Title: Five times River really really wished he had a different job
Author: Zalia Chimera
Pairing: River/Komui for the first one, the rest are Gen.
Notes: 5 short fics ranging from crack and humour to dark and angsty.
River sighed in his sleep and curled up closer against Komui's side, splaying his arm and legs across the expanse of bed. He'd been amazed to discover that, wonder of wonders, Komui not only had a bed, but a gorgeous king-sized monstrosity of a bed. It was heaven after the tiny beds in most of the rooms that weren't really big enough for one full grown man, let alone two.
"Brother?" came a soft, timid voice from the doorway.
Neither man stirred.
Footsteps. "Brother, I had a bad dream. Can I sleep in here?"
The mattress sank under the weight of a third occupant and then the screaming started.
River would never have guessed that an eleven year old could put such ice into a glare, but by noon the next day, he was considering asking for a transfer to China.
One hundred and fourty-eight coffins laid out in state. Six exorcists and one hundred and fourty-two finders dead. Killed. Murdered within days.
River had the name and profile of each one on his desk among research papers and data.
He sneered at himself mentally. All those papers, all that research and how much had it helped? Had it ever helped?
Because when it came down to it, he wasn't an exorcist. He couldn't fight. He could only wait in the safety of the fortress and let others fight for him.
He hadn't been able to do anything.
During the winter months (and on the colder days during the summer), it wasn't uncommon to see River Wenham, Squad Lead of the Science Division, huddled by his desk, wrapped in coats and blankets and more scarves than should be possible for a person to wear. The Science Division had learned to make two pots of very hot coffee, one for themselves and one solely for River.
One hand curled around his mug, River stifled another sneeze and then reached up to rub at his sore nose. He knew he looked like the walking dead at the moment, with chapped lips and bleary red rimmed eyes.
Hell, he felt like the walking dead.
It was times like this when he wondered why he stayed in this stupid pit of a country. It was grey and wet and above all, cold. He could have been anywhere! He could have been on a nice warm beach somewhere in a T-shirt and shorts. Instead he was stuck in the headquarters of the Black Order, in fucking England with no heating.
What on Earth had possessed him to turn down the job at the Oceania branch in favour of this one?
There was a giant robot chasing him.
River didn't think that any more explanation was required.
River didn't think that he could do this.
He looked down at the report in his hands once more and swallowed thickly.
How could he go in there? He'd seen this building for days, ever since so many of their people had returned in coffins. He'd seen the fractures in Komui's mask widen, seen the older man fight to mend them only to have them break again. He'd watched Komui edge closer and closer to the precipice of a breakdown and River knew that he couldn't stop it, but he'd managed to slow it, picking and choosing what reports he handed over and dealing with the rest himself.
He didn't want to be the one to force him over that edge.
He knocked anyway and entered at the half hearted greeting. Komui was leaning heavily on his desk, head between his hands and he looked so tired that River nearly lied and made an offer to go get more coffee.
He glanced down at the report again and gritted his teeth. Komui needed to know. Even if it was what finally broke him, River couldn't not tell him. It was too close, too important for that.
"Komui," he began, getting him a strange look. He rarely used Komui's given name. "It's Linali."
And he could only watch as Komui's mask shattered.