TCA: And this chapter is finally up! I would have posted it yesterday but I fell asleep at 8PM (vacation-skool transition kills me everytime, I'm stuck waking up at 6AM again), then had skool today. Bleh.
Squee and all its characters are copyright by Jhonen Vasquez.
Pepito hadn't changed his room that much and if one did not know better, one might assume that it was still only a single boy that lived within its walls. However, upon closer examination, small signs of foreign life could indeed be detected in the room of the young antichrist. Fortunately enough the foreign life was indeed human, and had been invited.
On the bookshelf a large quantity of Todd's notebooks and worn out fantasy novels rested beside Pepito's various books of dubious and occasionally illegal content. Pepito grinned widely whenever he saw Alice in Wonderland getting cozy with his printed issue of Steal This Wiki. His smile had practically split his face when he caught Todd reading the stapled pages with a delightfully devious light in his eyes, obviously enjoying himself. Pepito had pulled out more books then, placing them within reach of Todd's curious hands.
It was those little things, sprinkled and tucked neatly around the room, which proved that Todd Casil had indeed been staying with Pepito Diablo. The only large thing that had been added was an extra chair at Pepito's desk. The two boys shared the king size bed, because Todd still freaked out if he was separated from Pepito for too long. Part of him was positive that the men in white coats were going to barge through the door at any minute, and drag him back to the festering cesspool that was the Defective Meat Heat Institute…and simply telling them that his best friend was also the anti-christ probably wouldn't be a good idea. Todd figured that Pepito had enough fire power to back it up, and so his threats would be taken seriously.
The shrink that Rosemary and Juan had hired to see him had made minimal progress, and had been put off when Todd had spent his first session hiding behind Pepito and hissing.
"Dependency," he informed the feral Squee, "is an atrocious thing. An enslavement." Todd had shook his head and then clung tighter to Pepito. When the shrink had tried to move him away from the anti-christ, Todd had bitten deeply into the palm of his hand, and had refused to let go. He had ended up removing a hunk of the man's hand, and had spat it on the ground, only to pounce on the shrink and start scratching at his face in a panic. Juan had been the one to pull the blood soaked boy away from the shrink, while Rosemary had been horrified at the bloodshed, and had apologized profusely to the cursing man. Pepito, however, had stuck out his tongue and smirked at the carnage. If Todd wanted to cleave to him like a fairy to a flower, then he was just fine with it. There were worse things that Todd could hold on to and it wasn't enslavement if they needed each other, took care of one another. That was friendship.
The shrink had not come back after that incident, and Rosemary had felt much less sorry when she heard what the man had said. Juan had simply sighed and fluffed Todd's hair. Todd's smile had been genuine when he hugged Pepito's parents and whispered thanks in his hoarse voice. He had been talking more and more, but all the sounds that escaped his lips were scratchy. Longer sentences wouldn't come out quiet right, and Todd often resorted to writing them in a notebook and flashing it at whoever he was conversing with. Occasionally he would patiently stutter out a sentence instead of using his notebook. Afterward, he would down a glass of cold water to sooth his throat. As he used his voice the mental anguish dulled, but the physical anguish remained-a constant strumming pulse within his vocal cords. The screaming had damaged them, and magic had only soothed the burn, not destroyed it.
Physically, almost all of the damage had been repaired. There was still a tiny scar under Todd's eye, a few more on his arms and chest, and the damage done to his vocal chords. Everything else had been cleared up without a problem, including his weight. Rosemary had forced Todd onto a nutritional high calorie diet for two weeks, ensuring that he would gain the weight and vitamins that he needed. Juan had agreed wholeheartedly with his wife's decision, and had encouraged both boys to glut themselves on whatever food she gave them. At first, Todd had shied away from the large quantity of food, never having been granted so much, and uncertain to whether or not the offer was real. However, Rosemary had been adamant and had him eating everything she placed in front of him soon enough.
Mentally, the scars ran so deep that sometimes it felt as if they would never heal. Todd would stare into space for hours, his eyes empty and his face set in a straight line. He could be shaken, his name screamed out, and he still would not move. Sometimes, after he came back, his legs would be so numb from sitting in the same position that he could not stand. Todd couldn't be away from Pepito for more than a few hours, and panicked if Shmee was not constantly within arms reach. In the middle of the night he would start screaming in his sleep, trapped in nightmares, and Pepito would have to pull him close and hum him into dreamlessness. Todd's constant lapses into ennui worried the Diablo family, Pepito the most. He was terrified that Todd was going to sink too far, and maybe never come back. Every time Todd 'went out' as his parents had started to call it, Pepito would hold the boy like his own personal teddy bear, one that he would never outgrow and abandon.
Moving the other boy in hadn't been difficult at all, considering the fact that Pepito had salvaged his few possessions, but it was keeping him permanently that was becoming harder and harder.
The system (as Pepito's mother called the judicial branch) was convinced that Todd would do better in the custody and care of his biological family. Despite Rosemary's desperate pleas, Todd Casil would remain Todd Casil. Pepito was seriously considering having someone "accidently" kill Todd's parents. Such actions would make it were he could keep Todd away from those hideous people permanently...and Pepito figured that Nny wouldn't mind having a whack at them.
Rosemary and Juan had hired tutors to come teach the two boys, as reenrolling Todd in skool was too much of a far fetched idea so soon after his ordeal. Eventually he was going to have to go back to skool…and re-master his social skills. Despite all of the worries and problems, or maybe because of them, Todd and Pepito spent all of their leisure time together and seemingly without care.
During the morning hours the two would rush downstairs to the kitchen. Rosemary and Juan were always already at the set table, patiently waiting for their son and his friend. Once seated, plates would be pilled with food and breakfast would begin. Conversational topics were normally centered on work, study, and world domination. Rosemary and Todd normally did not really have that much to say about the last topic, though at times they would chime in with an odd remark or two-Todd more than Rosemary. His fingers were normally stained with ink after breakfast was done, his notebook covered in quickly scrawled comments and suggestions.
After breakfast Rosemary and Juan would kiss each other on the cheek and leave for work, letting the boys entertain themselves in the time before the tutors arrived at eight thirty. This required a great deal of patience and trust on the part of Pepito's parents. The boys were always careful not to break that confidence, keeping their activities semi-legal and un-destructive.
Once the tutors arrived they would then study diligently until lunch, take a break, and restart their learning cycle until three thirty-when the tutors were all gone. The subjects ranged from art to history. Todd was quiet pleased with the instructors, gleeful that the books provided had the correct dates written clearly within their pristine pages. Sometimes, after the tutors left, Todd would gleefully 'talk' about their education. Pepito would nod his head blissfully, every bit as pleased as Todd but content not to voice his opinion on the matter.
Rosemary returned home at five and Juan returned at five fifty. Dinner was served promptly at six, and then Pepito's training started. There was no set time for this, as it varied on how well Pepito managed to properly perform and maintain a spell from his grimmerie. At first Todd had been nervous during the supernatural lessons, refusing to come down to the basement to participate or watch. After a few lessons he had changed his mind and uncertainly tagged along, due to the fact that the rate of his panic attacks were increasing, holding Pepito's hand as they trekked down to the infernally infested space. Once there Todd sat in on the lessons, copying Pepito and (on very rare occasions) mastered spells and charms. Only once Pepito had made noticeable progress were the lessons considered finished. On occasion the lesson would be more centered on politics or manipulation, and both boys showed promise. Non-supernatural lessons normally took half an hour to an hour.
Lessons complete, the two would play together into the wee hours of the night. Sometimes Todd would make up a bedtime story for the two of them, or Pepito would enchant the ceiling to mimic the stars in the sky. Pepito found the routine to be much more pleasant than their former one. There were no foolish mortal children who needed their heads exploded. There was no fear in Todd's eyes when they looked at one another. There was no insane dilapidated teacher that did not value the power of knowledge. There was just Pepito, Todd, and the world that they built together. There were videogames and dreams and power to be had.
Oftentimes Todd would completely relapse, especially whenever something reminded him of the DMHI. Doctors, even on television, threw him into fits of hysterics. Needles. Any medication. Disinfectants. Suction cups. Loud noises. Plastic cups. All it took was a glimpse or a mention and Todd would start shaking, the noise coming from his throat the same pitch as a kicked puppy's bark.
Time passed on in this way for over a month…and then their time was up. They were going back to Mrs. Bitter's class…then it would be time for Todd to return home. Pepito had already promised to invite him over as much as possible but all the other boy had done was squee in despair and cling to his leg. Pepito didn't blame him. After all of the tender care from the Diablo family, and the delicious culinary skills of Rosemary, life at the hovel that Todd was forced to call home would be worse than residing in heaven when Nny was there to visit.
"Todd, mi amigo para siempre, lavantense!" Pepito shook Todd lightly, feeling the muscles underneath Todd's skin tense forcefully. A soft moan escaped Todd's lips as he pulled the blankets tighter around himself, refusing to be roused.
"No…few more minutes…" Todd said as he nestled sleepily into Pepito's nesting area. The bed had been circled with pillows and blankets so that there was a wall about a foot tall surrounding the bed's edge. The center was hollow, and was where the two cuddled together in sleep. Shmee rested in Todd's arms, tight against his thin frame. Pepito was tempted to agree with Todd- to cuddle up tightly against his friend and refuse to let go. Just maybe, if they never left his room every again, people would forget that they existed. He knew that such a plan wouldn't really work. For the most part, people cared only at the worst possible time. Hiding away in the room that he now viewed as theirs would not keep Todd safe by his side. Sighing at the unfairness of it all, Pepito shook Todd a bit more urgently.
"Come on amigo, time to go to Skool." His fingers brushed the soft skin on the nape of Todd's neck, lingering. Todd shivered as Pepito's warm fingers left his flesh, his eyes snapping open. He had goosebumps. Pepito couldn't help but chuckle at his amigo's reaction.
"Great…" Todd pulled himself slowly out of the nest. Uncertain on his morning legs, he slid to the carpet with a thunk. "More ." Pepito nodded his head and helped Todd up to his feet.
"Amigo, I could always…" Pepito's voice trailed off as he resorted to his own form of sign language. His fingers wiggled in the air, mimicking children flying into the air in a great explosion. "You could probably help too, you know?" He cackled lightly and spun Todd around in a wide circle until they were both dizzy.
"I don't… feel like blowing anyone up." Todd sighed and held himself close to Pepito. He did not know what he felt like doing. "If I eat… toothpaste and throw up… do you think… we could stay home? Shmee says no…but maybe he's wrong?"
"I cannot believe that I am saying this-but I agree with the bear." Pepito tapped Todd's nose with his finger. "No eating toothpaste. Mother would be upset if you got sick, and the system would probably end up sending you to your parents' house to recover." The young anti-christ rolled his eyes and tugged at a lock of his ebony hair in frustration. The stringy lock sprung back into its proper place immediately.
"My sentiments exactly. Now go shower." Pepito shooed Todd in the direction of the bathroom, unconsciously imitating the concern sounding command voice that his mother often used when talking to him. It was the lilt in the tone that did the trick. The combination of command and compassion was compelling, and Pepito often found himself imitating the voice, especially when talking to Todd. Yawning, Pepito followed Todd to the bathroom and began to brush his teeth while Todd showered. Once the menial task was complete he sat on the floor and idly played with the cuff of his pajama pants.
"Amigo…I love you." Pepito can hear Todd drop the object that he was holding, probably a gel bottle, at the sudden confession. "You are my only friend, and that counts for a lot. Um, I just wanted to remind you, you know, well, that you are welcome here anytime. The invitation is from the whole family, not just me."
"T-thanks." Todd stepped out of the shower wrapped in a towel and smiled shyly. He was still trying to get used to having people care about him, and was also trying to come to terms with the fact that he no longer viewed Pepito as scary. The rest of his third grade class was scarier than Pepito, a fact that he couldn't help but find ironic. In fact, everything was scarier than the members of the Diablo family. Todd turned his head to the side so that Pepito would have privacy while getting into the shower, not that the demi-devil cared about such things. Once certain that Pepito was getting clean, Todd began to quickly dry off his hair with his fluffy towel. He pulled on the clothes that Pepito had laid out for him, a baggy maroon sweater (Shmee rested comfortably in the pouch of the oversized sweater) and worn jeans, and sat down beside the tub to wait.
He didn't have to wait long. Pepito took quick short showers, and dried off using his powers-what took Todd fifteen minutes took Pepito five, at most. Todd hadn't even gotten comfortable on the bathmat before Pepito was out of the tub and yanking on his normal clothing. After he had pulled his charmed necklace out of his shirt so that it was showing he offered his arm to Todd with a suave smile.
"Let's go get breakfast, amigo. In an hour it is going to be us against the world, and we shall need all of the strength that we can get." Pepito steered his fragile friend out of the bathroom, while putting on a happy facade. Neither of them were looking forward to the rest of the day.