Story: Radial: Unravel
Challenge: Buttercream #3 - Eggs; Vanilla #18 - Trouble Sleeping
Word Count: 1,353
Summary: Milos tries a little therapy and gets a midnight snack — and an evasive discussion.
Notes: Ahhh I guess this is about as edited as it's likely to get, I just keep prodding i and procrastinating now. Follows directly on from Dye / Cross My Heart. If you're curious about his scar, you can see some 2/3 of it in this pic. (That's his natural hair colour; it's much lighter in these pieces.)
The steady hiss of the shower was usually a comfort, but Milos barely heard it beyond the static in his own head. The water stung where he’d picked at his chest, dragging his fingernails over the barely-visible scars again and again until blood began to leak out.
A fist hammered against the door. “Jesus, Milos! Hurry up already!”
“Fuck off,” he muttered. The tiles were cold against his back, a sharp contrast to the scalding liquid pouring over him. It pooled in the crooks of his folded arms and spilled over his elbows. He’d spent the first fifteen minutes scrubbing vigorously; now he just slumped against the wall beneath the burning spray.
The rational part of his mind reasoned that it was time to get out now, not least because Rick, the owner of the voice which had been yelling entreaties and insults intermittently over the last ten minutes, was probably desperate to use the toilet and couldn’t because Milos had locked the door. The irrational part told Rick to go the hell away.
The rational part won out. His toes and fingers had turned to raisins and the whole experience wasn’t helping as much as he’d hoped; far from being cathartic, not only did it do nothing to help him escape his chaotic feelings, it was just proving to be unpleasant and uncomfortable.
He opened the door wearing nothing but a towel almost the same colour as the hair hanging in dripping rat-tails over his face. “There’s a bathroom upstairs, you know.”
The ljusalfa gave him an irritable glare, shifting his weight from foot to foot in possibly the most obvious display of desperation Milos had seen. “Raz is having a bath and won’t let anyone in. Says he’s not comfortable hearing people use the toilet.” He pushed past Milos before he could open his mouth and slammed the door behind him, almost hitting his housemate with it.
Milos stared at the door blankly until the loud sigh of relief drove him back to his room.
The clock taunted him with its insistence that, no matter how many times he blinked, it really was 1:25. He growled and flung himself onto his other side, pulling the quilt more tightly around himself, but when he sneaked another glance over his shoulder after what felt like an eternity the clock informed him with as much glee as a digital display could convey that only three minutes had passed.
A loud snarling from the vicinity of his stomach just made the whole situation worse. If he’d been asleep he wouldn’t now have to live with the fact that, unwilling and unable to face everyone after all that had happened, he’d skipped dinner, but sleep was insultingly elusive and for the first time since Robin’s wake-up call he was actually feeling hungry. Even pretending to sleep didn’t help: he wasn’t fooling anyone—particularly not himself, which was the whole point of the exercise in the first place.
A second grumble drove him into a sitting position. “Just what do you want?!”
It was hardly an exhaustive list of demands, but there was one unwavering item on the agenda: food. The third growl sounded like an earthquake. If ever there was a final straw, that was it. He was talking to his stomach for God’s sake. There was only one thing for it.
It was cold in the house at the best of times, but the middle of the night was the worst. He could understand the argument that the amount of bodies in communal areas warmed them up: several twenty-somethings piled into one room meant there wasn’t much call for central heating. But when no one was around, or in less crowded spaces, the cold bit with all the viciousness of a cornered rat. Milos tried not to pay attention to the gooseflesh on his arms as he dropped the second egg deliberately into the water, but it was difficult when he felt that both legs and arms had become cactus-like with the chill.
“What on earth are you doing?”
Years of habit tried to suppress the startled flinch at the sound of the voice, but he wasn’t entirely successful. He was just glad he’d already lowered the egg into the water. If he’d dropped it just then it would have surely cracked. “Making a snack.”
“Boiled eggs?” It was a poor attempt at keeping incredulity from his voice.
Milos shrugged without turning around. “What’s wrong with that?”
“Nothing,” Robin said, and Milos could just hear the smile on his face, “but it’s not the average midnight snack, is it? Still,” he shifted until he was in the dokkalfa’s peripheral vision, leaning against the wall with arms folded, “at least I know it’s not you eating the bacon now.”
Milos snorted and went to fetch the milk. He could almost start a countdown leading to the awkward question he knew the other man was waiting to ask. Any minute—
“How did the meeting go?”
—Now. He was on the verge of drinking from the bottle, but a sharp tut followed the words and reminded him that it probably wasn’t a good idea with Robin in the room. He retrieved and filled a tall glass instead, yet another thing to do rather than meet his mentor’s gaze. “I don’t want to talk about it.”
“Did something happen?”
His heart skipped a beat. “No.”
“You’re sure?” His voice was full of concern. At times like this Milos couldn’t tell whether it was concern for him or the package.
“Yes.” He drained the glass and returned his attention to the eggs.
“Then what’s wrong? Why are you in such a bad mood?”
“It’s just because I can’t sleep.” It felt weird lying to Robin. He’d lied a lot when they’d first met—necessity, habit; fear—but now it felt distasteful, betraying the faith he had in him. “It went fine.”
“I know it did.” Of course he did, he kept in contact with clients in ways Milos had yet to fathom considering he’d never seen the big man with a cellphone. That the whole awful exchange wasn’t already known to him, however... Maybe some things reflected just as badly on the recipient as the courier. It didn’t stop his throat from tightening at the thought of it. “So why do you seem so upset?”
“Not enough sleep,” he said. “Simple as that.” The microwave timer saved him from further excuses; the last thing either of them wanted was to disturb the others. Raz had a good line in breakfast-time glares that Milos didn’t feel the equal of.
Robin watched the dokkalfa dip his fingers into the hot egg water, oblivious to the pain, and start to peel the shells away. “The client was impressed with your efficiency.”
The egg skittered from his fingers and ricocheted off the edge of the pan. “Really.”
“I said I could trust you with it.”
He pressed his fingertip deliberately against a shell fragment, which shattered beneath his touch and dug into his skin. If Robin noticed he said nothing; after a few seconds Milos resumed his methodical egg peeling. He’d been planning on eating them straight from the pan but with the kitchen’s owner standing within cuffing distance he decided against it.
If Robin found his younger charge’s taciturn company awkward, he showed no sign of it. “Going back to your room?”
Milos nodded, balancing both eggs in his left hand.
“Sleep well, kid.” He tousled the shorter man’s bleached hair and smiled. “Your roots are showing.”
“I know.” He tried to swallow the lump in his throat. “Thanks. You too.”
He could feel Robin’s eyes following him as he ducked through the door and slunk back to his room. The whole exchange was almost enough to make him lose his appetite again.