The dead of night. Normally, Bennett preferred the witching hour to the other twenty-three; by then, the soap high he'd indulged himself in earlier that day would've dissipated, and cricket's hum would be present to lull the worker into an uncomfortable sleep. It was quiet. It gave Bennett time to think, time to have a cool head before he returned to a realm of lying to himself and gorging soap. It was just how Bennett liked it.
But tonight was different. Whatever it was, something in the air was off. Bennett felt a peculiar malaise that, not in all his years of being a bedridden zombie, he'd experienced before. He lay in his oblong cubicle and contemplated what this could mean. Were any of his fellow tenants ill? He'd spent a lot of time with Florence today, who'd been pretty tired, so maybe she'd passed something onto him? Bennett couldn't be sure. However, he knew one thing - mulling over menial technicalities made the migraine he'd developed accentuate terribly. How it hurt...
Restless but harmless insomnia escalated into something suffocating, and, his body tensing, Bennett opted to quickly roll out of bed and pick his limp body up.
He should go on a walk.
Rubbing his arm, Bennett left the precinct of beds. He'd been careful not to rouse anyone, though hitched when the murmurs of Baldwin and Goodwin (which were in unison, might he add) entered his ears. Fortunately they were just stirring, so Bennett composed himself made a beeline for the hallway. It wasn't just the air in his rusty bunker that was musty; the usually clean hallways reeked of a disgusting miasma. What could be causing this? If he was the human maggot Charlie, Bennett would chalk this up to what the fog in her head felt like. But Bennett didn't share the fog, so it couldn't have been that. So... what could be the thing making him this ill?
After perusing the halls for a little longer, Bennett thought, "Screw it," and retired to the TV room. If there was one thing that could get him to sleep, it was late-night soap commercials! But, much to his surprise, a certain scientist was already occupying the couch. Sprawled across some pillows was young Mr. Honniker.
And boy, did he look rough.
Dark circles creased Felix's eyes. In this low light, a more dim passerby would be quick to assume Felix suffered the same ailment as Bennett once had. The marks lining their face were both pretty dark and definitely ugly, after all. Other than how sleepy the petite sourpuss came across, there was his receding cheekbones. Had he been skipping meals? The occasional miss of his five-a-day didn't faze Bennett, but... the display in front of him was disconcerting. Felix was always fretting over everyone else's well-being - albeit in his own unique way - so it didn't make sense for him to not take a leaf out of his own book.
Worst of all, Felix's reaction to Bennett stepping into his tunnel vision was noticeably delayed. His eyes looked bottomless, stoic. The glint in his irises as his friend approached was the steely look you'd give a stranger. It scared Bennett, but at least he needn't worry about this gripe in particular. Felix eventually recognised him as no stranger, but the Bennett he'd grown so close to.
"Oh... Ben." Thank Gods. The dreary thirteen-year-old sat up, stretching lazily. "Good evening..."
"It isn't like you to be this forthcoming, Mr. Honniker!" sang Bennett, this an attempt to gently segue into his concerns. "Is something the problem, hmmm?" The aforementioned blinked, as if trying to decipher what his uncle's worker could be alluding to. Eventually though, he clocked it. With a cough, Felix responded.
"I haven't been feeling too well. It's none of your concern, though. It'd be annoying if you fretted over me." Ah, so he admits it.
"I noticed! Ehehe, you look like a corpse out of the morgue!" teased the blonde as he collapsed onto the couch. Always the bearer of bad jokes was Bennett. If only he knew how to articulate how worried he was.
"Mm-hmm," mused Felix sardonically. "I'm sure there's a nicer way to put that. Though, I guess I shouldn't expect anything less from someone as grim as you." Feigning hurt, Bennett cocked his head and gasped dramatically.
"So cruel, Mr. Honniker!"
"Enough pleasantries." Of course Felix would hate those, no matter what state he's in. He could be on his deathbed - which, to be blunt, he doesn't look far from - and would still dismiss any goodbye or heartfelt condolence. "Why are you here? Can't sleep?"
"I got a baaaaaad feeling, so I came out for a stroll," Bennett retorted, more nonchalant than he had intended. That must've been why Felix shrugged his statement off.
"Is that so. Well, I don't see any reason why you can't stay."
More importantly, though..." His words hanging more grim, Bennett turned to the poorly Felix and looked down at his lithe figure. He looked so pitiful. Bennett wanted nothing more than to pick him up and hold him close until he was better. "Why are you in here, Mr. Honniker? Isn't it past the ickle boy's bedtime?"
"I-" Flustered, Felix paused and looked to the side. He seemed solemn as his eyes fixated on the static opposite him. "I told you, I'm feeling rough. I came in for a spot of television. Is there a problem with that, soap for brains?"
Bennett didn't have any grounds to concede.
After a long silence, Felix allowed Bennett to stay and watch TV with him. The pair were infamous insomniacs - there wasn't another way they'd rather pass their time than watching some thing together ( than maybe except Felix getting to spend some time with his plants). As the tribulations of 'A Boy Just Had My Baby!' flickered before them, Bennett noted the sad frown on Felix's porcelain face. His clinginess was uncharacteristic of him, too. By the time they'd reached the episode's interlude, Felix was under Bennett's arm and holding his gloved hand tight. OK, something's wrong. And Bennett should probably bring it up.
But... he's just so comfortable... Plus, Felix is so warm and seems so cosy! Bennett doesn't want to ruin that.
Rather selfishly, he concluded he'll save the accusations for later.
The show had begun its most integral plot point of who Cheryl's baby daddy was. Bennett was on the edge of his seat. He went out to reach for some popcorn he'd forgotten he didn't have, when the soft texture of red hair engulfed his fingertips. On his lap was Felix, coughing and spluttering quietly. He was half-asleep, and his body felt kind of cold. To appeal to the fourth wall for a moment, Bennett is pretty sure we all know what these symptoms have implications of. His anxiety heightened exponentially. He definitely should do something about this.
"Mr. Honniker?" Bennett whispered. Felix didn't budge. "Mr. Honniker...?" repeated the worker, voice growing in volume. Still no moment. Oh God... Shaking, Bennett nudged the hopefully sleeping Felix hard and was virtually shouting his name. "Mr. Honniker? Mr. Honniker! Felix!"
"Ah!" Felix gasped, springing up. Now he was sat on Bennett's lap. The firecracker of a boy turned to the sixteen-year-old, glaring at him. "What was that for?"
"There is something very wrong with you." Bennett picked the lithe figure up and placed him to the side, looking down at him. Concern knitted his eyebrows. "And I don't think you're just sick." Felix went to retort, but Bennett interrupted. He bent down by the boy and put two hands on his shoulders. "Tell me what's wrong."
The whirr of the TV was the only noise to be heard. Bennett was completely silent. How he wished he was drugged up on soap; at least then he could just laugh it off and forget Felix had just admitted the worst thing imaginable. Nothing was wrong, he'd tell himself. Mr. Honniker is just going to the nice place in the sky! Maybe if Bennett was feeling extra cheeky, he'd allude to how someone as grumpy as Felix might land themselves under the ground instead of above it. But Bennett wasn't intoxicated enough to be so clueless. He didn't believe in all that Heaven and Hell malarkey. He believed - rather, he knew - Felix, his friend, would be disappearing soon. His soul data would dissipate and he'd be a decomposing husk. Disgusting. Just imagining it defiled his high opinion of the ghosting lad.
"I don't understand." Felix was so young, and is related to a genius surgeon. Any illness he might have could easily be fixed by the flick of his uncle's scalpel. Did Huxley know? Did Aiden know? Florence, Baldwin and Goodwin? Had he even confided in Magcat? Maybe even Charlotte?
"I don't expect you to. It's complicated." Felix winced at whatever thoughts plagued his mind. "Just... in a strange way, I'm not really real. I'm a product."
"You're dying because of that then, huh...? I should've guessed. In other words... You're reaching your expiration date." Felix frowned gently.
"I knew a long time ago."
"Of course you did, you're a smart boy."
They sat in silence once more.
Felix's gaze was on everything but Bennett. Meanwhile, the one thought in the latter's head was why he hadn't been told this earlier. Though, to be fair, Felix had been preoccupied with helping that redheaded girl. They both had been. Felix seemed scared.
"How long do you have?"
"How would I know?" snapped Felix. He reclined in the uncomfortable seat and dug his teeth into his lip. "But, considering my health... not long. Probably a few hours." The boy picked at his nails. It was a bad habit he often showcases when he was worried. "At least we helped Miss Eyler, right?"
Miss Eyler. Felix might've helped her, but Bennett didn't want to owe her anything. Now he's not on one of his soap highs, all he feels is resent towards the petite young woman. If she hadn't appeared, he wouldn't have had to run so many errands... he could've relished his last moments with Felix while he could've. Now Felix will disappear forever. His friend, ally, confidante, a bit of a bully when he wanted to be. But Felix was a good kid. And Bennett didn't want him to go.
But, for the sake of quelling his friend's anxiety, Bennett conceded.
"Yes. We helped Miss Eyler." Felix nodded. Bennett did the same, as if they had some non-verbal exchange going on. Some sort of understanding of each other. Bennett would like to hope that they did. Another long pause followed. Then, Felix spoke once more.
"I don't wanna die," he muttered, making the most out of character gesture he could by reaching out to Bennett and hugging him. The clinginess he'd shown tonight was both a blessing and a curse to poor Bennett.
"I don't want you to die, either."
"You'll forget about me once you've reached the bathroom."
"I won't let myself."
The episode had ended nearly an hour ago. The two hadn't been paying attention, too busy reminiscing on old memories. Felix would mention something, Bennett would try respond with his usual chipper attitude, to which Felix would roll his eyes and respond with candour. It was normal. It was nice. It was bittersweet.
Bennett began to feel sleepy. The bad feeling that'd kicked off the night, that seemingly had no rhyme or reason, made sense to the young blonde now. It was the type of irk you felt when you knew something was going to go wrong. At least the bad feeling had disappeared. But Felix was leaving with it. He still wasn't getting over that.
"Well, I should probably go back to bed." Bennett stretched and got up, forcing a smile. Felix hobbled up and sighed. He looked like he was about to keel over. The worker went to hold him up, but the scientist refused his hand. He straightened himself up and then pivoted to Bennett. He offered his hand.
"Good night, Bennett."
Tears lined Bennett's blistered eyes. He willed them away. No, he's not to cry. He's not a child. So, as whimsically as his emotions allowed, Bennett shook Felix's gloved hand. He didn't want to let go.
"Good night, Lixy. I'll... see you tomorrow."
"I should hope so."
They wore bitter smiles, memorising each other's faces while they could. Felix turned around and dragged himself out of the TV room for the last time.
Good night, Mr. Honniker... Sweet dreams.