[A/N]: Yep, instead of writing more of what I already started, I write more oneshots. Typical. And of course they would be about a plot device that I have already beaten to death. What can I say. I really enjoy the Mu Metal as a plot device. And I can't help but feel that even though they claim that they'll never really get each other, they're still children. There's still room for them to grow, and they do learn from each other, so I can't help but feel that Solo, even if he doesn't really become friends, would at least loosen up. Slightly. Over time. A lot of time. So I try to reflect this, but because of all the scene skipping, it might feel a bit...rushed? I don't know. The fic only covers what our friend the officer sees, after all.
Rob Sidkic and Sugar Suet actually are characters from the third game, but they really only exist to give sidequests. They're the only Satella Police officers with names that I can remember off the top of my head, though, so Rob gets to be the officer that was shown being injured in an attempt to recruit Solo in Black Ace/Red Joker, and Sugar is only mentioned, never seen. I don't know their Japanese names, and I'm not really assed to find out, but I'm sure they're just as equally...er, punny.
The first time that Rockman's surveillance signal had been lost; the whole of WAZA had been thrown into a panic. It had been drowned out in an explosion of power more massive than they had ever recorded before. Many feared that a new global threat had arisen-why else would such a large unexplained surge of energy take place in a time of peace?
Due to the anticipated threat, the elite forces of the Satella Police, led by Shidou, were dispatched. They were instructed to prepare for the worst as they approached the scene. When the first sight to meet their eyes was the ground torn up and littered with craters (some still smoking!), the group as a whole tensed, alert and waiting for any incoming attack.
It was Rob Sidkic who first spotted Rockman, lying face down at the bottom of the largest crater in the middle of the battlefield, unmoving. Immediately, the group dreaded the worst. What sort of force was this that could render even Rockman in this state?
Thankfully, upon turning his body over, Rockman was discovered to be merely on the brink of unconsciousness, his barely open eyes opening wider once he was disturbed. There was another person lying at the opposite end of the crater who reawakened their alarm, however.
It was well-known that the lone soldier, Burai, was a formidable opponent. Only Rockman had been known to defeat him in battle. But it was unknown just how strong he was, and the possibility that the source of the overwhelming signal was him boded ill. For what purpose would he have gained such power? Regardless, Burai had always been averse to allying himself with the Satella Police, and any single individual with that much power that was not allied with them was marked as a threat and should be eliminated. And if that was so, then now would be a prime opportunity to take action. Never before had the Satella Police seen Burai so weak and vulnerable. He didn't regain consciousness until the officers were nearly upon him, and when he did awaken, he could barely sit up, much less fight back.
Rob particularly felt a sense of vindictive pleasure as they closed in on the young warrior. He personally had nothing against the boy, but he could never forget the beating he himself had received at the boy's hands when he attempted to recruit him on Shidou's behalf so long ago. The boy hadn't even needed to Denpa-Henkan to deal with him and his elite Battle Wizard-Laplace had taken down the Wizard in one blow, and Solo proved that he could keep up with adults easily, even with Rob's professional training. It was a sore spot that hurt his pride whenever he thought about it. To be bested by a child!
As they got closer to Burai and surrounded him on all sides, Rob was surprised to see a glimmer of fear in the young boy's eyes that was quickly buried under pure unadulterated rage. They heard a weak voice calling for them to stop, but they ignored it. It would not be professional to stop because of such a mere plea. The target was identified, and it must be secured.
Burai had managed to sit up by this time, and had brought up his blade in a defensive gesture. Not only was it rare for him to display such weakness, but it was clear that even doing that was costing him a great deal of effort: his hands were visibly shaking, and fear was starting to enter his eyes again.
A small explosion at the feet of the officers closest to Burai stopped their progress, and they turned to face the source of the hostile fire. What they saw was Rockman, weakly sitting up in Acid Ace's arms; his left arm held up and aimed at them, changed into its familiar cannon-like shape and its mouth glowing with another charged shot.
"I said…" the young warrior panted, his face glistening with sweat as he exerted himself to speak, "stop."
There was a brief moment of complete silence as the group mentally processed the situation. It was rare for the normally modest and polite Rockman to speak with a voice of cold steel: that was reserved for the few occasions that he was truly angry, felt that someone close to him was in danger. But the only one that was in any sort of predicament other than Rockman himself was…
"Rockman, I apologize, but…" Rob found himself objecting before he even knew it, "Protocol demands that we secure any threat to our allies, and he's clearly presented himself as a threat with a high power level after this unprovoked attack…"
"It's fine," Rockman grunted as he let his left arm fall back to his side. "It…it wasn't an unprovoked fight."
The Satella Police were dumbfounded. It wasn't like Rockman to start fights-he wouldn't do so unless it was necessary…why would Rockman start a fight with such a powerful warrior who didn't actively seek his company? Rockman didn't seem willing to answer, instead looking down briefly to avoid meeting Burai's eyes-the aforementioned warrior was gazing at him intently, as if trying to read his mind….there was a part of Rob's mind that suspected that Burai was just as surprised at Rockman's defense of him as they were.
"It's fine…" Rockman repeated. "Burai…he's not a threat to you. He won't instigate any fights with the Satella Police if you don't start with him…right?" Rockman finally looked up to meet Burai's eyes, but the other merely scoffed and looked away, a rare open show of deference.
"Che, I don't need you to speak for me," he growled, his voice surprisingly lacking its usual venom. With that, he vanished, putting an end to the conflict. Everyone looked a little lost by the sudden ending to the fight, looking about listlessly as if waiting for the signal to move. The captain of the squad acted first, turning to face Acid Ace.
"Sir, is it alright not to engage in pursuit? It is against protocol, but…"
"It's fine, isn't it?" Acid Ace replied dismissively. "If Rockman says he's not a threat, then it's all ship-shape and safely within the rules, yeah?"
"So says the one that wanted to recruit him in the first place," muttered Rob to himself. Those bruises to his ego still stung after all. But despite Ace's apparent nonchalance, Rob couldn't help but feel that the young man was as anxious as he felt. A quick glance at Rockman only cemented his worry. The boy was still staring at the spot where Burai had disappeared.
By all rights, the boy had apparently won some kind of victory against the other young warrior. So why did he still look so concerned?
When Rockman's signal was lost for the second time, the Satella Police was better prepared. While he had been recovering from his injuries, Subaru had eventually confessed to the reason for their fight, lest the Satella Police go after Burai regardless of his words. His fight with Sirius over the fate of Planet FM was already well-known, as it had been one of the first things mentioned by Cepheus during alliance talks with the planet (behind his own life-changing invasion attempt of Earth, of course). However, his other major battle during that time had gone unnoticed-the surge of power detected some time before Sirius' deletion had been attributed to one of the many fights with the "R's" that Rockman had described.
But now, Rockman confessed to it all: the fight between him and Burai over what would be retrieved from Sirius, the decision to be made between saving Planet FM or Mu, and what Sirius had done to him in a petty form of revenge.
Most of the force, if not all, were horrified at the idea that their hero's, no, this young boy's life would now be measured in increments of a barely predictable cycle. Being forced to fight for his life, and at the expense of someone else's dearest wish, was a responsibility that no one wished on a child so young.
But then again, what was the constant threat of death to someone who had saved the world three times before they had even graduated primary school? Subaru had faced, had continued to face the situation with an amount of fortitude that most of the force still found surprising in a child his age; in fact, he looked more concerned about the worry he was causing than his own impending possible death. What the force was most surprised by, however, was that despite allowing research on the possibility of removing the Mu Metal from Rockman's body, he absolutely refused to have it removed, at least for the moment.
"These battles are important to Burai, I think," Subaru answered when asked why. "I don't think that it would feel right to him to just get the Mu Metal after all the agonies he's had to put himself through to get it, after all we've staked on the fights for it. He doesn't want to just receive a free gift, especially not from me."
The young boy sighed. "They're…important to me too. These battles…they help define who we are. Every time I fight him, I have to remind myself who and what I'm fighting for as Rockman…it refreshes me, somehow. It's hard to explain…"
Somehow, the Satella Police understood. Before, Subaru had only become Rockman in times of distress. But now, he was starting to learn how to be alert, to remain in his role in order to keep his skills sharp, to not simply respond to threats as they arose, but to keep himself vigilant and ready for anything in the future. He was learning how to respond to a duty. The Satella Police officers knew plenty about that.
When they offered the boy an opportunity to come train with them daily and he accepted, it only increased the mutual respect that had been slowly growing between them: Subaru had been falling out of the idol worship and starting to see the officers as actual people and partners; and the officers were realizing that even though Subaru was still a child and had a lot to learn, he had matured far more than the officers had given him credit for.
So when Rockman's signal was lost again, the majority of the Satella Police wasn't worried at all. Rockman was carrying their wishes for his survival now. He wouldn't lose easily. Even so, that didn't stop them from sending out a small group to go retrieve the weakened Rockman-they had gotten him to agree to that much, at least.
They found a scene very much like the first, but this time Rockman was still standing while Burai was struggling to push himself up.
"D-Damn it…" Burai growled. "Why…?"
"I've learned from our last fight, Burai," murmured Rockman. "I can't just sit around aimlessly between disasters, like I used to. It would be so easy, wouldn't it? To return to a normal life and forget that you have to fight, at least for a little while…that's what I was doing before, without even realizing it. That's what made that last fight against you so hard. I couldn't give my all because I didn't keep myself ready."
Rockman took a deep breath and sighed.
"This time, it was different. I understand now. Because I vowed to protect everyone that was precious to me, I have to make sure that I can fight. I have to work my hardest, give my absolute best effort, and not slack off…I have to stay prepared, and always improve myself. Like Ace, like the Satella Police…and you."
Burai merely grunted and turned away despite the blatant acknowledgement of his own influence.
"Disappointing," he muttered. "To think I hadn't been fighting the real you until now…" He scowled before disappearing. Rockman looked startled by the sudden end to the one-sided conversation, and by the time the Satella Police reached him, he wore a sober expression. He smiled faintly at them, before leaving without complaint.
Rockman was assaulted by many questions from the officers. However, it was Rob who finally asked the one they were all really thinking.
"Weren't you scared, boy?"
"Of course!" Rockman responded without hesitation. "I'm always scared whenever I have to fight…especially Burai. He's one of the strongest people I've ever fought, but…I'm never really worried about it, you know?"
"There's a difference?" Rob chuckled, and at that several other officers laughed mildly, making the young boy blush.
"There is! I mean…I'm not sure how to say it, but…" Rockman grew quiet again, and it took a few moments for him to respond.
"I'm scared, I'm always scared, but…there's this feeling inside me. I know that I'll win. That's it. That feeling is what makes me fight him, because no matter how scary Burai is, I know that I'll beat him."
The sudden strength behind his words, while it heartened them all, made them wonder where it all came from.
"What makes you say that, then?" Again, it was the ever-blunt Rob that asked.
"Ah, it's a simple thing, really." And then Rockman suddenly beamed at them all. "In the end, I'll always have people waiting for me to come back."
As soon as the smile had appeared, it vanished, and Rob saw an expression of concern cross Rockman's face as he turned away.
It became something of a routine to pick up Rockman after his cyclical fights with Burai. The same officers almost always went to fetch him, and he was well on his way to addressing them all by name. Burai had stopped being openly hostile towards them once it was established that they were not there to make any attempts on him, nor would they attempt to harass him in any manner whatsoever or interfere with the fight, but he was still wary and would never willingly go near them, often vanishing once they appeared if he was still there when they arrived.
So when the Satella Police found the two boys untransformed and sleeping next to each other, their shock can be easily imagined.
It looked as if they had collapsed against each other quite accidentally. They appeared to have fallen against a tree and fallen asleep sitting up. Slowly over time, they had slid closer to each other until Subaru's head was resting on Solo's shoulder-and Rob wasn't sure, but he could have sworn that it looked like Solo was drooling into Subaru's hair from his open mouth. The scene would have been idyllic, if it wasn't for the fact that the tree they were resting against had been forcefully uprooted, a clear result from their vicious battle.
Before the officers could move, there was a flash of light and a click, and they turned to the new recruit of the group, who was holding up his Hunter with a very sheepish expression. There was a moment of silence as they looked at the young officer who had just broken protocol.
"Rookie," Rob finally said, "You'd better get copies of that to all of us."
As the new recruit stammered out a relieved affirmative, Rob approached the two boys who had somehow managed to continue sleeping through the camera flash and knelt down next to Subaru. Reaching out a hand, he shook the young boy's shoulder.
"Oi, kid. Time to go." Subaru merely groaned in his sleep and didn't move whatsoever. He must have really been out of it, if he wouldn't wake…but they had to leave and get him to safety.
In the interests of time, Rob gently hoisted Subaru up into his arms and let the boy rest his head on his shoulder, like the way one would normally carry a child half his age. Immediately, Solo started to topple over at the loss of support, and didn't awaken even when Rob reached out with one hand, awkwardly trying to keep him from falling to the ground.
The fact that he didn't awaken even through this showed the extent of Solo's injuries. Rob had seen the boy limp away with wounds that would render any one of them close to unconsciousness, just to get away from them. The fact that he couldn't even muster the strength to wake up at this point spoke volumes.
It was a split second decision. Rob maneuvered Subaru so that he was carrying him with one arm, before lifting up Solo with the other. His back immediately started to protest: the boys were on the cusp of adolescence, and while they thankfully hadn't started much of their growth, what little they had grown was all pure muscle. His squad started their own protests once they realized what he was doing.
"Wait, won't he get mad?"
"Mad, are you kidding me? He'll be furious!"
"Furious is an understatement."
"It doesn't matter," growled Rob. "Think about it. Would this kid still be here if he wasn't seriously injured?"
There were murmurs amongst the group as they slowly assented to Rob's deduction.
"Look, once Rockman learns that this kid was left in this kind of state, he's gonna worry about him. You know how seriously those two take their fights, and they want everything to be equal between them when they happen. So we'll just make sure they both wake up fine, alright?"
There were more nods, and they all proceeded to go back to headquarters. On the way back, Rob's thoughts were engrossed mostly by how heavy the two boys were, but occasionally the thought of how much this felt like picking up two young children after a particularly exhausting play date came to mind. Something felt off about that thought, however, and it took Rob some time to figure out what was not right with the scenario. He finally realized that while Subaru had unconsciously turned to curl up against one shoulder, Solo had remained flopped over the other, motionless and making no move to make himself comfortable.
A few more minutes musing on the subject and what he knew of their backstories led to the realization that Subaru had likely not been held this way since he was seven-and Solo had never been held like this at all.
It was a sobering thought.
Frankly, those two children scared the Satella Police sometimes. Somehow, the two most Noise-resistant humans (possibly living beings) on the planet had managed to give each other Noise poisoning. Luckily enough, the cases were mild, only making the boys extremely groggy and left them feeling drained. Even so, the sheer amount of Noise the two must have thrown around in order to poison each other was staggering. It was enough of a worry that they sent a squad to secure and search the area for any chaos caused by the Noise and Crimson.
As expected, Solo was immediately apprehensive upon waking up in a new and unfamiliar location with a Satella Police officer (Rob was picked to observer the two until they woke-reap what you sow, he supposed) keeping a close watch. Luckily, with having just woken up and still under the lingering effects of both the poisoning and the treatment, Solo's ranting was viewed with less fear and more amusement.
"What the-why-you are going to regret this-! This breach of the-the sanctity of-" Solo started becoming more and more incoherent as he slowly started to realize that he wasn't in a position of power anymore and was in a place completely unfamiliar to him.
"Calm down, kid," Rob eventually countered, cutting Solo off mid-rant. "We ain't gonna hurt ya."
"Like I'll believe that….don't think I don't know what you all wanted…just biding your time, was it? I-"
"E-eh? What's happening?" Ah. Subaru finally woke up. What a relief. Their rivalry was likely the only thing that would have successfully distracted Solo. It certainly did make the other boy realize that he wasn't, in fact, alone in whatever nefarious schemes he thought the Satella Police had in store for him.
"You and Solo managed to give each other Noise poisoning, kiddo," responded Rob before Solo could speak. "We're taken both of you in for treatment."
"Ah…" Subaru mumbled; still not awake enough to fully comprehend Rob's words for a few moments. When he did, however, he sat straight up in bed.
"EH! Both? But how-"
"I did not come here willingly," Solo interrupted, his voice low and sullen.
"I-I figured that much," Subaru chuckled nervously. "What I meant was-"
"I was not conscious, either," Solo growled. He looked as if it pained him to admit it.
"Ah." There was nothing more to be said, or so Subaru seemed to think. Solo, to the contrary, felt it necessary to bemoan his situation, and even made attempts to leave despite being barely able to sit up.
"Solo…if I'm not strong enough to get out of bed, I know you're not."
"Try me," was the biting response. "Laplace!"
For a few moments, Rob was genuinely worried that Solo would manage to be a threat: he may have been well out of commission, but Laplace certainly wasn't, and the two of them could wreak a good deal of havoc even with Solo remaining untransformed. However, it seemed that even though Laplace did materialize himself, he seemed as little inclined to let Solo run about as much as the rest of them were. Instead of unleashing attacks, he was communicating with Solo via buzzing noises, and Solo was gradually getting more and more frustrated as they spoke.
"What do you mean you always act in my best interest? If you were acting in my best interest, you'd help me leave!"
"Well, no, I won't deny that it's at no expense to me whatsoever, but relying on somebody else's care-"
"Oh shut up, Laplace. Wizard Off."
With that, the purple Wizard disappeared, and Solo collapsed back onto the bed.
"Even my own Wizard is against me…" he moaned, and Rob had to work to bite back his laughter at the petulant, almost childish tone in his voice.
Subaru merely smiled.
"Come on, Solo. He's just worried about you, that's all."
"You can't understand what he says, what do you know?" the irritable boy snapped.
"If he wasn't worried about you, he would have forced you past your limits into an unfamiliar situation. He's just looking out for you."
Solo threw one arm over his eyes and growled.
"Tch. You always act that way, as if you really understand others because of your bonds, but you're just a naïve idiot."
"Maybe…" Subaru's face was all mildness. "But didn't you once say that the Satella Police and I would merely be nothing but tools for you to use? Think of this as that, then. We're not charging you for it or anything like that, so you might as well take advantage of our naïve stupidity."
Solo uncovered his eyes and gave Subaru a blank stare.
"Are you sure you don't understand Laplace?"
"Yes, why?" Subaru stared just as blankly back.
Rob couldn't help but chuckle at the subtle ways Solo was more open with Subaru when his presence was forgotten, but his laughter brought both of their attention back onto him, and he had to quickly think of something to say before things got awkward.
"Ah…oh, Sugar baked ya cookies again, kiddo."
"Oh!" No child could hear any mention of cookies without brightening up, but Solo seemed to be making a great deal of effort not to. Even if he hadn't verbally responded to the interruption, his marked interest was obvious as Subaru reached into the bag that Rob held out and took out one of said cookies.
"Ah-Solo, do you want one?" Subaru asked through a full mouth.
"Tch. I don't need anything from you. Besides, those things are full of empty calories. They won't do anything useful."
"Mn. I don't know about the empty part, but calories sound like just the thing you need to help you get moving again, doesn't it? Besides, be happy you got here on a day when Suet-san's treats are actually edible."
"Edible?" Solo's face was guarded, but Rob could see the question marks in his eyes.
"Oh yeah," Rob quipped. "Sugar's really into experimental cooking. You should have seen what concoction she made last week: chocolate squid cake."
"What's wrong with that?" Solo asked. "Squid's alright, especially if you get it fresh…" Subaru blanched slightly at those words.
"Yes, but…squid isn't really something you put in cake, Solo…"
"It would make it far more nutritionally acceptable."
"Would the taste be worth it, though?"
"Don't tell me that the high and mighty Rockman would let himself be intimidated by someone's paltry cooking skills."
"I'm not Rockman right now, so yes, I would be!" Subaru bit into another cookie, scowling. "Besides, at least I would eat it if I was hungry, instead of stubbornly refusing to eat on some misguided principle!"
"Yes, misguided. You claim to use whatever you need as a tool and nothing more, yet you refuse to use the means at your disposal merely because you fear it will be seen as you being dependent on someone else's aid? We're not handing you stuff on a silver platter, Solo! The resources are simply there, and you need them, so why not use them?"
"How dare you…" Solo seethed. "How dare you assume that you know my principles when you follow the exact opposite creed, assume that I feel what I don't merely because you do. I'm not like you, I will never be like you; I am, in fact, not hungry and in need of nutrition-"
His rant was interrupted by the growling of his stomach. Subaru had to work hard to hide his laughter at the sudden change of mood. Rob had no such compunction. Solo ignored both of them and scowled.
"Come on, Solo. One cookie won't kill you. At the very least, it'll just whet your appetite for a 'real' meal," Subaru chided gently. "Why are you being so stubborn? You've never had trouble taking resources as you pleased before…or is it that you're not taking them and having them being offered to you instead?"
Solo was silent. Subaru merely smiled.
"Then I take back what I said. Any cookies taken from here on you take will be taken against the general wishes of anyone here."
"You idiot," Solo scowled as Subaru took the bag from Rob's hands. Just as the bag came close to coming out of reach, his hand reached out and snatched a single cookie from the bag. Again, Rob laughed. He didn't get how Subaru could keep a straight face while teasing Solo like this…unless he really wasn't teasing him and genuinely did want to try to get Solo to eat…
"Hmph," Solo grunted, his mouth full.
"Something wrong?" Subaru asked. Solo didn't respond for a few moments.
"No. Just found a peanut."
"Ah. Are you allergic?"
"No. This makes for a suitable source of protein, at least."
Subaru gave Solo a long, scrutinizing look.
"You…are such a health nut."
Solo returned the look.
"Be thankful that your fighting skills are not as pitiful as your jokes, Rockman."
The next cycle's fight wasn't any better. In many regards, many of the officers considered it worse. At least last time they had been in an open field, as opposed to the Bermuda Maze.
With the risk of losing their people permanently in the depths of the maze, the Satella Police could only station themselves at the known entrance and wait.
It was some time of wait and anxiety before the two were spotted staggering out of the maze. To the troop's great surprise, Rockman and Burai were supporting each other out of the maze, one arm over each other's shoulder as they slogged along. Once they reached the entrance, they collapsed in a heap. Rob approached the two with a stern expression.
"Now, what in the world possessed you two to go in there?"
"Oi, it wasn't our fault, Sidkic-san! We were just running through the Noise Waves, and then we just kinda came out a new exit…" Rockman admitted ruefully.
"And it landed you in the Bermuda Maze?" Rob asked bemusedly.
"Right in the middle of a virus house," commented Burai, startling Rob. It was surprising to hear the other boy voluntarily offer details.
"The middle of a virus house…" Rob shook his head. "Honestly, you two…"
"It was good training," Burai countered defensively, as if Rob had been scolding him. "We were able to use the viruses as an aid in battle."
"Using wild viruses. In battle. To help you." Rob sighed. "You two are something else."
He grunted as he lifted Rockman onto his shoulder. The young boy laughed as he was maneuvered so that he was being carried in piggyback fashion, even as his tired body could barely hold on and Rob found it necessary to use one arm to hold Rockman over his shoulder. They both looked down at Burai, who had been looking up at them with a scowling expression and had then turned away once they looked down. There was a moment of awkward silence.
"Oi." And Burai looked up reluctantly as Rob addressed him. He didn't speak, but it was surprisingly easy to see the wariness in his expression, to read his discomfort and being addressed so familiarly by someone he was barely connected with. Rob could almost hear the apprehensive "What?" that Burai was not willing to ask.
"Why'd ya help Rockman get out, anyway?" Rockman looked over with a nervous, almost embarrassed expression at Rob, who was ignoring him and his fevered protests of "Sidkic-san!" whispered under his breath, no matter how amused he was at the image of Rockman being embarrassed for a rival who would not allow himself to feel such an emotion. Burai merely huffed.
"I didn't help him, he was in my way. His slow progress was hindering mine. Besides," and here Burai scowled yet again before turning away once more.
"If Rockman doesn't show up at full strength for the next battle, it'll make deleting him worthless."
There was silence. Nobody spoke, even as both Burai and Rockman fidgeted slightly under Rob's scrutiny. Their rivalry and its strange ways were already familiar to the two of them. Even with all the stubbornness on both ends, they knew each other well, they respected each other, and while their dynamic looked strange and unhealthy to others, it worked. Having a third party look down on them with the barest knowledge of how they worked, not knowing of the subtle nuances of their rivalry, was disconcerting at the very least. Neither of them was truly aware of it, but both of them unconsciously feared Rob's response to Burai's blatant threat against Rockman's wellbeing.
"Hmmh," Rob grunted. "Good enough." Before the two boys knew it, Burai had been hefted up and tucked under Rob's other arm.
"What?" Burai yelped. "Let me go! What are you doing to me-" He struggled to get loose, but he was still weakened from the battle and could barely get Rob's grip to loosen.
"Settle down, kid," Rob chuckled. "Sugar's heard about your glowing remarks on her taste in seafood. She went and brought the whole chocolate squid cake this time. So either you get over there and eat some, or your rival is going to have that entire cake all to himself, and we can't have that, can we?"
"S-Sidkic-san…" Rockman stammered. "You can't be serious…" Rob laughed.
"Oh yes, she's determined to get someone to like that demented recipe of hers, if only to get us to stop complaining about the fishy smell at work. The day she forgot her snack and got you to pick up ice cream for her was a day of celebration, kiddo."
"Ah, b-but I don't actually have to eat it all, right?"
"Pathetic. You would be terrified of something like this?" Burai interrupted.
"Says the one who won't even show up to try it. Talking like a coward, eh?" Rob countered, a cheeky expression on his face.
"I…I am no coward!" Burai spluttered.
"Oh really? So are you gonna prove it to us? Those words from before, teasing Rockman for fearing someone's cooking skills…are you gonna eat those words, or that cake?" Rob taunted.
Burai scowled, and Rockman looked nervous. Again, there was silence.
"…I don't turn away from any challenge, and I don't go back on my word."
"Then cake it is!" crowed Rob triumphantly as he swung the two adolescents around in his arms. "Man, I can't wait to see your face when you eat it-"
"You two…you're taking this too seriously…" Rockman murmured under his breath as Burai started growling out threats for "treating him with unnecessary callousness." He looked as if he wanted to continue with "It's just cake…" but looked afraid to voice those thoughts lest he get pulled into eating more cake than necessary.
Rob only continued to laugh as he carried the two boys over to the rest of the squad before he looked down at them with a serious expression.
"But seriously, you two, can you really try not to fight there again? It's pretty damn likely we'd lose either of you for good if you keep going in that place."
"I make no promises," Burai bluntly stated, his tone leaving no room for argument.
The officer sighed. He knew he should have expected that. Hopefully, he looked to Rockman.
"Sorry, Sidkic-san," the boy said, smiling sheepishly. "I can't promise that either, exactly."
Somehow, he had the feeling that Rockman would say that.
The next few cycles wet fairly similar to the last. Rob and Rockman managed to either cajole or annoy Burai enough to accompany them to Satella Police headquarters. In the beginning, Rob would simply pick Burai up and carry him off when he grew tired of verbally sparring with the boy, as Burai would still be too weak to fight him off. Once Burai had managed to gain strength equal to what Rockman had after starting to train regularly with the Satella Police, however, his fights became less desperately vicious, and gradually they began to inflict less and less damage on each other as they learned each other's patterns. Their battles became more about endurance than dealing actual damage to each other, and so while they were still tired after their battles, they often weren't injured enough to need to be carried. By that time, however, by watching how the two boys interacted with each other, Rob had gotten the measure on how to deal with Burai: as mature as he was, he was still a young boy-barely a teen-and completely transparent to a hardened veteran adult like Rob and the rest of the Satella Police. It was easy for Rob to continue pushing Burai's buttons and pestering him in to joining them after the fights, and he rather suspected that some part of the boy was starting to give up, as it seemed to get progressively easier with each cycle.
Even so, the two boys continued to surprise him. Despite noting the gradual change in their dynamic that indicated a sort of mutual ease in each other's company growing on top of the subtly acknowledged respect for each other that they expressed, it still surprised Rob and the others in the squad to find them sitting back to back under a tree (thankfully not destroyed this time), untransformed, and apparently engrossed with a pair of handheld games.
"Oi, you two! Time to go!" Rob shouted. He was rewarded with Subaru looking up in response, then looking back down at his own handheld with a cry of horror as Solo started to smirk.
"No fair!" War-Rock's voice could be heard from Subaru's Hunter. "He totally got distracted!"
"A true warrior lets nothing distract them from battle," Solo responded in what could have been a smug tone.
"Ha! You're just making excuses! We could have totally kicked your ass!"
"It doesn't really matter, War-Rock, the battle would have had to end now anyway, right?" Subaru chided, before turning to Rob. "You're late, Sidkic-san."
"No wonder I am," grumbled Rob. "Really, you two? A deserted, possibly uncharted island in the middle of the goddamn ocean?"
"Don't curse in front of the kids, Rob," a female Satella Police officer scolded before he could continue his tirade. Subaru giggled at the cowed expression on the officer's face, and even Solo seemed to be smirking.
"Don't worry, Sidkic-san!" Subaru quipped as the female officer left to set up the standard perimeter. "Solo already knows plenty! You should hear him when we fight!"
Solo said nothing, his expression giving away just as much; even when Rob gave him a scrutinizing look.
"Yes, then. Language aside, we really did have a hard time finding you two. The island you were fighting on isn't on any of our databases."
"I think it's new. There are extremely active volcanoes here. We ended up triggering an eruption," Solo admitted, to the great alarm of Rob.
"Yeah, but it's all fine!" Subaru added, far too cheerfully for someone who had started a natural disaster. "Thank goodness for Noise Change and its Noise Form Big Bangs…a couple of Dynamic Waves and the lava was all cooled off…even if I did flood the island a bit…but it's so small! Maybe only as big as Kodama Town…and you said it wasn't' even on your map? Ne, Solo, that means we discovered it! I bet we could name it…"
"No way I'd let you name anything I'd be associated with," Solo countered. "You'd probably name it in honor of friendship, or bonds, or something…"
"Actually, I was thinking something like Cycle Island, 'cause we found it because of our cyclical battles…."
"Hmph…" Solo grunted. "That's acceptable, I suppose."
"You two…" Rob sighed. They really were something else. "We'll talk about this later. Let's go back before the others get fidgety. Sugar's brought a real treat this time." Rob grinned as the boys both adopted apprehensive expressions.
"Squid ice cream."
Subaru began to pale, and Solo actually adopted an openly incredulous expression.
"What the fuck is with that woman and squid?" he demanded (he had tried her confectionaries, and he did have to admit: squid was good, but not for cakes). Rob merely shrugged.
"Dunno. Been working with her for years and still haven't figured it out. And cut that shit out, kid. You're gonna get me in a helluva lot of trouble if you keep cursing like that."
Of course, the same female officer would have chosen that exact moment to pass by them and overhear them. Both Subaru and Solo grinned as she glared at Rob yet again (albeit Solo's was rather reserved and reluctant, but it was a grin nevertheless) and he sighed in response.
"If I didn't know you two any better, I'd think that you two enjoy giving me a hard time. Well then, shall we be off?"
"Can you just say that you didn't get here in time to find me today? You did arrive late."
"What, and break poor Sugar's heart? She's getting pretty fond of ya, buddy, ain't every day you find a connoisseur of fine seafood around to try your wild new dishes, after all. Don't tell me you're getting tired of her cooking!" Rob mock-wailed, to Subaru's great amusement. Solo only harrumphed and turned his head away.
"Somebody needs to teach that woman the proper way to prepare squid before her cooking comes close to being acceptable," he grunted.
"Glad you volunteered," said Rob, without missing a beat. "Let's go." He turned around and started walking away, purposefully ignoring the almost startled expression on Solo's face at the sudden counter to his indignant mumblings.
Subaru made to follow Rob, but stopped as he realized that Solo had yet to follow them. He was still standing in the same spot, his expression slowly changing from surprise to barely hidden mortification. The question "Why did I say that?" was clearly written all over his face.
"Hey, Solo," Subaru asked, getting the other boy's attention. "You coming?"
Solo looked at the other boy with his usual neutral expression. It always looked slightly angry because of the angular set of his jaw line and eyebrows, and this time was no exception. Eventually, he closed his eyes and shrugged.
[A/N]: I honestly do not know what to do with myself for writing this. Still not sure how in character this all is, but I hope I reflected the gradual change in demeanor that I wanted to.
As always, feel free to review!