Written for the German KHR Crack Pairings circle;the pairing was supposed to be ColoSkull, but... I have to apologize. It turned out to be purely platonic ;A; I hope you enjoy it anyway!
The prompts were: thunderstorm, tire, towel, tea cup, gun

It was raining. Again. Even worse: thunder ripped through the sound oft he heavily falling drops, clouds so dark that only the lightning cracking through the sky illuminated this little village somewhere in Italy.

Of course, the cool air and wind were quite welcome after the heat of the past few days and it was better than the humidity earlier. But it also forced Skull to stay inside – something he hated. He liked being outside, driving his motorcycle, practicing stunts – anything active was fine. But this stupid thunderstorm had gone on all day and he was getting so restless that he practically begged for Luce's permission to use one of her sheds to work on his bike.

Being the kind woman she was, permission was granted, he was provided with some tools and cleaning utensils and made his way to the shed.

Luce was a strange woman, Skull thought as he pulled on a purple working overall, but he liked her. She had a bright smile and she'd been nice to him throughout his entire stay at the Giglio Nero mansion. He couldn't say the same about some others – the fedora-wearing guy always seemed to look down on him, Viper and Verde hasn't even spoken to him once and that Lal Mirch only gave short replies when he tried talking to / hitting on her. There was also Fon, who seemed sort of nice as well. He'd saved Skull from getting shot by Fedora Guy several times since arriving here. Skull had been shocked when he had actually pulled out a gun and pointed it at the stuntman without a single moment of hesitation.

They were from a different world as him, or so he felt. They were always talking about this or that deal, names he had never heard of, and when they looked at you, really looked at you, you could tell from their eyes that they had all already killed a person, even the gentle Fon. …Except maybe Viper because you could never see his (her? Its?) eyes, but look at him once and you'll realize you don't need to see his eyes to know it.

They were Mafia and gave Skull the creeps.

He was much happier here in the shed, checking the pressure on his bike's tires and oiling the engine. That was his world: his motorcycles, fame instead of infamy, travelling the world to participate in stunt show… he was young and had the prospect of a very promising career.

The metallic click of a gun sounded through the shed and before Skull could even blink, he felt the muzzle of that very gun pressed against the back of his head. Now, normally a situation like this would have made him panic, but in the past few days he'd had a gun pointed at him so often that he was barely fazed. Stupid Fedora Guy. "Look, man, I was only –"

"Don't move or talk unless I tell you to or I'll blow your brains out, kora."

…So it wasn't Fedora Guy; that was a different voice, a completely unfamiliar one. Now that thing with the panicking looked entirely different. "I-if you want money, I can give you th-" A kick to his back shut him up; not hard enough to knock him over, but enough to remind him not to talk unprompted.

"What a coward, kora. Obviously not a fighter. Are you a mechanic of the Giglio Nero family?"

"I'm not a mechanic," he snapped, and it took another kick to make him explain himself in a calmer manner. "I'm Skull , stuntman."

"…Why would the Giglio Nero family hire a stuntman, kora?"

"I wasn't hired, I was invited to the mansion along with some others. We're seven, I think. Can you remove the gun now?"

"…YOU are one of the Chosen Seven, kora? Seriously? You?" Laughter mixed in with the sound of the rain and thunder. Skull was beyond irritated, but at last the gun was removed from behind his head.

"Don't disrespect my skills! After all, I was chosen!" He got up and turned around, finally getting a look at the intruder; he was tall and muscular with a head full of blond hair and blue eyes. His face was, Skull had to admit, handsome (though he wasn't nearly as attractive as Skull himself, obviously) – he could have been straight from a movie with his sunny-boy exterior.

"I'm not disrespecting your skills, haven't seen you pull a stunt yet. What I'm disrespecting is your cowardly personality, kora."

…A sunny-boy exterior with a jerk interior.

"Why, I oughta –"

"I wouldn't do that if I were you, kora," the other said, waving his rifle (ah, so it hadn't been a gun) carelessly. "You seem like the type who dies fast. Reckless, hot-headed, big mouth, small body, no survival instincts… if you had been alert you would have heard me coming in and if you'd been trained in combat, ya could have at least tried to fight back, kora."

"I'll have you know that I am a world-class stuntman and people actually call me 'Immortal Skull, the man who came back from Hell'!"

The stranger snorted back a laugh. "And I will have you know that unless you want my rifle so far up your ass that it'll fire when you hiccup, you will do as I say, kora."

"…What, just bread, kora?"

Skull glared darkly at the blonde whose name, as it turned out, was Colonello. "Be glad I got you any food at all. Out of the goodness of my heart I –"

"Shut up or I'll punch you again."

Skull sulked a little; that black eye really wasn't been very becoming on him. It'd also made Luce worry and ask what happened. What was he supposed to answer to that? "During the thunderstorm some weird guy broke into the shed and now he's making me tell him everything that goes on in the mansion or he'll beat me up, I think he's up to something bad"? Certainly not. He was sure that nobody else was aware of the intruder and that he was leaking information and he planned on keeping it that way. He liked breathing, thanks.

He looked over at the other, who had introduced himself as Colonello previously. He was wearing the same clothes as the previous day – a green uniform of some kind, with a blue t-shirt underneath and dogtags dangling by his chest. Judging from the way he was gobbling down the food, he was fine with bread after all.

As Skull studied him more closely, he noticed that he had the same emblem on his sleeve that Lal had on her hat. "…You're from the military?"

"COMSUBIN, kora. Not just ordinary military."

"So you're like Lal."

Colonello stopped stuffing his face with bread for a moment. "I'm her student."

…Oh no. A stalker? "And now you're here because…?"

"Gotta protect Lal, kora. Can't do that if I'm not closeby, right?"

Even worse. A stalker with a hero complex. "And how do you intend on doing that?"

"By taking your place as one of the Chosen Seven of course, kora."


"You're a terrible choice anyway. You can't fight and you're a coward. Bad combination, kora."

Skull's eye twitched in annoyance. "Aside of the fact that Lal seems perfectly capable of protecting herself, there's a reason I was chosen, you know! And there is also a reason you weren't chosen!" He practically threw open the door of the shed and stomped outside, slamming it shut behind himself. Dramatic exit: check.

And then he went back in to fetch the little purple umbrella Luce had lent him.

Skull found it difficult to fall asleep that night. It totally wasn't because Colonello's words kept ringing through his mind, bothering him, oh no. It was… the thunderstorm. Yes. Who the hell was supposed to sleep like this?

…He wasn't bothered. Really. He knew that he wasn't a coward. He was a stuntman, he loved the adrenaline that risky things brought forth! There was nothing more exciting than feeling the burn of a flame nearly touching your skin, nothing more liberating than driving his best bike at full speed, nothing more heavenly than the feeling he got when he practically flew through the air with them.

Annoyed, Skull threw back his blanket and left his room, hoping that maybe a glass of water could calm his mind. Or some milk.

Except there was light in the kitchen. It was dim, but there was definitely someone there. Weird. Who could it be at this hour? Maybe Verde? He had only left his room for dinner, as far as Skull knew. Or Viper. He always suspected he was some kind of creature of the night…

It was Fedora Guy.

Skull turned around to go back to his room – he really didn't want to put up with that bastard now – but the board underneath his feet creaked as he did so, and before he knew what was happening Fedora Guy had already pulled open the door, caught Skull's head by his hair and pulled him into the kitchen, face pressed into the kitchen table with a gun to his temple. "What are you doing up?"

"S-stop it, that hurts, you know!" Skull protested, but it was no use; he wasn't strong enough for a trained hitman. "I just wanted something to drink because I couldn't sleep!" Surprisingly, he did let go, and Skull breathed out in relief, straightening up.

"Go back to your room and don't wander around this late again. I could have shot you."

"Like you wouldn't do that if you knew it was me, too," Skull grumbled. "Just let me drink something and I'll be gone."

"So you couldn't sleep, hm?" A fine eyebrow was arched mockingly. "Is little Skull afraid of a thunderstorm?"

"I'm not afraid of anything," he snapped back in irritation as he poured himself a cup of milk.

"…Really." A smirk. "So you're telling me that you know that your whole life is going to change the day after tomorrow, and you're not afraid of it? Luce hasn't said what the extent of the burden we will have to bear is, but I've heard it being called a curse. We could lose an arm, a leg, our sight, our sanity. Are you telling me you're not afraid of that, Skull? Maybe you'll never ride your precious motorcycles again. Maybe you'll even die."

Skull left his cup of milk untouched and left the kitchen. He didn't want him to see that his hands were shaking too much to hold it.

"Skull," he heard Fedora Guy's voice call after him. He stopped walking, but he didn't turn around. "If you even think of running away from this trial, I'm going to kill you in a slow and agonizing way."

He walked on.

It was still pretty early when Skull left his room the next morning; he hadn't been able to fall asleep for a long while, and when he finally did it was restless. He needed an energy push, he quickly decided, and went to the kitchen before even styling his hair or putting on his usual make up.

Luce was already in the kitchen, making pancakes – it smelled absolutely delicious. "Good morning," she greeted him in a calm but cheerful way.

He was almost tempted to grin at her, but a yawn escaped him instead. "Morning…"

"Tired?" She chuckled. "Would you like some coffee?"

He didn't usually like coffee, but the energy was really needed, so he nodded, sitting down at the table. As soon as he did so, a plate with pancakes and a cup of coffee were set in front of him before Luce sat down herself, sipping gingerly on a cup of tea. "You did not sleep well?"

Skull blew at his coffee before sipping on it, followed immediately by a grimace; it was bitter. "I had a lot on my mind."

"I see… Hmm. Would you mind me asking what you were thinking about?"

Damn. He didn't want to look unreliable in front of Luce. She was such a caring and sweet person and – for fuck's sake, she was pregnant, why wasn't she scared of what might happen to them? "It's uh… a… very dangerous stunt! Nobody has done it before," he explained, waving his fork around as he talked, "So nobody actually knows what might happen to me. I could die or become disabled forever."

"I see… And there is no option out of it?"

"None. My… manager, yes, my manager said it's absolutely necessary that I do it."

"Maybe," she said softly, "it is your destiny to do this. You were chosen to do this stunt, and I do not doubt that you were chosen because you are the only one who can do it. Of course it is alright to be scared, I think even the best stuntman would be, but you have to be courageous and believe that your manager would not let you do something as dangerous if it was not very important. After all, someone once said that 'courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgement that something else is more important than fear.' I think this is very true." She looked sort of… sad, one hand gently stroking her round stomach, eyes downcast.

She was just as scared as he was. So was Fedora Guy. He'd vented his anxiety on Skull the previous night. If amazingly strong people like that were scared… would Skull really be able to do it?

"…I'm going to the shed again today," he announced quietly. "I want to work on my bike."

"Alright," she said with her usual beautiful smile, "I'll prepare you a snack to take along."

When Skull really needed to think, he worked on his bikes. There was just something both comforting and relaxing about it, and he felt that with every tightened screw, every drop of oil and every spare part, his thoughts became clearer.

If only there wasn't an annoying blonde who kept pestering him…

His eye twitched when he realized that Colonello, once again, crouched right behind him, looking over his shoulder at what he was doing. "That looks wrong, kora."

"Could you just let me do my work? You may know how to repair a tank or something like that, but I am the expert when it comes to motorcycles and I will –"

"…I was referring to that screw, kora. It's screwed slightly crooked. Man, you really need to calm down. Plus, I'm hungry. Didn't you bring a picnic basket with ya, kora?"

Skull slammed down his tools, frustrated. How was he supposed to work out his thoughts with this pest always behind him, commenting and criticizing everything he did? It was simply not possible!
He finally got up and grabbed an old towel to wipe his hands on; there was oil all over them. "You're really persistent. And annoying. Can't you go annoy someone else and try to take their place?"

"Not possible, kora. I spied on everyone, analyzed their role in the group, and figured you're the weakest link. You're going to chicken out anyway, kora."

Why did everybody think so low of him? They didn't even know him. "Then you better think of a plan B, because I am not going to chicken out! I am going to pull through with whatever this burden will be!"
…Did he just really say that? Oh, he did. Shit. This meant he… actually had to pull through – well, it wasn't like there had been the choice of not pulling through. Except if he had made an agreement with Colonello, but his ego was sort of in the way and now he had said something without thinking again and the voice in his head was rambling so much that he hadn't even noticed Colonello coming closer.

"Do you even know what's going to happen to you, kora?" Colonello's face was serious, and Skull gulped involuntarily, backing away just the slightest. "Whatever it is, it's a heavy burden. It will change your life – and it won't be a change for the better. What if you can never drive your motorcycles again, kora? Don't be stupid."

Colonello's gaze was sort of scary, but of course Skull was unimpressed! He had only backed away until he felt the wall behind him because… he wanted to lean against it. Yes. "A-and you're telling me that you're not scared at all of all of that? You're going to risk your future for some woman?"

Skull winced when Colonello's fist hit the wall right beside his face. "Yes, I am." He could only stare at the taller man, whose face was completely serious, gaze unwavering. He was only speechless for a few moments though.

"Are you stupid? If you want to win the woman over, that's not a good way! You might both die!"

"I don't want to win her over, kora." Colonello finally pulled his hand back, but Skull didn't dare relax. "The dying is a good point though. Might be better if I take her place instead, kora.. then she could live a normal life." He was quiet for a few moments, seemingly lost in thought, before a grin appeared on his face. "Now are we going to eat or what?"

"…R-right." Glad for the change of topic, Skull hurried over to the picnic basket that Luce had packed for him. There were Panini, apples, oh, a can of tea! "…Why did Luce pack two cups? I only broke one cup during my entire stay, it's not like I need spare."

"I figured you were clumsy, kora." Colonello looked over, spotting the two tea cups, two paninis, two apples… "You know, maybe I underestimated this Luce woman. This could turn out to be quite interesting, kora."