Siva sighed as she approached the motel she'd been staying at for the past few days. Though she hadn't been there long, she felt very tired. She'd assumed this mission would be easy; in reality it had been anything but. She supposed she was getting sloppy; she should have known better than that.
She entered the motel complex and went to her room. It wasn't much, but that was the point. She would attract attention if she went to the city's best hotel, even if she could afford it. Flaunting money like that tended to make one stand out, and that was the last thing she wanted.
She ungracefully flopped down on the bed and sighed. The desert venture had left her exhausted, hot, and sweaty. She felt disgusting from sweat and sand. She wanted nothing more than to hop in the shower and let her stress melt and flow down the drain, but for now she couldn't muster up the energy to even sit up.
Knowing where she would be before she got there, Red had been waiting in the bedroom before she had gotten there. He lay on the bed which jumped slightly as she plopped on it. He knew she was too exhausted to use her semblance to detect him or even detect him through her normal senses.
When they had landed at the nearest capital, it had appeared the Luciela had taken off on her own, as did Siva. With Siva being his only concern, Red followed and already had the shortest way to get to where she was probably going to go and had entered with not difficulty, allowing a moment for resting in the warmth as he was still shirtless (he had been the entire drive back).
"Do you need help getting to the shower?" he asked softly to not startle her but let her know he was here to help. His eyes were tired but it seemed like he was able to do more for her and even without his semblance, he seemed just able to naturally tell what she needed.
Siva jumped when she heard Red's voice. "How did you - you know what, never mind," she said, too tired to really care. She sighed and said, "Not just now, thanks," she added in reply to Red's offer, which was appreciated, but she was somewhat weirded out by the fact that he was in her motel room at all.
She sighed again, feeling even more tired, if that was even possible. She had been hoping for some time alone oddly enough, but she supposed she should have known better. Red seemed to be dead-set on stalking her, for better or for worse.
A slight flinch was the response given. Of course, he didn't expect much else and simply nodded, "Let me know when you do," he said in reference to needing help.
He opened his mouth again but then stopped, turning to the side, "Actually..." he started before pausing a few times to continue, "I didn't come here to just stalk you... this time," he admitted, "If that were so, I wouldn't be in plain sight. I wanted... to be around you. I wanted to talk to you while I could... But I can leave, if you want me to."
He turned again towards her, "Do you want me to leave?" his eyes lowered sadly.
Siva's emotional conflict returned upon hearing Red's words. And again, that question that his presence always brought: Why? Why would anyone want to be around HER, of all people? Especially someone as intelligent as Red, who HAD to have known all the horrible things she'd done. But there was something different this time.
Red could actually hold up a conversation now.
So she decided to verbalize her inner turmoil.
"Why?" she asked, quietly at first, her voice somewhat rough. "Why do you keep following me?" She was getting louder as her emotions flowed out with her words. "Why do you care about me so much?" Tears were forming now. "Don't you know what I've done? How dangerous it is to be anywhere near me?" She asked as she turned to Red, allowing him to see the sadness that had contorted her features.
Red kept an intense and contemplative stare at Siva until she started to break down. He patiently waited until she was done with her last word to which his response was moving over and pinning her flat on the bed, not touching but placing his hands above her shoulders and him on top. He put his weight on the arm that was not injured and he stared into her eyes. Bright red on icy blue.
He didn't keep his serious stare for long before he broke into his goofy smile and a light laugh, "You think I have all the answers? I wanted to have all the answers, believe me, I even tried. I couldn't compute it though through numbers so I thought in words and I came up with these probable causes:
You make me feel like I'm not alone, I've done things in my life that are questionable too and for once I feel like there is someone understanding that feeling, that need to hide all the time and that need to stay away.
You make me feel like there are things I value and admire, and that you're one of them.
You make me feel like my heart, which before this was filled with nothing but objective numbers, is capable of caring and capable of feeling.
You give me an intimacy, a bond, something where it's comfortable yet at the same time something where I yearn for more.
Do you think there is something about you I don't know? Do you think I'm actually afraid of danger at this point? Afraid of you? Well, I'm not and my answer still stands as before: I like you."
They were silent for a moment before Red carefully moved his hand over to Siva's cheek to dry a tear before smiling again, "You're filthy. Here, let me help you. You still have important things to do," he said softer.
Siva laid still, pinned beneath Red for what felt like an eternity. She couldn't believe what he'd said. Someone actually cared about her? And LIKED her, to boot?! To her, it was all too surreal. It was impossible.
She'd always thought she was destined to be alone, and yet, here they were. She pinched herself - nope, not dreaming. "...this is real..." she said, sounding breathless. "This is really happening...god..."
She studied Red's features for the longest time. That goofy smile...it seemed so...trustworthy? She couldn't find the words. But someone cared about her. And to Siva, that was a wonderful miracle.
"...yeah..." she said after another short while. "Yeah, thanks...I could use a hand...if you're feeling up to it, I mean..."
Laughing little bit at Siva's reaction and the fact that she had actually pinched herself out of shock. He smiled warmly down at her after, also feeling like an eternity could pass and he wouldn't care. His eyes brightened as Siva had agreed to receiving help she slowly got up from her to lead them to the bathroom, "Of course! I'm up to it, I personally need a rinse as well if you don't mind me joining." He lightly blushed, but it was more from his happiness than embarrassment as didn't really have the capacity to think sexually of Siva much, far too overhwhelmed in his romantic feelings for her.
Siva instantly blushed at the implications of Red's request. "Why, how forward of you," she said half-jokingly. "You could at least ask me out for dinner first."
She cracked a half smile. "But I'm not saying I'm opposed to the idea," she said jokingly. "It would be a big help. I am exhausted, after all. I would greatly appreciate some help with all that desert grime. And I'm sure you would as well..."
Realizing now that Red HAD been a little too forward, he blushed as well and sort of tried to goofily laugh it off. "How about dinner when we aren't recovering from dangerous missions or anything of the sorts," he laughed lightly.
He blushed a little further as he guided her to the shower carefully since both were worn out and turned the water on, waiting for it to get warm before turning back to Siva. NOW, he was getting a little fidgety himself and started to stutter, "U-u-uh.. H-here.." He tried not to stare too much as he helped Siva lift her shirt over her head then lightly rolled her pants down, letting her step out of them. He didn turn away a little more as he helped he fully out of her undergarments as well. Then did so for himself.
He seemed a little frozen and his face literally became his namesake.
Trying to divert attention away from this, however, he tried to slip into the shower but in a fidget nervous mess, ACTUALLY slipped and was sprawled over the shower floor. It didn't hurt too much but he went "Daah!" In surprise.
Siva went to the bathroom to help Red as fast as she could, which was about a slightly-faster-than-average walk. A precursory examination revealed that he was fine, but she offered him a hand up anyway.
"I suppose now would be the time to warn you," she said. "I'm a shark faunus. The skin on my arms, legs, and back is naturally rough. Be careful." This was something she'd learned over the years and had had to adapt to; she tended to inadvertently shred normal fabrics because of it and all of her clothes had to be custom-made to accomodate this and before she did the same with wash cloths, she was going through one of them every two weeks. Those parts of her skin basically had the texture of coarse sandpaper.
Red slightly laughed goofily at the predicament he was in but reached over to get help to pull himself up. His blush was still there but it seemed like he had relaxed a little bit.
Giving Siva a quick look over at the information he was verbally confirmed of, then back into her eyes. He blinked away something in his eyes, it was his semblance coming back a little bit. But... not.. yet... he needed... to keep this going... just a little longer...
He smiled at her and just gave her a thumbs up for the moment.
Guiding her into the shower, he let the warm water rinse both of them for a few minutes and tried to keep his eyes off as much as possible.
Instead he went over to grab a scrubbing thing and soap. First, bringing his eyes back on her to lightly run his fingers on her grey skin, being extra careful on the rough patches. Along the way, he scrubbed her skin and just felt around for other rough areas.
Siva initially tensed up at Red's touch, but soon relaxed under his gentle care. She had never really felt genuine human contact before. Sure, she wasn't totally inexperienced, but those were usually paid individuals, or one-night stands at best, and all of the experiences were few and far between. Add in the fact that all of the dirtiness from the desert was being rinsed away, and the sensation was amazing, and her expression confirmed it.
"Thank you," she said, sounding quite pleased. "Let me know when you want me to start on you, and I'll see what I can do." If she were perfectly honest, however, Siva wasn't even sure of what she could do. She'd never really tried; she was used to laying back while someone else did all the work. That didn't mean she wasn't willing to try, however, and had been waiting for a chance to take a shot at doing the majority of the work in a situation like this. Perhaps that chance would come tonight. Only time would tell.
Nearly finished gently scrubbing her body and paying mind to harsher areas of her body, slightly pricking himself a couple of times but not expressing more than a small click of the tongue then.. focusing on her front as they faced each other. The water washed away the rest of the grime and left her skin clear as he tended to her hair similarly, weaving his hands through it and rubbing her scalp. He let the water run down her before stopping fully to listen as she spoke.
But staring at her, Red's eyes widened as he realized something and froze up partially, his hands on her shoulders from having washed her hair. They were both.... in the shower together... naked.... Red turned completely red... Now that he was done washing Siva, he couldn't really ignore the fact that he had stripped, literally STRIPPED another person and was now in an intimate situation with that person.... but.... but!!!
But Red, didn't you do this to give her care? But Red, weren't you completely inexperienced with talking to people let alone interacting with them, LET ALONE TOUCHING THEM?! But Red, don't you know Siva well enough to be intimate with her? But Red, you don't have a CLUE about what it means to be intimate! But Red, isn't it different now? BUT RED, YOU'RE A VIRGIN!!!!!!! Throughout this, Red had been opening and closing his mouth, just sort of nervously blushing and trying to figure out what he wanted.
Siva suppressed a chuckle. Red's embarrassment was adorable. But at the same time, she couldn't stop a bit of red from creeping into her own features. "Your turn, then," she said. She gathered some soap and began cleaning Red, this time starting with the front, taking a tiny bit of time to play with his breasts, but not too much; she wanted to get to know him better before they got into anything serious.
She slowly worked her way down, making sure to get all the sweat and dirt off as she did, trying to be as gentle yet firm as possible. She wanted to make sure she did this right, but really didn't have any experience to work off of and so was somewhat nervous, but did her best to hide it.
Red physically had immense trouble keeping himself from making some sort of odd vocal noise(s) to the contact, especially when his breasts were touched, even if it was momentary! "H-hey, those are!!" he said embarrassedly. Honestly, he never liked his breasts. Not because of his loose trans identity, but because they just looked odd!! He pouted and looked away but expressed a hesitant pleasure over getting washed which helped him relax more as he tried to enjoy it. It was blissful?
He was so wrapped up in his own feelings that he wasn't paying nearly as much attention to Siva as he would normally. As she was finished, he suddenly opened his move, "Love," he said. Then stared at her for some time before continuing, "Seren Love."
Siva stopped in her tracks. She'd heard that name, whispered in the corners of the criminal underbellies of the world. That name carried respect born by fear. Fear of not other criminals or bounty hunters, but of being locked away in a hole for so long that time would blur, being introduced to pain unimaginable, and never seeing the light of day again.
Seren Love was known to the criminal underworld as a person of unimaginable power within Remnant's most unforgiving army; the head of Atlesian Intelligence. If he decided to go after you, you might as well shoot yourself right there and then. It'd be better than letting him get you.
Immediately Siva shot up and backed into the wall of the shower. "No," she said, breathless. "No way."
Red shot up instantly as well and tried to close in on Siva, "No! Please! You need to listen!" he was frantic, normally he would give Siva all the space in the world to calm the situation down, but how could he now? He had spoken his name. He knew what it carried, he knew what she'd feel from hearing it! But he had to... he needed to! This wasn't about his job, the one he had lost days before he had met Siva actually!!! But it was... something more. He needed to prove it, instantly! He tried again to get close to her, he couldn't lose her now!
"What do you want?!" Siva asked, her voice brimming with terror. She couldn't believe what was going on. She had gotten close to someone for the first time in her life, only to find out that they would likely lock her up forever. And here she was, naked and nigh powerless. She could feel the electricity building up inside her, ready to release at any moment, but still held at bay by sheer willpower.
"Siva!!" he insisted, it came off slightly as a yelled or scold to try and get her to pull it together. Sighing, he went over to grab a couple of towels and tossed one to her before covering himself and leaning over to the side where he had placed his mobile with June on it. "Look at this! This is all I have!!! Look!!! This is a private server, made for chess!!!!!!!!!" he exclaimed, showing her literally everything on it, "The only thing it grew to encompass was radar only!!!!!!! This is all I have!!!!!! I'm cut off from Atlas completely, I swear, and as important as June is to me, I want to show you something!!" he rapidly typed on his phone and showed her as he was working.
He completely reset everything on his mobile back to factory settings.
Siva's eyes widened as she watched Red sacrifice literally the only thing he had. Her story made no sense next to what she'd heard...but she knew from experience that stories could get muddled as they passed from person to person. That was likely what had happened to Red.
She immediately felt sympathy - they were in similar situations. Both had nothing, or at least close to it, and no one except for each other. She suddenly got an idea.
"Well, I suppose since you told the truth, it's my turn to do the same," she said, sounding a bit apologetic.
For the most part, even Red was a little surprised and feeling surreal having completely reset all of his life's work. June had been with him since he was very young. But he had just completely let go of June if it meant he could convince Siva... It appeared to work... He also knew why he did it... because trusting Siva... felt better than trusting June....
At Siva's near apology, Red teared up slightly out of happiness and nodded, guiding them to the bed to sit down and talk easier.
Siva took the towel Red had thrown to her and stepped out of the shower, turning off the water as she did so. She wrapped the towel around herself and sat next to Red on the bed. She sighed as she pondered where to start. She figured there was no beating around the bush. "Might as well get right to it," she said, half to Red, or Seren she supposed, and half to herself. She sighed again before facing Seren/Red and said, with a mix of emotions in her voice, "I'm a bounty hunter."
Having been waiting to listen to Siva's story, Red leaned to listen intensely but when she started out with such an obvious fact he had known the second he had laid eyes on her, he broke into a small laugh. Trying to cover his mouth to catch it made him look silly but he quickly tried to recover and swallow his laughter. Instead, an even goofier smile was on his face than usual, "You knew I already knew that right? I mean I don't know everything about your past, but come on, Siva. Don't you take me for better than that?" he said in an utmost playful tone, but then quickly realized something, "I MEAN!!!!! I still want to hear you speak!!!! I definitely do!!!!!!! I can only calculate so much and I haven't been around long enough to know every single detail... I mean, I would be able to do so EVENTUALLY.. but.." he realized he was digging his own grave even more so. "Ehhhhhh... I mean......"
Siva berated herself internally. Of course he would know that! Why couldn't she remember?! Ugh...
"Sorry," she said. "It was my bad." She pondered where to go from her admittedly sorry start. She decided that, like most stories, the beginning would suffice.
She sighed yet again and said, "I don't know the exact name of where I was born, but it's on the east coast of Mistral. A small, isolated community of shark faunuses, like me. Difference is, over time they've honed their aura manipulation capabilities to the point that some think it's witchcraft. Hence the less than flattering nickname, Sea Witches.
"Unfortunately, I didn't get to stay with them for long. The village was infamous for the frequency of attacks by pirates. The primary export was trinkets that outsiders pay top dollar for, for reasons beyond my comprehension, and of course the pirates, thinking they could make a quick buck, would attack the village in hopes of getting hands on these trinkets.
"Usually the marauders would be repelled, but one day...they weren't..."
Red turned back and listened with utmost attention and intrigue as he learned of details in Siva's life that he admitted he probably wouldn't have gotten the full picture of in just a simple equation and plugging numbers in it.
Though this was a story and made of words he could logically follow along and sort of helped Siva complete her sentence, "They found some way to give something else of value...." he thought quietly to himself for a while. "Was it.... you?" he asked softly.
(THEME MUSIC, GO!)
Siva slowly nodded. "Yes," she said quietly. "I was just a baby, but the pirates took me anyway. The captain...made me his slave." She paused to take a deep breath before continuing.
"Luckily, he was a kind man, and was good to me," she continued. "He protected me from some of the...less civil crewmembers. That lasted until I was about four."
Nodding slightly in return, Red kept a hand placed on his chin as if contemplatively scratching it, "I see... at least you had someone to look after you during those young ages... though considering his career of choice... I wonder if it was all that good all the time..." he said, "Did... something happen when you were four?"
His voice was soft and gentle as he let her continue.
Siva sighed again. Telling her story was rather draining, she found. This was why she didn't do it often. She wished she had alcohol to help get through it, but she needed to be sober for her upcoming mission. But she wasn't thinking about that right now.
"Correct again," she said. "While it was a decent life, they were still pirates, so there was a price on their heads, and it was made all the larger by their notoriety for looting coastal villages. It was only a matter of time before a Huntsman came after them.
"The captain hid me in his cabin and locked the door. I could hear the sounds of battle outside, metal on metal...screams of the wounded...all voices I'd heard before. The pirates were being slaughtered.
"Eventually I managed to break the lock on the door and get out. It was at the worst time. I came onto the deck of the ship just as the huntsman was running his sword through the Captain's gut."
Red continued to listen, worried that Siva must have been exhausted at this point but still needing to talk for once and needing to be listened to. What better person than he? Nodding again, he took some deep exhales as he heard the gruesome moments and how she had been exposed to it at such an early age... "You went with him after this, that huntsman. There was no where else for you to go... after all..." he said, choosing his words carefully.
Siva only nodded. "If I'm perfectly honest, the Captain had his flaws," she said. "He had a tendency to drink a bit too much, and he was a violent drunk, so in some ways it was a good thing he was dead. But of course, being the young naive thing I was, I didn't know that. I was just sad because I'd lost my father figure.
"But yes, I did wind up going with the Huntsman, and he was much more of a father than the Captain ever was. Of course, this was after I hit him with a bolt of lightning, My first, I might add. The stress and fear of seeing the dead pirates all around, and the blood on his sword, awoke it.
"The lightning sent him flying into the midship deckhouse - a structure in the middle of the ship, yes I know about boats, it's from a previous mission - and landed with quite a thud. He realized my potential, and began training me in. Swordsmanship, survival, strategy, even some academics. Life was good. But unfortunately, it wouldn't last, either..."
Honestly, Red was internally cheering/excited for Siva as he heard of her semblance awakening in such a way. He knew the potential the huntsman had seen. After all, he had and was seeing it himself. Nodding and sighing towards the end of her speech however, "Of course... misfortune seemed to carry over... didn't it?" he asked gently but still needing to know.
Siva nodded once again as tears started to form in the corners of her eyes. "I was seventeen," she said. "The huntsman had taught me so much...I even took to calling him Master...we were a team as well as teacher and student by that point. We would go on missions together, defend the innocent...
"But one day, it all just...ended. We were near the coast of Vale...a group of pirates ambushed us...and my master was shot through the back..."
Siva stifled a sob before continuing. "I don't remember exactly what happened next, but the next thing I remember is standing there in the middle of a clearing, holding my sword in one hand and my master's in the other. Both were covered in blood...and the bodies of the pirates covered the ground..."
Seeing her get emotional... it really did a lot to Red. He felt a swirl of emotions in a way that could only really be known as empathy. Something he had never really gotten especially since he wasn't even able to interact with people enough for it.
The overwhelming sensation made him take a drastic step in which he moved in and held Siva's cheek up, pressing his lips onto hers and kissing her lightly. He held the kiss for a moment or two, not moving much but just feeling, then broke away.
"I understand the rest from there... and now... you're here. I have everything from that point onward ingrained into my memory..." he said softly so that she wouldn't have to continue, "I... have a very different past to share..."
Siva was doing all she could to hold the tears in. Dredging up the past tended to do that to a person. But she had spoken, and Red had listened. Now it was Red's turn to talk, and she would do as he had done. She hoped it would help her forget her own tragic tale.
She nodded slowly, meaning for it to be Red's cue to tell his story. She hoped it would hold more hope than her own, but had her doubts.
Giving Siva the appropriate space, Red put on a rather serious expression and closed his eyes for a small bit, he locked his hands in Siva's before speaking fully, "Before I start, please have an open mind about what I'm going to say... okay? Because stories you may have heard about me... are probably true... but maybe not in the way you would expect..." he said softly then closed his eyes before starting again.
"It started with my younger brother, Charon, I'm sure you've heard of him, he's an actual figurehead up there. In a sense you could call everyone in my family twisted in some way... except for my dad..." he shook his head and needed to start over because he was too all over the place, "I have always been a supercomputer at a young age and my intelligence led to the neglect of my brother, Charon. They loved me, I was anyone's dream child, I could do algebra when toddlers were learning to could to 10. As for Charon, I'm fairly sure he would have turned out the same way anyway but maybe there could have been a way to prevent it if we had just paid closer attention to him... Anyway, my mother worked secretly as an Atlesian Intelligence tactician and my father as a normal engineer. There were... some pretty bad things she was doing up there in the government that I'm pretty sure you can sort of imagine and when an accident at work brought it all under the light, my dad decided he just wanted to up and leave the weird part of the family and take me and leave. I excelled as expected, leaving my brother to deal with his misfortunes that were to come after which was... his descent into madness. That madness turned him into a gruesome serial killer... Meanwhile I was getting wrapped up in intelligence forces, I was sent to professionally spy, befriend, and capture him. I had... absolutely no remorse about it. He instead was offered a position on the intelligence forces too, but If he were imprisoned like the many others I had allowed to be imprisoned as well I would not be remorseful about it either. This is why I said what I had said earlier... those stories, the quiet ones you may have heard about me... they may have been based on truth after all. At first, it was an ignorance of me wanting my numbers to be important, wanting them to influence the world. But... it soon became a point where I could no longer ignore what I was doing and I couldn't deny it as I stepped to lead the nation in Intelligence myself even if it was a behind closed door things I gave Atlas the necessary equations as tools for everything horrible and corrupt they needed, then I ruled over it." Looking down at his hands which held Siva's, he stopped talking for a bit then started again.
"I think it was still ignorance... I didn't... know even if I did know... I never had real human interaction before... I wouldn't have understood... but it's still... no excuse... I left Atlas finally several days before I had met you. Though I was sent to Vacuo for fieldwork, I was uncomfortable with it and infuriated with my personal technology of June being used into something that I never intended by my brother, whom I still despise... From that point I fully cut off and became rogue, easily manipulating my disappearance so that I couldn't be found... then I just... let myself get distracted... I was yearning for something like this I admit... something like you."
Red looked back up to her and smiled goofily but then frowned slightly.
To say Siva felt conflicted would be a massive understatement. This was all new to her, and the info dump was somewhat intimidating, but she got the idea. She knew from experience that ignorance could be just as devastating as any weapon, if not more so. With a weapon, you could topple, say, a city. With ignorance, you could silently take over and rule a nation.
As for everything else...Siva didn't know what to think. It gave her context, at least, for some of Red's behaviors, and she was certainly glad to know that he was out of Atlas...or so he claimed to be. And a lot of the people he'd locked up most likely deserved what they'd gotten, well, maybe more like some of them, so she could find some solace in that. And if he was as skilled as she claimed, then maybe he could help her.
"Thank you," she said quietly, "for telling me. I know it must have been hard. I appreciate it. But...there's one more thing I should tell you. I didn't exactly come here to sightsee. As you likely already know, I'm in Vacuo on business. And I need to make my move tomorrow night."
He hadn't necessarily meant to talk as long and endlessly as he did.... But once started he couldn't necessarily stop very easily... Red simply nodded as he left Siva to her feelings about him and his past and acknowledged her thanks before moving over to the side as she spoke again.
"Yes, I have already known that's for noticing though," he gave a silly laught to it, "Time is running short for you, but I can assist you. My semblance hasn't fully come back yet.. but I'm still very smart, capable, and resilient. I think I can be a useful alley as you do what you need to do. I promised to myself that no matter what I wouldn't get in the way of you, but if I can help you in any way, I'd really would want for that to be accepted. I also provide a way for you to escape if all fails with my ties, anyone in their right mind would be more concerned about me if caught then you. What do you say?" He looked intensely and his eyes shone a little.
It wasn't even a question for Siva. Her recon from the other night revealed to her a rather bleak situation; the facility was sealed up tighter than a bank. And she'd broken into some pretty serious banks in her time. She would need help, and Red was offering. She wasn't about to refuse.
She nodded. "Thank you," she said. "We'll spend tomorrow preparing. We need to get equipment and make a timetable. But for now, we need to rest. It's been a long day."
Not wanting to spend any more time talking when they should be resting, Red moved aside and allowed Siva space so that they could both rest. Since he was staying for the entirety of the next day and evening, he didn't find much use of leaving at this point and allowed Siva to settle with him.
He may have wrapped an arm around her that night at one point. He also may have murmured, "I love you, Siva".