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Atrophy

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There is the sound of roaring in his ears. His breath hitches, an inhale that is trapped, unable to escape and his chest feels tight. The fight or flight response within him has been triggered, and a small part of him want to just curl up on the floor, knowing that fighting or hiding just won’t work.

His vision is blurry, and he doesn’t know how to react as he sees Gauron lounging carelessly on Miss Chidori’s sofa, flanked by two Mithril guards. They look deeply uncomfortable, and are sat as far away from him as possible, without it looking like they were actively avoiding being next to him. The pure physical presence of Gauron is intimidating, and he feels himself sweating beneath his collar, feeling sick to his stomach.

He doesn’t know what expression is on his face, however whatever it is it causes Gauron to frown at him slightly before it drops behind a facade of pure menace and a small grin curls up at his lips.

“What, no welcome kiss back? So cold.” He snarks, and Kaname jerks visibly, glaring pure poison at the older mercenary.

“Shut up.” She snaps, and then flinches as golden eyes flicker towards her, assessing her coolly.

“And I suppose you will make me, hm?”

The door to Kaname’s office opens suddenly, startling Sousuke and he spins around to see Tessa and Kalinin walk in, along with Mardukas and a man he recognises as Tessa’s brother, Leonard. The number of senior military personnel is deeply troubling, and his brow furrows as he tries to make sense of it all. Kalinin shoots him an apologetic look as he walks past him, and Tessa’s fine boned hands are clenched into fists, nails digging into her palms and mouth pressed into a firm scowl.

“My, my, the whole family is here.” Gauron drawls, and to his credit, he shuts up when Kalinin walks towards him, aware that his hands are still shackled behind him.

“How was your stay in Antarctica?” Kalinin asks, and Sousuke frowns, for a moment not knowing why Gauron was being asked about his holidays.

“A bit colder than I would have liked.” Gauron responds, without missing a beat. “Though Mithril holding facilities are not too shabby, if I’m being honest.”

“If we’re being honest with each other,” Kalinin says mildly, “Then you won’t begrudge me this.” Without warning, he draws back, and punches Gauron solidly on the jaw, a thwack which snaps Gauron’s head back, eliciting a grunt of pain and a shriek of surprise from Tessa. Leaning back, Kalinin shakes his hand, and Sousuke notes with numb satisfaction that Gauron’s mouth is bleeding.

“Satisfied?” Gauron asks, eyes narrowed to pin points. “I’ll remember that one.” He then turns his gaze onto Sousuke, and he feels himself pale, a chill shooting down his spine. “And out of everyone here, aren’t you the one who has the largest right to hit me? Want a go?” And like the shit stain of a human being he is, he tilts his head the other way, exposing his other cheek.

Sousuke can’t breathe, his vision narrowed to Gauron. He clenches his hands, and distantly he realises he is shaking, trying desperately to suppress the memories threatening to break out. Gauron is staring intently at him, eyes not betraying anything, and to his own mortification, Sousuke feels his own eyes water, and he firmly squashes it, absolutely refusing to cry in front this group of people. He feels raw, a bunch of nerves exposed, and the shock of seeing Gauron so suddenly - especially since he had thought he had recovered is a complete blow to his self confidence.

“E-excuse me.” He mutters. He is about to leave when an insidious presence makes himself known, and shuts the door before he can leave. Leonard places a hand on his shoulder, and gently guides him towards Gauron, a false smile settled coquettishly on his lips, eyes sharp and yet fascinated.

“Please don’t leave yet, Sousuke.” He chides softly. “We need to work this out together.”

Kaname chokes in response to that, and distantly Sousuke is glad he’s not the only one finding this completely fucked up.

*

Kalinin finds him in the Arm Slave hangar a few hours later, and his face looks weary and much older, deep frown lines etched into his face. Sousuke looks up and quirks a smile as he approaches, and Kalinin winces as he sees the poor attempt.

“I will apologise for the way we startled you back there.” There is a sense of quiet anger seething behind the commander’s voice. “We should have never used Miss Chidori’s session as an excuse to bring Gauron in, but Leonard insisted in order to see what your reaction would be.” His voice is pure poison, and his voice trembles still with anger.

Inwardly, Sousuke isn’t surprised. Although he is just a foot soldier, he knows that the politics within Mithril leave a lot to be desired and Tessa’s crew are still subject to higher command. Leonard leads the research division, and Kalinin had faced down many attempts in the past to transfer Sousuke to R&D.

However, there is something different this time, a visible shift in Mithril’s policies, a shift in power, and despite everything, Tessa’s protests and Kalinin’s tight lipped anger, Leonard had delivered his message clearly in Kaname’s office with no room for negotiation. Sousuke and Gauron would test the LAMBDA driver twice a week together, and submit themselves for lab results the following days. Therapy sessions would be held separately with Miss Kaname, and Sousuke would obey.

“I accept your apology, sir.” Sousuke says. There is something in his bland tone that makes Kalinin wince, and hesitates, before suddenly pulling Sousuke into a firm bodied hug.

If Kalinin’s shirt is slight damp when they finally part, both of them decline to mention it the next day.

*

“This is bullshit.” Mao swears, slamming her hands down on the table. Her face is partly flushed with anger, partly flushed from beer, as Sousuke had waited until she had finished half the pack before updating her. Kurz is just as inebriated, a trail of empty shots dotted around the table.

“This is why you got us drunk.” Kurz slurs, pointing his finger accusingly at him, eyes vaguely betrayed.

Sousuke shrugs, and waits for Mao’s expletives to die down, vaguely aware that the mess is slowly getting quieter. There are a few curious looks thrown their way, and are quickly deterred when Mao throws them the middle finger, followed by an aggressive “what the fuck are you looking at”.

“So does he get to just walk away like that? After all he did?” She hisses, crunching an empty beer can with one hand.

“Not exactly, he has to be monitored at all times and they’ve fitted him with an electric shock collar.”

Kurz snorts into his drink, amused despite himself.

“Bet he didn’t like that.” He mutters, and Sousuke nods, remembering with a quirk to his lips when Gauron had found that particular fact out.

“He’ll find a way to disable it somehow, but before then Leonard insists that we need to test the LAMBDA driver together, as their own pilots aren’t making any headway with it. We are the only two pilots in Mithril who can operate it effectively.”

“Still bullshit.” Mao mutters sullenly, and Sousuke is inclined to agree.

That night, he staggers back to his room, feeling a prickling at his neck as he looks around at every corner and doorway he passes. Despite steadily drinking himself into a coma with preparation for the day to come, he’s still aware of his senses and knows he is being overly paranoid. When he finally reaches his room, he slams the door shut quickly with relief, nervous and out of breath, clutching at the floor miserably as the room spins around him.

He shivers, a cruel smile and golden eyes flashing across his mind, and spends the rest of the night hunched over the toilet, puking his guts out.