Red didn’t like this.
The two bitties were in the living room, the humans away picking up some groceries. Copper had a bone conjured, spinning it idly in the air.
“It’s just a little magic, Red. Nothin’ to be scared of.”
Red stood a ways away from his friend. He eyed the bone cautiously before shuffling his feet and looking away. No, there was everything to be scared of.
“Have you ever used an attack like this before?”
“No,” Red said quickly. At least, he thought it was true- maybe before, but not since…
“Using your magic is the only way to use it up and make sure those, uh… heats aren’t so bad,” Copper said. He flushed at the mention of such things.
“I know,” Red replied. He looked up at Copper for a moment, saw the bone, and then looked away. “Y-You… do you just have… regular ones…?”
“Heats?” Copper asked, flustered.
“Well- I mean- I… sometimes… not a lot, uh, y’know, they’re… heats, y’know?” Copper stuttered, rubbing at his neck, face flushed the same color as his eyelights. He let out a sigh and sent the bone construct away, coming over to Red where the smaller bitty sat against the couch and sitting with him.
“You know it isn’t true that only bad bitties use magic, right?” Copper asked, clearly intent to change the subject.
“I… I know…”
“So why not give it a try? Just one little bone?”
Red put his head in his knees, hiding his face.
“It doesn’t hurt or anything. You know your people won’t get upset,” Copper reassured, putting a hand on Red’s shoulder and giving it a squeeze.
“I’m scared,” Red said quietly, raising his head so that Copper could see his tears.
“Of what?” The bigger asked. He was so calm and cool and collected- Red really liked him, he was a good friend, but he… he didn’t understand.
“Every time I’d use magic before, he’d… I’d get… punished.” Red shivered at the mention of it. “A-And I know Rus and… and Stan, they’re not like that, but…”
“Nobody’s gonna hurt you. You got two enormous, fleshy, powerful humans and a super strong bitty protecting you.”
“I’m afraid I’ll get bad,” Red explained.
“...Bad?” Copper asked, gathering Red up in his arms so the bitty could sit in his lap. Red was quick to curl up into it and bury himself in Copper’s ribs.
“I got bad once, here… with Russel. I didn’t know where I was, I couldn’t see, i-it was dark and scary and I thought I was b-back… with him.” Red sniffled. “I hurt Russel… scratched him r-real bad…”
“Oh…” Copper said, stroking Red’s back. “It sounds like it wasn’t your fault, though.”
“That’s what he said, but…” Red shuddered. “I don’t want it to happen e-ever again… I never want to hurt anybody again.”
“Do you think using your magic might make it get bad again?”
Red stared at Copper’s shirt, feeling the fabric, trying to ground himself.
“Wh-when I was… getting adopted by people… I got bad. A lot.” Red didn’t like talking or thinking about this. “It’s… why I got s-sent back to the… the store so much. I would get bad, a-and I’d be confused and scared, and… and I’d hurt people.”
“I didn’t m-mean to,” Red all but whined, lost in memories. “I didn’t ever mean t-to but… it didn’t matter…”
Copper stayed silent, waiting for the littler skeleton to continue.
“It only happened h-here the one time… but… but… I’m scared if… if I st-start using magic, a-and I can’t control it, I’m… I’m scared I’ll hurt them.”
“I’m sorry, bud,” Copper said, giving Red a squeeze. “But… they’re just bone attacks- even if it comes to that, humans have so much HP, you probably wouldn’t do that much damage. Plus, like… your heats hurt you , yeah?”
“And your therapist and doctor think this is a good idea, yeah?”
“And Russel and Stan think it is, too?”
Copper pulled Red away to look at him a little, wiping up some of his tears. “Well, I think you should bring this up with Rus ‘n Stan so they can be prepared in case things go south, but we all care about you not hurting anymore. I’m sure it doesn’t feel great for things to be bad, but… they might be good too, yknow?”
Red sniffled. Copper was right, but he was still scared. The other bitty must have picked up on his fear, because he brought Red closer to him again.
“But you don’t have to do it right now, of course. Maybe bring this all up with your people, and your therapist, see what they think. See if there’s anything you can do to make sure things don’t get bad, or to minimize the badness. Baby steps, yeah?”
“Yeah… you’re r-right…”
There was a peaceful silence for a little while. Copper’s steady thrum of magic, the beating of his soul, it was nice to take in.
“We’ll… w-we’ll still be friends when you… go home, right?”
“Heh… of course. If I ever do.”
That was good enough for Red. Copper yawned and adjusted Red so they were both lying down. They fell asleep not long after.
Things were brought up. Red’s therapist advised a calm place for Red to go after trying his magic out, somewhere he could collect himself should things start getting bad. Stan and Russel were made aware of the situation, which they’d seemed to already know, and Copper was nothing but supportive.
Russel could tell his bitty was still scared. They were all sitting in the living room, waiting patiently. Copper and Red were leaning against Stan’s leg, who was in turn leaning against Russel’s side.
“There’s obviously a lot of stuff you can do with magic- like, these bone attacks are really easy, but there’s blue magic, and karmic retribution, those are a little advanced but… I think making a bone is a great place to start,” Copper explained. He got to his feet and conjured up a few bones that floated gently in the air around him. Russel had never really seen a bitty use magic before- it was kind of cool.
“And, when you’re done, you just- poof. Away they go,” he said, sending the constructs away again. He smiled at Red. “If a lazybones like me can do it, I’m sure you won’t have any problems.”
Red nodded. He looked up at Stan, and then Russel, as though for permission. When they both nodded, he got to his feet and stepped over to Copper. He was visibly shaking, Russel noted. A pair of gloves sat by the human’s side- last time Red had gotten bad, it had resulted in some pretty cut up hands. They came prepared this time around.
For a while, Red just stood, catching his breath and steadying himself. Nobody coaxed him further- they wanted this to be on Red’s terms as much as possible. Russel watched and waited until-
Red held out his hand, palm up, and a little white bone fluttered to life above it.
“That’s wonderful!” Stan said happily.
“Good job, buddy,” Russel said. His smile turned to a frown as he noticed Red just… looking at it. Not doing anything. The eyelight in his good eye was small. He looked more frightened than before.
“Hey, that’s great, a perfect little bone,” Copper began, coming up to Red’s side and laying a gentle hand on his shoulder.
The reaction was immediate. Red yelped as though hit and flung his attack at Copper. The bigger bitty fell on his ass and gasped, holding his chest.
Stan was closer. He reached down and scooped Copper up, away from the scared bitty, checking him over to make sure he wasn’t hurt too badly. Russel went to Red.
The littler of the two was still standing on the carpet, eyelight wild, another attack conjured in his hand. Russel winced at the sight- it’d been so long since Red had looked like this. It didn’t get any easier.
“Hey bud, you’re okay-” Russel said softly. “Everything’s okay- stay here for me, yeah? You’re safe. Nothin’ bad happened. You’re safe.”
Red’s breathing was heavy and uneven. He was crying, but as his eyes found Russel’s he seemed to come out of it.
Red’s eyes welled with tears. Russel offered the bitty his hand, and he went to cuddle into it… until he saw Stan holding Copper.
Red must have Checked his friend, because his eye went wide and he stumbled back, away from all of them.
“Wh-what did I-I do?” he stammered. “He’s hurt- h-he-”
“I’m okay,” Copper tried to say, but he winced in Stan’s hands.
Red sobbed, and- well. One moment he was there, and the next…
Russel blinked, looking at Stan in confusion.
“He teleported,” Copper explained. “Lotsa Sanses can do that…”
“Are you okay, baby?” Stan asked.
“Yeah, I’m… I’m okay,” Copper said, pulling up his sweatshirt to reveal a little mark underneath. “Nothin’ life threatening, I won’t dust.”
“I’m gonna go find Red,” Russel said, getting to his feet. “You should stay here with Copper,” he advised his brother.
“Yeah… would he have teleported outside of the apartment?”
“I doubt he had the energy for that,” Copper said.
Red scratched at his socket, unable to get enough breath into his little body. He’d hurt Copper- he’d hurt him bad , a third of his HP was gone! If he’d- what if he’d-
He was bad. Things were bad, everything was bad - he could have killed his friend, and he could’ve hurt Russel, he was a bad bitty- Red sobbed harder.
Russel found him soon enough, curled up in a half-open shoebox in his closet. Red didn’t seem to hear him sit down beside it- his crying continued unabated.
“Hey, bud,” Russel tried softly. Red yelped.
“No, g-go… go away...”
“I’m not leaving you here, little guy,” Russel said sadly. “I’m just sitting out here, okay? I won’t touch you. Are you… are you there? Do you know who I am?”
That made Red cry harder, but a sad, sad little “Russel” came drifting out of the box.
“Buddy, Copper’s okay- you roughed him up a bit, but he’s gonna be fine. He’s not mad. Nobody’s mad.”
Red didn’t say anything. Russel sighed.
“We shouldn’t have let Copper be near you- that was our fault. We thought he could help, and we forgot how frail you guys are… that was me and Stan’s mistake. This isn’t your fault, Red.”
Red sniffled, but he seemed to be calming down somewhat.
“You wanna come out of that stinky old shoe box?” Russel asked.
“I don’t… I d-don’t want to hurt you…”
“You’re here- you’re okay… I know you'd never mean to hurt me."
Red poked his head out of the box, looking so incredibly sad. Russel was quick to scoop him up and bring him to his chest.
Red was so small. Russel knew that, but sometimes he was really struck with it. Red’s tiny body was wracked with sobs and shuddering breaths.
“You take all the time you need- we can sit right in here, okay?” Russel said softly, stroking Red’s back with his thumb. “I’ve got you. You’re okay. You’re safe.”