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it's. only. her. cinnamentality.
and you couldn't tame it if you tried
[BOMBERMAN] Burning Inside. 
2nd-Sep-2015 05:56 pm
red night sky
Title: Burning Inside.
Fandom: Bomberman (Edenverse).
Pairing: Shiro/Regulus.
Words: 5777.
Summary: I’ll vanquish any foe because you’re mine; I can regain control because you’re mine.
Rating: PG-13. (And boy howdy does “PG” stand for “Pretty Gay” in this instance.)
Notes: More of this dumb bullshit. Draws/expands on stuff that happened in the previous themeset, because lazy. The same warnings and blamings from before apply, with an added dose of holy-shit-that-last-theme-is-practically-a-fic-in-and-of-itself-it’s-so-long. I guess this is an almost-‘verse now, or a scatter of almost-‘verses.

Title (and summary!) comes from ”You’re Mine” by Disturbed, which is actually a smidge more relevant than “Evelyn.”

#01 - Rainfall

It literally starts raining the moment Shiro steps out from the condominium complex into the open air, heavy drops slapping loudly against the concrete like gunfire. Of course, he has nothing to protect himself against the storm except his hoodie, his backpack, and the apathy of the heartbroken.

#02 - Heart

Regulus can honestly say that he has no idea what it’s like to be heartbroken. He doesn’t spend much time dissecting his own temperament and tendencies, but he has been told that his heart is stone, solid and cold and coarse. He’s inclined to agree with that assessment.

But stone can be worn, weathered, polished into something gentler to the touch.

When Shiro leaves after recovering enough from his rampage against Naberitur, the fact of it grates on Regulus’ heart for days on end. He isn’t sure why. He is familiar with the feeling from previous incidents with Zoniha, when they were still together, but he doesn’t think he should be so similarly disturbed when it comes to Shiro. Perhaps Regulus is merely surprised that Shiro would stick to his claim that his self-assigned suicide mission would be his “last rent payment.” Yet he shouldn’t be surprised by that either. If anyone would hold fast to their word, no matter how silly or hyperbolic, it would be Shiro.

Regulus advises one of his trusted lieutenants to keep an eye out for a white-haired young man wreaking havoc in Cerbera’s underbelly. He doesn’t know yet what he’ll do, if anything, should news of Shiro come to him, or should their paths cross again.

But the possibility of either quiets the scraping of stone against stone.

#03 - Model

Shiro can’t help but feel sorry for the talent scouters on the streets who’ve tried to convince Regulus to come model for their agencies.

#04 - Vision

There’s normally very little functional difference between darkness and day for Regulus. He doesn’t have night vision, per se; but he can expand his spatial awareness, allowing him to feel the world even if he can’t directly observe it. Being shadowblind, then, came as a nasty shock to him when his powers were sealed by Mihaele over seventy years ago. And being truly blind comes as a nasty shock now, with his powers sealed again after only a mere three years of having his elemental birthright back.

Shiro pauses, watching Regulus navigate the morning-bright kitchen with surer steps and a straighter posture than could be expected of a sighted person who has suddenly lost use of their eyes. He approaches the other man with heavy, obvious steps, although he suspects that Regulus would still be able to sense his presence regardless.

“That thrice-damned Akariel,” Regulus grumbles as Shiro comes up beside him. “I can’t fathom what she thinks this will accomplish.”

“I thought her title was ‘Thrice-Born’, but what do I know about who’s who in the cosmos. Anyway, she said this was temporary.” Shiro reaches out to give Regulus’ hand a reassuring squeeze.

Regulus glares in Shiro’s general direction. “I do not need to be led around like a child.”

Shiro rolls his eyes. “Maybe I just wanted to hold your hand like normal boyfriends do, Reg. Sheesh.”

The annoyance fades from Regulus’ expression, to be replaced with a blankness (further emphasized by his blindness-induced unfocused gaze) that Shiro has learned is confusion over how to handle earnest emotion. At least, he thinks that’s what it is. It could also be linefaced sarcastic skepticism. But there are certain coping mechanisms one has to develop living with a man like Regulus.

“You’re not going out like this, you know,” Shiro says.

Regulus nods, although reluctantly. “I will let Zoniha handle my obligations for now.” He snorts softly. “I can expect to hear from her about this for a long time.”

“You do have a hilarious tendency to piss off the wrong people.”

“No worse than your own.”

“But I have the added misfortune of falling in love with the wrong people, too.” Shiro smirks and pats Regulus on the cheek with his free hand. “I’ll find your phone for you.”

#05 - Desperate

While huddled under one of the stone arches of a museum entrance, taking refuge from the pouring rain, Shiro dials home.

“Shiro...?” Cho-Yee’s voice is fuzzy with distance and drowsiness.

“Hi, Mom. Sorry if I woke you up.”

“Oh, never mind that! I’m just so glad to hear from you. Where are you? Are you on your way home?”

“No, sorry. Still here on Thantos.” He sniffles. Tries convincing himself that it’s probably because he’s catching cold from the rain. “Not sure when I’m coming back. It’s just...things are complicated.”

“Is everything okay?”

Of course it isn’t, but Shiro appreciates the ability to pretend otherwise. It’s an appreciation hard-won. “It’s fine.”

“You don’t sound fine.”

He thinks of the weeks spent back on Bomber Star wrestling with the memories of the black hole, uncovering the deeper scars left on him by his brush with the cosmic. He thinks of an unlikely savior and demonic ordeals. He thinks of an unlikely love and thanklessness. He thinks, and it all hurts.

He runs a hand through his soaked bangs. “I will be.”

“All right. You know you can come home at any time, sweetie.”

“Yeah, I know. Thanks, Mom.”

But in truth, not even this realm feels like home anymore.

#06 - Impostor

Shiro stands in front of Regulus, a gentle smile on his face. Shiro stands behind him as well. And Shiro stands on either side of him.

In fact, in this dimensional slice of Tartaria, there are a multitude of Shiros.

All of them intend to kill Regulus.

Regulus systematically takes each one down, his strikes sure and thorough. The impostors attempt to play on his emotions by mimicking Shiro’s more vulnerable side, but Regulus has spent far too much time with the original to be fooled. In every way, these fabrications are mere paper dolls, and he shreds them with no hesitation and all the disdain for the demonic mastermind who thought to demoralize him so.

Still, when he returns to find the real Shiro — his Shiro — waiting for him with that same smile, he folds himself away and refuses to meet his eyes.

And Shiro’s smile fades.

#07 - Boom

Even while knowing that demolition work is being done downtown, Regulus catches himself wondering if Shiro has chosen today to spread his brand of justice.

#08 - Skyline

There are a host of things that suck about Shiro’s life now, but one thing he does like is the view of the Cerbera city skyline over Lake Hektaion from the floor-length windows in the living room of Regulus’ high-rise luxury condo.

#09 - Cage

It isn’t long before the skyscrapers of downtown Cerbera start to feel like bars caging him in, and Shiro escapes the increasing claustrophobia by buying a one-way ticket to the city of Ataraxion on Epikyur.

#10 - Bittersweet

Given Regulus’ general affinity for all things sugary and sweet, it comes as a surprise to Shiro that Regulus actually prefers dark chocolate over other varieties.

#11 - Name

“Just call me Shiro,” he says wearily after Regulus lectures him again in the middle of a sparring session.

Regulus cocks his head, curious. “Whatever for?”

Shiro scratches the back of his neck. “I dunno. I guess with having left the Base and living out here where no one knows me, I don’t really feel like ‘Bomberman’ anymore.”

“You seem to hold to the heroic ideals of that role regardless of what you are called.”

A mild glare. “My morals aren’t something I just turn on and off. It doesn’t matter whether I’m Shiro or Bomberman — if someone needs help, then I’m helping them if I can.”

“Then what is the difference between being called ‘Shiro’ and being called ‘Bomberman’?”

Shiro turns away, his eyes on the floor mat. It’s a couple of long moments before he answers.

“Some days I feel like Bomberman died in the black hole,” he sighs.

#12 - Frozen

Regulus has a demeanor as cold as winter, and Shiro’s presence melts it only slightly. But it’s enough to smooth over the nicks and scrapes in the ice, resulting in a man more perfectly realized than he was before.

#13 - Reward

All Shiro wanted from Regulus were two words, not three.

#14 - Fragile

It’s almost irritating to Regulus how fragile Shiro can seem sometimes, so pale and fresh-faced and emotional.

It’s also irritating how that irritation has, eventually, given way to protectiveness nine times out of ten.

#15 - Wishes

Something like elation rises in Shiro’s throat when he unexpectedly runs into Regulus again on Ataraxion.

Truth be told, he’d been hoping for bile.

#16 - Heist

“So,” Shiro begins, “you mean to tell me that you were commissioned by a demon...to steal an artifact from a seraph...and you accepted?

“There was very little choice in the matter.” Regulus doesn’t look up from carefully piping icing onto a set of cupcakes. “A past life of mine owes Yugyros a favor.”

“When the hell has obligation ever stopped you from giving the finger to something you don’t want to do? Not to mention that I never thought you cared much about your past lives. I think you’re looking for trouble, and the worst part is that I can’t tell if you’re looking to start shit with the seraphs or the demons. Or worse: both.”

“Things are likely to happen regardless of my intent. If you’re so worried, then you can stay out of this.”

“Like hell I will! Someone needs to tag along and do damage control. And no, the irony of me saying that is not lost on me.” Shiro eyes Regulus’ handiwork. “What’re the cupcakes for, by the way?”

“A past life of mine owes Yugyros a favor,” Regulus repeats.

Shiro does a double-take.

#17 - Face

“Have you ever had facial hair a day in your life?” Shiro idly asks.

“Have you?” is Regulus’ painfully dry response.

#18 - Hymn

With a huff, Regulus releases Shiro from his hold, allowing him to slump pathetically to the floor. “This is no good,” he says simply. “You are distracted. If you cannot give me the necessary focus, then we are done for today.”

“Have you ever considered that maybe it’s not all about what you want?” Shiro snaps. His inner fire continues to surprise Regulus; he had not remembered him being this confrontational before. Verbally, anyway. “Maybe I’m in this for me.”

“And what would you be getting out of a half-hearted training session?”

Shiro flinches as though chastised. He looks away, his mouth a thin line of frustration.

After a few moments of waiting, Regulus decides to drop the conversation. Shiro’s personal hangups matter to him only in the sense that they hold Shiro back in sparring. If Shiro cannot set those aside, then Regulus has no use for him at the moment. And so he turns to leave the abandoned warehouse he has converted into his own personal training facility, only one of many in Cerbera.

“I hear songs,” Shiro mumbles.

Regulus stops in his tracks. “Songs?”

Shiro nods. “Hymns, I think. Sung by a choir. I can understand them, but...it feels like I shouldn’t be able to. If that makes sense.”

Regulus stills. “The Arias of Creation.” He takes in Shiro’s appearance afresh, considers his circumstances and disposition anew. The young man had certainly appeared ragged when Regulus ran across him a month and a half ago, but Regulus had assumed that it was only due to the rigors of urban nomadism and the fallout of the incident with the BHB Army. “When did this start?”

“I was hearing them on the way home from the Noah. But they were quieter then, and it was only when I was dreaming...”

Regulus shakes his head. “Your time in the Aethyric Citadel must have marked you with its energies, if the Angel herself didn’t do it. You are connected to the cosmos now in a way that most mortals are not.”

Most mortals?”

“There are always some that slip through the staves. They are equally likely to be considered prophets as they are madmen.”

“That’s usually how it goes, doesn’t it?” Shiro shifts himself to a sitting position, pulling his knees up to his chest and leaning forward. “So, what, am I doomed to become a crazy, gibbering mess?”

“I doubt it, if the Angel conceded victory to you over the fate of this universe. Of course, it is difficult to tell ultimate intent with immortals like her. She may intend for your connection to the cosmos to aid you in protecting it.” Without, of course, providing any other guidance as to how a thing should be utilized. Regulus folds his arms. “You hear voices as well, don’t you?”

A nod. “Nothing bad. Just weird little things. Sometimes I hear ghosts of people who died. Other times it’s just...regular spirits, I guess?” Shiro curls up a little more. “When it gets really bad, I can’t hear actual people over them.”

Regulus is beginning to understand why Shiro had left home — and why he would agree to the strange terms of “rent” that Regulus had put before him. He hadn’t honestly expected Shiro to take him up on it. Even considering the idea that money would likely be a problem sooner or later, he’d been reasonably certain that Shiro would not be at all comfortable with sharing the same roof as someone of Regulus’ ilk and disposition. Bewildered desperation makes sense as a driving factor. “This is beyond my knowledge,” Regulus says. “I’ll speak to the other knights. We may be able to find more answers in the Akashic Records.”

Shiro nods again. “Thanks.” There’s no hope in the word; only resignation to the next complication in his life.

“I do mean it when I say we’re done for today, however,” Regulus continues, turning to leave again. “I would like to find out more about this before we continue on.” It’ll affect how he trains Shiro from this point onwards.

Occupied as he is with contacting the other knights about this development, he doesn’t realize that Shiro hasn’t followed him until he’s already halfway to the door. He glances behind him to see Shiro simply standing where he’d left him, his gaze distant.

“Bomberman?” Regulus calls, his voice echoing in the industrial vastness.

Shiro lifts his head ever so slightly. He walks forward in deliberate, measured steps, as though participating in some sort of solemn ceremony. He stops about a foot from Regulus.

“It really is quieter when I’m near you,” he murmurs. “What’s up with that?”

#19 - Drowsy

With a yawn, Shiro shamelessly stretches himself across Regulus’ lap like a cat and passes out for the night.

#20 - Blushing

Shiro still hasn’t gotten used to the revelation that Regulus is, contrary to all reasonable expectations, an outstanding kisser. He supposes Regulus must have learned during his time with Zoniha, but on the other hand it’s not like Shiro has any previous experiences to compare with.

“You’re enjoying this, aren’t you,” he accuses breathlessly after a particularly intense session involving him being pinned against a wall.

Regulus raises an eyebrow. “That is why this sort of thing is usually done, you realize.”

“Not this!” Shiro clarifies. “I mean, yes, this, but — you’re making fun of me!”

“Am I?” he deadpans.

Shiro glares, although it’s less out of true vexation with Regulus and more out of embarrassment at his clear lack of experience with anything remotely intimate. Not that he believes Regulus cares about such things, except in the sense that... “You’re deliberately trying to get me flustered."

A casual glance aside, the facial equivalent of a shrug. “Mm. Perhaps.”

Blink, blink. Shiro hadn’t expected Regulus to admit to it readily. “Well, then that’s more evidence that nothing in my life makes sense anymore,” he moans, letting his head sag against the wall.

Though when he thinks about it, things must be...well, not equally weird, but some measure of weird for Regulus too, right? His surreal and circular attempt at a confession had been ample evidence of that. The man clearly had no idea what to do with his feelings and Shiro doubts that’s changed.

He sure knows what to do with his tongue, though, snickers a voice in Shiro’s head.

Shiro blushes, and whimpers when he feels Regulus’ lips against the side of his neck.

#21 - Eternal

Any increase in the chance that Shiro might outlive Regulus thanks to the Angel’s apparent meddlings in his life and person are offset by the fact that Shiro continues to find himself in some breathtakingly dangerous scenarios, half of which wouldn’t have escalated to such a troublesome point if not for Shiro’s insistence on making things right.

#22 - Soap

“Hey, Reg, where’s your heartfelt declaration of undying devotion to me?” Shiro jokes after a particularly sappy scene plays on a TV in the corner of the waiting room they’re in.

Regulus gives him the most withering stare of disbelief. “Excuse me?”

Shiro laughs. “Nah, forget it. On second thought, that sort of thing would be really creepy coming from you.”

If you are the Shiro I know, Regulus reasons, you would not need such trite reassurances, either.

But considering how they started out and where they’ve ended up, he wonders how much of Shiro he truly knows.

#23 - Cinnamon

“Oh, for fuck’s sake,” Zoniha huffs at an insistent Regulus. “Your precious little cinnamon roll is going to be just fine, so stop with that I’ll-kill-you-if-he-dies look.”

#24 - Eliminate

“There is something I’ve been meaning to talk to you about,” says Elian Moss, the Crown of the Pearl Minotaur. “Word has been coming to me of someone with explosive capabilities ruining various Bestiary-related enterprises on the city rim. Word has also been coming to me that you are...well-acquainted...with the person in question.”

“I am,” Regulus says. “I am less so with his vigilante antics.”

“But that you are aware of them in the first place...have you made no attempt at all to dissuade him from them?”

“If you were to try it yourself, you would quickly find it a futile endeavor.”

Elian’s upper lip curls in disdain. “And, of course, being personally inclined towards him, you refuse to eliminate him outright.”

“I assure you, I have tried twice already. Both times have convinced me that there are more profitable things to be doing with my time.”

“You do realize how much in business losses and property damage the Bestiary has sustained as a result of him running free, yes? Particularly when it comes to Minotaur holdings. If I didn’t know better, I would say you seem to be using him as your own personal attack dog.”

“The losses to the Phoenix are quite significant as well, you know. He is unaware of the Phoenix’s reach and I intend to keep it that way.”

“But you are at no risk of him turning you over to the authorities. The rest of us do not have that luxury.” Elian brandishes an indignant finger at Regulus. “If you do not collar that dog of yours, the rest of the Bestiary will have no choice but to declare war.”

A smirk blooms on Regulus’ face then, like cracks in glass, and all the blood drains from Elian’s face.

“I look forward to it,” Regulus says.

#25 - Driver

“This is what you like listening to?” Regulus frowns at the radio blaring an obnoxious pop-punk anthem.

Shiro adjusts the rearview mirror. “Remember what they say: driver picks the music, shotgun shuts his cakehole.”

#26 - Secret

To get Regulus to admit what he likes about Shiro is a monumental task, the kind handed down to mythical heroes for them to either prove their worth or (more likely) to punish them for some transgression. At least part of the difficulty stems from the fact that Regulus himself isn’t wholly sure what attracts him to Shiro, even now, and doesn’t think much on it. If asked, he might say that Shiro simply amuses him more often these days than not. If pushed, he might say that he admires Shiro’s tenacity in the face of adversity — even if he thinks that so many of Shiro’s problems could be avoided if he weren’t so ready to throw down his life for such tenuous causes.

But no tortures in all the known universe could ever get Regulus to confess that sometimes, just sometimes, he find Shiro absolutely adorable.

#27 - Who

“You know, you sound happier these days, Shiro,” Cho-Yee says lightly during a phone call. “Is there someone we need to meet?”

#28 - Introduction

Shiro has to refrain from getting on his knees and apologizing profusely to his parents when Regulus doesn’t even return the customary “nice to meet you” offered by them.

#29 - Pet

There are times when Shiro feels more like a human pet than a boyfriend.

#30 - Reluctant

Shiro maintains his mask of calm professionalism as he approaches Regulus in the center of the renovated warehouse — their old training haunt. Strange to think of it as “old,” as though its memory spans years and not mere months for him. On the other hand, the warehouse itself is no spring chicken.

“You wanted to talk?” he asks. He assumes this is about their chance meeting in Ataraxion about a week ago, where it turned out they’d both been chasing the same target for different reasons.

And indeed, that is the topic that occupies their conversation for the first ten minutes or so. Positions are clarified, compromises are made, plans are laid out. Business is finished. Or so Shiro believes.

“Wait,” Regulus says as Shiro heads for the door.

Shiro does, puzzled. His puzzlement grows when he’s treated to the sight of Regulus actually looking...distressed. He can’t pin down what makes him think that. In fact, Shiro is almost sure he’s just imagining things; the tells had been so minuscule and fleeting.

“How...are you?” Regulus asks.

It’s all Shiro can do to keep his mouth from falling open. “When the hell did you start caring about small talk?” he stammers out after a moment of shock.

A corner of Regulus’ mouth quirks up, but it’s more of a grimace than a grin. Or perhaps it’s equally both. “I suppose that answers my question.”

“It doesn’t answer mine.” Not that Shiro expects one for his. He doesn’t see how his response answers Regulus’ question, either.

“You’re living in Ataraxion now?”

Shiro lifts a shoulder in a half-shrug. “Just staying there for the time being. Thinking of heading out to Yone at some point. Maybe Dalukah, eventually.” Abandoning this stellar system the way he did the Bomber Nebula.

“I see.” Regulus shifts his weight ever so slightly. “Would you consider staying with me again?”

Shiro’s heart thuds in his chest, as though suddenly tripped. He’s sure his face has gone paler than chalk dust. His throat feels like it’s been filled with the stuff, at the very least. “You can’t be serious.”

Regulus frowns, seeming offended. “I would not be asking otherwise.”

Of course he wouldn’t. Which is what floors Shiro even more. “What for?”

“Because I want you to.”

Have you ever considered that maybe it’s not all about what you want?

Shiro isn’t sure why he remembers saying that to Regulus all that time ago, but either way it’s clear that the answer to that question is a big, fat “no.” Otherwise Regulus wouldn’t be talking as though his reasons for asking Shiro to stay with him again are blindingly self-evident conclusions. Really, it’s almost childish, the way he says it and expects it to be a completely sensible response.

The worst part is that Shiro is on the verge of agreeing anyway.

With a breath, Shiro folds his arms and taps a foot. “And why, exactly, do you want me to?” he asks. “You getting lonely in your old age or something?” There’s an edge to his voice, or at least he hopes there is, even if it’s warbling and weak. This conversation has so swiftly stripped him on his defenses that he needs any weapon he can get.

“I merely...you were a worthwhile sparring partner,” says Regulus, and his stumbled words couldn’t have spoken any louder about his current unease than if they had been screamed into a megaphone. “Though I wouldn’t require any sort of compensation from you if you chose to stay with me this time.”

Pretending to be concerned about my life, inviting me back as a roommate, not even requiring me to pay any kind of rent...he can’t possibly be trying to be friends with me, can he? Yeah, right. I doubt the guy would figure out the meaning of the word if it were spelled out for him on a cake. What the hell is his deal now?

“Reg,” says Shiro, suddenly concerned, “did something happen? Did any of Naberitur’s flunkies come back to bother you? Are any demonic flunkies bothering you, for that matter? Or seraphic ones, I guess.” It’s the only thing he can think of that would cause Regulus to be anywhere near nervous. Mundane threats on his life only serve to entertain him most of the time. That being said, though, Shiro is fairly certain this isn’t the case. Even if it were, there’s no practical reason for Regulus to want him around. He’s not Zoniha, after all. He has no innate ability to repel demonkind (or seraphkind, for that matter). Just the ability to rain hell on them if they push things too far.

A slight headtilt. “No. Why do you ask?”

Shiro throws up his hands in exasperation. “Oh, I don’t know!” he retorts. “Maybe it’s the whole wanting-me-to-come-back-and-live-with-you-again thing?!”

“I thought it was a simple enough question.”

Shiro can’t decide if Regulus is being deliberately obtuse or if he genuinely sees nothing weird with what he’s asking. “The question is simple, yeah! But you being all touchy-feely friendly is not!”

“...I suppose it is a stretch to ask you to believe that I actually enjoy your company,” muses Regulus, with no hint of remorse over having started from such an absurd premise.

He stares at Regulus in disbelief. “You think?!” He realizes he’s starting to sound slightly hysterical, but surely he can’t be blamed for it, right? At least he’s got one piece of the puzzle now. And he’d be lying if he said it didn’t make him even a little bit happy.

But could that little scrap of happiness be enough to live on?

Forget the nonsense with the Arias of Creation and the mysterious ability of the shadow element to mute their dulcet strains — that’s just a sideshow. When it comes down to it, Shiro is lonely and homeless. Lovesick and aimless. He can’t just pick up the life he left behind on Bomber Star, a script he tore apart and flung to the winds. It would take too much of him to rummage for the pieces and tape them back into wholeness. Better to find a new script altogether.

One line may be a story. It may be a precious moment, even. But it’s not a script.

It’s not that Shiro regrets choosing to live with Regulus the first time around, because he doesn’t (in spite of all the trouble it’s clearly brought him). But he’s not sure that he can handle another journey through hell, either metaphorically or literally. He’s just not strong enough to do this by himself anymore. He needs direction, he needs cues, he needs a damn intermission and he’s not getting any of that from Regulus. And it unsettles him to live in the ethical twilight of Regulus’ world, even though he no longer officially stands for the light of law. Life with Regulus is a life spent reminded of what he doesn’t — can’t — have. Time to stop being a martyr and start being a mercenary: the payment isn’t worth the price. He has to walk.

“Look,” Shiro says, more subdued, “if you’re in trouble, I’ll stick around. You know me: hero to the end.” For all the good it does me. “But otherwise...I can’t.”

The response seems to catch Regulus off-guard. “Can’t? Or won’t?”

“...both.” He shakes his head. “I’m sorry. But I appreciate the offer.”

Regulus narrows his eyes faintly. “You no longer hold feelings for me, then?”

In a conversation stuffed to the brim with surprises, the fact that Regulus would directly reference that is probably the biggest surprise of all. Bundled as it is with all the other shocks to Shiro’s system, though, it almost doesn’t hurt him to hear it spoken aloud.


“I don’t see how it matters to you,” Shiro says softly, turning to leave. “You’ll treat me the same either way.”

Regulus catches his wrist in a firm but gentle grip.

Startled, Shiro whirls back around, swatting Regulus’ hand away in a mild panic. “Who are you and what have you done with Regulus?” he demands, almost meaning it.

Regulus lets his gaze flicker briefly aside, which Shiro has come to learn is his way of rolling his eyes. Sometimes, anyway. Other times he really isn’t sure what it means. “I am standing right here,” he deadpans.

So, okay, he’s not gone completely crazy. Unlike myself. Shiro gives Regulus another look-over, sees nothing odd except the tension in his posture, and rubs his forehead in confusion.

“I don’t understand,” he says. “What do you want from me?”

There: a flash of exasperation. Regulus is reaching his limit too, whatever it is. “I have already told you what I want.”

“You haven’t told me in a way that makes any sense whatsoever. The Regulus I know would rather eat salted glass than be around other people, especially if there isn’t anything in it for him. Yet you’re asking me to live with you again without even requiring me to have you kick my ass on a daily basis?” Shiro gestures with his hands, and hopes that it looks authoritative rather than frantic. “What’s in it for you?”

An ambulance siren wails past the warehouse just outside, loud and piercing. Regulus exhales deeply, his breath unraveling out of him like spilled entrails.

“I would prefer not to say,” he answers.

Shiro is about to protest him dodging the issue yet again...when Regulus takes Shiro by the wrist a second time and pulls him closer to him.

It’s not even an embrace, really. It’s just the two of them standing almost chest to chest, with Regulus resting his cheek lightly against the side of Shiro’s head.

“...uh. Um.” Shiro gulps, tries to get his brain to form actual sentences and his mouth to vocalize them. No, that’s not quite right. He can manage both, to a degree. It’s just that he wants to punctuate every single sentence he can think of with a resounding WHAT.

“However, I do find myself concerned about you, sometimes,” Regulus continues, as though he’s not doing something perversely out of character for him. “Not that I don’t trust in your ability to handle yourself. But you do have a tendency to make more trouble for yourself than you need to.”

“Oh.” Dammit, that’s not the scathing sarcastic remark he intended. Shiro tries again. “Oh — you mean like getting attached to an emotionally constipated asshole who doesn’t know the first thing about being a normal person with feelings? Yeah, sure, I’m buying what you’re selling.” He sways a bit, and catches himself with a shifted foot. “And then I’m selling it back to you at a markup, because screw you.”

“I would have thought you’d donate it to charity,” quips Regulus.

Shiro grumbles. “Is that what I am to you? A charity case?”

“Mm...of a sort, I suppose. Although I can’t exactly deduct you from my taxes.”

Somehow, that is what sends Shiro off into gales of laughter. He collapses against Regulus, dissolving helplessly into borderline insane giggling.

“I’ve lost it,” Shiro wheezes once he’s recovered enough. “I know I’ve completely lost it, because I’m standing here laughing at your dumb jokes and you’re holding me in a way that does not involve painful or otherwise uncomfortable twisting. Mostly the second thing, really.”

“Are you complaining about that?”

“Just an observation.” Shiro slides his arms around Regulus, surrendering fully into him and not caring one whit about it. He can’t really say the feeling is nicer than he imagined, because he’d been careful to keep himself from imagining too much once he realized how far he’d fallen. But he likes it a lot, to say the least.

“It may take at least a week for me to clear things with Onarga,” says Regulus, circling back around to the original purpose of their meeting. “It’s best if you lay low for the time being.”

Shiro nods, eyes closed. “That’s fine. I’ve got some other things to sort out before I come back.”

“You’ve changed your mind, then.”

A sigh. “Ancestrals help me for it. You know, you could’ve saved us both so much trouble if you’d just been honest about this from the get-go.”

“I was being honest.”

Well...Shiro supposes that’s true, in a frustrating way. It’s just that Regulus tends to be selectively honest. And he hasn’t figured out yet when Regulus is doing it on purpose and when he isn't.

Shiro wonders whether Regulus would ever tell him how he feels about this entire situation. Does it make him happy? Does the bastard even feel happiness in the first place? And there are other things Shiro wants to ask: When? How? And why in all of Bel’s hells would you ever think of me like this? But considering the long and winding road they had to traverse to find the answer for just one question, Shiro figures it’s best not to press his luck for the foreseeable future. Plus, he’s still unsure whether or not he’s just having a hell of a hallucination right now. If he is, he might as well get the most out of it before the fantasy ends, fallout be damned.

Whatever the case, it’s nice not to have to run anymore. Nice not to have to pretend he’s stronger than he actually is. The darkness finally has him and he just wants to sleep in its silence forever.

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