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Growing Pains

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Eddie woke to a dull ache in his back. Glancing up at his clock, he could see that currently the time was 'obnoxiously early', and normally he would have just gone back to sleep. But this was the kind of ache that required painkillers if he wanted any more rest. He had barely gotten to his feet, however, when a sudden painful spasm across his shoulder blades sent him falling back into his beanbag bed.

Lying there, muttering a few choice swears and trying to process what just happened, a voice suddenly spoke up to his left, "Eddie? Are you okay?"

Looking over, he came almost face to face with one of the four mini-Nelsons. He'd forgotten Fear had come to stay with him during the night; Eddie was big and strong and could protect Fear from anything that might attack out of the darkness, so on many occasions he found himself sharing his bed with the little guy. It was a miracle he hadn't fallen on top of him just now.

"Yeah, yeah, don't worry about me little buddy, I'm fine." Eddie was almost immediately proven a liar when another spasm gripped him unexpectedly.

"I-I'm… I'm gonna go get Manny…" Before Eddie could stop him, he'd taken off and gone straight out the door. Sighing in defeat, Eddie accepted his fate and just laid there, waiting for Fear and his backup to arrive.

Eventually the door pushed open and several people walked in.

"Hey, what's goin' on big guy?" Manny had been followed by Fear, and on the way it seemed they'd picked up the rest of the Nelsons as well. As Manny approached, the child-size Psychonaut quartet spread out around the room. Feral didn't seem particularly interested in Eddie or his problems, but Puzzle had run in close to get as much information off of Eddie as he could. Fear was standing behind one of Manny's flowery legs, and Confusion was standing midway between the door and the bed. He didn't seem too certain of his purpose here.

"Ah, something's going on with my back. Caught me off guard this morning and I think it scared Fear." Eddie tried to deflect Manny's concern by making it seem like no big deal; he'd learned by this point that outright denying something was going on just made his friends more determined to find a way to help.

Manny looked him over with some concern. "More spikes?"

"Nah, I don't think so. This feels different. I think I just threw my back out yesterday overdoing it or sooME- AUUGH…" Eddie had been cut off by his own back spasming painfully again. He took a moment to regain his composure before continuing, "... anyway I don't think I can get up today… could you get me some painkillers or something?"

Puzzle was examining him with a critical eye, like any little detail might unlock the mystery of his apparent injury. Feral had looked over when Eddie raised his voice, but the lack of action meant he went back to whatever he was doing almost immediately. Fear had jumped backwards by about a foot, and Confusion still just looked kinda lost.

Manny regarded him for a moment, before turning around and doing just what he'd asked. However, when he returned with a glass of water and some pills, he'd also come back with a book of his and a few different puzzle magazines to keep the Nelsons off of Eddie. "Here you go. You mind if I read my book in here?"

Alright, so he wasn't getting rid of Manny anytime soon. Fine then. "Not at all, but I'm probably just going back to sleep. Hope your book is interesting, 'cuz I definitely won't be. Thanks, by the way." He threw back some of the pills and downed the water before relaxing back down into his bed.

"Anytime." Manny settled into the corner and began to read.

In his sleep every now and then the spasm seized Eddie again, but it seemed he couldn't feel it through the painkillers. After several of them came and went, Puzzle broke the silence.

"It's… speeding up," Puzzle had spoken up from where he and Confusion were working through the puzzle books. Fear had gone back to lying by Eddie's side, and Feral was now investigating one of the far corners of the room. "By my estimate, there'll be another one in about five minutes."

Sure enough, five minutes later the spasm was back. If… if this wasn't random, Manny supposed, this meant Eddie hadn't just injured his back. His body was preparing for something; waiting. Returning to his book, he kept a closer eye on Eddie.

As the morning slid into afternoon, Puzzle's observation that his condition was accelerating had also been confirmed. Eventually, after several hours of lying around and resting, the spasms were almost right on top of each other with only a moment's rest in between. Eddie had woken back up somewhere around when the spasms paused for about 10 seconds, and now it seemed the painkillers had worn off enough to be bothering him again.

Getting up to refill the glass, from the doorway Manny looked back when he heard Eddie suddenly tense with a strangled gasp.

The muscles across his back and shoulders had snapped taut with no warning, and his eyes were blown wide in agony. Whatever Eddie's body was waiting on, it was here. Eddie was gripping the surface of the beanbag with white-knuckled fists as Manny rushed to his side.

"Eddie?! What's wrong??"

Between sharp, panted breaths, Eddie managed to wheeze out, "My baaaaaaack....."

Shifting his gaze beyond Eddie's face Manny was just in time to witness two huge spikes, longer and thicker than any Eddie had grown before, jut out of his back at the level of his shoulder blades. Because of the hot nights here at camp, Eddie had gone to bed without a shirt on. Small miracles, some cynical voice in the back of Manny's mind commented, because otherwise this would have torn it to shreds.

Fear had slid off the bed almost immediately, and was now huddling with the other Nelsons in the corner. Eddie's eyes were squeezed shut, but it couldn't stop the continuous flow of tears now streaming down his face. Manny thought it was over. He was wrong.

Eddie's breath hitched as the spikes pushed on, each pulling a gathered black mass along with them. Dios mio…  what was happening??

When Eddie started screaming, Manny felt paralyzed; he didn't know what to do - he didn't know how to help.

The spikes just kept going. Eventually, they seemed to reach their ends, only to reveal another segment. Or more accurately, a joint in the structure of whatever new feature Eddie was in the process of gaining. After several of these joints, Eddie appeared to be reaching his limit. His breathing was fast and shallow, and his face was coated in sweat. His eyes were glazed over, and his grip on the beanbag had slackened. He'd shouted himself hoarse, by this point, and now he was gritting his teeth and concentrating on keeping his eyes open. If this went on for too much longer, he was going to pass out.

Finally, the long, thin appendages had come to rest on the floor, and the black masses each had dragged along with them had been stretched out like the sails of a kite.

At long last, it was over. Eddie relaxed into his makeshift bed like a puppet whose strings had been cut unexpectedly, and laid there bonelessly with two large, leathery wings at his sides.

Gently laying a hand on Eddie's forearm, Manny did his best to comfort him, "Deep breaths, mijo, deep breaths… it's alright now, it's over. You're okay."

Utterly exhausted, Eddie did his best to slow his breathing and take in more oxygen. That… had sucked. His back was still screaming, and he could feel whatever had chosen to tear him inside out twitching on either side of him.

Cracking open his eyes, he could see Manny kneeling in front of him, and three of the Nelsons peering at him from the corner of the room. Wait… three? Then he felt a tugging on the bed as Fear scaled the beanbag and rolled over next to his side. Fear still wasn't afraid of him.

Smiling softly, touched that his friend had chosen to stay with him despite the show he'd just put on, Eddie let go and drifted back into sleep.

Manny was… a bit disturbed, to put it lightly. Watching Eddie experience that level of pain and being unable to do anything about it made him feel utterly useless. 

Appraising the new limbs though, Manny had to concede - they were very Eddie. When he woke up again and the burning agony was just a memory he'd probably be over the moon about how cool they looked. He already seemed to have some amount of control over them, as when Fear had hopped up to comfort him he'd curled a wing protectively over the little component. 

The other Nelsons approached the beanbag with a little more caution than Fear had, ironically, and ultimately it seemed they'd decided to join in on the impromptu nap time. In his sleep, Eddie's other wing came to rest over the new additions, and the peaceful relaxation on his face was a complete reversal of the discomfort he'd been in only minutes ago.

Retrieving his book from the corner and settling against the side of the bed, Manny's eyes were still mostly on Eddie. He'd still be there for him when he woke up; this was definitely not something he ought to fully discover alone. Waiting, watching, eventually he slipped into unconsciousness as well.