It is an unlikely duo. An odd set of partners.
Never in Bort’s entire lifetime did they consider being teammate’s with Cinnabar. The Shut away that patrolled the seaside. The isolated one who lived in the cave far from the school. The toxic presence that some of the others were afraid of. The phrases used to float around the school amongst the minerals in hushed tones. Bort didn’t spend time listening to the conversations of others as they were to busy with their former partner’s well being and improving their techniques to defeat the Lunarians.
Now that Dia is away on the moon and the Lunarians haven’t invaded in over a few decades, Bort finally had time to think for themselves.
They slipped into their mind and imprinted themselves into the side of Bort’s head. Now that they’ve teamed up, Bort has seen a different side. They weren’t just the “Isolated” one. The “shut away”. The toxic presence that infected them all.
There is more to them than just that, Bort thought.
Bort sighed to themselves, breaking away from their intrusive reflections. They currently sat up on the ledge of the pond, in a criss cross position, staring intently at the water's surface. Bort counted each jellyfish that entered and exited their vision.
What a nuisance.
The sound of gentle clacking can be heard from behind. Bort turned around slightly, catching sight of a blue and grey haired gem. Euclase stood before them, exuding a relaxing aura.
Bort looked at them questioningly, “Euc. In need of something?” Bort began to lift themselves off the ground to face the secretary.
“It’s not urgent, but are you aware of Cinnabar’s whereabouts?” Euc asked gently. They looked left and right, eyes scanning for the red gem’s location.
“I don’t. Why?”
“Jade and I thought it would be nice if they help us today with planning a few matters.” They responded.
Bort nodded in understanding. The trio had worked well in assigning others to do different jobs around the school. Bort rarely participated in deciding for the rest of the gems but Cinnabar took stride in being a leader recently. The position fit them well. Ever since Bort forcibly pulled them into the group, their demeanor has changed positively. It is a refreshing thing to witness, especially for Jade and Euclase.
“Sure. I can go scout them out.” Bort agreed with Euc’s concern. “Any ideas on where they might be?”
Euc lowered their eyes and hummed, putting a fist to their chin. Both sat in silence for a beat while Euc thought about the last time they saw Cinnabar.
“I last saw them in their room, but they might have completely left the school grounds by now.” Euclase decided, pointing towards the set of stairs behind them. “You can start there.”
Bort brushed past their shoulder, swiftly heading to the staircase.
“Will do. I’ll bring them back.”
Bort reached the rooms they all used to share. Compared to how it used to be filled with laughter, occasional bickering and Sensei’s scolding, the bedrooms hold an eerie silence. Bort is now used to the stillness of the school, yet whenever Bort notices the emptiness, they begin to remember things that they shouldn’t.
Bort grips the side of their uniform and shakes their head, rushing to Cinnabar’s room. They didn’t even dare glance towards the others that used to hold the ones who now occupy the moon.
They entered the doorway and their partner was nowhere to be seen. The poison that occupied Cinnabar’s entire presence slathered the floors, the sunlight reflecting off of the substance. The brown, broken curtains that usually shielded the room were thrown off to the side. It only would have meant Cinnabar came and visited this place at least once before. Bort kneeled down near one of the mercury puddles, barely reaching out. They retracted their hand slowly, knowing the effects if they dare touch it. They had a minute to think of where the red gem would run off to.
Then, the realization of one location hit them. Bort knitted their eyebrows and shook their head in disappointment at the awareness of where they might be. They took a breath through their nose and headed out of the space.
They caught the sight of Rutile trudging by. Their posture is as stiff as tree, clenching the medical tools they held in their hands.
Maybe, they should ask about Cinnabar. Just in case.
“Rutile,” Bort called out, stepping slightly towards them. Rutile stopped in their tracks, not even sparing a glance at the younger gem. “Seen Shinsha around?-”
Well. That was a new.
“Shinsha? Getting comfortable with your new partner, eh?” Rutile scoffed.
Bort rubbed the back of their neck. “Uh, yeah. I guess so.” They said, unsurely.
“I assume they are back at the cave. I seen them heading that way a little bit ago.”
“As I figured.”
Rutile proceeded to disappear into their bedroom and Bort watched in concern. The ex-doctor was suffering in silence. It is an unfortunate circumstance, but what could you do?
What could anyone do?
All they did was to await the next Lunarian sighting. Nothing more, nothing less. It’s all they can do.
Bort launched themselves away from the school’s ledge.
After surveying the land from the final floor of the school, they concluded Cinnabar would be at the cave. The passed the broken bell, where Phos and Bort once battled at. Now, they lay scattered away in boxes, in an unconscious state. It’s what they deserved. Only traitors should get that type of treatment, after all.
Cinnabar did save them in that moment. It cost them their lengthy black hair, but once Bort got used to it, they can maneuver instantaneously without the faint weight they constantly dragged around behind them. It’s refreshing. Especially now that they don’t have to have the worry of their hair getting caught on other outside forces.
The black haired gem caught the distance between them and the grassy floor and landed roughly, skidding their feet against the dirt slowing down their momentum.
A few feet away, they view the start of a gradual slope. The hill with various chunks missing along the side, making it a challenge to climb up the sides. Bort always wondered how they ever got back and forth from the dark, depth of that lonely cave they’ve been in for so long.
They don’t understand why Sensei decided to shut away the quiet, emotional gem into the night.
Bort positioned themselves at the sharp lip, thinking of how they should approach, looking out into the vast sea.
Should I just jump down? No, that would surprise them a bit much. Maybe, I can climb down the side? It is pretty steep and I don’t have enough experience with that terrain...
They nervously scratched at their gloves. Wait, why do they feel this pressure in their chest?-
The blocked out the sudden rush of nervousness and leaned down to grab the edge. They swung over, feeling no weight under them as they hung from it.
Silver blobs floating.
Cinnabar is standing, leaning against the cave’s surface, looking out into the ocean. Once Bort suddenly appeared out of thin air, they jumped in surprise, their eyes snapping to them and mercury orbs shooting in different directions, forming sharp edges. The peaceful expression they had was ruined by Bortz immediate appearance.
Bort swung their legs forward and back, getting momentum to jump to the edge. They landed across from where Cinnabar held themselves.
“Back here again, huh? Jade and Euc were looking for you.”
Cinnabar raised their eyebrow, urging the other gem to explain further.
“Something about working with you about a few “matters”. Neither of them explained further than that.”
They put their hands behind their back, holding their wrist and glancing back to where they originally looked.
Bort knew they were shutting themselves away. Just almost. They were still getting used to the spotlight that some of the other gems rained down upon them.
The silence between the two of them stood. There is clearly something wrong.
“Sitting here and sulking won’t do you any good, you know.” They bluntly stated. “We don’t have time to think about what that double-crosser has done. Let alone let our guard down for another raid.”
“All we do is have time.”
Cinnabar pushed themselves away from the cave wall, turning to stare straight at Bort. Their eyes scanned every part of them, which made Bort want to shrink away as if they were judging every action they’ve done. Bort has never noticed these subtle actions of Cinnabar until now. It’s an unbearable feeling; all they wanted to do was dash far, far away; to slice a lunarian in half, to scold another gem on their fighting stance and whether or not their grip was to tight on the sword. They were supposed to be the judgmental one.
“It’s comical on how you can judge me for overthinking situations, but I know you thought about everything that has happened to. 80 years have passed and they still haven’t showed up. You can’t fight, so all you can do is patrol. Hope that they show up for something to change. I see it, Bort…” Cinnabar trailed off.
They were stunned. Their words hit like a million arrows. If they can crumble into dust right this moment, they would.
Was it… really that obvious?
They did often take random patrols by themselves. They possibly have rounded every inch of the land because of how much they have traveled it ever since they buried Phos away. It’s very likely that Cinnabar took track of how many times they left the school. A few others have tried to join Bort, but they refused the offer, as inefficient as it was. Even Euclase and Jade suggested Cinnabar join them and they did, occasionally. Most patrols together consisted of comfortable silences and some talk about Bortz fighting obsession and Cinnabar’s condition. Nothing beyond that. As much as Bort never let their guard down, their mind has traveled elsewhere, somewhere other than combat. And it affected them. Deeply.
Their partner hit the nail on the head.
“I said too much, didn’t I? I’m sorry.” They lowered their head in embarrassment, leaning back against the concave wall.
“N-no. It’s okay.” Bort stumbled a bit, noticing Cinnabar shrinking within themselves again. Bort doesn’t want them shutting themselves again so maybe they should…
They took a step towards them. Then, in a second, Bort treaded over the ledge that separated the two, grabbing a hold of the other gems wrist, barely missing the floating droplets of mercury. Cinnabar snapped their head up and jolted in surprise, trying to pry their wrist away from the diamond so suddenly.
“My merc-” Cinnabar started, but was immediately cut off.
“Your right, though. My mind has been all over the place for so long. And I can’t stop myself from thinking about anything and everything.” Bort shook their head, still continuing on with their ramble. “I-I don’t know what to say or even feel but… it feels like I have no purpose anymore.”
Bortz insecurities spilled out for all to see. Shinsha hit right on the mark. Bortz' constant pressure to be strong constantly built up just for it to come crashing down someday.
But Shinsha didn’t expect…well...this. To them, nonetheless.
The wrist Bort gripped was firm but not enough to shatter the poor hardness 2 gem.
The two stood silently. Hoping for another to break the sudden tension, but nothing arose. No movement, no sound from either. All can be heard is the sound of the waves crashing against the caveside. How can Shinsha help? They felt completely useless when it came to comforting anyone. All they needed was a push.
Just like Bort has always pushed them. To be more assertive. This is the right moment-
“Nevermind. Forget what I said.” Bort said, roughly. They slowly took their hand away from Cinnabar’s wrist, and began to rub at their hair. A seemingly insecure tick that they developed, Shinsha noticed, which meant they were beginning to close themselves off as well.
Somehow, each set of their flaws rubbed off on each other. But, at the same time, the flaws can be seen as positive under certain circumstances.
The black haired diamond is turned away, starting to head near the exit of the cave.
What is this tightness in their chest? Is this them feeling upset over Shinsha having no response? They should’ve seen it coming. The red gem isn’t the type to respond over another’s intense emotions.
It hurts them, but they have to-
A different type.
Cinnabar's arms were wrapped firmly around their upper torso to stop them. Cinnabar’s hands gripped the front of their uniform, desperately not wanting to let go. Their head buries itself into their back.
“Please don’t leave me.” They pleaded out. “I don’t want to be alone again. Trapped away in the night.” Cinnabar continued to ramble, mercury raining from their eyes. This was dangerous. A high risk in getting their partner injured once more but they just weren’t thinking.
It didn’t matter as long as they stayed, they thought selfishly.
“I-I know how it feels. To be useless. To feel like you have no purpose. But… you gave me mine. After all these years.” They choked out. “You numbskull… forcing me back into the group when I really didn’t want to. I absolutely hated it. I couldn’t stand how pushy you were being. But, I'm grateful that you did.” Cinnabar collapse to their knees.
“Now go ahead and leave! Just like everyone else does! Y-you idiot!” They screamed out, clutching at their uniform, falling into anguish once more.
Damn it all. If they lose everything, so be it. They’ll just go back to the way things were. Shunned away for the rest of their life.
Bortz' freed them. How can they ever go back? They can’t. Not again.
“You saved me.” Cinnabar’s voice cracked as they spoke again. They were bent over, gripping their shoulders, devastation casting a shadow on their life once more.
The cycle will never end for them.
Cinnabar didn’t want to look up to see their missing figure. The pain would be too much and they’d just crumble underneath the weight of being alone again.
Please, not again.
After all this, what was the point?
Confined to their thoughts, insecurities, flaws-
A silhouette emitted over them. Their eyes caught knees falling to where they were, aligning with their own. A strong pull into a set of arms. Cinnabar’s eyes snapped open in shock, their own arms hanging limply against their sides.
A hug. They… haven’t felt one before. They never have had this privilege to experience this kind gesture. Warmth. Solace. Their condition made many affairs unbearable to achieve. Watching everyone else be able to live without such a thing made them envious. But, Bortz barged right into their life and made life worth it. Living is now something they looked forward to seeing again.
They wanted to see the sky.
They wanted to see Bortz the next day. And the next. And forever.
“I’m here. I’m sorry.” Bort croaked out, holding the red haired gem tightly. “You don’t deserve to be alone ever again.”
Too much. This is too much that they could’ve handled. All they can do is reach out for them back, gripping the back of Bortz' uniform, clinging to them. “You don’t always have to fight either. Fighting shouldn’t be your entire purpose.” Cinnabar sniffed. “You don’t have to put on a constant front of being strong…”
Bort decided to stay quiet. Shinsha always knew the right things to say to them.
“I think your purpose has always been...pushing people and giving them the will when they never have had it in themselves. You’ve always been good at that, Bort.” Shinsha moved back to get a good look at Bort. Shinsha put both their hands on Bortz' shoulders, looking into their eyes. “I mean, look at me now. You helped me.” Shinsha managed to break into a smile. It’s a genuine one. Bort caused the first one in hundreds of years. Shinsha doesn't remember the last time they’ve ever smiled.
And Bort stared at that beautiful smile, wanting to melt in happiness. Even in this dark cave, it stood out so brightly. It completely withdrew any bad thoughts that they’ve had, taking whatever weight they’ve had off their chest. It’s a sight to behold. They’ll cherish this moment.
“You deserve to be happy.”
“A-and I am now. Because of you.” Cinnabar’s cheeks grew pink at their own words, but they didn't break eye contact. “I hope you are too..”
“I am. With you.” Bort pulled them closer, both still standing on their knees, chests pressed together. Things felt tense again. Maybe because of how awfully close they were. Or maybe because Cinnabar had this sudden idea bouncing around in their head. Something Dia mentioned very long ago…
Something about liking..? Love, was it? It’s been over 500 years, so it’s a vague memory they’ve had in the back of their mind.
Wasn’t this feeling love of some sort? When you like someone a little too much and spend too much time together?
I guess this is the feeling, they thought.
Cinnabar slid their hands across Bortz shoulders, and to their neck, feeling the fabric underneath. Then made their way up, sliding their palms up their neck and to the sides of their face, holding Bort steady. Bortz' eyes darted to Cinnabar’s hands and back to their eyes. A small blush formed on their face as well.
Cinnabar studied their features. Their eyes flicked up to their hair, strands of black pointed in different directions. Cinnabar cursed Dia internally.
I don’t have bad taste, they concluded and leaned towards Bort.
“H-hey, Shinsha?-” The nickname was music to their ears when Bort said it.
Cinnabar brought their faces closer, finally closing the gap between their mouths. They closed their eyes, enjoying this warmth that they felt within their chest and feeling more adoration for Bort, as Bort slid their own gloved hands over Shinsha’s. The mercury that floated near them went berserk, reacting to this new sensation.
At first, Bort was stunned at the sudden gesture. Cinnabar’s assertiveness coming into play completely taking Bort off guard, but they reciprocated back, feeling a sense of high that they just couldn’t get enough of. Better than slashing any lunarian into thin air, better than that great rush they felt when fighting.
When both thought the time was right, they broke away, sighing out slowly.
“What was that?” Bort spoke, still not taking their hands away from the other gem.
“I remember.. Reading about it in the war journals. The ancient species called it ‘kissing’.”
They both looked away, blush spreading on their faces yet again.
“I liked it though. It felt.. Nice.” Bort admitted, rubbing the back of their neck.
“I did too.” Shinsha moved their hands away and placed them in their lap, wrapping them together.
“Let’s head back now. Euc and Jade are probably wondering why we’ve taken so long.” Bort grabbed at Shinsha’s hand gently, pulling them off of the ground. Cinnabar also smiled at the gesture and laced their hands together. Bort led them away, arms touching and both longing for one another.