Fandom: Calvin and Hobbes

Story Title: Dead Stars

Status: One shot; complete.

Rating: G

Pairing(s): very light Calvin/Susie

Summary: Calvin knows something isn't right. He just can't figure out what.

Note(s): Written late one night after reading too many melancholic childhood fandom fics. Feedback much appreciated. Usual disclaimers apply.

Calvin thinks the world is changing.

"We can't sail here," he complains as he stands in water that barely laps at his knees. "It's too shallow." And he also wants to say that real pirate ships are much grander than makeshift wooden rafts, but he's afraid of hurting Hobbes' feelings.

"Only five more days 'til Christmas," says Hobbes. "Have you finished your letter to Santa?"

Calvin shifts uncomfortably, nose burrowing closer to the open comic book. "Not yet. I want it to be airtight. All loopholes must be closed."

He hasn't even started. He doesn't know what to say.

Girls don't seem so gross, not anymore. When he waits with Susie at the bus stop, he likes the way the sunlight glints off her brown hair. When, in class, she leans nearer to tell him to "pass this note to Jessica," she smells nice.

His dad bends down to look under the bed, by instinct.

"No, Dad," Calvin tells him, "it's okay."

The monsters have been quiet for a while. Maybe they're gone.

"Hobbes," he snaps, "it's no fun having a water balloon fight if you're just going to stand there."

Tigers don't smile, but Hobbes does anyway, sadly.

Dear Santa: Here is a list of the things I…

Dear Santa: Although your performance last time was unsatisfactory, I am willing to overlook…

Dear Santa: I have been fairly good this year, if one were to ignore…

Dear Santa: I…

Dear Santa: You're not real, are you?

Calvin pushes the plate away. "These aren't monkey brains. They're stuffed peppers. And I'm not eating them."

Oh, well, his mom reflects, he was bound to stop believing me some time.

Susie tosses her brown hair over her shoulder. She's become quite good at it.

"Look at you!" she exclaims. "Still carrying that old stuffed toy around…"

Calvin presses the chalk into the pavement so hard it almost snaps.

Spaceman Spiff's last adventure was a few months ago. His ship's engine died halfway through a galaxy of dead stars, but before he could save himself, class was dismissed and days passed and there were other things to think about.

Spaceman Spiff is doomed to float throughout the vast reaches of the universe, aimless and helpless, forever.

Calvin's favorite rocketship underpants are starting to feel a bit too short and too tight. He pulls them off and studies them intently.

"You know, Hobbes," he says in a slow, thoughtful voice, "it's actually a bit silly. Rocketship underpants, I mean."

"No," Hobbes replies, not quite looking at him. "I don't know."

"Hobbes." The light filtering through the gaps in between the leaves isn't as bright as he remembers, at least not as bright as it looks when it plays off Susie Derkins' hair. "Hobbes." The water in the creek is shallow. The treetops no longer scrape the sky. Summer days don't stretch out before him, golden and eternal and full of promise. "Hobbes."

He falls to his knees on the soft, sweet-smelling grass, string slipping from his fingers while a kite lies a few feet away. Kites don't fly when there is no wind. Cardboard boxes don't become time machines--- ever. You can't go back. You can never go back.

And because Hobbes isn't saying anything, Calvin looks around wildly, until his panicked gaze lands on the faithful friend and companion who has stuck by him all these years.

Hobbes' black eyes don't twinkle mischievously. His striped tail doesn't twitch. He just sits there, regarding Calvin in solemn silence.

"Hobbes," the boy whispers, uncertain and terrified, "what's happening to me?"

It is a long time before Hobbes speaks. "Haven't you figured it out, old buddy?" He looks smaller, less fuzzy, somehow. Diminished. His voice almost sounds like it's coming from a long way off. "You're growing older. We don't have much time left."

The world isn't changing, Calvin realizes. He is.