It was starting to become a routine.

Scriabin sat beside him in the dark, and Edgar squinted at a blurry shape that he wished could become solid.

"Do you want to talk about what happened?" Edgar got the feeling he was going to say no, but he wanted to at least put it out there. The resigned sigh wasn't intentional, but he couldn't find the energy to keep it in.

"You are so dense, you know that?" Scriabin said, in that same quiet, thoughtful kind of voice that usually came with darkness. "You have all the pieces, and you can't put them together?" He laughed, briefly. "You really are hopeless without me."

He had to keep reaching out, eventually Scriabin would have to reciprocate. "You really helped me a lot with that, it's true. I don't see all the connections you do, a lot of the time." Sometimes because he didn't think those connections were there, sometimes because Scriabin made them up out of thin air... it varied. It always varied.

As usual with a compliment, with any kind of gratitude, Scriabin shied away from it, confused and hesitant like it would burn him. He didn't understand why. "You've taken a shine to flattery. Do you think it will get me to play our games together again? That I'm that easily manipulated?"

"I'm not trying to manipulate you. You're good at what you do. It's just... sometimes what you do is hurt me. You're definitely good at that."

"Again, flattery will get you nowhere."

"Can you at least tell me what the pieces are? Then maybe I can put them together."

There was silence for a moment, as Edgar hoped Scriabin was considering it.

"Ha. Ha ha. It's one thing to pull together all the shabby shreds of your psychological damage, knit them into some kind of coherent picture for you out of the goodness of my heart. Your weaknesses are almost pedestrian. Anyone could do it. You think I'll knit my own yarn together to give to you? You couldn't pay me enough."

"You liked playing our games this morning, as you put it." Edgar sat up a little, trying to catch the tail of the thought before it escaped. "It made you feel better, actually. At least, it seemed to."


"But, if I understand you correctly... are you saying your..." He stumbled on the word. "That the pieces involve your damage?"

Scriabin moved, possibly turning his head away from him.

"I'm not going to psychoanalyze myself for your benefit," he said. "You need to figure it out. I can't do everything for you."

"You might benefit from it too, you know."

"Feh." He saw it shake through his shoulders. "You really don't know anything."

Edgar was a loss, and he fell back to the pillow. He thought, thought, couldn't put anything together. Again, he stood in front of an audience without a script. He wasn't sure what else to do, so he groped for something that had at least given him a reaction before.

"Thanks for trying to protect me," Edgar said softly, and he felt Scriabin tremble beside him. As he thought about it, a long strand of yarn went back through his memories, linking things together. "You've done that a lot."

And a powerful shiver went through Scriabin beside him. He really didn't know how to deal with compliments, or acknowledgement. Each time-

"I can't even do that," Scriabin whispered, brittle and angry, and he abruptly turned away from Edgar, throwing himself down under the covers and burying himself deep with a frustrated sound.


"Oh Scriabin..." Edgar propped himself up on his elbows, eyebrows drawn together, squinting at the shaking lump beside him. "Is that really what's bothering you...?"

"You're so dense," Scriabin said, muffled from under the blankets. "I can't believe you still can't figure things out without me."

He'd expected Scriabin to deny it, but his resentment was focused somewhere else. Edgar reached out to rest a hand on the lump, which jumped at the contact but didn't move away.

"You keep doing this like you think I'm going to fall for it," Scriabin said. "Like your persistence equals sincerity, or penitence. I can't trust you with..." The blankets shook a little under his hand. "I can't trust you with anything."

A familiar wall, and Edgar was getting frustrated.


And he thought about what Scriabin would tell him to do. What Scriabin himself would do.

"You know, you were always telling me to trust you..." Edgar said. "Why is it that I should trust you, after you lied to me, but you can't trust me?"

"I'm not as stupid as you," Scriabin said, weakly. It wouldn't have registered before, but now it itched like a bug bite.

Scriabin would find alternate paths, Scriabin would turn things around, Scriabin would find a new angle, he'd find a parallel...

"Last night, I thanked you for the things you did for me. You hurt me, we both know that, but I thanked you for what you did right. That's what you want, that's what you think you deserve. I remember, when we were talking that first day, how angry you were that I kept bringing it up. How I wouldn't acknowledge the things you'd done to help me."

The blanket shivered under his hand.

"You want me to acknowledge the things you did right, even with everything you've done wrong. And you won't do me the same courtesy. You want forgiveness, and you won't give it to me in return. Don't you think that's a little hypocritical?"

He felt him stiffen under his hand, and he was sure that Scriabin was angry now. He turned over to face him, pulling the covers down enough to reveal his head, although in the dark it was hard to make out his expression. He could easily imagine it though.

"You think I want your forgiveness?" Scriabin sounded offended, which wasn't a huge surprise. "You think that's what I want?"

"Why do I have to focus on the good things you did, while all you focus on is the bad things I did?"

Scriabin stared at him in the dark, or at least he thought he did, and he could feel him shaking next to him still. He braced himself just in case, without really thinking about it. This kind of tension spoke of anger, he could recognize it without conscious thought.

He expected him to speak, but he didn't for a few moments. He wasn't used to the pauses, the breaks in Scriabin's constant onslaught as he had to think now. Marooned in a foreign sea, Scriabin had no easy shortcuts through Edgar's thoughts anymore.

"Fine, I'll say what you want to hear." Scriabin took on a deeply sarcastic tone, and had they been somewhere else, he could imagine him making grand, melodramatic gestures to go along with it. "I'm being a dick because you broke my heart, Edgar, and I'll never ever forgive you, and I'll pine away in my tall tall tower weeping bitter tears over your betrayal until I wither away and die without your love. Does that make you happy? Is that simple enough for you?"

"Oh, when did I break your heart?" Just as sarcastic, and he would have added fingerquotes if it wasn't so dark.

Scriabin's voice came in a surprisingly angry and sincere hiss. "You called me a parasite!"

"You are- were a parasite!"

"I didn't know that!"

Edgar flinched back from the words, and he felt Scriabin do the same, and they were quiet. Scriabin's breathing was getting faster and harsher, and he could feel his frustration at being unable to control it.

K's voice echoed in his head. He didn't know anything, really. Well, not as much as he'd like you to believe. None of them do.

"Scriabin..." He didn't mean to say it but it came out of him, aghast and unbelieving, and he wanted to take it out of the air and put it back in his mouth.

"Don't tell me you don't remember, Edgar," Scriabin growled at him through clenched teeth to hide the quaking of his words. "You did all this to save your brother, didn't you? Your brother that you loved so much."


"You have the audacity to lay there and ask me to trust you. Trust you. You know what? I did trust you, once. And you know what happened? You know what happened, Edgar? You brought me into your life and then you fucking kicked me out of it." He took in a quick breath. "How do I know you're not just going to do it again?"

His voice cracked on those last words, and he turned away from him with an angry, broken sound. He buried himself deep in the covers, and all he could hear were ragged breaths.

Edgar couldn't find any words. He stared at the shaking blankets like that would give him answers.

"I'm not stupid," Scriabin said, shaky and small.

"I'm..." He knew it wouldn't be adequate but he had to say it, he had to say something. "I'm sorry, Scriabin, I..."

Scriabin didn't respond, and he knew it wasn't enough. He'd fallen into a chasm he'd completely forgotten about, and it was a long way down. He had to stop the fall, but he didn't know how. All he could do was flail wildly for some kind of handhold, something to make this awful feeling stop.

"I'm... I'm not going to abandon you. I'm not going to kick you out. I told you, I... I want to live my life with you. I meant it. I really did. I know I..." His own throat felt tight, and he'd been trying so hard to keep it together through all these conversations. He had to keep it together. "I know I hurt you, I know I did, but I don't want to do that anymore. I don't want to hurt you." And he latched onto another passing thought in a desperate attempt to climb back up. "That's why I was so scared today, in the store... I was so scared you were going to get hurt, Scriabin. If something happened to you, I don't know what I'd do."

He swallowed, and it stuck, and his eyes were stinging, and he didn't want to do this, he really didn't want to do this, he spent so much of his life practicing how not to do this, he had to keep it together. "I can't even think about it, if I think about you- about you getting hurt it-"

And his voice broke, much the same as Scriabin's had. They did mirror each other.

He took in a hissing breath and held it, forced tension through his entire body, tried to focus but he couldn't. His face felt warm and he didn't want this. "If he'd- if he'd hit you, if- if that happened- I don't know what I would've done, I would've- God, Scriabin, I would have lost it. I really would've lost it, I would've-" He couldn't find the words for it, the image of it kept shaking his thoughts to pieces. He bit back the sound hard, strained for silence, and he kept it to just a quick, deep breath that he knew still said more than he wanted.

He was so focused on it, he didn't realize Scriabin had moved. He'd rolled back over towards him, the vague shape of his head turned towards him. At least if he couldn't see Scriabin's expression, he wouldn't be able to see Edgar's either.

"The tears are a nice touch," Scriabin said, softly. "Would you really have lost it, as you put it? Would you really have fought for me?"

Questions like that from Scriabin were almost always rhetorical, but this time they sounded sincere.

Edgar took in another breath to try and fight it down. Scriabin pointing them out only made them that much worse. He shouldn't be doing this. He had to be the responsible one. He had to be the emotionally stable one - too many people depended on him for theirs for him to indulge lapses like this.

And nothing in his head told him that was unhealthy, and the unheard repercussions of that echoed recursively.

"I would've tried," Edgar said eventually, his voice still shaking despite his best efforts.

He wasn't sure what to expect from him, already tense, already shaking, not sure in what other way he could brace himself for whatever storm was about to unleash itself on him. Scriabin turned his head back to look at the ceiling with something like a sigh.

"Hm," Scriabin said, and Edgar blinked several times. Scriabin always had a talent for catching him off-guard. "I suppose that wouldn't have gone well for either of us, would it."

His voice was strangely even now and calm, something that Edgar recognized in himself, but he didn't engage with that thought. His emotions were slowing now that Scriabin didn't seem upset.

"No, it really wouldn't have." Edgar wiped one hand under his eyes, lingering just a little on the deep grooves beneath them. "Did you see that guy? He was huge."

"We're not exactly physical powerhouses," Scriabin said, in that same kind of oddly calm tone. Edgar got the impression that the storm had passed, somehow, and he wasn't sure how he'd done it.

"Yeah..." Edgar laid his head back on the pillow, feeling drained and relieved, although anxiety still crept around his thoughts. "I think I would've done it anyway though." A moment. "I know you would've, if I hadn't stopped you."


That was all he said, and Edgar waited for him to say something more, he wasn't sure what, but he didn't. Edgar stared at that dark shape so close to him, features indistinct and blurry, and he could almost see who he used to be.

"I'm sorry," Edgar whispered, he felt like he had to, he felt like he had to say something. Scriabin didn't say anything, just taking in a long breath and letting it out slowly.


And Edgar thought, as sleep started to encroach on his thoughts, that Scriabin knew him, knew his feelings, could read them as easily as any book. And if Edgar had been genuinely repentant for what he'd done, genuinely sorry...

Scriabin would have been able to tell.

Would it have mattered to him back then? Did it? He wasn't thinking clearly. Scriabin couldn't feel his sincerity now, and that was what actually mattered.

The thought came to him again. What did sharing a life with Scriabin even entail? What did that mean to him?

It hung there behind glass, he couldn't engage with it, he wanted to but he couldn't get himself to move, and then sleep took him and it was too late.

His dream that night was, at least, somewhat mundane. That was a relief. It was one of his recurring ones, one he had considered a nightmare before his life had become an ongoing series of them. It still wasn't pleasant, by any means, but it was a pinprick against what he'd become used to.

He was back in school again, and he had signed up for a class he didn't remember. The end of the semester was approaching, and he hadn't attended any of those classes or done any of the homework. He spent the majority of his time in the dream awash in helpless anxiety, unable to change the course of his failing the class, and filled with deep self-loathing for being so careless and forgetful to put himself in that situation in the first place.

Scriabin had found his own place in these dreams, as he had worked himself into all of them over time. Sometimes he was purely a voice, constantly reminding Edgar of what he'd forgotten, and how this could have been avoided, and what a waste of time and money it was, and how everyone was going to be so disappointed in him. Then suddenly, Scriabin would be beside him as another student, breezing through classes and laughing at his struggles. His commentary was similar inside and outside, and he switched between the two without warning.

It really was just like it had always been. He knew this dream so well that it was frustrating to be in it again, like his brain just couldn't get enough of this particular brand of self-torture.

Scriabin, in the dream, loved to point that out to him when he felt like breaking the fourth wall. Before, Edgar had always woken up when he realized something was a dream, but after Scriabin came into being, that didn't work anymore. Sometimes he played along, and sometimes he stepped back and took great pleasure in mocking Edgar for playing this out over and over again.

Something did change though, near the end of it. Edgar was again wondering what he was going to do, wondering what he'd tell people about his inexcusable failure to go to this class, why hadn't he just gone to this class?, and Scriabin was walking beside him as casual as ever, a bag of books slung over one shoulder.

"I'm transferring," he'd said, and Edgar started and stared at him. He was used to fear, in this dream, of when the hammer would come down and he'd have to take a final he had no idea how to pass, when he'd have to tell his grandmother what he'd done, but this filled him with an entirely new and much deeper fear, something that made his stomach drop.

"Transferring where?" Edgar said. Scriabin turned to look at him, and Edgar saw himself in his glasses, with a dumb look of disbelief on his face.

"You're never going to see me again," Scriabin said in response. Edgar reached out, automatically, to touch him, and his hand went right through him.

At that point, something woke him up.

He wasn't sure what it was at first, some kind of motion and noise he wasn't familiar with, and, already sleeping fitfully, it pulled him from the dream's grip without warning.

He tried to reconnect with his body again. The two of them were loosely tangled, both on their backs, one of his legs over Scriabin's and one of Scriabin's arms thrown casually over his chest. It was the kind of sprawling contact that came from two people in close proximity more than any kind of conscious decision.

He turned his head and looked over to Scriabin. He forced away the first thought of this being a stranger, the constant question of who are you whenever he looked at him. He could see his eyes moving under his eyelids, and he was breathing irregularly.

Then he made a quiet, whimpering sound.

Edgar breathed in for a moment, then reached over to set a hand on his shoulder. He gave him a gentle shake.

"Scriabin, Scriabin, wake up." He tried to keep his voice even. He'd never done this before, he wasn't sure what to do but this seemed right. "Wake up, you're having a nightmare. You're dreaming."

At the sound of his voice, Scriabin shivered and turned his head away, making an even longer whining sound. He was breathing faster, and Edgar gave him another shake.

"Come on. Come on, you're dreaming. It's okay. Come on."

He made a pitiful, frightened sound that made his heart hurt deep, and Edgar shook him without pause, desperate to make it stop. After a few seconds, Scriabin took in a sudden breath, and his eyes fluttered open. He lay there for a few seconds, just staring at the ceiling and breathing hard.

"You alright?" Edgar said, after he hoped the last remnants of the dream had faded. "You were having a nightmare, I think."

He'd always wondered if Scriabin had dreamed, while the two of them had been together. He'd never gotten a straight answer, but he had to assume that even if he had, it was completely different for him now.

Scriabin finally turned to look at him, and his eyes were wide and there was that strange vulnerability again that brought up a feeling he wasn't familiar with. It was something that didn't belong on his face, even as different as it was now.

"Edgar?" It was a faint, breathless question, and there was a tinge of something pleading in his eyes that made his heart hurt again.

"Yes, it's me. You alright?"

Scriabin stared at him for a few moments longer, then turned back to stare at the ceiling. He brought a hand up to press against his forehead as he let out a long breath.

"It sounded pretty bad." Edgar took his hand from his shoulder, and he propped himself on his elbows as he shifted away from him.

"Shit..." Scriabin still sounded breathless. "That was new."

Edgar could guess, but he wanted to hear him say it. "How so?"

"Not used to not being able to get out of them..." His breath came through his teeth. "That's... different."

This felt like a rare moment of honesty, and Edgar wasn't sure how far he could push it without breaking it. "Right... you could always get out of mine."

"Well, almost always," he said as he closed his eyes, still without any of the typical caution in his words. "Or I could change or control them, if I wanted to. I'm not used to not being able to control them. It's... different."

"I bet it is." Edgar tilted his head at him. "Not as easy to shake off when you can't get out of them, huh?" A moment. "What was it about?"

As he thought, Scriabin brought his hand down to hide his eyes.

"Oh no, I'm not giving you any more little tidbits of my thoughts so you can play thera-scientist and analyze my 'damage'."

"Mm, I thought you'd say that." Edgar turned over to look at the clock. He had work today, and he still had a few minutes before the alarm went off. Might as well get up now, and he sighed and forced himself out of bed. He thought about it, for a few seconds, then decided what the hell, he might as well just say it. "I'd tell you what I dreamed about, but you don't need me to fluff your ego."

"Why?" The sudden interest in Scriabin's voice made him smile, for some reason, and when he turned back to look, Scriabin was sitting up now, looking at him intently. "Was it about me?"

"Maybe." He was still smiling, and he told himself he really shouldn't be doing this, but it was so hard to resist. Scriabin did this to him all the time... maybe this strange appeal was why. "But you don't want to talk about dreams, so."

Scriabin frowned at him with an annoyed noise, but couldn't quite get over his own reluctance to share to ask further. As Edgar went about his morning routine, he couldn't think of it as an entirely bad thing. Privacy was still new to them, still something hard for him to consciously recognize, and a little distance between them like this was probably good. They'd have to get used to being able to do this, after all.

Codependent hung in his head again. He knew it wasn't healthy, but it was so hard to try and break away. On some fundamental level it was so hard to even find the motivation to do it.

Scriabin? the voice called, as he shaved in the mirror, and Scriabin didn't come join him. When he took a peek into the bedroom, he found Scriabin back under the covers, possibly asleep again. Well, it'd probably do him good.

Edgar woke up Todd for breakfast, and everything was going quite normally, and he told himself Scriabin was just napping in his mind and that's why he was so quiet about things, and he was almost out the door before he remembered.

"Just a second, Todd..."

Edgar went back to the bedroom, and Scriabin was still in bed. He felt a twinge of light annoyance, an admonishment at how lazy he was being that somehow felt fond, and he came over to him.

"Scriabin, I'm going to work," he said softly, and Scriabin made an indistinct noise to acknowledge that he'd heard. "Are you going to be okay here by yourself?"

He made that same noise again, and Edgar paused, hesitated. He was worried, which wasn't a surprise, but it wasn't like he really had a choice. He had responsibilities, and he couldn't watch over him forever. They'd have to get used to this.

He left him where he was, and he and Todd headed out the door.

"Oh, Mr. Edgar, Pepito asked if I could come over after school... is that okay?"

"Sure, Todd. For how long?"

"I'm not sure..."

"Well... just call me when you want me to pick you up, alright?"

He dropped him off, he went to work, he settled back into the routine that had defined all of his days before, and the silence gnawed at him.

There were things to deal with, of course. Explanations he had to offer to his boss and his coworkers, work he had to do in apology for how much he'd missed, promises he had to make about not letting it happen again. All things he'd expected and planned for, to an extent, so it didn't engage too many of his higher brain functions.

Those were all revolving around Scriabin.

He called and called for him through the day, constantly asking for his input, constantly asking if he remembered something he forgot, if he remembered what it was Edgar had to do, and what it was he'd done while in Edgar's body. Edgar had work done that he had no memory of doing, and that left him in a strange position when he had to explain how he'd done it.

When he wasn't desperate to hear his voice, he found himself slowly eaten alive with worry. What was Scriabin doing back at the apartment while he was gone? Hopefully he wasn't wandering around outside by himself, the thought made him feel sick. What if he picked a fight with some random stranger? What if he got himself in trouble? He had no way of contacting Edgar now, unless he called his work number, and he wasn't sure he would. Scriabin's pride wouldn't allow him to ask him for help, even if he needed it.

What if it was just something mundane, like Scriabin cutting himself while trying to cook something? What if he set the apartment on fire? What if he put metal in the microwave and it exploded? What if, what if, what if?

It was extremely hard to focus as he constantly ran over worst-case scenarios in his head, although he found himself veering sharply away from one massive one he couldn't even let himself acknowledge. Scriabin would have pointed it out to him, wouldn't have let him hide from it, and even that just made him feel worse.

He thought, wondered if Scriabin would miss him while he was gone, and he recoiled from that thought every time it came to him, waiting for an attack that didn't come.

Edgar missed him, he managed to realize halfway through the day, which helped put a name to some of that longing and worry. He'd been missing him since they'd come back, but this was a new kind of it, although that didn't make it any easier to bear.

They needed to live their own separate lives now, they couldn't constantly live in each other's space as they had before. He knew they had to grow apart, or else what was even the point of this? Being as twisted together as they were before had just led to increasingly complicated and long-lasting pain for them both.

But it was so hard to think about that when he was worrying this much, when he wanted to see or hear him this much. If this was what life would be like for them, if this is what his life would be like if Scriabin did decide to leave and live on his own somewhere, he couldn't bear it. It felt impossible to withstand. He didn't want that, he falteringly came to realize, still expecting punishment for approaching the thought.

Edgar had extended the offer to live his life with Scriabin when he was primarily thinking about him, his feelings, what he'd say, how he'd react. He'd thought of it as how Scriabin would survive without him, what Scriabin would want, what would reach him.

It was hard, somehow, for him to really think, to really fully tackle the thought that it was something he wanted. Not for Scriabin's sake, not because he felt he had to, not because he felt he should, but because he wanted to be near him.

He wasn't used to this. He'd lived so much of his life without any kind of emotional entanglements with other people. He'd focused a lot of his energy on learning to survive without them. His grandmother had raised him almost entirely with self-reliance in mind. He'd thought he'd had it mastered. He thought it was a skill that he'd never have to worry about, that it was imprinted on him in a way that just couldn't be erased.

Scriabin had taunted him about it before, when they were younger. How he'd clung to Johnny, in his own way, as the one social link he had. How it was hard for him to let go of that connection, no matter how unhealthy, to let his life go empty again.

He'd thought he was okay with emptiness. He really thought he could live the entirety of his life that way. He'd told himself he had everything he needed. That he didn't know what loneliness was.

And in a way, he had been right about that. He'd never experienced loneliness like this before, and he could understand now why someone would want to avoid it. It hurt and hurt and hurt and he didn't have any idea how to soothe it or make it go away, except to find the people he longed for.

Scriabin had always been with him, before. As constant a presence as anything could be, the idea of being alone with him there impossible. Todd had said that Scriabin had never been alone before, and after Scriabin took up residence in his thoughts... neither had Edgar.

It was an incredibly hard thing to adjust to, being alone now.

He hurt through the workday, and he found himself constantly worrying about how much Scriabin would be hurting in return.

Finally free, Edgar headed home, made a quick stop, almost went to Todd's school before remembering he'd be at his friend's house, and went home. A strange surge of adrenaline went through him as he scaled the stairs that only got stronger as he got to the door. He'd never felt anything like this before when he'd come home. Even when he'd worried about Johnny breaking in and ambushing him at some point, it hadn't felt like this. There was a strange lightness to it he wasn't familiar with, something positive he didn't quite understand, that didn't make sense.

He could hear motion inside the minute his keys were in the lock, and he heard Scriabin's voice before he'd even opened the door. It came with a strange wave of relief, and it sounded better than it had in days.

"Christ, where have you been?" Scriabin said, with typical disdain, but it wavered a little on those first few syllables. "Do you know how boring it is here? We have to go to the video store and get some tapes or something. All your books are terrible and there's nothing on TV."

Scriabin was talking so quickly that he could barely take the time to breathe, and Edgar set his keys down to find Scriabin pacing in the middle of the room, gesticulating wildly without much reason as he spoke.

"I had a lot to catch up on," Edgar finally said, finding himself smiling, and then he noticed the rest of the apartment. Books were lying everywhere, couch cushions were scattered haphazardly, a plate and a glass were lying on the floor, a cereal box was tipped over, some of the tapes he had were scattered about without their sleeves...

"What have you been doing?" he said, disapproving, and Scriabin threw up his hands.

"I was bored! Jesus! There's nothing to do here!"

"You don't have to make a mess..."

"It was at least something to do." Scriabin was still pacing with strange urgency, still emphasizing every word with movements of his hands that were largely unnecessary. "What happened at work? How'd they take it? I can't imagine they were happy with us. I don't think I left you any notes about that report I filled out."

"You didn't." Edgar sighed. "And it was about as unpleasant as you'd expect."

"So? Are you just going to stand there, or are you going to tell me about it?" Scriabin put his hands on his hips, and he almost expected him to tap his foot.

"Why are you interested?" Edgar shrugged his coat off and hung it up, and he set the shopping bag on the floor by the door. "It's not really your job anymore..."

"Because I'm bored! And even hearing about your boring life and your boring job would be better than this!" Scriabin didn't seem to be thinking his words through at all, he was so desperate to just talk.

"You sure had a fun time throwing all my books around." Edgar gave him a look. "Don't tell me you read all of them while I was gone. That'd be pretty impressive without glasses."

"Ugh, I couldn't focus on them! It was so frustrating." Scriabin crossed his arms, glaring at one of the books like it was its fault. "No doubt because they're all so goddamn boring. We need to go back to the bookstore and pick up something that actually has some merit."

There was something about Scriabin's energy, the quick way he was talking, the way he couldn't meet his eyes, that made Edgar feel something that he couldn't identify. It didn't need him to to guide his next words, though.

"You know, I never would have thought I'd say this, considering everything that's gone on between us, but..." Edgar found himself smiling at him again. "I'm glad to see you."

Scriabin started, nearly stumbling with the excess of energy he had, and his face flushed red almost instantly. He turned away from him, his arms crossed and his shoulders hunched, and Edgar kept smiling.

"It's really strange to have someone to come home to... I mean, besides Todd, of course. I can't remember that time very clearly. I don't think it felt like this though." Edgar felt like he had to keep talking, hang onto this feeling, whatever it was. "We never really had that, before."

And he was being careful, treading around the edges of something, what he'd been wondering fearfully about throughout the day, and something about the air in the room, something about Scriabin's reaction, made him want to say it.

"I mean... how did you feel, having someone come home to you?" And he didn't know it, he wasn't sure of it, there wasn't anything in Scriabin's behavior that made it obvious, but it followed naturally, and he let it. "If I didn't know better, I'd think you were glad to see me, too."

He could see it ripple through him, like a cat raising its fur on end. Scriabin struggled to find words, grasping and reaching for them in a way that was still satisfying, even now.

Edgar wondered how he'd shove the sentiment away, how he'd turn it around on him, how he'd refuse the offer as he always did. If nothing else, at least it got him flustered, and that was something he'd never seen from him before, and that was fun to watch.

"Well, it should be obvious, even to someone as stupid as you. Let me lay it out for you, like letter blocks for a three year old, since that's about the level you're at mentally." Scriabin was trying for his normal condescending tone, but there was something woven into it that made it transparent. "The only way I could assert my existence while trapped in your mind was through my voice. Well, at first anyway. And over the past few days, it's been regaining my skill with words that's reassured you of who I am. It's my most defining trait, one would say, since it's all I had for the vast majority of my life." Scriabin's gestures now were quite wide, and his hands were shaking. "And at times, in moments of what I hesitate to call 'weakness', exactly, but something along those lines, except not as demeaning..."


"I mentioned to you that my own identity, in this new vessel, can be hard for me to pin down, and given that one of the core tenets of my identity revolves around what I'm doing right at this moment, you can imagine that it can be somewhat difficult to not be able to engage in it with anyone."

"Ah, you had no one to talk to." Edgar leaned back against the door with his arms crossed, smiling. "That must be new. I was always there, before."

He thought Scriabin would turn away from him again, bristle and hiss and swipe to drive him off.

Instead, Scriabin turned slightly towards him, not enough to face him, but still enough so he could see his profile. He was decidedly not looking at him, and his face was still warm.

"It wasn't really something I'd considered. Even if you never listened, you could always hear me."

Were they actually talking? Finally? Edgar had tried so hard for this, and now it felt like they'd just stumbled onto it accidentally.

"I was really worried about you all day today, actually." He had to reach out, he had to keep this going as long as Scriabin was willing to play along. "I kept thinking about what you might be doing, or what you were thinking." He paused, considered it, and forced it to come. "I was really lonely, you know. Without you." And he could anticipate what he would say. "And not because I didn't know what work you did while I wasn't there. I mean..." He looked away a little. "I haven't gone to work alone in a long time."

Scriabin's eyes darted to him once or twice, but he couldn't keep up contact. He fidgeted, tapped his fingers on his upper arms, tilted his head up to look at the ceiling and then trailed his eyes down across the walls, the floors, the mess he'd made for no reason. Increasingly Edgar was starting to recognize this as him trying to say something difficult.

"You were worried about me?" Scriabin said eventually, staring intently at one of the books on the floor. "What did you think I'd do here while you were gone? Set the place on fire?"

"Well, that did occur to me," Edgar said, unable to help a smile. Scriabin snorted.

"Just because I'm out here doesn't mean I've forgotten everything you knew in there." He pointed at Edgar, unnecessarily.

Something occurred to him, and something light came with it, and he didn't have the tools to analyze what it was, or why he felt. Whatever it was, he wanted to do it.

"Hey... want to try something?"

"Hm?" Scriabin gave him what was almost a suspicious look.

"Can you tell me what I'm thinking?" Edgar smiled at him, and he wasn't sure if it was in a hopeful way. "Not... anything really deep, but just..."

Scriabin looked at him, tilted his back to look at him through the bottom of his sunglasses. He looked him over head to toe, and for a moment Edgar worried he wouldn't go through with it, and he didn't want that.

"Mm. You're thinking about what to make for dinner, like you always do when you come home from work," Scriabin said, still standing in that same regarding pose. "You're thinking about what you'll have to do tomorrow, although you've ticked off the 'groceries' line on your list of mental chores." A second, and finally he smiled at him in return. It had the typical Scriabin edge to it, but he was glad to see it anyway. "And you've slotted cleaning up the mess I made to the top of the list, and you're annoyed about it in that little passive way of yours."

Edgar let the words hang there for a few seconds, and then he found himself laughing. He didn't know why, but he couldn't get himself to stop. He wasn't even laughing that hard, it was kind of breathless and it came with a different kind of ache in his chest.

"You're right..." Edgar rubbed at one of the scars under his eyes, and he could pick out some of what he felt as relief, and he wasn't sure where it was coming from. "You're right, that's exactly it, you're right."

Scriabin blinked at him, and he could see him debating whether or not to push him away and deny it, refute it, bat his hand away like he always did, and at the moment Edgar didn't care because he'd been sincere, he meant it. Scriabin actually had been right, minus thinking about picking Todd up later, and it was like a weight had come off of him that he'd been carrying all this time.

"Really?" Scriabin said, eventually, and there was something hopeful in his voice that kept that feeling going.

"Yes..." Edgar rubbed underneath his other eye, still laughing faintly. "Well... you missed a few things... Todd asked if he could stay at a friend's house, I'll have to pick him up later."

Scriabin looked around the room, even though Todd clearly wasn't in it. "I was wondering where he was. We usually pick him up after work."

"But... everything else, you got it. You can still do it." Edgar smiled at him again, in a fond way that in another state of mind would have made him worried, made him brace himself for pain. "You haven't forgotten."

Scriabin blinked again, looking around the room again in those quick little motions, searching for something to focus on.

"It was my entire life," he finally said, again not able to look him in the face. "How could I forget?"

They were quiet for a few moments, Edgar staring at Scriabin while he stared at anything that wasn't Edgar, still fidgeting. He thought about that strange light feeling, that odd fluttering in his stomach as he'd come home, the anticipation of it.

"You still know me better than anyone," he said, finally, although he wasn't sure why. It was close to what he wanted to express, to get out, but wasn't quite it.

Scriabin huffed, tilted his head and forth, still trying to burn energy, struggling again with what it was he wanted to say.

"I thought you didn't want to fluff my ego." he said finally, more awkward than he would have liked. There was something encouraging about it, in a way.

"I don't, but it won't make a difference anyway, everything feeds your ego." And Scriabin huffed, but he didn't sound displeased.

"I'm really not used to this," Edgar said, a bit breathless around the edges. And he felt that same urge from this morning, the same temptation to draw a reaction in a way that was too dangerous before. "Wanting to see you, I mean."

"Hmph," Scriabin said, which was better than he'd been dreading, and he still couldn't meet his eyes. "I assume you want me to say the feeling is mutual."

I already know it is, he thought, and there was something reassuring about it. A source of tension, fear, easing a little. Edgar wanted to come home, he wanted to see him... and he was sure, for all that Scriabin was trying not to show it, that he'd wanted Edgar to come home. He could only speculate about the feelings Scriabin could have had during the day, but he wanted to imagine they ran parallel to his own. The thought of Scriabin missing him, wanting to be with him, worrying about him... there was something about that he wanted to hold.

"Well... it'd be nice." Edgar couldn't resist saying it, although there was no challenge in it. "But I'm not expecting it."

"Then you aren't completely hopeless," Scriabin said with a toss of his head, still obvious. He paused, and he looked down at the floor. "...It was boring here, by myself."

"Yeah, I can tell." Edgar looked around the apartment again. "Are you going to help me clean this up? If you want, we can go to the video store. I'm going to have to go back to work tomorrow... I don't want you tearing this place up every time I have to go."

"I'm not going to do that," Scriabin said with disdain, which didn't hide the fact it was clearly a lie.

"You are such a pain." Edgar shook his head, but he was smiling. "I don't why-"

Someone knocked on the door.

Both of them looked at it with matching puzzled expressions.

"The hell?" Scriabin said. Edgar squinted at the door, like it'd help him think somehow. Who on earth would knock on his door? Todd was supposed to call him. Maybe it was his neighbors? There had been a lot more noise in his apartment then there had been previously.

He decided that was the most likely, and went to open it.

One would think, with a life as empty as Edgar's was, that he'd remember all of the very few people that had made their way into it. Seeing Devi standing there, in paint-spattered jeans and a t-shirt, wide-eyed and almost shaking with visible relief, shouldn't have been as much of a shock to him as it was.

But it was.

"Edgar!" Devi was a little breathless, and she pressed a hand over her heart. "Edgar, are you okay? Christ, you scared the hell out of me."

Edgar just blinked at her.

"Uh... sorry? Uh, I mean... what? What are you talking about?" he finally managed to get out, stumbling through each word.

"The last message you left me? You know? The really fucking scary one where it sounded like you were fucking dying? Remember?" She looked at him, disbelieving, then something slowed. She leaned her head back a little. "Wait... you don't, do you?"

"Uh..." Edgar rifled through his memories, all of which felt like a pile of papers that had been knocked to the floor. "I... I don't, I'm sorry. Uh, my memory has been really bad lately. Can we, maybe... can we maybe start from the beginning? I'm really sorry about this, but I'm... I must admit I'm a little lost." A moment. "Uh, it's nice to see you, by the way."

Better, getting closer to something natural, but he was still confused and it showed. Devi rested a hand on her hip, raising an eyebrow at him in doubt (she had white lines on her face over her eyes... were those new?), but she eventually shook her head.

"You really don't remember, huh?" She sighed and rested a hand on her head, and he got the impression she would have run her hand through her hair if it hadn't been up in her usual pigtails. She had a smudge of paint on her cheek. "Can I come in? This feels kind of weird to talk about out here."

"Oh, yes, of course," Edgar said without thinking about it, and he stepped back to make way for her.


She looked over the living room. "Looks like you've been busy."

"Oh, it wasn't me, it was..." And he caught himself, a sudden burn of panic causing a spread of goosebumps. He looked but he didn't see Scriabin anywhere, and for a brief nonsensical moment, he wondered if he'd just been hallucinating this entire time and Scriabin was back where he was supposed to be.

Where had he gone?

"Oh, right, Scriabin." She snapped her fingers. "Shit, it's still really fucked up he can do that to you. Take you over, I mean. I'm glad Sickness couldn't do that. Well..." She tapped her chin in thought. "I guess I didn't exactly give her the chance to try."

"Uh, right..." Edgar struggled to catch up with her. "I guess I told you about that...?"

"Yeah, you did, he did, whatever." She waved a hand. "Not that I wouldnt've been able to tell something was up with you anyway. You were really different when he was in control, and that vain dick always wanted people to know he was in charge." She was thinking about sitting on the couch, but the general disarray of it seemed to be putting her off. She put her hands on her hips with a long-suffering sigh. "It figures that some supernatural bullshit would step in to ensure someone who's halfway decent would get eaten from the inside out by their own asshole anyway." She looked back to him. "Do you really not remember any of this?"

"I'm sorry, my memory of the last few months is... very blurry." Edgar rubbed his arm to try and find something to do with his hands. Again, he was lost on stage with nothing to anchor him. "I... well, if we've been talking as much as I assume we have, I'm sure I don't have to tell you that..."

"Yeah, you've been super fucked up lately, not that I blame you." Unable to find a place to sit, she turned back to face him with her hands in her pockets. There was more of a casual ease to her than he could easily remember, something that told him that she'd put something to rest. What was it she'd said? She'd done something, he was sure of it, something important, but he couldn't sift it out of the rest of his memories. He couldn't be sure what it was, or if it had actually happened. "That's why I came to check on you. You don't remember the last call you made to me?"

Edgar shook his head reluctantly. "I'm sorry, I... I really don't. Uh... would you mind telling me? I know it's an odd thing to ask..."

Devi tilted her head at him, thoughtfully, with her eyes narrowed. It took a few moments before she spoke again. "You're different."

"Am I?" The third time he'd heard this, and he still wasn't used to it. Edgar didn't do different. A life as unremarkable as his didn't change much... or at least, it hadn't before Johnny had thrown it abruptly off-course. "Well... I guess I am, technically, although it's a long story. But... please, can you tell me first?"

She hummed in thought, frowning, but in the end she shrugged. "Alright, alright. You left me a message on my machine. You said something like, someone or something was after you, some real Lovecraftian shit. That they were in your house right then, that you were about to die and you needed help, something like that." Devi paused, and then she looked a little uncomfortable as her eyes went to the side. "No offense but, well... I mean, you didn't pester me a lot, but, I gotta say, that wasn't too unusual for you? I mean, you talked about that kind of shit a lot. It was kind of hard to tell if any of it was real." She looked back to him, now somewhere between apologetic and guilty. "Sorry, I know that was kind of fucked up of me, but I mean..."

"No, I understand." And he did, somewhere, which meant it didn't trigger any kind of hurt at her words. "I don't remember a lot of what happened back then, or what I did or said... and what I do remember, I'm not sure how much of it was real. It's... hard to explain what I was going through."

"Yeah, all the supernatural bullshit." Devi rolled her eyes. "I still don't want to believe that shit, you know? It's just 'cause I got her eyes in my bag that I'm still not sure I wasn't just making the entire thing up."

Something about that sounded familiar, something about it resonated in him, tried to bring an image into focus. She'd had a voice too, he remembered... Sickness, that was her name. Without thinking, he snapped his fingers as it came back to him. She'd defeated her voice, she'd crippled her when Sickness was young and weak, and she'd taken control of her life back. No wonder she looked much more at ease now.

Scriabin had not liked that story when he'd heard it, even though he was far too powerful at that point to be conquered in that same way.

She gave him a look, and Edgar shrugged with an embarrassed laugh. "Oh, sorry... I just remembered what you told me about her. Like I said, everything has been very hazy..."

"Right." She didn't seem to hold it against him at least, and he was glad for that. "But, anyway, you left me that message, and I didn't know if you meant it or what, but then I heard something. Like... some kind of fucking thing. I don't even know how to describe it. It was really fucking weird. And that's when I started to think that maybe something was really wrong, like maybe you were really hurt or something." And she frowned, looking away with an uncomfortable roll of her shoulders. "And it feels weird to say this, but you know... I didn't really want you to get hurt. You're one of the only people in this city who isn't a piece of shit. Even if you were really out of it most of the time."

Edgar touched his chest without thinking about it. "...Thank you, that... well, it also feels weird to say this, but... that means a lot to me, thank you."

She didn't seem very comfortable with his thanks, and she scratched the back of her head. "Yeah, anyway, I heard your message and I thought that I should, you know... check it out, make sure you were okay. Do some headvoice stabbin' if you needed me to. But I couldn't... this sounds like an excuse, I know it does, but I couldn't... remember where you lived."

"Did I tell you?" Edgar honestly couldn't remember.

"You did. I mean, not to invite me over or anything," with definite relief, "but you did tell me. Just in case something happened. You remember that kid you were watching, right?" She raised her eyebrows with genuine concern now. "You do remember him, right?" She looked around the room. "Did his parents finally come back and get him or something?"

"I do remember him, don't worry," he said, holding up one hand, and she breathed a sigh of relief. "And... no, they haven't come back for him yet. He's at a friend's house right now. He's alright."

"Good, that's good. You wanted me to check in on him if something happened to you. Remember that?"

"No, but it sounds like something I'd do."

"Right." She frowned again. "You not remembering anything is making this kind of hard."

Edgar did half a shrug. "I know, it's not easy for me either."

"Well, anyway... I tried to find you, but I couldn't remember where you were. I know it sounds lame, but I was really trying, you know? I really did want to."

"I believe you."

And she gave him a smile, and it helped relieve the knot of tension in him a little. "See, that's what I mean. About you not being a piece of shit. You know."

He wanted to thank her again, but he didn't want to make her uncomfortable. "About not remembering... I don't think it was anything you did. I think it's a side-effect of what was happening to me. You remember how we couldn't find Johnny?" He only barely kept from calling him Nny.

"Right, yeah. That adds up. Somehow. Stupid supernatural bullshit, I keep forgetting about all that." She shook her head. "I've been busy lately."

"It's fine."

"But, anyway, I tried to find you but I couldn't, and then today, all of a sudden... I remembered." She shrugged, holding her hands out. "I don't know why, but I decided to come find you before I forgot again. So what happened? You look okay. You look better than okay, actually." She leaned in close for a second, peering at him. "What happened? Did you do something? Did you pull out his eyes or something? I mean... that cleared my shit right up, not gonna lie. I never understood why you didn't do that."

Edgar paused, tension spiking through him all of a sudden, the adrenaline drop that came with suddenly coming into the line of fire. He rubbed the back of his neck, looking away with a hiss of his teeth.

"Well... not exactly."

She blinked at him, and her gaze became very intense.

"What? What happened? What'd you do to him? Shit, I have to hear this. Tell me."

"Well..." Where to even start? He searched for words, searched the carpet, and then he saw Devi go rigid in front of him.

"Who the hell is that?" she said, and Edgar turned to look. Finally, Scriabin had decided to make an appearance. He edged out from behind the kitchen wall where he must have been hiding, looking anything but confident. Devi tracked him with very wide eyes as Scriabin made his way over to them, stopping finally just behind Edgar, as he usually did.

Edgar looked between the two of them, expecting Scriabin to say something, but he just stared back at her with something he couldn't exactly call fear, but trepidation came close.


"No way. No fucking way."

"That's..." Edgar rubbed his arm again, and Scriabin's tension was encouraging his own. "That's... Scriabin."

"That's him?" She pointed at him while she looked at Edgar.

"Well, he looks a little different now, he's not exactly-"

Devi punched Scriabin in the face.

It happened too quickly for Edgar to react to it, and certainly too fast for Scriabin to even think of dodging. Her fist slammed into him, right above his eye, and his legs gave out instantly, sending him to the floor with a shocked yelp of pain. His sunglasses skittered off somewhere.


Edgar knelt down beside him, hovering his hands near Scriabin's face, while Scriabin pressed his hands over the eye she'd hit.

"Ggh- fuck, " Scriabin got out through gritted teeth. Tears were flowing from his uncovered eye, and he could barely get through the pain to form any words. "Fuck, fuck, fuck..."

"Devi, why'd you do that?!" Edgar looked up at her, and she cracked her knuckles.

"Because I knew you wouldn't," she said casually. "You told me about all the shit he put you through. He told me about it himself, though he thought he was being clever about it and I wouldn't figure out what he was actually doing. You can't tell me he doesn't deserve at least one."

Edgar wanted to say something but he couldn't find the words, they were all jittering almost as hard as he was. He kept looking at Scriabin like that would help somehow, feeling helpless as Scriabin made anguished sounds and shook under his hands.

"So, what the hell is going on, Edgar?" Devi put one of her hands back in her pocket, and she gestured at Scriabin with the other. "How the hell did this happen?"

"Agh-" Scriabin choked out, pulling his hands away gingerly from his swollen eye, his voice thick with pain. "Ghk, jesus, fuck, augh..."

"Devi, you didn't have to hit him..." There was something ridiculous in the disapproving tone he had, but it was what came out of him. "He hasn't really experienced any kind of pain before, this is all really new to him."

"Oh come on." She didn't look guilty at all. "I bet he'd even agree he deserved at least one. Besides, if he's actually here to stay, he's going to have to get used to it. What the hell is going on, Edgar?"

"Ngh..." Tears streamed from both eyes, and he could tell already Scriabin was going to have a black one where he'd been hit. He didn't even seem aware of either of the two of them, the pain had completely blinded him. "Christ..."

"Well..." Edgar couldn't just leave him like this. "Can you give me just a second...?"

She crossed her arms, but after looking at him for a few more seconds, she sighed and waved a hand. Edgar looked to Scriabin again, patted his shoulder although he didn't even notice, and went to the kitchen to get an ice pack from the fridge.

He forced Scriabin to lean his head back, although he blindly and weakly tried to paw at him as he did so, and pressed it over his eye. Scriabin hissed when it touched him, made another long groan of agony, but let Edgar hold it in place, thankfully.

"Well..." Edgar struggled to regain his train of thought. Devi had watched the entire thing without comment, although she did look thoughtful. "You remember when we talked about different systems?"

She nodded.

"Well... I'm pretty sure I died. Again. And it turns out I was right... Scriabin was from a different system from, whatever you had. There's a lot of them, apparently? And two of them were kind of fighting over me specifically. The one Scriabin came from, and the one that was driving me crazy."

She was giving him that skeptical look, which he didn't appreciate. He couldn't say he was exactly happy with her right now. The man in the store had been a stranger, he didn't know anything about their history, if he'd hit Scriabin then any protective rage he felt would have been simple and justified. Devi did know who they were, and what Scriabin had done to him, and that was harder for him to unravel.

"I know, I know. But you asked, alright?" Edgar tried to keep it out of his voice. "Anyway, they said they were going to send me back... two systems being in conflict over one person was apparently against the rules? They didn't really explain it..." It was a small, petty thing, but Edgar had the feeling it was a grievance he wouldn't be able to air otherwise. "They were pretty rude to me, actually."

Devi made a noise that indicated she knew exactly what he meant.

"It was hard to get anything out of them. The basic jist of it is that it was apparently easier for them to just reset me back to life than clean up the mess they'd made in fighting over me."

"Tch. Even the eldritch omnipotent unknown gods of this reality are lazy and incompetent. What a surprise." Devi rolled her eyes.

For all he felt a bit annoyed at her, there was a tinge of gratification at her disdain for them. He'd gone through a lot of suffering due to what was essentially some kind of bureaucratic mix-up. He hadn't really had the time to think about how unfair all of it was. "There was an awful lot of petty bickering between them, I can definitely say that much."


"They said they were going to..." It was still hard for him to even say. "That they weren't going to send Scriabin back with me."

Devi blinked, waiting for a few seconds, and she tilted her head. "Then... why is he here? Did they fuck up or something? Christ, is there anything they did right?"

"They didn't... exactly..."

Devi stared at him a little longer, then she knelt down to meet him at eye level, her arms across her knees.

"Edgar, you didn't..."

"I couldn't just let them kill him like that." Edgar couldn't look at her face, instead focusing on Scriabin, who was still making those pained sounds and hovering close to actual tears, not just pain tears. "He- he's my responsibility, I couldn't let them just kill him. I made him, it wasn't fair."

"Edgar..." He could hear her shaking her head.

"I didn't want him to die, so... I asked..." Had he told her? His thoughts were so hazy, he couldn't be sure. But why lie? "I asked God to save him, and... and I guess He did, 'cause here he is." He could see Scriabin's hand on his arm, his fingers dug in deep and shaking. "We've been trying to figure out what to do since then... that was a few days ago now. It's been..." Edgar let out a breath. "It's been kind of hard."

After a few moments, Devi let out a long sigh. "God damn it, Edgar... you really are a good guy. That's really going to fuck you over someday."

"I know." Edgar managed to get himself to look at her again, something in him warm at what she said, and she was just giving him a sad look. "I guess it already has in a way."

"Yeah, if you have this to deal with now." She gestured loosely at Scriabin. "He better have thanked you for it, we all know he didn't deserve it."

"Devi," Edgar said, a bit of an admonishment but it wasn't very strong. He looked back to Scriabin, who was still struggling to regain any kind of composure through the pain. "Besides... it doesn't matter if he deserved it or not. I wanted to do it. It's not his fault he's what he was... it's not like he chose to be that."

"That's true, I guess." Devi didn't like making that concession, he could tell. Scriabin started to lean his head back down, and Edgar took the ice pack away. Scriabin gingerly touched where his skin was already bruising with a whine. "He didn't have to be such a dick to you though."

Edgar was used to apologizing for mistakes, for making amends to Scriabin for all the things he'd done wrong, for the many ways he'd disappointed him. Todd had stood up for him, on occasion, but he was just a boy. It was a very strange feeling to have Devi standing up for him, and doing it in a far more violent way than he would have done it himself.

It was still so strange to think people could stand up to Scriabin now. Before, it had always just been the two of them.

"Well, we're trying to get better..." Edgar kept his hands nearby as Scriabin tried to slow his breathing. "I mean, things are... pretty different now. They can be, anyway. We've been trying to figure that out. It's sort of a big change for both of us."

"Yeah, I bet." Devi sighed again, shaking her head. "I still don't get why you care so much about him. It doesn't make any sense to me."

Edgar thought back to the first night, when he'd said to Scriabin that he didn't really understand it either. It was still something that escaped logical explanations and words.

"Christ..." Scriabin managed to get out, his voice thick and shaky. "Jesus, you hit really hard, fuck..."

Finally his head had cleared enough to join them, and that was at least a relief.

"You're lucky that's all you get." Devi pointed at him. "Welcome to the real world, jackass."

"You don't have to bully him." Edgar frowned at her. "I think he got the message."

"He'll live. It's about time someone did it anyway. You can't let these things have an inch," Devi said, and Edgar thought about the screws in her bag. It made sense why she wouldn't have much sympathy for Scriabin's plight. Sickness had certainly put her through enough, even if Sickness and Scriabin weren't the exact same thing. He doubted the distinction made a great deal of difference to her. "You said it's been a few days?"

"Since we came back?" Edgar tilted his head at her question, glancing back to Scriabin when he hissed again. He kept touching his eye, and he reached out to force his hand down. "Stop that, you'll make it worse," he said softly to him without thinking, and when he looked to Devi she'd tilted her head at him in regard again. "I think so. We've mostly been trying to adapt to all this... I haven't really been thinking about much else. It's been hard figuring out what..." He struggled for words. "What we're going to be to each other from now on."

"You're really in this for the long haul with him? Him?" She leaned back on her heels. "Damn, Edgar."

"Well, I can't bring him back with me if I'm not going to see it through. That'd be irresponsible."

She shook her head at him, but she was smiling. Scriabin made a noise, he wasn't sure if it was pain or something else, and he squeezed his hand. He could catch him trying to look at him through swollen eyes, although he was still grimacing too much in pain for any other emotion to get through.

"You're really a weird guy," she said, although she sounded fond in a way that made his heart beat a little faster. He wasn't used to that. "I don't know how you made it this long. Usually guys like you turn out to be zombies or full of bees or on fire or something."

"It's 'cause of me," Scriabin managed to get out, and he'd squinted his wounded eye shut. "I'm the only reason he's still alive."

Devi just rolled her eyes at that. "Sad thing is, you should be normal, but since everyone else around here is such a goddamn ridiculous trainwreck, you're the one who ends up being weird for being normal."

Edgar looked down in thought for a second, and he looked up with something of a helpless shrug. "... Thanks? I guess? I'm sorry, I don't know how to take that."

"See, that's exactly what I'm talking about." She pointed at him, still smiling, but then she tilted her head again in thought. "It's weird though..."


"Like... you came back a few days ago, you said? Why didn't I remember where you lived before now?" Devi pressed a hand to her mouth in thought. "It's like a switch just flipped out of nowhere like an hour ago. Why was there a delay?"

"I don't know." Edgar watched as Scriabin wiped his nose and took a few heavy breaths through his mouth. "I mean... I still don't know how any of this works. I forgot about the forgetting thing until you mentioned it... Scriabin said once they didn't run a very tight ship, I think, and that's certainly true. Maybe they just forgot...? I didn't even think about-"

Something hit the door hard, enough to make all of them jump, and slammed it against the opposite wall. Edgar could barely think about whether or not the knob was going to leave a dent before-

"What the fuck is going on here?" Johnny said.


I mostly post stuff at AO3 now since it's a lot easier to use. You can find some other Vargas stuff I've written there that I haven't uploaded here! You can find them at archiveofourown dot org /series/20964