Squall was caught off-guard by the sudden change in attitude of the older male. He had seemed so…grumpy earlier, and here he was now, attempting to joke around with the brunet. Still, that comment about how he used to duel with his brother all the time…that sudden remorse before he had perked up again. Squall couldn’t help but wonder…
But he wouldn’t ask. The Squall at this point would never do something like ask someone a question so personal, even if he thought his suspicions might be right.
He shrugged a little, keeping his face even, although there was a glint of challenge in his eye. “We’ll see, won’t we? Hey, old man. If I outdrink you, you’d better stop calling me sunshine.”
Basch pushed open the door to the tavern, “That’s a pretty big if kid… and remember that I’ve just got out of the infirmary yesterday.” Pushing the tavern door open, Basch found a spot at the bar and sat down with Squall. With a nod towards the bartender, a glass of scotch came his way.
Picking up the glass, Basch just said “What are you gonna order Sunshine?”
How long had he been the army? He’d joined when he was fifteen, but hadn’t been put on official duty till he was seventeen, and it had been nearly three years since then. So which answer was he supposed to give? He supposed the latter would be more accurate, since he had joined only in name at fifteen, partially due to Matthias’ intervention.
“Nearly three years now…and most of the older members are always stuffed up in meeting rooms anyway…” A pause, and then, “So, how do you hold your liquor, old man?”
He was beginning to relax a little. As long as the other man didn’t ask personal questions, they would be just fine.
Throwing his hands up in a mocking fashion, Basch exclaimed “What do you mean ‘older members’? Jeez, you kids can’t help yourself but take shots at my age can you?” Laughing to himself, he clapped Squall on the back softly and said “Just kidding mate.”
He winced slightly, his lungs hadn’t fully recovered yet, but continued on, “3 years? That’s a long time for someone your age to be in one place. I’ve been fighting since before I can remember…” his mood changed suddenly, becoming more sullen and remorseful, “My brother and I used to duel all the time. It was the way we lived.”
Shrugging, he just sighed and said “How do I hold my liquor? In a glass preferably.” He laughed again, and continued to say “I can handle it just fine mate. The way you look, I doubt you could take much.” With another shrug, he added “But looks can be deceiving, can’t they Sunshine?”
Equivalent exchange, huh. Even though he had been raised in Oerba, Squall thought that he understood the concept. Despite the importance on everybody being family here, Squall never wanted to feel like he owed anyone a favour. It felt like he was depending on them if he did.
He chuckled a little, giving a curt nod of his head as he unfolded his arms. “Sure. A drink sounds good.”
Walking toward the door, he considered the words the older man had said earlier, about Aerith being safe. He remembered the familiar scent that he had smelt on her during his checkup, and found himself wondering how she was doing. And then, the way Basch had said it. She was something special to him, no doubt. Somehow, he found himself amused by the thought. The two didn’t really seem to match, and yet they clicked together like pieces of a puzzle.
Basch walked down the hall in the direction of the tavern with Squall behind him. “So Sunshine… How long have you been in the army? Seems like I’m the only person over 25 here. Then again, I’ve only met a handful, but walking around I don’t see many people my age, be they soldiers or just staffers.”
He shrugged and turned a corner. “I’ve only worked with Cloud and Aerith, and been in the infirmary since that mission anyway.”
Squall chuckled a little. “I would believe so, old man. You were in rather bad shape when I picked you up by the lake.” A pause, folding his arms across his chest habitually. “Amam, eh. Definitely not creatures you want to mess with. Especially if you have to worry about someone else while dealing with them. Must have been a tough fight.”
He wondered what kept the older man fighting, but didn’t ask. He obviously had his reasons. All of them in the Army did. It was what kept them going when things got tough.
“Anyway, there really isn’t a need to thank me for what I did. It’s not like I would have left you there to die.”
Squall didn’t really know what else to say. There wasn’t much to say, to begin with. He had just done what needed to be done. There wasn’t much fear of letting someone close in picking an unconscious man up, so it really hadn’t been an issue with him.
Basch stood up and walked towards Squall, rolling his shoulder over as he walked. “Aye, they’re not exactly docile creatures, and the brief was that we weren’t to kill them either… So I didn’t really have much in the place of options. Just did my best to stay standing I suppose. I don’t know what they’re going to do with the scientist either,” closing his eyes, he sighed, “But Aerith is safe. That’s all I care about.”
Taking Squall into profile, he laughed and clapped his hands. “Well actually kid, there is a point to thank you. Where I come from, everything works on equivalent exchange. If you do something for someone, you expect something similar in return.” Realising what he said though, he quickly added with another laugh, “In saying that though… I don’t expect you to drop half dead in front of me.” Realising that Squall was indifferent towards him, he just sighed and said “Why don’t I buy you a drink or something? You look like you need to loosen up a bit.”
Squall allowed himself to smirk a little. “Not bad, old man.” Returning the held-back compliment which he had been paid earlier. The man’s reflexes were good, and his style was better suited for the lesser agility that came with age. More steady. He had seen his fair share of battles. His muscles were dull with unuse, not lack of strength. He probably had been in the infirmary for a while prior. Squall wasn’t surprised. He had seemed to be in pretty bad shape when Squall had picked him up.
“Not bad at all…So what got you all banged up like that, old man?” His smirk was still present. His communication with the old man was impersonal. He liked that, and respected the man’s strength.
Basch was rather surprised by Squall’s sudden change in attitude. Returning his axe to the sheath on his belt and placing his shield on his back, he turned to face Squall, “Old man?” he sighed “Watch your tone kid.” With a cough, he moved to a nearby chair and slumped into it. “A pair of rather irritated Amam’s actually. I got between them and their lunch,” remembering the day, he continued to regale Squall with the details, “There were 3 of them, but Cloud was occupying the third. I just had to make sure Aerith and the scientist were safe.” Rubbing his shoulder, he smiled and said “They’ve got a rather nasty bite.”
That the man kept calling him sunshine irked Squall. He hid the frustration as he followed the man through the door, and then realised how ridiculous and awkward the whole situation was. He had asked if the man wanted to see his gunblade in action for himself, but now the reality of the situation sunk in. There was no way he could fire the weapon at the man, not for a spar, and to shoot a dummy just felt ludicrous.
Backtracking into the control room, he quickly set a quick simulation. A pack of three Albino Lobos would do for this purpose. Walking back to the main room, he drew his gunblade, leaving it in gun mode as he waited for the simulation to start.
It was over almost as soon as it started, as he flashed through the motions. Firing at range, blade like dancing death in close quarters, and practiced dodges and blocks. It was simple, with only three weak monsters, but Squall hadn’t meant for it to be a challenge. All he wanted was to show the man the capabilities of the gunblade like he had said he would. He was starting to think the whole thing was pointless to begin with, but not being one to back out on his word, went through with it.
The room brightened again as the simulation ended, and he smoothly folded his gunblade and slipped it back into its holster before turning back to the older man.
“So? You see how this ‘advanced’ weapon is practical?”
Leaning against a wall, Basch just stared at Squall. “Not bad kid.” With a sigh, he pushed himself up off the wall and walked over to Squall, “That weapon is decent enough I suppose”, and he gave Squall a soft slap on the shoulder. “Do me a favour… go and start the simulation again…”, and he assumed his combat stance and waited for Squall to start the simulation.
As the room went dark for a moment, Basch sighed and shrugged, and as the room lit up again, the Albino Lobos were in front of him and baying for a fight. “Alright…” he said softly, “Let’s get this show started”. As the Lobos charged at him, he dug his heels in and waited for the first of the creatures to reach him. With a howl, a Lobo collided with his shield as he pushed against it. The beast went flying away and 2 more took it’s place.
The fight went more or less the same way like that, Basch parrying away the beasts, casting a quick ruin at one of the remaining ones. His simulation took longer than Squall’s, but he didn’t really care, he was just relishing the combat after a week in the infirmary. As the last of the Lobo’s fell under his axe, he turned around and shrugged, “Not my best work… but it’ll do Sunshine.”
Sunshine? Where the hell had that come from? And what gave this man the impression that he would be put in the infirmary so easily?
Squall stared at the disappearing back of the older man, caught off guard by his reaction. Well, he could afford to kill some time. The library didn’t close for a while yet, and he’d be able to get the research materials he needed later. This…spar would be interesting, and might teach him something. Uncrossing his arms, he made his way to the nearby training rooms, leaning against the wall by the door of a room that wasn’t in use.
As he waited, he recalled a particular name the other had mentioned. Aerith. He furrowed his brows as he tried to recall. That was the medic who smelled like flowers. He still couldn’t remember exactly what was so familiar about that smell. It bothered him.
Moving swiftly down the hall, Basch was getting ready for a decent duel. This should be good he mused to himself, a slight smirk crossing his face. Rounding the corner of the hall, he quickly looked down the length and saw Squall waiting for him.
Quickening his pace, he called out; “Hey Sunshine. You miss me?” With a soft laugh to himself, he slowed down as he approached Squall. With a nod to the door, he smirked and said “Shall we?”
As they entered, he turned around and said “Well. I suppose there’s no time like the present kid.” Pointing to a dummy on the wall, he said “Well then, show me what that thing can do.”