Hello all... This wait has been inexcusable, I know, and I give my heartfelt apologies, I've simply been busy... Doing what, you ask? I am becoming popular. I realise that telling many of you this will turn you against me (this seems to be a very anti-popularity fandom) but it's the truth; I am working my way up the social ladder through a mixture of connections and badmouthing some of my friends. Well truthfully, I'm simply voicing the thoughts in my head to the right people. But I'm getting there (thankfully) and hopefully during the summer my friend (who is very popular) shall invite me somewhere with the other popular people, seeing as I do get along with them quite well, and they have told her they do like me. Feel free to hate me if you wish, I'm just giving you another reason, because I feel like I deserve your hate and disgust for how long this thing took to get out. The next chapter will be up sooner, I promise.

But in other news, the story is almost done. Enjoy :)


The days to Christmas melted away and soon enough Bethany woke to a bright and clear morning with chirping birdsong. So obviously she threw a shoe out of the window to shut those godforsaken birds up before rolling out of bed and shuffling over to Todd's room. She smiled at the decorations around the house; they had spent the day before hanging garlands and fairy lights around the windows and doors, and strung holly from the ceiling before putting up a fairly small pine tree in the living room. They had had a blast decorating it with gold tinsel and brand-new ornaments (for some reason Bethany couldn't find any in the house). They had baked cookies and even brought some over to Nny, who accepted them cautiously while the screams of dying people rang out in the background.

She opened the door to Todd's room cautiously and peered in, smiling as she saw the brand-new stocking she had bought for him during their last (disastrous) trip to the mall stuffed full of little odds and ends she thought would please the child. She leant against the doorway for a few moments longer, contentedly watching the boy sleep, feeling maternal feelings stirring in her chest—just how this boy's parents had not adored him she would never know. She sighed and walked over to the young child, gently shaking his shoulder to wake him.

"Come on Todd, its Christmas!" she said happily, smiling brightly at him as he cracked his eyes open.

"It's five in the morning." He mumbled, burrowing underneath his covers.

"But you have presents downstairs waiting for you." She coaxed, tugging the covers down.

Instead of bolting out of bed like most young children Bethany knew, Todd just blinked sleepily at her. "Presents?"

"Yes, you know, unknown objects wrapped in festive paper?"

"I have presents?" Todd asked warily, hope shining in his eyes.

"Of course you do sweetie!" Bethany smiled, fighting back the wave of hatred towards Todd's parents that threatened to overwhelm her. He smiled at her hugely, a smile filled with all the childlike innocence she had believed to have been stripped from him years ago and she immediately forgot her anger as her heart melted at the sight in front of her.

"Come on hun, we'll go open presents after breakfast, kay?" she smiled, offering her hand to the boy. He took it gladly and they walked down the stairs and went into the kitchen, still homely with the lingering scent of cinnamon and baking. She bustled around the room making pancakes for the two of them, humming all the Christmas carols she could think of as she baked.

"Do you want chocolate chip or blueberry?" she questioned, looking through the pantry she restocked earlier in the week.

"Chocolate chip!" Todd said loudly, before slapping his hands over his mouth and looking at her warily. "Sorry," he whispered, "chocolate chip."

"Don't worry sweetie, it's Christmas, you're supposed to be loud!" she explained, demonstrating this fact by yelling. He giggled warily and glanced at the staircase in fear.

Bethany sighed unhappily and abandoned her pancakes in favour of hugging the boy. "Look darlin', I don't know anything about your home life before I came, but sweetie, you're better off without those two jerk offs upstairs, okay? You're a great kid—the best I've ever known—and don't let nobody tell you different!"

He nodded mutely, and began silently twiddling his thumbs when she finally released him. She sighed imperceptibly and went back to the pancakes, pouring in the chocolate chips, the comforting air that had permeated through the kitchen now stilted and cold.

When the pancakes were done, Bethany placed them in front of Todd and sat down with him to eat, attempting to break the awkward silence.

"So, what do you think Santa brought you this year?" she asked cheerfully.

"Santa doesn't exist," said Todd disinterestedly, his mouth full of pancake, "he's just a lie to get children to be good."

"Don't talk with your mouth full," she said automatically, "and why do you say that? I thought most children your age believed in Santa."

"Well when your parents tell you he doesn't exist it's hard to believe he does."

"That's horrid!" Bethany exclaimed in horror.

"No it's not!" Todd defended. "They just don't want me to believe in something that isn't true!"

"But that's the whole point of childhood!" Bethany cried, close to tears. "And taking that away from you… They robbed you of that, can't you see?"

"My parents love me," Todd said quietly, staring at his pancakes, "and they just want the best for me."

"But—"

"May I be done? I'm not hungry anymore." Said Todd in that same quiet tone.

"Yeah, you can go hun. Go and get washed up and we can open presents when you're done." She said quietly in a voice to match Todd's; silently heartbroken.

"Thank you." He climbed the stars slowly, each heavy thud of his feet like a dagger in Bethany's heart, hating herself for causing that heaviness of his heart.

"You should learn to leave well enough alone, you idiot girl," she muttered angrily to herself, getting started on the dishes and ignoring her untouched pancakes, "stupid, stupid, stupid."

An hour later when the dishes were all done and all the food was put away and Todd still hadn't come back downstairs, she headed up to his bedroom to see what was taking him so long. The sight she was met with when she pushed open his door broke what remained of her heart into a thousand shattered pieces.

Todd lay curled up on his bed, clutching the voiceless Shmee to his chest and was just staring brokenly at the wall, his eyes red from crying but now just empty and dead. She felt a sob catch in her throat and had to quietly close the door before she alerted him to her presence.

She ran quickly to the kitchen, fighting back tears every step of the way until she couldn't take it anymore, collapsing onto the kitchen table and sobbing brokenly, ashamed and guilty for causing such pain to the child she had tried to protect from just the thing she had inflicted upon him. Her chest hurt and her throat ached and she had a blinding headache but she was sure it wasn't enough punishment for breaking such an already broken boy. She sat there crying for what seemed an age before the doorbell rang shrilly, jerking her out of her self-hatred. Slowly she shuffled over to the front door, sniffling loudly and wiping her nose on her sleeve. She opened the door warily, bloodshot eyes immediately recognizing the figure on the doorstep.

"Oh, hello Johnny," she attempted to say cheerfully, "Merry Christmas."

"Where's Squee?" he frowned.

"Oh he's just upstairs… Sleeping, he's been really tired lately so I thought I'd give him a little bit of a lie-in." she lied, hoping he couldn't see through her.

"Oh, okay then." He said, and if Bethany wasn't so oblivious currently she would notice how oddly he was acting, even for him.

"Well if that's all…" she said, making to close the door.

"Wait!" he said quickly, putting his foot in the door so she couldn't close it.

"What is it?" said Bethany snappishly.

"I, well… I have presents!" he blurted out, his face contorted as if in pain.

"You… have presents?"

"Yes." He nodded, once again looking as if the very admission of it hurt him physically.

"Well, come in and put them under the tree then." She smiled thinly, opening the door wider.

"… Okay." He said warily, reaching behind him to pick up an unfortunately bloodstained box and an envelope.

"Wait," she said sternly, barring the door and preventing him from getting in, "what's in the box?"

"Nothing bad, it's for Squeegee." He said, seemingly offended that he could even be associated with the word 'bad'. Of course, that was the moment the box decided to whine and shake, leading to a heated glare courtesy of Bethany.

"All right, I'll tell you what it is," Johnny sulked, sounding a lot more like a moody teenager than the adult he supposedly was, "it's a Shmee-replacement."

"A Shmee-replacement." She repeated dubiously.

"Yeah, it belonged to this guy I had to kill."

"And why did you have to kill this guy?"

"He was talking during my movie!"

"So you kill him?"

"Yes, well that and I needed his dog."

"Why?"

"For a Shmee-replacement!" he said in a tone that very clearly said keep up!

"Oh… oh! You bought Todd a puppy!" she cried happily, wondering if now things would be better with him. Johnny nodded solemnly, and Bethany quickly wrapped her arms around him, her relief that maybe she hadn't messed up everything with Todd overwhelming her memories of what happened the last time she was this close to him. She let him go almost immediately though, opting to simply beam at him instead.

"You're a good man, Johnny. A little misguided maybe, but your heart's in the right place." She smiled, ushering him into the house.

"I can't stay, I have things to do!" he whined as he was forcefully pushed into the living room and into an overstuffed armchair in front of the empty fireplace.

"You'll stay, and you'll wish Todd a Merry Christmas like a good scary neighbor man." She told him firmly, taking his presents and putting them under the tree before shoving a plate of cookies and a glass of eggnog into his empty hands.

"I am a good scary neighbor man." He muttered sulkily.

"Then prove it." She challenged, staring right into his eyes despite the fluttering in her stomach that now was more from fear than any sort of sexual attraction. Light footsteps alerted her to the presence of Todd at the doorway, freshly washed and dressed, only a slight red puffiness around his eyes to show he'd been crying.

"I'm ready Bethany." He said in a small voice, opting to ignore Johnny for the time being.

"Well come on in," she smiled, taking him by the hand and leading him inside, "Merry Christmas Todd."

"Merry Christmas."