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The Destruction Within

Chapter Text

 

He sat on the ground, leaning against the wall as he held his head, gripping the front of his hair tightly as a wave of thoughts seeped deeper and deeper into his mind, reminding him of every negative thing that had ever been said to him. Everyone was there - his mother, grandmother, step-father, David, Mishti, Jimmy and voices he couldn't even recognise anymore.

"Nezumi!”

“Why can’t you be more like your brother?”

“Mum wasn’t like this before you came into her life.”

 “If I’m ready to move, it isn’t with you.”

“You’re so selfish! You don’t think about anyone OTHER THAN YOURSELF!”

 “You really are your father’s son.”

“You knew how much this meant to me and you didn’t even care.”

“You’re not really worth it, are you?”

“Who could ever love you?”

Each sentence, each voice was louder than the last as they slowly drowned each other out before another voice, one that was cold and sinister forced its way into his head

“Scared yet?”

He let out an ear-piercing shriek, barely able to breathe as he started to hyperventilate uncontrollably and crying. The sound of that voice, that chuckle brought back memories he'd rather have forgotten about and the only thing he could do to cope was clutch his hand violently over his mouth and scream into it repeatedly.

“Leo?” A child’s voice called out faintly and gently, echoing in the distance and catching his attention. 

“Leo? Can you hear me?”

He looked up, slowly moving his hand away from his face, smiling softly through the tears at the sound of the voice. There stood a young boy. He had greasy blonde hair and was wearing a torn t-shirt and long pants that were dragging along the ground and barely covering his cut up and bloodied feet. He had a long cut down the side of his neck that reached into his chest and he was smiling down at him.

"You... you can’t stay here, okay? You need to snap out of this.” The boy said softly as his voice faded away, gradually bringing Leo back to reality.

He took a deep breath as he wiped the tears away from his face before pausing in shock as he stared at his hands, stretching them out in front of him as they shook uncontrollably and panic set in as he realised they, along with his arms and clothes were covered in blood before he slowly looked up, past his hands and his eyes widened in horror at the sight in front of him.

“Oh, my God!” Leo whispered under his breath, as a tear fell down the side of his face and he grabbed the side of his head violently.

"Oh... God..."

Chapter Text

"The world breaks everyone, and afterward, some are strong at the broken places."

Ernest Hemingway

Saturday 29th June 2013 11:26pm

“Eddie. Come out, come out wherever you are.”

A sinister voice called out playfully from outside the door as Eddie hid in the dark, in the bathtub, with the curtains drawn around him and his hands cut up and bloodied as he clutched a knife in his right hand and held his left hand over his mouth to drown out the sounds of his crying as to not alert anyone to where he was.

“Eddie…”

The voice called out again, approaching the door and trying the handle to get inside as Eddie jumped back. Holding the knife out in front of him with both hands so tightly that his hands and arms started shaking, his eyes widening as fear took over him and he begun to hyperventilate as he listened to the door handle turning back and forth over and over again.

Present Day

Eddie stood on the grass at the side of the road, staring at the ‘Thank you for visiting Erinsborough’ council sign, his motorcycle parked next to him and rubbing the back of his neck with both hands as he contemplated whether to keep going or turn back now. For years, he’d thought about the different ways he could come back into Leo’s life. Sending him a card, a letter that explained what happened and letting him know he was okay; coming back and talking everything through or even calling him but he stopped himself every time. He knew Leo well enough to know he’d start looking for him or want him to stick around and that would have been a mistake. It wasn’t in his or Leo’s best interest for him to get involved in his life again so he stayed away. But everything was different now and it all changed the moment he saw that photo. When he realised what had really happened all those years ago and what had happened in Erinsborough now. It wasn’t going to be easy, walking back into Leo’s life again after all this time and was probably going to cause more problems for them, both personally and together. They had a lot of issues to work through but there was no time left to waste anymore.

He looked around before getting back on his bike and continuing through Erinsborough until he reached the Lassiters car park. Unzipping his black leather jacket and picking up the bag on the back of his bike as he got off and started walking through and complex and into Lassiters, stopping once he reached the front desk.

“I just don’t believe it.” A young woman with a squeaky voice said as Eddie looked up for a second before taking out his wallet and removing his license and credit card.

“Me neither.” Another woman said, she sounded older and was starting to lose her voice. “Brandon wouldn’t just disappear.”

Eddie’s head jolted up. “Disappear? What?”

He looked around to see where the voices were coming from and noticing them just out of sight, leaned in and tilted his head in order to hear more of what they were saying.

“He stole from Lassiters. He stole from Paul Robinson. You really think he would stick around?” A man asked in a New Zealand accent.

“Probably not.” The young woman replied.

“What if he didn’t… you know, disappear?” Another man asked, enunciating each syllable in disappear.

“What do you mean?”

“Cement shoes!” The man replied, nodding and the others let out a gasp and Eddie’s eyes widened in shock.

“He’s done it before like 15 years ago. He killed that guy and got away with it. What if the same thing happened to Brandon?”

“Holy shit!” Eddie stood there with his mouth open in horror.

“Oi! Back to work!” Paul appeared, yelling at each of the employees.

“Sorry.”

“Sorry, Mr. Robinson.”

“Sorry.”

They all apologised at the same time, quickly taking off in different directions as Paul approached the front desk and Eddie jumped back, looking around and biting his lip as he realised the man approaching him was very likely the Paul Robinson those employees were talking about.

“Sorry about that.” Paul smiled reassuringly.

“That’s fine.” Eddie said softly.

“How can I help you?” Paul asked.

“I have a reservation under E. Daniels.”

Eddie handed Paul his license and credit card, looking around as Paul verified the information on the computer and upon doing so, attempted to hand the cards back to Eddie before pausing. The sleeves on his jacket had rolled up, revealing numerous scars on his wrists that extended upwards on the inside of both arms. Eddie looked back at him, smiling as he noticed Paul was looking down at something, following his eyes before quickly snatching the cards out of his hands, snapping him out of it as he pulled down his sleeves and held onto them with the tips of his fingers.

“Is that all?” Eddie said coldly, while looking at Paul completely emotionless.

Paul responded softly, taking a key card out of the desk. “Yeah, here’s your room key.”

“Thanks.”

Eddie took the key, picking up his bag and walked off. Making his way up the stairs as he approached the floor he was on and headed towards his room. As he walked inside, he put his bag on the bed and then immediately walked towards the mini bar, opening it to make sure his request of the alcohol being removed from his room has been observed before closing the fridge door and walking over to the bed, unzipping it and taking out a set of clothes. Replacing the black leather jacket, pants and short sleeve t-shirt he was wearing with jeans, a skin tight black long-sleeve t-shirt that covered his hands and a light blue shirt, with the sleeves rolled up on top of it.

Walking out of his room and the hotel, he looked around the complex before heading towards The Waterhole, where he went up to the bar and ordered a lemonade, before turning around to look at the people in the room as two people who were arguing caught his attention straight away.

“That is not fair!” Sonya said loudly, through clenched teeth.

“Neither is the way she’s treating people. She’s gone too far and she just keeps getting worse, Sonya. We’ll all be copping it soon.” Shane said angrily as Sonya looked at him annoyed.  

“When you’re… you’re forced to… to confront everything you’ve been through, everything you’ve been burying… it’s… it’s just… it’s not always going to end well. People never seem to understand that. Sometimes it-it-it goes badly and sometimes it can be a cry for help.” Sonya said sadly and desperately, while trying to hold back tears as Eddie watched her concerned.

Shane rolled his eyes. “Oh, I doubt that very much.”

“DON’T!” Sonya yelled, startling Shane before taking a deep breath and trying to regain her composure. “Everyone is different. They… they cry and they scream and they bury themselves and they lash out. Sometimes they hurt themselves and sometimes they hurt other people. Asking for help is hard and not everyone knows how to do it or even realises that they need it. It’s like…” Sonya said softly as her emotions started to get the better of her. “It’s like your… your mind is rebelling against you and you are just fighting it to retake control. There is nothing nice or beautiful or simple about this – it’s ugly.”

Shane nodded and leaned forward. “I understand what you’re saying. Really, I do but this has gone so far beyond that now. Look at Leo.” He gestured in the direction of Lassiters, as Eddie’s leaned in at the mention of Leo’s name. “He’s already on edge and if she keeps going the way she has for the last month… she’s going to push him over that edge and if you’re not careful – Toad… and you are both going to go over with him, okay? That is what you should be worried about.”

“I am worried about Jarrod!” Sonya said defensively as she clenched her jaw.

“I didn’t mean it like that. It’s just… this thing with Amy… you are taking it really personally.”

“No, I’m not.”

“Yes, you are and you’re not even helping. You’re just… it’s like you’re obsessing over her.” Shane said, leaning back as Sonya’s eyes widened in anger. “Let David and Paul handle this and you focus on yourself. On Toadie, on your family. Your heart’s in the right place, Sonya no one is doubting that but you need to accept that not everyone can be saved and move on.” He said softly, smiling reassuringly.

“What if everyone thought like you? Hm? What… what happens if EVERYONE just stops caring? Stops helping? Do you know how awful it is when everyone just… walks away?” Sonya started talking faster and faster as her voice gradually broke up the longer, she spoke. “I went through that and I… I did that… I won’t let Amy go through that. Not now, not when she’s in such a bad way and I don’t want her to get to the point where she hits rock bottom and-and-and gives up and it will happen. It will and she won’t know how to get back up because no one is there. I won’t… I… I… I can’t sit back and let that happen.”

Sonya broke down, crying into her hands as Shane attempted to place his hand on her shoulder to comfort her and she pushed him away angry, rubbing the tears away from her eyes.

“Sonya, has something…”

“Hi. Excuse me?” Eddie called out cheerfully, approaching Sonya and Shane and cutting Shane off mid-sentence. “Sorry to interrupt. You’re not talking about Leo Tanaka by any chance, are you?”

Shane turned to look at Eddie, shaking his head as he looked down and took a deep breath. “Yeah.”

“Wouldn’t know where I could find him, would you?”

“Lassiters, probably. He’s the manager there.”

“Are you a friend of his?” Sonya asked softly, attempting to smile as she rubbed the tears away from her eyes.

Eddie chuckled. “Something like that. We used to work together and I was passing through and thought I’d check in, see how he was.”

“Well, he could use a friend right now especially after what happened the other night.” Shane said.

Eddie’s eyes peaked with interest as he leaned in. “What happened?”

“His sister went on a rampage!” Shane turned to look at Sonya as she looked away unimpressed.

“Sister?” Eddie said, surprised before licking his lips and nodding as he tilted his head. “So, I’m guessing that means he found his father?”

“Yeah, Paul.”

“Paul Robinson?” Eddie’s eyes widened in concern, hoping for a different answer than the one he knew he was going to get.

“That’s the one.” Shane responded, uninterested.

Eddie sighed, rubbing his head. “Of course, it is.”

“Look, I’ve got to get back to work.”

Shane addressed both Eddie and Sonya before picking up the glasses on the table and walking away as Eddie edged closer to Sonya, leaning on the table.

“Sorry to just butt in.”

“No, that’s… it’s fine.” Sonya waved it off before turning to look at him. “Most people who eavesdrop don’t usually get involved though.”

“Oh, no. I wasn’t…” Eddie laughed as Sonya looked at him before talking sincerely. “Are you okay?”

“Yeah…” Sonya tried to shake it off but she started to get upset. “No. Not really. There’s just a lot on my mind at the moment.”

“With your friend? Amy, wasn’t it?” Sonya’s shoulders dropped as she looked at him and he leaned in closer to her and smiled. “Okay. Maybe I was eavesdropping a little bit.”

Sonya smiled gently through her sadness as she looked at him, shaking her head. “Among other things.”

“That’s Leo’s sister I take it.” Eddie asked.

Sonya nodded. “Yep.”

“Is it that bad?”

“You have no idea.”

“Well, it’s great that you want to help her through this.” Eddie said softly. “It’s always nice to have someone there, looking out for you and knowing that some cares can make all the difference in the world.”

“It can.” Sonya smiled gently.

Eddie’s expression turned sad and he bit the top of his lip as his gaze turned away from Sonya, partially talking to himself and her. “Just as long as you don’t push yourself too far doing it.”

“God! You’re as bad as everyone else, aren’t you?” Sonya responded harshly.

“Whoa!” Eddie leaned back, as Sonya’s words caught him by surprise. “Hang on a second. I…”

“No! No, you’re all the same.” Sonya said angrily and pushed her hands out in front of her, causing Eddie to take a step back. “It’s all ‘you’re doing the right thing’ or ‘I support you’ and then out comes how to really feel about this and that you think helping people who need it is a mistake.”

“Okay. No, that is not that was I doing at all. Helping someone who needs it is never a mistake. You’re not doing anything wrong here but…” Eddie said determined before shaking his head and looking down sadly. “It’s hard work and it can take a long time and can sometimes take its toll on you and I just think that putting yourself first always needs to be an option.”  

“If you decide to help someone, you need to be prepared for how bad it’s going to get and if you start something, you need to stick with it. Don’t get involved at all if you can’t handle it.” Sonya insisted, as her eyes filled with tears.

“It’s never that simple and frankly,” Eddie’s eyes widened in surprise and he chuckled for a moment before his tone became serious. “That is a messed-up way to think about something like this.”

“Excuse me?” Sonya whispered under her breath.

“You heard me.” Eddie responded through gritted teeth. “You have no idea what you can or can’t handle until you are IN that situation. You might be able to cope but someone else… they might want to help but that doesn’t mean they can without hurting themselves in the process. Your friend won’t get anywhere if you break yourself trying to help her.”

“I’ve been there and…”

“…So, have I!” Eddie cut her off, leaning in so he was looking her directly in the eye and spoke softly, almost in a whisper. “Watching somebody tear themselves apart for you doesn’t help. It’s just something else you have to live with. Something else you have to blame yourself for.”

“And having someone who said they were going to help you walk away doesn’t help either. It sets you back and if you’re at your worst – you are left alone without any way to get your head back above water.” Sonya’s voice broke up and she looked to the side as her lips trembled and she started to cry.

Recognising she was upset and concerned he went too far, Eddie attempted to respond and edged closer to Sonya before his watch started beeping. He took a step back, shaking his head as he walked off, leaving Sonya alone and in tears as he left The Waterhole. He headed back to his room and opened his bag, taking out three bottles and emptying one pill from each of them into his hand and swallowed them.

-*-

“Leo…” Shane called out, approaching Leo as he staggered into The Waterhole and tried to keep himself standing upright. “You alright, mate?”

Leo nodded halfheartedly, looking around in a daze which he tried to shake off. “Um… you called?”

“Ah… Yeah.”

“Is everything okay?” Leo asked concerned.

“I’m not sure. I, um…” Shane said softly. “I think I messed up.”

Leo leaned back and whispered. “Here?”

“No. With you, kind of.” Shane gestured at Leo as he tilted his head. “You see… this guy came in here looking for you and… well, I’d just had an argument with Sonya and I wasn’t really paying attention and…” He cleared his throat uncomfortably. “I told him where to find you and basically who your family was and I thought you should know. You know, just to be on the safe side.”

“Who was he?” Leo whispered, gently shaking his head.

“I don’t know but he said you used to work together. He’s probably around somewhere. You can’t miss him – not with that tattoo and he’s really nosey too. Trust me. Someone’s gonna remember him.”

“Tattoo?” Leo asked, leaning in.

“Yeah, it was, um…” Shane squinted, trying to remember as he pointed to his neck with both hands. “It was like a red snake, maybe a cobra with a skull head.”

Leo’s eyes widened and his expression alternating between shock and confusion as his hands started to shake and he pointed to the left side of his neck and then dragged his finger along the front. “On the…the… the, um… the left side… side of his neck and going across?”

“Yeah. Kind of creepy actually. Not that I’m judging or anything but…” Shane stepped forward, concerned as Leo turned incredibly pale and stared directly at him, not blinking and barely breathing. “Are you alright?”

“Um… Sorry. I need to um…” Leo took a step back; his breathing rapidly increasing and he ran off.

Tuesday 2nd July 2013 2:41am

Leo rolled over in bed and onto his right side, extending his arm across the other side of the bed seconds before jolting awake and reaching over to turn on the light to find Eddie gone. He looked around in horror for a moment and then jumped out of bed, rushing over to open the bedroom door.

“EDDIE?”

Leo screamed, taking a step forward as he looked to the side and noticed that the front door was open and due to the storm outside, the wind was causing it to bang. He quickly ran back into the bedroom and got dressed before running out the front door and calling out to him.

“EDDIE? EDDIE?” Leo screamed loudly due to the intensity of the storm before whispering to himself. “Oh, God! Where is he?”

He ran all around the area, calling out to him as he bit his lips and his eyes were filled with panic and he continued until he reached the cliff, pausing in horror as he spotted Eddie’s jacket and ran as fast as he could towards the cliff edge.

Present Day

‘Eddie? He’s… He’s alive? That’s…’

Leo thought to himself, trying to make sense of what was going on as he slowly made his way through the complex until he reached Lassiters. He leaned against the wall close to the entrance as all those thoughts, that pain and the heartache came flooding back, until he became so distressed that his eyes teared up and his lips started to tremble. He spent years trying to forget that night, trying to find a way to push Eddie out of his mind but no matter what he did or how hard he tried, nothing ever worked. It was like the pain had imbedded itself in him to the point where he couldn’t get rid of it.There was no one to help him through it, no one to talk to about it. He was completely alone. Most of the people in his life didn’t even know he and Eddie had been in a relationship and the ones who did, were no longer in his life.  

He’d cut so many people out of his life because of Eddie. People he’d known and been friends with for years because of their behaviour towards him, treating him like he was just high maintenance and ignoring his struggles or seeing it as a joke. While trying to mask their ableism by throwing around words like ‘self-care’ and ‘doing what’s best for yourself’ which he knew was their way of telling him to dump Eddie and find himself someone who they deemed as worth caring about. Someone who Leo would be a boyfriend too instead of their carer. Everything they did just made him hate them more and they were gone, out of his life for good within a few days.

He was never under an illusion that their relationship was going to be an easy one. That their problems would consist of arguing about the right way to stack the dishwasher or how something should be cooked. He knew the reality of the situation from the beginning. Eddie’s mental health issues, his alcoholism and his trauma - it was always going to be hard. They were always going to have problems of some kind but he didn’t care. He loved him and was in it for the long haul. Nothing was going to change that, he just had to find a new way to deal with it. Even as time went on, his drinking got worse and he stopped taking his medication – those days, he just wanted it to stop. He didn’t know how to handle it or how to help him and there were days when it took its toll but nights were the worst.

A few days before he’d disappeared, Leo had come home from work later than usual because he’d been helping someone out when he walked into the house and found blood everywhere and no sign of Eddie. The walls were smeared in it and as he approached the bathroom, he noticed the handle was soaked. He tried the handle, finding the door locked and called out, only to hear as gasp from inside. He didn’t know what to do, he wanted to call the police or an ambulance but he was scared in case something even worse happened as a result. So he just sat next to the door in silence and waited for him to come out for hours. That was the last night he went out or even slept. He spent day and night drinking as much caffeine as possible and fighting to keep himself awake at all time. Worried that if he fell asleep, something would happen and it did. The night Eddie disappeared, he'd passed out from exhaustion in the late afternoon and when he woke up, Eddie was gone. He’d vanished and he thought he was dead.

The memories and his emotions were becoming overwhelming to the point where he didn’t know what to do next. All he knew was that he had to find Eddie, had to see him and talk to him and find out what happened and if he was alright. He had no idea where he was but decided to check Lassiters first before moving onto other locations. Wiping away the tears from his eyes, he walked in and directly over to the computer, checking and finding his name. ‘E. Daniels’ in room 165. He closed his eyes and took a deep breath before heading towards the elevator and then to his room. He knocked softly on the door and then took several steps back to prepare himself. Eddie was sitting on the bed and looked up before standing up and making his way over to the door and opening it, to find Leo standing there, his eyes full of sadness and he gently smiled.

“Hi.” Leo whispered.

“Hi.” Eddie smiled, before taking a step to the side and opening the door further. “Do you want to come in?”

Leo nodded, walking in while playing with his hands and turned to face Eddie. “You look good. Beard suits you.”

Eddie laughed, looking down as he rubbed his beard. “Thanks.”

“How have you been? Are you okay?” Leo asked, softly.

“Yeah. I’m good.” Eddie smiled, walking over and sitting on the bed, looking up at Leo. “Actually, I’m… I’m great. I’ve, um… I stopped drinking.”

“Really?” Leo whispered, his eyes softened.

“Sober now… 14 months and I’m back on my meds. It’s still… you know, it’s pretty hard but I’m getting there and I’m seeing a psychologist too.”

“That’s great. I’m happy for you.”

“You know I… I forgot how good this feels actually. It’s… it’s like I’m alive again.” Eddie responded happily as Leo smiled at him, his eyes filled with joy as he leaned back and looked down.

Eddie’s smile faded and he looked at Leo with uncertainty. “I was expecting you to be more… angry.”

“I don’t know what to feel.” Leo responded sadly as his voice momentary broke up. “I’m just really glad you’re alive.”

Eddie smiled, softly as he looked at Leo, at the shadows under his bloodshot eyes as concern took over him. Leo’s white shirt was buttoned up unevenly and one side was hanging over his pants. His clothes looked like they’d been slept in and he reeked of alcohol.

“Are you okay?”

“Yeah. Just a bit under the weather at the moment.”

Eddie whispered, unconvinced. “Right.” Before taking a deep breath and looking directly at Leo. “Well, you might want to have a shower and change your clothes if you’re going to spin that lie… you stink.” Eddie said harshly, looking away.

“Thanks.” Leo said unimpressed, before turning the conversation away from himself. “Why did you wait until now to come back?”  

Eddie looked up, startled and uncomfortable by the sudden change in conversation and shook his head, biting his lip as he looked down and spoke softly. “I guess… I thought it was best if I stayed away.”

“What?” Leo asked, his eyes widening in shock as he stepped forward.

“It was bad, Leo.”

“I know it was. I was there.”

“And you didn’t do anything.” Eddie said harshly, staring at Leo. “No matter how bad it got, you just…” He clenched his teeth together. “You didn’t leave.”

Leo whispered, confused. “How is that a bad thing?”

“Because I saw what it was doing to you even if you didn’t want to. Being around me wasn’t good for you.” Eddie said softly.

“You’re talking like it was always bad.” Leo leaned in closer, sadly. “Like we never had a single good day. It was just a couple of days, it would have passed. It always did.”

“No, it wouldn’t. It was different this time and those few moments of clarity showed me that.” Eddie stated as Leo shook his head in frustration. “I left because you were never going to. You would have stayed no matter what and I couldn’t let you do that.”

“I knew what I let myself in for. I wouldn’t have stayed if I didn’t want to and I wanted to because I – “

Leo said before a knock on the door, stopped him mid-sentence and he turned away from Eddie to regain his composure as Eddie stood up and walked to the door, opening it to find Paul standing there.

“Oh, hello.” Eddie leaned back, surprised.

“Hi.” Paul smiled, before looking down momentarily and taking a deep breath. “I just wanted to apologise.”

Eddie waved him off, shaking his head. “It’s not necessary.”

“What happened?” Leo asked, concerned, walking up and standing next to Eddie, looking at Paul.

“Leo?” Paul leaned back.

“It was nothing.” Eddie smiled at Paul before turning to look at Leo and whispering. “Don’t worry about it.”  

“What are you doing here?”

“Eddie and I, um… we worked together in Sydney.”

“Oh, right.” Paul’s demeanour changed drastically, looking at Eddie cautiously before taking a step towards Leo. “Are you okay? You still not feeling well?

“Yeah, no I’m, um… I’m fine. Just run down. You know, all the extra work.” Leo said as convincingly as possible, turning to look at Eddie huffed and shook his head, turning to face Paul.

“Oh, tell me about it.” Paul let out a sigh in frustration. “The staff spend more time gossiping about Brandon than actually doing any work. They just don’t shut up about him. How does one person manage to mess everything up so badly?”

Leo chuckled nervously, closing his eyes and looking down to take a deep breath, rubbing his forehead as Paul continued talking. He turned to the side and found himself face to face with Eddie who was watching and noticed his reaction to Brandon’s name, his eyes softening in either concern or disappointment and he broke eye with Leo and looked at Paul, smiling as he continued to talk.

“You know what I mean? Anyway, I’ve got to get back to work.”

Paul walked away and Eddie leaned forward, waiting until he was out of sight and then turning, leaning against the door and looking at Leo as he spoke softly.

“Leo... What have you done?

Leo looked up, unable to maintain his composure and his breathing rapidly increased, resulting in him running out of the room and down the hall as Eddie stepped forward.

“Leo?” Eddie called out after him before he looked down, shaking his head in concern.

Chapter Text

“Sometimes you hit a point where you either change or self-destruct.”

Sam Stevens

 

Three Days Later 

Leo sat in bed, in the dark. 

The curtains closed and two empty bottles of whiskey with the lids off were resting on the bed next to him. 

He hadn't slept properly in weeks. Every time he tried to close his eyes he saw him. Brandon. His eyes wide open, glazed over and staring up at him as he lay in a pool of blood while the rest of the time, he could smell him. That putrid, decomposing smell that had seeped into his senses. It had reached the point where the only way he could get any rest was to drink or self medicate. So that’s what he did. All day, every day until he passed out. Until his mind was nothing but fog and he was able to forget what he had done and it worked, if only for a few hours a day. He could escape reality - escape the guilt that was slowly eating him alive but now, it wasn’t working. Everything was returning to the surface and he was forced to think and feel and confront what he’d done and it was all Eddie’s fault.

It was the look in his eyes. 

The instant realisation of what he'd done. 

That even after five years, Eddie could still see straight through him. That he could look at him and know the truth without him saying a single word and in that moment, he could see in his eyes that he knew he was responsible for what happened to Brandon. 

And now everything he'd done - that he’d inflicted on himself just to keep himself going so he could function wasn’t working anymore. It was eating away at him again and nothing he’d tried over the last three days was able to stop it. Instead, it was forcing him to relive that moment over and over and over again while making him realise just how alone he truly was. 

That there was no one he could talk to. Who he could be honest with except for Eddie and he was the last person he wanted to talk to about this, especially given how he would probably react. Eddie was different to everyone else in his life. He’d almost put him on the same level as Paul, almost (even though Paul’s reaction would be nothing like Eddie’s) and he didn’t even know if that was a good thing or a bad thing or if it was even what he wanted. 

He didn’t know if he needed someone who would be horrified. Who would be absolutely disgusted in him and what he’d done. Who would disown him and turn him into the police immediately without even giving him a chance to explain - to tell them what happened that day. 

Or if he wanted or even needed someone like Eddie’s reaction to this instead. 

Someone who would understand. Who would be okay and supportive, who would help him through this without question. It wouldn't change anything for him or their relationship, he'd treat Leo the same as he did before and worse of all, he would treat the murder of an innocent person as the equivalent of stepping on an ant. He’d already imagined a scenario where he opened up to Eddie, telling him everything that happened that day - what he’d done. Saying the words “I killed someone” and knowing Eddie would probably just smile, shrug and say something like “good for you” before finishing his orange juice and not because he didn’t believe him or didn’t take him seriously but because he wouldn’t care.

Even though he knew, deep down, that it wasn’t true. 

Not all of it anyway. 

Eddie wasn’t that heartless - that careless or insensitive, especially towards him and not if he saw how much he was struggling with this. But right now, all he could think about and remember was the bad when it came to both Eddie and their relationship to the point where it drowned out all the good, happy and supportive moments they had together and instead, replaced them with something that made him feel like telling Eddie wouldn’t help but rather, would give him the incentive to do it again. That Eddie would even encourage it. 

And on top of that, he now had all of Paul's questions, his curiosity and wanting to know more about Eddie to deal with. 

Wanting to know about their relationship and how they met. Where and when, exactly in Sydney they worked together. If he had any connection to the Renshaws. Why had he never mentioned him before? What kind of person was he? Could he be trusted or was this going to turn into another Mannix situation? It was just question upon question to the point where he couldn’t even remember what he’d told him. Although, given the direction that the conversation had started to go in, he had a bad feeling he’d accidentally told him something he shouldn’t have. 

As he sat there, his phone vibrated on the bedside table, notifying him that he had a message. It was a reminder from Paul: "Don't forget. Kahooli meeting at 10am! Please don’t mess this up, Leo OK. It’s VERY IMPORTANT!!!!! And if something goes wrong, don’t panic, just call me and I will handle it.”

Looking at the time on his phone, he realised he had just under 20 minutes to get to the meeting. Letting out a massive sigh, he rubbed his forehead and the side of his face violently and then closed his eyes as he slowly yet painfully made his way out of bed. Standing up, he clenched his teeth together as his whole body ached and his legs buckled from under him as he collapsed. Leaning on the side of the bed, he took several deep breaths before attempting to stand again. Finding his feet, he placed both of his hands to either side in order to balance himself and when he realised he was okay, he leant down and felt for his clothes, which were spread out all over the floor. Picking up a shirt and a pair of pants and putting them on and then slipping into his shoes which were next to the door.

Walking into the bathroom, he stood in front of the mirror. His hands clutching either side of the sink basin as he looked at himself. He was paler than usual - almost sickly looking. His face, white as a ghost and his eyes completely bloodshot as dark shadows surrounded both eyes. He reached for and combed his oily hair back with his left hand as he tried to straighten the creases out of his shirt with his right before grabbing hold of the electric razor to shave, in order to make himself look as presentable as he could manage in his current state.

Taking a step back, he looked down at himself, at how he was going to present himself at the meeting before taking a deep breath and leaning in towards the mirror. "Okay... It’s okay… You’re gonna be fine and If anyone asks, you have food poisoning." Leo whispered to himself as he exhaled and nodded and then forced a smile while he clenched his hand into a fist. "Fuck!" 

As he walked out of the bathroom and towards the elevator, he stumbled back. Shutting his eyes tightly as he recoiled from the sunlight that was shining in, illuminating the penthouse from the opened window on the balcony and holding his hand up to protect his eyes from the light. He pressed the button to the elevator and as it opened, he stepped inside and headed for the ground floor. Stepping out of the elevator, he stumbled forward and leant against the counter, squinting as he looked around - his eyes widening when he noticed Sonya, standing in the complex, completely motionless and staring out into the distance. Continuing to hold his hand out to protect his eyes from the sun, he stepped out of the hotel and started walking towards her. 

"Sonya?" 

Leo called out as Sonya turned to look at him as she proceeded to rub her face with both hands, causing it to turn red and blotchy as her already bloodshot eyes continued to fill up with tears and she forced a smile to hide it. She looked exactly the same as she had for the past month. She’d either been crying or was constantly on the verge of crying while trying to pretend, and not doing a very good job of it, that she was alright and there was nothing to worry about. 

"Hi. " Sonya whispered, softly as her voice broke up and she coughed, clearing her throat in order to speak up louder as she attempted a genuine smile. "Hi."

"Are you alright?" Leo replied solemnly as his brows furrowed. 

"Me? Yeah... " Sonya's voice went extremely high. "Yeah, no. No. I'm... I'm okay. I'm-I’m-I’m I’m good. Yeah, no. I'm... I'm good. Good." Sonya’s whole face lit up while her eyes remained sad before quickly breaking eye contact with Leo and looking down as she whispered to herself. "I'm good. Yeah, I’ve just… there’s a-a-a-a a lot on my mind at the moment." Snapping herself out of it and laughing as she looked up at him while Leo continued to watch her, concerned. "Did your friend find you? I, um…” She cleared her throat. “I can’t remember if he told me his name… but, um…” Sonya blinked repeatedly as her composure dropped. “he was, um… he was looking for you the other day. Did he…” Clearing her throat again. “Did he find you?”

“Yeah, he did.” Leo exhaled as he shook his head, closing his eyes and looking down for a moment. He’d seen that look on Sonya’s face before. Most people who’d dealt with Eddie at some point had it. “What did he say?" He asked, exacerbated. 

Sonya squinted, taken aback at Leo’s comment and how quickly he noticed something was wrong. “Sorry?” 

“He had a go at you, didn’t he?” 

"N-n-no, um… It… it-it wasn't…” Sonya stammered while attempting to play down the situation. “He just... he said something that..." Waving her arms to the side and clearing her throat as she tried to smile. "It's okay. Really. I was just having a…” Sonya took a deep breath and shook her head. " It… It-It-It was all just a… something he said was just a bit too… It was confronting, that’s all.”

"Look, don't…” Leo sighed as he raised his hand, gesturing for Sonya to stop. “Don’t listen to anything he says, okay? And please don't take it personally either. Eddie... he can be…” Leo huffed. “Well, honestly he's just an asshole and has a habit of rubbing people up the wrong way. Usually because he doesn’t…” Leo paused, taking a deep breath as he thought twice about what he was going to say. “He doesn’t really notice the harm he causes.”

"It's okay. Really. Just, um... just forget I said anything. Okay?” Sonya shook her hand in front of her, closing her eyes as she nodded. “It's all... it's good. It’s all good and I've got to…” Sonya pointed towards the other side of the complex, her smile fading the second she was facing away from Leo and returned the moment she turned back to look at him. “Yeah. I'm... yeah, I'm going…” C huckling. “I’m gonna go. Bye." Sonya’s facade dropped in an instant as she turned and walked away from him. 

Leo stood in the complex, gritting his teeth and shaking his head. His fingers tapping against the side of his leg as he whispered under his breath, “Damnit, Eddie!” before he turned, storming back into Lassiters and into the elevator, heading for Eddie’s room.

He wasn't surprised. 

This was just who Eddie was. 

There were some things that would have changed but he knew that the way Eddie treated people was not one of them and was probably never going to be one of them. It was always the same with him. He always went too far and ended up hurting people because he never knew when to stop and cared even less. As a result, he had a way of making people say and do and think things they wouldn’t normally - pushing them over the edge and either didn’t realise how much harm he’d done or depending on who it was aimed at (like David), just didn’t care because it was intentional. Too often he just let it slide but this time, with Sonya, seeing her in that state and knowing that Eddie, after everything she’d already been through had just made things worse for her, it left him fumming. 

Leo stepped off the elevator on Eddie's floor and walked, quickly and angrily towards his room. Closing his hand tightly into a fist and banging on the door three times. "Eddie? Open the door!" Leo called out loudly as he hit the door again and again.

Eddie opened the door and took a step forward, leaning against the side of the door frame as he tilted his head to the right and licked his lips, giving Leo a cheeky smile as he crossed his arms and greeted him flirtatiously. "Morning sunshine. What can I do for you?"

Leo was stunned and in an instant, all of his thoughts - everything he was going to say to Eddie completely disappeared from his mind as he found himself unable to take his eyes off of him. 

Eddie’s appearance had drastically changed since he’d last seen him three days ago. He’d shaved off his beard while still maintaining a rather scruffy look. He was wearing tight fitting leather trousers and a semi tight white cotton long sleeve t-shirt with the sleeves rolled up to the elbows. Which in itself was unusual. He’d always been extremely self conscious about his scars - about people seeing them and speculating, thinking the worst of him and did everything to avoid that happening. So to see him showing them off, even to him was a surprise. But there was something else about the way he was acting. The way he was standing. Looking at him and smiling. It was like he was back to being his old mischievous self again. The way he was before his breakdown. 

“Leo?” Eddie asked softly as he reached forward and gently placed his hand on Leo’s arm, catching his full attention and causing him to make eye contact. “Are you alright?” 

“What the hell did you say to Sonya?” Leo asked, his voice turning cold and detached as he remembered what he was there for. 

Eddie blinked repeatedly as his cheerful expression slowly faded and he asked, surprised. “Sorry?”

“Sonya? You know, the woman you were talking to at The Waterhole when you were looking for me? The woman you hurt by being an insensitive Prick!” 

"That...” Eddie stood upright and took a step towards Leo as he shook his head. “It wasn't my intention."

Leo huffed. "Really?" 

"It wasn't, I swear. Look, all that I said was..."

Leo held up his hand like a stop sign, cutting Eddie off mid-sentence. "I don't care what you said. Just apologise to her, okay?”

“What a surprise!” Eddie mumbled quietly under his breath. "Okay." 

Eddie nodded, replying softly as Leo’s breathing stilted and he looked down, resting his head in his hand as he closed his eyes while Eddie, concerned, took a step towards him and placed his hand gently on his wrist, rubbing his thumb back and forth along his skin.

“Leo? What’s wrong?” 

Leo squinted as he looked up, confused. "Okay?" He questioned as Eddie shook his head. “You just said okay?”

"Well, yeah!” Eddie responded, surprised. “I've been meaning to apologise but, well I haven't seen her again.” Eddie’s eyes softened as he cleared his throat. “Is she alright?" 

"No!” Leo answered harshly. “No, she ISN’T ALRIGHT!” Screaming out as tears slowly filled his eyes and his voice broke up. “She's been through hell lately and is only Just HOLDING IT TOGETHER and then you… YOU” Leo pointed his index finger in Eddie’s face as Eddie squinted, licking his lips. “YOU just show up here WITHOUT A CARE IN THE WORLD FOR ANYONE ELSE OR WHAT THEY’RE GOING THROUGH…” Leo’s breathing became even more stilted while his voice softened. “ All you’ve done is make everything 10 times Worse than it already was.” He got choked up. “You just dredged up everything that should’ve stayed buried!” 

Eddie whispered as he tilted his head sympathetically. "I'm not trying to make your life worse, Leo."

"This Isn’t About Me!” Leo clenched his teeth together, enunciating every word as his eyes widened and he started shaking.

"Are you sure?” Eddie asked, worried and unconvinced.

"YES! It’s about Sonya, okay? And I’m sorry…” Leo laughed as he struggled to believe what was happening in front of him. “You've been meaning to apologise? Since when do you care that you’ve hurt someone?" Leo scrunched up his face as he looked at Eddie, confused.

Eddie chuckled, his eyes slowly turning cold and empty as he asked in a condescending tone. "Since when did you give a shit if I hurt someone? Hm? It’s not like you’ve ever cared before, baby!” 

Eddie smiled as Leo looked at him, shocked. 

Leo’s eyes widened, blinking repeatedly as his lips quivered. He was completely taken aback by Eddie’s words - at being reminded of what he’d done. At what he’d allowed to happen for years and that he never said or did anything to stop him. That he, like Eddie, didn’t care about the people he was hurting and now to have that so blatantly thrown back in his face, by Eddie of all people just hit him like a freight train. 

“People can change, Leo,” Eddie gestured at Leo with both hands as he tilted his head and looked him in the eyes. “as you can see.” He responded tenderly as Leo’s eyes softened at the realisation he was being genuine. “Besides, I… I like Sonya. She seems nice.”

Leo’s brows furrowed. “What?” He mouthed. “You met her once and you UPSET HER!"

“I know that, it’s just…” Eddie exhaled, happily as he smiled to himself. “I don’t know. There’s just something about her.” 

"Right..."

"So, did you just come here to yell at me or... do you want to come in?" 

"NO! No, I... I don't want to Come In. I have a meeting in…” Leo looked down at his watch and sighed. “Shit! 2 minutes.” He rubbed his head and squinted as he took a deep breath. “But I have been wanting to talk to you about something. I had… there was something important I had to tell you but I… shit! I can’t remember what it was now.” Leo whispered, annoyed at himself as he continued to rub his head.  

Eddie leaned forward, scrunching up his nose as he whispered back. "Booze tends to do that.” He started to laugh while Leo looked up at him, unimpressed and shaking his head, panicked as Eddie’s voice returned to normal. “What? It does and you're really going to a meeting looking like..." Eddie huffed and took a step forward as he fixed Leo’s shirt collar, patting it down as his eyes slowly made their way from Leo’s lips to his eyes. "like that?"

Leo broke eye contact as he looked down at his clothes. "Why? What's wrong with it?" 

Eddie took a step back and gestured up and down with his hand. "You look like you've been wearing those clothes for days… and you smell like it too.” Eddie chuckled as Leo rolled his eyes, annoyed and turned to leave. "Leo..." Eddie gently grabbed hold of Leo's arm as he broke free of his grip and walked away, turning the corner. "At least take a breath mint. And DON’T do the food poisoning story. You suck at- RESCHEDULE!" Eddie yelled out, before sighing and shaking his head as he turned and walked back into his room. 

Leo headed towards the boardroom to see the room already full of people in preparation for the meeting. Standing at the door, he took several deep breaths as he held his left hand against his chest before turning and leaning against the wall to the side of the door as his nerves set in and his mind started racing. 

‘Who are these people? Why are they here? What was this meeting about again? Why was it so important I get this deal? Why did dad give me this job? He was supposed to do this one himself. Why did he have to put me in charge of something this important? He knows I can’t handle it right now. What’s he playing at?’ 

The more he tried to remember everything he was supposed to do, the more worried and stressed and agitated he became to the point it all got to be too much for him and he took off. Rushing towards the office where he ran inside, closing and locking the door behind him and resting against it as he took multiple deep breaths in an attempt to calm himself down and regain his composure. 

Staring at the desk, he contemplated whether or not he should have a drink to steady his nerves or just push through this and go back to the boardroom and just get this meeting over and done with. Hoping to regain control, he walked over to the desk and took out a bottle of vodka he’d kept stashed away in a drawer, pouring himself a glass all the way to the top and sculling it. As he finished it, he held his hand against his mouth and took a deep breath before walking over to the door, down the corridor and stood in front of the room. 

“Okay. It’s okay. You're fine. You can do this. It was just nerves." 

 

*

*

*

 

Elly slowly made her way through the complex as she alternated between looking at her phone, her finger hovering between Leo and Amy’s names and watching where she was going. She’d accepted both of them walking away from her - pushing her away, as hard as it had been as it was what they both wanted but with each passing day and every new piece of information she received, she regretted it more and more. She missed them and wanted both of them back in her life again but couldn’t shake the feeling that that was never going to happen and if it did, it wouldn’t be for a very long time. 

She'd been wanting to call them. 

Check on them. 

She was worried about both of them. About whether or not they were okay and how they were coping with everything but she didn't know who to reach out to first and it left her feeling conflicted as she knew she couldn’t be there for both of them. If she contacted Leo, Amy would take it as a sign she cared about him more than her and it would cause them to drift even further apart and if she contacted Amy, not only was she putting her heart on the line and allowing herself to possibly get hurt but she would also be following Leo’s instructions by choosing Amy. That she would be the one in her life and would essentially be shutting the door on her friendship with Leo forever. Which was something she didn’t want to do, not yet anyway. 

But everything seemed to be getting worse for both of them and she knew she needed to make a decision. 

Ben had told her about an argument he overheard between Amy and David. She was tearing into him and blaming him for everything that had happened. Going so far as to say that his “daddy issues” (her words) were responsible for destroying hers and everyone else's lives. That if it wasn’t for him, everything that happened to everyone over the past two years wouldn’t have happened. That she would be happy. That Tyler would be free. That Jimmy would still be in her life and she and Leo would never have met and would both be much happier now. She even went as far as to claim that his obsession with being perfect and the favourite caused Leo to be mistreated his entire life and that it was his fault that Leo was almost murdered, which was a shock as everyone, including Leo knew it was an accident. 

Jimmy had also moved out of home. He was now living with the Cannings and refused to have anything to do with Amy. Shouting at her that he hated her and that if she didn’t leave him alone, he would tell everyone what she did. Something that scared Amy enough that she listened to him and hasn’t been anywhere near Jimmy or the street in over three weeks. She had no idea what was going on but whatever Amy had done left her willing to walk away from son, something she’d never seen her do before. Though, when she asked JImmy what was going on, it was clear he had no intention of actually saying anything. He didn’t want to hurt his mother, he was just upset with her and wanted her to leave him alone. 

It seemed like everyone in that family hated everyone else. Except for Leo, that is as he appeared to be the only one who wasn’t fighting with the rest of his family although, that probably had less to do with whether or not he was angry with them and more to do with him drinking himself into oblivion. 

Karl had told her about finding Leo unconscious near Lassiter’s Lake after he’d taken one too many sleeping pills and then again, the following week when he was so drunk he couldn’t even stand up so he just stayed there, lying on the wet ground. Terese had also mentioned to Susan that she’d had to cover for Leo multiple times because he wasn’t in a fit state to actually do his job which was becoming more of a concern with each passing day and had led to some kind of incident at The Backpackers which Paul covered up. 

The problem was that everyone seemed to assume that it was all about Amy to the point where no one was looking beyond that or paying it much attention but she couldn’t shake the feeling that there was more to it. That something else had happened around that time and this mess with Amy was simply masking it. 

“Elly?” 

A voice called out in the distance as Elly turned in the direction it came from to see Paul approaching her at lightning speed. “I was hoping…” Paul took an extremely deep breath. “to run into you.” Paul said as he smiled and huffed, out of breath but before Elly could reply, he gently took hold of the side of her arm and turned, pointing at Eddie who was walking across the complex as Elly’s eyes followed his hand to see who or what he was pointing at. 

“Do you know him? 

"Um... No, I…” Elly’s brows furrowed as she shook her head. “No, I don't think so." 

“Are you sure?”

“Pretty sure I’d remember that tattoo. It kinda stands out.” Elly chuckled through her response as Paul sighed and looked down. “ Why? Who is he?" 

Paul took a deep breath. “Apparently, he and Leo worked together in Sydney at the club in Kings Cross. You knew Leo and Mannix from the club so” Paul gestured, with both hands towards Elly. “I thought… maybe you knew him too. His name is Eddie Daniels.” Paul carefully enunciated his name.

“Name doesn’t ring a bell. Sorry…” Elly took a deep breath and then looked at Paul, tilting her head at him. “And what do you mean apparently? You don’t have to be suspicious of everyone connected to Leo or David or Amy you know.”

Paul scrunched up his face in annoyance and nodded. “Yes. I know that, thank you and I wasn’t. Not until Leo’s story kept changing.” Paul’s voice went up one octane as he looked at Elly unimpressed. “He gave me 4 different answers to the same question.”

“Why would you ask him the same question four times?” Elly asked, confused. 

“Is that really your takeaway here?” Paul responded, frustrated. 

“No.” Elly exhaled before asking solemnly. “Had he been drinking?” 

“No and he hasn’t been for the past week. He promised me he wouldn’t after…” Paul caught himself before finishing the sentence, which caused Elly’s brows to furrow in concern as Paul cleared his throat. “ I just… Something isn’t right.”

Paul nodded and briefly smiled at Elly as he turned to walk away before Elly called out, “Paul?” stopping him as he turned to look at her. 

"How is Leo? Is he... I mean, is he okay?" 

Paul’s eyes softened as he exhaled before smiling sadly. “I have no idea to be honest. He just… he seems to keep getting worse and I have no idea how to help him. I’ve tried everything I can think of but… he won’t talk to me - he won’t talk to anyone.”

“...and Amy?”

“Amy hasn’t spoken to me since she moved out. She wants nothing to do with me.”

“Because of Leo?” Elly questioned. 

“Among other things.” Paul tilted his head to the side.

Elly went to walk away when Paul called out to her . "You know, maybe you should try and talk to Leo. He might open up to you. Amy too.”

Elly nodded as she walked away, sadly. 

 

*

*

*

 

Eddie walked along the path, heading for the Community Centre and the next AA meeting.

One of the first things he always did when arriving somewhere new was to locate where they held the Narcotics Anonymous and Alcoholics Anonymous meetings. He didn’t always need them but knowing where to find one in event that something happened - that he needed someone to talk to or a place to go if things got bad gave him a sense of security. 

He’d already stopped by the previous day to get a feel of the area but decided against going in; however, today was a different story. Seeing Leo distressed and already knowing the real underlying reason behind all of this and not being able to tell him, especially in his current state made him question if this was the right decision along with his intention to stick around. He knew it wouldn’t give Leo any closure and would just make everything worse for him but he needed to talk through this decision - his justification for staying quiet, at least for the time being. Whether he actually ended up speaking at the meeting though was another story. He often went to these meetings intending to say something unrelated to his sobriety and then managed to figure it out himself as he sat there, listening to others and hoped, especially in a community that probably already knew Leo and could work out who he was talking about, that it would happen again. 

Turning the corner, he walked towards the Centre’s side entrance as he opened the glass door and stepped inside. 

Pausing as he smiled from ear to ear when he noticed Sonya.

She was standing in the middle of the room, staring at the empty table in front of her while one lonely chair was set up behind her as the letter from Alicia was clutched in her hand, her knuckles pressed against her lips. 

“Hi.” 

Eddie called out, cheerfully. Catching Sonya’s attention as she turned, looking in the direction of the door as she watched Eddie walking towards her. “Oh…” Breathing a sigh of annoyance and rolling her eyes. “Great!” 

“I do love it when people greet me like that.” Eddie chucked, as he stood next to Sonya. 

“You must get it a lot!" Sonya whispered under her breath, which Eddie overheard and smiled as she rubbed her head and turned to look him in the eyes, as she tried to mask her annoyance at him being there. "Did you follow me here?” 

“Ah...” Eddie let out a half laugh. “No. No, um…” Pointing to the chairs. “I’m here for the meeting.” 

“Oh God…” Sonya shut her eyes tightly as she shook her head and sighed, embarrassed before turning to look at Eddie, softly. “I’m sorry. I don’t know why I even thought that you…”

“It’s fine. Really. Do you, um… Would you like some help?” Eddie gestured to the half set up room. 

“Um… Yeah, thanks.”

Sonya nodded, smiling softly before her face dropped as she looked at her hand, at Alicia’s letter which she was still holding and instantly scrunched it up, shoving it in her pocket as Eddie silently watched her and smiled awkwardly when she looked up at him before he walked over to the chairs and began to unstack them, placing them into a circle. 

“So, do you usually set up?” Eddie asked Sonya, gesturing to the room with his left hand as he placed the last chair in the circle with his right. 

“No. No, not any- I mean, I did.” Sonya responded softly as she opened and emptied a packet of biscuits onto a plate on the table. “Years ago I did but I’m just doing it today because I’m…” She turned around to face Eddie, partially nodding. “Well, I’m here early and Veronika couldn’t make it.”

Eddie smiled and nodded back as he took a deep breath and then stepped forward. “I, um… look, I wanted to apologise for what I said the other day.”

“Really?” Sonya questioned, taken aback by his comment. “Because you don’t exactly strike me as someone who apologises when they’re wrong.”

“Oh, I wasn’t wrong.” Eddie laughed. “God, no! Far from it. I just… I should’ve read the room and… not said…” He shrugged. “You know what I said, in that moment. It could’ve waited.”

Sonya rolled her eyes, shaking her head as she huffed, unimpressed. “Right!”

As Eddie watched her, his brows furrowed and he sighed. “Shit!” Mumbling under his breath as he clenched his teeth together. “What I meant to say was…” His eyes softened as he took a deep breath. “I shouldn’t have said what I said to you and I’m really sorry that I hurt you. Leo told me that…” Sonya looked up at him, tenderly as Eddie spoke sincerely. “That you’ve been through a lot lately - he didn’t say what” Shaking his hand in front of him . “and that’s none of my business anyway but I truly am sorry if I made things worse for you and… I mean, I don’t know you. I don’t know what your life’s like or what you’re going through but I’d like to get to know you. If you’re interested.” 

Eddie smiled at Sonya as she smiled back at him before her brows furrowed and nose scrunched up, slightly confused about the way he was looking at her along with his words and what exactly he meant as she suddenly blurted out. “I’m married.”

Eddie’s eyes widened and then immediately furrowed in surprise. “And I’m gay. Now that we’ve sorted that out…” He chuckled as Sonya sighed, rubbing her forehead and mouthing ‘Oh, my God!’ to herself. “Don’t worry, that’s… It’s on me. It’s just… this whole thing is so…” He exhaled, shaking his head. “It’s all very new to me. I don’t,” He squinted as he hesitated through his words - trying to think of the best way to say what he was thinking. “Really know how to talk to people. I don’t know what I’m doing to tell you the truth. I’m just… I’m not a people person. I don’t like people.” He spoke with disgust. “They irritate me but I’m trying to learn how to… be nice and get along with people - how to socialise… Or at least tolerate them but it…” Eddie rubbed his forehead as he momentarily closed his eyes and whispered to himself. “ God! I suck at this. I’m just completely out of my element here.” 

“I don’t know what I’m supposed to say to that…” Sonya responded, quiety. 

“You don’t have to say anything. Really. I just… I wanted to explain and again, say that I’m really sorry. I didn’t mean to hurt you.” Eddie walked closer to her as he smiled softly and put his hands on his hips. 

“You didn’t… well, no you actually did but… Thank you.” 

Sonya smiled softly and looked down, her face dropping the moment she saw the scars on Eddie’s wrists. Tears filling her eyes as Eddie watched her, concerned. Her reaction was different to the one he normally received when people saw his scars. It wasn’t judgment or fear or even pity. It was something else. Something deeper. It was the kind of look that someone got when they were confronted by a reality they’d been avoiding - one they weren’t quite ready to face yet. 

“Sonya, are you okay?” Eddie asked as Sonya clutched hold of her chest and started to cry. Her mouth hung open as she gasped for air and her eyes shut tightly while Eddie moved closer to her, “Hey…” Eddie whispered as he held onto her hand. “ Just… Just sit down, okay? You're okay.” Gently guiding her towards the chairs where he helped her sit down before sitting next to her. Pushing her hair out of her face and behind her ear as he carefully touched her shoulder.

“Do you want to talk about it?” Eddie asked with uncertainty as Sonya held both of her hands to her face and cried, to the point of almost screaming into them. “Look, I know you don’t know me but… I’m here. Whatever it is. You can talk to me. No… no judgment. I promise.”

“No!” 

Sonya whispered as she momentarily turned, to look Eddie in the eyes as he leaned in towards her before shaking her head and quickly standing up while Eddie attempted to hold onto her hand before she pulled away from him, violently. 

“Sonya?” 

“NO!” 

Sonya screamed out as she rushed to the table, picking up her bag before running towards the door and out of the Centre while Eddie watched her, worried and contemplating whether or not he should go after her.

 

*

*

*

 

Paul paced back and forth in front of the Community Centre. Watching multiple people leave the building as he waited for Eddie, who had been lagging behind the others before finally stepping outside as he turned and was about to walk off in the direction of Lassiters. 

"Eddie?" Paul called out casually, causing Eddie to stop as he breathed a sigh of annoyance and rolled his eyes before turning around to face Paul who was still standing by the entrance. "What's that short for? Edward?" Paul enquired. 

“Edmond, actually.” Eddie nodded, tilting his head to the side as he squinted. “Why do you ask?”  

Paul frowned and shook his head while his eyes wandered. “No reason.”

Eddie huffed. “Right…”

Eddie turned around and began to walk away when Paul called out to him again. “How long do you plan on staying in Erinsborough exactly?"

Eddie took a deep breath and turned to face Paul, shaking his head as he momentarily raised his shoulders and shrugged. “Few days. Maybe a week or…” Carefully watching Paul’s face to gauge how he felt about it while he looked down and smiled as he spoke happily. “I don’t know, I might make it more permanent. It’s about time for a change.” Eddie continued smiling as Paul’s face sunk and realising how unhappy Paul was to hear that, he licked his lips and walked towards him as his voice softened. "You don't like me very much, do you? I saw the look on your face when Leo said we used to work together. Is that what this is all about?" 

Paul took a deep breath as he bit his lip and partially nodded. “I know what Leo got mixed up with back in Sydney. And the kinds of people he associated with.” 

“Right.” Eddie whispered as he placed his hands on his hips and looked down at the ground. “ And you think I’m more of the same?” Looking up into Paul’s eyes as he leaned forward. “That I’m, what? Here to Hurt Him? Exploit Him?” He enunciated each word. “That I’ll use what happened with the Renshaws against him?”

Paul’s brows furrowed. “How do you know about the Renshaws?”

“Leo told me. He tells me everything.” 

“Right… So, you never worked for them then?”

“God no!” Eddie let out a half laugh. “They’re psycho’s. Every one of them.” His voice momentarily broke up as he cleared his throat and crossed his arms, taking a deep breath. “No one would work for them or have anything to do with them unless they’re desperate, which I’ve never been. And… to answer your next question,” His eyes and voice softened. “I would never hurt Leo or tell anyone what he did.”

“Good.” Paul smiled and nodded. “But, either way, I still think you should leave. It’s not personal but I don’t trust you - especially around Leo at a time like this.”

“Wh-” Eddie chuckled, unamused. “You mean, while he’s self-destructing and getting drunk at 9am before important business meetings?” He asked, tilting his head to the side as Paul’s face dropped. “Which I’m guessing you didn’t know about.” He whispered momentarily before his voice went back to normal. “ You know…” Edging even closer to Paul until he was right in his face and continuing to speak softly. “Maybe you should be more focused on trying to help your son. Stop him from withering away which you’ve obviously had no intention of Actually doing and less on trying to get me to leave, which *I* have no intention of doing.”

“I think you should reconsider that.” 

“Why?” Eddie questioned, innocently as he shook his head. 

Paul responded, sternly. “You don’t want to find out.”  

“Oh, I think I do.” Eddie laughed with an almost manic look in his eyes as Paul’s brows furrowed, disturbed by Eddie’s behaviour. “I know people like you, very well actually. You don’t like losing control, do you?” 

Paul squinted, tilting his head as he whispered. "Excuse me?" 

“It’s in your eyes. That look… the one a predator gets when they realise they’re slowly losing grip on their prey and watching them scurry away from them. Out of reach.” Eddie stared at Paul, unblinky as his eyes slowly turned cold and detached while his voice went higher. “ Is that how you see Leo? Is he your son or your prey, I wonder?”

“Don’t push it.” Paul clenched his jaw together as fury filled his eyes.

“Why not?” Eddie whispered. “What exactly are you planning on doing to me? Hm? Is that what was going through your mind when you saw these?” Eddie held out his hands, his wrists facing upwards and showing multiple deep scars, old and new on both sides as Paul looked down at them. “It must have crossed your mind, right? Especially when you saw me with Leo… Thinking about how you could use these to get rid of me? Theorising…” Gesturing to his head as he moved his left hand in a circle. “Creating scenarios about how I must have gotten them - questioning if I’m suicidal or… unstable and gonna go off on someone? Hurting them or just myself? How you’d use these to get me out of Leo’s life once and for all?!”

Paul’s brows furrowed as he looked Eddie up and down before staring into his eyes, increasingly disturbed as he responded softly. "I think you need help.”

“Probably.” Eddie giggled. “Doesn’t mean I’m wrong though, does it?” Smiling as he turned to walk away before looking back at Paul and pointing. “You don’t scare me, Paul but take your best shot.” He shrugged as his tone suddenly became serious. “If you don’t mind hurting Leo as well, that is.”

Eddie gave Paul a cheeky smile as he walked away while Paul stood there, completely shocked with no idea how to respond or even feel about what just happened when his mobile started ringing. Breathing heavily, he rubbed his forehead with his right hand as he reached for his phone with his left.

"WHAT?" Paul shouted into the phone as he answered it, taking a deep breath and shaking his head while he looked down before his eyes widened and he looked up, horrified and clenching his jaw. "He what?" 

Ending the call, he mumbled under his breath, angrily. “Damnit Leo!” Before he stormed off - heading for Lassisters and Leo.  

Leo was a mess. 

And as much as he hated to admit it, Eddie was right, in a way. 

He’d been so willing to accept Leo’s account - that this was all about Amy that he hadn’t done anything to actually help him. Despite knowing it wasn’t the truth and instead, decided it was best to give Leo space and allow him to come and talk to him about what was going on if and when he was ready and that he would leave him alone until he was. Deep down, he knew it was the wrong decision but after his fight with Amy - her storming off, moving out of the Penthouse and refusing to have anything to do with him, he didn’t want the same thing to happen with Leo. He didn’t want to take that risk and push him away, especially while he was so fragile. But instead, all he did was give him what he needed to further his own destruction. He was pushing everyone away. Barely spoke to Paul or anyone else for that matter unless they were the ones to initiate the conversation and had completely isolated himself from everyone and everything. He was losing more and more of him by the day. To the point where he’d become almost unrecognisable.

As Paul walked into Lassisters and made his way towards the Manager’s Office, he paused. Taking a deep breath to prepare himself for what was going to come next before opening the door and stepping inside to find Leo sitting at the desk. His shirt was crinkled and covered in stains, with the top few buttons opened. His right hand was holding up his head as he stared at the empty bottle of vodka sitting in front of him and looking completely shattered. 

Paul stood there motionless as his concern and fear for Leo’s declining mental state increased by the second before turning around and closing the door behind him, nodding to himself as he looked back at Leo. “If you didn’t…” Paul said, softly as he started to walk towards Leo. “I could have taken care of the meeting, all you had to do was ask.”

“I thought I’d be alright.” Leo whispered, refusing to make eye contact. 

“Then what happened?” Paul questioned as he moved towards the chair opposite Leo and sat down, leaning forward as his eyes softened.

“I don’t know. I was…” Leo continued to whisper as his nerves set in and voice started breaking up while his lips quivered and Paul looked on with concern. “I was ready and prepared, kinda and then…” Clearing his throat. “I talked to Sonya and Eddie and then… I thought I was okay until… I just couldn’t remember what I was supposed to do and it all just… it kept getting worse.”

Paul shook his head and mumbled under his breath. “Eddie…” Rubbing his forehead, annoyed. “Why am I not surprised?!”

“I’m so sorry, dad.”

“Are you okay?”

"I..." Leo burst into tears as he held his palm against his forehead and clutched onto his hair while Paul watched him, helplessly.

"Leo... Talk to me! Please.” Paul pleaded as his eyes filled with worry. “I know you and I know that something happened and it has nothing to do with Amy. You wouldn’t be throwing your life away,” Gesturing at the empty Vodka bottle. “or drinking your life away because she’s upset with you.”

Leo shook his head as he struggled to get the words out. “It’s… It-It’s nothing. It’s fine. I’m… I'm fine! I’m g-g-g-going to be fine. Don’t worry.” Leo whispered to himself. 

“You are NOT fine!” Paul replied through gritted teeth, his eyes widened as he looked at Leo sternly. “You were Drunk at a Meeting. You disappear for days on end. You can barely even get out of bed and you look as if you’re about to crumble Every Single Second of the day and…” He enunciated each word as he chuckled, unimpressed and trying to hold back his anger as he held his hand out in front of him in the form of a stop sign while he spoke quietly. “don’t even get me started on what happened with that kid...“

“Nothing happened!” Leo held his hands to his chest as he leant back in his seat and pleaded. “I didn’t do anything wrong.”

“You didn’t do any- you got DRUNK WITH A 15 YEAR OLD, LEO!” Paul screamed out, slamming his hand on the table and causing Leo to jump before closing his eyes and taking a deep breath to calm himself down. “I’m sorry but you can barely remember that day! Jesus Christ, Leo! Do you have any idea how lucky you are that the police didn’t get involved?! If this happens again…”

“IT WON’T HAPPEN AGAIN!” Leo screamed, slamming both of his hands on the table as he huffed, biting his lip before he looked up at Paul coldly. “And is this really you just being worried about me? Or is it about you paying them off and not wanting to do that again?”

Paul took a deep breath as he changed the direction of the conversation before things got worse. “ Does this have anything to do with Eddie?" 

Leo squinted, shaking his head as he shrugged his shoulders in an attempt to feign ignorance. "What do you mean?" 

“I just saw him and…” Paul took a deep breath as he licked his lips. “Look, I know he’s your… How can you be friends with someone like that?” He questioned, completely bewildered. “There is something very, very wrong with him!” Paul’s eyes widened as he lowered his voice. “I don’t think he’s safe for you to be around, Leo.” 

“Shit!” Leo mouthed as he closed his eyes. “Dad… You don’t have to worry about Eddie.” He nodded and forced a smile. “Really.” 

“Leo, I know what I’m talking about, okay?” Paul’s eyes widened as he turned his head to the side and pointed at the door. ”And if you saw the way he…”

“So do I and Trust ME.” Leo spoke over Paul to the point of yelling as Paul stopped talking and took a deep breath, gritting his teeth as he looked at the ground, shaking his head. “I know Eddie, dad and I know exactly what he’s like and he would never hurt me.” Leo gently smiled, his voice partially breaking up. “Please trust me and just… Just stay away from him, okay?” He attempted to reassure him while nodding. “It’s for the best.” 

Paul sat back in his chair, continuing to shake his head and look at the ground. “I think…” Looking up at Leo, sadly. “I think I made a mistake with you. I should have realised you were in a bad place and…” He took a deep breath. “Leo, I’m going to remove you as manager for now and put Terese back in charge.”

“What?” Leo whispered under his breath, confused as he looked around the room trying to make sense of where this suddenly came from. “Is this… Is this because of Eddie?”

“No, of course not.” 

Paul responded, softly as he shook his head and attempted to reassure Leo. He already knew how this would look and how Leo was going to respond to it but he also knew he had to make sure that Leo understood that this wasn’t punishment. That he was doing what he truly believed was best for him. 

“I… I should’ve done this weeks ago, Leo. The moment I realised how much you… you were struggling instead of just letting you fall to pieces and use this job to avoid dealing with whatever it is that you’re going through. The Hotel should be the last thing on your mind right now and this break… it won’t be forever but it should give you the time you need to focus on yourself - on getting better.”

“I’m not sick!”

“Leo…”

“Dad, please! You can’t do this!” Leo’s eyes widened as he teared up and pleaded with Paul. “I need this.”

“It’s happening Leo, okay? As of right now…” Paul stood up, towering over Leo as he nodded, seriously. “You are on indefinite sick leave.”

Paul turned and walked out of the room as Leo looked on in shock. His breathing stagnated as his hand started to shake and he tightened it into a fist, which he slammed down on the glass in front of him, smashing it to pieces and cutting up the side of his right hand which he barely noticed as he stood up quickly, knocking his chair over and ran after Paul.  

 

*

*

*

 

Eddie sat alone, at one of the outside tables near the entrance of Harolds, drinking an orange juice and eating a cheese and tomato toasted sandwich when a feeling crept up on him. One he’d experienced before. One that told him someone was watching him. His eyes widened as he looked up and around and spotted Elly. She was standing in the middle of the complex, squinting as her head tilted to the side and her eyes were fixed on him. 

“Yes?” 

Eddie called out, unimpressed and with a hint of irritation in his voice as Elly straightened her head and looked around, uncomfortable and embarrassed as she exhaled and smiled awkwardly before slowly walking towards him as he stared her down.

Hi." Elly asked softly, forcing a smile. "You’re, um… You’re Eddie, right?” 

Eddie squinted, looking her up and down before he leaned back in his chair, placing his hands in his pockets and taking a deep breath. “And you are?” He asked coldly. 

“I’m Elly.” Elly held her hand to her chest before extending it as Eddie looked at her hand, unimpressed before he reached out and shook it. 

“You make it a habit of staring at people, Elly?” Eddie asked as he held onto her hand. 

“What? No! I… sorry, it’s just, um… I’m a… I’m a friend of Leo’s and…” Elly’s smile was replaced with a look of sadness which overcame her as Eddie’s brows furrowed, noticing the change in her behaviour at the mention of Leo.

“Can I…” Elly indicated to the chair opposite Eddie as he nodded and gestured for her to sit down with his eyes. “Thanks.” She chuckled. “You know… it’s funny. I… I've been trying to… that’s why I was looking at you, I don’t normally do that but I’ve been trying and I just…” Elly exhaled, shaking her head as she scrunched up her face. “I just can't seem to remember you.” 

“Remember me?” Eddie questioned as his brows furrowed, confused. “Why would you remember me?” 

“You worked with Leo, right? At the club in Kings Cross?” Elly asked as Eddie’s face dropped, horrified and his eyes turned cold while his left hand formed tightly into a fist. “Well, I was there most nights but… Okay, my memory might be a little fuzzy I suppose but… I don’t remember ever seeing you before and… well, you’re not exactly forgettable.” She chuckled.

“Leo told you I worked at the club?” Eddie asked, softly and calmly as rage filled his eyes and he found himself being overcome with concern that he was desperately trying to mask.

“Oh, no! No, he, um… He told his dad and his dad told me.”

“Right.” Eddie whispered coldly, licking his lips as he took a deep breath and leaned in, resting his elbows on the table as he looked at Elly and smiled, menacingly. “I was mainly there during the day. So, um…” Picking up his glass of orange juice. “unless you start drinking at 9am” He chuckled as he shrugged his shoulders, in an attempt to appear cute and non-threatening. “you wouldn’t have seen me there.”

Elly nodded. “ Well, that explains it.”

Elly smiled as Eddie's expression remained cold and he clenched his teeth as he looked away, closing his eyes and shaking his head as he sighed and mumbled under his breath. “For fuck sake, Leo.” 

“Dad? You CANNOT BE SERIOUS?!”

Leo called out from a distance, causing Eddie to open his eyes and look in the direction his voice was coming from as Elly followed his gaze to see Paul and Leo exit Lassiters, with Leo grabbing hold of Paul’s arm to stop him from walking away from him.

“It’s for the best, Leo.” Paul pointed at Leo, his tone quiet but stern. “You might not believe that right now but it is. Okay?” Paul stated as Leo shook his head, his lip quivering. “I don’t know how else to help you with what’s… I don’t even know what’s going on with you and until you let me in - talk to me or you’re in a better place, you…”

“That is complete BULLSHIT!” Leo responded through clenched teeth, cutting Paul off mid-sentence as he spat out the words like they were venom. “And I don’t need You making DECISIONS FOR ME!” Leo screamed, catching the attention of passers by who turned to see what was going on. 

“I am doing what is best for You and right now, it is not this hotel and it is certainly not being in charge.” 

“THE HELL YOU ARE!” Leo screamed over Paul as he spoke, continuing to ignore what he was saying. “This isn’t about me. This is About You - it’s about YOU wanting to be back in control and not being able to do that while I’m in charge!” Leo replied angrily as his breathing stagnated. 

“YOU WERE DRUNK! YOU ARE…” Paul screamed back, furious before immediately holding up his hand and closing his eyes, taking a deep breath as he looked up at Leo with concern and continued, softly. “You need help, Leo! You need to talk to someone - work through whatever it is that’s going on and until you do…” Paul shook his head sadly. “I’m sorry to say this but You are a liability to this company and I cannot have you here!” 

Suddenly, Leo lunged at Paul.

Grabbing him by the throat with right hand and pushing him against the pillar behind him as Paul’s eyes widened in fear before Eddie stepped in, inserting himself between Leo and Paul as he gently grabbed hold of Leo’s wrist and moved Leo away from Paul to ensure he couldn’t hurt him. 

“Stop.” 

Eddie whispered as Leo breathed heavily, his eyes widened and full of anger and hate before panic set and he blinked repeatedly, horrified and realising what he’d done as he stared ahead at Paul, who was clutching his throat and then turned to Eddie who looked at him sadly as he subtly moved his hand from Leo’s wrist to holding his hand and being sure to avoid the injury.

“Oh, my God!” 

Leo said, softly and in a panic before pulling away from Eddie and rushing off as Eddie turned to look at Paul before shaking his head and running off after Leo while Paul watched them both, struggling to breathe and attempting to regain his composure as Elly approached him.

“Paul, are you alright?” 

 

*

*

*

 

Leo sat on the bench, among the trees near Lassiter’s Lake. Shaking uncontrollably as he rocked back and forth, tears rolling down his face while breathing so heavily he was on the verge of hyperventilating. He was struggling to understand the way he was feeling. It was different than what he was expecting - given what had just happened. 

It was strange but in a way, he almost felt better.

Good, even. 

It was a feeling he liked and the complete opposite of everything he’d felt for the past month and that terrified him because he couldn’t understand why he felt so good especially as he knew he shouldn’t be feeling this way. What just happened with Paul, it should have scared him. It should have made him realise how easily he could do to someone else, even his own father, what he’d done to Brandon.

But it didn’t. 

He saw red and the next thing he knew, his hand was around Paul’s throat - grabbing hold of it tightly and all while that was happening, it was like a huge weight had been lifted off of him. As though, for the first time in a month, he could actually breathe again. Except now, he was even more scared than before because he knew that the only thing stopping him from doing it again was fear but knowing how good lashing out made him feel, he didn’t know if he would be able to stop himself if he was in the same kind of situation again. 

Eddie slowly made his way towards him, walking among the trees and calling out to Leo before he was completely visible to him. “How’s your hand?” 

Leo looked down, completely ignoring him and proceeded to stare at his injured hand. At the blood, which was originally only on the side of his palm and had now drenched most of the skin on his hand and wrist and had stained his white shirt as he rested his hand in his lap and held onto it with the other while gently shaking his head as Eddie moved closer, approaching him and standing next to the side of the bench. 

"Are you okay?" 

Eddie asked softly as Leo exhaled, deeply. 

He didn’t want to talk, didn’t want to say whether he was okay or not but he knew Eddie wasn’t going anywhere so he would have to say something and as his mind began to wander, he thought back to his conversation with Paul. Despite his insistence that this had nothing to do with Eddie, he knew he was the reason he’d been expelled from the Hotel. It was just too much of a coincidence that they’d had a run in earlier and suddenly, Paul decided he shouldn’t be Manager anymore and as he thought about it, he closed his injured hand tightly into a fist and gritted his teeth as he slowly filled with anger. 

"I just lost my job. What do you think?" Leo responded, softly yet coldly as he avoided making eye contact with Eddie.  

Eddie shrugged, scrunching up his face. “That your father made the right decision?”

Leo’s brows furrowed before he turned to the side, holding onto the back of the bench in order to steady himself as he looked at Eddie, angrily and whispered. "WHAT?" 

Eddie shook his head, softly. "Look at yourself. You’re not exactly holding it together, are you? I mean, when was the last time that you…” Gesturing at Leo’s appearance. “that you slept? That you showered or shaved, brushed your… your hair or your teeth or I don’t know,” Eddie scrunched up his face. “wore clothes that you didn’t just pick up off the floor?”

“I shaved and brushed my hair this morning, thank you.” Leo exhaled as his eyes widened, realising it wasn’t the answer or the comeback he’d intended it to be nor was it the reassurance he was attempting, as a way of showing Eddie he was actually okay and he closed his eyes, shaking his head and disappointed in himself. 

“That’s great. Really.” Eddie gently smiled and nodded before tilting his head to the left. “What about the rest?” Leo blinked repeatedly before turning and looking away from Eddie while Eddie looked at him sadly. “You’re a mess, Leo and not the good, fun kind either. How can you look after a hotel when you can’t even look after yourself?”

“It IS Possible, You Know.” Leo replied, irritated as he enunciated each word while Eddie looked down. “I’ve done it before - I’ve done it FOR YEARS!” He momentarily shouted. “It’s not like I’m incapable of doing two things at once.”

“Well,” Eddie huffed. “O bviously not this time. It’s different and you know it and…” he took a deep breath. “I’m not saying this to hurt you, Leo but you can’t seem to actually manage to do anything right now. So, this is probably for the best.”

“You’re not saying this to hurt me?” Leo replied in disbelief as he chuckled. “Really?”  

I’m not.” Eddie insisted.  

“That’s all you EVER do!” Leo whispered, his jaw clenched tightly as anger filled his eyes and he gestured around him. “ To anyone.” Pointing to himself. “To me, to Sonya… my dad. All you’ve done since you arrived is ruin everything!”

“Oh, please!” Eddie mumbled under his breath as he looked to the side. “ You were screwing up your life long before I,” He pointed at himself as he leaned down so he was eye level with Leo. “even got here and okay…” Holding his hands out in defence. “Maybe turning up here and deciding to stick around while you were self-destructing wasn’t the smartest move on my part but you know… if you want to talk about Ruining Everything,” Eddie’s anger increased and his eyes turned cold as Leo’s brows furrowed, confused. “What about You telling Your Father that I worked at the club in Kings Cross with you, hm? And then not even thinking to tell me that you told him that!” Eddie stood up right as he exhaled and shook his head, annoyed.

Leo’s face dropped, horrified as he turned and stared ahead. His eyes widening and blinking repeatedly as the realisation of what he’d said - what he’d done hit him. “Oh, my God.” He whispered before clearing his throat. “I… I forgot, I’m… He just…” He held his uninjured hand against his mouth as panic engulfed his voice. “he asked me so many questions about you that I… I forgot what I…”

“It’s fine.” Eddie responded, reassuringly. “We’ll figure something out, okay?”

“Well, It should be!” Leo said harshly as he turned to look at Eddie and pointed at him angrily. “You screwed up here too, you know.” Eddie’s brows furrowed as he shook his head, confused. “Whatever you said to him just made him suspicious of you!” 

“I don’t like him, alright?”

“You don’t like anyone.” Leo mumbled under his breath and rubbed his eyes as Eddie continued talking.   

“And I made sure he knew that and that I” Eddie pointed to himself. “don’t trust him… especially around you. I know people like him, Leo. You do too and if you’re not careful…”

Leo whispered to himself, frustrated as he shook his head. “Oh, my God!” Before looking at Eddie. “HE IS NOT YOUR UNCLE!” Leo shouted, firmly. His voice full of anger before he huffed as Eddie’s composure momentarily dropped, his lips quivered and his breathing stagnated which Leo immediately picked up on and instantly filled him with regret as he closed his eyes and spoke softly. “I’m sorry. I didn’t…” He took a deep breath to try and calm himself down. “Why couldn’t you just do what I asked you to and stay away from him?! Now he's never going to leave it alone." Leo cupped his head in his hands as blood went onto his forehead. 

“You never told me to stay away from him.”

“Yes, I did.”

“When?”

“This morning when I came to talk to…” Leo closed his eyes and sighed. “Oh.”

Eddie nodded. “Like I said, booze does that.”

“Shit!” Leo whispered under his breath, rubbing his forehead before he looked back up at Eddie, annoyed and asked harshly. “Why are you even here? Hm? After all these years… Why come back into My Life now?”

Eddie’s eyes softened as he hesitated to respond. Already knowing there was no good answer to that question and that whatever he said, Leo was going to take it the wrong way and that, in one way or another, it would make everything worse. He shook his head and avoided making eye contact with Leo as he spoke quietly. “It doesn’t matter.”

Leo nodded. “It wasn’t for me then?” He asked, his voice breaking up as Eddie closed his eyes. “You didn’t come back for me? No, of course you didn’t. You would have said if you had and…” Leo took a deep breath. “We both know you would have come back years ago if…”

“I did that for you.” Eddie responded quietly, in an attempt to reassure Leo who just smiled at him and huffed, unconvinced. “I did that for you because I love you, Leo. I told you that the other day. I didn’t want to drag your life down anymore than I already was and I couldn’t expect you to stay.” Gesturing at Leo, holding his hand out towards him “To wait until I was… I haven’t always made the right decisions but staying away… That was the one thing I did right with you.” 

“The one thing?” Leo whispered, his eyes widening before he chuckled sadly. “You Shit!”

“I didn’t mean it like that.”

“The hell you didn’t.”

“What I meant…” Eddie said, firmly. “was that I finally put You first.”

“That’s the problem.” Leo acknowledged quietly through gritted teeth, as tears slowly filled his eyes while he nodded at Eddie before he went on to explain. “You didn’t just make that decision for You! You made it FOR ME as well!” His voice broke up as Eddie closed his eyes and looked away. “If I wanted to leave… I would have but I stayed because out of the two of us, I actually DID Love You.” Leo snarled bitterly as Eddie’s eyes widened and he turned to look at him, offended and completely crushed by the accusation that he never really loved him. “In spite of everything that happened. No matter how bad it got, I stayed because I knew exactly what I was getting myself into and I would have waited forever for you to get better if I had to but…” Gesturing at Eddie as he cleared his throat and pressed his lips together tightly, shrugging as he wiped the tears from his eyes. “You just couldn’t get better while you were with me, could you? That’s the real reason you played dead for years.”

“No…” Eddie shook his head as he responded quietly.

Leo whispered. “It is.”

“It isn’t! That is not what happened!”

"So, it's just a coincidence then, is it?” Leo questioned, sadly as he attempted and failed to mask his pain. “That you're better now - in a better place, now that I'M not in your life anymore?”

"Oh…” Eddie sighed, exhaling through a brief chuckle. “No…” Shaking his head as he looked at Leo, his face stern. “No, I can see what you’re doing, Leo and don’t you dare use me and us just so that you can find a new way to torture yourself - to add to your conscience so you can feel worse and have yet another reason to hate yourself.”

“The fuck do you know?!” Leo snapped at Eddie, accusingly and enraged. “And… at least I actually have a conscience!” Leo pointed at himself, tapping on his chest with his index finger violently as he hissed. “I care when I hurt someone - when I destroy their life unlike YOU and…” Looking Eddie up and down, suspiciously. “whatever the fuck it is that you’re pretending to be now.”

Eddie huffed, licking his lips and giving Leo a cheeky smile. “Yeah, you just keep telling yourself that, baby!” As he moved closer towards him and sat down, wedging himself into the small gap between Leo and the side of the bench while his thigh rubbed against Leo’s, whose breathing momentarily stagnated as he blinked repeatedly and uncomfortably before turning and looking at Eddie.

"Why are you acting like this?” 

Leo asked, annoyed and unimpressed, furrowing his brows as Eddie shrugged, feigning confusion while he frowned innocently and pretended to have no idea what Leo was talking about as Leo copied him, mimicking his expression and causing Eddie to roll his eyes. 

“Don’t play stupid you know exactly what I’m talklng about!”

Eddie shrugged his shoulders and smiled, tenderly. "I'm trying to be nice." 

"You're not nice." Leo spat the words out at Eddie like they were venom. 

“No, I’m not, hence the trying. I’m working hard to be a better person. To be…” Eddie took a deep breath, smiling as he subtly nodded. “nicer and I’ve changed.”

"Yeah, so much…” Leo squinted as he laughed in disbelief for a second. “I Actually cannot believe it." Leo’s expression turned serious as he huffed, shaking his head while Eddie took a deep breath and looked away. 

Eddie knew this couldn’t go on much longer. 

Their conversations, especially when something was wrong or where there was something important to discuss, almost always ended up with one of them steering the conversation in a different direction. And no matter how many times they tried to get it back on track, until one of them put their foot down and said enough, they weren’t going to get anywhere or get through to the other one. That was how this conversation was going. 

He knew Leo. Probably better than anyone else in his life ever had and he knew what he was avoiding - what he didn’t want to hear but he also knew this was something he needed to hear especially before it was too late. He had to make Leo see, in one way or another, what was going on. What he was doing to himself and how destructive his behaviour had become. Both to himself and to those around him and then help him figure out a way to put his life back together again and he knew exactly what to say in order to get through to him. Unfortunately, he also knew how angry Leo was with him for leaving so there was a strong chance he wasn’t going to listen to anything he said but he had to try anyway. 

"Are you ready for some tough love?!” Eddied asked, tilting his head to look at Leo who shook his head as Eddie nodded in response. “Okay…” He took a deep breath as Leo shut his eyes, knowing Eddie was going to say it anyway and dreading the next words he was about to hear.

“You’re not falling apart because of your conscience, Leo. You’re falling apart because You Lost Control.” Eddie whispered, enunciating each word as he leaned in closer to Leo. “Your emotions… Your anger, they got the better of you and now… here you are, excuse the obvious pun but…” Gently grabbing hold of Leo’s bloodied hand and caressing it with his thumb as he looked at Leo softly. “with blood on your hands.” While Leo violently pulled away from him as Eddie sat back. “Just like I always told you there would be if you didn’t deal with what happened - if you didn’t get help.”

Leo whispered. "You don't know anything." 

“You think?” Eddie questioned, squinting as he smiled and tilted his head at Leo. “Come on, Leo, I could always read you like a book.” Playfully shaking his head. “And even if I couldn’t do that just by looking at you… the people at the Hotel LOVE” He whispered for a second. “to talk, especially when it comes to the boss. Like, um… Craig? The Chef? Oh, he had a lot to say about you.” He chuckled as a cheeky glint appeared in his eyes before his tone changed and he casually pleaded. “Nothing bad. Please don’t get him fired.” To which Leo shook his head, unimpressed. “Regardless,” Eddie continued, closing his eyes as he took a deep breath and gestured at Leo while he spoke softly. “It isn’t that difficult to put two and two together… and figure out what you did. I mean, all anyone needs to do is watch you for five minutes and remember the things people are saying and they could figure it out for themselves. The way you keep lashing out. Snapping at everyone. You’re drinking non-stop and you look like you haven’t slept in over a month and anytime someone says…” Clicking his fingers before he pointed at the sky. “Now what was his name again?” Eddie whispered to himself, squinting as Leo’s eyes widened and filled with horror, dreading the next word to come out of Eddie’s mouth. “Brandon?” Eddie enquired as Leo quickly turned away to hide his reaction while Eddie leaned down and to the side, trying to look at Leo’s face as he momentarily whispered. “You tense up.” Nodding as he looked away and took a deep breath. “ What happened, Leo? From everything I’ve heard he was an irritating little shit… so, he must’ve done something. What was it? Did he touch a sore spot? And you then… what?” He listed all the possible methods Leo had used to kill Brandon as quickly as possible, speaking so fast that the words were almost jumbled together as one. “Pushed him down the stairs? Bashed him over the head? Strangled… Beat him to death, stabbed-” Leo flinched as Eddie whispered to himself and nodded, looking down at the ground. “ Oh! And now that it’s happened once… You’re scared it’ll happen again, as you should be. Leo, you need to deal with this… now. Accept what happened, that you can’t change it and focus on getting your life back on track. It’s the only way to make sure that it was a one off.”

Leo huffed, amused as he became infuriated. “That is shit advice and I AM dealing with this, alright?!” Continuing as the exasperation in his voice increased and Eddie’s eyes widened in concern. “I have it under control!"

"Oh, please!” Eddie scoffed, incredulously at Leo’s supposed genuine belief that he’s actually had anything under control for the past month. “The only reason no one has looked closer at the way you're acting and realised something is seriously wrong is because they all think you're still hung up on your sister!”

Leo sighed before he turned to look at Eddie, sadness engulfing his eyes as his voice trembled while he spoke softly and slowly. “You might not like the way I’m handling this or… think I should be doing a better job at coping with all of this but I am doing the absolute best that I can, okay? I Am Trying.” Enunciating each word as he clenched his jaw. 

“I know you are but-”

“NO!” Leo screamed out for a second, cutting Eddie off mid-sentence. “No, there are no buts! This is MY LIFE!” Pointing at his chest as he screamed again, his jaw clenched and gritting his teeth as his eyes widened with fury and he spat the words out. “MINE! THIS IS ABOUT ME!” He took a deep, stagnated breath before clearing his throat. “ You don’t get a say in how I choose to cope with MY actions or anything in my life for that matter! You lost that right the moment you decided to stay away.” His lips quivered as his voice trembled. “I don’t need you weighing in and reminding me of what I did or verbalising how I feel about myself or how much I fucked up or that I Am fucked up. I already know all of that. You aren’t helping me by saying it outloud so what is the point of this?!”

“The point?” 

Eddie questioned, furrowing his brows as he was completely taken aback by Leo’s comment. He couldn’t comprehend, as much as he tried how, even in his current state, Leo couldn’t understand or realise how much he wanted to help him. But it was something that made him extremely frustrated and unintentionally threw all his attempts at being a better person out of the window as he sat back, leaning against the bench with his arms folded in front of him.

“The point is that I don't want you to go to prison!” Turning to look at Leo as he shook his head, annoyed and his tone grew more incensed. “And I sure as hell don’t want you to drink yourself to death because you can't live with the fact you killed some insignificant little fuckboy that no one even gives a shit about!"

Leo chuckled, harshly through gritted teeth. "There it is."

"I said I was trying, okay?" Eddie responded, irritated. 

"Whatever." Leo rolled his eyes.

"And I am trying. I've worked really…” Eddie exhaled, rubbing his head exasperated. “God, you know, this isn't even just hard either. It's a fucking nightmare."

"That's because you can't teach yourself to care about people. You either do or you don’t.” Leo replied solemnly. 

“Since when do you think in Black and white? Besides…” Eddie pointed at his chest, insulted and feeling a need to defend himself. “I know how to care about people, thank you very much.” Before his eyes gradually softened as he turned, looking at Leo and smiling at him. “I always cared about you. I still do." 

Leo shook his head as he looked away, smirking and unimpressed. "I meant other people and that you actually care about me is really fucking debatable right now so don’t use that as a reason for why you might have a heart!”

"Okay…” Eddie muttered to himself before he attempted to explain, both what he was doing now and what he’d done over the last few years in order to be in a better place so he could become a better person, to Leo. “ Maybe you can’t teach yourself to care but you can learn how to not hurt people.” He took a deep breath as he shrugged his shoulders. “ Everyone has to start somewhere. And I am learning. I've worked really hard to... to get through everything. To deal with my problems and my family” His composure momentarily dropped before he cleared his throat and forced a partial smile. “so I could get my life back on track and change myself for the better. But you…” Eddie paused as he looked at Leo and then reached over, gently holding onto Leo’s hand with his right hand. "Leo, you’re as fucked up as I am.” Eddie remarked as he shook his head, concerned and disturbed. “The difference is that you didn't change. You never…” He squinted as he thought carefully about the next words he was going to say.   “got any help. You never tried to work through your issues and actually… Deal with what’s going on in your head.” Eddie struggled to get the words out. “You're the exact same person that you've always been, Leo, you just convinced yourself that you're someone else. Instead of dealing with everything, you just swept it under the carpet so you wouldn’t have to think about it but…” He exhaled and leaned forward, reaching across as he grabbed hold of Leo’s other hand with his left and clutched hold of both of them. “You can't lie and manipulate your way out of this one, Leo. You either accept what you've done and... stop all this self loathing and forgive yourself and realise that it doesn’t matter how much you drink or torture yourself, he's still going to be dead. Or…” He took an extremely long, deep breath. “you turn yourself into the police and go to prison, though you obviously don't want that or you'd have confessed already. Either way, he's dead and you can't keep living like this." 

Leo whispered, sadly. "It's not that easy."

"It’s not supposed to be easy, baby. You murdered someone!” Eddie replied, his tone cold and detached as he turned, letting go of Leo’s hands and looking away from him as he shook his head and exhaled, rubbing his hand against his chin while Leo stared at the ground. 

Tears slowly started to fill Leo’s eyes as he bit down hard on his lip in order to stop them from quivering and closed his injured hand tightly into a fist so that it would stop shaking as he looked at them. At the blood covering his skin while Eddie’s words - every single one of them went through his mind. Over and over and over again. 

Deep down, he knew he was right. That all Eddie wanted to do was help him and under any other circumstance, at any other moment in his life this would have meant everything to him and been a way to help him get back on track,but not this time. The very idea of that right now, coming from him, just made his blood boil. 

No matter what Eddie said or believed, he really did have this under control. He wasn’t doing a perfect job but he was managing - he was getting through the days and nights in any way he could but he was still doing his job, he was still living even if it wasn’t what was considered normal or even acceptable. 

Then Eddie arrived and everything fell to pieces and now he had to try and figure out a way to pull himself back from the brink and how he was going to do that alone. Because while Eddie may have been right, he was also the cause of this. Whether he wanted to accept that or not and right now, was the last person he wanted to be around and he realised he needed to be as far away from him as possible if he was going to fix his life. 

Leo turned to look at Eddie, his eyes widened. “ Fuck You!” 

Leo snapped at him, angrily as he stood up, towering over Eddie and debating whether or not to say something else before he closed his eyes for a moment and shook his head, walking away while Eddie sat there watching him, sadly as he looked at the ground. Completely defeated and placing his head in his hands as he took a deep breath while Paul stood opposite him, in the distance. 

He’d been there the whole time, watching them. 

Observing them and trying to get a sense of what they were talking about - what was going on between them but found himself struggling to make sense of what little he could see. Except of course that Leo was more distressed when he walked away than he’d been for the majority of that conversation. 

He hummed and harred about what he should do next. Logically, he should have gone after Leo and checked to make sure he was okay but he knew deep down that in Leo’s current state, it wasn’t a good idea and he didn’t want to risk a similar occurrence of what happened at the Hotel. But, he knew he needed to do something so he took out his mobile and dialed a number he had on speed-dial as he turned and began to walk away while holding the phone to his ear as the call went straight to voicemail.

“You’ve reached John Wong, I can’t take your call right now but leave your name and your number and I’ll call you back as soon as I can.”

“John…” Paul acknowledged as he exhaled “It’s Paul. Look,” Licking his lips. “I need you to do something for me and it needs to be top priority, okay? Forget everything else right now.” Paul gestured to the side as he nodded. “ I need you to run a background check for me on a bloke by the name of Edmond Daniels also goes by Eddie and I need it now.”