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Originally written for the prompt "heat".

For Love of Battle

part 4 of Threshold

The Viera wears a topper to match her gentleman's suit, earholes cut precisely. She frowns at a scale glossair model that refuses to spin. In the corner, a Seeq-sized Hume curses at what appears an armory's failed attempt at spontaneous procreation.

The satin-clad Moogle taps Ffamran's kneecap. 'You lost, kupo? The lav's down a floor.'

'You're the YPA?' Still at the threshold, Ffamran swallows his sneezes. Dust covers everything. 'I'm here to join.'

The Moogle disregards Ffamran's proffered blueprints, disdainful. 'We don't need another ideas man.'

The grandfather clock chained horizontal across the rafters chimes, or at least, tries. Something clicks, whirs. The Viera catches the falling cuckoo, five finger-long claws forming a cage.

Inexplicably, Ffamran's glasses fog.

'I, uh, have a client. He's rich—'

'A real client?'

'A real commission?'

The Moogle hiccups. 'For real gil?'

The Viera crooks her finger at Ffamran, more interested in his markups. The Hume dons drafting gloves, raises a bottle-thick monocle, and holds Ffamran's sketches to the attic's sole window.

'Let's order lunch in. Correcting this will take time.' The Viera taps a rhythm on the table, measured. A concession, with a quirk of her brow, 'If not so long as my initial assumption.'

Ffamran takes slightly longer to recognize his warmth as joy.

Basch can only see through one eye, partly for swelling, mostly for drink. The shoulders against his belong to men as drunk and bruised as he. The dark face opposite wears the only scowl. The lieutenant's name swims to Basch through beer: Vossler led that brutal raid on the fight club which had kept Basch illicitly housed since he was refused Rabanastran asylum.

It was Vossler's cheerful company that insisted on shouting Basch a round for the battle well fought.

'Fancy wristwork with the big sword, but take away that and what's left?' Basch forms two fists, wrists thick against his handcuffs. 'Try these for size instead.'

Last straws, and with his doubled bruised eyes, Vossler's a dark chocobo. To the ongoing amusement of his company, Vossler flings the table to pieces. Basch salvages his mug and a swallow, quickly, before Vossler boots the cup to follow.

'Landis! You want another brawl so bad—'

'You're more the kind who always thinks with his—' Basch dives, fingers outstretched for Vossler's balls, only to turn his grip to Vossler's hilt. 'Sword.'

Even with the handcuffs, Basch draws the blade, ready to run.

Under Vossler's abusive grip, Basch's cheap shirt falls apart. They both look down. Basch hasn't stopped sweating since he arrived in Dalmasca.

Small excuse for the way Vossler's gaze sticks to his chest.

Draklor's halls run deep, even this close to home. Ffamran sweats into his collar, brings tea to his lips, speaks through steam.

'Your move, old man.'

Cidolphus removes his hand from scratching beneath his beard. Ffamran wonders what unseen mishap turned the familiar flesh into the everpresent white glove, then silences his own speculation. A black knight in opposition to Ffamran's queen, the pieces of marble and the board, lacquered wood. The sound of placement as definitive as the move is not.

Cidolphus stretches his legs beneath the small table, sets his ankles against Ffamran's own.

Ffamran expects the clink of a chain he intends to remove.

White queen takes black knight. Ffamran's heartbeat quickens with realisation: his father's gambit was not a ploy. All men make mistakes, Ffamran tells himself, but the thought does not comfort him.

Lines write thick as history upon the old man's brow, and Cid abruptly resigns his king. 'Age must be blinding me. You've never played well.'

'Couldn't even let me say checkmate, could you?'

'Finish your tea. If you can even sit still for that long.'

Ffamran drinks his tea as slow as spite can brew.

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