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[Guilty Gear] Rules of Engagement

Title: Rules of Engagement
Fandom: Guilty Gear
Characters: Sol, Ky
Rating: R for Sol's tendency to swear like a sailor
Summary: Out-of-season fic. Sol, Ky, and a bunch of soldiers playing the snow.


Winter at the front tended to be a miserable affair. Whatever was difficult or risky under normal conditions became anything from damn near impossible to life-threatening, until even sleeping turned into a group effort and the fire users were suddenly the world’s most popular partners. Whether you were into waking up wedged between two sets of morning wood simply ceased to be a concern at all, a handful of sarcastic remarks about mortal sin and the inquisition aside.

Mornings were spent making fun of the third watch’s crystalline sheen and running a betting pool on who would have the most impressive frost formation crawling through the channels in his gun, which was usually also the bitchiest to remove. You could walk into a camp and tell how many supply lines were still open just by gauging the degree of constipation on their faces, and measure fairly accurately how many weeks in a row they’d been chewing on the industrial glue-consistency of the rations - boiled, battered, basted, and brined, ration julienne, ration lyonnaise (with none of the onions and all of the alcohol), and, if the indigestible gunk had driven the mages to breaking point, ration flambé.

Stomping around camp on his morning smoke, Sol concluded that it wasn’t quite time for the twelve days of gastrointestinal distress just yet. The kid was a mite smarter than he’d given him credit for, taking care that no more than two days passed before the cooks served up something that looked like it might have been alive once upon a time. It didn’t really do anything to detract from the reality of the situation, or fool the men into thinking that they couldn’t count on the gunk-periods lengthening into weeks if the snowstorms didn’t clear up down south, but it meant having something to look forward to, some kind of reward for having your internal organs strain to squeeze out the maximum amount of nutrients while keeping the bars in your body for the minimum amount of time.

In fact, Sol thought, spitting the last half-inch of cigarette into the snow and getting started on the day’s might-be-banana-might-be-ass, the mood in camp was considerably cheerier than it otherwise would have been, something that could partially be attributed to the fact that the first batches of Christmas mail were starting to drift in, cards and hand-knit mittens and small bags of nearly crushed bakery making the rounds, lighting up smiles even on the faces of those whose names hadn’t been called. It was the kind of thing you were happy for even when you didn’t have anyone to write you, a reminder that somewhere beyond those drifts of ice and snow and monsters, there was another world — small, fragile, but shining like a beacon, a reminder that somehow, this was all worth it.

The other reason the soldiers were surprisingly chipper could be pinned on the kid himself, oddly enough. In his years of service, Sol had rarely seen a leader who was around as much as Kiske was, who’d show up to check in on the infirmary, to help rub down the horses or peel a bucket of potatoes when he had the time to spare, who listened to subordinates and said nice things that offended no one. It helped that he was short and pretty, of course, at that age where it was entirely too easy for two thirds of the troops to recognize a kid brother or a son in the roundness of his cheeks, and for the remaining third to go flutter-flutter at the sight of him. The last time he’d seen anybody this twittery over lending someone else a handkerchief, it had been a bunch of schoolgirls at a boy band concert.

Think what he would of the kid’s motives, it was nice to have the camp not completely on eggshells and keeping up a sense of humor, black but not dark enough to be called grim by any stretch. It spared Sol the anxious glances of the demoralized, the snappish replies of doomsayers, and, as he followed the main road out of camp and up a hill, it treated him to the novel sight of soldiers playing in the snow.

Past a couple of depressions in the whiteness that might have been snow angels, might have been the results of a wrestling dogpile, a good two dozen soldiers were engaged in arranging igloos and snowmen, just as casually as they would in the middle of a cozy village. Most were the classic kind, a couple of globes stacked on top of each other, people wading back and forth to collect twigs and stones to stand in for arms and eyes. Nobody had really felt inclined to give up caps or scarves for the occasion, let alone risk the ire of a supply officer by asking about carrots.

Behind the line of stalwart little snowmen, a couple of soldiers had located shovels and begun to build a lopsided attempt at a fortress, nudging battlements into place and carving out embrasures while a girl from the artillery maintenance squad kept shouting out orders, alternately cheering and swearing when one part of the wall proved to be structurally unsound.

A ways away, three ice mages were engaged in raising frozen sculptures from the ground, tendrils of magic twining and solidifying bit by bit into a fairly impressive rendition of the High Commander himself, complete with sword and billowing crystalline coat, though they had been a bit overly generous on the hips.

Sol squinted. On second glance, yes, those definitely looked like the beginnings of a pair of A-cups. It figured.

“Fire users over to the left,” one of the ice mages ordered, a scruffy-looking guy chewing on a piece of twig who barely glanced up from where he was modeling the creases in the uniform. “You’re all bastards.”

“Can’t raise something like this and not expect people to get curious,” Sol said, not really working to hide his amusement. “Been thinking about that a lot, huh?”

“Fuck you, sir,” the ice mage said good-naturedly, grinning back. “I’m sure we can pin half the girl jokes on you, anyway, so don’t you start.”

“Everybody shut up,” the mage tinkering around at the back of the statue said, whom Sol had heard bemoaning on more than one occasion the apparent frigidity of Kiske and Kiske’s assets. “You’re throwing off my math.”

Sol snorted. “Ass math, you mean.”

“Distinguished branch of mathematics.”

“I still say you’re wrong about the curve,” the second mage mused, oblivious to the glare he received in return. “We’re talking checkbook-balancing qualities here. If—”

“Hey, hey, guys, look! Snow Gear!” another soldier yelled, slipping down the slanted back of a rather large and accurate sculpture of something Sol still thought was best described as a land shark, razor-blade fins and an enormous jaw full of teeth big enough to impale a horse.

“Awesome,” the first ice mage called, “Now go hang out of its mouth! Makes it more realistic!”

The soldier laughed. “Only if you cry like a little girl while I do.”

“I know one little girl who’s gonna make you cry, baby,” the maintenance soldier sang, cheerfully cracking her knuckles.

“Oh, yeah?”

“Yeah!”

“How about you come over here and prove it?”

“Don’t mind if I do!”

In retrospect, Sol couldn’t tell who had thrown the first snowball. It might have been the girl, who felt that her retort needed a little more force, or the land shark soldier, who thought that a handful of compressed ice crystals hurled at great speed was a more effective way of conveying his feelings on the matter. It might have even been the mathematician, whose lack of concentration had led to a misshapen buttock.

In the end, it didn’t matter. The dull splat of impact was the signal everyone in attendance seemed to have been waiting for, the excuse to abandon any pretenses of artistic aspirations and just start throwing snow in all directions. Allegiance didn’t seem to matter as everything that moved became a target, and even some of the things that remained unfortunately stationary.

A few errant projectiles took out the line of snowmen at the entrance to the main road, which prompted their creators to vow revenge. One half of the fort collapsed when several soldiers scrambled to retreat into the safety of its walls. The ice statue was felled by a rather purposeful fireball, which sent the ice mage trio on a crusade to avenge the honor of the Saintly Maiden Kiske and any fire user in their path fleeing in terror.

Sol took two hits to the chest before he was forced to drop down on the ground and seek out some adequate cover, partly compelled by the Gear side of his brain which found this hunting method to be very bizarre and illogical and wet, but really, tackling people outright was just going to cut the fun short.

He ended up in the trench around the snow fortress, stockpiling ammo and occasionally pitching a crotch-ball across the field, which resulted in a thump and a very melodious, “Ow, motherfuck!”

After a little while, the all-out brawl began to loosely organize itself into two sides of a stand-off, mostly because the initial novelty of catching something in the face that wasn’t a deathblow was slowly wearing off, and the realization dawned that mocking someone who’d fallen headfirst into a snow pit was so much more entertaining.

The men holed up in the fortress established a tacit agreement with Sol, who saw no harm in providing them with cover fire as they went out to raise some more walls and strengthen their defenses. On the other side of the battlefield, most soldiers were beginning to cluster around the ice mages, who had managed to raise a frozen watchtower, flying a flag in the form of a shawl tied to a pike. The snow fortress, not to be outdone, managed to locate a bright red bonnet, which they affixed to a spear and waved with equal enthusiasm.

Those who had remained unaffiliated quickly found out that this was a bad idea, caught as they now were between two strongholds with equally ruthless recruitment methods, and had to decide whose snowballs they preferred. Slowly, the battle was turning into a stalemate, as both sides erected increasingly sophisticated walls and started assigning jobs for ammo supply and repairs on their respective forts.

And it likely would have stayed that way if Sir Stickass himself hadn’t wandered into the war zone.

Later, when Sol found the time to sort through what just happened, he would give the kid the benefit of the doubt.

There was no reason for him to be on that side of camp at this hour of the day, sure, but he technically could have been out for some fresh air, or just approached the battle out of plain old curiosity. At the time, though, he was as he had been in Sol’s mind for a good long while, stick-in-the-mud, work-obsessed, and utterly unable to process the concept of fun.

Predictably, the entire war effort came to a standstill as soon as he approached, soldiers frozen mid-motion and staring at the kid with comically widened eyes, clearly expecting an official reprimand for such uncivilized behavior, or at the very least a stern inquiry into what the chaos was all about.

The kid, for his part, was completely baffled by the scale of nonproductive chaos, staring at the fortresses, pits, and snowballs melting in the hands of their motionless owners as if he had wandered into the middle of an alien ritual, and seemed to have a hard time composing a suitable rebuke in his head.

At the very least, Sol felt, someone ought to do something that made it worth breaking up the game.

The snowball hit Kiske square in the face.


There was a collective gasp when Kiske went down with the most satisfying splat.

Sol swung himself out of the trench and swaggered over to the fallen High-Commander-to-be, partly to take in the sight of the kid sprawled in the slush and boiling with humiliated rage, and partly to dare him to make a disciplinary case out of a snowball fight. True, he might have put a bit more force into the throw than strictly necessary, but the fact that he’d managed to down the kid at all was an achievement on its own.

Kiske was like a cat, constantly landing on his feet in whatever arena they’d chosen for the day’s — or the hour’s — brawl. He glared like a cat, too, fish-slapped incredulity slowly melting into a thunderous scowl as pushed himself upright, wiping the excess snow from his face.

Sol allowed him to stand, taking in the atmosphere of barely restrained terror while the kid finished dusting himself off.

“You.”

Sol smirked, easily recognizing the steps to that tune. Kiske rarely got to the point of yelling, though the mounting smell of ozone in the air was excellent at expressing what he wouldn’t.

“Me.”

“…Are going down.”


This close, the only advantage the kid had was the someone-knocked-the-needle-off-the-record scratch that momentarily froze Sol’s brain.

He saw the kid haul back, realizing a little too late that his clenched fists had been nothing but camouflage, saw his eyes flash from pissed-off righteousness to “challenge fucking accepted,” and if Sol had had the faculties to remember the kid’s capacity for rolling with the blows, he’d have found the good sense to dodge.

As it was, he was too busy processing the idea that Commander Stickass wasn’t doing what the protocol of stickassitude dictated, not at all, before he was knocked off his feet and slammed into a snowy rampart.

By the time he sprung back to his feet, tingling all over with the knowledge that Kiske’s little curveball had contained a goddamn lightning spell, the kid was already ducking for cover on the opposite side of the field.

And there was nothing quite like a deadly serious order to knock reality further askew.

“Men, fire at will!”

“Yessir!!!”

There was probably a pretty stupid look on his face. There was certainly an array of pretty stupid looks on the soldiers’ faces on Kiske’s end of the field, even as they threw themselves into carrying out their officially sanctioned mission with renewed vigor.

The Gear parts of his brain had enough common sense to send him lunging into the relative safety of the nearest wall, before the enthusiastic rain of projectiles plowed into the snow around him.

“Sir?”

Huffing, several soldiers flung themselves down beside him, arms over their heads and still wearing expressions of pants-down incredulity on their flushed faces.

“Sir, what do… what do we do?”

The look Sol shot him in response was anything but reassuring. “Isn’t it obvious?”

“Um.” They shared an uncertain look while Sol began hauling in snow with both arms, working to build their ammunition. “Sir, I’m pretty sure attacking the Commander is worthy of a court martial.”

“Well—”

A mighty splat relieved Sol of an answer and the men of their concerns. He squinted at the pile of snow, arms and legs bursting to the surface as the soldiers struggled to regain their bearings. A quick glimpse over the edge of the barricade revealed the trio of ice mages high-fiving each other in the shadow of an icicles-and-long-legged-underpants hackjob with a passable resemblance to a trebuchet.

The kid was nowhere in sight.

“Oi, Kiske! That was low!”

“My apologies,” the reply came floating across the battlefield, utterly sincere except for the fact that Sol knew the kid was pleased as a punch at having caught him off guard. “I’m afraid you’ll have to enlighten me on the rules to this!”

“Everything’s gotta go by the book with you, doesn’t it?”

“Well, it would help me decide on the terms of engagement,” the kid shot back, a note of flippancy hovering just out of reach. “Are we following the Geneva Convention?”

Huh. He hadn’t even known that Kiske’s perfect little robot brain had a setting for anything besides bland politeness or tightly repressed volcano, but thankfully, mulling over that bit of news had absolutely no effect on his ability to triangulate the kid’s position down to the second.

“Fine. You wanna know the rules?” he shouted, sticking out his head again to make sure he wasn’t about to accidentally do something irreversible to somebody’s privates. From the corner of his eye, he noticed the trebuchet victims gazing up at him questioningly, and decided to spare them a thumbjerk that sent them scurrying out of the line of fire.

“That would be most enlightening, yes.”

“The rules are… there are no rules.”

One of the benefits of jacked-up Gear senses was that he caught the kid’s startled yelp in all its Dolby Surround glory, even as the ramparts on the other side exploded from the precision-strike fireball.

“Re-fucking-turn fire!”

A cloak of vapor covered the rather inglorious retreat, though it mattered little. His own side had ruled out aiming as a prerequisite sometime around the trebuchet attack, pelting snowballs and dislodging man-sized snow rolls to send them tumbling into the ice tower, to a barrage of curses and frantic orders from the opposing team.

For his part, Sol settled for going after the ice mages, who were busily stomping new ramparts out of the ground and yelling for him to get bent in six different languages whenever a new fireball reduced them to puddles.

If Kiske thought he could stall for time by playing defensive, he was sorely mistaken.

Caught up in the game as he was, it took him a moment too long to realize the oddity of that thought. The kid never played defensive, certainly not against him. In each one of their brawls, he was all offense, all the time, constantly pressing for the advantage, and quick enough to make Sol actually work to keep it, too.

…Quick enough.

Quick enough.

Helpfully, his mental tally chose to inform him that none of the shouted orders belonged to the kid, and that he had, in fact, not heard the kid’s voice beyond the initial counter-strike.

Oh for fu—

His cover took that moment to explode in a spray of slush. A split second later, a weight slammed hard into his chest, sending him tumbling back down the slope. He rolled, but the weight rolled with him, developing a pair of skinny arms and legs that flailed and kicked at him to keep from being turned into a human toboggan.

The flat stretch of the main road finally halted their dizzying descent, Sol baffled at the sensation of being out of breath again for the first time in nearly thirty years, the kid staring up at him, utterly winded and trying to regroup his scattered bearings.

Sol stared back, less because fights that ended with the kid on his back were a novel experience and more because he’d never seen quite that look before — the same electric intensity as if they’d been going at it with swords instead of bits of frozen water, but somehow less severe, as if he didn’t really mind lying flat on his ass in front of his troops.

After a moment or two, Ky found his voice. “Um. Hi.”

Well, this was new. And rather severely off-script.

“Hi,” Sol echoed dryly, giving into the Gear urge to flash his fangs in a victorious grin. “You fight dirty for a stuck-up little toothpick.”

“Thanks. It’s good camouflage.” His gaze flickered downward. “Um, would you mind letting me up? It’s getting a bit cold.”

“I’m still trying to figure out what to do with you,” Sol said, sitting back on his legs to stifle the slightly more idiotic urge to bat at the kid like a bit of sparkly tinfoil. The less time he spent contemplating the suggestions of the lizard brain, the better.

“I don’t think we’ve negotiated any terms in that regard.”

Sol shrugged, fully aware that this was the kid giving him fair warning before switching the duracells back on. “You lost.”

A raised eyebrow. “Did I?”

He was bracing himself for a good jolt, perhaps an attempt to kick him into the nearest supply crate. What he wasn’t prepared was a fistful of rock-solid snow down his pants.

“Yiiiiiiiiii—!”

Later, when he wasn’t busy scrambling up and shaking clumps of frozen water from his pants, he would blame the terribly undignified yip on the lower tiers of his brain that still sought to respond to wet and fucking cold by lying on a hot stone all day.

A few feet away, the kid was clambering back to his feet, eyes wide as if he had trouble believing he’d truly done this, but entirely too bright for anything approaching remorse.

“Think that’s funny, do you?”

Ky bit his lip, shaking his head and holding up his hands in a pacifying gesture.

“Ha bloody ha.”

For a moment, Sol was almost sure that this was it. This was the sound of the kid’s circuits frying clean through, unable to process the string of malfunctions that led to him having some actual fun, an odd, high-pitched wheeze clawing its way out of his throat, his shoulders heaving with the effort.

“Oi.”

Snerk.

“Oi.”

Giggle.

“J-just! The look! On your face!”

Personally, Sol thought he was doing a rather accurate rendition of a pissed-off alpha Gear, but the kid obviously didn’t agree because he doubled over, erupting into peals of laughter.

Later, Sol would blame his distinct lack of attempts to grab the kid by the scruff and aim for the nearest tree on the fact that he was way too preoccupied with returning some warmth to his downstairs department without setting his entire uniform on fire.

It certainly didn’t have anything to do with the sight of the kid, his laughter ringing out across the main road and looping back in on itself as if some unseen floodgates had been opened, leaving all that repressed personality to come rushing out. He’d barely seen Ky crack a smile in all of six months, nevermind engage in anything resembling normal human activity — no drinks, no off nights, no casual conversation, nothing to indicate that there was anything remotely fifteen years old left past his outward appearance.

He almost didn’t mind that it was happening at his expense.

Almost.

But not enough not to saunter up and wait for Kiske to pause in his gigglefit to fully appreciate being fed a faceful of snow.


-Fin-



A/N: Yes, I should be working on other things. But whee, writer's block is over!