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The A Team

Chapter Text

It's important to make a good first impression Mumbo thought staring at himself in the mirror. He wore his everyday black suit with a white button down, but he had begun to panic a bit when he opened his bottom drawer only to have tie's spill out of the top, covering his arms in multi colored fabric.

"Red tie, blue tie. Red tie, blue tie, red tie-"

"MUMBO"

Mumbo jumped as his door flew open.

"I have been calling you for like ten minutes!" Doc griped, hastily removing his inside-out jacket and returning it to its correct orientation. "We don't have time to sit around! We need to get going and meet our teammates! I refuse to be late"

"I know I know" Mumbo protested, holding up the ties. "Just help me"

Doc gave him a exasperated look. "Blue ok? It doesn't matter let's go!" he huffed ducking out of the door.

Doc had said blue. Mumbo threw it to the side, and hurried out of the room, haphazardly looping the red tie around his neck. It was so second nature to him, he was finished by the time he got to the bottom of the stairs.

Doc was waiting for him, arms crossed, but clearly not as upset as he was trying to make it seem.

"Hey I said blue"

Mumbo laughed.

"I'd rather have my grudge Doc" he said grinning.

The other engineers crowded around the pair, sharing their congratulations and jealousy.

"You're so lucky!" Tango had remarked as he opened the front door. He looked straight at Mumbo "You know, you're very young to be put on a professional team-"

"That's why I'm his partner" Doc interjected, giving Tango a meaningful glance.

Tango clicked his tongue. "Can't argue with that"

The shouts and whoops from their fellow engineers grew quieter as Mumbo and Doc walked down the cobblestone road that led towards the forest.

————————————————————

"Nope you're wrong. Ender pearls are better" False retorted, handing the sharpened sword to Iskall.

"For PVP, yes" he said, holstering his weapon. "But in general? Elytra are way better"

"When have you ever been given an elytra?" She asked raising an eyebrow.

Iskall reddened.

"I... I haven't, but-"

False chuckled.

"But we'll get them soon!" He protested shoving arrows into his bag a little more forcefully than necessary.

"I'm aware" False said straightening up and grabbing her axe. "But it's going to take time to learn to fly, and even more to learn how to shoot from the air! This team is only going to have two soldiers and it's important that our main priority is keeping everyone safe, not flying around"

Iskall sighed. "I know. I was just excited for something new"

And I just want to have some fun for a change he said silently.

False's expression softened. She wasn't much of a hugger, but she patted his hand gently.

"It will be something new" she said. "We are going to meet new people. Non-soldier people, thank God!"

"You're right" Iskall said, excitement back on his face. "Besides, it's going to be hard to learn to fly by ourselves. It's not like there are any avian half breeds left"

"Yeah meeting the mutants will really be something" False murmured as they headed towards the door.

"Did you hear that our leader is a healer?" Iskall said trying to keep the jealousy out of his voice.

"Yeah..." she said concernedly. "I've heard healers tend to be kind of... soft. I was kind of expecting it to be one of us"

Iskall breathed out a sigh of relief. "Me too! I mean it's usually a soldier or at least an engineer right?"

False shrugged. "Maybe this person has something special. We can't count them out without giving them a chance"

"Of course not" Iskall said holding the door for her. "But at least we'll be there to take over if it becomes too much for them"

False nodded, and the two set off across the open field.

—————————————————————

"Stress, do you maybe think you could stop bouncing?" Xisuma asked gently, glancing sideways at the small brunette.

"I always bounce when I walk" she chuckled. She slowed slightly however making an effort not to bound on the balls of her feet as she took each step.

"Sorry Stress" X said. "I'm just a little freaked out that's all"

"Don't be!" Stress chirped. "You're going to be an amazing leader"

"But why me?" X asked, finally letting loose the one question that had been floating in the back of his mind for the last few weeks.

"Because you are amazing" she said reaching up to squeeze his shoulder.

"You have good instincts, you're smart and caring, and you are a great healer. Almost as good as me!"

X laughed.

"Yeah almost. Thanks Stress"

"Of course" she said, resuming her bouncy walk. "It's kind of sad leaving headquarters"

X sighed. "I know. I'm gonna miss them so much"

The other healers had given them quite the send off, singing and dancing, laughing, and saying how proud they were of their friends for being chosen. Sufficed to say, some tears had been shed on both sides.

"It's ok though" Stress said brightly, bringing X out of his thoughts. "We are going to make new friends! How many members will be on the team anyway?"

"Eight, including us" X said.

She frowned.

"That's... small"

"I know, but apparently the team is really good" he said. "Very skilled and professional, I believe I was told"

—————————————————————

"GRIAN I SWEAR TO GOD-"

Ren darted around the trees looking desperately at his winged friend in the sky.

"You look like a poodle!" Grian choked out, tears of laughter running down his face.

"It's not funny!" Ren yelled. "I said it's not funny!!!"

Ren had woken up that morning only to discover that Grian had sprayed his beautiful brown fur a tacky bright pink. Ren had chased him around the complex before Grian had made a mad dash for the door and took to the sky.

Grian, now struggling to breath, his face flushed and red from laughter, said "Ok ok! I'm sorry. I'll come down if you promise not to kill me"

Ren narrowed his eyes, but slowly nodded his head. Grian, still grinning, softly flew to the ground where he was tackled instantly by the pink wolf-human hybrid. Ren began to laugh as the small blond man struggled against his weight.

"Did you really think you were getting off that easy?" he said shaking his head wildly, staining Grian's skin and sweater with cheap pink dye.

"You promised!" Grian moaned, but he was still smiling, trying to shield his face. "Get off me you dog, I can't breath!"

"Do you hear that?" Ren said, his ears perking up in false alarm. "I think it's the worlds smallest violin"

He smirked as Grian's laugh turned into sputtering.

"Please... Ren" he wheezed.

"I'm waiting for the magic words Grian"

"You... win"

Ren relented and got off of him. He shook himself out one more time. The pink had faded slightly, but was still abundantly clinging to his ears and tail.

"Oh I am not meeting them like this" Grian muttered, attempting to wipe his face with his sleeve, only succeeding in smearing pink across his forehead.

"How do you think I feel?" Ren said, gesturing to himself. "I mean I know I'm hot but pink is not my color"

Grian laughed.

"We're going to be so late"

I hope you guys liked the first chapter! It's really just an intro to the dynamics of all the characters and their partners, but I would still love feedback!

Chapter Text

"This is stupid" Grian pouted, his arms crossed as he walked through the forest. 


Ren rolled his eyes. 


"You're being a little dramatic don't you think?"


"No!" Grian huffed. "We could get there so much faster if I flew! But nooOOOooo. I have to walk on the ground like a peasant!"


He shoved his hands into his pockets. 


Ren laughed. 


"Dude you know why you aren't allowed to fly there. It's a long walk, and we're passing right next to enemy territory. They can't know that you exist"


Grian exhaled through his nose in annoyance. Annoyed because he had to walk, and annoyed because he knew Ren was right. 


But he didn't like staying on the ground for too long, especially when there were other people around. It made him painfully aware of how short and skinny he was. Being in the air with his beautiful wings outstretched made him feel big. 


Ren wasn't the tallest, but he was at least a head taller than Grian, and very muscular. Grian felt like a child next to him. 


"I could just flutter my wings a bit" Grian said sweetly, changing tactics. "Just enough to get me off the ground. I won't go above the trees"


Ren looked around. He couldn't hear anything besides the crunching of leaves under his feet, and he didn't see anyone. 


"Grian you're your own person" he said. "You can do whatever you want"


Grian gave him a bright smile, spread his wings slightly, and glided gently about a foot off the ground, the wide grin stuck to his face. 


Ren smiled, his forehead lined with worry. He didn't think Grian should be doing this, but after a lifetime of being kept inside and being told what to do, Ren could at least give the poor kid some freedom. 


Oooh push that thought back down Ren thought. He is NOT a kid


At the ripe age of 25, Grian wasn't a child at all, and he hated people treating him as such. However with his dark blond hair, rosy cheeks, and oversized clothes rolled up several times around his elbows and ankles, he looked no older than 15. 


Still, Ren always made an effort to treat him the age he was and give him the freedom he deserved. 


"Hey Ren"


Grian's words caught him off guard and he blinked a few times before answering. 


"What?"


"Do you think they'll be expecting us?"


"Of course. They know they have hybrids on their team"

"No" Grian said. Turning to fly backwards so he could look at Ren. "Do they know what kind we are?"

"I-" Ren stopped. Usually the leader of a team would be informed of the type of hybrids they were getting, but in this case...

"I don't know" he said honestly. 

Grian sighed. 

"So... I should prepare myself then? For the questions?" 

Ren nodded. 

"I mean, I'm used to it by now so it doesn't matter anyways" Grian said turning back around. 
The questions. Always with the questions. He wouldn't mind so much if they weren't the same every single time. 

Where have you been?

Why were they hiding you?

Are you actually an avian or are you faking it?

What happened to your parents?

Have they ever captured you before?

Are all avians so small?

Are you the last one?

"Grian it will be fine" Ren said. "They'll make their fuss and then they'll get over it! More importantly, we are going to meet new people, and belong to an actual team! Not everyone is that lucky"

Grian nodded slowly, the tingling excitement beginning to stir in his stomach once more. 

"Yeah you're right, and don't worry. I'm not worried. I never am"

He flashed Ren a winning smile before flapping his wings and speeding ahead. 

"Catch up dog!" He laughed, wind whipping through his hair. "You don't want to be late"

Ren laughed and shook his head in amusement, going down onto all fours and taking up a gallop.

The two friends soared between the trees, so lively and animated that they didn't even notice the sound of a clicking camera from behind their backs

Sorry this chapter is so short, but another one will be coming very soon. In the meantime, please leave a like if you enjoyed it, and leave a comment if you would like! I love feedback. 
Thanks for reading!

Chapter Text

"Then your back leg is positioned like this" Iskall demonstrated. 

Mumbo studied his own feet before slowly moving them into the correct position. 

"Like this?"

"Exactly!" Iskall said handing him a sword. "Then your arm is - yeah perfect! That is the ready stance for sword fighting"

"Wait I need to add something!"

Stress stood up from the grass where she had been sitting. She stood on her tiptoes and placed a daisy chain on Mumbo's head. She took a step back. 

"There. Now you look beautiful!"

Iskall laughed. It was a loud high pitched laugh and it was utterly infectious. Before long Mumbo and Stress were also roaring.

False opened the door, axe in hand. She looked around wildly before seeing them sprawled on the grass laughing. 

"I thought you were under attack!" She yelled. 

"Sorry Falsey" Iskall called wiping a tear from his eye.

"We are under attack" Stress said. "Look out! Mumbo the flower king is coming"

Mumbo straightened his crown and struck a formidable pose.

False rolled her eyes, but smiled despite herself. The door was pushed open a little more and Xisuma stuck his head out. 

"They aren't here yet?"

"No we haven't seen them" Mumbo said looking into the the thicket of trees surrounding the bunker. 

X made some grumbling sounds and closed the door. 

"He's a little high strung" Iskall said, re-holstering his sword, which Mumbo had dropped. 

"Not usually" Stress replied, brushing the grass off of her clothes. "He's just worried about the half-breeds. They should have been here like an hour ago"

"They're probably fine" Iskall said, lying back and resting his head on his arms. "Half-breeds are kind of childish. I'm sure they just got distracted"

"You've met a mutant before?" Mumbo asked. 

Iskall paused. 

"Well no... but from what I've heard they tend to be kind of immature"

"I don't blame them" Stress said. "They are kept inside so much of their lives, they probably just want to let out some steam when they get to leave their compounds"

Mumbo furrowed his brow. 

"Why are they kept inside?" 

"Because they have to be kept hidden" she explained. "The Corporation wants to capture all of them. They've gotten at least half by now, and pretty much all of the rare ones at this point"

"How do you know so much about this?" Iskall asked. 

Stress hesitated. 

"Well... after the Corporation captures one and finish their experiments, they kind of just... dump the bodies around the forest. Part of my job when I was in training was to examine the bodies to see what they had died from. That's where X and I met"

They sat in silence for a minute. 

"What did they die from?" Mumbo asked quietly.

"It was always different" Stress said looking down at her hands. "Different people can handle different amounts of torture and-"

"Torture?!" Iskall interrupted sitting up suddenly. "You said experiments!"

"Well technically they were experiments" Stress said. "They take blood, spinal fluid, skin samples, bone marrow, you know - basic medical samples, but they don't use any anesthesia so it's basically... torture"

"That's awful" Mumbo whispered. 

There was another moment of silence. 

"Well our mutants won't have to worry about that" Iskall said confidently, breaking the tension. "Because we-" he gestured to Mumbo, Stress, and then to the bunker "-are going to protect them" 

———————————————

As the sun dipped lower in the sky, Xisuma became more and more stressed. He Doc and False had joined the others outside and X had taken to pacing back and forth in front of the bunker, looking at his watch, then at the descending  sun, then back at his watch. 

"Xisuma calm down" Doc said. "They'll be here"

"They better be!" X said checking his watch again. "My first day on the job and our half-breeds are gone!" 

"False and I can go look around the forest for a bit" Iskall suggested gently. 

Xisuma nodded vigorously. 

"Yes. Please do that"

"Wait" Mumbo said straightening up and squinting at the trees. "I don't think that will be necessary"

The group fell silent. For a moment there was nothing, then,

"I am totally going to win"

"Only cause I let you!"

"Liar!" 

The voices got louder and louder until finally the trees in the distance rustled and two people, laughing loudly and pushing each other in an attempt to get ahead, burst through the trees. 

"Oh thank god" Xisuma mutter under his breath. 

"Are those... is that" Iskall squinted into the growing darkness. "Is that an avian?"

That got everyone's attention. 

Mumbo blinked. One of them was clearly on all fours. He had pointy ears and Mumbo swore he could see a tail poking out from behind his back. As they came closer it was clear that Iskall had been right. The other one was gliding above the ground, beautiful gold feathered wings outstretched. 

The two laughing hybrids came to a stop in front of the group panting, laughing, and arguing. 

"That was so me"

"You're just a sore loser"

"That's beside the point!"

Feeling eyes on his back, Grian stopped suddenly and turned to the staring crowd of people. 

"Um hi" he said waving his hand slightly. He was glad he hadn't landed yet, and was still floating a foot above the ground. 

Ren straightened up and stuck out his hand to Xisuma. 

"Hi! My name is Ren"

X blinked and tore his eyes away from the blond boy's wings. 

"It's nice to meet you Ren" he said giving the wolf human a weak handshake. "My name is Xisuma. I'm uh... the leader"

"Oh! Then it's you we owe an apology" Ren said with a guilty smile. "We didn't mean to be late. There was... an incident this morning" he gave Grian a sideways glance "and it set us back a couple hours until we could... clean up the situation"

Grian snorted and Ren shoved him. 

"Are these real?"

Iskall had walked around Grian and was studying his feathers closely. 

Grian sighed and forced a polite smile on his face. 

"Yes they are real. My name is Grian"

"It's so nice to meet you!" Stress said bouncing towards him. 

Grian landed and was happy to see that he was a bit taller than her. He stuck out his hand, but the girl threw her arms around him nearly knocking him off his feet. 

Grian had only ever been hugged by Ren before, and it took a minute for him to realize what was happening and reciprocate. 

"My goodness" she exclaimed. "You're so skinny it's like hugging a baby bird"

Grian reddened, but smiled, not wanting to upset her.

 

As everyone broke out into conversation and began to move inside, Grian began to relax. The others were kind, if perhaps rather nosy, and he quickly struck up a conversation with Stress and Iskall, while Ren introduced himself to everyone else. 

"So what's the deal with this place?" Grian asked looking around the bunker. The tall stone walls glowed with candles and illuminated the beautiful paintings. It was comfortable and warm. 

"It's nice right?" Iskall said spreading out on one of the many couches. "Plus there are more rooms underground! I can't believe we get to live here"

"Well it was built just for us" Stress chirped. "I didn't know why they were giving us such special treatment until..." she paused and glanced at Grian. "Anyways we're very lucky"

Grian felt a tap on his shoulder. 

"Excuse me. I, uh, don't believe we met yet" 

A tall thin man with dark hair stood above him. Grian quickly stood up and spread his wings slightly to try and appear a bit bigger. The perpetually nervous man held out his hand, which was stained with red stone. 

"I'm Mumbo"

Grian smiled and shook his hand. 

"Grian. Is that a daisy chain?"

Mumbo felt his face grow hot as his hand flew to his hair. He had forgotten about it. Stress and Iskall snickered from behind Grian's back. 

"I... uh"

"Don't worry" Grian said gesturing for Mumbo to join the small group. "I like it"

Thank you for reading chapter three! As always, please leave feedback if you can and leave a like if you enjoyed it!

Chapter Text

Iskall, Stress, and Mumbo cheered and clapped as Grian soared through the air. He did flips, somersaults, loops, everything he could think of. 

The early morning sun cast the forest in a shimmering curtain, making the gold of Grian's wings and hair sparkle. 

Sweat on his brow, Grian beat his wings hard, pushing himself high up off the ground. When he couldn't get himself up any further, he sank into a dive, plummeting towards the ground at top speed. 

Stress squealed and dug her fingernails into Iskall's arm

"He's gonna crash!"

At the last second, Grian pulled out of the dive. He was so close to hitting the ground, his stomach skimmed the grass. 

Mumbo let out a breath he didn't realize he was holding. Stress jumped up and down, clapping her hands, while Iskall put two fingers in his mouth and whistled. 

Grian flapped his wings one more time to bring himself to a standing position and landed in front of them. 

"Thank you, thank you"

He blew kisses and bowed at each of them, his chest heaving. 

"That was amazing!" Mumbo cried. 

"You were ok" Iskall said rolling his eyes in mock degradation. 

Grian shoved him playfully and beckoned to Stress who cheerfully followed him, leaving Mumbo and Iskall to shake their heads in amusement. 

"What... is this man?" Iskall chuckled. 

"Still trying to figure that out" Mumbo said softly, watching as the avian flew over Stress, grabbing her hands.

Grian pulled her off the ground by the wrists and slowly flew her around the clearing. Stress screamed in delight as her feet kicked in the open air. 

Behind them, a window on the upper level of the bunker opened. 

"DO YOU HAVE ANY IDEA WHAT TIME IT IS!?" Doc bellowed. 

"It was Mumbo!" Iskall Stress and Grian yelled back in unison. 

"Wha- HEY!"Mumbo cried. 

Iskall roared with laughter, quickly joined by Stress and Grian, who had fallen into a heap on the ground. 

Even Doc cracked a smile. 

_________________________

"What's the plan today?" Stress asked Xisuma, bouncing on the balls of her feet.

"Well it's our first full day, so everyone is going to start their jobs" X said looking around at the lighthearted group eating their breakfast. Stress noticed how much calmer and happier he seemed, and she let her smile spread even wider across her face.

"For us" X continued, "that means setting up the med station downstairs and giving everyone a quick exam to make sure they're all good"

"Cool! Is there any history that we should be aware of?"

Xisuma pulled some papers out of a box sitting next to him, and scanned them quickly. 
Stress stood on her toes to read the charts over his shoulder. 

"Well Doc's prosthetics are certainly pretty obvious" he said looking at the man with the metal arm. "But based on his chart he has had them for a long time with no issue, so it's doubtful there will be a problem"

"Even so, can you take Doc?" Stress asked. "I don't really have much experience with red stone prosthetics" 

"Ok"

They divided up the charts, and Stress left happily with charts for Grian, False, and Mumbo. 

________________________

The two healers spent several hours filling up and decorating the -3rd floor of the bunker (the third floor underground) and turning it into a mini hospital. 

"Did you bring any antiseptic?" Stress asked digging through a shulker box. 

Xisuma tossed her a double bottle of clear liquid. 

"That's it?"

"I know" he said, dumping an armful of bandages into a chest. "I already sent out a request for more, but it will take a few days to arrive"

"Well, we should be ok for the first couple of days" she said stripping the latex gloves off of her hands, letting her skin breath. 

"You done? I'm ready to get started"

"Just about"

He closed the chest and pushed it back under a table. 

"Can you go up and get Iskall for me?"

"Yep!"

Stress hummed her way up the stairs, and out the door where the two soldiers were sparring in the clearing outside. 

"Iskall! False!" She yelled, waving.

False made a T sign with her hands and  the two holstered their weapons. They jogged over to Stress, shoving and nagging each other the whole way. 

"What's up Stress?" Iskall asked, flashing her a toothy grin from under his helmet. 

"Xisuma and I are giving everyone examinations today so we can update your charts" she explained waving them inside. "False you're with me"

They made their way down the stairs and into the clean white mini hospital the two healers had spent the morning putting together. X took Iskall to a private room and Stress did the same with False. 

"I'm pretty relieved to have another girl on the team" False admitted once the door had closed, taking her protective goggles off of her head and sitting on the examination table. 

"Me too!!" Stress said, giddiness radiating through her voice. 

False smiled. It had been a long time since she had felt comfortable acting like a girl. There were very few female soldiers, and it had been a tough environment to grow up in. Stress was different though. She was joyful, bouncy,  kind, and emotional. It was incredibly refreshing. 

Stress pulled on a fresh set of gloves, and took False's pulse and blood pressure. She listened to her heart and concluded that False was in peak physical condition, aside from the battle scars that littered her body. 

"You've got some great biceps" Stress commented as False pulled her jacket back on. 

False flexed her arms proudly. 

"You better believe it"

She got up to leave. 

"Hey Stress?"

"Yeah?"

"Maybe we can... hang out some time? Like have some... girl time?"

"Like a slumber party?!" Stress exclaimed, her eyes shining. 

False raked a hand through her bright blonde hair. 

"That's not really what I... I've never really had a slumber party so-"

"Then you are lucky you met me!" Stress said. "We can paint our nails, and do our hair, and give each other makeovers-" 

"Um"

"I'm so excited!" Stress squealed. She rushed over to False with her arms outstretched. 

"Oh I'm not really a hug-"

She was cut off as Stress threw her arms around False's neck, continuing to babble about slumber party activities. 

False rolled her eyes and grinned.

I guess there are worse things than a slumber party. 

She patted Stress on the back quickly and pulled away. 

"Send Mumbo down for me!" Stress sang after her. 

_________________________

"What's that"

"It's an observer"

"Mmm hmmmm. What's that?"

"A piston!"

"Oh right right I knew that. What about that?"

"It's a hopper"

"Ok... what's-"

"Grian!" Doc growled, turning to look at the avian. He did his best to give Grian the malice filled glare he was known for. 

It didn't work. 

Grian simply grinned and put his hands up, giggling to himself before turning, and taking off. 

Mumbo chuckled. 

"You've lost your touch, mate"

"How dare you!" Doc gasped in mock anger. "Gotta say though, the little monster is a lot tougher than he looks"

"Mumbo you're up!" False called twirling an arrow between her fingers as she emerged from the bunker. 

"Alright"

Mumbo stood up from where he had been working, brushing his hands on his black pants. 
A mirror in the hallway caught his eye and he stopped to look at himself. 

He grimaced at the grey stains the gun powder had left on his face and white button up.

Oh well. 

Mumbo had grown up rather high class, and he was horribly aware of it. 

Most people didn't dress like him or become so nervous when asked questions. He admired the way his friends could just say what they felt, not giving a moments thought to how it would effect their image. 
It wasn't that Mumbo was self centered. He had just been raised to always try and present himself as put together and successful, not that he ever actually felt that way. 

He sighed, making one last attempt to brush red stone dust from his hair before descending down the staircase. 

An elevator would go nicely here, he thought, running his hand along the banister. 

The soles of Mumbo's shoes clicked loudly on the quartz tiles as he walked towards the medical wing. He let his finger tips drag against the wall. 

Maybe a storage system running along here...

He let his thoughts wonder, turning in circles as he walked to take in the whole view of the underground passage. 

People often thought Mumbo was spacing out, but he wasn't. It was just that most of his dialogue went on inside his head. 

Whenever he looked at an empty space, the gears in his mind would start turning. Images of complex machines and contraptions would fill the space and everything else would cease to exist. That world was so much easier to live in.

THUD

Mumbo stumbled backwards and fell, his head spinning. He blinked rapidly, lights popping in front of his eyes, as the thick glass door in front of him slid open. 

"Mumbo! Are you ok?" Stress cried kneeling next to him. 

She raised a hand to his forehead and could feel a bump rising rapidly. 

"W-Who makes..." Mumbo stuttered. 

"What?"

"Who makes a door out of glass?"

Stress laughed, and helped him to his feet. She carefully led Mumbo to the examination room and had him sit on the table. 

"Perhaps we should replace that door" Stress muttered to herself as she washed her hands and put new gloves on. 

"Now let's see"

She steadied Mumbo's face gently and held up a small light to examine his eyes as well as the growing bump on his head. 

"Well you don't have a concussion" she said. "And you aren't bleeding"

"I-it's not that bad" Mumbo said, pulling away from her. He felt embarrassed, and the more she fussed over him, the hotter his face became. Who just walks into a door?

Stress cocked her head in confusion at his reaction. She brushed it off however and proceeded to strap the sphygmomanometer around his arm to take his blood pressure. 

She charted the numbers and moved to take his wrist for his pulse. 

"My goodness!" She exclaimed. "Does your heart always beat so fast?"

Mumbo didn't know how to respond. He tried to slow his breathing and bring down his heart rate, but that just made his nerves go through the roof. 

Stress gave him a worried look. 

"Do I make you uncomfortable? You can switch to Xisuma if you want. I promise I won't be upset"

"No!" Mumbo said loudly making her jump. He scolded himself inwardly. "No" he repeated calmly. "It's not you. I just get a little nervous around new people"

She gave him a kind smile. 

"Ok. Well, you seem fine. If your head gets worse let me know, but I think it's just a nasty bruise"

He nodded and gave her a quick smile before leaving through the heavy glass door, which now had a large smudge where he had hit it. 

"Hey Mumbo!"

Grian popped out from around the corner, feathered wings at full mass. 

"Gah! Grian!" Mumbo closed his eyes and took a deep breath. 

"Hey I'm sorry" Grian laughed, nudging Mumbo's arm. "I didn't mean to scare you"

Despite his racing heart, Mumbo couldn't help but grin. The avian's smile was just too contagious. 

"It's fine" he said. "I think Stress wants to see you?"

"Yeah I know" he said, walking past Mumbo and towards the entrance to the medical wing. 

"And don't worry!" Grian turned to Mumbo and winked. "I see the door"

Mumbo stared after Grian as he felt his face heat up. 

_____________________

"Oh good!" Stress exclaimed as Grian walked through the door. "I forgot to tell Mumbo to get you"

"Yeah don't worry" Grian said, hopping up on the table. "Doc told me and Ren that we were next"

He reached behind himself and began to tug at the end of his sweater. 

Grian had spent more time in examination rooms then out of them, and he knew that his oversized sweater basically swallowed his entire torso, making a healers job very difficult. A long time ago he had sewed buttons going from the base of his wings to the bottom of the sweater, making it much easier to take off. Pulling his massive wings through fabric just took too long. 

"Very clever!" Stress complimented. She helped him unbutton and pull the sweater up and around where his wings met his back so he was left in a red t-shirt. 

She sucked in air through her mouth. 

"Is something wrong?" He asked

"No of course not"

Grian was far skinnier than she had thought. His collar bone stuck out awkwardly from his chest, and his arms looked as though they could be snapped in half. It was amazing that he could hold up the weight of his wings. 

Stress put on a calm face and picked up his chart. 

"Where were you being held before you came here?"

Grian sat back on his hands.

"I mean, they never tell me the name of the place when they move me" he said thoughtfully. "But I think I was there for a couple months. It's hard to tell sometimes"

"What did they feed you?"

"Oh I was on a 5/2 diet" 

She furrowed her brow. 

"You were only fed five days a week?"

"Yeah! It wasn't bad" he said giving her an encouraging smile. "Some compounds just have more provisions than others"

Stress did her best to smile back. 

"I just need to get something real quick ok?"

She stepped out of the room, closing the door behind her quickly. 

She walked over to the adjacent room and rapped her knuckles on the white iron. After a minute X opened the door. 

"Hi Stress"

"Hey Stressy!" Ren called from the examination table behind him. 

"Mind if I steal him for a second Ren?" She asked. 

"Not a problem"

Stress jerked her head at X, and he stepped out of the room, closing the door behind him. 

"What's wrong?"

She sighed. 

"Grian is incredibly malnourished. I'm shocked he can hold himself up let alone fly around the way he does!"

"Ok ok calm down" X said putting a hand on her shoulder. "Let's just take this step by step. Where was he before he was here?"

"He doesn't know" Stress said shaking her head. "Apparently they don't tell him or even feed him everyday!"

"Unfortunately that isn't so abnormal for the hybrids" X said with a concerned expression. "Grian may be an extreme case, but we've done enough autopsies to know that some of them just don't get the same amount of food as everyone else"

"But that's not fair!"

"I know. But the least we can do is help him now"

Stress took a deep breath. 

"You're right, you're right. I'm sorry"

"Don't be, you're just worried" he said giving her a quick hug. "Now let's go talk to him, and we can come up with a plan together"

Stress nodded. 

"Thanks X"

"Anything for you"

To be clear, I am not shipping Stress and Xisuma. It's more like a brother sister relationship. 
Anyways, I hope you enjoyed chapter four! If you did, leave a like, and leave a comment if you have any feedback!

Chapter Text

Iskall studied the small figure in front of him. Stress smiled back. 

"Bow and arrow" False decided, handing it to her. Iskall nodded in agreement and the two soldiers moved down the line. 

They considered Xisuma. 

"He has a similar build to me" Iskall noted. 

"Sword then?" False asked. 

"Yeah"

They moved to Doc. He was well built, and almost as tall as Mumbo. 

"Maybe... a spear?"

"Or a trident" False added. 

"Yeah with that metal arm I bet you have great range for heavy weaponry" Iskall said. 

Doc smiled, his chest swelling with pride. 

Mumbo shuffled nervously next to him, drawing the attention of False and Iskall. 

"Mumbo-" Iskall started. 

Mumbo was difficult. He was very tall, but very thin and anxious. Not really the makings of a great soldier. 

But he doesn't need to be Iskall reminded himself. He just needs to be able to defend himself. 

"Let's start you on a crossbow, and see how you do" False said, filling the awkward pause. 

Mumbo nodded stiffly, accepting the weapon. He had never been very good at combat training, and preferred engineering traps to actual fighting. He just hoped he wouldn't be the worst one. 

The soldiers moved on the the hybrids. 

Ren brought himself up to his full height, which would have been more impressive if he hadn't been standing next to Mumbo. However Iskall noticed that he could see the outline of Ren's biceps through his shirt. 

I suppose running on all fours would do that he thought. 

"How about a battle axe?" False said, interrupting Iskall's thoughts. 

He nodded. 

"Good idea"

False pulled the heavy weapon from her belt and handed it to Ren, who began to strike poses with it. 

Iskall scoffed, but Ren just wiggled his eyebrows, and flexed his arms. 

"Ladies get in line" he said blowing a kiss at Iskall. 

The rest of the group laughed while Iskall rolled his eyes, grinning despite himself. 

He felt a tug on his sleeve and looked down at the avian. 

"What about me?" Grian asked, his eyes sparkling with excitement. 

Iskall and False shared a glance. 

Grian was slowly gaining weight, even putting on muscle from all the building he had been doing, but he was still quite skinny and small. His wings however, which stretched wider than Grian was tall, gave him an advantage. 

"Crossbow" Iskall said, handing it to him. "If you can learn to shoot accurately from the air, you could be a great warrior"

Grian's smile stretched wide across his face as he happily accepted the heavy wooden weapon. He had always wanted to learn combat, but had never been allowed to stay at one compound long enough to do so. Any chance at learning a new skill excited him, and that made him a fast learner. 

As the group dispersed, Grian made his way over to Mumbo, who was nervously turning his crossbow over in his hands. 

"Hey!" Grian said loudly. He had learned that it was important to get Mumbo's attention if he wanted to talk to him, because Mumbo always seemed to be lost in his thoughts. Mumbo blinked rapidly and raised his head, waving awkwardly. 

"Grian! Hello"

"So I guess we'll be training together then" Grian said giving Mumbo his most winning smile. 
Mumbo's face flooded with color (which Grian had come to know as a normal reaction to any conversation with the tall engineer). 

"You... want to train with me?"

"Well duh" Grian said nudging Mumbo with his shoulder. "We have the same weapon"

"Oh! Y-yes" Mumbo stuttered. "Of-of course that's... that's very true"

He groaned inwardly. Couldn't he act like a normal person around Grian for once? The small blond avian made him very nervous for some reason. Mumbo was convinced it was Grian's overwhelming confidence and utter lack of worry that confused him and made him stutter the way he did. Those feelings were just so foreign to him. 

If Grian noticed anything strange he didn't let on. He just grinned and trotted away. 

"See you later Mumbo Jumbo!"

"Jumbo?" Mumbo asked, bewildered. 

"You needed a second name" Grian said with a chuckle. "You're too posh to just be Mumbo. Do you like it?"

"I-" Mumbo paused and smiled. "Yeah. Yes, I do"

Sorry this chapter was so short. The next one will be coming in the next couple days and it will be longer, I promise. 
If you enjoyed the chapter, please leave a like, and let me know if you have any thoughts or feedback!

Chapter Text

"Iskall"

Iskall turned away from his breakfast and saw X standing behind him grinning. 

"What?"

"They're here"

"They- wait really?"

"Mm hmm. Big white box"

Iskall stood up so quickly he knocked over his chair. He ignored Stress's giggles as he ran into the main room pushing past Doc and Ren. 

"Iskall my dude! What's the rush?" Ren asked jogging to catch up with him. 

"The elytra are here!" Iskall yelled over his shoulder. 

He blundered through the oak doors to the mail room, stopping to catch his breath. 

He threw open chest after chest, looking for- there it is!

Iskall struggled to pull the large white box out of the double chest in the corner. He heard the door open and Ren and Doc strolled through looking amused. 

"Need help?"

"Yes please" Iskall puffed. The box was far heavier than he thought it would be. 

Doc helped him lift the box and bring it back to the kitchen, where the rest of the team watched as they placed it on the table. 

Iskall looked at X expectantly. He smiled. 

"I got a message this morning" X began, "that we received our elytra last night" 

Instant chaos broke out as everyone except for Grian rushed to rip open the parcel and extract a pair of purple-grey wings strapped to a harness. 

Iskall looked adoringly down at his. They weren't as big as Grian's, and not nearly as beautiful, but they belonged to him, and him alone. He had always wanted to fly, and watching Grian flutter around the camp the way he did always made Iskall a little jealous. Now he could join in on the races Ren and Grian often enjoyed. 

"Grian" X said breaking up the excited chatter. "You know the mechanics of these right?"

Grian nodded. 

"I've flown with them before"

Doc knitted his eyebrows together. 

"You already have wings. How did you even get them on?"

"Ren help me" Grian said gesturing for the elytra. 

Ren nodded and moved behind the small avian. Grian folded his wings as tightly behind him as he could, and with Ren's help, slid the harness over the top of his head, strapping it tightly to his body, crushing his feathers against his back. 

Doc nodded. 

"Ok. Do you want to show us how to use these then?"

Grian smiled, refusing to wince at the pain from the harness pulling on his wings. 

"Of course! Let's go outside"

________________________________________________

Grian had them line up. 

"Ok" he said, rubbing his hands together. "So to take off you need handheld rockets. Doc, Mumbo, You've been working on some right?"

Doc nodded while Mumbo chewed on his nail and mumbled something about gun powder. 

The two engineers pulled forth a large box full of small rockets. 

"Everyone take some" Grian said, grabbing several for himself. 

"Now-"

He stood on top of a chest. 

"To activate the elytra, you need to jump in a way that allows air to pass through the wings and make them open. When you are starting out, it's helpful to jump off of something. Once you're airborne, fire rockets to move yourself through the air"

He took a breath and jumped off the box. Had he not been wearing the elytra, he would have belly flopped on the ground. However, as predicted. The sudden rush of air opened the artificial wings, and made Grian glide a foot above the grass. 

"Now the rocket" he yelled behind his shoulder, sparking the rope hanging off of the red and white striped cylinder. A small swishing sound and Grian was propelled upwards.

"Now landing takes some getting used to!" He spoke over the wind rushing through his curly hair. "Do NOT try and rocket yourself to the ground, or you'll crash. You need to glide as slowly as possible. When your feet touch the ground, it helps to run a few paces after landing"

He holstered his remaining rockets and straightened out his body, making his descent slower. When he was a couple feet from the ground, he reverted to a vertical position, and let his toes skim the grass before forcing the elytra to close by sinking his soles into the soft dirt. He turned dramatically, and put his hands on his hips. 

"Got it?"

"Yes" Iskall and Doc echoed confidently while the remaining five muttered an uneasy approval. 

"You'll be fine!" Grian said encouragingly. "It's hard at first, but with enough practice you'll be a pro"

The team began stuffing their pockets with rockets and tightening the straps on their harnesses. 

"Mumbo"

Mumbo turned and saw Grian standing with a strained expression. 

"Can you help me take off this harness? It really hurts"

"Of course!" Mumbo said, louder than he meant to. 

Grian turned his back to him and began unbuckling the straps in the front. 

Mumbo very carefully began to loosen the straps encircling Grian's shoulders, taking extra care not to touch the gold feathers crushed underneath the leather. He paused. The last strap was pulled tight around Grian's waist. Mumbo felt his face grow hot as his shaking hands wrapped around Grian to undo the buckle. He unconsciously let his hands linger on Grian's hips before quickly pulling away. 

"Thanks!" Grian said flashing his infectious smile at Mumbo and pulling the elytra over his head. He let out a gust of air as he felt his wings unfold and extend out. 

"That's so much better" he murmured rolling out his neck and stretching his shoulders. 

"Is...is that all you need?" Mumbo said pulling on his collar to loosen his tie a little. 

"Yeah thank you so much" Grian said gratefully, pushing his hair out of his eyes to look up at his friend. 

They stood in silence for a moment. 

"Um, you should probably start practicing with the elytra" Grian said with a gentle smile. 

"Oh. Right." Mumbo mumbled absentmindedly, struggling to break eye contact with the avian. 
His large eyes were a beautiful mix of blue and grey, shadowed slightly by his uneven blond fringe. 
Grian's cheeks turned slightly pink from the unwavering attention. 

"Um Mumbo? Is everything ok?"

He waved his hand in front of Mumbo's face. 

"Huh?"

Mumbo blinked. 

Did I... was I staring?

He stepped away quickly, his heart beating so hard he worried Grian may hear it. 

"I, um, I, I'll go now, practice and... and such, um, elytra and... bye!" He stammered, turning on his heel and speed walking away, leaving a bewildered Grian to wonder what he had done wrong. 

______________________________________________

"I... I thought his would be easier" Iskall said breathing heavily after falling to the ground for the sixth time. 

"You're doing better than me" Mumbo griped. So far he had been unable to even make it more than a couple feet off the ground. His long legs kept dragging him down. 

"I think it helps to be short" Stress said giggling as she flew above them, making an unsteady landing beside False. 

"Well good for you then" Iskall muttered under his breath. 

He loved Stress, he really did. She was his closest friend, but sometimes her unwavering optimism got on his nerves. 

A shadow passed over him and he looked up to see Grian flying effortlessly above him. A pang of jealously shot through him. He shook his head, trying to rid himself of the bitter feeling, and stood up. 
He managed to take off once more and shakily fly around the clearing. It was the landing that was difficult. 

He squinted his eyes and spread out his arms slightly to try and balance himself out. 

"Good job!" Grian said flying up next to him. "Now just make sure to let your legs down at the right time. That's the key to-"

CRASH

Iskall flew directly into Doc. Their elytra's closed and they tumbled to the ground, landing in a heap. 

"Iskall what the hell!" Doc said angrily, attempting to detangle himself from the soldier. 

"It's not my fault!" Iskall exclaimed. He looked up at Grian, who was slowly floating to the ground, unable to keep the amusement off his face. 

Iskall glared at him. 

"You distracted me" he snarled.

Grian let a blurt of laughter pass between his lips, making Iskall's face redden with anger. 

"I'm sorry" Grian said. "I was just trying to help"

"Well don't" Iskall said, pulling himself up and brushing dirt off of his clothes. "I don't need your help"

The smile on Grian's face wavered as he realized Iskall was actually upset. He flew to catch up with him. 

"Iskall it was an accident" he said sincerely. 

"Yeah well, it's always an accident, isn't it Grian" Iskall said harshly, speeding up. 

Grian followed suit. 

"Iskall what's wrong? I know it's hard at first, but you'll get better with practice. I can help-"

"No!" Iskall yelled, stopping abruptly, causing Grian to run straight into his back and fall on the ground. 
Iskall turned and look down at the small avian, frustration burning in his chest. 

"I don't want your help Grian!" he continued loudly, making all eyes turn to him. "If I wanted an annoying, mouthy, little rat to distract me then I would call for you immediately, but I don't! No one does!"
He turned and began to walk away, before quickly turning back. 

"And you don't need to fly everywhere you know! It's not cute or impressive, it's exasperating! You may think people want to look at your massive wings all day, but trust me, they don't, and I don't either, so do us a favor and put them away for once!"

With that, Iskall turned and strode inside the bunker. 

He heard the door open and slam behind him as Ren and Doc ran to catch up.

"What the hell is your problem?!" Ren shouted grabbing Iskall's shoulder roughly and forcing them face to face. 

"Can Grian be a little annoying sometimes? Of course! We all can! But none of us, least of all him, deserve to be yelled at the way you just did!"

Iskall's tongue stuck in his throat. His face burned and he could feel the guilt rising in his chest. 

"Say something!" Doc yelled. 

Tears rolled out of Iskall's eyes and he covered his face. 

"I know! Ok? I know

His shoulders shook, and Ren's grip on him loosened. 

"Then why did you say it?" Doc growled. 

Iskall took a minute to gulp down air and wipe his face before answering. 

"I was jealous ok? I've wanted to fly and have my own elytra since I was a little kid. It was my dream to be able to fly in the air, and soar above everyone and be-"

He stopped himself from saying the hero.

"But Grian... he was born with wings! He can fly whenever he wants and do everything I always wanted to do. I thought with an elytra I could be the same, but it's so much harder than I thought! And Grian was trying to be so helpful and optimistic, I just snapped! Oh god" 

He sat down and covered his face with his hands. "I can't believe I said what I said"

Doc and Ren glanced at each other and sat down on either side of him. 

"Dude I get it" Ren said, his voice serious, but gentler than before. "But Grian's life isn't what you think it is. He grew up in isolation, and wasn't allowed to go outside until he was 15 for his own protection. He was malnourished, left alone, and his growth was stunted because of it"

He took a breath. 

"You want to know why he flies everywhere? It's because this is the first time ever he's been allowed to do what he wants. Flying makes him feel big and special. He doesn't act like it, but he's incredibly insecure. A person who grew up like that could have turned out horrible and bitter, but he chose to be optimistic and kind. Sure he pulls some stupid pranks sometimes, and doesn't always read other peoples feelings very well, but he's doing his best, and I love him for it. He's like a little brother to me, and if you ever do something like this again, I promise you won't like the consequences"

He stood up, and Doc followed, his eyes wide with shock. The wolf hybrid was usually so jovial and calm. 

Ren crossed his arms. 

"Now go do what you need to do to fix this"

_______________________________________________

Iskall ran up to Mumbo and Stress who were whispering to each other. 

"Which way did he go?"

Stress turned to him with a sad expression while Mumbo glowered and turned his back. 

"He went that way" Stress said quietly, pointing into the thicket of trees. 

"Thanks Stress" Iskall said, giving her the best smile he could muster. "I'm going to make this right"

He ran to the edge of the forest and pushed himself into the trees.

"Grian?" He yelled, encircling his mouth with his hands. 

All he got in response was a loud squawk from a group of crows in a nearby tree.  

"Grian please" he pleaded, wincing as a sharp branch scratched his cheek. "I'm so sorry"

There was silence for a moment. 

"You were right" came a small voice from somewhere above him. 

Iskall felt his heart ache. 

"No! No no no I wasn't!" He begged, beginning to climb. 

"I was wrong! I was an idiot! I was frustrated and I let anger take control, but I didn't mean any of it I promise"

"Then why did you say it?" 

The voice was getting closer and Iskall increased his pace, pulling himself in between branches of dark oak. 

"Because-" Iskall bit his tongue. "I was jealous"

"Jeal- of me? Why?" 

"Because" 

Iskall could see glimpses of gold feathers between the leaves. 

"You are what I always wanted to be"

Grian turned away as Iskall's head popped through a gap in the branches, and he slowly and shakily made his way to sit next to him. 

"I don't understand"

"I just- I always-" Iskall faltered. He balled up his fists. "Your wings are amazing"

Grian turned to look at him in surprise. 

"They're beautiful! Stunning! And the things you can do in the air are breathtaking" Iskall continued, his face turning red. "When I was little, I always wanted to be able to fly. Having an elytra was a dream I never thought I would get, but it's so much harder than I thought. You make flying look so easy, and I just felt like such... a failure"

The silence between them felt like an eternity. Finally Grian spoke up. 

"Iskall, do you know how long it took me to learn to fly?"

"I... no"

The question took Iskall by surprise. 

"Are you talking about elytra or your real wings?"

"Either or" Grian said with a small shrug. "They were both impossibly difficult to learn to control"

He held up his left hand. 

"Do you see how these three fingers are bent slightly to the right?"

Iskall squinted in the dim light.

"Yeah"

"When I was 10, and learning to actually use my wings, I crashed into a wall and then landed on another kid"

Iskall snorted and clapped a hand over his mouth. 

"Sorry"

"It's ok" Grian said with a small smile. "It's funny now, but at the time I was mortified. I broke my hand including these three fingers, and made someone else get a mouthful of sand"

He giggled. 

"Ren was fine of course, but-"

"It was Ren?" Iskall cackled. 

Grian joined in on the laughter. 

"Yep! That's how we met"

"Wow. That's amazing"

Grian nodded and let the laughter die down before continuing. 

"But it made me so angry, I wanted to cut off my wings. I had expected it to be easy and it was not at all. If Ren hadn't been so forgiving, and become such a good friend, I would probably never have flown again, and then I wouldn't be where I am now"

He smiled wistfully. 

"Flying gives me purpose" he said. "It makes me feel important, and tall, and I wouldn't give it up for anything"

Iskall looked down at his hands. 

"Grian I'm so sorry" he whispered. "I didn't understand what flying meant to you, and I took out my frustration on you even though you were trying to help"

He looked over at the blond avian. 

"If you're willing to give me another chance, I would really appreciate your help, and I would be so grateful to continue being your friend"

Grian was quiet for a minute before turning to meet Iskall's eyes. 

"If I can't forgive you for your mistakes, how can I expect to be forgiven for mine?"

He smiled and held out his hand. 

Iskall took it with both hands and squeezed it, letting tears brim in his eyes from gratitude. 

"Friends?"

"Of course you dummy" Grian said slapping Iskall on the back, making the branch shake. Iskall wobbled on his unsteady perch and slipped, falling to the ground and landing on his backside. 

Grian cackled above him. 

"Yeah! We're definitely good"

Iskall felt laughter bubble in his chest and before long he and Grian were roaring into the darkness.

I hope you enjoyed this chapter! It was really fun to write. 
As always, if you did enjoyed it, please leave a like, and if you have any feedback or opinions, please feel free to comment.

Chapter Text

"Anything?" 

Mumbo sat on a chest in defeat. 

"No"

Doc sighed and ran a hand through his dark hair. 

"Well I don't know what we're going to do" he said. "I really thought two shulkers of gravel would be enough"

"I mean we could go tomorrow and get some more" Iskall suggested. He had been helping the engineers with collecting materials, and was quickly picking up the technical aspects of red stone machinery. 

"No" Doc said covering his eyes with his metal hand. "We've gone every day this week. I need a day off from collection"

Iskall turned to look at Ren and Xisuma who were training with False in the distance. 

"We could send the hybrids" he suggested. "They're the fastest"

Mumbo's head whipped up. 

"Grian!" He exclaimed. All eyes turned to him, and he blushed. "I mean, we could ask Grian" Mumbo said lowering his voice. "He's been collecting materials like crazy in his spare time"

"Why?" Doc asked crinkling his eyebrows. 

Mumbo shrugged. 

"I don't know, but I'm sure he would be willing to give us some"

"That would be best" Doc said gratefully. "Go ask him"

Mumbo nodded and stood up. He brushed off his clothes and straightened his tie as he walked towards the entrance to the bunker. 

He'll probably be in his room he thought heading up the stairs. Grian's room was at the very top of the base, directly next to Mumbo's. 

When he reached the top of the seven flights of stairs he took a second to catch his breath. 

We really need that elevator Mumbo thought, straightening up and pushing his hair back. 

As he reached out a hand to knock, he noticed Grian's door. The avian had painted the wood white, and there were gold and red patterns delicately stenciled in. Mumbo ran his fingers lightly along the red band intertwining a pair of golden wings, a clear replication of Grian's most noticeable feature. 

Beautiful

Remembering what he was supposed to be doing, he knocked on the door. 

"Grian?" 

There was no answer. He tried again, a little louder this time. 

"Grian! Are you there?" 

When no one came to the door, Mumbo took a step back. 

It was rude to just walk into someone's personal space. 

But then again, he and Grian were friends, and he, Iskall, and Doc really needed more materials. 
He cautiously looked around, chewing on his thumb nail. No one was there. 

Mumbo took a breath, turned the gold doorknob, and pushed. 

The door stuck after an inch, and Mumbo pushed his full weight on the wood. It flew open faster than Mumbo would have liked and he stumbled into the room, falling directly on an open chest filled with white concrete powder. 

"Ugch!" He spat, trying to get the grains of the sand and gravel mixture out of his mouth. White powder covered his face and sprinkled through his raven hair making it look grey. He groaned at his now ruined red silk tie, which was utterly unrecognizable. 

I'm such a spoon he thought.

Shaking off as much of the powder as he could, he took his first real look around the room. The ceilings were high with large windows placed randomly along the walls. Grian had clearly been working, as Mumbo could see several half finished platforms jutting out from under the windows, undoubtedly so the avian could look outside while he relaxed. The red and gold patterns on the door were also painted on the walls, making the otherwise plain white boards glitter. What was more distracting however was the absolute and total mess of shulkers and chests covering every square inch of floor space. Half open, contents spilling out of them, no organization whatsoever. If Mumbo didn't know better he would have thought a tornado had run through the room. 

I suppose you don't need to be able to walk on the floor when you can fly.

His mouth open slightly, Mumbo walked carefully around the room, being extra cautious as to not knock anything over. 

Where would gravel be?

He opened a grey shulker box. A bucket of sand, three books, half a loaf of bread and some birch wood sat at the bottom. 

Mumbo hung his head. So there truly was no organization to this mess. He stood and rubbed his temples.

"Maybe it would be better to wait for Grian" he mumbled out loud. 

"Look no further" said a voice behind him. 

Mumbo turned on his heel, catching his cuff on a chest latch. He heard the fabric rip as he fell into the mess, unable to catch the boxes around him which crashed to the ground by his sides. 

Grian burst out laughing. He leaned against the doorway gasping and wheezing. 

"That... that was utterly brilliant!" He choked out. "You should have seen it!" 

Mumbo was thankful for the white concrete powder covering him, because he could tell from his burning skin that his face was redder than Grian's sweater. 

"I-I didn't-" he stuttered, scrambling to stand up, tripping, and falling again. 

Grian chuckled. 

"Do you need some help?"

Mumbo swallowed his pride. 

"Yes"

"Sorry didn't catch that"

"Yes! Yes ok? Yes! I need help. Your room has bested me, now help me get out of it!"

Grian fluttered his wings and glided over to Mumbo. He landed softly on top of a chest and stretched out his hand. 

Mumbo took it gratefully, letting the smirking avian help him to his feet. 

"Now Mumbo." 

Even on top of the chest, Grian was barely an inch taller than him. 

"Why are you in my room?"

Mumbo pressed his lips together. 

"Look I-I wasn't snooping"

Grian raised an eyebrow and glanced at the mess Mumbo had made. 

"Ok I was snooping" he admitted, thanking the concrete powder again for its coverage. "But I just needed some gravel! Doc Iskall and I are trying to get some machines going and we need at least two chests full of gravel. We went out everyday this week to collect materials but it's still not enough, so I thought maybe you had some! I came to your room and I knocked, but you weren't here and I couldn't just return empty handed so I came in, and I know I shouldn't have, but I also wasn't expecting all of this!" He gestured to the junkyard of boxes. "And you had a concrete powder box open there and your door opens so quickly so I-" 

"Mumbo! Shut up" Grian exclaimed, shaking the babbling man by the shoulders.

Mumbo tensed under the delicate touch on his arms, which had made his heart leap into his throat. 

"Look I'm not mad or anything" Grian said with a warm smile. 

"You're... really?"

"Of course not" Grian said, releasing Mumbo from his grip and punching him playfully. "We're friends! I can give you guys some materials. Besides-"

He brushed some concrete powder off of Mumbo's head. 

"I feel like you got your punishment"

Mumbo smiled bashfully and pushed his hair behind his ear. 

"Well uh... thanks. And I promise this won't happen again"

"We'll see" Grian said wiggling his eyebrows. 

Mumbo felt his face heat up for the second time as Grian began to flitter around the room looking at the piles of shulker boxes and chests. Finally he stopped and picked up a purple shulker. He peeked inside. 

"It was gravel you wanted right?"

"Yeah"

Grian looked around. 

"I think I have three boxes of it. Is that enough?"

"More than enough!" Mumbo exclaimed, clumsily making his way over to the avian. He reached for the box but Grian twisted it away from him. 

"Perhaps you should wait till you're out of the room before you take this"

Mumbo nodded and sighed. 

"Yeah. That's... that's probably a good idea"

He waited in the doorway while Grian brought the three shulkers to him individually. 

"Do you want some help?" Grian asked, breathing rather heavily. "These are heavy"

"Yeah that would be great" Mumbo said picking up two of the three boxes and beginning to walk down the stairs. 

"What are you doing?"

"What do you... I'm walking down the stairs?" Mumbo said, suddenly questioning his knowledge of stairs. 

"Well geez that's boring" Grian replied, hoisting himself onto the banister, holding onto Mumbo's arm for stability with the shulker cradled under his wing. "You gotta go down like this!"

With that, he let go and flew down the spiral staircase, picking up speed every second. 

"Grian!" 

Mumbo dropped his boxes and scrambled to the banister, looking down as Grian's laughter echoed off the walls. 

"There is no way I'm doing that!" Mumbo yelled after him. 

He heard a small thud as Grian landed at the bottom. 

"Booooo lame! Come on!" Came the high pitched response. 

"I just-" Mumbo picked up the boxes. "I'm not really the most... coordinated"

"Yeah I noticed" Grian yelled making Mumbo's face flush. "But you can do it! Have a little fun for a change!"

"I have fun!"

"Oh yeah? Tell me the last time you had fun"

Mumbo felt the box begin to slip from his hands as his palms started to sweat. 

I have fun when I'm with you

"Mumbo?"

"I... y-you know what, you're-you're right! I don't have... I don't have much fun" he stuttered, struggling to cover the awkward pause. 

He was so tall he barely had to stand on his toes to sit on the banister. Carefully balancing a shulker box in each arm, he took a deep breath and unhooked his foot from the ledge. 

He began to slide much quicker than he would have liked. Luckily the heavy boxes clasped tightly against his body kept him from falling backwards. 

"I'm doing it!" He yelled and heard Grian whoop in approval. 

Mumbo let out a loud unconscious laugh which carried him down the next three stories, before his anxiety brought a thought to the front of his mind. 

"Grian... how do I stop"

"What?"

"How do I stop!" Mumbo yelled, becoming panicked. 

"Just jump off at the end and slow yourself down"

"How do I do that?!"

There was silence for a minute as Mumbo neared the end of the staircase. 

"I... use my wings"

"WHAT?! Grian I don't have-"

Too late. It was like it happened in slow motion. Mumbo saw the end of the railing approaching, a shocked Grian standing at the end of it holding out his hands in a stop signal. There was nothing he could do. He just squeezed his eyes shut and accepted his fate. 

"Aah Mumbo!" 

Mumbo crashed directly into Grian, sending the boxes of gravel flying. They burst open on impact and covered the two men with small grey pebbles. 

Upon hearing the commotion, Iskall and Doc ran in. They stood with open mouths at the scene before them. 

"What happened?!" Doc exclaimed as Iskall let out a high pitched cackle. 

"I-I just..."

Mumbo, struggling to breath after the air had been knocked out of him, shook his head, letting gravel shower onto his jacket. He felt movement below him and looked down in surprise. 

"Mumbo you're squishing me!" Grian gasped. 

"Oh god!" 

Mumbo rolled off of the small avian, his face positively on fire. 

"Are you ok?" 

Grian gulped down air and began to giggle. His giggle turned into a loud belly laugh, tears rolling down his face in delight

"Yeah" he gasped. "I'm so sorry Mumbo!"

"Ah so this was your doing" Ren said, joining the group. 

 

"No it was mine" Mumbo said quickly. Grabbing Grian's arm to help him up. "I slid down the banister too fast and couldn't stop"

That set Grian and Iskall into another round of laughter. 

"Slid down the banister?" Doc said giving Mumbo a dumbfounded look. "Since when do you know how to have fun?"

"Since... since he met me" Grian wheezed hanging onto Mumbo's shirt for dear life as his legs gave out beneath him. 

Mumbo grabbed Grian's hands to help him and smiled. If this was what having fun meant...

I could get used to this.

I hope you enjoyed the chapter! Grian and Mumbo are my favorite characters to write for so this was super fun. 
As always, leave a like if you enjoyed it, and leave a comment if you have anything to say. I love feedback!

Chapter Text

Stress felt conflicted. 

"You guys ready to give it a try?" False asked the small group of shooters. 

Mumbo nodded uneasily while Grian grinned and raised his empty hand in a salute. 

False put her hands on her hips. 

"Ok! Boys, you know how to load your crossbows so I'll leave you to the target practice. Stress, you know what you're doing right?"

"Well, yes but-"

"Good!" False cut in absentmindedly. "Go ahead and I'll step in as needed"

Stress sighed, and equipped her bow. The problem wasn't a lack of skill. False had been working with her on her aim and she was getting pretty good. She had a 70% accuracy rate on the circular targets False had helped her to learn on. But now...

Mumbo had spent the last couple days working on a moving target set, with human shaped targets that moved back and forth with varying rates of speed. It worked perfectly, and the way Grian had painted the human targets were very realistic. 

"Stress are you ok?"

Stress felt a hand on her shoulder and looked up into False's crystal blue eyes. 

She lowered her gaze and glanced at the arrow in her hand. 

"I just..."

False crinkled her eyebrows. 

"Do you need help stringing up your arrow?"

"No"

"Do you want help aiming?"

"No"

"Stress... What's wrong?"

Stress sighed and turned back towards her friend. 

"They look like people"

"They... what?"

"The targets!" Stress pointed behind herself. "They look like real people"

False tried and failed to hide her expression of utter confusion. 

"I'm sorry I don't understand"

Stress took a breath and holstered her bow. 

"I'm a healer False. It's my job to help people and heal them and..." she desperately searched for more synonyms. "Anyway, I've really liked learning how to use the bow. It's cool, and I know it's an important skill to have in our position, but I never really associated it with shooting a person until..." she looked back at the targets. "Until now"

Stress hung her head. 

"I just don't want to hurt anyone, and knowing that I possibly could, scares me"

False's expression softened and she put her arm around the small brunette. 

"I get it Stress" she said gently. "There is a big difference between shooting at a target and shooting at a person, and when you begin to make that transition it can be difficult, especially for someone like you"

Stress raised her head. 

"What do you mean?"

"You have the biggest heart of anyone I've ever met" False said matter of factly. "It's no surprise that you would find this sort of thing hard. You wouldn't hurt a fly"

She offered Stress one of her rare smiles. 

"Look, if you need to take some time before moving onto this, that's fine. You can keep practicing on the regular targets for a while"

"Really?" 

"Yeah of course" False said falling back into her tough girl persona. She began to walk away, but stopped and turned back. 

"Look..." False raked a hand through her hair. "Would you mind not telling the guys about how sappy I was just now? I have a reputation to maintain"

Stress giggled. 

"Your secret is safe with me Falsey"

_____________________________________________________

"This one. No no no, ok, this one. Ok this one!"

Grian laughed as he missed his third shot in a row. He shrugged and turned to Mumbo with his signature smile. 

"Your turn"

Mumbo chuckled at his friend before pulling an arrow out of the small case strapped to his belt. 

Aware of Grian's eyes on him, he puffed out his chest slightly and tried to appear more confident than he felt. Placing an arrow in the flight groove of the crossbow, he held the scope up to his eye. 

Mumbo was very proud of the moving human targets he had made. It wasn't a difficult contraption, but he had wanted it to be just perfect. He had also been able to watch Grian paint them, which had been the best part. 

Stop it Mumbo thought. Stop thinking about him so much. Besides, it's creepy to watch a friend like that

"Any day now" Grian murmured. 

Mumbo blinked rapidly, his face heating up right on cue. 

"S-sorry" he stuttered, taking aim again. 

He pressed his lips together, and pushed down on the trigger. The wooden arrow caught the leg of one of the targets, and Mumbo stepped back, admiring his shot. 

"Nice one!" Grian exclaimed, thumping him on the back. 

Mumbo smiled bashfully and pushed his hair out of his face, avoiding Grian's eyes. He always got distracted by them. 

"Well that's enough for me today" Grian said, unhooking his weapon belt and tossing it in a nearby box. "Do you want to get dinner?"

Mumbo felt his mouth go dry as he struggled to speak. 

"Dinner?" He coughed violently. "Y-yeah! I'd love that"

You're too excited he scolded inwardly. 

"Race you inside!" Grian yelled, already taking off and flying towards the base. 

Mumbo stood for a moment, breathing heavily, trying to force his face to return to a normal color. He heard a giggle behind him  and turned around. 

Stress had her hands pressed to her mouth and Iskall stood next to her with a knowing smile. 

"Sooooo... Mumbo" Iskall said raising his eyebrows. "Anything to divulge?"

"What? No. Why would you say that?" Mumbo said, looking around to make sure Grian was long gone. 

Stress let another giggle escape her lips. 

"Come on Mumbo!" She said skipping over to him. "You like Grian, don't you"

"What?"

"Mumbo-"

"No!" Mumbo exclaimed, stumbling away from her, attempting to hide his face. "You're way off base. He's just a friend!"

Iskall laughed and joined Stress. 

"Dude don't even try to cover it up" he said pulling Mumbo to face him. "You may have been nervous around all of us at the beginning, but it's been three months and the only person who still makes you stutter is him"

"Not to mention the blushing" Stress snickered. 

Mumbo put his face in his hands. 

"How many people know?"

Iskall shrugged. 

"I mean, I don't really know. It's not like we talk about it"

"Ren and I do" Stress cut in. 

"What?!" Mumbo spun to face her. "Ren is Grian's best friend! They're like brothers! What if he tells him?!"

"He won't!" Stress said soothingly. 

"How do you know?!"

"Because I asked"

Mumbo stared at her. 

"You... are really nosy"

She smiled and shrugged. 

"We all have our weaknesses"

"I can deal with this myself" Mumbo said defiantly. "It's just a little crush! I'll get over it soon"

Stress put a hand on his shoulder and looked into his eyes. 

"Do you really believe that?"

"I... no"

He hung his head. 

"Look man you don't have to do anything if you don't want to" Iskall said. "Grian has so little experience with social interaction, I doubt he'll notice if you don't tell him. And for us-" he gestured to himself and Stress. "It's just funny"

"Gee thanks" Mumbo grunted rolling his eyes. 

He felt arms wrap around his middle as Stress hugged him. 

"If it's any consolation, I'm rooting for you" she said. "I think you guys are cute together"

"Mumbo Jumbo!"

The three turned as Grian glided towards them. 

"What's taking so long?"

Stress and Iskall watched Mumbo's face as it flooded with color and his mouth twisted into a dopey smile. 

"Sorry!" He exclaimed. "I-I just got um... distracted b-by" he waved his hand in Stress and Iskall's direction absentmindedly "the- uh, them"

Grian smiled at Iskall and Stress in turn. 

"Sorry to interrupt! We were going to get something to eat" he said nudging Mumbo's arm. "Do you guys want to come?"

Iskall looked at Mumbo and smirked. 

"Nah we're good" he said. "Go enjoy yourselves"

Stress giggled and Mumbo narrowed his eyes at them. 

Grian looked between the three of them, clearly confused by the situation. He shrugged it off however, and poked Mumbo in the ribs, making him jump. 

"Come on! I'm starving"

He grabbed Mumbo's hand and pulled the flustered man behind him as he ran towards the bunker. 

Stress and Iskall laughed, watching the tall man trip over his own feet. 

I hope you enjoyed the chapter!
As always, if you did, please leave a like, and leave a comment if you have any feedback or suggestions. 

Chapter Text

Grian stood on his toes, trying to make himself as tall as possible. The cold wind blew around him, billowing through his clothes, but he didn't care. Half a lifetime of flying had gotten him used to such a sensation. 

He checked his watch. 6:23 am. For this time of year, that meant the sun would peak over the mountains any minute. 

This was exactly what Grian awaited every morning. Crawling out through his window and flying up to the rounded roof, he stood, letting the quiet of the early morning press down on his eardrums as he waited for the glimpse of yellow-pink light to burn at his retinas. 

He didn't dare fly. As much as he adored his wings, simply standing up so high, he felt as though the entire world was at his fingertips. It was something he had discovered shortly after arriving. 

Grian had always been a poor sleeper, and awoke early every morning regardless of when he had fallen asleep. Being alone for so long made his heart ache, and the next best thing to human contact was the feeling he got watching the sun rise every morning over the horizon. 

He longed to share it with someone, but no one woke this early. The fact that he did just put him in charge of waking up the rest of the team every morning, a task Grian was more than willing to do. 

Suddenly the light broke over the snowy peaks in the distance, and he felt his chest swell as his face was warmed. He flapped his wings and soared upwards with the sun, feeling a rush of joy before the clouds billowed around him, blocking the light and swallowing the mountain with it. 

Softly he lowered himself back down and sat. His morning routine continued by allowing the birds in the area to flock to him. He always brought them whatever grains and nuts he could find, and stroked their feathers gently, whistling along to the tunes they sang just for him. 

He waited until they had had their fill before standing slowly, brushing the crumbs off of his clothes, and taking one last look at the stillness of the morning forest before returning to his solemn room. 

It's not that he wasn't grateful. His room had high ceilings, multiple windows, and his very own bed. He had even been allowed to paint the walls with his favorite colors. Although the gold and red patterns he had drawn were pleasing to the eye, he still felt as though they could be improved.

He flopped back on his bed and sighed. The biggest problem was that he was alone. 

He hated being alone. He had been for so much of his childhood that he clung to any bit of attention he received even now as an adult, which he knew wasn't normal. Ren had helped explain to him why such actions drove people away, and thus Grian worked hard to appear friendly, yet indifferent. Welcoming, but not clingy. He knew he still came off as annoying sometimes, but so far it had been working for him, and he adored the relationships he had. 

He sat up suddenly, a grin stretching across his face. Before he had even organized his thoughts, he was already grabbing his paint and fluttering up to the wall of his room.

 

Two hours later, his watch chimed, telling him it was time to wake the others. Wiping his brow with a paint covered sleeve, Grian fluttered to the ground. He tossed his paint supplies in an open chest, wiping his hands on his shirt and walked out to the top of the stairs. 

The first door was Mumbo's, whose room was only ten steps down from Grian's. 

Grian knocked on the door, and counted to five. Exactly on five, the door swung open and Mumbo stood before him, his bashful smile plastered on his face as he hastily straitened his already straight tie. 

Grian smiled. Mumbo was always up and dressed before Grian ever knocked on his door, yet still acted as though he had gotten up in a hurry. Grian doubted this, as he never heard any steps approach the door before it opened, making him suspect that Mumbo waited every morning for him to knock, counted to five, and opened the door. He didn't mind though. Seeing Mumbo smile was worth it. 

"Good morning Grian" Mumbo said properly. He would seem very high class and sophisticated if it weren't for the faint blush creeping up his neck, and the slight stammer in his voice. 

Grian bowed his head slightly, reflecting Mumbo's traditional manner. They did this every morning. Mumbo would always act as polite and civilized as if they were meeting for the first time, and Grian couldn't help but tease him for it. 

"And a good morning to you Mr. Mumbo Jumbo" Grian replied, pretending to tip an invisible top hat. Mumbo's cheeks flushed pink, but he smiled happily, enjoying the game he and Grian played every morning. 

Grian winked at him and continued down the stairs, leaving Mumbo to lean against his doorway and watch the golden boy descend.

The next room down was Stress's. Grian tapped lightly on the door and stepped back, preparing for the chill that came along with Stress's room. Stress had been raised in a frigid icy climate and thusly kept her room only slightly above freezing. Although she was quite comfortable in such a temperature, anyone else that stepped in would need a few extra layers to continue. 

After a minute or so, Stress emerged wearing her baby blue and pink pajamas. Cold air blew at Grian's face and he tucked his wings around his shoulders. 

Eyes drowsy, yet smiling, Stress yawned and gave Grian a quick good morning hug before skipping down the stairs to make breakfast. 

Grian quickly leaned forward to close her door, waiting for the goosebumps on his arms to satiate. He looked back up at Mumbo who stared down at him with a distracted look on his face. 

"I can't believe she can stand that cold" 

"Hm" Mumbo grunted in a way that could mean anything. 

The next three people, Doc, False, and Iskall never came to their doors when knocked on, always taking their time getting out of bed, so Grian knocked on each quickly as he continued his descent. 

At Ren's he used all his arm strength to bang on the heavy oak as hard as possible. 

"GET UP DOG" he yelled. Unlike Grian, Ren was an extremely deep sleeper, even sleeping through fire alarms and thunder storms. Grian knew that if he didn't wake him up fully, he would never get out of bed. 

When no one came to the door, Grian rolled his eyes and walked in himself. Ren lay sideways on his mattress, the blankets twisted around his legs and body as though they were trying to tie him to the bed.

As Grian approached, Ren let out a loud snore. 

"You asked for it" Grian said with a smile and lept on top of the sleeping wolf. 

Ren woke with a start as Grian's knee was plunged into his stomach. 

"OOF! Grian what the hell!"

Grian laughed and continued to press his leg into Ren's abdomen while simultaneously letting his wings flop on his face. 

"Pfff pft pft" Ren spat out golden feathers. "Alright I get it I'm up!"

He rose suddenly and Grian was thrown onto the ground, banging his head on the floor. 

"Ow!"

"Serves you right" Ren huffed, a smile hinting at his lips. 

Grian felt hands under his arms and he was pulled off the ground immediately. 

"Mumbo?"

The dark haired man, having heard the commotion, had rushed in to help him. Grian, still in Mumbo's arms, clasped his hands together and pretended to swoon. 

"My hero!"

Ren snorted and Mumbo threw him a dirty look over the top of Grian's head. 

"You shouldn't throw him around like that! What if he got hurt?"

Ren was startled to hear Mumbo speak so forcefully but shook it off quickly. 

"We were just messing around. He's not a child"

"Yeah!" Grian turned to Mumbo and smoothed out his white button up. "I'm fine. You don't have to worry about me so much"

With a fleeting look into Mumbo's eyes, he gave a shy smile and walked out of the room. 

Ren crossed his arms and raised an eyebrow. 

Mumbo fiddled with his cuff. 

"What"

"Overprotective much?"

Mumbo averted his gaze as his face grew hot. 

"I... I don't know what you're talking about"

"Mm hmmm" Ren smiled. "If this is you asking for my blessing, don't worry. You have it"

Mumbo looked up, his heart rate quickening. 

"I!... You!..." 

Unable to string together enough words to make a sentence, he turned on his heel and speed walked out of the room, Ren's laughter echoing in his ears.

 

Finally at the last door, Grian took a deep breath and knocked lightly on the mahogany. 

"Xisuma! Time to wake up!"

He heard shuffling inside the room but no sign that the team leader had heard him. 

"X?"

The feet on the other side of the door stopped pacing suddenly and Grian heard faint whispering. 
Curiosity gripping him, Grian slowly turned the handle. He was met with the sight of Xisuma, alone in his room muttering under his breath. Envelopes and folded up papers littered the floor. The light wasn't even on. 

"... X?"

Grian flipped the light switch and X flinched. He finally looked at Grian as though he hadn't realized he was there. He had bags under his eyes and made a face at Grian that looked like a mix between fear, anger, and hopelessness. 

"Xisuma what's wrong?"

"What? Nothing. What? Nothing"

X brushed past him and Grian followed quickly. 

"Wait!" He grabbed X's shoulder. "Something is clearly wrong just tell me!"

X shook him off roughly, refusing to look at his face. 

"I'm fine" he snapped and rushed off in the direction of the mail room. 

Grian stood dumbfounded. 

"What was that?" Mumbo said walking up behind him, looking in the direction X had gone. 

Grian shook his head. 

"I don't know. He's been acting weird around me the last week or so. I think I made him mad, but he won't tell me what I did"

Mumbo furrowed his brow. 

"I... I can't imagine why he'd be angry with you"

Grian shrugged. 

"Well people do say they find me annoying sometimes. Maybe he just needs a break from me"

"You're not annoying" Mumbo said, sharpness in his voice as though just hearing Grian say such a thing upset him. 

Grian smiled sadly and wrapped an arm around Mumbo's waist, giving him a sideways hug. 

"You always stand up for me"

He felt Mumbo stumble away from him awkwardly. 

"I... of course! Uh... Anytime!" 

"Sorry, sorry" Grian said smiling at the stuttering man. "I forgot physical contact makes you nervous. I won't do that anymore"

Mumbo watched him walk away sadly. 

That's not it. That's not it at all.

I know this was kind of a bittersweet chapter, and I hope you don't mind, that's just kind of the mood I'm in. 
As always I hope you enjoyed it, and if you did, please leave a like and comment if you have any feedback or suggestions. 

Chapter Text

"Mumbo! Mumbo look!"

Mumbo had just shut the door to his bedroom when he heard Grian call. Checking that he was presentable, he walked into the avian's room.

"What is it?"

Grian was flitting around from window to window, a large giddy smile on his face. His oversized sleeping shirt hung to his knees and billowed around his torso. 
He turned at Mumbo's words and quickly flew down. He grabbed Mumbo's arm and dragged him towards the glass.

"Look! It's snowing!"

Sure enough, the usually thick green pine forest was covered in a white blanket. Grian was basically plastered to the window, his face so close, his breath fogged up the glass.

Mumbo smiled. He loved how easily Grian got excited, and how he couldn't hide that excitement to save his life.

"Have you never...?"

"No" Grian breathed, still in awe. "I've only seen pictures, but this is even more beautiful"

"Yeah..."

Grian felt eyes on him and he turned. Mumbo's face filled with color and he quickly averted his gaze.

"The snow! Y-yeah it is uh... beautiful" Mumbo stuttered, trying to cover his slip up.

Grian smiled and nudged him gently.

"Classic Mumbo Jumbo"

"What do you mean?"

Instead of responding, Grian just laughed and tugged on Mumbo's sleeve.

"Come on! I want to go outside"

_____________________________________________________
"Gri- GRIAN! Stop it!"

Ren chased Grian as he ran towards the door.

"It's too cold! You can't go outside in your pajamas!

"Grow up mom!" Grian shouted behind him as he wrenched the door open.

Mumbo laughed with the others as the avian threw himself into the snow and shrieked at the cold. Ren rolled his eyes, but smiled despite himself.

"Told you!"

Grian, visibly shivering, his teeth chattering, continued to smile. He let clumps of snow fall between his fingers as he flew up into the air, covered head to toe in a shimmering white layer of frost.

"Come on!" He called. "It's so fun!"

"We'll be there in a sec" Stress giggled. "We need to get dressed first"

The whole team except for Mumbo started up the stairs to put on their winter clothes, laughing and shoving each other.

Mumbo walked to the doorway and leaned against it.

"You're shivering"

Grian flapped his wings and landed in front of Mumbo. He grinned, and Mumbo felt his stomach flutter at the sight of Grian's dimples.

"Worth it" he said, shaking out his hair.

"Ah!" Mumbo cried out as water and snow rained onto his shirt.

"Stop it! That's cold!"

"Awww" Grian sneered in false sympathy. He held out his dripping arms. "How about a hug?"

Mumbo's brain stalled as his desire to touch Grian and his desire to stay dry clashed violently. 
Grian took this opportunity to wrap his arms tightly around Mumbo's middle. His head nestled perfectly on Mumbo's chest, and Mumbo saw stars.

"Ha!" Grian laughed as he began to pull away. He was stopped however by Mumbo's arms closing around him.

Grian's mind raced as his playful hug turned into a real one. He hadn't had one before. Not really anyways. He and Ren had hugged a couple of times but they were always quick, and followed by someone getting punched in the shoulder. But this was different... and it felt good.

Mumbo pulled away slightly and the two of them locked eyes. Grian, not aware of his movements, rose up slowly on his toes to bring his face closer to his tall friend.

A cough from behind Mumbo's back made the two break apart. Iskall was leaning against the banister with a smirk on his face.

"Whatcha doin?"

Grian's ears burned crimson.

Why am I embarrassed?

"Nothing!" He said, strutting past Mumbo, who felt tingling sensations running up his arms from the moment before.

"I just have to go change "

Without a backward glance, Grian took off up the staircase.

Mumbo watched him leave, and then turned to Iskall.

"Really? You had to ruin that for me?"

Iskall put up his hands.

"Dude I'm sorry, I didn't want to, but I felt like it was creepier to just watch"

"I guess that's fair" Mumbo sighed. "I think I made him uncomfortable anyway"

"You think so?"

"Did you see how red his ears were? He was embarrassed!"

Iskall scoffed.

"Did you see how red your face was?"

Mumbo's hands flew to his cheeks.

"Oh no, really?"

"Please, like that's new for you" Iskall said sarcastically. "Now go change. You're dripping water on the carpet"

Mumbo nodded and headed up the stairs, passing Xisuma as he descended. X still had bags under his eyes but seemed less manic then he had the last week or so. He had instead become rather cold and somber, which Mumbo guessed was an improvement over the random angry outbursts he had come accustom to.

"Hi X"

Xisuma smiled at him, but the warmth didn't reach his eyes.

"Good morning Mumbo. Could you please tell Grian I need to speak with him?"

Mumbo faltered. Xisuma had been avoiding the avian for the last two weeks. Grian would be overjoyed at this sudden change!

"Sure!"

Mumbo ran up the rest of the stairs two at a time, stopping quickly at his room to change into proper winter clothes, and then knocked on Grian's door.

"Come in!"

Mumbo pushed very carefully on the wood, having learned his lesson the first time. 
Grian stood in front of a mirror. He had on clean trousers and thick boots, but his face was contorted in frustration as he yanked at his thick red sweater.

Heat rose in Mumbo's face and he quickly turned his back. Seeing someone without a shirt on was improper... but Grian had told him to come in anyways...

He slowly turned back around to see Grian struggling to cram one of his wings into the slit in the shirt.

"... What's wrong? Y-you never have trouble with changing"

Grian let out an exasperated breath.

"I know, but this shirt doesn't have buttons at the bottom! I've never had to wear winter clothes before so I never put them on and now-"

He threw up his hands and collapsed backwards onto his bed, the sweater having fully swallowed one wing, while the other stuck half way out. 
Mumbo chewed on his thumb nail.

"Do... do you want help?"

"Please!" Grian said a look of relief washing over his face.

Mumbo took his time climbing over the boxes to get to the other side of the room where the mirror was.

Grian turned his back to him.

"Just help me get the wing through the opening. Try not to pull if possible, but you might have to"

Mumbo took a step back.

"You want me to..."

He had never touched Grian's wings before. It was an unspoken rule that no one did, except Ren who would tug on them when Grian was acting out, eliciting a shriek or cry from the small avian. 
Hands shaking slightly, Mumbo took the sweater with both hands and began to pull it towards Grian's back, bending the feathers the wrong way. Grian hissed in pain.

"Stop! Stop don't... don't do that. Put your hand through the gap in the sweater to keep the feathers from folding over like that"

Mumbo gulped and reached out a hand. Being as gentle as physically possible, he maneuvered his fingers into the space between the wing and the fabric, flattening the feathers down. They were as soft as they looked, and warm to the touch.

Mumbo began to slowly push the sweater further towards Grian, moving his hand first to keep everything in place, and then inching the fabric over his fingers. As he got closer to Grian's back, the wing began to thin out, and Mumbo relaxed a little. With one final yank, the golden wing stuck out entirely from the impossibly small hole in the red fabric.

Mumbo gave a breath of relief, before realizing how close he was to the golden haired boy. He jumped back quickly and coughed dramatically into his elbow to cover up his awkwardness.

Grian didn't take notice, and smiled in a satisfied way as he pulled his head through the top and smoothed the thick wool over his torso.

Mumbo glanced at him. He looked even younger than usual. The sweater was so large, his fingers barely stuck out of the sleeves, and the fabric billowed around his waist.

"So adorable" he murmered.

"Hm?" Grian looked up at him, hairbrush in hand. "Did you say something?"

That was out loud?! Mumbo panicked. His thumb nail flew to his mouth as his mind raced.

"No!" He tried to sound confident but his voice cracked, ruining the effect. Grian giggled.

"Puberty is rough" he teased, poking Mumbo in the ribs, trying to make him laugh.

Despite his racing nerves, Mumbo cracked a smile,

"I almost forgot" he said, batting away Grian's hand, which had gone up to tickle him again. "X wants to see you"

Grian's eyes widened.

"Really!?" He looked ecstatic and relieved at the same time. "So he's not mad at me anymore?"

Mumbo frowned.

"We still don't know if that's what happened" he said. "X had been acting weird around all of us"

"Yes but I'm the only one he refused to talk to" Grian said, giving up on his unruly hair and flattening out his clothes. He caught Mumbo's eye. "Don't give me that look. It's ok if he was mad! I'm used to people being annoyed with me"

Mumbo felt his heart ache and racked his brain for some comforting words. Speaking was not his strong suit however, and by the time he had found what he wanted to say, Grian had already flown out of the door.

"You're never annoying to me" he whispered to the empty room. "I love you"

Another sad ending for you guys, but don't worry! It won't stay that way forever. Either way, I hope you enjoyed the chapter. If you did, please leave a like, and leave a comment if you have feedback or anything to say. I love reading what you guys think!

Chapter Text

Trigger warnings: violence, abduction, sedation

"Hi X!" Grian exclaimed flying down the banister and landing next to the team leader. 

Just seeing his smiling face made Xisuma's stomach twist up. He nodded curtly in reply.

"I need you to go collect firewood" he said holding out an axe. "I wasn't expecting snow and we aren't prepared"

Grian looked confused but accepted it anyways. 

"Um... why me?"

"Is it too difficult a task for you?" 

"No!" Grian said, regretting his words. "I'm just not the... the strongest... but no worries it's fine! I'm sorry"

X put on a twisted expression that Grian couldn't read. 

"No I'm sorry. I... I just need you to do it because you are the fastest. Ok? We need dry wood, so go to the place near the cliff right next to the stream. The one with the overhang"

Grian offered him a small smile. 

"Got it! I'll be back soon"

He ran out the door, clutching the axe in both hands. 

Mumbo, Iskall, and Stress had congregated outside the front door. From the looks on their faces, Iskall and Stress appeared to be teasing Mumbo. 

Grian smirked. 

"What are you guys talking about?"

The three of them froze. Mumbo's face heated up at once, and Iskall looked as though he were trying not to laugh. 

"It's nothing" Stress said giggling. "We were just making fun of Mumbo"

"Oh my favorite activity!" Grian laughed, winking in the direction of the tall blushing mess in the corner. 

Iskall chuckled.

"Where are you going?" 

Grian held the axe out. 

"X said we aren't prepared for the snow and asked me to go collect fire wood!"

"By yourself?" Iskall said crinkling his eyebrows together. "That's a lot of work for one person. We can come with you!"

Stress and Mumbo nodded in agreement and Grian gave a sigh of relief. They all grabbed axes and the four set off across the snowy clearing. 

"We need to go this way" Grian called to Stress and Iskall, who had begun to turn down the wrong path. "X doesn't want the bark to be wet so we need to go to the place by the river that has the overhang"

Iskall and Stress changed their course, running ahead and throwing snow at each other as they laughed. 

Grian turned to Mumbo, who had a perturbed expression. 

"What's wrong?"

Mumbo took his time before responding. 

"I don't know yet" he said finally, looking pensively into the trees. 

Grian smiled. 

Classic Mumbo Jumbo. Always so anxious. 

"Don't worry" Grian said hooking his arm around Mumbo's elbow. "There is no reason to be jumpy"

Well now there is Mumbo thought as the warmth from Grian's arm radiated up his body and colored his face. 

They walked in silence for a while. Well, Mumbo walked in silence. Grian chewed his ear off nonstop, rambling on about random topics, such as the weather, different types of paint, birds, and the color red. 

Mumbo smiled and nodded along, but his mind was out of it. Truthfully, all he wanted was to confess. 

The secret of his affections for Grian felt like a knife in his stomach that twisted every moment he was hiding away how he felt. At this point, being rejected was the least of his concerns. He just couldn't stand the secret! Hiding a part of himself meant that he and Grian could never fully know each other. 

The snowy winding pathway through the forest seemed like the perfect place, and although Iskall and Stress were there, they seemed to be leaving the two of them alone. 

"-I don't know. What do you think?" Grian asked, finishing a long ramble that had begun somewhere along whether roses were better than violets, and had ended at why pineapple makes your mouth tingle. 

"Mm" Mumbo said in a way that could mean anything. 

"Oh I can see the overhang. We're almost there!" Grian said, removing his arm and beginning to speed up. 

"Wait!"

Mumbo grabbed Grian's wrist and turned him back so they were face to face. 

Grian looked surprised, but not scared. 

"What is it?"

Mumbo's tongue went dry and he felt the knot in his stomach tighten. 

"I... I need... oh god"

He put a hand on his abdomen. 

"I might throw up"

Grian put one hand on Mumbo's forehead and supported his arm with the other. 

"You're really warm. Are you sick?" 

"No... maybe... no!" Mumbo said. He stood up shakily and took Grian's hands. 
"I... I need to tell you something"

Was it just him, or was there a slight tinge of pink rising in Grian's cheeks?

"Yes?"

Mumbo took a deep breath. 

"Grian, I-"

A shrill scream from up ahead cut him off. Both of them turned their heads sharply, their blood turning ice cold. 

Grian made eye contact with Mumbo and jerked his head as if to say, follow me, and be quiet. 

Axe in hand, they crept between the trees to the clearing up ahead. Although rather far away from the base, this was a common place for them to get wood. A strange unattractive cliff overhead shadowed the trees, several of which had been cut down long ago. 

Upon closer inspection, Mumbo noticed two axes on the ground, but Iskall and Stress were nowhere to be seen. Looking at Grian, it was clear he was thinking the same thing. 

Something is wrong.

"We won't see anything else from here" Mumbo whispered. "Let's go take a closer look"

Grian nodded and began to move out of the trees. 

Mumbo began to follow closely behind. 

However, as soon as he broke through the thicket he felt a thin chord wrap around his neck and he stopped in his tracks. 

He opened his mouth to yell but a hand was slapped over his face before he could make a sound. 

"Too little too late lover boy" someone hissed into his ear. "If you make any noise, I'll snap your neck"

Mumbo watched helplessly as Grian crept towards the center of the clearing, completely unaware of how much danger he was in, and how alone he was. 

Mumbo's mind raced. 

If I make noise, I die. If I don't, he gets caught. Even if I alert him, how could he get away?

Grian was now picking up one of the axes from the ground. Suddenly, with the snap of a branch overhead, something began to fall towards Grian. Not even looking at what it was, the avian took off and barely avoided the large heavy net that fell where he had been standing less than a second ago. The edges of the net had large metal balls attached to it, assumingly to make it impossible to be lifted up once you were trapped under it. 

Grian, now floating just above the trees, scanned the ground wildly. 

"Mumbo! Iskall! Stress!"

His voice wavered as he shouted, and he held up his axe. 

"Don't hide like cowards! Come out and give me back my friends!"

The bushes at the far end of the clearing rustled and out stepped a tall man dressed all in black. His clothes looked like a military uniform, and he carried a long sword on his belt. 

The most terrifying thing about him was his face, or lack thereof. The man wore a grey and black mask, built to look like some kind of demonic vex. The vex was smiling and the eyebrows were arched in a way that made Mumbo's hair stand on end. 

The man snapped his fingers, and the person binding Mumbo pushed him out in the open, still holding the wire around his neck. Stress and Iskall emerged as well in the same predicament. Iskall's face was red with anger, and Stress had silent tears running down her cheeks. 

The men holding them also wore masks, but they were plain and black, only having slits for the eyes.

"Let them go!" Grian yelled from above, holding his axe as if he was going to throw it at the man in the mask. 

The man chuckled. 

"I don't believe you're in any situation to bargain, do you?"

Grian's eyes were wild and he was silent for a second before he dropped his weapon to his side. 

"It's me you want right?" His voice no longer wavered. "Let them go... and you can take me"

"NO!" Mumbo and Iskall shouted as Stress choked out a sob. All three felt the chord around their necks tighten and they gasped. 

"Stop!" Grian yelled. "If you hurt them then there's no deal! Clearly seeing how your net failed, I'm faster than you thought. If I fly away now, you will never catch me!"

The man in the mask stared up at the avian for a moment before he chuckled again. 

"You were supposed to come here alone. Why are they with you? Where is the rest of your team?"

"What?" Grian looked confused. "They came to help me! How is that important right now? No one else is here!"

The man studied him for another minute before he ultimately decided the avian's words were genuine. 

"Don't trust him!" Stress yelled suddenly, choking on her words as the string was pulled tighter. 

The man in the mask turned to look at her and waved his hand. The person holding Stress loosened the grip around her neck. 

"You're a pretty one" the man in the mask said walking over slowly. He looked down at her clothes and saw her healers pin. "And a doctor too, no?"

He reached out a hand and grabbed her chin gently. 

"Don't touch her!" Iskall yelled, struggling against his binds. 

"Hey!" Grian yelled from up above. "Do we have a deal or not?"

The man dropped his hand from Stress's face and turned back to the avian. 

Although they couldn't be sure, his voice oozed with smugness and he seemed to be smiling under his mask. 

"Very well half breed" he said. "Come with us willingly, and I won't hurt your friends"

Grian did not descend.

"Let them go first"

"Come down first"

Grian locked eyes with Mumbo, who shook his head violently. 

Grian gave him a look that said what else can I do?

He lowered his head and dropped his axe to the ground before letting himself fall. 

"Very good" the masked man said snapping his fingers. 

Instantly, more soldiers came out of the trees and grabbed onto Grian's arms, forcing the golden boy on his knees. 

The masked man snapped his fingers again. One of the soldiers took out his sword and hit the avian over the head with the hilt. Grian collapsed in the snow. 

"He said he'd go willingly!" Mumbo growled, struggling to breath as the string was tightened. 

"Just playing it safe" the masked man said calmly. He then turned and pointed at Stress. "Take her too"

"What?!" She screamed, struggling violently. A soldier near her raised his sword, assumingly to hit her too, but the masked man held up a hand. 

"We treat our guests with kindness" he said, his voice dripping with malevolence. "I am a man of my word"

He walked up to Stress and removed the string around her neck. He then cocked his head at her and wiped a tear from her cheek. 

"Your half breed and I made a deal and therefor I will not harm you. But I will not give up the opportunity to gain a new healer"

Stress screamed, kicked, and cried but she could not escape the hands that held her. Eventually she exhausted herself and hung limply, tears still falling from her eyes. 

Iskall looked as if he could explode, but the string around his neck was already cutting into his skin, and he dared not struggle more.

The masked man clapped his hands twice, and the soldiers holding Grian and Stress dragged them into the trees.

"Do you think we're just going to let this go?" Mumbo snarled. 

"I don't think you have much choice" the man said. 

He picked up Grian's dropped axe and looked at his reflection in the steel. 

"There is far more going on than you know, and this is but a small bump in the road for me"

He flung the axe to the ground and began to stride away. Right before disappearing into the trees, he snapped his fingers. 

Mumbo felt a pinch on the back of his neck, and he was released. His hand flew to the injury and he pulled a small needle out of his skin. 

Swaying and stumbling, he and Iskall tried to walk but only made it a few steps before tripping over their own feet and crashing to the ground. Mumbo looked up at the cloudy sky, the world spinning above him. He could hear his heart pounding in his ears.

"Grian..." he muttered before a wave of sleep pushed his eyelids closed.

Sooooo, I know this is kind of dark, but this is how the story goes, so expect some more of this in the coming chapters. As always, I hope you enjoyed it, and if you did, please leave a like, and leave a comment if you have any feedback. I love hearing what you guys think!

 

Chapter Text

Trigger warning: mild violence

Mumbo struggled to open his eyelids. They felt like they weighed a ton, and pushing them open was no easy task. He was sprawled in the grass on his back, staring at the canopy of trees above. The sky was beginning to transition into a deep ocean blue and twinkling stars winked down at him.

"Why am...?" Mumbo managed before he felt his head pound. "Ugghhh"

He hulled himself up onto his elbows and raised one hand to rub his temples.

Out of the corner of his eye he saw movement.

"Iskall...?"

A groan of affirmation came from the crumpled body next to him.

"What happened...?"

Images flashed behind Mumbo's eyelids.

Screaming. Choking. Masks. Crying. Stress...

"Grian!" Mumbo croaked into the growing darkness. He heard his voice echo and reverberate inside his skull, and he clutched his head in pain.

Mumbo crawled over to a tree and used the lower branches to pull himself into a standing position. His heart thumped loudly in his chest and he broke out in a cold sweat.

"GRIAN! STRESS!"

Iskall had finally roused himself and sat up. The look on his face was as helpless as Mumbo felt.

Mumbo stumbled over to him and grabbed his arm.

"Get up! We have to go! We have to get the others!"

Iskall stayed seated as Mumbo desperately tried to pull him up.

"They took them" He whispered with a petrified expression as he stared into the trees. "They just... took them!"

Mumbo continued to pull on him.

"Iskall we have to get help! we have to go after them"

Iskall ignored him. He ripped his arm from Mumbo's grasp and stood, his face turning red as he mounted in anger.

"How dare... How could..." He was so angry he couldn't even form a sentence.

"Iskall come on! Please!" Mumbo felt desperate.

"I swear I will rip them to shreds!" Iskall continued, his fists shaking.

"Iskall... Iskall please" Mumbo felt something hot and wet run down his cheeks as he begged. "We... we have to go. We... we have to..."

He couldn't continue.

Iskall finally turned to look at him and his face instantly softened. He slowly wrapped his arms around his tall friend.

Mumbo choked out a sob as he reciprocated the hug.

"Iskall... what do we do?"

Iskall rubbed circles on his back soothingly.

"We do exactly what you just said. We go get everyone else"

He pulled away and shook Mumbo's shoulders slightly.

"It is going to be fine. Grian and Stress are strong, and they know that we will never stop looking for them"

Mumbo took in a shaky breath and nodded. Iskall patted his arm and let go.

"Now come on. It's almost dark"

The two half walked, half carried each other through the trees. The snow that had begun to melt under the sun had refrozen, and their feet slipped on the black ice. By the time they arrived back at the base, the moon was high in the night sky and the ground had frozen solid.

Every light in the base was on and they could hear loud arguing voices as they neared the door.

"We need to go after them!" Came False's voice.

"How are we supposed to know where they went?" Xisuma replied in a desperate tone.

"We'll figure it out" Doc growled. "But we can't just wait around here"

Iskall briefly met Mumbo's eyes before turning the handle and pushing the door open.

All eyes silently fell on the two men for a second before an explosion of noise erupted.

"Oh thank god" False said with a sigh of relief. She punched Iskall's shoulder hard. "Don't ever scare me like that again!"

"Mumbo, what the hell man!" Doc's usually calm and indifferent expression was plagued with worry. "What happened to your neck?"

Mumbo ran his fingers over his neck, having completely forgotten about the thin cut made from the string.

Ren and X looked outside.

"Where is Grian?" Ren asked at the exact same time as Xisuma asked, "Where's Stress?"

Mumbo opened his mouth to explain, but a lump formed in his throat. His eyes welled with tears for the second time that day, and he looked at Iskall.

Iskall broke away from False and guided him to the couch.

Mumbo barely listened as Iskall explained what had happened. He just concentrated on not letting tears fall down his face as he tried to unstick his tongue from the roof of his mouth.

When Iskall had finished, he seemed completely exhausted, having worn all of his physical and emotional energy.

Ren put his head in his hands.

"I... I knew... I hoped it wouldn't but... I knew this would happen eventually" he swallowed hard. "I just didn't think... "

He couldn't finish his sentence. He just clamped his hands tighter around himself. His shoulders shook as he began to cry.

False and Doc had similar expressions. It was the same look Iskall had had shortly after he had woken up. Shock, which turned into helplessness, which mounted into anger.

"I am going to destroy them!" False yelled, griping her sword so tight that her knuckles cracked.

Doc had similar intent on his face, but he didn't speak. He simply clamped his jaw down and left the room, returning seconds later with his coat.

X paced back and forth on the far side of the room muttering under his breath, his hands shaking as he pulled at his hair.

Doc opened the door and turned back to the rest of them expectantly.

"What's taking so long? We need to go"

"No!"

Everyone turned to X. His eyes were bulging and his face was red.

"We need a plan! We can't just... we don't... I can't..."

He began to hyperventilate.

"X..." Iskall said hesitantly.

X wasn't listening. His knuckles were white as his fists shook.

Suddenly without warning he slammed his hand down on the table leaving a large crack in the dark oak.

"THEY PROMISED THEY WOULDN'T TOUCH ANYONE ELSE!!!"

Everyone was shocked into silence for a moment.

Mumbo stood up.

"What did you just say?"

X looked as if he had seen a ghost. His hands flew to his hair and he continued to tug on it muttering nonsense under his breath.

"You... it was all you?"

Mumbo felt his blood begin to boil as he slowly made his way to the far side of the room.

"You told Grian where to go. You told him to go alone. You made him think he wasn't wanted! YOU SENT HIM OUT THERE TO DIE!"

In one swift movement he grabbed X's throat and slammed him into the wall, holding him in place.

"HOW COULD YOU DO THIS?!"

X's bloodshot eyes were rolling in every direction. He looked crazy.

"I didn't... I wouldn't... I... I"

"You what?!" Mumbo thundered, pulling X towards him just to slam him against the wall once more.

"I didn't mean to!" He cried out. "I didn't have a choice!"

"There is always a choice" Mumbo hissed. "And you made the wrong one"

"Wait... X... you didn't..." Ren stammered.

"I... I..." X looked around wildly. "It was only supposed to be Grian!"

Mumbo's eyes widened with fury and he slammed X into the wall for the third time.

X's eyes rolled back in their sockets and he hung limply in Mumbo's grasp. Mumbo let go of him quickly and he slid down the wall. Whether he fainted from shock, exhaustion, or head trauma was unclear.

Mumbo didn't care. He left X in a lump on the floor and turned to see the rest of the team with mixed levels of shock and anger on their faces.

"What are you looking at?!" He barked. "Let's go!"

Iskall and False nodded, turning towards the door.

"What about him?" Ren asked in a small voice, pointing at X.

"What about him" Mumbo glowered, grabbing a weapons belt that sat by the door. "He can rot for all I care"

"Mumbo..." Doc's voice trailed off. He looked at Mumbo with a strained expression. "We don't know what happened yet"

"Are you serious?" Mumbo said bringing himself up to his full height and towering over the rest of them. "Are you seriously backing him up?"

"Of course not!" Doc roared, refusing to back down. "I'm just as mad as you are!"

Mumbo scoffed. Doc narrowed his eyes and continued.

"But this is not you Mumbo. You need to calm down!"

"Or what?!"

"Or you'll do something you regret" Doc finished setting his jaw in a way that meant this conversation was over.

"That doesn't matter right now" Iskall interjected as Mumbo opened his mouth to retort. "What matters is Stress and Grian"

Grian...

Mumbo took a deep breath.

"You're right" he said. "Follow me. I saw which direction they took them"

"Guys... what about him" Ren repeated, nudging X with his foot, who stirred and slowly opened his eyes.

"Leave him" Mumbo spat. "I don't want him anywhere near me"

"We can't leave him" False said. She looked just as disgusted as Mumbo. "If he really is working for the other side then we can't lose sight of him"

"I'm not-" X started.

"Shut up!" Iskall yelled, glaring. He turned back to Mumbo. "False is right"

"I need to come with you!" X interrupted.

Doc shot him an icy glare.

"Why? Are your buddies going to ambush us again, and you want to be there to see it"

X struggled to his feet. He looked pleadingly at everyone in turn.

"I need Stress back! They were never-"

"Don't you dare say her name!" False thundered pointing her sword at him. "You're lucky I haven't run you through!"

"You don't understand!" X cried. Tears began to stream down his cheeks. "If I didn't give Grian up they were going to kill all of us!"

"And why couldn't we have just left?" Ren asked.

"They said they have bombs pointed at the base" X said. "They sent threatening letters everyday. I was protecting us! What else was I supposed to do?"

Mumbo walked up to him and grabbed him by the collar. He stared into X's eyes.

"You don't. Abandon. Grian" he said.

His voice was shaking from anger and it took all of his will power not to hit him against the wall again. Instead he threw X forward. He stumbled, catching himself before he fell.

"We're leaving" Mumbo announced, never removing his eyes from the crying spluttering figure beneath him.

No one moved. Mumbo glared.

"Now."

Oof rough  chapter  sorry .  I hope you enjoyed it, and if you did please leave a like, and leave a comment if you have any feedback!

Chapter Text

Trigger warnings: violence, pain

The last thing Grian remembered was kneeling in the snow. After that everything went dark.

Even now as his eyes slowly opened, he didn't know what to make of his situation.

He was lying on a mat on the floor. The entire room was pure white and the walls were cushioned. On the far side of the room was a white metal door.

Even his clothes were white. A loose fitting t-shirt and flowing white pants that were so long they bunched around his ankles.

He sat up and winced. Craning his neck he saw that his wings were bound behind his back by some kind of white cloth. He couldn't move them at all.

Don't freak out. Don't make any sudden moves  his brain counseled.

15 years of hostage and torture training had prepared him for this sort of situation.

He first checked his arms, legs, chest, and face for injuries. The only thing he found was a lump on the back of his head.

Is that how I passed out?

His hand went to his neck to check his pulse but he drew back suddenly when his fingers grazed metal.

Carefully, he stroked the metal that encompassed his neck. He couldn't see it, but it was thick and heavy, digging into his collar bone ever so slightly in a way that was uncomfortable, but tolerable.

A tracker maybe? Or something to deliver sedatives?

He stood slowly and felt himself struggle to remain balanced. That's when he realized how badly he was shaking.

Calm down  he urged his beating heart. You are not in immediate danger. Save the freak out for when it's called for.

He walked around the room, pressing and pulling on the cushioned walls to see if there was any weakness. There was not, but he did find three hidden cameras. The thought of someone watching him sent a shiver down his spine.

Ok ok it's fine. You're fine. You haven't done anything wrong yet. At least... he tried to think of something positive to calm himself down. At least your friends are safe. At least Mumbo...

He smiled sadly and felt a lump form in his throat.

No  he schooled himself. Rule #1 of being a hostage. Don't show any fear or sadness.

He shook out his arms, trying to rid himself of emotion and walked up to the metal door.

It was securely fastened and didn't even have a handle. There was a window at the top but Grian was too short to see out if it even when he jumped. He tugged at the cloth around his wings but it didn't budge.

Dammit.

Suddenly there was a loud beeping noise and the crackling of a microphone. Grian jumped a foot off the ground in surprise and backed away from the door.

"Ahhh I see you're awake!" Came a distinctly familiar voice.

The door buzzed and opened. Two men in black masks walked into the room. Grian ran to the opposite wall.

"Oh don't be scared" the voice said. "We just want to do some testing. Please go with these fine gentleman"

When Grian didn't move, the voice sighed as if this was just another normal nuisance of his workday.

"Go with the men please"

Grian gulped and tried to remain calm.

"What if I don't?"

The next second he was on the ground screaming. The metal choker around his neck had sent volts of electricity into his body making all his muscles tense up painfully and the skin on his neck burn.

As soon as it started, it stopped again.

Grian shook slightly as he lay on the ground, breathing hard.

So... it's a shock collar.

"Congratulations!" The voice said in a mocking tone. "You found out what your collar does"

The men standing by the door snickered.

"This doesn't have to be difficult" the voice continued. "All you have to do is do what I ask and tell me what I want to know"

"Does it really count as asking if you shock me when I refuse?" Grian said in a much braver tone than he felt.

The voice cackled.

"Cheeky! I love the mouthy ones. They are so fun to play with. Now half-breed, now that you know the consequences, I will give you one last chance to do this of your own free will. Would you please go with these two gentleman?"

Free will my ass  Grian thought, using his remaining energy to push himself into a standing position and walk slowly towards the door. The men didn't even grab his arms to keep him in place.

That's how confident they are that I can't get away  Grian thought.

He was led down a long hallway lined with the same white metal doors. Grian couldn't see inside them, but every now and then he would hear a scream or someone crying. He quickened his pace.

I don't want to be here any longer than I have to.

Eventually they turned into a side corridor and the noise faded behind them. The masked men finally stopped in front of a black heavy metal door. One of them grabbed Grian's arm roughly and put a hand over his eyes.

"Hey! What are you-"

"Shut up"

Grian clamped his mouth shut and heard small beeping noises as if someone was inputting a code. If it truly was a code, it was horribly long.

Finally there was a buzzing sound and the door swung open. Grian's other arm was grabbed and he was walked into what looked like some kind of medical lab. The room was white and blue with long metal tables lining the walls. Strange medical instruments lay on them, gleaming under the bright lights.

At least it's clean.

However Grian's stomach dropped when he noticed the large metal table in the center. It was big enough for a person and had long leather straps attached to it.

Before Grian could protest, one of the men had lifted him up and placed him on the table face down so that his wings stuck out behind him. He tried to wriggle out of their grasp but they held him down and looped the straps around his wrists and ankles. Grian cried out in pain as they cut off the circulation to his hands.

He heard the men walk out of the room and close the door behind them.

Ok ok ok. His mind was racing. How do we get them to slip up? We make them lose control of their emotions... He grinned. So... I'll just do what I do best. Be annoying...

I know this chapter isn't very long, but I promise I'll have another one up in the next couple days. 
As always, if you enjoyed it please consider leaving a like, and leave a comment if you have any feedback! 

Chapter Text

Stress was sure she must have passed out at some point because she couldn't remember how she had gotten there. She had been dragged through the forest, refusing to use her feet. The trees had blurred together, and she had blinked. When she opened her eyes she was no longer in the forest.

Stress felt the soft cushion of a hospital bed underneath her body and a pillow under her head. She could hear the beeping of a BP monitor and the air smelled like disinfectant.

Slowly and carefully, Stress opened her eyes.

Yes, this was definitely a hospital of some kind. It looked different from the ones she was used to. This one wasn't white, and there were no doors or even curtains separating one bed from another. Looking out across the bleak dark room she could see what looked like hundreds of beds, each with an occupant.

Stress checked herself for injuries but found none. She wasn't even hungry or dehydrated. Following the IV stuck in her hand up to its origin, she saw what clearly looked like a water and glucose drip.

She was even wearing fresh clean clothes.

They're taking such good care of me... why?

She checked the beds again but saw no sign of Grian. Tears of pain welled up in her eyes as she began to yank the IV out.

"Stop! What are you doing?"

A girl, clearly a healer from the pin she wore, ran up to Stress's bed.

Stress froze and the girl slid the IV back in place. She smiled down at stress, her green eyes twinkling.

"I know you're probably scared and anxious about your pet, but don't worry, you are in a safe place"

Stress just stared at her.

"I'm Cleo" she continued, brushing a lock of red hair out of her face. "What's your name?"

"What do you mean, anxious to see my pet?" Stress asked in an accusatory manner, narrowing her eyes.

Cleo blinked, her smile faltering slightly.

"I mean your avian" she said. "Your pet. The half breed your kind think are-"

"He is not a pet!" Stress interrupted, sitting up so suddenly that Cleo jumped back. "He is a person! A wonderful beautiful hybrid person! How dare you call him a pet as if he is no better than any random animal"

Cleo's mouth opened and closed as if she couldn't find any words. Finally she cleared her throat and stepped forward.

"I'm sorry. I shouldn't have spoken without thinking. You are new, and it will take time before you see things our way"

"Excuse me?"

Cleo had already plastered that smile back on her face and was taking out Stress's chart from the compartment at the end of the bed.

"Now, your vitals have been completely normal since you've arrived. I think you may have just over exhausted yourself on the journey here. You were quite dehydrated"

"Wait a second, don't just-"

"Going forward" Cleo cut in as though she hadn't heard Stress. "We will have you rest one more day before you begin work"

Stress gaped at her.

"Work?"

Cleo's grin widened.

"Thank god Cub brought you in. Scar and I are the only two doctors left in this treatment camp, and we really need help"

Stress's mind was swimming with questions.

"Why... why are there only two of you here" she decided on, scanning down the row of beds. "There are hundreds of patients"

Cleo nodded sadly.

"Many of us were sent out to the war zones to deal with immediate trauma patients. We get the civilians that are just unlucky enough to be in the blast zones"

Stress felt her heart ache.

"That's horrible" she whispered.

"I know. That's why it's so amazing to have you here!" Cleo said clutching Stress's hand. "I just know we're going to be great friends"

"I... uh... yeah" Stress said gently pulling her hand away. "I'm kind of tired Cleo. Do you mind if I rest a little longer?" She managed a weak smile. "When I wake up I can - uh, we can get started on helping these people"

Cleo nodded vigorously and smiled.

"Absolutely! Let me know if you need anything. I'll be in here for the rest of the day"

She turned to leave.

She needs to trust me  Stress panicked.

"Cleo!"

Cleo turned and smiled expectantly. Stress held out her hand and gave the redhead her signature winning smile

"My name is Stress. It's nice to meet you"

____________________________________________

"Guys there's a cave over here. We can rest for the night" False said kicking a shrub to the side.

"No"

Everyone turned to look at Mumbo. He continued to walk forward, his face icy and solemn.

"We keep moving" he declared yanking on the rope that bound Xisuma's wrists making him trip.

"Mumbo we've been walking for nearly 12 hours" Iskall said gently. "We need to take a break or we're going to collapse. It won't do Grian any good if we are too exhausted to help him"

Mumbo opened his mouth to retort but he couldn't think of a counter argument. Truth be told, he was shaking and sweating from fatigue and his blood sugar was dangerously low.

He gritted his teeth.

"Fine. But only a couple hours. Then we need to keep going"

The rest nodded in a way that made Mumbo huff and turn away from them. He knew they were stepping on egg shells in fear that he would have an outburst.

They don't even care  he thought bitterly as Doc began to direct the rest of the team to set up camp. Grian is all alone and they only care about themselves. For all we know Grian could already be-

He clenched his jaw.

No no no he's fine. He'll be fine. I can protect him. We'll get him out of there and he'll never have to be scared again.

He was so caught up in his thoughts he hadn't even noticed Xisuma sitting down behind him until he coughed.

Mumbo jumped away as if he had been burned.

"Get away from me!" He growled kicking dirt in Xisuma's face.

X sputtered and rubbed his eyes.

"I'm sorry Mumbo but you're holding the lead"

He held up his wrists that were still tightly bound

"Well I can't trust you not to leave" Mumbo said turning to tie the rope to a nearby tree. "You might run off and tell your little buddies we're coming"

X's forehead creased in a mixture of frustration, sadness, and sympathy.

"I told you I wouldn't run. I need to get to the corporation just as much as you. They have Stress"

"Yeah and who's fault is that?" Mumbo spat.

"They said they wouldn't..." Xisuma trailed off. He had repeated that sentence so many times in the last 12 hours he doubted they carried any weight. Instead he looked directly into Mumbo's eyes.

"You know I never knew you had this in you Mumbo Jumbo"

Mumbo's dark eyes widened and within a second he was holding X by the throat.

"YOU DON'T GET TO CALL ME THAT!" He yelled. "ONLY HE CAN CALL ME THAT"

"Oh yeah?" X mocked. He was starting to get angry. "What makes you think he even feels the same way about you?"

Mumbo opened and closed his mouth soundlessly. All he could feel was blinding rage.

"You... you better... stop" he could barely get the words out. "Or I'll-"

"Or what? You'll kill me" X scoffed.

"Yes"

"Get real Mumbo. You don't have it in you. You're just angry because you stood by and watched while Grian gave himself up to protect you"

Mumbo was shaking. He couldn't distinguish rage from sadness, and was acutely aware that the fingers on Xisuma's throat were beginning to tighten.

"Take... that... back"

Xisuma laughed in the maniacal way he had back at the base.

"No!" He stuck out his tongue.

"Mumbo!"

Mumbo felt someone grab his arm and pry his fingers from X's neck. It was Ren.

"Mumbo what are you doing!?"

"He... he's not sorry... he's not... I'm going to..." Mumbo was still shaking. "Just let me-"

"No" Ren cut in. "Mumbo, he's off his rocker. I doubt he even knows what he's saying. Besides, this isn't you"

"How do you know?" Mumbo snapped, fighting to break free from Ren's grip. "Maybe this is the real me!"

Ren's face softened.

"No Mumbo it's not. You're just... scared. We all are"

"No! I'm not scared, I'm furious!"

"Mumbo-"

"No!"

"It's-"

"Let me go!"

"No!"

Ren pulled Mumbo in and forced him into a tight hug.

"No. I won't let you go"

Mumbo's thrashing began to die down.

"We are here for you. We are here for each other" Ren continued, holding his friend even tighter.

Mumbo relented into the hug, only then realizing that he was shaking because he was sobbing.

He cried into Ren's shirt, dying the fabric dark red.

"This wasn't supposed to happen" he whimpered as Grian's smile swam into his view.

"I know" Ren whispered holding his friend even closer. "But it did. There is no use in regretting what can't be changed. Now all we can do is try to rectify the situation"

He pulled away and held Mumbo at arms length.

"I promise we will get Grian back" he said. "Can you at least trust me on that?"

Mumbo sighed shakily and nodded, wiping his face.

"Ok" he looked into Ren's eyes. "I trust you"

I hope  you enjoyed  this chapter! If you did,  please consider leaving a like, and leave a comment if you have any feedback! 
Your comments motivate me to continue writing and I love hearing what you think.

 

Chapter Text

Trigger warning(s): pain, sedation

Grian heard the door behind him open and the clicking soles of two pairs of shoes. He grinned.

Show time.

"Heeeey!" He cooed, straining his neck to see their faces. "Thank god someone's here! I was getting lonely"

The footsteps halted, and Grian assumed the two people were sharing a look.

Suddenly something cold met the nape of his neck and he shivered.

"What are you doing?!"

His question was answered immediately as scissors began to cut away at the white fabric, removing Grian's shirt and exposing the base of his wings.

"Aren't you going to buy me dinner first?" Grian teased, flexing the few muscles that he had.

He chuckled to himself, knowing how red Mumbo's face would be if he saw the brazen act he was putting on for his captors.

"What's wrong with this one?" one man said. He had a rather high pitched voice, but not in an annoying way. It was bright and cheery, as though the situation was amusing.

"I don't know" said the familiar voice. "The avian is a dying breed. Maybe this is why"

"Or you hit him too hard when you took him" the other scoffed.

"You did" Grian piped up, pouting even though they couldn't see him. "You need to be more careful. If you had missed your mark you could have ruined my pretty face"

The cheerful one laughed.

"I like this one! Can we keep him after the process?"

"No! Scar! Stay focused!" the familiar one said.

A thought occurred to Grian.

"Wait a second. Were you the one in the vex mask?"

"Me?" Scar asked.

"No, your angry friend"

There was silence for a moment before the familiar one gave a low throaty chuckle.

"I wasn't aware that my voice was so discernible"

Grian felt his flirty, annoying facade fade as panic clouded his mind

"What did you do to my friends?"

"I swore I wouldn't hurt them, and I didn't" the Vex snarled. "I just took you and the girl, and let the other idiots go"

"You took... where is Stress?!" He felt anxiety rise in his chest.

"Stress? Oh you mean your pretty Keeper? Is that her name?"

Grian could hear  him smirking.

"Don't worry" Scar said soothingly. "Your Keeper is perfectly safe. She will be joining my team of healers once she has recovered her strength"

He sounded as though he were trying to calm a dog, but Grian had no choice but to trust him. Besides, he had other questions.

"My Keeper?"

"Do your kind prefer the term owner?"

"Owner?!"

"I'm sorry! I don't know what you prefer-"

"Scar, don't argue with animals" the Vex said, cutting into his misplaced apology.

"Sorry Cub. You're right"

"Cub?" Grian said, barely stifling a laugh. "What, like a bear cub? I got kidnapped by someone named Cub??"

"Shut up half-breed!"

"Hey, if you're a bear cub, then can I be Goldilocks? Scar, do you want to be the mama bear?"

"Enough!!!" Cub yelled.

Grian screamed as the collar around his neck sent wave after wave of electric shocks through his body. This was definitely longer than the first time, and even after the pain subsided, Grian could feel his hands and feet twitching.

"Serves you right for speaking out of turn, half-breed" Cub said. Grian could tell from the direction of his voice that he was standing over him. "No wonder your leader wanted to get rid of you"

It took a minute for his words to sink in.

"What? Xisuma didn't want to get rid of me. He just needed fire wood"

"Oh right, of course he needed you to get wood for heat even though you can burn coal more easily" Cub said sarcastically.

"Well..."

Grian bit his lip. It was true that coal was easier to burn, and lasted longer. They had a bunch of it too, since the engineers used the super-smelter so frequently.

No. No! It was just a mistake Grian thought, trying to squash his doubts deep in his chest.

"Well what, half-breed? Finally out of clever words?"

Grian swallowed.

Never let them see you cry

"Weeeeeeelllllll" he said, stringing out the word in the whiniest tone he could muster. "Burning coal is bad for the environment"

There was silence for a moment before Scar spoke up in a tiny voice.

"He's right you know"

"SHUT UP SCAR" Cub roared. In one swift movement, he grabbed the cloth tied around Grian's wings and yanked his upper body off the table a couple inches. He grabbed Grian's jaw and twisted his head so he could look into the avian's face.

Grian tried his hardest not to cry out in pain, but a whimper managed to escape his lips.

Now that he could finally see the face of his captor, he felt conflicted.

Cub was certainly older than he expected. His grey hair and beard looked rough to the touch, and he was balding on top. His delicate features and clear skin would have made him handsome if his face wasn't currently beet red and screwed up in rage.

All in all, he was scarier with his mask on, but that didn't calm the sense of dread in Grian's thumping heart.

"What are you staring at half-breed?!"

Don't say it, don't say it, you'll get in trouble if you say it.

"You're pretty strong for an old guy"

Cub squeezed his face so hard Grian thought his jaw might break.

"Cub, maybe you should step out for a moment and calm down. I need to start the process" Scar said from the other side of the room.

Grian turned to study his physician.

Scar had certainly earned his name; a large dark line of discoloration ran down his left cheek and just under his chin. This did not however sully his radiant smile or soft brown eyes. Grian would consider this person friendly and approachable if he weren't holding a needle that was the size of his own hand. He shuddered as the dark liquid sloshed inside of it.

Cub let out a breath and let go of Grian without warning, making him bang his head on the metal table. He groaned in pain as Cub exited the room.

"You know, you really shouldn't tease him, half-breed" Scar said as he made his way over to Grian. "Don't incur unnecessary wrath"

"What's in that needle?"

"The situation will make itself clear in a moment. Now don't move"

He stuck the large needle into Grian's spine. Grian hissed and tried to wriggle out of his restrains but quickly found that moving around with the needle wedged in his back caused far more pain than just laying there and taking it.

"I said not to move" Scar muttered gently.

The dark liquid, whatever it was, burned as it made its way quickly through Grian's neural passages and bloodstream. Luckily, the pain subsided quickly and he relaxed himself against the table.

"There we are" Scar said patting him on the head. "That wasn't so bad was it?"

I'm not a baby Grian thought to himself. He was going to open his mouth to point this out, but for some reason was unable to unlock his jaw. When he tried to move his hands to help, he could not move them. Frantically he tried to kick his feet but they did not move an inch.

Breathing heavily, he tried to scream, but all he was able to omit was a faint groan.

He heard the scrape of wheels against the floor, and out of the corner of his eye he saw Scar pushing over a small tray covered in metal instruments. He must have noticed Grian's panic-stricken eyes, because he smiled and leaned down to rub circles on Grian's back in a calming manner.

"Shh shh shh, it's ok. I just need you immobile while I conduct my experiments. It will wear off in five hours"

Five hours?!  Grian screamed inside his head.

Scar had moved down his body and began to unwrap his wings. He was rough, and pulled surprisingly hard, meaning he either didn't know how sensitive they were, or he didn't care. Once unwrapped, the beautiful golden wings swayed slightly before falling to hang limply by Grian's sides. They ached after being tucked away for so long, and Grian longed to stretch them out. Obviously he couldn't move them anymore than the rest of his body, and thus they stayed crumpled, like two dead birds.

Scar smoothed out and studied the feathers closely, even yanking one out to take a better look at the base.

Grian wanted to cry but refused himself this simple weakness. He would force the tears back down of he had to.

Never let them see you cry.

"Now I'm afraid I can't provide you with anesthetic" Scar said in the same 'I'm talking to a child' voice that he had used before. "There are people in our urgent care who need it more, and to be honest, your comfort is not really of high priority on Cub's list"

So Cub is in charge  Grian thought.

"That being said" Scar continued, "I still need to conduct my experiments. I will be taking some samples of blood, skin tissue, spinal fluid, and bone marrow. After that, I will do some electro-stimulation on your wings to see how they move, and possibly some light pain tolerance testing. Cub likes to know those sorts of things before he takes half-breeds in for questioning, which will happen tomorrow by the way"

Tears threatened Grian's eyes, but he pushed them away.

Not the time he thought. Have to concentrate. Have to make it through.

Though the paralyzing agent worked well, Scar had been right. It did nothing to dull pain as Grian lay there for hours being poked, prodded, and cut into. Had his vocal chords been working, they would have been ripped to shreds, and the entire hospital would have heard his screams.

However, Grian kept his word to himself; tears never escaped his eyes.

I hope you guys enjoyed this rather bleak chapter. If you did, please consider leaving a like and a comment. I love hearing what you think!

 

Chapter Text

" Mumbo Jumbo!"

Mumbo turned just in time to see a flurry of golden feathers before Grian wrapped his arms around the tall engineer's neck. He reciprocated the hug, holding tightly to the avian's waist.

Grian giggled and pulled away, leaving his hands on Mumbo's shoulders.

"Did you miss me?" he teased

"Every minute of every day" Mumbo replied sincerely, reveling in the warmth of Grian's smile.

Grian had gone on a trip with Ren and had left Mumbo alone in their house for almost a week, the longest time the two had spent apart in years. He had missed his partner very badly.

Planting a quick kiss on Mumbo's cheek, Grian removed his hands from his shoulder's and walked inside the quaint rustic cottage the pair called home. Mumbo heard him inhale deeply and gasp.

"Mumbo did you cook for me?"

Mumbo smiled and strode past Grian, closing the front door behind him as he moved to the kitchen. He took the wooden spoon off the counter and stirred the contents of the steaming pot.

"Of course I did. It's not everyday I get to surprise my husband"

He turned his head to look at Grian at just the perfect moment. The golden boy's face was flushed with happiness. He stared at Mumbo with large soft eyes, a smile barely curving at his lips. Mumbo turned back to the bubbling pot so Grian would not see the blush spread across his cheeks.

He heard quick footsteps and then felt arms wrap around his waist as Grian hugged him from behind, squeezing him with all his might. Mumbo chuckled and turned to hug him properly, breathing in the sent of the pine needles that clung to Grian's blond curls. He picked them out gently.

"Did you run into a tree when you were flying back or something?"

Grian looked at the ground, his ears turning crimson.

"Not on purpose" he pouted. "I just reallywantedtoseeyou"

The last part came out in a rush and Mumbo held back a laugh. Truly he could not feel happier.

"I really wanted to see you too" he whispered.

Grian raised his head.

"I love you"

He met Mumbo's dark eyes with his own blue-grey ones, and Mumbo thought he might melt at the sight of such beauty. He traced Grian's jaw with his thumb before cupping the golden boy's head in his palm. Grian leaned into his hand lovingly for a moment before going on tiptoe and clasping his hands behind Mumbo's neck. He leaned in...


"Mumbo!"

Mumbo jolted awake. He felt the imaginary memory of Grian's touch, the way his arms had slung around his neck, the way he had leaned in for a kiss...

He felt it slip away.

Letting out a shaky sigh, he looked up to see Doc standing over him.

"Sorry to wake you man, but the sun is starting to rise, and we better get moving again"

"It's ok" Mumbo said. Even though his eyes ached from exhaustion, he was glad they had not let him sleep too long.

I can sleep when Grian is back. I can sleep with-

He shook the self indulgent thought from his mind. There was no reason to believe Grian felt the same way about him. Even if he could never hear those three beautiful words leave Grian's lips, and never feel the joy of having Grian in his arms, he was content to keep him as a friend.

All for him. Anything for him. As long as he's safe.

"Mumbo?"

He looked up to see Iskall's worried face, and managed a weak smile.

"I'm fine" he said reassuringly. "I was just having a good dream"

Truthfully, he did feel better. Even just a few hours of sleep had helped his body relax a bit and release some of the pent up aggression that he had been carrying for the last week. Even looking at Xisuma, who lay pitifully curled up on the floor talking to himself, did not fill him with the same rage as it had several days ago.

Still, he was not about to test his own patience.

He had learned a lot about himself since Grian had been taken, and none of it was very good. Now that his mind was a bit clearer, he felt bad for snapping at his friends the way he had. As far as he was concerned, X could be drawn and quartered and he wouldn't bat an eyelash, but his friends were innocent.

The group began to move again, Ren and Doc leading the way. They were certainly in enemy territory now, but the thickness of the woods made it hard to tell if they were moving in the right direction. However with Ren's heightened sense of smell leading their way, Mumbo didn't worry too much about getting lost.

False had taken over responsibility for leading Xisuma, who had if possible become even more insufferable and psychotic over the past couple days. He complained of hunger and thirst, even though he was getting the same rations as the rest of them. He would bite at the rope holding his wrists and snap his teeth at anyone if they tried to make him stop. If they yelled at him to shut up, he would just laugh like a lunatic and call them names. If they mentioned Grian, he would whine and repeatedly assure his innocence, lying through his teeth with a wild smile on his face. Only the mention of Stress would shut him up for a little while before the whole thing would start over again.

Shortly after they had begun walking again, Mumbo was already rubbing his temples in frustration as Xisuma whimpered and complained loudly of his feet hurting.

"Do you think that ours don't?" False growled, yanking on the rope to pull him forward.

"It's like pins and needles" he whined, poking her back with his fingers as though showing her what a pin prick felt like.

"Don't care"

"Oh come on Falsey" X cooed, stumbling forward to walk by her side, trying to grab at her jacket. "Just a little break? I'll let you rub my feet"

"Oh my god can we gag him please?" Iskall called up ahead in annoyance as he pushed a laughing Xisuma away from False.

Ren stopped suddenly and held up his hand. The group halted and fell silent. Even Xisuma stopped laughing to see what had gotten everyone's attention.

"Ren? What's wrong" Doc asked, his usually confident voice laced with worry.

Ren shook his head, and turned in a circle. He walked several steps away from the group and towards a cliff side several yards away.

He stopped a few feet from the edge.

"The trail just... goes dry here" he said, looking up with a confused expression on his face

A horrible thought crossed Mumbo's mind.

"Did they throw Stress and Grian off the cliff?!"

"No, they wouldn't" Iskall said soothingly, putting a comforting hand on Mumbo's shoulder. "If they just wanted to kill Grian they wouldn't have bothered to take him away, and they wanted Stress because she's a healer"

Mumbo nodded at his logic. He felt his thundering heart calm itself slightly.

"But why does the scent just stop here?" Ren asked.

"If you wanted to hide an entrance..." Doc began.

"Then you wouldn't want anyone to come across it by accident" Mumbo finished, catching Doc's eye.

The two engineers began to move about the area, taking a close look at every rock, twig and patch of grass.

"What are you looking for?" False asked.

"A button, or a lever of some kind" Doc responded, not raising his eyes from the ground.

"They need a way to get into their bunker" Mumbo reasoned, running his hands over a patch of rocks to feel for abnormalities. "But they wouldn't want it easy to find. A cliff side is a good place to hide an entrance because people aren't going to get too close to the edge. Help us look"

____________________________________________________

It took several hours of searching before Ren found a very small button on the rocky edge of the cliff.

With a single press, Mumbo heard a low whirring sound coming from under their feet.

"Everyone stand back!" Doc called.

They all stumbled backwards and watched in amazement as the seamless moss covered rocks rose up and separated into two perfectly symmetrical rectangles to reveal a metal platform.

"What is that?" Iskall asked in awe.

"I think it's an elevator" Mumbo whispered, reaching out his foot to tentatively press down lightly on the metal.

"Well then let's go!" Iskall said, striding onto the platform.

"Ok slow down a sec" False griped, grabbing the scruff of Iskall's collar and yanking him back. "We don't know what's waiting for us at the other end!"

"Let's just jump off the cliff and see if we fly" Xisuma giggled, sticking his arms out in front of him, and running in a circle making plane sounds.

"Ok, what the hell are we going to do with this?" Iskall asked, grabbing X's wrists and holding him still.

"Maybe we can just tie him up out here while we go get Stress and Grian" Doc suggested.

"Nooooo I wanna see Stressssss" Xisuma cried, throwing himself on the ground and rolling from side to side in a silent tantrum.

"We can't leave him outside" Mumbo said, pinching the bridge of his nose in exasperation. "He is way too unpredictable. Plus, maybe we could use him as a bargaining chip"

Doc gave him a look like you think they would want him?

"Well what the hell do you want to do?!" Mumbo snapped. Doc's wounded expression registered in Mumbo's mind and he sighed loudly. 

"I'm sorry Doc, really I am. I'm just so tired, and I just really... I want him back"

He winced in embarrassment at his own sudden display of weakness.

Doc's face softened, and he nodded once in forgiveness.

"Look ok, here's what's going to happen" Ren said authoritatively. "We are going to go down there, because we really don't have any other options. False, Iskall, Doc, and I will guard each side of the platform. I have no idea where the door will open. Mumbo, I'm sorry to be blunt, but you are the worst at combat out of all of us, so you are going to take X's rope and stand in the middle. Any questions"

Everyone shook their heads, slightly taken aback by the sudden commanding tone of the usually calm hybrid.

"Alright then"

Ren stepped onto one end of the platform, and the rest followed suit.

After about 10 seconds, they heard a soft beeping, and felt the ground beneath them begin to descend.

Mumbo looked up as the platform was lowered and the ground above them began to close.

Don't worry Grian. I'm coming.

I hope you all enjoyed this chapter! As always, if you did please consider leaving a like and a comment. I love hearing what you guys think!

Chapter Text

Trigger Warning: This chapter contains graphic violence. I really don't think it's that bad, but I am numb to this sort of stuff so I don't know if I'm the best judge. If you are sensitive to that kind of thing, I will have a Content Warning (C/W) when it starts and ends so you can skip the violence. 
Don't worry, it starts super sweet. 

Grian smiled as Mumbo ran his fingers over his golden feathers.

"Mm"

"You good?"

"Feels nice"

Mumbo chuckled softly, the vibrations from his chest radiating through Grian's head which was tucked snugly in the crook of the tall engineer's neck.

Grian sighed. He felt so safe and comfortable, lying in bed, wrapped in Mumbo's arms.

"Can't we just stay here all day?" He asked.

Mumbo hummed his approval, giving Grian's hand a squeeze.

"Whatever you want"

Grian pulled his head up slightly, repositioning himself so he was propped up on Mumbo's chest. He wanted to see his face.

"But what do you want?"

Mumbo stroked Grian's cheek with his thumb before cupping his face in both hands, blushing at his own forwardness.

"Just you. Only you"

Grian leaned into his hands lovingly before going back to his previous position. He brushed his hair against his husband's neck, trying to tickle him.

Mumbo clutched Grian's hand suddenly, showing Grian that he had been successful. He giggled.

"Don't tease" Mumbo grunted.

"Pfft"

Grian rolled his eyes and snuggled closer, knowing Mumbo's face was bright red.

"I wouldn't be me if I didn't tease"

He sighed, relaxing his arm while drawing circles on Mumbo's chest.

"Besides" he continued. "You love it"

"I do" Mumbo murmured.

Grian bit his lip, not knowing whether to laugh or cry.

"Mumbo I love-"

"WAKE UP!"

Grian shrieked as freezing cold water was dumped over his body. He shivered and clutched his head in his hands.

Of course it was too good to be real.

"You know what time it is" Cub smirked.

"No" Grian groaned. "Please..."

Cub laughed.

"We don't have to do this the hard way. All you have to do is answer my questions"

Grian glared at him. He had endured nearly nonstop interrogation for the last week and was reaching his breaking point.

"I told you" he growled. "I don't know anything"

Cub shook his head as though he was a father disappointed in his son.

"All my lenience and generosity and yet you still choose the hard way"

He reached down and grabbed Grian by the scruff of his collar, pulling him up.

Grian cried out as the bottoms of his feet touched the floor. They were covered in whip lashes.

He struggled to keep the pads of his feet from pressing too hard on the ground, and eventually conceded to being dragged by his hair.

"You know I've never met someone so..." Cub paused to find the right word.

"Handsome?" Grian suggested, trying not to show the pain he was in.

Cub laughed cruelly.

"No... not that"

He kicked open the metal door and threw Grian on the cold stone floor.

"Insolent" he said, standing over Grian's shivering figure. "Abhorrent. Worthless. Pathetic"

Grian coughed, the sound reverberating off of the dark walls. He knew Cub was baiting him, trying to break his resolve. There was no way he would let that happen. He forced a smile on his face.

"Come on bear cub. I know what it means when someone won't leave me alone"

Cub's eyes blazed. He kicked Grian square in the stomach, knocking the wind out of him.

"You really don't know when to shut up do you" Cub hissed, walking to the center of the room and pulling chains  down from the ceiling.

He grabbed Grian's slender wrists and cuffed them together tightly. The cuffs were so large they covered half of his forearms. Grian didn't even bother struggling. After a week of this he knew not to waste energy on such things.

Cub walked to the far wall and grabbed a chain hanging from a hook. He unwrapped the chain and pulled hard. The chain, which was attached to the cuffs, pulled Grian up roughly by his arms, straining his shoulders and making him cry out. Cub pulled him up until he was fully suspended and his toes barely brushed the ground.

Grian forced himself to breath deeply through the pain tearing into his shoulders and upper arms. After an hour they would be numb anyway.

"Nothing to say now, huh half-breed" Cub scoffed, securing the chains onto the wall and walking to the other end of the room to get his tools.

Grian shook his head.

"Do you ever have any new intimidation lines? That one is getting old"

He huffed a light laugh to himself.

"Oops sorry for saying old. That probably hit too close to home for you"

C/W start

With a roar, Cub grabbed a metal bar from the table and smacked it against Grian's abdomen. Grian yelled in pain, positive that at least one of his ribs was broken. It popped in and out of place with each breath.

It didn't stop there. It seemed that Grian's teasing had finally broken through Cub's patience and he flew into a rage.

He grabbed a thin knife from the table, took hold of one of Grian's fingers, and stuck the knife under his finger nail.

Grian screamed as the sharp dagger pushed further and further into the soft flesh. He felt warm blood trickling down his arm.

"Please stop! Please!" He begged, trying desperately not to let tears fall down his cheeks. 

"You reap what you have sown half-breed" came the growl in his ear.

Grian squeezed his eyes shut as he saw Cub pick up a whip. Knowing what it was going to feel like did not soften the blows as Cub beat his hands, feet, and backside bloody. The strikes that landed on his wings hurt the most as the whip would rip the golden feathers from their place.

It felt like it had gone on forever when Cub's rage finally let up and he put the whip back on the table.

Grian was shaking and stifling his cries as his head hung limply against his chest. His white clothes were dyed red as well as his wings and hair from the blood that had dripped down from his neck and hands.

"Please..." he whispered. "Please..."

Cub tsked.

"So dramatic. If you hadn't been so cheeky I wouldn't have had to punish you"

He ran his hand along Grian's injured wings making him choke out a sob.

"Now" Cub said standing in front of the avian. "If you answer my questions, you can go back to your cell! Isn't that a good deal?"

Grian felt a tear run down his nose as he took a shaky breath.

"I told you" he whispered. "I don't know anything!"

"You are a liar" Cub snapped, picking up an iron brand. It was glowing white from being held under a flame for so long. "Tell me! Where is the closest half-breed compound?"

"I... don't... know" Grian breathed. He felt like a broken record.

Cub raised the brand.

"Come on half-breed. Do you really want another one of these?"

"I don't know!" Grian cried shaking his head back and forth. "I was moved every six months and never allowed to know where I was in case of situations LIKE THIS!!!"

He screamed as the brand was pushed into his chest for the fourth time that week. He could smell his own burning flesh, and to his horror, the smell of cooking meat made his stomach growl.

Cub chortled loudly.

"I didn't realize I was starving you so bad! Should I peel some meat off so you can have a bite?"

C/W end

"Please stop!" Grian sobbed, shaking in his bindings as his pent up tears spilled down his cheeks. "I can't give you what you want! I will never be able to tell you anything!"

Cub grabbed his jaw roughly, forcing eye contact.

"But you wouldn't, even if you could"

Grian was silent.

Cub dropped his hand and picked up a large knife.

"Then why should I believe you?"

He moved around so he was standing behind Grian. Grian felt every muscle in his body tense up as he felt the cool blade jab at the base of his wing.

"Tell me"

"I can't!"

"Tell me"

"I don't know anything!"

Cub sighed.

"Find then. I hope your silence was worth it"

I know, I know this was a suuuuuper dark chapter, but necessary. I hope you enjoyed it. If you did, please consider leaving a like and a comment to let me know what you think. 

Chapter Text

Stress stared down at Xisuma's unconscious body on the gurney before her.

"Where did he come from?"

"I don't know" Cleo said, poking her fingers into X's neck to check his pulse. "I just found him in the hallway outside. My guess is he's from one of the other departments, wasn't feeling well, and collapsed on the way here"

"Mn" was all Stress could say.

She was trying very hard not to let any unusual emotion or sign of recognition on her face, but it was proving difficult.

"He doesn't seem badly hurt" Stress said, taking control of the gurney. "I can take this one. I know you are busy with Mr. Keralis"

Cleo gave her a thankful smile.

"That would be great. Let me or Scar know if you need help, but I'm sure you're more than capable"

Stress looked around.

"Where is Scar? I haven't seen him the last couple days"

"Oh I think he's helping Cub with the half-breeds. Apparently one of them is very mouthy and received enough punishment that Scar needs to heal it before the process can continue"

Stress felt her stomach drop. One of them was very mouthy? Oh Grian...

Focus on the task at hand  Stress schooled herself, turning back to X. What the hell are you doing here? And what happened?

His pulse, while strangely sporadic, was not overly worrisome. His breath was steady and strong, meaning the likelihood of lung damage was low.

Stress examined his arms and noticed red rings around his wrists. The reasoning for his unconscious state was clear by the large lump on the back of his head.

Why were you tied up? Why were you knocked out?

Too many questions to deal with right now Stress decided. She arranged X properly in a bed, hooked an IV to the back of his hand, and lay a blanket over him.

She pulled out a small flashlight to check his mouth, but when she gently pulled on his chin and his jaw fell open, Stress saw a small folded up paper.

Her heart rate quickened, and she jerked her head around to make sure she was alone. When she was positive Cleo was busy on the other side of the room, she carefully pulled the wet paper from Xisuma's mouth.

With shaking fingers, she opened the note. The script on the paper was tiny and frantic with multiple spelling mistakes as though it had been written in a hurry.

We    are all here to get you and Grian out. Please keep X unconscous until we can mak an escape. We will explain later but hes been acting crzy and we can t  have him geting in the way. Once we have Grian  we wil come get you and we can get out togeter. Ply along for now
- M

Stress shoved the note in her pocket and rubbed her temples.

This is such a stupid plan. Worse than that, it's risky. What if someone else had found that paper?!

Making a mental note to kick Mumbo later, Stress gathered herself and forced a smile on her face.

Just play along. Just keep playing along. 
______________________________________________

"Mumbo this is so stupid!" False whisper shouted, her voice muffled slightly by the cramped space.

"Well I'm sorry False but I didn't hear any better ideas" Mumbo hissed back, continuing to crawl forwards.

The group had stolen away into an air vent after leaving Xisuma outside of a door with the healers mark on it.

"Get your butt out of my face!"

"Get your face out of my butt!"

"Guys!" Doc growled, glaring at Iskall and Ren who were shoving each other against the tight metal walls. "I know this isn't ideal, but this really  isn't the time!"

The two boys dropped their eyes and mumbled apologies.

"Freaking children, I swear" Mumbo heard Doc mutter under his breath, and he felt a smile tug at his lips. At least some things never change.

"Seriously though, does anyone have any idea where we're going?" Iskall asked, a tone of worry in his voice.

"No but it's a lot safer to listen through the grates than to just walk around the halls" Mumbo responded, trying to sound more confident than he felt. "Shh! There's one up ahead!"

Crawling as quietly as possible, Mumbo strained his ears to hear any kind of conversation through the grated vent below him.

"New shipment just came in. Boss says to leave it in the docking yard"

"Why?"

"It's fake you idiot. A bunch of half-breeds have been wandering too close to the property, probably looking for food or some crap like that. They'll see the cart and think they are getting  a free meal and BAM! It will blow up right in their face!"

The two voices barked out a cruel laugh that made Mumbo's hair stand on end.

"Creepy little mutants. Thank god we have Cub. Did you see what he did to the new one? Man it was brutal"

"Well deserved though"

"Obviously"

Not being able to stand it anymore, Mumbo motioned forwards and crawled as quickly and quietly as he could until he did not hear their voices. Still, the words kept repeating themselves in his mind.

"Creepy little mutants. Did you see what he did to the new one? Man it was brutal"

He shook his head.

Not Grian. Not Grian. Please please please not Grian.

"Mumbo"

He opened his eyes. When had he closed them?

"Mumbo" Ren's gentle voice floated towards him. "We have to keep going"

"R-right" he stuttered. "Yes"

They continued on along the cramped vent for what felt like hours before reaching the end of the system.

"We have to go down here" Mumbo said.

He carefully pried open the grate beneath him, sticking his head out slightly to make sure that no one was around.

When he was sure the coast was clear, he began lowering himself down out of the square hole, head first.

This proved to be a very stupid idea. As soon as he was hanging out from his waist, he felt the smooth fabric of his trousers begin to slide against the metal.

"No no no!"

He fell hard onto the linoleum beneath him, managing to brake his fall slightly by rolling onto his back.

He saw Doc's head peak out from the vent above, badly covering a smile.

"Dude..."

Mumbo tried to glare but the pain in his shoulder turned it into a grimace.

"Just... just get down here"

When they had all descended from the vent, and Mumbo was helped to his feet, they gave themselves a chance to fully take in their surroundings.

Everything was white, from the floor, to the walls, to the bright lights that stretched down the hallway, around the corner, and out of sight. It was rather unnerving.

The most interesting thing by far was the large white metal door which stood directly under where the ventilation system had ended.

The large red letters on the door read

KEEP OUT

Mumbo felt a warmth spread through his chest at the thought of what his golden avian would think of such a blatant invitation.

"I can't help myself!" Grian had once said after accidentally ruining one of Mumbo's machines. "When I see a button I have to press it! When there's a lever I have to flick it! If there's a keep out sign, how am I supposed to resist?"

Mumbo smiled fondly at the memory.

Oh Grian. My Grian.

"Mumbo"

The sudden voice snapped him out of his thoughts. He turned to Doc who was eyeing the door.

"I think this is our only way forward"

Mumbo nodded and joined him, studying the keypad next to the door.

"How are we going to get in?" False asked, crossing her arms.

Doc pulled a small metal tool from his belt.

"It looks complicated but this is a very simple design" he said. "If I can just-" he stuck the metal tool under the side of the keypad and pushed into it so that it sprang free from the wall, hanging down by a multitude of colorful wires.

Doc took a step back and rolled his eyes at Mumbo.

"Amateurs"

"I know right?"

After playing with the wires for a couple minutes, the engineers heard a rather loud clunk as the heavy locks behind the door unlatched.

Quietly and carefully, they crept through the door. Mumbo felt annoyance nip at his heart as he walked into another perfectly white hallway lined with doors.

Peeking through the glass on one of the doors, his eyes widened as they were met with a small white padded room. A lump of a person lay in the corner, and Mumbo swore he could see a pair of horns sticking out of their brown hair.

"It's a hybrid!" 

He felt a yank on his arm as Ren pulled him out of the way to look through the glass excitedly.

"It's not Grian, but it's definitely a hybrid" Mumbo could hear the excitement in his voice.

Iskall and False weren't tall enough to see through the glass, so they stood nervously, shifting from foot to foot in anticipation while Mumbo, Doc, and Ren made their way down the hallway of heavy metal doors.

Mumbo glanced from room to room.

No

No

Not him

Grian

Where are you

Please

Gri-

Mumbo paused, cutting off his own thoughts in his mind. Curled in on itself was a tiny person. Mumbo could see golden curls peaking out from between his fingers as he held his head in his hands while he slept.

Mumbo's heart leapt into his throat.

Grian. My Grian. My-

Something was wrong with this picture. What was wrong?

Tearing his eyes from Grian's head he scanned the avian's body, the feeling of wrongness escalating with every second.

Suddenly Mumbo's mouth dropped open and he stumbled back from the door, falling to the ground.

His wings were gone.

I hope you enjoyed the chapter! Guess they finally found him, but what will happen now? 
If you did enjoy the chapter, please consider leaving a like and a comment to let me know what you think!

Chapter Text

Trigger warnings: trauma, injection, death

Xisuma didn't understand where he was. All he knew was that the bed was very comfortable, and the beeping to the left side of his head felt in rhythm with his heartbeat.

He rocked his head back and forth to the beat before pouting as his stomach grumbled.

"Mumbo! I'm hungry!"

There was no answer.

"Doooooooc! Give me food!"

He heard quick footsteps and then a beautiful familiar face loomed before his hazy vision.

"Stress!" He cried making grabby hands at her. She relented into the hug.

"Xisuma be quiet!"

X giggled. Quiet? How could he be quiet when his Stressy was back with him.

"I can't be quiet Stress. I missed you too much and now I feel like SINGING FROM THE ROOF-"

Stress slapped a hand over his mouth. The look on her face was a mixture of shock, disappointment, and worry.

X licked her hand and she quickly pulled her wrist back, crinkling her eyebrows in disgust.

"What is wrong with you?!"

X shrugged his shoulders.

"I don't know, what's wrong with you? Don't tell me you are like the rest of them now"

"The rest of them?"

"Yeah" X rolled his eyes and crossed his arms in front of his chest like a child. "Mumbo, Doc, and False are being so mean to me! Look what they did to my poor wrists!"

He held his raw wrist in her face.

"I told them over and over and over that I wouldn't run because my Stressy was waiting for me, but they didn't believe me!"

Stress stared at him for a moment before quietly taking some healing salve out of her pocket. She began to massage it into his wrists, and he sighed at the cool relief.

"My Stressy is so good to me" he chirped.

"X... why are you acting this way?"

"What do you meeeeeeaaaaaaan? I'm acting totally normal!" He stuck his tongue out at the end to emphasize his point.

"Ok ok you're right" she said soothingly, moving to heal his other wrist. "You know what? How about I take a bit of blood from you, and run a few tests. Then we can go from there ok?"

"Oh no!" X grabbed her face and squeezed it. "Am I sick?!"

She pulled away from his grasp.

"Well I don't-"

"I'm dyyyyyyiiiiiiiiiiiiiing" Xisuma wailed, kicking his feet in a halfhearted tantrum. "Stressy how could you let this happen?! You're supposed to be a doctor!"

"So are you!" She hissed through gritted teeth. "Please be quiet!"

"I want chocolate"

"You... what?"

"Give me chocolate and I'll be quiet"

Stress felt her mouth fall open.

What the hell is wrong with him? He's acting like a spoiled child!

"Chocolate! Chocolate! Chocolate!"

"Ok ok ok!" Stress said quickly, looking around. Thankfully Cleo and Scar were at dinner. "If you are a very good boy, and you are quiet while I run my tests, then I'll give you chocolate"

"Yay! My Stressy is the best!" He cried.

Stress arched her eyebrows at him and he covered his mouth with his hands with a giggle.

"I'll be as quiet as a mouse" he whispered loudly. "Squeak squeak! Squeak squeak!"

Stress gave him the best smile she could muster before walking away to get a needle to draw blood.

He must be sick or... something. Anything! This is just... this isn't right.
_____________________________________________


Grian heard muffled voices surrounding him and he covered his ears.

"Go away..." he muttered.

Someone placed a hand on his shoulder and he quickly rolled away from the sudden contact.

"Leave me alone! Please!" He begged. "What else can you take from me?"

"Grian?"

He tensed at the familiar voice.

"Grian it's me-us! We're all here"

Nice try  Grian thought. I'm not that stupid.

"I know you aren't real" Grian said, sitting up and scooting back against the wall. He wanted to untie the cloth from around his eyes but it was too tight.

He cried out as his injured back touched the wall. He had almost forgotten...

"Grian!"

"Stop it!" He snapped, putting his attention towards the speaker. "I don't know how you are doing Mumbo's voice so well but you can't trick me!"

He heard whispering and then someone walking towards him.

"Grian, I'm going to take off the blindfold ok?"

Wow they can do Ren's voice too? They really did their research.

"Grian?"

"Why are you choosing now to start asking what I'm ok with? Just do what you want"

The person, probably Scar, sighed and took hold of the blindfold gently. They yanked and twisted the knot at the back until Grian felt the fabric loosen and slide down to his chin.

The bright white light was blinding and he raised a hand to cover his eyes.

"Grian look at us"

Why keep up the charade?

Slowly, he lowered his hand, squinting as his eyes readjusted.

Grian's tongue caught in his throat at the smiling hybrid in front of him.

"R-Ren?"

He nodded.

Grian leaned slightly to look over his shoulder.

"Mumbo? False, Iskall, Doc, what... what are you..." he couldn't get all the words out as his eyes filled with tears.

Mumbo rushed forwards, nearly knocking Ren out of the way.

"Yes yes Grian it's us it's us don't worry! We're here to take you away"

He reached to take the avian's hand but Grian sucked in air at the touch and yanked his hand back.

"Sorry. I-I'm sorry" Mumbo mumbled, backing up slightly.

"We need to get out of here" False said from the doorway where she was keeping watch. "I think someone has noticed us"

They all fell silent and heard the light thundering of feet running over their heads.

Grian tried to stand but cried out and fell as his scarred feet touched the floor.

"Grian!" Mumbo rushed forwards but managed to stop himself from grabbing onto his friend. "Grian... I can carry you, but I need to touch you. I'm really sorry to rush this on you so quick but I promise I will try not to hurt you. I just want to keep you safe. Do you trust me?"

Grian looked up into Mumbo's face. His mouth was set determinedly, his dark eyes filled with sincerity. The crinkle between his eyebrows was resolute and honest.

Of course I trust you.

Grian held out a shaky hand. Mumbo sucked in air and took it gently, feeling the sparks explode beneath his skin and run up his arm to warm his entire body.

"I'm going to put my arm under your knees and the other on your back ok?"

Grian took a shuttering breath. This was going to hurt. A lot.

He nodded.

Mumbo carefully, so so carefully, wrapped his arms around the shivering avian and pulled him close, standing up as he did.

Grian whimpered at the pressure on his fresh wounds. He wrapped his arms around Mumbo's neck to try and mitigate some of the pain, and buried his face in Mumbo's chest. The familiar sent of redstone and pine needles overcame his senses and he felt himself relax. The thought occurred that he had never felt as safe as he felt in Mumbo's arms as his eyelids slid closed.

Mumbo tried not to gasp at the sudden contact that made his legs feel like jello. This was really not the time.

"We have to go now!" Doc said. "They are getting closer and we still need to get Stress"

The rest nodded and followed Doc out the door.

Iskall, False, and Ren surrounded Mumbo on all sides to protect him and Grian from any attackers. Luckily there were none along the way back to the hospital ward.

"What do we do now?" Iskall whispered.

"Just... knock on the door?" Mumbo offered unhelpfully.

"There might be other people in there with her" False griped.

"I'm sorry I just don't know what to do!"

"We really don't have many options" Ren said. "We either brake the door down or we try and sneak in somehow. There aren't a lot of other-"

BANG!

Doc's foot collided with the door and broke them open.

"I guess we decided to go for subtlety" False said sarcastically, rushing in behind Doc.

Mumbo looked down to see that although Grian had tensed at the noise, he was still asleep. His lips, slightly pursed, blew warm air softly onto Mumbo's neck making the tall man shiver and clutch the avian tighter.

I won't let anything happen to you.

He stepped into the large room and immediately his blood ran cold at the sight that met his eyes.

False and Iskall had their swords drawn and were pointing them at an older man with grey balding hair and a rather large beard. The man's grandfatherly appearance did not match the malicious smile on his face as he grabbed a handful of Stress's hair in one hand and held a knife to her throat with the other. A scared looking redheaded girl stood behind him, tears falling silently down her cheeks.

"Cub stop! What are you doing?"

"Let. Her. Go" Iskall growled, ignoring the redhead's question.

The older man, Cub, let out a shrill laugh and tightened his grip on Stress's hair, making her wince.

"How can you possibly think you have the upper hand? I will give you one option. Give me back that half-breed, and I will let your pretty friend go"

"Over my dead body" Ren snarled.

"That can be arranged" Cub snapped, glaring at Ren. "Filthy dog, how dare you speak to me! You should be in captivity just as much as your winged mutant. Oh excuse me. Not winged anymore"

Ren made a move to run forwards, but Doc held him back as the knife's edge was pressed lightly into Stress's neck.

"Don't be reckless" Doc urged. "He's trying to make you angry"

"Not true" Cub interjected. "I fully believe what I said"

"Just shut up!" False growled. "We aren't going anywhere, and you don't really want to hurt Stress, do you"

Cub considered her.

"You're pretty too" he said in a sickeningly sweet drawl. "You don't see a female soldier everyday. Quite bright too, much smarter than all of your friends. Yes blonde-y you're right. I don't want to hurt her"

He caressed Stress's face with the knife.

"She's a hard worker and much more competent than my other lousy healers"

The redheaded girl sucked in air.

"Shut up Cleo! You know I'm right" Cub snapped, not even bothering to look at her as the girl lowered her eyes to the floor and nodded. "Anyways, yes. I don't want to hurt her. I don't want to hurt any of you! If you didn't insist on protecting these creatures I'm sure we could all be friends"

He clicked his tongue and shook his head as though he was disappointed.

"Alas, you are, and thus, I will reaffirm my deal once more before I take drastic measures. Leave your half-breeds here and go, or I will slit her-"

Cub's words were cut off and he gasped. Mumbo furrowed his brow. What had happened?

Stumbling backwards, Cub dropped Stress and grabbed helplessly at his back. As he struggled, he turned and Mumbo's eyes widened in realization.

A large needle stuck out of Cub's back, and behind him, stood a smug looking Xisuma with his arms folded over his chest.

"No one threatens my Stressy!"

"X!" Stress gasped, running over to throw her arms around him. "Thank you!"

X giggled like a child, completely ignoring the sputtering gasping man writhing on the floor at his feet.

"What did you give him" Cleo whispered, looking as though she wanted to help and kick Cub at the same time.

"Sarin" X stated proudly, holding up a small jar with a hazardous chemical symbol on it.

Stress and Cleo both seemed shocked while the rest simply watched as Cub jerked around on the floor. He seemed like he wanted to scream but couldn't, gasping and clawing at his throat as though he was burning from the inside out.

"Stress what's-"

"It's a toxin designed to be used as a chemical weapon" Stress said quietly, watching the convulsing man on the floor. "It's a nerve agent that prevents the enzymes in your body from controlling your muscles, making them seize up. It makes it so you can't breath"

Shouts from down the hall echoed behind them and they snapped back to their senses.

"You guys need to go" Cleo said.

"The way we came in is blocked!" Iskall cried, struggling to close and lock the doors that Doc had kicked open.

"There is another way out. I'll show you"

"Why?" False said, eyeing Cleo suspiciously.

Cleo sighed, looking at her hands then at her now unconscious boss laying on the floor, his skin blue from oxygen deprivation and claw marks of his own making bleeding from his neck.

"I've never seen... he's never... I never knew..." she couldn't seem to find her words. Shaking her head, she looked up at them with determination. "You don't have long before they brake down that door. You have to follow me"

"We don't have a choice" Stress said. She grabbed X's hand and dragged the still giggling man behind her as the rest followed uneasily.

Cleo led them through several doors and down a hallway until they were all crammed into a small dark closet. She pushed a large case away from the wall and dragged her hand across the floor until she found what she was looking for. She heaved open a trap door, just big enough for two people to squeeze through.

"This tunnel will take you to the edge of our territory. I'm sorry, it's not clean and it doesn't smell good, but I promise the guards don't know about it. And I'll cover for you, I promise"

Stress took Cleo's hands.

"Thank you" she whispered.

Cleo just nodded once before dropping her hands and turning on her heel. In three strides she was out the door and walking back towards the hospital ward which was now inevitably filled with guards.

Several seconds later they heard her scream, "Oh my god! Cub! What happened?! Which one of you did this?!"

"She's distracting them" Doc said. "Come on. We need to go"

Mumbo and Grian were the last to descend, the smaller of which was still clinging to Mumbo's neck in an unconscious state.

Mumbo held him close as he sat at the edge of the platform, legs dangling down.

"Mumbo come on!" He heard False hiss below him.

He looked down at Grian his eyes sparkling with adoration.

"We're coming"

Bit of a long chapter, but I hope you enjoyed it! If you did, please consider leaving a like and a comment to let me know what you think.

Chapter Text

Trigger warning: seizure and death
Hey guys! I just published the first two parts (a prologue and chapter one) of my new Hermitcraft fantasy/fanfic. It's called The Unseen Beauty of the Ungrateful. I would be super appreciative if you would consider checking it out and let me know what you think. 
Enjoy!

"Mumbo... do you want me to set up a cot?"

Mumbo lifted his head from where it was resting in his arms and squinted up at Stress.

They had managed to crawl through the tunnels leading out of the corporation's territory - Cleo had kept her word. Doc had convinced them that going back to the bunker would be a bad idea as it would probably be where they would come searching first, and thus Stress had led them to the closest healers compound, only about 10 miles west of the bunker.

Mumbo had carried Grian the entire time, even refusing to let him go when they reached the hospital.

"Mumbo we need to take care of him" Stress had softly explained. "I'll be there the whole time and you can stay with him when we're done"

After several minutes of Stress's soothing encouragement, Mumbo had reluctantly lowered Grian onto the small hospital bed and watched while he was wheeled away.

Once he was back and placed in a private room, Mumbo had refused to leave his side, pulling up a chair next to the bed, talking to the unconscious avian during the day, and sleeping with his head lowered onto the bed railing at night.

Now, he struggled to blink the sleep from his eyes as he tried to work the crick out of his neck.

"Mumbo?"

"No I'm ok thank you. I would prefer to be next to him when he wakes up" he said as politely as he could muster. Stress and several others had been coming in and out for the last couple days, trying to get him to leave and lay down properly. He always refused.

Stress sighed as Mumbo heard the clattering of a tray on the table next to him. He looked up to see False and Iskall.

"Eat" False said.

Iskall gave him an encouraging smile, while False had her hands on her hips, the look on her face daring him to defy her.

She relaxed only when he had picked up the bowl and began to shovel the porridge into his mouth. Truly, he was starving.

"How is he doing?" Iskall asked Stress, walking to the opposite side of the bed to look at Grian up close.

"He's ok for now" Stress said. "He had a couple broken ribs and his ulna was fractured, but those seem to be healing properly. The more worrying injuries are the ones on his back and legs, but so far we haven't seen any signs of sepsis and his fever is beginning to go down. Hopefully he'll wake up soon"

"And if he doesn't?" Mumbo heard himself croak out.

She opened her mouth and then closed it. Silence closed in around them for several minutes before Stress sighed again.

"Look we need to talk about X"

Mumbo felt his stomach clench up immediately in guilt as his hands gripped the bowl more tightly.

"How is he doing?" False asked.

"He's not going to last much longer" Stress said, a slight waver in her voice.  "Mumbo are you sure you don't want to come see him before... he goes?"

"I..."

Mumbo couldn't. He just couldn't. How as he supposed to have known that Xisuma had been drugged? How was he supposed to have known that the letters being sent to X every day were coated in mercury and a cocktail of other substances? How could he have been... so awful.

"He doesn't want to see me"

"Yes, he does" Ren said, standing in the doorway. "Mumbo go see him"

Mumbo glanced at Grian.

"But-"

"I'll stay here" Ren interrupted, going to stand next to Iskall. He took Grian's hand gently. "He's my family. I will look after him"

Feeling as though he had no choice Mumbo stood, his legs feeling like lead.

Xisuma's room was only a couple doors down but it felt like it was a mile away. Everything inside Mumbo screamed to be with Grian, and he had to fight the urge to vomit from the tightness of his stomach.

"Mumbo!"  Xisuma made grabby hands at him.

He was lying back in bed, a serene smile on his sunken face. Mumbo swallowed hard. He looked like a corpse.

"He's on a lot of painkillers" Stress whispered, guiding Mumbo to a chair by the bed. He nodded dumbly, his tongue stuck to the roof of his mouth.

Stress busied herself with X's chart, checking his vitals and fluid levels while Mumbo sat stiffly, looking everywhere except the healer in front of him.

X made an irritated face.

"Mumbo why won't you look at me? That's very mean you know"

Mumbo forced himself to make eye contact.

"X... I'm... I'm really sorry"

"Sorry for what?"

Mumbo blanched.

"For-for tying you up, and, and yelling, and I-I hit you and-"

He was cut off by an excessive amount of giggling.

"Oh Mumbo I'm not mad at you! I don't even remember that those things happened" X said between giggles. Suddenly his face became very serious. "But Stress said that I did something very bad to you. Is that right?"

"I- yes?"

"Well I don't know what I did Mumbo, and for some reason my Stressy won't tell me" he stuck his tongue in Stress's direction and she laughed softly, a strained smile on her face. X turned back to Mumbo. "But whatever I did I'm sorry"

Mumbo felt his heart ache as he met Stress's eyes, who just shook her head slightly. The implication was clear.

There is no point in upsetting him when he isn't going to be around much longer.

Mumbo managed a very small smile.

"I-"

I forgive you was too strong, and really not true at all, but it's ok was too soft.

"I... I accept your apology"

Xisuma gave him a massive grin that stretched wide across his face and nodded before his eyebrows scrunched together and his face fell. He turned to Stress.

"Stressy I-"

He choked on his words as he began to shake violently, his eyes rolling back in his head as his muscles spasmed.

Stress slammed her hand down on a blue button to the side of the bed before grabbing onto X and turning him on his side.

"Stress what should I-"

"Go!" Stress yelled as several other healers ran into the room. "We need the space, get out of here!"

Mumbo stumbled back, almost tripping over his own feet as he bumped into the door frame. A nurse shut the door on him and closed the blinds.

He stood outside of the room with his mouth hanging open, the only thing reaching his senses being the panicked voices from inside the closed off room. 
_________________________________________________

"I think he really meant it" Mumbo said, brushing Grian's hair out of his face as he spoke. "I'm sure he meant it. The funeral was really nice too. I wish you could have been there"

Mumbo sat back in the chair, letting his eyes gaze at the unconscious man. He swallowed hard.

"Stress... Stress said you should be awake by now" he said softly, willing his voice to stay calm. "I would really like... we really want you to wake up Grian. I... we miss you a lot"

He took Grian's hand and held it against his cheek before coming to his senses and placing it back in its previous position.

He is not yours. He doesn't think of you that way. Don't take advantage of the situation to be closer to him. This isn't about you. Just stay with him.

Mumbo looked out the window at the dark sky and then at the clock. It flashed 4:27.

He put his face in his hands and rubbed his eyes. It was so late and he had slept so little in the last two weeks since arriving at the hospital.

"What am I going to do" he murmured under his breath. "I need you to come back"

"Look... l-look no... further"

Mumbo's head shot up so quickly he winced at the sudden whiplash.

"Grian?!"

Grian's eyes, barely open, were peering at him, a small soft smile teasing at the corners of his mouth.

Mumbo's vision grew blurry as his eyes swam with tears. He covered his face with his arms as he sobbed, trying to stifle the embarrassing sound.

He felt a hand on his head and looked up. Grian brushed his hair out of his tear stained face. He spoke slowly, but his eyes glinted mischievously in an all too familiar way.

"Why so sad Mumbo Jumbo? Don't you ever have any fun?"

He's awake! I hope you enjoyed the chapter. If you did, please consider leaving a like and leaving a comment to let me know what you think. 
Don't forget to check out my new HC fanfic! 

Chapter Text

Trigger warning: some PTSD but very very little. This is mostly a super fluffy chapter so get ready my fellow Grumbo shippers!
In case you are unaware, I recently uploaded a new chapter of The Unseen Beauty of the Ungrateful AND I uploaded the first chapter of the Harry Potter HC fanfic! Please check those out and let me know what you think.

Grian brushed his fingers through Mumbo's dark hair as he slept. The poor man. According to Ren, he had stationed himself by Grian's side and had refused to move, not even to sleep.

Grian felt a pang if guilt in his stomach at the thought of Mumbo forcing himself to sleep in such an uncomfortable way, with his head barely tilted on the cold iron bar of the bed railing, his hands hanging off of the chair in an awkward fashion that must have made his limbs fall asleep.

Luckily, after Grian demonstrated that he could indeed walk without support, he had managed to convince Mumbo that he didn't need to be by his side all night, and to take the cot that Stress had offered.

For once, Grian could return at least a fraction of the adoration he had been showered with for the last... how long had it been now? A couple months? He wasn't sure exactly how long he had been in captivity nor how long he had been unconscious after, but since he had woken up he estimated that at least three months had passed.

He sighed, and resumed the soft stroking of Mumbo's hair. It really didn't matter. All he knew was that nothing he could ever do would make up what his friends had risked and done for him, and he would spend the rest of his life making it up to them if he had to.

The moonlight illuminated Mumbo's features, highlighting his jade white skin, strong jawline, and long dark lashes. Grian traced his finger down the side of Mumbo's cheek and Mumbo turned his head in his sleep to chase the sensation.

Grian giggled quietly, removing his hand as to not wake his sleeping friend.

He stood from the chair slowly, giving his still recovering limbs the extra time to stretch out. He stumbled forwards the way he had been doing everyday for the last couple weeks or so. He still wasn't used to the lack of weight on his back.

Making sure Mumbo was still asleep, Grian carefully pulled off his night shirt and walked into the bathroom to stare at himself in the mirror. The harsh fluorescent lighting did nothing to hide the whip scars that covered his chest and back. They were starting to heal properly, turning either white or a light shade of brown. Grian shook his head and quickly pulled his shirt back on.

Don't torture yourself with unnecessary trauma.

The psychiatrist he had been assigned to in the hospital had been helping him a lot with his PTSD, and at all other times Mumbo was by his side, smiling and listening to any stupid rambling story Grian could come up with as though there was nothing more interesting he could be doing in the world.

Still. It was hard not to feel broken.

Not inwardly really. He knew he was just as much of a person and an avian as ever. He had gone through a lot and his injuries didn't make him any less whole.

He still missed his smooth unblemished skin. And his wings.

His wings.

Grian bit his lip to keep a whimper from escaping his throat.

His extraordinary golden wings that had made him special. Had made him beautiful. Had given him purpose.

Well, he was no longer beautiful. He could hardly call himself that before, certainly not now. He didn't need to be attractive, but with a very average face and a short skinny physique his wings had been the only thing that had made him enjoy his reflection.

Grian shook his head, lightly slapping his cheeks.

Negative self talk will get me nowhere, especially when I don't have anyone to keep me from sliding in too deep.

Quietly laying down in bed, he grabbed his medication from the side table and a glass of water. Thank god these pills made him drowsy.

As he began to nod off, he glanced once more at Mumbo, who had turned his entire body on the side facing Grian, his arm hanging off the cot.

My Mumbo Jumbo his heart sang.

Not yours his brain schooled.

Grian smiled sleepily. He knew logically that Mumbo was not and would never be his. Not in the way he wanted. But that was ok. He already had more than he deserved with Mumbo's friendship. It was enough.

It had to be.

____________________________________________________

Mumbo awoke with his right hand dragging on the ground and drool pooled on his pillow.

He couldn't remember ever sleeping so soundly, although a near two months of sleeping in a chair with your head on a bed railing could make even these rickety hospital cots seem like king sized beds.

He sat up and stretched, badly stifling a massive yawn. Glancing over at the other bed, he caught the eye of the grinning avian.

"Good morning" Mumbo sighed.

Grian checked the clock.

"Good afternoon" he corrected with a smirk.

"Is it really?"

Mumbo leaned over to read the time of 2:37 flashing on the clock next to Grian's bed.

"God I'm sorry. I didn't realize how tired I was" Mumbo said scratching his head.

He missed the brief look of guilt that flashed across Grian's features before they resettled in their previous smile.

"What do you want to do today" he asked.

"Whatever you want" Mumbo replied quickly, and Grian rolled his eyes.

"I'm bored of picking what we do Mumbo. I don't have physical therapy today, I don't have a meeting with the therapist, I don't have to prep for surgery anymore. Let me indulge you"

"But-"

"Please"

This time Mumbo saw the pained guilty expression that settled on Grian's face and he felt his chest tighten a bit.

Oh Grian. Anything with you is indulging enough for a lifetime.

"How about a walk?" Mumbo suggested. "It's been a while since we've been outside"

Grian widened his eyes for a moment as though this was not what he expected, but pulled his covers aside and got out of bed with a wide smile.

"Anything for you Mumbo Jumbo" he cooed, winking at the taller man.

"Don't tease" Mumbo muttered, his face flushing and his heart blooming at Grian's giggling.

"You love it" the avian said, grabbing a coat from the door, and sliding it over his arms.

I really do Mumbo thought, cringing at his own cowardliness.

They walked down the hallways, Grian smiling and greeting every healer they passed. He was extremely popular among the staff. How could he not be? Mumbo couldn't fathom a single reason for anyone to dislike the avian.

The garden behind the hospital wasn't massive, but it was beautiful, especially now that it was mid spring.

Mumbo pretended to admire the flowers as he watched Grian pick daisies from the grass.

So adorable. Beautiful. So-

"Mumbo"

Mumbo's head whipped around to see Ren, scowling a bit at the interruption of his wanton thoughts. Still, he quickly set his features into a polite smile.

"How are you doing Ren?"

"I'm doing fine thanks. Just got back from the compound"

Mumbo nodded understandingly. After the incident with Grian and the Corporation, Ren, Doc, Iskall, and False had begun making trips to each hybrid compound to personally see that stricter defensive measures were put in place, and to give treats to the hybrid children who were now beyond terrified to leave their rooms.

"How many more do you have?" Mumbo asked, shifting his body slightly so he could see Grian in his peripheral vision.

Ren followed his gaze and gave him a pointed look.

"About six. But that's not what I'm here to talk about"

Mumbo turned, his eyebrows furrowing.

"Oh?"

Ren rolled his eyes and crossed his arms. Even though he was several inches shorter than Mumbo, he was at least twice as wide, his arms pure muscle from extensive training since Grian's rescue. The gaze he had on Mumbo made the engineer twitch and grind his teeth.

"W-what?"

"Mumbo are you never going to tell him?"

Mumbo rubbed the back of his neck bashfully.

"Tell who what?"

"Don't give me that crap" Ren snapped. "I know you still love him"

"I... so-so what if I do?" Mumbo stuttered.

Ren looked supremely annoyed now.

"SO are you planning on telling him anytime in the next ten years?"

Mumbo swallowed hard, feeling his chest ache in yearning. Of course he wanted to tell him. From the moment Grian had woken up to now as he sat in the grass picking flowers Mumbo had wanted to confess. But...

"Ren... he went through so much. He is finally back. I don't want... I can't scare him away"

Ren's irritated expression softened a bit. He glanced at Grian for a moment before meeting Mumbo's eyes.

"He's finally back. And he went through so much. Don't you think he deserves to know how much he's loved?"

Mumbo blinked. He had not considered this.

"Don't you think he deserves to know why you never left his bedside? Because trust me Mumbo, he has no idea" Ren paused, and continued with irritation flashing across his face. "He's smart, but he's a dense idiot. It's not his fault he isn't good at reading people, but if you don't tell him, he's going to keep thinking that he owes you"

Mumbo's head shot up from where it had been lolling forwards in embarrassment.

"He thinks that he owes me!?"

Ren heaved a long sigh and pinched the bridge of his nose.

"Honestly. You two deserve each other"

He dropped his hand and stared dead into Mumbo's eyes.

"Look. If you are going to tell him, then do it. And if not, then don't mess with his feelings. We both know he deserves more than that"

Mumbo nodded vigorously. Of course he knew that.

Ren began to leave before quickly turning back and poking a finger into Mumbo's chest.

"And if you hurt him, I will break every bone in your body"

Mumbo felt his mouth run dry and his eyes widened as he tried to speak.

"N-noted"

Ren dropped his scary facade and smiled widely, punching Mumbo's shoulder gently.

"Good! Now go get 'em tiger"

As Ren brushed past him to say hello to Grian, Mumbo gulped air into his lungs. He hadn't been prepared for someone to rip him apart so accurately, much less receive a shovel talk. He turned just in time to see Grian wrestling Ren to the ground, the two laughing as though they were children.

He felt his heart rate pick up as Ren bid Grian goodbye, saying he'd see him again in a couple days. What now? How was he supposed to do this? What was he going to say? What if Grian rejected him? The need to confess had been building for months but now that he had been confronted about it he was at a loss. What if-

"Mumbo come here"

Stiffly, Mumbo walked over to Grian and knelt down in the grass beside him.

"What?"

"Close your eyes" Grian said, a mischievous note in his voice.

Mumbo narrowed his gaze.

"Come on, please?"

As if he could deny Grian anything. With a fake huff of annoyance, Mumbo sat down properly and closed his eyes. He heard movement in front of him and then felt a ruffle of his hair.

"Open them!"

Mumbo opened his eyes and looked at Grian who was now kneeling in front of him, a small daisy crown settled in his golden curls. His hand flew to his own dark hair and he felt an identical crown perched the top of his head.

"Do you like it? It's just like the one you had when we met!" Grian said, giggling in delight. "Do you remember?"

"Of course"

How could he forget? Grian had teased him for it and then complimented him, making him blush and stumble over his words. He thought at the time it was his normal nerves.

Oh how wrong he had been.

"Do you like it?" Grian asked, his eyes wide and hopeful, a tentative smile curling his lips.

"I love it" Mumbo said truthfully, nearly melting from the blinding smile he received. The smile that rivaled the sun's brightness and threatened the beauty of every flower in the garden.

He felt the words churning in his stomach.

I love you. I love you. I love you.

"Mumbo"

Mumbo blinked back to the present, catching Grian's stormy blue-grey eyes.

"What is it?"

Grian settled back in the grass, his knees pressed against Mumbo's. He twirled some grass around his finger nervously before looking up again.

"I... I just wanted to say thank you for everything you've done for me since... you know. You didn't have to do any of it and I-I don't think I would have made it without you, and I just..." he broke off, lowering his gaze back to his hands. "Just... thank you"

Mumbo didn't know how to respond.

It never occurred to him to do anything besides stay with Grian. In his mind there was no other option, and even if there were, he wouldn't have taken it. Nothing was more important than knowing Grian was safe and happy.

"Mumbo... do you really mean that?"

Mumbo crinkled his forehead.

"What?"

"What you just said... did you really mean all that.

That was out loud?

THAT WAS OUT LOUD?!?!

He gulped and stuttered out random words, his mind struggling to cope with the secrets he had allowed to leave his mouth.

"No! I mean yes! Of course! But no! I didn't... it wasn't... I didn't mean..."

Grian nodded, a small pained smile painting his face.

"It's ok Mumbo. I understand. You don't have to lie to me to make me feel better, but it was nice of you to-mmhm!"

He was cut off as Mumbo flew forward and smothered Grian's lips with his own.

Grian grabbed Mumbo's shoulders to keep from falling over and his mind raced as he tried desperately to understand what was happening.

As quickly as it started, it stopped.

Mumbo pulled away, breathing very hard, leaving a gaping Grian to try and figure out what they had just done.

If he thought he had seen Mumbo blush before, it was nothing compared to what he looked like now. Mumbo truly resembled a tomato, the red in his face trailing down his neck and burning his ears. His eyes were whirling in their sockets, looking everywhere except the object of his affections, his mouth sputtering madly.

"I'm- I'm so sorry. I just couldn't- I had to-"

"Mumbo-"

"You have no idea- how long- I just- please don't-"

"Mumbo-"

"For so long Grian! I've- for so long- so much- I needed- I just- I'm so sorry!"

"Mumbo look at me!"

Finally, Mumbo, who was now peaking out from in between his fingers, met Grian's eyes. His face was still beet red, and he was still breathing as though he had gone without oxygen for days, but that didn't matter now.

Grian took a deep breath, ignoring the thundering heartbeats in his chest, and scooted forward a little. He took Mumbo's hands gently and placed them on his own waist. He slowly placed one hand on one of Mumbo's shoulders while the other cupped his face, caressing his cheek.

Mumbo nearly purred from the touch but could not seem to get any sound to leave his throat.

Slowly, so so slowly, Grian leaned forwards, carefully and delicately pressing a soft kiss to Mumbo's lips as though he was afraid Mumbo would break.

He pulled away, only a bit, so that their faces were inches apart.

"Is... was that... ok?" Grian asked, trying not to let his hesitance and fear tremble his voice.

Mumbo made a choked sound in the back of his throat before pulling Grian close, hugging him as though he was a priceless possession.

Grian felt warbling laughter bubble in his chest and he tightened his hold around Mumbo's neck. 

"So it was ok then?"

"So much" he heard Mumbo murmur. "So so much"

"So much what?"

Mumbo pulled away a bit so he could look Grian in the eye. They were so close that the avian was basically sitting in his lap.

"Love you. So much. I... so much"

He seemed to be struggling to string together a sentence, but as he saw the tears brim in Grian's eyes, he knew he understood.

"Me too" Grian whispered. "So so much"

A quote from a poem he had once read flashed in Mumbo's memory as he sat there, holding Grian close to him in the silence of the empty garden.

When I saw you
I fell in love, and 
you smiled
because you knew

Even I got emotional while writing this, and I never get emotional while writing. 
I hope you liked the chapter! I know it's been doom and gloom for a while but we are finally back to fluff. There will probably be one or two more chapters in this story before it ends ):
But! Don't forget that I have two new HC fanfics that you should check out. The Unseen Beauty of the Ungrateful is more hurt/comfort with a good chunk of fluff and some angst, while the HP AU is basically all tooth-rotting fluff. 
If you enjoyed the chapter, please consider leaving a like and a comment to let me know what you think!

Chapter Text

Grian heard a knock on the door and was quick to open it, Ren's kind face staring down at him.

"Ren! It's been months!" Grian whisper cried, giving him a long hug. "Come in! Be quiet though. Cecily is having a nap"

"How is the little bird?"

"She looks exactly like me, and acts exactly like Mumbo, so absolutely perfect"

Ren chuckled quietly as Grian led him to the back porch where they could talk normally. They sat on a beautifully carved mahogany bench overlooking the sparkling summer lake.

"What brought you over?" Grian asked, pouring some tea.

"I have a break between projects" Ren explained, accepting the teacup with a nod. "And I wanted to see you before I leave for the next one"

Grian nodded in understanding. Ren's work with rehabilitation of captured hybrids had him traveling far and wide for long periods of time. After Cub had died, the corporation was quickly infiltrated and dismantled, meaning hundreds of captured hybrids and allies were freed. The image warmed Grian's heart every time he thought about it.

"Have you heard from Stress and Iskall? How are they doing?"

"Same as ever" Ren said with a barking laugh. "Iskall says that Stress is the best head of surgery the hospital has had in decades, although he may be a bit biased"

Grian laughed, putting down his cup in fear of spilling.

"Are he and False still working as teachers?"

Ren hummed in conformation.

"They're as good a team as ever, although apparently Iskall is a push over with the smaller ones"

"That's no surprise" Grian replied with an eye roll. "Oh! I almost forgot to tell you! I spoke to Doc recently, and he said they have finally taken down all of the old hybrid compounds. They're turning them into schools and orphanages"

"That's amazing!"

They were quiet for a moment, just listening to the soft bird calls in the distance.

"It's pretty crazy how fast everything changed in six years, isn't it" Grian said softly, everting his eyes to look out across the water.

"Do you wish for something different?"

"No of course not!" Grian said, snapping his head back in surprise. "If you had told me six years ago that I would be out of the compound, married with a child, I would have slapped you!"

"Yeah, like you ever needed an excuse to do that" Ren muttered with a smirk, earning him a slap on the shoulder.

"I just never thought I would be this lucky" Grian continued. "I guess... sometimes I worry that it's not real and I'll wake up in..."

He couldn't finish his sentence, but he didn't have to. Ren pulled him close, slightly crushing Grian's upper body in his arms.

"It's real" he murmured. "You know that. And Mumbo knows that. Have you talked to him about this?"

"Of course" Grian said, pulling out of his grasp slightly. "He's always supportive. He's perfect. I could never ask for anyone better, but he certainly could"

"Grian, I know that's not true"

"How?"

"Because he used to say the exact same things about you when we were younger"

Grian was stunned into silence as Ren rose, downing the last of his tea.

"I've gotta get going. Gotta pack for the new trip, but we'll talk soon, ok?"

Grian nodded, and smiled as he watched his friend, his brother, leave.

Oh Mumbo Jumbo. What did I ever do to deserve you?

"Appa*?"

*Appa = Dad in Korean

Grian turned to see Cecily walking out of her bedroom, rubbing her eyes with a tiny fist.

"I'm sorry angel, did I wake you up"

"No appa I jus could sleep" she said quietly.

"Couldn't" Grian corrected gently, taking the toddler into his arms and brushing her long golden curls from her face. "Since you're up, how about I clean your feathers instead, hm?"

She nodded timidly, and Grian carried her over to the couch, situating them so that she was sitting on the edge of his knees, soft lavender wings spread behind her.

Grian hummed tonelessly as he carefully unfurled and straightened every feather, picking out the pine needles that had gotten stuck in between them, and rubbing her back soothingly whenever he pulled a bit too hard.

"There we go" he said, running his hands down her wings to check for any discomfort. "You were perfect, my angel"

Cecily turned and crawled so that her arms were around his neck, head buried under his chin.

"Where abba*?"

*Abba = Dad in Hebrew

"I think he's in the workshop" Grian replied. "Do you want to go see what he's working on?"

The little bird nodded into his chest, and he gave her a quick squeeze before standing up. 
___________________________________________________
Mumbo wiped sweat from his brow as he stepped back to try and figure out what he had missed. His sorting system in the workshop had stopped working yesterday and he had already spend nearly an hour trying to figure out why.

"Incoming!" He heard a jovial voice yell as the door flew open.

Mumbo smiled happily at the sight of Cecily flapping her wings, giggling as Grian made plane sounds and held her by the hands to keep her afloat.

He grabbed her by the middle and placed a kiss on her forehead.

"Hello angel"

"G'morning abba" she said, twisting around so she could see behind his back. "What you doing?"

"Well I'm trying to fix the sorter" he said, putting her down so she could see properly. "But I'm having trouble figuring out what's wrong. Can you help me?"

Cecily nodded enthusiastically, toddling over to the machine to get a closer look, her wings flapping to help keep her from slipping on the redstone dust that permanently coated the floor.

Mumbo turned to look at Grian who was eyeing the sorter with a guilty expression.

"Grian..."

The avian's eyes snapped back to his husband and he pasted a smile on his face.

"What?"

"Do you know why happened to my sorter?"

"I... may have a theory..."

Grian scampered over to the back of the machine and stuck his arm in one of the hoppers. He fished something out and quickly hid it behind his back.

"Grian... I swear to god-"

"Whaaaaat? It's nothing" he said, making a beeline for the door before being caught around the waist.

"Grian let me see!"

"No!"

Mumbo held him tightly and dug his fingers into Grian's ribs, making the small avian squeal and cling to Mumbo to try and stop the tickling.

A potato dropped to the ground from behind his back.

"A potato?! Again?!" Mumbo cried, doing his best to sound annoyed, fully aware that a smile was creeping across his face.

"I swear it was an accident this time!" Grian giggled as Mumbo rolled his eyes.

"You're going to be the death of me" he murmured, resting his forehead against Grian's.

Grian's eyes melted from mischief to adoration, leaning into the touch.

"Well then, aren't you lucky" he said, cupping Mumbo's face and pulling him into a kiss that made Mumbo's ears burn red.

After all this time, Grian still gave him butterflies with every slight touch.

The avian pulled away, and turned slightly so he could keep Cecily in sight, and still wrap his arms around his husband.

"Ren visited earlier you know"

"Oh really? I would've liked to see him"

"Yeah I know, he said he's sorry, but he could only make a short stop" Grian replied. "He did tell me something interesting though"

"Mn?"

"He said that when we were younger you used to talk about me. You would say I was perfect and beautiful and you didn't deserve me"

"I-uh..." Mumbo ducked his head, a deep scarlet blush creeping up his neck and into his face. "I-I mean... all those things are-are true, so-"

"I love you so much"

Mumbo bit his lip as though he might cry and squeezed Grian tightly.

"So much. Love you so much"

"Appa!"

The two fathers looked down at their child, clothes now coated in red dust, and watching them with big eyes.

"Yes angel?" Grian answered, squatting down next to her.

"How you meet abba?"

The question took Grian by surprise, and he turned to see Mumbo's equally startled expression.

"That's a very long story Cecily" Grian said, brushing a thumb across her cheek to get some concrete powder.

"Story?"

Grian looked at Mumbo and shrugged.

"Do you want to start?"

Mumbo smiled, and knelt down to sit next to Grian, pulling Cecily onto his lap.

"It all started when your aunt Stress made me a daisy crown"

There it is! The final chapter! I cannot thank you guys enough for reading, liking, and commenting on this story. It was so much fun to write, and I had not expected anyone to actually enjoy it, so your support is absolutely amazing. 
Please check out my other work if you liked this one (I pretty much only write Grumbo fics) and let me know if there is something else you want me to write. 
Thank you so much for going on this journey with me. 
Much love - SKblind ❤️