Well-Worn Leather

((A/N: I figured I owed you guys something in time for the holidays. And it isn't much. Forgive me. I also don't remember a thing about concussions, other than the fact you're not supposed to go to sleep if you've gotten a bad one. I gave myself a nasty one and nearly fell down some stairs a few years ago. With my science fair board. Hoo, yeah, that was interesting.

Inspired by a sudden random plotbunny and some Carl Sandburg poems. Garet x Ivan-shippy and a little bit of Isaac/Mia. Zee-oh-em-gee. So if you don't like this sort of stuff, just click the back button on your browser now or that little "x" in the corner. Ain't brain surgery, darlings.))

Disclaimer: I claim no rights to owning Golden Sun or any of its characters.

The first thing that came to mind when he thought of his hands was rough.

Garet's hands were large and heavy and coarse, a single finger of his nearly the width of two of his own. The calluses and blisters on his palms were jagged, the skin dry and peeling. His nails, blunt and oftentimes dirty and cracked, had seen better days.

Those hands were so strong, so powerful, worn down for the cause of protecting himself and others. When he thought of it that way, he found a new fascination and a new respect for them.

Garet himself smelled of sweat and earth, something to be expected when traveling constantly on the road without end. When he took his gauntlets off at the end of the day, his hands smelled of well-worn leather. The scent was sharp, but not unpleasant, as Ivan found when they bunked in close quarters. When he could, Garet would wash his hands, and then would sit on his bed, massaging his palms and fingers with a tired look on his face.

The days when he would simply stare at his hands, that same expression of tiredness crossing his eyes and his mouth, Ivan would find a cloth and some warm water and would take his hands in his wordlessly, running the rag over the grooves and blisters, the skin and the nails.

Only once did Garet ever say to him, "I think Mia should be doing this."

To which Ivan had responded lightly, "I think she'd take it the wrong way if you asked."

Garet never made comment again after that, watching the top of Ivan's blond head as he gently washed his hands for him, with all the care and patience in the world. When the rag was set aside, Ivan would proceed to massage each hand individually, careful to avoid sore spots and to pay special attention to every muscle. That was when Garet's eyes would close and his breathing would become slower and deeper, and Ivan could spare a smile as his fingertips ghosted over the skin of the back of his hand. He liked doing this, lifting some of the world-weary stress from his shoulders. He couldn't explain why.

There was an evening when Garet had not the strength to move, and Ivan, despite his own fatigue, fell into the every-now-and-then ritual of washing and caring for his hands. The entire time his head was bobbing, his eyelids heavy, as though hung with weights, and sometime in the middle his forehead met Garet's shoulder. He only woke up again when he became aware of movement, being lain down lengthwise on the surface of Garet's bed, the blanket being pulled up around his shoulders. He made protest, as it was his turn to sleep on the floor, with only two beds in their room, but Garet shushed him by pressing the knuckles of his hand against his parted lips, and turned to settle himself on the wooden boards below.

Ivan would have pressed the matter further, but Garet had already fallen asleep between his and Isaac's bed, the deep, heavy breaths coming evenly from his lungs. He would be snoring in a matter of minutes.

The wind mage sighed, turned to look out the window - a clear, cloudless night; the stars were scattered across a canvas of molten violet - and then slumped down on the pillows, letting sleep creep over his senses and dull the fatigue that came with the day.

A week or so later, Ivan had to be dragged to his room. He felt boneless and light, and his thoughts were all aswirl, even as Isaac pulled off his heavy cloak and outer armor and Garet his shoes, Mia tut-tutting as she rummaged around their knapsack of healing goods. A concussion, along with a little poison, the Imilian healer said with a sigh, uncorking a dark green vial and permeating the room with a pungent odor. She trickled some of the horrible substance down his throat and he nearly coughed it up on her, but she closed his mouth and tilted his chin upwards until he swallowed. When he finished sputtering, he blinked blearily at her, and croaked, "Mia?"

With a nod, she said he would be fine in a few hours, and had retired to her room.

Isaac suggested that they keep him awake a while longer - he was already drifting off into the realm of unconsciousness - at least until the poison or the concussion wore off. Garet agreed, and left the room.

He returned with a warm, damp cloth, shedding his gauntlets carelessly onto a nearby table, and took Ivan by the wrists, pulling off the half-finger gloves he wore and tossing them aside. Isaac watched him scrub at Ivan's hands for a while, then left with the medicine bag Mia had left in the room, his excuse being that he had to return it to her. (Even Garet could see beyond that. He'd been Isaac's friend since childhood, after all.)

Ivan was looking between Garet and his hands the entire time, puzzled. "Garet? What are you doing?"

"Repaying a favor," he replied, attempting to smooth out the sharp edges in his tired voice, running the cloth over Ivan's small hands one last time and tossing it aside before beginning to rub down the sore muscles.

"Oh," Ivan said, voice small. Garet's deft hands were a blessed remedy on his cramped and sore fingers, and he fell backwards onto the headboard of the bed with a pleased, dreamy sigh.

"Hey, don't fall asleep," Garet yanked him by his hand, jolting him forward like a limp ragdoll. "You need to stay awake."

"So tired..." The younger boy grumbled, blinking owlishly at the fire adept. "You smell like leather."

"Sorry. You don't mind, do you?" He glanced up at him for a second, and remembered vaguely that he was still only fifteen, still at an awkward age and shoved into traveling with a bunch of make-believe adults. For fifteen, he was pretty well-balanced. And still too small for his mage's robes.

"No, I...I kinda like it," Ivan murmured with a wide yawn, his temple meeting Garet's shoulder comfortably. Garet paused in his ministrations for only the briefest of seconds before continuing, a sudden fondness for the smart-aleck pipsqueak blooming inside of him that he couldn't stuff down easily.

Ivan hiccupped suddenly, his slight frame jolting, and he slowly lifted his head back up, blinking rapidly. His eyes were clear again, and Garet knew the strong antidote had worked its usual wonders. Mia knew how to keep an ear out for the best apothecaries in each town they visited, and she made it a point to visit them at least once to restock their inventory. Isaac had yet to complain, even though she often came back with a much lighter wallet (his, incidentally), as anyone had yet to die on their hands. Garet took those potions and herbal remedies for granted, and he knew it, but he was pleased with Ivan's quick recovery. "Hey, you right in the head again?"

"I have the biggest headache this side of Angara," Ivan said slowly, his blinking becoming slow and labored, mouth curling unpleasantly, "but I don't feel like a zombie anymore, if that's an improvement."

"Welcome back to the realm of the living." Garet realized only then that he still held Ivan's hands, though they had ceased movement since his reawakening, but he saw no need to move immediately, and so let them stay that way until Ivan deemed it necessary to pull away.

And Ivan did retract his hands, but it was a sluggish movement, as though he were hesitating the entire time. He flexed them experimentally once, twice, and then his eyes rose to meet Garet's, only so far away. Then he turned his confused stare back on his hands. "Did you..."


The wind mage quirked an eyebrow at him. "Thanks for making me reek of leather."

"Aren't you grateful," Garet muttered in mock-hurt as he stood up from the bed, heading over to his own and collapsing on it with a loud yawn. "I could've just let you fall asleep and then you would have never woken up to whine at me ever again, you know."

"Tch, and you'd be one short of a valuable mage." He said haughtily, but squeezed his hands, secretly pressing them against himself and suppressing a soft blush.

"And a kid who doesn't know when to keep his endless amounts of useless knowledge to himself." Garet shot him a smug look, feeling oddly warm on the inside despite their usual childish banter that normally riled him up easily. "Did I need to know about the eating habits of trolls? No, not in particular..."

"You never know," Ivan rolled his eyes at him over his shoulder. "Pointless information can come in handy sometimes! It lets me annoy you, after all..."

Garet responded with his usual retort of "Whatever, Ivan," and rolled onto his side, scratching idly at his cheek. The silence in the room was comfortable, not the usual strained, heavy air that would follow their little spats. It was...nice.

"Garet?" came Ivan's soft, timid voice, like a shot into the dark.

"Hmph?" He woke up from his two-minute nap, flopping onto his back again to look at him sideways.

"...Um, thanks," the blond mumbled, curling his hands into the bedsheets. "You didn't have to..."

"It was nothing," Garet shrugged it off casually, but he couldn't hide the little smile on his face. "Felt gratifying, anyways," he added quietly to himself.

"Did you say something?"

"Nah. You sure you're not still a zombie?"

"Shut up."

Garet barely felt the pillow bouncing off of his forehead. "That wasn't nice, Ivan."

"Can't you just go to sleep?"

The mattress creaked as Ivan shuffled around on his bed, and Garet's smile became more relaxed and serene as he drifted off into the world of dreams again.

Then, "Garet?"

"What is it now?"

"Uh. Could I have my pillow back?"

Garet reached up and pulled out the one from under his head, chucking it at him without looking. Ivan made a muffled noise of disagreement at this, but he said to him, somewhat annoyed, "Go to sleep, idiot."

"Well, fine," Ivan grumbled, moving around some more before stillness settled upon the two inhabitants of the room once more.

Garet heard it in his dreams: "I still smell like leather."

"You know you like it," he answered arrogantly, maybe in his dream, maybe out loud in his sleep.

Nothing else was said, in his head or otherwise, for the rest of the night.

Ivan kept at washing and massaging Garet's hands when the fire adept was too tired to do it himself, and Garet never said a word about it or the one night when it was he who had done the work for Ivan. But Ivan could almost tangibly feel the simple gratitude, even when he avoided Garet's eyes, in just the way the smell of him lingered long after they had lain down for the night.

And eventually, Ivan ceased to consider Garet's hands rough. They were more like... well-worn leather now. They smelled of it, he reasoned, so why not? His hands weren't all coarse edges and sandpaper. They still had smooth spots, small places where axehandles and sword hilts and stiff iron gauntlets had yet to debase.

When Garet's hands would work out the cramps and the knots from his hands, though, it was like putting coarse soil to good cloth. Ivan's hands would always remain softer than Garet's, though far from perfectly smooth, and always smaller, more spindly. His hands easily disappeared into the palms of Garet's own, and yet he never feared for the outcome of his fingers, because he still trusted Garet, all the way deep down, despite his constant oafishness and crazy impulsiveness. He had a feeling Garet appreciated that, and it made him feel strangely good-natured on the inside.

Tonight he felt like dead weight and when he fell on his bed, he did not move. Garet flipped him over none-too-gently and plucked his hands up, mocking him for his usual zombie-like behavior, and Ivan drew up the strength to spit out, "You always make me stink of leather."

Garet just smiled knowingly at him, and Ivan sat back and let him go about his business, dwelling placidly on how much Garet's hands had softened over time.


((Aughhh. That made absolutely no sense. Why do my fics always come out the exact opposite of what I want?

Well, anyways, the point was to have it transition from Ivan's POV to Garet's, and then to a sort of neutral and then to an all-knowing narrator at the end. It didn't come out quite so smooth, though. Bleh.

But at least I got this done. I like meh Garet/Ivan. I should write more of it. Hmmm.

Merry Christmas and happy New Year, folks. Azu out.))