The constant tick of the clock. The scratching of a pen on paper. The dull hum of machinery, turning out thneeds even in the dead of night. The swish of a page turning, pushing on to a new document.
Sickly green light pools on the desk's surface. The rest of the room is draped in darkness. The moon shines brightly past the office windows, bathing the broken landscape in an exquisite glow. A heavenly light trying to salvage the hellish condition of the valley. The scenario is absolutely delicious.
Greed-ler doesn't want to be here. He doesn't need sleep, no. But he can think of plenty of things he'd rather be doing – in particular, the boy sleeping in the next room. The monthly board meeting is coming up in the morning, though, and he needs to finish up this last-minute paperwork.
He sets down the pen and rubs his sore hands. The clock on his desk reads 1:45. More than enough forms are left for him to review. But he desperately needs a break, lest he be held responsible for a little destruction beyond his control.
He pushes his chair back and rises to his feet, carefully smoothing out the creases in his jacket. He crosses the office to the bedroom door. Greed-ler wouldn't disturb his pet in his sleep – he doesn't have time for games, anyway – but a quick glance to tide him over couldn't hurt anyone.
The door swings open soundlessly and he steps inside. Soft moonlight spills in from the glass balcony doors, but the room is still dim enough that he waits a moment for his eyes to adjust.
He moves lightly over the carpet towards the bed, topped by a pile of rumpled sheets and blankets. A slight, muffled hic splits through the silence from under the sea of fabric, and Greed-ler falters for a moment. Quiet whimpers and sniffles are quick to follow.
He hovers at the bedside, watching Oncie's outline trembling under the many layers. He hates finding his younger self this way. He wasn't made for comforting others – he was born of greed, made for business and biggering. But he wasn't about to leave his other half, either.
Greed-ler delicately reaches to touch on the other's shoulder. Oncie starts with a yelp, scrambling out from under the blankets and trying to move away. He winces; that hurts a little. He takes a seat next to the boy, holding him on his back with a gentle hand on his chest. He stops struggling quickly, but he buries his face under the covers. After a long pause, teary eyes peek out at him, watching him warily. He returns the look with one that demanded explanation. There's no substance behind it, but Oncie doesn't need to know.
"S-Sorry," he chokes out, hoarse and groggy. "I c-couldn't sleep… i-it was, really bright, a-and I just-"
"What's wrong?" Greed-ler sighed. Those watery blue eyes widen, if that's possible. He scowls, tensing. "Did someone hurt you?"
The sound Oncie makes is more of a squeak than a 'what.' "N-No, of course not! I'm fine, I swear!"
This isn't working.
Greed-ler tugs the blankets back and slips underneath, pulling Oncie close to him. His younger self only stares at him, tears long gone. Greed-ler presses their lips together for a long moment, before settling back against the pillows.
The silence lasts a time longer, before Oncie finally says, "Mom doesn't really love me, does she?"
"What the hell?" Greed-ler growls. "Did she say something to you?"
"No." The look Oncie gives him breaks his heart. It isn't quite lonely so much as… rejected. "She doesn't talk to me anymore. None of them do."
Greed-ler freezes as the younger snuggles into his chest. What did Oncie do all day while he was at meetings, then? He'd always sent him to their family, to pass the hours. He'd have a thing or two to say to them in the morning if they'd been ignoring him all this time.
"She tells them that I'm not the real one."
Greed-ler snaps at the tightness in his voice. He shoves Oncie away and moves to get up, but the boy grabs desperately at his jacket. "No, that's not what I meant! Please, don't leave me!"
The only thing that stops him is how that abandoned look returns when he says those words. He lies back down and pulls Oncie against him. He's growing too soft, probably. But one night of this couldn't hurt. The boy looks like he needs it. Maybe he does, too.
"I-I'm sure she didn't mean anything too bad by it," Oncie whispers sadly against his shoulder.
"That's a fucking lie and we both know it." Greed-ler threads his fingers through the younger's hair, holding him close to him. "But you know what? We don't need them and their shit anyway."
His words meet a long silence, broken only by their breathing. When Oncie finally speaks, he barely hears it. "You really think so?"
He nods slowly. "It's just us from now on, okay? Fuck them anyways."
Oncie laughs quietly, and he may have smiled too. Just maybe.
A rare, quiet peace is only beginning to settle when Greed-ler remembers his obligations. He groans, shifting slightly away. "I have to get back my paperwork soon."
Oncie whines, but his eyes shine with happiness. The grip on his lapels tightens, and the boy manages to keep up a pouty tone. "Do you have to?"
Greed-ler rolls his eyes. "You know how important this meeting is. I can't have my work half-done when I present to the board."
"But what could they really say to a Once-ler?"
He's outright grinning now, and most days Greed-ler would wipe that victorious look off his face. Instead, he chuckles, planting a kiss on his stupid smug lips. "Not a fucking thing."
No, one night of this couldn't hurt a thing.