A/N: So sorry it took so long to finish this up!
Also, I don't think I've done a disclaimer for this story, whoops! Well, obviously almost all characters and settings/world belongs to Jhonen Vasquez. Only the character Dekker belongs to me (and I don't want him) and all dream sequences are mine. The dream sequences all come directly from this one super weird dream I had (it was quite a bit longer than what I wrote of it here, but I edited out bits that wouldn't make sense for Todd's character, like the horseback riding parts and the part where the giant snake was actually subdued).
Anyway, I hope you enjoy!
He wasn't sure what was real any more. Another boy's hands pawed at him, choked him. Something roared. Copper tang of blood, a smell he could taste. Warmth. Darkness. Clarity came with a breath of cool breeze, a murmur of waves lapping at the shore. An old fairground loomed over the edge of a sandbank. People. There were people sitting and standing around amongst the driftwood. They began to notice him and stood slowly, walking.
They neared and he saw tattered Hawaiian print shirts hung over jutting bones. They were silent, coming towards him, but a low murmur of feeling drifted around, pointing at him like their empty eye sockets. Scraps of desiccated flesh held them together. The murmur was accusing. It was his fault. Someone destroyed them and they sought revenge. No, it wasn't me, I didn't do anything. One stood out, its murmur different, faded shirt brighter than the others. Gleeful. It was gleeful for the revenge, not empty like the others. Them! It was them, not me! They did this to you. That one there. Groping hands reached for him, skimming his clothing, but then slowing and turning towards the one. They knew now, pressing in around them, the other so close to him and the crowd now ignoring him but for how long. Fear pulsed from the one, it stared straight at him now, anger bubbling up, and an accusing finger pointed his way. He backed out of the closing crowd, stumbling up the beach over shifting stones and sand.
A group of people greeted him, strangers but familiar somehow. Lunchtime, they said, sitting on the grass, watching the ocean. He sat amongst them. These people were friendly, safe, laughing. A shape moved up behind a man. A snake, huge, head as big as Todd's own. He pointed, told them to look out, but no one saw it. He yelled. Finally the man and others looked around, people started screaming, backing away, but too slowly, they were all too slow! He had to do something, had to keep it from biting. It was poisonous. Jumping forward, he landed his hands right on the snake's snout, holding its jaws closed with all his might. The thing squirmed under him. He needed more weight on it. The others were starting to step closer again as he yelled for them to help him, help him pin it down. Some grabbed uselessly at the body, too squeamish to latch on tight. Shifting, he moved his weight so he was sitting on the snake's head; he needed more weight to pin it down. He wasn't heavy enough. Shouting and gesturing with his head he got a fat man over to him. Standing quickly and pushing the man down to sit on the animal's head he told him not to let it go, keep its mouth shut. He needed to find something to tie it shut with. Looking back, he saw the man carelessly let the snake's head slip out beneath him. No! How could he be so stupid! The snake lunged forward and bit a woman in the leg. She yelped and fell down, crawling away backward as the snake loomed again. Too late, too late. The poison would kill her anyway. They were too stupid, scrabbling uselessly at its body. He had to get away, had to run.
Some ran with him. The trail was a dirt path leading through a tropical forest. The trail ended suddenly with a gaping chasm, a pool of water at the bottom. No way around. Too far to jump across. Something ghosted by in the waters below. Then it breached, a strange hideous shark, with mouth taking up about half its length. It dove again. We can make it if we use the rocks, someone said, and everyone followed them down, jumping from one floating rock to the next, down to a rocky shore by the water.
It wasn't a shark anymore. Two strange creatures crawled slowly up the beach towards them. He ran, following the others into cracks between the rocks, turning into caves and then rounding a bend to take shelter under a concrete overhang, blocking them off from the water though he could still see the creatures lumbering, searching, on either side. Two small skeletons sat huddled together in the corner, he briefly wondered if that was to be his fate as well. A man sat next to him and a teenaged girl across from him. She knelt, holding a mass that looked like a larger than normal brain. It dripped thick red fluid. It's going to be ok, she said, the rest of it was born too, just came out earlier, that's all.
The creature to the left was getting closer, sniffing them out maybe. The man told him to follow, and he did, making a break for it to the right, out into the open. He couldn't see the other creature. They paused by a log, and suddenly the second monster crawled up out of the water, slick tail dragging on the ground, looking straight at them with large eyes. He knew. He knew it was going to get them. No escaping this time. He and the man backed up against the log, sitting on the ground, as the thing loomed closer. He steeled himself for the inevitable. It would only take one gulp. He closed his eyes.
Adrenaline jolted his system. His eyes snapped open with the image of the creature burned into his retina, flashing before him when he blinked. Taking a quick stock of all his senses, Todd slowly realized that he was now awake. That had been a dream, though he remembered every second of it so vividly. Now that he felt he had complete control over his motor functions again, he twitched his fingers in the dim light, figuring out where he was. Sheets. There were sheets wrapped around his legs. Nice sheets. So, Pepito's room then. Turning over he could see the half-demon laying beside him in the large bed, sound asleep, without any of the covers over him. He was wearing normal daytime clothing. That's weird. Todd looked down at himself, so was he. Why?
Then it trickled back to him. Last night. The party. Oh god, no. Panic gripped him once again as fresh tears threatened to spill. Shaking, he drew his knees up to his chest, sitting up in the bed.
His pained whimpering must have woken Pepito, because the other boy stirred and shifted. Todd's breath hitched and he stopped breathing as he felt Pepito curl lightly around his lower back from behind. It took a moment before he forced himself to breathe again, Pepito unmoving with his face next to Todd's feet. He reminded himself that Pepito had never hurt him, that he wasn't hurting him now, and that if he remembered correctly it was Pepito who saved him last night.
He looked down at the son of Satan curled around him, still asleep. So he hadn't woken him then. Slowly, Todd stretched out his legs over the side of the bed. He felt like he needed to take a long shower, to scrub off the memories of what happened. Just as he rose to his feet and took one step away from the bed, Pepito shot up, moving with inhuman speed to stand between him and the door to the hallway. A low growl came from the disheveled half-demon's throat. Todd's eyes widened in fear. What was wrong? He tried to move a step forward, but the growl turned into a harsher snarl.
"Ok, ok! I won't get up!" He backed up to sit again on the bed.
Pepito stopped growling, but remained tense and staring until Todd scooted himself to sitting up against the headboard, legs out in front of him. Then the Anti-Christ relaxed and crawled onto the bed, flopping down next to Todd with his head in his lap, facing his feet. Todd stiffened as the other boy touched him, but found himself relaxing slowly as Pepito huffed a sigh and went almost limp.
Todd was confused. This was weird. His friend was acting like an overprotective dog or something. Though, looking down at the horned head in his lap, Pepito was kind of cute this way. Disarming somehow besides the aggressive behavior a minute ago. Todd had the sudden urge to reach out and stroke his friend's head as if he really were a dog. Before he knew it, his hand was already reaching out and messy black hair ran over his fingers. Pepito's responding light hum made him smile. He was worried about his friend, but this was nice to just sit with someone and have some physical interaction that was neither painful nor scary. He did his best to ignore the dark bruises on his wrists, trying to avoid thinking about how he got them.
There was a knock on the door, startling Todd, then a cheery voice drifted in.
"Boys, are you in there? I'm making waffles and fruit salad for breakfast." Rosemary opened the door.
Pepito was up on all fours in a flash, hovering protectively over Todd's legs and growling harshly again.
"Oh my! Todd, dear, what's going on?" She looked worried and a bit frightened, not moving from the doorway.
"I don't know. He was like this when I woke up." He answered truthfully.
Rosemary quickly looked between her son and his best friend, seeing the nasty bruises on Todd's wrists. Putting her hand to her mouth in a quiet gasp, she turned to call down the hall, "Juan!"
Satan must have heard the tinge of panic in her voice because Todd saw him poof into the doorway right behind his wife, looking over her shoulder to assess the situation.
"Rosemary, please go prepare two plates of breakfast. I'm sure they'll be hungry soon." He stated, voice calm and collected.
She reluctantly nodded and left back down the stairs.
Satan did not move an inch, standing in the doorway.
Todd could feel his hands twitching nervously. The devil always made him nervous. If he was really honest with himself, the man terrified him. Glancing around, he tried to avoid the piercing gaze.
"Can you calm him down please?" Satan's voice sounded irritated, but there was an underlying hint of worry.
"Uh, I-I can try." Todd looked at his friend who still growled loudly, not taking his eyes off his father in a threatening manner. Reaching out, he tentatively set his hand on Pepito's shoulder. "It's ok. He won't hurt me." God he hoped that was the truth.
Pepito quieted, but still glared menacingly, so Todd moved his hand to again stroke his hair, figuring that it seemed to calm Pepito down before. He was relieved that it worked. Pepito sat down in front of him, legs folded.
"What's wrong with him?" Todd asked.
"What happened?" Mr. Diablo countered.
Todd looked down; he really didn't want to talk about this. "S-someone attacked me, a-and Pepito hurt him to save me. I think."
Mr. Diablo's eyes narrowed suspiciously, obviously detecting the almost-lie, but letting it go. "Hm. His demon side has taken over, though it is peculiar that it has done so in protection. Usually something like this reversion to instinct appears only for bloodlust in the heat of combat. You must bring him out of it."
"How?" He was still confused concerning the why of Pepito's behavior, but the part of him that wanted to fix things as soon as possible was stronger.
"I don't know." Satan looked thoughtful, "I expect he should come out of it if you can get him to remember his human side."
"Oh." Todd had no idea how he was going to do that.
Mr. Diablo took one more thoughtful look at his son before turning and leaving. Todd heard him speak quietly to his wife on the stairs. A few seconds later, Rosemary appeared again at the doorway bearing two full plates. Todd had to start petting Pepito again to preemptively stop a growl he saw the teen tense for.
"I'm sure everything will be alright sweetie" she offered a nervous smile and set the plates down on the floor before she too left, closing the door behind her.
Only when it was firmly shut did Todd feel Pepito relax under his hand. Now the half-demon was eying the food. Getting up slowly, keeping the slightly anxious face of his friend in the corner of his eye, Todd retrieved breakfast and returned to the bed, setting down one plate in front of Pepito. The Anti-Christ did not hesitate to cram a waffle in his mouth with his hands.
Todd couldn't help but burst into giggles, it was hilarious. His laughter only got louder when Pepito looked at him, head tilted in confusion with a section of waffle hanging out of his mouth.
"You're going to get all sticky." He couldn't keep the smile out of his voice.
Pepito smiled, but then went right back to gulping down the last of his waffles. Todd ate with the fork and knife, taking much longer to finish, making a face in disgust when his friend started licking his sticky claws clean.
"Ew. That reminds me, I really need a shower." He paused. "Will you let me take a shower?"
Pepito looked at him, face blank but attentive.
Todd heaved a sigh of relief when his friend didn't growl or move to stop him when he rose this time, very purposefully looking only at the bathroom door, trying to make his intentions as clear as possible.
A few hours went by. Todd sat on the bed for a bit, trying to think of something that might bring his friend out of this strange behavior. Then he moved to wandering slowly around the room, the Anti-Christ watching carefully, pausing for a while to browse the bookshelf for anything that might be relevant. Nothing. Flopping down in one of the beanbag chairs, he sighed in frustration. How the heck was he supposed to 'make Pepito remember his humanity'?
The teen in question hopped off the bed and wandered to sit in the other beanbag chair, staring again at Todd.
"Maybe you could please stop staring at me like that? It's getting a little creepy…"
"Ok…" Todd turned his attention to the TV, hoping that an hour or two of video games might spark some idea, or draw his friend's attention away from him, or at least kill some time.
As the start-up screen burst into color and sound, Pepito shifted his attention to watch it. Todd let out a tiny sigh of relief, finally a moment of respite from that gaze.
Almost two hours later his vision was starting to get a little fuzzy and his response time was noticeably slowed. Todd yawned, realizing that he wasn't completely rested due to the combination of the horrors of the party and the nightmare. After his eyes drifted shut the third time, he got up and switched off the TV, not even bothering to save the game. Taking little notice of Pepito following him, he dragged himself back into bed, curling up in his usual spot under the covers. Drowsily, he ignored Pepito as he crawled in next to him. Then he was jolted awake again, producing a small squee, as Pepito scooted up behind him and pulled the smaller teen against him. Todd froze at the feel of the half-demon curled around him, warm breath ghosting through his hair and long arms wrapped around his torso. He remained still, letting the adrenalin drain from his system. As it oozed away he could feel the other boy's warmth surrounding him. It felt… safe? Was he seriously having ideas of safety while being spooned by the son of Satan? Rolling the idea around some more in his brain, he realized that yes he did feel safe here. Pepito's heat and scent were familiar, even though it still carried a hint of alcohol from the party. The physical contact was comforting, not painful or menacing.
Todd made a decision then. He decided he did like Pepito at least a little bit more than normal friendship, even if the other teen still wanted his soul. The twinge of fear was barely still there, but he pushed it back, relaxing fully in his friend's embrace and letting his eyelids drift shut.
Todd awoke slowly. The drift from dreamless sleep started with the physical sensation of warm breath lightly ghosting through his hair and comforting warmth all around. Then he became more alert as he noticed that his lower back was pressed to the wall while his face was pressed into Pepito's shirt. He found himself remaining relaxed while finally coming fully awake, realizing he and his best friend were cuddling face to face, or rather face to chest, with his arms wrapped around Pepito's waist and their legs partially intertwined.
Then his brain started working again and that niggling little worm of uncertainty started crawling around his thoughts.
Pepito woke, but didn't complain as Todd extracted himself from the embrace to sit up with his back to the wall.
"Oh Pepi, what am I supposed to do? I have no idea how to bring you out of this." He looked unhappily towards his friend.
The half-demon blinked, then scooted to lean against Todd's side, head on his shoulder.
"I don't even know if you can understand anything I'm saying, but I forgot to thank you for last night," his gaze fell to his lap where his hands twitched nervously, "You're always saving me and now that it's my turn to help you I can't do it. I don't know why you picked me as your friend. I'm totally useless. I can't see why anyone would ever want to be my friend. I mean, there was that one other kid back in kindergarten, but… well, he's gone. Now I don't even know what we are anymore. I think I like you and you keep giving me these looks as if you really liked me, but everyone I've ever seen you approach with friendly or more than friendly looking intentions you're just reeling them in so you can get them to sign off their souls to Satan. Damning them to burn in hell forever. You're a monster Pepito. Just like one from a horror story, but real. You prey on unsuspecting humans, taking advantage of their stupidity and giving no mercy.
"Am I just your longest ongoing conquest? Do you see me as nothing more than a challenge because I refused your father's offer all those years ago? Or is my soul not even worth it. I know that so much is wrong with me. I'm plagued by hideous nightmares. I don't even know sometimes what memories from my childhood are true and what were just dreams or maybe hallucinations. I feel tainted by it all, and I think that's the reason no one likes me and my parents hated me. I'm tainted. Damaged beyond repair. I bet my soul is already damned to rot in Hell and that's why you don't want it." His vision began to get blurry with threatening tears and he sniffled as his nose began to run too.
Then he felt Pepito pull away from him and looked over.
Pepito had his knees pulled up to his chest and was looking at Todd with sadness. "Is that really how you see me?" His voice wavered and Todd watched a single tear roll down his face, seeming to follow the physical change as the Anti-Christ encased himself in the magic that made him look human. Curled up there and looking at his toes, Pepito looked smaller and more helpless than Todd had ever seen him.
Todd stammered, "Uh.. um.. h-how much did you hear?" Fear gripped him.
"I don't really want to be a monster." Pepito's gaze didn't waver from his feet, but his voice wavered on the last word.
"Oh." Now he felt a little ashamed for doubting his only friend so deeply. "But, I am doomed right? I mean, all the crap that's happened to me has got to mean that I'll eventually end up roasting with all the others in your basement." He meant for it as a wry comment, but it came out sounding more like a hopeless plea.
Pepito surprised him by uncurling his body and swiftly enveloping him in a tight hug. Todd would have flailed if his arms weren't pinned to his sides.
"How could you ever think that amigo?" He pulled back, keeping his hands on Todd's shoulders. "You have no idea how wrong you are. Your soul is… is…" He looked around as if searching for the right words in the air, "Can… can I show you?"
Todd looked down at the hand now hovering over his chest, then back up at his friend's face, disguised brown eyes stared earnestly into his own. "Uh, ok. I guess. Will it hurt?"
Pepito smiled, "It won't hurt, I promise."
Todd nodded, still a bit nervous.
Pepito closed his eyes in concentration, settling one hand on Todd's chest and bringing the other up to press two fingers to his temple. "Close your eyes."
First there was just the familiar fuzziness of the back of his eyelids, and then he started to get a strange image-feeling. It was an entirely new sensation, a sort of glowing humming brightness slowly materialized below him in the now gray-blank of other-nothing that he sensed was the room around them. The shining something felt familiar, he knew it was his, himself in a sense. The part of him that wasn't his thinking mind.
As he got used to the new sense he saw his soul more clearly, it was bright and seemed to burn with a warm but not burning flickering flame. It wasn't white exactly, there was no real color to this image-feeling, but it did feel light. No malice or evil. Pure.
Then he saw-felt the sense fade as Pepito withdrew the magic. When all he could see was once again the back of his eyelids, he opened his eyes.
Pepito was reluctant to part from that beautiful soul. He had never been allowed this close to it before and where he found it attractive and intriguing from afar, being able to touch it physically with his magic was intoxicating. He had to stop when the urge to reach his own self in and caress Todd's soul grew too great. The sensation would no doubt scare the boy off for good.
Withdrawing the magic and opening his eyes, Pepito smiled at Todd with that gentle, genuine smile he only gave the smaller boy.
"See? No worries, Squee. In fact, your soul is the purest I've ever seen," he couldn't help the tinge of adoration in his voice, "besides mine, but mine's more the opposite." He looked to the side, avoiding what he felt would be inevitable dislike in Todd's eyes.
He was greatly surprised when he felt a hand timidly press against his chest.
"Can I see yours?" Todd looked at him with earnest curiosity.
"Uh," He paused for a moment, a part of him shouting in fear that his best friend would run away from him forever if he let him see his own dark soul. "…Sure."
He had to concentrate to keep his hands from shaking as he placed one of his hands over Todd's on his chest and with the other placed Todd's other hand to his temple. Taking a slow, deep breath he drew up the magic again, closing is eyes to better focus on guiding it into his friend and then back into himself. He had never done anything like this before, and in truth he wasn't sure it was possible to show someone with no magic his soul, but it seemed to be working.
He could now sense his own soul, cold-hot with burning malice and darkness. He was timid in letting Todd in to sense it too, still in fear of rejection. He could tell that Todd was at least glimpsing it, but was utterly surprised when he felt his magic being drawn in by his friend and used to urge him to be more open. He wondered if the other teen was doing it consciously as he felt himself give way to his own longing for a deeper connection. Then a wave of adrenaline and panic hit him as he felt Todd's self enter him. He gasped at the sensation. It wasintense. He could feel his physical body losing some control of itself, twitching slightly. Then Todd did what Pepito had frustratingly stopped himself from doing before, he touched his soul.
Pepito could faintly hear himself moan. The touch was gentle and light, as if Todd was carefully examining his soul like a fragile glass ornament. Then there was a strange feeling as if he was searching inside the flaming dark mass. Pepito didn't even know that was possible. He was so lost in the sensation of Todd that he had little control over what was happening, he let his friend take as much magic as he needed to do whatever it was he was doing, because it felt fantastic. He wanted it to never stop. His brain came back into focus a little when he saw something shining where Todd was reaching into him. There was a lightness there in his own soul that he had never seen before. Was that new? Pepito was amazed as Todd seemed to bring to the surface that shining flame of good. Then Pepito lost all control of himself when Todd actually caressed his soul, washing it in emotional affection. It felt like adoration, like love. It was ecstasy.
Before he knew it, Pepito was cutting off the flow of magic in his body's uncontrollable response to get closer to Todd and he came back to himself only as the intensely pleasurable sensation faded to find his lips pressed up against Todd's, whose eyes were wide open in surprise.
Again that surge of panic hit, "Oh Hell, Todd, I'm so sorry! I didn't, I mean, I shouldn't have, that shouldn't have, I didn't know…" Half a dozen sentences tried to start but none seemed right as he pulled away as quickly as possible. Damn, he knew this was going to end badly.
Confusion replaced panic as he saw Todd give him a small smile.
"It's ok, Pepi. That was my fault." He looked down for a second, but maintained that cute little smile.
Pepito's confusion got worse as Todd reached out a hand to touch one of his horns. Wait, his horns? He flinched, "Sorry Squee, I can…"
"No, it's ok. I don't mind, really." He was cut off by Todd's honest response.
He still felt the need to apologize, "But I look like a monster, like something from your nightmares."
"Pepi, you keep the nightmares away." The smile was wider now, "Why else would I be sleeping over here as often as possible since we were little?"
Pepito grinned back, the awkwardness was ebbing, "Really? I thought you just liked me!" he teased.
Todd chuckled, but then looked back at him with obvious nervousness. The awkwardness was back. "Pepito… I … you…" then there was a flash of shy determination before the smaller boy leaned forward and brought his lips to Pepito's in a light peck.
Pepito was momentarily stunned. Todd liked him back. He liked him back! He could feel a huge happy smile stretch across his face as he reached out and brought Todd back to him for another kiss, this time applying more pressure and gently locking lips. His heart soared with happiness as Todd returned the kiss, tentatively moving his lips.
Pepito didn't want to push him too far, but he needed more. He wrapped his arms around Todd and was further encouraged when the other moved to bring their bodies closer as well. Now Pepito was feeling a bit wobbly from the emotional intensity, and as Todd reached up to hold the back of his neck he slowly began pushing the other teen down on the bed. His mind returned when he felt Todd tense up under him, and mentally reprimanded himself for being so stupid. Redirecting his movements, he flipped over, pulling Todd down on top of himself. As he felt the other male's body settling into place over his a shiver went down his spine. He had never been in the more submissive position before, but he was finding he liked it as Todd relaxed and continued to kiss him. He hummed appreciatively as Todd shifted to place a few kisses down his neck, and responded by running his hand down the human's back, feeling him shiver in kind.
Todd seemed to reach his comfort limits and lay his head on Pepito's chest, calmly snuggling with him.
"Could we maybe do that soul thing again sometime?"
Oh hell yes! Pepito would have loved to go all the way right then and there, he had longed for Todd so long, but he had to remind himself that Todd was new to all this and would take time to get used to it. He probably didn't even realize that touching one-another's souls was the only way non-corporeal demons could have sex, and Pepito promised himself not to tell him, at least not yet. If Todd was willing to do that with him he could wait forever. He smiled and ran his fingers through Todd's hair.
"Sure amigo, whatever you want."
He felt Todd smile against his chest.
Pepito inwardly groaned when he heard the familiar footsteps of his mother coming up the stairs. As usual, she just opened the door.
"Oh my! I see you two figured it out." Rosemary smiled, her eyes sparkling, "Well, dinner will be on the table in a few minutes, I'll see you two down there soon."
She turned to leave and Pepito let out a small inward sigh.
Then her head popped back around the corner, "And don't forget to be safe!"
"Mother!" Pepito groaned.