Coming home to his oft moody significant other in mid conniption fit or other variety of snit was not an infrequent occurrence, but coming home to him prostrate and bawling on the couch was a scene Sollux had certainly yet to behold in the course of their courtship. Upon entering the door that day he discovered his despondent beloved with his hands tangled in his purple streaked hair, face buried in one of his obnoxious throw pillows, sobbing as if the very end of the world was at hand and he was going to have to die in last year’s loafers. Startled, Sollux dropped his bag and darted to the couch with a slightly more caustic inquiry of, “What the fuck is wrong with you?” than he meant.
Eridan lifted his head, tears welling in his violet gray eyes and replied only with, “He’s… He’s dead, Sol.”
The color drained instantaneously from Sollux’s face as his heart stopped cold in his chest. In a split second he was at Eridan’s side, lifting his head into his lap and running a panicked mental checklist of all male relatives and friends that could have possibly met with an ill fate that afternoon. He was quite close to his father, even if his father could be a coldhearted bastard some of most of the time, but he couldn’t recall any news about any sort of health issues or trips or anything that could have conceivably threatened his mortality and hoped to any deity that would listen that he hadn’t been distracted or absorbed in his computer when Eridan had attempted to inform him of such. Eridan had only a few close friends he was aware of, but all those friends happened to be his friends as well and he would have received the bad news the same time he did. Branching out to extended family seemed to be stretching it a bit and in the end, all Sollux could think to do was swallow the nervous lump in his throat and ask.
“Who?” he asked gently, stroking his fingers through his dark hair, “Who’s dead? What happened? Talk to me, Eridan.”
Eridan moaned miserably and buried his face into his thigh, curling up into the familiar warmth and comfort gratefully.
“What does it fuckin’ matter? He’s dead and that’s that. Might as well just call it quits right now,” he hissed.
Sollux grit his teeth, mustering all of his patience not to snap and lose his temper with his grieving partner.
“Eridan please,” he began as tenderly as he could, “Can you please cut the dramatics for once and tell your goddamn boyfriend what is going on so he can HELP you instead of sitting here cradling you awkwardly and worrying his ass off like a slack jawed imbecile?”
“It’s not like you even give a flyin’ backwards fuck!” Eridan snapped viciously, “You never do!”
Eridan turned over in Sollux’s lap to scowl more effectively at him.
“My whole entire life could be crumblin’ around me and all you’d care about would be, ‘fragging some chumps in TF2’ or your fake shitty Minecraft fort!” he continued, imitating the nasally lisp for added insult.
The familiar ache of a migraine began to creep behind Sollux’s eyes as he was left with the distinct impression Eridan had waited until the precise moment he heard the key in the lock to burst into tears.
“Okay, I'm going to avoid punching you straight in the mouth for that right now and ignore you mocking me because you happen to be crying, but that’s the finest example of grade-A, pedestal worthy, museum quality bullshit that has ever come out of your mouth and you know it,” he growled, rubbing at his temples and taking his glasses off, “You know I give a shit. I give a lot of shits, probably too many shits as far as I'm concerned.”
Eridan curled obligingly back into Sollux's lap with a pout, unable to come up with a rebuttal. He set his spectacles down on the end table with a roll of his dichromatic eyes and leaned down to kiss his temple roughly.
“Now tell me what happened or I swear to God I will throttle you senseless until you do,” he snarled lovingly into his ear.
Enough attention and coddling usually got Eridan to spill whatever drama du jour was plaguing him, and true to form he finally looked up and pointed dolefully across the room; directly at his much adored saltwater aquarium. Sollux raised an eyebrow.
“Hang on two red hot seconds... You mean-” he began, only to be interrupted.
“When I got home today he was just... Floatin' there... Already gone. Captain Ahab...” Eridan whimpered as if the retelling had opened the wounds anew.
Sure enough, the once majestic body of Eridan's prized angelfish lay motionless on his paper towel shroud in front of the tank. His bulbous eyes stared up at his former constituents just as blank and lifeless in death as they had been in his prime as his loyal flock flitted obliviously among the bubbles and the plastic shipwreck. Sollux, meanwhile, felt every nerve in his body coil up and burn white hot with fury.
“Your fish? Your fucking FISH? That's what you're so hysterical over? That's IT?! God damn it Eridan you scared the shit out me! I thought something horrible had happened!” he bellowed.
“Somethin' horrible DID happen, you insensitive prick!” Eridan fired back.
“Oh right, excuse me. The death of a fish is a national fucking tragedy. They only live a year, but in that year the earth shattering impact they make on human culture is truly astounding, I'm certain all the flags will be flying at half mast tomorrow in memoriam of the great Captain Ahab,” he spat, voice slathered in sarcasm.
“I'm in no mood for your smarmy sarcasm today, Sol!”
“Well I'm not really in the mood for a heart attack but sometimes we just don't get to pick what crazy misadventures we go on, on any given day!” Sollux continued with the same sardonic venom.
“Well glad to know my fuckin’ feelings are a huge goddamn joke to you! I bet this’ll make a real knee slapper of a blog post later. You’ll get all kinds of notes and people laughing at what a pathetic loser you shacked up with!” Eridan hissed as his increasingly frustrated partner tangled his hands into his hair.
“Oh my God, just stop! It’s a fucking fifty-cent fish, what does it even matter? We’ll just go get a new one tomorrow and it-“
“IT MATTERS TO ME!”
Sollux stopped, stymied by the pure rage and devastation in Eridan’s voice and blinking owlishly.
“He was my favorite... He was the first fish we bought together for the apartment and he was my favorite,” Eridan said in such a small, heartbroken voice what remained of Sollux's anger instantly diffused.
He closed his eyes and hung his head guiltily as he laid his hand over Eridan’s forehead.
“Oh… Yeah... I know... I know he was...” he whispered, stroking his fingers comfortingly through his hair, “He was a good one.”
Quibble effectively ended, they sat in their stew of weary emotional silence for a few moments. Eridan stared at the throw rug with his arms crossed over his chest while Sollux petted him dutifully and neither dared disturb their unspoken stalemate. He let his beloved have his pout while he looked back at the lovingly laid out fish and remembered the day they brought him home. Eridan had fussed endlessly about things he couldn’t have cared less about; the PH balance of the tank, the temperature, salt levels and making sure to float the pet store bags in the new aquarium to let all the fish slowly acclimate. He’d played xbox in his underwear on the couch and grinned constantly to himself over how utterly ridiculous and adorable he was being. Later when the tank was finished they had lit the whole thing up and turned all the other lights off in the apartment and eaten fancy vegetarian pizza in the ethereal blue glow on the floor. Eridan had been smiling and beaming with nearly paternal pride the entire time, and Sollux was hard pressed to recall a time he had looked more gorgeous.
“Hey...” Sollux whispered once his reverie had ended, “Hey, dipshit tell you what. How about this. I'll cook something special for you, we'll watch whatever you want on TV tonight and I won’t even bitch about it, and tomorrow we'll send him off into the great blue beyond like the hero and terror of the tank he was.”
He saw Eridan’s meticulously sculpted brow quirk with interest. His eyes cracked open narrowly and shifted upward in brooding consideration.
“Well…” he finally breathed, lifting his nose in the air, “Alright. Change the you cooking part to takeout and you have a plan.”
Sollux recalled with chagrin that his last attempt at cooking had resulted in a fire truck, a hoard of nosy neighbors outside their apartment, and a hefty chunk of change deducted from their security deposit for repairs.
“Oh…” he muttered coarsely, “Yeah, you're right. Chinese?”
Eridan nodded and finally sat up to dry his eyes and coif his always immaculate hair. He made sure to lob a half-hearted snark at Sollux for ruining it with his doting which he ignored with a relieved smirk as he placed their usual order to their favorite place. They splurged on a six pack of Eridan’s favorite pretentious private label beer to go along with their cardboard cuisine and watched Blue Planet amidst the ruins of kung pao chicken and shrimp fried rice until Eridan fell asleep in his lap. The following morning, Sollux called in a favor to take a later shift at work while Eridan called in sick all together and they took the morning to give Captain Ahab proper burial under the communal begonias in the fried rice takeout box.
Later, when Sollux returned from work, he hauled his still sulking boyfriend out to the nearest pet store to replace their fallen comrade. Unsurprisingly, Eridan spent nearly a full hour just staring into the tanks with haughty scrutiny before rejecting every single specimen and walking out in a huff. Sollux followed after him with a string of protests and an apology to the store clerk, but he would not be swayed. Every subsequent excursion to a pet store or specialty fish store ended in exactly the same way. Captain Ahab could not simply be replaced. Eridan eventually refused to even consider the idea or to go to back to the pet store at all, even though he still heaved a mournful sigh each time he tended to his remaining fish.
It nearly drove Sollux to the point of insanity, but on a whim a few days later a solution presented itself with smugness in its sheer simplicity. On his lunch break at work the programmer begrudgingly stormed out to the pet store on Eridan’s request to purchase a new canister of food and a new filter for the tank. While in the aquatics section and searching for the very specific items his lover had requested, he glanced ruefully over at the tanks of live fish with a scowl. Despite his anger, however, one particular lonely specimen caught his eye with a determined flick of tail fins and a flared set of defiant gills. A singular fish stood out among the rest, an angelfish, just as Captain Ahab had been, placed in his own enclosure alone away from all the rest of the fish and discounted, as he found out after inquiring, due to two cosmetic scars across his flank.
Without hesitation Sollux added the little orphan to his order and watched gleefully as the clerk scooped him into a bag for transport. When Eridan arrived home from work that evening, said bag awaited him beside the tank, tied off with an obnoxiously huge and sparkly purple ribbon. Sollux didn’t bother looking up from his intense round of Call of Duty, but grinned to himself as he heard and felt the angry footsteps behind the couch to the aquarium.
“Sol, who the fuck is this? What the hell did you do?” Eridan demanded.
Sollux still kept his eyes glued to the television screen, but granted the other the dignity of slipping one side of his headset off one ear and muting the microphone.
“Oh that? Well, I went to the pet store like you asked me to today, but while I was looking around I just so happened to see that guy. It was pretty pathetic. He was in this little net cage thing in the tank, all alone and separated, cheap because no one wanted him. Got a few battle scars you see. And I just COULDN’T leave him alone,” he told him, laying the dramatics on thick.
Eridan blinked behind his thick spectacles, his pinched expression softening a little.
“All alone…?” he queried.
“And battle scars, you say?”
“Pretty legit actually, check him out. Guy’s seen some things.”
Intrigued, Eridan turned back to the aquarium stand and gingerly picked up the bag. The scarred fish inside peered back at him, fins pumping vigorously, and darted about inside his plastic prison, churning the water in his throes for freedom. For the first time in the week since Captain Ahab’s untimely demise, his lips curled into a pleased grin. He gently removed the ribbon and the mesh lid of the tank, and gently lowered the bag into the water for the new member of his aquarium to assimilate into his new environment.
“I suppose I’ll have to call you Dualscar, then,” Eridan announced primly, “But we’ll see if you deserve the title of Captain later.”
His duty done, Eridan circled the couch and perched himself beside his engrossed lover, watching the carnage on the screen as he laid his head on his shoulder.
“You’re dyin’,” he commented with a snicker.
“I know,” Sollux replied, tongue pinched amusedly between his lips.
“You got the wrong kind of food, also. I’m not feedin’ that swill to potential Captain Dualscar.”
Sollux groaned and butted his head lovingly against his.
“You’re a pain in the ass.”
“Fine, let me die and we’ll walk to the store, it’s nice out,” Sollux acquiesced.
But Eridan would not wait for a spray of pixilated blood and the grotesque sounds of death. He slipped the headset off Sollux’s ears, slid his elegant fingers behind his neck and tugged him into a kiss. He returned it, more than happy to let the xbox controller slip from his fingers and his character die a horrible death on screen.
“Thank you,” Eridan whispered against his lips.
“You’re welcome. As long as you quit moping… I can’t take you dragging your lip all over the apartment anymore,” Sollux replied, nuzzling their foreheads together and kissing him again.
“I’ll drag my lip over whatever I damn well please as long as you keep gettin’ the food wrong,” he teased, only to get a playful finger over his lips.
“Please Eridan, let’s not argue in front of the new baby,” Sollux purred and hauled them both up from the couch.
He switched off his xbox, snatched both their jackets and tossed Eridan’s into his face with a grin. Together they exited their apartment and walked hand in hand down the street while Captain Dualscar waited anxiously for dinner in his new tank, lips gaping and eyes gazing down at his new followers who gathered around his bag with the blank-eyed reverence he deserved.