A/N: you don’t need to read it, but this story will make more sense if you’ve read Stormy’s Ballad.
“Awwmost dewe, awwmost dewe, hang on,” Cloudy murmured softly to his brother, who whimpered and cried with every small movement. Trouble’s left back leg was absolutely shattered, his beautiful white fur stained red and thick with clotting blood. He’d been lucky- when his mummah had stomped on him, she’d narrowly missed the major artery higher up in his leg, and instead of bleeding out in minutes, the healing factor of fluffies had time to begin to kick in… but it was still a race against the clock. Cloudy wasn’t sure where he was going, what he was looking for, but as he finally entered the suburbs of Rosedale, he spotted someplace that looked safe enough- clouds had gathered as they had ran from the Sorry-Tree, and now the rain was beginning to fall. Cloudy didn’t want his brother to be in pain, but he was glad that he was crying- crying meant alive, and alive meant he could be fixed. Cloudy and Trouble had never met a human before, but deep inside their programming, they both knew instinctually that humans could help. Cloudy ran up to the first house he came to, a small, yellow house with lights on in the windows. Trouble groaned as Cloudy climbed up the small steps to the door. He wanted to warn Cloudy to be careful, but his head swam and he closed his eyes.
Cloudy knocked on the door as loud as he could with one of his soft, leathery hooves. His hooves were in bad shape- he’d only ever walked on soft grass, and the hard asphault had scraped up his hooves, but it had been easier and faster to stay on it. The door was marked with a small smear of his blood, and he reminded himself to say sorry about it after he had gotten Trouble help. “Pwease! Pwease! Hewp fwuffy!” The sounds inside went quiet suddenly, and then footsteps approaching the door. Cloudy knocked harder, desperate. “Pwease! Pwease hewp babbeh! Pwease!” The door opened, and a man looked down at them, bewildered for a moment. He was a slightly scrawny guy, with a cane and big glasses. Then, he saw the blood. “Oh my god, what’s wrong with him?” He held the door open for them, motioning for them to come inside- Cloudy trotted inside quickly, then stood there, tapping his front hooves anxiously. “Bwuddah weggie hab wowstest huwty! Pwease, nice mistew, hewp bwuddah!” The the man nodded, beginning to limp as quickly as he could around his warm, cozy kitchen. He grabbed his keys and wallet, shoving them in the pocket of his sweatpants. “Alright, we need to take him to the vet- that’s uh, the place that’ll make him better. But I gotta put you in my car, okay?”
Cloudy nodded- he didn’t know what a “car” was, but he was too concerned with his brother to care. Trouble had gone from crying loudly to quietly groaning, and that scared Cloudy very, very badly. “Yus! Pwease! Huwwy!” The man limped away as quickly as he could, returning with a pillow covered in an old towel. “I gotta pick him up and put him on here, okay? It’s gonna hurt him for a second, but it’s so we can get him help.” Cloudy nodded, and tried not to panic as the man lifted his brother from his back. Trouble let out a loud moan of pain, and his eyes opened again, bleary and unfocused. “Pwease, mummah, pwease nu mowe huwties,” he pleaded softly, and was surprised when he was set on something soft and warm, and something scritched behind his ear in a way that helped distract him from the horrible pain in his weggy. He didn’t understand where he was, his head was swimming, but he could see Cloudy’s big, grey form, solid and reassuring, and that made him feel better, too. He closed his eyes again.
The man, James, limped as fast as he could while still carefully holding the fluffy. His knee sung with pain, but he set his mouth determinedly, grabbed his keys from the counter, and led the little colt out to his car. James carefully set the little fella in the back, giving him another scritch. “Hang in there, little guy.” He picked up his brother, setting him beside him and telling him to lay down on the seat, and that there’d be a loud noise but that he was safe- he was rambling, trying not to panic. He closed the door, got in the front seat as fast as he could, and took off towards the only vet he knew would be open at this time of night. There were small cries of fear from the back when the car started up, but the little grey one seemed to understand that it was to help his brother. James looked at them in the rearview mirror now and then, a thickness in his throat. The little grey one was nuzzling the white one, comforting him as best as he could, singing in the off-key but endearing way of small children and fluffies. The hurt one had said something about his mom? Had their mother done this to him? His knuckles were white on the wheel as he pulled in to the Second Chances Vetrinary Clinic.
Stacy looked up with a start as the man limped in, a very hurt fluffy on a pillow and a second one trailing behind, crying. “Please- I just found them and the little one-” Stacy was already on the line, calling for help. In moments, a young blonde man came out with a little cart for transporting hurt fluffies, and he took the fluffy carefully from the man and set him pillow and all on the cart. The back leg was pulped, and there was likely no saving it, but all the same it was better to avoid moving it- any wrong move could lead to a bone shard piercing the poor little guy’s artery, sending him over the rainbow road. James looked down when he felt a tapping on his leg- the little grey colt made the “upsies pose” that he’d seen other fluffies do. “Pwease, can hab upsies? Cwowdy nu can see.” James picked him up instantly, although it took a moment to get him seated comfortably in one arm, as he still needed to use his cane to keep up with the vet tech as he escorted them to a room. Still, the little fluffy was solid and comforting in the same way a particularly heavy cat is, and so James saw no problem with sitting him on his lap as they waited for the doctor to come in.
It didn’t take long. An older woman with a severe face but kind eyes strode quickly in. Her dark hair had a thick white streak in it, and was tied back from her face in a messy bun. She washed her hands, put on gloves, and approached the table. “What happened?” James looked to the small colt on his lap. Cloudy let out a small sob, but answered, knowing the lady was gonna help. “Mummah give sowwy-hoovsies to Twoubwe, wowstest weggy stompies!” She nodded, looking at the leg as gently as she could, but every tiny brush of her fingers caused Trouble to let out a pained whine. But a small smile formed at the corner of her mouth. “Good, still awake and in there. Good boy, you’ve got a fighting spirit. Stay with us, little guy.” She went to one of the cabinets dotting the room and removed a small orange bottle- a pain killer that was flavored like spaghetti. She returned, tapping Trouble gently on the nose with the treat until he smelled it, his eyes opening and glassily crossing before focusing on the treat. “Skettis?” Dr. Redmond gave him soothing scritches. “That’s right- they’re magic skettis that will make the hurties stop.”
James would have laughed if the whole situation wasn’t so fucking sad. Hearing fluff-speak come out of this severe looking woman was comical. But he understood- fluffies were supposed to be companions to toddlers, so they matched the same emotional age as their owners. It was easier to make them understand complex things if you spoke to them the same way you would a small child. Cloudy shifted slightly on his lap at the mention of skettis, but to James’ surprise, the little colt didn’t seem interested otherwise, his little face matted with tears as he watched his brother. “Can nice wady fix Twoubwe?” Dr. Redmond nodded, beginning to whip around the room as she prepared what she needed. “Yes, I can. He might lose his leggy, but I promise he won’t go forever sleepies on my watch.” Cloudy let out a small sob at the thought of Trouble losing his leggy, but he was so relieved that his brother was going to be okay that he would have also donated all of his leggies if it meant he would get better. “Fank yu nice wady! Fank yu!” She smiled at them, and then nodded at the young vet tech who came back in. “You’re gonna wanna wait in the other room until we’re done. We’ll bring you back in soon, okay?”
James wasn’t really sure how to interact with fluffies. He’d seen them around of course- FluffMart provided most of the jobs in the area, and if they weren’t there, there were the many specialized breeders around. But they were just… he didn’t know how to interact with kids, either. He did okay, he guessed- his own nephews and neices seemed to like him okay, but he always felt awkward around them, like he was one sentence away from saying something to ruin their psyche forever. And yet, here he was. He couldn’t have said no and left them to die- that was too cruel. But he… wasn’t good with emotional stuff. All the same, the little colt seemed to appreciate that he was there, hugging onto him as they sat in the brightly colored waiting room. It was mostly pictures of cats and dogs on the wall- most people still took their fluffies to the FluffMart vet rather than pay the price of a real vet- but there were some pictures of fluffies up on the wall too, naturally. Cloudy shifted slightly, looking up at him with big, blue eyes still a little wet with tears. “Fank yu fow hewping babbehs, nice mistew. Be nyu daddeh?” James paused and thought about it- it’d be murder to set them out on the street again, and while there were shelters in town, he worried how well they’d be rehomed- would they keep them together? Would people want a tripod fluffy? Before he’d realized, he was hugging the little colt and nodding. “Yeah, yeah little guy. Sure.” Cloudy let out a little watery cheer and sniffled, hugging him back. “Am nicest daddeh.”
James would have to pick up supplies and stuff in the morning when FluffMart opened, but for now he just pet the little foal soothingly until the tech came back, a reassuring smile on his face. “Good news- he’s doing great. He’s still coming out from under anaesthesia, so he’s going to be a little groggy, but he’ll be good to go here shortly. Are they yours, or would you like us to arrange to have the shelter pick them up?” James shook his head hurriedly- “No! Uh, no, they’re mine now. Sorry.” He felt hot and sweaty and awkward like he always did around people, but the vet tech either didn’t notice or didn’t care, and simply lead them back to the room. “Sounds good- Dr. Redmond will give you the information you’ll need from here.” And with that, they were back- Cloudy looking anxiously out over James’ arm. Trouble was giggling slightly as Dr. Redmond loaded him up into a clear plastic carrier. “There we go- now. Unfortunately, we couldn’t save the leg, but as you can see, he’s doing fine. He’s going to be a little loopy until he comes down completely from the anaesthetic.” James nodded and listened carefully. “He’ll heal up completely in about a month- until then, no roughhousing or letting him or his brother lick the incision. We’ve covered it with bandages, obviously, but the stiches will still be itchy until they dissolve. We’ve also got some of these for him- they’re basically fluffy aspirin, just give him half of one every four hours if he’s bothered by the pain. These ones are one every day, with something soft to eat- I’ll send you home with some foal kibble and soal milk replacer- soften the kibble with the milk replacer and then give him one per day. They’re antibiotics.” She finally smiled, and the severity of her face melted and her voice was pleasantly low and soft. “You did a good thing- he wouldn’t have lasted through the next few days. For right now, the only thing he needs to worry about is getting better.”
After she’d checked Cloudy’s hooves and given him a treat for being brave as she disinfected and bandaged him up, she patted James on the shoulder in a companionable way. “We’ll see you again in a week, yes? They’ll need a checkup and vaccines. And dewormers.”
Later, when they were finally at home again, James set about fixing a small area for them- his place was small, a one bedroom casita that was meant more for vacationing in than long-term inhabitance, but it suited him just fine, and now, he supposed, his new fluffies. He made a small bed from towels, spare pillows off his futon and an old blanket, then set down a few bowls- a wide flattish one for water, and two old chipped bowls for their food- Dr. Redmond had been nice enough to waive the emergency cost, as well as given him a few things to get them set up until he could go to the store. He carefully poured in a cup of the kibble into each bowl, moistening it with the Fluffy Milk Replacer until it was soft- their teeth were surprisingly strong and developed for their age, but it was still better to add a little extra nutrition for them. Then, the litter box. Cloudy watched him curiously the whole time, his arm around his brother in their carrier. He’d insisted on riding in there with him, and had carefully slotted himself in such a way as to provide extra support and buffering for his brother against any bumps to the carrier, nuzzling him reasurringly when he got hurties. Trouble had drifted off again on the drive home, his pain medication allowing him to rest. It made James feel nervous and sweaty again, like when a little kid stared at him, but he smiled at the little thing nonetheless. “Hang on a sec, buddy. You got a name?” Cloudy nodded, smiling back with a sort of odd, doofy looking grin that reminded James of dogs with not much going on in their head, and he felt a bit less nervous. “Fwuffy namesie am Cwowdy, and dis is Twoubwe.”
James let out a little laugh. “Those are good names. Alright, Cloudy, I need you to go potty in here, okay?” He was trying not to cuss, but he didn’t feel quite at the level of using fluff speak, so he hoped the little guy would understand. “Um, potty? Wike poopies?” James stifled a laugh and nodded. “Yeah. I’m setting your bed here next to it so your little brother doesn’t have to move to use it until he’s better, okay?” Cloudy nodded, a look of intense concentration on his face as he memorized the new good-poopies place. “O-tay, Daddeh. Go potty in da boxie.” James motioned to him to come out of the carrier- “C’mon out so I can put Trouble in bed.” Cloudy carefully wiggled himself free, pausing and re-adjusting only when Trouble didn’t groan or whimper. It took him a minute to fully free himself, but then he moved out of the way, anxiously tapping his front hooves as James reached into the carrier and removed Trouble gently. There was still a slight cry of pain as he was settled, but after a moment, Trouble returned to snoring lightly. Cloudy looked up at him curiously when he set down the bowl of kibble. “Wat am dat, Daddeh?” James blinked. “Uh, it’s food, buddy. It’s kibble.” Cloudy’s tail began to wag, like a dog’s. “Nummies! Fank yu!” He began to eat excitedly, before stopping suddenly, glancing at Trouble. “Nummies fow Twoubwe, tu?” James gave him a reassuring scratch behind the ear, causing the little foal to lean heavily against his hand, cooing. “Trouble will get his food later, when he wakes up. Dig in, Cloudy.” Cloudy didn’t need telling twice.
Later, when Trouble woke, he blinked groggily and shook his head, trying to focus. He was very confused- he remembered the yellow house, but he didn’t remember anything else, it had all been a blur. He looked around, trying to get his bearings. His brother was sleeping beside him, his solid weight reassuring to the scared fluffy. He sighed, feeling a bit better. He noticed a man, sitting across the room from them. He was asleep, his hand propping up his face and drool soaking his sleeve. James had fallen asleep watching the little colts, afraid to leave them unsupervised. Trouble wasn’t sure whether to call out or not- he was very hungry, and he had worstest hurties- his leggy didn’t hurt anymore, but the area right above it did. He decided he didn’t dare, instead, nuzzling Cloudy beside him. “Bwah? Whuh?” Cloudy came awake slowly, before smiling in his doofy way at Trouble. “Twoubwe! Yu am wakies! Wiww teww Daddeh!” And before Trouble could stop him, Cloudy had leapt up and run across the room, limping slightly on his damaged hooves, stopping to tap the man on the leg. Daddeh? They had a new daddeh? Trouble watched with apprehension as the man woke up with a start, rubbing his eyes and the drool from his face and smiling at him. At him. “Ah, hello, little fella! Welcome back! We were worried about you.” He stood up with a grunt, grabbing a funny stick he used to walk over to where Trouble lay. Trouble tried to get up, but let out a cry of pain as a white-hot lance of agony stung him. “Woah! Woah, stay put, easy, easy-” James pet the little white colt until he calmed to sniffling, scritching his mane and under his chin, making the tiny love-starved foal melt. “You’re okay, Trouble. I’m uh, your new dad. Welcome home.”
Trouble’s wide, brilliant smile wiped away any doubts James had about keeping the little foals. “Nyu Daddeh? Fank yu, Twoubwe wuv you,” he breathed, with such abject sincerity that James’ heart hurt, but in a way he wasn’t used to. He smiled, petting his new fluffies. They were gonna be okay.