Oskar opened his eyes. Above him was a grey ceiling. He lay on his back on a bed. He looked around. His vision took a moment to focus. Grey walls, small room, Eli looking at him with worry.


He remembered what it was like waking up fro, his schoolmates' attempt to murder him and seeing Eli above him, his angel there to rescue him. Eli now wore different clothes… boyish… and he had a different haircut, but otherwise he was the same Eli. His savior.

Oskar smiled. After a moment, Eli smiled too.

The silence was broken by the distant wail of a siren. Where were they, anyway? The last thing he could remember was getting on a train out of town with Eli in his suitcase. "What happened?" he asked, but his voice sounded strange in a way he couldn't put his finger on.

"Oskar." Eli grinned from ear to ear. "You don't remember? There was a car accident. You were injured. The doctors didn't think you would survive. It's a miracle!" He kissed him.

As their lips touched, a flash of memory sparked deep inside Oskar. He saw Oriental men in white clothing in a bright white room, talking to him. He remembered shouting angrily at them and throwing something. The kiss ended. Eli pulled back.

"I don't remember all of it," he said. "I think I remember the hospital. There were these Chinese doctors, right?"

Eli started to say something but stopped. "Yes. They flew in to treat you. I gave you the best doctors in the world." He reached out, grabbed Oskar's hand and squeezed it. There wasn't the usual temperature shock. Eli must have warmed up with the room. "I'm just glad you're safe and sound."

Oskar squeezed his eyes shut and blinked. This was so strange, so… surreal. It was like a dream, except he was aware of so much—the feel of the hard mattress beneath him, the light cloth blanket atop him, Eli's powerful grip, and the smell of blood on Eli's breath—that it had to be real. "Where are we?"

"Somewhere safe," Eli assured him. "Somewhere I can protect you forever, my dear Oskar. Come on, try and stand." He released Oskar's hand and took a few steps back to make room.

Oskar swung his legs over side of the bed, pulling the blanket off. He wondered if he would have trouble standing. Eli hadn't said what kind of injury he suffered. Would his legs work?

With some trepidation, he put his weight on his legs and stood up. He expected weakness, but there was none. He actually felt strong and energetic, like he could dance all over the place. Maybe he would run around with Eli later.

Oskar took a few steps forward, closing the distance between him and Eli. He smiled. He was fine. It was odd, though… There was something about his balance. He felt different, like it took less effort to move. He supposed he lost some weight in the time he spent recovering.

Eli smiled with him. "Good," he said, giving him a hug. When he pulled back, there was a look of excitement in his eyes. "Come on."

Eli led Oskar out of the bedroom, into what looked like a living room. The windows were boarded up, and the place was dimly-lit with a series of old lamps that looked like they'd been scavenged from a junk heap. It was impossible to tell what time of day it was, but Oskar presumed from Eli's alert state that it was nighttime. Besides a couple of lawn chairs, the room was empty of furniture. At the edge of the room, however, were over a dozen board games sitting in a stack.

Grinning, Eli grabbed the first game on the pile and set it down in the middle of the room. "We can play games all day, Oskar," he said, sitting down. "This one is popular. Do you like it?"

"Monopoly? Yeah, it's cool," Oskar agreed, sitting across from him. He opened the box and started setting it up, handing Eli the instruction book.

He was struck by how worn everything was. The pretend money felt like it had been handled thousands of times, and he had to lift the pieces delicately to prevent from tearing them. Eli hadn't gotten these games from the store, Oskar was sure; more like the trash from... a school, maybe.

Oskar waited until Eli had his nose buried in the rule book before lifting a fake bill to his nose and surreptitiously taking a sniff. It didn't smell bad, like he would expect if it came from the trash. It just smelled like old paper. It reminded him of stepping into a library. He quickly put the paper down before Eli could see and possibly take offense.

Once Eli had the rules straight, they played. Oskar won the first round, but Eli won the second and third. Oskar finally won the fourth, and then they switched to Parcheesi, which they played several times before getting bored. When Eli took out the fourth game and Oskar saw the title was Operation, he again thought about his apparently miraculous recovery.

"Was I in a coma?" Oskar asked.

Eli stilled. "Yes," he whispered. He raised his sad eyes to meet Oskar's. "For far too long."

Oskar started to ask how long, but he stopped. Eli was getting upset, and Oskar didn't want to upset him. Besides, Oskar was fine now, and thinking about being in a coma was rather unnerving.

"Battleship," Eli decided, trading the Operation game for the Battleship game. "We'll play that one later."

They played a few games of Battleship. Though it was Eli's first time, he immediately figured out to bomb in a checkered pattern, and soon tracked down Oskar's ships one by one. Seeing as he had little chance of winning, Oskar entertained by making sound effects.

"Oh no!" he said in a squeaky voice as Eli's missile hit one of his ships, pretending to be one of the doomed seamen. "We're done for!"

Eli smiled. "To the depths with you," he said in a gravelly voice. "You and the rest of your wretched people!"

They abandoned Battleship for their own game of pretend, Eli playing the evil pirate Blackbeard—who operated a fleet of modern warships with missiles—while Oskar was the noble captain of the battleship, which was the biggest ship in his fleet that Eli hadn't destroyed.

Eli and Oskar ran around the room, chasing each other. Sometimes it was Eli chasing him ("I can smell your fear…"), and sometimes it was him chasing Eli ("Turn and fight, coward!"). And sometimes they did fight, in cannon fire across from their two lawn chair ships, and in sword fights with imaginary swords. Captain Oskar finally captured Blackbeard and was going to make him walk the plank, but Blackbeard gave him a kiss and Captain Oskar decided a life of piracy was more interesting.

Oskar didn't know how long they played, but he eventually started to feel sleepy. He yawned and blinked his eyes. "What time is it?" He looked around but couldn't see a clock.

Eli reached into the right pocket of his brown sweatpants and pulled out a watch with Mickey Mouse on it. Oskar smiled when he saw that the cartoon character's arms were used for the hands of the clock. Eli gave it a brief glance before putting it away. "It's nearly sunrise," he said. "Good. You can sleep when I do. We can play together again tomorrow."

"Great!" Oskar cheered.

It was pretty cool living with Eli. They could literally play all night. There would be no homework or bullies or parents telling them what to do… He felt a pang of sorrow as he thought of his mother left behind… for Eli. He had to think of that. It was for Eli. Nothing else mattered.

Eli smiled. "I bought you some books. If you have trouble going to sleep, they're in the nightstand drawer."

"Bought?" he questioned.

Eli's smile faded. "Stole."

"Oh, don't worry," he assured him. "I don't mind if you steal. I do it a lot, you know?"

Eli nodded but didn't smile again. "Sleep well, my love."

"Good night," he said back. "Or good day. Whatever."

He walked over to the bedroom door and put his hand on the knob. As he started to twist it, Eli spoke up again.


He turned and looked at Eli questioningly.

Eli closed his eyes. "I went to a great effort to acquire this apartment, but my grasp on it is weak. There are people who would like to see me removed from this complex and…" He opened his eyes. "Oskar, please do not leave the apartment without me. Please promise me."

"Sure, Eli," he said, a little confused. "I promise."

Eli smiled and nodded a dismissal. "Good night or day."

Oskar went into his bedroom wondering, not for the first time that night, just what was going on.