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I'll Be Close Behind

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Ed was exhausted. He hadn’t had a good night’s sleep since… well, in quite awhile, but he was too tired to sleep. His brain felt like mush, a whole lot of nothing floating in a murky cloud of pain and regret and guilt. There was so much going on in his mind that it seemed to have just stalled out, unable to actually think about anything. It was kind of miserable.

None of the others seemed to be having the sleeping problems he was. Maggie kept mentioning he looked tired, but Harry was too caught up in her to notice much else and Spruce was busy enough with other stuff he hadn’t been around like usual. It was probably for the best. Ed didn’t think he was really capable of running Ghostfacers meetings at the moment.

He wasn’t capable of much of anything at the moment.

Most days he didn’t leave his room except to use the bathroom. Maggie or his mom brought up food a few times a day and tried to talk to him, but he didn’t know what to say and he seemed to have no appetite. He knew they were worried, and some distant part of him was glad someone cared, but mostly he was just too tired to care. The food tended to sit in a pile until one of them took it away.

It was awful staying in his room, curled up in the bed more often than not, but he couldn’t get up enough energy or motivation to do anything else. Harry came by whenever he managed to pull himself away from Maggie and tried to see if he wanted to play video games or go pick up some new comics. The first time Ed had managed ten minutes on the video game, but broke down crying when his character was killed. Harry only brought racing games after that.

He called into work sick the first week, but didn’t bother after that. He was sure he’d lost his job by now, but even that didn’t seem particularly worrying. Nothing really did anymore.

The second week, his dad had brought him a card for a grief counselor. It was somewhere on the floor, forgotten almost immediately. He wasn’t grieving, he just didn’t feel like doing anything. His dad didn’t believe him. He wasn’t sure he did either, but it was easier to pretend he did. Maybe if he pretended long enough it would make it real.

If only pretending would bring Corbett back.

Because that was the crux of it, the epicenter of all of this exhaustion and avoidance and self destruction. Corbett was gone and it was all his fault and there was absolutely nothing he could do about it.

It would have been bad enough if any member of the Ghostfacers died on one of the trips he’d organized. It would have been bad enough to not even be able to talk to anyone but other Ghostfacers about it because as far as anyone else knew it was a tragic accident that happened on a dare.

But Corbett had been in love with him and Ed had had to tell him he loved him back to save the day and that was so much worse because he hadn’t even realized it was true until that moment. And now it was too late.

The others didn’t understand because they didn’t realize it had all been real. They thought he was pretending just to save Corbett from the loop and them from the evil ghost dude. Ed couldn’t blame them for being oblivious, he had been too up until then, but it was slowly eating away at his soul. It was his secret, precious and awful and fully capable of destroying his life. It was well on its way already.

Four weeks after the Mortenson house and he’d lost thirty pounds. He hadn’t shaved since then, almost obsessed with having a beard since Maggie told him Corbett had been so enamored with it. He thought vaguely he might have eaten that week, but he couldn’t really be sure. Any day now his parents were going to call someone in, have him taken away, get him some help.

He didn’t want that.

Even through the fog that seemed to have taken over his world and distorted every little thing to the point of making even basic physical functions ignorable, he still thought of Corbett and what he’d said to break him out of that loop. It haunted him, far more terrible and vicious than if Corbett had come back as a vengeful ghost. At least then he’d know how to fight.

Guilt was one of the only feelings he could differentiate. It simmered just below the surface from the moment they left that house and it had built and built until all he knew was that it was all his fault. Corbett’s death, his inability to leave his room, the strained conversations he could hear between his parents about what they should do about him. It was all on him.

The only thing that rivaled the guilt was longing, though it was so wrapped up in the guilt that sometimes he couldn’t tell them apart. He wasn’t sure he really wanted to though, and it didn’t really matter. There wasn’t anything he could do that would help either of them.

Well, there was one thing, but he’d so far been able to push it to the back of his mind. It was an action of last resort, but as the days went by, each the same miserable day as the one before, he began to think that perhaps he was at the point of last resort. Something had to change because his life wasn’t living anymore and he didn’t know what else to do.

His parents and Maggie would cry when they found him later, Harry and Spruce might even too. He knew that and it hurt, just a tiny spark of new feeling to break through the dullness that had encapsulated him for the past month, but it didn’t deter him. He knew they’d grieve and move on like he hadn’t been able to. He hoped they would.

He wrote them a letter and left it open on his laptop. It explained how far he’d fallen without anything to pull him back up and told them not to blame themselves, not to blame anyone. He was the only one who deserved the blame and he’d done nothing but blame himself since he came home. It hadn’t done any good and it wouldn’t for them. He just had to trust that they had something, someone to anchor them if they started to fall as well.

He sat on his bed for awhile after he heard Maggie leave the house, both his parents gone to work. His mind seemed clearer than it had in weeks and he wanted to savor this last coherent moment of feeling.

Eventually he gave in to the fog still creeping at the edges of his mind and ran the razor over his wrists. Blood made his fingers slip as he cut a few extra times just to be sure, but he barely felt a thing. The fog was turning to a whiteness, brighter than his eyes could handle. As his eyes slipped closed for the last time he thought he saw something, a human kind of shape dressed in blurred camo, standing in front of him, arm outstretched.