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Gaud's Grinch x Tony Fix-it Fic

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Tony woke up late, head full of fog and morning breath. He said as much as he trudged into the kitchen, gazing mistrustfully at the refrigerator: “My head’s all full of fog and morning breath.”

And then he yawned enormously.

He didn’t quite get his paw over his mouth in time, which was embarrassing, would be embarrassing, around anyone else. Part of it was his dental structure (which people tended to forget about until it appeared suddenly and prominently), and part of it was, well—there’s no morning breath quite like a tiger’s.

“Hmm, let’s smell it then,” the Grinch said cheerfully, slapping Tony's paw away and leaning in. They sniffed in a snobbish, delicate way. “Ah yes. Pleasantly pungent. Robust tartness, strong connotations of umami. Cerealy undertones. Excellent work!”

Tony closed his mouth to say it was far too early for the Grinch to be stringing words together at him, when the shaggy green bastard themself let out a truly masterful Belch. 

It was the Belch of a genuine virtuoso, a maestro debuting the magnum opus of a lifetime. Tony would have applauded, but he was busy shielding his burning eyes. He could actually feel his whiskers wilting.

There’s no morning breath quite like a tiger’s, and thank every snowflake in the Whoville sky that there’s no chemical weaponry quite like a burping Grinch.

When the Belch was finally over, Tony cautiously lowered his paws to find the Grinch grinning in satisfaction. Steam was coming out of one nostril, and there was a tiny flame curling up from the tip of their fluffy green mohawk.

Tony licked his paw and reached over to put the fire out with a careful pinch. It extinguished with a merry little sizzle. 

The Grinch was, of course, completely unfazed by a little accidental self-immolation, and kept right on smirking their trademark Grinch Smirk. Their eyes were a highly interesting shade of yellow, Tony noticed. A brighter yellow than their teeth. There were tiny specks of green around the pupils. 

Tony realized how close he was standing, and took a quick step back. 

“Well?” the Grinch said expectantly, demanding commentary. 

“Breathtaking,” Tony said, in complete honesty. And then immediately keeled over in a massive coughing fit.

“It’s all this fresh mountain air,” the Grinch said cheerfully, nudging him out of the way with one hip to get to a nearby window. “Really opens up the lungs.” 

“I’m sure that’s it,” Tony tried to say, but couldn’t quite manage through all the wheezing.   

The Grinch shoved open a complaining window frame and breathed in deeply. “Mmm, L’odeur de Mount Crumpit. Nothing like it in the world.”

Tony, never quite able to shake his Catholic upbringing, crossed himself, and threw in a silent amen for good measure.  

That morning, Tony spent a hopeless quarter of an hour trying to recurl his whiskers through the power of saliva and a finger twist. Nothing doing.

(That said, his sinuses remained miraculously clear for weeks to come.)

 

By the time Tony finally sat down to eat, a small mob of Who children had gathered threateningly on the front lawn. And alright, Tony knew it was only for band practice, but still. He leaned protectively over his breakfast (a packet of cookies Cindy Lou had slipped him with a sympathetic wink, and a cup of white liquid from a jug in the fridge).

(The liquid resembled milk but left a distinctly chalky aftertaste. Tony told himself the sediment at the bottom was supplemental calcium.) 

The Grinch had garbed themself in a coat that was mostly tassels and mismatched brass buttons. Tony noticed, fondly, that the shoulder epaulettes appeared to be made entirely from an old shoe shine brush and liberal amounts of gold spray paint. The Grinch nodded their chin firmly, squaring up their shoulders, and marched out the front door. 

“ALRIGHT MY LITTLE GRINCHLINGS!” they bellowed, and the door swung shut behind them, muffling the sound of children giggling. Eventually the not-quite-music started, and was once again pleasingly less-than-deafening. 

 

Tony finished his breakfast (supplemental calcium and all) more out of moral principle than any nutritional conviction. His time on Mount Crumpit was drawing to a close, and he was determined to get that damnable trophy room sorted before he left. It was really the very least he should be doing.

He trudged back to the storage room, petrified prizes still teetering in the precarious piles he had left them. He had for some reason slightly hoped they would perhaps knock themselves over overnight. He shook the thought out of his head, and settled down to work.

 

Tony was feeling properly shamefaced, to be honest. As if the emotional component wasn’t enough, what sort of person leaves their ex stuck with a roomful of literal baggage?

Not that Tony thought of the Grinch as his Ex, so to speak. They were friends, had been friends longer than they’d been anything else. And, okay, maybe Tony hadn’t always been a very reliable friend. He wrote, sent postcards, telephoned occasionally, just…not as often as the Grinch. 

Tony…Tony wasn’t good at initiating communication. He knew that about himself. He was self-aware enough to admit it, to acknowledge that he didn’t take the initiative as often as he should. Not with friends or with family or even, occasionally, when communicating with himself. Maybe that should be his New Year's Resolution.

(Historically, Tony’s performance vis-à-vis New Year's Resolutions was lackluster. Last January’s resolution had been a solemn promise to stick to next year’s resolution, whatever it may be. Tony had been very proud of finding that loophole.)

And anyway, he did make an effort. He visited the Grinch—he was the one who always came to visit. That’s how their friendship started out, oddly enough. Tony had come back for some of his things, months after The Big Split 2.0, as Tony had mentally dubbed it at the time.

(Even now, he still sometimes thought of his divorce as The Big Split 1.0. Grinchy’s therapist would probably say he was trying to use language to distance himself emotionally—and great, now Tony was letting himself be psychoanalyzed by an imaginary therapist. He wondered what an imaginary therapist would say about that.)

Tony had practically moved in with the Grinch before—well. And then he had left in a huff, and fallen in a rut, and just never got around to hauling his things all the way back from Mount Crumpit. So he had left angry and come back nervous, had expected to be greeted with arguments or icy silence, or maybe the discovery that the Grinch had tossed all his personal belongings down the steepest available cliff to fester alongside the rest of the garbage in the Whoville Dumpit To Crump-Pit. 

Tony wouldn’t really have blamed them.

And then—none of that happened. Tony had showed up with that old dark cloud smouldering over his fuzzy orange head, and the Grinch had greeted him carefully, kindly. Like an old friend who hasn’t been seen in awhile, one you need to get refamiliar with.

It had only been five months.

The Grinch had been cautiously polite, and then genuinely friendly, and then sincerely rude, which meant things were okay between them. And as Tony was leaving, the Grinch had said: “Write to me in advance next time, before turning up on my doorstep like a soggy-sorry old housecat.”

Tiger paws are not know for their dexterity, but Tony had still managed to flip a distinct finger on his way out the door. He heard the Grinch chuckle behind him.

And when Tony got home, he had sent a postcard: Season’s Greetings! it read, curling font embellished with jingle bells and mistletoe. 

The Grinch had sent back a long and strongly worded missive (ending with polite enquires as to his and his family’s health). And so their correspondence had begun.

And something between them had lifted. Or shifted, perhaps.

It was a brave thing to do, Tony realized in hindsight, the way the Grinch had so carefully invited Tony in. This was years before the Grinch’s recent Lifestyle Changes, back when they still kept themself as much to themself as a self could be kept. But still they had reached out, tentatively, and let Tony back in. Not back to the way things had been but—something new. Something with a tomorrow in front of it.

They might not have spoken frequently, the pair of them, but Tony was proud of how they had kept in touch with each other. Proud of the fact that he still had a friend in the Grinch, all these years later. That somehow, without noticing, he had stumbled into the certainty that he always would. They were still careful with each other sometimes, the way people sometimes need to be careful with each other, but they were solid. No matter how frequent or infrequent his visits, Tony knew that sooner or later he would always return to Mount Crumpit.

Except. Except that wasn’t exactly true anymore, was it? 

Not if the Grinch was really leaving. Not that moving down to Whoville constituted some extraordinary odyssey—no more than a stone’s throw (literally, if the stone in question was thrown from an overhanging Crumpit cliff). 

It was just….

Tony came to an uncomfortable realization, sitting there surrounded by the decaying decorative detritus meant to represent his lifetime achievements. It came with a twinge of guilt, and then a tweak of alarm, followed finally by a pinch of panic. Because:

Huh. 

In all these years, the Grinch had never actually invited Tony to visit. Tony had always just decided on his own, showing up with the excuse of picking up some old thing or other. That had been the routine—Tony would drop in maybe once or twice year to pick up such-and-such, and the Grinch would complain about being used as a glorified storage center, and would never, ever tell Tony not to come back. 

So Tony always came back.

And okay, maybe the excuses weren’t always excuses. Most of the time there was something he actually needed—old practice gear that Antoinette and Junior were about to grow into, team jerseys and an autographed hockey stick for a charity auction. But—it always felt like an excuse. Tony would have come anyway, didn’t want to wear out his welcome but was always slyly on the lookout for a reason. 

It was the first time the thought had consciously crossed his mind, and he recognized it as The Absolute Truth. 

Of course he was always going to return to the Grinch. They were friends. They loved each other, in their grumbling, grouching way. Tony liked visiting, liked coming h—back to Mount Crumpit. And surely Grinchy knew—surely they guessed that Tony would have come regardless, that all they had to do was ask.

But then, the Grinch had never actually asked. Or, that wasn’t true. The Grinch had ordered him to visit, just this one time around, just this once. To clean up everything for good.

Tony felt a sinking feeling open up behind one of his ribs. A black little pit, the opposite and yet somehow the twin of an athlete's side stitch, the ache that presses in when too much is demanded of the body. For a brief moment, Tony was thrust back miles and years ago, running laps at the physiotherapy center, outraged that his shiny new titanium knee couldn’t keep pace with his basic demands.

Tony closed his eyes and breathed out, slow and measured, counting only good things.

(There were uncountable good things in life, but to remember this you sometimes had to try to count them.)

Gradually, the throb in his chest throbbed a little bit less. That was a good thing too.

Tony opened his eyes and ended up gazing blankly at a poster of himself in full uniform, holding a bowl of cereal. Why on earth was he eating breakfast in the middle of an ice rink? Surely a precariously balanced bowl of milk and grains was one of the least convenient breakfast foods to eat in the middle of an NHL championship game. 

(Tony never understood how advertisements were supposed to make people want to buy a product. Mostly they made him want to do the opposite, out of common sense if not simple spite.)

Tony sighed, and tossed the poster onto the junk pile.

What had he just been thinking about? It had been a sour, aching thought, something he wanted to avoid. He looked around for a distraction, a momentary salvation.

At which point: Enter the Grinch. 

 

“Knock, knock!” boomed the Grinch, because this section of the caverns had excellent acoustics, and not a single door to knock on. Or a single window, for that matter. Or any of the traditional signs of human(ish) inhabitation. 

The Grinch looked around the room (if it qualified as a room), eyes wide.

“So this is the trophy room,” they said with a low whistle. They enjoyed whistling, and practiced it often so they would be prepared when the chance came to use it for dramatic effect.

Tony lifted himself off his knees, groaning more from habit than the actual aches and pain. “You act like you’ve never seen it before. This is your house. Er, cave. Cavern system. Mountain?”

“I have squatter’s rights for most of the caverns by now,” the Grinch said conversationally. “No idea about the mountain base, though that does raise interesting questions about mineral rights. But I haven’t—I don’t come in here often.”

“Oh,” Tony said articulately.

The Grinch shrugged. They shrugged the way a very fuzzy turnip might shrug, were it trying to look casual. “This section of the caverns, that is. I don’t use it for much, so.” They trailed off, looking studiously at the ceiling. Tony glanced up automatically. None of the stalactites seemed in imminent danger of succumbing to the siren's call of gravity. 

Tony looked back down, gazing dispiritedly around the room. The progress of the last few hours now revealed itself to be very slight indeed. He sighed, nudging a comically undersized trophy (Pee Wee basketball?) with his foot. It fell over with a dull clang and rolled across the uneven cave floor, vanishing down a dark stairwell. 

A dark, endless stairwell, apparently, because the clang-clang-clunk-clanging went on echoing with cheerful persistence. 

The Grinch put their hands delicately over their ears (or where Tony assumed their ears were located, under all that fur). They looked around the room again, seeming concerned. Tony hunted around for a topic, any topic, to change the conversation they weren’t having.

“Band practice! How did band practice go?”

“Oh!” the Grinch said easily. They had to shout over the still-clanging trophy. “Let’s put it this way, ‘twas neither earth-shattering nor ear-shattering! Which is a momentous accomplishment, considering where we started!”

Tony had to shout right back. “Benign mediocrity is what you’re aiming for?!”

“It’s what I hope and dream of! But I try not to get carried away—borderline endurable is always my main aspiration, when it comes to Whovillian culture!”

Tony giggled a most un-tiger-like giggle. The Grinch looked delighted, which meant they were planning on bringing it up later in an Anecdote. Tony decided to power through it.

“ANYway,” he lied through his fangs, “as you can see I’m making a GR-R-REAT deal of progress here, as per your instructions, so I should probably—”

The Grinch clapped their hands together, suddenly cheerful in that irrepressibly bossy way of theirs. “That’s right! Time to twitch that tail of yours and get a move on!”

This was not the first time Tony had cause to believe the Grinch was jealous of his tail, and he made a mental note to pursue this train of thought at a later date. He said instead, with great dignity: 

“Huh?!”

The trophy was still clanging in the background.

“You’ve been at this for hours, tiger! It’s interfering with our social engagements. What will the neighbors think?”

Tony didn’t even know where to begin with that. He opened his mouth to see what would come out, but then the Grinch smiled their big, awful, wonderful smile. 

“You and me, tiger, we’re going ice skating.”

From a great distance down the stairwell, there came one final, jolly CLUNK!