Midnight And A Full Moon
(The Illustrious Crackpot)
A/N: This fic goes out to Dude13, whose awesome writing skills—and a scenario towards the end of his story "More Than My Friend"—partially inspired this piece. I order all of you to go read his stuff NOW. ...Well, when you're done with this. (Hey, I gotta have SOME thought for myself.)
And, just to clear this up, part of this might seem kind of risqué—however, there's really no indecency involved, as I'm of the firm belief that Imaginary Friends are unable to reproduce. After all, they're "born" by a human thinking them up, so they logically wouldn't be able to have children barring someone Imagining a family for them. So...yeah. Just didn't want to give people the wrong impression.
Mr. Herriman was a rabbit who thrived on order. Absolutely everything had to be in its proper place, checked and rechecked at least three times, before he could sleep soundly at night. If anything happened at all, if there was one single disturbance in his personal Force, he would know it almost immediately.
And so it was no surprise that he woke up the instant a pair of thin arms secured themselves around his waist.
"GOOD LORD!" yelped the Imaginary rabbit, sitting bolt-upright and struggling against the strangely vice-like grip. He snatched up his monocle and forced it into place, squirming around to take a clearer look at his antagonizer. "MADAME, WHAT IN GOD'S NAME ARE YOU DOING?"
Though obscured by the darkness, the figure with her head nestled in the small of Herriman's back was clearly a petite old woman, a dwarf in comparison to the rabbit, with long gray-blue hair tangled messily against her shoulders and curling into the neckline of her long pink nightdress. Although Madame Foster's large, thick glasses were perched firmly on her nose, her eyes were fully shut, and almost anybody would tell you that she had just been sleepwalking.
But Mr. Herriman knew her rather better than that.
"For goodness's sake, Madame!" the rabbit admonished sternly, trying to cover up his embarrassment at his predicament and at being caught completely off-guard. "Do you honestly think you can fool me for even a second?"
Madame Foster let out a small chuckle, which reverberated hummingly up Herriman's spine. She raised her head slightly, opening one eye a crack. "Of course I don't, Funny Bunny," she answered in a thin, old voice, using the rabbit's old pet name as she cuddled closer. "After all, I Imagined you that way."
Mr. Herriman's shoulders began to hunch up as his discomfort increased, and when next he spoke his voice contained traces of hysteria. "B-but Madame, what are you doing? You...you know that all house residents must remain in their own rooms after the official curfew, unless extenuating circumstances—"
"I had a nightmare," the old woman replied simply, releasing her hold on the rabbit and sitting up. She fiddled innocently with her hands and gave her Imaginary Friend a pleasant smile. "You wouldn't want your 'child' to have to recover from a nightmare all on her lonesome, now, would you, Bunny?"
The rabbit crossed his arms sternly, though he was sure that in his anxiety and exhaustion that his expression didn't quite match. "Madame, you know full well that you stopped having nightmares once you first began to watch Sesame Street."
There was silence for a moment.
"Oh yeah." Madame Foster gave a wry giggle. "It was worth a shot anyway, eh?"
Mr. Herriman's tone became somewhat pleading. "Madame, what is it?" he implored, clutching at his sheets as though this would protect him from the bizarre, perplexing situation he'd suddenly found himself in. "To reiterate, all house residents must—"
"Oh, lighten up, Herriman!" interrupted his charge, whacking him on the shoulder with her short black cane. Mr. Herriman yelped again, rubbing the sore spot.
"Madame, why in the WORLD do you take your cane to bed with you???"
The old woman ignored him, crossing her arms as she pouted at the opposite wall. "So now I need a signed permission form to visit my own Imaginary Friend? Oh, Funny Bunny! And to think you used to walk me all the way to school and back every day 'til the end of my senior year!"
Herriman's monocle slipped a fraction of an inch, and he clumsily readjusted it. "Madame, that was absolutely necessary!" he protested, completely overwrought by this point and still unsure of what exactly was going on. "Who knows what horrors could have befallen you if you were to travel unattended? Why, you could have been forcibly abducted! Or assaulted! Or...or...or all manner of ill occurrences could have befallen you!"
"And what help would you have been?" Madame Foster challenged, but her tone was playful. She poked the rabbit's ample gut. "You're not exactly a Rambo yerself, buckaroo!" The tiny old lady laughed indulgently as Herriman's white mustache bristled. "'Sides, I can take care of myself! Remember that time those rowdy teenagers tried to nab my lunch money?"
Mr. Herriman shuddered, passing a hand over his forehead. "How could I forget? You nearly landed me in JAIL! Those policemen wouldn't believe that that big fellow had been thrown over that fence by a five-year-old girl!"
"Until they saw me drop-kick his pal across the street," Madame Foster finished, pantomiming one of the finest moments of her childhood. "They deserved it, the rotten bullies! Trying to rob a little schoolgirl!"
Her Imaginary Friend cringed. "Well, I daresay they regretted it afterwards..."
A long silence followed this proclamation, punctuated only by the hum of the woodwork carrying the sounds of the hundreds of sleeping Friends to every remote corner of the house. It was soft and soothing, almost like a lullaby.
Mr. Herriman let out a groan, folding his hands and looking directly at his Creator. "Madame," he tried for the fourth time, "why are you here?"
The old woman blinked slowly at him, though in the gloom Mr. Herriman had a hard time seeing it. "Well, Bunny," she responded, her face a mask of purest innocence, "when my father and mother fell in love, they—"
"You know perfectly well what I mean, Madame!!" Herriman squeaked indignantly, face flushing at her half-completed answer. His grip on the bedsheets tightened. "You should be in your own bed, sleeping! It must be past midnight! What are you doing here?"
For a while, Madame Foster didn't answer, and the rabbit began to wonder if she was purposely ignoring him. But just as he was about to repeat his question, the old woman gave a small sigh and looked down at her lap.
"I was lonely."
Mr. Herriman cocked his long ears, unsure if he'd understood her correctly. "I beg your pard—"
"YOU HEARD ME!" his Creator snapped, whacking him with her cane again. Then she was instantly demure, shoulders sagging as her hands fell limply at her sides.
"You know, Luella died last week," Madame Foster went on softly while Herriman tried his best to ignore the fiery pain in his upper arm. "My best buddy in high school. I've already lost old Dicky, and Laverne, and Susie and Harold...and all those others I can't even remember. And Mother and Father, of course—you know that. And old Mr. Foster, too." Following that, her voice dropped to such a low pitch that Mr. Herriman had to lean down to hear her. "...Sometimes it feels like you and I are the only ones left..."
Mr. Herriman was instantly ashamed of his previous conduct as Madame Foster removed her glasses, snifflingly wiping the back of her hand across her eyes. "I—Madame," he choked out, overwhelmed with emotion as he placed a quivering hand on her shoulder. "I...my goodness, I never knew that you—had no inkling that you felt so—I'm so...so sorry—Oh, M-M-Madame..."
There was a pause, then Madame Foster removed her face from her knuckles and beamed at him. "Just joshin' your taters!" she cackled at the shocked rabbit, patting him consolingly on the head. "Actually, I've forgotten why I came here in the first place! Ohoho...oh, curse my feeble memory! Sorry, Bunny!!"
Actually, to say that Mr. Herriman was shocked is a cruel understatement. There are absolutely no words in any thesaurus in any language in the world that could describe his condition with any accuracy.
Madame Foster cocked her head to the side, staring at her Friend's blankly stunned face before she extricated herself from beneath the rabbit's blanket and stood up. She wobbled a little as the mattress protested against her weight, but quickly regained her footing and tottered closer to Mr. Herriman. Then, getting up on her tiptoes—
Herriman's entire body jolted as he instinctively recoiled, one hand hovering over what seemed to be a small, tingling patch on his right cheek. Utterly at a loss for words, he was forced to rely on the darkness to conceal the flaming blush seeping through his gray fur like wine on a tablecloth.
"You know," Madame Foster chuckled, hopping fluidly off the bed and turning back to him, "you were my first love, Bunny. Before Mr. Foster."
Without even pausing to take in Herriman's reaction, she traipsed lightly towards the open door, lingering a moment before stepping out into the hallway.
"Wouldn't you know it, I feel much better now."
The door clicked shut, and for a minute Mr. Herriman's mind clicked off with it. But after a while he regained his senses, gingerly removing his monocle and settling himself back beneath his sheets.
He was really going to have to start locking that door at night...