AN: Goodness, this is a long one. I've re-written this chapter so many times now that I just don't care anymore.
I apologize for my OC. I despise OCs with a passion, especially ones that I created. Because any character of mine is never given a name just because, I will tell you that the name Joanne is a character from Rent. I was performing in it at the time when I first started writing this story.
Mr. Skaff could just make out the indisputable sound of Joanne's fast-paced stride coming closer. A moment later, his office door swung open.
"Someone needs to permanently tranquilize that man,"she sighed heavily, placing a folder on his desk, "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,"Mr. Skaff answered dryly, haphazardly shoving the folder in his desk and pulling out another one, "I've got a new case for you."
"Because I don't have enough already,"she said, rolling her eyes, "How bad?"
"Nothing you haven't seen before. Killed two kids in one night." Joanne faltered, but only for a moment.
"What's his history?"
"Doesn't have one." Joanne stared.
"No history,"he repeated with a bemused shrug, "No medical records, no birth certificate - we can't even find a social security number. All we have is a name - Edward or Edmund or something like that. It's written somewhere in his file."
"Is he at least being restrained?"Joanne asked, looking desperate, "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 criminal.
"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.
"...What?"she finally asked.
"I just told you. 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, "And can he fly, 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."
"Does he speak English?"she asked, looking concerned. 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.
"I don't know, sure,"he replied with a sigh of exasperation, "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 were banished from his mind. It wasn't until that moment that it really hit him how terrifying the thought of facing another person right now really was. There was nothing to guarantee that this introduction would turn out any better than his last. He could very well relive his experience as a monster if he said or did just one wrong thing. 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.
"Is it alright if I call you Edgar?"she asked as she shut the door, 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 tried 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 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.
"Wonderful. 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 supervisor and, of course, security," she said, pointing to the camera in the corner of the room, "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. The words she spoke were wonderfully familiar and robotic; she could have said the same thing to any other new patient. 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 not human. Even still, he was clearly nervous, and simply knowing he was just as scared as she was made it all the more easier to bring him down to a common ground.
"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 politely 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 trust her 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 looked at him. 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.
Too afraid to speak, he merely shrugged his shoulders.
"Well then,"she said, crossing her knees, "Do you want to tell me why you're here?" Edgar took a moment to respond, as if debating whether it was worth the effort to use his voice.
Slowly he shook his head.
"How are you feeling right now?"she asked gently. 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. She watched him, reading his body language and trying to interpret it to make up for his lack of words. He carried himself as if he was too tired to try, or too uncaring, and his voice possessed a certain dead quality when he spoke-soft and quiet-yet not because he was shy, but because he felt they were wasted words.
"Scared of me or scared or your situation?"she asked. He still wouldn't look at her.
"Both,"he replied quietly. Talking was relatively easy, he realized with relief.
"You don't need to be scared,"she assured him, "The worst is over now. We're just going to talk right now. I'm not going to hurt you, I promise." 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, "I noticed that you don't have any records on file." Edgar glanced up, looking helpless. What was she talking about?
"No address, no phone number, no birth records, not even a social security number…,"she said, staring at the empty lines, "Can you tell me what that's about, Edgar?" He continued to stare, completely lost.
"Where is your home?" She waited a moment, then softly he finally spoke:
"I don't have one."
"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. He was too guarded, too afraid to speak, she thought to herself.
Deciding to change tactics, she asked, "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 vocal answers.
"...Not really,"he mumbled.
"What does 'not really' mean?" For a long time, Edgar didn't say anything.
"It mean it depends on what you consider "family","he finally answered.
"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, "It's very distinctly British." He shifted, looking uncomfortable, wondering how to explain himself.
"I learned English from BBC language tapes,"he explained quietly.
"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.
"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 a little as she made some notes in the folder, "That would explain the lack of records. And I'm assuming you weren't civilized before that?" Edgar's eyes narrowed, unable to help feeling defensive.
"To your standards, I suppose not,"he answered a little coldly. She opened her mouth to ask a question, closed it, and instead made a note in the folder. 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 bowls, 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 your new environment?"she asked, breaking him from his thoughts.
"A few months,"he answered quietly, the bitterness that had blossomed in his heart only half-masked.
"...You learned English in a couple months?"she asked in awe and disbelief. He nodded without comment.
"That's incredible. You speak so eloquently, 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?"
"My...mother did...,"he said, cringing as he said the word 'mother.'
"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 anyone 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. It may have seen the softness in her expression, because he quickly looked down, embarrassed now.
"And what is your relation to 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.
"Were you romantically involved with her?" 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 analyzing how dangerous I am?"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.
"All I want to do today is get to know you, that's all," Joanne replied, her tone casual, "However, to answer your question, love can make people do crazy, dangerous things sometimes, so it's important to remember that when we're being emotionally compromised in a stressful situation."
Edgar couldn't deny this, because he knew it was true. He hadn't attacked Rick because he was scared for himself. He attacked Rick because he hurt Shelley. He had killed someone out of sheer selfish desire to protect the girl he loved.
"Fine then,"he said, after a long stretch of silence. There was no hint of anger or bitterness now. Joanne cocked her head to the side, surprised. "Then I'm dangerous. Put that down on your list of reasons why I'm crazy."
"Whoa there, tiger, slow down, I never said you were crazy,"she said, laughing lightly, "I only meant that people can often do irrational things when they're infatuated, so it's important to keep that in mind."
"Then I'm irrational,"he said dryly, his arms tightening around himself as he continued to stare at the floor, "Reckless, dangerous, whatever you want to label it. I just don't want to talk about her." 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." He held in a breath and counted to five, willing himself to not feel so angry and hurt and tired and hungry.
"But I am dangerous,"he countered.
"I believe you were the one who called yourself dangerous, not me,"she said, her unfazed reaction frustratingly unsatisfying, "I only want to access your ability to be treated, Edgar. I'm not here to criticize you."
"Why would I want to be treated?"he asked seriously, finally looking up, "So I can leave and then be sent right back?" 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, "We can't expect anyone to come pre-packaged with all the tools necessary to deal with life's problems, can we? That's what you're here for." He glared at her as his hands tightened into fists, more than annoyed, by her statement and by her sudden reaction.
"But I'm not going to be treated, am I?"he said, his words biting and colder than even he expected, "I'm just going to be put in another cage. You already know all the horrible things I've done. Just lock me up 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 he wasn't filtering 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.
"You're lying. I can tell,"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 void 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.
"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." Edgar turned his face to the side, resting his cheek on his knee and not looking at her.
"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 try?"he asked, turning his head back down. He was born this way, and he was sick of trying to prove he could change.
"What if trying meant you could see Shelley?"she asked. He was trying hard not to think of Shelley, but if he did want to see her, it wouldn't be in here.
"I don't want to see her,"he said, shaking his head.
"Well then what if it meant simply going outside?"
"There's nothing that great out there,"he muttered dejectedly.
"What do you want to do then?"
"I DON'T KNOW!"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.
"I don't know,"he said again, muttering the words softly into his knees.
"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 I don't know how to help you if you don't want to be helped,"she said gently.
"Then just leave me alone,"he muttered, "You're all just here to gawk at the freak anyway. You've done your 'analysis.' Dissect me like a lab rat, I don't care. Just let me die."
"I couldn't do that. I'm here to help you." 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.
"That's ridiculous,"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 when she said it, he knew exactly what she was talking about.
"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 weeks 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.
"Can we stop?"he asked.
"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 from his peers. 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 she could only suspect this much: even with all his unusual characteristics, the countenance of a teenage boy outshone that of a wild animal.
"Edgar, do you know how old you are?"she asked suddenly, her voice forgiving 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 here because they do exactly what you're doing - they give up. They don't try."
"Maybe they can't,"he finally answered.
"That's exactly why they never try,"she said seriously, "The think they can't make it, so 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,"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 stupid to yourself.
"Listen, I'm going to say something I tell a lot of people here. Whatever you did to get here, even if people are afraid of you, it doesn't make you any less of a person. You have potential to be hurt or be healed, same as everyone else,"she said honestly, making him uncomfortable with the steadiness of her gaze. She realized as she spoke those words that she believed them, and this surprised her. Edgar looked away, bending his knees once more to hide his face. He felt vulnerable under her oppressive stare. 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." He didn't move his head at all, determined to remain silent. He just sat there staring into the dark shadow of his arm. She stood up and returned the chair to the desk where she found it.
"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 richer and rawer 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 random papers into drawers without even looking at what drawer it was for.
He looked up from his desk, surprised to see her back so soon. He had been filling out some form before she had walked in, but now he put it away, carelessly shoving it to the side and pushing his chair forward.
"From?"he asked, giving her his full attention.
"From talking to Edgar,"she reminded him.
"The bat boy,"she said, sighing with exasperation.
"Right. And? I'm assuming it went badly if you're back this early."
"No, he was just a little shaken, that's all. Honestly, 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."
"I had my doubts, too, but I have a good feeling about him. His background's certainly not normal. He says he grew up in a cave. He's a little awkward and insecure, definitely has a severe case of depression and anxiety, but considering how long he's been around other people, I think he has a lot of potential to get better."
"...Are you serious?"
"...Do you think he's safe?"
"That, I don't know. 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. 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 murderer,"he said flatly.
"I don't know,"she said thoughtfully, "It'll be interesting to see what we can dig up."
"Well, do whatever you need to. We can't have him dying on us,"he replied indifferently, "He's gotten too much publicity. We've already had two suicides this year. He'll be the cherry on the cake if he goes through with it, and I'll be out of the job for sure..."
"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 slammed the door behind her.