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Venom's Anatomy

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There was nothing like a bad fall to make you feel like the most pathetic person on planet Earth. It had a way of taking a good decade off your life and making you feel like a far more ancient man waking up on a hospital bed. Got even worse knowing this hadn’t been the first time. 

 

The scene was always similar, even if the spot was different. A sterile room with a window, chairs for visitors, and a table hooked to heart monitors, IV drips and whatever medical equipment they wanted a patient to use, pleasant or not. The last time it’d been a valve to blow into to make a small plastic piece rise to the surface. Something about giving the lungs a workout. There wasn’t anything there yet apart from an empty tray-a plate with three pizza crusts sat on it. And oh, they’d picked a sailboat painting instead of a flower. Clearly a classy place.



Least when it happened often enough you could assess the usual suspects. Despite being groggy, he felt fairly clear-headed, so probably wasn’t on a steady stream of narcotics. It was also a good sign they let her in here, if he recognized those soft snores correctly and bite marks. All in all, he wasn’t in much pain, so things could’ve been worse...wait, there was something...There. The left hand. And he remembers-reaching out to grab the counter and ending up driving his body against his fingers, the index and pointer fractured judging by the cast put around them...well least he saved the most important one.

 

Great. Venomous had been through this before, but the fingers were gonna be a pain. Especially if he got his laptop here to do some work from the bed. He was right handed, sure, but typing was a two handed job. How many sick days did he have again? Maybe he could start tapping into vacation instead. If his memory served, he’d told them he’d be visiting his son anyway. Not like they wouldn’t buy him wanting extra time...Cast would take some explaining though.

 

The snoring shape by his bed yawns and stretches, only waking up when she nearly drops her handheld, taking a tired glance at the screen and narrowing her eyes as if trying to decide if she was up for “pwning more noobs” as she put it. He didn’t try to keep up with her lingo these days: minute she’d gotten that console it had been all punk rock t-shirts and spiked bracelets and demands to let her dye her unkempt hair that bordered on a rats nest if he didn’t brush it through. She’d picked a moldy green color this time around that made her look more sesame street trash gremlin then little girl, but big eyes and a button nose helped folks tell the difference.



“Did you doze off on me, Fink?”



“Whuzuh?! Huh??” The young girl sat up in her chair, game console still in her lap as she waved her fists in indignation, “Nuh uh!! I wouldn’t, boss!! No matter how long you napped for!!”



“Attagirl.” With his good hand, he reached over to ruffle her hair and grimaced, knitting his fingers through till he could loosen up a rough tangle and a whine from Fink, “You sure you don’t want a haircut anytime soon, hun?”



“I dunno, I think it looks kinda cool-“ She stuck out her tongue and threw up the horns, “Lets me look like one of those bassists in that band you don’t like!” 

 

Venomous let out a huff, followed by a toothy smirk, “What, you mean the lame bands?”

 

Her eyes popped, and she gave a soft gasp before turning with a deep huff of annoyance, her arms tightly crossed and a scowl on her face.



“Aw cmon. You know I’m right~”

 

“Yeah...right about being wrong. Gutpunch is awesome…”

 

“Just saying, they aren’t any Stakes Alive.”

 

“Well they’re definitely not Cobra Commando! Those guys made you wear those frilly shirts for sooo long, didn’t they?” 

 

The pained grimace from him was enough to bring that smirk back on her face. Instead of choosing to answer that and admit his shame, he licked across his palm and used it to fix her hair, sending the girl squealing in alarm and weakly batting at him. It was one of the quicker ways to get her off his tail if he wasn’t feeling it. “Carol know you’re over here?”


“Yeah, I called her boss...she said she’d come an’ get me if I wanted to go home but I’m not even-” She paused in her talk to let out a soft yawn on her arm, “-tired…”



“Oh yeah…?” He gave a long stretch, settling back against the stiffly pressed pillows and a long yawn, lying back and giving a wave, “Too bad. Guess I get to nap here all by myself…”

 

Three, two, one…

 

He could see the conflict on her face, building and building, up until she couldn’t take it a minute longer. “H-hey! Scoot over already!”

 

Got her.

 

He let out a small chuff, opening his arms to her and scooting to the side to make some room, choosing to ignore the tiny fists jabbing his side as she got cozy. He’d feel more at ease if she dozed off against his side then on the chair, where she might drop another console in her sleep and throw a temper tantrum over it. The last one had been a legendary event he wasn’t keen on repeating (a physical therapist had lost a chunk of hair and a bite mark for life.) 

 

While she gets comfortable, he takes a look at the wall clock. It was about ten thirty at night. Keeping him here this late probably meant he’d come to a hospital he hadn’t been to yet, meaning overnight at least.


He’d call the labs first thing, check out early at the motel, the school next in case Fink wanted to stay over the next day, hunt down whatever doctor was in charge of him to see if he couldn’t get this over with a few days sooner-go down a list and check off the same old boxes. Least from where his bed was, he could just make out the hospital’s sign, glowing neon against the overcast evening outside:


Lakewood Medical Center



It was in the reflection of that window he finally took notice of something. There was another bed in here. Were they expecting another patient?...Or was one already here? The sheets were messy and there was still an empty tray of food on the table. There was also an IV drip, dangling from its bag to slowly dribble onto the floor. That wasn’t a reassuring sign...



That’s about the time the door slammed open and shut and he got the first look at by far the strangest man he would ever meet. He was very short, portly, and doing his damnedest to sneak back into bed and cover up like he’d never left. He had a shock of pale hair that bordered on jade, as if he’d dyed it wrong and just left it to fade out. His left hand seemed to be synthetic, with a yellowing plastic outside that gave small clicks when it moved and fidgeted. The thing that had his attention captured though was his face. A quarter of it had been replaced by a silicone plastic material, taking half of his skull and centering around his eye-a piercing red orb that actually blinked as the man took notice of him. And the rest of it...both youthful and older at the same time, with a mischievous glint to the eye.



He gave a nervous, sharp-toothed grin and put a finger to his lips, “Play it cool, got it?…” He then tried his best to set the IV needle in its holster. Not enough to get it hooked up again, but hey, A for effort.



Venomous raised a thin brow, about to ask why, till a young nurse strode in soon after. His apparent roommate slathered on the charm. “Well well, good evening miss!! How can we help you on this lovely evening?”



The woman (pink hair, darker skin-looked more like a teen then a licensed nurse) gave a frustrated huff, speaking in a voice almost cartoonishly Australian, “Mister Boxman, you just got out of surgery today, mate. You can’t go running around the halls on us-if you needed anything, you can always just call yknow-”



“Oh ho but I assure you I did no such thing! I’ve been here the whole time, minding my own business! Maybe got up for the bathroom a time or two, but otherwise right as rain here!” Boxman emphasized with a click of the tongue and an OK hand-sign to Venomous.



The nurse crossed her arms, “We saw you around the cafeteria?” She waved a hand, “Short man? Green hair? Loudly snickering to himself saying he was getting away with it Scott free? No bells?”



Oh boy, now Boxman was starting to sweat. He had a deadpan sort of look to his face, open mouthed like he’d been about to say something. This was almost embarrassing to watch. And probably the most entertaining thing he’d watched today. “W-well, you see, the thing with that who you saw, that person? He uh-Ah-...Obviously was a coincidence! Yes, a coincidence!”

 

She raised a brow, “A coincidence…”

 

“Yes!! Absolutely!! Because I…” he trailed off, scanning his surroundings, hands up, “I’ve been in my room the whole time aaaaand…” Wait, what was he doing..oh no. Oh no. He was looking right at him. Great! From entertainment to nightmare scenario in a minute flat. Don’t look at me, don’t look at me, don’t look at me - “He stands as my witness!”



God dammit.

 

Of all the times for Fink to be asleep too. Probably would’ve gouged this Boxman’s eyes out for putting him on the spot or called him out the moment he’d opened his trap. And the nurse was staring at him now too. Shit. Shit shit shit. “I...I just woke up, but…”



There was a funny sound. It was a bit like a chihuahua, softly whining for a treat. He shortly realized it was coming from his ‘roommate’-a soft whine with his hands clasped together and staring at him with the biggest, wettest puppy-dog eyes he could manage. For the love of-the man looked like he was at least in his forties, did he really think he could pull off a face like that with his mug?



“Sir?” The nurse was tilting her head, “He wasn’t here, was he?”



“I…” Venomous glanced to the teary expression, back to the nurse. Back and forth a good few times, brow going up as each time the man seemed closer and closer to full on wailing at any moment, before he gave a sigh, “No...He was still here when I woke up.” He gave a half shrug, “Maybe you got another guy like him?”



“Hm…” She looked between the two, Boxman somehow reverted to looking as happy and content as possible, before giving a sigh, “Alright, well...you must’ve popped your IV out somehow. Least let me take care of that.” She went around, tending to the strange, sad little man. All the while he was grinning over her shoulder to Venomous, turning back to smile like a kindly older man. He had a bad feeling about that toothy smile. Smiles like that got you into trouble...course maybe he already was, once that nurse found out he’d so blatantly lied about it. But given he was a patient she couldn’t punish and her other witness was fast asleep, not like she had a ton of options.



“Alright-no moving around this time, alright Mister Boxman?”



“Wouldn’t dream of it dear! Just let this old man get some rest, would you?” He added an extra flourish by batting his eyes and laying back like he was just the comfiest old man on the planet, serenity radiating from him.



She didn’t look convinced (smart girl, honestly) but she clearly had other rounds to make and patients to check up on, so she stepped out. And Venomous watched as Boxman sat up and strained to listen, expression concentrated for a long moment, before he grinned. Then he snickered, then he cackled like he’d gotten away with murder or brought life to some horrible, undead monster. 

 

“HAH! What a sap!!” He dug under the sheets, bringing up a pair of plain, brown bags, labelled for “@Cafe” and radiating a warm, sickeningly sweet cinnamon smell from across the room. Venomous could especially tell this after it was flung right at him and he had only seconds to snatch it out of the air with his good hand before it risked waking Fink up. “Here! Thanks for the cover, buddy! I really owe you one!”



“Those stuffy doctor types are convinced I need a diet while I’m here, but look at me! Prime of my life right here-” he unwrapped the bag, the gooey cinnamon roll still steaming as he took a healthy chomp out the side. “What harm has a pastry done to anybody??”



“Pretty sure there’s dessert chefs that’d tell you otherwise…” Still, he wasn’t about to pass it up. Not with his sweet tooth getting him salivating at the smell alone, the warm pastry feeling like it’d come right out the oven...hold on- “Wait, how’d you even get these this fresh?” He looked over, brows up, “It’d be closed by now, wouldn’t it?”



Boxman cackled, raising a finger to waggle at him, “Ah, but you know about a bakers’ dozen, right?” His snickering got a gleeful edge to it as he went on, “Those baristas downstairs always bake off some extras at the end of the night and load them with all the fixings-but they can’t do a thing if someone waltzes over and wants to buy them-probably get fired if folks knew they were baking treats for themselves anyhow, but I’m not telling! You’re not either, right?” He took another bite and gave him a look, “Right?”



“C-course not! I don’t even live here-” He took a cautious bite as he spoke, “It’s not like I-...crap that is good.”



“I told you!” Boxman gestured with his robotic hand, “They never put enough frosting on them for the regular customers!! I’m betting you anything it’s a company policy! Short-change the little people to save a few bucks off the top-it’s despicable if you ask me!”



“It’s just frosting, Boxman…” Albeit frosting that took an extra two chews to get through and tasted like someone just slathered a cheesecake over fluffy, cinnamon sugar bread...but still just frosting. He didn’t even realize he’d gobbled half in under a minute till he thought to save some for Fink, wrapping it before his mouth said otherwise. “Thanks, I guess. But I’m not covering for you next time. You can’t go pulling out your IV like that.”



Boxman huffed, having no qualms about finishing the rest of his to suck the last bits of frosting off his fingers, “Well we’ll see if I bring you anything back next time, eh??” He laid back with a shrug, “Besides, not my first rodeo here-practically a regular these days. Sure you can relate with your kid there, right?”



“Who, Fink?” He stroked her hair, smiled softly when she nestled her face deeper in him and grumbled. “Nah. She might not look it but she’s tough. Makes it a challenge for her to get hurt by anything. Not like her old man anyway.” He took a glance over, “And I meant the way you took it out. I can probably show you how to do it like a champ come morning.”



The man looked surprised at that, then grinned like a fiend, “Well, if you’re offering, how could I refuse??” He glanced to Fink, giving an impressed whistle, “She really is a sound sleeper...your only kid?”



“Nah. One other with my ex. Actually he’s the only reason I ended up here, come to think of it…” Venomous tilted his head while he gently stroked Fink’s hair, letting her nuzzle up against him. “You?”



Boxman gave a laugh, “Oh, well, a couple of them, here and there! I’m sure they’ll be by in the morning to visit! Course they all have their own lives to lead but rest assured, they will visit! Mark my words!” He laughed, a little louder and a little more nervous, before he managed to clear his throat and lean over with an outstretched hand, “Lord Boxman, by the way.” 

 

When offered a hand, it was polite to shake it, so Venomous does, though the name does get his thin brows going up again (they’d be sore by the time he got out he suspected, “Lord??”



“Just Boxman is fine. My parents had uh...Heightened expectations for me? Or inflated egos of themselves. Really not much of a difference.” He smiled, “But it’s nice to meet you, Mr. Venomous!”



Venomous gave a bemused smile, “So you did read my chart, eh?”



“J-just the name bit! I wouldn’t intrude-just wanted the name of my roommate is all!! Percival though-interesting name you got there. So do you go by Percival or Percy or-“



“Venomous.” He interrupted, “Just Venomous is fine. One surname for another.”



Boxman gave a shrug, “Suit yourself! Venomous...does have a way of rolling off the tongue, doesn’t it?”



Venomous gave a nod. He could feel a fog creeping in even now, and despite only eating half that cinnamon roll, a sugar crash was surging up to join it, “Listen, it’s been a long day, so I’m gonna try and sleep. You can be quiet, right Boxman?”



“Well of course!! Quiet is my middle name!! Quiet and as stealthy as a mouse, that’s the goal! That’s how you catch the kids doing something bad you know, as a fellow father-“

 

Goodnight, Boxman.” His eyelids are getting heavier, grabbing a pillow to put over his eyes.



“Oh! Oh, right, of course!” Boxman twiddled his thumbs and settled back in bed, “I should probably get some rest myself. Busy day and all!”



“Mmhm.”



“...But Venomous you know, such a name-like you’re a supervillain or something-Really it’s bold when you think about it-”


Easy Venomous. Remember what the doc said. One sheep, two sheep, three sheep...

Chapter Text

“On behalf of all of us on staff, welcome-to Lakewood Medical Center! For the last ten years we’ve been the primary caretakers of the Lakewood community, exceeding in research, pediatrics, medical treatment, and surgery. But we’re more then just a hospital. Here at LMC, our staff makes sure you feel like family and with state of the art, luxurious rooms, our top of the line meal plans by award winning chefs, and around the clock service for all your needs-our hospital might feel like a home away from home.


In the words of our director, Billiam Milliam: “It’s going to be simply Scrumptious, darling~” “


“Hey, can you turn that off?”


Venomous vaguely remembered passing out around Sheep 47, but his body sure didn’t feel like it. His body felt like a mobster’s might getting tossed down a deep river with cement shoes-heavy and stinging from whatever punishment they’d put him through before then. Still, he works through the complaints enough to sit himself up, eyes turning to the TV on the wall, “...Huh. Didn’t know he got to Director.”


“He wasn't the last time I visited…” Boxman had the remote in hand, his eyes fixed on a man so heavily tanned he might as well have been bronzed, laughing and patting himself on the back on TV in between the hospital advertising its many, many services. A pool, some full service restaurants, a full gym. If this ad was right there was even a rock climbing area you could check out. Lakewood wasn’t the richest area exactly. This must’ve been a hospital made just for the up and up around here.


Venomous felt a subtle but not un-noticed pain in his wallet. “Anyway, switch to something else, would ya? All these ads are the same.”


Boxman jolted like he’d just remembered, fumbling with the remote before he flipped through various channels, settling on some sort of home construction show instead. Venomous’ eyes went to the TV clock as he flicked through. It was about 11 in the morning. Probably just missed the breakfast rush. Fine by him. He wasn’t much of a morning eater and he didn’t feel like he’d have liked the dried up bacon and powdery eggs Boxman had remaining on the tray by his bed.


“Billiam probably paid his way in.” Venomous added after a minute, “It’s an easy ego boost without having to put in any of the work. Probably off golfing on his yacht instead.”


“Hang on, do you know Billiam?” Boxman asked, after a moment of admiring some precise sledgehammer work on the TV. “The Billiam Milliam?”


“The very same. Only in passing though.” Venomous fluffed up the pillows to act as a better back support, “That research they were going on and on about-that’s part of what my company does.” He smirked, enjoying an opportunity to show off a bit, “Billiam and his ilk send in data from all over for us to check out. Blood samples, DNA testing, growing bacteria or new skin in petri dishes-we take care of that.”


“Aha! So you’re a scientist!”


Venomous shrugged, “Guess you could say that. Biomedical researcher is a bit more precise.” Course, since the boss before him had stepped down and he’d taken over, his roll ended up more on the paperwork and setting up schedules side of things then the down and dirty lab work, but he wasn’t about to tell Boxman that. Not when the guy had that sparkle in his eyes telling him otherwise, looking fascinated by the mention of it.


“That’s incredible! Course, heh, I don’t mean to brag or anything but you could call me a bit of a scientist myself! Less on the human side of things though and more the uh, mechanical though.” He reached over, rolling up his sleeve to show his left arm. Curiosity had taken a hold of Venomous, leaning over as much as he could for a closer look. “This bad boy here is the best example I have on hand! Well, cause it is my hand, but the point stands!”


It’d been too dark to make out details the night before (not that it’d really had his attention as much as, well, everything else.) Now that he could take a closer look, he could make out the finer details. A simple setup of three main fingers and one thumb, tipped with longer, sturdy nails on the end. Underneath were metal components, shifting and bending under a silicone skin that looked...oddly familiar. His mind was going back to a particular business deal made over dim sum, wiggling Boxman’s pointer finger. “Did you...base this on a chicken foot?”


Boxman sat up a bit, a faint blush on his face as he gave a nervous laugh, “Well, it’s supposed to be like uh...talons. Like an eagle! But chickens have impressive talons you know! Why else would cockfighting be such a sport, eh??” He scratched his neck, “Plus, chicken feet are pretty easy to find for study. And cheaper on the grocery side of things.”


Venomous raised a brow, “You couldn’t have based it on your other hand?”


There was that deadpan look again, as if he’d just realized he could have easily done that for the first time. He gave a soft hiss instead before going on. “MY point is it looks cooler!” Boxman waved his claw, “Course I could have made it look like my other hand, but where’s the fun? Where’s the heart ? If anyone could do it to make it look normal, why on earth would I?” He pointed back at his head, “It’s the same with my eye here! Sure I could’ve gone for a glass eye or the like, but this? This leaves an impression!” He crossed his arms and smiled smugly, “And it works too!”


That got his attention in a hurry, sitting up with a start to lean over. “That thing works??” Now it was Venomous’ turn to be impressed, checking out the eye. The solid color made it hard to tell, but it seemed to shift, blink, and look around in sync with his natural eye. “How did you get it to connect to the brain? Is there a camera inside? Does it alter how you see anything?” Both the scientist and businessman in him were foaming at the mouth thinking over all the possibilities-so much so he hadn’t even realized he’d gripped Boxman’s face to bring him in closer for a look.


When he did realize it, Boxman had gone red in the face, giving a nervous chuckle, “It’s ah...been a while since I put it in. But I can see if one of my kids can bring blueprints over?”



“Ah.” Venomous quickly let go, clearing his throat, “Yeah. Yes. That’d be appreciated...thanks.”


“N-no problem! Eheh...heh…”

 

They both couldn’t look at each other. So they didn’t. For a while the only thing they could both look at was the TV or the painting on the wall. After a minute, Venomous snorted, “Heh, what do you bet the painting is based on Billiam’s boat?”

 

“Hm? O-oh! Probably yes!...” Boxman trailed off, eyes going back to the show, the grin sliding off of Venomous’ face.

 

...God this was awkward. The sounds of construction crews wrecking buildings and a peppy show host telling a rich couple how much a window cost were the only things filling the dead silence in the air. Boxman still looked rather flustered, his hands clasped together and seemingly doing everything in his power to not look right at Venomous. Why had he done that???

 

The funny thing was the quiet made it a lot easier to notice what sounds were missing from the room now. And it felt like a certain noise was missing. Knowing it was sent a worried knot in his stomach. He glanced to the game console on the table, plugged in to charge, “Hang on. Where’s Fink?”


Boxman sat up, finally looking back over again after clearing his throat, “Fink?”


“My daughter? The little girl who was with me last night?”


“Oh that Fink!” Boxman tapped his chin, “When you were out earlier, she said she was bored and went to ‘patrol the halls’. Her words, not mine.”


Ohhh, that’s right… “Yep, that sounds like her.” He laid back again, feeling a little more at ease, “Whenever it’s a new hospital she likes to scope things out. Mostly she goes to the gift stores with my credit card. You know, kid stuff.” Course she also had a habit of going after folks she considered ‘suspicious’. Aka anybody who hung by Venomous’ rooms long enough to get the stink eye and a possible bite to go home with. Which reminded Venomous he should probably ask Carol to grab his checkbook if she got the laptop.


“Fink...lovely name for a girl!” Boxman added, trying to alleviate the tension some.


Venomous smirked, “She insisted on it. Got really into that art by uh...what’s his name...he makes the pictures with the really crazy-looking driving animals. Eyes usually popped out.” He snapped his fingers. “Ed Roth. That’s the guy. We’ll see if she sticks with it or not.”


Boxman gave a half smile, “Well glad she’s a fine arts fan!” He pressed his index fingers together, “But ah, you really trust her with your credit card then? If I let any of my kids do that, why, they’d probably shop me out of house and-”


Before he could finish, a shriek similar to nails on a chalkboard made out of nasally throat singers echoed from the hall, a set of strangely jangly footsteps running towards their room until the door slammed open.


And so enters the second strangest person he’d met this week. The kid was all lanky limbs and frizzy hair that puffed out around an acne-scarred cheeks and an eyepatch. The other eye was tearing up, looking like the kid was trying very hard not to cry. Past the face was...oh no...oh kid. That outfit ...the jeans and hoodie were okay, but...the kid had an honest to god cowboy hat and boots on. He looked like a wild western star who’d took a wrong turn at puberty and ended up lost in a mall. Oh god were those spurs?  

 

“DADDY! THIS WEIRD KID BIT ME!!”


“NUH-UH! I kicked you!! Big difference, mister!!” Ah, there was Fink. She had a small chunk of jersey material sticking out between her teeth. Guess that explained the small hole on the fashion disaster’s jacket. “And he started it!!”


You had your teeth on me!!”


“Uh, duh! To hold you in place for the kicking!! What are you, a dum dum?”

The guy gasped in genuine alarm, sniffled, and gave a growl, “I’m not a dum-dum! You're a dum dum!”


“You take that back, little man!!!”


“Fink!” “DARRELL!”


That definitely got their attention, both their postures straightening up. Fink pouted and crossed her arms with a huff, but she was quick to trot over. After sticking her tongue out at Darrell of course. Darrell couldn’t do a dang thing about it though, rubbing his arm with a huff and slinking over to the side of his own dad, leaning over to him, “Daddy? Why’s that weird kid in your room?” 


“That “weird kid” happens to be the daughter of my roommate and I would expect better of you to keep that in mind, Darrell!” Boxman cleared his throat, “So, so sorry about that Venomous. My son, Darrell Boxman. Who was supposed to call or text before waltzing in here???” He said with grit teeth.


“I tried!!” Darrell held up his own phone, “It just sent me to voicemail when I did!”


“Voicemail!!” Boxman leaned over to pick his phone off the table, “I didn’t get one call from you all day, see?” He then paused, glancing over his phone screen, his face steadily going redder and redder. “...you brought my charger, right son?”


Darrell, apparently used to this, dug it out of his hoodie pocket, then straighten up, “Ah! Your bag!!! Hang on I got it!!” He scrambled back out to the hall while Boxman plugged his phone in, giving a small sigh and a look of beleaguered acceptance as his phone started pinging off with all the missed calls and messages coming to it.


“Again, so sorry about that, Venomous.” Boxman waved a hand before resting it on his cheek, “I’ve told him he really needs to work on his maturity if he’s going to take over some day! Picking fights with kids-it’s just unprofessional, you know?”


“If it’s any consolation, this little rascal tends to fight with lots of folks,” Venomous ruffled her hair as she scooted back in by him again, picking up her console, “don’tcha, Fink?”


“Only if they deserve it!”


“Which is most of the time.” Venomous sighed, Fink grinning and giving a soft cackle to herself as she booted up one of her videos game. “Seriously, don’t take it too hard. Probably thought your son looked...suspicious. That’s all.”

 

“Well I don’t blame you, honestly.” He holds up a hand to gesture with, “I mean the cowboy hat I played along with but then the boots and spurs?? Next thing you know he’ll be riding a horse everywOH SON! Thank you for bringing my things by!!” Boxman changed course the moment Darrell walked back in, leaning over to pinch his cheek, “My darling, good boy! Always there for me!” 

 

“Aw, shucks Dad…” If Darrell had heard a word of that diss talk, it didn't have a spot to sink in, the kid just about blushing as he set Boxman’s bag on the bed. “Sorry the others couldn’t get here-what with the pep rally and Ernesto looking after the shop and all…”

 

Boxman waved a hand, “They can come on their own time or wait for me to leave! The fact you came first does warm my heart, I’ll tell you that much.”

 

As the two talked, Venomous had dug through his wallet, handing over a crisp twenty to Darrell, “Hey-do me a favor and get us some coffee from the cafe. And a lollipop if they got any...F-for Fink! Of course.” He sat back again, “Anything leftover, you keep it. Alright?”

 

Darrell’s eye lit up at once, and honest to god the kid saluted him as he grinned a crooked smile, “Holy moly-you got it Mister Venomous!! I’ll be back in a jiffy!!” With a pirouette on those damn cowboy boots, he flew out of the room to head down to the lobby.

 

Fink, who’d been enjoying one of her games up till now, squinted with suspicion, “I don’t trust that guy...boss, can I tail him?” 

 

“Mm...long as you stay out of trouble.” Venomous ruffled her hair, for an instant almost regretting the monster he just unleashed as she scampers off with delighted cackles. Almost regrets it anyway. “So Ernesto and Darrell...those your kids, Boxman?”


Boxman seemed like he’d been spacing out looking at Venomous, hand on his chin before snapping himself out of it, “Oh! Well, er, those are two of my boys, but they aren’t all my kids. Exactly.” He cleared his throat, “I have...Seven total.”


Venomous choked on his own tongue in lieu of anything to spit take with, “Seven???”


Boxman gave a laugh, “Yep! Five banes of my existence and two darling pains in my tuckass!”


“So...five boys and two girls?”


“Ah you’re perceptive, Venomous!”


Venomous just had a look of shocked awe on his face, hand on his head, “I can barely handle two, and one of them doesn’t even live with me…” He turned to look at Boxman, wide-eyed, “How do you handle it?”


Boxman rubbed his neck, “Well, it does help most of them are growing up now. Ernesto moved out a while ago and three of my kids are over at college. My last ones are eight and two now so they’re the toughest, but Jethro does such a good job looking after his sister. Really responsible for a little lad!” 

 

Venomous blinked, staring at the man. “Still...that’s pretty amazing, raising seven on your own.”


Boxman seemed to get a bit pink in the cheeks, rubbing his neck with a sort of half laugh, “Well, I mean, I’m sure you do just as good a job with your kids! Really it’s not that impressive-”


“Mister Venomous?” Oh, it was that nurse again. The one from last night...shit was she onto them? “If you’re free for a few minutes, your doctor’s ready to see you about some personal information?” 

 

Venomous made a ‘tsk’ sound, “Yeah, I got time.” He waved a hand to Boxman as he stiffly got to his feet, “Make sure your kid double-cups the coffee. I want it hot when I get back, kay?”


“Oh! R-right, yes! You got it, chief!” He gave a pair of finger guns and a wink. A look that didn’t exactly suit him, but it did get a smirk out of Venomous as the nurse led him out. 

 

About damn time too-he could already feel the pins and needles jabbing his calves when he walked, in desperate need of a good stretch and an opportunity to take in his surroundings. It really was a top notch place-the place was clean, tech seemed a lot newer, and the few rooms he was able to peek inside, while sparse, were about as well kept as his own. There were even family rooms set up in a few halls that practically looked like a hotel suite, for the longer term or critically ill patients staying. What he could not abide by was the god awful decor of the place.


By comparison, the sailboat he had in his room was tame . Out here the halls were dotted with overfilled golden vases, statues of the director of the hospital, and the small nooks for patients to sit and look out the window had most of their space hogged by ornate fountains that depicted...what appeared to be cherubs with the director’s face put onto them. Billiam had always struck him as an egotistical guy just from the way he wrote his emails or talked on the phone, but this was pushing it. Well, at least the guy wasn’t acting as a doctor, just a director. In fact, he’d probably be so busy, he wouldn’t see the guy outside of those cheesy ads the hospital’s network played. He smirked, thinking of the few times he was lucky enough to get called over some relationship problem or ding on his yacht (the last time he’d put in on speakerphone-never before had he seen Fink so quiet and yet so loud the minute the call ended.)

 

Ah, he could almost hear it now… wait a sec. He could hear it now. “Dr. Cosma, puhleeaaaaaase, you have to make sure he walks out satisfied!! The sake of my hospital depends on it!!!”


“And I’ve told you, I’ll do what I can. I don’t even know the full story yet though so don’t make promises you can’t keep. Now would you get out of my office already?? I’m expecting him any minute.”


“Cosmaaaaaaa-”


Now , Mr. Milliam.”


The door ahead of Venomous and the nurse swung open, and that same tanned figure seen in many of the statues and paintings around came out. He dressed like he lived, ate, and slept the beach, with bronzed skin, a toned upper body and a perfectly coiffed hairdo to match. Venomous immediately ducked behind the nurse and tried his best not to get spotted, ignoring her squeak as he nudged her along till Billiam had mostly moped down the halls, his good hand letting go of her, “Sorry. We just would’ve been here all day otherwise.”


He glanced to the office next, giving the nurse a chance to collect herself before he went in, immediately at ease. No gold statues or bouquets. Just a good old fashioned doctor’s office with a good old fashioned doctor standing in it...course, he was hoping she was a good doctor. The five or so PHDs on her walls seemed to indicate it, but Dr. Cosma could’ve been a model if she wanted to. Sharp angles, smooth naturally tanned skin, and dark red hair that cascaded down her shoulders. But it was the eyes mostly. Eyes that seemed to say she could put a bullet between his eyes and not even blink… kinda reminded him of someone. He couldn’t say it wasn’t a little attractive as he took a seat on the table.


“Mister Venomous-” She walked over, took his hand in a firm, cordial shake. “Dr. Cosma. I’ll be your primary care specialist during your stay.”

 

Venomous glanced to his busted fingers, leaning back on the table once his hand was freed, “Right...so I’m guessing it’s not an overnight thing.”


“Well, it is your first time at LMC.” Cosma grabbed a clipboard off the counter, “We want to make sure we know what exactly is going on with you. Why you collapsed a day ago.”


“So… call any other hospital then.” He felt over himself, realized his business card was no doubt with the rest of his clothes in the room, and settled for resting his hand on the table, “Look, I can give you my address later Dr. Cosma, but I’ve done this song and dance before. I don’t need more testing done so another hospital can have me on record, okay? I already know what’s wrong with me.”


Cosma raised a brow.


Venomous just stared right back at her, a long silence stretched between the two before Venomous finally spoke up, “Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. I’ve had it since I was twenty-two and chances are I just pushed myself, just a little, so I could be a dad to both my kids this weekend.” He snapped his fingers, “There, did your job for you. Just write me up one for ibuprofen and I’ll be out of here in an hour.”

 

Cosma seemed nonplussed, giving a huff through her nose as she looked Venomous over, then down to her clipboard, flipping pages. “You realize you were unconscious for well over ten hours after you were brought in, correct? And your nurse, Miss Koala-she claims you were out for another twelve hours after you went to sleep again last night. Does that sound accurate?”


Venomous glowered, with a strained smile that showed his canines. “My kids are high energy.” It sure didn’t feel like he’d slept twenty two hours over two days. Dammit, he had to leave before he could get his coffee, huh?

 

“I see.” Cosma’s eyes searched him. With eyes like that, it felt like he would’ve been exposed even without the hospital gown, his arms folded unconsciously in some small effort to cover himself. She set the clipboard aside with a sigh. “Look, I’m going to level with you, Mister Venomous. My director is very grateful to you for your efforts in research and development for hospitals in this region, ours included. He instructed me to give you the best possible care I can provide as a show of gratitude.” For just a few seconds, Cosma’s expression turned sympathetic. “I know you’ve been to other hospitals without an answer for why this happened to you. I can’t make a lofty promise like ‘I’ll cure you’ or that things will be fixed. But as a doctor, I want to figure out why this happened. Perhaps it could even be used to prevent future cases.”


Venomous couldn’t look at her. He’d heard all this before, in one way or another. The fact that she was being honest with him was a fresh start, but to think he hadn’t tried?? That he hadn’t searched and searched to find something to fix him, make it all better? His good hand squeezes his arm, staying silent and eyeing the molding on the lower wall.


Cosma waited, watching, before she spoke again, “...Tell me, how old are you kids?”



Venomous clenched his fingers, “My daughter’s nine. Guessing you saw her around already.”



“I did. I remember Billiam telling me about your social posting when you adopted her.” She clicked her tongue, “So she’d probably be fine then… How old is your son, Venomous?”



That tone put him on guard, hackles up immediately. He had to breathe in and let it out slow before he spoke again, “...Eleven.” Venomous looked over, “What do you mean ‘she’d be fine’?”

 

“Well, simply put, we don’t know a lot about CFS. But there have been very interesting research studies linking it to families however.” Cosma looked right at him, “I’m sure if you could prevent it from happening to anyone, it’d be your child.” 

 

That got him to let go. There had once been a period where he’d tried to find others with his condition, to talk to them. Hell, after the divorce, he’d even tried a smaller dating site for people with CFS. Hadn’t been successful, but he’d tried. “...” He hadn’t considered his son getting it. He didn’t want to consider it. He wanted him to be everything but him.



“...So, what, you just want to research me?”



“Only perform some tests is all. If you’re still willing, we could discuss the terms of a research plan for studying your condition.” Cosma looked back at her clipboard again, Venomous breathing easier when those piercing eyes were off him, “What I want is to see if I can find anything that hasn’t come up in previous tests. Give me that opportunity and maybe future cases won’t need to be as time consuming as yours has been.” 

 

“Alright.” Venomous sighed and sat back up, cool as a cucumber as he looked to Cosma, “I don’t know about the whole research thing, but do what you have to. Long as I’m not here forever.” 

 

Cosma actually smiled at that, marking something down on her clipboard, “Fair enough. We can probably start with a quick blood test while you’re here before we move on to-”



“Viral infection tests.” When Cosma looked back at him with a small look of surprise, Venomous just smirked, hands coming together to rest on his lap. “Doing your job for you.”


She made a face, turning to her board, “Maybe just the blood test for now...”


“No, please, go ahead with the needles. I can take it.” He said with a bigger grin and a wink her direction. If he was stuck here anyway, might as well be as irritating as possible. You know, make it fun for himself and all. 

Chapter Text

 Venomous only had some regrets waking up again that night. Like maybe he shouldn’t have egged Cosma on to do some antiviral testing the same day she got some blood samples. He’d felt fine enough coming back to have his lukewarm mocha and make a few calls to work and school before the urge for another nap hit him. Now it felt like a boa constrictor was coiled around his stomach and squeezing for all it was worth. He took a deep breath through his nose, gradually working himself back to sitting up.

 
Darrell had gone home a while ago, the room mercifully quiet with the spurred menace no longer present. The only real sound in the room was Fink’s snoring, curled up at the foot of the bed like a loyal puppy. He really had to call Carol over when she wasn’t up. She wasn’t the biggest fan of his ex, but having her stay with him at the hospital...a kid shouldn’t put up with that. Besides, she was probably getting bored to death cooped up in here.


Another cramp spasmed in him, gritting his teeth to work himself upright and over to the bathroom, only noticing his roommate was up when he returned with a cup of water. Boxman was leaned back on the backboard, his prosthetic hand resting on his chin while his other scrolled through text conversations, the occasional smirks coming to him whenever he read something amusing. His pale hair had fallen across his eye at some point, Venomous watching how precisely he was able to tuck his hair back with the false hand. He tried not to dwell on it, lest he get as excited as earlier, “Awful late to be up about now.”


Boxman glanced up from his phone, with a look that said he’d been spacing out a bit, before he waved him off, “Eheh… Could say the same for you, tough guy.” He took a glance back at the phone, then gave pause, looking a little sheepish as he set it down, “Well, heh… Wow, didn’t realize it had gotten that late there…Guess I got a little distracted is all.” He held it up again, showing a text conversation he’d been having. Shannon in big, bold letters at the top of it, “Kids these days aren’t good at calling so much, but they can text a mile a minute, can’t they?”


A lot of it boiled down to Shannon wanting something, mixed in with casual remarks about feeling better again and possibly, maybe squeezing in a visit with him in the morning before her evening classes. “Your daughter, I take it?”


“My eldest one, yes! My darling Shannon~” He seemed rather proud as he pulled his phone back, swiping the screen to find something, “She’s a spoiled brat, but she’s just so confident in herself-a bit like her old man that way, eh PV?”


Venomous nodded, midway through a sip of water before he blinked, eyes widening an inch. He looked to Boxman, “PV?”


“Oh!! Well, ah-” Boxman looked rather shy again, twiddling his fingers together as his phone laid in his lap, “I figured, you know, if we’re going to be here a while and get to know each other...maybe we could have some little nicknames for each other? N-not that I’m sick of saying Venomous all the time of course, but something fun and funky, you know? You just get your uh P from the first name and the V from the second… it’s fun!”


Venomous blinked, and gave a little hum, “Guess it is kind of a mouthful sometimes… So that means I gotta come up with a nickname for you?” 

 

While he didn’t outright say it, the look on Boxman’s face told him he would very, very much like this-his eyes almost sparkling in anticipation as Venomous desperately tried to come up with something ‘fun and funky’. Mostly he looked at the window and debated how much of a three floor fall he could walk away from. What kind of nickname would this guy even like… definitely nothing to do with his prosthetics. Or his height or weight. Or the whole having seven kids debacle. Something impersonal but not demeaning, something like… like… “...B...Box?”


Boxman blinked, stared back at him for a long moment, “I…” Venomous braced himself-Box??? Really??? Was that the best he could come up with? What kind of stupid nickname was that??? Not that PV was super clever but it was at least better then-”I LOVE IT!”


Venomous blinked as Boxman went on, “It’s simple, direct, to the point-so it’s perfect for a guy like me!” He grinned wide to Venomous, “You and me, PV and Box, taking on the world! Once we’re out of here of course!”


He blinked a few more times, unable to shake the surprise off for a minute, then let his anxiety bubble out in a laugh, “O-oh! Haha, perfect! Alright! PV and Box! Two fresh and funky d-urrrrrrrrrrggh…” Laughing had been kind of a bad idea it turned out. The wave of nausea and cramps felt akin like a punch to the gut, and it took a lot not to puke in front of Boxman. And look up at him with a hurried wave of the hand before the guy could call the nurse in here. “Ffff...fine. I’m fine. It’ll pass, just...just gimme a minute…” 

 

Boxman’s brows had knitted up, drawing his hand back to look over Venomous hugging his gut and half doubled over, “Er...are you okay there, PV?”


“Yeah...hang on…” He grabbed his water, taking a few gulps and managing to ease himself back again as his stomach gradually settled. It’d probably feel like shit most of the night, but it was shit he could deal with. Still, he wished he hadn’t felt so winded by it, draping his head back against the pillows, hair spread out on it. Ugh, had he been sweating while he slept too? Maybe he’d invest in a shower when Boxman was seeing his own doc.


“...You’re sure you’re sure?”


Venomous gritted his teeth, words an irritated hiss, “Yes I’m sure.” He breathed out, “...Sorry. Just some of the antivirals they’re testing out.” He gave his flat stomach a pat, “Don’t think it helps I’ve just had coffee and half a pastry these last hours…”


Boxman blinked at that, looking like he was counting it out on his fingers, before he looked up with alarm, “That’s right!! You slept most of the meal times away!” He scooted over on the bed so he could be a little closer, definitely worried now, “PV why didn’t you say anything? We could’ve gotten you fixed up earlier!”


“Why?...Mm.” Venomous shut his eyes, “Kinda used to forgetting about it, to be honest. Fink usually reminds me about it, but the kid’s as exhausted as I am.” He reached out a hand to stroke her hair back, the girl giving a mutter to herself, snickering in her sleep before fading back out to long snores. He smirked, looking Boxman’s way, “Guess you’ll have to remind me, eh Box?”


He paused, puzzled at Boxman leaned over his bag, digging through it for a few minutes before he popped back up from the depths with a tupperware in hand, leaned over as much as he could so Venomous could take it. “Well if that’s the case, then you need these a lot more then I do.”


Once the lid was off, he could smell it already. It looked...not...terrible?...okay it looked like four of the lumpiest muffins he’d ever seen, each with a dollop of cream cheese frosting on top that had half melted into a glaze. But despite its looks, it did smell pretty nice. Like spices and something subtly sweet. Coconut maybe? Even with the nausea, it got his sweet tooth in drive again. He didn’t even notice Boxman was still talking.


“My son, Jethro, he made those! Help yourself though. Like I said, I don’t really need it that much.”


Venomous glanced over, giving a smile, “Thought you said you didn’t need a diet?”


“Well I don’t!!” He huffed, then glanced away with a bit of pink dotting his cheeks, “But you can’t go around not eating…”


“Alright, alright, just teasing…” He offered with a defensive wave of his hand, looking back at the muffins to pick out the “best” one. He settled for one that sagged to the left and had a nice, moist squish to it when he picked it up, taking a bite. Jethro was his youngest kid, wasn’t he? This probably wouldn’t be very g-...


“Er...PV?” Boxman gave a nervous laugh at how the man had froze in place after one bite, “You uh...you good there, pal?”


Venomous, still with the same wide-eyed expression on as he swallowed, turned to Boxman, “This is the best muffin I’ve ever had.”


“O-oh!!” Boxman’s eyes widened in genuine surprise, before that confidence came barreling back, arms crossed as he grinned, “Well they’d better be! I taught him that recipe myself and Jethro did get my talented hands and all! He’ll be as talented as me in the kitchen someday!”


Venomous was too busy finishing it off in a couple of quick bites, taking everything in him not to make satisfied noises while he ate. He was so used to getting muffins ordered in for the company break room or packaged kinds out the vending machines. He wasn’t used to biting into a homemade morning glory muffins like this one, to tasting all the pecans and coconut and perfectly shredded zucchini and carrots that made it taste far richer then it had any right to. He almost started to go for a second before he stayed his hand, setting the tupperware on the side table. “Well, maybe I’ll have to hire him on when he’s older.”


“Maybe you will!” Boxman cackled, the laugh slowly dying as he rubbed his neck, “Course, Jethro isn’t as much of the scientist yet, but we’ll see as time goes on! Right PV?”


“Mm… If most folks don’t enjoy at least some research and studying when they’re younger, chances of them liking it as they grow up aren’t exactly… “ Venomous gave pause, feeling akin to someone accidentally popping a balloon at a kids birthday party when Boxman deflated some. “I-I mean, sure! You know! Fink wasn’t into video games growing up but can’t get enough of them now! M-maybe it’ll be the same for your kid??” 

 

“At the very least, wouldn’t mind him baking more.” He eyes the tupperware for another moment before looking back up at Boxman. “So I’m dying to know-how’d you do it?”

Boxman straightened up, his face going red as a tomato, a nervous laugh coming out as he fidgeted his robotic hand to curl some of his locks, “W-well!! You’ve gotten the whole ‘birds and the bees’ talk before, no doubt!! I mean, get two people together-”

Venomous waved a hand, “No no, not the kids. Should’ve been specific.” He pointed instead to the hand going through Boxman’s hair, “That. That precision? That detail? Most folks getting a prosthetic could never move it so fluidly.” His eyelids dipped, a smile on his face as he lay on his side, eyeing Boxman, “You said you made it, right? So tell me how.”

Somehow, Boxman seemed to go even redder, giving a nervous, toothy grin back, “It’s er, actually very simple in design!! I just kinda...winged it??” He lets out a puff of air, laughing, “I mean er, shoot, I’ve never really had to explain it before, buh...okay!” He sat up, turning to face Venomous, rolling up his hospital gown sleeve. There wasn’t much to really move out of the way, but Venomous could see the sleeve of the artificial skin pulled up over the rest of his arm, and the sling-like offshoot that went around his shoulder and wrapped around his chest. Underneath it were two, small rectangular shapes that led to wires, barely noticeable under the skin, leading up to the hand that still tapped and fidgeted from nerves.

“So a lot of research into prosthetics has been looking into how to make a limb feel like a part of yourself, right?? Much of it had to do with how the nerves can be stimulated to create a feeling so strongly, the brain can get fooled into thinking there’s actually something tangible there.” As he spoke, his fingers flexed and curled, demonstrating the movement. “So I personally know this isn’t my real arm, but by believing strongly enough, I can control it and almost feel with it like it is.”

He raised it in a point, “Now here’s where it gets tricky, because the research they’ve been doing made this only really possible through advanced models and computers they have set up in their labs. Computers too large to be stored on one’s person to be really suitable for walking about with it.” He tapped the artificial side of his head, “Well, the brain is just one big computer, right? So I did a little fiddling-nothing like cutting my head open to put in any chips of course!! But-...hm. Here, maybe you should just feel it for yourself.”

Venomous found his balance taken, moving himself to lean out when Boxman took his hand and pressed it to the side of his head. For an older guy, he had...surprisingly soft skin. His cheek was baby smooth. Meanwhile Venomous was starting to feel like the mountain man (which reminded him to ask about getting a razor from one of the nurses.) Boxman almost shyly glanced down, cheeks going pink, “Ehehe...PV, I meant my skullcap?”

“Oh!! Oh right, yeah.” Venomous cleared his throat, moving his hand up. He blinked a few times, rubbing his hand over the smoother material, squinting till it clicked for him. “Vibrations?”

“You got it!” Boxman grinned, looking very proud of himself as he tapped a spot, “Their research concluded movement and feeling could be far more precise by using the nerve systems in the body associated with that limb, but it was the computer that was the problem! All I did was figure out a way around that computer problem-”

“By stimulating the brain directly?” Venomous’ eyes widened, staring right into Boxman’s, “You really took that risk?”

“Well it paid off, didn’t it?” Both his hands reached up, taking Venomous’ to hold, “Nobody flew the first plane they built perfectly. But what’s science without that risk of crashing? Doesn’t it just make it all the more exciting when it takes off anyway ?” 

 

No, it made it stupid to even try. To take such a huge risk without looking over all the angles, all the projections-there’s a reason testing phases were so drilled into someone studying these fields, to assure nothing did go horribly wrong… that’s everything the logical side of him tries anyway. But it can’t convince Venomous, who just stares at this man holding his hand, at the feeling of soft skin and hard built work gripping him firmly, and there’s a stirring in his chest he can’t exactly place. If anything, it’s like it was yesterday when he got so desperate to take a look at his eye that he just grabbed the man out of nowhere.

He was...excited. Genuinely excited. All this passion, all this drive … he’d forgotten what that felt like. He’d forgotten what it looked like. Like a sharp-toothed smile that damned anyone to say he was crazy or foolish, to rub it in their faces when it turned out everything he’d said had been right. That was the look Boxman gave him. And he didn’t know why yet, but something about that face had gotten his heart pumping like a piston in a drag race car.

“...Er...PV?” Boxman waved his hand in front of his face, “You alright there?”

Venomous snapped out of it, “Huh-what? Oh...oh yeah, I’m...gre-good. Good. Me am fine.” He shook his head quickly, “ I am fine!”

Boxman took another glance at the clock, letting out a quiet huff as he moved his hands off, “Guess I am keeping you up a bit, huh?? You should probably focus on getting some rest too. Don’t wanna keep you up too late and all.”

Venomous blinked till the words sunk in. The guy had a point-he could already feel that tired drain settling in on his bones, breathing out a sigh, settling back on his bed. “Yeah...might have a point there. But only if you do too, kay Box?”

“I will!! I promise!” Boxman idly reached over to his phone, quickly setting it back on the charger facedown when Venomous gave him a look, grinning sheepishly. “Cross my heart! Boyscout’s honor!” To demonstrate, he drew an X across his chest and held up one hand.

Venomous looked him over a moment longer, gave a half smile, and laid back down. He rolled over to get comfortable, shaking his head just a little when the phone screen cast a shadow over the wall. “Oh, and Box?” The tapping paused for a moment. “Wake me up for breakfast this time, okay?”

Somehow, it didn’t take as long to fall asleep again that night.

Course, he is somewhat regretting asking to be woken up later on, sipping at bland coffee that could stand another cup of sugar and staring at the triangle of ham and quiche missing most of the crust. He really wasn’t a morning eater-more of a ‘graze as you go’ kind of guy-but if Cosma was doing anymore of those tests today, getting into the habit of it might help. Still, he had no sense of trust for the egg fluid that was leaking over half his plate. “I can understand why you’d resort to sneaking out of here.”

“Right???” Boxman had already devoured half his breakfast, but he still looked peeved, “I swear, they should make a new diet plan just around hospital food!! I bet they serve all the good stuff at those restaurants down there!” 

 

Venomous smirked, “I bet Billiam just reserves those places for himself most nights. Doubt either of us could eat there, least not if it’s as ritzy as the ads claimed.” Well, he might if he got a forward on holiday pay. With Boxman putting three kids through college, he wasn’t so sure. “...If I’m able, I’ll get you lunch there when we get out.” He offered, charmed by the wide-eyed look this netted him from Boxman, distracted enough by it to force down a bite or two of quiche.

 

With the promise of an elegant lunch, Boxman had started flipping through channels looking for something good to zone out to. All fine and dandy, till a very familiar theme song got Venomous to choke on his coffee. 

 

“POINT! We are powerful operatives!”

 

Oh. God no. 

 

“Oooh!! It’s been ages since I watched this!!” The smile Boxman had on was like he’d spotted an old childhood friend and rekindled the relationship immediately.

 

“Ah...Box, maybe we could...not and say we did?” He had a smile on his face that looked like he’d tried to find out what glass tasted like by taking a big bite into a chunk.

 

“Huh?!” Boxman startled at the mere idea, sitting up straighter as he turned to Venomous, “Are you kidding me??? One of the best shows in recent years and you want me to change the channel?” 

 

“Yeah?” Venomous looked off like he didn’t care (which was a lie cause he cared a lot right now.) “I mean, it’s so...cheesy. And over the top. And the drama-“ 

 

“Now, PV, we might agree on a lot so far but THAT my bud is where I have to draw the line!” Boxman clasped his hands together, “I know it’s just a cheesy show made for children, but the drama! The heart! The action!! It was so much more then just a simple kid’s show!” He cleared his throat, “And my kids might have been obsessed with it for a time, so you know, ended up watching it a lot…”

 

The theme song ended and led into the opening title: A Grey Day for Greyman . Venomous hisses, “Like, That. You don’t think that’s not a little cheesy??” 

 

“Oh come off it, PV!” Boxman settles back, remote tucked into his lap, “It’s supposed to be a little cheesy! I think we can watch one episode, can’t we? Please?”

 

Well...as much as he was debating dialing for Cosma and asking her to move up his testing schedule, or if he could finagle the bed settings until it folded in half and crushed him, this was one of the tamer episodes: Greyman suffered a depression and got health tips from his teammates on how to cope with it in a healthy and realistic fashion. Supposed it wouldn’t hurt to let him watch it. “Alright, one episode, then we switch.” 

 

“HAH! One is all I need!” Boxman offered, “Once you see the writing and the dense worldbuilding and foreshadowing sprinkled throughout, there’s no way you won’t want to watch it! Shame it only lasted three seasons, but it was so lucky the creator was able to shift it to their vision at the last possible moment for how the series was really set to end!”

 

“Plus, and this is just my opinion, but it has some real hotties in it, doesn’t it???” 

 

Venomous thought it was safe to drink coffee again. He thought wrong. And this time part of it had come out his nose. He tried to cover it up as a cough, “Uh...you think so?” 

 

Boxman laughed, raising a brow, a hand to his chest, “Are you serious?? You might not like to show but surely you have to admit the actors are gorgeous. Foxtail alone was the fan favorite but Silver Spark AND Laserblast?? That duo alone were just gorgeous! Barely needed any makeup at all I bet!”

 

The bed was probably not designed to lean that far forward, but by god he was getting tempted to find out. “Uhuh, yep. I bet they are. For sure.”

 

“...PV, you’re not even looking at the tv.”

 

“I can hear them, can’t I?” 

 

Venomous was trying to think over what he wanted in his will, curled away from the TV, until his savior came in the form of some complaints from outside, muffled at first until they were right outside the room. “Alright alright!! Geez, you little shrimp! We wanna see our dad too you know??

 

“That’s right! You can’t keep both of us from going in!”

 

A young, spoiled-sounding woman’s voice followed up by one that had taken one too many Shakespearean vocal lessons then a young man should. Followed of course by his own little ray of sunshine.

 

“I don’t know either of you jokers!! How am I supposed to know you’re that Boxguy’s kids??”

 

“Well, last I checked our last names are Boxman, aren’t they Ray?”

 

“That’s what it says on my birth certificate. And my driver's license. Do you drive yet, little cretin?”

 

“I’M NOT A CRETIN!! Imma third grader!!”

 

“Ulch, well whatever that thing is, don’t feed it after midnight.”

 

The door opened and so entered the kids he probably would have crushed on back in high school. The girl had pink dyed hair, short shorts and crop top combo, and the look on her face that said out of all the places she’d want to be, this hadn’t even been in the top twenty. Standing right next to her was a tall young man who looked as if he’d stepped off a fashion magazine. Yet somehow had the body of a very athletic sports star in the making, done up in skinny jeans, a sports Jersey, and a spiked leather jacket to really set off those bad boy vibes. The pompadour on his head threatened to brush the ceiling, and the look on his face?... was one Venomous could only describe as ‘but Officer! My husband was in that car!’ sort of face.

 

“Father, are you aware of this small child patrolling your room??” 

 

Fink did her very best to scamper between the two, managing to get through with enough tiny punches before settling by Venomous’ side. “I’m not patrolling Boxman’s room! I’m trying to keep any weirdos from bothering boss!” Venomous pet her hair and gave them a beleaguered ‘kids, right?’ look.

 

Shannon rolled her eyes and crossed her arms, “Well, whatever. Long as she doesn’t try to mess with us.” Shannon leaned over and batted her eyes, “Isn’t that right, daddy?”

 

“Shush you two! Daddy’s watching his stories.” Oh boy, Boxman was getting invested now. Just about on the edge of his seat as the episode heated up, Greyman snapping at his allies before storming off in a huff.

 

Raymond blinked and his cool expression lit up like a Christmas tree on fire, “Oh!! You’re watching POINT?? Shannon, look! It’s been years, hasn’t it?”

 

...Boxman had said he’d watched this show with his kids…

 

“Huh? Ohhh yeah! Wow, dad, you still like this?” 

 

“Oh come off it, sis. We all know about the Laserblast pillow you kept in your room.”

 

How old would those kids be again…?

 

“Yeah well I know all about the magazine poster you smooched at night!”

 

“Gasp!! Oh the places you go. They wound me…”

 

Venomous’ eyes widened.

 

This is gonna be rough .” Laserblast proclaimed before the commercials started.


Chapter Text

 

So college had been a little tough to handle. So maybe the tuition promised for graduating valedictorian wound up funneled into the school funds and didn’t leave him a cent to feed himself on with most of his degree still waiting. Maybe he’d listened to that casting agent who said he had a rockin’ bod and a good jawline, who just happened to have a role open for him on some cheesy hero show.

 

And maybe, just maybe he’d signed that contract and ended up with his masked face plastered to action figures, cereal boxes, DVDs and gained a moderate but dedicated fan following, considered by some to be a cult classic.


And perhaps this had somehow led to the birth of his son and the whole reason he was here to begin with, true.



But even he thought this version of hell was a little too grim for his tastes.



POINT!



“We are powerful operatives!”



POINT!



“AND WE’RE ALWAYS COOPERATIVE!” 

 

POINT!



“We search for any sign of trouble!~”



ON. THE. DOUBLEEEEEEE!!!! YEAH!!



   V: fink please kill me.

 

She looked at her phone for a moment, then back up to Venomous with a huff, “Boss, you know I can’t do that.” She murmured, waving a hand down to the other bed, “Too many witnesses?? And I couldn’t do that to ya if you paid me!” Plus the whole ‘asking a child for it’ issue. He kinda figured that one in just from the look she gave him though.


But ‘just one episode’ had evolved into five by now, and it was emphasized by Boxman’s college-aged kids that they weren’t gonna be stopping anytime soon. Especially not when they had to sing the theme song together every. Damn. Time.



Boxman seemed like a fan, but he wasn’t a merch buying fan like these two were. Must have been the only reason he didn’t recognize him. Course Venomous had made a concerted effort to sweep Laserblast under the proverbial rug. Not only because it was just the most embarrassing choice he’d made in his life, but... He didn’t look much like the guy on screen anymore. He hadn’t for a good while, but he still had the voice. So obviously can’t speak till they leave, right?...Right??


“Oooh, father, this is a good one, isn’t it?? Do you remember how Shannon cried and cried later?”



“Ugh! Raymond, I did not!!” She batted him with a hand, “You were totally the one crying!”



“Kids, kids!! Let’s not fight in the hospital again!”

He blinked and looked over from the scene as Fink nudged him, gesturing for him to lean over, “Boss, who cares what those two think? You were, like, the coolest hero on that show anyway. Show it off!” His expression turned to a pained grimace, phone in his hand as he tapped quickly with his thumb. She paused to glance at her phone again, pouting up at Venomous after reading, “You’re panicking! They’re not gonna wanna smooch you!”

 

   V: implying I don’t have a smoochable face.

 

“You know what I mean!” Fink put a hand to her face and dragged it down slow, rubbing her little hands over it out of frustration. Boxman took a look over as the title card popped up (an episode called Sibling Revivalry Part 1 ) He was giving an apologetic smile and a thumbs up, his eyes slowly turning back to the screen, before the show started up and he got invested all over again. It must have been a while since he’d watched with his kids like this…

 

And...oh boy, it was one of the dramatic episodes too. He remembered after seeing his face on screen and spotting the glob of coverup they’d used to cover a shaving mishap on his chin. The makeup had irritated it and he’d ended up with a sore for a good week after. The episode had been Laserblast finding out he had a twin sister he thought died ages ago, with the big twist at the end of having her be a villain undermining them the whole time after faking her death. The snake costume made it hard to take her seriously, but he could still remember the actual tears Carol got to come up during the big ‘you lied to us!’ confrontation.

 

Venomous gave a thumbs up back and a grin that did everything but convince Boxman, thankful he wasn’t paying attention. He turned back to Fink again, biting his lip and looking quickly towards Raymond and Shannon and back to her, brows going up, hands clasped together in piety.

 

Fink crosses her arms as she stares back at him, before a slow grin spread across her face, “Okay...what’s in it for me?”

 

He knew a few options off the top of his head, typing them out on his phone. A new trike, another shooting-type game for her console, spiked bracelets, some of the metal albums that had Adult Content Warning plastered over the outside. She looked over all of them and just gave him a pout, rolling her eyes before she stood up on the bed to lean and whisper into his ear. He blinked a few times.



    V: really? you just wanna bake cupcakes?

 

She jabbed a finger at him, “Just you and me this time, boss! Carol makes ‘em all the time when I’m over and she lets me decorate too-but no KO around, got it??” Fink was blushing slightly, crossing her arms tight, “And you’re not gonna break your promise if I help, right? Cause then you gotta pay me back…” 

 

It took him a minute or two to remember. His work had him out late most nights, and his days off mainly consisted of being passed out on the couch or in bed until Fink woke him up to eat something. He tried to make up for it by grabbing whatever she wanted (she was spoiled, to be quite honest.) But he did remember a few times Fink had asked to do something with him around times he hadn’t scheduled himself to be busy. And he’d fallen asleep or booked something else or just...forgotten. His shoulders slump, letting out a soft sigh through his nose. He ruffled her hair, giving a little smile back.

   V: ok. no KO either.

 

Fink read over her phone, grinned, and leaned up to give his cheek a peck, pausing when she gets another text soon after, Venomous with a sort of guilty look on his face. Fink huffed, “No I don’t know when I’m gonna get along with a lame crybaby like him. Now you just hang back-” She cracked her knuckles, “-I got this, boss.”


Fink wiggled her way down off his bed and over to Boxman’s, having to get a few good hops in before she could get her way in between the kids, waiting just until Laserblast had started to speak to interrupt it, “Hey, what are you guys watching??”



Shannon was the first to look down, giving a half laugh as she puts a hand to her cheek, “What? This? Only one of the best shows out there-way too cool for a rugrat like you to get.”


“Really?? Gosh...cause it looks real boring to me!” Fink batted her eyes, “You guys must be super lame at your school, huh??”

Her expression faltered, seeming to deflate some as she stammered, “H-hey! Don’t just assume that cause of some show!” Shannon laughed, clearly nervous as she went on, “This...this show isn’t even that great anyway! Just a dumb show for kids, right Ray-Ray?”



Raymond blinked over, his eyes still glimmering from taking in the fashion choices the director used in this episode, “Huh?? Shannon, I thought you love-”



“LOVED! Loved, I loved it when I was a dumb little kid! HAHa!” She put her hands over Raymond’s mouth, but not strongly enough since he easily swept them aside.



“Sister, you can’t seriously be letting this four year old tell you what’s cool these days, can you?” 

 

“HEY! I’m eight!” 

 

“My point being that her opinion really doesn’t matter.” Raymond smirked down at her, “And I bet she doesn’t even know what happens in this episode.” 

 

“I know that those outfits look suuuper duuumb! ” Fink offered with a good look at her tongue. She was lying, of course, since she had gotten this ep memorized a long time ago to the point where she dressed as the villain for Halloween two years ago. But she was a damn good liar.

 

Raymond gave a scandalized gasp of alarm and for just a second, his pompadour seemed to droop, “I knew you were small. I didn’t know you were blind too!”

 

Shannon smirked, “What was that about not getting bothered by a four year old?”

 

“EIGHT!” 

 

Raymond scowled, then huffed and turned his angular face to the side, arms crossed with a pout, “She was not bothering me…”

 

“Clearly…” Shannon looked back at the TV, peeking up as the villainess emerges, “Oh oh! This is my favorite part! What was it, something like-“

 

“You never knew a thing!~” Fink finished, stealing Shannon’s thunder royally. The young woman cast her a stormy look, but she tried to shake it off, despite Raymond’s quiet chortling by her.

 

Fink turned her target to Raymond next, smirking towards Venomous a moment before looking up at him, “Hey, so how much hot glue do you have to put in there to keep it up?” She asked, pointing out his hair.

 

Raymond stiffened, but clearly he wanted to be the better person here, shaking it off with a hum, “Well, it’s not hot glue, but I use-“

 

“Wooow! I don’t care!” 

 

That was enough to wilt Raymond like a winter frost over a brand new rose, giving a strained smile before turning to quickly dig out a pocket mirror and comb. Did he really not look impressive enough.

 

Venomous watched the whole while with a slight smile on his face. There really was nobody better at annoying others then his daughter. Course he did feel kind of bad for Boxman here, who was looking more and more unsettled between watching the show and giving his kids reassuring glances or pats on the back. Their pride must get damaged on a regular basis...but he just needed to get them out of here and then he could breathe easier. Boxman would get it later on, right?

 

For a few minutes it went on like that. Fink asked the occasional question that acted like an arrow wrapped in cute patterned cloth to jab into the two kids. The two tried their very best to ignore it for both their own sake and so they’d be able to watch the show in some sort of peace. But their patience was wearing dangerously thin.

 

Shannon in particular looked wound up like a coiled spring, and Fink had clearly taken notice. She was still trying her best to just watch the show, but it was just gonna take one more push to knock her over. She let out a slow huff, before pausing then looking at Fink when she tugged on her crop top. “Ugh, what do you want?”

 

Fink gave the most innocent expression she could manage, “Oh. Nothing, really...just was wondering if when I get older, am I gonna be a hag like you are?”

 

Whuh oh. That might’ve been a bit too far. Venomous pulls himself out of watching to quickly ping some messages her way. 

 

      V: uh, Fink. cool it a bit?

 

“HAG?!” Shannon shrieked, hopping off the bed with a stomp of her heels, “What is your problem you little freak??” 

 

Crap.

 

Fink’s eyes widened for a moment, and her posture went from playful to aggressive in a second. While she leaned hard into the punk look, freak had been an off limits word for a long time. Venomous has learned that the hard way after the adoption, though it wasn’t something he dared think about again. Till now anyway. “You take that back right now .” 

 

“Why don’t you make me, squirt?” Shannon laughed, watching as Fink began to growl, “Aww, look at that. Is the little baby gonna cryyy?” 

 

Raymond was starting to look a little bothered now, brows up, looking to his sister with an unsure expression, “Er...sister, maybe she’s just tired. Take it easy-“

 

“Easy???” Shannon gave an incredulous laugh as Fink started to tear up, her fists clenched, “This little brat just started bugging us out of nowhere and suddenly she just starts insulting me! She’s the one with the problem!” 

 

Venomous swallows, tasting acid in his throat. It was his fault Fink was about to have a meltdown Why the hell did he ask her to do something so, so stupid?? On the TV, his counterpart was offering a hand to the villainess. “ Don’t take this path. Cmon sis...you can still do the right thing.

 

He opened his mouth, but didn’t get a word out before the TV suddenly clicked off. “Shannon-you’re going to apologize this instant.” Boxman had stood up in bed, and the look on his face was one of pure, unbridled fury. Apparently he’d been paying far more attention then Venomous gave him credit for.

 

The kids seemed to shrink down in an instant, Shannon still poised like she was about to say worse to Fink, finger outstretched. Raymond’s whole posture had drooped to make him look twice as small as before-a feat for a bigger guy like him. Fink had turned to look, her eyes teary but widening a bit, giving about as startled a look as Venomous was giving the man.

 

“B-But-“ Shannon’s eyes searched, her hand slowly drawing back, “She started it-“

 

“She is also a child, Shannon Boxman . And I know I raised you both to be above picking on someone younger then you. Now, sit down and apologize.

 

Shannon’s voice died in her throat, looking between Fink and her father for a long moment, before she sat back down, “I’m sorry, er…”

 

Fink sniffled and rubbed over her face a moment, a slight glare to her eyes, “Fink.”

 

“...Fink. Sorry, Fink.”

 

Boxman huffed, looking to Raymond, “You too Raymond Boxman. You needed to be more productive in stopping your sister.”

 

Raymond cringed when his name was uttered, looking to Fink and bowing his head slightly, “I’m...I’m sorry as well, young miss.” His head drooped like the horse with the longest face as he sat back down.

 

With those two taken care of, Boxman had turned his main focus over to Fink herself, taking a seat again and patting the bed for her to come up. She looked pretty wary, and with good reason with the glares he was just casting at his own kids, but she clambered up with the best effort. Boxman seemed to glance to Venomous for a split second, as if for approval (maybe a hint of disappointment) before he started.

 

“Is everything okay, Fink?”

 

Fink blinked and crossed her arms, gaze turning downwards, “Pff, yeah? Why wouldn’t it be…”

 

“It’s not good to lie you know. Least not without a very good reason.” Boxman set his claw on the bed, giving a small smile, “It’s pretty boring just sitting around in here, isn’t it? Only thing you can really do is look at a screen, run around the halls, and worry about your dad...that’s gotta be tough on you.”

 

She gripped her arms a bit tighter, “Yeah, well I’m supposed to be tough.”

 

“But you can’t be forever.” Boxman said, moving his hand so his palm faced up, “Now why were you egging on my kids, Fink? Were you bored?”

 

“No…” She frowns and gives a half shrug, “Maybe a lil... “



“Is there any other reason?” Boxman gave as disarming a smile as he could, “Whatever it is, I won’t be mad. I promise.”

 

Fink glanced over to Venomous, and it broke his damn heart. She was biting her lip, still looking so hurt and angry, but she didn’t want to tell on him. Maybe she didn’t want to lose a day just him and her, but he would’ve gotten it to her eventually…

 

His shoulders dropped as the words sunk in. Eventually … Crap, he’d been an asshole again, huh? Thinking about some petty pride for himself instead of his own daughter.  “Boxman… it was me.” He found himself starting. “I asked her to bug your kids till they left because...I can’t stand that show. For uh, personal reasons.”

 

Boxman blinked at that, “...seriously, PV? I would have turned it off if you just asked!”

 

“I tried to.” He breathed in and let it out slowly, leaning back to rub his neck, “I thought I did...I dunno. I probably should’ve been more direct about it, instead of all this sneaking around stuff.”

 

Boxman gave a soft huff, “I’ll say. I mean I’m not opposed to a little sneaking around myself, but to do it to a companion?” 

 

Companions?? Did he really think like that? Venomous was feeling akin to a turtle as he scrunched in on himself, his good hand on his arm to rub down the goosebumps. Disappointment in Venomous wasn’t uncommon. Just got truer every day.

 

While the mood between the two dads had gotten tense, Shannon had raised her brows, looking over to Fink, “...I gotta say. If that was you pretending to be annoying, you’ve got some good acting chops there, kid.”

 

“Indeed.” Raymond had collected himself, his hair taller then ever as he leaned over, “The drama club could use some fresh sparks like you. Once you get to college anyway…”

 

Fink looked surprised, giving a snickering laugh as she rubbed her own neck-a habit she’d picked up from her boss-“Well, you know, sure I could out-act you bozos any day if I wanted!”

Least Fink was better at lightening the mood. Venomous sent a fond smile her way, but it wasn’t doing much against the look Boxman was giving him. That sort of ‘why don’t you call more’ look that got someone squirming with guilt. He hissed in air through his teeth, rubbing his arm with increased velocity till he couldn’t take that look any longer. “Okay, Okay-here. Toss me that remote.” 

 

It nearly smacked him in the face before he managed to dodge, picking it gingerly off the bed to flick on the TV once again. The episode had ended but the marathon was still going, the title theme playing over another episode. He waited till just the right spot before he paused the footage-Laserblast having just burnt his name into the wall. “That guy right there you’re all a fan of. That guy is... was me.” 

 

Raymond and Shannon both blinked at this, letting loose with an almost anime-esque laugh, Shannon the first to point his way, “You’re Laserblast??? Seriously?? You two don’t look remotely alike!”

 

“Honestly!” Raymond snickered, “You can’t tell me you wore a muscle suit for the role. The way it moves is too real to be faked!”

 

“Besides, nobody’s even heard from the actor in, like, years!!!” Shannon laughed, “I mean, Percy Ogg went underground years ago! It’s one of the big mysteries of the show!”

 

Raymond snapped his fingers, “Right, right!! I remember you once wrote something about it. What was it called, er...spooky spaghetti!”

 

“Ugh, it's a creepypasta, Ray-Ray.”

 

“I was close enough!”

 

While the two of them bickered, Venomous gave a sigh, grabbing an extra pillow off the bed to strip the case off of, bringing it over his eyes to conceal them like a mask, holding it with his good hand and whistling at the two. 

 

Then he hit them with the smirk, “ How you doin’, Sparks?”

 

He knew he’d regret telling them at some point. Via hearing about it online or having paparazzi somehow end up swarming the hospital. But he will admit getting very, very satisfied by the sound of their jaws hitting the floor and the immediate shrieks of joy that came from the two.

 

Venomous uncovered his face with a cool little smile as they approached. “I just can’t believe it...it really is him!” Raymond clapped his hands to his cheeks, “Someone pinch me, I have to be dreaming this-OW!” 

 

Fink snickered at the glare she got, “What? You asked!”

 

Shannon had leaned forward, a slight blush on her cheeks, “Mister Ogg, can I...maybe...get a selfie with you?”

 

He gave a half shrug, “It’s Venomous now, but eh. What’s the harm?”

 

“Ooh ooh! Me too!!” Raymond offered, quickly waving his hand, “I have so many things you just have to sign!”

 

“Keep in mind, I only got one hand to work with.”

 

This part of the limelight he’d missed. The few fans who recognized him off the street enough for a photo and an autograph, who told him hopefully how they wanted to be like him someday. It was funny since he personally thought his performance was terrible. Most of his lines were phoned in and the only reason he got along so well with the rest of the cast was on account of being friends with them. Even Rippy Roo’s puppeteer-hell, he’d gone to her son’s Bar Mitzvah just a couple years before…

 

“I do have to ask, Mister Venomous.” Raymond had paused in admiring his new photos, a curious look on his face. “Why did you vanish from the spotlight?”

 

“Like, yeah, now that I’m thinking about it…” Shannon shut her newly signed compact to tuck in her pocket, “How come you’re all...yknow...skinny?” 

 

And there it was. The reason he didn’t tell anybody this shit. The reason he’d changed his last name. The reason he was stuck in this damn hospital to even begin with. The expression had gone out of his face and replaced itself with a hard clench of his jaw and a shift of his head so neither of them could look at him. 

 

Fink was by his side faster then you could blink, her arms out to block them off, “Alright chumps, shows over!! Give him some breathing room!” 

 

“Wh-Hey!!” Shannon pouted, “He didn’t even answer us!”

 

“Do I gotta bite you or something??” Fink snapped at the air, “I said beat it, bozos!”

 

Raymond gave a huff, planting one hand on her shoulder. “Come on, sis. It’s really not worth it...maybe he’ll tell us later. We have classes, remember?”

 

“Ugh...ffffffiiiiine…” Shannon let herself get pulled along by Raymond, pulling off only to give her dad a kiss on the head, “Feel better, daddy!” 

 

“Try not to move around too much, father!”

 

And as suddenly as they appeared, the two were gone again to probably strut their stuff onto a teen vogue cover. Leaving just the three of them again. Venomous breathed in and let out a long sigh, Fink patting his back, “Don’t worry boss, I gotcha! Nobody’s gonna mess with you on my watch-“

 

He looked over at her, reaching out to stroke her hair, then bring his arm around her to pull her in for a hug, “Don’t let me do that again.”

 

Fink blinked a few times, patting his shoulders, “Huh??”

 

“Make you lie for my sake.” Venomous swallows, “We can make cupcakes together whenever you want. Not as a reward for you doing my dirty work.” 

 

Fink looked like she didn’t know how to respond, just hugging him a little tighter. “...You won’t be too tired for it?”

 

He couldn’t promise that. He knows he can’t. “I’m gonna try.” He leans back, giving her forehead a peck, smiling at her, “Hey, you’ve been doing all this stuff for me. How about you get something nice for yourself downstairs, okay?” He nudged his head towards the hospital closet with a grin, “You can use the card~”

 

That did seem to perk Fink up quite a bit, hopping off the bed and digging through his clothes till she found it, pausing to look back at him. 

 

He gave a nod, “I’ll be fine.” He snickered, “There’s a reason this place has so many nurses.”

 

She looked reassured by that, grinning at him before she scampered out of the room to go spend her dad’s money. Venomous pulled out his phone once she was gone, starting on another message, taking pause when he finally noticed something weird about the room now.

 

“You’re awfully quiet, Box.” Venomous set his phone back on the table, “Something on your mind?” 

 

Boxman had his hands knitted together, his eyes on the pause screen, at Laserblast grinning to the camera as he looked behind himself. “So...that was really you?”

 

“Yeah…” Venomous sighed, resting his hand on his cheek, “About twelve years now since the last season.” He sent a wry smirk at Boxman, “Still think I’m a hottie?” 

 

The blush that spread on Boxman’s face got a cackle out of Venomous before the smaller man cleared his throat, “I-I mean, I suppose you’re still fairly attractive by most standards! At least, that is to say, um-“

 

“Box, take it easy.” Venomous’ laugh died down, grinning at him, “Just messing with you.” 

 

The man gave a flustered laugh, “Of course! Of course you Ah, were!” He cleared his throat again, “But er...I don’t feel like you’d want to answer for me, but...why did you quit? The show just started to really take off when you left…”

 

No Fink to block things off this time. He had started thinking up reasons already-he didn’t like acting, he’d wanted to focus on his actual degree, he’d donated his muscle mass to some poor orphan who only wanted to get ripped. Some lies, some truths in there, but not the main reason.

 

And yet, when he thought about lying to this guy...he didn’t...want to? Maybe it was the guilt from being so obtuse earlier, but Boxman had been upfront with him on nearly everything so far. He’d only known the guy a day or so, but it felt like he’d connected with him on a level he hadn’t with people for a good, long while.

 

Plus, he was kind of cute…wait, what?

 

Venomous cleared his throat, trying to shove that thought way back for now to focus on what he actually wanted to say, “Do you know about CFS?”

 

When Boxman stayed quiet, Venomous went on, “Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. It usually affects women somewhere around their early twenties. Very rarely it also hits men.” He looked to Boxman with a smile, “Guess I won the lotto there.”

 

He leaned his head back on the pillows, eyes staring up at the ceiling tiles, “I was brought onto the show when I was twenty. It hit about two years later.” Venomous hummed, “It was funny, you know? I thought for a while maybe I’d been trying too hard or working out too much. I went to bed earlier, took my vitamins, took down my routine from six days a week to five, then to two.” 

 

“And you think to yourself ‘this is temporary. I just need to relax and stop worrying about it. It’s not like I’m gonna croak.’” He swallowed, shuttling his eyes, “Then you pass out in the middle of lifting weights. If Carol hadn’t been there, my neck would’ve…” He hadn’t realized he’d been holding his breath until he exhaled, “...anyway.”

 

He leaned forward again, looking over his arms, “I couldn’t keep up with the body type they needed, so they wrote me out of the show. Killed off my character and the show got canned a bit after that. By the time the show was off the air a year, nobody recognized me. Tabloids and forums and blogs acting like I’d just up and vanished.”

 

“So you gave them what they wanted.” Boxman finally said, eyes wide.

 

Venomous clicked his tongue and pointed a pistol finger at Boxman, “Bingo. Changed my name, grew my hair out, got my medical sciences degree and...here we are.”

 

“Here we are…” Boxman knit his fingers together, sitting back on the headrest and pillows, “...in a way, you and I aren’t so different, PV.”

 

Venomous looked over, a wary expression on his features, “How so?”

 

“Well...at some point or another, we were both vastly different people.” His thumbs tapped together, “Though I guess that’s an unfair comparison. You didn’t exactly choose your path now, like I did. But at least you turned it around, right? Big billing company man, two lovely kids, enough cash to let your daughter use a credit card without worry. Must be nice sometimes, right?”

 

“...sometimes.” He breathed out and leaned back till he laid flat on his back, staring up at the ceiling, “Most of the time I just wish I had the energy to use it.” 

 

Boxman mimicked the gesture after a moment, laying back to look at the ceiling with him. For just a few minutes it was peaceful, quiet even. And it took Venomous that time to realize he’d never really told that story to...well, anyone really. Even Fink he’d only told about his health condition in the broadest of terms. Now he’d just spilled his heart to someone he’d only met a day or so. And he felt...good, about it. Like he could breathe a bit easier.

 

But the peace couldn’t last forever. Boxman’s eyes popped open, turning to face Venomous, “Say, when you were talking about a Carol earlier, would that happen to be…?”

 

“Carol Kincaid?” Venomous nodded, “She’s my ex.”

 

Boxman sat bolt upright, stared for a moment longer. Outside the hospital, people in the parking lot could hear someone scream, “I KNEW IT!!!”

 

Chapter Text

“-I mean when you think about it your chemistry just made far too much sense on the whole of things. Did the writers know about it when they added those lines about you two being two of hearts?? Oh! Or how about the scene on that sunken ship where you held her tight and never let go?”



Venomous is regretting laying down. With how many words Boxman was piling on top of him it was gonna make it very difficult to get up again. “Box…”

 

“And the PROM! How could I forget the prom episode?? That alone just had your interactions getting the fans wild for ages! At least I assume so since I did get around when the third season was wrapping up so I didn’t see the height of fan interactions but the archives just went on for pages and pages-“



“Boxman.” 

 

“You know I’m betting you anything that if the show was around today you would have been shipped with Foxtail. Two strong individuals matching in wits and strength, the power-”



Lord Boxman. ” Venomous moved the pillow off his face to look at him, “You’ve been going on about this for twelve full minutes.” He sat upright, “If I wanted to hear about the show I was on for that long, I’d pull up a video essay on it, alright?”



Boxman blinked a few times at the full name, stammering once he realized his error, “Right!! You are so right, PV! Sorry, I forgot you’re not a big fan of it, ehehe…” He pushes his fingers together, “But you know, the show is all I really have to go off of with you two. I had no idea you actually dated each other behind the scenes! I can’t stop thinking about what it must’ve been like.”



Venomous pondered that a moment, “...I guess like any other relationship. We were in love for a bit, then when things got tough...it didn’t work out.” He looked over, “I did get one of my kids out of it at least. And Carol and I aren’t like mortal enemies or anything. But that’s the gist of it.”



Boxman pouted at that, waving his hands out, “PV, you have a real habit of making an interesting life sound like the most boring thing in the world! C’mon, where’s that pizazz?? What made you fall in love to begin with??”


“Mr. Venomous?” There was a soft knock on the doorframe, and Venomous had no idea how thankful he could be to see a nurse there waiting for him, “They’re ready for your CT scan today if you’d just come with me?”



“About time.” Venomous got up, looking to Boxman as he went, “And maybe it’s because my life is more boring then it sounds.” He shrugs, “Seeya in a bit, Box.”


“O-oh! Alright, see you, PV!” Boxman waved him out with a chuckle, looking away soon as he thought Venomous wasn’t looking. Once he was out of earshot, Venomous gave a sigh as he followed the nurse down those overly decorated halls.



Today had been a whirlwind that made him want to pass out already. Between dealing with two of Boxman’s kids, his own, and unveiling his past as Laserblast, he was craving curling up in a dark little hole somewhere and not coming out till maybe a good decade or so had passed. He had felt good about telling someone why he quit, but those kids were probably posting all their pictures, exposing the new name change. Boxman with all the questions about his relationship with Carol. And Fink...he just knew she was going to chew him out any minute now. Least he’d left his phone in the hospital room.



He just felt tired down to the bone, and the sooner he was out of here, the sooner he’d never have to worry about his roommate or his huge family or that big, brilliant smile he gave...the smouldering look his eyes took on when he was mad. The way he’d talked to Fink, made sure she knew that whatever she’d said or done hadn’t been all her fault…

 

“Mister Venomous?” He snapped out of it when the nurse tapped his shoulder, “We’re not there quite yet. Just a little further, okay?”



“...R-right.” He walked along with her, hand coming up to rub over his face, a low growl in his throat. What the hell?? No, he’d only known the guy for a day or two, maybe three now. He must be more exhausted then he thought.



Dr. Cosma was already there alongside the CT scan technician-a young man covered nearly head to toe under his scrubs in tattoo work that covered him in bones as if he was a walking skeleton, even his face tattooed like a skull. Venomous gave a little smile at that, “Lemme guess-Nu or Black metal, kid?”



The technician looked up from his work and smirked with that skeletal face, “Only the classics for me, bub! Though if you had a gun to my head, ehhh...nu.”



Venomous snapped his fingers with a laugh, “Missing out there, but I can’t blame you. Black metal kinda fell out of focus lately-”



“Mister Venomous, if you’re done.” Cosma spoke up, sending the young man immediately setting back to work in a hurry, “We’ll make sure this gets done quickly and after I’ll get a few more blood samples from you, see how we’re looking on the antiviral treatments.”



“Well if I’m still walking and talking, probably worse then you hoped.” Venomous offered, the nurse leading him into the other room before he could hear Cosma’s annoyed huff. Ah, the CT scanner. Sometimes it felt like he was meeting an old friend again. Other times he’d wanted to kick it a good ten or twenty times after getting stuck in one when it malfunctioned. Most times, like today, he was amicable towards it, laying back on the table with his arms at his sides as the machine set itself to work. At least he was until it actually started. The machine droned like it hadn’t been used since the eighties and seemed to stutter once or twice before it moved along.

 

He shut his eyes and tried to focus on breathing slow. Alright so Billiam could afford fountains and decorations but not upgrade basic equipment. Makes sense. Lined up right. Didn’t mean he had to get mad about it, even if this scan went wrong and this was all a big waste of time...man what he wouldn’t give to have his bonsai to fiddle with about now.



But much like a painful shot, it was soon over and he could breathe easy knowing his precious time lying in a hospital bed wouldn’t be interrupted any further. Blood samples were so easy to take these days he didn’t give it much impact in his schedule. “You seem like you’re in better spirits, Venomous.” Cosma spoke up as she filled small test tubes with his blood. “Maybe these tests are helping you after all.”



Venomous rolled his eyes, “It’s only been a few days. Don’t think it works that fast.”



Cosma gave a soft hum, smiling his way, “Well something must be working.”



“Hopefully better then the CT over there.” He raises a brow, “Is it always so loud?”



Cosma huffed at that, the smile dropping off her face, “It needs an update is what it needs. Course I tell that to Billiam but does he listen?” She patched up his arm, setting to his cast next, snipping it away till his fingers were exposed, patching them together with fresh gauze and a straightening stick in between, “Try not to move those too much. I’ll try to see about a finger guard you can use if you need it.”



“Thanks…” He got lucky in a way. Only breaking a few fingers instead of something worse. Still didn’t help when he started thinking about it. Bits of memory from the fall came at him, but not enough to form a solid picture besides crashing into his hand as he came down. Fink was probably there to call the ambulance-knew most of the numbers by heart at this point...maybe he’d study up on ganache to make those cupcakes really worthwhile.



There was a soft knock on the door, that nurse from earlier poking her head in, “Doctor Cosma? Mister Venomous has a guest stopping by-she wants to walk him back to his room. Is that alright? Name is Carol Kincaid?” 

 

Venomous sat up a bit straighter, his eyes widened, and looked to Cosma.



Cosma seemed to take a glance at his chart, giving a nod as she puts it to her side, “Trusting you don’t have a problem with that, right?”



He let out a soft sigh, smirking. Course she wasn’t content to grab Fink and head out, “Nah, it’s fine. I’ll be in good hands, doc.” Mostly good hands. He wasn’t sure if Carol was gonna give him one of her world-class back-breaker hugs though...and frankly, he didn’t have the confidence right now to assume she wouldn’t. 

 

On the way out, the doctor gave his shoulder a pat, smiling at him, “Whatever has you feeling better, keep it up.” She walked back into the office, leaving him standing in the doorway with a toned, blond woman standing outside.



Course she was all smiles when he steps out into the hall. She had that way about her, a natural friend to whoever she met and a knack for talking the biggest secrets or life stories out of anyone and everyone she met. He’d lose track of the burger runs after a long, late shoot where she’d chat up the kid at the register and find out that his aunt died or her dog got a new leg or their grandparents had moved back to Korea. Course it also didn’t help that she was built like a brick house.  

 

See, unlike him, Carol had kept up on her exercises. Especially now that she owned the training dojo in Lakewood. Even before the show though, she’d made a name for herself as a very good stuntwoman, a fantastic wrestler, and winner of best spaghetti at the Lakewood county fair three years running. In short, she was perfect. He was not. 

 

Hence why the breakup.

 

Carol gave him that big smile with the gap in her teeth shining through, dressed up in a tracksuit and a pair of boots. And she was wearing the good lipstick. Oh, god, had she been on a date? She whistles through her gap, “Wooow...looking like garbage, Percy!”

 

Venomous smiles in a way that shows most of his teeth, “And you look…” his shoulders slump. “Great.” 

 

Carol laughed, clapping him on the shoulder, “Well thanks! Sure you look good outside the fluorescents!” Her arm went around his shoulder, turning to give the nurse a wink and an OK sign, “I got it from here, hun! Don’t even sweat it!”

 

He nearly said something to the case of ‘No actually you can come to it’s okay miss’ which would have come out as ‘Help me’, but he didn’t get either out before he was walked down the hall and around the corner. Carol could be a fast walker when she wanted, but she was taking her time. Whether it was because Venomous couldn’t keep up or because she wanted to take as much of his time as possible was a line as thin as paper.

 

“So...Fink happy to see you?”

 

“Oh, happy as a clam! Bites and all!” Carol clapped him on the back and grinned, “KO brought along his card collection and just started hugging her soon as he saw her!”

 

Oh Fink was gonna be pissed . “Thanks for coming by for her, Carol. Just didn’t feel fair keeping her here.”

Carol opted for rubbing his back instead of patting it, since the last one had nearly doubled him over, “Yeah...I figured I’d stop by and grab her stuff, check in on ya before I hopped out.” 

 

He waggled his hand with the busted fingers, “About as well as I could be. They’re doing more testing here to figure me out.”



“Again??” Carol knit her brows at that, “Didn’t they do that at the last hospital?”



“Well, this one has an esteemed doctor who thinks she can make some headway.” He glanced to Carol, “Besides, haven’t been to this one yet. It’s got an...interesting look compared to the others.”



Carol let out a soft hiss through the gap in her teeth, grimacing as they passed by another gold cherub of Billiam, “Yeaaah...looked a lot better before it got bought out. But most of the docs are the same as when K.O. was born, so you roll with it.” She glanced his way, “Is it doctor Cosma?”

He stared her way, blinking in surprise, “How did you-”


Carol just smirked, “The sign on her door, dummy?” She tapped gently on his head with a curled fist, “Relax! She’s a good gal! Comes by the Dojo couple times when she’s got a patient needing workout advice or a good physical therapy locale.” She gave a little sigh, “If anybody could figure out something new, it might be her, right?”



Venomous gave a sigh of his own, nodding. He doubted it. Carol had always hoped that maybe something would come along to give him some sort of answer. But he’d spent enough years and been to enough doctors to know that not much would really ‘fix’ him like she might have wanted. Make him someone who would have actually been there for her, been there for their kid, maybe even gotten that season four the showrunners talked about. Maybe someone who would have still loved her and not run off like a-


“Percy?” Her hand had ended up at his elbow, and she was giving a half smile at him despite the concern clearly along her eyes, “You were spacing out there, pal. You okay?”



“...Just tired is all.” He let out a deep sigh and rolled his shoulders till the muscles stopped tensing, “How’s K.O. holding up?” Change the subject. That always helped.

 

Carol took notice, but didn’t say anything, pulling out her phone instead, “Oh you know him. He’s still running around talking about the Aquarium this weekend.” She gave Venomous a look, “Though I don’t know why you guys hung around the deep sea tanks for so long.” She’d pulled up on her phone an image he’d texted her. K.O. standing by a tank looking shocked at an anglerfish floating merrily along in the tank.



Venomous smiled at that. K.O. had asked for his help taking that one. “What? They’re one of my favorites. Plus-” He leaned over to swipe photos of K.O. squaring up to some tanks and posing cutely to others to one he’d taken closer to the end of the day, relieved he’d sent it her way. K.O., all tuckered out near the end of their day, dozed off in the circular window looking into one of the jellyfish tanks, giving a sleepy peace sign as he struggled to keep his eyes open. “-you gotta admit that’s one for the albums.”


As if she’d just seen it for the first time and not definitely been looking at it every time she opened her phone, she cooed and put a hand against her chest, “Awh...Yeah, that is a good one.” She looked at him with a teasing grin, “But show him the dolphins next time, capiche?”



“Whaaat?” Venomous laughed, “Those things are assholes . Least a gulper eel won’t go out of the way to beat down on some other fish. I’m trying to give our kid a good lesson here.”



That got a laugh out of her and a light shove on him, which just got another snicker going from the man as they walked along. Carol scrolled through photos, showing a few from before the aquarium that she’d taken. One with K.O. and one of his school friends(?) sorting through a gigantic card album. Another with them outside the Lakewood forest, K.O. with a net in one hand and a big, squirming lizard in the other, a huge grin on his face. And another of them on the couch, Carol’s leg in frame as K.O. seemed to be extremely excited about something on the TV, his image pretty much a blur on camera.


If he’d done at least one thing good with his life so far, least it’d been his kids. When she’d gotten to another pic-this one of K.O. taking a nap in the forest, Doctor Cosma’s words sent a sudden knot into his gut.


I’m sure if you could prevent it from happening to anyone, it’d be your child.

 

He swallowed. Dr. Cosma must’ve given him a stronger dose today. That’d explain the sudden nausea and chills he felt. She’d just given him the blood test and scan of course, but sometimes the antivirals took a bit to kick in. “Carol, does K.O. take naps often?”



Carol glanced up from her phone, “Well, he is growing like a weed. Poor thing is usually conked out by the time we head home most nights.” 

 

What did K.O. do most days? Go to school, hang out with his friends, do chores-he should have enough energy at the end of the day for other stuff, right? Sure he was growing but he was also a kid. Kids were loaded with energy. Didn’t he have a lot growing up? Carol was non stop most of the time, so he’d be too...


“...Percy?” She was giving him that worried look again, “You’re really pale...we’re almost there, but if you need to sit down-”



He looks up, his eyes wide as he’s snapped out of his haze, clearing his throat. “I’m fine .” He stated curtly, gulping down acid and breathing out through his nose, tone calmer when he spoke again, “I’m fine. Really. Just a head rush.”


“You’re sure?”



Venomous gave his best reassuring smile, “Sure as sugar, Sparks.”



Carol gave a huff, nudging him again, “Seriously?? You always use Sparks when you want me off your tail.” She slung an arm around him, turning on a pivot so she was in front of the man. God they were so close to his room he could hear the TV from here. Why’d they have to stop now?? “C’mon, something’s bugging you. And if it’s about K.O., you ought to tell me.”



Venomous faltered. Crap. He fell back on it without thinking.



“Please...did something happen this weekend? I mean, he said he was worried when you dropped him off, but just that you were tired, and...you’re usually tired but that was the day you fell so…”


He was being paranoid. Shaken up by talking about the past. That’s the only reason he started thinking about it again. About K.O. in his shoes: passing out in class, struggling to keep up, about how tired he’d been after running around the Aquarium. Did he always tire himself out? No… no he can’t have, right? That wouldn’t have slipped by him. He was still a kid. He was eleven. The condition develops around twenty. He still had nine years. Nine years before anything would happen to him. K.O. was okay. He’d be healthy like his mom. He’d be perfect like his mom.


“Percy?” Her hand was on his arm again. When had he started shaking so much? He could hear the worry in her voice, see it on her face as she gripped him, but he couldn’t make out what she said. The thrum of his heart beating in his ears blocked it out. The air felt thin and… god he was having a panic attack, wasn’t he? That look on her face… Dammit. God dammit she was taking pity on him again. Just like last time.


His teeth snap together. His hands clenched into shaking fists. He pulls his arm back with enough effort to send him stumbling back a few steps, his eyes wide with panic. “I said I’m fine!” All around them, the hospital seemed to go quiet. Now he could hear just how rough his breathing had gotten, the way his hands shook, and the cherry on the shit sundae: the wide eyed, fearful look Carol was giving him, her hands tucked back against her. She had every right to of course. He was acting like a frightened animal. Who knows if he would have struck or not. He reached out like he didn’t fully grasp using his arms just yet. “Carol, I… s-sorry, I just-”



“It’s fine.” Carol moved her hands so she rubbed her arm instead, her eyes cast down on the ground, breathing in deeply through her nose before she started again, “It’s fine! You’re tired, you don’t like being here. I get that.” She looked like she wanted to say something else, looking up at him for a beat or two, then she faltered and turned away from him, “Just... let me get her things?”



His shoulders slumped, arms drooping with it till they stuck to his sides again. “...Okay.” 

 

Carol nodded, guiding him the remainder of the walk back to his room. It already felt like his feet were turning into lead blocks when he gets back, dragging the floor till he’s near his bed, leaning his leg against it. Boxman was off his bed at least, the bathroom light on and the shower running with it. It made it easy to just focus on handing over Fink’s gaming system and her overnight bag from the motel, to let the utter silence sink in while Carol hefted the bag over her shoulder.

 

“Thank you.” She looked him over a long moment, concern flared in her eyes. “...Call me when you’re feeling better, okay?”



He breathed in, letting his answer out on the exhale. “Okay.”

 

“And the kids too, alright?”



He nodded. His breathing was calming down. Not that it helped him feel like less of a complete idiot and jackass. “I will.”


“Okay…” Carol moved over, cautious as she patted his elbow, “Try to get some rest, Percy.”


Try to get some rest ...how many times had he heard that one before? He nodded again, considered hugging her, and thought better of it. Instead waiting till she’d squeezed his hand, turned away, and walked down the hall and back to the lobby elevator, hearing the distant ‘ding!’ when it arrived. Then he sat down on the bed and hugged himself tightly, his nails digging into his arm. He stayed like that for a good, long while, leaving small divots in his skin, before he allowed himself to lay down on his side and stare out the window.



He could see her jeep outside, turning his gaze up when the shrill yells of Fink started coming off the parking lot. He could hear Boxman singing to himself in the shower, and the buzzing of his phone on the nightstand, knowing it was Fink angrily texting at him about the trick he pulled. She’d be pissed off for a while, but she had his card so she couldn’t complain much. And it was a beautiful day outside: partly cloudy with a bright yellow sun peeking through. She’d be better off out there playing her video game then here, stuck with a wreck like him.



He can hear the door open, hear Boxman saying something to him. A question, maybe, by the tone of voice. But he can’t make out what it is. So he doesn’t bother answering. He doesn’t bother doing anything for a while, watching the skies as the clouds bunch together till his eyes shut of their own accord.


The next time he’s up, the sunny skies he’d slept to had been replaced by pelting rain and a thunderous CRACK that woke him up far earlier then expected. In a way, it was comforting. Least the sky looked about as shitty as he felt now. He rubbed the sore marks on his arm before sitting up slowly, trying to shake the haze off his mind.



His phone buzzes, demanding power if he wants to read any of Fink’s angry texts. He holds off for now with a sigh. Probably a few from Carol too, asking him if he was okay or needed anything else. Her face flickered in his head, so he flipped the phone so it was face down on the table, plugging it in to charge. Gave him time to think about the last few hours over with the pelting rain in the background.

 

Maybe he’d been wrong about telling Boxman his backstory. He could have just kept shoving it down and not think about it. That had worked fantastic before! Instead of being stuck thinking about it and how much of a screw up he really was! Hell, what right does he have to even think about the kid’s energy levels! He could barely judge his own! That was the only reason he was here! It was enough to make him laugh!



And he nearly does, if not for taking notice that he’s got two sets of eyes on him, looking over with that panicked grin still plastered across his face. One of them is Boxman’s, of course, blinking up from a series of documents and blueprints set along the table. The other is...another Boxman.



Oh god I lost my mind already. Three days is a new record. He thinks, rubbing his arm over his eyes and taking another look. 

 

The man definitely looks like his dad: the shock of jade tinged hair over one eye, the rounder body, and the chubby face Boxman sported. But that was where the comparisons fell flat. For starters, this man was much nicer dressed in a dark slacks, black vest, and purple shirt combo. He was also a good foot taller then his dad, with broad shoulders and a bewildered expression stuck permanently on his face, a pair of square glasses sticking out on the edge of his nose. This was the kind of guy Venomous saw easily handing over his lunch money and proclaiming chess as his favorite sport. In short, a nerd.

 

A nerd who’d been in the middle of a conversation it seemed, clearing his throat, his voice surprisingly smooth for an awkward-looking guy, “Aaanyway… about these reports, father-”



“Ernesto! Don’t be rude!!” Boxman sat up, gesturing to Venomous (who’d somehow managed to get the crazed look off his face and knit his fingers together, the look of true peace), “I told you I was going to introduce you to my roommate once he was up!”

 

Ernesto straightened up like he’d been zapped with a cattle prod, his eye wide as he looked over to Venomous, clearing his throat after a moment, “Er, sorry, sorry...We were just hashing out some business details… you understand, right?“

 

“For the most part.” Venomous offered with a shrug. He could see bits and pieces of the papers on Boxman’s bed. Some tax forms, deduction sheets, bills for various supplies and stock to be shipped to a Boxmore Enterprises. He did mention that he had a business for the sort of things he’d made for himself, huh? What got most of his attention was the blueprints. His eyes were drawn to the rougher sketches and scribbles detailed across the pages within the neater lines of construction details, a few of the spots scratched up and torn where an errant line got just a bit too erratic.



The earlier passion Boxman showed came to mind. So it was a surprise when he was suddenly looking at an outstretched hand instead, reaching out somewhat dumbly to take it. “Ernesto Boxman. Company representative for my father’s business when he’s out of commission!” 

 

“Er… “ Don’t just stare at him, idiot. Smile. He smiled in a way that showed all four of his canines, “Perceval Venomous. Smiling politely.” Wow. No one would ever guess you had a meltdown earlier.

 

Ernesto squinted, shaking his hand in a firm grip with a look on his face like he was trying hard to remember something, “Venomous...interesting name, sir.” 

 

“Thanks. Made it myself.” He leaned over to try and get a look at Boxman’s bed again, Ernesto tapping his jaw as he still struggled to remember. “What’cha got there, Box?”



He perked up soon as he had Venomous’ attention again, grinning and looking among the pile before he held up a particularly good one, “Why I’m so glad you asked, PV! This right here happens to be a favorite of mine.” The blueprint he brandished was something it took Venomous a minute to fully ‘get’. The contraption was a simple mechanized arm, designed to hook onto a belt that would loop around a tree. He could see small solar panels set up along the belt. As the arm went out, it ended in a bird-like shape that looked oddly familiar. “I call this baby the Prodder!”


“The Prodder.” Venomous repeated, pointing to the bird, “Is that a woodpecker?”


“Now, let’s say that you’re the owner of a lovely little lemon tree and you’re just so excited to make that sweet, sweet lemonade...but uh oh!” Boxman pointed to a group of stick figures along the bottom, gathered around the tree, “Some hooligans think they can swipe your lemons for themselves instead! That my friend, is when the Prodder gets to work!”



He pointed next to the eye of the woodpecker, “When you set it up, you can program it to recognize anybody you want so they’re allowed to pick. But for anyone it doesn’t recognize-” He turned his hand to the beak, “-it will peck relentlessly at until they go away! And with the ability to move along the belt, it can ward off foes from any angle!” Boxman grinned up at PV, “What’cha think? Pretty smart, right??”



Venomous gave a hum, looking the design over. “I do like the look of it… And you’re going to paint the arm like one of the branches, I gather...except for one problem.” He tapped the group of stick figures, “Sure it’ll deter at least one, maybe two people. But if those people distracted it, another one could easily come around to take something, couldn’t they?”



He offered a hand to Boxman, “Got a pen?”



Boxman was still scrutinizing his design, huffing when he seemed to realize Venomous had a point. His eyes went to his hand, blinking a moment or two before fumbling for a pen and an empty envelope Venomous could use as paper.


Venomous scooted closer to the nightstand, “Here’s what I’m thinking-make the arm a bit thinner, keep the length, but you add three more.” He scribbled it down, marking it with a belt around a tree and topping each arm with a small bird. “You could make the cameras smaller. Now that you’ve got four of them, you won’t have to worry about it missing anything. And since you don’t have to worry about a complex design for the birds-” Venomous added a few lines, indicating a wireless signal, “-you can add bluetooth function. Set up an app for folks so they can check out the cameras anytime.” He looked up, taking pause at the slack-jawed look on Boxman’s face.


He cleared his throat, quietly nudging the pen and paper back, “Course, those are just my ideas. You don’t have to do anything with it, if it’s stupid or anything-”

“Are you crazy?!” Boxman had stood right up, grabbing hold of Venomous to pull him face-to-face, “This is so clever!!” He released one hand to grab the paper, “If we set up a bluetooth signal, you could even add in speakers too. To yell at people trying to steal it!”



“Or to play music or bird calls?” Venomous tilted his head, eyes widening a bit further now that Boxman clearly liked it. “Make it a dual system. Security and entertainment so customers get the bang for their buck?”



“See? That’s brilliant!!” Boxman set it aside and grabbed Venomous by the shoulders, “I can’t believe I didn’t think of that! I could just kiss you right now!”



Venomous could feel himself turn a solid magenta, eyes wide as they’d go, “Beg pardon?”


“Father!” Ernesto stepped in between the two, pushing Venomous gently back to his own bed and sitting his father down.

 

Boxman growled with a start, “Hey! I was in the middle of something, son!”

 

“I’m just following what the doctor said! You know you can’t be standing up and moving so much. What about your...condition??”



“It was just an appendectomy!” He crossed his arms, “I don’t need all of you acting like I’m gonna keel over from it!” 

 

“But the surgeon said you needed rest! You’re not as young as before!” Ernesto rubbed his hands together, “And it’s only for a few more days anyway…”

 

“Pah!” Boxman gave another huff, “I don’t even have the IV anymore. I think I’m okay to move around a little.”



Ernesto still fretted, his fingers knitting together nervously, trying to look over his father to make sure he wasn’t just too weak to function or delirious. “ Still… they even recommended that diet and everything…”



He clearly wasn’t. Just pretty damn pissed if Venomous was reading him right, arms folded like he was trying to suck them into his own body. “Uh, yeah cause they think I’m ‘a little heavy’.” He said, making air-quotes, “And I told them I didn’t have a problem with that! I like my puff, son!”


“I know, father, but…”



Admittedly it was taking a minute or two for his brain to catch up again and not just cling to how smart this guy thought he was. To not think about the way his eyes had sparkled as he’d heaped on praises. Wanting to kiss him...


He shook his head and cleared his throat roughly, “Ernesto.” He waited till the young man turned his way. “I know you’re worried about your father, but I’m keeping an eye on him. Guy’s about as healthy as a horse. I don’t think a little standing will kill him.”



Ernesto frowned, “As much as it’s appreciated, sir, you’re not the doctor around here.”


“No but I’ve had an appendectomy before.” He smirked, “And I’ve been to plenty of hospitals before. Seen a lot of folks who end up bedridden along the way, not able to get up and walk. Wanna know what happens when a patient can’t move around at all?”

 

That got the kid nervous from the look of it, still trying to stay tough with his arms crossed. “... W-what uh… what happens?”



“Well, just a little thing called muscular atrophy.” Venomous looked him in the eye, “I’ve heard of some folks not being able to walk when they get out of the hospital. Especially around your father’s age. And oh, sometimes they probably get it back, but if your dad is older, well…” He gave a darker laugh, “No...I don’t wanna say…”



Ernesto shivered, glancing between Boxman and Venomous for a long moment, seeming to weigh his options, before stammering out, “I-I’m gonna see what the doctor says!” and hurrying out to try and find them, shoes clapping as he goes. Till it slows down when a nurse is heard yelling ‘DON’T RUN!’

 

Venomous snickered, glancing Boxman’s way and drooping somewhat at the scowl still on the man’s face. “Er...listen, about the ‘older man’ stuff-”



Boxman held up a hand, “I cannot believe you’d lie to my own son like that, PV.” He leaned over, starting to gather up blueprints, tucking the pen behind his ear.



Crap. Had he stepped over a line again?? He couldn’t look right at him, “Box, I’m sorry. I know it’s a shitty thing to do, but-”



“Scoot over!” He hadn’t even realized he’d gotten close until he was sitting right next to him, spreading out the blueprints across Venomous’ bed and offering him over the pen. Up close now, Venomous realized he’d confused the look on his face. The guy wasn’t mad or disappointed. He looked downright determined, the earlier fire burning in his eyes. “Once again, you thought up a solution that I didn’t! I’m very impressed, Venomous.”



Venomous felt his face go scarlet, looking from the pen, up to that look on his face, “I...huh…?”



Boxman took a look at the door and back to him, “How long do you think he’ll be gone for?”


“I uh...I-I mean, the doctor’s office is like uh...t-ten minutes?” Was it??? He was having a real hell of a time remembering to be honest.



Boxman grinned, “Just enough time to get some real work done.” He offered the pen again, “If you’re willing, of course.”



And how the hell could he say no to a face like that?

Chapter Text

 

It was ridiculous.

 

Telling lies, sneaking around, scribbling up big dreams and bigger ideas on whatever scraps of paper were available. It was stuff teenagers did. He tells himself he should be more mature about this, listen to Boxman’s son and tell him to get back in bed and rest.

 

But this is also the most fun he’d had with another adult in years

 

It was easy to look at Boxman from across the room during his fits of passion and fury and still keep a level head. It was a lot harder with his hand reaching out to grab his, to point to another part of the blueprint. To see the sharp cut of his teeth in that damn smile and the glint in his eye that just said ‘Actually, let’s be bad.’

 

But the weirdest part is he was smiling back. Not a forced smile, not the tired ones he gave Fink when he said he was okay. But an honest grin that came out brighter and brighter with every time the two of them just...clicked together. 

 

Course Ernesto has to come back eventually, and there’s a mad scramble to set things how they were when he left, pages and pens flying through the air during the effort. And it definitely takes a lot of effort for them not to snicker when Ernesto starts up his lecture on all the advice the doctor gave him and how ‘muscle atrophy doesn’t happen in a few days.’ 

 

But Venomous could care less about getting chewed out for his lies. Not when he was feeling this good about it. But uh...why’d he feel good about it?



Boxman pulls aside Ernesto to work double-time on the various tax forms he brought over, clearly wanting to get back to more important work with Venomous. He bit his lip in his impatience and Venomous was staring at those lips, at the angled knit of his brow as he puzzled over a document. Venomous just leaned his cheek on the knee against his chest, watching Boxman work from that sideways angle as he tried hard to get the red off his face.



Venomous knew he was bi, of course. He’d found that out during college, when the lab he’d worked in had a view over the football fields. He’d gotten his panic out of the way about it years ago through some awkward dating until landing Carol during the show, giving him a good amount of time to figure out his ‘type’. Boxman didn’t fit into his type.



He was older then him, had that round figure, snaggleteeth, and that was just going over appearances. Yet he thought Boxman wrapping his arms around him, pinning him down with that smirk on his face like he’d caught a snake in his coop, and he was the top rooster around here.



...Admittedly the hand was giving him a lot of chicken related thoughts too.



He straightened up when Ernesto did, gathering up files and documents, “Well, father, I hope you do take the doctor’s advice to heart. Only for a few more days.”



“Pffff,” Boxman waved a claw, “Of course I will, son! You have my word!”



Ernesto looked him up and down, squinting in suspicion, turning on his heel to give Venomous a seething look-not unlike one his father would give (man they really did look alike.) Venomous just laughed and put his hands up defensively, “He will, he will! Don’t worry so much!”



“...mmm...very well.” Ernesto tucked the folders under his arm, “I’d better get going then. Darrell’s keeping a watch on the office and I saw him eyeing the ten gallon again…”



Boxman hissed through his teeth, “Yes, please hurry. Last time he made himself a throne out of shipping boxes.”



With a hurried nod, there went another one of his sons out the door, Venomous smirking when he heard another ‘NO RUNNING!’ yelled down the halls. “Quite the little professional you have there, Box.”


Boxman dug up the papers they’d been drawing on, looking through some of them as he talked, “Yes, yes, though I do wish he’d stop fretting so much. All it takes is one time falling over screaming bloody murder and suddenly the whole family thinks you’re an invalid!”



Venomous raised a brow, “So guessing you didn’t catch the appendix in time.”


Boxman gave a non committal hum, “Well, when you’re the only person in charge, you can’t exactly take time off for abdominal cramps.” He gave a sigh, “Ernesto was the first one on the scene though, so I guess I can understand why he’d be such a nervous nelly.”



Venomous shrugged, “Kids are just gonna worry no matter what age. They don’t like seeing us in pain as much as you liked being in it.”



Boxman laughed, “I suppose you got a point there, PV. Besides-” He lifted his gown a little to show the tiny line of stitches on his abdomen, “Least I got this cool scar for it, right?”



Venomous smirked, “With how little they have to cut now? Probably gonna fade in a month.”



Boxman gasped, pulling his hospital gown back down, “Rude!!”



Venomous shrugged, “I’m just saying-should’ve asked them to save it for you. Would’ve made a real nice centerpiece with a tealight in there.”



Boxman leaned on his hand, “What-did you do that with yours?”



“God no.” He smirks, “Fink sometimes wishes I did though. She’s going all in on the macabre stuff.” 

 

“That reminds me…” Boxman takes a glance around, “She’s been gone a while, hasn’t she?”


Oh. Right, he hadn’t told him, “My uh, ex came by to pick her up hours ago.” He rolled over on his side to face Boxman, “I was thinking about what you said earlier, about her being cooped up here and...I didn’t want her to stick around any longer.”


Boxman looked surprised at that, “Well...hopefully she doesn’t worry more at home.” When Venomous looked up at that, he went on with a soft laugh. “When you first got wheeled in here, I tried to talk with her quite a bit after. Poor thing was so wound up and tense, her nose buried in her game or her phone…”


His eyes widened a bit. He’d assumed Fink had just been exhausted from waiting up for him. Venomous sighed, glancing to the nightstand where her console had been, “...You’d think she’d be used to it by now.”



“Venomous, even if it happens often, it doesn’t make things better.” Boxman was looking at him with sympathy in his eyes, “It just means you might… you know, get used to it.”

That was the thing that got that tired feeling coming back. He swallowed, thinking about Fink, stewing in all that anxiety and fear about him… She was so tough most of the time, but if she’d been hiding how she felt… would he even know?



Boxman looked up at that, “Had that...really not occurred to you, PV?”

 

“I...I should probably get to bed.” Venomous laid back down and turned away from Boxman, “Long day again.” 

 

“Oh! Right…” Boxman’s shoulders slumped a little, though Venomous just faintly saw it in his reflection on the window. “I should too, probably… We could still look over some of these blueprints tomorrow? If you want?”


“Yeah.” Venomous brought his shoulders up, rubbing one arm, “Sure… we’ll see.”

 

“O-okay then! Let’s plan on it, PV! Eh...ehhe...ha…” Venomous could see the man deflate a bit at a time till he turned away to tuck himself in, flicking off the light by them. Venomous stared out at the rain pelting the windows.


Don’t look too disappointed, Box. That’s just what I do. He thinks, watching a bolt of lightning flash and vanish in the distance. Dazzle you for a minute and burn out the next. He shuts his eyes to the sound of rain on the window, leaning his head deeper into the pillow. He doesn’t see the lingering look Boxman gives him, and the small smile on his face as an idea springs to mind.

The next morning brings the sun back with it, and Venomous isn’t a fan today. He squints as a slit in the blinds sends the light pouring directly into his eye and sits up with a groan. It felt like he’d gotten even less sleep then usual today...had he even looked at what time it was last night? Or had everything finally hit him and drained whatever dregs he had left. And this time there wasn’t even any Fink to distract himself with. He could check his phone but...ugh…


What made things worse was his roommate. Boxman seemed to keep looking his way, give a toothy grin, and turn back to enjoy his lukewarm hospital coffee with the breakfast of the day (some sausages and scrambled eggs on the menu today.) He knew they had some fun last night, but those looks were making him think Boxman was hiding something, and he was admittedly a little too grumpy about the bad sleep to ask what it was. Least the nurse had left him some of that coffee while he was out.


He sips on it, appetite lacking otherwise, till Boxman speaks up, “So uh, PV, you got any plans for the day?”


Venomous slowly turned and eyed him with a raised brow.


Boxman stiffened, giving a nervous laugh, “Well! I mean, dumb question, granted-but, no check ins with the doctor or anything yet?”


Venomous tried to think back. Far as he could remember, Cosma would be busy till later in the afternoon… But what was this guy planning? “Why do you want to know?”


“Well…” Boxman hummed, looking like he was trying to think of the best way to put it, “You know how I said I owed you one when we first met? Last night, we were having such a good time together before you...you know…”



Venomous set the mug down to lean against his knees a bit, “Got tired and grumpy?”


Boxman smirked nervously, “Something like that...didn’t want to be too blunt about it. But it feels like every time you start to feel better around me, something comes along to make you like that.”


His shoulders slumped a bit. Even hearing this now, knowing he was right, Venomous just wanted to curl up and go back to bed. Or snap at him, telling him how this guy didn’t even know what he was like after only a few days. But he chooses to be an adult for now, nodding for him to go on.


“Well...I pulled a favor. Something I think you’d enjoy after being cooped up in here.” He hopped off his bed and walked over, taking Venomous’ hand from off his knee, “If you’d let me, of course.”



Venomous blinked at that, his thumb rubbing along the calloused palm of the man, looking into that earnest, hopeful expression in his eyes. He had only met him a few days ago, yet it was that look. Always with his eyes that somehow made it easier to trust the man. Always made him feel better when he was at his lowest, snappiest point. Where he’d normally drive people away.

 

“...I guess I’m free for now. But this better be worth my time.”

 

Boxman immediately brightened, with a toothy grin and cackle as he clasped his hand in both of his firmly, “Oh it will be, absolutely!! But ah, one last thing-“ 

 

He gestured for Venomous to come closer and when the man leaned in, his vision was blocked off by something soft getting wrapped around his eyes, eliciting a surprised growl from the man, “Wh-?!...a blindfold? Seriously??” But Boxman had grabbed his hand before he could try to pull it off.

 

“It’ll be a surprise! Trust me on this?”

 

“...fffffffffiiiiiiiiine.” Venomous could just about hear the puppy dog whine in Boxman’s voice. No way he was saying no to that. He could hear the man snicker before it sounded like he’d called down the hall to a nurse. He heard whispering between the two of them, and before he knew it he was getting dragged along outside of the room and down the hospital halls.

 

Turns out it was better to walk down if you didn’t have to look at all the hideous statues and fountains everywhere. In a way, it was similar to his old Point days and that early visor design. It cut off most of his field of vision and made him look like a knockoff hero you’d find an action figure of at the dollar store. Least the look they’d stuck with let him see three feet in front of him instead of none. Where had he even found something so dark anyhow? Felt like silk when he touched it. He had to pull his hand off to get his balance again when they took a sharp turn, the ‘ding!’ of the elevator and the slow descent that followed.


“So not even a hint?”



“Nope!” He could hear Boxman shift besides him, nudging his side, “What’s the matter? Don’t like surprises?”


“Don’t really have a good track record with surprises.” Well, besides the one, obviously. He feels Boxman’s hand take his again as the doors slide open, tugging him along as they go. He can hear a lot more activity down here: people walking and talking, announcements for doctors over the loudspeaker, even vaguely smell the bakery and whatever they were cooking in that fancy schmancy restaurant. What was their menu even like? He could smell garlic...Italian, maybe?


They were walking away from the lobby now, the conversation around them getting spaced out to just a few folks or nurses here and there. A more secluded spot? Where was Boxman taking him… Maybe this was some sort of trick? No, why would the hospital let them both go then? Unless he’d paid of Billiam somehow. He made those inventions, he had to be swimming in cash, right?



“Alright, I’ll be back for you two in an hour, okay?”


An hour?? What was gonna take an hour?? He feels Boxman pull him somewhere, finally reaching up to push the blindfold off, “Alright, what is… this…?”


“SURPRISE!!!” Boxman had his arms waved out, grinning ear to ear up at Venomous, “Whatcha think? Are you surprised?”


It was...a garden. A normal, honest to goodness garden. Not a gaudy fountain or golden statue in sight far as he could tell. There was a short walking path that curved around lilac bushes and trimmed shrubberies, lilies and irises blooming from various spots. There were even a couple of rose bushes, the flowers just starting to bloom again under the glow of the morning sun. When he breathes in, he gets actual fresh air and feels the warmth of the coming day on his face. 

 

“PV?” Boxman was waving a hand by his face, getting his attention back, “Do you like it? I figured you’ve been cooped up for so long, you’d appreciate the sun, you know?”


Venomous never really subscribed to the whole ‘fresh air and sunshine is all you need’ philosophy he’d had thrust upon him. The idea of a certain crystal or flower offering some sort of healing benefit he just couldn’t get from regular medicine and research. But even if it didn’t heal all that ailed him, this did feel...nice. Boxman just wanted to surprise him with something nice. “...She said we could be here for an hour?”


Boxman seemed to perk up at the hopeful note in PV’s voice, patting his back, “Or more, if you need it.”


He found that natural smile coming back to him, stepping onto the path and starting to take a look around, going slow so Boxman could keep up. It was decently sized, with only a few other patients out and about getting some well-needed exercise. And getting the pins and needles out his legs felt really good, even if he’d been walking to his appointments and the like. He would have been content to just take in the sights and walk around a bit, that tired fog still hovering around his mind. But Boxman seemed to fill in the spaces.



He chatted idly as they went on their way, mostly about his kids, sometimes about his business. Raymond was apparently going to be an olympic actor and Shannon wanted her own broadcasted show someday. Even Darrell had apparently talked flights of fancy about owning a farm at some point (which suddenly made his cowboy aesthetic he was working on make a whole lot more sense.)

 

It only felt natural after all that talk from Boxman to work in some of his own, “Fink wants to be an esports star someday.”


Boxman squinted, “What on earth are ‘esports’?”


Venomous gave an amused chuff, “Can you believe that’s what I asked her? Its uh...basically professional video gaming.” He glanced to Boxman, “When it’s really big, apparently they go up on stage and play in front of a huge crowd of people. You can make boatloads of cash from it, she tells me.”


“Oh! Ohhh, I see what you mean!!” Boxman chuckled, “Well, sounds exciting! Technology really has come so far these days, hasn’t it? Making it a sport sounds like the next step up! Now ah, what about your son?”


“My son?” He considered, mulling it over, a hand coming up to rest on his chin, “Well… he’s not exactly ‘realistic’ compared to Fink. Usually it’s vague terms like ‘I want to be a hero’ or stuff like that.”


Boxman raised a brow, “Like a superhero? Or a firefighter?”


Venomous made a noncommittal noise in his throat, “Something like that…?” Boxman was giving him a funny look now, one that was getting his hackles up again, “What?”


“Nothing, nothing.” Boxman hummed, “It’s just interesting to me. You have such a bond with Fink but it doesn’t seem like you and your son are close at all.” He took his hand, and looked at him earnestly, “Listen to me Venomous. You should fix that before it gets too late to do it, okay?”


Venomous gave a confused laugh, “Okay?? Dunno why it’s a big deal though.” He moved his eyes to some begonias to avoid looking right at Boxman, “You get along great with your kids from what I’ve seen.”


“Not all of them.” Boxman breathed in deep, “My eldest is estranged from me.”


Venomous looked him over for a beat, having to absorb the information. The thought of Boxman rejecting any of his kids just didn’t fit into the hole he’d made for him. “Huh?”


“I was a different person way back when.” Boxman went on, taking his hands, “It’s a decision I regret and one I’d change given the chance.”


“So...why haven’t you?”


Boxman’s shoulders slump, “It’s a scary thing, asking for forgiveness… Maybe I will someday, but in the meantime, at least I can keep you from making the same mistake, can’t I?” 


Oof. That stung. Considering all he’d done in the last day or so, forgiveness seemed like something he’d be requesting a lot of… But Boxman wasn’t rejecting him for it. He was exposing his own, trusting Venomous to take that information and use it for his own benefit. Use it to help, not hurt.


When was the last time someone had done that for him and he’d actually noticed?


Venomous swallowed, nodding his head slowly, “Sure...I’ll keep it in mind.” He looked into his eyes, “Yours too, kay?”


Boxman gave a half smile, walking ahead along the path, Venomous following suit. He watched a few butterflies and bees flit past, a hummingbird shoving its beak into a honeysuckle, the faint birdsong from a tree in the middle of the garden, outfitted with a net array of small glass orbs that reflected the sunlight to make the tree sparkle.


“...Hey, Box.” He looked down at him, “How long did you say you were here for again?”


Boxman gave a hum, “Shouldn’t be too much longer. The doctor said after my surgery I’d only need bed rest for a week or so.” He laughed, “I suspect he just said that so I wouldn’t work it so hard when I’m out.”



“I see…” Venomous gave a shrug, “Well that settles it then.”


“Hm?”


Venomous raised a hand, gesturing around him, “This little favor of yours-it’s a little too nice to be repaid for just lying to some nurse.” He looks back at him, “Think I owe you something that’s more of an equal value.” He nudged his head back to the hospital, “So lemme get us a reservation to that place-we can see just how fancy it is before we head outta here. What do you say?”


Boxman’s eyes widened, his human eye sparkling with just the beginning of a tear, “You...you really mean that?”



Venomous snickered, looking off, “Well, it’ll probably cost a paycheck, but it’d be a good way to cash in my sick days, don’t you think?”



The startled little laugh was enough to tell him he made the right choice. The hug and suddenly being lifted into the air after was enough to give him some second thoughts. “Oh THANK YOU PV!! You won’t regret it, I swear!!”



“Alright, alright!!! Okay! Now can you put me down already??” He was so much stronger then he looked!! A light touch on his arm revealed quite a bit of muscle. Had he not noticed that?!



“Okay!” Boxman set him back on his feet, rubbing his neck, “Sorry, got a little carried away there, didn’t I?”



“More then a little, I’d say.”



“Well! Let’s not take up anymore time, shall we?” He offered his hand again, “We should enjoy our time here while we can, right?”



Venomous blinked at him a moment, taking his hand, a thought hitting him like an anvil as his cheeks heated, “Sure...you lead the way?”



With that devilish, sharp grin of his, Boxman tugged him back onto the walking path and slowed his roll so they could take in the sights. But the flowers were the last thing on Venomous’ mind. Cause sometimes it wasn’t just saying it outright or a big flash of every moment that had happened before forming a bigger picture. Sometimes it was something small, like finding out someone was buffer then you gave them credit for, or noticing they had a really nice smile, or appreciating the honesty and their family and...and…


Well. Venomous had been hit with all that at once.

 

And that realization left him quiet for the rest of the hour.

Chapter Text

He was still quiet when they left the garden and went back into the cool air conditioning and the fluorescent lighting of the hospital. His hospital gown was still warm from the sunlight, only fading during the walk back to his room, Boxman walking right along by his side. He made a few attempts to skirt off around the lobby to grab a treat for them that was quickly rebuked, but stuck close by once they got to the elevator. At some point, the nurse told Venomous his appointments with Cosma had been cancelled, something about ‘being sick’, but Venomous was too caught up in his own head to pay it much mind. It was just more time devoted to thinking about where these… feelings had come from.

 

When had it happened?  How  did it happen? Venomous had thought he was more logical then this, that he’d stopped trusting in some big idea that everything would work out for him. Something like falling in love over a few days just didn’t happen in real life. It didn’t happen to him.

 

He ran a hand over his face and let it slip down to his jaw, thumb rubbing where a small patch of scruff had grown. He could stand for a shave soon...oh god when was the last time he shaved? He must look like some crusty old man to Boxman...why did he care about how Boxman thought he looked?? Agh!

 

“Er, PV?” His hand was on his elbow, a sympathetic but worried look on his face, “Are you alright there?” 

 

“...Yeah.” Venomous shook his head, finishing his hands motion by running it up through his hair, “Just doing some thinking is all.” He looked over Boxman, his eyes going down to his hands. Come to think of it, he’d never noticed a ring that on his hands-before or now. 

 

“Ahh, I get it…” Boxman wagged a finger, “The menu, right?? I couldn’t get a look at it as we went by, but I’m thinking Italian. Maybe Indian? Lots of garlic, but it was hard to tell what they were making in there, you know?”

 

“Well, that and reservation time...I can try to get released the same time you are, but it might be difficult to pinpoint it.”  Good, good, talk about something else. That’d get your mind off it.

 

Boxman laughed, “Well, whatever it is, I’m sure it’ll taste as rich as it is!” He looked up to Venomous and his hand curled into the crook of his elbow again. “Maybe we can even split some wine! Do you like red or white?”

 

His calming thoughts had gone to screaming in an instant. “Uh…..Rosé?”

 

“Ooh!” Boxman elbowed him with a grin, heading out first and waving a pair of pistol fingers at him, “Rosé!! Good choice, PV!” He turned on his heel to trot back towards their room, leaving Venomous to walk close behind.

 

This was stupid. This was so stupid. Look at the man! How could he have any interest in a fuckup like him? He was already dealing with all those kids and  apparently  another son to boot that he had to work out shit with. How could he even think of throwing his own kids and himself to the mix??...and why bring his kids into it?? What was his messed up brain doing to him??

 

Stop that, stop it right now! He’s probably got someone better, don’t even try it!  But it was hard not to. To think about having someone to come home to other then Fink, to think about someone else to be there for her besides Carol to make sure everything was going to be okay. Thinking about lying in bed at night with someone who’d get him, who’d whisper plans for a brighter tomorrow and hold his hand and kiss him when the exhaustion took hold.

 

He didn’t deserve it, but he wanted it. He wanted to covet that feeling like a dragon wrapped around a pool of gold. Smother himself in it. Think about it till the point where it just made his heart hurt...course, maybe he was just being dramatic cause he was tired. Another nap might be in order once he got back to...hm.

 

Hm! Funny. He could’ve sworn Boxman and that nurse were in front of him a second ago. Far as the eyes could see, he was in an empty hallway. One with a variety of Billiam statues he did not recognize from before. He had been blindfolded for most of the walk, huh?

 

Okay. Okay! So they left him behind while he was spacing out! They couldn’t be too far ahead. He’d find them. And if he didn’t, he’d just be on the lookout for room... room ...

 

... You have no idea what room you’re in, do you dummy?

 

“No! I mean-“ Venomous covered his mouth, breathed in, and let it out slowly, putting on his best calm smile. “It’s gonna be okay. I’m not lost. I’ve got to be on this floor or we wouldn’t have stopped here. I’ll find it eventually...and I’ll stop talking to myself now.” 

 

With his resolve set, Venomous walked on, his eyes and ears peeled for any sign of Boxman or that Australian nurse, and did his best to keep his mouth shut before he started talking to himself again. But seriously, he’d been escorted by a nurse every time. Had he really just followed her and not even looked for what room he was in? Had he been that lazy??

 

Clearly he had. He peeked into whatever rooms he could, trying to find which one out of any might have been his, but to no avail. One of them did make him heavily consider bleaching his eyes, in a sponge bath scene out of a horror movie, but to mention it here would surely drive any sane man to insanity, so he moved on. It was almost sad how much ammo this was giving his mind, and it only went quiet on calling him an idiot when it began to feel sorry for such an easy target.

 

Right about the time he was working on controlling his breathing and not panic did he hear it. It was faint, and probably in the opposite direction of where he needed to be, but the sound of a child sniffling and crying got his attention. His shoulders drooped. He looked where he was going and where he’d been, worrying his lip.

 

A nurse or doctor would find them and help out. Just let them do their job. He had to get back to his room to...sleep for hours. Real productive use of time.

 

“..... mmmmmmrmmmmmmMMMMM OKAY! Alright.” He breathes out, turning on his heel and putting a hand to his mouth, “Hey, kid? Hello? Somebody around here? I can hear you, you know.”

 

He heard a soft gasp, and the sound of strangely loud shoes coming towards his voice. It almost sounded like...tap shoes?...why did he get a bad feeling about this kid? 

 

He looks around a corner and that’s when he spots him. The kid stops in his tracks and stares wide-eyed at Venomous and it’s those dark eyes that set off Venomous’ alarm bells immediately, giving a soft groan, “...Let me guess. Your dad is Lord Boxman?”

 

The kid brightens immediately, bobbing his head in a quick nod and tapping his feet on the ground. Venomous gave a sigh, “Why did I figure…?” 

 

This kid was dressed as strangely as the rest of his brood. He had to be around six or maybe 11 and was dressed all in blue: blue jeans, blue hoodie, and a blue scarf that combined to cover most of his face besides those big, wide eyes. The pair of black tap shoes stood out with the outfit, and they fidgeted and idly tip-tapped against the floor as he stood there. He failed to notice it sooner, but this kid also had a bundle held in his oversized sleeves. 

 

“Huh…” Venomous knelt down to his eye level, head tilted, “Whatcha got there kiddo?”

 

The boy turned his head downwards, and tapped his feet again. There was a clear pattern to the way his taps went, but Venomous was having trouble grasping it yet. When he clearly didn’t get it, the boy seemed to give in and uncover the bundle.

 

Popping out was the head of a chubby cheeked tot. Her hair was done up in a pair of twin buns that almost gave her little cat ears, the yellow onesie she wore dotted here and there with spiky pink points. It took a minute to see the tiny hood with a triceratops face embroidered on to realize it was supposed to be a little dinosaur outfit. She squinted at him for a long moment before opening her mouth, “Mikayla!” 

 

Venomous drew back like a turtle into his shell, blinking at the kid, “Well...guess you’re Mikayla then…” he turned his focus to the kid, “As for you, Boxman said he had a younger son so...that’s gotta be you, right Jethro?”

 

The kid brightened immediately, his eyes seeming to sparkle (though honestly it was very hard to read his face with all that fabric) and he tapped out that beat again. Venomous squinted back at him, tapping against his hand, before it hit him, tilting his head the other way, “Morse code?”

 

Again, Jethro looked ecstatic, tapping on the floor again.  YES.

 

Venomous smirked, “Well you’re as interesting a case as him, huh? But if you've gotta talk somehow...” He stood back up, hand on his hip, “Now, don’t suppose you have any clue where your dad is at, do you?” 

 

Jethro suddenly looked unsure, glancing to the floor, where he shyly tapped again.  NO. I AM LOST.

 

Venomous let out the breath he was holding, “Figures as much...Guess that means you and me are in the same boat. Unless Mikayla knows the room number.”

 

“Mikayla!” 

 

“Yes it’s a delightful name.” Venomous put a hand to his chin, rubbing that stubble again, taking in his surroundings. “...Okay, I went out of the way to find you, so we get on the right path first.” He offered a hand, “I can hold her if you want-“

 

Jethro pulled her back, eyes wide a moment, then seemed to droop, starting to tap something out before Venomous waves a hand, “It’s fine. I wouldn’t trust a stranger either.” He smiled at Mikayla, “She’d probably start crying if I picked her up anyhow. Seems cozy with you.”

 

She yawned and smacked her baby lips, shutting her eyes as she settled in, “Mikayla…”

 

Jethro seemed to be smiling as she did that, looking up at Venomous with a determined nod, trotting after him once he started to walk-clickity-clickity-clack down the halls.

 

Well if they didn’t find a nurse soon, the shoes at least would tip somebody off. Let’s see… if he remembered right there was a really tacky statue with a cherub butt facing outwards by their room. And a fountain down the hall from there. If he found either of those, he’d be set. He paused, however, realizing the clack had gained some distance last he checked, looking back to see Jethro hurrying to catch up. “Oh, right. Longer legs. Sorry about that kiddo.” 

Jethro caught his breath, waving a hand and clicking his heel.  IT IS OKAY.

 

Venomous slowed his pace, making sure Jethro could walk comfortably by him before turning his gaze to the decor. “So...you came here with your sis all by yourself?” 


Jethro fidgeted at that, scuffing his foot against the floor as he walked and sinking further into his scarf.



Venomous smirked at that, tapping his chin, “Lemme guess...a sibling of yours must’ve brought you by, but you snuck off cause you wanted to see your dad first?” The startled look on Jethro’s face said it all, snapping to attention. Which just got a laugh out of the man, “Yeah, I figured. You don’t even have your visitor’s name tag yet.” 


Course, that did make him wonder something… “Hey, how many nurses or doctors have you seen around here anyway?” 


Jethro seemed to consider, adjusting his hold on Mikayla,  ONE OR TWO.

 

“Hm...must be a meeting right now or something.” He perked up at the sound of running water, following it over to a seating area with that fountain awkwardly taking up room. “Finally! We’re making some progress!” He turned to Jethro, “You must be my lucky charm, huh kid?” 


Jethro gained a bashful look and held up a peace sign as best as he could around his sister. She fussed and reached up for it to grab on tight, “Mikayla!”



Venomous laughed, “Yeah, you too. Don’t think I forgot.” Now was it down the right or the left hallway? The fountain was closer to a corner on the left, so better try the right first. “Oh, hey.” Venomous took another glance at his traveling companion, “I nearly forgot. Thanks for those muffins. Those were pretty spectacular if I’m gonna be honest.”

 

Jethro lit right up, nodding excitedly before he dug in his hoodie pocket for something, shifting Mikayla to one arm. Venomous knelt down to steady her with a hand, curious as Jethro fumbled, then finally pulled out a small plastic baggie. Inside rested a set of three heart-shaped cookies, topped off with pink icing. There was a bit of wobble to the outline and the icing had overfilled, but clearly some effort had gone into them.

 

Venomous gave a laugh, “Aw, kid...those are for your dad, right? I can’t-“ Jethro shook his head firmly, putting the bag firmly in Venomous’ hand. He reached back into his pocket, pulling out another bag with a nod. “...Oh. You just brought these for me?”

 

Another nod, that familiar determination to the kid’s eyes as he stuck the second bag in his pocket, holding Mikayla close again. 

 

Venomous stared at the present: such a small, little thing to get. Yet it made his chest feel tight just looking at it. Before he could fully grasp it, Jethro had begun to tap again. A little faster then before, which made Venomous sweat some. “Whoa whoa, hey now, slow down there, alright? Kinda hard to keep up.” 

 

Jethro blinked, and slowed down his taps to a rate Venomous could translate. “Do...not...hurt...dad?” He blinked, “Hurt your dad?” He looked at the cookies and back to Jethro, giving his best reassuring smile as he sighed, “No, I won’t hurt your dad. What makes you think that?”

 

Jethro jabbed a pinkie up at him, looking intently at his face. 

 

“Hmm…” Venomous was sweating again, hand to his chin a moment as he thought it over. “You strike a hard bargain, kid...but okay.” He took the tiny pinkie in his own, “I promise. I won’t hurt your dad.”

 

That seemed to get the kid off his back. He seemed relieved as he gave a short hop, heels clicking together, then stopping in his tracks, like he’d heard something. Lighting up like a flashlight, he jumped again and darted down the hallway. “Ah! Kid, hold up for the adult here!!”

Sheesh he could run fast for a little guy! Venomous was almost having trouble keeping up, and the slippers he’d been provided for his stay weren’t doing much for traction on the tiled floor. He nearly fell into the splits to stop when Jethro turned on his heel to dart into a room. “There you are!!”

 

The voice put an immediate ease in Venomous, steadying himself to look into the room. Boxman was back in bed, currently wrapping his arms around Jethro and Mikayla, then looking up at a very nervous Darrell as the young man twisted the brim of his cowboy hat. “And WHY did Jethro find me before you found him, son??” Boxman asked, his eyes narrowed at his son.

 

“Um, um… he got lucky?”

 

Boxman grabbed the hat to give him a quick, light whap, huffing as Darrell squealed as if he’d been whipped instead. “Well keep a better eye out next time! Already bad enough that-“

 

That’s when he looked to the door and did a double take, grinning ear to ear, “PV!! You made it back! I am so, so sorry about what happened!” 

 

Venomous just gave a tired, but relieved laugh and waved a hand as he wobbled in and back over to his bed, “You should thank Jethro here. He helped me get back more then anything.”

 

Boxman blinked at that, looking down at Jethro, “Did you really?” He leaned in as Jethro cupped his hands around his ear, whispering to his dad, who nodded as he talked. He let out a gasp at the end, “Well look at you, Tiger!” He petted his head with a grin, “Good job out there! And keeping your sister safe while you were at it! I’m so proud!”

 

“And Darrel you’re grounded.” Boxman tacked on at the end, Darrell’s expression one of pure anguish as he looked at Jethro, bit his lip, and stomped out of the room with a shrill wail.

 

“THIS FAMILY’S A FREAKING NIGHTMARE!”

 

“HEY!!” Boxman snapped after him, “Language,  bub ! Unless you want to be  double grounded !”

 

“Eep!” Darrell scampered out, only peeking in from time to time nervously.

 

“What’s ‘double grounded’?” Venomous asked when curiosity got the best of him.

 

Boxman grinned wickedly, “Well, usually its grounding combined with picking a name out of a hat and doing the chores of that kid. Last time he got Shannon and had to polish allllll the display cases.” 

 

Venomous laughed, “Hah! Clever, Boxman.” His focus went to the bag of cookies Jethro had given him, rotating the bag in his hand a moment before he thought about asking, “...Hey, Jethro said something to me-“

 

“Oh?” Boxman had sat up, looking curious about whatever it was, while Jethro gave him a pleading look, putting a hand over his own mouth. “Like what?”

 

Venomous watched Jethro shake his head, raising a brow, “He uh...said he brought you a present? Wanted me to keep it a surprise though.” 

 

Jethro looked relieved, giving a thumbs up and digging out the cookies to present to his dad, Boxman going from confused to delighted as he patted his boy on the head again, “Well look at these!! Your icing is getting so good these days!” 

 

That was weird...Jethro didn’t want him saying anything about it? Did his dad really think he was gonna hurt him? He had been grouchy these last few days, but to tell your ten year old about feeling threatened seemed like a lot… He got pushed from his paranoid thinking by a small whine that grew to become a cry from Mikayla, Boxman startling and shifting her to his arm, “Shh Shh, it’s alright sweetie! Just relax, gonna be okay… daddy will be out soon…”

 

And the arrow in his heart dug in deeper. Venomous cleared his throat, “Listen, I’m pretty worn out. You guys gonna be okay if I’m...out for a while?”

 

“Oh sure PV!” Boxman waves a hand, “We won’t try to keep you up over here...DARRELL! You brought her food, right??”

 

“Why don’t you BITE ME, daddy!”

 

Venomous rolled his eyes and shook his head, but he didn’t even mind the small argument starting. That just seemed like the best way Boxman liked to talk it out sometimes. Er. Scream it out, anyway.

 

Maybe he’d just gotten used to it in this short time. Or maybe falling asleep to Boxman’s voice was starting to relax him...for some weird reason…

 

He does still wake up for little things, a fairly new change compared to the long stretches of nothing like before. He can hear vague arguments between Boxman and his son, the occasional complaints from Mikayla. He can feel small arms give him a gentle hug and whisper ‘thank you’ in his ear. After that, it’s whatever Boxman puts on TV at a lowered volume, broken up by the occasional phone call he got.



Fink would always have her headphones at home, so when he’d slept traditionally, it’d been to silence. This kept him up, but it was comforting too. It felt like he was asleep in a living, loving space. Fink loved him (he hoped) but this was just...so much more.



Maybe it was all the stress and anxiety about being at the hospital again driving him towards it but...he was in love, wasn’t he? Was this what it felt like before?...shit, he still needed to get that reservation down, huh?



It’s already dark when this thought hits him, sitting up to find Boxman snoring over on his bed. The TV is still on, showing a marathon of that house-wrecking show the man seemed to like, the gentle sounds of falling plaster and cracked wood buzzing out from it. The TV clock showed it was about 11:30 at night-probably too late to make a reservation, but he’d leave his name anyway. Chances are they’d book him if it was only two people. They could always sit up at the bar. 


It took a minute or two after leaving the voicemail to realize he was being watched. In the doorway was one of the nurses he’d seen around before. What was her name...apparently last name ‘Mummy’ according to her tag, “Can I help you, miss?”



“Oh! Uhm...yes, actually. I just didn’t want to wake your roommate. Mister Milliam wanted to see you, if it’s not too late?”



Venomous blinked a few times. The hospital director? What on earth could he want? “Uh… yeah. I can come. Give me a sec.”



The hospital halls looked so different at night. You still had your lights on for all the overnight staff, but it went from tacky and inviting in the daylight shining through the windows to a colder place at night. Flowers that looked sickly in the shadows of the overhead lights, cherubs that glittered too brightly under one glow, the water fountains turned off and abandoned for the night, leaving the whole scene bereft of any sound besides distant hospital activity. Least he could finally learn what room he was in: room 42 on the third floor.



The director’s office was on the top floor, next to staff meeting rooms and offices of other higher-ups doctors. Cosma’s office must’ve been on this floor, her office for actual medical practice on the lower levels so she could see patients in a more sterile space. Billiam’s office stood out immediately thanks to the statuettes by it, these ones the most tacky of all. The shine alone indicated they were solid gold and depicted a muscular Billiam holding aloft a cherub version of himself while ribbons flitted around the structure.

 

He really, really didn’t want to go inside. “Do you have any idea why he wanted me here?” 

 

Nurse Mummy shook her head, “He had all of us in a meeting earlier, but he was so panicked, and I was in the back of the room, so…”



That did explain why the halls had been so empty earlier… wait, had it just been the ones on his floor? Venomous gave a small sigh, “It’s fine. Just make sure I get back in one piece, okay?” 


She nodded, letting him open the door. There were pieces coming together he wasn’t a fan of as the door shut behind him, looking over all the little rich trinkets, vacation photos, and hung fish trophies that were all around Billiam’s luxurious office. “Please, please, take a seat Mr. Venomous.” Billiam gestured to a plush lounge chair in front of his desk. It took a bit of angling to sit in it properly enough for the meeting, Venomous having to settle for planting his feet hard in the regal carpeting to avoid sliding off. 


Billiam swiveled around in his own chair. He looked terrible. Like he’d been sobbing for a full day straight, his perfect hair a perfect mess as he looked right at Venomous, “Please tell me you’ve had a good stay so far.”



Venomous made a face, “Well… does anyone really have a good stay at a hospital?” He waved his busted fingers, “Oh, these are healing up okay at least, so...you got that going for you.” 


Billiam lowered his head a bit, “Oooh...well...good! Good for that.” He’d opened a file on his desk, the front of it stained with drops of tears, looking at the first page of the document. “Now, you scheduled to be released in two days?”



Venomous nodded, his guard coming up more and more at the strange behavior, “Yes...so...guess it’s just one day now. I’ll be leaving in the morning the day after.” He gave a smile, “I hope that won’t be a problem here-meeting with a friend for lunch, so-”



Billaim stood up quickly, “Sir, I think you should reconsider otherwise!”



“H-huh?” His eyes narrowed, leaning forward in his chair as a tense smile came to his face, “Look, I already agreed to Cosma’s testing. If she wants to do more, she can  damn  well ask me herself.”



“Cosma took a sick day today.” Billiam added, sniffling as he dug through the files till he found the image he was looking for, setting the CT scan photo on the desk before him, “But I couldn’t stand by and not let you know about...about...this!” He blubbered, sitting back with a stifled wail as Venomous got a good, hard look at what he was referring to. 


The CT scan showed the outline of his body-his chest and abdomen in particular. Except right around where his ribs would show on the scan, there was a big patch of darkness taking up the cavity. Like someone had spilled an ink blot over his heart. A shadowy mass that hid all else from view. “What… “ Venomous looked up with a half laugh, mostly of sheer disbelief, “What is this?”



“I don’t know!” Billaim rubbed his eyes and blew his nose on a silk handkerchief that probably cost more then half the nurse salaries here, “We have no idea yet!! I consulted my staff for hooooooours yesterday trying to figure it out!”



Venomous knew about some things to check for when performing a blood test. Leukemia, cancer, a heart condition, infections, pneumonia. He didn’t feel anything in his chest, but that didn’t say there was nothing there. His mind flickers back to how loudly the CT scanner ran, all the quiet around the hospital, the nurses keeping their distance from him. They must have waited to say anything to not start a panic, and Billiam had used his authority to step over all of them and be direct before they even knew what it was.



He reached forward, taking Venomous’ hand, “Please, I beg of you, don’t blame the hospital for this though! Whatever you’re thinking, don’t!! We can cure whatever this is, I assure you that!” 

 

Venomous could feel his hands start to shake, staring wide eyed at the man. His eyes slowly narrowed, squeezing his hand back, “...Why would I think it’s your fault?” His teeth gritted together, squeezing harder, till his nails threatened to puncture skin, “Why was that your  first  conclusion unless  you  had something to do with it, Milliam??”



Billiam yelped, pulling till he got his hand back as Venomous stood up, “If you think you can keep me here any longer for pointless testing that’s apparently making things worse, then you’ve got another thing coming.” He grabbed the picture and jabbed at the shadowy mass on it, “Whatever this is, if it kills me, will be on your head. You understand that, Milliam? But you’re not keeping me here unless I check myself back in. Are we  clear ?”

 

Billiam was still clutching his hand, looking up at him with those sad, pathetic eyes as he sniffled, “A-as a diamond, Mr. Venomous.” He sat up as Venomous turned for the door after setting the scan down. “B-but really, you won’t sue us, will you?”



Venomous paused at the door, as if considering it for a moment...though, he already knew what he was going to say. “Oh, Billiam…” He looked back with eyes as cool and sharp as an ice pick, “If I die, you’re going to  wish  I just sued you.”



He didn’t look back to see whatever reaction that got him, just slipped outside to rejoin the nurse and get led back downstairs. He could feel his heartbeat on every footstep, feel the cool tile of the hospital floor through the thin slippers, his hands still shaking as they got to the elevator.



He should have asked more questions. How long had they known? How long till they knew what it was? How long did he  have ? And why was this elevator going so slowly? It felt fine before now but suddenly the walls were closing in on him, constricting and tightening. 


“I know it’s not my place to ask, but...what did he say, Mr. Venomous?” The nurse asked him, her arm landing on his elbow. “He just seemed so worried about something. If it had to do with you...Mr. Venomous? Are you feeling alright?”



She was saying something to him. She was clearly waiting on an answer. His heartbeat was roaring in his ears and a thin layer of sweat had made the hospital gown stick to his skin.  Don’t just leave her waiting. Say something. Say something. Say something you idiot. Come on!  What was taking this elevator so long?!

 

“Sir??” She was looking very nervous now. He was doing something to scare her.  Stop it. Stop panicking, just say something. Just tell her ‘I’m fine’. See? It’s that easy. So just stop it already! Just open your stupid mouth and say  something !


“S-something!”


The nurse blinked at him, “Excuse me?”



Before she could ask again, the elevator door opened and he scrambled off it, hands on his chest, his breathing hard. His mind caught up with itself and he gave a sort of half smile her way, “I...that’s not what I meant to…” In a way, it was almost a relief when his vision blurred and the cool floor rushed up at him. Collapsing in front of a nurse due to a panic attack wasn’t the ideal situation, but at least it was one he was familiar with.

Chapter Text

He rarely had dreams these days. Maybe sometimes when he’d been younger, but the last time he’d really had one must have been back around the show. Far as he could remember anyway. Most of the time, his mind was a blank when he slept, or if it wasn’t, he just couldn’t remember what it was he dreamt about.



This one he could remember crystal clear. 

 

He was waiting for someone. It was nighttime and the restaurant had long closed for the evening. Yet he still waited, checking his watch. He felt so tired. A deep weight sunk into his bones that made him want to collapse on the table. Outside, lit barely by the glow of the street lamps, he watched a man running in a hurry. He’d packed his bags that same night and ran, ran off from accepting any sort of responsibility. Cause he just wasn’t the type to be able to handle it. He never was.



The door chimes and another man steps in. He’s still covered in shadow, his shorter silhouette the only thing setting him apart from the panicked figure outside. He seems to turn to Venomous and smile. Venomous goes to wave and feels something warm drip onto his other hand, like hot wax. His other hand is melting, showing nothing but bones as it creeps up his arm. His chest hurts. He’s so tired. His face is melting and he claws out desperately, trying to say something. His vocal chords melt out under him. 

 

The shorter figure stops smiling, stepping back instead. Yes, that’s it. Run. Run away. I’m just going to get it on you. And he wants to reach out anyway, the shadows of the figure pulsing out at him like a hypnotic wave, beckoning him forward. His arm collapses to bones on the table.



He jumps up from bed, drenched in sweat with a gasp like he just came up for air again, panting. Venomous looks over his hands, pulling up the sleeves to check and rubbing his hands over his face. And after a moment of inspection, sinking back down with relief. He shakes his head a few times till he can start to take in his surroundings-the fancy boat painting on the wall, the window to his right showing the parking lot and the coming sunrise-couldn’t be earlier then 7 then-the other bed in the room where Boxman still seemed to be asleep, and a new, little pill bottle sitting on his nightstand by his phone.



It was something for anxiety, just a few pills in the bottle. The nurse must have figured he needed it after...last night.



The events of the night flash back to him in waves, hand going up unconsciously to grip his chest. Nothing felt wrong. Besides the exhaustion, it didn’t feel like he was in pain or getting constricted by some sort of tumor. But sometimes you just didn’t feel it. Sometimes it was completely invisible till it killed-



“No.” He shuts his mouth and rubs over his face, laying back with his palms over his eyes. “You’re not going to die. This is all just some...big misunderstanding, and we’ll get it figured out. We’ll do something. You’re not gonna...I can’t just…”



“Mm...PV?” He looks over as Boxman stirs, blinking the sleep from his eye, “Are you doing okay over there?”



Venomous swallowed, “...Yeah. Yeah I’m fine. Just...talking to myself…?”



Boxman blinked sleepily, then waved a hand, “Eh, who hasn’t, right?”



Venomous chuckled without mirth. He rubbed his chin, looking ahead again. He really needed a shave about now. “Just...tell them coffee if they ask about breakfast for me.” He pulled himself up and over, digging in his bags until he found his travel kit.



Boxman looked a little worried at that, sitting up in bed a bit more, “You’re sure? You really haven’t eaten much.”



Frankly with how acidic his stomach felt, he really didn’t want to. But he gives his best attempt at a smile, “I’ll have something later. Promise.” And before he could get questioned anymore, he swept into the bathroom. Come to think of it, had he really had a proper shower since he got here? He hadn’t really done much to get dirty, but better get that taken care of for tomorrow.



...He was getting out of here tomorrow. That’s right. He could just walk out of here tomorrow and never worry about that pesky CT scan again. Just ignore it and run. He knew how to do that.



It was also occurring to him as he stripped down this was his first time in front of a mirror for a while. And he looked terrible. His hair was unkempt and sweaty from the nightmare, his face was entirely scruffy with five o’clock shadow, he had a grey sort of pallor to him and his eyes were heavy set with bags underneath. Ugh. “Ugh…” He had a lot of work to do.



Try as he might, he just can’t stop thinking about it though. If Billiam really wanted him not to sue or get angry, why tell him about the CT scan at all? Unless he’d just been an idiot way out of his depth on handling the situation. Maybe he didn’t want a rift to form between his hospital and Venomous’ company and tried to nip it in the bud ahead of time. Course if it really had been a mistake, Cosma would have told him about it sooner, right?



The hot water over his head helps soothe those thoughts for a few minutes, but he’s got his hand against his chest again. What could be in there? He’d known he was a terrible person for a while now. Maybe he was finally rotting from the inside out. Good. Good riddance. Let him rot and crumble away. To think he deserved anything otherwise would’ve been fooling himself, right?


...but there was the kids. God, the kids. He didn’t even know how many families Fink had gone through before getting adopted and KO...he only knew Venomous for half his life. Was he just going to up and leave again now that he knew the kid? He curled his fingers inward and rests his forehead against the cool tile, feeling his breathing hitch. Nice thing about showers was they were easy to blame when you started crying. The noise blocked out any sobs and the water running over his face made it so easy to dissociate it from the tears running down his cheeks.



He stifles himself by scrubbing over his face until the tired eyes and tarnished skin start to feel polished and not look like he’d been crying just a second ago. There. That felt better, didn’t it? Nobody would even have to know now.



In a way, the making himself up process made him feel better then any of this stay had so far. He already felt better once he shaved and his profile really stood out, but he’d felt positively naked without his eyes done up. It had gotten smudged and wrecked by the events of the last few days, and being able to look in the mirror and take that tired piece of garbage and turn it back into something presentable was pretty damn satisfying in all honesty. 

 

Doesn’t hide that you’re dying. He glared at his reflection, gripping the sink, “I’m not dying.”



Not that you know of. “We were just shown a picture. We-” He gritted his teeth, “ I don’t have any proof it’s even anything. I’m just...tired and I want to get out of here already.”



You’re always tired. Poor little thing, too tired to do anything. Too tired to be there. You just love to make that excuse, don’t you?



Venomous shut his eyes, breathed in deep. Hospital stays tended to make these nagging thoughts even louder then normal. Talking to them wasn’t going to solve anything. Just make him look even more insane then he was supposed to. Just finish the eyeliner and leave.



I don’t even know why you bother leaving. You’re just coming back. You’ll always be coming back time and time again. Maybe next time you’ll break your leg. You’ll break your leg and be stuck here for months dying, rotting. Not helping yourself cause you don’t want to admit there’s anything wrong, do you? Just ignore it and run.



“That’s the idea.” Venomous flicked the pencil into that nice little wing point, looking at himself from both profiles. The voice had gone quiet, and he realized only seconds later it was because he gave it the satisfaction of an answer. Growling low, he tucks his makeup back in his bag. One thing for sure is he’d definitely feel better once he could stop wearing this potato sack and get back to real clothing.


Boxman is up and at’em soon as Venomous walks out, his coffee and breakfast delivered and a mug of coffee sitting on Venomous’ side table, looking up with a smile as he exits, “Well good morning! Don’t you look be-bett-heh-er…” He stammers, eyes a little wider when he looks at Venomous.



Venomous blinks, raising a trim brow at Boxman, “What?”



Boxman looked a little pink as he laughed nervously, “Good! You look good!! Guess you ah, really needed all that clean up time, huh??”



“I didn’t take that-” Venomous leaned over, glancing at the wall clock. 9:00 AM read back to him, “...Huh. Guess I did take that long.” He reached up to flick back some of his newly cleaned hair, resting his hand under his chin with a smile, “Well, gotta look good to feel good, right Box?”



Boxman swallowed and gave a nod, hurriedly sipping his coffee before he risked stammering anything else as Venomous went back to his bed, dumping as much sugar and creamer as he could fit into his mug before taking a sip. He could tell Boxman’s eyes were on him, almost more then usual. Had he really looked that scruffy before he’d done himself up? He couldn’t look that different, right?



“So...you must have some plans when you’re out, eh Boxman?”



Boxman snapped out of his daze to give a nerve-tinged laugh, “Me? Oh well I, you know, back to running the business again! Ernesto’s been in charge while I’ve been away, but, well...you saw just how high strung that poor man is, you know?”



The thought of Ernesto running down the hall to confirm if his dad was going to atrophy in a few days got a laugh out of Venomous, giving a nod, “Boy I’ll say. He looked like he was gonna pull out his hair in a nervous fit any day now.”



“I told him combing it over made it obvious! But does he listen to his old man? You better believe not!



Venomous laughed again, a little harder this time, and took another swig of his coffee, seeming to think for a second, “...Boxman, how do you do it?”


“Do what?”


“Raising all these kids, putting them into college, helping them with whatever big dream they have in mind...how do you take it all?” Venomous looked his way, “How do you not just… How do you keep at it?”



Boxman blinked, took another sip of his coffee and set the mug aside to knit his fingers together. His thumb rubbed over the artificial skin of his claw as he seemed to figure out the best answer for it. “...It is...hard sometimes. In the past there would be someone else. People that I loved that I thought would stick around for the long run...and who didn’t. For one reason or another. And so I’d be left with my heart broken and a new mouth to feed.”



“And maybe it was my fault for falling too easily. Letting myself get carried away for a bit, to people who don’t actually care about you. I don’t think Mikayla’s mother even saw what she looked like before…” He seemed to shut his eyes for a moment, letting out a breath slowly, “Anyway-”



“It’s frustrating.” He tightened his grip, “Sometimes it feels like the whole world is up against me. And there have been times I might have thought about running or giving it all up to somebody who could handle it better. But in those harder times, I would always go back to the same two reasons to do right by them all.”



Venomous didn’t realize he’d been leaning in until he had to steady himself with a hand on the mattress, pulling himself back to sit properly, “...And what was that?”



Boxman let out a warm laugh, holding up a finger, “Do it for love. But also-” He held up a second finger and his smile became a grin lined with knives. “Do it out of spite.



Venomous felt a grip on his heart tighten and push up into his throat, swallowing and trying his best to hide the blush on his cheeks.



Boxman didn’t laugh so much as he cackled, grinning at Venomous, “I know-it sounds counterintuitive doesn’t it? But it’s true!” He’d unclasped his hands to hold them palm-up, like talons up to the sky, “It takes guts to look at a world that’s doing everything to put you down and make it harder for you and your family and stomp on their feet till they have to limp home crying! I take all that frustration, all those times I want to give up, and I shove against it with all my might. Because you know what feels even better then just love?”



Venomous was wide-eyed, shaking his head slightly as he waited for the answer, feeling as if he was watching a priest give a life-changing sermon. Boxman just gave that wicked smile, that glint in his eyes, clenching his hands into fists.



“It’s loving despite everyone and everything against it. Knowing that you trying your hardest is going to piss someone off, and laughing in their face about it… That’s how I do it.”



He blinked a few times after, his smile leaving as he gave a laugh, “Unless you meant more like ‘how do you do laundry for seven kids’ or meal plans or the like! I have those too, of course, and… I… Are you alright there, PV?” 

 

No he wasn’t. His chest felt tighter then ever before and his heart wouldn’t stop pounding in his chest, like a jackhammer cracking against his ribs. He swallowed again, opened his mouth to say something, then shut it. Not sure what he’d say in a state like this. He stares at his hands for a moment, collecting what few bits and pieces flap by that he can turn into a sentence, “I just...think that’s an incredible look at life.”



Boxman stared, then he laughed. And Venomous never realized until right then that he had crows feet. Not big ones or anything-a small set around his organic eye that creased when he laughed. And Venomous thought about coming home from work, leaning down and kissing those little creases. He thought about being the one person who didn’t leave. He couldn’t stop looking at him.



He really wished he’d taken a cold shower earlier.



Boxman shook his head and smiled his way, “Well, I’m glad you think so. Ernesto thinks I have some sort of anger issue, can you believe that?”



Venomous left his trance to respond, taking a moment to settle on the right face before settling on a raised brow and a dry smirk, “Well, you do yell at your kids from what I’ve seen.”


“I’ve just got a loud personality!” Boxman put his hands on his hips with a huff, “They know I’ve got to yell sometimes!”



Venomous laughed and held up his hands, “Alright, alright, settle down there…” He kept on smiling, kept up that mask as Boxman pouted at him, trying his best to hide a smile on his face as he rolled his eyes.


When did he get in so deep? This wasn’t some dumb crush out of nowhere. These fantasies, these feelings, the tight feeling in his chest that make it hard to swallow. He was lovesick over this man and every little gesture was just making him realize it more and more.



...but who was he kidding? Sure, Boxman seemed to like talking with him and giving advice. But that’s what friends just did for each other. With a family like his, he probably didn’t have many chances to make friends anywhere close to his age. He was just taking advantage of that. Venomous couldn’t leave to avoid the conversation or anything-why not chat his ear off and try to get every detail of his life out of him? It was just to pass the time. That’s it.



And maybe he’d like to talk more with him. Outside the hospital, away from all the nurses and doctors here. He’d call him by that little nickname and laugh about something one of his kids did. He’d ask to see him again, maybe for coffee, maybe to look over another blueprint he had in mind.



… But that was just a fantasy. So he tries to shove it back. And even though he didn’t get much sleep, he spends most of his last day awake. Chatting with Boxman, finishing the muffins his son made. He sidesteps and talks and laughs and tries hard to ignore the throbbing in his chest and the squeezing tension around his throat. And when he got sidetracked, he reminded himself that Boxman deserved better. That the sooner he stopped thinking about kissing the man, the sooner he could just...think of them as friends. As all they’d ever be. 

 

At some point, the nurse from last night comes by to check on him. He manages some food, tries one of the pills, and it does help keep his heart from wanting to escape his chest. Cosma would apparently be in tomorrow for a last checkup before he left, hopefully scheduled around his reservation. Ah, good, so that was taken care of. All in all, his last full day passes by faster then he thought it would. When the sun has set outside, Boxman seems like he’d quieted down more then usual, his hands together as he looks at the boat painting.



Venomous can finally feel his eyelids starting to tug, a yawn bubbling up that he lets go, stretching so his back popped as he lays back, “Can’t wait to be in my own bed tomorrow.”


“Yeah…” Boxman seems to frown for a moment, glancing to Venomous from his own spot. His brows are knit, and his overbite worries his lower lip as his fingers rub together, “Hey… PV?”



“Mm…?” Venomous cracked open an eye, laid on his back so he doesn’t smear makeup on the pillows.



“I…” Boxman opens and closes his mouth, his eye searching the growing darkness of the room as the last few rays of the sun vanish on the horizon, before settling on giving Venomous a smile, “Nevermind. I’ll ask tomorrow, okay?”



Venomous might have asked about the worried knit his face had, the nervousness of that smile, but the exhaustion was sinking in and the anxiety medication wasn’t helping matters. So he just smiles and nods, “Yep. Alright...looking forward to it, Boxy.” 

 

Boxman nodded, “Right…Me too, PV!” His sigh was one of the few things Venomous heard as his eyes shut and he settled back, feeling his mind drift. “Me too…” 

 

He expected with the relaxed tone of the day and the flow of their conversations that he might have had an easy, dreamless sleep for his last night at the hospital.



Instead he saw himself. He’d remembered this part a lot when he was younger. It had started over something so stupid-a sandwich order or a talk in bed. He’d been just so...angry. What had she said to him?



“We’ll get through this. I know how you must feel but-”



But nothing!! She couldn’t imagine what this felt like! How could she?? Feet hitting the pavement, running, running till his lungs hurt and his head spun. Staggering into a diner and drinking coffee until he stopped feeling like his heart was going to shatter. He thought he loved her. He thought maybe there was something for him at one point. But how could he ever love someone so vastly superior to him? How could he dare to hold her back? 

 

He watched himself sit at that table, alone. Like he was a camera trained on it, watched himself sit and waste away into nothing. Nothing left but anger and bitter grounds he drank up till the rest of him was just as bitter. And it festered and spread and hurt. He watched from the outside as the wasting man stopped and turned to look at him. All the pained anger of an injured, frightened animal. His chest a black, sinking pit that caved in on itself. The man smiled at him, extending his hand.


The diner withered around him, his infection spreading, ruining the paint on the table, the tiles on the floor, the neon signs fizzling and blinking out in the dark. The bell jingled and someone was walking inside. He couldn’t do anything but watch this man he’d been turn to look, smile his way, and lunge. 

 

That’s all he was, wasn’t it? The toxic bite of a cornered snake. And that’s all he’d ever be.

 

He wanted to say he didn’t remember any of this when he woke up to daylight, but that would be a lie. Bits and pieces came back to him as he pulled himself out of bed to fix himself up once again. During the night, he’d drooled some and half of his eyeliner was smeared across his face, but he could salvage what he could after a shower. Everything would be okay.



His hand went over his chest and gripped tightly, images of that black hole coming back to him slowly, eyes cast away from the mirror. He’d deal with it later. It was okay. Everything was fine. If he was sick he could handle it. Nobody had to know about it-it’d just freak them out. He goes for half of an anxiety pill once the shower is done. If he needed it, the other was on standby. 

 

The only question now was what outfit to go with now that he had options...he figured the classic would probably be best. A deep purple turtleneck, black pants, the white boots he’d worn this weekend. The long, dark jacket felt like a perfect fit for him. Granted he was feeling like his clothes hung loose on him from the week he’d had, but hopefully nobody noticed it Or if they did he’d just brush it off as a compliment-result of a new diet or… something like that.

 

Or it could be another sign that the shadowy smudge he saw was out to get him.



He shook his head, settling his hands on either side of the sink, staring at the man giving him so much trouble this week. “Listen to me. You’re fine. You’re not gonna make a big deal out of this and you’re not going crazy and you’re going to get out of here with a new friend just fine. ” He grinned, canines standing out in particular as he stared down his reflection, “Capiche?”



There was a knock on the door. “Everything okay in there, PV?”



He looked in the mirror again, reached up to stroke his hair back, then sighed, “Yeah! Just a pep talk is all.” He gave one last look to fix up one of his wing tips before he stepped out of the bathroom with a puff of steam from the showers, like a smoke machine going off at a rock concert. “Did you need to get in here, Box?”


Boxman looked like he’d already gotten up and dressed. And it if Venomous hadn’t known about his kids, he would have assumed he was a dad right from the get go. He had on a pair of black dress slacks, slightly scuffed leather shoes, a collared shirt printed with gears all over it, all topped off with some sort of tacky gold necklace that nestled snugly among the chest hairs he had-the top two buttons popped for a little peek.



His eyes seemed to look Venomous up and down and a nervous grin came to his face, twisting a toe into the ground, “Oh, just for a second! You don’t mind, right?”


Venomous smirked and stepped aside, holding his arms out to the door, “Please, don’t let me hog it all.”



Another laugh from Boxman as he scampered inside, shutting the door behind him. Venomous waited till he’d gone fully inside to let his face turn beet red and lean back on the wall to slide down it, face in his hand. How could he be so cute??? He was wearing a patterned button up for christs sake! It took a very specific person to pull that off and that wasn’t Boxman!


Shut up. Shut up. Just, pack your bags and get moving. Venomous sighed, pinching the bridge of his nose a moment, working on swallowing his heart again before he dragged himself up to get to packing. There wasn’t much thankfully-His laptop for the few projects he’d done while here, the bag from the hotel, the clothes on his back, and...ah. Jethro’s cookies… It takes a little effort to nestle them between his clothes, ending up with it half poked out of a jacket pocket before the laptop goes on top. A cushion of important information on top of some cookies. Sure he’d probably eat them soon as he got home, but nobody wanted a crushed up cookie, right? And the kid had worked hard on them…

 

His mind wandered to Boxman’s talk again, and it takes a good amount of rubbing over his face and one more pill before he can start thinking straight again. In more ways then one. It’s about that time that Boxman steps out. It really hadn’t looked like he’d done much, but a quick exam showed he’d slicked his hair back and…”Where on earth were you keeping nail polish?”


Boxman blinked, flashing the hand with black polish on each finger, “Oh, one of the kids must have left it in my bag! My son, Raymond, has a habit of borrowing my shirts sometimes. I thought it’d look a little fancier for a fancy restaurant...Is it my color?”


Yes it was. No it wasn’t the least bit fancy. But… “I like it.” Venomous said with a genuine smile, taking another look around the room, “More then this place, that’s for sure. Here’s hoping I don’t end up here anytime soon.”


Boxman gave a laugh, “You can say that again. Next time I do, I’m throwing one of those god awful statues out the window.”


Venomous cackled, “Okay, I might come back just to see that happen.”

 

Boxman snickered, stepping out the door with his things first, Venomous taking one last look around the room, grabbing his phone and charger at the last minute before stepping out. “Lead the way, Box.”


It felt kinda strange to not need a nurse anymore, Venomous taking the time to finally check his phone messages. Over the last few days, he’d only texted Carol to get his car to hospital parking. 

 

C: Sure thing, Percy. Hey, you’ve talked with Fink, right?

 

And that was about the time he’d gotten distracted talking with Boxman. The messages from Fink herself were a little more numerous.



F: I CAN’T BELIEVE YOU BOSS!! THAT WAS A DIRTY TRICK!
F: I got a bunch of giftcards for video games so you BETTER not be mad but also you should be mad cause I’m mad!!! 

F: Boss you’re not mad at me, are you?
F: Boss?

F: Carol says you’ll be out tomorrow. You better pick me up first.

F: Feel better.


Venomous breathed in deeply, letting it out slow as he pinched his nose. He really had some making up to do, didn’t he? He taps out a quick message.

 

V: Sorry, been busy here. Will be by today at 1 for you. Don’t cause trouble for Carol.

V: Love you.

 

Love was a stronger word, so that should get her off his back for a bit. Least while he focused on getting all this hospital stuff taken care of, alongside the...well, lunch plans he had. He felt a powerful tingle go up him when his hand brushed Boxman’s, tucking his phone quickly in his pocket and moving his other hand to fix some of his hair, glancing to the man, “So...checkout for you won’t be too hard I hope?”



Boxman was blushing, waving his hand with a laugh, “Oh no no no! Just your basic stuff-don’t do this, stay away from that, stitches come out such and such a time.” He leaned over, Venomous leaning to match, “Between you and me, I’ll probably just take the stitches out myself.”



Venomous raised a brow, “Tough guy, huh?”



“I’ve done it before just fine!” Boxman made a snipping motion with his fingers, “Once the skin heals, it’s a piece of cake!...Course I’ve never really done it for an abdominal injury…”



“Better be careful.” Venomous said with a wicked smirk, “I heard once that our organs are so tightly packed in there, you gotta be careful about where you cut otherwise they all come flying out.”


Boxman gave him a grimace, “You really had to say that before we ate, didn’t you?”



Venomous gave a shrug, “You learn a lot of medical facts going to hospitals on the regular. Plus Fink is really into the whole ‘true crime’ stuff.” He snapped his fingers, “Did you also know there’s up to six thousand cases a year where a doctor leaves tools inside a patient during surgery?”


“Again! Right before our meal!”



Venomous just laughed as they stepped onto the elevator heading down. Course there was already a line waiting for them when they arrived, but he’d planned ahead for it with the reservation-just enough time to wait in line so they could head on over. Now he was sort of wondering just how much Fink had spent though. He’d probably have enough to cover. Or maybe he could get Billiam to wave it after all the stress he’d been put through. He found his hand grabbing his chest again, looking over when he felt a tug on his coat.



“It’s just a line, PV. We’ll get through it, right?”



Venomous looked him over. He wanted to tell him that wasn’t it, but why worry him any further. “...Right. Guess I’m just a little claustrophobic with this line and all.” He lied. 

 

“Hm…” Boxman squinted, looking over the line patrons, looking like he got an idea. “Boy PV! Sure am glad your projectile vomiting slowed down last night, eh??” He said as loud as possible while still being polite.


Venomous felt his whole face turn red, straightening up as a few of the folks in line ahead looked back nervously. “YEP! No more risk of throwing up on people at least twenty feet away anymore! No sir-ree!” Boxman went on, nudging him with an elbow. “Then again you did look sort of pale this morning, didn’t you, eh??”

 

...Oh my god he was trying to clear the line for him, wasn’t he? Venomous still felt red as a tomato as he put a hand over his stomach as he doubled over, trying his best to sound weak and feeble, “Yeah...y-yeah I sure hope so…Urgh…”



Clearly not wanting to risk it, at least five folks left the line ahead of them to run to the back of the line, Boxman looking up at Venomous with the sharpest grin he’d had all day. “How’s that?”



Venomous cleared his throat and stood upright, “Just be lucky it worked.” He looked at Boxman with a glare, “Did you have to use me though?”



“You’re taller! It’s more of a threat coming from you!” He hummed, “Though I guess I could have evened it out if I went for dia-”



“NEXT IN LINE!”



“Oh thank god.” Venomous breathed out, stepping up before he could hear Boxman finish that sentence. Hoping the lunch conversation didn’t go a similar route. Boxman seemed content to drop it at least as they moved forward, Venomous making quick work of signing forms and getting medication slips, getting the clipboard down for Boxman so he could do the same. He glanced over the line and clapped a hand over his mouth, sending a few of them going even farther back with wide-eyed looks on their faces. Okay, that was pretty satisfying. 

 

Then at last, it was finally time. The restaurant was a spacious setting that probably could’ve been used towards way more space or a new baby wing, but it was nice enough inside. Dark mahogany for most of the furniture accented with even darker maroon tablecloths and candlelight that gave the whole place a nighttime feeling once you got inside. It turned out it was Italian, evidenced by the clay vase up front with a variety of dried fettuccine noodles sticking out the top and some colorful bottles of olive oil mixtures set on display by the host stand. It was still fairly early, so the restaurant was quiet with only the soft notes of smooth jazz playing in the background.



“I’ve got to admit, he knows his atmosphere.”



“Probably hired on a decorator to handle it.” Venomous offered, taking a seat at the corner booth they’d been provided. “Can’t imagine him having this sense of style.” You couldn’t see out into the lobby from this spot, making it really feel like they’d stepped into a whole other world. It was definitely a load off his poor eyes after all the fluorescents he’d had to endure. 

 

Boxman nodded, waving down their waiter for a bottle of rose (“I know, I know, it’s early, but you did say-” “Yeah I know what I said.”) It was served chilled and from there, the conversation flowed with it. Simple starters that led into deeper topics. Admittedly Venomous was a little too distracted to pay much attention to it.



The candlelit atmosphere just made Boxman stand out even more to him. In the flickering light he could see details he hadn’t before. The way the light reflected off his artificial eye, the shine off his claws tapping against the table, the twinkling gold of his chain and the ruby pendant inside that sparkled in the light and drew the eyes down to his chest, and his teeth-crooked though they might be-that looked so brilliant whenever he laughed or smiled. Venomous wondered if he was a good kisser with those sharp teeth. 

 

Occasionally, Boxman will check his phone, glance nervously up at Venomous and put it away again to start some other conversation, brushing hair back behind his ear. Maybe his kids were pestering him to get going already-He couldn’t blame them. Running a business and going to school at the same time had to be rough.



And Venomous takes those times to stomp down these kindling feelings. This was lunch with a friend. With a friend . Don’t get too committed now. Especially if you don’t know what’s wrong with you. Images of that scan, that hole in his chest, would pop up in his mind’s eye as just another reason he shouldn’t screw this up, that he shouldn’t commit. After all, no way would Boxman want someone as sick as he probably was, right? Right. Right…



It was when their entrees arrived and the wine was half gone that it was starting to hurt to keep reminding himself. Especially when Boxman’s cheeks had gained a nice dusting of pink, his hand playing with the stem of his glass, swiveling it back and forth, looking at the reflection. They’d hit a lull in the small talk and only the sounds of the piano music over the speakers and the clink of forks and knives from a few other patrons could be heard around them.



“Erm...Venomous.” Boxman started, “There was...something I wanted to ask you, while we’re here. If you don’t mind, of course.” 

 

Venomous looked up from cutting off a bite of veal, leaning on his hand with a smile, “Well might as well let the food cool a bit, right?”



Boxman gave a half laugh, but seemed to stare into his wine a moment longer before making his mind up, a determined look on his face, “I...This last week with you...I don’t know what it is. But I feel like you and I really click, don’t you?” 

 

Venomous blinked, posture becoming less relaxed as he sat up, “I guess it has…”

 

Boxman smiles at that, and ends up swirling his finger around the rim of the wine glass, “Most of the people I’ve liked in the past, we had some interests in common. Although I think I always came on too strong.”

 

...wait. What was he doing?

 

“But you and me? There’s just something between us. A spark I can’t put my finger on. Maybe it’s knowing you understand what it’s like to be a father. Or it could just be you’re very, very attractive-“

 

Stop.

 

Boxman gave a nervous laugh, “And I really don’t want to ramble but...I’m not wrong, am I?? Don’t you feel something too, Venomous?”

 

He did. He felt so much his heart was throbbing. But this wasn’t supposed to be happening. It was just supposed to stay a dream, some fantasy he could space out to, knowing it’d never happen. 

 

But here he was. Sitting here, wide eyed, his veal growing colder as Boxman basically said everything but “I love you.” He should be happy. He should be over the moon. He’s got what he wanted!!

 

“...Venomous?” His hand reached out, callused fingers brushing across his knuckles, “Do you ah...have anything to say?” 

 

Why was he so scared?

 

He pulls his hand back like he touched hot coals, “Boxman I...I can’t.”

 

Boxman blinked, taking his hand back, “Um...shoot, I did come on strong, didn’t I?” Boxman reaches back to rub his neck, “I mean I’m not asking for your hand or anything-“

 

No no no, don’t you get it?? I can’t take you. I’m not good enough.

 

“Look I just can’t.” He looks up at Boxman, “Just trust me. I can’t.”

 

Boxman was looking up at him with wide, confused eyes, searching the table for a moment, “Well… can you tell me why at least?” 

 

Can’t you take no for an answer?? Doesn’t he know you’re too much? You’re just going to drag him down.

 

“i said no, Boxman.” His tone has gone colder, and it looked like Boxman had felt the chill.

 

“You just-you just said you can’t!” He holds his hands out, “What’s holding you back so much??”

 

He’s not going to give up unless you make him. So do it. Show him just how rotten you are.

 

Boxman had reached out for him again as Venomous’ shoulders tremble, a quiet, stifled sound becoming a laugh as Venomous stood up, “Because why on earth would I ever like you?”

 

Boxman stiffened, drawing his hand back with a wide-eyed look, his voice a lot more hushed then usual, “Wh-what…?” 

 

“Just look at you! You’re some sad little man who deluded himself into thinking there was something about me to like. An old man past his prime.“ He watched Boxman seem to turn smaller, the hopefulness vanishing from his eyes as Venomous goes on, his mind spurring him onwards. “What, did you think I was going to give you yet another kid? Is that what you wanted?”

 

I know this hurts. But it’s for your own good. I promise. I just need to teach him to know better.

 

“How you could ever think I’d have feelings for you is just beyond me. I just felt sorry for you in that hospital ward.”



“That’s…”



“What? You think I’m lying about it?” Venomous gives another laugh, a manic, almost desperate-sounding one, “Do I look like I’m lying? Sorry, but just face it. You’re not anywhere close to my type. But hey… Maybe you’ll have better luck next time in a ward for the blind-“



SPLASH!

 

Venomous was cut off by the wine soaking his head, rosé dripping off his hair and sending his makeup rolling down his face in inky blobs. For just a brief moment, that spiteful little voice was shut up and he could actually hear anything besides the roaring of his heart. And pay attention to the damage he’d caused.

 

“That’s far enough.” Boxman had his hand around the stem of his glass, stood up on the chair for leverage. It looked like he’d started to cry, but the tears were held back now by the look of fury he held, flinging the glass aside to grab Venomous by his shirt, “You know what? Fine . You don’t like me. I get it.”


“Box-”



“Shut up while I’m talking!” Venomous quickly clamped up, staring up at Boxman’s furious face, “Really, the nerve of you… How long did you carry this on for?” His eyes were narrowed, with a grimace on his face that brought both his over and underbite out in full force. “What did you even have to gain from it? Was this...whole stupid lunch just a ploy to make fun of me?” His hands were shaking despite his best efforts to still them.


“Boxman…”


“I said quiet!” He gave him a shake to emphasize this, a soft laugh puffing out of him. “Did you think that the whole time? Just think I was some sad little man wanting some attention? Was that it??” He gave a huff and his eyes narrowed to slits against his face, “Well! Well well… You sure had me going for a bit, I’ll tell you that much, but you better not expect to fool me again. You know what they say, fool me once, right?” He looked into his eyes, searching Venomous for something. Some sign this was a mistake somehow, that Venomous was just messing with him. He was giving him a chance.


What the hell had he done? He just had to say something. Anything. He had to tell him he’d been lying or joking or...or something! So why couldn’t he say a goddamn thing? Was he really that scared of… whatever this was? Whatever something he might be committing to? Say something. Say something!

 

But nothing happens.

 

Boxman stared him down until Venomous couldn’t stand that look any longer, turning his head to the side to avoid it. It was another few minutes as the quiet music of the restaurant began to start again that Boxman moved a hand back to wipe at his face, “Heh… Fine then. You know what? I don’t need you anyhow! I’ve dealt with enough jerks for one lifetime and I don’t need you on top of it!” He let him go to slump back in his chair, grabbing his relatively dry plate, “And you know what else?? I am taking this to go because I earned it and you can’t do anything to stop me!!! So thank you for the meal!” He hopped down off his chair, giving one last look at Venomous. All that hurt and anger just barely holding back tears now as he sniffed and growled, “And bye forever!” 

 

And he just… leaves. He just leaves the restaurant. And he feels that pit in his chest and stomach get just a little deeper, a little wider. He had to do something. He wanted to be selfish, he wanted to take it all back, he wanted him-even if he didn’t know why, he wanted to. He bolts past the waiter on his way with the check and out the door into the harsh light of the hospital lobby, near blinding after the dimly lit space of the restaurant. “BOXMAN!”


It’s early enough that families are coming in to visit and patients are checking out, a small crowd around the lobby making it hard to see any sign of the man whatsoever. Didn’t help that he was short to begin with of course, trying to look among the level of the visiting kids he can see in the crowd. “BOXMAN!”


A nurse comes up at some point, telling him he’s disturbing patients. He thinks. She looks worried, but his heart is pounding and he’s frantically searching even as she tries to calm him back down. But it’s no use. Boxman was clearly faster then he gave him credit for, cause he was gone. Utterly and completely gone.


And he saw just the person to blame coming towards him from across the lobby. “You…”


Dr. Cosma blinked as she approached, her brow quirking up slightly. She still had her bag over her shoulder, looking like she’d just arrived at work mere minutes ago. “Mister Venomous? Is everything alright here?”


“Actually, far from it!” He clenched his hands into shaking fists, giving a strained laugh as he looked her over, “While you were off having your sick days caught up on, I had some pretty revealing information given to me you know.”


Cosma blinked, and her expression seemed to sour. “What on earth are you talking about?”


Venomous’ laugh was nearly a wheeze, “What am I-What am I talking about?!” He pulled his hands up and brought them down again, “The scans! The CT scans!!” He gripped his chest, sweat sticking out on his skin now, “Were you just going to keep it a secret until you found some way around it? Huh?? Was that your plan here??”


Cosma looked like she was completely out of the loop, her brows knitting as she crossed her arms, “The CT scans… From the broken CT scanner?”


“YES!!” Venomous snapped his fingers! “You do know what I’m talking about! The…” He trailed off, the sudden weight of what she said threatening to break his neck from the sudden impact. His eyes went wide and his skin as white as a sheet, “F-from the…broken…?” 

 

“Yes.” Cosma stared him down now, her arms crossed against her chest, “When you brought up the noise levels, I had a technician look into it. We printed a few test copies of your scan, but they all ended up with the same black smudge in the center.”


Ah.


Ah.


“So… I...don’t have tumors in me?” He asked in a voice that felt so much smaller then usual. 

 

“The scans were mostly fine on the computer.” Cosma looked him over, “But I don’t get how you would...have...Oh my god.” She brought a hand to her face and brought it down with a deep, deep growl to her voice, “He didn’t.


Venomous, soaked in pink wine, having his name called by a nervous waiter about the bill, with one very ruined relationship having just walked out of sight-had just been told he wasn’t dying at all.


He had a strong suspicion someone else was on the chopping block however.

Chapter Text

It was 12:01 when he finally left the hospital. It was a Thursday, sometime in early September. Hadn’t gotten too cold yet and it meant the summer rains in Maryland would keep going up till late October. Venomous had found it important to compartmentalize everything to avoid thinking about how thoroughly he’d fucked himself over.

 

As he sat in his car at the hospital parking lot, his clothes changed but hair still damp with wine, he kept cycling through the explanation Cosma had given him.



She had been sick for a few days, that part hadn’t been a lie. Food poisoning, apparently. And while she’d been gone, Billiam had taken it upon himself as director to...examine the case with Venomous and see about some way he could have ‘helped’. And with no practical knowledge about the CT scanner error, he’d snatched up the picture and ran with it in a feverish haze about getting sued for malpractice.



“Which is funny cause if that oaf hadn’t said anything he wouldn’t have even needed to worry about it.” Cosma had remarked.



But she’d showed him the scans on the main computer. Everything had been fine. That dark stain he’d felt squirming in his chest since that night had disappeared and left nothing but an apparently healthy body behind. All his worry, fear, and anger had come from a simple computer error. Course, this also meant that Cosma’s tests hadn’t proved anything more about his CFS, making the whole endeavour a waste of time.

 

...That’s what he would have liked to say. She had managed to figure something else about him though, in part thanks to nurse observation and Carol’s own testimony the day she’d come by to see him. He leaned forward till he was leaning his cheek against the steering wheel, pulling out the slip of paper she’d given him. Apparently Venomous didn’t have a shifting blob of illness, but he did have some pretty terrible anxiety issues he needed to pick up a prescription for.



He didn’t tell her about that inner voice that had done most of the damage, but maybe she already figured something like it was going on. Or maybe she was psychic and figured him out at a glance alone. Either way, she’d done something to help. He supposed he should be thankful for that.



He just wished she’d gotten to work a whole lot sooner.



So. Back to compartmentalizing. He had some time till he had to pick up Fink. Enough time to swing by a pharmacy, pick her up some apology cupcakes and make nice with Carol enough that she didn’t have to worry over him. From there it was go home, do some work on the laptop to make up for lost time, sleep in his own goddamn bed and move on with his fucking life!


He grit his teeth and breathed hard through his nose, letting it slowly slip out and shifting his head forward so he leaned on the horn. Yes he knew it was making noise, passing onlooker. No he wasn’t passed out. Yes he knows he has to leave now security lady. Thank you. 

 

As he pulled out of the lot and away from the hospital, leaving it far behind him, he just kept cycling back to all the ways he’d screwed up this week. Passing out at all-that had been the big one. It was the whole reason his fingers are still in a cast and why he’d be taking another pill every day. Meeting his family had been another-and all those kids would have been a hassle, right? Right.



A third had been him completely forgetting to ask for a number, or even where his company was located. That had been the biggest so far, besides the...everything else he’d did. He couldn’t just blame some scan on his actions anymore. He’d been afraid to think about it, so he didn’t and instead ruined everything all on his own. Like he’d been doing for a while now, come to think of it.



But hey, look on the bright side. At least if you can’t contact him, you have no way to make anything worse then it already is! 

 

In an effort to drown out something only he could hear, he cranked the volume up on the radio and leaned back in his chair, taking advantage of the open road to get a little speed in, breathing in and out slowly. Everything was gonna be okay. Just a bump in the road. He couldn’t hurt Boxman anymore. Be okay with that and just...move on.



Move on.



Right…



When he pulls up to Carol’s after some stops along the way, the screen door crashes open almost immediately and he nearly drops the cupcakes he’d stepped out with (purple, blue, and green monster cupcakes he’d spotted at the store, figuring she’d like dying her tongue those colors) when Fink pounces and hugs his leg hard. “Boss!!! There you are!! You kept me waiting forever!!”



Venomous set the cupcakes on top of his car to put an arm around and pat her head, “It’s only a minute past one.”



“That’s a minute too long!! Any longer and I’da died here!!!” She gave a soft growl as she pouted and buried her face against his leg, “The nerd fumes would’ve killed me…”



Venomous blinked, giving a soft sigh as he stroked her hair back, “Dendy playdate today, huh?”



“Affirmative.”



“JESUS-” Venomous nearly jumped out of his skin at the sudden increase of children standing directly behind him, tugging Fink with him when he turned on his heel. It was just one kid, but Dendy had that way of making an impression on folks. And being mysteriously quieter then a regular child should be. “What’d we say about sneaking up on adults, Dendy?”


Dendy adjusted her wide, owlish glasses so they glinted in the sunlight back at him. “Not to do it. However, it is rare to see KO’s father this often. I am merely taking advantage of the opportunity you’ve provided is all.”


Venomous had a hand on his hip, Fink growling softly while she clung possessively to Venomous’ leg, “For the last time, you don’t have to call me ‘KO’s father.’ It’s mister Venomous or Mr. V if the first is too hard for you.” 

 

Dendy blinked up at him, looking like she was staring into his very soul for a moment, before pushing up her specs again with a smile, “Affirmative, Mr. V. I will try to act accordingly from now on.” She headed back up the steps to Carol’s house as Venomous got the door open for Fink.



“Yeah, that’s what she said last time too…” He muttered softly to himself, helping get Fink buckled, “You played nice though, right kiddo?”

 

Fink gave a grumble as he strapped her to the chair, her arms crossed, “Yeah...they’re still dumb though. KO almost scratched my game!” 

 

“But did he?”

 

“...No...and he got real sad about it.” Her teeth snapped together as she looked off with a huff, muttering like she was enacting a curse, “Even drew up an...apology card…”

 

“Oh wow. He must have felt bad.” Least his boy knew better then him.

 

Fink gave another huff before she seemed to notice the funny smell, looking up at Venomous now that they were at eye level, “Hey, you okay boss?”

 

Crap. How was he supposed to answer that?? And did he really look that bad? He’s so caught up in regaining his balance with that question, it takes a minute before he’d noticed another person snuck up on him.



“Weren’t even gonna say hello, huh Percy?”



He was setting records for being an asshole today! He straightens up and shakes his head as he turns, shutting the door behind him, “Sorry. This morning was...a lot.”



He could see it on her face, Carol grimacing soon as he turned to look at her. “Boy I’ll say...You going for more of a...bawl your eyes out kinda makeup job?”



Venomous stared for a beat or two, checking his reflection in the car window (ignoring for the moment Fink pouring at him) the realization that he’d walked into both a grocery store and pharmacy looking like he’d left a hot topic after a bad breakup text causing him to scream internally for a good minute, “...Yes.”


Carol nodded, still clearly worried as she sniffed the air, “And...is that wine??”



Again, more screaming. “...Yes. I didn’t drink-...I mean I drank some but it’s uh. For my...hair.”



“Your hair?”



“My hair, yes.” He brushed a few locks back, “Supposed to make it shiny.”



She stared at the still damp hair starting to show a greasy shine in the afternoon sun, hand to her mouth, “...Uh-huh.” Carol breathed in and let it out-even her calming breathing had to be better then his, huh?-crossing her arms to look him over, “Well it’s always good to have Fink over. Dendy is a good friend, but it’s nice when KO can have someone he can really wrestle with, yknow?” 

 

Venomous couldn’t help but smirk. No wonder Fink was in a mood-probably had to deal with all that fighting spirit he’d gotten from mom. “Well long as they don’t break anything. Speaking of wrestling, how’s old Eugene holding up, eh?”



Carol blushed and gave his arm a light punch, “He ain’t that old yet! Just by five years!! I swear, you act like he’s ancient sometimes!”


Venomous smirked as he rubbed his arm, “Tell that to his eighties ‘stache and then we’ll talk.”



Carol gave a smirk of her own, “Hey now, I know someone who tried a ‘stache once before. Want me to go find those pictures?” She took his look of dread and silence for a ‘no’ before giving a laugh, “Hah! Thought as much! Nah but he’s doing great! Him and KO get along like two kits in a kaboodle! He just took KO for a rollerblading lesson yesterday. Little peanut still needs steadying but apparently he’s starting to get the hang of it.”



Venomous made a soft, amused sound at the thought of it. “Good. Balance skills will help as he gets older.” Got older...oh yeah. That was another thing he’d been worrying about, huh? His brows creased, a softer sigh leaving him, “...Hey, listen, about the other day. I’m...sorry I got snappy at you, Carol.”



Carol had reached out to pat his arm, “Hey hey, it’s tough in there. You had to be stressed out dealing through all that drama, huh?” She gave a slight smirk and a light smack against his arm before crossing her own again, “Buuut it is nice of ya to apologize. Did those tests even turn anything up this time?”



Venomous gave a half smile, relief coming back to him. Just a bit, but enough to make his chest not feel ready to burst or shatter like before. “Apparently I have pretty bad anxiety.”


Carol had placed a hand to her mouth, smile still half on as she bit her knuckles, eyes a little wider, “Oooof…Ya needed a doctor to tell you that, bub?”



He must have made a pretty wild face for the apologetic look she quickly gave him, waving her hands, “Sorey, sorey!! I just thought you knew that already!! You were always stressed out of your mind by all the show stuff, then the CFS to boot… I remember when you ran around in a panic cause your pants shrank in the wash that one time!”



Venomous sputtered at the memory, crossing his own arms, “Yeah, well, they were leather!! Do you know how hard it was to replace leather pants?”



“They had another three pairs backed up at the studio! And it wasn’t even real leather!” Carol gave another laugh, “And that’s not even going into the time your helmet got stolen as a prank. Seriously, you would panic at the drop of a hat if something went wrong! And you’d make the dumbest choices too. I’m just surprised it took so long for ya to notice.”



And he would have argued back on this, bring up another point to justify it but...it did make more sense then he’d have liked. His irrationality, his desire to cut ties out of convenience sake, the growing anxiety day by day that he just wasn’t good enough-just was never good enough-those had been aspects of him long before CFS became a daily struggle. Hell, if Carol hadn’t been stubborn enough to track him down and make him hold his son, would he have ever stopped running? Or would he just be the same scared little man who drove Boxman away.



...He hadn’t changed much from back then, had he? But the only reason he had this now was Carol putting in the legwork. Boxman had no interest in him, not anymore. He’d screwed things up, but...maybe he could try again, try better next time. “Uh, Percy?” Carol was waving a hand in front of his face, snapping her fingers, “I didn’t upset ya, did I?”



Venomous blinked a few times, then pinched his nose, “Uh...nah. Just doing some thinking… about what you said. Sorry. Like I said, hell of a week.” He looked up at her for a moment, a smile coming to him before he realized it, “...Thanks though. You gonna look into being a master therapist next?”



“Yeah yeah,” Carol grinned warmly as she gave him another punch in the arm, “Someone’s gotta call you out, right? Doesn’t make it my job though!” She leaned over to look at the car as Fink banged on the glass, “But uh, you better get going, huh? Else she might break a window again.”



Venomous smirked, “Bulletproof glass. And before you ask, I know a guy.” He glanced back at the house, “I can probably hook you up if you’d like.”



Carol laughed, “Nah, he’s more of a biter when he’s had a bad day! But thanks anyway!” She snapped her fingers as a thought seemed to hit her, “Oh! You’re taking him next weekend still, right? Eugene’s taking me out to these canyons to look at. Supposed to be super romantic when the sunset hits at night.”



Venomous smirked turned playful, lowering his gaze on her, “My my, taking advantage of the custody agreement now, aren’t you? Pretty sneaky there, Carol~”



“Oh shush you!” She jabbed his arm again, “Like you’ve never asked me to watch Fink, you sneak!”



“Hey I’m still gonna!!” He hissed, rubbing his arm, “Now I’m gonna take off before you land me at the hospital again.”



Carol gave another laugh and a wink, her arms crossed to her chest, “Seeya on Friday, Percy!” 

 

He gave her a wave, stepping around and back into the car, glancing to Fink once he was in. She was still pouting in the passenger's seat, giving him the nastiest look her cute little face could manage. Which in all fairness, had a pretty high amount of nasty it could pull off. “You done talking about boring adult stuff?” 

 

“Hmmm…” Venomous put the car in drive and pulled out, back on the road out of the quiet suburb Carol lived at, “Let’s see...Taxes. Bills. Retirement plan…” He looked back at her with a smirk, “ Now I’m done.” 

 

“You better be…” she huffed, pouting as she somehow crossed her arms even tighter and twisted in her seat belt to face the door and press her combat boots up against it.

 

Venomous gave another hum, “You still mad at me?”

 

She glanced a bit over her shoulder, giving another huff as she gripped at the seatbelt. “Yeah... Why wouldn’t I be?” She gave the door a kick, “Ya didn’t even let me say goodbye before...before…” her shoulders hunched, “Was I bugging you that much?”

 

Oh. Boy. Venomous turned as much as he could to look at her and keep an eye on the road as they went back to the highway, “F-Fink, you weren’t bugging me at all, I just-“

 

“Then why’d you want me gone, huh??” There was a slight wobble to her voice that she tried to bite down, “Why’d you have to trick me?”



Venomous tried to look ahead-biting his lip as he thought back it. “Cause you probably would’ve said no. I just…” He took in a breath and let it out, “I just figured you didn’t want to be cooped up in that hospital any longer. That’s all.”



Fink huffed and rolled her eyes, “Course I would’ve said no! Are you kidding?” She gave the door another stomp, “I’m supposed to be there to keep an eye on you! To keep you safe!”



“Fink, that’s not your job-



“Might as well be since you don’t DO IT!”



Venomous pulled off to the side of the road, hands clenched on the wheel as the first soft sniffle came out of Fink, seeing her arm move up to rub her face, back still to him. He put the car in park, shutting off the engine to lean his head back against his chair. He swallowed, reaching up to rub his face a moment, looking over her trembling shoulders.



“It’s just not fair…” She went on, rubbing her eyes again, “You work and work and work and when you’re not working, you’re seeing stupid Carol and stupid KO. The only time you ever need me are when you don’t take care of yourself…”



His shoulders slumped, leaning his head back to stare up at the car roof, “...You were really shaken up this time.”



Fink gave a harder sniffle, turning back to look at him, “Most times when you pass out, I can catch it in time. But I was tired too, and then you passed out and got hurt an-and I couldn’t wake you up and…” Big, fat tears had started to roll down her cheeks, “I thought you’d really bit the dust!! And when Carol came, it was like...like I thought you were really a goner and I was never ever gonna see you again! Like you were sendin’ me off so you could just…” She hugged her knees against her, “I just don’t get it. I do all this stuff to keep you around and I don’t get nothin’ for it.”


He breathed out, watching her back for a long moment. He honestly hadn’t thought about it, but Boxman’s observations stuck with him now. She hadn’t left his side once, waiting for him to wake up again...had she really been scared he wouldn’t wake up again? He bites his lip, unbuckling his seatbelt and leaning over, putting his arms around her, “Fink… I didn’t know you were this worried about me.”


“Uh, duh.” She huffed, gripping the back of his jacket, “Course I am. Who else is gonna??”



He gave a half smile, “The company would wanna know where I ended up, probably.” 

 

“Good!!” She looked up at him insistently, “They work ya too hard boss!! And then you gotta deal with KO and he gets you all tired-me I wouldn’t get you tired at all, right boss?”

 

He settled his chin down on her head, holding her close, “It's not that simple, Fink.” He glanced out the window-they were still close enough that he could see Carol’s neighborhood from up on the incline the highway turned on. Kids playing on the streets, folks out mowing their lawns, an especially gorgeous couple at their gothic mansion tending to some flowers. “Most of the time I don’t get to choose where my energy goes. All I do at my job these days is forms and calls-I’m not even in the lab much anymore.”

 

But that was just making excuses for himself, wasn’t it? He looked down at his daughter, still curled against him, her brows knit with that pent up anger she had inside. When was the last time he’d asked what she wanted? Or did things with her without KO around to maximize his time? When had he forgotten just how much she meant to him?

 

“Let’s say… I could manage things better.” He leaned back, hands on her shoulders, “Make some more time outside of work or custody hangouts...just you and me, what would you wanna do?”

 

Fink peeked up, but she’d quickly looked away when he glanced at her, burying his face in his chest to mumble something.

 

Venomous blinked, “Hm? Didn’t catch that.”

 

Fink peeked a little more, glancing up at him, “Maybe...we could play video games? Or we could cook together for once?”

 

Ugh. Ugh. The two least appealing things in the world to him...he’d hardly cooked a thing since getting richer. “I thought you liked takeout…?”

 

Fink huffed, looking up at him, “It doesn't matter if I like it!! But Carol cooks all the time when I’m over! Plus, when you get takeout, you always take it back to your office!” She stood up on the chair now (his poor upholstery was going to need so much cleaning) “If we cook together, you’re gonna be so tired you’re not gonna wanna leave the kitchen!“

 

Venomous blinked, “Meaning we’d have to have it together, huh?”

 

Fink grinned, “Right!!”

 

“I’ll admit...that is a pretty sneaky trick, Fink.” He ruffled her hair, unable to hide the charmed smile on his face if he tried.

 

Fink rubbed under her nose at that, “Heh! Yeah, I am pretty smart, huh?” She seemed to think for a moment, her posture getting down again, “But that’s only if you got any energy when you’re done at work, huh…”

 

“Not entirely.”

 

Fink looked up at that, her eyes widening, “Huh?”

 

“Well, I said it myself, didn’t I?” Venomous rubbed his neck, “They really don’t need me in the lab much these days. I practically do most of my work from home when I get back...maybe I should make a switch over? See if I really can do it all from home.” He looks at Fink, “That is, if you don’t mind having your boss around all the time?”

 

Fink’s whole face lighting up was all he needed, practically on her tiptoes from how straight she stood, “You really mean it, boss??!?” 

 

Venomous laughed, “Well with this latest hospital trip, I’m sure I’ve got the ammo to sue if they don’t let me. Wouldn’t want me passing out by any dangerous or hazardous equipment would they?”

 

Fink gave a happy shriek that could shatter glass (the bulletproofing really had been a smart investment) giving him only a second to open his arms before she crashed into him like a cannonball to crush his ribs, “Oof! You’ve been working on your grip, huh kiddo?”



Fink snorted, still just a bit teary as she nuzzled her face into his chest, “Mr. Gar lets us watch those Spanish wrestling shows!”



“Well, long as you aren’t planning a suplex.” He gently pulled the back of her shirt to get her back to her seat, “You can’t drive home yet, so unfortunately you need me awake.”



“Pff!” She crossed her arms and smirked at him, “Can’t drive far as you know, anyway!”



“Going down the hill on your trike to get a slurpee doesn’t count.”



She gave a pout and folded her arms tighter against herself, smiling a bit as Venomous settled in his seat, starting up the car again, “Oh! Boss!”



“Hm?”



“Didn’t you bring me something when you came over? I wasn’t lookin’!”



Venomous blinked, squinting as he backed up, “Did I bring-” It was at that moment the cupcakes he’d long spaced out about that he’d left on the car roof came tumbling over, staining his sports car window in a variety of purple, green and blue frosting. “...Ah. There they are.”



Fink blinked a few times, giving her boss a disapproving look, “You know I wanted us to make cupcakes, not buy ‘em, right?” 

 

“I was still going to!” Venomous quickly defended, giving a nervous smile, “But you know, they had little sugar googly eyes on them, and...eheh…”



Fink was staring him down like a cowboy in a shootout, giving a catlike smirk after a moment, “Welllllll, if you’re gonna be cooking tonight aaaaanyway boss…”



He blinked a few times, then his shoulders slumped, “Starting tonight?”



“Unless you want me more mad at you, anyway!” She grinned, leaning on the center console, smiling up at him until he pulled back onto the highway, trying his best to wipe off the cupcakes with the windshield wipers to pull off the first exit to a grocery store. And maybe a car wash while he was at it.



Somehow despite all probability, this store had meal kits set up in the meat aisle. Unfortunately, Fink had been picky about every one of them till they’d both decided on a chicken parmesan option, breaded and everything with the sauce in a bag nearby. Course she needed vegetables, couldn’t just have it be with pasta. Broccoli? Did broccoli go with pasta?...Did Fink even like broccoli?



He looked back at her sitting in the cart, “I really can’t just order a pizza, huh?”



Fink pouted up at him, wagging a finger, “This is good for you too, boss! You gotta eat better!” She stood up to pat his belly, “You didn’t eat a lot at the hospital!”



Venomous hummed, giving a sigh, “I mean, can you blame me?” 

 

“I’m gonna blame you plenty!” She smacked the broccoli into the cart, Venomous putting it to a good 50/50 chance she actually ate any and didn’t just make him eat it. Even if she was technically more responsible then him sometimes, she was still a kid after all. 

 

...wonder how Boxman would go about it? He’d probably go to one of the big box stores, buy in bulk and freeze half of it, cook the other half ahead. Probably the type to have ten different tupperwares set up in the fridge of stuff he could heat for lunch or to send the kids off with. Must be nice not to worry about so many living at home now...and here he was, worrying so much over just one. 

 

Maybe he should have asked him more about it. He didn’t think he’d be doing more cooking, but if he had Boxman probably would’ve known something, right? “Hey boss!!” Fink was waving something in front of his face, Venomous blinking from his haze to take a look, “Can we get some??”

 

“You want...a bag of shredded cheese.” Venomous tilted his head, “You know that’s not a real snack, right?”

 

Fink huffed, tossing it in the cart, “It’s better then a bag of chips, ain’t it?”

 

Venomous looked off, a hand going to his chin, “I guess, as long as you don’t eat the whole thing in one sitting.”

 

“Boss, you know I can’t make that promise.” Fink looked him over, leaning out to pinch his arm, getting a yelp for her efforts, “Oh, good! I thought you were gonna pass out again!” 

 

Venomous rubbed over his arm, raising a thin brow, “Pass out?”

 

“Yeah! Cause you were looking all spaced out there!” She pats his hand, “We gotta get going if you’re that tired!” 

 

Venomous waved his hand, “It’s fine, Fink.” He leaned on the cart, one hand back on his cheek, “I’m just doing some thinking is all. I’ll be done soon.” He waved a hand off to the rest of the store, “Go ahead and pick whatever else looks good. I’ll just be here.” 

 

Fink raises a brow, scampering out of the cart to fold her arms and look at him, “I might get some really gross stuff to put in there boss. You suuure you wanna give me that power?”

 

He waved a hand again, earning a pout from her as she scampered off to go see what else she could rustle up. Maybe this was just another energy sink, but he just couldn’t get his head out of the clouds, leaning his forehead on the shopping cart handle with a sigh. It’s just one guy. One guy he’d met a week ago under inconvenient circumstances. One that he’d messed up with in the worst way possible. Just move on.

 

Move on.

 

Move on.

 

Fink did pick out some pretty weird ingredients at first (cuttlefish chips, canned mackerel, vegemite ??) But she’d settled down once she spotted Venomous not paying attention to her and after about a thirty minute drive, soon they were back home with clean windshields and more groceries then he ever expected to have in one place. It was a good thing there were multiple viewtube videos to guide them through the cooking process.

 

Course it was his first time with a dish that had more steps then ‘pour water into noodles’. He did cut a finger cutting the broccoli, get the oil too hot and find himself opening every window in the house, and let out a horrible shriek when the wine lit ablaze in the pan. But the results on the table had somehow managed to become dinner. The cheesy breading was falling off in some parts, broccoli and pasta were a little overdone, and the sauce had some globules that had stuck to the pan to get worked back in. And yet…

 

“Boss!! This tastes really good!!” Fink was enjoying it with an enthusiasm he hadn’t seen before. Curiosity got the best of him, taking a bite for himself and blinking in surprise. 

 

“It...is good?” Course, he didn’t even get to taste the veal before it’d been...well, drenched in Rose. And he’d been an idiot. But somehow or another, he got the feeling it wouldn’t compare to the mess on his plate. He raised a brow as he looked it over, “How is this good??”

 

Fink leaned over the table, “Well you followed the recipe, right? And it had a bunch of good stuff in it! An’ hard work!” She grinned his way, standing up on her chair now, “Betcha don’t wanna do takeout anymore, do you boss?”

 

“Well…” he looked off, “It might be too much for me some nights. It had been a lot of work for a meal for two...he didn’t even want to look at the dishes piled in the sink.

 

“Hey I helped too!!” Fink put a thumb to her chest, “Which means I can cook for you too, right!” 

 

“Fink you mostly just cheered me on and yelled when things burned.” He could remember a distinct moment when she’d dabbed as he fumbled the knife and managed to catch it before it fell to the floor.


“That took some effort!!”



He nudged a piece of broccoli he’d somehow cut into a rhombus and gave a shrug, “Well, we could get a stepstool in here. I’m sure you’d handle a knife better then I could.”



Fink grinned at that, a wide smile that made her eyes squint from happiness. Dammit...guess Venomous was going to do a lot more cooking from now on. Especially if he was gonna be home more often. It was such a small thing. Just watching her enjoying the meal across the table from him. Yet it made him feel like...maybe he wasn’t such a screw up and a moron.


Maybe… everything would be okay.