“Try it, it’s good!” You held the innocuous-looking bun out to Filbo. It had been made with cricket flour, which was exactly what it sounded like: flour made from ground crickets. The cafe you were visiting specialised in them.
Filbo shrank away from the offering. “I don’t know if I want to eat that, buddy.”
You took a big bite of half the roll to prove it wasn’t scary. “Half the world eats insects, Filbo! They’re a sustainable source of protein and they taste fine. Good even!”
He still didn’t look convinced.
“Filbo, you ate BUGSNAX for almost an entire year!”
“That’s different!” His eyes widened.
“I know, it’s worse! You made ME eat one too!”
“I didn’t make you…” He fidgeted, glancing away.
“Yes you did! I said no twice.” You shook the bun at him.
Filbo frowned. “No, you said it would compromise your journalistic integrity!” He saw the look on your face and he crossed his arms. “Okay, fine, I was wrong to pressure you into trying a bugsnak. That wasn’t cool of me, and I’m sorry.” You nodded, starting to hold out the bun to him again, but he held up a paw. “I guess we’ve both learned that it’s wrong to pressure someone into eating something that they don’t want to eat, even if you personally find it really tasty.”
You squinted at him. His face was the picture of innocence, but you could see a cunning smugness underneath. Defeated, you sat back on the bench with a disgruntled huff and tossed the rest of the bun into the ol’ face hole, as Filbo would put it. You chewed thoughtfully. “You know, you ate a lot of ketchup back then.”
Filbo laughed a bit. “Yeah, heh… A lot easier to catch than a bugsnak. I don’t think I managed to catch a single one the entire time we were there. Heck, sometimes I couldn’t even gather sauces correctly! Who knew you weren’t supposed to eat the flowers before they bloomed, eh? Eh heh…”
You frowned, looking over at him. He was rubbing the back of his head with a little nervous smile pointed at his knees. You tilted your head. “You never caught a single bugsnak?”
He looked sheepish. “Never.”
“Huh… Where did you get that strabby then?” You asked automatically, brows furrowed.
Flibo looked up, blinking in surprise. “Huh?”
“The strabby you made me eat. How did you get it?”
Just for a fraction of a second, a look of panic flickered behind his eyes. You would have mistaken it for surprise if it weren’t for how accustomed you got to seeing it during your time on Snaktooth island. “The… Strabby?” His brows molded into a look of practiced confusion.
Your frown deepened. “That’s the bugsnak you fed me, remember? Where did you get it if you didn’t catch it?” There weren’t spares laying around at that point. Gramble wouldn’t have given anyone one of his precious pets, either.
“Er… OH!” Filbo’s look of confusion vanished. “That’s right! I thought I gave you a tacroach for some reason.” He laughed. “Wambus caught it for me when you were talking to Beffica. We wanted you to try a bugsnak as a surprise. Heh, he probably doesn’t even remember doing that, big softie… He was pretty annoyed that I asked, but I think he still felt bad about the whole ‘getting concussed by a bunger’ thing.”
Your lip tugged up and you nudged him. “Glad you’re less accident prone, now. Had me worried a few times back on Snaktooth.”
He linked his arm with yours. “Well, it’s a good thing we’ll never have to worry about Snaktooth again. Right?” He laughed. You squeezed his paw, smiling affectionately at him.
On the walk back to the apartment, you were still thinking about Snaktooth. A part of you felt guilty for it, but a lot of things still bothered you, and since you and Filbo had agreed on the ‘no Snaktooth talk in the house’ rule, you couldn’t ramble about it endlessly to work out why.
Right now, you were still hung up on Filbo’s strabby story. It made you uneasy, turning his words around in your mind over and over, but there was something off. You knew you should just trust him, or forgive him for his poor memory, but some things didn’t line up, and your instinct would not let you leave it alone.
Filbo had said Wambus caught a strabby for you. That seemed a little out of character for Wambus, but you could see him agreeing to it out of courtesy. Strabbies were easy to catch, so it would make sense that Wambus would go for one of those. They were common, too…
…But not in Snaxburg. Even abandoned, there weren’t any bugsnax in Snaxburg. You had never seen one in Snaxburg the entire time you were there, not outside of the barn at least. That meant that Wambus had to have left Snaxburg to catch a strabby.
Now, knowing it was Wambus who caught it, you wouldn’t assume he would travel very far. He was busy reestablishing his farm, and even after things were going well, he didn’t like to leave it alone for very long. Hell, he wouldn’t even travel to see his wife, he’d been so dedicated to it. With that in mind, it was unlikely he would have hunted further than the Simmering Springs, or Garden Grove.
The thing was, strabbies didn’t occur in either location. Razzbies were the easiest to catch in the Simmering Springs, and Garden Grove only had white strabbies. You had been in Garden Grove at the time Wambus had supposedly secured the strabby. Filbo said it himself; they caught it while you had been helping Beff. If Wambus had been there - assuming he had decided, for some ridiculous reason, to go all the way to Flavor Falls for a single, simple strabby - you would have seen him traveling there from Beff’s cave.
So, you could conclude that Wambus did not go to his old farm in Garden Grove to catch you a bugsnak. He couldn’t have gone to Flavor Falls, either. That only left the Simmering Springs, but strabbies didn’t occur there. Not naturally.
Your mind flicked to Gramble with a tickle of guilt. Wambus either found one of Gramble’s stray pets in the Simmering Spring, or he had taken one from the ranch.
Your brow furrowed further as you shook your head. That didn’t make sense either. Gramble was adamant about not leaving a single bugsnak behind when he came to town. There was no way he’d leave a strabby in the springs - they were his favorite. He would have been keeping an eye on Wambus in town, too. It would have been impossible for Wambus to snatch one from the ranch, especially when there were so few, and Filbo had given you the strabby right in front of Gramble, so he would have known if it was one of his! That meant that Filbo -
“…the door. Buddy?”
“Uh?” You looked up, glancing between Filbo and the still-locked apartment door. You had taken your keys out of your pocket, but you hadn’t unlocked it. You had apparently just been standing there.
Filbo was watching you with a frown. “You okay? You’re not allergic to cricket bread too, are you?” He gave a small laugh, but his concern was still evident.
“Uhh… No. Sorry.” You unlocked the door for him and stepped out of the way to let Filbo in. He hesitated, still watching your face. You tried to give him a small smile. “I was just lost in thought.”
Filbo’s frown didn’t go away. “What were you thinking so hard about, buddy…?”
You were quiet.
Filbo sighed and hugged you gently. It was such a nice thing, to get a hug simply because someone was worried about you and wanted to comfort you. You hugged him back automatically, feeling your shoulders relax. His arms tightened around you soothingly.
“It’s over, you know…?” He murmured quietly into your fur. “You don’t need to worry. You can forget all about Snaktooth, buddy… You’re safe now. We all are. You don’t need to worry about it ever again. Okay…?” He looked up at you, and his eyes were so filled with a genuine, desperate affection. It made your heart leap into your throat.
You gathered him up in your arms and held him tightly, rubbing his back. Your hand caught on the mayor sash he still hadn’t taken off. “I’m really glad you’re here with me, Filbo.” Your voice was a little quiet. He didn’t say anything back, but he held you just a little tighter.