Actions

Work Header

Memories Are Made Of This

Work Text:

"Hey, Justin!" Eddie calls out, quickly approaching the eighteen year old in the courtyard of the high school. Today is his first day as a human again, after successfully pulling off one hundred good deeds, and he is eager to speak to his friend now that he's no longer trapped in the body of a canine.

However, he certainly isn't expecting the utterly terrified look that crosses the younger boy's face when he catches sight of Eddie heading his way. "Y-y-you..."

The reaction brings him up short, and Eddie frowns, concerned and confused. "What's wrong?"

"Yeah, ugh, I, I, I thought you l-left town or something," Justin stammers out, looking like a deer caught in headlights as he backpedals a few steps.

"Justin," he says slowly, carefully, "don't you remember me?" He has no idea what's going on here. Surely, Justin would remember all the good deeds, all the time they spent together? Wouldn't he? A wave of doubt hits him, and then comes the realization that he might be wrong about that.

He walks away, before Justin can run from him. He has to find that damned Drifter...

"Lookin' for me?"

Eddie jumps in surprise when the man in question appears in front of him, but he has bigger issues to deal with right now. "What's going on?"

"Nothing," the Drifter says, shrugging off the clear alarm on Eddie's face. "Aren't you enjoying being human again?"

And, well, yes, he is. He's enjoying clothes, and showers, and human food, and thumbs, and so many other things that he can't even begin to list all of them if someone were to ask him. But he's not enjoying whatever it is that's going on with Justin. "Why is he terrified of me?"

The man hums, as if he's thinking the question through. "Maybe because the last time he saw you, you covered him in paint and hung him from a flagpole?"

Which means that Justin's lost all of the memories he has of him. A sick feeling washes over him and he has to lean against the edge of a lunch table to keep his balance. "What was the point, then?"

"You tell me."

"What was the point!?" He demands, hands balled into fists at his sides as a wave of anger hits. He reigns in the urge to growl as he gets up in the old man's face. "You told me to be his friend, to look out for him. I did all of that. I did everything you asked me to do! So what was the point if he doesn't remember any of it?" And he's sure the Drifter won't approve of this outburst, but he really doesn't care about that right now, either. "You wanted me to be a better person, but if I have to feel like this, if I have to do it alone, then that's gonna be a short-lived accomplishment, I can promise you that." It's like the floor has been ripped out from under him. Justin has been with him through all of this, the best friend he's ever had. Justin understands. If he has to do this without Justin, then... "Turn me back."

The Drifter raises a surprised eyebrow. "Pardon?"

"Turn me back. I don't care. If this is the alternative, I'd rather be the dog."

"Eddie," the Drifter frowns at him, "that's not how this works. You're a kid again, now be good and enjoy it."

He crosses his arms stubbornly over his chest. "No! You did this to me once, you can do it again. If," he pauses, considers carefully his next words, but he doesn't really have a choice, "if I have to, I'll do a hundred more deeds. I'd do a thousand."

"That's a hell of a promise, Edward," the Drifter tells him, as if he doesn't already know that. It took him nearly three and a half years to pull it off the first time. It wouldn't be a breeze to do again, he's sure, even though he is a much better person now than he was when he started and had a much easier time of finding good deeds toward the end. That had been because of Justin. "But..."

And that's not a good sign, Eddie knows. He sits down, head in his hands. "This isn't fair," he says, and it's probably one of the first times that's actually been a true statement when he's said it to the drifter. He'd had plans. For when he turned back. He wanted his GED, since he'd spent his senior year of high school as a dog - as if he would have passed if he'd been human, between all the skipping and all the misdemeanors; he probably would have ended up in jail if the drifter hadn't turned him. He wanted to go to college, if only because Justin did and he tended to want to be wherever Justin was. But now he wasn't getting any of that. There was no way Justin would trust him now, not if he was still so jumpy around him nearly four years after the flagpole incident. And he didn't have the time to do to that anyway, with only a few months left before Justin would be graduating. Even if he could somehow manage that, it wouldn't be like before, like Eddie wanted it.

"But," he continues, "I told you this was how it was going to be."

"No," Eddie counters. "You said I wouldn't remember, either."

"Is that what you want?"

He'd been ecstatic when he'd woken up human, still with the memory of his time spent as a dog. He'd been worried, admittedly, but the Drifter had told him that so long ago, back when he didn't care about much of anything, least of all Justin, that he'd almost forgotten it. "No," he says. "Look, if you won't turn me back, can't you just make him remember?"

"It's not up to me to decide who remembers what," the Drifter tells him, though it almost sounds like he's sorry he can't do that.

And what the hell is he supposed to do with that? It's a non-answer in the worst kind of way, but he should be used to that after years spent trying to wrap his head around the Drifter's evasive responses.

"Go home, Eddie."

"What home?"

But the Drifter is already gone.

So, he goes. If only so that no one starts to wonder what a twenty-two year old is doing lurking around the high school. He goes back to his parent's apartment, which has existed in the same perpetually run down state it always has. His mom greets him with a drunk mumble and a request for another beer, as she takes a long drag from a cigarette. His dad isn't home. But that's not new. His dad is almost never home, and they all kind of prefer it that way.

Eddie's not sure if it's the lingering dog senses or just the fact that he hasn't been around anyone who smokes in years now, but the smell is smothering. He refuses to get her the beer, because he can count several empties and it's only noon, and considers it his good deed for the day. She disagrees, though, and throws one of the empty bottles at him while she shouts at him to get the hell out of her house. He would, if he had anywhere else to go.

But unemployed, degree-less twenty-something's don't have a lot of opportunities, so he goes to his room instead, even though it's not really his room anymore, just a shadow of the shitty person he used to be.

And this was never weird before. It had just been his family, his home, his life. His mom was always drunk, always smoking. He never saw his dad, and when he did, the guy was usually in a bad mood and that never ended well for anyone. But after years with Justin's family and their comparatively white-picket fence life, he knew it could be different, better than this mess. Even as their dog, he realizes, it had been better than this.

"I've gotta get him to remember," he tells himself.

But how?


After a sleepless night, one of his first spent alone since he was last human, last here, he drags himself out of bed. He misses Justin's room - hell, he misses Justin's bed, too, and waking up to one of Justin's arms tossed over him, to a hand dragging through the fur on his belly. He misses waking up to the smell of a tasty breakfast cooking and the easy chatter of a morning in the Taylor house. All that he wakes up to here is his mother's loud snoring on the couch where she'd passed out and the stale smell of spilled alcohol.

He leaves her there to sleep it off, and slips back out. Back to the school because he can't not try.

Justin's just getting there when Eddie arrives, but when he's spotted, the kid's quick to hurry Sariffa up and get them inside, where Justin knows he won't follow.

And Eddie tries to ignore how much that hurts. It's not Justin's fault he doesn't remember.

So he goes back home.


It's the same the next day, but by then the lingering scent that's been stuck in his head - Justin, home, family - is starting to fade and he feels sick with the loss of it. The senses are really fading now, the last traces of his curse. He stops hearing things, things he didn't even realize he was hearing until he couldn't hear them anymore, an eerie silence where before there'd been sound (the sounds of cars on the road, the constant hum of electricity, heartbeats). Same with smells. The cigarettes bother him less, and he's thankful he doesn't have a dog's nose when he finds some seriously rotten take-out in the back of the fridge that he suspects he put there himself when he was last human.

Justin ignores him again. Avoids him, skirts around the crowds of people gathered in the school courtyard so that Eddie can't corner him.

So he leaves again.

But he comes back just in time for school to get out.

"Justin," he says, calling out to him when he bolts for the sidewalk. "Hey, wait!"

"Look," the kid says, spinning around to face him when Eddie catches his arm. "If you're gonna beat me up, can you please just get it over with? There's no sense in drawing this out, is there?"

Eddie drops his hold and hates his old self just a little bit more. "I'm not-"

"Justin!" Sariffa calls, cutting between them to prevent his presumed attack. She eyes him warily, like he's some rabid dog - ha! - and ushers Justin away. "Come on, we've got work to do."

He breathes a heavy, frustrated sigh and shakes his head.

What did he do that was bad enough to deserve this sort of cruelty? He'd paid for his bullying, his crimes. Hadn't he? He'd come out the other side a better person. But maybe this was the curse, he thought, as he wandered aimlessly away from the school. They'd turned him into a dog and given him someone who was so much more than a friend, and then they took it all away from him and left him alone to dwell on the memories of it. A 'better' person, doomed to relapse. Yeah, that sounded about right. And definitely twisted enough to be worthy of the Drifter.

"Edward," the voice catches him off guard again, and he whirls around to find the strange man hovering behind him.

"What do you want now?"

"I don't know why you remembered," he admits, which is surprising because he hadn't seemed all that surprised when Eddie had said as much. "Or why he didn't, if you did."

"Can you fix it?"

Eddie already knows the answer he's going to get won't be the one he wants, it's never that easy. The Drifter would have made a much bigger show out of this if he could. And since this is just a sad, sullen meeting...

"Whatever."

"Eddie..."

"How am I supposed to change anything when I can't even get him to talk to me?" He demands, and it's only then that he realizes he's auto-piloted his way to the street outside of the Taylor home, his home. He can see Justin up in his room - their room - and wishes he could be as welcomed as he had been as a canine. But these versions of the Taylor's have no recollection of Eddie the dog at all, and they would welcome Eddie the human even less than that. "This sucks."

"For what it's worth," the Drifter tries, "I'm sorry. I know it doesn't help, but-"

"You're right. It doesn't," Eddie agrees, and walks away from the house.


He spends a Justin-less weekend contemplating the merits of reverting to his bad behaviors, even goes so far as to think of targeting Justin in whatever he's thinking of doing, in the hopes that maybe that will get him turned back. Then Justin would hear him again, would see him again. But he doubts the Omnipotent Drifters Society would take pity on him and do what he wants - they'd probably turn him into something useless, like a goldfish or a hamster, and then he'd be stuck forever with no chance of fixing this at all.

The park is a familiar distraction for him, which isn't surprising after how much time he spent there as a dog.

Eddie'd only gone there to get out of his parents apartment for a while. Get out of their way. His father was supposed to be home tonight, and he definitely didn't want to be around for that. So, the park.

He claims a seat on the bench by the pond and tries to relax, but the absence of all the things he's used to here grate on his nerves and he just ends up even more stressed out than when he sat down.

"Hey!" A familiar voice calls, and for a second - just one stupid, foolish, hopeful second - he thinks that Justin's remembered. His eyes dart to the younger boy, as he jogs down the path toward the pond, but he freezes when he spots Eddie and a glance over his shoulder shows that Sariffa is coming from the other direction.

"Justin," he says, hoping he can maybe get a word in before she can swoop in and 'rescue' Justin from him again, "Can I just ta-"

"Are you following me?" Justin demands, looking more than a little suspicious to have run into Eddie again. "I... I can call the police, get a restraining order or..."

The threat is something Eddie doesn't see coming. It floors him almost as much as that first terrified look had. "I'm not-" he tries, but he is apparently not allowed to finish his sentences because Justin cuts him off there.

"Just leave me alone," he says, and dodges around the bench to head toward Sariffa.

Eddie drags a hand through his hair and stares out at the water. "I can't," he says to himself, because Justin is long gone.

Maybe in more ways than one.


The park is dark and quiet and mostly empty by the time Eddie decides it's probably late enough to risk going home. He hasn't done anything today except push Justin even farther out of his reach, but the sun has long since set and the chill in the late November air is more than enough to pierce through the jacket he'd thrown on in his rush to escape his parents this morning, so he's going to have to move.

He heaves a long-suffering sigh and gets to his feet, but his eyes linger on the pond, the way the full moon reflects on its calm surface. There are so many memories here. Memories he has and Justin doesn't. This had been a prime deed location as well as a fun place to spend time with Justin.

He's running out of time, he knows. This can't go on for much longer. Eventually Justin is going to do something to make him stop and based on today's threat, that doesn't look like it'll take much longer. And, well, he doesn't know what he's going to do when that happens.

"Whuff!"

Eddie turns to see a shadowy shape approaching him at a decent speed. The wagging tail tells him that it's a dog and he wonders if he still has lingering dog scent or something, because what's left of his dog senses recognize the bark as a happy sort of greeting, nothing hostile.

As the dog moves closer, Eddie gets a better look at it and...

It's...it's the dog. The dog he was. Down to the bandana and the wrist cuff and even the heart shaped mark in the fur on his chest.

"You," Eddie says, surprised to find a smile on his face at the sight of something familiar not running away from him. "Where'd you come from, boy?"

He scratches behind the dog's ears and the dog leans up against his legs, begging for more.

"Yeah, you know who I am, don't you?"

He gets a long whine in response, and the sad blue eyes look up at him.

"He's never gonna listen to me, is he?" Eddie sighs and sits back down on the bench, unsurprised when the canine hops up to sit beside him. "Can't blame him, I guess, it's not exactly easy to believe."

The dog lies down, rests his head on Eddie's knee.

"Eddie! Eddie, where are you!?"

Eddie twists around in surprise because there is no way this is happening. A quick glance at the dog's collar and the name and address engraved on the tag there, reveals that yes, in fact, it is.

Sure enough, Justin appears a moment later, a leash in one hand and a flashlight in the other. "Eddie!"

"He's over here."

Justin freezes, looks like he's about to bolt again when he realizes who spoke, but the dog hops off the bench and walks over to Justin, grabs the hem of his shirt and pulls him over toward the bench. Reluctantly, Justin sits down beside him. "You're still here?"

"Didn't have anywhere else to be," he shrugs, still looking out at the pond. "I wasn't following you, just so you know; I'd been here for hours when you showed up."

"And my dog?"

"We're old friends," he answers, the faintest trace of a smile on his face as the dog gives another soft 'whuff' and rubs up against him. Eddie takes the hint and scratches at the spot on his neck that always felt amazing. "Yeah, that's right."

"That's his favorite spot."

"Yeah, I know."

"How?"

"I, ugh, I had to leave him behind," he lies, because he can't tell the truth, "When I left town, that is. You got him that afternoon, right, after what I did to you?"

Justin laughs, shakes his head at this seemingly bizarre coincidence. "I cannot believe that out of all the dogs in the world, I ended up with yours. Is... is that why you've been trying to talk to me? Do you want him back? Because-"

"No," he says quickly, cutting off that idea before Justin can freak out at him for it, even though it kind of is what he wants, sort of. "He's better off with you, I know that. I just... All I wanted to do was tell you that I'm sorry, Justin. I did a lot of bad things back then, and I was a horrible person to a lot of people. I never should have gone after you like I did, and I don't have any excuses, but trust me when I tell you that I got what was coming to me for it, that in some ways I'm still paying for it. And I need you to know that I'm not that kid anymore, that selfish bully jerk who did those things. I'm a different person now and a lot of that started because of what I did to you."

"What happened to you?" Justin asks, this mix of surprise and confusion on his face that almost makes Eddie spill his guts.

In the end, he laughs, and says, "you wouldn't believe me if I told you."

"You're probably right. Whatever could make Eddie McDowd do a complete one-eighty has got to be a force to be reckoned with."

"Yeah, I'll say," Eddie answers, as he shifts to face Justin more directly, because this is the important part. "Is there, I don't know, any way you could forgive me? Give me a chance to make it up to you?"

"You're not the only one who's changed, you know," Justin tells him, "If you tried to hang me from a flagpole these days, I'd fight back."

Eddie laughs, even though all he can think is 'I know, I taught you that,' and says, "You'd probably beat me, too. I'm a little out of practice."

"How about this - it's cold, it's late, and I need to get home. But, tomorrow. I have a half-day of school. I'll meet you for lunch and I promise to hear you out, whatever you say, no matter how crazy, no interruptions. Tell me what happened, where you were, and then I'll see if I can give you what you want. Is that okay?"

"Deal," he says, agreeing to the plan before the likelihood of actually being believed hits him, no matter Justin's claims. "I'll find you in the courtyard."

"Okay," Justin nods, holds out a hand so they can shake on it. "It's a deal."

Eddie lets out a relieved sigh and takes the proffered hand. This feeling washes over him, then, that maybe this will be okay. It's all riding on whether or not he can convince Justin that he is not certifiably insane or some sort of deranged criminal. If he can do that, then maybe there's a microscopic chance he can have his best friend back. Better than microscopic, a part of him insists, like it's already done.

"See you then," he says, as Justin leashes the dog and walks away from him.


Eddie doesn't sleep. Quite frankly, he's not sure how he hasn't driven himself insane yet, pacing in his room and staring at the clock which has to be moving at half-speed for how long it seems each minute is taking.

He's got his story. His unbelievable, fantastic, terrible story and no proof to back it up, but he's going to tell the truth this time. He has to. It's all he has anymore.

By the time his alarm goes off in the morning, he's already showered and dressed, ready to bolt out the door. Even then, he still has half of a school day to kill before he can meet Justin, so he goes back to the park, back to all the memories there, to work on his argument because his Justin taught him to think before he went diving into anything and it seems like this might be one of the times that his words will be important.

Finally, finally, finally, it's time.

The walk to the high school seems like it takes forever even as it goes by way too quickly. He loses this part and that of his practiced speech more than once on the trip, struggles to keep it all in order in his head because 'let me explain this crazy curse thing' should come before 'I know really specific information about you that makes me seem really creepy,' he thinks.

The bell rings just a moment after he gets there, and he's pacing by the picnic tables impatiently. Justin appears just a few minutes after that and Eddie's quick to approach, glad to see that Justin isn't running from him this time.

"Hey."

"Hey," he echoes. "Do you want to talk here or, I don't know, the park or-"

"Justin!" Sariffa calls, rudely interrupting him yet again. She's rushing over to them like she'd done the other day, getting in-between them again, and Eddie would be impressed by the fact that she's not afraid of him (not that she has any reason to be, except that she still thinks he's that jerk of a kid he was before) if it didn't mean another interruption in this very important conversation. "Look, I know you're supposed to be all scary and evil," she snaps at him, "but I'm not afraid of you. Not only are you breaking all sorts of school rules by being on campus, but you're really starting to freak Justin out with all of this creepy stalker behavior you're exhibiting. If you don't stop popping up like this, we're going to go to the police or a teacher or Justin's parents and then you'll-"

Luckily, Eddie is not the only one being rudely interrupted today, as Justin waves her down from her threatening speech before she can draw any additional attention toward them. "Whoa, whoa. It's okay, Sariffa."

"Justin, I don't think-"

"No, really. We were talking in the park last night and-"

Now it's Justin's turn, as Sariffa cuts in on him. "He was at the park again?" She asks, as if Eddie isn't still standing right next to her, "Justin, I'm sorry, but this is bad news. Something weird is going on and you really shouldn't encourage-"

"Sariffa!" Justin has to shout to stop this rant, and she doesn't look happy about the interruption. "Sariffa. It's okay. I know what I'm doing, alright?" He moves around her, to stand at Eddie's side. "We're going back to my place to talk some more. I'll call you later, I promise. It's fine."

Eddie stays quiet while they work this out, ignores the suspicious glances Sariffa keeps shooting his way, even as she walks away from them.

"Sorry."

"It's fine, she's just trying to make sure you're okay. I get it." Eddie answers with a shrug. He's glad Justin's got her to look after him, at least, if this doesn't work. "Your place?"

"If you don't mind?"

"Wherever you want," Eddie answers, and they start the walk in a comfortable silence. It's second nature to go there, that's home, and the chance to be back inside those walls feels like another tremendous weight off his shoulders.

Eddie the Dog greets them at the door, with happy barks and a wagging tail. Eddie the Human has to pretend not to know where the boxes of treats are hidden in the cabinet by the fridge.

Justin drops his backpack by the stairs and turns to face his guest, and Eddie will never know what he was going to say because he barrels right in to the reason he's here before Justin's parents can come home, or Sariffa can show up with the cops or anything else can stop him.

"So, here's my story," he starts, "You're never, ever, ever going to believe me, but I can't lie. Not to you. Not like this. Although, I guess I already kind of did because the dog wasn't mine. I... and this is the unbelievable part, so if you could maybe just listen to all of it before you decide that I'm completely crazy and kick me out - After that day, after what I did to you, I managed to piss off this grumpy old guy and he, I don't know, cursed me, I guess. He turned me into a dog - that dog," he says, nodding toward the canine sitting at Justin's side, "And he made it so the only person that could hear me was the last person I picked on. And, and that was you. And you found me at the pound and you helped me. I had to do 100 good deeds to be a human again and it took me three and a half years and with your help I finally did it but when I changed back you didn't remember me except from before and... and so here we are. And I know all of these things about you, about your family that would prove that I've been a part of it and it'll just sound like I'm some sort of completely obsessed stalker and then you'll just run away from me again or you'll call the police and get me thrown in jail - where I belonged when this whole mess started, before you made me a better person. Justin, you're my best friend, and I can't do this without you, so if there's any way you could ever-"

"Eddie!" Justin says, for what is not the first time. Eddie has been dimly aware that he'd been calling his name throughout most of his rambling speech, but he'd needed to get it all out before Justin started reacting to it - surely it would be negatively, how else could anyone respond to 'hey, believe this crazy thing I'm about to tell you and be my best friend again.'

It's not until Justin's hands land on his shoulders, which puts a physical stop to the pacing he hadn't realized he'd been doing, that he finally gets through.

"Eddie. Eddie, just stop."

Eddie pushes the hands away, turns the other way to avoid whatever freaked out look he's sure is on Justin face at the realization that Sariffa was right and he never should have brought this crazy person back to his house. "See, I knew you wouldn't-"

"You owe me breakfast."

"What?"

Justin's grinning at him, "You promised. The first morning you were here - you said you'd make me breakfast when you turned back, if I brought you some bacon."

It takes a few seconds for the meaning of this seemingly out of nowhere comment to register, but when it does, Eddie's voice is quiet and awed when he asks a tentative, "You remember?" because he had been pretty sure that it would never happen. "Everything?"

"Everything,"Justin confirms, and Eddie absolutely cannot help himself when he closes the distance between them to catch his best friend in a relieved, ecstatic hug. Nearly a week's worth of tension drains out of him instantly and it's all he can do to believe this is real. Justin hugs him back, and Eddie can feel him grinning against his shoulder when he says, "Though I was a little confused when I woke up this morning and thought there were two of you. I have to say, the dog is way better behaved now, talks a lot less, too."

"Fine, sure, make fun of me," Eddie grumbles, as he slowly pulls away, "I've only been going out of my mind trying to figure out how to get you to remember me. What happened?"

"I don't know," is the unhelpful answer he gets, "Maybe it just took time for my memories to come back? Neither of us was supposed to remember, right?"

Eddie nods, "Yeah, but the Drifter said he didn't know what was going on."

"Hm, maybe it was because I forgave you for what you did without knowing anything about who you are now?" Justin suggests, and that one seems a lot more likely and a lot more like the Drifter than any other ideas - one final test, to see what he would do now that he'd supposedly changed his ways. "'Cause I did forgive you last night, when you apologized, even if I didn't say it. I forgave you a long time ago, but I guess it didn't count when I knew what was happening."

"Well, thanks," Eddie says, aware that there's not really anything he could say to make Justin realize how much he'd needed this. "Hey! Why the hell did you let me freak out like that if you remembered? The entire time, the entire morning - I didn't sleep! I was worried you'd change your mind and go back to avoiding me. If you remembered when you woke up, why didn't you tell me right away?"

Justin shrugs, "I couldn't exactly call you, since I had no idea where you were, where you lived before. And I wasn't totally sure that you remembered everything, either. For all I knew, you might have actually thought he was your dog before all of this. I figured I'd wait and see what you told me, go from there."

Eddie can't really argue, those are valid points, and he'd never told Justin much about his own family history, "Fair enough," he agrees.

"So now what?"

Now Eddie needs to sit down. Coming down off of a weeklong adrenaline high that came in the panic of fighting for Justin's memories is exhausting. Not sleeping didn't help, and now that it's okay, now that they're okay, he can feel the toll it's taken on him. He sinks down onto the couch, glad when Justin follows him, settles beside him.

"You tell me. We'll have to come up with some kinda story. For your parents, for Sariffa. That is, if you still want me around, I mean-"

"Of course I want you around. You are my best friend." The dog barks and jumps up between them, seeming to voice his protest. "Okay," Justin amends. "You're tied, I guess."

Eddie smiles. "I'm okay with that," he admits. "And I know it can't be like before, I know I can't stay here or anything. I'll get my GED, try to find a job and a place that is not with my parents as soon as I can. I'll figure it out from there, what to do after you graduate."

"You could always come with me, you know. I'm not getting into any Ivy League schools or anything. I'll probably start at the Community College, at least. It's cheaper. You could take classes. Maybe we could get a place together or something."

Justin is definitely downplaying his school options, Eddie thinks. He'd seen the schools Justin applied to, knows he got into most of them. But they'll figure that out later. Right now, Eddie would like a break from life-altering occurrences and would like to do something normal and human with his best friend.

The controllers for the game console are sitting on the coffee table and he grabs them both up. One, he tosses to Justin, the other he keeps for himself. "How about a quick game before we go back to the serious conversations?"

Justin accepts his challenge and flicks on the television. "You're on. Maybe you'll actually stand a chance against me now that you have thumbs."

"That didn't sound quite as impressive as you thought it did, you know," Eddie counters, "You beat a dog at video games, wow."

"Shut up," Justin laughs at him, and Eddie revels in how normal this all still feels even with everything that's changed, everything that's still changing. He's got Justin, he's got a plan, and now he's actually got a shot at being the decent person he knows that he can be now, thanks to his best friend.