title: just keep breathing
fandom(s): fallen hero rebirth/retribution
pairing(s): wei chen x sidestep. ricardo ortega x sidestep. wei chen x ricardo ortega x sidestep. ricardo ortega x wei chen.
summary: maybe it’s not about fixing what’s broken. maybe it’s about starting over and creating something better.
warning(s): pre poly relationship, comfort food, pining, mild spoilers for the alpha build, angst and hurt/comfort.
I played Fallen Hero Rebirth and rated it a solid 9, and the story initially left me crying my eyeballs out but mildly confused, wanting to understand things. So I replayed and replayed and replayed. I picked up things and the clues started fitting together. I paid for the Retribution alpha build and I’m still crying my eyeballs out at night over it but I wanted resolution. I wanted to give (one of) my character(s) a light at the end of the tunnel.
So this is what it is. Or an attempt at it because FHR is really quite dark and not for the faint hearted. Those warning tags are not for show.
Sidestep’s name is Tyndall Bowman in this one.
It happens on a Sunday.
The last weekend before a new month started, technically.
Ortega frequently visits Chen’s apartment and brings food, lightly ribbing the other man for his lackluster kitchen space. Chen’s routine response becoming less and less exasperated each time.
You think that he not so secretly fears that you’ll both starve or subsist off canned food and cheap takeout. ...Which probably isn’t a far off assumption, considering the implication day one of your temporary living situation.
It could be considered sweet, if it wasn’t so very funny. (You had to get your kicks somewhere).
Your legs are still broken.
Progress is frustratingly slow.
You’d tried to move to a schedule of crutches-only by the second week out of sheer boredom and the flat look Chen had leveled in your direction caused you to nix that idea stat.
There’s a tension between Chen and you now.
Not to say that there rarely isn’t tension, but that’s usually due to an aftermath of an argument. Now? Now, you’re aware of him. Aware of him in a way that you’d only been aware of Ortega.
Someone’s knee brushes lightly against yours, breaking you out of your reverie. You glance to the left and catch sight of Ricardo watching you with soft, worried eyes. Chen also watching, but less obvious in his concern, features more stoic, controlled. The three of you are in the living room, they are siting on the couch, you’re in your wheelchair.
They probably asked you something and you were zoned out.
The lie is on the tip of your tongue, “I’m fine,” you mumble and grip your bowl which has half melted blueberry swirl ice cream and salted caramel cheesecake. Sweets are your kryptonite but Ricardo has pulled out your top favorites...
“You’re fine?” Ricardo scoffs, his tone skeptic.
A muscle jumped in your jaw. “Yep, just fine,” you reply, using your spoon to scoop up some ice cream, take a bite and enjoy the flavor. Refusing to give an inch and let him win.
The two of you had played this game many times, too many actually, and it usually ends with you being the one to fall for the prodding, and then you get angry, lash out.
Only this time you can’t.
Another scoff. “Typical. You do this every time, you know.” There’s a surprising amount of bitterness in Ricardo’s voice now.
“Ricardo,” Chen starts to interject, the strain clear in his voice. “Tyndall. Stop.”
It’s too late though.
Placing down the bowl on the nearest surface, freeing up your hands, you clench then unclench your fingers, trying to avoid cracking your knuckles. “And what about you, then huh, Saint Ortega?” The sneer on your face is ugly. “You’re always on about me being honest with my feelings and talking, but the truth of it is, you’re just like me, or worse!”
Ortega looks dumbfounded. As if he can’t believe you’d dare to throw the truth in his face like this, so obviously. He recovers quicker than you’d like, much to your annoyance, though. “...Maybe so,” he acknowledges, his voice softer. Enough to lull a more gullible individual into complacency or just anyone not paying attention. You know better. “That’s a topic we can revisit in a moment. I’m more curious about how long the two of you expect me to play the idiot here.”
Unwillingly, your eyes dart to Chen’s, then away.
Not focusing on any particular point in the room. Does Ortega know that you’re Mastermind? Since when, and did Chen tell him? Or is he bluffing right now and he doesn’t know? Is he talking about something totally different than what you’re thinking about?
Quick! Think up an appropriate answer and throw him off the trail!
“....I don’t....know what you mean.”
That’s not what you should say!!
Chen sighs deeply, pinching the bridge of his nose.
He looks pretty much done with the both of you right now, not that you can blame him. “Be clearer, the two of you have a propensity for telling half truths which leads to the majority of these absurd arguments.”
Ricardo winced and you feel the sting from that particular burn as well.
“In response to your statement, though, no one is expecting you to play the fool.” He looks a little nervous, guilty. “ I... We’ve kissed.” There’s a pinch to his brow, the tips of his ears turning pink. “That wasn’t an example of being a good friend to you, kissing Tyndall and murkying the waters further when I knew the two of you were...” There’s a pause as he tries to find a word for what you and Ortega shared before you and he tentatively stopped antagonizing each other and bonded over Spoon.
You snorted, lips twisting into a wry smile, “The phrasing of that sentence makes it sound as if I found it a chore to kiss you or something.” Chen cuts you an admonishing look which you temporarily ignore as you turn to glance at Ortega who’d been watching the byplay between you and Chen with an unreadable expression. For the nth time, you wish you could read his mind, and at the same time, you’re grateful that you can’t.
“...He’s right though. It was an epically shitty thing to do, kissing your oldest friend, who’s probably had a crush on you since he’s met you, while we were kissing. Totally and unnecessarily complicated.”
He just looked at the two of you for a moment. Then Ricardo sighed heavily, running a hand over his face, wearily. “Esto es un desastre.”
You say nothing, staying quiet because honestly, you agree. This is a mess, and it was poorly handled, on all sides. You’d already spilled the beans about Chen having a crush Ortega before it got to this point because you sincerely thought the conversation should have come up properly over seven years ago, your ‘death’ should have been a nonfactor.
They likely would’ve been a couple already if they weren’t such obtuse idiots.
“Okay... okay...” Ricardo seems to have come to a conclusion. He nods resolutely, turning all his considerably intense focus onto Chen who seems taken aback by it. Leaning forward into the other man’s space, slow enough that it’d be easy to shove him back, but of course Chen doesn’t. Ricardo’s hand went to the nape of his neck, lightly urging Chen forward, the other man obeying that silent request, and in the span of a breath, they’re kissing.
Your don’t avert your gaze, as much as you want to.
This is a private thing, you shouldn’t look, shouldn’t stare like a pervert.
‘Isn’t this what you knew would happen?’ Of course, your brain isn’t nice.
This is what you wanted right, for them to get their act together.
Humans falling in love with each other is normal and acceptable. (Although your education depicted of men and women falling in love, primarily).
It happens all the time.
Such emotion is a luxury a Re-Gene cannot afford, nor can they sincerely feel it, that’s what you were taught on the Farm. So resistant to the idea of going back to being treated as an unfeeling thing, your re-education had been particularly brutal.
“Whatever horrible thing your mind is telling you, it isn’t true.”
Once again caught off guard, lost in thought, you’re unprepared for Ricardo to kiss you. He tastes faintly of blueberry swirl ice cream and sweet tea, and maybe it’s your imagination, but maybe even a little bit like Chen. It’s that stray thought that has you jerk your head, trying to turn away from him. “W...what the hell, asshole?”
He snorted. “You know you sound really cute when you curse.”
Baring your teeth, you snap, “Tomber d'une falaise!” Although the idiot clearly didn’t know what you said in French, basically telling him to fall off a cliff, it didn’t stop him from dramatically clutching at his chest, as if he’d been stabbed in the heart; he could probably guess it was at least an insult.
“Stop teasing him, Ricardo.” Chen admonished. Ricardo mock pouted. “I mean it. Can’t you see that he’s overwhelmed?”
“I am not overwhelmed!”, you vehemently protest.
“Out of your depth then,” Chen countered and before you could complain that it was pretty much the same thing, only with differing meanings, he continued on, “What our resident idiot is clumsily trying to show instead of explain, is that he wants both of us.”
“If you want a threesome, fine. It’ll have to wait, as I’m a bit physically impaired at the moment.” You’re almost surprised by the bitterness in your voice.
Chen stared at you for a brief moment and then he braced both hands, human and modded, on either side of your wheelchair. Heart slowly turning over in your chest, oddly feeling as if you’re caught in the gaze of a hunter, you stubbornly keep eye contact for a second or two, but can’t maintain it for long. That doesn’t stop him from murmuring in your right ear, “Stop being so stubborn. Stop lying. You want this. To be in a relationship with both of us.” A brief pause. “Correct?”
Swallowing thickly, wondering the logistics of how that would work out. Wondering if you were about to once again make a horrible mistake. Then again, since you’d come back to Los Diablos, since Ortega found you again, that’s all you’ve been doing so far, haven’t you. Making mistake after mistake after mistake.
As Chen’s human hand buried itself in your curls, taking control, tilting your head back, idly you wondered if the next time you hit the ground, if it’d hurt less. This is after a freefall into madness, it feels like, and twice as foolish. Yet you surrender, and you stop thinking, enjoy the kiss.