Did I ever tell you guys that this AU is actually what happens to Jimmy and Edgar's souls after EIPJ ends? No? Well. Surprise?
Here's my love to everyone, old friends and new, and I hope I'll see you all around somewhere in the mysterious future of our internet lives! Keep the Mmy/Edgar alive for me, man. We are the coolest of cats.
The sun isn't quite up.
This time of morning, the sky is white and backlit like a TV screen, saturated with light and energy. He supposes that it's just like him to compare nature to a television, but it's all he can think of. The atmosphere itself seems to glow.
They're lying in a field. It's cold outside now, especially where morning dew has seeped into his sweater and sunk its chilly fingers into his shoulders and neck, but as the sun rises he knows that it'll get warmer again. It's too early in the year and too far south for real cold. It's hardly halfway through October. Funny to think that on any other year he'd be dragging out his box of halloween decorations, putting up streamer for homecoming. But here he is instead.
He runs idle fingers across the ground, picking up bits of dead grass and freezing dew, and he wonders where the water comes from—is it rain? Does it fall? It's not something he ever learned about, unless you count when he was five years old and his mother told him that the water came from God crying because He was afraid of the dark. Even then he thought it was sort of an odd answer.
His mother had just been like that.
Yellow light is slipping over the treeline now, bathing patches here and there around them in glowing shades of almost-green, almost-orange. The air smells like the last breath of green before the frost.
He doesn't know where they are. They've been driving for so long it could be almost anywhere, and he's notoriously bad at paying attention to road signs. They've left everything behind, left all their acquaintances and so-called friends and the familiar city-scape behind in trade for interstates and highways, mountains and deserts and fields.
So far away from home, with so much land and so many nights between there and here, he finds that he's hesitant to use his own name—like that could pop the bubble, as if it would kill the dream that he's been slowly pumping life into, little by little, one day at a time.
Time's made the moment fuzzy, overexposed. Now, with the miles between here and there, the whole thing seems so inevitable that it's hard to even be sure why they did it. One minute it was August and Edgar was preparing his notes for another year, the next he was loading up the Acura with a good chunk of their earthly possessions. It was supposed to be revenge, he thinks. Why does anybody run away from home, anyways? He was a little kid shaking his fist at the front door, stomping his foot in the driveway, I'll show you.
If he hadn't been so angry, he could have just called up some acquaintances and started looking for a new job. Really.
But what he'd told Jimmy was right, you have to be looking out for miracles. At the risk of sounding like somebody's overbearing Presbyterian grandmother, he was pretty sure God had a plan for him.
Miracles are internal. They don't come in flaming chariots sweeping across the sky or a wad of cash falling out of the sky. He remembers, somewhere in the middle of the Californian mountains, being suddenly struck with the fact that he was alive, bowled over and almost brought to his metaphorical knees by the realization that he was breathing and that his heart was beating, that it could all change so quickly and the world was beautiful. He's never understood it before. He'd known, intellectually, he'd even made a bid at being grateful for it—
But that early August morning, in a snapshot second he had understood. And he had realized how wide the sky was and how endless, just like all the songs said, and he realized he hadn't seen more than an inch of it in twenty-seven years, and supposed he died tomorrow or the next day, how little would he have known? How little would he have lived?
So he'd shaken the kid awake, roused him from the grateful sleep of the casual migrant worker and tried to explain everything to him. How quickly you could die and how amazing it was that you were alive, and how amazingly infinite the world had to be.
Jimmy didn't get it. But that was just Jimmy, he was a prosaic sort of guy when you got down to it, although he'd made a fair bid at the kind of overdramatic poetry you expected from the black-nail-polish set. But that was the thing about Jimmy: he didn't get it, but he listened anyways.
He was always on board.
This was their project. While Edgar had gathered up his savings, the kid conned some money off his dad; they gathered up suitcases full of protein bars and cheezits and wine, found a sort of half-tent for sale at the Walmart and carried it back to his apartment. He looked at local area maps and then stuffed them unceremoniously into the glove-compartment—maps were for people who had A Place to Go.
The kid stayed over at his place while they put it all together, taking up the quest with whole-hearted enthusiasm. After all, he'd tried to run away from home once, a year before, and Edgar supposed that now he finally had his chance.
They stayed in hotels when they could find them cheap enough, where they shared a room and usually a bed, and Edgar brought his own sheets just in case. Neither of them said anything about the shared beds, or the way they woke up so many mornings curled together into one shape, with Edgar's arms wrapped loosely around his companion.
Sometimes—a lot of times—they slept in the countryside, tarp staked into a low roof to keep the possibility of rain away. Those were nights with stars and far away silhouettes of trees, lately cold and shared beneath two blankets, sometimes three. He knew, intellectually, that it was dangerous to sleep like this—exposed to the elements and mankind too, which is often more dangerous—but that was sort of becoming the point too, to bring himself close to the edge of life and death and the world, where the three met and created something old and strange.
Jimmy told him, somewhere in mid-september, that he was surprised it had gone on this long—he'd expected Edgar to go running home at the sight of the first cheap hotel, and then at the first flat tire, and then at the first cold night, and then at the first midnight when Jimmy reached out and pressed himself into Edgar's body without a sound, twining their hands together, and Edgar said nothing.
It couldn't end just yet. Not when they had only seen a corner of the world, and there was still so much more to see. Mountains, cold granite monoliths and wide stone hills; oceans, blue-green in the sunlight and black with falling night, white sand and yellow sand and beaches of tiny round pebbles; plains, and prairies, and savannas. There were swamps in Louisiana, where you could really believe that vampires had lived hidden for three hundred years, and plantations in Florida that his mother had told him about as a child, painting them the last mysterious corners of the native woods.
He couldn't give up now.
His cell phone had rung for the first time in months when they were unpacking sheets in a hotel room in Tennessee. It startled him, frankly. He'd almost forgotten the thing had a purpose. He flipped it open and sat down on the corner of the uncovered mattress.
"Edgar Vargas speaking," he said, frowning. He'd taken care of all his bills, so unless it was the police reporting a break-in…
"Hello Mr. Vargas," a clipped female voice began, "this is Jenny Saide with the educational inquiry department."
"Oh." Edgar ran a hand through his hair and mouthed "investigation" at Jimmy, who was making grabby tell me motions. "Yes. Was there some kind of paperwork I was supposed to file? The investigators told me they had everything… covered."
"Actually," the voice hummed, noncommittal, "that's just the thing. Your paperwork is all unfinished and unfiled. We have a standing policy of terminating any cases unfinished after sixty days, and since there's no one left in the department to close it up—"
"No one left in the department?" Edgar interrupted, floored, "what do you mean no one left in the department? Did it get cut?"
"Well," the woman started, hesitant. "In a. A manner of speaking I suppose."
"That doesn't actually clear anything up, ma'am."
A breath. "Mr. Vargas, this is, you understand, not to be repeated. The police haven't actually released the details to the public."
"I'm currently hundreds of miles from home, honestly, I couldn't leak it if I wanted to."
"Hm. About two months ago, the department was having a lunch meeting at Uncle Chokey's Chicken House to foster compatible synergy, and according to witnesses—my associate was there too, at a different table—one of the investigators got into an argument with a stranger over soda brand loyalty. The conflict escalated, as these kinds of conflicts often do, and the entire department was slaughtered right there over their dinner plates. Well, naturally, the Bureau of Education knows when to take a hint, and with budget cutting season right around the corner, we thought it would be wisest to simply prune off that branch and save pennies where we could."
Edgar's mouth flapped stupidly for a couple seconds before he managed, "You. They were all murdered? Every one of them?"
Jimmy's background litany of whatwhatwhatwhat'sgoingontellmewhowas? went ignored.
"Afraid so. It's probably the biggest mass murder since the café last fall, and there wasn't even a bomb. So, anyhow, that's that. Now we're just going through the investigation files to let people know the cases are being dropped. We can't possibly submit paperwork that hasn't been double registered with the department head, and considering he was buried as per his instruction with his timestamp, we're content to leave well enough alone."
"I… well. I appreciate the call."
"You're welcome," the voice replied, businesslike as ever. "If you're on the run, you might as well come home now. The police aren't interested in unfiled paperwork. Have a pleasant evening."
And then she hung up.
Edgar stared at the phone for a long time, until its little glowing patch of a screen went dark and the faint buzzing in his ears solidified into Jimmy's incessant EdgarEdgarEdgar.
"Hm?" he inquired, dazed.
"What happened, man?" Jimmy demanded, dropping like a sack of bricks onto the mattress. "They pullin' some legal shit on you? Cause we can take 'em, I used to know a guy in New York who could snap out some papers for you in ten seconds flat—"
"They dropped it."
"—I mean I dunno how much it would cost but. Wait, what? Who dropped what?"
"The case, Jimmy. They dropped the case. Our case."
Jimmy squinted at him. "Our… y'mean, they dropped our case?"
"Yes!" Edgar answered, and this weightless kind of relief hit him so hard he nearly reeled. "Our case! We're free, I'm free!"
A wild, perfect grin split Jimmy's lips like lightening, and he grabbed Edgar's shoulders hard enough to bruise. "Fuck yes! Holy fuckin' hell, what even happened?"
"Some wackjob killed the whole department! No, well, I don't mean to sound so happy about it, it's terribly that all those people died over a random soda argument and I really will have to send flowers or something but Jimmy I'm free!"
"Wow," the younger man said, eyebrows flying up. "Won't say Johnny never did us any favors, I guess."
"God almighty I'm so happy I could just… I could even…"
Jimmy blinked at him, waiting for the sentence to finish somehow, and it was just so perfect and everything was perfect and he just grabbed Jimmy by the back of the head and pulled him into a sloppy, graceless kiss.
"Whoa," his companion said, eventually, after Edgar finally regained a handle on his sense of shame and backed off. "That was pretty cool. Unexpected, but cool. Alright so, we're fuckin' tonight, right? Please tell me we're fucking."
"Nope, sorry. We are not." Edgar grinned at him.
"Right, what was I thinkin'?" And Jimmy pulled a face, this almost-bitter, dissapointed downturned mouth, and suddenly Edgar felt his own grin slipping. Ouch. That looked... legitimatey painful, somehow, and this phantom sinking sensation shifted through his gut. An old question clawed its way to the top of his thoughts; is it worse to let him do it, or do nothing in return?
He considered it for a moment, unmoving in his ungainly arch over the slightly taller man.
"After all," he added, finally, after the last figurative echoes of his previous statement had faded into a faint buzz, "we haven't been dating long enough."
"Yeah, yeah... Wait up, shit, I know you're messin' with me now. Since when were we datin'?"
Edgar cocked his head. "Since I told you we were."
"When… But... you were drunk?"
"I make lots of important decisions while in various states of intoxication. It's one of my many flaws."
Jimmy just looked at him, uncomprehending. A pit of unease started to gather in Edgar's stomach—surely he knew? They were officially fucking the police, weren't they? Oh, but of course he wouldn't know, hell, Edgar wasn't even certain what he was talking about. It would just be so much easier if Jimmy could read his mind, if he didn't have to go about putting these muddied, flooding emotions into coherent sentences.
Well would you look at that, his cowardice was showing.
"I love you," Edgar said, swallowing down a lot of pointless nervousness that really had no business being here. "Like… I love you in so many ways it might actually be unhealthy. Anything you want, you've got it."
"I…" the younger man started, and then must have promptly lost the handle on the sentence he was working out because he gave up and knocked Edgar backwards onto the bed. "I wanna sleep with you."
Eyebrows went up. "Whoa whoa whoa. That's not exactly what I was talking about. See, that was me attempting a cliché romantic declaration and Jesus Jimmy watch your hands!"
"Come on," Jimmy was grinning, "I have waited way too fuckin' long for this opportunity, no way in hell I'm backin' off now."
Edgar did his best to wedge an elbow in between his chest and Jimmy's collarbone. "Please, seriously, Jimmy get off, I mean I really do love you and everything but hoo wow that's aggressive I'm still dealing with some really complicated crises of conscience and —Jesus— this motel is filthy!"
"Dude, how are you such a cockblock?"
"It—" Edgar wrestled off a wandering hand, "—probably has something to do with my upbringing?"
"Fuck your upbringing man, your upbringin's gonna need a fucking blindfold for all the x rated shit I'm about to do to it."
"Um, wow. Jimmy, Jimmy, please watch your hands I'm not kid—oh my god."
After a lot of struggling and just as many pointed elbows as wildly over-familiar hands, Edgar finally managed to get his companion pinned to the mattress and generally under control, give or take a few kicks. The two of them panted into the warm space where one breath met its mirror.
"So," Jimmy breathed, grin fading at the corners, "does this mean we're packin' up our lawless vagabond shit?"
Edgar ran a thumb over the side of Jimmy's hand, following the blunt curve where thumb met palm. The skin was thin and pale, traced in lines so thin it was a wonder you could even see them. He could do this. He could do this, and he did not give a fuck what anyone would say about it.
"Not yet," he answered, smiling, "I mean. We haven't even seen Louisiana. Why would we go home now?"
And then his glasses slipped off one ear, and he had to let go of a wrist to catch them, and Jimmy took the opportunity to knock him flat ass off the bed.
So Edgar wakes up, here, this morning, in a field somewhere in the southern heart of autumn. They've pushed harder, if anything, since that night in the Tennessee motel, because the skies are wide and the land is endless and knowing that he has somewhere to go back to, when the time is right, makes Edgar want to move faster—work harder, do better—before the old world catches up with him again.
There's something about this that feels right, him and Jimmy and the unquantifiable mysteries waiting down every new mile. Like they were made for this. From this. He keeps checking the street signs, almost surprised to find them each with a different name, an unfamiliar label. It almost feels like déjà vu: a whole world of bright, glittering promises and little victories. An adventure, really.
This morning, he thinks that they're perhaps in Georgia. The accents are slow and sweet, and the forests have the young, green look of southern states. He pulled the tarmac away, a few minutes ago, and now the two of them lie on wet grass looking into the shadowy depths of the woods and the white-burning sky, and the frosted field around them. This is what he wants.
He knows that in a few minutes, he'll have to get up and grab a water bottle, and clean up for a day in the nearest town—he knows that this isn't everything in life, just a small piece of it, and there's more still ahead, but…
But right now, he can see himself from a distance, watching like an observer as he reaches out and takes the kid's hand, as the kid intertwines their fingers and looks up at the sunrise—and he thinks that he could probably die happy now, knowing that they've come this far and he's never given up, even once.
And they'll see it all.