A/N: These are based in an AU that a good friend of mine cooked up, in which Mortimer is a prostitute who Forge rescues from some abusive would-be johns. Have fun!

1: A Work in Progress

"What's that?" Mortimer leans over Forge's shoulder and peers at the strange contraption. Forge flushes and rushes to cover the mess of wires and metal bits and what looked like the inside workings of a watch.

"Nothing!" he yelps, looking as close to shifty as Mort's ever seen. The green mutant just looks at him narrowly, and mentally counts down three, two, one…

"Okay, it's…" Forge hems and haws a little, looking embarrassed. "Sometimes I get messing with stuff and don't even know what it's for yet."

"Uh, yeah, I can see that." Forge's unfinished projects littered the room. They weren't even restricted there, either, and popped up in strange places like between couch cushions, behind potted plants and under Mort's feet. So it was kind of impossible not to know Forge's favorite pastime. "So why you tryin' to hide this one?"

"Because this… thing… is for you." Forge uncovers his work area and holds it up, he figures Mort's seen it already. With all the springs and cogs and wires poking out, it looks like something between a modern art sculpture and a bomb that might explode at any moment.

"Aww… thanks, man." Mort grins. It might be the weirdest present he's ever gotten, but it's the nicest too. "So… what are you making, just for me?"

"…I'll let you know as soon as I figure that out."

2: Walk of No Shame

"Fireflies are tangy," Mort licks his lips with a toothy grin, and tosses a couple apples to Forge, who somehow catches both of them in his mechanical hand. "Kinda a burnt aftertaste. Normal houseflies are pretty boring, just your basic meat-n-potatoes stuff."

Forge smiles with a little shake of his head, grabbing a bag of pretzels off the shelf. This was really more than he ever wanted to know about the subtleties of insect cuisine – but he likes seeing Mort get this enthusiastic about something. About anything. He's grinning and talking with his hands in a thoroughly un-Mort way – he's finally starting to come out of that shell he's built up around himself over the years on the street.

"But the best? Okay, have you ever been to the Florida Everglades? 'Cause OH MY GOD, the black flies there get up to like the size of-"

He suddenly breaks off and stops dead. Forge doesn't stop in time and bumps into his back, almost dropping the pretzels.

"Woah, you-" Forge starts – then sees the way Mort's staring into space. Stock-still and gripping his red plastic shopping basket so tight his knuckles are turning white even under the green. "Hey." Forge steps up beside him, peering into his face. "You okay?"

Mortimer doesn't answer, just keeps staring, and Forge can feel his whole body tense beside him, the amphibian fight-or-flight instinct kicking in with the adrenaline.

So Forge turns to see what has him so rattled.

Sees the three grimy young men winding their ways through the shelves, casting furtive glances around like they were casing the joint. Or doing the worst job of not looking guilty after shoplifting that Forge had ever seen.

Then one of them looks their way. A pair of beady little eyes sweep over him and Mort, and a wide toothy grin spreads across the thug's face. A smug, sharp, predatory, awful face. He gives Mort a very slow, very deliberate nod, and moves on.

The silence is broken by Mort's basket falling from his nerveless hands and clattering to the floor. Forge doesn't move to pick them up; the groceries aren't what's on his mind.

"Those are the guys, aren't they?" Forge asks quietly, when Mort doesn't move or speak. But he nods mutely, and doesn't seem to notice the bag of chips resting on his foot.

"Come on." Forge says. "It's okay, let's just… get out of here." He puts his warm, flesh-and-blood arm around Mortimer's shaking shoulders, steering him gently toward the exit, leaving the spilled groceries on the floor behind them.

They exit the aisle nearest the door – but there they are again. Those three dumbass punks, chattering like crows and standing between them and the automatic convenience store doors – the only way out. Mort stops again, and Forge positions himself between him and the three hoods. They're mumbling and nudging each other and laughing about something. From the sharklike grins in their direction, Forge is pretty sure of the joke.

Catcalls now. Jeers and slurs and obscene hand gestures. One of them gets out a dollar bill and waves it in the air, and Forge feels his stomach clench with rage.

And now Forge has a choice. Turn back, wait in the back of the store until the punks were gone… let them win, but at least avoid a conflict. Maybe not the most satisfying option, but the safest one at least.

But it's not what he wants to do. He wants to run over there with his metal fist raised and bring it crashing into the jaw of one of those laughing faces. For the first time that he can remember, he wants to hurt someone, feel the crack of bone beneath his hand, draw back his steel foot and slam it into a set of ribs while the cockroach lays on the ground gasping for breath.

Make them feel exactly what they'd made Mortimer feel.

And he wanted to. He wanted to so badly, he's shocked at his own anger, surprised at himself. It immediately makes him feel a little sick.

But then something interrupts him.

A warm, scaly hand slipping into his. And, God, it was Mortimer pulling him forward, squeezing his hand as they started to walk through the fire.

"It's okay." Mort whispers in a soft, croaky voice, and he sounds so sure and so confident that Forge can't believe it. "They can't hurt me anymore."

As they walk forward, Mort locks eyes with all three of them, each in turn, doesn't blink or look away. And something about that look makes them stop talking and laughing… and just stare. And Forge shakes his mech arm out of his sleeve, making sure they get a good, hard look at it – but they don't even seem to be paying that much attention to him.

They're quiet. Forge doesn't know if it's his arm, or Mort's determined, unflinching eyes, or the fact that the convenience store clerk is eyeing them warningly, while a surveillance camera swivels their way.

But the punks part like the Red Sea.

And Forge and Mortimer walk hand in hand out the door, leaving the thugs to mutter and spit on the ground behind them.

"Mortimer…" Forge breathes as soon as he can again, a few steps later. "That was amazing."

Mort gives a jerky little shrug. He doesn't look up at Forge, but he hasn't let go of his hand either. "I should really be thanking 'em." He says, and there's still some steel in his voice. But now that edge is passionate, not aggressive. He isn't in attack or defensive mode anymore but he's still burning bright, and Forge has never seen this intensity in him before.

"What?" And all Forge can do is stare at this new Mortimer, the shell he'd been thinking of before was open now. And out had stepped someone suddenly strong and bold and unstoppable. Somehow beautiful.

"If they hadn't… done what they did to me," Mort stops walking then, and stares up into Forge's wide, marveling eyes. "I wouldn't have met you." His face breaks into a grin then, wide and mischievous. "And then I'd still be blowing guys like that, instead of standing up to them!"

Then he stands up on his tiptoes, wraps his arms around Forge's neck, and kisses him.

Forge's head spins. He doesn't even know how they get home. He's just so happy when they do.

3: Leapfrog

It doesn't bother Forge anymore. It used to, it used to make him so jealous his face would burn as he pulled Mortimer aside to some secluded corner and hissed "Mort, what the hell?!" But not anymore.

It's not even a sexual thing. At least, he thinks not. He's talked to both of them in private, and after receiving respective answers of "Fuck if I know! I just – have to!", and "Ich nicht weiß, Forge! Truly!", respectively… he still doesn't get it.

But he trusts both of them, and after a while he gets used to it. In the end he just chalks it up to a particularly weird rivalry-turned-friendship.

It's just an inevitability by now. If Mortimer and Kurt are ever in the same room for any amount of time, nine times out of ten they're going to end up on top of one another.

Flycatcher

After Mortimer woke himself up screaming for the third time, Forge finished his project.

"Here," he said, handing the strange object to Mort, who turned it around in his hands, looking at it curiously "I think this'll help."

"What is it?" Mortimer plucked one of the tightly drawn strings. The thing looked like a spiderweb of wire and twine strung across a metal ring. There were tiny bolts, cogs and gears knotted into the wire like caught flies. Small rusted pipes and bits of scrap metal hung on chains, ringing softly together like windchimes.

"It's a dreamcatcher," Forge said with a smile, proud of himself. Even though it wasn't really technology, it was still one of the most intricate and difficult things he'd ever made.

"They're supposed to catch bad dreams and only let good ones through. I had one when I was little, and for a long time after I came back from…" but he doesn't finish that thought. "I don't need one anymore. So I thought I'd make one for you."

Mort can't answer right away. He just curls around Forge, wrapping all four limbs around his torso, and clinging like a baby squirrel. He hangs on very tightly. "Thank you," he mumbles into Forge's chest after a while. "Maybe now we can both get some sleep."

Forge chuckles quietly and squeezes back; Mort's ear is pressed against his chest and he can feel that soft laugh reverberate through his breastbone.

"Hey," Mort says, something occurring to him. "You said you didn't need one anymore?"

"Mm-hmm."

"How'd you get over 'em? The nightmares?"

"Because I still have something that catches all my bad dreams and makes them disappear."

"Huh? But you said -"

"It also catches flies."

Mort smiles so hard his cheeks ache, and he blinks hard. From then on, he doesn't really need a physical dreamcatcher hanging over his bed, but it's comforting to know it's there.