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I Just Got Back

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'THE END OF THE WORLD PARTY’ Sock read on his way into the opening of a building that was falling apart. There was a broken neon sign hanging up in the right corner by one side reading ‘Lust’s Garden’.

“This must have been a nightclub before it all happened,” Sock concluded, raking his eyes over the structure to see just how many holes he could find in the brick.

“Maybe…” Jonathan said, looking up to where Sock was looking.

Sock, after a few more seconds of checking the building over, pulled on Jonathan’s sleeve. “Come on.”

They stepped in, and were immediately assaulted by the sheer volume of the music. It was louder than a metal concert in the space, and Sock could only assume that it only got louder from there. The music was techno, and while Sock liked the genre, every beat punched into his head, his brain immediately rejecting the intruders. He clutched his head, “Agh, this is giving me a headache. We better be quick about this.”

Jonathan sharply nodded, heading off to the left of the club while Sock took the right.

The longer Sock ventured further into the old club, the more unsettled he was. He had been shocked that there were people in the club in the first place due to it’s structural integrity’s reliance being obviously doubtful. Still, the number of people was overwhelming, as well as the… supplies they had with them. There were drugs all over the place. Everywhere Sock turned, somebody was popping a pill, smoking anything known to man, or relying on a needle to pump them with substances. Sock wrinkled his nose in discomfort when he saw an energetic boy—maybe in his late twenties—do a line of cocaine. He hurried his steps a little until he was past the entrance to the room the boy was in.

Every step, every beat was painful. Sock had no idea why it was affecting him so much. He’d heard loud music before, this wasn't that big of a deal… so why was his body treating it like it was?

The pounding in his head got so bad at one point that he felt his knees give out, reaching to grab the end of a nearby table in another one of the odd side-rooms that branched off the main area. He clutched his head, feeling a groan rip through his throat without hearing it, just that damn music.

He was panting, sweating under all the body heat hitting him from nearly every direction. He thought that maybe he deserved to take a few moments to steady himself before he went back to searching again.

...

Inhale, exhale. Inhale, exhale… Sock found that he was struggling to breathe, his body rejecting the hot, humid, drug-laced toxin that was the air surrounding him. His lungs found tiny bits of oxygen here and there, almost not enough. He coughed his carbon dioxide out every time; so much for the exhale.

… A few more minutes of that.

He got up, left the room. The pain was getting worse by the second, growing, mutating until climactically, agony reared its ugly, sinister face. Unlike its origin’s less-effective, stagnant form, agony was a shape shifting thing. One moment it was a monster, the next it flooded through his head like water, fluidly. Every movement he made triggered it to move along with him. His vision was getting blurry around the edges.

He got to his third room. It got worse, the agony was rising in level, taking up his thoughts in its wake. He heard their final cries as they drowned: I wonder how Jonathan’s doing? Is it affecting him like it’s affecting me? I have to keep looking! It’s not safe here… I have to find him… The pain… Oh god, the pain… Each thought a separate entity, emotion behind them varying as they were snuffed out.

He screamed, as the liquid agony shaped a dagger in his head, twisting around until all that remained of him was carried away by the music.

Meanwhile, the perimeter was at least partially safe as Jonathan walked it. He encircled the main room, inspecting faces and the grunge-y décor from a distance. He only ran into one couple doing god-knows-what against the wall. He made a wide circle around them, pushing past dancers.

The main area was clear, no sign of it. He ducked into a side-room. He was greeted by the overwhelming smell of alcohol. He found a beer-pong game in full swing when the strong smell wore off enough to open his eyes. He wiped away the tears that had sprung from his baby blues and sniffed. Let’s get this over with.

He spotted a guy who looked particularly red-faced from the wall. For one reason or another, Jonathan sensed something off about him. He kept his eyes on him, and moments later, the man’s body ripped away from him. Jonathan’s eyes widened, witnessing the transformation from man to monster as the skin tore itself away, revealing a marble-like appearance to a beast with incredible muscles—muscles that the man had not had—and ram horns on either side of his head. He climbed the wall like an insect, claws digging into the brick. What disturbed Jonathan the most was the grin that was the only connection between the man’s previous form and his new one.

Jonathan couldn’t ignore the memory of Sock telling him about what other, more-experienced demons looked like. The beast before him was a near-perfect match to the description.

I’ve gotta find Sock.

He hurried out of the side-room and tapped a woman on the shoulder. With pursed lips, she turned to him.

“Excuse me! Have you seen my friend?! He’s got a weird hat--?”

“I’m your friend too, darling...” she purred in his ear after inspecting him, uncaring of what he’d initially said and the urgency of it.

Jonathan gently pushed her away from him, “No thank you.”

She shrugged and turned back to her old partner, dancing again.

He gave up on asking anyone else for help. The more he looked, the more they all seemed to be entranced, not even noticing him as he passed directly in front of them.

He ducked into another side room at the far end of the club, seeing an even weirder sight there. A beautiful blonde woman sat atop a throne, people kneeling at her feet. She locked eyes with Jonathan as he stepped in, and as she smirked and Jonathan blinked, she changed. Her horns came in dark gray while her body grew as well as colored itself an unnatural pink. Jonathan blinked; she was back to normal.

He shook his head and ran out of the room, fleeing to the one next door.

The room was thick with many things: body heat, cologne, a horrible smell he couldn't place and moving bodies. He coughed as a break in the group he was standing in front of revealed a sight that made his blood run cold.

Sock laid sprawled on his back on a pool table from the waist up, his legs hanging down the side of the table. His hat was partly off, hands limp beside either side of his head. He was unconscious.

Jonathan shoved his way through as fast as he could with the restricted movement, not taking his eyes away from his unconscious companion. When he got there, he stood between Sock’s legs, trying to inspect him with little care of exactly where he was standing. He placed two fingers to the side of Sock’s neck for a moment. Pulse. Good. He shook him.

“Sock, wake up,” he mostly told himself this, his speech getting swept away into the beat of the music pulsing in the floor and the walls and everywhere.

“Sock, come on.” He shook him harder, careful not to bang Sock’s head into the table beneath him.

“Sock, come on, talk to me!” Sock’s head was swinging limply on his neck, and Jonathan found after that third try that it was no use, he had to try something else.

Come on, Jon, think of something! You’ve gotta get him out of here!

He got an idea. It wasn't the best idea, but he hoped that it would work. He knew that he wasn't strong enough to carry Sock out, and dragging him all that way to the main entrance would be very near impossible.

He bit his lip, I hope you can forgive me for this… and without a second thought, smacked the side of Sock’s face as hard as he possibly could.

Sock shouted, and flung his hand out to grab the son of a bitch who just—he examined the clothing in his fist, and then the face of the person wearing it. His eyes widened considerably. “Jona—?”

“No time, come on.” Jonathan hurried them both out, Sock hunched against his body the whole way to the door.

It was incredibly strange how the music wasn't sensed in any way once they were completely outside of the club. No vibrations in the ground, no remnants of the sound outside. However, considering what Jonathan had seen inside, he wasn't surprised. He couldn't remember if they had heard the music on the way in or not now.

They ran from the club until they were a good distance away before finally stopping, panting under the summer sun.

Jonathan stumbled when a sudden weight on his body triggered a response. He looked down into the blinding sunlit reflection of Sock’s goggles as the ex-demon embraced his middle. He acknowledged the boy say his name, felt the edge of his mouth form the word lightly against his shoulder, and Jonathan knew that he’d never heard anyone, especially Sock, sound so distressed. It was different from when he whined; here he sounded weak, vulnerable.

“That was awful…” Whimpers dotted Sock’s breathy response, and he turned his head and lowered himself to his normal height from the tips of his toes to bury his face in Jonathan’s chest rather than his shoulder.

Jonathan had been embracing Sock back around the waist for a few moments now, he hadn't realized it. When he did, it took him a minute to bring an arm up to grab Sock’s shoulder from behind, forearm between the smaller’s shoulder-blades. The position, hopefully, made Sock feel safer, as it pulled him closer to his body, and Jonathan hoped he wasn't weird for thinking that it should.

Jonathan dumped string after quiet string of what he hoped were comforting phrases from his lips, hoping that Sock would stop shaking. Before he could begin to think of how to ask Sock about what he remembered, the bare skin of his arms began to grow frigid beneath him.

“Woah, you okay?”

Sock only responded with, “It’s so cold all of the sudden…”

Jonathan pushed Sock back gently and began stripping himself of his hoodie. He handed it to Sock, who gave a tiny smile and a quiet “Thank you, Jonathan” before zipping it up.

It was so incredibly big on him. The gray material drowned his small frame in something akin to a bear hug, one that discharged body heat in copious amounts while dispelling any feeling of being alone or afraid. Sock had never felt anything like it before. That combined with the intake of proper air again, Sock was the closest he’d ever be to heaven. If… if he fucked this up again.

Jonathan popped his thought bubble, “Better?”

Sock’s throat hurt from all of the screaming, and he met Jonathan’s eyes without a quick enough answer.

“What happened in there?” Jonathan asked, eyebrows linked and concern evident in his every fiber.

“I… I don't know. The music… Something with the music got to me. Which was weird, I’ve heard music that loud before and I’ve never had a problem. It was just…”

“Just what?”

Agonizing wouldn't have been a stretch, but Sock didn’t want to sound like he was exaggerating. “Painful.”

Jonathan took him by the shoulders, “Are you alright? You haven't answered my question.”

“Yeah, yeah I’m al-“

A shudder rocked Sock’s body. Even though warmth was slowly moving itself into his body from the gray hug surrounding him, the cold still rattled him from deep within. It reminded him that he had been dead once, and that his body, without him inside, had been this cold, especially with that late-September air on it in the cemetery behind his house…

Jonathan saw, and wrapped Sock in another hug.

Sock felt that cut into him, into the desolate cold, feeling it dig deeply beneath a few layers of himself that the hoodie hadn't helped. That was him, Jonathan, the knife that didn't hurt. Not just his warmth, but also his concern, his companionship. Jonathan could have run when Sock told him about what happened, what he chose and why; he could have run so far away and Sock could have never seen him again. But he hadn't. He’d stayed. Sock didn't know what it meant, but his body felt it as the cold released his core and raced for his skin, only to become the other half to a stalemate of fronts. Sock’s eyelids closed, scrunching up when he hugged back.

Jonathan realized how human Sock was with how tightly he’d reciprocated the gesture. He was a pest, yes, but he was also so vulnerable at points, you could knock him down with a single remark. This human needed him, Jonathan was his stability right then. Regardless of Sock’s state of being, they were still stuck with each other. Not because they had to be now, but because they felt an obligation to the other to make sure they were okay. And there he was, Jonathan Combs was admitting to himself that he cared about Sock.

Sweet Jesus, what happened to the apathy?

Sock made adorable little sounds in his throat unknowingly as he shifted his head and tightened his grip. They caught Jonathan’s ears, and he resisted the urge to sigh. He felt himself caving; into what, he didn't know. “Still cold?”

“Not really. My head still kinda hurts though…”

Jonathan hummed in understanding before letting go. “C’mon, we’d better get home.”

Sock nodded despite the pain and walked quietly by his side for awhile.

The crunching of the ground beneath Jonathan’s feet was comforting. The fact that Sock really wasn't alone was comforting. He didn't even care that Jonathan had smacked him to wake him up before; he knew that waking him up was a feat.

Regardless, Jonathan broke the pensive yet comforting silence by bringing it up, “I’m sorry I hit you earlier…”

Sock looked confusedly at him, “What?” Sock kept his gaze on him for a moment.

“What?” Jonathan asked.

The two simultaneously fumbled over words in their own mouths and tripped over the words of the other. Jonathan explained how he thought he knew about the hit because he’d grabbed him afterward, and Sock tried to explain over him how it was okay. Finally, Sock got a word over Jonathan’s wall of over-explanation, “Don't worry about it. I don't care.”

“You don't?” Jonathan returned his confusion with his own expression.

“No. I know that waking me up is a challenge…” Sock admitted, slightly sheepish.

Jonathan didn't look convinced, even though Sock gave him no reason to think that what he was telling him was a lie.

Oh wait.  I'm a compulsive liar.  Of course there is.

“Besides,” Sock continued, “if I get a bruise, it would make me look tougher, right?” Sock walked backward to show Jonathan the other side of his face, the one he’d hit. He cocked his head, modeling the potential.

Jonathan smiled, bringing his gaze back up to ensure that he wouldn't walk into something.

Sock had succeeded in making Jonathan’s conscience a little less heavy. He grinned: mission accomplished.

“C’mon, wouldn't it?” Sock pushed, walking a little faster to keep up with the blonde’s longer legs.

“You couldn't look menacing if your life depended on it.”

Sock closed his eyes and cocked his head upward proudly, “On the contrary. You underestimate me. I can look very scary, if need be.”

“Show me,” Jonathan dared, slowing his pace absentmindedly.

“Nah… My fear factor is too much for you. You’d piss yourself if I showed you.”

“More like piss myself laughing.”

“Out of fear,” Sock added.

“People do that?”

“Laugh out of fear?” Sock nodded, “Yeah. I do, at least. But it’s more like an awkward chuckle than anything else, so it would be unlikely that you would piss yourself doing that…”

Jonathan scoffed, “You’re weird.”

Sock smirked up at him and countered with the classic response, “You just noticed?”

With an amused smile, the blonde replied, “I noticed that you suck faster.”

“Hey!” Sock shoved him.

Jonathan stumbled, but didn't stop chuckling. Then he turned, and looked Sock in the face when he pushed him back.

The two were gentle as they began to knock into each other with their shoulders. Looking each other in the eyes with light smiles, they travelled further away from the decomposing area just outside the city.

“It’s weird…” Jonathan began, “Now that you have a body and I can touch you and stuff…”

“Yeah…” Sock absently agreed, staring into the space of thinking of so many things at once and not all of them appropriate.

“Are you… Are you used to it yet? After being dead for so long?”

Sock snapped out of it, looking back at the boy next to him. “Well, I mean… It’s kinda… I don't know… Yes. But a year’s not that long, remember.”

“To not be alive?”

“Well that’s a different story…”

Jonathan paused… Curiously, he asked, “Sock?”

“Yeah?” his smaller companion answered.

“What’s it like to be reborn?”

Sock froze… “Well… You feel lighter, you feel… a little less disgusting to the rest of humanity…” He shrugged.

Jonathan shrugged as well, not knowing what to say.

“I’m so glad that you don't wear one of those light hoodies…” Abruptly switching topics, Sock nestled further into the hoodie around him.

“Are you still cold? It’s warm out.”

“So you should be grateful to have such a heavy hoodie off of you then…”

Jonathan rolled his eyes, “Seriously though, are you cold?” He tried to cover it up, but concern laced the air around him. He hoped that Sock was oblivious enough to have it go unnoticed.

“A little, not really. But I hope you aren't planning on getting this back…”

“You better be kidding...” The darkness Jonathan descended quickly into at that moment had Sock laughing out of fear. “I will kill you again before I let you take that from me.”

“So I mean less to you than a piece of clothing… Ouch,” Sock joked, “It’s nice to know where your priorities lie.”

Jonathan rolled his eyes again, a smile pulling at his lips. Jonathan had no idea what would happen down the road, but he did know one thing: when he was with Sock, nothing felt like the end of the world. Nothing felt urgent or lethal, and honestly, he couldn't be more calm during a demonically-apocalyptic scenario if he were with God herself.

 

Chapter Text

"C'mon Jonathan, it isn't that bad."


"Strangling myself with my spare guitar strings is not my ideal way to die, Sock," Jonathan's voice was tired and monotonous. He had responded only to give Sock an answer. He was tuning the instrument now, and winced when an exceptionally bad sound came from the A string.


"Well, what would be? You haven’t given me much to work with."


"Like it's my fault you're not more creative." Jonathan cursed under his breath when, even after adjustment, the note was off.

"I'm creative!" Sock protested, "I've just tried everything. You don’t like any of the ideas I put out. At least give me something!"


Jonathan looked up from his frustrating strings. "If I'm shooting down all your ideas, what does that tell you?"


Sock was sitting in midair hands on his criss-crossed legs. "That you're stubborn."


He shrugged. "Only with certain things."


Sock became distracted and let the subject drop.


---


It was white. Everything here was white. It wasn’t the dingy white Mephistopheles had been stuck with for his office, either. This was pure, bright, relentless white, something of a void. Whispers diverged when Sock appeared, moving out of the way swiftly and seamlessly over his ears, echoes drawn out even when the words were gone.


“Like Mephistopheles, I make business deals…”


“You could get a second chance from me. Another shot at living. Reborn, if you will.”


"I'd put you through a few trials that challenge you in some way.”

 

“What are your feelings towards Jonathan Combs?”

 

Something was definitely wrong; She hadn't said the details in that order. Wait--what? He hadn't been present for the conversation, and yet he recalled these lingering echoes as if he had heard them before. He felt like he was stumbling even when he stood perfectly in place between the utterances. He tried to piece it together, and--right, he had been spoken to. She had spoken to him, and Her voice hadn't sounded like a deity's at all, yet She had the presence of the universe in Her, and--

He stood outside the apartment complex with regained clarity and consciousness. He hadn't fallen asleep out here, that's for sure, especially standing up.


The cool breeze of early morning toyed with his hair. He had fallen asleep with his hat on, but even so, the visible bangs bounced a little, appreciating the attention received from the kind wind. He himself, however, stared at the opposite side of the street with a sort of confused seriousness he hadn't held in a while.


It's been a long time since I've sleepwalked… and he left the thought there, unwilling to go any further.


He turned around after a few more seconds with the breeze, shaking his head after a deep breath.


Why did I have a dream about--?


"Aah!" he shrieked, and Jonathan jumped in response. "What are you doing out here?" Sock questioned after he collected himself.


"I came out here to ask you the same thing," Jonathan explained. "I heard you get up, and when you didnt come back for awhile I went to find you to make sure nothing…" he hesitated, "that nothing would happen."


"Thanks," Sock was genuinely grateful, and managed a tiny smile.


"Don't mention it." Jonathan's face tinged pink.


The breeze whistled in their ears…


"We should get back inside," Sock suggested.


With a nod from Jonathan, they started towards the lobby's doors. It was subtle, but Sock distinctly felt a large hand lightly touch his back to guide him to the door. If that feeling had been merely a cocktail of his exhaustion, love, and longing, and only that… he didn’t believe--and didn’t want to believe--it was, so he didn’t.


They had decided to settle in a complex that hadn't completely collapsed. Parts of the building such as bits in the walls on some floors and most of the fire escapes were torn out and off, and Sock knew that it hadn’t been humans who did that. He could smell the distinct scent of the embers of hellfire when they had first scoped the place out, however faint they had been. Sock had made the correct assumption that they wouldn’t come back now that they had picked it over, ad since there were no signs of inhabitance, they had decided to camp there about two weeks ago.


Part of the wall was missing in the room they were staying in. Neither of the boys really minded. The blankets left there were thick.


The two filed into the apartment after climbing the flights of stairs back up to their room, and silently went back to sleep on the floor. That was one thing that had mildly disappointed them, the fact that the beds were shredded, springs in the mattress barely visible beneath the overwhelming pile of soft mattress innards. However, this was the room that had looked the safest to inhabit out of all of the ones they had checked, so they'd had to make do.

Sock settled into his designated blanket nest, back facing his roommate. He heard Jonathan grunt as he settled a few feet away, closer to the one step down into the kitchen from the living room.


---


It was mere minutes after Sock had begun staring at the bird's twitching movements outside Jonathan's window that the blond had begun to play. At first a simple arpeggio just to warm up his fingers a little. He looked up, and Sock was staring at him with rapt attention. He couldn’t suppress the smirk that hijacked his lips. He looked back down and played the opening to Mother Mother's 'Ghosting'. He had grown comfortable with playing in front of Sock in the time he'd spent with him. It was a comfortable activity for both of them. Sock was quiet yet entertained, and Jonathan got better at something he enjoyed doing. It was a win-win.


Once Jonathan got past the opening and to the point where the lyrics were supposed to come in, he stayed silent, and continued on with just playing.


"You're not gonna sing for me?" Sock teased, knowing full-well that he wouldn’t.


Jonathan was nearly unfazed. He only glanced upward, yet continued to play.


---


Sock waited a while until he heard Jonathan's breathing deepen. He figured that maybe the rhythm of his companion's respiratory system could lull him into sleep.


It of course, with his luck, did not.


He didn’t like the fact that he was sleepwalking again. That wasn’t a good sign. He also hadn’t known why he'd had such a bizarre dream. Normally when he was sleepwalking, he would have a dream where he was running, or moving in one way or another. He had been standing completely still.

Is She trying to tell me something? No, it can't be that. She said that She wouldn’t interfere from that point on...
So what was it then?


Without an answer, his memories of Her came on like medicine: gradually, and bittersweet.

---


Guitar abandoned, the boys began talking again. It was rare conversations like these that Jonathan would even dare say he cared about. For a few measly minutes, Sock was a normal kid, and so was he, just talking about anything and everything.

Sock laughed, "Yeah, I remember listening to them, even back then! My parents were huge fans."


"Huh."


"Yeah. Apparently, my mom was pregnant with me when they went to a concert of--"


The room shook slightly. The guitar picks in the little box on Jonathan's dresser rattled for a few brief seconds, and stopped.
Sock was about to offer a ridiculous solution to the shaking, knowing Jonathan had felt it through the floorboards and up through the bed from his incredulous expression.

He couldn’t speak.

And all of the sudden, his voice came back in a shocked, scared little scream as he was forcibly pulled from Jonathan's room via the ceiling.


At first, Jonathan thought it was a joke. He waited a few moments, perched on the edge of his bed as he stared at the space on the ceiling through which Sock had left.


It took a while to sink in that maybe that scream had sounded a little too convincing.


He stood, eyes never leaving that spot on the ceiling. "Sock…?" he warily called.


Nothing came back, but concern introduced itself when he shouted to his ceiling,


"Sock?!"

Chapter Text

The wind aggressively buffeted his ears, and they popped as he ascended to God-knew-where. His limbs were at the mercy of the wind, twisting this way and that and oh God, that looked like it was supposed to hurt. If he were alive, he was sure that he wouldn't survive this rough ascension. His body oriented itself in different positions because of the way the wind blew, which Sock was not comfortable with in the slightest. The force of the upward pull made his eyes feel like popping out of, or letting themselves be sucked into their respective sockets, but he couldn’t help but take everything in with a petrified, wide-eyed curiosity.

Earth's atmosphere was surprisingly brief to pass at the speed in which he skyrocketed, giving way to the black space in all it's infinity. He seemed to slow, if only a little, there, and watched the stars blur past his gradually slowing form. Mind you, he was still going impossibly fast, yet slow enough to realize where he was. He only really slowed when the black faded to the familiar maroon of the tunnel system connecting the worlds of the afterlife and the land of the living. Who knew where the light came from in there. He traveled from Earth's path, upward still, and he couldn’t make out the sign past a light so blinding, that even when he closed his eyes, it still burned. He would have brought his hand up to help shield his eyes, but even as he slowed to a tolerable speed, he found that his limbs still didn’t cooperate, and felt the forceful wind in his bones, pressing down on him.


He sensed himself coming to a slow stop, and the familiar sensation of displacement as he drifted through something like a floor. His body had somehow ended up in a perfect sitting position, and he was lowered gently onto a chair. When he finally opened his eyes, a woman stood before him behind an immaculately white desk.

"Welcome, Sock," She said, her voice smooth and twanged with a charming accent. "I apologize if the trip up was a bit rough, I've been told it's a bit nauseating."


"I think I'm gonna throw up," Sock blurted. He hadn’t so much as twitched since he'd been seated, head resolutely held in one place to avoid getting dizzy. The wind attempting to snap his neck on the way up might have had something to do with it.

"It'll pass, dear, it always does. Just give it a sec," She assured him.

He breathed for a while, staring at a random spot on the desk as he tried to regain his composure. Once he reigned himself in enough to take in his surroundings properly, he swallowed, and spoke, "Sorry about that."

"Don’t be sorry, sweetie, I'm used to people wanting to throw up in my presence," She then proceeded to laugh at her self-deprecation.

Sock found himself mildly uncomfortable. He didn’t know who this woman was, or where he was, and now she was making self-deprecating jokes he didn’t know how to respond to.

…Wait.

No. He couldn’t be. She couldn't be…?

"You're Her…" Sock thought aloud, and hadn’t realized until the words were already out.

"I'm who, sweetie?" She asked sweetly, asking more for his perspective on her than anything else.


"You're God." He figured that was better than 'the woman my boss complains about all the time'.


"Call me Providence, hon." She extended a hand.


Sock took it, but felt mild shame in doing so. He didn’t deserve to shake God's hand after all the bad he'd done and intended to do.


"I'll be honest, Sock," She took a seat, "I've been watching you for a little while. You’ve made quite a fan out of me, I must say."


Sock blushed, "W-why? How?"


"You're quite the complicated being…" She trailed off, and stared at him in thought for a few moments.


"What is it?" Sock asked, growing redder in the face.


She didn’t respond immediately, "You remind me of someone, is all." She paused, something flashing in Her eyes that was distant and cold with hardship faced alone, then started up again, suddenly cheery, "Anyway, Sock, I called you up here to ask you a few questions."


When he shrunk into himself slightly, She reassured him, "Don't worry. Although the questions may be a little challenging to answer, nothing is going to happen here that you don’t have control over."


There was something in Her voice that made him believe Her.


"So what do you need?" Sock asked, still skeptical. After all, the questions were to be "challenging", and who knew what that meant coming from God?


She thought for a moment, keeping eye contact. Sock gulped, stomach twisting under intimidation.


"What are your feelings towards Jonathan Combs?"


"Aah…" That was a little too personal to start out with. He knew it was. Even when he held that fact in mind, he realized that only when the question was posed aloud that he didn’t know the answer. "I don't know."


She began to pace absently about the room. "Well it's clear from the time I've observed you that you like the boy, but I'm not sure if it's..."


Sock would have asked 'it's what?' but refrained because he didn’t really want to know the answer.


"Well, we'll see I suppose," She mused.


What does that mean?!  Sock panicked.


She saw Her mistake in his eyes. She held a brief look of guilt over an issue that's been in desperate need of acknowledgement for the longest time, seemingly unrelated. She put Herself back in the present quickly, seamlessly slipping into a casual demeanor. "Relax dear, I didn’t mean anythin' by it. Why does it make you so nervous?"


Sock caught himself before he could say he wasn’t. Who knew what would happen if She caught him lying? "I…" he tried to find some words, "It's just that… I don’t know." His gaze fell to his lap.


"Hey," She coaxed, and his eyes lifted just enough to see Her, "I'm sorry, I'm getting ahead of myself." She stopped. "You have nice eyes, by the way."


Sock had never been this flattered and honestly didn’t know how to proceed. "Thank you," he managed, bashful as he brought the flaps of his hat closer to his face.


Is She trying to make me feel calm?


"What is this, really?" Sock questioned.


Providence eyed him with some respect, and took a seat again, Her feet propped on Her desk and Her hands folded in Her lap. "Like Mephistopheles, I make business deals. And Sock, if you're interested, I want to make you an offer you can't refuse," She delivered the line like a sales pitch, and Sock had flashbacks to the last time a deity had said something like that to him.

"I'm listening?"


She stood up, circled above the floor to the back of Her chair and perched Her arms on the chair back, hanging in the air.

"You do realize that your situation is a stalemate, right?"

Sock was struck with confusion. "What?"


"Your job. Jonathan doesn’t want to commit suicide, and you can't back down. Something's gotta give."


Of course Sock knew. It haunted him just as frequently as he haunted Jonathan. It was a looming shadow, always lingering there, counting down the seconds that Jonathan had to live. He nodded solemnly.


"But you… kinda like that, don't you?"


Sock felt like if he asked this question, he would be too far gone to turn back. Whatever was to happen would change him in some way… That ominous feeling didn't sit well with him. He tread lightly when he asked anyway, "What do you mean?"

"You get both of the things you've always wanted: a friend, and a punishment-free way of murdering someone."

Sock felt stripped of everything. Even he didn’t really know what he wanted, but now that She had pointed it out and stated it so bluntly, he realized that She was right. "Well, I…guess you have a point…"


"What if I told you there was a way to break that stalemate? What would be your response?"

"I'd ask you what you plan on doing to me…" He shifted to the back part of his seat, cautious.


Providence giggled, "Nothing that isn't of your choosing."


He continued with a careful yet polite tone, "Yeah, you keep mentioning that. What would my choices be?"

Providence eyed him again, this time with more mischief in an otherwise otherworldly form of an unreadable expression. "Are you sure you want to know?"


Sock nodded.


She paused, and it may well have been for dramatic effect, "If you had to choose between your job and Jonathan, which would you pick?"


Sock's heart and jaw dropped. A few tiny sounds escaped into the open from deep in his throat, the beginnings of words which never formed.


"Close you're mouth, sweetheart, you'll catch flies," Providence advised, clearly too amused at his reaction.

Sock closed his mouth very slowly, pressing his lips together once they met.


He quickly found that under Her expectant eyes was not a place he wanted to be ever again. "What do you expect me to say?" he asked.

"Well, what do you want to say?"


"God, I don't know! Er--sorry."


Providence made Her wrist go limp with casual dismissal, "Don't worry about it. 'Happens all the time."


An angel suddenly burst into the room, looking anxious. He was holding a perfectly neat stack of papers, and frantically began making excuses like he'd been shot out of a cannon.


"Excuse me Providence, I'm so sorry to disturb this important meeting, but I just wanted to run these papers to you as soon as possible because you'd said to earlier and--" the man went on and on.


Providence watched him, politely listening to him with Her chin on the heel of Her palm, waiting for him to finish. When he had, Providence smiled and simply responded, "Thank you Randy, I'll take them now." She met him halfway and took the papers, floating back over past the desk to drop them in a sort of cubby system, specifically into a cubby labeled 'Inbox'. Randy left, and the two were alone again.

"Sorry about that, he's new. So," She dropped back into Her seat, "can you describe your thought process on all this?"

Sock grappled for words again. He didn’t struggle quite as much as the last time. "It's just… I… I care too much about both of them."


Providence didn’t miss a beat. "Jonathan specifically, or just the notion of having a friend in general?"


"Jonathan! I mean, he's the first person that has ever come close to being a friend to me, and--" It was when he stopped did it really hit him that talking to a stranger about personal matters was marginally liberating. That, and just by looking at Her face, he could tell that that was exactly the answer She'd been looking for. "Why are you looking at me like that?"

"So if Mephistopheles re-assigned you to anybody else in the world right now, you feel like you could go on with your job?"

Well, maybe not anyone, but most people, probably. He settled on,"…Maybe."


"Maybe? So… you're not completely confident in your ability to do your job?"


He supposed that maybe Jonathan had something to do with that. Even if he didn’t tell him on a near-constant basis how much he sucked at his job, he still hadn't killed himself, or showed any signs of wanting to do so, and that alone didn’t give Sock much hope.


He shook his head.

"I see..." She saw all.

"While you may not know what exactly your feelings are towards Jonathan, you mentioned before that you care about him. Are you positive about that?"


"Absolutely," he said, without a moment's hesitation.


"You seem pretty confident with that much, at least." It wasn’t hostile. It just… planted a seed in Sock's brain, which was what it was meant to do.


Sock didn’t notice, but his face went red again.


He stared into his lap for a long moment of thought, and his head suddenly perked back up. "That question before… the one where you asked which I would pick… Why did you ask me that?"


She smiles, "Because it depends on the offer I give you," She states, matter-of-factly.


"What offers are you thinking of giving me, then?"


She brightened considerably from an already cheery state. "I'm glad you asked, Sock!" Her smile suddenly vanished, and Sock couldn’t choose which expression he disliked more: the expectant one, or the serious, all-business one She was currently giving him. "I'm going to give you three options. Firstly, if you choose your job, I could put in a good word to Mephistopheles and have you reassigned. You could both continue on your merry way as if your time together never happened."
Sock's heart dropped again, and threatened to fall out the hole in his stomach.


Providence took note of his expression. She continued, "Secondly, the middle-ground option. You could pretend as if our encounter never happened, and still go on being Jonathan's demon, continuing the stalemate until Jonathan inevitably dies." She paused… "And then the third option. You could get a second chance from me. Another shot at living. Reborn, if you will."

Well, this sounds promising.


"I'd pull a few strings so that your history never would have existed, and the only human who would be aware of your death and all that came with it besides you, would be Jonathan. And, in addition, you may just end up getting into heaven if you can keep yourself out of trouble. But, it's your decision."


"…What's the catch?"


"Sorry?" Providence asked.


"The catch. What do I have to do in exchange for that?"

"For which one, sweetheart?"

"That last one."


"You'd have to go through a… certain kind of purgatory. You wouldn't be stumbling through it for all eternity like some people might, but you would stumble through it for quite a while until I feel like it's okay for you to go back down to Earth."

He had a lot of new questions. "What do you mean by 'certain kind of purgatory'?"

"You're a sharp one, aren't you?" When Sock gave a sheepish shrug, She continued, "I'd put you through a few trials that challenge you in some way."

"Hm… It wouldn’t be too long that I'm in there, right? I mean, I don't mind how long it takes, but--"

"If Jonathan's dead by the time you get out, then what's the point?" She finished for him.

Sock was suddenly very self-concious, "Yeah…"

"Understood. Don't worry, I'll take care of it."

"How?" he asked, wanting to be in on the cool stuff She could do to ensure this worked.

"I'll take care of it." She apparently didn’t want to tell him.

A pause.

"What about you?" Sock finally questioned, "What's your motive for doing this?"

She thought for a moment. "Consider this a social experiment."

She didn’t say anything more on the subject.

"Okay?" Sock agreed, somewhat.

"So, judging by the fact that you're asking so many questions about it, I can assume you're interested?"

Sock mulled it over. On the one hand, the last one sounded so appealing, but on the other hand, he felt like She must have intentionally made it sound like that. She was counting on the fact that he would choose Jonathan.

In a way, he guessed that they both would be counting on Jonathan.

"Lemme get this straight: I'll be put through a series of trials, and in exchange for going through all the trials, I get another shot at life, possibly with Jonathan, and with the possibility that I may get to Heaven if I don’t screw it up. Am I missing anything?"

"Nope. I think you've pretty much covered all the bases." She nonchalantly folded her hands and rested Her chin in the nest they made. "So Mr. Sowachowski, do we have a deal?"

Sock stared at her for a moment, before his face busted out into a grin.


"I believe we do."

Chapter Text

And then there were no surroundings, and he was falling.

Falling falling falling through the air and panic, panicpanicpanic, setting in as the wind blasted past his ears and he cannonballed toward the rapidly approaching planet Earth.

His eyes widened so much and he was suddenly crying because the wind blasting on him was too much for his body to bear. He kind of thought he was hyperventilating, but he couldn't even really tell if he was breathing. He was in the clouds, falling through the sky and it was beautiful but he couldn't focus on it, couldn't see it at all, all he could think of was Her as he screamed. There was a single thought, just one primal instinct that She could help him. All that fear, all that confusion, it all came out in one desperate cry, “PROVIDENCE!”

Her voice in his ears was a whisper, and it faded into the sky around him as he fell. “Congratulations, Sock. You did it.”

“Did what?!” He shouted, distressed, terribly confused and petrified.

She continued, “I won’t interfere from here on out.”

His hat fell off, parachuting up into the air above him. His gasp and the cry that followed was nearly overshadowed in his ears as She began talking again. “As soon as you hit the ground, you’re on your own.”

And then there was this… thought? That maybe... maybe she was trying to just. Erase his existence, for whatever reason. Once I hit the ground, that’s it. I’m not coming back, I should've just said no and oh my god I can see the ground!

He was hurtling towards the ground, so so so fast and his insides were aching and he was screaming so loudly.

“Good luck, Sock. I hope it’s worth it for you.”

He screamed.

And he braced to hit the ground.

And he didn't. His eyes were closed. His body was the tensest it had ever been. But he was not dead.

He opened his eyes.

He was levitating gently, alive with nerves that made him shake over the ground, staring unnecessarily petrified at the severely early morning sky.

And then a cooling sensation, something that felt like reality crawled over his skin and settled within it. He felt a little like he’d hit the ground with a soft thump, a pulse, even though he hadn't yet.

And he felt.

Physical.

It was really, really weird to feel like that again.

And then he hit the ground.

A groan exploded into the air as he hit earth.

He kept groaning as he adjusted, blinking again and again to clear his eyes and be able to at least take in information again. His thoughts slowed in their pace, he was able to hear and decipher them as soon as his heart stopped beating so fast and loudly.

Where am I? Earth, yeah. But where?

He looked around, the side of his head was pressed into his forearm on the ground. He’d concluded that he’d fallen on his side. Apparently the air rolled him out of itself instead of just dropping him. That was nice. He guessed.

Houses. There were houses on the other side of the street and there was a blade of grass tickling his nose, a few more tickling his face. He sneezed.

He took a moment afterwards to calm down, to really take in the feel of grass and more importantly earth under him.

The area around his diaphragm ached. His lungs ached. His throat burned. His nerves were still alight, and he still shook, though he was better than when he’d first landed.

He sat up.

MY HAT!

Sock’s hand flew to his head even though he knew his hat wasn't there, and then.

Plop!

There it was. Crooked, lopsided, and a flap was in his face, but there it was: on his head, where it belonged. He looked up toward the sky where his hat had fallen from. “Thanks,” he murmured to the sky, to Her, while straightening his signature item.

“Sock?” A tentative voice called from behind him, and Sock perked up. His heart squeezed.

Sock slowly stood up, not trusting himself to be able to stand. On only mildly wobbly knees, he turned around.

Examining him from the window was Jonathan Combs.

Sock’s grin felt like it never stopped, like it just kept spreading on his face and it would just go on for infinity. He felt like it had been ages since he’d last seen him. He waved.

Jonathan slowly backed away from the window, not believing his eyes.

Once he was out of Sock’s sight, he bolted. Out of his room, down the stairs, and the adrenaline rush sent him tripping on the last step. He landed with his hands and his forearm on the door, steadying himself.

And he paused.

He remembered the nightmares he’d been having.

Why was this so hard for him? Why was it so hard for him to be without Sock now?

His thought was a deafening roar in the silent foyer, clear as crystal: If he isn't there, then I’m going to have to accept that he isn't coming back.

He just kind of wished he knew why.

He kind of really wished he knew why.

Why he wasn't coming back, why he left to begin with, what happened to him, nothing was answered.

There was something beyond curiosity there: worry.

He didn't like it, but it was there, and he knew it was there, balled up in his middle even when he didn't think about it.

Jesus Christ…

He took a deep breath, opened the door.

Sock stood there on the lawn.

Really.

He was actually, really there, and Jonathan could see him, see the smile slowly growing onto his face and he wasn't one of those mind tricks where he blinked and Sock was gone.

Jonathan had no idea how to react; he was convinced that the ball of worry, or the lingering suspicion that this was all in his head, kept him from moving.

Sock started towards him, walking slowly because he still didn't trust his legs.

Jonathan met him halfway. He knew he probably looked dumb as hell, stumbling sleepily across his lawn to someone who may or may not be real.

“Hey, hot stuff,” Sock said, not having planned what he was going to say once this moment came. He liked it though; he liked the reference.

“Hey,” his voice was rough with disbelief. Maybe this is just a figment of my imagination. Maybe he’s still gone and I’m talking to no one… but if it isn't...

“How’ve you been holding up?” Sock asked, eyes glinting with concern even with the smile still on his face.

Jonathan blinked. Once, twice. Something festered under his ribs, in his core, and it welled inside of him faster than he realized. He swallowed his indignation, tried to push it as hard as he could down and away from himself. He didn't succeed. “Me? What about you? You disappeared on me.”

Sock raised his eyebrows in surprise. “Did… did you-?” Miss me?

Jonathan rushed to cover it up, to pretend like he didn't care when he so desperately wanted answers. “It was just sudden, y’know? No explanation, I just… I thought it was weird, even for you.”

“Oh.” Jonathan didn't know what ‘oh’ meant. Add that to the list, he thought bitterly. I’m not bitterI’m not bitter!

Sock suddenly smirked, “Are ya sure? ‘Cause it sure sounds like you missed me.”

Jonathan rolled his eyes and crossed his arms, staring at a harmless tree off on his neighbor’s property. “You never answered my question.”

Sock’s face faltered, his whole mood seeming to shift and then try to correct itself. “It’s… it’s a long story…”

Jonathan shifted his arms, tried to look intimidating, staring down to Sock with impatience. “I’ve got time. And so do you. Hell, especially you.”

“See, about that…” Sock giggled, nervously.

“No. No excuses. Why can't you just-?”

“Look.” With one movement, Sock got his attention. His tone stunned Jonathan, but it was the hand connecting with the blonde’s shoulder that left him speechless.

Jonathan’s eyes nearly popped out of his head. His gaze was set on Sock’s, and it trailed up the boy’s arm to the hand that rested solidly on his shoulder.

“You can touch me,” Jonathan breathed, awed by this revelation.

Sock nodded. “Yeah… Like I said: It’s a long story. Well, actually not that long since I can’t really remember a lot of it, but uh… I’d imagine it’s pretty complicated…” A thought hit Sock up the side of the head at precisely the wrong time. He looked around. It was night. “Wait, Jonathan, what time is it?”

“What, do you need to be back to Hell by midnight or something?” His tone was biting. I’m not bitter… he reminded himself, because, apparently, his body needed to be reminded of that.

“Please, Jonathan, this is important. What time is it?”

Jonathan surveyed his worried expression, “... I didn't check on my way down. Probably like… I don't know, 4 o’clock?”

“Your mom gets home at 5 from the hospital, right?”

And as if on cue, the sound of tires and the beams of headlights just began pulling around the corner into the cul-de-sac.

When Sock turned back to Jonathan, there were tears in his eyes.

“What the-?”

“Can you play along? Please?” His voice was wobbly, and he started scrubbing at his cheeks with his hands, frantically rubbing the tears away.

“Play along? What?” Just like that, Sock’s full weight was thrust onto Jonathan. Sock was a puddle in Jonathan’s arms and he had no idea what the fuck was going on.

“Jonathan?” The boy looked up to see his mother, looking exhausted after a long shift at the hospital, just getting out of her car and concerned to see the figure crying near-hysterically into his shoulder. “Jonathan, who’s this? What’s going on?”

“I’m so sorry!” Sock wailed, “I’m so sorry to be a bother but I… I’m so so sorry, Jonathan…”

Jonathan’s mother looked to her son, wanting and expecting answers. Sock’s sobs rocked through his body, and Jonathan stumbled a little bit to keep his balance. His eyes ping-ponged from his mom to Sock many times before he shrugged as best as he could, searching for words.

His mom nodded and ushered the two back inside.

Chapter Text

Sock was on the couch within minutes, legs elevated with pillows. Jonathan’s mom hadn't known if he was in shock or not, or how severe it was. He laid there for a while, taking deep breaths and pulling himself together. He had saved Jonathan from having to answer his mom’s questions by asking for him to sit with him. So Jonathan sat leaning with his back against the couch, grateful for the out. Jonathan thought he was close to figuring out what was happening, but there was still too many missing pieces.

Once Sock’s breathing was finally even, he sat up and turned to Jonathan’s mom. “You probably have a lotta questions.”

“Yes, yes I do, but don’t feel forced to answer them, okay?” Her tone was calm, like she was talking to a scared animal. “What’s your name, sweetheart?”

“I’m Sock. And, before you ask, Jonathan and I met this school year. I moved here in July from Ohio. I was kinda eager to make friends and I just sorta... latched onto your son here,” he laughed, and Jonathan was amazed at how easily and how believably the lie came.

“What are you doing here, Sock?”

Sock’s face fell as he stopped laughing. He waited a moment, staring at his legs now criss-crossed on the couch. “I… um… my… my parents and I aren’t… We don't always agree? Not that they were ever abusive or anything, they weren't, they just… We had a big argument, and…” After a brief pause, Sock took on a tone of acceptance. “Well, they kicked me out. And… and I’m… Jonathan’s the only friend I have, so I… I didn't know where else to go.”

Little shit. As soon as the last line left Sock’s lips, Jonathan lost all sympathy or concern he had for Sock. Well, he didn't lose the concern, but he wished he did. Fucker just wanted to stay in my house so he’s guilt-tripping my mom.

“You can stay here as long as you like, Sock.”

“What?” Jonathan asked, trying to mask his anger with plain confusion.

“Yeah, I don't have a problem with it. I normally make too much food, anyway.”

Sock’s face lit up. “Oh my god, thank you so so much! I’m almost to the age where I can move out and be on my own so I can start looking for apartments now and I’ll be out of your hair in no time I promise thank you so much I don't want to be a burden-”

“Sock, don't worry about it. You seem like a good kid, and I’m sure you’d do the same thing for Jonathan, God forbid he ever need it.”

“Absolutely.”

Jonathan was absolutely flabbergasted by the scene going down in front of him. His mother, a normally very skeptical woman who certainly was in no way a pushover, was rolling over and surrendering to Sock, Sock, who she deemed a “good kid” after knowing him for a whole of about 10-15 minutes. She was so obviously being played and Jonathan was so incredibly frustrated that he couldn't even tell her. He’s guilt-tripping you! He’s guilt-tripping you just so he can stay here!

If he were being totally honest, the whole scenario was kind of terrifying.

“Jonathan?”

Caught off guard, Jonathan verbally stumbled a bit before answering. “Yeah?”

“I’m goin’ up to shower and then I’m gonna fall down. I’m exhausted. Make sure Sock gets everything he needs, all right?”

“...Okay.”

His mom ruffled his hair and kissed his head. “Love you.”

“Love you too,” he was almost hesitant to say it in front of Sock. He had done it before; he couldn't imagine why Sock being suddenly corporeal changed that. His mom started into the kitchen, and he could only glare at Sock for a moment.

Sock said nothing, staring back, taking it.

“Mom?” Jonathan called, starting after her.

Once she stopped on the far side of the kitchen, “Yes, what is it, honey?”

Jonathan was lost for words for a minute. He finally settled on, “Really? Just like that?”

“What do you mean?”

He kept his voice low, though he wasn't entirely sure why. “You don't even know the kid and now he’s gonna be staying with us?”

Her lips curled upwards in a weary smile, “Jonathan…” She sighed, then looked at him frankly. “When was the last time you had a friend over, huh?”

Jonathan looked to the side, unable to help the burn of embarrassment in his cheeks. It had been… a while, to say the least. The last time he could remember was that one time in middle school, where this kid, Josh, was paired with him on a school project. Even then, they weren't really friends, nor did they even stay in contact. In fact, he was fairly sure that he was one of the guys who terrorized him freshman year. He couldn't tell. He kind of looked similar, but Jonathan didn't really get a good enough look to determine it. But it wasn't like he was ashamed of not having friends, and it wasn't like it was some great conspiracy as to why he didn't have any.

“Besides,” his mom started, and he met her eyes, “I trust your judgement. He seemed like a good kid to me, and if he’s your friend, he’s a friend to me.”

Jonathan felt an awkward twitch in his heart when she said ‘friend’. He didn't know what to make of it.

“Why, is there a reason I shouldn't trust him?”

Jonathan panicked, he should have expected the question, but with all the thoughts dancing and spinning around with residual emotions in his head, he hadn't even considered it.

The kid’s a murderer who tried to convince me to kill myself for a year! “He’s-!” Jonathan managed, maybe a little too panickedly, then grappled with his vocabulary, “...weird.”

His mother shrugged, “Hey, maybe you need that.”

Jonathan knit his brows, “What do you mean?”

She smiled again, “Maybe having Sock around’ll give you a different perspective.”

Mom, you have no idea, he thought.

“You’re lookin’ at me like I just sprouted a second head… is there something going on here that I don't know about? Has Sock been… bullying you?” She seemed a bit disbelieving of the possibility of the latter part of her statement, but hard concern twisted her expression.

That’s… kind of an understatement, honestly.

“No,” he lied, and he didn’t like lying, but technically it wasn't a lie. It depended on how you looked at the situation. Sure, Sock was definitely a “bully”, but that was just his job, and even though he still teased Jonathan in his off hours, it wasn’t ever malicious. In fact, Sock could be kind of… what? What’s the word? Jonathan thought, but didn’t have time to come up with an answer.

“Then what’s goin’ on?”

Jonathan looked off to the side again, letting out a harsh sigh. For a moment, he actually thought his eyes stung. “It’s just… overwhelming…This all happened so fast...” He stopped immediately when his voice broke.

He didn't want this to happen. He didn't want to cry to his mommy about how lonely he was because he wasn’t lonely and even if he was it was his fault he had done it to himself and he was fine with that he was honestly perfectly 100% fine and he didn’t have to unload all of this onto his mom because she was exhausted and he hadn’t slept well in two weeks and he didn’t even feel the need he swore, he was fine.

Woah. Where did that come from? Deep down, he knew the answer, but couldn’t, wouldn’t, shouldn’t have focused on it right then. Later, he would.

Later.

He blinked the subtle burning behind his eyes back with two blinks. He swallowed the mass in his throat. He did this all so fast that his mom barely noticed.

“I know, baby, I know. Don't be so scared, honey. Change is a good thing. It may be overwhelming now, but I’m sure you’ll get used to it.”

He tried so hard to smile for her, but it just came out fearful and forced.

“Aw, sweetie…” and she wrapped him in a hug, and he let her. He normally wasn't one for physical contact, but he had always made an exception for his mom. Most of the time, one or both of them needed it and wouldn't admit it. Jonathan was very much like his mother, calm and collected, and they both weren't very good at expressing their emotions. However, his mother was a little better than him, especially when she was tired. “You always give the best hugs…” she mused against his middle.

Jonathan made a short, fond sound that wasn't unlike a hum cut short.

He couldn't help the feeling of wanting to hold her for longer after she pulled away.

“You okay with helpin’ him set up?”

“Yeah.” He wasn't.

“You sure?” She saw right through him.

“Yeah, I got it.”

“Okay, night honey.”

“Night mom.”

She ruffled his hair and and left him with a sad smile on his face.

Jonathan waited until his mom was past the foyer, up the stairs.

He waited until he heard the shower running, and sighed.

He trudged into the living room.

Before he was even in the room, Sock was already running his mouth. “Jonathan I'm so so so so sorry! I didn't have a choice but I promise I’ll be out of your wa-!”

“Are you coming?”

Sock froze. “What?”

“Are you. coming?” Jonathan dictated, slower this time.

Sock blinked. “You… You want me to?”

Jonathan shrugged and scratched the back of his neck. “Mom’s gonna know something’s up if I kick you out now, so…”

There was no smile on Sock’s face, just eyes holding promise. “You won’t regret this, I promi-”

“Shut up,” the interruption was tired, weary, possessing no bite at all.

Sock shut up.

They wordlessly climbed the stairs. They decided that Sock would stay in the guest bedroom in as little words as possible. When they were finished, Jonathan heavily dropped down on his bed. He didn't lay down; he backed up against the wall and let his legs hang off the side.

Sock stood in the doorway, completely clueless as to what to do. “Well, um… I’ll let you sleep.”

“No.”

“...No?”

Jonathan turned his head to him and scowled. “I want fuckin’ answers, Sock. Is that so surprising to you?” Jonathan felt a twinge of guilt, but felt indignant all the same.

Sock cowered at that. He tentatively moved into the room, feeling very real again, and not liking it. “I don't know if I have all of them for you, but I’ll try my best.”

Jonathan stared at him for a second before sighing. “Sit down,” he gestured to the spot beside him.

Sock dropped down onto the bed next to him, scooting up to put his upper body flush against the wall to match Jonathan.

“So?”

“So…?”

“What happened just now? With the--crying, and all that what was that?”

“I can cry on command.”

“Of course you can,” Jonathan concluded, unamused.

Sock slumped a little, “I used to be in drama classes. They never really full-on taught it, but when you’re there long enough, you sort of just pick it up.” He petered off toward the end, still feeling very self-aware and not wanting to overstay his welcome in anything, even a simple explanation.

Jonathan shrugged; he supposed that made sense. He never really saw the appeal of the theater, himself. He liked viewing it, but performing it wasn’t something he was ever interested in.

He breathed for a moment. He assumed that he was readying himself for the big question he was about to ask, but he didn’t see why he needed to be readied in the first place. He was ready. He also wasn't the one who had to answer. And then the thought of Sock answering triggered the acknowledgement of the unknowing feeling in his chest, the discomfort in not knowing if Sock would actually answer him or not, answer him directly, or not. Just a few minutes ago, Sock had tried to evade the same question he was about to ask, what made asking him now any different?

Jonathan knit his brows and turned back to Sock, “What happened to you? Where’d you go?”

Sock looked up at an insignificant corner of the ceiling. “Well, uh, let’s see. I uh, got a trip through space, and I met God.”

“You met… God?” Jonathan questioned, less like a question, more like disbelief.

“Yeah! She’s really nice, as you could probably assume.”

“She?” Jonathan asked.

“Yeah, God’s a woman. A very nice, very--short woman.

“Huh. Okay, so… how did you meet Her?”

“She summoned me, I guess. That’s why I left so quickly. It wasn't me doing that. It was just this weird pull thing.”

“Weird… pull thing?”

“Yeah. Like I was being pulled out of the room against my will.”

“Huh,” Jonathan acknowledged. That explains why he looked so scared when he left. He shook his head. “So then what happened?”

“She gave me a few offers.”

“Which were?”

Sock stopped. He stared forward intently, looking much like the day the two had first met. He had gulped as the bus pulled in front of them in the early morning, looking for all the world like a scared boy who didn't know what he was doing. He looked older, somehow, now.

Jonathan leaned forward, staring at him funny.

Sock met his eyes for a moment. “I’m trying to think of how to word it,” Sock said, gnawing on his lip.

“No no, I know, I'm just… I’m wondering why you look so much older from the side…” Jonathan chided himself, knowing that that was definitely a stupid thing to bring up at that moment.

Sock slowly bust out into a grin. He snorted, “You never have your priorities straight, do you?”

Despite himself, Jonathan reddened and turned away, sheepish. “Guess not. But it’s not like you’re exactly on the straight and narrow either.”

Definitely not,” Sock chuckled.

There was a bit of silence as Sock thought his answer over, but now it was… calmer, less like they were about to jump off a precipice.

Sock finally came up with an answer after several minutes, “She offered me a second shot. Another chance at life.”

“In exchange for what?”

“What do you mean?”

“You can’t be saying that She offered you a second chance at living out of the goodness of Her heart.”

Sock shrugged, “She said I was Her guinea pig for some kind of experiment. For what, I don’t know.”

“What do you mean, you don’t know?”

“I don’t know. She didn't say. She said I’d go through some trials, but the next thing I know I’m back here.”

Jonathan kind of perked up at that, like he’d been listening but losing focus by degrees, and was thrown back into the conversation at the mention of these ‘trials’. “Trials? What did She mean by trials?”

“I don’t know! I can’t remember anything. The last thing I remember is Her telling me that we had a deal and then I was falling through the air and then you found me. That’s all I know.”

“Hm,” Jonathan acknowledged. He paused for a bit, and then asked, “What were the other offers?”

“It doesn't matter,” Sock said, defensive maneuvers employed, now, “This is what I chose, so why do the other ones matter?”

“Why did you choose this one, then? What made you choose this one over the others?”

Sock was starting to feel interrogated. “L-lots of reasons.”

“Like?” Jonathan pressed.

“You’re asking a lot of questions…” Sock stated in a futile way of telling Jonathan that he was a bit overwhelmed. Jonathan either didn’t notice, or didn’t care.

“What’re some reasons?” Jonathan had to know. He had to know if his dreams held some truth to them, that what he saw might have actually been true.

“You.”

The word had slipped out before any thought process had taken place. It was hoarse, it was pressured, and it was high-pitched but it was true.

Sock looked away, almost mechanically turning his head in increments towards his lap.

...

The two vaguely heard the sound of the shower turning off a few rooms away.

“...Me?”

“...”

“Why me?”

“...There was no contest.” Sock whispered, but got a little louder for the next part, though he still wasn’t looking at Jonathan. “I… I knew that you needed to be in the equation somewhere.” He hesitated. “I… She gave me three offers. One had me reassigned. I’d continue on with my job and you’d go off scot-free… I’d let you go… but I needed to see you. I couldn’t just not see you after all this…” He took a breath, something unspoken played in the air, and continued, “The next was where I could just pretend like She’d never summoned me at all. I could go back to the way things were and pretend like everything was fine…”

“Why wasn’t it fine?” Jonathan asked once he knew Sock couldn’t continue.

“What?”

“Why wasn’t… that… fine?”

“It wouldn’t always be that way. Something had to give, and it sure as hell wasn’t gonna be you.” He stopped. “And I don’t blame you,” he hurriedly added.

Jonathan leaned his head against the wall again, and looked up at the ceiling, talking quietly so his mom couldn’t hear. “So… you’re alive again.”

“Yeah.”

“And you don’t know what you did to get you here.”

“Yup.”

Jonathan didn’t want to bring up the dreams he’d had while Sock was gone. He didn’t want to think that they were somehow involved, he didn’t want to think that they were relevant. So he just kept his mouth shut.

“Just for the record though,” Sock piped, and Jonathan turned to see that he was looking at him again, “I…” he looked away briefly, but his eyes flit back to Jonathan’s as quickly as they left, “kinda think I’d do anything for you.” It was a shaky confession, yes, but it wasn’t untrue.

The dreams definitely supported the claim, whether they be involved or not. Also, the fact that he was here, in the flesh, sitting beside him, and the bed actually dipping under his solid weight as their shoulders brushed, didn’t hurt either.

He stared forward for a few minutes, and it made Sock worry.

“What’re you thinking?” He never knew what Jonathan was thinking.

“Just…” he paused, the quiet bedroom facing the silent pouring in of the dawn, “So many people swear they would do anything for somebody, but... I guess—when you find someone who actually means it, it... it's overwhelming, kinda.”

Sock released a breath that sounded like it wanted to be a laugh while it was really relief. “Yeah, I--guess. I’m sorry, that was… weird.”

“You’re good.” It was a simple statement, light and comforting, but there was a sort of delayed meaning in it, for it led them into a moment where they locked eyes and there was understanding, suddenly. And then there were smiles on both of their faces.

They cared about each other, and now they knew.

Then they looked toward the window, peering through the blinds to see the sunrise, to watch it together.

Chapter Text

Hey everybody.

I'm... I'm so sorry. There's no other way to put it. I'm just sorry.

So this is among my most popular fics, and I'm sorry to say that I will be discontinuing it (kind of???).

Now, I'm aware that this has gotten a lot of attention recently (like, recently as in the time between the last time I posted and now) and I actually had a note in my phone being all like "WOAH THIS JUST HIT 50 KUDOS OMFG!!!!" that I meant to post, but honestly guys? When I say that with EVERY chapter this thing fought with me, I am not exaggerating. For whatever reason, it was like this fic just didn't want to be written. It was either it was taking a really long time to write, or I couldn't come up with a way to fill a gap, or the pacing was wrong, or the characters seemed off, or (and this was the case for the last chapter not getting finished) it was TOO angsty and I was actually getting genuinely upset writing it, etc., etc., etc. The list goes on. Now I'm kind of just laying down my sword and stepping away. I don't want to fight anymore, especially when I have lots of other projects calling to me to write them instead. And they're easier to write as well.

HOWEVER! Since I know a lot of you like this fic, and I still kind of want to get some of my ideas out there, I wouldn't be opposed to writing the rest of the scenes I had come up with and posting them here? I could like, set up the scene in the notes of every chapter, and you guys could read it as if I'd posted the whole thing, haha. Would you guys and dolls like that?

Ideas, just in case you're curious, would be:

-Possibly Sock's adjustment to being human again
-Possibly going into what Sock had to do to become human again
-Possibly a confession from Sock
-Sock and Jon making dinner and being gay
-Sock and Jon going thrift shopping and talking about virginity
-Sock and Jonathan going to a Sweet Sixteen
-The start of the apocalypse
-Jonathan putting on some very fitting music to relieve sexual tension
-Meph and Sock catching up
-A face-off (or two!) between Sock and Jon and the demons
-Even the ending I was thinking of writing (that actually came to me in a dream kind of!)

Wow... I actually didn't think I had that much left in my head... Huh. Yeah, it makes me sad that this fic didn't ever really work out (for me anyway, I did love your guys' praise though!!!), because I love the premise, and some of the lines I've written in here are some of the best lines I've ever written. But you win some you lose some.

However, I do want to stress how much this experience meant to me. The praise I got on this story really gave me some real confidence as a writer, and it was the first time I'd ever gotten such an overwhelming amount of praise on something I'd written from complete, unbiased strangers. It was amazing, and I really really want to thank you for being so patient with me, for being so supportive of me, and for liking/loving my creation. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

So yeah! If you want me to write some of those scenes, lemme know! And just because of curiosity, lemme know which ones, if any, you'd wanna see!

Again, I'm so sorry, but I hope that if you guys want the scenes that you'll like them!

Thank you all so much for your support, I really appreciate it more than you know.

Also sorry for writing a book of an author's note, I just really wanna make this right.

~Writ

P.S. I hope you all are having a great day/afternoon/evening/whatever you celebrate.