Aza thought the whole Soulmate thing was bullshit.
Everyone had a word, or a phrase, inscribed on the underside of their left wrist in flat, dark ink. It started as a greyish smudge on birth, then as they grew older the smudge would break into blobby words until finally, on your eighteenth birthday, you knew. The first thing your Soulmate would say to you. You knew and you had to stare at those words every day, every nerve intent on hearing them so you could be complete.
It was bullshit.
Most people’s were stupid little ‘hellos’ or ‘how do you like your coffee’ or ‘fuck off, prick’. Everyday phrases that could mean anyone could be your Soulmate. And, even if you did find them, Aza bristled at the thought that fate had already handpicked the person he was to spend his life with. He didn’t want that. He was sick and tied of being pulled around by a leash, under something else’s control. It was a petty feeling, he knew, but Aza stubbornly stood by it.
… also, it didn’t help that the words on his wrist were: "You’re under arrest.”
So, there weren’t much prospects for an orphan Miqo’te growing up. Well, outside of the Azim Steppes anyway. That land was unto its own, outside of Othard’s general government, and the moment Aza stepped into Yanxia with his sister at his side, he had a very rude awakening as to how life went.
To cut a sob story short, he became a smuggler and a mercenary to survive.
It was a sweet gig, truth be told. There were a lot of unearthed Allagan relics in Othard and a lot of disorganisation between the various City States as to who owned them. So, while Doma, Kugane, the Ruby Sea and the Collective Tribal Council of the Steppes all squabbled and argued and fought over who owned what archaeological site on this ambiguos border region, Aza would sneak in with a bunch of other fellow smugglers and walk off with whatever wasn’t nailed to the floor.
An oversimplification of a complicated heist, but that’s what he did.
Then he would oversee the transportation of the goods to Garlemald – but you needed to take the long route. It was too dangerous to take the land bridge, but it was easy to bribe a few Confederates, bypass Kugane and hop on a Privateer ship to Vylbrand or mainland Eorzea, so long as you had good enough connections. Aza had those connections, and he abused them mercilessly. He sometimes had to spill a few dangerous secrets and Garlean patrol movements to his usual privateer connection (Carvallain de Gorgagne’s usual price to take over his hold with priceless Allagan artefacts… as well as a 25% cut of the profits, the asshole), but Aza’s finances and position were stable enough to take such risks.
It was why his Soulmate thing was such bullshit. Clearly, they were incompatible from the start if this Soulmate of his was arresting him for his livelihood. That was just his luck. A Soulmate who would want nothing to do with him. Not that it bothered him. He didn't care. It didn't hurt to think about. It just meant he could choose, who he wanted to spend his life with, if he ever chose. Lots of people didn't stay with their Soulmate, or found them, and spent their life with someone else or alone. They were happy enough. Content. Fine.
Aza was okay with that. He really was.
The thing was, Aza was very very good at what he did. He was never caught.
He knew the best routes to take through Eorzea to Garlemald. He knew who to trust and who to avoid within the various law enforcements of the Eorzean City States. He knew which Garleans would fuck him over just for being a ‘savage Miqo’te’, despite the Allagan treasures he gave them, and he knew which were good guys who were fuelled by scientific curiosity… or greed. Aza knew, and he exploited what he knew, and he survived, and he was never caught. He tried his fucking best to never be placed into the situation where he'd hear those dreaded words ("You're under arrest"), and know, and learn, his Soulmate. If he never met him, then it was easier to ignore his existence.
So, he made sure he was never caught.
Until one day he was.
The blizzard had come out of nowhere when he was driving a battered old Garlean Reaper Truck through the back roads of Coerthas Highlands. His usual route through Whitebrim towards Falcon's Nest was blocked by a landslide that had caused Snowcloak Pass to become utterly impassable. It meant Aza was stuck having to double back and try and find a way through Mor Dhona, which was very risky since that place was tighter than a Halonic Nun’s chastity belt when it came to customs. But he had friends there, he could swing it, he thought. He'd done it before, when Snowcloak froze over in Ishgard's harsh winters.
But then the blizzard came and he was stuck sitting on the side of the road, the truck rumbling around him as he blasted the heater full on. He cursed at the shitty weather, digging his fingernails into the dark ink over the skin of his wrist, annoyed and irritated and tired. He was so sick of having to do this shit, really, but once you were in the smuggling business, you were kind of… stuck. You knew everyone who was involved in it, and therefore you were a risk to everyone involved in it. No one let you 'retire' from the business… unless it was to bury you in a shallow grave somewhere, of course. He wasn't afraid of knives in the night, but he didn't want to spend an already stressful life dodging law enforcement also dodging old business partners too. And Bluebird, they might try to hurt her, and...
Aza sighed quietly - and flinched when a bright light suddenly cut across the windscreen of his truck. Over the howl of the blizzard, past the thick blanket of snow, he could hear the dull roar of an Ishgardian patrol vehicle. He cursed. The back of his truck was loaded with an ancient (and inoperable) anti-aircraft Allagan gun that was worth millions on the Black Market… but very very very illegal to have! As in, imprisoned for ten years level of illegal. Oh, shit, he also had some tomestones too, fucking shit.
For a moment, he contemplated diving out of the vehicle and running into the blizzard, but he wasn’t that stupid. He’d get lost within minutes and die before the hour was out. Ishgardian blizzards were dangerous, even if you were dressed for the severe cold. No, he would have to try and… talk his way out. Or just succumb to the inevitable and see what happened.
Someone knocked on the door of his vehicle, and resigned yet feeling oddly relieved, he rolled the window down.
Camp Dragonhead’s police station was very warm. It was also where Aza, once again, cursed the bullshittiness of the whole Soulmate thing.
Because he was taken into custody the moment the concerned Ishgard road patrol saw what was in the back of his truck. He was taken back for ‘questioning’ when he pretended to be surprised that his ‘delivery’ was illegal Allagan weaponry, and docilely went along, sweating buckets and trying to think of a good story that wouldn't have him jailed for ten fucking years. He had been dumped into an interrogation room while they combed through his vehicle, and after sitting alone for several hours anxiously fretting to himself, he walked in.
Tall, dark and handsome, Aza recognised the well-dressed policeman at once. The Lord Commander of Ishgard’s Law Enforcement, Aymeric de Borel. He had a few scandals attached to him, was considered a bit of a radical liberal and a maverick, but he was very very good at his job, and also very fair. He was also the boogeyman of the smuggling world, cracking down hard on smuggling routes and breaking up several well-established smuggling and trafficking rings. Aza felt like he'd been sucker punched in the gut at the sight of him, because it meant they knew. If Aymeric de Borel was here to question him personally, then he was Fucked.
The first thing out of the Lord Commander's mouth, though, pushed his concerns into a totally different, and horrifying direction; “You’re under arrest, Mr. Iriq, for the-"
Aza didn't listen to the rest of what he said. He sat there, numb and terrified, realising how shitty his life was, how the Soulmate thing was absolute bullshit, staring right at this handsome Elezen with his stomach plummetting right down to his feet. No. No, it can't be... it can't be him. But he knew it was. Just like how he knew what the words on his wrist would say before he even looked at them, he knew this was his Soulmate. This was awful. Terrible. He wanted to cry, and his voice shook as he blurted without thinking; "But... you're too tall."
The Lord Commander rocked back on his heels, his mouth snapping shut and his expression going blank with shock. The sheer awkwardness of the moment, as they both realised, both knew, like a thunderbolt of horrified realisation, that the other was their Soulmate, was absolutely agonising. The silence stretched to breaking point between them, until;
Aymeric de Borel, well known to be unflappable, witty and charming, stared right at him and said, “Oh, this is bullshit.”
Well, at least they had one thing in common as Soulmates, Aza thought hysterically, they both thought it absolute shit.