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In A Photograph - An Escape the Night Fanfiction

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It’s been one month since Matthew “MatPat” Patrick, Joey Graceffa, and Nikita Dragun returned from their traumatizing night in Everlock. Joey hasn’t spoken to anyone, save his boyfriend Daniel, since their return, and spends his every waking moment locked in his office, tirelessly working.
    He writes names, causes of death, and short descriptions of his friends before scribbling them out. He won’t tell Daniel, who ventures into the office to bring Joey food and drink, what happened on any of the three massacres he had survived (he especially omitted that he only technically survived two.) Daniel posts to his Twitter with updates on Joey’s health, but mainly sits in an armchair in the office reading or working while Joey blocks the whole world out beside him. The pair’s three dogs know that something is wrong with their owner, and shower him with affection only to be pushed away.
    Nobody can know what Joey is doing, he decides. If he has any hope of bringing back his friends, he must attempt to do it alone. His friends’ names flicker by in his mind: Justine, Lele, GloZell, Jesse, Liza, Alex, Roi, Rosanna, Manny. Even Colleen, who he still firmly believed had betrayed him, pops into his mind. In those moments, all the Savant can do is try to reflect on happier moments, memories of the pair goofing around and joking about him marrying her character Miranda. But she’s gone. And if he wants to see her again, he has to figure out how the blue stone that sits on his desk, disguised among his crystal collection, can help him.

~*~

 In the first week, the nightmares are the worst. He often wakes up covered in cold sweat and screaming Ro’s name. Stephanie knows what happened, of course, but has promised not to tell a soul. And so the Patricks spend their nights attempting to sleep, before Matt jolts awake and spends the rest of the night sobbing on his wife’s shoulder, his left hand pressed gently on her pregnant belly, his metal wedding ring sending cold shivers down Stephanie’s spine. And Stephanie sits, shivers and all, rubbing her husband’s back and whispering that things will be alright.
    “I’m here. Nobody is going to hurt you,” she soothes repeatedly, “you’re home.”
    And still the nightmares persist, getting slightly better, though that admittedly is of no condolence. He dreams of the moment he felt the Strong Man’s hands close around his throat, and he can almost feel each hit as the Monstrous arm pounds his powerful brain into mush. Then his dreams change, and he remembers running off with Joey and Manny, his hair disheveled as he tries to pretend his best friend isn’t about to be killed. And then he hears her scream. It’s short, but pained, and it breaks Matt’s fragile heart. Then he awakes. Every night. Every. Damn. Night.
    His first upload is a somber one, telling his viewers that he needs to recover before focusing on theories and livestreams, and offering his condolences to the seven families that were sent home in tears that night one week ago, with news that their children, siblings, uncles, or aunts would not return. Matt struggles through this part, remembering one Parker Ballinger, with his lower lip quivering as his grief-stricken parents told him that Auntie Panties was not coming home.
    Then he gets to the part he was dreading most. “As I’m sure you know, my best friend Ro didn’t make it back,” he chokes up, taking a deep breath before continuing, “Ro was the brightest, funniest, sweetest person that I ever had the pleasure of meeting. She brought joy to every single person that met her,” he has to look behind the camera at this point, where he sees Stephanie, Chris, and Jason’s supporting eyes staring back at him. “I am going to dedicate the rest of my life to making people feel the way that Rosanna had the unbelievable talent of doing. I’m no Ro, but I’m sure as heck going to try.”
    He signs off of the video, promising to return to making theories when he is ready, and collapses into tears. He looks at his phone background, a picture of him and Ro goofing around in her kitchen whilst making a fossil cake. He had set it as his background before leaving for Everlock, and hadn’t had the heart to change it. Because if photographs are all he has left of his best friend, he’s going to cherish every single one.

~*~


    Nikita can’t bring herself to look at any photos. Because whenever she sees one, a monster stares back at her. Pictures of her and Manny now only look like Murderer and victim to her. She hasn’t slept, and the dark circles under her eyes prove it. She’s angry, at Joey for inviting her, at Matt for surviving instead of Manny, at the Carnival Master for creating this sick, twisted game. But mostly at herself, because she shot him. She took that gun and pulled the trigger. She remembers his last words, “you’re not gonna shoot me,” he said. And oh, how she wishes he had been right. She takes out her frustration in many ways, from screaming into her pillow to hurling plates at the floor.
    Gabby and Laura stop by her apartment daily, to make sure she hasn’t hurt herself, and to clean up the messes she has made around her. Sometimes, she doesn’t let them in, locking the door and screaming at them to go away. And sometimes, she’s too exhausted, and her two remaining friends swarm her apartment, cleaning, and sitting with Nikita. And the three friends mourn their missing fourth piece. None of them say it, but without Manny, their group doesn’t feel whole.

She doesn’t upload a single video, hasn’t put on one of her wigs, hasn’t touched her large collection of makeup, hasn’t touched hardly any food. Gabriel and Laura force her to eat, but she only touches the bare minimum to survive. Her viewers are patient, waiting with baited breath for the beauty guru to post anything to social media. But they know that day may never come.

Despite her best efforts, she can’t bring herself to cry. She's so filled with pain, sadness, mourning, and terror, but when she gets overwhelmed and attempts to release her frustration, no tears come. Then she gets angry. This is when things break most often. She and Matt haven’t spoken, aside from briefly at Manny’s funeral, which she forced herself to go to. She owed her best friend that much. Matt tells her that he’s been to every funeral, and that it’s been hard. Ro’s hadn’t happened yet, and Nikita could tell that Matt was dreading going. She had begrudgingly offered to go, but Matt had said, “Ro wouldn’t mind. If you stayed back, you know.” A tear had slid from his inner eye corner at that moment, and they said goodbye before he turned and walked back towards a very pregnant Stephanie. Nikita promised herself then that she would go to Ro’s funeral.

Then, she saw it. A picture by the casket, which she hadn’t brought herself to look at. The picture was of a stone faced Manny, with Nikita leaning up against him. Patrick Starr had been cut out of the photo, so it was just the two best friends. That’s when Nikita broke. She started sobbing, her broken wails filling the funeral home until her parents had to drag her out of the venue screaming. Pictures of her and Manny were ruined now, and as Nikita sobbed in her bathroom upon returning home, she knew that she was broken.