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If this were a game, it’d be a really shitty one. No, for real, this is the kind of game a kid would get for free in a Happy Meal and still toss it minutes later.

 

Vector knows this. Yet he plays and plays, dully hoping for a different result at the end. They say that that’s the definition of insanity, yet here he is, painfully sane. What is sane, anyway? A desk job, with a tie so tight around his neck he can’t even breathe? Good grades at a school where he’s nothing but hated? Friends, people he could actually trust, and him confiding in them?

 

It’s stupid. Yet there’s some sort of undeniable pull to the idea, like he can’t help the thoughts plaguing him of how much easier it would be to hate everyone if they just stopped being so nice all the time. He doesn’t have to worry about Durbe or Nasch barging into his life any more than they already do with proclamations of friendship (gross) and brotherhood (double gross), but that does leave the rest of the Barians, as well as Yuma, and well. Yuma does what Yuma wants to do, and anyone going against that always had another thing coming.

 

So he isolates himself. It’d be stupid to expect any farce of privacy from his room in the mansion, so he takes to the streets, sporting his jacket and a pair of boots despite the spring weather edging into the forecast. There are few people who bother with him nowadays, even in the back alleys where Heartland’s neon lights don’t exactly reach-- nobody wants to mess around with the crazy kid with orange hair and a knife. Nobody wants to mess with Vector, so it’s easy to find isolation here, smoking a cigarette he’s supposedly too young to have and dimly watching as some poor guy gets mugged by the regulars here. He squats with a brick wall to his back and scrolls through his D-Gazer, bored.

 

Yuma’s tried calling him before, and he actually answered the first time, in a tone more befitting 

Shingetsu than Vector. “Yuma-kun?” He says, the lilt of his voice indicating a question. “What could you possibly want with me?” 

 

“Vector.” It takes just one word for him to hang up, because how dare he talk to Vector in that depressing tone? How dare he say his name with such a melancholy voice? 

 

He ends up returning home soon after, if only to scream his frustration out into his pillow. Without fail, though, he’s out the next day, and the day after too. He doesn’t really care that his missed calls from Yuma are piling up, or that he’s smoking more and more. Mizael’s voice saying cigarettes are bad for your health echoes in his mind, but he shoos it away to the corners of his mind just like he does the rest of Mizael’s ‘advice’. He takes another drag and coughs on it.

 

The masochism tango seems to end just as quickly as it began, however, with his D-Gazer blowing up an hour later with calls and texts from just about every Barian Emperor, even Nasch. Durbe’s are precise and to the point, basically telling Vector to quit fucking around and making everyone’s lives harder; Merag’s is somewhat similar, in a nutshell telling him to get home now. Alit mentions needing a training partner even though that’s obviously not what he’s really concerned about, Gilag says that he’ll miss Sanagi-chan’s new live if he’s not home soon, and Mizael says he needs someone to practice his cat eye on. Nasch’s is the shortest, a simple declaration that somehow makes Vector feel more guilty than any other message had.

 

Get home soon.

 

So, with his tail between his legs, he goes home, if he can even call the mansion that anymore. He guesses he shouldn’t be surprised to find Yuma there, but how he finds him is the surprising part-- Vector approaches from the side of the house, tiptoeing around to the back door so he can walk in without causing a commotion, but stops when he hears a familiar voice coming from the front step. “Even if he’s a different person or something, he’s still my friend, you know?” Yuma says with a sad smile in his voice, and when Vector peeks his head just barely around the corner of the house he sees that he’s confiding in Nasch of all people. At least find someone who cares too, you idiot, he thinks to himself, miffed. Amazingly, though, Nasch nods in agreement. “I don’t know that I’d go as far as to call him my friend,” the other says, stretching his arms above his head, “but he’s not my enemy, so.”

 

Vector can’t decide whether he should be furious or touched, so Vector being Vector, he decides on rage. He stalks away with a stomp in his step, and doesn’t return home for three more days, despite the barrage of messages that slowly sputters out. He only sets his foot in the door once he’s had radio silence for a solid six hours. He wonders where everyone is for a moment when he steps inside to an unlit house, and dimly realizes that the noise coming from the living room means it’s Friday, meaning movie night. He takes off his jacket and hangs it on the coatrack by the door, slipping off his shoes silently. 

 

When he walks into the living room and leans against the side of the couch where Mizael is sitting, the other’s nose scrunches up and he looks up to lock eyes with the guy that might as well have been on the side of a milk carton by now. Mizael doesn’t say anything about that, though, instead wrinkling his nose and murmuring, “You smell like smoke.” 

 

“Yeah, and you smell like burnt flowers, what’s the difference.” Vector bites out, already glad to be back in the swing of things. But Mizael does something unexpected then-- he smiles, and although his expression is anything but serene, Vector feels a sense of tranquility wash over him. “Welcome back.” He whispers under the sound reverberating from the speakers, looking back to the screen without another word. Vector looks away in irritation, but he still stations himself on the arm of the couch, allowing himself to get sucked into the movie, too.