A/N: It's been a grumpy day for me as it's my first day back from break, so I wrote this to lift my spirits a little. I just beat ToS2 the other week and was unsatisfied with the Emil/Marta nature of the ending. I was hoping they would permit Ratatosk Emil to go off with Marta and have Emil Emil stay with Richter all those years in the Ginnungagap "guarding the door". Emil is way too uke in that game for being in love with Marta to be believable. This is definitely how things would have gone had I been in charge... if only.

Disclaimer: Richter and Emil don't belong to me. They belong to each other :)

0o0o0o0o0o0o

He hasn't stammered for four hours now.

Not that Richter minds, or anything. He's already spent half of their journey beating this rule into Emil's head, a process very similar to training a dog (which Emil insists he isn't despite his willingness to be treated like one). Stop staring. No apologizing needlessly. Don't get in the way. If you don't stop stammering, I'll rip your tongue out. Be more of an individual. Come out of your shell. Find courage. After all the endless repetition, a little obedience is more than welcome. Richter certainly feels bad for berating the poor kid around the clock; in spite of the Aster and Ratatosk conundrum existing within Emil's body that makes him Richter's unquestionable enemy, he finds himself growing fond of the little idiot. This emotional entanglement will have to be dealt with eventually, of course—he can't go on pretending forever that he and Emil will be able to maintain their friendship throughout their opposing quests—but for the moment he is content to enjoy the endearing wimp's company as they set out alone through the winding roads on their mission. Especially when said wimp is being quiet. And coherent.

But there is something to be said for Emil's many quirks, no many how grating they are at times. There is a sweetness to them, a juvenile innocence that is hard not to somewhat appreciate. He's just so damn sincere all the time, always considerate and trusting no matter how little it is deserved. Richter isn't used to people believing he is a decent person in spite of his actions, and Emil more than anyone has reason enough to believe Richter is a cold, soulless monster. But he doesn't, inexplicably. No matter what Richter says or does, Emil will still follow him around as always, a soppy, worshipful grin on his face (on Aster's body, a fact that never fails to make Richter feel uneasy. Aster is—was—many things, but obsessive was never one of them). At first this bothered Richter, as he failed to see what good having Ratatosk's host chasing him all over the regenerated world would do, but now he feels a sense of warmth whenever he sees Emil heading towards him, goofy grin and devoted eyes and everything. All he fears are the moments when Emil finds him when he's doing the Vanguard's dirty work—killing Marta, chiefly, or hanging out with that pint sized terror Alice—and those devoted green eyes disappear, replaced by hatred, by red. By Ratatosk.

As far as quirks go, the apologizing he can do without. And the stammering. Where those are concerned, Richter is more than happy to lecture Emil into abandoning them completely. The kid acts like enough of a beaten down puppy without needing to add a complete and utter inability to speak like an intelligent being into his repertoire. And Richter has to draw the line somewhere.

0o0o0o0o0o0o

As they walk together, Emil begins to hum a bit under his breath. A dopey little love song, undoubtedly picked up somewhere along the line from the shameless Marta. "Cut that out," Richter commands, turning back for a moment to glare at the younger boy. "That song is beneath your dignity."

Emil looks as if he will consider apologizing for a moment, but instead grimaces and shuts up. "Yeah, you're right," he says slowly, careful to enunciate each word so he does not stumble over them.

"You don't need to agree with everything I say, you know."

Another grimace. "Yes, I know."

"And you don't need to look like you're dying inside every time I speak to you. I'm not grading you based on your conversation skills. All I want is your help."

This at last brings a smile to Emil's face. "I'm glad to help you, Richter. I owe you so much."

Richter snorts. Right. "You're forgetting the fact that my ultimate goal is to kill your little girlfriend. And also the fact that I'll take you out without hesitation if you get in my way. You owe me nothing."

"But you taught me how to fight and stand up for myself! You've always been so kind to me, Richter."

Richter. Not so long ago, it wasn't Richter. It was "R-Richter," always with the little moment of hesitation at the beginning of the name. Emil was so cowed by his presence that he couldn't even trust himself to know what to say to Richter or how to say it to him properly. Or maybe he was simply frightened, even in spite of his obvious devotion to the older man. Richter isn't sure, looking back. But somehow he finds himself missing the stammer, even though it had driven him to distraction only a few hours ago. R-Richter.

"Emil. At the end of the day, we're still enemies. Get your head around that."

"I want to believe in you," he insists. "The Richter I know doesn't want to hurt me or Marta. Well, at least not me." His smile fades a little and he shuffles his feet. "But maybe that's because I look like him."

"Don't go there," Richter warns. "I know you're not Aster. So don't even try pulling that card on me."

But Emil still persists in looking sad. His shoulders droop and his eyes are more distant than adoring, but he at least has the decency not to say anything. Or perhaps he can't, knowing that whatever he says will spill out in a mess, and that Richter will yell at him for it. Once again Richter feels overcome with sympathy for the boy, but he just can't keep himself from being hard on him. If that barrier drops, there will be no convincing Emil that they can't be friends, can't be together at all. As long as Ratatosk exists, Emil can't be allowed to slip past his defenses. No matter how tempting that thought might be.

"I can't help who I am," Emil says sorrowfully as they continue their march.

"Yes, you can. Haven't I been telling you that? It's your choice whether you want to be a man or a dog, Emil."

"No, that's not what I meant. I mean I can't help who I look like… and I can't help that someone else's behavior sometimes works through me. I've tried to stop it, but I can't erase myself. I'm…" He stops just before he says he's sorry. "I don't want you to hate me, Richter."

Richter again. "You can't have it both ways," he says coolly. "You've already chosen your side."

"But… you don't have to be on the bad side, Richter. You can join me!"

"No I can't. Just stick to your little girlfriend, Emil. Stick to what you believe in."

"Marta's actually not my girlfriend," Emil corrects him unnecessarily.

"Try telling her that." After a few minutes of silence, Richter stops in his tracks, surveying their surroundings. "We're stopping here for the night. Let's settle down. I'll make you something to eat."

"NO!" Emil yells, surprising Richter with his forcefulness. Obviously he vividly remembered the last time Richter tried to cook. "Um, I'll take care of it."

"As long it's not in the shape of a dove or a flower, all right?"

"What about a heart?" Emil asks, attempting a joke.

Richter shakes his head. Absolutely no hearts. That would be crossing the line, and he doesn't want to go there at the moment. In another time, in another place, in another world, his sighs to himself. But not with Ratatosk there, buried inside Emil. The killer hidden within, waiting to strike.

As Richter sets up camp, Emil riffles through the supplies they've packed and takes inventory of the ingredients they have at their disposal. "I'm thinking pancakes," he murmurs to himself. "How does that sound, Richter?"

Richter. He inwardly pines for the stammer, the proof that Emil is still in awe of him, the proof that there is something there that he's not just imagining. But he can hardly tell the kid to start back up again now that's he's gotten him to stop. As if poor Emil needs more confusion in his life.

"Richter," Emil echoes, "pancakes?"

"Yeah. Sure. Whatever."

"Um… okay?" Emil builds the fire and begins making batter in Richter's worn out skillet. Soon the smell wafts delightfully through the camp, and Richter can't help but feel livened by it. He wishes secretly that Emil could come along with him every time he goes out adventuring, and not just for the cooking. He likes the aroma of good food on the fire, but he likes more the hands stirring the ingredients tenderly and the eyes watching carefully to make sure none of it burns.

Emil, not Aster. Emil, not Ratatosk.

Emil begins to hum again, but quickly realizes his mistake and stops. "Whoops," he says light heartedly, trying not to sound too apologetic. "I forgot."

"Honestly, what's with the dumb song anyways?" Richter grumbles. "Missing Marta?"

"Oh, no. It's just stuck in my head for some reason." He blushes slightly, ducking his head. "I know it's stupid."

"Mm. Well, I guess you don't have to stop on my account. Sing, if you must."

Emil grins and begins humming again. It's still the worst song in the world, but he looks so happy singing it that Richter can't find it in him to make Emil shut up. Going soft, I guess, he chides himself. You're still going to have to kill him in the end. Don't forget that.

0o0o0o0o0o0

"Pancakes are ready," Emil trills. He digs out their plates and hands the meal over to Richter. It's shaped like a butterfly.

"…thanks," Richter says drily. "I can't believe this girly abomination is coming from someone who's almost killed me on several occasions."

"I wouldn't have tried to kill you if you hadn't tried to kill me first," Emil replies earnestly. Richter can't help but laugh at the ridiculousness of it all, this silly conversation. This whole matter of trying to kill each other when neither one of them wants to—unless you count the half of Emil that is Ratatosk—but still discussing it because it is inevitable. No matter what their real feelings are. One of them will have to die.

"You laughed again!" Emil beams, looking quite proud of himself.

"Yeah, I suppose I did. Thanks for that, Emil."

"You... thanked... me!"

"No need to die over it."

Emil merely giggles.

0o0o0o0o0o

After dinner, they each take turns washing in the river. Richter makes quick work of it, giving his hair and skin a quick go over with bland smelling soap purchased in Triet, but Emil takes his time, languishing in the water until ever speck of dirt is gone. He comes back smelling like cinnamon, which makes Richter feel hungry in the pit of his stomach. He'd forgotten how good fresh skin could smell thanks to all the time spent at Vanguard headquarters with Decus and his 'Eau de Seduction'. As Emil skips around camp clearing their plates, Richter finds himself tailing his every movement to follow the sweet sensation.

"You're in a good mood tonight, Richter," Emil notes cheerily. He sets up their bed rolls beside one another (Too close, Richter thinks to himself, though he doesn't move them) and plops down on his.

"Not so much as you are, Emil."

"I like it out here with you," Emil says as if owning up to this is the most natural thing in the world.

"You're crazy."

"Maybe so." He sinks down onto his bed roll, his eyes fluttering shut. Green eyes, beautiful green eyes. "Mm. I'm so sleepy."

This can't be Ratatosk, Richter thinks as Emil curls up peacefully on the ground. Ratatosk killed Aster without a moment of hesitation. This boy is not him. They may be of the same being, but they cannot be the same. This isn't the heart of a killer. Not him. Not really.

Emil cracks open an eye for a moment, as if checking to see if Richter is still awake. Whatever demon lord lurks behind him is buried deep, lying dormant. All there is is Emil, beautiful, innocent Emil. Emil yawning sleepily, his mouth puckered into a little O. Emil looking up at him, not an enemy or a threat or a monster or a long dead friend. Just Emil.

"Goodnight, Richter," he says, his eyes closing again.

"Want to try that again?" Richter asks. Unable to stop himself, to forsake his selfish desires. He wants the stupid stammer back, dammit. He wants Emil to be Emil, untouched by his edicts and commands to be someone else, someone it isn't really in him to become. He's not Aster, after all. Aster is dead and gone, and Emil is not responsible.

"Try what again?" Emil wonders.

"My name. Say it right."

"Richter?" His eyes fly open, displaying his confusion. "But I am saying it right. Richter."

"Wrong again. Maybe you need a little help." He kneels down before Emil and places a hand on the ground by both sides of his face. Red hair falls forward from behind his ears, gently sweeping against Emil's flushing cheeks with a touch as light as a feather. He catches a whiff of the cinnamon again, and his mouth waters uncontrollably. Just a taste. I deserve to be tortured with the knowledge of what I'm losing. This is my punishment.

Bridging the gap between their faces, he leans down and presses his lips against Emil's. The boy raises to meet him for a moment, maybe accidentally, but falls back almost instantly as if thrown down by the shock. And it is shocking, like being struck by lightning or jumping into a lake of cold water. It's like drowning or bursting into flames, but not a moment of it is painful, merely potent. A veritable force of nature. They both fall headlong into the terrible majesty of it, losing themselves to the power, the wantoness. Richter presses his weight down, increasing pressure, and Emil (innocent Emil) locks arms around Richter's neck and twines his fingers through his hair, pulling him closer with a force neither of them would have thought possible. The bitterness, the anger, the burning confusion, the oppositions in both of them spill forth, binding them together and fueling their passion. I hate that you made me love you, Richter punishes him, raking his teeth against Emil's lower lip. I hate you, I hate you, I hate you. I love you.

Out of breath, they pull apart. Panting and burning, both more than a little bit astonished at what they have done. "R-Richter!" Emil gasps, brushing his fingers against his lips in disbelief. "Um... I... uh... w-what?"

"There," Richter says with satisfaction, trying to disguise with bravado the fact that he is tremoring all over. "You finally got it right." He rolls onto his bed roll and closes his eyes, attempting to catch himself, to stop himself from going further and being consumed by this powerful and tempting creature. Meek little Emil. "I was just checking."

"Uhm, well..." He feels Emil lean over him, the fabric over their clothes brushing. "Richter, I, uh, don't actually know what I was s-supposed to be learning." His voice drops into a worshipful whisper that is pure Emil Castagnier. "Could you maybe check again, just to be sure?"