He doesn’t check in, or try to stay connected… he waits for others to open the door, first. The only time he’ll speak first is when
Silvio scowled, turning over in his bed as he tried to settle his mind. The blanket cocoon was not working nor was the pillow nest. No matter how cozy he tried to make himself, the real discomfort was in his brain. King’s words lodged between his thoughts like splinters working their way deeper with every attempt to pry them out.
HE’S USING YOU.
“Oh, fuck off not you, too,” he muttered, seizing a pillow and clamping it over his head.
IT’S NOT LIKE HE HASN’T DONE IT BEFORE. YOU’RE JUST SO GOOD AT MAKING YOURSELF USEFUL AND NOT ASKING FOR ANYTHING IN RETURN.
“I am trying to get to sleep so I can do my flippyshit and keep you fed so would you kindly and with all possible haste fuck off entirely?”
Growling in frustration, Silvio tossed the pillow aside and got to his feet, stalking into the hallway and making his way to the living room beyond. Without looking, he swiped a book from one of the shelves and collapsed onto his sofa. Opening it, he began flipping through its pages, eyes coursing over the words whose meaning fell through his mind like water through a sieve.
He was still adjusting to living alone again. While King hadn’t always been at home, it was nice to have someone around to spend time with and talk to when he was there. Someone who knew about his problem; that he didn’t have to hide anything from. He’d considered asking Axton to move in, but Silvio didn’t like the idea of him knowing about Spooky.
He was tempted to call Ax now, but his boyfriend had his own troubles to deal with concerning the Entourage. The last thing Silvio wanted to do was dump this into his lap.
Maybe he needed to go out for a while; try to clear his head. It’d been a while since he’d had a nighttime walk.
Before long he was dressed in jeans, boots, a red down jacket and scarf to shield him against the cold. Moving into the evening beyond, he exhaled, watching his breath plume white and wispy in the air before him. His eyes drifted toward the clear, winter sky, only a scant few frozen stars twinkling above him through the light pollution.
He let the chilly air prickle at his face, relishing the clean, refreshing sensation of it for a moment before making his way carefully down the steps of his apartment still gritty with salt to ward off the ice. Chilly weather wasn’t something Silvio especially enjoyed, but right now something a little bracing didn’t go amiss.
He thought of Seb and Axton, wondering how they felt about the snow. Maybe it’d be fun to go out with the dogs into the park.
SPEND TIME WITH YOUR OWN KIND, HM?
Silvio frowned and resolutely focused on the sidewalk beneath his feet.
AFTER ALL, YOU THREE HAVE SO MUCH IN COMMON. COMING TO THE AID OF ANYONE WHO ASKS--NO. WE SUPPOSE YOU’RE BEING TOLD, AREN’T YOU? ALL THEY NEED DO IS WHISTLE AND YOU COME RUNNING. WHAT A GOODDOG YOU ARE.
“You’re not going to let me just put this out of my head, are you?”
WE’RE JUST SURPRISED THAT EVEN HAVING THAT GOLD AROUND YOUR WAIST DOESN’T SEEM TO BE ENOUGH TO CONVINCE YOU OF YOUR WORTH.
“What does my worth have to do with this?”
Silvio made an impatient gesture with one hand, slashing it briefly to his side. At least one good thing about going out at night like this was that no one would see him talking to himself.
“Y’know Mitch helped me with getting this gold.”
AH, YES, YOU COULD NEVER HAVE DONE THIS WITHOUT LEARNING HOW TO PUNCH A MAN IN THE CHEST REALLY, REALLY HARD. WHAT WOULD YOU DO WITHOUT MITCH HEART? AND NOW HE’S PITTING YOU AGAINST SOMEONE WHO HAS BEEN THERE FOR YOU REPEATEDLY.
“It’s professional,” Silvio protested. “It makes sense. We’ve never fought each other before.”
NO, YOU’VE JUST FOUGHT BESIDE EACH OTHER. HONESTLY, THAT WOULD JUST MEAN HE KNOWS YOU EVEN BETTER THAN IF YOU’D FOUGHT AGAINST ONE ANOTHER. HE COULD HAVE CHOSEN SOMEONE LIKE DAVISON. KING’S NEVER HAD TO DEAL WITH HIM BEFORE, AND THE FORMER GODLY ONE HAS A HEAD OF STEAM BUILT UP AROUND THE RAT, ANYWAY, WITH WHAT HE SAID ABOUT KYRA. SPEAKING OF, WHY NOT KYRA? WE'RE SURE SHE’D LOVE A CHANCE TO AVENGE HER LOSS. WE BOTH KNOW HOW MOTIVATING THAT CAN BE.
Silvio was quiet, thoughts straying back to his match against Cat following his loss at 100. He’d never been like that in the ring with anyone else before or since, and he still didn’t know how he felt about it.
What it brought out in him.
He thought of his upcoming title defense and felt his skin prickling; senses momentarily on edge.
“Look, I don’t want to do this--”
BUT YOU WILL. BECAUSE WHAT WOULD IT LOOK LIKE IF YOU TURNED THIS DOWN, MR. WORLD CHAMPION? I’M SURE MITCH KEPT THAT IN MIND, TOO.
“Oh, fuck you. Mitch isn’t some Machiavellian manipulator.”
The idea was frankly ridiculous. It wasn’t that Mitch was stupid, it just wasn’t his style. Mitch was less knife to the back and much more rocket-powered sledgehammer to the forehead.
THEN THE ALTERNATIVE MIGHT BE EVEN WORSE. IF HE’S JUST ACTING OUT OF THAT DESOLATE SENSE OF SELF-PRESERVATION YOU’RE SO KEEN TO FALL BACK ON AS AN EXCUSE FOR YOUR OWN QUESTIONABLE ACTIONS? THAT MEANS HIS FIRST INSTINCT WAS TO THROW YOUR BODY INTO THE NO MAN’S LAND THAT STRETCHES OUT BETWEEN THEM TO BE DRAGGED DOWN INTO THE TRENCHES WITH THE MUD. AND. RATS.
AND FOR WHAT?
IT’S NOT TO SEE YOU WIN.
IT’S TO SEE HIM LOSE.
IT’S FOR YOU TO DO THE JOB MITCH COULDN’T MANAGE.
IT’S TO PUNISH KING AND TAKE AWAY SOMETHING HE CAN NEVER GET BACK.
Silvio flinched, his own words echoing back at him.
THAT SOUNDS FAMILIAR, DOESN’T IT?
In spite of himself, Silvio’s hand jammed into his pocket, fingers closing around his phone.
OH, ARE YOU GOING TO BE THE ONE TO REACH OUT AGAIN? WHEN HAS MITCH EVER JUST ASKED HOW YOU WERE DOING OUT OF THE BLUE? LET YOU KNOW HE WAS IN TOWN AND WANTED TO GO FOR A COFFEE? WHEN HAS HE EVER BEEN THE ONE TO JUST EXTEND A HAND BECAUSE HE’S YOUR FRIEND?
DID HE EVEN CONGRATULATE YOU ON THE BELT YOU WON, OR WAS HE TOO BITTER OVER THE ONE HE DIDN’T?
“Mitch had a lot on his mind. He has a family. He works between two cities. His sister has a chronic illness. Patting my ass probably isn’t high on his list of priorities.”
WE WONDER IF HE LET HIS SISTER KNOW THERE’S A SOLUTION FOR THE PROBLEM OF HER MEDICATION. HAVEN’T HEARD ANYTHING FROM HIM SINCE YOU LET HIM KNOW, HAVE YOU? HE DIDN’T HAVE TO SPRING THIS MATCH ON YOU LIKE HE DID. HE COULD HAVE LET YOU KNOW. YOU WERE BOTH THERE WHEN THE ANNOUNCEMENT WAS MADE. HE COULD HAVE ASKED YOU.
BUT HE DIDN’T.
“Maybe he thought I’d tell King.”
THEN I GUESS WE KNOW HOW FAR MITCH HEART’S TRUST IN YOU EXTENDS, DON’T WE?
NOT THAT HE’S WRONG, OF COURSE.
NO HONOR AMONG THIEVES.
Silvio felt a jag of shame. There were so many around him trying to make themselves better; trying to move beyond what and who they’d been in the past. But here he was contemplating robbing Mitch. Well...technically it was stealing something back from him, but all the same.
Closing his eyes, his grip tightened around his phone again.
The message popped on the phone as if it’d been willed into existence.
Feeling his phone vibrate, Silvio practically jumped out of his skin, a note in the dulcet tone of, ‘strangled cat,’ escaping him as he fumbled with the device in his hands.
Blinking at it owlishly, his jaw dropped.
“Holy shit,” he muttered, “I really am psychic.”
Hey, thanks for reaching out. Dude, what is going on?
probably wondering why i picked you.
There was a pause.
because i think you can win is why. mad at me?
Silvio pursed his lips, considering.
I’m not mad, I just don’t understand what changed with you and King besides the obvious. But that’s not really what’s getting to me.
He hesitated before going on.
I've got some voices telling me things about all of this and I'm trying not to listen to them, but I'm not coming up with a lot of evidence to counteract their arguments. Maybe I’m a sucker, or maybe I'm a bad friend for asking this, but please. Just tell me you aren't using me. And if you really mean it? Give him the belt back. Can you do that for me?
Another long pause.
you think i’m using you. seriously. wow. okay, cool. pretty sure it would’ve been evident by now that i’m not a goddamn bond villain with a knack for moving human chess pieces. i’m not smart enough to be a manipulator or spin evil schemes. i’m a creature of fucking impulse.
The message didn’t rest long before another popped up.
fine. you want me to give him back the stupid thing so bad, consider it done.
Silvio made a face, exhaling sharply through his nose.
SHOULDN’T IT ALSO BE EVIDENT BY NOW THAT YOU WOULDN’T ASK THAT FROM HIM UNLESS YOU HAD COMPELLING REASON TO? AND EVEN THEN, YOU EXTENDED HIM THE BENEFIT OF THE DOUBT. HE STEALS HIS ‘FRIEND’S’ BELT, DOESN’T CONTACT YOU EXCEPT WHEN HE NEEDS YOU TO DO SOMETHING FOR HIM, AND NOW HE’S OFFENDED WHEN YOU EXPRESS YOUR APPREHENSION ABOUT HIM ASKING YOU TO FIGHT YOUR TAG PARTNER AND CLOSEST FRIEND ON THE ROSTER.
EVEN THAT DRUNKARD VEGAS WAS PERCEPTIVE ENOUGH TO COMMENT ON HOW THIS WOULD FUCK WITH KING’S HEAD. EITHER MITCH HEART TRULY IS A FOOL OR HE THINKS YOU ARE. WE ALSO CANNOT HELP BUT NOTICE HE DIDN'T SAY, 'NO.'
I know you don’t consider the belt a, ‘stupid thing,’ and I’m not doing this if it isn’t with King before the bell rings. I don’t know what happened between you and him, but you’re making it my business by asking me to do this fight. Provided you’re able to walk after your match, can I expect to see you ringside?
The response was immediate.
sure. I’ll be there, empty-handed as i should be.
SEE HOW HE ABASES HIMSELF? YOU CALL ANY OF HIS ACTIONS INTO QUESTION AND ITS, ‘OH, SO I SHOULD JUST CRAWL ON MY BELLY THEN?’ FASCINATING.
I’ll see you there. I hope Pen is doing well. Good luck with Trent.
There was one more brief pause, followed by one last text.
"What are you laughing at me for?"
"You can fool yourself and everyone else, but you can’t fool me. I know who you are."
"You don’t know anything about me, loser."
"I know everything about you. I know you play like you’re the meanest and the hardest, but, actually, you’re the most scared of all."
"I know you steal batteries you don’t need and you push away anyone who’s willing to put up with you because just a little bit of love reminds you how big and empty that hole inside you actually is."
"I said shut up!"
"I know them scientists what made you, never gave a rat’s ass about you."
"I’m serious, dude!"
"Just like my own damn parents who sold me, their own little baby, into slavery. I know who you are, boy. Because you’re me."
- Rocket Raccoon & Yondu Udonta, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2
“This fucking suuucks.”
Silvio, standing in the middle of Kane’s kitchen, pushed his finger down on the nozzle of the whipped cream can he held, seeming intent on emptying the entirety of its contents onto the sundae he’d put together.
The sundaes had been Grace’s idea, and Silvio really had to admire the woman’s genius. She understood the healing properties of sugar. The last time he’d had an ice cream night with King, the big guy had just straight up taken a gallon of ice cream and peeled away the cardboard container as he ate like peeling the foil off a burrito.
Kane’s tone was somewhere between annoyed, exhausted and resigned. He’d been irritable since the release of his video package--at least, any time he wasn’t within contact range of his wife and daughter--and the mental stress was getting to him.
“I wish I could say I’m surprised, but I’m not. This whole thing was predictable as hell… sure as Vegas pisses whiskey.”
Silvio wrinkled his nose.
“First of all, how dare you conjure that image, you goddamn brain terrorist.”
Kane laughed, low and raspy.
“Second of all…”
Silvio made a face, setting the whipped cream aside and using a spoon to fish a nuclear-colored maraschino cherry from a nearby jar.
“...Yeah, you called it.” He smirked ruefully. “Guess I owe you a coke.”
“Don’t worry about the coke,” Kane said, waving a hand dismissively. He started to peel the lid off a tub of butterscotch ripple ice cream. “I’m not supposed to have carbonated drinks--doctor’s orders. But I’ll take the win on that bet, anyway.”
“So what are we going to do about this?” the Oracle muttered, picking up a spoon and plunging it into the dessert before him. “We just let it play out like he wants it to? I should be focusing on my first title defense. Cat’s the only person who’s ever pinned me, and I’m the person who broke her undefeated singles streak. She’s going to be coming at me with the speed and determination of a rabid, revenge-driven howitzer shell. I cannot let myself get distracted.”
He frowned, practically staring a hole through the wall ahead of him, spoonful of ice cream momentarily forgotten.
“I owe her better than that. She's a worthy challenger. She deserves a worthy challenge.”
Kane was liberally filling a bowl-shaped indent, which he’d made with a spoon in the ice cream, with chocolate syrup as he replied. “From the sound of it she might be worthy of your invitation for coffee, or whatever casual pastime you’d pick to impress a cosplaying gamer luchadora princess.”
Silvio blinked quizzically at Kane. “Whadderyou-mmph-talking about?” he said through a mouthful of ice cream.
“You sound like me, talking about my wife,” Kane said nonchalantly, eating a heaping spoonful dripping with chocolate. “I owe her better, she deserves my best…”
It took a moment for the penny to drop, but once it did, the world champ’s face went scarlet.
“Look, Cat’s an incredible fighter and I admire her for what she does. She’s a shot of humor in a place that can get pretty grim. That’s braver than most people realize. She also doesn’t take anything in half measures. Whenever I see her doing something at Carnage, she plays it to the hilt.”
Shrugging, he shoveled another spoonful of ice cream into his mouth.
“And,” he continued, “I come from a drag background. Costuming and make-up is hard - I know that firsthand. If she makes her own stuff, that means she’s incredibly skilled. If she gets it from community creators, that means she’s resourceful. Either way, she’s dedicated.”
He gave a little snort, grinning as he scooped another cherry, whose heritage as fruit was questionable at best, out of the jar.
“She reminds me of Ax, honestly. Remember that stunt she pulled with trying to set a rat trap for you?”
“Uh-huh.” Kane thoughtfully ate another spoonful before pointing the utensil in Silvio’s direction, eyebrows raised. “You’re not proving me wrong. Especially not by comparing her to your current long-term partner.”
“Can we get back to the topic of what we’re going to do about this whole match?” Silvio said quickly, another cherry finding its way onto his sundae. “You, me, Mitch Heart and whatever’s gotten into him since UC6.” Silvio shook his head. “When did you notice him starting to act like this?”
Kane sobered, taking a somewhat disgruntled spoonful.
“Mm… I guess that would’ve been immediately after the triple threat match… the way he spoke to me completely changed.” Brow knit, he tapped his spoon against the edge of the tub. “When the big guy and I reached out to him, we got one-word answers. It was like a wall went up that hadn’t been there before. Like a spark had been snuffed out. I thought he’d be more incensed than ever to come after me and the belt… but instead he seemed to want to get away from me as much as possible. When I invited him to talk, and introduce him to my family, he was cold. He couldn’t wait to leave. I expected he’d be pissed about losing, but I didn’t expect him to cut me off and act like all my problems had been solved because of a strap of leather.”
Silvio’s shoulders slumped.
As much as he didn’t want to believe this was just over the title, there wasn’t a lot of evidence he could cite to the contrary. He wanted so badly for there to be something - anything - that could explain this about-face from Heart.
“He told me he chose me for this because he thinks I can win.” Shaking his head, he pinched the bridge of his nose. “I think Spooky and my stupid depression brain made things worse. I just wanted him to say that he wasn’t using me to contradict my lying grey matter and cosmic sugar daddy and he got pissed.”
Kane looked up at that, his expression darkening.
“And? Did he reassure you? That he wasn’t using you to get to me? Or did he make it about himself, again?”
The Oracle made a helpless gesture with one hand. “He basically said I should know better than to think of him as some Machiavellian mastermind - that it was evident he wasn’t smart enough for that - called himself a creature of impulse--”
“Hang on,” Kane interrupted, holding up a hand. “You should know better… based on what evidence? The part where he’s deliberately withholding information from us? Or maybe the part where he stole my personal property after clocking me out in the dark? Where has he demonstrated that he’s a trustworthy man? Because it sure looks to me like he hasn’t given you any goddamn reason not to reach the conclusion you did, on top of belittling your feelings with his self-deprecating bullshit. That’s not your depression talking. That’s common fucking sense.”
Silvio just stared at the red dye from the cherry that was slowly infecting his sundae’s craggy mountains of whipped cream with vivid crimson threads.
“I told him to give you back your belt before the match if he meant it. He agreed to that.”
Kane shook his head, taking a long drink of water.
“...Even if he does… don’t accept that gesture as a solution, Silvio. It doesn’t change what he did, and it doesn’t change the way he spoke to you. He owes you a fucking apology. And us? We don’t owe him shit. I don’t plan on giving him what he wants at 106. I don’t plan on giving him a goddamn inch.”
“Alright, so how do we do that?” Silvio asked.
“Regardless of whether Heart set this up… Like it or not, that’s our job. We still owe the Legion a show.”
Post by Lab Rat King on Feb 9, 2021 21:12:26 GMT -5
Success isn’t owned. It’s leased, and rent is due every day. – J. J. Watt
He’d never been fond of the ‘I hate Mondays’ crowd.
So far as he was concerned, Monday was just a day of the week; a number on a calendar. It wasn’t Monday’s fault it had been designated the start of the standard work week, and it was even less so Monday’s fault that half the lazy bums on the planet weren’t emotionally prepared for their professional lives. He’d never held it against Mondays for the first buzz of the alarm in the morning, and he wasn’t about to start now. Getting up early, he believed, was a sign of strong character. A sign of conviction and work ethic… a sign of dedication to one’s success in one’s craft.
A quick shave in the bathroom mirror was always reserved for a mental planning of the day ahead; sure, there were responsibilities on his docket, at set times in set places, but he was nothing if not meticulous about the order of things. This included all the minute details that composed the full plan; what he would put in his coffee, the caloric value of his breakfast, what station he would tune the radio to in his car. There needed to be room for flexibility, of course--for plan B, C, and so on. It was perfectly possible to have a plan without being so rigid that a step out of place would tear it down.
Of course, it was extraordinarily rare that he would ever take a step out of place. It was just that it would be too arrogant to believe he was perfect, no matter how goddamn close he was.
Slapping on some aftershave and running a comb over his immaculate deep brown hair, he made short work of suiting up for the day’s work; his only hesitation came when choosing a tie. In the end he settled on a charcoal tone with delicate gold stripes, spaced out as to not overwhelm the eye, a perfect compliment to his smoky suit jacket and dusted pink collar. He stepped out through the kitchen to the front hallway, plucking his keys from an iron hook near the door.
“Have a nice day, Malcolm,” he called into the living room; the tortoiseshell cat lounging on the back of the sofa lifted his head in acknowledgement, then contentedly went back to sleep.
Offering himself a grin in the hallway mirror, he locked up behind himself and made his way to the car. A little classic rock would fit the mood this morning.
At the corner coffee house where he stopped every weekday, he took a no-foam latte and a toasted bagel with butter.
“Same time every morning,” the barista said with a grin, passing his coffee across the counter. “You’re like clockwork, you know, Adrian?”
As he picked up the coffee, Adrian proffered a smile and a wink.
“Just a cog in the machine, kid. Someone’s gotta keep things running smooth--thanks for greasing the wheels.”
A short drive further downtown and he pulled into the parking lot of a familiar building, into the same spot he left his car in every weekday; there was the same chirp as he locked up, the same creak of the building’s side door, and the same citric scent of floor cleaner as he proceeded down the hallway. He passed his usual “Good morning, Deena,” to the secretary, stepped onto the elevator, tapped his secure keycard, and descended to the usual level as the minute hand on his wristwatch passed 8:59am.
Slipping a long white coat over his suit, Adrian tapped his card again at a pair of steel doors, which opened up to allow him access to the lab.
“Doctor! Hello…!” A squirrely-looking young man sat bolt upright at his desk, quickly replacing his glasses. “I-I finished those progress reports you wanted on Friday night. Did you want to see them now, or--?”
“Just send a copy to my console,” Adrian replied, passing the young man on his way to the back of the lab. “And for god’s sake, Peter, do something about your nerves. We don’t need your jumpy ass dropping something in one of the testing rooms. This company covers mental health shit, you know.”
“Y-yes sir,” Peter replied, mouse-like as he curled his shoulders.
Adrian stepped past the glass door into the observation room, approaching his console near the window. As he input his login info, he spared a glance upward to testing and sample-storage; the room was several degrees colder, so the labhands working inside wore sweaters under their labcoats and insulated footwear. Setting his latte down on the desk, he popped open the report freshly sent to him and started to read, catching up on the goings-on while he’d been out.
The progress report was a cornerstone of Monday mornings; it was vital to review the past week to best determine how to proceed for the next. He enjoyed the routine of it, taking note of successes and failures, internal and external documentation. The newest variants of bio-fluid seemed to be promising; they were showing good results in facilities one and three. One of the variants had to be discarded after evidence of cell degeneration far above acceptable parameters…
Sinking into the rhythm of the work, reviewing test results and issuing directions, Adrian didn’t feel the time passing; it wasn’t until he felt a subtle gnaw in his gut that he realized the calories from the bagel had just about run out, and it was time to take thirty shortly. He’d just check in personally with the internal communications team to ask about remote projects beforehand. It wasn’t something he typically did, but… he always left a little room to be flexible.
He rapped his knuckles on the communications office door, looking at his watch. A moment later a woman opened it up, her expression registering surprise.
“Doctor? Uhh, I’m not sure if this is a good time…”
“Janie. What’s that supposed to mean?” Adrian laughed. “You’re not happy to see me? Nonsense, nonsense, I’m just dropping in to see how things are going. The reports looked fine, you know, but we’re all people here, we can connect face to face now and then…”
“It’s just that--”
“Shush.” Adrian pushed passed the scientist, stepping into the comms room. The other two employees looked up with alarm.
Something wasn’t right.
“What’s with all the stiff faces? You look like you’ve seen a ghost.”
“You wanna tell him?” murmured one scientist to another.
“Tell me what, Casey?” Adrian’s tone sharpened, ever so subtly, like thorns sprouting from a stem.
“Uhm… Doctor,” the scientist began, his voice quavering a bit. “I’m sure you remember the incident at Facility Two…”
Adrian approached the console, his eyes flickering from one monitor to the next.
There was security footage from said incident, paused--several frames, in fact. They displayed the primary subject of said incident. His face, though fuzzy from motion, was clear enough to make out.
“We know you made the call to drop the investigation… you told the investors this one wouldn’t survive without regular medical attention, that he’d break down somewhere and--”
“I know what I said.”
Adrian’s eyes narrowed.
He looked to the other console, where of all things, there was video playback of a goddamn wrestling match. The victor standing in the squared circle, holding some title belt aloft…
C r a c k.
Adrian crushed the near-empty coffee cup in his hand, staring at those bestial amber eyes. A countenance so sickeningly familiar, that all at once, he lost his appetite.
“S-sir…? Doctor? Doctor Rose?”
“Son of a bitch,” Rose hissed. “That filthy overgrown rat just ruined my day.”