Step 1: Banish the Boogieman
Boo had to admit it, if just to himself; the Candyman certainly was a looker.
As he crept through ominous shadows tainting garishly bright walls, he allowed himself a moment to assess the so called 'bringer of sweetness and smiles'. The Candyman was a newer addition to the plethora of immortals and embodiments that occupied the Other World and Boo had never had a chance to really look at him before.
If nothing else he looked the part.
The Candyman was everything his name implied, as though he were the human incarnation of his own creations. He had a bright bubblegum pink coloured bob hair with electric blue stripes running across it that much have been a nightmare to dye. There was a stange glossy quality to his hair that gave it a strange candylike look, even though it was mussed from sleep. Even his eyelashes were pink.
His skin, even only lit by moonlight, was a healthy peach pallor to it and he had exaggeratedly rosy cheeks. The thin fingers that clutched his sheets had rainbow painted nails and the man's lips were the same eye poppingly vibrant blue as the accents in his hair, but they had a shine in the limited light, looking for all the world as though they had been glazed.
Somehow, despite the undeniably tacky mix of neons, the Candyman somehow managed to look striking at worst and stunning at best. Although he hadn't know what to expect Boo wasn't too surprised; he was willing to bet that managing to look like a walking candy shop without also looking like an idiot was just been one of those things that came with the territory. Sort of like how Boo could sense what someone's worst fear was just looking at them.
He wondered what colour the Candyman's eyes were. He supposed he would find out soon enough, no one slept through his visits after all, but he wasn't really sure if he wanted to do so with those eyes staring at him in terror.
What could have possibly left the Candyman so insecure he would still be on the list to get visits from a Boogieman was beyond him. Very few adults were ever scheduled for visits, and immortal adults were even rarer. But whatever it was that had the Candyman's name on the list, Boo probably wasn't going to find it out. His victim-clients tended not to chat with him often and he hadn't been on the job when the Candyman had started getting his visits. That had been his Father.
He frowned at the thought, the shadows flickering in time as though they could sense his displeasure, and maybe they could. It was common knowledge that he would never really live up to his truly terrifying Father.
He couldn't help but wonder; would the Candyman notice that he had a lesser Boogieman this time around? He hadn't encountered anyone who had experienced both Boogiemen in years and even then all of those had been children. Images of the Candyman laughing in his face ran through Boo's mind briefly before he cut off that train of thought. Self-pity wouldn't get him anywhere closer to being his Father, and what else was he good for if not trying?
With a sigh reminiscent of the violently howling wind, Boo got to work.
Cane's eyes flew open as he discovered he had lost his ability to breathe.
He always kept the candy shop he slept in warm, or at the very least temperate. There were plenty of things he made that would suffer from getting too cold or too hot. And yet at the moment he was freezing under his blanket. It wasn't winter and more something in him rebelled, yelling that the cold wasn't natural.
There could be no doubt that the biting, trembling fear suddenly smothering him than couldn't be explained by a random chill or a nightmare. The dark, seeping feeling that curled around his heart and tightened mercilessly until he thought he would be crushed on the inside from the fear alone...it had to be…
There was only one explanation that he could remember.
His body wouldn't move even when he told it to and his ability to think was splintering and shattering as he heard some terrible thing rasp out a tortured breath and felt freezing air blossoming on his cheek. A mysterious claw wrapped tightly around his wrist, the points almost piercing his skin.
There really wasn't any question of just how ridiculous he was going to look, instinct took hold and a shriek was ripped from him as he jumped out of the bed, or at least as he tried to. The scrambling move only lead to him becoming entangled in the blankets that had failed to keep him warm and ended with him rolling out of his bed in a completely undignified manner and hitting the floor with a painful thud. He bit back a groan as his face pressed the soft purple rug by his bed.
The voice that echoed through his mind was deep and terrifying, promising a death painful beyond compare. Cane drew in a shuddering breath, frozen in his awkward position. Everything about the voice spoke of his worst fears and his most horrible nightmares. It was as if the Reaper himself had come for him.
He screamed again as he felt the claws on each of his shoulders. Instinctively he hit at the wretched things, encountering nothing but air and his own pyjama top. Another breath of freezing air blew onto his neck and he scrambled up to his knees and finally his feet, tripping a little on his multicoloured sheets as he did. He had a vague notion of who this was, and if he was right he wasn't in any real danger, but that didn't stop his heart from beating painfully hard or his body from shaking wildly.
He made a dash for the light switch, cold feet sticking to his marble floor on the way and he prayed he wouldn't fall. As he ran he felt the ghostly claws starting to wrap around his ankles and oh sugar, oh sugar, oh sugar...
He smacked loudly into his wall as he finally reached the opposite end of the room, having sped up in an attempt to throw off the persistent claws, so close to puncturing his skin. Even as the sting of the hit began to fade his hand was smashing randomly on the wall in a desperate bid to find the light switch and the claws were once again tightening around his ankles and he hadn't thought it possible but it happening and he was really done for…
Finally, triumphantly, his palm slammed painfully into the light switch, and the claws around his ankles vanished in a breath of fresh air and light. Smiling shakily Cane turned around to encounter his room, sparse but bright, and no shadowy figures in sight.
Cane was breathing heavily and he didn't even want to acknowledge the cold sweat that covered his body, but he had done it, he would be okay. His grin widened and he pointed a still quaking hand at his empty room. "H-Ha! T-take that, Boogieman!"
He could learn to sleep with the lights on.
But the ominous sound of the howling wind beating against his windows didn't still and the room was still unnaturally cold. He could see his heavy breath puffing out in periodic tufts in front of him.
You can never destroy all the shadows, Candyman...
Cane froze and his eyes wildly darted around the room, searching for any sign of the intruder. Something, suspiciously like teeth, glinted in the dark corner of his room by his dresser and far too near his bed…
Cane stopped caring about what shreds of dignity he might have had left; he ran out of his room as fast as he could.
"Hey, Candyman," Edna sang the words and smiled brightly as she leaned over the counter top. "You're looking pretty down. What say you come over here and let me cheer you up?"
"Hey, Easter," Cane knew she hated to be called that. She thought the name was silly, misappropriated and way too old fashioned for her, but Cane wasn't feeling particularly generous to Miss.'I-probably-got-a-full-8-hours and I'm so happy about it too'. All he wanted was to get his store ready as fast as possible and maybe catch a cat nap. "You're looking a little like someone who doesn't need to be here right now." He dropped the falsely cheery voice. "Look I'm busy, okay? Just because some of us only have to work one day a year doesn't mean that the rest of us like being bothered when we're getting out stores ready."
"Oh really?" Her plump pink lips went into an 'o' as her eyebrows shot up and she eyed him suspiciously. "What's with you, Cane? You've been spitting poison for a while now. You might want to be careful, you'll kill a kid feeding them that stuff."
Cane knew exactly what was with him; he hadn't gotten any real sleep in four days. It was something which tended to make people, even those who were supposed to smile and hand out candy for a living, somewhat irritable. It wasn't his fault that every night the Boogieman would be back to scare the sugar out of him.
But it wasn't something he was going to fess up about either. There was no way in hell he could tell Edna, who had banished the Boogieman when she was seven, that at 118 he was still getting visits. She would think he was the biggest coward to ever hit the Other World.
Of course, he probably was the biggest coward since he was still getting the nightly scare fest, but that wasn't the point.
And, to be fair to himself, and maybe preserve that last scrap of pride, he was pretty sure that the Boogieman was ramping it up this time. He had stopped getting the visits from the Boogieman about a hundred years ago when he had turned 18 and, though there had been no explanation, he had thought that was the end of it. Apparently it was not. But from what he remembered, the Boogieman had been much tamer then, and Cane knew that he had never been there again after Cane had left the room.
But, the sensible part of him mentioned, none of this was Edna's problem either. She was just trying to be nice and he had bitten her head off, which was hardly fair to her. Sure his eyes burned and he was constantly fighting back yawns, sure his head pounded and he wanted little more than to just be bitter and angry at anyone who didn't suffer the same fate as him, but that didn't mean he actually should be.
"Look, Edna, I'm sorry. I didn't mean to snap at you." He sighed spoke words guiltily, hoping his friend wouldn't press the subject as he turned to smile at her apologetically. "And I'm sorry I said I didn't want to see you and that I didn't want you around here. I didn't meant it. I love that you come around in the mornings it's just that…I didn't sleep at all last night and I'm not feeling much up to being around anyone." Cane sighed, guilt still gnawing at him for his uncharacteristic outburst. "Did you want some chocolate?" He knew Edna loved his chocolates, a large amount of which he hand made every morning along with many of the other candies. Although now that he couldn't sleep he was doing it at night too. Edna knew him well enough to know that he was apologizing with the sweets.
The embodiment of Easter grinned at him, her face lighting up. She almost shook with excitement. How she managed to eat so much chocolate and never get any larger was a mystery to Cane, but she managed it. It probably had to do with being a magical creature, most did have a tendency to lean towards impossible beauty, but Cane had still seen it make women go green. On top of her slightly plump hourglass figure Edna was blessed with a pretty heart shaped face and her long soft waves of pale pink hair, large, fluffy white bunny ears sticking out of the top. She beat out Cane's meager height of 5'5', but not by much
Maybe all the chocolate just went to her bust. It was certainly sizeable enough.
"It's okay, I know how you can get, I think I can find it in me to forgive you this time. And I'd just love some chocolate!" She paused. "But only if you don't have it all scheduled to give away or sell." Her face fell a little as she obviously remembered it was bad etiquette take chocolate from little boys and girls.
Cane laughed and smiled brightly, always feeling more into it when he went into full 'Candyman Mode'. "I would hardly be a Candyman worth his salt, or sugar as the case may be, if I couldn't find some sweets for such a lovely young lady." He turned around to go into one of the back rooms of his shop, filled to the brim with sweets. There was no explaining it, but just like he needed no measuring cups he never needed to take inventory. He always knew what he had and what he had to spare. One of the perks of the job, he guessed.
Picking out some large chocolate eggs, a little larger than usual but he didn't think Edna would mind, he brought them out. His friend was hopping on the spot, picnic basket extended. "I hope you enjoy them," Cane smiled and put the candy into the basket. It really was so much easier to be happy when he doing his job.
"So," Edna's face moved into a more thoughtful mode as she broke off a piece of chocolate egg to nibble on. "Why haven't you been dreaming of sugarplums and gumdrops Candy-Cane?" The woman had started calling him by the ridiculously obvious nick name very soon after she had met him.
Cane shrugged and turned to rearrange his lollipops, determined not to give up the truth in this case. "I wish I knew."
Ignoring the way his body was violently shaking he pressed himself as hard as he could up against the end of the hallway's wall, his hands splayed across the neon green wallpaper. He didn't notice the way his fingers were futilely scraping against the wall, the only thing could notice at all was how he could see them staring at him from the darkness of his room's door. A pair of glowing red eyes, looming ominously over him.
"Why won't you leave me alone!"
Why should I?
"Because!" Cane's voice broke on the word and he tried really hard not to think about that. "Because you're just the Boogieman, and I'm a full grown man!"
And still I'm here.
The cold was starting to spread out of the room and into the hallway and the laugh began, that deep, malicious sound. It was a laugh that would have haunted Cane's nightmares if he got to have enough sleep to actually have any. Another pair of glowing eyes opened in the darkness, then another, then another...
"Go away!" He wanted to shriek and cry, but settled for a weird sort of strangled noise.
The laugh continued. Knowing he couldn't take it anymore, Cane pushed away from the wall and turned simultaneously in a rather awkward move as he fled the hallway.
He could sleep in the workshop tonight.
If there was one thing Boo hated it was asking for help from his Father.
It was just another reminder that he didn't have what it took to live up to him. The infamous Oogie Boogie had always been immeasurably scarier than his gangly and much more human shaped son, Boo Boogie, could ever hope to be, and everyone knew it. Oh, sure, the skeletons and monsters were always very polite about it, saying that he just needed a little more time and experience, but Boo was made from the shadows, he could hear the whispers in the easily. Everyone knew the truth. He couldn't live up to the original Boogieman.
Nevertheless he had to put his pride aside. He needed help. This was the longest he'd had a case without any progress. Two months and the Candyman still wasn't having any real reaction, no matter how little or slow. Which wasn't to say that he wasn't fearful, Boo knew that he was scaring the man witless, that much was clear, and that would have been fine if he would do something. But the Candyman wasn't doing anything and therein laid the problem.
The whole point of a Boogieman was that he scared the victim-client until they got fed up and did something about it, therefore affirming their confidence and banishing the Boogieman. Boo couldn't be banished until they had enough confidence in themselves to take control of their fears, which usually happened not long after they started fighting back. But the Candyman didn't fight back at all. He just screamed and shook and occasionally fainted. That wasn't good.
Which meant Boo must have been doing something wrong.
"Dad." He mumbled and stared at the broken and bloodstained floorboards of his Dad's private home office. He scuffed his feet against two of the rusted nails that stuck up out of the floorboards, too nervous to look up at his Father. Even after all of the years, his Dad still managed to scare him. "I need some help…"
The gigantic black figure turned around in his chair, his burning red eyes staring at his son in a disorienting mixture of promised death and Fatherly affection. "What do you need?" His voice, as always, was deep and rough, brimming with sadistic pleasure.
"It's," Boo coughed in embarrassment, his eyes darting up before moving back down. "I have this case and it's just not really working out too well. Ah...I don't know if you remember him; the Candyman. The thing is, I just can't get him to respond. I thought you might…" He shrugged hoping he looked nonchalant enough. "You know, know what I'm doing wrong?"
Oogie sighed deeply, a long tortured, rasping sound. "Yes, the Candyman. I forgot he would be back at the top of the list this year." The larger figure crushed something that he had held in his oversized palm. Boo wasn't sure what, but the scream it made sounded kind of fake, so it was probably fine for crushing. "Look, son, we haven't really discussed this as it is a bit of an exception, but I suppose it's about time. Now, it's very important you understand there are some people who it's harder to help than others." The meaningful look that he sent Boo may have been a hate filled glare, but there wasn't any disappointment in it, which was always comforting. His Dad had always believed in him. "It's hard to make a policy that works for all people, so not everyone responds as expected to a Boogieman. That group of people includes the Candyman. You're not doing anything wrong."
Boo nodded, taking the words to his black heart and pushing his long shadows of ebony hair out of his face as his Father continued, "To be honest, the Candyman has always been a bit of a problem case. I had my share of issues with him too, that's why I put him down to the bottom of the list; I had hoped that with time his confidence would grow. It would seem he is still…insecure."
Boo nodded again, looking up at his Father through his still falling hair. "Should I put him down on the list then?" It was impossible to take someone off the list, they had to do that themselves, but the Boogieman could lower their name so that they didn't get visits for a long time. For mortals that usually meant the rest of their lives, so it wasn't often done, but immortals were a different story.
With a grin that made Boo's cold blood want to curdle, his Father shrugged his massive shoulders. "That one is up to you. You're the one charting the plots now, Boo."
"Why hello there," Cane bent in half and smiled at the small girl with all of the charm he could muster. "How can I help you today, young lady?"
The little girl, dolled up in a fluffy white dress with large pink bows, looked up anxiously at the mother who stood beside her, holding her hand. The mother, sharing her daughter's brown curls and large chocolate eyes smiled warmly at him. "Molly's been having problems with the Boogieman lately," The woman chuckled lightly, expecting him to share in the joke all adults were supposed to be able to share. "She's trying really hard to banish him so I thought I would bring her here for a treat."
Cane kept his smile although his blood turned to ice. How sad it was that his kindred spirit was a girl who looked like she was all of six? He discarded the depressing thought quickly.
"The Boogieman?" He spoke in exaggerated tones with an expression of mock horror on his face, even though the recollection of the thing caused real horror in him. The wretched creature still hadn't left him alone, but at least he could try and help the little girl out. "Well this is going to require some very special candy," The girl gasped at him in joy and Cane threw the mother a wink. "Let me go get it, I'll be right back."
Still keeping his smile and stifling a yawn, he went into the workshop to get the girl one of his personal favourites, a lollipop wand that was shaped like star, with a bubblegum centre. The handle was also made of a special multicoloured rock candy and an edible lace bow finished it all off, even if most people didn't realize they could eat the bow or stick and threw them out. It had taken him some time to work out everything for it, but it had become a bestseller. The girls loved it. Even the teenaged ones couldn't get enough of it, it had become rather trendy, which worked out just fine for him.
Cane walked out of the workshop and presented the candy to the girl with flourish. The girl, Molly her Mother had said, gasped again and grabbed at the candy which he held just out of her reach. "Now before I give this to you, you have to promise that you'll eat it just before you go to bed tonight and then when the Boogieman comes you'll have it in you and it's warm and happy, so he won't be able to touch you. Okay?"
Molly nodded so furiously her pigtails almost came out. "I promise! I promise!"
"Alright" Cane bent over to hand the child the wand. "I think I can trust you."
Cane shook under the covers, which he clasped over his head, his hands latched onto them as though they were a lifeline. All he could hear was the howling wind and the laughter. And damn it all, the laughter!
"Leave me alone!" He had long since lost any pride where the Boogieman was concerned. He no longer cared about his failed attempts, or his cracking voice, or his stupid shrieks. He just wanted to be left alone! "Go away! I-I b-banish you!"
He squealed as a black hand with long blood red fingernails crept under the covers to scrape along his ankles. Desperately he let go of the covers to try and scrambled backwards, while still awkwardly under them.
Unusual though the thought was, he couldn't help but wonder briefly if Molly was having more luck than he was. The thought was promptly abandoned once the covers lifted to reveal a pair of glowing crimson eyes and he fainted.
"How did it go?"
Boo sighed heavily. "He fainted again." The spirit shook his head. "I don't know. I wish I could do something to…help him I guess." Anything would be better than watching the two of them fail at their assigned tasks night after night.
Oogie nodded at his son, looking somewhat ridiculous with the tiny half moon spectacles that were perched on his terror inducting face. "If he had more people like you, maybe you could."
Boo frowned and slumped down into a beaten armchair, which promptly latched onto his arms in a vain attempt to keep him there forever. It was scary enough for visitors, but he'd gown up with it. "More people who deprive him of sleep and scare him to tears?"
"That's not what I mean and you know it." The older Boogieman took off his spectacles before shooting Boo an awful murderous glare. Boo stiffened in his chair at the look, fear washing over him in a cold wave that made him almost nauseous with anxiety and terror. It was at times like that that Boo couldn't help but think he knew exactly how the Candyman must have felt. But then his father's glowing crimson eyes softened to a cold loathing and he replaced the glasses. "I mean people who care about how this turns out. Who want him to banish you."
Boo wrenched his arms away from the chair in order curl up better, ignoring its shriek at the action. He looked away as he spoke softly. "But he has lots. He has all of those people who love him. He's the Candyman, bringer of sweetness and smiles."
Oogie nodded again. "That's true, but willing to bet he's not advertising he's being haunted by the Boogieman either." The deep voice, that still made Boo quake sometimes, paused for a moment before continuing, "You know what I noticed when I haunted him? He never had anyone to open the door or flick on the light for him." It was a well known fact that the Candyman had no parents; most believed he was baked into existence. "He never had anyone to hug him when he was scared and to tell him that the Boogieman wouldn't hurt him or that he just needed to keep trying. I think that might be why he has so many problems." A rumbling laugh, near maniacal in nature, came from the large figure. "I could be wrong. I am a Boogieman after all, not a psychiatrist."
Boo nodded silently but considered his words. There was no way to know but it was certainly worm food for thought.
"I bani-ban-a…I made him go away!" The little girl grinned up at him. "I made the Boogieman go away and it's all because of you Mr. Candyman, sir!"
Cane smiled down at the bouncing pile of bows, curls and frills. It looked like Molly had been more successful than he had been. He was less confident than a six year old. Wonderful. But he couldn't feel bitter towards the bouncing girl. Maybe it was just in his nature to be sweet to kids. "No, Molly, it's because of you." He touched her lightly on the nose, prompting a tiny giggle and reached over to grab an extra large lollipop, which he presented with flourish. "You knew in your heart that he couldn't touch you, so he couldn't. The candy was nothing but a way to tell you that."
Molly gasped and her eyes went wide but, like a true child, she wasted no time in grabbing the candy. "Really?"
Hurriedly the girl began to unwrap her candy, but continued to stare up at him in awe. "Wow! You're so cool, Mr. Candyman, sir! I bet you never had a problem with the Boogieman!"
"Oh, well…" Cane's smile dropped at the thought and he looked over to the other end of the shop where her mother was contemplating racks of candy. "All of us get scared sometimes." The little girl looked about to open her mouth so Cane smiled and hurriedly interjected, "Since you're so brave, why don't you go pick out another piece of candy, whatever you want, free of charge."
Molly gasped extra loudly and ran to go look at the sweets.
He was warm inside and the Boogieman couldn't touch him.
He was warm inside, like gumdrops on a sunny day, like the sticky sweet fingers of a boy with a half eaten caramel apple, like a lollipop warmed in a smiling girl's hands. He was warm inside and the Boogieman couldn't touch him.
Cane opened his eyes and stared ahead. In front of him was the shadowy form of the Boogieman, red eyes as menacing and terrifying as ever. But it didn't move, it seemed frozen as if not knowing what to do, or unable to move any closer. The shadows behind it curled and hissed, but didn't come any nearer.
Like a child with years of practice blowing bubblegum, Cane could feel his confidence swelling up inside of himself. It was true! The Boogieman really couldn't touch him!
The dark figure wavered and flinched back slightly.
He wasn't sure how long he stood there in his bright purple pyjamas, staring at the Boogieman, before the cold started to seep in along with the doubts. Why wasn't the Boogieman moving? Shouldn't he be banished? Did he not have what it took to banish the Boogieman? Obviously he didn't, or he wouldn't have been having a staring contest with the thing. How pathetic could one get?
He could almost see it, like a tangible object slipping from his fingers, his confidence dropped and a sound like the howling wind ripped through the candy shop. The eyes moved closer and Cane ran from the room, biting back a scream.
"He was so close!" Boo leaned over the table, almost vibrating his excitement. "He actually tried to banish me, I could feel it! He was so close!"
Oogie smiled at his son through bloody fangs. "That's wonderful."
Boo's grin fell and the younger Boogieman moved to chew on one of his thumbs. "I don't know though, he just...he was trying so hard but then he just…stopped." The spirit sighed at the thought. "I don't know what happened."
"Be patient." His father raised the half burnt newspaper once more. "Hell wasn't built in a day."
Boo gained back a little excitement and smiled over the newspaper. "I know."
Cane shook as he felt the cold seep into his room. He didn't know how much more of this he could take before he went mad. He hadn't really slept in a week, it was hitting the point of ridiculousness. The Boogieman was everywhere all the time. He haunted the candy shop and the workshop, the warehouses, it didn't matter, there was no running, there was no escape, not really.
But before he could even get the comforter all the way over his head, the Cane found the chill had already left again. Curious, the brightly clad man put down the covers. Once a cursory glance showed the room to be empty of anyone other than him, he decided to dare to get out of his bed. He still ran to the light, flicking it on a quickly as he could, ready to try and unsuccessfully take on the Boogieman, a thing that would most likely result in his running screaming from his room.
However there was no Boogieman, just the warmth of his room and a white slip of paper in front of his closet.
Slowly he crept over to the paper, noticing there was a chocolate heart on it, wrapped in black foil. He didn't need to open it to see, he would know the look of a chocolate heart anywhere. And, although it wasn't the first time, it was very rare that someone would give him candy; most people figured it wasn't like he couldn't make whatever they had made for him and do it better.
He bent down to pick up the note.
It was all that it said, in carefully written black ink. After a few more moments of study proved that there was nothing more to the small piece of paper, Cane carefully unwrapped the chocolate heart, bringing it up to his tongue for a small taste.
It was extremely bitter.
He ate it anyways.
The Candyman sighed, picking at the food in front him. Sure it was a great dinner and to his tastes, Edna had cooked it specifically for him, but somehow coming over to her house felt like running away from what he knew awaited him back at the shop.
The bunny frowned at him, shoving some salad into her mouth. After swallowing she leaned forwards. "What's up, Candy-Cane? You've been so down lately. You can tell me you know, I won't explode from your secret."
"I'm a coward."
He grumbled the words before he had a chance to think about them. Heat rushed to his already rosy cheeks. Crap, he really hadn't meant to say it out loud.
The woman across from him raised a light pink eyebrow. "What do you mean 'coward'?"
"I don't wanna talk about it." And he really, really didn't. It was so incredibly embarrassing. What would he say; 'Oh, well, you see I'm getting visits from the Boogieman because I'm the biggest wimp who ever lived, could you help me do something you managed to do when you were seven?'
Edna on the other hand didn't seem to be biting. "You're not in danger, are you? Is someone blackmailing you? You can tell me, you know that right? I can help out, and I'm su-"
"No, I'm fine." After growling out the words Cane paused and pushed the sweet potatoes around on the plate before smiling weakly at his friend. "I've just…alright." He sighed heavily. "The truth is I've been having these really bad nightmares lately. I can't sleep really well anymore." He smiled shakily, "It's why I've been snapping at people lately."
Edna's face transformed immediately into a mask of sympathy. No doubt she would take the explanation at face value. Edna may have been very nice, and she was by no means stupid, but she had a tendency to believe anything she was told without ever thinking of doubting it. She leaned a little bit farther forwards, putting a delicate hand over his. "Cane, that doesn't make you a coward, you can't help what you dream."
He sighed and nodded, spearing a maraschino cherry with his fork. "I know, I guess I just feel like one, letting nightmares get the best of me and all"
Edna shook her head, her lips pursed in thought. "You could go to a doctor and get something, you know. I'm sure Asclepius could get you something that would help."
Cane quickly waved her off. "Oh no, no, I'm fine. I'll get over it." Not to mention he was sure Asclepius wouldn't be able to help him out with his particular brand of nightmares, no matter what medicine Cane got. There was no pill for courage that he knew of. "Don't worry about it. I'm sure this can't keep up."
Edna frowned and sighed at him but still tightened her grip on his hand. "If you say so then I'll take your word for it. I know you can handle this, but remember that there's nothing wrong with getting some help. And if you do ever need me then I'm here. Although I'm definitely not the Sandman or the Dream Weaver, so I can't actually go into your nightmares," She chuckled and he couldn't help but smile a little at the thought of her as either. Luk and Aisling were very unique and he didn't think there was anything else alive or dead that could do what they did. Edna's face turned serious again, her pale eyes catching his. "But that doesn't mean you're alone."
Shyly Cane nodded, blushing even more furiously at the thought of getting Edna to help with his 'nightmares'. Ridiculously embarrassing. Why was he such a coward? "Thanks, really. Thank you."
In an equally serious tone, and with just as straight a face, the woman continued, "And when you blush you look seriously, as in literally, edible. Just so you know if I try to take a chunk out of you or something."
Cane squeezed his eyes shut and shivered at the presence behind him, whipping around and trying to punch it even as fear gripped at his heart and it was pounding so hard it hurt.
He couldn't just lie down, or run screaming into a corner, he had to fight back! The man shook furiously as his first glided through the air, the horror no longer behind him.
The words were burned into his mind, like the recipes he had always instinctively known. Someone believed him enough to leave him the note and the bitter, slightly lumpy chocolate, although he had no idea who or how. But that wasn't the point, the point was that someone thought that he, who'd never fought anything in his life, could fight off this terror. And, whoever they were, they weren't the only ones, Edna believed he could do it too, even if she didn't know, he knew she believed in him. So he was going to keep trying, because if they thought he could do it, then maybe, just maybe, he really could.
There was a moment where the coldness seemed to vanish, and he thought that maybe...but then it came back to hit him full force, and breaking him down into a brightly coloured mess of nerves.
"I b-b…" The Candyman took a deep, steadying breath that didn't really steady him at all. "I banish you! Leave!"
A maniacal laugh mocked him. You'll need to do better than that, Candyman
Cane rooted his feet to the spot and bit his lip, tasting the sweetness of it, as he felt the cold breath on his neck. Fine! He would do better than that, even if he was still scared. He would because he could! Maybe not this time, maybe not the time after that, but he would!
He wouldn't give up! The Candyman tried to quell his shaking as fear clawed and scratched at him, threatening to break him from the inside out. He envisioned the second note, which he had found in front of his shop when he'd opened up for the day. The same white paper and neat black letters.
Don't Give Up
He had indeed been on the verge of doing just that, but somehow those back letters, the mystery person's faith in him, it was enough for him to keep going.
"I b-banish you!"
He would do it. He would!
He felt the wavering again, the way the Boogieman froze, but when the claw raked up his arm and something slimy oozed onto his feet, Cane's confidence shattered and he panicked again.
Cane stared at the closet door in shock.
Three months, two notes and another chocolate after he had first received the note. Three months of almost fighting back and running away screaming, two nights of hope and confusion and one night where he had gotten choked up and needed to go make some candies.
He had done it.
He had finally, really banished the Boogieman.
His mouth pulled into a disbelieving grin. He couldn't believe it. He had looked into those awful blood red eyes and just said that he wasn't afraid. But somehow he had he had meant it, knowing that if the note giver and Edna could believe in him then he could too, and the Boogieman had laughed his horrible laugh and been sucked into the closet, truly, honestly banished from Cane's property.
The Candyman whooped loudly before he broke down into joyful laughter, bending over and nearly falling to the ground in his excitement. He had really done it this time! The Boogieman hadn't just stopped like he had before, he'd really, really banished him this time! He could never come back!
With another whoop, almost as loud as one of his usual shrieks, Cane decided he wouldn't go to sleep tonight despite the lack of terrorizing. He needed to make candy, lots of it! This was a thing to celebrate!
"He did it!" Boo ran up to his Father, ignoring the soul shattering fear emanated by the older of the two, and hugged the giant black figure as tightly as he could. "He banished me!"
Oogie laughed deeply and horribly, giving his son a painful pat on the back and crushing him mercilessly in his arms. "That's great news."
"I'm so happy for him!" Boo let go of his Dad and grinned widely, moving back with a bounce in his step. "I'm so happy! I mean I know it means I won't be able to see him anymore, but now he'll be confident and happy in life! It's so wonderful!"
Boo knew he'd said too much as soon as Oogie raised a thick, blood red eyebrow. "Won't be able to see him?"
The younger spectre coughed nervously; he hadn't meant to say that. His cheeks went even colder as black blood rushed to them, "Umm, well you know, I've gotten a little fond of him…" He really didn't need his Dad finding out he'd developed a small, sort of crush on the Candyman. It wasn't Boo's fault! The Candyman was really cute with his glossy lips and bright bob of hair, and it was probably just because he'd invested so much time into this case. It didn't really mean anything. "Seeing him every night and all…but it's just…you know."
"Of course." Boo's face went colder, his Dad didn't sound convinced, just kind of murderous.
Well it didn't matter, Boo wouldn't be able to see the Candyman any more anyways; he had been banished. Unless he was willingly invited back onto the property with the Candyman fully knowing who he was, he wouldn't be able to enter the Candyman's shop ever again and the Candyman almost never left his shop.
Somehow, as that thought sunk in, Boo felt just a little less happy.
"Wo-ow!" Edna stared at the large basket of chocolate eggs that Cane had made for her, he'd just left it on the counter as he did a bit of tidying up and preparation. "What's the occasion? It can be birthday today if you want it to be."
"I just feel great!" Cane grinned at her from the corner of the shop where he was pouring gumdrops into a tall, glass tube. "Today all the candy is free, spread the word!"
Edna's mouth hung open and her eyebrows knotted, but Cane noticed she still had one hand on the basket of chocolate eggs. "You sure you wanna do that? It seems kind of crazy."
"I am absolutely sure!" Cane laughed and blew a lock of raspberry blue hair, freshly dyed for the occasion, out of his eyes. "Yes, yes and yes! It's a wonderful day, and today the Candyman is treating everyone!"
"You're one crazy Candy-Cane," the Easter bunny shook her head and scooped up the basket. "And quite possibly on drugs, but I'll spread the word if that's what you really want." She stopped talking for a moment, fishing a slip of white paper and a small black object out of her own picnic basket. She dropped them delicately on the counter, her eyebrows raised at him as he finished pouring in the gumdrops. "By the way, I found this on the way over. No idea what it means, but maybe it's important to you, especially since it's such a wonderful day. I assumed it was meant for you anyways if they left it on your display window. If not consider it a gift from finders keepers."
"Thanks." Cane set down the half empty bag of gumdrops and giving her a bright grin. "I'll have a look when I'm done over here." There were still two more glass tubes to fill, and then he'd have to drag them over to where they were supposed to be.
Edna shrugged at him, "Well I'll see you later, I'm meeting up with Backwards Day. I promised her I'd help her try to work out her love life. The poor girl has got herself all turned around." Cane shook his head. Sometimes it seemed like Edna knew every magical being there was. He guessed she had more time to socialize since she only worked for a couple days a year. "Besides, apparently I have word to spread and all. Toodles!" She twiddled her fingers and skipped out of the store, the bell chime marking her exit.
After she left Cane finally dared go over to his counter, abandoning the gumdrops in spite of his words and already with an idea of what he would see. The note was small, in that familiar writing, with a bitter chocolate in black foil beside it.
Finally fixed this up a bit. It really needed it.
Hope you enjoy!