[identity profile] aphelion-orion.livejournal.com posting in [community profile] off_the_homerow
Title: Growing Pains
Fandom: Guilty Gear
Rating: R
Pairing: implied Sol/Ky
Contains: masturbation
Summary: It's not easy being Commander at that age. In other words, Ky vs. puberty.

Growing Pains

When he was nine, Ky couldn't grow up fast enough. The body he had was not the body he needed, something stronger and faster and, above all, taller than what two years of malnutrition had left him with, easily the shortest and scrawniest among all the short, scrawny children in the barracks.

He'd spent most of his first day wondering how the Order could possibly afford to feed him and the twenty other kids sleeping in the same room, until the mess call came ringing across the grounds and he found himself in a hall easily the size to host triple that number, and more. The portions that were put on his plate felt right for a giant, when not even the sisters at the orphanage had eaten more than their charges, and the idea that he could line up for seconds, or thirds, that the apples and sweetbread and sugared almonds weren't to be reserved for the highest of high days, and to be handed out one morsel at a time to make them last, seemed almost too bizarre to contemplate.

It was disheartening to watch the other kids shoot up in the midst of this sudden abundance, and have himself still stretching on tip-toe to peer across the counter, to keep advancing through classes faster than he ought to have and find himself surrounded by kids taller than any human being should have had the right to be, who soon discovered that his head was at the perfect height for a good ruffling.

It was a small triumph, and one Ky tried hard not to delight in too much, to get them to stop offering him handicaps in a duel after the third time he'd managed to knock a boy several years his senior flat on his back.

The first hint of a spark felt like a doom spell, and not just because nobody thought he'd manifest when he did.

The when was a practice fight against the Commander, and the how was something Ky wouldn't be quite sure of for the rest of his life, just that one moment, they'd be crossing blades, and in the next, Commander Undersn was laid out on the ground, and he was staring at the blue-tinged flickers jumping between his fingers, ashen-faced at the thought that he'd just killed the head of the army. Then, the Commander rolled to his feet, and pulled him into a bear-hug that smelled mildly of bacon, and Ky completely forgot to mind that he was being ruffled to kingdom come.

He didn't understand the meaning of it all until a while after that, when the Commander finally stopped laughing — the first lightning user in five years, and entirely too young, too, and then the nurse in the infirmary had put on a grave face and written a note to the woman in charge of the meals, to make sure he got five instead of the usual three.

The crux of lightning magic, great power in exchange for great strain, and a good chance that his body would start pouring everything it had into developing these powers instead of anything else. The nurse had a whole list of things to watch out for, muscle atrophy and anemia and blood sugar imbalance, but at barely ten years of age, all it boiled down to for Ky was the slow dread that he was destined to stay short and easy to tousle forever.

He wouldn't take this lying down, he decided, stubbornly sipping his milk. Growing up was just a challenge, and most adversity could be mastered with careful planning and willpower. If he worked hard and paid enough attention to what the taller kids were doing, he was sure to manage to grow by a head until the end of the year.


It wasn't until much later, out in the field where any hold-up needed to be dealt with as fast as possible, that Ky realized growing up wasn't all it was cracked up to be. All the stretches and carefully calculated protein rations meant nothing because nature wouldn't be planned for, and nature quite liked to make things difficult.

Five years, and whatever progress he'd made between nine and fourteen had been barely noticeable, maybe a centimeter or a half to add to the notches in the bedpost he was most definitely not marking, maybe another shoe size or two that he refused to feel proud of, and the tiny, distant hope that what the nurse had been saying wasn't entirely true, that one day he'd be able to refute his squad mates' giggling over le petit orage, the little thunderstorm.

Five years, and now he wanted nothing more than to return to the body he'd had even just a few months ago, anything but this utterly inconvenient vehicle somebody had stuck his mind in while he wasn't looking. Nothing the Commander had explained to him could have prepared him for the actual humiliation of something as simple as the sound of his own voice, the newfound sore-throat scratchiness tripping into high-pitched squeaks, and all he could do was pray that the officer on the other end of the radio call would chalk it up to communication breaking down.

The hazing in camp rather lost its meaning when he had his own body to play tricks on him at every turn. In a way, the soldiers' efforts to embarrass him felt almost pitiable; coming back from his rounds to find all his spare uniforms dyed a vibrant shade of pink didn't matter all that much when he was running out of hemlines to undo on his pants, anyway, and had to replace them with a pair two sizes too big that bunched around his waist like a sheet of tent fabric.

The strangeness of his movements was much more troubling, the way his legs and his arms felt too long or too short or both at the same time in any given moment, the way the sword in his grip couldn't seem to stop feeling unbalanced, and all the routines he knew, all the steps it had taken so long to perfect might as well have been the flailings of a hapless beginner.

Absurd, that he should lead an army like this, inspire confidence in others when he couldn't even feel confident in his own body, a familiar tool replaced with the shape of a crude rock. Normal inconveniences could be fixed, and compensated for, taken care of out of sight before anyone could notice and begin to worry, but logic and efficiency had nothing to do with this.

In the end, all Ky could do was change the mantra in his head, the weak consolation that had been his constant companion for the past few years. The hope that one day, he'd be all grown up became the hope that one day, all this growing up would stop, and until then, it would be best not to waste his time with things he couldn't change.

He was stuck in the body of an invalid, and if he gritted his teeth and just kept on marching, he could walk off puberty the way he could walk off a cracked rib or a bruised spine.


Like so many other things, growing up became surprisingly more bearable when there was a knock-down, drag-out fight lined up every other Tuesday.

Sol probably would have been disappointed to know that he was helping rather than adding to the trouble, but Ky felt someone who was picking fights over anything from his faith to the shine of the buckles on his boots didn't really have a sound basis for objections.

This was the one way to let go, the one way to stop thinking about form and grace and dignity. No time to worry about how nothing seemed to be fitting together quite right, when the only thing that mattered was who could grind whose face into the dirt how many times, how quickly he could find an opening to feed his opponent a round of ball lightning.

Perhaps it should have disturbed him, Ky decided, that an uncivilized brawl could make him feel more comfortable with himself than any efforts he'd made alone, that giving his all against someone who could only be taken down with the element of surprise made him feel like he was outgrowing the awkwardness at last. He forgot that somewhere in the back of his mind, he was still waiting for the second shoe to drop, for his body to put one last tripwire in place to thoroughly humiliate him, so that when it finally happened, he didn't even recognize it for the issue that would one day be costing him precious sleep.

In fact, sleep was where it all began, one of those nights where he went to bed at one in the morning and woke up three hours later to recheck the battle plans, and it wasn't until he tried to roll over to grab them from the bedside table that he realized the odd aching sensation hadn't just been his joints again.

Squinting into the gloom, Ky shifted again, this time less with the effort of reaching the ink bottle and more to ascertain that he'd really felt what he felt, and— yeah, no, the sinking feeling was definitely that sinking feeling, and he absolutely did not need this right now.

Gingerly, he rolled onto his back again, and, for lack of a better idea, halfheartedly tried to smother himself with the pillow.

Childish as it was, there should have been a complaint service for nature, some kind of logistics officer he could've gone to in order to return unwanted developments the way he usually returned shipments of guns, no, see, you'll want to give those to the thirty-first division, they're artillery main, you'll find them five miles down south.

There was no comprehensible reason for saddling him with this, nothing between yesterday and this morning that would warrant a reaction, and contrary to what half the camp believed, he didn't have a use for it, didn't find paperwork anywhere near as exciting as all the campfire rumors said.

With a defeated huff, Ky pulled the pillow away from his face, and stuffed it back under his head.

Griping about the situation wouldn't change a thing, that was true for growing up more so than any other obstacle. Dealing with it was the only way to get around it, and now all he had to do was to figure out how to proceed. One thing the army was good at, at least, was to make sure that nobody remained unaware of various bodily functions and the kinds of trysts they led to in the shade of tents and barrels and haystacks, so he had about fifty dozen dirty stories to fall back on in case he needed instructions. Even if he assumed that at least half of what he'd heard was complete and utter fabrication, there was probably some solid advice in there.

Which still didn't solve anything. The people in the stories were generally very happy to interrupt whatever they were doing to take care of their needs, to the point where Ky tended to chalk it up to boasting, otherwise the Order would have been suffering from a severe shortage of haystacks.

At any rate, he supposed that being happy about it was the norm, and kind of a prerequisite for the usual methods, except he didn't feel very accommodating at the moment. Maybe there was something wrong with him, after all. Maybe the people calling him frigid were right, if he couldn't even figure out where to start. Maybe he should have been preparing for it in advance, made a mental list of things to think about in case he ever happened to wake up with a problem.

Most people seemed to have standards for this kind of thing, someone they liked or found attractive, but Ky figured that if he simply stayed in bed going over the commonly cited features of attractiveness — breasts or no breasts, hips or butts or size or even how much gore they'd come out wearing at the end of a battle — he'd be here all day. Besides, it all seemed rather rude.

Perhaps the best course of action was to simply try and determine whatever had set his body to high alert in the first place, but he wasn't sure whether there was even...

Ky frowned.

There had been something. He remembered something.

Distantly, a four a.m. kind of memory, part dream and part thought without direction, awake enough to register in his mind, asleep enough to provide very little substance. Warm, he remembered being warm, though that could have easily been an impression from the edge of wakefulness, wrapped up in the army-brand blanket with his overcoat spread out on top as an additional ward against the chill.

It wasn't much to go on, but Ky rolled back over anyway, tucking the edges of the blanket closer to himself, pushing socked feet into the bunched-up folds.

Jokes about sharing body heat aside, it probably wasn't normal to find warmth nice enough for that, but it might be a lightning thing. There had been only four of them out of sixty kids, together for training and all the extra meals, but the most they'd ever talked about regarding preferences was that anything below twenty-five was truly miserable weather, and how to best rub circulation back into your hands when the lightning magic had leeched them stiff and cold on a pleasant summer's day.

If there was the small chance that other people in the world might find temperature changes that enticing, Ky didn't think he'd have to worry about it too much. Besides, it had been a nice dream, with the warmth just everywhere — no need to try and conserve it, to run out of ways to arrange himself into something mostly ball-shaped. If he concentrated enough, he could even recall the sensation of that heat seeping in, spreading from his lower back, and between his shoulders, along his neck and around his wrists, like a trickle of sun-warmed sand.

No beach, though, and no sun, not even a hazy idea of his surroundings. Just that feeling, and...

There had been something else, something covering him.

Not a blanket, but a weight, pushing him against nothing in particular, a rough grasp slipping down his arms and holding him down — and maybe that shouldn't have made him shiver, maybe that shouldn't have been doing things to the knot in his belly, and under normal circumstances, he'd have shocked anyone bald who tried. This was different, though, steady and calm, just him and that weight, his cheek pressed against something that might have been the ground, the vaguely finger-shaped splotches of heat blooming on his skin, and he thought he could remember movement, the rhythm of a chest heaving against his back...

Strange, and kind of ridiculous to feel this comfortable, when he had nothing else to go on, no template and no face to match. Ky was pretty sure that this was doing it wrong, that just lying here thinking about warmth and weight and the indistinct shape of a person who wasn't real wasn't how he should've gone about it. He'd felt safe, though, alright with himself and the world, like he could curl further into that warmth, stay there and stop caring how this might make him look.

He squirmed, turning further onto his stomach, resting his cheek against the mattress. Maybe there was something he ought to be doing, but he didn't really want to — it was enough just to imagine that weight shifting against his back, slow and lazy like it wasn't really interested in keeping him pinned, like it knew he didn't mind, like it knew he would stay...


A voice, there'd been a voice, and he'd liked that, too, even if he couldn't quite recall the way it sounded... gruff, but not unkind, and full of that soothing relaxation, a low, indistinct murmur against his temple. There had been words, or perhaps it just seemed like forming words was the kind of thing a voice should have been doing, maybe his name, maybe something else that didn't really matter.

...yeah, see, proof of concept...

...like the ground, do you?...

His brow furrowed at the words, but the voice stayed warm, coaxing, pushing him on, and so he let the hazy shreds of memory carry him, let the heat and pressure and sound converge until it was all one, something inside rather than out, pooling down below, and then the tight knot of tension just gave, unraveling into a rush of relief.

For a moment, Ky lay very still, his heart pounding for no reason in particular, taking in the lethargy slowly spreading through his limbs, and a certain sense of accomplishment. Not so difficult after all, and even if it had been strange, at least it hadn't taken up too much of his time.

Taking a deep breath, he tried to think of something to clean the mess with, and finally settled for the edge of the sheets. Laundry was due, anyway, and if he made good time, he could go over the battle plans one more time and get everything cleaned before the buzz of the morning routine settled over camp.

Reaching for the map and calculations, he resolved to put his mind to the task ahead and not to think of trivial personal matters any further, not even the familiarity of that voice.

- Fin -


A/N: Yes, he would be that oblivious. And miffed. So very, very miffed. XD C&C is welcome, as usual.

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Off the Homerow: Fanfiction Journal of Aphelion Orion

January 2012

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