Perpetrator's Note: Here the madness continues…the headvoices gang up on their hapless hosts, forcing revelations both welcome and…not. Humor, drama, romance, and general stupidity abound.

Disclaimer: Still don't own it, much as I wish I did.


"What the hell is that supposed to mean?" Nny demanded. "I've heard you before, Mr. Bear--I called you a lint-infested bastard for a reason."

Devi could hear the grin in the bear's voice. "I'm just a friend, Johnny," it said. "Just a concerned…friend. How long have I protected little Todd, here? I've kept the worst of his trauma from him, soaking it up like the mother of all paper towels…can you really call me a bastard?"

Johnny eyed the bear, paranoia etched on his face like acid on glass. "Yes," he said. "You're no different from the Doughboys, are you? You all take something from us, don't you?"

-Hey, I don't take jack shit,- MEAT objected. -I give--I give you feelings, ideas, the will to create.-

"The will to kidnap my girlfriend," Nny snorted. "Which was a brilliant idea, by the way."

A choking noise escaped Devi's throat. "Wait, since when was I your girlfriend?" she asked, blowing yet another obstinate frizz of hair from her face. "One date hardly qualifies you to use that term." As soon as the words were out of her mouth she winced, realizing that they were perhaps not the best thing to say to a man whose sanity hung by a cobweb, but when Nny looked at her his expression was sad rather than angry.

"I…you were," he said. "I mean…I wanted you to be. Devi, I--"

"Tried to kill her, you freak!" In her corner, Tenna was struggling, but Nny had been right about the zip ties--she wasn't going anywhere, however ridiculous the restraints might seem. "I saw what you did to Mr. O'Toole! Jesus, you bashed his head in like an egg!"

Devi recoiled--she hadn't known how Johnny had gotten into her apartment, but Tenna's words painted a horribly vivid picture. She hadn't exactly liked Mr. O'Toole--he was always yelling and smoking foul un-filtered cigarettes that stank up half the building--but however unpleasant he might have been, he hadn't deserved Nny's…attention.

Nobody but Squee saw Johnny's fists clench, but Devi watched as his face whitened with rage.

"Nny!" she cried, as he rounded on Tenna with almost spooky quickness and produced a knife from God only knew where. "Dammit, Nny, no!"

He froze, glancing at the knife as though just now noticing it. "Ah, heh heh," he said, and it disappeared as quickly as it had materialized. He turned to Devi with an expression that said, Who, me? The effect was rather spoiled when the knife dropped out of his pocket, clattering to the floor.

"…Damn," he muttered, taking in Devi's appalled expression. "See, I stopped myself," he said, half defiantly. "I'm getting better."

-Of course you are, Nny,- MEAT said soothingly. -Your 'productivity' has gone down by half in the last few weeks. Give it time, my boy, give it time.-

Johnny groaned. "MEAT, you're not helping," he said, his face reddening--with embarrassment or anger, Devi couldn't tell with. Knowing Nny, it was probably both.

"That's okay, Mother doesn't mind," Sickness chirped, much to Devi's horror. "She won't let herself think about all that anyway."

"Yeah, I keep having to remind Todd here that Nny's really a homicidal nutcase," Shmee said irritably. "Damn kid's too trusting."

"Hey!" Squee and Johnny protested in unison. "Shut it, lintball," Nny warned. "I gutted you once, and I'll do it again."

"See?" Shmee said. "The immediate reaction is always violence, or at least the threat of violence. Never constructive, only destructive. You're crazy, you little shit."

Squee flinched at that, desperately trying to shush the bear. Given how many times Shmee had warned him about Scary Neighbor Man, he was surprised Shmee would dare say such things.

"Squeegee," Nny said, in a voice quiet with suppressed rage, "shut that thing up. I know you're attached to it, and I'd rather not have to flay it in front of you."

"You do realize how immensely fucked up that sounds, don't you?" It was Spooky again, Spooky's reedy, squeaky voice. "Being nuts doesn't mean you have to be violent, you know. Behold Tenna, for instance--mad as a hatter, but cheerful in her insanity."

"Hey!" Tenna cried. "Spooky, you be nice."

Nny rubbed his temples, twitching gently. While his plan had been admittedly shaky, it most definitely hadn't included anything like this. All he'd wanted was to talk to Devi, to…he wasn't sure, actually. In a perfect world he could make her understand, make her forgive him, but though he was crazy he wasn't stupid--he had as much chance of that as he did of killing Mr. Samsa once and for all. No, he was honest enough with himself to know he didn't have a chance with her, but this freaking clown car full of voices was only making everything worse.

"Who says you don't have a chance, Nny?" Sickness purred. "You never know until you try…and in this case, I recommend you do."

His head snapped up, just in time to see Devi's expression shift from fear to something at once confused and horribly embarrassed. "Why?" he asked. "What good would it do, you…you creepy girly voice-thing? I don't…fuck, I don't know why I did this, any of this…."

-Yes you do--don't you dare go all weepy and melodramatic on me, Johnny-boy. Now's not the time, and you damn well know it. You brought Devi here for a reason--are you going to tell her, or must I?-

"Devi's just as stubborn," Sickness said, before horrified Nny could even begin to assemble an answer. "Willfully blind. It's not just me she fights--she won't give in to anything. At least yours seems to listen sometimes."

-Precious little,- MEAT snorted. -For a lunatic, he's surprisingly pigheaded. Once he got rid of the Doughboys, he seemed to understand what he was up against. Which, you know, sucks for me.-

"We really ought to get paid overtime for this kind of shit…they tell you the only bump's the beginning, while you're waiting for them to crack, and then 'Oh, it'll be smooth sailing, they won't question a thing'. Bullshit, if you ask me."

"Wait, we're supposed to get paid?" Shmee demanded. "Since when?"

-It's a figure of speech, smart guy,- MEAT said wearily. -I can see why you got stuck being a trauma-sponge.-

"What the hell is that supposed to mean?"

At this point Nny finally managed to rally his flagging sanity. "Okay, yeah, I don't know if you all noticed, but we're right here," he said. "Can you maybe save insulting us all for later? Shit, it was bad enough when there was just one of you." He ran his hands through his hair again, seemingly oblivious to everyone else in the room, and for a moment true silence reigned.


"I'm not."

"I'm not sorry for shit."

"That's because you are a shit, moron."

"Bite me, asshole."

"If you insist."

"OW! I didn't mean that LITERALLY."

"Really? My mistake. Dumbass."

Johnny glanced at Squee and Tenna, both of whom were still too pole-axed to really react to such a bizarre exchange. "You guys are worse than grade-school kids," he said, shaking his head. "God, the Doughboys were less annoying than you."

"Doughboys?" Tenna asked, shaking out of her horrified trance.

"They were MEAT's predecessors. I don't miss them."

-Neither do I. They're the ones who told you to kill her, after all. If they hadn't done that--and you hadn't been stupid enough to listen to them--this happy little convocation wouldn't be necessary.-

"Oh, I don't know about that," Sickness put in. "Mother was too…normal…then. Even if he hadn't tried to stab her, it would've only been a matter of time before she found out about the other half of his life. She wouldn't have understood."

Devi sputtered. "What the hell does understanding have to do with it?" she demanded. "Just because I understand it doesn't mean I can forgive or overlook it. And since when the hell are you such a psychologist?"

Nny winced. He'd never really thought about it before--what would really have happened if he hadn't gone after her that night? He had always liked to think it would have worked--that she'd be with him now; that MEAT would be right and none of this would be needed. Sickness' words made him realize for the first time that, knowing him, he would have either driven Devi away or--and terrible as the thought was, it was all too plausible--killed her. He couldn't have kept the basements and his 'activities' there a secret forever…how much worse would it have been, if he'd really had something with her, and lost it?

-Now you're thinking, Nny-boy, but you're only half right. You couldn't have kept it a secret, but if you hadn't fucked up, and she'd stayed with you, there wouldn't have been a secret to keep anymore. Devi would have killed your Doughboys without even knowing she was doing it.-

Silence. Neither Nny nor Devi could even begin to respond to that, not yet. Squee was too bewildered to speak, but Tenna looked unusually thoughtful.

"So, if Johnny hadn't tried to kill her, Devi would've stopped him being a freaky serial killer?"

-Pretty much.-

"…Damn. You really screwed the pooch on that one, didn't you?" Tenna asked Nny. "Nice going." He glared at her, but Sickness interjected before he could do anything worse.

"It wouldn't have worked," she said. "Oh, Mother would have curtailed his 'hobbies', but she wouldn't have really known him. This way she knows who and what he is, and was, and can at least guess at what he might become."

Devi shut her eyes, trying to tune out Sickness' voice. She was too exhausted and in too much pain to form any coherent protest, and her hold on consciousness was growing more tenuous by the moment. She must have looked as bad as she felt, because when MEAT next spoke his tone was much gentler.

-She's tired,- he said. -We're not going to accomplish anything right now…you two, bugger off somewhere and let the lady and I talk.-

"Come on, Trauma Sponge," Spooky said. "And you too, Tenna…this isn't our business, right now."

"But we were supposed to save her from him!" Tenna protested.

"At the moment, I don't think she needs saving."

Tenna really didn't have any response for that. She stood when Squee did, clutching Shmee to his chest--the bear was evidently sulking, and had nothing to say to MEAT's peremptory dismissal. They left Nny and Devi alone, traversing the darkened hallway to the disaster that was the living room.

Nny sat silent after they left, watching Devi. She hadn't opened her eyes--he knew she must be completely worn out, and the blow to the head he'd given her couldn't be helping. He hadn't given her a concussion--he knew well exactly how hard to hit, to avoid that--but already a purple-dark bruise was creeping from her hairline. Guilt twisted in his stomach; he knew he shouldn't have done that, and he'd gut anyone else who even thought about it. He'd panicked, plain and simple--he hadn't forgotten the ass-kicking she'd given him any more than she had, but he hadn't meant to hurt her.

-You'd never mean to hurt her,- MEAT said quietly. -You'd never do it on purpose--you just have to guard against accidents. Like knocking her out with a flashlight.-

He winced, holding his breath in fear of a responding tirade, but Devi didn't stir. She looked terribly vulnerable in her sleep, a stark contrast to her intense, vivid waking self; in sleep her face was white and still, at peace in a way he'd never seen her awake.

As gently as he could he sat beside her on the futon, careful not to jar or bump her. She'd twisted the comforter in her thrashed attempts at escape, so he fixed it, drawing it up and tucking it in around her. He hadn't meant for any of this to happen, and what he would do when she woke, he didn't know--she was right; he couldn't keep her like this forever. If he thought for a moment he could bind her to him, he'd do it, but as it stood there was no way it could ever work.

"Cheer up, emo child," Sickness said, irritated. "You worry too damn much. Mother might not admit it, but I know what's really going on inside her head. Just because she's afraid of you doesn't mean she hates you…honestly, she thinks about you so much it makes me sick."

Nny blinked. "She does?" he asked, clearly disbelieving. "Why?"

"Well, part of her is still afraid of you…you really did fuck up her ability to trust anything," Sickness said, snickering at his wince. "She tries her damnedest not to sleep, and it's only half because of nightmares. It's the other half that really scares her."

"'Other half'?" he asked, wondering what the hell the voice was driving at.

"She dreams about that night all the time, and while half the time you go after her with the knives, the rest of the time you don't. You do the math."

"Huh?" He leaned back against the wall, bewildered. "What, the rest of the time she beats the shit out of me, like what really happened?"

"God, you're dumb. What were you doing, just before you went apeshit? Rather, what were you about to do?"

It still took him a minute, but eventually realization dawned. Oh. His face flamed, and Sickness laughed unpleasantly. "You mean she…she dreams…?"

"That you two wound up doing more than kiss? Hell yes. And it scares the shit out of her--she thinks she doesn't want to dream things like that, to feel things like that, as far as you're concerned. But she knows that if that were really the case, she wouldn't still do it."

Nny sat still, digesting this. Of course he'd dreamed things like that, on the extremely rare occasions he slept, but Devi…shit. Now he was curious. "You wouldn't happen to have, you know, details, would you?" The idea of her seeing him that way, even if it was only in her subconscious, was…intriguing, to say the least. Though his own touch-phobia was as strong as ever, it was markedly weaker where Devi was concerned…so weak it barely registered, really.

Sickness snickered. "Oh, I could probably show you, but I'll save that for later--Mother would be a little pissed if I let you in on that so soon. I'll save it for when she's awake." She paused, and added slyly, "Or you could wait until she shows you herself. She'd do it, you know, if you just played your cards right."

He choked, sunset blooming on his face once more. "She wouldn't--I mean, not really, not…with me…would she?" Glancing at her, he realized uncomfortably just how close he was to her…hell. He couldn't remember ever doing anything like that with anyone, though MEAT assured him he had. The fact that he wanted to with Devi…honestly, it scared the living hell out of him. But it didn't stop him wanting it, wanting her.

-See? Feeling. It's a good thing.-

Nny wasn't sure he could agree. Exhilarating, but terrifying…he wasn't sorry he couldn't remember puberty.

"Sooner or later she's going to wake up," he said, to no one in particular. "And then what am I going to do?" He couldn't let her go--not just because he wanted her, but for the entirely practical reason that she might, theoretically, be able to lead someone after him.

He reached out and touched her face, very softly, fingers barely skimming from her bruised forehead to her pale throat. Light as the touch was, it jolted through him like electricity--he didn't just want her, he needed her, needed her with him always.

-She's yours, Nny--neither of you have realized that just yet. Keep her, until she doesn't want to leave. Do whatever you have to, but don't let her get away again.-

Johnny let his fingers brush over the tangled purple fall of her hair. "I won't," he murmured. "Not this time."


Because creepy obsessive Johnny is far too much fun to write. XD Next chapter sees Tenna and Squee and their respective headvoices trying to amuse themselves in Nny's living room, while Devi and Nny wrestle with their not-so-inner demons and a subscription's worth of issues.