omfg ‘hamster fic’. I’d be lying if it hadn’t crossed my mind as I typed the message.
"Do you taunt him like this every day?" Hank asked dubiously, as the Charles-the-hamster teetered unsteadily on its hind legs.
Raven waved a dismissive hand. "I don’t do this for all his meals, god. It’s just a game we play from time to time.”
She continued to dangle the strawberry over Charles’ head. The hamster stretched valiantly towards the fruit, and promptly fell on its back with a squeak.
"He’s cute," Hank admitted, as Raven nudged Charles’ belly with the strawberry. "A pudding dwarf, right?"
"That’s right." The strawberry was snatched from Raven’s grasp. "He’s way friendlier than his cage mate, though. It’s weird - I googled the breeds, and their temperaments should be the other way around."
"Cage mate?" Hank looked away from the voracious nibbling, and scanned the sawdust floor. "I don’t see any others."
Raven pointed wordlessly at a strange, helmet-shaped plastic shelter. It was then Hank noticed a mass of sleek black fur lurking in the shadows, watching him with suspicious eyes.
"A black Syrian," Raven informed him. "His name is Erik."
"I see," said Hank, privately thinking it looked more like the hamster version of a hellhound. He bravely wiggled his finger near the helmet-shelter, and quickly withdrew it when Erik bared his teeth. "They don’t fight?"
This gave Raven pause. “Well…not exactly,” she said thoughtfully. “They’ve never attacked one another, that’s for sure. For awhile I thought Erik was stealing Charles’ food when I wasn’t looking, though - Charles starts looking weirdly skinny if I don’t feed him by hand. I’d been feeding him fruit every day for the past week to try and pudge him up.”
Hank frowned. “Perhaps the larger hamster doesn’t need to fight? It’s entirely possible it’s staked some kind of claim over the food, and Charles is too intimidated to approach the dish.”
"That isn’t it. Believe me, Charles is pigging out like he always does," Raven said dryly. "Watch."
Hank watched. Charles, it seemed, was consuming the entirety of his strawberry with great enjoyment, an impressive feat considering it was nearly as large as he was. Nothing seemed amiss - at least, not until Charles paused in mid-bite, lowering his meal to look guiltily at his cage mate, who was now snoozing lightly in the helmet.
Charles carefully set aside the remainder of the fruit, and pattered his way to the hamster wheel. To Hank’s astonishment, he started a determined run.
"What," said Hank, "on Earth."
"I know," Raven sighed. "I don’t get it at all. If he weren’t, well, a hamster, I’d say he was trying to look fit. Like Erik, I guess.”
"But that’s ridiculous," Hank remarked. "And futile. Dwarfs aren’t built to look like Syrians."
To Hank’s surprise, the blur of the hamster’s feet slowed to a stop. Charles hopped off his wheel, looking up at Hank with what almost seemed like stricken dismay.
Hank and Raven stared. “I think he heard you,” Raven whispered.
"Nonsense," said Hank nervously, as Charles huddled into an unhappy ball of fluff. "He’s just a hamster."
"Whatever," Raven said, disgruntled. "You’ve upset him. I’ll get another strawberry."
She turned huffily away, heading for the kitchen, and left Hank alone with a miserable Charles - and more unnervingly, Erik, who was once again awake and watching Hank beadily.
"It’s all right, you know," Hank murmured to Charles, feeling distinctly silly. "Being…well, adorable and round, I mean. It’s a very popular look, actually, most people feel that a rounder dwarf hamster is better. And I’m sure Erik likes you the way you are.”
Charles peeked up at Hank with an peculiarly intelligent eye. Almost as though he were about to respond, Hank thought, except Erik chose that moment to amble along to the other hamster’s side.
Hank tensed, preparing to break up a fight. Erik, however, merely nudged Charles’ pudgy side, before flopping smugly over his curled body, apparently content to use him as a squashy pillow.
Charles squeaked in surprise. Hank blinked.
"Told you," he said, as Erik yawned.
For a hamster, Charles was rather good at looking abashed.
I don’t know, okay.