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24 July 2017 @ 12:06 am
[Nanbaka] Uno/Jyugo/Rock/Nico: now that we're here  
TITLE: now that we’re here
FANDOM: Nanbaka
CHARACTERS: Uno/Jyugo/Rock/Nico, appearances from other familiar faces
RATING: G
SUMMARY: Jyugo receives some unexpected news, and rides the fallout. (2,100+ words)
WARNING/S: Spoilers from the series.
NOTES: This was written for TereziMakara over at Night On Fic Mountain. You can also find it on AO3.


{ now that we’re here }


On a seemingly uneventful Wednesday, Jyugo receives a letter from the Warden.

Hajime has the option of taking it to Cell 13, but quite ominously and suitably decides to escort him to the office to accept it instead. As he opens the door to let Jyugo out, the latter stares back curiously before shrugging. Falls into step with him. Enjoys the easy silence that follows, and even reaches down to scratch the back of Kuu’s head along the way.

Once he is seated on the garishly red sofa by Hajime’s desk, the Building 13 supervisor offers him a sealed envelope. Without a word. Devoid of expression. By then, the silence has dragged on too long, it’s begun to feel stifling. Jyugo looks up at Hajime’s extended arm, at the envelope resting between his gloved fingers. Pauses to consider the meaning of such a gesture. Because it must be a trick, right? (Without thinking, he reaches up to shield his head, anticipating a hard knock.)

What he wouldn’t give for Yamato to burst in and interrupt them. But Jyugo knows it won’t happen because Yamato and Rock are over at Building 5, training with Liang and the others, while Uno and Nico are spending their hour of free time in the game room with Honey and Trois. A coincidence. Almost too perfect an opportunity. His eyes narrow.

“You read it,” Jyugo says, finally, looking away. Hajime is still uncharacteristically quiet, but he nods, accepting the request. Tearing the envelope open. Tugging at the folded sheet inside. Jyugo watches his eyes. Watches them scan the letter. Watches Hajime’s cap fall lower to hide his gaze. Watches for the twitch in his jaw, proof that he is clenching his teeth. Waits. Steels himself.

“What does it say?” Jyugo smirks when Hajime fails to tell him at the count of ten. He slides his arms behind his head, settling against the pillows. It’s probably an inquiry about his breakouts, or a bill which enumerates all the equipment they wrecked during their latest attempt. Jyugo isn’t a particularly optimistic person, but he’ll give himself this. Give himself the satisfaction of knowing he’s put Hajime in a tough spot. Give himself some room to breathe, in spite of the chill which runs up his spine. He pouts ever so slightly. Thinks he’ll likely forgive a thwack on the head now—

“Hajime?”

“You’re getting released.”

But feels the wind knocked out of him altogether, as the guard, his nemesis, leans over the back of the sofa. Drops the piece of paper on his face. Clucks his tongue. There’s an odd ringing in his ears, the sound of a fire alarm, right before Hajime thinks to clarify, “The letter says you’re getting released in three months.”

*

They find out before Jyugo’s made a conscious decision to tell them. Before he’s had enough time to come to terms with the news himself. To be fair, he was getting there. But it’s a process, and Jyugo’s never been quick at making decisions. He’d rather think things through first. Shuffle around until the very last second.

Uno’s got his arms around Jyugo’s waist – his hair pinned back and a shower cap protecting his precious cuticles – as Nico giddily prepares to hose Jyugo down. This is all done to prevent the escape specialist from drowning in the tub, not even the guards question it anymore. Rock grumbles that he’s just about done shampooing, his full attention on the task at hand.

“So, the guards have been talking about it for days now,” Uno says without preamble, his tone light, playful. Indifferent. As if they’re in the middle of discussing the latest prison gossip. Gossip that has nothing to do with them. Last week, it was about how Trois shamelessly asked Hitoshi to lift his skirt, while the latter was busy delivering documents to Kiji. They’d had to speculate on the details, but Jyugo knows how the encounter ended: with Trois (and Honey, strangely) in the infirmary, and Hitoshi remaining none the wiser.

“Talking about what?” He replies, eyes shut, concentrating on the soothing pressure of Rock’s fingertips on his scalp. Jyugo resists the urge to hum. With his walls down, he doesn’t see the warily exchanged glances or Rock shaking his head. Or Nico’s eyes glisten, before he finds his resolve and puts on a brave face.

“How you’re getting out in three months.”

His eyelids slide open, lips part. He doesn’t meet Uno’s gaze; the latter has already turned away. So, he’s left to stare at the ceiling, cracks like veins from end to end, watching the mist ascend.

“Oh,” Jyugo mouths, trying to find the words. There aren’t any. “Right.”

Absently, Uno reminds Rock not to forget the conditioner.

*

Rock isn’t so great with the complicated stuff, which is what Jyugo’s always appreciated about him. No muss, no fuss. This is probably why he suggests baking doughnuts.

They pile around the prized stone oven, Shiro hovering behind them like a great big shadow. Waiting to be of assistance. He vaguely wonders if the silent giant has heard the news as well. But, in the end, it doesn’t matter. There’s nothing different about how Shiro looks at him, his gaze heavy, expectant – in that he expects them not to make a mess of the kitchen. There’s nothing different about their activities that day, nothing out of place. Nothing that makes him wish he were back in their cell, stewing in his thoughts.

“You done with the flour?” Rock asks Nico, reaching for a bowl and holding an egg in one hand.

When people look at Rock, they see a muscle-head who always throws the first punch, who asks questions later, whose temper is legendary. Sometimes, these details are even true. Jyugo smiles, measuring the yeast and vanilla extract. (Uno, on his right, has to remind him not to mix them together yet.) But humans themselves are prisms, given to change depending on the scenario, nonetheless still true to themselves even in these times of change. And a man, in his lifetime, can play many roles. Which is why it continues to amaze and comfort him when he sees Rock in the kitchen, as graceful as a ballerina, completely in his element.

Rock is simple and impulsive and genuinely in love with the moment. Jyugo sees this in the way he shoves each glazed pastry into his mouth afterwards, even the slightly burnt ones. Feels this in the way Rock’s arm drifts across his shoulders, the other already looped around Nico’s waist, keeping them steady, locked together.

As he leans forward, forehead tapping Uno’s, he catches the ghost of a smile on Shiro’s face. Catches the light in his stoic eyes. Wonders if it’s just his imagination. Laments that he may not get another chance to figure it out.

*

There’s an anime Nico really wants to try, he tells them, clutching at Jyugo’s shirt to underscore his excitement. He’s already ordered the first season boxset and asked Seitarou to bring it over. It’s called Shingeki no Kyojin. Barely ten seconds in, Jyugo figures Uno isn’t going to like it. And he’s right, for the most part.

“What’s happening now?” Uno hisses in his ear, arm firmly clasped around Jyugo’s waist. He can feel Uno’s warm breath on the back of his neck. Can feel him shuddering, yet still straining to peek through Nico’s hair. He sighs, swatting at Uno to let loose a little bit. At least quit digging his nails into Jyugo’s skin. Rock chuckles behind them, reaching over to pat Uno on the head. Tells him the three main characters are training now to fight the titans. Announces that their gear is badass, that Uno should see for himself.

By the end of the third episode, Uno admits that it’s a good show. But, of course, predictably, he doesn’t like it. (Nico frowns, hearing this. Shakes him gently. Asks Uno why he has to be this way.) They’ll have to watch it with him, Uno explains. Always. No exceptions. That is if they want him to finish it.

“Of course, we will!” Rock grins, pulling Nico away, letting the kid lounge across his lap the way Kuu often does. It’s an acceptable consolation.

During this exchange, they don’t see the look on Jyugo’s face. Don’t see the way he closes in on himself. The way he grits his teeth. The way he wants to cry, shake them all gently. Because if they want to finish it, they’ll have to do it soon. The countdown has him at two months.

*

Jyugo wonders if, on the outside, he could get a job styling hair. It’s not a random thought; he’s got years of experience. At least, he thinks so. To punctuate this, he yanks at the brush, watching it slide through Uno’s blonde tendrils. Belatedly, however, he notes his mistake and whispers an apology at having tugged too hard. Uno waves him off, wincing, clearly used to it. Used to him and his teeny mistakes every now and then. Hey, it’s better than before. Better than when he started.

“You know, I’m not going to force you to tell me anything. But I hope you don’t blame me for being worried either,” Uno tells him, as they watch Nico gather the curling iron and styling serum. He wants to ask if he can do it tonight, to practice, to make sure he can. It’s almost desperate, this need to see if he can succeed at anything other than breaking out. But, instead, he moves aside, offers Nico the space between them. Nuzzles the back of the kid’s neck as Nico settles down.

“I won’t,” he sighs, watching Nico take a chunk of hair between his fingers, delicately winding it around the rod. Uno gently reminds him not to leave it for too long and Nico nods, meeting Jyugo’s gaze.

“You won’t what, Jyugo-kun?”

He shakes his head, smiling, telling Nico to concentrate. He can always practice some more later, even when he’s out. Wonders whom he’ll be practicing on, whose hair he’ll have to hold, whose hair he’ll have to brush. Feels his breath hitch, his mind race. It’s happening too fast, he realizes. Too much, too soon. He clutches the fabric above his heart. Lets go before Uno and Nico notice.

*

There’s a full moon two weeks before. It’s a bright yellow, the color of hope. Of clarity.

Jyugo sees it from his place in their pile, chin resting against the back of his palm, before his eyes move over to the bunkbeds on the other side of the cell. His mind may be playing tricks on him, but it looks to be the darkest side. He can’t remember if they ever thought to use them – once, possibly, on the day Tsukumo came to join their building. His eyes glow in the darkness, as the memories come riding in like a flood.

Truthfully, he is tired, but he couldn’t sleep even if he wanted to. Uno grinds his teeth, Nico laughs in his sleep, Rock snores loudly. There is, also, very little space between them, between their technicolored futons, all tangled limbs – Uno’s hand in his on one end of the line, Rock’s extended leg trapping him in place in the middle, Nico’s huddled form glued to Rock’s back for warmth on the other – and blankets in wild disarray, they might as well be using a large one.

Jyugo chuckles, burrowing deeper. Angles his body around without causing a chain reaction. There is very little space between them, and that’s perfectly okay.

*

Jyugo isn’t an expert when it comes to family, but he’s figured quite a bit over the years. He’s read a few pages from Nico’s manga collection. He’s seen how Hajime fusses over Hitoshi in his own way. He’s listened to Tsukumo’s stories about home. Has accepted that doubt and regret come with the concept, it’s all just a part of being alive.

This is how he knows what he’s got. Knows that he’s been building a solid foundation all along. Knows that, despite the prison’s best intentions, he probably isn’t ready. Not yet. Not without his cellmates. And they’re going to get out, eventually, the right way. All of them. Together. But maybe, just maybe, the Warden jumped the gun a little. Maybe he’s supposed to actively send her a response. Maybe it’s all a test.

The sirens go off before he makes it to Block C, the cold air pressing into his skin, making him whistle low in his throat. He can sense Hajime, watching him from the cameras. Can imagine Hajime smirking like a feral beast at his mock victory sign. Can hear their measured footsteps before he sees them. Before he catches Uno’s sigh of exasperation, he should have told them sooner, who knows what would happen to him without them.


~OWARI