Title: I See No Foe
Disclaimer: Don't own them; just borrowing.
Summary: He never sees him come, and he never sees him leave. It happens like this: Some nights, Aaron is woken by the sound of a guitar.
Spoilers: Up to the end of season 4, just to be safe.
Notes: Title/inspiration is from: "When I hear music I fear no danger, I am invulnerable, I see no foe. I am related to the earliest times and to the latest." (Henry David Thoreau, Journal, 13 January 1857) Thanks also to The Beatles.
"Don't talk to strangers," his mom has always told him, as far back as he can remember. She says it every time he goes to play outside, every time they walk to the park, every time Uncle Jack comes to take him out for ice cream. "Don't talk to strangers," and Uncle Jack rolls his eyes and says, "come on, kiddo," and sometimes that makes his mom mad.
"I mean it, Aaron," she calls out the front door, but he can tell she's really talking to Jack, and Aaron sometimes thinks his mom must be afraid of strangers, the way she says it.
"Just because she loves you," Uncle Jack reminds him, and Aaron just shrugs, his mind already on what kind of ice cream he's going to get.
But sometimes he thinks about it, when it's nighttime and he's alone in his bedroom and staring up at the glow in the dark stars on his ceiling. He thinks about "don't talk to strangers" when he's wondering (wishing, hoping, with held breath) if he is going to visit tonight.
Because Aaron's pretty sure his mom would think he is a stranger.
He never sees him come, and he never sees him leave. It happens like this: Some nights, Aaron is woken by the sound of a guitar.
The first time it happens, he's scared. He opens his eyes and there's a man sitting beside his bed, and it's not Uncle Jack and it's certainly not Grandpa Sam. He can feel his heart banging in his chest, and he's remembering "don't talk to strangers," and he's about to call for his mom. But then the man starts playing on the guitar he has in his hands, and Aaron forgets to be scared as the music settles his pounding heart. He half expects his mom to hear the music and come running to his room, but she never does.
After that, Aaron starts looking forward to the next time the man with the guitar will visit him. In his head he calls him the music man, and he finds himself humming his songs as he plays during the day, but never so his mom can hear. He likes having a secret all to himself.
Sometimes the songs are slow and low and sad, and the music man sings about lots of lonely people, and a mother named Mary, and fields full of strawberries. Aaron closes his eyes during those songs, and even though the words are sometimes sad, he feels calm and quiet and warm.
Other times, the music man plays something fun and fast and silly, with words that sometimes don't even make sense, about people named Desmond and Molly, and some other people who live in a submarine. When he plays the fast songs, Aaron sits up in bed and taps his feet along to the beat, and the music man grins at him and says, "You're a natural, Turniphead." (Aaron doesn't know why he calls him Turniphead, and he'd hit one of the mean boys at the playground if they ever called him that, but for some reason he doesn't mind it from the music man. It's a part of his secret, all his own.)
The music man always ends with a slow song about catching a falling star, and it sounds like a lullaby. At first, Aaron wants to tell the music man that he's not a baby and he doesn't need a lullaby, but the music man looks so sad when he sings it, like he's gone someplace far away, that Aaron doesn't get past opening his mouth. When he listens closer, the song sounds almost familiar, and though the music man looks sad, the song makes Aaron feel safe. He decides having a lullaby is okay after all.
One night, the last note of the falling star song is fading, and Aaron can tell the visit is coming to a close, the way the music man lets his fingers linger on the guitar strings a bit longer than usual. "That one's for you, Turniphead," he says with a slow wink towards Aaron, as he always does, and this time Aaron sits up in bed.
"My name's Aaron," he whispers, and then holds his breath. He's never spoken to the music man before.
A low chuckle comes from the music man, as he folds his guitar lovingly back into its case. "And I'm Charlie."
Aaron smiles, settling back down into bed, knowing by now that he won't see when the man leaves. Charlie. His stranger has a name. He pulls the covers back up to his chin. They're not strangers anymore.
Except he doesn't really think they ever were.