“Hey, Fred. Is, like, everything okay, man?”
They’re split evenly between hotel rooms, the way they usually are. Fred and Shaggy are sharing one room; Daphne and Velma are in the other. Scooby is already fast asleep on the bed he and Shaggy claimed for themselves when they’d checked in earlier that evening.
Fred, face smushed into his hands, doesn’t even bother to look up. “No,” he mumbles, so Shaggy takes it upon himself to wriggle carefully out of the blankets of his bed —without disturbing Scooby Doo, of course— and make his way to sit gingerly on Fred’s bed beside him.
“What’s wrong?” Besides, y’know… everything. Leaving our homes behind, even though they’re not our real homes anymore. Leaving our families that don’t even know the real us. Living in a world that’s just a little bit different and a little bit off from the one they’d left behind.
Fred sighs heavily. When he looks at Shaggy, there are bags visible under his eyes. “Mayor dad was never my dad here,” he says, like that’s enough information for Shaggy to go on.
It’s not, but it’s a start. “Like, you’re right. That’s…”
“Weird,” Fred finishes for him. He flops back on the bed suddenly, arms splayed out in frustration. “It’s weird, Shaggy. I’m not… I’m not Fred Jones, here.”
And… oh. That is weird. Because Fred is right. He’s not Fred Jones anymore, even if he technically is. Out of everyone’s lives that wound up changed because of the evil entity, Fred’s life was arguably changed the most.
“Brad Chiles and Judy Reeves,” Shaggy says quietly, trying to work it out, and Fred lets out a humourless laugh.
“Yeah. I’m Fred Chiles, here. I asked my pa— them to see my birth certificate before we left and everything.” Fred sits up again and drops his forehead down with a soft thud against Shaggy’s bony shoulder. “I don’t want to be Fred Chiles,” he whispers.
Shaggy slings one long, lanky arm around Fred’s back, pulling him in for a half-embrace. It’s a little awkward, the way they’re sitting, but Fred shifts and leans into the hold and it works. They make it work.
Just like they’ll make everything else work.
“It’s dumb,” Fred mumbles against Shaggy’s shirt. “I should be focused on all of us, and on getting to Miskatonic, and the mysteries we’re solving, but I keep thinking about how I’m not… how none of us are really who we used to be, but that we’re not the people we’re supposed to be here, either.”
“It’s not dumb, Freddie.” Shaggy shakes his head before resting his chin against top of Fred’s. He can feel his wispy chin whiskers catching against the blonde mop of Fred’s hair, but it doesn’t bother him, and Fred doesn’t say anything, so he doesn’t move. “We’re all, like, trying to cope.” He lets out a nervous little laugh. “It’s like you said, man: none of us are who we are, but we’re not, like, who we should be, either.”
“Yeah. I guess.” Fred pulls his head back after a moment, and Shaggy lets him go, dropping the arm from around him. “Thanks, Shag.”
Shaggy can see Fred trying to smile, can see the effort it takes for the expression, even when it doesn’t reach his eyes. So he tries to smile back. He’s sure it doesn’t look as real as he wants it to, but then again, he’s not sure that any of them have smiled a real smile since they’d awoken in this alternate dimension.
“We should get some sleep, man.”
Fred reaches up and places a hand on Shaggy’s shoulder. He squeezes gently before letting go again. “G’night,” he says, and Shaggy takes that as his cue to go back to his own bed.
“Night,” he replies. It doesn’t take him long to wiggle back under the blankets beside the softly-snoring Scooby Doo, who mumbles something incoherently and snuggles into his side. Shaggy cards his fingers through the short fur and sighs softly as Fred hits the lights. The room is bathed in darkness, with a soft glow of light coming from the street lamp outside the hotel window.
Ten minutes later, when Fred pads across the insurmountable distance between their beds and whispers a plea to join them, Shaggy wordlessly lifts the blankets in offering. There’s barely enough room in the bed for Shaggy and Scooby to sleep comfortably, so there’s really not enough room for two young men and their ridiculously large dog, but… they make it work.
They make it work, just like they make everything else work, and they fall asleep tangled in scratchy hotel blankets and smelling like unwashed dog.