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Fear

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Kids are scared of stupid shit, that's just fact. The dark, monsters under the bed, clowns- Wait, no, clowns are scary regardless. But the children of the Midnight Crew didn't quite have that luxury. When Tavros was scared of his closet, Boxcars just told him that nothing in there was half as scary as his old man, which was ironic, as the Midnight Crew were real life monsters. When Karkat was afraid of the dark, Slick blatantly told him that anything that wanted to kill him could get him just as well in the light, and probably see him better. He was fucking 6, what would he be able to do about it? That, obviously, did not help.

But sometimes kids came up with legitimate fears. Somehow, that was even worse.

 

-

 

It wasn't at all unusual for Boxcars to be woken up by Tavros tugging at his hand. The kid was a jumpy little shit, overly empathetic, overly sensitive. It wasn't hard to distress him, and his dreams did that the best. The problem was that Boxcars was up all day taking care of the kid, and up all night running around with the Crew. Those few precious hours of sleep in between, before Tavros got up in the morning and during his nap (unlike Sollux, Tavros still loved his naps), were what kept him going. This had to stop.

“Le'me 'lone, kid.” He mumbled, not at all coherently, waving the kid off. All he got in response was a little sob and more pulling. Finally, trying very very hard not to lose it (yelling at Tavros only made him hysterical), he opened his eyes. Tavros was, indeed, crying. His big brown eyes were even wider than usual, looking almost stunned. The fear was deeper than it usually was, and Boxcars finally got up.

“Tavros, y'can't keep doin' this.” He sighed as he lifted the kid up into the bed. The little brat clung to him immediately, and jesus fuck he was shaking really hard there, wasn't he? “What was it this time, huh?” He had to ask, because as stupid as it usually was, something definitely seemed off this time.

“-'Lone.” was the only nearly audible thing the adult could make out with Tavros' essentially smothering himself against his father.

“Tavros, c'mon, talk to me.” He peeled the kid off of him, sitting him down on the bed and looking at him seriously. Tavros wiped at his eyes with one hand, that little plush fairy bull clutched in his other arm.

“I- I was alone.” He tried again, voice breaking and shaky but speaking actual words this time.

“Yeah? Big whoop. C'mon, y'have scarier dreams than that on a good night.” Tavros just shook his head, like Boxcars didn't understand something.

“I- I had a dream- 'n I was with m-mom-” Oh. Oh shit. “B-but then she went away, um, like she did, 'n I knew from- from real life she weren't comin' back-” He took a deep, shaky breath, hiccuping sobs between words.”So- So I tried t'find you- but I couldn't find you neither- 'n I was runnin' up 'n down the block but there- there was no one- they were all gone 'n I didn't know what to do cause I couldn't- couldn't find you-” The kid was working himself up in his little monologue, and when he finally devolved into more incoherent tears and babbling, Boxcars scooped him up again. Say what you want about the guy (it'll probably be true), but he gave pretty great hugs (when he wasn't crushing spines).

“I ain't goin' nowhere, kid.” He swore, though he knew he couldn't guarantee that with his line of work. “I'm a freakin' wall. Ain't no one or nothin' gonna put me down just yet.” The kid seemed to be buying it, as the crying died down. “It was just a dream. It ain't real. What happened to yer ol' lady was tough, kid, but I ain't leavin' you all on yer own.” Tavros just nodded, slumping there, and Boxcars finally put him down when he seemed to be drifting off.

With the kid finally out, maybe he could get some rest. But probably not, cause he'd just promised his kid with abandonment issues that he wouldn't go down, while his job was to get shot at.

He wasn't sure if that made him a good father, or a god awful one.

 

-

 

Sollux was always an emotionally unstable child, prone to tantrums, mood swings, insomnia, and night terrors. It wasn't unusual for not only Deuce, but the neighbours to be woken by him screaming in the dead of night. In fact, with the odd hours Deuce kept it was usually the neighbours who suffered. But on the occasion that Deuce was home at a night time hour, rushing into Sollux's room as the boy screamed himself awake, Sollux told him nothing.

He'd scream at him to get out, throw things, go off his fucking head and he'd be up the rest of the night, pacing, snapping at his father whenever he expressed concern. The measure of Deuce's patience with that demon child was really that of a saint.

But then there was that one night.

Sollux screeched bloody murder until he woke himself up, Deuce rushed in, it was a familiar scene. What was different was that instead of being yelled at, kicked out of the room, and having to dodge things, he was greeted with silence. Well, aside from the heavy breathing, and whimpering.

It was odd, and when he sat on the edge of the bed, placing a hand on Sollux's back where he was hiding under the blanket, the child flinched. Talking did nothing. He didn't respond. But after a while of rubbing his back, he finally stopped the violent shaking. Oddly enough, when Deuce pulled him up and out from under the blankets and into a hug, Sollux allowed it, and actually clung to him. He stayed there until the poor kid fell back asleep, and then stayed with him the rest of the night.

Come morning (afternoon, actually), he was woken by Sollux screaming at him to get out of his room, hitting him with a pillow.

He never did find out what the nightmare was about.

 

-

 

Aradia did not have nightmares. Nothing scared her. She was always smiling, always cheerful. If she was angry, she just smiled some more, in a terrifying manner. If she was sad, she got distant and quiet, but with a small echo of a smile. But no one knew what she did when she was scared, because she didn't get scared. So, imagine Droog's surprise when he came home late from a job (meaning closer to the time people usually get up) to hear hurried footsteps hammering down the stairs.

That in itself was alarming, as usually Aradia walked around in this certain way, soft on the balls of her feet, quick and quiet. But now she was fucking barrelling down those stairs, stumbled on the last one, but just kept going with her momentum and slammed into her father, arms around him and gasping for breath as she buried her face in his suit jacket.

This was unprecedented, and Droog had no idea what to do. They didn't even really hug in their family, all of this was wrong. Was Aradia crying? Shit, no, okay, she wasn't, but her shoulders were shaking in an alarming way and he just... stood there. Staring at her, hands hovering. He felt uncertain and awkward and it was such a foreign feeling to him that it almost made him angry.

Slowly, carefully, he put his hands on Aradia's shaking shoulders and peeled her off, holding her at arms length. He looked down at her, as she looked back up at him, and the distress was written so clearly on her face. The smile was nowhere in sight.

“Did you have a bad dream?” He guessed, sounding exhausted and utterly fucking done with everything. If this was some stupid fucking nightmare- But no, Aradia shook her head. She didn't get nightmares. Things that qualified as nightmares just vaguely amused her. “Then what is it?” She didn't answer, hesitant, and looked away. She wasn't a very quiet kid, tended to ramble and rant, and she never broke eye contact. Red flag after red flag.

He crouched down to be at eye level with her, still holding her by the shoulders, but less sternly now. “Aradia.” His tone clearly told her to look at him while they talked, and she complied. “I can't help if you don't tell me what happened.” He explained, very logically, levelly. Usually that sparkled with the kid. Reason, logic, levelling with her like an adult. She loved it, thrived off of it. Made her feel all smart and important, and she always understood it. Now she just looked like she was going to start crying. She was seriously off-base, unstable, and emotionally distressed. Droog deduced that she probably hadn't slept at all that night either, so add overtired to the list.

“I- I was watching the news, just before bed.” She started to explain, trying to be brave and stable for her father, but her voice shook. Still, no tears, no sniffling. “They were talking about the police catching a bunch of crooks up at the bank, and I thought...”

“You thought I'd gotten arrested.” He filled in the blanks, not sure what to do with this information. His girl had thought he'd been caught. He wasn't sure whether he should be offended by her lack of faith in him, concerned that she had to worry about that at all, or what. He didn't deal in emotion, or reaction to emotion, and he had no idea how to deal with this. He considered calling Pickle Inspector, getting him to talk to her, but he couldn't very well get the guy to fucking parent for him. That was just weak.

“Aradia, how long do you think I've been doing this.” He didn't phrase it as a question, but still expected an answer.

“A very long time?” She guessed, and he nodded.

“That's right. Long before you were born, in fact. The only way someone can do what I do for as long as I've done it is if they're good at it. Being good at it includes not getting caught.” He explained. “I am a professional. I know what I'm doing, and I'm quite possibly the most competent man of my kind.” Let no one ever say Diamonds Droog was humble. “Trust me here, anyone stupid enough to put in an effort to catch me wouldn't last long enough to read me my rights.” He concluded his little speech, given without emotion, without softness or comfort. Just cold hard fact, but Aradia seemed placated by it, regardless. He did take a gentler tone following, however.

“Now go get some sleep. I'm willing to bet you were up wearing your mind out the whole night, weren't you.” She nodded sleepily, starting to crash now that she wasn't panicking. He patted her on the head, then ushered her back up over the stairs. He'd have to put someone at the news station on payroll and make sure they didn't air any stories like that during heists any more, if only for her peace of mind.

Droog showed he cared in some pretty unconventional ways.

 

-

 

The problem with Karkat's biggest fear was that there was no way to dismiss it. Even after winning custody (mostly via bribes), and filing a restraining order, there was no way to convince the kid his mother wouldn't come around any more. Slick wasn't very easily moved, but seeing the way the kid flinched sometimes, the way he expected anyone and everyone to lash out at him- it turned his fucking stomach to think of her coming around. He was starting to think he was as scared of that as Karkat was.

Curse his inexplicable attraction to violent psychopaths.

Yelling at the kid was a 50/50 gamble. Half the time the kid would let it roll off and yell right back. The other half he'd flinch and curl in on himself and Slick would feel like the biggest piece of shit in existence. Having such a damaged kid in a house with a guy with such anger issues was a terrible idea, but opposed to popular belief, Slick did have morals. No hitting dames (Snowman doesn't count as she is fucking Snowman and she will wreck your shit), no stealing from people who can't afford shit in the first place, he wouldn't do anything involving children or animals, and under no circumstances would he hit a kid, let alone his own.

The kid soon came to realize that, and started to relax. He became more comfortable asking for things, more comfortable bitching at Slick, yelling back at him, doing kid stuff. It took some work, and trying to make himself be anything resembling understanding was like pulling teeth, but eventually Slick and Karkat grew a sort of trust, and the kid was doing a hell of a lot better.

But of course she couldn't leave well enough alone.

Karkat burst through the door like something out of an overly dramatic commercial, gasping for breath. He didn't stop there, though. He didn't pause in the door to yell, he just slammed it and ran straight at Slick, clinging to his legs and yelling hysterically about something. All Slick could make out was “she's here” and that was all he needed.

Would the kid be upset if he stabbed his mother? Yeah, shit, probably. The restraining order was mostly a scare tactic too, he didn't want to involve the cops if he could help it...

But she wasn't from around town.

She wouldn't know who the real cops were.

So Slick made a call.

 

-

 

“Ma'am, we're gonna have to ask you to vacate the premises.” God, he was just milking it out there, wasn't he? And the award for the most dramatic detective of all time goes to Problem Sleuth. But Karkat was enjoying the show, watching from the window with Slick, snickering in unison. Sleuth made a big show of the handcuffs and reading her her rights, ushering her off their lawn and warning that if she came back, it was into the slammer. He actually called it the slammer.

Problem Sleuth was a dork, and Karkat couldn't stop laughing.

Slick considered this a success.