I hope this finds you well. It's been longer than I've meant it to be. Especially since I've had this written since mid July, but I just haven't had the heart to post anything.
A lot has happened in my life recently, and my mental health fell like a carefully ordered line of dominos; one of my abusive exes found a way around all my blocking, and tried to get in touch again. One of my best friends who helped me get away from said ex suddenly died. My mum attacked me for what will be the final fucking time. That's on top of the absurd nonsense my work constantly tries to pull, and the monty python sketch that living in the uk feels like.

It's all been so crushing.

But for anyone who's familiar with the old BoB, this is the start of the all-new stuff I'll be adding (and restructuring), but I've rewritten the drinks chapter already, because I needed some stupid nerd interactions to clear the waters after forcing apart the dam blocking my motivation. And I am SO excited to upload it when we get there.
OH and thank you to everyone who is rereading the OG BoB! Sometimes I see in the views that someone has smashed the whole 52 chapters and it blows my fucking mind 3 What an honour! Thank you!

So. This one's for you, my sweet sweet Metal Husband. Every moment without your glorious presence weighs on my heart a little heavier than the last, your hugs made the problems of the world disappear, and I miss the gift that your friendship was more every day.

Dell you know what you did.

-.-.-.-.-

*-.-*

It had always seemed to Sollux that photo day was an elaborate kind of torture that existed solely to torment the most unphotogenic of students, like him, and was one of the things that made him most yearn for the eventual sweet release from his monotonous schooling.

Sollux bounced down the stairs from the science block on gangly legs, hating the performance of the entire day; he wanted nothing more than to just hide from the arrogant charade of sitting for a solo photo, but it was just too important to his dad, and he couldn't bear seeing that man disappointed.
Focusing on the signs that pointed him towards his unphotogenic adolescent fate, Sollux steered himself in the right direction, trying to muster up a crumb of motivation to smile. As he rounded a corner, he walked straight into someone, and was about to apologise when he realised that they didn't deserve even basic recognition.

Continuing on his way, Sollux felt the almost-cliché shove against his shoulder.

"W-watch w-where you're goin', dickleth." Eridan hissed behind him, proving as always to be a delight.

"Wuh-why don't you kiss my entire ass?" Sollux turned to glare at the hipster, paused, then frowned.
Something was different.
The signature purple chunk of hair was gone, and with its absence, Eridan looked positively miserable, much to Sollux's delight. A bet had just been settled in his favour, and he was about to collect on the winnings, "oh shit, what made you stop dying your little emo fringe?"

Eridan's hand shot up to his hair, his cheeks already darkening, "fuck off, Captor, I'm not in the mood."

Sollux felt himself grin, a sore spot had been found, "finally figure out that purple's a girl's colour?"

"Did you finally figure out how-w to fuck yourself?"

"You're projecting, some of us have actual prospects beyond our own hands." Not wanting to let the hipster move on from such an easy bit, Sollux probed again, "What happened to all your arguing that your stupid fringe was natural?"

"It is natural!" Eridan insisted, puffing up in that way he always did when he was upset, "I don't hav-ve to explain nor prov-ve anythin' to the likes a' you, Captor. Not w-when your upjumped little opinions are w-worth less to me than the shit outside on the pav-vement, so kindly shov-ve them straight up yourself an' go find yourself a nice hole to die in so I don't hav-ve to endure any more a' your unsightly presence."

Sollux smirked, "why are you so obsessed with me putting things inside myself?"

"W-why are you so obsessed w-with tryin' to get me to kick your ass?" Eridan fumed, his face all kinds of bright red.

"There you go again!" Sollux insisted, "You can't go thirty seconds without mentioning my ass, you're obsessed!" He laughed as the other boy spluttered, "Just come out the closet already, dude, everyone already knows how gay you are."

Eridan's expression darkened, "fuck off, Captor." He spat, seeming to take particular offense to that.

"You need to stop flirting with me like this, it's indecent." Sollux laughed, though it didn't last long when Eridan grabbed him by the collar of his shirt, slammed him against a wall, and then shoved his nose in his face.

"Don't fucking insult me." Eridan said, glaring intensely, his voice dripping with loathing, "You couldn't be good enough for someone a' my stature if you tried. If I w-were you, I'd stick to the rest a' the foul little peasants so you don't taint any bloodlines with the sludge pumpin' through your v-veins."

That hurt.
The words reverberated in Sollux's head, bringing chilling doubts that stayed the romantic twitterpation of recently realised affections for Feferi with a swift reminder of the grandiose difference in their class.
But an insult against bloodlines went deeper than just hurting his feelings, and as the frayed image of Sollux's self-worth burned, his mirror image began to smoulder too, and a rush of indignant brotherly fury whipped his mind into a defensive frenzy.

No one insulted Mituna.

Sollux's fist connected with the side of Eridan's head.

And just like that, it was a full-blown fight.

Just like always.

Sollux had walked away with his tie pulled into a knot so tight he had to cut it off during his history lesson, and Eridan's blazer had been one pocket lighter than that morning; both had left with bloody noses, split lips, and each was sporting a matching black eye.
At least his dad found it funny that for the first time in a decade Sollux had the messier school photo.

Nothing had changed between him and Eridan in all the long years they'd spent together in the school, not until they shared a single unspoken moment of calm in the storm, and then finally decided to stop their antagonisms in favour of simply ignoring each other's existences until they didn't need to anymore.
When Sollux graduated highschool, the small role Eridan had played in his life ended, and Sollux was somewhere between feeling relieved and indifferent to the fact he could live the rest of his life without wasting so much as another second thinking about him.

.-*-.

There had barely been a customer for the past two hours to distract him from his reminiscing, and even though it was only early in the afternoon, the entire day already felt as though it had been wasted to the endless cesspool of retail labour. Sollux stared out around the expansive shopfloor, feeling like nothing short of an NPC, just waiting to be interacted with to spout one of many rehearsed lines.

How can I help you?

Cash or card?

Would you like a bag for that, or can I keep it to asphyxiate myself behind the till and finally end this retail nightmare?

Despite being surrounded by things that he'd usually find at least some interest in perusing, Sollux felt a deep loathing for each and every computer accessory sat on the brightly lit shelves that served as the witnesses to his torment.
Usually having a shift this quiet would be a blessing, but not today.
It left Sollux far too much time alone.
Far too much time to think.

Early that gloomy Monday morning, Sollux had gone to the library again, and by the time he'd had to leave for his shift, Eridan still hadn't shown, something he'd not done since he stormed out on Thursday.

Thursday.

Sollux groaned, and lowered his sunglasses a little to press the heel of his palms against his eyes; he'd been so proud of himself. He'd thought he was so funny. But the joke had quickly run dry because he hadn't seen the hipster in days and had absolutely no way of finding him again, and even less of an idea of why this irked him so much.
Something twisted in his gut, a sudden wrench that threatened to pull him into the depths of himself to find the truth of it, but self-reflection often brought with it his most painful memories, the ones that whispered of earth and roses, or worse, the wrenching screams of twisted metal. He fought against it. The last thing he needed was to focus on was the pain of old wounds, at least, not here, not now.
The effort of trying to force the looming cloud from his mind was spent in vain, and Sollux tried to focus on anything else, but Eridan's absence played on it too much; Sollux knew he'd pushed too many buttons; he knew he'd pissed the hipster off too much, and yet he still proceeded to try his best to drive him away. Well, he'd gotten what he'd wanted, and Sollux somehow felt worse than ever, except now, he was wasting his time turning up to an empty building to try and find the asshole himself.
Which must have made him no less than double the loser he already was. The bittersweet pressure settled over his mind like a thick blanket, nearly silencing the hum of bright fluorescent lights and quiet chatter of far-away conversations as his thoughts took over.
Why was he even wasting his time going to the library? Something asked him at the back of his head,
How long was it going to take for him to accept that Eridan was gone?

Sollux groaned, and watched the light spots and red squiggles dance behind his eyelids; he had only wanted to be entertained for one goddamn week, and now he was haunted by thoughts of the hipster at home, at work, even in his dreams. It was infuriating. The last thing he wanted was to think about that piece of shit, and yet, there was a small part of him that tried it's best to convince him to give in to the temptation, and linger on the things his mind would conjure when left to it's own devices.

But that was all Eridan was to him now, a memory of a brief moment, one that now could only progress through fantasy.

So why was that bothering him so much?

Sollux couldn't say, but it did.

Why did it feel so much like rejection?

Slumping onto his work station, Sollux wished he could open his eyes and find himself at his own desk, in his own room, but he knew full well he had another five hours of this monotony before he could even think about the doors.

"Hey, what's got you down, Sun-dizzle?"

"Not now, Dave." Sollux groaned against the questionably clean desk, and pushed the contactless pinpad away from his ear with his elbow as the covered his head with his arms.

"Migraine?"

"Mm. Something like that."

Above him, Dave clicked his tongue, "need to grab a few in the back room? It's not like we'll be overrun in the next half hour, it all looks quiet on the Eastern front."

"Western front," Sollux corrected, considering the kind offer; it would get him out of the silence of the store and into, what, the silence of the back room just to be left with his thoughts again, except without the public setting to force him to hold himself back from total deprecation?
Sollux straightened up, and looked down at Dave, "Nah, it's fine, I'm just really feeling it today is all."

"As long as you're sure, but if your grey matters trying out for the Olympics inside your dome, take a break, okay? I don't need to find your broken corpse has taken out the whole shelving section of keyboards because you're convinced you can double aerial into a corkscrew. I'm not cleaning up the blood, dude, I'll quit on the spot and find a way to haunt your dead ass for rent money." Dave's eyebrow quirked up over his own dark lenses, and nearly disappeared behind his blonde fringe.

"Good luck with that, I think I'll be leaving my housemates some pocket change and whatever they can find in the sofa." Sollux grinned, thankful for the distraction, "Just sell the keyboards I broke and say they're haunted by the man that killed himself on them, some people'll pay out the nose for things people have died on."

Dave scoffed, "and risk stepping on the delicately restored toes of Rose's haunted doll business?" He shook his head, resigned, "It wouldn't be worth the curses she'd put on me, Sun-Dog, she's been cutting my hair in my sleep to make voodoo dolls since we were five and I'm not going to be the one who asks how many of them she's kept. It's no good, you need to keep on trucking so I can keep my stable income here, because the only other option I got is to go full 'your money or your life', and I don't think anyone carries the cash to prevent a good stabbing anymore."

The anxiety that had started to wrap its tendrils around his throat began to recede as the comfort of Dave's companionship warmed his mood, and Sollux began to breathe a little easier, "Well that sounds like a them problem to me," he shrugged, "unless you start taking card payments."

"I refuse to kowtow to the witchcraft of electricity, dude, you know I only barter in doubloons." Dave looked out over the store, leaning against the desk and craning his neck to look around, "It's dead out, I'm taking lunch in a minute, are you sure you don't want to sneak a quick break in first?"

Thorned anxiety waited in the back of his mind, needing only a moment of quiet self-reflectance to start a storm of deprecation, Sollux sighed, knowing it would only be wasted on him circling the drain of criticism, "nah I should probably save it for when someone fucks with the shelves and I have to hold back from eating their face like a chimpanzee."

"Fair," Dave nodded, pushing away from the desk and brushing himself off as he began walking away, "I'll check around and sneak off to treat myself to the absolute banquet I packed myself today."

"What you got?"

Dave turned around but continued to walk backwards as he lifted a peace sign with his left hand, "two whole lunchables. I'm going to be off my tits with caprisun the next time you see me."

Jealous that he wouldn't also be getting a snack any time soon, Sollux gave Dave a short wave as he disappeared in amongst the shelves, and resigned himself to a couple of hours of boredom before he'd take his own break and eat whatever was hopefully abandoned in the bottom of his backpack.
In desperate need of a new distraction, Sollux began a mental list of all the various abandoned works in progress that he'd accumulated through jolts of inspiration that had sputtered out before letting him get anywhere close to completion, hoping to perhaps find a spark of interest in one of them, even just for a few minutes.

The list had barely begun before Dave suddenly returned, "hate to do it to you, dude, but you know I got the hankering for some crappy crackers, and I was this close to getting away when this guy spotted me." Wearing what could only be described as a service smile, Dave turned back to wave someone over, "He says he wants a graphics card, but it sounds like he doesn't know the first thing about them, so I figured you'd be the best bet to help him."

Distraction now dropped squarely in his lap, Sollux felt grateful for a customer for possibly the first time ever, "Yeah that's—"

And then Eridan appeared, strolling out from the aisle towards Dave as though he wasn't until this very moment a missing person.

Sollux's eyebrows shot up and he straightened in surprise, and was immediately rewarded with seeing Eridan mirror him exactly as they recognised each other, though this seemed to go unnoticed by Dave, who clapped Sollux on the shoulder as he walked past.

"Thanks, Snoop Deluxe."

They stared at each other in silence until Dave's blonde head had bobbed past the headphones and out of sight, then Sollux finally managed to spit out, "what are you doing here?"

Eridan came to life with a splutter, and looked around with his arms outstretched, "shoppin', obviously," he said, frowning, "I didn't expect to see you today though, Captor, an' to be honest, after the weekend I've just had, I really don't have it in me to listen to you chew through an entire pack a' quavers, so I'll just go."

Sollux folded his arms, guarding himself from the sharp twang of rejection for the second time that afternoon, and swallowed the sharp retort; the sand was slipping through his fingers, and he wasn't about to lose what could be his last chance by hucking it against a wall in spite, so instead he managed, "you're after a graphics card, right?"

This made Eridan pause, and he narrowed his eyes suspiciously as he took a hesitant step closer, "Perhaps."

"Dave said you didn't know what you were looking for."

The hipster pouted a little, obviously weighing up the situation for himself, "that might alsohave an inklin' a truth to it." He said carefully.

"Then why are you turning down the best advice you're ever going to get?" Sollux decided the truth of this was completely dependent on Eridan's behaviour from this moment on as he stepped out from behind the counter, and made his way towards the far wall; after a few meters, he paused, and turned back towards the hipster, "You coming, or not?"

Eridan blinked at him, before hurrying over to catch up.

"So why are you getting the card?" Sollux asked, turning as he got to his side.

"If you must know, I finally decided to try my hand at the digital art mediums, an' my laptop keeps getting' mad at me for tryin' to run art programs." Eridan admitted, "I figured it was the best way to fix it, because you know, art, graphics, it made sense."

Sollux shrugged, "you'll want a new CPU then, not a card, but you'd probably be better off if you just replaced the whole thing if it's already struggling with the basic program."

"I've barely been here two minutes an' you're already tryin' to bleed me dry," Eridan raised an eyebrow, "you workin' on commission or somethin'?"

"I wish, they took that away years before I started here," Sollux snorted, "I'm just saying if your laptop's shit it won't be worth changing any of the parts you even could swap because you'll have to start replacing the rest of the internals for the mismatched power-feed."
The look Eridan gave him was peculiar, but it made Sollux glad for his sunglasses as his eyes darted away from the intense look, "Sunken cost fallacy," he mumbled, "just ends up not being worth the money you're dumping into it."

"That makes a lot a' sense." Eridan said suspiciously, "So when was the last time you bought a new laptop?"

Sollux shrugged as they reached a tall shelved cabinet with locked glass doors, "about three years ago," he said, "but I only upgrade my PC."

"PC nerd." Eridan accused, as though this was somehow a revelation in any way, "So when was the last time you upgraded that?"

"Every possible chance I get." This was true, though it wasn't often, not when Sollux only wanted the best he could save up for, which never seemed to be any faster than a snail's pace.
Brandishing an arm in front of the shelf, Sollux raised an eyebrow, "What're you buying?"

Moving past Sollux to stare into the cabinet with his eyebrows knitted together, Eridan hummed and hawed, and Sollux found himself distracted by the finer details of the hipster's outfit; there was soft brown fur lining the hood of his obviously tailored dark blue coat, a striped dual tone blue scarf spilled from under Eridan's chin, and his boots shone like they were fresh off the shelf, but most captivating of all was the fancy green K embroidered onto the left ass pocket of the ridiculously tight jeans that clung to every curve he had.

Sollux was almost too distracted to notice that Eridan had spoken, and he dragged his eyes from the pocket.

"I thought this was goin' to be more self-explanatory to be honest," Eridan said before finally glancing over sheepishly, "you couldn't possibly offer some advice here could you, Sollux?" His violet eyes darted back to the multitude of choices, "I just didn't expect them to come with an equation on the box, is all."

Forcing himself to concentrate, Sollux gave a snort, and earned himself an annoyed look, "it's not hard, the code tells you what part you're getting, what kind of fans and how much memory it has, it's just so you know exactly what you're getting at a glance."

"Well, it's all Greek to me," Eridan admitted, "I don't even know where to start."

It was very nearly endearing hearing Eridan finally admit he was stupid, and Sollux mused that he'd never heard the hipster ask for help in the years he'd known him in the past, and as of yet, Eridan hadn't torn down any shelving units in a dramatic tantrum nor in destructive vengeance, so maybe something could be said of people changing.
Maybe.
Sollux pulled his mind from the molasses of overthought contradicting instincts, "assuming a complicated art program is about as strenuous as running a game for the sake of simplicity," he began, and pointed towards a smaller box, "this one would help any basic laptop become somewhat mid-range."

"Basic laptop? Don't offend me!" Eridan scoffed, wearing a smug smirk, "You should know full-well that I wouldn't be lookin' for mid-range, I strive for quality in everythin'."
Then his eyebrows came together as he glared at the case for a moment before muttering, "Money's no object."

Unable to stop himself, Sollux rolled his eyes, "of course."

"No, it's not— I didn't mean, it's just…" his words seemed to fail him, and Eridan's discomfort didn't subside until he took a deep breath, "I'm tired a' havin' the piss taken out a' me, so I'm countin' it as a work expense."

Sollux didn't know how anyone could possibly be bitter over having the ability to buy something they wanted and count it as a work expense, but asshole bosses were something he could always sympathise with, "yeah?" He said, giving the other man the chance to speak.

"It's just impossible to get any respect from him unless you're speakin' in terms a' money, business, or workin' hard, but I work my ass off an' he still treats me like I'm some kind a' underlin' or toddler instead a'—" Seemingly realising who he was speaking to, Eridan snapped his mouth shut, and took a breath, "it's nothin', I just earned a bonus, an' fully intend to make the most of it, that's all."

"I get it." Sollux said, "Spend that bonus on whatever you want. Treat yo'self."

The look Eridan gave him was somehow more curious than his listening face had been, and asides from surprise, the expression was unreadable, then he reached up to begin fiddling with a corner of his scarf, "it's complicated, that's all." He said quietly.

It didn't feel like his business, and Sollux didn't want to pry and risk opening a can of worms fat with work trauma and whatever the hell else was going on in the hipster's life, but without thinking, he gave Eridan the simple comfort he'd have offered Karkat in the same conversation, "your boss sounds like a right dick, fuck him, tell him to shove his job and shove it straight up his ass." Reaching up, Sollux pointed to the selection on the higher shelves, "After you spend his money, of course," he said, trying not to think too hard about the fact he'd just shown a kindness to the other, "so the CPU's up there are for higher-end PCs, if you're serious about spending a couple grand."

With cheeks that were considerably more pink than they had been previously, Eridan's purple eyes flicked between the various boxes, before he pointed to one with a price tag of over six thousand pounds, "what about that one?"

Sollux looked up at the printed black and purple box, "that's just a display of the newest one from Sgrub, we'd have to order that one in," it was a dream purchase that liked to mock him from atop the shelves whenever he had to pass it, "but I'm telling you now that it would melt your laptop, if you're that set on it you'd be better off with a tower."

"A tower?" Eridan asked, and without even needing to clarify Sollux knew he was thinking about wizards.

"The part of the computer that isn't the monitor." Sollux said, trying not to laugh at his own condescension, "The floor box that goes whirr."

Flushing again, Eridan cleared his throat, "I've never heard it called that, I've always just called them the computer an' the screen."

"Jesus, you sound like a pensioner, I thought we both grew up in the nineties, but I didn't realise that meant the 1800's for you."

Eridan's lips immediately pursed, "I won't be shamed for livin' my life outside in the real world with real grass instead a' bein' plugged into the matrix to memorise all the correct terminology for clunky electrical boxes that I don't even want to own."

"Then say goodbye to the top shelf." Sollux snorted, breaking into a full laugh at the crestfallen look on the hipster's face, "I warned you, there's a limit to what can go into a laptop because you can only replace so much before the parts that are soldered in, like the graphics card, simply can't support it anymore."

"But I have a really good one," Eridan insisted.

Willing to somewhat compromise if he really had the technology to back up his claims, Sollux sighed, "alright, what are the specs?"

"Specs?"

"Yeah," Sollux said, trying his best not to laugh at Eridan's confusion, "what's the hertz on the display like? Does it have an SSD? HDD? What core processor are you replacing?"

"I don't even know what the hell you just asked me."

"It's fine, I can look it up and find out," Sollux said with a shrug, deciding that he was feeling generous enough to do the bare minimum that his job required because he was amused by Eridan's stupidity, and absolutely not because he wanted to extend the conversation, "what's the model?"

Like a child caught out with a test they hadn't studied for, Eridan's eyes widened, "I don't know!"

"What do you mean you don't know the model of your own fucking laptop?"

"It's purple!" Eridan announced uselessly, huffing and folding his arms in shame as Sollux finally broke out into a loud cackle, "Oh stop it, it isn't that funny. You just befuddled me with the pop-quiz is all."

Sollux leant against the solid shelf behind him, wearing a grin as his laughs finally began dissolving into short giggles, "what's funny is that the only thing I could have guessed about your laptop was what colour it was, and I'm not even surprised I'm right. Of course it's fucking purple, it's you."

Eridan looked shocked for a moment, then gave a small snort, and had the decency to look a little embarrassed as his affront melted away, "I guess it would probably be more of a surprise if it was somethin' other than purple, but I do know it's a Dell, an' it was a top a' the line one when I bought it."

"Dell?" Sollux recoiled with a grimace, "I don't care how impressive it pretends its specs are, it's dead to you now, I'll show you the laptops we've got in, because the only thing worse would be a chromebook. Or something from apple."

"While I'm doubtless that the other members a' mensa find your endless judgemental squallin' about each brand the highest level a' entertainment," Eridan scolded with an upwards twist of his lips, "you're not sellin' me some laptop today, Sollux, regardless a' whether you're gettin' any kind a' commission or not."

Sollux grinned, "Fine, just the CPU then, and if I were you, I'd choose that one." He pointed up at a white and green box, and picked it up as he watched Eridan's expression become more inquisitive, "It's got a Sburb processing core, with a decent cooling system that'll help stop it from overwhelming the rest of your system."

"Huh." Eridan took the box when it was passed to him, and turned it over in his hands, "And this'll work?"

"You might have to get a new hard-drive so you can support the memory you'll be using, but honestly if you're already looking at shelling out for the art equipment, you should look at spending the money for the CPU on a new laptop." Sollux gave a shrug, "Saves you learning that your current one can't handle the shit you've bought."

Eridan's eyes hadn't left him through his explanation, and Sollux wondered if he was trying to spot the lies he hadn't told, "I guess if this is the best one I can definitely get, I should at least try it out." He gave a nod, and tucked the box under his arm, "Accompanyin' me to the till?"

"Sure." Sollux said, almost smiling as they began walking towards the front doors, "Have you got any questions?"

Eridan glanced down at the box under his arm, "one," he said, "how do I attach this?"

"Take the back of the laptop off, and just clip it in in the right spot." Sollux settled himself behind the till, "It's pretty self-explanatory once you're looking inside."

"But what if someone was to need help implementin' a piece a' technology into their laptop?" Eridan asked, leaning his hip against the side of the till, and giving a little shrug, "Would they, perhaps, be able to return an' have some assistance with it?"

"They can, but a baby could do it," Sollux said, hiding a snort, "it's not like it's difficult."

Eridan pouted, "well maybe some people lack the decades of experience takin' apart robotics an' replacin' their brains." He looked around lazily, "What about your blonde friend? He might be willin' to help me, an' at least he seemed to have some sense a' manners."

As though Sollux would ever give up a chance to get inside Eridan's laptop, especially if it meant the hipster being forced to stand and watch in agony while he messed around with the components, but only so he could piss Eridan off, and absolutely not because he was actually beginning to enjoy the conversation they were having, and wanted to grab the next excuse for them to speak again.
That would be ridiculous.
"If you really can't do it yourself, bring it back here and I'll help you out," Sollux said, waving away Eridan's ridiculous idea, "You could ask Dave, but I thought you were supposed to be all about quality?"

"I am." Eridan said, suspiciously.

"Well Dave's more into his music tech, he can tell you all about optimum bass levels and that shit, but if you're looking for help with computers," Sollux gave a grin, and placed a hand on his own chest, "I'm motherfucking Gandalf."

"If you think you're really good enough to compare yourself to the best a' the Maia, I might even be tempted to give you a tip," Eridan said, voice smooth with the enticement, "if you were to do a good job, a' course."

Sollux scoffed, "if I do a good job? Don't insult me, I'm so good you'll insist on paying double."

"Is that so?" Eridan gave a hum, then said, "Will you be in tomorrow?"

Curiously, Sollux felt his chest tighten a little, and for the first time in his life, was disappointed at a lack of work, "it's my day off."

"Oh."

The disappointment was so palpable that Sollux wondered if he was somehow misreading the hipster, "but I'm in Wednesday, Thursday, and Saturday this week," he began, surprised at himself for surrendering the information so easily, as though being helpful was something he'd ever strived to be, "and if your machine's as good as you think it is, maybe I can help you pick out the other bits you can get to improve it."

Eridan blinked, silent for a moment, almost like he was trying to foresee a trap. Finally, he said, "I think I just might take you up on that, it'd be good to have the advice of an expert nerd on this."

Choosing to take that as a compliment, Sollux swiped the box over the scanner and rang up the bill, "I bet you're disappointed to have to wait to have your laptop upgraded by yours truly."

Eridan almost said something, but he caught himself quickly and hummed again, "it won't bother me too much, I've just remembered that I have somethin' important I need to do tomorrow anyway."

"What's that?"

"My sanctuary has been victim to a certain infestation recently," Eridan said pointedly, "an' I think it's about time I make sure the buildin' is still standin'."

Sollux didn't know what he was feeling, but he did realise that this would mean that Eridan would be at the library, and that he was letting him know that he would be.
"I have no idea what you're talking about," he said with a shrug, unable to help himself, "it's never been cleaner, even the weird smell is gone."

The shade of red Eridan's cheeks turned was predictable, but the lack of caterwauling was not; instead the hipster rolled his eyes, and took a deep breath before saying, "tomorrow's the day I make my move to reclaim it for myself, Sollux."

It was a challenge, and they both knew it.

"I don't think you can call bagsy on a public building, Eridan," Sollux smirked, daring the other man to goad him further, "and there's nothing you can do to stop someone else from turning up and enjoying the public facilities. I pay my taxes, bitch."

Eridan mirrored the expression, with his hands on his hips, "an' there'd be nothin' stoppin' someone from turnin' up here every day an' wastin' all a' your time with the most asinine a' questions, an' maybe even bringin' some disgustin' slop to walk around eatin' the whole time." He clicked his tongue and added, "Bitch."

"Your photo's going to end up on the wall of banned customers." Sollux laughed, bagging the CPU as he tried not to think about having Eridan hanging around all day to look at; the thought very briefly crossed his mind that he might find out whether or not there was an embroidered K on every pair of jeans he owned, "Cash or card?" He asked, shoving that thought out of his head as hard as he could.

"Hmm." Eridan then straightened up brightly, "Neither. I changed my mind."
Then he turned to leave, speaking back over his shoulder as he did so, "I meant it when I said I'd be reclaimin' what's mine, Sollux." There was a heartbeat of a hesitation, then he added, "So I'd better not find you there while I'm doin' so."

Sollux stood, slack-jawed, as Eridan marched his shapely ass straight through the automatic doors without another word, never once looking back again.

"What happened there?"

Damn near jumping out of his skin, Sollux turned to find Dave leant over his shoulder, staring straight ahead at the now closing doors, "what?"

"With the guy," Dave asked, nodding towards a man that was no longer there, "what happened? I thought you were helping him for ages, why didn't he want the parts?"

Sollux chewed on the answer for a moment as he picked up the abandoned CPU, then shrugged, "I told him it was against store policy to accept a back-alley handy as payment for goods, so he took off."

"Hm." Dave put his hands on his hips, and tilted his head a little, "If only though, huh?"

It was a small blessing that Dave didn't wait for a response before leaving his side, because as Sollux watched the doors remain tightly closed, and the challenge of renewed retaliation lay as an open invitation for further interaction between him and Eridan, Sollux had no idea what his honest answer would be.