Title: Gonna Drink the Sun
Characters/Pairings: Lal Mirch/Bianchi
Summary: She didn't see this one coming.
Notes: Adult. For Round III of KHRfest, prompt V-73. Bianchi/Lal – Cloak; "Sometimes companionship and even love comes from the least expected of places." Written prior to ch. 282; divergent canon. Just a little smut. Vignette-y. 2196 words.
Gonna Drink the Sun
Lal had known from the very start what sorts of things she would be accused of for choosing the path she had. She'd thought about it carefully, weighing the things people would say of her--slut, whore, dyke, frigid--against the things she wanted and knew to be true. In the end she decided that the trade-off was worth it. And it had been: it didn't matter that she had to work harder than any two men and be better than them, too, just to earn the same recognition one of them got. She'd been good at what she'd done, one of the best, and she'd been proud to answer the call when the old Arcobaleno had started to fail, proud to know that she was good enough to be asked to hold the Rain's pacifier.
Fond as she was of Colonnello, as she was fond of all of her students, she never did entirely forgive him for interfering with the ceremony of the curse.
Having a cursed body came with its own advantages, which she came to appreciate after her initial fury had worn off. People from within the mafia had an ingrained, reflexive respect for the Arcobaleno and those who looked like them, male or female. It was a refreshing change. And working with CEDEF offered interesting challenges.
It was not what she had chosen for herself, but she could adjust, and did.
Bianchi didn't give much of a damn for what people said about her, which was one part bravado and two parts the arrogance that came of being a boss's daughter and one part the unthinking carelessness of the young. She had the strength to back it up at least, which was more than Lal could say of some people she knew.
Lal liked that Bianchi had made up her own mind how she was going to handle her world and that she was fully prepared to make her own way through it, poisoning anyone who tried to tell her she couldn't. Determination like that was difficult to come by; Lal could see why Reborn had taken the girl on as his pupil and partner and putative girlfriend. She had her suspicions about that last, but Bianchi played the doting girlfriend right up to the hilt of the knife she put in the back of a would-be rival. Lal had no proof anyway, save for the occasional gleam in Reborn's eyes before he adjusted his hat to hide them, or the faintest quirk at the corners of Bianchi's mouth whenever someone did a double take. Even if it were true, Lal had no inclination to say anything. One had to make her way however she could.
Just don't use your powers, they had said, and you'll get your old body back.
They hadn't mentioned how hard it would be.
Lal hunched over herself, gritting her teeth against the aches in her bones and her muscles and trying to ignore them. It wasn't working very well, which put her out of temper. She was not disposed to be polite when Bianchi came in and took the seat next to hers. "What is it?" she snarled, as best as she could. It came out sounding like a child's treble whine, petulant and spiteful.
Bianchi ignored it; well, she had practice in dealing with childishness. She nodded at the bank of screens that Lal was monitoring. "Came to spell you."
"My shift doesn't end for two more hours," Lal snapped.
"So?" Bianchi lifted her eyebrows. "You're having a bad day."
For a moment, Lal couldn't quite believe that the girl had dared. Then anger rushed through her. "I don't need you to make allowances for me."
"I'm not." Bianchi lifted a hand and held it, palm up. "Not any more than I would for anyone else." She looked at Lal. "If you can't concentrate, you need to be relieved."
"I'm not that weak." Lal channeled the humiliation of such a flat assessment into her anger, gritting her teeth and glaring at Bianchi. "I'll finish my shift."
"Of course you're not." Bianchi said it like it was surprising that Lal should say such a thing of herself. "You don't have anything to prove."
Lal's laugh was short and harsh and it scraped her throat. "No?"
"No." Bianchi's voice was calm. There was something in her eyes that Lal thought might have been empathy. "Not to me." Like she knew some of what Lal had fought against. Still was fighting.
"You're not the only one on this operation," Lal said after a moment of holding Bianchi's gaze and keeping an eye on the monitors in her peripheral vision.
Bianchi's mouth crooked. "I know. Traded shifts with Oregano."
That was foresight that Lal hadn't expected. She let out a breath. "Don't think I'll forget this. I'll repay you."
"Yeah, okay," Bianchi said and swiveled the chair around, sweeping her eyes over the bank of screens.
Lal slid out of her seat--her legs still weren't long enough to reach the floor yet--and headed for the door.
Bianchi's voice stopped her on the way out. "Hot baths always helped me," she said, not looking away from the monitors. "When I was having growing pains."
"This isn't the same," Lal told her.
"Yeah, I know. But it's similar, at least where your body's concerned. Right?"
Lal snorted and let herself out without responding.
There was, however, some merit to the suggestion. Her body certainly seemed to think so; the hot bath felt good.
There were relatively few women who did the things they did. Lal supposed that there was a sort of expectation that they should all be friends because of it. That was a little touchy-feely for her tastes, but she did her best to be relatively polite when she was dealing with the others. And if any of them wanted her friendship, well, they could earn it, fair and square.
Bianchi did earn it eventually, by dint of being stubborn and damn good at her job. Lal liked that. And she liked that Bianchi clearly expected the same thing from everyone else around her. That was worth respecting, Lal thought, and did.
And it was good, too, that there was another woman around sometimes, someone Lal could exchange eye rolls with. Someone else who knew how much work it took sometimes to make the things she did look as effortless as she made them look. It was good to be able to relax in private with someone who really knew what that relaxation meant.
Lal hadn't expected to find another female friend in the mafia, but she liked that she had.
One round of adolescence in one lifetime was really enough, Lal thought, aggravated. Two was enough to make her wonder what she'd done in a past life to deserve such a punishment.
At least this one hadn't come accompanied by another round of high school. If it had, Lal would have exercised her faux-Arcobaleno powers on a daily basis just to avoid that eventuality. Even Dante hadn't been able to come up with something that looked worse than high school.
The one thing--the only thing--that was useful about having an adolescent body again was that she could finally look people in the eye. Or, in the case of certain people, reach around and slap some sense into their fool heads.
Well, she could try anyway. When it came to Gokudera Hayato, one slap surely wasn't more than a good start. She'd never seen a boy with his head stuffed so far up his ass on so many fronts before, and she'd taught for years before she'd met him.
"Ow! Christ!" He wasn't exactly stupid, but he did give her a reproachful sort of look. "What was that for?"
Seventeen years old and a chip the size of Mt. Etna on his shoulder. God, being a teenager was the stupidest phase of the human life cycle. At least she didn't have to deal with anything more than the physical aspects of it. "You do realize," Lal said, projecting all of her years of instructor's disdain into it, "that your sister actually does have feelings, don't you?"
He managed to stifle his kneejerk response, which Lal appreciated. "I guess she does," he said. He begrudged her every word of it, too. Then he went and stepped on himself again. "Somewhere. Maybe buried under a rock."
"Oh, honestly." Lal reached around and smacked Gokudera again. "I don't know why she bothers with you. I really don't." Except that Bianchi did have a soft spot for her brother, who was the only member of her family that she actually liked. Love made people do the strangest things. "You stupid boy, would it kill you to be polite to her?" Maybe it would; the boy clearly had issues.
Gokudera stiffened; had he been a cat, he would have been bristling and maybe even hissing. "You know what, I don't really think it's any of your business. And you don't understand, anyway."
"Don't I?" Lal knew he could see her eyebrows going up, even if he couldn't see her eyes behind her visor. "I know that a girl doesn't leave home to become a hitman just for the hell of it. And I know that there are always two sides to every story. Maybe one of these days you could stop feeling sorry for yourself and ask her what hers is." Not that she was going to hold her breath while she waited for that to happen.
Gokudera looked at her, eyes just a little bit rounded, like it hadn't ever quite occurred to him to think of it like that. "What--" he started, and then stopped again.
Maybe that was enough for him to chew on for a while. "Think about it," she said and left him to it.
Bianchi found her later when she'd gone up to one of the high rooms of the Vongola house and claimed its balcony to watch the sunset. "Hey," she said, taking the other chair, uninvited.
She had two bottles of beer and passed one of them over to Lal, so Lal decided not to complain. "Hey," she said, thumbing the cap off, and raised the bottle to her lips. It was cool and bitter and tasted good going down.
Bianchi's eyes were still red but she was smiling a little. "So I hear that you bitched Hayato out today."
"I have no idea what you're talking about," Lal said and took another drink.
"Of course you don't." Bianchi leaned back in her chair and propped a foot up on the railing, tipping her chair back on its legs as she took a drink of her own beer. "He actually came and talked to me a little while ago."
"Wonders never do cease," Lal murmured.
Bianchi snorted. "I guess not."
She didn't say anything else and Lal didn't feel like talking, so they drank their beers in silence as the sun sank below the horizon. When the last sliver of it had disappeared and the dark was falling, Bianchi set her chair down with a thump and stood. She collected Lal's empty bottle from her and hesitated a moment. Then she dropped a hand to Lal's shoulder and squeezed it. "Thanks."
"I owed you one," Lal said.
"Still," Bianchi said.
She didn't add anything else to that. After a moment she lifted her hand from Lal's shoulder and went inside.
Lal stayed on the balcony a while longer, watching the stars as they came out, one by one.
"You do realize," Lal said the first time that Bianchi kissed her, "that this is only going to mean living the stereotype, right?"
"I call dibs on being the butch one," Bianchi said with a perfectly straight face (in her lipstick and her long hair and her affection for the cargo pants and cropped t-shirts that hugged her breasts).
Lal laughed, helplessly, and decided it wasn't worth arguing about after all. "Okay, fine," she said and pulled Bianchi against her for another kiss.
And she was glad that she had, after all, since giving in to Bianchi meant having a kind of companionship she'd expected to sacrifice a long time ago: a shoulder to lean on and someone she could trust to watch her back and whose back she would watch in return. And it meant Bianchi in her bed, bare skin under Lal's mouth and low, gasping cries that urged Lal on, more and yes and please as Lal stroked her fingers in Bianchi until she arched and shuddered and came to pieces. It meant getting to watch her relax against the pillow, flushed and nearly glowing with her pleasure, until the moment she opened her eyes, smiling, and wrestled Lal down to return the favor.
Lal really hadn't expected this sort of thing to happen to her, but the surprise was a pleasant one and she wasn't one to complain. Better to enjoy the unexpected gift of Bianchi's companionship and the good things it brought with it while they lasted, and the hell with anyone who tried to tell her otherwise.
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