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Brotherhood of Fluff

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When Red stumbled into the Halberd's cafeteria, anyone who glanced his way looked like they'd seen a zombie. A small part of his brain told him he probably appeared the part, but the rest of his brain didn't bother to process it. His teeth showed through his scowl, and as he trudged through the tables, people scrambled to get out of his way.

The trip from the door to the coffee machine took an hour, and by the time he reached it, his limbs felt like lead, and his already thin patience wasn't getting any better. He went through the motions to prepare the machine, his mind cluttered with fog as he slid a foam cup beneath it.

The sweet sound of coffee splashing against the foam filled his ears. He was already reaching for the cup as it cut off, and the second his fingers wrapped around it, its familiar warmth spreading from his palms down his arms, he steered himself toward the nearest table.

He plopped himself down at a random seat, careful not to let the scalding liquid touch his skin. Numbly, he became aware of the steam rising up to caress his face as he lifted the cup to his lips. And he'd have happily welcomed it into his body if it weren't for the sun glaring into his eyes.

Pulling his brows down, Red shot the window directly across from him as best a hateful glare he could manage. To his disappointment, the sunlight did not abate, and he forced himself to push up off his seat and down to the next one over with a sigh.

Already he missed the comfort of his bed.

"Not a morning person, eh?"

Red's glare shifted to Mario, standing by the toaster oven. The plumber returned it with a smile.

"You don't have to get up this early, you know," Mario chuckled, and he combed a hand through his hair. "The job ain't as tedious as Meta Knight makes it seem. Heck, he doesn't usually wake up until 10."

Red narrowed his eyes. Vaguely, he remembered Meta Knight telling him something about waking up early.

Between the string of noises that came from his mouth, he mumbled something about "habits", and he turned his attention to the cup of coffee in his hands.

"Habit, huh?" The toaster pinged. Mario swiped the two slices of toast from the slits at the top, placed them on a nearby tray, and popped two more inside.

"What, was waking up at six a regular thing you did as champion of the Pokemon League?"

"Mhm," was the most coherent reply he could manage.

"Something to do with all that training you had to put your pokemon through, eh?"

"Mhm." Red lifted his cup to his lips, only to stop as he opened his mouth in a loud yawn.

Mario shook his head. "I get ya. Morning is the best time to get your blood pumping, as my ma used to say."

A seat scraped against the floor, grating against Red's ears. He glanced up, frowning, just as a disgruntled Samus threw herself into the seat across from him, her blond hair tied up behind her in a messy approximation of a ponytail.

"Why do you get up so early, then?" she muttered. "You don't even do it to train."

"Why the long face? We agreed I get first shift at the toaster today, didn't we?"

Samus grumbled, but she didn't complain. As she leaned back against the table, Red caught a glance of a set of silver packets in her hands. One of his eyebrows shot up.

When Samus noticed, her lips tugged down. "What?"

"I'm guessing I ain't the only one who thinks it's weird you eat toaster pasties, out of all things."

Samus rolled her eyes. "What's there to say that I haven't said? They're small, easy to keep in large quantities, and they won't go bad in the middle of a long trip."

"Yeah, and you know why? It's because of all the preservatives and processed stuff they cram into those." Mario tapped the edge of his plate, pointing a finger at Samus. "They're not good for you."

"Well you're hardly the paragon of health either," Samus said, and she motioned toward the mile-high stack of toast on Mario's plate.

Mario glanced up at it. Then he looked back at her, and he shrugged.

"I like toast. What can I say?"

Red watched it all without a comment, not quite sure what that whole exchange was about, but not curious enough to prod either. As long as he had his coffee, he could get through the morning.

"Speaking of which, where is your troublesome trio, anyway?" Mario said, turning back to Red.

Samus tore her face from the tabletop. "Yeah. I passed by Pikachu in the hall. He seemed eager to meet them."

Red nodded to the back, vaguely where he remembered his room to be.

Mario hummed. "Not up yet, eh? I'd have thought you guys'd all wake up at the same time."

Taking two fingers, Red mimed blowing on them like a whistle.

"You wake them up, then? I can't imagine they'd be too happy about that."

A laugh slipped through Red's lips, to his surprise. From the smile spreading across Mario's face, it hadn't been as quiet as he'd have thought. Red masked his own smile with a sip from his coffee.

Somewhere a little further down, Red heard someone pull out another seat. Mario and Samus, both being a lot more awake than him, turned a lot faster, and by the time he had a chance to look, Meta Knight had already settled down in his own chair.

" 'ey, Meta Knight!" Mario said, raising a hand in greeting. "You're up early! You going to eat that bagel you have there, or are you just going to stare at it like a clown in a pizzeria?"

"No," Meta Knight replied, his voice so low they could barely hear it. He muttered something else, raising a hand over his eyes to block out the sun coming in from the window across him. Red almost pitied him, seeing how miserable he looked as he reached back and fumbled around inside his cape. Then again, it was morning, so he hadn't the energy for even that.

As Meta Knight pulled out what appeared to be a small radio, Red turned back his coffee and took another sip. Its bitter taste washed over his mouth. The warm drink washed down his throat, lapping against his tongue in waves, and as it crept through the rest of his body, he felt the weight on his eyelids lift a tiny bit more. The fog thinned, and a fuzzy mist settled in its place, even with Mario and Samus bickering behind him, leaving a calm that might have been pleasant if it weren't for the sun piercing through it and lighting his eyes ablaze.

Red blinked. The sun remained, beaming its glimmering rays straight into his brain. But he was sure he'd moved, hadn't he?

Something clicked between the muddled thoughts floating around in his brain. He glanced over his shoulder again, just in time to catch a quiet, "I appreciate it," from Meta Knight into the small radio in his hand. When he noticed him looking, Meta Knight returned it was a sideways, almost smug look. The radio disappeared beneath his cape before Red could call him out, and Meta Knight went back to giving his bagel a blank stare.

Red narrowed his eyes. Had he his pokemon with him, perhaps he could have returned the favor. He had respected their choice to sleep in today, though, so all he could do was bring his attention back to the coffee before him.

Already, he could not wait for the morning to be over.