Only a Little in the Air
Disclaimer: Lazytown and all of its characters belong to their original copyright holders. I just want to play in the sandbox.
Relationships: Sportacus/Robbie, Iþrottaalfurinn/Glanni
Warnings: violence, bloodshed, little betrayals, monsters
Notes: This is already plotted out with over 90 bullet points, and this just hit bullet point number 1. It's going to be a long trip, but I am eager to start. It will have violence, fights, bloodshed, tears, and a lot of adult situations. It will also delve deep into magic. It is also being crossposted at AO3.
Lazytown, once the world's laziest little town, now sounded with laughter and cheer even in the depth of winter. After snowing all night, the morning sky was clear gray with a pale sun glaring over icicles on the rooftops. Heavy snow covered the roads and the park, burying the playground so that children waded through to the center, clearing a path for the smallest of them following in their footsteps as he absently dropped a steady trail of candy behind himself.
Not willing to dig blindly for their game equipment, one of them lay out a digital map of the park and figured just how much snow had fallen. The second child giggled as she considered how many snowballs that could make, while a third swore that "Trixie, if you start throwing snowballs, I'm going inside." And as the fourth child complained that he didn't want any of his snow to leave his park, the last boy wondered around his lollipop how big they could build snowmen with that much snow.
Which led to yelled instructions and arguing as they coaxed snow up off the frozen ground, leaving lines of black dirt behind as they rolled huge mounds together to make ever two taller snowmen. Which led to their resident "slightly above average super hero" backflipping onto the scene with convenient carrots for noses and radishes for buttons.
"Now remember," the hero said, kneeling to better see them eye to eye. "Food is not a toy. We'll eat these before we go, but putting them in snow means they'll be nice and crisp for later."
"Right, Sportacus." The pink girl took one of the spare radishes and bit deep, relishing the loud crunch that followed.
Across the park, leaning against the wall that ringed the whole area, a man in purple and maroon stripes watched them play through his narrowed eyes. Noisy, shouting at each other as their two huge snowmen grew so big that they started to merge at the base, the children played loud enough to have kept their resident villain awake, even if he'd been deep in his underground lair.
Not that he was in his lair. Or that he'd slept in the past two days.
From the little crowd, the pink haired girl spotted him and waved, inviting him to play. Stephano? Stephanyet? Either way, Robbie grimaced but gave a little wave in return and trudged through the snow, picking up a handful of white powder and patting it into a ball.
Ziggy watched him come, about to ask why Robbie wasn't wearing mittens, but he gasped when he saw the snowball and hid behind Trixie.
"We agreed no snowballs," Ziggy said, waving his lollipop at him. "It's too cold."
"I didn't agree to anything," Robbie said just to be contrary, and he ignored the way Sportacus crossed his arms and gave him a stern look. He didn't think Sportaflop would do anything unless Robbie actually threw it at one of the kids, anyway.
So when he reached his hand back, about to pitch, Sportacus gave a little gasp that Robbie actually meant to throw it. And then Robbie tilted and hurled the snowball up into the tree branches above them.
Bare branches shuddered and loose snow drifted down, followed by a startled cry as they all followed the way he'd aimed.
"My little red slingshot!" Trixie yelled, spotting the tiniest flash of paint nestled in a crook of twigs. "I lost that months ago!"
As she took a step toward the tree, Sportacus bent and put a hand on her shoulder.
"Whoa there," he said. "Trees in winter are dangerous to climb. There's ice and heavy branches just waiting to crack and fall."
At her crestfallen look, Sportacus grinned and gathered up a handful of snow in his blue glove.
"Don't worry—there's another way."
Building snowmen was put on hold as the children all started hurling their own snowballs at the tree. More and more, the branch shook and shuddered, and the slingshot started to edge out of its nook.
As he watched the children work, Sportacus took a step back, standing shoulder to shoulder with Robbie.
"Good eye," Sportacus said softly. "I didn't even think to look up."
Robbie shrugged, glancing briefly at the crystal resting quiet on Sportacus' chest.
"I wasn't going to say anything," he said, uncomfortable at being thanked. "I didn't think they'd invite me over."
"They genuinely like you," Sportacus said, and his smile grew small, fond. "We like you a lot."
"Well, I don't like the noise and the energy and the flippitying all over the place," he mumbled. "But...otherwise, I guess it's nice to have you around."
Sportacus' smile spread into a grin.
At last the slingshot tumbled to the snow amidst the children's cheers, and then Trixie was kept busy aiming radish buttons down the middle of what turned into a huge double snowman. They didn't have a hat, so Sportacus had to make a running leap to add the lollipops that Ziggy graciously volunteered, giving the snowman two rainbow antennae. Stingy even offered to let everyone claim the snowman, even Robbie, who was the only person tall enough to stretch upwards and carefully add the carrot nose.
"Now what?" Stephanie asked.
Sportacus considered, nodding his head once.
"Well, you've all been out here for a long time. It's a good idea to go inside and warm up, maybe with some hot cocoa?"
"But what are you going to have?" Pixel asked. "Cocoa has sugar in it."
"I'll go back to my ship," Sportacus assured them. "I could get a hot cider."
Ziggy tugged on Robbie's sleeve, making as face as Robbie pulled away.
"Aren't you coming in?" Ziggy asked. "You aren't even wearing a jacket."
Now everyone seemed to notice, no longer distracted by their games, and Robbie looked down at himself as if only now realizing that he should be cold. He grimaced and waved one hand dramatically.
"Look, I'm not even shivering," he said. "It just goes to show that being lazy makes you tougher. Conserves your warmth for when you need it later."
"I don't think it works that way," Sportacus chuckled, shooing the children off as a few of them showed signs of starting to shiver.
He watched the children run towards Stephanie's house, yelling something about hot cocoa, but he made no move to head back to his airship. As the last one went inside, Sportacus glanced over at Robbie.
The taller man wore no mittens, no hat, no scarf. Even his outfit looked normal, far too thin to be worn in such deep snow. The wind blowing flurries from the top of the snow made Sportacus shiver in his heavier winter uniform. He couldn't imagine how Robbie was managing.
"You want to come up?" he offered. "I feel cold just looking at you."
"I'm fine," Robbie said, shying away a step as Sportacus leaned a little too close. "I can't go inside yet anyway."
"Setting another trap for me?" Sportacus sighed.
Robbie sounded as puzzled as Sportacus looked. Weeks had passed since the last time Robbie had tried to catch him in a tiger pit. He'd simply felt less and less like trying to send Sportacus flying, until finally he'd sat down to sketch out blue prints for a new hero-ejecting machine, only to realize he didn't want to make one.
"I don't want you to..."
The words stuck in Robbie's throat.
"Don't want me to what?" Sportacus asked.
Robbie coughed. Wanting something and saying it out loud were clearly two different things.
"I don't want you trying to feed me sports candy," he said firmly. "And I wish you'd stop making the kids run around so much. There's nowhere in town that I can go for peace and quiet without a kid making a racket."
Sportacus smiled and rocked back on his heels. "Maybe you'd like sports candy if you tried it. Strawberries, mangoes, grapes and peaches—I think there's some fruit sweet enough for even you."
Robbie frowned. "Strawberries are only okay as garnish on cake."
Sportacus shook his head softly. "Well, the kids will be outside a little longer, but then they'll be in early tonight. Is that quiet enough?"
Robbie would have answered that night was the proper time for being awake, but something else about what Sportacus said caught his attention.
"They'll be in early tonight?" Robbie looked down at him, his gaze flicking toward his crystal again. "You're sure about that?"
"Yeah, pretty sure," Sportacus said. "Especially since it gets dark so early now. You will be, too. Right?"
"I...no." Robbie shook his head. "I need to look around the town again."
Sportacus frowned, his lips pressing to a thin line.
"I don't want you collapsing out here in the snow," he said. "There's no one out here for if—no, for when the cold catches up to you."
"And I told you, I'm fine," Robbie said.
He looked over the park again. The snow was a mottled mess of slush where the children had played, but further to the edges, the snow was pristine, a white field as smooth as fondant and icing. Even the roads were clear. No footsteps. No tire tracks. Not even bird tracks.
The wind blew like low moans around the tree branches, the only sound beside their breathing. And they were both aware that the other had not moved to go in, as if waiting for the other to leave first.
"Sportaflop..." Robbie started slowly. "Your crystal hasn't gone off today, has it?"
Sportacus folded his arms, adjusted his weight to his other foot.
"Are...are you sure?" Robbie asked.
Sportacus glanced up at him, weighing something visibly in his eyes.
"Did something happen?"
Robbie's shoulders hunched the way they always did when he grew uncertain, his lack of confidence creeping up on him. Why he had stayed to talk to Sportadork anyway? He'd been doing fine walking alone through the town, the only person on the frozen streets. No one to question him, to ask him why he was outside in the cold. No one to talk to and no one to be with.
"I don't know."
Sportacus watched the other man curl up in on himself, staring distantly across the park. Robbie was standoffish even at the best of times, interacting more easily with children than adults, and deciphering his reasons was challenging even when he deigned to answer. When he fell silent, Sportacus had only his admittedly dramatic gestures and expressions to go by.
Robbie's eyes narrowed.
Sportacus followed his look. The far tree by the mail box—no, beneath the immaculately snow-frosted branches, half-hidden by unbroken snow, the smallest dark red splotch. And a child's sneaker under the bare bush, a thin line of jeans under the snow.
"Oh god..." Sportacus whispered, already moving.
He was vaguely aware of Robbie following after him, of Robbie kneeling beside him as they began to uncover a child underneath the snow. As they cleared his face, Sportacus vaguely recognized him, a rarely seen face just a shade too old to hang out with the children anymore. He leaned close, putting his ear to the boy's mouth.
Faint, faint warmth.
"He's alive," Sportacus breathed, digging even faster. "Robbie, go call for help."
He had dug another three handfuls before he realized that Robbie wasn't moving, instead staring at something past Sportacus, something under the bush by the child's foot.
Startled, the villain stared at Sportacus for a moment, then realized what he meant.
Sportacus nearly had the child clear, putting his arms under where he guessed the boy's legs were and lifting. Something jerked tight, pulling against the boy's leg, and Sportacus had to hold the child close as Robbie pulled the bush away for a better look.
Their eyes widened.
A bear trap closed like a sharp vice against the child's ankle, caked with frosted blood.
Cursing in the cold air, Sportacus awkwardly leaned back, refusing to put the child back down on the snow. Without asking, Robbie grabbed either side of the trap, trying to pull it open.
It didn't budge.
"Switch," Sportacus said immediately, "I can probably force it—"
He didn't mention that he was stronger, that Robbie was too thin to pry it apart. It was obvious—a slightly above average hero was more physically capable than a junk-food loving, exercise loathing villain. So he was surprised when Robbie shook his head once, firmly, and instead pointed at the mayor's house.
"What? Did someone see—?" Sportacus said, looking over his shoulder.
He frowned. No. Nothing. No one was coming.
But he heard a sudden clank, and when he looked back, Robbie was holding the trap wide open.
Sportacus pulled the boy free, and Robbie let the trap clang shut again.
"Help me get him inside," Sportacus said. "Make the kids clear the front room. I don't want them to see this."
"Right, right," Robbie said, getting to his feet and heading for the mayor's house.
The rest of the afternoon was a blur of trying to warm up the boy who simply would not wake up, then talking to the mayor, to the paramedics, to the police. Robbie slipped away before the latter came, to no one's surprise, and aside from Ziggy's comment of "that guy," Sportacus barely noticed.
He had played games for, in retrospect, a horrific amount of time while someone lay injured and dying only a few meters away.
He stared out the window, feeling Stephanie touch his hand, but he had no words of comfort for her. They both watched the snow begin to fall again, covering the ground with a fresh layer. Covering anything else so that no one would see.
Someone had put a bear trap in a place filled with children.
Someone had nearly killed a child.
And his crystal had not gone off.