A/N: OH MY GOD, GUYS. I SUCK. I HAVEN'T UPDATED IN AGES. I'M SO SORRY. HERE YOU GO. HERE IS AN UPDATE FOR YOU. PLEASE FORGIVE ME.
Charley catches Ed leaving Jerry's house. He snatches Ed's wrist and attention, hauling him into his own driveway.
"What the hell are you doing?" Charley asks in a whisper.
Ed's eyebrows shoot towards his hairline. "What do you mean, 'what the hell am I doing'? What the hell does it look like I'm doing?"
One thing Charley can't get over is how calm and detached Ed has seemed ever since he got back-nothing like what he used to be. Nothing like what his vampire self was, either. He just seems... emptied. Hollowed out.
"I can't believe you're spending time with him after what he-"
Ed cuts Charley off with a laugh that sounds too cold and dry to have come from his mouth. "Alright, Brewster. Let's not forget who it was who left me out in the cold. And let's not forget who took me in."
Charley looks stricken, but he can't deny it. He lets go of Ed's wrist and takes a step back.
This time, Ed's laugh sounds closer to genuine. He steps forward to close the gap and places a chaste kiss on Charley's lips. Charley stands there and doesn't know what to do with it.
"I appreciate what you're doing. But these days, I actually can take care of myself." His eyes flick unintentionally to the blacked out windows, as if he wonders if Jerry saw. He keeps his fingers tucked under Charley's chin-flaunting it.
Charley won't meet his eyes. "You and him-you're fucking, aren't you?"
Ed laughs with his eyes, this time. He draws a thumb across Charley's cheek. "Don't sound so scandalized, Brewster. Until a couple weeks ago, you were great just running around pretending I didn't exist. Now you wanna go steady? Baby steps, kiddo."
Charley wrenches away; his eyes stay on his feet. "Does he know?"
"About yesterday?" Ed scoffs. "Of course he knows."
"And what's he think?"
"Why?" Ed steps forward, again-moving well into Charley's space: breathing his air. "He make you nervous?"
"Damn it, Ed-stop it!" And finally, Charley does meet his eyes. "I don't know what you want me to say! I fucked up! I was wrong! I was so fucking wrong. And you've got a right to hate me for it, but how am I supposed to feel when you turn right around after yesterday and go fuck the monster that turned you?"
Ed sighs. "Right now, I can't make you any promises, Charley. I don't know how all this is gonna go. But I'll tell you this-I'm not gonna up and leave you; I'll stick through it. That's more than you did for me." He grabs for Charley's hand-because he needs it. Because out of all the times he's reached for it, this time it's actually there. "You don't know what it's like-finally, I was the one in control. But now I'm just a loser again. Hell, now I'm a freak. Right now, it's you and Jerry getting me through this. And I don't give a shit what you have to say about him, he let me in when you wouldn't. I need him, too."
"I'm sorry," Charley says, and the words try to strangle him-because he realizes he hasn't said it yet. Not once. "I'm so sorry, Ed. It's my fucking fault. I let him get to you and I-"
"Hey. Hey." Ed's expression softens. "Shut up, Brewster." He kisses him. A real kiss. Maybe the first one they've shared that hasn't been undercut with secondary agendas. Something slow and simple.
"It's over." Ed tells him, the traces of a smile lingering around his lips. "Hell, it's more than over."
"Right." Charley nods, trying to sound convinced.
Only, Jerry takes that moment to open his door and stand, watching in the doorway—his arms crossed and his expression stony. Charley meets his gaze and for a second his heart picks up pace and all but races in his chest.
But then he remembers. Jerry is human. Whatever he was, whatever he's done, he's human now. Four hundred years of survival, and nothing to show for it.
So, Charley grabs Ed by the wrist and stares Jerry down. He pulls Ed away from the house, farther down the block, and Ed just laughs and casts sideways glances back at Jerry.
"It's hilarious that this is like some kind of competition between you two. I swear, I never saw something like this coming."
Charley doesn't stop until they're at Ed's house—up the stairs and in his room.
"Why you?" Charley asks, then.
"What do you mean?" Ed's brows furrow together and Charley almost wants to laugh—he's making that face and it just reminds him of how he earned his nickname: Evil Ed—the kid who could pull the most ridiculous frown in the best of situations. He was always playing the villain. And then he became one—or, a monster, at least. Something less than human.
Irony really was a bitch.
Charley sighs. "Come on, Ed. Don't tell me you haven't wondered. Jerry's been alive for hundreds of years. Why some high school kid from Vegas? What makes you so much more special that he's willing to do all of this? I mean, hell—he still dug up my yard and nearly burned down my house. I could call the cops. He's not safe here, so why's he staying?"
"I can't believe you're saying this." Ed balks. He takes a step back from Charley, looking hurt. "I mean, shit, man—is it so hard to believe that someone around here actually gives a fuck about me?"
"Ed, don't—that's not what I…" He reaches for Ed but Ed jerks away and he realizes what he's done—what it sounded like.
"Y'know, we're not all like you—I don't have the whole damn world fawning over me, but I find one damn person who actually gives to shits and you're—jesus, I can't fucking believe you." He looks like a cornered animal.
"Ed, that's not what I meant. Stop it, okay? We can't trust him. You know we can't trust him."
"It's 'we' now, huh?" Ed asks, and suddenly he's on the attack instead of the defense. He's not helpless, he's furious. "When exactly did that happen?"
Charley feels flustered and desperate and lost and he doesn't know what to do. "Damn it, Ed! What do you want me to say? I fucked up? I did! I fucked everything up and I was an asshole to you and it's my fault and I know that! And I can't change it and everything I say sounds so damn hypocritical and you don't think I realize that? I know, okay? I know! But I don't want you to get hurt. I don't. He's a monster, Ed."
The rage has left Ed's voice, but that hollow hurt still remains. When he speaks, he sounds too calm, too smooth. Too… empty. "I was one of those monsters too, Brewster."
Charley sighs. "For, what? Three days? It's not the same, Ed." He steps closer.
Ed shoves him back. "Tell me that when you've felt it, Charley!" He steps forward, forcing Charley back. "Tell me that when you've been hungry. When you've tasted blood and you've liked it." He backs Charley up against the wall and pins him there, his hands fisting in Charley's shirt, their noses centimeters apart. "You tell me it's different when you know what it's like to not be human anymore."
Charley holds his gaze for a second—his eyes wide and frightened and sorry and unsure. Ed just looks broken. No other way to look at it. He's hurt and it's Charley's fault. It's all his fault.
"I'm sorry," he whispers, hardly more than a breath. "I'm sorry. I'm sorry. I'm sorry." Again and again like a mantra. His hands come up to cup Ed's face and Ed squeezes his eyes closed against the touch. Charley buries his nose in Ed's hair, holding on to him, feeling him shake apart.
Ed's arms come up to twine around Charley's waist and he clings to him like he's all he's got left.
Hell, maybe he is.