Sometimes, being an elite was tiring.
There was so much pressure: Things built up. Tensions rose, challenges were accepted, losing was sometimes inevitable.
They’d all had their fair share of losses, some more than others. It didn’t make it any better though, not when you were collapsed on your back staring at the sky and wondering how exactly you lost.
The lights were dimmed to the point where they may as well have been shut off. The room was dark and cold. The bed had gone unused for so long, Aloha could practically feel cobwebs on it.
(It had only been about a week since the last time he’d used his own bed. Why use it, when Skull’s was so much more comfortable?)
Someone had strung up pineapple lights around his room before he’d abandoned it. He’d always hated pineapples. Even so, he’d clipped pictures to the lights. Selfies with his team. Selfies with his friends. Pictures of his boyfriends. Pictures of some weird sea cucumber that wouldn’t leave him alone. (Seriously, what was that things deal? It kept sitting outside his window. Maybe that was part of the reason he liked Skull’s room more than his own.)
His favorite picture was definitely the one of him and his team after their first battle with Blue Team. Straw and Snorkel were pressed shoulder-to-shoulder making peace signs, while Aloha and Octoglasses stood on their shoulders, hands clasped together above their heads. (He knew he shouldn’t pick favorites, but Octoglasses was definitely his best friend.)
Sitting there in the dark, Aloha couldn’t help but wonder why he was so upset. He couldn’t really remember. Maybe there wasn’t one reason? Maybe it was multiple? Maybe he’d never know why.
What was wrong with him? He didn’t have anything to be sad about. He had a great life. He was three cool boyfriends, three amazing teammates, one of which was his one true platonic soulmate, hell, he was even able to count Blue Team and Rider as friends at this point. He’d figured out how to surf, he’d mastered a .gal, and he was small enough to fit into all of his boyfriends’ clothing. Again, what could he possibly be so sad about?
The blankets were drawn up to his ears. His strap on his visor dug into the back of his head but he ignored it, pushing that one stray tentacle out of his face. His sneakers, still rainbow and clean as ever, remained on his feet, even with him swaddled in blankets.
There was no reason for him to be this sad.
The door creaked open and he winced, rolling over to face the wall. The lights turned brighter and he yanked the blankets up above his head.
Someone was saying something, was tugging on the blankets and he resisted, holding the blankets in place as best he could. His arms shook. When had he started crying?
Another voice joined in and together they managed to pry the blanket out of his grip.
“Aloha,” One of them said. Their voice sounded quiet and distorted. He couldn’t make out what they were saying.
One of them turned him over so he was facing them, and he blinked rapidly to stop the tears.
Army looked so sad, touching one hand against Aloha’s forehead. He was saying something and Aloha stared at his lips, desperate to know what he was saying. He couldn’t make it out.
Skull stood next to Army, hand warm against Aloha’s cheek. There was a touch of something in his eyes that Aloha couldn’t quite comprehend, but he was almost positive it was pity. Or maybe disappointment. Why can’t you be stronger, Aloha?
Why are they sad?
“-loha,” Skull was saying, hands warm as he cupped his cheeks. “Are you with us?”
Aloha wasn’t quite sure what the question meant. What had he said?
“— et Mask,” Someone was talking and someone was leaving, exiting the room and Aloha panicked because what if they both leave what if they’re going to leave him he’ll try and be stronger he can’t lose them too—
“Hey,” Skull’s voice was muffled for some reason, and not just because of the bandana. “Stop, stop..—“ Aloha couldn’t hear him, couldn’t hear him— “—upstairs.”
Aloha blinked at him, eyes wet as he stared at the purple-toned inkling, attempting to figure out what he was saying. “Upstairs?”
“Yeah,” Skull sounded relieved, moving closer to the bed to pull the blankets back. He squinted a bit. “Shoes.” He said with a sigh, slipping his arms underneath Aloha, lifting the smaller inkling off the bed with ease. “You got into bed with sneakers on.”
His voice was starting to lose its muffled edge, and Aloha was finally able to truly understand. “Yeah.” He whispered back, pressing his face into Skull’s chest. “‘M sorry.”
“It’s not that big a deal, don’t worry about it.” Skull said, slowly making his way up the stairs. “We’re just worried about you.”
Ah. Of course.
Why should they be worried? They shouldn’t be worried about him. Why was he so weak? He’d been able to handle this before, why not now too?
“Stop that,” Skull said, and Aloha was dropped onto a soft bed.
Smell. Scent. Comforting scents. He knew these scents. Army’s cinnamon and fresh paper, Skull’s chocolate and pine, Mask’s rain and oil.
Someone shifted him to he was underneath the blankets, and three warm bodies joined him.
The gas mask that Mask was so thoughtfully named after sat on the bedside table, and Skull’s bandana was loose around his neck.
Mask buried his nose in Aloha’s hair, breathing soft and steady as his eyes drifted shut, arms wrapped loosely around the pink-toned inklings stomach.
Army had his head tucked against Aloha’s shoulder, warmth radiating from his entire body, arms wrapped gently around Aloha’s chest.
Skull was the furthest away and he groped blindly for the tallest inkling, nerves prickling underneath his skin. Was Skull mad at him? Did he do something wrong?
And then Skull caught his hand and intertwined their fingers together, leaning forward slightly to press a soft kiss against their linked fingers.
“You aren’t alone,” Skull said softly, mindful of their sleeping boyfriends.
Aloha could feel Mask’s breath against the top of his head, could feel his hands against his own stomach. Could feel Army’s fingers tracing circles unconsciously against his back, could feel Skull’s lips on his knuckles.
“I know.” He answered honestly.
Maybe this wasn’t a cure. Maybe he would never be able to smile and really mean it ever again.
But damnit, his boyfriends worked so hard to make him feel loved. And it worked.
He knew they had a lot to talk about when they woke up again. He knew he wasn’t going to be able to weasel his way out of his one. Not this time. Not after all this.
But maybe.. Maybe that was okay. Maybe it was time to try and explain himself.
He may not know why he was so sad, but he could try and explain anyway. Explain the desolate feeling. Explain the isolation, the quiet, the sadness. He could try.
They would do anything for him.
Aloha would do anything for them, too.