“Show me your wings.”
Ryou didn’t even look up from where he shuffled through his deck. “No.”
Edo wasn’t taking that for an answer, though. He delivered a sharp stare toward Hell Kaiser’s uncaring back. “Show me your wings. I want to see something.”
“You’ve seen them before.” Ryou wasn’t impressed or even interested by Edo’s demand. He thought this particular combination would work out nicely and he wanted to run through all the ramifications before he made up his mind on actually using it. The melding of the two Cyber decks took careful precision, even for him.
Edo had seen his wings before anyway. Ryou used to wear them out proudly at virtually all times. But now he kept them tucked away unless he wanted to fly.
He also wasn’t surprised when Edo touched his shoulder. “I want to preen them for you. I know for a fact you haven’t done that in the whole time we’ve been here.”
“So?” Ryou made no move to extend his shoulder appendages. Edo did what he could to preen his own wings, which required much more care than Ryou’s did. Preening wasn’t something that people casually did, especially not if they were people like him or Edo.
Fubuki had preened him, once upon a time, and he’d returned the favor. But aside from his parents, he didn’t let anyone else near his wings.
Edo’s touch didn’t move. “I don’t think you want them to just rust off, do you?” There was definitely more than a touch of amusement in his voice. Ryou tensed at that. He didn’t preen his wings often, but he’d seen them in the mirror and he knew…
Well. It wouldn’t hurt and he knew that Edo wouldn’t do anything but clean them up. They needed each other too much in this world.
He’s probably just bored. He didn’t blame him. There wasn’t much else to do around here at the moment. There were only so many times that one could go through one’s deck and they didn’t dare leave the mansion without the other. Dark World meant watching one’s back at all times.
That was, after all, why they shared the only decent bed in the entire mansion. Warmth and comfort came second to being aware that one’s back was protected by one’s partner.
With a mild sigh, he gathered up his cards and set them back in the case. He felt reasonably assured that he could work that combo and it would be very useful when it came up. There really wasn’t anything else for him to do either.
He shifted away from where Edo stood, giving himself room. Edo waited, arms crossed over his chest, as if Ryou had somehow been unreasonable all this time and only now saw sense.
Spreading his wings took a little more effort than usual. That wasn’t a surprise; the longer he kept them wrapped up, the harder it was to spread them out. But after a moment or two of concentration, there was a metallic slash and two broad-feathered wings, shimmering with metallic highlights, spread out in what passed for their living room.
Edo gave them a very careful once-over, not touching them just yet, then shook his head. “I didn’t think you’d let yourself go this much.”
He meant the rust. Ryou could see it when he looked in a mirror or bent his wings the right way. They were very large wings; they needed to be in order to carry him on those few occasions he saw fit to fly anymore. And now there were spots of rust scattered all over, one or two of them the size of his hand.
The rust hurt. He just refused to admit it. His wings, like all those who had metallic wings, were of living metal, as much a part of him as his skin or hair or eyes, and the rust was akin to a rash he wasn’t bothering to treat.
Edo’s lips pressed together when Ryou said nothing at all, then he began to burrow into the bag he’d brought with him. Exactly why he had it when neither of them intended to come here in the first place, Ryou didn’t know and didn’t care enough about to ask. But what he brought out of there did catch his attention.
“Why did you bring wing oil?”
Living metal required different oil than ordinary human skin or feathers or the oils used for non-living metals. This oil was of a brand meant to take care of those with metallic wings. It wasn’t the one that Ryou himself used on a regular basis, being at least two shades of quality higher than his own high preference.
“Because if you don’t take care of those, you’re going to pay for it,” Edo snapped, also retrieving a couple of clean clothes. “Now sit down and be quiet while I do this.”
Ryou mentally rolled his eyes. He wasn’t sure if he’d care if his wings actually rusted to the point he couldn’t move them or not, not so long as he could achieve his goal first. He didn’t expect that to take too long. Vanity could take a back seat.
Fubuki would have his head if he’d heard that, he knew. But Fubuki wasn’t there. There hadn’t been any word of Fubuki or the others for weeks.
He almost didn’t feel the first touch of Edo’s hands on his wings. Edo probed carefully, hands brushing by the worst of the rusted places, then starting to rub an oil-soaked cloth along them. The longer he worked, the more the tension in Ryou’s shoulders and wings began to ease up. Wing rust didn’t heal right away, but he felt better within a few minutes of Edo working.
“Why did you let yourself go like this?” Edo asked. There was a quality to his voice that Ryou couldn’t quite pin down. “Your wings used to be magnificent.”
Ryou knew the answer. It wasn’t one that he had to think about very much, but he knew it. He debated for a few moments on if he wanted to actually tell Edo, though.
He won’t take it personally. He knows better.
“Because of the underground,” he said at last. He could feel Edo’s hands still for a few moments, then start to work again, carefully tending to one of the rust patches. “It didn’t matter what my wings looked like there, as long as I kept on winning.” He chose his words with care, more because he didn’t want to reveal too much than anything else. Edo knew he wasn’t well. Edo did not know why. “I wanted to win more than I wanted to waste time with my wings.”
Edo said nothing as he kept on working. Ryou decided he wasn’t going to say anything about it at all and started to relax even more. He didn’t want to fall asleep, but it had been so long since anyone helped him with his wings, and the rust itched, so the more Edo cleaned and polished, the more the itch began to fade. With that fading, he couldn’t quite keep himself awake.
He thought that he heard Edo murmuring something, even as his eyes slid shut and the tension slipped away to the point he put up no resistance as sleep embraced him.
But that could’ve been a dream.