A Visit and a Promise
Graham being a child didn't bother Ladd. It didn't bother him when he discovered a picky eater. It didn't bother him when he used the wrench to dismantle the hospital bed. There was only one thing, he found after he took the boy home from the hospital, that bothered Ladd: He would not stop talking. He talked endlessly about anything and everything, and it made the two-mile walk from the hospital to the apartment feel like two hundred miles.
"Listen, kid—" Ladd started to say, and Graham interjected;
"Alright, Graham, listen, do you ever shut up?" He asked, and the boy thought for a moment.
"No, sir, it's just that there's so much to see and learn and remember, I get overwhelmed!" The boy's intelligence and vocabulary did impress Ladd, but at the same time, it annoyed the hell out of him. "So I talk and the more I talk the better I feel 'cause then it sticks with me an—" His words were muffled when Ladd suddenly put the palms of his hands over Graham's mouth to quiet him.
"No more talking until we get home, alright?" Ladd growled warningly, and only when Graham nodded in agreement did he remove his hands from his mouth. Thankfully, they walked in silence for the rest of the journey, with only the sounds of the city around them. Graham was wide-eyed the whole way, and Ladd couldn't blame him. For someone who had never been to (or, at least, had no memory of going to) a city, this must be utterly overwhelming and exciting.
When they finally arrived back at Ladd's apartment, Graham immediately busied himself with running about and looking at every inch of the place.
"So this is your place? Cool!" He exclaimed, jumping on the couch excitedly. "When did you move in? How big is it? Where's my room? What's for dinner? Can I—"
"Stop with all the questions," Ladd groaned, pressing his hands to his temples. "Please."
"Whoa," Graham suddenly murmured, jumping off the couch and running over to him. "Your arm is metal."
It was true. After the train incident a few years back, Ladd had lost his left arm and had it replaced with a metal one. Ladd slowly lowered it so Graham could get a better look, curling and uncurling his fingers with a metallic "click" sound.
"Yeah, took ya' long enough to figure it out, eh?" Ladd grinned as Graham's fingers skimmed the smooth silver surface.
"Can I take it apart?" He looked at Ladd with pleading eyes, and Ladd frowned.
"Absolutely not, ya' little nutjob," Ladd replied, pulling away and heading off down the hallway. "Now, I'm goin' to bed. You can go anywhere in this house, 'cept my room, and don't use the stove or go outside, alright? If anyone knocks, don't let 'em in, tell me and I'll do it." Graham nodded obediently, and Ladd was glad that he would do anything he asked him (or so it seemed).
Unbeknownst to him, this would be the last time that Ladd slept alone.
Not long after that, there was a knock at his door. Ladd groaned in response, pulling up the blankets and shivering at the air that hit his bare shoulders.
"There's a lady at the door, says she's a part of the New York Police Department," Graham's voice called from behind the door. "Can I let her in?"
"Wait," Ladd muttered, pushing the blankets off of him and carefully maneuvering around all of the junk on his floor. He then opened the door to see Graham looking up at him, his wrench swinging from one hand.
"Do you want me to hit her?" Graham asked, and Ladd sighed.
"No, I don't want you to hit her," Ladd replied, moving to open the front door. "And put that thing away, the only one who needs to know you're a nutjob is me." Ladd then opened the front door to view a woman dressed in a professional-looking woman's suit and carrying a briefcase. She had long, silver-white hair and blue-violet eyes that looked up into Ladd's coldly and held no traces of fear.
"You must be Mister Russo? I'm Sylvie Lumiere, I'll be handling the treatment of Graham Spector," she stated, then proceeded to sidestep him and walk into the apartment like she owned it.
"From the police department, huh? If I'dve known it was someone important, I might've put a shirt on first," Ladd laughed, sarcasm and annoyance lacing his words. Had this been happening a few years back, Ladd probably would have killed this lady on the spot. Graham peeked out of the kitchen for a second, and once he noticed Sylvie, went right back to hiding. "You said he needed treatment? What kind of treatment?" Ladd sat heavily on the couch, watching as Sylvie sat in a nearby chair.
"Yes, treatment. The boy's lost his family, he'll need counseling. Once he's been cleared, he'll be starting school, of course. Don't worry, we'll be sure to cover any expenses, but that's not what I'm here for today. I'm going to see if Graham can remember anything else and get a bit of information about where he's living now." Ladd groaned inwardly, rubbing at his temples again. Maiza certainly didn't tell him about any of this. "So where is the boy?"
"Graham!" Ladd called, and the boy tentatively peeked out from his hiding place, looking at them with wide doe eyes. He made his way over to the couch, then crawled into Ladd's lap and buried his face in his chest. Ladd had the urge to push him away, but it was soon overcome by a bigger, sudden urge to hold him there. The boy was shaking slightly, and Ladd gently rubbed his back to calm him. This didn't go unnoticed by Sylvie, whose eyes adopted a slight look of curiosity.
"Hello Graham," she greeted, and Graham turned to look at her, his eyes still wide. His grip around Ladd tightened, and Ladd could tell that he didn't trust this woman. He couldn't exactly blame the boy for that, either; he had just lost all of his memories, except for his family being killed, so how did he know that this woman wasn't involved? Or that she didn't want to hurt him? Feeling the sudden overwhelming urge to protect him, Ladd moved a bit so that they'd both be more comfortable. "Do you know who I am?"
"Yeah, I heard you, I'm not deaf," he protested. His voice was strong, but he didn't stop shaking. "I don't wanna counselor. I don't wanna talk to one and I don't wanna talk to you." He certainly was a stubborn kid, and with that he turned his head back to Ladd and buried his face in his chest again. Sylvie gave a heavy sigh and stood up, looking over at the two of them.
"I'll probably be back in the next few days to further discuss our plan of action," she told Ladd, before walking to the door. "I'll be sure to call before I come next time. Goodbye, Mister Russo." With that, she was gone just as quickly as she had came, and Ladd didn't know whether to be confused or grateful. For now, he decided to be grateful.
"I don't wanna go to a counselor," Graham whimpered, and he finally climbed from Ladd's lap and sat on the couch. He yawned and rubbed at his eyes, and Ladd realized that it was nearing nine o' clock, probably past whatever bedtime the boy had. They had run around a lot that day, and Ladd had no doubt that Graham had busied himself while Ladd was sleeping, so he stood up.
"Alright, bedtime kid. C'mon," he muttered, walking down the hallway and turning to the spare bedroom across the hallway from his. Graham followed (slowly for once) and shuffled into the small room, jumping into the bed. Ladd had put the suitcase full of clothes that Maiza had gotten for him by the bed, but Graham ignored it as he cuddled into the blankets, apparently too tired to bother changing.
"Goodnight, Ladd," Graham yawned as he closed his eyes, and Ladd huffed, a mix between a laugh and a sigh, before he turned off the lights.
"Goodnight, ya' little nutjob."
Ladd turned in for good not long after that. At around one o' clock, however, there was a timid knock at the door that woke him, and Ladd sat up.
"What?" He snapped when the door opened, but he stopped with any further protests when he saw the look on Graham's face. He'd been crying, that much was obvious, and he was shaking. His hair was wet and tangled, and he rubbed at his eyes.
"I had a nightmare," he murmured. "And I wet the sheets." Ladd gave a heavy sigh and stretched a bit, leaning back against the headrest.
"Did you change?"
"You showered first, right?"
"Took the sheets off?"
"Yeah." The boy looked down at his feet in shame, but honestly, it was almost something Ladd expected. Nightmares and bed wetting was really the least of his worries for a boy who had watched his family be slaughtered. They were both quiet for a moment, before Graham asked softer than before;
"Can I sleep with you?" The look in his eyes was hard to ignore, and Ladd wanted to say no, but he gave in.
"Yeah, come here." Graham stepped in and shut the door, casting them both in darkness. He managed to stumble through the assortment of things on Ladd's floor, somehow without hurting himself, and he crawled into bed beside the man, cuddling up into his side under the blankets. Ladd gave another heavy sigh as he laid back down, turning to face him. "But you go to sleep, alright? And don't wake me up in the morning unless somebody's dyin' or the house is on fire, alright?" He felt Graham nod, and he was quiet for a bit, before he said again;
"Ladd? You won't let the bad man come to get me, right?"
Ladd was quiet for a moment, resting one hand on the boy's side. He figured that was what the nightmare was about. "'Course not."
"You'll protect me forever and ever?"
"Yeah, as long as you're not annoying me forever and ever." Ladd had no intentions of keeping Graham around "forever and ever", but he'd say anything to be able to get back to sleep.
"Promise. Is that it?"
"Uh-huh. Goodnight, Ladd," Graham murmured. After a few minutes, he was completely silent and still, the only sounds coming from his gentle even breathing.
'Protect me from the bad man. Forever and ever.' Ladd felt his lips curl up into a smile. Who the hell did he think he was kidding? He was only good at one thing, and that was killing people. Protecting someone would be way out of his league.
At least, that's what he thought.