? That's not a great name."

Cecil bowed his head. "No, that was a name he gave himself after he was corrupted by Zemus."

"Yet another one of us falls prey to the 'Family means he's good' fallacy," Squall said idly, despite having Tidus and Zidane yell and Cecil giving an uncomfortable laugh.

"Well, I will grant that he fell to temptation easily, but I hope that he is trying to redeem himself afterwards. I plan on naming my first born son Ceodore. It's not quite the same as my brother's though."

"What is it?" came three voices at once.

"Theodore. I do not believe he will ever reclaim it, even if he feels he has sufficiently redeemed himself."

The rest of the time continued with all of the former champions playing that free-for-all blitzball match Tidus wanted.

The news spread among his friends quickly, even as another disappeared before him. Vivi had stopped, Freya left for parts unknown while her lover sat in Burmecia, memory still lost, and he had three months left now.

He went through the motions of courting Garnet publicly, but there was little to their private time. He simply felt his friends needed to see the best of him before he left. For him, even if they would not remember any of it once he left.

And then the day had come, the last few months passing by like a dream. He made sure to put a long jacket on over his clothes, remembering how much even the plainest of the Alexandrian finery he now owned would look out-of-place in Amestris. It was a simple leather travelers' cloak. He thought it would fit just fine while he tried to find a new place in his new world.

When he worked backwards from when he ended up in Black Mage Village, he discovered he had returned to his home world on his seventeenth birthday. Truth-God-World had given him a year. He was blessed he was given that much. He was eighteen now, and it seemed that Kuja had made him look it. (Or so he guessed. He felt that he had reached his maximum height when he turned sixteen)

His remaining friends were there with him as he stood at the roots of the Iifa Tree. He tried to put on a strong face, and was more than willing to show the necklace Ed and Al had given him when he left. He tried to make it appear a joyous event, climbing on the roots and walking towards where he needed to be backwards or on his hands, yet it did nothing to lighten the mood, either with him or his friends.

"I'll miss you," he said. "All of you. Every day. We went through so much together, right Bert? Eiko? Beatrix? Dagger?"

Each nodded.

"It's a shame you won't remember me," he said, letting his secret slip. Eiko gasped. "You will forget me, even if you don't want to."

"For the greater good, isn't it?" Garnet said bitterly.

He nodded. "Good luck." He clapped his hands together, remembering the feel of the energy circulating around him, and he forced his hands onto the root. It felt like he melted through it to the gate.

"You went through with it," the gate's watcher said. "I'm surprised about that."

Zidane forced a smile. "I'm honest these days, mostly. It felt wrong to try and trick something like you."

It gave that inhumanly wide grin. "You prepared?"

"More than you'd expect me to."

And then he was pulled in.