Garnet held her blanket tightly to her chest as she began to wake up the next morning. The memory of the previous night was ingrained in her memory and she buried her face into her pillow, wishing it was an awful nightmare that she could forget. Her body ached and she winced as she moved to swing her legs from the bed.
“You will be sore for a while,” featherlight lips brushed her shoulder and Garnet winced away. “My little Canary, do not pretend you did not enjoy last night.”
“Be quiet,” Garnet ordered but her voice had faded during the night.
“Go away!” Kuja bellowed as someone knocked on the chamber door, Garnet turned to glare at him and moved to stand up but Kuja gripped her wrist.
“Queen Garnet forgive me for interrupting, but I am entering.” Beatrix’s voice was firm and Garnet smiled thankful that she had the general. Shaking her wrist free from Kuja’s grip Garnet scooped up her discarded robe, rolling her eyes at Kuja’s immodesty as he laid back on the bed with feline grace. Several servants followed Beatrix into the chamber, all looking dismayed at the sight of their king.
Kuja! Garnet sent him a warning and scowled down at him. Stop showing off, you wanted to be king. Perhaps you could act like one? Smugly Kuja stood up and sauntered into the bathing chamber, calling for some fresh water to be brought up.
“We need to collect the sheet,” Beatrix’s voice was soothing and she looked at Garnet sympathetically. “Girls, please take the bedding down to Lady Hilda. She will give further instructions.”
“Yes General,” the serving girls curtsied deeply to Garnet and quickly went about their task. They were gone before Garnet even had time to register what had happened.
“How do you feel?” Beatrix’s formal demeanour relaxed ever-so-slightly now that the girls had gone and Garnet shrugged.
“I was very gentle with her,” Kuja drawled from the doorway of the bathing chamber and Beatrix rolled her eyes seeming nonplussed at his state of undress. “If you have concerns for her safety General you would be more than welcome to join us.”
Stop it. Garnet ordered him narrowing her eyes. Must you make this more humiliating?
There is nothing humiliating about sharing your bed with your husband. Kuja chided her and Garnet rolled her eyes. “General Beatrix I am sure you understand that Her Majesty may be late down to break her fast. I will help her prepare myself. That is unless she can be excused from the ritual?”
“I wish she could, but it is tradition.” Garnet shrugged although surprised that Kuja had asked.
You don’t seem to mind humiliating me in front of my friends, why should this bother you? She asked him, her voice genuine.
I don’t aim to humiliate you Canary, I merely want you to know your place. Garnet scowled at his response and Beatrix looked between the two exasperated. Sitting with your bloody sheet behind you seems barbaric, everyone knows what took place last night.
I have never given this much thought, Garnet answered. But thank you. Compared to everything else though I assume this will be relatively painless.
You were not in that much pain, Kuja smirked and Garnet felt her cheeks heat up. Beside her, Beatrix gave a pointed cough. “General Beatrix perhaps you could give us until the next bell? I will help Her Majesty to prepare.” Beatrix looked at Garnet and she gave a small nod.
She answers to me first, Garnet reminded Kuja as she followed him into the bathing chamber.
“As you answer to me first,” Kuja murmured into her hair, his hands playing with the ties on her robe. Pushing him away Garnet glared at him, turning so that he faced her back as she disrobed. Shaking her head at his comment she slipped into the warm water and began to scrub herself vigorously. She wanted to erase every inch of his touch from her body,
Sitting in front of a mirror in her robe, Kuja dried Garnet’s hair using his magic. She frowned at his use, it seemed such a waste when it could be done by hand. how reliant was he on his powers? At Kuja’s command she opened her mouth and inhaled the glowing ball of light.
The chefs had outdone themselves putting on a lavish feast for which people could break their fast, very few seemed to have an appetite. The atmosphere in the grand hall was subdued, only Kuja ate with true gusto. Garnet sat beneath the bloody sheet, her cheeks red with shame as she could see people glancing fearfully between the sheet and Kuja. All clearly wondering the same thing as she. What if she had conceived? She could not forget his threat; once she bore him sons what use did he have for her?
Her aunt and uncle approached the dais and greeted them in a deep bow and curtsey. Kuja’s hand twitched as if he was moving to dismiss them but Garnet rested her hand over his. At their table she caught sight of Vivi and Eiko, both trying to look as if they had been raised among royalty but as Eiko leant back in her seat to see Garnet she almost toppled backwards.
“Uncle, Aunt.” Garnet smiled at them in greeting. “Will you walk with us in the gardens later? I would like to visit my mother, perhaps you would join us?”
“I have no interest in visiting your mother,” Kuja scoffed. “I do not have time to waste on the dead.”
“Then perhaps you would permit me some time alone,” Garnet smiled. She didn’t need his permission, his powers might be greater than hers, at least on a darker scale, but she still out-ranked him in the eyes of the citizens. They believed her to be a princess of the blood, born to the throne. She didn’t need to worry about Kuja revealing her secret; it would only weaken his own hold on the throne. “It has been a longtime since I visited her...I miss her.” It was odd that she had to speak in such a low voice. Normally the great hall would be filled with buzzing conversation and laughter, but the only sounds were of the clinking of cutlery and the soft thump as people set their cups back on the table. This has to stop.
“She ordered your execution,” Kuja reminded her.
“Because of you. You manipulated her, but I do not wish to discuss that - not here.” Garnet rose to her feet and the sound of chairs scraping against the stone floor made her wince. “I will join you for supper.” Gesturing to her aunt, uncle and Beatrix, Garnet strode down the middle of the great hall. She nodded as people bowed and curtsied to her, she had grown up in such a formal setting but after her time away with Zidane it felt strange. Almost alien. What would have happened if he had lived, would they have married? How would they have survived? He would never adapt to life within the palace walls, she thought sadly. He was meant to be free, to go off adventuring. As the doors to the great hall closed behind her, Garnet felt her throat close painfully. She steadied herself against the wall as she began to retch and splutter. As she coughed a fine mist came from her throat and she realised what Kuja had done. Regent Cid patted her back but her Aunt Hilda pulled him aside, whispering sadly.
“He cannot do this,” Cid growled but Garnet could only shrug. Clearly, Kuja did not trust her to speak with her only living relatives.
“It was actually Kuja we wanted to discuss with you, and well, let’s walk,” Hilda linked her arm through Garnet’s and they walked from the palace and into the grounds. Garnet waited patiently for her aunt to continue but it wasn’t until the reach the solitude of her mother’s grave that Hilda continued. “It’s Eiko and Vivi. You know we have never been able to conceive children of our own and we are very fond of them.”
“We wish to adopt them,” Her Uncle rushed on and Garnet grinned, but she could see there was a shadow in her Aunt’s eyes.
“We love them dearly but their powers...they’re young. And neither of us are equipped to train them, I can of course arrange for Eiko to learn white magic but she is like you. And Vivi…” He is possibly a creation of Kuja’s, Garnet thought. “We would like for you to teach them, if you would not mind…” Garnet looked down at her mother’s grave thoughtfully. She trusted Vivi with her life, she did not doubt for a second that because he was a creation of Kuja’s that he was dangerous. But she was hardly equipped to teach Vivi how to master his powers, not that he seemed to need much tutoring. “I think you have spotted our predicament.” Hilda smiled drily.
“Given the history between us...I would rather not have to ask Kuja for favours.” Garnet scowled at Cid, did he think she would prefer to go begging? From Hilda’s expression she could see the older woman was thinking the same as she.
“Your uncle has less tact, surprising for someone who is a ruler.” Hilda scolded, “but we would appreciate your help in approaching Kuja. Coming from us it would look as if we are asking for favours, but should it come from you…” Garnet felt her cheeks redden but she nodded. She wished she could voice her doubts; she would of course try, but Kuj did not even let her speak. How would she convince him to help Vivi? If I am helping Eiko, and perhaps she me, then why would he refuse? She knew the answer to her own question though; Vivi was powerful. “You will talk to him?” Garnet turned from the tombstone and nodded. She loathed the idea of asking Kuja for favours, but if it was true and he had created Vivi then he was responsible for the boy’s education.
She talked with her aunt and uncle for a long time, or rather she listened while they spoke of affairs in Lindblum. Garnet longed to visit the city once more, she had always loved the city and yearned to ask if she would be permitted a visit. But with Kuja it would be almost impossible; the city’s destruction was his fault. She could hardly bring him along, but nor was she prepared to leave him in charge of her own kingdom.
As the bell tolled the lunch hour her aunt and uncle kissed her cheeks and left her in peace with her mother. Beatrix stood close by at the bottom of the steps standing guard but far enough that Garnet felt she had some privacy. Sitting on her knees she bowed her head as if in prayer and let the silent tears flow free. The second anniversary of her mother’s death would be on her in just a few months, yet the grief felt as fresh and raw as if she sat beside the Queen’s corpse on that beach.
She paid little heed to the passing of time. The air grew colder and the sky darkened, but as the bell tolled each hour, Garnet remained stationary. The events of the past two years were never far from her mind and as she stared at her mother’s grave they replayed themselves in perfect detail.
“Garnet?” The musical voice pulled her from her thoughts and Garnet quickly wiped her eyes and rose to her feet as Kuja approached. A glittering ball of light, her voice, floated behind him and Garnet’s eyes narrowed. “I needed it to see if I could give you your voice back.” He shrugged.
“Next time, ask ,” Garnet’s internal voice was like a growl and she was proud of herself for sounding aggressive. She would not let him cow her. Taking a deep breath she closed her eyes and began to sing, spluttering as her voice began to choke her once more. “Is there not an easier way to do this?” She asked him as Kuja steadied her gently.
“I have never encountered this before, so if there is I do not know of it.” Garnet realised that Kuja was genuinely frustrated at the idea there was something he didn’t know in the realm of magics. The moonlight glinted on a crown and Garnet rolled her eyes as she realised Kuja was wearing it.
“You don’t have to wear that all the time,” she sighed but knew it was a symbol of power for him.
“But it suits me so perfectly,” Kuja tipped his head and flashed a sarcastic smile. “Supper is almost ready, I thought perhaps you would need reminding to eat.” Garnet followed him and Beatrix back down to the boat. “Will the Regent be joining us?”
“No.” Garnet shook her head and remembered what her aunt and uncle had asked of her that morning. She decided to bide her time until they retired for the night and were completely alone; keep her humiliation to a minimum.
She ate little at supper; the silence in the intimate dining chamber did little to help with her appetite. Kuja watched her thoughtfully, but thankfully he kept quiet. His face was blank, his thoughts a complete mystery. Garnet wondered what he was thinking about, was he thinking of ways to get her voice back? Or was he thinking of the night ahead? I can’t do this every night, she thought blinking back tears. Hurriedly she tried to make it look as if there was something in her eye, to which Kuja played along.
In the bedchamber Kuja dismissed Beatrix and helped Garnet to undress, but she was surprised when he made no movement on her. As she pulled on a chemise she looked around the bedchamber; now officially queen she had moved into her mother’s chambers. It was something she had never grown used too, she missed her old chambers and the familiarity. They offered a safety; she was still a child, destined to be queen but not quite yet. Now she was in the Queen’s chambers she was no longer a child, and responsible for the lives of a whole kingdom.
Her mother had waged war across the world in her final year, Garnet had thankfully dodged war but she knew this was largely in part to her uncle. Lindblum may have been destroyed but it was recovering and thriving. Publicly allying with Alexandros had protected Garnet from her neighbours who could seek revenge. but the distrust was there, and who could blame them given who her husband was? Husband . She suppressed a shiver.
“What’s wrong?” Kuja offered her some wine but Garnet shook her head.
“My aunt and uncle have a request...they would like us to teach Vivi and Eiko to master their powers.” Garnet expected an instant dismissal, but Kuja sipped his wine thoughtfully. “You will not manipulate them.” She added firmly sensing he was plotting something.
“You ask me a favour then give me orders?”
“I’m your Queen.”
“And I am your King.”
“The people are loyal to me Kuja, they fear you - but they love me. Do not assume you hold all the power.” Garnet spoke firmly but sighed; she did not want to fight. “We owe it to them; you created the Black Mages and, as much as I loathe to say it, you are an expert in the dark arts.”
“We are from the same village, she is as close to kin as I will have. She already has some learnings in white magic; she can help me master my Eidolons and I can help her with her magic.”
“Why should we teach them? We have a kingdom to rule.”
“ I have a kingdom to rule. We owe it to them, they’re young - if they don’t learn to master their powers they could hurt themselves or others. If you want to be king then act like one; protect the people you are responsible for. Being a ruler isn’t just pretty accessories and finery,” Garnet gestured to his crown and silk robes. “It’s protecting people, making decisions that people will not like. Hours of boring council meetings, leading mourning sessions - not just the celebrations -” Kuja silenced her by pulling her close and kissing her gently.
“Sweet Canary I was only teasing, I would not be so foolish to suggest we do not teach the young ones to master their skills.”
“You will teach Vivi?”
“Yes. I assume the Regent and his consort will return to Lindblum? Teaching them will take time, if they think to hover here and meddle -”
“No. My uncle has a kingdom to run just as I do. They came for the wedding, now that is over...they will most likely return in a few days.” Garnet felt a heavy feeling form in her stomach, she was growing used to her aunt being a source of comfort.
“We will discuss the details with them tomorrow. They have officially adopted the two have they not? I am sure they would want to visit them while we teach them.” Garnet was almost touched by his thoughtfulness, but she was too cynical and questioned his motive. “Now, come we should retire for the night.”
Garnet climbed hesitantly into the bed, holding her breath as Kuja moved in beside her. Her muscles tensed as they waited for his touch, but he simply leant over to brush his lips against her cheek before turning onto his back.
“I am not a complete monster Garnet; last night was our duty. The next time we couple will be because of your desire.” Garnet almost scoffed; she could not envision such a time. Closing her eyes she turned onto her side and tucked the blanket beneath his chin. If he was serious, then perhaps there was hope that she would not conceive so soon.