The first time the boy heals him of his own accord is…

He actually falters and his beautiful Altair recoils, snapping his wrist and cocking his aim.

He stares at the boy and he can hear Fran gently sniffing the air for his distress.

He doesn't miss what is wrong?

Vaan stares right back.

He's got dark desert rat eyes and pink skin and he doesn't seem to grasp what it is that he's done.

His magic still clings perceptibly blue to the shield of his skin.

"Who taught you?" he asks, setting the Altair up against his shoulder and cocking his stance like a gun, like a missed shot.

He listens to the methodic twang of Fran's unrelenting fire.

Twang. Thud. Twang. Thud. Twang. Thud.

Vaan startles in an endearingly immature way. "I taught myself."

"No time," Fran interjects, the cock of her bow yet straight on.

"Let's go."

א

The second time the boy heals him of his own accord is…

"Do you think I can not handle myself?" Even if he is panting and sweating and his blasted shirt is soiled.

Vaan's cheekbones are grimy, his whole face is and it's amusing the way his eyes widen within all that dirt and dust and grit.

"You looked like you needed it."

"Who are you to judge?"

Fran is the only one with that right

Vaan shifts on his feet to a juvenile stance of rebellion and embarrassment. "Take care of your own, right?"

"Look out!"

Fran's shots ring out in the air.

א

The third time to boy heals him of his own accord he mutters a tight 'thank you very much' and tries not to die, Fran's shots whizzing past his ear.

א

The fourth time the boy heals him of his own accord he offers Vaan a thankful glance. The churl grins back and gives an extravagant twirl, slicing off a Steeling's head and it goes tumbling to the floor, bloody and messy and everywhere.

א

The fifth time…

The sixth time…

The twelfth time…

The twentieth time…

The fiftieth time…

א

The boy heals him of his own accord, throwing his hand and his magic out in supplication, even as his quicksilver blade continues to flash. Azure shadows, azure like magic.

א

The hundredth time to boy heals him of his own accord, they are huddled together in a dark corner and Fran is lingering in limbo waiting for him to exercise his phoenix lore and bring her back.

The Capella lies smoking upon the ground as he fumbles inelegantly at Vaan's pouches for some hidden reserve of feathers.

His broken wrist aches, terribly horridly, bone fragments grating against one another, squeezing nerves like iron maidens and destroying all semblances of small motor control.

Then the pain fades, swathed in sapphire.

Vaan's coffee scented eyes smile up out of the dark.

א

The millionth time Vaan should heal him of his own accord, he does not.

The boy slumps to the ground, his limbs hanging limp like particularly overcooked pasta.

His breath heaves.

He kneels down before him and bandages his wounds, the gauze glowing green with the touch of his own enchantment.

His mouth pulls razor tight into a smile.

"What would you do without me?"

Vaan laughs and leans on him for support.

The Sirius releases another bullet, powder scent hanging hot upon the air.

א

The twenty-millionth time Vaan heals him of his own accord, they are not in battle.

They are resting up, tense and paranoid after being chased out of the city like vermin, again. Now they lay low, now they sleep, and dream and lick their wounds.

It's only a scratch and Vaan doesn't waste energy summoning the white arts.

He settles himself in the seat across the table and picks up his hand, wrapping it in pieces of cloth and holding on far longer and far tighter than need be.

"You always know when I need it," he soothes around a mug of beer.

The desert churl with his dancing eyes returns; Vaan squeezes his hand and then is gone again.

א

The time he's lost count of, when Vaan heals him of his own accord, is when Fran has forced herself away from the Strahl's controls in search of sleep and food, leaving him to his rotation.

Vaan slips into the seat in her wake like a seamless shadow, his finger caressing the controls and his filthy face brimming with joy.

"You should sleep, I can do it."

He is incredulous, though he says nothing to spoil the boy's fantasies.

"As that is what they are, Vaan, fantasies," he laughs, contradicting his own well meaning.

"You think I can't do it?" Vaan challenges in that charmingly childish way of his, his hands clenching the navigation.

He turns then, his fingers, which smell of sulfur, ghosting over the autopilot as he does. He smiles, splaying his arms, resting his elbows here and there and leaning in with the air of mockery that he works hard to affect.

"On the contrary, Vaan," he murmurs, watching the stars from within the glare of chocolate eyes. "I'm most certain you can, and if I let you, you would fly away and never come back."

Vaan's mouth tastes like ultramarine and cinnamon.

And that is all.


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