Author's Note: Wow, really sorry for the long delay between the first chapter and this one. In my defense, I had three different ideas for how the story could go, and I absolutely could not continue until I resolved my plot dilemma inside my head. That resolution is complete, and the story can advance!
Response to Senshi Sun: Fanfics that end with Jesse and Leslie couples are (in my opinion) boring and too sappy. Death is so much more realistic an ending. Thanks for the correction on what town the story ought to be based in; for the life of me I could not find anywhere what town it ought to have been. Henceforth everything is transferred to Lark Creek, West Virginia.
To everyone: Review as often as you can! They are inspiration to keep writing.
Three weeks and five nightmares later, Jesse hummed as he worked and imagined that with each swing of his hammer, one of the obnoxious third grade bullies would pop like a translucent soap bubble and disappear: atoms forever mixed with the star-stuff that all life is composed of. It was really a remarkably effective stress reliever, he thought to himself, and held two benefits for the price of one. Firstly, his studio was nearly finished. When that was done he could get busy with making his bedroom fit for human habitation. That would allow him to move out of Eduardo's bedroom in probably under a week, if his current rate of progress would remain constant for the duration of the work. Secondly, it significantly lowered the odds that he would strangle one of the little bastards on the next school day.
"Hey." Eduardo stuck his head through the door. Jesse looked up and just barely managed to catch the baggie that his roommate tossed at him with the barest flick of his fingers. Jesse registered the man's speed with a fair amount of astonishment. "What is this?" he asked, examining the contents with a dubious eye, wondering if the baggie actually held anything palatable, or if its sandwich-like appearance was a lie.
"Tuna." Eduardo told him and gestured with his chin in the general direction of the kitchen. "Bottled water's on the table." Jesse smiled at Eduardo. "Thanks for the food, but I'm not really…" he paused and listened to his stomach growl noisily in reaction to the presence of nourishment. The corners of his lips turned up. "Never mind. It appears that my stomach wishes to correct the misconception that my brain held. I'm hungry after all!" Eduardo raised an eyebrow, but said nothing more in regards to Jesse's communication with the various parts of his body. He instead stepped all the way inside Jesse's studio and examined the progress.
"There is some great wood under all that crap siding." He observed, knocking gently on the cherrywood paneling. Jesse nodded, halfway through the thick sandwich and already casting an eye around for any more baggies of food. "How d'you keep going for so long?" Eduardo queried, picking up Jesse's tools and attempting to pry some drywall off the underlying wood with considerable difficulty. Jesse swallowed his bite and responded "Third grade bullies." Eduardo's face attempted to display five different emotions at once and ended up a comical mixture of surprise and shock.
"Run that one by me again?" Jesse rocked back on his heels and laughed. "I'm a teacher's aide." He began. Eduardo nodded and raised an eyebrow. "So?"
"So," Jesse went on, "The grade I'm assisting with this year is the kindergarten class. They are a group of very sweet children who all happen to adore me, but the third graders are problematic. A group of them in particular…" his face twisted in annoyance; "are very unkind, and it's beginning to turn into bullying. Stealing the littler kids' desserts, juice boxes, action figures, pushing them around…"
Eduardo shrugged. "It'll teach the younger ones to be tough."
Jesse shook his head. "Not a chance; it'll only be detrimental to the further development of both antagonists and victims if they are permitted to continue unchecked. The older children require a lesson to teach them that force is not the best choice, and the younger children ought not gain the misconception that might equals right. Unfortunately,"
Eduardo interrupted. "The teachers—who are really in charge, unlike the lowly aide—have not taken action yet, and you take out your frustration at their inaction on the wall."
Jesse nodded. "Yep, that's about it."
"Wow, high falutin." Eduardo observed. Jesse quirked an eyebrow and Eduardo hastened to explain.
"Your previous sentence had more three syllable words in it than the average college textbook. "Yep, that's about it" was slightly anti-climactic after that."
Jesse grinned. "Hey, I was raised more backwoods than the Beverly Hillbillies. Being caught between two worlds so effectively, sometimes I don't know whether to talk like I really do have a Masters degree or to say 'ain't' four times a sentence."
Eduardo whistled. "Masters degree? Why would you need a roommate, or be a teacher's aide?"
"Two words: Art major."
Eduardo saw the opening and went with it. "You know," he began thoughtfully, "I don't always talk to art majors but when I do…"
Jesse interrupted; "I always tell them to put extra whipped cream on my latte. Yeah, I've heard a hundred variations of that one."
Eduardo looked hurt. "You didn't let me finish my joke!"
"What, thought you were to pretty to be interrupted?"
Jesse's roommate looked at him sideways with a slanted, self-mocking glance. "I've always known that my beauty influenced others," he said haughtily, then ducked a second too late as Jesse hurled a fragment of drywall at him. He straightened, brushed the dust off his coat fastidiously and pulled a notebook from his pocket. "Well, I can take "Antagonize Jesse Into Wanton Displays Of Violence" off my to-do list for the day. Shall I leave you to your work?"
"Unless you're planning to bring me another sandwich, yes please." Jesse responded, and picked up his tools again, itching to continue bring his studio to life. Eduardo laughed. "Yeah, there's no more tuna. Order pizza if you're still hungry." Jesse winced; he hated delivery pizza with a passion.
"I'm never that hungry." he said, and scooted closer to the wall, feeling himself settle back into a comfortable mental state for working as he did so.
Jesse enjoyed any kind of rhythmic work with his hands, and even more enjoyed being able to make his work space appear exactly as he wished. Not that he was to the decorating stage yet, but his nimble fingers had almost finished stripping the last of the crumbling drywall from off the solid cherry-wood walls. Only a yard-square patch awaited his ministrations; he tackled it eagerly.
Eduardo leaned across the chasm between their beds with an earnest expression on his face. "Did you take your tranqs tonight?"
Jesse was not able to respond as he was currently quite busy performing a jaw-splitting yawn with audible cracks as the tendons in his face stretched and popped. "I'll take that as a 'yes'."
Eduardo nodded in a satisfied manner and retracted his torso back into the safety of his bed before physics decided to remember that his body ought to have been stretched out on the floor instead of leaning safely at such an obviously gravity-defiant angle. Jesse nodded belatedly. "I swear I'll be out of your room by tomorrow night. One or two nights on tranqs is nice—a night with no nightmares is always good—but after a while it gets really hard to wake up in the mornings when I've been on drugs every night for a month straight."
"It is your house." Eduardo pointed out. "You're just subletting a couple rooms to me."
"That makes my hijacking of your personal space even more of an imposition than I'm willing to let continue." Jesse interrupted.
Eduardo scowled. "We've been over this one. Don't interrupt people who are prettier than you."
Jesse rolled his eyes and looked around for the closest heavy object to hurl at his compatriot. Eduardo, recognizing the look in Jesse's eyes, yelped and rolled into the space between his bed and floor as a textbook thunked onto the pillow above which his head had been mere microseconds earlier. In response to Eduardo's irritated face reemerging from the depths of the floor Jesse responded serenely: "I had perfect faith in your reflexes."
Eduardo's only response was "You're a crazy man," said in a matter of fact tone before he wrapped a blanket around himself and threw his lanky form onto the bed at full length. Jesse rolled onto his back and stared at the ceiling with a thoughtful expression.
"You're telling me," he muttered to himself a half hour later as Eduardo breathed deeply and evenly and Jesse remained wakeful, despite his medications. A creak in the floorboard drew his attention and he turned his head toward the main part of the house, wondering suddenly if the house's age was causing the odd noises, or if there was an intruder. Curiously, the possibility of an intruder in his bedroom did not cause him any alarm. Jesse poked at his all-encompassing feeling of lassitude and peace with the caution of one prodding an abscessed tooth, not really wanting it to leave yet slightly concerned at his lack of concern.
Another creak of the house and Jesse returned his attention to the doorway, trying to remember exactly how his limbs worked. He was suddenly having a lot of trouble getting his eyelids to open again after each blink, and attempts to wiggle his fingers and toes was not yielding a lot of positive results.
"Jess!" Jesse blinked, now quite irritated. "I prefer Jesse. It is my given name." he said out loud. A familiar blond head peeked around the corner into the bedroom.
"But I've always called you Jess." Leslie smiled mischievously and stepped into the room. "Or are you too big and grown up for your childhood name and friends now? Ooo, who's your friend?" she inquired, crossing the room to peer into Eduardo's face as he slept. She wrinkled her nose after a brief inspection.
"I don't think the Terabithians would like him very much," she announced blandly and sat on the edge of Jesse's bed. Jesse was speechless.
"Am I?" Leslie inspected her hands carefully. "I don't see any decay or other signs of past mortality," she grinned, holding them up in front of her. Her face turned suddenly solemn. "For what reason have you remained absent from our beloved Terabithia?" she inquired. "These many years the kingdom has suffered for your absence."
Jess could hear the change in her tone as she slipped into the oddly formal language she always used when speaking as Terabithia's Queen. Try as he might, his brain would not, could not come up with any sort of coherent response.
"Wake up, Jess." Leslie said urgently—and suddenly far away someone started screaming in agony— "You said you took a tranq!"
Jess blinked again and Leslie wavered, then resolved into Eduardo's figure, standing over the bed and outlined in blazingly painful light. "Damn it, that's bright." Jesse complained, regaining his ability to speak with remarkable speed. "And I did." he retorted.
Eduardo looked skeptical. "Then I think you need a higher dose."
Jesse pushed himself to his feet and staggered out the door on wobbly legs. "Forget it; I'll be into my own room by tonight, then you won't be bothered by my sleep talking."
Eduardo stared after him, and then slapped the snooze on Jesse's shrieking alarm clock. "It's not really the talking that's so disturbing," he finally said to himself; "It's more the part where you sob and cry for that Leslie chica." He shook his head. "That is one weird guy." He cheered himself up with the thought that he'd only signed a six month lease; that meant he only had to survive five more months with his freaky, emotional roommate. If only the guy could be funny and normal all of the time. And quiet at night.