"Sebastian, I gotta admit," Pluto said, setting his helmet aside and letting his shield drop on the ground. "I can't stop thinking about what happened in the Queen of Thieves sanctum, or whatever it was."
Judging from the look on Pluto's face, Sebastian knew what he was talking about. He didn't relish the thought of having to go to bed soon with that mental image to keep him company either. "It's okay, Pluto--"
Pluto's usually cheerful expression darkened. "No, it's not, Sebastian. I saw you die in front of me. I don't care if it was some magic trick. It was real when it happened and you being alive doesn't stop making it real in my head."
Sebastian couldn't help wincing. Pluto and Veo had both said he'd turned into a skeleton when he returned from his little chat with Kat. He'd just thought that they had managed to move on from it. Apparently not. "Pluto--"
"And then all that stuff you said to George?" Pluto barreled on, frowning down at him. "About how you screw up everything? I can't just let you keep saying that stuff."
Sebastian blinked. That was...new. Still, it didn't change the facts. "Was anything I said to your nephew wrong?" he asked, already knowing the answer.
"All of--" Pluto began immediately. He must've noticed the look on Sebastian's face, because he stopped himself. "Okay, I don't know everything about you, but I have to get this off my chest."
Sebastian mentally braced himself. "Okay, Pluto, what is it?"
"Seeing you die in front of me was so scary. I mean, me and Veo were losing it-- I honestly think that if we hadn't had that Heroes' Feast before we left the Academy, we would've been in worse shape."
"Well, I had front-row seats to watching you and Veo dying in front of me--" Sebastian snapped before he could stop himself, because of course Pluto was focused on just what he felt instead of thinking that maybe Sebastian had gone through the same emotional wringer he had.
Pluto was already shaking his head. "Sebastian, you don't get it. I tried to touch you and your skeleton just crumbled away in my hands! I was making things worse! And that hurt!"
Sebastian gritted his teeth because screaming at one of his best friends while surrounded by a camp full of Caspians wasn't something he was interested in doing at the moment. He had already been humiliated enough for one day. "And you don't think I wasn't feeling like I had just murdered more people I care about? If it weren't for the staff of power and my goggles, I'd just be another useless--"
Somehow, Pluto's expression darkened further, which was really saying something. His eyes, which were a shade Sebastian had always thought of as Caspian Blue in his more romantic moments, narrowed at him. "Look here, Mister--"
One hand landed on Sebastian's shoulder while the other reached for his face.
No, not his face. His goggles.
Sebastian's eyes widened. "Pluto, what are you--"
Pluto kept talking as if what he was doing was completely normal. "I don't risk my life for you because you're useful, Sebastian."
Sebastian gaped at him as Pluto moved in closer. It was either tilt his head back or let Pluto take off his goggles.
"I wouldn't jam a piece of delerium in my chest or follow you into Hell itself because you're this perfect guy who never makes mistakes."
Pluto's face was getting closer, still so earnest and solemn. Sebastian was positive he was blushing from how close they were standing, and he couldn't stop.
"I'd do any of that right now if you asked me because you're you," Pluto murmured.
Sebastian could track the path of Pluto's gaze. First, to his forehead where there were undoubtedly red marks from wearing his goggles constantly.
Then to his eyes, as if Pluto could just stare at him hard enough and Sebastian would believe that he was worth this kind of devotion.
And then to his lips.
"And in case you forgot, I love you, and I'm gonna stand by you, no matter what."
Sebastian stared as Pluto leaned in.
The brush of chapped lips against his was soft, gentle. Sebastian would've sworn he was dreaming were it not for the fact that he could smell the oil that Pluto used to clean his armor, feel just how cold Pluto's gauntlet was against his face.
"Excuse me, Your Highness?"
Sebastian's eyes snapped open as Pluto pulled back and turned towards the door to the tent. Not jumped back like he'd been caught doing something wrong, but pulled away, as if kissing Sebastian was something he did every day. "Yeah?"
The runner, a young man wearing a breastplate and Caspian colors, glanced at Sebastian before addressing Pluto again with a slight bow. "His Majesty wishes to speak with you."
Pluto grinned, as if the past ten minutes hadn't been just changed their friendship. "Great! Tell him I'll be on my way."
The young man left, letting the tent flap drop behind him.
Pluto turned back to Sebastian, the grin fading into that serious expression again. "No more skeleton teleporting," he said firmly. "Got it?"
Sebastian managed a faint, "uh huh."
Pluto nodded, looking satisfied and pleased with himself. "Good."
He clapped Sebastian on the shoulder, squeezed once because this was absolutely normal now, and walked away, leaving Sebastian to stare after him.