Fortunately, Google Docs saved all my shit.

Here's a shorty for you.


3

The diner was quiet in the afternoon, just the way Eben liked it. He marched in like he owned the place and took his favorite seat – a booth by the window – where he could survey the street and the park clearly. Theo sat across from him and Eben studied him carefully, the brunette visibly uncomfortable beneath the Breaker's steady gaze. As they sat, a waitress brought them coffee and water, shortly after that, two plates of steaming eggs and bacon and a tower of waffles to split. Everyone lived around them, unseeing, carrying on with their lives as if Eben and Theo weren't there at all.

Theo blinked down at the food in front of them while Eben tucked in, hungrier than he'd realized. "This is amazing."

Eben shrugged. "Just the usual, to me." He took a bite of sausage and the grease burned the cut in his lip, startling him into dropping his fork. He hissed and dipped a napkin in his water, carefully dabbing at the wound. That was dumb.

Theo looked surprisingly mortified. "I'm sorry, that's -"

"Your fault. Yeah," Eben mumbled. He sighed and went about things with a little more care. "So. Ask your questions. Sate your curiosity."

Theo gaped a moment, trying to settle. "How?" he finally mumbled.

"That's vague," Eben snorted. Theo rolled his eyes. "I developed early," Eben grumbled. "Ten years old I started stealing info outta peoples heads. They don't test in schools until you're thirteen, that's the average development age. But between my two year head-start and the fact I never actually went to school, I escaped all that. Otherwise I'm sure they'da killed me, no questions asked."

"So they do just kill Breakers?" Theo mumbled.

"Not like there's space or resources to keep a whole bunch of Mindbreakers locked up or anything. Each day we're alive we learn something new, get a better handle on the shit we can do with our brains." He took a bite of waffle and let the buttery cake melt away in his mouth, giving a small sigh of delight. "Not really the kind of people you want to keep locked up together, either."

Theo hummed and played with his food. "Is what they say about Mindbreakers true?" He asked hesitantly and Eben puzzled over it, not quite able to grasp the thoughts behind the question.

"Most of them. But then, there's a lot they don't tell you, too. They focus on all the bad shit, make us sound like scary, crazy bastards, but think about it. You have a different thought going through your head every second, say. But ninety-five percent of those ain't yours. Go crazy, too, I think," Eben explained with a shrug.

"And you're not?" Theo asked, a combination of snark and sincerity.

"Not as much as I could be. I got a pretty good handle on my brain. You gunna eat? What's with the curiosity, anyway? Most people'd gone running as soon as they put the two together," said Eben, cutting into another stack of waffles.

Theo immediately closed up. "Just curious. Can I uh … just get the food to go?"

"For your brother? Doesn't eat much, right? Carlton. There's -" Eben winced and pulled back into himself, shaking off the thoughts Theo inadvertently dumped on him. He grabbed the bridge of his nose as his head throbbed and took a breath. "Sorry. I didn't mean to do that."

Theo was looking at him in shock, barely masking the shame. "How did you know that? I know what you were about to say, I know it, how did you -"

"God, fuck, shhhh," Eben groaned. "You 'told' me, all right? Breakers don't always have to weasel into your head to get info, most of the time you people just vomit it out. Brain vomit. It's hard for me to ignore it when you throw it in my face."

Theo blinked. "I … I did?"

Eben shrugged, finally shaking it off. It was like a bad hangover, being overwhelmed. Or like being smacked in the face by a mallet. "Guess you're desperate to tell someone. But it ain't me who can help you. Yeah. Here," he mumbled and a waitress appeared again with another plate of food and a box. She set it down, absent, like she had no idea what she was doing, and walked away.

Theo stared at the extra food and scowled. "I don't need any favors."

"Just take it," Eben grumbled, half heartedly finishing his own food. It tasted sour, unpleasant. He shoved the plate away. "Take this, too. No reason to waste good food."

Theo sighed and packed the food away, stuffing it into the box until it barely closed. He seemed relieved when Eben looked at him. After the knowledge he'd gained of Theo, Eben could understand why.

"I didn't know regular people did that sort of thing. That Breakers just … hear things," Theo mumbled.

Eben sighed. "There's a lot you don't know about Breakers. Anyway, I gotta get outta here. See you around," he said, pushing to his feet.

"You mean, you'll see me again?" Theo asked in surprise.

Eben shrugged. "Yeah, sure, whatever."

"You're not going to Break me? Make me forget you?"

"Do I have to?" Eben challenged.

"No, I ain't tellin' anyone," Theo insisted.

"Then there's no reason for me to go rootin' around in your head. Just don't go callin' me out in public, people'll think you're nuts," Eben instructed, pulling out a handful of paper bills and fingering through them.

Theo scowled. "Why?"

"Because, as far as anyone else is concerned, I'm empty air, and you'd be screamin' at nothin'. C'mon, walk out with me, otherwise when I leave everyone will be wondering when you got here and where you got all this food," said Eben, and he tossed a decent total onto the table, urging Theo up and out.

The fair was still in full swing when they stepped back onto the street. Eben thought about replenishing what he'd spent, but his head ached and he was exhausted. "Take care, kid," he mumbled, turning for Grace's.

"You too. Hey. Thanks for the food. And for not bein' dead," Theo said, gently grabbing his arm.

Eben recoiled slightly, unused to being touched, mind flooding with emotions from the simple contact. "Yeah sure. I'm good at not bein' dead."

"What's your name, anyway?"

Eben paused and gave Theo a look, but he looked so earnest and innocent. "It's Eben."

Theo smiled for the first time, and again Eben felt like a deer in headlights. "I'm Theo. Nice to meet you." He held out his hand, but Eben refused it.

"Nice to meet you, too," he mumbled stiffly, and he walked away.