By the end of his first day with the Greil Mercenaries, Auralis knew he wouldn't stay. For one thing, they had children in the company, children who still had the kind of innocence and idealism he'd left behind with another name, another life. And even the adults weren't people he could understand - for all they called themselves mercenaries, they didn't seem to be in it for the money, much less for the chance to satisfy the darker, more unsavory urges he'd never voice where any of them might hear.
No, this wasn't the place for him. All he had to do was look around, listen to what they said and what they failed to say. He wasn't like these people and didn't know how to be. Didn't even want to be, not any longer. Naïveté got people hurt and idealism was just an excuse to disdain those who performed the brutal actions necessary to win wars.
It wasn't so unusual that he didn't belong; he hadn't had a place to call home in years. Auralis preferred it that way. Better to wander, be always on the move, ensuring nothing and no one could catch up with him. The surprise wasn't that he didn't fit in, wasn't part of this almost-family that called itself a mercenary company. No, the surprise was that he hadn't left yet.
For the first few days, it was understandable. He'd only just arrived and besides, he needed the money. The days and weeks after were the ones that required an explanation, if only to himself. It wasn't the contract, temporary though it was – Auralis had broken those before with little thought. A contract was only words and words couldn't hold him. No, his reason for staying was both simple and obvious if he were honest with himself and he'd given up on lying to that particular person years ago. He could sum it up in one word: Ike.
It was ridiculous to lust after his commander, even more so because Ike was nearly the most idealistic of them all. He was so very young, in more ways than one, but there was something about his smile, something in the direct way he met Auralis's gaze and refused to look away. Not many had had the courage for that, not for a long time.
He knew Ike wasn't someone he should want; he'd taint him just by touching him. But Auralis was no longer in the practice of denying himself things he wanted. He wasn't one to stare longingly and never act, not like the little strategist who could barely take his eyes off his commander. If he were staying for Ike (and he knew he was), then he'd act on it.
Which was why he was the one inside the Commander's bedroom with the door locked, pushing him against the wall and kissing him roughly, mouth slanting down on Ike's almost brutally, instead of the one eavesdropping and wishing it were him. He'd left his days of pining behind and was glad of it.
Auralis wasn't gentle; he no longer knew how to be. He'd cut that part of himself out long ago, right after he'd learned that all the stories about happy endings were only pretty illusions. He doubted that Ike had much experience, but he still gave as good as he got, tearing clothes away impatiently and shoving Auralis onto the bed and, when he missed, settling for the floor instead. It was exactly how Auralis preferred it – fast and hard with no pauses to make adjustments or think, legs locked around hips and squeezing hard enough to bruise, fingernails and teeth leaving crimson streaks on bare skin. An act all about hunger and satisfying it, with no trace of love or tenderness.
It was harder to avoid softness afterward, when they finally made it into Ike's bed and lounged there, sated but not yet sleeping. Auralis should have left, gone to sleep alone and to hell with who saw him leave, but somehow he'd looked at Ike sprawled naked on the bed and decided to stay. It was only one night and he didn't really want the bother of dressing again anyway.
It had been a long time since he'd shared a bed like this, longer still since he'd let someone look at him the way Ike did, seeing too much as he traced scars with sword-callused fingers. Auralis could tell he was curious, but Ike didn't ask and he wasn't about to volunteer the information. He had too many secrets, but they were his, almost the only things he truly owned, and he wouldn't share them.
The moment stretched, the silence between them slowly transitioning from companionable to awkward as he shifted, uncomfortable with so much attention. Better to redirect it, give Ike something to think about that wasn't the man he'd just fucked, especially if he were inclined to start thinking about where that man had come from and what he'd done in the past. It was for distraction's sake that he took Ike's hand in his own, turning it over and kissing the palm in a gesture that reminded him of youth and his own mistakes.
Once that would have been a mistake, but now he had had years of practice in keeping those particular memories at bay. He'd just have to distract himself, too. Auralis kissed the palm again, stroked the calluses that matched the ones on his own hands with his tongue, smiling to himself as it reminded him of Ike on the practice field and the fierce expression he wore when he forgot himself in the joy of battle. Auralis looked up and grinned, wanting to see his reaction as he sucked a finger into his mouth, playing with it with his tongue, and thought about the way his too-young commander looked after a hard battle, streaked with dirt and sweat.
The thoughts were enough to make him certain he had made the right choice to stay, but for once, he took his time, sliding the finger slowly out of his mouth and switching to the next, curling his tongue around it in a caress that provoked a low groan from Ike. He had the whole hand to play with, sucking and licking the fingers one by one, leaving no inch of it untouched, and Auralis took full advantage, refusing to be hurried in the task he'd set himself.
Ike let him do it without interruption, though he was neither silent nor patient, watching him now with an entirely different expression, blue eyes dark with desire instead of bright with interest. But it wasn't until Auralis moved to his wrist, nipping delicately at the blue-veined skin, that he was certain he had succeeded: at the first pressure of teeth, Ike made a quiet sound deep in his throat and rolled them over, pinning Auralis to the bed, clearly nothing but desire on his mind now. Any questions were silenced for tonight and he had a standing policy of not worrying about tomorrow until it was actually here.