First Pearls Before Swine fic ever. Wow. This is pretty nifty.

Disclaimer: Stephan Pastis owns them, not me. That would be too cool.

Faith

Pig lays there and hopes the bruises fade, but he knows they will because that's what they always do, right? And he must deserve them in some respect, or else Rat wouldn't have beat him up again. Right? Of course. He guesses that perhaps the idea was a little stupid, and that maybe if he was going to sit in a bucket waiting for the world to end that he should have placed himself in such a location so Rat wouldn't find him—because all of his good ideas, his flashes of brilliance that fill him with a fleeting pride always end in bruises. Why did he expect this time to be any different?

Distantly he hopes for someone to come down to the basement, since he hates just lying on his side like this. It's not a finished basement, and the floor is cold stone with a significant layer of dust that rolls onto his right cheek. At this angle, Pig can see everything he never noticed before: the contours waves of dirt when the place floods during a rainstorm, the rusted foot of the broken bathtub, a bug or two. One approaches his face and he tries to squirm away, but the bucket is too heavy and constricting. If it was a nice bug, a butterfly—he likes those—then he would be gladly welcoming. But ants and their twitching antennae and their spindly legs and their vicious pincers that were featured on the Discovery Channel just that morning worry him. Never mind that the ant is no larger than his thumbnail—he doesn't want it crawling on him. Thankfully it meanders away blindly, over toward the bathtub and the empty moldering boxes inside.

A sigh of relief escapes Pig, just as the floorboards above him creak under one of his roommates' weight. He considers calling for help (the bucket isn't getting any smaller) but then he realizes that it might be Rat, and Rat might be keen on venting more anger. But it could always be Goat, or even Zebra, or, if his luck is really awful today, one of the crocodiles across the street having finally broken in. Larry and Bob and whoever else could be slinking through the house, ready to pounce on his unsuspecting friends and he can't do a thing. The thought brings a silent grimace of terror to Pig's face and makes him try to squirm out of the bucket. In doing so his head hits against the unforgiving floor, right on one of the spreading splotches of black and blue. He hisses and bites his lip as to silence himself. No help could be given if the crocodiles find him here, helpless and already injured.

Even though it was Rat who did this to him, Pig hopes that the crocodiles don't kill Rat, if they are even in the house, which he now realizes is very improbable (those reptiles couldn't break into their own house if they had the key). He thinks absently of their stint in the monastery after fleeing from their apocalyptic refrigerator—neither of them could spell those lengthy names, least of all "Leviticus," and it hindered their Bible copying. Maybe it was the spelling that forced Rat to drink and smoke and get them kicked out. But after deciding that Leviticus could go by Levi, Rat had skipped ahead to another book, one with more user-friendly words. The magnetic letters' message seemed far behind that day. Who could fret over the coming apocalypse while learning calligraphy and catechism? Pig labored on, and Rat stared at the passage he was supposed to copy, then turning to his companion.

"'Do unto others as you would have them do unto you,'" he read, and Pig too put down his quill as he shifted on the stool. "What's that even supposed to mean?"

"I think it's pretty straightforward," Pig replied.

"Well…yeah, but…" he said, frowning in thought. "It's a pretty narrow view of the world. In a way. What if you're a masochist? You know—OK, maybe you don't," he commented upon catching Pig's confused expression. "Those people who like being in pain. Aren't they just going to be complete jerks to the world so the world can be a complete jerk back?" Pig stared; it was rare when Rat voiced such thoughts, and there was a silence as Pig waited for the cynical afterthought. But it didn't come—Rat was waiting for his opinion, a look of genuine curiosity contorting his face.

"Um, I guess…" Pig said quietly. "It would work out for them, 'cause they'd be happy that they were miserable, but everyone else would be sad too. It doesn't sound like a very nice situation," he added.

"OK," Rat murmured, nodding, and he picked up his quill once more.

Suddenly Pig's face is illuminated by a bright rectangle at the top of the stairs. He can't remember how long he's been laying there in his bucket or where that ant went and he hopes it's not crawling on him now. In the light, he can barely see, though he can make out a blob, a shadow clunking down the stairway. Is it a crocodile? No, it can't be, for its movements are far too stable. Larry and Bob would be careening down haphazardly.

A disgruntled sigh pierces the silence. "You stupid pig…" The voice says, and Pig immediately recognizes him as Rat, but he doesn't mind that it's him. Better Rat than nobody, really. But the only thing Pig wishes for is for his bruise count to not grow any larger. "What are you still doing here?" At this point, Rat is peering over Pig's face, his expression unreadable, though that's probably due to the darkness and Pig's slow adjustment to the light.

"I'm stuck," Pig says simply.

"You should have thought of that before you shoved yourself in this thing." Without another word, Rat reaches down around the bucket and sets it straight, wrapping his arms around his roommate and hoisting him out, and not without effort. The bucket is sizable, but not sizable enough to fit Pig comfortably. "There."

Reveling in the newly-regained movement of his legs and arms, Pig lightly brushes off the dirt and grime cemented to his cheek and then checks himself for that ant. It's not there, and as he doesn't understand Pig's actions, Rat stares curiously.

"Thank—" says Pig.

"Ooo, hold still," Rat interrupts. "Your eye looks really bad." As it should look: Rat's fist connected there only that afternoon. The normally cheerful orb is almost completely pushed shut by the angry purple ring around his eyelids. Even from his distance, the throbbing is very much visible. "Come on." He grabs Pig's forearm and drags him upstairs and into the kitchen.

Pig wonders where everyone is, and a brief stab of panic thinks of the crocodiles but that quickly fades; his wondering turns to Rat, and why he won't let go of him arm as he scours the long galley kitchen. All the while, among the pots and pans and leftovers, he's murmuring to himself and keeping his unbreakable grip. The murmuring ceases once they reach the end—on a large plate surrounded by yet unused salts and seasonings, is a gleaming red ribeye steak.

"Goat can get over it," Rat says confidently as he scoops up the raw meat and slaps it across Pig's injured eye. "Keep that on there; it'll help. And sit down, for God's sake." He motions with his head to the breakfast table in the small nook behind them, and Pig goes wordlessly.

When he finally sits, he finds Rat with his one steakless eye. "Thanks."

Sighing, Rat shrugs and turns back the other way toward the kitchen's door. Pig watches him leave and does nothing to stop the bloody juices from falling to Goat's meticulously cleaned floor; his thoughts are too preoccupied to be troubled with salmonella contamination. But at the last second, his staring pays off—in the doorway, Rat pauses and turns his head ever so slightly, and his mouth twitches into a smile so quick that even slow-motion film would have been challenged trying to capture it. Pig has faith in it, as strange as it seems, and maybe—just maybe—it's what keeps his resentment at his friend from ever surfacing at all.

XXX

Feedback would be awesome, as I've never written anything with these characters or for any comic before.