The Emperor would be the first to admit that he had never given much thought to the youngest of his fellow warriors. In his eyes, the red mage was at his best a murderous child. To Mateus the young man seemed vain and lazy. He never paid attention during the group’s meetings, and was usually only useful for reconnaisance. And from what his sometimes suspect memories could tell the Emperor, with each passing cycle Kuja grew more and more reluctant to fight. It would not be long before he would become a burden. So on the matters of the Emperor’s day to day thoughts and plans, Kuja barely registered.
That is, until one evening not terribly long into the current cycle. The warriors of Chaos, the males ones at least, had to share a communal bathing facility. There were individual stalls, yes, but due to some planner’s lack of foresight much of the rest of the space was shared. The Emperor, not wanting to have to mix too much with his fellows, usually waited until mid-morning before leaving his quarters and venturing to the baths. By then the morning bathers had already finished, and he could have the place to himself in peace and relative quiet. He liked to stand under the water and think, usually lingering there so long that the water went from bitingly hot to bitterly cold before he shut off its flow and went about his business.
This particular day Mateus was unable to partake in his bathing ritual during his usual time because the facilities had been closed for much of the day. There had been an incident early in the morning that had ended in a busted pipe. Despite his threats, the culprit had not been sussed out. The moogles had taken most of the day to make the repairs, and it was not until after he had finished his supper that Mateus was finally able to take a bath. He was the first one in, and since he was fatigued from the business of the day he did not spend as much time in the shower as he might usually prefer.
He was surprised, nay, dismayed to realize upon his exiting the stall that he was not alone in the baths. A small figure sat perched on one of the benches that lined the mirrored north wall of the communal space. Mateus knew who it was immediately. There were not any other of his fellow warriors that sported a shock of silver and violet hair with feathers growing from the top of his head. The young mage’s hair was wet, and he was working at combing carefully through his tresses and not paying attention to his surroundings. Mateus lingered in place and considered the sight.
The line of the younger man’s back was a sinful curve that flowed from his narrow shoulders down to his unusually petite waist and very unmasculine hips. The upper half did not seem to entirely match the lower. The legs that emerged from the towel wrapped around those curving hips were, while equally curvacious, quite well muscled. If he had ever given it thought before, the Emperor would not have thought that this would be the case. The young man seemed to always be floating about, not walking, and certainly not running. But there the legs were, all the same, very long and sturdy and unexpectedly alluring. There was a strange bulge under the fabric of the towel, and after a moment’s thought Mateus was quite certain of its source.
“Why bother hiding your tail? It is not as though we don’t all know you have it.” Indeed, though it was usually stowed away under those ridiculous skirts of his, Mateus had seen Kuja fight and had seen the young man’s form change as he tranced. He had seen the tail, nearly identical to that of one of the warriors of Cosmos.
Kuja’s back stiffened, and his fingers clenched on the pearly surface of the comb in his right hand. “I don’t recall asking your opinion on the matter, Emperor.”
“You did not, but I am giving it to you all the same. You should be flattered.”
The younger man glanced over his shoulder. His cheeks pinked intruigingly, and he hurriedly turned his face away. Mateus realized why--not expecting anyone else in the bathroom, he had not bothered with covering himself upon exiting the shower. He smirked.
“What, don’t like what you see? I was under the impression that was your sort of thing.”
A snort escaped the other man, and he did not again look at him. He was combing his hair again, head bowed, shoulders hunched. The defensive posture intruiged him.
“None of that is any of your business,” Kuja said. “What are you even doing here? I am usually the last to bathe each day.”
“I can use these facilities whenever I choose,” the Emperor said. He narrowed his eyes at the pretty backside that was still presented to him. “Certainly you must know of the incident that transpired earlier in the day.”
“I do.” Kuja’s posture did not shift. “And you could have just as easily waited until tomorrow to take your two hour shower.”
“Would you have?”
At this the mage paused. “No. The thought of going to bed dirty is repulsive.”
“Then do not question my logic.”
Kuja made a noise to acknowledge his words, but did not say anything.
“So, are you going to let it out?”
“That tail of yours,” the Emperor said. “Let it out.”
The mage set down the fine comb and turned his head slightly to the side. “Just because I have a tail does not mean that I wish to go flashing it about. Just as I do not go waving about other parts of me.”
“I didn’t say I want to see anything else,” he said, his tone smug as he moved closer to the bench where Kuja sat. The way the muscles on Kuja’s back tensed at his approach was nearly as intruiging to the older man as the twisted lump beneath the towel.
“Show me, or I will make you show me.”
“Why the sudden interest in my tail?”
The Emperor briefly considered the question but did not answer. “Stop stalling, Kuja.”
The younger man bowed his head for a moment, muttering under his breath in a tongue that the Emperor was not familiar with. The Emperor made an idle mental note to inquire as to the nature of that vulgar sounding tongue. That would come later. Right now his mind was quickly focusing itself on a different matter. In front of him, Kuja sighed. There was a quick ripple of movement beneath the towel, and then the young man’s tail emerged from its hiding. It twisted into the air in a smooth quick arc, the off-white lighting of the bathing room gleaming softly on the still damp fur of the tail. The fur was silvery violet, just like the mage’s hair. It looked soft to the touch, but for the moment Mateus managed to restraint himself from grabbing the limb. As quick as it had appeared, Kuja’s tail curled itself against his side, painting a vivid dark line against the white of his towel and the pale creaminess of his skin.
“Now, now, you stupid child. I want to see it.”
Kuja bristled. “You had your chance to see it.”
Mateus knew he was not the most patient of men. Ultimecia, that witch with all the time in the world on her side, had often complained about it. Even knowing this fact, it did not keep him from snapping at the most very junior member of Chaos’s team.
“Listen here, you impudent little whelp.” He quickly closed the distance between them, and Kuja let out an alarmed cry of protest as his fingers wrapped around the closest handful of tail and gave it a firm tug.
“Hey, let that go, don’t do that!”
“Then listen to your betters when you are being spoken to.”
Kuja was grimacing. “Spoken to? You were ordering me around.”
“As is my position to do so.” He smirked as he gazed down into the dark blue eyes. Their gaze was understandably troubled. It was interesting, when he was exposed like this, just how quickly the man’s haughty mask fell aside. The sheer nudity of it was far more arousing that the man’s body could ever hope to be. Mateus felt a twinge--he wanted to possess the vulnerability that dwelt in those blue depths. “Kuja, I do believe that you need to be educated on how to behave. After all, Chaos may not be as forgiving as I am when it comes to such disobedience.”
The younger man leaned away, his thin silvery brows drawing together over his eyes. “I do not require any education from you, Emperor.”
“On the contrary, I believe it will do you good. Spare the rod and spoil the child, and all that rot.” He held his right hand out to the side, and his staff appeared in a shimmer of light that was reflected in the room’s many mirrors. “And I am not one for spoiling.”
Another gasp of alarmed escaped Kuja. He scrambled to his feet, but did not get very far. The Emperor’s left hand was still gripping the squirming length of his tail.
“What are you going to do? Run away? Silly child, you have nowhere to run to.” Energy sparked down the length of his staff. “No matter where you go, I will find you. You cannot hide from me.”
Kuja gritted his teeth. His eyes darted from the Emperor to the wicked silver and gold length in his right hand, and then back to the older man’s face. “You are no better than Kefka, I see.”
“Do not compare me with that cackling worm,” the Emperor said. He sneered for a moment, and a twitch of his right hand brought the pointed tip of his staff against the younger man’s calf. Kuja let out a hiss.
“How dare you strike me like that!”
“How dare I?” The Emperor smirked down at him. “Believe you me, that little lashing will be the first of many if you do not learn to behave and obey your betters.” He shook his head. “You know, Kuja, I feel like I am being forced to repeat myself. And I do truly hate having to repeat myself for no good reason.”
He did not strike so lightly this time, and the glowing tip of his staff left a brlliant pink mark just below the young mage’s left knee.
“Stop that!” Kuja’s hand rose, energy glowing at his fingertips, but the hand jerked away as the staff came to bear on his knee again.
“Let us try this conversation again.” The Emperor cocked his head, pointing the tip of the staff at the mage’s inflamed calf. “Why don’t we start with you kneeling?”
“Kneel? I will never--” The protest ended with an abrupt gasp. The Emperor had given his tail a sharp tug. At the same time his right hand drove the staff to strike again. A line of blood appeared. Kuja’s hand went to the wound, and after a long moment he sank to his uninjured knee.
“A small improvement.” The Emperor licked the front of his teeth. “A start, at least.” He released his grip on the mage’s tail, and the silvery length immediately coiled out of his reach. Kuja looked up at him. There was dread apparent on his pretty features. “Heal yourself. I do not need to sully myself with your blood. Not yet.”
“The blood is the magic is the life.” Kuja hesitated, but then shifted a hand to his wounded leg and murmured a Cure spell. The holy magic sent a tingle through the air. It was a low powered spell, but still quite potent coming from the red mage’s fingertips.
“Good. On your knees.”
The freshly healed knee lowered to join its twin. Kuja turned his face to the floor. His hair flowed in a curtain, concealing the misery behind it. The long peculiar feather that crowned his hair flopped forward.
“Look at me. I want to see your shame.”
He did not look up. “And what will you do with it?”
The Emperor was honest. “I have not entirely decided yet.” The tip of the staff tapped the floor next to Kuja. “I do suppose that will be determined in part by how you behave.”
“And if I do not behave?”
“Then I will most likely throttle your worthless hide until you swoon, which I can’t imagine will take a great while. And then I will deposit you on Kefka’s doorstep.”
There was something delicious about the way Kuja’s breath caught at the end of his threat. Even from this angle he could see the thin stomach clench inward and the shoulders jerk. He wondered what was behind the movement, but it would have to go without knowing. The Emperor did not entirely want to have to deal with the clown long enough to find out the answers to his questions. Besides, he was quite sure he could unlock those mysteries on their own.