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Distant

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He’s been distant for many years.

It's guilt that first spurs his decision to keep everyone at bay. Memories of the cutting words passing his lips and the feeling of his fist across Franky’s face the last time they spoke. Loss was a difficult enough burden without feeling the responsibility.

But despite tears of relief on Franky's return, with his new body and his new face, Iceburg still finds he still can’t forgive him for anything. And he still can’t forgive himself either.

Losing Tom remains raw for too long because nobody dares to be the first to talk. Every now and then he buys a drink for Kokoro at Blueno’s and they talk, but it is never about the past. About the city, about politics, things they’ve both always been interested in, but it’s a little distant intentionally. And that feeling is mutual. Kokoro keeps drinking to forget, Iceburg keeps on working ever harder so he doesn’t have the time to remember.

He made the decision early on not to involve himself deeper than formality in his employees’ lives. He trusts in Galley-La’s abilities and places their eccentricities aside. He was becoming eccentric enough himself to have valid reason not to mind their strange quirks. Perhaps the self-inflicted isolation was making him odd. Or perhaps the act of pretending to have a screw loose to keep Corgi at bay was proving a self-fulfilling prophecy.

How had Tom dealt with the Government interrogations? After eight years Iceburg still hasn’t cracked but he wonders if he’s cracking. When he pets his mouse he worries sometimes he’ll hear Tyrannosaurus talk back.

Lucci was an omen of what happened when a man retreated too far inwards and relied solely on his pet for comfort. Kaku’s thrill seeking responses to boredom were certainly going to get him killed one day. Kalifa was angry and damaged and couldn’t get through past experiences. And Paulie was perhaps the biggest mess of them all, running from or aggressively responding to his problems instead of ever facing them.

Iceburg can sympathise with all of them. Though, of course, he makes a point of never telling them so.

Perhaps this is why he takes the betrayal in his stride. Paulie doesn’t and it breaks Iceburg a little. And why hadn’t he run like Iceburg had told him? Didn’t Paulie always run?

He’s right back at that day, seeing Franky giving up his life for Tom from the other side now. He’d kept them all at a distance precisely so this wouldn’t happen. He never asked for it, never wanted it. Acts of self-sacrifice only ever proved in vain, going up in puffs of smoke.

And yet, he can’t really blame anyone as both he and Paulie sit bound together back to back in the flames. Perhaps it was inevitable they’d all get dragged down into hell by those cursed blueprints for that atrocity. It would bring nothing but destruction.

It already had and it hadn't even been rebuilt yet.