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Chapter 1 Sollux released a loud sigh as he pushed the door to his apartment open.

It was dark and silence veiled the room, just the way he liked it. He dropped his keys into the bowl next to the door, looking around. Fef was normally home by now, which made his eyebrows furrow in worry. She didn't have a late class, and her shifts at the diner were over at noon on Fridays. It definitely wasn't like her to disappear without texting or calling him He pulled out his Iphone as he walked across the main room, knowing his way around fine in the dark. He scrolled through his texts and calls just to make sure, eyebrows furrowing further when he saw that there was no word from her. He dropped his bag on the floor next to the sofa, which he happily plopped down on, relaxing immediately into the cushions. He propped his feet up on the glass coffee table and reached over, turning on the lamp next to the sofa as he dialed her number, holding his phone to his ear. He wasn't always this protective over his friends. Hell, he really didn't give half a shit about people in general. But Fef was different. He'd always felt protective over his roommate. Not just because she was his roommate, but also because of how much he cared about her. Romantically? Even he wasn't sure of that yet, but Sollux didn't allow himself to get close to many people. Since opening up allows you to get the shit end of the deal. He pursed his lips as he stared off into the dim space of the room, heartache fizzling out as soon as it appeared. He listened to the repetitive ringing, buzzing in his ear as his patience begun to wear thin and the worry begun to rise. Just as he was about to leave a voice-mail, the door opened gently and Feferi made her way inside. Sollux huffed, ending the call and sliding his phone into the pocket of his jacket as he rose. "You're in a bit late, aren't you? You finally give in to that horny jock in your Com class who has been after your body for half the semester?" He joked, crossing his arms. Her face remained hidden from him as she set her purse down, along with her keys on the table next to the door. Her long, curly auburn hair hid her tanned face, and all that he received in reply was a sniffle. His smile faded immediately, arms uncrossing. He quickly made his way over to her, his worry rising once again. "Hey, hey, hey, FF? What's up?" He asked, sliding his hand onto her full cheek, tilting her face towards his. Her big blue eyes were glistening, her cheeks wet from her now very obvious crying. Tears hung off of her dark lashes, causing Sollux to furrow his eyebrows once again, lips forming a line. "Alright, whose ass do I have to kick?" She shook her head, causing the tears on her lashes to fall as she sniffled and choked back a sob. "M-my mom is sick, Sollux," she managed, her chin quivering. He blinked his mismatched eyes down at her, not sure what that comment entailed.

"Sick?" He asked, masking his ever threatening lisp. "Sick as in 'I'm skipping first and second period so I can sleep in sick', or?" He asked slowly. That's when she finally broke, throwing her arms around Sollux's neck as her body shook with tears. His eyes widened as he caught her in a hug, sliding his arms around her as he pulled her close. She sobbed quietly, her warm tears seeping through his black and yellow striped jacket. He wasn't good at this comforting shit. Normally he tried to stay away from the pansy-asses who always needed assurance and care, simply because he didn't have the heart for it. Nevertheless, he stroked the back of her thick hair, shushing her in comfort. "It's okay, FF. Just tell me what's wrong, okay?" He offered, pulling away and leading her to the couch. He sat her down and he sat down with her, only to have her throw her arms around his neck once again. He tensed, but sighed, relaxing into the hold as he slid his arms around her for the second time. "Th-They just don't know what's wrong. They don't know what's wrong, but it doesn't look good," she squeaked. He relaxed further, allowing her to cry against his shoulder. "I'm sure everything's going to be alright, FF. If it was really bad, they'd know what was wrong, right?" He tried to assure, a comforting tone to his voice. She let out a shaky sigh. She then unhooked her arms from around Sollux's neck, pulling away as her blue eyes made contact with his mismatched ones. "Sollux, I have to go," she said softly, sounding like she regretted it. He just looked between her eyes, nodding in understanding, although an uncomfortable feeling had blanketed the room. "Yeah, okay. Go visit her, I can hold down the fort for a while," he said, swallowing hard. She shook her head, and Sollux's heart slowed. Shit. No, shit. "I mean for good, Sollux. I have to move to California with my mom. I need to take care of her, and-" The rest of her words faded out as his heart practically slowed to a stop. Move? Leave? But she couldn't leave. She was the only person that Sollux was close to, aside from Karkat, his best friend. She was one of the only people that Sollux had allowed himself to grow close to, sinceHe shook his head. "Feferi, what do you mean?" He interrupted, making her slowly close her mouth. "I need you here, you know that I can't pay for this place on my own," he said, a slight anger filling him, which made him feel slightly guilty. She couldn't help that she needed to take care of her mother, but what about him? He couldn't afford rent by himself, and without another roommate "I know, I know Sollux and I'm sorry. I know that you hate generally the entire human race, and I understand that living with someone else is going to be really, really hard, but its okay! I've got someone else for you to live with! You don't have to leave and go somewhere else, because he's willing to help pay to live here and he can take care of himselfwell, kind of take care of himself, I guessbut-"

Sollux shook his head again, once again interrupting her. "I'm not living with some jackass that I don't know, FF. I refuse." "But you do know him! Well, at least, you knew him," she said slowly, her voice growing softer as she spoke. He looked at her, confused and unsure. His mind raced as he tried to think of someone that both he and Feferi knew that could move in with him, but no one was ringing a bell. "Who?" He asked, his voice also slow as he looked at her with uncertainty. She looked back, looking beyond the definitions of worried and concerned, causing his heart to slow once more. "Um, well, you knew him back in high school" "Fef, who?" He demanded, his voice growing hard. She shrunk back and gulped, looking down and away as she answered. Sollux froze. He felt his blood run cold as he looked at her, eyes wide in disbelief. No way. There was no fucking way in all nine levels of hell that it was happening. No. He would refuse. He would move out and take his chances living back with his parents, because he would not live with that son-of-a-bitch. Despite the stubborn thoughts rushing through his head, he knew that he had no choice. He couldn't leave, and if she was leaving, he would need a new roommate. Although taking his chances with a complete stranger seemed almost like a pretty good option, he knew that he would have to face the facts. This is what he would have to do. Her thin, worried voice echoed in his head, the name repeating itself over and over like a flickering 'Open' sign at a cheap, run down Laundromat. He let out a slow hiss of breath through gritted teeth as he looked away from her, the name screaming in his head. Eridan Ampora.

Chapter 2
Sollux, feeling more down than he had felt in quite a long time, brought the last of Feferi's things down from the apartment and to her car. He leaned against the trunk as he closed it, running a hand through his chocolate brown hair as he let out a sigh. The sun was high in the sky and shining harshly down on Sollux, and he regretted wearing the tight black shirt that he was sporting. His grey sweatpants, hanging low on his hips, also proved to be a bad idea in the heat of the day. It had been only two days since Feferi had announced that she was leaving. The weekend rolled by as Sollux had helped her gather and pack her things. The reality of her leaving was really hitting him now that her stuff was completely out of the apartment. He had been trying to ignore the pain that had been welling in his chest throughout the weekend, but now that her car was set and ready to go, the hurt was more than apparent. Oh yeah, and there was the Eridan thing. Sollux had known Eridan for three long and miserable years, Freshman through Junior year in high school. It was no secret in school that Eridan and Sollux hated one another. In fact, their rivalry was the most well known. They both had found themselves in detention more often than not for their attitudes towards one another.

It all stemmed from two major facts; One, Sollux's social status. Eridan was a rich, pompous ass who looked down on anyone "lower" than him on the income chain. Which, hello, was pretty much everyone. Sollux's family wasn't the most wealthy, and Eridan frowned upon that. Two, Feferi spent a lot of time around Sollux. A lot. Eridan didn't like that, due to his affection for Ms. Peixes, and, of course, jealousy fueled his anger. Sollux didn't do much in the ways of, well, not encouraging Eridan's obnoxious behavior. He teased him, made fun of him, egged him on, all of which the guy pretty much deserved. He was a complete and total dick, and he was near impossible to be around. Sollux grit his teeth just thinking about it. "Hey, Sollux, thank you so much for helping me," Fef said, jolting Sollux out of his thoughts. He turned towards her, wiping the sweat from his forehead as he smiled down at his now former roommate. "No problem, FF," he said, not meaning to sound as disappointed as his tone came out. She smiled a sad smile, holding her arms out and making her way towards him. He laughed, backing away. "C'mon, Fef, I'm all sweaty," he replied, but she slid her arms around him nevertheless and hugged him close. He sighed, relaxing as he returned the hug, his smile slowly fading. Hers remained, as did her arms around him. "I'm going to miss you a whole lot, Sollux! I'll visit when I can, but I'm afraid that wont be too often! But just because I'm in California doesn't mean I wont text you and call you all the time, because I will!" She assured, yet his smile didn't return. "Yeah, great," he replied dryly. She frowned slightly and pulled away, looking up at him. "Don't be so down, Sollux! It's going to be okay," she assured, causing him to roll his eyes. "Okay? FF, I'm going to be living with Eridan Ampora. That doesn't at all fall into the vicinity of "okay"," he replied, his voice dripping with distaste. She huffed, looking displeased with Sollux as she crossed her arms. "He's not that bad, Sollux," she said, defending what was once one of her best friends. Sollux just looked at her. "He's obnoxious, he's annoying, he's narcissistic-" He began, not able to finish due to the threatening look received by Feferi. "He's a confused guy who means well, Sollux. You weren't exactly nice to him either!" He shrugged. "Whatever. Why he even wants to move in with me, I have no idea," he replied honestly. The anger faded from Feferi's face and she looked away quickly. Her hands slid behind her back as she cleared her throat, looking down at her feet as she shifted her weight back and forth from one flip flop to the other, causing Sollux's eyebrows to relax and his eyes to widen. "Shit. He doesn't know that it's me that he's moving in with, does he?" Sollux asked, his own face paling. She swallowed hard and shook her head, making Sollux face palm. This was great, this was truly fantastic. Not only was he going to have to see him, fucking live with him, he was

going to have to hear him complain, which he remembered Eridan being extremely good at. He groaned, throwing his hands in the air. "What the fuck is he doing coming back, anyways? I thought he moved to New York," Sollux snapped. Feferi sighed, shaking her head. "I don't know. I don't think he got along very well with his family," she said, chewing on her lip, not explaining very much. Sollux huffed, turning around and leaning back against the trunk of the car. He looked up at the clear blue sky, inhaling and exhaling deeply. There was no way that this was going to end well. When Eridan left the school just before Senior year, Sollux wished him good riddance. He thought that he would never have to see the guy again. He'd admit, he thought about Eridan for a few weeks afterwardsBut then he just completely erased the douche from his mind. Eridan probably forgot all about him as well. Sollux couldn't help but to smile at the thought of Eridan's face when he would see that Sollux was the mystery guy that he would be moving in with. His reaction would no doubt be fucking priceless. "Thinking of Eridan?" Feferi asked with a smile. He turned and looked down at her, his own smile still present. "Yeah," he replied. He then frowned suddenly, realization falling upon him. "Whoa, I mean, no. Not like that, anyways," he clarified, eyebrow raising at her strange interest. "I was just thinking about how fucking hilarious it's going to be when he sees who he's moving in with," Sollux replied, smile returning. Her own smile disappeared, and her eyebrows furrowed in worry. "Sollux, please don't give him a hard time," she begged. His smile fell as she continued. "I don't know why he wanted to get away from his family, but he did. Badly. He didn't care who he was moving in with, especially after I told him that you were a great guy! He's expecting for things to be better here, not worse," she said. Sollux held his hands up defensively in response. "Hey, I wont start a thing," he assured. "But I'm certainly ending it if it does start." She sighed. She stepped over to him, sliding her arms around him for the second time. He smiled slightly, hugging her back as his posture relaxed once again. He was going to miss the warmth and comfort of her hugs. It really was comforting to know that he had a roommate who cared about him more as a friend than just a guy whom she split the bill with. He knew that he certainly wasn't going to get that kind of treatment from Eridan, not that he at all wanted it. "I'm going to miss you, Sollux," she said once again. Sollux's heart sank in the sadness that had begun to return with the knowledge that she was really leaving now. He hugged her closer, burying his face partially into her impossibly long hair. "I'm going to miss you too, Feferi," he replied sadly. He continued to hug her, making sure to remember the feeling of the foreign warmth that he so rarely received as she pulled away. He pulled back as well, smiling at her affectionately. He pushed her hair out of her face, making her smile back fondly.

It was then that he caught a movement out of the corner of his eye. His eyes jetted over to the side of Feferi's car, his heart doing this weird skipping action when he saw him. There he was, all six-foot-two of him, standing tall as he returned the look of shock to Sollux. Feferi turned when she noticed Sollux's gaze, a squeal spilling from her lips as she ran over to him. "Eridan!" She squeaked happily, throwing her arms around the tall male. He glanced down at her, returning her hug, then looked back up at Sollux as quickly as he looked away. Their gazes locked and remained, unwavering a moment before his eyebrows furrowed in distaste. Only two words were exchanged as Feferi slipped away from Eridan. "Captor." "Ampora."

Chapter 3
Sollux sat tensely on the bottom step, one of many that led up to his apartment on the third floor of the complex. He slid his bare feet along the hot pavement, which he had been staring at while Fef and Eridan were away, having lunch before Feferi left. No doubt Eridan would be complaining to her about moving in with Sollux, and Sollux couldn't help but to smile at the thought. Eridan didn't just looked shocked when he first saw Sollux, he looked downright pissed. Sollux didn't blame him, of course, but he certainly didn't appreciate the snooty glare, and the way that Eridan held his head high and looked down on him. He hadn't asked any questions, he'd just turned around and strut to his crappy, beat up car as Fef skipped to her own. Sollux remembered that part clearly, because he noted the way that Eridan's hips swung when he walked. He was sassier than Sollux remembered. He seemed taller too, and a lot better looking. Last he knew him, Eridan's hair was shorter and it was just a wavy blonde. Now, he had this ridiculous purple streak through his bangs, his hair longer and perfectly set in place. He had a defined jaw line, big glistening eyes, perfectly primped eyebrows, ridiculously long eyelashes, and full pink lips. Wait, didn't he sport a face full of outrageous freckles in high school? Sollux shook his head, presuming that he just confused that detail with someone else, because Eridan's face was perfectly clear now. It was then that he begun to really remember high school, his heart sinking slowly. Fuck, what was he thinking? This whole thing wasn't going to be fun or amusing, it was going to suck some serious ass. Eridan was an unbearable fucking prick, and a slight anger begun to fill Sollux as he remembered some very not-so-fond memories from his earlier years, around the time when he first met Eridan. Terms such as 'Freak', and 'Worthless' begun to return to him, both relaying through his mind in Eridan's stupid Scottish accent that Sollux had grown to absolutely despise. Just as the anger had begun to rise, Eridan's shitty Geo pulled up in the parking lot. He swung unskillfully into a parking space near the stairway, causing Sollux's eyebrows to rise slightly, wincing as Eridan's car jerked to a stop. Damn. He was one shitty driver.

He got out of his car, slamming the door shut dramatically as he walked around and over to his trunk. He opened it, grabbing only two suitcases and setting them on the ground next to him, which surprised Sollux almost as much as the car did. Only two suitcases? The guy was completely material, how did he have only two suitcases? He slammed the trunk closed and grabbed his bags, walking over to Sollux with his head held high, as usual. Sollux stood when he approached, looking over him as Eridan came to a halt only a foot away from Sollux. Eridan was wearing the tightest pair of white skinny jeans that could possibly fit on a guy, along with a light blue and purple plaid button up shirt. He had a scarf draped around his neck, thick black hipster glasses set on his thin nose, and a few gold piercings decorating only one ear. He looked at Sollux, gaze hard as his sparkling blue eyes stared into Sollux's off setting ones. They looked at each other a moment before Eridan smiled slightly. "Waited for me out here, I see," he said, his accent as thick as ever. Sollux was a bit surprised, though. Eridan use to hold this awful stutter, but apparently he must have gained control of it. "Don't flatter yourself. I just didn't want you to bother the neighbors, knocking on each door until you found the right one," Sollux replied with a roll of his eyes. Eridan huffed while Sollux turned around, leading him up the stairs. "For your information, Captor, I'm not a total dip-shit. I didn't just make my way over here without knowin' where I'd be stayin'. I know the fuckin' room number, four-thirteen," he announced, as if he needed to prove himself to the other male. Sollux merely nodded as he climbed the next flight of stairs. "I'm proud of you," he replied, resisting the urge to re-roll his eyes. Eridan huffed once again, and Sollux just knew that he was never going to get use to that. "Keep your damn pride, I don't need it," he replied stubbornly. "And if we're really goin' to be livin' together, I'm afraid that you're goin' to have to keep that attitude a' yours under control. You obviously haven't matured out of that," he insulted. Sollux's eyebrows rose. He almost turned around to confront the other male, about to ask him if he was confusing Sollux with himself, but then he remembered what Feferi asked. He inhaled deeply, unlocking the door to hisermtheir apartment. He walked in, dropping his keys in the bowl as he left the door open for Eridan. Eridan walked in, squinting a moment until Sollux turned on the lights. The dim lighting lit the small opening room, revealing a long couch against a wall, opposite of a decent sized TV. There was a coffee table in front of the couch, some of Sollux's work and text books sprawled across it. There was also a bookshelf and a thick reclining chair, but that was basically all that the opening room held. It connected to a small kitchen, an island with a few stools serving as the table. There was a hallway that the opening room also connected to, leading down to the two separate bedrooms and the small bathroom at the end of the hall. Eridan stood in the entrance way, looking around the place with a slight distaste. Sollux caught a glimpse of the others expression, causing him to roll his eyes at Eridan's seemingly never-ending dramatics.

"Problem, princess? Not as big as daddy's, is it?" Sollux mocked. At that comment Eridan tensed. He glanced at Sollux a moment before looking away, sending confusion through Sollux when he wasn't immediately hit with a smart ass reply. Family problems indeed. Sollux stood there awkwardly in the middle of the room, about to say something when Eridan replied. "Alright, I can see that we need to lay some simple ground rules early," he said, his sassy tone creeping its way back into his voice once again. Sollux just looked at him in disbelief. Ground rules? Excuse you? Eridan set his bags down by the door, closing it softly. He then slipped off his scarf, draping over the coat hanger that stood close to him. Meanwhile, Sollux had studied his every movement, his annoyance slowly reaching new heights as he watched the pompous attitude that every one of Eridan's movements held. What a fucking jackass. And here Sollux almost felt bad for him! Eridan turned, making his way over to Sollux as he spoke. "First thing is that we're not goin' to mention family. I'munfortunately hereto get away from that bullshit, and I don't expect to be confronted about it by you." he informed. "Secondly, you're goin' to have to keep your snarky comments to a minimum, because I'm not dealin' with it. You thought that you were cute back in high school, and I'm sure that you still probably think the same thing. But hey, this isn't high school anymore, and I'm more than willin' to kick this thing off with a fresh start," he said with a smile, stopping just in front of Sollux. Sollux continued to gawk at Eridan, not believing for a second what the hell was going on here. Was he legit? The utter bullshit spewing from his mouth could not actually be expected to be taken seriously. "Wait, hollup there," Sollux interrupted, making Eridan raise his eyebrows slowly. "Just who the fuck do you think you are, pretty boy? Waltzing in here, deciding that you own the place ever since you stepped foot into the fucking building?" Sollux demanded. Eridan slowly crossed his arms, looking at Sollux like a child who needed to be taught a very important lesson. The very movement made Sollux's blood boil, and he had to work hard to keep himself completely composed. "Eridan Ampora. Age nineteen. Swimmer and soon to be artist-" Sollux didn't allow him to get very far at all, shaking his head and holding his hands up. "Look, I don't want your fucking life's story, and-" He then paused, face slowly relaxing as he looked at the Aquarius in front of him. He just looked at him a moment before a smile began to play on his lips slightly, making Eridan frown. "Wait, did you say artist? Are you going for your arts degree?" Sollux asked, clearly amused. Eridan's frown deepened. His arms crossed further and he looked uncomfortable, avoiding Sollux's gaze. "Yeah, I might be. So fuckin' what?" He replied, making Sollux's smile wider.

"Arts degree, Eridan? Arts? Aw, that's really cute. Great field, good money, you'll really be successful with that under your belt," Sollux insulted, causing Eridan's eyes to widen in offense. "Excuse me?! How dare you even-!" You know what? I don't give a shit. Your opinion couldn't mean less to me, and it doesn't affect me in the least, you asshole," he snapped back, turning around and stomping back to the door. He snatched his things, looking at Sollux a moment before turning on his heel, his chin held high as he marched down the hall to find his room. Sollux watched him, feeling almost relief when Eridan had disappeared from the room. He walked over to the couch, collapsing on it as he looked at his watch with a loud sigh. Fifteen minutes, and he was already exhausted.

Chapter 4
Sollux thought that he could do it. He was almost sure that he could gather and maintain the tolerance and the strength that it took to deal with Eridan Ampora. He would just suck it up, and take whatever shit that Eridan might throw at him. It couldn't be that hard, right? But as the days rolled by, Sollux was finding that his strength was thinning. Eridan I-have-aproblem-with-every-fucking-thing Ampora was slowly pushing Sollux to the edge of the cliff. It was to the point where Sollux contemplated jumping off of the cliff, just to get away from the prissy dickbag that complained about everything. It had only been a week, but instead of seven days, it felt like seven years that Sollux had to live withHim. Day 1. "Oh my God, Sol. What did you make this sauce with? Paste?" Eridan complained. Sollux rolled his eyes, cleaning up his cooking pot and the stove top. Eridan sat on a stool at the island, pushing his pasta around with his fork, an unsure look plastered on his face. Sollux turned and looked at him, shaking his head. "Do you have a problem with my cooking?" Eridan bit his bottom lip, looking afraid to eat his bowl of pasta. He continued to push it around for a brief moment before answering. "Your sauce is so fuckin' thick," he replied slowly. Sollux huffed. "Its Fettuccini Alfredo sauce, ED. Its not supposed to be like soup, the sauce is supposed to be thick," Sollux replied with the slightest impatience. "And I made that shit from scratch. Its good, just eat it," he snapped. Eridan let out a huff as well, putting his fork down. "I don't want it anymore," he complained. Sollux groaned, wiping his hands on the dishtowel that he was holding before he threw it on the counter. He turned, his eyes making contact with Eridan's stubborn blue ones. "Eridan, can you cook? At all?" Eridan's lips formed a thin line. His lips parted, then shut again. He looked at Sollux a moment before looking away, eyebrows furrowing in slight annoyance. "No."

"Well I can. So unless you want to gorge yourself on Hot Shw Chinese every night, I suggest that you shut up and eat the damn pasta," Sollux suggested sharply. He grabbed his phone and walked past Eridan, just as the stubborn brat finally gathered some pasta on his fork and shoved it in his mouth. Was that so fucking hard? Day 3 "Sol!" Eridan's long, annoyed voice echoed through the apartment. Sollux was jolted out of his sleep. His eyes shot open in surprise and he sat up, looking around as he blinked slowly with exhaustion. He heard Eridan's angry footsteps making their way down the hall, causing Sollux to fall back with a groan. He rolled on his stomach, grabbing his pillow and holding it tightly over his head. "Sol, are you annoyin' and unbearable on purpose, or do you really not even try?" Eridan demanded as he appeared in the doorway. Sollux sighed. He shifted in bed, pulling his pillow off of his head as he rolled onto his back. He slid his fingers through his hair, eyes closed. "I really hope that this is important. You interrupted a really fantastic dream with me and Jennifer Lawrence," Sollux warned tiredly. Eridan inhaled sharply, arms crossing. "Sol, I've already asked you not to put my damn Soy Milk in the door of the fridge," he complained. Sollux groaned, yanking his pillow over his face once again. "That is so trivial! First of all, who drinks Soy Milk? Second of all, who fucking cares?" Sollux snapped. Eridan inhaled sharply again, and Sollux had to resist from throwing his pillow across the room and at his roommates face. "I fuckin' care, Sol! When you put the milk in the door of the fridge, it falls if I don't open the door while treatin' it like it's a piece of fine china! Which it did, by the damn way, and I have to clean up the shit! Now I don't have milk for my cheerios. Do you know why I don't have milk for my cheerios, Sol? Because it's all over the damn floor!" He snapped right back. Sollux just listened. Well, sort of listened. Eridan just kept blabbering on, and meanwhile, Sollux relayed the different ways in his mind how he could kill Eridan without anyone finding out. When he finally stopped talking, Sollux opened his eyes and looked at him. "It's not my fault that you're a klutz who can't open a refrigerator door without treating it like its your bitch, ED," he replied slowly, a smile tugging up on his lips. Eridan's fingers curled into fists. "Klutz? I'll show you a klutz when my fist just happens to clumsily make contact with your face!" He threatened as he spun on his heel, stomping back down the hall. Day 5 Sollux slammed his fist hard on the bathroom door, staring at his watch as he did so. Jesus Christ, give me strength. His watch read 7:30 and his morning class started at 8:00. If Eridan didn't get his fucking ass out of the damn bathroom "ED! You've got to be shitting me, you've been in the bathroom for two fucking hours. What could you possibly be doing in there?" He then winced. "You know what, I don't want to

know! Just get your ass out here, I have a class soon!" Sollux yelled, still pounding on the door. It wasn't until he stopped knocking that Eridan finally spoke, his voice as smooth as countryside butter. "It takes work to look this good, Sol. Perfection isn't just handed out on a silver plate!" He replied, making Sollux grind his teeth. "ED, it takes you an hour just to do your hair! While I can be in and out of the bathroom in five minutes, ten tops!" "Yeah, and just look at you~" Eridan insulted in a sugar sweet voice. Sollux slammed his fist on the door. "Eridan, get the fuck out of the bathroom, or I swear to God I'll slip hair dye in your shampoo!" Sollux threatened. He was met with Eridan humming "Born This Way" in reply. Sollux groaned. He spun around, raking a hand through his hair. He would have to go to his class without a shower, and do it without murdering his roommate first. Day 7 Sollux laid face down, sprawled out on the couch in the living room. One leg was propped up on the arm of the couch, the other hanging off along with one of his arms. School was easy, as usual, work at the bar was fine, but being in the apartment was exhausting. Eridan went to bed late, as he did, but Eridan also woke up early. He was always loud as hell in the mornings, and although Sollux didn't have many morning classes, he was still up early due to his ass of a roommate. "Sol, there's nothing' to eat in this fuckin' place," Eridan's complaining carried into the living room. Sollux groaned inwardly. He rolled onto his back, looking off into the kitchen to where Eridan was standing. He had the door to the refrigerator opened as he peered inside, his hip jutting out to the side as he shifted all of his weight onto one leg. The sassy pose couldn't help but to bring a smile to Sollux's face. Even he had to admit that Eridan's ass looked pretty choice in his ridiculously skinny jeans. As soon as he realized that he was smiling, Sollux wiped it off of his face. Just as he had, Eridan turned around. He looked at Sollux expectantly, as if expecting for Sollux to solve all of his problems with a snap of his fingers. Sollux rolled his eyes. "There's plenty of food, quit complaining," he replied, turning his face away from Eridan's. Eridan snickered as he looked back at the fridge. "Yeah, plenty of shit for you. Don't you remember anythin' that I told you about what I eat? You do the shoppin', I expect you to remember this shit," he replied, kicking the refrigerator closed. Sollux looked back at Eridan in annoyance. "ED, no one could remember the list of what you eat and what you don't eat. You're a fucking vegetarian who also wont eat bread, sugar, or whatever the hell else you bitch about," Sollux complained right back. Eridan pursed his lips as he walked across the room. "I just try to stay healthy, which is like a fuckin' sin in your bible. All you eat is chips and ramen noodles and shit, you never eat any actual meals," he scolded.

Sollux ran his hands over his face. Holy God, who did this guy think that he was? Everything that Sollux did was a damn crime. What he ate, what he wore, how he did his hair, how he cooked, how he fucking sat in a chair "I am just an abomination, aren't I? Fuck me, I eat chips instead of tofu. Anything else, Eridan?" Sollux asked, irritated. Eridan held his chin up, staring down his nose at Sollux as he always did. "As a matter of fact, yeah. One of the first things that I told you was that I wasn't dealin' with your attitude. It's only been a week, and you're already actin' like a hard-headed child with a self esteem the size of a dime and the attitude of a drag queen," Eridan continued to insult. Holy hell, that was it. Sollux quickly sat up, his feet slamming down on the ground as he glared at Eridan. "Don't fucking talk to me about an attitude, Eridan! You are one big attitude that won't get the hell out of my face! Also, don't reprimand me about self esteem issues. Yeah, I've got them. But lets compare mine to the guys' who spends his entire morning in the damn bathroom! Seriously, who spends longer in the bathroom in the mornings, ED? You or your mother?" Sollux yelled. Eridan looked at him in shock, his stance and his pose relaxing. He blinked a few times before furrowing his eyebrows angrily. He looked as though he were about to come up with some clever retort, but he didn't. He just looked away, clearing his throat as his eyebrows unfurrowed. "My mothers dead," he replied dryly. The reply smacked Sollux across the face. He relaxed too, looking up at Eridan in shock. Shit. He hadn't expected that, and he certainly didn't mean it that waySurely Eridan must have known that. Whether he did or not didn't matter, because Sollux still said it. AndSollux could definitely relate on this matter. He looked away as well, a slight guilt making its way through him. He stared at the couch cushions as Eridan stood there, the tension in the room building the more that they both remained silent. The silence itself was deafening, and the will to apologize was growing as well. But did he really owe Eridan an apology? His mind told him yes It got to the point where Sollux couldn't take it, so he stood up abruptly. Eridan jolted back slightly in surprise, but looked at Sollux nevertheless. "Grab your jacket. Or, pea coat, in your case," Sollux said, walking to the door. Eridan just looked at him with surprise, blinking slowly. "What? Why? Where are we goin'?" He asked. Sollux grabbed his keys, his wallet, and his phone. He shoved his wallet and phone into his pockets before turning around, offering Eridan a slight smile, which only made Eridan look more shocked. "Dinner. Hurry up, or I'm leaving without you," Sollux replied, opening the door and walking out.

Chapter 5

"I still don't know why going to the bar was such an inconsiderable option," Sollux began, thanking the waitress as she handed him his coke and Eridan his iced tea. She walked away and Sollux's eyes met Eridan's as Eridan took a sip of his tea, looking almost uncomfortable with the subject. "I already told you that I'm hungry, Sol. What would we do at a bar, anyways?" He asked, setting his drink down as he played with the lemon slice on the rim of his cup. Sollux just gave him a impatient look. "Um, what normal people do at bars, ED? Drink and eat? It's a bar and grill, you know," he replied, taking a sip of his own drink as he begun to look over the menu that he had read so many times before. Eridan shifted a bit in his booth. "Drink, Sol? You're nineteen," he chided, causing Sollux to roll his eyes. "I work at the bar, ED. You don't think that my buddies there won't serve me a drink?" He countered as he continued to look over the menu, although he already knew very well what he would be ordering. Eridan furrowed his eyebrows, giving Sol a castigating look. Sollux glanced up at him, and although annoyance streaked through him from being reprimanded again, he couldn't help but to fight to hold back his smile. He looked back down at the menu as Eridan replied. "Isn't that illegal?" Eridan asked, his voice lowering slightly, as if someone were listening. Sollux had to fight harder to hold back his smile at Eridan's dramatics. "It may or may not be. Anyways, it doesn't really matter. But now you know. If you're ever in the mood for a drink, stop by the bar and I'll break the rules for you," Sollux replied, looking up at Eridan with a wink. Eridan's eyes widened slightly and a blush rose to his cheeks. Sollux couldn't help but to smile at that one, making annoyance fill Eridan's eyes as he averted Sollux's gaze and looked over his own menu. "I don't drink," he mumbled in reply, making Sollux smile wider. He set his menu down, now concentrating fully on Eridan, which made Eridan shift in his seat once again. "Yeah, you strike me as the annoying drunk type who can't hold his liquor," he teased, watching in interest as Eridan's jaw clenched and unclenched. Eridan set down his menu quickly, looking back up at Sollux defensively. "For your fuckin' information, I can hold my liquor just fine. I just don't drink because-" He frowned, looking frustrated, as if he were struggling with his words. Sollux merely nodded, still smiling. "Go on. I'm dying to hear this one," Sollux continued to tease. Eridan's frown deepened. He snatched up his drink, taking a long sip as Sollux watched him. He set his tea back down, taking a long breath before he finally answered. "I'm not a dumbass," he finally replied, causing Sollux to chuckle lightly as he leaned back in his booth. "Could've fooled me, ED," he said with a slight smile. Eridan replied with a huff, blowing a loose lock of his purple bangs out of his face as he too leaned back, crossing his arms. He

stared into Sollux's eyes with a look that could actually be intimidating, if Sollux didn't know better. "You know, Sol, you're a real ass," he insulted, receiving nothing more than a simple shrug from Sollux. Holy God. Was he really going to start something here? The guy has no fucking boundaries. "Am I? I never really noticed." Eridan leaned forward, placing his elbows on the table. His fingers bridged, setting his chin on his interlaced fingers as he continued to look deep into Sollux's eyes. This look made Sollux uncomfortable, and he was guessing that it was meant to do just that. "No, really. I thought that it was just a phase in high school, but that's really just you, isn't it? Is your self esteem really that damaged that you have to criticize and prod those around you? You really haven't changed all that much," he accused. An anger washed over Sollux, causing his smile to fade. He now wore a frown to match Eridan's, the contentment and comfortable humor fizzing away. He too leaned forward, eyes narrowing as he crossed his arms on the table for support. "If I remember correctly, you're the one whose always had a problem with criticizing and prodding. You we're a lowlife bastard who got off on calling out people who had issues that they couldn't help. Income was your favorite. Appearances, sometimes. Oh yeah, and lets not forget your insult for me, Eridan," Sollux challenged in anger. He didn't know whether Eridan would accept this challenge or not, but he couldn't hide his surprise and his rage when Eridan leaned further across the table, his face dangerously close to Sollux's as he hissed that one word that nearly sent Sollux over the edge. "Freak." Sollux's fingers curled tightly, his nails striking his palms. Pain shot up his arms, but he barely noticed. If there was one thing that he hated more than anything, it was being called a freak. It was insulting, yes, butIt was also true. Sollux had always suffered from a wide range of problems. When he was younger, he was believed to be a schizophrenic. That was ruled out, however, and the doctors just thought him to be severely bipolar with chronic mood swings and uncontrollable headaches that could leave him bed-ridden in some cases. Sollux barely had a handle on his emotions when he was younger, and even partially through high school. He took medication now, but still. Eridan, and many others, caught on that Sollux had some problems. They weren't exactly sure what they were, but they knew one thing, and that one thing was that Sollux wasn't like every one else. He was different, and weird, and no matter how hard that those that cared for Sollux tried to convince him that he wasn't a freak, Sollux would always believe that they were wrong. It hurt him to believe it, and that hurt often found itself slipping into a near uncontrollable anger. "Oho, Eridan, you are so damn lucky that we are in a public fucking place, or those gorgeous eyes of yours wouldn't be sparkling as lightly as they are now," Sollux threatened. It was then that Eridan's eyebrows relaxed, and he slowly pulled away from Sollux as he looked at him with an unreadable expression.

What? What the hell is he doing, looking at me like that? Respond with a threat, you jackass. A threat, an insult, something! "You really think my eyes are gorgeous?" He asked softly. Just like that, the rage and the hate had diminished. Sollux too pulled back, blinking a few times in surprise as he looked at the other. Eridan looked back into his eyes genuinely, and an emotion streaked quickly through Sollux that honestly scared him to death. He could feel his cheeks heating, and he had no idea how to reply. Did he think so? Well, yeah. He thought a lot of Eridan's features were pretty close to perfect. He always had, but-That insinuated jack shit! First of all, Sollux wasn't gay. He wasn't bi, or anything that insinuated that he was into or attracted to guys. Second of all, even if he fucking was, he wouldn't at all be into Eridan. Eridan was a complete asscake, selfish and obnoxious, with an attitude that was fucking revolting. That was just it. He appreciated Eridan's features. Mostly his stunning ass, because, hell, the straightest guy in the world couldn't deny its perfection. But it all ended there. Eridan was a prick. An okay prick, but Sollux felt nothing for him beyond the annoyance and contentment that always lingered while in Eridan's presence. If there was a God, he was smiling down on Sollux as he sent the waitress back to take their orders. Sollux didn't have to answer that God-awful question that Eridan asked, and the bitterness that had posed itself in between the two males had been brushed away. Sollux ordered his burger and Eridan had ordered his House salad. The two sat in a silence that neither of them bothered to fill. The silence wasn't at all awkward, though. In fact, it was comfortable, and Sollux really didn't mind. It wasn't until the waitress returned with their orders and the two had started eating that Eridan finally spoke up. "Look SolI'm really sorry about, you know, high school. I shouldn't have treated you the way that I did and called you the names that I did and fought with you a lot and tried to get you into trouble and blamed you for things and-" "Eridan, Eridan, you're doing it again. Punctuation, please? You can take a breath, its alright. And don't worry about high school, I" Sollux paused. He looked down at his food, chewing on his lip before looking back up at his roommate. "I forgive you about high school, though you shouldn't take all the blame. You were right, I was an ass too." Eridan looked in between both of Sollux's eyes a moment before a smile tugged upwards on the corners of his lips. The smile brought a light smile to Sollux's lips as well, and Eridan couldn't resist his laughter. "Honestly, Sol, I don't even know what triggered our ill-feelin's for each other," he admitted, taking a bite of his salad and a sip of his drink. This caused Sollux to raise his eyebrows. "Seriously, ED? It was Fef." Eridan stopped chewing on the bite that he took, staring down at his food with widened eyes. His gaze remained downward before he swallowed slowly, eyes rising to meet Sollux's once again. Did he really not remember?Sollux looked at him a moment before continuing.

"You, being the loud-mouth who held nothing back, told me how much you liked her when we were partners in Earth Science. I barely knew you, and you were spilling this shit to me like we were best friends. You weren't like that with anyone else, though, and I suppose that I was the only one that you thought that you told. The very next day she found out and confronted you about it, rejecting you because she just wanted to remain friends. You were fucking convinced that it was me who told her, and you had hated me ever since. You accused me, picked fights with me, and eventually I was so fed up with you and your dramatic accusations that I encouraged everything that you did. I grew to dislike you as well, an then everything that we did was annoying to the other. It just, sort of escalated." Sollux explained. Eridan continued to stare at him, looking almost appalled. His fork hung loosely in between his fingers as his gaze bore into Sollux's, and an apparent guilt slipped into Eridan's blue irises. "YouYou really didn't tell her?" He asked slowly. Sollux shook his head, taking a bite of one of his fries. "Nope. Honestly, I couldn't have given a lesser fuck about your life at that point, ED. I barely even knew your name. Whoever told her, it wasn't me." Eridan's eyes never left Sollux's face. He didn't say anything else for a long time, and Sollux just continued to eat in the slight comfort of their silence. After a good amount of time had passed, Eridan cleared his throat, setting his fork down. "Sol?" "Hm?" "How good are those fries?" A slow smile made its way upon Sollux's lips as he looked up at the Aquarius, who was, in fact, eyeing Sol's food. Sollux didn't reply for a moment, letting a dramatic silence set in before he finally answered. "Fucking fantastic." Eridan smiled slightly back at Sollux as he reached over the table, grabbing one of Sollux's French fries. He put it in his mouth, chewing a moment before his eyes fell shut in pure bliss. "Oh my Christ" Sollux let out a laugh, sliding his basket of fries across the table to his roommate. "You know what? You can finish them. I understand that this diet that you're on must be an all new kind of hell. Your force is strong, young Padawan. You've deserved a few fries," Sollux joked. Eridan happily obliged to Sollux's gracious offering, pushing his half eaten salad to the side and pulling the basket of fries close to him. He ate them slowly, savoring each one with a series of satisfied sighs that left a permanent smile upon Sollux's lips. It was a rough start, but he knew that dinner had been a good idea.

Chapter 6

"Eridan? As in Eridan fucking Ampora, Eridan? As in 'Hey Kar, your temper is about as short as you are', Eridan?" Karkat questioned in disbelief looking at Sollux as though Sollux had two heads. Sollux nodded in reply, his gaze remained fixed on the TV. "The very same," he replied unenthusiastically, avoiding Karkat's astonished gaze. He wasn't sure how he felt about telling Karkat about Eridan. Sure, the little shrimp was his best friend, but he tended to get carried away with informationNevertheless, here they were, watching Karkat's favorite chick-flicks as they spent the day in Sollux's apartment while Eridan was away applying for jobs. When Karkat hadn't said anything in a while, Sollux made the mistake of looking over at him. He had a smile playing on his lips, looking at Sollux like a proud parent would look at their child. Sollux's eyebrow slowly raised. "What the hell?" He questioned, making Karkat's smile completely present. Sollux knew that smile. Sollux hated that smile. "Oh, nothing. I guess we all just never expected see the fuckhead again, and now he's here, rooming with none other than little old you," he said, tone insinuating. Sollux knew exactly what he meant by that, which caused confusion to sweep over him. What the fuck would give him that idea? It was by complete coincidence that Eridan ended up rooming with Sollux, there wasn't any "fate" or any other shit playing into this. He looked at his best friend with furrowed eyebrows, playing coy. "Excuse me? That makes no fucking sense, KK. Now stop gawking at me and watch the shitty movie," Sollux directed. He expected a laugh from his friend, but he only received an angry frown. "Yeah, excuse you is right. Pretty Woman is not a shitty movie, dickwad. Julia Roberts is a fucking goddess, and anyone who says that she's not is a damn liar." Sollux rolled his eyes, but fought back a smile. Karkat always got defensive over his favorite chick-flicks. It was kind of cute, in a rabid puppy sort of way. Sollux knew when too far was too far, though. Karkat would fight you to the death to defend what he loved, including with shitty chick-flicks. Hell, especially with shitty chick-flicks. "Whatever. Can we just watch it, please? You're the one who wanted to spend the day watching movies, so lets get on that," Sollux practically begged, almost desperate to get the subject off of Eridan. Karkat crossed his arms over his small body, yanking his legs up onto the couch. It was silent for a long while after that until Karkat spoke. "You don't have to be ashamed of it, you know," he said, his naturally loud voice jolting Sollux out of his trance. He rose his eyebrow once again, looking over at his friend. "Ashamed of what?" He asked, though he knew that he wasn't going to like the answer. Karkat looked over at him like he was a dumbass. "You know, liking Eridan. Being a flaming homosexual," he informed, causing Sollux's eyebrows to raise as he sat up straight, no longer relaxed. "Um, come again? First of all, I'll have you know that I do not like Eridan Ampora. He's an obnoxious little bitch who hogs my shower time in the morning and criticizes my cooking. Second of all, I am not a flaming homosexual. I liked the same girl all through middle

school, and dated her for three years in high school. If anyone is the flaming homosexual here, its you," he retorted. Karkat turned towards him, his defensive nature returning. "Pardon? How the hell am I anymore gay than you are? I had the same girlfriend in high school for a while too," he snapped. Sollux had to hold back laughter as he looked at his friend. "Sixth Grade? John Egbert? Does that name ring a bell?" He teased. Karkat's eyes widened in anger. "John fucking Egbert? Really Sollux? Really? I was, what, twelve? You think that I know my damn sexuality at age twelve?" He then looked away. "I did not likeJohn," he added, his tone insinuating that pft, yeah, he pretty much did. Sollux rolled his eyes. "Alright, what about Dave Strider?" Sollux added. At that, it was as if the entire feel of the room went dark. Karkat's eyes never left the TV screen as his face grew grim. He reached over, grabbed the remote, pointed it at the TV, and pressed pause. Sollux just looked at him, eyes widening slightly as Karkat slowly turned to look at Sollux, the silence in the room a bit terrifying. Karkat's chocolate brown eyes met Sollux's, and there was a darkness there that made Sollux slide further back on the couch. "We. Do not. Mention that name in my presence," he warned, making Sollux raise his eyebrows. He looked at Sollux for a dramatic moment before continuing. "That asscrack is only on my mind when I think about creative ways to kill people. I have never, and will never, feel any sort of emotion other than pure, burning, utter hate for that human being." Sollux looked at him for a long while, eyes wide, eyebrows raised. He looked in between each of Karkat's eyes, which held a hard seriousness that was actually quite intimidating. He knew that what he was about to say could very well earn him a punch across the face, but he decided to say it anyway. "Is this about Tere-" "Ah-ah-ah! No! Also another name that shall not be mentioned in my fucking presence! Shut up, Sollux! This is not about her, I can hate the damn guy with a burning passion without it being about her!" He snapped angrily, making Sollux quickly avoid his gaze. "Alright, alright, consider the subject dropped, sheesh," he mumbled, returning his eyes to the paused TV. Karkat looked at him a moment before speaking, his voice now melodic and no longer dark. "Speaking about burning passion, back to Eridan," he said with a smile, his grim mood replaced with a teasing one. Sollux groaned, sliding down into the couch. He propped his legs up on the coffee table, pouting as he crossed his arms. If Karkat didn't fucking leave him alone about Eridan "I don't know what you're expecting to hear, or where you got this crazy idea about Eridan" "Its not so crazy, actually," Karkat interrupted. "Actually, it's been pretty obvious since freshman year in high school that you two have had the fucking hots for each other. Well, not so much you as it was him."

Sollux just looked at him. What the fuck was Karkat remembering? Sollux remembered having his face pummeled by the guy at least once a week. He remembered enduring the torment from not only Eridan, but from other jackasses in the class as well. The bitch Vriska and the creep Equius joined in, teasing and putting Sollux down as often as possible. He remembered high school being complete and utter hell, aside from Aradia. "Karkat, what the shit happened to your memory? We hated each other. We fought every day, tormented each other everyday, we had every single fucking class together and it was hell." Karkat raised his eyebrows, once again looking at Sollux like he was a child. "Sollux, you're remembering the bad. Not only that, but was it that hard to tell that the guy liked you?" He questioned. Sollux shook his head. "I don't just remember the bad, KK. I remember Earth Science-" "Then you remember that the first few weeks of school, Eridan would never stop talking to you. Even when he stopped talking to you, he was staring at you. Even when he wasn't staring at you, I'm sure he wanted to be staring at you," Karkat dramatized, reaching over and grabbing his coke that was on the side table as Sollux shook his head again. "He did not stare at me, KK. He talked to me, yeah, but the guy never stops talking. I never liked him, he never liked me, end of fucking story. Now, if you really want to talk love lives, lets talk about yours," Sollux finished. Karkat winced, looking at him in disgust. "What love life, fuckass? If you hadn't noticed, I've been living in the fucking shadow of a failed relationship for quite a long time now," he mumbled, looking away from Sollux and down at the ground. Sollux's eyebrows furrowed in sadness. He had felt really bad for Karkat for a while, after his breakup. Karkat adored his girlfriend of a couple years, Terezi, before she, well The entire story was pretty sketchy, and Sollux didn't know what exactly happened. He never pried in on it, mostly because Karkat was going through a really shit time about it. Sollux certainly knew what that was likeHe looked down and away as well. "Yeah, well, I feel you there," he mumbled. Karkat slowly looked up at him. He stared at him a moment before rolling his eyes. "Oh please, shut the fuck up, Sollux," he snapped. Sollux slowly looked up at him in surprise. He met Karkat's eyes, an anger filling his own at Karkat's harsh words and harsh tone. What the hell? What right did he have to say that to him? "Excuse me? Do you have a fucking problem?" Sollux asked slowly, making Karkat's eyebrows relax a moment before his frown quickly returned. "Yeah, I've got a fucking problem. Your break up sucked, yeah, but you've been pouting like a child about it ever fucking since," Karkat replied sharply, making Sollux sit up once again in anger. "And what the hell have you been doing, Vantas? You haven't exactly been a basket of roses ever since you got your ass dumped," Sollux snapped right back. Karkat shook his head, obviously trying to make a point here.

"This isn't about me, shit-for-brains. This is about the fact that you've had people, still do, who you could easily be with. You're just too busy acting like a baby who got his toy taken away ever since something happened that you couldn't help." Before Sollux could reply, Karkat continued. "Feferi, Sollux. She obviously liked you, and you obviously liked her. Yeah, her mom's sick and she's gone now. But in the year and a half that she was here, you didn't even think twice about maybe trying something with her," he accused. Sollux just looked at him in shock. His anger was still present, but it was fading as a voice in his head informed him that Karkat was right about that. He ignored that voice, though, and continued to listen. "Now, you've got this complete fuckmunch whose obviously head over heels for you, has been for years, and you're completely ignoring it. I don't know what your problem is, but you know me, and you know that I know you. You like him too, Sollux. You did before, too. The anger and rage that you two shared was nothing fucking more than two dumbfuck's denying their feelings for each other. I don't know what it is, whether it's the fact that he's a guy, or whatever, but you need to man the hell up. Who cares if he's a guy, Sollux? Who gives a lesser fuck? Honestly, I could see a thing between you two if you would just yank your head out of your ass and just fucking look." Sollux continued to stare at him in shock as he spoke. He was wrong. He was fucking wrong. He might have been right about the Feferi thing, but he was wrong about Eridan. Sollux didn't have feelings for the bitch, Eridan didn't have feelings for him, and this whole subject needed to disappear before Sollux's emotions became too much to handle. "There's nothing between us, KK. I repeat; nothing. Now I'm just," Sollux sighed. "I'm really tired of this subject. Do you want to finish the movie and grab something to eat, or do you want to continue arguing and monologuing about something that doesn't exist?" Karkat, too, just stared at Sollux. He looked at him, as if he were studying him for the longest time before he shook his head, grabbing the remote again as he turned his body and his attention back towards the TV. "You're a dumbass, Sollux," he sighed. "But that's nothing new. Yeah, lets finish this fantastic movie, then you can buy me dinner," Karkat said, looking at Sollux with a slight smile. Sollux returned the barely-there smile. Mostly out of relief that the subject was dropped, because he really was growing exhausted just thinking about it. He returned his attention to the TV as well, watching without complaint as Karkat pressed play. Although he tried to concentrate on the movie, he now couldn't help but to think about Eridan. Their hate in high school was a bit dramatized, and he had always tried to think of a reason as to why that was. Could it be that Karkat was right, and it was the feeble attempt at trying to deny his feelings for Eridan? His mind repeatedly told him no, but he wasn't so sure that his heart was on that same page.

Chapter 7

It had been a few days since Sollux and Karkat's movie day, and ever since, Sollux had been a mess. Every minute consisted of Sollux trying to work through his emotions, and he was growing more and more tired as the days went by. He had been avoiding Eridan ever since the thought that he could have liked him became a possibility, and although Eridan tried to bring it up, Sollux would play dumb and claim to not see a problem. They'd had only one solid conversation in three days, and that didn't help Sollux's confusion at all. "So you're finally going to start classes soon, hm? Is your father paying for your tuition?" Sollux asked curiously over dinner. Eridan was sitting on the counter, swinging his legs as he ate his vegetarian lasagna. He looked up at Sollux, who was sitting at the island, also eating the damn meatless lasagna that he made just for Eridan's stupid diet. Eridan chewed a moment more before swallowing, his gaze dropping. "UmNo. He won't pay for anythin' of mine. He's pretty upset about my leavin', so I'm kinda cut off from the family funds. I have to pay with the money from my own account, which is honestly not a lot. That's why I got a job as a lifegaurd. I need a job just in case my account starts to run dry," he explained slowly, looking as though he were choosing his words carefully. Sollux nodded, studying him with interest. "If he wanted you to stay, and he was willing to continue paying for you at home, why did you leave?" Sollux asked, still curious. Eridan looked almost sick. He set his plate down, reaching for his glass of water next to him. He took a long drink, his nauseous expression turning into one of anger as the nausea faded. He grabbed the plate, his hard gaze directed away from Sollux. "I'm not into what my family does. Stayin' meant that I had to do what my family does for a livin', and I'm not too fond of bein' around that kind of environment," he explained slowly once again. Sollux raised his eyebrows, looking even more interested. "Wow. You make them sound like a bunch of gang bangers," he said with a slight laugh. He took a long sip of his water, glancing down at his plate after his comment, then back at Eridan. He then noticed that Eridan had tensed. Sollux's eyes widened and he swallowed wrong, slamming the glass down as he began coughing violently. Eridan looked up in surprise, staring at Sollux as he coughed hard. When he was finished and was barely breathing, he looked at Eridan in astonishment. "Your family's a bunch of gang bangers?!" He exclaimed, causing Eridan's eyes to widen as well. "What?! No! No, I wouldn't say that they were 'gang bangers'. Well, I mean, they're nothin' like gang bangers, but-. You know what! I said no family talk, Sol!" He yelled, as if mad at Sollux for bringing it up. He jumped off of the counter, grabbing his plate and throwing away whatever was left on it. He then dropped his plate into the sink, marching out of the kitchen angrily. Sollux sighed at the thought of the memory as he walked through the door of his apartment, shaking out his wet hair from the storm raging outside. Any other time that Eridan had tried to make conversation after thatconversation, Sollux had avoided him.

Actually, any other time that Eridan had entered the room, Sollux had left it. The urge to get closer to Eridan was there and only getting stronger in the midst of Sollux's unsure feelings. He had just gotten home from his second class of the day, and he was exhausted. He set his laptop bag down next to the door along with his umbrella, running a hand through his dark, damp hair. All he wanted to do was lay down on the couch, relax, and not think about- "Eridan!" Sollux exclaimed, seeing Eridan curled up on the couch with a text book. He expected Eridan to be at work today. It was his first day, so why wasn't he there? If he had known that Eridan was going to be home, Sollux would have gone to the library or something. Eridan looked up at Sollux, smiling in reply. "Hey Sol. What's up?" He asked, closing his text book and sitting up. Sollux cleared his throat, staying where he was near the door. He looked at the knob, then to Eridan, contemplating his options. "Um, not much. Why aren't you at work? Wasn't today your first day?" He asked, fiddling with his watch on his wrist as he remained in his spot. Eridan rose an eyebrow, smile still present. "I don't know if you've noticed, dumbass, but it's a fuckin' hurricane out there," Eridan replied with a laugh. Sollux looked at the window, then to his umbrella, then to his shoes. Oh. Duh. "Oh, right." Sollux looked at his watch, then to the door knob again. "Sorry you couldn't go, I guess." He then grabbed his bag and his umbrella again. "See you later!" Eridan furrowed his eyebrows, sliding off the couch. Fuck. No, stay there. "Wait, you're leavin'? You just got back from class, where are you goin'?" He asked, a slight suspicion joining his accent on his voice. Sollux cleared his throat again, sliding his bag onto his shoulder. "Um. Work. I decided that since we're shorthanded anyways, I'd lend a hand," he made up quickly, turning back towards the door. "Sol, wait," Eridan said quickly, causing Sollux to wince just as he had grabbed the door knob. He looked at the door a moment before turning around, putting on a fake smile. "Sup?" He asked, heart pounding harder as Eridan made his way over to him. The suspicious look hadn't left Eridan's face as Eridan walked over, stopping in front of his roommate. He looked Sollux over for a second before speaking. "You've been fuckin' weird lately, Sol. We just started gettin' along, and now you're actin' all weird. I'm not a dumbass. I can see that you've been avoidin' me. Is this about dinner the other night? Because if you're avoidin' me because you're poutin' about me not talkin' to you about it, that's pretty fuckin' stupid," Eridan began, stopping when Sollux shook his head. "I'm not avoiding you, and I'm not upset about dinner, ED. You want to keep your personal things to yourself? I'm totally cool with that. I just didn't know if maybe you wanted to talk about it," Sollux explained, hoping that he wasn't blushing. Jesus, what was wrong with him? One fucking talk with Karkat, and that's all it took for Sollux to become a complete and utter mess around his roommate. The thought of Eridan

coming any closer made Sollux's heart leap, and it was starting to drive Sollux crazy. Did he really like this little bitch? When did he start liking him? When the hell did any of this ever happen? Was it when he realized that Karkat might have been right, and that his anger towards Eridan in high school was just him denying his feelings for the guy? Or was it when he realized that Eridan might have actually liked him? He didn't like not having the answers, and he didn't like being flushed for this guy. Eridan's eyebrows had rose at Sollux's comment, causing Sollux to swallow hard. "You mean, likeComfort me, about it?" He asked, as if it were the hardest concept for his mind to wrap around. Sollux furrowed his eyebrows, looking away as Eridan stepped closer. "Yeah, I guess," Sollux mumbled, glancing up at Eridan once again. Eridan just looked at him down in surprise, his eyes studying Sollux's deeply. "I justI wasn't under the impression that you really cared," Eridan admitted, looking almost desperate in that moment for what he said to be true. Shit. That look that Eridan was giving him made Sollux's heart hurt now. He looked like he needed the comfort so badlyBut Sollux didn't want to admit that he did care. Karkat was right, the feelings were there, but Sollux was ignoring them. He'd be mad at himself too if he were Karkat. "Yeah, I do, I guess," he repeated, his eyes darting back and forth between Eridan's. Eridan looked back at him, a fondness creeping into his eyes that caused Sollux's breath to catch in his throat. No. I'm not going through this again. Not again, and definitely not with him. I don't have feelings for him. Karkat wasn't right, he was wrong. Sollux looked back at Eridan a moment, before he made the mistake of allowing his eyes to glance down to Eridan's lips. At that brief action, Eridan's eyes had widened, causing Sollux's heart to speed up tenfold and his face to flush. "Alright, so I guess I'll see you later!" Sollux said quickly, spinning around and opening the door. He walked out quickly, closing the door behind him. He made his way for the stairs, and it wasn't until he got to the bottom that the relief flowed through him. MaybeHopefully, Eridan was as oblivious and stupid as Sollux thought. Maybe he didn't notice Sollux's sudden attraction, and Sollux could get away with this. Yeah, probably not.

Chapter 8
"Yeah FF, classes are fine," Sollux drawled, dragging his washcloth over the wooden bar counter. He was holding his cell phone against his ear with his shoulder, putting glasses away as he cleaned the bar. It was pretty dead around this time. Everyone was off in the grill section, and the noise level was fairly low. He would prefer to talk to Fef when he wasn't at work, but this was the best time for her due to the non-correlating time zones. She laughed at his tone, and he couldn't help but to smile faintly. He really missed her laugh. He really missed her, actually. It had only been a couple weeks, but that was still a long time for Sollux to go without seeing her.

"Are you still majoring in Computer Science?" Fef asked, making Sollux roll his eyes with a slightly wider smile. "Of course I am, FF. It's only been about a month, I've barely had time to get used to my classes, let alone change my major. And what else am I good at other than Computer Programming and Applications Development?" He asked with a laugh. She laughed too as Sollux began to grab the glasses and wipe them down. "Oh, you're good at plenty of things, Sollux! You're amazing with computers, but you're still good at plenty!" She exclaimed, making him smile once again. "What about you? Are you going to college in Cali while you take care of your mom? Oh, speaking of which, how is she?" He asked, setting one glass down and picking up another. Feferi sighed. "She's doing alright, I suppose. We um. We still don't know what's wrong, so. Anyways, yeah, I'm going to college here. I'm majoring in Marine Biology, so my classes should be fun!" She said, her voice picking up as soon as it dropped into a sadder tone. He nodded, his smile reforming as soon as her excited tone was back. "That sounds perfect for you," he replied with a laugh, picking up and cleaning off another glass. It was silent for a while, and Sollux furrowed his eyebrows in a slight confusion. Just as he was about to ask if she was still there, she spoke up. Her tone was one that Sollux couldn't read, and he didn't know whether to be worried or suspicious. "So um. How's Eridan?" She asked, causing Sollux to purse his lips. He put the glass and cloth down as he turned, leaning his back against the bar, grabbing the phone and holding it with his hand. "Eridan's doing pretty well. He just got a job as a lifeguard, which I suppose fits him. He also just recently started classes, so now he's got a new thing to complain about," Sollux informed, confused as to why she would ask him instead of just calling Eridan and catching up. "And what about you two?" She asked, leading him to bite his bottom lip. "Are you two getting along?" Are we getting along? Well, funny you asked "You don't have to worry about us, FF, we're not going to rip each others heads off," he replied. He was met with a long silence, and he knew that his answer wasn't the one that she wanted to hear. He furrowed his eyebrows further than they already were, the suspicion growing. "I mean, do you guys, like. What I'm trying to say is that-Um. He's better from high school, isn't he? Like, easier to be around? Actually kind ofLikeable? What I mean is-" "Feferi, are you asking me if I like Eridan Ampora?" He interrupted, tired of this, beating around the bush, crap. He was met with another long silence before she replied. "You know, a lot of us thought that you may have liked each other in high school. That's why I wasn't so worried when I suggested that Eridan moved in with you since I was

leaving. I figured that you two would get along, maybe even more so than you two might have thought," she explained, and an annoyance spread through Sollux as she did. "You know, KK had the same crazy idea. I really have no idea where everyone is getting this from, but-" "Don't worry about it, Sollux. I wont bring it up again if you want. I called to catch up, not to prod into your love life. If you don't want to talk to me about it, that's okay," she interrupted quickly, not wanting anything awkward to come between them. He bit his lip hard once again. Should he tell her? God, then she might tell Eridan. No, Feferi wouldn't do something like that, but that would be rather awkward. Especially if Karkat was, of course, right again, and Feferi did have feelings for Sollux too. The thing that really confused Sollux was simply the matter of Feferi and Eridan. Since when was Sollux even likeable? He had a complete distaste for people and anything that involved getting off of his ass and going outside, what made him even the least bit desirable? "FF, you didn't let me finish," he started. "What I was going to say was that although I have no idea where you guys got your suspicions from about Eridan and I-" He looked down at his shoes. "-I think you're right. I think that That I may like him, a lot more than I want to," he admitted, sliding down the bar corner and onto the floor. He was once again, met by a slight silence before she spoke. "Oh is that so?" She asked, the tone of her voice insinuating that she was smiling. "And whatever is it that makes him so attractive to the straight boy who only likes chicks?" She teased. He groaned in reply, closing his eyes and running his hand over his face, causing his glasses to slip down his nose. "I don't know, FF. He's such an obnoxious, annoying little prick who complains about everything and can get on every single one of my nerves," he nearly growled. He then sighed, relaxing as he looked up at the ceiling, head leaning against one of the shelves on the inside of the bar. "But he's alsoCute. He's kind of sweet, in his own annoying way. He's really smart, although he doesn't know it, which makes it kind of endearing. He's so passionate about everything that he does, and he works so hard to be his own person because that's what he want's most, and, God, I don't even know. I just don't know, FF. Ever since I talked to KK about him and about high school and just the possibilitiesI've just had this growing fondness for him that I cant help. I'm literally being swallowed whole by this, and I can't escape it. Tell me what to do?" He begged, holding the phone harder against his ear. "Tell you what to do? Oh no. This is all you, Sollux. You are so totally into him, obviously, and now your choice is the one that counts," she laughed, obviously pleased with what was going on here. Sollux groaned once again. Thanks a bunch, FF. It was then that his boss stepped out of the back room, causing Sollux's eyes to widen. He scrambled up, holding his phone on the other side of his face so that his boss couldn't see it. "I have to talk to you later, FF, I'm about to get busted. Thanks for the help that you didn't provide!" He snapped, making her laugh once again as he hung up and shoved his phone into his pocket. He grabbed the glasses again, wiping them over with a sigh of relief as his boss walked past him.

He worked hard through his shift, trying to keep his mind occupied. Of course, the giant problem that's been lingering on his mind always managed to sneak into his thoughts, and the frustration was unavoidable. Damn that fucking northern priss. What the hell was Sollux going to do? He couldn't keep thinking that he was one-hundred percent straight, because he obviously wasn't. The more he thought about Eridan, the more he wanted him, and the more frustrated he became. Could something work between them? He was pretty sure that Eridan liked him as well, especially after the moment they shared just the other afternoon. They really hadn't spoken since, but Sollux couldn't pretend that he didn't notice the longing looks that he was receiving any time that him and Eridan were in the same room. Now that the scene was on his mind, he couldn't help but to feel a bit bad about it. He just left abruptly, and he was sure that his action didn't make Eridan feel too great. Especially after Sollux totally eyed his roommate's completely flawless lips He really was perfect. His eyes were just so deep and gorgeous, and his lashes were just so fucking long and his hair was literally perfect and his body was justSo fucking hot, with his toned muscles and his irresistible ass. He had these long, amazing fingers and these perfectly broad shoulders, and these great legs thatJust walked through the door. His eyes widened as he looked at Eridan beyond the bar, making his way through the crowd and sliding in between the bunch of people that usually showed up on a Friday night. He nearly dropped the glass that he was holding, shocked to see Eridan walk up to his bar and slide into a stool. He looked around a moment before his eye caught Sollux, and his full, pink lips pulled up into a smile. "Hey Sol," he called, and Sollux just looked at him in surprise. He walked over to Eridan, stepping around his coworker as he stopped in front of his roommate, still holding his glass. After the thoughts that he was just having about Eridan, and the look that Eridan was giving him right at this moment, Sollux couldn't have been more thankful that there was a bar in between him and his blushing crush. "I'llI'll take you up on that drink offer, now," he said, smiling bashfully as he looked up at Sollux. Sollux's eyebrow rose as he looked over Eridan. "Is that so? I thought you didn't drink, ED. I certainly didn't expect to see you strutting in here any time soon," Sollux admitted, crossing his arms as he looked at his roommate, who shook his head. "I don't usually drink, but tonight's different, I guess," he said with a shrug. He then looked over Sollux, then back up at his eyes with a slight smile. "Unless, you don't want to serve me anymore," he added. Sollux looked over him as well, for the second time, this time really just to check him out. He then met his gaze. To serve, or not to serve? He really had a bad feeling about mixing Eridan and alcohol together. But hey, what the hell. He leaned onto the bar, setting the glass that he was holding down in front of Eridan as a smile played on his own lips. "That depends. Can I see some ID?" He teased, causing Eridan's smile to widen slightly.

They shared a smile for a moment before Sollux pulled back, wiping his hands on a cloth that he pulled out from beneath the bar. "What can I get you, sir?" Eridan blushed slightly, looking down at his glass, then back up to Sollux. "I really don't care," he admitted, and Sollux raised his eyebrows. "That's never safe to say in a bar, ED," Sollux said with a laugh. He turned around and grabbed a bottle, turning back and pouring Eridan a glass of Jack Daniels. "This is what I usually drink," he informed, which seemed to be enough for Eridan. He watched as Eridan picked up the glass and sipped it, which earned him a laugh from Sollux as Eridan winced. "Did you walk or drive here, Eridan? I don't know how much it takes for you, but either way, I'm driving you home," he said with another laugh. Eridan furrowed his eyebrows at Sollux. "Fuckin' rude. I walked here. Good thing this town is so damn small. Nothin' like New York," he replied, drinking more of his drink as Sollux smiled at him. It wasn't long at all before Eridan began talking, and couldn't stop. Sollux tried to be annoyed, but really he was just amused with Eridan's behavior. Eridan talked with his hands, going on and on about New York and New York bars and New York drinks and New York cabs and New York, New York, New York. It was obvious how much he loved it there, which made Sollux feel a bit bad that he had to leave it. Nevertheless, Eridan kept talking. And talking, and talking, and talking. Sollux wouldn't let him have more drinks than was good for him, which really only should have been one. He was rather relieved when his shift was over and he could take Eridan home. Meanwhile, Eridan didn't think for a second that he could have been annoying as he continued to talk as they walked out of the bar, got into the car, and drove back to the apartment. He talked all the way up the stairs and into the apartment as well. As soon as they got inside, Sollux sat Eridan down on the couch. Eridan curled up immediately after taking off his shoes, just as Sollux kicked his shoes off and propped his feet up on the coffee table. He sighed and leaned back, closing his eyes and relaxing after the long day. He remained in that position for a few moments before he realized that Eridan had stopped talking. He opened his eyes, looking over at Eridan to find that Eridan was staring at him silently. He rose an eyebrow, looking at Eridan curiously. "What's up? You tired yet?" He asked, although he could see the exhaustion in Eridan's eyes. Eridan just looked at him a moment before he glanced away, looking at the coffee table as he lazily and clumsily played with the rings on his fingers. "Do you like me, Sol?" He slurred quietly. Sollux froze. Fuck. "Well, I don't hate you, if that's what you're asking," Sollux replied, though he knew very well that his answer was not the one that Eridan wanted. Eridan uncurled himself as he scooted closer to Sollux, making Sollux's eyes widen and causing his heart to pound hard. "Because I like you, Sol," he admitted, scooting over until his hip bumped into Sollux's.

Sollux slid his feet off of the coffee table as he contemplated moving away. He stiffened in his place, looking at Eridan cautiously as Eridan's eyes slowly trailed over Sollux's body. Sollux's heart sped slightly, and he could feel a blush rising to his cheeks. "You're wasted, Eridan. Like, you're seriously hammered," Sollux said with a slight laugh, and Eridan furrowed his eyebrows defensively. "I'm not w-wasted, Sol. W-what? Can't I admit that I like you w-without bein' fuckin' wwasted?" He slurred, causing Sollux to slowly relax. He looked at Eridan, almost guiltily as Eridan looked back at him. "Eridan, did you get drunk so that-" "Yeah, Sol," Eridan interrupted, almost angrily. "Yeah, okay, I admit it. I w-wanted to get drunk so that I'd hav-ve enough fuckin' courage to tell you that I liked you. Alw-ways fuckin' hav-ve. Since fuckin' high school, w-when you w-were so damn cute and funny and-" "Okay, Eridan! Okay!" Sollux interrupted back, his eyes wide and his cheeks flushed deeply. "Aright, I get it. You umYou like me. And I'm flattered, butHonestly, I've never really been into guys, Eridan," Sollux replied. It wasn't a total lie. He never was, before Eridan. Eridan just looked at him, his expression unreadable. "Nev-verInto guys?" He asked slowly, as if he didn't get it. Sollux swallowed hard before he replied, scooting slightly away from his drunk roommate. "Yeah. Never into guys. I've never really been attracted to dudes, Eridan. I don't know how else to say it," Sollux said, only receiving a few slow blinks from Eridan. There was a silence that couldn't be filled, and Sollux felt his anxiety begin to rise as neither he nor Eridan spoke. He actually almost got up and left the room, before Eridan did something that Sollux would have never, everseen coming. Eridan moved quickly, throwing a leg over Sollux as Sollux let out a gasp. Eridan draped his arms over Sollux's shoulders, straddling his legs as both of his knees pressed against the sides of Sollux's hips. Sollux looked up at Eridan in pure and utter shock, staring at him in disbelief as Eridan leaned close to him. "So you're tellin' me that in this moment, right here, right now-wYou don't w-want me?" Eridan asked, voice low and so fucking alluring despite the fact that he was hella drunk. Sollux just looked up at him, at a complete loss for words. His palms were pressed downwards on the cushion of the couch, his entire body completely tense beneath Eridan's. Having Eridan on his lap and having Eridan's face so close to his own sent a warmth through Sollux that he certainly would have preferred not to feel at the moment, or frankly at all around Eridan. His breathing had deepened and he knew that his cheeks had flushed further as he looked into Eridan's half lidded blue eyes. They sparkled in the dim light of the room as they slowly moved back and forth, looking at each of Sollux's eyes. "Can I kiss you, Sol?" Eridan asked slowly. Oh my God yes. Yes, please kiss me, Eridan. Please kiss me, please touch me, please "No," Sollux said, making Eridan's eyes widen. Eridan quickly leaned back, looking as though Sollux had just punched him across the face. Sollux's heart was pounding harder

than it had in a long, long time, and he couldn't believe that he had the strength to reject Eridan at this time. "No?" Eridan asked slowly. "No," Sollux repeated, keeping the shaky tone out of his voice. "No, Eridan. I don't want our first kiss to be while you're drunk." Eridan, who had looked about five seconds away from bursting into tears, couldn't help as his eyes widened further. He looked at Sollux in surprise, unsure what to make of the comment that Sollux had just made. "W-waitAre you insinuatin' that you w-want there to be more than one kiss?" He asked slowly, words slurring with drunken hope. Sollux sighed. Was he really about to do this? He just started liking the guy, was he even sure that any of this was legit? No. I haven't just started liking him. I've always liked him. I'm only just realizing it. "Yes, that's what I'm insinuating, Eridan. I do like you, you jackass, but I'm not letting you do anything that you might not want to do while your drunk, okay?" Sollux said slowly, his eyes jetting down to their position, which made the warmth spread further through him. He looked back up at Eridan, concentrating on the others eyes, which were lit with happiness. "I w-wouldn't regret anythin' that I did, Sol," he assured. "But okay." He slid off of Sollux, allowing Sollux to slowly exhale a long sigh of relief. He was relieved, he really was, but he couldn't deny that he was also disappointed. Eridan certainly did not make that moment easy, and Sollux was still surprised in himself that he was able to deny Eridan as smoothly as he did. "You should sleep, Eridan," Sollux said softly, and Eridan nodded. Eridan slid off of the couch, swaying slightly as he rose to his feet. Sollux smiled fondly as he joined Eridan, sliding an arm around him to steady him and keep him from falling over. He helped Eridan to his room and into his bed, running a hand through Eridan's hair as Eridan slid off his glasses and got comfortable against his pillows. Sollux smiled once more at him as he turned around, walking out of Eridan's room quietly. "Good night, Sol," Eridan called weakly. Sollux stopped in the hallway, turning and looking into Eridan's room through his open door. "Good night, Eri," he replied, slipping right into the nickname as though he had called Eridan that since the day they met. Sollux then turned, walking to his own room. He took his phone, wallet, and keys out of his pocket, setting them on the bedside table as he removed his jacket and his shirt. He slid into bed in his jeans, sliding his glasses off as well and setting them aside before he relaxed into bed. His heart was still pounding a mile a minute, but that didn't stop him from falling asleep with a smile on his face.

Chapter 9
Sollux whistled as he cooked, whisking multiple eggs in a bowl as he turned on the stove. His favorite breakfast to have, was an omelet with Honeybush tea afterwards, and this seemed like the perfect morning to have it. He felt better than he had in a long time, finally

able to sleep through the night comfortably with his crazy emotions now off of his chest. Also, with Eridan most likely suffering from an insane hang-over in bed, Sollux was able to use the shower when he wanted to this morning. So far, it looked like it was going to be a great day. That was, until he began to chop his peppers. Because as soon as he did, he heard the annoying voice of his hung-over roommate. "Soooool, I think I'm dyin'," Eridan whined dramatically from his room. Once again, Sollux tried to be irritated with his roommate. What an annoying little shit. If he knew that he couldn't handle his liquor, why the hell did he drink so much? If Eridan just wanted to tell Sollux how he felt, he was sure that one drink might have been enough. But Eridan certainly didn't have just one drink, and Sollux certainly wasn't irritated. He could only smile in fondness and amusement at the sound of Eridan's whining. It was weird for Sollux to smile. Really smile, for such simple reasons such as Eridan's voice. It was such a little thing, and it made SolluxHappy. He wasn't use to feeling this way more often than not, which is generally exactly how he felt around Eridan. He certainly wasn't complaining, though. Unlike Eridan "Sol!" "What do you want, Barney Gumble?" Sollux yelled in reply, resisting a laugh. It was quiet a moment before Eridan replied. "Was that a Simpsons reference to my bein' drunk? Because if so, cute, Sol, real cute," he yelled back, anger, annoyance, and pain laced on his voice. Sollux laughed then, finishing up with his peppers and starting on his onions. "I'm making breakfast, Eridan!" He yelled, beginning to whistle again as he cooked. "Sol, if I eat anythin', I'm gonna' puke," he replied, voice weaker this time, but still audible. "Who said I'm making breakfast for you?" He yelled back with a laugh. Eridan groaned, and Sollux could see him pouting dramatically in his mind. "You're a fuckin' dick, Sol!" "You wanted this fucking dick last night, Eridan!" He retorted as soon as Eridan finished, causing the entire apartment to grow quiet. Sollux slowed with his chopping when he didn't get a reply, slowly turning towards the hallway. Hm "Too soon?" He called with a slight smile. He heard the shuffling of Eridan as Eridan slowly made his way down the hall and into the kitchen. His head was hung, his hair was messy, and his glasses were all the way down his nose. His cheeks were flushed slightly, and he looked pretty sick. Sollux had finished adding all of his ingredients into the pan, and had turned around to look at Eridan as his roommate walked in. "Hey sleeping beauty," he joked as Eridan walked over to him. Sollux's smile remained until he realized that Eridan wasn't stopping. His smile slowly faded, eyes widening as Eridan placed his hands on Sols hips, pushing him back against the counter. His breath caught as Eridan leaned forward, pressing his lips firmly against Sollux's.

The pounding of Sollux's heart was loud in his ears. His eyes were wide as he looked at Eridan's lightly closed ones, Eridan's lips moving slowly against Sollux's. It was as if everything around them had faded away, the only thing left being the warmth of Eridan's hands against his hips and the feeling of Eridan's lips against his own. Just as Sollux began to push his lips against Eridan's, Eridan pulled away. He opened his eyes and looked at Sollux, an unreadable emotion in his ocean blue eyes. Sollux blinked back, looking in between each of Eridan's eyes before clearing his throat. "Wow. I-Certainly wasn't expecting that," Sollux admitted, slowly biting his lip. Just a simple kiss had made him so dizzy Eridan just looked at him, and it was then that Sollux could pinpoint the emotion in his eyes. He couldn't have looked any sadder in that moment, and Sollux had no idea why. Sollux himself was happy as hell, and that kiss only made it better. Why did his roommate look so upset? Just as he was about to ask him what the matter was, he heard the sizzling of the pan get louder. His eyes widened and he spun on his heel, snatching up the spatula and flipping his omelet. It was a bit overcooked, but it wasn't bad. He looked over it to make sure that it was okay, then turned back to Eridan, who was looking at his feet. Sollux let out a sigh, crossing his arms as he looked at the pouting Aquarius in front of him. "Alright, so are you going to tell me what that was?" Sollux asked. Eridan sighed, rubbing his temples as he tensed slightly. He walked over and sat on a stool at the island, eyes avoiding Sollux's. "I guess I just-" He furrowed his eyebrows then, knowing very well that what he was about to say would make him sound pretty pathetic. "-Wanted to know what it was like, I guess. Kissin' you, I mean," he said, voice low as he continued to rub his temples for his obvious headache. Sollux raised his eyebrows. Kissing him? Okay, that didn't clear anything up for him at all. Sollux specifically remembered telling him that he preferred there to be more than one kiss in their relationship. Why was he talking about kissing Sollux as if it would only happen once? Sollux turned around. He scooped his omelet up, setting it on the plate that he set aside. He begun to clear things off of the counters and the stove top as he spoke to Eridan, set on figuring out what was up. "Okay, what's that supposed to mean? Do you remember last night as vividly as I do? I wouldn't be surprised if you didn't, you know, being completely wasted and all," Sollux said, walking over to the island with his plate. He sat down next to Eridan, looking at him as he took a bite of his almost perfectly made breakfast. Eridan looked at him, looking tired, pained, and depressed. "I would have done the same thing you did," he said, voice weak, his words only adding to Sollux's confusion. "Oh? And what did I do?" Sollux asked, taking another bite of his food. Eridan swallowed hard. He slid out of his stool, walking over to the cabinet above the stove. He grabbed a bottle of pain meds out of the cabinet and grabbed a bottle of water out of the

fridge. He took a couple of pills, then leaned against the fridge, as if afraid to get near Sollux again. He stared down at his bare feet, chewing on his lip a moment before he spoke. "You lied to get me off of you," he said, voice so soft that Sollux almost didn't hear, Sollux's chewing slowed as he slowly put his food down. He swallowed what was in his mouth, looking at Eridan with furrowed eyebrows. "ILied? About what?" He asked, sliding out of his stool. Eridan immediately stepped away, shaking his head, which caused him to wince. "I would have done the same thing!" He repeated. "If I was straight and an obviously desperate gay guy was throwin' himself on me, I would make up shit to get him off of my lap too. I made you uncomfortable, and I'm sorry. Gettin' drunk was stupid, and-" "Wait, wait," Sollux interrupted, closing his eyes and shaking his head. He opened them again, blinking at Eridan. "You think that I lied about wanting to maybe try something with you, just to get you away from me?" He asked. Eridan just looked at him, blood-shot eyes slightly wide as he did. He looked almost shocked that Sollux didn't automatically confirm it, and Sollux looked back in equal shock. He wasn't that much of a jackass. And was it not obvious that Sollux liked him too? He almost let Eridan have his way with him, did Eridan not see that? Well, he was pretty fucked over They both just stared at each other, unsure what to think or say. The mood had fallen awkward and uncomfortable, and Sollux had no idea what to do. Their feelings were out in the open now, but things still weren't easy. "Eridan, I almost got laid last night," Sollux joked, trying to add a little humor to the situation. "Do I look like the kind of guy that would pass that up without good reason?" Eridan just looked at him. He was obviously in a state of shock, surprised that Sollux hadn't kicked him out by now. He just stared at Sollux as he spoke, neither smiling nor laughing at Sollux's joke. "No, actually, you don't," he replied, painfully honestly and almost hopefully. Sollux frowned. "Wow, it's a bit insulting when you say it," he said in mock offense. This finally yanked a smile out of Eridan, and Sollux couldn't help but to smile back. He walked over to his roommate, surprising him further by sliding his long fingers through Eridan's messy bedhair. "And you make fun of myself-esteem, Eri," he said, almost fondly as he slid his fingers through Eridan's hair, looking into his eyes. "I meant what I said. Any affection that I receive from you, I don't want it to be just because you were too much of a dork that you had to get drunk," Sollux teased, causing Eridan to blush. "ButI do want affection from you," he admitted gently, his pale cheeks flushing slightly. Eridan looked back, eyes widening once again. Sollux slid his fingers out of Eridan's hair and down and over his roommates neck, causing Eridan to blush deeply from the gentle brush of Sollux's fingers. Under his fingertips, Sollux could feel Eridan's pulse quickening the longer that Sollux remained near him. "Really?" Eridan asked softly. "Really," Sollux replied with a smile.

A smile that matched Sollux's slowly began to tug upwards on Eridan's lips, which caused Sollux's smile to widen. They smiled like giant dorks at one another for a moment before Sollux blinked, clearing his throat and stepping away. "How's your head?" Sollux asked, which immediately forced Eridan's smile downwards, his frown followed by a groan. "This fuckin' sucks, Sol. I'm so fuckin' tired, I barely got any sleep, I puked like, twenty times last night," he complained, and Sollux had to bite his bottom lip to keep from smiling as he continued. "My head feels like a fuckin' ice pick is bein' shoved through my brain, the light of the sun through the windows hurts like hell" "Well that's just plain unfortunate. I was really looking forward to spending the entire day with you, Eridan," Sollux replied in a teasing voice, walking back over to the island as he resumed eating his breakfast. Eridan immediately shut up. His parted lips closed as he looked at Sollux. He blinked a few times before speaking. "Really?" He asked again. "Really," Sollux repeated, smile remaining as he looked at his no-longer-complaining roommate. Eridan blinked a few times more before speaking once again. "I'm sure that I'll feel fine after I shower," he said slowly, causing Sollux to laugh after he swallowed his food. "Oh, it'll be all better by then?" He teased, causing the lovely blush to return to Eridan's cheeks. "It better! Because now that you said that, you can't take it back. We're spending the fuckin' day together!" Eridan informed, Sollux's smile raising slightly as he looked back at his food. "As long as I don't have to listen to the droning of your annoying voice as you complain about everything, I'd love to spend the day with you," Sollux replied sweetly. Eridan's smile returned immediately, and he completely ignored the first half of Sollux's statement as he turned and began to make his way out of the kitchen and down the hall. Sollux had to force back another laugh, which he was finding that he had to do a lot lately. "I'll take a quick shower, Sol!" Eridan called back. Sollux smiled once again as he finished his breakfast, standing up and making his way to the sink with his plate. "Yeah, I doubt it."

Chapter 10
"Are we really walkin' into town, Sol?" Eridan asked, rubbing his temples due to his still lingering headache. He and Sollux had stepped off of the last step of the apartment stairwell, and Sollux made his way towards the sidewalk after crossing the parking lot, Eridan following. He smiled at Eridan's words. "You shouldn't hide your stutter, Eridan," he replied, avoiding Eridan's question. Eridan's eyes widened as Sollux continued. "I think its cute," he teased, although he really meant it. It was the cutest damn thing that Sollux had ever heard. He was pretty happy with that part of Drunk-Eridan.

"Fuck you, Sol. It's not cute, and I'm fuckin' pissed that you brought that up," Eridan complained already, looking away as he blew a lock of purple hair out of his face. Sollux chuckled. "I mean it, Eri," he assured, hoping that the nickname would soften him up slightly. It didn't. "I couldn't give two shits if you meant it or not, fact is you're wrong. Its stupid, and you're a hypocrite," he replied. Sollux looked at him in a slight surprise, eyebrows raising. "How am I a hypocrite?" "Your lisp, Sol. Don't think that I don't remember your lisp." Eridan smiled then. "You want to talk about the cutest thing, lets talk about that lisp a' yours" "I'm not a car person, Eridan. Why do you think that I walk everywhere? So, yeah. We're walking into town," Sollux replied, quickly changing the subject off of his horrid lisp, that he worked ever-so-hard to mask, as he shoved his hands into the pockets of his jacket. He couldn't hide his surprise as Eridan walked close to him. He looked at him, then looked forward again, another smile playing on his lips. "You're not a car person? Why?" Eridan prodded, causing Sollux's faint smile to fade. "It's a past thing, don't worry about it," Sollux replied quickly. Eridan huffed. "Great. So I'm not goin' to get to know about your past, and you're not goin' to get to know about mine," he mumbled, looking away as they walked. Sollux looked at him, eyebrow rising. "Who said that I'm not going to get to know about your past?" "I did," Eridan replied immediately, still not looking at Sollux. Sollux sighed, shaking his head and looking forward. This was going to be hard as hell. Eridan didn't want to talk about his self and his past, and Sollux didn't want to talk about his self and his past either. How the hell were they going to form a relationship if they hardly knew each other? Sollux looked down at his mismatched shoes. He watched them for a while as they walked, chewing on his bottom lip. Those were two bad habits of his. He watched as Eridan's stride matched his own, thinking a moment as he continued to chew on his lip. Well. He could start with that and see where things went "I have a lot of bad habits," he started, causing Eridan to slowly look at him in a slight surprise. Sollux glanced at him, then continued. "I stare at my feet as I walk a great majority of the time. I chew on my lip far too much. I slouch a lot. Sometimes if I get bored with people, I just drown them out and watch their lips move as they speak." This made Eridan laugh, and Sollux looked up at him with a slight smile. He looked at the other a moment before he looked forward. He was thinking about what else to say, but he was beat by Eridan to the next line. "I have a lot of bad habits too," he admitted, and Sollux looked over at him. Eridan smiled at Sollux, then looked forward. "I'm a perfectionist, which is one of them. I can't let anythin' go, which is another. I have a bad habit of sayin' whatever is on my mind. I let little things bother me. I interrupt people a lot-"

"All of which I know," Sollux teased, causing Eridan to punch him in the shoulder. Sollux laughed, though that actually kind of hurt. He had a high tolerance for pain, but Eridan was fucking strong. "Fine. What do you want to know?" Eridan asked, almost cautiously as he played with the ends of his scarf. Sollux looked forward. He thought a moment before looking back at Eridan. "I don't know. JustTell me random shit," Sollux laughed. Eridan smiled at him, then looked forward. "UmI really like Iced Tea. Like, I really like Iced Tea," he began. "I love the smell of Dove soap. I love the ocean. Not so much the beach, just the ocean. I love to fly on planes. I like to read fantasy books and I like to watch Disney movies. Whenever I'm bored, you'll either find me drawin' in my sketchbook or workin' out at the gym. Although I'm pretty healthy, I really love sweets" As Eridan went on and on, Sollux just stared at him fondly. Man, he talks with his hands. With every statement, Eridan moved his hands every which way. The passion in his eyes when he talked about what he loved was amazing, and Sollux couldn't help but to feel for him even more. Everything that Eridan was saying literally made him more and more perfect. It didn't matter if it was something as little as Eridan liking the smell of a fucking brand of soap, Sollux found it more endearing. Sollux didn't even realize that Eridan had stopped talking until Eridan looked at him, eyebrow raising slightly. "Are youStarin' at me?" He asked, jolting Sollux out of his thoughts. Sollux blinked a few times, forcing the blush back before it made its way to his cheeks. "Huh?" Sollux replied stupidly, causing Eridan to smile slightly. "You were fuckin' gawkin' at me, Sol," he replied with a laugh, and Sollux shoved him, speeding his pace slightly. "Yeah, so maybe I was. I can't help it, you're fucking hot," Sollux replied with a smile. He waited for the blush on Eridan's cheeks, but it didn't come. Eridan merely shrugged in reply, his pace matching Sollux's. "I know," he replied vainly, chin held high as he looked over at Sollux, a smile playing on his lips. Sollux raised his eyebrows. "Whoa, look at you!" Sollux said, holding his hands up as he looked forward. "Excuse me, Mr. Man!" Eridan laughed, grabbing one of Sollux's hands and yanking it down. He didn't let go, though, and Sollux's heart sped slightly as Eridan laced his fingers with the Gemini's. Sollux slowly lowered his other hand, looking down at their intertwining fingers before looking up at Eridan, who was looking ahead, looking completely natural. Sollux looked ahead too, lacing his fingers back with Eridan's. Eridan squeezed his hand affectionately, and that simple action caused Sollux to look straight back down at his feet, heart racing even more. Neither of them spoke as they made their way into town. Sollux thought that he would be bothered by the numerous stares that they received from multiple people over the fact that

their hands were clasped together, but he wasn't. In fact, it wasn't even like there were other people around. Eridan was really all that mattered, and that was a wonderful feeling. "SoIs this a date?" Eridan asked slowly, finally breaking the comfortable silence between them. Sollux looked over at him, smiling slightly. "Duh," he replied, causing Eridan to smile slightly in return. "Where are we goin'?" Eridan asked, looking around at the old town. Sollux shrugged. "Its early, we have all day. I was thinking that first we could go to the aquarium-" "Really?!" Eridan exclaimed in excitement, causing Sollux to look at him quickly and laugh. "Wow, yeah, I thought you'd like that," he said with a laugh. "I haven't been there since I was a kid, so I think that it'd be kinda fun," he finished with a smile. Eridan's hand clasped tighter onto Sollux's. Damn. Sollux knew that Eridan liked sea creatures, but he didn't know it was to this extent. It turned out that Sollux didn't even know the half of it. Eridan was practically a child again through the aquarium, and Sollux had trouble keeping up with him. The way that his face lit up throughout the whole thing brought a huge amount of happiness to Sollux, that it was almost confusing. He hadn't been this happy in a while. Not since Aradia, actually. And it was strange, because it seemed as though he was more happy with Eridan than he had been with Aradia. When he was with her, he was almost sure that he could never be happier. And now, the more and more time that he spent with Eridan, it seemed as though that statement could very well be disproved. They were in the last section of the aquarium, staring at the manta rays and how smoothly they moved. Eridan slid his hand into Sollux's again, and Sollux's smile couldn't help but to match Eridan's. They watched the manta rays swim for a while before Eridan spoke. "I used to go to the aquarium with my family, before my mom died," he said. The statement amazed Sollux slightly. Eridan never talked about his family, let alone his mom. The fact that he was mentioning something that they all use to do was a bit surprising to Sollux. Sollux looked at Eridan as the Aquarius watched the giant sea creature swim. He didn't know what to say, but that was okay because Eridan continued. "My mom didn't work, but she didn't just stay at home either. She loved to go deep sea divin' and swim with the fishes and stuff. Every time we went to the aquarium, she would tell us everythin' we could ever want to know about each species." He sighed, looking away from the manta ray and over at the reef in the large tank. "I suppose that's why I liked Fef so much." he said slowly, surprising Sollux further. "She was a lot like my mom" Yup, there it was. Sollux's heart immediately broke for Eridan. Sollux furrowed his eyebrows in sadness, squeezing Eridan's hand as he stepped closer to the other. Did Sollux want to kiss him? Well, Sollux always wanted to kiss himBut in this moment? Sollux settled for slipping his hand out of Eridan's and sliding his arms around the sad male. The comforting motion seemed to shock Eridan. He stood there a moment, a bit confused before he relaxed, realizing that Sollux was comforting him. This broke Sollux's heart into even tinier pieces. Eridan was so un-use to the comfort and affection, and that made SolluxSo fucking sad.

"It's okay, Eridan," Sollux said softly, which immediately caused Eridan to tense as tears threatened his eyes. He hugged Sollux back tightly, sniffling to keep the tears at bay. "Shut the fuck up, Sol, you're gonna' make me cry," he mumbled, burying his face into Sollux's hair. Sollux ignored his demand, closing his eyes as he hugged his roommate close. He knew that they were probably getting weird stares, but that didn't matter. All that mattered was making sure that Eridan knew that he was cared for, and that he wasn't alone. Sollux knew more than well what that feeling was like. He always had Karkat, but sometimes we all need more than just a best friend. "Hey Sol?" Eridan said softly. "Yeah, Eri?" Sollux replied. Eridan pulled back slightly, his face no longer buried into Sollux's dark hair. His eyes met Sollux's, and he looked genuinely interested. "What's your mom like?" He asked. Frick. That one hurt. Sollux's content expression fell into one of conflicted feelings. Good thing that Sollux was on his meds. Any time that his mom was mentioned when Sollux was clean of his medication only ever ended badly. He cleared his throat, but he didn't break their gaze. "My mom's dead too, Eridan," he replied softly. Eridan looked at him in pure horror, and before Sollux could reassure him, Eridan shook his head. "Shit, we need to get off this fuckin' subject," Eridan demanded, straightening as he took a deep breath and smiled. "Where are we goin' next?" He asked, bringing a smile to Sollux's lips. "How about lunch? You haven't eaten yet," Sollux suggested, and Eridan merely shrugged. "You ate a couple hours ago, and I'm not that hungry," Eridan replied. Fuck. This guy, like, never eats. Sollux sighed, smile still present. "Then how about we grab some coffee at the coffee shop a couple blocks from here, and we grab a pastry so that you at least eat something," Sollux suggested once again, making Eridan smile. "I can't deny a pastry," he replied, making Sollux laugh. "Wow, you weren't kidding when you mentioned that sweet tooth thing," Sollux chuckled, re-grabbing Eridan's hand as he led them out of the Aquarium. They grabbed some coffee's and they ate their pastries for lunch. They didn't have any further plans for the day, so they just sat in the coffee shop for a few hours. All they did was talk and laugh and get to know one another. Sollux was never aware that one could actually feel their feelings for someone growing. He thought that when you liked someone or loved someone, it just sort of happened, and you didn't realize it until it smacked you upside the face. But this was different. He could slowly feel himself feeling more and more for his roommate, absolutely amazed at the feelings that he was experiencing in quick time. He wouldn't deny; Eridan had many flaws. Many flaws. But it was slowly reaching the point that Sollux didn't mind them at all. In fact, even Eridan's flaws seemed perfect. Was that even fucking possible?

Once again, he hadn't realized that he was staring at Eridan. This time, though, it wasn't Eridan that jolted him out of his thoughts. It was the fact that Sollux had realized that Eridan had fallen silent, and that he was staring right back. This was so fucking stupid. He felt as though he were watching one of Karkat's shitty movies, staring deep into Eridan's eyes as Eridan gazed deeply right back into Sollux's unique ones. Oh, fuck, Karkat He hated proving Karkat right. Shit. The second that the little devil finds out about this, Sollux knew that he would never hear the end of it. He would have to prepare himself for the endless 'I-told-you-so's' and the playful, meaningless gay jokes. But right now, Sollux was finding it difficult to give a fuck. This was stupid, yeah, but that didn't mean that Sollux had any intention of stopping. He looked in between each of Eridan's glistening eyes as Eridan's eyes darted back and forth between each of Sols. "Hey Sol?" Eridan asked. Sollux was getting so use to Eridan starting conversations that way. "Hm?" Eridan blinked a few times. A smile formed on his pink lips, and he leaned slightly over the small table that Sollux and Eridan were seated at. Sollux raised an eyebrow, his gaze not breaking away from the other male's. "Your eyes are fuckin' perfect," he complimented. Sollux felt his cheeks heat up slightly from the compliment. His eyes? Eridan use to make fun of his eyes. Sollux hated them, too. It was yet another one of his qualities that made him different, and he hated them. It was though every time he looked in the mirror, beyond his glasses, his blue and brownish-reddish eyes reminded him that he wasn't even close to normal. "You didn't use to think so," Sollux replied slowly, slightly embarrassed for being embarrassed. Eridan smiled slightly wider. "I've always thought so. And I think that you should speak with your lis-" "Don't say it, Eridan," Sollux warned, and Eridan laughed as he sat back in his seat. "Alright, alright, I understand. Unlike you, I'm not a hypocrite," Eridan replied, grabbing his empty coffee cup. He stood up and walked over to the wastebasket, tossing it as he headed for the door. "C'mon, Sol, lets take a walk near the lake," Eridan offered, as Sollux stood up and threw out his trash as well. He followed Eridan out the door, walking close to him as they made their way down the street. They walked in a comfortable silence for a while. Thoughts swirled around Sollux's mind as he thought about what else there was that he wanted to know about Eridan. There were a lot of things, but he wasn't sure how Eridan would feel about them. The main thing was his family. Sollux couldn't lie, and say that he wasn't fucking curious about Eridan's mysterious family. He wanted to get away from them, and they obviously treated him like shit. Sollux actually didn't know that for sure, but judging by Eridan's self esteem and judging the way that Eridan reacted around affection or comfort, Sollux would

say that his roommate didn't receive much love at home. This made his heart slowly sink, and his emotions darken. Sollux's home life wasn't too fantastic either. In fact, his home life really, really sucked a fuck for a while, before he was adopted. His new family was great and all, but the lingering of his old life was always present, and he knew that he'd never escape it. The memories of his past made Sollux furrow his eyebrows in anger and sadness, looking straight down at his shoes. His emotions rose slightly, but not enough that he couldn't control them. He needed to get his mind off of the dark memories. He certainly didn't want Eridan to see a mental breakdown, and he definitely didn't want to ruin this perfect day. "So when you said that your mom would talk about the ocean and sea creatures to you, you said that she would 'tell us' everything about what she saw. I'm assuming that us includes you, your dad and yourSister?" Sollux tried, looking back up at Eridan. "Oh, look at you, smooth criminal. Tryin' to get details out of me? Sly, real sly," Eridan said, looking at Sollux with playfully narrowed eyes, making Sollux smile. Eridan then looked forward again before finishing. "I'm not tellin' you shit, Sol." Sollux groaned, tipping his head back dramatically. "You won't even tell me if you have any siblings? Come on, you can at least tell me that," Sollux practically begged. Eridan sighed, crossing his arms uncomfortably as he walked. He looked hesitant, but he spoke nevertheless. "I have one older sibling," he admitted, and Sollux looked at him curiously. "Oh, okay, now we're getting somewhere. Guy? Girl? Insert Option C?" Sollux asked, receiving a weird smile from Eridan. "Option C?" He chuckled. Sollux nodded, smiling slightly in return. "Life isn't just black and white, Eridan. There can be more than just Guy's and Doll's," he informed, and Eridan chuckled at the movie reference. "He's not part of the Option C category, Sol," he replied with a smile. His smile then faded, realizing that he slipped. Sollux laughed in response, nudging Eridan with his elbow. "Don't worry about it, Eridan. Telling me that you have an older brother. Won't bring on the apocalypse," Sollux teased, and Eridan merely huffed. "Will you at least tell me his name?" Sollux added, and Eridan looked down at his shoes, taking on Sol's habit. "If I tell you, can we get off the subject?" He mumbled. Sol thought about it a moment, then sighed. "Yes, I suppose," he agreed, and Eridan looked away. He looked as though he were struggling with the name, and Sollux furrowed his eyebrows in curiosity. "Cronus," Eridan said, his voice barely above a whisper, though the distaste was still audible in his tone. "His name is Cronus." "Interesting," Sollux said slowly. "And do you not get along with Cronus?" There was a long silence, and the playful mood slowly began to fall. Sollux knew that this shit must have been serious, but Eridan was treating the subject like it was a piece of the Queen's crystal. Was he just being dramatic, as always, or was his family literally that bad?

"No, I don't get along with Cronus. He's a greaser wanna-be, and he's a dumbass fake. Not only that, but he's a disgusting, selfish prick whose always tried to take everything that's mine. He doesn't have a mind of his own, he does whatever my father tells him, and he has no morals and no conscience," Eridan snapped. "Is that enough information for you?" Sollux just looked at Eridan in shock, their pace slowing as they entered the park. He hadn't meant to make Eridan so angryHe noted not to bring up Cronus again, and he also noted to just stay away from the subject of Eridan's family. It was obviously a touchier subject than Sollux had begun to realize. Sollux laid a gentle hand on Eridan's arm, causing the angry male to relax slowly beneath his touch. He looked at him softly, Eridan's cheeks filling slightly from his outburst. He glanced at Sollux, then away, cheeks rosy with slight embarrassment. "I'm sorry, Eridan, I was an asshole. You didn't want to talk about it, and prodding you was a dick-move," Sollux apologized. Eridan sighed, running his fingers through his near perfect hair. He looked tired, and now Solluxreally regretted bringing it up. "Don't worry about it, Sol. I shouldn't have gotten so angry like that. I just" He looked at Sollux, then away again, choosing his words carefully. "I want to keep you, of all people, out of my family life, okay?" He replied vaguely. Sollux's curiosity was once again peaked. Damn Eridan, for making everything sound so interestingHe didn't dare ask about his family again, though. He wasn't going to risk another outburst from Eridan. He would just have to live with his curiosity "Okay, Eri," Sollux agreed, and this time, the nickname did soften Eridan. Eridan smiled fondly at Sollux. "So we can walk around the lake for a while. Then we should go people watchin' at the mall, then we can go home and watch movies" Eridan went on and on about what he wanted to do with the rest of the day. It was half over already, and Sollux was looking forward to the other half. So far so good, despite the small bump sparked by Sollux's need to know everything. It was as if all of the events of the day led up to that one conversationEridan's family wasn't brought up again, but it was still an issue that remained as a shadow over Sollux's mind.

Chapter 11
"You know, it is so damn typical for you to doubt me. It is just so damn typical. But wait WaitWhat's this? WasWas I right? Was I, Karkat Vantas, right? You bet your garden, I was," Karkat rubbed it in, smiling a wide and proud smile across the bar at Sollux. Sollux rolled his eyes, biting back a snarl that he was ready to direct at his best friend. "You don't even know how far this is going to go, KK," Sollux replied, running his rag over the bar top. Karkat gave a half laugh in reply, leaning forward onto the bar. "I bet that I could give you an accurate estimate, if you tell me how far it's already gone," Karkat said, his insinuating smile widening. Sollux gave him a look of disgust. "Alright, first off, get that hideous smile off of your face. Second off, even if it had reached the levels of your horrible imagination, why the fuck would I give details to you? And third off, it hasn't reached the levels of your horrible imagination," Sollux snapped in reply,

running the rag harder over the top of the bar. Karkat nodded in reply, not even fazed by Sollux's harsh comments. "Oh it hasn't? And how does that make you feel?" He droned, like a bad psychiatrist out of a terrible sitcom. Sollux rolled his eyes. "Shut the fuck up, KK. Look, I'll admit, you were right. I hate to admit that, since your big head couldn't possibly get any bigger, but its true. I might have liked him before, and I do like him now. We've been on a few dates and we spend a lot of time together." He fell silent for a moment, letting up on the pressure that he was putting on his washcloth. "But" "But?" Karkat asked, all joking now aside as he rose his eyebrows. Sollux sighed, as he stopped moving his rag all together. He looked down at the shining bar top, an expression falling over his face that his best friend couldn't read. "Things are just really complicated. I honestly don't know how long this thing is even going to last," he admitted. It was true. Things were fine so far, and they had been since Eridan and Sollux's date day a couple weeks ago. Since then, they had spent nearly every moment that they could around each other. Sollux had felt as though he had gotten to know Eridan better than he could ever imagine that he would, and he was sure that Eridan had gotten to know him well too, butThey honestly didn't know much about each other. All Sollux knew about Eridan's family was that he had an older brother named Cronus, and that his mother was dead. He knew nothing about how Eridan's mother had died, Eridan's father, what his family did for a living, why Eridan wanted to get away, why they let Eridan get away, why Eridan's father won't pay for anything that has to do with Eridan, even though his family was obviously loadedAnd Eridan knew jack-shit about Sollux's family. Sollux would love nothing more than to keep it that way, though he knew that he was only aiding the problem. He didn't know anything about Eridan before Eridan had moved in with him, and Eridan knew nothing about Sollux's past either. Sollux tried to pretend like that was okay, and that they could have a relationship without those details, but it was difficult. He felt as though there was a huge part of Eridan that Sollux didn't know, and that was hard to look past. He felt for Eridan, stronger than he ever would have liked, and because of this, he wanted to know everything about him. He also had this dire urge to comfort Eridan. He wanted Eridan to be happy so badly "Man, you've gotten soft," Karkat commented, as if he could read Sollux's thoughts. Sollux blinked, returning to Earth as his eyes met Karkat's brown ones. "I'veWhat do you mean?" He snapped defensively, and Karkat couldn't help but to laugh. "I can tell when you're thinking of him. You completely relax and your eyes grow soft and your whole fucking aura changes, man. You've fallen hard," Karkat accused. He was right, of course, but Sollux rolled his eyes once again nevertheless. "I still recall when that happened to you, KK. You didn't have time for anyone else, only her," Sollux retorted. He expected Karkat's entire being to do a 180, but Karkat merely shrugged. "I'm a sensitive guy," he replied simply, and Sollux raised his eyebrows. He looked at Karkat a moment, about to reply when his co-worker walked out of the kitchen behind the bar.

"Did I hear Vantas say that he was sensitive? I did, didn't I?" Dave said, buttoning the top buttons on his black work shirt. That's when Karkats entire being did do a 180, and his body tensed and his eyes grew hard as the looked away from the bar and from Dave Strider. Dave noticed, and he would have smiled if that wouldn't have broken his cool composure. Sollux turned around, happy to get off of the subject of Eridan for a while. He leaned against the bar, wiping his hands on the rag that he was still holding. He smiled at Dave, who nodded his head slightly in reply. "Hey, Dave, it's been a while. How was Texas?" Sollux asked, as Dave pushed his aviators further up on his nose to make sure that his eyes were covered, brushing his light blonde hair to the side in the same movement. "Cool. Bro's doing alright, Pop's cool too. Why? You guys miss me?" Dave replied with a slight smile. Karkat scoffed behind Sollux. Sollux's smile faded, and Dave's smile faltered, but didn't fall. "Still hate me, Karkitty?" Dave teased. He always used the nickname that their friend, Nepeta, used to refer to Karkat. Karkat wasn't too fond of it, and Dave knew that very well. Karkat glared at Dave, but didn't reply. Dave's smile faded then and his eyebrows rose slightly, and Sollux quickly cleared his throat in the midst of the awkward moment. "How are classes, Dave?" Sollux asked, and Dave nodded as he slowly looked away from Karkat and to Sollux. "Boring, as usual. Your's?" Dave asked, grabbing a box from under the bar. He began to unbox and wash the new glasses, and Sollux smiled and nodded in reply. "'Boring' sounds like an accurate adjective," Sollux said, and Dave smiled ever so slightly. "How about your roommate? Is he enjoying his classes?" Dave asked. Sollux parted his lips to reply, but was beat to it by Karkat. "Oh, Eridan's enjoying a bit more than just his classes," Karkat said, and Sollux immediately turned around and threw his towel at Karkat. "Fuck you!" Sollux snapped, and Karkat laughed as he caught the rag. Dave's eyebrows rose slightly, and he looked at Sollux in a slight surprise. "Wait, You?" He started, and Sollux groaned as he ran his fingers through his hair. "I don't want to talk about it," Sollux replied. Dave looked at Sollux in confusion a moment before looking at Karkat for answers. Karkat smiled slightly at Dave, trying to insinuate what he meant, which made Dave smile slightly in return. Karkat's smile immediately faded as he realized that he had just smiled at Dave Strider, and he quickly looked away. Dave's smile faded as well, and he furrowed his eyebrows as he looked back at Sollux. "So, you and Ampora, hm? Huh. You think you know a guy," Dave teased lightly, and Sollux rolled his eyes. "Whatever. The bar's opening, Karkat. Are you staying or are you going?" Sollux asked, as people began to come in and make their way over to the bar section. Karkat turned and looked at the people, then turned back and looked at Dave, who was beginning to serve a guy who had just sat down. Karkat huffed.

"Hm, that's a tough choice. I think I'll take the utter loneliness and boring silence of my dorm," he replied with disgust, and Sollux smiled slightly. "Whatever floats your boat. Though, he's not that bad, KK. He's actually pretty fun to be around," Sollux assured, and Karkat's hard gaze met Sollux's. "Then date him, Sollux, since you're into that kind of thing now," He snapped in reply. Sollux's smile faded, and his eyebrows furrowed. He snatched the washcloth back from Karkat, looking offended. "Nice one, KK. Now, if you're done being an asshole, go home," Sollux hissed, and Karkat's harsh expression softened. Karkat sighed, running his hand over his face. "I'm sorry, Sollux. I justI really don't like him, okay? I know you're just trying to help, but don't bother. I'm not saying that to be a dick, I'm saying it because it wont make a difference," Karkat said. Sollux just looked at him, a bit annoyed. What was his problem? He still didn't know what went down between Karkat and Dave, and he knew that neither of them would tell him. More and more things that Sollux didn't know about were piling up, and it was quite bothersome. Sollux was use to knowing everything He was about to reply to Karkat, but was nudged gently by Dave, who had made his way over to Sollux's side. "Heads up, dude," he said, nodding towards the entrance. Sollux looked up, and his heart jolted. Aradia was standing near the door, fixing her long hair from the windy afternoon. She pulled her thick, dark red hair to the side, batting her long eyelashes as she looked around. Her brown eyes sparkled in the light of the bar, accented by the dark, smoky makeup that surrounded them. Her pale skin made her dark red lips look even darker, and they pulled up in a slight smile as her eyes made contact with Sollux's. Sollux swallowed hard. She began to make her way over to the bar, and Sollux gripped hard to the rag that he was holding. Her black skirt swirled around her ankles, and her loose, maroon silk top clung perfectly to her curves. He didn't break their gaze until Karkat tapped on Sollux's now white knuckles. "Hey, Sollux, Eridan's here," he informed, and Sollux's head immediately whipped in the direction that Karkat was pointing. Eridan had come through the grill door, making his way over to the bar from the other side, a smile on his face as he saw Sol. He waved, and Sollux felt sick as he looked back over at Aradia. This was like something out of a bad romance movie. Why did shit like this always happen to him? Karkat looked over and noticed Aradia as well. His eyes widened, and he quickly looked at Sollux in horror, his face matching Sol's. Dave also looked between Aradia and Eridan, also recognizing how bad this could potentially be. "Ouch," Dave muttered under his breath, just as Aradia approached the bar. But instead of just remaining there and greeting Sollux that way, she walked around, walking behind the bar and over to Sollux before he could protest. She slid her arms around his neck, hugging him like a wife would hug her fucking husband of twenty years. Eridan's pace slowed, his eyebrows raising at the sight. Then, as if that wasn't bad enough, she pulled back with a fond smile, and pressed a long kiss to Sollux's cheek.

Eridan stopped in his tracks, eyes widening. Karkat's eyes widened as well, and Dave just turned and served the next customer, whistling casually. Sollux stood there, completely tense, eyes wide as well. She pulled back and gave him a smile. "Hello ,Sollux. It is nice to see you," she said, and he looked down at her in surprise. "UhHey, AA. It's umWeird to see you," he admitted, and she gave him a weird smile. "I am touched," she chuckled warmly, as if their relationship didn't end in hell. Sollux glanced over at Eridan, who was still standing in the same spot, staring at Sollux and this strange girl who was seemingly very close to him. He looked back at Aradia. "SoWe're friends now?" He asked, jumping right to the main point between them. She furrowed her eyebrows slightly. "When were we not friends?" She asked, and Sollux raised his eyebrows. Really? Did she Did she really just? "Oh, I don't know, AA. Perhaps in middle school, when you didn't acknowledge my existence? Maybe when we were sleeping together, I'd say we were a little more than friends then? Oh, yeah, and don't forget when you kicked my sorry ass to the curb, and we didn't speak for months?" He said, his voice growing more and more sharp as the conversation continued. She swallowed hard, and he continued. "And now you waltz in here, you hug me, you kiss me, and you acknowledge the fact that I'm still alive. Forgive me if I'm a bit confused." She looked a tinged horrified, and Sollux could feel his emotions rising once again. They were getting harder and harder to control nowadays. Karkat quickly cleared his throat. "Hey, Eridan!" Karkat said, trying to ease the tension. Eridan had slowly approached the bar, stopping, eyes still locked on Aradia. Sollux looked at her for a moment before slowly looking at Eridan, whose gaze wasn't wavering. "Hi, Eri," Sollux said softly. Eridan was quiet a moment before replying. "Hey, Sol," he said, voice slightly hard, his gaze still on Aradia. She turned, looking at Eridan for a moment before turning and looking at Sollux again. "Sollux-" she started, but was cut off by Sollux turning and looking at her quickly. "First of all, you shouldn't be behind the bar. Second of all, if you're not going to order anything, I'm going to have to ask you to leave," he snapped. She looked at him a moment before looking at Karkat. "Karkat is not ordering anything," she accused. Karkat immediately looked at Sollux. "I'll have a Shirley Temple," he said quickly, and Sollux smiled an obviously fake smile. "Right away, sir," he said, tone far too joyous, as he turned to prepare Karkat's drink. Aradia sighed, running her fingers through her thick hair. "Do you not think that you may be acting a tinge dramatically?" She asked. Sollux already had a clever retort laid out, but Eridan spoke first. "It's obvious that he doesn't want to fuckin' talk to you, Megido," Eridan snapped before Sollux could, obviously remembering her from high school. How could he not? The guy that Eridan was crushing on for years was taken by her.

Sollux looked a bit surprised. He had no doubts that Eridan didn't like the whole touchyfeely moment that Aradia had brought upon them a few minutes ago, but that was obviously over, and there was nothing left between Aradia and Sollux. Aradia didn't look surprised, but an annoyance did flash in her eyes as she looked at him. "Eridan Ampora, right? I had heard that you might have been back. I'm sorry to be so rude, but I was not aware that this was any of your business," she replied, her voice slightly hard. Karkat looked very uncomfortable with the whole situation, and Dave, who was working and trying to look uninterested, couldn't help but to listen in. Eridan's eyebrows had furrowed. He looked as though he were defending his title, and his ever readable emotions became even more obvious. "It is sorta' my business, seein' as it's my boyfriend that you're harrassin'," he snapped once again. The nausea returned to Sollux. Frick. There it was; the B word. Sollux hated that word more than anything, especially in this moment. He and Eridan hadn't talked about the whole 'Boyfriend' thing. They were dating, yeah, but Sollux never made anything official. Obviously Eridan's patience with the subject had worn as soon as Aradia had interjected herself into the situation. This couldn't have gotten fucking worse "Boyfriend?" She repeated, obviously surprised as she looked over at Sollux. Sollux quickly shook his head. "I'm not his boyfriend," he replied immediately, voice quick and sharp. Whoops. It just got worse. Eridan looked like Sollux had just slapped him across the face. Karkat's eyes had widened at Sollux's reply, and he looked at Eridan with slight pity. Eridan just blinked at Sollux a moment before a sadness filled his eyes that made Sollux's heart break once again for the Aquarius. Seeing a sadness that Sollux had caused in Eridan's expression brought about an all new kind of guilt and anger with himself that Sollux couldn't deny. Before he could fix what he had done, Eridan turned around slowly, folding his arms close over his chest as he began to make his way for the exit. Sollux's eyes widened. God damn it! "Eridan! Fuck, wait!" Sollux placed both of his hands on the bar top, pushing himself up and throwing his legs over. Karkat quickly moved to the side in his stool, as if to confirm his safety as Sollux jumped over the bar. Both feet hit the ground at the same time, and as they did he took off towards Eridan. "Eridan, c'mon, wait," Sollux begged over the noise of the bar and grill. Eridan had stopped walking, back still to Sollux as he crossed his arms tighter over his chest. Sollux slipped through the crowd of people, making his was over to his roommate. He bumped into a few guys, who of course told him to open his eyes, but he ignored them as he approached Eridan, walking around him so that he was facing him. "Eridan, look, I'm sorry," Sollux apologized, unable to get far because Eridan had stopped him there.

"Do you not want to be my boyfriend?" He asked, looking up at Sollux, his eyes meeting Sol's above the rims of his stupid hipster glasses. Sollux bit his lip. "Not really," he admitted, and Eridan's eyes widened in hurt once again. Sollux quickly shook his head, grabbing Eridan's hands to assure that his roommate wouldn't leave. "No, fuck, that'th not what I meant," he lisped frantically. Eridan's eyes widened further at Sollux's lisp, but he was too horrified with what Sollux was saying to point it out in the moment. Sollux himself mentally swore at his stupid slip up, but kept going nevertheless. "Eridan, I justI hate that word, alright? Does calling each other 'boyfriend' really change how we feel about each other? It's just kind of pointless," Sollux tried to explain, and Eridan looked away in disappointment. He obviously didn't feel the same way about the subject. "I guess you're right," he said softly, but that made Sollux feel worse, not better. "I guess I just kind of liked the idea. I've never had anyone before, and to be able to call you" He didn't finish, furrowing his eyebrows in further disappointment. Holy fuck, Eridan knew exactly what to say to absolutely tear Sollux apart. Sollux's hands tightened on Eridan's, and Sollux bit his lip hard. Unable to think of what to say, Sollux quickly leaned forward, pressing his lips deeply against Eridan's. He knew that they must have been receiving quite a few looks, especially from Karkat, Aradia, and Dave, but Sollux didn't care. Especially when Eridan had begun to work his lips back against Sollux's, because that made Sollux's heart absolutely race. This was the first time that they had really kissed, seeing as last time, Eridan didn't exactly give Sollux a chance to return the motion. Ending it there probably would have been a decent idea, but Sollux couldn't bring himself to do so. His eyes slowly fell shut as he kissed Eridan deeply, enjoying the warmth as Eridan let go of Sollux's hands and pulled the Gemini closer. Sollux slipped his hands and arms over Eridan's shoulders, draping them there as he kissed him slightly faster. It wasn't until Eridan had pulled Sollux close enough that their hips made contact that Sollux's eyes shot open. He quickly pulled away, looking at Eridan in a slight shock. Eridan returned the look. They looked at each other like that a moment, mostly because of the undeniable want for one another in that moment that they both shared. Sollux quickly cleared his throat, looking down at his feet. "Well." "Yeah," Eridan replied, running his tongue over his bottom lip. Sollux glanced up at him, then back down at his shoes. He then looked up at him again, a sheepish smile on his face. "You're not upset with me, right?" Sollux asked. "Not anymore," Eridan admitted with a slight laugh, and Sollux's smile couldn't help but to widen slightly. "Ill, um. Ill see you at home when my shift ends later tonight," Sollux said, and Eridan nodded in response. "Yeah, okay. See you later," he said, brushing his fingers gently over Sollux's cheek. Sollux swallowed hard, trying to keep his hands in place to keep from touching Eridan as well. He smiled at his roommate before turning around, making his way back over to the bar.

Aradia was now standing next to Karkat, and both of them looked at Sollux as he resumed his position behind the bar. He quickly made Karkat's drink, serving it to him as the awkward silence grew. He served a couple more people before Aradia finally spoke to him. "I see that you have moved on," she said softly. Sollux didn't look at her, he just looked down at the drink that he was mixing before he answered. "I couldn't pout over you forever, Aradia," he said, voice soft and barely audible over the loud noise of the bar. "Especially with the reason why you broke up with me." She tensed. She looked down, her long hair falling in her face. She looked down at her old tennis shoes, staring at them as she thought. Sollux served his finished drink to the customer who ordered it before returning back to Aradia, who looked up at him with a faint sadness in her eyes. "I did not know that you knew," she admitted, and Sollux pursed his lips a moment. "Yeah, well, I would have rathered you told me than Vriska," Sollux replied, his voice icy. She swallowed hard. "I might have made a mistake, ending things with you," she confessed. Before Eridan, Sollux would have been surprised and thrilled to hear that from her. But now, he didn't need it. "You might have. That remains to be seen, I suppose. But, either way," he nodded up at Eridan, who was just making his way out the door. Sollux smiled slightly. "I'm kind of glad that you did." She looked a little surprised to receive that answer, and she might have been hurt, but Sollux couldn't bring himself to care all that much. She had hurt him more than enough. She cleared her throat, nodding as she looked at Sollux. "I am glad that you are getting along fine. I will see you later, Sollux," she said. He replied with a curt wave, watching as she turned around and begun to make her way to the door. Sollux sighed a sigh of relief, looking at Karkat, who was nodding slightly. "Your life would make a great TV show," Karkat said with a slight smile, and Sollux rolled his eyes. "You're telling me."

Eridan walked out of the bar and grill, fixing his scarf so that It hung perfectly around his neck. He ran his fingers gently over the top of his hair, making sure that was perfect as well. He begun to make his way home, but was stopped by a voice calling his name. "Eridan," Aradia's voice called, stopping him dead in his tracks. He stood there a moment before turning, facing her with furrowed eyebrows. She had just walked out of the door of the bar, and was making her way over to him. Her strides were long and graceful, and her skirt swished perfectly as she moved. Her hair was flawless as well, flowing behind her as she made her way over to him. She was literally perfect, with skin as pale as the full moon, lips as dark as fading roses, and dark lashes longer than one could imagine. Eridan hated her already.

She stopped in front of him, looking up at him with big brown eyes. He looked back down at her with his deep blue ones, looking disgusted to be in her presence. He crossed his arms. "What do you want?" He asked, knowing that he was being rude and immature, but not caring in the least. She blinked slowly, studying him in a creepy way that made him extremely uncomfortable. "Do you truly know what is important to know about Sollux?" She asked, her tone as mysteriously beautiful as it had always been, her words cryptic. He blinked, eyebrows furrowing further. "I don't know what you're gettin' at, but I know plenty about Sol," he half lied, looking down at her with a slight anger. She sighed. "I do not know what it is, but I have a feeling that you do not know much about him at all," she informed, and his anger grew. "You should know that it is dangerous to engage in a relationship with Sollux without knowing of not only his past, but him as well," she assured. "Thanks for the heads up, but I think that's my decision, Aradia," he replied sharply. She sighed, laying a gentle hand on his shoulder, which he immediately shrugged off. Her expression remained unchanged, and she continued. "Do not get me wrong, I am not insulting Sollux at all. He will care for you deeply and unconditionally, and he is truly one of the greatest guys that I have met," she assured once more. She then sighed, and a worry filled Eridan. "But there are some things about him that you should know. I suggest you get to know more about him and more about his family and more about his past before things get too serious." "Why?" Eridan couldn't help but to ask. She looked at him, a seriousness in her eyes. "He is lovely, but he is" She thought a moment. "High maintenance. There are some times when being with him is wonderful, and there are other times when the feeling is not quite the same." Eridan's eyebrows rose. He wasn't exactly sure what to think about what Aradia was telling him, but what reason did she have to lie? Her words sent a worry for Sollux through Eridan, and a curiosity that he wanted to pursue. He did want to get to know Sollux more, but "I do not mean to discourage you and your determination to pursue a relationship with him. The outcome, and whether the result is worth the trouble that you will most likely have to face, is entirely your opinion," she said, and he looked at her in confusion and slight annoyance. "I'm glad to know that you're his walkin' biography. If I want to know some embarrassin' childhood stories, I'll be sure to come to you," he partially insulted her advice, rolling his eyes. She sighed, looking away from him. "I figured that this would be your reaction. Heed my warning, though, Eridan. At least take what I have told you into consideration. I will not tell you about him, because that is not my place. But I will tell you the reason as to why I broke up with him," she said, and his eyebrows rose. He couldn't deny that he was curious about that. "Oh?" He said, obviously interested. She looked at him, the seriousness returning to her eyes.

"I broke up with Sollux because I felt that he was dangerous. I safer for me and for my feelings to end things where the were. my friends that staying with him would not be wise. Whether a part or not, I am not entirely sure. I do miss him terribly, but I admitted.

felt that it would have been I was convinced by one of mistake was made on my did what I did for me," she

Eridan just looked down at her, shocked, eyes slightly wide. Dangerous? What about Sollux was dangerous enough for Aradia to end their three year relationship? Eridan didn't know, and he was afraid to ask Sollux. He certainly didn't want to bring up ill feelings, but he felt as though Aradia's advice could use some considering. He certainly didn't tell her that, though. "I see, so you broke up with him for completely selfish reasons. Whatever, its totally not my business. Thanks for the advice, but I don't need you to tell me how to determine my relationship. I like Sol far too much to let little things keep me from bein' happy with him," He informed, and she simply nodded. "I understand. Perhaps you are right, and you may be happier than I ever will be with a mindset such as that," she said and Eridan nodded in reply. She then looked up at him, and Eridan stopped. "But I assure you, that the things in which I am speaking of are not so 'little'. Ask him about his medication," she offered. Before he could reply, she stepped around him. She began walking away in her perfect stride, lifting her hand and waving her fingers as a goodbye. Eridan watched her as she disappeared into the wave of people on the sidewalk, and he couldn't deny the worry that had begun to fill him due to the previous conversation. He would definitely have to talk to Sol.

Chapter 12
Sollux stirred, waking up with a loud groan. It was fucking early in the morning, it was Saturday, and Sollux was awake because of a splitting headache. He knew that this one had the possibility of turning into a migraine, and Sollux could punch a wall right now. He rolled over, slamming his face hard into the pillow. He ran his fingers through the back of his hair, letting out a loud sigh against his pillow. Today was most likely going to suck. Not only was he going to have a shitty migraine all day, but he would have to go through another day with Eridan acting weird. It had been a few days since the bar and since Aradia, and Eridan had been weird ever since. Not weird, per say, but just a littleOff. He seemed deep in thought and distant lately, and Sollux had no idea why. He had asked Eridan if he was mad at him, but Eridan assured him that he wasn't upset. Sollux didn't ask again, but there was obviously something up. Sollux sighed again, rolling back onto his back. He ran his hands over his face, then reached over and grabbed his glasses. He slid them on, laying there a moment before sliding out of bed. He yawned loudly, looking down, remembering that he had put on a wife beater before going to bed. He sighed, slipping that off, and slipping a t-shirt on before he made his way out of his room, down the hall, and to the living room.

Eridan was sitting on the couch, reading through one of his textbooks for an essay that he had been putting off. He looked up when he saw Sollux, and he smiled a faint smile. Sollux shuffled his feet as he walked over to him, yawning as well. He plopped down next to him, allowing himself to lean on Eridan, snuggling his head into the crook of Eridan's neck. He yanked his feet up onto the couch, and Eridan smiled slightly in surprise. "Wow, good mornin', Sol. You're in a good mood," he said, voice quiet, as it always was lately. Sollux yawned once more before closing his eyes. "I'm in pain, Eridan," he admitted, and Eridan furrowed his eyebrows in concern. "Pain? Why are you in pain, what hurts?" He asked, closing his textbook and setting it aside. Sollux snuggled closer, and Eridan slid his arm around Sollux's waist. Sollux smiled a light smile. He had missed Eridan's touch. "My head. I get some pretty bad migraines," he confessed, closing his eyes as he was engulfed by Eridan's warmth. It was quiet a moment, and Eridan's arm loosened slightly. "Oh," he said, sounding strangely interested. "SoDo you take medication for them?" He asked slowly, his voice almost forcefully nonchalant. Sollux slowly furrowed his eyebrows at Eridan's tone, but he didn't question it. "Yeah, I have medicine for them. Only when they get really bad, though," he informed. It was quiet for a moment then, and Eridan seemed to take this statement into thought. The silence stretched, and Sollux felt as though he could fall asleep once again. He wasn't given the chance, though, because Eridan spoke up. "I see," he said, although the reply was undoubtedly late. "SoIs that all you take medication for?" He asked, his voice once again forcibly smooth. Sollux furrowed his eyebrows again, opening his eyes. He pulled back, looking at Eridan strangely. "That's an odd question," he replied, avoiding giving the answer. His nerves had begun to work up inside of him, and he felt himself swallowing hard. He didn't want Eridan to know about his other medication, let alone his other issues. What would make Eridan ask that? "Yeah, it kind of is. So, do you?" He prodded, looking at Sollux in interest, though he looked a bit worried. Fuck, did he know? "What makes you so interested?" Sollux asked slowly. He must have had a look that reflected how upset he was, because Eridan slunk back slightly. He looked at Sollux a moment before sighing, looking down at the floor. He looked at it for a long while before speaking. "WellAradia kind ofTold me to ask you," he answered unhurriedly, and Sollux's eyes immediately widened. What the fuck?! Why the fuck would she do that? Was she trying to ruin his God damn life? She had some fucking nerve talking to Eridan about him, and Sollux could feel his anger begin to rise. "What did she tell you?" He demanded, and Eridan immediately slunk back further. "I'm sorry, I didn't want to bring it up," he admitted, revealing what had been causing him to act so weird lately. Sollux's fingers dug lightly into his palms.

"What did she tell you, Eridan?" Sollux repeated, and Eridan swallowed slowly, looking a bit more worried. "She umShe warned me that I should get to know you better than I do. And she told me why she broke up with you," he confessed. Sollux just stared at Eridan in shock. How could she-? She had no fucking right. Sollux felt his anger skyrocket, turning into a slight rage. He immediately stood up, and Eridan's eyes widened. "Sol?" He asked cautiously, and Sollux quickly turned for the hallway. He walked as quickly as he could manage without breaking out into a run, making his way for his room. He needed to take his headache medicine, and his mood meds as well. He didn't expect Eridan to follow, though. "Sollux? Sol, I'm sorry! Are you okay?" Eridan asked, worry laced with his thick accent on his voice. Sollux quickly walked into his room, trying to close the door behind himself. Eridan quickly stopped it with his foot, pushing it back open as he followed Sollux in. He stopped quickly, though, never being in Sollux's room before. He stood in the doorway as Sollux yanked his drawer open on his bedside table, grabbing two bottles of pills. He grabbed his bottle of water off of the table too, taking his pills quickly. As soon as he did, he put his bottles back in his drawer. He set his water back down as well, trying not to look at Eridan in his embarrassment. He laid down in bed, curling up as he slowly closed his eyes. He knew that today was going to suck. He absolutely knew it. It hadn't even been half an hour yet, and today already couldn't get any worse. He felt close to tears at the thought of telling Eridan about his issues. The thought that Eridan could leave him because of his problems was heartbreaking, and Sollux swallowed the lump that was forming in his throat. He couldn't do that again. Not again, not with Eridan. He nearly gasped when he was jolted out of his thoughts. Eridan had curled up next to Sollux and slid his arm around the thin male, pulling him close as he slid his legs between Sollux's. He held Sollux so comfortingly, Sollux felt his heart speed up and his cheeks flush. "I don't care what problems you might have, Sollux. Your flaws don't make you who you are, you do that how you want to. You could have a lot of issuesHell, you could have every issue that there is to have, and It still wouldn't change the way that I feel about you," Eridan soothed, pressing a long kiss to Sollux's hair. Sollux's eyes widened, and his heart thudded even harder against his chest. He couldn't believe that Eridan had said that to him. He had lived his whole life, afraid of how his imperfections would change the views of those he'd cared about. Hearing Eridan say what he just said Sollux rolled over in Eridan's arms. Before Eridan had a chance to process what had happened, Sollux pressed a long kiss to his roommates lips. Eridan immediately relaxed against Sollux, kissing him fondly and affectionately. Sollux let everything fade away, concentrating on Eridan and only Eridan. He moved his lips thankfully and lovingly against the other males, his eyes falling shut as he drowned in the

feelings that rose when he kissed him. His cheeks filled and his heart was loud in his ears every time, and he found it difficult to focus on anything else other than his Boyfriend. His mind referred to Eridan that way any time that he thought of him, which was strange. Sollux never liked the idea of calling his significant other his "boyfriend", or his "girlfriend". He felt it stupid and unnecessary, but the more he thought about it, the more that he agreed with Eridan. To be able to refer to Eridan in that way would make Sollux more than happy He reluctantly broke the amazing kiss, opening his eyes to meet Eridan's glistening blue ones. Eridan blinked slowly, looking back at Sollux fondly. A smile played on his lips, and he couldn't help but to gaze in Sollux's off-setting eyes. Sollux smiled slightly in return. "EridanI know what I said back in the bar about, you know, being your boyfriend," Sollux started, causing Eridan's smile to fall slightly, which only made Sollux continue. "But I've thought about it ever since, and I agree with you. I really like the idea of being able to call you my boyfriend, and to call you mine, and" Sollux stopped himself before he had begun to ramble, which he easily could. "I just really wouldn't mind." Eridan just looked at him in surprise. He stared at Sollux for a solid minute before a light filled his eyes that thrilled Sollux to see. A smile yanked the corners of Eridan's lips upwards, and he leaned forward and pressed another kiss to Sollux's lips. Then another, then another, then another. Sollux laughed, returning each kiss before returning Eridan's huge smile. "Thank you, Eridan. For, you know, what you said. I'm a pretty self conscious dude, so what you said really meant a lot," Sollux admitted slowly, blushing slightly. Eridan's smile didn't fade. "You don't have to thank me, Sol. You've done more than enough for me, too," he confessed, pulling him close again. "And I meant what I said. Also, if you don't want to tell me about what it is that you take your meds for, I completely understand," he added quickly, trying to put as much emphasis on that part as possible. Sollux smiled slightly at him, then looked down at his chest. He thought a long while about what to say. He was definitely going to tell him, because Eridan deserved nothing less. But how to put it wasn't such an easy decision "Well, you know about my migraines," he started, and Eridan nodded. "I, um. I went to a lot of doctors when I was younger," he admitted, and Eridan furrowed his eyebrows curiously. Sollux glanced up at him, then back down at his chest. "They thought that I was schizophrenic. I use to hear voices a lot when I was younger, and I was convinced that the dead were talking to me." Sollux blushed deeper, feeling pretty pathetic. "I use to zone out a lot and have daydreams that I was convinced were visions. They were usually aboutWellDeath. But that was only when I was younger. The weird as fuck daydreams have stopped, and I only hear the voice's when my emotions get to much to handle, which, happens on not-so-rare occasion."

Eridan just stared and listened, looking a bit surprised at what Sollux had told him. Surprised, but not uncomfortable, which helped Sollux to admit these fact's about himself. When Sollux had stopped talking, Eridan nodded curiously. "Do you have bad mood swings?" He asked, and Sollux sighed. He rolled out of the hug, laying on his back due to his already gained exhaustion. He pinched the bridge of his nose before he replied. "Yeah, I can get some bad, and pretty sudden mood swings. I'm also bipolar, but I take medication for all that," he replied, and Eridan looked slightly confused. "So, if you're on medication, why does Aradia think that you're dangerous? You're always so level headed, I would have never guessed that she would have ended such a long relationship for that reason," Eridan said, and Sollux groaned, pinching the bridge of his nose harder. "If I've gone a while between doses, I get defiant and I don't want to take my next dose. Sometimes that ends perfectly fine, and nothing out of the ordinary happens. My emotions are just a little more obvious. I think she secretly liked me better that way, but she knew that it was a double-sided coin. Some days, yeah, I could go all day without an incident while off my meds. But others don't go so well, and" Sollux looked away. "They don't result in good stories to tell." Eridan merely nodded once more. He was completely accepting and understanding, which Sollux appreciated more than anything. He propped his head up on his hand, his other hand reaching out and stroking Sollux's cheek gently. "That sounds really hard, Sol," he said sadly, the back of his fingers slowly and comfortingly moving over Sollux's cheek. "I'm sure that it must be fuckin' hell to deal with. But I'm here now, Sol, and I'll help you in anyway that I can." Sollux smiled at that. He rolled onto his side, facing Eridan again as he smiled at him lovingly. He slid his hand over Eridan's, pulling it away from his face so that he could lace his fingers with his boyfriends. "You make me feel like such a dork, Eridan," Sollux laughed, and Eridan laughed as well. "It's not such a bad thing to drop your walls and just be a romantic loser sometimes, Sol," Eridan assured, smiling wide. "I certainly don't mind." Sollux laughed once again. "I'm sure you don't!" "Yeah, and I hear from everybody that you're a pretty romantic loser around those you care about," Eridan added with a teasing smile, causing Sollux's to fade and causing his eyebrows to furrow. "Hey, hey, who are you talking to about me?" He asked, pulling back slightly and looking at Eridan, who laughed again. "Just people. Kar and Fef" "Karkat talks about me?! That little fuck!" Sollux shouted, and Eridan chuckled, shushing Sol as he stroked his cheek again.

"Only good things, Sol," he assured affectionately, and Sollux slowly relaxed once again. He still huffed, though, gently leaning his forehead on Eridan's. "Whatever. They're right, though. I'm pretty damn romantic, if I do say so myself," Sollux said, his pout replaced with a smile as he looked at Eridan. He wasn't sure what he was expecting Eridan's reaction to be at that statement. A laugh, a chuckle, or maybe even a roll of his flawless blue eyes. None of those happened, though, and Sollux certainly wasn't expecting a deep look to enter Eridan's eyes, and a playful smile to plaster itself on his lips. "Oh? Is that so? I'd love for you to show me," he said slowly, his voice a tad lower than it's original state. Oh. Oh wow, shit Sollux's eyebrows rose, the same emotion streaking through him and through his chest that he had felt the night that Eridan sat himself down on Sollux's lap. He could practically feel his body temperature rise slightly, a wave of heat rolling over him. That fucking look in Eridan's eyes "Are you flirting with me, Eridan Ampora?" Sollux asked with a slow smile. Eridan leaned close, his eyes falling half lidded. "I might be," he admitted softly, lips brushing against Sol's as he spoke, his accented voice dripping withfucklust. The warmth rolled over Sol again, and his overly intimate emotions rose further within him. Holy frick, Eridan was slowly making Sollux want him more and moreThis morning certainly escalated quickly. Sollux slid his fingers up Eridan's chest, and he could hear Eridan's breath catch in his throat. Such a simple action made Sollux part his lips, his own eyes falling half lidded in growing pleasure. He nipped at Eridan's bottom lip gently, and Eridan inhaled sharply at the motion. "Do you have to work today, Eridan?" Sollux asked as he was just about to kiss Eridan deeply, his own voice low. He never got the chance, because Eridan's eyes widened and he yanked away. "Fuck! It's Saturday!" Eridan yelled, immediately rolling away from Sollux. Sollux's eyes widened in shock, and he couldn't hide his surprise. Eridan leapt out of Sollux's bed, running for the bathroom so that he could shower and try to make it to work on time. Sollux just laid there, hand still suspended in the air where Eridan's chest was, lips still parted. He remained in that position for a second before groaning loudly, dropping his hand and smacking his face into the pillow. He then shot up, eyebrows furrowed. "Rain check, Eridan!" He yelled in a frustrated tone after his boyfriend.

Chapter 13
Sollux was buried in his bed. He was tangled in his thick blankets and he was drowning in the countless number of pillows that he took comfort in, surrounding him as he slept. But he wasn't sleeping right now. He had barely slept for the past few days. Though, he did remain in bed the entire seventy-two hours, aside from showering, reluctantly moving to use the

bathroom, and to grab small portions of something to eat. His migraine decided to hang around and throw a mother-fucking party, and it was near unbearable. Not that he wasn't use to unbearable headaches by now, but that didn't mean that they would cease to leave him bed-ridden. He wasn't sure what time it was, simply because it took far too much energy to roll all the way over and look at the clock. It was on the side table that stood on the left side of the bed. Sollux was curled into a ball in a heap of blankets, facing the side table on the right side of the bed. See the problem here? Anyways, yeah, he hadn't the slightest fucking clue what time it was. His body's clock was screwed over, but he was pretty sure that it was early morning. His black-out curtains restricted him from judging the time based on the sunlight, which he couldn't help. Any sample of light hurt like hell. He found himself quite busy, content while submerging himself in his lazy thoughts, despite the fact that it felt as though an ice pick was being shoved into his skull. A big ice pick. Irish mob style. Meanwhile, he barely heard Eridan enter the room. The groggy male leaned in Sollux's doorway, releasing a long, and excruciatingly loud yawn. Sollux replied with a groan, pulling his blankets even tighter around his body. "Holy loud noises, batman...Shut the fuck up," Sollux groaned, pain streaking and throbbing through his head. Eridan wasn't at all offended by Sollux's rude morning greeting. He just looked at Sollux sadly. "Shit, your head still hurts, Sol?" Eridan asked, his voice layered with concern. Sollux rolled his eyes. "No, your voice just sounds like a cat stuck in the garbage disposal to my mind. Didn't I ever tell you how soothing it was?" Sollux snapped, and it was Eridan's turn to roll his eyes. "I'll lay with you," was Eridan's reply. Sollux snickered. "Right, that should make it all better. Why didn't I think of that before?" Once again, Eridan ignored Sollux's rude comment. He walked across the room, stretching as he did so. He obviously had just gotten out of bed, which confirmed Sollux's suspicion that it was early in the morning. Eridan never slept past seven. He slid into Sollux's bed, sliding an arm around Sollux. He held the suffering male close, resuming the position that they had found themselves in when Eridan was comforting Sollux a few days ago. "There. Better?" Eridan asked, and Sollux let out a sarcastic gasp. "Well, butter my biscuits! Eridan, my headache of three horrific days has disappeared by your touch! Why didn't you tell me that you were gifted with the healing skills of the Rivendell Elves?" Sollux exclaimed. Once again, Eridan rolled his eyes. "Wow, snippy. I wasn't aware that bitchyness was on the list of migraine symptoms." "All part of the package, babe." "I didn't order anythin'." Sollux smiled softly, and he could feel Eridan smiling as well behind him. It couldn't be denied that Eridan and Sollux bickered all the time. Anyone who said otherwise was a damn liar. Whether it was playful bickering, or loud and competitive bickering, they both found it

endearing. After a while of a comfortable silence, Eridan nuzzled his face into the back of Sollux's soft brown hair. "The laptop place thing called while you were asleep last night. They said that your laptop was done," Eridan said gently. Sollux couldn't help but to let out a long groan of thanks and happiness. "Praise the lord above. It feels like a lifetime since I last did some decent coding," Sollux sighed, and Eridan smiled fondly. "I haven't seen you work your skill with a computer in a long, long time," he said, causing Sollux to raise his eyebrows. "You've seen me code?" Eridan nodded. "A' course. That's what you were known for; your amazin' skill with a computer." He blushed slighty before he continued. "Also, I use to watch you when we were in our online classes. You would always finish within the first five minutes of class, then you would go straight into codin' or whatever. You were a fuckin' prodigy. You wouldn't pay attention at all in class, and you would still ace everythin'. I remember that you would skip classes all the time because you knew every fuckin' thing, and the classes bored you." Sollux couldn't help but to be a little surprised. He wasn't fond of remembering high school, but he certainly didn't remember Eridan paying that kind of attention to him. Everything that Eridan said was true, though, so Sollux knew that what the Aquarius said about watching him must have also been true. Sollux couldn't help but to smile at the thought. "You know, normal people would find that creepy." "Good thing you're hardly normal, Sol." "Gee, thanks for that one." "Dont mention it, hon." Sollux scoffed. "If I'm hardly normal, what does that make you?" "Me? It makes me perfect, that's what it makes me," Eridan replied with a smile, and Sollux scoffed for the second time. "Define perfect." "Without any flaws. As good as humanly possible. Containin' every desire that there is to have." "Yeah, I'm pretty sure that your name and picture are on the opposite side of the dictionary from that word," Sollux teased, and Eridan couldn't help but to laugh at that one. "Shut up, jackass!" He said, nuzzling his face further into Sollux's hair. Sollux smiled lovingly. "Speaking of my being a prodigy and all," Sollux started with a smile. "How are your classes going? Good, I'm assuming, since you are only going for your arts degree," he half teased, half asked. He could practically feel Eridan frowning against his hair. "Bite me, Captor." "That could be arranged." Eridan smiled then. "I guess classes are okay. I'm really bad at, well, anythin' educational, so...They're as good as they're gonna' be."

Sollux nodded in reply. He was actually worried about Eridan and his schooling. Eridan always seemed stressed when it came to school, and Sollux was concerned. Sollux had never had that problem. Even more curiously, Eridan didn't even seem to want to be at school. "I can help you whenever you need it, you know. I can get my own shit done without breaking a sweat, I'll help you with anything you need," Sollux assured, and Eridan smiled softy, sighing tiredly. "I know. Thanks, Sol." Sollux nodded again. He couldn't hide his worry, and he certainly couldn't hold everything inside. Not with this headache. "Do you even want to be in college, Eridan?" Sol asked, and he could feel Eridan sigh against his hair. "Honestly? Not really, Sol," he admitted, confusing Sollux further. "Then why are you here?" "I needed to get away, Sol, you know that. Also, what else am I gonna' do with my life? I didn't do too hot in high school, not that I would get far on just a high school diploma anyways." Sollux paused a moment before speaking. "Well, the family business is always there. What does your father-" "Dont, Sol." Sollux shut up. He knew better now then to pry into Eridan's family life, though the concern never faded. He couldn't take the countless number of situations that his imagination would spit out, and the worry in him just continued to grow. He wanted to get to the bottom of this whole thing, but he didn't know how. Finally, Sollux rolled over in Eridan's arms. He was getting use to this position, being held by his boyfriend. He loved the feeling. He looked into Eridan's eyes, their deep color holding a curiousness that matched Sollux's. Sollux blinked once before speaking, his voice nearly shaking. "Eridan, did your father ever hurt you?" Sollux blurted, and Eridan's eyes widened. "Did he ever abuse you?" Eridan quickly shook his head, and relief flowed through Sollux. "God, no! Of course not!" He replied, shaking his head. His movements then slowed, and he looked at Sollux cautiously. "Why? Did yours?" If Sollux had known that the question was going to be countered against him, he never would have asked. His whole body went rigid and he stilled. He assumed that his had face paled, not only because his cheeks felt cold, but also because Eridan's face held a look of horror. "Sollux?" Sollux tried to swallow, but he couldn't. His throat had tightened, as did his lungs. He quickly looked away, unable to look at the horrified expression that was stuck on Eridan's face.

"Don't worry about me, Eri," he managed, and Eridan quickly sat up. He looked as though he couldn't breathe, quickly grabbing Sollux's hand. "Sollux? Did your father hurt you?" Sollux had to keep himself from shaking due to the emotions that were filling him and the memories that were returning. He didn't want to think about it. He didn't want to talk about it. But he also didn't want to go this whole relationship on hidden secrets and dodged questions. He swallowed hard. "Yes." Eridan looked sick. His face had paled as well, and his fingers clasped harder to Sollux's. He had nothing to say. All he could do was to stare at Sollux with a pure, uncovered heartbreak that made Sollux himself feel sick. Sollux quickly shook his head. "I told you the truth. No beating around the bush, no denial, no secrets. So please, just let me leave it at that," Sollux practically begged. Eridan continued to stare at him, and guilt joined the heartbreak in his eyes. Sollux assumed that Eridan felt guilty because Sollux would tell Eridan everything that Eridan wouldn't tell Sol. And to something this extreme...Eridan tried to compose himself. "You can't just expect me to let this go," he replied, and Sollux bit his lip. "You asked, I answered. Whether I expect you to or not, I'm asking you; please. Don't worry about me. It's over, and it's fine." "B-but...But why? Why would he hurt you? What did he do to you?" Eridan sputtered, and Sollux shook his head, clamping his hand over Eridan's mouth. "Eri! It's not important, okay? It's over. My father is...He's better now, so it's okay. It's in the past, and I've moved on," Sollux lied, slowly pulling his hand away from Eridan's mouth as he spoke. Eridan just looked at him with pure sadness. It didn't take someone as smart as Sollux to tell that he was lying. Eridan looked down at his hands, working to keep his bottom lip from trembling. "I'm sorry, Sol. For everythin' that you have to go through. It's not fair," he whispered, and Sollux felt a lump form in his throat. Fuck his damn father. Fuck Eridan's father, too, for getting them on the subject. Now Eridan's worried and pity's Sol, and Sollux didn't want any of that. He was sick of all the pity. He was fucking fine, aside from this shitty headache. He couldn't help himself from worrying about Eridan, and he didn't even know why he worried about Eridan. He was beginning to think that he would never find out. "Don't be sorry, Eri. It's okay," he assured. Eridan looked up at him, parting his lips to surely say that it was not okay, but the ringing of Sollux's phone interrupted him. Sol sighed, half thankful, and half annoyed by the caller. He rolled over in bed, reaching over to his bedside table and grabbing his phone. He looked at the caller ID, then groaned. "Fuck me," he muttered under his breath, answering the call and putting the phone to his ear. "Hey, daddy," he answered, falling on his back and looking up at the ceiling as he spoke.

Eridan's eyebrows rose quickly, an anger flickering in his eyes, followed by slight confusion. Did Sollux just say 'daddy'? That wasn't the important part to Eridan, though, and Sollux could tell. "Your fuckin' father's on the phone?" Eridan spat in a harsh whisper. Sollux's eyes widened and he shook his head quickly, putting his fingers to his lips as he sat up. He then slid his hand over Eridan's, stroking the back of Eridan's hand gently with his thumb. "Yeah, I'm doing fine. I've kind of been out of work and out of class for the past few days because a wonderful migraine decided to vacation in my head, so that's kind of really fucking sucked," he mumbled, immediately wincing because of the stern voice over the phone. "I'm sorry, I'll watch my language," he almost whispered, glancing up at Eridan, who slowly raised an eyebrow in amusement. Sollux blushed, looking away. "Classes are fine. Yes, work is fine. Yes, I promise I'm doing fine. Karkat is doing fine also, yes," he droned, slowly crossing his eyes in annoyance. Eridan couldn't help but to smile at that action. Sollux then uncrossed them, letting out a heavy sigh as he pinched the bridge of his nose, an obvious habit of his. "I know, I've been meaning to call Mit. He wanted to see me last week, but I was..." He glanced up at Eridan. "Busy," he finished, smiling slightly. Eridan smiled in return, relaxing, although he wasn't exactly sure who or what Sollux was talking about. Sollux's eyebrows then knitted together, and he looked uncomfortable. "Um...No, Aradia and I havent made up. But I, uh, I did find somebody," he said slowly, and Eridan's eyebrows rose. Sollux cleared his throat. "Meet her? Well, you see, I don't see that happening..." Eridan couldn't help but to smile slightly, and Sollux sighed. He knew that his parents wouldn't have any problem with Sollux being with a guy. They were never going to shut up about it, but they definitely wouldn't have a problem. "I'll talk to you later about it, daddy. I have to take something for my head before I kill someone. Yeah, I love you too." He glanced up at Eridan, readying himself. "Tell dad I love him too, and Mit. Have a good day. Bye," he said, and his eyes met Eridan's surprised ones as he hung up and set his phone aside. "...Daddy? And...Dad?" He asked, and Sollux nodded. "Yeah. I was adopted when I turned eleven," he explained, and Eridan nodded, interested. Sollux smiled slightly. "I called Carter 'daddy' and Monroe 'dad' to avoid confusion." Eridan smiled a wide smile. "That's so damn cute, Sol." "Hardly," Sollux chuckled, just relieved to be off of the subject of his real father. "So whose Mit, then?" Eridan asked, and Sollux sighed with a fond smile. "My brother, Mituna. They adopted him when they adopted me. He's my biological brother." "That's so sweet! Is he younger than you?" Eridan asked, his fingers slipping in between Sollux's. Sollux shook his head, his fond smile widening. "No, he's around your brother's age. He's not much older than me, only three years, but..." Sollux sighed. "He's got a lot of problems. He's pretty much my younger brother, with the way he acts and how we treat each other."

Eridan nodded slowly. "When you say 'problems'..." "I mean he's got all of my problems, but on a level that's almost unbelievable. He's also got a lot of brain damage, and he, um...He's pretty much like a little child. Don't get me wrong, I love him to death, and I would do anything for him, but...Yeah, he's a lot of work," Sollux explained, squeezing Eridan's hand gently. Eridan squeezed back affectionately. "Brain damage? From what?" He asked, his voice slow and curious. Sollux sighed for the upteenth time that morning. "A car accident." Eridan looked at him, curiosity still there, now accompanied by sadness. He stroked Sol's hand a moment before realization flickered in his eyes, which widened slightly. His eyebrows rose before he spoke. "A car accident! Wait, is that why you're not a car person?" He asked, and Sollux groaned. "Yes, that's why. But I don't want to talk about this, Eridan!" He said, looking at his boyfriend tiredly. Eridan nodded quickly. "No, I understand, Sol. Don't worry about it, we don't need to talk about it," he agreed, pulling Sollux close to him, hugging him lovingly. Sollux sighed a thankful sigh of relief, sliding his arms around Eridan. They sat there, holding each other for a while. Sollux could only imagine what was going through Eridan's mind. Sollux just laid a fuck-ton of shit out on the table, and he knew that Eridan must be thoroughly processing everything. His family, for starters, especially the part about his father... Sollux sighed. He wished that the subject never came up. That was a part of his life that he worked to a great extent to forget. He knew that the subject wasn't going to be completely dropped with Eridan, but Sollux didn't mind. That surprised him, actually. He was hardly comfortable with talking to Karkat and Feferi about his family problems, but with Eridan, things were different. He felt as though he could trust his boyfriend with absolutely anything. He could honestly say that he didn't feel like this with Aradia. Eridan was the only person that made Sollux feel like everything was truly, honestly, and wholly okay. After a while of sitting in a comfortable silence, Sollux spoke up. "You do know what this means, right?" Sollux asked, and Eridan looked at him thoughtfully. Sollux smiled a slow smile. "Now, you have to meet my family." Eridan couldn't have looked more excited.

Chapter 14
Sollux knew that Eridan thanked his lucky stars that the two of them lived in such a small town. While Sollux held his discomfort with moving vehicles, they were forced to walk everywhere that they went. Sollux felt pretty guilty about it sometimes, but there was nothing he could do. He couldn't bring himself to drive or let Eridan drive him places unless it was a dire emergency. He couldn't have been more thankful that Eridan understood and was more than willing to do anything to make Sollux comfortable. It was just another reason why Sollux felt so strongly for his boyfriend.

They were near his parent's house, stopping to get lunch, and Eridan was starting to get nervous. He had been excited for the past week about meeting Sollux's family, but now he was getting antsy. He was tugging nervously on his long blue scarf, pushing his thick hipster glasses up every time they slipped down his nose. Sollux couldn't help but to watch in amusement. Eridan was such an adorable dork. "Holy hell, Eri. Calm down, would you? What could you possibly be worried about?" Sollux chuckled, slipping his hand into Eridan's on the small table that they shared. He slowly rocked their hands left and right, gawking at Eridan as he usually did. He was just so damn hot...Eridan didn't seem to notice, though. He was too busy nervously folding his napkin now into what looked like a paper crane. He would fold it, then unfold it, then fold it, then unfold it again as he took small sips of his tea every so often. "I'm not a people-person, Sol, and by that I mean that people don't usually like me... And what if they don't like me? I've never really done so well with parental figures in my life! Granted, my father has been my only parental figure in my life, but he's totally pissed with me!" Eridan droned. He sighed, dropping the origami menu. His elbows met the top of the table and his head met his hands after he let go of Sollux's. He groaned loudly, and Sollux's smile widened slightly. "My parent's are going to love you, Eridan, and my brother loves everybody. You really have nothing to worry about," he assured. Eridan peeked out from between his fingers. "Really?" "Really," Sollux said, grabbing Eridan's hand again. Eridan let out a sigh, nodding slowly. "Alright," he mumbled, sighing once again. He took another sip of his tea before pausing, looking up at Sollux again. "Wait, what should I and what shouldn't I say or mention?" He asked, looking worried. Sollux groaned. "You can say whatever you want to say, Eri! I promise, everything's going to be okay. Trust me, if anyone's going to be embarrassed here, it's going to be me," he mumbled. Eridan raised a curious eyebrow. Sollux looked at him, then groaned. "My parent's are sweet, they really are, but they're a little...A little much," Sollux admitted, and Eridan smiled slightly. "Oh?" He asked, interested. "How old are they?" Sollux leaned back, letting go of Eridan's hand. He looked up, humming thoughtfully as he searched his mind. They weren't that old, Sollux remembered that. He remembered thinking how strange it was that they were so young, but he couldn't forget the fact that he was already eleven when he was adopted. "Um, well, I was eleven when they adopted me, and Mit was fourteen. Carter was twentythree, and Monroe was twenty-six. So that would make Carter thirty-one and Monroe thirtyfour," Sollux answered, and Eridan nearly choked on his tea. "Hell! They're young, Sol! That means that Carter was only nine when Mituna was born!" He exclaimed, as if Sollux didn't already know. Sollux laughed. "Yeah, I know, Eri." "My dad is like, hell, I don't know, forty-five!"

Sollux nodded. "My father is around forty-five too. Forty-three, I think," he replied, and Eridan's face darkened. A darkness and awkwardness blanketed them, and Sollux grew silent at Eridan's now grim nature. Sollux cleared his throat, sipping his water, thankful when the waitress approached. They both ordered, and it was still silent between them when the waitress left. Sollux sipped awkwardly on his drink before Eridan spoke up, tone indecipherable. "So. Where is your father now, Sollux? Do you see him?" He asked slowly, and Sollux resisted a groan. He leaned back again, taking his glasses off and running his hands over his face. "Uhh...My father lives in the next town over. When the adoption was finalized, it was required that Mituna and I had to see my father every so often. He comes to town every month, sometimes a few times a month to spend time with Mit and I," Sollux explained, and Eridan nodded. "I see. And how are those reunions?" He asked. Sollux sighed. "Eridan, they're fine. A bit awkward, but fine. We don't get along very well, but we don't not get along. He tries to make up for how he use to act, but, ya know..." He cleared his throat. "Him and Mituna get along well, though. So that's all I care about; Mituna being happy." Eridan's expression and aura softened. He looked at Sollux a moment before sighing, looking down at his hands on the table. He felt bad, and Sollux knew that. Sollux didn't blame him for being angry about the subject, because, well, Sollux often was angry about it too. He just didn't want it to be as big of a deal as it could be. Eridan said that he wanted to keep Sollux out of his family life, and Sollux wanted to do the same. His biological family life, at least. "Eridan?" Sollux said softly, and Eridan slowly looked up at him. Sollux looked back at him for a brief moment before smiling lightly. "Your hair looks great today." Eridan slowly smiled, his smile turning into a laugh. "You're just sayin' that to make me feel better," he laughed, and Sollux laughed as well. "Yeah, kinda. But also because it's true." They talked about Eridan's hair and other completely random shit for a while as they ate, and a bit afterwards. Sollux noticed that Eridan had slowly begun to relax, and Sollux couldn't help but to relax as well. He definitely didn't want Eridan to be uncomfortable to meet his parent's. Carter might not notice, but Monroe definitely would. He tried to keep the subject off of his family and anything deep and personal as they ate, left, and made their way to his parents house. When they got there, though, Eridan had seemed to grow nervous once again. He had stopped talking, which was truly a concerning thing for Eridan to do, even when Sollux tried to make conversation. It got to the point where Eridan didn't even try to play it off; he was just downright anxious. When they approached his parent's cozy little home and Sollux pulled out his key to unlock the door, Eridan quickly stopped him. "Wait a minute, I'm not ready," he pleaded, and Sollux tipped his head back, groaning.

"How could you possibly prepare any further for this, Eridan? Preparation isn't even necessary. You'll see, you'll meet them, we'll chill out for a few hours, they'll love your hotass self, and then we'll leave. You're getting worked up for nothing," he assured. Eridan still looked at him worriedly, and Sollux huffed. He leaned up, pressing a not-sogentle kiss to Eridan's lips. Eridan's eyes widened slightly in surprise, but he immediately relaxed. He kissed Sollux lovingly, growing more and more comfortable as Sollux worked his lips against Eridan's. He allowed the comforting warmth between them to grow before pulling away with a soft smile, leaving Eridan panting lightly in his place. "Better?" "Better," Eridan assured with a nod. Sollux couldn't help but to laugh, turning back and unlocking the door. He walked in, knocking gently on the door as he opened it. "Hey," he called out, wincing as he prepared for the worst. Eridan looked at him slightly nervously, then back to the inside of the house as Sollux walked in and slid his shoes off, leading to Eridan to do the same thing. The house was small, but not too small, and it was cute. Pictures of Sollux and Mituna were everywhere, along with pictures of what Eridan had assumed were Sol's parents. The two men had pictures of them everywhere; standing in front of the Eiffel Tower, Big Ben, the Leaning Tower of Pisa, the Sydney Opera House, the Empire State building...It was fairly obvious that they traveled a lot. The house was decorated in nothing but earth colors, with blue walls and green curtains and sandy carpets and brown throw rugs and couches. There were souvenirs everywhere, the house seemingly crowded with stuff, especially paintings. Eridan couldn't help but to stare in awe, his eye catching every little thing. That was, until a thumping could be heard. The sound of running feet was audible from the next room over, and Eridan looked over at Sollux curiously. Sollux smiled, but he already looked tired. It was then that who Eridan assumed was Mituna appeared, running into the room with a big, crooked smile on his face. "Tholluckth!" He yelled, with a lisp that was so thick, the word he spoke was almost inaudible. Eridan's eyebrows rose, a bit surprised when the tall male ran over and yanked Sollux up into a hug. "Shoot! Mituna!" Sollux gasped as he was spun around against his will, being hugged tightly by Mituna. Mituna was a bit taller than Eridan, which was saying a lot. He was lanky and awkward looking, wearing a tight, long sleeve yellow turtleneck and black skinny jeans that made his long legs look even longer. He was awkward, but he was also very adorable. He had big round blue eyes that were partially covered by his messy, shaggy brown hair. His skin was just as pale as Sollux's, if not paler. His nose curved up into a button shape, adding to his cuter features. He smiled with his teeth, which were perfectly white. His canines looked abnormally long, but not too weird. His overall appearance brought a smile to Eridan's face. He could hardly tell that he was older than Sollux. Mituna was just so cute, while Sollux's features were so much more matured. Sollux was adorable as well, but in a different sense than his older brother.

Mituna put Sollux down, who inhaled deeply to catch his breath. Mituna grabbed Sollux's hands, rocking back and forth on his feet, seeming unable to stay still. Sollux, blinked a few times, looking back at his brother with a slight smile. "Getting strong, aren't you, Mit?" Sollux stated with a chuckle, and Mituna seemed to beam at that. "I go outthide every thingle day!" He stated, providing no further information. Eridan was a bit confused, but he couldn't deny that Mituna was the cutest thing. He smiled at the tall male, who had just seemed to notice him. "Hi," he said, smiling a shy smile as he looked down. Eridan smiled back, giving him a wave. "Hi, Mituna. I'm Eridan," He introduced, and Mituna nodded. He looked up at Eridan's hair, smiling slightly. "Itth purple!" He stated with a smile, and Eridan nodded. He wasn't sure how to reply, but that was okay, because Mituna's attention immediately left the subject. "Tholluckth! I got a new thkateboardth!" He stated, and Sollux chuckled. "Don't tell me that Latula is still trying to teach you how to skateboard, Mit," Sol practically begged with a smile. Mituna nodded quickly, looking dizzy afterwards, but unknowingly playing it off. "Tulip teachetheth me how to thaketboard! I mean, thkateboard! Thorry," He confirmed and apologized, and Sollux's smile widened. He was obviously very fond of his brother, and that made Eridan's smile widen. "Don't apologize, Mit. Where's daddy?" Sollux asked, and Mituna smiled a wide and happy smile, giggling, although nothing was really funny. "Daddyth outthide! I'll go tell him!" He said, once again not being very specific. He turned quickly, beginning to run away. He didn't get very far, because he immediately tripped over his own feet, tumbling towards the ground. Sollux's eyes widened and Eridan gasped. "Shit!" Eridan shouted, hands reaching up to cover his mouth as soon as he yelled. Sollux took a few steps forward, hands reaching out for his brother. Mituna just got right back up, though, continuing on his way. He disappeared from the room, and Eridan looked at Sollux quickly. "Is he alright?" Eridan asked quickly, and Sollux let out a sigh, running a hand through his hair. "Yeah, that happenth a lot. I mean, happens! It...It happens a lot," he said, eyes wide as he quickly corrected his speech. His cheeks flushed immediately, eyes meeting Eridan's to see if the other noticed. Eridan did, of course, a smile stretching across his face, causing Sollux's blush to deepen. "Fuck, Sol! I fuckin' knew it! Damn, that is the cutest fuckin' thing!" He laughed, and Sollux quickly shook his head, eyebrows furrowing. "Don't, Eridan! Don't say anything else about it!" He demanded quickly, and Eridan immediately shut up, smile still present. He definitely wasn't letting that one go for long, and Sollux knew it. Sollux sighed, desperate to get off of the subject as quickly as possible.

"Hey, try not to swear around Mit, alright? He has kind of a problem...If he hears others swear, he will too, but at a ridiculous rate. His language can get pretty bad," Sol informed, and Eridan's smile faded as he quickly nodded. "Yeah, Sol, of course," he agreed, walking over to his boyfriend as he looked around once again. He looked at the many scattered pictures, a smile making its way back on to Eridan's lips. The house was so homey, and the pictures were so cute...It reminded him of the family that he hadn't had in a long, long time. "The pictures are so cute, Sol. Your parent's travel a lot?" He asked, picking up a picture of one of Sollux's parent's zip lining in Costa Rica. He had a laughing expression, his green eyes big and glowing, his freckles very apparent, even in the picture. Eridan smiled, and Sollux did too as he looked at the picture. "Yeah, they love to go places. Carter's from England, actually," Sollux said, pointing to the picture, and Eridan smiled, interested. "And Monroe?" Sollux laughed. "Nowhere exotic. Monroe is from New York, actually. He was a cop in the Bronx before moving here after he met Carter in the city," Sol replied, and Eridan's eyebrows shot up. "Really? The Bronx? My family lives right around there!" Eridan exclaimed, and Sollux smiled at him. "Seriously? Wow, cool shit. You two will have to sit down and talk about it sometime," Sollux said with a chuckle. "His accent is all New-Yorker." Eridan laughed. "Yeah, Cronus's Scottish is thick, but it's also mixed with a slight Northern sound." Sollux nodded, as interested in Eridan's family as Eridan was in his. Before Sollux could take the opportunity to ask anything more on the subject of Eridan's family, the back door closed gently. Footsteps approached, and another tall male entered the room, smiling a wide smile and flashing rows of perfect white teeth. "Sollux! Hey, you!" The male said with a faint English accent, walking over and yanking Sollux into a huge hug. His big light green eyes sparkled behind his rectangular, frame-less glasses, and Eridan recognized him as Carter from the picture. Carter was about as tall as Eridan, only about an inch taller than Sollux. He had a thick head of blonde hair, gelled back into a perfectly voluminous shape atop his head. He had scattered freckles over his cheeks, light, even against his paler skin. He had impossibly long lashes, which curved upwards towards his thin, darker blonde eyebrows. He had a pinkish scarf wrapped around his neck that Eridan couldn't help but to admire, and it accented his well chosen outfit perfectly. Carter pulled away, smiling proudly at Sollux. "It's been too long, Sol! How dare you not visit your wonderful parent, I'm aging over here!" He accused, his theatrical voice very dramatic. Sollux rolled his eyes, smiling softly. "Aging? Yeah, all thirty-one years of yours must be heavy to carry. How do you manage?" He said sarcastically, and Carter couldn't help but to laugh at that, his laugh joyous and playful. He ran his fingers affectionately through Sol's hair before looking up, smiling his

perfect smile at Eridan. He stepped away from Sollux, still smiling at Eridan as Sollux looked back at him as well. "Oh, yeah. This is...Yeah, this is Eridan Ampora," Sollux said with a blush and a fond smile. Carter's smile widened as he held a hand out to Eridan. Eridan took it, also blushing as he shook Carter's hand. "Carter Covington. It's wonderful to meet you, Eridan," he said, Eridan's name sounding like something out of a fantasy tale when spoken with Carter's accent. Eridan smiled a slightly shy smile. "Likewise, sir" he replied, immediately receiving a frown. "Sir? Do I look old enough or in a formidable position to be referred to as 'sir'?" He asked with a laugh, pulling his hand away from Eridan, placing both hands on his hips. "Call me Carter, Eri, and I won't be forced to call you Mr. Ampora." Eridan blushed slightly, looking over at Sollux. He looked extremely uncomfortable with the thought of calling Sollux's dad by his first name, and Sollux looked at him, slightly confused. Eridan looked back at Carter with a weak smile. "No problem, s-...Carter," he replied, shy smile returning. Carter then looked down at Eridan's scarf, a smile taking over his lips. "Wow, that is lovely," he complimented, reaching out and feeling the fabric between his long fingers. Eridan immediately grew comfortable, a happy smile forming on his face as he looked down at his own scarf. "Thank you, it's-" "A Peace Treaty. Of course it is, I'd recognize it anywhere," Carter finished for Eridan, smiling. He pulled his hand away, lifting up his own colorful scarf. "Mine is-" "A Comune James scarf, of course. It's gorgeous," Eridan finished for him, unable to bite back his smile at how well they were getting along already. Carter was nothing like his own father, which made him feel a lot more relaxed in his presence. Carter smiled wide, laughing as Eridan blushed. "I admire a guy who knows his scarves, Eridan!" He said, and Sollux groaned in disgust behind the two. "Wow. You've known one another for, like, three seconds, and you're already finishing each others sentences," Sollux muttered. He was relieved that they were getting along so well, but he certainly didn't show it. Carter merely rolled his eyes, looking over at Eridan. "Sollux doesn't appreciate scarves as we do," he informed, and Eridan nodded in agreement. "Don't I know it," he agreed, and Sollux rolled his eyes again. "Oh, hey, that's alright, I'll pretend like I'm not here, too," he said sarcastically. Eridan smiled and Carter laughed, walking over to him and pulling him into another hug. "Glad to see you've got a great taste in guys, Sol," Carter said, winking in Eridan's direction, causing Eridan's blush to deepen as he looked down at his feet. "He knows himself a good scarf when he see's one, so I definitely approve!"

Sollux smiled weakly with a sigh. "Yeah, well, it's not exactly your approval that I'm worried about," he said softly. On cue, the back door opened again, closing gently. Following the sound of the closing door, footsteps approached, and the second man from the pictures entered the room. This man seemed like Carter's opposite. He was shorter, about five-foot-nine, with shaggy black hair that fell into his dark brown eyes. He had a strong jaw and three sliver piercings in one ear, those being the only sight of jewelry on him. His skin was tanner, and his body was built and toned instead of thin and graceful. Instead of designer jeans and a turtleneck with a scarf, he wore a pair of grey sweatpants with a white muscle shirt, showing off his tanned arms, which were decorated with a few tattoos. Eridan's eyes widened slightly. He was a bit more intimidating. "Hey, stranger. Where have you been and what have you been up to?" He questioned Sollux, walking over to him and sliding an arm around Sol's shoulders, pulling him into a one armed hug. Sollux smiled a half smile, sliding his arm around the shorter man. "Avoiding your interrogations, as usual," Sollux replied, and Monroe laughed. He stepped away from Sollux, looking over at Eridan. He smiled an unreadable smile, and Eridan wasn't sure if he was going to be so easy to get along with. He walked over to Eridan, and Eridan shook his hand firmly. "Monroe Covington, pleasure meetin' ya," he introduced himself smoothly, his Northern accent more than apparent. Eridan smiled, trying not to look so shy. "Eridan Ampora, nice meetin' you too, Sir," he replied, and Carter shook his head as soon as Eridan let go of Monroe's hand. Carter walked over to Monroe, nudging his arm, then pointing to Eridan. "Tell Eridan that he doesn't have to feel obliged to call you 'Sir'," he demanded, and Monroe smiled a teasing smile at his husband after winking at Sollux. "Of course he has to call me 'Sir'. I'm a cop, and his boyfriend's dad," he teased, making Sollux smile and making Carter roll his eyes. Carter looked over at Eridan, looking playfully annoyed. "You don't have to call him 'Sir'," he assured. All gazes turned to Eridan, whose eyes widened and whose blush deepened. "...I...Um..." He looked at Sollux desperately. As soon as Sollux noticed that Eridan was about to freak out, he stepped forward. "Yeah, he'll just call you by your names," he said with a comfortable laugh, playing off Eridan's discomfort. He then paused, looking around, eyebrows furrowed. "Hey, where's Mit?" He asked, and Monroe smiled just as fondly as Sollux did when the subject returned to Mituna. "He's out on his skateboard, practicin'. Latula's comin' over tonight, I guess he wants to impress her," he replied, and Sollux rolled his eyes. "Mituna can impress Latula just by sitting in place, I don't know why he tries so hard." "He doesn't want to lose her, Sol, you know that," Carter interjected, and Sollux laughed.

"She loved him before the accident, and she loved him even more afterwards. I don't think he has to worry about losing her." Sollux turned to Eridan, smiling. "Do you remember Terezi Pyrope from high school?" Eridan furrowed his eyebrows thoughtfully. "Yeah, the spunky chick. Isn't she with Kar?" Sollux shook his head. "Oh, no, no, no. Not anymore, and we don't talk about that," he said, and Eridan nodded quickly, understanding immediately. Sollux's smile returned. "Anyways, her sister, Latula, has been dating my brother since my brother was thirteen. He was crazy smart and crazy talented when they met and first started liking each other, and then the accident happened. We were worried that things were going to end between them because Mit had changed so drastically, but Latula only fell even further in love with him. They've been together this whole time, doing everything together; mostly skateboarding and playing video games. She protects him and he loves her unconditionally." Eridan smiled a wide smile, listening to Sollux's story about his brother. "That's so fu-...I mean, dang cute!" "Isn't it?" Carter asked, beaming. Monroe laughed at Carter's wide smile. "Be warned; my husband has a problem with the relationships of our kids. Don't be surprised if he starts callin' you up for lunch dates or shoppin' offers," Monroe warned, nudging Carter playfully while Carter smiled sheepishly. "I have a bit of a shopping problem," he admitted. "A bit? A bit of a shopping problem?" Monroe teased further. As they argued playfully, Eridan stood close to Sollux, obviously tense. Sollux looked up at him, to see that he had gone pale. Sollux's smile fell, worry filling his eyes. "Eridan? What is it?" He asked, grabbing his hand. Eridan looked like he could be sick. He slowly looked down at Sollux, eyes wide. "...He's not really goin' to buy me stuff, right?" He asked. The worry automatically fell from his eyes. He parted his lips, looking at Eridan in disbelief. He looked at him a moment before dropping his hand, furrowing his eyebrows. "That's what you're worried about? Really?!" Sollux asked, and Eridan's eyes only widened further. "I'm not use to people buyin' me things, Sol! What do I say if he hands me somethin'! God damn, your family's too nice!" He whispered loudly, and Sollux shook his head. "Um, you say 'Thank you Mr. Covington," he replied teasingly, and Eridan tensed further. "I thought that I wasn't suppose to call them that!" He shrieked in a whisper, and Sollux couldn't help but to laugh. Carter and Monroe had finally stopped arguing, and Monroe was running his fingers through Carter's perfect hair in affection and apology. Carter was rolling his eyes,though looking slightly proud. He knew well that he had Monroe wrapped around his finger, and Carter used that to his advantage as often as possible. "So what did you want to do today, Sol? Did you have anything in mind?" Carter asked Sollux, and Sol shook his head.

"Not really. I just thought we could all spend a few hours together until Eridan has to go a class at six," Sollux suggested, and Carter smiled in reply. "That sounds fantastic. Do you want to watch a movie, then we can order in for dinner?" He offered. It was amazing how Sollux's and Monroe's expression both changed at the same time, both of them looking at Carter disapprovingly. "Which movie?" They both asked simultaneously, causing Carters eyes to widen in defense and Eridan's eyebrows to raise in interest. "Well, I'm sure I don't know! We could watch whatever you're in the mood for," he started, and Sollux rolled his eyes in Eridan's direction. "He loves chick flicks. Like, it's ridiculous how much he loves chick flicks. Sometimes Karkat would come over, not to hang with me, his best friend, but to watch movies with my dad," Sollux said, and Carter laughed while Monroe smiled. "Kar has a great taste in movies, what can I say?" Carter said with a shrug. Eridan smiled slightly, and Monroe nodded in the direction of their living room. "We're kind of a movie family, here. The bookshelves next to the TV holds all the movie's, so you can go in there and pick one, Eridan. I'm goin' to go out and check on Mituna. I'll see if he want's to join us as well," he said, turning around and making his way back to the backyard. Sollux sighed, looking at Carter. "You know I rarely complain about Mituna, but he kinda sucks at watching movies. He can't sit still or keep quiet for more than five seconds at a time. If we're going to do something with Mit, I'd rather it not be a movie," Sollux said slowly. Carter nodded, understanding. "I doubt he'll want to watch one anyways, Sol. He's really set on that skateboard recently," Carter assured, leading both Sollux and Eridan into the living room. Eridan was a bit surprised to see the movie shelves, now understanding what Monroe meant by the Covington's being a movie family. "Wow, he wasn't kiddin'," Eridan breathed, wondering if he'd even seen a quarter of the movies that decorated the shelves. Carter followed Eridan's gaze, laughing at the sight. "Yes, well, I'm definitely sure that there's got to be one movie there that you'll like, Eri," Carter assured, slipping right into the nickname as he walked over and plopped down on the long couch. Eridan couldn't help but to smile at the fond nickname, not only liking it when Sol said it, but also when his parent's were comfortable enough to use it. Sollux was just about to go and sit next to Carter, but Eridan quickly grabbed his sleeve and tugged him in the direction of the movie shelves. Sollux almost pulled himself away at first, but then smiled a fond smile and allowed himself to be tugged as he realized that Eridan wanted help picking out a movie. They both stopped in front of the movie case, looking through it. "I don't know what to fuckin' watch, Sol," he hissed, looking over the movies. Sollux smiled slowly. "Well, given the circumstances, I'd say a movie would be a wise choice." "I don't need your fuckin' sass, Sol!"

Sollux shrugged. "Guess you don't need my help then, either," he replied, turning around slowly before Eridan grabbed his hand, yanking him back in place. "No! Sol, come on, I need you," he pleaded, and Sollux smiled a low smile. "Now, that's what I like to hear," he flirted, and Eridan tensed as his cheeks filled slightly. "Fuck...Come on, Sol, just pick somethin' that everyone's gonna like," he pleaded, glancing back at Carter, who was busy studying his cuticles. Sollux chuckled, reaching out and grabbing a movie without a second thought. Eridan then paused, eyebrow raising. "Sound of music? Really?" He asked, looking over at Sollux curiously. Sollux nodded with a laugh. "Carter loves it, of course, Monroe actually likes it because he liked the time period, I like it, and it totally seems like your kind of movie." He handed it to Eridan with a smile, then leaned over and pecked his cheek. "You're welcome, loser," he said affectionately, turning around and making his way to the couch. Eridan sighed, a smile forming on his lips as he set the movie up and grabbed the remote, walking over to the couch as well and sitting close to Sollux. It turned out that Carter was right, and Mituna stayed outside to practice skateboarding. Monroe decided to stay with him to keep an eye on him, promising that he'd be around for the next movie that they'd all watch together, since it was guaranteed that as long as Eridan was still with Sollux and was still coming over, this wouldn't be their last movie. Eridan found himself extremely comfortable, which was surprising. Sollux could tell that Eridan was comfortable, too, because he was completely relaxed as he watched the movie. Sollux couldn't help but to smile fondly, leaning against Eridan as they watched. Eridan slid his arm around Sollux, holding him close. Carter wasn't very nonchalant when stealing a few glances of the two, and every time that he did, Sollux frowned at him to look away. Eridan pretended not to notice, but it was a little too obvious. He didn't mind, though. He really found himself liking Sollux's family, even though he hadn't known them for very long. Even when he got to know them further, he only liked them more. When they finished the movie and they all went outside to have dinner on the back porch, Eridan no longer felt awkward. He was happy with talking about himself with Sollux's parents, and they were happy talking to him. Sollux helped him to avoid any conversations that might have to do with Eridan's family, and for that, Eridan couldn't have been more thankful. He talked with Carter about fashion and movies, and he talked with Monroe about living in New York. He watched Mituna as Mituna practiced skateboarding, and even tried to help him practice some, though Eridan couldn't skateboard for shit. The time that he spent with them all was...refreshing. He had almost forgotten what it was like to have a family. One that acted as a family, at least. To have Sollux's parent's treat Eridan like he was, well, worth something, filled a place in Eridan's heart that had been empty for a long time. He wasn't relieved when it was time for him and Sol to depart, in fact, he was disappointed. He didn't expect to enjoy the time that he spent with them like he did, but he really couldn't help it, and he didn't want to go. He shook Monroe's hand and allowed Carter and Mituna to hug him as Sollux and himself made their way out the door. He wasn't a hugger, especially with adults, but it felt really good to have a fatherly figure treat him well.

"Don't be a stranger, Eridan. You can come over whenever you want," Carter assured, smiling at him as he stood on the front porch. Monroe stood next to him, nodding in reply. Mituna peeked his head out from behind them, smiling wide. "And you can come over all the time and thkateboard with me when I get tonth better!" He yelled, and Eridan chuckled. Sollux just playfully threw his hands in the air. "Yeah, that's cool guys, I'll just stay home and watch TV or something while you all do that," he chimed, everyone laughing at his sarcasm. "Yeah, Sol, you can come too, I guess," Monroe teased, and Sollux rolled his eyes with a smile. "Bye, I love you guys," Sol said with a smile. "I love you tholluckth!" Mituna called, and Eridan laughed again at Mituna's cuteness. Sollux waved at his family before tugging Eridan along, who was also waving goodbye. As they made their way back, Eridan couldn't get rid of his smile. "Your family is great, Sol. Like, your family is really great," he complimented, and Sollux smiled wide as well. "Yeah, they're alright," he agreed jokingly, hand clasping Eridan's affectionately. Eridan shook his head. "No, they're great. They're just really..." "Great?" Sollux laughed, and Eridan nodded. "I don't know what I was expecting, but that wasn't it. I wasn't expecting to be treated like part of the family. It was..." He sighed, and Sollux's teasing smile fell into a loving one. "It was really nice." They both stopped where Eridan's and Sollux's roads broke off. Sollux stepped in front of him, facing him with a smile. He ran his fingers up Eridan's cheek, looking into his eyes with a fondness that made Eridan's smile widen. "You deserve to be treated that way, Eri. You're such a great person...I don't know why anyone would treat you differently," Sollux complimented, and Eridan looked close to tears. Just as Sollux thought that Eridan was about to cry, he added, "Other than the fact that you're a priss and you still hog your boyfriends bathroom time." Eridan rolled his eyes, shoving Sollux away. "Go home, fuckass!" He laughed, and Sollux laughed as well. He pressed a light kiss to Eridan's lips. "See you after your class, Eri. Try not to fall asleep through your lecture." Eridan smiled, kissing him back lightly before pulling away. He wiggled his fingers, smiling wide as he turned and walked the other way. He really was an amazing guy. Sollux felt extremely lucky to have him, though he would never admit that to Eridan. The stuck-up bitch would probably reply with something like 'damn right you're lucky, i'm a catch.'. At the thought, Sollux couldn't help but to smile with love. Sollux watched him walk off, admiring his confident stride. And his ass, of course.

Sollux couldn't have been happier when he walked up the steps to his apartment. It really was a wonderful day, and he couldn't believe how well Eridan and Sol's family hit it off. He should have known, though. Eridan was pretty damn perfect. He had a permanent smile pasted on his lips as he unlocked his door. He thought about the homework that he had avoided while spending the day out, along with what he wanted to do with Eridan when Eridan got home. All of those thoughts were interrupted, though, when he saw the figure on his couch across the room after he opened the door. His heart practically stopped at the sight of the stranger, and he nearly dropped his keys. The stranger looked up, and it was then that Sollux knew who he was. He was wearing a white t-shirt that was tight over his toned chest, along with a pair of grey jeans and biker boots. His ocean blue eyes glinted in the dim light, and it was obvious that his thick black hair was greased back. He had a cigarette dangling from between his lips, which curled up into a smile at the sight of Sollux. Sollux just stared back a minute, trying to calm his quickly beating heart. He played it off, though, dropping his keys in the bowl next to the door, which he closed slowly. "I don't recall having a third key made," Sollux said, trying to sound sarcastic, though it wasn't as apparent as it could have been. This seemed to amuse the other, who chuckled at Sollux's comment. Cronus's smile widened as he answered Sollux. "Oh, Kid, I don't need no key."

Chapter 15
"Cronus Ampora?" Sollux guessed. Cronus stood, holding his arms out at his sides as if he were the next Broadway show. "In the flesh, kid!" He smiled, unlit cigarette still dangling from his lips. Sollux rose an eyebrow, obviously not very amused. Cronus slowly lowered his arms, but his smile still remained as he motioned to himself. "Oh, C'mon, don't tell me that you're unimpressed!" He said, his cocky attitude and arrogant aura reminding Sollux slightly of Eridan, just without the self-esteem issues. Sollux wondered if all of the Ampora's were self-obsessed. Sollux merely crossed his arms, looking bored. "What's to be impressed with? I'm not looking at much." At that, Sollux wasn't sure what he expected to hear, but it certainly wasn't Cronus's laugh. Cronus slowly made his way across the room, his strides long and meaningful. His approach made discomfort rush through Sollux, but Sollux remained calm, even as the Ampora spoke. "Wow, I don't know what I was expecting out of my brother's roommate, but you certainly aren't it, kid. You've got spunk." Cronus stopped in front of Sollux, looking down at him with what looked like an interested smile. "I kinda' like that." Sollux paused. That sounded a lot like flirting to him. Cronus couldn't possibly be flirting with him...could he? He didn't know, but he certainly didn't want to be jumping to any conclusions about Eridan's brother. Sollux just shrugged, looking at him.

"Yeah, I'm a charmer. So how did you say you got in again?" Sollux redirected the conversation, uncomfortable with the thought of Cronus coming on to him. Cronus smiled again. "I didn't. A good magician never reveals his secrets," he replied with a wink, and Sollux rolled his eyes at the cheesy-ass line. "Right. Well, no offense, but If I wanted Criss Angel in my apartment, I would have invited him over for dinner," Sollux snapped, slowly becoming fed up with not getting any answers. He was annoying already, yes, but he didn't seem nearly as bad as Eridan had described him. He got the greaser part right, though. He definitely looked like someone out of the fifty's. But a disgusting, selfish prick? He really didn't seem that bad at all. He reminded Sollux a lot of Eridan, actually. And Sollux really, really liked Eridan...His thoughts were scrambled when Cronus chuckled once again at his response. "Cute, kid, real cute," he replied, stepping closer to Sollux. Sollux didn't back up, although they were only inches apart, but he contemplated it. Sollux rolled his eyes again, crossing his arms slightly tighter over his chest. "I have a name, you know." "Oh, right. Cute, Sollux, real cute," he corrected, his amused smile stretching into a pridefilled one. Sollux's eyebrows rose. Did Eridan tell Cronus his name? Or his dad? Sollux certainly didn't. "Oh? Another magic trick?" Sollux prodded, and Cronus merely laughed. "Ya know, kid, you can learn a lot about a person from their medicine drawer," Cronus replied with a smug smile. He then held up two orange bottles in his hand that Sollux hadn't realized were there before. Immediately, Sol's stomach dropped, eyes widening as he allowed the reaction to slip that Cronus was looking for. Cronus's smile widened as Sollux's jaw dropped, and Cronus looked at the labels of the pill bottles. "You've got some major problems here, Sollux M. Captor," he said, eyes trailing over the label on one of the bottles. Sollux was unable to push his shock away at first, but when he did, he felt his rage begin to form. What the fuck?! What right did he have...?! Alright, scratch what he thought before, Cronus was a total prick. This stranger now knew more about Sollux than most of his friends even did, and Sollux and Cronus hadn't even spent ten minutes together. "You fucking dick! You went through my apartment? And my room?!" Sollux shouted, eyebrows furrowed harshly, fingers curling into fists. Cronus didn't look at all fazed by Sollux's shouting. He just removed his eyes from the bottle, looking back at Sollux. "I didn't just crash your pad to chill out on your couch, kid," he confirmed, and Sollux nearly slapped him across the face as he reached out for his med's. "Give them back, Ampora." "I don't actually go by that." "No? What's your preferred pronoun? Douchebag?" "That's Mr. Douchebag to you, kid."

Sollux muttered a long list of profanity under his breath as he reached up and snatched his pills out of Cronus's hand. Cronus smiled a half smile, then reached out and ruffled Sol's hair. Sollux winced in disgust, pulling away from Cronus's outstretched hand. "In case you didn't notice, Eridan's not here. He's in a class. So, you can go now," Sollux said, holding his free hand out towards the door. Cronus smiled slightly. "Who said that I was here for my baby bro? Maybe I'm here for you, Sollux M. Captor," he said with another unreadable smile. Sollux felt a chill ripple down his spine. He didn't like the sound of that. "I have no desire to waste another ten minutes of my life with you, so get out," Sollux snapped. Cronus's smile didn't falter. "Fucking rude! That's no way to treat your boyfriend's brother," he announced, and Sollux huffed. "I'll treat my boyfriend's brother however I want to treat my boyfriend's bro-" He cut himself off, realizing his slip up right after he spoke. His eyes slowly fell shut and he relaxed. "...Damn..." "Oh! So you are his boyfriend? Yeah, I had a hunch," Cronus admitted, his cocky and disgustingly attractive smile returning to his face. Sollux wanted nothing more than to slap it away. He groaned, and Cronus looked at him with a raised eyebrow. "What the fuck ever," Sollux grumbled, tired and fed up. He was tired of standing here with this bastard looming over him, so he finally stepped away, walking around him. He made his way to the kitchen, figuring Cronus would follow. Which he did. "So, can I get you anything? A magazine, coffee maybe? Though, I suppose if you were thirsty, you would have just taken what you wanted..." Sollux droned, setting his pills down and opening the refrigerator, pulling out a bottle of water. He leaned against the counter, opening his water. He then proceeded to tilt his head back and take a long sip. This was interrupted, though, once Cronus once again invaded his personal space. He removed the bottle from Sollux's grasp, almost leading to the spilling of water everywhere. Sollux rolled his eyes as Cronus set the water down, stepping closer to Sollux. "What? You're not talking anymore? Also, what is this whole disregard for a personal bubble? Are you tying to intimidate me?" Sollux asked, eyebrow raising curiously. Cronus's smile returned at that. "Why? Is it working?" He asked, another chill racing down Sol's spine. He was silent a moment, staring up into the other's Caribbean blue eyes. "Yes," Sollux admitted, looking between the empty blue orbs that were far too close for Sol's comfort. "Good," Cronus chuckled, and Sollux's eyebrows furrowed. "Wow, you're an ass," Sollux said, as if he had just figured that point out. "Does Eridan like school?" Cronus asked out of nowhere. Sollux was taken back. It...matters? Why should Cronus care? As far as Sollux could tell, Eridan hated Cronus, and Sollux assumed that Cronus hated Eridan as well. Sollux wasn't

sure what he was playing at, but he wasn't going to avoid the question. He felt as though he didn't have to, so he scrambled his brain for an answer. "Um, what? No, I...Yeah, I don't think he does. In fact, he kind of hates it," Sollux confessed, receiving no more than a nod from Cronus. "I see. And does he have many friends?" Sollux was once again taken back. What the hell? These questions were so out there. Eridan had a few friends...Maybe...Actually, no, he didn't really. What did that mean? "No, not really," Sollux said slowly. Cronus nodded again. "And his job, does he like that? How about the weather? The food? Is the service good here?" "What the fuck, Cronus? What does any of that even mean?" Sollux blurted, shaking his head and backing further against the counter. Cronus loomed closer, a hard look in his eyes, but a threatening smile on his lips. "I'm assuming that the answer to those questions are all 'no'. Do you know what that means, Mr. Captor?" "I'm bad at twenty questions." "It means that pretty much the only reason that he stays here and doesn't fucking come home, is for you. That's a problem that I have to solve," Cronus hissed, something in him snapping that brought an all new kind of fear to Sollux. Sol gripped hard to the edge of the counter top. He wasn't at all sure what Cronus was talking about. Sollux was afraid, but stubborn as always. "Yeah, um, I don't think that I'm the only factor," he countered, causing Cronus's eyes to narrow. "I think that he also stays because he fucking hates you and your father. You both seem like a real pair of dicks..." It was then that Cronus put a hand on Sollux's chest, shoving him even harder against the counter top. The stone slap dug hard into Sollux's back, pain streaking through him as he resisted a gasp. Sollux's eyes widened, the position of a powerful male cornering him seeming strangely familiar. Oh. Not so strange, actually. I've been here before. "Watch your tongue, kid," he snapped. "Some things you can get away with and its cute, but other's you just know nothing about. I don't want to have to put you in your place." Sollux was undoubtedly afraid. Cronus was more than intimidating, and he did a great job of flaunting his dominance. Although fear rushed through him, anger did as well. There was not much that he could do against Cronus in this place, but he had sworn to himself long ago that he would never be in this situation and position again. His jaw clenched, then unclenched as he looked up at the other. "Bring it on, Mr. Douchebag," Sollux challenged. Something flickered in Cronus's eyes that looked like a mix between anger and...attraction. Sollux was sure in that moment that he was going to be punched in the jaw, but he was saved by the flaming gay guy. "Hey, Sol! Class was canceled, the professor went into labor or somethin'," Eridan called out as he walked through the door.

Sollux was too busy pissing off a jackass, and Cronus was too busy flipping his shit to have noticed the sound of the key in the lock. It was too late, now, because Eridan was already through the door and was staring wide eyed at Cronus and Sollux, his face going pale. Uh oh.

Chapter 16
The world slowed to a stop for a moment. Sollux heard his heart in his ears, and felt Cronus's hand loosen on his chest. Cronus had looked over at Eridan, as did Sollux, and Eridan was all that Sollux saw. The younger Ampora looked horrified, completely frozen in place as he stared at his older brother. Sollux saw the horror, and watched as it slowly faded into an immense rage. "Baby bro!" Cronus called with a smile. One second, Eridan was near the door. The next, his bag had been dropped on the floor, and the Aquarius was across the room, ripping Cronus away from Sollux. Eridan shoved Cronus hard against the refrigerator, causing the whole thing to shake from the force, Cronus's unlit cigarette falling to the ground. Cronus grunted on impact, and Eridan looked like something that Sollux had never seen before. All he could do was to stare with shock. "What the hell are you doin' here?!" Eridan demanded in a shout, both of his hands gripping fistfuls of his brother's white shirt. Cronus laughed in reply. "Just came to check out the place, and your boyfriend. He's a keeper, Eridan. I definitely approve, " he said with a wink in Sollux's direction, causing Eridan's eyes to widen. He yanked Cronus forward, then shoved him hard back against the fridge. "Shut up!" He demanded, and Cronus laughed once again. "That's a compliment, Eridan! You've impressed me, I mean it. He's funny, seems like a smart kid... and damn, is he cute," Cronus winked again, and Sollux thought that Eridan was going to knock his brother's perfect teeth out. "Are you tryin' to piss me off? Because you're doin' a fuckin' fantastic job, Cronus!" Eridan snarled, and Cronus merely smiled his cocky smile. "It seems as though I've already pissed you off. What more do I have to lose?" He chuckled. Eridan looked near his breaking point as he stared into his brother's eyes. "Listen to me, and listen to me well, because I will not fuckin' repeat myself," Eridan started, causing both Sol's and Cronus's eyebrows to raise before he continued, "You. Will not. Touch him. Do you understand me? If I eversee your hands on him again, I'll send you home with your own fuckin' hospital bill for dad to pay. Am I fuckin' clear?" Eridan hissed. Sollux couldn't believe what he saw. Although flattered, he was a bit taken back. He knew Eridan as this cute, whiny kid who pouted when he didn't get what he wanted. He was funny and adorable, but he really was a child. Seeing a side of him that seemed completely Ampora was a bit scary. Sollux had no idea that kind of rage even existed in Eridan. He could have gone his whole life without witnessing it...Hell, it was kind of hot, but it was more chilling than anything.

"Um, bro? I think that you're intimidating your boy toy more than you are me," Cronus admitted, nodding over at Sollux, whose face had downright paled. Eridan quickly looked over at Sol, the anger immediately draining from his face. His grip loosed on Cronus's shirt, and his lips parted as a guilty expression overcame his features. He couldn't think of what to say, and Cronus smiled slowly, taking this to his advantage. "You can't say that you're not impressed, Captor. Isn't he good at what he does? That's why he belongs at home and with his family instead of staying here and pretending to be something he's not," Cronus alluded, causing Eridan's hands to gain their grasp back on his shirt as he shoved him hard back against the fridge once again. "Shut your fuckin' mouth!" Eridan demanded, and Sollux's eyes widened. "Pretending to be what he's not? What does that really make him, then?" Sollux finally spoke up, determined to get answers if he could. Eridan's eyes didn't waver from Cronus's as Cronus's eyebrows rose once again. "Oh, so you didn't tell him? I guess there's some loyalty in you after all, baby bro. I think he deserves to know, though, does he not? Now that he's involved and all-" Cronus didn't even get the chance to finish, because Eridan had yanked his fist back and slammed it into Cronus's jaw, eliciting another grunt of pain from Cronus. Sollux jumped in surprise, quickly making his way over to Eridan. He didn't want this to get uglier than it already was, and he certainly didn't want to see Eridan get hurt. Though, it didn't seem as though Eridan would be the one hurt. Although older and a bit bigger than Eridan, Cronus seemed like the one who would have his ass handed to him in the end. "He is not involved! Don't you dare fuckin' threaten me or him like that!" Eridan yelled, although fear seemed to join the anger in his eyes and throw a party of emotions that were radiating off of him. Sollux gently grabbed Eridan's hand, which was still curled into a fist. Eridan seemed to have snapped out of a trance, looking at Sollux in surprise. "Calm down, Eri, okay? Don't fucking listen to him. If there's anything that I've learned in my short time with Mr. Douchebag, it's that he's a manipulative bastard who plays far too many games. I don't know what's going on. But honestly, ED? I don't care. Just...Let go of your brother, alright? Kick him out, and we can talk by ourselves," Sollux said, hoping that his feeble attempt might actually calm the situation at hand. Eridan just looked into the eyes of his boyfriend a moment, and Sollux felt nothing but relief as Eridan slowly loosened his grip on Cronus's shirt. Cronus smiled a pleased smile, despite the fact that his jaw was a bright red, and was sure to bruise over. Eridan looked at Cronus with distaste, letting go of him and stepping back, closer to Sol. Cronus couldn't help but to chuckle. He brushed himself off, as though he were tainted with Eridan's filth. "Wow. No one's ever been able to call Eridan off, before you. I'm impressed, and I owe you one, cutie," Cronus said with another wink in Sol's direction, causing Eridan to tense. He looked as though he might attack his brother once again, and Sollux had to slip his fingers between Eridan's to keep him in place. "Fan-motherfuckin'-tastic. Now get out of my apartment," Eridan demanded, pointing towards the door. Cronus nodded slowly, holding his hands up defensively.

"No problem, bro. I'll leave your place, but I can't skip town. Not until you come home," Cronus informed, and Eridan tensed further. "Well, it looks like you're goin' to be here a while, then. I'm not comin' home, Cronus," He snapped, and a darkness overcame Cronus's face once again. Sollux held his ground, though resisting the urge to slink back in growing fear. Both Cronus and Eridan held this unmatched rage within them, and Sollux assumed that their father did as well. It would take a dumbass not to be afraid of what the two could obviously do, and Sollux was no dumbass. Cronus and Eridan held heavy gazes for a moment before Cronus looked over at Sollux, smile forming and darkness disappearing. "Oh, you'll come home, Eridan. One way or another, you'll come home," he assured, speaking to Eridan, but staring dead at Sollux. Sollux felt chills overtake him, and Eridan squeezed Sollux's hand hard. "We'll see about that, Cronus. Now get out," Eridan snapped. Cronus held Sollux's gaze a moment before leaning down and grabbing his cigarette off the floor. He then turned on his heel, walking comfortably for the door, looking proud of his work. Eridan pulled Sollux close to him, just as Cronus spoke up. "I'll see ya' around, cutie," he informed with a smile, winking back at Sollux one last time before walking through the open door, closing it behind him. As soon as he was gone, Eridan let go of Sollux's hand and rushed towards the door, locking it quickly. Sollux finally allowed himself to relax. He looked over at Eridan, a slight smile forming on Sollux's lips as he looked over Eridan's action. "Yeah, no, that doesn't matter, Eri. Houdini doesn't let locks keep him from going through people's shit," Sollux spoke up, and Eridan turned quickly and looked at Sollux. The look in his eyes chased away Sollux's joking manner, and Sollux's smile fell. "He went through your stuff?" Eridan ask, and Sollux nodded slowly. "Yeah, my med's, and who know's what else," Sol confirmed, jutting his thumb in the direction of his pill bottles on the counter. "Is that how he knew your name, or did you tell him?" Sollux sighed. "I certainly didn't tell him shit. He read my name off of the pill labels. Why does it matter if he know's my name, Eridan? If he's here, he'd be sure to figure it out soon enough." Eridan slowly relaxed. All hardness from his features were gone as he slowly made his way back over to Sollux, looking like a puppy whose tail was just stepped on. Sollux couldn't help but to look at him sadly, knowing very well how bad he felt about the whole thing. "Sol," he started, stopping in front of his boyfriend and grabbing his hands. "I am so, so sorry," he apologized, looking as though he could burst into tears. Although Sollux's heart was breaking the longer that he stared at Eridan, he smiled softly, trying to lighten up the mood. "What a change, Eri. You just went from Jack Bauer to Bella Swan in two minutes flat," he teased, his joking manner once again fading as Eridan began to slowly stroke his hands.

"Did he hurt you, Sol? Why was his hand on your chest when I walked in?" He questioned, searching Sol's eyes for the answers that he desperately sought. Sollux sighed. "He shoved me against the counters. I might have called him and your father a dick. I guess it's not true?" He asked, and Eridan shook his head, his sadness and worry not fading, even as he answered. "No, it's true, but...Don't insult my father around Cronus, alright? He'll flip holy roller shit at anyone who speaks badly against my father. It's landed him in more than enough trouble-" He then paused, eyes widening. "Wait, did you say that he shoved you?!" He exclaimed, hands gripping Sol's hands hard. Sollux once again couldn't help but to smile softly, though he just now realized the pain that was overtaking his back. "Yeah, he shoved me. I'm fine though, Eri, I promise. It wasn't like he tackled me to the ground or anything. I'm a toughie, I can pull through," he assured sarcastically with a chuckle. His smile quickly faded as Eridan let go of his hands, walking around him and sliding his fingers under the back of Sollux's shirt. Sollux jerked away, hissing in slight pain as Eridan's fingers slid over his lower back. "Hey! Personal space, ED. Do none of the Ampora's respect that?" He said, spinning so that he was facing Eridan, and his back wasn't. Eridan sighed, running his fingers through his no longer perfect hair. "Yeah, I'm sorry, Sol. I can't help but to be a little over-protective," he apologized, walking back over to his boyfriend and slipping his arms around Sol's waist. "I'm just...I never wanted to get you involved in all this..." "All what, Eri? And don't just say 'My family life', because that tells me nothing. If Cronus was right about anything, it was that I have a right to know what the hell is up with you two. You go all hulk on your brother when I was convinced that you were a pacifist, your brother can pick locks, your dad sends your brother as his personal lackey to yank you back home...What the fuck is up with your family?" Eridan no longer looked relaxed. He quickly looked away from Sollux, his arms loosening on Sol's waist. He then stepped away, looking down at his feet. "Look, Sol, I'm really tired..." "No, Eridan. Not this time. Your brother just walked in here and threatened me, so you can't do that anymore," Sollux responded quickly, eyebrow's furrowing. Eridan looked up at him just as quickly, his eyes begging Sol's. Although Sol felt his heart tug in Eridan's favor, hardly able to resist those eyes, he remained stubborn. Eridan looked at him a moment more before letting out a shaky sigh. He stepped aside, walking around Sollux. Sollux turned, watching him as he walked through the living room. He grabbed the bag that he dropped on the floor, holding it as he walked over to the couch. He set his bag on the coffee table, then fell back onto the couch with another sigh. He yanked his legs up on the couch as he stared out the window behind the sofa, looking distant and not at all comfortable. "We do what we're told to," he started, and Sollux's heart skipped. Fuck. He was really about to figure out about Eridan's family.

Sollux made his way over through the living room as well, sitting comfortable next to Eridan on the couch. He slid a hand into Eridan's hair, playing with it gently. At this action, Eridan relaxed slightly, as Sollux knew that he would. Eridan loved to have his hair played with. Eridan bit his lip, pausing a moment before continuing. "My father use to be in control, before my mother's death. After that, he didn't really want to...I don't know...Be a target anymore. So instead of givin' orders, we take them. We don't question, we just do. But we're not gangbangers, Sol, we're not really in a gang-" "The Mob," Sollux interrupted, and Eridan completely tensed again. He looked away from the window and down at the couch. He didn't say anything, and Sollux swallowed hard. The only thing that kept his hands from shaking was the fact that one was gripping hard to the couch, and the other was tangled in Eridan's hair. This was the most ridiculous shit. Shit like this only happened in movies, how could Eridan be fucking involved in the fucking Mob? Sollux was having trouble wrapping his mind around it, but he was surprising himself with how calm he was, despite the threatening shaking. "Now you understand why I left," Eridan said, voice interrupting the terrifying silence that had fallen. He turned in his spot, Sollux's hand slipping from his hair as Eridan faced him. Eridan sat on his knees, grabbing Sollux's weak hands hard, a desperation in Eridan's voice. "I never fuckin' wanted this. I left and I don't plan on goin' back," Eridan assured. Sollux just looked at him, unsure what to think. Should this change how he felt about Eridan? It seemed as though it should have. This was some seriously fucked up shit, and if Sollux didn't understand Cronus's words before, he surely did now. Sollux was involved. And this moment, right here, right now, would determine whether Sollux would remain involved. He either ended things here and now, or see where they took him. "Eridan?" Sollux asked slowly, and Eridan's eyebrows furrowed as the desperation grew in his eyes. "Yes, Sol?" "...Why are you holding my hands so hard?" Eridan's grip only tightened. A look flashed through his eyes that Sollux swore looked a lot like love, and Sollux realized that his mind was melding with his heart. Those two things were supposed to be separate in order to make rational decisions, but Sollux couldn't help it as he stared into Eridan's eyes. It was a while before Eridan confessed his reply, but when he did, Sollux knew that his mind had already been made up, and it was his hearts fault. "Because I'm afraid that if I let go, Sol, I'll lose you," he admitted softly. At that reply, Sollux's heart broke into two, then re-mended itself just as quickly. Sollux leaned forward, pressing a long kiss to Eridan's lips. Eridan almost pulled back in surprise, not at all expecting that reaction, but he didn't dare to after he realized. He quickly let go of Sol's hands and slid his own on to Sol's cheeks, kissing him with as much love as he could conjure. Sollux didn't hold the kiss for long, and when he pulled back, he looked at Eridan genuinely. "You're not going to lose me, Eri. If anything, this only makes me care for you more. To leave your family and to leave what you didn't want to be apart of is so fucking admirable,

it's hard to fathom. I don't care if Cronus tries to threaten me with your family, Eridan. You're not your family, and that's what matters." Eridan's eyes widened, obviously surprised to hear that answer. Sollux smiled at his surprised, about to laugh before Eridan shoved him backwards. Sollux's eyes widened as he ended up on his back on the couch, and Eridan took his place on Sollux's hips, straddling him. Sollux's heart pounded hard as Eridan leaned down, kissing him deeply as his hand slid up Sollux's chest, his other next to Sollux's face, providing support for himself. It took a moment for Sollux's mind to gather itself and process what was going on. Oh, hey look, Eridan was on top of him. That's fine, that's not...extremely hot or anything...Man, the places that this could go... But was Sollux ready for that? He finally learned what he needed to know about Eridan, but there were still some things that Sollux wasn't ready to share about himself. As much as he wanted Eridan's fucking amazing body, Sollux couldn't do it. Not yet, anyways. Soon? Yeah, probably. But now? Not quite. He smiled beneath the kiss nonetheless, about to break it when Eridan rolled his hips over Sol's. Sollux's smile fell, cheeks heating immediately. His rational thoughts began to fade, even more so when Eridan's fingers dragged down Sollux's sides, sending shivers up and down his spine. Fuck. This could prove to be a problem... He re-gathered the strength to break the kiss, but just as he had, Eridan dipped his tongue in-between Sollux's parting lips. The warmth that flowed through him when Eridan's tongue slid against his own was somewhat alarming. How could he feel this much from such a simple action? His eyes slowly fell shut as he twirled his tongue with Eridan's, heart beating double time when Eridan rolled his hips over Sol's once again. Oh man. Yeah, wow...Sollux contemplated abandoning his previous decision, until Eridan's fingers slipped underneath Sol's shirt. Sollux was jolted back into his life as soon as Eridan's cold fingers made contact with his skin. He broke the kiss very reluctantly, forcing out a laugh. "Eridan, as much as I love it when you touch me, I'm still kind of gathering my thoughts here. Could we hold off on the touching until after I fully process everything?" Sollux chuckled, surprised that he was able to get the words out. He was relieved when Eridan smiled in return, pressing a loving kiss to Sollux's cheek. "Yes, of course, anythin' you want," he assured, obviously more relieved than Sollux, and more thankful than Sollux was sure that he'd ever be able to realize. Sollux smiled back, pecking his lips once more. It wasn't long before they were snuggled together on the couch, watching some dumb Disney movie that Eridan was in love with. Eridan had a smile taking over his face the whole time, leaning comfortably against Sollux as he watched, but Sollux couldn't pay attention. This was huge. If his dad, the cop from the Bronx, ever found out about Eridan and his family, Sollux couldn't imagine the outcome. Carter would be horrified, and he didn't even want to imagine his real father's reaction... Oh, yeah, his real father. He was going to have to see him soon. He'd probably have to introduce Eridan to him too. That should be buckets of fun.

He tried not to think about it as he slid his arm further around Eridan's waist, pulling him closer as Eridan pressed a kiss to Sollux's shoulder, then resumed watching the movie. Sollux smiled down at him, then looked back up at the TV with a worried expression. He cared so much for Eridan, but...What had he gotten himself into?

Chapter 17
"But mom, Mituna and dad get to thtay home. Why do I have to go to the lake? I don't even like thwimming," I whined as I slipped my shoes on, a permanent pout taking residence on my face. I blinked my big mismatched eyes stubbornly, my dark eyebrows furrowed. My mom chuckled, sliding her fingers through my hair as she grabbed her keys and her diabetes pack. "Because you're my sweet baby boy, Sollux, and I want to spend the day with you. Mituna has to practice for the science tournament next week, and daddy's going to help him," She answered, her smooth and beautiful voice sliding around me, unraveling my anger-set attitude. Although I felt calmer, somewhat prideful that she wanted to spend the day playing with me and not studying with Mituna, I still huffed. "Mituna doethnt need anyone to help him thtudy. Mituna doethnt even need to thtudy, he can win it by himthelf, even without hith team," I grumbled, working hard to keep the jealousy out of my voice. Nothing could get past my mother, though. She smiled her perfect smile, her lips curving upward gently as she kneeled down in front of me. Her clear blue eyes stared into mine with affection as she slid her fingers onto my cheek. "Mituna's very smart, and I'm very proud of him," she said, and I pursed my lips tightly, which made her chuckle. She leaned forward and pressed a long kiss to my forehead, her long brown hair tickling my cheeks as she did. She then pulled back with another beautiful smile. "But you're very smart, too. And Sollux, I've never met a sweeter boy than you. I love you both more than anything, but you're the one that I can always count on to brighten my day," she finished, causing a smile to force itself upon my lips. She laughed at that, pressing another kiss to my forehead as she stood up. "I can count on you to be my lifeguard if the water is mean today, right?" She smiled, and I nodded quickly. "Duh!" I replied, and she laughed as she slid her hand into mine, our fingers intertwined as we made our way out the door.

Sollux wasn't sure why he woke up this time. Normally, the memory played itself out until the very end. The beginning was a reminder of better times, but the rest of the dream slipped into the nightmare that he could never outrun. His eyes slowly opened, eyebrows furrowing as he realized what had woken him up. A pair of arms were around him, holding him as he slept. Soft kisses were being pressed to the back of his neck, causing him to tense completely. He glanced down, his eyes catching a pair of heavily jeweled hands, rings scattered over the long artists fingers that belonged to his boyfriend. He couldn't help but to smile, although the dream was still fresh in his mind.

"Well, good morning," Sollux chuckled, voice still thick with sleep. He felt Eridan's lips curl up into a smile on the back of his neck, causing Sollux's smile to widen. "Mornin', Sol," he replied, arms tightening around Sollux as he pulled him closer. Sollux rolled over in Eridan's arms, smiling at the other male. "How long have you been sucking on my neck?" Sollux asked, and Eridan blushed slightly. "About ten minutes," he admitted, and Sollux laughed. Eridan had been undeniably affectionate over the past couple of weeks. Ever since Sollux confirmed that he wouldn't leave Eridan, even after figuring out about his...family situation...Eridan had been clinging to him like a puppy. Sollux didn't mind, of course. In fact, he didn't complain at all. "You're a dork," Sollux said with a smile, taking in Eridan's features. It was obvious that Eridan had just woken up before he made his way into Sollux's room. His light hair was messy, and his face was free from his stupid hipster glasses. His skin seemed paler, and his dark freckles were scattered all over... Sollux's eyes widened. Freckles! That son of a bitch! "Fuck! You do have freckles!" He exclaimed, and Eridan's eyes widened as well. He then looked mildly disgusted. "Shit, I forgot..." He mumbled, and Sollux gave him a weird look. "You forgot that you had freckles?" Eridan gave him a stupid look. "No I didn't fuckin' forget that I have freckles, dipshit. I forgot that I didn't have cover-up on," he replied in a sassy tone. Sollux then paused, raising an eyebrow. "You wear makeup, dude?" "Obviously." "Wow, you are so damn gay." "Oh, is that fuckin' so? What does that make you, Sol?" "Hey, I'm not gay, Eri. I'm one-hundred percent hetero." This made Eridan laugh. "Oh, is that the truth?" He asked, and Sollux smiled. Eridan then leaned forward, nipping at Sollux's bottom lip. Sollux's smile slowly began to fall, staring into Eridan's deep blue eyes, which had begun to fall half lidded. Eridan scooted closer, smile playing on his lips. "Maybe I can disprove that statement," he said, and Sollux nearly groaned. He was so fucking hot, and Sollux was getting closer and closer to just giving in. The only thing stopping him was remembering his dream, and what followed the longer that the nightmare progressed. Sollux swallowed hard. "Eridan, you're getting harder and harder to resist," Sollux admitted, and Eridan's smile widened slightly. "Why resist?" He countered, continuing to nip at Sollux's lips. As difficult as it was, Sollux had to pull away with a sigh. He rolled on to his back, stretching as he closed his eyes. "It's hard to explain," he admitted, and Eridan's smile fell. Eridan sat up, looking at Sollux, slightly worried.

"Oh. So there is a reason," he said slowly, and Sollux sighed again, sitting up with his boyfriend. "Look, I don't want to talk about it, and you don't want to hear it. It's nothing against you, I promise. That's all you need to know. Now, did you come in here to seduce me, or did you need me for something?" Sollux asked quickly, forcing a smile upon his lips. Eridan looked slightly hurt, and Sollux didn't blame him. Eridan had opened up to him, admitting what he didn't want to admit to his boyfriend, and now Sollux was on the bad side of the penny. Guilt seized him, and he bit his lip. There was always something... Eridan, being the perfect human being that he was, merely smiled, playing off the awkward moment. "Actually, I did come in here for somethin'. I have this project that I need to do, and I don't know how to fuckin' do it. Since you know pretty much everythin', I was wonderin' if you could help." Sollux nodded, running his hand over his face as he fell back in bed. He hated projects. They came easy to him, but Sollux hated work more than anything. Eridan, though, was totally worth it. He'd help him without any complaints. "Yeah, okay. When's it due?" He asked, yawning, eyes falling shut. Eridan shifted a bit where he sat. "...Today," he admitted, and Sollux's eyes shot open. He looked at Eridan in slight disbelief. "Today, Eridan? Today!?" He exclaimed, and Eridan huffed at his tone. "Yeah, today. Sorry, dad," he mumbled, and Sollux let out a deep sigh. He sat up again, running a hand through his hair. "Fine, it's cool. What's it on?" Sollux asked, and Eridan looked away with a pout. "Religion," he replied, and Sollux face-palmed. "That has the potential of being very easy, or very complex," Sollux replied and Eridan groaned. He fell back into the covers, kicking his legs a bit like a child, then relaxing with an unreadable expression on his face. "Fuckin' fuck school! I'm so done, Sol, I'm not cut out for college. I'm not smart like you, I don't have a good tolerance level, I suck at everythin'. I don't want to do this anymore, it all just makes me so fuckin' miserable-" "Hey, hey, hey," Sollux said softly, leaning over and running a hand through Eridan's messy hair. "Shush, alright? You do not suck at everything," he assured, leaning over and pressing a kiss to Eridan's cheek. Miserable? He hated the thought of Eridan being miserable and feeling this way about himself. Even more so, he hated the thought that Cronus was right. The only things keeping Eridan in place was his hate for his family life and, well, his relationship with Sollux was probably keeping him here too. No friends, hating school, hating work, hating everything... It wasn't healthy, and Sollux couldn't help but to be a little afraid. The thought of Eridan being miserable where he was was hard for Sol to think about, but the thought of Eridan leaving this place was even worse. Could Sollux handle Eridan leaving him? Probably, but not very well. In fact, he might not even be able to. Aradia leaving him

was fucking hard enough, but Eridan? He didn't want to think about it. Sollux was a tough cookie, but he had weaknesses. Relationships are one of those weaknesses. "Listen," Sollux began after a while, releasing a shaky sigh. "Are you...happy, Eridan?" Eridan gave a mock laugh. "Happy? Hell no. I can't remember the last time that I was happy," he replied, brutally honest. Sollux couldn't help the look of hurt that overcame his expression. Not at all? Wow, great job, Sollux. Doing a real fantastic job in the boyfriend department, aren't you? Sollux sighed and looked away, sitting up and away from Eridan. Eridan looked at him, confused a moment before his eyes widened. He shot up, looking partially mortified in himself. The realization seemed to have smacked him across the face. "No! No, wait, Sol, I didn't..." He quickly grabbed Sollux's hand, and Sollux looked at him. "Sol, you make me so, so happy. I mean that, okay? I've...I've never been in a relationship before, but I wouldn't want a relationship to be any different from this one. You're just so...so great, Sol. You can be bossy and a know-it-all and a real fuckin' asshole sometimes, but..." Eridan pursed his lips, looking as though he were about to burst. Sollux tensed, eyes widening. Don't you dare fucking say it. Don't you dare even think about saying those three words. Do you hear me, Eridan? Don't even fucking think about it! "I'm just really happy with you, Sol. I may not be real ecstatic about everythin' else in my life, but I'm really happy with you," he finished, allowing Sollux to relax. That was entirely too close. Luckily, disaster was avoided. Sollux smiled at Eridan, squeezing his hand affectionately as he leaned in a pressed a light kiss to the tip of his boyfriends nose. "I'm really happy with you too, Eridan," he admitted, receiving a wide smile from the Aquarius. Sollux smiled back, locked in this gay, dorky smile fest with his boyfriend. As much as he hated these moment's where they were both totally and utterly chicks, he also loved them to death. To know that he brought that much happiness to Eridan's life was really a great fucking feeling, and Sollux clung to it like a cat would a yarn ball. It only lasted until Sollux spoke up. "But on the subject, you can be pretty bossy yourself, along with being a real prick." Eridan scoffed in reply. "Oh puh-lease. You are so much more of a bigger prick than I am. You're a total douche." "Yeah, well, you're a prissy bitch, Eridan." "I'd rather be a prissy bitch than a self-absorbed loser." "I'm self-absorbed, Eridan? Let's ask your closet and your hair-dresser who's more selfabsorbed." "Fuckin' asshole." "Little bitch." "Geeky dick." "Preppy bastard."

Sollux nearly laughed when Eridan dived at him, crushing his lips against Sollux's while they both smiled wide. Eridan wrapped his arms around him, kissing him sweetly, yet desperately as his tongue proceeded to drag over Sollux's bottom lip. Sollux kissed him back with just as much feeling, parting his lips to allow Eridan's tongue to mingle with his own. After making-out for quite some time, Sollux pulled away with a smile, cheeks flushed, breaths light and short. Eridan himself was panting as well, eyes lit with a happiness that brought nothing but joy to Sollux's heart. Man, he was perfect. "Hey, let's do something today. Want to go on a date?" Sollux offered, and Eridan smiled an adorable smile. It fell as quickly as it came, though, and Eridan groaned. "I'd love to, Sol, but I have that paper to write," he pouted, and Sollux chewed on his bottom lip a moment. "Do you work today?" "No." "Neither do I. When's your paper due?" "Midnight..." Sollux smiled. "That gives us plenty of time. We can hit the library on our way back, and I'll help you with your essay." Eridan smiled a wide smile. He pressed multiple kisses to Sollux's lips before pulling away, quickly sliding out of bed. Sollux watched him as he situated his pajama shirt a moment before turning back toward the door. He begun to make his way out and Sollux sighed. "You're going to shower, aren't you?" "Of course I am, Sol." "Eridan, you showered last night. I know, because I waited for-fucking-ever for you to get out." Sollux couldn't see him, but he knew that Eridan had rolled his eyes before speaking. "Yeah, and now I have to shower again! This self-absorbed prissy bitch has to look hot for his boyfriend!"

Chapter 18
Sollux laid face-down on the couch, his glasses digging into his nose, his forehead pressed into the cushions. Eridan still wasn't out of the fucking bathroom, and Sollux's patience was wearing with each minute that passed. He had gotten out of bed, yanked on a pair of black jeans and a black and yellow jacket, slipped on his mismatched black and white shoes, and yanked his fingers through his hair, all in about two minutes. He had yet to brush his teeth, but that was because Eridan had claimed the bathroom for the past hour. Was he even close to being done? Sollux had no damn clue. Why the hell did he like this guy? He groaned, frustrated as he rolled onto his back. He yanked his glasses off, rubbing the place on his nose where he knew that the nose pads of his glasses had dug into his skin. He looked at the bathroom door, staring at it a moment, willing his boyfriend to get his ass out here. When the door didn't open, he groaned again.

"Holy Christ, Eridan!" He complained in a yell, slipping his glasses back on as he sat up and raked his fingers through his soft hair. "I'm going to have graduated college, gotten married, had a family, and died before you even finish your fucking hair!" At that, Eridan stepped out of the bathroom. Sollux looked up in surprise, resisting a smile as Eridan walked out. His purple skinny jeans clung to his legs as perfectly as usual, just as his white shirt clung lightly to his toned chest. He wore a blue and purple scarf, the purple fabric matching his bangs and his jeans. He had a pair of black steam-punk styled boots on that came up past his ankles. He looked irresistible, as he always did. "Marriage, Sol? That's interestin'. You never struck me as a marriage guy," Eridan answered, involuntarily strutting down the hall and into the kitchen. Sollux tilted his head, eyes trailing over Eridan's legs and ass as he walked. "Yeah, you're right. I don't see marriage in my future," Sollux admitted absent-mindedly as he checked out the hot ass of his boyfriend. Eridan chuckled, grabbing a bottle of water out of the fridge. He turned around, and Sollux quickly looked away, pretending to be interested in something else as he stood up. He walked to the bathroom and brushed his teeth quickly, now that he had the chance, then walked back out to the kitchen where Eridan hadn't moved. Eridan opened his mouth to no doubt reply to the earlier conversation, but paused when he noticed that Sollux had immediately frowned. Eridan's smile faded as well, and a look of self-consciousness came over his face. He immediately ran his fingers over his perfect hair, then over his face. "What? What is it?" He asked, looking around, as if desperate for a mirror. Sollux rolled his eyes at the reaction. "Your freckles. You covered them up," Sollux said, walking over to Eridan. Eridan relaxed at Sollux's response, taking a sip of his water. He then put the bottle down and nodded at Sollux as Sollux approached. "Of course I covered them up. They're fuckin' hideous," Eridan replied with distaste, and Sollux rolled his eyes once again. "I think they're cute as fucking hell, and I don't think that you should hide them," Sollux replied, sliding his arms around Eridan's waist as he pressed a kiss to Eridan's cheek. Eridan tried to force back his smile, but he couldn't as it forced the corners of his lips upward. "Well, I don't think that you should talk without your li-" "Don't!" Sollux shuddered, shaking his head. "Please, don't mention it." "Sol, it is so damn precious-..." "Eridan, if any speech impediment is precious, it's yours. A lisp is just about as precious as road kill," Sollux replied. Eridan's bottom lip slowly jut out, and his pout softened Sollux's heart as the Aquarius's flawless blue eyes held an almost begging expression. "Say somethin' with your lisp, Sol," Eridan pleaded, and Sollux looked at him in disgust. He then looked away, then back at his boyfriend. "You're a thpoiled child," he mumbled, and Eridan beamed like a kid who was just handed a shiny red balloon.

"Sollux Captor, you are so damn cute!" Eridan laughed, and Sollux yanked away from his roommate. "Yeah, right. They definitely don't come much cuter than me," he said sarcastically, grabbing Eridan's water bottle and taking a sip. "What do you want to do today?" "Hm," Eridan mumbled thoughtfully. "I don't know. It was kinda a' spur a' the moment suggestion. I didn't have anythin' in mind for a date," he replied, walking backward a few steps. He placed his palms on the counter-top, pushing himself up and hopping onto the counter. He swung his legs as he looked at Sollux. Sollux looked back at him, eyebrow raising. "I have nothing in mind. Do you just want to walk around town?" He offered, taking another sip, then putting the water bottle back into the fridge. He walked over to Eridan, sliding his hands onto Eridan's knees. Eridan smiled softly at the touch. "I wouldn't mind that," he replied, leaning forward and pressing an affectionate kiss to Sollux's forehead. Sollux smiled. "Cool. Maybe when we're there, we'll see something we want to do." "I'm already seein' somethin' that I want to do," Eridan said out of nowhere with a completely straight face. Sollux's eyebrows shot up, not expecting that reply. They just looked at each other a moment before a smile slowly spread on Eridan's lips. Sollux couldn't help but to slowly smile as well. "Well, aren't you smooth," he said with a chuckle, and Eridan laughed. "I'm sorry, Sol. I couldn't help it," he admitted. "I saw an opportunity, and I took it." Sollux smiled. He then slowly slid his hands up Eridan's thighs, causing Eridan's smile to slowly drop. Sollux leaned forward, pressing his lips to Eridan's ear. Eridan completely tensed as Sollux pressed a few kisses to his earlobe before speaking. "Let just see how tired you are after we get home and finish your assignment," he flirted, surprising both himself and his boyfriend. His hands slid onto Eridan's hips, and Eridan shuddered at the feeling and at Sollux's breath against his ear. "Wait, really?" He said, looking at Sollux with wide eyes, no doubt surprised after the events of the earlier morning. Sollux shrugged, pulling away from Eridan with a playful smile. He then turned, making his way for the door. He grabbed his keys, wallet and phone, shoving them into his pockets as he unlocked the door and pulled it open. He then looked back at Eridan with a wink, making his way out the door. Eridan remained in place a moment before pushing himself off of the counter, grabbing his things quickly as he followed Sollux out the door. "No, wait, really?" He called, closing the door and locking it behind him as he chased after Sol. Sollux teased his boyfriend all the way to town. He was fucking adorable, even when he was frustrated. Hell, especially when he was frustrated. Sollux was sure that by the time they had gotten into town, Eridan was about to nail him in the face. Everything seemed to change, though, when they approached the flower shop. Eridan's frustration faded away, and he tugged on Sollux's sleeve.

"Hey, Sol, I have a date idea," he said with a light smile, looking over the cute shop. Sollux slowed to a stop. He looked at the flower shop, then back to Eridan, eyebrow rising slowly. "Flower shopping?" He asked, and Eridan's smile widened slightly. He grabbed Sollux's hand, yanking him towards and into the shop. Sollux wasn't exactly sure what Eridan's deal was, but he found that he couldn't help but to want to go along with whatever the Aquarius had in mind. "I read about this thing on the internet that I always wanted to try," he explained, smiling a happy smile as he began to look over the many flowers in the store. He leaned towards a bouquet of lilies, smelling them with a smile. Sollux looked around, shifting back and forth from foot to foot before looking back at Eridan. "Oh?" "Mhm," he replied. "I read about these people who bought a bunch of flowers, then walked around the mall and handed them to people who looked like they were havin' a bad day. I couldn't help but to think about how amazin' it would be if one day someone just came up to me and handed me a flower and wished me a good day. I think that we should do it, how about you?" He asked, tone growing more and more excited as he explained. He looked at Sollux with a wider smile. Eridan obviously thought that it was a wonderful idea, but Sollux thought it was weird. He wasn't sure how he'd feel if some random dude came up to him on the street and handed him a chrysanthemum. The thought was sweet...kind of...but in reality it was pretty creepy. People didn't just walk up to random people on the streets... He turned,about to decline, but he made the mistake of looking Eridan in the eye. He looked at his roommate a moment before sighing, running his hands through his hair. Damn him... "Yeah, okay, sounds like fun," he said, and Eridan's entire face brightened. He yanked Sollux close to him as he looked over the hundreds of flowers. "Damn, the hardest part is goin' to be pickin' them out! I think...Hm, I don't know, what kind do you want?" He asked with a smile, looking at Sollux, who didn't look quite as amused. Sollux just looked around, letting out a sigh after a while. "I don't know," he admitted, stepping away from Eridan and looking around. His eye caught a bouquet, which he walked over to. He looked down at it, and a smile snuck its way onto his lips. He picked up the big bouquet, then walked over to Eridan, whose smile matched his boyfriends. "Yellow Roses?" He asked with a smile, and Sollux chuckled. "It's my color," he replied with a shrug, and Eridan laughed. He then looked around, chewing on his bottom lip. He walked over to the adjacent wall, picking up a bunch of what looked like poppies. He then turned on his heel, smiling wide at Sollux. Sollux smiled back. "Say it isn't purple," he said with a laugh, and Eridan laughed back. They both walked up to the counter and paid for their flowers, then walked back out into town. Eridan looked around when they were outside, practically bouncing up and down on his feet. Sollux smelled his flowers, looking around with a smile.

"Alright, where are we headed. Do you want to go to the mall, or what?" Sollux asked. Eridan looked around a moment more before shaking his head. "No, lets just walk around. It's a gorgeous day anyway," he said, and Sollux smiled at him. "How about the park? It wont be as busy," he offered, and Eridan nodded in agreement. They made their way there, holding their large bouquets of flowers. Sollux felt kind of stupid, but he really didn't mind. Especially since he was spending the day with Eridan. It didn't matter what they did, because Sollux found it all to be worth it. Having thoughts like this were wonderful to bask in, but also mildly concerning. Sollux hadn't expected to like Eridan this much. Hell, Sollux hadn't expected to like anyone this much. He thought his feelings for Aradia were as strong as he could feel, but he was wrong... And that wasn't a good thing. He barely picked himself up after his relationship with AA ended. When it comes to relationships and strong emotions that even his med's couldn't handle, Sollux was nervous, and he broke easily. He couldn't really think of anything that would end his and Eridan's relationship, but the thought of it ending made Sollux's stomach drop. The thoughts haunted him every time he laid down to sleep, when there was nothing beyond the world of him and his bed. He just laid there and thought, often of things that he probably shouldn't, for his sake. He knew that he could very well be psyching himself out, but...being without Eridan would be hard. Really, really hard. He shook his head, refusing to think about it. They were together, and their relationship was fine. Better than fine; it was near perfect. They never fought, which was impressive for them. Sure, they argued about playful shit, but they pretty much always ended up making out afterwards, which proved how minimal and trivial their stupid arguments were. Sollux couldn't think of anything that he'd want to change, and he knew that was a good thing. When Sollux had broken out of his thoughts, he realized that he had been walking alone for a short while. He quickly looked around, looking for Eridan. How could he have not noticed that he disappeared? And where the hell could he have gone? Sollux turned quickly, making his way back to where they entered. He didn't get far before he saw his boyfriend, sitting next to a young teenage girl near the park fountain. They both sat on the fountains edge, talking, and it wasn't long before Eridan was handing her one of his flowers. Sollux had to stop and admire Eridan's lovely smile, and the way that the face of the girl lit up. She gave him a grateful smile, thanking him as he slid away. Sollux smiled, a strong emotion filling him that he had to immediately push back down into the depths of his heart. He gained control of his feelings as Eridan walked back over to Sol, beaming. He stopped in front of the Gemini, his smile wide enough to show off his perfect rows of white teeth. "She was so sweet, and that felt amazin', Sol!" He admitted, and Sollux chuckled. "You're such a loser, Eridan," he said, and Eridan shrugged with a smile. It was then that something caught Sollux's eye, and his eyebrows rose as he looked beyond Eridan.

"Well I'll be damned," Sollux muttered with a smile, walking around Eridan. Eridan's smile faded, eyebrows knitted in confusion as he turned and followed Sol. "Do you see somebody you know?" Eridan asked, and Sollux smiled at him, then ahead again. "Somebody that we know," he corrected, and waved at Gamzee Makara and Tavros Nitram. Gamzee was pushing Tavros's wheelchair, talking to him and waving his hands everywhere as he spoke. Eridan looked forward with Sollux, his eyes widening slightly. "Shit! I haven't seen Gamz and Tav since I lived here before. They don't go to our school, do they?" Eridan asked, and Sollux shook his head. "No, they don't. Gamzee doesn't go to college, and Tavros takes his classes online," he explained, smiling as they approached the other two males. Tavros waved and smiled a bashful smile, and Gamzee smiled wide. "Well, if it isn't my favorite bee-loving bro. What's up in the spiritual realm of Sollux Captor?" Gamzee drawled, and Eridan raised an eyebrow. It was obvious that Gamzee hadn't changed at all. The lanky troll was as tall as ever, towering over Tavros's wheelchair and, well, everything else. His dark brown hair was a mess, thick and ridiculous as it fell all around his face. He had half lidded brown eyes, their color looking deeper against his tanned skin, even more so with the smeared black eyeliner that encircled his eyes. He had big black gauges in his ears, and multiple piercings scattered over his face. He was wearing a loose pair of black cargo pants and a tight, colorful paint-splattered shirt. Sollux smiled in return. "My spiritual realm's been pretty chill lately, and it thanks you for asking. How are you guys?" Sollux asked. Tavros opened his mouth to reply, but Gamzee nodded and spoke before his friend could. "We have never been more motherfucking good. Everyday, life just seems to get a little better, you know? It's handing us lemons, and we're keeping those motherfucking gifts and thanking life for them everyday. Do you ever just thank life for the lemons it hands you, bro?" "I don't, but I'll be sure to get around to it," Sollux said, smiling slightly in amusement. He then looked at Tavros. "Sup Tavros?" Tavros smiled softly. "Hey, Sollux," he said, then looked down at his lap. The little Latino boy was as shy as ever. He also looked the same, with big round brown eyes and thin black hair. The only difference was that his hair wasn't short like before; it was longer, and it had been shaved into a loose Mohawk that fell partially into his face. He looked up again, glancing at Eridan. At this, Sollux looked at Eridan too. He stepped to the side, motioning towards his boyfriend with his bouquet. "You guys remember Eridan, right?" He asked, and Eridan smiled a shy smile that matched Tav's. "Hey-" Eridan stared, but was cut off by Gamzee walking around Tavros's wheelchair and yanking Eridan into a hug. Eridan's eyes widened and he tensed entirely, completely still.

"It's a motherfucking miracle that the natural order of things brought you back to us, my brother," the tall male said, hugging Eridan far too tight for Eridan's liking. "Oh-really?" Eridan manage to choke out, and Gamzee nodded. "No fucking doubt. That's true magic, Ampora. True magic." Eridan coughed, wincing from the tight grasp. "The world works in mysterious ways..." "Yeah! Fuck yeah man, so mysterious," he agreed, finally letting Eridan go. Eridan nonchalantly inhaled deeply, stepping close to Sollux for protection. Gamzee continued to smile at him, his eyes un-moving, smile not faltering. Eridan stared back, looking extremely uncomfortable. He cowered under Gamzee's unnerving stare for a moment before Sollux cleared his throat. "Anyways..." "Why do you have flowers?" Tavros finally spoke up, pointing to the bouquet. Sollux looked at Tav, then down at the roses. "Oh, these. Eridan and I are handing them out to people. Trying to make people's day, I suppose," Sollux replied, and Gamzee turned his attention to Sollux, his smile exactly the same. "Like handing out little miracles on stems, my man," he replied, and Sollux nodded gently. "Sure, you could look at it like that," he chuckled, and Tavros smiled. He cleared his throat softly, and Gamzee turned and made his way over to his friend. "What is it, Tavbro?" Tavros glanced at Eridan and Sollux a moment before looking back at Gamzee, telling him something in a quiet voice. Gamzee listened, nodding slowly as Tavros spoke. He then straightened, looking back at Sollux and Eridan. "My bro Tavros here was wondering if we could join you in your chill day of wicked miracle zoning," he announced, and Sollux's eyebrows rose. Eridan stood, staring at them a moment before leaning close to Sollux. "I didn't understand a word of what he just said," he admitted, and Sollux couldn't hold back his smile. "They want to hand out flowers with us," he replied. Eridan thought a moment, then nodded slowly. "Is that okay with you, Sol?" "Yeah, if its cool with you." "Completely. Well, not completely. Gamz is kinda creepin' me out...But he's always done that. I'll get over it," he replied, then straightened with a soft smile. "Yeah, of course you two can join us. We'll have to pick you up some flowers, though." Gamzee nodded. "That's motherfucking okay. I love me a good flower shop. Smells magical and shit," he replied, pushing Tavros over to Eridan and Sollux as they had begun walking again. Tavros smiled wide, obviously excited. Sollux smiled back down at him, yanking one of the yellow roses from the bouquet. He handed it to Tavros, who smiled gratefully back at Sollux.

"Uh, thanks," he said with a blush, smelling the rose. He then held it up for Gamzee, who leaned over and smelled it too. They both talked about flowers while Eridan fell into step next to Sol, walking close to his boyfriend. "That was really sweet of you, Sol," he said with a smile, and Sollux nodded. "I have my moments," he replied with a chuckle, and Eridan chuckled back. He then glanced back at the two behind them, then looked forward again. "Are they a thing?" He asked, and Sollux merely shrugged. "Probably. They never do anything or say anything to prove it, but they never do anything or say anything to disprove it either. We all just kind of assume that they are," he said with a laugh. Eridan nodded. "They'd make a cute thing," he whispered, and Sollux rolled his eyes. They made their way through the park and back to the flower shop, Tavros and Gamzee talking about whatever the hell that they talk about while Eridan talked about relationships and Sollux teased him for being a stereotypical gay guy. So far, the day was rolling along pretty perfectly. When they got to the flower shop, Tavros and Gamzee went in to look for flowers, and Eridan and Sollux stayed outside. They talked for a bit before Sollux's phone rang in his pocket, which he dug through with his free hand. He yanked his phone out, looking at the caller ID before clicking the 'accept call' button, holding the phone to his ear. "Sup loser." "Well, well, well. I must admit, I'm surprised that you answered my call. Hell, I'm surprise that my number is still in your dumbass phone. You do remember me, right? You know, the guy that use to be your best fucking friend before you got a fucking boyfriend. How's that going, by the way? I wouldn't know, since you dropped me from your life and refuse to make contact with me," Karkat's harsh voice echoed through the phone. Sollux resisted a laugh as he leaned back against the wall of the flower shop. "C'mon, baby, don't be like that. You know that you're the only guy in my life, no need to be jealous," he teased. Eridan gave him a look, and Sollux winked in reply. He mouthed 'KK', and Eridan relaxed. "Jealous my ass, Captor. I would tell you to suck my dick, if you weren't too busy sucking Eridan's," Karkat snapped, and Sollux couldn't help but to laugh at that. "How are you, KK?" "Like you fucking care." Sollux rolled his eyes. "Did you call me to be a stubborn pain in my ass? Because right now, you're earning a solid ten out of ten." "Oh! So I'm a pain in your ass, now? The truth comes out, doesn't it?" Karkat exclaimed, and Sollux shook his head with a smile. "Alright, alright, you're right. It was bitchy of me to neglect our friendship, and I promise that I wont keep being a total asswipe. Happy?" "...Yes." "Good. Now, how are you?" Sollux asked again, and Karkat huffed.

"As fine as I can be, I guess. How about you?" "Pretty good, pretty good. What are you up to?" The was another huff. It was quiet for a moment, then he finally replied. "I'm having lunch with Nepeta, John, and Dave," he mumbled, speaking as if he didn't want anyone else but Sollux to hear. Sollux's eyebrows rose. "Did I hear that correctly? You said Dave, right? As in Dave Strider?" Sollux said, and Karkat grumbled something under his breath. "Unfortunately. I called up Nepeta to chill out, and she was hanging out with John, who was hanging out with-" He shuddered. "-Dave." Sollux smiled at his dramatics. "Sounds awful." "It is. I'm resisting the urge to shove my fork into my eye. Or his. Either one would prove satisfactory. Anyways, what are you up to?" "I'm with Eridan." "Of course you are. Do I want the details, or is your current activity PG rated?" He grumbled, and Sollux smiled again. "We're on a geeky date handing out flowers to people as a pick-me-up for their days. We ran into Gamzee and Tavros at the park, and now they're joining us. We're at that old flower shop a block away from the park now for them to pick up a bouquet," Sollux explained, smiling at Eridan as he described their date. Eridan smiled back, pressing a kiss to Sollux's cheek. "No shit! We're in the cafe a couple shops down, and we all just finished eating. That sounds like dork's hell, honestly, but maybe we could all meet up?" He offered, tone almost pleading. Sollux smiled, covering the receiver with his hand and looking over at Eridan. "Hey. Would it be cool for Karkat to join us with Nepeta and Dave and John?" Sollux asked, and Eridan's eyes widened. "All of them?" He nearly choked. He then looked away, eyebrows furrowing. "I don't know, Sol, that's a lot of people," he said slowly, and Sollux looked at him with concern. "Not really, Eri." Eridan sighed. "Well, for me, that's a lot of people. I don't..." He furrowed his eyebrows further. "I don't really have any friends, you know? And they know me from when I was a bitch in high school..." "You're still a bitch, Eridan, don't worry," Sollux teased, and Eridan shot him a look. "I mean it, Sol. I don't know, I just..." It was silent for a moment. "I don't want them to hate me, I guess," he mumbled, looking down. Sollux furrowed his eyebrows as well. "Hate you? Why would they hate you?" Sollux asked. It was a while before Eridan slowly looked up at him, the expression in his eyes unreadable. "Because everyone's always hated me, Sol," he said softly. Yeah, ow. That one nailed Sollux right in the heart. He looked at his boyfriend sadly, reaching up and running the few fingers that he had available through Eridan's hair.

"Whoever's hated you is a fucking dumbass, Eridan. No one has any reason to hate you," he assured, and Eridan winced. He looked away again, down at his boots. He stared at them a moment before replying. "You don't know how wrong you are," he forced softly, and Sollux felt his body go rigid. Well, that was extremely ominous. Did Sollux want to know what he meant by that? He decided to go with 'no', and settled for pushing that particular subject aside. "Well. I know and care about the Eridan that I've gotten close to. Anyone who hate's that guy is a fucking dumbass," he assured, and Eridan smiled at him weakly. "Really?" "Really. Also, Nepeta loves everyone, John pretty much loves everyone, and Dave's just chill. You know that Karkat likes you, so there's nothing to worry about here," he said with a smile, sliding an arm around Eridan. "If you don't want them to come along, they don't have to. I won't be upset or anything," he assured with a laugh. Eridan smiled weakly, then sighed. "No, they can come along. It'll probably be more fun anyways," he admitted with a smile, and Sollux smiled in reply. He then pulled away from his boyfriend, holding the phone back to his ear. "Are you still there, KK?" "Yes, though you really don't fucking deserve me. Were you getting the okay from your other half?" He snapped, and Sollux smiled. "Yeah, I was. And that okay is official, so you guys better get down here soon, or we're ditching you." "Whatever! Nothing I'm not use to lately!" He complained, and Sollux laughed. "See you in five?" "Roughly," Karkat replied, then hung up. Sollux looked at his phone, rolling his eyes with a smile. He shoved his phone back into his pocket, smiling at Eridan. He then looked back at the shop. "Damn, they're taking a while," he commented, and Eridan nodded. "Yeah, I peeked inside. I think that Gamz is getting a custom bouquet made, with flowers of every color," Eridan said with a laugh, and Sollux nodded and smiled. "That sounds about right." He was silent a moment before continuing. "So, who were your friends in high school? You knew pretty much everyone, but I never noticed you being particularly close to anyone," Sollux commented, studying Eridan's face as Eridan looked away. "Honestly? My only true friend was Fef. She's the only one who actually liked me and didn't think that I was a waste of space," he admitted, and Sollux's eyebrows furrowed sadly. Eridan glanced at him, then away again. "I mostly hung out with Vris and Eq, when I wasn't clinging to Fef." "Or punching me in the face and making my life a living hell," Sollux added, and Eridan immediately looked at him, horrified. Sollux couldn't help but to laugh. "Hey, calm down, it's

cool. I was a dick, too, and I threw my fair share of punches," Sollux added, and Eridan sighed as he ran his fingers through his blonde hair. "I was only an asshole to you because of how much I liked you," he explained, looking slightly embarassed. "The Fef accusation was there too, yeah, but I was mostly upset because...I felt kinda' like I was never goin' to end up with anyone. Everyone hated me and thought that I was annoyin as hell. My dad always use to tell me that I would be alone my entire life-" "Excuse me?" Sollux uninterrupted, anger shooting through him at the mention of Eridan's father's comment. Eridan looked at him, then resumed staring at the street. "I didn't blame him. In fact, I felt the same way until I moved back in with you again," Eridan confessed sheepishly, meeting Sollux's gaze. "That's why I was so surprised when you admitted that you liked me too. I didn't think that it was ever goin' to happen," he said with a laugh that filled Sollux with sadness. He just looked at his boyfriend a moment before his eyebrows knitted together. "Your dad's a fucking prick, Eridan. What the hell is his problem? It's almost as if he doesn't want you to be happy," Sollux accused, and Eridan shrugged. "I don't think it's that, its just that he's not happy unless I'm home and workin' with him and Cronus. Anythin' else pisses him off," Eridan explained, and Sollux shook his head. "Same fucking deal. It shouldn't matter to him if that's not what you want to do. Hell, who the hell can blame you? And to tell you that you were going to end up alone?" Sollux shook his head again. "I'd have a few things to say to that bastard..." "Sollux," Eridan interrupted immediately, voice so stern that Sollux immediately looked up in surprise. Eridan was close to him, eyes holding a seriousness that didn't normally take place in those gorgeous blue irises. Once he was sure that he had Sollux's attention, he continued. "If you do ever meet my father, please, please be careful. He doesn't take disrespect lightly. In fact, no one disrespects my father. It doesn't end well," he informed, sternness fading into concern as he spoke. "Just...please. Be wary of his authority. He's not just all talk, and I don't know what I would do if somethin' happened to you that was connected to me." Sollux could only look at his boyfriend in slight shock. Sollux couldn't deny that sometimes he forgot about the seriousness of the situation. It wasn't hard to remember what Eridan was involved in, but the depth of it all often just flew over Sollux's head. He wasn't use to things like this. He was born in a city, but he grew up in a small as hell town where everyone knows everyone else. Matters like this simply weren't a problem, and sometimes he could forget about how big this really was. "You're right, I'm sorry, ED," Sollux said with a sigh. "I just...care about you. A lot. And everything else kind of disappears and leaves just that," he admitted, and Eridan smiled a thankful smile. He leaned forward, pressing a long kiss to Sollux's forehead before pulling back again. "I know you do, Sol. And the feelin's mutual." He smiled a loving smile that Sollux couldn't help but to match. "Let's just forget about it, alright? I'm havin' a wonderful day, and I don't

want it to get ruined by the subject of my family," he said, and Sollux nodded in agreement. Before he could speak, Karkat's voice rang out above the noise of the streets. "Hey ladies, we're not interrupting anything, are we?" Sollux's best friend asked as he approached Eridan and Sol, Dave, Nepeta Leijon, and John Egbert not far behind. Eridan looked up at them, smiling a shy smile as Sollux turned and smiled at Karkat, who did not return the happy gaze. "Hey, KK, great to see you too." "If it was so great, you would have tried to see me earlier," he snapped in reply. Before Sollux had the chance to reply, Nepeta squealed excitedly and pounced on Eridan. Eridan gasped, just able to get his footing before he fell over from the weight of the short girl. "Eridan! It is so good to see you!" She exclaimed excitedly, hugging him tightly, her strength surprising the tall male. He looked down at her, eyes wide. Eridan was a whole foot taller than Nepeta. At 5"2, she was a tiny thing. She had a small face, which made her round, cat-like green eyes look even bigger, their deep color accentuated by the gorgeous color of her light brown skin. She had wild black hair that came down in a messy bob around her face. She wore a long green jacket-that seemed to be too many sizes too big-over a black t-shirt and grey jeans. No one could deny that she was the cutest damn thing. "Do you remember me?" She giggled as she looked back up at him, her curious eyes naturally wide. He looked at her a moment before smiling, nodding as she broke her hug and slid away. "Of course I remember you, Nep. You would always refer to me as "Eridan Ampurr-a"," he said with a chuckle, and another giggle spilled over her lips. "Oh, yeah. That was when I was in my cat phase," she said, and John Egbert laughed behind her. "You say that as if you weren't still in one!" He said with a smile, his overbite giving him a rather endearing nerdy appearance. John was short as well, but not nearly as short as Nepeta. He was a bit taller than Karkat, who only stood at 5"5. He had short black hair that was pushed back out of his light face. He had blue eyes that were bright behind his rectangular black glasses, which only added to his nerdy appearance. He wore a Ghostbusters tshirt-still not helping the nerd theme-and a pair of cargo shorts with black shoes. Overall, he was pretty cute as well. "Hi Sollux! Hi Eridan!" He said with a wave, and Eridan waved back in reply, still smiling sheepishly. "Hey John, it's been a while. How are you?" Sollux asked, and John smiled at him. "I've been pretty great, Sollux! How about you?" Sollux shrugged. "Can't complain," he replied with a smile. "Damn straight you can't complain. If anyone should be complaining, it should be me. I'm the one picking up your hours," Dave accused, although his straight face didn't indicate any signs of true bother. Sollux smiled at Dave.

"You're a doll," Sol replied, and Dave smiled briefly in response to his friend. Karkat snickered at this comment, and Sollux punched Karkat lightly in the shoulder. "Are you even trying to be halfway decent?" He teased Karkat. "No," Dave replied for the smaller boy, and Karkat shot him a look of distaste. "Shove it, Strider." "Alright. Where would you like it, Vantas?" Sollux sighed. He smiled over at Eridan, who looked frightened. At his look, Sollux chuckled. "Nervous?" He asked, speaking over Dave and Karkat's arguing. Eridan slowly looked between the blonde southern boy and the short ticking time-bomb, then looked back at Sollux. "They're not going to kill each other, are they?" He asked, and Sollux laughed. "The possibility is there!" He admitted, looking back at John and Nepeta, who were trying to ease the growing tension between the two boys. Finally, their arguing ceased as Gamzee and Tavros made their way out of the flower shop, Gamzee holding a colorful assortment of many flowers. "Hey best friend!" Gamzee exclaimed, smiling as he saw Karkat. Karkat waved in reply, still angry about Dave's presence. Tavros smiled and waved at Nepeta, who pounced over to him and began to smell his flowers. "So, I'm assuming that Karkat told you guys about what we're doing?" Sollux spoke up, and all eyes fell on him. Nepeta nodded, smiling a wide smile. "He did! That idea is so cute, who thought of it?" She asked, and Sollux nodded over to Eridan. "Eri read about it online. Do you guys want to get your own flowers, or...?" Sollux asked, looking over at Karkat, then Dave, then John for a response. They all looked at each other a moment before Dave spoke up. "We're handing them out to people, right? How about we make a game out of it," he suggested, always looking to make things more interesting. Karkat gave him an unreadable look, and John looked excited. "A game? How would we make a game out of it?" John asked, and Dave shrugged. "Point system," he replied, receiving a few weird looks. Sollux nodded, understanding. "Like, ten points per sad dude, twenty for every grandma, thirty for every little girl, shit like that," he said, and Dave nodded. "Exactly. And we'd split into teams to be sure that one person isn't giving us the slip about points or whatever. One person hand's out flowers, the other judges," Dave said, and another brief smile passed over his lips. "Losers buy the winners drinks," he added, winking at Sollux, who rolled his eyes with a smile. He looked at Eridan, since it was his idea, not surprised to see him looking pretty excited. "That sound cool?" He asked, the question directed to everyone, but mostly to Eridan. Eridan nodded quickly, smiling down at Sol. "That sounds great," he confirmed, and John and Nepeta spoke up in agreement.

"Motherfucking fantastic, bro. We're all chipping in to provide society with a little magic today," Gamzee said, and Tavros smiled up at him. The group discussed the point system while John went in to pick out flowers for himself and whoever his p artner might be. Once the point system was settled, the matter of teams needed to be decided. "Dave, who do you want on your team?" Sollux asked, and Dave shrugged in reply. "I really don't have any preferences. If I had to pick anyone, it would be Karkitty," he said, smiling over at Karkat and tossing him a wink. Karkat furrowed his eyebrows. "That sure as hell isn't happening," he replied, then looked over at Sollux. "Anyways, you and Eridan shouldn't be on a team. You know, butt-buddy favorites and all. Can't have you two making up points or whatever," he said, and Sollux shook his head with a laugh. "Really, KK?" He asked, and Karkat nodded seriously. To Sollux's surprise, Eridan nodded as well, smiling. "No, I think Karkat's right. You'd probably slow me down anyways, Sol," Eridan said, and Sollux's eyebrows rose as John and Karkat laughed as John walked out with a handful of daisies. "Oh, is that so?" Sollux asked with a smile. "Wow, okay, I see how it is. I'll remember that tonight, Eridan," Sollux said with a wink, and a blush fell over Eridan's cheeks. Karkat winced in disgust, and Dave's eyebrows rose. "Hey there guys, watch it," Dave commented, sliding his hands over John's ears. "We don't need any of that talk here, there are kids about," he whispered with feign concern, and John rolled his eyes and laughed as he pushed Dave's hands off of his ears. "Oh, shut up, Dave!" He said with a smile, and Dave chuckled in reply. Sollux smiled at them, then back at Eridan. "Fine then, Eridan. Who do you want on your team?" "I want to be on Eridan's team!" Nepeta chimed, raising her hand. She made her way over to Eridan, smiling wide up at him. He laughed. "I think we'd make a great team, Nep!" He agreed with a smile, and Sollux couldn't help but to smile in return. He couldn't help but to be relieved at Eridan's comfort. He was sort of worried, expecting him to be a shy and nervous mess the entire time. To see him smiling, laughing, and excited made Sollux really happy. That's really all he wanted for Eridan, and he was thankful that the day was turning out to be a great one. "That's cool. KK, you want to be on my team? It'll give us time to catch up, and you can stop bitching about me never suggesting we hang out," Sollux laughed, and Karkat rolled his eyes. "That was a rather shitty invitation. But yeah, I'll honor you with my company," he agreed, looking pretty content with the agreement. In the end, the teams were rather fitting. Of course, Tavros and Gamzee were going to be a team. No one dared to suggest otherwise. Nepeta was with Eridan, Sollux with Karkat, and John with Dave. They discussed who should go where, and they decided that ten flowers

should be handed out by each team. These decisions were made by Karkat, of course, who proved to be the best leader out of all of them. "Alright, sounds like a plan. Ready guys?" Karkat announced, and Nepeta looked ready to take off. Sollux smiled at his group of friends. This idea was such a weird and simple one, yet they were all taking it so seriously. No one complained about anything, and the whole thing was playing out better than Sollux could have imagined. Normally, Sollux preferred seclusion. He had his friends, yeah, but he had always rathered being alone, before Eridan. Moments like this one, with his friends together doing something stupid yet meaningful, reminded him of what good there really was in his life amidst the anguish that he so often felt. And then there was Eridan. Sollux smiled at him as he shifted from foot to foot, anxious to take off. His smile was broad, his eyes glistening. He looked happier than Sollux knew that he often felt, and that filled Sollux with a warmth that couldn't be matched. What more could Sollux ask for in this moment? "Cool. Go spread happiness and shit," Karkat demanded, and everyone began to take off in their assigned directions. Eridan jogged up to Sollux before him and Nepeta took off, smiling at Sollux as he handed him his phone. "Hold this for me, Sol? My pants are too tight to run with my phone in the pocket," he laughed, and Sollux laughed with him. "No problem," he replied, kissing Eridan's lips gently before Eridan took off running after Nepeta. Sollux smiled after him before looking back at Karkat, who shook his head. "He's got you wrapped around his manicured little finger, doesn't he?" Karkat said, shoving his hands into his pockets as he began to walk with Sollux. Sollux smiled down at him. "You have no idea," he admitted, and Karkat couldn't help but to smile back. They were pretty relaxed as they handed out their roses, Karkat keeping score while Sollux walked up to everyone. When they weren't handing out their flowers, they talked and caught up. They talked about most everything, but what Sollux needed to talk about, he couldn't. It was difficult to keep his thoughts and worries about Eridan and his family to himself, but Sollux had no choice. He couldn't talk to anyone about it, and it was especially difficult to keep it from his best friend. He knew that he was just going to have to suck it up, though, as hard as that was. They had already handed out seven flowers when Karkat spotted a little girl with her mother. He nodded, grabbing a rose from Sollux. "I got this one," he announced, and Sollux chuckled as Karkat walked off. He watched as Karkat approached the girl, but his show was interrupted by his phone vibrating in his pocket. He looked down and reached into his jacket, yanking out the source of the ringing, He was a bit surprised to see that it wasn't his phone that was ringing, but Eridan's. He was even more surprised to see the contact name. In fact, his heart skipped as he read what the three letters announced; Dad.

Sollux stared at Eridan's phone, his thoughts racing through his mind a mile a minute. They were just talking about Eridan's father, how fucking weird that he would call. Not to mention that he was sure that this was the first time that Eridan's dad actually even called. Either way, he knew that the phone call wouldn't have been a happy one if Eridan had his phone. Hell, Eridan probably wouldn't have even answered it. Speaking of answering it... The contemplation rushed through Sollux's mind as the phone continued to ring. He knew the difference between right and wrong, and he knew which was which here. Every ounce of him screamed at him not to do it, but the temptation outweighed everything in that moment, even the wrong. Sollux stepped off of the sidewalk, rushing over to the mall entrance. He walked through the revolving doors, stepping inside and leaning against the wall next to the door. He looked at the phone a moment more before he brought it up to his ear, clicking the green button. "Hello?" It was silent, and Sollux's heart pounded hard. He held his breath, his gaze locked on the ground. Finally, after a few long moments, there was a reply in the most intimidating voice that Sollux was sure he ever heard. "You must be Sollux Captor."

Chapter 19
Sollux almost didn't reply. It was as if as soon as Eridan's dad spoke, his voice chased away the courage that Sollux had conjured. Sollux's eyes remained on the ground a moment before he cleared his throat, speaking up. "Aw, does Cronus talk about me?" He asked, surprising himself with the strength in his voice. He didn't feel to strong. "Yes, he has told me quite a bit about you," he replied honestly. Damn, Sollux thought that Cronus's accent was thick. His dad's was just ridiculous... "All good things, I hope," Sollux chimed in his sarcastic voice, and he could almost feel the agitation through the phone. It was silent for a moment, almost giving Sollux enough time to rethink his current actions. Almost. "He mentioned quite a bit of sarcasm. I now see what he means." "Yes, that is one of my redeeming qualities," Sollux confirmed, met by Eridan's father clearing his throat. "Indeed. Now, if you don't mind, I would very much like to speak with my son," He half asked, half demanded. Sollux sighed. "Sorry, he's off handing out poppies to the elderly and the lesser fortunate. Can I take a message?" "I see. So you're not his boyfriend, you're his secretary," the older male retorted in a sharp tone, and Sollux couldn't help but to smile. His sarcasm was appreciated, but no one could out-smartass Sollux Captor.

"Well, papa A, that all depends. Do you Ampora's form your relationships with your secretaries like most successful businessmen do in the movies? Because if so," he gave a low whistle. "I am totally your son's secretary." Another silence occurred, and Sollux was ready to smack his face against a wall. Sometimes he truly, honestly couldn't help what he said. He always realized the mistakes that he made, but it was only ever after he spoke. If he could only hold his fucking tongue...but he couldn't. He couldn't, and that was a serious problem. Especially right now, talking to perhaps the most frightening man that he would ever speak to. "Sollux, where are you?" Eridan's dad asked, jolting Sollux out of his thoughts. He looked around, trying to say something without sounding like a wise-ass. "In the food court of a very old mall. It use to be depressing as fuck to walk into, but they just recently did some work on it. I have to say, it looks great; much more inviting. The chandelier adds just a splash of-" "Yes, I can tell. The noise beyond your voice is nearly just as irritating as you are-and I can assure you, Mr. Captor-I am not an enjoyable man to speak with whilst agitated," he threatened, and Sollux's eyes widened slightly. "I suggest that you walk into the nearest and least busy store if you want to continue speaking with me-and something tells me that you do." Sollux knew that this previous comment was worded as a suggestion, but meant as a demand. That wasn't something that he wanted to deny, and although Sollux had a slight problem with obeying authority, he did what he was practically commanded to do. He slipped through the food court and into a mattress store. Sollux always hated that. Mattress stores in the mall. What the hell is a mattress store doing in a mall? It was just one of those things that he hated. Oh, and another thing; Sollux hated being told what to do, especially by older adults who had no idea who he was. But was he ready to reject the stern demands of Eridan's father? Nope. No he was not. He would be an asshole, that couldn't be stopped, but he wasn't about to be a total dipshit. "Better, darling?" He asked with a smile, although his insides were seriously unnerved. "My name is Adrian Ampora. You will refer to me as Mr. Ampora, or sir, is that understood?" "...Not Adrian?" "Not Adrian." "Yes sir." "Very good." Sollux swallowed hard. It was as though his mind was forcing him to respond respectively...That was probably for the best, but Sollux despised appeasing those who thought that they always held control. Adrian did, of course, but he still didn't like appeasing that... Sollux was about to speak up in reply, but Adrian had beat him to it by saying, "Why did you answer my son's phone, Mr. Captor?" "You can call me Sollux, Mr. A."

"I know," he replied in a knowing tone, as if it were stupid for Sollux to point it out. "I can call you whatever I please." Sollux rolled his eyes. "I answered because I wished to introduce myself to my boyfriends father. I also wished to introduce my emotions towards you as well..." "You dislike me," he stated plainly, as if he already knew that. "So, so much," Sollux couldn't help but to admit immediately as he closed his eyes and shook his head. "I see. I'm sure that I have an idea, but may I ask why that is so?" Sollux scooted over, making room for the elderly couple that had just walked into the store. He looked out the store window and out at the food court, freezing when he saw Karkat standing there, staring right back at him with flames burning in his eyes. He smiled a weak smile, waving at Karkat. Karkat just stared at him with an intimidation that one wouldn't expect to see in the small male's features. "Yes, you may," Sollux replied with a smile, and he could practically hear Adrian grit his teeth at the fact that Sollux replied to a rhetorical request. Sollux was one-hundred percent sure that the man loathed being told what to do, especially by someone in Sollux's position. Sollux took a deep breath, explaining himself to the other as he tried not to cower under Karkat's gaze as Karkat began to make his way towards the store. "I'm going to make this short and to the point," Sollux started. "I'm not a die-hard fan of your work. Can't blame me for that one. Not only that, but the way that you treat Eridan is near horrid," he accused, and the silence that was met was chilling. "...Excuse me?" He replied, and Sollux winced at the fierce tone, continuing nevertheless. "You guys are fucking loaded, yet you won't help him pay for college because he's going into a field that you don' t like. If it's what's going to make him happy, isn't that what matters? He's good at it, it's what he want's to do, so what the hell is the problem here?" Sollux asked, eyebrows furrowing with growing anger. He must have looked a lot angrier than he felt, because as soon as Karkat approached and opened his mouth to bitch at him, he quickly pursed his lips and looked at Sollux in slight surprise. "I have no problem with art. It's a good past time and an enjoyable hobby, but it is not a respectable career," he explained, and Sollux scoffed. "Oh, yeah, because what you do is a 'respectable' career," he snapped back, and he was met with a sharp intake of breath on the other line. "I provide for Cronus and Eridan-" "You make Eridan feel like worthless shit," he accused. "He's a big boy now, Adrian, and he can do what he wants. You treat him like crap now, you treated him like crap when he was still at home-" "What in God's name makes you think that you have the authority to speak to me this way and shell out such accusations?" Adrian replied calmly in interruption, his tone so sharp yet so smooth that Sollux immediately grew cold. "Everything that I have done, I've done for my children. The reason that I want my son home is so that I can protect him. Yes, he has

grown up, but he is still and will always be a child to me because he's my child," he explained, and Sollux was actually almost touched. He'd never heard his own father say something like that... "He said that you use to tell him that he would always be alone. Any time that he's complimented or comforted, he feel's awkward about it. He has a problem referring to my parents as anything other than sir. His self esteem is ridiculously fucked up, and that's all because of you and how you raised him. And what the hell do you want to protect him from? The world is a big and shitty place, and staying at home won't protect you from it," Sollux snapped, rage and an untouched hurt rising to the surface as he spoke from experience. He almost forgot that Karkat was there, snapping out of his conversation with Adrian and noticing Karkat's presence. His best friend stood there, looking at Sollux with shock and a slight pity that Sollux was far to use to receiving. He sighed, calming down slightly as Adrian replied. "Mr. Captor, I do not think that you understand the extent of the situation in which you have found yourself," he started, once again causing Sollux to freeze in place. "And if you care about Eridan as I believe that you do, you will let him go and convince him to come home, where I can keep him safe from the threats that pursue him." All Sollux could do was stand there, wide-eyed as Adrian's words stole his breath from his body. Was Eridan really in danger? Could he be hurt? Why exactly did he leave New York? Sollux didn't know the answer to any of these questions, especially the big one that he would rather not think about; Could he let Eridan go? "I don't think that's up to me," Sollux managed, trying to keep the shakiness from his tone. At that, something seemed to snap in Adrian, as Sollux had seen in both Cronus and Eridan. "Your sarcasm and your dire need to be a stubborn little brat is repulsive," he spat, and Sollux's eyes widened even further. "You speak as if you are something worthy. I'm sorry to disappoint you, Mr. Captor, but you are lucky that I've even wasted the time that I have on you and on this conversation. Cronus is currently residing in your location with every intent on bringing his brother home. If you stand in his way-or even more consequential, my wayand something happens to Eridan, I can promise you that the memories of your father won't be the most painful that you will have to live with," he threatened. Sollux thought that he couldn't breathe before; he definitely couldn't now. He didn't expect the threat at all, and he especially didn't expect the little detail of his father that was slipped into the conversation...In actuality, it wasn't slipped in there at all. In fact, it was meant to be the most apparent part of the response. "...What did you say?" Sollux managed, ignoring the look of horror on Karkat's face that had come to reside there after Sollux looked as though he were about to puke. "I believe that you heard me," Adrian replied, the smoothness returning to his voice. "You have many choices to make, Sollux. Think hard before you make them, and think even harder before you answer a call from me again."

He hung up immediately after that, leaving Sollux at a loss for words. He stood there a moment before pulling Eridan's phone away from his face, looking at it in pure and utter shock. Karkat spoke immediately. "Holy shit, what the hell was that?" He demanded, and Sollux looked up at him in equal shock. That was an excellent question. It was obvious that Adrian had not yet spoken to Eridan, so how did he know about Sollux's father? Unless Eridan had told Cronus and Cronus had told Adrian, Sollux couldn't think of another way that Adrian would have known. But why would Eridan tell Cronus about Sollux's father? Why would anyone tell Cronus about Sollux's father? "That was...Eridan's dad," Sollux begun, and Karkat nodded in annoyance. "Yeah, I fucking got that much. What the hell was the conversation about? I walked in around the 'respectable career' part. What does his father do?" Karkat asked, and Sollux shook his head, nausea visiting him. "I...I can't talk about it," he admitted, and Karkat's eyes widened. "You...can't talk about it? You can't talk about it. You can't talk about it. Why the fuck not?" "Just because, Karkat, I can't!" He yelled suddenly, attracting the attention of the store owner and the couple that had walked in. Karkat couldn't help but to look hurt, but he worked to play it off as he grabbed Sollux's hand. "We're going back out to the street. Then, you're going to talk to me whether you like it or not," he snapped back, yanking Sollux out of the store and to the food court. As he was being pulled, Sollux didn't fight it. The only thing that he fought was the nausea that was rolling over him as he thought back on the previous conversation. Could he ever just be happy? Ever? Could he not have a good day for once, enjoying it with his boyfriend before something fucking crazy had to happen? That was really all that he wanted; to go more than a few fucking days without something feeling the need to come and ruin everything. When they were back out on the sidewalk, Karkat handed Sollux his last rose, practically shoving it into Sollux's hand. He then crossed his arms, glaring daggers at Sollux. Sollux looked at him a moment before looking away. "It's not my business to tell, KK," he assured. Karkat just glared at Sollux a moment before relaxing slowly, running a hand over his face as he let out an exasperated groan. "I don't like knowing that you need to fucking talk to me and you can't. It makes me uncomfortable," he mumbled, and Sollux couldn't help but to smile weakly. "Well, isn't that just precious-..." Karkat punched him hard in the arm, and a laugh escaped Sollux's lips. It literally only took three minutes for Karkat to make Sollux feel better than he did before. Though he was still scared as hell and he still felt a bit sick, the darkness that loomed over his mind had been chased away.

"Whatever, Sollux. You may not be able to talk to me, but you've got to talk to your damn boyfriend. If you don't I'll be able to tell, and I'll kick your fucking ass, capiche?" He threatened, and Sollux rolled his eyes and nodded in reply. "Yeah, whatever, KK," he smiled. Karkat narrowed his eyes in Sollux's direction. "Don't 'whatever' me, dick-hat, you know that I hate that," he snapped, then looked down at his watch. "C'mon, we've got to meet back in front of the flower shop. Your call put us over our time," he grumbled, obviously hating Adrian just from what he heard from Sollux and saw in his face. Sollux nodded, following him. Halfway there, what Karkat had said about talking to Eridan was beginning to set in. Would Eridan be pissed with him? Sollux would bet his shiniest penny that Eridan would be enraged. Not only did he ask Sollux literally two hours ago to be respectful and Sollux wasn't, but the mere fact that Sollux even answered Eridan's phone after the conversation that him and Eridan had was...yeah, this wasn't going to be a pretty conversation. When they made it back to the shop, everyone was already waiting out front, all talking and laughing about the stories that they had to tell. Dave and John had won, which didn't surprise Sollux. Sollux wasn't exactly in a laughing mood, though he forced a smile while they all discussed the previous hour. About half way through their chatting, Eridan made his way over to Sollux, who was sort of hanging back. Sollux smiled at him, and Eridan smiled back lovingly. "Hi," he said with a smile, and a chuckle escaped Sollux's lips. "Hi," he replied, staring affectionately back into Eridan's eyes. Eridan looked down at his feet, then back up at Sollux as he handed Sol his last poppy. Sollux's eyebrows rose in surprise, accepting it with a warm feeling spreading through his chest. His smile was involuntary as he brought the poppy up to his nose, smelling it as his eyes traveled back up to meet Eridan's. He handed Eridan his last rose, which shouldn't have surprised the loser, but it did. "Aw, Sol," he said with a smile, smelling the rose as Sollux continued to hold the poppy close. Eridan looked at him with love, and Sollux's heart pounded so fucking hard. "Sol...I've had a really great day. Like, a really great day. And I never would have had this day if it weren't for you, so, thanks, Sol. You're just...You're wonderful," he complimented, leaning forward and pressing a soft kiss to Sollux's lips. Sollux's heart sped from the simple action, and he knew that his cheeks were most likely filling with color. Damn Eridan, for being so fucking perfect...Sollux felt more happy than he had been in a long time, but that happiness was soon joined by guilt. He regretted taking that stupid call, now more than ever, because he didn't want to ruin Eridan's happiness. He wasn't even given the chance to break the kiss, though, because Nepeta had squealed behind them. "Cute!" She shrieked, and Karkat face-palmed. Eridan pulled back at this and laughed. Sollux smiled a weak smile as well. He decided to pull out his phone and check the time, pulling out Eridan's instead. He froze, then winced, quickly scrolling through and deleting the last received call while Eridan was distracted with Nepeta.

When Eridan turned back, Sollux smiled again, handing him his phone quickly. He then caught sight of Karkat staring him down, a condescending look in his eyes that immediately made Sollux look away. He pulled out his own phone as Eridan thanked him for holding his, and Sollux looked at the time. "Hey, guys, Eridan and I should take off. We haven't eaten anything yet, and he's also got an essay to write for school," Sollux informed the group, and Eridan groaned, having forgotten about that. "Fuck, you're right," he complained, and Sollux chuckled. "We'll get it done, Eri. We'll eat something and then hit the library, then we'll make our way home and tackle this bitch," Sollux promised, and Eridan smiled thankfully. They said their goodbyes and made their way off, not before receiving yet another look from Karkat. Sollux elected to ignore it, which made Karkat look like a mother who was angry at her child for not eating their broccoli. They grabbed something to eat at the cafe that their friends had eaten at, then made their way to the library. Eridan spoke the whole time, but Sollux couldn't help but to be distracted. He hated that Adrian had gotten to him. That was the mans goal, but he knew that Adrian knew that Sollux was fucking suffering right now. If Eridan was really in any sort of danger, Sollux didn't want to aid in keeping him in harms way. That would all depend on if Cronus was right, though, and if the only reason that Eridan stayed was for Sollux. Whether Sollux decided to make a different decision about this relationship or not probably didn't even matter, because everything was up to Eridan. "Are you okay, Sollux?" Eridan finally asked him as they climbed the steps to their apartment, books in Eridan's arms. "You've seemed kind of distracted." Sollux sighed. Of course he did. He wasn't very good at hiding his anxiety. "Yeah, I'm sorry, Eridan. I don't really feel good," he confessed. It wasn't a total lie. He really did feel like shit...Eridan furrowed his eyebrows in concern, looking at Sollux with worry as he unlocked and opened the door to the apartment. "Do you feel sick?" He asked, closing the door behind Sollux. He walked across the room, setting his books and his rose on the coffee table. He then walked back over to Sol, sliding his hand onto Sollux's forehead. The feeling of Eridan's long fingers and his cool rings against Sollux's skin felt fantastic. He knew that he had grown hot, but it wasn't because he was sick. The fear and worry and guilt that was filling him was hard to contain...It was hard to forget that Sollux had problems with controlling his emotions. "Yeah, I feel pretty sick. But it's fine, Eridan, I'll be okay," he assured, sliding away from his boyfriend, not wanting to look into Eridan's eyes. "Lets get this essay done. The sooner, the better," he said with a chuckle. Eridan sighed in reply, following him. "You don't have to help me if you don't want to, Sol. I can suck it up and do it myself," he said, though he sounded unsure, which made Sollux chuckle again. "It's cool, Eri, I said that I'd help you. I just can't make any promises that I wont crash afterwards," he admitted, and Eridan nodded.

"That's totally okay, I don't want you getting sick," he said with a weak smile, sitting next to Sollux as Sollux pressed a kiss to his nose. They worked for a couple hours on the essay. Sollux helped him find the information, and Eridan typed away on his laptop. It was a boring subject, but Sollux's never-ending string of sarcastic jokes made the subject not so unbearable. Sollux was actually thankful for the project...It kept his mind off of the looming subject of Eridan father. When they had finished and Eridan had uploaded his essay, Sollux had never seen Eridan so relieved. "Holy fuuuuck, thank shit that's over. I fuckin' hate work," he grumbled, sliding down on the couch. Sollux chuckled. "That makes two of us, babe," he replied, sliding his fingers through Eridan's hair. He looked at the other lovingly a moment before standing up and stretching. "Yeah, I'm totally going to crash, Eridan. I'm fucking exhausted," he informed, knowing that it was rather early, but not wanting to be awake to deal with his conflicting emotions. He desperately needed time to himself to think. "Alright, Sol. I'll probably be up for a few more hours. I'll see you in the mornin'," he said with a smile, standing up to slide his arms around Sollux's waist. He pulled Sollux close, pressing a long kiss to his lips that filled Sollux with warmth and...more guilt. After Sollux had gotten ready for bed, put his poppy on the top of his desk, and was curled up in the blankets, he was still overtaken with the heavy emotions. This really sucked. A lot. He couldn't get rid of the awful feelings that were now tattooed on his heart, and he couldn't deal with not talking to Eridan. Not talking to anyone, actually. And it was in that moment that Sollux knew why he really answered the phone call; he needed to talk about it. To someone, anyone. Who better to talk to about mobsters than the mobster himself? He couldn't keep it all in, and his subconscious would have rather complained to Adrian about how he felt than to not complain to anyone about Adrian. Damn. This really, really sucked.

Chapter 20
Sollux's phone beeped loudly, causing him to jolt up with wide eyes. He hadn't expected the loud noise, especially not when he was in such a deep sleep, which was very rare for him to find. He blinked a few times, whispering a string of curses under his breath as he leaned over and grabbed his phone off of his bedside table. He fell back in bed, groaning as he rubbed the corners of his eyes and answered his phone. "Hello?" He mumbled, voice thick with drowsiness. "Sollux! Wake up, sleepy head, it's almost noon!" Fef's voice chirped in a far-too-cheery tone for Sollux to enjoy in this moment. He groaned, then yawned, then groaned again. "How did you know that I was thleeping?" He drawled, his lisp slipping and making Feferi giggle. "I talked to Eridan before he left for work. He said that you've been in bed for like two days and he was really worried about you! So I thought that I would give you a call, since you haven't talked to me in far too long anyways!" She explained, and Sollux yawned once more

as she spoke. He blinked, remembering why he had hardly left his room in the past fortyeight hours. Oh. Yeah. Yeah... "Yeah, it hath been a while," he mumbled, ignoring the beginning of Fef's comment as he proceeded to not give two and a half shits about his lisp at this point. The subject of Eridan's dad had just gotten him so down... "Yes, it has," she agreed. "Now, why have you been in bed, Sollux? You've really got your boyfriend worried!" Sollux sighed, running his free hand through his messy hair. He knew that Eridan was worried. The perfect little bitch checked up on him every hour or so when he was home. Sometimes, when Sollux pretended to be sleeping with his back to Eridan, he noticed that Eridan would approach the door and just stand in the doorway, staring at Sollux as he "slept". It was so damn sweet, and Sollux hated it so fucking much... That's a lie. Sollux loved it, and his heart sped every time that Eridan did it. The last time, just last night, Eridan had slipped into the room while Sollux was "sleeping". He had walked over to Sollux's bed and leaned down, pressing a few kisses to Sollux's hair before walking back out. To be completely honest, Sollux nearly burst in to fucking tears after he left. He wanted Eridan to stay, but he couldn't lay with him and not tell him what he wanted to or talk to him about anything that might get him down... "I just haven't felt well," he sort of lied, masking his lisp now. Feferi hummed thoughtfully into the phone. "What do you mean by that?" She asked, and he sighed. "I've had a lot on my mind lately, okay? I don't really want to talk to him about it. I'm allowed to have some time and some thoughts to myself," he informed, and she chuckled smoothly on the other side of the phone. "Of course you are! But this stuff, whatever it may be, has obviously been bothering you! Do you want to talk to me about it?" She asked. Fuck yeah he did. He wanted to talk to anyone about it. He had thought so much about it by himself that his mind had gone numb after a while. It was like doing a math problem over and over again, applying the formula that you thought for sure was right, only to come up with the wrong answer. After a while, that math problem isn't going to make sense anymore, and your mind is going to reject it. That was how everything that was going on right now felt to his mind. And Feferi was one of the easiest people for Sollux to actually talk to... "I can't, Fef. It's just-...it's not really my business to discuss," he confessed. A long silence stretched, and Sollux's eyebrow rose. "...Fef?" "I'm still here, Sollux, I just think I know what your problem is about," she confessed, and his other eyebrow rose to join the first one. "You think?" "Yeah..." "...Alright. Sharing is caring, FF."

She sighed. "I think it's about Eridan's family." Sollux paused, eyes narrowing, as if she were near him. How did she know everything? It was ridiculous, it really was. He had no idea how she could have known that, unless Eridan was talking to her about it recently. But last time Sollux spoke with Fef, she didn't know shit about anything that had to do with Eridan's family. "That's an extremely strange-and accurate-conclusion, FF. What makes you think that it has anything to do with them?" He asked, eyebrows furrowed in curiosity. He could practically see her twirling her hair furiously around her pinky finger, which was a nervous habit of hers. "Am I right?" "Even if you were, it doesn't matter. It's nothing that I can talk about, and I'm getting rather use to that," he replied with a sigh, squeezing his eyes shut. He was met by a sigh that matched his own. "I mean it, Sollux. You can definitely talk to me about it. Eridan won't mind; In fact, he encourages it." Sollux's eyebrows furrowed again. He laid there, staring at the ceiling a moment more before his expression relaxed into one of realization. He shot up, eyes widening as he held the phone to his ear. "Holy hell! You knew!" He shouted, shock settling in. Whether she confirmed it or not, he knew that he was fucking right. She was very quick to reply. "Alright, yes, Sollux, I knew. But before you get angry or anything, let me explain!" She pleaded. He couldn't help the anger that began to rise nonetheless. How could she keep something like that from him? How could she let the son of a fricking mob boss move in with him, not to mention the fact that she had the suspicion that both Sollux and Eridan liked each other anyways? "How long have you known, Feferi?" He demanded, skipping the nickname. His mental image of her winced. "Sollux-" "How long?" He demanded again, this time in a voice with much more of a stern tone. She sighed quickly, obviously no longer comfortable with the situation. "Since high school, Sollux. But-" "Excuse me? Excuse me, come again? Did I just hear you say that you've known about this for years? I couldn't have possibly heard that, right? Please tell me that I am still far too asleep for my mind to comprehend the complete bullshit that is making its way out of your mouth, down the lines and through the receiver of my cellular device right now?!" He shouted. Normally, his moods intimidated most. Feferi was different, and didn't back down so easily. "Yeah, excuse you, Sollux Captor! First of all, don't use that language with me. Second of all, why weren't you going to tell me about Eridan and his family, again?" "Because it's not my business to tell, FF!"

"Exactly!" She snapped right back. "Eridan told me that he had told you. He also told me that you had taken it rather well, though I suspected otherwise. Now that you know, there is nothing stopping me from speaking with you about it. So you can just control yourself and your hypocritical sass right now, mister!" She demanded in a motherly voice. Her tone almost brought a smile to his face. It didn't, though it did settle his swirling emotions. She was right, after all; He couldn't blame her for not telling him because it was Eridan's business. Sollux did, in fact, do the same thing. It wasn't his business to know until Eridan wanted him to know, so he couldn't be upset with her. He fell back onto his back with a groan. He rolled onto his side, shoving his face into the pillow for a short moment before rolling back, grumbling guiltily. "I'm sorry, FF," he mumbled. "Hm? What was that, Sollux? You'll have to speak a bit louder!" She teased, and he huffed. "I'm sorry, alright? It's just been really fucking hard lately. I'm so use to being able to deal with things on my own, but this is just something that's got me going fucking crazy," he admitted, rolling onto his side once more. His gaze traveled to his pillow beneath his cheek, which he stared at as he continued. "I don't want to leave him. Honestly, I don't even know if I can. But I'm also fucking torn because I don't know whether I can stay with him or not." He swallowed hard. "I um...I talked to his father..." "What?" She gasped, and he winced. "You what? When, he didn't mention that!" "That's because he doesn't know," Sollux groaned, eyes falling shut. "That's why I've been in bed for so long. I'm wracked with fucking guilt because I can't tell the bitch that I talked to his father without his knowing, and it fucking sucks because I know how pissed he's going to be!" She thought about it a moment. "He may not be too angry," she assured slowly, and Sollux snickered. "His week is ruined when he goes to the store and his brand of hairspray is out of stock. You've never had to deal with that-its like fucking Mount Vesuvius in this apartment. He is definitely going to be pissed," Sollux groaned, then sighed. She sighed as well. "So what if he's angry, Sollux? You have a right to be upset too, you know. It's understandable, but his situation is definitely one that should be brought up at the beginning of the relationship. Also, did he really just expect to drop that on you and watch as you carry on like it's perfectly okay?" Sollux chewed on his bottom lip as he looked up at the ceiling. She was right, of course. He did also have a right to be a bit upset. Then again, it wasn't Eridan's fault that he was born into a family of asshats. "Honestly, FF, I don't really have much of a problem with it. His dad just mentioned a few things that...I don't know, got me thinking, I guess," he admitted, slipping out of bed. He pulled on a pair of sweatpants before walking out of his room, desperate for food. "Mentioned some things? Like what?" She asked, sounding worried.

Sollux opened the fridge, looking around. Unsatisfied, he closed the fridge and opened the pantry. He pulled out a bag of goldfish and began munching, walking over to and leaning against the counter as he held his phone between his shoulder and his ear. "He mentioned my father," he admitted, and he could hear Feferi inhale sharply. "He also mentioned that Eridan could be in danger being away from home. That's really what my real problem is." "It's discomforting that he knew anything about your father, Sollux. And as for Eridan, I don't think that he would have left if he was in any real danger," she assured, though she didn't sound too sure herself. Sollux set the bag of goldfish down, his gaze meeting the ground. "Yeah, well. I don't want to be the cause of any family pain, FF. Wouldn't want to deal with that experience a second time around," he mumbled, and Fef inhaled sharply once more. "Sollux..." She sighed sadly. She didn't get the opportunity to continue, because it was then that Sollux heard shouting. His eyebrows furrowed as he walked across the room, pausing and listening. "Give me a minute, FF," he mumbled, listening a moment before he heard more shouting. "Is everything alright?" She asked, worry sounding strange on her normally cheer filled voice. Sollux nodded, making his way over to the window. "Yeah, I'm sure everything's fine. Just some crazy-ass neighbors," he replied, pushing back the curtain. He looked down at the parking lot, eyebrows jetting up as he looked down at the two brothers. "Um, FF? What time did you say that you talked to Eridan?" He asked. She hummed a moment before answering. "Right before I called you. He was walking out of the apartment when he hung up. Why? Is he home? He shouldn't be," she commented, and Sollux nodded. "Yeah, he hasn't left yet," he replied absent-mindedly, studying the scene. Eridan had set his gym bag next to his car, and he was waving his hands around in the most dramatic fashion. Cronus, on the other hand, was completely calm. The cigarette dangling from his lips was lit this time, and he talked smoothly with one side of his mouth. In his hand was a file, and he was offering it to his brother. Eridan continued to yell at him, the words loud, but muffled. He shoved the file back, refusing to accept it. "What's going on?" She asked curiously, and Sollux merely raised his eyebrows. "I have no fucking clue. He's in the parking lot with his brother, refusing to take whatever Cronus is handing him. It's a file, I think," Sollux replied, squinting. "I don't have my glasses on, so I'm not sure." "A file? That's weird. Has Eridan punched him in the throat yet?" Feferi snickered, and Sollux snickered back. "Not yet, but it might just happen. He nailed him in the face when Cronus came over last time."

Feferi sighed. "Yes, he called me and told me the next day. He passionately expressed how much he loathed the fact that Cronus had his hands on you," she said, and Sollux couldn't help the half smile that pulled his lips upwards. "Yeah, but he strikes me as the type of dude who threatens and flirts with everyone," he guessed, and Fef gave a half laugh. "I had to stay after school with Eridan once to work on a project, and Cronus had to come and pick him up. The guy refused to leave without my name and number." Sollux couldn't help but to chuckle. "Who could?" He asked, and she laughed. "Oh, shut up, Sollux!" Sollux was about to laugh with her, but his smile quickly fell when Eridan shoved his brother hard against the car. Cronus flinched, but showed no sign of any pain. Sollux's eyes widened at Eridan's threatening stance. "Shit, I feel like I should get down there. Eridan looks ready to beat the shit out of Cronus," Sollux said, and Feferi gasped. "No, I wouldn't interfere! Especially not if Eridan is mad, and he doesn't want you seeing that," Fef quickly assured, and Sollux sighed worriedly. "Yeah, fine. This just looks like Eridan could take it downtown any second," he muttered. He couldn't help but to be a bit surprised when Eridan's grip loosened on his brother. He relaxed at Cronus's words, stepping back as he looked at him with disgust. He looked down at the file, and Sollux leaned closer to the window. Eridan looked at it a moment, tensing, then relaxing. He then snatched it from Cronus, who smiled a cocky smile. He said something, and Eridan pointed towards the road, most likely yelling at him to piss off. "What's happening now?" She asked, just as Eridan climbed angrily into his car and slammed the door shut. Cronus knocked on the window and said something else, but Sollux could no longer see Eridan. Whatever he said made Cronus laugh, and he backed away just as Eridan whipped out of his parking space. He sped off, leaving Sollux staring wide eyed. "Eridan took the folder and took off. I think-" He cut himself off as Cronus looked up at the window. Cronus's smile widened, and he winked in Sollux's direction. He then turned, making his way out of the parking lot as he shoved his hands into his pockets, stepping onto the sidewalk and making his way off. Sollux watched him until he disappeared, his lips parted in shock. "Jesus Christ, he is such an asshole." "Who? Eridan?" Fefer asked, and Sollux rolled his eyes. "Well, yeah, but mostly Cronus," he replied, letting the curtains fall shut with furrowed eyebrows. The whole scene just proceeded to confuse him more. "I'm sorry that weird things are happening, Sollux. I know that you have enough to deal with, and everything adding up must not be too great..." "Yeah, not really," he admitted with a sigh. "Hey, speaking of which, how's your mom?" He was met by a familiar silence, and he anticipated the worst. Was she worse? What was wrong now?

"She's okay," Feferi finally replied, her tone almost unreadable. Sollux could have sworn that he heard a tinge of guilt, but he'd been wrong before. What did she have to feel guilty about anyway? "Okay, good." He then looked at the clock. "Hey, I have to go ahead and get ready for a class. I'll talk to you later, alright? I promise not to go so long without calling." "Sounds good! I'll talk to you soon, Sollux. Hang in there, alright? You can call me whenever. I love you and Eridan to death!" She announced, and Sollux rolled his eyes with a smile. "And we love you too, Fef," he replied. "Catch ya later." After hanging up with his friend, Sollux walked to the bathroom to shower, deep in thought. At least he got what he needed to off of his chest. It could have been a much deeper conversation if Cronus hadn't interrupted it with his presence. What was in that folder anyways? Eridan took it, so it must have been something worth reading. It wasn't any of Sollux's business, but he couldn't help but to be curious. Was Feferi right about Eridan, though? If there was a possibility of him getting hurt, would he have left New York and his family? Sollux understood why he wanted to get the hell out of there, but would he leave if it wasn't safe? The haunting worry gnawed at his emotions, which he had to keep on a leash. He was out of his prescription, so he hadn't taken his pills in a while. He should get his bottle refilled, but that was the least of his worries. As if the slim chance of Eridan getting hurt wasn't enough, Sollux couldn't help but to be reminded of his father. Adrian had absolutely no fucking right to bring that up. Sure, Sollux understood that he wanted his son home, but his bitchy attitude was unnecessary. Sollux could have stood to be less of a smart-ass as well, but still! How Adrian even knew anything about him was still a mystery... He really shouldn't be dwelling on it. There was nothing that he could do, so why get worked up? He'd be able to keep composure and he knew that everything would be okay, as long as Eridan was safe and happy.

Chapter 21
When Eridan had gotten home later that night, he claimed to be beyond exhausted. He brushed a kiss over Sollux's lips before making his way straight to his room. Sollux didn't protest to letting Eridan go straight to bed, though he was rather worried. Did this have anything to do with his argument with Cronus earlier that day? Sollux wasn't sure, but he'd let Eridan have his space... Meanwhile, Sollux had done his schoolwork and was pretty bored. Rather than dick off and code pointlessly for a while-which didn't sound like a bad idea-he decided that he should spend some time with Karkat. He didn't need the little twerp to reprimand him about being an ass. He wasn't surprised when Karkat more than happily accepted his invitation. He used to reside alone in his dorm, but just recently his cousin, Kankri, moved in with him. That was fine at first, but Karkat was a guy of little tolerance. After a mere few days, Karkat had

called Sollux, asking his best friend to kick Eridan out of the apartment so that Karkat could move in. Sollux couldn't help but to be amused. "He couldn't possibly be that bad," Sollux said as Karkat rushed into the apartment after the door was opened for him. Karkat relaxed-kind of-as soon as he was completely into the small apartment and the door was closed. He turned and looked at Sollux, eyes bloodshot, dark shadows under his eyes. Sollux's eyebrows rose. Karkat looked as though he were on the brink of crazy... "I don't think he's human, Sollux," he said, his voice slow and serious. Sollux chuckled, walking past his best friend and over to the couch. "I'm sure that you may be exaggerating just a tinge." Karkat followed him, sitting right next to his friend on the couch. His eyes were wide and serious as he leaned close. Sollux leaned back, smile fading at Karkat's strange nature. "Sollux, you don't fucking understand. He doesn't sleep. He stays up all night and just...He just fucking talks! That's all he does! I could buy a pair of Bose headphones and listen to Rob Zombie all night long, and I would stillhear him! I don't think that I've ever even seen him eat! He's not from here, Sollux. I don't know what planet kicked him off, but there's no way that he's my cousin. I don't even think that he could be considered a Homosapien..." Sollux laughed again, shoving Karkat away from him. In that moment, it was hard to determine who was more dramatic; Karkat or Eridan. He looked at his friend with a soft smile, eyebrow raising in curiosity. "You grew up with him, right?" He asked, and Karkat shook his head. "No, I didn't. Thank fuck for that, too, because I don't know what kind of person I would be if I was around that kind of environment," he exaggerated, and Sollux smiled once again. "Shit, well, I'll take your word for it. He really doesn't sleep?" He asked, and Karkat shook his head again. "Never." "Damn." "I fucking know. Anyways, I can't talk about Kankri... I'm already on the fence of insanity, I'd like to return to the green pastures of normality now," he said, falling back on the couch as he ran his hands through his dark, messy hair. "Normality, huh? You're hanging out with the wrong person," Sollux replied, also leaning back with a sigh. Karkat looked up at him with a raised eyebrow. "Oh?" He asked, then sat up. "How did Eridan react when you told him about the phone call?" He continued, automatically assuming that Sollux spoke to his boyfriend. When Sollux looked away, Karkat furrowed his eyebrows, then shook his head. "Oh, Sollux...You are so damn dumb. The longer that you wait, the more fucked up that conversation is going to be," he informed, and Sollux rolled his eyes with a huff. "You don't think that I know that, KK?" "Oh, do you? Then what's the problem here? What are you so afraid of?" He asked, and Sollux groaned, dragging his hands down his face, causing his glasses to slip off and fall onto his lap.

"I'm afraid of an argument, KK. I'm afraid of angering him. He's got some hella huge anger problems, whether he'll admit it or not. I'm afraid of...Fuck, I don't know..." "Making him feel anything for you other than affection?" Karkat half finished, half asked, and Sollux sighed once again. He stared down at his glasses on his lap a moment, deep in thought. His emotions were swirling at a concerning rate, but Sollux pushed that aside. He picked up his glasses, slipping them on his face as he ran a hand through his hair. "Yeah, I guess so," he admitted, and Karkat shook his head yet again. "Sollux, this is your problem. You're a damn perfectionist whose afraid to fuck up, and even when you do, you refuse to believe and admit that you did. I know that the fact is a pile of steaming shit-but you have to fuck up sometimes. Sometimes, Eridan has to feel something for you other than a disgusting cocktail of obsession and love and lust and whatever the hell else his heart radiates whenever his eyes fall upon the loser that is you. You know that, right?" He informed, and Sollux just gave him a look. "...Cocktail of obsession and love and lust? Really?" He questioned with a slight smile, and Karkat waved that off with his hand. "I could be a poet, I know, but that's beside the point. The point is that love can't be fully appreciated unless there's some obstacles in there too. If it were a smooth ride, love wouldn't taste so fucking sweet," he stated, and Sollux's eyebrows rose slowly. "Holy shit, dude, you need a girlfriend," he said slowly, and Karkat's eyebrows furrowed in offense. "Ha, excuse you, smart-ass. I happen to have a date this coming Friday," he informed, and Sollux sat up, interested. "Damn, seriously?" He smiled slightly. "Wow, I'm proud of you, rascal," he joked, and Karkat gave him a look of disgust. "You think I fucking care what you think?" He asked, though it was rather obvious that he did. Sollux smiled softly again. "Alright, who is she?" He asked. He only received a shrug, and a smug smile from his friend. Sollux narrowed his eyes. "You know how this goes, right? Either you tell me who it is, or I don't believe that you're really going out with someone," Sollux said, and Karkat merely shrugged. "Believe what you want, dumb-shit, but I didn't even ask her out. She asked me out. Apparently she's had this huge crush on me for forever, not that I can blame her..." Sollux snickered. "How do you figure that, KK?" Karkat shrugged. "Nepeta told me after I got asked out. Nepeta knows all about that shit," he replied, and Sollux rolled his eyes. "Whatever, are you going to tell me who or what? You've definitely peaked my curiosity," he admitted, and Karkat chuckled. "Good! I think I'll keep you in suspense." "Dammit, KK! You shove your nose into my business, why can't I know this much?" He complained, and Karkat laughed, obviously getting enough amusement out of the situation.

"Okay, I suppose I'll tell you, since you're absolutely dying to know," he replied, and Sollux rolled his eyes once again. Karkat sat up and leaned back, getting comfortable in the couch. He kicked his shoes off, then propped his feet up. He sighed, running his hands through his hair. He then proceeded to brush off his shirt, making Sollux part his lips and narrow his eyes once again. Karkat pretended not to notice as he began to pick every little piece of hair or lint off of his jeans. Sollux just stared at him a moment before face-palming. "Oh my shit, KK, you're fucking ridiculous!" He accused, and Karkat laughed in his success. "Alright, alright!" He laughed, looking over at Sollux with a smile that Sollux hadn't seen in a while. "I ran into Meenah Piexes at the library. We talked for a while, and she asked me out," he finally informed, and Sollux's jaw nearly dropped. He shook his head, eyebrows furrowed. "There are so many things wrong with that. First of all, what the hell was Meenah Piexes doing in a library? Second of all, I thought she dropped out of school and moved to like fucking Canada or something. Third of all, you say that she's had a huge crush on you for a while? Meenah Peixes, had a huge crush on you?" Sollux asked, and Karkat held his head high, crossing his arms. "You say that like it's hard to believe. As to what she was doing in the library, I don't even know, nor do I care. And she did move for a while, but she's back now. Kind of like Eridan, except for completely different reasons I'm sure," he said slowly, eyebrow raising, as if expecting to get answers about Eridan out of Sollux. Sollux ignored him. "Why did she move?" Karkat shrugged again. "You know that her family is fucking loaded. She moved because she was bored and because she could," he replied simply, and Sollux just looked at him. Meenah Peixes was Feferi's twin sister. Everyone called Feferi the "good twin" and Meenah the "bad twin". They were complete opposites. The only similarity between the two was their love for the ocean and the color fuschia. While Feferi, Karkat, and Sollux were still in high school, Meenah had dropped out and took off. Feferi was cute and sweet and studious, while Meenah was hardcore, mischievous, and up to no good. At the remembrance of Meenah, Sollux's face slowly fell into his hands. "Holy shit she's perfect for you..." He realized, and Karkat chuckled. "We'll see. Dude, do you remember her? She was cute before, but now she's just fucking hot," he nearly swooned, and Sollux lowered his hands with a smile. "You think so? I wouldn't doubt it. Is her hair still long?" Sollux asked, and Karkat nodded. "It's kinda short and messy up top, but shes got these long, tight braids coming down in the back. She's got an eyebrow piercing now, too, and...Man, you know what, just wait until you see her," he said, and Sollux laughed. "Her best friend was Latula when she was still here. If her and Latula are still friends, then she'll be around my brother a lot. I'm sure that I'll see her sometime soon," he guessed, and Karkat nodded.

"Sooner than you think. We'll be at your bar next Friday," he informed, and Sollux's eyebrows rose once again. "Really? You're coming to the bar? That's weird. You know that Dave works Friday's with me," he said slowly, and Karkat's smile immediately fell as he shuddered. "Fuck, gross," he commented, and Sollux rolled his eyes. "When are you going to get over your hate for him, KK?" "Never," he responded faster than Sollux could even comprehend. Sollux sighed. "You know, before Eridan and I started dating, you said that maybe our hate for each other was a result of deeper feelings. Maybe this thing between you and Dave-" Sollux started, then paused, not able to finish as he caught the look on Karkat's face and the fire in his wide eyes. "...Did you just begin to suggest that I have feelings for Dave Strider?" He asked slowly, and Sollux shrunk back slightly. "...No," Sollux tried, and Karkat's stare remained. "Oh. Oh, good. I was about to say..." Sollux shook his head. "You want to watch a movie or something?" He suggested quickly, and Karkat nodded, getting up. "I would love to watch a movie," he confirmed, walking over to a rack of movies. Sollux watched him, relieved that he avoided a potential disaster. Either way, he was also relieved that his mind was occupied with Karkat's life, and with the movie that Karkat had put in. After he got the movie started, he took it upon himself to raid Sollux's pantry, returning with a can of soda and a bag of chips. He plopped back down next to Sollux as the movie began, and Sollux couldn't help but to smile. No matter what changed, Karkat never would. They watched The Bourne Supremacy, the action-packed spy film about an assassin with amnesia who was involved in a government conspiracy. The character was being hunted down once again, and was currently trying to escape death in India with his girlfriend. Unfortunately, his girlfriend had just been shot. Sollux sighed, that part of the movie getting him down as he took a sip of Karkat's soda. Karkat, meanwhile, was shaking his head. "You know, she fucking knew that he was an ex-assassin. Why the hell did she allow herself to fall in love with someone with a dangerous past like that?" He commented. Sollux's eyes widened at Karkat's comment. In that moment, his breath caught, and he forgot how to swallow. He immediately choked on the soda in his throat, quickly putting the can down as his hand shot up to cover his mouth. Karkat jolted up immediately, looking at Sollux with wide eyes. "Sollux, what the hell?!" He exclaimed as Sollux struggled to swallow. He managed to do so, then proceeded to fall into a fit of coughs. He coughed hard for a while as Karkat sat there, looking at him with shock. When his choking fit finally ceased, Karkat shoved him hard. "Dude, what the hell was that? You nearly gave me a fucking heart attack!" He accused, just as Sollux worked to clear his throat, pushing his hair out of his face. "Wrong pipe," he managed to lie in a hoarse voice, causing him to clear his throat again.

Karkat shook his head. Whether he believed Sollux or not, Sollux didn't know, but he wasn't about to ask. Karkat leaned back again, rolling his eyes. "Jesus Christ," he said slowly, and Sollux sat back as he inhaled and exhaled deeply. His eyes returned to the screen, but he didn't stay quiet for long. "As for your comment...Marie was with him because she loved him. She was sure that they could protect each other, and it was completely unfortunate that they couldn't, but they tried as hard as they could to have a life together. I would expect that with your extensive knowledge of romance plots, you would appreciate that aspect of the movie," Sollux accused, and Karkat rolled his eyes. "I'm not a fan of the romance movies where one of the characters fucking dies," was his only comment. This left Sollux with his confused feelings once again rising to the surface. He leaned back, saying no more, with his gaze returning to the screen. Matt Damon pressed one last kiss to Marie's lips before he let her body drift away, and Sollux couldn't interpret his current emotions. So much for a relaxing night.

Chapter 22
They watched the movie until it was over, and then they even watched the sequel. This was mostly due to the fact that Karkat never ever wanted to go back to his dorm. After the next movie had ended, Sollux was tired as hell. It was extremely late, and Sollux had to work the next day. They talked only for a short time until Karkat finally accepted the fact that he had to go back to his dorm sometime. When he left, Sollux had cleaned up the mess that was left behind. It didn't bother him, but Eridan always seemed to have an aneurysm around clutter. When everything was put away, Sollux went into his room and changed into a pair of sweats and an old t-shirt. He was about to lay down, but then decided that he wanted to check up on Eridan. He slowly made his way down the hall, relieved to see that the door was open. He slowly stepped partially into the room, blinking while his eyes adjusted to the darkness. Even though hours had passed since Eridan went to bed, Sollux found that he was still awake. He was laying on his side, staring at the wall. Sollux tilted his head curiously, making his way further into the room. Eridan, deep inside of his mind, didn't even notice Sollux's presence until Sollux slid into bed with him. He jerked slightly, looking at Sollux in surprise. He then relaxed, his gaze returning to the wall. "Hey Sol," he said softly. Sollux's eyebrows furrowed. Something was definitely wrong. Should Sollux just leave him alone? When Sollux was in a bad mood or whenever he wasn't feeling good, Eridan was always there. He was always sweet with him, providing him with the care that Sollux wasn't use to. He knew that Eridan wasn't use to the reassurance, care, or comfort either...So Sollux slid close, sliding his arms around the other. He pulled Eridan close, which made a smile involuntarily tug on his lips.

"I thought that you were exhausted, Eri," Sollux said slowly, and Eridan sighed quietly. He closed his eyes, relaxing against Sollux and his warmth. "I'm very exhausted," he admitted, his eyes opening, then closing again. Sollux furrowed his eyebrows. He pressed a gentle kiss to the back of Eridan's neck, receiving a hum of acceptance from his boyfriend. He smiled, pressing yet another kiss to Eridan's neck. Eridan smiled. "What's keeping you awake, Eri?" He asked, causing Eridan's smile to fade. He sighed, remaining quiet a moment before answering. "I don't know. I've missed bein' with you these past few days, I guess," he confessed, causing guilt to strike Sollux once again. "Oh," Sollux replied slowly, swallowing hard. Alright, Sollux. This is a good opportunity. Tell him about the phone call, okay? He's strong and understanding, he can take it. Yeah, he's also sensitive and emotional. Okay, and? Those can be very admirable qualities. Then can also be qualities viewed as weakness. Oh, well, do you view them that way? Well, no, not at all... Then fucking tell him! Jesus! "Oh?" Eridan asked, snapping Sollux out of his self-conversation. Sollux cleared his throat. "I'm sorry, ED. I haven't been feeling to well," he half lied. Eridan shook his head, sliding his hands over Sollux's, in-turn sliding his arms over Sollux's as well. "No, it's completely okay, I know it happens. I just need to learn not to be so dependent on you," he said with a slight laugh, filled with a thin sadness. Sollux furrowed his eyebrows. He sighed, snuggling as close as he possibly could to his boyfriend. "I don't mind if you're dependent on me, Eridan. I mean, I need my space and I need some time to myself, but I don't mind if you're dependent on me," he assured, but Eridan only replied with a shake of his head. "I know you need your space. I know you do, and I respect that, but...But I want to know everythin' about you. I want to know everythin' about you, I want to spend every second with you, I want to be with you and only you but that's just not realistic and it's hard. I need to be able to let you come to me when you need to, talk to me when you're ready to, confide in me when you're ready to..." He paused, working to bury his face into his pillow, but even in the dark, Sollux could see the blush begin to rise on his skin. "...Have sex with me when you want to..." He finished quietly, which forced a blush upon Sollux's cheeks as well. Eridan then sighed. "It's just hard. To give you your space, I mean," he said, and Sollux nodded slowly. "I get it," he assured, and Eridan sighed in relief. They were both quiet a moment before Eridan continued. "Do you ever feel smothered by me, Sol?" He asked. Did he? Sollux tried to think back. Why would he feel smothered by Eridan? Eridan did a perfectly fine job of giving Sollux the space that he needed. When Sollux didn't feel good,

Eridan left him alone, for the most part. He didn't prod Sollux for dates. He didn't keep Sollux to himself. Then again, Sollux wasn't sure that he'd mind all that much if Eridan did...They both needed each other, which made their relationship a near perfect one. "No, Eridan. You've never given me a reason to," he assured, and Eridan let out another sigh of relief. "Shit, good. I mean, I'm a pretty smotherin' person, but I do my best not to be like that with you," he admitted, and Sollux rolled his eyes with a smile. That smile didn't last very long, though, as Eridan continued. "I already made that mistake with Fef, when we were in high school. I practically buried her in my life, and she felt like she had to pull away. I don't blame her, because I was the one in the wrong. I wouldn't admit it then, but I see that now. But anyways, If you ever feel like I'm bein' way to clingy or forceful about anythin', just tell me," he demanded. Sollux chewed on his bottom lip for a brief moment before replying. "Well there is one thing," he started, and Eridan groaned. He rolled over in Sollux's arms, looking at him with honest blue eyes. "Dammit, I knew it. There had to be one thing. Alright, what is it?" He asked, looking disappointed in himself. Sollux almost didn't want to tell him... "The whole sex thing," he replied honestly, and Eridan tensed in embarrassment. "I mean, it's not unbearable. Hell, not at all. I can't say that I don't want you too, Eridan, but...It's just a personal thing," he informed, and Eridan nodded in understanding. Sollux looked at him a moment before sighing. "I'm going to be blunt here, Eridan; You pretty much throw yourself onto me. Every time we're together," he said honestly, and Eridan's eyes widened with pure humiliation. Sollux was quick to reply to the look. "Like I said, It doesn't make me uncomfortable or angry or annoyed or anything. I just have some things to work out, and when they are worked out..." He smiled. He leaned close, his breath on Eridan's lips, causing Eridan to tense once more. Eridan's eyes were glued on Sollux's lips, which curved up into a smile. His mouth barely brushed over Eridan's, whose lips parted in desire. "When they are worked out, I'm all yours," he flirted, and Eridan let out a soft groan, eyes still fixed between Sollux's chin and nose. "It's not helpful that you're a giant fuckin' tease, Sol," he informed, and Sollux chuckled. "I'm sure it's also not helpful that you're a virgin, Eridan," he replied, and Eridan's eyes widened once again. He quickly sat up and looked at Sollux defensively. "Excuse you! You don't know that!" He snapped, though his cheeks filled. Sollux nearly burst out laughing. "You've told me that you've never been with anyone," Sollux reminded, and Eridan shook his head. "Just because I've never been in a relationship doesn't mean that I've never had sex, Sollux!" He snapped again, and Sollux did laugh this time. He sat up with his boyfriend, smiling a taunting smile. "Well, have you?" He asked. Eridan's lips pursed. He looked at Sollux a moment before crossing his arms, looking away, head held high.

"I don't have to answer that!" He replied in a sassy tone, and Sollux laughed once again. "You are such a virgin, Eridan. You don't even need to bother denying it, because I already know," he laughed, and Eridan cheeks filled further. Before he could reply, Sollux leaned close once again. He slid one hand slowly up Eridan's back, the other teasing the inside of Eridan's thigh. Eridan tensed at first, then slowly began to relax against Sollux. Sollux smirked, his hand sliding further up Eridan's leg. Eridan went back and forth between tensing and relaxing, his breath raising slightly. "Sol..." He began, his voice thin and weak. Sollux's smirk only grew, his fingers brushing over the front of Eridan's thin pants. Eridan gasped, and he found his hips raising slightly without his control to Sollux's touch. Sollux chuckled at this action. "Total virgin," he teased. This made Eridan's mouth snap shut. He quickly pulled away from Sollux, shoving him backward. "Get out of my fuckin' room!" He snapped, cheeks red with embarrassment. Sollux only threw his head back and laughed. "What? I've lost my bed privileges?" He teased, and Eridan looked ready to sock Sollux in the face. "You've lost a lot more than bed privileges! I mean it, out!" He demanded. Sollux didn't move. He merely smirked again, leaning close to his boyfriend. "Do you want me to leave because of my jokes?" He began, and Eridan furrowed his eyebrows. Sollux moved forward, lips brushing over Eridan's ear. "Or do you want me to leave because you're already getting hard for me from a few simple touches?" Eridan's mouth fell open. He tensed completely, inhaling sharply at Sollux's words. He shoved his boyfriend back once again, though there was less force to this push. "You're a fuckin' whore, Sollux Captor! You can't come in here and tease me if you're not willin' to go through with it!" He snapped. "Go to bed, shit-head, or I'm goin' to make you fuckin' regret spendin' another minute in here with me!" "Oh, is that a promise, Eridan?" He asked, wiggling his eyebrows. Eridan bared his teeth. "It's very much a threat, you little dick!" He yelled, causing Sollux's smile to widen. "Well, I wouldn't say little, Eri..." "Sollux! I'm going to break your fuckin' nose if you don't leave right now!" Sollux laughed, not doubting Eridan for a minute. It was almost difficult to leave, but Sollux couldn't have gone through that whole speech just to end up giving in. His pride wouldn't allow it. He slid out of bed quickly, before a fist met his face. He quickly made his way to the door, throwing one last teasing smile over his shoulder. "Sleep peacefully tonight, Eridan," he teased, causing Eridan to grab a box of tissues off of his bedside table. He threw it at Sol, who just barely dodge it. "Out, Captor!" He shouted, met by a laugh from Sollux as Sollux walked out and closed the door behind him.

Chapter 23

Sollux walked out of the bathroom, buttoning up his black work shirt. He shook his wet hair out, which was just about as much as he did to it in the mornings. Eridan always begged Sollux to let him play with it a little, but there was no way in heaven or hell that Sollux would let Eridan touch his hair. He could just see Eridan dying his bangs yellow, and Sollux shuddered at the thought. He walked out into the kitchen, smiling when he saw Eridan standing there. Eridan had slept in, and Sollux was able to use the bathroom early that morning. His boyfriend stood there in a violet robe, leaning against the counter with a cup of tea in his hands. He must have been wearing his knock-off-brand makeup the day before, because it had smeared and faded during the night, leaving his face covered in those lovely freckles. He looked up when he saw Sollux, eyebrows furrowing, not forgetting about the previous night. Sollux merely smiled at him teasingly. "Morning, freckle-face," he cooed, and Eridan winced in disgust. Sollux stepped close to him, leaning forward and pressing a light kiss to the tip of Eridan's nose. "How did you sleep?" He teased further. "Go to work, Sol," Eridan snapped in reply, and Sollux couldn't help but to laugh. He ran a hand through Eridan's hair, messing up those thick locks even more. "Don't be pithhy, Eri," he cooed once again in a lisp, which made Eridan slowly relax, his features not so hard. "I'm not pissy," he pouted, taking a long sip of his tea. "You're just an asshole." Sollux laughed again, sliding his fingers over Eridan's face, which made his boyfriend smile slightly. Sollux then stepped aside, grabbing a pop-tart from the pop-tart box. He then grabbed a bottle of water, taking a sip before putting it back in the fridge. "I'll see you later, ED. Have a good day," he called, making his way to the door to grab his shoulder bag with his things in it. He slid his phone out of his pocket, dropping it in the bag as he grabbed his keys from the bowl. Meanwhile, Eridan had set his tea down and was making his way over to his roommate. "It's goin' to be cold today, Sol. It's slippin' into winter soon," he said, nodding to Sollux's dark jacket draped over the table next to the door. Sollux rolled his eyes with a smile, grabbing his jacket. He slipped it on, and was rewarded with a content smile from Eridan. "Happy, nana?" "Extremely," Eridan replied with a chuckle. He then sighed, running his fingers through his hair. "Dammit, I'm goin' to be so bored today without you, Sol," he mumbled, looking around, as if something might catch his eye. Sollux smiled again, stepping closer to his boyfriend. He slid his arms around the other, leaning close and nuzzling Eridan's cheek with his nose. Eridan smiled, tilting his head closer to Sollux's, Eridans cheeks flushing lightly. He ran his fingers gently over Sollux's neck. Meanwhile, one of Sollux's hands slid down and over Eridan's ass, grabbing a handful of its perfection. Eridan, who was stuck in the sweet moment, yelped and jumped back in surprise. Sollux burst out laughing as Eridan blushed deeper, eyes wide. "Way to ruin a moment, you little fuck!" Eridan snapped, which only made Sollux laugh again.

"I'm sorry, Eridan, I couldn't help myself!" He admitted, and Eridan only huffed, blowing a lock of his purple bangs out of his face. "Whatever! Have a good fuckin' day, I guess," he mumbled, and Sollux smiled slightly. "You too, babe," he replied as he winked at the Aquarius, grabbing his bag and sliding it onto his shoulder. Eridan finally relaxed, offering him a soft smile. "Bye," he said gently. "Bye, Eri," he replied, reaching out and ruffling his soft hair gently before turning on his heel. He made his way out the door, twirling his keys on his index finger as he did. Eridan was so damn cute. How could he have an awful self esteem? Especially with that ass. Sollux, even now, couldn't help but to be surprised over how often Eridan was on his mind. Sollux wasn't a lovey dovey guy at all, but around Eridan? It was amazing how Sollux changed around the guy that he cared for deeper than he could have imagined. He was just-So adorable. And irresistible, and amazingly amusing. He was so stupid, yet so smart. He was such an ass, but then again, he was one of the sweetest people that Sollux had ever met. If Sollux had told himself a few months ago that he would have fallen hard for a dude, he would have laughed and flipped himself off. It was a little weird sometimes to think that Sollux felt this way for a guy. He never had a problem with the fact of homosexuality, but he never thought about the possibility of being gay himself or having feelings for another male. He had never, ever been attracted to a guy. What made Eridan different? Whatever, that wasn't really the important part. What was important was the fact that Sollux was like an entirely different person around his boyfriend. He couldn't turn it on or off, it just happened. Was that a bad thing? Perhaps not, but it was still a peculiar thing to Sollux... His thoughts were interrupted by the vibration of his phone in his bag. He rose an eyebrow, bringing his bag forward and digging through it. He just barely got his phone to his ear before it hung up, answering quickly. "Hello?" He managed. "Whoa! Sollux, chill out there, buddy," Feferi giggled. "Are you busy?" "Busy?" Sollux asked, looking both ways before crossing a busy street. "No, I'm not busy, I'm just on my way to work. What's up? We just talked yesterday, is everything okay?" "Yeah, everything's great! We just didn't really talk very much yesterday at all, and I totally forgot to tell you the good news!" She exclaimed. Just as she did, Sollux had to jump back quickly to avoid a car which had swerved around the corner. "Watch it, douche-bag, I'm walking here!" He yelled, flipping the guy off. The guy beeped in reply, and kept going as Sollux shook his head, muttering a strain of not-so-nice names under his breath. Feferi was quiet a moment before she burst out laughing. "It seems as though you could use some good news!" She giggled, and Sollux managed to smile softly.

"Yeah, good news is always appreciated," he confirmed, shifting his bag on his shoulder as he continued walking. She giggled once again, her giggle like jingle bells on a dark winters night in Sollux's ear. "Well, guess what fin-tastic friend of yours is coming to visit in a few weeks?" She questioned, making Sollux's soft smile widen, excitement rushing through him. "Did you just say fin-tastic?" He asked, and she couldn't help but to laugh. "I might have! I just needed to make sure that you knew specifically who it was, a-k-a, your fish loving friend! Also, it was a perfect oppor-tuna-ty to display my extensive knowledge of fish puns," she giggled, and Sollux chuckled with her. "Surely you mean my fish loving frond," he played along, immediately making her squeal. She was obviously excited about coming to visit alone, and the addition of Sollux's dumb pun added to her joy. "Oh, man! You even made that pun on porpoise!" "Of course. It wasn't manta be an accident, Fef." "Krill out, I was just pointing it out, Sollux!" "Whale, it wasn't necessary!" "Are you shore?" "I trout that I would lie about some-fin like that." "Reel-y, Sollux? Two puns in one? That was dolphin-itely a brill-iant display of your knowledge! You should let minnow how you think of puns so quickly!" "Holy shit, Fef, this is getting ridiculous and needs to stop," Sollux laughed, and Feferi laughed with him. "Okay, Okay, I'm sorry! I got carried away in the moment! Anyways, yeah, I'm coming to visit soon, and I'm really excited!" She exclaimed, and Sollux chuckled as he made his way into the bar. He smiled at Dave, who stood behind the counter and nodded in reply. Sollux walked behind the bar, slipping his bag off and shoving it on one of the bar shelves. "I'm excited too. I'm assuming that you'll be staying with us?" He asked, holding the phone between his ear and shoulder as he grabbed his waist apron. "Of course! I wouldn't dream of staying with anyone else!" She replied, and he chuckled. "Alright, cool. We'll talk more about it later, alright? Dave and I have to work all day and through the night today because our bar is hosting some special event shit," Sollux informed. "No problem! Talk to you later, Sollux! Be good!" "Would you expect any different out of me?" He chuckled, and she snickered as she hung up. He sighed as he grabbed his phone and shoved it back into his bag. He put his bag back in place, then tied the strings of his apron around his waist. As he did, Dave was giving him a look. "Who was that?" He questioned curiously, although the curiosity was masked by the smooth tone of his voice. Sollux looked up at his friend, nodding upwards quickly to move his still damp bangs out of his face.

"That was Fef. She called to tell me that she'd be coming to visit for a little while," Sollux replied. Dave just looked at him a moment before nodding slowly. "Right. That's the Peixes chick, right? What was her sisters name, again? The one that moved in high school?" He asked, and Sollux smiled a slight smile. "Meenah's the sister that dropped out and moved. She actually just moved back, did you know that?" "Did she?" He questioned, though he sounded bored as picked up a few glasses and began to clean and sort them. Sollux nodded, though he wasn't sure that Dave was too interested. "She did," he replied, walking over to help Dave sort the glasses. "Apparently she's had this ridiculous crush on Karkat for a while. She actually just asked him out. They're coming here next Friday," he informed, reaching out to the glasses. It was in that moment that Dave's smooth composure faltered, which was a rare sight. He fumbled with the glass as a reaction to Sollux's information, his lips parting as the glass slipped from his fingers. Sollux's eyes widened as he watched the scene, and he quickly reached out and snatched the cup out of the air before it plummeted towards the ground. They both stood there a moment before looking up at each other. Dave was quick to force a smile. "Damn, Jackie Chan. You must be a great guy to have in a fix," he spoke up, but Sollux didn't match his smile. He set the glass down, eyebrow raising due to Dave's clumsy slip-up. "What the hell was that?" He questioned. Dave looked at him a moment before shrugging, grabbing another glass and cleaning it out. "I dropped something, Captor, it happens. Can't be perfect all the time," he informed, his poker face almost enough to make Sollux forget about what just happened. "You didn't just drop it. You tensed, then fumbled with it, then dropped it. What? You've got a thing for one of them?" Sollux guessed, and Dave's composure once again fell as he snatched the glass that Sollux was holding. "Lay off my biz, Captor," he suggested, his words sharp, though his tone remained cool and collected from practice. Sollux's eyebrow rose again, studying Dave's mannerisms. Wow, why the hell did he care? It was as if Eridan's obnoxious need to know everything about other people's relationships was rubbing off on him. Well, that, and the fact that Sollux was just fascinated with people. He hated most all of them, but he was still fascinated by the human race. And Dave was one interesting dude. He was close to asking Dave if the cool kid had a thing for Meenah Peixes, but Sollux's instincts told him that wasn't quite it. In fact, he had this lingering suspicion that he just couldn't shake... "Dude," he said, attracting Dave's attention. Sollux studied him a moment more before a smirk rose to his lips. "Karkat," he stated. Dave's eyebrow rose behind his glasses. Damn those shades...Sollux couldn't see what Dave's eyes held. "Rose," he replied, his tone laced with slight sarcasm. "What other names would you like to randomly blurt out?"

"You like him, Strider. You have a thing for Karkat Vantas," Sollux accused. Dave scoffed, shaking his head and directing his attention back to the glass in his hands. "You are so far off, man. Like, you're a Delta Airline plane departing from New York with a destination of Toronto, and guess which way you're going? South, bro. You're heading down South with that comment," Dave replied, and Sollux shook his head. "Dude, do you know me? I'm practically never wrong, and I'm definitely not wrong about this." "What business is it of yours, again? Please remind me, it seems to be escaping my mind..." "He's my closest friend, Dave," Sollux replied with a laugh. "Its completely my business." Dave then slammed the glass down on the bar-top, hard enough to almost make Sollux jump. It wasn't out of anger, it was more of a dramatic show. He turned and looked at Sollux, crossing his arms, leaning against the bar. " You really want to know, Captor? That's cool, I can dig it. Let me give you the low-down, my nizzle; I, Dave Strider, am a seven year old girl," Dave started, and Sollux looked at him with amused interest. Dave held his head up, pushing his shades further up on his nose before continuing. "And I've never wanted anything more than a hot-ass majestic stallion. But my parents, these bastards, they're like, 'No, Dave, you can't have a stallion, but we'll get you a puppy'. And I'm over here like, 'No, I don't want a puppy. I want that majestic stallion'. Do my parent's listen? No. These ass-suckers are like, 'Sorry, Dave, you can't have that stallion. How about a kitten?'. And I'm getting antsy up in here at this point, and I'm all, 'Listen up, you unforgiving shit-lickers. I want this majestic motherfucking stallion, and I don't know that I'm taking no for an answer today'. And you know what they say? These cold ass-wipes are alike '...Go to your room, Dave. No majestic stallion for you'." Sollux just stared at him, nodding slowly in understanding as Dave explained his predicament. "Long story short; You can get whoever, whenever, but the only one that you really want is off-limits and simply not going to happen." "Exactly. See? You speak my language, yo." "Also, you just called Karkat a majestic stallion," Sollux replied as he threw his head back and laughed. Dave responded with a shake of his head. He turned back to the bar, picking up the cup again. "This is not going to become a subject of conversation. You know, so now you can shut up about it. Capiche? Sound good? I think it sounds fantastic..." Sollux sighed. He wasn't going to force anything out of Dave, but he did feel bad for his friend. He didn't know how much Dave liked Karkat, but he knew for sure that Karkat loathed Dave. There was no chance on any plane that a relationship between them was ever going to exist, and Sollux could tell that Dave knew that. That must have been pure shit...Sollux sighed. "I'm sorry, Dave."

"It's whatever. Don't go all sentimental on me, though, dude. I'll be forced to ruin that face, and if I do, Eridan will surely ruin mine." Sollux couldn't help but to laugh. He reached back into his bag, pulling out the pop-tarts that he grabbed earlier. He tore open the wrapper, and before he could even recognize the flavor, Dave reached over and grabbed one of the pastries. He took a bite, and Sollux furrowed his eyebrows. Dave just looked back at him through his dark shades. "Strawberry is the best flavor, man," he informed. And with that, the subject of Dave and Karkat was dropped. They worked hard, having a busy, but not unbearable night. The hard work was enough to keep Sollux's mind off of the troubles that had been haunting him recently, and he hoped that Dave was able to be distracted for a while, too. Dave was a lot like him in that department; they both needed to keep busy to keep from dwelling on that which bothered them. That's probably why Dave really had no problem picking up Sollux's shifts lately. He really couldn't help but to feel bad for him. Dave was really a good guy. It was sort of surprising that he wanted Karkat though. Dave could literally have anyone that he wanted, so why was he choosing pretty much the only person that he couldn't have? Maybe he liked the challenge. Or maybe he just really couldn't help how he felt about the fuck-munch who was Sollux's best friend. Things were rolling along smoothly, and it was almost time to close before Sollux knew it. Only an hour left of their shift, and Sollux could go home to Eridan. He smiled at the thought. Of course, his happiness had to be interrupted, though, when Dave spoke up as things started slowing down. "Oh, hey, Sollux. Who is Delvin?" He asked, and Sollux froze in the middle of mixing a drink. He looked at Dave. "Excuse me?" He asked, and Dave rose an eyebrow. "I asked you who Delvin was," he replied, providing no further information. Sollux continued to look at him a moment before clearing his throat, returning his concentration back to his drink. "He's my father. Why do you ask?" Sollux nearly demanded, though his voice remained steady. Dave gave him a weird look. "I forgot to tell you that he came in the other day looking for you. He didn't tell me why he was here, he just said that he wanted to meet up with you soon," Dave informed, and Sollux sighed. Of course. That was absolutely wonderful. Honestly, the last thing that Sollux wanted right now was to see his father. And if he was going to see him, he'd have to tell Eridan and introduce the two. That would make the entire thing even better. "Oh. Yeah, okay thanks, Dave," he mumbled. Dave gave him a curious look, but said nothing as he returned to his work. Sollux served the drink that he had made with a forced smile as his thoughts made their way through his head. Maybe it wouldn't be so bad. He always psyched himself out before his reunions with his father, and they always turned out to be relatively okay. He

just...Sollux really didn't want to deal with the returned memories and the consistent apologies. It happened every single time. He just wanted to get past it. Oh, yeah, and then there was Eridan. If Eridan didn't lunge at Sollux's father, it would be a miracle. Sollux knew that Eridan would have trouble keeping his big mouth shut around his father...Not that he could blame Eridan if he didn't. Sollux didn't exactly keep his mouth shut with Eridan's father as well. Wow, it was just one thing after another. Was everything really so hard, or did Sollux just make it that way?

Chapter 24
Eridan sat on the couch, slouching with his chin in his hands and his elbows on his knees. He was pouting as well, eyebrows furrowed as he blew a puff of air upwards to push a lock of his messy hair out of his face. Sollux stood in front of him with his arms crossed, eyebrow raised. It had been a couple of weeks since Dave had mentioned that Sollux's father was looking to get in touch with him. As much as Sollux wanted to put this meeting off, he also wanted to get it over with. He had other things to deal with right now and he didn't want this to be yet another wrinkle that needed to be ironed. He was nearly perfectly fine with it, but the real trick was making Eridan comfortable... "Do you want to meet him? I'm not saying that you have to. I'm just saying that he'll be here around noon-which is soon-and if you want to join us, I'm having lunch with him and Mituna," Sollux offered, and Eridan huffed. "I don't see why you have to see him anyways," he complained. "You're old enough to decide whether you want to see your parents or not. Hell, I'm a prime example of that," he mumbled, looking down at his bare feet. Eridan had a point there. Sollux truly contemplated just dropping his father from his life on multiple occasions, but what would that really solve? It would seem like running away to Sollux and he had far too much pride to run away from his problems. Also, he understood that his father really was trying. Although Sollux didn't see him forgiving his father anytime in the near future, he couldn't deny that Delvin was working as hard as he could to salvage his broken family. Delvin Captor was a lonely man. He never remarried after the death of Sollux's mother and he only got to keep his children for a year after his wife's death until his kids were taken away. He was too unstable to watch over the two young boys and that was proven by Sollux alone. All Sollux had to do was slip his shirt up not even three inches to reveal the uncontainable depression and anger that Delvin held after the loss of his wife. Perhaps those reminders were the real reason as to why Sollux remained slightly distant from Eridan. Sollux sighed and pinched the bridge of his nose, not only at Eridan's worry, but also at the mere thoughts of his father. Delvin went through an extremely difficult and dark time, yes, and he released his anger in ways that were absolutely unforgivable, but he was trying to move past it as well. The only thing that he really wanted out of life now was the love of his children back. Mituna loved his father unconditionally, but then again, Mituna didn't

remember much of anything before the accident. Sollux was glad for Mituna's compassion towards their father, though... Because Sollux couldn't bring himself to look at his father as anything more than an acquaintance. "I mostly do it for Mituna, but I do it for my father, too," he admitted, and Eridan looked up at him in disgust. "Yeah? What does he deserve," he commented, and Sollux sighed again. "He tries to make up for being a giant bitch and I'm going to let him. Also, I just want my childhood behind me. Is that so wrong?" It was Eridan's turn to sigh this time. "I guess not," he admitted. He then looked up at Sollux, annoyed anger fading into what looked like guilty sadness. He looked as though he were the one who ruined Sollux's childhood...He stood up and slipped his arms around his boyfriend, pulling Sollux close. He buried his face in the crook of Sollux's neck, hugging him protectively. Sollux smiled a sad smile, slipping his arms around Eridan as well. "You're so cute, Eri," he teased, and Eridan scoffed, an annoyance on his voice that didn't seem too real. "Shut up, loser," he demanded. Sollux's smile widened. He pressed a kiss to Eridan's hair, then pulled back. Eridan's grasp only tightened, though, causing Sollux's eyebrows to rise. "Um, Eri? You can let go, now." "Nope," Eridan replied, hugging Sollux even tighter. Sollux winced, patting Eridan's shoulder blade. "Eridan," he choked. "This went from really sweet to really awkward. Also, I'm in pain." "It's not awkward, Sol, its fuckin' nice." "Either way, I can't breathe," Sollux laughed and Eridan smiled as he let go of his boyfriend. He pulled back and pressed a gentle kiss to Sollux's lips before stepping back with a sigh. "I do want to meet your father, Sol. If nothin', I'd feel more comfortable bein' with you there," he admitted. Sollux furrowed his eyebrows. He then sighed, sitting down on the couch. He yanked Eridan down next to him, who gave him a strange look. "Alright, Eri, here's the thing," Sollux began, as he yanked his legs up on the couch and threw them over Eridan's lap. Eridan looked unamused, but didn't move Sollux's legs. Sollux continued. "My childhood could have been better. But Eridan, it's over now, okay? There's nothing to protect me from. My father's not going to snap and chuck a bread roll across the table at me, I promise," he assured, smiling a playful smile. The smile wasn't returned. Sol's smile faded, and Eridan looked down at Sollux's legs. He stared at them a moment before biting his lip. "Hey, Sollux," he began slowly, his voice trailing off. Sollux's eyebrow slowly rose. "Oh shit. He said my full name. That's never good," he joked. Eridan only tensed further.

"Sol," he began again after a moment, slowly looking up at Sollux. Sollux's smile slowly faded once again, a tinge of fear flickering in his chest. Why was Eridan looking at him like that? "...Yeah, Eri?" He asked, thinking about removing his legs from Eridan's lap, but deciding against it. Eridan clenched his jaw, the tensing muscles visible on his face. Sollux swallowed hard, not moving as he stared into Eridan's blue eyes. What was wrong with him? He just needed to come right out and speak the hell up, because he was freaking Sollux the fuck out at this point. Eridan bit his lip, then sighed, relaxing again. "I'm just really sorry," he whispered. Sollux relaxed. He smiled a weak smile, reaching out towards Eridan's face. He stroked his cheek lightly, then shoved his face gently. "It's cool, asshole, don't worry about it," he chuckled. With that, a ridiculous knocking erupted through the apartment. Eridan jumped and nearly yelped, and Sollux just turned and looked at the door. He groaned, sliding away from Eridan as he got up. He ran his hand through his hair and sighed. "Mituna's here, the day's officially begun," Sollux grumbled with a light smile. Eridan hummed, rising to his feet and running his fingers through his hair as well. "I'm gonna take a shower, Sol," he informed, shuffling his feet as he walked towards the bathroom. Sollux looked at him, eyebrows furrowing slightly as he watched him walk off. This sucked. He didn't mean to put Eridan in a gloomy mood, and now he practically ruined his roommates day. Why did his boyfriend have to be such a sweet, selfless little shit? He groaned inwardly as he made his way towards the door, inhaling and exhaling slowly before he opened it. As soon as he did, Mituna scooped him up in a hug, and Sollux had to gasp. "Thol!" He shouted with a smile, hugging his brother as tightly as possible as Sollux struggled to breath. How did Latula do it? "Hi, Mit," he managed, and Mituna placed him back on the ground with a wide smile. Mituna's hair was pushed out of his eyes, which was a strange sight to see. His hair was always either covering his eyes completely, or just barely falling over his lashes. Today, though, it was completely pushed to the side, revealing his large and sparkling eyes. This unusual style was because Sollux and Mituna's father always made Mit make sure that his eyes were completely uncovered. They were such a deep color, resembling his mother's almost perfectly-a trait that Sollux unfortunately lacked with his peculiar eyes. Behind Mit stood Carter, who smiled a loving smile at Sollux as he stepped inside. His normally vibrant green eyes were slightly dimmed today. He didn't have to say anything on the days that Delvin visited to allude to the dislike and discomfort that he felt when he had to let his boys go. Technically they were Delvin's boys, but that's not how Carter liked to look at it. "Hey Sol," Carter said, sliding his arms around Sollux as soon as Mituna was no longer within three inches of his brother. Sollux smiled a half smile, hugging the other as well.

"Hey," he said softly, feeling a bit guilty about not visiting his parents as often as he probably should have. Carter tried not to bother him about it, but Sollux always got the occasional "Miss You" text and received the memo that he was expected to visit more. Carter hugged Sollux for as long as he could, while still getting away with not seeming like the clingy dad who still couldn't deal with his baby bird leaving the nest. When he pulled away, his eyes trailed over Sollux, checking him out for any changes. Sollux couldn't help but to laugh. "It hasn't been that long," Sollux informed, hiding his guilt as Carter pouted. "It has for me," he mumbled, pushing his bottom lip out and looking at Sollux over the rims of his thin glasses. Sollux smiled a sad smile. "You still have Mit, you know," he informed, and Carter nodded. "Thank God for that. I don't know where I'd be if both of my boys got smoking hot boyfriends and never came to see me!" He snapped playfully as his hands planted themselves on his hips, his pout shifting into a stubborn look. "I do; Jamaica," Sollux retorted with a laugh, and Carter couldn't help but to laugh too as he relaxed and shoved Sollux gently. "Smart-mouth," he accused lightly, a fond smile spreading over his lips. He then looked up and around, eyebrow rising. "Where's Eridan?" "Showering. He's coming with us today," he informed. Carter's smile immediately faded. Before he could reply, Mituna, who was opening and closing the curtains by the window, spun around and gasped. "Eri'th coming with uth?!" He lisped excitedly, and Sollux laughed, ignoring Carters worried look. "Yeah, he's going to meet father," Sollux confirmed, and Mituna managed to look even more excited. "Hell fucking yeth!" He shouted, immediately receiving a stern look from Carter. "Hey, mister!" He snapped, and Mituna's smile fell as he looked down at his shoes. "Thorry," he said, his voice just barely above a whisper. His hair fell into his eyes, once again hiding them from the world. Every time that Mituna apologized for something, Sollux felt a jolt of pain in his heart. He walked over to his brother, sliding his fingers under Mit's chin and gently pushing it up. Mituna's lips were tugged down in a heartbreaking frown of disappointment. Sollux furrowed his eyebrows, then unfurrowed them as he smiled. He blew Mituna's hair out of his face, immediately receiving a giggle from his brother. He pressed a kiss to the tip of Sollux's nose, then turned back and began to play with the curtains once again. Sollux sighed, turning back to face his adoptive father. Carter was still in place, one arm wrapped around the front of his torso, the other in front of his face as he pinched the bridge of his nose. His eyes were closed, and it was obvious that he was trying to calm down. Sollux resisted the urge to sigh again as he made his way over to the other man. "You've been doing this for eight years," Sollux reminded, and Carter let out a light laugh.

"Has it really been that long?" He asked sadly, removing his hand from his face as he looked up at his son. "It doesn't feel like it. And it doesn't get any easier," he informed, and Sollux smiled gently at his protective nature. An unreadable look then passed over Carter's face, a concerned light flickering in his eyes. "Are you worried about Eridan meeting Delvin?" He asked quietly, keeping his voice low enough for only Sollux to hear. "You know how conflicted he was about your adoption and, well, Monroe and I." Sollux groaned, massaging his temples. Did he have to bring it up? It was just another thing that added to the list. "He's going to have to get use to it," Sollux announced. He then smiled a brief smile. "And he'll quickly learn that if he bites, Eridan will bite back. Eridan doesn't take sass from anyone." "Not even you?" Carter asked with an amused smile. Sollux shrugged. "Sometimes, but not really," Sollux laughed, and Carter laughed too. His smile faded into a sad one, and he ran a hand fondly through Sollux's hair. "I hope that you guys have a good day, alright? At least try to enjoy yourself." "No promises," Sollux scoffed, and Carter chuckled. He pressed a kiss to Sollux's forehead, then turned to Mituna. "I'm leaving, Mit," he informed, and Mituna spun on his heel quickly. His arms immediately shot out as he almost lost his balance from the far-too-quick action, and Sollux's and Carter's eyes quickly widened. Mituna caught himself though and Carter was able to release the breath that had caught from the scare. Mituna clumsily made his way over to his adoptive father, hugging him lovingly. "Have fun today," Carter said, then pulled away and gave Sollux one last smile before making his way out. As soon as he was gone, Mituna turned and looked at Sollux with a smile. "Tholluckth I mithethed you tho much! Letth play chethh! Or muthic!" He suggested, and Sollux laughed. Mituna had a lot of problems that he never had before the accident, but he retained some of his talents. He even gained a few. He'd always been amazing at chess and that never changed, but before the accident he wasn't very musically inclined. In fact he had no interest in the arts, which was why his suddenly breathtaking skill in music came as a shock to everyone. He could play anything that he laid his fingers on. This thrilled both Carter and Monroe, who desperately wanted their children to be able to play at least one instrument. Mituna could play anything, but that just didn't suffice, which is why Sollux was forced to take piano lessons for almost eight years until he moved out. It was the only instrument that Sollux would agree on playing-mostly because he was most comfortable playing an instrument that reminded him of a keyboard-which was good enough for his parents. Of course he excelled, because, hell, Sollux excelled in pretty much everything that he put a little effort into. But he could never match up to Mituna.

"I don't have any instruments here, Mit, but we can play chess for a little until father gets here," he offered, and Mituna nodded. "What about Eri?" He asked, and Sollux looked back towards the bathroom. He smiled slightly. "He'll be in there until we have to go, I can promise you that," he chuckled. Mituna didn't get why his brother was laughing, but he shrugged and laughed too as he went in search for the chess set. They sat down and played chess for a solid hour, and it played out as it usually did; Sollux would spend a respectable amount of time thinking through each move, while Mituna would move his piece within the first half of a second of his turn. As soon as Sollux made his first move, Mituna knew every move that he would make there after, and he owned the game. Sollux had never stood a chance against his brother, and it got to the point where Sollux had much more fun making ridiculous moves that held no logical sense whatsoever. It was a bit mean, but it was so funny to see his brother struggle to understand Sollux's most random moves. It threw Mituna off, and got him frustrated to the point that it was he who spent a good amount of time planning his moves. Of course he would still win, but it would still trip him up in the cutest way. Currently Mitunas eyebrows were furrowed in an intense concentration. His face was only inches from the board, his eyes jetting back and forth between pieces. He sat cross-legged, completely still and in place as he became consumed in his zone. Moments like these reminded Sollux of the old Mituna. Sollux loved his brother no matter what, but he couldn't deny that sometimes he missed the days when he actually had an older brother to watch after him and pick on him and help him whenever he needed it. Now, it was Mituna that needed watching over. Mituna didn't dare pick on Sollux because he loved his brother far too much, and Sollux could hardly dream of hurting his brother. It was nice to have that relationship on most occasions, but there were those days when Sollux missed his older brother. "Still having fun, Mit?" Sollux teased. Mituna didn't move. He barely even acknowledged his brothers existence in that moment. "Rook to B-thicth, but why? Knight to D-theven and the checked king," He muttered to himself. Sollux couldn't follow Mituna's thought train at all, which made the game even more fun. "Mituna, you do know that-" "Thhut the heck up, Tholluckth, I'm going to figure it the frick out on my own! I'm not a nogood panthy without a fricking brain, I can figure a thimple crappy game out on my dang own!" He shouted in interruption, refusing to let Sollux give away anything, though Sollux was only going to admit his lazy moves. Sollux bit back a smile, watching his brother with an amused fondness as Mituna did everything in his power not to swear. "But Mit-" "Oh! I thee what you did! You tried to thneek patht my bithhop to corner my queen while i wath dithtracted with the knight!" He exclaimed in accomplishment, quick to make his next move. Sollux let out a sigh, smiling fondly at his brother.

"You got me," he played along, resisting a chuckle as Mituna beamed in pride. It was then that a soft knock echoed through the apartment, immediately ripping the smile off of Sollux's face. Mituna, on the other hand, jumped up so quickly that his knee nailed the corner of the chess board and sent the pieces flying. Sollux jolted back, using his hands to cover his face from a catapulted pawn that might have come his way. "Mit," he mumbled in complaint, his voice overlapping Mituna's. "Dad!" Mituna practically shrieked, running over to and flinging open the door. Delvin Captor looked up, smile forming as soon as he saw his eldest son. "Mituna-..." he began, unable to finish as Mituna threw his arms around his biological father. Delvin barely stumbled back, unable to restrain his chuckle at his son's affectionate nature. Sollux barely glanced up, expression not changing by the sight as he sat on his knees and proceeded to pick up the fallen pieces. He allowed Mituna and their father to talk while he cleaned up, inhaling deeply, then exhaling slowly. He was amazed in himself how far he had gotten these past couple weeks. He hadn't taken a single pill, and he was as composed as ever. That rarely ever happened to him, especially not through this span of time. Sollux couldn't help but to know that it had something to do with Eridan, and how happy the Aquarius made him. Hopefully all that wouldn't disappear today around his father. "Hello, Sollux," Delvin's voice called softly as he closed the door behind him. Sollux tensed at the sound of his name on his father's voice. He placed the chess box on the coffee table, then stood and faced his father. Delvin was unmistakably Sollux and Mituna's father. His features held everything that their's held, more so in Sollux's case. While Mituna's eyes were round and a sparkling blue like their mothers, Sollux's were shaped so much more like his fathers. His thin nose was like his fathers, his thin dark eyebrows, his sharp and angled jaw...Sollux's hair fell differently than Delvin's did, but Delvin's brown hair was cut much shorter than both of his sons. Overall, Sollux and Delvin were unmistakably related, and Sollux hated it. "Father," Sollux replied curtly, staring straight back into Delvin's brown eyes. Delvin stared back, gaze unwavering for only the briefest moment until it fell. Sollux couldn't help but to feel a bit of pride at that, though his pride mixed with guilt. He knew more than anyone that his father tried. He did everything he could, and he bent to Sollux's every will without complaint or question. He wanted Sollux's acceptance more than could be explained, but Sollux had yet to give it to him. He wouldn't deny him, but he wouldn't accept him either. Delvin looked conflicted for a moment, but seemed to get over his conflicted feelings as he softly made his way across the room and over to his youngest son. Sollux tensed the closer his father got, and even further when his father slid his arms around him. The warmth that his fathers hold contained was not at all welcomed by Sollux, and he was very reluctant to awkwardly and distantly hug his father back. Delvin knew that Sollux only returned the hold to be civil, but any affection, faint or not, seemed welcome to him.

"How have you been, Sollux?" Delvin asked softly as he pulled back, his hands still on Sollux's arms as he looked over Sollux's face. Sollux resisted the urge to step back as he stared back at his father. He always looked so much older every time that Sollux saw him... "I've been fine," he replied, not exactly going into detail. Delvin nodded. "That's good. And school?" "School's fine." "How about work?" "Work's fine, too." Delvin furrowed his eyebrows, trying to hide the hurt that he was obviously feeling. His hands slowly dropped from Sollux's arms and he stepped back, clearing his throat. He nodded, and Sollux nearly groaned out of guilt, running his fingers through his hair. "School's really easy. I haven't faced anything I couldn't handle, yet, and Dave helps me out a lot at work. I've actually been..." He thought about Eridan. "...I've actually been doing really well, lately." Delvin smiled slowly in thanks, nodding at Sollux's replies. Sollux felt a little better, but at the same time he felt rather annoyed. Eridan was right; Sollux owed his father nothing. "That's good to hear. Have you made up with Aradia?" Delvin asked, and Sollux couldn't help but to wince. Delvin loved Aradia. She was gorgeous, logical, and she made Sollux happy when she was around. Delvin and Aradia got along beautifully, and would spend days here and there with each other on their own time when neither of them were with Sollux. After the breakup, Delvin was very upset to hear that they no longer even spent time together. "Not exactly. The last time we spoke was weeks ago when I was at work, and that was the first time that we had spoken since things ended. It wasn't exactly a heart-felt conversation, either," Sollux informed, and Delvin nodded sadly. "I'm sorry to hear that," he assured, met immediately with a comment from Mituna as Mituna made his way over to them with a smile. "Itth okay, dad, Tholluckth ithnt alone or anything!" He piped up, and Sollux winced again. "Um, Mit-" "Heth got a really nithe boyfriend!" Mituna informed, and Sollux inhaled sharply, gaze shifting to his fathers face. Well, that subject was brought up quickly. Delvin's breath audibly caught in his throat, his eyes widening in shock. He looked at Mituna for a moment before slowly turning to look at Sollux, who tilted his head to study his fathers reaction. He looked noticeably paler than before, and Sollux almost laughed. "When he says boyfriend," Delvin began, looking uncomfortable and very concerned. Sollux held his chin up as Eridan did when he grew stubborn. "Yes, he means the guy that I'm currently seeing," Sollux assured, and Delvin's eyes widened further. "You...You mean..."

"Yes, father, the guy that I am seeing. Guy as in male. Male as in dick in between his legs. Do I have to explain it further?" Sollux snapped, quickly getting fed up. He would not have Delvin behaving this way in front of Eridan. "I-I'm just confused, Sollux," Delvin explained quickly, shaking his head, looking desperate to avoid Sollux's anger. "I just wasn't aware that you felt... those feelings. You never alluded to having this problem before..." "Problem?!" Sollux exclaimed in shock and disgust, and Delvin's eyes widened further. "When I say problem-!" "You mean being gay," Sollux finished, cheeks flushing in anger. This was escalating quickly, and Mituna looked scared. He hated it when his brother and his father fought. "Don't worry, Dad, Eridan ith really, really nithe. He thkateboardedth with me and watcheth movieth with Tholluckth," he assured, not understanding what a different problem could have been. Delvin nodded quickly, holding his hands up. "No, no, I'm sure that he is, I just don't understand why Sollux-" "Likes a guy?" Eridan's voice chimed, causing all heads to turn in his direction. There he stood, in all his glory, hands on his hips and hip jutted out. He wore ridiculously tight blue jeans, as usual, with a pale yellow jacket and a baby blue and white striped shirt underneath. He wore many assorted rings, bracelets, and necklaces. His brown steam-punk boots came up past his ankle, adding to his already far too hipster outfit. Nevertheless, Sollux couldn't help but to smile at his hot boyfriend. Delvin's smile didn't match his sons as he looked over Eridan, who approached with a smile that was way too happy. "Eridan Ampora. Pleasure meetin' ya', sir," Eridan introduced himself, grabbing Delvin's hand and shaking it firmly. Wow, what the hell was this? Eridan shook like a leaf in a hurricane when he had to meet Sollux's family, and now he was as confident as Donald Trump in a business meeting. Sollux definitely hadn't expected this attitude from his boyfriend. "Um, Delvin Captor. It's nice meeting you too, Eridan. I'm sorry that you had to hear-" "Oh, don't worry about it at all, Delvin," Eridan interrupted before Delvin could finish, waving Delvin's previous comment off with his hand. "People are entitled to their own opinions," he added with a smile. He then turned to Sollux, smiling lovingly. "Sorry to keep you waitin', babe," he drawled, sliding his arm around Sollux's waist and pulling him close. Babe? Eridan then leaned in and pressed a deep kiss to Sollux's lips, causing Sollux's eyes to widen. He nearly blushed as Eridan parted his lips, kissing him in an undeniably passionate manner that was no doubt an act of show. It quickly clicked in Sollux's mind that Eridan was rubbing their relationship in Delvin's face. That son of a bitch... Sollux nearly laughed at Eridan's ridiculous show as his fingers just barely slipped under Sollux's shirt, his thumb stroking Sol's hip. Sollux had to pull back to keep from cackling. "Okay, okay, Eri, not in front of my father," Sollux smiled, placing his hands on Eridan's chest and pushing him back gently. Eridan smiled back, the mischievousness glinting in his eyes.

"Sorry, babe, you know that I can't resist," he replied, pressing one last meaningful kiss to Sollux's lips before pulling back, smiling at Delvin, who looked downright uncomfortable. "Um-...Um, well, we should probably go so that they don't give up our reservations," Delvin stuttered quickly, unsure at all how to react to his son's unexpected relationship. Sollux nodded, unable to hide his smile as he walked over and grabbed his jacket. Eridan followed, his smile having faded as he picked up his keys. "Hey, there's no use for that, Eridan, I can drive," Delvin assured, pulling his keys out of his pocket as he studied Eridan. Mituna smiled, slipping his hand into his father's free one. Meanwhile, Eridan had tensed, eyebrows furrowing as he turned and looked at Delvin. He looked at him a moment before clearing his throat, confusing Sollux as his playful manner had faded. "Yeah, I was thinkin' that maybe it would be smarter if I drive us," Eridan practically accused. Delvin's eyes widened and he nearly dropped his keys as Sollux's smile shattered, his head snapping in the direction of Eridan. What the holy roller hell? That was too ridiculously accurate to have been a coincidence. Not only that, but even if it was a coincidence, that was a weird as hell thing to say. Sollux didn't remember ever telling Eridan about the accident, and now he was practically flaunting the past that he should have no knowledge of! There was no way that he could have figured that out without either asking anyone in Sollux's family, or Karkat, and none of them would have spoken about it. This was just like Eridan's dad knowing about Sollux's father... Sollux cleared his throat quickly, and his father looked pale as he also tried to recover from the uncomfortable moment. Eridan just glanced down at his feet, then to ceiling, then over at Mituna as he tried to avoid Sollux's harsh gaze. "Um, Sollux, what-" Delvin began, unable to finish as Sollux cut him off. "Father, go out to the car with Mituna. Eridan and I will be down in a sec," he said sweetly, smiling at Delvin, then over at Eridan. Eridan winced at the sugar-coated tone of Sollux's voice, though Delvin didn't seem to notice, believing that Sollux just wanted to be alone with Eridan for a moment. At this thought, Delvin flinched, leading his eldest son out the door as they made their way down to the parking-lot. As soon as they had left, Sollux spun and looked at Eridan with wide eyes. "What the hell was that?" He snapped, and Eridan winced once again as he looked up at his boyfriend. "...What?" He asked innocently, eyes wide with an innocence that Sollux was sure was masking some hidden emotion. "Don't you even 'what' me! What the hell did you make that comment for? What makes you think that it would be smarter for you to drive instead of my father?" Sollux demanded, and Eridan shook his head, eyes wide with confusion. "I don't know what you mean, Sol. I just thought that even though my car is a piece of shit, it's bigger than his Volkswagen. It'd be smarter for all of us to ride in mine than in his," he assured, and Sollux's expression slowly relaxed into guilt as Eridan tilted his head curiously. "Why are you so upset about that?"

Oh, shit...Eridan was just being his typical sweet self, and Sollux practically accused him of being an asshole. Not only that, but now Eridan was going to be suspicious about the connection between Delvin and a moving vehicle. How was Sollux supposed to explain that? "Fuck," Sollux murmured, relaxing further as he ran his fingers guiltily through his hair. "Eri, I'm really sorry that I yelled at you like that. I just...I thought that-" "It's okay, Sol," Eridan interrupted, shaking his head as he stepped closer to his boyfriend. "As long as you're okay, it's okay. You are okay, right?" He asked with a raised eyebrow. Sollux nodded slowly, looking down at his feet, feeling like an ass. "Yeah, I'm fine. I feel like an asshole though," he replied honestly, and Eridan just looked at him in concern. "Do you want to talk about it?" He asked slowly, tilting his head to get a look at Sollux's face. Sollux shook his head. "Not really. Thanks though," he said with a sigh. He looked up to fix his gaze on Eridan's, immediately met with Eridan pressing a loving kiss to Sol's lips. "Let's go. I was havin' way too much fun shovin' our relationship in your father's face, and I want to do that some more," Eridan admitted, grabbing Sollux's hand. Sollux couldn't help but to smile. Eridan was so damn perfect. His quick subject change to help Sollux avoid any ill-feelings was pretty obvious, and Sollux could just kiss him over and over and over again. How could he have thought that Eridan would have known about the accident? Eridan would have had to pry into Sollux's business, and he never would have done that. A warmth that frightened Sollux bloomed in his chest as they walked out of the apartment hand in hand. He quickly forced that back as he looked up into the perfect face of his boyfriend. How could he feel this much for one person? Eridan allowed Delvin to drive, which made Sollux even more comfortable. He even seemed to be giving Delvin a chance, which was just absolutely amazing. Delvin seemed really grateful for that, but that didn't make him any less uncomfortable. He would flinch every time that Eridan would sweet-talk Sollux, hold his hand, stroke his arm, push back his hair, kiss him dramatically...Sollux didn't play along, but he didn't exactly not encourage it. Even partway through lunch, Eridan would gaze at Sollux with batting lashes and a ridiculous smile that was so difficult not to laugh at. Mituna got a kick out of it, but Delvin just sat in place, completely still, pretending not to notice. He carried on happy and indulging conversations with Mituna, and awkward and cautious conversations with Sollux and Eridan. He practically interrogated Eridan throughout the meal, which was extremely annoying, but Eridan didn't seem to mind as he answered Delvin's questions as skillfully as possible. Meanwhile, his fingers were absentmindedly traveling up and down Sollux's thigh as he spoke. Delvin pretended as though he didn't notice. Overall, Sollux didn't absolutely loathe the meal. Mostly because Eridan was there to spice things up, but also because Delvin wasn't trying so fucking hard to be perfect around Sollux. He literally walked on eggshells around his youngest son, and It pissed Sollux off on more than one occasion. Whether or not Delvin was different this time because of his discomfort with Eridan, Sollux didn't know, and he didn't care.

When they had driven back to Sollux's apartment, Mituna and Eridan were making their way up the stairs and back to the room when Delvin stopped Sollux to speak with him. Eridan looked uncomfortable with the idea, but Sollux nodded him along to go up and keep Mituna company. Eridan reluctantly did so, glancing back to check on the two as he made his way into the apartment. Sollux and his father stood in an awkward silence for a while before Delvin cleared his throat and spoke up. "So, you and, um. You and Eridan seem to be very happy with one another," he pointed out, and Sollux nodded. "We are," he confirmed, looking into his father's eyes as Delvin stared back. He cleared his throat again, eyes darting away from Sollux's. "And how long has that lasted?" He asked, almost with worry. Sollux rose an eyebrow, studying his father closely. "We've been dating for about two months, and he's lived here for about three. We went to high school together, too, and..." Sollux looked away, resisting a smile. "We pretty much liked each other then, as well." "Wait, what?" Delvin questioned, looking up at Sollux as Sollux looked back up at him. "You've liked guy's since high school, and you never told me about this? This is a rather important issue, don't you think?" Sollux narrowed his eyes. "Excuse me?" It was then that Delvin broke, letting out a groan of frustration that made Sollux's eyebrows raise. Delvin raked his fingers through his hair, beginning to pace back and forth in front of his son. This display of emotion wasn't common to see in his father, and Sollux couldn't help but to be surprised. "I just never thought that I'd have to deal with this. I mean, when you're a parent with young kids, I suppose you always think about the possibility of them being gay, but you never expect it to really happen!" "Um, Father, I'm not-..." "And here you are, having homosexual relations with that-...that-," Delvin stuttered, no longer pacing as he motioned up to the window of Sollux's apartment. Rage sparked in Sollux as Sollux's eyebrows furrowed. "My boyfriend, you mean?" He snapped, and Delvin huffed and nodded. "Yes, precisely. I don't know how this happened, you never showed any interest in boys!" He then paused in thought, looking off as his mind raced. "It had to have been those...other parents of yours..." Sollux's eyes widened, rage now bursting into a full on flame. Oh, there were just some things that one could not bring into an argument with Sollux, and his parents were one of those things. And the fact that Delvin wasblaming them for Sollux's relationship with Eridan just made Sollux teeter on the edge of sanity. This was the most emotion that Delvin had shown in years, and he was actually expressing his own opinions, which was great and all, but on the wrong subject.

"Oh shit, you're right, they brain-washed me. No, even worse-! They sneezed on me, and I caught the gay. How could you have possibly allowed this to happen to me? I'm practically infected!" Sollux snapped, and Delvin shook his head with a sigh. "That's not what I mean, Sollux-..." "And as for you never knowing about my attraction to the male species, that's because I never have been attracted to guys before Eridan," Sollux informed afterwards, and Delvin looked at him with a confused expression as one of his eyebrows slowly rose. "So...this thing between you two isn't real?" He guessed, and Sollux nearly slapped him across the face. "What?!" Sollux barked, and Delvin flinched slightly. "Well, if you've never been attracted to guys and you still aren't, that means that you're not gay. Unless, you're saying that Eridan is just a rare occurance, in which case isn't possible," he stated matter-of-factly, and Sollux's fingers slowly curled into fists. "I cannot believe the utter bullshit spewing from your mouth right now. Like, your inane babble is just atrocious and its literally physically painful for me to listen to. You have no fucking clue how fucking stupid you sound right now. Who gives three fucks if he's a guy or a girl or a little bit of both or-or neither! Who cares? I don't feel for him because he's a guy, I feel for him because he's an amazing human being who makes me happy! Love is fucking love, why does there have to be stupid shit like gender to act as a barrier for that?" "Wait, wait, wait! You're in love with him?" Delvin demanded with wide eyes, and Sollux huffed in frustration. "And what if I was? That's not the fucking point here. You know what? Nevermind, It's none of your business," Sollux spat, and Delvin's eyebrows furrowed. "I'm your dad, Sollux," he informed. Sollux's jaw dropped as he looked at his father. He stared at him for a good half a minute before he burst out laughing, and Delvin's eyebrows furrowed again, this time with hurt. "Are you? Wow, sur-fucking-prise!" "Sollux..." "No," Sollux interrupted suddenly, his laughter and smile diminishing. He stepped forward, face barely two inches from his fathers, whose eyes widened with shock. "My dad died when my mother did. You are not my dad, no matter how hard you fucking try," he hissed, and Delvin's eyes immediately widened. It didn't take long until they filled with tears, and Sollux had to ignore the flicker of guilt inside of his heart. "Wait! Sollux, please," he begged, and Sollux shook his head. "Go." "But, Sollux!" "Now!" Sollux's mind faded out for a second as it worked to register everything that was happening. He had just experienced a lash of anger that he hadn't experienced in a long time, and he immediately began to regret ignoring his medication. His mind shut down then rebooted,

and when it did, he opened his eyes to find that he was alone in the parking lot. Delvin's car was gone, and Sollux was left standing there, fists still tight, though he felt much more calm than he had two minutes ago. He sighed, running his hands over his face as he turned and made his way to his apartment. That got far too out of hand, but frankly, Sollux didn't care. If Delvin wasn't willing to accept Sollux's relationship, Sollux wouldn't be willing to accept him as a father. That was it. He was so done. It was a bit hard to explain to Mituna why their father had left, but in the end, Mituna was okay with it. Eridan tried to question Sollux about what had happened, but Sollux waved it away, and Eridan was willing to leave it at that. His boyfriend offered to drive Mituna home, and Sollux gratefully accepted that offer. After Eridan and Mit had left, Sollux walked over to the couch and fell straight down on it with a groan. He laid there with his face in the cushions for a while before rolling on to his back, looking up at the ceiling. He laid there in thought for a long while, a bit surprised that it took a legitimate fight with his father to get him to contemplate his life. When he thought really hard about it, things really weren't as terrible as he made them out to be. He might have had some shitty stuff happen to him in his life, and continue to happen, but he had some really great things in his life too. College came easy to him, he was pursuing a career that he knew would make him happy, he had great friends, an overall fantastic family, and...and he had Eridan. Was he upset? No, not really. Was he happy? Sollux smiled. Yeah, maybe a little.

Chapter 25
It was so incredibly typical; when Sollux was finally finding happiness in more than just one thing in his life, Eridan was moping and down day after day. After Sollux was able to express his emotions-in a relatively healthy way, for Sollux-he felt as though a lot had been lifted off of him and he was a bit lighter. Even though he was a bit more positive, he couldn't help but to wonder what would come and knock him down. Eridan's mood was enough to do so, but Sollux just kept staying positive. He tried to help Eridan to cheer up but it didn't seem to be working. He wasn't sure what was wrong with his boyfriend, but he didn't prod. He just made sure that Eridan knew that he was there if Eri needed to talk about anything, and that was that. As for today, Karkat was over "working on some college work" with Sollux, but really he just ended up talking about Meenah pretty much the entire time. They ended up moving their date to a concert instead of the bar, and Sollux couldn't help but to be a bit disappointed. Not only was he curious to see Karkat and Meenah together, but he wanted to see Meenah again too. "KK, if you mention how hot she is one more time, I may vomit myself into a coma," Sollux informed, and Karkat only shrugged with a smile. "I can't help it, dude, she's pretty amazing."

"Amazing because she's hot, or...?" Karkat snickered. "For your information, I'm not a shallow dick, Sollux." "Oh? There's more?" Sollux asked with a laugh, scrolling through Google in search of some essay information. "Yes, there's more! She's got a rocking personality too. She's pretty bad-ass, but she's also really cute in her own crazy way," Karkat spoke with a smile, and Sollux batted his lashes at his friend. "Aw," he cooed, and Karkat scowled. "Oh shut up, gay-wad." "Ooh, gay-wad, that's a good one." "Speaking of gay, how did Delvin take yours and Eridan's relationship?" "Wonderfully. He behaved like a four year old child who was afraid of his vegetables, and I had to punish him by telling him to piss off," Sollux replied smoothly, actually beginning to work on his paper. Karkat's joking manner faded, and his eyebrows rose. "Whoa. Seriously?" "Hell yeah. How are your parents, by the way?" Sollux asked, looking up at Karkat while he continued typing. Karkat shrugged, leaning back into the couch lazily. "Mom's cool, clingy, and Dad's as crabby as usual. Mom wants me home and Dad wants me to keep being independent, so they clash a lot. Overall, I guess they're pretty cool," he informed with a yawn, and Sollux gave him a look. "You've really got a great family, KK" "Yeah, they're okay, I guess," he admitted with a shrug, and Sollux shook his head. He would never understand what it's like... "Hey, dude, do you have a flash drive that I could borrow?" Karkat asked, grabbing his laptop off of the coffee table. He had barely typed anything before going off on his hormonal rant about Meenah. Sollux looked at him with a raised eyebrow. "Where's yours?" He asked, and Karkat shrugged. "I let Meenah borrow it," he replied, and Sollux smiled, wiggling his eyebrows as he set his laptop aside and rose to his feet. "Oh? And what was on that flash drive for Meenah, KK?" He teased, and Karkat rolled his eyes. "Just let me borrow a flash drive, you sick bastard," he demanded, and Sollux laughed. He walked out of the living room and to his room, walking to his desk with a yawn. He searched through it, eyebrows furrowing curiously. He could have sworn that he had a spare flash drive around. He searched through his drawers, then looked up on top, pushing his mess of stuff around as he looked. He paused as he saw the dry poppy that laid on top of his desk, and he smiled lovingly. He fucking loved that stupid flower... He turned and walked over to his beside tables, searching through both. He then sighed, looking around his room in annoyance. Where the hell? Whatever, it didn't matter, maybe Eridan had an extra one. He walked out into the hall, walking across it to Eridan's room. "I'm aging out here, Captor!"

"Go suck a dick, KK." "I think I'll leave that to you, Sollux!" Sollux rolled his eyes with a smile as he walked into his boyfriends room. Damn, it was so pristine in here. Like, it didn't even look as though anyone had slept in here. Ever. Sollux had to chuckle at his boyfriend's OCD as he walked over to Eridan's desk. He looked on top before opening the top drawer, digging through it. Fucking nothing. He then opened the bottom drawer, eyebrows shooting up when he saw the file. Oh shit. That's the file that Cronus had forced upon Eridan weeks ago. Sollux looked at it, chewing on his bottom lip curiously. What could possibly be in it...He picked it up, looking it over before shaking his head. Nope, nope! That's totally not going to happen. There was no way that he was going to mistreat Eridan's trust and go through his shit. Eridan's life was his business, and it was only Sollux's if Eridan wanted it to be. This was Sollux's main thought as he began to put it away, having it halfway back in the drawer before pausing once again, freezing as he saw the writing on the tab. Sollux M. Captor. Sollux was frozen in place. Why did Eridan have a file with his name on it? Hell, why did Cronus have a file with his name on it? Alright, Eridan's business aside, Sollux had to check out the file now. He pulled it back out and flipped it open. As soon as he did, nausea punched him in the gut. His eyes had widened and his lips had parted in shock, his heart skipping from seventy beats a minute to about three thousand beats a minute. Everything literally disappeared around him, and he had to slowly back up and collapse onto Eridan's bed as his eyes zipped over the pages in the files. Holy hell. Just, just holy hell. The first page had a picture of Sollux from his senior year in the top left corner, his signature directly beneath. His name was in bold print at the top of the page, and the rest of the paper and the papers after it held details that made Sollux absolutely sick. It was his life. Literally, it was practically his entire life. It had details about his grades since kindergarten, his medication, his therapists, his doctors notes, his mothers death, the accident, his adoption...everything. His life was on these papers in this file, and this file was in Eridan's desk. He felt sick, hurt, and betrayed. His throat felt constricted and his air supply felt limited. How could Eridan do this to him? There were personal details in this file that even Sollux had forgotten. How? How did Cronus get it? Is this how Adrian knew about Sollux's father? It had to be, and humiliation rocketed through Sollux's entire body. The Ampora's now knew more about Sollux than Sollux's own brother did. "Damn it, Sollux, what the hell are you getting off to in there?" Karkat called, and Sollux was jolted back to reality by his best friends voice. He looked up from the file, slamming it quickly shut as he concentrated on his breathing. He needed to remain calm, cool, and collected... He rose to his feet quickly, jaw clenched as he gripped the file so hard that he felt pain in his fingers. He quickly stomped out of the room and into his own, slamming the file down on

his desk. Karkat must have heard the commotion, because he had slid off the couch and was cautiously making his way down the hall. "Sollux...? Dude, are you okay?" He asked, pausing in Sollux's door as Sollux stood in place, still trying to breath. Karkat's eyes widened as he saw Sollux's position, his fists clenched, his entire body tense. "Hey, Sollux, are you alright?" He asked worriedly, concern getting the best of him as he walked over and laid a hand on Sollux's back. As soon as he did, Sollux shrugged it off and turned, shaking his head in immense anger. "I'm sorry, KK, I need you to go." Karkat's eyes widened. "Go? Why? What's up?" "I can't. I just," he shook his head again. "I really can't talk about it. I'm literally about to punch someone in the face right now, I can't handle..." He had to stop talking as his thoughts and emotions swarmed within him like a hive of angry bees on some drugged up psycho honey shit. Karkat looked legitimately concerned, eyes wide as he looked over his best friend. "Sollux, when's the last time that you've taken your meds?" He asked with worry as his brown orbs rose to meet Sollux's rage filled eyes. "Please leave, KK." "I mean it, Sollux, when's the last time-" "A while ago, okay?! But I had been doing fine and there wasn't any bullshit to fuck things up!" Sollux shouted, his arms shooting out and flailing about as he spoke. One of his hands caught his lamp, sending it crashing to the floor with a ridiculous sound effect. Any normal person would have backed up at Sollux's sudden rage, but Karkat was far too use to this. He barely flinched as he reached out to Sollux. "Sollux, listen to me, okay?" He began smoothly, not getting the chance to finish as the sound of front door opening could be heard in the front of the apartment. "Hey, Sol," Eridan called out, his voice loud, though still holding his bland and drained tone. Sollux's fingers curled into fists once again at the sound of Eridan's voice, and Karkat sighed at the sight. "I'll leave if you want me too," he said quickly. "If you're sure that you don't need me here..." "Thanks, but you don't want to stay here for this," Sollux hissed, and Karkat swallowed hard, mouth snapping shut. He nodded, slowly walking backwards towards the door. "I don't know what's up, but I expect a full report later, you got me?" He informed, turning on his heel as he made his way out the door. Sollux snatched the file from his desk, following Karkat as they made their way into the living room. Eridan was putting his lifeguard bag down with a heavy sigh, running his fingers through his fucking hair. He looked up to see Karkat, smiling slightly. He was about to greet the other when he looked over at Sollux, his eye catching the file in Sollux's hands. Eridan froze in place, lips parted, eyes widening at the sight of it. He looked as though his heart had stopped, his eyes leaving the file immediately and shooting up to meet Sollux's hard gaze.

Karkat quickly gathered his things and made for the door, walking by Eridan, giving him a look of pity. "Bye Eridan," he said sadly, glancing back at Sollux once more. "Bye Kar," Eridan squeaked, wincing as Karkat shut the door softly behind him. He looked as though he'd rather be anywhere other than there at the moment, his gaze wavering as it locked with Sollux's. Sollux stared at him for a long time, the silence between them worse than a scream in the middle of the night. Sollux just looked at him for a good few minutes before smacking the file down on the coffee table, receiving a wince from Eridan. "You have a lot of fucking explaining to do." Chapter 26 "You went through my stuff?" Eridan had the nerve to exclaim out of a desperate fear. Sollux's jaw dropped, nearly smacking his shoes on the way down. His eyes widened and his fingers curled up to meet his palms. Son of a BITCH. "Ha, no, I don't think so, Eridan! You have no right to be angry!" Sollux snapped, resisting the urge to advance on his boyfriend. Eridan let out a heavy sigh, shoulders slumping as he looked at Sollux with worry. He stepped forward, then paused, stepping back again. Smart guy. "Sol, I can explain everythin' about this," he started, wringing his wrists as he glanced down at the file, then back up at Sollux before continuing. "Wait, did you read it?" He asked slowly, and Sollux let out a half laugh. "Yeah, I read it, Eridan. How about you?" He demanded, and Eridan shook his head quickly, eyes wide as his glasses slipped down his nose. "No! No, I swear I didn't-" "Don't lie to me, Eridan!" Sollux yelled, anger flaring, then expanding against his will. Eridan's mouth snapped shut and he stepped back further, back bumping the door. Sollux hated seeing Eridan like this; afraid of him and his temper. He never wanted his emotions to come in between him and a relationship ever again, and it was as if his awful memories were replaying in real life. Instead of Aradia, though, Eridan stood in her place. But Sollux had no control. Whatever happened was beyond his control now. "I'm not lyin' Sol. I didn't read it," Eridan tried, and Sollux narrowed his eyes in distrust. "Any of it?" Eridan tensed. "Well, maybe a little," he admitted. Sollux shook his head with a laugh. He turned around, walking away with a smile as he raked his fingers through his hair. He couldn't help the second laugh that escaped at the typicality of the situation. At the typicality of his fucking life. Nevertheless, as quickly as it came, his mood spun in a different direction as he did. He spun back around, eyes blazing as his fingers formed fists once again. "Why? Why did you read it? Why the hell did you have to be exactly like everyone else?" Sollux yelled, voice bouncing off the walls and smacking Eridan across the face. The

Aquarius flinched, looking as though he were in physical pain as Sollux's anger directed itself towards him and him alone. "Sol, please," he begged, "I wasn't goin' to read it. I promise that I didn't want to read it at all, I just couldn't let my brother have it," he tried to explain. Sollux continued glaring at him, and Eridan sighed, finally plucking up the courage to make his way across the room and to his boyfriend. "I don't know how to explain it, Sol, but I hated the thought of Cronus havin' it. I hated thinkin' that he had more information about you in the palm of his hands than...than I had. I don't want him knowin' anythin' about you. I don't want my father knowin' anythin' about you either-" "Oh, so Cronus does tell your father about me? Well, that certainly explains a lot!" Sollux snapped. The sweetness and desperation in Eridan's eyes diminished. The muscles in his face relaxed, his eyebrows returning to their comfortable place as his eyes widened slightly. He just stared at Sollux a moment before speaking. "What do you mean, Sol?" He asked slowly, and Sollux couldn't help but to laugh again, his laughter filled with anger. "I mean that it would explain why your father knew about mine. How would I know that, you may ask? Well, I'll tell you!" Sollux snapped. "I spoke to your wonderful father the day that we went to the flower shop, Eridan. I spoke to him and he threatened me if anything were to happen to you. Which, wow, came as a surprise to me, Eridan! Since when were you in any kind of danger?" Eridan just stood there, lips parted in shock, eyes as round as golf balls. He looked completely distant for a moment, emotions swimming like minnows in his watery irises. Fear was the most vibrant, but an anger flickered and took fears place as the dominant emotion. It was Eridan's turn to have his temper take control, his position matching Sollux's as fists were formed. "You-! You talked to my dad?!" He snapped, cheeks filling out of his growing rage. Sollux sure as hell wasn't backing down, though. Not to-fucking-day. "Oh yeah, we had a wonderful conversation. I was on my own team, defending my bitch of a boyfriend, while your father ran for his team and defended his position in an impressively intimidating way. You're welcome, asshole," Sollux replied in a sharp tone. Eridan didn't seem too thankful. "Yes, thank you, Sollux! Thank you so much! For completely betrayin' my trust and goin' behind my back like the selfish little bastard-" "Oh, God! Please, spare me, princess! If anyone's the selfish bastard here, its you. If anyone betrayed anyone's trust and went behind anyone's back, it was fucking you," Sollux accused, finally advancing on Eridan. "I did what I did cause' I wanted to know what I was gettin' into with your father! I wanted to know exactly what happened and what that shit-head did to you before I met him and had to deal with his bullshit!" Eridan replied, standing his ground even as Sollux approached him.

"You did what you did because you have this-this dire need to get your grabby little hands around everyone's throats! You want to know every fucking thing about everyone because your own life sucks so bad that you want to live through everyone else! Newsflash, Eridan; making my dad feel like shit isn't going to make you feel better about the fact that you can't face your own fucking family!" "I can face my own problems, Sollux! Don't you accuse me of not doin' so! You're the one hidin' behind them, refusin' to get out and talk to anyone other than Kar and I because you just hate people so much. Your dad was bad, so the whole world has to be, right? You hide behind everythin', refusin' to make amends with your father, refusin' to sleep with your boyfriend-" Sollux burst out laughing, his laughter loud and mean. "Holy shit! We're back to the sex, Eridan? Are you really that fucking desperate?!" Eridan looked at him with distaste. "Oh, please, don't flatter yourself! I'm just tryin' to make a fuckin' point, you arrogant jack-ass." Sollux couldn't believe what was happening. Eridan's words stung him like wasps attacking his heart, and all he could do was let the anger envelop him and keep him from the pain. The words that were being exchanged were cruel and painful, and Sollux didn't think that he would ever have experienced this again with Eridan. It was like they were shoved right back into high school, and Sollux hated it. "Oh, you made your point, Eridan," Sollux admitted. "You made it back in high school. It's nice and clear, stamped right on my fucking forehead. I'm just pathetic, aren't I?" Sollux yelled, throwing his hands in the air. Eridan sighed, shaking his head. "No, Sol," he replied. Surprisingly, his anger faded away, sadness returning to his blue eyes. He relaxed once again, reaching out towards Sollux. Sollux shrugged the comforting gesture away, pain sliding over Eridan's expression at the reaction. "Sol, all I want to do is protect you," he assured slowly, voice soft as his eyes begged Sollux. "I never meant to hurt you, and I certainly had no thoughts about readin' that file until your father came-" "Why?" Sollux snapped again, and Eridan's parted lips met. "Why didn't you read the whole thing?" Sollux was upset, yes, but he was more confused. If Eridan really did only read the part about Sollux's father, why didn't he read the rest? He had everything about Sollux at the tip of his fingers, yet he didn't take advantage of that? Eridan merely furrowed his eyebrows, as if the answer hung in the air and was more than obvious. "Because of how much I care about you, Sol, no matter what I say." he replied, voice just as soft as before. "I'm sorry about the things that I just said, and-I just-I don't think you know how much you mean to me..." Sollux couldn't decipher his emotions at this point. His heart swelled at Eridan's words, but it also hardened with the situation. He felt guilt, yet his anger tried to convince him that he had nothing to feel guilty about. If he were any normal human being, maybe he would be

able to sort through his emotions in a healthy way and deal with the situation better. But Sollux wasn't normal, and he couldn't do anything about what he was feeling anymore. "Fuck you!" He hissed, and Eridan's eyes widened in heartbreak. "What do you even know, Eridan? Who the hell has ever cared about you? What do you know about love?" He demanded, and Eridan's lips parted in hurt. The taller male couldn't say anything a moment, looking back and forth between Sollux's mismatched eyes before his lips formed together, eyebrows furrowing harshly. "No one," he admitted, and Sollux nearly felt sick. "Practically no one has cared about meever-but guess what? Just because I've never been loved doesn't mean that I don't know how to. It doesn't mean that I don't want to love just as badly as I wanted to be loved." Sollux felt pain begin to throb behind his eyes, a terrible headache just coming to his attention. His heart thudded hard and his insides were tense and trembling with the conflict of the situation. He was such an asshole. Such an unforgivable asshole, and he hated himself for causing Eridan this pain. Could Eridan do anything wrong? Sure, the file thing hurt a bit, but it was all out of deep emotions-which Sollux craved-that Eridan felt for his boyfriend. He didn't even read the whole fucking thing... Sollux's lips formed a thin line as he turned away from Eridan. He made his way to the door, grabbing his things and slipping on his jacket. He made sure that he had his phone, his wallet, and his keys. Meanwhile, Eridan's eyebrows knitted together as he watched Sollux with a fearful look. "Sol?" He murmured, fright on his shaky voice. Damn, he sounded like he were close to bursting into tears. Sollux felt as though he could do the same thing. "Where are you goin'?" "Out," Sollux replied like the dick that he was, providing no further information as he opened the door, slamming it shut on his way out. He couldn't even believe this bullshit. He was so pissed at everything, and he nearly tripped as he made his way down the stairs and to the parking lot. He shoved his hands in his pockets as he started for the sidewalk, breathing heavily to remain sane. He had a sneaking feeling that Eridan was watching him leave from the window, but Sollux didn't dare turn around. How did this happen? The words and insults exchanged in there were just, wow, amazing. None of that was supposed to happen, but Sollux couldn't control his anger. Now that he was out of there, though, he could really begin to think about what had happened. Why did he get so angry? Was it really because Eridan read some darker details from a file that wasn't his? Or was it because Eridan read some details from a file that was about Sollux? Maybe this all strained back to Sollux's complete loathing for himself and the embarrassed emotions that rose when he thought about his past and his previous actions. Either way, a lot was on the table now. It was actually sort of a relief that Eridan knew the details that he did about Sollux now. Sollux wouldn't have to go through the shit of explaining everything to him, so that was good. Sort of. Also, now Eridan knows that Sollux spoke to Adrian. At least that was off of Sollux's shoulders! But, man, was Eridan pissed...

Sollux realized that he had been holding a deep breath, which he released slowly in a long sigh. He was quick to feel lightheaded afterwards, a terrible feeling to join his headache, but he continued making his way down the sidewalk, keeping his head down and his gaze safe from those around him. He thought that perhaps if he thought about something else, maybe these emotions would subside, but he couldn't stop thinking about Eridan. He probably really hurt the Aquarius. Sollux's lips tugged further downwards at the thought, his hands burying themselves further into his pockets. Words from the previous conversation whirled in his mind, and pain expanded in his chest. "Your dad was bad, so the whole world has to be, right? You hide behind everythin'." Sollux's throat grew tight and his breaths grew hard to inhale and exhale. No matter how cruel it was, it was true. Sollux hid behind every unfortunate thing that occurred in his life, and he felt nothing but shame for it. He tried not to think about it, and hearing it from Eridan's mouth made it all the more real and all the more painful. He inhaled deeply, exhaling heavily as he cleared his mind, pushing open the iron gates that stood in his way. He walked through, gently kicking the gates shut behind him. He shoved his hands back in his pockets, looking down once again as he made his way through the mess of leaves. They crunched beneath his shoes, providing him with a comforting sound in the midst of the silence. He walked until he approached his destination, slowing to a stop before it. His eyebrows were furrowed in pain, face hard as his head slowly rose, eyes falling upon his mothers gravestone. His eyes scanned the epitaph repeatedly before another sigh escaped his lips, and he allowed himself to sink to his knees on the plot. He shifted positions, crisscrossing his legs as he continued to stare at the stone. It was a long while before anything other than the sound of passing cars was heard. "Hey," Sollux began, eyes falling to the ground on which he sat. "Hello," a calm voice replied before Sollux could even think about continuing. His head shot up and his legs uncrossed as he scrambled back in surprise, not at all expecting the reply. His eyes were wide as he looked around frantically, gaze falling upon Aradia beside him. He relaxed, exhaling heavily with a groan as he tried to calm his racing hard. "God fucking dammit, AA! What the fuck? That wasn't cool," he demanded, cheeks filling in a slight embarrassment. She smiled a pretty smile, looking down at him as her dark, silky red hair blew in her in face from the wind. She wore a dark silk dress today, one that hugged her upper body in the most perfect way, tight until her waist, where it flowed out and fell to her feet. Leaves that she didn't bother to remove clung to the bottom of her dress, and Sollux was surprised that he didn't hear her coming. His gaze traveled down her body, over the dark satchel that she was wearing, then back up to her brown sugary eyes. No matter what happened, Sollux would never, ever stop thinking that she was absolutely beautiful. "What are you doing here, AA?" Sollux asked, tearing his gaze away from her perfection as he looked back at his mothers grave. He then looked back at her not soon after, and she gave him another soft smile as she motioned to her satchel.

"Tombstone rubbing. It is very interesting and quite relaxing," she replied, making her way next to Sollux, where she sat down and looked ahead. Her hip was pressed comfortably against his, her warmth tangling with his own. He glanced down at her hip, not bothering to move away as he looked back up to his mothers stone. "Sweet," was his reply, though there wasn't much emotion behind it. She looked at the stone for a moment before her gaze moved back to Sollux, studying him as he tried to avoid her maple eyes. "You seem troubled," she stated bluntly, and Sollux rolled his eyes at her ridiculous intuition. "You could call it that," he replied, still refusing to meet her gaze as he looked down. He began to tug at the four leaf clovers in the ground, picking them, then tossing them as he tried to avoid Aradia. He didn't murder too many, though, as she reached out and slipped her hand over his. He paused, eyebrow rising as he slowly turned to meet her gaze. "Do not disturb the earth," she demanded smoothly, her voice surrounding him and encasing him in a state of absolute calmness. He couldn't tear his gaze away from hers, the swirling brown of her eyes warm and inviting to someone as broken as Sollux. He almost allowed his fingers to slip in between hers, but he quickly broke out of her spell and scowled in reply. "Get lost, AA," he demanded, yanking his hand away as he put some distance between them, scooting over slightly in the grass. Her expression remained unfaltering as she studied him, making him feel anything but the comfortable feeling that he had previously experienced in her presence. "Sollux, have I not yet regained your trust and care?" She questioned. "Nope," he replied without a second thought, returning to his process of ripping the grass out of the ground. She let out a gentle sigh. "May I at least attempt to aid you in finding solace in your troubling times?" She asked. Sollux didn't deny that offer, and another soft smile slipped over her lips. "What is bothering you?" She questioned, and Sollux sighed. He abandoned his clover extermination, laying back in the leaves and grass as he looked up at the graying sky. The better question was; what wasn't bothering him? "Eridan just. He found some things out about me without asking me, and I felt kind of-I don't know-hurt and a little betrayed," he admitted, surprised that he allowed himself to speak of his feelings, especially with Aradia. But he really did need someone to talk to. "And these things would be...?" She questioned, and Sollux inhaled sharply. Alright, maybe he didn't want to talk to Aradia about this. Nevertheless, he allowed himself to continue. "My father," he replied, eyes flitting to hers, then darting away just as quickly. She nodded in understanding, knowing virtually all there was to know about her ex-boyfriend and his father. "I see," she replied slowly, still studying him in thought. He allowed her eyes to move over him a moment before he sat up and turned to face her, their gazes locking once again. She looked in between his brownish-red eye, his blue one, his brownish-red eye, then his blue one again. She kept this up for the briefest moment before she continued.

"You feel betrayal and hurt, and you feel as though you have the right to cling to those emotions because he took part in an action that deserves such reply," she stated, though her statement acted more as a question. Sollux sighed again, far too use to her strange manner of speaking. "Uh, yeah. He was a bitch," he confirmed, and Aradia smiled softly. "An understandable remark. Alright, so you feel this way. Now, what are you going to do about it?" She asked, confusing Sollux immediately. "Huh?" He asked, not sure how to respond. "Do. What do you plan on doing about such feelings. Are you going to cut off your ties and end your relationship?" "What? No!" "Are you going to ignore him and make him suffer for the mistake that he made?" "Well, no..." "Do you plan on cutting back the affection in which you provide him with?" "...No..." She smiled another soft smile. "I see. Well, If you want my personal opinion, I would suggest that you take such feelings with a grain of salt. If nothing is to become of them, they are not worth fretting over. Do not work up and feed your heavier emotions over an issue that will provide no drastic or even noticeable outcome." Sollux just stared. Damn her! She was right, of course. Sollux shouldn't be allowing these things to eat away at him when it's not like he's going to be doing anything about them anyway. If he planned on doing something about what just happened, that would be one thing, but he wasn't going to. He allowed himself to get far too carried away with this... "You're right," he admitted reluctantly, and she nodded, knowing very well that she often was. "Also, you must think about Eridan's position, as well. You are hurt and angry. Meanwhile, how must the emotions be controlling the other end? He is no doubt consumed with heavy guilt and understandable fear that perhaps he has really knocked over the first domino this time. You departed before your feelings were worked out, and I am assuming that-knowing Mr. Ampora- he is expecting the worst," she informed, and Sollux's own guilt returned. She was right, again. Eridan was probably freaking the fuck out. He groaned, rising to his feet as he brushed off his pants. Yeah, he needed to get home. He turned toward Aradia, looking down at her a moment before slowly offering her his hand. She smiled, slipping her long thin fingers onto his palm as he gently pulled her to her feet. "Thank you, AA," he replied, wondering if he could have come to this outcome on his own without her assistance. "There is no need to thank me, Sollux, but you are most welcome," she replied, sliding her arms around him as she laid her head on his chest. Very, very reluctantly, he returned the hold, strictly out of thanks. Although he hugged her with distance, he couldn't help but to slowly relax into the familiar hold. His eyes fell shut, and the remembrance of Eridan's words returned to Sollux's mind.

He thought about his tendency to hide behind things and never forget what the world chucked at him. He needed to be ready to be done with that. "I forgive you, Aradia," he finally confessed, causing her to quickly pull back and look at him in shock, breaking her composure. He couldn't help but to smile slightly at her for the first time that they broke up, and she couldn't have looked any more relieved. "I've spent way too long holding this grudge against you and our breakup. That shit hurt, hell to the yeah, but things are different now. Nothing is going to come out of my ill feelings for you. It's only going to provide me with more pain, which is downright dumb for me to do. So, yeah, all is forgiven," he informed, and a smile forced the corners of her lips upwards, revealing her shining teeth. "I am most relieved to hear you say that. Thank you, Sollux. You do not know how long I have sought your forgiveness," she admitted, leaning up and pressing a soft kiss to his cheek, which heated not soon after her lips made contact. "Yeah, yeah, don't go all sentimental on me. I'm going to have to deal with that enough when I get home," he laughed, pulling back from their hug. Aradia chuckled as well, nodding as she gently forced her red locks out of her face. "Ah, yes, go home to Eridan," she agreed, and he smiled at her one last time. He then looked at his mothers grave, smiling at that too. "Catch ya' later, AA." "Good bye, and good luck, Sollux." He turned, making his way through the plots and towards the gates of the cemetery. Was he ready for this? Maybe, maybe not, but that didn't matter. It was time to deal with his problems.

Chapter 27
Sollux gently opened the front door, biting his lip as he did so. He couldn't lie and say that he wasn't nervous about his return. Eridan was either really hurt and worried or really pissed and fed up. Sollux didn't know which one to expect. He was a bit surprised to walk in and find Eridan leaning against the wall across from the kitchen, arms crossed, foot tapping uncontrollably. He looked tense and antsy, no doubt anxious for Sollux's return. Sollux closed the door as gently as he opened it, and Eridan's head shot up. He looked at Sollux for a brief moment before slowly looking away. "Hi," he said softly, eyes studying the carpet as if it were made of the most interesting fabric. "Hey, Eridan," Sollux replied calmly, shrugging off his jacket and placing his things next to the door before making his way across the room. "Look, Eridan, I just wanted to apolo-" "Sol, don't," Eridan interrupted immediately, looking up at his boyfriend. The rims of his eyes looked red behind his thick rimmed glasses, and it was obvious that he had been resisting tears this entire time. "Don't apologize to me. You did nothin' wrong and everythin' that you said was right. I was in the wrong, and If you-...If you want to yell at me some more or hit me or just stop talkin' to me, I totally understand..."

Sollux shook his head, approaching Eridan, who tensed further. Eridan looked concerned and uncomfortable, self-loathing dancing in his irises as he glanced at Sollux, then away again. He straightened, looking up and meeting Sollux's gaze with a forced confidence. "I shouldn't have read the file, Sol. Any of it. I should have just taken it and given it to you as soon as I got it. You were right, and I had this dire fuckin' need to read it. It's like I told you before; I just want to know everythin' about you, and it's hard to deny the information when its right in front of me. That doesn't justify what I did and the things I said, and If you want time to be alone and think-..." Damn, he talked too much. Sollux's hands found their way to Eridan's chest, shoving the Aquarius back against the wall. Eridan's words ceased, his expression filled with shock and worry at Sollux's sudden movement. He didn't fight back against Sollux's weak strength and he allowed Sollux to hold him in place, prepared for whatever blow that Sollux might present to him. Sollux didn't punch his boyfriend though. He leaned close, pressing his lips firmly to Eridan's. Eridan's eyes widened in a different kind of shock. His tense muscles remained that way for only the briefest moment before he relaxed, kissing Sollux back with a smooth, low desire that made Sollux's heart thud far too quickly. He leaned closer, eyelids drooping partially as he kissed Eridan with a matching desire and a reassurance that things were okay between them. He began to feel Eridan pull back, which just wasn't going to do at this point. He pressed the taller male harder against the wall, also pressing his now parted lips further against Eridan's. His hands traveled down Eridan's torso, stopping just above his waist line where his long fingers slipped beneath Eridan's shirt and onto his warm skin. Eridan inhaled sharply, cheeks filling at Sollux's bare touch. He murmured into the kiss that Sollux bestowed upon him, met not with a reply, but with Sollux's tongue sliding along Eridan's after Sol's tongue slipped between Eri's lips. Eridan's own eyelids began to fall, eyes half lidded as Sollux's fingers slowly began to trail up Eridan's sculpted torso. "Sol," he mumbled, tongue retreating and lips moving against Sollux's as he spoke "Sol, you know that I can't fuckin' do this," he complained, and Sollux smirked. "Do what?" He teased, his lips moving over to Eridan's cheek, which he gifted with a slow kiss. Eridan let out a shallow breath mixed with desire and annoyance. "Resist you," he nearly snapped back, though his arms slipped around Sollux's waist and pulled him closer. Their hips met, and Sollux couldn't help but to tease Eridan further by slowly swaying his hips against Eridan's own perfect ones. Eridan let out a breathy moan, and Sollux had no choice but to reply. "Then don't," he finally offered, Eridan's eyes widening immediately after the suggestion. His lips parted as he looked back and forth between Sollux's eyes, an unsure, yet excited expression in his eyes. "Wait! Sol, what do you-what do you mean?" He questioned, and Sollux almost had to laugh. He rolled his hips against Eridan's again, eliciting another shallow breath from Eridan's lips as the other stared back down longingly into Sollux's eyes.

"I mean that I want you to follow me," Sollux replied in a low and alluring tone, reluctantly stepping away from Eridan. He offered his hand to Eridan, who looked at it in shock a moment before sliding his fingers over Sollux's. Sollux's gaze never broke from Eridan's, and Sollux walked backwards with a flirty smile on his lips as he made his way to his bedroom. Eridan continued to stare at Sollux, refusing to believe the situation that was beginning to play out. Nevertheless, his hand gripped harder onto Sol's, as if afraid that letting go would tempt the possibility of this moment ending. When they got to Sollux's room, Sollux walked backwards until the back of his knees hit the mattress and he fell back onto the sheets. He kicked his shoes off as he yanked Eridan down with him, causing Eridan to gasp. "Sol!" Eridan gasped, eyes wide as he looked down at their position. One of his knees was in-between Sollux's thighs, his other knee pressing against Sollux's hip. His hands were face down on the mattress on either side of Sollux's face. Sollux smiled another flirty smile as he slid his hands back under Eridan's shirt, his hands traveling up his back, his fingers light as they trailed over Eridan's spine. Eridan's eyelids began to droop again, back arching slightly to Sollux's touch. "Sol," he repeated in a breathy tone, causing Sol's smile to widen. "Sol, If you don't want this-..." "Do I look like I don't want this, Eri?" Sollux asked, one of his hands sliding back down Eridan's back, over his ass and down his leg, tugging it closer so that Eridan's knee pressed up further between Sollux's legs. His knee rubbed Sollux where it mattered, and chills zipped up and down his spine as he inhaled deeply. Eridan inhaled deeply as well, eyes locked with Sollux's. "Wait, Sol," Eridan started, and Sollux sighed, his other hand retreating from underneath Eridan's shirt. He looked up at Eridan with a raised eyebrow, and Eridan looked down at him with genuine feeling. "Sol, why now? Why now, and why didn't you want to do this before?" He asked, blinking slowly. Sollux looked up at him for a brief moment before he sighed. He slipped out from underneath Eridan and sat on his knees, tugging Eridan closer. Eridan obliged as he looked at Sollux curiously. "You read that part of the file. You should know," he informed softly, and Eridan's eyebrows furrowed. Sollux looked at him a moment more before slowly reaching out and taking Eridan's hands in his own. He pulled his hands closer, sliding them under his own shirt. Eridan's eyebrows relaxed as his hands were pushed up Sollux's shirt and his fingers slipped over Sollux's many scars. Sollux's heart pounded hard, holding his breath as he studied Eridan's expression. Eridan just looked down, gaze distant as he concentrated on his fingers tracing Sollux's memories. Sollux didn't know what Eridan's reaction was going to be, but he didn't expect Eridan to immediately slide Sollux's shirt over his head and toss it aside. Sollux hardly took a breath before his torso was exposed, his scars the only thing that Sollux ever saw on his milky pale

skin. He blinked not twice before Eridan leaned down, pressing his lips to the scars that decorated Sollux's chest. Sollux's heart raced in his chest, lips parting in surprise as he looked down at his boyfriend. Eridan's lips brushing over his scars filled him with sadness, but mostly affection. Eridan was just amazing. Sollux couldn't believe how wonderfully Eridan treated him when Sollux had never done a single thing to deserve this treatment from someone as perfect as Eridan. He couldn't believe Eridan's reaction to what Sollux had tried to hide since he acquired his scars. "Sollux," Eridan began seriously, pulling away and looking up into Sollux's eyes. "Sol, you were self conscious about your scars? Because they're perfect. Each and every one. Each one sets you even further apart from everyone else, and that's one of the things that I love about you. Your eyes, your emotions, your scars...everythin'. They make you who you are, and who you are is perfect to me." Sollux stared at him in shock. Pure, undeniable shock. All he could do was stare at him before pushing him back onto the pillows, winding up on top of him as his lips covered his boyfriends. He kissed him with everything that he had, hands running through Eridan's perfect hair. Eridan smiled slightly beneath the kiss, but his smile slowly faded as his desire slowly grew. His hands wound up on Sollux's back, his fingers tracing every curve of Sollux's shoulder blades, his spine, the dip in his lower back... Sollux just couldn't take the fabric between his hands and Eridan's chest. He reluctantly broke their deep kiss as he pulled back, pushing Eridan's shirt up his body. Eridan sat up just enough to remove his shirt, tossing that to the side and pulling Sollux back into breathless kisses. Sollux's hand's slid over every inch of skin that they could reach on Eridan's torso, and he couldn't deny his complete and utter attraction to Eridan's toned body. Like, damn, he was built. His firm chest, cut abs, toned arms and smooth back was all enough to make Sollux's head spin. How could Sollux even compare? Not that Sollux was self conscious about anything other than his scars, but his body was nothing like Eridan's. Sollux wasn't ridiculously skinny, but he hardly had an ounce of fat on his body. He was tall and lean, but not at all toned. Eridan didn't seem to mind this, though. His fingers were light as they traveled over Sollux's torso, tracing Sollux's scars as they caressed his skin. His hands were soft as they pulled Sollux closer, feeling and taking in every detail that they could. He was so damn gentle, enjoying and basking in the moment. Sollux, on the other hand, wasn't quite as gentle... Sollux took control, countering Eridan's loving kisses with hungry ones of his own. He pressed Eridan further into the bed, keeping him in his place as Sol's hips proceeded to grind slowly over Eridan's, causing the Aquarius's pulse to quicken beneath Sollux's finger tips. Sollux broke their kisses, his lips traveling over Eridan's cheek and to his ear. "I don't know how I resisted you for so long," he admitted-solely for the purpose of getting Eridan off-in a whisper, his tongue slowly tracing the curve of Eridan's ear. Eridan's breath heightened, his hands sliding over the small of Sollux's back as he tried to pull Sollux's body closer to his.

"I don't either. I'm way too hot for anyone to resist for too long," he tried to boast, though his voice was sounding thin and weak with want. Sollux smiled slightly. "You don't need to tell me, and I haven't even gotten to see all of you yet," he flirted, taking Eridan's earlobe between his teeth. Eridan hummed lightly, cheeks growing warm, along with the rest of his body. "Shit. How-w long are you goin' ta' tease me, Sol?" He slipped, whining in a breathy voice. Sollux smirked after pulling back slightly, eyes trailing over Eridan's body. "As long as I can," he admitted, leaning back to press a kiss to Eridan's ear. He then proceeded to trail kisses down Eridan's jawline, making his way to Eridan's neck. Eridan tilted his head back into the pillows, his eyes falling shut, lips parting as he allowed himself to drown in Sollux's kisses. Sollux's lips slid over Eridan's neck, his tongue escaping as it slipped over Eridan's salty skin. Eridan's parted lips met as he hummed again, trying to resist the moans that were forming in his throat. Sollux had to keep from smirking, his tongue flicking over Eridan's neck before he began to nibble on the soft skin. Eridan inhaled and held that breath, Sollux's teeth going back and forth between gentle and forceful on Eridan's throat. "Shit...Sol..." Eridan whispered, tilting his head further back as he allowed more room for Sollux's lips to work. Sollux found his heart jolting at the sound of his name on Eridan's breathy voice, but he kept his concentration completely on Eridan's skin. He slowly transitioned from biting Eridan's neck to softly sucking it, causing Eridan to inhale sharply yet again. He kept this up for a moment. He would bite a little harder, Eridan's eyebrows furrowing with pain and pleasure, then relaxing as Sollux sucked the skin and relieved the slight pain that he had caused. Meanwhile, one hand was tracing the sensitive skin just above the hem of Eridan's pants, his other hand sliding over Eridan's chest. His thumb would trace circles around and over Eridan's nipple, causing more soft hums that were slowly beginning to slip into light moans. "Fuck, I love that sound," Sollux breathed, referring to the previous moan that had been elicited from Eridan's lips by the firm motion of Sollux's hips. Eridan pulled Sollux even closer, his hands begging Sollux to keep going. "Sol, how-w much longer?" He questioned, hips swaying beneath Sollux's. Sollux merely smirked in reply as he pulled back to look into Eridan's eyes, a teasing sparkle taking place in both of Sollux's pupils. "Why? Am I too much for you?" He teased. Eridan ignored him as he slid his hands up Sollux's body. He then began to drag his nails with a slight force down Sollux's sides, almost as a statement. Sollux was the one to allow his eyes to fall shut this time, his head tipping back slightly at Eridan's touch. He couldn't allow Eridan to get the best of him, though. He slid back slightly and reached down, his fingers brushing teasingly over the front of Eridan's pants. Eridan's lips parted in desire, his eyes jetting up to meet Sollux's for a brief moment before they fell right back down to Sollux's hands, as if his gaze could will Sollux's fingers to go further. Sollux bit his bottom lip, the fingers of one of his hands skillfully

undoing the button of Eridan's pants, then tugging the zipper down in a painfully slow fashion. "Bloody hell, really, Sol?" He breathed, chest rising and falling quickly with anticipation. Sollux resisted another chuckle as his palm pressed to Eridan's jeans, applying pressure as it moved to and fro. Eridan's growing erection became more noticeable, and even Sollux had to admit that his own jeans were growing tight. Sollux leaned down, pressing a slow and meaningful kiss to Eridan's lips. Eridan's eyes fell shut once again, one hand slipping through Sollux's hair, his other hand sliding over the Gemini's ass, pulling him closer. Sollux nearly smiled beneath the kiss, his tongue slipping between his lips and between Eridan's. Their tongues mingled a bit as Sollux began to tug at Eridan's jeans, sliding them down slowly inch by inch. Eridan was growing more and more anxious, his back arching as his hips rose to Sollux's touch. As soon as Eridan's jeans were off and aside, Eridan began to fumble with Sollux's pants as well. His breath was heavier and his cheeks were flushed, his fingers clumsy as they meddled with Sollux's button. Sollux hardly paid attention, dragging his lips everywhere that they could reach. He pressed quick kisses to Eridan's lips, his chin, his cheeks, his ears, his jaw, and every inch of his neck. He didn't even notice that his pants had also disappeared along with his and Eridan's glasses, his teasing mood disappearing along with them. Now he just wanted every last bit of his boyfriend. "Sol," Eridan moaned, his fingers cupping Sol's hard on and massaging with slight force. Sollux inhaled sharply, almost forgetting how to exhale as he began to grow dizzy with growing pleasure. His fingers curled over the hem of Eridan's boxers, tugging slightly as he tried to keep his mind in order. His mind was five different places at once, his composure slipping as a reluctant hum escaped his lips. He tried to gather any thought that he could, but all that came to his head was the appreciation that he had for Eridan's ridiculously fantastic fingers right now... Once again, time seemed to skip forward. Sollux barely had time to admire Eridan's bare body before his own was pressed against it, skin meeting skin as Sollux proceeded to kiss Eridan with such affection that couldn't be contained. Eridan's inhales were quick and his exhales heavy, his breath hot against Sollux's skin anytime Sollux pulled away to breath-an action that was beginning to become difficult. Sollux could barely hear anything above the sound of his own heartbeat in his ears and Eridan's scattered moans and deep breaths. "Fuck, Sol, please..." Eridan practically begged, hips involuntarily bucking up into Sollux's. Sollux's mind couldn't process an answer, though he knew that there was only one reply that Eridan had in mind. Sollux's fingers curled around Eridan's length, tugging and massaging slowly as Eridan's breath caught. Another delicious moan escaped him, causing Sollux to lose his own breath. He could hardly stand it anymore, with Eridan's sounds and motions and fingers curling tightly in Sollux's hair. Sollux might have been new to this whole guy-on-guy shit, but he wasn't stupid. His hand reached out, clumsily yanking the drawer of his beside table open as he blindly dug around for a lubricant of some kind. Meanwhile, Eridan's begging stutters and jerking hips were really starting to get to Sollux's head.

Fast-forward, as Sollux's mind seemed to do, and he was positioned against Eridan. One of his arms was providing support for himself while the other reached up, his fingers clumsily running through Eridan's hair. Eridan was completely tense, and Sollux pressed soft, unskilled kisses to the other's lips. "Relax," Sollux coaxed, his own voice uncontrollably breathy. He began to ease in, immediately receiving a loud gasp and a whimper from Eridan. His own mind was spinning at a ridiculous rate, and he was surprised that he was able to keep from practically attacking Eridan's body. "Shush, Eri. Relax," he repeated softly, fingers slipping once again through Eridan's hair until Eridan was able to relax a bit, though his breaths were still ridiculous. He bit his bottom lip hard, slowly allowing his muscles to keep from tensing. It wasn't long before Eridan's moans reached a new level as Sollux's body rocked against the other's, thrusts slow and steady, unlike both of their breathing. Eridan's hands had made their way to Sollux's shoulders, his nails digging into Sollux's skin as he tried to relax into the pleasure that was consuming him. Sollux himself was drowning in the thick, heavy waves of pleasure that were rolling over him like waves from the ocean , causing his vision to go in and out, messing up his breathing pattern and causing him to break out into a sweat. "S-Sollux!" Eridan's voice dragged out, the sound like nothing Sollux had ever heard in Eridan's tone. "Please don't stop. Please..." Sollux didn't dare, his pace quickening at the endless pleas and broken moans of the completely, totally, utterly amazing guy beneath him. This was the first time that regrets seemed to slip away from Sollux, along with many barriers and meaningless walls that shielded his inner emotions, fears, thoughts, etc. He was filled with a love that he had denied for way too long, that love dancing with the assurance that he had done the right thing, staying with Eridan. No matter what, he did the right thing. He reached the point where he couldn't keep hold of any composure whatsoever, and he allowed the pleasure to finally escape him. His vision really faded out at this point, his mind crumbling and his cheeks flushing as he moaned a ridiculously heavy moan that held everything that he was feeling in that moment. Eridan's loud voice mixed with Sol's, his fingers digging further into Sollux's shoulders. Pleasure and bliss held the puppet strings of both of them, keeping them in that place in a different world for the briefest moment that neither of them took for granted. It wasn't long before Sollux was collapsed next to Eridan, panting and raking his hand through his already messy hair. Eridan's panting matched Sollux's, both of them laying in place as they came down from their pleasure high. They remained that way a moment before Eridan's hand slipped over Sollux's, his fingers slowly curling around his boyfriends. "Sol," Eridan said softly, turning his head to look at Sollux. Sollux's heart, which had not yet calmed, began to race again at Eridan's tone. He slowly turned to look at Eridan as well, the locking of their gazes sending a shock through Sol that made him feel weaker than before. Eridan smiled gently. He leaned forward, pressing the softest kiss possible to Sollux's lips.

Sollux barely pressed his lips back against Eridan's. That simple kiss said more than any of their words ever could, and Sollux had to keep from smiling. He definitely didn't make a mistake with Eridan. He wasn't going to let his petty problems get in the way of their relationship either, because he knew that would be one regret that he could never live down. Nope. This is definitely where he wanted to be.

Chapter 28
"You're such an asshole, Sol!" Eridan snapped, gripping hard to the glass that held his iced tea. Sollux held the diner menu that was in his hands up higher, just enough so that it blocked his face as he couldn't help but to smile. "I don't know what you're talking about, ED," Sollux managed, pretending to look over the menu as Eridan released a huff. He snatched the menu out of Sollux's hands, placing it back down on the table as he narrowed his eyes at his boyfriend. "You know, I was actually enjoyin' myself with your parents this mornin'. I wasn't nervous or anythin', and then you just had to open your fuckin' mouth," he hissed. Sollux bit back a laugh, placing his elbows on the table and resting his chin on his fingers, which were laced together. "I gave you a compliment, Eri," he said, batting his lashes innocently as Eridan's nose scrunched in annoyance. Sollux nearly kissed him in reply to such a cute action. "Sol, typically when a set of parents compliment someone on their jeans, you don't reply with, 'They're nice, but they look so much better off'," Eridan snapped, and Sollux had to laugh as Eridan repeated it. "How is that not a compliment? I'd be flattered if I were you!" Sollux laughed, leaning back as he took a sip of his coke. Eridan huffed for the second time. "I was mortified, Sol." "Hey, Carter laughed!" "So what? Monroe looked at both of us with this-this look! Whatever, Sol, the point is that it was embarrassin' as hell. Don't do that again!" He demanded, snatching up his tea before taking a violent sip. Sollux smiled lovingly at his dramatic boyfriend. It had been a week since their fight and their,well, make-up. Ever since then, Sollux and Eridan were just about inseparable. Other than college classes and work, they spent most of their time finding ways to pass the time with one another. This was really the first day that they broke their new schedule and actually went out and did something. Monroe and Carter invited the two over for breakfast and to spend the morning catching up, which was actually a refreshing change of pace. Not that Sollux didn't enjoy spending every second with Eridan, because, wow, he surely did, but a change was nice too. Eridan, on the other hand, seemed perfectly content with not leaving Sollux's side and spending every waking-and sleepingminute together. They only grew closer and closer. "You really do look amazing all the time, Eridan," Sollux reminded him, which he did every so often. Eridan snickered, rolling his eyes, though the blush and the pleased flicker in his eyes were rather obvious.

"Don't you think I already know that?" He replied, and Sollux rolled his eyes as well. "Jesus...priss," he muttered, and Eridan's eyes snapped to Sollux. "What was that?" "Nothing," Sollux replied quickly. Eridan gave him an 'mhm, that's what I fucking thought' look before taking another sip of his tea. Sollux smiled, grabbing his menu again as he looked down at the menu items. "Priss..." Eridan placed his cup back on the table in a harsh manner, just barely managing not to spill it. "Suck mine, Sol." "Can I finish my coke first, Eri?" Sollux joked with a smile, holding up his drink as he took another sip. Eridan shook his head, though he couldn't hide his smile this time. He's probably thinking about last night... Sollux looked up and smiled at the waitress, who took their orders and their menu's before returning back to the kitchen. Sollux watched her as she walked away, then looked around the diner. It was surprisingly full for a Friday, not to mention the fact that their town was awfully small. He hadn't seen the place so full since Feferi left. She practically ran the place, and everything was so much smoother when she was still here. If she ever moved back, the diner would most likely beg for her return. Speaking of Fef, she was flying in today. Both Sollux and Eridan were undeniably pumped to see her and they both could hardly wait until she arrived later tonight. Originally, Sollux had made plans to sleep on the couch, with Eridan in Sol's bed and Fef in Eridan's. Eridan immediately disagreed, pointing out that it was only logical that Eridan and Sollux shared Sollux's bed while Fef stayed in Eridan's room. Yeah, 'logical'. Sollux nearly laughed, but he nodded and agreed nonetheless. Sollux looked back at Eridan with a smile on his face, though his smile slowly fell at the sight of the worry and uneasiness that resided in Eridan's eyes. Sollux's eyebrows furrowed, his head tilting as he studied Eridan's actions. He was staring into his tea, absentmindedly stirring his drink with his straw. What happened? "Hey, ED? You look like someone killed your goldfish or something," Sollux pointed out, expecting to have jolted Eridan out of his thoughts. Eridan's eyes remained on his swirling drink a moment before he sighed. "Sol, I don't want to ruin this amazin' week that we've been havin'," Eridan informed, and Sollux nodded. "Sweet, then don't," Sollux offered. Eridan sighed again, glancing at him before looking away. "Sol, we need to talk about things that were brought up in our argument." Sollux groaned in reply, sliding down in his booth. He didn't want to talk about that. Why couldn't Eridan just drop it? Sollux was so over it. He thought that they had fixed things quite nicely, in his humble opinion. He had been relieved when the subject hadn't been brought up, and he had hoped that it simply wouldn't be.

"Why do we have to talk about it? Nothing's wrong, no grudges are being held...honestly, it wasn't even that bad. We were both just stressed and frustrated. I'm seriously over it," Sollux assured, looking into Eridan's eyes. Eridan looked right back, a seriousness replacing his worry. "Sollux, what did you and my father talk about?" Eridan nearly demanded, surprising Sollux slightly. Oh, that... "Not much, really. We introduced ourselves, shared a few sarcastic and irritated comments, then I told him why I disliked his bitch-ass self," Sollux explained with a smile as he slowly slid back up and laced his fingers together once again. Eridan looked as though he were about vomit. "Please tell me that you didn't use the term 'Bitch-ass'." "I don't know, I might have. I didn't exactly keep my language to a minimum. My tone, either. Come to think of it, I was pretty much an ass," Sollux admitted, though he didn't seem too guilty about that. Not at all, actually. Eridan only groaned, running his hands over his face. "Sol," he groaned, taking a deep breath before looking back at Sollux, trying to stay calm. "Alright, what did he say to you? You said he threatened you?" "Sure did. He's a real doll, isn't he?" Sollux drawled in a feigned adoration. Eridan rolled his eyes. "The cutest," he muttered. Sollux's joking manner faded, unhappy to see the pain in Eridan's expression. He almost forgot how hard it was for Eridan to talk about his family. It was Sollux's turn to sigh. "He dropped a few not-so-subtle hints about how sketchy my position is in everything going on right now. He also promised me that he'd give me some memories that would prove to be more painful than those including my father if anything happened to you," Sollux continued quietly. Eridan just looked at him with wide eyes. They looked at one another for a moment before Eridan placed his elbows on the table, his head falling into his hands. "Shit," he murmured, and Sollux's eyes widened this time. "Wait, you're not really in any kind of danger, are you?" Sollux asked, lowering his voice now that the conversation was moving onto this subject. He glanced around as well, as though they were being watched. He wasn't being paranoid-just safe. If he was still off of his pills, he was sure that he would be feeling paranoid while discussing this subject. After he blew up at Eridan, though, he went right back on his medication. He wasn't going to risk that again. "What? No, I'm fine," Eridan answered, looking right back up at Sollux to assure him. Sollux nodded, though he had a creeping suspicion that maybe he was just trying to make Sollux feel better. Eridan must have noticed this look, because he reached across the table, his fingers slipping over Sollux's. "I mean it, Sol. Nothin's after me," Eridan assured with a chuckle that made him seem far too comfortable with this subject. Maybe he was just use to the kinds of things that the subject entailed. That thought made Sollux a bit uncomfortable. He shifted in his seat, nodding, concentrating more on the hope than the discouragement within him.

"Alright. Yeah, I had assumed that maybe your dad was just trying to freak me out or something," Sollux admitted, and Eridan nodded, squeezing Sollux's hand before pulling his own hand back. "Yeah, he's an asshole like that," he replied bitterly, taking a sip of his drink before continuing. "I'm sorry he was a dick to you. He is to everyone, I promise that it's not just you." "No, I'm pretty sure I'm pretty far up there on his dislike list," Sollux confessed, thinking back to their conversation. Eridan smiled sadly. "I don't know, Sol. He's got a pretty big dislike list," he replied with a chuckle. Chills fell over Sollux. "Right. And how many people dislike him as well?" "Fuck, more than even I know," Eridan replied casually, returning to the act of twirling his straw within his drink. Sollux tried not to concentrate on his undying goosebumps. "Right," Sollux repeated, trying not to be uncomfortable. It wasn't so much that he had second thoughts about putting himself in this relationship as it was that he had second thoughts about this situation. He loved being with Eridan. Sure, he was dating a whiny dork, but that whiny dork was wonderful and all his. But it was kind of hard to forget that he was dating the son of a mobster. It was almost surreal. Honestly, sometimes he did forget that Eridan could ever belong to something that extreme. "Anyways, you're right, lets forget about it," Eridan said with a shake of his head. As if on cue, the waitress returned with their orders. Eridan had a chicken wrap and Sollux had his usual burger and fries. As soon as the waitress set the food down and left, Eridan reached over and grabbed a handful of Sollux's fries. He did that all the fucking time. Why didn't he just order his own damn fries? "You know, I think we'd both benefit from you ordering your own basket," Sollux informed, and Eridan shrugged. "Yeah, well, they wouldn't taste as good." "What the hell do you mean? They're the same fries. Same fryer, same fucking potatoes." "Yeah, but they wouldn't be yours," Eridan informed with a laugh, taking more and shoveling them into his mouth. Sollux rolled his eyes. "For someone who acts like a prince, you're such a damn pig." "Oh, please. If only you could see the way that you eat, Sol. It's fuckin' repulsive." "My mannerisms can only be described as strictly respectable." "Yeah, my ass." "That too." Eridan couldn't help but to laugh at Sollux's clever retort, taking one more handful of fries before returning to his own plate of food. Sollux smiled, finally getting the chance to eat his own food now that Eridan had retreated. They ate in silence for a moment before Eridan cleared his throat, and Sollux groaned at his expression. "We're really not done talking, are we?" He asked, and Eridan sighed, making it painfully obvious that he couldn't let it go.

"Sol, what really happened?" He asked. Sollux's heart thudded hard. Though he wasn't sure what Eridan was talking about, that didn't sound too good. He put his burger down and took a sip of his drink before sighing. "When?" He asked, and Eridan looked away. He looked at the ground a moment before looking back at Sollux. "The accident. The file didn't say much. What really happened?" Eri asked, a flood of emotions washing over Sollux. He quickly suppressed them, looking down at his food. It would be so easy just to drop it right now. He really didn't need to go into it. But would that really do any good? Sollux and Eridan's main problem was the fact that they were so awkward when it came to talking about shit like this. Sollux really barely knew anything about Eridan's life back in New York, and he knew that he had just barely scratched the surface with his knowledge of Eridan's family. There was so much more to it, but Eridan wouldn't talk about it. Not that he would force him to, but it was the same thing with Sollux. They needed to talk more. "My father was drunk," he informed softly. Eridan took one last sip of his tea before pushing his things aside, no longer hungry, just interested. Sollux looked up at him, then back down before he continued. "He was drunk often, after my mother died. He really couldn't handle her death, so he drank to make up for it. He wasn't himself when he drank. He didn't touch my brother, but..." He furrowed his eyebrows. "He took most of his anger and pain out on me." "Anyways, he was driving us home from school one day in his truck. He was drunk as could be, I was in the middle next to him, and Mituna was in the passenger seat. My father's mind didn't even register the red light, so he just kept going," he informed, surprised that he could tell this story so smoothly. Eridan slid his hand over Sollux's, squeezing it hard as he looked at him in pain and sadness. Sollux knew that if he looked into Eridan's eyes, he would probably break down into pathetic sobs. So he didn't, he just kept going. "Mituna saw the van before my father and I did. He unbuckled his seat belt and threw himself over me and my father just as we were hit. That's why he got the worst of it," Sollux informed, finally looking up into Eridan's eyes. Eridan stroked the back of Sollux's hand with his thumb, looking at him with sadness. "Did you get hurt?" He asked, obviously suppressing his anger. Sollux shrugged. "My arm was broken and I had a pretty impressive concussion. Some head damage, but not like Mituna's. I had some cuts and bruises, too, and I came out of it with a terrible fear," he laughed. Eridan didn't laugh in reply, and Sollux's smile slowly faded. He looked away again. "I told you about how I use to hear voices when I was younger. I, um. I heard them the entire time that I was in the hospital," he said, also no longer hungry at this point. In fact, the thought of finishing his food made him feel nauseous. Eridan squeezed his hand harder. "What did they say?" He asked, and it was apparent that he had been wondering that for a long while. Sollux tensed. He looked up at Eridan. "Well, they would, um. They would talk to me about death," he said, smiling weakly as he confessed something that he had told no one, save a couple of therapists. Eridan's eyebrows slowly rose and his expression became unreadable.

"...Death," he said slowly, and Sollux sighed as his weak smile faded. "Yeah," he said, drawing the word out as he pulled his hand away from Eridan's. Wow, now he felt like shit. "What do you mean by 'death'?" Eridan asked curiously. Sollux sat back, rubbing his temples. He better not get a migraine from this... "They would talk to me about people and how they were going to die and the worlds ending and shit," he explained quickly, causing Eridan's eyebrows to rise again. Sollux just looked at him a moment before Eridan looked away, processing that information. "Huh," Eridan said thoughtfully after a few moments, and Sollux nodded. "Yup." "Yeah." "Anyways," Sollux quickly changed the subject, shaking his head. "That's what happened. That's why I don't like moving vehicles, and that's why Mituna's kind of a mess," he said, feeling a bit bad after saying it, but not taking back his choice of words. Eridan shook his head too, eyebrows furrowed. "My dislike for your father grows more and more everyday," he admitted, and Sollux pretended to brighten. "Hey, my loathing for your dad grows more and more everyday too! Funny, how that works!" Eridan chuckled, smiling a sad smile at Sollux. Sollux relaxed, unable to force a sad smile back. They looked at one another a moment, feeling bad for themselves and each other before a strangely familiar voice echoed through the diner. "No way, dude! That couldn't be baby Captor, could it?" Meenah's voice called, causing Sollux to turn around and look at her in a mild shock. Holy hell, Karkat was right. Meenah was stunning. She wore a loose black shirt that hung off of one of her shoulders, her shirt only falling to just above her belly button before her skin was revealed. She wore a spiked gold belt, though her black cargo pants were still hanging low on her hips and falling around her pink sneakers. A gold chain was hanging off of her pants and she wore gold bracelets, rings, and a gold necklace. Even her eyebrow piercing was gold. Sollux was surprised that her pink glasses weren't rimmed with gold as well. Karkat was right about her hair, too. It was short on top, and in the back she had crazy long and tight braids that fell all the way down her back, and then further still. It added to her totally hardcore and undeniably hot aura. "Hey, Meenah," Sollux greeted as he stood up and smiled. She walked over to him, stopping in front of him with her hands on her hips. Her eyes trailed down his body, then back up, taking in his entire appearance as she summed him up in her mind. She then pulled her fist back and nailed him in the shoulder. "Wow, you turned out pretty good, bee boy. Dorks aren't really my type, but you didn't turn out so bad," she kind of complimented with a wink, and Sollux rolled his eyes, mostly at her bee reference.

"Yeah right, dorks aren't really your type. You're dating Karkat Vantas! How do you get dorkier than Karkat?" Sollux laughed, motioning for her to sit with him and Eridan as he claimed his seat once again. She rolled her eyes as well, plopping right down next to Sollux. She reached over and grabbed a handful of his fries, shoving them into her mouth. "He's an exception to my strict no geek rule," she mumbled with her mouth full, chewing for a moment before swallowing and smiling at Sollux. "And he's totes cute, so you best shut your mouth, yo." It was then that she looked across the table, smiling when she saw Eridan. "Eridan Ampora. Wow, you turned out pretty good, too," she said with another wink. "Look just like your brother, no doubt. A bit cuter than Cronus, though that mofo was hella fine!" She said, obviously remembering the Ampora's from high school. Eridan's face contorted in disgust. "Gee, thanks," he replied, and she threw her head back and laughed. "How is Cronus? He finally get himself a girlfriend, or what?" She asked, grabbing some more of Sollux's fries. Good thing Sollux didn't want those, since they were being stolen left and right. "As far as I know, he's still sexy, free, and single," Eridan mumbled, making a reference that Sollux didn't recognize. Meenah caught it and laughed once again. "Poor guy! Whatev's, I'm sure he really doesn't mind," she commented, though Eridan didn't look too sure about that. She looked at Sollux, then to Eridan, then back to Sollux again as she leaned back and munched on Sollux's fries. "So, Karcutie tells me all about you two and your busy asses. I never would've pinned you gay for an Ampora, Captor," she chuckled, and Sollux raised an eyebrow with a slight smile. "I never would have pictured myself gay for a lofty priss, either," he admitted, and Eridan shot Sollux a look. Sollux smiled fondly back, and Meenah smiled. "I can dig it, you two are a pretty coolio couple," she complimented, leaning back and propping her feet up on the table. Sollux smiled a half smile. "Yeah, I like to think so," he agreed. He then turned towards her, looking at her curiously. "So why'd you move back? And how're you and Karkat? He's head over heels for you, you know," he said, and she held her hand up right after he finished. "Whoa, bro, I don't reply to sentences with more than one question in them," she informed with a smile. "I'll make an exception this time, though. I moved back here because I was bored. I missed my friends and shit. I also heard from a friend of a friend that Karcutie and Rezi were over, so I hightailed my ass back here. Got here right in time, too. Heard from another friend of a friend that he might have been interested in someone else. Too bad, I've got him wrapped around my finger, now," she said with another smile, holding up her pinkie and waving it in Sollux's face. Sollux laughed, pushing it away before her words registered in his mind. "Interested in someone else? Really?" Sollux asked, eyebrows raising. Karkat never mentioned anyone else. Then again, Sollux and Karkat didn't talk nearly as much as they use to. Nevertheless, Dave was the first thought to make its way into Sollux's mind. Karkat couldn't have actually liked Dave, could he?

"Yeah, apparently. I don't know who, but I don't care, either!" She laughed, grabbing the last of Sollux's fries. She then slid out of the booth, shoving the fries in her mouth as she looked around. "Well, it's been fun, my homies, but I'm takin' off! Meeting up with Latula soon. We'll probably hang out with your brother, bee boy, if you want to join!" She offered, talking with her mouth completely full. Sollux couldn't help but to chuckle. Same old Meenah. "Actually, Eri and I are heading home after we're done. I'm sure I'll see you around, though," he replied, and she nodded. "Cool shit. Catch ya later, Captor. Peace out, Eridan!" She called with a wave, swallowing the fries as she made her way out. Eridan watched her leave, then turned and looked at Sollux. "Karkat is datin' her?" He asked in disbelief. Sollux chuckled. "Karkat is dating her," he confirmed with a smile. "What, you can't see it?" "No, no, I can totally see it. I just didn't expect it," he admitted with a slight smile, looking down at his and Sollux's food. His expression changed, and he winced in disgust. Sollux smiled slightly. "You done?" "Yep." "Me too, lets go." They paid for their food and made their way back home, and Sollux was left with a million thoughts. He thought about Eridan's dad and Eridan's family a lot, still a bit worried about that situation. He pushed that aside, though, not wasting his energy on that right now. He thought about his memories, too, after talking to Eridan about the accident. Christ, he was such a freak with a ridiculous past, and Eridan still walks down the sidewalk and holds Sollux's hand. Sollux really couldn't ask for a better boyfriend. He thought about Meenah, too. He mentally nailed himself in the face for not asking about how her mother was doing. He didn't even mention Feferi, either, and she was flying in soon. Sollux thought that it was strange that Meenah didn't mention her sister, either. Did she even know that Feferi was visiting today? Sollux supposed it didn't matter, and elected to ignore those thoughts. When Eridan and Sollux returned home, they spent a few hours working on homework together and watching TV. They spoke nothing more of Eridan's family or Sollux's childhood, which Sollux was fine with, and Eridan seemed rather content as well. This past week had been pretty perfect for Sollux, and he even felt better after opening up a bit more to his boyfriend. After their previous show was over and their homework was done, they did what they normally do when bored. Eridan's bitchy exterior faded away and he flirted mindlessly with Sollux, whose sarcastic exterior also broke as he allowed himself to give into Eridan's words and touches. It wasn't long before Eridan was pushing Sollux back against the arm of the couch, forcing kisses upon him that Sollux graciously accepted. He loved kissing Eridan. Hell, he loved it when Eridan kissed him. And whispered to him, and touched him...

Sollux broke their ever-going kisses, breathing deeply as he ran his fingers slowly through Eridan's hair, tangling them among the soft strands. Eridan stared down into Sollux's strange irises, his own perfect eyes half lidded and filled with a desire that Sollux would never grow tired of. "How far do you think we can take this before Fef arrives?" Sollux asked with a teasing smile. Eridan replied by sliding his fingertips beneath Sollux's shirt, a teasing smile on his lips that matched Sollux's. As if on cue, there was a light and rapid knock on the apartment door. Eridan paused, lips parting in disbelief. He looked up at the door, staring at it a moment before letting out a puff of air, annoyance washing over his face. "Damn," he muttered, removing his hands from under Sollux's shirt. Sollux couldn't help but to laugh, sliding out from underneath Eridan excitedly. "Later," he promised his boyfriend with a wink, causing Eridan to bite his bottom lip playfully. Sollux admired him a moment before helping him up, making his way to the door with him. They opened it, and were both met with a yelp of excitement as Feferi pounced forward and threw one arm around Sollux's neck, the other around Eridan's. She yanked both of the tall guys down into a hug, beaming excitedly. "My boys!" She laughed happily, hugging them both lovingly as they both recovered from their shock. They both smiled as well, wrapping their arms around her and hugging her close.

Chapter 29
"ED, could you pass me my soda?" Sollux asked, not taking his eyes off the TV as he shifted slightly where he sat, making sure not to move too much with Fef's head on his lap. Her auburn curls were splayed everywhere, tumbling off the couch and even down to the floor. Eridan was madly in love with Feferi's hair. Just this morning she actually let him play with it after she got out of the shower, and Eridan was on cloud nine. Sollux never let Eridan touch his hair. Hell to the no. Feferi was laying on the couch, her head on Sollux's lap and her feet on Eridan's lap. The three of them were watching Finding Nemo. It wasn't Sollux's first choice, but he was outvoted on this one. He knew he would be on any sea movie, though, with Fef and Eri. It wasn't so much that Finding Nemo was a kids movie that bothered him, but more so the first scene. Sollux's heart sunk every time he watched it, but he pretended like everything was okay. Originally, Feferi was only going to stay for an extended weekend, but now none of them were quite sure. She didn't seem to want to go back to Cali and leave the boys, and Sollux and Eridan chalked it up to be that she was tired and stressed with taking care of her mother. She'd been sick for months, and they still didn't know what was wrong with her. Feferi practically refused to talk about it. Anyways, the three were enjoying their time together. Movies, restaurants, and just relaxing at the apartment were all the things that they needed to remain happy as could be. They

were talking about what they could do after the movie, since Eridan didn't have to work today and Sollux's class was canceled. They still had yet to come to a decision. "Here, Sol," Eridan replied absentmindedly. He grabbed Sollux's Dr. Pepper off of the table next to him, passing it to Feferi, who passed it to Sollux. Sollux smiled slightly, taking it and taking a sip. He looked at the two next to him, a fondness consuming him. What could be better than this? After the movie was over, Eridan shut off the TV and Feferi stretched, nearly nailing Sollux in the face. "Whoa! Calm down there, Rocky," Sollux chuckled, and Feferi blushed slightly. "Sorry, Sollux," she giggled, removing her feet from Eridan's lap as she sat up. Eridan smiled at her and his boyfriend, turning to face them as he pulled his legs up onto the couch and crossed them. "Alright, what do you guys want to do today?" He asked, blue eyes glistening. Sollux had to smile at his happiness. "Did you have anything in mind, ED?" Sollux asked, and Feferi smiled, speaking up for Eridan. "I actually wanted to go swimming! What do you guys think?" She asked, momentarily forgetting that Sollux didn't swim. Eridan smiled in reply. "Hey, that'd be great! We'd have to go to the pool on campus, since that pool is inside and it's cold as hell out, but it'd still be fantastic. I haven't gone swimmin' with you in forever, Fef," he laughed, then looked at Sollux. Sollux's smile fell. Eridan looked at him curiously a moment before his smile fell as well, his eyes widening with a sudden guilt. Feferi's smile fell, too, as she remembered Sollux's fear. "Shit," Eridan began, eyebrows furrowing sadly. "Um, Sol," he started, and Sollux shook his head as his smile returned, though he couldn't deny that it was forced. "It's cool, you guys. I won't go near the water, but I think I'd have a lot more fun watching you two anyways," he admitted with a chuckle. Fef smiled a proud smile, proud of Sollux for being a team player. That's always something that she worked with him on. With Sollux's dislike for the human race, she always had to talk to him and work with him on his people skills. Eridan still looked rather worried, and Sollux thought that perhaps he read more of Sollux's file than he let on to have read. "Are you sure, Sol?" He asked, and Sollux nodded. "I mean it, Eridan. It's totally cool," he assured. He then winked, and Eridan's curious look returned. "Also, I wouldn't be too opposed to checking you out in a bathing suit, Eri. I'm sure you look pretty fine in the water," Sollux added, and Eridan quickly blushed. Feferi held her hands up. "Alright, you two! Not while I'm around!" She laughed, sliding off of the couch and pulling all of her hair to the side. "I'm going to go put my bathing suit on! You two be good," She giggled, prancing away as Sollux smiled after her. As soon as she was gone, Eridan nailed him pretty hard in the arm. Sollux hissed in pain, though he played it off even though it hurt like hell. Eridan needed to remember his fucking strength.

"Wow, okay! What was that for?" Sollux asked with a smile, rubbing his throbbing arm. Eridan just huffed. "You're so fuckin' embarrassin', Sol!" He accused, though he really didn't seem to angry. He basked in Sollux's compliments. Sollux laughed in reply, punching Eridan back in his shoulder. "Get use to it, gills," he replied, and Eridan looked at him with a raised eyebrow. "Pardon? What did you just call me?" "Gills. You're in the water whenever you can find the time." "That's the dumbest thing I've ever heard." "I thought it was pretty clever!" Eridan rolled his eyes, though he couldn't resist a smile. Sollux smirked back. Eridan couldn't resist Sollux's humor. "You're so fuckin' stupid," Eridan replied, pressing a light kiss to Sollux's forehead before standing up and stretching. "I'm goin' to go change, too. Are we walkin' there?" He asked, though that was a stupid question. Sollux furrowed his eyebrows. "You guys can drive if you that's what you prefer. You'll be going without me, though. I'm walking," Sollux informed, a bit annoyed that Eridan would ask. He knew that Eridan just wanted to help Sollux get over one of his many fears, but that wasn't Eridan's problem. Sollux wished he just wouldn't worry about it. He hated when people worried about him, and Eridan did it far too much. Eridan shook his head quickly in reply. "No, it's completely okay, we can walk! It's just-" "Cold, yeah, sorry," Sollux quickly interrupted in a sharp tone. Eridan paused, looking at Sollux in a slight hurt, and Sollux began to feel guilty, which added to his annoyance. "Sol, It's really okay," Eridan assured, and Sollux nodded. "I know," Sollux replied. Eridan's worry and hurt slowly faded into irritation, and Sollux could see it in the Aquarius's eyes. Eridan crossed his arms and rolled his eyes in that ridiculously pretentious manner that he did. "Look, it was just a suggestion. You don't have to be an ass about it," he informed, and Sollux couldn't help but to laugh, standing up as well as he faced the other. "Fine, I won't be an ass as long as you stop trying to act like my mother." "Fine." "Fine!" Eridan turned on his heel, quickly making his way out of the room. He shoved passed Feferi, who had just made her way out of the bathroom. Eridan stomped into his room and shut the door rather hard, and Fef turned and looked at Sollux in worry. Sollux fell back on the couch, releasing a heavy sigh as the emotions faded. Well, that was unexpected. Then again, Sollux couldn't expect his and Eridan's relationship to be perfect all the time. Nevertheless, he hated arguing with the other. He was just getting really sick of Eridan's worry. He trusted him with the information that Eridan gathered from the file, and he didn't expect that information to come up nearly every other day. Why did

Sollux want to keep that information confidential in the first place? For this reason exactly. He didn't need Eridan to be his own personal pity party. "What was that about?" Feferi asked softly, walking out into the room with a look of concern on her face and a cover-up slung over her arm. Sollux sighed again, running his hand over his face. "Nothing," he replied, and Feferi furrowed her eyebrows and crossed her arms. "Sollux," she prodded, and Sollux looked up at her. He tried to conjure his annoyance back into him, but it wouldn't return. He couldn't be irritated with Feferi. He looked at her a moment before looking away. "We're both stubborn little shits, and sometimes we clash," he admitted with a slight smile, looking guiltily up at Fef. Fef's worry faded and she smiled as well, walking over to and sitting next to Sollux. "I'm honestly not surprised, she admitted with a giggle. "You both are really stubborn. You always have to be right, and he will defend his opinion to the death. You don't have many things in common, but you're both ridiculously hard-headed!" "Gee, thanks," he teased, and she giggled again. "You know what I mean!" Sollux nodded, looking down at his blue jeans. She wasn't lying when she said him and Eridan didn't have many things in common. They were complete opposites, actually. But opposites attract, right? That had to be the case, because Sollux was fond of nearly everything about Eridan, despite the fact that the Aquarius was nothing like him. Maybe that was actually why Sollux liked him so much. He had everything that Sollux could never have and was everything that Sollux could never be. It wasn't long before Eridan slowly walked back out, looking moderately guilty. Sollux was about to study further into his expression, but his mind slid to a halt as what the other was wearing registered in his mind. A square legged speedo? Really? Was that necessary? Hell yes it was. It was royal blue and royal purple striped, tight in all the right places, and Sollux's jaw nearly dropped at the sight of Eridan's fucking perfection. His legs were amazing, and then of course there was his torso... He just looked-Yeah. Wow. He walked into the room with a thin t-shirt and a pair of sweatpants in hand, looking down as his glasses slid down his nose. Sollux hardly paid attention, though, still hypnotized by Eridan's body. Eridan looked up, looking pretty pitiful. "Are you still mad at me, Sol?" He asked, jolting Sollux out of his trance. Sollux reluctantly tore his gaze away from Eridan's body, looking back up into his piercing blue eyes. He looked into his eyes a moment before his gaze returned to Eridan's body. "Well, not anymore," he admitted, checking his boyfriend out, as he said he would. Eridan looked at him, confused a moment before he realized what Sollux meant. He blushed for the second time that day, quickly pulling his shirt over his head and his sweatpants over his legs.

"Oh, shut up, Sol," he muttered, though the sparkle returned to his eyes. Sollux chuckled, standing up and holding a hand out to Feferi. She took it and pulled herself up, smiling at Sollux as she wiggled her eyebrows in an insinuating manner. Sollux rolled his eyes. "Oh, please," he replied, and she giggled. "Alright, you two!" She said, pulling her cover-up over her black, blue and green swimsuit. "How are we doing this?" "You're driving and Eridan and I are going to be in the backseat," he informed, causing Eridan to look at him in shock. Feferi didn't notice, rolling her eyes as she smiled. "Of course I am! I'm here to visit, not be your personal chauffeur while you two enjoy each others company in the backseat!" She joked, and Sollux laughed, walking over to the door to slip on his shoes. "I hope you're not insinuating something, Fef! I don't know how to react to this side of you," he joked back, receiving a giggle from her as Eridan continued to look surprised. She slipped on her pink flats by the door as Sollux also slipped on his shoes. He looked back at Eridan, who walked over, still looking at Sol. Sollux smiled, slipping his hand into Eridan's. "What?" He asked, as Feferi opened the door and began to make her way out with Sollux's keys. Sollux grabbed his wallet, Eridan's keys, and phone, sliding them into his pockets. Eridan shook his head. "I don't know. I guess I'm just a little surprised," he admitted. "I've only seen you get into a car when your father was here and we went out to eat..." "Not true, actually. I drove you home when you were wasted that night that you confessed your love for me," Sollux half informed, half teased. Eridan blushed, partially because that's not exactly how that night went, but mostly because he didn't remember being driven home. "I did not-...confess my love for you," he corrected, and Sollux laughed, tugging Eridan out the door and locking it behind them. "Whatever, Eri. Point is that I can drive and I can be driven fine. I just prefer not to be if I can help it. But you were right, it is pretty cold out. Winter sucks, it makes me have to suck it up and get use to driving places," he said playfully, ignoring the lingering fear in his chest. The squeezing of his hand by Eridan helped him feel a bit better, though. He found it a bit more relaxing to be in a car with Eridan next to him. He noticed it they day that they were with his father, but he realized it now as well. He was driving with Eridan the night that Eridan got drunk as well, but that didn't count because Eridan was, well, wasted. Either way, he felt much safer with Eridan around. When they got to campus, they quickly made their way through the parking lot and across the lawn to get to the pool building and out of the cold. As soon as they stepped in, the warmth and humidity of the building hit them and invited them in. The smell of chlorine invaded Sollux's senses, causing him to flinch with disgust. He never liked the smell of chlorine. Eridan, on the other hand, inhaled deeply and smiled. "I could literally spend all day in here," he sighed, and Feferi giggled, inhaling deeply as well. Sollux looked at them, rolling his eyes.

"Yeah, whatever. Get in the pool, Eridan," Sollux urged, smiling an insinuating smile. Eridan smiled a teasing smile back at him. "You mean in my sweatpants and everythin'?" He asked innocently, and Sollux laughed, shoving him gently. He then made his way over to the pool chairs on the side, preparing himself for the potential boredom of the next couple of hours. At least he had Eridan to stare at. "Damn," Eridan sighed, sounding disappointed. "I forgot that there weren't any divin' boards here. I'm thoroughly upset about that," he dramatized, and Feferi giggled once again. "That's okay with me, I've never been super amazing at diving anyway!" She exclaimed, and Eridan smiled in her direction as he began to slip out of his clothing. "Yeah, you're just fantastic at everythin' else," he complimented, and she smiled back as she removed her cover up. They set their things on the table next to Sollux before going back into the locker rooms to shower before getting into the pool. Sollux watched them leave, then turned his attention towards the water. It looked so peaceful and still, without anyone inhabiting it. The water barely moved and the surface looked almost soft. But Sollux could only stare at it for so long without remembering the thrashing and the force of the water that most underestimated. Damn, fears sucked. Was it necessary to be uncomfortable with so many things? "It's pretty, isn't it?" Feferi asked, appearing next to Sollux out of no where after a short while. He nearly jumped as he turned and looked at her, then back to the water. He looked at it a moment before shrugging. "Sure, I guess," he replied, and Feferi had to smile. "Do you appreciate anything, Sollux?" She joked with a laugh, and he shrugged once again with a smile to match hers. "Oh, you know. Freshly cut grass, morning rain, grandma's chocolate chip cookies," he teased, and she rolled her eyes and shoved him with another laugh. "What about chocolate chip cookies?" Eridan's voice called out, and Sollux immediately had to laugh as he looked over at his ridiculously hot boyfriend. "Nothing, you animal," he replied, and Eridan shook his head with a smile. It wasn't long before both Eridan and Feferi were in the pool, relaxing and laughing together, including Sollux in the conversation as he watched from afar. They talked and joked for a while before Eridan and Feferi actually began to swim and splash one another, leaving Sollux to watch. He felt a bit left out at first, but in the end, he really didn't mind. He loved spending time with Fef and Eri, whether he was actually included in the activity or not. He actually very much enjoyed watching the two together. They were both very playful, yet fond in their actions. Feferi was always so bubbly yet stern, and Eridan was so talkative and dramatic. Watching them together was just plain amusing, and Sollux loved listening to the both of them talk together. He was lucky to have them both.

"Alright, Fef, you know what I've been dyin' to do," Eridan said after a while, climbing out of the pool with an excited smile playing on his lips. He made his way over to one of the diving blocks, and she immediately laughed as she began to swim her way to the ladder. "You think you can beat me, Eri?" She challenged with a wide smile, receiving an equally challenging smile from Eridan. "Yeah, I do, actually. What do you think, Sol?" Eridan tried, looking over at Sollux, who looked up with raised eyebrows. He tilted his head, smiling a forced sweet smile at his boyfriend. "I have the utmost faith in your ability to succeed, sweet-cheeks," he replied in a teasing tone. Eridan just rolled his eyes with a smile, looking at Feferi as she climbed out of the pool and began to make her way over to the diving block next to Eridan. She climbed up and blew Eridan a kiss before getting into position, looking pretty confident in herself. Eridan looked equally as confident, matching Fef's position. "Alright, Sol, count down and whistle for us!" Eridan called, and Sollux almost laughed as he straightened in his seat. As soon as his lips parted, a voice that wasn't at all welcomed echoed through the pool building. "Mind if I join?" Cronus's voice called, nearly causing Eridan to fall off of his block and into the pool. All heads turned to face the older Ampora, taking in his arrogant smile and his cocky stance. Eridan straightened quickly, eyes wide, fingers quick to curl into fists. "Cronus? What the hell!? Y-...Yes! Yes, we do mind if you join!" Eridan snapped and stammered, obviously flustered at the sight of his brother. He stepped off of his block, quick to stand in front of Sollux and Feferi. Cronus laughed at Eridan's sudden discomfort, stepping forward and removing his leather jacket. "What's up, baby bro? Wouldn't you like to prove to me that you're actually a decent swimmer? Don't tell me that you forgot our last day together before you ditched us. I kicked your ass in the lanes," he gloated. Really? Cronus swam too? That was incredibly typical. Eridan nearly growled at his brother. "I have nothin' to prove to you, Cronus!" He hissed, although it was obvious that what Cronus had brought up had actually gotten to Eridan. Cronus had to smile once again. "Yeah?" He asked, not adding anything else. He immediately looked over at Sollux, tossing him a wink. "Hey, cutie," he called. Sollux furrowed his eyebrows, quick to look away. Eridan's fists only became tighter. "You know what? Fine. Get your ass on the block," Eridan demanded, and Sollux sighed as his boyfriend fell right into Cronus's trap. Cronus smiled, slipping his shirt over his head and stepping out of his shoes. Sollux glanced at him, then away again. Were all of the Ampora's fucking ripped? Either way, he couldn't allow himself to be attracted to Cronus for even a second. Cronus stepped up, still in his gray jeans, receiving a strange look from Feferi and an annoyed scowl from Eridan. Eridan returned to his own block, looking as though he were

struggling with the fact that he was about to swim with his brother. Also, Cronus was in fucking jeans. "You're really swimmin' in those, Cronus?" Eridan snapped, and Cronus merely smiled at his brother as he resumed the position that Eridan and Feferi were previously holding. "I could take them off. I'm sure your boy toy over there sure wouldn't mind that," he replied, tossing Sollux yet another wink. Sollux's eyebrows furrowed once again in distaste, and Eridan's body went rigid with anger. He pretended not to notice, though he looked as though he could lunge at his brother any moment. Feferi proceeded to pretend as though she weren't there. Sollux, very reluctantly, began to count down. He noticed how the closer he got to one, the more rigid Eridan and Cronus seemed to get. Feferi, on the other hand, was completely relaxed. Sollux really couldn't guess who was going to win this race. He whistled, and all three of them dived perfectly off of the block. Sollux's eyebrows immediately shot up and he straightened further in his seat, unable to hide his shock at the skills of the three in front of him. How the hell do they swim like that? They looked like they all were born and belonged in the water, owning the pool as they raced down the lanes. Sollux couldn't help but to notice that Eridan and Cronus swam with blunt force, their movements harsh and quick. Fef, on the other hand, looking so smooth as it seemed as though she were simply gliding over the top of the water. It was funny how she looked so relaxed in her movements, yet her speed was nearly unmatched. Sollux hardly blinked as he looked at them all. They kicked off the wall, turning and proceeding to race back to the blocks. Fef was just barely behind Eridan, who was just barely behind Cronus, who hardly held the lead. Sollux couldn't deny that he was enthralled by the race, his anxiety rising as the three approached the blocks. Out of no where, the girl that had kept the same pace throughout the race came out of nowhere and sped up to an impressive speed. She zoomed past the other two, her hand on the wall before Eridan and Cronus even knew what was going on. Sollux rose to his feet with a smile on his face. Damn. They all got out of the water, panting heavily. Eridan was running his fingers through his hair, briefly glowering at Cronus before looking back at Sollux, who had made his way over to them with a smile still on his face. Sol nodded at Fef, who gave him a wide smile. "She kicked both of your sorry asses. I have to say, I wasn't expecting that," Sollux admitted, giving Feferi a high-five after she extended her palm. Sollux didn't catch anything beyond Fef's win, and Cronus and Eridan knew that. Speaking of Cronus... Sollux looked at him, a bit surprised. He looked a lot different than he did before. Panting heavily, hair messy and in his face instead of greased back, distracted, instead of concentrated and arrogant...He looked like a completely different person. Not to mention that his jeans were heavy, hanging low on his hips. Sollux had to admit it; in this moment, Cronus looked undeniably hot. He ruined it by straightening, his familiar smile returning as he pushed his long hair back and out of his face. It was then that Sollux noticed something on Cronus's face that he

hadn't before-two lightening shaped scars pretty high up on one side of his forehead. How did those get there? They looked almost deliberate... "Congrats, doll. You upstaged both me and my bro. You're not bad," he offered with a smile. She gave him a brief smile back, and Eridan merely scowled. "Great, now leave, Cronus," Eridan snapped, stepping towards his brother. Sollux's smile faded, as did Fef's, neither of them comfortable with Eridan and Cronus being up in each others faces. Cronus chuckled. "I'd love to. You comin', baby bro?" He tried, and Eridan snickered, eyebrows furrowed harshly. "You fuckin' wish," he hissed. Cronus shrugged, though annoyance flickered in his blue eyes. "Fine," he responded. He then looked back at Sollux, smile growing. "I could take him home instead," he challenged, causing Sollux's eyebrows to raise. Eridan stepped forward harshly, shoving Cronus hard out of his sudden anger, causing Cronus to stumble back. "Don't even fuckin' joke about him," Eridan demanded. Annoyance once again slipped into Cronus's eyes, not looking too fond of being pushed around. "Who said I was joking, Eri?" He mocked. "Who said that I really didn't want to take him for a ride?" A flame flickered in Eridan's eyes, burning through any composure that he might have had left. Sollux saw it before any of them even realized, quick to move in Eridan's direction. Eridan dived at his brother, unable to apply any damage as Sollux jumped forward as well, grabbing Eridan and pulling him back. "Eridan! Stop, okay?" Sollux nearly begged, pulling his boyfriend back and squeezing his hand hard. Eridan nearly ripped out of Sollux's grasp, but he remained in his new place and allowed himself to calm down as he looked back at his boyfriend in a slight embarrassment. Cronus, on the other hand, actually had a flicker of fright in his eyes as he stepped back from his brothers rage. It faded immediately, though, after Sollux saved his ass. He smiled an almost grateful smile. "Wow, you're not bad to have around, cutie," He complimented. Sollux just shot him a look. He pulled Eridan behind him, being the one to step up this time. He took a step forward, moving closer to Cronus as he glared daggers at the older Ampora. "What the hell do you want, Cronus?" Sollux demanded, immediately met with a snicker from Cronus. "You know what I want, kid. Eridan's got to come home, and he's got to come home now. I've wasted enough time in this waste of a town. My patience is thinning," he threatened slowly, and Eridan's whole body tensed at Cronus's tone. Sollux remained calm, familiar in dealing with children-like men who couldn't control their tempers. "Just go home, Cronus," Sollux tried. "Can't do that, cutie," Cronus countered, and Sollux shook his head. "How old are you? Twenty-two? Twenty-three? So why are you acting like you're still a fifteen year old kid following daddy's orders? Why does this mean so much to you?" Sollux prodded. He was surprised to see that something swirled in Cronus's eyes in response to

Sollux's question. Eridan seemed to tense further behind them, though he undoubtedly had the same question. "It's called loyalty, kid," he informed with a scowl. It was then Sollux could pinpoint the emotion in Cronus's eyes, filling Sollux with shock and realization. "No, it's not," he started, receiving a raised eyebrow from Cronus. "It's called jealousy." Cronus's eyes widened, shock filling them, though it was quickly replaced by anger. Sollux then knew that he was right. Cronus was jealous of Eridan. For whatever reason, he was jealous of his brother, and this whole situation was just the eldest son trying to prove himself to his father. "And what am I jealous of, Captor?" Sollux almost smiled. "Eridan. Why you are, I'm not sure, but I have this creeping feeling that it has something to do with your father." Confusion replaced the anger in Eridan behind them, and he quickly shook his head. Feferi was looking between them all, trying to figure everything out as she kept quiet and Eridan stepped forward. "That doesn't make any sense, dad hates me," Eridan piped up, surprised to be met with a scoff from Cronus. "Is that what you think, Eridan? Dad hates you? Why the bloody hell do you think his entire life has been flipped upside down since you left? Why do you think he sent me to find you? Why do you think he demanded that I bring you home, unable to come home myself until you do? I was fucking banished, Eridan, and it's all because of you! You ditch your family with every intent on making a better life elsewhere with new people and fake relationships, and he still wants you back more than he wants his food in the morning!" Cronus yelled, his own composure snapping at Eridan's words. Eridan's shocked disarmed him a moment before his eyebrows furrowed deeply. "Fake relationships?" He snapped, stepping forward once again. Cronus threw his head back and laughed at Eridan's reaction. "You think I don't see right through this whole fling with little Captor, here? You're so desperate for love, so desperate for anyone to make you feel the way that you want to feel, that you manage to conjure these fake feelings for a broken soul with a shit life and impressive mental problems," Cronus accused, his accusation like a load of bricks flinging into Sollux's body. What...? "Are you accusin' me of makin' up my feelin's for Sol because I want the real feelin's that he provides me with?" Eridan yelled, fists clenching until his knuckles turned white. Cronus snickered. "No, I'm just pointing out the truth that I see. He's not your type, Eridan, and he never will be your type. You've always been fond of the impressive, broader guys. Not a thin, weak, cracked computer freak who obviously lost all of his marbles when his mommy died," Cronus yelled back. Sollux's eyes widened, all of this growing to a level that was far too heavy on Sollux's mind and heart. What the hell was he talking about? Eridan did care about him, didn't he? Then

again, Sollux had always thought it strange that someone like Eridan was at all interested in someone like Sollux. And the comment about his mother and his freakish nature was just icing on the cake. His paranoia then began to grow. What if Eridan didn't get drunk that night so that he could have the courage to admit how he felt about Sollux? What if he did it so that he could be strong enough to use Sollux for the very reasons that Cronus listed? Was that all that Sollux was to Eridan? A fucking tool that could be easily disposed of when someone better came along? Sollux immediately felt sick. "Are you really that pathetic that you have to bash that which you'll never fucking have?" Sollux yelled, his own anger growing as he stepped forward, his face close enough to Cronus's that Cronus actually would have been moderately impressed if his anger hadn't overtaken his features. He stood tall, snarling back at Sollux as Sollux continued. "You have to accuse mine and Eridan's relationship of being fake because it's something that a cruel, manipulative slave like you can never have! You're just fucking pissed about it, aren't you? The fact that someone like you will never, ever be loved and come first to anyone, not even your father!" At this, Cronus stepped forward with meaning and ferocity. Fear sparked in Sollux's heart, and Sollux's first instinct was to quickly back away. What he didn't expect was to slip on the large puddle of water that had already formed around the small, dripping group. He lost his footing and he fell back, lips parting in surprise as he realized what was happening. He saw Eridan's eyes widen in fear, the Aquarius jumping forward and reaching for his boyfriend. Sollux's hand shot out, reaching towards Eridan for help. The tips of their fingers barely brushed before Sollux completely fell backward, off the edge of the pool and into the water.

Chapter 30
Sollux almost forgot what being completely encased by water was like. It had been at least ten years since he had even been in a pool. He forgot the stinging of the chlorine when it made contact with the eyes, but he couldn't close his. All he saw was the image of his mother; the thrashing, then the sinking. He use to swim. He actually wasn't that bad. But after his mother's drowning, his limbs simply wouldn't work in the water anymore. He heard the bubbles around him, felt the pressure of the water as he struggled to reach towards the surface. He thrashed and kicked, his first instinct to gasp as soon as he realized that he was sinking. The water filled his lungs and he struggled even further, now experiencing pressure in his chest that joined the fear that threatened him with unconsciousness. He wasn't in the water for long, though. He heard the crash of multiple dives into the water above the bubbles and the ringing of the voices that had returned to his mind, reminding Sollux of their constant presence. Thankfully he was rescued from that, a strong arm slipping around his waist and pulling him close as they both shot towards the surface. As soon as they broke through, Sollux began to cough like a fucking maniac. His hands quickly clung to his savior, shaking like a leaf in the middle of a hurricane. He coughed hard,

completely oblivious to most everything as he concentrated on staying awake in the midst of his fear and pain. How the hell was he supposed to stop coughing? The taste was awful and his throat, nose, and eyes all stung from the disgusting chlorine. He was pulled towards the edge, and it was when they got there that Sollux looked up at EridCronus. He would have been shocked if he wasn't consumed by fear, blinking a few times to make sure that his swirling mind wasn't playing tricks on him. Sure enough, it was Cronus who had gotten to him first and had pulled him back to the sweet surface and delicious air. Why did Cronus help him? "God dammit, kid," he grumbled immediately, an emotion in his eyes that Sollux could have sworn looked like worry. Cronus looked at Sollux for a brief moment, shaking his head as he lifted him up and placed him on the concrete. Sollux was still surprised, unable to stop looking at him until Eridan pulled himself up out of the pool. He immediately grabbed Sollux, yanking him onto his lap and hugging him close. "Sol," he managed, his voice shaking along with his hands. His shaking was impressive, but it didn't even come close to matching Sollux's trembling nerves. Cronus pulled himself out of the pool as well, standing up and pushing his hair out of his face. He then looked down at Sollux, fists clenched and eyebrows furrowed. "What the fuck is wrong with you, kid? Fucking dumbass!" He accused, obviously having read the file pretty thoroughly if he knew how much the water affected Sollux. He was, in fact, the first in the water after Sol. Feferi climbed out of the pool, rushing over and kneeling next to Sollux as she grabbed his hands. Her eyes were wide with fright, but Sollux still couldn't look away from Cronus. Eridan's head shot up, face contorted in nothing but rage. "This is your fuckin' fault, Cronus!" "What?! I'm not the clumsy dim-ass who fell into the pool, Eridan! You say it like I shoved him or something!" "You might as fuckin' well have, you fuckin' bastard! You practically lunged at him, what was he supposed to do?" "Stand there and take it like a fuckin-" Feferi shot up immediately, spinning on her heel and stepping threateningly towards Cronus. Her fists were clenched and the expression she wore was intimidating for her. Cronus's eyebrows rose at her stance. "Get out! Just leave, nobody wants you here!" She shouted, causing him to step back. He looked at her a moment before shaking his head. He turned quickly, walking over and grabbing his things. He looked back once more on his way out the door, eyes locking with Sollux's for the briefest moment. He looked at him for a split second before turning once again, disappearing from the building. Sollux was yanked back into reality, his breaths heavy as he clung to Eridan to stop his shaking. Eridan held his boyfriend close, arms wrapped protectively around him as he

rocked him back and forth. He looked up at Feferi, flicking the hair out of his eyes as he blinked quickly. "Fef, could you please go back into the locker rooms and look in the lockers to see if you can find any towels?" He asked, and she nodded quickly, making her way into the backrooms. Eridan looked back down at Sollux, pulling him further onto his lap. "You're okay," he assured, trying to stop Sollux's shaking. Sollux nodded quickly, still breathing heavily as he blinked rapidly. The fear was taking a long while to diminish. The voices were no more than whispers, but they were still present and tormenting their host. Sollux almost didn't hear Eridan over the constant white noise in his head. Eridan sighed, wrapping his arms even further around Sollux. "You didn't...You didn't believe anythin' that he said, did you?" He asked worriedly. Sollux sniffled, refusing to meet Eridan's eyes as he finally spoke in a shaky tone. "Of course not," he lied, slowly beginning to calm down and relax into the warmth of the Aquarius. Whether his tone gave him away or not, Sollux didn't know, but Eridan didn't look too convinced. He sighed, burying his face into Sollux's soaking wet hair. "Good. Because I love you, Sollux Captor, and I could never use you" he assured, immediately causing Sollux's eyes to widen and his heart to speed up once again, the voices diminishing almost immediately. He had his doubts about Eridan's feelings here and there, but he was always almost sure of Eridan's true feelings. Despite all of this, he couldn't fight the ridiculous pace of his heart and the warmth that spread like honey through his entire body, down to his fingertips and the ends of his toes. But could he admit his feelings in return? Instead he just curled up further on Eridan's lap, finding comfort in Eridan's warmth. Feferi soon returned with a towel, kneeling down and handing it to Sollux. Sollux was able to slide off of Eridan's lap and dry himself off, quick to wrap himself in the fluffy goodness of the towel. Feferi went to grab her cover up and pull that on, and Eridan, although he didn't want to leave Sollux's side, left to pull his clothes and his glasses on as well. Oh, yeah, glasses. Sollux's had fallen off in the pool. Eridan and Feferi didn't seem to notice, and Sollux didn't feel like bringing it up. He had another pair at home anyways, so it didn't matter. They didn't stay after that, leaving immediately and making their way back home. Eridan looked reluctant to force Sollux into the car, but Sollux slid into the backseat quickly, pushing through this, knowing that Eridan would be right next to him. Funny. He was growing comfortable with one fear, meanwhile, being nailed in the gut with another. He still couldn't get over his confusion about Cronus. What reason did he have to help Sollux? If anything, Sollux would have expected Cronus to cackle at Sollux's pain. Hell, if we're talking on an extreme level, Cronus's life would be a helluva lot easier if Sollux was out of the way. So...why? Sollux was lost in his thoughts, hardly even realizing that they were already home. He slid out of the car after Eridan, walking with a lost look in his eyes up into their apartment. He knew that Eridan was watching him with worry, but Sollux elected to ignore that. He was a tad embarrassed about the whole thing, and he just didn't want to think nor talk about it.

It was when they got inside that Eridan realized that Sollux's glasses were gone. Sollux only blinked a few times and shook his head, assuring Eridan that he didn't need to go back and get them. He had another pair, so going back would be pointless. It took a bit of convincing, but eventually Eridan gave in. "Can I do anythin' for you, Sol?" He offered, eyebrows knitted together as he studied Sollux thoroughly. Sollux just sighed as he tossed aside the towel that he had wrapped around him, shaking his head as he rustled his fingers through his damp hair. "Yeah, Eri. You and FF can go grab lunch and go to the aquarium and enjoy yourselves," he replied, immediately met with a look from Eridan, exaggerated to the point where it was as if Sollux had suggested that Eridan strut off a cliff. "What? Are you serious?" He asked, and Sollux closed his eyes and ran his hand down his face. "Well, hell, if you don't want to do that, you could always go shopping. Hit the Goodwill or some shit, I don't care. Just get out of the apartment, you know?" Eridan's eyes widened and he stumbled back briefly in complete and utter seriousness. He looked as though he just avoided a head on collision with an eighteen wheeler, and Sollux swore he looked almost winded. "Goodwill? I don't even know what the inside of a Goodwill looks like! Goodwill, Sol?" Eridan exclaimed, and Sollux couldn't fight his laughter. This seemed to make Eridan smile slightly, though he still looked taken aback by the Goodwill suggestion. He then sighed with Sollux, stepping forward and softly sliding a hand up Sollux's arm. "I don't want to go anywhere, Sol," he admitted, and Sollux shook his head in return. "Well I don't want you stuck in here. FF isn't going to be here forever, and you two have some major catching up to do without dragging me along," he replied, and Eridan's eyebrows furrowed. "No one's draggin' anyone, Sol," he assured, and Sollux nodded. "Yeah, okay, whatever. Nonetheless, I don't want you two to stay in here worrying over me, alright? Just, please?" He practically begged. Eridan looked at him a moment. His eyes moved back and forth between Sollux's, taking in those mismatched orbs for a short moment before releasing a heavy sigh. "Alright, Sol. Fine, I'll go out with Fef," he mumbled, receiving a snicker from the corner of the room. Eridan turned to see Fef in the hallway, hands on her hips. She had already changed and fixed her hair back in a loose braid, quick to roll her eyes in mock annoyance. "Don't make it sound so tetra-ble, Eridan!" She teased, and he groaned slightly, mostly at her stupid pun, but also in guilt. "I'm sorry, Fef! I just-I don't want to leave him," he admitted, and Sollux smiled fondly. He shoved Eridan gently backward towards the hallway. "Go, Eri. Get changed and have fun. Forget about this morning, alright?" He demanded. Eridan just mumbled to himself, heeding Sollux's advice and making his way back to his room to change.

It wasn't long-surprisingly-until Eridan was ready, gathering his things as Feferi made her way out the door. Eridan made his way over to Sol, pulling him close and pressing a long kiss to Sollux's hair. Sol's eyes fell shut, allowing himself to bask in the moment for a brief moment before he pulled himself away and shoved Eridan back again. Eridan smiled briefly, his mere smile making Sollux's heart flutter before the Aquarius made his way out the door. He was so cute. What an asshole. Sollux looked around a moment after he was left alone. He decided that since he had some free time, he'd code a bit to get his mind off of things. He walked down the hallway to his room to get his laptop, just barely catching his image in the mirror that hung on the hall wall. He paused, stepping back and stepping closer to the mirror. He looked like shit. His already pale skin was even paler, making the colors of his eyes pop and shine brightly as if they were glowing. His dark hair looked even darker, messy and damp against his forehead. All he could do was blink and take his image in, a burning in his chest growing the longer that he looked in the mirror. He had always disliked his image, and without his glasses, he looked very much like his father. How could Eridan love this? He quickly tore away from the mirror making his way to his room. He changed quickly into a warm pair of clothing, grabbing his laptop and making his way back to the living room. He plopped himself down on the couch and began coding for a while. He got lost in the numbers and formulas, everything else fading away. His bubble formed around him, making him completely oblivious to everything else, especially the time. It was as though he blinked, and two hours disappeared. That's why he liked to code. It took him away from everything else that went on. He always thought that he coded in the way that some people read. He knew that a lot of kids at school would read to escape from this world and fall into another. Some wrote poetry, some drew, some played video games, and some swam, like Eridan. Coding was what worked for him, and he was hella good at it. Eventually he stretched and looked up, a bit surprised at the time that had passed. He sighed, pushing his laptop to the side and running his fingers through his hair. He could continue to code, but even stuck in his bubble, the melancholy feelings that he loathed were still present. He got up and retrieved his phone, then walked back over to the couch and fell back down. He dialed Karkat's number and held the phone to his ear, closing his eyes as he listened to the tone. Man, he was exhausted. Perhaps he should have eaten something, but he was far too lazy for that shit. Not that his stomach would be able to handle food at this point anyway. "Sup dick-rider," Karkat answered, immediately making Sollux roll his eyes. "The hell did you just call me?" "Nothing, and you failed to reply to my implied question." "Maybe I don't want to answer your lame-ass questions." "Maybe you should have thought twice before calling me, then."

"Yeah, well, I couldn't help but to notice that you picked up on the first ring. That's called desperate, lover boy. Surely you've seen enough shitty romance films to know that you should never answer on the first ring. Come up with a better comeback when you're obviously not craving my desirable attention." "Wow, okay! By the way, I think the point of this phone call skipped class and did a great fucking job of avoiding my attention. Did you actually need me for something, or is Eridan just not around for you to bitch at? Is that what I am to you, Sollux? Your bitch fix?" Sollux smiled, retaining his laughter. "That's right, KK, you're my bitch." Karkat snickered. "No, but really, what's up asshole?" Sollux sighed, his sigh slipping into a drawn out groan. Karkat hummed in feign interest on the other end, as if trying to decipher that particular response. "I don't speak gay loser." "Just loser, right?" "Exactly." Sollux laughed, though he felt as if it were fake. He wasn't really in a laughing mood, and although Karkat had a way of cheering him up, he couldn't get over the lingering darkness that had overtaken his own aura. "Let's go grab a drink, KK," Sollux offered. He received silence from the other end, causing him to yawn. Karkat never really was a big drinker. "Are you okay, dude?" He prodded, and Sollux sighed again. It took him a moment to answer, his gaze falling to his knees. "Not really," he admitted. Karkat didn't skip a beat. "Alright. I'll meet you at the bar in ten." Sollux couldn't help but to smile gratefully. "Sound's like a plan." "Wait! Is Dave going to be there?" "Um, yeah?" "Holy fucking tits on a tricycle." "Creative," Sollux commented. "Is that really going to be a problem?" Karkat huffed. "I fucking guess not. The things I fucking endure for your shitty bitch ass." Sollux laughed again. "This shitty bitch ass isn't going to wait for you forever. Don't be late, Shakespeare."

Chapter 31
Sollux arrived at the bar in his blue and red framed glasses. He hadn't worn these dorky things since high school. No doubt would Karkat notice and question Sollux about them, and no doubt would Sollux have to answer. It didn't make much of a difference anyhow. He was sure to be interrogated over the very reasoning as to why he wanted a drink in the first place, so Sollux was already set and ready to answer questions. He slid into the stool next to Karkat, who immediately looked at him in curiosity. "What's up with your glasses?" He questioned, almost making Sollux smile again. He didn't, though, thinking back on the location of his usual glasses.

"My other pair is chilling at the bottom of a pool," he replied calmly, holding his hand up and waving Dave over before Karkat could reply. Dave made his way over to the two boys, eyebrow raising at Sollux's glasses as well. He didn't say anything about them, instead replying with a completely different subject. "If I was your boss, Sollux, I'd fire you," he informed smoothly, no doubt referring to Sollux's slacking hours. Sollux smiled slightly. "Yeah? And I'd blackmail you," he replied back, causing Dave to paused. He looked at Sollux for a moment before glancing to Karkat, then back to the Gemini. He continued to stare, his face holding an expression that seemed to say 'You win this time, Captor'. "What can I get you, sir?" He mocked, and Sollux chuckled, ordering his drink as Karkat pretended to know what the hell they were talking about . Sollux looked at Karkat, nodding towards the bar. "Are you ordering anything?" "No. Are you explaining anything?" He snapped back in reply, causing Sollux to sigh. He ran his slender fingers through his dark hair, leaning forward with his elbows propped on the bar. "Explaining what?" He tried, met with an impressive glare from the smaller male. "Oh, I don't know, Sollux. Maybe you'd like to explain your new life? Maybe you'd like to explain how the stick found its way two miles up Ampora Senior's ass? Or even the questionable file that you found in your apartment that caused you to throw a holy roller bitch fit? You could even explain why the hell your glasses are underwater!" He suggested, his voice growing louder with each sentence. Sollux huffed, looking around as he shushed his loudmouth of a best friend. "Fine, just keep your fucking voice down, shit-wit," he hissed, not exactly wanting the entire building to know about his life. Karkat snickered, shaking his head and snatching up Sollux's drink when Dave served it to him. "Shit-wit, my ass," he muttered, taking a sip of Sollux's drink. Sollux shook his head as well, running his fingers through his stiff hair once again. "I fell into a pool," he replied quietly, causing Karkat to relax slowly. He stared at Sollux for a moment before slowly handing him his drink back. "What were you even doing near a pool?" He questioned, his voice finally at a level that provided Sollux with a tinge of comfort. "I was with Eridan and FF. It's really a long story, KK," he admitted, dragging his hand down his face before he downed his drink and ordered another. Karkat couldn't help but to huff again, looking equally as stressed as he looked over his best friend. He didn't speak for a while, leaving Sollux to his thoughts. Sollux and Karkat still had a close and admirable relationship, but it wasn't nearly as impressive as it was before. Ever since Sollux's life took a right turn down crazy street, he didn't talk to Karkat as often as he would at one time. He just couldn't, and that put a strain between the both of them. He felt bad about it, but what was he supposed to do?

"Sollux," Karkat started, grabbing Sollux's second drink and taking another sip. This time he didn't give it back, still holding it as he continued. "I'm worried about you," he admitted softly. "I don't know what's going on with you anymore and I haven't the slightest fucking idea what goes through that bloated brain of yours. You don't talk to me, and that worries me more than it pisses me off. Shocking, I know, but its true," he assured, making Sollux feel pretty bad. Karkat took another sip, shaking his head as he looked back over at his friend. "You were pretty damn mad the other day, Sollux. You snapped. I can only imagine what you said to Eridan-" "Nothing good," Sollux admitted, grabbing his drink back. Karkat nodded. "No shit. How'd he take it?" He questioned, quick to retrieve the drink once again. "At first? Not too great. But after the sex, I think everything was fine," he replied with a smile. Karkat, who was lifting the glass back up to his lips, froze in mid action. He sat there a moment before his eyes fell shut and he slowly placed the glass back onto the bar. "Sick." Sollux couldn't contain his laughter, snatching his drink back. "Yeah, It wasn't too great. I'm okay with the whole file thing, though. I might have overreacted just a bit," Sollux admitted, downing his drink for the second time. Karkat huffed once again. "Overreacted about what, fuck-hat? You're talking as if I know what the shit you're even talking about," he snapped. Sollux stared down into his empty glass, eyes falling shut as he inhaled deeply, then exhaled slowly. "The file contained every detail about my entire life, down to my last prescription," Sollux admitted in a voice that was almost too low for Karkat to hear above the rest of the noise in the building. Karkat just looked at him, eyebrows furrowed, brown eyes wide. "Where the hell did he get that information?" He demanded. Sollux sighed. "His brother," he confessed, only proceeding in confusing Karkat further. "Right. And how the hell did his brother get it?" "Cronus has his ways." "What the fuck does that even mean?" "It's not supposed to mean anything, KK, you're not supposed to know." "Know what? What the shit, Sollux?" Sollux was beginning to grow frustrated, gripping hard to his glass. "Know about Eridan's family." "What about Eridan's family?" "What they fucking do, Karkat." "What the hell does that have to do with anything? Sollux, how did Cronus get the damn information? "Through the fucking mob, Karkat!" Sollux yelled in a hiss, looking away from Karkat desperately. "Eridan's family is in the God damn mob, alright? And when I agreed to stay with Eridan after figuring this shit out, I pretty much signed up into his fucked up life. His

dad will do anything to get Eridan back, Eridan doesn't want to go back, and Cronus and Adrian are convinced that's because of me. In other words, KK, I'm pretty sure that I'm fucking screwed." Sollux ranted on and on, making sure to completely avoid Karkat's gaze. He had to admit that he felt so much better after admitting all of this to Karkat, feeling as though an elephant was lifted off of his chest. He so desperately wanted to talk to Karkat about all of this from the beginning. He refused to cross that line before, but he just fell into a fucking pool, so fuck that shit now. It was a long while before Karkat made a sound. Sollux continued to stare into his empty glass, slowly turning the glass in circles as he felt Karkat's demanding gaze drilling into him. He remained silent as well, a bit surprised when Karkat finally spoke. "I need a drink now," he admitted, and Sollux would have smiled if he didn't feel like shit. It wasn't until Karkat actually had his drink in hand that he finally responded to Sollux's confession. "Alright, so you're not just dicking me around, are you? You're dead fucking serious. Eridan's really involved in all that shit?" He questioned, and Sollux sighed, suddenly extremely exhausted. "Yeah, he is," he replied. Karkat just sat there a minute, thinking about it before shaking his head. "Damn," he muttered, shooting his drink before replacing the glass back on the bar. "So, like, has he killed people and shit?" He questioned. Sollux winced, rubbing his temples. "I don't know, KK. You think I want to bring that up to him?" He could feel a headache coming on. At least the voices were gone. "Why not? Because you don't want to upset him with it, or because you don't want to know the answer?" Karkat demanded, causing Sollux to groan. "You know what? I don't even know. I don't know any more than you do now, and I just-...It all kind of sucks lately, KK. His showing up into my life like, knocked down the domino. So much has been happening lately, it's pretty crazy. And I don't know whether or not it's really all that big of a deal, or maybe it's that I'm just noticing everything around me now that I'm feeling more. I just feel as though I can't catch a break." Karkat nodded in understanding, and Sollux noticed that he was already on his next drink. Was it that hard for him to listen to? Sollux knew that he sure as hell felt as though he could use a drink every other day. "I'm going with the second one, Sollux. You've always had things thrown at you left and right, it didn't start with Eridan. I think that you're just now really beginning to see it because, well, how could you not? The mob, dude? That's a pretty big hive of bees." "Damn straight." "And now you're beginning to notice that you're being served a platter of shit that's practically never ending. I have to admit, it's pretty impressive, Sollux. How you handle it all, I mean. Anyone else would have chucked their marbles at the wall and skipped town by now," Karkat complimented, and Sollux snickered.

"Yeah, I've been to crazy town before, KK. The only reason that I've been able to handle all of this is because I know what hell is really like." "Sounds like a blast. Better than Chuck-E-Cheese?" Sollux furrowed his eyebrows, though he couldn't help but to laugh. He grabbed Karkat's cup out of his hands, holding it away with a smile. "I don't think you should have any more of this, KK," he teased, and Karkat rolled his eyes, snatching his drink back. "Whatever. I haven't had that much," he informed. Sollux smiled, feeling just about ready to get off of this subject. "We should change that," he suggested. Karkat looked at him a moment before shrugging. "What the hell," he commented before ordering another drink. Dave looked a little reluctant, but he served the two nevertheless. Sollux didn't know how long they stayed, or how much they both really drank. All he knew was that he began to feel a whole lot better now that the worry had disappeared and he began to feel a lot more relaxed. In the end, the sun had fallen and the street lamps had come on and Karkat was laughing his stupid, uncontrollable laugh as they both exited the bar. "You fell down the stairs, Sollux. Dave warned you about them, but you fell down those fucking stairs, bro," he laughed, almost leaning against Sollux as they walked. Sollux rolled his eyes with a comfortable smile, zipping his jacket up against the cold. "Whatever. That party was lame as hell, and I was shoved," he informed, only making Karkat laugh harder. "Holy frick that was the funniest shit I had ever seen," he laughed, grabbing onto Sollux to keep from completely tripping and falling over. Karkat was so damn clumsy and stupid when he was drunk. Sollux could handle his liquor a lot better than the smaller male could. "I still remember that time that we all slept over at Gamzee's and you bawled like a little kid at the end of that romance movie. You fucking forgot that we were all there, you just sobbed until you couldn't breathe," Sollux retorted, causing Karkat to shove him lazily. "Hey, that one was sad," he slurred. "You were crying too." "No, I wasn't. I had tears on my face because I was laughing so hard at you! We all just sat there and nonchalantly stared at you, trying not to laugh as you gripped to the damn tissue box." "Whatever, Sollux, you wanted to cry. You can say otherwise, but I knew. You know why? Because all of you wanted to cry. That was a sad movie," he drawled, tilting his head back and looking at the stars as he walked. Sollux had to grab his arm and pull him back onto the sidewalk as he began to wander into the street absentmindedly. He smiled, watching his best friend as he walked and stared. He was glad that he was spending the night with Karkat. He really needed just to wind down and forget everything else. Just one night, one night of stupid shit to make him feel better about everything else. It wasn't that much to ask, and Sollux was determined to just get away from it all for at least one night.

He missed this; being stupid with Karkat was just like old times, and it filled Sollux with a calmness, though that calmness was met with a certain melancholy. Sollux elected to ignore that part of his feelings and concentrate on the comfort of the silence of the night and his determination to forget everything else. It didn't last very long, though. Karkat spoke up after a minute of silence. "Terezi was there," he said softly. Sollux looked over at him. He blinked a few times, lips tugging down into a sad frown for his friend. Damn. He would never be over her... "Yeah. She cried too." "Yup. The only other one," Karkat confirmed. He looked away from the sky and down to his shoes, shoving his hands into his pockets with a sigh. Sollux sighed too, blinking up at the street lights as they walked. "How's Meenah?" He tried to cheer him up, though Karkat only sighed again. "Great," he replied sadly. Sollux furrowed his eyebrows, looking at him. "Oh, sound's terrible," he said, confused by Karkat's tone. Karkat sighed again, shaking his head. "She really is. She's really funny and cute and shit, but..." His voice slowly trailed off. Sollux nodded. "But she's no Terezi." "Right." Sollux just looked ahead, not replying. He blinked a few times, thinking about Eridan. No one was like Eridan... "Hey, I'm crashing at your place," Karkat informed, causing Sollux to look back at his best friend with a teasing smile. "You mean to tell me that you don't want to go back and enjoy Kankri's company? If your lucky, maybe he'll talk to you." Karkat burst out laughing. "If I'm lucky?" He laughed. "Hell no, I'm not going back there tonight. I'm stealing your bed, and you're sleeping on the couch." "Yeah? And where's Eridan going to sleep? FF's over and sleeping in his bed." "She can suck it up and take the couch and you and Eridan can share his bed and do whatever the hell it is that you two do in bed. Hell, she could sleep with both of you. It's a weird, kinky kind of relationship that you three have going on, but I think that you could make it work. I mean, if you're drunk enough, you could even-" "I'm stopping you there before I punch you in the mouth, KK!" Sollux informed quickly, finding himself blushing at the thought. Karkat looked over at him, noticing the color on Sollux's pale cheeks. His eyes widened and he burst out laughing, nearly falling face first on the sidewalk. "Holy shit, you kinky fuck! I can't believe-" "Hey, you brought it up, asshole! And no, I'm not fucking considering it! That's just-just..." "Something out of a bad porno? Son of a mobster in a forbidden relationship with a computer nerd and a fucking mermaid," Karkat laughed, and Sollux shook his head. "You're an idiot," Sollux informed him, though he couldn't help but to laugh as well.

By the time that they got up to Sollux's apartment, Karkat was nearly doubled over, cackling at his own stupid jokes. Sollux was just shaking his head, smiling in amusement as he dug through his pockets for his keys. He unlocked the door and made his way inside, holding the door open for Karkat, who nearly tripped over the welcome mat. "Watch it, dumbass," Sollux laughed, met with Karkat shoving the finger into his face. Sollux closed the door behind them, searching for the light. Before he even found it, the lights flipped on and Eridan was there, eyes wide, face contorted in immense anger. "Sollux Captor!" He shouted, causing Karkat to jump back and slam into Sollux. "Ouch! Dammit, KK!" "Sorry, bro! Your boyfriend scared the piss out of me," he slurred. Sollux shook his head. "Pansy-ass..." "Hey, bite me. That was scary," he tried to inform matter-of-factually, though his slurred words only made it sound funny. Sollux almost laughed, but caught site of Eridan's enraged features. "Is he...drunk?" Eridan demanded. Sollux looked at Karkat, checking him out from his head to his toes before looking back at Eridan, holding his fingers up as if he were pinching something in the air. "Just a little," he replied, causing Eridan's eyebrows to furrow further. "Wait, are you drunk!?" He snapped. Karkat whistled sloppily at Eridan's bitchy tone, shaking his head. "This is so not my problem. Talk to you when it's daylight, Sollux," Karkat drawled, waving in the wrong direction at Sollux as he yawned and made his way back to Sollux's bedroom. Sollux nodded at Karkat in reply, trying to ignore Eridan's bitch face. There wasn't a chance in hell that he was getting out of this, though. "Sollux, what the hell is wrong with you? After what happened this mornin', I can't believe you just took off for the entire night without even tellin' me that you were leavin' or where you were goin'! I had no idea what happened to you, and you left your damn phone!" He yelled, causing Sollux to wince slightly. He didn't think about that. This was going to ruin his one night of escape. He had to think fast... "You know, growin' up in my house, I automatically imagined the worst! I thought somethin' fuckin' happened to you, asshole! I was about five seconds away from goin' out and lookin' for you-" Eridan didn't even get to finish as Sollux yanked him forward and covered the Aquarius's lips with his own, kissing him slowly and a bit sloppily. Eridan hummed in disapproval, though unable to push Sollux away. He kissed him slowly in reply for a moment before Sollux pulled back with a smile. Eridan didn't return the smile, only furrowing his eyebrows further in irritation. "Stop it, Sol, I'm suppose to be mad at you," he snapped, making Sollux chuckle and lean close as Eridan's hands found their way to Sollux's hips. "How about you let me make it up to you," he suggested, pressing a kiss to Eridan's lips in between each word. Eridan slowly began to relax, eyelid's drooping slightly.

"Yeah? And how are you goin' to do that?" He asked slowly, making Sollux smile once again. "Well, I'm a little drunk, and I've been told that I'm pretty fun when I'm drunk," he informed, hand slowly sliding down Eridan's neck and over his chest. Eridan inhaled deeply, biting his bottom lip as he stared down in Sollux's eyes. "Kar's in your room and Fef's in mine," he replied. "So, we can get creative," Sollux suggested, nipping at Eridan's bottom lip as Eridan hummed in encouragement. He sighed directly after that, shaking his head, though he looked pretty disappointed. "The last thing I need to make my day is for Kar or Fef to wander out here while I'm unable to take my hands off a' you," he complained, and Sollux nodded in agreement. "Yeah, I guess you're right. Rain check?" He suggested. He was fine with that, as long as Eridan wouldn't yell at him anymore. Thankfully, Eridan finally smiled. "Definitely," he agreed, pressing a kiss to Sollux's forehead before pulling back and looking at him seriously. "I mean it though, Sol. You've got to tell me when you leave, alright? I'm not bein' clingy, I'm just bein' safe. I can't help but to worry, because-" "Because I lov-ve ya' oh so much, Sol, an' I w-wouldn't be able ta' function if somethin' wwere ta' happen ta' ya'," Sollux teased in a terrible accent and a feigned stutter, causing Eridan to roll his eyes. "More or lethh, jackathh," Eridan teased right back, making Sollux chuckle. Sollux then pulled away, smiling a wide smile as an idea popped inside of his head. "Hey, do you think KK's asleep yet?" He asked, making his way back to his bedroom. Eridan rose an eyebrow, following the other curiously. "I'm sure. He was pretty hammered," he replied, eyebrows furrowing now. "Why?" Sollux slowed as he got closer to his room, making sure to be extra quiet. He leaned over and peaked inside the room, allowing his eyes to adjust to the darkness before looking over at his bed. Sure enough, Karkat was knocked out and sprawled over Sollux's bed. Sollux smiled again, backing away and turning to Eridan. "I have an idea," he whispered. Eridan just looked at him a moment before sighing quietly, shaking his head and pinching the bridge of his nose above his glasses. "That doesn't sound good. What are you plannin', Sol?" He asked, and Sollux smiled for the third time as he reached into Eridan's pocket, pulling out Eridan's phone. "Just a small prank. Nothing too bad," he chuckled in a whisper, dialing Dave's number and holding the phone to his ear. Eridan's eyebrow rose again. "A small prank? Why does that still sound like a bad idea?" Eridan asked, following Sollux back out into the living room as Sollux put distance between himself and his bedroom. He didn't reply to Eridan as Dave answered his phone. "What do you want, you worthless little-" "Hey, Dave, are you busy tonight? Wanna come over and have a little fun?" Sollux asked. He was met with silence for a moment as Dave thought thoroughly about that sentence. "Well, as flattered as I am, Sollux..."

Sollux laughed, shaking his head. "Not with me, dumbass, I want to play a prank on Karkat. He's passed out on my bed, and I think I can have a little fun with that. I'll need your help, though." Eridan looked extremely uncomfortable with that thought. He was always secretly afraid of Karkat's rage, which was funny, because Eridan has most likely seen a lot worse than an angry Karkat. At first, Sollux thought that Dave might be uncomfortable with the idea as well, but that assumption was shot down as the cool kid replied. "What did you have in mind?" He asked, causing Sollux to smile mischievously. "Nothing too elaborate. I was just thinking about how Karkat never remembers what he does after he drinks, and how hilarious it would be if you came over and crawled into bed with him," Sollux replied, trying not to laugh. Eridan immediately shook his head, turning and making his way out of the room. "I'm not goin' to be apart of this," Eridan commented on his way out. Eridan and Dave were two different people, though, and Dave replied with a laugh of his own, which was a rare action for Dave. "Dude, you rule." "Damn straight. You coming?" "Yeah, I'll be over in a few," Dave agreed, hanging up. Sollux eventually coaxed Eridan to help them out, though Eridan obviously still wanted nothing to do with the ordeal. He gave in, though he consistently reminded Sollux that this was a stupid idea and maybe they really shouldn't. He even tried to convince Dave out of it when Dave finally arrived, but Dave merely shrugged with a smile. "I've dealt with pissy Karkitty before, man. I'm not worried," he assured. Eridan sighed, shaking his head. "Well, alright," he mumbled, and Sollux laughed, pressing a quick kiss to Eridan's cheek. "C'mon," he urged the two, leading them into his room silently. Karkat's soft breaths were filling the room, acting as the only source of sound as the three snuck in. Eridan stood at the edge of the bed, running his hand through his hair as he glanced around. Dave slid his shirt over his head as Sollux slowly crawled onto his covers and over to his friend. He waved for Eridan to come over, which he reluctantly did. Sollux whispered for Eridan to lift Karkat up, Eridan being much stronger than Sollux. Eridan mumbled curses under his breath that couldn't be deciphered as he did as he was told, pulling Karkat into a sitting position. Karkat stirred, but didn't wake as he did so. Sollux gently pulled Karkat's shirt over his head, tossing it to the side as Dave slid into bed. Eridan very, very slowly laid Karkat back down, looking worried while both Sollux and Dave fought back their smiles. Sollux slid out of his bed just as Dave laid down, sliding an arm around Karkat and pulling him close. "Night, Karkles," Dave whispered, and Sollux had to retain his laughter. "Dave, where's your phone?" Sollux whispered. Dave smiled, grabbing his phone out of his pocket, tossing it to Sollux. Sollux leaned forward, positioning the image perfectly before snapping a picture.

"Send this one to him when it's over," Sollux chuckled, and Dave nodded. "No doubt. Catch ya in the morning, dude." "Sleep tight, Strider," Sollux smiled, placing Dave's phone on the bedside table before Eridan tugged him out of the room. When they were out in the living room, Eridan relaxed and shook his head. "That was stupid, Sol," he assured, and Sollux laughed. "Hey, amuse me. I'm a little drunk and a little stressed and believe it or not, I need a good laugh here and there," Sollux replied, slipping out of his shoes and out of his jacket. Eridan sighed, looking at Sollux as he walked over to the couch and laid down. "Why did you go to the bar, Sol?" He finally asked, assuming that it had something to do with why Sollux was stressed. Sol shrugged, walking over to the couch as well. He laid on top of his boyfriend, knowing very well that Eridan wouldn't mind. Sure enough, Eridan merely slipped his arms around Sollux's back as Sollux rested his head on Eridan's chest. "A distraction, I guess," he admitted, and Eridan sighed. He traced his fingers up and down Sollux's back, coaxing Sollux to close his eyes. It was then that he realized how tired he was... "I'm really sorry, Sol. For draggin' you into this-..." "Don't apologize, Eridan. You didn't drag me into anything. I agreed to stay with you, you know. We'll get through this shit together, alright?" He assured quickly, not at all wanting to talk about it. This seemed to be more than enough for Eridan, who smiled slightly and hugged Sollux close. "I love you, Sol," he repeated softly. Sollux smiled at Eridan's words, allowing them and Eridan's warmth to lull him into a comfortable sleep.

Chapter 32
"What the hell!?" Karkat's voice echoed, jolting Sollux out of his sleep. Sollux hummed, blinking a few times and yawning as he rolled to the side. It wasn't until last minute that he realized where he was, laying on top of his boyfriend on the couch. He gasped as he felt himself falling, eyes squeezing shut as he braced for impact, a flashback of falling into the pool ripping through his mind. Eridan, though, had his arms around his boyfriend and had felt him begin to fall. His eyes shot open and his arms coiled tightly around Sollux, catching him quickly before he completely slid off. He quickly yanked Sollux back up onto his body, holding him tight as if the fall were ten feet instead of just one. "Dammit, Sol," he mumbled groggily, sitting up as Sollux blinked quickly. "My hero," Sollux replied tiredly, patting around for his glasses. Damn, his head hurt. His stomach was a bit upset, too. Maybe he really shouldn't have drank that much last night... Once his fingers slid over his glasses, he slipped them on and proceeded to blink hard a couple of times before his eyes widened again.

"Eridan? What the hell?" He asked, causing Eridan to furrow his eyebrows. "What?" "Your glasses." "What about them?" Sollux couldn't help but to laugh. "You're such a hipster! You don't even have a prescription, do you? These are so fake!" Eridan shrugged, snatching his glasses off of Sollux's face. He slid them onto his own, blinking as he looked around for Sollux's. After finding them, he slid them onto Sollux's face, Eridan's curved smile coming into Sollux's view. Sollux smiled back thankfully, then remembered what it was that had woken him. His eyes widened and his head whipped in the direction of his room just as Karkat ran out, eyes wide, hair wild. "Sollux, Sollux, Sollux!" He was repeating, halting to a stop in the middle of the room as Sollux came into view. The poor kid looked horrified, and Sollux would have felt kind of bad if he wasn't fighting back the urge to piss himself with laughter. "Sollux. Sollux, am I dead? Please tell me I'm dead. If I'm not dead, please kill me. Wait, what the hell happened? Did we have a good-hearted sleep over with shitty ghost stories and junk food? Please tell me we told some shitty-ass ghost stories last night, Sollux," he begged, and Sollux feigned a look of pity. "No ghost stories, KK," he said, and Karkat paled. He just stood there a moment before spinning around on his heel, taking off in the direction of Sol's room. Sollux's eyes immediately widened. Oh shit. He was going to kill Dave. Sollux immediately scrambled away from Eridan, nearly tripping as he rose to his feet. He immediately broke into a run, making his way down the hall as fast as he could. He grabbed his door frame and swung into his room, pausing as he saw that Karkat wasn't in the middle of murdering the cool kid. Instead, Karkat was desperately looking for his shirt, obviously ridiculously uncomfortable half naked. Especially in the same room with Dave. "Strider, as soon as I get over my disgusted shock, I'm going to fuck you up!" Karkat yelled in a threat, grabbing the shirt off of the ground and yanking it over his head. Dave was leaning comfortably against the headboard of Sollux's bed, looking off at Karkat with a smooth smile. "Too late," he replied smoothly, causing Karkat to practically growl at the blonde. Dave's smile widened, even more so at the fact that it wasn't Karkat's shirt that the Cancer had just pulled on. Karkat's eyes widened, noticing his mistake immediately. He was obviously flustered, gasping as he quickly yanked the shirt back off and tossed it aside as if it burned his body. "Wow, that sight takes me back," Dave teased the other, and Karkat's eyebrows furrowed harshly as he bared his teeth. "Strider! Shit," Karkat sighed, plopping down on the edge of the bed as it all began to sink in. His face fell into his hands, the action followed by a groan.

"Shit. Shit, shit, shit! How drunk was I? How much fucking alcohol did I consume?" Karkat snapped, looking up at Dave, not even noticing Sollux's presence, or Eridan's, who had just made his way into the room. Dave shrugged casually, stretching and showing off his upper body further. Karkat immediately looked away, cheeks flushing furiously. Dave noticed, his smile only widening further. "Not that drunk, Karkitty. And I didn't have anything to drink," he replied with an obvious wink, even behind his shades. Karkat's eyes widened again, and he shot back up as he looked around for his shirt. "Alright, Dave! What ever the hell happened last night, didn't happen last night! You understand me? You better understand me, because I'm about three seconds away from kicking your ass!" He yelled, finally finding his shirt and yanking it on. Dave chuckled, sitting back up as he looked at Karkat. Eridan stepped closer, seemingly able to read Karkat's concerning body language. "That's not the only thing you'll have done to my ass," he teased further. This seemed to be the final straw for Karkat as he shot out, lunging at Dave, whose eyes widened behind his shades. Sollux's eyes widened as well, leaping out to grab his friend before some serious damage was done. "Fuck you, Strider!" Karkat yelled, yanking his fist back just before he swung. Before Sollux could grab him and before Dave could act, Karkat was about four feet away from the bed, his arm stuck behind his back as he was locked in Eridan's hold. Sollux blinked a few times, mildly surprised. He hadn't even seen Eridan move, let alone grab Karkat and lock him into that hold before the fist even grazed Dave's skin. How the hell did he do that so smoothly? "Karkat! Karkat, calm down, alright?" Eridan demanded, giving Sollux time to step forward. "KK, it's okay," Sollux assured, not at all expecting Karkat to lash out like that. "It's okay, KK, nothing happened!" Karkat just froze, not even trying to break out of Eridan's grasp. He looked up at Eridan with disgust at their position a moment before he slowly turned towards Sollux, eyes wide with shock and a bit of relief. "...What?" Sollux sighed, running his hand through his hair. "It was a joke. Nothing happened, Dave just came over and chilled in bed with you for the night to make you think that you slept together. It was my idea. I was a little drunk, and a little stupid, obviously," he admitted. Karkat just blinked. "You?" "Me." "Not Dave?" "Not Dave." "Oh." Karkat thought about it. Honestly, he looked more relieved than angry. Though he still looked pretty angry... "So I should be punching you in the face, not Strider?"

Sollux winced. "Yeah, I suppose so," he confessed. Karkat just looked at his best friend with anger a moment before ripping out of Eridan's grasp. He gave Eridan one more look of distaste before stepping away. He made his way over to Sollux, shaking his head without breaking their shared gaze. "You know, you're the worst best friend anyone could ever ask for. You're a lot of things, Sollux Captor. A lot of things, including bitchy and selfish and unbelievable," he hissed, causing regret to flow over Sollux and nearly tear away at his insides. He opened his mouth to apologize, but before he could, Karkat reached into his back pocket. He yanked out his wallet and ripped out a twenty, shoving the bill into Sollux's hand with a scowl. "Also, here's twenty bucks. I owe you for the drinks," he muttered afterwards, Sollux's regret diminishing as Karkat confirmed that things were alright between them. Sollux smiled, relaxing with relief. "I spent a little more than twenty bucks, KK," he teased, and Karkat narrowed his eyes. "You're ballsy if you think you can push this, you fucking-" Sollux laughed, interrupting him. "Look, I really am sorry, KK. You were just so wasted and I was a tinge drunk and one thing led to another." "Whatever! As long as I didn't cheat on my girlfriend, I'm not that pissed," he admitted. He then shot a look towards Dave, whose eyebrows rose slowly. "You're an asshole, Strider." "Yeah, I'm aware," Dave admitted. Karkat shook his head. "Sorry you didn't get some of this anyhow. Feel kinda bad for you," he added, almost making Sollux laugh as Karkat immediately turned and made his way out of the room. Dave sighed behind him. "Yeah, you're not the only one," he mumbled quietly, sliding back down into bed as he ran his hands over his face. Sollux looked at him for a brief moment, feeling kind of bad before making his way after Karkat. He saw his best friend out, strangely relieved as Karkat punched him in the shoulder and insulted him before making his way out the door. Dave got dressed soon after that, putting on an obvious act of not giving half a shit. Sollux sighed, leaning against the door frame in the door way of his room. He glanced at Eridan, who was sitting on the edge of Sollux's bed, just studying his hands. He then looked at Dave, who flashed him a brief smile as he made his way over to the Gemini. "Dave," Sollux murmured, and Dave only shook his head. "Don't 'Dave' me. I'm not upset or anything, I mean it. It was funny, dude," he assured. He then lifted his shades up just barely to reveal his eyes. A flash of red, a wink, and Dave was out of Sollux's room and exiting the apartment. Sollux stood there a moment before looking at Eridan, who was still staring at his hands, eyebrows furrowed. "That went well," Sollux spoke up with a forced smile. Eridan didn't reply. Sollux's smile fell and he looked at Eridan for a few seconds before pushing himself off the wall and making his way over to his boyfriend. "Eridan?" He asked, eyebrows furrowing as well as he sat next to the Aquarius. Eridan's lips formed a thin line, his fingers slowly curling into fists as he looked up and away.

"I'm sorry, Sol. That I grabbed your friend like that," he nearly whispered. Sollux sat there in his own confusion. What was he talking about? He had to think back on the previous scene to remember when Eridan was over to Karkat in a flash, ripping him away from Dave before pain could be inflicted on the cool kid. He also remembered the way that Karkat looked at Eridan. That must have been why Eridan was so upset. Sollux slid his hand onto Eridan's shoulder. "Eridan, you didn't do anything wrong." "Yeah, tell that to Karkat," Eridan snickered. "He looked at me like I was a fuckin' martian." "There's nothing strange about you, Eri. If anything, it was kind of cool how you managed to move and contain Karkat in half of a second. I have no idea how anyone can move like that," he assured with a smile. Eridan sat there a moment. It looked as though he were contemplating what Sollux had said, a thoughtful look in his eyes. He wrung his wrists in a continuous motion for a solid minute before slowly looking over at Sollux with a small smile. Sollux smiled back slightly as well, squeezing Eridan's shoulder before pulling his hand away. He rose to his feet and stretched, groaning as he did so. He rubbed his still aching head, running his fingers through his messy hair and straightening his shirt. As much as he wanted to just stay home today and relax, he had a damn class this morning. "I have to shower and get ready for class, Eri. Are you taking Fef to the airport?" He asked, turning and facing the other. Eridan sighed, nodding slowly. "Yeah, I am. Damn, I don't want her to leave," he admitted, pushing his bottom lip out in a pout. Sollux smiled sadly, holding his hand out to Eridan. Eridan looked up at him and took his hand, allowing Sollux to pull him up off of the bed. "I don't either, ED, but this isn't the last time we'll see her. She calls all the time, too. Before we know it, she'll be back and we'll be spending four hours in the aquarium once again," he assured with a teasing smile. Eridan smiled as well, rolling his eyes. "It wasn't four hours, Sol, it was more like three and a half," he replied, and Sollux chuckled. "Right, well, the point is that FF will be stealing your bed again soon," he smiled. He then pulled away, making his way for his door. "I'm hopping in the shower. I'll be out in five minutes, ten minutes tops," he informed, and Eridan snickered. "How do you even shower in five minutes?" He scoffed, and Sollux glanced over his shoulder. "Maybe I'll show you sometime," he replied with a wink. Eridan looked away in a blush, and Sollux laughed as he walked into the bathroom. He actually took a longer shower than he usually would. He was lost in his thoughts, enjoying the relaxation that came with the scolding water sliding down his body. He just had so much on his mind lately. He was getting use to the whole 'falling into the pool' fact, though he still couldn't believe that it happened. Hopefully that would never happen again. He was also beginning to become a bit more comfortable with the idea of Eridan's family...

Okay, that's a lie, no he wasn't. The mob? Really? It honestly wouldn't have been that bad if there wasn't a constant reminder about the whole thing, aka Cronus Ampora and his dick of a father. Did it seriously matter that much that Eridan was away? And if anyone were looking for Eridan, wouldn't they have found him already? Cronus did, and Cronus couldn't be the best out there. Maybe Eridan was right, and there were no threats pursuing him. But if that were so, why does Adrian really care that much? Whatever. There was nothing that Sollux could do, so he really shouldn't burden himself with these thoughts. His head hurt enough already. He just prayed to whatever might have been out there that Cronus would ease up, or perhaps even leave. He had some decency, Sollux knew that. Maybe Cronus would just let it be. He got out of the shower and got dressed, barely running his hand through his wet hair before making his way out and into Eridan's room. Fef was already up and dressed, almost completely through with packing as Eridan helped her. She turned and saw Sollux, smiling a loving smile at the sight of him. He smiled in return as she skipped over and pulled him into a tight hug. "Eridan told me about your little prank, mister. That wasn't very nice of you to do to poor Karkat!" She informed, and Sollux couldn't help but to laugh. "It was kinda funny, FF. No one got hurt!" He replied, as if that justified it. She just shook her head, pushing aside the conversation as she pressed a long kiss to Sollux's cheek. "I'm going to miss you! I wish that I could have stayed longer with you guys. It's weird not living with you, Sol!" She giggled, and he chuckled in reply. "You needed to leave, I get that. Things panned out pretty well, though, wouldn't you say?" He smiled after returning the kiss to her cheek. She smiled, glancing back at Eridan, who smiled in reply to Sollux's words. Sollux's smile widened at the matching smiles of the two most important people to him. She then pulled away, pushing him back slightly, putting her mother face on. "Go, Sollux! Don't let me keep you from your class. And stay out of trouble, okay!" She demanded, and Sollux laughed. "Yes ma'am, Ms. Peixes, ma'am!" He saluted, and she rolled her eyes. "Good bye, Sollux," she waved as he backed towards the door. He waved back to her, then to Eridan. "I'll be home around noon, okay?" He informed his boyfriend, and Eridan nodded with a smile. "Enjoy your class, Sol," Eridan offered, and Sollux snickered. "Doubtful. Bye Fef," he offered one last goodbye, turning on his heel and making his way out. After grabbing his things and leaving his apartment, he let out a sad sigh. He hated goodbyes, especially when they came down to the important people in Sollux's life. He assured Eridan that she would be back before they knew it, but even Sollux couldn't help but to be pretty disappointed by her leaving. He really missed her a lot, and really, if it weren't for her, Sollux never would have met up with Eridan again.

Wow. Sollux was imagining never reuniting with Eridan again. How different his life seemed now! It had only been four months, yet he was seeing things differently, seeing himself differently, feeling differently about things that he never really thought about before, and it was all because of Eridan. Sure, things seemed a bit more hectic, but Sollux's life was never really boring to begin with. He was so lost in his thoughts about his boyfriend that he didn't even notice that someone had fallen in step beside him. It took for Cronus to speak up to actually gain Sollux's attention. "Hey, baby doll," he greeted, nearly making Sollux jump as his head whipped in Cronus's direction, eyes wide. His pace slowed, though he didn't stop walking. He looked at Cronus a moment before looking back ahead, face twisted in disgust. "Oh, look who it is. I was just thinking about you this morning, actually," Sollux admitted, causing Cronus to smile his usual insinuating smile. "Is that so? I kinda like the sound of that," he replied. Sollux winced in distaste, electing to ignore Cronus and pretend as if he didn't know him at this point. This reaction only made Cronus chuckle. "Oh, so now I'm getting the silent treatment? Can you say rude? That's no way to treat the cool cat who saved your ass yesterday," he informed, and Sollux snickered in reply. "What? You think that you deserve a reward for being decent for once?" "Well, um, yeah," he replied, as if it were the obvious answer. Sollux shook his head, once again ignoring Cronus as he quickened his pace. Cronus only chuckled once again. "C'mon, darlin', don't be like that," he tried, fingers grazing the back of Sollux's hand invitingly. Sollux cringed, his pace quickening once again as he tried to get away from the other. "Believe it or not, I really just want you to leave me the fuck alone, Cronus," Sollux snapped, shifting his bag on his shoulder. He was walking fast now, having to dodge people and accidentally shove a few others just to make his way down the sidewalk. Cronus didn't show any signs of backing off, his pace matching Sollux's as they walked. "Now why would I do that? You're way too much fun, kitten," he informed, and Sollux shook his head. "No, getting a reaction out of Eridan is what you're seeking. I'm not the one that's fun, it's his reaction that you enjoy." "What? I'm wounded! And don't be so modest, cutie. You really are amusing." "I'm flattered. Now get away from me, Cronus," Sollux demanded, stopping as he approached a crosswalk. He looked both ways, shifting his bag on his shoulder again before making his way across the street. Cronus followed, and Sollux almost contemplated walking out into traffic. Even so, that probably wouldn't even get Cronus off of his ass. "What's so great about Eridan, huh? What's he got to make you up for putting yourself in harms way?" Cronus prodded, remaining glued to Sollux's side as Sollux walked. Sollux huffed, not in the mood for this game.

"I don't see how I'm at all in harms way. My safety has yet to be threatened, and I know that you won't hurt me, so." "Won't I, Sollux?" "No, you wont," Sollux snapped, looking up at Cronus as he walked, eyes hard. "You were the first one in the pool when I fell in, Cronus. First one in, first one out, with your arm around my waist." "Just wanted to get you close," Cronus interrupted with a wink. Sollux ignored him. "You didn't have to help me, Eridan was right behind you. But you did help me, Cronus. You even went as far as being upset after I fell in, and you know what I saw? I saw worry. You were worried about me, asshole." Sollux looked ahead again. "You don't want to hurt me." Cronus chuckled. "You think you've got it all figured out, don't you, kid?" "Pretty much. Now get the hell away from me," Sollux snapped. It was then that he was yanked off of the sidewalk and into the alleyway next to them, completely ripped away from civilization before anyone even noticed. Cronus pulled Sollux back until they were covered in shadows, shoving the Gemini hard against the damp brick wall and holding him firmly in place by his throat. Cronus leaned forward, face threateningly close to Sollux's as Sollux gasped for his breath. "No, I won't get the hell away from you, Captor. In fact, I've only just begun. You think that what you've been through already is annoying? You think that you can live a normal life while dating an Ampora? Well be prepared, baby cakes, because I'm not through with you. Not with Eridan, either. And to be completely honest, I'm getting a bit tired of yours and Eridan's stubborn fucking attitudes. You think that you two are unmovable? Unbreakable? Fair enough. Maybe I've just been wasting my time with you," he informed, grip only tightening on Sollux's throat. Sollux's lips parted, his bag dropping to the ground as his hands flew up to grip at Cronus's fingers curled around his throat. His grip was too hard, though, and Sollux couldn't rip away. The pressure was beginning to spike in his head, and the panic was beginning to rise. He thought it was bad then, but he wasn't at all prepared for what came next as Cronus's lips curled up into a cruel smile. "Maybe I should spend my time elsewhere. Maybe that adorable brother of yours might be a little more willing," he threatened, causing Sollux to immediately thrash under Cronus's hold. "Cronus," he managed to gasp. "J-Just leave us alone..." "No! No, Sollux, what part of 'I'm not leaving' don't you fucking understand? Unless Eridan agrees to join me on a flight home right fucking now, I'm not leaving. I will tail you night and day, reside in your shadow every second, and be connected to you as though it were physically painful for me to leave your side. I'll make sure you don't fucking sleep at night, keeping you awake with endless threats and worries. I'm through with trying to be nice about this, Sollux Captor. I'm through with trying to persuade Eridan through words to come home. After this moment, it's all action from me. You don't know the lengths that I'm willing to go to, just to fucking break you. It's to the point that I want you to beg Eridan to

follow me home, and trust me, honey bun, I'm more than capable of doing so," he hissed, a darkness beginning to creep over Sollux's vision from the corner of his eyes. Just when he thought that he was going to pass out, Cronus let him go. Sollux nearly collapsed to the ground, gasping in mouthfuls of air as the dizziness began to fade and he began to feel strength in him again. He looked up at Cronus with hate, eyes blazing. "You son of a bitch..." Cronus yanked his fist back and swung, nailing Sollux in the jaw. Pain exploded across Sollux's face, causing his dim headache to bloom inside of his head. Sollux fell to the ground on his hands and knees, hissing in pain as his eyes squeezed shut and his eyebrows furrowed. Breathe in, then out. In, out, In, out. "You want to know something? I'm actually not that bad. In fact, I'm like Mother fucking Teresa compared to some of the guys in this business. And if they ever get their hands on you, fuck, God help you, kid," he stated, yanking Sollux off the ground and shoving him against the wall again. He leaned close, lips against Sollux's ear as he spoke. "Like I said, doll. Your ride on this merry-go-round is only just beginning. Pull out now, Sollux, or I'll make you wish that you never met my brother." Sollux was dropped, still panting as he hit the ground, head hanging as weakness overtook him once again. He listened to Cronus's footsteps as they disappeared from the alleyway, leaving Sollux alone in his pain. His jaw seared with pain and his head pulsed, his neck throbbing from Cronus's harsh grasp. That lowlife bastard. Sollux had to admit that he was surprised, not at all expecting the sudden action out of Cronus. Hell, he never expected to be yanked into an alley by anyone, though he should have been expecting anything at this point. But to threaten Mit? A threatening rage nearly consumed Sollux at the very thought of it. Before today, Sollux would have brushed it off, not at all believing that Cronus would ever dare to cross those lines. Though, after be choked and socked by the guy, Sollux was beginning to learn not to assume anything. He knew that when it came down to it, he had to expect the worst. Speaking of, was the worst yet to come? Was Cronus serious about the 'other guys' in the business? Both Cronus and Adrian alluded to the possibility that Sollux could be visited by other people, with personalities that Sollux didn't even want to begin to imagine. Although he was pretty stubborn when it came down to his and Eridan's relationship, he really needed to begin taking some things into thought... Sollux slowly rose to his feet, fingers brushing over his neck and jaw. He winced, not feeling much in the way of pain on his neck, but feeling enough on his jaw. Damn, Cronus nailed him pretty good. Sollux sighed, grabbing his bag as he made his way to the opening of the alley. Dammit, this was karma for that stupid prank, wasn't it?!

Chapter 33
"A horror movie though, Sol? Why couldn't we see somethin' a little more, I don't know..."

"Mushy?" Sollux asked with a laugh, leaning back further in his movie chair and shifting his drink in the cup holder. Eridan huffed. "More or less! A horror movie is a terrible date idea!" "Hey, there's romance in a lot of horror movies." "Oh, well, sure! Right before the buff masked psychopath comes out with his machete and cuts out both of their hearts to fuckin' eat em'!" "Fuck, what kind of horror movies are you watching?" Eridan shook his head. "Not the point! The point is that I'd really rather see somethin' else if we're goin' to consider this a date." Sollux hummed, sipping his coke as he did so, eyes traveling over the advertisements on the giant screen. He pretended to think about it as Eridan eyed him expectantly, his blue eyes practically glowing in the dim lighting of the theater. "Hmm. Nope," he replied, flashing Eridan a sweet smile. Eridan threw his head back dramatically and groaned, sliding down slightly in his chair. "I'm in an abusive relationship!" He yelled out to the empty theater. Sollux had to laugh. "You're a dramatic fuck, now get over it!" "Sol, no one's even here. What does that tell you?" "It tells me that a shit ton of people are going to miss a really great movie." "Sol, no one is here because this movie is goin' to suck!" Sollux laughed again, replacing his drink in the cup holder to the left of him. He pushed up the right arm of his chair so that he could lean against Eridan, pressing a kiss to Eridan's pouting lips. Eridan, of course, finally fucking relaxed as he pushed his lips back to Sollux's. Sollux kissed him a moment before pulling back with a smile. "Maybe I didn't really want to see a horror movie. Maybe I just wanted to pick a theater that I knew would be empty so that I would have you all to myself in a really big room," he suggested with a wink. Even in the dim lighting, Eridan's blush was obvious. "I think I like that idea a lot better," he admitted. Sollux smiled, sitting back up and look towards the screen. "Man, maybe I should have thought of that before I decided that I actually really wanted to see this movie." "Sollux Captor, you're an asshole." "The king of assholes. But you're in love with me, so it's alright." Eridan huffed once again, looking away. "You're just goin' to use that against me whenever you can, aren't you." "Pretty much." "Asshole." "Eri, we've already established that fact," Sollux chuckled, turning back towards his boyfriend. Eridan just looked at him through narrowed eyes, jaw set in an annoyed manner. "I hate horror movies." "Do they scare you?"

Eridan shifted in his seat. "A bit, yeah, maybe." At this, Sollux couldn't help but to throw his head back and cackle. "What? You're the son of a notorious mobster, and a fictional movie with fake blood and pea soup vomit scares you?" Eridan held his chin up. "I'm a complicated man." Sollux stopped laughing, smiling lovingly over at his boyfriend. He slid close again, reaching up and running a hand through Eridan's silky hair. Eridan relaxed for the second time, chin returning to its usual angle. "You're lovely," Sollux corrected. Eridan looked at Sollux a moment, studying him to make sure that he wasn't joking before finally managing a smile. He lifted his hand, sliding it over Sollux's face affectionately. "You know, you're the only person that would point out my bein' the son of a mobster, then follow that statement with a compliment," he informed, and Sollux smiled. "I'm a complicated man." "You're lovely," Eridan corrected with a laugh. His fingers slid over Sollux's jaw, immediately causing Sollux to hiss in pain and instinctively yank away from Eridan's caress. Eridan's eyebrows furrowed with worry, smile falling. "Shit, Karkat nailed you good, didn't he?" He asked sadly. Sollux's own fingers barely grazed his jaw line as he looked away from Eridan. "Yeah," he replied softly, biting his lip against the lie. When he had gotten back home a few days ago, Eridan immediately freaked out at the sight of the huge bruise on the side of Sollux's face. Sollux didn't want to talk to Eridan about his brother's threats and violent actions before getting the time to really think things over, so he lied to his boyfriend and told him that he met up with Karkat, who rewarded him with a sock in the jaw for pulling such a stupid prank. Eridan immediately believed him without any question, much to Sollux's relief. Thankfully, the mark of Cronus's hand over his throat had faded before he'd gotten home. If that left a bruise or a mark, Sollux would have a lot more explaining to do. Damn asshole. The more that Sollux thought about it, the more he couldn't believe Cronus's threats. He hadn't seen him in a few days, not knowing what to think about that. Cronus specifically mentioned that he wasn't going to leave Sollux alone. Then again, he also dropped the hint about maybe visiting Mituna... Sollux inhaled deeply, pushing that thought aside. He couldn't even think about it without his emotions spiking. He'd been calling Mituna here and there a few times since his little tussle with Cronus, checking on his brother just to make sure he was fine. There was nothing out of the ordinary, which filled Sollux with a relief like no other. If Cronus ever laid a hand on Sollux's brother... "Hey, Sol?" Eridan asked, breaking Sollux out of his trance. He looked at the Aquarius, blinking a few times. "Hm?" "Are you alright? You look upset," Eridan pointed out, and Sollux immediately forced a smile upon his lips.

"I'm fine, Eridan. More than fine. I'm spending the night with you," he complimented quickly, sliding his hand over Eridan's and intertwining their fingers. Eridan's look of suspicion faded, smile forming as he squeezed Sollux's hand back. It was then that the movie began, and Eridan's fingers began to curl even tighter around Sollux's. Sollux resisted the chuckles residing in his throat, studying Eridan as the Ampora stared wide-eyed at the screen. Five minutes into the movie, and Sollux's hand was already numb. This should be fun. It wasn't long at all before Eridan's back was practically a part of the movie chair, eyes as wide as serving plates, rings digging into Sollux's hands. The girl on the screen began to slowly bend backwards, and the further she bent, the further downwards Eridan's jaw fell. Sollux could hardly pay attention. Eridan was right, and this movie was pretty shitty, but watching Eridan's reactions was enough to entertain Sollux more than any movie could. Every loud noise that erupted in the theater made Eridan jump and yank Sollux's hand close. Sollux had to bite his tongue, watching the ridiculous movie in amusement while Eridan proceeded to freak the fuck out. There were times when Sollux noticed that Eridan was trying to remain cool, but the Aquarius really revealed his fright and his hate for horror movies. As soon as the movie ended, Sollux burst out laughing. Eridan just sat in his seat, completely still, eyes wide and glued to the large screen. He looked as though he had seen the ghost of Christmas past, and Sollux couldn't help but to tease him. "Oh, man, that was scary, wasn't it?" He asked in a feign genuine tone. Eridan was able to finally rip his eyes away from the screen, shooting Sollux a look. "I told you that I didn't fuckin' like scary movies!" He snapped, and Sollux had to chuckle again. "That was not a scary movie, Eridan." "Sollux, that was the most terrifyin' thin'-" "Eri, the murderer's name was ridiculous in itself. Like, I don't even know how people come up with names like that." At this, Eridan shrugged, beginning to relax as the credits began to roll. Eerie music played along with the credits, though Eridan really didn't seem to mind at this point. He looked at Sollux, eyes holding a matter-of-fact look. "His name was based off of his characteristics and his M.O. It distinguishes him from other guys and gives him his own alternate identity differing from the one that he was born into. It's actually very common," he informed, causing Sollux to raise an eyebrow. This was totally a mob thing. "Yeah, a lot of mobsters do that, right?" Sollux asked. Eridan gave him a quick look before looking away. He looked uncomfortable just having the knowledge of that kind of information. He grabbed his drink and lifted it to his lips, sipping on it for the first time that night before setting it down. He was still looking away when he answered.

"Yeah, I guess," he agreed slowly. Sollux smiled, interested as he leaned back comfortably in his chair. "Tell me some?" "C'mon, Sol," Eridan nearly begged, looking over at his boyfriend with an almost desperate expression. Sollux rolled his eyes. "It's not like I'm asking for their number and address, ED. I'm not even asking for any real names. Just toss me a few right off the top of your head?" Sollux asked, still smiling. Eridan glanced at him one last time before sighing, running his fingers through his hair. "Alright, Um," he began, closing his eyes as he thought. "Well, there's Spades Slick." Sollux's eyebrows rose, smile widening. "That's fucking cool. Spades slick? Is he well known?" Eridan nodded, looking over at Sollux with a little less discomfort. "Yeah, he's the leader of the Midnight Crew." "Okay, that's even cooler." Eridan shook his head, though he couldn't help but to smile slightly. "There's Doc Scratch." "Doc Scratch?" "Mhm, he works for Lord English." "Lord English? Are you fucking serious?" Eridan chuckled. "That's actually his name, not a mobster handle." He looked at Sollux a moment more before his smile slowly began to fade. He looked distant for a brief second, as if that name automatically got inside of his head and yanked him out of reality. He stared off for a bit before he shook his head and gathered his things. He stood up, running his fingers nervously through his hair as he looked around, as if the subjects of the previous conversation would magically appear near them. "I shouldn't be tellin' you this, Sol..." Sollux's eyebrows furrowed as he rose to his feet as well. "Why? It's not like the information is useful to me." "Exactly. You don't need to know more than what you already do. You're not involved," he replied quickly, heading down the row. Sollux sighed, following him. "Fine, could you at least tell me if you have a cool name?" Eridan tensed. "No." "Does Cronus?" "No, he doesn't either." "What about your father?" At this, Eridan slowed to a stop. His gaze was locked on his feet, bottom lip pressured under his top row of teeth. He looked distant for a moment before he threw his drink away and pulled his coat around him, beginning to walk once again. "Yeah, he does." "Oh?" Sollux asked, eyebrow raising as he tossed his drink and walked alongside Eridan. "I have to admit that I'm curious."

Eridan sighed, running a hand down his face as they walked out of their theater. He didn't answer right away, head down, avoiding the gazes of everyone around them as they made their way towards the exit. Sollux almost felt bad, making Eridan feel this kind of discomfort. He knew that Eridan really hated this subject, but not to the point where people around him was enough to put him on edge. It wasn't until they got outside that he finally answered. "Dualscar. My father is known as Orphaner Dualscar. They both began to walk on the sidewalk, side by side in the cold night. They sky was dark and the street lamps were just bright enough to illuminate the sidewalk. Sollux looked at Eridan curiously a moment before he slipped his hand into his boyfriend's. "How'd he get that name?" Eridan sighed once again, seeming annoyed, though his fingers curled around Sollux's. For a moment he looked as though he would deny Sollux again, though there was contemplation in his eyes as an unknown thought crossed his mind. He looked almost tempted to burst open and provide Sollux with every bit of information that he knew, but instead he settled on answering Sollux's question straight-forwardly. Sollux didn't know what had gotten into him, but he answered Sollux genuinely without sugar-coating. "He's referred to as "Orphaner" because he's been known for takin' out married couples. If the husband was the target, the wife would go down too, and vise versa. That was just his way. This left a lot of kids orphaned once their guardians were gone. The "Dualscar" refers to the two parallel lightenin' shaped scars that trail down his face. It's kind of like the the symbol of the Amporas." Sollux was surprised that he could speak after being provided with this information. "I saw similar marks on your brother's forehead the other day." Eridan nodded. "We all have them." "Even you?" "Sol, break is comin' up. What did you plan on doin'?" Eridan asked smoothly, as if that was what the conversation had been about the entire time. Sollux blinked. Eridan definitely had those scars somewhere. But where? Sollux had seen pretty much every inch of Eridan's body. He hadn't noticed any lightening shaped scars anywhere. Judging by the ones on Cronus's forehead, those things were not easy to miss. It took a moment for everything to really sink in once again. Orphaner Dualscar. Known for killing mommy's and daddy's. This was really the first time that Eridan was straight with Sollux about the whole mob deal and straight-up gave an example of how serious it was. Adrian Ampora was known for fucking killing people. This was really all Sollux needed to destroy his curiosity. He wasn't sure that he wanted to know much more now... "Every Christmas break my family goes on some two week trip. I actually meant to tell you about this," Sollux admitted, more than happy to change the subject. Eridan looked at him with a raised eyebrow. "Oh? That's sweet."

"Yeah, oh. It is sweet, and you were invited," Sollux informed. Eridan quickly looked over at him in shock, eyes wide, as if baffled by the idea. "What? No, no, I couldn't possibly barge in on your family's vacation. That's your family, Sol," Eridan said quickly, making Sollux smile slightly. "Yours too, Eridan. My family is your family, and everyone really wants you there," he informed, making Eridan's eyes widen further and his cheeks blush. He looked away, still shocked that he was invited to do anything with a family. Sollux once again blamed OrphaAdrian for Eridan's discomfort. Eridan looked ahead for a good while, once again lost in thought. His thumb was trailing absentmindedly over Sollux's knuckles as he thought, blush still present and surprise still residing in his eyes. Eventually a small smile played on his lips, causing him to look bashful as he looked back over at Sollux. "Really?" "Really. Carter invited you himself." "And Monroe?" "Completely up for it. Don't even get me started on Mituna..." Eridan's smile slowly began to widen. He looked over at Sollux, love swimming in his irises as he looked at his boyfriend. He squeezed Sol's hand, tossing Sollux a wink. This made Sollux immediately think of Cronus, but that slipped away as the pain in his jaw flared at the thought. Eridan's wink was much hotter anyhow. "But what if I wanted to steal you away from your family for break? What if I wanted you all to myself?" He suggested, letting go of Sollux's hand to slip his arm around Sollux's waist and pull him close. Sollux had to laugh. "Oh, we'll have plenty of alone time together, trust me," he chuckled. "We're going to the mountains, completely detaching ourselves from the world. We'll never feel more alone." Eridan's smile broke into a laugh, obviously greatly enjoying that thought. His hand grasped Sollux's hip playfully, pulling him even closer as he walked casually. His smile remained as they continued walking. Well, break shouldn't be too bad. It definitely would be nice to get away. Also, Sollux wouldn't have to worry about Cronus and Mituna while up in the mountains. They'd be gone before Cronus even knew it, and Sollux would be left to spend a relaxing vacation with his boyfriend and his family.

Chapter 34
Sollux's fingers flew over the keyboard of his laptop as he lounged back on the ridiculously comfortable couch, feet propped up on the wooden coffee table in front of him. He had a thick fur blanket draped over his legs and he sat right next to the fireplace as he coded. It was cold as shit up here in the mountains, and Sollux preferred to remain warm. They had already been at the cabin for a little over a week, and Sollux was pretty relaxed, though he still had a lot on his mind. Eridan himself seemed so much more relaxed than usual, making him a lot less pissy in general. Sollux was pretty happy for him. Getting away from everything and not having to look over his shoulder with each passing minute every

time he went somewhere made Eridan extremely happy. Sollux too. After all, there was no Cronus in the mountains. Everyone had been enjoying each other's company immensely over the past week and a half. Going on walks, enjoying the snow, skiing on the pond not too far from the cabin, and even just staying inside and watching movies or playing games proved to be a really fun vacation for all of them. Eridan grew more and more comfortable just being himself around Sollux's family, which made Sollux more than happy. He was glad that they could all spend time together like this, and that Eridan could spend time with a non-dysfunctional family that cared about him too. "Sup, babes! What are you doing all cooped up in this crib? Your hella fine hunk a' man is outside!" Latula Pyrope exclaimed, smiling as she rode over to Sollux on her skateboard. When she approached the couch she kicked the skateboard up into her arm, then plopped down next to Sollux on the couch. Sollux offered a small smile. Of course if Eridan was invited on vacation, Latula was coming too. Mituna would have gone bat-shit crazy if he had to go more than a week without seeing Latula, and she was more than happy to come along. She loved getting out and going places. Latula couldn't stay in one place for too long, she was far too active for that. Her black hair was down today, falling just below her shoulders. She had her usual red shades on, covering her teal colored eyes. She was wearing one of her 90's outfits, which included a turtle-neck dress on top of dark leggings. She wore her favorite red boots, matching the red on her teal dress. Mituna loved Latula's style, which wasn't surprising. Mituna loved everything about Latula. "Carter's going to kill you if he sees you riding on that around the house," Sollux informed her, and Latula shrugged. "Let him! No one can stop me from shredding some mad runs with my totally radical skills, aiight?" She laughed, and he chuckled with her. "Fine. If you must know, Eridan is taking a walk with Carter, and I fucking hate the cold," he informed. She nodded in agreement. "Yeah, I'm not a big fan of the snow, either. Can't skateboard for shiznit in the snow, ya know?" "That's why snowboarding was invented, L," Sollux laughed. She shook her head, ignoring his suggestion. "So what'd you say? Your daddy's stealin' your boyfriend?" She laughed. Sollux rolled his eyes. "As a matter of fact, yes, yes he is! Hey, where's Mituna?" He asked, looking around, just realizing that his brother wasn't on Latula's heels like a puppy dog. She shifted her position where she sat. "Oh, he's going postal outside right now. Monroe told him he couldn't try to skateboard on the porch," she said. biting her lip. Sollux sighed, running a hand through his hair. "He'll get over it," he assured, and Latula nodded.

Latula was use to Mituna's meltdowns. In fact, it was Latula who helped Mituna get over most of them. Sometimes he worried her, though. This was understandable, of course, so there were times when Latula allowed someone else to take over for her when it came to calming Mituna down. "Course' he will! My babes is a trooper," she agreed with a smile. As if on cue, Mituna pushed the back door open and stomped in, arms crossed, bottom lip pushed out in a pout. "Tulip!" He called loudly, making Latula and Sollux wince. Latula sat up straight and turned, smiling at Mituna as he walked in. "Hey, cutie! How's it hanging?" She asked, causing Sollux to inhale sharply. Cutie. He'd never be able to hear that without thinking of Cronus. He wondered what the guy must be thinking right now... Mituna stomped all the way over to her, his heavy boots extra loud on the old wooden floors of the cabin. His stomping echoed, much to his pleasure, making as much noise as possible as he crossed the room. His arms were still crossed as he walked, his dramatics reminding Sollux of Eridan. He stopped in front of Latula, head hanging now, hair covering his eyes. He looked pretty pitiful. "I'm upthet," he mumbled. No shit. At least he wasn't angry anymore, just pouty. Latula hopped off of the couch, jutting her hip out and placing her hands on both of her hips. She flipped her hair over her shoulder and looked at Mituna above her glasses, a thin, dark eyebrow raised at his attitude. She loved him to death, but she didn't take pouting. "What's the dillio? Man up, G! We can't play games if you're wiggin' out!" She informed, making him immediately look up with a wide smile. Well, that was easy. "Videogameth? Now?!" He exclaimed, mood shifting from angry, to depressed, then to extremely excited in a matter of minutes. Sollux smiled, and Latula did too. She leaned forward and pecked the tip of his nose, causing a blush to erupt over his pale face. "Straight deal! You ready to lose?" "Nope! I'm winning!" "We'll see about that. C'mon!" She offered, linking her arm with his as she led him out of the room. Sollux shook his head, pushing Latula's skateboard over a bit before returning to his laptop. He never understood how Latula could do that with his brother. She could have suggested that they jump off of the Sears Tower together, and Mituna would have been cheered up. He knew that his dads would kill for that kind of power. Sollux shrugged. Must be love, he guessed. Speaking of love, where could Eridan be? This thought immediately jolted Sollux out of his coding bubble. Speaking of love? Wait, wow, whoa, what? He had to sit there a moment and sort through his emotions immediately as he pushed his laptop to the side. Did he love Eridan? Like, really for real love him? Eridan already admitted that he loved Sollux. At first, Sollux found that a bit hard to believe. Eventually he accepted it, though, and rather basked in it. He always use to make jokes with his friends and whatever about

love, but that was when he wasn't receiving it. He couldn't deny how great it felt to be loved. It actually made him feel so much better about himself, though Sollux didn't want to admit that he needed someone to love him to feel good about himself. It was true, though, much to Sollux's distaste. Damn, he was going soft... So, wait, did Eridan feel the same way? Would knowing for sure that he was loved make him feel better about himself? Why wouldn't it? If so, Sollux was feeling pretty guilty at this point. Why was he even making this whole love thing such a big deal? It really wasn't, was it? Though, love is always made a big deal. It's a four-letter word that held so much weight that it was actually a bit terrifying. And that's when it struck him. He was scared to love Eridan. Scared that if he allowed himself to feel, it would come right back and bite him in his hardly-existent ass. He loved his mother, and she left him. Because of this, he lost his father. He lost the love that he felt for his father and he no longer wanted to love that his father felt for him. Not only this, but he lost his brother. He loved Mituna now, more than he could fathom, but he loved his other brother too. Other Mituna. The one who was there for Sollux when Sollux needed him. The one who helped him through his father's abuse, who helped him through mom's death, who helped him through the voices and the visions and the headaches, who helped him through hating himself. The one who would help him with homework and projects and studying. The one who would sit down and go on for hours and hours about some stupid subject that he knew everything about. He actually missed how much of an arrogant bitch his older brother was. He missed how Mituna would pretend as though he knew everything. He missed his big brother. The one that he would never get back. Then came Aradia. He put his trust in her, everything he had, against his own personal beliefs. He didn't want to get close to anyone because he hated himself to the point where he was afraid of being left for the very reasons that made him hate his entire being. But he did. He loved her, and then she left him because Vriska Serket convinced Aradia that he was "dangerous". So that was it. He lost his mother, his father, his brother, and his first love. So why shouldn't he lose Eridan? He groaned, yanking his legs up onto the couch. He pushed the skateboard off, ignoring its clamoring against the wood flooring as it fell and as he laid down. He looked up to see his laptop, making him huff. He yanked it close and wrapped his arms around it, curling up with the electronic device that brought him peace. "You're the thing I love most, baby," he mumbled, closing his eyes as the computer provided him with warmth. He then heard a chuckle behind him. "Don't make me jealous, Sol," Eridan teased, immediately making Sollux jolt up and push the laptop away, as if it were a girl that he was holding behind Eridan's back. Sollux then raked his fingers through his hair and leaned back casually, clearing his throat, looking completely casual as he then crossed his arms.

"Eridan, hey, I didn't hear you come in," he said quickly, looking over his shoulder at his boyfriend. He then had to pause through his stupid charade, taking the sight in. Eridan looked so damn precious. He had his arms wrapped around himself, his knit half finger gloves covering his hands. He had on a thick sweater and a worn two-toned blue scarf that his chin was bundled in. His cheeks and nose were pink and Sollux bet that his ears were too, though they were covered by his knit beanie. There were still flakes of snow on his long lashes and on the bits of his hair that curled out from under his hat. His eyes looked so shockingly blue against the pink of his face, and Sollux noticed that he didn't cover up his freckles this morning. He almost couldn't speak as he realized that he couldn't possibly deny the love that he felt for the guy in front of him, though he was jolted out of this by Eridan's laugh. "I'm sorry, do you want me to leave you two alone?" He teased further, nodding towards Sollux's laptop. Sollux could have very well been blushing, though he really didn't give a flying fuck at that point. He scooted over, yanking the fur blanket off of his legs as he did so. He placed his laptop on the coffee table in front of him as he made room for Eridan, motioning towards the cushion next to him. "Nope, but I want you to sit your sweet ass down right next to me," he nearly demanded. Eridan rolled his eyes, though smiled slightly. He did as he was told, immediately being yanked closer to the Gemini. This made Eridan laugh happily. "Maybe I should go walkin' with your daddy more often," he continued to tease, looking up at Sollux with those flawless blue eyes as he yanked his legs up onto the couch. Sollux smiled. "What do you two even talk about? Hair and clothes and hot guys?" Sollux teased right back. Eridan gave him an annoyed look, though he was smiling nonetheless. "Yeah, and you." "Oh really? What about me?" "I'm not sure that it's any a' your business." "Um, seeing as it's about me, I would say it is." "Um, just because it's about you doesn't mean you get to know." "Wow, no need to be a sassy bitch, Eridan." "No need to be a pryin' bastard, Sol." Sollux chuckled, pressing a kiss to Eridan's lips to shut him up. He was almost shocked with how cold Eridan's skin still was, especially his lips. They must have been out there a long time if Eridan was this fucking cold. Then again, Sollux kind of liked it... He pushed Eridan's legs off of the couch with his foot, then slid onto his boyfriends lap as he began to kiss him slowly, taking in the cold sensation of Eridan's lips against his own. Eridan's eyebrows rose, eyes widening slightly as well. Sollux usually wasn't this affectionate. Eridan was always the one coming on to Sollux in this way, and a lot of the times Sollux only let it go so far before denying the other. Sollux knew that Eridan would definitely not mind this change of pace.

"Wow, Sol, what's got you so sweet all ova' sudden?" He couldn't help but to question, cold lips brushing against Sollux's as he spoke. Sollux shrugged, shifting his position on Eridan's lap, just because he could. "I have my moments." "Yeah, not too often." "How about you just shut the fuck up and enjoy it." Eridan had no objections to this, though he certainly looked as though he wanted to come up with a clever retort. Before he could do so, Sollux began trailing his kisses over Eridan's cheek, taking in more of Eridan's amazingly cold skin. He wanted to drag his lips further down, but Eridan's damn scarf was in the way. He immediately began tugging that off. "You're far too clothed for my taste," he informed, voice low. It looked as though Eridan was blushing, eyes wide, lips parted slightly, though Sollux couldn't tell if he was just still pink from the snow outside. "Wow, um, Sol," he began, obviously afraid of someone walking in and seeing them as he looked around quickly. His attitude made Sollux smirk as he tossed Eridan's scarf aside. "Problem?" "Well, no, but-" Eridan immediately lost his voice as Sollux leaned down, dragging his lips along Eridan's neck. That scarf really did nothing for Eridan, because his neck was still perfectly cold. Sollux couldn't help but to allow his tongue to escape from between his lips, sliding it along Eridan's icy skin. Eridan's breath hitched, eyes falling half lidded at the feeling of Sollux's warm tongue on his cold neck. "Oh," he breathed softly, breathing evenly becoming a task because of the persistent Gemini. "Sol..." Sollux didn't allow him to get any further as he grabbed one of Eridan's hands. He couldn't have been more glad in that moment that Eridan had chosen to wear half fingered gloves, because the top half of his fingers were pink from the cold. Sollux brought Eridan's hand close, slipping it beneath his own shirt as Eridan just watched. Sollux jolted slightly from the immediate shock of Eridan's fingers against his own warm skin, though he couldn't deny the amazing sensation that he got from dragging Eridan fingers upwards along his skin. Chills and sparks zipped up his spine and goosebumps erupted over his skin. He couldn't help but to release a hum of pleasure. Eridan was rendered speechless. "Wow, that feels amazing..." "S-Sol, y-you're um, Y-you," Eridan stammered, unable to find his words as his chest rose and fell quickly. Sollux couldn't help but to smirk again as he closed his eyes, tipping his head back as he drowned in the pleasure. "I need you to quit stuttering and start touching me before your fingers get warm again, Eri," Sollux breathed. Eridan let out a desperate breath, still shocked in the moment. He seemed to forget that him and Sollux were sitting right in the middle of plain sight as he brought his other hand

up, sliding his fingers along the back of Sollux's neck. Sollux inhaled deeply, humming as he exhaled from the feeling. "Mmm, it's like you know right where I want your hands," Sollux informed, making Eridan's breath heighten. "Damn it, Sol..." Before he could continue, the back door slid open and Monroe stepped inside, rubbing his hands together and stomping the snow off of his boots. Before Eridan could yank his hands back, Monroe looked up and paused, taking in the sight of his son and his son's boyfriend on the couch. Eridan was horrified, but Monroe only cocked an eyebrow. "Perhaps you two should take that elsewhere?" He suggested, Eridan's cheeks blazing from embarrassment. Sollux didn't look at all fazed, only slipping off of Eridan's lap and yanking Eridan to his feet. "Sounds like a great idea. The couch is far too small anyways," he commented, making Eridan shoot him a look. He began tugging Eridan in the direction of the stairs to their room, ignoring Monroe's gaze after them. "Just know that dinner is in half an hour, and I don't want to have to come looking for you guys," he called, making his way into the kitchen as Sollux escaped with his boyfriend and Eridan glowed with embarrassment. As soon as they made it into their room and Sollux closed the door, Eridan began. "Sol, that was absolutely terrible," he informed, though not able to get very far as Sollux immediately returned to kissing the other, arms around Eridan's neck as he pulled himself closer to the Aquarius. Eridan's eyes widened once again, surprised at the action, though he shouldn't have been. He returned each and every one of Sollux's kisses before pulling back, studying Sollux deeply. "Sol, wait-" "Yeah, Eridan, I don't think I can," he admitted, smirking as he began to push Eridan towards their large wooden bed. Eridan found himself unable to protest. It wasn't long before his gloves, hat, and boots were off, leaving him in his sweater and jeans as Sollux pressed a countless number of kisses to Eridan's lips and neck. All Eridan could do was close his eyes, tip his head back and moan, hips jerking up to meet Sol's. His arms were draped over his boyfriend's shoulders, body completely giving in to Sollux's touches as Sollux revealed his love to Eridan in a way without words. Fuck the whole pity party shit, he was in love with Eridan. How long had he loved him? Who even fucking knows. He could have loved him as soon as Eridan had returned. Hell, he could have loved him back in high school. Sollux didn't even bother trying to realize it until recently, and shit, was he glad that he did. His love warmed him to the brim and made him feel like an entirely different person. He had been confused after Eridan had informed him a while back that he "wanted to love as much as he wanted to be loved", but now Sollux understood. Being loved was wonderful, but loving entirely and giving into it was something else. Something just as wonderful, but in it's own way.

Damn, I could write poetry... Just as he had begun to fumble with Eridan's jeans, he heard a tap on the window. This nearly made him jolt up. One thought and one thought only crossed his mind, freezing him in his place and heightening his senses; Cronus. He immediately sat up and spun, eyes wide as his gaze shot toward the window. His heart was pounding hard and he was on full alert, studying that window like it was a cheat sheet before a test. He saw the branches of a tall pine tree, but other than that, nothing was there. "Sol?" Eridan asked, immediately worried about his boyfriend as Sollux stared at the window. Sollux blinked, ignoring Eridan as he slid off of him and the bed, quickly making his way over to the window. He unlocked it and pushed it up, hands propped on the bottom of the windowsill as he leaned out and looked around. He was surprised when he saw nothing, though this didn't stop him from studying his surroundings thoroughly. "I will tail you night and day, reside in your shadow every second, and be connected to you as though it were physically painful for me to leave your side..." Meanwhile, Eridan was sitting up on the bed, staring after Sollux. His eyebrows were furrowed in worry and his lips were pursed. If Sol was worried about the soft tap, it was the long branches of the pine tree against the glass. That was an obvious sound. Also, they were on the second floor. So why was Sollux making this out to be something it wasn't? That wasn't like him. "Sol, what the hell are you looking for? There's nothing there," he assured, tilting his head as he studied his boyfriend. Sollux continued looking out at the fresh snow, the falling flakes, and the obviously empty forest of pine trees around them before he accepted their being alone and slipped back inside the window. He closed it slowly, realization falling upon him as he noticed Eridan's expression. Holy shit, Eridan must have thought that he was going nuts... Sollux sighed, leaning against the wall. He ran a hand through his shaggy hair, slightly embarrassed from his show. He looked back up at Eridan, looking pretty sorry. "Well, I certainly ruined the mood," he tried to joke, though it came out rather flat. Eridan just studied him a moment before he began to straighten out his clothing and his hair. "Probably for the best, seein' as dinner is soon. Sol, are you okay?" He asked, motioning for Sollux to come back over to the bed. Sollux didn't want to move. "I don't know," he confessed, being honest about how he felt for once in his life. He immediately regretted it as a look of fear and concern washed over Eridan's face. He slid off of the bed and began to make his way over to his boyfriend, worry evident in his eyes. "Sol, you've been weird lately. Not so much weird as, well, I don't know-" "Paranoid?" Sollux offered, knowing very well that's how he felt. Ever since Cronus had threatened him a couple of weeks ago, Sollux, although not realizing it at first, was on the edge. Everything related back to Cronus, every bump in the night was

Cronus, every thought that crossed his mind when he had his own time to think was Cronus, Cronus, Cronus. "You don't know the lengths that I'm willing to go to, just to fucking break you..." "Yeah, actually, a bit. What is it, Sol? Is there somethin' goin' on?" He asked, desperate for Sollux to talk to him. No. No, Sollux could handle this. He told Eridan that he could handle being in a relationship with him despite everything else. He didn't need to be afraid of Cronus. If he was going to hurt Sollux, he would have done it already. Sollux forced a smile upon his lips. "No. Everything's okay." Eridan frowned. It was obvious that he didn't believe Sollux. Not even a little bit. Sollux was far too wound to be at all believable, and they both knew it. They both also knew that after the file incident, Eridan wasn't going to pry into Sollux's life or thoughts. Eridan quickly forced a smile as well. "Okay, Sol." Sollux's fake smile formed into a real one. "Really, Eri, you don't need to worry. Also, tomorrow's Christmas, so you definitely shouldn't be wracked with concern over anything. This has been a fucking great vacation, so let's not ruin it now." "Christmas doesn't really change anythin', Sol," he admitted with a shrug. Sollux furrowed his eyebrows. "No?" "Nope. I haven't celebrated Christmas since, well, my mom died," he admitted, looking down about the mention of his mother, but not really at the mention of his not celebrating Christmas. Sollux studied him sadly a moment before shrugging as well. "It's never been a big show for me either, but it's very serious among my family, so you have to play along," Sollux said with a chuckle. Eridan's smile returned as well. "It wouldn't be playin' along, Sol. I love your family," he admitted. Sollux smiled. "And they love you."

Chapter 35
There was a loud thump that made Sollux's eyes shoot open and made him jolt straight up. It took a moment for him to realize where he was, sitting up on a bed in a cabin at the top of a mountain. His eyes adjusted quickly to the darkness as he forced his messy hair back and out of his face, looking around for the cause of the sound. He then realized that Eridan wasn't next to him, and, judging by the strange groaning sound coming from the floor, Sollux guessed that his graceful boyfriend had just fallen out of bed. "Bloody shittin' hell. W-what the ev-ver lov-vin' fuck..." Sollux couldn't resist his laughter. "Wow! You win the gold for The Smoothest Criminal Around competition. Like, shit, you knocked everyone else out of the stadium for that medal. Michael Jackson must be rolling in his grave right now, so jealous that you've taken the gold for that award," Sollux managed through his laughter. "Bite me, fuck-clow-wn."

"Any time, sw-weet cheeks." "You know-w w-what, Sol? You can go fall off a' a ski lift for all I care." "The fall from a ski lift to the ground is a little further than the fall from a bed to the floor, ED. Do you really wish that upon me?" Sollux continued to tease. Eridan continued to mumble frustrated profanity under his breath as he lifted himself off of the floor, giving Sollux a look of pure evil. "I w-will rip ev-very w-wire from ev-very laptop that youv-ve ev-ver ow-wned, Sollux Captor, and I w-will make you w-watch." "Calm down there, Satan. Don't make me "accidentally" drop your freckle makeup in the toilet." "Fuck you, Sol." "Merry Christmas to you too, Eri," Sollux cooed, leaning over and pressing a nearly blind kiss to Eridan's lips. Half an hour later, Sollux was whistling over a stove as five fat strips of bacon sizzled in a pan that he was holding. Monroe was next to him, flipping pancakes, cooking eggs, and keeping an eye on the toasting toast all at the same time. The smell of a large breakfast wafted through the cabin, drawing people one by one from their rooms. It wasn't long at all before Carter stood behind Monroe, arms around his husband as he looked down at the cooking food. "That smells lovely," he commented with a yawn, accent seeming thicker in his weary state. He pressed a light kiss to Monroe's dark hair, causing Monroe to smile, yet gently shrug the tired Englishman away. "No thanks to you, sleeping beauty. Sollux and I are slaving over this while you mosey your way out of bed," he replied, moving over and grabbing the toast from the toaster, dropping the golden-brown slices on a plate and placing more bread into the toaster before moving back over to his eggs. Carter chuckled. "You know I need my beauty rest." "So does Eridan, apparently," Sollux snickered, sliding his bacon onto a large plate before opening a box of sausage links, dumping those into a pan. "You know it, babe," Eridan confirmed, walking into the kitchen as he stretched. He ruffled his own messy hair and crinkled his nose as he winced from the bright light coming through the windows, and the smell of cooking meat. Sollux barely glanced back at him before smiling. "Cute sweater. Walmart brand, Eridan?" He teased. He couldn't help it; the Christmas sweater that Eridan wore was ridiculous. "As if. Suck mine, Captor." "Only if you suck mine first, Ampora." "The only thing that you two will be sucking is a bar of soap if you don't tone it down right now," Carter commanded in his stern, fatherly voice. Sollux rolled his eyes and smiled.

"Sorry. Either of you want to help out, by the way? Or should dad and I just continue to struggle with this?" Sollux suggested. Eridan just sat down at the table and Carter shrugged, making his way over to the coffee maker. "I'll make coffee," he offered in his half-assed attempt to help. Sollux rolled his eyes. "You soldier," he replied sarcastically. Carter laughed and Monroe chuckled, sliding another pancake on a plate. Sollux looked over at his dads, then back over to Eridan with a smile. "Well, you can honestly say that you've done more than Eridan," he teased, talking to Carter, but looking over at his boyfriend. Eridan just shrugged away his comment. "I'm a prince, Sol. I don't bother with meager chores such as cookin'." "Prince of my ass, Eridan." "Sollux, what did I just say?" "Sorry," Sollux apologized to Carter. He tossed a wink back at Eridan, who rolled his eyes and looked away, only smiling when he thought that Sollux wasn't looking. Sollux's smile grew. He look down at the pancake that he had taken over from his dad, then back to Eridan. "Hey, Eri, c'mere," Sollux demanded, causing Eridan to look up questioningly. "Hm?" "Just come here." Eridan looked suspicious as he slowly rose, making his way over to Sollux with a cocked eyebrow. His arms were wrapped around his body, hands hidden beneath the long sleeves of his terrible Christmas sweater. He wore his only pair of loose jeans and a pair of big fuzzy socks, which slid along the smooth wood floor. When he approached Sollux, Sollux took a step back from the stove. "Take the pan and the spatula, Eridan." Eridan's eyes widened. "Um, excuse me?!" "It's not a hard concept, Eri. You curl your fingers over this handle here, then with your other hand, you-" "Sol, I'm not cookin' anythin'!" "Would you just stop whining for three seconds and take the pan, Eridan?" Sollux demanded. Eridan bit his bottom lip, pausing a moment before reluctantly stepping forward. He grabbed the pan and the spatula, standing in front of Sollux and in front of the stove. Sollux smiled, joining him from behind as he slid his arms around Eridan so that he could grasp onto Eridan's hands. "Okay, firstly, you can't take your time when flipping it, Eridan..." "Sol, I really, really, really don't want to do this," he begged, terrified of the flap of batter in the pan in front of him. Sollux had to resist his laughter. "I'm sure you've done a lot harder things than flipping a pancake," Sollux assured. Eridan seemed to think about this a few seconds before nodding. "Touche."

"Right. So, it's easy. Just push the spatula quickly under the entire pancake, then lift and flip. Don't toss, just lift and flip the spatula in one motion," he directed. His hands helped Eridan's as he shoved the spatula under the pancake, flipping it quickly, nearly laughing as Eridan practically jumped. "Frick! Okay, I did it!" Eridan said, smile forming. Sollux smiled and nodded, sliding away and stepping back from Eridan. "Merry Christmas, Eri. You just flipped your first pancake. Take over for me, will you?" Sollux chuckled, making his way out of the room. Eridan was quick to look at him in panic. "Wait, Sollux, don't-!" "Don't worry, Eridan, I'll take care of ya'," Monroe assured with a chuckle, remaining close to Eridan as the Aquarius looked down at the pan with discomfort. Sollux walked down the hall and to the back door to get some air, sliding the door open and nearly freezing in place when smacked with the cold mountain wind. He inhaled the icy air deeply before sliding the back door shut, slipping his arms around himself as he made his way across the deck. The snow was coming down softly, the gray skies ridiculously bright for a winter day. Sollux walked slowly, bare feet quickly growing cold from the icy deck beneath him. He was glad that he had half of a mind to put on some jeans and a jacket before leaving his room this morning. He would be frozen solid out here if he hadn't done so. He paused in front of the wooden railing, looking out to take in the view of the cotton balled tree tops and the snow covered ground. The snow flakes were big; like petals of fresh daisy's falling from the grey sky and to the crisp ground. He blinked his mismatched eyes as he stared out at the view, inhaling and exhaling slowly as he allowed himself to relax and actually enjoy the cold for once. He was usually a very relaxed person. He didn't give a shit about much, only concentrating on what he wanted to. Lately, though, his mind seemed to be in overdrive. It was like meeting Eridan woke him up. He was on his toes and his mind seemed overactive. This wasn't necessarily a bad thing because it's not like he could be an immature kid forever, though, that sounded pretty damn nice... He wasn't given the chance to think long, a pair of hands surprising him by slipping under the back of his jacket and t-shirt. His immediate thought was to step forward and away, not being fond of being touched by people, though he couldn't deny the sweet shock of the cold against his skin that gave him chills. He smiled, relaxing further as his own hands moved down and slipped over Eridan's, pushing them further along his skin. "Done cooking already?" He asked, closing his eyes as he enjoyed the thrill of the cold zipping up and down his body. He turned his head to the side, not at all surprised when Eridan leaned down and pressed a kiss to his lips. That was more like it; willing boyfriend, not prissy bitch. It was very sudden that he felt something was off. His eyebrows furrowed, the taste of cigarettes filling his mouth before his eyes shot open. Dread and disgust filled him as he realized that it wasn't Eridan's hands sliding along his skin, and it wasn't Eridan whose lips were moving against his;

It was Cronus's. He broke the kiss and jerked away, shoving Cronus's hand's off of him. He quickly stumbled back, hands gripping hard to the wooden railing for support as he leaned away from the horrible Ampora. His heart was racing, eyes wide and lips parted in shock and strict disgust. "You disgusting, repulsive prick!" Sollux insulted, quick to drag the top of his arm over his lips, as if that would do away with the taste of cigarettes that now tainted his mouth. Cronus only laughed, clearly amused as he crossed his arms. "Isn't that a bit dramatic, kid? I thought that it was pretty romantic. And since when does Eridan cook? Unless burnt toast constitutes as cooking, Eridan sure as hell can't make anything." Sollux furrowed his eyebrows, anger taking the place of disgust within him. He yanked his hands off of the railing, flexing his fingers just to keep from nailing the other in the nose. He then crossed his arms tightly, looking around quickly before stepping closer to Cronus. "You need to go. Now, before anyone sees you," he demanded, though his tone sounded almost desperate. Cronus smiled, amusement growing. "Are you begging me, cutie? I kinda like that. It's almost as if this was some forbidden meeting and you felt guilty about meeting me in secret," he teased, leaning down so that his face was level with Sollux's. Sollux's eyebrows furrowed further, disgust returning. "Listen, dick-shit, I don't know how the hell you knew that we were here-" "You go on vacation every Christmas, sweetie. It was in the file." Sollux cringed at the nickname. "We don't always come here." "True, but that cutie-pie Mituna has been begging to come to the mountains," he informed, obviously knowing a lot more than Sollux would have assumed. Sollux just shook his head. "You're really something else, you fucking know that?" "I like you too, doll." "No, there's no "too", Cronus. I hate you. Scratch that; I loathe your entire being. You are such a creepy shit, you're a pathetic waste of space-" "Hey, hey, hey! I have feelings too, you know. Have a little compassion," Cronus informed, a hand moving up and covering his leather jacket just above his heart as though he were in pain. Sollux nearly snarled. "I don't know why you can't just leave me alone. Me and Eridan both. You need to stop caring so much about our lives and pay more attention to your own, if you fucking have one, because you're literally no more than a stain on mine." Cronus's smile had faded, eyebrow raised as he seemed to study Sollux to see if he was being completely serious. If Sollux didn't completely hate him, he'd almost find him attractive without that cocky smile and with the deep, thoughtful look in his eyes. He really did look a lot like Eridan. Sollux nearly felt a bit bad, before Cronus rolled his eyes and his bitchiness returned. "Is this about the alleyway? Fine, kid, I apologize for flipping my shit," he admitted. Sollux just looked at him like he was a clueless dip-fuck, which he was.

"No, you don't. You're not sorry at all. You don't give half of a shit, and, honestly, neither do I. I made a mistake, letting my guard down around you, but it won't happen again. In fact, you're not going to come around me again, you got me?" Sollux informed, sounding ridiculously confident. He certainly didn't feel confident. Just angry, really. That anger only grew when Cronus's eyebrows rose, his horrible smile slowly returning. "Oh really? And what are you going to do if I visit you and Eridan even more, kid? Do you even know how to throw a punch?" He asked with a laugh, holding his hand up, flexing his fingers and forming a fist. "Seriously, Captor, I'd love to know how you hit. Show me how you would form a-" Before he could continue, Sollux's mood took a sharp right turn. He ripped his fist back through the air and swung, nailing Cronus hard in the face before they both even knew what was happening. Cronus stumbled back, surprise shining in his eyes as a look of shock overcame his features. Sollux had surprised himself just as much as Cronus. Damn his mood swings! He knew that he had nailed Cronus pretty hard, his knuckles throbbing, fingers aching slightly. He shook his hand out as Cronus slowly looked up, blood trickling down his chin from the corner of his mouth. He gave Sollux a look that filled Sollux with a slight fear. Whoops. Did he make a mistake? Either way, he didn't regret it. That felt fantastic. He was a bit surprised when Cronus smiled, running the back of his hand over his mouth and chin, smearing the blood over his skin. He looked at his hand, nodding, mildly impressed. He then looked back up at Sollux. "Alright, kid, I stand corrected. Good form, Captor." "I've been throwing punches all my life, Cronus. You're not the first, you should know that." "Oh, right. You and Eridan use to enjoy beating the shit out of each other." Sollux winced. "That was before." "Before, yeah yeah, whatever. Speaking of Eridan, I'm actually here for a reason-" Sollux shook his head, interrupting Cronus before he could continue. "You're here to fuck with me, Cronus. You've been here the entire time, stalking my family and I, tailing me, filling me with a paranoia that I knew wasn't for nothing." "Well, yes, there's that, but there's another thing. It's actually pretty important, so I'd listen to me..." "I don't care, Cronus! I really couldn't care less about whatever it is that you want to relay to me. Everything that spews from your mouth is complete and utter shit, wrapped around lies and pathetic threats. Hey, guess what, Cronus? I, don't, fucking, care!" Sollux informed, frustration filling him as he glared daggers at the other. Cronus just stood there, blood still escaping his mouth and sliding down his chin. He blinked a few times before crossing his arms, looking at Sollux with interest. He studied him a moment before speaking. "I see why Eridan likes you," he said softly, completely throwing Sollux off.

The hell was with this guy? Every time Sollux was sure that he figured Cronus out, he was thrown a curve ball. Sollux wasn't even completely sure that he hated Cronus. Honestly, Eridan was right the first time that he described Cronus; he was fake. But not necessarily in a terrible way. He seemed to have this convincing facade about him, with the whole unfeeling, asshole greaser thing going on. But was that really him? He seemed so much more than that, and Sollux was beginning to think that he just wanted Sollux to believe that he was such a dick. No, Sollux didn't hate him. He didn't exactly like him, but he did pity him and he saw right through Cronus's mask. What Cronus felt and what his motives were, Sollux didn't know, but he was much more complicated than this. Sollux was a bit curious, but he wasn't interested enough in finding out. "Just leave me alone, Cronus, okay? My life is hard enough without you around," he sighed, stepping around Cronus and making his way back inside. Cronus turned and looked at him, not stopping him, though his words nearly did. "Is that what you think, Sollux? Well, it's about to get a lot worse," he threatened. Sollux slowed, but he didn't stop as he walked inside. When he slid the door closed, he locked it quickly and leaned against it, running his hand through his hair and down his face. Jesus, he was cold. He ran his tongue over his freezing lips, wincing afterwards. God dammit, he could still taste Cronus's cigarette on his lips... He knew that Cronus had been there all along. He fucking knew it. He had been paranoid, yes, but for good reason. Also, he could have given himself a bloody lip at his stupidity. He needed to get it through his head that he couldn't rid himself of Cronus; the asshole would always be around, no matter what. That kind of sucked... But what did he mean by "it's about to get a lot worse"? Was he just trying to scare Sollux? Or were things really about to start getting a lot more complicated? Sollux didn't know if he could handle anymore of this. When he learned that Eridan was involved in the mob, he expected a lot more than just Cronus. He was prepared to handle it, but now he wasn't sure. Cronus was enough to deal with. Whatever, fuck it. He needed to suck it up, move on, and stop worrying about this. Shit was always going to try and get him down, and he just needed to deal with it. He straightened, inhaling and exhaling heavily before making his way back out into the kitchen. Monroe and Eridan were already setting the table, getting everything ready for their large breakfast. Eridan smiled widely up at Sollux, obviously proud that he could help out. "Hey, Sol! You're back just in time, we just finished," he informed. Guilt struck Sollux, nearly ruining his mood. What the hell did he feel guilty about? He didn't do anything wrong. First of all, Cronus kissed him. He had no part in that. Also, it wasn't his fault that Cronus was a persistent bastard that just wouldn't stop. He didn't need to feel guilty about anything. Though, he really should tell Eridan. Tell him about Cronus in the alleyway, Cronus's presence now, and Cronus's threat. But damn, did Eridan just look so happy and relaxed!

Nope, no, not today. He didn't need to know, it wasn't that big of a deal. He'd tell him later, but it just wasn't happening today. He smiled in return, forcing his mood back up as he sat down to eat Christmas breakfast with his family. Mituna could barely sit still next to Sollux. He was really super excited all morning, his mood almost contagious. Sollux couldn't be down when he was around an excited Mituna. Eridan barely ate anything, as usual. Although Sollux wasn't very hungry, he ate quite a lot. Eridan made fun of him for it, like he normally did, and Sollux couldn't help but to compare himself to Karkat. Anyone who knew Karkat pretty well knew that kid could eat like fucking crazy. It was kind of funny, considering his size, but it was true. Carter always made comments about needing to go grocery shopping before Sollux and Karkat hung out together, because they'd completely clear out the pantry. They talked for a while after breakfast before Mituna couldn't remain patient any longer, far too excited to give Latula whatever it was that he got for her. They made their way into the living room of the cabin, all sitting around the fireplace. They never really were Christmas tree people, because Monroe didn't like the work. Also, Carter didn't do fake trees, and he didn't like the mess of a real one, so they simply sat around the fireplace on Christmas. The gifts began with Mituna giving Latula hers from him. She couldn't help but to laugh at his excitement, ripping the wrapping paper away on her box. She practically squealed when she saw that he got her a new skateboard. It was so white it was nearly blinding, with no color aside from the red wheels. It was obviously something that she had wanted, making that quite apparent as she threw herself onto her boyfriend and pressed loving kisses to his face. He just giggled and held her close. They continued exchanging gifts, shocking Eridan when he was at the receiving end of many of them. His discomfort returned, not very comfortable with accepting things that others bought for him. Carter had gotten him a few designer scarves, much to Eridan's pleasure, though he still had trouble accepting them. Monroe had bought him an array of paints and brushes, remembering very well that he was an art student. Even Mituna had gotten Eridan something, giving him new purple gloves. Sollux was last to give Eridan his gift, tossing him a box, which Eridan barely caught. He looked at Sollux curiously with a bashful smile, then down to the wrapped box. He was one of those people that, very carefully, unwrapped the wrapping paper gently without causing any damage. "Holy Lord, Eridan, I'm aging over here!" "Whatever, Sol, calm down," he laughed. He opened the box, a large smile forming on his lips as he pulled out the sweater. It was black, long-sleeved, and made out of an extremely thick and rich material. It had a large sign in the middle, containing both the Aquarius zodiac sign and the Gemini mixed. The top and bottom of the symbol was the Aquarius's purple horizontal zigzag lines, linked together by the two yellow vertical lines of the Gemini sign. "Sol, it's perfect. Where did you get it?" He asked. Sollux shook his head.

"You think I'm going to find that shit anywhere? No, I had to pay an old friend to make it for me. Do you remember Kanaya?" He asked with a smile, ignoring Carter's glare due to Sollux's swearing. Eridan nodded. "Yeah, I remember Kan. I don't think she liked me very much," he admitted. Sollux shrugged. "It's in the past. But, wow, can she make clothes." "No kiddin'! This material is gorgeous, and the idea was lovely. I love it," he admitted, leaning over and pressing a quick kiss to Sollux's lips. Sollux smiled, though it faded as Eridan stood up and held out his hand. "Come with me, your gift is in our room," he said, yanking Sollux to his feet. Sollux groaned. "I have to move? What kind of gift is that?" He complained, making Eridan laugh. They exited the room and left the chattering family, making their way upstairs. Sollux was curious, wondering why Eridan had to make this thing so mysterious. He couldn't just bring it downstairs? Dramatic priss. They made their way into the room, and Sollux was forced to sit down on the bed and close his eyes. Sollux rolled his eyes before shutting them, covering his eyes with his hands afterwards. He listened as Eridan yanked out one of his many suitcases from under the bed, unzipping it and pulling something out. He then heard Eridan's footsteps as they made their way over to him, then stopped directly in front of him. "Okay, Sol, so, I was really actually very nervous to give this to you. I talked to Carter, and he assured me that you'd like it. It's totally okay if you don't, though, I understand, you won't hurt my feelin's if you hate it and want nothin' to do with it and want to just like get rid of it or throw it away or burn it," he started stammering nervously, only stopping when Sollux made him. "Fucking hell, Eridan, just shut up and let me see it," Sollux laughed. When Eridan didn't say anything, Sollux took this as a sign to drop his hands and open his eyes. His playful smile immediately faded, shock consuming him. His breath caught and his lips parted, taking in the sight in front of him. Eridan was holding a canvas, a pretty decent sized one, holding a painting filled with rich colors and amazing texture. The shadowing, the angles, the lines, the lighting, the brush strokes; literally everything about the painting was perfect. It looked completely professionally done, the only thing disproving this being Eridan's signature at the bottom. Sollux had practically forgotten that Eridan was an art student, never seeing him paint or draw or even showing an interested in art. He had no fucking idea that he was this good. He also had no idea that his mother could be captured so beautifully in a picture. All Sollux could do was stare, taking in the beautiful picture of his mom and the light in her eyes. Those blue orbs held so much life, and for a moment, Sollux forgot that she was even dead. He was suddenly splashed with so much emotion, able to tear his gaze away from the painting and look up at Eridan, who looked scared to death. "Sol, like I said, if this was totally too far and just a really stupid thing for me to do-"

"Eridan," Sollux interrupted, slowly rising to his feet. "Eridan, it's amazing. Just really, really amazing. You captured her perfectly. Her life and energy and her glow; all of it is there," he assured, reaching out and gently taking the picture from his boyfriend. Eridan blinked, looking at him. He was obviously surprised to get that response, seemingly not thinking that his picture was that good. He looked at the painting, then to Sol, then the painting again, then back to Sol. He continued this a moment before literally, right before Sollux, breaking down into tears. "Oh, Sol, I'm so sorry," he choked, causing Sollux to immediately set the painting down on the bed and wrap his arms quickly around Eridan. Sollux didn't do tears. Shit, Sollux couldn't even remember the last time that he cried. Aradia wasn't a someone who cried either, and Karkat never dared to shed a tear in front of anyone, so he never had to deal with it. People who cried around him made him extremely uncomfortable. Mostly because he was never any good at the whole comforting gig, but also because he simply hated when anyone cried. So, he tried not to panic while holding Eridan, who was practically squeezing the life out of Sollux. "Hey! Eridan, what is it, what are you sorry about?" Sollux asked, concentrating on breathing as Eridan held him tight and buried his face into Sollux's shoulder. "I-I'm just so s-sorry. So sorry that your mom is g-gone and that you hav-ve to liv-ve wwithout her," he sobbed. Sollux had to immediately clench his jaw. No one else dared to speak about his mother around Sollux, knowing very well that Sollux didn't take pity and wouldn't listen to anyone talk about her. It filled him with so much anger, though, now, his own throat felt tight, along with his chest. No way was Eridan going to make Sollux cry too. "Eri," he started, though he had to stop, feeling as though his voice were about to disappear. He cleared his throat before trying again. "Eridan, it's alright. It's been a while, and I've gotten use to it," he assured. Eridan only sniffled, pulling away and looking at Sollux with heartbreaking sad eyes. "But you shouldn't hav-ve to. You shouldn't hav-ve to liv-ve w-without her, not yet, it's not fair," he informed. Sollux nodded, swallowing the golf ball in his throat before speaking up. "I know. That goes for you too, you know. You shouldn't have to live without your mother either," Sollux replied, immediately making Eridan break right back down into more sobs. Sollux pulled him close once again, allowing Eridan to cry into his shoulder. Who would have fucking known any of this would have happened. If you had told Sollux Captor back in his junior year that he would be standing in a log cabin in the mountains on Christmas day, holding Eridan Ampora-his boyfriend and son of a notorious mobster-while he cried and apologized to him that he had to live without his mother, all after giving Sollux the best gift that he had ever received, Sollux would have flipped you the bird and laughed while he walked away. He would have walked home laughing, eaten dinner that night laughing, laid in bed that night laughing, then proceeded to laugh into the following day.

But, hell, that's where he stood, in this cabin, holding his boyfriend while he broke down in Sollux's arms and blubbered like a fucking baby. All Sollux could do was hold him close and close his eyes, practically willing Eridan to stop crying with his mind. "It's just really hard, Sol," he admitted. Sollux sighed. "What is, Eri?" "Ev-verythin'. Liv-vin' this life, gettin' up ev-very day, bein' scared for myself and you, wworryin' about ev-verythin' all the time, feelin' this hurt that nev-ver goes aw-way" he admitted through small sniffles. Sollux furrowed his eyebrows. "Eri, you don't have to be scared. And you don't have to hurt anymore," he assured him. Eridan didn't seem to believe him, not answering as he sniffled once again. Sollux bit his bottom lip, unsure what to do or say. His only idea was to lean close and press a small kiss to Eridan's ear. "Hey," he whispered, causing Eridan to sniffle and pull back, finally looking at Sollux with his broken blue eyes. Sollux managed an assuring smile, leaning his forehead against Eridan's as he continued to look into his eyes. "You don't have to hurt anymore. And you don't have to worry. You've told me time and time again that you won't let anything happen to me. That goes for me too. I won't let anything happen to you either. I love you, Eridan. More and more every day, and I won't let anything happen to you," he confessed. Eridan's eyes widened further than Sollux had ever seen them. Wider than when he saw Cronus next to Sollux for the first time. Wider than when Sollux fell into the pool. Wider than when Sollux suggested that Eridan go to the Goodwill. Wider than the scary movie. He just stared back at the Gemini with wide blue eyes that nearly made Sollux laugh before he began to cry again, making Sollux frown. "Hey, Eri, what is it? You're not supposed to cry when I admit that! Look, I suck at this whole comforting thing, and that was the best card I had to play, so if you're gonna'-" "No, Sol," Eridan interrupted, chocking back a sob. "No, I'm not upset anymore. I'm just happy. Really, really happy. You made me really happy." Sollux couldn't help but to smile. He leaned forward and pressed a long kiss to Eridan's lips, causing the crying to cease and the tears to stop flowing. He waited until he was sure that Eridan wasn't going to cry anymore before pulling back, giving him a teasing smile. "What a man," he teased, causing Eridan to give him a weak smile as he wiped his eyes, punching Sollux in the shoulder at the same time. "Shut your fuckin' mouth, Sol. You're the one spillin' all that hallmark crap," he retorted. "To stop you from blubbering like a little girl, Eridan!" Sollux laughed right back. Eridan shook his head, not snapping anything back to Sollux out of how grateful he was to Sol for being so sweet. He then began to wipe his tears again, looking at his hand with a sigh. "I'm sorry, Sol. I didn't mean to cry like that," he admitted. Sollux shook his head. "It's fine, Eridan, we all cry sometimes." "Really? Do you?"

"Nope, I'm the exception. My weird eyes aren't capable of forming tears, my cold heart isn't capable of feeling deep emotions, and my impressively large brain is too advanced to allow such actions to occur," he replied, gaining him a laugh from Eridan and another punch in the shoulder. "Oh, please, Sol! There's gotta' be somethin' you cry about." Sollux thought a moment, than slowly nodded. "Conficker." Eridan looked at him curiously, eyebrow slowly rising. "Conficker?" Sollux nodded again. "Yup. Sophisticated little worms. Difficult to counter due to their complexity. They can propagate quickly over LANs through -" "Oh my holy fuckin' shit, don't even, Sol," Eridan laughed. He then leaned down and pressed a loving kiss to Sollux's lips before pulling back, looking into his eyes with so much emotion that Sollux immediately had to smile. "I love you too, Sol," he replied. Sollux nodded. "Understandable." Eridan laughed, grabbing his hand and leading him out of the room and back to join the family.

Chapter 36
If Sollux had known that all hell was going to break loose starting the day after Christmas, he never would have gotten out of bed on the twenty-sixth. It was like, for once, Sollux thought that he was holding a great hand. A nice solid straight flush. He had it this time. The pot of happiness. It was right there, he could almost taste it. Then the God of Fuck You had to throw down the royal flush of fucking diamonds and rub it in Sollux's face. This royal flush played out over the span of quite a while, and it got to the point where Sollux didn't want to know the end. But, for now, let's start at the beginning. Cronus acted as the Ten of Diamonds. He was right before the true royals of bullshit, not proving to be much of a threat, but acting as the beginning of it all. His meeting with Sollux on Christmas was the mere basis, the starting line, if you will. After him, things only got worse. So who was the Jack? The next terrible event? Carter.

Sollux had woken up in an extremely pissy mood. Like, borderline angry. He had no clear idea why, though he figured that it had to be because of what Eridan had said the day before. About hurting, about being scared, worried, and everything else on his list. Everything that Eridan just didn't deserve to feel. It pissed Sollux off how much Eridan had to deal with, and he assumed that after sleeping on it, his mind decided that the whole thing was really going to get to him. Eridan was really the only person that Sollux wasn't a complete and total asshole towards. Everyone else got the shitty end of his frustration, and, although it kind of bothered him that he was being so bitchy, he had no intentions of stopping. That was the terrible part of Sollux's emotions; sometimes he just really didn't care.

He had finished packing and was putting his things in the first car, which held the luggage, closing the trunk to find Carter standing there, arms crossed, eyebrow raised. Sollux paused and looked at him, the very position of his adoptive father annoying him. Sollux looked at him a moment before turning away. "If you're going to say something, I would appreciate it if you would just spill it," Sollux informed. Carter's brow only rose further. "Would you care to clarify what happened in there?" "In where?" "In there, the house, with your brother. Latula just barely saved him from tears. Did you tell him that he needed to "Get his ass into gear and help out, because as of now, he was only in the way"?" "Yeah, I did, because it's true. Anyways, Mit's too sensitive, he's going to need to learn to grow up sooner or later." This seemed to anger Carter, who stepped forward and uncrossed his arms, hands finding their way to his hips. He looked at Sollux with suspicion and disbelief, a bit surprised that he was acting this way. Sollux just leaned against the car, looking undeniably bored as Carter spoke. "Oh, is that so? Well let me tell you something, Sollux; if your brother could grow up, he would. He wants to. He wants to be like you. Unfortunately, I think that if Mituna wants to be more like an adult, choosing you as a role-model isn't the smartest idea. You're beginning to seem more like a child than he is," Carter informed, only making Sollux tip his head back and laugh. "Oh, is that so? Who should he choose as a role-model, then? My real father?" This seemed to sting Carter. "No." "Oh, I suppose that you mean you then. Right, Mituna should grow up to leave home and marry young, never work, waste his husbands money away on unnecessarily expensive clothes and hair products to make him feel better about himself. Oh yeah, and vacations, don't forget vacations." Carter swallowed hard, undoubtedly offended, though more angry than anything at this point. He inhaled deeply and exhaled slowly, calming himself down. He obviously didn't want to say anything that he would regret, like Sollux was doing right now. "Sol, honey, what's wrong? Yesterday you seemed fine, what happened?" He asked, stepping forward and allowing his stern aura to melt away into a more caring one. His care and compassion only made Sollux feel guilty, in turn, making him more upset. "Nothing." "Well, obviously something happened, because this is more than just a mood swing," he informed, immediately causing Sollux to spin on his heel and make his way over to his adoptive dad, very much in his face at this point. "Is it? Is it more than a mood swing, daddy? Wouldn't that just be terrible, seeing as it's so convenient to just blame everything on my "violent mood swings". They are, in fact, a

"medical condition"," Sollux snapped in a mock, causing Carter's eyebrows to raise in surprise. "If you think that I ever used your condition as an excuse for your behavior-" "No, not me, Carter. Mituna. Everything wrong that he does is because he "can't help it", or because of his "medical condition". Mituna can't make mistakes because Mituna's sick, and obviously because Mituna has a medical condition, everything has to be linked back to that," Sollux snapped again. Now this was his bipolar disorder at work. Taking anger and thrusting it to the top, forcing it out and forcing Sollux to act on it. Sollux didn't have a say at this point. Whatever happened, happened. "Honey, I never used Mituna's condition as an excuse for anything. Mituna can make mistakes, we all can, we're only human," he assured, reaching out to stroke Sollux's cheek. Sollux was quick to force his hand away, stepping back and away from his "daddy". "Yeah, but some of us are humans with a sever bipolar disorder and chronic mood swings, right?" He spat, engulfed by the sudden urge to lunge at the man in front of him. "Sol, what's gotten into you?" Carter asked, not understanding where Sollux's blind anger was coming from. Fortunately, nothing extreme could have happened, for Eridan had just made his way down the driveway with everyone else. Carter didn't even look at his family, concentrating only on Sollux, obviously desperate to help his son. He only ever wanted his sons to be happy, and it killed him when they weren't. This annoyed Sollux to a whole new level. "Hey, Sol, are you alright? We heard yellin'," Eridan said, walking down and over to Sollux as he studied his boyfriend. Sollux looked away, coming back to the world of rational thoughts. He could now apologize to Carter for being a dick, but he really didn't feel like it. He may not have been blindly angry right now, but he was still pissy. "I'm fine, Eri," he assured. "Are we ready to go?" Monroe asked, hoping to avoid further conflict. Carter was the one to reply, still looking at Sollux as he spoke. "Yes, we're ready. Roe, you take Eridan, Mituna and Latula in the first car. Sollux and I are going to talk alone, so we'll be in our own car," Carter commanded, and Sollux shot him a look. "Really? You really want to do that?" Sol asked, his irritated tone surprising Eridan slightly. Carter just nodded. "As a matter of fact, I do," he replied. Sollux clenched his jaw in annoyance. Carter made his way over to Monroe, giving him a quick kiss before whispering reassuring words into his ear. He then hugged Mituna before making his way to his own car, motioning for Sollux to follow him. Sollux genuinely thought about completely denying the demands, though decided against it. He turned and barely brushed his lips over Eridan's, whispering that he'd see him later

because Sollux had to work inventory tonight. Eridan replied by saying that he'd be home and would be up waiting for Sollux to get home later. "I love you," Eridan whispered. Sollux managed a smile, running his hand through Eridan's perfect hair before turning around and mentally preparing himself for this car ride. They sat in silence for the longest time, though Sollux didn't mind that too much. He just stared out the window, taking in the trees and the blur of colors as Carter drove. Sollux inhaled deeply, fingers gripping the door handle tightly. Damn, he hated cars, and he hated highways. They went way too fast on highways. He decided to reach into the backseat and grab his laptop, pulling it on his lap and opening the top. He forced his nausea away as the screen of his laptop came to life, filling him with a sort of calmness. He was ready to concentrate on that before Carter finally spoke up. "You're not going to talk to me, are you?" "Not really." "Are you comfortable?" "Not really." "Sol, please. I hate this, I hate not being able to help you," Carter confessed, looking over at Sollux with sad eyes. "Keep your eyes on the road, daddy," Sollux muttered. Carter looked forward once again, relaxing slightly after Sollux slipped back into the nickname. "Can I at least know why you don't want to talk to me? You can't tell me that it's because there's nothing to talk about. You're obviously upset about something, Sol," he requested. "How about we avoid this conversation and just enjoy the comfortable silence until you drop me off at work?" "That would be nice, but the previous silence was anything but comfortable." "Only because you made it that way." "Sollux, I'm beginning to become rather fed up with your rubbish," Carter admitted, growing frustrated. Sollux just shook his head, not even bothering to answer. Sometimes he wanted to talk to Carter, he really did. He wanted to confide in the man who took him in when no one else would and who helped him through so much, but he couldn't. He could tell Karkat and he could talk to Karkat about it, but there was no way that he could tell Carter. Telling your friends about things like this is far more different than talking to your parents about it. Parents just take things a whole different way, especially when it comes to safety. He knew that the second that he said anything about Eridan's family, Carter would freak the fuck out, not to mention what Monroe would do. They would also treat Eridan differently, and that was the last thing that Sollux wanted. Eridan already felt accepted by a family, and Sollux wasn't going to ruin that. So he ignored him. Carter tried to talk and tried to make Sollux feel better. He tried to be the perfect dad, though he didn't need to try. He was already perfect, aside from the overprotective nature. He tried for another few minutes before shutting up. Sollux felt bad. Really bad. But he couldn't talk about it, and he couldn't apologize for anything. Not today.

He was just beginning to cool off as they approached the bar and grill, Sollux getting out of the car as he grabbed his laptop bag and his wallet and keys. He also slid his phone into his back pocket, closing the car door and making his way to the door of his work. Just as he felt his bad mood being to subside, he heard the car door slam. He groaned, turning around to find Carter making his way after Sollux. "Are you serious?" Sollux complained. Carter's eyebrow rose. "What?" "You're following me?" "We're not finished." "Holy God." Sollux turned back around, fuming as he yanked out his keys. He jammed the key into the door and opened it, not holding it for Carter. Carter pushed the door open himself, not letting himself be defeated by Sollux's stubborn attitude. "No one else is really supposed to be here when it's not opened, you know." "Is there anyone else here? You're not going to get in trouble if there's no one else here." "No, but there are cameras." "Not today," Carter commented, nodding up to the corners where the cameras normally reside. Sollux looked up, eyebrows furrowing. That's strange. Maybe they needed maintenance. He walked behind the bar, shoving his bag under it as he grabbed his waist apron. He began to tie it around his waist, glancing up at Carter. The older man was looking around, not even bothering to talk to Sollux. For real? "Aren't there normally people in the restaurant section this late in the afternoon?" Carter asked. Sollux nodded. "There are normally people here all day, but renovations are taking place. I'm only here for inventory. Anyways, are you going to go? As much as I'm enjoying this deep, heartfelt conversation..." "Sollux, I'm tired of sitting back and not doing anything. The entire time that we were at the cabin, you were tense. You were glancing over your shoulder and remaining distant from everyone. Don't think that I didn't notice, hon. For weeks now you've been acting rather uncomfortable. I don't like that. Please don't keep things from me, Sol," he begged. Sollux huffed. "Why the hell do you have to worry about it? I can have my own life, you know," Sollux informed in a snarl. Carter sighed. "I know that very well, Sollux..." "You know, sometimes you're as bad as Delvin," Sollux snapped in interruption, hoping to shut Carter up as he turned and glared at the older male. Carter's eyes widened in offense, hurt filling green irises. "I could never be like him," he defended himself. Sollux shook his head. "You're right, perhaps you're worse," he snapped.

Sollux turned quickly in his anger, shaking his head as he began to unpack a box of glasses. He literally had nothing else to say on the matter and had no intention of continuing this fucking argument. He really didn't have to worry about it, though, because not long after he had turned around, he heard the smashing of glass. He was just about to spin back on his heel and yell the shit out of Carter for breaking something before he realized what had happened. As soon as he had turned back around to face his adoptive father, Carter had fallen face first to the ground, revealing a short, young looking guy behind him, holding the remainders of a broken vodka bottle and smiling the creepiest smile that Sollux had ever seen on a human being. All Sollux could do at the moment was stand there in shock. "I want to play a game," were the first words out of this boys mouth, brownish-red eyes twinkling with a near crazy gleam.

Chapter 37
This kid was the Queen of Diamonds, which was almost ironic, considering his girlish features. He had very high, sharp cheekbones. He had very rosy cheeks over pale, fair skin, along with round glistening eyes and ridiculously long, dark eyelashes. The color of his lashes were strange, contrasting his short snow white hair. He wore a black button-up shirt with a red bow-tie and green suspenders that attached to a pair of green pants. When he smiled, a gold tooth sparkled in the light of the bar. He couldn't be more than sixteen years old, and, honestly, his whole getup confused the shit out of Sollux. "What do you want?" Sollux found himself asking the kid, surprised that his voice was actually strong. The kid's smile immediately faded into a look of pure irritation. "Wait, are you serious? What the shit, I just told you what I wanted, shit-hat. Do I really have to say the line again? Did your diminutive sack of fuck for a brain neglect to process the very words that pulled up the stakes and left my mouth? Maybe I didn't say it slow enough for you, dumb-shit; I want to play a game," He repeated, his British accent very apparent in his words. What he said actually filled Sollux with a tinge of fear, though he was really more confused than anything. "Um, alright, okay. What, um, what game do you want to play?" Sollux played along, slowly moving behind the bar so that there was at least something between him and this strange boy. He glanced down at Carter, worry, regret, and pain filling him at the sight. He better be fucking okay, or Sollux was going to pull some serious shit up in here... "Oh, what game? Well, it's one that I made up myself, actually. It's called; give Caliborn everything that he wants, or live with the guilt of knowing that Carter Covington has to live the rest of his life without any fingers!" He exclaimed proudly, filling Sollux with a sickening feeling that immediately made him need to grab onto the edge of the bar for support. "Caliborn? Alright, Caliborn. Hey, I'm Sollux," he introduced, not sure why he was giving this asshole his name, though he only assumed that he knew it anyway. This was no doubt linked back to Eridan, and Caliborn proved it by giving Sollux a dull look and speaking in an annoyed, condescending tone, as if his existence was the only thing that mattered.

"Do I look like a gaumless bag of shit to you, Sollux? I know that shit already. Fuck, I've known that shit for too fucking long now. It's not exactly a piece of information that I want residing within the walls of my cranium, you feel me, bro? I've also known the name of British Dean Winchester here for far too fucking long, too. I'm sick of knowing all of this fuckery. You two are literally so unin-fucking-portant and such a giant waste of space, you make the existence of standardized testing look like a great idea," Caliborn insulted, waving the broken bottle in his hand as he spoke. British Dean Winchester? Oh, he means Carter. It must have been the blondish-brown hair and the big green eyes that led Caliborn to make the reference. Sollux was a little mixed up right now in the midst of his discomfort and fright. He was playing it off pretty well, though, if he did say so himself. "You forgot "gay". Gay British Dean Winchester," Sollux added. Caliborn just gave him another look, looking at Sollux like he was the dumbest piece of shit to ever exist on this planet. "The "gay" was implied. I said "Dean Winchester", didn't I? It's practically a fucking synonym at this point," he stated. "Alright, look, I know that you're not here to discuss personal interpretations about popular television dramas with me, so can we just skip to what it is that I should be giving you? I'd like to avoid the loss of my dad's fingers, if I could," Sollux admitted in annoyance, though he was much, much, much more nervous than he was annoyed. "Hey, Sollux, guess what? My game, my rules. I say when we start and when we don't start and what we skip to and what we just fucking trot over, alright?" "Fine. When do we start?" "Now." "Great, so what is it that you want?" Sollux asked, voice nearly growing thin with desperation. The longer that Caliborn stayed here, waving that damn broken bottle around, the more Sollux's anxiety grew. He didn't know what Caliborn wanted, but he would sure as hell give it to him if it meant getting Carter back to safety. If comparing Carter to Delvin ended up being the last thing that Sollux ever said to his adoptive father, Sollux was never, ever going to forgive himself. Caliborn then smiled again, that creepy-ass smile that held nothing but deranged anger and hate. Sollux's body grew cold just being the target of that smile, and his heart pounded hard with fright as Caliborn stepped over Carter's body and began to make his way over to the Gemini. "I want Eridan Ampora dead," he stated. Sollux grew even colder. Fear sparked in his heart again, igniting an anger that he wouldn't let show. The last thing that he wanted was to upset the crazy Jigsaw Killer puppet thing in front of him. Also, he needed to pretend as though that didn't bother him as much as it did. If these fuckers thought that Sollux didn't care for Eridan as much as they had planned, then maybe they would quit trying to use Sollux to get to him. Hell, maybe they'd just give up on Eridan all together.

"Oh, is that all?" "Well, no, not exactly. I want a lot of people dead, Sollux. Hell, I want everyone to die. Even I could die, and I really wouldn't fucking give a steaming shit. But Eridan Ampora is at the top of my list. There aren't many ways to get to the prodigious Orphaner Dualscar, but Eridan Ampora is one of those rare things that can weaken that insufferable shit and end his pathetic emulation involving my father," he explained, stopping right in front of the mildly intimidated male. He definitely would have been more intimidated by Caliborn if the guy would take this thing a little more seriously and wouldn't go off on his dramatic rants. Nevertheless, Sollux was in a terrible position. Carter was vulnerable and now Sollux had just learned that Eridan was wrong about being safe. He wasn't safe at all, people wanted him dead. "I see, and who's your father?" Sollux tried. This only made Caliborn laugh. "Oh, you sly criminal, you. You really expect me to admit that my father is Lord English, the most feared and ruthless of all the men that you will ever lay your fucking fucked up eyes on?" He asked. Sollux cocked an eyebrow, and Caliborn thought over what he had just said. "...Because if I did, I'd probably try to fuck you over somehow. I'd admit a false name or some shit to completely turn you around and confuse the fucking daylights out of you and your unimpressive brain." "You totally just slipped, didn't you?" "Slip of the tongue, yeah," he admitted. "Alright, forget it, I don't really care all that much. Are you going to hurt me or my da-" He paused, clearing his throat. "Or Carter?" Caliborn sighed, disappointed. "No, not today. I've been given strict orders not to kill anyone that I don't have to. Which fucking blows, because that takes the fun out of, like, everything. But, it's cool, it's fine. I can make my own fun," he smiled. Sollux swallowed hard. "Why didn't you just go to Eridan? Why me?" "Didn't you hear me the first five hundred fucking times I said it, shit-for-thoughts? I like games, Captor. Long, drawn out, games. And I like to play with my victims first," he informed in an amused irritation. Yeah, no, Sollux was definitely about to be sick. "Sound's kinky," he managed through his nausea. This made Caliborn cringe, obviously not into that idea, though not saying anything on the subject. Caliborn then looked up at the clock, anger overcoming his features as he saw the time. "Well, fuck, shit on me. You know, I just wanted this to be a quick, threatening visit? I pop in and scare the living fuck out of you, you cower in the corner, I give you a message to give to Eridan, and then I leave. Is that so fucking hard? I use to be good at that, you know. Then, the more I started doing this shit, the more my victims began to rub off on me. They always try to buy for time, you know? Like, they never fucking shut up. It's like a fucking teacher going on and on about how you're not allowed to take a shit during class and you're

suppose to take your fucking bathroom breaks at break time. Like, wow, shut the shit up already! And here I am, going on and on like every other damn person in this doleful world who can't keep their mouths shut," Caliborn ranted, turning and beginning to walk back to the other side of the bar. Sollux just swallowed hard for the second time. He just realized that when Caliborn talked, there were obvious pauses between each his clauses. "Sorry I didn't cower. That must have thrown you off." Jesus fuck, Sollux, stop being a smart ass! Now is not the time! Caliborn nodded. "Damn straight it did. It's not a proper threatening visit if there's no cowering. But, there's always next time," he threatened with a skin rippling laugh. Sollux bit his lip, slowly closing his eyes as he fought back the fear. "You said that you were going to give me a message to give to Eridan?" Caliborn huffed. "Don't fucking rush me, ass-shit, what the hell do you think I'm doing? I'm not a super-villain, alright? I know I'm scary and fantastic at what I do, but that doesn't mean that I don't have to walk everywhere like everybody else. What were you expecting? Teleportation? Miserable shit." Sollux just leaned back against the curve of the bar. How did this happen? Cronus was one thing, but this was something totally different. This wasn't Sollux's world, how did he allow himself to get mixed up in this? He didn't regret agreeing to stay by Eridan's side, but he felt as though he might start feeling that way if Carter got hurt. His family was the last thing that he wanted brought into this. Caliborn had disappeared a moment, and then reappeared without the bottle in his hand and what looked like anOh shit. "Hey, hello! Um, Caliborn, I'm sure we can avoid using that, right?" Sollux practically sputtered, his body instinctively moving as far back as possible at the sight of the Tactical AK-74. Caliborn just tilted his head, studying him. "Why? I was only going to shoot you in the foot or the lower leg, Sollux. I already told you that I wasn't going to kill you or Dean yet. Or were you not fucking listening again? Typical shit," Caliborn muttered. Sollux shook his head. "No, no, I was listening! I promise you I was listening. Just forgive me if I'm a little nervous right now!" Sollux spat. Caliborn looked bored. "You know, I've never really been good at this whole "one shot" ordeal. When my finger is on the trigger, I always tend to fire a bit more than necessary," he informed casually. "Oh, super! Now I can relax!" Sollux snapped sarcastically. His glanced over to Carter, who was still out cold. "Ha!" Caliborn laughed, seeming pretty amused by Sollux's reaction. This was obviously what he was looking for. Then again, he still managed to look bored. He must have done this routine a hundred times over by now. Sollux wondered how many people Caliborn had killed with that dull expression on his face. Not giving half a shit at all.

"It's not that bad," he informed honestly. He then held out his foot and pulled his pant-leg up, revealing what looked like a thick, metal prosthetic leg. Sollux couldn't help but to deny the reassurance. "Something tells me you didn't get that by being shot in the foot," he managed. Caliborn threw his head back and laughed at this. "Fuck to the no, Captor! No, I wish I had been shot in the leg. Nope, I had to saw it off, after I was shackled to a fucking table," he explained, casual tone returning. "That was thanks to Mr. Ampora and no doubt my sister." "When you say Mr. Ampora..." "I mean Eridan, shit-belt." "Right, and when you say your sister..." "I mean my actual fucking sister. Fucking bitch. You know, she thinks that she's so much smarter than everyone else! She thinks that she's always right, too. She's got this whole loyal act going on with my dad, though I know full fucking well that shes a damn traitor who works with everyone else against us. Whatever, she'll get what's coming to her. I have every intention of having her killed, if not killing her myself. She's way past her fucking death date." "Well, I don't envy her," Sollux replied weakly. Caliborn smiled his evil smile, holding his AK up and level with Sollux's eyes, causing them to widen. "No? She's in a much better position than you are right now," he informed, as if Sollux didn't know that already. Wow. One day he's eating his honey nut cheerios and watching the same damn x-men movie that comes on tv all the fucking time, and the next day he's cornered in a bar with a seriously intimidating weapon shoved between his eyes. It's funny how things work out. Funny how the one day that he decides to be a complete ass to one of the only people that ever gave a damn about him, both of their lives are threatened. Christ, if he got out of this alive, he was going to grovel at Carters feet. Before any damage could be done, there was a knock at the bar entrance door. Both Sollux's and Caliborn's head shot in that direction, Caliborn's eyes wide with anger and annoyance. "I thought that this shit hole didn't open tonight." "It doesn't." "Then who's here?" "I don't know." "What the hell?!" "I don't know!" They whispered back and forth quickly and dramatically to each other a moment before the knock continued. "Hello? The place is open, yeah?" A voice called. Sollux recognized that voice. It was the voice of one of the regulars that came to the bar practically every other night and played pool. Caliborn huffed.

"What a stupid shit. Everyone else got the memo, so why didn't this fucker?" "I don't know, but he sounds pretty persistent," Sollux informed, hoping that Caliborn would just leave. Thankfully enough, this was good enough for Caliborn. He was obviously set on keeping his cover for now. He lowered his weapon, looking at Sollux, irritated once again. Before Sollux could say anything, Caliborn snatched Sollux's wrist and slammed Sollux's hand flat out over the bar, fingers spread. He set his weapon to the side and yanked a dagger out of his belt, causing Sollux's eyes to widen. "Wow, Caliborn, that's not necessary, is it? I mean, I like to think that we're kind of like friends at this point..." "I don't have any friends," Caliborn stated simply before reaching out and digging his dagger into Sollux's hand. Pain shot up Sollux's arm like lightening. He gasped abruptly before snapping his mouth shut, biting his tongue hard against the pain. His other hand gripped hard at the bar, squeezing it tightly to keep from shaking. Caliborn didn't stop there, quickly and sloppily dragging the dagger around in a circle on the back of Sollux's hand. Sollux pretty much left this world, forcing himself into another one as he tried not to concentrate on the crazy pain erupting through his body and the warmth of the blood spilling over his hand and onto the bar. Jesus Christ, when was this fucker going to stop!? He was more pissed than terrified at this point, angry that Caliborn was adding yet another scar to his body. Sollux swore to himself that he wouldn't allow anyone else to hurt him like that ever again. Yeah, that was in vain. Sollux could have jumped for joy when Caliborn finally tore his dagger from Sollux's hand, though the pain was fucking ridiculous. If Sollux hadn't had grown accustomed to this kind of pain, he had no idea what kind of state he would be in right now. He looked down at his shaking hand, almost disgusted to see that the carving was a shape. "Wow, aren't you a fucking artist," Sollux hissed. Caliborn looked almost offended. "I'm a great fucking artist, and I've been practicing a lot, motherfucker!" He informed in a childish pout. He then composed himself, glancing down at Sollux's hand. "Eridan will know what that means," Caliborn informed, grabbing his gun and shoving the bloody dagger back into his belt. He then leaned forward, and Sollux swore that his eyes shifted to like 20 billion colors at once. Or maybe it was the pain getting to his head. Either one. "If you tell a single fucking soul other than Eridan Ampora that I was here, I will carve that symbol into the faces of every person that you love. Then I'll kill them and feed them to a giant undersea monster. Am I clear?" He threatened, causing Sollux to back away in fright. "Crystal." "Good. You're not bad, Captor. Which is an impressive compliment to hear from me because I want to shoot everyone multiple times in the torso," he admitted with a chuckle. He then turned away.

"You better get the door," he added. Sollux turned to the door, looking at it a moment before turning back. "But-" He started, only to find that Caliborn had disappeared. Sollux wasted no time. He quickly knelt down and grabbed as many napkins as he could, wiping down the bar, then shoving them onto the back of his hand as he hissed in pain. He quickly stood up and made his way over to Carter, first off. Okay, good, he looked fine. He then rose and rushed over to the door, unlocking it and opening it quickly, looking up into the face of his regular. "Hey! Sorry, DD, yeah, we're closed," Sollux admitted, flicking his hair out of his sweating face. Draco Dig looked up at Sollux above the rim of his black fedora, his clever gray eyes studying Sollux from head to toe. His gaze paused on Sollux's hand, eyebrow raising curiously as he looked back up at Sollux's face. "You're hurt," he stated. Sollux glanced down at his hand, the blood quickly bleeding through the napkins. He then looked back up at DD, shaking his head. "Nah, I'm fine, it was just an accident with one of the glasses," he lied, though he was sure that his face was pale. Draco looked at him a moment before glancing up, looking beyond the cracked door and into the restaurant as if he didn't believe a word that Sollux said. "You sure?" "I'm good. Sorry about closing and all. We'll be open in a few days. Have a good night!" He called, quickly slipping back in and closing the door and locking it. He leaned back against the door, letting out a shaky sigh. He stood there a moment, biting his lip and tilting his head back, closing his eyes and forcing his emotions down. He just needed to calm down. It was okay. Caliborn was gone, and it was okay. Except it wasn't okay. It wasn't okay because Eridan was in danger, and Caliborn had the power and the loose wires in his head to kill Sollux's boyfriend. Sollux couldn't believe this. He absolutely could not believe that this was happening. And his fucking hand... He bit his lip harder as he looked down and opened his eyes, wincing and hissing in pain as he pulled the napkins away from his hand. Though Caliborn had done a piss poor job at his work of art, the eight ball was still incredibly easy to make out. Sollux didn't understand, and he didn't want to. He didn't want to know the back story of the symbol that would remain on his skin the rest of his life. This was probably what Cronus was trying to warn Sollux about, and Sollux didn't listen. Fucking typical.

Chapter 38
Sollux had wrapped his hand multiple times to stop the bleeding. His hand looked pretty ridiculous, but it was necessary. When Carter had finally woken up, Sollux practically groveled at his feet, apologizing a countless number of times and hugging him until Carter could hardly breathe. When Carter asked what had happened, it took all of Sollux's willpower not to tell him the truth. But as much as he wanted everyone he loved fed to a giant sea-monster, Sollux was going to pass on that. He didn't take Caliborn for the bluffing type.

It was amazing how quickly the lies came when the situation involved Carter's and Eridan's life. He ended up telling his adoptive father that one of the regulars had just been through a divorce and he had broken into the bar for a drink or ten. Carter demanded to know why Sollux didn't call the police on the drunkard, but Sollux just said that he reminded him of his father and Sol felt bad for him and talked with him about his situation. At this, Carter shut up immediately. Sollux was sure to add that if Carter had been seriously hurt, the police would have been called immediately. He also made sure to add that his hand wasn't that bad and that small cuts just bleed a lot. Even so, Sollux felt extremely guilty for using memories of his father against Carter, along with lying to him, but he didn't have much of a choice. He wasn't going to risk it by telling Carter the truth. After much hugging and apologizing, Carter, of course, softened. He could never remain upset with one of his babies. They talked it out and worked through their issues before Carter finally left Sollux to finish his shift, which he did, though he was in a ridiculous amount of pain. When he had finally finished working (rushing), Sollux dashed out of that place. He had to replace the soaked towel on his hand, but he still raced out. He was dizzy at this point, though he was sure that no serious damage beyond dizziness would come from the wound. He yanked out his phone, dialing Karkat's number like twenty times because he was dialing with a hand that he wasn't use to dialing with, and held the phone to his ear as he shook furiously. At first, he didn't think that the other was going to pick up after a couple of rings, which filled him with dread. Jesus fuck, kk, you bitch at me for not talking to you enough, then when I need you, you're not fucking here? "Hello? Sollux?" Karkat answered loudly on the last ring. Sollux allowed a sigh of relief to escape his lips. "KK, I need to talk to you," Sollux exclaimed, surprised that his voice wasn't shaking. "Sollux? This better not be fucking important! I'm at a party with Meenah, I can't fucking hear you over this shit music!" Karkat announced, voice loud enough that Sollux had to hold the phone away from his ear. He recognized the loud music in the back round, along with many voices and lots of obnoxious laughter. A selfish bitterness filled him. Since when the hell does Karkat like to party? He hates it. He hates the music and the drinking and the obnoxious people...or at least he did, when Sollux was around. Now that it was Meenah, though, it's all fun and dandy. Well, great, it's so great that he's enjoying the fuck out of his life while Sollux was getting shit carved into his body. "No, it's not important," Sollux muttered, looking down at his hand. The blood was still seeping through. He really should have gotten stitches, but how the hell do you explain to a doctor why an eight ball was carved into the back of your hand? "What?" Karkat called above the noise. Sollux nearly snarled, feeling like an unimportant piece of shit that was literally no good for nothing other than getting Eridan killed and appeasing Caliborn English's homicidal half.

"Enjoy your fucking party, Karkat, and don't bother calling me back!" Sollux snapped, loud enough that he was sure that Karkat would hear him. He then shoved his phone into his bag before taking a sharp turn into the park. It was late enough tonight that no one was out. A couple had just walked through the gates of the park as Sollux entered, leaving Sollux alone to his thoughts. He walked until he took a seat on a bench, yanking his legs up and shoving his forehead into his knees. He was so frustrated. So frustrated, and in so much pain, and feeling so much guilt and anger and terror. Cronus could see right through him, and he was right in his assumption that Sollux couldn't handle this. It was too much already, and he knew that it had only just begun. But with a carving in his hand and multiple threats against his family and now the mention of Eridan's death, Sollux had to choke back a sob that he had been holding for years. What was he going to do? He couldn't take this on, there was no way. He wasn't even sure that Eridan could do this. Fuck, Caliborn sawed his own leg off. How the hell do you challenge that? All he knew for sure was that, no matter what, he couldn't break things off with Eridan. No matter how bad things got, he knew that he couldn't ever bring himself to end their relationship. Sollux hated himself for it, but he depended on Eridan. The fucking priss made him actually feel that life was worth living and that Sollux wasn't entirely worthless. There were a few times when Sollux actually felt some sort of admiration for himself, which was something entirely new. It was all Eridan's doing, and Sollux knew it. He was there for a long while before he felt his phone vibrate in his bag. Sollux huffed. If that was Karkat, Sollux was going to chuck his phone into the pond. He yanked it out of his bag and looked at the caller ID, surprised to see that it was Eridan. He sighed. He had to tell him, but at the same time, he really didn't want to. Eridan was undoubtedly happy lately, which was like a rare commodity for the guy. Sollux hadn't told him about the last two visits from Cronus for this reason, and he certainly didn't want to tell him about Caliborn. At the same time, Sollux wanted to punch Eridan in the nuts. He assured Sollux that he wasn't in any danger, and he sounded so fucking sure of himself. Lying bitch... Sollux slid the lock on his phone and held it to his ear, clearing his throat as he answered with, "Yeah?" "Sol? Your inventory shift normally ends a little while ago," Eridan said softly. Sollux was annoyed at the others sudden clingy nature, but at the same time, a warmth filled him that he had someone who cared so much about his whereabouts and well being. Someone who thought about him when no one else did. "I'm sorry, I forgot that you'd rather I sprint home as soon as I get done working," Sollux joked, though his voice was dull. Eridan snickered. "Damn straight, Sol." Sollux sighed. "I'm at the park, Eridan." "The park? But It's late, you shouldn't be out when it's late," Eridan said quickly, worry laced on his voice. "Sol, please don't make me kick your ass. I don't want to, but I will if I'm forced."

Sollux tipped his head down until his forehead tapped his knees. His eyes fell shut and they burned with the urge to allow his ever-threatening tears to escape. Wow. Just. Fuck. "Eridan, we need to talk," he admitted slowly. A silence fell upon them both as Eridan took that in. "...Sol, can I have a one-word hint about what this is about so that I can prepare myself? I'm not good with surprise conversations that have the potential of tearin' me apart," he admitted. Sollux huffed in frustration out of his guilt that spiked back into his chest. "One word?" "One word." Sollux sat up. "Caliborn." Another silence. Sollux's heart pounded hard, hands shaking once again. He glanced down at his hand, his wrappings soaked and nearly slipping off. "Sol, you need to come home right now." "Aye, Captain," Sollux confirmed before hanging up bitterly, shoving his phone into his pocket. He walked slowly, not feeling any excitement whatsoever to get home. He swallowed hard, throat dry as he curled his fingers on his injured hand. He was sure that it had stopped bleeding, though his wrappings were still soaked. The pain nearly made his entire hand numb, a slight nausea in the bottom of his stomach. Not in any danger, my ass. The worst part about this was probably the fact that Adrian was right. Fuck, and if Caliborn even lays a finger on Eridan, Sollux is screwed to shit. Adrian's going to rip him apart. Once Sollux got up to his apartment, he just sat on the top step and sighed. He was exhausted. That could be from the blood loss, or it could be from his wacked out emotions today. When was the last time he took his pills? It was yesterday, right? Or was it the day before? Sollux yawned, leaning against the railing. After a few minutes, the door swung open and Eridan stepped out, looking around worriedly for his boyfriend. He paused when he saw Sollux on the step. He let out a short sigh of relief, walking over to the Gemini. "Sol, why didn't you come in?" He asked, kneeling down next to him as he surveyed him for any wounds. He then froze at the sight of his hand, eyes widening. "Sol!" He exclaimed, standing up quickly and yanking Sollux to his feet. Sollux huffed, really just ready for bed. "Don't bother, Eri, you won't be able to see it out here in the dark," he informed. Eridan ignored him, grabbing him by his wrist and pulling them inside. Once they were inside and the door was locked behind them, Eridan yanked Sollux over to the sink. Sollux allowed himself to be dragged, swallowing hard multiple times to dampen his dry throat. He didn't even flinch when Eridan pulled him over to the sink and gently slid the wrappings off of Sollux's hand. Neither of them said anything for a moment. Eridan just stared, face paling, eyes ridiculously still. Sollux stared as well, much more relaxed than Eridan was, though he was

hella disgusted. The wound was inflamed and swelling and about twenty-six and a half different shades of red. Sollux could only look at it for so long before looking away, leaning closer to the sink just in case he vomited. Eventually, though, the silence was broken. "Sol, why didn't you call me?" He asked, voice surprisingly unwavering. Sollux furrowed his eyebrows at the question, looking up to Eridan's face. "You obviously don't understand the extent of the situation that I was in," he informed. Eridan finally looked up at him, expression serious, though his fright was evident. "I was raised with this shit. I think I understand the extent of the situation," he informed right back, causing Sollux to narrow his eyes. "Then you understand that picking up the phone obviously wasn't an option with Caliborn, Eridan. You do know him, right? Well, I mean, you should know him well enough to shackle him to a table," Sollux spat, yanking his hand away from Eridan. Eridan didn't bother reaching back for his hand as his body went stiff. "...He told you that?" "Yeah, he told me that," Sollux replied, looking down at his hand. Eridan was quiet a moment before speaking. "What else did he tell you about me?" He asked meekly. Sollux shot his boyfriend another look. "Why? Something else I should know, Eridan? Does fucking Caliborn English know more about you than I do?" "Sollux, please," Eridan begged, seemingly no longer interested on this subject as he reached out to Sollux's hand again. "Did he hurt you any more than that, Sol? What else did he do?" Sollux yanked his hand back again, glaring daggers at the other. "Oh, nothing too terrible, Eridan. He only threatened my family and friends if I were to ever speak about this with anyone other than you. Oh, yeah, he pointed a gun in my face. Wow, and lets not forget when he informed me of his greatest desire, Eridan; to kill you!" Sollux yelled, composure slipping away as his emotions began to get the best of him. Eridan just looked at him, eyes wide, lips parted in shock. Sollux turned around, walking around as he continued. "You know, I've been relatively composed up until this point. Fuck, I actually think I've been doing a great job, considering what's been happening; I finally think that I find the perfect match for me, and then BAM! he's involved in the mob. That's alright, though, I can hang with that. Then his crazy brother shows up and tries to scare the piss out of me, but you were there, Eridan, you wouldn't allow that. Hey, great! I've got nothing to worry about as long as you're around, right? Wrong, Eridan! Your father threatens me, your brother threatens me again, he goes to the extent of dragging me into a fucking alleyway and choking the hell out of me before punching me in the face and turning me into a paranoid freak! For good reason, too, as he shows up in the middle of my vacation from God knows where to kiss me, taunt me, remind me that he's never going away as long as I'm still with you! Wow, alright, so that's pretty bad. Then a crazy aspiring artist makes his debut at my work when he hurts my dad, shoves a gun in-between my eyes, and threatens to kill my

boyfriend before he carves a fucking pool ball into my hand!" Sollux yelled, now facing Eridan as his hands curled into fists. Eridan just stared with wide eyes as an unmatched rage began bubbling within Sollux's chest. "This is not my life, Eridan!" He yelled louder, causing a few tears to escape from Eridan's eyes. "My life is boring as hell. My life includes me breezing through school, seeing my family when I feel obliged too, dicking around on my laptop instead of going to parties with my friends!This is not my life! I've done absolutely nothing to deserve this! I have never, ever done anything to deserve what I've been put through! Sure, I'm an asshole. And sure, I really hate people and doing things and being productive, but that doesn't mean that I should have a dead mom, a depressed father, a broken brother, the worst of New York on my ass, and a guilt bug sucking all of my blood just because I can't bear to talk to you about these things and ruin your day!" Whoa mama, did he just have a breakthrough? Not important right now... "I know-w, Sol," Eridan agreed, nodding as he stepped forward and more tears slipped down his cheeks. "I know-w you don't deserv-ve this. Any of it. And I know-w that life has been unfair ta' you. I'm sorry that I made it w-worse, and I'm sorry that I'v-ve allow-wed these thin's to happen and that I'v-ve allow-wed more pain ta' enter your life. I'm just...I wwas selfish, Sol, w-when I asked you to understand me and my family. I w-was selfish wwhen I expected you ta' accept all of this and just be happy w-with it. I shouldn't hav-ve done w-what I did. I shouldn't hav-ve done a lot of the thin's that I'v-ve done, and I know-w that, It's just...I can't undo the past, Sol! No matter how-w much I w-want to, no matter how-w much I w-want ta' change w-what I'v-ve done and w-who I am, I can't, and I feel like I w-was pushed ta' do these things and be this person and that people just don't understand w-what it's like-" Did Eridan just have a breakthrough, too? What the smokes was going on here? He couldn't continue as a sob broke through and he began to cry again, once again making Sollux feel guilty for ruining Eridan's mindset. Then again, he had no reason to feel guilty. None whatsoever. He had no reason to feel guilty for telling the truth and being honest with Eridan and expressing how he felt because he had the goddamn right to do so. If it hurt Eridan's feelings, fine, that's fine, because they could work through that. What's important was that it was all out on the table now and they could deal with it how they will. Yeah, he definitely just had a breakthrough.

Chapter 39
"Sol, do you have any idea how cold you are at this point?" Eridan asked, gloved hands slipping over Sollux's half gloved fingers. Sollux, whose pale cheeks were colored and who could no longer feel his ears, merely shrugged, eyes never leaving the stars above them. "At this point? Not really. I sat out in the park and on the step for a while, and we weren't inside long enough for me to really warm up." "Yeah, I know. That was really fuckin' dumb," Eridan informed, causing Sollux to scoff. They were sprawled out on the hill at their campus, staring up at the crystal clear winter sky. The moon was high and vibrant, stars glistening and twinkling like little diamonds. The

wind was sharp, slicing at their skin every now and again as they watched their breath float up, swirling and fading away into the night. Before they had left the apartment, Sollux had taken a few pain killers. He seriously needed that shit. Well, what he really needed was stitches, but that wasn't going to happen. Sollux allowed Eridan to butterfly bandage his hand in the most ghetto fashion before wrapping it. Sollux then slipped on a pair of gloves and they were ready to go to leave the house and burn their lungs on the icy air. Though, Sollux wasn't exactly sure which air cut deeper; the winter air outside, or the sharp and unforgiving air inside that was laced with untamed emotions. Getting out of the apartment was just must easier. At first, they didn't really talk much. Sollux, of course, didn't mind in the least. He accepted the silence and embraced it, while Eridan himself allowed it to pick at him and torment his composure. He would shift uneasily, fingers slightly twitchy as he chewed on his bottom lip. It was almost funny how terribly the silence always got to the drama queen. "Hey, Sol?" Eridan asked softly after a while. Sollux barely blinked, eyes traveling over the sparkling constellations. "Hm?" Eridan stared with him in silence for a moment before he sighed. "Sol, why do you hate people?" "That's an easy one, Eridan. I hate people because everyone is ignorant and stupid and I'm not." Eridan snickered. "Is that right?" "All day long it's right. Ignorance is like a pandemic among the human race." "You know, they say that ignorance is bliss," Eridan pointed out. Sollux just smiled. "That's what stupid people tell themselves to feel better about being a fucking moron." Eridan shook his head. "Wow! How did I ever get stuck with such a positive and upliftin' character such as yourself, Sol?" Sollux shrugged. "You're just lucky, I suppose. And I wouldn't think of it as being 'stuck' with me. I'd sooner use the term 'gifted'." "You are the most conceited, self loathin' bastard that I have ever met," Eridan informed, though he smiled when he looked over at Sollux. "That's quite the oxymoron, Eri," he laughed. Eridan just furrowed his eyebrows, still smiling. Sollux looked back at him and his confused look for a moment before throwing his head back and laughing once again. "Whoops, sorry! That word too big for you?" he asked, and Eridan rolled his eyes. "Why do you have to be an asshole? Is it like, an involuntary action for you?" "As a matter of fact, I think so. And one day, science is going to prove that," he informed, making Eridan shake his head and chuckle. "Oh yeah? What kinds of tests are they goin' to do to prove that, Sol?" he questioned, making Sollux smile his smartass smile and look back up at the stars. "Actually, it should be easy. All they have to do is shove me in a room with you, and they'll figure it out sooner or later."

"Go fuck yourself, Captor." "Why? So you can watch, Ampora?" Eridan smiled. He then sat up and rolled over, hips rolling over Sollux's as he slightly relaxed on-top of his boyfriend. His hands were flat on the cold grass on either side of Sol's hips, muscles flexing as he held his upper body up, parallel with Sollux's. Sollux groaned playfully from the weight, smiling back up at Eridan. "Hm, I don't know. I'm not sure that I'd find any enjoyment in that." Sollux snickered. "Please, you'd get off to that shit." "Oh, because you're that good lookin'? I mean, for a loser, I guess you could be worse..." "Says the guy that's got his hips pressed to mine. Apparently you think I'm that good looking," Sollux retorted. Eridan smiled and shrugged. "I could do better, I can tell ya' that." "Is that so? Then why don't you?" Sollux challenged. Eridan's lips curved upwards again. He leaned down, pressing a soft kiss to Sollux's lips. Sollux sighed inwardly, expression softening as he pressed his lips back to the Ampora's. Eridan barely kissed him a moment before he pulled back. "Because I don't want anyone else." Butterflies came to life in Sollux's stomach. He no longer felt the chills that had erupted over his skin, warmth filling him at Eridan's confession. Sollux almost smiled, but he sighed instead, mismatched eyes darting away. "Why not? All I'm going to do is get you or someone else killed. I may be near perfect, but I don't think that I can take this stuff on," he admitted. Eridan ignored the joke that had been included as he looked at him, smile fading. His eyebrows furrowed in concern, the corners of his mouth tugging downwards in worry. He looked over Sollux's face a moment before sitting up on Sollux's hips. His fingers dragged through Sollux's hair and over his smooth cheek a moment before he spoke. "Are you Asian?" Sollux furrowed his eyebrows. He blinked a moment as his mind processed that question, a slow smile forming over his lips. "Not really. Well, I mean, my mom's father was from China, making her half Chinese. Why do you ask?" he questioned. Eridan shrugged. "Your hair is a lot like your father's, but at the same time it's really fine. And it's kind of funny how you, like, never brush it or care for it or anythin' and it still manages to look decent," he explained. Sollux paused a minute before narrowing his eyes. "I think that I should be offended on a few levels due to that comment, starting off with the subtle racism. My hair is fine and kind of silky, and all of a sudden I'm Asian?" he demanded. Eridan immediately burst out laughing. "Well, I mean, your skin is kind of like an Asian persons skin too! And the Chinese thing would explain your whole IQ and whatnot." Sollux's eyes widened, eyebrows raising, though an amused smile overtook his lips. He sat up and leaned back on his elbows as he looked at Eridan in an accusing manner.

"Wow! Alright, give me a minute to process the now blatant racism in your argument. Are you saying that I have to be Chinese to be smart? I can't be a white guy and be smart too? Next you're going to retract your argument based on the premise that my eyes are huge." At this point, Eridan was laughing harder. He shook his head, holding his hands up as he struggled to stop laughing long enough to speak. "Okay, okay wait a minute," he begged, realizing how terrible his comments sounded. Nevertheless, he was still laughing, and Sollux's smile had to widen. "Cool, alright, let me get this straight; I have sort of decent hair considering that I don't use a can of Garnier Fructis on it every morning, I have a good habit of washing my face, and school comes naturally to me. All of these make me a super smart Chinese guy with alright hair and pretty nice skin?" Eridan had now doubled over, rolling off of his boyfriend as he held his sides. He still couldn't stop laughing, tears now filling his eyes as he struggled to breathe and sit upright. He couldn't do either of these things, which only made Sollux laugh along with his boyfriend. He laid down with Eridan as he slapped his hand over his boyfriend's mouth, trying to get him to shut up. This, of course, only made Eridan laugh harder. "Say your sorry, Eridan. Say your sorry to me, and the entire country that you just offended," Sollux demanded. Eridan continued to laugh, barely able to manage the words. "O-okay! Okay, okay, I'm sorry! I'm sorry, Sol, I didn't mean to be a racist bastard," he managed between Sollux's fingers. Sollux laughed, removing his hand from Eridan's mouth. Before he could pull it back completely, Eridan finally stopped laughing and had reached up, taking it gently. He then pulled it close, sighing as he surveyed it as though he could see through the glove. His thumb slowly traced over the material, causing Sollux to grit his teeth. It hurt enough, even on pain meds. "Guess we should talk about this, huh?" Eridan sighed. Sollux hummed, turning his head so that his gaze met that of the stars above him. "That would probably be smart," he agreed. Eridan studied him for a while in silence before he too turned his gaze upwards. "Well, no one's stoppin' you," he replied, making Sollux smile softly, rolling his eyes before closing them. He inhaled deeply. Where did he even begin? Although not much has really happened, it felt as though his entire life before Cronus's arrival was like a different lifetime. Sollux didn't worry about much, but now he worried about everything. He didn't have to care about much and he didn't have to really do much before. Now, he had so much on his mind all the time and he felt as though there wasn't enough time for anything. He knew that it was just a stage of his life that he needed to beat the shit out of and move forward from, but he felt as though he was being tested every single day on that matter. Things were only getting more and more complicated, and there were times where Sollux forgot to breathe because of how much was going on. "After I fell into the pool, Eridan, I was a fucking mess," he confessed as a start, fingers tangling in the cold grass. "I went out with Karkat to grab a drink and talk about things

because I didn't want to bother you with how I felt. I know that I shouldn't have gotten him involved, but I told him about you and your family." Eridan's eyes widened. He slowly sat up, looking at Sollux as if he didn't hear him right. "You did what?" Sollux sighed, sitting up too. "I needed someone who I could trust to talk to." "Sol, I was right there! I wanted to be there for you, but you told me to go out with Fef instead," Eridan informed quickly, blue eyes searching Sol's in the dark. Sollux rubbed one of his temples. "This coming from you, who won't talk to me when you need to," he accused back. Eridan's eyes narrowed. "I don't know what you're talkin' about," he replied, causing Sollux to shake his head with an annoyed smile. "Right, because you totally don't think about your family and your family's enemies and the things that you've done." Eridan was quick to look away, mouth set in a thin line. Sollux sat in silence with him, allowing him to remain stubborn as hell in their silence. It wasn't long before Eridan caved, huffing and looking back at Sollux. "I'm sorry," he pouted. Sollux nearly smiled, shaking his head. "Don't be. Just talk to me, alright?" "If you talk to me, Sol," he replied with a nod. Sollux really almost smiled that time. Improvement. Hell yeah. He laid back down as he returned to his stargazing. Cool, so that was out of the way. What happened after the pool, again? Oh, yeah, that. Sollux had to sigh. "The next day, on my way to work, I ran into your brother. We argued for a while before I apparently said something to piss him off, though I'm not sure what it was. He did the whole cliche gangster play and yanked me off of the sidewalk and into an alleyway. He actually scared the living fuck out of me, to tell you the truth. Of course, I was still stubborn as hell, but that didn't stop Cronus from threatening me. He was the one who nailed me in the face and gave me that impressive bruise, Eridan, not KK. He also choked me just before the point of clocking out, so there's that," he slowly confessed. Eridan's face was hard, expression unreadable and eyes like steel as he stared up and away from Sol. "You said that he kissed you. I'm guessin' that it wasn't then?" he asked, causing Sollux to roll his eyes. "That's what you're most interested in?" "Oh, trust me, I'm holdin' back a lot right now just listenin' to everythin' else," Eridan hissed. It was obvious that Sollux wasn't the one that he was mad at, but Sollux still couldn't help but to feel chilled. Angry Eridan was always a bit intimidating, and Sollux hated seeing him in such terrible shape like that. He actually reminded Sollux of Cronus in those moments, which was an unnerving thought.

"No, Eri," Sollux sighed, running a hand down his face. "After that lovely incident, we ended up leaving. I was paranoid until the vacation, and even throughout the damn thing because of the things that your brother had said to me. I thought that I saw him everywhere, and he ended up revealing himself to me on Christmas day. He walked up behind me on the porch when I went out before breakfast and he-" "He what, Sol?" Eridan asked through gritted teeth as Sollux paused. Sollux began tapping his finger nervously against the cold grass. If anything filled Eridan with rage, it was Cronus when he came on to Sollux. "He began touching me. I thought that it was you, so I-" he cleared his throat "-went along with it. He then began to kiss me from behind, and I kissed him for like, two seconds before I began to realize that the kiss was completely off. Then I tasted those horrible cigarettes, and I pulled away. More like stumbled away, but anyways, the reason that he had come was not only to freak me out, Eri. I think that he was trying to warn me about Caliborn, but I didn't let him and I told him to get lost," Sollux informed, rolling on his side so that he could face Eridan. Sollux wasn't all surprised by Eridan's body language. He looked way tense, as though he was desperately trying to contain his anger. The hate for his brother burned in his normally soothing blue eyes, and his fingers were curled into tight fists. He was quiet for a few seconds before he sighed, trying to calm himself down and keep his thoughts away from possibly killing his brother. "Alright, what happened with Caliborn?" Eridan asked, his tone insinuating that he almost didn't want to hear the answer. Sollux fully understood why, though he wasn't at all reluctant with his answer. "He was waiting at the bar for me. I don't know if he expected Carter to be there, but he improvised pretty well. He took an empty bottle and broke it on the back of Carter's head," he replied, causing Eridan to sit up and turn his body, looking at Sollux with extreme emotion. He didn't say anything, so Sollux just continued. "He was fine, though I didn't have time to check as Caliborn advanced on me. Honestly, I don't remember much about what he said. A lot of it was off subject and, God damn, he never stopped talking. I really started listening around the point in time when he mentioned that he wanted to have fun before he killed you to get to your father. He said that not much could get to the "prodigious Orphaner Dualscar," but you are one of those things that could weaken him and end his conflict with Lord English, or whoever the hell he is. I mean, he said that he had been given orders not to kill anyone that he doesn't have to, but something tells me that he's not one for the rules. Anyways, he kept talking about how hard he got on the subject of games and shit, then informed me that I had to give you a message. Originally, he was going to shoot me in the leg. He pulled out the Tactical AK and everything, but he wasn't given the chance to shoot me because one of my regulars ended up knocking on the door and interrupting our hella fun party. Caliborn just settled for carving his pretty picture into my hand, saying that you would know what it meant before he took off," Sollux finally finished. Eridan looked pretty sick. "And Carter?"

"He was fine. I had to lie to him about what happened, though, because Caliborn threatened to viciously murder everyone that I loved if I told anyone about his existence." Eridan brought his knees up as his head fell into his hands. He shook his head as he struggled with what he was feeling, causing Sollux to look at him sadly. He was obviously drowning in guilt. "Damn it, Sol, I'm so fuckin' sorry. I'm so fuckin' sorry that I've dragged you and your family into this," he apologized pitifully. Sollux sighed. "Eridan, it's not entirely your fault. You did warn me about your family, but I decided to take the risk." "Yeah, but I didn't warn you about any possible threats. In fact, I told you that there were none, other than my brother." "Yeah, no, you're right about that. I'm a bit pissed that you lied to me about that." Eridan groaned, dropping his hands as he looked up at Sollux. His gaze tore through the darkness and into Sol's eyes as his fingers now tugged at the crisp grass around him. Sollux said nothing as he stared back, waiting for Eridan's reply. "I told you that I've been extremely selfish, Sol," he admitted slowly. Sollux inhaled sharply. "So you did know that you were possibly in danger," Sollux insinuated. Eridan looked extremely worried. "Yes, I did. I knew that even before I finally left home. I took that chance anyway." "And, although you knew that a bunch of crazies could have been tailing you, you were determined to form a relationship with me?" He knew that comment had gotten to Eridan. Hell, they were both thinking it, but Sollux was the one to say it. He didn't say it to make Eridan feel guilty, though he kind of deserved it. Nevertheless, Sollux was secretly glad that Eridan had been selfish. If he hadn't, Sollux wouldn't have found this happiness and made this improvement, even through the tough crap. "Sol, I don't think you understand that I wanted you for about four and a half years. Four and a half years, Sol, startin' with Freshman year. Even when you dated Aradia Megido, I still wanted you. Even when I moved after Junior year, I still wanted you. I mean, you were the biggest asshole on the face of the earth and no one made me feel like a more worthless piece of shit, but there was still somethin' about you that I liked. It got to the point where nothin' else mattered," he confessed, making Sollux's eyebrows raise. He looked at Eridan for a second before speaking. "If you knew that the whole time, why the hell did you beat the shit out of me? Why did you allow us to fight all the time?" "Well, why did you?" "I did it because I wasn't even sure how I was feeling. Then you became a giant ass, and I wasn't going to let you pretend as though you were the king of my world and could shove me around," Sollux informed, causing Eridan to wince.

"Honestly, Sol? It was a lot easier to throw punches at you than to allow the world to throw the punches at me," he stated pathetically. "That's how I was raised. I eventually grew to really believe that I hated you." "So, you didn't hate me?" "Oh, no, I definitely hated you. I wanted to break every fuckin' bone in your cocky, stubborn face, I hated you so much sometimes," he assured, shocking Sollux slightly. A strange smile overcame Sollux's face anyhow. "And the other times?" Although Sollux couldn't see Eridan's face too well, he knew that the other had blushed as he looked down and away, smiling sheepishly. He wrung his wrists slowly as he answered. "And the other times I...well, I-" "You?" Sollux coaxed. Eridan turned his head further away, as if Sollux could actually see his expression. The silence drew on for what felt like lifetimes before Eridan answered, his voice slow. "I fantasized about what it would be like for you to touch me." Sollux's breath nearly caught. He immediately had to draw his mind away from that thought, knowing very well what would happen if he were to dwell on it. Now definitely wasn't the time for that, and it took all of Sollux's strength to saying something other than what was first to come to his mind. "Eridan, I'm pretty scared," he admitted, eyes not leaving Eridan's face. Eridan turned back and looked at him, worry contorting his features. He reached out, his hands slipping over Sollux's. Sollux bit back a groan of pain as the shock ripped up his arm from his hand. He allowed Eridan's fingers to curl around his as Eridan spoke. "Me too. Not for me, but for you. But Sol, I promise you that I will take on anythin' that threatens your safety. Caliborn will not hurt you again. I'll make him lose the other leg if I have to," Eridan promised, voice sharp. Sollux winced. "Look, I don't want you to turn into your father's mini-me for me-" "Sol, I may not have a choice when it comes down to it. Caliborn and the guys like Caliborn are ruthless, and I may have to be exactly what I don't want to be to assure your safety." "And Cronus?" "Don't worry about Cronus, Sol. I think that Cronus is smart enough to know what will happen if he even dares to lay a finger on you after knowin' that I now know about his previous actions," Eridan practically snarled. Sollux had to smile softly at this. "My hero," he swooned, his playful nature bringing back the Eridan that he cared about. "Your one and only! Now, let's get home and check on your hand. I'm keepin' an eye on that thing like it's my hair," he promised, nearly eliciting a laugh from Sollux. "You sure know what to say to make a guy feel special," the Gemini teased with a roll of his eyes and a smile.

Chapter 40

Sollux could not believe that he was stuck with another communications class this semester. One was enough to make him want to pull his own nails out, and now he had to take another. He just couldn't wait until all of these pointless classes were out of the way, and all he had to concentrate on were the relevant classes for his major. The more tech and computer classes he had, the happier he would be. He was currently slumped in the back row, eye lids drooping as he fought to stay awake against the sleep that was threatening him. This professor literally had the most terrible voice for a teacher to have. Seriously, it was like Ben Stein was lecturing his class right now, and Sollux was about to bring a little life to this classroom by snoring. The only thing that jolted him awake was the complete and utter nerve that a person had to slide into the seat next to him. Sollux's eyes slowly opened, face set in pure annoyance as he slowly turned to give this jackass the look of death. It wasn't until he turned to see that it was Karkat who had taken the seat next to him, quickly digging through his bag for his shit. "Hey, loser, how late am I?" he whispered rather loudly as Sollux slid up. Sure, this wasn't just some stupid stranger who was afraid to be disconnected from human contact, but that didn't stop Sollux from giving Karkat a look of strict irritation. "Long enough. Not a great way to start off a semester, though I'm really not one to talk about skipping classes. Where were you?" Sollux demanded in a softer whisper, glancing back down to Ben at the front of the class. Karkat merely shrugged. "I was with Meenah," he replied simply, a stronger annoyance washing over Sollux. Alright, it wasn't as though Sollux had anything against Meenah. He had known her for a while, and she was a pretty decent chick. But what the hell? Karkat didn't party, didn't blow Sollux's phone calls off, and he didn't avoid class just to spend time with someone. If he's in love with her, fine, whatever, that's great, but if he's going to start being an asshole, Sollux was going to beat the shit out of someone. "Shocking," he muttered as he turned away from his friend, facing the front of the class again. Karkat just turned and looked at him, eyebrow cocked, an irritation of his own growing in his eyes. "Do you have a problem with me and Meenah?" he demanded. Sollux shook his head, looking innocent. "No, of course not. Meenah's cool," he replied shortly. Karkat narrowed his eyes. "Did I lose my privilege of being cool? Wait, is this about that stupid call that I didn't take like over a week ago? Wow, that was one time, Sollux. Don't tell me that you're still buttsore about that," Karkat hissed. Sollux snickered, not at all surprised that Karkat was being a dick at this point. Did Sollux deserve this? Maybe, considering he had been the one blowing his best friend off a few months ago. When Sollux had started dating Eridan, Eridan definitely came first. But he didn't start changing and he didn't turn into an asshole by being in a new relationship. In fact, he's really done nothing but improve. Even now, he wasn't completely biting Karkat's head off and insulting him for being with Meenah and being happy. He was finding himself

more in control and more composed. Of course he would still be an asshole. Some things just can't be cured, but he was definitely better. "No, my ass wasn't the part that was sore after that conversation," he whispered back, flexing his fingers on his still gloved hand. The damn cuts were not healing well. That was mostly because he didn't get the proper attention that he should have gotten for them, but, hell, at least it didn't get infected. Eridan had prepared Sollux for the scarring that was undoubtedly going to occur, though Sollux had already assumed as much. He knew plenty about cuts and gashes, and which ones were sure to scar. This one was definitely going to scar over nicely. Sollux had prepared himself for that much, but after learning that the eight ball was the brand of the English family, Sollux felt very tainted. The eight ball was the English version of the Ampora double bolts. The last thing that he wanted was to be fucking owned, and now that's how he felt. No matter how upset Sollux was about it, his rage didn't even come close to matching Eridan's. Eridan was enraged in the fact that the eight ball was what Caliborn had decided to apply to Eridan's boyfriend's skin, marking what was Eridan's, no doubt on purpose to get to the Ampora. Sollux tried to assure Eridan that it was fine, it didn't mean anything and it hardly hurt anymore (lie), but apparently family symbols were taken very seriously among Eridan's group of people. "Aw, was it your heart? That's cute, Sollux, but there's no need to be jealous," Karkat assured, causing Sollux to roll his eyes. "If you're insinuating that I'm upset because I don't have you all to myself, you can go screw an electric pencil sharpener. Maybe your ego will be ripped apart along with your-" "Gentleman, is there a problem back there?" Ben asked, directing the attention of the class back to where Sollux and Karkat were sitting. Karkat was still a bit shocked by Sollux's comment, unable to answer the professor. Sollux himself barely held Karkat's gaze before he looked forward, eyes meeting those of his boring teacher. He gave the professor an innocent smile. "Not at all. Please, get back to your exhilarating lecture," he offered, eliciting a number of amused chuckles from the students. The professor looked slightly irritated, but elected to ignore Sollux nevertheless and continue on with his lesson. Sollux was about to relax again until Karkat scooted closer, leaning over and hissing into Sollux's ear. "What the hell is your problem? I haven't done shit to piss you off. If anyone should be pissed with anyone here, it should be me. That little stunt with Strider-" "Please, KK, it was a joke. Untwist Meenah's panties from your ass and get the hell over it." "Holy angels above, who the hell shoved the stick up your ass, Sollux?" Karkat demanded. Just as Sollux's lips had parted to respond, his phone began to vibrate in his bag. He huffed, leaning down and snatching it off of the floor. He opened his bag and began digging around, fingers slipping over his phone. He yanked it out, eyebrows furrowing at the strange

number. Although he didn't know it, the area code was familiar to him being that it was a New York area code. Eridan's, actually, which filled Sollux with a particular kind of dread. Should he answer it? He might as well. He was actually terrified not to. It would be a huge mistake to deliberately ignore the calls of someone who could very easily become pissed by being ignored. Sollux mentally groaned. He looked up at Karkat, narrowing his eyes. "You're lucky that I have to take this," he snapped. Karkat just scoffed. "Why? You've already torn me a new one!" he replied. Sollux sighed. He looked down at his phone, then back up at Karkat. He furrowed his eyebrows as he met the brown eyes of his friend's, setting his phone in his pocket a moment to rip his glove off of his hand. He held it up, revealing the thick, healing scar on the back of his hand. "This is why I was upset. I needed you," he replied, his voice softer this time. Karkat's harsh expression immediately broke, eyes widening as his gaze locked on to Sollux's hand. "Shit. Shit, Sollux," he began, looking back up at his friend just as Sollux slid his stupid glove on again. He gathered his things, snatching his phone and unlocking it as he held it to his ear and began making his way to the door. "I hope that this is important," he murmured into the receiver. The voice that came next was one that he did not expect. "Trust me, Mr. Captor, it is," Adrian's undeniable voice replied. Sollux practically tripped over a backpack on his way to the exit, once again gaining the attention of the class. They all looked at him curiously, the professor looking at him with familiar annoyance. Sollux just held his hand up, smiling. "Don't mind me! Continue, we're all still listening!" he assured, once again receiving a few laughs from his peers. Ben just narrowed his eyes and gave Sollux the 'Oh, you'll so be in my office later' look. Sollux elected to ignore that as he stepped out of the classroom, quickly leaning against the wall of the currently empty hallway. "Still can't control the mouth, I see," Adrian commented with distaste. "Still don't have enough balls to hop on a plane and insult me face to face, I see," Sollux snapped right back, so not in the mood for this right now. Nevertheless, regret immediately filled him after his comment. He was so asking for another knife shoved into his skin. "Mr. Captor, I am in no mood to deal with your childish antics this afternoon. After the previous events that have occurred, I would suggest that you keep that vile attitude of yours on a leash. I wouldn't want to have to make one for you," Adrian replied calmly, though the edge to his tone brought fear back into Sollux's heart. "Fine, what do you want?" he asked, looking up and down the still empty hallways. Adrian was quick to reply. "A truce, for starters. My fight is no longer with you, although you've convinced my son to stay where he is not safe. I don't appreciate the tone that you use with me, though I understand it. You do not like me, and you do not trust me. To be completely frank, the feelings are entirely mutual. But I am willing to put those aside so that the concentration is set on keeping you and Eridan alive. Do we have an understanding? Good. Now, Cronus and

others have informed me about Caliborn English, though I am unaware of the specifics. It's imperative that you relay to me the information in which you received," he began, hardly giving Sollux any time to process every word A truce? Although Sollux was stubborn as hell, he could conjure the maturity to manage that. The real thing that got to him was the "others" that Adrian had mentioned. Do the Ampora's have people here? What were they doing? Were they watching Sollux? It was creepy enough that Cronus was glued to his shadow, but the thought of others here just stressed him out. Also, what was he suppose to tell Adrian about Caliborn? "I don't know what you expect to hear, sir," he replied honestly, showing some respect for once in how he referred to the older Ampora. Adrian sighed, sounding stressed enough himself. "Anything that seems of even the slightest importance. Did he tell you what he is currently seeking?" Adrian questioned. Sollux tipped his head, slowly sliding down the wall of the hallway until the ground stopped him. "To be honest, sir, I don't know that I want to tell you. If there's even the slightest chance of Caliborn finding out that I've talked to you-" "I'm assuming he threatened you. I understand that you must be frightened, but for Eridan's sake, you need to put that aside and talk to me." "For Eridan's sake? Look, I'll do anything for him, but what about my family's sake? Cronus has already threatened my brother and Caliborn hurt my da-" "Sollux, nothing will happen to your family. They're not important, I can assure you that. The only reason that you are involved is because you are much safer to trifle with than Eridan is. Using you to get to him is their intention-" "Just like using him to get to you is their intention, right? Really, this is all because of you." "Mr. Captor, if my son was home where he belonged, this would not be a problem. If he hadn't left on some self-seeking quest-" "He left because growing up to be like his father was an option that he'd rather die then give into!" Sollux spat suddenly, tired of the constant interruptions within this so called conversation. This immediately shut Adrian up, and Sollux was suddenly scared that he actually injured the other. Why? He doesn't deserve my pity. Nevertheless, Sollux sighed. He looked up and around again before tipping his head for the second time. He spoke in a low tone, keeping his voice steady as he did so. "Caliborn told me that, for now, he just wants to have fun. His long-term goal though is to kill Eridan. He said that Eridan's death is one of the only ways to get to you, and that's his plan," Sollux admitted, not sure what to think about Adrian's reaction, purely because there wasn't one. They sat in silence a moment before the older man finally replied. "I see. Mr. Captor, have you ever met a man with a long scar down his left eye?" he asked, shoving Sollux into confusion. Sollux furrowed his eyebrows. "What? Um, no, I don't know him. Why, who is he?"

"No one that matters to you," Adrian replied smoothly, causing Sollux to sit up and furrow his eyebrows harshly. "No, no way, Eridan does that shit enough! Look, I've been stalked, threatened, injured, and I've put up with all of this for Eridan. Caliborn just recently shoved a gun in my face and a drew an eight ball into my hand, I think that I've gained the right to know who else is out there and ready to carve stupid symbols into my body!" Sollux snapped, fed up with being kept in the dark about all of this. He's come this far, hasn't he proven that he can handle this? Adrian was quiet for another moment, nearly eliciting a groan from Sollux. If he only knew what this damn guy was thinking! Adrian then sighed, speaking to Sollux in a voice that was actually laced with pity. "The eight ball, hm?" "Yes, the eight ball," Sollux replied, suddenly very tired as he ran his hand through his hair. Adrian was quiet yet again before replying. "The man that I mentioned is the leader of a very impressive group referred to as the Midnight Crew. He is known as-" "Spades Slick?" Sollux suggested, remembering that name specifically from a conversation with Eridan. Adrian scoffed. "So, Eridan tells you things that he shouldn't?" he seemed to complain, receiving a matching scoff from Sollux. "Oh, please. Trust me, he barely tells me anything. Definitely not nearly as much as I deserve," he mumbled. He actually heard Adrian chuckle, which made his eyebrows raise. Whoa, that sounded totally weird. "It's better that you don't know, Mr. Captor. By the way, I would appreciate if you would tell Eridan to answer my calls. I haven't spoken to him in months, and I miss my son. On a further note, don't get him killed, or I willhop on a plane and threaten you face to face," he promised before curtly hanging up. Sollux pulled his phone away from his face, looking at the ended call sign before forcing his head back against the wall and letting out a groan. Typical.

Chapter 41
Sollux toyed with the idea in his head of staying back and apologizing to his professor for being such an ass. In the end, he decided that he'd much rather get home, relax, and talk to Eridan about Adrian's phone call. It wasn't that big of a deal, but Eridan might think otherwise, and Sollux wasn't going to deal with it later about how he should have talked to him, blah, blah, blah. So, he headed off home. He walked slowly, one hand in his pocket, the other holding his bag on his shoulder. He dragged his feet, staring down at them as he walked. He thought about the situation at hand for a while before he sighed, looking up at the cloudy sky. He'd been thinking on this whole thing for a while after Caliborn's visit, and he'd finally come to a conclusion; no more running from this shit. All Sollux did was try to avoid everything coming at him, but that was just stupid. He can't avoid these things anymore,

and he can't run from them and pretend like they aren't happening. He needed to learn more about the enemies of the Ampora family, not to mention more about the Ampora family itself. How did the mob even work? Did it operate the same way that it use to way back when? How was it like the mafia? Was it the same thing, or were they completely different? More importantly, Sollux wanted to know all about Eridan's involvement. What part did he have in this whole thing? Where did he stand on the power ladder? Was he still considered part of the family, or was he out now? Could you ever even really be out? Would he ever be left alone? All of it was completely foreign to Sollux. Literally the only thing that he knew about this was from movies or stories, and that wasn't even much, nor was most of it accurate. He could do research, but it would be much easier to just talk to Eridan about it. Though, would he really get straightforward answers from Eridan? Maybe he should talk to someone else... He pushed those thoughts aside as he walked up the steps to his building, pulling out his keys from his bag. He then noticed that he had an unread text on his phone, sighing when he saw that it was from Karkat. He wasn't really upset with the Vantas anymore, but he still didn't feel like talking to him. He wished that he never even showed him his hand or brought it up at all. Nevertheless, he'd talk to him, but it'd have to be later. He was fumbling with his keys as he approached the door, though he stopped when he heard voices inside. "What the hell is the matter with you?" Cronus's voice demanded loudly, causing Sollux's eyes to widen. He immediately moved to shove his key into the doorknob, wanting to get in there and make sure that Cronus wasn't going to do something stupid. "Did you even know that Monroe Covington was a cop, Eridan? If you did, you sure as hell didn't inform me!" Cronus exclaimed, making Sollux stop suddenly before he unlocked the door. He froze, eyebrows furrowing, not making a sound. "I don't think that he's a cop anymore, asshole, so just calm the fuck down! It's not even that big a' deal!" Eridan snapped back. "Not a big deal, Eridan? Whether he's a cop now or not doesn't matter, but the fact that he was one in the Bronx sure as hell does! And you introduced yourself as an Ampora? What the hell?" "Cro, he didn't even flinch when I mentioned my name. He didn't even seem to recognize it!" "We don't use our name with cops, Eridan. Especially not ones from our neck of the woods." "Cronus, what part of he didn't even recognize it don't you understand? Just because he was on duty in our area doesn't mean anythin'! Not all cops know the family names. And even if they do, who fuckin' cares? Unless dad's done somethin' stupid recently or someone's screwed up, no one's got anythin' on us!" Sollux flinched. Us.

"I can bet that he's got a shit ton of police buddies that he use to work with. One mention of you to them, any one of them could recognize your name. The family name isn't big in the minds of the people, but it's not exactly small in the minds of the feds!" This seemed to shut Eridan up. They were both quiet a moment before Eridan even spoke. "And so what? What are they goin' to do? They have no reason to question me. I haven't done anythin'." "Recently," Cronus added, causing a wave of nausea to wash over Sollux. "Cronus, are you just tryin' to find a reason to pick a fight with me? Why the hell do you even care?" "Well, for starters, it would certainly end that pathetic relationship of yours if Covington realized who you were. Also, questions and suspicions might arise as to what the hell you're doing here." "First of all, my relationship is none of your fuckin' business. Secondly, there's nothin' suspicious about my bein' here. I'm not part of the family anymore, Cronus; I'm out." "You're never out!" Cronus yelled suddenly, startling Sollux and causing him to jump. He nearly dropped his keys, but caught them just in time. How could he have almost forgotten about Cronus's temper? He needed to be more wary of that. Damn it, he was beginning to become really sick of Ampora's... "The only way that you're out is if you're dead, Eridan. You know that, you've always known that. You should also know that at this rate, you're going to be dead sooner than fucking later! Forget how many guys want to use you to get to dad, do you even know how many people are just disgusted by you? Even members of the family want you dead for betraying your oath and vows and getting away with it." "The fuckin' vows were bullshit, Cro! I was immature and influenced, of course I was goin' to take those vows without question! It was dad, how was I suppose to say no?" "Nevertheless, dumbass, you've taken them and broken them. You left the family, betrayed the boss, and spoke of what you never should have mentioned! Telling the kid about us was bad enough, and I can only imagine what else you've spilled. The only reason that you're not dead is because you're made and you're Adrian Ampora's son, and you know it!" "But I don't want to be! I don't want to be Orphaner Dualscar's prodigy, I don't want to be what I was!" Eridan cried. At that, Sollux made his way inside. He pushed the door open, then kicked it shut behind him as he walked in, not even flinching at the sight of Cronus. Cronus didn't even acknowledge his presence, still staring Eridan down. Eridan, on the other hand, practically jumped at the sight of Sollux. "Sol! W-what are you doin' here?" "I live here?" "No, I mean, what are you doin' here now? Don't you have a communications class right now?" "I did, but I skipped it after I had to take a phone call from your father. Why are you so skittish? Is this secret meeting a usual thing, organized for when I'm gone?" Sollux

demanded. He wasn't exactly mad as he was annoyed, and Eridan could tell as his eyes widened. "What? No, of course not!" he assured, not able to get much further as Cronus finally looked over at Sollux. "Our dad called you? Why?" he snapped, causing Sollux to raise an eyebrow and look at him in irritation. "He wanted to know when I'm free, he'd like to take me out for coffee and maybe a movie afterwards," he drawled sarcastically. "Why the hell do you think?" A look of irritation flashed over Cronus's face. He opened his mouth to reply, but Sollux didn't give him the chance as he dropped his bag and began to make his way over to Eridan. "What does 'made' mean?" he asked. Eridan paused, eyebrow rising just as Cronus began to eye Sollux suspiciously. "Made?" "Yeah, made. What does it mean to be made?" he questioned again. Sollux felt a bit bad as the fear filled Eridan's features. It was obvious that Sollux had heard a majority of the conversation, which obviously freaked Eridan out. He reached out, grabbing one of Sollux's hands as he looked into the Gemini's mismatched eyes. "Listen, Sol-" "It's none of your business, kid," Cronus spoke up, not fond of the idea of Sollux knowing anymore than he already did. Sollux slowly looked over at Cronus, his annoyance growing. He looked at the other a moment before he turned and made his way over to him. Cronus crossed his arms, eyebrows furrowed. Any sign of the Cronus that mindlessly flirted and played with Sollux was gone, and all that was left was this hard shell of a man who'd never known any warmth or affection, and Sollux knew that. He paused in front of Cronus, barely needing to look up into his face. Cronus looked down at him as well. "What? You gonna' punch me again, Captor?" "That depends. You going to kiss me again, Ampora?" Cronus smiled. "Not in front of my brother. Maybe later," he said with a wink, the old Cronus returning, immediately making Eridan step forward. "Cronus..." he began in a warning. Cronus ignored him, reaching down and slipping his hand into Sollux's, lifting it closer. "How's the hand?" Sollux, a bit surprised that Cronus gave a shit, yanked his hand back. "Dandy. I feel closer to Caliborn every time I look at it." "Hey, I tried to warn you." "Yeah, I was really feeling the love when I realized that you were stalking my family. Why did you care, anyways?" "I didn't. Not about you, anyways. The thought of Caliborn English threatening my brother didn't exactly hang well with me, ya' know?"

"Wow, you flatter me." "That's not all I could do to ya', kid," he insinuated with another wink. Eridan really moved this time, stepping forward and pushing Cronus back. "Enough, alright? You've said what you came to say, now get the hell out," Eridan demanded, pulling Sollux close to him. His hold was so tight that Sollux couldn't get out, even if he wanted to. Cronus ignored Eridan's demands, though he did look over at his brother. "Not yet, I want to know what dad spoke to the kid about. I've tried to get in contact with him, but he's ignoring my calls." "Maybe he just doesn't want to talk to you, Cronus!" Eridan suggested, causing the playful side of Cronus to once again disappear. "Maybe he would, if you'd let me do what he asked of me!" "Damn it, I'm not comin' home!" "Both of you shut the hell up! Jesus Christ, you're like a couple of two year old's when put together," Sollux demanded, shoving himself out of Eridan's grasp. "Also, stop treating me like I'm the two year old. I've come this far and I deserve to know what I'm mixed up in, alright? And if you two won't answer my questions, I'll find someone who will." Cronus just scoffed, looking down at him. "Oh yeah? What're you gonna' do? Call Caliborn up and invite him to dinner?" Sollux shrugged. "If that's what it takes. I have a feeling that he'd be more straight with me than either of you assholes. And what's a knife in the other hand, am I right? Once you've been carved into once, you've been carved into a million times." This was enough to make Eridan look away in guilt. Even Cronus's harsh facade fell as he glanced down at Sollux's hand before looking away as well. Both of them knew that it wasn't right for Sollux to be mixed up in this, and it wasn't fair. Sollux didn't want to have to use that to his advantage, but he was more than willing to do so at this point. There was no way that he was going to decide to stop running from his problems, only to slam into a brick wall after his, like, third breakthrough of the month. He was on a fucking role here! After a while, Eridan looked back at him. His gaze was serious, his eyes not as soft and inviting as they usually were. He looked at Sollux, then Cronus, then back to Sollux again before speaking. "If we were talkin' about this subject thirty years back, I couldn't tell you anythin'. Now, there's a lot more in the open than there was before. Whatever I don't tell you about the general facts, you can find out soon enough with research. When it comes to our own family and the details of the other families, though, I have to be careful with what I spill-" "Why are you considering talking to him anyways, Eridan? Don't you think you've done enough?" Cronus demanded. Eridan shot him a look. "He can google most of this shit, Cronus!" he spat in reply before looking back to his boyfriend. He looked at Sollux a moment before sighing, stepping back a few steps and collapsing onto the couch. He rubbed his temples for a while before Sollux decided to sit too, just to make

Eridan a little more comfortable. Cronus, who obviously wasn't leaving anytime soon, leaned against the wall. He withdrew a cigarette, lighting it and taking a drag before he shoved his hands into his pockets, allowing the cigarette to dangle between his lips. Eridan looked at him, irritated, but looked back at Sollux without a word to Cronus. "There are a few other families like ours, Sol. We all make up our own little district, just as the major mafia families did before and still do. The three you've already heard of are Ampora, English, and the Slick family, which is just known as the Midnight Crew." "And the others?" Sollux prodded. He happened to notice that Eridan glanced over to Cronus, who gave his brother an indecipherable look. Eridan looked back at Sollux before shaking his head. "They're not important." "Right," Sollux said slowly, clearly not believing that, but not prodding any further in fear that the information would stop flowing. "So, what are you, exactly? Mob? Mafia? Gang?" Cronus snickered at the last one, and Eridan just shot him a look before looking back at Sollux. "We don't really call ourselves anythin', Sol. We're really just an organized crime community." "Define organized crime." Cronus rolled his eyes, and Eridan sighed. "Anythin' that involves makin' money, for starters. Gamblin', drug dealin', loan sharkin', scammin'-" "Murdering," Cronus offered, and Eridan shot him another look. "Do you mind?" he snapped, and Cronus just offered him a smile. Eridan shook his head, looking back at Sollux. "You make money, you remain loyal, and you serve the boss-" "All of which you've failed to do," Cronus added nonchalantly, interrupting his brother once again. Eridan huffed, turning towards his brother for the upteenth time. "If you can't keep your mouth shut, I'm kickin' you out." "Fair enough," Cronus replied with a shrug, taking another drag from his cigarette. Sollux just watched the two, allowing what was already said to sink in. Alright, that all seemed pretty basic. It was still some serious shit, but nothing was a total shock so far. Nevertheless, it all seemed so surreal. To hear about it is one thing, but to be involved in it and to know someone involved is completely different. "How are you organized? There's a boss, but is there more to it?" Sollux asked, leaning back to get comfortable. Eridan looked at him, nodding and running a hand through his hair. He looked tired. Sollux didn't blame him. "Though the traditional term 'mafia' is used to describe the crime organizations of really Sicilian heritage, you could easily use that word for us, too. We're organized very similarly, with a boss, underboss, capos, soldiers, associates, etc." "What do all of those mean?" This is where Eridan was beginning to look a little more reluctant, so Cronus stepped forward and took over.

"The boss is a given, and the underboss is like the second in command. Capos lead their own soldiers, who do the dirty work and don't really make as much dough. Associates aren't really members of the family, but they work for the family mostly out of hopes of being made." "And what is that, exactly?" "To be made is to be officially accepted as a member of the family," Eridan explained. "You have to promise loyalty, take a blood oath, dumb thin's like that," he added quickly, hoping to be past this part. This obviously annoyed Cronus, who shook his head and looked at Eridan. "Yeah, 'dumb things' that you've done." He then looked at Sollux. "You also have to pass a test first, and this is generally murder." Sollux's eyebrows rose and he was quick to look over at Eridan. The younger Ampora had yanked his feet up onto the couch, arms crossed, looking away in a guilty, annoyed pout. Sollux didn't ask Eridan if he had killed someone. He didn't have to, the answer was already obvious. Sollux wasn't sure how he felt about that. He had always assumed that Eridan had been involved in murder and acts such as that, but he'd never really accepted it as a fact. Now that he knew that his boyfriend was a murderer, things began to become a lot cloudier. Eridan didn't seem like a guy capable of murder, and yet he obviously was. Was there really a different side to him that Sollux hadn't seen? Sure, he's caught glimpses; anytime Eridan moves to attack Cronus, or even when he was in high school and he acted like a fucking thug. "So, what does that make you, Cronus? The underboss?" Sollux guessed, surprised when Cronus immediately looked away. Eridan looked at Cronus a moment before looking back at Sollux. "Cronus was only just recently made. He's just a soldier," he informed, shocking Sollux. Sollux never would have guessed that. Then again, maybe he should have! Cronus seemed so bitter when it came to Eridan's position in the family and when it came to his father, so it would only make sense that he was so low on the ladder. "Dirty work" seemed to fit Cronus as well. Was that all that Adrian trusted his eldest son to do? "So, Eridan, what were you before you left?" "Eridan was the underboss, kid," Cronus informed just before Eridan could get a word in. Sollux's eyes widened as he looked at his boyfriend. Well hot damn... "Wait, but when you first told me about your family, you said that your dad wasn't the boss anymore. You said that he wanted to avoid being a target, so you guys just took orders instead of giving them," Sollux pointed out. Once again, before Eridan could say anything, Cronus threw his head back and laughed. "Is that what he told you? Really, Eridan? Dad, taking orders?" he laughed, obviously amused. Eridan's cheeks flushed, and he looked at Sollux in worry. "I lied to you, Sol," he admitted, filling Sollux with a slight hurt. "I didn't want to make it seem bigger than it was."

"It's big enough as it is, Eridan! Adding that your father was in control wasn't going to make much of a difference to me at that point!" "I just wanted to finally tell you, but do so without scarin' you off! I know that I've lied about some thin's-" "No shit? You've lied about some things? Honestly, Eridan, I hadn't even noticed!" Sollux spat sarcastically, sitting up as he began to get angry. Eridan narrowed his eyes. "Hey, I'm not the only one! You've done your fair share of lyin' in this relationship, Sol!" "You're right, Eridan, I'm such a bad guy. Maybe if I commit an act of murder, I'll be able to start competing with you!" "You think that I'm proud of what I've done, Sollux? You think that I left and betrayed my family because I thought that it'd be fun?" "No, not exactly. I think that you left and betrayed your family because you're a selfish bastard that doesn't know what he wants!" "Alright, guys," Cronus started, surprisingly stepping up to end this. Eridan was quick to rise to his feet, pointing towards the door. "Out, Cronus! Get out!" he shouted, causing Cronus to wince from the tone of his voice. "Yeah, sure, okay," he accepted without complaint, turning and making his way to the door. Sollux stood as well. "I think that I'll make my way out with him," he snapped, causing Cronus to turn and look at him with a smile while Eridan's eyes widened. "I don't think so. You're not goin' anywhere with him!" "And who's going to stop me, Eridan? You? Are you going to force me to stay in the apartment?" "If that's what keeps you safe, yes!" "Oh please, I wouldn't hurt him," Cronus finally admitted with a roll of his eyes. Sollux turned and looked at him in surprise. He knew it! "Cronus, I said get out! Now!" Eridan demanded once again, fire burning in his blue eyes with such an intensity that Sollux was almost afraid to leave. The Gemini was too busy staring at the raw hate and fury burning in Eridan's eyes that he didn't even notice Cronus leave. Eridan just turned and looked at Sollux, the fire not going out. He began to advance on the other, causing Sollux's eyes to widen. "You have no idea what I've been through, Sollux Captor. You have no idea what it's like ta' regret every decision that you've ever made, and hate the very person that you've turned out ta' be. I was so young and so fuckin'alone, that the thought of bein' part of a family that protects each other and puts one another first sounded like a dream come true ta' me. The thought of no longer havin' ta' go through the fuckin' pain of bein' hated and ignored was a Godsend, and I needed it. I needed ta' be accepted by the family, because no one would accept me anywhere else. In the family I was loved, appreciated, and admired. People looked up ta' me and wanted ta' be like me, and that was fine until the guilt inside of me began ta' eat me alive. I couldn't believe the thin's that I had done, just ta' be accepted. I continued ta' ruin my character ta' make other people look at me with pride at the expense

of lookin' at myself with hate. And Sollux, I hate myself. No matter how hard I try ta' change and try ta' be the person that I want ta' be, everyone will always remember the person that I was. I will always remember the person that I was. I can't outrun the pain and the self-loathin'. The family saved my life, and destroyed it at the same time. Now please, please don't judge me based off of what I did out of desperation," he begged, voice growing weaker and weaker as he went on. Sollux just looked at him. What he said didn't justify what he had done, but it definitely did away with Sollux's negative feelings. There was no anger or blame anymore; just pity. Sollux knew that-although he was a dick-he didn't have the heart to deny Eridan and walk away. He stepped forward, slowly slipping his arms around his boyfriend as Eridan wrapped his arms around Sollux tightly, burying his face into the curve of Sollux's neck.

Chapter 42
Sollux walked into the old coffee shop, pushing his hair back and out of his eyes. Damn, he needed a haircut. He'd have to give Kanaya a phone call soon. She always gave some great haircuts. He inhaled deeply, taking in the smell of strong coffee beans and fresh pastries. The air was warm and inviting, the old, earthy decor adding to the feel of the place. He used to love coming into this shop everyday after school, but that was before"Sollux," Aradia greeted happily from behind the register, a mildly excited expression on her face. Sollux returned her smile with a brief one of his own, stepping forward and accepting her hug after she made her way around the ordering counter. She slipped her arms around him, one hand sliding into the back of his hair as she held him fondly. He hugged her back, taking in her familiar warm sugar scent. "How are you doing?" she asked as she slipped back, leaving him cold after her touch had vanished. Sollux shoved his hands into his pockets as he answered. "Pretty good. Trying to keep up with everything, ya know?" he replied, looking down into her swirling eyes as she batted her thick lashes absentmindedly. She smiled softly, the smile claiming her dark red lips. "Is there a lot on your metaphorical plate, Sollux?" "You could say that. And how are you?" "I am well. Missing you," she replied honestly. A warmth filled him that he hadn't felt in a while around her, but it was quick to fade. He gave her a half smile. "Sorry I haven't visited. You know me; a dog without a leash, unable to be controlled," he joked, making her giggle and flash her white teeth. "Oh yes, you have always been so very wild. I could not help but to be worried while we were together," she replied, sarcasm laced on her melodic voice. "As you should have been. You never know with crazy guys like me," he continued to joke with a roll of his eyes and a chuckle of his own. He looked down into her soft brown eyes for a moment, a bit intimidated by the fondness there that made him clear his throat and look away. "So, where is-?"

"Oh, of course. He is at the table in the back," she offered, pointing with her maroon nail. He nodded, walking around her. "Thanks. Great seeing you," he replied, making her nod. "Likewise." Sollux turned away from her and shook his head. Maybe he was just seeing things that weren't really there, but she was beginning to seem more and more friendly. Maybe she forgot who broke up with who. Either way, itwas pretty good to see her. Her presence brought with it an attractive melancholy. Strange. He pushed his way through the curtain beads that split the small shop, resisting his sigh when his father looked up at him, posture straightening at the sight of his youngest son. Sollux's eyes slipped over the man as he walked over to him, taking in the now firm grip on his cup and the drumming of his fingers on the table. Why was he always so damn nervous around Sollux? The Gemini was, like, the most least intimidating guy in this town. Sollux was about to slip into the seat across from his father when Delvin stood, stepping forward and quickly wrapping his arms around his son. Sollux immediately tensed, unable to help it. Why hugs? Why? Nevertheless, he awkwardly hugged his father back. Just as he was about to pull away, Delvin took the opportunity to do so first, most likely in attempts to get on Sollux's good side. Smart man, but it would take a lot more than that at this point. He took his seat, giving Sollux a grateful smile. "Hi, Sollux. Thank you for meeting me today." "Class was canceled, work isn't until later, and Eridan got a new job that he's busy with. I didn't exactly have much else to do today," he replied simply, grabbing his cup of coffee that his father had ordered for him. He took a sip, a bit surprised to find that his order was perfect. He sometimes forgot that his father had an amazing memory and hardly ever forgot anything. This was a trait that Sollux had inherited from Delvin. The older man frowned, clearing his throat. "Either way, thank you. You look-...well, you look so much older. It's amazing how quickly you and Mit seem to age when we're apart." "Yup. I'm practically a grown man, capable of making his own choices, wouldn't you say?" Sollux challenged, gaze locked with Delvin's. Delvin stilled. "Of course," he replied. "And I'm assuming that a particular choice of mine is the reason for this meeting?" Sollux guessed. Delvin furrowed his eyebrows, his emotions bare and unmasked in his eyes. Sollux was almost shocked to find that he immediately felt bad for giving this man such a hard time. Delvin did try, he really did... "I've missed you, Sollux. I haven't seen you in months, and after what happened the last time that we saw one another-" "When you insulted my parents, my boyfriend, and my choices? When you accused my relationship of being fake? When you made me out to be an ignorant teen who was too busy writing in his diary to recognize his own feelings? Yeah, I could see how that would make

things feel pretty awkward," Sollux accused smoothly, immediately making Delvin wince. He looked down at his coffee. "I'm sorry for my behavior that day. I was surprised when I learned about your feelings for Eridan, and I let my composure slip away from me. I'm your father, and every little detail of your life is a big deal to me. Surely you understand?" he pleaded, reaching out and sliding his hand over Sollux's. Sollux just narrowed his eyes. "Understand what? What does being a parent have to do with it? The second that I introduced Eridan to my parents, neither of them even flinched." "Of course they didn't flinch, Sollux, they're-" he started, quick to catch himself and refrain from finishing. Sollux's eyebrows shot up, a look in his eyes daring Delvin to finish his sentence. "They're what?" Delvin sighed. His eyes shifted back and forth between Sollux's, taking in the different colors before he removed his hand. He leaned back in his chair and looked away, a look on his face that made Sollux try to remember what his father looked like when he was actually happy. He hadn't seen that expression and that emotion in almost ten years. "They're much better people than I am," he finished softly, his reply forcing Sollux's contorted features to relax, shock consuming him. All Sollux could do for the longest time was stare. He had no idea how to react, nor did he know how to reply. That was probably the first time that Delvin had ever honestly complimented Carter and Monroe, and Sollux could tell that he meant it wholeheartedly. A feeling of fondness that he hadn't felt in years for his father sparked within the Gemini's heart, remaining for only a brief moment before it faded away once again. Sollux tore his gaze away from his father, looking down at the coffee's that neither of them were drinking. They sat in silence for a while, lost in their emotional thoughts before Delvin cleared his throat. He leaned forward, gaining Sollux's attention once again. "Do you want to take a walk?" "Yeah," Sollux replied as he rose immediately, having begun to feel suffocated by the air surrounding them. Sollux nearly gagged as Delvin gave Aradia a hug on the way out, not showing any signs of his emotions as they made their way through the door. To tell the truth, he seemed pretty impassive the entire time. That was his general character-or, it was, before Eridan-but it seemed to be on high voltage today. They had extremely dull and sleep inducing conversations about Eridan's new job at a clothing shop in the mall, Delvin's own boring work life, Sollux's easy classes, etc. Everything really seemed boring in comparison to the recent events in Sollux's life, not that Sollux minded a little dull nature here and there. Then again, his conversations with his father never really invoked any excited emotion. He rarely felt a connection to the man, and he often found himself craving the end of their meetings. They walked and held their emotionless conversations until they reached the park, taking a seat at the same bench that Sollux had sat the night that he'd met Caliborn. They stared out at the pond, watching as the sun glittered off the top of the water. The water moved

with the sudden cold breeze, causing Sollux to shiver without thought. Delvin looked over at his son, furrowing his eyebrows. "Would you like my scarf?" "What? Oh, God no. After living with Eridan, one gets pretty sick of scarves," he admitted with a roll of his eyes, though his lips curved up in an involuntary smile. He didn't even notice that his expression had changed, though his father did. Delvin sighed. "You care about him a lot, don't you?" Sollux slowly looked over at him, eyebrow cocked. "Obviously." Delvin bit his lip. "Does my opinion matter to you, Sollux?" he asked. Sollux answered without much of a thought. "Honestly? Not really. It's gotten to this point that I really don't care at all," he confessed. Delvin looked at him a moment more before looking away, forcing Sollux to continue. "But it's not you, okay? I mean, to tell the truth, it's kind of you. But it's pretty much everyone's opinions that just roll right off of me. My friends, and even Eridan, always ask me how I feel about being with a guy. But, how do you even answer that question? I don't feel any different than the way that they feel when they're with their significant other. Why is it that things are confusing just because mine is of the same gender?" Delvin looked over at him, and Sollux offered his first smile of the day. This seemed to perk Delvin up slightly, and Sollux continued. "I don't classify myself as gay. I certainly can't say that I'm straight though, can I? It's really fucking simple, actually; I just classify as me." This seemed to get Delvin thinking. He still seemed stuck in his ways, though he didn't oppose Sollux's statements. He just turned forward, staring off at the pond without a word. Sollux didn't look away from him, actually going to the lengths of leaning forward to get a better look at his father's expression. He looked at him a moment before leaning back with a chuckle. "Don't get me wrong! I don't think that everyone should carry my outlook. I mean, shit, Eridan's fucking gay. Like, wow, you don't see a giant homo like him everyday. Like, if you could compare the obviousness of his homosexuality to anything, it would probably be the corrupt nature of the government; they're both just in your face and so fucking undeniable," he teased his absent boyfriend. Delvin closed his eyes and shook his head, though a soft smile came over his lips. "You know, I often think about what your mother would say if she were still alive," he said suddenly. Sollux's playful mood fell. He looked at his father a moment more before looking away, his gaze falling to his old mismatched sneakers. He didn't think about his mother as often as Delvin must have. The thought of her reaction never even crossed his mind. "And?" Sollux inquired softly. "What do you think she'd say?" "I don't think she'd say anything. That's what was so beautiful about her; she was so open. She had her opinions, yes, but she kept those to herself and didn't want to include herself in

other people's lives. She just wanted so badly for everyone else to be happy. There aren't many people like that these days," Delvin admitted with a sigh, leaning back as well. Sollux's gaze remained down. He wasn't sure how to reply, though he was sure of the emotions welling up within him. He played his normal charade of keeping quiet and composed, though there were times like now when he just didn't want to. Those emotions only swelled with what Delvin said next. "Sollux, your mother was a diabetic," he began as if Sollux didn't know, gaining his son's gaze. "Her disease wasn't the easiest to predict and control. She misjudged how long she had been active without the proper sustenance, and her blood sugar became dangerously low. She had a reaction-" "Is there a point that you'll be arriving on sooner than later?" Sollux interrupted suddenly, uninterested in hearing this. He knew all of this. He was the one that was there. Delvin sighed, looking as though he were about to break down. Sollux wasn't sure if he could handle that. "Even the best swimmer wouldn't have been able to save her," he finally concluded, causing Sollux's throat to tighten. What was he saying...? "And?" Sollux prodded. Delvin's expression was a hard one to read, though pain and guilt stood out. "And I blamed you when I shouldn't have. It was wrong of me to take out my hurt on you because you never, ever deserved it." His voice was shaking now, and Sollux's hands could have very well been the same way if they weren't clasped together. "Sollux, I am so sorry that I hurt you. No parent should ever do to their child what I did to you, and I live with that regret every single day." "Delvin-" "I was in so much pain after losing your mother, and I was weak. I gave in to a darkness that I shouldn't have, and what came from it was something that can't be justified. I'm so sorry that I ever, ever laid a hand on you and made you feel like you were to blame." Sollux was struggling now, tears filling his eyes. "F-father-" "If I could take it all back, I would in an instant. And If I could give anyone all of the happiness in the world, it would be you. You are such a beautiful boy with a brilliant mind and an amazing future ahead of you, and I'm so, so sorry if I ever made you feel like any of that wasn't true. I love you so much, Sollux, and-" "Dad!" Sollux shouted suddenly, jolting Delvin out of his rant. He blinked, eyes widening at the notice of tears slipping down Sollux's face. He immediately reached out, fingers slipping over Sollux's cheeks and wiping away the tears that were claiming them. He didn't get very far as Sollux pushed his hand away, wiping the tears away himself. Delvin looked pained, but that changed when Sollux jolted forward and wrapped his arms around his father. Delvin's gasp was apparent that Sollux nearly laughed through his tears. That was the first time that his father had actually truly admitted his faults and apologized to Sollux, and he was being such a dramatic fuck! Sollux couldn't really complain about dramatics, though.

He was the one that was currently in tears, and did it ever feel so fucking good to cry for once. He normally hated this kind of thing, but in this moment, it wasn't too bad. As long as Eridan and Karkat didn't see him bawling like a little shit, he was fine. Sollux didn't laugh, but he did roll his eyes when his father hugged him back ridiculously tightly. Really? He was such a loser. Nevertheless, Sollux returned the loving hold.

Chapter 43
Sollux furrowed his eyebrows, squeezing his eyes tightly shut. His mind began to process the fact that the sun was spilling into his room from between the blinds, blanketing his eyelids and causing him to wince. Oh man, it was morning. Fuck, he hated mornings. He groaned, shifting in his spot and beginning to stretch before he realized that he was laying against somebody. Oh, right; Eridan slept here. In fact, he couldn't remember the last time that Eridan had slept in his own bed. It had certainly been months. Though the Aquarius snored and kicked and was just a terrible bed-mate in general, Sollux enjoyed the company and falling asleep in the comforting hold of another, so he allowed his boyfriend to stay. Sollux paused, as to not wake Eridan, remaining still for a moment before slowly opening his eyes. He realized that his nose was practically against Eridan's, their lips only centimeters apart. Eridan's eyelids were gently closed, his lips barely parted. Everything slowly became clear to Sollux, including the feeling of Eridan's cool breath against his own mouth. He had to smile, the minty scent of his boyfriend's breath intruding on his senses. He didn't know how Eridan's breath always managed to smell minty, but he loved it. Sollux's eyes trailed over Eridan's face, taking in every curve and freckle. He studied him intently before he scooted as close as he could, slipping a leg in-between Eridan's in attempts to get closer. He moved until there wasn't an inch of space between their bodies, smiling as he closed his eyes once again and pressed his lips softly to Eridan's parted ones. Eridan's sculpted eyebrows began to pull down, sleep slowly escaping him as Sollux began to kiss him slowly. After a moment, Eridan's ocean eyes opened and he blinked a few times, freezing when they saw Sollux. His mind processed the scene for a moment before a small smile made its way over the lips that Sollux was still kissing. No good mornings were exchanged as Eridan's eyes fell right back shut. He too scooted forward, pressing his hips in particular further into Sollux's. Sollux smiled softly, tilting his head to get a better angle at Eridan's lips. Eridan took this as further encouragement, tilting his head up and deepening the kiss with a sharp intake of breath. Sollux nearly smiled, parting his lips against Eridan's just as the Aquarius began to run his tongue along Sol's lower lip. Sollux's eyes opened halfway, glancing down and taking in Eridan's totally hot expression as the artist took Sollux's bottom lip in between his teeth, nibbling and forcing a set of chills to consume Sollux's body. Damn, he picked a hot boyfriend. Eridan began to push closer, a hand slipping over Sollux's chest. After this action, Sollux purposely hummed into the kiss, strictly out of curiosity to see what Eridan would do about it. The Aquarius, of course, inhaled sharply once again at the sound of Sollux's breathy

voice. The hand that had found its way to Sollux's chest slowly began to slip downwards, the tips of Eridan's long fingers pressing hard against Sollux's body as they moved. Sollux's eyes nearly fell shut again, but they only opened further because he knew where that hand was headed. He broke the kiss and pulled back with a smirk, his movement forcing Eridan's eyes open as well. Eridan furrowed his eyebrows, forcing a deeper smirk to overcome Sollux's features. Eridan then pouted. "W-well, don't stop," he whined, making Sollux chuckle. He pressed one last kiss to Eridan's forehead before shaking his head. "I've got a class soon, Eridumb," he informed with a smile, flicking a piece of hair out of Eridan's face before he sat up and began to crawl over him. This obviously didn't go over well with Eridan. He reached up and grabbed Sollux's arms, yanking him down and rolling over him all in one motion. Sollux nearly yelped as Eridan did so, blinking quickly as soon as he found himself on his back with Eridan on his hips. Eridan was the one to smirk this time. "Skip," he suggested in a low tone, leaning down and pressing just as heavy kisses as before onto Sollux's lips. Sollux almost considered it. As much as he wanted to sit through that awful fucking Communications class, he would have preferred to stay here and have morning sex with his boyfriend. He returned Eridan's heated kisses for a while before rolling them back over, sitting up on Eridan's lap as he ran a hand through his own messy hair. "Not today, hot stuff. I've got to go to work afterwards, too," he replied, making Eridan tip his head back onto the pillow and groan in what sounded like pain. "No," he whined, dragging the word out until Sollux's laughter interrupted him. "That's not fair, you can't just wake up and lead me on like that just ta' leave!" Sollux smiled. "You know what I love, Eridan?" he asked, causing Eridan's eyebrows to furrow. "What?" "I love when you go back and forth between 'to' and 'ta'. It's so cute." "What the hell, Sol?" Sollux laughed. "Okay, look; I just wanted to make-out a little, you're the one with my body on the mind!" Sollux informed. Eridan huffed. "Can you blame me?" "Of course not, look at me." "You conceited asshole, I meant can you blame me after I wake up to kissin' you." "Oh, you weren't referring to my devilish good looks?" "No!" "Oh," Sollux teased, knowing very well what Eridan meant from the beginning. Eridan groaned for the second time, and Sollux shook his head at the Aquarius's dramatics. "Sol, when's the last time that we had sex?" he questioned. Sollux shrugged, unable to remember.

"It's been a while." "Exactly. We need to change that," he informed, making Sollux smile. He leaned down and pressed a kiss to Eridan's neck. Then another, then another, then another, adding a couple more before he bit down hard enough to make Eridan gasp. "I'm all for that plan," he whispered against Eridan's skin, not surprised when goosebumps formed under his lips. He had that affect on Eridan, and he loved it. "I hate you," Eridan growled, making Sollux chuckle before pulling away. "Is that really the last thing that you want to say to me? I could go outside and be hit by a truck, and you'd have to live with that," Sollux informed, immediately causing Eridan to sit up and look at him with wide eyes. "What the hell is wrong with you? Don't say that, Sol!" he snapped, making Sollux laugh as he slipped out of bed. He grabbed a change of clothes, making his way to and halfway out the door before Eridan interrupted him. "Sol?" he said softly. Sollux turned and looked at him, smirk on his lips. "Yes, Eridan?" he replied. Eridan glanced down at his lap, then back up at Sollux with gentle eyes. "I love you," he managed in a soft voice. At this, Sollux nearly threw his clothes aside and ran back to the bed. Instead, his smirk formed into a gentle smile. He blew Eridan a kiss before turning and making his way out of the room. When Sollux had gotten out of the shower and finished eating his breakfast, he found that Eridan had fallen back asleep. Sollux shook his head. Eridan may be an early riser, but he sure did love to sleep. Sollux played the role of Eridan this morning, walking in and pressing a kiss to the stupid purple tuft in Eridan's blonde hair before turning and leaving for school. He was halfway to campus before his phone began to go off in his bag, causing him to sigh. He sincerely hoped that it wasn't his father. The two had actually kept in touch after their day together, calling one another every so often and catching up further. He just wasn't in the mood for it today. Luckily, it was Feferi that was calling. Sollux immediately found that a smile formed on his lips, quick to answer the phone in a voice that was quite cheery for Sollux Captor. "Fef, good morning!" he greeted, a bit surprised when silence was the only reply. It was quiet for a moment before Feferi's voice finally came through. "I called Sollux Captor, right? This couldn't possibly be him," she teased, making Sollux roll his eyes. "Damn, I can't be happy?" he demanded, making Feferi giggle. "Of course you can be happy! I'm glad that you're happy! I'm just a bit surprised, considering everything that's been happening lately. I expected you to be down in the dumps!" Sollux furrowed his eyebrows. "Everything that's been happening lately?" "Mhm! Eridan's been keeping me updated. Between Cronus, Caliborn, Adrian, and then Cronus some more, I'm really surprised that you've found happiness! I mean, I'm super glad about it, but I'm still surprised!"

"Hold up. You call Eridan every day, but not me? That's so not cool," Sollux informed, a bit surprised that he actually felt a little jealous. Feferi giggled once again. "Eridan needs attention, Sollux! You're easy; I don't have to call you all the time or listen to the recap of your day." "Eesh, he really does that?" Feferi sighed. "Yeah, he does. I don't want to complain about it-I do adore Eridan-but it's exhausting sometimes!" "I can understand that. But on the previous subject, I'm fine. Yeah, Caliborn was an ass and scared the frick out of me, and Adrian was Adrian, but I'm learning to deal with it." "And Cronus?" Yeah, Cronus. "I don't have a problem with Cronus, Fef. Eridan thinks that I should-" "I also think that you should," she interrupted. Sollux's eyebrows rose as he paused for a taxi to pass before he crossed the street, shifting his bag on his shoulder. Really? Fef too? Sollux didn't understand this whole problem with Cronus. "Seriously?" "Yes, seriously! You shouldn't trust him, Sollux. Didn't he hurt you? Twice?" Sollux shrugged. "The pool thing sucked and the punch in the face was unnecessary, but I'm a big boy. Also, you cant forget that-at one time-Eridan was the same way. He's hit me a lot more than Cronus has. And if we're being honest; I think that Cronus was just trying to make a point. I accused him of being soft, and that didn't go over well with him. He's obviously got some inferiority complex that he's dealing with, and he took that out on me. Other than that, he's tried to help me. He even slipped and admitted to Eridan that he wouldn't hurt me." Feferi was quiet for a while, and Sollux's eyebrows knit together. He always had this stupid feeling that she knew things she wouldn't admit, but he'd never ask her about it. Nevertheless, the suspicion was there, and he gave her the silence that she needed as he began to cross the lawn on campus. "Eridan's worried that you like him," she admitted, causing Sollux's eyebrows to shoot up. Really? "You've got to be kidding me," Sollux groaned. "Like him how?" "Like, like like him," she explained, making Sollux smile softly. "Like, like, like him?" he teased, making her huff. "You know what I meant, Sollux Captor! Anyways, he's really worried about it. He always talks about how Cronus likes to take what's his, and he's afraid that you may be one of those things." "That's ridiculous, FF. I don't have any strong feelings for Cronus Ampora. I'll admit that I feel kind of bad for the guy, though." "Really?"

"Yeah, really. You know, before the accident, Mituna was the perfect kid. My dad adored him and my mom practically swooned over his intelligence. No matter how smart I was, Mituna was always smarter, and I always felt inferior compared to him. I know that's what Cronus feels." "Maybe so, but does that justify the choices that he's made?" "No, of course not. And nothing can justify the choices that Eridan has made either, but that doesn't mean that I don't feel bad for him. He went through a lot, FF, though I'm sure you know that." "I do know that. I was very worried about him for a long time," she said softly. Sollux listened and sighed. He checked his watch, seeing that he had a bit more time before class started. He sat down on a bench right outside of the building, setting his bag down and yanking his feet up onto the seat. "Eridan doesn't need to worry about Cronus, and you don't need to worry about Eridan and I. Eridan's getting good at taking care of himself, and I promise you that I'm alright and learning to deal with things. Sure, I get a little afraid every now and then, and I look over my shoulder when I have to walk home at night. Sometimes I even have dreams that I'm being watched at work, but-" "Do you really?" she asked, of course sounding worried. "You know, your dreams are always pretty accurate." This made Sollux laugh. "Oh God, please don't bring up when I use to be convinced that I had visions of the future. We haven't had this conversation in-" "Years, I know, Sollux. But they were always accurate! You had dreams about your mothers death, the accident, the complications of an adoption-" "That's not any form of precognition, Feferi, that was just me being paranoid! I'm always paranoid. Look, if I have constant dreams about every one that I know dying, eventually one of them is going to come true. Please don't tell me that you think I'm gifted with some supernatural mojo." She sighed. "Of course not, but I do think that your perception is beyond a lot of people's. And you shouldn't take your dreams lightly; they could be a warning from your subconscious." "Perfect. Feferi, if something weird happens to me today, I'm blaming it on you." This made her laugh. "Why? They're your dreams, not mine!" "Whatever! Hey, I've got to go to class now. Call me later?" "No problem! Be safe, Sollux!" "I'll do my best, FF. Bye." "Bye!" Sollux hung up and shoved his phone into his bag, a sudden worry gnawing at him from the inside. He had this terrible feeling that something was about to happen, and he didn't know whether that was because of the previous conversation, or if his instincts were really trying to tell him something. Great, now he was paranoid all over again.

He decided to suck it up and push that worry aside as he grabbed his things and made his way to class.

Chapter 44
Little did Sollux know that his instinct was right, as was Feferi. Something was going to happen today, and his dreams were important signs that he shouldn't have chosen to ignore. Nevertheless, it was a bit too late, and today was going to belong to the King of Diamonds himself. Class went by fine. Sollux had walked in, sat down in his usual seat in the back, and zoned out as per routine. It wasn't long before Karkat, whom he hadn't talked to in a while, came and sat down next to him. Sollux wasn't really in the mood to deal with this awkward relationship at the moment, but he didn't move nor reject the greeting. "Hey, geek," Karkat greeted, not even having considered laying off the jokes while their relationship was as rocky as it was. Nevertheless, Sollux nearly smiled. Karkat was never going to change, and that was kind of nice. "Hey, bitch. Nice to see you today." "Today? Isn't it always a pleasure?" Karkat snickered quietly, looking over at Sollux. Even though his words weren't any different, his expression certainly was. He was worried, and he looked guilty. Sollux nearly smirked. "When you actually give a shit about me, I guess it is," he played on Karkat's guilt, causing the smaller male to glare at him. "Yeah? Feels great, doesn't it?" "Are you really going to turn this on me?" Sollux challenged. His tone wasn't as harsh as his words seemed, but it wasn't exactly warm and welcoming either. Karkat opened his mouth to reply with some smartass remark, but decided against it and sighed instead. "No," he admitted, leaning back and biting his lip. "How's your hand?" Sollux's fingers involuntarily curled into his palm. He hated thinking about that stupid mark on his hand. It wasn't going to go away, just like the black fingerless glove that he felt as though he had to wear. Everyone just took it as a fashion statement, assuming that he had spent too much time around his hipster boyfriend. As much as he would like to disprove that, he didn't know how he was suppose to explain the eight ball on his hand. "Beautiful. It's like the inkless tattoo that I never wanted," he said bitterly, flexing his fingers in his lap. Karkat looked at him with pity. "What even happened, dude? Was it that dick, Cronus?" he asked, making Sollux roll his eyes. "No, it wasn't Cronus. And I can't really talk about it, so..." This seemed to upset Karkat. He had to look to the front of the room to make sure that the professor wasn't aware of the conversation taking part in the back. When he was sure that the professor was too indulged in himself, he turned and looked at Sollux in anger. "I don't like you being with Eridan."

This immediately smacked Sollux across the face. He turned and looked at Karkat, eyebrows shooting up. Oh great, now he had to deal with this. "I don't think that's up to you," was his reply, and Karkat shook his head. "I'm not trying to dictate your life, Sollux. I'm just afraid that you wont have one to be dictated because of him. You're obviously not safe, dude!" "Don't make this bigger than it is," Sollux hissed, voice dropping as the professor looked their way. His gaze lingered for a moment, and Karkat didn't reply until he looked away. "Bigger than it is? You could have been killed. You're now involved in something that has nothing to do with you, and Eridan's letting you be involved." "You don't know anything about this subject, KK. Don't make me regret confiding in you," Sollux snapped. "Mr. Captor?" the professor addressed, immediately making Sollux groan. "I'm sorry, I'm sorry," he apologized. "I'll pay attention." "I don't want to have to ask you to leave." Then don't, dumbass. "Yes sir, I'm sorry." The professor looked at Sollux a moment more with a disapproving glare before he continued with his lecture. Sollux waited a moment before looking back over at his friend. "I talked to my dad," he whispered, quickly changing the subject. He didn't like knowing that his best friend hated his relationship. That totally sucked. Karkat was one of the only people that Sollux had trusted to be okay with his choices and accept everything that he did. To know that he couldn't confide in Karkat about these issues without having Karkat annoyed and unhappy about it made Sollux feel almost defeated. Thankfully, Karkat accepted the subject change. "Monroe?" "No, my real dad," he replied, forcing a look of shock onto Karkat's face. That was an out of place comment for Sollux to make. "Oh, so he's 'dad' now?" "Yeah. We actually spent a good day together and had a decent talk." "And? Does he accept you and Eridan?" Sollux sighed. "He's working on it. He apologized, though." "For what? Being a dick about his sons relationship?" Sollux shook his head. "No, for being a dick about my mom." Karkat stopped talking, once again consumed by surprise. He sat there a moment, looking at Sollux. Sollux glanced back at him, nodding in confirmation. Karkat just shook his head. "Damn. Better late than never, I suppose. So everything cool between you two, now?" "I wouldn't say cool. It's going to take time to mend some of those wounds. But it's definitely better." Karkat nodded. "Well, cool shit." They were both quiet for a while, actually pretending to listen to the lecture. Sollux wasn't sure what was on Karkat's mind, but all Sollux could think about was how much he actually

missed the little twerp. Karkat had been his best friend for years upon years, and he hated the thought of them growing apart. Hopefully Karkat didn't want that to happen either. "So, how's Meenah?" "Meenah's fine." "And how are you and Meenah?" "Fine," Karkat replied dully. Sollux slowly furrowed his eyebrows. "That's it? You're fine?" "Yes, Sollux, fine. Fine as in fine. Fine as in when have no reason to break up, so you can stop with the underlying tone of insinuation." "So you're fine, but you're not great." "Yeah, I guess. And so what? Are you and Eridan always great?" "No, not really, but our relationship is always better than 'fine'. KK, if you're just fine, maybe you two should end it. You're obviously not getting as much as you could out of this relationship. Certainly not as much as you did with Ter-" "We have no reason to break up, Sollux, so why don't you just shove it where the sun-" "Mr. Vantas, Mr. Captor. If I have to look back there one more time, both of you will be leaving my class. I'm not here for my own health, and you certainly don't have to be here if you're not interested in passing!" Karkat just turned sharply, crossing his arms and slouching in his chair. Sollux looked at the clock, trying to look as innocent as possible until the professor looked away. They were both quiet for a little bit before Sollux spoke up. "Maybe you should move on to dudes. You might have better luck batting for that team than you do with chicks." "Fuck you, Sollux." "I'm glad to see that you're already so excited about the plan, but I left my condoms in my other pants. Raincheck?" Karkat didn't say anything. They were quiet for a couple of seconds before they both burst out into laughter, gaining the very angry attention of the professor. He turned towards them quickly and pointed to the door. "Out, both of you! Leave my class!" he demanded. Sollux and Karkat obliged. As soon as they left, Karkat burst into laughter for the second time as they began to make their way out of the building. "Just like high school, huh?" "Exactly like high school. I've never actually seen someone get kicked out of a college class, though." "Hey, I would have kicked us out too." "Yeah, you're right," Sollux chuckled. Despite being kicked out of his class, Sollux felt pretty damn good. It was just like old times between him and Karkat, and he had missed that. It kind of made him forget about everything else. He felt like he was back in middle school, before Aradia and Eridan, when it

was just him and Karkat getting into trouble and dodging the rules. Although he hated middle school, the times still seemed simpler. "So, dude, now that we have extra time, do you want to come over to my dorm and chill?" Karkat suggested. Sollux couldn't help but to groan. "Hell yeah, but I have work. I might as well just go in early." "Damn it, Sollux. You and your crazy life." "You don't know the half of it. Raincheck?" "'Course. Don't forget the condoms, though." Sollux laughed. "Of course not. Catch ya' later!" he called, nodding at him as they parted ways. "See ya', loser!" Karkat called back, waving his hand as he turned and walked the opposite way. Sollux sighed, running a hand through his hair as he made his way off to work. So far, today wasn't too bad. He woke up to the lips of his sexy boyfriend, he got to talk with Feferi, he reconciled with his best friend... He thought about calling Fef back as he walked to work, but decided against it. They wouldn't be able to talk for nearly as long as he would have hoped, and she was probably in her classes. He could call Eridan, but then he'd be stuck on the damn phone. His dad wouldn't mind a call from him, but, again, he didn't feel like dealing with that. He just settled for the comfort of being alone with his thoughts. He got to work to find that one of his other coworkers was in Dave's place today. Lazy ass was probably finally taking advantage of his vacation days. It'd been a while since he saw his brother, so Sollux could almost bet money that the cool kid was down in Texas for a while. That kind of sucked. Now Sollux couldn't dump his shifts on anyone... He got ready and began to work, enjoying the rather busy night. A lot of nights consisted of Sollux complaining about the heavy influx of customers. His place wasn't the only bar and grill in town, but it certainly was the most popular. They had a great number of regulars, which was cool. It was nice to have orders memorized and to see familiar faces often. One regular customer just so happened to be Damara Megido, Aradia's older and much different sister. Though she was once a shy and very sweet girl, she had gone through a seriously bad breakup, along with getting into a bad fight with a few of her friends, which led to her becoming a little less shy and a little more outgoing. She became increasingly more angry, and her appearance and attitude changed drastically as well. There were a lot of rumors that had begun to spread about her involving drugs and sex. Whether she was really into these things or just posed as that kind of girl was uncertain, but the fact that she was different could be truthfully stated. Like Aradia, she was of Japanese heritage. Unlike Aradia, she embraced it completely, even speaking the language fluently. She wore her long, dark hair up in a messy bun with chopsticks through it. She wore the traditional Japanese garb, though most of it was altered to be short and quite revealing. Her full lips were always painted red, and she even wore red eyeliner as well. Red was her color, and that was made very obvious.

Currently, she was sitting on the corner of the pool table. Her tight, red silk dress came up to just barely beneath that which shouldn't be shown in public, her curvy legs crossed as she leaned back slightly on her hands. She wore red shoes and white socks that came all the way up to her thighs. The top of her dress showed just enough cleavage to make the desperate ones stare, and the classy ones cringe. She was sitting next to Draco, the man that had pretty much saved Sollux's ass by being clueless. He was currently leaning over the pool table, pool stick in hand, aiming as he looked over the rim of the classy hat that he always wore. She watched him in a bored interest, which, of course, was interesting. It was interesting in the way that they both seemed to despise each others company, yet they were seen together more often than not. Sollux definitely didn't want to know what that was about, so he didn't ask. "Damara," he called, his chin falling into his hands, which were supported by his elbows on the bar. She slowly looked over at him, raising one of her dark eyebrows. He smiled. "Off the table." She gave him one of her famous seductive smiles, leaning back a little further and biting her bottom lip. His smile only widened. He slowly shook his head, pointing down towards the floor. Her smile fell and she rolled her eyes, pushing herself off of the table as she flipped him off. She walked by Draco, sliding a finger along his back as she did. He slowly looked up in disgust. She looked away in amusement and pride. Sollux looked down trying to vomit. Just as it was getting late and Sollux was cleaning a glass, he turned around to find that Eridan was sitting at the bar, smiling a sly smile. His fingers were drumming on the bar top, the sound of his rings just barely audible above the rest of the noise. He laughed, amused by the look of surprise on Sollux's face. Sollux smiled as well, walking over and leaning against the bar. "Hey, what are you doing here?" "I came ta' surprise you." "Well aren't you just so sweet," Sollux cooed, and Eridan chuckled again. "That's me, babe!" he confirmed as he looked around. "You're pretty busy tonight." "Yeah, no shit, and you're taking up a seat," he teased. Eridan looked back at him and shrugged. "Maybe I'll order somethin' then," he suggested. Sollux smiled. "Maybe you shouldn't. The boss is here tonight," he complained. Eridan didn't look disappointed, not being much of a drinker. He leaned forward onto the bar, an insinuating look in his eyes and a suggestive smile on his pink lips. "Bummer. You know how willin' I am when I'm tipsy." "I know how willing you are when you're not," Sollux teased. "But I see you're still in the same mood from this morning. Been fantasizing about me all day?" Eridan ignored the teasing, still smiling as he shrugged. "Perhaps." "Oh?" Sollux set the glass down and leaned closer. "And what did you do about it?"

Eridan leaned closer too, playful smile only growing. "Nothin' you were willin' ta' do for me this mornin'," he flirted. Sollux bit his lip. "Care to go into detail?" "Not while you're workin'. Maybe at home." "I'll be looking forward to that." "Good." They smiled at each other for a moment before Sollux was being summoned by a customer at the other end. He winked at Eridan before making his way over and listening to the customers drink request. He stepped back and began mixing the drink, unable to take his mind off of Eridan as he did so. What a fucking princess. He just wouldn't stop until he got what he wanted, would he? Fuck him for being so damn hot. Sollux served the drink to the customer before turning and making his way back off to Eridan. He paused, confused as his eyebrows furrowed to see that Eridan's seat was now empty. The hell did he go? Sollux looked around, standing on his toes to look above the crowd of people. When he didn't see Eridan, he sighed and turned, pausing to see that Eridan was behind one of the walls dividing the bar from the entrance to the kitchen. He was looking at Sollux with wide eyes, motioning for him to come over to the dark corner. Sollux gave him a confused look. He looked around, making sure his customers were taken care of before checking for his boss and quickly scooting out from behind the bar. He walked over to Eridan and the corner, looking around and looking at him with further confusion. What the hell was wrong with him? "Eridan, what are you doing?" he hissed, turning and once again looking for his boss. Eridan immediately grabbed Sollux's chin and made the Gemini face him. "Sol, we have to go, and we have to go now." "What? Eridan, I can't just leave in the middle of my shift. Getting fired is not on my schedule for this week-" "Sollux, can you please just trust me? We have to leave." "Eri, I can't! I don't know what makes you think that I can just-" "It's the man at the table in the corner near the window," he interrupted, lowering his voice, as if it could be heard by whoever he was talking about. Sollux froze. Uh oh. Oh shit, please, not here, not now! He slowly turned, biting his lip as he leaned back to look beyond the wall. He glanced over, eyes widening. He was shocked to see that it was Draco sitting there, reading a paper with a cigar dangling from his lips. What? Draco? No, that couldn't be... "No, Eri, that's not right. That man has been coming here since before you even came back," he informed, looking back at his boyfriend. This information sent a look flashing over Eridan's face that legitimately worried Sollux. "Wait, what?" he snapped, leaning over and looking over at Draco, then back to Sollux. Sollux nodded. "Yeah, yeah, he's a regular." "What does he go by?"

"What? Uh, everyone just calls him DD," he informed. Eridan sighed a heavy sigh, eyes falling shut as he slipped a hand over his face in a very slow, stressful motion. "Do you know what it stands for?" Sollux was growing panicky. Jesus Christ. "His name is Draco. Draco Dig." Eridan looked away, shaking his head, looking sick. He then looked back to Sollux, looking beyond serious. "Draco Dig is short for the Draconian Dignitary." "What the fuck?" "Sollux, I'm not letting you get hurt. We need to go right now," he repeated, demanding this time. Eridan grabbed Sollux's wrist, walking around him. Eri looked back at him as he began to drag him along, though he was forced to stop when he bumped into somebody in front of him. He turned to apologized, though his eyes widened when he looked up to see a very tall, and very intimidating looking man wearing a hat, a tie, and a suit with a diamond sewn into the chest pocket. "Ampora," he greeted curtly. Eridan, who had already overcome his shock, furrowed his eyebrows harshly and curled his fingers into fists. "Droog."

Chapter 45
"Droog? What happened to the Draconian Dignitary?" Sollux asked, knowing very well that he should probably keep his mouth shut for right now. Then again, since when did Sollux ever keep his mouth shut? Droog turned and looked at Sollux, looking amused, though his expression never changed. The only way that you could tell how the composed man felt was through his blue-grey eyes, which were harsh, yet revealing all at once. He looked right through Sollux, making him feel very small in comparison. He didn't seem nearly as crazy as Caliborn English, yet his composure was almost more frightening. "The Dignitary. Haven't been called that since-" "Before you joined the Crew. Yeah, I'm aware," Eridan interrupted, stepping in front of Sollux protectively. Droog's eyes once again flashed with amusement, though he looked more annoyed than anything. "Identifying as 'Diamonds' doesn't fit with the blending in. Everyone doesn't go around referring to your daddy as Orphaner, do they?" he retorted, revealing that he knew just as much about Eridan as Eridan did about him. Diamonds? Diamonds Droog? The Crew? Sollux's mind made the connection between the name Spades Slick and Diamonds Droog, realizing that this man was a member of the Midnight Crew. If there was Spades and Diamonds, there must have been Hearts and Clubs. Were they here too? Adrian did mention Slick, suspicious that he might be hanging around. What was going on?

Eridan was apparently thinking the same thing, staring Droog down suspiciously. What Sollux had told him about the fact the Droog had been here under the name 'Draco Dig' for quite a while obviously had him spooked and worried. Was that a bad thing? Why had he been here? Why is he still here? In thinking about this, Sollux suddenly remembered the night with Caliborn. "Whoa, hey, you were there!" Sollux exclaimed, stepping around Eridan and gaining Droog's attention. "You knew that Caliborn was here, didn't you? You knew that he was about to hurt me. Why did you interfere?" "I knew about English. I interfered because I don't appreciate the Felt and their plans to waste you." Sollux's eyes widened. Damn, this guy was short and sweet with his comments, wasn't he? Nevertheless, Sollux was currently working through his emotions of fear and confusion. Confirming that Caliborn and this 'Felt' really wanted Eridan dead didn't exactly do much for Sollux's nerves. He was also confused because Droog actually cared whether or not Eridan died. That was either a relief, or it was really, really bad... "Thanks for your half-assed attempt to save my boyfriend, but I'd appreciate it if you left him and I alone. Why don't you just get back home to Slick and indulge yourselves in kidnappin', pornography, and blood, as the Midnight Crew does-" Eridan didn't have anytime to finish as Droog's arm swung up and he slapped Eridan hard with the back of his hand, the force enough to send Eridan's head whipping to the side. "Don't insult the Crew, Ampora," was Droog's only comment, coming out in the form of a snarl. Sollux's eyes widened, lips parting. Droog was obviously a short tempered man. Probably sadistic and ruthless, too. Fantastic. "Hey! If you're going to start disrupting the peace, I'm going to have to ask you to leave," Sollux snapped, stepping up and in-between Droog and Eridan. "You're obviously here for a reason. Don't make me interrupt your master plan by forcing you to hustle on out of here, Draco." Droog seemed quick to recover, straightening out his tie as he continued to stare at Eridan, who was looking back in hate with his hand on his cheek. Droog looked at him a moment before looking back at Sollux. Sollux nearly cowered back, but held his ground. "We can all be civil here, no need to resort to that, Sol," Droog said smoothly. Sollux narrowed his eyes. "I don't think that I like you calling me that." "And I don't think that I give a damn." "Not about much, I'm sure. Other than screwing young sluts, I don't think you give a damn about much of anything," Sollux spat back, nodding towards Damara in the corner. Droog gave him a look of sheer warning. "You better watch yourself, Captor. You're not too cute now, and I don't think that you'll look any better in a casket," he threatened, causing Sollux to step back and Eridan to step forward.

Another death threat? Well that was just lovely. How many other mobsters was Sollux going to piss off before one of them actually ends his life? "Don't threaten him, Droog!" Eridan demanded, though it was obvious his demands were barely acknowledged by the older man. "Relax, kid. If he doesn't give me a reason to waste him, he'll live. Now that that's been settled," he began, forcing Sollux's eyebrows to knit together in annoyance as Droog looked over at Eridan. "You're lucky to be alive, little underboss. Many have decided that your body would look good at the feet of their bosses. You're not going to like what they have planned for you." "I already know what they have planned for me. A lot of them just don't have the balls to strike, just like you don't," Eridan spat, gaining a chuckle and an irritated glare from the older and much more experienced mobster. "If we had decided that we wanted to kill you, you would have had a pool stick shoved through your throat before you had even learned your apartment number." "Charmin', as always. But I'd like to see you try," Eridan snapped, obviously in the mood to be daring, though now he was more along the lines of suicidal. Droog gave Eridan a threatening scowl, one that looked as though it was made for his face. He obviously had no previous plans to hurt Eridan, though now it looked as though he was very tempted. The contemplation was apparent in his eyes, and it was the same contemplation that Sollux has seen in Caliborns. Eridan needed to be a little more smart about his wording. "You don't want to issue me that challenge, Ampora. Tempt me enough, and you'll get what you wish for." "I'm not wishin' for death, Droog." "You're over that phase, are you? Did Captor here change your mind about that?" This immediately struck a nauseous chord within Sollux's body. He quickly turned and looked at Eridan, eyes wide, lips parting in shock. What the hell was that supposed to mean? "Tell me he's just being an asshole, Eridan," Sollux begged. Eridan's gaze never broke with Droog's. "We're not talkin' about this now, Sol. You need to go." "I'm not going anywhere, Eridan. I'm not leaving." "Sollux, I mean it..." "So do I!" Sollux snapped loudly, gaining the attention of a few people around them. This also gained Eridan's attention. He slowly turned and looked at Sollux, his eyes holding an intimidating flame that made Sollux immediately back away from him. "This act of bein' a stubborn brat is really gettin' on my nerves. I said go, or I'll fuckin' make you, Captor," Eridan hissed suddenly. Sollux just looked at him, lips still parted in shock. The fact that Eridan was looking at him the exact same way that both Caliborn and Droog did, talking to him just like Adrian did made Sollux sick. Cronus didn't even go all intimidating bastard on Sollux unless he was

deeply offended when Sollux hit a nerve. Sol knew that Eridan was just being protective, but he still had no right to act just like his mafia buddies with Sollux. Sollux just slowly shook his head, looking at Eridan in disgust. "Fine. No problem, Adrian," Sollux snapped back. Eridan's composure shattered, blinking quickly as he looked at Sollux in shock and hurt. It seemed as though he had just realized what he said to Sollux, guilt filling his soft blue eyes. He looked as though he were about to break down, forgetting completely about Droogs presence as he reached out to Sollux. "Sol," he began, interrupted by yet another presence that wasn't welcomed. "Well, well, well; If it isn't Slick's right hand bitch," Cronus sang, stepping into the conversation with a smirk as he looked at Droog. The classy mobster looked back at Cronus, eyes narrowing in distaste. "Cronus Ampora, you've grown. You've gotten taller-though you still have a face not even a father could love," Droog insulted smoothly, obviously holding the upper hand in the insult and intimidation business. Cronus flinched, though played along as he shook his head. "Not sure that's the line, Droog. Getting a little rusty on the lingo, old man?" "I know the insult. I just didn't want to offend you," he retorted sarcastically with a truly cold smile, using Cronus's deceased mother against him. Cronus shook his head. "Right, because the first comment was nothing but complimentary. Did you come to insult the Ampora family, or are you here on actual business for once?" Cronus snapped, obviously offended. Droog snickered. "I don't have to answer to a mere soldier, Cronus. I'll discuss business with a real made man once you head out," he demanded, nodding towards the door. Cronus's fingers curled into fists, but he wasn't stupid enough to lay a hand on an underboss. He turned on his heel, about to head for the door before looking over at Sollux. He nodded, issuing Sollux to follow him. Sollux looked at him before looking back at Eridan. "I'm leaving with your brother, Eridan." "Sol, you don't have to-" "Yeah, apparently I do. Stay, have a whisky with your fellow underboss. He seems more your class than I do anyways. I'm sure you'll enjoy talking to him a lot more than me, now that you don't have to tiptoe around the facts and piss yourself when it comes to having to tell the truth," Sollux insulted, completely done with this whole ridiculous mob bullshit. Eridan just looked at him, then to Cronus, then back to him in shock. He obviously wasn't comfortable with Sollux leaving with Cronus, but he wasn't about to deny Droog's explanation as to why the Midnight Crew is in this town. Eventually he looked away, trying to look composed in front of Droog, though Sollux knew him well enough to see that he was fighting back tears. Sollux grabbed his things and explained to his coworker that he couldn't finish his shift, promising that he'd pick up an extra one later. He then removed his waist apron and slung his bag over his shoulder, turning and watching as Eridan and Droog sat themselves at the bar. Eridan turned and looked at him, giving Sollux one last pained look before he left.

Sollux returned the gaze for the briefest moment before turning and following Cronus out of the building. "The first thing that you've gotta' get through that brain of yours, kid, is that everyone in this business is a dick," Cronus informed, shaking his head as they walked out and into the night. Sollux just shoved his hands into his pockets, beyond annoyed. "Yeah, I figured that out the moment you opened your mouth and gave me that ugly-ass smile." "Ouch, kitten! Put away the claws, would you? I gave up my night to come and make sure that you were alright, and you're just going to hiss at me?" he teased, draping an arm around Sollux's shoulders as they walked. Sollux was quick to shrug it off, face contorting in disgust. "Lay off, Cronus. I know you went there for Eridan." "Eri? Naw, he can handle himself. I know that Droog has no intentions of hurting him, so we're good." "Then what the hell does he want to talk to him about?" Sollux muttered, looking down and away in frustration. Cronus looked at him as he pulled out a cigarette, not bothering to light it as he balanced it between his lips. "He wants him to join the Crew, kid." Sollux jerked to a halt, looking up at Cronus in shock. What the fuck? The Crew? Why the hell would Droog want Eridan to join the Crew? He was an Ampora, this didn't make any sense. "What? Why?" he sputtered, forcing Cronus to stop and look back at him as well. He shrugged, as if it were a completely casual subject. "Eridan's good at what he does. He's good at making money, and he's good at betraying our father, too. The Crew doesn't like pop, and pop doesn't like the Crew. Making money and crushing the boss of the Ampora family is like a win-win," he explained, turning and walking back to stand in front of Sollux. Sollux continued to look up at him, lips parted, eyebrows furrowed. "Eridan would never agree to that, right?" Sollux almost pleaded. Cronus just shrugged, forcing fear into Sollux's heart. "He might, sugar. If it means getting to dad and having the Crew protecting you, he might just agree." Sollux just looked at him a moment, eyebrows relaxing before he took a couple steps back. His back gently tapped the wall of a closed shop, his eyes drifting shut as he ran his hands over his face and through his hair. This sucked. If Eridan was going to go back into that business, there was no way that Sollux could stay with him. The thought made Sollux's chest tighten, but he knew that he couldn't live with an active mobster. Cronus stepped forward, looking at him curiously as the Gemini leaned against the wall and tried not to be sick. He looked at him a moment before reaching into his jacket pocket, pulling out a flask and holding it up, just centimeters away from Sollux's lips. "Here."

Sollux opened his eyes and looked at it before looking back up at Cronus, annoyed. "Get that thing out of my face." "You've had vodka, right?" "A few times, yeah, but I don't-" "Just take it, kid. You need to calm down," Cronus advised, holding it closer to Sollux's lips. Sollux glanced down in disgust, looking at the flask a moment before snatching it away. He brought it to his lips, eyes drifting shut once again as he took a long drink. He allowed himself to slowly relax before opening his eyes again, swallowing the horrible liquid before looking back at Cronus. He looked at him a moment before exhaling slowly in his direction, cool breath hitting Cronus's face just as Cronus's smoke hit Sollux when Cronus was being an asshole. Cronus cringed, and Sollux smiled. "Not so nice when you're on the other side, huh?" he asked. Cronus just shook his head. "Give me back my alcohol," he grumbled, taking it back and taking a swig of his own, making Sollux laugh. "You know, I'm surprised that you didn't notice Damara Megido in the corner back there." "Sorry, I was too busy placing my concentration on the hound that could have very well ripped your throat out with his teeth," he replied, making Sollux wince at the visual. He then shrugged. "Besides, she's not my type." Sollux had to chuckle again, reaching out and taking the flask. "I thought that as long as it walked on two legs, it was your type," he teased, taking another long drink. "Sticks and stones, babe. And, yes, I do have a type." "Oh, really? And what's your type?" Cronus smiled a smooth smile. He removed his cigarette from his mouth, placing a hand on the wall beside Sollux's head as he leaned closer, his other hand on his hip. His crystal eyes sparkled as they looked down into Sollux's mismatched ones. "I'm looking at it," he flirted, his eyebrows jumping suggestively. Sollux had to shake his head and roll his eyes, taking yet another sip. "You are so sad." "Only because you aren't my toy to play with, kid," he whispered, lips practically against Sollux's ear at this point. Sollux shook his head again, reaching up and pushing Cronus away from him. "When are you going to stop? Eridan's not even here, so why do you bother with this whole charade?" "Who said that it had anything to do with Eridan, cutie?" Sollux scoffed. "Please. It has everything to do with Eridan. You know he's psyched out now because he's convinced that I have a thing for you," he admitted, finishing off Cronus's flask and tossing it back. This information immediately made Cronus tip his head back and laugh after he caught his flask. "Oh, really? And what would give him that idea? Do you talk about me?"

Sollux rolled his eyes again, surprised that he already felt buzzed. Then again, he shouldn't have been surprised. He wasn't much of a drinker, and that shit that Cronus had was a bitch. "Yeah, right." Cronus stepped closer and leaned in once again, suggestive gleam in his eyes as he spoke. "Do you whisper my name in your dreams? When you're sleeping next to Eridan?" Sollux smiled playfully. He leaned up, his lips against Cronus's ear this time as he breathed, "Maybe I whisper your name when I'm sleeping with Eridan." Cronus had to pull back and look at him, smile growing, eyebrows raising. "Sollux Captor, did you just flirt back with me?" Sollux's smile grew as well, glancing down at Cronus's lips. He had surprisingly white teeth for an avid smoker. They looked pretty damn amazing too, against the light pink of his lips... As soon as the thoughts began to cross his mind, Sollux's smile fell and his eyes widened. He looked up, shocked to see that it was, in fact, Cronus whom he was thinking of. His lips parted, disgust overcoming his features as he pushed him away once again. "Holy fuck, that's-! No, how about no? No, that's sick, I would never-" "You can't fool me, Captor. You gave in to my charm for a moment, there," Cronus laughed, leaning back and placing his cigarette in between his lips as he crossed his arms and looked down at Sollux, amused. Sollux just scoffed, trying to play off the fact that Cronus was right. "Please, Cronus. You've got about as much charm as Robin Thicke." "Hey, he's not a bad-" "Cronus!" Eridan exclaimed, gaining the attention of the two as they turned and looked at the younger Ampora. The sight of Eridan filled Sollux with both relief and anguish. The reality of things smacked down once again, the hurt and fear filling Sollux as he glanced away from Eridan. Part of him wanted to run over and force Eridan to hold him and assure him that everything was going to be okay. A different part of him wanted to punch his boyfriend in the face. "I kept him warm, for you," Cronus called playfully as he straightened and motioned towards Sollux. Eridan was quick to stomp over to the both of them, pulling Sollux away from Cronus protectively. He opened his mouth to reply before he cringed, noticing the mixed smell of alcohol immediately. He looked at Cronus, then to Sollux, eyebrows furrowing curiously. "Are you drunk?" Sollux rolled his eyes. "I'm not drunk, dumbass. I can have a few sips of something without being drunk. Stop yanking me around," he demanded, pulling himself away from Eridan. Eridan winced, obviously hurt. Sollux just looked away, totally not in the mood right now. His day was ruined, and part of him didn't want to know what the hell Eridan and Droog talked about. Cronus just smiled, amused. "Catch you later, cutie. Don't forget to think about me in bed with Eri tonight," he joked, winking after Sollux. Eridan's fists clenched tightly, eyes blazing.

"What the hell is that supposed to mean?" he demanded. Sollux just rolled his eyes, now very tired. "Forget it, let's go," he mumbled, pulling his bag further up on his shoulder as he turned and began to walk away. He ran a hand through his hair, trying to keep his stress as low as possible. Whether Eridan was following him or not was unclear, but he didn't find himself caring. He just wanted to go home.

Chapter 46
"Sollux, are you just goin' to keep ignorin' me?" Eridan finally asked in frustration as they walked through the door to their apartment. They had been walking in silence all the way home, as Eridan tiptoed around Sollux and Sollux stomped in a frustration of his own. He was so pissed off at the mere fact that Cronus was more of a decent human being to Sollux than Sollux's own boyfriend was, which was just wrong on every level of the word. He was sick enough of being treated like an ignorant child by Adrian, Caliborn, and Droog, and then Eridan had to join the party. The very thought that Eridan could be considering the Midnight Crew made Sollux want to burst into flames. As he walked through the door and Eridan spoke, it was all enough for Sollux. He turned and looked at Eridan, dark eyebrows furrowed harshly as he dropped his bag. He was ready for war, and he knew that this would most likely turn out to be quite the battle. "Sure, Eridan, let's talk," he agreed, crossing his arms as he gave him an accusatory glare. Eridan straitened, though he looked undeniably worried. "Alright." "Okay. First of all, the hell is your problem with your brother? You freak out anytime we're within two feet of each other," Sollux accused, looking at Eridan with a cocked eyebrow. Eridan's cheeks reddened slightly. "He's dangerous." "He's dangerous? Who's the underboss between the two of you? "That makes no difference here, Sol. And I'm not an underboss. You seem to be forgettin' that I left that role behind when I left my family." "Yeah, whatever. Your brother is no danger to me, Eri. He'd sooner bed me than beat me," Sollux informed with a roll of his eyes. Eridan reddened further, but not out of embarrassment this time. "Well, if you encourage him, that's never goin' to change," Eridan snapped. Sollux had to look at him with disbelief. "Holy balls, Eridan. Do you really think that I encourage your brother to be a skeevy prick?" he demanded, baffled by the idea. "You seem totally fine with him bein' around, flirtin' with you and tryin' ta' get into your pants!" Eridan accused right back, pointing back towards the door as if Cronus was on the other side. Sollux turned around, shaking his head and throwing his hands in the air.

"Oh my God, Eridan, you need to stop with this-this-" "This what, Sol?" Eridan demanded, obviously interested in hearing what he had to say. Sollux spun on his heel, making his way back to stand in front of his stupid boyfriend. "This pathetic jealousy that you have involving him! I'm not going to cheat on you, Eridan. Especially not with Cronus, of all people. I don't want to fuck your brother, alright? The very fact that you think that I might is somewhat offensive, by the way." "So that's it, then? You think that my feelin's for you are pathetic?" "That's not what's pathetic about you, Eridan." "Oh? There's more? Please, enlighten me!" Eridan yelled, hurt and anger consuming his ocean blue irises. Sollux just shook his head. "I don't want to get into this," he admitted slowly, running a tired hand through his hair. One of Eridan's sculpted eyebrows shot up. "Really? Because I could tell you all that's pathetic about you," he informed. Sollux's eyebrows rose in interest. "Is that so?" "Damn right. Want me to educate you, genius?" "Please, do," Sollux agreed, looking at him in an almost amusement. Eridan began to count down on his fingers as he spoke, filling Sollux with an unmatched annoyance that pushed his interest to the side. "You turn into a poutin' child whenever you don't get what you want. You cry when you don't get enough attention, yet you push people away when they want to help you. You can't stand up for yourself when it comes to your father-" "Whoa, wow, let me stop you there," Sollux interrupted, eyebrows furrowing further as he stepped forward. "You're mad when I spend time with my father, you're mad when I don't make amends with my father, and now you're mad again because I did make amends with my father? I'm beginning to think that you need to make out a list of your preferences for me to follow as to not piss you the hell off." "Oh, please-" "And another thing," Sollux began, stepping closer his anger beginning to take the reigns over his control. "Did you really just accuse me of being a child when I don't get enough attention? You committed crimes because everyone didn't adore you!" Eridan immediately reached out, grabbing a handful of Sollux's shirt. He yanked him forward, his gaze boring through Sollux's eyes as a burning rage ignited in his pupils. Sollux couldn't deny the spike of fear within him as he was practically tugged off of his feet, nose practically against Eridan's as the other spoke. "You have no fuckin' clue what I went through-" "No, I don't. Apparently Diamonds Droog does, though. What the hell was he hinting at back in the bar, Eridan?" he demanded, ripping himself out of Eridan's grasp. It took every ounce of self control to not punch his boyfriend in the face right now. "Here you go again, Sollux; offended because you don't know every fuckin' aspect of my life. Maybe I don't want you to know, huh? Did that ever fuckin' occur to you?"

"The only thing that occurred to me was that I might have put a little to much trust in you, naively expecting that you'd return it," Sollux spat. Eridan just gave him a cruel laugh. "I want to protect you from the pain of knowin' a few things, and you're pissed at me? Who's the pathetic one, again?" "You treat me like I can't handle the truth! You treat me like a piece from your crystal collection that could break as soon as he comes into contact with a mobster! "Of course I do. After I noticed how you could hardly handle a few beatin's from your waste of a father, why should I believe that you can go up against these guys?" he laughed. Sollux stepped back, eyes widening in uncovered hurt. There were some places that he expected Eridan to avoid, and that was one of them. Apparently he did make a mistake in trusting Eridan with a few key details from his life. The thought filled him with hate. "Yeah, and you're strong enough to face them? You couldn't even handle not being the center of attention. I've got an idea; why don't you go ahead and kill a few people, just so that someone will actually look at you? It's just a few, it shouldn't hurt. As long as daddy finally recognizes you as more than his failed, weak little fag-" This was enough to send Eridan into a state of violence. He lunged forward, barely giving Sollux time to react as he tackled him right to the ground. Sollux gasped and winced as he fell backwards, Eridan's weight propelling him harshly into the ground. He felt his head smack hard back onto the floor, stars immediately exploding through his vision, forcing him to blink hard in attempts to regain his vision. He wasn't given much of an opportunity to do so, Eridan's fist flying down and crashing into his face. "You hav-ve no right ta' say any a' that ta' me! You can't say any a' that ta' me! Not you! Especially not you!" Eridan yelled, throwing punch after punch to Sollux's face in a blind fury as tears began to slip down his face. It wasn't until after the third or fourth punch that Sollux brought his knee up, nailing Eridan hard in the abdomen. This forced Eridan to momentarily pause in pain, giving Sollux just enough time to shove the bigger male off of him. He quickly shot up, opening his eyes wide as he tried to concentrate his vision and ignore the pain shooting through every nerve in his face. He was going to kick his fucking ass! It wasn't until he could finally see past the stars and the clouds filling his vision that he noticed Eridan's tears, his anger draining out of him. Eridan was sitting back, legs brought up to his chest. His forehead was laying on his knees, arms wrapped around his legs as he cried into the comfort that his own body provided. The utter need to beat the shit out of Eridan was gone, replaced with hurt and pity. He watched Eridan sob into his legs for a while as the pain in Sollux's face faded from unbearable to just a steady pulse. He could very well be the bigger person here, apologize, then comfort the other. Then again, Sollux was tired of being the bigger person. He was tired of people walking all over him, then coming up with excuses to get away with their behavior. Nothing could excuse anyone from hurting him, and that was that. So, he stared at the other for a moment more before rising to his feet. Although ridiculously dizzy and a bit nauseous, he still wiped the blood from his face, turned, and made his way

back down the hall. He walked away from Eridan and into his room, slamming the door shut hard and denying the other any entrance to his care. He stomped over and fell into bed, squeezing his eyes shut as he tried to force the pain away. His nose could very well be broken, and he felt a cut on the inside of his lip like no other. He sighed, laying there, trying to fight the hurt within him for the longest while before he felt the blood slide down his face and make its way for his bed sheets. He sighed, sitting up and wiping it away with the back of his hand. He got up and walked over to look at the mirror on the back of his closet door, wincing at the sight of himself as soon as it came into view. Man, he did not look pretty with those cuts. Eridan's rings had sliced him pretty well. His nose definitely wasn't broken, but there was blood spilling from it. He had a forming bruise on his cheekbone, just under his blue eye. His bottom lip was bleeding and swelling pretty bad too, most likely from the cut where his tooth went right through. At least Eridan avoided his glasses. Sollux didn't have another spare pair. He walked over to his bed and sat down to avoid his current dizzy spell, running his blood stained hand through his hair as the blood from his face began to stain his shirt. The pain was still a throbbing mess on that one bad side of his face, and he wasn't sure how long it was going to take for it to disappear. It wasn't until he had just begun to look around for something to clean up the blood with that his door slowly opened, forcing him to look up. There Eridan stood, his own cheeks stained with tears, eyes pink and puffy. He looked almost worse than Sollux, a pitiful look of guilt consuming his features. Sollux didn't say a word as the Aquarius slowly walked in, closing the door behind him. He walked over to Sol, sitting down gently next to him. Sollux just glared before Eridan reached up, revealing the damp washcloth in his hand. He gently began to stroke it over Sollux's face, clearing away the blood that he had caused. They both didn't say a word, and Eridan didn't even look into Sollux's eyes as he worked to show his apology. Sollux himself just sat there, allowing him to clean the blood and gently press the cold cloth to his cheekbone. Eventually Eridan finished, setting the soaked cloth on his lap. He made sure that his hand was dry before he reached over, fingers slowly and cautiously sliding along Sollux's hand. His fingers curled between Sollux's, and he held his hand tightly as his bottom lip began to quiver once again. No more tears fell, though, and the looked of guilt turned into one of fear as he reached into his pocket. He pulled out his phone, causing Sollux's eyebrow to slowly raise as he allowed Eridan to hold his hand. Eridan stared at the screen for the longest time before letting out a shaky sigh, the first sound of life echoing throughout the room since he had walked in. He scrolled through his phone before holding it to his ear, bottom lip still moving as he listened to the low, steady ringing. After a brief moment, he froze. His fingers curled tighter over Sollux's, his lip ceasing to tremble. Sollux just stared at him expectantly, studying his features as Eridan's eyes slowly fell shut and he finally spoke. "Hi, dad."

Chapter 47

Karkat put his controller down, looking over at Sollux in worry as he picked up his Coke and took a sip. The Gemini too put down his controller, leaning back into the beanbag chair with a sigh. That was the eighth time that he had lost this game. He knew that Karkat was going to start getting suspicious. "Either I'm getting really, really fucking good at this game, or you just don't want to play. Either way, you haven't won once. The last time that I remember beating you at any video game, was, like, eleven fucking years ago. We were eight, and you were sick and could barely hold the controller." "Do you want a medal, kk?" "No, I want an explanation. What's going to take your mind off of your pissy boyfriend?" Karkat snapped in reply, obviously not enjoying himself at all. Sollux sighed, looking down at his controller. He wasn't going to lie and say that it wasn't the thought of Eridan that had him down, because it totally was. Things hadn't exactly been enjoyable back at the apartment, and neither he nor Eridan could deny that. It had actually grown to the point where the both of them tried their darndest to avoid one another. Any confrontation just didn't end well. "I don't know what's going to take my mind off of it, dude." "Well, what the fuck has been going on?" Sollux groaned, sliding further down into his beanbag chair. Karkat rolled his eyes, but slid down in his as well to match Sollux's level. Sollux nearly smiled, but still ran a tired hand through his hair. "We hardly speak to each other. When we do, we're arguing. After him and I got into that huge argument, nothing's really changed. We're still at each other's throats." "Noth