“FIIIIINK!!” yelled Boxman, piling breakfast-smelling mush on plates. “Breakfast is ready!!”
“I’LL BE DOWN IN A MINUTE, BOXBUTT!”
Boxman rolled his eyes as he placed three plates on the table, one for him, one for Fink, and one for Venomous, who was reading an evil newspaper. Folding up his newspaper, he said, “Fink doesn’t usually take this long to get ready for school...Is she okay?”
Boxman shrugged. “You tell me - you’re the one who wakes her up. If I do it, she threatens to bite me and give me rabies,”
“Good thing we’re not anti-vaxers,” Venomous laughed. “You have my word she has all her shots from her doctor and her vet.”
“The last thing we need around here is a moody high school villain girl with rabies. Ha!”
Venomous sipped at his coffee, not eating just yet. It never looked like much, but the smell and taste always begged to differ. Still, he wanted to set a good example and not tuck in until everyone was at the table, sans the robots; they had already ran out to start destroying the plaza or some other. Venomous turned his head in the direction of Fink’s room and said loudly, “Fink, breakfast is getting cold!!”
“I’m coming, I’m coming!” A minute later, Fink marched into the kitchen and plopped down at her chair.
As she scarfed down her breakfast, Boxman and Venomous could not help but notice something... different about Fink. They stared at her, noticing her long green hair, usually tied back in a ponytail, was let down, but with tiny braids going from the side of her head around to the back like a crown. She wore new clothes Boxman and Venomous hadn’t seen her wear before. She wore a dark purple flannel shirt, unbuttoned, revealing the clean black tank top beneath, almost shiny with newness. The colors matched the black nail polish on her fingers, unchipped like they were painted last night. As she took a large bite of her breakfast from her fork, the handle clinked against the metal of silver bracelets dangling from her wrists. Those same bracelets matched the silver hoop earrings hanging from her mouse ears and the silver chain choker around her neck.
Just about to take another bite of Boxman’s breakfast mush, Fink paused, staring back at Venomous and Boxman. “...What?”
“Oh! Oh, nothing,” said Venomous. “We just couldn’t help but notice your new...look.”
Fink stiffened. “W-Whatever.”
“I like it,” he continued. “It’s nice, yet still very much you.”
Meanwhile, Boxman looked under the table comically obviously, then poked his head back up. “You got new jeans and sneakers, too!”
“Y-Yeah, Raymond and I got ‘em last weekend. No big deal!” Her whiskers twitched anxiously.
“And did you iron those pants? Could have sworn I saw some iron lines--”
“S-So what, Boxbutt?!” Fink snapped, blushing.
“Fink, be nice to your stepdad,” Venomous said, but leaned closer in interest. “Is there a...reason for dressing up?”
“Yeah! Is it school picture day today or what?” Boxman asked, leaning closer too.
“Your breakfasts are getting cold,” Fink simply muttered.
“Huh--Oh, right!” Boxman glanced at his plate, and in a heartbeat was devouring it with as much enthusiasm as Fink. Venomous simply cut off a bite with his fork and placed it in his mouth. As much as he would have loved to savor Boxman’s cooking, his curiosity took hold of him.
After swallowing, Venomous asked, “How’s school? Everything alright?”
“Yeah, you ask me every day, it’s fine.”
“You’re not…” Venomous raked his brain for the right words. “Being bullied, or pressured, or anything like that to fit in?”
Fink snickered. “Like anyone would dare try that on me! I’d demolish them with my bomb gloves, ha!”
“ Outside of school. We agreed on no weapons in the school.”
Boxman narrowed his eyes in thought as he chewed. His cheeks were so full of food he resembled a chipmunk. Suddenly his eyes lit up, his robotic one quite literally, like a light bulb. “I g’h h’t!” He said with his mouth still full.
“Got what, Boxy?” Venomous sipped from his coffee.
Boxman gulped his food down. Then, with lidded eyes, he sang, “Fink’s trying to impress a crush~!!”
Venomous spat out his coffee, shooting a stream of caffeine from his mouth and hitting Fink square in the face. Fink yelped and blushed furiously, her green fur tinted brown with coffee and pink with embarrassment.
“Fink, I’m sorry--”
“Look at what you did, Boxbutt!!” barked Fink. “You made boss spit out his coffee! Now I gotta redo my makeup!!”
Boxman swooned, “Ohhh, you’re wearing makeup for your special someone? Trying to sweep them off their feet?”
“Sh-Shut up!!” Fink inhaled the rest of her breakfast, chugged down her apple juice, and slammed her dishes at the sink. Still blushing, she ran out of the kitchen, tail twitching anxiously.
Venomous stared after her, while Boxman leaned on his elbows, grinning. “So, whatcha think Fink’s crush is like? The bad boy type? Or some cutie?”
Sighing, Venomous stood from his chair. “I’ll be right back.”
“Ooh, gonna get the juicy details from her?”
“No, to help her fix her makeup in time for the bus.”
“Oh, that’s not a half-bad idea actually.” Boxman glanced at the clock hanging just above the fridge, made from scrap robot parts. “But try to get the deets for me while you’re at it.”
Fink groaned as she furiously scrubbed her face with a damp hand towel. When she put it down and looked up at her reflection, she cringed. Her mascara ran from her eyes in streaks, her eye shadow made it look like she had two black eyes, and her lip gloss had smudged into a gooey, oily mess. “Cob damn it,”
“Need a hand?”
Fink looked up, and in the reflection, saw Venomous standing in the doorway. His expression was soft, a slight, hopeful smile playing at his lips. She clenched her fists, pouted her lips, and glared at the sink for a long, frustrated pause before she sighed. “...Yes.”
Venomous stepped inside the bathroom and to her side. He rummaged through his pockets until he pulled out what appeared to be a packet of wet wipes. Makeup wipes. He pulled one out and gently wiped it over Fink’s stained face. With even more gentleness, he applied eyeliner, eyeshadow, and light pink lip gloss to her face. His touch felt as sure yet soft as a painter’s paintbrush, she thought, with her eyes closed as he did his work.
“There we go,” he said, voice barely above a whisper.
Fink opened her eyes. Her eyes felt a bit weird with the makeup, but the feeling disappeared when she saw her reflection. It looked as if Venomous had never accidentally spat coffee on her in the first place. She touched her face, dabbing her fingertips around her eyes as if checking that it was indeed her face in the mirror.
She turned to face Venomous.
He averted his eyes, tugging at the collar of his turtleneck. “I don’t know why you’ve decided to change, but I won’t push it. Just, if it is a ‘crush’...” He put his hands on Fink’s shoulders, his cool fingers buried in her short green fur. “...please use protection.”
Fink stared at him quizzically for a minute, before she blushed furiously. “I-I’m not doing that!! And-And I don’t have a crush on her!!”
She clapped her hands over her mouth, eyes bugging out of her skull. Now her entire face and neck burned crimson. She sputtered incoherently for a full minute before Boxman’s voice cut through the entire factory.
“FIIIINK THE BUS IS GONNA BE HERE ANY SECOND!! FINISH GETTING PRETTY FOR YOUR CRUSH AND GET YOUR BUTT DOWN HERE!!”
Fink squeaked, “Gotta go bye!” as she ran past Venomous so fast his lab coat whipped around him. Her footsteps sounded like scurrying paws, almost like how she’d run on all fours when she was younger. Smaller.
Venomous sighed, combing his fingers through his salt and pepper locks. Then he heard those same scampering feet return. Before he knew it, Fink was back, hugging him tightly.
“Thanks, Boss,” She mumbled into his sweater, before turning around and running off.
Venomous wore an expression of soft shock on his face as she left. He could still feel the warmth from where her arms had wrapped so tightly around him, or from her face rubbing into his chest like an affectionate cat.
His face melted into a gentle smile as he stuck his hands into his pockets.
Sometimes Boxy would work on his blueprints at the dining room table during the day. It was a good change of pace, especially when he was having a difficult snag in designing new robots or enhancements for his robotic, destructive children. And his organic stepdaughter. He hunched over the table, now covered in blueprints and chewed up pencils, as the afternoon sun poured in from the window.
That was why, when Fink slammed the front door open and closed, Boxman looked up immediately and called, “Hey, Finkie!”
Instead of the usual response of a half-hearted insult and her walking into the kitchen for a snack, she was silent, running past the kitchen and straight to her room, where she slammed her door shut with such force it echoed through the entire factory.
“Uh…” Boxman sat there dumbly. The air grew thick with tension like smoke, choking him. He knew he wouldn’t get any work done like this, so he jumped from his chair and tiptoed his way to Fink’s bedroom door. He raised a fist to knock, but froze. His ears picked up her voice, hoarse and tight, but muffled as if she was…
“Fink? Are you...crying?”
“Sh-Shut up and go away!!”
Boxman’s eyes widened. Even through the door, her voice was so...broken. “Wh-What’s wrong? What happened?”
“I said go away!!!”
“Please, just...Just leave me alone--!”
Tears pricked at Boxman’s organic eye. His chest ached, though he wasn’t sure if it was from his heart or the chest plates beneath his skin tightening. Despite the pain, he slumped away from the door, dragging his feet. Brows knit together, he reached into his pocket and pulled out his phone, then dialed Venemous’s number.
Darrel paced about the dining room while the rest of his siblings stood around him. “So Fink just came home, slammed a buncha doors, and has been crying in her room ever since?” He asked.
Boxman held out his arms in exasperation. “For the last time Darrell, yes, that’s all I know!” He pulled out a few pots and put them on the stove. On the surrounding countertops were bowls of cheese and boxes noodles. He turned the oven on and said, “So the sooner we cheer her up, the sooner we can get her to talk. And I can’t think of a faster way than some mac n cheese!”
Shannon leaned on her elbows on the table. “It is her favorite...but are you sure it’ll work? It takes more than some food to heal a girl’s heart, you know!”
Raymond nodded solemnly. “For once, I have to agree. Coach, are you sure this will help ease the turmoil in Fink’s soul?”
Boxman poured the ingredients into the pot with wild abandon. “I don’t know! But it's better than doing nothing!! Now which one of you is going to bring it up to her?”
“I am Jethro!” cried Jethro.
Mikayla hissed at him, pawing at his face.
Shannon said, “Mikayla has a point, Jethro. You’ll just end up dropping it and make a mess!” She glanced at Raymond. “What about you, Ray? You’re the one who helped her pick out those new clothes after all. Maybe this is all your fault!”
Raymond reared back in shock. “First of all, how dare you accuse my impeccable taste in clothing of having anything to do with this! And second, as much as I want to see Fink happy again, I cannot risk getting bit by her. Rabies would be terrible for my complexion!”
Darrell facepalmed, making a loud metallic clunk. “You’re a robot, Raydumb! Getting rabies wouldn't affect your complexion! You’re made of metal!!”
Ernesto cleared his throat. “Correct me if I’m wrong, but I don’t believe Fink’s ever even had a case of rabies?”
“That’s not the point!!”
“I am Jethro!”
Boxman huffed, stirring the pot of melting cheese and pasta. His grip on the spoon grew tight, almost breaking it in half. Steam wafted from the pot and whistled from his ears. It was at times like this he wished Venomous was here, missing his calm, collected husband by his side. But he was at a villain meeting, and wouldn’t be back for another hour--
The screeching of car tires came from outside, followed by hasty footsteps and a door slamming open once more. The sound of frantic footsteps grew closer until Venomous slid into the kitchen, grabbing the corner to steady himself. His hair was a mess as if he had sprinted the entire way home instead of speeding by car.
“PV! You’re here!”
“B-Boxy...I came...came as soon as I could…” He panted. “Where’s...Fink…?”
“Sh-She’s in her room, but--”
Venomous pushed away from the wall and made his way to her room as fast as his legs could carry him, even though they felt like they were full of lead. His blood rushed through his ears, heart pounding as every fiber of his being told him to go help Fink, to stop her tears. He didn’t even notice Boxman and the robots following him. When he reached Fink’s door, his parental instincts forced him to simply burst through the door and say, “Fink!”
Fink laid on her bed, her back to the door. At the outburst, she flinched, curling into herself. “Leave me alone…”
“Fink,” Venomous walked to the bed. “I...What’s wrong?” Gently, he laid a hand on her shoulder. Her muscles tensed beneath his fingertips. He leaned over, catching a glimpse of her tear stained face. “Fink, please tell--”
“I said leave me alone!! ”
Venomous fell back, landing on his bottom with a grunt. However, he barely registered the fall, as he raised a hand to his face. He winced at the tender flesh where the heel of her palm hit against his nose. His fingers came back stained with blood. Shocked, he looked up to see Fink’s equally shocked face, her hand still in mid air. She didn’t hold the pose for long, cupping her mouth in a silent gasp. Fresh tears ran down her face in rivulets. It was as if they had eroded into her fur permanently. She tried to speak, but all that came were whimpers.
Venomous slowly got to his feet. “Fin--”
“I’m sorry!!” she bawled before crying into her hands. “I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m so sorry!! ”
“Fink loo’ a’me,”
She did, eyes watery and mascara running.
“I’s okay, I shouldn’ ‘ave toushed you withou’ as’ing firs’,” He said as best he could with a bleeding nose.
Boxman appeared at his side, scowling. “Well, I have to disagree! ...But I’ll overlook it just this once! What in Cob’s name is wrong, Fink?!”
“I...I...I…” She stuttered before breaking out into incoherent blubbering.
Both Venomous and Boxman sat on the edge of the bed, patting the space between them for Fink. Sniffling, she crawled over and sandwiched herself between them. As she leaned against Venomous’s shoulder, Boxman rubbed her back.
Venomous took out a handkerchief from his pocket. Turning away, he blew his nose, dabbing it for blood. He tucked the soiled handkerchief back into his pocket and asked, “What happened today, Fink?”
She wiped her eyes and smearing her mascara even worse. “Th-There’s this...girl...in my class, she’s…” She blushed. “...pretty nice, and...smart, and...pretty.”
“Ah-HA!” interrupted Boxman, “It was a crush, I knew it!” He clamped his mouth shut when Venomous gave him a hard glare.
Fink hugged her knees to her chest as she continued. “Today, I...I talked to her and...asked her out. Like, to a movie or something. But…” She hugged herself as if to protect herself.
Venemous’s face softened. “Oh, Fink…I’m so sorry…”
Boxman patted her back, “Yeah, it’s her loss for turning you down of all people!” He paused. “...Did she say no?”
She squeezed her eyes shut. “...She called me gross and...stuff.”
Both Boxman’s and Venomous’s eyes widened. The taste of bile collected in both their mouths. The taste of bile collected in Venemous’s throat while rage took over Boxman’s expression. But before either of them could speak, Fink continued.
“I...I just...I couldn’t move...It…Sh-She got sent to the principal, and all I could do is...is…” She sniffled. “I wanna be mad, but I...I…”
Venomous combed his fingers through her tangled hair. “We can’t control how we feel towards other people, whether we like it or not.” He glanced at Boxman. “It’s okay if you can’t feel mad at her right now. It’s okay if you still have feelings for her. But what’s not okay is what she said to you.”
Fink looked up with watery eyes.
“She has every right to turn you down, but she does not have the right to say those disgusting things to you. You deserve better than her.” His eyes went to the floor. “Of course, that doesn’t do much to help your feelings...I’ve been there. You can’t control your feelings... but you can control your actions.”
“Wh-What should I do, then?”
Boxman stood on the bed and declared, “Burn down her house with her and everything she loves in it!!”
Venomous coughed. “OR you could spend your time with those that deserve your love and respect, instead of moping after her.”
“Could that time with loved ones be spent burning down her house with everything she loves in it?” Boxman asked, hopeful.
“...That depends on Fink.” Venomous ruffled her hair. “What do you think, Fink? What do you want to do?”
“I…” She wiped her nose with her sleeve. “I think...I wanna eat some dinner...before it burns,”
“Huh?” Boxman suddenly sniffed the air. “Crap, it’s burning!!” Jumping off the bed, he scurried past the robots. “Berightback!”
The robots stumbled after him, disappearing from Fink’s room until the clatter of metallic footsteps was gone, down the hall. Venomous looked down at Fink, surprised to see a slight smile tugging at her lips.
“Feeling better?” he asked.
She nodded. “Sorry for punching you in the nose, by the way.”
“Give that girl a punch for me and we’ll call it even.”
She snorted. “‘Kay,”
He stood from the bed. “Let’s say we go get some dinner? We can get some ice cream afterwards, too.”
Fink got up, still wiping her face. Instead of answering, she flung her arms around him, squeezing him. Venomous wrapped his arms around her as well, burying his nose into her hair.
“You’re welcome, Fink.”