Cornering a clone commander in his closet of an office wasn't something Riyo had ever imagined herself doing. Considering the new information that had upended her worldview and festered inside of her for the past week, there were a lot of things she hadn't imagined doing.

Kissing Commander Fox?

Her Fox?

She would've never thought it possible to even imagine such a thing. How despicable was she to even picture herself taking advantage of him in such a way? He had been nothing but kind to her– kind and expecting nothing in return– and so she'd squashed and incinerated any inkling of that dream before it could even fully form.

And then to be told he'd gone and kissed her?

(Granted, an armored warrior's kiss, but the point still stood.)

Riyo needed information, and she knew just where to get it: hence why she was currently doing her best to tower over the tiny desk where Commander Thorn was seated behind.

"How long did you know?" She narrowed her eyes, trying to channel the intimidation tactics she'd picked up from her time in the senate.

He met her with an equally impressive blank stare. "Know what?"

"Don't play coy with me." She reached across and poked at his armored chest. "Farai told me about the keldabe kiss that Fox apparently gave me!"

Thorn couldn't hide his grimace this time. "Kark."

Riyo raised a brow, unimpressed. "That's all you have to say?"

He heaved a sigh, leaning back in his squeaky chair. "You weren't supposed to find out. Yet," he added as an afterthought. "Weren't supposed to find out yet."

She crossed her arms with a huff. "And what's that supposed to mean?!"

"Fox was supposed to tell you!" Thorn finally snapped, rising to meet her stare. "We've been trying to get him to realize–" The door slid open and he stopped dead in his tracks, eyes widening and jaw locking tight.

There was a very short list of things that could get Thorn to react in such a way, given their current conversation. Riyo closed her eyes and turned around slowly, already knowing who she was going to find standing in the doorway.

She opened her eyes and just as she feared, Fox was frozen in place with a stack of datapads in his hands.

"...this is unexpected," Fox said blandly, his gaze flickering between her and his brother in arms. When both of them remained silent, one of his brows slowly raised in guarded confusion. "Is something wrong?"

"Nope! No, nothing's wrong. I was just following up on… on a report Alida requested! About security measures. Since Iri was injured in our evacuation."

His expression melted into one of concern. "Right."

Riyo tried to focus on the here and now, but the mention of that day had her mind spiraling. The memory of his helmet pressed against her forehead, what it might be like for it the plastoid to not be in the way next time, what might happen if she threw herself at him now–

"How is she?" He continued, his voice breaking her free of her daze.

"Fine! She's… she's doing well," she amended. "She passes along her thanks."

"Not that this isn't cozy," Thorn spoke up, and Riyo nearly flinched at the reminder that he was still in the room, "but would you two consider taking this… anywhere else but in my office, really? I've got a report due in an hour."

"Right! My apologies, Commander Thorn," Riyo rushed to say, giving him a shallow nod. "Fox. Both of you have a lovely rest of the day."

Her heart was pounding in her ears as she brushed past Fox and speed-walked down the halls, blindly heading anywhere but where she'd just been. She needed air. she'd spent so long upset that Fox was avoiding her, and now she couldn't even be in the same room as him thanks to her overthinking a simple keldabe kiss he'd given her in the spur of the moment thinking he may not return.

She was in the wrong here. If she couldn't get these feelings for him out of her head, then she couldn't be near him until that happened. It wasn't fair to him. She was not going to make him feel uncomfortable over her inability to regulate her emotions.

–––

Fox didn't move from the doorway in the wake of Riyo's absence. "What was that?"

"What was what?" Thorn shot back.

"Don't waste our time," Fox growled, patience fraying. "She wasn't here about a report."

Thorn let out the longest, heaviest, most dramatic sigh fox had ever heard. "Senator Chuchi was here because you didn't tell her what your keldabe kiss meant."

Fox swore all the blood in his veins turned to ice. "It didn't mean any–"

"No! Stop this," Thorn shouted, pointing his finger accusingly. "Stop lying to yourself! You did it knowing it meant a kiss to you."

"I know that!" Fox roared, storming forward until all that was between him and Thorn was the flimsy desk. His shoulders heaved, his rage –at himself, this situation, the universe– bubbling up to the surface. "I saw her in that stairwell, and I didn't know if I'd see her again!"

"Fox…"

"Just…" Fox tossed the datapad down on the desk, running both his hands through his hair as he exhaled a long breath, the fight draining from him. He knew Thorn was trying to help. all his brothers had been. Why couldn't they see that he didn't have that luxury? "She's a senator. I am in charge of their protection. I can't have this type of rumor getting out and hurting her– or worse, I'm found out and they decommission me, and then no one's here to protect you ."

"Kriff, Fox…"

"I can't risk any of you for my feelings," Fox muttered. "Clearly, Chuchi found out and is upset with me over it."

Thorn rounded the desk and dragged Fox into a tight hug, their armor clacking together roughly. To Fox, it was just another reminder that they were meant to be weapons, not people.

"You're the best of us, Fox'ika," Thorn murmured. "But you've been happier since Senator Chuchi's been around. I don't think you should give up… whatever you have for her so easily."

Fox chuckled humorlessly. "Every day I get to see her– every day I know she's doing her best for the Republic– is another day worth it. How is that giving up?"

Thorn didn't have a response.

(Neither did Fox.)