Summary: SxS Leonhart was the intimidating commander of Garden, and Almasy was the feared Former Bad Guy. Everyone knew they hated each other, and all was right with the world. At least, until a few cadets overheard a strange conversation.
Notes: Never written anything for FFVIII, so forgive me. And we're going to pretend that Seifer took speech lessons to stop massacring the damn language every time he opens his mouth. Uh, there is a lot of language, but they are mercenaries, and I'm a little curse-happy myself. And even in little humor one-shots I tend to digress into long-winded, overly descriptive bits of drama and observation. This is one of the many reasons why I don't write humor as a general rule, so be nice, please.
Michael Caraway had been a SeeD-in-training for some years now. He was an average student; he was passing his classes, took the time to sneak out with his friends and have some fun the night before exams, and dreaded The Big Field Exam all students had to pass to become true SeeDs with a horror usually reserved for things like torture and mortal peril.
He liked his teachers well enough. Instructor Trepe was stern, but sincere (and pretty to boot); Security Officer Dincht was great fun to talk to, whenever the tattooed man had the time; and Instructor Almasy was, well…Almasy.
It had been a shock when Garden had introduced its newest staff member. It was not because the guy was hardly older than the upper-level cadets—so was seemingly half the faculty—but because he was the Seifer Almasy; Sorceress' Knight and all-around Bad Guy. Even as a teacher he was arrogant and sarcastic and took entirely too much sadistic enjoyment in making utter ruin out of his students' self-esteem.
Of course, any complaints were met with exasperated sighs (Trepe), dark mutters (Dincht), or narrow-eyed silences (the Commander). Halfway through the year, the students just gave up altogether and resigned themselves to periodic recycling of their confidence and skill.
Perhaps what was most frustrating about Almasy was the fact that as cutting and snide as he could be, the man could back up the talk—the few practical sparring matches had left not a single student able to come close to touching him. Michael had to admit, Almasy was cruel, but he was cruel to everyone, and took especial joy in turning the asshole students that thought themselves the next Leonhart into weeping, bloodied messes. And one day, returning to class after the bell to recover his forgotten jacket, he had seen the gunblader showing Chen—the shyest and possibly worst fighter in their year—the proper way to handle his weapon.
But it was hard to remember his virtues when actually faced with him.
This particular lesson had been meant to demonstrate a proper gunblade duel, but something had gone wrong in the Training Room, so the entire class was seated near the entrance waiting for Dincht and his security teams to give the all-clear.
Michael took the chance to flop on his back on the grass, sighing dramatically and wriggling to get comfortable.
"You look like an idiot."
He grinned at his friend. "Thanks, Saya."
The girl snorted.
The third member of their little party glanced nervously towards their instructor, who was sitting on a rock not far away cleaning his already spotless gunblade.
"What do you think is wrong?" the boy asked softly.
"Someone must have been eaten by a T-Rexaur," Saya deadpanned. The boy paled.
"She's joking, Sage," Michael muttered. "I wonder who'll be fighting with Almasy?"
"The Commander, obviously," Saya snorted.
"How do you know?"
"He said himself that the only person that had ever defeated him was Leonhart, and who else in this place has the skill to give a proper duel? I know thinking for you hurts, but do try once in a while."
"Isn't that strange though?" Sage thought aloud, sitting on the grass beside Michael and plucking at the grass distractedly. "I mean, don't they hate each other?"
"I don't know if the Commander is even capable of hate," Michael huffed, thinking about the frighteningly chill young man. "He's like a fucking ice cube."
"Almasy calls him Ice Princess," Saya snickered.
"But whatever he's called," the blonde boy, Sage, pressed, "why would he have given the Sorceress' Knight a place here? Aren't they rivals?"
Michael remembered a particularly unforgettable lunch in the cafeteria; Leonhart, for some reason, had deigned to brave the crowds to get lunch from there rather than the kitchens, and had come across the other man. He was not sure what was said, but whatever Almasy had murmured to him had resulted in a spectacular fistfight that had had to be broken up by Dincht and several of his security officers.
"The million dollar question," Saya muttered in response to the question that all cadets had been wondering since the blonde strolled into the place like nothing had happened.
"At least it'll be interesting," the redheaded boy grinned. Saya rolled her eyes, though there was a faint blush on her sun-weathered cheeks. The three had been close friends for years, and after the last Sorceress' War Michael had managed to worm a confession from the girl about her hero-infatuation with the Commander.
Speak of the Devil.
The quiet chattering of the students silenced when the intimidating form of their Commander stalked into the Training Room like a disgruntled cat, his flat gaze giving them a cursory glance before focusing on the instructor.
Almasy stood with a mocking bow.
"What's the matter, Princess, get lost on the way?"
Stormy eyes narrowed, but Leonhart said nothing. He stood in front of Almasy with arms crossed loosely over his thin chest, leather creaking slightly, and waited.
"Chicken-shit's checking out the T-Rexaurs and whatnot with the doc. Supposedly there's a rabies thing going around with them. Must be spending too much time with them, puberty-boy." Michael knew that if anyone else had dared called Leonhart anything other than 'Commander,' he would have been facing immediate expulsion. "So it's the old waiting game until chicken-shit crawls back crying."
Looking over him, Michael—who was comfortably heterosexual, thank you very much—had to admit that it was little wonder the Commander attracted so much attention. He was fairly tall and very fit; those signature leather pants did little to hide much of anything, even with the multiple belts and combat boots, and the leather jacket, heavy silver chain, and white shirt made him worthy of all the other little things the girls giggled about when waxing poetic. Standing next to Almasy, who attracted quite a lot of attention himself, he seemed even more slender and almost-feminine—were it not for the scar that crossed his face and the obvious ease in which he carried his gunblade.
Leonhart just shrugged and seated himself on the blonde's rock, making himself comfortable and ignoring the staring class with such skilled ease it was practically an art.
Almasy raised a brow at his students. "Fuck, Leonhart, I didn't realize you had so many people trying into those tight leather pants of yours."
The class flushed as one and looked away, studiously pretending the two men did not exist.
Saya snickered next to Michael, and he was reminded again that unlike most sane people she tended to regard Almasy as funny.
Girls are nuts.
"Language," Leonhart said sharply. Almasy chuckled, dropping onto the boulder beside him.
"Of all the things you choose to fucking reprimand me for, it's my damn language," he leered.
"See, Princess, if you were anyone else I'd say that you just thought swearing was something reserved for uncreative minds with a pathetic vocabulary. But let's face it—you couldn't outtalk a fucking mute."
The two were seated at an angle to the three cadets, who were closest, allowing Michael and his two friends to see the two SeeDs' expressions.
Almasy then leaned close to the Commander, close enough where Michael half-expected to see the irritating man get a face-full of gunblade, and said huskily, "And I think we both know I don't suffer for lack of creativity."
The redhead blinked. Was their instructor…flirting with Squall "Shiva's Lover" Leonhart?
"No, just intelligence."
Michael had never heard such a flawlessly deadpan voice.
Almasy snorted. "At least I know the word 'diplomacy' doesn't have the words 'force' or 'threat' in the definition."
"Congratulations on learning basic language skills."
"I'd say you have me beat there, too. I don't think I've ever heard someone who thinks a conversation is a challenge to spar capable of such a wide range of noises," the blonde leered lasciviously. "It really is the quiet ones you have to watch out for."
Smirking, Almasy raised his arms above his head in a stretch and laced his fingers behind his head, turning his face to the sun and closing his eyes.
Shaken out of his stunned stupor, the redhead turned bemused eyes on the blonde cadet. "Yeah, Sage?"
"…I'm a little weirded out."
Nodding in agreement, Michael glanced over at Saya. She was watching the two men with a scrutinizing gaze, a gleeful expression slowly stealing over her face.
"Hush," she hissed, pulling the two boys close. "Michael, I know something you don't."
He blinked. "What?"
She huffed impatiently. "I have a bet for you. Unless you're a fucking coward."
Narrowing his eyes, he hissed back, "Name the terms."
"Twenty gil says the instructor and the commander are lovers."
"Hush!" she snarled, clapping a hand over his mouth. "You heard me. Twenty or none."
Michael pried her hand away and cast a surreptitious look at the two officers. "Are you shitting me? I thought you said you quit the weed!"
She smacked him upside the head, ignoring his small yelp. "Listen to me, will you? I didn't say that they were in love, just that they were fucking each other. I'm a girl, I know these things." She smirked. "And if you're so sure that they aren't, why're you so afraid to take the bet?"
"Fine," he spat, grabbing her hand and shaking it roughly. "Forty gil, because there's no way the Commander and the Sorceress' Knight would even touch each other, let alone have sex. Besides, Leonhart's with that Heartilly chick."
Sage watched them with disinterest; he had seen the strange dynamics of this friendship many times before.
"Shit, Michael, where've you been?" Saya smirked. "Leonhart and Heartilly broke up ages ago. She stormed out of here like a whirlwind—don't you remember? Nearly made the whole Garden collapse."
Well, now that he thought about, Michael did remember being woken up one night to an earthquake—or what he had thought was an earthquake. He resolved again never to get involved with a woman that could level buildings just from PMS.
Groaning, he said, "All right, he might not be with her anymore, but that doesn't make him gay!"
Saya just grinned and motioned for the two boys to be quiet, pretending to be cleaning her own weapons while furtively eavesdropping on the two men. Huffing, Michael scowled and copied her, determined to prove to her that her silly girlish obsessions were completely, utterly wrong.
Sage just watched the two cadets with open exasperation.
"Shit," Almasy cursed after a moment, "did I turn off the coffee pot?"
"Good. Hyne knows I could do without being responsible for burning the damn place down, too."
It was weird to think of two such infamous people worrying about something as mundane as kitchen appliances. And with Saya's strange conviction, Michael was beginning to wonder just how the Commander would have known whether the Instructor had turned the stupid pot off or not.
"So…" Almasy said, drawing out the word in a long, irritating drawl, "how go the savior-of-the-world and Commander-of-Balamb-Garden tricks?"
Leonhart canted him a sharp, chilly look from the corner of his stormy eyes. "Why the hell won't you shut up?"
"Hyne's balls, Leonhart, what crawled up your fucking ass and died? Chicken-shit is taking forever, and I'm bored, and you're convenient. Would you rather I whispered sweet nothings in your ear?"
"Try it and die."
"Oh," Almasy breathed, and Michael, overhearing, could not help the blush that rose at that distinctly inappropriate-for-class sound, "baby, I want you and those leathers down on your—"
He was cut off when LionHeart was snapped up, the tip of the slender gunblade dancing dangerously close to his throat.
"You were saying?" Leonhart hissed. All three eavesdropping cadets blanched, thanking Hyne that they were not the ones at the business end of the Commander's blade, but Almasy just rolled his eyes and used two fingers to push it deliberately aside.
"Keep your panties on, Princess, I'm not that stupid. You're not exactly the type to be wooed with chocolates and stuffed chocobos. Though I wouldn't mind you in one of those slutty black things. You know, with the lace and leather and all those zippers."
Michael could practically feel the ice rolling from the Commander, but the only reply was a flat, "Hn."
"Hyne," Sage murmured, "does nothing get to him?"
"Almasy does," Saya quipped helpfully, just as quiet.
"Talked to Ms. Tight-Ass Quisty herself this morning. When were you going to tell me you had a mission in Esthar?" Almasy's baritone voice was light and casual, too much so to be believable. It was like seeing someone smiling just before killing.
"Laguna called this morning after you had already left for class. Quistis was the one to make arrangements for my leave."
It was rather interesting, Michael thought in a sudden moment of uncharacteristic insight, to consider the differences just in their modes of speech alone. The former Sorceress' Knight was expressive with every word and gesture, his slang-laden and merciless voice reflecting the mercurial flux of his emotions, always hinting but rarely saying outright; whereas the Commander, the Lion of Balamb, had truly earned the moniker 'Shiva's Lover' with his humorless, inflectionless efficiency of words and his almost cruel bluntness.
The blonde man gave the other an inscrutable look with half-lidded green eyes, the kind so full of hidden meaning Michael was hopeless at even beginning to understand them. "Convenient. So, when the hell were you going to tell me you'd be gone for a fucking month?"
Leonhart gave him a sidelong glance, lips thinned into a frown darker than usual. "You aren't my keeper, Seifer."
"…No, I'm not." Almasy folded his arms behind his head and turned his face to the sky, closing his eyes.
Michael, Saya, and Sage had forgotten the pretense of cleaning their weapons and were actively staring at their superiors. The rest of the class had hardly looked over except for the normal hero-worship and awe that tended to follow the two, especially the Commander, and the three cadets knew that if they had not been in such a prime location they would have seen nothing out of the ordinary—a brooding Commander Leonhart scowling at an irreverent Instructor Almasy, and never the seemingly casual diatribe so full of double-meanings.
Leonhart had been leaning his elbows on his knees, hands clasped loosely over his gunblade's handle; but now his left hand moved and touched the blonde's thigh with its back, gentle and hesitant and very brief.
"I instructed Quistis to book a second ticket."
It took him a moment to react, but then Almasy gave Leonhart a broad smirk and a wink.
"I fucking knew you couldn't get rid of me. I'm like a bad gil—"
"Or a parasite."
"If you're not careful, Leonhart, you might find a sense of humor under all that ice."
And like that, the moment that Michael could have sworn was happening disappeared, so quickly he wondered if he had imagined it.
Saya's getting to me, he reasoned a little frantically.
The distant roar of a T-rexaur and the diminishing chatter of the other students told Michael and his two cohorts that Dincht, Kadowaki, and the security team were returning, laden with steel cases that he recognized as the type to carry biological samples without risk of contamination. Almasy and Leonhart stood, the taller of the two strutting forward with his arms crossed over his chest and a raised brow.
"You're alive, Chicken-shit. Pity."
"Fuck off, Seifer," Dincht retorted, sounding more like a reflex than a true insult. "Hey Squall, we're done, finally."
"It seems like there's a virus passing through here, but it's non-lethal to either monster or human," Kadowaki replied in her ever-calm, clinical manner. She shifted the heavy case in her grip. "However, I'm going to have Zell place the Training Room under restriction for now, until I can finalize these tests and determine for certain what we have here exactly. It's probably nothing more than the T-rexaur equivalent of the common cold, but with the amount of battle that occurs and the exchange of bodily fluid it's always better to be on the safe side."
Michael had the sudden irrational mental image of trading bodily fluids with a sniffling, rheumy-eyed T-rexaur, and nearly retched right there and then. As though reading his mind, Saya snickered from behind him and thumped his shoulder.
"Looks like we're back to sparring like old times," Almasy grinned at Leonhart, casting a significant glance at the scar trailing over the bridge of the brunette's nose. "Ready to bow in defeat at my superiority in every way?"
Leonhart just gave him a dry look.
Dincht snorted. "Remember, asshole, he kicked your ass—"
"Zell, I need to get these samples up to the Infirmary before they degrade," Kadowaki interrupted smoothly, looking exasperated.
Almasy sneered at the security chief as the two SeeDs and their team left the Training Room, and the class went on as scheduled.
A few moments later, Michael finally realized how a group of such young, seemingly green SeeDs were able to take down a powerful time-traveling Sorceress and all her forces, and just how childish and paltry the two mercenaries made the levels of the students look.
When two students sparred or the haughty Instructor saw fit to lower himself to taking on a cadet, it was a practical lesson in determining strengths and weaknesses in the fighting styles and learning the best methods for improvement. But Leonhart and Almasy were not the only masters of the gunblade to have passed through Garden in so long for nothing.
It was like being privileged to observe a dance between two people who had lived, breathed, and known nothing else in their lifetimes; their movements were smooth, operating without thought to hinder or slow the grace in which they stepped, to disturb the sharp hiss of a blade slicing air. There was never a hesitation, only the smooth transition from defense to offense, parry to strike, their gazes unwavering and the entirety of their beings focused on this one moment of time in which nothing mattered but the blood and adrenaline and the thrill of fighting an equally worthy opponent.
People became SeeDs for varying reasons. Some for the romantic ideal, some for the money, some for the excitement—Michael himself had joined because he wanted to honor the memory of his father, who had once been a SeeD but died long ago while on assignment. However, people rarely wondered why heroes like Leonhart and villains like Almasy became what they were; what motivated them to make the choices they did, what experiences had formed them into the men they were. Now, Michael could see that they were soldiers because they were good at it. It had never been the fame or fortune, but the lethal thrill of tempting fate and the heady rush of battle—it was taking one's own destiny and placing it against the edge of a blade or the point of a bullet and throwing the middle finger at death.
The grandiose yet deadly power of Almasy's one-handed swing, the blinding agility of Leonhart's double-gripped speed…eventually there was nothing but the hum of a battle between two warriors matched in flawless dichotomy.
For the third time in his short life, Michael cursed all forms of alcohol and the awkward situations it invariably landed him in. (He refused to remember the first two occasions.)
"Remind me again whose bright idea this was?" he growled softly, pressing his body close to the shadows of the walls as much for support as to avoid being seen.
Quiet feminine laughter came from behind him. "Yours, Mister I-Can-Hold-My-Alcohol-Just-Fine. If you'd just admit that I'm right and pay up—"
"No," he snarled, "the Commander and the Instructor are not fucking each other!"
"Denial isn't just a river," Sage's drunken singsong voice called from the very back of their stumbling line. Saya immediately whirled around and clamped a hand over his mouth, hissing at him to shut up.
Having never been in the staff wing, Michael was leading the other two down a blind path, hoping that the hallway they had chosen would lead to their intended destination.
"I can't believe I let you get me into this," he groused under his breath. "You manipulative bitch…"
"Aw, you know you love me," Saya grinned smugly. "Now be quiet and lead on, oh fearlessly intrepid leader."
"If we get caught, I'm telling them this is your fault."
"And I'll tell them about your hidden cache of drink."
"Then I'll tell them about your stash o' hash."
"For the last fucking time—!"
"Hush, you two!" Sage snickered. "Be very, very quiet. People are coming!"
"What?" Squawking indignantly, Michael felt himself being yanked backwards by a strong female hand and pulled into the nearest door, which was, thankfully, unlocked for some reason or another. He quickly pulled it closed, praying that whoever was coming did not hear the latch catching.
"What do we do?" Saya groaned. Curious despite the fact that they trespassing on staff grounds after curfew and a little more than tipsy, Michael took the chance to look around the room Saya had pulled the two boys into.
It was much larger than the double rooms Garden students shared, a miniature suite dressed in cool, soothing greys and greens. Papers were stacked neatly on the table; freshly washed dishes sat in neat rows on the counter to dry; the carpet was clean and the wood furnishings spotless. After living in the dormitories for so many years, Michael had forgotten what a properly kept room looked like.
"Damn," he murmured. "Whoever lives here must be seriously obsessive-compulsive. Think it's Trepe's?"
Saya's reply was cut off by a voice emanating from behind a closed door which presumably led to the bedroom. It was low but still clear, and though it was huskier than the three had ever heard it, they had no problem recognizing the blunt, commanding tone.
"Stop teasing and fuck me, Seifer!"
All three paled.
"You know how bad I am with orders, Commander," a second voice purred, and there was a muffled groan.
"I swear to Hyne, Seifer, if you don't—"
The first voice ended in a long though barely audible moan that made Michael's brain promptly fall into the gutter and die a traumatized death.
"Is that…the Commander?" Sage squeaked quietly.
"No shit," the other boy breathed, too shocked to do anything more than stare blankly at the closed door.
There were a few more minutes of stunned disbelief at the unmistakable turn of events.
Then: "Wonder what trick that was?" Michael mused at a particularly groin-stirring sound.
"The Commander doesn't make much noise even in bed," Sage observed sagely. Saya seemed to have gone into a mild catatonic shock even after the incriminating sounds had finished.
Then there was a knock at the door.
"Shit, shit, shit!" Michael cursed, grabbing Sage and Saya and pulling them down to duck behind the kitchen counter, praying that they would not be found.
Knock, knock, pause, knock.
Michael and Sage peered over the counter through the maze of dishes, watching the bedroom open and Leonhart enter, clad only in a pair of black drawstring pants that must have belonged to Almasy judging by the way the too-large waist slipped low on his hips.
"Oh my," a recovered Saya whistled softly.
No kidding. Are those finger-shaped bruises on his hips?
Even after what had sounded like amazing sex, Leonhart looked as composed as ever, albeit with his hair more tousled than usual. He opened the door without hesitation, looking unashamed to be standing in the open doorway half-naked with Instructor Trepe standing on the other side. The woman raised a brow but, probably wisely, declined to comment.
"Here's the report from Zell and Dr. Kadowaki. I'd thought you would want to see it as soon as possible, but…"
Leonhart took the manila folder without a word and flipped through it, his gaze more neutral than icy.
"So," the blonde smirked, crossing her arms and cocking a hip, "Seifer not awake yet?"
Leonhart narrowed his eyes. "Is that all, Quistis?"
"Yes, that was all. Although you might want to steer clear of Selphie for a while, she's gotten the idea that Garden has gone too long without a party and she's been talking about enlisting your help. For what, though, I have no idea, and I shudder to even consider the possibilities."
The Commander snorted under his breath. "I'll keep that in mind. Goodnight, Quistis."
"Good night, Squall. Don't keep Seifer up too late." Her smile was positively demonic.
Closing the door without replying, Leonhart crossed the room to stand at the table, reading the contents of the file more carefully. Michael was silently impressed by the number of scars their Commander bore, not the least of which included the one across his nose and brow; spidery lines with the silvery sheen of age lay over lean muscle and whipcord tendon. He was so slender and long-limbed that it was hard to believe at first glance the man was one of the most famous soldiers throughout all the known nations, until he moved with that swordsman's balanced grace and hard muscle shifted under pale skin.
"The hell're you doing out here?" a gruff voice demanded, and Almasy appeared in the doorway in his boxers.
Both Sage and Saya squeaked softly. Michael was humiliated beyond words (it just isn't right to see the Commander and the Sorceress' Knight like this!) and lowered his face farther behind the counter.
"Quistis delivered Zell's report."
Rolling his eyes, Almasy crossed the room and firmly yanked the folder from Leonhart's hands, ignoring the irritated flash of stormy eyes. "What the hell was that woman thinking? It's two in the fucking morning."
"I'm awake." Leonhart reached for the folder, but Almasy, being taller, was able to hold it from his reach.
"Which is why you're going to leave the Hyne-damned report for tomorrow and come to bed. I am not giving up my personal heat source to chicken-shit's inane rambling and your fucking obsessive workaholism."
All three cadets snickered behind their hands.
"…That's not a word. Give me the report."
"Oh, now I have to keep it from you."
If looks could kill, Almasy would have been six feet under a long time ago.
"Don't even fucking think it, sweetheart. Your gunblade's in the bedroom, where we should be."
"Don't call me that."
"Come on, sweetie honeycakes, just fucking leave it for tomorrow."
Leonhart stalked forward, spine rigid. "Do you want me to hurt you?"
The look with those words alone would have scared a lesser man shitless. Almasy just laughed. "We both know that you might be able to beat me in a gunblade duel, but I can fucking kick your sweet ass in hand-to-hand."
For a moment the cadets thought that their Commander was going to leap on their instructor in absolute fury, but then the man just shrugged and stepped past the blonde into the bedroom with a muttered, ever-present, "Whatever."
A shit-eating smirk of triumph on his handsome face, Almasy carelessly tossed said report onto the table and followed, muttering, "Thank Hyne for month-long vacations," and shutting the door with a kick.
Michael, Sage, and Saya sat back on the floor and looked at each other. The effects of the alcohol seemed to have worn off in the face of so much excitement.
"That was…enlightening," Sage finally said softly.
Michael nodded in agreement.
They turned to Saya, who looked like she had gotten lost in her own little fantasy world. Then she blinked, moved her gaze to Michael, and gave him the same infuriating grin patented by their infamous instructor.
"You wanna pay me now, or later?"