This was inspired by a meme my sister did, that asked her to come up with a title for a hurt/comfort fic about Eridan and Tavros. I liked the title, and this is the result.
A few quick notes, and then I'll get out of the way. First, this takes place after Tavros gets his robo-legs, but before Eridan gets really desperate with his romantic overtures. If you think too hard about when this could actually be, it probably won't work, so please don't bother. Secondly, the interactions in this can be interpreted as romantically or unromantically as you want, in any quadrant you want. Think of it however makes you happy.
Eridan wrote obscene things in the dust on his monitor with one fingertip as he sat and bemoaned the abject cruelty of his fate. The longer he sat thinking about how terribly everything always worked out for him, the more miserable he felt. Still, it felt better to dwell on the injustices of the past than to contemplate the ones likely to populate his future, as well as to look back on the time when his friends were actually capable of tolerating his existence.
He was, at the moment, alone. This was not an uncommon state of affairs for the meteor upon which the trolls had been stranded. In fact, it felt like days since any of the others had voluntarily approached him. (Eridan paused for a moment to reflect on his inner monologue's use of the word days. There really was no consistent system of day and night in this game, and people slept pretty much whenever they felt like it, which usually involved unceremoniously conking out in an inconveniently public area. Eridan himself had somehow embarked on a sleep schedule in direct opposition to that of most of his companions. He suspected that this was, on their part, at least somewhat intentional.)
It occurred to Eridan that the newest discomfort welling in his think-pan was hunger, followed by a generous helping of self-pity. All of his states of mind these days (again, ignore the word) involved self-pity. It was not, he supposed, terribly good for his mental health, but he was far too busy wallowing in utter despair to concern himself with such trifles as reality.
He rose from his computer, hoping to somewhere in the lab find a remedy for at least one of his current woes. Food seemed more imminently available than psychological help, at least with Karkat in his current state of high anxiety, and certainly more immediately satisfying. Eridan slouched his way past Terezi, who was inappropriately licking someone else's computer, and Gamzee, who for some reason was not wearing a shirt, as he crossed the room. Eridan grimaced. Had that clown no sense of decency? There were ladies present. And royalty.
The last location where Eridan had encountered food—under one of the computers—was empty. Of course. Something going right for him was just more than the universe could bear. He heaved a breathy and theatrical sigh, then leaned against the wall with a pout. He stood like this for a good while before finally dropping the pose, at least until he was certain that none of his friends were about to come and ask what was wrong. (Or, perhaps, to profess some previously hidden romantic feelings for him. He would have been equally pleased with that eventuality, were it to arise.)
When no caring and curious inquirers presented themselves, Eridan sighed once more, this time quietly, and stepped onto the transportalizer. In a flash the lab was quiet, spacious, and more than slightly dank. It felt considerably more lonely than had the other room. He stuck close to the walls, where he did not feel quite so dreadfully exposed, as he transportalized again and set out down the wide hall. If there was still food somewhere on the meteor, he was determined to find it.
Eridan's nostrils quivered as he reached the edge of the steps. An odd scent was wafting upward from below. Had anyone been there with him to discuss it, he would have described the smell as being brown, and probably not food, but as he was thoroughly alone, he settled for turning and relating this observation to his shadow. After this was done, it seemed rude to end the dialogue so abruptly, but the other conversant was being rather unforthcoming. Instead, Eridan flashed his shadow a quick thumbs-up (which it returned) and moved on down the steps.
When he had made it to the middle landing the source of the smell became apparent. At the bottom of a long, faint, and chocolate-colored smear that began several steps from the platform, zigzagged to the other side of the stair, puddled, petered out into a series of vague hand prints, and re-concentrated into a regular drip-speckle-smudge pattern, lay the helpless form of Tavros Nitram.
Well. Eridan's suspicions had been correct. The brown smell most certainly did not correspond to food. (Not until he was considerably more hungry and desperate than he was at the current moment, anyway.) It did, however, correspond to a very inconvenient roadblock. Tavros and the now-congealing trickle of brown blood that was oozing from him effectively blocked the hall, unless Eridan was prepared to get his shoes rather sticky.
He paused, unsure of how to proceed. He didn't think the other boy had noticed him yet. With any luck, he could sneak back upstairs, and, considering how utterly apathetic the other trolls were to his existence, none would even realize he had left. He wanted no part in the debacle before him.
His shadow had remained silent thus far on the matter before him, so Eridan turned to ask its thoughts on the situation. He was shocked, however, to find it giving him a very dark look. Such impudence. He flashed it a rude hand gesture, which it had the sheer gall to return, before deciding that associating with such shady characters was beneath him, and turning away.
Eridan slipped back behind the corner of the landing, where Tavros would be unable to see him, before letting out the breath he hadn't realized he had been holding. He had certainly avoided a sticky situation there. He began walking back toward the other room, but stopped short when there in front of him again was his shadow, still giving him that terrible dark glare.
Well. What did it know, anyway? It was just a big ugly spot on the wall. Shadows that could think and be mean and judge him weren't real, just like wizards weren't real, and they weren't even awesome and fun like wizards were. Still, Eridan found himself rooted to the spot, unable to return to the lab. His shadow glared back at him sullenly. His stomach gurgled; a bead of condensation dripped through his shadow's head. Eridan matched his adversary glare for glare, but found it was impossible to win a staring contest against something that didn't have eyes. He heard a faint groan of pain from the bottom of the steps and the sound of metal scraping against stone. Blast. If he didn't move soon, the situation was going to find him.
Eridan's stomach tightened. He didn't want to deal with a gooey, injured Tavros; he didn't want to be found standing above a gooey, injured Tavros. By all logic, he should have been off and away. Still, there he stood, scowling at a wall while his shadow scowled back.
Eridan sighed. Stupid judgmental shadow. Stupid unwanted feelings of sympathy. It was so hard being a kid and going through all this crap.
He stepped out from behind the corner and briefly surveyed the scene. Tavros had turned himself over and was attempting to ascend the steps using only his arms. Eridan gave a small snort of exasperation at this folly—whether his own or Tavros's, he wasn't sure—and descended to where the other troll was struggling.
"Eridan?" Tavros stared up, his face a curious mixture of pain and befuddlement. He opened his mouth to speak again, but when words failed to come he left it hanging open. He looked rather like a carp.
Eridan crossed his arms as he regarded the other boy. As endearing as his fishlike expression was, Tavros was no less repulsive when prone and defenseless than he was when mobile. A cursory glance revealed him to be mostly uninjured, except for the still-bleeding kink in one of his robotic legs that would have been sickening to behold were Eridan not already nauseated by all the disgusting lowblood smeared about.
The silence stretched on long enough that he resorted to his default method of communication. "It seems you got just what you deserved for being stupid enough to go running around on the steps like an idiot." Saying this boosted Eridan's self-assuredness a little, though he supposed that petty insults were a bit counterproductive if he had really come down to be helpful.
"I'm sorry." Tavros spoke like he were expecting divine justice to rain down upon him at any moment. Stupid boy. He should have known that Eridan was both a powerful and benevolent wielder of Science. "I was, uh, practicing with my new legs, but, uh, I think something in them may have… exploded, or something."
Eridan snorted. "Well, you could still have had the decency not to smear your worthless sludge everywhere like an incontinent squid." He crouched down to examine the damage. The one leg was obviously broken, and the other one seemed to be jammed up somehow, but robotics were really not his field of Science. Something did smell like fried wiring, though. This was not a very appetizing smell. If this kept up, Eridan figured he would be less concerned with finding his next meal than he would be with keeping his last meal down. "Can you get back up?"
"I, uh, don't think so." Tavros shifted his weight and jerked his unbent leg away from where it had caught on the edge of a step. "I tried, and it, uh, didn't go too well." His eyes briefly flicked to an impressive spray of dark blood that was splattered from the floor next to him to at least six feet up the wall.
Eridan's eyes narrowed slightly. So much for getting the boy up and sending him on his merry way. He stepped back, grimacing, as he considered the problem before him. If he wasn't such a wonderfully generous person, he would be out of here already, probably feasting on delicious food. None of his friends appreciated how great he was.
It seemed to Eridan that he would have to pull Tavros up the steps somehow. He regarded his spindly arms with some misgivings, realizing that he really had let himself go since his grand old days of campaigning. Now his body was better suited to plumbing the mysteries of Science than for grunting and dragging useless loads from place to place. He seemed to have stumbled into a situation calling for the skillset of a very different troll.
He briefly considered going for help, but Eridan dismissed the idea almost as soon as it arose. To be struggling to aid a lowblood was embarrassing enough, but to run shrieking for help to a bunch of filthy land dwellers as soon as a challenge appeared was a level to which he simply refused to sink.
His eyes flicked Tavros up and down, searching for the best way to move him. He could have grabbed him by the feet, but his shirt would probably have gotten covered in nasty brown slime, and Tavros might have complained a bit to have his head dragged across the stonework. Nor was Eridan strong enough to carry the other boy in any practical way. He thought for a few moments more before his eyes finally settled on Tavros's head. Sometimes, he supposed, you had to grab the bull by the horns.
"Get on your back," Eridan ordered, stepping around the blood smear to just above the other boy.
"What?" Tavros stared at him, uncomprehending. There was that stupid weirdly-endearing fishy face again.
"I mean," Eridan said, gritting his teeth slightly, "you should roll over so I can get a grip on your horns and drag you up these steps, unless you really want me to slam your stupid ugly face into the stairs every time my fingers slip." Tavros complied, with much reorganization of his useless legs, occasional blood spurts, and strangled gasps of oh-no-such-awful-pain. Eridan was not impressed.
Tavros's horns were less easy to grip than they appeared. For all they looked like a perfect replica of the handlebars of some two-wheel-device, they were too wide to grab at the base and too smooth to hold where they curved up. Every time Eridan dropped Tavros's head while establishing his grip he would hear another one of those annoyingly pitiable gasps of pain. Had the brainless lowblood no sense of appreciation at all for what was being done for him? Eridan was of half a mind to leave him flailing there like the sad fishbait he was.
But no, he wouldn't do that. Because he was a miraculously kind wizard of white Science who would not abandon one of his friends, even if the friend in question was common and annoying and not really that friendly with him at all.
Eridan finally settled on a grip that kind of worked, holding one horn around the tip—almost stabbing himself in the process—and putting his other hand right under where the opposite horn curved up. Well, he thought, it's time to get this mess over with.
The first step was not a resounding success. Eridan's scrawny arms screamed in protest as he heaved Tavros over the threshold of the stair. His hand on the tip of the horn slipped, and Tavros came down hard on the stone with a thud and a breathy cry.
"Oh, shut up," Eridan said through gritted teeth. No one would ever catch him screaming like a ninny. He grabbed the dropped horn again, this time in a hold mirroring the opposite side, and tried another step.
This time both hands slipped, though neither lost its hold entirely. Another shriek from Tavros. Well, thought Eridan, at least they were two steps closer to their goal.
He readjusted both hands closer to the base before trying again. The third step was a moderate success, with no screaming from either involved party. Emboldened, Eridan took the next more quickly.
His arm muscles shook and almost gave out. He didn't know if the metal legs made Tavros that much heavier, or if he himself was just that much weaker than he had realized, but the effort it took not to drop the other boy made his vision go briefly white. He looked up toward his goal, and immediately regretted it. At this rate, he estimated his chances of making it to the first landing before expiring of hunger to be rather slim.
On the fifth step, Eridan was fairly sure his arms would have completely given up had he not unexpectedly slipped on a smear of blood and fallen hard onto the stone floor. As he hit the ground, he let loose what he hoped was a manly and dignified exclamation of discomfort, but which sounded suspiciously like a girly scream of agony. He sat where he had fallen, nursing his pride as much as anything, until the pain had subsided. Only then did he return his attention to Tavros.
Tavros had avoided having his head cracked open on the edge of a step by landing partially on top of Eridan's leg. This, to Eridan, was just adding insult to injury, but he was past the point of caring. He was ready to be done with this little escapade as soon as possible, so that he might return to his normal routine full of fun, food, and friendship.
Using his hands to pull Tavros up was obviously not working. Instead, Eridan tried hooking his elbows around Tavros's horns. This was rather awkward, as it resulted in Tavros's head resting against Eridan's chest, but it was much easier to drag and maneuver.
Eridan couldn't see Tavros's face, and was grateful for it. "Shut up. You should be thanking me."
Tavros slumped back, realized that meant leaning his chest against Eridan, and promptly straightened again. "Uh, thanks, I guess."
He guessed? Eridan's lip curled into a snarl. Unbelievable. Even when he was directly helping someone he wasn't appreciated.
Standing up was a bit ungainly with such a load in front of him, but Eridan managed with as little fuss as he could. He would get this stupid ungrateful maggotbrain to the transportalizer, and then he was going to either kill someone, or find a corner to cry in.
Ascending the steps was much simpler with this new arrangement, but Eridan scarcely appreciated it. With each step the weight of Tavros's head on his chest felt like a physical reminder of everything that made him so miserable. Without realizing it, his elbows gradually tightened around Tavros's horns, pulling his head so close that Eridan could hardly breathe.
All his plans had failed his entire life. (Another blood smear on the stone. Eridan stepped around it.) He had been given the worst land in the game, and none of his friends had even bothered to help him. (Tavros's leg got caught on a step. Eridan kicked it free.) Everyone had ignored his contributions to their success. (Paused for a moment to readjust elbow position. Took a gasping breath, and went on.) And now, all his friends hated him for absolutely no reason. (He was feeling a bit light-headed. Odd.) What had he done to deserve such an awful rotten life?
Eridan looked down at where Tavros's ankle joint had gotten caught on the last step before the landing. His head felt dangerously fuzzy, but he ignored it and tried to kick the leg free. He missed, and in his frustration put all his strength into trying to yank the joint loose. He heard a pop, and saw a thin stream of brown blood before his mind clouded over completely, and he fell.
When the world swam back into focus Eridan was greeted by the cold grey stone of the ceiling. Ugh. His stomach felt awful and his chest felt like it had been sat upon by someone outrageously fat. A low buzz of anger fizzled in the corner of his think-pan, but he pushed that aside as physical discomfort dominated his concerns.
Sitting up turned the world white for a few more seconds, but Eridan held on to consciousness, and soon his head cleared. A few seconds more, and his thoughts got themselves back in order enough for him to remember what was going on.
Finding Tavros took only a moment. The other troll was propped against the wall of the landing, his breathing slightly labored. His previously injured leg looked the same, but the ankle of the other leg had popped out of position and was releasing a rivulet of brown blood. That was vaguely troubling. Trolls had a lot of blood, but with the way Tavros had been squirting it around like cheap grub sauce, it wasn't going to last forever. That boy, Eridan thought, was weirdly breakable for a supposedly-strong cyborg hero.
Eridan rose to his feet hesitantly, noting that he had been moved from the edge of the steps onto the middle of the landing. His head seemed better, but his chest still felt abused and his hunger was reaching unpleasant levels. He crossed over to where Tavros was sitting and, feeling suddenly rather tired, sat down next to him.
Tavros opened his eyes and regarded Eridan warily. Eridan's nostrils flared, but he was still too out of sorts to get worked up. Finally, he broke the silence.
"What stupid thing did I do now?"
Tavros winced and crossed his arms over himself. "Well, you kind of fainted while you were carrying me up, so I pulled you off the stairs. I'm, uh, sorry I did that without asking but you were kind of unconscious, and thanks for bringing me up here. I can probably crawl the rest of the way on my own."
Eridan blinked at Tavros's non-sequiter but chose to ignore it. The anger he had suppressed was started to bubble up again as a kind of throbbing headache. "Don't be an idiot. I can bring you the rest of the way." It seemed he was such a failure that he couldn't even help one of his friends up the stairs without making an embarrassment of himself. He may as well finish what he had started, and with any luck he could get through it without any other pathetic fainting episodes.
"Well… thanks," Tavros said, looking distinctly uncomfortable. He kept glancing at Eridan every few seconds, shifting his weight from one side to the other, and then looking back at his bleeding foot.
Right. Bleeding. Eridan's lip curled. He had to stop the ugly slime before it pooled and seeped onto his clothes. He pulled his knees under him and scooted over to where his friend was bleeding out.
As far as he could tell, the ankle joint had come cleanly away from the leg. He figured a hinge might be out of its socket, or something. Robotics really was not his field. The problem was that one of the blood veins had snapped from the stress.
Stupid. What a stupid situation. Why did Equius even put blood into the stupid robo-legs? Land dwelling imbecile. Now Eridan's hands would get all covered in this hideous brown gunk. He reached in and grabbed one severed end of the vein, letting viscous brown blood slide over his hands and stream down past his wrists. It wasn't a real vein he was holding, of course, so this wasn't nearly as icky as the surge of nausea in Eridan's stomach told him it was. And, since it wasn't a real vein, he figured it would be all right if he just kind of… tied the ends off, or something. Whatever. The blood flowing over his hands had formed a congealed layer, and he tried to push his sleeves up with his opposite elbows to save his clothes from more damage, with little success. The vein was slippery and hard to hold, but his fumbling fingers finally got a knot tied. He tied several more knots in the same end, for good measure, then tied off the other end. That done, he sat back dazedly for a moment before the full impact of the smell hit him and he ran to puke purplish gunk over the edge of the stairs.
Finished, Eridan sat, staring at the far wall and not thinking about anything he had just done or what his hands looked like or his shirt or his cape or his pants. It occurred to him that Tavros wasn't wearing any pants. Lucky guy. Maybe if Eridan weren't wearing pants he wouldn't be experiencing the curious sensation of cloth going stiff with someone else's blood on the top of his legs.
There was that voice again, saying his name in that annoying questioning tone that was really starting to grate on his nerves. Eridan wiped what blood he could off his hands and turned back to where Tavros was sitting. Next to his friend, he noticed that his shadow was there, too, looking perhaps a bit less disapproving and judgmental than it had been before. Well, that was good. Small comforts.
He tried to pull himself together as he rose and went back to sit next to Tavros. He had dignity and class to uphold—well, at least to salvage. Considering, though, that Tavros was so far down on the hemospectrum that even Eridan's snot outclassed him, a little fainting-getting covered in blood-puking episode couldn't hope to truly mar Eridan's superiority.
The look Tavros was giving him was impossible to read.
"Yes?" Eridan asked, attempting to sound regal. "What is it?" He noted absently that Tavros's other leg had stopped bleeding on its own. That was good. He didn't want to have to repeat his little performance.
Tavros's smile was tentative. "Thanks, for what you just did. It was, uh, really nice, and you seemed kind of angry before, but I'm really glad you were here, and thanks."
Eridan was taken aback. A warm, fuzzy feeling that had nothing to do with his previous digestive issues had bubbled in his gut. He wanted to smile, but his dignity kept it in check. He couldn't look like he was enjoying this lowblood's company too much. "I only did it so you wouldn't bleed on my pants." Tavros's eyes flicked over Eridan, and Eridan glanced down at himself. Oh. "Well, maybe that had nothing to do with it. None of your business."
Tavros's eyebrows furrowed. "Okay. But, uh, can I ask why you were so angry before? Was it something I did?"
"No. None of your—" Eridan stopped mid-sentence. Leaning back, he flapped a hand at Tavros to silence his imminent questions, and considered. Eridan did want to talk to someone. He was lonely. He wished someone would listen to him when he talked about his problems.
Still, though, did he really want to talk to Tavros? Tavros was, among other things, a lowblood, and annoying. When Eridan had been sitting at his computer desperate for someone to talk to him, he hadn't meant just anyone.
Despite his better judgment, Eridan glanced over his shoulder to get his shadow's opinion on this. It just sat there on the wall, looking exactly the same as it had earlier, which was exactly the same as it always had looked. This was not surprising. It was just a shadow, after all. Shadows did not have opinions.
Eridan would be making this decision on his own. And, if he couldn't talk to a wall with a dark splotch on it for guidance, he may as well talk to the lowblood. It was pretty much the same as talking to a wall anyway. He took a deep breath and, not looking at Tavros, began.
"I was angry because no one appreciates me, and everything always turns out bad for me." Eridan was pleased in the knowledge that, for once, he had a captive audience. "I'm a rare and dignified prince and wizard of white Science, but no one likes me. I can't understand it." Tavros opened his mouth to interrupt, but Eridan silenced him with another wave of his hand. There he went with that stupid fishy face again. "Shut up. I wasn't finished. My life is really hard, and no one understands. Sometimes I think I'm really pathetic."
"Uh…" Tavros said. Eridan glanced up at him, and saw his mouth flapping up and down, bringing him ever closer to a perfect ictheoid ideal. It was actually a very charming display, in its own way, and served better than most things could have to help Eridan ignore the hemospectrum for a moment. "I was, uh, not really needing to know that, and I was just asking because I thought I'd done something, and, uh, I didn't want to make you mad so you would drop me. Again."
Eridan swiftly looked away as he felt a blush rise to his cheeks. Of course Tavros hadn't been inviting him to share his life story. What an idiot he had just made himself. What had he even been thinking, anyway? Idiot. Pathetic. A guy asks him one question and he spills his guts right out.
"But, uh…" Tavros was speaking again. Eridan didn't look at him. "I guess I can kind of understand where you're coming from on the, uh, 'pathetic' thing. I am pretty sure that I am a pathetic loser, too. The world doesn't like me because I am not confident, but you have legs that work, so you should be confident, and I have legs that work sometimes so I should be sometimes confident I guess, and I guess Rufio would want me to be confident and not think that I am pathetic and then maybe people would like me more. And not make fun of me or drop me off things, but I guess you just dropped me too but not because I am pathetic, so I'm also sorry for just saying that."
Eridan's eyebrows knitted, and he forgot his embarrassment enough to shoot Tavros a befuddled glance. The speech he had just heard had made absolutely no sense. Well, maybe a little sense. "I'm not a loser, you stupid gibbering maggot. Don't count me in the same group as you. And I am confident."
Tavros flinched and leaned slightly away from Eridan. "I'm sorry for that, that was not a good thing to say, but, uh, I think a truly confident person would not need to say that they are confident, at least I've been told that. Maybe you just need to be more, uh, assertive when dealing with other people. Because I think you are a pretty good person, usually, and maybe if you were more confident when you talked to people they would see that you were nice. Being nice and being confident have a lot to do with each other, I think, and with having legs, which you do."
Again, Eridan was not sure how much sense Tavros was making. But there was that warm fuzzy feeling again, alongside the increasingly desperate hunger and the rapidly fading nausea. Maybe Tavros was right. Maybe he did just have to be more confident when he talked to people. He had been too timid when he had tried to pursue a romance with Feferi, and that had gotten him nowhere. Maybe, if he were upfront with his feelings and his intentions, people would see how great he was. "You may be right. I should be more assertive. Thanks, Tavros, I guess you're a pretty good person after all. Thanks for listening."
Tavros blushed bright brown, and Eridan was immediately jolted out of his congenial mood. How disgusting. Had he honestly just said something like that to someone with mud running through his veins?
Eridan hurriedly rose. Despite what it had turned into, this little jaunt had a purpose other than soul-searching. "Get off the wall. I'll take you the rest of the way."
Eridan hooked his elbows around Tavros's horns, much more gently than before. He tried not to jostle the other boy against the edge of the steps as they ascended.
It seemed that good advice could come from the unlikeliest of places. Maybe the overwhelming worthlessness of lowblood life taught them how to deal with suffering and turmoil better than Eridan's childhood of magnitude and regality had. He smiled, knowing no one would see it. He would be more confident. He would make sure everyone knew how he felt about them. Everyone would care about him again.
He was sure this was going to work out just great.
I couldn't work any fish puns in there, so I'm putting this in just for the halibut.
Thanks for reading; I love you all.