FIC: "Coping" for snapesgirl Recipient: snapesgirl Author: ??? Title: Coping Rating: PG Pairings: Rabastan Lestrange/Regulus Black Word Count: 1,210 Warnings: *Implied canonical character death*. Summary: Everyone copes with the war in their own way, but Regulus doesn’t seem to be coping at all. Rabastan doesn’t know what to do except for love him; whether it will be enough is a different matter altogether. Author's Notes: I’m sorry I couldn’t give you a paring with Severus – it just refused to be written :/ So I genuinely hope you enjoy some Regulus instead.
Wartime does strange things to people. It isn’t hard to find oneself disassociated from the people, things and activities that populated the peacetime life. Estrangement seems so natural that it’s hardly noticeable anymore. Of course. Otherwise how could a fighter deal with all the blood and secrecy and constant stress? It would devour him so quickly he would have no time to be any use to his Cause.
Rabastan knows all of this. He had always been the quiet one, the thinker. Roddy is loud and obnoxious and borderline hysterical. Of course, he can be very cool and composed and political when he needs to be – Pureblood upbringing will do that – but when he’s among his own – family, friends, close colleagues – he lets loose and spurts out his, sometimes quite idiotic, opinions right and left. He’s not a bad manipulator and negotiator, not even a bad fighter, but Roddy deals with intuition more than with introspection. Their father used to say, “I have one extroverted son and one introverted son. Perhaps if I were to have a third, the child might actually find the golden center.”
The thing that Rabastan likes about his own introversion is that he can shut down during raids, completely disconnect himself from the work without actually losing himself to it. So many people cannot do that and then they have two ways to go – going mad with it or simply drowning in the darkness until they find what they do to be a part of them. Rabastan thinks it is a dangerous way to go. Of course he believes in the Cause but that does not make what they do any less gruesome, even if it is for a good reason. It is easier to pull away from reality while he is out there and then come back to it when the work is done. He doesn’t have to do this often – not during training or guard shifts or lab tests or anything. But during the large battles and the raids – yes. It is the only way to remember exactly who he is and why he is there and what exactly he is doing and why without becoming its victim. He feels safer when he can analyze the situation and himself and his feelings and actions than when he is so caught up in the moment that the details become blurred.
For a long time, he thinks Regulus is like this too. It seems the only way that a boy as delicate and soft-spoken as Regulus Black could ever survive all the fighting, all the loss and mourning, all the perverted elation of victory and still remain just as steadfast in his character as before. He never questions the boy about it. Regulus is naturally quiet and Rabastan, sensing a kin introvert, knowing how he hates it when people pry into his personal space, decides to let the boy be. After all, how Regulus copes is his own bossiness – if he wants to talk, Rabastan would listen; otherwise he sees no reason to intrude. Their tight-knit fighting squad never asks each other these questions; they are too dangerous, too uncomfortable to speak of and it isn’t necessary for the most part.
But slowly, Rabastan begins to notice that not everything is as it should be with Regulus. He seems to swing from icy coldness to quiet, nearly silent hysterics in some storage room. One raid, he will take extraordinary risk and thrown himself into battle and then spend the next mission in such distraction that Antonin has to take him aside and give him a firm talking-to and an extra shift on watch in punishment. Rabastan thinks that, perhaps, if Regulus was more open it would be apparent what is going on inside his head, but Regulus is an introvert too and two introverts in the same room too often leads to an excess of silence and brooding.
Rabastan follows him home one night. He stands in the dark hallway of the Blacks' ornate townhouse and watches as Regulus meticulously takes off his cloak and casts several cleaning spells. He then removes his boots and gloves and does the same to them. He finally looks up and meets Rabastan’s eyes. In the dark, it’s hard to discern Regulus’ expression, but Rabastan can sense a question in that gaze. “I worry about you sometimes,” he says finally, measuring out his words.
“I’m fine.” Regulus says. His tone is flat, completely drained. He sounds genuinely tired. Rabastan cannot blame him – he’s exhausted too.
“I don’t understand,” Rabastan presses on. “Sometimes you seem happy, sometimes you’re miserable, half the time you’re unstable and when you are keeping it together you tend to shut people out. You never did that before.”
Regulus looks away. He has let his hair out of its ribbon and it hangs over his face. He puts out one hand and uses the wall as a crutch. “It’s a war we’re fighting here, Rab. It’s hard. I cope as I can. We all do.”
But you don’t cope like everyone else. I don’t even know if you’re coping at all, Rabastan thinks glumly. “You can talk to me, you know. If you ever need to.”
Regulus says the words, but he never comes to talk. He does come to Rabastan’s bed one night, however, and they lie holding each other. This repeats sometimes, though they never talk about it. Sometimes, when Regulus has bad dreams, Rabastan will wake him with kisses and sometimes, after Regulus is awake, they will make love. Rabastan does not know what this makes them. Lovers, perhaps. If it was peacetime, both he and Regulus would be busy looking for a wife, but it is not peacetime, has not been for so long that people actually have more serious things to worry about than marriage contracts.
Love is a strange thing, Rabastan realizes. It simply exists of its own accord without a defining moment, without a reason; it can go unnamed and unsung but it exists, twining itself with the hours and days of two people’s lives. And every time Regulus comes to him, Rabastan holds him a little closer and kisses him a little more desperately. If he could stop Regulus from breaking he would but he does not think this is a chasm he can cross and close without his love’s invitation and Regulus does not offer him one.
One night, when Rabastan lumbers, half-blind from sleep deprivation, into his bedroom and finds his bed, he is confronted not by Regulus but by the boy’s patronus. The kitten, which had been curled up on Rabastan’s pillow, unfolds its paws and regards Rabastan with large, still eyes. “I love you,” it says in Regulus’ voice, then disappears.
Rabastan sits for a few moments, the words running around in his head as all of his senses flood with the ghost sensations of Regulus – the touch of his hand against Rabastan’s skin, the scent of his hair, the sound of his laughter, the sight of his eyes and the taste of his mouth when they kissed. For a few moments, Rabastan thinks without thinking and feels without feeling…then, apparates to Headquarters to sound the alert.