The last thing he remembers is Mac’s hand gripping his, and the curve of his mouth forming the words, “oh shit,”. Then suffocating, blinding heat, and the acrid smell of smoke as it fills his lungs.
He opens his eyes. He’s in a brightly lit room, sitting across from a blank white wall. The words “Welcome! Everything is Fine” appear in bold, bright lettering right before his eyes.
He blinks, shifting his focus, and sees a potted plant in the corner. The couch he’s sitting on is white, and soft under his hands that are resting on either side of his legs. There’s nothing else in the room except for a door, the only exit he can see.
He should be… concerned, probably. And he is, sort of. Mentally, at least, he’s a little alarmed. He has no idea where he is, or how he got here, and his body feels curiously numb. He can feel the fabric scratch against his fingers when he rubs his hand down his shirt sleeve, but he can’t feel the ache in his knees that he’s been constantly aware of since he turned forty. The usual symptoms associated with the anxiety that he should be feeling are absent. He’s just strangely… indifferent to his current situation.
The door opens before he can think on it any longer. A short, balding man with thick black rimmed glasses appears and gives Dennis what he probably thinks is a comforting smile, though it comes off as awkward and uncomfortable. He’s dressed in an ill fitting grey suit with a blue bowtie.
“Dennis? Come on in.”
He doesn’t wait for Dennis to respond before he turns back into the room he came from. He looks around again and, seeing no other option, stands and follows the man.
The office he walks into is insufferably neat. Everything on the desk is arranged in a perfectly perpendicular fashion, and the pictures and plants adorning the walls and floor are minimal and nicely kept. Mac would love it.
He feels a quick sting in his chest when he thinks of Mac, but it’s gone in an instant, and the idea leaks out of his mind as if he never thought of him at all.
“Sit down,” the man says, bringing Dennis back to his situation. He’s gesturing to an armchair across from where he’s sitting behind the desk. Dennis sits, perching on the edge of the chair so he’s ready to bolt at a moments notice.
The man watches him carefully for a few moments. “My name is Frank. How are you?”
“Well I’ll tell you, I’m a little confused here Frank,” Dennis answers. “I don’t know who you are, or where we are, but I also don’t really… care?”
“Ah, right,” Frank says. “No sense beating around the bush with you, I guess.”
Frank fidgets, adjusting the folder on his desk in front of him before dropping the bomb.
“So uh, the bad news is, you’re dead.”
He blinks, but otherwise has no reaction. His mind races, a million questions flitting through his head faster than he can keep up with them, but as far as any kind of physical reaction, he has nothing.
“Oh,” is all he says when he notices Frank is watching him expectantly. “That uh… sucks?”
“Yeah, well that’s the good news,” Frank says, nodding sagely. “See, you’re not gonna experience many negative reactions to things right now, we kinda numb that for you while you’re in here,” he gestures around at the office. “And the other good news... you’re in The Good Place, Dennis.”
“The - Good Place?” Dennis repeats. He can’t help the cynical tone from creeping into his voice.
“Yeah. It’s like, heaven, but not really. You religious goons got a lot wrong.”
“Whoa, wait a second, watch who you’re calling a goon. You’re referring to people like Mac, who’s delusional enough to actually believe in an afterlife.”
He smirks, and relaxes in his chair, finally feeling like he’s getting the upperhand. Frank just stares at him with his eyebrows raised slightly.
“Okay… whatever, he’s still wrong about heaven.”
“He was more right than you,” Frank argues, shrugging.
“Wait - ‘was' ?” Dennis asks, letting the argument go much more quickly than he’s accustomed to. Must be one of the “good vibes only” side effects of this room. “Is he - ?”
“Dead?” Frank finishes. Dennis nods, swallowing hard.
Frank shifts. “Normally I can’t disclose that kind of information,” he says evasively. “But given that you all died from the same incident - “
“All?” He feels weird now. It’s like he wants to be freaking out, and he should be freaking out, but something is drowning the panic before it can fully sink its hooks in his chest. It’s an almost suffocating feeling, if he actually could suffocate. “So - so Charlie, and Dee, and Mac - ?”
“Yeah, all dead,” Frank confirms. “As well as - “ he squints at another file on his desk, “- a woman named Nicole, and a man named Rex. All from the same accident.”
“Wha-” is all he manages, trailing off on an exhale. He has no idea who Nicole is, but somehow they managed to get her and Rex killed, which…?
Serves him right, a tiny voice says, way back in subconscious, faint enough he’s sure he imagined it.
“It wasn’t a pretty death,” Frank says, answering his unspoken question. “We uh - erased the memory for you, but if you want to know?”
“Yes,” he answers immediately, sitting up straighter in his chair. “What happened?”
He hasn’t asked if the others are here with him. It feels like that should be an important thing to know, but he can’t bring himself to do it. He’s pretty sure the answer is no.
“Alright, if you’re sure.”
He comes out of his seat and around the desk until he’s facing Dennis. He takes a deep breath, and presses the palm of his hand to Dennis’ forehead.
“Bro this thing is heavy as shit, you carry it for awhile.”
“No, you’re the one that spends four hours a day at the gym, you can carry it.”
“It’s not even mine, Dennis, you should have to carry it for awhile.”
“I’ll carry it, babe.”
Dennis rears around, insult on the tip of his tongue and ready to go. But he catches sight of Rex happily taking the RPG off Mac’s hands, and the disgusting smile Mac gives him, and it dies in the stomach acid suddenly surging up his esophagus.
“Why did Dee park so far away?” Charlie asks breathlessly, lugging a backpack full of rockets and camera equipment. He and Mac have grand and insanely delusional plans to start a YouTube channel made up of their project badass videos. Charlie has even started referring to himself as a “professional YouTuber” despite only having one video on the channel with sixty-three views.
“She’s at some chick’s apartment, I told you,” Dennis answers. Mac and Rex are laughing at some inside joke behind him, something stupid and shallow no doubt, and he grits his teeth. “And we can’t blow her car up while it’s parked outside of Paddy’s dude.”
“Right. You know, maybe she’s onto something with us and her cars,” Charlie muses.
“Well that’s what she gets for stealing my La Prairie night cream,” Dennis answers darkly. “Her piece of shit car probably cost less than that cream. Eye for an eye, bitch.”
Charlie shrugs, clearly just as unconcerned by destruction of Dee’s property as Dennis. They round a corner, and spot her shitty red Corolla parked in an empty lot across the street from a decrepit looking apartment building.
“Excellent,” Dennis says, smiling big and patting Charlie’s arm excitedly.
They rush over to set up. Dennis had been to this same lot earlier today to drop off the plywood and transport the bikes. Mac and Rex carefully set up the ramp, carefully arranging the wood onto the trunk of Dee’s car. Charlie sets up the camera while Dennis prepares the rocket launcher.
“Okay hurry up,” Dennis calls once he’s ready. “This street won’t be empty for long.”
The other three rush over, and Dennis stands taller as he presides over the event.
“Okay, Charlie, you’re running the camera. Mac, you’re gonna ride the bike as fast as you can, and as you’re flying over the top, I’ll shoot the rocket. It should hit well after you’re clear and the car will explode behind you.”
“Uh, guys, are we really sure this is safe?” Rex asks.
Dennis and Mac share an incredulous look. Dennis scoffs as Mac’s hand rubs over Rex’s shoulder soothingly.
“Of course it is, I’m the sheriff of Paddy’s remember?”
Dennis doesn’t think his eyes could possibly roll any further back in his head.
“I’ve been over this plan like, hundreds of times. It’s flawproof.”
“Foolproof,” Dennis corrects.
Mac doesn’t respond, too busy kissing Rex right in the middle of the goddamn street. He distantly registers that his knuckles are cracking as he clenches his fists.
“Plus,” Mac says as he finally drags his mouth away from Rex’s. “You’ve got the first aid kit right? You’ll be right here if I get a little burned.”
“I do,” Rex says, holding it up proudly. “I’m certified, you know.”
“Yeah, we know Rex, you took a two week class and now you know how to rub a goddamn alcohol swab over a cut. Congrats.”
He feels Mac’s disapproving gaze on him as he turns away to help Charlie with the tripod but makes a point of ignoring him. He’s already made his feelings about Rex being here today perfectly clear, and Mac knows it.
They finish setting up, thankfully with no more distracting PDA from Mac and Rex, and his adrenaline starts to spike as he watches Mac put on his helmet and mount the bike.
“Are you sure we shouldn’t try and get like, a motorcycle?” Charlie asks again. Dennis huffs from his place next to him, fiddling with the safety on the RPG.
“He’ll be fine, Charlie,” Dennis assures him.
“I just don’t think there’s any way Mac is gonna get that going fast enough to jump the car, bro,” Charlie argues.
Dennis glances up at Mac, who’s swinging his arms for some goddamn reason, in preparation for the jump. A ripple of unease goes through him for the first time.
“Alright, maybe let’s - let’s try it once without the RPG.”
Charlie’s shoulders relax slightly. “Okay dude, cause like, this is probably the most dangerous PBA video we’ve ever done and - ”
“PBA?” he repeats blankly.
“‘Project Bad Ass’,” Charlie clarifies.
“Goddamn - can we hurry? Can we please get this over with, because I can see some people looking out their windows, and I’m holding a fucking rocket launcher in broad daylight.”
“Okay, hang on.”
Charlie cups his hands around his mouth, and Dennis has the sense to cover his ears just as he bellows, “MAC! PRACTICE ROUND!”
“Jesus Christ Charlie, that was not subtle,” he hisses.
“WHY? I DON’T NEED PRACTICE!” Mac yells back just as loudly. Dennis winces, glancing up at the windows of the apartment building.
“Guys, shut up -”
“IT’S TOO DANGEROUS BRO!”
“NOT FOR A BADASS, PUSSY!”
“Oh my god,” Dennis mutters just as Rex sidles back into view.
“What’s going on? Why are we shouting?” he asks, voice all bright and innocent and grating on Dennis’ last nerve.
“We’re not, and if you open your goddamn mouth I swear -”
They all turn in unison towards the source of the the new, irritatingly familiar voice.
Dee is across the street, holding hands with The Waitress, and Dennis doesn’t even have time to unpack that before she’s yelling again.
“Oh no, goddammit, get away from my car you assholes!”
Dennis and Charlie look at each other, then at Mac, who waves his hands frantically.
“Go go go, get the shot, come on!” he cries as he starts pedaling, legs moving furiously.
“Shit, shit,” Dennis mutters, heaving the gun to his shoulder. Charlie works on focusing the camera as Dennis aims.
“Drop it you dick!”
Her voice is getting closer.
“Shoot, Dennis!” Charlie shrieks as Mac gets closer to the plank.
He panics and pulls the trigger. Several things happen in quick succession: Mac makes it halfway up the plank before toppling over, Dennis cries out his name in a useless warning just as Dee crashes into him and knocks them both to the ground, and the rocket hits Dee’s driver’s side door with a loud, resounding clank before falling innocuously to the ground.
There’s a beat where no one moves. Dennis sees Mac struggling to his feet and pushes Dee off of him, scrambling over to where Mac is kneeling by the car.
“Mac! Holy shit, dude are you okay?” he calls as he stumbles over.
He hears the clattering of footsteps as the other four rush over. He grabs Mac’s hand on instinct and helps him to his feet. He holds onto him, other hand unclasping his helmet and helping him push it off his head. He runs his fingers over Mac’s face and down his neck, looking for injuries, and barely notices Mac squeezing his other hand in his panic. He’s vaguely aware of a cacophony of concerned voices crowding around them. Rex appears on Mac’s other side, hands rubbing over his back and massaging his shoulders.
“I’m okay,” he mutters. Rex visibly relaxes, and Dennis releases the breath he’d been holding.
“You have got to be goddamn kidding me with this,” Dee hisses. Dennis tears his gaze from Mac to look at her. She looks murderous. “You were going to destroy my car? Again? And you were going to kill Mac in the process?”
“It would have worked if you hadn’t interrupted and made us rush!” Charlie argues. Dee whips around to glare at him. “Are you okay?” he adds, addressing The Waitress.
“Fine, Charlie,” she intones, rolling her eyes.
“This is a goddamn kids bike!” Dee cries, pointing at the abandoned bike. “There’s no way he would have ever made it over, you goddamn morons -”
“Uh, guys?” Rex tries to interrupt.
“Charlie is right Dee, you’re the reason we screwed up. You almost killed Mac!” Dennis yells, turning to point at her accusingly.
“You’re the one that was just shooting a goddamn rocket launcher at him -”
“What?” Dennis snaps, glaring at Rex. “What could you possibly need to say right now?”
“Dennis,” Mac warns. He doesn’t let go of Dennis' hand though.
Rex doesn’t react to Dennis’ vitriol. He steps closer to Mac as he points at the rocket lying innocently on the ground in front of them.
“I swear I just saw it like… twitch, or something. We should probably move.”
“It’s fine, it was obviously a dud,” Dennis says, waving him off. “You never know what you’re gonna get ordering off the black market.”
“I don’t know, I saw it too,” The Waitress agrees, crowding closer to Dee. Charlie’s eyes narrow.
“What’s going on here?” he asks, gesturing between them.
“Not now Charlie,” Dee snaps.
“Guys, come on, we need to set up for round two,” Mac says.
“Round two? Absolutely not.”
“Are you sure this is a dud? I swear it moved - ”
Rex’s foot moves, and just as his toe nudges the tip of the rocket, Dennis has a sudden moment of complete clarity. The cliche of seeing your life flash before your eyes turns out to be irritatingly real, and whether it’s because they spent their entire adult lives together, or because he’s still holding his hand, or something else he doesn’t have time to get into, his last genuine thought is of Mac, solid and warm next to him. A millisecond later it’s wiped out by heat, more intense than he’s ever felt, and a booming sound, louder than anything he’s ever heard. And just as quickly as it begins, it ends, and then he’s not aware of anything at all.
“Fuck me,” Dennis breathes.
“Yeah. Like I said, not pretty,” Frank agrees. He wheels around and takes his seat across from Dennis again.
“We - we exploded?” Dennis asks. “Fucking Rex killed us?”
“Well, I don’t know if I’d say that - “
“I gotta say, I never really pictured it ending like that.”
“Right,” Frank says, flicking through manilla files in front of him. “Well, condolences, Dennis. But we gotta get goin’, I have to show you around.”
“Oh, right,” he says. He shakes his head, trying to clear it and come to terms with where he is again. It’s difficult, with the way his mind is fighting him. “You gonna turn this shit off when we leave?” he asks, pointing to his head.
“Once you get settled. It’s too overwhelming otherwise to let you experience the full range of human emotion so soon after death, even though it’s laughably limited.”
He stands and gestures for Dennis to follow him. They walk through the same door they came in, but when they step outside he finds himself not in the room he started in, but rather standing on a street he recognizes.
“Wait, are we in Philly?”
“Yeah, we uh - we create these places called ‘neighborhoods’ that are designed to be your own personal haven,” Frank explains as they walk. Dennis takes a good look at everything; it’s Philly, but significantly cleaner. The cobblestone of the streets looks brand new, and the windows of the shops they pass are sparkling. “You and your friends never really left Philly, so we just made a newer and better version of it. Don’t fix what’s not broke, right?”
“I guess,” Dennis says, neck cricking as they pass a familiar looking building. “You have bars in heaven?”
“Yeah, of course.”
“So we can drink here?” he asks eagerly.
“Yeah, in fact, we have a replica of Paddy’s right over there,” Frank says, pointing to the familiar sign. He feels a twinge of something in his chest, the emotion still being suppressed slightly by Frank. "I gotta warn you though, take it slow, alcohol is five hundred percent more potent here."
“Wow,” he says, coming to a stop on the street in front of Paddy's. “It looks… shiny.”
“Yeah, we cleaned it up of course.”
His eye catches on a small rainbow flag in the window. Frank nods when he sees him looking.
“I don’t remember that being there.”
“Ah, your friend Mac put it there a few weeks before your death,” Frank says. “Apparently none of you noticed it when you were still alive.”
“Oh,” is all he says. He stares at it for a long minute, thinking about Mac and making the decision to bite the bullet and ask where he is when Frank tugs on his arm.
“Come on, we’re almost there.”
He lets the question fizzle and die in his throat. They keep walking, taking a path Dennis recognizes, but Frank doesn’t give him the chance to guess where they’re going. He continues to talk, explaining how the system works.
“So the neighborhood is set up to be kind of like a community, there’s two hundred residents here currently, including yourself - ”
“You mean a hundred and ninety-nine other people’s idea of heaven is a neat freak version of Philly?” he asks skeptically.
“Yeah. It’s not so weird, people just wanna be comfortable in the afterlife, you know? Everyone here is a Philadelphian, born and raised.”
He can’t really argue with that. He wasn’t exactly anxious, thanks to Frank’s numbing voodoo, but he still feels a sense of calm walking through streets he’s known his whole life.
“Anyway, everyone has a job, to help give you a sense of purpose here -”
“Wait, I have to work in the afterlife?” Dennis asks, stopping Frank with a hand on his elbow. “What kinda communist bullshit scheme are you running here?”
“Language,” Frank warns. “It ain’t mandatory, but you’ll want to work Dennis. Eternity gets boring without a nine to five.”
He huffs out a disbelieving laugh. “You don’t know me very well then. I can find ways to entertain myself, thank you.”
“Look, do what you want Dennis. You can do anything! You can finally be a veterinarian, if you want, though - we’ll have to bring in some more animals for you. Only about nine of the residents have pets, and they’re all birds.”
“Okay - weird.”
“Yeah, not too sure what happened there. But you can do whatever you want!” He gestures grandly, arms flung out to the side. “Or, you know, Paddy’s is right there if you wanna just keep going the way you were in life and run a bar.”
Dennis nods, reassured. He is not going to be working anywhere, he knows that for sure. Frank doesn’t know him at all if he thinks Dennis will be unfulfilled without work.
Frank continues his tour, explaining more of the ground rules and pointing out different bars and shops that Dennis barely pays attention to. He feels the salve of Frank’s emotion blocker start to wear off, and he’s starting to worry that the rest of the gang really aren’t here. He still can’t bring himself to ask.
They round a corner, and just as he thought, they end up at his apartment building. His eyes draw to their window immediately. He doesn’t expect to actually see anyone in it, and his breath catches when he sees a shadow pass in front of the window.
“Okay, couple questions,” Dennis says, interrupting whatever Frank was yammering about. “One, can I breathe and shit here? Two, is this - is that my apartment? And three, who is in my apartment?”
“Yes, you can breathe, you’ve been breathin’ this entire time Dennis. You can’t shit though, we got rid of all the unpleasant bodily functions.”
“That’s not what I - ”
“And yes, that’s your apartment. And that’s your soulmate waitin’ for you inside.”
“That’s right! Soulmates are real Dennis, of course you have one in The Good Place.”
“Holy shit,” he says, craning his neck to try and get another look. “Who is it?”
“Ah ah, not yet, someone else wants to see you before we get you settled.”
He leads Dennis down another street, and suddenly the landscape changes. He finds himself in a suburb, one he again recognizes immediately. Frank stops in front of a large house, watching him closely. His heart leaps to his throat when he catches sight of a head of messy blonde hair on a gangly body he’d know anywhere.
“Dee!” he cries before he can help himself. He rushes past Frank and catches up to her, surprising them both as he wraps her in a hug.
“Wait, you’re real Dee right?” he asks as he pulls away, holding her at arms length by the shoulders. “You’re not like, a figment of my imagination or some shit?”
“Yes, I’m real Dee,” she confirms, looking between him and Frank nervously. “I’m guessing you’re really Dennis?”
“Of course I am,” he answers. He surprises them both and pulls her in for another hug; she even smells the same as she did on earth.
“I need to talk to you,” she hisses in his ear. He lets go, and she looks at him significantly, nodding subtly at Frank. Dennis just furrows his eyebrows
“Could we, um, have a moment? Just to catch up?” she asks Frank before Dennis can say anything.
“Sure, sure,” Frank agrees. He waves towards the house. “Why don’t you show him around your place?”
“Your - this is your house?” Dennis asks, focusing on their surroundings. They’re on a lush green lawn in front of an enormous house. “Holy shit - is this mom’s house?”
“Yeah, yeah,” Dee says quickly, laughing in her fake obnoxious way she thinks is convincing. “I know you’re probably excited to see it, let’s go.”
Her nails dig hard into his arm as she drags him inside. She slams the door behind them. Her expression is wild when she turns back to Dennis.
“Is mom here?” Dennis asks, looking around. Every detail is right, right down to the awkward middle school pictures of the two of them on the entry table.
“Don’t be ridiculous, she doesn’t belong here,” Dee answers.
“Yeah, you’re right,” Dennis agrees.
“But neither do we,” she continues seriously, stepping forward and clutching at his arms again. “Something is wrong, we shouldn’t be here.”
Dennis scoffs. “Speak for yourself, Dee.”
“Dennis, we are not good people. Really, think about it, how the fuck did we end up here, huh?” she asks. Her eyes are wide, and she looks terrified.
“Jesus, calm down,” Dennis says, pulling himself out of her grip. “Look, Frank said that this wasn’t really like, heaven, you know? Maybe there are different rules than we all thought.”
“No, that’s - there’s no way we would end up somewhere called the goddamn ‘Good Place’. It doesn’t make sense, just like this doesn’t make sense.”
She waves wildly around her, spinning as she gesticulates to her ornate surroundings.
“What - the house?” he asks. “You’re telling me you have a problem living in a mansion?”
“Of course I do!” Dee cries. “Don’t you get it? I hate it here Dennis, I hated it so much when we were kids, I couldn’t wait to get out of here!”
“What are you - you were so pissed when mom left me the house in her will!”
“Yeah, because I didn’t get anything!” she cries. “Not because I actually wanted to live here, this place was a nightmare. You were the one that wanted it.”
“I - yeah, I did,” Dennis says, trailing off.
“See? This doesn’t make sense, if this was really ‘The Good Place’, you would be in this house instead of me.”
“Okay, Dee, while that is - odd, I admit, that doesn’t prove anything - ”
“That’s not all,” she continues grimly. “Guess who my soulmate is?”
She doesn’t actually give him a chance to guess. She pads into the living room; Dennis follows, and almost chokes on his tongue when he sees who’s standing in it.
“Hey Dennis!” he beams. He steps forward and engulfs Dennis into a bone crushing hug.
Dennis disentangles himself quickly, and can’t stop the hysterical laughter that's bubbling in his throat. He doubles over, laughing until he’s breathless, until Dee is dragging him bodily to the kitchen and snapping at Rex to stay put.
“Rex - is your soulmate?” he gasps. “Rex, the guy that killed us, the guy that Mac was all - is your - oh shit that’s just, that’s poetic, is what it is.”
“It’s fucking homophobic,” Dee sneers. “I’m a lesbian, and I end up with him? What kind of heaven is homophobic?”
“Well, the heaven Mac believed in for forty years is.”
Dee punches him in the chest. “Okay, okay,” Dennis says as he catches his breath. “Did you tell Frank?”
“Of course I did!” she answers. “I told him he was high off his ass if he thought my soulmate was a man. He gave me some crap about not all soulmates being romantic, that some people end up with a 'platonic soulmate', and that they ‘never make mistakes’.”
“Well there you go, sounds reasonable to me.”
“Dennis! It’s bullshit, is what it is, especially because -”
She stops, looking around and biting her lip nervously.
“Because Nicole is here, Dennis. And she’s not - she’s not with me.”
She watches him expectantly. He shrugs and raises his eyebrows.
“Oh for fucks - The Waitress!” she snaps.
“Oh - ohhh,” Dennis says. “Right, you two were - yeah.”
“Goddamnit, we’re in heaven and I still want to rip your throat out,” she mutters. “She’s with Charlie, Dennis, which is literally her own personal hell! Don’t you get it yet?”
“Charlie's here?” Dennis asks excitedly, looking around like he might appear. “What about - ”
“Dennis! Focus! We are not in The Good Place!” She takes a deep breath and finishes dramatically, “We’re in hell.”
He laughs, and Dee looks even closer to throttling him. He wonders for a moment if she’d be capable of killing him again.
“You’re being overdramatic Dee,” he says eventually. “Look, just because you don’t get to live with your little girlfriend doesn’t mean - ”
“It’s not just that! Nothing about this makes sense Dennis, are you that blind?”
“Don’t interrupt me,” he says. “I was right in the middle of a sentence, Dee - ”
“Shut up,” she snarls. “This is serious, Dennis, and you’re not even listening to me - ”
They’re interrupted by a knock at the door. Frank pokes his head in just as they step back into the entryway.
“We need to move on Dennis,” Frank calls. “Time ain’t exactly, well, real here but you know. I got other dead folks to process today.”
“Goddammit,” Dee mutters. She steps in front of Dennis so that Frank can’t see her face.
“Think about what I said,” she says gravely.
“Yeah, okay sis,” he agrees to placate her. “I’ll see you soon, okay?” He pats her shoulder and meets up with Frank waiting on the porch.
“Bye Dennis!” Rex calls out. He turns back and catches a glimpse of the two of them standing together, alone in the giant house Dee hates, and feels a twinge of something uncomfortable in his gut.
“Alright, time to meet your soulmate!” Frank’s voice distracts him from his momentary lapse. “Let’s go.”
They make their way back to Dennis’ apartment. As they climb the steps, he lets his mind wander, picturing a slew of beautiful women before settling on an image of Jackie Denardo standing in an enormous penthouse, wearing nothing but lingerie.
They approach the door, and Frank grins at him.
“Yeah,” Dennis says, grinning back.
Frank opens the door and gestures for Dennis to lead the way. He steps through the threshold, and his heart sinks straight to his stomach as he takes a look around.
It’s exactly the same as his apartment on earth. It’s cleaner, and a little newer looking, but otherwise it’s the spitting image. He feels like he’s stepped back in time. All of his and Mac’s old knick knacks are in the same place. The kitchen is just as small, the bedrooms are in the same spot, and the same horribly uncomfortable couch sits in the living room.
“Great, isn’t it?” Frank asks.
“Uh, sure,” Dennis manages, clearing his throat. “New appliances?”
“Brand spanking new,” Frank agrees proudly. “Updated the T.V. too.”
“Great,” he says weakly. “It’s uh, great, man.”
“Glad you like it,” Frank says, seemingly oblivious to Dennis’ lack of enthusiasm. “Your soulmate is waiting right in there.”
He points to Dennis’ bedroom, smiling wide. Dennis nods, taking a deep breath as he walks to the door. He runs a hand through his hair nervously, realizing for the first time he hasn’t passed a single mirror the entire time he’s been here. He has no idea if his makeup is even, if his hair is styled properly.
“You look great,” Frank assures him quietly.
He doesn’t reply. He swallows hard, tongue feeling three times it’s normal size. This is what will make it worth it. So what if he has to live in the same goddamn apartment he lived in more than half his life? His sister is here, and Charlie, and he’ll get to experience the afterlife with them, and with his soulmate. Someone he was destined to be with, someone who is just as perfect as he is, someone who is perfect for him.
He grips the doorknob, exhaling as he twists and pushes the door open.
He’s still not sure if he actually has a heart anymore, but something in him goes completely still when he sees who’s standing in front of him. Frank’s feel good juju has definitely worn off, because he hears an all too familiar ringing in his ears as his brain short circuits.
“Hi,” Mac greets him brightly.
He’s smiling, face glowing as he looks Dennis up and down. He looks just the same as the last time he saw him, and yet there’s an ease in his expression that Dennis rarely saw in life. His hair is loose, and he’s dressed in his RIOT shirt and jeans, and Dennis wonders if he can cry in heaven as he stares at his achingly familiar form.
“Uh,” Dennis croaks weakly in reply.
They stare at each other for a long minute. Dennis feels faint; if he weren’t dead, if he had an actual functioning nervous system he’s convinced he’d be unconscious by now.
And then, just as he starts to think he should say something else, Mac beats him to it and flips Dennis’ entire universe on its head.
Mac steps forward with his hand outstretched. “I’m Mac. Nice to meet you.”