Dark and cold. Sleep had sank its bittersweet claws into the deepest part of Killer’s mind, claiming him for its own. It refused to let him go, no matter how he fought it.
Until his body was jostled a bit too much. His eyes flew open, bleary and hazy, but seeing. A cloud of purple filled the air around him, glimmering in a familiar way. His dry, dry mouth felt gritty when he tried to speak. One word came out, “C..Cross..?”, and it was his last word before sleep slithered back into place, claiming him once more.
Days passed in a mere handful of hours, dreams of rolling hills and sun-filled valleys struggling to stay in his grasp. Fading in and out like an old film. Slowly, those green mountains and sunny rivers dried up, a dead brown filling in the gaps. He caught glimpses of white and black, and it took him far too long to realize that those glimpses weren’t part of his dreams. They were born of those fleeting waking moments, when his eyes weren’t shut and his mind was one foot out of the darkness.
Then the rain came. It hissed, cold pebbles smashing against his cheekbones, ripping from his sleep with a loud gasp. He was suspended in the air, yet tied down, but still moving quickly. Thunder rumbled overhead, a dazzling ripple of lights dancing over the clouds, giving him a precious moment of sight that broke another gasp free. Cross. The level 20 behemoth, their strongest member, was running on all fours. He was feral, hands and feet thumping loudly on the muddy ground, but Killer could recognize the desperation and fear on his face. He wasn’t just running, but he was running away.
This was the run of someone trying to escape. Killer squirmed, his senses finally snapping back. He could feel Dust’s heavy aura, Nightmare’s overwhelming powers, and could spot Horror’s head dangling nearby. And just like him, Killer realized, they were all trapped in the grasp of Cross’s strong magic. Killer whipped his gaze back down to Cross, raising his voice to be heard over the rain’s roaring. But his voice faltered.
He could smell it now. The wind had shifted just slightly, changing the rain’s direction, and allowing Killer to smell and see the horrific amounts of blood that poured from Cross’s body. His left horn, despite being made of magic, was broken. A wide crack spread from just above the fleeing guard’s eye to the bottom of his jaw, splitting his skull in half in a vicious wound. He could see the grimace each time his hands hit the wet earth, the pain in his face when he made a stride. From that alone, Killer knew Cross was badly injured, and yet he kept running. He kept his hold on them. Perhaps that was why his horn wasn’t healing, why his body wasn’t healing.
Killer’s mind reeled, thoughts racing. What had happened to him? Killer opened his mouth, “Cross! Cross, what happened!!” Cross’s arms buckled suddenly, and he fell face first into the ground. He was up again in an instant, breathing heavily. His wheezing betrayed his pain, his panic. “Killer?! Y-you’re not supposed to be awake!”
Killer shook his head, feeling rainwater sloshing in his skull. He distantly wondered if Horror was fairing any better. A glance showed that Cross’s magic had completely enveloped the jagged crack on Horror’s skull. Killer lost his train of thought as magic swamped his own skull, forcing him to relax and nearly drift off again. He grit his teeth against it, shaking his head harder. “No- Cross, what the hell is happening??” Cross gave a whimper, a sound so unlike him that killer was speechless. “I can’t! I-I have to run away, I have to save you-”
Killer spoke over him, “Save me from what?! Cross-” The bloody guard sobbed, “Killer, please! Just go back to sleep, please..! I can’t lose you, I can’t, not again, please just go to sleep-” A distant noise like a shout and Cross tensed, taking off again. He shot through the rain, fast enough that Killer felt the rain’s pressure intensify. The lapse in his concentration gave Cross’s magic an opening. It flooded his mind, drowning him in sleep.
And then, he was awake. He sat up(where was Cross?) and found himself staring at Horror, who’d woken him. The other was sitting against a wall of rock(where was Cross??), watching Killer with a somewhat dazed expression. Killer rubbed his head, fuzzy memories flashing about. “Horror?”
“Heya.” Killer started to stand(where was Cross?!), but Horror shook his head. “Don’t. He’s right there.” Horror nodded to a nearby lump, where Nightmare and Dust were kneeling and whispering. Killer continued to stand, scrambling over in a panic. Nightmare caught him with a tendril, holding a finger up to his teeth. “Quiet. He’s finally gone to sleep.” Killer was set down beside Dust. His soul flickered as he took in Cross’s state. He was breathing heavily, face flushed with fever- “How long did he run in the rain??”- and his horn had just started to regenerate.
Nightmare glanced up at Killer’s comment, seeming alarmed. “What? You woke up?” Killer nodded, his hand rubbing his chest. “I woke up a few times, yeah. But only one of those times did I see Cross.” Horror had moved over, curious. “What do you remember?”
Killer sighed, “I-I don’t really understand most of it. It was thundering, raining real bad. Cross had us all in his magic, keeping us asleep, and he was running, like an animal. B-but he was scared too. He was hurt really bad, he kept making this face when he moved a certain way. And..” Killer’s expression crumpled in thought, grimacing with effort. “I…I think there was someone chasing us.” He lowered his gaze to Cross’s sleeping face, reaching out with a shaky hand to brush his fingers over his skull. “He was crying…”
Killer faintly remembered how desperate Cross had been, his soul aching with the memory. Dust’s hand lightly took his, nudging it aside. “Lemme heal him.” Killer sat back on his heels, watching quietly as Dust healed up the cracks on Cross’s face. Some left scars, some vanished entirely. One refused to close entirely, not until Dust poured more magic into his hand. When Dust moved on, Killer traced the large scar. It spread down Cross’s face like lightning. A wide crack spread from just above the fleeing guard’s eye to the bottom of his jaw, splitting his skull in half in a vicious wound. Killer winced at the memory. It’d looked a lot worse then.
Nightmare’s blackened hand gripped his wrist loosely. “Killer… You’re crying.” He blinked, sound suddenly coming back with a vengeance(when had it even left?). He’d zoned out. He wiped his face with his sleeve, staining his jacket with black and red. “D'you guys remember anything?” Nightmare shook his head, Horror murmuring a negative. Dust, however, muttered, “I do.”
At Nightmare’s insistence, Dust revealed that they’d been attacked. “The stars. They found our base, chased us out. Cross snatched us all up and ran through a portal when Dream knocked out Boss.” Nightmare blinked, patting himself down. “I’m not hurt?” Dust nodded, “Cross healed us while trying to put us to sleep. Killer was still awake when I blacked. Boss and Horror were the first ones to go.” Even as Dust said it, Killer’s memories started to come back. Bits and pieces of the fight. Cross had been the last one standing, aside from Nightmare. The attack had been planned, it had to have been.
Cross groaned, breaking all of them out of their daze. “Killer..?” He offered Cross a smile, “Hey there.” Dust clicked his tongue when Cross tried to sit up, “Not done healing. Lay back down.” Cross didn’t protest, flopping back down with a low whine. Killer, after a moment’s consideration, shucked off his jacket, folding it up and slipping it beneath Cross’s head. “The floors a little hard.”
Dust tore Cross’s shirt open, grimacing at the state of his ribcage. Still, he silently zipped up each and every scratch. Bruises faded, cracks sealed up, and soon, Cross’s chest was free of injury.
The cave became their home fairly quickly. Nightmare, with his previously secret architect and construction skills, used his tentacles and hands to chip away at the cave walls until the inside looked more like a stone castle than a cave. Horror had a field day when he learned they’d be hunting for food. Cross spent a while out of commission, healing from whatever traumas he’d suffered. It took a bit, but they settled down, enjoying their new home.