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peter pan syndrome

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One of Edd’s favorite memories of Tord is of his tenth birthday, yanking the pinata down with his whole body and beheading it with the Swiss army knife his father had gifted him. They were only three then, – Edd, Tord, and Matt, with Tom only being released from home-school hell in Year Six – huddled in Tord’s garage howling like wolves to the fat moon above as said dad and mom got baked in the attic.

I shall grow drunk on the blood of my enemies! Tord had cried in that thick accent of his (so, so much thicker back then, and a part of Edd will always mourn that he never made fun of it enough), three distinct hands pouring three different flavors of powdered sugar down his throat.

Years later, when Edd’s first girlfriend cheats on him with the football coach’s worthless son, Tord is the first of the new four to hear Edd cry into his steering wheel, thin hand a heavy weight on his shoulder. He’d taken Edd to a movie and bought him a pinata to stomp on and slash with one of his own replica swords, before he’d opened its cardboard throat with his teeth. He’d whooped and played mathcore and sent cans of diet coke into wide, foamy arcs across his lawn. His dad had come home, taken one look outside, and promptly fled to the attic.

It would have scared Edd more if he hadn’t already been so tragically aware of Tord’s gun kink. Later they’d set out towels on the dying grass, and Tord had told Edd he was never going to grow sick of him. End of memory.

Look at him now, wrapped up in Edd’s (stolen!) green blankets, back barred with sunlight, face awash in the glorious glow of the television. Edd slips his cold feet underneath and gently stabs Tord in the side, earning a feline hiss in reply.

Edd thinks to simply grab his blankets back as he rubs the sleep out of his eye, the other half-focused on the technicolored vomit Tord is watching. Why do all your friends’ tastes only seem to get worse as you get older?  

Edd asks, What do you want to be when you grow up?

It sounds better than So where the fuck have you been? and I dreamt an even uglier version of you made me eat lead.

Tord looks over his shoulder, quirks a brow.

Edd shrugs. You know, it’s Saturday morning, we’re watching bad Chinese cartoons,

(that familiar simper playing on the corners of Tord’s lips)

 so I’d thought I’d ask. You still haven’t told me what you’ve been up to in the “Big City.”

What’s with the scare quotes? Tord asks, chuckling.

Because if I know you – and I do, Biblically –

- It sounds like you traded some goats for me.

Goats, hentai mangos –

- Manga.

-Mongeese, same difference. Point is, I know you relatively well, wouldn’t you agree ? Shut up, yes you do. And –

- Okay, Jehovah.

- And I know that you know that I know that you know –

- That I know that you don’t don’t know that I don’t know that –

-That I know that – wait, hold on. Edd tries to count the syntax on his fingers; You got me confused.

Tord laughs, so Edd lunges, pining Tord down to the bed beneath them, wrapping his hands lightly around Tord’s windpipe. Tord still laughing, even as his own hands grab onto Edd’s wrists. Those sleeves of roses that weren’t present when Tord left seem to crawl towards Edd’s skin, thorn teeth eager to taste him.

When Tord had fallen asleep last night, Edd had pressed his bare arm against him, thinking of all the matching tattoos they’d proposed and abandoned over the years, because Edd is far too ticklish to sit still long enough to have a hippo carved into his skin, no matter how much of a reflection of his inner, truer self it is. He still feels disappointed; hippos and roses don’t really go together.

Tord chokes out, Harder, daddy.

Edd rolls off, gagging. He flops onto his back, the weight of him so heavy Tord bounces, which only turns his laughter up another decibel.

Yes, daddy – Tord’s falsetto moans are cut short by a strangled grunt as Edd lodges his fist in Tord’s stomach.

I can’t handle that daddy shit, Edd snaps. Every time I hear it it Thanos snaps another inch off my dick.

That explains a lot.

Another fist that Tord blocks. Edd tries to yank his hand back but Told holds firm, which somehow ends up as Tord in his arms, Tord on top of him, Tord by his other side, kept from falling off the bed by a fistful of his undershirt. A familiar look of surprise that makes his face ten years younger.

Around their sixth sleepover, Tord decided to cut out the middleman and sleep on the floor at the start, far enough away from the edge of the bed that Edd wouldn’t accidentally step on him again in the middle of the night. End of memory.

As I was saying, goes Edd as he crawls back to his original position against the headboard, Tord entangling their legs as he watches the TV upside-down. I put scare quotes around “Big City” because I have no way of knowing if you actually even went to one. I know you well enough to know you’d rather sleep in your car and live off nothing but Pepsi and furry porn commissions than come back home and admit you’d fucked up.

Tord nods. When they were younger, and Tord was trying to speed through his studies, Edd had told him he’d never be a grown up so long as he was jerking off to cartoons, and Tord had kissed his teeth, said, You got me there.

And now here we are.

So, Edd asks again. What do you want to be when you grow up?

Tord claws himself up to a sitting position as the show’s credits start to roll, and Edd doesn’t know what answer he’s expecting – why he’s expecting something… something deep-sounding, you could maybe say, though that’s still too small a dress.

Tord simply gives an insouciant shrug. World dictator, he says, the usual.

Same as when they were twelve.

Edd feels – is it déjà vu he’s feeling? Like someone is sitting across from him with a gun on the table, like he’s playing a game he’s been set to lose before the first piece has even been brought out. Very dramatic déjà vu for something he’s only ever experienced over who gets the motel’s fold-out couch or picks up the pizza tab.

Nothing is wrong. Tord is here and there is no other shoe to drop.

Growing up is overrated, anyway, Tord continues, expression playful, nostalgic. He crosses his legs underneath himself the way he used to whenever they were in the school’s parking lot, Edd sketching whatever ideas Tord supplied while they waited for Matt to get out of sax and Tom detention (whenever Tord wasn’t in there with him). Edd’s sketchbooks had permanent imprints of all their faces, but mostly Tord’s face from where he’d made one too many comments about how Edd didn’t draw breasts big enough. 

Though it’s kinda weird, Tord says, starting to chew on his nails. You know how at the end of the first Narnia book, they’re all grown up, but when they step out of the wardrobe they’re suddenly kids again like they were when they first went in?

He flicks the bitten-off nail off onto the floor, and Edd feels that misplaced expectation again. Coming back feels like that, but in reverse.

Commercials go off, a theme song for a show Edd barely remember blares, throwing a splash of wild, childish glee onto Tord’s face as he flips over onto his stomach, chin in his hands. Shut the fuck up, he says, waving at Edd without a glance behind him. My show’s on.

Edd smiles and rolls his eyes, locking that dark feeling in the cupboard under the stairs where it belongs, end of scene. I didn’t say anything.