rallamajoop: (Ky cosplay)
[personal profile] rallamajoop
Over on tumblr someone very politely asked a question about Garden of Eden, one of my long-abandoned old Guilty Gear WIPs, and I had to admit there's basically 0% chance I'll ever go back to that fandom again now, but I could maybe write up a summary of what the plot was originally supposed to be, if they were interested? Because for all that it's languished unfinished for all these years, it was a fic I started because I was absolutely in love with the idea behind it (seriously, wibbly-wobbly time-travel love-stories - what's not to love about that?) and because the plot (if not the actual fic) just about wrote itself. And though the asker very politely told me not to worry about it, by that stage I'd remembered that I did actually write more of that story (or at least a Sol POV side-story to the same) as a Christmas present for [livejournal.com profile] velithya (the fic's major cheerleader during my GG fandom days, whom I'd emailed regularly with ideas back when I was first hashing out what was to be the plot). There's not much point just posting that fragment now though, since it was written to be read after I'd finished the main fic and wouldn't make much sense without the context of the whole rest of the story.

So I sat down and hammered out that summary of what the plot would have been after all. Both that and my long-orphaned side story under the cuts below.


Chapter 2 would have opened with a flashback to the war – some time when Ky was badly injured, and woke up in the Order’s medical wing to find Sol sitting by his bedside, doing his gruff asshole ‘not like I was worried about you or nothing’ routine, and fooling exactly no-one. The stunt which landed Ky there involving preventing an airship motor from overloading in much the same manner as the experimental engine that blew out in chapter 1, during an attack by a Megadeath Gear (three guesses where Ky channelled the leftover energy in that instance. The Gear did not survive the experience). Of course, this was a much younger and less experienced Ky, a much more powerful engine, and even tenser circumstances, and the short version is that the feedback left him in a coma for several days. Sol is both generally displeased and grudgingly impressed with Ky for taking such a crazy risk. Ky, while only half awake, is very much aware that his actions saved the lives of probably everyone on the airship and took out a Megadeath Gear, and is infinitely more touched than chastised by Sol’s transparent display of affection, and feels as blissfully content as he’s ever felt in his life. Somewhere in this conversation, there would almost certainly have been the unsubtle suggestion that this wasn’t the first time Sol had seen Ky pull that stunt with the engine, but this would just as certainly have gone over Ky’s head.

Cut back to the present. (Or, indeed, the past! Ain’t time travel stories fun?) Though it probably goes without saying, Frederick’s proposal is to give Ky a place to stay and keep his head down until things calm down in exchange for playing magical research subject for his lab (remember, this is what he’s assuming was Ky’s day job back in France/Germany anyway). They’d arrive at Frederick’s lab to meet his colleague Maria, who’s transparently my own fanon version of Justice. (For the record, pretty much this whole plot long predated much of anything ‘officially’ revealed on the subject by post GG2 canon, and certainly wouldn’t have been rewritten to incorporate the canon version anyway.) Maria would’ve had long red hair (invariably tied back – she works in a lab, duh), a keen mind, a no-nonsense attitude and only slightly more tact than Frederick. May as well mention that my image of her was fairly heavily inspired by Maya of the Iron Man comics through Warren Ellis and the Knauf’s runs circa 2004, as a similarly driven biological scientist with a questionable moral code and loyalties, and an interest in building human weaponry. (Honestly, considering the number of obvious similarities, not basing her on Maya at least a little bit would’ve been something of an effort on my part. I was really very fond of Maya.)

Since Frederick and Maria are working on biological applications of magic with military funding and the eventual goal of using human subjects, and because I was obviously having great fun playing with the public cultural response to the whole ‘magic’ thing, their work would have drawn the ire of various religious or ethical groups in the form of a lot of angry letters and the semi-regular picketing of their lab. Actually, the first we’d see of the picketers would be them having turned up at the much newer-and-shinier but quite unassociated lab next door due to an ongoing misunderstanding over which is which, and would thus fail to impede Frederick in reaching the door in any meaningful way. Frederick obviously finds the whole situation hilarious. He’s long been keeping track of the various groups who’ve sent them angry mail on a bingo card pinned to the wall, and considers it a matter of mild frustration that an actually-related lab on the other side of the country claims to have hit bingo already (particularly because, according to Frederick, they only filled out the ‘Wiccan’ square because the mother of one of the researchers complained about him missing family gatherings for work reasons, and this is obviously cheating). Ky’s own religious leanings doubtless come up at some stage, but I have zero recollection of how I was going to work this in. Presumably the idea of him trying to get his head around magic being less acceptable than other modern technology from a religious perspective would have featured somewhere.

The fact that history will ultimately prove that all those protesters did actually have valid concerns (even if largely by coincidence) about the research going on under the auspices of the Gear Project is, of course, the subtextual irony of the whole situation. Or will be in retrospect.

Anyway. Back to the plot.

So, Frederick and Ky would have reached the lab, and met Maria, who’d just watched the whole exploding-engine fiasco on live TV. She probably even saw Frederick running towards the danger, come to think of it, and he’s naturally going to be awfully smug about having managed to recruit Ky out of the whole mess. Like her co-worker, Maria would experience no qualms whatsoever regarding Ky’s debatably-legal status, and would have no reservations about offering him her own spare room as a place to stay for the duration, under the perfectly reasonable logic that Frederick lives in a one-bedroom apartment that he almost never cleans, but realistically because she knows him well enough to know Frederick’s interest in his new test subject was likely to remain purely scientific for about ten minutes max. Most, though probably not all, of this would go over Ky’s head.

Within a couple of days, the papers would start reporting that the team responsible for the exploding engine had attempted to shift the blame to an unnamed saboteur seen behaving suspiciously at the scene of the crime, supplying a couple of stills of Ky in action (incredibly blurry, to the point of being near-useless for identification, but obvious from context to him and Frederick) as evidence. While he’s obviously just a convenient scapegoat and the real evidence will almost certainly speak in his favour, this does supply Ky with excellent justification for keeping his head down and his identity hazy for as long as he needs it. At some stage, Frederick would probably have arranged Ky a fake ID. Ky would be naturally uncomfortable with Frederick’s blasé attitude toward the law, but even more uncomfortably aware of how little space he had to complain. He’d also make it known in this period that he’d very much like to contact a British ‘friend’ living in America by the name of Axl Low, of no fixed address, just in case Frederick or Maria might have any hope of helping Ky find him. They won’t, but it sets up stuff to come.

Plot from here on in gets considerably hazier for a while, though we’d be guaranteed at least one scene where Frederick gets to cover Ky’s shirtless body in sensors and put him through his magical paces in the lab. (Do I need to mention that Frederick enjoys these sessions immensely on both a professionally scientific and a decidedly unprofessional level? This probably goes without saying. Ky doing magic is like Christmas for the guy on so many different levels.) Various conversation here where Ky would do his best to explain where he’d obtained a level of magical proficiency unheard of in the current century without outright telling any more lies than he could avoid. If Frederick found the lack of detail suspicious he wouldn’t much care. Dialogue would make it clear he’s well aware (via more scientific literature or news) that at least one school of obscure, semi-mystical martial arts has been quietly practicing magic for generations before anyone doing serious scientific work ever found out it existed, and considers this exactly the sort of idiosyncratic bullshit on which the whole field is founded. Ky would doubtless reflect on the nature of magical research in this century with the knowledge that it would all ultimately lead to the Gear Project, but remain largely ambivalent about the probable danger attached to Frederick and Maria’s own work, or his own contributions – as far as he knows, they’re a number of decades too early for that to be even plausible. He’d never hear of Frederick’s research by that name until much too late.

Frederick would admit to having tried doing magic himself, but having so little natural talent for it he could just barely light a candle on his own steam. The fact that fire is evidently the element Frederick favours will not much help Ky’s ongoing unease about his resemblance to Sol. The moment when Frederick puts on a Queen record in his presence will have much the same effect.

Eventually, Frederick would ask Ky out for dinner or drinks (probably drinks) one evening. This goes swimmingly until fairly late in the proceedings, when Frederick asks, bluntly but not unpleasantly, “So, am I getting anywhere with you here?” When Ky responds with confusion, Frederick admits he’s been hitting on him all evening. Now, Ky in our story is not completely dense, but nor is he particularly used to being casually hit on (or at least not by anyone prepared to be so up front about it), and has been so busy with being distracted by Frederick’s resemblance to Sol that any other subtext in their interactions has been largely lost on him. What this means is that his reaction to Frederick’s admission mostly consists of him apologising for not having noticed. Here, we probably have some brief exchange to the effect of Frederick giving Ky the option of the ‘not actually into men/you in particular’-out, no hard feelings, and Ky notably declining to take it. This is where Frederick declares he obviously needs to be less subtle, and goes in for a kiss.

In brief: it goes well. Ky accepts the suggestion they take things somewhere more private, and they go back to Frederick’s and proceed to have sex. While Ky unreservedly enjoys the experience, he also spends it confused and fascinated by the physical differences between Sol and Frederick, and the climax justifiably anxious about the real danger of saying the wrong name. (Possibly right before this is where Frederick puts some Queen on the stereo, because that’s about as much fucking romance as you’ll get from the guy. Or possibly, the morning after. Either option amuses me. Also, according to some old emails to a friend about the idea at the time, I was also planning on throwing in a mention of Ky finding an old stack of Highlander DVDs somewhere in Sol's apartment, which Sol got into because of the Queen-soundtrack: "Mostly he just tuned in for the opening and ending themes, but he wound up watching the whole show more often than he'll admit to most people. And spent a whole lot of time snarking at that idiot main character with the sword who wastes so much time trying to take responsibility for everything and pontificating on about all that moral crap [and the terrible ~angst of being immortal], because SERIOUSLY." Why yes indeed I do have a great fondness for a little dramatic irony, in case you hadn't noticed. >D)

Ky spends the morning after feeling awkwardly guilty, though largely fails to harsh Frederick’s considerable buzz. Hating to think he could be leading Frederick on under false pretences, either then or within the next day or so he confesses freely that he’s unsure whether it’s a good idea for them to pursue a relationship. He explains that the truth is Frederick bears an uncanny resemblance to a ‘friend’ with whom he’d long shared a tumultuous and confusing relationship, and that it’s very likely much of his attraction to Frederick derives from Ky trying to sort out his feelings for someone else. Frederick takes this all remarkably well (possibly better when it comes out that Ky isn’t sure if he’s ever going to see this other guy again), and volunteers himself for as much ‘sorting out his feelings’ as Ky is up for. (It’s hopefully evident here that Frederick is hopelessly enamoured with Ky, and will willingly take anything and everything he wants to offer. The possibility of playing therapeutic fuckbuddy does not put him off at all.) Ky takes this with great relief. He’s still less than sure about the wisdom and morality pursuing a relationship with Frederick, but to have at least one of his secrets out in the open is a great weight off his mind. The relieved sexual tension probably doesn’t hurt either.

When they arrive at work together the morning (or Monday) after, Maria probably gives them one long look then says absolutely nothing about the subject until the question of moving Ky’s few accumulated belongings over to Frederick’s place comes up. Possibly at some stage she finds the excuse to point out to Ky that he’s under no obligation to fuck either of them for sheltering his fugitive arse if he doesn’t want to, just in case there was any confusion on this front, but that would be about the limit of her investment in the subject.

Somewhere around this point is when Ky completely by accident just about walks into Axl on a random street, to the great excitement of both parties.

I had some ideas about how Axl’s been dealing with this particular time-jump – he’s close the time he was trying to get back to than ever before, but still not quite close enough for things to be working out for him, and he still doesn’t know how much longer it’ll last (quoting directly from an old email, "This actually might be the closest he's ever gotten to home, he's probably trying to get back to England and failing because he doesn't have a passport. Or any money. But he's probably enjoying himself, because at least he's made it back to the early 21st century, which is only about a decade late.") Ky brings him back to the lab, where Frederick does some tests on the both of them, finally finds a match for some of the most bafflingly inexplicable readings he’s been getting from Ky all along, and begins to actually make sense out of how Axl Low came to become unstuck in time. With the science unexpectedly backing them up (and Axl much less inclined to keep his mouth shut and play conscientious time-traveller), Ky and Axl finally tell the truth (or at least some of it) about their having come from the far future. Frederick uncovers enough to be able to make some solid inferences about the bizarre temporal elastic-band mechanism that keeps Axl on the move and when his next jump might be. Conclusion: the elastic-band effect is intensifying, and it’ll probably come down to a matter of days. Ky should snap back too whether he’s near Axl or not – probably not at the exact same moment, but probably not long before or after. Frederick and Ky both take this with all the mixed feelings you’d expect.

Ky is still incredibly careful with how much he lets on about the future. This is going to backfire horribly, because fate works that way, but not for lack of effort on his part.

But here’s the big thing Ky still doesn’t know about the present: Frederick’s been working on the Gear Project all along. Maybe the more obvious work and animal research is being done at another lab, while he and Maria slave away at the unglamorous-but-utterly-crucial micro-scale genetic work. But because this fic is nothing if not founded on classic whomp-scale clichés, the other thing Ky doesn’t know is that Frederick is dying, and has probably less than a year to live. And knowing this – and because Frederick is a career mad scientist with all the moral fibre of a rejected lab rat – he’s volunteered himself as a human test subject for his own project, for a very secret procedure no ethics committee would dream of approving to use barely-tested technology to rewrite basically every cell in his body. If it works, score, he lives! And if it doesn’t, well, fuck it – he was gonna die anyway, and what better way to die than for muthafucking science? Even a failure will be worth more than years of animal trials.

[ Incidentally: HAHAHA take THAT, newspaper guy! Science really was months away from curing cancer! /largely accidental brick joke ]

And what Ky also doesn’t realise is that Frederick is all kinds of not stupid. He’s got himself down for a risky procedure that will either kill him or make him immortal. And here’s this guy from the far future who – get this – knows someone in the future with an uncanny resemblance to him.

Also, said future is gonna have Ky in it. He’s really okay with that.

Any last misgivings Frederick might have had about going for that procedure while he’s still healthy enough to have his best chances of surviving just evaporated.

Of course, by the time Ky finds out what’s going to happen and finally puts those last pieces of the puzzle together for himself, it’s too late to stop it. (The little part of him that doesn’t want to stop it, because history is history and that would mean no Sol is more than he has time to deal with.)

History happens as history was fated to. Sol is converted into a Gear, goes berserk and busts his way out of the lab in a hail of fire and ruin. The only thing now standing between him and an untold number of human casualties before he burns his rage out? Ky Kiske.

They fight. It’s horrible and vicious and Ky is horrendously out matched on power alone, but Sol’s powers are newly-hatched, he’s in incredible pain and he’s not exactly thinking with his frontal lobes, while Ky’s been doing this shit all his mortal life. Ky wins.

Frederick comes back to himself naked in a pile of rubble. Every scientist involved in the project at the main lab is dead, most of them guys he knew – and trusted enough to involve in the most illegal and ill-advised stunt he’d ever done. The reality of how horribly, horrifically wrong his clever plan to cheat death has gone begins to sink in in stages. Ky rushes to his side, holds him, and finally admits everything he’d omitted from his account of the future: the Gear Project, the War, Sol – it all comes out at once. Small comfort to Frederick at this stage, but he takes it as well as anyone realistically could. There is undoubtably sobbing involved.

(Maria is now just about the only surviving member of the whole team. It takes fifty years for anything related to what was left of the project to ever surface again.)

I don’t know exactly when Ky snaps back to the future, but we’re talking hours at most. Probably he leaves Frederick for a moment for some logical short-term reason, and never comes back.

So Ky goes through another dizzying time slip and wakes up back in what is, to him, the present. At a loss to even begin figure out how to deal with everything he’s been through, he makes his way home. He finds Sol Badguy basically waiting on his doorstep.

Let’s take a sec here just to remind ourselves that that from Frederick/Sol’s perspective, it’s been 150 years since Ky vanished back to the future, during which time he had to go through meeting a much younger and more judgemental version of the Ky he first met, not to mention a solid century of World War III. None of this was fun. So his reaction to seeing Ky’s finally caught up with him starts with something along the lines of, “So it’s finally you, huh? Been waiting for that to happen so long I don’t even fucking know what to do with it anymore.” Ky, meanwhile, is rapidly reassessing every goddamn thing Sol’s ever said or done to him over all the years they’ve known each other in light of the realisation that Sol’s spent the whole time knowing they’re going to end up here, while desperate not to say or do anything that might mess up delicate temporal continuity. Not having had the benefit a healthy hundred years plus to process all that shit, Ky more or less breaks down on the spot and starts apologising for things that aren’t in any way his fault, until Sol is all like, oh fuck it, kiss me already. And then there is reunion sex. Seriously, so damn much reunion sex, you have no idea. (As described in another old email: "Sol is more like, I fucking waited a hundred and fucking fifty fucking years for you you fucking bastard. And then I had to stick around and watch you going through fucking puberty! DO YOU HAVE ANY FUCKING IDEA WHAT THAT WAS LIKE? The salient point being that they are going to have an awful lot of catching up to do with that verb Sol keeps using.") In the process of which, Ky gets a little stuck on whether to call him Sol or Frederick now, but Sol’s like, ‘eh, whichever’ – though ultimately Ky winds up switching back to ‘Sol’ the further in they get, because he and Frederick may have had a confusing sort of thing for a few weeks back in 201X, but they both really fell in love with each other during all those years of fighting back to back during the war, and with each other the rest of the time. And all is well with the world, the end.

And here we get to that one other chunk of story I did write, as Christmas gift-fic for velithya way back in 2010, when I still seriously thought I was one day going to finish this thing. It’s basically a companion piece supplying a couple-thousand-word angst-tastic summary of Sol’s POV of what those 150 years of waiting were like for him, in which I twist the knife like nobody’s business, though it does ultimately dove-tail back towards the happy ending outlined here.

Come to think of it, this one could probably use a minor content warning, though it’s spoilery, so I’ll stick it as a highlight-to-read deal: Contains discussion of seriously ill-advised underage sex, though not described explicitly (Well, underage by modern standards – this thing is set in a universe where 15yo’s get put in charge of major land armies, but let’s just say it’s not exactly framed the same way as it is in other fic I've written where the implications get to be handwaved away.)




Turns out I titled the document 'Hope'. I see what you did there, past-me.

Hope (4400 words, PG)
A hundred and fifty years spent waiting to meet your lost love sounds like the height of romantic tragedy in principle; in practice, it was mostly just a long, dull slog.

The reality was that Sol didn't spend that much of those hundred and fifty odd years thinking about Ky. It had been damned easy to fall for him, when he'd been just a pretty, mysterious foreigner with a few eccentric habits and the kind of magical talent researchers only dreamed of, and Frederick had been still mostly convinced he only had a year to live. Now, with enough magic running through his own veins to give even Ky a run for his money, and the future stretching out in front of him to god-knows-when like some kind of warped magic-eye puzzle, any romantic notions about the situation dried up pretty fast. Adjusting to the Gear-transformation alone was more than enough to keep him occupied, and driving himself mad with grief over some guy he'd only known a couple of months wasn't Frederick's style, or Sol's.

Amazing how it took the shine off a relationship when you found out your life's work was going to be used to start the next world war before you saw your better half again.

By the time Sol was in any kind of state fit to deal with society again (and wasn't that a story all of its own) enough years had passed to take the edge off. Most of his early regrets were the million things he should've asked when he had the chance – weighed against the odds he just didn't want to know, which were pretty considerable on a lot of matters. The part that really ate at him was not having the faintest idea how long he was going to have to wait. It had to be a couple of generations at least, going by the fifteen-odd words he'd ever exchanged with Ky on the subject, but whether that meant fifty years or five hundred he hadn't a clue. Probably not much good hoping it'd be closer to the shorter figure. It would've been so much easier to get over the guy if Sol had just known he was never going to see him again; knowing they were going to see each other again but not knowing when was enough to make him wish Ky really had just dropped off the face of the planet for good, – in his more maudlin moments. On the other hand, spending his life counting down the days to 2258 or whenever might have been its own kind of torture. Damned if you did, damned if you didn't. Story of his life.

Even that was assuming anything Ky could have told him about the future still applied, after his own time trip. Frederick had never been an expert on the subject, but the reigning theories from back in his physicist days had held that, should the practical concerns behind time travel were ever be solved, changing the past would not merely be possible, it would be pretty much unavoidable. Merely setting foot in a time so far before his birth would probably be enough to guarantee Ky would never be born, to say nothing of what else it might change. Of course, those reigning theories would fallen on their face when met with Axl Low, so god only knew what kind of spanner that threw into the works. He'd made it sound like he'd been bouncing around through time for years without noticing any ill effects, but it wasn't as though he'd been looking for it in enough scientific detail to count as a reliable source. Maybe he'd get to meet Ky again, just like he'd been told he would. Maybe he wouldn't. Sol just didn't fucking know what to expect.

All in all, it was for the best that by the end of the first couple of decades, he'd long since gotten to where he only remembered Ky a couple of times a year, if that. That was how it stayed over following few decades, though whether it was his frustratingly good new Gear-memory or whatever else, those 'couple of times a year' never did stop happening whenever his subconscious dug up a suitable excuse. Anyone who believed it was mere coincidence that the piece of the Outrage designed to channel lightning was built in the form of a light-weight broadsword in blue and white would believe just about anything. That was actually one of his healthier moments – mostly it was hard to think of Ky without getting gloomy, but picturing him using Sol's newly-minted Fuuraiken – that made him grin like he'd hardly grinned in half a century.

The whole Outrage project was a little bit Ky's fault, and would have been more if Sol had actually needed a time traveller to warn him that rumours that the Gear project was being revived, now with military funding, fifty years after its conception (and at least a good twenty after everyone involved in its first incarnation should have been up for retirement) was going to be bad news. Ky may not have been sure whether to dare anything that might prevent the war before it started, but Sol knew exactly what sort of bastard it would make him if he didn't even try. He'd been waiting a long time, and building a big gun and tracking those fuckers the hell down was exactly as much subtly as he had the patience left for.

That would have been a pretty good story of its own too. Shame about the ending.

He never did get the Outrage finished in time; cutting-edge magical engineering and tracking down clandestine government research agencies were both full-time jobs when you had no idea when your deadline was. Might not have made much difference anyway, when he never did get as far as testing the thing. He did find the right lab in the end, the trouble was he found it mostly by accident and not nearly prepared; though probably nothing on earth could have prepared him for the sight of what they'd done to Maria. Or what she'd be capable of doing to him.

The image was still burned into the back of his eyelids when he woke up again, eight months later, to discover he'd overslept and missed the start of the war by four whole weeks. He found himself in the pitch darkness of a solid concrete bunker under a magical dampening field in its death throws due to external damage, a drip in his arm that had run out of sedative to feed into his bloodstream, feeling more violated than he'd ever known a man could feel.

Failure stung like a bitch, but put in perspective, it was only slightly worse than his head at that point. The concrete of the bunker turned out not to have been made nearly thick enough.

The Outrage was gone by the time he got back to where he’d left it, which was no surprise and only slightly more of a disappointment. It was going to take more than one big gun to win this war. Funny, he’d always had the impression it was going to be humans using Gears against humans using... whatever – more Gears, probably. From what little Ky had told him, he’d never clicked it was going to be Gears against humans. Somehow he’d gone from hiding what he was because people wouldn’t understand what it meant, to hiding what he was because they would when he wasn’t even conscious.

Fat lot of good it did whining about technicalities. He’d known a war was coming; time to get off his ass and help win it.

Keeping busy made the guilt... bearable. Most of the time. Maybe Ky had been right – maybe there was nothing he could have done to prevent things going this far.

Maybe he really did have meeting Ky again to look forward to some day – more than he’d ever even let himself dream in years.

Maybe that was just setting himself up for disappointment, but whatever kept you going, right?

It was a pretty faint glimmer of optimism under the oppressive gloom of the century of war that followed, and under the horrible weight of the next fifty years or so, even that eventually spluttered out.

The hundredth anniversary of the day Frederick became Sol arrived, and he marked the occasion by stealing two large barrels of hard liquor (give or take the realistic odds anyone was ever coming back for them – finding was the word he preferred) and conducting the world’s first scientific experiment into whether or not a hundred-year-old humanoid Gear could still get himself roaring drunk. It would have been more rigorous if he’d had more than the faintest idea what he was drinking; it was the kind of alcohol that was brewed out of anything the local farmers had left at the end of that season, by locals with little skill, plenty of motivation and even less to lose, and the result was probably his biggest success that decade.

It was the morning after, emerging from sleep to remind himself just how much he hadn’t missed hangovers at all, that the thought suddenly struck him: even if Ky hadn’t been pulled back to his old time all those years ago, he’d have been long dead. Sol would’ve found himself celebrating the date alone no matter what, and he couldn’t even bring himself to care. Even if he did meet Ky again, Sol wasn’t the man he’d fallen for – hadn’t been for years. Didn’t even regret that much, now. If he met Frederick today he’d probably punch him in the face.

It was an attitude that did a lot to get him through the next few decades without going any more insane, so it had that much going for it. He still knew, objectively, there was reason to believe he’d see Ky in some form at some stage to come, but he’d long since given up really believing it. So when, a month after he’d let that old Swiss geezer talk him into joining an army even more old-fashioned than he was, he found himself being introduced to their youngest and most promising new officer, a hundred and fifty years (not) picturing that moment did him no good at all.

Needless to say, he didn’t make much of a first impression.

It was almost funny, how even now he’d found Ky again at last, the curse of Things Sol Got Completely The Wrong Idea About wasn’t done with him, because even though Ky couldn’t have been past his early twenties when he was thrown back through time, and even though Frederick had gathered Ky had known ‘Sol’ for a several years at least, he’d always taken it for granted that ‘we met in the army’ could be safely taken to apply Ky would at least be legal before Sol ever got to know him. Probably someone up there was finding it completely hilarious; it would explain a lot about his life.

The joke wasn’t over there either, because after all those years bemoaning how much he’d changed, the Ky the world had merrily delivered him was just about unrecognisable. When most boys that age would have been content with having an ordinary teenaged rebellion, Ky had missed by a couple of letters and had some kind of teenaged revelation instead, starting with what passed as Catholicism in that century, and veering sharply off into territory where Gears were not merely monsters but the ultimate symbol of every unforgivable atrocity ever committed by or against mankind, and where it was his personal sworn duty to dedicate every waking moment to engineering their defeat. Sol had lived through nearly a hundred years of war he’d played a part in starting, and even he thought that was a bit much. There were no grey areas in Ky’s world, everything was black or white, mandatory or unforgivable. The idea of anyone left in a world this broken still putting absolute faith in the guidance of a benevolent god made Sol nauseous; the idea it was Ky was unbearable.

The kid was a fanatic, and the army was letting him climb his way up the ranks like there was no peak. As far as Sol could tell, the only reason he hadn’t yet taken himself and all his army to kingdom come was because he still fought like a demon – including the same natural magical aptitude that had dazzled Frederick on their last meeting, and because was probably the best natural born leader Sol had ever heard of – and that was where the whole damn thing got seriously weird.

Fanatics weren’t capable of being good leaders; they gave good speeches, but they were too caught up in their own little worlds to be trusted to make decisions. Ky weighed every controversial decision three times, learned from his mistakes, let every officer under his command have his say, and smacked down bad suggestions with such grace and reason that people thanked him for doing it. Never had Sol seen anyone with a clearer understanding of what his men could and couldn’t be expected to do, who could better balance boundless compassion for their welfare with the necessity of sending whole platoons on missions from which none might return. To him, faith in a benevolent god was the reason to keep fighting, never the reason to assume victory was guaranteed to him by right. By the time he was fifteen an ordinary day was one where he spent the morning studying battlefield layouts and discussing tactics with his officers from first light, the afternoon leading his troops into the battlefield with a deadly fire in his eyes that left piles of the enemy in his wake, the evening refusing to rest until he was personally guaranteed every last one of the wounded had the best possible care, and the night filling out paperwork until nearly dawn. God knew when the kid ever slept.

The reason Ky was so certain it was his destiny to lead the army to victory... might just have been because it was.

Sol had thought he’d gotten to know Ky pretty well when they’d met, all those lifetimes ago. Turned out he hadn’t known a single fucking thing. If he'd been the kind to believe higher powers, he might even have wondered whether the whole point of the last hundred and fifty years had been to show him just how lucky he was – how rare a creature he'd fallen for – because all that time on earth, all those people he'd met, and he'd never met another person who could hold a candle to Ky. Hadn't even believed someone like Ky was possible, until now.

Not least because on top of all that virtue, he still managed to be an insufferable, judgemental, overly idealistic little brat with a martyr complex that would take him to an early grave if Sol didn't get in the way once in every other month, and no-one else around him even saw it. Not least because no matter if the sun shone out of his arse, this still wasn’t his Ky – Frederick’s Ky – and he made Sol miss that Ky more than he’d missed him in over a hundred years, and not least because there were days when the urge to tumble him into the nearest bed became unbearable.

It only made matters worse that Ky had had to go and develop a crush on him, practically from the first day they met. He could protest about Sol all he liked, rail away against this uncouth, disciplinary nightmare and it didn’t make one shred of difference that you couldn’t chalk down to denial: there was no-one who fascinated him more, and no-one who’s good opinion meant more to him. Sol could almost hear the kid’s heart rate pick up every time he so much as smiled in Ky’s direction. It was almost more than one man could take.

Because Sol was still equal parts in love with who Ky was now and who he was going to be, and letting himself mix those up would spell disaster. It would be all too easy to get so caught up in the memory of who he was going to be that he slipped up and did something he couldn't take back – the kid was so damn young and Sol had his standards, and if Sol said one word to him about it – did one thing to change the future – he probably never would be that Ky, and after getting this far, that wasn't a chance Sol was willing to take.

If Sol had thought it was unpleasant waiting through the century he not knowing when or even if he'd ever see Ky again, it had nothing on this. It was no wonder the poor man had been so confused about where he stood with the 'friend' he'd described to Frederick (or would describe, a few years ahead in his own timeline). The only way Sol managed at all was by keeping his distance, by pushing Ky away the moment he threatened to get too close – making trouble if he had to, and the result sent more mixed messages than anyone deserved to deal with. Even more because he was pretty sure the kid wasn't fooled, he knew Sol liked him under it all, and couldn't understand why he kept pushing him away.

Eventually even that wasn't enough – something was bound to give, and the day Sol finally snapped he snapped badly. They'd been sparring, a high risk activity at the best of times; emotions were high – they were both angry and frustrated, Sol hardly even remembered what the argument had been afterwards, or how they'd resolved it, except that suddenly the fight was over and he had Ky pinned to the floor underneath him, panting hard but hardly struggling, and it was all just too much to take.

If Ky had offered even one word of protest that would have been all Sol needed to stop himself before he went too far, but that word never came. He shook in Sol's arms, arousal and fear in equal measures, moaned and called Sol's name, but he never once complained. Even if it was just teenage hormones, he was as desperate for this as Sol was.

The afterglow lasted less than a five minutes before Sol felt more disgusted with himself than he'd ever been before.

If there was anything that could have proven to him how far this Ky was from being what Sol needed him to be, he'd just gone and grabbed it by the head. Frederick's Ky had been inexperienced, but he'd been a grown man, comfortable with his desires and never passive, not even on their first time. The one Sol had just taken advantage of was hardly more than a scared kid who'd hardly even dared meet his eyes; like what scared him most was that if he dared acknowledge what they were doing, they wouldn't be. He hadn't been far wrong.

The worst part was trying to find a way to let the poor kid down gently afterwards. It must have been hard enough that he'd been forced to admit to his attraction for a man he'd always professed to despise, but to be rejected under the flimsiest excuse – no-one deserved that. Sol hardly even remembered what excuse he'd made said – something suitably pathetic about it being 'not a good idea' – what stayed with him was the look in the boy's eyes, the crushing disappointment, denied maybe the one and only selfish desire he'd ever let himself have.

Now he was the biggest arse in the world in addition to being disgusted with himself, and even that didn't cover the fact he'd gone and done exactly what he'd promised himself he wouldn't do ever since Ky came back into his life: he'd changed something. His Ky had been very specific that he and Sol had never been involved, physically or romantically, and Sol was pretty sure he hadn't meant 'except this one time back in the army when he jumped me after a sparring match'. Maybe that didn't matter, maybe Ky would still get thrown back through time on schedule and wouldn't be so very different when (if) he made it back, but it would still change things, and even a small change to events so long before the day could theoretically be enough to change everything. What was the alternative, to suggest Ky had spent the intervening years repressing something this big?

The real alternative happened to be something Sol could never have seen coming: the aftermath of the Battle of Rome.

A mere handful of days passed between the Incident and the battle (tense, horrible days they spent arguing and snapping at each other about nothing at all), and Sol never did find out just what went down at the end of it. Whether it was trauma or exhaustion or a blow to the head, or whether that I-no bitch had been involved (his personal favourite theory), Ky came home with holes in his memory that he never recovered from. Mostly it was trivial stuff – recent events, nothing more than a couple of weeks ago, but he had no recollection whatsoever of meeting I-no (suspect number one), and the tension between them ever since the incident was inexplicably gone. Sol lasted two more days before the suspense got the better of him and he went as far as actually mentioning this incident to Ky – obliquely, of course, but in context there was no way the kid could've mistaken what he was talking about. Ky looked at him like he'd gone insane and asked him what on earth he was on about.

So that was that. Apparently he owed I-no a favour, damn her. The future, it seemed, was more robust than he'd given it credit for, but he'd much rather get through the rest of the years he had left without forcing the world to give Ky brain damage again to cover for his fuck-ups.

It was only a few months after that that Sol finally decided he'd had it. If having sex with Ky couldn't screw up the timeline, then nothing could – including the kid's constant attempts to martyr himself for his cause, so why the fuck was Sol torturing himself by sticking around like this? He was commander of the whole damn army by that stage, and if he wasn't old enough to manage without Sol around he never would be. Sol had a war to win, and he was only crippling himself by making himself play by the Order's rules.

Stealing the Fuuenken didn't solve all his problems in one go, but it came pretty close. It may have been a bit far to go just to drive a wedge between him and Ky, but it also gave him exactly the weapon he needed if he was going after Justice, and he never realised how much he'd missed it until it was back in his hands.

It didn't make the job easy, but it got it done.

And then at last the war was over. The waiting wasn't.

He did a pretty good job of avoiding Ky over the years that followed, and if that was cowardly, he didn't even care anymore. Running into him again at the tournament wasn't something he'd planned on, but at least he got to see the boy – the man now, though he didn't dare let himself think that too hard – was doing alright now the war he'd dedicated his life to winning was won. The bigger surprise was meeting Axl Low – an Axl Low who didn't recognise him any more than Ky had, and had no idea why this weirdo was so pleased to see him. Now Sol knew they were getting close.

Things seemed oddly more relaxed between him and Ky after that, on the odd occasions they ran into each other. Sol wasn't sure exactly what that meant, except that Ky was growing up at last. He was becoming more like Frederick's Ky every time Sol saw him – he'd even gotten over his paranoid insistence on the evil of Gears, and Sol hadn't had anything to do with it.

Keeping his distance was harder than ever before. Patience had never been one of his virtues.

The best day of his whole damn life was the day Axl came bursting in through the door of the bar he was sitting in, eager to find out if Ky had made it back yet. He hadn't – Axl had, in fact, already contacted the IPF and found out only that he was missing and no-one knew where he was, and had subsequently gone looking for Sol just in case he and Ky had wanted some 'alone time' together and that was why he hadn't shown up to work. Sol had to disappoint him, but on the inside he wasn't disappointed at all. If Axl was back and he had the date for that, he knew exactly how far behind Ky was going to be.

He'd spent a long time thinking he was too jaded to enjoy this as much as he would have a hundred years ago, but he was grinning from ear to ear when he left the bar that day.

There was still plenty he wasn't certain about – his calculations could've been off, he didn't know how Ky was going to react, he wasn't even sure how he was going to react after all this time. The trouble with knowing with still more than twenty-four hours left to go was that there was going to be no plausible deniability about how he was going to handle seeing Ky again: either he went out now and bought supplies in bulk, or he didn't.

Sol did. And then he parked himself outside Ky's house, and waited.

He couldn't honestly say it'd been worth the wait – but the wait would have happened either way, and now that Justice was dead and the war was over and he was finally here, it didn't seem so bad that he'd had something to look forward to. He was still immortal and Ky wasn't, but he finally had their second chance together, and he wasn't going to waste a minute.
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