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Following Him

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Red still doesn't know what the hell he thinks he's doing, but he's fucking doing it. Here he is, sitting in a coffee shop that's five dollars too expensive for his wallet, stalking some weirdo who looks like the bastard kid Red might have had if he fucked a moldsmol. Every day, like clockwork, this thing that isn't fucking normal comes into this coffee shop and buys a venti triple chocolate chip frappuccino with 10 shots and no whipped cream. Every day, the human staff complains about how inconsiderate it is of a slime monster to track their slime all over their shiny human shop. Every day, the monster pointedly sits on the upholstery and enjoys his drink quietly, that single icy blue eyelight flickering to purples with each sip.

Normally, Red wouldn't give a shit about some weirdo with a coffee addiction. The problem lies in that his movements are making the humans twitchy, and twitchy humans means twitchy trigger fingers. Red can't have that when they only just got shit smoothed out enough to buy groceries without getting shanked.

The slimy bastard sits there, drinking his chocolate-and-coffee monstrosity like he is the only one in the room. Red watches from the corner of his vision, wishing the guy would take his drink to go so Red could find somewhere with a liquor license to bum around instead. It's at that moment that Red realizes he's locked eyes with the weirdo, the icy blue gaze holding him hostage, drawing him deeper into what seems to be an endless abyss, piercing as if to see the depths of him that no one else could hope to see-

The moment passes, there and gone. The weirdo stands from his ruined seat, leaving slimy black footprints on his way to the trashcan, where he places his empty cup in the recycling, then goes out the door. Red watches him through the window, then gets up and, this time, he tries to tail him. It isn't hard, since the idiot leaves a slime trail a toddler could follow blindfolded.

The footprints lead Red to a bookstore. He sees through the window that the slime monster is inside, perusing one of the shelves. Casual as you please, Red slips inside after him, and pretends to look at a few cookbooks while actually watching his mark. The guy lingers in the romance section, picking out a few titles with delicate gestures, putting them in a basket on the floor that Red failed to notice through the window. Three books from the romance shelf, then he rounds the corner to the childrens' section and takes some young adult novels, fairy tales, and what looks like a book about crafting.

Red picks up a cookbook to buy just to follow the guy up to the register inconspicuously. He watches him pay with cash, but walk away without his change, the bag of books in hand. Red goes up to the register to pay, just to keep his cover (not because he actually wants the book, don't be ridiculous), and the cashier looks at him with a weird smile.

"The last customer said to use this to pay for your book," the human says. "So let's see what the reduced price is for you…" As they ring Red up, Red sees that the cost of the book is less than the money the slime guy left behind. Red gets his book for free, wrapped up nice in a small bag he can stick into the inner pocket of his coat.

Red doesn't know how to feel about this. The book is an extra weight that thumps against his chest as he resumes following the slime creature.

The next place Red observes the suspicious little shit is a crafts store. Red follows him as he casually meanders the isles of yarn and fabric, putting his face close to the items without touching them. Red isn't quite sure what the hell he is doing, but it sure looks like he is sniffing the wares like some weird fabric sniffer. Although his slime leaves the tiled floor a bit of a hazard, the fabrics are left pristine, unstained and unmolested. The weirdo walks all over the store, making trails of dark on the white floor that cross over themselves, painting nearly half of it in black.

He picks up a set of crochet needles and pays quietly, the slime creature not saying a word. The bag of books he came in with is not in his hands when he leaves, and Red wonders when it was that it went missing. He never saw him put it down. He never saw it on the floor either.

It is dark when they leave the crafts store, winter taking the sun sooner in shorter days. Red would have thought that the dark would make seeing that slime harder, but to his surprise, it glows as if under blacklight. The dim, off-light shines from the slime creature's whole body, and though it seems to fade after it falls off, that glow lasts for several minutes. Red can easily continue following him as he wanders to yet another coffee shop, and orders a chocolate espresso with extra chocolate and coffee.

Red needs to buy something to stay in the cafe, so he makes to get a cheap black drink. What immediately sets Red on edge is when one of the baristas calls his name like he already ordered. Red goes to pick up the cup, and it's-

It's his favorite, coffee and cinnamon and ginger, like a bitter cookie. Red enjoys his coffee black because it is usually the cheapest, so he rarely gets to enjoy something so subtle and layered. What unnerves him the most is that he's never told a soul about it, only ever making it at home as a treat when nobody's looking.

How the fuck does that guy even know-

Red turns to look at the slime man sharp and quick. That piercing gaze is looking right back at him. Bastard has the audacity to wave. Red feels a chill go through him, like he's been seen in ways he never asked to be seen, and he isn't so sure he likes it.

The fact remains, however, that Red has been made, and he's too curious for his own good. He goes to the weirdo's table and sits, leveling him with his second most intimidating glare. "how th' fuck did ya know?"

The slime creature sits primly in his seat, his feet dangling a bit. He's so small, no more than four feet tall. That diminutive size does little to negate his unsettling presence. The slime doesn't cling to the silver circlet on his brow (or the pin holding his ren-faire cloak shut) like it seems to do everything else, the metal glinting over that knowing amethyst eyelight, glimmering like the last hope in the dark. When he smiles, it is shockingly white, polished ivory surrounded by oil.

"you will have to be more specific," the slime creature says, voice softer and deeper than Red would have expected.

"my name. the drink." Red gestures at it.

"a parlor trick." The slime creature sips his own caffeine source with great relish. "does it impress as intended?"

"that's one word fer it," Red admits. "...so ya know my name. what's yers?"

"i am called nightmare."

"edgy."

"i thought that you were called red."

Red is trying really hard not to laugh. This isn't funny. It isn't allowed to be funny. "wise-ass..." Red takes a sip of that drink, not worried about poison since it was made in public. 'Nightmare' at least has a sense of humor. "okay, nighty, so what th' fuk are ya, 'zactly, cuz i know ya ain't no monster like me."

Red knows every monster in the underground. He doesn't know nobody calling themself Nightmare.

Nightmare smiles wider. "i am he who takes, he who finds. but i am a monster... if only... a little bit more of one..." He smells his drink, breathing deep before taking a long, slow, savoring swig of it. Man liked his chocolate-coffee.

Red could appreciate that.

"'kay. where ya come from?"

"do you believe in other worlds?"

"mult'verse theory?"

"yes."

"shit."

"it is, for many."

Red chugs his drink until it is half gone, needing something to help balance out the sudden spike of existential dread. "...so you just... decided ta come here and what, have a fuckin' coffee?"

"yes." Nightmare says it easy as you please. "supplies are low where i live, so if i wish this luxury, it is better to find it where it is more abundant."

Red can't argue with that. "...so…"

Nightmare stands up, smiling at Red still. "while this little date of ours-"

DATE?! Red stiffened, feeling heat flood his face. He stalked a guy for the better part of a day, and he- he called it a date...! The book still in Red's coat pocket feels a little bit heavier, the warmth of the coffee cup in his hand a little bit hotter, the taste of it a little bit sharper where it lingers on his teeth.

"-has been... fun. i must be going." Nightmare casually walks over to the recycling can and drops his empty cup. Red watches him leave another slime trail on his way to the door. "until next time, red."

Night walks out the door, but Red doesn't see him step out the other side. It is as if he vanished.

It takes a moment more for Red to register: "...next time?"