Irvine wasn't exactly what you would call a gym bunny. Unlike Zell, he did not obsess continually about pumping things and working his... stuff.
Well, he did. Just, not muscle groups.
But then he'd caught sight of himself and Squall in the mirror the other morning. Naked, fresh from the shower, jerking each other off, Squall's body so lean and toned, adorned with glistening beads of water. And his ass, pert and tempting.
And maybe it was the angle, maybe it was something else. But Irvine's own butt looked... Kind of flat. Uninspiring. Ordinary.
What. The. Fuck.
He'd consulted Quistis and Rinoa at breakfast, and they had rolled their eyes and laughed. It had been completely uncool, in Irvine's opinion. Words like 'vain' and 'narcissistic' had been bandied about, and when he'd tried to impress upon them how important this was (because let's face it, there was always a long, persistent and gorgeous queue of people hanging around just waiting to bang Squall and steal his heart away), all Quistis had said - and she actually fucking snickered as she said it - was 'if you're serious, why don't you do some squats?'
So here Irvine was. In the Training Centre, at the crack of dawn, doing squats. And if he was relieved to straighten up every now and then and shoot the head off a holographic t-rex, well. It was his job, after all.
Irvine did his best to flex and rise slowly, to avoid toppling over into an ungainly heap.
"Hiya." He gave Squall a little wave, wondering whether he should risk squatting down again. It was a manly thing to do, right? 'Course it was.
He lowered himself, holding his breath against the possibility of a wobble. And up. And down, and-
Squall's ever-so-slightly authoritative tone ran down Irvine's spine and right to his dick, and he shot up to his feet so fast his glutes spasmed and his head spun.
Squall was wearing a pained expression. Irvine was busy worrying whether it was because of his lack of athletic prowess when Squall said, "There's a penguin in the cafeteria."
"Yes." Squall cleared his throat. "It says it knows you."
"So. Um, if you could... It's confusing the serving staff."
"Okay, darlin'. I'll get right on and sort out the penguin. You okay, um, otherwise?"
He watched the cogs tick in Squall's brain as he considered whatever undercurrent of something was going on under the general 'there's a talking penguin' issue.
Irvine slipped back into his hat and coat, and followed Squall out of the training centre.
"Your squats suck," Squall said, eventually, as they headed to the cafeteria. "You should stop before you pull something."
"Well, gee. Perhaps you should teach me, oh great Headmaster. Especially about the pulling. Because I've got quite a few things you could-"
Squall shot him a cross look.
The penguin was waddling up and down in front of a bunch of cadets, holding forth on the importance of avoiding climate change by investing in renewable energies. Irvine took a moment to drink in the scene, but then the penguin noticed him. It waddled over about as fast as a penguin can go on land (which isn't very fast at all) and chest-bumped him, flapping its flippers enthusiastically. Irvine patted it politely on the back, trying not to say 'have we met?', because that was a question that, in his life of crowded and frequent encounters, rarely led to good things.
"You won't remember," said the penguin. "But we met. In an alternate dimension of space and time."
"Oh, one of those!" said Irvine.
"Can we go somewhere we can talk?" asked the penguin.
They led the penguin to the room that was Squall's and now appeared to have most of Irvine's stuff in it, including the weird TV they used sometimes to interdimensionally cyber with Aya and Yohji. The penguin hopped up onto the TV. Squall rather thoughtfully got him a cup of ice from the fridge, and the penguin nestled up to it like a cat cuddled a radiator in winter.
Maybe they should get a cat. Hmm.
"Watari sent me," the penguin said, and looked directly into Irvine's eyes.
Irvine got a flash of memory: a bathtub, a really hot blond and, yes, penguins. Oh. Watari.
Irvine had died. He'd died, and even that he'd done interdimensionally, ending up in the wrong afterlife, at the wrong time. Watari had taken him in and cared for him for three long, homesick weeks. They'd spent the days researching how to send Irvine home, with interludes for really hot sex. In the library, on Tatsumi's desk and in Watari's gorgeous, penguin-adjacent apartment.
But then he'd been sent back, not just in dimensional terms, but in time. Which is why he hadn't remembered.
"Watari sent me with a message," the penguin said. "You are approaching the time of your accidental demise. He wants you to avoid repeating the mistake, so we don't get into a loop. Loops are a real pickle."
"I'm sure," said Irvine. "So what's the message?"
The penguin made an odd clucking sound, which Irvine guessed approximated a clearing of the throat.
"It's about bottoms," said the penguin.
Irvine glanced at Squall, who had blushed to the roots of his gorgeous chocolate-coloured hair.
"Specifically," said the penguin, "Watari-san says to remember that your ass is fine. You do not need to compete with your boyfriend. Mirrors carry but a reflection of reality, not a truth. And also, it's kind of weird if you keep staring at his, or your, arse in public."
Well, that wasn't quite what Irvine had expected. He'd been thinking more along the lines of a map of landmines he should avoid, or perhaps 'beware behemoths' (although behemoths conveyed that perfectly well just by fucking existing).
The penguin turned to Squall. "He had a message for you, too, sir."
Squall's eyebrows shot up.
"Watari-san suggests that when you go out on your afternoon mission today you should wear a different jacket. Something ankle-skimming."
Squall put a protective hand up to his fluffy white jacket-trim.
"It's very important," said the penguin.
Squall let his hand drop, and shrugged. "Whatever."
"Thank you." The penguin bowed to both of them.
"Would you like some fish?" Irvine asked. "I'm sure the cafeteria could rustle something up."
The penguin blinked his eyes a few times. "It's not necessary, good sirs. I shall be returning to Watari-san now. It has been delightful to meet you, Irvine-chan. Again. And you, Leonhart-san."
"Right. Sure," said Squall.
"Tell Watari...." Irvine hesitated. How could he express his gratitude to Watari in a simple message? It seemed impossible. Then it struck him. "Tell him thanks for the birthday party. Okay?"
The penguin nodded, and, as if on cue, faded into nothing with a resounding, inter-dimensional 'pop'.
"Nice penguin," said Squall, in a somewhat strangled tone.
"Yeah. It's a, um, thing. Y'know."
Squall sighed. "I'm sure."
"Back to work then?" Irvine turned to the door.
Squall grabbed his hand, and reeled him in; took Irvine in his arms and kissed him, his mouth soft and passionate and promising a very interesting interlude.
"Hi," purred Irvine.
"Your ass is just fine." Squall said. "I love your ass. Don't change it."
Irvine tipped his hat back and raised an eyebrow. "Really?"
Squall nodded. "I'll show you tonight just how much I love your ass. You don't have to do stupid fucking squats, okay?" He leaned in closer and whispered in Irvine's ear, "It's the perfect size so I can bend you over the bed and get right inside you, all the fucking way, balls deep, feel your skin and my skin and fuck you senseless. Okay?"
Irvine squeaked, and his hat fell off.
"Great," said Squall, with a pat to Irvine's right buttock. "Now lend me your duster and let's go kill monsters."
Watari sat with Tatsumi on the steps of their building, and waited. He watched the time tick past on his wrist watch, second by second.
There was no swirl of sakura, no crunch of cowboy boots under the trees. No Irvine.
"Well done," Tatsumi said. "Crisis averted."
Watari let petals fall like rain on his face, and smiled.