16. The cracks in my heart

I'll try to keep myself open up to you
It gets easier and easier to do
Just like Jericho
Let these walls come tumbling down now
Let them fall here on the ground
Let all these dogs go running free
The wild and gentle dogs
Kenneled in me

Joni Mitchell

What should I say…? God, I don't know what to say…!

Kiddo was trembling with suppressed anger, audibly puffing through his nose. He was trying hard to keep his head, but he was a loose cannon right now. His index finger tightly hooked around mine, he nervously moved our hands to and fro; they bumped against his thigh each time his arm swung back. I could almost hear the sound of his teeth grinding together, and he still hadn't opened his eyes yet. Right now, Kiddo seriously scared the shit out of me.

Do I like Law?

I couldn't lie to him. But I didn't want to light his fuse either.

What does he want to hear?

I struggled for an answer while the seconds were ticking by.

Fuck, he knows everything anyway, so what in hell…?
Open your mouth, Portman!

"Why are you asking me that?"

No reaction. Just the nerve-racking bumping of our hands against his leg. I squirmed my hand free and grabbed his wrist to stop it.

"Edward, I just met Law for the first time and saw him for what… two minutes?"

He tilted his head to one side and rolled it around from shoulder to shoulder; I heard a vertebra crack in his neck. Then he opened his eyes, and I winced. They were like lightless pits. I let go of his wrist and involuntarily made a small step backwards.

"Of course you like him. He's a great guy, isn't he?" he said, in a toneless voice.

"Yes, he seems to be a great guy, and I think I like him," I admitted. "And I'm certainly telling you no secret when I say that he's also extremely good-looking and knows how to turn on the charm. But I'll be damned if I know what the fuck just happened here. You're scaring me."

Kiddo slowly shook his head. "You don't need to be scared of me. I told you I could never hurt you." He sounded dead tired.

"But you said you wanted to hurt Law!" I retorted, enraged.

He closed his eyes again and nodded. "How much of it did you overhear?"

"Pretty much everything. I heard you say you wanted to rip out his fucking throat, Edward. And it didn't sound like a joke to me. And all the other things you said, I mean really… I don't even understand why your uncle puts up with your shit." The numbness slowly left me while I was speaking; I was almost screaming at him now. "And what is it with 'black' and 'the last time it happened'? What happened? Did you kill someone in one of your static satellite dish moods? Should I double check the locks on my door from now on? Fuck, I just don't know who you are, Edward!"

He made a step towards me but stopped at once when I recoiled instinctively. "I'm so sorry," he whispered. "I shouldn't have brought you here."

"Dammit, Edward!" I felt anger welling up, and I was thankful for it. I liked it definitely better than the pinching fear. "You didn't bring me here! I'm not a little girl, and I'm not your fucking girlfriend. So cut that out, ok? Law invited me over, and I accepted. That's why I'm here!"

Kiddo's jaw had dropped when I yelled at him, and he was breathing heavily now through his open mouth. He looked at me under half closed lids, as though he had trouble staying awake.

"You're right," he said, still in that zombie voice, "please forgive me. However, I am not… in the condition to join you two. Law will explain everything to you, I'm sure. Just ask him. He's good at explaining things. I just can't. Sorry."

And with that he turned and walked away without looking back. Still snorting with rage, I watched him disappear behind Law's house. My mind was roaring now.

Fuck you, Kiddo! And fuck your moods and your touchiness, and fuck your synesthetic mind reading shit, and fuck your sexy ass too!

"Fuck you!" I hissed.


I turned around, and Law was leaning against the doorframe. I threw my arms up in the air. "What the hell is wrong with you guys?" I snapped at him.

He made a few steps towards me, limping a little more distinctive than before. Very gingerly, he touched my shoulder and asked, "Are you ok?"

When I looked at him, I didn't see the hot guy who had knocked me off my feet a few minutes ago. I just saw a friendly face and sincere concern written on it. My chin started to quiver and my eyes filled with tears. "No, I'm not," I whined. And the next thing I knew, Law's solid arms were around me.

That was all it took… without premonition, I fell to pieces. I sobbed into his chest like a three-year-old who had lost sight of mommy in the shopping mall. Law just held me, rocking us both softly back and forth. "Shhh… it's ok," he hummed soothingly.

"What is it?" I cried, "What's the matter with him?" In barely more than 24 hours, dealing with Kiddo's moods and myths, I had turned into a bundle of nerves. And I had no idea why I was doing this to myself, or why he affected me so much, in the first place.

"He will be alright, don't worry. Everything will be alright," Law continued to console me, patiently waiting for my hysteric sobbing and wailing to cease. His words meant nothing to me, but I found comfort in the way his body spoke to me. With my head against his broad chest, I could feel his steady heartbeat and the low vibration of his calming voice. One of his hands was gently stroking my hair; the other arm was tightly wound around my shoulders. It was like the promise of friendship and shelter, and my own body responded to it instinctively; I slung my arms around his waist and slowly calmed down.

Law waited until I was breathing evenly, only interrupted by occasional sniffles, before he spoke again, "What about some pizza and a beer now?"

I snorted. "You remind me of my grandma - whenever I was upset she thought she could cure anything with milk and cookies. She didn't even care to ask what my problem was," I mumbled, still huddled against his chest. His shirt was drenched with my tears. But he smelled good, a little like sandalwood and honey.

"I think I can go one better though," he said, "I can offer you pizza, beer and some answers. What do you say?" He released me, and both his hands wandered to my shoulders. He didn't push me away though, but waited for me to move. Reluctantly I pulled my head off his chest and stepped back. Rubbing my eyes, I answered, "If you're willing to up the ante and make it a pizza, a beer, some answers and a tissue… I'm in!"

He chuckled softly. "Deal!"


The pizza, delivered from the cafeteria, was terrible. A lukewarm, squashy disaster. Maybe they needed room for new applicants and were trying to poison their current residents by feeding them stuff like this. The small crumbs of yesterday's menu that stuck to my fork didn't make the meal any more appealing either. I declined with a thanks. Luckily, Law blamed my lack of appetite on my emotional distress and didn't ask.

The beer, though its temperature strongly approached that of the pizza, worked fine for me. Since I rarely drank alcohol, and due to my empty stomach, I felt quite light-headed after only a few sips, and things seemed to move back into proportion. I ripped another tissue from the Kleenex box I had been generously offered and blew my nose extensively and fortissimo.

Law, who hadn't spoken a single word since we had entered the jumble collection he called a kitchen, shifted in his seat. "Better now?"

"Yes, much better. Thank you." I glanced across to discover that other than me, Law in fact considered the Hawaiian misfortune as something edible. He had scarfed down his serving without batting an eyelid, and now was using his index finger to pick up microscopic crumbs off his empty plate and put them into his mouth. It was... disturbing to watch, to say at least. I averted my gaze and sedulously examined the crumbled-up tissue in my hands. "God, I must look terrible."

"That's open to dispute," Law muttered and, to my relief, eventually shoved his plate aside.

"Usually, I don't lose my cool that easily." I smiled at him ruefully, but he just chuckled.

"Don't worry about that, Annie. Edward is a pain in the ass, that's for sure. I was surprised you arrived here with your head on straight at all."

"Ah yes? Why?"

"Because you, um…" he faltered and pointed a finger at my untouched, and meanwhile cooled off, portion of pizza from hell, "Don't you wanna eat that?"

Jesus Christ...

I shook my head no, "Feel free."

"Thanks." He snatched the plate, and I watched in morbid fascination as he coiled the pizza-shaped toxic waste into a roll, and bit off a chunk with relish. When eating, the family likeness between Law and Kiddo was remarkable.

"You were just telling me why you were surprised to see-"

Chewing and nodding, Law held one finger up to indicate that he was about to answer any second. After yet more chewing and nodding, he swallowed noisily and said, "You were almost 24 hours in his presence, and you hadn't called the police, you didn't have a black eye and you were still able to speak in complete sentences. You beat the record." He bit off another piece of the roll and grinned at me, chewing.

"Why don't you tell me something about said record? I remember this package included some answers too."

"Mm... mm... yes," he forced another bite down his throat. "That was the deal. Hey – are you sure you're not hungry? There's a dessert too."

Good heavens!

"I'm sure, thanks. You can have mine if you want to."

"Oh, good – ok, but first..." He took another bite, and then he meaningfully pointed the remainder of the pizza roll at me, chomping again. "...umm... mm..."

I waited impatiently for him to gulp down. He waved the pizza roll from side to side a few times, emphasizing in advance whatever point he was going to make, until finally his Adam's apple bopped and he continued, "...first I need to ask you one or two things, if that's ok?"

I sighed. "Sure."

A reddish substance leaked out of the last bit of the roll and ran down Law's wrist. He caught it with his other hand and looked around the table, searching for something. I handed him a Kleenex, and he took it with a nod – but not before he had maneuvered the last piece of pizza into his mouth, using his thumb to shove it in as if he wanted to make sure it wouldn't escape.

I waited.

Chew. Chew. Swallow.


Chew. Swallow.

"… what did Edward tell you already? Or do I have to start at zero?"

Relieved that Law's meal was finally over, I answered, "He told me about his synesthesia, and that he sees those things."

"He did? That's quite remarkable." Law seemed to be surprised.

"Yes, he did, but it wasn't easy for him. He..." I hesitated for a moment, "he had an anxiety attack of sorts when I asked him about it."

Law nodded, looking straight into my eyes. Without breaking the eye contact, he raised his beer bottle, took a long swig and put it down on the table again. After a few seconds and a bit more staring, he leaned back in his chair and crossed his arms over his chest, "Annie?"

I raised my brows, "Yes?"

"Say... did Edward get laid last night?"

What the fuck!

I blushed like I had never blushed before




It was so...

- - - - - - - - (Edward's Notebook) - - - - - - - -

I shouldn't have brought her here.
I should have known.
It happens again.
And I made it worse...

Law didn't insist that I said it out loud. My awkwardness was answer enough, and he shook his head and chuckled. "I should have known..."

It took all my strength to stand his gaze and to not apologize. Why did I still feel as though I had done something illegal? Kiddo and I had done nothing wrong, dammit! And Law didn't seem to be too upset with the news, just surprised or a little... bummed out? We reached for our beers simultaneously, and we both took extended swigs, glaring at each other over the bottlenecks.

"Well," he started after wiping his mouth with the back of his hand, "I know it is disturbing to see Edward lose his temper for the first time, but I can assure you he's probably back to normal right now, so -"

"It wasn't the first time," I cut in. We raised our bottles again, both he and I stopping halfway this time. I was wondering whether he did this on purpose.

He lifted one brow. "Really? What happened?"

"He did some Kung Fu or Karate or something like that to my neighbor, pretty scary. Nothing too bad happened though, just a little nosebleed," I replied nonchalantly and brought my bottle all the way to my mouth.

Laws bottle went the opposite direction and landed on the table top with a bang. "What?" Suddenly agitated, he got off his chair and leaned forward, his hands gripping the edges of the small table on either side. "Please tell me there were no police involved!"

"There were no police involved," I said inanely.

"Fuck!" He started pacing the kitchen, muttering under his breath. I couldn't help but admire his lean butt again, but also noticed his limping was more conspicuous now than I had seen before.

"Really, it wasn't a big deal..." I appeased.

He stopped and turned to me, "No big deal? Annie-" In an overly familiar gesture, he raked a hand through his hair. "If your neighbor is going to take legal action, we're in real trouble here. Edward has a history of violence, you know - he is on probation, dammit!"

"Oh?" My heart skipped a beat. "Why? What happened? Is he dangerous?"

And what if he is, Portman? Would you send him away? Does it even...

- - - - - - - - (Edward's Notebook) - - - - - - - -

... matter anymore?
Could it get any worse?
Annie glowing.
Annie flirting.
Annie with Law.
Pink and yellow good guy Law...

"Fuck no! He is not dangerous," Law resumed his uneven pacing. "E is a good boy; he just has a monopoly on bad luck, always the fall guy - not my story to tell though. But anyway... last time shit happened, they sentenced him. One year probation plus charitable work, that's why he is here," he stopped again and frowned at me. "Do you think your neighbor will keep his feet still?"

I was distracted for a moment by the way his biceps bulged as he was wringing his hands in front of his chest. Then I heard one of his knuckles crackle and my mind clicked back into reality. "I'm pretty sure he won't do anything, I took care of it."

He relaxed noticeably. "Good. God... I hope you are right, Annie." He turned around and limped towards the cabinet next to the gas range, where he silently started to unwrap another suspicious-looking tin foil package.

"What's with your leg, if you don't mind asking me?"

His square shoulders shrugged. Without turning around, he said, "It's gone."

Damn, what? Gone? As in, off? Amputated? Shit!

"Fuck... Law, I'm sorry, I didn't-"

"It's ok, no prob. Motorbike crash some years ago. They took it off right below the knee. It's not that bad; the darn leg certainly won't come back because you're sorry, so stop it, ok?" He turned around, each hand holding a plastic cup, filled with some kind of viscous, white substance, and gave me an impish lop-sided grin. "You sure you don't want your dessert?"

Oh, come on...!

"It's all yours, I assure you – what I want is answers, Law! You had yours, now it's my turn. What did he see when we met each other out there on the lawn? Do things like this happen often? Is he always like this? What did Edward mean when he said, he wanted to hurt you? Was he serious?"

What does it mean, and what in Heaven's name happens when everything turns...

- - - - - - - - (Edward's Notebook) - - - - - - - -

...black? Really?
Fucking Black.
Twice in two days.
Black Black Black Black Black
It is her,
because of her,
but then again not.
It's me.
Fucking Black. Fucking me...

"The things he sees... you know, I trust in them. It's weird, I know, and apparently I am the only one who thinks he's not batshit crazy. But really, he knows things, it's stunning! Do you believe me?"

I nodded. "A bit like mind-reading, right?"

"Not really." Law shoved another spoonful of what he had declared to be vanilla pudding into his mouth. Thankfully, there wasn't much to chew and the intermissions were short. "Or.. yes, maybe a little mind-reading, a little clairvoyance, who knows? Fact is: it is reliable. It's a gift. However, Edward considers it to be a curse."


"When he was a child, nobody knew what was wrong with him; talking about colors and stuff all the time. They thought he was hallucinating or schizophrenic. They fed him shitloads of meds, so I was told. I didn't know him when he was a kid. Anyway... they kind of rammed it down his throat, that it was a bad thing to have those visions, and that he was a sick. Until he was 15, he had gone through like 20 different therapies with 20 different shrinks. They just tamed him, I think."

He shoved the empty dessert cup aside and pointed his spoon at me, adding meaningfully, "But Edward is a sleeping lion, you know what I mean?"

Fuck, don't get poetic at me – spit it out!

"Not exactly, Law."

"Well, like I said – they tamed him. The taught him how to suppress his visions or to not pay attention to them in order to make him more socially compatible. But it sort of backfired. He turned from a gushy golden boy into a very sad and silent kid, with the effect of total social isolation. I guess he figured, if he didn't say anything at all they couldn't blame him for saying something wrong. So things got worse. And on top of the schizophrenia misdiagnosis, the shrinks added autism to his case history. Wham!"

"Fuck!" I gasped.

"Exactly." He reached out for the second dessert and started to stir the yellowish substance with his spoon, when he suddenly froze and cocked a brow at me. "Last chance, Annie." He wiggled the cup in front of me.

"Thanks, but no thanks," I said pointedly. "What's with the sleeping lion now?"

"Yeah, what I wanted to explain is, this synesthesia doesn't go away, ok? It is still there, there's no cure. He is just controlling it. He is doing all those mental exercises they've rammed into him, calls it walls and locks and filters and hell knows what else. He lives in the constant fear of losing control. He didn't tell me any details, but he seems to remember from his childhood that terrible things happen if he gets overwhelmed by those visions and sensations. So he puts great effort into keeping them in check. Especially the "black one". That's the one he sees when he is pissed off." He chuckled darkly. "I mean, really pissed off. The black one gets him into trouble every time, I tell you."

Fuck yes, the lion was definitely awake when Tom showed up and Kiddo lost his...

- - - - - - - - (Edward's Notebook) - - - - - - - -

...fucking temper.
Fucking blood thirst.
Twice in two days.
Nothing has changed.
I didn't change...
I've scared her away.
I've scared her.
Fucking scared her.
Fucking Black got the better of me.
I'm out of control.
I should stay away from her.
I don't have the strength to stay away from her.

"And what did he mean, I 'cracked the lock'? I did nothing, I didn't even know about all this until a few hours ago!" Damn, Kiddo's story tore at my heart. How could they mess around like that with a kid? It made me feel guilty again, as if I had added to his misery, and I hated that feeling. I needed another beer.

Obviously, mind-reading ran as much in the family as extreme handsomeness, green eyes and crooked smiles – Law disposed of the empty dessert cups and returned with two new bottles of the soothing stuff. We clanked them like old buddies, and then he replied, "I have no idea, Annie, but it seems you're the one."

"What is that supposed to mean? Like in the Matrix, you are The One - take the blue pill, or take the red pill? Or what?" I giggled hysterically with the premonition of something I wouldn't be pleased to hear.

"You're crashing his control, Annie. He can't stop the visions when you're around. That's what he told me. It scares him to death. You're negating years of training and self-restraint, just by being there. Isn't that awesome?" Law seemed genuinely happy about something.

"Is there something wrong with me?"

"You've turned Edward from a dumb robotic shell into a living being again, and you are asking me whether there's something wrong with you? Hells, Annie – as long as I've known him, he has..."

- - - - - - - - (Edward's Notebook) - - - - - - - -

...buried it so deep, tuned it down,
built walls around it, locked the doors.
Blessed grey peace, blessed silent numbness.
Blessed solitude.
But Annie...
I have no defense for you, Annie.
You came in through the cracks in my heart
and opened it from the inside.
You brought back the beauty
and the anger.
You brought back life.
You are my life now.
La mia bella grazioso...

"He is waiting for you, you know?" Law said softly, and the way he looked at me so resembled Kiddo that my stomach clenched. After a few seconds, he abruptly leaned back in his chair and mumbled, "He's one lucky bastard."

I swallowed. "You mean, he is waiting for me... now?"

"You bet your ass!" he laughed. "I can tell you exactly what's going on with E. He went straight to his room, where he stripped and then tortured his punching bag for, let's say half an hour to let off steam, ok? Then he took a shower, maybe he rubbed one off to get off more steam, hell – that boy's got a lot of steam..." He laughed again, but there was a hint of sarcasm to it.

Why was he suddenly so frustrated? Maybe he was as drunk as me. We'd talked for almost two hours, and I counted eight empty bottles on the table. I felt a little sloshed.

"Anyway..." he continued, "I bet he's sitting at his desk now, filling his little notebook with little lines, full of self-loathing. Which is something they told him to do in one of his dog obedience school therapies, but I think it's bullshit. It doesn't make a single thing better."

"I'm drunk; I think I should go home."

"I think you should go out of this door, take a sharp turn to the right, and knock on the green door you will find right in front of your pretty eyes. That's what I think. Make him better, Annie. Go."

I got up from my chair. "The green door?"

Law nodded and reached out for another beer. Without looking up at me, he said, "He is a good boy, Annie, and I love him. Be good to him."

"I will," I whispered, and turned to leave the jumble collection kitchen and its pizza and beer impregnated air behind. I also left an oddly frustrated and quite sentimental Law behind. And I left any doubts and fears behind.

I'll be good to my beautiful boy. I'll be damned if I...

- - - - - - - - (Edward's Notebook) - - - - - - - -

...fucked this up!
Fucking me
fucking Black
fucked this up.
But I need her.

please, God, let me have that!
Let me have that!
Let me have th

When I knocked on the green door and nothing happened, I first thought Law had been wrong, and Kiddo wasn't here. An irrational anger came over me. I fucking wanted him to be here. I knocked again, harder this time, and called his name. There was a noise inside, like a chair scraping over a wooden floor. I listened for a moment, waiting for footsteps, but everything remained quiet. I raised my arm to knock for the third time, and stopped midways as the door suddenly swung open and I almost bumped my knuckles on Kiddo's chest instead.

I couldn't find any proof of a possible punching bag torment, but I could tell from his damp hair that he had actually taken a shower (shoving the distracting thought of any inappropriate shower activities aside) and changed clothes. He was wearing a simple white button down and blue jeans, and he looked good enough to eat – I realized I had never seen him in any other color but black before. Apart from that, he still looked exactly like when he had left me with his insatiable and talkative uncle two hours ago. Unhappy, tense, scowling... his one hand clutched the door handle, knuckles white, the other fisted a pen as if it was a dirk.

We both stared at each other in silence for a moment, and then we spoke simultaneously,

"Annie, I –"
"Edward, what –"

"You first," he offered.

"Don't you want to invite me in?"

Eyeing me warily, he opened the door a little further and stepped aside to give me some space. "Thank you," I said and shoved myself past him into the most bizarre room I'd ever seen.

It was white. And nothing but white. Not only the walls, but the floor, the ceiling and everything else was painted white. The room was scarcely furnished. A bed, a wooden box that served as a nightstand, a dresser, a desk, a chair, some more boxes, and a pile of whoknowswhat in one corner, covered under a white bed sheet. Not a single picture adorned the walls, or any other item of decoration, just the infamous punching bag – white – slightly swinging on a hook in the ceiling beam. The whole place looked like a lab for some crazy human experiment, rather than a room someone would want to live in voluntarily.

When I turned around, the door was still open and Kiddo hadn't moved. I gestured at the space behind me, "You do know that you could get snow-blind in here, right?"

"I know," he answered without any noticeable humor. Then he narrowed his eyes and gave me a once-over that annoyed the shit out of me, before he stated, "You're no longer mad at me."

"Oh, I wouldn't rely on that if I were you," I retorted, squinting my eyes too.

Being good to him doesn't necessarily include letting him have the upper hand, right?

Without averting his gaze, Kiddo reached behind himself and slowly pulled the door shut. Then he uttered another of his matter-of-fact statements, as if I hadn't any say in this at all, "You are not here to say goodbye."

I snorted, "No I'm not, Mr. Know-All-See-All! But I gotta tell you, I'm so fed up with you and your moods and everything."

With tentative steps, Kiddo walked towards me while I continued to berate him, "You are such a pain in the neck, I seriously feel like paddling some sense into you. And if you don't start talking to me real soon, I might lose interest in your answers altogether."

Not bad, Portman, not bad...

He stood right in front of me now, and as usually I had trouble to focus near him. "I'm not kidding, Edward," I finished lamely, "read my mind!"

"I do," he simply said, cupped my face with both hands and kissed me.

Oh shit

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