"You said something about helping a friend?" Kevin says.
Trevor nods. "Can we both come in?"
James freezes. Bad idea.
"Sure, but, uh, where is he? I don't see him."
Before Trevor turns around, he tells the boys, "Try not to freak out too much." When they mutter an okay, he calls out, "You can come out now. Kevin's not gonna hurt you."
James hesitates, but he shuffles out from behind the tree. Charlie gasps, and Kevin screams, but Charlie covers his mouth. Trevor laughs. "You sound like a little girl," he says.
Charlie stares at James and whispers, "You."
James stares down at their shoes, but then realizes no one can tell, so he adds, "Hello, Charlie."
Kevin pulls his friend's hand away from his mouth and says with wide eyes, "Wait, you know him?"
"It's been years," Charlie says.
An awkward silence passes before Trevor speaks up, "So, Kevin, think you can help us?"
Kevin just stands there and stares with his mouth open for a minute before shaking his head clear. "Uh, sure, yeah, just let me, uh, get my computer." Kevin steps inside the house and hurries to get his stuff.
Upon hearing the word "computer," James stiffens. But no one else seems to notice, for Trevor turns in the direction he thought he heard Charlie's voice and smiles. "So, you're the little boy James met. Nice to meet you." He holds his hand out.
Charlie just stares at the Slender. "Your name is James?"
He nods. "My full name is James Nightfall Slenderman."
"I always thought you were just 'Slender Man.'"
James groans, resisting the urge to facepalm. "I remember hearing two punks call me that in a forest. 'Slender Man,' I mean, really."
Trevor draws his hand back. "Nice to meet another Slender friend."
But Charlie gives James a doubtful look. "I heard about what you did in Midtown a few years ago."
"Midtown?" James says, scratching his head. "I've never heard of Midtown."
"You were responsible for the disappearances and deaths of several people," Charlie explains.
"What? I never killed anybody! I would never kill anybody!"
"Then how did witnesses see you hiding in the shadows?" Charlie asks.
Trevor speaks up, "James would never hurt anybody. Like that day in the park, he was trying to protect you."
Charlie says, "He also made my parents think I was being taken by the devil." He glares at the Slender. "You have no idea what my life's been like since you left me."
"What, no, I didn't leave you. Your mother took you away."
"But you didn't do anything about it."
James remains silent, hangs his head.
Kevin appears with his laptop. "Come on in, you two," he says. "What did you wanna know?"
Trevor taps his way inside and says, "We're looking for something to do with Slenders and forests and see if you can find 'Margareta' anywhere."
Charlie gives James a look. "Aren't you gonna come inside?"
"I-I'll just wait right here," he says, regarding the computer warily.
"Fine," Charlie mutters, as well as a few choice words, as he steps inside. He leaves the door open, and James crouches to fit within the frame.
"Who is Margareta?" Kevin asks as he types. "Is she one of your proxies?"
James cocks his head. "Proxies? What are proxies?"
Kevin and Charlie stare. "Don't you know what proxies are?"
"No," he says, sitting down and leaning against the frame. "I'm isolated in the forests, and I don't like coming out any more often than I have to. All my news of your world I hear from people travelling through the forest."
Kevin asks Trevor, "Are you sure this is Slender Man?"
"His name is James," Trevor says defensively, sitting down on the couch. "And yes, he's a Slender."
"But he doesn't even know what proxies are!"
"Dude, I don't even know what proxies are!"
Charlie explains, "Basically, proxies are people who are enslaved by Slender Man and turned into zombies."
"What?!" James shouts, making them jump. "I don't have any proxies! And Margareta is definitely not a proxy!"
Trevor can hear clicks as Kevin types something on his computer. Something dings. "Found something," Kevin announces.
"What is it?" Trevor asks.
"Uh...something about disappearances...police say they can't find the guy, uh...they got a call from a lady named Margareta Willows-"
"That's her!" James cries. "That's her name! Where is she?"
More clicking as Kevin scrolls down. "Um...it doesn't say anything else about her, but the whole story came from a town near the Kullman Mining Facility."
"But that place is haunted!" Charlie says.
"Cool," Trevor says, a smile on his face. "When are we going?"
"No, Trevor, you can't go," Kevin says. "You can't see where you're going, and you could easily fall and hurt yourself."
Trevor's smile vanishes. "I'm not gonna hurt myself. Besides, I have my stick I can whack people with if I need to."
"It still wouldn't be safe for you."
James feels bad when Trevor slumps down the couch. "He can go," he says. "I'll keep him safe."
"You will?" Charlie says incredulously.
"Don't you take people away to some horrific doom?" Kevin asks. "Or you make them go insane?"
"Why would I ever do that?" James asks. "Where are you hearing about these ridiculous stories?"
Kevin ducks his head.
James gets to his feet and steps outside so he can straighten. "I need to find Margareta, and if you boys want to join me, that's fine."
Trevor slowly gets to his feet. "I'll join you."
Kevin and Charlie exchange looks before standing up, too. "I guess we'll join you," Charlie says.
James is happy that Charlie is going to help him, but he misses the little boy with the innocent brown eyes. This Charlie seems...different. They all talk about when they should leave and where they should meet up, then James teleports Trevor back to his house. "Do you trust him?" Charlie asks when he and Kevin are alone.
Kevin shrugs, closing his laptop. "I guess. I mean, it's weird to see Slender Man, but he's not Slender Man. You know?"
Charlie says, "We should still be careful. We don't really know much about him. And we definitely don't wanna be accused of doing anything bad."
"You still thinking about those sessions?" Kevin asks. He refers to the therapy sessions Charlie's parents would take him to help get over the "Slender trauma." Or so his parents said.
"I'm not going back down that path," Charlie says. "And I don't want you to have to go that way either."
Kevin nods, understanding Charlie's point of view. But still, Trevor is his best friend. If he says Slender Man - or James - is a nice guy, maybe they should trust him. "I think we should still go to that mining facility."
"Fine." They chat a little longer before Charlie has to go. After Kevin shuts the front door behind his friend, Charlie stalls on the front lawn, taking out a flier from his pocket and unfolding it. He sighs, looking down at the picture of a big black circle with an X through it. Someone had found him at his apartment and given this to him, telling him not to hesitate to call them if anything strange happened. Charlie is debating calling them. He does not want to follow Slender Man, but he does not want Kevin to go by himself. The fact that Trevor is going does not sit well with him either.
Charlie sighs. He will go to the mining facility, but as soon as something fishy happens, he's calling the group.