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Nightmare opened his eye, staring blankly into the darkness of his room. It was late. Very late.

His eye flicked to the side, his senses expanding throughout the castle. Horror was in the kitchen cupboard, Dust was in the attic, Killer was in his closet, and Cross was-

Nightmare slipped a tendril beneath the bed, pulling himself into the shadows. The void stared at him, beckoning, as he passed by. Nightmare kept his gaze forward, head held high, ignoring it. Murky openings, like stained black glass, shimmered in various places, each one leading to different parts of his castle. A glimpse of the living room, several doors to the training building, the slimmest line, no doubt leading into the kitchen.

Nightmare continued to glide past each one, further and further away from the gateway to his bedroom. He paused at one doorway, taking a moment to peer into it. Killer’s closet was dimly lit, still full of shadows, enough for Nightmare to see the black teared skeleton curled up against the wall. Killer was watching something on his phone, a bloody knife gripped tightly in one hand. His free hand was marked up. A few light scratches, nothing that would hinder him. Nightmare watched, silent, worried, as Killer etched another line.

He snaked a tendril into the closet, his grin curling in amusement as Killer yelped and jerked away from the wall where Nightmare was slinking out of. “Boss?!” Nightmare snatched the knife, pulling it away, and he flicked the tentacle tip at Killer sharply. At least the other had the decency to look apologetic. Killer thumbed at the tentacle tip, smiling sheepishly. “Alright, boss. I’ll stop for now.” And that was the best he would get, Nightmare thought. He pulled out of the closet, drifting away.

A flash of white and purple to his left. He followed the disturbance, darting along each opening. A fluttering black and white scarf, a black sleeve, a pair of white boots, repeated glimpses of Nightmare’s favorite oreo snack. He trailed after it, tracking it all the way back to Cross’s room. Nightmare was worried, to say the least. He wasn’t sure what to expect, didn’t know what to think. He’d known that with sending Cross on a solo mission, that it’d take longer than normal. Only, Cross was just now getting back a month later. Hesitantly, though, Nightmare paused halfway there, losing sight of Cross. Perhaps it would be best to let him rest first before checking in on him.

That panicked aura, riddled with nervousness, shame, regret, and pain, was all Nightmare needed to know that something had gone wrong. The mission was supposed to be a simple scouting mission. If Cross was hurt, that meant he’d failed to stay hidden. Someone had seen him and attacked. Knowing Cross, he wouldn’t immediately come to Nightmare out of shame. He didn’t want to make it worse by showing up unannounced when Cross wasn’t prepared.

He shot past every other portal, making straight for Cross’s bedroom, taking one last peek. Cross stood in his bathroom door, hunched over the sink, the water running. The sound of the faucet slightly overshadowed Cross’s labored panting, but Nightmare didn’t need to hear it. He could see his guard flinch every few seconds, easily spotting the way Cross braced his arm on the edge of the counter, his fingers twitching minutely.

Nightmare sighed. Tomorrow. He’d check on him tomorrow.

—–

Cross was late. Nightmare watched the door plainly, though he knew Cross was nowhere near it. In fact, he could sense Cross still in his bedroom, very much awake, and stressing out. Nightmare sighed. He tapped his fingers on the table, Killer snapping to attention as Nightmare turned to him. “Yes, boss?”

“Go fetch Cross.” Killer’s browbones twitched up, his grin widening. “Crossy’s back?” Ah, right. Nightmare sometimes forgot that his minions didn’t have the same senses as he did. He inclined his head, nodding just slightly. “Yes. His return was the reason I came to your room at all. I was simply passing by.” Killer made an “oh” sound, his smile shifting up. His chair scraped the floor as he pushed back, standing up and stretching his arms behind his back. “Welp. I’ll go hunt ‘em down, then. Don’t wait up.”

Horror hissed at him, Nightmare blinking in amusement. If Horror had any say in it, they’d definitely 'wait up’. Horror refused to eat unless everyone was present and eating as well. Nightmare couldn’t begrudge him for it, though. It was one of the only reasons Dust and Cross were eating anything at all. Horror’s only exception was Nightmare, though the king ate as well from time to time just to appease the cannibal. It made Horror uncomfortable to see Nightmare not eating for so long, so he’d bring Nightmare a plate of cookies or sliced apples occasionally just so Nightmare would eat something. It was because of Horror that Nightmare had developed his addiction to coffee. And caramel apples.

Killer’s sneakers squeaked, Nightmare biting back a grin as Dust’s aura spiked in annoyance. Killer was out the door before Dust could say anything, much less even look up. Dust scowled at the floor, muttering angrily.

-

Killer whistled as he walked, his aimless tune keeping the silence at bay. Cross’s room was the furthest from the kitchen, and, like Killer’s room, it was far from everyone else’s. Cross liked his privacy. Killer could respect that. It was the same reason Killer had picked a distanced room as well.

As he spun around a corner, he felt his magic prickle, a wave of pins and needles rolling over him. Killer paused, tipping his head. He could faintly recognize the sensation of Cross’s magic. Why was he feeling it here? Killer stepped back the way he came. Indeed, the feeling came back. There was a thin wall of magic here. Killer snorted, continuing his trek. Alright, seemed like Cross didn’t like being snuck up on.

Killer hummed, a skip in his step as he spotted the familiar brown dented door. His grin widened. “Oh, Crossy~!” He knocked on the door, jiggling the handle even though it was locked. Cross’s voice answered a moment later, sounding annoying and inconvenienced. “What do you want, Killer.” He leaned against the door, calling in a sing-song voice. “Can I come in?”

“No.” Killer faltered. No? He pouted, “C'mon! Boss wants ya to come eat!” Cross’s voice came again, “Killer, I said no. I’m busy.” Killer’s grin wilted, a whine clear in his voice. “Croossss, pleaaaaaaase?” Cross didn’t answer this time, though Killer could hear some rustling, and just beneath it, a soft hiss. Killer’s eyes widened, a million red flags going off. Cross was trying to hide something. He tried the handle again, wishing he could just teleport in. “Cross? Let me in.”

“I can’t, I’m not decent.” Another quiet breath, and a barely-there creak, and Killer silently cursed his moral compass. No matter how many of Nightmare’s rules he constantly broke, the only one he couldn’t break was the privacy rule. Killer couldn’t go in without permission. He tried the door again, grin strained. “Cross. Let me in. Please?”

After a moment of silence, Cross sighed, “I’ll be down in a minute, okay? Promise.” Killer perked up, stepping back from the door, triumphant. “That’s a promise, Crossy! Better not break it.” Killer teleported back to the kitchen, head held high. “He’s on his way. Idiot wasn’t dressed.” Nightmare’s eye narrowed, doubtful. Killer sat down, hands in his pockets and grin wide. “He promised he’d come down. Don’t worry boss.”

Nightmare nodded tersely. Cross knew what promises meant, he wouldn’t break one if he could help it. Horror’s expression soured though, a displeased rumble escaping him. “We… wait for ’m. don’… touch yer.. food.” Killer dipped his head, “You’re the boss.”

-

The dining room doors creaked open. Horror sat up, a spark of excitement in his eye that quickly went out as Cross kept his gaze down, face hidden behind the fluff of his hood. Nightmare eyed him suspiciously, scanning him sharply. There was nothing visibly wrong. Nothing that was instantly obvious, anyways.

Nightmare laced his fingers together, elbows on the table, and leaned forward. “Cross.” The guard stiffened. Killer watched Cross just as closely, his soul flickering faintly. “Took ya long enough,” Dust muttered, his eyes bright in the shadows of his hoodie.

Killer lightly kicked him under the table, shooting him a look. Dust held his gaze, a silent conversation passing between them. Dust was the first to look away, his cheeks faintly purple, and Killer’s grin turned smug. Horror tapped his fingers on the table, squirming around to point to the seat beside Killer and Nightmare. “Come 'n.. sit!”

Cross didn’t move for a moment, shifting in place. “…ok,” he mumbled. Nightmare stared at Cross, his gaze dark and analyzing, much like the trio’s. He would wait. The pained aura wasn’t enough to confront Cross. No, he needed to see something that proved what he was thinking. So Nightmare watched closely.

Cross’s shoulder slumped, defeat and resignation heavy in his aura. He started limping to his seat. Nightmare’s eyelight dilated. The table rattled, plates clinking and cups wobbling, as Horror jerked in place. “Cr-!” Dust shushed him softly, cutting him off, silently telling him to wait. Horror backed down, still tense like a coiled spring. Cross sat down– carefully, Nightmare noticed– and folded his hands in his lap.

Nightmare picked up a utensil, flipping it between his fingers like Killer did with his knives. He would give Cross one chance. “Report?” Cross simultaneously relaxed and tensed, his emotions spiraling into chaos. None of it broke through, his tone calm and casual. “I tracked the coordinates to a Fellverse Au in the fifth corner of the multiverse. The True Lab was completely empty, no amalgamations or information. The computer was dismantled.”

Cross’s tone indicated that was the end of his report. Nightmare sighed, putting the fork down. “Cross, show me your face.” Cross’s emotions spiked harshly with panic and shame and fear and pain and shame and shame and shame-

Nightmare eased a tendril around Cross’s shoulders, the tip grazing just under Cross’s jaw, the king frowning as Cross shook his head. The guard shuddered, his breath hitching as another tendril slipped into his hood, threatening to pull it off. His hands shot up, gripping onto his hood tightly. “N-no, it’s nothing, I’m fine-!”

“Cross. Let me see.” Cross’s arms trembled. Shame, fear, shame, shame, pain “I’m not angry, Cross. I would never be angry with you.” Cross’s fingers twitched, but still refused to move. Nightmare’s tentacles slinked out, gently prying Cross’s hands away, allowing Nightmare to slip Cross’s hood off. SHAME SHAME SHAME SHAME Nightmare’s tentacle flicked, rubbing at Cross’s vertebrae with the intent to comfort.

Cross turned his head away, the action doing nothing to hide the tightly wrapped bandages on his skull. The tendril at Cross’s throat curled up against his cheek, Cross giving no resistance as his head was tilted up. Nightmare’s eye narrowed. Cross stared back pitifully, his only visible eye squinted, tears shimmering in the rim of his eye. Nightmare turned his attention to the bandages.

The gauze was stained dark with purple, the bloodstains stretching from Cross’s chin to his forehead. Nightmare scowled, reaching out to tug at the bandages. Cross winced, the pain in his aura flaring. Nightmare let go quickly, frowning. “Where else are you injured?” Cross’s expression was pinched, his teeth grit. Nightmare’s frown deepened. “Cross-”

“My shirt,” Cross blurted out. He grabbed at his collar, pulling at it, shaking his head. “I-It’s- I mean, I can’t-” Cross’s breath quickened, his stammering worsening. “My- I d- I don- I-” Nightmare kissed him roughly, his tentacles tightening around Cross momentarily, his hand on Cross’s cheek. Cross inhaled sharply, shock cutting through his shame and fear. The shock was overshadowed by confusion and embarrassment, Cross’s cheeks growing warm under Nightmare’s fingers.

[EDIT: it’s not outright stated, but nightmare kissed cross in an attempt to calm him down, which worked well enough. cross isn’t panicking anymore]

Cross gasped as Nightmare pulled away, his face burning. Cross missed the moment Killer passed Nightmare a knife, barely registering Nightmare cutting through his shirt. He did, however, snap out of his daze as a cool hand settled on his ribs. He jolted in surprise, mostly forgetting the kiss as a wave of pain washed over him. “Ow-!” Nightmare hushed him, returning Killer’s knife to its owner.

Cross squeezed his eyes shut, his breath speeding up again. Cross wasn’t panicking, just in pain, so Nightmare didn’t intervene this time. His tentacles retreated, all but one staying behind, still curled around Cross’s shoulders. He peeled Cross’s turtle neck away, frowning at the bandages. More bloody splotches. Something looked strange, but he couldn’t figure it out. Nightmare counted each bloodied spot, going over each rib-

Nightmare looked up, alarmed, his eye wide. “Cross, where are your ribs?” Dust’s head snapped up, “His what?” Nightmare shook his head, looking back down at Cross’s chest. His hands lit up with pale green magic, Cross choking as the cold magic encircled the stumps where his bottom two ribs should’ve been. Dust teleported over, Horror following after him on foot, the two of them crowding around. Dust’s eyelights guttered out as soon as he saw. “Dude, what the hell happened?”

Cross grimaced at the shout, groaning. Horror nervously tugged at his head wound, his gaze locked on Cross’s bandaged skull. Killer silently thumbed at the back of Cross’s neck, his perpetual smile tight with worry, his fingers drumming against Nightmare’s tentacle. Nightmare pulled his hands back, frowning. He wouldn’t be able to heal Cross’s ribs back. They would have to grow back naturally.

Nightmare sat up, snapping his fingers. Dust blinked, tilting his head. “Go and fetch the first aid kit.” Dust vanished instantly, Nightmare looking to Horror, reaching up to take his hand from his skull. “Why don’t you go make some food? I’m sure Cross’ll be hungry after this.” Horror whined, his hand gripping onto Nightmare’s tightly. “His… skull’s hurt… canya fix… it?” Nightmare’s eye softened. “Of course I can.” Horror spastically nodded, backing away. “G..good… 'mma go… cook..” And he ran out of the room.

Nightmare turned back to Cross, reaching up to delicately tap his cheek. “Cross, listen to me.” The guard’s eyelights were flickering when he opened his eyes, his expression strained. “..hm?” Nightmare ran a hand down the guard’s chest, coming back up to tap his sternum. “I’m going to unwrap these, okay?” Cross paled, “B-” Nightmare shushed him, “I can’t heal them like this, Cross.”

Tears were starting to form again, to Nigtmare’s dismay. “I’m sorry, Cross, but I have to.” Cross shut his eyes, looking away. Dust returned in a flash of purple, passing Nightmare a box. He glanced around, frowning, before teleporting again, most likely looking for Horror. Nightmare set the kit aside, taking ahold of Cross’s shoulders, guiding him into laying back. It was a good thing most of the seats didn’t have armrests.

Cross set his head on Killer’s femurs, blinking up at him rapidly, a few tears slipping free. Killer offered him a smile, brushing his fingers over Cross’s skull. “Hey there.” Cross croaked out a feeble answer, “H-hi..” Nightmare let out a breath, carefully picking at the bandages. The first one unraveled slowly, Nightmare deftly unwinding it. The sticky gauze peeled off slowly, clotted blood clinging to the broken bones and breaking away almost violently, fresh blood welling up after it. Nightmare swore, tossing the bandages aside quickly.

He muttered an apology before wrapping his hand around the break, his magic lighting up again. Cross cried out, “B-boss-!” The tentacle around Cross’s shoulders darted up to wrap around Killer, tugging him down. Killer followed easily, leaning down to silence Cross with a kiss, swallowing his whimpers. Nightmare focused on the bone in his hand, sealing the crack after a long minute.

Killer gave Cross a minute to breathe before diving back in, licking into his open mouth. Nightmare unwrapped another rib, Cross’s resulting cry muffled. Whatever Killer was doing, it was working well enough that Nightmare finished faster than he would’ve if he were alone. He leaned away from Cross’s ribs, taking the first aid kit and breaking it open. Nightmare tugged at Killer, who sat up as well, leaving Cross breathing heavily and dazed. Killer wiped his mouth, grin quirking up. “Yeah?”

Nightmare held up a roll of bandages, “I’m going to wrap his ribs. Distract him harder.” Killer rolled his head, his neck popping, his grin nothing short of salacious. “You got it, boss.” Nightmare watched, transfixed, as Killer gave Cross a sweet kiss, something red slipping past- oh. Nightmare looked away, scolding himself, and ignoring any obscene sounds he heard. Killer had Cross’s hands in his own, inadvertently holding him down.

He tore open a packet with his teeth, squeezing out healing cream into his hand and cautiously smearing it over the broken nub of Cross’s lowermost left rib. Cross gave a choked shout, his legs kicking and his body immediately attempting to curl up defensively. Killer pulled back, trying to soothe Cross with a few head pats. “Hey, hey, it’s okay. Night’s almost done..” Cross’s breath stuttered, his eyelights watery. “…i-it hurts.” Nightmare winced, apologetic. “Just try to hold still, alright? I don’t want to hurt you.” He would never forgive himself if he did.

Cross shakily inhaled, wiping his teary eyes, nodding firmly. “Okay, boss.”

Horror paced anxiously, his fingers crooked in his socket. The kitchen was filled with the smell of chocolate cake, the smell thick and sugary. Soup bubbled on the stove, spitting and hissing every few seconds. Horror’s arm jerked, yanking his head along, making him bump into the wall. He growled, ripping his hands away and turning to the kitchen counter, desperately looking for a distraction.

“Horror?” He squeaked, turning around to see Dust standing there. He let out a relieved sound. “Bunny..” He went in to hug him, holding the smaller against him loosely. Dust slinked his arms around Horror’s waist, hugging back with a scoff. “Ya okay?” Horror nodded absently. He was okay. Worried and stressed, but okay. “Do ya.. think Lilac… ’ll be ok?” Dust was quiet, his grip on Horror tightening briefly. “…What did Nightmare say?” Horror squeezed back, rumbling.

“Moon said… he’d be ok..”

“If Nightmare say’s Cross’ll be okay, then Cross is gonna be okay.”

Horror sank to the floor, pulling Dust with him, nuzzling him with a soft purr, satisfied for the moment. Dust relaxed in Horror’s hold, slumping against him with a sigh. Yeah. Cross was gonna be just fine.

Cross had passed out. Nightmare fastened a clip on the bandages, pulling away with a frown. “..Killer, take him to bed.” Killer saluted, gathering Cross in his arms. “You got it, boss. Be back in a minute.” Nightmare held up a hand, “No, stay with him. I don’t want him waking up alone.” Killer’s smile softened. “Alright. I can do that. I’ll put ’m in your bed.” He teleported away.

Nightmare stepped away, slipping into the shadows, warping straight into the kitchen. Horror blinked as Nightmare slipped out from beneath the fridge. He grinned. “Heya… moon..” Dust was asleep in his arms, his face mostly hidden under his hood. Nightmare sniffed at the air, a burst of fondness constricting his chest. “Chocolate cake?” Horror grunted, “mhm.. Crossy’ll… like it?” Nightmare– awkwardly, he doesn’t usually sit on the floor– sat beside him, allowing Horror to lean against him. He curled a tentacle around him in lieu of a hug. Horror chuffed affectionately, a smile tugging at Nightmare’s face.

“I sent Killer to put Cross in bed. If you want, I’ll take Dust with me. You can join us when the cake is done.” Horror hummed agreeably. “mkay… won’t be long.” Nightmare stood up, cradling Dust in his tentacles. The other grumbled, shifting, before settling. Horror stared up at him warmly, waving as Nightmare teleported into his bedroom.

Killer looked up, his face illuminated from the light of his phone. A grin broke out on his face, “Hello there, Nightlight.” Nightmare rolled his eyelight, easing Dust on the bed beside Killer. “Hello, Killer.” Dust latched onto Killer, curling up against him. Killer slung an arm around him, pulling closer, lightly kissing his forehead. Cross had his head on Killer’s chest, dead asleep. Nightmare glanced at Cross, “Did you take his shirt off?”

Killer beamed, “'course I did, boss. Whaddya take me for?” Nightmare kicked his shoes off, leaving them scattered on the floor. “A fool.” Killer cackled, “Uh huh, sure.” Nightmare allowed himself a smile, shrugging off his jacket. “Alright, alright. You’re a handsome fool.” Killer snorted, “Flattery gets you everywhere, Nighty.” He winked, making Nightmare snicker. “That was hardly a compliment, darling,” Nightmare answered as he pulled his shirt off, casting it aside carelessly. Killer gave a hearty laugh, his soul inverted when Nightmare looked again.

Almost eagerly, Nightmare looked up, catching a glimpse of Killer’s pale eyelight. Killer didn’t even seem to notice, his gaze– Nightmare could actually see where he was looking, and he didn’t know whether to be flattered or not– on Nightmare’s bare ribs. “Fools, if I’m right, are for the king to entertain himself with.” Nightmare crawled onto the bed, the mattress hardly even shifting as Nightmare moved. “Do I entertain you, Nightlight?”

Killer watched, amused, as the king pausing to kiss Dust’s cheek and murmur an apology. Nightmare carefully moved Dust to the side, making room for himself at Killer’s side. “You’re definitely entertaining, though some days are lacking.” Killer gasped, feigning offense even as he held out an arm for Nightmare to lay against. “Oh? What am I lacking in, my liege?” Nightmare settled between Dust and Killer, resting his chin on Killer’s chest. “It’s not a big thing-” Nightmare’s hand slipped down, taking Killer’s phone. “-it’s a fairly small issue.”

The room went dark as the phone shut off, the only source of light being Killer’s soul. Nightmare tossing the phone away blindly, peppering Killer’s face and neck with kisses. Killer chuckled, his chest rumbling with it, “And that is?” Nightmare stopped his attack, leaning in with a mischievous grin. “You, my dear, are severely lacking-” He kissed Killer’s cheek, “-in the dick department.”

“Night!!” He burst into laughter at Killer’s offended whine, cooing and kissing him. “I’m just teasing, love.” Killer grumbled, “You better be 'just teasing.’ The only person with a small dick is-” The door opened, cutting off Killer midsentence. Horror stepped in, as quiet as he could be, closing the door ever so slowly. He shut it without a sound, turning around and freezing. Killer and Nightmare stared at him from the bed, both of them grinning. Horror smiled back, “um.. 'ello.” Nightmare snorted, elbowing Killer, “Horror has perfect timing.” Killer snickered, “Sure does.”

Horror tilted his head, humming in confusion. “I do?” Nightmare cackled, shaking his head and reaching an arm out. “Come and lay down.” Horror scratched his cheek, smiling. “Okay.”

—-

Horror refused to let Cross out of bed, holding him down with a hug and growling every time Cross even tried to move. Nightmare watched, amused. Killer was gathering some healing supplies and Horror’s HP food, and Dust was still snoring behind Horror.

Horror wasn’t entirely awake either, but even if he were awake, he probably still wouldn’t let Cross leave. Cross grumbled, going limp with defeat. This was fine.

Killer teleported in, a large, plastic tupperware in one hand and a bag of supplies in the other. Nightmare sat up, taking the bag and rifling through it, the bag rustling and the items inside thunking against each other. Killer set the tupperware on the bedside table, popping the lid off and producing a plate from his inventory. Cross didn’t know who to watch, his gaze flicking between Killer and Nightmare.

Killer creating a knife, Nightmare pulling out various items, Killer humming as he cut something, Nightmare putting the bag down, back and forth between them. The smell of chocolate decided for him. Cross’s gaze snapped to Killer, who had a sizable piece of chocolate cake balanced on his knife. Cross’s mouth watered. Killer set the cake on the plate, and let his knife vanish, taking a fork out. “Say ah, Crossy~” Cross’s face warmed, “No-”

Killer shoved the fork in his mouth, the metal scraping unpleasantly against his teeth and the spikes poking his tongue. Cross growled, glaring at Killer. That was not at all how you feed someon- Chocolate melted on his tongue, and his anger was forgotten. Cross groaned at the taste. Horror had no right being that good of a baker, he thought angrily, and accepted another forkful of cake. Killer snorted, “That good?”

Cross nodded, opening his mouth again. Killer took another piece of cake, popping it into his mouth instead of Cross’s. Betrayed, Cross scowled, watching Killer chew, furious. Killer chuckled, stabbing the cake. “Calm down, I just wanted to taste it too.” Cross only glared harder. Again, though, his anger faded as Killer fed him another bite.

Nightmare waited patiently, rummaging through the bag to pass time. He did not see Killer take a bite and kiss Cross, nor did he see the cake pass between them. He absolutely did not hear Cross or Killer. And he definitely didn’t want to see it again. “Alright, that’s enough. I still need to check that eye.” Killer pulled away from Cross, his grin chocolate stained. He licked his teeth, winking at Cross. “We’ll pick up later.” Cross blushed, and Nightmare quickly pushed away the mental image, clearing his throat.

Killer cackled, eating the last piece of cake on the plate, leaving the fork in his mouth. Cross averted his gaze, looking to Nightmare instead. “I think it would be easier if Horror let me sit up..” Horror huffed in protest, cuddling closer. Cross squirmed, “I’m not leaving, man, you can sit up with me-” Cross yelped as Horror sat up suddenly, keeping Cross held to his chest. Cross’s head spun, his eyelights going fuzzy for a moment. He groaned, his head dropping back on Horror’s shoulder. “…fuckin’ headrush..”

Horror rested his chin on Cross’s shoulder, his eyes closed as he purred. Cross eventually lifted his head, blinking away the hazy spots in his vision. “Alright, let’s do this, I guess.” Nightmare shifted closer to the bedside, glancing over the bandages on Cross’s head. “…where’s the end?” Cross hummed, “Oh, it’s, uh…” He wiggled an arm out of Horror’s embrace, tracing along the back of his skull. He quickly found the end where it was tucked beneath the rest of the bandages. He pulled at it, and the bandages immediately began to unravel. Nightmare helped it along, stopping the process just before the wound was uncovered.

“This might hurt..” Nightmare peeled the long bandage off, his eye narrowing. Cross’s shoulders curled, his body tensing. The gauze slipped off with a firm tug, Cross hissing as it did so. After having eaten the cake and sleeping, the wound had healed up some and didn’t hurt as much. Sure, it still hurt like a bitch, but at least Cross wasn’t screaming.

As soon as it was revealed, Nightmare dropped the bandages in shock. Cross smiled sheepishly, “Does it really look that bad?” Killer glanced over and had to do a double-take, his soul stuttering. “Holy shit!” Cross grimaced. Nightmare was frozen, looking horrified, and Killer was struggling to breathe behind him. Horror sleepily opened his eyes, his mind slowly processing what he was seeing. What was wrong? “mm.. wanna see..” Cross couldn’t even protest, Horror manhandling him around, squinting at Cross’s face.

His expression didn’t change for a long minute. Cross stared back nervously, waiting for the other shoe to drop. Horror’s eye dilated, and all of a sudden, Horror looked his namesake. His grin stretched wider than Cross had ever seen, his teeth looked sharper and there was a horrible creaking that couldn’t have come from anything but the cracks on Horror’s head. “who hurtcha, lilac?” His voice sent shivers down Cross’s spine. He couldn’t form a single coherent thought, his thoughts screeching to a halt.

And then Horror was normal again, whining and rubbing the back of his skull. Dust’s groggy voice came from behind him, slightly muffled. “calm down, 'ror… scarin 'em…” Horror blinked, looking at Cross, frowning. “’m sorry… jus’ worried..” Cross shook his head quickly, shaking off the nerves. “No, it’s okay, I just wasn’t expecting it.” Horror tucked his face into Cross’s shoulder, mumbling another apology.

The position allowed Cross to see Dust, the other curled in the blankets, half of his face hidden in the pillows. He met Cross’s gaze, blinking slowly. His eyelight flared, Dust shooting up from his spot. “Fucking stars, your face!” And suddenly, Cross was worried. Was he ugly now? Oh stars, what if he really was ugly? Then there were warm hands on his cheeks, tearing him out of his spiral before it started.

Dust was in his face, his eyelights still bright, but more worried than anything. “No, no, hey, stop that.” Cross’s expression relaxed, “okay.” Dust grinned, letting go and slipping around Horror to sit on the side of the bed. Horror pulled his head away, letting Cross shift around to face Nightmare again. Killer was scowling. “Cross, who the fuck did that.” Cross winced, averting his gaze and mumbling, “..Ink.”

Killer groaned, “That fucking painter! I’m going to beat his ass, I swear to the fucking stars.” As Killer continued to rant about all the things he’d do, Nightmare held up a few wipes, carefully, ever so carefully, dabbing at the dried blood. “Cross, I may not be able to heal this. I can stop the bleeding and seal it, but I can’t close the crack.” Cross sighed, “I know, boss. I expected as much.”

He grinned after a few seconds, “Do you think it makes me look cool?” Nightmare glared at him, and Cross deflated. Night took another wipe, sternly scolding Cross. “This is a serious injury. It does not make you look cool, it looks awful.” Cross’s smile wilted. “It-it does…?”

“Yes, I-” Nightmare cut himself off, backtracking quickly, sensing Cross’s rising insecurity a second too late. “Oh, no, Cross, that’s not what I mean at all! I just- I don’t like seeing you injured, I-” Nightmare fumbled with his words, his cheeks warming with embarrassment. “You’re very nice looking no matter what happens, alright??” Cross was smiling again, his face lightly dusted with purple. “Okay, boss.”

Nightmare nodded stiffly, pointedly refocusing on cleaning the crack.

Cross fingered at the almost sealed crack, frowning. His reflection was fogged with steam, the shower still running behind him. Horror peeked over the shower door, his eye narrowing. “ya okay, lilac?” Cross startled, a tiny squeak escaping. “Horror! Jeez, big guy, you scared me.” Horror chuckled, ducking back into the shower. “Whatcha.. thinkin’ bout?” He tipped his head forward, shivering under the spray of water. The stream hit his wound just right, alleviating a bit of the everpresent itch.

Cross hummed, his voice echoing a bit. “Not much, really. Just, uh.” Horror leaned further down to let the build-up of water pour out. “Yeah?” Cross sighed, “Is it supposed to hurt?” Horror spit out a bit of soap, wiping his mouth and shutting the water off. “It’s.. gonna hurt.. sometimes. Shouldn’t touch…. if it does. Might infect, or.. hurt more.” A fresh wall of steam billowed out as Horror slid the shower door open, stepping out to join Cross.

Cross was far more upset than he’d let on, his voice softened with distress. “…I.” Horror slipped his arms around Cross, holding him close. Cross flushed prettily, his face warming as Horror peppered kisses over the smaller’s skull. “s'ok, pumpkin. tell me… when it hurts, kay? c'n help.” Cross looked away miserably, “Help how?”

“Painkillers, snacks.. cuddles, comp'ny..” Horror trailed off into hums, reaching around to guide Cross into a sweet kiss. Horror had experience with this. He knew how to help soothe the pain. “’s gonna be.. ok. I gotcha..” Hopefully, it would work for Cross too. His little guard sighed, visibly better, and Horror smiled.