I still haven't seen Ascension, but I saw the designs of the future-Evo characters, and like every Toad fan out there, I went "WHA--?ICK!!" It's not just that he was so gross looking, it's how creepy he was. I can't handle that. I compare the image of future-Toad *leering* and just bloody /looking/ the way he does, with the image of a frightened, shy Todd holding Wanda in "The Toad the Witch and the Wardrobe" and I can't bloody do it. I can't reconcile those two designs-it's like totally different people. Todd was a "bad kid" most of the time, few scruples or morals, didn't care about anything beyond himself, sure, but something in future-Toad's face just seems...wrong. I mean, I think deep down, Todd had some nice-guy qualities, and he really was a sweety. Future-Toad looks like a guy who'd kill and enjoy killing, and who's not all there. The rest of the Brotherhood just look grimmer, more serious. Toad just looks like a psycho, and frankly, it frightens me, so I had to write this. Sorry for rambling on so long. Equally sorry for writing this in first person, and flipping in and out of tenses. I don't think Wanda's terribly stable right now (not crazy, just really upset).

Oh, yah, this is a one-shot, and I promise to get back to writing my MortieFics soon. I just needed to get the Evo out of my system. Coo'.

Toad, Wanda, and X-men Evo (c)Marvel. I'm poor.

***************************

Dead



"Todd? Todd?" I stop at the door, not really wanting to go in. Wiping my eyes, I take a deep breath and enter. And stop. God, how can he see a thing in this room? It's so dark. Smells bad, too. Swampy, almost. It's filthy--not just like the lazy teen's mess he had back at the old boarding house-- filthy like the kind of plague-brewing squalor you see in those infomercials about the starving kids in Ethiopia. How can he stand to live like this? But he's never anywhere else, except for the training facilities that Shield has so generously provided us. I don't even see him any more unless we're gearing up for another mission. "Todd?" My voice is still wavering, sounding weak with tears, shed and tears still held back. I just can't believe he's gone...

"Yes?"

I turn around, gasping, to see him leering at me from a dim corner. Just seeing him there makes my skin crawl. His smile...he's just hunched over like always, head cocked up at me with this creepy, secretive smile that suggests that he's looking right through me, into my mind. Closing my eyes, I swallow nervously and try to remember the boy perched on Freddy's shoulder. When I'm finally confidant of my voice, I speak.

"I just came to make sure you were okay."

"I'm touched, I'm touched," he says in a slightly sing-songy voice. I'm waiting for a "yo" to work its way into the end of a sentence, but now that I think about it, it's been a long while since I heard that. "The witch wants to make sure the little Toad's all right. But the mission went fine and Toad's not hurt, so what really brings her here, I wonder." He looks at me in a suggestive way and I catch myself backing towards the door. Frightened, that's what I am. Disgusted, definitely, but frightened as well. His advances never frightened me before.

"I meant about Freddy, Todd." He blinks, a strange look crossing his face. For a moment, I thought it might be grief, but--no. Confusion. It clears away in a second and he smiles widely, pleased with himself for remembering.

"Oh, yes, Blob."

"A-are you okay?" He cocks his head to the side, his gaze a little too bright, fevered almost.

"Never better, never better. And you, little Witch?" I bite my lip, looking at him. It doesn't take a person who spent seven years in a mental asylum to recognize someone who probably belongs there. The fear returns. I'm scared, so scared, and I don't know why.

"Todd, I know you and Freddy were close..."

"Brothers," he agreed. He calls all the guys brothers. He doesn't call me anything anymore, except for Witch. Not even snookums.

"Look, it's been rough on all of us. If you need someone to talk to--" He giggles, an eerie, high-pitched sound.

"Talk to, talk to who?" he mutters, chanting. I start feeling for the door knob, and then I catch his eyes. The used to be this filmy yellow, gold, sometimes, when he was really happy--when I was nice to him, I remember. And I remember how back when we'd go into battle against the X-men, his eyes would turn almost red. They're always red now. Not just a battle-light red, but bloodshot, somehow dull and bright at the same time. I stare into his ruined eyes helplessly, searching desperately for some flicker of the playful, shy, clumsy boy I knew so long ago. All I see is something flat and dead; the only sign of life is the shine of madness that now becomes too overwhelming. I manage to tear my gaze away from his and with a gasp that feels more like a sob. I hear a low, amused chuckle.

"What's little Witch afraid of? She's handled her share of monsters, hasn't she?" Monsters, mutants, humans, enemies, yes. But this...I can't bring myself to look at him, but my mind keeps recreating the image and comparing it to what I thought of as Todd. His hair hangs lank around his shoulders; Todd at least tried to brush his, and once in a while even got it wet. Todd's smile: hopeful, sarcastic, goofy; Toad's: sadistic, a trained animal, waiting for the signal to spring. Todd had been scrawny, wiry, not yet grown into his frame or his powers; Toad squatted before me, and suddenly his muscles and limbs seemed misshapen, as if he had grown...twisted. That was the only word for what I could see in the man hunched before me. Why hadn't I seen it until now?

"Todd...what happened to you?" I whisper, not knowing whether to shrink back, or to take his face in my hand, to touch and try desperately to bring the old Todd back. He giggles again, and the sound grates against my mind, calling up echoes from the asylum.

I've never been brave. Not the kind of dealing with people brave. Seeing him like this brings back memories of a place that I never wanted to remember. But worse, it brings memories of a jumpy, unsure little boy who loved me with a idealistic innocence that was refreshing. But the corpse of that boy just sits there, chanting some nonsense, and I can't hold the two images in my mind, I just--

I've never felt the need to escape so badly as I did then. I bolt out the door and run down the hall towards my room. I can't see where I'm going; there's something in my eyes.

Suddenly, I hit something hard and warm. Lance looks down at me, still in uniform, but without his visor. Freddy's gone, and Todd--I just need something to cling to, some kind of proof that we really were children, even if we didn't feel like it at the time.

"Lance!" I throw my arms around me and, after a moment, his takes me in his and settles us on the floor. I hold on to him, sobbing into his shoulder, trying to explain in choked words what has happened to Todd, what's been happening, and how I never saw it until now. His hold on me tightens.

"I know, Wanda, I know."

"What happened to him?" I demand, barely able to hear my own voice. Lance just closes his eyes--he looks as broken as I feel.

"Time." Time? Time hadn't changed Lance, still the strong, rebellious backbone of the Brotherhood. It hadn't changed Pietro or Freddy. Not like this. Not like this! "We grew up, Wanda. We grew up."

I thought that the Brotherhood had lost our first member today. But I was wrong. Todd's been dead for a long time now.



*************************

My, that was depressing. For me, anyway. Wanda pretty much echos my main thought looking at Todd. "What the hell /happened/ to him?!" It's creepy, really, trying to think what led from point A to point B, and it reminds me how much people change growing up. Um. And I'm sad that I made Freddy dead, but he seemed the best one for it, storywise. In truth, I love Freddy-he's such a sweetie. Hmm...back to Mortie as soon as I get the song "Creep" out of my head.

Totally stupid but...the title is a very out-there pun that only makes sense if you know Toad's real name (not Todd), and have had less than three hours of sleep. And a smattering of Latin couldn't hurt.