-1A/N: Up to chapter 4! Already? I must be writing with a fervor… Ahem… Anywho, I'd like to thank RedLady and ManyShadesOfGray for their reviews! The two people I don't know who've commented! Yay! And NattyKat, too, for FINALLY reading it! I'm just kidding… Thankies! And Enjoy!

Chapter 4: Of Terror and Trust

The sensations were disarraying, and the world spun around me, colors colliding into one another fiercely. I think I was standing in that moment, but I couldn't be sure as I was incapable of feeling or realizing anything. The only thing I was aware of was that of the prickling arising all across my body.

The world was lurching before me, but I was held captive once again.

Through the mist that then clouded my vision, I could see, but not acknowledge, Eric making panicked, urgent movements, his mouth forming my name over and over again, spittle flying. The only sound left to me, though, was the shrill ringing that came from pure silence. For all the world knew, it was just me and the eidolon right then. Nothing else existed.

Just me, the phantom, and those sensations.

Yet… something was… different.

When I had first felt the piercing and scorching gaze those three days ago, it had scared me ruthlessly, stripping away from me thought and reason. Peeled away were the layers of defenses I always had up. Flayed into oblivion were my abilities to process and react. I was reduced to nothing more than some kind of shriveling prey with naught but the sole instinct of wanting, no, needing, to survive.

I had been reduced to feeling condemned to death, to a fate where I would cease to be. It was horrifying… Truly, maddeningly horrifying.

But now…

My body was inundated by the phantom's stare, no part of me left untouched by it or unaffected. My heart thudded viciously against my rib cage, and my blood surged throughout me, right beneath my skin where the phantom's gaze, like spiny legs, flitted across. My heart was pounding, oh yes, but it wasn't because I was terrified senseless, although I did feel a great unease. My heart jerked because this particular feeling of being watched was so… intimate.

I knew my breath must have hitched at the realization. It was something that would certainly happen if I was cognizant of my actions anyway. The sudden altering of the sensations left me bewildered and breathless, and I was pulled further away from the surrounding world.

While under the peculiar stupor, Eric's calmness was fraying. I could see, only see and nothing more than Eric wielding me over to a park bench with shaking hands that held my wrists. When at the bench, he turned me around and pushed down on me, almost imperceptibly so, forcing me to sit. Once I had done so, Eric knelt in front of me.

He called my name again, but I did not respond. My mind was focused onto one point of fixation, one singular matter.

While uncomfortably intimate, the unseen figure's watchfulness also felt very inquisitive. It was like curious fingers were touching me here and there as if asking what the pliant substance called skin was. I felt the "fingers" run across my cheek, my neck, my arms and legs, poking my back, my stomach too.

I couldn't do anything about it either. I didn't want it, didn't want to be touched like that, but I couldn't do anything to make it stop. I was immobilized, partly from the spell I seemed to be under, and partly because, stemming from where perhaps consciousness had not been completely asphyxiated, the discomfort brought on by the prying-like touches had caused me to tense beyond mobility.

Who knows how long I sat there with a panicking boy calling out to me? I couldn't even wonder at the way the phantom's stare had altered, I was so spellbound. It seemed only tactile senses were prominent.

However, one other touch alone pulled me closer to reality… Eric's.

My eyes snapped to him, away from the swiveling world and onto his blurred form. His hand was pressing against my cheek, his thumb making gentle, stroking motions. His face was the very epitome of worry, his brows knitted so close together, his lips pulled into a frown, drops of perspiration from the day's dying heat and from stress trickling down his forehead…

And as if in competition, the incessant probing of the phantom grew in intensity, until it finally numbed the touch of Eric. Such a thing was too much. The nauseating, swimming colors were too much. Eric's obtrusiveness was too much. The eidolon's intrusiveness was too much!

It was too much for me to handle, and I shuddered tremendously, violently.

Then everything went still before me. The world snapped back into place, the whirling of colors ceasing, and sounds rushed back to me like a wind hailing from a storm. Eric came back into focus, too, just as his hand recoiled away from me as if burned, or as if I had slapped it away.

I was regaining my other senses, just as I was regaining comprehension. Eric's concerned eyes were fixed on me unwaveringly, and through the lifting haze, I began to wonder how in all-the-world I was going to explain what had just happened. I didn't even know what had happened. Not really. I already had the conception that whatever it was that made me feel the way the unseen apparition's stare had caused was probably something to fear. How was I supposed to take this changed feeling?

A light, warm breeze drifted over, and I felt it just as I could still feel the dulling touches of the phantasm, a deadening echo of what it had been mere seconds ago. The light of the day was fading too, slipping away under the horizon, as twilight approached. The period of diffused light settled around me and Eric just as it settled into my thoughts. I could not even begin to fathom how to explain myself to the boy who sat in front of me.

I blinked several times, and shook my head, as if physically shaking off what little of the trance was left. Eric sighed, head bowing, and as if relieved, and I felt his hot breath penetrating through my slacks, waking me even further from the daze. I shrunk back, and shifted my legs away from him, just as Eric sat back on his haunches. After a moment of reclaiming regularity in his breathing, he collapsed backwards, laying fully reclined and tiredly in the dry, browning grass.

I found my voice.

"Eric?" I called, my voice strained and throat scratchy, leaning over somewhat to examine him. He opened his eyes, meeting my inquiring gaze blearily. He closed his eyes again and smiled, but it was one of slight desperation.

"Aiden, sometimes I really just don't know what to do with you," he said faintly, wearily. He then pushed himself up somewhat, supporting his upper weight on his elbows, and looked at me calculatingly. "You going to tell me what that was just now?" His voice was soft but demanding. "Aiden… I… I know you were lying earlier," he said with such finality that my breath caught. "I mean, a lack of sleep? Are you serious?!" His gaze hardened and I shuddered.

I could feel my own sweat creeping down the back of my neck. I wanted to wipe it away, but I also didn't want to move, didn't want to bring any more attention to myself.

A slight pounding crept into my head, knocking out the lingering ringing from earlier, just as panic did into my mind. I looked down onto Eric. What could I tell him? What lie could I feed him to save myself from either his disbelief or from his overt pity?

The panic continued to knock against my skull, and I remained silent. Eric did not press. He just waited with patient expectancy, just as imperative as time itself was. He would wait for however long it took until I would speak, explicate.

My mind was trying to fashion together a fitting lie, weaving bits of snaking and tangled thoughts into a suiting story, but it was difficult to do so when the waned sensations of the still gazing, unseen spectator resided. It would be even more difficult to give the lie a voice when the phantom was near by. I couldn't answer Eric while still in the park.

I stood so suddenly that Eric bolted upright.

"Wha… What is it Aiden?" he asked, stuttering with surprise. I stared down at him resolutely, and then obliged him nothing more than a promise to explain everything once we were at my house where- and at this I shifted a little- I would be more comfortable. Eric peered at me through narrowed eyes, searching for truth behind my statement. My head continued to ache with the pounding, it being like a painful measure of time, each thud a ticking away of seconds.

The eidolon's curious caresses began to rebound upon me, and I shivered particularly when if felt as if a finger ran down my spine.

"Eric…" I didn't want to be in the park any longer, so when I called his name, it was an implied plea. A plea for him to accept my promise, a plea for him to free me from his scrutiny so I could flee and free myself from the too personal phantom.

Eric's eyes narrowed even further until they were mere slits, and I waited in bated breath. He finally gave an assenting nod, and I sighed gratefully.

No more was said as we made are way from the park and down the street. Nothing else was needed to be said as all would be divulged upon arriving at my house. Eric walked in step with me as I tried to form the lie.

As the distance between us and the park grew, the phantom's "touch" and influence lessened, falling away like unraveling cloth, and I felt lighter with each step I took. I stared out in front of me, the full moon visible and looming in the ascending twilight, and I began to wonder what had caused the shift in the eidolon's gaze.

I scrawled away on the paper, not caring if the writing was legible or not. It was more strenuous than I had originally anticipated, writing about my fear of being in social spotlights. In the wake of all that had happened in the week, this specific fear was a joke when compared to the other ones, and thus, it was proving difficult adding enough details to make it of satisfactory length. I no longer cared about impressing Mr. Harold, so I wrote with little thought. I didn't want to give him any more particulars concerning myself. None that really mattered anyway, but I still needed a decent grade.

As I neared the end of a sentence, my hand cramped. I dropped the pencil and massaged my palm. Eric, who had been sitting quietly in a chair near by, did not look my way. That was just fine by me, as I had not yet prepared myself as fully for the lie. I kept reverting to pondering about the altered phantom every time I tried to think of an explanation, meaning I was getting nowhere. However, while I wasn't ready to talk to Eric, it did bother me the way he looked at the book he was reading.

Eric, for the duration of me writing my essay, had been utterly absorbed by the short story Mr. Harold had assigned. That I could understand, being swept away by an alternate reality, but the look in his eyes… They sped across the pages with ferocity, and burned with a delirious thirst. As soon as we had arrived at my house, he had wordlessly flung his backpack into a corner, situated himself in the chair, and read.

Staring at him now, the look within his usually bright and jovial blue eyes unnerved me. They saw nothing but the words printed in black ink, and gleaned from them nothing short of satisfaction. From what little Eric had told me about the book, I didn't much like his approval. I turned back to my almost completed essay.

All that was needed was a conclusion of sorts, rounding out and tying together all I had written. I picked up my pencil and scribed away. At times, my eyes would dart over to the statue that was Eric, and who held the book tightly. I really didn't understand his fascination, but perhaps once I read it, I might.

I dotted the paper with the final period, laid my pencil gently down upon the table, sighed, and sat back on the floor, my back resting up against the small couch I had. I closed my eyes in drowsiness, and hoped that as long as I remained silent, Eric would be too enraptured by the book to call upon the promise I made. As it was, it seemed my wish would be fulfilled.

I remained in content silence, the only sound being the occasional and quick flipping of a page. At times, I mused that Eric would surely rip one of the pages, what with the force he used to turn them. At other times, I thought about the park. I had never really had physical contact with other's, me being someone who didn't like such a thing, but I certainly felt the phantom. It made me a tad jittery thinking about it, and it was nerve-racking to even consider what had changed the eidolon's intentions. At least it seemed to me that their intentions had changed, whatever one could call it.

The silence rolled on as did my musings. However, the silence would not last, and the promise would not remain abated. My stomach gave a loud and embarrassing rumble then.

Eric, upon hearing it, looked over at me from the book. He blinked in confusion, the sound pulling him from the book's allure, but chuckled once he knew what it was. I all but blushed disgruntled.

"Hungry Aiden?" Eric asked lightly, gingerly setting aside the book upon the nearby table. The buoyancy with which he spoke caught me off guard. How could someone who had looked so intently hungry now sound so carefree? Eric was certainly an enigma. Eric and the eidolon both.

Without waiting for a response, Eric stood up and made his way into the kitchen. It took me a protracted moment to process what he was doing, or trying to do. I sighed exasperatedly, heaved myself off of the floor, and proceeded into the kitchen once I realized what he was attempting. Eric had just closed the refrigerator door, and turned to frown at me as I entered.

"What?" I asked, pausing at the entrance. He shook his head.

"Aiden… you have no food!" he cried, and as if on cue or to reiterate the predicament he had pointed out, his stomach made a bizarre gurgling noise.

"You thought I was going to feed you?" I asked blandly, walking over to the island and sitting down, ignoring his sound of hunger, just as Eric began to rummage around. Eric paused in his rifling through my cupboards to gawk at me. I merely returned the look with a blank one of my own. His face morphed into confusion, and still I remained emotionless.

Then, Eric was doubled over in a fit of howling laughter. It rang throughout the tiny kitchen, bouncing off the walls and counters. It had been a long time since this house had heard such a sound.

I allowed Eric several moments of uninterrupted laughter before I cut it with a question.

"Eric, I don't understand. What are you laughing at?" He let out a few more chuckles before he composed himself enough to respond. He wiped away the tears in his eyes, and his face was slightly flushed when he looked to me, confusing me further.

"You… I've never really heard you make one before," was all he said. I could feel my eyebrows furrowing close to one another in bewilderment. "A joke. You just made a joke," Eric sighed, still smiling.

I had? I thought bemusedly, an eyebrow quirking upward. When Eric saw that his statement had not enlightened me, but had exacerbated my perplexity instead, he faltered.

"You… you did make a joke, right? That was a joke," and though meant to be a statement, it all but sounded like a question. I shook my head subtly. No, I had not made a joke.

I thought that would disappoint Eric, but when I negated his assumption, he burst out into a new round of laughter. I did not question his amusement then. I just bowed my head onto my folded arms, and let the sound wash over me. If the walls could talk, they would be murmuring appreciative things, I was sure.

"Aiden, I'm contenting myself to never being able to figure you out," Eric said through laughs, as he resumed his rummaging. I smiled slightly though I knew he could not see it. It was a good thing he made such a statement. It assured me somehow, someway.

After several of Eric's frustrated sighs once he realized what a disappointment my kitchen's stock was, I walked over to a cabinet, deciding to help ease our growing starvation. We satisfied our hunger by making a quick and easy pasta, the sauce lightly burnt- I was never any good at cooking. As we sat at the small, round table, we didn't say anything, filling out mouths with the sticky pasta rather than words, but I knew what was awaiting me after all the food was cleared. I swallowed a bit awkwardly at the thought.

I peered out of the small window behind my kitchen sink. From what I could see, night had most definitely sunk in. I cleared my throat.

"Eric?" I said, twiddling my fork within my fingers, not looking at him.

"Hmm?" came his muffled response, and I knew it was because his mouth was brimming with food.

"It's getting pretty late," I declared as I peeked over at him through the fringe which fell into my eyes. His cheeks were swelling with the food he had crammed into his mouth, and it became even more noticeable when he turned his head to take in the state of the outside, the window being off diagonally behind him. It was quite dark out, despite the full moon. When he turned back to me, his eyes were determined. I straightened myself.

He chewed his food, laid down his fork, and swallowed. Then he rested his head on one of his upturned hands, the other one laying upon the table, his fingers drumming across the surface. He said nothing.

I fidgeted restlessly under the oppressive silence. Too direct. Eric's gaze was too direct, and I couldn't meet it.

To fill the absence of human voices, it seemed the house began to speak instead. I could hear the wooden floors grating under imaginary weight, perhaps reacting under phantom strains, reminiscent of a time when it was walked upon with more roaming feet. I could hear the walls groan against the warm wind of the outside, as the exterior paneling of wood expanded with the heat. Even the pipes spoke, as they echoed behind the plastered walls with the occasional clanking. My ears thrummed with the sounds of the house. With those and that of Eric's unremitting tapping upon the table.

At long last, I snapped under the tautness of the atmosphere.

"Well?!" I croaked, and Eric was unresponsive to the sudden outburst. He didn't even blink, but sat poised and calm, the look of determination still glinting from behind his lowered lashes. "You have yet to respond," I said evenly enough. However, I could feel the grip on my fork tighten to an uncomfortable level, yet I did not release my hold. Soon the tension within my hand, my knuckles, mirrored that of the stiffness of the rest of my body.

A light smiled played across Eric's face.

"I was just waiting Aiden," he finally responded, his voice cooing. My neck jerked as my head reeled back slightly from the shock upon hearing that tone in his voice. I felt the muscles of my brows move towards one another, and those muscles of my chin compress as I frowned, all portraying my evident confusion, though I knew what it was he was waiting on. I still hoped to hinder the inevitable, it seemed.

Eric snorted, as if knowing my inner thoughts, apparently amused. The mask of confusion fell to my worry, the fork finally falling from my relaxed grip, and upon seeing my expression, Eric turned his head to watch the clock mounted on the wall off behind me.

"Try not to look so panicked, Aiden. It's starting to become a regular expression," Eric droned into the fingers that curled before his mouth, his hand still acting as a pedestal for his resting head. I didn't quite know what he meant by making such a statement. Didn't know if he was being sincere or being a prick.

"Listen," Eric commanded, sitting upright, hands moving before him to clasp upon the table, as eyes fastened onto me. I picked up the glass of milk I had been drinking, now warming to room temperature, and drank slowly, while forcing myself to meet his gaze. "I was waiting to hear those things you promised to tell me," he said flatly. I swallowed the milk and felt the lukewarm liquid congeal in my throat.

The unavoidable had arrived.

I placed the glass down, the sounding thud muffled upon the wooden surface. I steeled myself internally. This explanation needed to be all, needed to serve my reasons and put to rest Eric's concern.

"It wasn't quite a lie, Eric, the reason I gave you. It was just a bit stretched," I said calmly, my mind going through the rehearsed explanation. Eric looked dubious, but remained taciturn, I supposed waiting to be convinced. "It's just that recently I've had these… nightmares." That was true enough. They were nightmares, though they had not occurred while I was asleep. "And after these nightmares, I'm always a little… out of it." I looked away, not able to withstand the direct look Eric then gave me. His intense stare was too much for me, his eyes relaying genuine interest and concern. That had never sat well with me.

"What exactly do you mean?" Eric asked quietly. I breathed in deeply, held it within me, and then let the trapped air rush out of me just as slowly before I answered.

"Well, the nightmares are quite real Eric." I spat the word 'real' as the memories of the encounters recalled themselves before me. Eric leaned in closer across the table. "They just kind of linger long after I… wake up," I finished. Eric retracted, and then leaned back in his chair, the front legs of the chair raising off the floor as he hooked his hands behind his head.

"Nightmares caused you to freeze in the middle of the street the other night? Caused you to look that terrified? Caused you to blank in the park?" I could hear the disbelief in his voice, even almost feeling it as if it were something touchable. "I don't know Aiden…" There was a resounding thump as the lifted legs of the chair landed back upon the floor. Eric sighed as he rubbed at his face tiredly.

I, more than anything, wanted to be done with this whole situation. I just wanted to submerse myself back into the routine I had developed for my life before all of these strange and unexplainable things had happened. What had started out as some peculiar occurrence during calculus class, had rapidly morphed into something like madness.

"Have you never had a dream that stayed with you for the rest of the day?" I asked distantly, thinking about that cage of blue that seemed to envelope me long after I awoke from it's dream-hold. Eric shifted slightly, the movement almost like a jolt, and cleared his throat before mumbling, "Not ones like that, Aiden."

"Then I'm sorry you don't understand," I said gruffly. He said he'd be content not understanding me completely anyway. It had been a perfect thing to say, so why couldn't he let it go?

"That's not what I meant Aiden," he responded apologetically. "I… I want to understand. Help me to understand," he whispered pleadingly, and the insides of my stomach twisted.

Just tell him what you rehearsed and hope he's satisfied! I told myself. I grasped at the edge of the table with my hands, whether for something to clench onto or to keep me steady. I can do this. People lie all the time. Nothing is as simple as people make them out to be anyway.

"That essay Mr. Harold assigned asking us to write about our fears," I started saying, nervously and breathlessly, "and what I told you mine was… that's what my dreams are about." I would reveal this little slither about myself if it would put Eric's worry to the shadows. I would just use those dreams to stand for the recent "nightmares" that plagued me. He didn't need to know specifics. "Eric, death scares me beyond comprehension. Those dreams… that's all they're about!" It was surprising to me when I began to feel bitter. It wasn't as if I was reaching some kind of epiphany; I knew what those dreams were about. Knew ever since I was little what they stood for, so what was causing such a reaction?

"Aiden…" Eric began to say.

"Look, after the dreams, I'm always just a bit paranoid. I just get… spooked a lot more easily," I recited. "I will react to nothing sometimes. I suppose it's one of the side effects of having such nightmares." At this, I gave a small laugh. I wanted to lighten the mood, to prove to Eric that it wasn't all as serious as he was making it out to be, no matter how serious I thought it was. Eric, however, looked even more worried.

Damn… I berated myself, but continued on. "I'm really sorry. I don't quite know what else to tell you," I said softly. "Everything is just always so surreal after having them."

What was I even talking about anymore? I was deviating from my intended story. Before I really knew it, I was starting to make the whole explanation about my actual dreams! It was better than talking about the real living terror, but why could I not recover the me before all of this had occurred? Why were my emotions running away from me? Why couldn't I master them as effectively any longer?

I waited for Eric to respond, but he did not. It seemed he was waiting for me to continue, but I did not.

It was starting to become uncomfortable, sitting on the dining room chair. The gaps in the back of the chair, while serving as a decorative aesthetic, dug into my spine painfully, and the seat itself was beginning to make my thighs grow numb. The overhead light of the kitchen had cast an eerie glow upon the room, making everything appear jaundice in my tiring eyes. It was getting so late.

"Do those… dreams make you feel like you're being stalked?" Eric asked suddenly. I snapped my head up, which had been dipping closer to the table, unbeknownst to me. My eyes widen despite myself, and my breath caught. His words seemed to have cut into the silence that had settled into the air, and the walls bled with them in resonance.

"What?" I managed to get out.

"That night when you were going to go to my house but then last second, decided that you would rather…"

"Eric!" I cut in. "I know what night you're referring to," I said curtly. He tensed but continued on.

"Right, well, you had asked me if I had seen someone that night on the corner of the street. I never did, but that's beside the point," and he waved his hand dismissively. "The look in your eyes Aiden… that was pure fear. I didn't like it." He then looked at me pointedly. "Why would your nightmares make you feel like you're being stalked?" he asked. I faltered.

"I… I never said that." I meant to sound dismissive, but knew I failed.

"You don't have to. It's quite obvious."

"To you, or so you think," I hissed. Why couldn't he just accept the answer I gave?!

"Aiden, why are you getting so defensive? I only want to help!" he cried, just as equally defensive, in my opinion. My heart was gaining rapidity, over pumping my blood, making my head throb with the pressure. "I mean, it's got to mean more than just death right? Dying and feeling like you're being stalked are two different things."

"Don't be so presumptuous Eric," I said darkly. Eric looked taken aback, and he lowered his eyes to stare at his hands instead. He began to chew his lower lip, but I felt no remorse.

"What is it Aiden? I know there's more. Stop lying to me," he said weakly. I stood abruptly.

"I told you it wasn't a big deal!" I snapped, slamming my hands down upon the table. It buckled under the weight, and the glasses rocked ever so dangerously.

"It is a big deal!" Eric shouted, looking suddenly exasperated.

"Why? If I'm managing, why should it concern you? Why do you care anyway?" I cried with a mixture of anger, sleep, and desperation. At that, Eric, too, stood, the movement a snap. He made his way slowly over towards me, and I felt myself shrink ever so slightly with each step that closed the distance between us.

"Don't question my friendship Aiden," he said quietly, coldly, as he stared down at me. No light was reflecting in the blue eyes, and I was shrouded in the shadow of his towering form. Friendship? I repeated in my head. I knew that's what he labeled us as, what others would as well, but I always had a hard time defining what Eric and I were. Why would he bother with someone like me? I wish he'd stop… He sees too much.

His eyes softened suddenly, and he leaned in closer. I tried to take a step back, but my leg hit the chair that was already backed against the wall, hindering such progress. I gulped.

"Please stop questioning my friendship," he said more gently. "I am your friend, and I have been for seven years now, ever since you moved here when we were just ten years old." Eric straightened himself, and I sighed with minute relief, but the panic had not subsided completely. "You might not consider us… friends in a sense," and he said that like it was poison to his mouth, "But I'll wait. I'll wait for you to accept that and to tell me what really scared you."

I tried to find the subterfuge that surely underlined his statement. Tried to find the proof that he was only trying to appease me now, but would strike again when I was caught off guard. Tried to find the insincerity.

He smiled at me.

I couldn't find any of what I searched for. There was still the possibility that Eric was lying to me, but there was nothing I could find that suggested it was so. I could only give him the benefit of the doubt, believe him.

"Alright," I said at last. His smile grew, and my heart throbbed slightly. I tried my best to ignore that, not understanding what had caused it. Relief perhaps… "Thanks," I mumbled.

"Yeah well, what are friends for?" he laughed, as he went to gather his dishes. I really didn't know the answer to his question, so I kept my mouth shut, choosing to follow suit instead.

I began to scrape the rest of the uneaten food into the garbage, and Eric gave me a disapproving look. I shrugged, and when I was finished, I placed the dishes in the sink, on top of Eric's cleanly eaten plate.

"You should have finished your dinner," Eric scolded, as he began to roll up the sleeves of his sweater and dress shirt.

"Eric, I'm not in the mood to argue with you again, so please stop doing what you're about to do," I demanded with a drowsiness. Eric chuckled, but consented as he placed back the plate he had grabbed. He then suddenly gasped. I would have reacted, but I was too tired.

"You're right!" he cried.

"Hnn?" I mumbled into my hand after a prolonged yawn, only mildly concerned.

"We did have an argument!" he stated… happily? He bounded into the living room and plopped down upon the couch. I followed mutely and confusedly.

"Yes… because that is something people get happy over," I said sarcastically, taking the chair Eric had sat in earlier. He gave me a toothy grin.

"Of course it is! We've never really had one, and that's progress in my book!" He nodded affirmatively, closing his eyes as he did so.

"We've fought before," I injected.

"Yeah, a long time ago! I think the last one we had was when we we're… eleven right?" He opened one eye slightly to look at me.

"Yes it was," I confirmed. "You stole my book."

Eric opened his eyes fully. "No! I didn't steal it! I didn't know it was yours! Remember? You only thought I took it, but really…" He stopped talking once I had started to laugh softly. He looked at me, mouth agape. He snorted a second later and threw a pillow over at me. I caught it, but still chuckled.

"You jerk," he pouted, though he was smiling. "I thought you were trying to make me relive my guilt. I thought I was going to have to explain myself all over again." He didn't look at me, and a dull flush crept across his cheeks. I stopped laughing. I watched Eric as he closed his eyes again and smiled wistfully. I decided to change the subject.

"Um… your cell phone has been awfully quiet," I stated, thinking of a certain raven haired girl.

"Oh! You're right!" He sprung up and ran over to where he had placed his back pack. He fumbled around in one of the many pockets before finally pulling out his cell phone. "Damn! Forgot I had turned it off!" He smiled as he waited for his phone to turn on. "Wanna make a bet on many messages Juliann's left me?" I shook my head.

"Yeah, you're right. I'm not quite sure they've given a name to that number yet," he laughed. I settled back into my chair, resting my head, and watched as Eric messed around on his phone. "Gods! Anyone else would have only left, at most, three messages." He pushed some buttons. "This is borderline ridiculous," but I could hear the affection with which he spoke.

"You really like her, don't you Eric?" I asked offhandedly, closing my heavy eyes. It was a couple of seconds before Eric responded.

"Uh… well, we are going out," he said quietly. I nodded my head, for what reason I did not know.

My head began to feel quite fuzzy, and it felt as if my body was beginning to levitate. I could feel myself yielding to the sleep that crept into me.

"Eric?" I called, my voice hoarse. "Don't you think you should be heading home? What time is it?"

"Er… twenty passed twelve." I grimaced. That was already a loss of two hours of sleep. I heard Eric's phone give out a little tune before he flipped it shut. I heard him shuffling about a moment later, the sound coming closer. I remained still long after I felt him kneel before me.

"Aiden?" he whispered. I raised my eyebrows to show I was listening. "Do you… Do you think that maybe I…" I heard him growl in frustration, and I opened my eyes cautiously. "Do you think I could stay over for tonight?"

And just like that, I felt the sleep ebb away.

"What?" I asked, sitting fully primed.

"I don't want to go back home. My brother's not home, and my mom would be too tired to miss me anyway," he stated dejectedly. "Please?" I didn't know how to respond when my head was screaming a definite 'no!' "Think about it! This way, I won't get depressed, and maybe you won't have the nightmares. You know, because there is someone else in the house. That always helps my brother," Eric chimed pleadingly. My thoughts were quite the contrary. Someone else in the house would just offset me even more.

"I don't know Eric…" I clutched at the arms of the chair.

"I really don't want to go home yet Aiden. If nothing else, please don't send me off." The subdued anger in his voice was quite palpable, and it would have been an insult to ignore the fact that Eric's reactions to his father were genuine. Even in my opinion, the man was a bastard.

"I… I guess it's fine if you…" but before I could finish the statement, I was swept up into a crushing hug. Eric's arms wrapped around me so completely, and I was pushed into his chest. Once again, I could hear his strong heart beat through the fabrics of his school uniform.

"Thank you Aiden!" The elation with which he spoke was unlike anything I was used to. I went rigid in his hold, praying he would let go. When he finally did, we were both a bit awkward. I cleared my throat and raised myself off the chair as nonchalantly as I could, though I felt completely off balanced and staggered as I stood.

"There's a spare bedroom you can use, but I'm not sure if I have anything for you to sleep in," I said, making my way towards the stairs. I motioned for Eric to follow, and he leapt up and nimbly did so. "I'm not quite sure… um… you'd fit in anything I own," I said sheepishly, blushing somewhat, as we made our way up the stairs.

"That's cool! I'll just sleep in my undershirt and boxers!" he laughed as we came to a door. I opened it, a shrill creaking noise greeting us.

"Yes, well…" I switched on the light in the spare bedroom. It was a small room, and served the function of a storage room more so than a bedroom. Knick knacks and forgotten items accumulated themselves within the room, collecting the dust that now blanketed many of the objects. I cleared away some boxes and junk that littered the bed. I then took of the bedding and sheets. "Hold on a moment. I'm going to change the bedding. They're a bit… grimy." I scuffled out the room, sheets in hand.

When I returned with fresh linens, Eric was hovering over a bunch of old photographs.

"Wow Aiden," I heard him say as I fitted the bed with the clean covers. "You're really young here!" He held out a framed photo to me, and I glanced at it absently. "How old were you here?"

"Seven."

"You don't look too happy," Eric said abstractedly still staring at it. I stiffened slightly but did not respond, just continued my task.

"Okay, the bed's ready," I said, stepping away from it. Eric put down the photo carefully and flopped down onto the bed. "Bathroom's down the hall and to the right, and I put an extra tooth brush on the counter just awhile ago." He smiled at me appreciatively. "I don't have a spare alarm clock, so at what time do you want me to wake you up?" I asked as Eric began to take off his sweater.

"Oh. No need. I always wake up on my own anyway," he said. He began to unbutton his dress shirt.

"Right then," I turned on my heel and left, shutting the door behind me. I silently made my way to my room. I gathered up my sleep clothes and left for the bathroom, pointedly ignoring the shut door of the spare bedroom. I changed clothes, brushed my teeth, washed my face, and returned to my darkened room.

Shutting the door behind me, finding solace in the clicking noise when it closed, I dragged my feet across the floor towards my bed. When I reached it, I collapsed. I didn't even bother to get under the sheets, I was so bloody tired.

That night, no nightmares of any kind haunted me. In fact, I didn't dream at all. My mind was as black as darkness was. No infinity. No finality. No phantom. I contented myself in thinking that I was just too tired to dream, too tired to ponder what had occurred in the park, too tired to acknowledge Eric's presence doors away.

Too tired…

…...

The next morning I awoke to the sounds of my earsplitting alarm clock. My head was cloudy, and I was a bit disoriented. It took me several moments to gather enough control over my lethargy to turn it off.

I yawned and stretched and rubbed away at my eyes that still felt heavy. Blinking out towards my window, the light that slinked in through the blinds was faint and pallid. The morning was going to be a foggy one.

I slugged over to my closet, pulling forth a clean dress shirt. I dressed listlessly, yawning every so often. When the drawn out task was completed, I prepared myself to go wake up a potentially sleeping Eric. However, I stopped just short of my door.

It was wide open.

And suddenly, I wasn't so tired anymore.

A/N: Whoo! The chap. be done! I promise Keory will arrive soon! The story needs a little… vampirism… OO;;

Anywho… please leave this author reviews. She lives for them! Well, not really, but still!