Passing Time

In Which Kurtis Russell Is A Pervert

It's almost adorable.

She'd gone out for coffee and bookstore browsing with Kurtis Russell, and Sweeney had acted as though she'd committed the ultimate betrayal. Honestly, he's getting to be just as bad as Toby - glaring at men who stare too long, pouting when she goes on a date. And it isn't as if she'd known it was a date. What right does he have to be jealous, anyway? It isn't as if he's bringing home roses and chocolates, positively begging her to let him court her.

Though they've managed to salvage their relationship and create their own odd, little truce, Eleanor still very vividly remembers the rush of joy as they danced in the bakehouse, the fluttering in her heart that he finally saw her instead of just looking through her. She remembers the flames licking her skin to ash, the hateful gleam in his eyes - remembers the nightmares even years later. Sweeney Todd wanting anything to do with wooing her is almost laughable. And she might have laughed, if a small part of her still didn't hurt so much.

However, he had been at least annoyed that she'd gone out with Kurtis, scowling at her and sulking like a child. But now, contentedly watching Rambo and satisfied in the knowledge that Eleanor has no intention of dating Kurtis Russell, Sweeney is perfectly docile. He's more bonkers now than he was two hundred years ago.

The apartment door groans over the deafening sound of machine guns, and she hears Toby call out, "Mum, I'm 'ome. But I've got homework so - "

"C'mere, love!" She shouts to be heard over the television, glaring at Sweeney until he sighs and points the remote at the tv, turning it down.

Toby wanders into the living room, heavy book bag hanging from one shoulder. "Can't watch tv tonight, mum. Or eat. Or breathe. Two essays and three pages of algebra to finish before school tomorrow." He scowls, as if he finds his workload most disagreeable, and runs a hand through his hair.

Eleanor laughs. "Toby, you 'ave to eat, love. 'Sides, you're such a bloody genius, it'll only take you 'alf an hour to get all that math done." She points to the most comfortable piece of furniture in the living room - a big, overstuffed chair that nearly swallows up whoever sits in it. " 'ave a seat. One hour in front of the tv, it's an order."

Toby gapes at her. "You're gonna make me watch tv?"

She nods firmly. "Do it or you're grounded."

Not only is the notion completely ridiculous, but she's never grounded him, and she isn't about to start now. Toby sighs and collapses onto the chair anyway, letting his book bag hit the floor. In her opinion, he acts entirely too much like an adult, and sometimes she feels like she has to threaten the boy just to get him to have fun. She'll never forget that time in the sixties when she threatened to take away his Bob Dylan records if he came back from playing with his friends before sundown. She has a feeling he spent most of that time sitting outside the local grocery store with a box of popsicles, but what truly mattered to her was that he'd been outside instead of sitting on the sofa with his nose buried in a book.

Grateful to have someone to talk to who isn't staring at Sylvester Stallone as if he's some bloody idol, Eleanor looks at Toby and asks, "'ow was your day, love?"

"Punch anyone else?" Sweeney asks dryly, his eyes still glued to the television.

Toby glares. "Not yet."

"Oi," Eleanor interrupts, tossing a pillow at Toby's head. "Play nice, boys."

"He started it," Toby grouses.

"Did not," Sweeney scowls and Eleanor rolls her eyes.

"Bloody 'ell, Sweeney," she sighs. "Act your age."

"If I were to act my age, I'd be dead," he says, raising his eyebrows at her.

She smiles sweetly. "Like I said, act your age."

Sweeney's glower is so intense that she almost feels the heat of his gaze on her face. "Toby," he says suddenly, a wicked grin on his lips. "Did your mother tell you about her date - "

"Sweeney!"

" - with Kurtis today?"

For a moment, no one speaks. Eleanor glares at Sweeney, but he only looks at her contentedly, obviously pleased with himself. Toby gawks at them both, mouth hanging open and brown eyes wide.

"Kurtis Russell?" He finally sputters. " 'ave you lost your bleedin' mind?"

Sweeney hides a smirk in a gulp of his beer.

Speaking lowly to him, Eleanor says, "You've 'ad it now. Louie's gettin' every leather shoe in your bloody closet."

Sweeney's grin only widens, and Toby looks the very picture of disgust - his mouth twisted, his nose scrunched up as though he's caught the scent of something offensive, and his brow knit. "You went out with Kurtis? Mum, what were you thinkin'?"

"I didn't know it was a date!" She protests for the hundredth time, throwing up her hands. If it were actually possible, she'd strangle Sweeney herself. He knew Toby would react this way. She considers taking back that old Shakespeare book she'd just given him, if only out of spite. " 'e invited me for coffee, I thought 'e meant as friends!"

"You shouldn't 'ave even done that!" Toby exclaims, distraught. " 'e's a bloody perv! I've seen the way 'e looks at you! Like you're one of Baskin Robbins thirty-one flavors."

"And who doesn't know going out for coffee is a date?" Sweeney asks scornfully, and for once Toby nods his agreement.

Eleanor scowls at them. "It's the 21st century, everybody goes for coffee!"

Toby shakes his head, kicking at his book bag on the floor. " 'e's some spoiled surfer with bad 'air who only wants you for your money!"

"Or certain parts of your anatomy," Sweeney offers, and she glares. He shrugs. "Lad's got a point."

"There's nothin' wrong with 'is hair," Eleanor says defensively. She feels the need to defend Kurtis, since he isn't here to stand up for himself. He really is a sweet boy, bless him.

Scoffing, Toby glowers at the television. "Yeah, if you like your men to look like girls."

"Oh, it's not that long!" She says, and it really isn't. They're both being ridiculous - Kurtis' blonde hair doesn't fall any farther than just below his ears, though he is forever pushing it out of his eyes...

"It is," Sweeney argues, coming to Toby's defense. "Yesterday, his back was turned to me when I walked into class - thought I had a new female student."

Toby laughs, and Eleanor finds it infuriating that they can only get along when they're ganging up on her. "You shouldn't 'ave gone out with 'im, mum. 'E can't be trusted."

"What if he hadn't been able to control himself around you, Eleanor?" Sweeney asks, taking another drink from his beer bottle to conceal his amusement. He's enjoying her torment and that smirk is maddening.

It makes Eleanor want to mess with his mind.

"Well what if 'e 'adn't?" She asks lightly. "What if 'e just couldn't keep 'is 'ands off me and I've decided I'm goin' to see 'im again?"

Sweeney ignores Toby's cry of dismay and he speaks with so much assurance that Eleanor smiles. "You just told me he isn't your type."

She raises an eyebrow, challenging him. "I lied."

"You wouldn't," Sweeney glares back.

Eleanor rolls her eyes. "Yeah, lyin' is so out of character for me, love."

Sweeney stares, eyes wide - first utterly bewildered that she'd even mentioned the flaw that lead to her death, and then because he's realized she's right. She watches as the horror dawns on his face. The thought of her dating his least favorite student has turned his complexion ashen. By contrast, Toby's face is so red with fury that she thinks he might explode all over the living room. Satisfied with her work, Eleanor sighs and reaches out lazily for the beer bottle hanging loosely in Sweeney's hand.

"You mind?" She asks, taking a sip when Sweeney doesn't answer. Leaning back against the sofa cushions, she lets the stunned silence settle over the apartment as she turns her attention to Sylvester Stallone.

Out of the corner of her eye, she sees Sweeney glowering at the floor, his attention no longer on the movie - one of his favorites. Toby's fists are clenched in his lap, his face twisted in his overprotective rage. Serves them right, telling her what she can and cannot do. The nerve of them both - like she lives with two bloody wardens.

Eventually, she'll tell them she has no intention of dating Kurtis Russell. He's far too young for her, and she really can't say she'd fallen for his overwhelming penchant for saying 'dude'. The fact that they have the audacity to believe an immature college boy is exactly her type is even more exasperating. What are they thinking with?

During a lull in action on the television, when all is quiet for just a moment, Eleanor hears Sweeney's teeth grinding together and she smiles.

She will tell them. Some time tonight.

But for now, she's having too much fun.

XxX

In Which No One Respects Their Elders

They look like pouting juveniles. Sitting on the uncomfortable metal chairs lining the empty hallway, Sweeney and Toby glare at the floor, arms crossed over their chests in petulance. Honestly, you'd think she was taking them in for one of those dreaded complete physicals, the way they're glowering.

She sighs, tapping one high-heeled shoe against the floor and putting a hand on her hip. "Stop actin' like such children. It'll be fifteen minutes, tops. Then we can grab dinner and go back 'ome. Promise."

"I still don't see why I even have to be here," Sweeney snaps. "I haven't been to school in over two hundred years."

"Well what about me," Toby counters with a scowl, eager to outdo the older man in their misery. "I've been goin' to school for almost two 'undred years an' I still 'aven't graduated or gone to college. An' I never will!"

Sweeney smirks. "Well perhaps if you studied..."

Toby's face gets so red that Eleanor is certain he's about to launch himself at the professor and throw a few punches. She can only imagine the spectacle of Sweeney wrestling the boy to the ground, pinning him and gloating about his superior strength while every teacher in the building looks on in horror. They'll lock her and Sweeney away for child abuse. She's already watched Toby try to beat up Sweeney once, and she can't say she has any desire to see it again. "Alright now," she scolds hastily. "Both of you stop it. Try and be'ave like civilized people while I'm gone."

"'e started it," Toby grumbles, but he closes his mouth at her glare. "Yes, mum."

Eleanor turns her eyes on Sweeney, who nods grudgingly and slouches further down in his seat like a scolded little boy. She sighs. Between the two of them, she sometimes feels like an overworked mother. Fluffing her curls once and adjusting the neckline of her shirt, she steps up to the classroom door and knocks before pulling it open.

Sitting behind her desk, Mrs. Turlington smiles sheepishly at the sight of Eleanor and waves her inside. "Dr. Lovett, how...nice to see you again."

Thinking of their last meeting in the principal's office, Eleanor blushes. Thankfully, Toby hasn't gotten into any more fistfights. Since that last boy returned to school with a crooked nose, it acted as a sort of warning for anyone else who dared mention her escapades to him. Now, here only for the mandatory Parent-Teacher Conference that every child dreads, Eleanor feels decidedly more at ease. " 'ello Mrs. Turlington," she greets with a smile, closing the door behind her and taking a seat in front of the woman's desk. "You're well, I hope."

Mrs. Turlington nods and then purses her lips. "Very well, thank you. And how are things at home?"

Eyes narrowed suspiciously, Eleanor says, "Smashing. Why do you ask?"

Mrs. Turlington glances at her notes on the desk. "Toby doesn't seem to be paying attention in class. He's always distracted - doodling, looking out the window. It concerns me. I was wondering if there were any problems at home that might be contributing to his listlessness."

The only problem is that Toby knows the material backwards and forwards. "Things at 'ome are just fine. And Toby is perfectly capable of comin' to me with any problems 'e 'as. We're very close."

"I've noticed you two seem to get along better than most single parents and their children," the woman agrees, frowning in thought. "I'm just concerned for Toby. He...he doesn't act like most children. I've been teaching for years and I've never seen any other child quite like him. He barely pays attention and yet he answers every question correctly. All of his classmates seem to like him very much, and yet he carries on as though he doesn't need a friend in the world. It's very curious."

"Toby 'as always been very mature for his age," Eleanor says, glancing at her watch.

Sensing her impatience, Mrs. Turlington glances at her notes. "I'm also concerned Toby is spending too much time on Facebook. He - "

"The 'ole bleedin' country spends too much time on Facebook," Eleanor interrupts with a raised eyebrow. "Top surgeon at the 'ospital 'as a Facebook. On it every bleedin' break 'e 'as."

"Toby tells me you have a guest staying with you," Mrs. Turlington continues, unfazed. "Do you think this man might have something to do with Toby's distraction? Perhaps you should talk to him. He may be feeling threatened by your new boyfriend - "

" 'e's not my boyfriend," Eleanor interrupts again, her cheeks flushing. "Sweeney is an old friend who's stayin' with us for a while. Toby's known 'im since 'e was a baby." She sighs and begins to stand. "It seems Toby's grades are in order and 'e's behavin' 'imself, so if there's nothin' else you need to discuss besides my personal life, I'll be goin'. Thanks for the chat, dear. Always nice to see you."

She hurries from the room with as much dignity as hurrying can allow, shutting the door before Mrs. Turlington can utter anything to stop her. In the hallway, Toby and Sweeney are still sitting, both scowling at the floor and pointedly ignoring one another. "Alright," she says, and they both jump to their feet at the sight of her. "Let's blow this popsicle stand, eh?"

Toby moves to her side immediately, smiling half-heartedly at her, but Sweeney lopes along behind them, frowning at children they pass in the hallways, like a crotchety old man disgusted with the kids of today. Eleanor tries not to find it endearing as they make their way outside and to the curb.

"What'd she say, mum?" Toby asks anxiously. "Whatever it was, I bet it ain't true."

"Oh, so you're not a ruddy genius?" Eleanor asks teasingly. "I'll 'ave to tell 'er she made a mistake next time I see 'er."

Toby frowns and whines, "Mum, come on. What'd she really say?"

"Toby, love," she sighs. "I know you're bored but can you at least try to act like you're payin' attention?"

"But it's so easy," he complains. "I know this stuff like the back of my bloody 'and!"

Eleanor huffs her exasperation, holding out a hand to hail a cab. " 'aven't you ever 'eard the phrase 'learn as if you're goin' to live forever'? Well you can take that literally, you li'tle brat." She cuffs him on the head, smiling gently as a taxi pulls up to the curb.

They climb inside, and Sweeney follows suit, shutting the door behind them. As the cab merges with Manhattan traffic, he stares out the window and says incredulously, "A child stuck her tongue out at me. She stared. I stared. Then she stuck her tongue out at me."

Eleanor snorts. "You're bloody scary, love. Stop glarin' at 'em like they're demons and maybe they won't feel the need to fight back."

"I never would have done that when I was a child," Sweeney argues, turning to look at her. "We had respect for our elders."

She shrugs. "Things are different today, grandfather. No one even says 'elders' anymore."

"Unless they're talkin' about a tribe in Africa or somethin'," Toby chimes in. Eleanor laughs, and they look at Sweeney with huge grins on their faces, amused by his supposedly ancient vocabulary.

Sweeney turns to the window again with a scowl, muttering darkly, "World has gone to pot."

XxX

In Which Summer Means Bonding

When Sweeney Todd imagined his impending summer vacation, he thought of sleeping until noon, lounging on the sofa and watching whatever he wanted and eating an entirely unhealthy array of food. He even thought of browsing through Eleanor's music collection and listening to whatever he liked without having to hear Eleanor humming along in the background. He did not imagine his two companions for the summer being a basset hound and a perpetually twelve-year-old boy.

Granted, he will get a reprieve at the end of August, when Toby heads off to some sort of summer camp in Virginia for two weeks. Eleanor had insisted on it and has every year for nearly ten years, saying that Toby needs the extra time outdoors and socializing, since the boy much prefers to be inside, playing video games and reading books in Russian. Toby, it seems, is even more full of surprises than his mother.

At first, Sweeney tries his best to ignore the boy and dog, going about his summer plans as if they weren't there. For the most part, Toby keeps to himself – locked up in his room blasting some band called Linkin Park and taking phone calls from the apparently vast array of girls calling the apartment for him. For a while, it seems like they'll get through the summer without having to speak to each other much.

All of this changes, however, when Sweeney – as embarrassed as he is by the admission – becomes addicted to the Gilmore Girls after a marathon airs on television. He camps out on the sofa in front of the television for the entire day and it isn't until the very last episode that he sees Toby. The boy wanders into the room, still dressed in his pajamas at five in the evening, and raises an eyebrow at the television.

Sweeney glares at him, daring him to say one word. Toby shrugs and grabs the half empty bowl of popcorn from the coffee table, plopping down on the sofa next to him. He nods towards the tv, "Lauren Graham is bloody good-looking."

Frowning between Toby and the television, Sweeney says dryly, "Isn't she a little old for you?"

Toby nearly chokes on his popcorn. "You're kiddin' me, right?"

"Touche`," Sweeney murmurs, turning back to the show.

For the next hour, they sit together in near silence – except for Toby's whistle whenever Lauren Graham wears a skirt or tight jeans – watching the Gilmore Girls finale. When the final credits roll and Rory isn't with Logan, and Lorelai barely had time to reconcile with Luke, Sweeney grumbles darkly about television these days and how no one makes an effort anymore. When he starts in on how television used to be in the old days, Toby sighs and looks at him in exasperation.

"If you 'ated the endin' so much, why don't you just read another one?" He asks, tossing back the rest of his Mountain Dew and wiping salty hands on his ratty t-shirt.

Brow furrowed, Sweeney stares. "What?"

Toby regards him with a look of pity one usually reserves for the caged animal at the zoo being poked with sticks. "'Aven't you ever 'eard of fanfiction?"

Fifteen minutes later, Sweeney is in Toby's rather messy bedroom, standing over his shoulder and peering at his laptop screen. "People actually write this sort of thing? Don't they get enough tv as it is?"

Toby shrugs. "S'not just stories about tv, Mr. Todd. People write about movies, comics, plays, video games, books - "

"Books?" Sweeney arches an eyebrow, staring intently at the laptop screen.

Toby turns to look at him, brow furrowed. "Yeah…"

Sweeney licks his lips, hesitating. "Do…do they have Harry Potter fanfiction?"

Toby grins hugely. "One of the most popular fandoms, Mr. T." He turns back to the computer, clicking and typing away. "What pairing do you want? I'm a Draco and Hermione fan, myself."

"Hermione with Draco?" Sweeney scoffs. "You've obviously watched A Very Potter Musical one too many times. They loathe each other – and she's meant for Weasley, anyway. If anyone should be with Draco, it's that Parkinson girl."

Toby splutters indignantly. "Pansy? She's a bloody snob!"

"Exactly," Sweeney sniffs. "They're perfect for each other."

XxX

Two days later, Sweeney and Toby are sitting in front of the television again, The Empire Strikes Back playing loudly. In an unusual moment of truce, they had decided to have a Star Wars marathon, planning to at least make it through The Phantom Menace before Eleanor returns from the hospital. Sweeney isn't sure why he and Toby are getting along so well, but he supposes it has something to do with making the best of their situation. They're stuck with each other until Toby goes to camp, whether they like it or not. Granted, they're not exactly forming a lifelong friendship, but Sweeney tries not to be too sarcastic with the boy, and Toby tries not to get on his nerves. It's a grudging truce, only lasting until school begins again, but they're not complaining.

In preparation for their marathon of epic proportions, Sweeney and Toby had gone grocery shopping together. They'd loaded a shopping cart with cases of Mountain Dew, five bags of potato chips, three packages of Oreo cookies, popsicles, Red Vines, popcorn and a rotisserie chicken. They'd even managed to make it through the store with only one small disagreement over whether five bags of potato chips was too much – which, of course, it wasn't. All in all, it had been a successful venture.

For the most part, Sweeney watches the movie and Toby interrupts to comment, ask questions or just praise the brilliance of Yoda. All in all, it feels very much like watching a movie with Eleanor, and Sweeney wonders if he'll ever find someone who will just watch the movie, and not feel the need to talk through it.

"Try not! Do, or do not, there is no try."

Toby sighs, looking very much like an enamored suitor watching his beloved from afar. "Yoda 'as to be the most wicked old man ever. Why can't I 'ave a mentor like 'im?"

"Because you're not Luke Skywalker, and you bought your lightsaber at Toys 'R' Us," is Sweeney's immediate exasperated reply, and Toby shrugs.

The boy doesn't speak again until Vader freezes Han Solo in a carbonite freezing chamber. "Can you imagine bein' in suspended animation?" he asks around an orange popsicle, not taking his eyes off the screen.

Sweeney raises an eyebrow. "Strangely, yes."

Toby rolls his eyes, propping his socked feet up on the coffee table. "You know what I mean!" He frowns. "What do you think it's like? Would you know you were in suspended animation or would it just be like a coma, or a real long nap?"

"I doubt you're aware of it, if that's what you mean," Sweeney says, taking a swig from his beer and setting it back on the coaster – Eleanor will cause him bodily harm if he leaves another ring on her coffee table.

Toby eyes the bottle with an expression similar to longing. "Miss that stuff, I do," he sighs.

Sweeney had forgotten Toby's fondness for the drink, but thinking back, he definitely remembers finding Toby in the parlor on Fleet Street, passed out with a bottle of gin clutched to his chest. The way things were then sometimes makes Sweeney wonder how anyone survived before the 90's. "When did you quit?"

"Mum made me," Toby frowns, thinking. "Just before the Titanic, I think. I remember 'er tryin' to keep me from sneakin' a drink from one of the blokes in third class." He laughs, tossing a throw pillow into the air and catching it. "Mum says if child services wouldn't 'ave taken me away for it, she would 'ave sent me to rehab years ago."

Sweeney smirks. The image of Toby in group therapy, talking about his one hundred year old habit with a plethora of alcoholics and horrified counselors is as disturbing as it is amusing. Feeling rather generous, he offers the bottle to Toby. "One sip. If your mother finds out, I'm telling her you broke into my stash."

Toby stares at him for a moment before a grin spreads across his face – so wide and mischievous that it's almost frightening – and he takes the bottle from Sweeney's hand. His sip is small, but eager and he hands the bottle back without a fuss. Wiping his mouth with the back of his hand, he says, "You're not so bad, Mr. T."

Sweeney scowls. "Repeat that to anyone and I'll tell Eleanor I saw you stealing a pack of her cigarettes."

Toby's eyes widen before he settles on a choked laugh. "Your secret's safe with me, sir."

They eye each other for a moment, sizing the other up before they both settle back into the sofa cushions, intent on the movie once again.

When Eleanor comes home two hours later, the Star Wars DVD's are scattered across the living room floor, and popcorn and soda cans litter the coffee table. Louie has his head stuffed into an empty bag of Red Vines, and Sweeney is reclining on the sofa, attempting to balance Toby's lightsaber on one finger. Toby is standing on an armchair in boxers and socks, rasping, "Todd…I am your father."

Shutting her gaping mouth and shaking her head, Eleanor wonders if perhaps she liked it better when they were glaring daggers at each other. She sighs, trudging past them to the kitchen and muttering, "No more Mountain Dew, that's for bloody sure."

XxX

The next week is spent playing cards and chess, though Toby and Mr. Todd tend to take the games to extremes with their unhealthy thirst for competition. Toby usually wins at chess, but Mr. Todd has a much better poker face, so in the end, they're evenly matched.

They're recreational activities aren't always so organized, unfortunately. On Wednesday, much to Mr. Todd's annoyance, Toby spends an hour creating Sweeney's Facebook account and accepting friend requests from legions of Sweeney's students and colleagues. Mr. Todd insists he'll never get on his account and that Facebook is an utter waste of time for those too unintelligent to pick up a book, but when Kurtis Russell sends a request, Mr. Todd's grin is an unholy sight. Toby thinks maybe they received a little too much enjoyment out of clicking the 'deny' button, and if mum ever finds out, they're in for it. However, Mr. Todd stops talking about Facebook being entertainment for the illiterate, so Toby decides it was worth it.

On Thursday, they make a huge tower entirely out of Twinkies on the kitchen table using toothpicks and Elmer's Glue. When mum comes home, she trips over the empty Twinkie boxes stacked near the refrigerator. Mr. Todd had tried to explain that it was only a replica of an Egyptian pyramid and therefore educational, but mum had only glared at him and picked up a leftover Twinkie next to the tower, taking a vicious bite.

When mum comes home on Friday to marshmallows sticking to the kitchen ceiling, she decides she's had enough. Despite Toby's protests that it had been an experiment in gravity, she starts dragging them out to do things when she gets home from work. This is why Toby finds himself sitting next to his mum in matching black baseball caps on Saturday afternoon at Yankee Stadium.

Mr. Todd had refused to put on a baseball hat, and sitting on the other side of mum, he looks like he would rather be anywhere else. For some reason, he's glowering at the man sitting in front of him as though if he concentrates hard enough, the man might combust right in front of his eyes. Toby doubts it, but he can appreciate a sincere effort when he sees one.

When mum yells something vaguely insulting to the pitcher on the mound, the man in front of Mr. Todd laughs and turns around to look at her, and they begin a conversation full of smiles and shy looks. After that, Toby joins Mr. Todd in his effort. Two is better than one, after all.

When Mr. Todd takes mum's hand after the game is over, and begins tugging her away, Toby doesn't bother to glare at him, saving all his ire for the man who had made Mr. Todd want to be affectionate.

Just as Toby is scampering after them, the man calls after him. "Hey, kid!"

Toby turns, scowling.

The man holds out a piece of paper. "Will you give this to your mom for me?"

Toby contemplates turning around and walking away, but curiosity gets the better of him. He reaches out and takes the paper, keeping his glower firmly in place. Decent men do not flirt with women at baseball games, and Toby'll be damned if his mother goes out with an indecent man.

Marching off to find his mum and Mr. Todd, he unfolds the piece of paper to find the words 'Luke O'Brien' followed by a phone number scribbled hastily. Toby doesn't hesitate to crumple it in his fist and toss it into the nearest trashcan.

It probably wouldn't have worked out between them, anyway.

XxX

The night before Toby leaves for camp, there is a blackout that leaves all of New York City without power for two hours. Toby isn't the least bit surprised when his mum tosses him a flashlight and asks with a grin, "Flashlight Hide and Seek?" What does surprise him is the fact that Mr. Todd joins in and is in fact, rather good at it.

Toby is hiding with Louie underneath the dining room table, hoping to avoid Mr. Todd's surprise tackle when he hears a thump, followed by a shriek of laughter and his mum saying, "Sweeney, that's not fair! You cheated!"

"How did I cheat? By spotting you?"

"Yes!"

Toby rolls his eyes. From the sound of that thud, Mr. Todd had tackled his mum on the stairs to the loft. Mum never could stay still for long during Flashlight Hide and Seek. Despite her words, she doesn't sound too fussed about being tackled and Toby finds this disconcerting.

He's been watching them this summer, and they seem to have grown closer without him having noticed until it was too late to do anything about it. They smile at each other an awful lot – outright grins sometimes, but more often, Mr. Todd smiles at mum when she isn't even looking. Mum will smile just at the mention of Mr. Todd's ruddy name.

There's a lot of touching, too. Little brushes of their hands, mum ruffling Mr. Todd's hair, Mr. Todd putting a hand on the small of mum's back. Sometimes, they sit on the sofa and mum will put her head on Mr. Todd's shoulder and not move for ages.

And even if they're not smiling or touching, they're always looking. It's like they're opposite magnets, constantly drawn toward the other if they're too close.

All of this is very worrying to Toby. Mr. Todd may be around for now – the picture of stability with his fancy PhD and teaching position at New York University, but Toby knows his track record. He always leaves.

And when he leaves, mum tries to pretend it doesn't affect her, that she's fine and who needs another man around the house anyway? But Toby knows her better than that. That pragmatic, cheery smile and those light words full of laughter are an act, and he sees right through them.

Before this year, it wouldn't have been such a big deal because mum always knew not to get attached. She always knew she could wake up one morning and find the couch made up and his suitcase gone. But now, Mr. Todd has been staying with them for months. It looks, for all intents and purposes, as if he plans on staying for quite a while. So if he leaves now, like Toby knows he eventually will, mum will be heartbroken.

Toby won't let that man hurt her again. He'd made the mistake of trusting him once – it wouldn't happen twice. In any case, this substantial pile of evidence makes him reluctant to pack up and leave them alone for two weeks. Without his supervision, anything could happen.

The sound of footsteps brings Toby out of his reverie, and he listens as someone tiptoes into the dining room and begins to look around. Still lying under the table, Toby frowns. What are the odds of something happening between his mum and Mr. Todd the moment he leaves town?

Surely Fate's sense of humor isn't that cruel?

Toby snorts – and then realizes his mistake too late.

"Aha!"

A beam of light shines directly into his face and he squints. "Bloody 'ell!"

Mum laughs. "Gotcha, love."

Grumbling to himself, Toby climbs out from under the table, dragging Louie by the collar. "Only cause I made a noise."

Mum shakes her head. "I would 'ave found you eventually, smarty-pants."

"Can I go to bed now, or is there anything else you'd like to play, Eleanor?" Mr. Todd wanders into the room with an expression of wry amusement, flashlight hanging at his side. The light shines into Louie's eyes and he lets out a whine, wandering over to the professor and pawing at his pant leg. Mr. Todd scowls at him, but doesn't try to move. Toby thinks maybe the dog is growing on him.

Mum beams at Mr. Todd and puts her flashlight under her chin for an eerie effect. "Want to tell ghost stories?"

Mr. Todd rolls his eyes. "You are a ghost story, pet."

As his mum squawks in protest and smacks Mr. Todd in the arm with her flashlight, Toby sighs. If things continue this way, he'll be lucky if they haven't made it to third base by the time he gets back.

Toby grimaces – he'll never think of baseball the same way again.


A/N – I know absolutely nothing about Star Wars, so if there are any mistakes, I'm sorry. Haha I did a little research but it's such a vast universe. Hopefully you all enjoyed it, regardless. Thanks so much for your reviews of the first chapter, I'm so glad you all like this idea. Just remember, this will not be a huge, long, epic thing like Passing Strange was. This is just a story of instances where Toby might have made things different, or provided a funny moment I wanted to write. I'm not completely re-doing Passing Strange. Anyway, review and get a cookie! Also, has anyone watched the video Princesstale made for Passing Strange? If not, you absolutely MUST because it's beautiful and brilliant and all kinds of other flattering adjectives. It's called The Space Between, so go watch!

Also, thanks to Robynne, who did not offer any assistance, whatsoever.

Mariana – Thanks so much for your review; I hope you enjoy the update!