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Bones of Memory

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Auron remembers a lot of things, but only in snatches. Some things are clearer than others: the stiff edge of a white fur collar, probably synthetic, inscrutable to him; the barrel of a gun, rotating slowly; hesitant fingertips fresh with calluses closing over his own, coiled around the hilt of his sword. Others are the barest glimpses, the ribs and spine of a larger skeleton: high-walled gardens, steel, gunpowder, a naked thigh.

He is content with these half-memories; anything else would lead to wanting. He is too far beyond flesh to want.

Hades wants to know all about it, though, as he does with everything. He wheedles, puffing on cigars. "Tell me about it," he says one day; "why the long face, huh?" he says the next.

Auron says nothing, so Hades stubs out his cigar next to Auron's knee, leaving a black streak.

"A smile ain't gonna kill you," he says.

Leon (Squall) remembers everything, but says nothing. Sometimes when he's drunk—more often than Aerith knows—he tells Cloud about him, however, whom he sees as impartial, though only in innocuous half-truths, rendered bland with omissions. Cloud doesn't really want to know either way, but he listens.

"You know that garden near the castle? The one with the fountains?" Leon says. His highball is mostly empty. "I think it's destroyed now. Anyway, we used to practice there."

And this is the truth: Auron would bring him here often, and Squall (Leon), sixteen and well-practiced at sullenness, would feign indifference as Auron taught him drawing techniques, cutting exercises, forms.

"I can't teach you everything," Auron said. "I don't know anything about guns," with this left unspoken: I'm too old for all of that. You can't teach an old dog new tricks.

Squall just shrugged.

This is what he omits, though: Squall's mouth on Auron's neck, Squall kneeling in the damp grass, Squall fumbling with the buttons on Auron's pants. He has to think of it in those terms: these are things that Squall did. It was Squall who sucked Auron off in the castle's gardens, Squall who fucked him in his tiny bedroom months later, Squall whose fingers dug into Auron's bare shoulders.

It was Squall, this nebulous callow kid, a teenage boy frozen in time, who lost him, and not Leon.

This is the part Leon hates the most, this remembering, this inability to compartmentalize, these past things that become present things. Tomorrow he will regret talking, though now he is drunk enough not to care.

Cloud is staring at him. "Were you guys...?" He trails off, staring at the foam that coats his beer glass.

Leon just shrugs.