Title: Unlawful Appropriation
Fandom: Guilty Gear Overture [AU]
Pairing/Characters: Sol/Ky, Sin
Part: 1/3
Rating: PG-15
Warning: AU, humor
Disclaimer: If I owned Overture, the entire thing would've made a bit more sense. XD
Notes: I am cheerfully ignoring anything in Overture that doesn't make sense for the purposes of this story. Yeah, that's a lot, I know. I've also not taken into account anything Ishiwatari might have come up with before his first cup of coffee to say in an interview. That rarely helps, anyway. XD I owe a lot to hours of fun conversation with twigcollins. And last but not least, credit for the original instigation of this particular AU goes to rallamajoop. I have tried to keep the similarities to a minimum, so please forgive me if something does show.

-

Unlawful Appropriation
Part I

-

.

There were a few things you generally did not expect to find in the mail.

The first was your own epitaph, accompanied by a polite and apologetic letter by the secretary of the PR department, asking if you would like any changes made, and to please send those immediately because it wasn't certain when you might, well, die. Admittedly, this would have been more upsetting if it hadn't happened in the midst of a century-long war with soldiers dying in droves, and the super-powered monsters they had been fighting hadn't just improved at targeting the chain of command.

Bribery money, without any indication as to what the anonymous briber wanted or expected. Sol had been trying to get him to keep it, and, when that hadn't worked, had suggested putting it into a betting pool on the subject of his own virginity, which had resulted in a spectacular fight and the subsequent destruction of the incriminating bills.

A beauty kit complete with peach-pink lipstick, manicure set, lavender-scented body wash and an equally floral-scented shampoo. He was still trying to pin this one on Sol, but had never found any conclusive evidence except a damnable smirk, and Sol tended to wear that smirk for all kinds of reasons.

And this.

Never, not in a million years, this.

Dear Captain Kiske,

The Council of Illyuria would like to request your aid in a matter of extraordinary circumstances...

----

"You've got to be kidding."

It had been his reaction when he had first heard the news, and it seemed his brain still hadn't quite gotten past that.

Most people who wanted to rule a country had to go to ridiculous lengths to get it—it always required manipulation, bribery, and a certain amount of explosives, whether of an actual or merely informational nature, no matter if one went through the official channels or attempted a coup d'état.

Only Ky, Sol reflected, would get a country handed to him in the mail.

"Don't tell anybody, but I kind of wish I were," Ky said, his fingers toying with the handle of his cup, moving it slightly back and forth in its saucer, the only outward sign of his discomfort.

Not that Sol could blame him—the situation was damn awkward, especially after all this time. Ky had always been a public figure, whether he liked it or not, but he had steered clear of politics whenever possible. To be practically begged to head a country as monarch, of all things, did not sit well with him. Not that it was sitting well with Sol.

"You said no, of course," he prompted, knowing all too well what the chances were. It was physically impossible for Ky to walk away from desperate pleas and suffering people. It was part of the whole savior complex he was nursing, and while Sol couldn't exactly blame the boy for it, he had hoped that Ky would learn that it was impossible to save every man, Gear, cat, mouse, and fluffy yellow canary in the world.

Ky's sigh was answer enough.

"You do realize that they're just lazy bastards, right?"

"That's not it. Illyuria's in a state of utter chaos, and I'm—"

"—responsible for it? You've got to be kidding." The old urge to drag him outside for a good ass-kicking to beat the goddamn martyrdom out of him was still present and accounted for, but Sol knew it was a lost cause. "You clear out a group of crazies staging a coup, and it's your fault?"

Ky furrowed his brows, obviously displeased with his sarcasm. "I didn't know the PWAB had connections to the government, but... it was my actions that brought about the current situation."

"Oh, right. I forgot. Of course you're responsible for every corrupt ass in this world."

"Sol..."

"Come on. You can't tell me you didn't think this through down to the tiniest detail before you went in and took them out. You'd rather have them with a whole country under their thumb?"

"Of course not," Ky said, staring into his tea.

Sol scowled. "Why are we even talking about this? No matter what I say, your mind's made up already, anyway. You're going to go in and spend the rest of your life haggling with a bunch of idiots over people's futures, exactly what you hate." He didn't add, "and make a big-ass target out of yourself", but that was more or less a given.

"I... don't know. I guess I wanted..." Ky trailed off. "Am I doing the right thing?"

"Ah, hell. This isn't a question of doing the wrong thing versus doing the right thing, boyscout. It's a question of self-preservation versus your ability to live with yourself if you walk away now."

"I do... feel responsible."

"See? And even if I beat you bloody with a cluebat, we both know how often you change your mind." Sol rubbed a hand across the back of his neck.

Ky stayed silent for a while, sipping at the tea. "...It will only be an interim solution," he said finally. "I'm not going to stay there forever, I just... I want to do what I can, and the sooner things settle down, the sooner..."

"Oh? And how long is this 'interim' going to be? Did they bother telling you that?"

More silence.

Sol heaved a sigh. "Just so we're clear on this. I'm giving you three years."

——

Illyuria was one of those nations whose natural beauty dazzled its visitors, easily leading them to overlook any spots marring its picture-perfection.

Indeed, the country often deliberately attempted to gloss over its internal political and economic problems with its outward splendor—or so Ky had been told by the earnest aide sent to meet him. And if he had simply been a tourist or a visiting diplomat, Ky admitted he himself might have been pulled into the illusion, at least for a little while.

The dressing room had a wonderful view of the palace gardens, and at least for the moment, letting his eyes sweep over the artistic creations of the gardeners and sculptors took his mind off the other artistic processes going on right now.

A tiny sting in his side, and he could not quite suppress the urge to twitch away from it, which, of course, prompted more stings from other places.

"Ah, I'm so sorry, Your Majesty!" squeaked the tiny girl holding the needles, her face paling in horror.

"It's alright, it's alright," he hastened to reassure her, as she only seemed to become more nervous the more often she accidentally ended up pricking him with the pins, which led to a predictable result.

"He doesn't like that. He's not a majesty yet," hissed the girl beside her, glaring at her over the blue silk ribbon she was pinning to the hem.

"But it'll be weird later," the tiny girl hissed back, glaring just as fiercely.

He had noticed earlier on that they were having little conversations in these semi-stage whispers, somehow under the impression that he could not hear them, or perhaps just not caring. And while Ky had been subjected to his fair share of comments from virtual strangers, it was an entirely different experience to be standing on top of a stool, surrounded by a mountain of fabrics, threads and ribbons, and being poked and prodded by a congregation of giggling seamstresses, most of whom would blush when he addressed them, but who would keep up a shameless running commentary on the size of his waist or argue over which shades of blue went best with his eyes.

Ky had managed to dissuade them from putting him in high heels, but had lost the battle against their penchant for dresses—robes, he was assuaged, standard for Illyurian royalty, while the rest of them twittered at the prospect—and their love for intricate accessories. They seemed to be happily on their way to designing an entire wardrobe for him, and he was afraid if he gave them half a chance, it would actually be comprised of 365 different outfits, but he hoped that he could convince them to throw in a few that wouldn't require him to walk like a 18th century Rococo princess.

A transparent veil suddenly fell into his face, partly obscuring his line of sight.

"What's that supposed to be, Therese?"

"It would go well with the crown."

"No, it wouldn't. It'll take attention away from his hair. Put it away!"

Ky twitched.

"Do keep still, sir," the seamstress in charge admonished, hands hovering at his beltline. "We wouldn't want to damage anything valuable."

Ky spent the rest of the day staring fixedly out the window, telling himself that he wasn't hearing anything and that his face wasn't as hot as it felt.

——

Whoever had been in charge of planning that coronation ceremony, Sol thought, had had way too much time on their hands. Flags. Doves. White streamers on every house in the city. Raining flower petals. Giant overdone parade. Organ music. It felt like they were marrying him to the crown instead of just putting the blasted thing on his head.

It was nauseating to watch, the whole idiotic pomp and ceremony was spoiling a good drink, but he still kept his eyes on the tiny screen in the bar, wondering at what point little electric sparks would start jumping between the multitude of ornaments they had stuck on Ky. His face betrayed nothing, of course, and Sol wasn't sure whether he should admire or be annoyed by that sort of stoic composure.

"I thought those sorts of things went out of fashion after they crowned the last Queen of England," Axl said, holding up thumb and forefinger in an attempt at deducing how long the fur-lined trail was. From the looks of it, it was stretching across half the cathedral aisle.

The camera cut to a close-up of Ky's face, and Sol could quite easily detect the discomfort lurking beneath his dignified expression. Years of experience in Ky-reading, and all that.

"Whoa, she's hot, though," Axl enthused. "I wouldn't mind taking orders from her, if you catch my drift."

"I'll be sure to tell him that next time I see him."

Silence.

"Wait. You mean. That's not—?"

Sol smirked.

Axl slumped forward, nearly knocking over his drink. "I hate the world."

Downing the rest of his gin, Sol slid off the stool and tossed a few coins on the bar-top. "Take your time piecing your shattered heterosexuality back together. I've got a bit of an errand."

Axl hardly seemed to hear him. "Not a chick..."

Snorting, Sol turned and made his way to the exit. The things he did for queen and country... Or maybe just queen.

——

"...I suggest you find some way to come incognito. This is an emergency."

The line went dead.

Ky put down the receiver, frowned slightly, and then took a moment to inform his staff that he would not be available for the rest of the day. Sol rarely contacted him in any way or form, and he had never used the word "emergency" before. If something actually did manage to break through his sturdy shield of imperturbability, his vocabulary tended to become limited to words with fewer syllables than "emergency".

To be called in such a serious tone was disconcerting, to say the least. He had known that it would be dangerous to further trace the corrupt Illyurian officials' connections to the PWAB, but asking Sol had seemed like it would lead to the fewest casualties. It was unsettling that Sol hadn't simply come here to tell him about the problem, but that could be due to a number of possibilities, and worrying about them would not help.

Whatever Sol had found had to be something unprecedentedly serious.

——-

"I."

If there was one sight he had never expected to see, it was that of Sol Badguy, sitting in a chair in a shady motel room, and holding a sleeping infant the way one might hold a very bizarre and unfamiliar object.

"I."

An infant with tiny blue-gray dragon wings stretching from its back, a scaly tail curling over its legs.

"How?!"

"You want the short version or the long version?" Sol asked, glancing warily at the sleeping baby.

"I," Ky said, taking a deep breath to get his brain unstuck. "The short version, please. I'm not sure I can handle anything else right now."

"Well, there was the usual stuff about terrorism and espionage and taking over the world, the standard Pinky and Brain stuff."

"The standard what?" Ky really didn't feel like dealing with cryptic references right now, still trying to wrap his mind around the implications surrounding the baby in front of him, who was very much not human. If the PWAB was manufacturing Gears...

"Forget it." Sol waved his free hand. "Point is, somebody thought it would be really funny to see what would happen if they stuck you and me in a blender."

"I."

"Yeah," Sol said ruefully. "No idea what they were planning to do with it."

He jerked his chin towards the baby, who blinked sleepily as the motion jostled it awake. Even in the dim light of the room, Ky could clearly make out the reddish glow of the mark, shining from its right eye, as it glanced around, obviously quite comfortable with its perch on a strange man's arm.

"I guess they wanted to raise it docile and see if they could go for mass-production. They've been down that road before, after all. Nice home-cooked controllable superwarrior."

The baby tilted his head a bit to observe Ky instead, and flung out its tiny arm, fingers curling in the air. "Fwiih!"

"Why us?" Ky murmured, stepping closer in spite of himself.

"I'd think that's obvious. Best fighters on the planet and all that. You'd rather they'd taken someone else as donor?"

"No," Ky amended hastily. "No, of course not." He didn't even want to imagine that.

When nothing happened, the baby seemed to lose interest in the human staring down at it, and started trying to grab at the straps dangling from Sol's vest.

"What do we do now?"

"You're asking me?" Sol said, raising his eyebrows. "You're the boyscout. I'd been hoping you'd have some ready-made solution for this one."

"I didn't exactly expect this when you told me this was an emergency," Ky sighed, running a hand through his hair. Official channels of any kind were out of the question—it would be impossible to put an infant Gear into the care of inexperienced humans. And Sol... There was only one solution, really, if he didn't want the child to end up dead, hurting people, or as live bait.

"I... I'd need your help with this. We'd need to hide his, uh, extra appendages, amongst other things. You're the Gear expert, and I have no idea how to..." He waved his hand.

"I hunt Gears, there's a difference. I'm not exactly teaching them to walk."

"Sol..."

"Bah, stop looking at me like that. I didn't call you here to dump this all on your doorstep." He thought for a moment. "I mean, smartest thing to do would have been, you know. But you'd never forgive me for that. And it's kind of helpless. Tiny. Doesn't really fight back. I don't kick helpless things. It's no fun."

He poked the baby, who went cross-eyed at his finger, and did the only thing it knew how to do.

"Ow fuckity ow!"

Ky stared in fascination at the tiny, fiercely growling thing, dangling off Sol's finger like an animal refusing to let go of a toy.

"Fuck, of course they'd come with teeth," Sol cursed, shaking his hand and attempting to pry the baby off.

"I'm not sure what that child is," Ky said, fighting not to smile at the peculiar sight. "But it's certainly not helpless."

——

Bringing home an infant Gear was something he had not ever pictured himself doing. Bringing home an infant Gear which he had, in the widest sense of the word, fathered (and just thinking about the appropriate terms for this situation was a headache all in its own)... his brain tended to balk right around that part of the sentence and refused to continue. Ky was quite certain that this was insane, he was insane, they were both insane, but abandoning the child was absolutely out of the question.

It was now even harder to think of the child as any kind of weapon, the makeshift limiter Sol had constructed from parts of his own covering the baby's eye, causing the wings and tail to retract into his body without a trace. The child looked, for all intents and purposes, like a normal human boy with an eye-patch.

The appearance was deceiving, however—Ky could feel the baby's strength even now, when the tiny hand would close around his index finger, pulling. It was hard to say what exactly was different, since Sol assured him he wouldn't be capable of breaking bones until he was around six or seven, and Ky had not exactly held many children, but there was no mistaking the sensation.

At least the child wasn't biting him, for reasons beyond his understanding. He only seemed to do that to Sol whenever Sol gave him half a chance, and would open and close his mouth in what might have been a vaguely threatening gesture, but which only ended up being mildly adorable.

The biggest and most immediate problem, according to Sol, would be the growth patterns. Since the baby was half human, he would be growing at the inconceivable rate of a year approximately every two months, and his mental development would not be far behind.

Ky had debated long and hard with himself over how to do this—he could not exactly disappear into the night, or attempt to conceal a child that would sooner or later develop the Lord knew what powers in a busy palace. And although the irrational urge to sneak into his own castle hadn't really abated, well... it was probably better this way.

"Your Majesty...!" the guards trailed off, clearly suppressing the urge to break the form and lean forward to peer at the bundle wrapped in the king's blue cloak.

"I apologize for my sudden absence," Ky said.

"Ih!" the bundle said, a single blue eye staring up at the guards in unabashed fascination, who were trying very hard not to do the same.

"I trust there have been no problems while I was gone?"

The guards straightened, snapping a salute again. "Not at all, Your Majesty."

Ky nodded, passing the gates and reining in the crazy urge to laugh as he could feel their baffled gazes trailing after him. Sometimes, it was nice not to have your motives called into question.

The head maid and a small portion of her staff were just barely holding back from running to meet him and staring at the reason why he had contacted her in the middle of the night, apologizing profusely and asking her to organize some kind of crib or pen. He would have to find a durable one later—"Titanium," Sol had suggested, "Maybe wire it so you can send through a charge", the last comment earning him a kick in the shin as the baby gurgled happily, considering this highly entertaining.

They all surrounded him as soon as he had stepped across the threshold, however, giggling and cooing over the baby, who seemed to think all of this very exciting, waving his arms to grab at their hair and frills.

"Awww, so cute!"

"So cute!"

"He's got His Majesty's eyes!"

"So adorable!"

One of them tickled the baby's cheeks, and belatedly it occurred to Ky that this might be a very, very bad idea—but all the baby did was sniff curiously and say, "Bah!", which prompted another round of "Cute!" and "Aw!" followed by, "What's his name?", "Can I hold him?" and "Who's your mommy?"

"Um," Ky said eloquently, realizing a little too late that he had come up with neither a name nor a convenient and easily acceptable excuse.

"Girls, you're all being very indiscreet," the head maid chided. "Give His Majesty some space. I'm sure this is a very long story and His Majesty has been up all night—he must be so exhausted!"

The girls blushed and fell back, to sporadic sounds of disappointment.

"Now I'm sure unless His Majesty has other tasks for you, that your hands are needed elsewhere," she instructed, shooing them away with a wave of her hand. More "aww"ing and reluctantly shuffling feet, but eventually they dispersed, leaving only Ky and the baby, who seemed equally disappointed that the spectacle was over.

"Um," Ky said, still trying to gather his wits. "I... Thank you, Estelle."

"Don't mention it, Your Highness. We'll keep your secret, don't you worry. Now, if you would follow me..."

——

As to be expected, the news spread through the palace like wildfire.

Within the day, every guard, cook, aide and servant was in the know, right down to the gardener's apprentice in charge of the royal bonsai collection, and they all considered themselves proud members of the very first royal conspiracy surrounding His Majesty Ky I, His Majesty's son and His Majesty's secret beloved, whose fragile health required her to rest far away from the stressful life at court, tearing her away from her lover and child. It was truly a heart-wrenching tale, a star-crossed romance in the middle of a period of political upheaval, and as much as the poor girl who could not be with her family had to be pitied, surely the one most deserving of sympathy was His Majesty himself, who had placed his duty to the people above his personal happiness. The least they could do, everyone agreed, was to protect both his child and his lover from the nosy public.

When the tale finally reached the nominal head of the conspiracy, he almost inhaled his tea.

There truly were no bounds to the human imagination. He had not even needed to say a single word—for which he was frankly grateful—and people simply saw what they wanted to see.

In comparison, the truth seemed almost boring.

The baby giggled, and promptly bit through his chew toy.

——

A formal baptism of any kind was impossible, but to keep referring to him as "the baby" seemed so horribly unloving, and Ky wasn't sure how much longer he could keep answering the rapid-fire inquiries as to the baby's name with, "Um."

"Bob."

Ky glanced up from the large leather-bound book on names resting across his lap, to Sol, locked in a slow-moving battle with the baby, who was alternately attempting to bite his hands, pull out his hair, or rip off parts of his clothing.

"I am not naming my child 'Bob'."

"Mini-Me."

Ky gave him a look.

"What, he looks like you. Stubborn and blond and fierce."

"You're insane," Ky surmised, and went back to flipping through the book for something that actually constituted a proper and fitting name.

Sol glanced at the baby, who had managed to get a hold of one of his buckles in the meantime, and was slobbering all over it. He opened his mouth.

"We're not naming him after a band, a band member, or a rock song," Ky said without even looking up.

"Damn." The baby spat out the buckle and decided to try for Sol's hand again, stretching up to grab it and growling when he would lift it just a little bit higher.

Ky concentrated on the book again, scanning the columns of names and their explanations. "...Siacre Isabel Nicetius."

This time, it was Sol's turn to stare. "Are you... And you're calling me insane?! At least I wanted to name him something pronounceable!"

"Those are all perfectly acceptable names," Ky objected.

"Of what. Diseases?"

"French saints."

"It sounds like you're calling him Stolteheim Reinbach III. Why does he need that many, anyway?" Sol complained. "I'm pretty sure there was at least one girl's name in there."

"It's a tradition."

"What, giving the kid a complex by sticking him with names that will get him to have an identity crisis? Is your second name Marie-Claire?"

Ky glared. "I don't have a second name."

"Well, if you had, it'd probably be Jeanne d'Arc, anyway."

"At least I'm trying to come up with actual names. You were the one who wanted to call him 'thing'."

"If I can't pronounce them, they're not real names." Sol gave the boy a critical once-over. "Sin."

"What?"

"I'm using your stupid ideas to make them non-stupid. Whaddya say, kiddo? Sin seems like a good name, compared to what your mama wants to stick you with, huh."

"Mah!" the baby agreed, and beamed at Ky, who was barely resisting the urge to hit something with the giant book. Like Sol's regrettably durable skull.

"See? He likes it," Sol said, and took the opportunity to give the child a pat on the head, quickly retracting his hand when the newly baptized Sin lunged again.

———

The baby's name did stay "Sin", simply because Ky discovered that it was quite difficult to chastise "Siacre Isabel Nicetius" without losing his attention on the second name. And Sin had to be chastised a lot.

"I thought it was him that needed a bath?" Sol asked, grinning and surveying the dripping bathroom and the dripping Ky, who had simply stripped off his soaked attire at one point and joined Sin in the tub.

Sol's prediction about Sin's growth patterns had been quite accurate, as he was growing out of clothing almost faster than it could be bought, and had recently started his quest of giving Ky a heart attack before the age of twenty-five. Dumping oatmeal on his head for no reason whatsoever was one of the lesser problems, but getting it out of his hair wasn't. And he definitely could not entrust the task of bathing Sin to the maids, even though three of them had immediately volunteered. There was just too much of a risk that they'd try to slip off the eye-patch, or Sin did something that was distinctly not in the capacity of a normal human child to do. Like ripping the marble basket with the bathing utensils off the wall, even though that had been an earnest accident.

"It's just easier this way," Ky replied, dumping the third load of shampoo on Sin's head. Whatever was in that oatmeal was as potent as industrial glue. The task was further complicated by the fact that Sin was currently reenacting an epic battle between a plastic freighter and his sponge kraken.

"Bleah," Sin protested, swiping a hand over his own head in an attempt to get rid of the foam. Ky caught his hand before he could bring it to his mouth. At least it didn't smell like much of anything, as he really did not want to imagine what Sin would do when confronted with bubblegum or strawberry scented kids' shampoo.

"Admit it, the kid owned you," Sol said, and Ky sent him a dirty look.

"He seems to have gotten his common sense from you."

"Ohh, burned me good. But he still owned you. Right, kiddo?"

Sin considered this. Then, he grabbed the dangling ponytail and pulled Sol face-first into the tub.

——

Most parents experienced the age their children learned to toddle around on their own as a distressing time, requiring constant vigil against stairs, sharp corners, and open windows. Ky found himself in a similarly frazzled state during this period of Sin's rapidly accelerated infancy, if for entirely different reasons.

He had stopped fearing for his son's life after the realization had finally sunk in that Sin could, and would, come tumbling down the grand staircase for the sheer fun of it, and arrive headfirst at the bottom without so much as a scratch. He still couldn't get used to the idea of Sin leaping off a second story balcony, however, and found himself praying that the safety locks would hold until Sin was old enough to comprehend that giving his father a seizure was not a nice thing to do.

He had likewise learned that Sin would try to ingest anything at least once, and that the only thing that would stop him was if he found the object of choice impossible to fit into his mouth. There had been a rather embarrassing occurrence involving Sin and a box of tacks, which had required Ky, battle-hardened from the time Sin had managed to get a hold of the stapler, to gently coax him into spitting them out instead of swallowing them. He had been so involved in the task that he had completely missed the knock on the door, until Sin had turned his head and dutifully spat the last three tacks on the floor under the horrified gaze of a maid bringing in the afternoon tea.

Nothing, however, could have prepared him for the incident in the garden. Ky would later swear on his honor that he had only turned his head for a second to apologize to the gardener because Sin was cheerfully plucking a bouquet of tiger-lilies, complete with roots and clumps of earth attached, and when he turned back, Sin had been nowhere in sight.

What followed was the most frantic search of his life, as Sin possessed the inherent ability to reach any number of impossible places, which was cut short when the shrieking started.

It was coming from a pen of chickens—tiny, colorful birds with feet like feathery slippers, bred purely for decorative purposes—and Ky's heart sank as he ran towards the enclosure. He knew what he was going to find, knew that the birdish screams of terror and outrage could only mean one thing.

"Mwah!" Sin said around a mouthful of feathers, splatters of chicken blood on his cheeks, the squirming bird still held fast in his hands.

—-

"You know, you should spank him."

Behind the desk, Ky set down his pen and gave Sol the patented 'Did you hurt your head?' look.

"I'm serious," Sol said, studying the brat thoughtfully, who had settled on further dismantling an off-white cuckoo clock that had fallen victim to his curiosity at an earlier point in time.

When Ky had related the story of the chicken incident upon his visit to the castle, Sol had been forced to admit, if only to himself, that he had not anticipated such a situation, either. There were not exactly a lot of precedents for this kind of thing, but he had the distinct feeling that even if there had been, and somebody had taken it upon himself to write an entire series of books on the rearing of half-Gear children, Sin would still be the exception to each and every norm.

"Kid's only gonna grow stronger from now on, he'll start thinking of himself as pack leader if we don't do something."

"...Pack leader," Ky repeated flatly, clearly not happy with the idea of his child as some kind of feral cub.

Sol waved his hand in a vaguely illustrative motion. "It's a Gear thing."

"Right."

"Point is, he'll make himself boss of you in short order if you don't give him a smackdown."

Ky frowned. "So, let me get this straight. You're telling me to physically abuse my child?"

The affronted tone made him grin. "No, I'm not. I'm telling you to put him in his place if you don't want him to go around chewing on the knighthood's horses next. You need to stop thinking of him as human and this as a morally reprehensible thing. He's not. This isn't."

"But—"

"Look," Sol said. "Right now, he's shaping up to be the Resident Tiny Death Machine Mk2, with none of the ability to grasp what's good and bad. He's a Gear. Only two modes of operation, remember?" He held up two fingers. "'Want'..."

Ky sighed. "'Do not want'."

"Exactly," Sol smirked.

A staccato of plastic clattering heralded Sin's successful dislodging of the shelf housing the records. The cuckoo clock was lying gutted on the floor, forgotten. Sol rolled his eyes, noting that Ky was suppressing his urge to run over and ensure his son's well-being. Well, at least he was learning.

The pile of CD cases wriggled, Sin crawling out from underneath it and looking at the chaos he had just created as if it were something that had happened completely on its own. Then, he reached for a blue case, sniffing.

"Hey, brat, don't stick that in your mouth. Mommy likes his violin concerto without teeth marks."

Sol was pretty sure that Ky was five seconds away from hitting him with a lightning bolt. Sin blinked questioningly at the order. When nothing followed, he raised the CD case to his mouth, and bit into it with a resounding crack.

Ky winced.

"See?" Sol said and got up, walking over just as Sin began to take an interest in a red one. Before the brat could destroy this one, too, he cuffed him upside the head.

Sin stared up at him, completely aghast.

"Yeah, you know what that means. Stop it. Bad thing."

Sin's gaze shifted from his face, to his hand, to the CD case still clutched in his own fingers, before dropping it on the floor. "Bad thing!" he declared proudly, gazing up at Sol expectantly.

"Now you got it."

He turned back to Ky, who was staring at both of them as if they had just grown another head. "See? Foolproof method."

Ky frowned, still visibly disturbed at the idea of hitting his own child. "How far can I trust your expertise here?"

Sol shrugged. "Hey, if you want, you can always ring up Testament and you mommies can exchange tips on raising infant Gears."

Ky scowled. "I'm pretty sure Dizzy isn't—"

He stopped to blink at Sin, who had latched onto an antique chair and was attempting to chew through one of its legs.

"...an omnivore?" Sol supplied helpfully.

Ky merely put his head into his hand and sighed.

——

Most children, by the time they reached Sin's current outward age, had mastered several basic survival skills, such as "do not touch fire", "do not poke yourself with scissors", and the ever important "do not prod the electric socket."

Sin, despite having such concepts drilled into him from the beginning, periodically seemed to forget about them, which accounted for the current situation.

"It wasn't me!" the amorphous mass of sizzling electricity proclaimed into the darkness, and Ky was almost sure that between the flares of blue lightning, he could still see Sin's finger stuck in the electric socket.

"You go kick him," Sol said. "You're the one with the lightning affinity."

"Well," Ky surmised after a sound whack to the head. "At least now we know he isn't capable of setting the palace on fire."

——

A tug on his sleeve made him glance up from his paperwork, to be confronted with a pandemonium of colorful squiggles.

"I made this!" Sin declared, holding out the sheet to him with all the pride and self-importance of a four-year-old who had just gone through considerable effort to draw… a six-headed, three-tailed dragon caught in what looked like a violent explosion.

Ah.

"That's really great, Sin."

Sin beamed even more as Ky squinted at the paper, counting the monster's limbs and coming up with an uneven number. And… was that print there?

Hereby the Kingdom of Illyuria declares...

"Where did you get this?"

Sin blinked at him, slightly confused, but Ky didn't really need an answer. The torn-up drawing book, each page filled with Sin's artistic creations, combined with the fact that Sin had arranged a neat little stepladder in the form of several heavy books to reach the top of his desk, told him all he needed to know.

Sighing, Ky soundly brought his knuckles down on top of Sin's head. "If you run out of paper, just tell me. Using my peace treaties is a bad thing."

He waited for the echo of "Bad thing!" that signaled Sin's comprehension, but what he got instead was a high-pitched squeal as Sin lunged at his legs.

"Ow!" It was more surprise than pain, the bite dulled by layers of cloth.

Sin had never turned on him before. It was always Sol who got subjected to the power of his jaws, whose shins he used to practice punches until Sol got annoyed and kicked him away. A Gear thing, Sol had said. They recognized their own kind, and got competitive.

"En garde!"

Of all the French sayings he had to pick up, of course it would be this. Sin was grinning at him, face shining with anticipation.

A challenge. The Lord save him from rebellious phases.

"No," Ky said decisively, and followed up on it with a jolt. Medium power, so Sin would actually feel it. Damn elemental tolerance. It was a good thing he had no idea how to shield yet.

Sin stared at him, partly disappointed, partly in awe. Neither of his parents had used magic on him before.

"No?"

His hair was rising up in a halo around his head, making him look like a porcupine. Ky had to fight to keep his lips from twitching. "No."

Sin pouted. "Oh-kay..."

"Good. Now let's see about that paper," Ky said, and reached for the key to open one of the drawers in his desk. He had to keep them locked, lest Sin go on a quest to uncover their mysteries, or use their contents to make booby traps.

Maybe, he reflected, it was time to try the logic-and-reason thing again. After all, there had to be something of him in there, too—no reason why Sol should be the only one to gloat. That, and he didn't have a Gear's healing power to save his shins.

——

Methods for entertaining a child Gear had to be chosen carefully. It wasn't that Sin was particularly hard to entertain, seeing how he thought it was funny to jump down from high places over and over, it was simply that he was so impressionable that Ky didn't dare introduce him to the wonders of TV and its indestructible cartoon characters. It would only give him ideas.

Ky thought reading stories to him was a much more productive way to spend the time, not to mention much safer. And at least until Sin had learned to read, Ky would be the one to select the books with the least likely chance of doing permanent damage. Books with heroic witches and wizards were already out—the last thing he needed to happen was for Sin to identify with one of them so thoroughly that he would go around practicing his magic to fight the forces of evil wherever he went. Plus, they kept yelling out their spells, which wasn't a very smart thing to do. Anything featuring cowboys and Indians was similarly out of the question—he really did not want to imagine the scenarios that included Sin building himself a bow and running around shooting things.

Reading 20,000 Leagues under the Sea led to some epic struggles in the bathtub, in which Sin attempted to smother both of them with his sponge kraken. Journey to the Center of the Earth gave the royal gardeners an aneurysm when they discovered the hole in the center of the immaculate lawn trimmed in the shape of Illyuria's crest, six feet deep and wide enough to fit an entire exploration party inside. Sin was very disappointed to learn that one could not actually dig to the Earth's core, and that it was full of lava instead of giant mushrooms, dinosaurs, and underground oceans, and thus nobody would be able to survive there. Sin emphatically insisted that, "Pa could do it!", but agreed to abstain from any further digging expeditions on the grounds that he was not the one with an affinity to fire.

Ky admitted that he should have given up after these two disasters, but still made a last attempt at classic literature with From the Earth to the Moon, since it was so utterly unrealistic that Sin could not possibly be lured into believing it, but apparently there were no bounds to his imagination.

"Sin," Ky said very calmly, tapping his foot and peering into the muzzle of the ancient ceremonial cannon stationed on top of the castle tower. "Come out of there. Even if you did find gunpowder—which you won't—and fire—which you won't, and no, you can't ask Pa—the cannon still won't be able to catapult you out of the atmosphere and onto the moon. No, you don't get to test it."

"D'awwww."

After that, Ky decided to settle for simple fairytales and a thorough explanation of the same after reading, to prevent any misconceptions. However, this, too, was easier said than done.

"Wow, that's stupid," Sin observed, staring at the illustration of Little Red Riding Hood being menaced by the wolf. "Why didn't she take her sword to grandma's?"

"Um," Ky said, and tried his best to explain that normal children were not commonly proficient in martial arts.

"But why isn't she, if there's a Gear in the forest?"

Ky had to admit the logic was infallible, right down to labeling the wolf a Gear, since it more resembled a ten-foot werewolf than anything else. In the end, he simply agreed that Little Red Riding Hood wasn't very smart and that a Gear hunter came to kill the Gear, to prevent any further protestations.

Jack and the Beanstalk met with similar problems, since Sin thought a giant was hardly a proper threat for a true hero.

"Fine," Ky sighed. "Jack swiftly climbed the beanstalk to the castle in the clouds, where the evil Gear Justice lived."

"Yay!"

"He stole the treasure from the castle and ran—"

"Boo," Sin said.

"Alright, he turned around, drew his sword and slew the evil Gear Justice."

"With a gunflame!"

"With a— Yes. With a gunflame."

It didn't help, of course, that Sol came up with his very own ideas of what constituted a proper fairytale.

"I don't remember Cinderella packing quite that much ammunition," Ky remarked, noticing with dismay that Sin was actually quite fond of this mangling of a perfectly harmless story. Except for the chopped feet.

"It's all hidden in the pumpkin," Sol said, grinning like a fiend in the face of imminent pain and dismemberment. "The fairy godmother bought it all in bulk, so they threw in a ground-to-air missile as a bonus."

"Is there a special reason why she's nuking the prince?" Ky said, feeling the first signs of an oncoming headache.

"Uh, would you wanna shack up with somebody who can only recognize you by the size of your feet?"

Ky refrained from retorting that a certain individual's reasoning for crawling into bed with him had been that he smelled "really nice", but that wasn't suitable for their audience, who was absorbing every word of the discussion and undoubtedly hoping that it would end up in a fight.

At least, Ky was able to console himself with the fact that Sol's plan of bastardizing fairytales completely backfired when they finally arrived at Sleeping Beauty.

"And then the really cool prince with the awesome taste in music groped the princess awake—"

"And she kicked him in the nuts for not asking permission!" Sin crowed.

Sol stared.

"Mom says you should always ask a girl!" Sin said, nodding sagely. "...Even if it's not a girl." He paused. "Actually, you should probably always ask."

Across the room, Ky choked on his tea.

——

There came a time when Sin was no longer satisfied with punching things or climbing the highest tower—he had observed the knights in their training, and more importantly, he had seen some of his parents' lightshows, and was growing bored with just learning to control the ebb and flow of magic and aiming for specific targets.

After the third time of catching Sin in the act of attempting to steal an ornamental piece of armor from the displays around the palace—each time a different one, because Sin could be very sneaky when he had to—Ky decided that there would be no way around teaching Sin how to use some kind of weapon. Not that he had been planning to avoid it, it was simply a matter of finding a weapon that was least likely to cause too much collateral damage, and waiting until Sin was old enough to understand the principles of discipline and restraint when it came to fighting human opponents.

Ky didn't want to imagine Sin with any kind of projectile weapon—not that he was the type to be able to stand still long enough for that, and he likewise did not want to imagine Sin with sharp and pointy things as he had seen entirely too many accidents—he never wanted to relive the moments of catching Sin attempting to ingest a kitchen knife, thinking himself some kind of oriental sword swallower.

In comparison, teaching Sin how to fight with a staff seemed like a smart thing. Ky reasoned that it significantly lessened the chances of him gouging out his own or anyone else's eyes, and Sin's head was a durable thing. It had withstood many encounters with walls, doors, and the ground, not to mention Sol's less than gentle fist, and it was thus not very likely that Sin would get worse if he whacked himself on the head.

Sin found training "awesome", though he drove his instructors insane with his attempts at freestyling, and insisted on practicing wherever he went. Ky simply took to removing valuable objects from the corridors and warning people that if they saw a maniacally grinning five-year-old armed with a staff, they should turn tail and flee.

When he came to visit, Sol was underwhelmed by the sight of the kid twirling what amounted to a baton.

"Real men use swords."

"Yeah, well," Sin said, practically oozing confidence, "Real men can't do this."

And he had improved, actually managing an overhead swing, and another, and another, and the twirl from side to side, and the shoulder roll, but then the staff slipped when he attempted to toss it beneath his leg, sending it cartwheeling straight between Sol's legs.

Ky winced, and politely redirected his line of sight to his son, who seemed stunned by the fact that he had just managed to fell his father. "Uh oh."

"I suggest you start running," Ky advised. "You've already given yourself a head start."

A groan. "Fucking miserable little—"

"Uh, yeah. Bye, mom!"

——

Once Sin actually managed to do the routine without hurting himself—and others—too much, his weary master gave him one final piece of advice to take to heart, before leaving the castle with the vague feeling that he had just helped create a monster.

Sol thought that, "The weapon is part of yourself. Treat it as such," was just a fancy way of saying "don't break your baton", but Sin thought it was deep and philosophical and definitely required his staff to be as individualistic and distinctive as he was.

"When people call you distinctive, that's not a compliment," Sol said, observing Sin sitting on a spreadsheet, painting himself in stripes of blue and red—sometimes, he even managed to get some of it on the pole, which seemed to be the true goal of the exercise.

"It's gonna be cool," Sin said confidently, disappearing to pay a visit to the seamstresses, and returning with a roll of denim and fabric markers.

"What's that for, now?"

"Sunskirt," Sin said, and began scrawling across the cloth.

"What?"

But Sin didn't answer, absorbed in his task.

"He's making a 'sunskirt'," Sol told Ky, who had been working away at his desk, in the hope that he would be able to make sense of the kid's antics.

"Oh," Ky said, as if it were all perfectly obvious. "He probably means 'Sanskrit'. We read a book on India some time ago. It said they had flags with Sanskrit writing proclaiming important things. The pictures probably impressed him."

"So he's making... a flag," Sol said very slowly.

"Yes."

"With Sanskrit."

"Yes."

"That's special."

"Yes."

"Special in the head."

"...Yes."

"I like it!" Sin said, waving around the makeshift flag.

"It looks like pants on a—ow."

"That's great, Sin," Ky said, smiling, and removed his heel from Sol's foot.

.

.

.

.

-----

- TBC -

A/N: C&C is much appreciated.

1) I'm pretty much working with the characters that have grown on me from playing GG/X and beyond. In that context, for example, I have trouble seeing Ky willingly taking on a position of political power for a variety of reasons. And I'm including X-verse characters for the hell of it. XD
2) I think Sin might actually have an outward appearance similar to Dizzy's—aka wings and a tail, for example. Dizzy can make hers small at the best of times, but doesn't seem to be able to hide them completely. I assume Sin would be the same, and thus requires a limiter.
3) My sincere apologies to anyone named Siacre Isabel Nicetius, Marie-Claire, or Stolteheim Reinbach III. XD
4) As I said above, please do forgive any resemblance to Pants on a Stick.
5) I do not advocate physical violence against children of any age. Also, yes, I called Ky a mommy. Again. Between that and the fist-to-the-head, I think the Internet feminists will have my hide. *glances around nervously*
6) The flora and fauna were not harmed in the making of this fic... much.
7) Jules Verne is probably rolling in his grave by now. XD In case you don't know, he's commonly thought to be one of the first science fiction authors, and certainly the first to talk about submarines and space travel. 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea includes, amongst other things, a battle between a giant squid and Captain Nemo's submarine Nautilus, Journey to the Center of the Earth deals with an exploration party digging to the Earth's core and discovering all kinds of impossible wonders, and From the Earth to the Moon deals with space travel at a time where airplanes hadn't even been thought of yet, so the characters get shot to the moon with the help of a giant cannon.