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The subconscious was dark and dingy.

The house was landmarked by the completely caved in ceiling, the upper floor falling into the lower one, as though a tornado had came through, or a giant had stepped upon it.

“Do you think he’s home?” Roman asked quietly, as though to avoid disturbing some lurking monster.

Janus bit his lip. “Hopefully.”

There was no door, it appearing to have been blown off its hinges. Going down the dark, dingy hallway, the horrible, rotting smell became apparent, as well as the incessant drone of flies.

As they reached the kitchen the smell became too oppressive to handle, flies gathering in huge clouds over broken glasses and plates. Pots and pans littered the floor, the glass of the oven missing, the fridge on its side.

The path between the living room and the kitchen was blocked by the caved in upper floor. Patton spotted remnants of a bed and a chest of drawers among the wreckage.

The living room, once they reached it, was equally destroyed, the couch shredded and bloodstained, small Tv bashed in. Flies feasted on the blood dripping down the walls as mold grew in the carpeting 

“Where is he?” Logan asked.

Virgil bit his lip. “He can’t be upstairs, it’s destroyed.”

Janus looked out the back door, though his gaze was seeing much farther than that.

“He’s in the greenhouse.”

———

The greenhouse windows were all smashed in, the plants rotting and letting off the same terrible stench. Janus looked around the room wistfully, remembering.

“Remus?” He called. “We’ve come to take you to the light side!”

“Come on out kiddo!” Patton did his best to keep his voice from wavering.

Virgil’s eyes suddenly snapped to under one of the tables. He quickly made motions for the others to shut up.

“Remus? It’s Virgil. I can see you under there.”

What they previously thought was a lump of vines began to twist and move.

It darted to the corner of the greenhouse so fast it was a blur in even Virgil’s eye. The slick, wet sound of tentacles squirming amongst each other was followed by the sound of nails scratching against skin.

A huge red lamp-like eye peered out from the mass of tentacles.

“Leave me ALONE!”

The roar was deafening, raspy like rusted spoons being dragged across wood.

“You’ve left me alone so far, just go and let me ROT!” Remus shrieked.

Roman gave Janus a panicked look.

“Do you know what I’ve been THINKING?! Since you ABANDONED me?!” His raw voice clearly had been worn down from screaming. “DO YOU KNOW HOW EASY IT IS TO KILL YOURSELF WHEN YOU’RE ALONE?!!!!” He shrieked.

And then Janus realized a particular nuance to the horrendous stench. The metallic smell of blood.

“Okay.“ Janus said as calmly as he could. “I know you’re very upset-“

“You LEFT me!”

“And I apologize-“

“ALL ALONE! ALL ALONE!” He shrieked, a sickening banging sound following, his hand slamming into the wood floor. “YOU PROMISED! YOU FUCKING PROMISED!”

Janus knew he had to try a different approach. “Shhh shhh shhh baby.” He cooed softly.

Quiet and slow. He thought. That’s the key.

Remus’ screaming died down to pathetic wails of misery and Janus relaxed a touch.

“You’re probably hungry, aren’t you?” The ball that was Remus shifted at that. “I know it’s scary to be so alone, hurt and hungry.”

“Lonely.” Remus admitted quietly, voice cracking like he was on the verge of tears again, or he was just sore from the screaming

“Here.” Logan piped up, fishing a granola bar from his pocket and holding it out to hopefully tempt Remus from his hiding place. “It’s not much, but we can get you more if you come with us.”

A green, shockingly dry tentacle darted out and coiled around the granola bar, bringing it in. The wrapper was hastily torn off and Remus shoved it into his mouth, chewing loudly.

“Baby, can you come out?” Janus tried. This has to work, please. “Jannie wants to see you! I’ve missed you terribly these past few months-“

“LIAR!” Remus screamed, followed by the granola bar wrapper getting thrown at Jan’s face. “YOU PROMISED TO COME BACK FOR ME, AND YOU NEVER DID!”

Virgil gave Janus a look. That wasn’t- that couldn’t be true.

But at the pale, disturbed look on Janus’ face, he knew it was the truth.

He had to help, regardless of what Janus had promised Remus. The duke was suffering, dying, going insane.

“Hey Remus, it’s Virgil. I know Janus seems like he’s lying, but we really have missed you. It’s been years since I’ve really talked to you, so, please, please come out.”

One beat of silence. Two.

“You really want to see me?”

Virgil could’ve cried with relief. “Yes.”

Slowly, Remus came out from under the table.

The first thing that hit everyone was relief. The second thing was the SMELL.

Patton was the first one to turn and cough, eyes watering, and Logan quickly followed. The stench was so atrocious it permeated every corner of the room.

Remus was so caked in dirt he looked like he slammed his face into a charcoal grill. Grime was so deep in his skin Logan was doubtful all the scrubbing in the world could get it off of him.

His hair, which had always been long, was so greasy it looked wet, knotted into huge rats nests and mangled into clumps.

His clothes were stained with all manner of horrible colours, bright yellows that looked like cat puke to the deep reds of blood. They were ripped like rags, draping off him with how skinny he was. Scars littered his figure, bruises on his forehead, still bleeding, definitely infected cuts on his cheek and hands.

His makeup looked less like carefully messy and more like smudged charcoal around his eyes, barely hiding the massive under-eye bags from lack of sleep, pale skin, and sallow cheeks.

Virgil wanted to burn him alive. Or, maybe just all his skin off, so he could be rid of the dirt. Of the smell.

He took a step closer and got another whiff of… whatever muck Remus was slathered in and almost keeled over.

His senses told him not to touch him, there was no way some sort of parasite hadn’t hitched a ride with the duke in this state.

“Okay Remus.” Janus tried desperately to remain calm, even as the duke looked more like a corpse than a human being. “You ready to come home with us?”

Remus nodded frantically, a dirt-caked hand scraping against the back of his neck. He lunged for Janus, who quickly stepped back.

Remus looked shocked and upset for a moment.

Janus frowned as well. “I know love. I want to hug you too, but I can’t until I know you’re not infectious.”

Remus’ face morphed into a scowl. “‘M fine.” He mumbled, scratching his neck again.

Janus pursed his lips. “Let’s go home, love.”

Remus, nervous, backed away. “B-but you just got here!“

Janus smiled, marking confusion down as one of the duke’s symptoms. “I know. You’re coming with us, okay?”

Remus continued to back away. His eyes darted around at the light sides, going wide with fear. His chest rose up and down as his breath came faster and faster. His hands began to claw and scratch at himself, at his arms, back and thighs.

“Shhh shhh shhh.” Janus quickly tried to calm him down. “Do you not want to come home with us?”

“Light sides!” He rasped. “Scary, hateful, no no no no!” He bowed his head, gripping fistfuls of matted hair and pulling, grunting in pain.

Logan stepped forward now. “I know you probably think that, but we are more than happy to take you in, especially in your current state.”

“We love you, kiddo.” Patton piped up.

“We miss you.” Roman continued.

Remus looked around at all five of them…

And screamed.

———

He screamed so loud and for so long that his voice began to break. He didn’t even recognize the gloved hand taking his filthy palm and slowly sinking him down, rising up in the mind palace living room.

The lights were so bright. He fell to his knees and put his hands over his ears. He had to scream loud enough to shatter the glass, to be back in the mess and filth where he belonged. He didn’t belong in this pretty, quaint home, not when he was creating a stain of black dirt on the floor.

“Remus, breathe in for four seconds.”

That voice, he knew that voice…

“Breathe in, Remus, okay? Look at me.”

He opened his eyes and looked up at Virgil. His eight eyes, fangs, and spider legs soothed him. This was the Virgil he knew. Not that fake, plastic one with a normal face.

“Breathe in for four seconds.”

Remus struggled to stop screaming, but managed to follow instructions.

“Hold for seven seconds.”

His lungs were shaking with the effort, and he barely managed.

“Now exhale for eight seconds.”

They went through the same cycle over and over again until Remus could stop screaming for even a moment.

While they were doing this, Virgil slowly walked back down the hallway to the bathroom, and Remus instinctively followed. Janus and Logan were getting a bath hot and ready.

They came in the simply massive bathroom and Roman shut the door behind them.

“Remus, I want you to get naked, okay?” Patton said calmly.

Remus nodded, a little confused but more than happy to remove his restrictive clothing. Raising his arms to pull off his shirt sent a wave of stench through the room and Virgil, who was closest, actually coughed and plugged his nose.

The dirt wasn’t as thick under his shirt but the cuts and open wounds were numerous and large. His stomach was sallow, rib bones poking out and hips protruding.

Patton gasped at the sight, already ready to make Remus a nice filling meal.

His pants came off, which apparently all he was wearing. Roman picked his clothes up between his thumb and pointer finger and threw them into a trash bag.

“I’m… gonna light this on fire.” He remarked, throwing it out of the bathroom.

“Hngh… itchy.” Remus mumbled, scratching his chest, moving along to under his armpit.

He seemed to get preoccupied with scratching up and down his thighs. Roman saw his opportunity and shoved his brother into the bath.

Remus shrieked as the water splashed up around him, the heat soaking into his bones making him shutter. The soap stung on his open sores, making him scream and thrash.

He kicked and flapped his arms, splashing everyone in the vicinity with soapy water.

“You HEATHENS!” He shrieked, splashing like a duck in a pond and absolutely drenching the other sides. “NO TRICKS!” His face screwed up with rage and he looked like a toddler before a tantrum.

Virgil tugged off his hoodie and grabbed one of the five soapy scrub brushes. “Ready?”

Logan started the shower, dousing Remus with warm water, and picking up yet another scrub brush. “Ready.”

Remus’ eyes widened as all five of them grabbed soapy brushes and leaned over the bath.

Janus smirked. “Now this will be easier if you cooperate.”

Remus screamed and tried to desperately climb out of the tub, slipping and sliding on the slick linoleum. “No no no! Please no! Put me back in the mud you MONSTERS!”

Janus clicked his tongue. He grabbed Remus’ ankle and before the duke could react he yanked as hard as could to pull Remus back into the bath. The duke screamed as he was forced under the soapy water, but Janus quickly let him go. He cupped Remus’ cheek. “We won’t hurt you, darling. Just get you nice and clean again.” He smirked and wiped the scrub brush across his cheek.

The streak of dirt that came away was black-brown.

Remus’ eyes welled with tears. “Gentle?” His voice cracked like the ice rink before someone falls in. “Please be gentle.”

Janus gave him a soft smile. “Of course, love.”

As soon as the brushes touched down on his filthy skin Remus yelped and curled up as tight as he could. He thrashed and splashed and kicked, getting them all soaked. Logan’s shirt, Patton’s kakis, Roman and Virgil’s shirts, and Janus’ cape were all drenched.

In order to keep most of the water in the tub, they had to work fast. Each side took up a different part of his body and scrubbed.

The water went from clear to brown to black as the stench cleared. Remus tossed and turned, trying desperately to buck them off as he screamed loud enough to shatter the glass of the mirror.

He couldn’t even voice the terrible thoughts running through his head, the ones saying being clean would somehow kill him. Or worse, they’d see him clean and hate that too, and throw him back to the mud. He deserved to soak in the filth for the rest of his life he was so despicable. The mud on the outside needed to match the grimy, slimy, rotten heart in his core.

“Ugh!” Logan remarked, looking at the filthy bath water. “That’s your mess.” He said, pointing at the water and staring Remus in the eyes.

Despite his thoughts Remus giggled and Logan scoffed, shaking his head as he started to drain the water. “We are not letting you out until the water is clean.” He said pointedly.

Remus gawked, sputtering his distaste as Patton scrubbed harder at his arm.

The bath filled up and quickly got dirty again.

Roman grabbed one of his ankles and kept a death grip on it as he scrubbed the sole of his foot.

Remus felt like he was going to cry. He was exhausted, hungry, and getting rubbed raw and doused in scalding water every two seconds.

He started whining and whimpering, kicking his feet to get them off. Patton’s hand was drawing closer and closer to his privates, and god forbid if he touches him Remus might just lose it.

“No!” He snapped sharply. Patton yanked his hand away, looking terrified.

“Who would you like to touch you there, Remus?” Logan asked.

Remus considered his options. “Ro.” He said simply.

Fuck him, he’s already gonna touch your privates and incest really isn’t that bad-

No! He yelled at his thoughts.

He clung tightly to his brother as he got cleaned up, whimpers just getting louder as the thoughts got worse. “I know this is violating.” Roman said roughly. “But we have to get you clean, okay? At least I’m your brother.” His eyes softened as Remus continued to kick and yelp. “I know you don’t want to do this but I swear you’ll feel better when we’re done.”

It took two more times draining the bath and refilling it before the water was suitably clean and Remus was squeaky.

“Shhh shhh. There we are.” Remus whimpered as Logan unplugged the bath to let it drain one final time. The brushes withdrew from his now ravaged skin and he whimpered again at the lack of touch. The shower rinsed him clean of any remaining dirt and when Janus drew a bar of soap across his arm it came away white.

“Perfect. You’re all… clean…” Janus’ voice wavered as he gave Remus a once over.

Huge, gashing cuts, clearly meant to harm, laced over his arms, his stomach, his thighs.

Janus gasped. “Oh honey.”

Remus crossed his arms and pulled his legs up to his chest. “I’m sorry.”

“No, sweetie, don’t apologize, it’s okay.” Janus ran a gloved hand through Remus’ knotted hair and he leaned into the touch.

Patton examined the cuts closer. “Oh dear. Hopefully you can find a better coping strategy here.”

The duke appeared to be distressed by that idea, yanking away from Janus and whining profusely, shaking his head.

“No- no no no… OW!” He shouted, slamming a fist into the side of his head. He slapped the side of his head repeatedly, whining and whimpering.

“Is there a problem?” Logan asked, brow tense as he looked him up and down.

His eyes widened. “Ah.”

Flea bites. Up and down his legs, across his chest, even up onto his neck and jaw. He was completely ravaged by fleas.

“Logan, his hair.” Janus said and Logan quickly spread the strands of matted hair to reveal red, scratched scalp covered in tiny black fleas.

Remus whined and rubbed his neck against his shoulder, scratching at his collarbone and calf. Most of the bites had been so scratched the skin had split and they were now open wounds. He appeared to get even more frustrated with a bite on his arm, scratching it until he wasn’t satisfied and began to gnaw on it to relieve the itching.

“No, no, don’t bite like that.” Janus said quickly. “Roman, summon us some flea shampoo.”

Roman summoned a bottle full of green liquid and tossed it to Janus. Remus didn’t listen to being told not to scratch and only seemed to increase now that he could actually see where the bites were.

“Now Remus, I need you to stay still as your can while I do your hair alright?” Logan said sternly. Remus nodded.

“Ya gonna get the itches out?” He asked quietly, voice raw.

“Yup.” Logan said, grabbing scissors, a comb, conditioner, and lifting up the separate clumps of Remus’ matted hair. “Just stay still.”

With gloved hands, Logan went to work pulling apart and combing through the thick knots. Once he got them apart, he sometimes had to cut or thin the knots before they could fully separate.

Remus tapped his fingers together, trying not to fidget.

His neck itched.

He whined as his scalp was yanked, fingers roughly scratching at his neck. It was taking hours to go through his hair.

He focused instead on the warmth of the water over his lap and the feeling of fingers finally, finally touching him. It melted the ice in his bones, stopped the tingles over his skin.

Speaking of skin tingles.

He scratched another bite that he had already made an open sore. His neck itched, but he was already scratching two other bites…

Remus jerked his head to the side, rubbing his neck against his shoulder. Logan gasped. “Remus, I said stay still.” He snapped, barely avoiding cutting more hair than he wanted.

“Fuck off!” Remus whined. “Just, stop for a sec-“

Logan did, pausing to let Remus rub his neck on his shoulder for a second before scratching it with his nails.

“Is your neck alright?” Logan asked, concerned. “Can I look at it?”

Remus reluctantly removed his hands.

Logan brushed his hair out of the way and looked closely at his neck.

“Oh dear.” He clicked his tongue. “He has scabies.”

From his ear to his shoulder was a patch of bright red and slightly blistered skin, marked by red claw lines.

Roman shrieked. “He has WHAT?”

“Scabies.” Logan removed and replaced his plastic gloves. “A rash caused by skin’s reaction to mites. Not very dangerous, but extremely uncomfortable.” He looked back at Remus, who was bent over and frantically itching his neck.

He sighed. “We can cure it, but we should remove the fleas first.” He picked up the comb.

He went to tackle his hair again, but Remus kept pulling back, forward, to the side.

Logan eventually gave up and set his tools down. “I can’t work if you keep jerking away.”

Remus whimpered and bent over, pressing his head into his lap. “I’m sorry!” He screamed. “Please don’t send me back please! I’m sorry I got dirty and sick just please don’t leave me alone again!” He banged his fists into the linoleum as hard as he could, over and over again.

Janus grabbed the showerhead and angled it so the hot water hit Remus’ bony shoulder blades, the warmth relaxing him instantly. With a gloved hand, he ran his fingers through Remus’ half-untangled hair and lightly scratched over the patch of scabies.

“Shh darling. We aren’t ever going to send you back, okay? Never.”

Remus’ red, lamp-like eye peered up at him again. “Never ever?”

Janus smiled. “Never ever.”

Remus grinned, then looked downtrodden. “‘M sorry I got bugs.”

“Oh don’t fret. This is only the… what, the third time?”

He chuckled. “This is a bad time though. I’ve got bites all over. And my neck itches real bad, worse than ever before.”

“I know.” Janus cooed, pity-filled voice appearing to soothe Remus even more. “Can you try really hard for me to stay still so Logan can untangle your hair and kill the itchy bugs?”

“Can he kill them and then untangle my hair?”

Janus looked up at Logan, who sighed deeply. “Probably.” He groaned.

Remus clapped and bounced a little in his seat. He liked being dirty but the itching wasn’t fun, not one bit.

Logan poured a dollop of the flea shampoo onto his gloved hand and began to rub it deep into his scalp. Remus smiled and relished in the cold and the skin tingles disappearing with every touch of fingers against his skin.

All of a sudden Remus jerked away again.

“Ow!” He yelped. “Ow! My head’s on fire!”

“Ah.” Logan said simply. “The open wounds. I should’ve mentioned this might sting. My apologies Remus.”

One of the others using his name, his real name, felt so personal and so loving he immediately fell silent. He let Logan continue to wash his hair thoroughly, and he only yipped a little when his open scrapes got soaped up.

He even tried to stay still while he had to wait for the shampoo to kill all the bugs in his hair. He only really moved to scratch at his scabies. He didn’t even move when Logan rinsed the soap out and used conditioner, or when he finished tackling all the matted knots.

He only moved when Logan finished rinsing out the conditioner and turned off the shower.

“Good job Remus, I’m very proud of you for staying still.”

Remus made a surprised noise at the praise. Logan… Logan was proud of him? That made his heart feel like it was being squeezed into a mushy pulp. In a good way.

Virgil climbed into the tub and gathered him in a soft fluffy towel, lifting him up with ease he was so thin. He sat him on the toilet seat and propped him up.

“Now, the flea bites will only go away with time, but the scabies we can fix.” Janus said with a smile as he replaced his gloves. Roman gave him a jar of cream and he scooped out a dollop, beginning to smear it over the patch on Remus’ skin.

“Ohhh.” Remus shut his eyes and pursed his lips in a moan. The cream was cool and instantly soothed the hot, itchy skin. “Do- do you have anything for the little bites?” He asked, as though he was unsure of getting more help.

Patton giggled and pulled out a bottle of calamine lotion from the medicine cabinet. “This will help too kiddo. You’ll look a little funny with pink splotches but that’s fine.” He dapped a bit of lotion on a cotton pad and worked from his feet up to cover each and every bite. Roman quickly joined in to help him, while Logan inspected his cuts.

“This will sting.” He said simply as he swiped disinfectant across the cuts on his arms.

Remus yelped and pulled away, only to be gently forced back into position.

“Spread your legs.” Logan said and of course Remus snickered. He stopped laughing when Logan cleaned his wounds there too, though.

“Ah, there’s the infection I expected.” Logan said, furrowing his brow at one of the cuts lacing Remus’ chest. That one had been aching on and off for days, and had started to form a pus bubble.

“Now, it’s not too bad, and it’ll go away in a few days, but are there any other lacerations that have become infected?” He asked, cleaning it out and draining the pus.

“Back of my thigh.”

Logan helped Remus stand up and did the same thing on the cut there.

Soft gauze was wrapped around his wrists and bandages were taped over any cuts.

Patton stuck his tongue out as he peeled fun patterned bandaids over the smaller cuts. They were a multitude of colours with cartoons of bugs and other crawlers. Remus looked at them and smiled.

“You like the little buggies?” Patton giggled. “I picked them for you.”

Remus gave him a toothy smile.

Somehow, not being able to see them made him feel… clean. Safe.

He couldn’t remember the last time he felt truly safe.

Roman gave Janus a soft green tee shirt and a pair of boxers, and a pair of long green plaid flannel pants. He had to help Remus pull the shirt over his head and the pants up over his hips. The fabric was soft and light, yet durable. Then, he helped Remus brush his pointy teeth with his brand new toothbrush.

After that was done, Remus slumped against the toilet back, too exhausted to hold himself up anymore.

Logan and Virgil, meanwhile, came into his line of sight. “Can you tell us your remaining symptoms?” Logan said, adjusting his glasses.

“‘M cold.” Now that he was out of the tub, he chill was pervasive, stuck in his bones like a sticky tapeworm. “I want someone to...” he thought about it for a moment. “To touch me. Please.”

The sick, twisted crawling sensation felt like ants running up and down his skin that could only be squashed by another’s warm, soft hands. He knew, after so many nights alone, that holding himself never worked.

Janus perked up at that. “Would you like to sit on my lap, Ree?”

Remus nodded frantically and moved up on his shaking legs so Janus could sit. His bony butt hurt a lot on the cold linoleum, so Janus’ cushy lap was a nice change. Not to mention the arms around him soothing the hunger in his skin.

“Any other symptoms?” Virgil asked, pushing Remus’ hand down so he wouldn’t scratch his flea bites. Janus crossed his arm around Remus’ elbows so he couldn’t bend to itch anything.

“Hmm head is too empty. Been so full of bad thoughts, but now there’s… nothing.” Remus ran his fingers through his very soft hair.

“You’ve had a major change to your life and your system is probably still getting used to it.” Virgil explained. “What else are you feeling emotionally?”

Remus put his hand over his heart. “Nervous. Rattled. Shaky. U-upset…”

He fiercely gripped his shirt, balling it up in his hand. “I-I haven’t really processed anything, y-yet…” he drew in a shuttering breath and let out a choked sob.

Janus flipped Remus over so he could huddle into his slightly damp shirt.

“I don’t… the thoughts are coming back…” he whined, squeezing his head between his hands. “I don’t want it, no I don’t want it!”

He didn’t deserve this. He didn’t deserve to be clean, to be treated with such kindness. They should’ve just let a monster like him rot. That’s was his plan, then they had to come in and fuck it all up by taking him in and making him clean and comfortable. He deserved to be sent back to the mud and muck to die.

But Janus held him close and tight, which stopped his skin from burning. And as he sobbed and cried and wailed, the others comforted him with praise.

“You belong here.”

“We want you here.”

“Thomas needs you.”

NO! His mind screamed, because Thomas didn’t need him, didn’t need one bit of him when there was another, better copy right across the room.

But as he screamed and cursed them and told them to just throw him back already , they didn’t listen. They didn’t listen when he fired off every curse word he knew at them for not putting him back in the filth.

Instead, they praised him.

They said it was good, that he needed to let his feelings out, that he would feel better after sobbing like a baby.

Eventually, he did quiet down, the ringing in his ears faded, his tears stalled, and he was left with Janus whispering quiet praise.

The adrenaline had finally faded. After so much change and effort and discomfort, the pounds of adrenaline he’d been running on had been used up.

The first thing he noticed was how raw his throat was. It burned, like he was swallowing razors. He whimpered, wrapping a hand around his throat and squeezing.

And he was tired. So so so tired. His legs felt like jello, like they would cave if he tried to stand.

He shivered, and cuddled deeper into Janus. “E-Everything hurts now…” he winced as speaking aggravated his throat.

“Oh, adrenaline will do that to you. Natural painkiller, until it runs out.” Janus said with a sigh.

With Janus’ hands over his stomach, he could feel it growl deeply.

“Are you hungry?” He asked with a joking smile.

Remus made a rough, raspy sound and dug his nails into Janus’ thigh. “No move!”

“Ow! Alright! Okay, I won’t move you.” Janus said, wincing with the pain. “Here, I can kola carry you, okay?”

There was something so nostalgic about being wrapped in Janus’ arms, on his front, being carried to the kitchen for a snack. His snake still smelled like earth from his garden and green tea, his gloves still clutched his back and sent ripples of warmth through his body.

“Okay, Patton’s gonna make you some soup.”

Janus sat on the couch and adjusted Remus so they were comfortable.

“How much do you want kiddo?”

“Big.” Remus said sleepily. “Like my dick.”

Lagan chuckled and went over to the fridge as Patton started heating up a can of soup. “In the meantime, you get water to help your dehydration, a popsicle for doing such a good job!” He said cheerfully, filling up a glass with water. “And to soothe your throat.” He grabbed a cherry flavoured popsicle and a couple napkins, no sense in getting Remus all dirty again.

He handed him the popsicle and cup. Remus immediately shoved the sweet treat down his throat, moaning at the cold chill.

He did not, however, like how much it made him shiver. His sinuses were starting to reject being clear, slowly filling his head with fog. He finished up the popsicle and flopped back against Janus, taking the water cup and sipping it.

He groaned at the cool water helping his thirst and quickly drained the cup. He didn’t even realize he was so dehydrated.

The exhaustion was creeping in again, his mind getting foggy as he fought to keep his eyes open. He couldn’t sleep yet… not until he got food…

He let out a choked sob. He just wanted to sleep. “Big breath in, darling.” Janus said quietly, rubbing soothing circles onto his thigh. “Big deep breaths.”

He shut his eyes and did just that, focusing on breathing. Janus’ comforting hand moved up his bony hips and over onto his stomach.

“Soup’s ready kiddo.” Patton said cheerfully, setting down the bowl on the coffee table.

Remus’ mouth filled with saliva and he slipped off of Janus’ lap. He picked up the bowl and tilted it, letting the delicious, hot soup flow into his mouth.

“Woah kiddo! Slow down a bit.” Patton said quickly. “You’ll be sick if you eat too fast.”

“But ‘m hungry.” He mumbled, setting down the bowl and wiping his mouth on his bandaged arm.

He went to grab the bowl again. “How about we do the deep breaths while you eat?” Janus said, pushing his hands down. “After every gulp of soup you have to take a breath.”

Remus nodded and picked up the bowl. Take a gulp, breath, another gulp, breath. In no time the soup was finished.

The weight was warm and heavy in his stomach, the heat flowing through his veins. He shuttered and yawned, curling up with Janus. His hands cradled his aching, tired body, slowly rocking him back and forth.

Janus released his six arms to hold him even more securely, and to rub soothing circles on his back and stomach.

His fingers pushed down on his stiff shoulder blades, deeply massaging the tense muscles there. A groan bubbled out of Remus’ throat as Janus massaged his achy muscles.

“Feel good?” Remus nodded and groaned louder as Janus found a particularly good spot.

“Yeah… there’s a flea bite there.”

“Hey!” Janus sounded offended, but he was fighting back a laugh. “You’re not supposed to scratch.”

Remus just hummed and nuzzled his face against Janus’ shirt. The snake unbuckled his cape and draped it over Remus’ trembling shoulders.

Encased in the smell of his friend, Remus let out a jaw-cracking yawn. He rubbed his sleepy eyes and let his breath hitch.

“Patton, do you have a bottle?” Someone asked, and soon a bottle of warm tea was pushed into his hands. He was too tired to get too good of a grip on it, but someone helped push it into his mouth.

He suckled on the plastic nipple, sighing at the flavour of hot mint tea. A part of him was embarrassed to drink from a bottle like a baby, but he was too tired to listen to the teasing.

“Sleep, my darling, and feel better when you wake.” Janus mumbled, rocking the duke gently back and forth.

Virgil came back around with a plaid blanket in his arms, appearing to struggle with it a little. He placed it gently over Remus and made sure it settled. “It’s weighted.” He mumbled. “Always makes me feel better. Safe and stuff.”

“Thank you Virgil.” Janus said with a slight nod.

Remus let the weight sink into his sore muscles, stilling the endless fidgety energy he felt. Here, he could rest. Here, he didn’t have to worry about surviving tomorrow. Here, he was safe.

Safe with his friends, who saved him, kept him fed and clean, who would care for him. Exhaustion taking over, his eyes fell closed, and he rested.