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Stray No More

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The first thing that passes through Stretch’s mind as he wakes up is huh, i don’t remember changing my alarm to sound like a crying cat. weird

Yeah, needless to say, not his most intelligent thought, but hey, give him a break: considering that he lives in a ‘no pets allowed’ complex, it wasn’t the most far fetched assumption he could have made.

Still too asleep to deal with this mystery, Stretch pulls on his nearest hoodie and goes to investigate. His bones creak in protest at moving so suddenly, especially after a night spent snoozing on the couch. Stars, he has really got to stop doing that to himself. Stumbling blearily through his home, he manages some creative attempts at profanity when he inevitably stubs his toe. 

Finally, he makes it to his front door, only to remember that he could have shortcutted across the room instead. Whoops. Next time, maybe. Stretch takes a second to double check that he is decent enough so that he won’t traumatise any passersby, then opens the door.

“oh shit!”

Well, at least he can say he was right about it being a crying cat. So, kudos to him, he guesses.

What matters now, though, is trying to figure out what to do with his loud little guest.

The cat seems pretty tiny, small enough to fit easily in his hand. Too small, actually, not that Stretch is a good judge of that. But from what little he does know, he shouldn’t be seeing the thing’s ribs through its fur, matted as hell and the indiscernible greyish-brown of filth. Stretch feels a burst of anger against the cat’s owner, until he notices an important detail: no collar. Most likely, it is a stray.

What really seems concerning, though, is the large trickling of blood coming from its back leg.

“let’s get a look at that,” he says, kneeling down. The cat just yowls at him, swiping a small paw defensively from its curled up position. “it’s okay,” he croons softly, “i’m gonna help you.” Whether or not the animal understands him is debatable, but it at least lets him get nearer.

Yeah, this doesn’t look good. Not at all.

One quick google search later, he carefully wraps up the cat in a spare blanket to prevent it from worsening the injury and places it in a small bin for transport. He earns a few more high pitched, plaintive mewls in response.

The slight, lingering odour of wet dog and disinfectant hits him the moment he enters the nearest vet clinic. “hello,” he calls out as the door closes behind him, glancing around at the empty room. “anyone here?”

“Just a minute,” someone — presumably an employee — responds from behind a closed door.

While he waits, Stretch wanders around the waiting room, reading the various posters decorating the walls. Bright and cheery, most remind pet owners to make sure that their animals are up-to-date with their immunizations. Halfway through an extremely detailed poster regarding Lyme disease in dogs, he hears a door open and close behind him. 

“Sorry to keep you waiting; our receptionist is out today. How can I help you?”

Slowly, so that he doesn't freak out the poor cat, he turns to the front desk. There, a skeleton in dark blue scrubs stands, shuffling around some papers.

A tall, ruggedly attractive skeleton in dark blue scrubs.

Focus!

Making his way to the front desk, he says, “i, uh, found this cat.” On cue, another small cry sounds from the bin. He lifts it up so that the other skeleton can take a better look.

His expression rapidly shifts to a sharp frown, pointed teeth making him look menacing. “Did you bother looking for the mother or for a litter before coming here?”

“no, i didn’t have the time. i’ve never really seen many strays in the area, though. why?”

Unwrapping the blanket, red eye lights burn like coals as he examines the cat more carefully. “I could be wrong,” he admits, although an undercurrent of anger is present in his voice, “but he barely looks old enough to be weaned. May I?”

Stretch hands over the box. “of course.”

“Excellent. Now, if you’ll follow me, we’ll bring this little one over for the vet to take a look at.” Promptly, he collects a handful of papers and leads Stretch to an examination room.

From there, the vet, a yellow lizard monster, takes over. The skeleton — who she refers to only as ‘assistant’ in her hurry — helps Stretch fill out the various pages of paperwork between his other tasks. 

“H-he will n-need to get shots,” the vet, Doctor something or other, informs Stretch.

He pauses in his writing. “okay?”

The assistant, busy with bathing away layer upon layer of dirt from the stray’s coat, clarifies, “She’s wondering if you’ll be paying.”

“oh.” 

The thing is, even without them paying the price, Stretch knows without a doubt that this will be super expensive. The cat truly seems to be a stray; no microchip was found to identify him as belonging to someone, yet his behaviour shows signs that he was domesticated at one point. Abandoned, the vet had concluded, at an extremely young age.

Beyond all the vaccines, there is the other medical care needed for the cat. Not neutering. Or, at least, not yet: the kitten is still too young. The cut on his leg, however, is deep and ragged, requiring stitches once he is clean enough to suture. The vet's assistant already noted that it looks infected, too. That will probably require some antibiotics. And those are just the things he knows of.

If he was able to keep the cat, this probably wouldn’t be too big of a deal. Sure, it might hurt his bank account for the next few months, but he could suck it up. 

However, that simply isn’t the case. There is no way his landlord will let Stretch keep him. Hell, he remembers hearing about the time his neighbour got busted for having a pet goldfish, of all things!

Of course, at the peak of his uncertainty, the little thing, fur fluffed up from being toweled, just gives him this look. Eyes wide and dilated, it reminds him of the hopeful look his brother used to give him when he wanted something. Ridiculous, he knows, but how can he argue with that?

“yeah,” he exhales, “i’ll pay. for anything he needs.”

Without pause, the vet says, “Good. N-now, assistant, hold him still.” He nods, moving quickly.

Stretch forces himself to turn away the moment the large, gloved hands restrain the kitten. His small cries increase in both volume and frequency.

“You can step outside, if you want. We’ll be done soon.”

“thanks.” Without a second thought, Stretch takes advantage of the offer.

Despite the wall separating him from everything, he swears he can still hear the pained vocalizations. His imagination paints a soul-rending scene. Scared and confused, surrounded by strange monsters who are getting up close to where he is hurt… he would be freaking out too.

Needles… so many needles… the Doctor says that bone is harder to pierce, which is why he needs to use the big ones. He hates it so much, but it's better that than his soul...

With a sigh, he settles onto one of the many uncomfortable chairs near the window and takes out his phone. He had better start looking into shelters for the little guy to go to. 

 


 

The assistant returns in a few minutes, carrying what looks like a cardboard purse. Or a giant takeout box with holes.

“Here you go," he says, handing it over. Up close, he can see the hint of a tiny pink nose through one of the holes. "Be careful; he’s sleeping.”

Stretch nods, making sure not to jostle the container. “okay.” Still seated, he opens the lid. “oh! did you switch cats on me?”

This animal looks nothing like the stray he had found on his doorstep this morning! His fur is glossy and thick other than the spot on his upper leg, shaved clean and neatly stitched. Now, he can actually tell that the cat is light grey in colour, nearly white. 

The assistant’s mouth twitches upwards, eye lights twinkling in amusement. “No, I can assure you that this is the same cat.”

“can i pet him?” 

“Yes. Just be mindful of his rear end, where he received his shots.”

“gotcha.” Gently, he strokes that soft fur. 

Stars, it’s going to be hard to give him up.

The other skeleton coughs once, catching Stretch’s attention. “Do you need me to go over supplies with you, or should I proceed to care instructions?”

Stretch raises his brow. “what do you mean, ‘supplies?’”

“You brought him here in a plastic box. I’m assuming, therefore, that you aren’t a cat owner, which means that you will need things to take care of him.”

“but i’m not going to take care of him!” He can’t.

“Well, you can’t leave him here. We don’t have the facilities.”

“i know that,” Stretch snaps. The kitten startles awake. He hisses, baring his pointy little teeth. Stretch moves his hand away for now. Even if they are small, he would rather not find out what those teeth feel like biting down on his fingers. “i was planning on bringing him to a shelter, but the only one i can find that isn’t full…” He trails off, unwilling to complete his sentence.

He doesn't need to, however, as the assistant finishes, “Is the one that euthanizes if they can’t find a home right away. I see. Then what?”

“that’s a good fucking question, isn’t it?”

“Could you foster him for a bit?”

“no, i can’t.” The assistant opens his mouth to say something, but Stretch doesn’t give him the chance. Like hell is he going to be judged for something out of his control. “look here, i would love to give this little guy a home, so you can shut it. when i say i can’t, it’s because i really can’t. sorry for renting from a buzzkill of a dude who won’t let me take home a furry little friend. kinda out of my control, you know.” 

He takes a deep breath, only to pause. The vet’s assistant is just standing there impassively, hands held loosely behind his back. Taking it all in without complaint.

A sheepish flush colours Stretch's cheekbones. “sorry. you, uh, probably didn’t come to work to deal with my personal shit, huh?”

“No,” he agrees, “but I’m still getting paid.”

“i guess.” Moving slowly, he returns his hand to the inside of the carrier. When the cat doesn’t react, he tries petting again. 

The assistant is still there, but he isn’t saying anything. He isn’t doing anything either; he is just staring at Stretch and the kitten with those bright red eye lights. 

And staring. 

And staring.

And… okay, this is starting to get pretty uncomfortable. 

Then, just before Stretch decides to book it, payments be damned, the other finally says something. “How long,” he whispers with that sexy gravelly voice, “until your rent contract is up?” 

Never mind; he is back in uncomfortable territory. “why?” Stretch asks slowly. As of last time he checked, that is none of his business.

“Nothing sinister.” Yeah, because that is exactly what someone who is planning something sinister would say. “Just tell me.”

Well, what is the worst thing that can happen? It isn’t like he is telling him where he lives. Not that it would make any difference; if the guy really wanted to find out, all he would have to do is read the paperwork he signed. “this week, actually.”

Without missing a beat, the assistant continues, “Do you have a place you could go this week where you can bring the kitten along with you?”

“i mean, there’s my bro’s place, but—”

“Good. Now, my boss can’t know about this. She used to work in the research and general practitioner sides of medicine, and is very strict about conflicts of interest.” 

Stretch stifles a laugh. The way he is talking, this sounds like some kind of secret agent, life or death situation. “okay?”

“I’m aware that this is unconventional, but I’ve been looking for a roommate, and my place is pet-friendly. What do you think?”

What does Stretch think? 

Well, first off, he thinks that his current landlord is an asshole. It has been three months and he still hasn’t gotten someone in to fix the hot water tank. Stretch would try calling (or texting, or emailing, or…) again, but there honestly isn’t a point; he never responds to anything. Ignoring that, Jerry is just a jerk in general. On the odd time that he has had to pay his rent in person instead of online, Stretch ended up getting caught as Jerry complained over the phone about everything. Never has he ever felt so sorry for a telemarketer. Plus, his landlord always smells of an awful combination of mouldy cheese, football locker room and garbage.

Glancing down at the kitten, who is starting to purr, he decides that, eh, it may be a huge risk, but he could probably do worse.

“why not? do i get to know your name, or do i just call you roomie?”

That earns a small smile. “You can call me Edge. I’d ask for your name,” he says, pointing to a line near the top of the paperwork he had filled in, “however, I already know.”

“well, good to know that we’ve got the basics out of the way.”

“Not quite." Pointing inside the crate, he explains, "This little one still needs a name.”

“doomfanger.”

“I’m sorry?”

“his name is doomfanger. i mean, take a look at these little chompers! so scary! so fierce! so doomy! it’s the perfect name!”

Edge shakes his head, muttering as he adds that to the file in his sharp handwriting. “I can’t believe I’m going to be the owner of a cat named Doomfanger, of all things!”

“co-owner,” Stretch corrects with a grin. “besides, it’ll grow on you.”

He snorts skeptically. “I hope not.”

Oh yeah, living with Edge is going to be interesting.

Chapter Text

Humming to himself, Blue unlocks his door. Ah, there is nothing like a fulfilling day of work, as cliché as that may sound. 

He pauses, though, when he walks in to see all the lights turned on. That is mildly concerning, to say the least. Blue is at least ninety-seven percent sure that he turned those off before heading to the school this morning, as he does every day. Moving cautiously, he continues to make his way to the living room. Is the television also on? Face scrunched in concentration, he stops to listen. Sure enough, his brother’s favourite show plays quietly in the background.

Interesting.

Turning the last corner, it is clear that Papy is curled up on the couch. Nothing too odd there, he supposes; it wouldn’t be the first time that he has shown up out of the blue to visit. To be honest, Blue wishes he would do it more often, even if it would be a lot nicer to receive some warning so he can do any last minute grocery shopping if needed.

His attention, however isn’t so much on his brother as it is the small ball of fur curled up on his lap. That. That is certainly new.

“Uh, brother?” Blue asks slowly, setting down his keys. “Is… is everything okay?”

Papy tilts his skull up, grinning widely. “yeah. hey, do you have any can openers?”

“Yes?” Blue answers, feeling somewhat puzzled. Why wouldn’t he have a can opener? In fact, he knows for a fact that even Papy should have one of his own, unless it got lost in the abyss that is that one drawer in his kitchen, which is all too possible. Or worst yet, lost in yet another trash tornado.

“great! can you, uh, go get it? i would, but—” he gestures to the ball of fur, “—i’m kinda stuck here with doomfanger. plus, i wouldn’t know where to find it.”

Still bewildered at this development (why Doomfanger, of all things?), Blue replies, “The kitchen would be a good place to start.”

“yeah bro, but i know better than to mess with that.” Yes, that he does. After what happened during last year’s short-lived prank war, he should remember well. “please? he’s hungry.” 

Blue sighs. His brother knows he can’t say no to anyone needing food. “Fine. But you’re telling me where your little guest came from once I return,” he adds sternly.

“can do!”

As soon as he turns on the oven to preheat and grabs some veggies to snack on in the meantime, Blue returns with a can opener, passing it over to his brother. Papy takes something out of his inventory — probably cat food, now that he thinks about it — and gives him a sheepish smile.

"whoops. i guess i wasn’t paying attention when i bought this stuff. my bad.” Blue shakes his head slightly while Papy struggles with pulling up the tab to open the can. The crisp crack of the lid being peeled up blocks out the car commercial playing in the background. Stars, does that stuff ever reek! Resisting the urge to cover his nasal cavity with his sleeve, he watches silently as his brother tries to coax the cat into eating. It doesn’t work. The small feline just stares wide-eyed and unmoving, as though unsure of what to do with it.

“Is it okay?”

“yeah. or, i think he is, at least. the vet said some cats have a decreased appetite after being immunised. besides,” he croons, gently stroking its — or his, apparently — fur. Taking a closer look, Blue notices the perfect square of exposed skin around a long row of stitches. “someone’s had a long, exciting day.”

“Feel like telling me about this long, exciting day?” Blue prompts, sitting down on his reading chair.

“right!” Moving slowly, he places the can of food by his feet. “well, it all started when i woke up this morning…”

As his brother recounts the story, all he can do is smile and nod in response, despite all of his concerns. 

This is such an impulsive decision! Yes, Blue is glad that he didn’t just leave the small kitten outside and wounded. And yes, he supposes he would do the same thing, if there wasn’t anywhere else for the cat to go. 

But what does Papy even know about taking care of a pet? Especially a young, injured one! Half the time, it seems like he can barely remember to take care of himself. Too many times has Blue gone over to visit, only to find the house in complete disarray, fridge empty of everything save for some flat soda and a half eaten sandwich.

Then again, perhaps the responsibility will help Papy. Give him something to care for. After all, he did well when he was raising Blue, didn’t he? Sure, meals were never fancy, but they kept him well-fed throughout school. Papy was the one who helped tutor him through his tougher classes, even when he was working countless part time jobs of his own. He made him those customised superhero costumes out of old scraps, so he could truly be the Magnificent Blue. In the back of his closet, he still cherishes that very first outfit, now too small and ragged from overuse, the fabric faded from the vibrant colour of his namesake to a dingy grey.

Most importantly, he loved Blue, and Blue loved him back. He always will.

Although, it still bothers him how young his brother was, taking care of Blue alone. It doesn’t make sense; yes, he is older than him, but not that much older. Shouldn’t there have been someone else?

Papy doesn’t like to talk about when they were little, especially their parents — or more precisely, their lack thereof. As far as he is concerned, it has just been the two of them, living happily as brothers. Blue doesn’t like it, not at all, but he respects it. Even though, professionally speaking, it raises so many questions. Questions that Blue just can’t remember the answers to.

It doesn’t matter, though. Not right now. His point is, Papy always was better at taking care of himself when he also had to take care of someone else. This could be a good thing. 

Stars, he hopes that this will be a good thing.

“oh,” Papy exclaims with his mouth full of partial chewed carrot sticks, much to Blue’s disgust and dismay, “i almost forgot to tell you. i’ve got a roommate!”

“How?”

His brow furrows, clearly confused. “whaddya mean, ‘how?’”

How can he say this nicely? Blue remembers the state of the tiny building the last time he visited, on the verge of falling apart. Supposedly, the glass windows were duct taped together because of hail damage, but that doesn’t take away the fact that his windows were taped together! He remembers walking carefully through the narrow walkways, struggling only partially because of his brother’s clutter but mostly because of how small they were to begin with. How, when seated upon the toilet, he was simultaneously able to wash his hands in the leaky sink, flip the light switch and open the mouldering shower curtain. There isn’t even another functional bedroom for a roommate to live in, unless they were to sleep on the couch.

Eventually, he decides bluntness is probably the way to go. “You know why. Where are they supposed to live?”

His brother gives him an amused look, brow bone raised, as though he is the one being ridiculous right now. “at his house. i’m moving.”

“Oh.” That is all he can say.

Deep down, Blue knows that he is happy about the news. It’s about time, after all, that he finally leaves that awful place. Yet, there is a pang of sadness that he feels all the way to his soul. Selfish sadness that Papy would take this other person’s offer to live with them but not Blue’s. He pushes the feeling away. This is about his brother, not him. “tell me about them.” Maybe, this can help give him an idea of what kind of casseroles to make as a housewarming gift. Preferably something with some hidden vegetables and extra calcium for his brother. Goodness knows he could do with some extra nutrition.

He smiles, a real one filled with a dreamy quality. It makes him wonder if there is something else his brother has been keeping from him. “well, he’s a skeleton.”

Good; he can make sure there is lots of milk in the casserole, then. “and…?”

“and he’s tall.”

“What else?” 

“fuck, bro, he’s really hot, in that bad boy kinda way.” Ah, that would explain a lot, then. “he’s got this huge scar on his face, right here,” he says, drawing a line over his eye socket with his finger, “which only adds to the effect. and his eye lights…” He shivers. “wowie.”

“Someone’s got a crush,” Blue singsongs teasingly, some of his sadness already lifting away.

“no. well, maybe. we’ll see.”

“Uh huh.” Blue grabs a floret of broccoli, dipping it into some ranch. Before taking a bite, he asks, “Does the future roommate have a name?”

“yeah, it’s edge. did i tell you he’s good with animals?”

“No, brother, you didn’t.”

“well, he is. that’s actually how we met.” He pauses, eye lights bright as he follows the cat, who has unfurled himself. Gingerly, he wanders off of Papy’s lap. Back and forth and back and forth, the kitten paces, looking over the ledge before finally jumping. His brother releases a breath, which he had probably been holding ever since his new pet started moving. When Doomfanger (stars, why did Papy give him that as a name?) starts sniffing at the can of food, he continues, “edge was the vet assistant when i took this little guy in. he needs a roomie, i need a new place to live that isn’t a complete and utter hellhole and doomfanger needs a loving home, so it works out great for everyone!”

“Brother!”

“well, i should probably get packing, bro. need to move out this week, and all.” He stands up, stretching until the magic holding his joints together crackles and pops loudly. Doomfanger’s fur bristles momentarily at the disturbance, flattening down as he decides it isn’t a threat worth worrying about. “mind if i leave doomfanger with you real quick? thanks,” he says, not giving Blue a chance to respond, “you’re the greatest!”

“Papy!” He tries one more time, only to sigh in disappointment. “And he’s gone.” He grabs the plate of veggies, side stepping around the cat, who is nibbling away at his food. Good. His brother will be glad to hear that. “Well,” he announces to the mostly empty room, “I should probably get working on supper, shouldn’t I?”

Naturally, he doesn’t receive any response.

Placing the chicken that he had had marinating since last night into the oven, he starts peeling potatoes.

He can’t believe Papy would walk into such an important decision with so little thought! Of all the foolish, reckless things he could do, with absolutely no regard for his own safety! One would think that after years of warning a younger Blue about the stranger danger and trusting blindly in people, he would follow his own advice. But no. Instead, he goes and accepts the first offer he receives.

He reaches into the bag of potatoes again, only to fumble around, not finding anything. To the side, a mountainous stack of peeled spuds stands as testament to his frustrated peeling, far more than he needs to make mashed potatoes for two people.

Well, then. 

It looks like the casserole he will be making for Edge and Papy is going to be potato based.

By the time he finishes making supper, his brother still hasn’t returned. He covers everything to keep it as warm as possible before sitting down to read for a few minutes. Might as well relax a bit before supper, he supposes. Goodness knows he has a lot of not exactly pleasant things he needs to discuss.

Book in hand, Blue is about to hop onto the couch, only to freeze, noticing the cat grooming his paws at the absolute last second. He serves as a living and breathing reminder of the upcoming changes in his brother’s life.

Voice wavering ever so slightly, Blue asks, “You’ll help keep him safe, won't you?” 

Doomfanger’s answer doesn’t inspire much confidence, needless to say. With a small mewl, he leaps off the couch and scrambles under it. He remains there until Papy comes back, cowering in the dark.

Chapter Text

So…

The thing is, Stretch may not have thought this whole roommate thing all the way through.

Sure, it is nice not having to deal with Jerry anymore. And there are some other, obvious advantages. Having access to a washer and dryer in house that doesn’t require any coins to operate certainly comes to mind.

But Edge… it’s like him and Stretch are from two completely different universes! 

In Edge’s universe, it seems that nuclear disaster will strike down if the house isn’t one hundred percent spotless, one hundred percent of the time. Sure, Stretch can admit that he isn’t exactly the neatest person out there. In fact, he is a bit of a slob; he can own up to it. Goodness knows he used to drive Blue a little crazy because of his tendency to leave little knickknacks everywhere, or to forget to wash the dishes sometimes. 

But Edge, he takes the whole cleanliness thing to a whole other level. He means, the fucker makes chore charts, for crying out loud! Who does that kind of shit? … Well, okay, his brother did — and probably still does, to be honest — but that’s beside the point! The point is, Stretch doesn’t want to be told to disinfect the tv remote every other Wednesday, or to attack the small groove between the chrome of the faucet and the rest of the sink with an over glorified toothbrush each Saturday morning. That is prime sleeping-in time, thank you very much. And angel forbid he make himself some Kraft Dinner at two in the morning and forget to wash the dishes before going to bed like a responsible adult!

One nice thing he can say about living with Edge is that he isn’t passive aggressive about things that bug him. That can easily get annoying. No, instead, he is just aggressively vocal about his opinions. Like the time Stretch decided to make him a nice, hot beverage. He had been on the couch when the guy came storming in from work. Obviously, it had been a bad day; behaviour aside, there were ragged tears in his scrubs. So, Stretch had decided to do the decent thing and offer Edge some tea. He has seen the one cupboard in the kitchen, filled to the brim with different flavours. In theory, anyone who owns that much tea is sure to appreciate someone making some for him when he is feeling down.

Yeah, that theory was proved wrong the second he stepped back into the living room. Apparently, stirring iced tea powder into a cup of water that was heated in the microwave is "a lazy abomination and most certainly not tea". Stretch would beg to differ — iced tea straight up has tea in the name, and the microwave got it just as hot as the kettle would have — but that really wasn't the hill he wants to die on. And now that he knows about Edge's LV, he doesn't want to risk his life over differing opinions over hot beverages.

Oh yeah, that's also a thing Stretch has learned since moving in. Edge has LV. A lot. Too much, in his opinion. 

As for why he didn't bother Checking him before agreeing to become roommates… well, Stretch can only think of so much when he has cute little kitty eyes begging him to say yes. In fact, he didn't think about it until after he had already been there for about a week. For some reason, it completely escaped his mind until one morning when he was making himself coffee. Okay, it wasn't really morning; he missed the official cutoff by about seven minutes, but it was the weekend. Edge was also in the kitchen, chopping up tomatoes for a salad. To this day, Stretch considers himself lucky that he didn't have to dodge the knife when Edge felt the prickle of magic. 

13 LV. 

3543 EXP. 

It should have been obvious. All the signs were there. The sharp, pointed teeth. The quick temper. The blood red, burning eye lights. All rumoured to be signs that a monster has fallen to the evil that is LV. 

Stretch wants to be disgusted and terrified. If he has even the slightest bit of self-preservation, he should be. Edge has killed people, for fuck’s sake! That much LV isn’t something that one can simply gain all willy-nilly. That requires some grade A mass murderings. Stretch needs to wake up with his roomie holding a weapon above him just as much as he needs a hole in the head. And, to make things clear, just in case the hypothetical manner of homicide is stabbing through his skull, he doesn’t need either of those things in the slightest!

Absolutely no one can have that much LV and not be a complete demon.

Then again, the Doctor had absolutely no LV, yet he was nothing but a demon. Sure, he was good at pretending he was an upstanding monster, but both him and Stretch knew that was a blatant illusion.

But then, Edge does these things. These things that just make it too hard to hate him completely. He honestly can’t stand it. Like now, as Stretch watches Edge kneeling on the carpet to scritch Doomfanger behind the ears, cooing to the kitten since he doesn’t realise he is being watched.

Okay, fine; those bone tight leather pants he is currently wearing don’t hurt either. Hubba hubba.

Leaning against the door frame, Stretch calls out, “what’s going on tonight?”

Immediately, he straightens up. “Nothing!” Edge exclaims as Doomfanger tilts his head up plaintively. Then again, he has looked plaintive since the first moment the big, mean cone of shame was placed around his neck.

And all right, fine. Edge may still be a mega killer, but the guy just reacted like a teen whose mom caught him watching naughty videos online. That shit is hilarious.

Moving closer, Stretch is able to notice how the spice of his magic seems stronger than normal. In a totally good and embarrassingly mouthwatering kind of way. Not to say that Edge usually reeks or anything. Quite the opposite, actually. It’s just… well… 

Stretch finds the constant, lingering smell of antiseptics to be… disconcerting

This, however, is quite the opposite. Very enticing. Even the fishiness of Doomfanger’s treats can’t overpower it as Edge dangles a few midair in order to coax him closer.

"then what's with the fancy pants, if nothing's going on?" Not that Stretch is complaining. No siree. 

With Doomfanger nice and close, Edge starts checking on the progress of his healing. For the first two weeks or so, it is supposedly a ritual to be repeated each morning and evening, making sure the wound on his leg wasn’t getting infected. Stretch takes Edge’s word for it; it is literally his job to know. As a reward for sitting through it without nipping too much at Edge's phalanges, the kitty gets another treat. Only when that is done does his roommate answer.

"My… friend," he says, as though searching for the word, "is insistent we go out tonight. She says it's been too long since we’ve gone out drinking or anything, just the two of us."

A stab of disappointment runs through Stretch’s soul, deep and burning. It doesn’t take much to read behind the lines of those few sentences. His ‘friend’. ‘Just the two of us’. The nice clothing. Hell, even the secrecy. It is so obvious, damn it.

Edge is going out with his girlfriend. 

Of course he has a girlfriend. Regardless of his LV, Edge is a very attractive monster. He has a steady job, where he works to help animals. As irritating as his obsessive cleanliness is to live with, it probably counts as another positive. All in all, he seems like a pretty great catch.

Averting his eyes — it is only right to stop ogling at someone who is in a committed relationship, after all — Stretch says, “well, have fun. with her. i’ll just be here with the doom-meister.” Alone. On a Friday night, the best time to go out and have some fun and maybe mess around with someone he is attracted to. Instead, it is just going to be him trying to shove down any feelings he may have for the other. Joy of all joys. Hopefully, he will be successful. Realistically speaking, though, it probably isn’t going to happen any time soon.

“I’ll do my best,” Edge replies with a smirk, unintentionally rubbing salt and hydrochloric acid into a newly developed wound. “Will you be okay to make your own supper tonight?”

Great. Now he is showing concern for him, like Stretch is one of the helpless little animals he helps at the clinic. With only the slightest trace of bitterness, he says, “yeah, i’ll manage. go on and enjoy yourself. carpe that diem and all that jazz.”

“I can trust that Dyne will make sure of that.” Edge stands up, brushing the cat fur off his tight pants. Clearly, he has a special gift, because unlike when Stretch tries and only manages to shift the position of each strand by a millimetre, he successfully removes all of it in just a few swipes of his hands. That, or leather is truly more magical of a fabric than he had realised, and not just because of the effect it has on Edge’s pelvis. Which he isn’t supposed to be looking at. Shit. “Don’t forget that it’s your turn to take out the recycling.”

“got it.”

Satisfied, Edge nods and leaves. Seriously; no goodbye or anything, only him putting on a pair of boots and grabbing his keys before he is out the door.

“well, doomy, i guess it’s just you and me. let’s get you some chicken supreme and i can figure out what i’m having.” Obediently, Doomfanger follows behind, only hitting his cone on the edge of the doorway once. Good for him. Only a few days ago, he would have rehit it a few more times before figuring it out or giving up to cry until someone helped him out. Stupid little fluffball. 

Then again, all it would take was a few cries for Stretch to come shortcutting over, so who is the real fool here?

Both of them. Both of them are fools; Stretch for being so quickly wrapped around Doomfanger’s little paw and Doomfanger for repetitively getting stuck behind the couch because he doesn’t realise how much space the cone of shame takes up when he tries to go fly hunting.

As always, the kitchen is spotless. There are high budget cooking shows who would be envious of the layout of Edge’s kitchen. Everything gleams, giving off an air of newness, and is organised according to ease, efficiency and safety. Hanging on the wall under some cupboards, for example, knives are painstakingly arranged by size and by type; the only reason he knows that second part is because Edge gave him the full walk-through the day after he moved in. Stretch easily reaches up to the second shelf from the top, where Edge had made a specific spot for Doomfanger’s food.

The sound of that specific cupboard opening is all it takes for Doomfanger to start doing figure eights around his legs, meowing impatiently. “yeah, gimme a minute,” Stretch laughs as he is guided towards the food dish. “i don’t think you’d be very happy with me if i just left the can unopened.” With an indignant nudge to his left ankle, Doomfanger makes it clear that it is clearly the end of the world that he isn’t eating at this exact second. Such a bossy little thing, he is. 

Clearly, Doomy takes after his other dad in more ways than just the sharp teeth.

Belly full, the kitten wanders over to the table, where a sunbeam brightly shines. Stretch gets it: napping comfortably after a filling meal is always a good plan.

Shoving the can’s remains into the fridge, Stretch considers his options for his own supper, something he has already gotten used to not having to do. This whole getting free supper, no effort needed thing is a serious gift. 

Thank you, Edge.

That was certainly a pleasant surprise, the day that Edge had nearly banged through his bedroom door. Instinctively, he almost yelled at him to knock it off; he was trying to get some work done so he can contribute to paying the rent, thanks. However, he had just clocked out for the day, which meant he had no valid excuse to complain about the intense knocking other than the fact that it was annoying and he just wanted to fuck around on the internet for a bit, maybe take a quick nap. 

“what?” Stretch had snapped, throwing the door open.

Unfazed by his obvious irritation, Edge asked, “Do you have any dietary restrictions?”

“No…” he said hesitantly, curious to find out the context was. And the urgency, for that matter.

Satisfied with his answer, Edge nods. “Good. Supper will be ready in an hour, then.”

He was gone before Stretch could even respond with a puzzled “okay?” The guy really likes his abrupt exits, it seems.

As for why Edge decided to take over cooking supper, that is all he knows; no other explanation was given. Since then, every day at precisely six o’clock, he gets two firm raps on his door, announcing that food is ready. After the third day in a row, he decided not to question it. Don’t look a gyftrot in the mouth and all.

Maybe Edge just hates making food for only one person. That is completely understandable. After all, most recipes Stretch has discovered over the years are meant for either two or four people. This allows him to follow the recipe (because seriously, how are you supposed to use only half an egg? It just doesn’t work) without living on the leftovers for the next week and a half.

More likely, though, is that he is annoyed with the results of Stretch’s own cooking. Also valid; Blue used to say he could set water on fire, which was proven to be correct on one, debatably two occasions. 

Again, Stretch doesn’t care much about the reason. As long as Edge doesn’t try to up his LV some more by poisoning him, it’s all good. It just means that, to make things fair, he does the dishes for supper each night. He would rather do that than cook any day, though, so it works out.

Tonight, though… Stretch scowls at the fridge. The only leftovers in existence are the cat’s food, and he isn’t that desperate. He could always order in. That counts as managing on his own, right? It would be better than anything he could make, in any case. 

Mind made up, he sits down and orders some pizza. And, what the hell, might as well tack on some dessert and break out the honey. All the better to wallow around in the chaos that is his feelings for his new roomie.

Chapter Text

Lighter in hand, Stretch wanders from his bedroom to the front door. The song of the nicotine is luring him in, but the damp and drizzly weather is telling him it would be better to put on some actual shoes before going outside to smoke.

Well, at least that’s the plan. He kind of gets thrown off by Doomfanger’s loud, squeaky mews and the unfamiliar “the fuck?” that follows.

Ignoring the mystery voice that most certainly does not belong to Edge, Stretch has no idea why Doomy would be so vocal right now. It isn’t anywhere near meal time, so it isn’t him complaining to be fed. Or, at least, it shouldn’t be. He doesn’t sound like he is in pain either. If anything, it is a happy sound, almost like when Edge had finally removed the nom shield, as Stretch had taken to calling the cone of shame. He is so glad he got the whole thing on camera.

Curiosity quickly gets the better of him as mystery voice pipes up again. "what kinda overgrown rat is this?"

Rude. Stretch shuffles over to the kitchen a little faster, thoughts about defending Doomfanger's honour swirling about his mind. No one gets to talk about his fur son like that!

Crouching on the dark area rug Edge bought so Doomfanger can relax more comfortably at his favourite place in the kitchen, the kitten wiggles his bum, ready to pounce. The target of his playful energy isn’t the legs of the kitchen table for once — thank fuck — but rather the exposed tibia of the skeleton facing up against him. A skeleton who is most certainly not Edge, despite the similarly dark clothes, shark-like teeth and red eye lights.

This time, he doesn’t hesitate when he sees the sharp features; Stretch Checks the intruder.

* RED

* LV 7

* HP 6/6

* ATK 1   DEF 1

* Watch out.

Before Stretch can process what that means, there is a sharp tug on his soul. The familiar pressure of gravity magic pushes him back. Hard. 

“well, looky here,” Red says, grinning fiercely. “seems like the boss adopted more than one stray.”

Bristling at the comment, Stretch struggles to readjust his own gravity. It is like trying to push through waist-high, packed down snow in the middle of a blizzard with wind blowing against him; difficult, uncomfortable, heavy. But, with enough effort and sheer stubbornness, still doable. Slowly, he manages to step in front of Doomfanger, who is still chirping, oblivious to the tension and magic in the air.

Using more than his fair share of swagger, Red looks him up and down. Not a true Check, but it might as well be. He chuckles lowly. “huh. didn’t know my bro had a boy toy.” Now, Stretch can feel the prickly wash of magic assessing him. “awful fragile, ain’tcha?”

Partially from anger, partially from embarrassment, Stretch can feel his cheeks burning bright. “fuck you, buddy.” 

Besides, doesn’t Edge have a girlfriend? This other guy, if he really is Edge’s brother like he says he is, should know that. Then again, it could be an open relationship, for all he knows.

“eh, thanks for the offer, but no thanks. not really my type.” Another deep, piercing glance is sent Stretch’s way. Red pieces him apart like he is lying on a dissection table, each part removed to be examined with even more scrutiny under a microscope. It is an awful feeling. With a satisfied hum, he continues, “well, maybe you do have some fight in ya. edge always did like ‘em feisty.”

Nope. Didn’t need to know that. There are a lot of mental images that little tidbit bring to mind, all of which he tries to shove from the foreground of his thoughts.

“that’s, uh, good to know? except i’m not in a relationship with edge. or anyone.”

“you aren’t?”

Stretch backs up. Red looks ready to pounce, like Doomfanger whenever he spots the toy mouse on a string move. Call him crazy, but Stretch doesn’t feel up to being the mouse. “hell nah. i just split rent with the dude.”

And there is that deep, calculating look again. Dully, Red says, “uh huh.” Stretch is ready to protest, maybe find some evidence, when the other’s demeanour changes completely. Although, even when a wide grin makes its way onto his face, he still manages to be entirely threatening. It’s probably the teeth. Red holds out his hand. “in that case, i guess we can move past the whole ‘you hurt my baby bro, i slowly rip you limb from limb and make you regret the day you were born’ spiel then, huh?”

“... yeah.” Right before he accepts the offered handshake, Stretch pulls back. Thankfully, Doomfanger is still underfoot, which means he has an excuse. Sorry, but how can he shake the evil skeleton’s hand if his cat clearly needs to be held? No can do.

Tsking, Red removes a joy buzzer from his hand, placing it in his pocket, and holy heck, man, his instincts are actually doing him a favour for once. “shame.” Whether he is talking about missing on the chance to give him a real shock or the shovel talk thing, it is unclear. Possibly both, but Stretch doesn’t really feel up to asking. “i’d introduce myself, but it seems like you’re a rude fucker who just checks people all willy nilly before sayin’ so much as a simple hello.”

Stretch holds Doomfanger closer to his chest. “you checked me too,” he says defensively.

This earns him a brash laugh and a slap on the back, just a smidgeon short of being enough to bruise the bone. “yeah, but i’ve been a rude fucker since the day i was born, sunshine. now, c’mon.” 

With the confidence of someone who owns the place, Red walks over to open the fridge. He digs in the door for a few seconds and pulls out… mustard? Is this why there is so much mustard in the fridge? Stretch grimaces; talk about gross. 

Opening the lid, Red takes a deep whiff. “yeah, that’s the stuff.” He must realise that Stretch hasn’t budged an inch, because he rolls his eye lights. “Hurry up and get something t’ drink already. My prissy pants of a bro may be the kinda person who goes down each and every aisle just to make sure he ain’t missing nothing, but you’re wastin’ daylight.” As he leaves, he mutters under his breath, “those long legs are wasted on ‘im if he doesn’t have the decency to hurry his ass up.”

Stretch’s lighter weighs heavily in the pocket of his hoodie. Making a hasty escape outside to follow through with his original plan sounds tempting. Very tempting.

How long is it going to be until his roommate gets back from the grocery store? Sure, Edge returning would mean that he would be in the presence of two Fell monsters, but there is a difference. Edge, he feels like a safer choice. His LV may be higher than Red’s, but at least he seems like a murderer with standards. Based on the fact that Stretch isn’t a pile of dust, the guy must have a reason to kill someone. Not that there is any good reason, but hey, it is better than nothing, he guesses. Red, though… he’s definitely the kind of killer to be scared of. The guy is creepy as fuck.

Which is why he grabs himself a bottle of honey, takes a large guzzle of it and follows Red to the living room. Better not to leave a stranger alone in his house, even if he claims to be Edge’s older brother.

 


 

“stars above, dude! how was he ever so small?”

Red snorts, holding the picture of a toddler-sized Edge throwing a temper tantrum in a set of too small pyjamas a bit higher. “beats me. then again, the kid grew another inch ‘n a half by the end of the week. had to burn those teddy pjs before they fell apart completely.”

Neither Stretch or Red notices when the front door opens. Stretch tilts his head back, downing some more honey. While he wipes at the stickiness at the corner of his mouth, he says, “yeah, i get it. it reminds me of when my bro was younger, he had this blankie, right? just couldn’t go anywhere without it, but he hated it to get dirty. in the end, i gave up and put it in the bath with blue.”

“nice. wait ‘til you see this next one. pure fuckin’ gold,” Red declares, pulling it out of his inventory, “let me tell ya.”

Unfortunately, Stretch doesn’t get to find out why the next one is so special. With ninja fast reflexes, the photo is tugged out of Red’s hands.

“Red!” Edge squawks in outrage. His face flushes brightly when he takes a look at whatever pic Red busted out, and okay, the blushing isn’t really helping out with the whole ‘trying not to be attracted to him’ thing. Not in the slightest. 

Edge’s growl ruins the moment. He ducks out of the way, trying to get out of the cross-hairs as Edge leans in closer to Red. “Brother,” he says menacingly.

Completely undisturbed, Red yawns. “yeah?”

“I disown you.”

Red scoffs, rolling his eye lights. “as if. now, what’s for supper? honeycakes over here is gettin’ hungry.”

He raises an inquisitive brow bone. “Is that so?”

“yep,” Red replies easily, popping the ‘p’. “look at ‘im. he’s all skin and bones.”

Making a noise of disgust, Edge picks up the grocery bags and heads to the kitchen.

“do you want some help?”

Red places a restraining arm in front of him. “nah, don’t bother. let him have his fun being all domestic and shit. besides,” he adds, lowering his voice conspiratorially, “i ain’t done showin’ you his baby pics. there’s a lot more where that one came from.”

 


 

Grabbing another hunk of garlic bread, Stretch suppresses a satisfied moan. Seriously, Edge’s food alone is enough to make the whole roommate thing work out in Stretch’s eyes. Way better than anything he can do when left to his own devices, that’s for sure. Granted, he has burned ramen in the microwave, but just because he can’t cook edible-tasting food doesn’t mean he can’t appreciate quality when he puts it in his mouth.

Red belches, loud and well sustained. “good as always, boss. how’s the new job been treating ya? any fun stories?”

Before answering, Edge pointedly wipes his mouth with his napkin. “It depends. Are we going by your definition of fun or a normal person’s?”

Red flips his brother the bird and turns to face Stretch. “i’m tellin’ ya, you commit some arson for a prank, tell a dead baby joke or two, and suddenly you’re the one with a ‘sick and twisted sense of humour’.” When Stretch doesn’t respond — because how exactly is he supposed to respond to the knowledge that the person he is talking to has set property on fire for shits and giggles? — Red scornfully shoves a heaping bite of lasagne in his mouth. “fine. be that way. skip the interesting shit and tell me more about how you gave a little doggy a bandaid for his boo-boos.” 

Edge sighs. “Would it make you happy to hear that a two hundred pound dog came in the other day and I had to hold him down so Doctor Alphys could figure out the cause of his limp?” 

“eh,” he says with a shrug. 

“but did the dog get a bandaid?”

Another sigh. “Yes, technically speaking.”

Reaching across the table, Red holds out his fist. “good catch, honeycakes.”

He completes the fist bump. “anytime. hey, if you don’t mind me asking, what do you do?”

The table falls silent, but it is clear to Stretch that there is a new conversation going on that he isn’t a part of. The brothers’ eyes go back and forth between each other and Stretch, like they are watching a tennis match. 

Slowly, Edge answers, “You probably don’t want to know.” And, okay, looking at Red, who is currently chuckling darkly… yeah. Stretch may be nosy, but he’ll give that one up. What he doesn’t know can’t hurt him, right? 

Hopefully.

With a sharp scrape, Red pushes back his chair. “welp. i’mma head out and get some drinks. either of you wanna come? my treat.”

“You’re actually offering to pay?”

“nah,” he says unapologetically. “i’ve got a tab for a reason. you comin’?”

“sure.” Who is he to turn down a free drink? 

“nice. boss?”

“No, thank you. Unlike you, brother, I have to be up first thing in the morning.”

“well, it looks like it’s just you ‘n me, honeycakes.” He moves behind Stretch’s chair and places his hands on his shoulders. “this is gonna be fun.”

Chapter Text

With his brother and his roommate gone raising havoc at a bar, Edge starts working on damage control. And by damage control, of course, he means cleaning up after Red and Stretch. 

From the moment he spotted those two together, he knew trouble was imminent. Granted, Red and trouble go hand in hand at the best of times, but the combination of the two seems particularly ominous.

Grimacing, Edge plucks an empty bottle of mustard up from the living room floor. Ugh. In the years since he has moved out from the impending dumpster fire Red calls a home, Edge can certainly say that this was not something he missed. His scowl grows larger when he notices a sticky bottle sitting far too close to Doom’s cat tower. The last thing Edge needs is for the kitten to become ill from ingesting honey. As he throws the two condiments into the garbage, he adds another item to the ever growing list of personal grievances he has against his roommate.

Most of the items on the list are relatively minor, albeit still irritating. For instance, Stretch will wander around at any hour of the day. That particular habit makes Edge twitchy; after living alone for so long, it is hard to adjust to hearing someone roaming around his house in the middle of the night. Then in the afternoon. Then once at the brink of dawn, almost as if to personally spite him for becoming accustomed to hearing the wandering at certain time frames.

To add to that particular irritant, Stretch also passes the fuck out anywhere he wants. It isn’t odd for Edge to return home from work and find his roommate napping in relatively odd locations, Doomfanger often close by. In some ways, it is nearly impressive, the various ways in which the lanky skeleton can fall asleep.

It makes Edge wonder, sometimes. Does Stretch even have a job? He has no idea; all he knows and cares about is that he pays the rent on time.

What irks Edge the most, though, is how messy Stretch is. At times, it feels as though he leaves an eternal trail of stickiness behind him, a consequence of all the honey he consumes. One time, Edge accidentally saw inside his room… ever since, he has done well to avoid it.

At least he has the decency to spare the house by doing all of his smoking outside without needing to be asked. In retrospect, Edge supposes he should have asked about such things in advance. He may not have any issues, per se — goodness knows his brother has smoked all kinds of shit over the years — but it still would have been good to know in case he had to lay down any rules. 

Overall, though, Stretch is pretty good with Doomfanger, when he isn’t accidentally leaving out food that could make him violently ill. 

Speaking of, out of the corner of his vision, Edge spots a wiggling butt. It is only a matter of seconds before Doom launches beside him on the couch. Edge gives in to his affectionate headbutts, setting down the cloth he had been using to wipe down the coffee table to give pets. While he is at it, he carefully takes the kitten into his lap, wanting to examine his healing process.

Fine. No one else is here. He can call it cuddling if he wants to.

In the few weeks that he and Stretch have had him, Doomfanger (which is still such an awful name; there is a reason Edge always shortens it) has already grown so much. His fur is thicker and shinier, no longer giving him the straggly appearance of a stray. Softer too, Edge notes as Doom starts purring. To someone not in the know, the patch of fur that had been shaved away would be practically imperceptible. Underneath, the scar healed better than he would have expected when Stretch brought him in to the clinic.

In the front hall, there is the crackling pop of a shortcut followed by a body-sized thump. Concerning, to say the least. 

With a sigh, Edge plucks Doomfanger up from his lap, mentally preparing himself for whatever suffering his brother is currently inflicting upon him. Tiny claws extend as he mewls in protest, attempting to catch onto Edge’s clothes. Stubborn little thing. He knew there was a reason he fell in love with him from the start.

He soon speeds up when he hears Red drunkenly singsong, “oh baby bro~ got a present for you~”

Edge sighs, feeling a headache coming on. Red, who smells like he just bathed in a vat of Grillby’s strongest spirits, is dragging a limp, unconscious Stretch behind him.

“Brother, I thought it would go without saying that if I select someone to be my roommate, I don’t particularly desire to hide their dust with you.”

Even when heavily intoxicated, Red is a master of giving him dry glares. “cute. now just take the tall one so i can go and enjoy my hangover in peace, a’ight?”

That is the only warning Edge gets before Red drops his hold on Stretch completely. Cursing, Edge catches him with blue magic in the nick of time. The last thing Edge needs right now is an emergency trip to a healer because he let his roommate's skull crack face first on their floor. Giving him matching facial scars does not seem like a good bonding opportunity.

"well," Red says with a smirk and a cocky sway to his step, "goodnight. have fun with your little honeycakes, boss."

“red, don’t you fucking dare —” 

But, of course, his brother shortcuts away before Edge can properly cuss him out. 

Sighing, Edge walks over to pick Stretch up properly; he can’t very well leave him passed out in the middle of the hallway. Stretch doesn’t stir. Slowly, so that he doesn’t jostle him, Edge journeys over to Stretch’s room, dodging as Doomfanger wanders underfoot.

When he pushes the door to Stretch’s bedroom open with his foot, Edge cannot help but sneer at… is that a trash tornado? Stars, this place is worse than he thought! If one of those things show up in a common area… 

A pained whimper distracts Edge from his disgust.

In his arms, Stretch has tensed up, hands beginning to clutch at the soft cotton of his button up shirt. From what Edge can tell, he is still asleep, mumbling incomprehensibly. With a sigh, Edge works on finding a clear path from Stretch’s doorway to his bed; his behaviour is likely just some discomfort from tonight’s drinking. He was with Red, after all. Far stronger monsters have made themselves sick trying to keep up with his gremlin of a brother.

Deciding to grab a garbage bin, a glass of water and some pain meds for Stretch, Edge continues on his mission to get the other to bed.

That is, he does until Stretch shifts in his arms once more. This time, the words are uncomfortably clear, bringing Edge to a halt.

please,” he begs desperately, nearly shaking. “don’t.”

Slowly, Edge says, “Stretch? What is it?”

Stretch makes no sign of hearing him — because of course he doesn’t, he is still dead to the outside world. He lets out another whimper which tugs at Edge’s soul. “stop it. ‘t hurts.”

“What hurts?” Edge asks, knowing that he won’t get an answer. He sits down on top of Stretch’s bed, trying to loosen his hold on the off-chance that it will help.

“i’ll be good,” Stretch says, just as much a plea as it is a promise.

Edge’s marrow runs cold, even as his LV rages hot at the implications.

This… this isn’t just any nightmare. It just isn’t. Whatever Stretch is seeing in his dreams is more than an awful product of imagination; the terror on his face is too real. It reminds Edge too much of when he was younger, how he would always struggle to sleep after he had… 

He takes a deep breath of the dustless air. Dwelling on his past isn’t going to help his roommate right now.

Softly, like he would to one of the frightened animals at work, he murmurs, “Stretch, you’re safe. It’s going to be okay.”

His shivering doesn’t let up. Carefully, Edge strokes his shoulder, trying to make the touch as soothing as possible while still holding him.

Burrowing his face closer to Edge’s shirt, Stretch repeats, “it hurts.”

“It’s going to be okay.”

 


 

Edge doesn’t know how long he sits there, holding his roommate. Too long, perhaps. Not as long as it feels, he suspects. All he knows is that if he was waiting for things to improve so he can leave, he would have made no progress whatsoever.

Part of the problem, of course, is that Edge can’t find it within himself to leave, neither physically or emotionally. Even if Stretch wasn’t clinging to him in his sleep (and what does that say, that his roommate is somehow finding comfort and protection through him in his unconscious state?), each time Edge is ready to detach himself, another one of those sad, pitiful sounds escapes him.

Already, he tried waking Stretch up. It would have been potentially awkward for the both of them, but anything is better than being forced to sit there as the other cries in his sleep. However, it didn’t work. All his shaking and gentle prodding managed was to get Stretch’s breathing to pick up, just a touch below hyperventilating, and a gasped out, “go ‘way!”

Needless to say, he couldn’t bring himself to try again.

Resigned to his fate of a sleepless night of trying to help his roommate through his nightmares, Edge scooches back on the bed to lean against the wall. He might as well make himself comfortable. Humming quietly, he shifts Stretch’s weight in his arms. Ah, much better; his shoulders were starting to get stiff. Doctor Alphys would be displeased if he was both overtired and in pain tomorrow, which would result in Dyne finding out and getting pissed at him for not taking his health seriously. Again.

Resting his eyes, he increases the volume of his humming as Stretch stirs uneasily. A slowed-down melody of something he has heard countless times on the radio, it certainly is no lullaby. Not that he really knows any for comparison; his brother’s version of crooning a berceuse was him harshly whispering to ‘go the fuck ta sleep ‘fore i make ya’. 

To be frank, Edge highly doubts that method will do any good here. Or for anyone. Really, it is a miracle that Red ever got him to go to bed as a child.

When he opens his eyes once more, it is because of a certain furry someone who wanders into the bedroom meowing, only to lie down on top of Edge’s feet.

“I’m glad you’re making yourself at home,” Edge says quietly, a small smile growing on his face as Doomfanger stretches out and rolls onto his back.

Hmmmmm… 

“Doom,” he beckons, tapping the bed. What he would give for some cat treats at the moment. Thankfully, Doomfanger decides to cooperate and hops up. The bed is much warmer, after all, with lots of blankets to knead and skeletons to demand attention from. Edge obliges, scratching under the kitten’s chin. “That’s a good boy.”

Stretch’s grasp on his shirt finally lessens. This is his chance.

Acting slowly, Edge sets Stretch on his bed, tucking him in the mess of blankets while thanking the universe that whatever nightmare he was reliving seems to have calmed. Almost immediately, Doomfanger approaches Stretch, curling up close to him.

Yes, Edge decides as Stretch latches on to Doomfanger like a living, purring teddy bear, this is an acceptable alternative. If he is lucky, he will still be able to scratch out a few hours of sleep and still have time for his morning run.

As he gets ready for bed, the neat little box he had shoved all those thoughts he needed to ignore until starts to give in at the seams, weakening under pressure.

Stretch is a Tale monster. 

Tale monsters are supposed to be good and soft and pure, a result not only of their untarnished souls but also of generally superior upbringings than those with the misfortune of being born to the wrong side of a societal divide. Lives which are filled with love, not LOVE.

A Tale monster isn’t supposed to be haunted by dreams that leave him terrified, pleading and begging because of pain and who knows what else.

Part of Edge longs to pry, to figure out who is the root of the problem and fix it. Permanently. It would be easy enough to do; Edge has always been good at puzzles and his brother has his ways of procuring information from unlikely sources. And —

Edge squashes that train of thought before it can go too far. This desire, it is just his LV talking. It still must be roiled up from earlier, making any excuse to cause harm seem permissible. There is no need to get all up in his roommate’s personal life, especially without asking.

Like it or not, the best thing to try and do is forget that tonight ever happened.

Easier said than done.