Characters: Cid Raines, Yaag Rosch
Spoilers: Only if you don't know who these characters are. However, there are minor spoilers in the author's notes, which are at the end.
Crit: Yes yes yes, please. New fandom, new characters, any and all thoughts are welcome.
The Sanctum Military Academy is known for many things: rigorous training and selection policies, strict teachers, state-of-the-art instruction methods, the intense rivalry between Guardian Corps and PSICOM. Comfortable classrooms, however, are not among them, especially not on those days that the air conditioning breaks. Cadet Cid Raines allowed himself one last longing glance out the window at a day that looked more like summer than fall, then returned to his current task: trying to settle in his hard plastic chair. He leaned forward, then sideways, in search of position that would keep his shirt from sticking to his back and his overly-starched collar from cutting into this neck, while still appearing to pay attention to Professor Lyssander and his lecture on the War of Transgression.
"Hsst!" The sharp noise came from the seat on his right, and Cid turned to see Yaag Rosch glaring at him. Rosch was PSICOM and every inch the model cadet -- always on time, in order, and impeccably behaved, and self-righteous about all three. Cid had tried to work up the urge to hate him, but so far the most he had managed was a sort of irritation. "Settle down, you idiot," Rosch hissed under his breath.
Cid hardened his stare and replied, also sotto voce. "What business is it of yours?"
Rosch lifted his sharp chin, just a hair, his pale eyes narrowing. "You're distracting me."
"From this fascinating lecture that we've already heard a dozen times before? Right." Cid grunted and turned away, returning his attention to the screens at the front of the room -- only to find his view blocked by the broad chest of Professor Lyssander, who now stood right in front of Cid's desk. Cid looked up and met Lyssander's eyes; the professor stared down first at him, then at Rosch.
"Mr. Raines?" Lyssander crossed his arms, and his gray mustache quivered. "Care to tell us what you find more interesting than this 'fascinating lecture', as you called it?"
So much for any hope that Lyssander hadn't heard. Cid opened his mouth to respond with something conciliatory, but before he could attempt to smooth things over, he was interrupted by Rosch jumping to his feet. "He started it!"
Lyssander raised his eyebrows and turned his glare fully on Rosch. "I don't care who started it, but you've both finished it. Get out, both of you. The commandant will be hearing about this."
Cid felt the blood rush to his cheeks, but he rose from his seat in silence, casting a quick glare to Rosch, who crammed his tablet into his knapsack and stalked out of the room, leaving the door open as he passed through it.
A girlish titter from the back interrupted the silence, and Lyssander swung around to look in the direction of the cadet who had produced the sound, a woman with long blond hair and round spectacles. "Anyone who finds this amusing can join Raines and Rosch in the hallway." The giggling girl sank back into her seat, blushing. Lyssander turned back to Cid. "What are you still doing here? I said leave."
Cid snapped to attention and tossed off a perfect salute. "Yes sir!" He turned his back on the classroom and left, slamming the door behind him as he passed into the empty hallway. Empty but for Rosch, who had already taken off, heading for the door on the right. Cid caught up with him in a few quick steps.
"Hey." He lifted his hand to tap Rosch on the shoulder, then thought better of it. "Where are you going?"
Rosch didn't stop or look back. "To the commandant's office," he snapped. "To get reinstated to class. Which is what you should do, too, if you want any hope of graduating."
Cid fell into step with Rosch, who pretended that Cid wasn't there. Rosch was right of course; being allowed to return to Lyssander's class, continue his studies, and become a Guardian Corps officer was the only thing that mattered, not proving Rosch or Lyssander or anyone else wrong. Wasn't it?
They passed through the door together, then down another empty hall, shoulder to shoulder but still without speaking. Cid had never met the commandant, nor had he ever been to her office; he'd only ever seen her at a distance, at ceremonies and assemblies. When they reached the door, Rosch pushed it open and then let it fall, almost slamming it in Cid's face. Cid caught it with his shoulder and pushed through. On the other side was a small waiting area with several plants, a couch, and an aide rising from his desk, a vacant smile on his face. "Do you have an appointment?" he asked.
"No." Rosch whipped his head to the side to glare at the aide. "Nor do I plan to wait for one." He all but pushed the aide aside as he walked past and yanked open the door to the inner office. Cid took a moment to shoot the sputtering aide a look of apology, but he too hurried by.
The door closed behind him, and there she was: Commandant Lelani, head of the Sanctum Military Academy, sitting at her desk, short dark hair falling into her eyes as she leaned over a tablet. "Have a seat, gentlemen," she said without looking up.
Cid lowered himself into one of the two straight-backed wooden chairs in front of the desk, then looked at Rosch, who had remained standing.
"Commandant Lelani, this is an outrage!" Rosch's voice was barely beneath a shout, and his hands were balled into fists at each side.
"I might say the same, Mr. Rosch," Lelani replied, her tone mild. She glanced up, one eyebrow raised. Her eyes were a bright blue, startling against her tanned skin. "Now sit down and we'll talk this out. That's an order, by the way." She returned her attention to the tablet's screen, tapping it with her finger, apparently scrolling through documents, as Rosch slowly lowered himself into the other chair.
A few moments passed in silence, long enough that Cid had to fight the urge to start fidgeting again -- the office was cooler than the classroom had been, thanks to an open window, but his collar was becoming more uncomfortable by the second, and he could feel waves of anger coming off Rosch. Just when he thought one or the other of them might explode, Lelani set the tablet down on the desk, met each of their eyes in turn, and smiled.
"Yaag Rosch and Cid Raines," she said. "I've been expecting to see you both in this office eventually. But I must say, these are not the circumstances I had envisioned." She tapped her tablet's screen with a fingernail. "Professor Lyssander was quite vehement in the message I just received: he states that neither of you is fit to sit in his classroom without a re-education in proper discipline. Given your grades, and the comments I've seen from your other instructors, I rather doubt that. But still, Lyssander has been teaching here a long time, and his recommendations carry great weight." She looked back and forth at them again. "Care to tell me what happened?"
Once again, Cid had no opportunity to defend himself before Rosch was out of his seat. "It was Raines's fault!" Rosch lifted his hand and pointed at Cid. "He was being disruptive, and--"
"Sit down, Cadet." No hint of anger or irritation had crept into Lelani's voice, but her words were as firm as any battlefield command. "Or do you have so little control over your own actions that you feel the need to blame them on others?"
Rosch sat down, a slight slump to his shoulders. It was the first time that Cid had seen him in any posture other than ram-rod straight. "Apologies, ma'am," Rosch muttered.
Lelani regarded Rosch for a moment longer, then turned her cool glance to Cid. "Mr. Raines? Share your thoughts with me, if you please."
"Thank you, ma'am." Cid leaned a little forward, resting his hands on his knees. "The problem, Commandant, is Professor Lyssander. He's telling us the same old fairy tales about the war with Pulse, stories we've been hearing since we were children. I've been in his class for three weeks and have yet to learn a single thing about history or the Cocoon military that I haven't known since grammar school." He looked at Rosch. "And I challenge Rosch to disagree."
Rosch sat up, back straight once again. He did not look at Cid, and for several seconds he did not speak. Then he shook his head, once, with enough vigor that his chin-length bangs swung around his face. "It doesn't matter what I think. We're ordered to take Lyssander's class, so we take it. Whether I find his lectures juvenile or brilliant is irrelevant."
"But it's not just Lyssander." Cid tightened his fist against his thigh. "Tell me, in the last year, what has the Academy taught you that you couldn't have learned by spending a week in the library? Not counting our weapons training, of course. But what about history? Or strategy, or the theories of command?"
Rosch shrugged. "We learn what the Sanctum wants us to learn, at the pace they find appropriate. It's not our place to judge."
Cid was startled into silence when Lelani broke in with a chuckle. He turned to face her, surprised to see a smile on her face once again.
"Just what I would expect from the cadets at the top of their respective classes," she said. "Respect for authority from PSICOM, the Corps always looking for a better way to protect the people and grow. You'll both do well in your chosen service." She lowered her gaze, more serious now. "Assuming you stay in line long enough to graduate. Which, if there are many more outbursts of this sort in class, from either of you, might be in question, no matter what glowing recommendations your teachers make. Do I make myself clear?"
"Yes ma'am." Cid and Rosch spoke in unison.
"Good." Lelani leaned back in her seat and sighed. "Now, as for the question of what to do with you today. I could order Lyssander to accept you back into class, and I could order you to sit through it, but frankly I don't think that's the best choice for anyone. He's only a year or so from retirement, and the blunt truth is that you're right, Mr. Raines -- he doesn't really have anything new to teach you." Cid raised an eyebrow in surprise, and Lelani nodded at him. "So I'll put you both in an independent study -- pick a topic relating to the military history of Cocoon, write an in-depth report and present it to me at the end of the term. How does that sound?"
Cid had to call on all his reserves of discipline not to let his eagerness show. To study the history of Cocoon at his own pace seemed like a dream come true. "That seems fair, ma'am."
Rosch said nothing for a minute, then responded with a slow nod. "I will do my best."
Lelani held up her hand. "There is a condition, though, and I'm afraid I must insist upon it. You may not have much to learn from Lyssander, but you have a great deal to learn from each other. Therefore, I charge you to work together on this. You'll each write your own paper, but everything else will be a team effort: choosing a topic, doing the research, discussing what you learn. You need not come to the same conclusions, but you will consider and learn to appreciate the other's point of view. Agreed?"
Do I have a choice? Cid knew better than to speak his thought out loud, of course; Lelani had made it clear that he did not. And teaming with Rosch for a term was far preferable to being expelled, or spending another minute in Lyssander's classroom. A quick glance at Rosch suggested that he was thinking much the same thing, and so Cid turned back to the commandant. "Agreed."
"Agreed," Rosch repeated, with only the slightest hesitation.
"Excellent." Lelani leaned forward again, her fingers steepled on the desk. "I'm glad you're both amenable. Report to me in the library next week at this time. For now, you are dismissed."
Rosch stood first and left quickly -- he was out of the office before Cid had even fully risen from his chair. He snapped a salute to Lelani, then followed, nodding to the aide as he went into the hallway. Through the glass doors to the quad, he could see Rosch sitting on a bench, hands folded, eyes on the ground. Cid opened the door and exited the building. It was, as he had suspected, a perfect fall day in Eden -- puffy white clouds in a blue sky, a light breeze blowing, the leaves on the trees just starting to turn. Cid took a moment to breathe the fresh air, then turned to face Rosch.
"So," he said, not sitting down. "I suppose this means we're working together."
"So it seems." Rosch looked up, his face wiped clean of emotion. "I wouldn't have chosen this, but if it must be, let's make the best of it." He stood and extended his hand. "Partners?"
Cid didn't hesitate to grasp Rosch's hand in his own. "Partners. Might as well get started right away; shall we meet in the library tomorrow? Say, at ten hundred hours?"
"Ten hundred hours," Rosch repeated. "See you then." Dropping Cid's hand, he turned on his heel and marched out of the quad, leaving Cid alone in the sunshine.
Author's Notes: Usually it takes me months of contemplation and at least one replay of a game before I feel even vaguely ready to write fic, especially fic where the two main characters never even appear on screen together. But the main idea behind this story really grabbed hold of me, and wouldn't rest until I started writing it: what if Raines and Rosch knew each other? What if they had been friends before their different ideas about what was best for the future of Cocoon drove them in different directions? Even though we didn't learn much about either character in game, their stories interest me, especially Cid's. So there is an excellent chance that this will develop into a series, especially if the other plot bunnies clustering around the concept bite me as hard as the initial one did.