AN: Because any character of mine is never given a name just because, I will tell you that the name Joanne is stolen from a character in Rent. No relation to the character, I'm just uncreative with names. Skaff was the name of my high school Vice Principal.
Mr. Skaff could just make out the indisputable sound of a fast-paced steps approaching his office. A moment later, his door swung open.
"Someone needs to tranquilize that man. I think it's safe to say he doesn't like me very much."
"He's a top-security sociopath, Joanne, of course he doesn't like you,"the older man answered dryly, taking the folder she gave him, shoving it in his desk and pulling out another one, "I've got a new case for you that I need you to start right away."
"Because I don't have enough already,"she said, rolling her eyes, "How bad is it?"
"Nothing we haven't seen before. Killed two kids in one night, one death still under investigation. It's the background that we don't know much about."
"What's his history?"
"Doesn't have one."
"….No history of violent behavior before admission, or…?"
"No, I mean no history at all,"he said with a frown, "No medical records, no birth certificate - we can't even find a social security number. All we have is a name, and I don't even know if that's real."
"Is he restrained?"Joanne asked, looking uneasy, "How do I even work with him if I don't know what I'm up against?"
"He is for now. Can't say if he needs it, though. You'll have to let me know what level of security you think he needs. So far he's just been sitting there. Doesn't talk or do anything. He doesn't even sleep. "
"That's encouraging,"she muttered sarcastically. That's just what she needed - a sleep-deprived serial-killer.
"You'll be fine. He's just a kid."
"A kid?"she asked, raising an eyebrow, "Why is he even here if he's underage? Can't Juvenile take him?"
"He's a special kind of kid. Half-bat." She hesitated, waiting for the punchline.
"I don't get it,"she finally said.
"There's nothing to get. I just told you. The sheriff that brought him here said he's half-animal. Half-bat, half-human. Literally bat-crazy." He smiled at his own joke.
"Of course he is,"she said, rolling her eyes, "Is he part bird, too? Should I be worried that he's going to sprout wings and fly out of the window?"
"You laugh, but just wait. You'll see." She regarded him a little more seriously, beginning to wonder.
"You can't be serious,"she finally said when he remained resolutely silent.
"Shouldn't he be taken to a vet?"
"The vet who called us didn't seem to think so,"he said, catching her surprised look, "Besides, he looks human enough to me."
"Can he even talk?"she asked, looking flabbergasted. This was, by far, the strangest thing she had ever heard. And that was saying something considering she worked in a hospital for the criminally insane. She was used to frightening cases: murderers, rapists, dangerously insane men and women who had done things so disturbing, even their family couldn't know. But they were at least human. This...this was something she wasn't remotely prepared for.
"Jesus, Joanne, just go see for yourself." He handed her the folder, which was, as predicted, completely empty except for Skaff's unmistakable scrawl on the side tab. Edgar Parker. She took it tentatively, apprehensively wondering what it was she was getting herself into.
Edgar wasn't sure how long he had been lying there, but he knew it must have been a long time when he finally heard the knock on his door. Groggily he sat up a little, his head spinning wildly, his arms barely able to sustain him, he was so exhausted and weak. He had been so adamant to not sleep, to not subject himself to the nightmares he knew would follow, the drowsiness had made him temporarily forget what was coming.
The door slowly opened and a woman stepped in.
Instantly, Edgar's senses were alert, and all thoughts of sleep and hunger were banished from his mind. It wasn't until that moment that it really hit him how terrifying the thought of facing another human right now really was. There was nothing to guarantee that this introduction would turn out any better than his last. Immediately he tensed, wishing he could sink right into the wall and turn invisible.
"Edgar Parker?"the woman asked, spotting him hiding in the shadows. The sound of his name sounded strange to him, like a foreign word. It didn't belong to him.
He held his breath, his heart thudding heavily in his chest. She stepped back when the light from the hallway hit his face, illuminating his bat-like features. The light blinded him for a temporary moment, making it impossible for him to see her face, or her reaction. The light couldn't hide the small gasp that escaped her throat, though.
She shut the door without waiting for a response, her face quickly masked and composed before he could get a chance to see the look of incredulous surprise that had spread on her face. She did not shake his hand, instead opting to stand by the doorway, a safe distance away.
"Do you... speak any English?"she asked slowly.
He didn't respond, his throat suddenly too tight to speak. Instead he brought his knees up to his chest and willed himself to disappear. She was a middle-aged woman with short brown hair and glasses, staring at him with an artificial stiffness that told him she was mustering every ounce of self-restraint to not run, or at the very least, stare. Immediately he wished she would go away so he could curl back into a ball on the floor. He didn't want to do this.
With all the bravery he could muster, he slowly nodded.
"...Alright. Edgar, my name is Joanne Nelson. I'm a social worker who specializes in behavioral analysis and therapy. I'll be staying with you for the next hour and half an hour twice a day from now on to talk with you, access treatment possibilities and an appropriate level of security. During that time you may talk to me about whatever you want. Whatever you say in here will be kept confidential to everyone except my myself and my supervisor," she said, "You are not required to talk at all, but just know that I can't help you if I can't communicate with you. Do you understand?" Joanne herself felt like hiding, but she didn't have that luxury. He looked human enough at first glance; at least, he didn't have any wings or horns, and he didn't walk on all fours. But now that she had a closer look at him, the reality of his strange predicament was clear. The pointed ears, pale, hairless skin, the large eyes, even his mannerisms as he sat suspended, only his feet touching the floor - all pointed to something undeniably animal-like. Even still, he was clearly nervous, and human or not, he couldn't do anything to her in the state he was in.
"So,"she began, not looking at all put off by his silence and instead taking the only chair in the room and positioning it as far away as she could get away with, "Do you have any questions or anything you'd like to talk to me about, Edgar? Anything you want to know about this place?" He didn't answer for a while. He didn't know what a therapist or social worker was, and even if he did, he didn't think he would trust one anyway. He felt self-conscious as he surrendered himself to her intensive scrutiny. He wished there was some way to hide his ears. He hated how she stared at them. She couldn't even look straight at him; her eyes kept swerving over to the side of his head. He was scared to talk; if he opened his mouth she would see his fangs, too.
"Do you want to tell me why you're here?"
Slowly he shook his head.
"How are you feeling right now?"she asked instead. He hesitated, unsure if he knew for himself, and even less sure that he was ready to speak at all.
"...Scared,"he finally said, his voice coming out no louder than a whisper. Her surprise at hearing him speak didn't go unnoticed.
"...Scared of me or scared or your situation?"she asked after a moment recovering from the shock. He still wouldn't look at her.
"Both,"he replied quietly. Talking wasn't too bad, he realized with relief. As long as he kept his mouth covered.
"You don't need to be scared,"she assured him, "The worst is over now. We're just going to talk now." He nodded stiffly, trying to believe her, but finding it hard to do so when he could practically feel her own fear radiating from across the room. He put his head on his knees without responding, feeling sick, weak, hungry, unbearably tired, and completely alienated.
"How about we get the boring stuff out of the way first?"she offered, pulling out the folder she had brought, "I noticed that you don't have any records." Edgar frowned, confused. What was she talking about?
"No address, no phone number, no birth records, no medical history, not even a social security number…,"she said, staring wonderingly at the empty lines inside, "Can you tell me what that's about?" He continued to look completely lost.
"Had you ever been given an official diagnosis before being admitted here?" Edgar stared blankly at her, only his eyes visible from behind his bent knees. What?
"Do you know your medical history?" Another pause, then Edgar shook his head.
"Where is your home?" She waited a moment, then he slowly shook his head again.
"Is there anybody I can call for you? Do you know their phone number?" Again, Edgar looked helpless. He had seen Meredith and Shelley using phones before, and he understood what she was referring to, but he didn't have a clue how a phone worked or what a phone number even was.
Joanne patiently waited for an answer but his silence wasn't helping her nerves, either. The more guarded he was, the more Joanne had to wonder how she was going to survive this next hour. How did she even know he could understand her? If he really was half-animal, how was she going to work with him?
Deciding to change tactics when he remained silent for a full minute, she asked instead, "Let's just get to know each other a little first. May I ask if you have friends or family, Edgar?" He didn't like being asked questions. Questions required answers. Slowly he shook his head.
"Oh come now, everybody has somebody. For a long time, Edgar didn't say anything.
"It depends on what you consider "family..."he finally answered, his voice no louder than a whisper. The incredulous look on her face and the raised eyebrow didn't go unnoticed. So he was capable of more than one-word answers, she thought wonderingly.
"If I may ask, are you from England?" The ridiculousness of the question baffled him for a moment. Slowly he shook his head.
"Your accent,"she explained, "Is very distinctly British." He shifted, looking uncomfortable, wondering how to explain himself.
"I practiced English with BBC language tapes,"he explained quietly. Just hearing him talk was baffling.
"Oh? What was your first language?"
"….Bat." There was a beat of silence.
"Bat?"she repeated, eyes wide, "As in…?"
"I was raised by bats,"he explained slowly, "I grew up in a cave."
"You were raised by bats?"she repeated, a little disbelievingly. He hesitated, wondering if her incredulous tone hinted more at surprise or accusation.
"For how long?"she asked, genuinely curious now. Edgar shifted uncomfortably.
"All my life...,"he responded slowly, looking a little insecure as he hid the bottom half of his face behind his knees.
"Well then,"she said, laughing uneasily as she made some notes in the folder, "That would explain the lack of records. And I'm assuming you weren't civilized before then?" Edgar's eyes narrowed, unable to help feeling defensive.
"Not to your standards,"he answered a little coldly. She opened her mouth to ask a question, closed it, and let it die when she saw the look on his face. It certainly wasn't something he would have said a few days ago, but he would be lying if he said he wasn't at least a little hurt that the human world would so ignorantly call him uncivilized when the animal world he had lived in would think the human world insane for half the things they did. The silly rituals of getting dressed, eating in unnatural, man-made containers, acting certain ways to certain people - that was insane.
And the fact that she was so surprised by the fact that he was indeed "civilized" made him feel all the more bitter about it.
"How long did it take you to learn English and adapt to such a different environment?"she asked instead, oblivious of his digressing thoughts. Edgar pursed his lips, looking away before wordlessly holding up nine fingers for her to see.
"Nine years?" He shook his head. It took a long moment for Joanne to figure out what he meant. Even when she had connected the dots, she almost couldn't bring herself to say it out loud.
"...You learned English... in nine months?"she finally asked in awe and incredulous disbelief. He nodded slowly without comment, the bitterness that had blossomed in his heart only half-masked.
"That's incredible. You speak so well, I never would have guessed. You must be incredibly smart and well-adaptive." In any other situation, he would have shrugged modestly. But he didn't move, more annoyed than pleased. Why did he feel so annoyed that she looked so surprised? Wasn't that the point of learning to be human in the first place? To surprise everyone with his charm and wit?
"Surely you didn't teach yourself that quickly, though,"she commented, "Did someone help you?" He paused for a moment before wordlessly nodding.
"You lived with a human family, then?"she continued, taking note of the emotions playing over his face. He took a long time to respond.
"...If that's what you want to call them."
"Are you close with them?"she asked. Again, he didn't know how to answer. He shrugged again, not looking at her.
"You don't have a good relationship with them?"she guessed, "Or just not anymore?" Edgar turned his face away, wishing she would change the subject. Finally he made a gesture with his finger to indicate the second one.
"Are you close with anybody?"she continued, looking intrigued by his silence instead of put off. He still didn't respond. He knew where this was headed.
"There has to be someone you care about,"she pressed. Edgar shifted uncomfortably, not looking at her.
"Shelley,"he finally whispered, feeling his heart break as he said it, "I loved Shelley more than anything in the entire world." Joanne was quiet for a while. It was the first thing he had said with any real emotion in his voice. The softness and painstaking look of understanding in her expression betrayed his vulnerability, and he quickly looked down, embarrassed now.
"And who is Shelley?"she asked gently. Edgar shifted again, staring hard at a spot on the floor as his hands clenched and unclenched anxiously.
"Did she live with the family you were with?"she continued when he didn't respond. Slowly, he nodded.
"Was she your friend? Guardian, or...?" This time Edgar did not answer. Joanne waited and waited, but the look on Edgar's face told her they were heading into uncomfortable territory.
"What does this have to do with anything?"he suddenly asked, feeling his voice unexpectedly rise as he desperately tried to turn the conversation away from the one thing he didn't want to think about. Joanne physically reacted, her face poorly masking the trepidation she felt at hearing the glint of anger in his voice. Suddenly she didn't feel safe.
"All I want to do today is get to know you, that's all," Joanne replied, her tone as casual as she could manage.
"You don't need to ask me all these things to know that I'm dangerous,"he said, glaring at her, "I just am. Put that down on your list of reasons why I'm crazy."
"Whoa there, slow down, I never said you were crazy,"she said, laughing nervously, "I just wanted to get to know you."
"I don't want anyone to know me ever again,"he said dryly, his arms tightening around himself as he continued to stare at the floor, "I'm reckless, dangerous, whatever you want to label it. I can't be trusted to be around other people. If that's all you wanted to know, then you don't need to ask me any more of these stupid questions." He could have made more of an effort to be cordial, but at that moment the past few day's exhaustion suddenly hammered him, making him realize how very tired he was and how sick he was of being here and doing this. He didn't care anymore. He just wanted to be left alone.
"You're being very needlessly defensive. I'm not trying to attack you for liking this girl, if that's what this is about." He held in a breath and counted to five, willing himself to not feel so angry and hurt and tired and hungry. But five came, and he was no less overwhelmed.
"But I am dangerous,"he insisted.
"I never said you weren't,"she said, her assuming tone so final and decided that it made Edgar suddenly want to cry, "But I need to access your ability to be treated. For that I need to know at least a little about you."
"Why would I want to be treated?"he asked loudly, finally looking up at her, "So I can leave and then be dumped right back in here when something else happens? What is it with you humans and your obsession with putting animals in CAGES?" In that brief moment he had spoken, he had forgotten to hide his mouth. She held back a gasp at the sudden sight of his fangs, but couldn't help the surprised expression that appeared on her face a second too late. Edgar, of course, noticed.
"T-there's no shame in getting help,"she said slowly, trying to compose herself as quickly as possible. He glared at her as his hands tightened into fists, more than annoyed, by her statement and by her reaction.
"But I can't be helped,"he said, his words biting and colder than even he expected, "Nobody can change what I am, least of all me. I'm just going to end up in another cage, so just lock me up or get it over with if you're that afraid of me." It sounded just as uncharacteristically rude out loud as it did in his head, but he didn't regret it. In fact, he was glad to not have to filter anything. He wasn't going to fight to be Edgar the gentleman who fit into a picture-perfect depiction of human society anymore. He was just Edgar, and she or anybody else wasn't going to make him feel guilty for it.
"I'm not afraid of you,"she said, trying to keep her voice calm.
"Yes you are. I could tell you were from the moment you walked in,"he said, raising his gaze to finally look at her directly for the first time, "Call it...animal instinct." He knew he had affected her by the way she stared blankly at him, trying to keep her countenance devoid of any expression. He could feel it. He could feel her fear and uneasiness. She had probably drawn all the connections already: how he killed, what he was, and just how much of a threat he was to the people around him.
Joanne's voice was weak when she finally spoke. "Edgar, all I know is that you supposedly killed two people. There's convincing evidence to say you could be locked up, but I do want your side of the story."
"There isn't another side of the story. The big bad monster bit two innocent people and they died, the end."
"You're not even trying."
"Why should I?"he asked, turning his head back down. He was born this way, and he was sick of trying to prove he could change.
"What do you want to do then?"
"I want to be LEFT ALONE!"he shouted, surprising himself with the sudden volume of his voice. Apparently she seemed surprised too, because she didn't say anything for a moment. He slowly sunk back into himself, hugging his knees as he willed everything around him to disappear.
"Do you want to do anything about your situation?"she finally asked slowly, quietly. Edgar stared at the floor for a long stretch of silence as he seriously considered this.
"I just want to not exist anymore,"he finally mumbled, his voice quieter now with submissive honesty.
"Edgar, to be honest there's not much I can do to help you if you don't want to be helped,"she said gently.
This sounded absolutely moronic to Edgar. Maybe it was the fact that he had known all along that he didn't want to be helped; or maybe the fact that he absolutely hated her kindness, and still she kept up the false pretense she was helping him. He hated this. He hated her. He hated the fake sincerity she was paid to give. It reminded him all too much of the fake sincerity his own mother had lavished on him.
"Please just leave me alone,"he said, glaring at his knees. He felt a growing anger well up inside him: anger for her insincerity, anger that she was afraid of him, anger at himself for being someone to be feared when all he had wanted was for people to accept him, and most of all, anger that he was constantly being forced into a cage to have weak, hypocritical, human affection maliciously harrowed at him. He didn't need her concern. He had done fine on his own before the human's world of God-loving compassion and charity completely uprooted his peaceful solitude. All he wanted was to disappear. Why wouldn't anyone grant him that wish?
"Edgar, have you been having suicidal thoughts?"she asked suddenly, making him look up in surprise. Suicide was not a word Edgar had learned, but nevertheless, he understood the intent.
"No,"he lied as quickly as he could, "How much longer?"
"Don't avoid the question, Edgar."
"I just answered the question."
"A lot of patients here try to kill themselves the first few days they get here. Very few are able to. Suicide isn't the way to reconcile with yourself, Edgar. Time and an honest effort to change is." Edgar stared hard at the ground, holding his breath while he waited for her to finish.
"How much longer?"he asked again. She sighed, not bothering to look at her watch.
"I don't want to talk anymore,"he begged.
"Edgar, you can't fix your problems by running away from them. Or chasing them away, for that matter. If you don't confront this head-on, you're going to regret it down the road." He glared at her without holding back his hatred. There wasn't hope of a future for him. He lived in a world full of pain and hatred, and there wasn't any "treatment" that was going to change that. He would never be able to go back to his place of blissful ignorance with the knowledge he knew now, and he hated her for it, and he hated Mrs. Parker for it, and he hated that town for it. Why couldn't she just leave him alone and let him leave the world, just as horrible and painful as when he had entered it?
"I don't care what's down the road,"he answered morosely.
"You will care someday,"she said softly, "You don't see it now, but you will."
"No I won't. I'm dangerous and disgusting and I don't deserve to live. I don't need somebody to try and figure out exactly what a freak I am. I've figured it out for myself already."
He had barely spoken except to tell her not to bother with him; and yet Joanne could hear such a desperate plea for understanding in between every self-depreciating comment he uttered. He really was no different from any other crazed teenager desperately seeking acceptance and respect. She watched him slowly begin to break, with his sad, downcast eyes, his eyes slightly glassy with overwhelming exhaustion, and his weak and tired body curled up protectively because it was the only way he knew how to shield his broken heart. She didn't know him, but in that moment, even with all his unusual characteristics, the countenance of a lonely teenage boy outshone that of a wild animal.
"Edgar, do you know how old you are?"she asked suddenly, her voice gentle but firm. Edgar was taken back by the question. This was not what he expected her to say after such a confession.
"I-I don't know,"he answered softly when he had finally collected his bearings, "Sixteen I think?"
"So young...,"she said thoughtfully, looking at him, "You're the youngest one here, you know." Edgar stared at her blankly, not expecting such a response. He didn't know what to say.
"Edgar, listen,"she said with a sigh, "Your situation isn't as hopeless as you think it is."
"Yes it is,"he said.
"I'm serious,"she pressed, "Most people here stay because they do exactly what you're doing - they give up. They don't try. If more made the effort, change could be possible. I'll be honest, I don't have much hope for a lot of people here. But you're young, and I think if you were capable of learning so much in just a few months, there's no reason why you couldn't improve your situation if you wanted to."
"But I don't want to,"he said, shaking his head. His voice no longer held his earlier contempt and bitterness, but she still sensed some reservation.
"You can't kill yourself, Edgar. Even if you tried, they won't let you. We don't have high security here just to keep our patients in - it's there to stop you from doing something harmful to yourself. I'm going to say something I tell people here all the time. Whatever you did to get here, even if it made people afraid of you, it doesn't make you any less of a person. I'm not going to lie, since you seem smart enough to see through it already, so I'll just say it like it is: I am scared of you. Terrified, to be perfectly honest. I don't know anything about animals. I had a hamster when I was twelve and it didn't last a week. I never kept another pet since,"she said with a nervous laugh. "But I do know a thing or two about humans,"she continued, making him uncomfortable with the steadiness of her gaze, "And I'd like to believe even a half human has the potential to be hurt or be healed, same as every other human." She realized as she spoke those words that she might even believe them, and this surprised her. Edgar looked away as she spoke, bending his knees once more to hide his face. He felt vulnerable under her gaze. This felt different; this suddenly felt genuine.
"Either way, it's your choice. We can be done for now if you want to stop. I'll be back tomorrow at the same time, though. With any luck, you can get the straightjacket off tomorrow and be moved to a different room." He didn't move his head at all, determined to remain silent. He just sat there staring at his knees.
"I'll see you tomorrow, then,"she said, stepping back toward the door, "Get some sleep. You look exhausted." She turned around to look at him one last time, trying to catch his gaze. He looked up fleetingly-just for a moment-and then dropped his eyes again without saying goodbye.
Once she was outside, she heaved in a heavy sigh, a little shaken. She felt bad for him, she realized. Without even knowing the details of his experience, she knew there was something about him that spoke of real, genuine pain, of pain that she knew was being experienced much more intensely because of his youth.
Skaff was almost always doing something in his office. Very rarely did she ever see him emerge from his cramped cave, and when he did it was only to deliver short messages. She knocked boldly on his door and was immediately granted access.
"I'm back,"she announced, stepping inside. His office was quite a mess. While he made an honest effort to hide the fact that he was a disorganized slob, there was always evidence lying around-in the way the desk always seemed to have papers he wasn't working on laying on it, in the always-full trash can, in the way he loved to throw unread memos into drawers without even looking at what drawer it was for.
He looked up from his desk, surprised to see her back so soon.
"From?"he asked, pen hovering over some sort of form.
"From talking to the bat boy,"she reminded him.
"Right, right. And? I'm assuming it went badly if you're back this early."
"No, he just wasn't quite ready for me, that's all. He's unnerving all right, but he isn't as bad as you made him sound. Almost normal, even." Skaff looked up in surprise. This wasn't what he was expecting to hear from her.
"Normal?"he repeated incredulously, "Have you seen him? The kid's a freak show."
"I had my doubts, too. His background's certainly not normal. He says he grew up in a cave with bats for most of his life. He's a little awkward and insecure, but considering how long he's been around other people, I think it's a miracle he's even able to communicate."
"...Are you serious?"
"...Do you think he's safe?"
"That, I don't know. I doubt it. I don't think he wants me to think so, but he isn't in any emotional state to make clear judgements about himself,"she replied honestly, "He certainly does have the capability to cause some damage if he wants to. I only got a quick glimpse of them, but those fangs definitely aren't there for decoration. He seems adamant that he's too dangerous to be reintegrated into society, but I have a feeling that's just an excuse to get us to look away for a second. If he isn't already trying, he's going to try to kill himself."
"We've already stopped him twice, we can do it again,"he said firmly, not looking daunted in the slightest by this news.
"There are other ways to kill yourself,"Joanne mused aloud, "I'm worried about him. Nobody should have to deal with all of that...especially not such a young boy."
"Young or not, he's still a killer,"he said flatly.
"True,"she said thoughtfully, "It'll be interesting to see what we can dig up."
"Well, do whatever you have to do. We can't have him dying on us,"he replied indifferently, "He's gotten too much publicity. I've already gotten three new stations calling asking if this bat kid is for real, and I don't even know what to tell them."
"Well I'm glad to hear your intentions are in the right place,"she said with a scowl, getting up to leave.
"They always are,"he called out sarcastically after her as she closed the door behind her.