(By "Mango's idea, really. I just ran with it." Zarla)
(Warning: I'm not responsible fer any mental damage caused by reading this fic.)
"Todd! Someone's here to see you!"
Todd looked up from his drawing-in-progress. Odd...his parents hadn't said anything to him since he had come home from school, and even then it was just a cursory hello. Well, that wasn't exactly true. His mother had talked, but Todd had a feeling that she wasn't really talking to him. She was just talking. She did that sometimes.
Who could be here to see him? Friends? Not likely. Todd didn't exactly have those in abundance and those he did have would never come to visit so late. He didn't think they would, anyway.
He got to his feet and ventured into the hallway warily. There was no telling who or what it could be and it paid to be careful. With the experiences he had had, it always paid to be careful.
Todd carefully made his way towards where he last heard his father's voice. A conversation gradually became more audible.
"...sure you're not here to take him?"
"No, I don't plan on taking him anywhere. I just need some bandages-"
"Are you positive you don't want him?"
"Yes! I just-..."
Todd recognized that voice.
There he was, the tall man with glasses talking to his father near the door.
I thought he'd be dead by now.
"Me too," Todd whispered to his bear, then turned back to his visitor.
"Hi, Todd." Edgar smiled weakly at him. He was holding a scrap of red cloth to his forehead and his voice was hoarse. "I just need some bandages. Your dad said you knew where they were..."
Since Edgar apparently was not going to take the bane of Mr. Casil's existence off his hands, he decided that this conversation no longer required his presence. He walked away without another word.
Todd walked up to Edgar who stared after Mr. Casil. Now that he was closer, Todd could see that Edgar's neck was bruised and one of his eyes was swollen shut. Weird things happened to Todd on a regular enough basis that the sight of people in pain or wounded wasn't unusual, but it was still kind of scary to see a grown-up hurt, especially one that Todd liked and one that seemed so remarkably normal.
"What happened to you?"
"Hmmm..." Edgar didn't look very comfortable with the question. "Can it wait for a little while? My head is...well, I'm in some pain really. I could use some aspirin...I didn't mean to bother you, but your father..."
Edgar trailed off.
I think the aspirin is in the medicine cabinet, unless you put it in one of the emergency kits.
"I don't think I did. Do you remember, Shmee?" Todd looked at his bear and Edgar looked at him.
I think it may still be in the medicine cabinet, although your mother may have taken a few earlier today. I think there should still be some left.
"Okay." Todd turned to Edgar, who was watching him with a strange look on his face. "C'mon, let's go upstairs."
Edgar nodded and followed him.
"I thought something really bad would'a happened to you by now."
"Well, I wouldn't exactly consider this good." Edgar laughed softly.
Todd pushed open the door to the bathroom. Someone had left the faucet running and the medicine cabinet was open. Bottles, some open and some not, were scattered across the floor and a few rested in the sink. Todd glanced at Edgar while he was getting his footstool to reach the open cabinet. He looked a little uneasy.
"Don't worry, Mommy was just getting some of her pills. Sometimes she doesn't clean up after herself."
Edgar did not look soothed by this news.
"Where is your mom, anyway?" Edgar coughed violently after speaking, then rubbed at his throat.
"I don't know." Todd shrugged. "I think she's in the house somewhere."
I think that one should work. I'm not sure though. It'd probably be a better idea to ask him.
"Will this work?" Todd handed Edgar a bottle with a smile. Edgar took it hesitantly, still looking concerned.
"Um...this should be fine..." Edgar quickly downed a single pill. He closed his eyes for a few seconds afterwards, then looked over at Todd.
"Do you have any bandages?" Edgar pulled the cloth away from his head for a few seconds and studied it. "I don't think this is really doing a good job."
Todd didn't get a good look at what the cloth was hiding, but it wasn't really important anyway.
"Yeah, I think so. Come on."
He hopped down off his stool and the two walked to his room.
"Is your head cut?"
He didn't answer the question right away. Maybe he was thinking about it.
Hmmm...according to...well, that's not very important. But...
Well, maybe he will tell you. He probably wants the bandages first.
When they walked into Todd's room, Edgar lingered near the doorway for a few moments. Todd followed his eyes and saw him staring at where his toy had once been. Scriabin, that was it.
Todd continued to his bed and pulled out his box of emergency supplies. Too many strange things happened not to have one.
He opened the shoe box and dug through what he had managed to collect around the house when his parents weren't paying attention, which was often. Edgar eventually kneeled beside him, rubbing at his throat with one hand. As Todd handed Edgar some bandages, he tried to whisper.
"Was it the crazy neighbor man?"
Edgar flinched as he took the bandages from Todd, then sighed. He pulled the stained cloth from his head and stared at it. While Edgar was distracted, Todd looked more closely at the previously hidden area. He could make out a large gash that ran across Edgar's forehead over his right eye.
Edgar unwrapped a bandage and began gingerly feeling around the cut with his fingers. "He didn't mean...well...that's not exactly true." He sounded sad. "He did mean to do it. It's just..."
Todd sat with Shmee in his lap and watched as Edgar slowly covered the bloody gash on his forehead with bandages decorated with lizards.
"The crazy neighbor man's been telling me about you."
Edgar glanced over at Todd. Now instead of looking sad, he just looked...kind of like his mother did when she woke up and could remember things. He touched the bandages then trailed his fingers down to his black eye.
"Telling you about me?" Now Edgar sounded tired.
"Yeah." Todd clutched Shmee close. "He always taps on the window and says that you came over and did things and it was nice."
"Really?" Edgar looked at Todd more intently.
"Was he trying to kill you when he hurt you?" Todd whispered again. Edgar blinked at him. "'Cause that's what he's always talking about."
"Not exactly." Edgar stared at his bloodstained hands then tried to wipe them off on his shirt. "We...I guess we kind of got into an argument. He was trying to..." Edgar scratched his chin. "He was trying to hurt himself, and I didn't want him to, and I guess that made him angry."
"He wasn't trying to kill you?"
"...I don't know, maybe he was. It's hard to tell with him. Sometimes it's an accident and sometimes it's not, and sometimes he's sorry and I can't even tell, and I..." Edgar had been staring at his hands, but when he stopped talking he looked at Todd as if remembering he was there. "I don't know. He told me you'd have bandages and that I should get some..."
That does sound like your neighbor. He's very unpredictable. I'm getting something...you don't need to know the details exactly, but Edgar isn't being totally honest. I don't think it's because he's trying to hurt you or anything. According to...well, it could be that he's really trying not to hurt himself.
Todd nodded at Shmee then looked back to Edgar.
"When the neighbor man talks about you, he's never angry." Todd scratched his chin like he saw Edgar do. "He's always really happy."
"Is he?" Edgar raised his uncovered eyebrow. "What does he say about me, anyway?"
"He says scary things about you." Todd glanced at the window while he was speaking. "He says that he really likes you a lot, and that he's going to make sure you can never get away from him." Todd shuddered at the thought. "He says he wants to do bad things to you."
Edgar coughed and then brushed his hand across his cheeks. "Bad things?"
"Yeah. He says..." Todd squeaked. "He says he's gonna kill you real bad. He really likes talking about it. He talks and talks a lot about how he's gonna do it too, and he's always really happy about it."
Edgar adjusted his glasses and sighed.
"Aren't you scared?" Todd reached out and tugged at Edgar's sleeve. "I'd be scared. He says he's gonna kill you! He always says he'll get you the next time you come over."
"Yeah..." Edgar laughed humorlessly. "That doesn't surprise me."
"Aren't you scared?" Todd tugged on his sleeve again. "I'd be scared if he said he'd do that to me." Just thinking about it was scary enough. He always went into so much detail.
Edgar looked at Todd and smiled in that same weak way. "I guess I am. I don't think about it a lot."
"You know!" Todd hugged Shmee tighter. "And you still go to his house? Why?"
A good question. Why did Edgar try to stop your neighbor from hurting himself? They're both related, I'm sure.
"I..." Edgar paused. He looked at the backs of his hands for a while. "It's hard to explain, really."
"The neighbor man says you're everything right now." Todd continued to hold Shmee tight. "That you're perfect and he just needs to be perfect himself before he kills you, and he always says it'll be really soon. He's gonna kill you! Why don't you run away?"
"He says I'm perfect?" Edgar sounded weak.
"Yeah. He always uses that word. He says, um...you're smart and nice and he loves you, and he never ever wants to let you go. That's why he wants to kill you." Todd's eyes widened again and he looked to the window to make sure he wasn't there. "Shmee says he's crazy and he doesn't know what love is and he's making a big mistake."
Well, that's pretty much what I said, yes.
Edgar was staring off into the distance. He didn't move or say anything.
I think I know what the problem is. Edgar doesn't want to admit he's being hurt this way and by someone that he...yes, that he cares about. He doesn't want to admit that either.
"Oh. Okay. Mr. Edgar, it's okay." Todd tugged at his sleeve again. "Shmee says you're scared of him and...of yourself too, right, Shmee?"
Edgar looked at Todd again. He didn't have an easily readable expression on his face.
"Did he say that?"
"Did he say that he...that he loved me? Were those the words that he used?" Immediately after the question Edgar closed his eyes.
He's fighting with something. He's still listening though.
"Yeah, but he only said it once. It was, um...after you went to see a movie I think, and then you went and got food that he liked, and then you watched TV and went home. He told me about it and said that he wished it would never change, 'cause he loved being with you 'cause you aren't stupid. That's what he said, I think."
It's essentially the same thing.
"Mr. Edgar, are you okay?"
Edgar didn't respond right away, and when he did his voice was shaking. "Not really."
"Why don't you run away? You're scared of him, right? Maybe he won't find you if you go really far away. I don't want anything bad to happen to you, especially like he said."
"I can't run away." Edgar rubbed at one of the scars beneath his eyes. "Not anymore."
"I don't think I can...there's nowhere I could go."
"Do you think he'd come after you?"
Edgar looked at his fingers after they left his face. "...I know he'd find me again."
"It's not fair." Todd clenched a small fist. "He's gonna kill you just 'cause he likes you. What about how you feel?"
That's a good question, Todd. How does Edgar feel? He hasn't talked about it. He doesn't want to by himself, but I think if you asked him he might tell you.
"Shmee wants to know how you feel about the crazy neighbor man." Todd nodded. "You're scared, right?"
Let him answer, Shmee said gently.
Edgar let his hand fall to the floor and drew his knees up to his chest. "Yeah, I suppose. Yes I am."
"Shmee says that's not all. What else?"
Edgar didn't speak for a few moments, then smiled at Todd. "Shmee's very perceptive."
Todd smiled in return.
Edgar waited for a few more seconds, then turned back to staring at his feet. "I don't know how I feel, I guess. I'm scared, yeah...he's very dangerous. Even if he likes me as much as he says he does, he still scares me. But when he's happy then it's like...he's an entirely different person. It's like...I guess you could put it that, there's a nice person in him somewhere that got lost, and now he's...like he is now."
That's part of it, but not all of it. Let's see if he explains it a bit further.
"There's a chance for that nice person...I've seen him like that, when he's nice. When he's not scary. And I feel like...sometimes that I'm the only person who can...help that nice person be found again. I feel responsible for him I guess..."
"Do you like the nice person?"
"When he's nice...yeah. He can be so different, so..."
Edgar touched the bruises around his windpipe gingerly.
"If I could help him, if I could find that nice person, then maybe things could be different..."
"You want to be with the nice one then, right? Is that why you won't run away?"
"Yeah, I think that's part of it..."
I think the nice person that Edgar is talking about is the one that's in love with Edgar. But I think his voice gets distorted through the other person that Edgar is talking about. I hope that's clear.
"Yeah." Todd nodded at his stuffed bear. Edgar waited for an explanation.
I think that Edgar, in turn...
"Shmee says that the nice person is the one who loves you, but he can't say it right 'cause he's lost real deep in the crazy." Todd tapped his forehead.
Edgar blinked and then laughed. This time it was genuine.
"That's one way of putting it." Edgar rubbed at the scars beneath his eyes, still smiling. It was nice to see him smile for once. "I think you may be right in a way. I don't know if I'd use that word..."
I think your neighbor is scared of losing him. But because of all the crazy, as you put it, the only way he knows of making sure he won't leave him is to make sure he never can, since he'll be dead. I think that's why he was explaining the whole killing business to you.
"That makes sense." Todd turned back to Edgar. "What about you? Do you love that nice person too?"
Shmee made a strange noise in Todd's head. Todd stared at his stuffed bear in concern, but his voice came to him shortly after.
I'm okay, Todd. Don't worry. That question...Edgar didn't take it well. I just...well, I guess you could say I just heard something like a huge screaming argument happen in his head. Do you understand?
Let's see...I can pick out some pieces of it, but not a lot. It's pretty intense. I keep hearing something being repeated..."how far would you go" I think it is.
The silence was too long for Todd.
"'Cause if you don't love the nice person back, that really wouldn't be fair at all if he killed you. That'd be really selfish. But the neighbor man has always been kind of selfish..."
Another glance at the window to make sure no one had heard.
"I'm not sure..." Edgar was shaking. Todd went to get a blanket from his bed. "I'm not sure if it's...exactly the same thing. Or if it's really...the same kind of love as other people...understand it. I guess. I'm not sure..."
Todd handed Edgar the blanket, who stared at him in confusion. "So you do care about the nice person?"
"I do care..." Edgar took the blanket and laid it across his lap, still looking somewhat confused. He was still shaking. "I just...I don't know."
"Shmee says you do."
Love him I mean.
Edgar stared at the rocket-patterned blanket across his lap.
It was weird to hear a grown-up say that.
"I'd be scared too if the neighbor man was coming after me."
"It's not that..." Edgar paused again. "I guess...I should-...you'll understand if I do tell you why...you're very bright."
Todd blinked at the sudden compliment, then smiled.
"I'm...well. I guess I'm scared of what it could mean, if I was...if I cared about that nice person like...that much. For me, it's very important that I do good things in my life, so that when I die..."
"You go to Heaven, right?" Todd smiled again. "Daddy said when you die you go to Heaven. That's why he dropped me off in that one neighborhood and didn't come back. He said I'd be happier that way. I got lucky though and got a ride from this nice guy. He didn't explode until I was a block away!"
Edgar stared at Todd hard, then spent a few moments trying to regain his train of thought.
"Yeah, Heaven...that's what...well, that's where I want to go. And before, that's why when he tried to kill me, I wasn't scared of dying, exactly...but now, I'm scared that if...well, if I do care as much as-...if I do care that much about him, then I...won't go to Heaven anymore oh God." Edgar buried a hand in his hair. "God, that sounds so selfish. I sound just like him. I do. I want him to be happy, I want that nice person to-, I want to find that nice person, and I'm just too...I just can't..."
See, this is what that argument in his head was about. At least he's actually talking about it now.
"Well, you're right in a way, that is kind of selfish." Todd was trying to be diplomatic, but that wasn't a common skill in children his age. "But I guess I'd be scared too. Pepito says that it's not so bad. The other place, I mean. From Heaven." Todd waited for Edgar to indicate that he understood what he was referring to, then continued. "Pepito says it's not that bad. But he's the Anti-Christ so I guess you can't really trust him about that."
Another weird look from Edgar. Eventually he sighed and continued.
"I don't know...I'm frightened of what might happen. I'm frightened that maybe, I'll never find that nice person. Maybe there never was a nice person to begin with...maybe I just wished there was. And if there never was a nice person, then I'm throwing away so much for nothing, really...maybe I'm risking so much for...I just can't..." Edgar sighed again. "Maybe Scriabin's right and I just do this to myself on purpose...I don't know anymore."
Edgar coughed and rubbed at his throat.
That voice in his head he was arguing with.
Edgar sighed. It didn't sound exactly like he was speaking to Todd at this point. "I fought back this time. Most of the time I don't do that...sometimes it's better with him to not fight. Just lie back and not do anything. I don't want to die really. But he...went further than usual...I don't think he meant to. I wish I could say for sure..." Edgar shook his head and sighed again. "I guess I'm alive because I did fight this time...just hurt instead of..."
"That's not fair." Todd looked at the window again. "He says he likes you so much. He's always talking about you. That nice person shouldn't hurt you."
"Well, I don't think it's the nice person that's hurting me in this case." Edgar rubbed at his neck again. "I wonder sometimes just how much I'll go through to find that lost person. I wonder..."
In Todd's mind, the difference between the nice person in question and the actual homicidal maniac next door had been drawn clearly and permanently. The idea of the neighbor man being both an embodiment of violent unpredictable nightmares and a man that was lost and kind enough for someone as normal as Edgar to like...too complicated for Todd. Shades of gray have never been a strong point with children.
"I hope you find that nice person." Todd nodded. "You shouldn't have to be with someone who hurts you."
Edgar held a hand to his forehead as if he had a headache. Todd had seen his father do that many times.
He's still fighting it. He's been fighting it for a long time.
"But I thought..."
He's not good at it...that's why he's tired. Maybe he'll stop fighting at some point, but that probably wouldn't be a good idea just yet. That "nice person" has yet to really...become real. He has to be careful and so do you.
"No one should be with someone who hurts them..." Edgar mumbled. "What time is it?"
Todd looked around his room until his eyes settled on a nearby alarm clock shaped like one of his favorite animated characters. "It's around seven I think."
"I probably shouldn't be keeping you...don't you need to go to bed?"
"No, Mommy and Daddy don't normally pay attention as long as I'm quiet." Todd smiled at Edgar, who did not return the gesture.
Again, Edgar's fingers returned to the bruises around his neck. With a soft sigh he stood and stretched before turning to Todd.
"Listen, do you want to come with me to get something to eat? I really...I just don't think you belong here."
He doesn't belong here either, really, but it's for a different reason.
"Shmee says you don't belong here either." Todd stood up and brushed himself off. "But Daddy always says I don't belong here too."
Edgar again stared at Todd with sympathy, then held out his hand. "Look, I think I've had enough thinking for tonight. My head still kind of hurts. I think we could both really benefit..." Edgar waited and at Todd's nod at the word, continued. "I think we could both benefit from some ice cream. I know I would. Frankly, I think any place other than here would be ideal for you."
"I like ice cream." Todd took Edgar's hand with a smile, Shmee held close with his other arm.
He's tired and he doesn't want to think about it anymore. But the voice in his head keeps saying the same thing. I think it's right and he's just avoiding the issue. But I guess that's understandable, considering. He's got a lot of valid reasons to fear his emotions and in particular, what reaction revealing those emotions would have.
Todd nodded as the two of them walked out of his house. His parents didn't give either of them a second glance.
While they were walking, Edgar stopped on the sidewalk and looked back at the neighbor man's house. He stared for a few minutes.
"Mr. Edgar, are you okay?"
"I...well, no. No, I didn't actually...I didn't promise him that I'd come right back...I don't think he'd be upset if I told him what I was doing..." Again, it seemed like Edgar was talking to himself.
"The crazy neighbor man?"
Edgar nodded and coughed.
I have a feeling that he's always going to worry like this, about what the neighbor man would think about what he's doing. He's trapped in a way you could say.
Todd tugged at Edgar's hand and started him walking again.
"C'mon, maybe the ice cream will make your throat feel better."
(Author's Note: What a weird little fic. I'm wearing gloves in here now it's so frigging cold. Poor Edgar. Always suffering. I think this kind of went off-topic from Mango's idea. Haha I always do that. These always turn out differently than I intend.
Originally wrote this in MARCH and just finally decided ta let it go. I OBSESS OVER THESE THINGS.)