Chapter 2 – Dreams and Nightmares
John had always had dreams; he could never recall a time when he didn't.
(Though you might argue that that's something that anyone could say)
He supposed he had normal dreams just like anyone else, as well.
He had dreams about dogs, cats, and other animals. He had dreams about fields and flowers too. He had dreams of being out at sea, of swimming (often with various animals), of running and flying. He had dreams about people, all kinds, and he was never alone in his dreams.
It took him a long time to realize that most people didn't have these kinds of dreams every night.
(And even now he was sort of sad for them for that fact, ridiculous as it is)
He doesn't find it strange that when he dreams of animals they always have large teeth made for tearing, or spit acid or some sort of poison.
It's not an odd idea that the fields in his dream show no signs of stopping, no sign of any life, that the plants in his dreams are large enough to swallow a person whole but don't have to because they too have fangs.
He dreams of being in the middle of the ocean and not worrying about the fact that he can't swim, tat there are sharks, squids, slimy things that clutched at his legs, that the boats in his dreams rock from huge waves or even that the people in his dreams are never happy.
He doesn't find it odd that all dreams of flying end in a crash.
He doesn't think it strange that there's something chasing him in his running dreams.
It was his Aunt Marsha who even brought up the possibility that there were other kinds of dreams.
After his Aunt Marsha talks to Mrs. Talbot, John notices she stops trying to get him to stop giving his flowers fangs, that she goes quiet and thoughtful when he doesn't join in on teasing, and his parents are happy with his grades.
Later, there's another parent-teacher meeting, and Mrs. Talbot nearly pushes his parents from the room at the end of it.
John wonders what he'll do for the summer.
His Aunt find him medical texts in the shelves placed in her attic, and John spends the summer learning about Gangrene in between taking swimming lessons, looks over diagrams of amputations gone wrong before heading off to play at Rory MacKenna's house, and impresses his Aunt by learning the cardiovascular system before school starts.
(His parents are proud too, but don't want him talking about it during dinner)
John notices that Mrs. Talbot stops Mr. Tellsaw in the yard in the first week of school, and Mr. Tellsaw looks to him at something she says.
John waves, and Mrs. Talbot seems to freeze.
Mr. Tellsaw waves back with a grin, and John goes back to playing pirates.
He isn't terribly interested in the game, but he's having fun telling the other boys about various illnesses you could get on the sea, and his description of scurvy prompts an Orange outbreak in the school lunches.
The first time John gets kissed by a girl, it's on the cheek and all his guy friends make gagging noises while giggling.
Mary Thomson promptly bursts into tears.
John turns to glare at them (because honestly, you couldn't make a girl cry, that was taking things too far!), when she sobs and bursts out "You're scary John!" before running away.
He's baffled, but shrugs it off soon enough.
Girls were weird, anyway.
John loved Halloween.
He loved helping his Aunt decorate her house, and loved that she helped decorate his parent's house, and loved that his and his Aunt's houses were known as the best to get to.
Aunt Marsha always had the scarier house, but his parents made up for it by buying the biggest candy bars to hand out.
This year he was going to be an army man, and his Aunt said she'd help him get the blood looking real, and he'd already been practicing getting the fake blood for the cuts and bullet wounds all ready, and he was going to have the best costume in the class.
He always got the scariest costume award, but this was the first year he was allowed to use fake blood, rather than red makeup, and it was going to be fantastic.
His Da jumped the morning he came downstairs, most of his costume on.
Abruptly, there's a snap, like static shock across his skin, and his Da was more afraid of John one day coming home actually wounded like this than he was of Aunt Marsha.
Part of John wanted to throw his hands up in the air in victory, but a greater part of him felt something warm and squishy twist and burn in his insides, so he instead carefully walked over to his Da and hugged him.
"I'm okay, Da, I'm okay…"
John thinks it'd be funny to stagger in and collapse in his classroom until it suddenly isn't.
Even sitting up and laughing like it's the funny joke it was doesn't stop people from freaking out, and John gets sent to the office for playing a cruel joke.
Some of his classmates are still crying, and Davis Greymont was dry heaving into the garbage can.
He only feels mildly better about it all when he makes the principal jump and scream when he comes out to investigate his secretary's screech.
Mr. Tellsaw treats him differently after Halloween, but John thinks it's mostly to do with him getting in trouble, calling for an ambulance before John could convince him that he didn't actually have bullet wounds and cuts all over his body.
He's not all that upset when Mr. Tellsaw's fear of heights keeps shifting to being afraid of him.
It was a scary costume, after all.
Middleschool has a lot of changes, and John does his best to move with them.
Girls who he used to play in the mud with were less willing to get dirty. He stopped asking if they wanted to play certain games.
Guys who he'd played with on weekends were suddenly strutting about school like they owned the place, and had no more time for him. He stopped asking if they wanted to hang out.
People were less willing to talk about and listen to things that interested him. John learns to keep it to him and family.
Harry, who was going to be in High School next year, was always embarrassed by him and tried to rush her friends past him like they hadn't known him since he was in diapers.
"God," she says, "can't you try to be a little less creepy? Everyone's going to think you're weird!" She looks over her shoulder like she was worried someone might overhear her mention the possibility that someone in the family was weird, and John frowned. He didn't see what it mattered what other people thought, but knew that Harry cared.
She cared about things he didn't, just like other people did, and so John kept more and more of his actual interests to himself, and finds other ways to keep himself busy.
When he reaches High School himself, he's gotten good at keeping his stranger interests to himself and family, even if he is still the strange guy who's really into Halloween.
But that's a cool sort of strange, so he can deal with it.
He worries sometimes that he isn't as close to his Da anymore, his 'normal' façade from school somehow bleeding into their interactions, but he knows that some things have been harder for his Da to understand and accept than his Mum and Aunt.
His Mum smiles in this horrible, tired way when he mentions this to her, and says that his Da has always wanted what's best for him, and that he feels it would be much easier if he was more like some of the other children, and it hurts.
It hurts even when he understands what she means, because John has experienced bullying, has had old friends poke and prod at parts of him that would be raw and tender on anyone else. It hurts because if his Da wasn't so focused on what would be considered more 'normal' for him, he'd be able to see that things like that don't bother him.
His Aunt Marsha complains about his Da on a weekly basis, and when John tells her what his Mum said, she snorts.
"Easier? Easier for himself, more like it…"
But John understands.
He always understands.
He starts wearing comforting clothing when he notices that people are getting skittish of him.
He layers with sweaters and cheerful colours, switching to neutral colours when a horror movie comes out with the killer being a kindergarten teacher, and people start looking sideways at him.
Harry laughs, but is all for it, buying him a number of woolen sweaters, and says that he's not the black sheep of the family, not really.
"You're the wolf in sheep's clothing now," she mock-whispers.
John gets his first date his second year of High School, and it's with Cassie Anne who likes horror/thriller movies, and laughs at his darker sense of humor, and doesn't flinch when John smiles unexpectedly.
When they go out on dates it's always to an event or activity, because John's mother is a firm believer that you can't get to know someone by sitting next to them for an hour and a half in a darkened room, and because John likes being active. Cassie does too.
A month in, when they kiss for the first time, she doesn't burst into tears, either, and John counts this dating thing a success.
He feels a bit troubled by the fact that all these dates are making him feel like they're getting to be really good friends, because he feels like he should be feeling like they're more than friends, or feel a bit more like he has a girlfriend, and after the third month of dating, feels like things might end up going better between them if they weren't in a relationship.
He's troubled, but it's comfortable, so he doesn't try to break things off.
This turns out to be even less of a worry, because they break up soon after their next date.
John had thought that they might be close enough to be able to 'waste' a date on a movie, and they go to see a Hitchcock film.
He honestly can't think of a better mutual breakup than one that happens after the entire theater freaks out during a horror film, the couple behind them throwing up, and John can hear the barking laughter of his Aunt all the way from home.
That date makes it into the paper, at least the massive freak-out of the theater does, but it means that when it comes out that John's and Cassie Anne's breakup happens soon after it's made into a bigger deal than it is.
They're still friends, and Cassie Anne sticks up for him somewhat unnecessarily when people laugh about John's dating prowess ("Of course he'd choose the scariest for their first movie together," "Haha, is it any wonder even Cassie couldn't keep up with John's love of all things horrific?" "You know I heard he didn't even flinch or scream at all during the movie, like, at all," "Figures…"), and after John gets the hang of not choosing to see or do anything scary with his dates, he ends up not being single for the remainder of his time in high school.
It does result in him getting the somewhat joking reputation of the Friendly Neighborhood Serial Dater by graduation, as he's good friends with all of the girls he's dated, and that's fine.
He never meets someone he thinks he can be entirely open with, which is why most of the breakups happen.
When he gets into St. Barts he gets a lot of congratulations, and no one is surprised that he wants to get into trauma surgery, which he's not surprised about, but when he confides that he's planning on joining the RAMC he is surprised at the fact that no one questions him.
"Well," his friend Jack starts with a small smile, "we're hardly going to scare you away from going. And you've got nerves of steel…"
"You've just got to promise one thing, though," says Stacy (who he'd dated for a whole 6 months before breaking things off).
She smiles, but she's looking at him seriously.
"Not to die."
John smiles, and none of his friends flinch even though he's showing his teeth.
He knows that none of them would be able to convince him not to go, and they're right that he's not afraid.
Nothing in the army could ever be scarier than his Aunt Marsha.
John stares down at the text for a moment, 'Fam help needed' from Harry, before getting his coat and heading out the door. His Aunt doesn't ask questions, saying "Tell Harriet to visit," as he left, and John takes a brisk run to Harry's apartment.
It takes a little over 15 minutes to get there, something Harry had complained about initially when looking for her own place for while she went to college, and hardly a minute to get in with his coy of her keys.
Down the hall from her apartment he can hear the sound of yelling, and can feel the thrum of Harry's fear of Aunt Marsha flicker with the sound of breaking glass, and a second later he's unlocking her door to the sound of a bottle breaking against it.
"How about now, you bitch? Fearless now?" A woman's voice shouted, voice unfamiliar.
John opened the door in time to see a woman he vaguely recognized as someone from Harry's college brandish a broken bottle in Harry's direction.
Harry was darting around the kitchen counter, eyes wide and face pale, but the flickering in her fear of Aunt Marsha stops when John catches her eyes.
He takes everything in at a glance; the broken glass littering the floor, the bright red mark on one of Harry's cheeks and a burgeoning bruise just under her cheekbone, and, when the still screaming woman turns to look at him, the crazed and wild look in the woman's eyes.
She's afraid of men with power.
He can suddenly so many more facts of her life, that she was picked on in school until she moved, how much she resented any man having control in her life, how she decided to be lesbian to avoid dealing with men. He could see how Harry must have looked like a challenge and a compliment as strong-willed as she was, how attractive she was, and he could see the frustration that Harry wasn't just strong; she was unafraid, so unafraid of everything that it was galling to this woman, to Sidney Haynes, who couldn't help being afraid of most men.
He could see this, and could see how the unmentioned relationship between her and Harry had started to devolve, as Sidney started feeling weak with her fears where Harry had none (where she actually only had one and it was in the family), and a glance down at the table by the door showed haphazardly thrown ticket stubs: all horror films.
("How about now, you bitch? Fearless now?")
John gives Harry a reassuring look, and turns his full attention to Sidney.
He shifts slightly, and from the quickening of her breath and twitch of her eyes John knows that he's no longer Harry's harmless little brother with the soft jumpers and wide blue eyes.
No, now he's every punk who's catcalled from alleyways late at night, he's every sneering bully who pushed her down, called her names, he's every businessman looking down her shirt without fear of reprisal, and he's the monster out from under her bed and grinning a too-bright smile.
The broken bottle is pointed at him now.
He drifts to the side slightly and moves forward, a sharp smile with just the right amount of teeth (too many, too many teeth), and the bottle is just a little too slow in following his movements and he's got the bottle away in moments, hands at his sides, and he tilts his head at her, condescending.
"Who are you? Who are you? How did you get in?" she demands, backing up. Harry moves back around the counter until she's behind John, and he reaches back blindly to take her hand.
"Sidney was it? Or Cindy…" he pretends to think about it a moment, then shrugs a bit, like it doesn't matter, like she doesn't matter, and he knows she hates it.
Hates it so much because she's afraid it's true.
John would feel bad about preying on her fears like this, of making her so afraid, but a quick glance back at Harry shows that bruise, and a glance down at their joined hands shows a red and slightly swollen wrist, and things go a bit grey around the edges, smoky, and he heard Harry's breath hitch.
Something inside him hardens.
Sidney leaves crying and hysterical, and John calls out "We'll be in touch!"
He brings her home and borrows the car to drive to the A&E to get her wrist looked at and calls the police while they're waiting to be brought in.
John gives his statement, and his spare key to Harry's apartment so they can get in to see where everything happened, and once Harry's been checked out she gives her statement.
The Officer keeps giving John suspicious looks, and he knows he should relax, but he's tense and angry and frustrated with Harry that there were other, older bruises that had to be looked after, and has to go sit down.
A noise makes him look up from staring at his lap.
A little girl, maybe 4 years old, who's afraid of the dark is standing there with her head tilted to one side.
"Are you the boogey man?"
A muffled noise of shock makes him look to a woman whose now looking horribly embarrassed.
She starts to get up, obviously to get her little girl, and John shakes his head at her. He relaxes a bit more because she looks a bit fearful, and turns back to the little girl.
"Well are you?"
"I'm something like that. Why do you ask?"
The little girl frowns at him.
"Why're you here? D'joo scare someone to death?"
John raises his eyebrows in surprise, but shakes his head. Hesitates a moment, but figures why not humor her a little more?
"No, I don't do things like that. I'm here because someone… someone mean hurt my sister really badly, and I'm here to make sure she's okay."
"You have a sister? Is she the boogey woman?"
"No, not at all," John laughs, feeling suddenly tired. He'd been packing before he'd gotten the text from Harry, and he had a long day tomorrow making sure everything else was all packed.
The little girl is still frowning at him, and he tilts his head back at her, wondering what's going to happen next?
"What'd joo do to the person who hurt your sister? And inn't she scared of you? Your sister?"
"I'm pretty certain she's at least a little afraid of me, but that's good isn't it?" he asks.
"Well, if she's afraid of me, I'm the worst thing to be afraid of. Means other things are less scary. Aren't you afraid of me?"
"Well wouldn't the dark be less scary if I'm the worst thing that could be hiding there? I mean," he looks down at himself, thoughtful look on his face, "I don't think I'm all that scary, but I am the boogeyman…"
The little girl looks down, still frowning, but eventually nods and looks up at him.
"See? Now here, lets do this properly." He holds out his hand. "My name is John, I'm the boogeyman, what's your name?"
She smiles, showing off where her left incisor is missing, and shakes his hand.
"My name is Twyla, and I'm 4 and a half! And you still haven't said what happened to the guy who hurt your sister…"
She purses her lips and raises both her eyebrows at him in such an obvious imitation of her mother that John laughs.
"Yes, well, guess I couldn't fool you, huh? Well I scared the woman who hurt my sister away, and the police over there," he points them out, "will make sure she can't hurt anyone else again."
"You didn't kill her then?"
"You know, you're not all that scary."
"Well you're a brave girl, Twyla."
John looked up and saw Harry heading in his direction, splint on her wrist and jacket over her arm, "There's my sister now, I've got to go now, but it was nice talking to you Twyla."
He pats her shoulder as he stands to leave, but Twyla grabs his hand.
"Can you take a picture with me?"
Harry's just in earshot when this is said, and grins at him.
"But my sister's…"
"Oh sure Johnny, I can wait. Go take your picture hun."
John thinks he just manages to keep the blush off his face when Twyla's mum agrees to take the picture of them, and at Twyla's insistence he gives his address for a copy to be sent to him.
He wishes he didn't have to deal with Harry's teasing all the way home, but considering how quiet Harry had been on the ride over, he thinks he can stand a little mocking.
So yeah, more of this, and to all It's Green fans waiting, you'll have to wait a bit longer, dealing with character writers block. Writing Draco is HARD.
Tell me what you think :)