Todd is lonely.

He doesn't like being with people. He likes being alone, but not being lonely.

He doesn't like the raw agony and panic he suffers each day, just by walking down the street.

He doesn't like the marks and rivets his fingernails make in his dry (much too dry, why don't you put lotion on that?) hands, or the Hello Kitty Band-Aids he presses over them.

He doesn't like being pushed into lockers, although it shows that people notice him and sometimes that eases the loneliness gnawing at his stomach.

No one cares.

(Well, Pepito does.)


Pepito likes pain.

He likes guts and gore, and ripped open chests and exposed rib cages and beating hearts, cooling in the gaping chest cavity.

He thinks red is the perfect color on everything, the color of fresh blood from a fresh, warm body. It contrasts well with everything.

He likes screams and the pain that cat was in as it twitched in the road, after that bright blue motorcycle crushed it beneath its wheels.

In this way, Todd is the perfect plaything; terrified of everything, low pain tolerance, and a caring heart.

Not everyone can live forever.


Even after he moves, Todd bikes ten miles to Pepito's house and stands on the doorstep until the taller boy answers, grinning widely.

"I got punched in the eye today," he'll say, or "Torque pulled out my loose tooth" or something along the lines of "I was almost killed by a serial killer, but Johnny stopped them."

Pepito just stands there, smiling and nodding, and then they go off to play Cops and Robbers or chess or ninjas.


Pepito's mom is named Ania.

One day when Todd comes over and Pepito's not there ("Playing with his daddy," Ania says, sighing happily. "What a wonderful family I have."), Ania is there and offers him food. She is from a rich family in Poland, and a wonderful cook. Todd accepts.

"He won't be long," she promises.

Ania is in her mid-twenties and her bright blond hair looks limp in the florescent lighting, her face shallow and too made-up. She fiddles with the large silver cross hanging around her neck, and Todd tells himself she's just worried that her son will play too rough.


"I don't like myself much." Todd tells Pepito one day over a snack of crackers and cheese.

"I like you," Pepito says. "I'm the only one, though. No one else does."


The ride to Pepito's house is long and harrowing from Todd's new city, full of rabid dogs and child molesters and bumpy roads. He wishes he owned a helmet.

Todd isn't the best bike rider, and falls down and scrapes his knees a lot.

But it's all worth it. The only person who truly cares about him is at the end of the trail, smiling and waiting with Hello Kitty Band-Aids.


Pepito is an artist, and when Todd comes over they break out the crayons and draw.

Pepito never lets Todd see what he draws. Todd notices the red and black and brown crayon, the one the color of his eyes, are the ones that are run down the quickest.

He doesn't see anything, he doesn't want to.

Pepito smiles. He waves. Todd grins.


Nine.

Ten.

Eleven.

Twelve.

Thirteen.

Fourteen.

Fifteen.

Puberty hits, and his obsession turns sexual.


Pepito dozes off in class, dreaming about running his claws down Todd's skinny chest, leaving rivers of red behind. He imagines slicing his stomach open with his teeth, one perfect line down his ribs. He counts each one by snatching them out, and his breath is coming shorter, the red is so pretty—

He wakes up to hear the teacher yelling at him and a heat between his legs that wasn't there before.

He is the artist.

No one else understands how perfect Todd is.


Zim is the one that finds Todd in front of the sink, scrubbing the redness from his eyes.

"Todd." he says shortly.

Todd doesn't say anything.

"Why are you leaking?"

"I don't know." Todd answers. Zim stands there for a moment, then leaves, mutturing something about humans and their stupid organs.


Pepito says that he'll never have to worry about dating mean people, now. He will protect him.

Sure, Todd has thought about sex. He's thought about that pretty girl in class 45C, too.

Pepito is always there for him. He's the only one Todd trusts enough to do this with.


They're only fifteen.

Ania looks more and more sick every day.


"Are you okay?" Gaz asks one day.

Todd glances up, eyes black and brown and wet.

"Y-yeah. Fantastic."

"It's not like I care, you're just quiet." Gaz explains, eyes narrowing.

Todd glances back down at his book. "I'm always quiet."

"Okay."

He sits with Gaz and her brother, sometimes. They haven't been that close recently. He wonders if they were ever that close to begin with.


It's okay when Pepito holds him this tightly.

"There are so many things to be scared of," Pepito whispers into his bruised ear. "I'll protect you. I love you."

Todd doesn't say anything, just screws his eyes shut and kisses back.


"You're not going to commit suicide or anything, are you?" Dib says, watching Todd fiddle with his shoes.

"Um… no, not really." Todd answers, smiling a bit.

Dib stares for a minute, eyes all too seeing, much like his sister. "We care about you, you know? You're always there for us."

Todd blinks. Todd smiles.

It isn't true. "Thanks, Dib."


Ania vanishes one day, and nothing changes. Todd still rides his bike ten miles to Pepito's house, Pepito still loses at checkers, and the kisses are still brutal.


"He doesn't care about you." Gaz spits.

He shrugs. "Yeah." He smiles. "I know." The smile doesn't quite reach his eyes.

Todd is still lonely.


Sun is shinin' in the sky
There ain't a cloud in sight
It's stopped rainin' everybody's in a play
And don't you know
It's a beautiful new day hey, hey…