A/N *tosses one-shot over shoulder* Hold that while I try to put together multi-chapter stuff
"Hey… Are you… okay?"
Remy stilled at the question and half turned to look back at the human who had brought him into his home. The man shifted on his feet a few careful steps away from where Remy was dragging his bedding for the night across the counter and focused on tangling his fingers together.
Arguably hospitality for a rat wasn't supposed to exist at all, no less extend to the lengths the human had just pushed it. Remy hadn't expected any kind of attention to be paid to his well-being in general; certainly none were expected for his health. Yet here they were, with Remy flicking his ears and worrying the oven mitt in his paws and the man fidgeting beside the counter that he was trekking across.
It was unexpected, yes, but… hospitality was not unwelcome. He probably needed it, actually. He'd been doing his best to ignore it, but his leg had been bothering him, he was sore all over, and after such a long night, such long days of uncertainty, all he wanted to do was collapse on something soft and fall asleep. Perhaps he needed the attention.
The human wasn't wrong. It had been… a rough time.
Even before the kitchen it had been possibly days of stress and sleeplessness in the sewers beneath the city. And from then- when he'd fallen from that skylight into the sink- the kitchen had not been kind to him. He supposed he should be grateful, there were no waiting knives submerged beneath the soapy surface that could skewer him, but a fall like that was still a startling experience, even for rats who were much more capable of withstanding such things than humans. Beyond that, he'd been kicked or almost kicked by seemingly every black shoe moving about the space and the fires had singed his fur when he'd been trapped under the ovens. His ribs still hurt from the brief but tight squeeze the waiter had put him in trying to grab the pepper grinder off the bottom shelf of the cart.
And, perhaps the worst, in those first few disorienting moments when he'd finally been discovered, the blow the head chef had given him with the mop had set his entire skeleton shivering. Something could have broken with the force, but more likely there were just going to be deep bruises (tender spots that prickled beneath his fur- invisible but no less painful) which was good, he'd been too focused on escape to let his body compensate for a break. In the subsequent dodging of knives and rattling around inside of the mason jar as the human biked and tossed him about and even dropped him in the Seine- well, he'd definitely wrenched his hind leg, could feel it throbbing whenever he moved. But again, he hadn't been able to give it due attention.
"I just… You were limping, I think." The human rubbed the back of his neck and dropped his gaze. Someone in the building had called out to him "Linguini!" as they wrestled the bike in so perhaps that was his name. He hadn't introduced himself. "And you were getting knocked around a lot… Maybe I'm crazy for doing all this, but, I'm already talking to you, so, I thought, I'd ask?"
Recognizing this exchange for what it was (a peace offering, and insurance to keep Remy, his only chance to stay in the kitchen, capable), Remy set down the corner of the oven mitt and turned to face the fidgeting human.
"I may have sprained something back here," He gestured at his back leg and Linguini's eyes followed, expression dubious. "And the hit from the head chef," He stood up and winced, finally paying attention to the injury he was talking about. With careful movements, he mimed swinging a bat (or in this case, a mop) and then, not hiding the wince that comes, waves his paw over his midsection and chest. "He didn't exactly hold back."
Linguini watched all this with uncertainty evident in his features. Remy let his arms drop with a resigned sigh and shook his head. He was too tired to try and determine an answer to this indefinite communication problem when, as Linguini had so tactfully pointed out, he was sore and exhausted.
"Just… I'm fine, go to bed, it'll be better in the mor…"
"No, wait, I don't mean…" Linguini waved his hands and Remy swiveled back, exasperated. The human faltered at his expression. "I understand, I think, but I don't know, how to fix it?"
Remy felt his ears droop. It was admirable that Linguini wanted to be helpful but as it was he was just keeping them both awake.
He waved his paw again, dismissing the man's offer, and picked up the oven mitt once more, dragging it along towards the edge of the counter. On the other side of the room was the bay of windows that seemed like the perfect backdrop for a peaceful night's sleep. Just a glance at the view of Paris laid out before him was enough to make some of the tension bleed out of his shoulders, even as his leg panged once more. (Remy suppressed a groan of frustration. He'd been ignoring it so well up until now! Once reminded though…) The rat looked at the gap between the counter edge and the windowsill, pondering the best way to get across.
"I can help with that, at least, can't I?" Linguini insisted, suddenly much closer than he had been, and before Remy knew what was happening, one hand had jutted itself underneath him, catching him as he tumbled back into a cupped palm, and the other had stolen the mitt from his paws, carrying both over to the sill and depositing them there. "Did you need anything else? Uh…" He glanced back at the drawers Remy had pulled open in his search for bedding, noticing the dish towel that had been set on the counter. "The towel? I'll get it!"
Remy sat, a little stunned, watching Linguini trip his way across the room to the towel and then start to trip his way back. He was not used to this kind of attention, not even among family in the colony. There was very little special treatment there, even if his dad was the clan leader…
"Alright, here!" Linguini announced triumphantly. Remy hobbled (his leg was stiffening up quickly as the adrenaline drained from his system) out of the way as the human reached to slide the dishtowel into the opening of the oven mitt, patting it a few times as though to make sure that it was to his satisfaction. It wasn't exactly how Remy wanted it arranged, but the small adjustments he'd now need to make were certainly preferable to having to make the journey across the room to the kitchen twice.
"And here!" fingers came at him once more but this time Remy was prepared. He bared his teeth and scuttled backward a few steps, indicating that he didn't want to be handled.
Because apparently, Linguini could recognize that he was hurt, but not that picking him up and carting him around so roughly was going to aggravate the aches and strains.
To his credit, Linguini retracted his hand at once, and only then did Remy see that he'd retrieved something else while he wasn't paying attention. Medical tape.
"I, sorry, I mean, maybe this could work?" He held it out hopefully. "I noticed it in the drawer over there, and it might help, I don't know, brace something?" He popped the package open and pulled a length of tape free, ripping it with a deft twist. "... May I?"
Remy forced the tension out of his stance and straightened to lean back on his better hind leg rather than the defensive all fours position. He'd just… been touched by one too many hands without warning tonight. But Linguini didn't seem ready to let this go, and, well, if they were going to be working together- relying on each other- he'd best start it off with a little faith and goodwill.
And maybe, just maybe, the tape would make it easier to move without jostling everything.
Carefully he shuffled forward a few steps and held out his paws, waiting for the man to hand over the length of tape. Linguini hesitated before passing it over without complaint. After a moment of consideration, he leaned back and stretched his wrenched leg in front of him. With a little awkward maneuvering (and Linguini's almost too intent scrutiny) he coaxed the tape into position around the base of the throbbing. Once it was tight enough and in the right place, he picked himself back up and was pleased when he tested his weight on it. With the added support, he felt stable despite the thrum of adrenaline and thud of pain. Hopefully, with his already quick healing rate, he'd be well enough to manage whatever tomorrow brought. With rats, it was get over injuries fast or don't live to tell the tale.
"Does that… work?" Linguini prompted and Remy shrugged, lifting his paws in an approximate, 'maybe, I guess, I don't know.' He reached out for another piece anyhow, but Linguini didn't peel it loose for him- just bit his lip and held the roll close to his chest.
"What?" Remy asked and dropped his arms in frustration. "I just want to sleep- are you going to help?" He snorted, challenging. "Having second thoughts about sheltering a rat?"
"It's just, I'd love to help you!" the human blurted and Remy blinked in confusion. "I think it'd be easier, cause I'm- Thumbs! And, and, bigger hands, it'd just be easier…" Linguini wilted at the sudden resurgence of insecurity. After a moment of looking at the tape in his hands he sighed and raised his gaze to meet Remy's, looking somewhere between admonished and hopeful. "Don't you think?"
Remy tilted his head, asking in that silent way that he has been surprised comes so easily, why?
"You… you wouldn't be in this situation if it weren't for me." The human admitted. "I just want to make it up to you. We've got a deal too so I should do something for you. And." He glanced away for another moment, as though ashamed but pulled himself back. "I'm pretty clumsy. It… it feels good. When someone helps take care of you. You deserve that." He offered a small smile and a shrug. "Also means you have to move less."
Remy stared up at him, unsure what to make of this. So much more than he expected- survival was more than he expected! A small part of him had never trusted the tenuous arrangement they'd reached in the first place. But truly… if the human had offered this much already, was the sentimentality behind it really such a surprise?
"Hhhh, alright," He sighed and stepped forward. "I really hope you don't make me regret any of this. It... would be easier if you did it. See?" He tucked his paws around himself in a sort of hug and rubbed up and down, then raised his arms out of the way- offering permission for the man to wrap the stiff tape around his chest.
It hurt more than wrapping his leg, no doubt about it. The pressure and the tugging and even just the strength involved with holding his hands up started to pull at something after only half a minute. But by the time Linguini was done, soft fingertip smoothing over the loose edge of the last piece of tape, Remy could feel everything in their rightful places. No longer did they jostle about in his chest, poking things that didn't need poking. And Linguini had been right- It did feel nice to be taken care of, even as he'd been stiff with suspicion.
"That looks better," Linguini said, setting the tape down and bending over to look at his handiwork from a different angle. Remy nodded, spreading his arms so the man could see. "I'm glad I could, you know, help. I definitely owed you." The man says, and the uncertainty is back. "Thanks for, for not leaving before. And for helping me- even though you didn't mean to. You were just, being yourself. This little chef who knew what he was doing. And…" He shrugged, "I don't ever know what I'm doing."
Remy snorted as a startled laugh jolted out of him. He was exhausted, and maybe he was going a little crazy too, but it felt like some barrier had been breached, some trust hastily built between the two- or at least the foundations for it laid. Linguini laughed too, but the sound was short and stumbled into disquiet.
Remy reached over and hefted the roll of tape, holding it out. When Linguini reached to take it Remy caught his fingertip in his paws and held it.
No words, but gestures could say a lot more with much less.
He smiled, and nodded once more in thanks, then released the human's finger. Linguini held his hand out for a second, seemingly dumbstruck, before letting it drop to his side, glancing away and pocketing the tape, a slight smile on his own face.
Remy crept into the oven mitt and spread the towel how he'd wanted it. Linguini drifted across the room to the couch, sat for a moment before shaking his head and switching on the TV.
It wasn't long before Remy was staring out at the Paris skyline, listening to somehow calming snores and the soft tones of a romantic film. Somehow, the world felt more peaceful in this increasingly strange place than it ever had been before.
A/N: Hope you all enjoyed this, I had to I coax my self-confidence out from wherever it was hiding and lock the internal perfectionist in the closet. Please review, I may be a mess but I'm also okay with you telling me that. So.