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Your New Boss From Hell

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The sharp tang of bile was itching in your throat and you cough to get rid of the sensation, your face streaked with hot tears. Blackhat's raspy cackle makes you shiver.

 

1. It Was A Dark And Stormy Night

 

 

The last thing you saw was a familiar toothy grin in a familiar skeletal face, golden canine flashing at you.

sorry doll but i can’t have ya ruinin' my goddamn business.

And then your vision turned black from one second to the next.

 


 

 

When you come to again, it’s more like jerking awake from accidentally falling asleep; your heart rate immediately through the roof, your body shooting up on its own, and your brain struggling to keep up with the speed of your base reflexes.

The first and only thing you know for sure is: you aren’t safe!

It stays dark all around as you open your eyes, blinking a few times to make sure you’re really awake. The second thing you become aware of is a throbbing pain at the back of your head, emphasized by your now thundering heartbeat. An involuntary groan slips through your clenched jaws and you quickly feel for the painful spot beneath your hair. Dried blood yields under your fingertips and the groan turns into a pained hiss. And as if that had been the trigger, your other senses suddenly tune in.

You become aware of the shrill alarm ringing in your ears, loud enough to make you jump to your feet only to fall back on your butt when a sudden vertigo grabs hold of you. You can barely stifle the pathetic whine rising in your throat.

The siren sounds too much like a burglar-alarm – what the fuck is going on?

A bolt of lightning from outside illuminates your surroundings for a split second and burns the negative into your retina before the cracking thunder drowns out even the blaring alarm.

You flinch back, both from the noise and the unknown surroundings. The image of the broken high window you're lying in front of confuses you more than that it yields any answers as to why you’re here and where the hell here is.

Once again you try to stand, placing your hands on the ground, and this time you yelp in pain when sharp glass shards cut into your palms. There's more glass in your clothes, your hair, and upon further inspection you notice fine cuts on your face. As if you had jumped head first through the window…

   “What the…” you mumble, alarmed, and wheel around when you suddenly hear more noises through the growling thunder and the shrieking of the siren.

Voices.

Agitated voices; one of them barking orders.

Your mind is racing; it's the black of night, you’re inside a house you don’t know, you apparently came in through the window, triggered an alarm and… knocked yourself out?

Tiny hackles rise in response to your finely attuned instincts and you blink rapidly, trying to get accustomed to the darkness and look for a place to hide. This is more than bad. If you were indeed on a heist and had managed to screw up this royally despite your level of experience, then you had to get out of this mess quickly!

Immediately though, you turn to the window and carefully feel your way towards the wooden sill. It was plain stupid to hide inside - and probably get cornered by whoever was now looking for you – when you could simply get the hell out of here the way you’d come in from.

Bracing yourself on the windowsill, you already attempt to swing a leg over and through the gaping hole, when you stop dead in your tracks, your heart leaping into your throat.

You are over 30 feet above the ground.

Cursing hoarsely under your breath, you quickly push away from the window and stumble farther into the dark room. Now your eyes are darting around in panic, searching desperately for a hiding place.

How the fuck did I get in through that window?? You ask yourself completely dumbfounded and quietly sneak up to the only door you can find. The how isn’t that important right now. The how to not get fucking caught is your one and only priority!

Fortunately the door isn’t locked so you’re able to quietly open it an inch and peer out into the dark hallway beyond. It is a little brighter out there and you quickly take in the thick, dark runner covering the floor, the expensive wooden wall-panels and the golden, gilded frame of a huge painting across from you. Definitely a place you’d normally rob. Still not explaining where you are, how the hell you got here and what it is you might have been looking for.

Suddenly a shrill, male voice cuts through your thoughts: “Dementia! The intruder has to be on this floor – get them!”, followed by such an insane fit of laughter that it has you breaking out in a cold sweat. But that is nothing compared to the shockwave racing down the hallway, announcing the distinct feeling of a presence, so malicious and threatening that you instinctively recoil, almost letting the heavy wooden door fall shut before you can manage to clutch the doorknob again.

    “Flug!” The thundering voice seems to echo unnaturally inside your skull and you shake where you’re frozen to the spot, the cold sweat from before turning to ice on your skin. Who is that? Or more importantly… what is that?!

    “Y-yes, sir?!” the first voice answers, sounding almost as scared as you are. Which scares you even more and sparks a dreadful suspicion in the back of your brain.

    “Explain.” The entity simply growls. You have no doubt that the owner of that voice is not human.

    “Well, uh, you see boss we're having a- um, a break-in and-"

    “I am aware of that you imbecile! Why haven’t you caught the intruder yet?! That blasted alarm is starting to seriously get on my nerves…” There’s an unhidden threat in his voice, the promise of agony, and the one called Flug is now even quicker to answer.

    “S- sorry boss, I will turn it off immediately! Dementia!” he yells once more with cracking voice, reminding you with another pang of fear that there had been a third person! You strain your ears at the sudden absence of the alarm. "I thought you already tracked them down!! You useless lizard!”

The answer is a defiant hiss and the sound of something quickly scuttling along the walls and ceiling.

    “Don’t tell me what to do, nerd! I’ll have them caught before one of your stupid robots gets the chance! And then I’ll rip them to tiny shreds!” the high-pitched female voice shrieks, shrill enough to grate on your nerves like a buzz saw.

You swallow the growing lump in your throat and slowly close the door. You’ve heard enough. This clearly isn’t just some fancy old mansion of rich snobs. This is a villain's lair!

    “No.” The inhuman voice snaps. "I want them alive. I want to know how they got past our defenses and then I'll have a chat with you, doctor.” You almost feel bad for the poor guy named Flug. Almost. However your self-preservation ranks higher than any sympathy for another villain's henchman.

You scan the room, but apart from a few bookshelves and dusty side-tables it is disappointingly empty. And since that Dementia can apparently scale walls you doubt that hiding on top of the shelves is going to do you any good.

    “Fuck, fuck, fuck!...” you whisper and hurry back to the window, digging in your jacket's pockets for your gear. Your knives probably aren't exactly suited to double as climbing spikes but they might offer enough support to hang on the wall until they're done with searching the study room.

Your breathing stops altogether when you are met with only emptiness. You quickly pat down the chest part of your modified leather jacket. No dice; every hidden pocket has been emptied! No lockpicks, no knives, not even your fucking phone which means you can't even call base for backup!

How in the fuck did you get into this mess? This isn't you! You would never even leave your own apartment without at least a handful of throwing knives hidden in the sleeves of your jacket! You're keys are missing as well, as is your wallet. Basically everything you owned and carried on your person is gone!

Your mind is once more racing, frantically trying to dig up any memory of how you got here or what you were doing before you had gotten here.

    “Fuck. Sans is going to kill me if I even make it out of here alive…”

Yeah… if was the right term in this situation.

Before you can sense anything, you are suddenly thrown onto your back by something heavy, your startled scream knocked out of you from the impact with the hardwood floorboards.

The pain in your head spikes cruelly when it is slammed into the ground by a strong hand. Above you, a shrill, girlish voice cackles hysterically and you can see yellow eyes glinting in the van light.

    “Ahahahaha, gotcha!” So this Dementia can move stealthily as well!? You twist beneath her legs and kick at her, but she spins you around with alarming strength and pulls your arms onto your back in the same motion, making your joints sing with pain as your face is smooshed against the wood. "Wanna fight, little thief? You're no match for Dementia the Destroyer!!” she roars and gives your arms another warning twist, making you actually cry out at the pain now.

    "Fuck!! Stop it you bitch!! Fine, I yield, you got me!” you yell, only in order to get her to loosen her grip, but the maniac doesn’t budge one inch. Instead she plops down on your back and hums an awfully happy tune.

Not a second later you hear footsteps entering the room and strain your neck to look at the newcomer. Something strikes you as oddly familiar as you quickly scan the person you can only assume to be Doctor Flug.

He’s wearing a crinkled and stained labcoat over a blue graphic tee and jeans, red converse shoes and a… you blink in disbelief. His entire head is covered by a paper bag, the only thing visible being a pair of tinted safety goggles somehow strapped over the brown paper. The light from the hallway makes them glint like headlights and with the way he has his arms crossed on his back it makes him look more like an evil genius than you would have given him credit for after that exchange with his… boss.

    “Uh…” you make, not really sure what to say in your defense. You’re starting to think that someone must have tricked you, set you up. There is no way you would decide to pull a heist on a fricking villain out of all people to rob and then come unprepared and somehow manage to crash through a window in the third floor!

Flug cocks his head to one side, the gleam of his goggles shifting with the motion and somehow giving him an almost eerie amount of expression.

   “If you're smart, you won't resist and answer my questions, got it?” he says, not unfriendly, but it's exactly that niceness that makes you extra cautious.

   “Listen, I wish I could explain… this. But I honestly have no fucking idea how I even got here. I'm terribly sorry about the window, um… I know what this must look like but I assure you-" Before you get any further, another forceful shockwave moves the air around you and Flug cowers a little. Even Dementia, still perched on your back, flinches so hard she yanks on your arms.

But you don't make any sound. You just don't dare. Because the being that suddenly emerges from the shadows themselves is no one other than…

    “L- Lord Blackhat, sir!” Flug croaks, shaking violently at the almost physical waves of rage the super-villain is exuding and that seems to be directed at everything and everyone in this dark and dusty study.

You openly gape at him, your mind overpowered by terror. If the situation had been bad before, it's gone to full-blown shit now. Of course you know him. Everyone knows him!

Blackhat, founder and owner of the nefarious Black Hat Organization, is the only untouchable force in the entire underworld of evil. Since he provides every villain that has the money (or, allegedly, souls) with high grade weaponry of mass destruction and havoc galore, he is basically immune to any form of assault from them or their rivals. If something like a godfather of all villains even existed, it would have to be this man. Whose manor you apparently broke in to.

To sum it all up: you were as good as dead!

You already take a quick breath to sputter out a wave of apologies and start your well-established groveling routine, when the glare out of his one eye settles on you and crushes any amount of courage you have kept until now. He is already way fucking scarier than your own boss could ever hope to be, and that one was a fucking skeleton!

Blackhat hasn't even done anything to you yet, let alone spoken a single word, and you already feel tears stinging  at the corners of your eyes. Fuck, this is not how you wanted to die!

He’s just standing there, one hand casually resting on his back, the other propped on the curve of an elegant black walking cane. You can see the shimmer on his polished shoes, complete with galoshes, the fine material of his suit pants and you know, you just know, that he is going to do horrible things to you.

    “Mr. Blackhat…” you whisper and immediately have to swallow, your throat dry as a desert. But you regret to have ever opened your mouth almost instantly. The long, antennae-like brows draw together into a scowl beneath the rim of his signature black top hat with the red hatband, and the arm he's still keeping behind his back flexes ever so slightly. Yet you are being flung into the air, Dementia tumbling off you with a yelp. An invisible force wraps around your throat and squeezes. Your hands desperately claw at your neck, trying frantically to free it from the horrible chokehold.

Your struggle elicits a cruel grin from Blackhat that takes up almost two thirds of his ashen face, giant fangs glowing green in the dark and his monocle gleaming dangerously. A low, entirely evil chuckle begins to work its way out his chest as he squeezes once more before suddenly dropping you to the ground. You gasp for air, taking lung after lung full of precious oxygen, trembling on your hands and knees.

    “I'll do the talking, you pathetic excuse for a thief.” He growls, his raspy, strangely accented voice sounding as far from human as possible while still being understandable. To your utter horror, Dementia giggles in delight and scuttles excitedly along the broken window, emitting something close to an actual dreamy sigh. Yikes.

You just nod in defeat and slump down, resting on your hip to conserve your strength.

    “Who are you working for.” It's not a question. It's an order and your barely settled heart freaks out again. You can't tell him! Your boss will kill you if you get him into trouble with his own weapons dealer! And if Blackhat is only half the malicious monster everyone makes him out to be, he will make sure to deliver you straight to Sans, gift box and all, to let him grind you into a fine paste himself.

Unless…

Suddenly, mercifully, a memory flashes before your eyes, a series of images and a dark, heavily accented voice from behind red smoke. You remember the throbbing wound in the back of your skull. Sluggishly, the pieces seem to form an image but…

    “No…” you mumble to yourself, somehow having forgotten that you are currently tap dancing on a blade's edge. "He wouldn’t…”

The strike of the cane takes you off-guard and you cry out in pain when the hard wood swiftly slashes over your face, tearing your cheek open. You're thrown to the ground by the sheer force and quickly press a hand over the fresh cut.

    “Speak up you bothersome nuisance!” Blackhat snarls impatiently. "Your worthless existence is only prolonged because I want to snuff out two insignificant maggots today to make it worth my time! So you better give me a name, or…” His voice rises menacingly and with it his features distort, eye suddenly glowing red and fangs stretching into needle-like daggers while his jaws open inhumanly wide, ready to maul and tear into delicate skin-

    “Sans!” you all but scream out. “I- I work for Sans Gaster. But- but I wasn’t sent here by him, I swear! He…” Your panicked explanation runs into a dead end since you still don’t know what the fuck happened to you after…

Right, you had returned from another heist on a hero's safe-house, arms full of cash and secrets. Then one of the monsters running messages had told you the boss wanted to speak to you and you had taken the metal steps up to where he had his office in the abandoned factory building. The stuffy air inside had smelled of mustard and cigars, like usually, clouds of red smoke billowing around your boss's wide, skeletal frame. He had eyed you with his usual grin, golden canine flashing in the light.

Blackhat makes an irritated, confused noise that still somehow sounds angry enough to make you snap back to attention.

    “Who?”

You almost burst out laughing in disbelief. How the fuck does he not remember one of his own customers? Sans had even made you watch one of Blackhat's orientation tapes  to demonstrate you what would happen to you if you should ever cut from his share of your heists.

You flinch at the thought. You had never cut his share! You had always been too afraid of getting beat up more than you already were. Or worse…

    “Boss, he- he's one of our regular customers, even has a golden card as of lately.” Flug interjects anxiously and quickly pulls out a phone, scrolling through something before showing it to Blackhat who makes a disgusted face at the device.

    “Eugh. That skeleton mobster? He must be seriously suicidal if he dares to send his lowlife hoodlums to my lair!” suddenly the single, sharp pupil darts down on you again and you already fear another swing. "Tell me, tiny thief… how did you know where to find my organization?” he demands to know.

    “I didn't!” you try  to explain. “I have no idea where the hell I am or how I got here, I swear on my life!”

Blackhat scoffs at that: "Your life means nothing to me, little thief.”

    “Yeah? Well it does to me!” you blurt out before you can stop yourself, mortifying dread immediately gripping your innards in an ice-cold clutch. Though maybe it's just Blackhat again, judging by the way his expression darkens and by Flug's shocked gasp.

Shit.

To your horror, Blackhat's smile returns. Only now it's a grin as wide as that of a Cheshire cat, perfectly delighted in the prospect of what might come next and he raises the hand not holding the cane, curling his gloved fingers into a fist par for his index and thumb.

    “Dr. Flug.” He announces darkly. "I'll be in the dungeon. Clean this mess up and start working on better defenses.”

    “Yessir, right away sir. Have fun sir.” Flug hurries to reply while also taking a few steps away from his boss. Up on the wall, Dementia cackles. You feel the sudden need to swallow thickly again.

    "Du- Dungeon?” But then Blackhat already snaps his fingers and you're pulled down through the floor, darkness engulfing your body. Immediately you start screaming, yet no sound leaves your throat. Instead, you hear a howling all around you like the pained cries of a thousand doomed souls. The darkness thickens and churns, threatening to suffocate you before it spits you back out again and you're dropped onto hard, cold stone.

The sharp tang of bile tingles in your throat and you cough to get rid of the sensation, your face streaked with hot tears. Blackhat's raspy cackle behind you makes you shiver.

    “Now, don’t get all too comfortable little thief.” He mocks you as he approaches, dress shoes clacking brightly on the stone floor. You want to whirl around and recoil from him, but your body won't obey you. All it can do is tremble in fear. You're not really afraid of torture. Sans had inflicted more pain on you on a daily basis than Blackhat can perhaps imagine, so you're pretty used to that.

What you're really afraid of is Blackhat himself. Or rather, what other horrors his unearthly powers can conjure up to torment your mind. Sure, Sans Gaster was a monster, figuratively and quite literally, able to work all kinds of creepy magic himself. But something about the sharply dressed gentleman in the black hat tells you that he is on an entirely different level of evil. In all honesty, he reminds you of the devil himself.

And he’s coming closer.

 

 

Chapter Text

You try to get into a better position, eventually keeping your head ducked in the dark corner. At least now you won’t see the thing that is going to kill you in your sleep.

 

2. Sunday Bloody Sunday

 

 

The tip of the cane digs into the soft skin under your chin and forces you to lift your gaze off the ground, straining your neck to look at the entity before you.

    “Welcome to the Black Hat Organization dungeon little thief.” Blackhat grates with a chuckle. “Before we begin, is there maybe something you want to tell me, hm?” the dangerous glint in his eye is almost enough to just confess to everything he wants to hear, but you have fought similar staring contests before when a single red and golden eyeball was trying to skewer you where you knelt on the floor. So you raise your chin off the cane, sit back on your heels and jut your jaw forward. Defiant. Stubborn.

That's how Papyrus used to call you after you had endured his spiked boots for almost half an hour without giving him the name of the poor sod who had broken the side mirror off of his beloved black convertible.

    “I told you, I don't know how I got into your lair or where that lair even is! My boss didn’t send me to spy on you or anything and I certainly did not mean to steal anything from you, Mr. Blackhat.”

The kick comes too quickly for you to turn and mitigate its force, and it sends you straight back down on the ground, blood splashing over the stone in an almost artistic arch from the wound in your cheek.

    “That's Lord Blackhat to you, runt!” he growls. In a second he is above you and grabs you by the collar of your jacket. The very next, you're slammed onto a wooden table that creaks under your weight. You look down and see leather shackles attached to it where your wrists and ankles rest.

But Blackhat doesn’t use them to fetter you to the table. Doesn’t need them. Something black and grossly wet creeps over the edge of the table, quickly wrapping around your limbs and pulling them taught against it. You hiss at the sting and quickly try to see what your captor is doing next. The wound on your head pops back open when he suddenly appears in your field of vision and you flinch back in response, banging your skull against the wood.

Your pained sounds elicit another mean chuckle from him and he runs a long, gloved finger over the black, oozing tentacle binding you.

    “I told you not to get too comfortable. That also means not to get too impertinent with me!” Before your eyes the formerly nicely shaped hand transforms into a giant ghoulish thing with sharp, long claws, aiming at your neck.

You make a desperate noise in the back of your throat and squirm, trying to get away from it. Blackhat's raucous, unbridled laughter rings in your ears.

    “L- Lord Blackhat please, I'm telling the truth! I'm a professional at my trade, do you really think I would attempt to rob the- the greatest villain who ever lived with nothing on my person to aid me? If I wanted to die like a fool I could have just knocked on your front door!”

    “You wouldn’t even have made it to the door!” he hisses into your ear, but your words do seem to give him pause for the first time tonight.

    “I'm really sorry for the disturbance I’ve caused, please, grant me a chance to make it up to you.” You add quickly while you still have the opportunity to speak.

  “I will devour your worthless little soul as compensation!” he growls and the claws move again to rip you to shreds.

    “Haaahh, umm, I was more thinking about working for you to repay my debt?!” you squeak breathlessly. Once again he stops. "You are a businessman after all, right? My talents could be very beneficial for your business.” You offer, allowing a touch of a purr to lace your voice. Blackhat's single eye narrows promptly at you, flinging your brain straight back into mindless panic.

    "Please don't kill me, sir…” Is all you manage as your final case in defense.

For a moment the dealer of death just stares at you, scrutinizing every taught line in your face before suddenly leaning closely over you to stare into your eyes which immediately widen in utter terror. Something is happening to his face again, its features shifting and twisting, long, spiked mandibles slipping out of his mouth, dripping with sickly colored saliva, monocle glowing on its own with an eerie red shine and you feel like reality itself unravels at the horror Blackhat unleashes upon your poor mortal soul.

Your screams have to be heard throughout the entire mansion despite the dungeon’s thick walls. When Blackhat finally lets up on you, you're a sobbing mess, entire body shaking violently and you don’t even notice him calling for the Doctor. The black tentacles retract and you immediately roll over to puke off the table.

    “Ugh, you humans are gross. But I am impressed; you have managed to not soil yourself at least. Now get up, you're not done yet.” He barks at you and you try to sit up, only to start falling off the table when your body simply collapses. Thankfully, a strong hand catches you. Already about to thank him, you shut yourself up immediately when you feel the painful pressure of a claw probing the wound in the back of your head.

    “That was already there when I woke up in your study.” You groan, exhausted. Blackhat utters a thoughtful sound.

The heavy door opens with a head-splitting creak and you can almost sense Dr. Flug's nervous energy in the room.

    “Y-yes, sir?”

Blackhat tips your body back with a shove, so you quickly prop yourself up on the table, and turns away from you, wiping his hands on his black coat.

    “Search her. And see to it that she doesn't bleed all over my torture chamber. When you're done, lock her up and have the failure clean this mess. I need to think about a suitable way to dispose of her.” With that he leaves and all you can do is try and burn a hole into his back with your teary eyes.

The door slams shut with a final sound and you quickly focus on Flug, eying him alertly. You could easily take him in a fight… if you weren't currently on your last leg and weak as a kitten. Plus, you've been caught off-guard one too many times since you've woken up in this strange place, so you deem it wiser not to underestimate the good doctor who apparently doesn't have any greater issue with living to serve a creature of horror greater than the devil himself.

    “I'm surprised to see you're still in one piece.” Flug comments and approaches you. The casual way he moves makes it absolutely clear to you that he knows how absolutely wrecked the little display of Blackhat's ire has left you. It's almost insulting enough to chance giving him a head-butt right between his goggles, as he takes a piece of gauze out his labcoat's pocket to cover the bleeding slash in your cheek.

You don't risk it. His boss might still be too close for comfort. Instead, you take a few deep breaths and shrug, some of the fear leaving you despite the gruesome announcement of Lord Blackhat concerning your future.

    “I think he likes me.” You return with a cynical snort and watch how Flug stops in his movements before clearly stifling his own chuckle behind a fist stuck in a yellow safety rubber glove.

    “Your gallows humor won't save you, you know?” he remarks almost chidingly and motions for you to take off your jacket.

    “I've been told.” You sigh. In fact, your gallows humor was one of the things constantly earning you a thorough beating from a certain skeleton mobster boss.

Flug quickly snatches the jacket you proffer him, giving you another doubtful glance. Then he puts two rubber-gloved fingers under his paper bag and whistles loudly. You immediately fear the return of his master, trying to curl up on the table, when the door opens to reveal…

    “A… blue bear?” And here you thought this couldn't get any weirder! But then this sense of familiarity strikes you again when you see the odd yellow flower on its head and suddenly you remember. “Ooooh, I know you! You're 5.0.5.!” you exclaim and actually smile when the bear waves at you.

Flug turns to you again and you swear you can tell he's raising a brow.

    "How do you know 5.0.5?” he asks, honestly surprised.

    “Uh, my boss made me watch one of your orientation tapes for evil henchmen… multiple times.” You reply, waving back at the bear. You always felt bad for him, seeing that he clearly didn’t belong in a world of villains.

Flug makes a noise similar to the one Blackhat had upon discovering the wound on your head. That reminds you…

    “Hey um, doc? Could you take a look at my head as well?” you ask, pointing to where you can still feel the warm blood on your scalp. Flug tells 5.0.5 to keep an eye on you before he steps around the table, parting your soaked hair.

    “Oh this is nothing, blunt force trauma is one of Lord Blackhat's specialties…” he waves you off but you shake your head.

    “That wasn't him. It was already there when I woke up in the study.” You emphasize, still trying to explain your miserable situation. Flug makes another contemplative noise and thumbs over the wound, making you hiss at the pain. 5.0.5 pats your knee with a fluffy blue paw.

“Now do you believe me? I think someone knocked me out and… I dunno, threw me through your window? I know it sounds like total bogus but there's really no way I would rob someone, anyone for that matter, without my tools that I keep in my jacket, which aren't there! I have a reputation to uphold, too, you know?”

Flug comes back around, your precious jacket slung over his arm. His other hand is rubbing his chin beneath the paper bag, causing little crinkling noises.

    “It does look like a hit to take you out… but I first have to examine this and have my bots analyze the perimeter before I can confirm your story. Until then…” he nods at the bear and you're suddenly lifted up by a pair of blue paws and flung over a soft furry shoulder. It feels really cozy and you allow your eyes to shut for a second.

But the comfortable ride only lasts a few steps before you're set down on the floor again, quickly taking in the new surroundings. A stone-walled prison cell without a window.

“…we have to keep you locked up. Sorry.” Flug shrugs nonchalantly and closes the door. You step up to the bars, watching him leave with the bear.

    “Ey, please don't destroy my jacket!?” you call after him but he already rounds a corner and is gone. You sigh, sinking down to the cold, dusty floor. Without your jacket, you're soon starting to get cold in only your t-shirt and a pair of black leggings. It's what you had been wearing after returning from your last heist.

You wrap your arms around your drawn up legs, resting your chin on your knees. This has, by far, been the worst day of your life. Well, okay, maybe not the worst, that title was still defended by the day the Gaster brothers both had a go at you after you had shot off your mouth even more than usually – and in front of the entire gang.

In fact, you get the feeling that Blackhat went easy on your ass. He basically just scared the crap out of you and slapped you around a bit. For a villain of his repute, that was child’s play!

Sighing, you run your hands over your face, hissing when you brush against the barely treated wound in your cheek. By now, your suspicion has almost confirmed itself and even if you don’t want to admit it, it’s pretty damn likely.

Sans betrayed you. Finally, you almost want to add, but the thought still hurts worse than all his beatings. After all, his merry band of monsters and lowlife humans had been the only family you’ve ever known! Hell, most of the lowest members of his gang you considered your friends, and true ones, too!

And Sans Gaster had been willing to put up with your constant solo-trips as long as he got his share. Even your insolence and insubordination had more often than not only amused than really annoyed him!

Your brows furrow when you think about it. More importantly, you were his best thief and con-artist, and that wasn’t even an exaggeration! When one of the Gaster brothers’ own big coups would fail, they could always still rely on a steady income you provided! And that ultimately financed Sans compulsive shopping for nefarious items sold by a certain, top-hat-wearing demon!

Gradually, you get more and more upset at the thought that Sans could have called you in to his office to talk to you, then knocked you out and driven you to god-knows-where-this-place-is and just flung you in through the window! Not that it wasn’t possible – it actually explained how you could have gotten in through that window in the third floor! You had experienced that special kind of gravity-magic more than once on your own body. More often a painful experience, it had also been quite useful in some heists when you had to enter through a roof with no access to it.

    “But why?!” you ask out loud into the silence and flinch from your own voice. Another shiver runs through your body and makes the door you’re leaning against clatter in its frame.

    “Bwwao?”

The light is suddenly blocked out from someone standing in front of the bars and you lay your head back to look up. 5.0.5’s gentle eyes look down on you with a curious and innocent expression.

    “Hey big guy.” You say quietly and smile. Another shiver shakes you and you quickly rub over your exposed arms, trying to get rid of the goosebumps. A small whine comes from the blue bear and then he suddenly leaves. Probably to mop up your vomit in the torture room. You try to curl even more in on yourself, desperate to keep your quickly dispersing body heat.

Unexpectedly the light gets blocked out again and you lift your head in start. 5.0.5 is stuffing something big through the bars and you quickly stand up to take a better look at it.

It’s a giant blanket.

    “Is that for me? Thank you…” you say, surprised, and help him by pulling on the end he’s already managed to get in. Once you got it, you instantly bundle up in the tattered, pink blanket and sigh happily. 5.0.5 growls merrily and you pet his furry paw through the bars. “Thanks, that’s really nice of you. I feel better already.”

He returns a string of growling noises that somehow come close to talking without any actual words and your smile widens. But then something goes bump in the mansion and 5.0.5 flinches, his small ears suddenly pressed flatly to his head. You quickly move away from the door.

    “Yeah, it’s probably best if you don’t get caught talking to me bud.” You whisper and he gives you a last, commiserative pout before hurrying off. You just hope he doesn’t get in trouble for this, as you already lie down in a clean corner, close to the door, tightly wrapped up in the soft expanse of a blanket clearly made for the bear.

As always, sleep comes easy for you. After two decades under the lash of two violently sporadic, and sporadically violent skeleton mobsters, you’ve learned how to sleep anywhere, under any circumstances while never sleeping deeply enough to not get woken by the smallest of unusual noises. Life insurance and all that jazz.

But you are jerked awake almost instantly from a nightmare, gasping for air and looking around wide-eyed. Nothing there. Exhausted, you sink back down, closing your eyes.

Ten minutes later you shoot back up with a choked sob in your throat. You just can’t get that nightmarish face out of your head! The green fangs, glistening with slobber, seem to take a snap at you every time you close your eyes and you keep thinking the shadows are moving around you, slowly closing in.

    “Fuck… I can’t sleep like this.” You mutter and try to get into a better position on the stone floor, eventually throwing all fucks to the wind and turning your back to the open room, keeping your head ducked into the dark corner. At least now you won’t have to see the thing that is going to kill you in your sleep. And finally, you drift off into something close to a restless slumber.

That’s when Blackhat materializes from the shadows; lean form standing tall in the empty room, he puts on his hat once the black tendrils retreat. His single eye narrows at your curled up frame beneath the pink blanket and he barely suppresses an annoyed growl. Of course that walking failure would succumb to your base charms!

The only thing visible is the back of your head, the crusted wound sticking out to his vision in delicious red. He moves closer, his dress shoes now completely silent on the hard stone floor, and reaches out with one hand, removing the glove with his other. His dark grey skin seems to absorb all the light coming in from the bars in the door as it transforms into long, deadly talons, aiming for your head. But then he just stands there, pauses, as something drips through the void into his mind. A thought, bright but covered in red. Red from fear and rage. Rage from another.

Curious, he tilts his head and closes his eye. The monocle starts to gleam without any light source and his back goes rigid as he allows his own mind to open up to the flood of your hyperactive human brain. It’s been a long time since he’s done this, and the desire to simply reach out and wreak havoc upon your fragile subconsciousness  is almost irresistible, but he reigns himself in and sticks to just listening. At least for now.

The prison cell disappears from his view, dissolves like ink in water as your mind forms a new image around him. A filthy, gloomy office, located in some sort of industrial building, judging from the crumbling red brick walls and the ancient wires taped to the stone. He scowls at the cacophony of odors invading his senses. Mustard - sharp and tangy -, cigars – expensive, Cuban, rich in flavor –, and sweat – human and sweet from fear, coming from the small female next to him. Blackhat turns his head to look down on you.

Your posture is the exact opposite of what your body is telling him: You’re scared. Scared for your life yet you stand tall, as tall as your inferior frame allows, head held high in defiance and pride, eyes narrowed in fury at the source of your mortal fear.

That source being a giant but stout skeleton monster, dressed in a black, golden and red three-piece, fedora on his skull. The wide grin is all sharp teeth, one golden canine flashing in the light of the overhead lamp. A fat cigar is clutched between two skeletal phalanges, red smoke billowing in unnatural patterns around him, enhanced by the monster’s magic.

Now Blackhat really remembers him. His fancy getup was only show to veil the disgusting, classless pig beneath, and he bares his own teeth at the dream figure.

    “You wanted to see me, boss?” you say, the wariness in your voice audible even through the reverberation of your mind's memory. The huge skeleton smirks even wider, putting the cigar between his teeth before exhaling a giant cloud of red smoke that curls around your body like venomous snakes.

    “yup. i needed to talk to ya. a lil’ birdie told me you been busy.” Sans Gaster rumbles, sounding like there’s a good pun in there somewhere. You freeze where you stand, hands balling into tight fists inside your jacket’s pockets. You think about your knives, Blackhat picks up, think about stabbing the pinprick lights from his eye-sockets until the fat monster turns to dust. But instead you shrug, kicking up a bit of dirt with your toed shoe.

    “ ’s what I do boss-man. Last heist went well, just so you know. Gang’s splitting up the share downstairs already.” You reply and he hears the tiny hope in your voice, the desperation to appease the mobster. You know all too well what’s coming. And now Blackhat knows, too. There have been many ‘talks’ that started like this and ended in a bloodbath. Would he beat you to the brink of death this time? He sure was giving off that vibe. “You know me. I’m always a-hustling.”

But not for much longer. Oh no. You would be the one that broke the cycle, the one that up and left to become their own boss. You would leave the city- hell, leave the bloody country if you had to! And you would make it. You had enough money saved up to go solo from here on. Your own money.

The black cavity of Sans' left eye suddenly fills with a dark, red gleam swirling around the tiny white light as he raises his brow-bones. “oh? do i really know you though, dollface?” he drawls, stretching the really until it sounds like a parody in itself.

The next second the eerie glow in his eye socket condenses into one red and golden flashing eyeball and you try to jump back, but his magic has already trapped your SOUL, pulling you forwards and slamming you face first into the wood of his table and keeping you pinned there without any strain even when you try to push yourself away with both hands and with your feet digging into the ground.

Blackhat’s own eye widens a bit. He’s gotta hand it to the fat mobster. He’s quick despite his enormous frame. Plus, he’s even quicker to punish his subordinates if he even catches a whiff of betrayal. He smirks. Maybe he underestimated the monster.

    “aww, sweet-cheeks. did ya really think ya coulda fooled me? me? sugar, i may be a bonehead but i taught you everthin’ ya know so don’t even think you can fool! me!” his voice has grown into a full roar by now and he slams his other hand down onto the table, pulling a pained cry from where your ear is still pressed into the wood. “i know ya been stashing your share of the heists! you think i don’t know what the fuck it is yer plannin’?!”

Finally, he releases you and you immediately push away from the table, stumbling backwards to get more distance to him. Your nose is bleeding and your eyes spit fire at him. The sight excites Blackhat and he follows the memory with more interest now, a wide grin on his face. Finally you show your true self, an aspiring villain, rising from the position of an insignificant runt to stab her boss in the back. Exhilarating.

    “Fuck you, Sans!” you hiss, now pulling a blade on him after all and wiping the blood off your face with the other. “I’m done with you bastards! I’m leaving this shithole! But first, I’m making sure you do, too!”

The full belly-laughter rings too loud in the crammed office. Sans wipes a red tear from the corner of his eye socket, chuckling hoarsely.

    “ah, shit dollface, ya always crack me up.” He snaps his fingers and suddenly the door opens. Two bunny monsters with nasty scars on their faces enter the office, one of them hiding a bat behind his back that Blackhat can see from his position to the side. So that’s how you got the wound on your head.

You wheel around, when the first of them already seizes your arms and the second slaps the knife from your hand. Blackhat scrunches the skin around his mouth. You got poor posture.

You struggle against the hold, but now Sans’ magic is also keeping you in place again. He’s got his elbows casually propped on the desk, hands folded under his round chin and his left eye blazing with magic. A few beads of sweat are running down his face from beneath the rim of his fedora.

    “ya really wound me, _________, doll. i gave ya a home, gave ya food… and taught ya all i know. an’ this is how you repay me? my most precious bird plannin’ to become my competition?” He shakes his head like a disappointed parent, taking another huge drag from the cigar, somehow still between his teeth, before he crushes the butt in his hand and shoots you another wide grin. Both his eye sockets are completely black now.

    “sorry doll but i can’t have ya ruinin' my goddamn business.”

The bat comes down on your head and the memory ends abruptly.

You shoot up immediately, staring with wide eyes at the wall. The images of your dream are already gone but you can feel eyes on the back of your head. When you whirl around to check, the cell is still empty.

Chapter Text

He takes a deep, satisfied breath and chuckles quietly.
“Now… that wasn’t so hard, was it?”
You frown at him and cross your arms defiantly in front of your chest, huffing out the breath you held.

 

3. Sleep Is For The Weak

 

 

    The loud clang of keys rattling in the lock of your prison’s door ultimately jerks you from your sleep and you quickly sit up. Your body is stiff from lying on the hard stone and you wince, rolling your aching shoulders against the pain and pulling the blanket up around you when the cold air already threatens to steal the warmth.

Fortunately it’s just Flug, poking his paper-bagged head in. He makes a surprised noise when he spots the blanket that you tighten around your shoulders, wary to keep it.

    “Huh, so that’s where that went…” he says more to himself before he opens the door completely and moves back while gesturing for you to follow him outside. “Come on, the boss said to get you.”

5.0.5 is waiting outside and waves at you, a friendly smile making his eyes twinkle. Your grumpy face immediately lights up and you hand him back his blanket.

    “Thanks bud, this really helped me.” You tell him and he seems more than happy to hear this. You grin at him and quickly follow Flug when he clears his throat impatiently, the blue bear trotting after you, probably still ordered to keep you from doing anything stupid.

Now that you can take a look around the manor, you notice that it’s either really old or just built to give off that feeling of walking through an ancient castle hallway. An ancient castle dungeon hallway that is, at least on the current floor.

But Flug eventually takes you up a narrow flight of stairs, winding around a stone column. You see that the concrete steps are actually slightly sagged and quickly abandon the thought that this mansion was built any earlier than a few centuries ago.

The next floor however looks a lot more modern and you almost stop in your tracks. The ground is of a sturdy artificial material, often used in factories or big labs and the doors you pass are all electrically locked and made of steel. Some of them have scorch marks around their edges, some others distinct traces of claws. All of them have black and yellow striped tape-rectangles in front of them. You shiver.

    “Sooo…” you try to fill the tensing silence. “Are you developing all your merchandise down here?”

Flug sighs. “Please, no talking. Other than you I didn’t get to sleep this night…” he grumbles and massages the back of his neck where you spot some angry, red marks that suspiciously look like fingers. 5.0.5 makes a miserable noise behind you and you quickly swallow everything else you had kept on the tip of your tongue. Like, whether Blackhat was going to kill you now after all. You just hope he would give you another chance to tell him about your suspicion of Sans’ involvement before he rips you into tiny pieces. After all, if the mobster had been trying to get rid of you by throwing you before the proverbial hounds, it would mean that he had gone behind his arms dealer’s back to do so. If you could just get that into Blackhat’s head, there might be a chance he would also retaliate against the boss monster. And somehow you really, really like that idea.

An elevator takes you up several levels until you’re pretty sure you’re back on the floor you’ve first woken up in. When the doors slide back you are at the end of a long hallway. To your left, a wide staircase leads back down into the heart of the mansion and up to yet another story. At the other end of the hallway you see a tall door made of black wood. You immediately swallow dryly. There’s no doubt that this door leads to Blackhat’s own office. Holy shit. Sans could definitely learn a thing or two about intimidation from him.

Flug however shuffles down the soft carpet, dragging his feet, so clearly exhausted that you feel a bit bad for him. You can’t even imagine what it must be like to live and work with someone that horrible on a daily basis. Not that your life up to now had been all rainbows and sunshine, but it pales in comparison to what he must have gone through. Flug either got mad nerves of steel or he’s simply gone beyond the boundaries of a healthy human mind. Or he just doesn’t care anymore.

The closer you get to the black, iron-framed door, the taller it seems to tower over you and the more cold sweat you produce, only feeding the goosebumps racing over your entire body. Flug sighs heavily once you’ve arrived and waves you to step closer.

     “Lord Blackhat is waiting. Please behave? I don’t want to clean up any blood or corpses today. And… good luck.” Before you can return anything, he’s already knocked on the door and sprints back down the hallway. You watch him leave, envying him.

     “Come in.”

Blackhat’s voice sounds full and threatening despite the casual invitation and you almost trip over your own damn feet trying to get the heavy door to open fast enough. Once inside, you let it fall shut behind you and lean against the cold wood, taking a swift look around.

The room is more massive than the study from last night, over five meters high and completely kept in the dark except for a giant, elliptic window at the opposite side from the door, with red glass and long, crimson curtains, filtering the incoming light in a way that gives the entire office a hellish tint. The rest of the wall is completely empty, safe for a few bookshelves in the far left corner, completely covered in clutter and knickknacks as far as you can tell.

However, the walls to both sides are decorated with paintings, display cases and weapons. You spot a spiked warhammer the size of a grown man, a katana, daggers and even an entire totem pole, although upon further inspection the heads on the pole look like they belonged to mythical creatures and monsters. Real ones.

Your gaze returns to the center and you flinch when you see the single, bone-white eye of Blackhat piercing you from across the room. He’s sitting right in front of the window, behind a huge desk carved from ebony, black top hat sitting perfectly on his skull, framing his eye so that the dark circles beneath are even more prominent in the shadows, however his monocle is gleaming eerily through the darkness as though illuminated by a red headlight. Every inch of him looks impatient enough to tear you apart shouldn’t you get your ass moving right now, so you hastily walk up to the desk, holding your breath and trying to stop your heart from exploding.

Yet the closer you get the more your entire body tries to turn and flee, physically baulking at the idea of walking towards the danger.

And then you’re standing in front of him, stiff as a board and already close to vomiting again, despite not having eaten anything in a day. Blackhat keeps his glare on you and his impatience only seems to grow the longer you’re just standing there.

    “Um… Good morning, Mi- Lord Blackhat, sir!” you immediately catch yourself, fortunately, and he almost looks disappointed but thankfully loses some of his angry tension, going so far as to return your greeting with the tiniest inclination of his head.

    “________.” He returns with a sophisticated wave of his hand and your heart stops for one, two solid beats.

    “H- how do you know my- my name?!” you ask in barely more than a choked whisper and watch in horror how that nasty grin takes up half of his dark face again.

    “Let’s just say I… have my ways of knowing things.” He replies ominously, wiping up invisible dust from his desk with a gloved fingertip. Then his gaze snaps back to your face and darkens. “Sit.”

You obey at once, legs folding together as if he had pressed a hidden button on you. A chair materializes right behind you, where before had not been a single one in the room, except for Blackhat's own high backed chair. If he had wanted a good laugh to start his day off right, he could have simply made you fall on your ass, no problem.

He seems to realize that as well, the way his grin gains a bit more mirth.

Trying to get at least a fraction of your dignity back, you pull yourself together, putting on a smile, and sardonically say: “I hope you slept as well as I did.”

    “I don’t sleep.” Blackhat deadpans, his eye narrowing a bit more again. You squirm in your seat, your smile faltering.

Oh my god, you stupid idiot why the hell did you even ask?? Of course he doesn’t sleep - he probably doesn’t eat, breathe and exist on the physical plane, either!

    “Oh, errr… that’s… useful?” you stutter, completely falling silent when his grin drops entirely now and his expression turns into a bored, irritated scowl again. You gulp.   

    “Enough with the pleasantries…” Blackhat growls and moves his right hand in a quick circle, producing a blank, old sheet of parchment from nothingness. “I’ve come to the conclusion that you might be more useful to me alive than just dead. To pay off your debt that is.” He announces, opening a drawer of his desk and pulling his hand back with a harsh yank, causing something in the drawer to hiss and snarl loudly at him until he slams it shut with a violent shove. His hand comes up with a long, black and green feather and you stare in horror at the desk. If you had really been on a heist in this mansion, you probably wouldn’t have survived an hour, even with its freakish residents gone.

Blackhat touches the parchment with the freshly plucked quill and black letters start appearing on the yellowed page on their own, quickly filling it from one end to the other with tiny script that you definitely won’t be able to read, not even with a magnifying glass. Hell, not even with a damn microscope! Yet you can’t help but feel that this is looking suspiciously like a contract of sorts.   

    “Ooookayyy…?” you breathe out, casting a doubtful glance up to Blackhat’s face. He looks dead serious about this. Fuck.

    “From now on you will work for me, until your debt is paid off.” Blackhat explains, twirling the quill around and sliding both items over the polished wood towards you.

    “And… when will I be done working for you?” you ask hesitatingly and flinch when his hands promptly transform into huge claws, ripping the fabric of his gloves apart and scratching up the expensive wood, and he leans over the desk, nightmarish face on full throttle.

    “Well, when did you want to die?!” he roars back, foaming at the mouth and a serpent tongue flicking forward while black tendrils shoot out from beneath his blood red dress shirt, one of them wielding a screeching saw blade.

You scream and attempt to jump over the backrest of your chair but the black tentacles shoot at you, quickly wrapping themselves around your torso and the chair, tipping it forward until Blackhat grabs the backrest to spare you from getting slammed face-first into the mangled wood.

His face is barely inches from yours now, green slaver spraying from his teeth - and the extra teeth surrounding his right eye - as he yells at you: “I thought your life meant so much to you and yet here you are, testing my patience, you worthless ingrate! I will get your soul either way, but now it is up to you to choose when!”

You’re too shocked to cry now, too frightened to do anything but nod and whisper: “O- okay. I’ll do it, I’ll sign, it’s okay just- just please don’t eat me.”

That puts another grin on Blackhat’s demonic face and he lets your chair back down almost gently, returning to his more human form in the blink of an eye. Adjusting his black tie, he grins widely and pushes the contract a little bit closer to you, suddenly perfectly composed again.

    “Just down here, if you would.” He purrs, pointing to a tiny blank space between all the gibberish.

You pick up the quill with shaking fingers, suddenly noticing that there is a perfectly fine quill right there, sitting in an ink pot next to a red skull, and scribble your initials onto the paper. When you’ve drawn the last shaky line and lift the quill off the parchment, the contract starts to float into the air and disappears with a low sucking noise. The horrid quill crumbles into ashes between your fingers and you quickly wipe them on your leggings, your eyes shooting up to Blackhat’s face once more.

He takes a deep, satisfied breath and chuckles quietly.

    “Now… that wasn’t so hard, was it?”

You frown at him and cross your arms defiantly in front of your chest, huffing out the anxious breath you've held yourself.

    “So. What kind of work will I be doing for you, Lord Blackhat?” you gripe, angry at yourself, angry at Sans, angry at the whole universe that you’ve ended up in this mess of a situation.

Blackhat just grins even more widely at you, steepling his fingers in front of him.

    “Ohohoho… you’ll see.”   

Chapter Text

Blackhat ignores you and stands up from his chair, slowly removing his gloves, stripping his coat and folding it neatly over the armrest. Then he turns to you, rolling up the blood red sleeves of his dress shirt.

 

4. You Don't Own Me

 

Great.

You roll your eyes in spite of yourself, earning another irritated grunt from Blackhat.

Now that you know he’s just out to get your mortal soul, and not in a way a monster would want in order to gain unfathomable powers, but simply to devour it like a choice morsel, it makes you incredibly angry. And you don’t really care anymore when you’re angry.

    “So, does that mean you also decided to believe me that I had absolutely nothing to do with how I ended up in your study?” you ask, slouching down a good bit in your chair to at least get a little more comfortable. Blackhat watches you with an unreadable expression that is not exactly murderous. He looks more like a giant lion, watching an especially brazen mongoose. Like a wolf would regard a hissing stoat. Slightly bemused, but still absolutely going to gulp it down in one bite once he grows bored of the peculiar display.

    “I believe you made a lot of mistakes that led to this point.” He retorts, single eye scrutinizing you before narrowing once more, his mouth twisting in something you might have called peeved. “Plus, you have a really poor stance.”

    “What are you-“ you bristle, but he doesn’t let you finish. Blackhat rises from his tall red chair and briskly walks around the desk, snapping his fingers at you once, twice, until you get the hint and quickly scramble along behind him. Your chair vanishes in a puff of smoke.

You follow him out into the hallway and back to the elevator. For a second you recoil from the idea of being trapped inside the narrow space with him, but the snarl that already rises in his throat has you all but jumping through the open doors, immediately pressing your side into the corner opposite from Blackhat. And of course the way down suddenly seems to be taking ages.

You close your eyes in a futile attempt to calm your nerves, pretty sure that he can hear your heart galloping away in your chest and that he can smell the fear on you like an obnoxious stench.

You don't know that you're right - in a way. Only that, to him, your panicked heartbeat sounds like the Flight of the Bumblebee played on the most magnificent strings and your fear smells like an exquisite perfume. He has to keep every fiber in his forsaken being from mauling you right then and there and just drink up your soul like it's the last drop he will ever get.

No, he is still a gentleman and businessman first and foremost, and a gentleman plays by the rules. And the rules demand he waits. Yet… rules can be bent in business. Especially in his business.

The quiet ding sounds like a dinner bell and you snap your eyes open just in time to watch Blackhat step out of the elevator, completely ignorant to your distress. The gloved hand on his back is curled up in a relaxed manner. Huh.

You realize you're not back in the lab, but another hallway similar to the one upstairs. Yet this one has giant red windows covering one entire side, separated by  Greek columns of dark stone and crimson curtains. A few other manors you robbed before had a similar floor. A gallery, devoted to art and riches for display.

Sure enough, the other wall of the curving hallway is plastered with paintings, portraits, ancient looking photographs, schematics and even slabs of engraved stone, covered in strange runes and alien letters. Now you take note of the actual wallpaper, too, that had also been used in Blackhat's office and the corridor leading towards it. It's of a soft grey, curiously enough complementing the complexion of your new boss, but without the pattern the walls in his office had.

Suddenly a particularly old, washed out photograph catches your eye and you stop in front of it, eyes widening at the scene. It's a black and white photography, picturing some ancient train tracks in the middle of the desert – wild west style, so it had to have been taken around 1800-something. A woman is tied to the tracks, the train already less than 20 feet away from her, and next to the tracks…

Your laughter bubbles up unbidden; high and clear it tumbles from your lips, and you still somehow have enough brain cells left to clasp a hand over your mouth and suffocate the worst of it: the shrill squeal that's trying to burst forth and seal your miserable fate for good.

But you can't help it! Blackhat looks too fucking hilarious in his old ass Dracula cape, top hat and galoshes, twirling a long, pencil-thin mustache with two pointy fingers like you always pictured bad guys in the 19th century would have done. And apparently they did!

Before you can even remotely recover, a looming shadow falls over you like the silhouette of death herself. You shake your head, fanning yourself, choking down the last fits of giggles with a helpless sob.

    “I'm so- so sorry Lord Bl- Blahahahahaaa!!” It's hopeless. You're hopeless! You won't last a week like this. What am I saying, you'll probably be dead by the end of the day!

It takes a while for your laughter to die down completely, and when it does, dread settles back in almost instantly, crushing your remaining good spirit. Slowly, very slowly, you turn your head until you can look up and over your shoulder, and feel the blood draining from beneath your skin.

Blackhat's visible eye has countless veins standing out in red around his lance-shaped pupil, ready to pop. His mouth is twisted into a proper snarl, fangs glistening with green saliva again. If he had a nose, his nostrils probably would have been flared widely.

Shit. Oh shit! Now you’re trying to imagine Blackhat with a nose! A long and pointy nose! Oh God!! This is too much!

Before he can even say anything, you promptly bow down, taking a quick step away from him so you won't smack your forehead into his waistcoat, hiding your curling lips.

    “Forgive me, Lord Blackhat, that was beneath me.” You whisper, seemingly in fear but you simply cannot speak any louder without giving away your second fit of giggles.

However, you hiss in pain when he buries a hand in your hair and yanks you back up to slam your face into the wall between the paintings. Hot blood spurts from your broken lip as your teeth smash against it.

    “Your former employer really did a poor job training you… or could it be that you enjoy pain so much you can't get enough?” Blackhat growls into your ear, pulling your head back up. You keep your eyes tightly closed, trying to shake your head in his vice-like clutch. Blackhat laughs at your squirming and shakes you like a poor cat he's got by the scruff of its neck.

    “Mwahahahahar! What's that little thief? I don't think I quite caught that…” he jerks you back to bash your face against the wallpaper a second time, with more force, but you somehow manage to raise your arms in time and catch the momentum with your hands. It still hurts like hell inside your wrists but you don't let it show.

    “He tried.” You hiss. To your surprise, the inhumane businessman pauses. “Oooh boy, did he try to train me. But here I am. Still the cocky, insubordinate brat, defying those who kick me into the dust. It’s like I learned nothing.” You fight the hold he still has on your hair to stare into his eye. “Trust me. I'd rather let you break my body before I'll even think about bending to your whim!”

Blackhat's scowl turns into a wide, excited grin.

    “Is that a challenge, perhaps?”

You shrug and spit a mouthful of blood on the floor.

    “Take it as whatever. I've played these games for 20 years. I'm not as fragile as you may think.”

Oh, but you have no idea what you just sparked with your bold statement, what flame you rekindled within this ancient being. He regards you with more interest now, really taking you in for the first time, and already playing out all the kinds of torture and horrors he could wreak on your delicate human frame in his mind. A low, rumbling chuckle escapes his fangs.

    “Well, well… keep surprising me like that, my little thief, and I maybe won't grow tired of you as quickly as I have of my former subjects. You'll make a fine villain one day.”

You make a confused noise but he suddenly releases you, turning away to continue down the hallway. “But enough of this. You've already wasted more of my time than you're worth! Your debt keeps growing with every minute you keep me from work.”

Carefully dabbing at your bleeding lip with a cleaner edge of your shirt, you can't help but snort derisively.

    “What, are you some kind of fancy hooker now, too?”

Blackhat ignores the jab as if he didn’t hear you, yet, concealed from your gaze, his grin widens more. Oh, he will let you shoot your mouth off. He will let you make all the jokes and snarky remarks you want as long as he knows you'll be getting your check. And you'll get it soon enough. He almost shivers at the prospect. He can't wait to hear your sweet screams of fear and pain ring through his manor.

A door suddenly swings open in front of you and Blackhat waves you inside with a lenient smile. You don’t like that smile at all. Yet you enter the room and hum when you take a look around.

You're inside a lounge, you think. The wallpaper’s the same as in the hallway, except this one is of a burgundy red and with the strange pattern again, a repeating insignia, almost like a family or company coat of arms. You're not surprised to see it's a black top hat with elegant squiggles and ornaments around it. The design is actually really pretty.

More columns line the expanse of the oval room, as well as a few more paintings, all of Blackhat himself. There's a huge fireplace set in the wall opposite the door, green flames roaring inside, a huge and comfy looking armchair to the side of it. You cross out the comfy part, though, when you discover that the armchair has four clawed crab-legs that actually move. The maroon carpet has golden top hats woven into it and you snort again. The thing with the hats is starting to get a little ridiculous.

The space over the mantle is stuffed with various items, some of them you're itching to take a closer look at, but Blackhat quickly takes up your entire attention again when he walks up to the armchair and sinks down on the plush cushion. Now you realize that there's no second chair around again, and apparently he’s not going to conjure one up for you either. The only thing you spot is a giant, tattered dog bed. Probably for 5.0.5.

    “Sit.” Blackhat says and you shrug.

    “I'd rather stand this time if you don't mind.” Is your sassy reply. He does. You can see it in the way his mouth immediately drops into a scowl. He's surprisingly open with his facial expressions, you note. You would have expected him to be a bit more secretive and poker faced. Mysterious. Now you're starting to think that he simply has no interest in little mind-games to trick you into a false sense of security. That makes him somewhat less of a bastard than Sans.

    “You know they say that pride cometh before the fall.” There's a clear warning in his voice but you've had quite enough of being tossed around by him.

    “Yeah well, there's a difference between choking on your pride and just refusing to be treated like a bitch!” you snap back at him and watch with rising anger how his grin returns, sardonic this time.

    “Are you implying that you weren't one?”

Before you can stop yourself, you've crossed the few feet between you and him and slammed your hands into the armrests of his chair, leaning down closely to his ashen face.

    “Listen here, Lord Blackhat! If you must know, I have never participated in something as vile as letting myself be forced to sell my body to the scum of this earth!” you hiss at him, infuriated when your blatant disrespect doesn't even seem to bother him. Instead, he scrunches the skin above his mouth again.

    “I don’t want to know. In fact, I don’t care who or what you did before you came here. Now you work for me and that privilege comes with certain prerequisites…” he lifts his left hand, glowing red, his grin turning evil again and you jump back in apprehension but too late: the invisible hand closes around your throat and you gasp, trying to get as much air into your lungs as possible before he can truly strangle you.

    “Mwuahahahahar! Did you honestly just try to dodge?” he’s positively shaking with laughter. “Oh, you'll never learn…”

What the hell? You think, perplexed. He couldn't possibly know about Sans' somewhat similar powers, right? He couldn't even remember him at first!

Surprisingly enough, the choking force from the night before doesn't come. It's more like he's merely holding you in place; your feet aren't even off the floor.

    “W-what… are you, ngh… doing?” you croak out, trying fruitlessly to fight his magic. Blackhat ignores your struggle and rises from his chair, slowly removing his gloves, stripping his coat and folding it neatly over the armrest. Then he turns to you, rolling up the sleeves of his dress shirt. Your eyes widen in sudden terror. The dark skin of his arms seems to surge and move constantly, making you sick from looking for too long. For a horrible second you think he'll take off his hat too, but it stays on as he steps over to the fireplace.

Now you realize that the fireguards at the top and bottom of the hearth are made from dark spikes of steel, making it suddenly look an awful lot like a burning mouth full of sharp teeth. Something is sticking out of the flames, a metal rod not unlike a poker. Blackhat grabs it, apparently not feeling any heat, and pulls out a branding iron. The tip is glaringly white from the fire but you can still make out the top hat silhouette in the middle.

Now you fight his invisible grip in earnest, kicking at him until he also seizes your legs with his powers. He approaches you slowly, cruel eye fixed on your face that is being reflected in his monocle, drinking in your growing panic. You can smell the red-hot iron and try to get further away from it. It's no use.

    “Please!” you finally choke out, your stomach doing flips. “No! No, no, no please don't, Lord Blackhat! Please, I-"

He shuts you up by pressing a glowing finger to his lips and shushing softly, before stalking around you, his free hand dancing over your left shoulder and then the small of your back, as if he was pondering where his brand might be best to place. You contort under his vile touch, breathing out another hoarse plea.

    “My, my, you're begging already?” He clucks his tongue in disappointment. “You're all bark and no bite, tiny thief. Now hold still or I'll have to mark you again if this first one turns out skewed.”

You sob out loudly when you feel his cold, leathery hand pushing the hem of your shirt up, up, all the way, until you shiver in the air that's somehow freezing cold despite the fire. In the last second, you jerk your arms down and backwards, hitting something, judging by his infuriated sound, but in the next heartbeat slick, black tendrils wrap tightly around your arms and pull them back in place.

Blackhat closes in on you once more, sliding his free arm around your neck. He’s so close now that your back would touch his stomach if you could move at all, yet it is exactly that proximity that causes you to keep stock-still, like a hare between the fangs of a wolf, expecting the lethal bite.

    “You should consider yourself lucky… you're one of three people that get to be part of my organization for free.” He rounds into your ear, pressing the hot iron into your back without as much as a warning and you scream, scream until you think you're going to die from the lack of oxygen but this is a pain unknown to you and it demands you scream more!

Even Blackhat's raucous laughter gets drowned out by your agonized cries. Yet you can still hear it even after you're already passed out.

-

You go limp in his power's clutches, the dead weight of your body an exhilarating invitation, and it would be oh so easy for him to do all kinds of gruesome things to you and watch your reaction upon waking, but he resists. All good things come to those who can wait, the familiar text of his favorite musical echoes in his mind and he immediately hums along to the tune, letting you drop to the ground without a care.

Blackhat moves towards the side-table next to his armchair, and the phonebot that sits there comes to life instantly, scuttling around in one spot on its little crab-legs. Yet it cowers down when its master picks up the receiver and dials the internal number of the room Flug is currently in with his mind.

It rings once, twice and he's already in a much worse mood when the call eventually gets picked up with a lot of fumbling and cursing and paper crinkling and then the doctor's breathless voice: “L-Lord Blackhat, sir, I- what can I do for you?!”

He smirks.

    “Sleeping on the job, doctor?” he chuckles and laughs fully when he can feel Flug's fear seeping through over the aether.

    “N-No! Of course not my liege! I- I'd never dream of it.” He sputters in a panic.

    “Shut up, idiot.” Blackhat growls. “Come up to the lounge. And bring a kit. Our newest asset requires your medical expertise.”

    “R- right away, sir.”

He hangs up and turns, regarding your unconscious form. Long hair spilling from the inconspicuous bun you've been hiding it in, face still twisted in pain. Something had piqued his curiosity before and he kneels next to you, lifting up your black shirt once more. It's grown soft from years of wear, but he's more intrigued by the countless marks on your skin that it conceals.

Cuts, gnarled scars, indentations left from bruises hard enough to destroy your connective tissue, cigar burns, leaving bumps that will never heal. You sure as hell weren't exaggerating when you said you had been through worse. His crisp branding under your right shoulder blade makes for a fitting addition, he thinks and circles the angry, red skin around your burnt flesh with a finger, taking a deep breath to let the aroma caress his tongue.

But before he can indulge any further, a knock on the door disturbs his private moment and he grunts, annoyed.

When Flug cautiously opens the door, Blackhat is his usual, horrible self, one hand on his back, the other gesturing dismissively to the passed out thief. The scientist smells the stench of burnt flesh immediately and, sure enough, there’s the familiar sight of the branding iron he’s gotten to experience on his own body all those years ago.

Poor thing…, he thinks and clears his throat, shuffling inside and quickly closing the door behind him. No need to get Dementia excited over nothing. Or his precious boy overly upset. 5.0.5 seems to have taken a liking to the young woman, but Flug is afraid that she will have to wait and recuperate a bit first before she can try the bear’s fresh batch of honey pancakes.

Trying to keep his own mouth from watering at the thought of delicious pancakes, Dr. Flug kneels down next to the unconscious woman and pulls a sterile pair of medical gloves over the yellow rubber ones he’s already wearing. Yet despite his layers of protection, he can still feel the burning glare from him, skinning away shell after shell until Flug is bared in all regards before his unearthly gaze. Yet, it’s not nearly as bad as without his gear.

Flug shakes his head briefly, focusing back on the task at hand. He doesn’t appreciate being torn away from his overdue projects, least of all for something as trivial as this, but it was Blackhat who ordered him and he still wants to keep on living a little while longer.

Chapter Text

    “Um… are those really necessary, doc?” you ask, giving the restraints a yank. The screen comes to life behind him in glaring white, leaving his silhouette starkly contrasted while his goggles gleam in the light again, and now you shiver from unease.

 

 5. Charmed, I'm Sure

 

 

You fight their hold, furry hands mercilessly seizing your arms. Your knife! You've lost your knife.

    “sorry doll. but i can't have ya ruinin' my goddamn business.”

Gleam from a single golden canine tooth, you've been found out. How? How did he find out?! The only one who could have known…

The bat comes down on the back of your head and you jerk, suddenly awake. The last thought slips from your mind like a shadow on the wall, but the rest stays and now you know more than the first time you woke from your memory, lying face down in Blackhat's study.

Sans had found out that you were preparing to leave the gang! And of course he would kill you for betraying him like that. The question is: why didn't he just off you himself? Why risk Blackhat's wrath when he could have disposed of you much easier and without the chance, though may it be an unlikely one, of you surviving your encounter with the demonic businessman?

You figure there's still more to your dilemma than you had thought at first and that getting to the bottom of it all won't be easy.

But that's when the rest of your body comes to as well, and with it a blazing pain in your back! Clenching your teeth and burying your face in the crook of your arm, you try to recall what happened, hissing out loudly when you eventually remember. Right, the branding iron. The pain is still growing worse and after a few minutes of attempting to ignore it, you groan in agony, trying your hardest not to move around on your stomach, but you also need to breathe, thus every rise of your ribs is like a poke into the fresh wound.

Until someone actually pokes the burnt spot right under the hem of your sports bra and you shoot up, screaming out at the pain.

    “What the fuck is wrong with you people?!” you cry hoarsely, crawling away on your hands and knees from whoever is next to you, tears in your eyes.

    “Oops.” A girlish voice chirps, dripping with sarcasm and venom. “I thought you were already dead. My bad.”

With shaking limbs you struggle to turn around on the examination table until you can sit up and stare at Dementia, your back a single ocean of fire by now.

    “Fuck you!” you hiss through the tears with one of your better death-glares, merely earning another insane cackle from her. Well, you guess she’s got the name for a reason.

You eye her, involuntarily letting your gaze linger as you become aware of the chaos presenting itself to you.

Dementia is tall, maybe a little smaller than Flug but definitely taller than you. The most distinctive feature is, without a doubt, her bright green mass of matted hair that's being kept somewhat contained by a green hood with horned lizard eyes attached to it, while the rest of her enormous, unkempt mane reaches all the way down to the ground, so long she can probably wrap herself up in it. More than once.

Yet her bangs are dyed a shockingly bright red, falling wildly into her face that's surprisingly pretty, even with the black painted eyes – one of her irises standing out unusually wide in vibrant yellow. Her clothes are entirely punk-rock, dark top and black skirt, black leather gloves and red and black striped sleeves and pants, her right pant leg torn off above her knee...

    “Hey, what are you staring at?!” Dementia snaps in sudden irritation, making you quickly look back up. She's baring her teeth at you and you notice the long, sharp fangs poking over her bottom lip. You also notice that her left ear isn't heavily pierced like her right one, simply because there's a bite-sized and -shaped piece of it missing. You immediately wonder who had managed to accomplish that.

    “I'm staring at you.” You reply, unfazed by her anger. “I didn’t get a good look at you before. You know, when you body-slammed me last night?”

Dementia snorts at the memory, crossing her arms in front of her chest.

    “You didn't even hear me sneaking up on you!” she mocks you and you can't help but bristle at that blow to your pride. You really are more than infuriated that she had managed to catch you off-guard! As a thief, you had worked hard, developing your senses to be above the human norm; some of the gang members had even called you Ghost at one point because you kept scaring them with your sudden appearances and a few of them were convinced that you had superpowers. You always moved silently and were used to picking up the faintest of noises around you as well. So, being snuck up on by someone as undisciplined and crude as her, not to mention loud in every regard… it made you question your own abilities.

    “Mhmm, yeah since it's such a big deal, jumping someone who's suffering from a concussion!” You gripe, grinning when her eyelid starts to twitch at your jab.

    “Says the giant crybaby, who faints from a widdle bit of pain!” she mocks right back and now you sit upright, clenching your fists.

    “The fuck did you just say?!”

Dementia pulls a spiked mace from somewhere inside the chaos of her hair and cowers, ready to throw down.

    “Cry. Baby.” She hisses, manic excitement in her yellow eyes.

Before you can jump off the table, and, in hindsight, probably get really messed up by that punkass bitch, strong but unbelievably soft paws wrap around your middle, pulling you away from the cackling girl.

    “Ey!” you protest, trying to pull the bear-arms apart. “Let go off me! I’ll rearrange her face!”

5.0.5 whines in distress, pulling you completely off the ground and closer to his furry body, keeping you there until you stop kicking and struggling and simply slump in his paws, but keep glaring daggers at Dementia, who sticks out her tongue at you, leaning on the pommel of her mace.

If I still had my knives, she wouldn't be gloating for long… you think. Although, maybe you're wrong about that, too. Blackhat apparently keeps her around for a reason. Taking a wild guess, she has to be the brawn while Flug's the brain, obviously.

Said brain enters the lab just then, immediately stomping on the ground with a squeaking converse and rubber-gloved fists clenched at his sides.

    “What the- dammit Dementia, I told you a thousand times to stay out of the lab! Now get out, before I call the Hatbots!” he sounds more annoyed and exasperated than really angry and you figure it must be a frequent problem with her. “I also told you to leave ________ alone! She still has a debt to Lord Blackhat and needs to recuperate before she can get to work, you maniac!”

Dementia pouts, pointing an accusing finger at you.

    “It's not fair! Why does she deserve to get branded by my honey-bun?! It should be me wearing his mark!” she's close to screaming now and you can only stare at her in shocked silence.

Her… honey-bun??! There's only so much mental strength you can exert, being in such pain, to not just throw up. So you hadn't been imagining her dreamy giggling the night before.

    “You uh… you're in love with the big boss?” you ask tentatively and her eyes snap back to you, narrowing in jealousy.

    “And he is in love with me you whiny baby-thief! You don’t deserve his mark, he's mine!” she yells at you and you raise your hands defensively from where they're still pinned to your sides by 5.0.5’s restraining-hug.

    “Hey, shit, it's fine I get it! I actually think you're perfect for each other, I'm not about to steal your man, no fucking way!” You assure her quickly. You don’t need a jealous brat on top of all the shit on your plate now, too.

Dementia's face lights up at your words, while Flug flinches behind her, frantically shaking his hands in a stopping motion. Oopsie.

    “Right?? He's my big bad handsome man…” Dementia exclaims, clasping her hands together with a love-smitten sigh. You really, really want to vomit, but manage an encouraging nod instead.

    “That's enough, Dementia, shoo!” Flug interrupts the two of you, his brows furrowed behind the tinted glass of his goggles, and pulls a remote from his lab coat’s pocket, waving it warningly at Dementia.

   “Yeah, yeah whatever nerd. I'll go look for my hubby and leave you two nerds to your nerd-stuff, neeerd!” she taunts, skipping out of the lab. But then she pokes her head in through the door again, shooting you a toothy grin. “Oh, you can call me Dem, by the way, puny thief. See ya!” And with that the door mercifully slides shut, muffling her insane laughter.

5.0.5 finally lets you slip out of his arms and onto the floor and you turn around to him, giving him a half-hearted glare.

    “Don't you dare to hold me back next time, bud… someone should teach that brat some manners.” You grouse, quickly petting his furry arm with a soothing coo when his expression turns sad. “Oh! N- no, it's okay, I know you were just worried, please don't be upset!”

Flug lets out a tired groan and walks over to you, pocketing the remote again.

    “Did you have to encourage her? Let's just hope our master doesn't find out it was you… plus, I'm pretty sure 5.0.5 saved your life just now. If you couldn’t even get out of his grasp you're definitely no match for her. She's… she can get pretty dangerous when she's angry.” He admits, turning you around to inspect the branding on your back.

Now you actually realize your shirt is missing, but thankfully Flug left you your sports bra, so you're not completely naked from the waist up. He lifts the loose bandage he's wrapped around your torso while you were unconscious and you shiver when the cold air of the laboratory wafts over your maltreated flesh, hissing out a breath.

    “Wait… Blackhat told me I'm one of three people who've gotten this branding. If Dementia isn't one of them…” you let your sentence peter out, hoping the doctor might fill you in. But no dice, he just applies a salve over the mark and tucks the bandage back into place, making you wince.

    “This special healing salve I developed myself will allow you to heal much quicker than normally. In the meantime you're going to educate yourself on our organization. It's important that you know our policies and credo before you do any important work for Lord Blackhat. We can't have you ruining our good reputation.” He explains, raising a finger like a teacher while he waves you to follow him deeper into the lab.

You roll your eyes behind his back.

    “Wouldn't dream about it, doc.” You mutter, wrapping your arms around your body. “Hey, can I have my shirt and jacket back now at least?”

Flug stops and gives you a confused look, before apparently noticing your bared upper body.

    “Oh. Err, yes, of course. Well, I already put your shirt into the laundry but I got your jacket right here. Hold on…” he walks over to a giant workstation and opens a drawer. “You weren't lying,  it's completely empty.”

You exhale in relief when you see that your black leather jacket is still in one piece and snatch it from his hands, quickly slipping into it. The soft, familiar smell of leather and your own scent caresses your nose like a happy greeting and you immediately feel more like yourself again, scanning your surroundings more alertly while gathering your hair back into a tight bun.

The lab is completely built from steel, titanium and chrome, filled to the brim with all kinds of workstations, lasers, giant machinery and desks. More or less motivational cat-posters, schematics and blueprints cover the walls; you notice a lot of screens and even a few shelves full of indoor-greenhouses and huge tanks that house strange flowers with eyes. And while it's somewhat organized, you instantly notice tons of stuff just lying about.

You whistle through your teeth, honestly impressed.

   “Wow… and you work here alone?” you ask in disbelief. You can hardly imagine that only one person uses this space. And while Dementia is obviously not allowed in here, as countless warning signs confirm, you highly doubt that 5.0.5 might be of any real help. You know, being a bear and what not.

Flug clucks his tongue in reproach.

   “Yes, yes, and I still have a ton of work to do today so come on.” He chides you and you walk along behind him, waving at 5.0.5 when he leaves through the same door Dementia did before.

“But I must say, your jacket is a very well-crafted piece, even if it's obviously DIY. I'm sure I could make you an even better one.” He drones on, gesturing around with his hands.

    “Oh, you know, I'm completely fine with this one, doc. Sentimental value and all that. I have this jacket longer than I can even remember. And as old as it may be…” you silently move to the side, closer to one of the tables and swipe a few useful items he won't even miss, stashing them inside some of the hidden spaces in your sleeves and the inner lining of your modified pockets. “… it's never failed me in my work.  Until last night that is.” You actually chuckle at the irony.

    “Well, let's hope that the orientation videos will teach you how to not get yourself into such a pickle ever again.” Flug comments, confirming your suspicion.

Sure enough, he leads you through a few other sliding doors until you enter a dark room with a lot of screens hanging side by side on the wall and an uncomfortable looking chair in front each of them. You take note of the big metal cuffs on the armrests and quickly shift one of the items from your pocket into your sleeve without a sound, securing it with the ball of your hand.

Flug turns around to you and makes an inviting gesture towards the row of chairs.

    “Go ahead, you can pick a seat today.” He snickers as if it's the funniest joke ever and you force a laugh yourself, sinking on one of the wooden seats, grimacing at the hard chair.

    “Can I get some snacks while I watch? I’m starving.” You complain but Flug shakes his head, already taking your arm to fetter your wrist to the armrest.

    “I'm sorry, but that would be a bad idea. The salve requires you to be fasted in order to work without any side effects. And to be honest, some of the footage might not exactly be appetizing and I don't want 5.0.5 to have to clean up any more of your vomit.” He explains, educing a disappointed sigh from you as you flex your hands against the restraints. They're pretty tight but the locking mechanism is ridiculously simple.

    “Um… are those really necessary, doc?” you ask, giving them an experimental yank. Flug turns around as the screen comes to life behind him in glaring white, leaving his silhouette starkly contrasted while his goggles gleam in the light again, and now you shiver from unease. Holy shit, he can be creepy if he wants to.

    “Well, we need you to watch everything. Or… hear it at least.” He snickers again, patting your shoulder. “Now sit back, relax and let your grey matter absorb all the essential knowledge only members of our organization get the privilege to experience. I’ll come and get you when I'm finished with my latest project.”

With that he leaves and the heavy door falls shut. You grin when the final click doesn't come, which means that the piece of tape you  placed over the lock when you came in has done its job. Now all you need to do is get out of this chair and not get caught by Blackhat. You're pretty sure you can get past Flug and 5.0.5 unnoticed  – hell, probably even Dementia when she's not in hunting-mode – but you'd rather not run into your new eldritch boss when you're supposed to get brain-washed.

Time for a good ol' prison break.

Chapter Text

Blackhat puts his splayed hand over the crown of your head, tilting it back a little further and your skin explodes into goosebumps when your lizard brain tells you that he could crush your head with just a bit more pressure.

 

6. The Sweet Escape

 

 

It takes you a little while to dismantle the ballpoint pen you stole with one hand, partly because you keep pausing to stare at the screen - half amused, half in disbelief and half in absolute horror at what Blackhat seems to consider to be an appropriate orientation video - before you snap out of it and get back to work.

Finally you're done and carefully pull out the tiny spring supporting the pen's reservoir, letting the rest drop to the floor. You might pick it back up later, but this is all you need for now. It takes another five minutes to smooth out the tight coils in the spring and then fold the resulting metal wire a few times to create an improvised, angled lock pick. Now for the hard part…

Turning your hand palm-up, you hold the lock pick between two fingertips and contort your wrist until the end sinks into the small lock on top of the shackle.

After pushing it around in the metal shackle’s lock for a few minutes, straining your ears over the noise of the TV, the handcuff springs open with a snap. You cheer quietly to yourself and move your overstrained wrist around to stretch it out.

The left handcuff comes off in less than a minute and soon you bounce around on the spot, trying to get the circulation back into your poor legs. The new lock pick wanders into the hidden pocket at the very edge of your sleeve's inner lining, where your old set of picks used to be and where you can get it out even with your hands bound to your back.

You sneak to the door and stop for a moment to listen with your eyes closed. Nothing.

Opening the door a tiny slit, you pull out the pair of scissors you snatched, using one of the reflective sides as a mirror. It's not perfect, but you can at least see that the hallway is empty. There's nothing you can do against eventual security cameras, but you didn’t really spot any on your way to this room anyway.

You'll just have to be quick.

You don't close the door all the way, you're planning to return to the TV room. The only problem would be if Flug decided to quiz you about the orientation videos afterwards. But then again you could always just say that you fell asleep.

The supple soles of your jika-tabi-shoes* allow you to move without a sound, giving you the upper hand when it comes to stealth. And nobody moves stealthily in the security of their own home. Which is why you hear Dementia stomping down the hallway on the ground floor from a literal mile away.

You scale one of the columns lining the hall, pressing your back into a corner, wrapping one arm around the stone pillar and using the scissors as a makeshift icepick to stick to the wall. Dementia storms along beneath you, grumbling under her breath, dragging her mace over the floor behind her. Seems like her hubby wasn't in the mood.

Only when the loud scraping sound of mace on hardwood-floor subsides do you dare to lithely drop to the ground, looking both ways before rounding the next corner.

You exhale in relief when you realize you've found the front hall and the main entrance. Yet you quickly discover that it's hooked up to an internal alarm-system.

    “Shit!” you hiss and press against the wall next to the door, racking your brain about how the hell you're going to get out of here now. And, more importantly, back in without anyone noticing.

Suddenly you feel a draft, coming from somewhere across the massive front hall, carrying an amazing smell of homemade pie that makes your mouth water despite your precarious situation. But a draft could mean an opened window you can use.

So you quickly cross the hall, round the corner and follow the arching corridor until you find an open door leading you to a big kitchen. You barely have time to slip around the door and press into the corner behind it, using the dark wood as a shield. 5.0.5 hums happily and you hear him putting kitchenware into the sink before leaving the room, pulling the door shut behind him and exposing you to the open. Luckily, you're now completely alone and have on top of that found your cat-door.

The bear has left one of the small windows open, a fresh pie standing on the sill to cool off and you quickly prepare the window's lock with another piece of tape before you pick up the cake, climb over the sill and place it back down safe and sound. Then you let go off the sill and drop to the ground.

Dried grass crumbles under your feet and you turn around to look up along the wall of the manor. The outside is completely black and you're currently being shielded from prying eyes in the upper floors by an artistic wall, curving up and above in a concave slope. Wow, Blackhat must've built a more modern looking structure on top of the foundation of an ancient castle then.

Unimportant. You cower down and dash downhill, from dried out foliage to shrubby bush, always stopping once in cover to listen for suspicious sounds. The sky is darkening already, not uncommon for October, but it makes you wonder just how long Blackhat's branding iron has put you out of commission for. When you had been in his office the red glass of the window had altered the light from outside, and with the sky still being overcast like this from the storm the night before, it is impossible to estimate the right time. Plus, you still don’t know where you are exactly. Sans' territory in South City was right on the coast, his own base located on the waterside in an abandoned warehouse complex. But you can faintly smell the salty ocean air, so the sea must be close by.

You look down your torso, bare below the sports bra. It's not exactly cold for this time of year, and if you zip up your jacket nobody will see the conspicuous scars and marks on your upper body.

A minute later you vault over the spiked fence and onto the sidewalk, quickly throwing another checking glance over your shoulder.

    “Auuugh you gotta be kidding me…” You groan, your mouth going slack.

Blackhat's manor isn't a castle. And it is definitely not a modern ode to architecture either. It's a black top hat. Literally.

You can even see the gallery from down here. The long, curving hallway of red windows builds the red hatband, the concave slope from just now is actually the elegant brim of the hat. Fortunately you've gotten out at the side of the manor where you can't see the giant elliptical window of Blackhat's office, so that's a relief.

What's really catching your eye though is the crashed airliner, sticking out of the hat's roof right above you! It looks pretty old and you immediately wonder how the hell it got there and who had crashed it into the mansion. And why the fuck nobody had bothered to remove it.

 Turning away, you look around and realize that the hat-house is built in the middle of a huge plaza, on top of a tiny hill which confirms your former-castle theory further. A road runs all the way around it and the sidewalk you're standing on is circling the perimeter of BH's lair like his own private walkway. The rest of the suburban  district looks like it'd been erected either after your new boss built this monstrosity of a mansion, or had to make way for its construction. In any case, every other house seems to be keeping a cautious distance to the solid black structure with the crimson windows and straight up dead lawn.

You dust off your jacket and start jaywalking over to the other side. Well it's not exactly jaywalking - there's nobody else out, not even a car. You soon begin to feel like this town's neighborhood might be exactly as creepy as Blackhat and his organization.

    “Still, I need to find out where I am and get some gear.” You mumble to yourself, flipping the dark grey hood over your head to hide your face. Yet you automatically keep track of every curious landmark and building to find your way back later. Passing a manhole, you recognize the black top hat symbol engraved into the cover and flinch, eyes widening. This town wasn't just built to accommodate an infamous villain… it was most likely built by him. Or at least his business attracted enough people to turn this land into a town.

A ghost town if you ask me…, you think to yourself, the thought of talking out loud suddenly appearing like a risk you don’t feel like taking.

Your first important place to go is a kiosk or a gas station or something else where you can get information about where you are, what's around you and how you could get back to South City. The next would be an electronics store to get a phone and a watch. The third… a black market outpost or local fence to get some more specialized items. Yet you doubt that anyone would risk running that sort of business right under Blackhat's proverbial nose. But then again you've been surprised before by the ingenuity of your trade's guild.

However, you're not trying to run away, hell no! You're dead sure that Blackhat could find you anywhere without even knowing where the fuck you went, and you don’t intend to peace out on your debt to him either. Yes, you are a thief, a lying con-artist and a lowlife hood, but deep inside you are honest and you have principles, like paying your dues and returning favors. And besides, you apparently cheated death once already so you don’t really feel like kicking the bucket now.

 

-

 

The streets stay abandoned but at least a few cars have driven past you, so you know now that there must be actual people living here. You've wandered deeper into the town, closer to the skyscrapers you had seen in the distance, and by now your hopes of soon finding any sort of normal store are dwindling rapidly.

You're already thinking about turning around and hurrying back to the manor, when a tiny street booth kiosk catches your eye and you run up to it, your face lighting up when you see a living person sitting inside. It's an elderly man with a tattered barracks cover on his head, cigarette between cracked teeth.

    “Hello!” you greet, relieved, and walk up to the counter, removing your hood for friendliness points. Still, the old-timer eyes you with blatant suspicion.

    “Can I help ya, Miss? You’s not from ‘round here, huh?” he rasps, his voice sounding like he's smoked at least two packs of cigarettes a day since he was nine. But you smile shyly despite his distrust and shrug helplessly, your con-artist instincts kicking in flawlessly.

    “You've got me there, sir. I'm terribly lost. I don’t even know what town I'm in! I’ve been walking for hours, my boyfriend kicked me out of his car after we had a fight, and- and I left my bag and everything in his car a- and…” It's not even that hard to summon your tears this time; just feeling the throbbing pain in your back is enough to open the flood-gates. In a beat you're crying openly in front of a total stranger and you don't even care.

He nudges you with a hand and you take the offered tissue with a grateful nod and a sniffled thanks.

    “Issa rough world, kiddo, ‘m sorry. But I can't give ya no money, I haveta care for mahself too, y'know?” he grumbles and you quickly shake your head with a shocked expression.

    “Oh- oh goodness, no, I- I just need some directions, sir, that's all! If you have a map or something, that would be more than I could ask for!” you reassure him sweetly. That seems to appease the old geezer and he turns away to rummage around for a map underneath the counter.

That's when you make your move, snatching one of the ancient looking phone booth cards he's selling out of a rack. The racks are all pretty filled up so he won't notice one missing. A chocolate bar wanders into your food-pocket, this and that, and lastly you manage to grab a lighter before he comes back up.

You blow your nose into the tissue and fan the tears away, apparently still trying to calm down. He unfolds the street map over the counter and you almost laugh out loud in disbelief.

    “This… this town is really called Hatsville?” you ask, hoping he'll interpret your choked up voice as crying rather than trying not to laugh. The kiosk owner gives you a haunted stare.

    “Have ya… have ya seen it?” he asks in a frightened whisper. You know immediately what he's talking about and nod with wide eyes.

    “You mean the big house that looks like a black top hat? Yeah I've walked past it, it looks scary!”

He trembles in the mild autumn air.

    “Ya better leave this town first chance ya get, missy. Bad stuff's happenin' here. Sweet thing like yerself shouldn't be out in these streets at night. Now lessee here…”

You listen only with half an ear, having already analyzed the map and its legend. The shops you can possibly pay a visit to are few and far between. You'll have to risk multiple of these escapes if you want to gear up and get back at Sans for almost killing you. You could still try and get Blackhat to off the mobster for you in a fit of rage. But if Sans continues to buy his merchandise, it wouldn't be exactly profitable for BH to murder one of his customers.

Seems like I'll have to do it myself…

And for that you're going to need money. You can't possibly steal all of the items you need without any of your old gear and backup and not get caught. And then there's still the issue with getting back home.

    “Um, do you know where South City is in relation to here? That's kinda where I need to go.” You ask the kiosk vendor and he raises two bushy eyebrows, so high they almost touch the rim of his barracks covers.

    “South City? Honey, I dunno where ya from but I ain't know nothin' ‘bout no South City anywhere on this darn island. Ya sure ya know where ya need t' go?” He suddenly seems more distrusting again, scrutinizing you like you're out of your mind.

    “Wh- what? Island?! There's no… what country am I in then, exactly?” you breathe and now he bends down to get a huge, dusty world atlas. But you already know, soon as you see the world map printed onto the cover, that something is very, very wrong.

You don't recognize any of those continents.

    “One Hatsville News, please.” You hear a grating, but unmistakably amused voice rasp behind you and freeze on the spot, your body going rigid when Blackhat places a hand on the small of your back, thumbing over the edge of your hidden branding that has begun to pulse and pucker at his mere presence.

The kiosk owner turns white as a sheet, hand fumbling frantically for one of the newspapers, throwing it on the counter and simply dropping the heavy book to scoot as far away from you as he possibly can. His face is a waxy mask of pure, unadulterated fear and he stumbles into a back part of the kiosk as soon as Blackhat takes the newspaper and chuckles menacingly at the closing door.

    “Such a polite man; never asked me for a single dime in his life.” You hear the telltale click of his cane and pull up your shoulders against any incoming swings. When none come your way, you turn around slightly, slipping cautiously away from the touch of his gloved hand.

    “L- Lord Blackhat… I can ex-, I was going to return once I-" you stutter and stammer, always thinking your next word is going to be the trigger that sets him off. Yet he just turns to face you, his wide grin gone for a change, replaced by a bored expression that turns annoyed when you don’t get to the point.

    “Quit your whimpering, you're not Flug.” He barks, making you wince. The cane dissolves into smoke and he steeples his hands in front of him and gesturing towards you. “I admit, it was quite entertaining to watch you make your escape. As pathetic as you first seem, you do possess a certain set of skills that would make for a fine villain.”

Again with that phrase. But something else catches your attention far easier and you relax a little, be it only out of sheer disbelief.

    “You- you're not mad at me, sir?” you carefully probe and the scowl turns into a slight snarl.

    “I'm always mad at the lot of you primates…” he growls, pinching the bridge of his non-existent nose. “No. If I had not wanted you to get as far as you did, you would not have made it out of Flug's lab to begin with. That should teach the idiot doctor, to rely on such backwards security measures…” He drops his hands again, crossing one arm onto his back and taking a step to close the distance between you, placing his free hand on your shoulder and turning you around. You don't dare to move away this time. There is purpose in his touch and you briefly feel the entire, unearthly strength that's hidden in the grip of his fingers beneath the black gloves.

Your eyes travel down the street, over the rows of houses, and stop when you realize you can still see the roof of the black top hat mansion even from here. Blackhat puts his splayed out hand over the crown of your head, gripping it lightly to tilt it back a little further and your entire skin explodes into goosebumps. You shiver when your lizard brain tells you that he could crush your skull with just a bit more pressure. But what you see then is enough to make you forget the horrible being beside you.

There's something wrong with the sky right above the hat. It's darker there, almost green, and the clouds seem to swirl into spirals, as though there was a drain in the middle of the sky. Thankfully, Blackhat releases your precious skull in order to snap his fingers. From one second to the next the previously grey sky turns a purgatorial red and violet. Dark, giant shadows lurk behind the greenish clouds and there is this sound again, the faint screams you’ve heard before! The sight threatens to bring your tears back instantly. This isn't right! This shouldn’t be real!

    “No, my little thief, I was curious to see what you would do once you found out that you're not in your world anymore.” Your demonic employer tells you, amusement lacing his grating voice again.

You can feel your blood running cold despite the warm air, your knees turning to jelly.

    “Wh- what do you mean, not my world?! What is this!?” you wheeze, fear clawing at your heart like an icy set of talons. Next to you, Blackhat takes a deep breath, exhaling it with a low, appreciative hum, flicking invisible specks of dust off his pristine coat.

    “When I asked you the night before, how you knew where to find my organization, I wasn't just referring to my home address, you see. No, to find my base of operation you would need to know how to get to my island, first. And have the means necessary for interdimensional travel, of course.”

You shake your head, whether because you don't understand his words or simply refuse to believe them, you can't tell.

Blackhat leans down, closer to you, one hand sneaking up your back again to place itself over the branding, making the pain flare until tears sting in the corners of your eyes, but you still turn your face to meet his glare head on. You refuse to let him revel in your fear any further. Blackhat is grinning again, single eye glinting at you. His monocle flashes in red.

    “My dear, this is not the Earth you know. This place is a parallel dimension I've chosen as my domain.”

 

 

* Jika-tabi (地下足袋, "tabi that contact the ground") is a type of outdoor footwear worn in Japan. Also known (outside Japan) as "tabi boots", they are modelled on tabi, traditional split-toe Japanese socks. Like other tabi, jika-tabi have a divided toe area.

This gives wearers tactile contact with the ground, and the concomitant gripping ability lets them use their feet more agilely than rigid-soled shoes allow. This is useful for workers who traverse girders on construction sites and need to be sure what is under their feet. 

Chapter Text

Blackhat harrumphs but directs his gaze back out the window.

    “I wanted to talk to you about your first job.” He says, his hand stilling.

    “Alright, what do you want me to do? Steal? Spy? Mug?”

There’s a pause in which you’re sure you can hear his grin.

 

7. A Little Wicked

 

 

Blackhat opens the gate for you and you don't even have the energy left to laugh at the big B and H embedded into the double-winged gate. You feel strangely empty and halfway suspect your boss just might have snatched your soul from your body on the silent walk back without telling you.

Your thoughts are still revolving around how the hell you got here if this isn't even your own dimension! At least the theory that Sans might have had brought you here to die is debunked for good now. While he can use his magic to teleport, or rather create shortcuts as he calls it, he had never been able to use it to go to other dimensions! But now you’re once again left without any clue as to how you ended up here and exactly who had tossed you into this mess.

Standing on the stone flight in front of the huge door, you suddenly stop and turn to Blackhat.

    “Sir… you- you can travel between the worlds, right?” He scowls at the hope in your voice but slightly inclines his head. “Could you… could you take me back to my world? O- once I’ve paid off my debt to you, first, of course!” You're quick to add when the long, thin brows draw even closer together like clashing storm clouds.

    “And why would I possibly do that?!” he growls, baring his teeth at your insolence.

You stand your ground and clench your hands into fists, praying that your next words will be music to his non-existent, evil ears.

    “Because I want to kill my former boss.” You say, firmer than you thought you would. That immediately brings back his wide grin but you sense the furtive edge before he speaks.

    “Are you sure that's something you could do? Last time I checked, you were but a harmless little con-artist-rat, without a single cold-blooded murder under your belt.” His monocle gleams slightly and you swallow.

    “You don’t know that, I never told you anything about myself!”

His laughter is loud and full as he throws his head back. Somehow his hat stays on.

    “Oh, trust me, I know. But you have yet to fail to surprise me with your boldness. I will consider it, my dear _______.” He's still chuckling when the door opens on its own and he steps inside, now holding his cane again. You exhale your held breath and follow behind him.

In the front hall, Flug already awaits you; arms crossed in helpless fury, one foot tapping on the floor like he's goddamn Bugs Bunny. The pouty display doesn't fail to bring a smirk to your face as you saunter up to him, hands in your pockets.

    “’sup, doc. Already done with your project?” You ask, played surprised, earning a snicker from Blackhat himself.

    “You have some nerve! Next time I'll make sure to paralyze you! You're even worse than Dementia!” Flug exclaims, throwing his hands in the air. You press a palm against your chest in mock offense.

    “Ouch! No need to get personal, geez!”

Flug looks like he's on the brink of exploding now as he points towards the elevator and shrieks: “Lab! Now!”

Before you can move, you feel the weight of Blackhat's hand on your shoulder again.

    “Come to my office once you're done. We will discuss your first job.” With that he vanishes in a puff of smoke and you hurry to follow Flug to the elevator. Curiously enough, the brand beneath you jacket has stopped aching.

 

-

 

You already expect Flug to strap you right back into the chair to watch the rest of the orientation videos, but he just takes you to the main lab and orders you to sit down on a stool. It seems wiser to behave right now, you don’t actually want to get on Flug's bad side, considering that there's a high probability he's going to have to patch you up in the future as well.

    “Now, how in the world did you manage to free yourself?” Flug demands to know. “I x-rayed your jacket and everything, there was nothing in it when you got it back!”

You play with the thought of lying and telling him that you have hidden superpowers, but decide instead to be honest, maybe it'll get you something out of it. So you reach into your sleeve and pull out the improvised lock pick you foraged, holding it into the light.

Flug drops his tensed shoulders and watches in silent bafflement how you procure item after item from your jacket, and when you finally decide to also pull out the chocolate bar you stole, already regretting to lose your emergency food, there's a tiny mountain of stuff on the table next to you.

He just continues to stare at you, blinking behind his goggles and you throw your hands up in the air.

    “Look, I'm sorry okay? It's a lifestyle! I steal shit!” you blurt out in your defense. Yet the scientist just grabs the scissors you took, turning them in the light.

    “I'm starting to understand why my master didn’t just dispose of you. These are… these are some very useful skills.” His glasses reflect the light for a second. “You know… there might even be something you could do for me.” He snickers quietly to himself and you shrug.

    “Sure, why not? But BH wanted to see me after we're done so…”

Flug flinches, whether at your lack of proper form of address or the mere mentioning of his lord and master you can't quite tell.

    “Of course, of course… say, you mentioned some tools yesterday, maybe I can construct a replacement for you. Since you're pretty much stranded in this dimension and all.”

You grind your teeth. Of course Flug knew.

    “I'd love that, actually. I feel pretty useless without my knives and gear. Repurposing everyday items gets you only so far.” You say, your mood lifting at the prospect of getting some new gear from an evil genius this time and not by scrounging around the black market for second-hand items. Plus it's free!

   “Good. As payment, you can simply steal something for me.” Flug announces, so there goes your free shit. But you chuckle and nod.

    “You got yourself a deal, doc.”

Flug then inspects the branding on your back and hums, satisfied.

    “It's almost healed already, the salve worked on you… thank goodness.” He adds under his breath and you shoot him a skeptic glance.

    “So… does that mean I can finally get something to eat? I am most definitely starving right now!” And as if to underline your words, your stomach growls horrendously. Flug, who's doing something at the workbench behind you, makes a confused noise.

    “Hm? Oh, yes, of course. I just need to… could you lay your head to the side please?”

Without even thinking about it, you promptly do what he says and a sharp pain shoots through the right crook of your neck and shoulder. You cry out, but Flug keeps your head in place as he pulls the trigger of the giant syringe he's jammed into your neck. Another harsh sting explodes under your skin.

    “Ow! The fuck, Flug?!” you yell at him and slap your hand over the burning spot once he lets go of you. He snickers evilly and puts the syringe away before pulling his phone from the pocket of his lab coat, waving it in your face.

    “In order to prevent any further… escapes from you, I just implanted you a tracker. This way I get an alarm on my phone should you leave through any of the windows or doors. Let that be a lesson! And be glad that I'm not putting an ankle monitor on you that would stun you with electric shocks as well, the way I did with Dementia!” 

You keep rubbing your smarting neck, piercing him with your eyes but you can't feel the chip, it's either too small or sitting too deep.

    “You're sick…” you mutter and Flug snickers ominously.

    “Do you want pancakes or not? Then stop complaining and come on.”

You do want pancakes. And if they're anything like the pie you saw that 5.0.5 had baked, you want them even more. So you stop complaining, take the Band-Aid he hands you and stick it over the puncture wound. Great. Now you have to figure out a way how to get rid of the tracker, too!

    “What time is it, anyway? I couldn't really tell when I was outside.” You ask and Flug pushes the sleeve of his coat back, revealing a futuristic blue smartwatch that he probably built himself.

    “Almost six in the afternoon. You've been out for a while after Lord Blackhat branded you.”

    “Yeah, I figured.” Then you remember something and jog up to walk next to him. “Oh! Do you know how that plane in the roof got there?” you ask, curious again, and the scientist flinches before nervously pulling on the collar of his shirt. You follow the motion with your eyes and suddenly really see the motive on his graphic tee. It's a cartoon plane, broken in two with a stylized explosion behind it.

    “Noooo…” you breathe out, grinning from ear to ear as you stare at him with glee. “Well now I really wanna know how it got there!”

Flug sighs in defeat, shooting you another vile glare when you keep grinning at him inside the elevator.

    “I really should keep Dementia and you separate. If you two get along even slightly I can only imagine the havoc you'd wreak… Haah, alright, fine.”

The elevator stops at the ground floor and you notice you're right across from the big front door, beneath the grand double-staircase that leads up to the gallery. Flug turns right, towards the kitchen.

    “In my youth I was obsessed with planes, still am actually.” He admits, rubbing the back of his neck. "Anyway, I somehow found myself at the opportunity of… taking one of the last experimental research-aircrafts ever built and oh, I simply could not resist! So I took it, escaping the military outpost by the skin of my teeth and piloted it across the ocean! But in my youthful carelessness I flew over the Bermuda triangle, trying to shake the fighter jets that were after me, and ah… well, a portal opened.”

You hang on his every word, absently waving at 5.0.5 when you enter the kitchen, jumping on one of the tall bar stools and leaning your elbows on the counter while Flug walks around it, opening the giant fridge and taking out a plate of pancakes he puts in the microwave.

    “Wait, my world had a Bermuda triangle as well…” you suddenly realize and Flug blinks at you, astonished.

    “Oh? Hm, where were you from exactly?”

    "South City?” you reply, hopefully, and now he raises his hands off the counter in surprise.

    “The South City?! That place was infamous even in my time! And you really lived there?!” You sit up a bit straighter at his incredulous tone.

    “Born and raised, baby! I was one of the scourges roaming her streets at night. I told you, my old boss was the Sans Gaster.” You remind him, somewhat glad that you're not the only one stranded in this dimension.

Flug shakes himself with disgust.

    “I totally forgot… I was already working for Lord Blackhat when the monsters came to the surface.”   

    “So, planes and ships do actually go missing in there?” you pick up the story and he nods.

    “Yes… it was as if a black hole had sucked the plane in. The forces were so overwhelming that I lost consciousness, and when I came to again, I had crashed into the side of this mansion and somehow survived. But then… but then-” he suddenly falls silent, his body trembling all over and 5.0.5 whines miserably. You reach out over the counter and grab his arm, recognizing the panic attack.

    “Doc. Hey, it's fine, you don't have to say it. I can very well imagine what happened next.” You say quietly and smile crookedly when he snaps out of it. “You survived, didn’t you?”

Flug nods shakily, a few beads of sweat running down his neck. He clears his throat.

    “In- in the end it was my evil, scientific genius that secured me a job here… and the fact that Lord Blackhat's previous engineer had been… dissolved, after an incident involving vomit and-" he shakes his head again like he was trying to fight the memories. One hand creeps up his scrawny side, absently palming over one spot, again and again.

    “He branded you, too, huh?” you realize and return his startled gaze firmly. “Why does it start to hurt when he's around? What is-" you want to ask more questions, have to know what you've really been tossed into by some twisted fate, but the microwave dings and Flug quickly places the steaming pancakes in front of you before hurrying towards the door.

    “D- don't forget he wanted to see you. I- I have to get back to work now.”

You just stare at the closing door. Wow. Flug must have had it way worse than you imagined. 5.0.5 lets out another sad noise and you beckon him closer, scratching his chin when he slumps down on his haunches next to the bar stool you're sitting on. After finding the silverware with dream-like instincts, you dig into the pancakes, moaning at the taste that is somehow amazing enough to wipe every gloomy thought out of your brain and fill it with sunshine.

    “Oh my god! Bud, did you make these?!” you ask the blue bear incredulously and pat his head when he nods it happily, careful not to crush the yellow flower. "Holy- they are so good!”

While you're trying to savor the taste and make it last, you're far too famished to control yourself any longer and the big stack of pancakes is gone in the blink of an eye. Licking the last bit of butter and syrup off the plate, you slump down on the counter, groaning at the beginning bellyache.

    “So… worth… it…”

After a few deep breaths you slowly sit upright and eye the many shelves and cupboards in the vast kitchen. Judging by Flug's stained lab coat, there has to be coffee around here somewhere. You could really go for a cup, but the brand on your back has begun to burn again and you remember Blackhat's order. Though you'll definitely come back for some coffee as soon as you can.

Returning to the main hall, you decide to take the stairs up to Blackhat's office instead of the elevator since your street instincts are urging you to get more familiar with your new surroundings quickly if you're going to spend an unpredictable amount of time here. Yet the thief in you wants to go and explore and see what other riches your new boss might have hoarded. You have no doubt that he has probably already existed longer than you can fathom. The photography in the gallery is proof enough that your employer is at least over two hundred years old.

On your way down the hallway to the huge black door, you suddenly pick up a faint noise. You stop a few inches in front of Blackhat's office, digging your tabi-toes into the plush carpet, listening.

There's music playing softly from inside, sounding like it's being played over an antique gramophone. You don't know what this sort of music is called again. Charleston or Swing maybe? The song is peppy, but laced with strings that sound a little too off. A chill runs down your spine.

Suddenly the door opens with a creak and you jump where you stand.

    “I hope you weren't planning on standing there all night…” you hear Blackhat rumbling from the far end of his office and quickly hurry inside. The door closes behind you on its own and now you can make out the lyrics of the next song, that indeed plays on an ancient, gothic looking gramophone to the right side of the giant window:

 

Gather ‘round my children

For I’ve a tale to tell

Have you heard the lore?

Of the most peculiar man of all

He’s tall and wears a black hat

And in the dark he strikes; oh my!

No hero dares to stop him

They run in terror and fright

 

Before the song can continue, Blackhat lifts the needle off the record, the scratching noise your one and only cue to move before bad things might happen. So you will your feet to approach your new boss, even though you feel like running again. It has to be the room itself, you think. You weren’t that on edge when Blackhat jumped you in the gallery and almost bashed your skull in; hell, you walked all the way back to the manor beside him and you didn’t feel as bad as you do now!

Yet… the way he’s standing with his back to you, facing the dark, red window, one arm crossed on his back, posture absolutely immaculate and casting a huge, ominous shadow across the length of the office, you fear the worst already.

Night has completely fallen over the town of Hatsville, and the office is a lot darker than it was before noon, yet the window somehow seems to still be illuminated by some sort of light source from within the glass.

    “What took you so long?” Blackhat growls when you stop a few meters behind him, slightly turning his head so that the monocle flashes red at you. You’re immediately taken back to a situation quite similar to this one, but back then a huge skeleton monster had been glaring at you from behind a thick cloud of magic cigar smoke. And somehow you don’t feel so scared anymore.

    “Sorry, bossman.” You drawl reflexively, stuffing your hands into the pockets of your jacket. Then you realize who exactly you’re talking to and clear your throat. “Uhm, I grabbed a bite downstairs after Dr. Flug was done with me in the lab, Lord Blackhat. Sorry for making you wait.”

There. More would be groveling and you’ve gotten the feeling that he is not exactly a fan of boot-licking underlings.

Blackhat harrumphs but directs his gaze back out the window, the hand not on his back playing with something you can’t see.

    “Well, you’re here now and I wanted to talk to you about your first job.” He says, his fidgeting hand stilling.

    “Alright, what do you want me to do? Steal? Spy? Mug?”

There’s a pause in which you’re sure you can hear his grin.

    “Catch!”

With a blurred motion he suddenly wheels around. All you register is his arm darting forward and something flashing in the wan light and then your body already reacts on instinct; weaving underneath the projectile’s path, your own hand flies after the object and plucks it out of the air. With a final spin, you come around and up to face him, the knife angled backwards in your right fist by your side, while your other hand waits defensively before your face to block any other incoming blows.

Standing in a battle-ready crouch, you keep your eyes fixed on him, reading his body language with years of experience only the worst of streets can provide. Your fear is entirely gone now, replaced by the adrenaline of an unexpected fight.

Blackhat is grinning widely at you, both his hands now on his back. Apart from his burning eye, there’s nothing giving away the fact he just threw a fucking knife at you! He’s fast. Faster than anyone who ever threw anything at you! Shit, you’ve had a Russian mobster shoot crossbow-bolts at you one time and they couldn’t possibly match Blackhat’s speed!

You keep staring at each other; you with your body tingling from tension, and Blackhat virtually exhilarated by your performance, which he doesn’t bother to hide even remotely. This entire situation is so bizarre that you recover much quicker from the thought that he could have actually killed you if you had been just a millisecond slower.

You snort.

    “Alright. Done. Next?” you scoff, drawing your hands a little closer to your body in case he has another knife behind his back now.

Green fangs part in a resounding laughter that manages to bring some of the fear back into your bones and you grip the knife’s handle tighter. It’s a huge Bowie knife, heavier than the throwing knives you normally used but incredibly well balanced. It immediately gives you confidence.

    “I’m not gonna lie, little thief – that was marvelous!” Blackhat rasps, reaching up with one hand to bow into your direction and – you swallow in horror – tip his hat to you! Your shocked gasp stocks when you see what’s underneath: a black bowler hat with a red hatband.

And just like that, your tension evaporates. He has another black hat underneath the top hat! You can’t help it, you chuckle and snicker and eventually your laughter rings freely as you lean heavily on your knees. But, having learned from your previous mistake, you reign yourself in almost instantly and do a little curtsy before swiftly twirling the knife and holding it out to him by the tip of the curved blade as you approach him.

Blackhat’s bowler hat vanishes beneath the top hat again and he pushes the knife towards you, which gives you a mild heart attack, but thankfully he doesn’t actually plunge it into your chest.

    “Keep it. You’ve earned it. I would have been satisfied if you had just dodged successfully. But actually catching it?” He chuckles lowly, causing another chill to run down your entire spine. “That takes guts and skill. And a certain wickedness.”

He places the same hand on your shoulder and turns you around, walking towards the door with you.

    “I believe it’s time I showed you to your room.”

Chapter Text

Your feet burn from the temperature but you force yourself to sink down with a hiss, groaning when the hot liquid washes over your branding and the more recent bruises still littering your entire body.

 

 8. The Dance Begins

 

You finger the knife nervously in your pocket while you walk along behind Blackhat, down the hall and up the stairs to the third floor, where you had woken up in the study. But he immediately stops and opens a door right across from the stairs, ushering you inside.

When your eyes accustom to the gloom, your mouth falls open in shock. You had expected an empty room with a dirty mattress in one corner or even another prison cell, but certainly no elegant room fit for a posh lady. The bed is gigantic and most likely as soft as it looks, there's a big wardrobe in one corner, an armoire, a desk and a furnace with two heavily cushioned armchairs in front of it. The only downside might be even more portraits of Blackhat himself.

You take a timid step back, almost bumping into your boss yet your hackles rise instantly, reminding you of his presence.

    “Um… are- are you sure? This is… way too nice for me.” You mumble, feeling lost and entirely out of place in the vast room already. Blackhat shoves you inside with one hand, growling:

    “If you prefer the cell, just say so and I'll make sure you never see the light of day again!”

You stumble forward, gripping the knife tighter in your jacket's pocket.

    “On second thought, this one has a bed so, I guess it's alright.” You point out, turning around in time to catch his annoyed expression. Blackhat gestures towards the other end of the room.

    “And an adjacent bathroom. I will be busy filming another product showcase tomorrow, so you are going to do some tasks around the manor. Now…” he grins, his face doing that creepy-crawly shit again that makes your toes curl from disgust. “Pleasant dreams.“ he adds with a scary chuckle and closes the door behind him as he leaves.

You scowl at the polished wood but then blink in confusion. He actually left through the door for once instead of just vanishing into thin air!     

Now that you're alone, you flip the light switch next to the door, eyes widening when you see the luxurious room in all its glory. The wallpaper is the same red as in the lounge, the floor plush carpet of a dark grey and the ceiling looks like wooden panels yet it's so high up you can't tell for sure. Your room has two huge red windows, complete with the same columns and heavy curtains you've already seen.

Meticulously you begin to inspect the entire room, starting with the fireplace. But unfortunately the chimney is too narrow even for you to squeeze through, so sadly no alternative escape route. Yet the armchairs look almost comfortable enough on their own to serve as a place to sleep.

But you continue through the room, checking every nook and cranny for hidden stuff and other secrets, huffing a disappointed breath when you come up empty time and time again.

You open the desk's drawers carefully as if they contained a bomb, but you don't feel like taking a risk with them, considering what had been shrieking in Blackhat's desk. Safe for a few blank note pads, pens and pencils, they are all empty. Not even a few paper clips you could forage into a better set of lock picks. Boring.

You leave the bed for last and decide to open the wardrobe. It's empty, unsurprisingly, as is the armoire and you wonder if you'll ever get the chance to get new clothes to wear around here! There's no way you're going to wear the same shit every day! Or walk around naked, now that your shirt is already in the laundry, wherever the hell that might be. Nope, the days of being dirty and smelling like death are long behind you!

The adjacent bathroom elicits a soft gasp from you, however. There's a huge bathtub, standing freely in the middle of the room like a dramatic art-installation, its white ceramic starkly contrasted to literally everything else in this house. It's like you had stumbled over a unicorn in Blackhat's office.

You approach it slowly, letting your fingertips flit over the spotless rim of the tub that looks like it's brand new. You've never had a bathtub. There had been one time on a heist where the owners of the mansion you were robbing had gone out and you had used the pool in their basement for a quick swim. In Sans' base you had been forced to rely on collected rain water if you didn’t want to share a washing room with the entire rest of the gang. Not a lot of fun shit was going down in the washing room.

You bite your lower lip, ignoring the pain from where it had been split open before by Blackhat slamming your face into the wall. Then you rip the zipper of your jacket down, shut and lock the door behind you and run to the huge marble sink landscape. Placing the knife on the counter and dropping into a crouch, you yank the cupboards open, giggling maniacally when you find it filled with bath salts, oils and other stuff that smells heavenly!

With an arm full of products you return to the bathtub and wildly turn the copper valves, shrieking at the cold water bursting forth from the tap. It takes you a while to get the temperature right but when you're happy with it, you dump container after container of bath additive into the swirling current, whistling at the colors and moaning at the smells. Now that you're really alone, you discover an entirely new side of you.

Something on the floor catches your eye and you grab the round object, wrapped in black parchment paper and a red ribbon, that appears to have rolled out of the cabinet and halfway beneath the bathtub. There's a rich, heavy smell coming off of it, like amber, strong enough to pierce through the cacophony of scents your mad mixing has created in the bathroom.

Yet despite all the stuff already in the water, you unwrap the bath bomb as well and gasp softly once the black paper yields its treasure: the orb in your palm is pitch black, with ore-like veins of compressed red glitter streaking it.

Without thinking twice about it, you toss the weird thing into the water and watch closely. It hisses and sizzles, black tendrils quickly transforming the water into ink, while the red glitter glimmers in the light, whirled around by the hot currents. The smell hits you like an actual punch. You snicker dopily.

    “Never would’ve thought that Blackhat even develops his own line of evil beauty products.”

You don’t even wait until the tub is filled, you pull the sports bra over your head, strip down shoes, leggings and panties and climb into the black water. Your feet burn from the temperature but you force yourself to sink down with a hiss, groaning when the hot liquid washes over your branding and the more recent bruises still littering your entire body. An older scar, a long cut in your thigh, tingles grossly.

It feels heavenly, pain and all.

The smells are almost overwhelming, the scent from the sizzling orb looming over all the other ones like a maestro directing an orchestra, but you take deep breaths nevertheless and even allow yourself to close your eyes and slump down more until the water licks over your split lip. You sense your muscles slowly relaxing as the warmth creeps into your body. After a few minutes you can't even feel your limbs anymore - it's like you're floating through space.

Tiny air bubbles, released from the black ball, dance over your back, tickling your skin on their race towards the surface as they get caught in the fine hairs. Your head lolls to the side and you let it happen, let yourself go lax in the peace of the moment that seems to span into eternity.

At one point you think you can hear soft music again, coming from somewhere below you. With your eyes still closed, you strain your ears and focus on the sound.

It’s a lone violin, playing a slow, haunting melody.  You try to settle back down, but catch yourself listening more closely, trying to follow the strange rise and fall of the tune and yet relaxing more and more the longer you listen, your thoughts slowly running out.

Then you suddenly jerk, quickly snapping your eyes back open and sitting up, afraid you might drown in your sleep. But you’re not in the bathtub anymore. Silken blankets pool around your hip where you're sitting upright in the bed, and you blink a few times at the sight of them, utterly confused.

When had you gotten out of the tub?!

You clutch the edge of the blankets and pull them up quickly to cover your bare torso, eyes darting across the vast bedroom on high alert! Could it be that…

But after a quick check of your body you exhale, relieved. No harm was done to you in between your waking moments. And you don’t feel like you had been drugged by something that was in the pancakes from earlier. Yet the possibility of future gaps in your memory scares you. What if the hit over your head had affected you more than just the superficial wound? As far as you know, Flug hadn't run any medical tests on you up to now, and a blood-clot in your brain could be rather critical to your health!

Yet despite your high-strung nerves, you can’t really seem to muster the willpower to get out of the more than comfortable bed again. Not even to retrieve the knife you’ve left on the counter to put it under your pillow just in case!

 Nah. Your body is still just too warm and relaxed from the amazing bath, and all the adrenaline from just one day in the services of Lord Blackhat has virtually drained you to the point of physical (and most definitely mental) exhaustion. Plus, you’ve already survived one night in this manor without getting killed.

So you grab the covers tighter, wrap them around yourself and curl up inside the mountain of plush pillows surrounding you. Before you even get the chance to wonder when the hell you’re supposed to show up for work in the morning, you’re already fast asleep, so deep in fact, that you don’t even notice the eerie sounds, coming from the portraits of your new boss around you and who share a telling grin among each other while they hum along to the sound of the lone violin from downstairs.

 

 

The sunlight rouses you from your slumber eventually and you make a reluctant noise in the back of your throat, turning over onto the other side to stick your face into a pillow and hide from the bright light.

    “Aoooww.” Something growls right above you. You freeze for a terrified second, eyes snapping open against the silk of the pillowcase, brain trying to decide whether to play dead or bolt immediately! Then you smell something and somehow that’s enough to bring your memories from the day and night before back.

With a lazy smile, you raise your head from the pillow, knowing at once that your hair is an absolute rat’s nest, but you don’t care. After all, it’s just 5.0.5, looking positively like an actual Care-Bear, with the little apron he has around his furry belly and the yellow flower bobbing over his head. A tray with a plate full of steaming pancakes, coffee and orange juice is somehow clutched between his paws and your smile grows another inch.

    “Mornin’ bud…” you murmur, yawning loudly. “Aww, is that for me? Thanks! You know, I never would have thought that waking up in here could be anything other than-“

Terrifying, is what you wanted to say, but in that moment, the cute and cuddly form of 5.0.5 bloats disgustingly, slimy tentacles and other horrible limbs you can’t identify shooting out of his widely opened maw and his eyes literally melt out of their sockets and you scream, scream so loudly that the sound rings around in your skull! You crawl backwards, away from the nightmarish figure and finally fall off the bed, taking the blankets you’re still clutching with you.

Through your haunted, panicked intakes, you hear an evil, grating laughter that sounds all too familiar and you somehow lose most of the fear instantly. To be honest, you’re more than pissed instead. Asshole… you think viciously, trying as hard as you can to battle your embarrassed flush and sit upright in the chaos of too-many-blankets.

The soft whisper of shoes on carpet announces Lord Blackhat as he steps around the bed, still chuckling at the start he gave you. Your eyes shoot up to glare at him and he returns your piercing stare with his usual horrible shark-grin, folding both his hands over the curve of his black cane.

    “I don’t know if I should congratulate you, sir, or kick you!” you hiss and watch how his grin widens impossibly.

    “I feel inclined to encourage you…” he retorts smoothly, cocking a brow at you and lifting a gloved hand to rub his chin. Before you can accept that invitation all too enthusiastically, you suddenly realize where his single eye is resting and already curse under your breath again, quickly wrapping the disheveled blankets back around your naked form, your face burning. Yet Blackhat makes a disapproving sound.

    “Tsk, I didn’t think that you would let something so trivial stop you from getting revenge. Disappointing.” With that he pinches his fingers together in the air and pulls them down as if he was holding a zipper. Reality itself rips open and he reaches into the tear to procure something from the void and toss it at you. You catch the arm-full of fabric and quickly press it against your chest since you had to let go off the blankets again, staring up at Blackhat with a dumbfounded expression. The eldritch dealer of evil services raises his eyebrow again with a more irritated expression and then pointedly turns around.

Now, finally no longer under his piercing eye, you inspect the bundle of cloth and realize he just handed you a fresh ensemble of clothes! Namely, a pair of black, pin-striped dress pants and a blood red shirt. For a second you think they must be from Blackhat’s own dresser, but then you notice that the shirt has a tapered fit and much slimmer sleeves than his own.

Something shifts ominously in the atmosphere around your boss and you quickly scramble to your feet, already shoving the first one into a pant leg.

    “D- Did I oversleep? I didn’t really have any means to set an alarm, so…” you try to defend yourself, racking your brain to figure out if that’s the reason he decided to wake you personally or if he just realized that he could get a good laugh out of scaring you.

    “You did. But that just means your day is going to be a little longer than it would have been initially.” Blackhat tells you, fingers drumming an impatient rhythm on his cane. He turns back around the very second you close the last button of your new shirt. And by turning around, I mean that his head does a 180° turn two seconds before his body follows. His gaze travels down your frame and he nods, expression relaxing ever so slightly in apparent approval.

“That’s better. I will lend you more work attire, and of course you will have to pay them off if they get damaged. Now, as for your tasks today, here’s a list.” With another grin, he produces a piece of rolled-up parchment from nowhere in particular and almost stabs you with it. You take it automatically but Blackhat pulls you closer by it and suddenly you find yourself barely inches from his dangerous set of teeth.

    “You better be finished with these by midnight.” He growls with real anger now and you nod, swallowing thickly around the fear choking down any response. Only when Blackhat lets go off the parchment and leans back do you find your voice again: “Sure- sure thing, boss.”

He gives you another hard stare and then vanishes into the ground. You exhale your held breath and slump against the nightstand, wiping over your sweat-drenched forehead. Unfortunately, the stack of pancakes, along with everything else, had been part of his deceiving disguise, so you’re left with no breakfast for the second consecutive day! And your sugar-deprived brain won’t have that!

    “Let’s see what the big Asshat wants done an’ then it’s coffee-break-time.” You huff, grinning at the nickname you’ve come up with just now and stripping the ribbon off the parchment. The list that unrolls soon reaches down to your hip, then your knees and you can only watch as it rolls away over the floor like in a goddamn cartoon! The groan ripping from your chest is loud enough that you’re sure Blackhat heard it, and then you’re certain that he probably waited somewhere in the shadows or in front of the door for exactly that reaction from you!

You try fruitlessly to incinerate the parchment roll with your glare alone, grinding your teeth in outrage as you skim over every point, neatly written down in an elegant handwriting you can only assume to be Blackhat’s very own. Your first task isn’t exactly that bad, you think.

  1. Clean the kitchen.

Not too difficult a job. You meant to get breakfast before any of that jazz anyway, so you can start on the first assignment over a nice steaming cup of bean juice!

Returning to the bathroom to get your tabi-shoes, you decide to thoroughly sweep this room as well since you hadn’t gotten to that yesterday. Yet, just like the bedroom, there’s zip to be discovered in here. Except for more of Blackhat’s bath bombs, of course. You decide to take the knife with you – you can never know what Dementia, or the Master of the house, might have in store for you today – and quickly strip the shirt off once more to put on your sports bra underneath it and weave the blade through the improvised sheath you’ve sown into the back. Luckily the blade is not so big as that it wouldn’t fit and the shirt Blackhat gave you is tailored loosely enough to not make the knife stand out under the fabric.

You take another minute to wash your face and tie up your messy hair. The giant mirror above the sink is another luxury you never had before and you catch yourself studying your own reflection longer than you had meant to. Shaking your head, you leave the bedroom and swing your legs over the handrail of the stairs. With a few drops and lithe grips you’re on the ground floor in no time without even scratching the polished wood.

    “Alright, let’s go clean some shit.” You sigh, cracking your neck.

Chapter Text

Somewhere in the library, you hear a clock chime and you flinch in start, anxiously counting the strikes.

... Eight… Nine… Ten… Eleven…

 

 

9. Don’t Bring Me Down

 

 

The kitchen is a nightmare. You had expected to find the few pots and pans from 5.0.5's pie and pancake cooking yesterday, but now it looks like a tornado has raged in here over night! You can only stare open-mouthed at the mountains of dirty dishes that litter the kitchen aisle, the floor and every flat surface. Apprehensive, you tilt one of the pots in the sink to look inside, and the precariously perched stack of kitchenware starts to slide. You catch the falling pots in time but one of them spills and the unidentifiable goop drips sluggishly onto your new shirt and pants. You close your eyes and try to not let out a loud scream.

It's obvious who must’ve caused this utter obliteration of the kitchen, you think glumly, as you already move faster than you had initially planned, quickly putting all the bigger pots and pans on the floor to make room inside the sink.

    “If I see only a crusty, green, split end of Dementia…” you groan, dumping out every rest of the hellish brew still in the pots into the sink – or the trash when you find that there’s just too many solid objects inside. An entire ribcage, that seems too small to belong to a pig or cow, flies into the trashcan as well.

You still have no idea what time it is, and you don’t want to waste any more by trying to look for a watch or clock, so you work as fast as you can, pouring hot water and dish soap into the huge sink and then into every container you can’t fit inside, so they can at least soak until you’ve made room for them.

You’re so focused on your task that you don’t even hear the strange, alarming noises coming from deep beneath you, not even the muffled explosion or the terrible shout that follows it. Not that you haven’t had any previous experience in this sort of lackey work; Papyrus had made you clean the entire base every day for the first seven years you spent running with the gang. But it's been so long that you have forgotten how much you hated every second of it.

The only good thing is that you still have your speed and methodical way of working, so you don’t even care anymore that you’re soon covered in sludge, soap and sweat from head to toe and that your new clothes are eventually ruined. Sure, Blackhat is probably going to give you an ear full about that, but considering how many more items his stupid list contains, you really can’t be bothered to care about that now as well.

After what seems like hours, you finally lean heavily on the mop you found and take a second to breathe. The kitchen is spotless, the floor cleaned, and you’ve even opened the windows to speed up the drying process. With shaking hands you take out the list again to mentally prepare yourself for the second task, when something is happening on the parchment: the first assignment slowly vanishes from the paper, leaving only a blank space.

You blink. Apparently you did well. The second task reads: 2. Dust off all chandeliers.

    “Alright, but now I need at least a tiny cup of Joe before I lift another finger!” you huff and quickly brew an entire pot of coffee. Might need it later for an energy spike!

That’s when the door opens and Flug shuffles inside, sighing tiredly. One side of his lab coat is scorched and there’s even fresh soot on his paper bag. Yet he perks right up when he smells the steaming coffee.

    “Oh! Hello, _________.” He greets you, accepting the mug you hand him with another, more relieved sigh. “Thanks. I see you've started with the tasks Lord Blackhat gave you already. Most of them are actually 5.0.5's job, but we are all needed for this product showcase today, so… yeah.” He shrugs, takes a straw from one of the drawers and slurps his coffee through it beneath his paper bag.

You blow over your own cup and wave the parchment roll around.

    “Is there a particular reason why I need to have them done by midnight, though? I’m willing to work the night through, you know?” you ask, but the way Flug flinches, so hard in fact that he spills coffee over his lab coat, gives you pause.

    “Uh, um… y-yeah you should r-really be done with those tasks by mid- midnight, trust me!” he stutters, hastily smoothing down the burned paper bag over his face. He's avoiding your stare.

    “Okay…” you drawl, sipping coffee as if you hadn’t noticed his nervousness. “But, like, is it the official deadline, or am I just not supposed to be out in the halls after midnight?” you chase it up, silently eyeing the evil scientist to pick out every little nuance in his reactions. But all of a sudden, Flug's demeanor takes a 180:

    “It is an order!” He snaps, eyes narrowing at you behind his safety goggles and you actually take a precautionary step away from him when he clenches his free hand into a fist and stomps in helpless fury, spilling more coffee onto the floor. “I can’t help you if you keep throwing yourself blindly into obvious danger and ignore every warning sign down the road!”

He's obviously stressed out and overworked, so you ignore his outburst for now and pointedly make a move to mop up the coffee he's spilled all over your cleaned kitchen tiles! That somehow takes the thunder out of the scrawny man and he grumbles into his mug.

    “Look, Dr. Flug…” you say, leaning onto the mop once more with one arm, nudging your head towards the front hall. “You still don’t seem to understand that I have worked under one evil villain already. A very, very sadistic asshole on top of that. Compared to him, Lord Blackhat has treated me almost nicely-"

Flug gasps, mortified at the blasphemous words out of your mouth, but you just roll your eyes and carry on: “And don’t get me wrong, I know the other shoe's gonna drop on me sooner or later and when it does, I’ll most likely be a dead man who tells no tales. But you…” You suddenly address him, pointing an accusing finger at his chest, "need to spill some fucking beans, dude! You say you can’t help me? Well, help me by telling me what the hell is going down after midnight and I will help you out in any way I can! You scratch my back and all that! Come on, we're in the same boat here!”

He cringes under your imploring tone, holding on to the mug in his hand and plucking at the sleeve of his rubber glove in a habitual, almost neurotic way. Flug takes a tiny breath and your hope grows. But then a thundering command shakes the entire mansion in its foundation and makes the two of you jump in start.

    “J- just have them done by midnight!” the doctor calls back at you and is already out the door.

Disappointed, you sigh and toss the mop back into the broom closet where you found it. Shit. You’re still no closer to figuring out what the hell it is that you’re dealing with when it comes to Blackhat, and how you might have gotten into his dimension in the first place. However, now that you know that there is something else supernatural (and probably terrifying) going on after midnight, you decide to work double-time to get all your tasks finished before you have to deal with that as well.

 

Hours later, you’re almost, miraculously, done with the list. You had deviated from their order since some of them lay closer together and it had made sense to you to conserve time by working from room to room, sometimes working on three or four tasks at once. Up to this point you feel like you have discovered more rooms than could actually, possibly, fit into this one hat-mansion, and its dimension and scale had confused you deeply, giving you a migraine the more you tried to make sense of its layout compared to the actual size you had seen from outside.

But the strangest part of the hat had to be the crashed airplane, undoubtedly. You had been sent up there to organize Flug's overdue projects by their to-do-date and it had taken you massive amounts of self-discipline to not just drop the task to inspect the weird structure more closely. The only thing you had noticed right away was that the plane was obviously still being used, not lastly because most of Flug's unfinished projects were all literally just lying about. Apparently the scientist had repurposed it into his personal living space after Blackhat had taken him into his services. 5.0.5 lived here as well, if the mountain of stuffed animals and the countless crayon-drawings were anything to go by.

Right now, you were back in the study, where Blackhat had branded you with a burning hot iron rod, dusting off the shelves and the mantle above the still roaring furnace. The entire list had consisted of cleaning and tidying tasks so far, which weren’t too bad, and only the second to last point was giving you a bit of a bellyache: Feed Gigantos in the dungeon.

Nobody in this bloody manor had ever bothered to mention a pet named Gigantos… or a prisoner or whatever it was.

    “What are the odds that it's just a cute lil kitty that lives in the dungeon?” you mutter, taking a very expensive, but also very cursed looking, silver goblet off the shelf to dust the spot where it had stood.

    “I'd say slim to none.” Blackhat's grating voice suddenly rasps behind you and you all but fall off the armrest of the chair you're balancing on, before you can catch yourself on the rim of the shelf.

    “Jesus fuck! Lord Blackhat.” You add quickly but shoot him an angry glare over your shoulder nevertheless. "I get the feeling you’re trying to scare me to death so you can munch on my soul before I’ve had a fair chance to pay off my debt!” you blurt out without really thinking about it. But Blackhat only chuckles very loudly and very honestly at that so you hastily finish dusting and climb down from the armchair, pointedly wiping down the armrest as well afterwards.

Lord Blackhat looks different somehow. Then you realize that he's taken off his long, black coat and light gray waistcoat. His black tie hangs loosely around his ashen neck and he raises an ungloved hand to pull the knot open completely now, as he walks over to the small sideboard behind the armchair, pulling a big flask from the cupboard, along with a glass. You can see a dark liquid in the dusty bottle but no label that would tell you what fine liquor he's about to pour himself.

The sudden growl that comes from him makes you tense up in alert, your mind already preparing your muscles to pull the knife from where it's digging into your back. But then Blackhat just rubs the back of his neck in a display of physical exhaustion, cracking it with a horrifyingly loud noise, and sinks down on his armchair, placing glass and bottle onto the tiny table next to his massive chair. His single, bone white eye looks you over and a scowl darkens his eldritch features in reproach.

    “I do hope that you keep in mind to finish all your tasks before midnight…” he warns you, crossing one leg over the other and folding both hands in his lap, glowering at you from the shadow of his top hat. “I don't intend to keep you around for longer if you can’t even follow simple instructions.”

You narrow your eyes at him as well, snorting derisively and stuffing one edge of the now dirty rag into the waistband of your new, now dirty, pants. Blackhat follows the motion and his scowl unravels into a disbelieving expression now that he seems to fully grasp the state your brand new work attire is already in. The skin under his monocle twitches in fury.

    “And I hope you know that I don’t intend to quit my new job all that early.” You return cheerfully, grinning as you pull out the list and watch the finished task vanishing from the parchment, showing it to him. One of Blackhat's thin, long eyebrows arches under the brim of his hat.

    “That leaves you with barely two hours to sort the library and feed Gigantos.” He informs you and you freeze before you cast a shocked glance towards the clock on the mantle, already lifting a finger to point at it.

Blackhat laughs raucously. “Oh that? It's two hours behind. Been that for ages. In fact, would you mind correcting the time? It's ten p.m.” he purrs and you hiss through your teeth to keep your cool as you snatch the clock from the mantle and turn the hands.

When you’ve put it back, Blackhat toasts you with his glass. A strange, deep purple and syrupy looking liquid is sloshing inside the expensive crystal. You lick your lips. You haven’t had anything after that coffee in the kitchen, didn’t even have time to go back down and get some water.

Blackhat's everlasting grin widens, because, of course, he noticed.

    “Care for a drink, my dear?” He actually offers you the glass, and you actually take it, but with the way his green fangs shine in the poisonous light of the cold fire, you hesitate.

    “Will this,” you pensively swirl the glass around once, twice and already regret accepting it, “actually melt my insides or will it just feel like it does?” You ask, not really expecting him to answer that truthfully. He doesn't even give you a lie and just keeps on grinning. But the longer you look at the purple drink, the thirstier you seem to get until you just tip the cold crystal against your lips and take a long sip.

The alcohol burns in your throat, sets your insides ablaze the entire way down and an unbelievably foul taste brings tears to your eyes that instantly run over your cheeks. It's the most disgusting thing you ever tasted and you hope you’ll never have to taste it again, but before you can stop yourself, your own hand lifts the glass again and forces you to down the rest of it in one go, choking and retching from both the volume and taste. Your knees are shaking dangerously underneath you and you drop the glass to clutch the edge of the mantle so you don’t fall into the flames.

Blackhat catches it effortlessly, his nasty eye never leaving your face in macabre intrigue, and he's already snickering maliciously again while you struggle to keep your insides from dissolving with sheer willpower. Strangely enough, your thirst is gone, as is the leaden tiredness in your limbs. Yet it is quickly being replaced by a buzzing dizziness and you clench your eyes shut in an attempt to block out the whirling vertigo.

    “No, no, don’t try to fight it, little thief… that is what’s going to melt your insides.” You hear Blackhat's amused voice from somewhere far away, as if you're suddenly under water.

That asshat has some nerve!, you think, on the brink of freaking out, burying your free hand in your stomach and clawing at the fabric of your shirt that suddenly feels too tight and hot. How can you not fight this?! It's eating me alive!

A cold, strange hand wraps itself around your neck and jerks you from your frantic spiral of panic.

    “Breathe, you miserable creature!” Blackhat growls impatiently and you obey immediately, taking a deep breath against the hold he has on your throat that indeed helps to pull you back further. Weirdly enough, the panic and the gruesome sensation in your guts ease and you manage another, steadier breath. However, the buzz stays and you realize that the single glass has made you rather tipsy.

    “You… bassard.” You slur, gasping when the hand around your neck tightens in response to the insult. “W- why di’you make me dink- drink that?” Somehow you order your head to lift and look him straight in the eye, or as straight as your impaired brain manages to so that he now has two eyes and two glowing monocles next to them.

The eyes narrow slightly, the lance-shaped pupils dilating.

    “Made you? I didn’t make you do anything. You brought this all upon yourself, you stupid little human.” He's slowly closing in on you, blocking out the light from the fireplace with his dark shadow yet his eye and his green teeth seem to glow on their own. “You probably think, now that you're working for me, you’re safe. But believe me…” suddenly his voice drops even lower than you thought possible, a terrifying, demonic echo making it reverb through your whole body, rattling your very bones.

    “You've never been more in danger in your entire life!”

You close your eyes with a stuttering breath and brace for the searing pain of having your throat torn out by sharp teeth. You can smell him now, sure enough. Blackhat smells like copper (blood, he smells like blood!), bitter cyanide, burnt wood and worn leather. But there’s also something sweet and heavy in between, like amber and opium, and overripe, rotten plum, which is the aroma from the disgusting alcohol. It paralyzes you and the only thing you can do to defend yourself is raise your hands and weakly clutch at the collar of his blood-red dress shirt in a pathetic attempt to stop the horrible monstrosity.

The horrible monstrosity chuckles deeply above your head.

    “Well? Are you afraid now?” he asks furtively and you nod, still not able to open your eyes.

    “I'm… I’m afraid imma puke all over you, sir.” You exhale shakily and, to your endless relief, he lets go off you and takes a few steps back with a grossed out noise. Finally you can breathe freely again and quickly sidestep, closer to the door, opening your eyes to keep them on the danger.

Blackhat is pouring himself another vile drink with his back turned towards you and makes a dismissive gesture with his free hand.

    “You better hurry. Midnight is approaching fast now.”

As if that had been the magic word to release you from this more than uncomfortable, and undoubtedly dangerous situation, you bolt out the door and race down the gallery towards the elevator. The dungeon seems like a much more inviting place to be right now.

Only when the door slides shut and the contraption moves downwards do you dare to sink against the wall and let your shoulders drop.

That was too fucking close!

 

But your day isn’t over yet, unfortunately. You sniff out Flug in his lab to ask him about Gigantos and how, and what, the fuck, to feed it. The good doctor looks even more exhausted than when you last saw him before noon, brooding almost half asleep over a new set of blueprints. You actually feel a little bad when you shake his shoulder to wake him up.

    “Gigantos? Oh boy… well, he's a-" he pauses and scratches the back of his paper bag. “He's a manifestation of sorts, a- an accident really. A year ago I built a machine that could turn your most evil thoughts into reality and the test run… escalated – mostly because of Dementia I want to add! We managed to capture two of the manifestations and… the sandwich.” He shivers slightly. “But Dementia's manifestation escaped and Lord Blackhat took care of his own.” His voice peters out into a long yawn and you cast a glimpse to the clock on the wall. You're running out of time.

    “Yeah, well, okay. What does he eat and where is he in the dungeon?” you ask, snapping your fingers in front of his face. Flug flinches and heaves himself out of his chair, scuffling over to a chromed fridge in the back part of the lab that connects it with the hallway leading towards the dungeon.

For a moment you watch his noodle arms struggle with the pressurized door before you step in to help him, opening the fridge with one good yank.

    “Hmph. Thanks.” He huffs and hands you a plastic bucket. It's heavy and you see a few dried spots of blood around the closed lid. “Just make sure you don't step too close to the bars.” Flug calls over his shoulder as he shuffles back to his desk, waving you goodbye with a gloved hand.

You sigh heavily, still swaying slightly where you’re standing from the buzz of Blackhat's vile swill.

The steps down to the dungeon seem to dance before your eyes, like they’re feinting to the side whenever you want to put your foot down on them, and more than once do you have to lean against the cold, damp wall and close your eyes to shake the dizziness. In your mind you promise yourself that you won't let Blackhat trick you again, but that had never worked with Sans before either.

It really was your own damn fault that you kept getting too cocky and overly confident with entities who could easily tear you apart with a wave of their hand. Yet, despite all the pain and horrors they had inflicted on you, you were still alive and had not lost one ounce of your willpower or sass. If anything, all the violence and brutality you experienced had made you more bolder and reckless but also braver and quicker. Stronger.

Lost in thoughts like that, you almost step over the yellow and black safety tape on the ground and right into the curled talons of something huge that's lurking in a dark cell behind a row of bars. Its deep, rumbling snarl makes you jump back in shock, the bucket hitting the stone floor with a loud thud.

The monster roars, infuriated that its prey got away and yanks on the metal rods keeping it separated from you. Your eyes scan the area around its cell but the solid walls seem to hold fast, as well as the prison bars. And the claw marks inside the yellow and black rectangle don’t reach over the security tape. Slowly, very slowly, you sneak closer to the cell again, to where you’ve dropped the bucket, and snatch it by the handle, stumbling backwards when the monster roars again and reaches its talons, each as long as your foot, through the bars.

    “Fuck! Fuck, shit, shit, fuck!” you hiss and drop into a squat behind the bucket since your legs are already feeling weak again, running your hands over your cold, sweating face. The monster, Gigantos you presume, growls quietly and then utters a string of garbled, unintelligible words. But they’re unmistakably language and you peek out between your fingers. Suddenly you notice something odd about the creature and before you know it, you’re back on your feet and walk up towards the safety tape as close as you dare, squinting into the dark cell.

    “Aw fuck, man, that is just wrong!” You groan and make a face. Gigantos is the gigantic, horribly disfigured, but still spitting image of Lord Blackhat, complete with the monocle and black suit. Except that he’s over ten feet tall and built like an orangutan, with huge, way too long arms and a way too small body in relation that's dangling in the air, a giant, broad face and even bigger, crooked fangs that jut out over his upper lip. When you look up you even spot the tiniest black top hat on his skull.

    “Uh… hi? How's it going big guy?” you ask tentatively. “I’m ________.” In response, Gigantos snarls at you again, spraying you with green saliva.

    “Ey, cut it out! I brought you food you asshole!” you yell, shaking the bucket around. Doing that way too enthusiastically, the lid pops open and douses your entire chest with a gush of blood and other gross liquids. The ice-cold splash shuts you right up and for a moment you just stand there, feeling the disgusting marinade drenching your front, running down over your skin beneath the clothes and forming a small puddle underneath you.   

Gigantos barks a monstrous laugh at you.

 

After you had emptied the entire rest of the bucket into Gigantos' cell with one fierce swing, you’re back up on the second floor, heading towards the library that’s right next to Lord Blackhat's office. You smell disgusting, to say the least. The shit inside the bucket had consisted of blood, innards, fish bones and a whole lotta gross-ass slime that's currently drying on your clothes.

    “I'm so gonna take another bath tonight!” you growl under your breath and yank the huge door open that leads to the library.

Which is also huge.

When you grasp the sheer size of it, and consider the one hour and some odd minutes you have left, you let out a miserable whine. There’s no way you’re going to organize all these thousands of books and papers in that time! Then you pause and quickly pull out the parchment you kept stuffed into the waistband on your back.

Sort the library.

Yeah, it didn’t say in what way you were supposed to “sort" this huge conglomeration of knowledge. So you basically had free reign about the sorting system.

    “Hah, alright, let’s just go alphabetically.” You decide, but already the first random book you pick up destroys your elaborate plan of attack: the title is not written in any human alphabet you know. “Craaaaap…” you groan and toss it back on the cluttered desk. Then your eyes narrow in a shifty manner and you let your gaze wander over the loose books strewn about all across the library. A smile curls your lips.

    “What if…” you say out loud into the silence, “we just sort all these books back into the shelves?” Now it's your turn to cackle maliciously. Technically speaking, you’re doing what you’re ordered to and you’re not going against the work assignment, too. Bam. “Tch, too easy, BH.” You snort and unhurriedly pick up the few books lying on the first desk, placing them into the shelf next to it wherever you find a free space for them.

You whistle happily while you work, satisfied despite the gross, stinking shirt clinging to your body. Soon you’ll be out of those dirty clothes and in your scalding hot bathtub. The thought makes you shiver in anticipation, and you pick up your lazy pace now after all.

The second desk in the library, under one of the small windows, is also buried beneath books and you just grab an entire arm full of them, jamming and cramming them all into the bookcases around the desk. A few of them fall to the floor and you go back to pick them up. The first one is a heavy tome, dusty and barely held together by the spine, the second is a rather small, slim book without a title. When you pick it up by the lid, a piece of paper flutters out from between the pages and you catch it.

You don’t want to be curious, you don’t have time to, but you unfold the piece of paper anyway and skim the few, scraggly lines of handwriting.

 

I have figured it out! I know the truth about the one they call Black Hat, about the Crawling Chaos himself!

C.5-S.2-B.15  

 

A jolt goes through your body and suddenly you’re wide awake.

    “The… the Crawling Chaos?” you whisper, confused, but something stirs around you, like a faint echo. You’re suddenly reminded of the agonized screams you heard the night Blackhat teleported you to his dungeon, and yesterday, when he pulled the veil from this dimension. The screams of tortured souls in the suffocating darkness.

You quickly look over your shoulder, but the library is still empty and you turn the book around and flip it open, looking for more hidden notes. The book itself is about some boring war chronicles and contains no other folded papers or annotations. So you stick it into a slim space between two thick encyclopedias and focus on the note once more.

C.5-S.2-B.15

Sounds like some sort of secret code… you think, biting your already worn lower lip. Somewhere in the library, you hear a clock chime and you flinch in start, anxiously counting the strikes.

…Eight… Nine… Ten… Eleven…

It goes silent after eleven and you exhale sharply, folding the note back together and sticking it into the inner lining of your sports bra to hide it and keep it close. You still have a task to finish! Once you were done with that you could solve this mystery you discovered! Knowing that you only have one hour left now, you run around the library and even scale the creaking ladders when you run out of free space on the lower shelves. After the last book is stored away, you frantically unroll the parchment and stare with wide eyes at the elegant handwriting. Slowly, almost reluctantly, the last task fades and the parchment is pristine and empty after all.

You did it! You had finished all of Blackhat's tasks before midnight and, since he had not explicitly told you not to be outside your room after the clock would strike twelve, you decide to stay in the library and find out what the hell that secret code was about.

Chapter Text

 

    “Find anything to your liking?” Blackhat grates, his eye now the usual bone-white but the deep shadows underneath it seem starker than before. Without a word, you slide down against the wood into a crouch before his feet.

 

 

10. The Unnamable and A Grisly Reminder

 

 

The clock was striking midnight, jerking you out of your thoughts.

You hold your breath and listen in to the silence that follows the chimes, straining your sensitive ears. You're suddenly so on edge that you crush the note in your hand, waiting for the door to slam open and Blackhat to unleash unspeakable horrors on your poor mortal soul because you stayed up outside your room past curfew.

Nothing.

Whatever Flug had been so afraid of, it wasn’t happening. At least not immediately.

With one ear still on the door, you smooth the crumpled note out over your thigh and scan the line of code for the umpteenth time, racking your brain. What the hell had the writer been trying to tell with it, and to whom? They had obviously attempted to hide the message from Blackhat, and sure enough it wasn’t meant for his eyes. But for whose eyes was it then? Had the author tried to leave a clue for an associate? Someone who was working against Blackhat most likely. Or had they meant to return and retrieve it themselves, or whatever that code was hinting at?

Your legs are tingling from sitting for so long and you shift in your seat, perched on top of the last shelf in the back of the library, where you could keep an eye on the door while not getting spotted immediately if someone entered. Or so you hoped.

You dismiss the code for now, since you’re getting nowhere with it, and examine the rest of the note.

I have figured it out! I know the truth about the one they call Black Hat, about the Crawling Chaos himself!

    “The one they call Black Hat…” you mumble, “the Crawling Chaos himself…”

So… Blackhat wasn’t the name he had chosen himself? Well, apparently he had deemed it fitting enough to keep and literally work with it. But it was also just as apparent that his original title had been the Crawling Chaos once. You can easily guess where he got the Crawling from, instantly remembering the tentacles and the insect-like features he so liked to scare you with. Chaos? Please! The man was an arms dealing, sadistic bag of horror and evilness in a suit and top hat whose hobbies were scaring his employees to death and/or poisoning them for a good laugh, with otherwise impeccable manners; sure, yeah, you could see why he could be considered embodied Chaos.

A creaking sound somewhere in the manor makes you freeze again. Floorboards shifting? A door opening? You can’t tell for sure but decide to finally pull the heavy Bowie knife out from underneath your smelling shirt. Ugh, you really needed that bath, but you don’t want to stop your investigation now! Not when there's likely gonna be a ton of work again in the morning. No, you want to know more, have to know more! If you can’t remember how the hell Sans found out about you leaving the gang, or how you even got here in the first place, then at least you’re going to unravel the mystery around the man in the black hat!

You hear another creak but this time it's farther away and thus you focus back on the code. The writer had been here to hide it… had they also been in here when they actually figured it out? The writing is messy, hastily written, and the note itself covered in drops of ink. Their hands must have been shaking really badly. The paper looks like it’s been torn off a bigger piece - two adjacent sides are smooth, while the other two feel rougher to the touch.

What if they found the answers right here, in this library? In a book…

You look at the line of code again: C.5-S.2-B.15

    “Oh my God. It can't be that easy…” You breathe and let your gaze wander over the rows and rows of bookcases. They are all numbered, a tiny white plaque on the top edge. You look down again.

Case 5 – Shelf 2 – Book 15

Already about to jump down from your high vantage point, you stop in the middle of the motion when the tall, heavy door to the library swings open with a quiet creak. You claw at the dark wood of the bookcase and desperately tighten your core muscles to pull your legs back up without making any sound, your feet kicking at empty air.

You can’t see what’s coming through the door, the bookcases in front of it block out most of the lower part of the dark rectangle, but the thing stops for a second before it closes the door with a loud slam.

And then the lights go out.

The darkness is too sudden, too deep, and  you  curse yourself in your mind that you hadn’t thought of keeping one eye covered for just that case like you normally would! It sucks so hard that you don’t have your gear along with the eyepatch anymore! Now you can’t see shit but you’re dead sure that the one who entered can see very, very well in the dark.

You press into the far corner of the library where the bookcase ends, right beneath the ceiling, and make yourself as small as you can, gripping the knife in your hand tighter, waiting, listening. You realize you’re still clutching the note in your other hand and silently stuff it under your shirt and into the inner lining of your sports bra. Would be a shame if you left any evidence! That someone (or something) who entered must either know that someone is still here because you had kept the light on, or think that you forgot to turn the lights off when you left. If that someone (or something!!) is Blackhat, you don't really know what would make him more mad at you.

Pale light from the moon filters in through the small, dusty windows and you focus on the area around them, trying to use the residual light to help you see in the dark. A shuffling sound lets you freeze. Footsteps on the carpet? Soft breathing? Maybe the sound of a book being pulled out of its shelf?

You hold your own breath to make as little sounds as possible but your heart is hammering in your chest, roaring in your ears. There it is again! A whispering noise like something gliding over the floor, like a snake in the grass.

When you actually see it, you have to press your free hand over your mouth. All you can make out in the darkness is a huge shadow, darker than its surroundings. It's gigantic! The light from outside gets reflected in a dark pair of eyes but they already move away again, into the other direction. The massive creature shivers, uttering a deep, rumbling growl. You feel all hairs on your body standing on end, even the tiny ones along the side of your face.

There’s a sniffing sound coming from it, a wet slobbering, and when the big head with the glinting eyes sways back into your direction and stays, you know that you’re fucked!

On your hands and knees you crawl along the wall of bookcases that's lining three sides of the room, except of course for the side where the door is, and that don't move from your weight so they're probably bolted to the wall and you won’t be able to let one of them fall onto the monster that's coming closer already! You don't want to risk a jump to another bookcase in the middle of the room either, the sound would definitely give you away for good!

You hear it sniffing the air more deeply and suddenly you know why it's making such a beeline for you! Quickly, you open the first two buttons of your shirt and pull it over your head. The stench when you move the blood- and fish-drenched fabric is overwhelming and you throw the piece of ruined clothing into the dead end in the back where the bookcases build a u-shape with the lateral wall. Another growl, more excited, and you crawl along the wall of shelves, away from the stinking shirt. The fine layer of cold sweat feels freezing on your skin now that it's exposed to the air but you keep going along the wall, slowly but surely crossing the length of the huge library and getting to the front.

When the monster lumbers past, right below you, you stop dead in your tracks and keep your eyes glued to the hulking shape. It doesn't notice you. You chuck the dirty rag you're still carrying into another corner and then you climb down the bookcase, feeling with your tabi-toes for each shelf until you notice the soft carpet under your feet. You can hear the creature grunting rapidly now and then the sound of fabric being torn apart, so it must’ve found your shirt already.

By now your night vision has improved massively and you run over the carpet between the bookcases towards the door, your rubber soles making no sound on the thick runner. Something heavy bumps against one of the shelves in the back and you clench your jaw to keep from screaming. Suddenly you stop and look up the side of one of the bookcases in the front part of the library.

5

Shit!, you think, already knowing that you’re probably going to regret this, and clamber up the shelves to the second one. With narrowed eyes you try to count the books in the darkness even though the tiny voice in your head notes that these books might not be in the right order anymore, and the increasing sound of lumbering steps doesn’t make it any easier!

Fourteen… fifteen! Gotcha!

You rip out the book and promptly lose your balance from the heavy, unexpected weight. With a shocked gasp you throw the knife away from you and try to twist in the air, but you still crash onto the side of your back, of course right on the not fully healed branding. Your pained groan gets swallowed in an earsplitting, triumphing roar, and then the adrenaline already shoots into your muscles, makes you scramble to your feet, grab the book and knife you dropped, and throw yourself through the door which, thank the heavens, is not locked.

The creature howls behind you but you kick the door shut and run for your life, run towards the elevator and slam your hand on the button to your floor. Only when the door closes do you realize what a stupid idea that is; the monster probably doesn’t care about the rules of tag and that you consider your room to be a safe spot where it shouldn’t be able to get you! It can open doors for fuck's sake!

But you can't run from it all night, you're exhausted! And what else could you do, ask Blackhat to whistle it back? He’d probably let the monster eat you in his office for all he cared. Plus, the book is freakishly heavy, unnaturally so! If you have to carry it around through the entire manor, you won’t…

The elevator stops with a soft ding and you press into the corner next to the door, waiting, listening for the monster. You can hear it further down, not on the second floor anymore, plodding down the stairs. Had you actually managed to shake it?!

You sneak out of the elevator cage. Your bedroom is just ahead and you creep along the paneled wall to get to it. Just two more meters now… one… your hand wraps around the knob and you swiftly enter, carefully closing the door all the way and turning the lock with a satisfying click. Then you lean against the polished door and press your forehead to the cold wood. The branding on your back puckers and pulses in the cold air of your room from the fall and you clench your teeth against the pain, slowly returning into your body now that the adrenaline subsides.

    “I thought I told you to finish all your tasks before midnight.” Blackhat growls behind you, right behind you, but you don’t even have any energy left to jump from the start. You just twitch, caught, and hike up your bare shoulders against any incoming blows, yet none rain down upon you.

What takes you even worse by surprise is the light, almost gentle touch of a hand, placing itself over the branding beneath your bare shoulder blade, right at the hem of your sports bra. Now you flinch in earnest and shiver at the waves of goosebumps racing over your skin, that itches like it wants to curl away from the touch, and you press closer to the door but there really is no room to escape this.

    “Well?” Blackhat adds, his voice still leveled and unnervingly soft in the darkness but you can sense the furtive edge lurking deep inside. He's just waiting for you to tell him you failed, waits patiently for his green light, to tear you to bits and snatch your soul. You’ve seen monsters stealing human SOULs before, when a monster gang wiped out a rivaling group of humans. Would it be like that? Would he flay your lifeless husk to steal the light from within? You knew what color your SOUL was, Frisk had-

Your train of thoughts stops so abruptly that you freeze, your eyes snapping open, staring, aghast, at the dark lines in the shiny wood, Blackhat entirely forgotten.

Frisk?!

The hand on your back suddenly digs sharp claws into your skin and you cry out at the pain, dropping the knife and book in your hands but before you can fight, Blackhat has already buried his free hand in your hair and pulls your head all the way back until your eyes meet the glare out of his. It's red and glowing, black veins streaking the eyeball around the needle-thin pupil.

    “You seem to have forgotten that it is a very bad idea to make me repeat myself!” He thunders, twisting the claws that are still hooked into your flesh. You scream out now, hoarse and agonized but somehow your hand manages to reach for your back and pull the scroll out of the waistband of your pants.

    “But- but I did!” you pant in confusion, swallowing against the cruel stretch of your throat. “I finished all of them Lord Blackhat, here! I- I thought you knew?!” He doesn’t release either one of his holds on you to take the parchment. Instead, a long, black tendril creeps over your bare upper body, coils itself around your right arm and splits into three thinner tentacles at the end, acting like an alien hand to unroll the entire paper still in your clutch. Your breath hitches in your throat, the weird sensation of the cold, wiggling appendage on your skin making you half mad from disgust.

Blackhat hums, disgruntled, and incinerates the parchment scroll with a glare from his monocle. You quickly drop the burning paper that has already turned to ashes once it hits the ground. Thankfully the tentacle retreats as well.

But then he still doesn’t let go off you, instead giving your hair another yank that makes you hiss.

    “Shouldn’t you already know that you report back to your master once you’re finished with a task?” he berates you, the grin returning to his horrible features; you can smell the purple liquor in his breath, the foul stench mixed with a touch of plum.

He's still looking for a way to punish me… you think, despair seeping coldly into your guts. Think, you had to think! Think about a way to twist his own words against him and look for the one way out of his trap!

    “You never gave me a deadline for that, Lord Blackhat. All you ordered me to do was finish all tasks before midnight. So I assumed I was free to report back to you whenever. And I really didn’t want to bother you any more after such a long day of work.” You add with a sweet smile and a bat of your eyelashes. But now that you see him scowling, you can’t help but push your luck and at least get back at him for abusing you again: “I hope you didn’t wait here the entire time, I was merely picking out something to read before I would go to sleep.” You lilt and nudge the book on the floor with your foot, deliberately leaving out the monster you encountered, just to play down the severity of the situation a little more.

Blackhat's growl vibrates against your back and you try to suppress the frightened shiver shaking you. Finally he releases his terrible grip and you almost fall on your ass now that the tension leaves your body. Quickly you spin around and try to move away from him, but the hand that he slams up against the door next to your head makes you freeze again and stare at his face, completely taken aback.

Something is off about him, you realize. Oh fuck, was he drunk? It was already difficult as hell to gauge his reactions when he was sober, you couldn't possibly imagine how to deal with a drunk Blackhat, who probably didn’t have half as much self restraint anymore. You remember the only times you had ever, truly been afraid of Sans had been those when he got drunk off an entire cache of monster-alcohol.

    “Find anything to your liking?” Blackhat grates, his eye now the usual bone-white but the deep shadows underneath it seem starker than before. Without a word you slide down against the wood into a crouch before his feet, pick up the heavy book between you and slowly come back up. One of his eyebrows is raised all the way at you in surprise and his grin has taken on a leery edge. Still not answering, you shoot him a checking glimpse and then look down on the tome the mysterious author had hinted at in their note.

    “The Unnamable Horrors of the Abyss. By Professor Lovecraft.” You read aloud, and again there is a strange sound in the air around you, another echoing scream. When you look back up, you catch the last traces of something moving across Blackhat's face and immediately wonder if he knows what you’re trying to accomplish with that book. Or maybe it was just him making a grimace at your choice of bedtime literature. However, his grin stays.

    “Are you sure that this is the right book for you to read before falling asleep? The author had a very… vivid way of paraphrasing his findings if I recall correctly.” You are way too relieved that he actually takes two steps away from you now as that you really listen to his words.

    “I- I just picked one of the books that were actually written in a human language.” You quickly lie and that makes him chuckle. Good, at least that put him in a somewhat better mood. And got me off the hook.

Yet as if he had read your thoughts, Blackhat frowns deeply once more, at your clothes this time. Or rather, what’s left of them.

    “Those clothes I gave you were expensive.” He growls. “Your debt to me keeps growing instead of declining, tiny thief.”

You scowl back at him and gesture down your disheveled form.

    “Well then don't give me fucking Gucci to wear when I’m supposed to feed sullage to your more handsome version in the dungeon!” You spit back venomously, clutching the book against your chest like a shield. Blackhat's terrible grin gleams in the light from the moon and he takes a step towards you again. His voice is a low, menacing rumble that forebodes only bad things:

    “I will dress you in a gown fit for a Queen to mop the floors on your hands and knees if it pleases me! And if you refuse them, you have my official permission to walk around naked. Just don’t bother the good doctor too much then. He’s already behind with his projects enough to let himself get distracted.”

Laughing at your red face, Blackhat opens the door and leaves. You relock it with an angry huff, grinding your teeth. Asshat!, you think as loudly and clearly as you can, just in case that he is really able to read your thoughts.

Then a grim smile curls your own lips. You did it. The heavy tome in your arms is your dusty prize and you take it to the bathroom with you. Your leather jacket is where you left it on the sink’s counter and you quickly stash the note in one of the deeper hidden pockets where it's more protected and not as likely to be found during a frisking.

Again, the all too familiar face rises before your inner eye and you suddenly have to clutch the edge of the counter.

Frisk.

    “Fuck!” you hiss, your throat clenching painfully from the feeling of heartache and betrayal. “Really, Frisk?! You had to go behind my back even after I promised to take you with me? Just to appease him?” The tears are falling already and you can’t stop them, can’t stop your shoulders from trembling either and in your powerlessness you punch the marble counter, again and again until the skin over the side of your fist pops open and a sharp pain in your wrist pulls you back. Angry, you stare at the open wound and your red left hand. Shit. That’s going to be sprained for a while.

You slump into a crouch in front of the cupboard and take out the first aid kit you had discovered yesterday on your manic spree. One of the black bath bombs rolls out and bumps against your foot.

    “Yeah, yeah I’ll get to you in a second.” You mumble and pick out a roll of medical tape and a ball of gauze. But you would also need something long and sturdy to stabilize the wrist.

The fireplace might have something like that, you remind yourself and start by washing the bleeding wound out under running water before dabbing it dry and applying some of the antiseptic tonic. It burns like shit and you clench your jaw. Really not the first time you’ve had to patch yourself back up, and also not the first time the wound was self-inflicted.

After the first layer of dressing you walk back into the bedroom, but stop in front of the desk and pull two pencils out of the drawer instead. More lightweight and straighter than pieces of firewood. You fixate the pencils with care and make sure not to move your wrist around too much while you work.

Back in the bathroom, the cold surface of the marble sink feels nice on your skin and you wet one of the small towels to wrap it around the finished bandage so it can cool the swollen wrist.

    “Alright, now let’s get out of these fucking clothes!” You undress yourself with your right hand and kick your shoes away from you in wide arches. The tight fitting sports bra is a little more complicated to remove but eventually you pull the modified piece of underwear over your head and throw it carelessly into the wet sink. Meh.

Once the hot water is pouring into the tub, raising huge clouds of water vapor, you relax a little already, just by watching it whirl around. Then you toss in the bath bomb and smile when the black spreads through the entire tub, dying it like ink. The red glitter mesmerizes you, the heavy scents slowly numb the pain in your body and any other physical sense and, almost immediately, your thoughts travel back to Frisk and you think about all that had happened in the past, the parts you can still remember that is. Yet before you can think of anything in particular, your mind travels back on it’s own, way back. To where it started.

Chapter Text

“It was supposed to be a surprise. I’d steal you away one night and take you to this nice… to this safe little place, to start a new life.”

 

11. Game of Survival

 

 

The nights in South City were your favorite time. Normal people were too scared of the scum that crawled out of the underground once the sun went down, and wisely stayed in their homes, if they had one that is. If they didn’t, they would probably seek shelter in the countless subway tunnels, like you once had, or even take a risk and look for a place to sleep down in the, now abandoned, Underground, where the monsters had been imprisoned until twelve years ago.

This night was even better than all those before, because you had been picked as the watch to accompany Sans on his trip to meet with one of his informants. The restaurant where he wanted to meet was in the northern district of South City, enemy territory, but his mole couldn’t risk leaving the gang's borders he was spying on or he'd raise the Don's suspicion.

It had been a night about ten years after Sans had taken you off the streets and made you a member of his gang. By now, at the age of roughly 16, you had already pulled a few bigger heists on your own that had pleased your boss enough to decide and take you along for the trip.

You saw the black convertible rounding the corner in the dead of night, recognizing its frame instinctively from the countless times a tall skeleton with spiked, armored shoulder pads had ordered you, unsuccessfully, to clean the chassis. Its headlights went dead and you took another good look down the length of the building you were perched on, just to really make sure you hadn’t missed anything. The backstreet behind the restaurant was still abandoned and quiet and you had even scouted out the apartments in the shabby neighborhood around it. No sign of mafia goons, spies or finks that were working for Don Perelli.

To signal just that, you flashed the small torch in your hand at the car in the secret code of your gang. Slowly, the car crept forwards and you snuck over the flat roof towards the fire escape. Your wiry, lithe body barely made a sound as you dropped down from handrail to handrail, catching your fall every time with cat-like reflexes.

Down on the ground, you wiped your fingerless gloves on your pants and pulled down the zipper of the black leather jacket you had stolen not a week ago. The fit was still a bit too big for you, but you hoped that all this new training (running over roofs, escaping from cops and heroes alike, all the while hauling bags of stolen goods) would shape your still growing body to fill it out.

The car doors opened with a soft thunk and a dense cloud of red cigar smoke poured out of the passenger side. Sans Gaster emerged from it, putting on his black fedora, and stomped the cigar butt out with the heel of his shoe. He was wearing his favorite, dark woolen coat over the usual three-piece suit that made him look like a huge mountain of black lava stone.

The stare out of white pin-prick lights inside his empty eye sockets pierced you where you stood but your skeletal boss was grinning widely as always. You noticed the second car slowly rolling down the alley, filled with his goons that were armed to the teeth but would wait for their signal. Sans raised two boney phalanges to wave you closer and you immediately tensed on the inside.

    “Place is lookin' clean, boss.” You reported and shoved your hands into your jacket's pockets, fingering the stolen throwing knives you kept hidden inside them as of late. You still had to figure out a way to hide them better and make them more easily accessible at the same time.

Sans’ grin widened but his eye sockets narrowed as well. Not good! But Papyrus, exiting the car under a lot of coughing and waving of his hand, saved you from whatever the shorter skeleton, who still towered over you by a good foot, had planned for you.

    “CURSES, BROTHER!” he shrieked. "I TOLD YOU A THOUSAND TIMES: NO SMOKING IN MY MAGNIFICENT CAR!” his voice was as piercing as always and you tried to mitigate its impact by tensing the muscles around your jaws and ears, taking the worst of the force from the sound this way.

    “relax, paps.” Sans had rumbled in his deep baritone. “’s not gonna kill ya, bro. lemme have my vices, huh?” Papyrus huffed at that, crossing his lanky arm-bones over his puffed up chest, red pupils scanning the back of the restaurant, sneering at the trash cans. He was grumbling something about spaghetti under his breath, what was still louder than normal talking.

Now that his brother was dealt with, Sans focused his beady little white lights on you, repeating the come-hither motion with his ring-laden, bony fingers that glinted in the moonlight.

    “c'mere ________, doll. ya ready for the bone-anza?” He chuckled as if he had just made the funniest joke ever. You snorted and his grin widened. It was still amazing that he mistook your derisive noises as positive responses to an unfunny pun he made.

    “Sure am, bossman. You think we're gonna get trouble?” you asked in turn, nodding towards the black van parked behind Papyrus' convertible. Sans shrugged his massive shoulders as he pulled out another cigar and bit one end off to light it with a match, red smoke soon billowing around him in their usual, skull-shaped patterns of ambient magic.

    “ya can never be too prepared, dove. remember dat. paps, ya set? aight, lessgo gang.” With that he rapped the bones of his knuckles against the back door. It opened a slit wide but when the human behind it saw the two giant boss-monsters, the door was immediately opened all the way, the kitchen hand bowing deeply to Sans as he quickly pocketed the hush money the big skeleton mobster handed him.

Before you exited the back room to cross the actual restaurant, Sans stopped you with a hand on your shoulder, pointing the lit end of his cigar into the darkness to the side.

    “see that flight of stairs? leads up to the catwalk over the stage. i want ya up there, an' i want ya sharp, got it? any fucking movement i ain’t gonna like, any shady bis goin' on in the back, ya sound the motherfuckin' alarm. if you don't…” the bones of his huge hand squeezed the vulnerable flesh of your shoulder and you nodded quickly.

    “Roger that, bossman. I fail, I fly.” You ground out between clenched teeth. Sans chuckled and released your shoulder after giving you one last little shake.

    “from the highest place in town. good birdie. now get goin' or i make ya.”

You raced up the stairs, soundlessly and alert, orienting yourself for a second around the attic room before you zipped up your jacket and dropped into a low crouch on the balcony, carefully testing the metal catwalk holding the big lights above the wooden stage. From up here you were even able to look behind the curtain and see a few musicians and singers talking quietly in the dark.

Not important, you reminded yourself and swiftly crossed the metal framework until you were right above the table where your boss was being seated by one of the waiters. Like a hawk, hidden from prying eyes by the glare of the lime lights, you kept your gaze on everything and everyone, observing every patron and scrutinizing the staff members.

Soon enough the informant, a human you only knew as Lenny, arrived and sat down at Sans' table. Even from up here you could tell that he seemed extremely nervous, paranoid even. Something was wrong. Had the Don he was spying on caught wind of something? But then the band started to play, drowning out every bit of the conversations. You shot the musicians an annoyed look.

Suddenly there was a tiny noise behind you and you spun around, fast enough to see a shadowy figure come back on their feet. They stopped when they saw you, shaking their head and recoiling towards the stairs. You didn’t waste a second, jumped over the metal beams as fast as a cat and simply knocked the person to the ground with your own weight, pressing a blade to their throat.

    “Who the fuck are you and who are you working for?!” you hissed into their face. They stared back at you, afraid, but there was a bit of iron determination in their expression when they shook their head.

    “Okay, you asked for this…” you scoffed, drawing your fist back to punch them unconscious. But then they pointed towards the other end of the metal catwalk, to where the curtain was.

    “It's an ambush. They were talking about taking out the skeleton all day! I came up here to hide but then I saw you and-" You had stopped their scared rambling with a hand over their mouth, already back on your feet, and snuck over to the edge of the wooden balcony. There, in the darkness behind the curtain, you saw the good two dozen Mafiosi, pulling automatic weapons from the musicians' cases. The loud music was effectively masking the noises.

Without hesitation, you tore the tiny attic window next to the stairs open and whistled sharply between your fingers. Immediately the side door of the van was thrown open and Sans' armed guards jumped out into the street, storming through the back door.

Wheeling around, you had to push the stranger away from the window and into the farthest corner, gesturing at them to stay put. Then you jumped onto the catwalk again and peered down into the restaurant where all hell had broken loose. Sans and Papyrus, having heard your sharp alarm, were already engaged in a fight with the attackers. The skeleton brothers were a force of nature on their own already, but together there was nobody who could stop them. At least no normal human. They were boss-monsters after all and no common Froggit or Moldsmal.

Sans was throwing the men around with a lazy wave of his hand, the other casually stuffed into his pocket. Another wave, and a wall of bones pierced the ground from below and the poor fools, not fast enough to dodge, with it. Papyrus flung his summoned bones with incredible speed, mowing down his opponents as if he had manned a Gatling gun. The backup squad was busy fending off the attacking staff members but all in all, it looked like the fight was already over.

    “Hey uh…”, you heard the stranger stammering behind you and wheeled around, a throwing knife in your hand. They raised their hands in defense and flinched back. “I – I just wanted to know if Lenny was working for your gang?”

You narrowed your eyes in distrust and lifted the knife a little higher.

    “What's it to you, coward?” you spat. They looked back and forth between you and the stairs.

    “He- uh- he kinda set this up? I’m sorry, he paid me to hide the weapons, I-“

You weren't paying attention anymore, wheeling back around to the open room. Lenny was a traitor?! And he was currently…

    “Sans! Behind you!” you screamed over the loud shots of the submachine guns and your boss reacted. Too slowly. Lenny pulled a gun out of his coat and pressed it straight to the skeleton's sweat-drenched skull. You saw the desperate mask of anger and mania on his face and knew that he would kill Sans!

Your knife hit him right in the crook of his neck and he dropped the gun, writhing on the floor in agony for a second before Sans’ foot crushed his skull into a gory paste of blood and brains. The monster lifted his head towards you. One eye socket was pitch black, the other one filled by an eerie, floating eyeball that flickered red and golden.

All around them the gang dealt with the last stragglers, rounding up all those that had surrendered to question them. Papyrus dusted off his black suit and nodded towards his brother. They had the situation under control.

A blink, and Sans was suddenly standing on the balcony right behind you, looking down at the chaos of blood, corpses and broken furniture.

    “an' here i thought we would have a nice chat for once. good job, doll. nice move with that knife, too. saved my hide down there.” He said, surprised, slapping you good-naturedly on the back with enough force to almost throw you off the catwalk. “how’d ya figure it out?”

You turned around, just in time to catch the little snitch trying to sneak down the stairs again.

Sans lazily turned around when you flew over the handrail and slammed them into the brick wall, pulling their arms onto their back.

    “This right here vermin, boss.” You drawled in a thick southern accent and turned your head to the skeleton.

    “No, no please let me go! I won't tell anyone, but please don't let him-" the stranger stammered under their breath, trying desperately to get away from Sans. You put them off with a wave of your free hand.

    “Relax, he’s not gonna kill you. You helped us. Without your warning I would have reacted way too fucking slow. And we return favors like that. Right, boss?” When you turned back around, Sans had a razor-sharp bone in his giant fist, nudging his head to the side; an order for you to step away. Your eyes narrowed in defiance.

    “Boss. They told me about the ambush. They didn’t have to. An' yet they did. You wanna ignore that?” Despite the absolute murderous look in Sans’ single, blazing eyeball that was directed at you, you didn’t step away. And despite the future punishment you sure as hell were in for, you didn’t drop your glare either. Sans looked away first, huffing an annoyed breath.

    “fine. ya got a name, runt?” he growled, letting the bone vanish, and you released their arms so they could turn around, but kept yourself positioned between them and the stairs, in case they still wanted to bolt.

    “F- Frisk.” They murmured. Sans' brow bones furrowed as if the name sparked a memory.

    “frisk? frisk…. aw shit, ain't ya the kid that fell into the underground twelve years ago?! i knew ya looked familia’. gee, ya were a lil shit... not gained an awful lot of weight since then, too, huh?” the rising chuckle made you roll your eyes in reflexive response. Don't. You just thought but, of course, he did.

“ya lookin’... awfully… boney.” And then he dissolved into bellowing laughter.

Frisk pulled a more than miserable face, shooting you a look that could’ve easily meant: why the fuck didn’t you just kill me right then and there?! You just laughed flatly, more about your own hopeless situation with this asshole and his bad puns. A shame Papyrus hadn’t heard that one. He would’ve agreed with you that this was undoubtedly a new low for Sans.

When your boss had caught himself again, still wiping red tears from the corners of his eye sockets, he opened his arms in Frisk's direction.

    “aight, kiddo, i’m actually owing ya one since ya broke the damn barrier for us. so, ya gots two options here: uno: you join my gang. due: ya fly. what’s it gonna be, pal?” he offered with a mean grin. Frisk shot you another nervous glance, clenching their fists.

    “I- I fly?” they repeated cautiously and you shook your head, shoving your hands back into your pockets and kicking little stones off the ground.

    “Don’t. He's gonna throw you off the highest building he can find-" you warned. A giant fist of bones promptly crashed into the pit of your stomach and you folded over Sans' arm like a wet sack. Your breath was just gone, your solar plexus out of order, and you could only lay on the ground where he dropped you and try to get any air into your lungs before your brain ran out of oxygen. The pain would come later, you knew.

You heard Frisk’s shocked intake and then the cracking of huge knuckles somewhere over your head.

    “ruin my surprise again ________ and you’ll wish i just punched the living shit out of ya next time.” The mobster boss rumbled in barely suppressed anger, giving your miserable form a nudge with the golden tip of his polished shoe. You whimpered your acknowledgement.

    “okay-ah, miss frisky. wha's it gonna be for ya?” he asked again menacingly.

    “Um, I- I'll join your gang, Mr. Gaster. Thank you.” Frisk stuttered, their voice thin. Sans grunted and gave you another, harder kick.

    “now, ain't that music in my ears. well, would be if i had any, harhar! dollface, be a good lil birdie and take our lil miss frisky here under ya wing, teach her the ways. she fucks up, you fucked up, got it?”

As an answer you groaned and tried to get on your feet while Sans blipped out and back down into the dining room. Planting your hands on the ground, you struggled to stand up until a pair of slender hands wrapped around your upper arm and pulled you to your feet.

    “Are you okay?!” Frisk asked, concerned, and you nodded, still fighting to get enough air to even function.

    “’s nothing.” You croaked, doubled over and threw up on the floor. Oh. There was blood in your vomit. Neat-o. You heard Frisk take another shocked breath. “I’ll be fine, don’t worry.” To prove that, you quickly stood upright - swaying slightly, but you were standing.

Frisk was gnawing on their lower lip with their front teeth, obviously wanting to say something. When you gave them an inviting nod, they eventually blurted out:

    “I'm- I’m not Miss Frisk, actually, I'm…” they paused, anxious, scrutinizing your every reaction but you just nodded again and waited patiently. “B-but I’m not Mister Frisk either… I’m, it's-” Now their quiet voice was barely understandable as they tried to find the right words, their face turning a deep shade of red.

    “Okay. You don’t have to explain anything, I was gonna call you just Frisk anyway.” You said cheerily and gave them a wink. Frisk looked utterly dumbfounded, their nervous hands falling still now that you had broken the tension so casually. When Sans' roaring laughter rang up from below you they flinched, eyes flitting towards the handrail and the open room behind it.

    “He- he was going to kill me, before, right?” they asked thinly and you shrugged until their narrow brown eyes met yours with a very knowing look. Caught, you nodded, scratching the back of your head.

    “Yeah. Look, he’s a monster, and I don’t just mean literally. But I’m going to protect you as best I can, alright? I brought you into this mess after all by stopping you from getting away, so it's kinda my fault you got tangled up in this.”

Frisk shook their head with a sad expression. Their short, unruly bob swayed around in the fierce motion, creating a brown halo around their head. They were a bit taller than you but with the way they stood, slightly hunched, and dressed in a striped sweater that was at least three sizes too big, their skinny body looked incredibly tiny and fragile.

    “It's my fault. All of this.” They whispered, haunted. You cocked your head and tried to lock eyes with them again.

    “Hey, you’re just a small fry who hid some weapons for a few bucks. It's not your fault this happened, okay?” You tried to get as much softness into your voice as possible, the way you always did with the newest and youngest members of your gang. Even though Frisk looked a little older than you. Maybe 18, 19?

    “No, you don't- I brought them to the surface! I destroyed the barrier!” There were tears streaming down their face now and you recoiled, aghast. Right, Sans had said that they…

“I fell into the Underground as a child, and I- I wish I never came out of it alive.”

In a few, but horrible minutes, Frisk told you how they had fallen and were forced to fight all these monsters in the Underground, where they had been imprisoned for eons, all hell-bent on killing the child and getting their SOUL, and how Frisk's actions eventually led to the destruction of the force field that had kept them all under Mount Ebott.

You listened silently, your eyes widening in sudden understanding. After their liberation from the cave-like prison, the monsters had swarmed the world of humans and settled in in their own, violent ways. And two years later, a massive skeleton had caught you stealing from his gang's supplies, desperate for food and on the brink of dying, and gave you two options: ya join or ya fly lil birdie. wha's it gonna be?

For a moment, you stayed silent and let the words sink in. Frisk was wringing their hands nervously but then you shot them a crooked grin.

    “Guess I have to thank you then.” You said, amused at their shocked face.

    “W- what?! But all this violence, the gangs…”

    “Listen, Frisk. If you hadn’t freed the monsters, I would be dead in the streets by now because no human would take me in. Sans did. Even though I am a disobedient lil bitch as he likes to put it. Now I got a place to belong where before I had nothing and nobody. He saved my life.”

Frisk's mouth twisted into a pout.

    “But wouldn't you rather want to live a normal life? Or at least,” they added when you already furrowed your brows at them, “a life that is not under the thumb of someone who beats and abuses you constantly? Be your own boss?”

You had taken a breath to defend the gang, but then the words failed you and you just stared, perplexed, at Frisk, who gave you an expectant look. Sans shouted from downstairs to get your asses down there or he'd leave you two in the northern territory.

 Before you left, you stopped Frisk with a hand on their shoulder, looking intently into their eyes now, your faces barely inches apart.

    “He would kill me if I tried.” You hissed under your breath and for a tiny second, you allowed Frisk to see the pain you were keeping well hidden, the despair and the fear. But then you bopped their shoulder playfully with a smile and trotted down the stairs.

 

Frisk settled in to the gang life more reluctantly than you liked but you kept your promise and protected them from everyone and everything trying to harm them or abuse them. Sure enough you pissed off a lot of higher ranking gang members with that and of course all their complaining eventually pissed off Sans himself.

After the third time he had beaten you unconscious over it, what had lasted for two days straight, Frisk's behavior changed drastically. Suddenly they were the one getting you out of trouble and they quickly displayed such an amount of cunning and determination in getting through each day unscathed, and above that contribute to the gang’s success, that it showed you quite plainly how the fuck they had been able to survive Underground as a child.

On top of that, Frisk had learned a way to use magic. The constant threat of getting killed by the hands, claws or bones of the blood-thirsting monsters had enabled them somehow to tap into a hidden, forgotten human resource. Their own form of magic.

But now, outside the barrier, human magic wasn't strong enough to use it actively anymore. Only the passive aspects, like the SOUL-seeing, were still there and you had been floored when Frisk told you, with red cheeks, that your own SOUL was of a vibrant, almost iridescent orange with streaks of purple. They hadn’t figured out what all the colors represented yet, except for their own, red, which apparently stood for determination, but you thought it was absolutely amazing anyway.

 

The topic of leaving the gang only ever came up again seven years later, when you had secured your own rank as the most prestigious thief and con-artist under Sans' command. Battered and bruised beneath your – now fitting – signature leather jacket, but still cocky and witty enough for the both of you. Frisk had become even quieter, if that was even possible, and worked for Sans and Papyrus as a spy, checking with their magic which rivaling gang boss was weak and could be taken over or which unassuming civilian might actually be a hero in disguise. That eventually lead to Sans seizing control over most of South City's southern and central territories.

If anything, Frisk tried to spend as little time in the base as possible and most of the time you, too, were gone for days, busy staking out profitable houses to rob or tailing rich people in the Uptown districts. Always a-hustling.

One night you had returned from a stake out nearby, entering the old warehouse building through the roof window like you always did, and slipped quietly into the tiny attic room you had shared with Frisk ever since you brought them back from the restaurant. You had frozen on the spot when you saw them, the very second they stepped off the chair.

    “Frisk!” you had screamed at the top of your lungs, crossing the distance between you in a mad dash, and wrapped your arm around their frighteningly slim hips to hold them up and loosen the rope around their neck with your other hand. Frisk was crying and tried to kick you, tried desperately to writhe out of your arms but you refused to let go even when they straight up punched you in the face.

    “Let go!” they sobbed. "_______, let go! Fuck! Just let me die! Let go!!” their shrill cry was full of pain, full of hopelessness but you shook your head, your face pressed into Frisk's stomach, and endured the punches raining down on you. Finally your other hand freed one of the knives in your sleeve and cut the rope completely. You fell to the dusty floor with Frisk in your arms and held them, cupping the back of their head with your hand that had dropped the knife, blood seeping into their brown hair from where you had stabbed your own palm.

Frisk could only sob and they clutched the open front of your jacket, unravelling in their despair and fear. You petted their hair, shushing soothingly, and exhaled a hard, shaky breath yourself.

    “I got you Frisk, I got you… shit, you scared the crap out of me…” you mumbled weakly and hugged them even tighter to your chest. “Why… why in the world would you do that?! What happened while I was away? Who-” Frisk sniveled and raised their head to give you a strange look.

    “He proposed to me.” They whispered and your eyes flew open. Before you knew it you were on your feet again, snuck to the door and listened into the nightly noises of the base before closing the door all the way and snapping the lock in place that you had added specifically for Frisk's safety. For a horrible moment you tried not to imagine what would have happened if they had locked the door!

Leaning with your back against the worm-eaten wood, you just stared at them.

    “Fuck…” was all you could say to that. "Oh fuck, Frisk, I’m so sorry, I don't know what to-"

    “He said it was your idea.” Suddenly Frisk was on their feet again as well, fists clenched by their sides, a downright unsettling expression on their usually so calm face. You had never seen such a strange look in their gentle eyes. Then you really registered what they had said and you shook your head in denial.

    “What?! No! Frisk- what the hell, I would never fucking-"

You were shocked into speechless horror.

Over the last years Sans had taken a… particular interest in Frisk and never wasted a chance to corner them and make them uncomfortable with… certain invitations. You thought that he was just bored out of his mind and since he was still one of two people, or monsters rather, who could get Frisk to lose their stoic, calm demeanor, he was just doing it to scare them. Still, it had made you absolutely furious! You deliberately would go out of your way to make sure that his sick and violent focus was on you rather than Frisk to protect them. That his lusting, beady pinpricks for eyes would turn on you instead in raging anger. To keep your Frisk safe.

But now, you didn’t know if that person before you was still your Frisk. The way they held themselves, head slightly lowered as if they were about to rush you, hands balled into white-knuckled fists, cheeks flushed in a pale face…

    “Frisk…” you whispered intently, reaching your arms out for them. Had you lost them? Had you lost the only person you ever, truly loved? “Please…” your voice was about to crack.

Frisk briefly glanced down at your chest, at your SOUL, and you knew that they could see the whirling emotions within your being, could clearly see the feelings that were tearing you up inside and that were just as confusing for you. But you knew that what you felt for them was honest and good.

    “Stop it!” they hissed and dropped their angry stance, crossing their arms over their own chest, hiding their SOUL even though they knew you couldn’t see it. “You know we can’t do this anymore.”

    “Why the fuck not!?” you blurted out, not caring anymore if you woke the other gang members. "Because of that bastard?! You know what you mean to me! You can fucking see it right here!” you stabbed a bloodied finger between the lapels of your jacket. “You know all I ever did I did to protect you and I swear, I haven’t said anything to Sans that would make him propose to you! I would cut out my own tongue before I gave that fucker any ideas!”

    “Do you swear on your life?” Frisk returned, pressed, shivering from barely contained rage. You threw your arms wide open, made yourself vulnerable in a wordless invitation. By now you were sure they had a knife on them that they were willing to use; you could sense it, could tell by the way they moved and how their arms were positioned. You had learned early on to know when someone was down to fight.

    “Yes! Yes, I’ll fucking swear on my life if that’s what you want!” You spat out with a desperate laugh and Frisk's eyes glinted dangerously in the dark.

    “Then why the fuck were you trying to leave without me?!” they screamed and jumped you, a huge kitchen knife suddenly in their hand and their brown eyes flashing almost red. Frisk moved faster than you had ever seen, faster than you honestly had thought they could, but it was still no match for you and you had caught them by their wrists instantly, twisting them so Frisk was forced to drop the knife or get their arm broken.

Your reaction was more reflex than a thought-out process, because your brain still had not caught up with what they had shouted.

    “Leave? What do you-" you sputtered but released them when Frisk struggled against your hold with desperate force. Tears were streaming down their flushed face once more, shining in the light from the moon.

    “No! Don’t you dare play dumb with me, ________! I know you’ve been stashing a part of your share for over a year now! I know about the apartment you bought as your safe-house! No, you don’t get to play the innocent one, when I know exactly that you’re preparing to leave the gang! With. Out. Me! How?! How could you?!” they were sobbing again and you dropped your raised hands completely now, shoulders slumping in guilt and realization.

    “Does anyone else know?” you asked flatly, all anger gone from your voice. Frisk shook their head, a hiccup shaking their frail shoulders.

    “N- no. And I’m not going to tell anyone. Because you’re still my friend. You’re the o- only friend I have. You are like a sister to me.”

Ouch, well that was plain, you thought, hurt.

    “Frisk, let me explain, I-"

    “No, it's fine you don’t have to.” They quickly said and wiped their face with the frayed sleeve of their old, striped sweater. “I get it, really. You want out, always wanted out. I would just slow you down. But you know what, _______? I can carry my own very well now. No need to protect me anymore. I’ll be fine.”

    “Frisk…” you implored. "You just tried to kill yourself! If you call that fine then I’m not gonna leave you out of sight for another second! To… to be honest, you kinda ruined the surprise.” You added, kicking at the dusty floorboards. Frisk turned their head around to you in disbelief.

    “I wanted to show it to you. The safe house. Wanted to offer you a nicer place to sleep. I know you hate every second you have to spend here… yeah, you were right back then… I wanted out all this time, but you? You never wanted in in the first place and I made you.” You sighed and dragged a hand over your face, the bleeding one of course that left a sticky trail of red on your skin.

“It was supposed to be a surprise. I’d steal you away one night and take you to this nice… to this safe little place… once I had enough cash and resources for the both of us, to start a new life. The offer still stands, of course! I'll take you with me, I promise! Where do you want to go? You know I'd take you everywhere, Frisk.” You were pleading now because Frisk was already turning away again.

“Please, Frisk… I’m so, so sorry for everything but… please just give me a little more time!”

They had considered you with one last, distant look.

    “You better leave now…” Frisk muttered. “I want to be alone.”

You had stood there for one, two more heartbeats until the pain in your heart, in your SOUL, had grown too much to bear and you  stormed out of the tiny attic, ripping the lock from the thin wall when you threw the door open.

    “I promise I won't tell him.” Frisk had said after you.

 

    “But you did…” you whisper hoarsely, feeling the tears running down your cheeks and mixing with the hot and sizzling black water. "You did tell him and now look where I've ended up. I know, God- I know I’ve put you through hell by making you join the gang, and it's only fair that I get my turn. After all, we return favors like that, don't we? But… it still sucks.”

Chapter Text

Opening the book a third time, you ignore the terrifying eldritch monstrosity and try instead to read the narrowly written passages of text.

The title is enough to make you shiver.

 

 

12. I put a Spell on You, You put a Spell on Me

 

 

You take no notice of Blackhat's presence, which he keeps carefully shielded from all your senses as he stands behind you, watching you cry silent tears while remaining motionless in the black water.

Your strong, agonized memories had called out to him like a siren's song, beckoning him to listen, to come and taste more of that delicious pain he's already had a sip of when you were dreaming in the dungeon. The pain is deeply enrooted in your soul, which looks a whole lot different to his many eyes than the limited spectrum monsters and human mages can see in your world. The agony you feel, and that you virtually exude just by existing, is so delicious he finds he craves it more each day. The liquor of distilled, tormented souls was barely enough to sate his hunger for now… and he's almost run out of that already.

He tries to imagine what your soul might taste like in reality. Would it be bittersweet as your memories make it out to be? Or was it rather spiced by the strong, stubborn tenacity and resolve that have kept you from surrendering to whatever life was throwing between your legs?

He licks his pointed teeth, catching the drool that's pooling behind them. Without a single noise, without a stir in the air, he leaves the bath and crosses the bedroom, knowing full and well that the longer he listens, the more time he spends looking at (and salivating over) that enticing soul of yours, the less willing he will be to resist his own gluttony and actually savor its taste when the time comes.

Wait, he has to tell himself again. To him it's nothing but a blink in time until he can feast, yet… exerting patience while being stuck in a physical form is so draining! Time moves much slower in this plane of existence.

And despite the disgusting moments of affection (he tries not to retch aloud) in your memory, he had still followed it with utmost interest as he must confess. A seemingly shallow character on the outside, you keep quite the secrets from the world. Like the many-layered, potent pain that you hide behind a cocky grin and your own bad puns, something you must have adapted from the gross skeleton mobster you previously worked for. Or your selfishness and possessive nature that you hide even from yourself. Oh, but it's only a matter of time until he’s got you all figured out. After all, you’re still only a human.

   “Oh, what the fuck?!”

He whirls around at the shocked sound of your voice, his self-satisfied grin immediately replaced by a baffled stare. How in the pits of Hell had you managed to shake the spell he put on you?!

You’re naked; your scarred body dripping with black foam and bath water and with a red glow to it from the scalding temperatures you seem to enjoy, eyes round and wide. In your one arm, with the wrist haphazardly bandaged, you're holding the tome of Lovecraft which you now use to quickly shield your more private areas. He smirks. Too late, little thief.

    “Get out. Get the fuck out!” you hiss, and now he notices the knife you’re clutching in your other hand, bobbing up and down like you're instinctively estimating its weight and how best to throw it. He knows you wouldn’t miss your mark.

    “Sleep.” He commands, monocle flashing. A tremor runs through your entire body that jerks up and then grows stiff as a board, dropping knife and book onto the wet carpet. Your eyes are still opened, if now half-lidded, staring into nothingness. He had known, from a similar incident the night before, that you wouldn't be paralyzed enough by the bath bombs alone that he'd left specifically for you in the cupboard, so this time he had placed a spell on you as well to be able to indulge in the smell and sight of your soul without any interruptions.

Annoyed, he erases yet another fraction of your memory; plucks it right out of your tiny human brain, just like last night, even though he doesn’t really want you to lose that delicious moment of fright. Your pain and the horrors he uses to scare you down to the core, they all shall serve as ingredients to transform you into something else, something better. Something villainous.

But he has to be more careful, has to make all the right moves and diligently drive you into the right direction without scaring you off. Otherwise that dreaded hope and light you still somehow carry threaten to make a goddamn hero out of you! And that would be a waste, a crime, he is not willing to stand for!

Blackhat pauses in his musing and one of his shadow-tendrils picks up the heavy book you dropped with ease. He scrutinizes you. He knows that you didn’t just pick that book by accident, no. You must have found something that pointed you in this particular, this dangerous direction. But what he doesn’t know yet is whether you will be able to piece the puzzle together on your own from here on. And what you will eventually make of the results, if you even have the mental strength to thoroughly search the book for answers. Yet another facet of yours he has unveiled and laid bare, and that had surprised him: he had not expected you, a common thief and lowlife without any sort of proper education, to be so studied and interested in detective work or unraveling the occult mysteries.

Did you even know what had happened to your parents? How you ended up as an orphan in the first place, left to survive in the gutter of a city so vile he would love to take a leisurely stroll through her darkest alleys some time?

Sensing another opportunity to groom the darkness inside you, he makes a mental note to push you into that direction as well, to have you uncover the truth about your own origin and the horrible secret behind it.

The Crawling Chaos takes a last, deep breath next to your neck, and in your sleep you smell intoxicatingly afraid, as though your body was still aware of what was going on around it, and reacted more accordingly. The way you should act around the likes of him…

Scared to death.

 

-

 

You open your eyes and look right at the bedroom ceiling. With a forceful exhale through your nose, you close them again and groan quietly.

Not again!, you think, and now your concern for your poor brain has settled in for good. It's still nighttime, you can tell by the darkness outside your windows, but in the morning you’ll kick down the door to Flug's lab, first thing, and demand he runs some tests on your skull! Before that’s not cleared up you ain’t gonna do shit for his Lordship! As his employee you must have some sort of basic health insurance that doesn't involve stitching yourself up.

You throw off the blankets and switch on the light above the huge king size bed. Your body is still covered in crusted edges of foam, as though you had stood up from the tub and went straight to bed. Yet something heavy is digging into your side and you realize that one of your fingers is stuck inside a book. Curious, you look at the thick tome you had taken from the library.

Without pulling your finger out from where it is stuck, you hoist the heavy book onto your stomach and open it at the page you’ve trapped your digit in. Let’s have a look at what you were reading before you fell asleep, or unconscious rather. The flaky, yellowed pages fold apart sluggishly as if the book had been dipped into sticky glue. Your eyes promptly widen at the inked sketch that's basically lunging at you from between the dense lines of handwritten text around it.

The image is so horrible, so absolutely mind-rattling that you close the book immediately, clasping a hand over your mouth to muffle your startled yelp.

What the actual fuck?!

Carefully, as if it were able to bite your fingers clean off, you open the book again, revealing the terrible depiction inch by inch, and try to fight the upcoming sickness in your stomach. Whoever drew this either had a mind so utterly destroyed you don’t even want to imagine under what circumstances they had envisioned something so gruesome, or they've had mad guts of titanium steel, and a brain to match, to be able to look at this entity for long enough to sketch it in that amount of details.

It's horrifying. You try to come up with a better word, a fancier word you might have read somewhere, but when you strip it as clean as you can, it is just that. Horror incarnate. The creature is just a misshapen mass of… limbs? Or… eyes… there's some trunks… a mouth- no, two? What?

The lines of the sketch seem to move whenever you try to focus on one section for longer and define the shape, the black ink distorts and twists before your eyes and after a minute you have to close the book once more if you don’t want to puke all over your own bed. Not that there was much you could have spat out, anyway. You were well used to famine, to have no food for days and weeks, and your body knew how to deal with it. Luckily, over your last years in Sans' gang, you had even managed to get a little softer around the edges, so you probably won't die by your body running out of fuel to burn.

Now dying from going insane, however…

Glancing at the book's lid, you try to imagine if seeing that image for the first time had perhaps been enough to knock you the fuck out and delete all the traumatic memories from your mind to protect it.

You shake your head. No way. It was just a sketch!

Opening the book a third time, more determined to keep it together, you ignore the terrifying eldritch monstrosity and try instead to read the narrowly written passages of text. The title is enough to make you shiver, however, and cast a checking glance around you.

Azathoth – The Nuclear Chaos, Daemon Sultan, Blind Idiot God – His awakening will destroy everything.

    “Yaaaay…” you lilt sardonically, suddenly not sure if it is really worth risking your sanity just to find out what the fuck kind of creature Blackhat really is. But… maybe there's a way to speed things up!

Groaning from the weight, you flip the entire book around and open it from the back, looking for an alphabetical index. And you find one.

    “Alright, C… Cataclysmic Armageddon… Catharsis Vivae… come on… aha! Crawling Chaos, page…“ Excited, you sit up in bed, crossing your legs underneath the book and flipping the pages until you reach the one before the Crawling Chaos. And the one after it. “Wait, what?!” you utter, confused. The pages are missing! It's not visible on first glance, but deep between the other pages you see the cut remains of parchment.

“Figures…” you huff and flop backwards into the pillows, dragging your hands over your face. “Can't be too easy, huh?” Sighing tiredly, you stick your right hand under the pillow next to your head and suddenly feel the handle of the Bowie knife bump against your fingertips.

Immediately you’re wide awake, alarmed out of your exhaustion. Because even though there is obviously a part of your memories from the night missing, be it because of an aneurysm or sleepwalking, there is one thing you would never do, no matter what state of mind you were in: place a knife on the wrong side of your sleeping place!

You sit up again and fling the pillows away from you one by one until the black, leather-wrapped handle sticks out against the white of the sheet. It is indeed on the wrong side! And in the wrong position, too! There is no way in hell you would go to sleep with your knife out of place like this, not even when you’re drunk off your ass! That was one of the earliest reflexes you adapted: being able to pull a blade on anyone while also in the only position you're comfortable sleeping in - curled up on your left side with your right hand underneath the pillow beside your face, fingers lightly wrapped around the handle of the knife as if it were the arm of a stuffed animal, ready to slice every danger open with one good slash while protecting your vital organs.

The way the knife is placed now, it's entirely useless to you!

Something stirs in your mind, like a tape that wants to rewind and play but can’t because someone’s cut a piece out of it. But you don’t need it to know that this someone had been inside your room and messed with your stuff! And if that someone happened to be wearing a black top hat, you don’t wanna know what else he might have messed with!

You can’t possibly sleep now; you swing your legs out of the bed and run over to the bathroom. The light is still burning, and there are a few wet footprints left on the tiles that haven’t fully dried yet. The water had been drained from the tub but the heavy smell of the bath bomb still lingers in the air, so you were still somehow able to drain the tub when you got out.

But of course you don’t find anything, no clues or evidence. Yet it could only have been Blackhat himself. You doubt that Dementia possesses the means to alter your memory and Flug's gadgets probably would have left some sort of trace. No, this smells suspiciously like magic.

Alright, you think, weighing the knife in your hand, Change of plans. First I'm going to kick down Blackhat's door and ask him what the fuck he thinks he's doing and, if I survive that encounter, I’m kicking down Flug's door and force him to scan my brain. And if those scans show that Blackhat fucked up my grey matter in any way… I’ll probably die trying to kill him either way.

You sigh and return to your bed. There's nothing you can do about it at this moment, so better to get some odd hours of sleep before the throwdown. With the knife in the proper place now, sleep comes twice as easily and the quiet lament of the violin merges into your dreams, in which countless tentacles and shadowy figures lurk around you.

Frisk is there, too, the rope back around their neck, balancing precariously on the backrest of a chair, and they regard you with that cold, distant look while you try desperately to run towards them. Until someone stabs you from behind and you fall to your knees. When you lift your head, there are two versions of Frisk. The second one stares at you with a crazed smile, red eyes and flushed cheeks.

 

 

When you wake up this time in the late morning, you already know that you’re not alone - and by now you know that this means your company is not Blackhat, with or without a disguise, for once.

Opening your eye a tiny slit, your vision is immediately filled out by a mass of green color. You groan.

    “Please tell me you brought pancakes?” you say, muffled, into the pillow and flex your hand slightly. The knife is still there, in your hand, where it belongs. Dementia burps and plops down on the edge of the mattress right next to you. You reflexively tense your entire body and wait for an attack, but the crazy girl just snickers.

    "Yeah but I ate them all since you were still asleep. The bear made them with blueberries.” She sneers, smacking her lips. You can indeed smell the pancakes on her breath and groan again.

    “You realize I haven’t eaten in over a day?” you complain and just as you expected, Dementia only snorts at that.

    “Aww are you gonna cwy wittle baby?” she cackles maniacally and makes baby-noises at you. “Widdle baby thiewy-beewy oogoogoo!” A broken fingernail pokes your cheek when you turn away from her and onto your back, uttering a humorless laugh.

    “Very funny, Demmy-Dummy.” You shoot back.

    “Hey!” she protests immediately. “I’m not dumb! I'm way smarter than you!”

    “Sure you are.” Now you scoff for real and roll completely out of bed, already so done with the day that you don't even care about being butt-naked. Turning around with a languid stretch, you see that she has her eyes narrowed at you, the one with the enlarged iris looking almost completely yellow that way.

    “You know, it's rude to stare at people who have no clothes on.” You point out and demonstratively gesture down your naked form, your other hand propped on your hip. Dementia rolls around and sits up with her legs crossed, shrugging.

    “So? I don't care.”

Great. You sigh and suddenly desperately wish Blackhat had woken you up again. At least he would have brought you new clothes and above all probably would have had the decency to let you dress in peace. And, but this is just a theory, he wouldn’t have deliberately eaten your breakfast!

    “Righ-t.” You try to fight another sigh and amble over to the bathroom door instead. But suddenly you stop in front of the wardrobe, as something oddly stands out to your senses. The big, black lacquered wooden dresser doesn’t look any different than it did yesterday. Yet…

You decide to open one of the doors, halfway expecting Blackhat to jump out and scare the crap out of you again. But then you blink in surprise.

The dresser is filled to the brim with clothes! You spot loads more of the red shirt your new boss already gave you, lots of black and grey, some green and other colors that look pretty muted but elegant. You make a face.

Sure, those pieces are probably more expensive and fashionable than anything else you have ever worn, but because of that, they’re not at all your style and you don’t feel like wearing them for any more lower work. You miss the old trunk full of black leggings, band shirts and soft secondhand jerseys you own. This just looks like you won’t be able to even move properly in them, let alone climb or run.

    “Hey, where'd you get those?” Dementia suddenly asks, suspicious, behind you and you shrug with a derogative noise.

    “I didn’t get shit. But I'll probably have to pay them off regardless, so… might better start wearing ‘em I guess.” You ignore her piercing, probing glare and pick out a soft pair of pants that's closest to a legging, and another red shirt. With a horrible suspicion, you open one of the lower drawers with your foot and close your eyes with a desperate internal scream, cursing yourself for being curious. Of course Blackhat wouldn’t forget to also equip you with the laciest of underwear.

Dementia has gone dangerously silent behind you but you can hear her rising growl when you hunker down to rummage through the panties and socks. Christ.

    “Relax, Dee. Your man is just messing with me to make me feel even more uncomfortable than I already am. He’s probably laughing his hat off right now.” You say in an effort to calm the crazy bitch down, picking one pair of panties up by the lace with the very tips of your fingers. If Blackhat was really trying to mess with you, he was doing one hell of a job. If you didn’t know it any better, you would say that the guy had the hots for you.

You shudder at the thought.

When you come back up and turn around, Dementia looks a little reassured, in her own, crazy way. The murderous glint you expected to find is gone, for example.

    “You're right.” She lilts. “There's no way someone as amazing as Blackhat would even think about wanting someone as wimpy and weak as you!”

You give her a thumbs up with a tired smile and go back to the bed to put your clothes on. Luckily Dementia gets bored when you don’t react to her more than annoying presence anymore and leaves by crawling over the walls and through a ventilation grid above the door, kicking it shut with her sneaker.

A relieved breath escapes you and you head over to the bathroom to wash your face and put on your shoes. With the nosy lunatic gone, you retrieve the knife from under your pillow and secure it in your sports bra.

Then you stop, a little indecisive. Nobody has shown up until now to tell you what to do today in order to progress with paying off your debt (and you try to ignore the sinking suspicion that you probably will be working for Blackhat until the day you die and he can finally harness your miserable soul). But no matter how you turn it, the answer is painfully obvious.

    “Guess I gotta ask the boss himself.” You say through gritted teeth. Suddenly you remember that you wanted to confront him about last night anyway, and a part of your outrage returns, changing your reluctance into anger. Huh, you’re suddenly pretty indifferent about the fact that this might be the day that you died.

Chapter Text

    “Blackhat mentioned that you can’t get the relic yourself because of your powers… care to elaborate what those are?”

A mischievous grin splits his lips and he cowers down a little.

    “Thought you’d never ask…”

 

 

13. I Like Trouble

 

 

Halfway down the stairs to Blackhat's office, you can already hear muffled voices through the tall ebony door at the end of the hallway.

Crap, you think, angry. Do I really risk causing a scene when Flug's in there, too?

Your already low mood declines even further as you walk up to the door and pause for a moment to listen. Not very polite but fuck manners anyway.

The first speaker is Blackhat, obviously, but he doesn't sound even remotely as irritated as usually and the second voice makes you really prick up your ears and blink in surprise.

You don’t know that voice.

So, was there maybe someone in this house you had not met up to now or were there actually people from outside suicidal enough to enter this manor?! Driven by your burning curiosity, you knock once and push the door open without bothering to wait for a response.

Blackhat is leaning against the front of his desk, arms crossed, shooting you an especially livid glare across the room upon your rude entrance. But your attention is quickly captured by the white-haired man turning around to you, looking just as surprised as you are to see him.

    “Oh, sorry Lord Blackhat, I didn’t know you had a… a guest?” You try but the very second the words are out of your mouth, an invisible, hot hand clutches your throat and chokes you. Blackhat's single eye looks completely red now as he lifts his physical, glowing hand from his chest and the cruel force around your throat pulls you off your feet in turn.

    “I don’t know if it is pure stupidity that you still try to lie to me, or if you truly are a closeted masochist who enjoys being punished.” He comments with a sinister chuckle while the invisible force drags you through the air and towards the two of them. Blackhat drops you nonchalantly onto the floor and you gasp for air, tears stinging in your eyes. When you look up to glare at the demonic businessman, you notice that the stranger has grabbed his left bicep, dark eyes flitting nervously between Blackhat and you. So he knows the tender touch of your boss' hand as well?

    “I’m well aware that you were eavesdropping, little thief.” Blackhat continues with an irritated growl while you move to stand up and massage your aching throat. You shrug, deliberately playing the punishment down both to take a jab at Blackhat and to show the newcomer that you're not scared of the big-bad-hat-man.

    “Thought I'd give it a try. Might learn what's giving me away. And to be honest, I thought you were talking to Flug.”

You try to keep your expression in check when there's no immediate reaction to your little lie and instead turn your head to scrutinize the stranger from up close.

Even though he seems barely older than you, his hair is completely white and surrounds his deeply tanned, fox-like face in a wild mane. His  eyes are so dark they appear almost black as he returns your stare. Both his forearms are bandaged up from the hands to his elbows and he's wearing a long, purple vest with golden, ornamental details over a sand-colored top. You notice that he's still clutching his left upper arm.

    “Hi, I'm ________!” you suddenly introduce yourself with a bright smile and shove your right hand into his personal bubble. He's so taken off-guard that he automatically lets go off his arm to take your hand and shake it, revealing what you had already suspected: a top hat branding, much older than yours and healed into a bulging, gnarled scar. So he's the third person in the entire… multiverse? who had been marked by Blackhat. Which makes him a member of the organization like Flug, and now yourself. Now you’re really curious.

    “Uh, hey, I’m Vi-… Call me Void.” He catches himself and quickly lets go of your hand as if you had burned him. From the corner of your eye you notice that the skin of his bare arms seems to glow with a purple sheen but decide to act like you didn't see it or his obvious unease.

    “Void, huh? So, you’re a villain or something?” you ask instead, honestly intrigued. Yet his brows immediately furrow and he puffs up his slim chest.

    “Professional super-villain, actually?” He stresses arrogantly and your smile falters instantly, giving him a bored look.

    “Never heard of you.”  

Blackhat grinds his teeth next to you with a bone-rattling noise, pinching the bridge of his non-existent nose.

    “If you don't quit your bickering…”

Void flinches and virtually snaps back to attention while you shoot him a mean grin.

    “Oh, by the way, Lord Blackhat, I wanted to ask you what my tasks are for today. You know, since I still have a debt to pay off and I really don’t want to unnecessarily overstay my welcome here.” You get to the point and watch with a lick of tension how Blackhat's expression darkens into an even deeper frown.

    “Well, since you’re obviously entirely useless for something as simple as maid-work, I have decided to put your actual skills to the test.”

    “Want me to catch some more knives?” you blurt out with a laugh and now get an actual shocked gasp out of Void. Blackhat just grins at you and for a second you expect him to indeed chuck another huge knife right at your chest from point blank range. Or maybe reach for the warhammer on the wall.

    “If you're really that eager to part from your soul then yes, I might use you for target practice later. No, you are going to steal something for me, little thief. Something small that he,” he nods his hat towards Void, “is after but cannot get himself due to the volatile nature of his powers. I will alter the object for him, for a price of course.” Blackhat adds with a stern glare in Void's direction, who nods quickly.

You rub your hands, eyes glinting in excitement.

    “Oh hell yeah! Just give me some gear and send me on my way, boss!”

    “Not so fast you insufferable nuisance! You will work under his command.” Blackhat snaps and now it's Void's turn to shoot you a smug grin as your face drops into an open-mouthed gape.

    “He's… what? No! Fuck no! I’m a solo-artist, I don’t work with people! Let alone work under people! If you haven’t already noticed, I have a problem with authority figures! No, not gonna-" before you can finish your outraged speech, Blackhat rises up before you, transforms into a gigantic, horrible version of himself and grabs you with one massive, clawed hand that wraps around your entire body, threatening to break every bone inside you!

Red flames shoot out of the floor and a spray of green saliva rains down on you when he roars: “You will do as I say or I will tear you limb from limb, revive your pathetic body and do it all over and over and OVER again, until there is not even a single photon left of your miserable soul!!”

You might have actually passed out for the fraction of a second, because the next thing you're aware of is you lying on the floor, arms and legs drawn to your body and a more human looking Blackhat bending over you from where he stands, a lenient, but still absolutely evil grin on his dark face.

    “So tell me, little thief… wha’s it gonna be for ya?

The way he says it, the fact that he knows how to say it, and the way his voice distorts to say it, makes you tremble on the floor and just nod in speechless horror. How the fuck does he know about Sans' favorite line?! Did he read your mind? What else does he know about you or does he just know everything?!

    “Marvelous. Now; doctor Flug will fill both of you in on the details of this mission as I am very busy.” Blackhat ambles over to the overfilled bookshelf on your left and grabs a golf bag. With another menacing grin towards you, he vanishes into the ground.

    “Fucking bastard…” you cuss under your breath and cover your face with your hands, wiping off the fine layer of cold sweat. You hear Void stepping closer and immediately peek through your fingers, alert. He has his hand extended to you, a bewildered expression on his face.

    “Are you out of your mind? He was this close to murdering you!” he exclaims, pulling you up onto your feet when you grab his hand. The two fingers he's holding up for demonstration are touching each other. You shrug and dust off your pants.

    “Oh, this? He does that all the time. Never broke a single bone in my body up to now. He's pretty much been handling me with kids gloves so far.”

Void just stares at you like you are indeed insane. This close to him, you notice that he has a beauty mark on his right cheek and that his left ear is pierced. Then he shakes his head and turns to the door.

    “Well, we better head down. Don't wanna keep the good doctor waiting.” He mutters the last part and you hurry to follow him, your curiosity still very much piqued despite the escalation from just now. If you had to pick one real strength, you would choose your unbreakable spirit. It made you pretty much indestructible against all odds. Well, until now at least.

While you're waiting for the elevator to take you down to Flug's lab, you throw Void a few glances. He seems much more relaxed now that Blackhat's gone… golfing, you guess. He probably even has a black golf cap somewhere underneath his other hats! The mental image makes you snicker to yourself. Void looks at you. He’s pretty much your height, maybe an inch taller or two. Minus the crazy hair of course.

    “So, how did you get into the organization?” he asks and you make a face.

    “Oof, that’s a pretty good question.” You reply and he gives you a confused, but also amused, shake of his head.

    “What? You don’t know? You just… iunno, showed up here and bam, Lord Blackhat himself decides to make you his student?” The second the words are out, his eyes widen in realization and he gasps, slapping a hand over his mouth. You blink at him. And then you explode:

    “His… his student?! I thought I was doing all this stupid work to pay off my debt to him!” you groan and rub your face. “Ugh! I- yeah, I woke up in his study a few days ago. Someone had thrown me through the window and knocked me out. So I was actually trespassing and at first he wanted to get rid off me, I guess, but the next day he made me sign a weird contract that I didn’t even read because it was so tiny and he was- augh, what the fuck?!”

Void regards you with a commiserative expression.

    “Oh man, he really tricked you? You didn’t know what he was planning?” he shakes his head again. The elevator dings and you storm out of the cage, pissed.

    “Tch. You make it sound like it’s easy to understand anything he does! I can't believe it, that asshat!”

The fact that Void can’t help but guffaw at your nickname makes you a little less angry.

The door to the main lab glides to the side with a hiss and the fluorescent lights glare you after the dimness of Blackhat's office. Flug is working on a giant robot with top hat that’s lying on one of the metal stretchers, sparks flying from the small angle grinder. Must be one of those Hatbots he’s threatened Dementia with.

You wait until the din stops for a moment before you call out to him to get his attention.

The scientist lifts the face protector off his paper bag and sets the grinder aside, greeting Void and you with a nod.

     “Ah, there you are. Lord Blackhat informed me already about your briefing. But I’m afraid you will have to wait a few days before you can even hope to get into that particular facility, since I still need to finish a few tools for you. Don’t give me that look, _______, you can’t get in there with just a few lock picks!” Flug adds when you already roll your eyes.

The sooner this is over the sooner you'll be on your own again to figure out a way to get rid of the tracker in your neck to have a bit more freedom, and to take your revenge on Sans. Constantly being kicked around by Blackhat is already bad enough, you don’t want to have to work under someone else on top of that. Least of all someone who actually insists on calling himself a super-villain! What a pompous prick.

    “Yeah, yeah. So, what’s it we're looking for and what are this particular facility’s defenses?” you retort, crossing your arms in front of your chest and blowing a loose strand of hair out of your face.

Before Flug can answer your questions, Void pipes up instead, excitedly pulling his phone out  of his vest to show you the image of some sort of old looking bracelet, resting on a white pedestal within a glass case.

    “This! It's an ancient relic and said to hold the power of teleportation! It's currently being exhibited at a museum but only for another week before it'll get locked away inside an underground bunker again.”

You glance up and notice the absolutely livid glare Flug shoots Void across the table for interrupting him, but the villain already continues: "I had initially planned to ask Lord Blackhat himself to get me the relic, or an army of Hatbots if that would he cheaper. He then told me that he was currently trai-…” suddenly Void realizes he’s about to just blurt out some more things you’re not supposed to know, and above all in front of Flug, and he quickly clears his throat.

“He… said that a thief was currently working for his organization and he would be willing to put you into my services in order to acquire the ring. That way you would further pay off your… debt and I only had to pay for the… enchanting.” He coughs again nervously and you catch yourself grinning at him. Void seems awfully prone to rambling when he’s excited.

    “Fine be me,” you say, and your grin widens. “Hey, have you ever monologued a hero to death by any chance?”

Void's tanned face turns a deep shade of red and you hear Flug snicker gleefully. That purple gleam is surrounding the villain's arms again and now you deliberately stare at them, raising an eyebrow when you realize that the glow is actually coming from inside his skin, slowly making it look translucent.

    “Blackhat mentioned that you can’t get the relic yourself because of your powers… care to elaborate what those are, exactly?”

A mischievous grin splits his lips and he cowers down a little, spreading his arms apart.

    “Thought you’d never ask…”

Suddenly there's a forceful pull behind you, a low noise, and you barely have a chance to hold onto the metal leg of the Hatbot before your feet are ripped off the ground and pulled into the air. You look up and spot a solid black disk floating in the middle of the lab, sucking in everything not bolted to the ground. Pencils and papers and even a chair. And apparently you as well!

Your hand slips on the sleek chassis and you gasp out in actual fright, when Flug slams his hand on the metal table and the terrible black hole vanishes instantly.

    “That's enough, Void! How many times have I told you not to unleash your black hole ability in my lab?!” he shrieks. Without the galactic force holding you up, you fall to the floor, the impact knocking the air out of you. When you come back up, Void looks sulky and rubs his bandaged arms.

You're still trying to catch your breath and stare openly at him. While humans couldn't actively use magic outside the barrier, there were some who had gained special powers due to its destruction, namely heroes. But this? You had never encountered someone with that amount of power!

    “What the…” you mutter. “What are you?” He sticks his chin into the air and looks down on you along the curve of his nose.

    “I already told you. I’m a super-villain, trained by Lord Blackhat himself and you better not forget it again.”

    “And you should know the punishment for wreaking havoc in my lab!” Flug hisses, pulling out the remote you’ve already seen him wave at Dementia in a threatening manner. Void gulps and shoots the Hatbot on the workbench a nervous look.

    “S- sorry doctor Flug, I was just- it won't happen again, I swear!” the young man stammers, raising his hands defensively and you suddenly think that you must be pretty good in Flug's book. At least for now. Better not get on his bad side, you think to yourself. Or steal that remote so he can’t use the Hatbots against me. You memorize the design of the remote and where exactly Flug puts it back in his coat. Just in case.

    “I’ll let it slide this time… but don’t think you can do whatever you want in here just because you're a professional now. This is still my terf, boy.”

The fact that Flug knows street lingo makes you blink and stifle a snort in surprise.

    “Okay, are you done?” you interrupt and get back to the point. “So. You can summon black holes. Cool. Why can’t you just, you know, suck the relic out of the museum?”

Void pulls a face and crosses his arms in front of his chest, summoning a tiny black hole within the palm of his hand that immediately pulls on your clothes again and messes up your hair. Flug takes a scandalized breath but before he can actually explode, the mind-boggling phenomena disappears.

    “Because it would do just that. And then the relic would be lost in space somewhere. Irretrievable. Well, at least for me.” He sighs. You want to already shoot the next question but he gives you a crooked, knowing smile. “Yeah, I know. The power is pretty good for leveling entire cities and destroying armies of enemies, but for elaborate detail work? Forget it. Which is why I want this relic in the first place! With its teleportation ability, I could turn my black holes into portals!” He sounds more excited now again, and you nod. It actually makes sense.

    “Alright, I see where I fit in here. Get the relic out of the glass case. No problem.”

    “Not so fast!” Flug snaps, exasperated by both of your youthful, disrespectful spirits. “You seem to have forgotten a tiny but very crucial detail, _______!”

Void nods in your stead: “Right, the security measures…”

    “Exactly. Now, pay close attention. I still have a ton of work to do and thus no time to repeat myself!”

 

 

Despite his complaints, Flug takes half a day going over the museum's defenses and the scans his Hat-drones have taken of the outer and inner layout, complete with a schematic circuit plan to visualize where the single security systems were hooked up to. That wasn’t a museum, it was a bloody fortress! So the relic was legit. The real deal. Probably worth a ton.

In your mind you were already sketching out a plan of attack. Where you could enter, how to disable the security systems that would give you the most trouble, and routes you could use to avoid the many security guards the drone had registered.

You were more than amazed by Flug's work in that short amount of time. It would have taken you a week alone to get this much intel on the target! And even then you still wouldn’t have the entire wiring of the building to aid you!

Void would create a distraction outside the museum once you were inside, triggering the first line of defense: an entire lockdown of the building so that nobody would be able to get in or out. You had gotten him to agree to attack at night, when no visitors were inside the building. Upon his disappointed pout and complaint that he would prefer to take a few hostages, you had argued that more eyes would also mean more trouble for you to actually steal the relic unnoticed, which he had eventually considered a relevant point.

Besides, you hadn’t felt comfortable at the thought of being trapped in a locked building with hundreds of panicking civilians. Or endangering other people unnecessarily, but you were smart enough to not voice those concerns out loud in front of an evil scientist and a super-villain with yet another super-human power to obliterate you without breaking a sweat.

After you had all agreed on the general plan, Void left through a portal Flug opened for him with one of the huge machines standing around in the lab. The villain announced he would be back in a few days to get you and the tools Flug was working on and steal the relic. You couldn’t deny that you were more than envious when he just walked through the whirling portal of light and was gone. Back to his own evil scheming and not forced to stay in this hellish hat of a house.

Flug had given his back another angry stare even after the portal had closed again, and shook his head.

    “Never understood why Lord Blackhat bothered to make him a professional under his personal supervision… a hotheaded, undisciplined brat.” When he turns to you, his glasses reflect the light from above.

“But that stays our secret, alright?” There's something in the cheery way he says it that makes you nod immediately, reminding yourself once again that while Flug may not look like a malicious genius, he sure as hell could get him out when he thought it necessary.

However, there was still the issue with your brain, and whatever Blackhat might have done to it the night before!

    “Um… hey, doc?” you say and Flug turns back around to you, lowering the angle grinder he picked up.

    “Hm?” he does. Fuck it, you think.

    “It's just… I keep losing… moments, especially at night. You know, like… I’m in the bath one second and the next thing I know is, I’m in my bed with no memory of how I got there. I just thought… you know, since I got banged up pretty badly when I got here…” You hate the miserable sound of your voice, hate to talk about your weakness, but it seems to be working: Flug’s eyes widen behind the dark goggles and he grabs your arm to pull you into another part of the lab.

The next second, you’re pushed onto a medical stretcher and let Flug run countless tests on you. He shines a flashlight into your eyes, looks into your ears and nose with a little microscope, tilts your head his way and that, and finally he puts you through a big scanner that’s not only loud enough to give you a headache but also so tight you feel reminded of the huge claw that had threatened to squeeze you into paste a few hours ago.

But eventually he’s done and flips through the pages of results the machine spat out. You stay sitting on the scanner's couch, your fingers playing with the buttons of your shirt. When Flug hums thoughtfully, you already fear the worst, but the scientist shakes his head and shrugs.

    “Your brain looks completely normal. No clots, no bleeding, no aneurysm… there is no medical cause for your…” he seems to realize it then and spins around to you, the stack of paper shaking in his gloved hands.

    “Yeah.” You utter. “I figured as much. Just wanted to make sure it wasn’t actually my brain that’s taken worse of a beating than I thought.” With that you jump off the couch and crack your knuckles, already about to storm out of the lab.

Flug grabs you by the arm.

    “D- don't!” he whispers imploringly. “If- if you really value your life, your limbs, your sanity, you better not-"

You grab his hand and gently remove it from your arm. A crooked smile plays around your lips and you shrug.

    “I don’t think he’s going to kill me, Flug. If he managed to train someone like Void for years without killing him, I’ll be a-okay with a bit of bitching in his face.”

You turn on your heel and leave, your brisk steps carrying you through the lab too quickly as that you're able to hear Flug muttering:

    “No… but you’re going to wish he did.”

Chapter Text

With one hand he reaches out for your neck and presses his palm to the open wound, the flaring agony enough to make your eyes roll back into your skull. Somehow you still hear his voice:

    “Have I made myself clear enough?”

 

14. Volatile Times

 

When you walk into the front hall, you spot Dementia in the hallway that leads away from the kitchen, a huge bowl of popcorn under one arm and something dark covering her free hand, looking awfully close to a hand-puppet. Soon, she’s around the corner and gone. You wonder if she’s going to have a movie night in the small living room you discovered while doing your chores, but chide yourself not to lose your focus and quickly jump up the huge stairs to reach Blackhat's office.

You have no idea if he’s even back yet or not, but something tells you he might already be waiting for you and has somehow anticipated this confrontation. You don’t know if that’s better or worse for the final outcome.

Yet, when you knock on the door, there’s no answer from inside. Only silence.

    “Rats!” you hiss, partly in disbelief, and gnaw on your lip, racking your brain. The little rascal voice in your mind tells you to sneak in anyway and search his office while you still have the chance, but it's immediately interrupted by your common sense, asking you if you’d like some broken bones for dinner.

But secrets!, the thief in you hisses.

But being torn to shreds you idiot!, goes the reasonable part.

    “But food.” You suddenly say out loud, silencing both internal voices, and turn on the spot, plodding down the stairs and all but running towards the kitchen. Your hunger has ultimately overwhelmed your brain and now that you have an opportunity to get something to eat and actually eat it in peace, you’ll be damned if you’re going to let that slide! And maybe Blackhat will think twice about doing anything vile to you when you have a stomach full of stuff you could possibly throw up all over his office.

Since you basically know the kitchen in and out by now, you’re soon munching on a tiny mountain of sandwiches, trying to figure out how to best confront Blackhat about the whole situation.

For example, why had he bothered to put the knife under your pillow without knowing how you kept it there usually? You wouldn’t even have suspected anything to be wrong if he had just left it on the sink's counter. Had you already been in bed, still crusted with suds from the bath when he did it? No, probably not! It must have happened right after you left the tub, or even before that...

You suddenly feel sick to your stomach and put the last bit of your sandwich back down.

Had… had Blackhat surprised you when you left the bath? Had he maybe even been watching you?!

With full force your anger shoots back into your body, now accompanied by a wave of nausea that’s almost enough to force the food back out of you, but you reign your rebelling stomach in again and storm out of the kitchen, not caring that you’re leaving behind a mess for 5.0.5 to clean up.

If he’s still not here yet, you’ll simply break into his office and wait for him in there!

Without bothering to knock, you pull the door open and look around the giant room. The man in the hat is nowhere to be seen and you huff a furious breath, walking up to the ebony desk.

    “And what do you think you’re doing, hm?”

Blackhat’s sudden voice from behind you still makes you jump in start, but this time the red veil of your anger keeps you from actually being scared by it. It also keeps you from seeing the danger you’re in.

    "Listen here you creep!” you snarl, whipping around with your fists clenched. Shit, you probably should have thought about switching your knife to the back of your pants first. But it's too late for that now; You’re in full rage mode now and even Blackhat looks a bit taken aback by the force of your fury.

Yet he’s quick to scowl at you when you stomp up to him, actually daring to poke an accusing finger into his chest.

“I know you were in my room last night, I know you fucked up my memory, and I know you watched me taking a bath, like some fucking pervert!” You’re yelling now, underlining each accusation with another harsh stab into his sternum. While you’re not one hundred percent sure about the last part, you throw it in there as well just for good measure.

Blackhat doesn’t say anything when you're done, merely scrutinizes you sharply, his fangs poking over his lip in an irritated frown. You're breathing heavily, your face flushed from anger and embarrassment. The silence stretches and you decide to seize it before he can do or say anything.

Taking a last, daring step closer, what brings you right in front of your boss, you raise yourself up on your toes to hiss in his face:

    “I’ll take your silence as a confession then. Just know that I won’t hesitate to try and stab both your eyes out when I catch you again, Lord Blackhat.”

With that, you step around him to leave, but suddenly Blackhat moves and snatches your wrist in a painful, vice-like clutch. Before you can even attempt to break his hold, his other hand shoots forward and a shockwave paralyzes your entire body.

Blackhat is grinning again, his single eye gleaming with malicious intent.

    “Not so fast, my feisty little thief. I don’t think I gave you permission to leave yet.”

He circles you slowly, tutting quietly behind you. A sharp claw tickles the back of your neck.

    “I don’t know how you thought this was going to play out for you… but I didn’t expect you to be this stupid. You’re starting to disappoint me, _______, you know? And I’m sure you know by now that this is the last thing you want to be doing.” Blackhat says, stilling in his pacing. You try everything to shake the paralysis on your body, try to fight the unnatural force like you had each time Sans trapped your SOUL, but that had never worked either.

Suddenly you hear Blackhat chuckling darkly in your back.

    “Maybe I should have killed you then and there in the dungeon to spare myself the mental agony of dealing with your impertinence… but…” The hand on your nape suddenly creeps over the side of your throat, digging, probing, feeling for your pulse and when he's found it, Blackhat hums in approval, no doubt able to sense the rapid beating of your heart even through his gloves.  

“There's still so much horror I can inflict on your pretty little soul.”

You feel the hairs on your neck stand up straight when he draws closer to you, feel the hot breath against your skin and before you can do or say anything, there’s the vivid sensation of teeth sinking into your throat, tearing into your flesh and slicing your veins open.

Blackhat's gloved hand muffles your piercing cries of agony and you don’t even realize that you’re suddenly kicking and squirming so that he's forced to hold you in place with his other hand. All you can think of, all you are aware of, is the pain in your neck, the hot blood spurting out of it and the sick, disgusting noises from the horrible being behind you, drinking it up, so rapidly that barely a drop makes it to the ground.

You feel your strength leaving you along with the blood, your body growing cold and feeble and when you're already convinced that this is the end, Blackhat tears himself away from your throat with a slurping sound and you fall to your knees. Trying to cover the fatal wound with one hand, you crawl away from him, only to feel multiple black tendrils grab you and pull you back up.

Through the pain, and your incessant, frantic string of pleas to stop, his voice cuts like a knife:

    “Shut up.”

Immediately you obey the command, swallowing the sobs that shake you. Your eyes are wide open and fixed on Blackhat, now in front of you, who looks even more terrifying with your blood smudged around his mouth. His visible eye is completely black, streaked with veins of red, making it look awfully like one of the bath bombs. The green slobber mixes with your blood on his teeth and you feel distinctly close to fainting from the sight alone.

He doesn’t let you, however. With one glowing hand he reaches out for your burning neck and presses his palm to the open wound, the flaring pain enough to make your eyes roll back into your skull. Somehow you still manage to hear his words through the shrill sound inside your head:

    “Have I made myself clear enough, or do you need another demonstration?”

What?

When you force your eyes open again, Blackhat is sitting in his tall office chair and you’re standing right in front of his desk. Your hand flies up to your neck but there’s not a single trace of the terrible wound he inflicted on you, no pain. Not a single drop of blood on you or him either. You spin around, look back to the spot where you had tried to crawl away. Nothing.

    “Well?” Blackhat repeats, more impatient already and your head snaps back around, staring at him in disbelief. He’s smirking widely, horribly knowingly.

    “That…” you utter, rubbing over the spot where the wound should be. You can still recall the pain. “That was just an illusion? A trick?”

    “A warning. If you think you can be just as insolent around me as you were with your former employer… I have some bad news for you.” Blackhat grumbles, steepling his fingers.

“Remember, you need my help to get revenge on him, or have you already forgotten what he did to you? To your Frisk?”

Your knees give and you barely manage to catch yourself on the ebony desk. Blackhat returns your shocked stare with a cruel smile.

    “How…” you wheeze. “What the fuck do you want from me?!” You can’t fight the tears, not when he's torn your innermost self open just like that and spread it out over the table like he was dissecting a rodent for fun. Blackhat leans forward in his chair and wipes a tear from your cheek, making you flinch away from the touch.

    “The real question is, my dear _______, what do you want? Revenge? Money, power, or something entirely else? All I want from you, aside from your soul, obviously, is to stop acting like a common sewer rat and become aware of your own potential! You said you were going to try to stab my eyes out? Do it! There is no trying! If you want to stab my eyes out do it already!

A scream rips from your chest and you lunge at him across the table, reaching over your shoulder to pull the knife out from under your shirt. Before you can even aim it at his face, Blackhat has dematerialized out of his chair and grabbed you by the collar of your shirt, slamming you onto the desk with enough force to make you see stars. His other hand slaps the knife out of your grasp.

    “Letting your enemy rouse you into attacking so rashly, your first mistake! Numero dos: not coming prepared for a fight! Numero  tres: your sloppy posture! And last, but surely not least:”, he hisses and leans in close to your face, his grin taking up your entire vision. “Underestimating the superior strength and speed of your opponent for the umpteenth time. You failed at all points of a successful one-on-one fight, little thief. At this rate you’re never going to get back at that skeletal pig.”

Blackhat releases the hold he still has on your shirt and you sink back on the desk with a groan, closing your eyes to block out the spinning ceiling.

    “Oh yeah?” you pant, rolling onto your side to hoist yourself up. “Well, you suck at leaving your own crime scenes without any evidence!”

Blackhat turns back around to you, one hand smoothing the lapel of his high-collared coat.

    “Again with this nonsense? You really are relentless.” he growls and you somehow find the strength to sit up straight and shoot him a lopsided sneer.

    “The knife. You put it on the wrong side underneath my pillow. That’s how I knew someone had been messing with me! And when I thought about who may have also had the ability to make me forget that I was being messed with… you ain’t slick, boss!” Your victory is only short-lived; Blackhat moves faster than your human eyes can register and is suddenly bent deeply over you again, grabbing fists full of your red shirt.

    “I dare you to repeat that.”

All smugness is gone, he’s furious now and your eyes widen in fear once more, the image of your throat being torn open playing out before your inner eye yet again. Blackhat shakes you when you don’t open your mouth fast enough.

    “T- the knife? The- the one you made me catch? It was under my pillow when I woke up, on- on the wrong side and I would never have put it there because-" He stops your frantic babbling by dropping you back on the desk, his own eye round. He looks… surprised, and not in the good way. Your blood runs cold in sudden realization.

You didn’t put the knife there, did you?” you whisper, stunned, and squeak when he clutches at your shirt once more, now ripping off two of the buttons, jerking you up to his face.

    “What else?!” he snarls. “What else was out of place! Speak, or I swear I’ll tear the answers out of your wretched little mind myself!”

Your breath hitches in your throat, the grip he has on your collar tight enough to choke you with the fabric. Think, think, think! What else would he probably not have wanted you to notice?!

    “The book…” you mumble. “My finger was stuck between the pages of the huge book I took from the library! It was about this God, their name was…”

Before you can even get past the second A of the entity's horrible name, Blackhat has covered your mouth with his free hand and looks around the gloomy office, his one lance-shaped pupil alertly traveling over every column, every painting. When nothing happens, he takes a tiny whistle out of his pocket and gives it a sharp blow. You stay where you are, swallowing nervously around the collar cutting into your skin.

Not a minute later Dementia, Flug and 5.0.5 burst into the room, each with a somewhat derpy expression on their face but when Blackhat claps into his hands, mercifully letting go off you to do so, they all snap back into reality.

    “Doctor Flug, I want every  bloody Hatbot in this forsaken mansion to search the perimeter on all spectral levels, yesterday!” Your boss snaps and the mad scientists immediately fumbles with the remote, nearly dropping it. “Dementia: you’re to use deadly force against anyone not currently present.”

    “For you, my love, with pleasure.” Dementia purrs, pulling a decorated double-edged axe out of her hair, and finally Blackhat focuses on 5.0.5 with a cruel grin. Flug suddenly averts his eyes and busies himself with coordinating the manor's defenses over his phone.

The blue bear yowls in fear when his Lord and Master raises a glowing hand. Before your eyes, the cuddly appearance of 5.0.5 grows even bigger, furry paws turning into talon-armed claws, his blue pelt transforming into black bristles and his big eyes narrow into the beady, glinting pits of darkness that had haunted you in the library.

The slobbering black mass of a creature snarls and cowers on all fours with its fangs bared. Blackhat points towards the door and the horrible monster bolts through it, leaving behind deep claw marks in the ground.

    “D- do you actually think they’re still here?” you ask cautiously and slip off the desk to pick up the Bowie knife.

    “No. Someone who’s able to get past my defenses twice without getting caught is probably also smart enough to get the hell out when I notice someone’s been creeping about. But…” Blackhat's own form surges for a second as he raises a hand to tear the fabric of reality open with a set of long claws. Glowing, ectoplasmic shadows slip through his fingers, howling horrendously.

“They will soon learn that I don’t tolerate pests in my house!”

You swallow and watch Dementia and Flug leave the office as well to search the mansion. You're still a little shell-shocked yourself from the rapid turnarounds of this situation, but something doesn’t quite add up to you yet.

    “If…” you start but quickly shut up when Blackhat turns to you with an irritated growl.

    “Speak up, my patience is already running shorter with every second.”

    “If that’s really the one who brought me here, why would they risk getting caught by you a second time? Just to…” you fall silent again. All the mysterious person did (if it even was a person) had led to you trying to confront Blackhat about messing with you and your memories. It had even made you mad enough to consider killing your new boss.

“This is so weird…” you mutter. You have no idea who could be behind that! Who could have the means to bring you to another dimension and known you would survive the encounter with Blackhat? Why even bother? And why instigate a confrontation you could easily have died from and that had actually resulted in Blackhat admitting he would help you with getting back at Sans!?

    “At least something we can agree on. I don’t suppose you know who it might be that’s soon going to win a trip to a dimension of eternal suffering, do you?” he pierces you with his single eye but there’s really nothing you can do besides shrugging and shaking your head. You feel incredibly exhausted.

    “No, sorry to disappoint you again, sir. So… what am I supposed to do to help catch the slippery bastard?”

    “Go to your room and stay there. Maybe take a bath, I don’t care. But stay out of my way and leave the slippery bastard to me.”

You recoil in outrage and eye him with your brow furrowing reflexively.

    “You- you’re really sending me to my room like some little child? I think the fuck not! I want some answers, too!”

Blackhat shoots you an annoyed glance and snaps his fingers. The next thing you know, you’re being sucked through the floor a second time, the horrible darkness swallowing you like a ravenous pit of quicksand only to spit you out beside your bed on the third floor.

For a second you stay on the ground and stare at the ceiling. Heavy rain patters against the huge windows and the rolling thunder drowns out the agitated noises of Hatbots and -drones, 5.0.5 and Dementia, searching the manor for the mysterious intruder.

You shiver on the plush carpet when you think about the fact that the innocent, lovely 5.0.5 had tried to kill you in the library at midnight, and his transformation explains Flug's terror when you had asked him about it before. That was probably why BH kept the bear around despite his cute and cuddly self.

    “Aah good, I thought you’d never show up, _______.”

Your head whips around at the unknown, static voice that somehow sounds familiar again, and you stare, frozen, into the darkness underneath the bed. A pair of strangely pixelated eyes, two floating white pin-pricks, stares back at you. A monster! Immediately you flinch away and want to call out for the Hatbots outside, but something traps your SOUL in that sickening feeling of magic being used on you, and your motionless body loses all color before your eyes.

The weird, garbled voice snickers in the darkness that spills from under the bed and expands until it fills the room, leaving only the eyes to be seen.

    “My, my, you’ve gotten awfully strong little kitten. No wonder my brothers were never able to really break you. I knew you had quite the potential.” Suddenly two skeletal hands appear next to the eyes, then four, and soon your entire field of vision is filled with pale phalanges. Through one of the holes in their palms, you make out a white, mask-like face, slowly closing in on you. The boney fingers move in weird patterns and symbols when it talks again.

    “Aww, you don’t even remember me. Though I suppose it’s not a surprise, really, I was always more colorless compared to my brothers. Let’s fix that real quick, huh? We really don’t have time for long introductions I’m afraid.”

The hands move apart like curtains and now you see the monster itself. A white skull, with crooked, fang-like teeth and a crack running from the top of the right, slanted eye socket back over his skull, and a second one from the left side of his mouth down to his jaw. His body is just a black, undefined mass, surging and sloshing.

And with the parting hands, it’s like a dark veil is being pulled away from your memory.

    Wingdings!?

Chapter Text

Without your permission, your train of thoughts returns to what had happened and your already terribly sore stomach clenches once more. He had kissed you.

 

A Memory Lost

 

You stare speechlessly at Wingdings Gaster, stunned by the flood of memories suddenly returning to your conscious mind and with them the realization that he had simply made you forget he even existed! Which automatically makes you wonder just how powerful this monster has to be, if he managed to alter not only a tiny part of your memory, like Blackhat had, but years, literal decades! And important moments, too.

Wingdings cocks his head at your baffled gaping, his mouth splitting into a Jack-’o-Lantern grin. He’s changed so much ever since-

    “Too much? Well, I admit you’ve had quite the wild ride since I last saw you so of course you must be rather overwhelmed by it all. But I think it is rather rude of you to not greet an old friend. And above that an old friend who saved your life.”

    “H-hey uh, hi… what…” you finally manage to utter when you hear the sharp edge in his cynical voice, something you remember immediately to be very, very wary of. “Did… did you take me to this dimension? Why did you take me here-, where were you all these years? We thought you were dead! The explosion…”

    “Ah, so many questions, and all of them the wrong ones, kitty-cat.” Wingdings sighs, his head jerking to the side, glitching out of focus and back in like a defective screen and you flinch at the sight. “The one-million-dollar question would be: why did I save your life?”

    “Why did you?” you breathe and his jagged teeth part unimaginably wide as he laughs resoundingly, a hysteric, hoarse cackle that sounds nothing like his former, smooth voice. His mouth is a pitch-black darkness just like the rest of his body. Suddenly you wish Blackhat was here. Suddenly you wish with all your heart that the eldritch horror your new boss epitomizes would just materialize behind you and tear you away from the dangerous hold the oldest and most powerful Gaster sibling has on you. If not out of worry for your safety, or care, then out of pure outrage over Wingdings's intrusion. Yet, regarding your colorless skin, you doubt that you’re still in the same plane of existence. Would Blackhat be able to find you in here? Or even know where to look?

When Wingdings catches his composure again you tense immediately. He had been the former engineer of the gang and apart from that he had performed countless horrible medical experiments on monsters and humans alike, often creating gruesome hybrids and amalgamations of those too weak to serve Sans and his ambitions any longer. Sometimes for actual science, more often for his own twisted sense of humor. And then, one fateful day, he had run a line of experiments on human SOULs, resulting in a giant explosion that had torn the warehouse next to Sans’ base apart and left a huge crater. You had been one of the gang members charged with sifting through the rubble, trying to find any sign of the scientist’s unlikely survival.

But you hadn’t even found a single ounce of monster-dust between the pulverized bricks.

W.D. jerks you from your memories: “Oh, come now my little kitten, that would be too easy now, wouldn't it? I can’t just tell you and ruin the surprise! Just know that I did indeed save you from my brother’s wrath and that he firmly believes you dead so you don’t have to worry about him hunting you down here.”

    “But why Blackhat? Why leave me here? Why leave those hints? What the hell, Dings?!” you yell, struggling fruitlessly against his disgusting, strange magic around your SOUL that feels so different from Sans’ gravity magic or Blackhat’s powers. Wingdings scowls at you, at the nickname you remembered along with the knowledge of his existence.

    “It’s still professor Gaster, you cheeky monkey. I see you haven’t gained any manners under your new boss either. That’s… actually really funny.” He loses the stern attitude and snickers again, manic and grating. You shiver.

    “What do you want from me? Do you want me to kill Blackhat? Kill Sans? I don’t… I don’t get it.” You stare into his mismatched eye sockets, pleading. “Can’t I just have my normal life back?”

Wingdings coos and runs one of his many floating hands over your face.

    “But you’re dead to the world, my child. You don’t have your life anymore. Only a small opportunity. And I’m curious to see what you will do with it. That’s all. It gets sooooo boring being stuck between the worlds, not being able to really stay in one place for long… Being and not being at the same time. Your struggle has always made me laugh, even before… this. It should be entertaining to watch. I-“

Before Wingdings can continue, there’s a tremor shaking the air, rippling through your body, and you hiss at the weird sensation. It feels as though someone had punched a giant glass bowl you were stuck under. A horrible roar resounds from all directions at once and W.D’s eyes widen but his grin stays.

    “Whoops! Looks like I forgot the time, silly me. Bye-bye for now, we’ll talk later- oh, goodness!” A giant, gloved hand the size of a truck wraps around Wingdings and crushes the black mass that he is between huge claws, splattering his gooey remains this way and that. The many hands holding you down slowly vanish and your body regains its color as the real world comes back around you. Yet you can still hear the static cackling from the waning shadows, shifting, until it’s coming from inside your skull, and then you’re back in the real world.

Gasping for air and clutching at your shirt, focusing, you try to make sure you’re still in one piece, still with a soul.

But something isn’t right.

Once the sensation really sinks in, you feel terribly violated and a whimper breaks out of your chest before you can stop yourself. He did something to you, you’re sure, there’s something wrong with your SOUL, it’s-

    “Tell me what happened!” But even Blackhat’s barked order doesn’t reach you this time. You’re too shaken, too far gone by the distinct sensation of something sticking to your soul like tar.

    “Shit, he- he did something to me, I can’t breathe, I feel-, I feel-!” you gasp out in clipped sobs, clawing at your chest. With an irritated scoff, Blackhat grabs you by the neck, tips your head back and seals your stammering lips with his. The sheer shock makes you freeze on the spot and hold your breath in terror. You expect the sharp sting of fangs, thirsty for blood, or the foul taste of rotten plum again or a tentacle, but the only thing you notice is that his forked tongue feels strangely good against yours. But then, things do go beyond weird.

There’s something else pushing into your mouth, nothing physical you think, it feels more like a ghostly hand, but it goes deeper, way deeper than even possible and now you do fight it, or try to at least since Blackhat’s own powers are holding your firmly in place. Tears sting in the corners of your eyes from the sickening sensation of that strange appendage touching something deep within your core, something that is not supposed to be touched but, after a few heartbeats of unadulterated horror, the disgusting feeling of being tainted, of your SOUL being stained and covered in something sticky, goes away with every second Blackhat’s ghastly touch lingers.

Then he suddenly jerks his head back and shoves you away with enough force to push you against the edge of the bed, where you promptly slump down on the mattress, staring at Blackhat with your eyes opened widely in… you don’t even know what you’re supposed to be feeling right now. Terror, that he violated your body in a way you never thought possible? Grateful, since he freed your SOUL from Wingdings’ disgusting residue? Aroused, because-

You quickly shake the thought and shudder with your eyes clenched shut. No! Don’t even think about allowing something like that! What the fuck is wrong with you!?

    “Whoever he was, that incompetent idiot has made his last mistake!” Blackhat says, interrupting your mad spiral of desperation, his own voice sounding completely normal. Yet you can’t help but think that there’s a tiny amount of disappointment reverberating in his strange accent. You frantically hope it’s his missed chance of bodily ripping Wingdings to shreds in the physical realm. It has to be! It can’t be the other way round. It can’t!

    “Wingdings Gaster.” You manage to croak out and notice the fresh layer of cold sweat on your forehead, sticking loose strands of hair to your skin. “He- he’s the oldest of them, used to be Sans’ science expert. D- died in an explosion from an experiment on human SOULs, or- or so we thought. He- he made me forget he existed. I only just remembered him now.” Talking distracts you from the leftover feeling, shifts your focus to something else than the reality that's slowly settling in. Talking seems good right now!

“He was the one who saved me from getting offed like I was supposed to after Sans found out I was preparing to leave the gang. Brought me here. Left me hints that you were in here, messing with my mind.” Suddenly you can’t take it any longer and raise your head, immediately wishing you hadn’t.

Blackhat is staring unswervingly at you, the dark, deep creases under his visible eye somehow looking even more pronounced than usually. There’s saliva glistening on his lips and the huge teeth poking out between them. He looks terribly hungry. His glare is resting on your chest, on your-

    “Were you trying to steal it? When you were here the night before?” you whisper and push yourself further away from him on the blankets, his gaze never leaving you. “That’s against the rules!” It’s only a faint protest, an almost childlike objection, and you’re not sure he even cares about rules at this point, but you actually manage to utter it. And Blackhat flinches.

For another moment you hold his piercing glare that's shot up to your face at your protest, see the thoughts virtually crossing his mind, and already fear he might just be too starved for souls to give a flying fuck anymore, when your boss finally takes a step back, literally distancing himself from you, and straightens out his black coat.

    “No need to concern yourself with that any longer; it won’t happen again.” He growls and adjusts his tie, already turning away from you.

    “You mean,” you call out after him, jumping off the bed and clenching your fist around the Bowie knife you’re still clutching, “next time I simply won’t notice that something happened?”

Blackhat looks back over his shoulder, the monocle glinting unnaturally in the shadowy space between his coat's collar and the brim of his top hat. And while you can’t see it, you can hear his wide grin in every rasped syllable:

    “Precisely.”

You watch him leave through the door and only when it’s closed again do you run into the bathroom next door and sprint to the toilet, already tasting bitter acid in your throat. You never thought violently throwing up could feel so cleansing.

 

-

 

It takes a whole while before your stomach has calmed down enough so that you’re not constantly dry-heaving anymore. Exhausted, and with your cheek resting on the cool tiles of the bathroom floor, your still very agitated mind immediately drifts back to what happened, no matter how much you try not to think about it.

Wingdings.

So he had somehow survived the blast that had been strong enough to render an entire building flat. Well, survived would be a stretch, considering the amorphous black mass you had encountered and that had been glitching in and out of your vision like some sort of screen malfunction, his once quiet and smooth voice reduced to a shrill cackle of insanity. Even his face, although uncannily familiar, had changed drastically. The mask-like skull had looked like a horrible shadow of his former, actually not that bad-looking self.

When you had still been a rookie in the gang and, by extension, everybody’s gopher, Wingdings had often made you work in his lab, handing him this or that, cleaning up the mess his experiments usually left behind or fixing him another coffee at 3 am. Back then the scientist was a tall, stern skeleton monster - taller than Sans but still dwarfed by Papyrus - who stayed calm and coldly analytical even in the most chaotic of situations, and you had quickly realized that, most of the times, he was actually the one pulling the strings from the shadows, with Sans and Papyrus acting out his plans and not the other way round. His clever schemes would have actually been more than enough to catapult the gang to the top of the city within a year, but Sans’ impulsive, selfish nature had foiled Dings’ plans over and over and eventually, the oldest Gaster had focused more and more on his own projects rather than trying to control his younger sibling.

None of you knew where he was suddenly getting the human SOULs from.

Wingdings had already been feared by all of the gang members, and even you were smart enough to keep any snarky remarks to yourself when he was within earshot, but when he began to work on and with SOULs, everyone made double-sure to keep their distance to the building next to the base where he moved his rapidly expending laboratory to.

And then things had gotten even stranger. Wingdings must have had found something during his experiments, because not a year later, you had been somewhat around 18 or 19 at that point, he ordered every human gang member to undergo a line of tests that involved multiple machines and devices reminding you of rudimental x-ray screens you had seen pictures of in books.

A shiver grabs you when you think back to that one day, that day in his lab where he had shoved you into a narrow glass tube with countless cables and screens attached to it. Other than most gang members, Wingdings had never hurt you before, whether as a punishment for being clumsy or just because he felt like it. So you had been cautious, but not exactly afraid for your life. In fact, you were pretty sure you were good in his book, not least because your constant insubordination towards Sans and Papyrus clearly amused him.

    “Um… can I ask you something, Dings?” You had piped up, remembering too late that he absolutely hated that nickname, and the way he had narrowed his eye sockets at you, you already regretted mouthing off like that while being stuck in a tube you didn’t know the purpose of yet, but then one of his many floating hands had rolled around, gesturing for you to spit it out already.

    “What- what exactly does this machine do?”

His purple eyes had narrowed again but this time in an amused, if also a little sardonic, smile.

    “Why, don’t tell me you’re actually interested in science, little monkey! While I’m impressed that you still manage to sneak out to break into the library every chance you get, I’d be surprised if you were actually keen on acquiring a scientific degree.” He had said with a dark chuckle, activating the machine and typing on the installed keyboard. “Hah, but I guess you were a pretty decent lab assistant back in the day, so I’ll indulge you, kitten. This machine is going to scan your SOUL, that’s all.”

You had frowned.

    “Scan it? But I thought you could already see our SOULs. What’s different about this then?” Despite your unease, you were still intrigued by everything involving SOULs, ever since Frisk had told you what yours looked like and that monsters were crazy for human SOULs since absorbing them gave them incredible powers on top of their magic, which was the main reason the monsters had been able to push humanity back so quickly despite not being particularly resilient against physical attacks themselves, and despite the heroes emerging among the humans. That knowledge would eventually lead to you trying to kill Sans with just a knife in his own office, but back then, you had still pretended that this gang life was all you ever wanted.

    “It will allow me to look deeper, to shine a tiny light into a place that's darker yet darker.” Wings had told you mysteriously with a fanatic gleam in his eyes, his skull eerily illuminated by the monitors in the otherwise dark room. You had gulped nervously. The other gang members, as well as Frisk, who had already been tested by Wingdings hadn’t experienced anything odd or painful during the process, and the scientist had shooed them out of the lab without as much as a word, only a short grunt that had sounded more disappointed than anything else.

But when he had scanned your SOUL, his entire demeanor changed. With a mad grin he had clutched the monitor in front of him, his eyes almost popping out of their sockets, and that had been the first time you heard him laugh this crazy cackle that was still ringing in your ears even now. “Yes, yessss!!” he had hissed, his other floating hands typing, adjusting and moving so rapidly you had barely seen them. Your heart leapt into your throat at Wingdings’ sudden, unbridled excitement and you had halfway expected him to slice you open and take your SOUL then and there, but not a minute later he had released you from the tube and ushered you out with only a very disturbing pat on the head, humming in satisfaction.

Shortly after that, his lab had exploded and then… you don’t even know at which point you had lost your memories of Wingdings. But you recall that neither Sans nor Papyrus, or anyone else in the gang for that matter, had ever brought him up after that as well. So, was it possible that Wingdings Gaster had not only erased your memory of him, but everyone else’s, too!? Just what had that explosion, or the aftermath, done to him to make him so powerful and yet so undoubtedly mad and detached from reality? So lost?    

Dings had said that he was getting bored being stuck in between the worlds. To be and not be at the same time. But what had he meant by that? And where were you fitting in in all this? Where did Blackhat? Had he really just been doing this to entertain himself because he couldn’t return to his former life as well? Out of pure boredom?

You frown, wishing the sick maniac would have gotten the chance to tell you more than just the few lucid scraps in between all that crazy snickering. And with the state your mind was in right now, you couldn’t really muster the mental capacity to piece it together in order to form a logic explanation. Or any for that matter.

Without your permission, your already derailed train of thoughts returns to what had happened after Blackhat destroyed Wingdings. Your abused stomach clenches once more in repulsion. He had kissed you. With tongue. No doubt Dementia is going to kill you three times over if she ever finds out about this! You’ve had discovered some of her drawings about her and BH when you had been cleaning the mansion, and her intentions were very, very clear.

But if you left that out, horrid as it may be, what had he really done? He had somehow reached out and touched your SOUL, your very essence, over that more than gruesome contact. And he had merely removed the strange residue of Wingdings’ magic that had felt like it was polluting your being, and for that you felt grateful. Yet, he had told you barely moments before this whole disaster started that all he wanted from you was your SOUL. So… what would have happened if he hadn’t managed to tear himself away from you? Now, that really is something you refuse to think about any further! You’d rather drown yourself in the toilet.

With a groan you stand up and shuffle over to the sink, pointedly avoiding to look at your own reflection in the mirror. You can well imagine how absolutely dished you must look right now, from throwing up for what had felt like hours and from having your SOUL groped by some horrible demon entities twice in a matter of minutes!

The cold water washes away sweat and dried spit from your chin, making you feel a little more human again. A little clearer.

There’s no doubt that Wingdings had known more about Blackhat than the other way round, which is already disturbing in itself. He left you the clue within the book, had literally pointed you to the terrible entity that Azathoth embodied. But… Azathoth was not the Crawling Chaos, who Blackhat allegedly was, according to the mysterious note you found, which clearly had not been written by Wingdings; even in his sloppiest notes the scientist's handwriting could only be described as clean. So, Wingdings must have been watching you in the library when you discovered the note, from the shadows, like he had in your room from under your bed. Just as he had watched Blackhat doing something to you and decided to point you towards his secret visits. Ugh… bunch of creeps, the lot of them!

Suddenly you turn around and stare at the bathtub. You remember now that Blackhat had told you to maybe take a bath back in his office while everyone else was searching the mansion. And when he had first shown you your room, he had explicitly mentioned the bathroom as well. Now, it could be a coincidence but… every time you had lost a waking moment up to now, it had been while taking a bath!

    “The bath bombs…” you whisper in sudden realization. Slowly, you open the cupboard under the sink and take one of them out, removing the paper around it. The heavy smell of amber and other strange substances hits you like a physical punch again, numbing your senses. Amber

With a retching sound you chuck the black orb away from you with all your strength. It hits the wall and explodes in a black and red cloud but you’re already out of the bath and pull the door close behind you, gasping for fresh air.

Your thoughts have returned to the lounge, to that horrible moment when you had thought the disgusting drink Blackhat gave you would melt your guts and he was looming over you, close enough to feel his hot breath against your face.

He had also smelled of amber. Hidden beneath all those other scents but you clearly remember it now. So, whatever he did to make you forget, he had only ever done it while you were taking a bath with those fucking bath bombs!

    “Yeah, fat chance I’ll ever use those again. Or anything in that stupid cupboard!” you hiss into the dark room. You had allowed Blackhat to lull you into a false sense of security. And he had told you himself that you were as far from being safe than never before, now that you were working for him.  

It was high-time you took this seriously!

Chapter Text

Raising the mirror you found in the cabinet, you briefly glance at your face - white as a sheet even in the warm light of the fire, with dark circles under your eyes and dried blood around your lips.

 

 

16. Play with Fire

 

 

While you're trying desperately to make sense of what had happened, Blackhat is beside himself with rage. Not that uncommon for him, granted, but this time it is caused by something so rare an occurrence he can count the times it had happened before, during the eons he already existed, on one hand and still have fingers left.

He is furious at himself. Because for a moment, for a split second, he had almost given in and had thrown his own principles to the wind. To think that he had almost yielded to his hunger for a glorious but short-lived moment of satiation, and in doing so waste the potential chaos you could have wreaked in his name! He had underestimated the impact something as insignificant as a human soul could have on him. And it made him mad. Mad enough to consider giving way to that anger in one or the other terrible way and destroy a galaxy or two.

But he couldn’t leave. Not now. He couldn’t leave and risk that this insolent shadow of a monster returned to mess with you, mess with his plans to manipulate you just right, mess with your soul that was his for the taking! And he wanted it in its pure, pristine state thank you very much, not sullied with the claim of another, inferior being!

The thought alone is nearly enough to send him into a howling fit of rage instantly. Grinding his teeth, while staring out of the gloomy window in his office, he replays the moment he had crushed the intruder over and over until that burning fury is soothed at least a little. Yet it hadn’t been enough. Not nearly. Because that slippery maggot wasn’t dead, oh no. That partial extension of him had simply seized to exist in the pocket-dimension he had trapped you in, and Blackhat could still sense the rest of his presence even now, trying to squeeze and slither through the walls and layers of dark energy, and other magic, he had drawn around his lair the second he realized just how, and from where, the intruder had gotten in.

If he wasn't currently in this murderous mood, Blackhat maybe would have been impressed, if not downright intrigued by this Wingdings Gaster and by how powerful he had become. Moreover, most importantly, how the hell he had gotten to that particular, abysmal place that Blackhat refuses to further think about, lest he’d disturb Him in His slumber. As unusual as his abilities might he for a simple organism like that, he posed no threat to the integrity of reality itself.

Yet, what he had done to your soul before Blackhat had shattered the temporary dimension…

Despite your physical distress you would have been fine; after all, the mark Gaster had left on your soul (another wave of indignant fury and one of the skyscrapers in the distance explodes in a fiery ball of flames) was nothing worse than a handprint on a crystal sculpture, a fingerprint on a golden grail. A smudge on a flawless diamond. It had been a taunt, nothing more, and he had reacted to it like some primal beast. He had wanted it gone and thus interfered with his own plans of how to carefully groom and manipulate your soul to perfection. This incident was a setback that would require even more caution to mend again! And yet with every new dusk his own willingness to wait patiently dwindled more and more.

The fact that he had gotten an actual taste of your soul for the fraction of a second wasn’t exactly helping either.

He closes his eye and exhales slowly. The mere memory of that taste is enough to finally smother the burning rage inside him, replacing it with thrumming bliss. It was impossible even for him to imagine just how much more magnificent, full and perfect it would taste once he was done with you… even now, with the tainting rest of light and hope in it, the taste of your soul had been like a physical punch, followed by a sweet, almost palpable caress and then a merciless stab with a huge knife that gutted his very being in the most delicious way and shook his eldritch essence to the core. Never before had he, a devourer and connoisseur of mortal souls, come across something as divine as yours. It was a liquid fire that burned his throat and left him numb yet aching for more!

And he had almost given in. Had almost ruined it all. Your soul was a dangerous treasure, a dastardly temptation few would be able to resist. But it was his, his alone and he would make sure that nobody else got to taste it even if he had to kill you himself to get it first!

A faint knock on the door pulls him back into the world, the Cheshire grin that had managed to creep onto his face immediately replaced by his usual irritated scowl whenever he was disturbed in his musing, and he barks the order to come in at whoever it is that is about to get severely punished for annoying him. He viciously hopes it's Flug or that walking failure he created.

The absolutely baffled expression is an entirely new one for him however and he needs another second to get his face under control again, lest you’d catch him taken off-guard. He had not expected you to seek him out after the obvious horror and disgust on your face not an hour earlier! And yet there you are, sidling through the heavy door, a grim determination on your face that almost manages to mask your unease and fear. This is new, he thinks, intrigued. Looks like I didn’t squander my chances that badly after all.

 

-

 

Your heart is hammering against your ribs and now you’re glad you already heaved up all the food from earlier since your stomach is doing flips at the mere sight of Blackhat again. The shadow of an already fleeting expression moves over his face before his grin returns. Maybe he had not anticipated you to show your face so soon again after what had happened.

You stay leaning against the cold wood of the door and lick your lips. They’re dry and chapped and you reflexively nibble at the tiny edges, promptly opening that one deep cut and you suck your lip into you mouth to catch the blood.

Fuck. You're actually not so sure about this whole plan anymore. But Blackhat's warning had given you an idea of how to get more freedom around this place, and you feel like you really need that freedom. Just in order to stay sane.

    “Don’t just stand there like an idiot!” Blackhat snaps and you quickly move your feet to approach the giant window he’s standing in front of, your nails digging painfully into your palms to keep you from running. Your sprained left wrist hurts like hell again but you ignore it as well, using the pain as a means to channel your mind.

And then you're in front of him, racking your brain over how to pull this off without him suspecting anything! Your only hope is that his hunger for your soul might prompt him to do something reckless. Something rash.

“What do you want?” he asks brashly and you flinch where you’re standing.

    “I… I wanted to thank you.” You mutter, raising your eyes off the floor when he doesn’t react immediately. Blackhat is looking down on you in disbelief and anger at the same time. You’re walking on very thin ice right now, with a shoal of slap-fish swimming just below you. Your body tenses instantly and you furrow your brows a little, focusing on predicting his next moves. “For getting me out back there. And for…” you don’t even have to act to blush, your cheeks feel uncomfortably hot and you quickly avert your gaze again.

    “Yes?” Blackhat drawls, his tone now unmistakably furtive.

    “For… whatever it was you did to my SOUL. I-  guess there was no other way you could have done it and that's the only reason why you…” you fall silent and worry your bleeding lip, suddenly turning away. “Sorry for disturbing you, boss, I- I don’t know what I was-"

But as soon as you have your back turned on him, you already feel his hands on you, stopping your hasty flight. His right one has grabbed your right arm, the left is lightly wrapped around your neck, sliding up your jaw to tilt your head back. You freeze with a shocked gasp.

    “Come now, don’t tell me you didn’t enjoy it?” He snickers darkly and you can clearly hear that he's only saying it to mock you, trying to get a rise out of you, but you still exhale shakily and make a small, desperate sound in your throat. Blackhat's mean chuckle promptly dies in his own. His right hand abandons its hold on your arm to slowly slip over to your waist and even then he only keeps it hovering lightly above the shirt, not really touching you yet.

    “… did you?” he presses on, his husky, slightly incredulous voice now barely more than the low rumbling of thunder in the night and your knees buckle for a second without your doing. His right hand curls around your waist, grabbing tightly to steady you, and you twitch in his grasp, your own hands jerking up in defense yet you order yourself to keep very still, even when his hot breath hits your exposed skin. With the two buttons ripped off at the top of your shirt, you have no doubt that from where he’s currently standing, the view must be delectable.

Blackhat's quiet hum passes into another malicious laughter.

    “Well, well, well… would you look at that… I tell you to keep surprising me and you deliver like a professional.” Something wet dances over the rim of your ear while he’s talking and you know that it is his tongue, that forked, long tongue that had invaded your mouth, and now you have to control yourself to not freak out and get yourself killed for trying to play him.

With a tense sigh you twist your head further around and into the gloved palm of his left hand, feeling how the muscles between your neck and shoulder are stretched taught on the other side, presenting him your vulnerable skin in a wordless tease. The memory of how painful this will be shoots through your mind but you brush it off, gasping in start when Blackhat pulls you flush against his body, and his right hand creeps around your side and over your stomach right below your chest. You can feel his fingers sneakily slipping in between the buttons of your shirt.

    “Just look at you, offering yourself to me like that… remind me again, didn’t you insist quite firmly that you weren’t a whore?”

    “I’m not!” you hiss instantly through your clenched teeth with real hatred, almost dropping your facade. Come on already, take the fucking bait!

Blackhat laughs right next to your ear and now you do squirm when you hear the sound of his huge teeth scraping against each other like knives being sharpened on whetstone.

    “Too late, my little thief. If you think you can just play with fire…” There's drool dripping on your shoulder and you clutch his arm that has trapped you, inhaling sharply. “You should at least be prepared to get burned.”

Your sudden scream rings in your own ears when his fangs pierce your skin, for real this time, and tear into the muscles beneath. Panic takes over your body; you writhe in his grasp but that only opens the wound further and now tears shoot into your eyes, blurring your vision in addition to the vertigo the pain causes by itself. It's worse than his illusion, this was a mistake all along!

    “No!” you somehow manage to choke out between your hoarse cries, your fingers fumbling to pry his hands off of you. “No, please… hurts… oh God please!”

His jaws let go off your shoulder but only so he can spin you around and lift you up by the collar of your shirt, tearing it at the seams. You clench your eyes shut and raise your hands to protect your face when he shouts at you: “What?! Is it more than you thought you could handle? Did you honestly expect me to go easy on you?! Your disgraceful weakness makes me sick! You came to me for this, so take it!

And then his horrible mouth is on yours once more, forcing your lips apart to bite your tongue, to maul and maim it until you stop pushing him away and just claw at the fabric of his black coat, moving your lips along with his so they don’t get snagged by the sharp teeth. There's a deep, almost gurgling growl coming from your boss' chest, sounding awfully pleased. His heady cacophony of scents numbs your already overwhelmed senses further, paralyzing you like the venomous bite of a viper.

You’re shaking like a leaf, your mind overcome by fear and terror. Never before have you felt so violated and yet, in a dark corner of your stunned brain, you think that you deserve this. That, yes, this is what you came to him for on your own accord. This is what you wanted.

Then, all of a sudden, Blackhat just drops you and you stumble one, two steps away, covering the wound in your neck with one hand. Your breath is ragged; a haunted, clipped panting that just won’t steady itself. He's staring at you with an angry frown, your blood glistening on his chin.

    “Go. And don’t come to me again with your mind not made up. Next time I won’t let you off so gently.” He snaps his fingers and you’re suddenly standing in the dark hallway, the door closing before your face with a slam. For a second you can’t move, can’t really process what happened, and that tiny, shameful part of you wants to get back inside, but then your wound makes itself noted with vicious force and the pain clears your mind thankfully. Right, you hadn't just come here to get horribly traumatized!

On trembling knees you stagger towards the elevator, trying frantically not to panic at the amount of blood you’re still losing and that’s welling forth between your cramped fingers, seeping into the remains of your shirt. You have to hurry! Once the adrenaline wears off you won’t be even remotely able to do this.

The door to your room closes behind you, besmirched with your blood, and your eyes flutter for a terrible second; your vision has shrunken to a narrow grey tunnel but you shake it off with a jerk of your head, stumbling over to the lit fireplace. Now you just hope that Blackhat bit deeply enough to make this work!

With shaking fingers you lift your hand off the wound and grab one of the gloves from the opened package in the first aid kit, which you had carefully prepared before you set out to encounter your boss and his razor sharp teeth. Just like the burning fire, but this will come in handy later and you’d rather not think about that part too much right now. Now, you force your sticky hand into the nitrile glove, rip the sad remains of your torn shirt from your body and ball it together into a makeshift gag that you put into your mouth. Your tongue feels awfully dry already even without the fabric sucking up the rest of the moisture.

Raising the big hand mirror you found in the cabinet under the sink, you briefly glance at your face - white as a sheet even in the warm light from the fire, with dark circles under your puffy eyes and dried blood around your lips, where Blackhat had smudged it with his cruel kiss as if it were lipstick.

Your hand tilts the mirror, until you finally see what your boss did to you, and you whimper, another wave of panic pulling you under. It certainly looks deep enough for what you had in mind but now you begin to doubt that you’ll be able to patch yourself up sufficiently! If you have to call Flug he will immediately know what you did and then all of the pain and humiliation would have been for nothing! But fortunately you had placed another ace up your sleeve.

Pure determination is the source that enables you to raise your left, gloved hand and push your fingers right into the wound. You bite down hard on the shirt, tears running down your cheeks instantly which you try to blink away to see where you are and what you’re doing. The spot is the right one, has to be, but where the fuck is it?!

You’re sweating all over now, your bare upper body feeling ice cold despite the fire. The pain is bordering on unbearable already, but your stress equals more adrenaline which means less pain, and suddenly your fingertip brushes against something tiny but solid that slips away when you touch it. Your own saliva spills and mixes with the sweat and tears that are running down your face in torrential streams, as your fingers chase the foreign object embedded in your flesh, but the tips of the gloves are just a bit too long for your hands and nudge the chip away before you can really grab it.

    “Phog ed!” you scream, muffled by the shirt in your mouth, and pull your hand away while keeping your eyes so focused on the spot in the reflection where the chip is that they burn. The coppery taste of blood fills your mouth again when you rip the nitrile glove off your hand with your teeth.

Your next scream is shrill, hoarse, and makes your throat feel raw from the force but thankfully the gag muffles it as well and so you dig your sweaty fingers deeper into the open wound that seems to incinerate when the salt from your skin meets your exposed nerve ends.

Come on! Please! You fucking piece of shit tracker, come out!! Now!

And then you feel it, feel the tiny round disk bump against your index and you hold your choked breath. Slowly, moving only a millimeter a second and fighting against your crashing blood pressure, your thumb carefully slips under the chip and around and you pinch your fingers together with all your strength, groaning faintly when you pinch right into your torn muscles. For a moment you fear you might lose consciousness now after all, but then you pull your hand away, and the yank on your exposed flesh is enough to jerk you back into the here and now, sending a disgusting sting from your spinal cord all the way down to the tips of your toes.

Panting heavily and blinking through the tears, you stare in triumph at the silvery chip on your fingertip. Its diameter is barely the width of a rice grain and you think that the amount of work to get it out is entirely ridiculous, considering how swiftly Flug had inserted it!

But you’re not done yet.

You carefully swipe the bloody tracker off your fingertip and into the little envelope you had folded from a sheet of paper, placing it into the first aid kit for later. Suddenly you feel terribly exhausted and the idea of just lying down on the carpet in front of the toasty fireplace appears like the best you’ve had in a while. Yet you force yourself to grab the bottle of disinfectant with your shaking, blood-covered hand and raise it to your still very bleeding shoulder. Where it stops, hovering right over the wound until your arm starts cramping.

You can’t! You know how badly it is going to burn once you dump the liquid over the exposed flesh and even after that you’re still not done, you still need to close it properly and the only efficient way to do that yourself is by-

    “What the hell are you doing?!” The sudden memory rises before your inner eye yet it seems like reality, probably because of all the blood you lost up to now and the stress your poor brain had to deal with.

You frown reflexively and shake your head dismissively. Your lips move silently and unintelligibly around the now wet shirt in your mouth, yet in your mind the words sound pained but clear.

    “What's it look like, huh?” You had hissed back and tried to close the gaping wound along the inside of your thigh where one of the magic spears had slashed you open. The cut was deep and bleeding heavily, and even though it had missed the artery, there was blood everywhere, just like right now. You don’t remember how you had made it back to base, or how you even managed to escape from Undyne.

Frisk, back then still your Frisk, had rushed to your side and frantically tried to pull you up on your feet.

    “You need to get to Wingdings you idiot!” They had sounded scared but were masking their fear with anger, anger at your recklessness for your own life. They always did that.

    “Don’t… need him…!” you had pressed out through clenched teeth and groaned hoarsely when your shaking hand had poured the disinfectant over the cut in your leg. You remember the way Frisk's fingers had dug into your bicep, somehow diluting the sharp sting of agony. They had shaken their head in disbelief.

    “Then let me help you at least.” They eventually muttered and took the surgical needle you had stolen from Wingdings' medical supply.

Frisk… had they really believed that you would leave them behind?! That you didn’t care about them anymore? You loved them for fuck's sake! Had you ruined it all only because you wanted more of what you two had experienced together? After the cut in your leg had been healed? Shy, drunk and more than a little insecure, and confused, but still…

You clench your jaws around the shirt and dump all of the disinfectant over your wound, splashing blood and alcohol everywhere. Your right fist drops the mirror to slam into the carpet, over and over, while you slump forward and curl in on yourself, screaming into the damp cloth and crying for real now. Every sob that shakes you is like another bite from Blackhat and you stay in this position for what feels like hours before the pain finally subsides into a smoldering throb.

You had thought that you were used to pain, even immune against unbearable agony. But, as with many other things, you had never been so wrong about anything ever.

You have no idea why you’re still not passed out by now, how in the world you’re able to crawl over the floor, pull the broadest fire poker out of its casket and hold it into the roaring flames, careful not to dip it into the ashes. When the iron is glowing white with heat, you hesitate again, hesitate because the last time you had felt something like that on your skin you had passed out immediately for multiple hours and you don’t want to risk getting burned to a crisp in a fire.

And the pain…

    “I can’t…” You sob out and shake your head. Your pants are soaked with blood on your right side. “Oh fuck I can’t do this! I can’t, I just c- can't!” the rest of your hoarse stammering gets swallowed in your helpless cries and you grab the fire poker with both hands, your chest heaving rapidly. Your vision is swimming again, spinning and closing towards a small pin prick.

    “Come on, I’m almost done. Just a few more stitches. You big baby.”

Frisk's gentle smile floats in the darkness, their slender, soft hands working on your leg without hesitation, without shaking, the only sign of their fear for you the crease between their eyebrows.

    “I'm not…” you hiss out through your teeth. “’m not a baby, babe.”

They look up all of a sudden and you see the pink on their cheeks, hear that sharp inhale…

When you press the white glowing iron bar into your shoulder, the memory still hurts more. But then, mercifully, your brain deems that it's had quite enough of this crap and allows you to lose consciousness.

And only when your body slumps sideways onto the carpet does Blackhat allow himself to take a shaking, reverent breath, his monocle gleaming with a light that’s not coming from the cracking fire.

Well, he thinks with a satisfied grin, stepping out of the shadows behind you to get a closer look, that’s one way to mend my meddling. And I could not have done it better myself. With a wave from his hand, the smoldering carpet puts itself out where you had dropped the still searing hot fire poker. As interesting as it would be to watch you get severely burned in a fire, he can’t afford you to recuperate for long, after all, you need to finally start earning your worth in money to stay here – alive that is.

Blackhat bends down to inspect the wound you just cauterized so haphazardly, a tad peeved that you won’t carry his teeth-marks now. Your blistering flesh looks even worse than after he abused it, but at least you won’t bleed all over the carpet anymore. Sloppy.

When you stir again, he's already gone.

Chapter Text

   “Oh, is that all?” Flug says lightly. Then his eyes nearly pop out of his glasses and he clutches the edges of his paper bag. "That is today?! Oh no! Oh no, no, no- oh sweet baby Jesus he's going to kill me!!”

 

17. The Devil ain’t Lazy

 

 

Oh God, this is so awkward, you think as you stare at Blackhat, who has just materialized in the kitchen, right in front of you, glowering from the shadow of his hat. Your hand holding the cup of coffee trembles dangerously and you quickly set the mug down on the counter to the side before it can slip out of your fingers. The messily cauterized wound pulses beneath your shirt.

You had passed out for only a minute after the hot iron had seared your flesh and fortunately the rug in front of the hearth had not caught on fire when you dropped the poker. Upon waking, you had dragged yourself into the bathroom to get a better look at what you’d done to yourself. The wound was deceivingly small, considering you had initially thought Blackhat’s teeth had torn you open from the collarbone to your scapula and the amount of blood had made it look like that as well. After carefully cleaning the area around the burnt flesh, you stared in disbelief at the scar, barely as wide as your little finger was long and roughly four inches from one end to the other.

After a quick shower in the tub, to wash away all the blood and sweat, you had dressed the wound with more disinfectant, salve and a thick pad of gauze and hoped this was the right thing to do. You knew it would likely ooze a ton, at least the spots where Sans had snuffed out cigars on your skin had, but apart from them you had never treated such a big third degree burn before. And you wouldn’t ask Flug for his special salve and ruin all your efforts of removing the tracker in the process!

It'll be fine. You thought to yourself and went to bed, exhausted as you were. But the pain had kept you awake for hours and when the first light filtered through the windows, you had sighed and gotten up to compensate for the lack in sleep with caffeine after redressing the itching and burning wound, and after cleaning up the exploded bath bomb you had chucked at the wall, its mere sight almost enough to set you off in a fit of panic.

This was already your second cup of coffee but Blackhat's sudden presence had a much more potent effect on your tiredness!

    “G- good morning, Lord Blackhat.” You greet him, well-behaved. Just don’t let him freak you out. Just this once! But with what had happened last night, that is easier thought than done. And as if to prove you right, his glare travels from your face down to your right shoulder where it stays for a long minute while one of his thin, antennae-like eyebrows arches.

    “You didn’t let Flug treat your wound?” he asks, curious, and you shrug, wincing with a suppressed hiss when your right shoulder feels like it's popping open all over again from that thoughtless motion.

    “N- no. I thought he shouldn’t have to work overtime for my stupidity. And I’m pretty good at patching myself up. No biggie.” You reply nonchalantly but flinch with held breath when Blackhat suddenly reaches out a hand. For a horrible second you fear he’s going to give your shoulder a good ol' squeeze, since it's no biggie. Yet his gloved hand merely pulls the collar of the new shirt, this time you had chosen a dark grey one, to the side, revealing the padded bandage.

    “Bah, to call it sloppy would be flattery! Oh well, I’ll make sure to thoroughly enjoy watching the slow and agonizing death the infection is going to give you.” He chuckles darkly when you yank yourself free, baring your own teeth at him in anger.

    “Yeah, right. I’m not gonna give you that satisfaction!” you snap, pulling the shirt back into place. God, you can’t wait to get out for a change! “Got any more tasks for me, my Lord and Master? I’m afraid I need to pay off another shirt, that you ruined!”

Blackhat just sneers at you. You would have expected him to still be mad at you, but something obviously lifted his mood. Maybe World War 3 broke out or the plague.

    “Oh I have all kinds of dirty labor on my mind for you that would settle your debts to me in a matter of minutes… but we both know that you’re too much of a coward to even consider it.”

    “Ugh, you’re the worst, boss.” You mutter, appalled, and take another step away from him. Blackhat laughs loudly and tips his hat towards you.

    "Like I said, no need for flattery my dear. I’ll be expecting guests today for another commercial shooting. Your job is going to be tending to their every needs so they don’t pester me! The useless doctor will know what that means. Any questions? This is your one and only chance to ask. Otherwise I don’t want to hear another word from you.”

You make a reluctant face and pointedly reach for your coffee, noticing his murderous expression from the corner of your eye when you take a long sip before answering him with a smug grin: “I thought you said I was utterly useless at maid-work?”

This time you had expected him to lash out and jerk back the second his hand shoots forward, lithely avoiding the brutal ear cuff that probably would have left you deaf on one side for a day. You can’t control the grin on your face and tiptoe swiftly a few more steps away from him. Sure enough, his other hand is holding the cane like he was going to batter you with that next.

The sudden silence is so tense you could pluck a tune on it and your wound stings dangerously beneath the gauze, but you didn’t spill even a single drop of coffee. Satisfied with how that went, you take a victorious sip. Blackhat just scowls at you for another second.

When you blink, he’s gone!

    “Shit, where did you-" you curse but before you can even think about turning around, he places his hand over your shoulder, right on the wound, and now he squeezes.

You drop to your knees instantly, the mug shattering on the kitchen tiles, splashing your pants with hot coffee. Your hands try desperately to pry his fingers open, but Blackhat's grip is unyielding. His left hand seizes your other shoulder for good measures and you have to fight the upcoming nausea and the dizzy spinning in your head.

    “If I wasn’t currently so livid,” Blackhat tells you, his voice dropping into that demonic growl on the last word, “I’d say you're skills are improving rather quickly. However…” His hands tighten their grip further and you fall forward with a pained groan, his fingers finally slipping off your shirt but to you it still feels like he’s got you in a pinch. With some odd luck you manage to catch your fall on your hands before your nose gets broken by the tiled floor. "You’re still wildly overestimating yourself. Don’t ever think you have even a fraction of a chance against me.”

Like you didn’t know that yourself! But that doesn’t mean at all you’re going to stop trying. After all…

    “W- what’s wrong with… testing my skills against the strongest person around me? That’s… the fastest way I get stronger myself!” you retort, propping yourself up on your left hand to get back up and turn around to Blackhat. “I know I can’t beat you, but that doesn’t mean I’ll stop trying to match you.”

His angry expression turns into a sharp grin at your words and he nods his head.

    “An admirable attitude for a weakling like yourself. But don’t forget who the real enemy is.” His hand moves around, conjuring up a familiar skeletal face from black smoke. Immediately you feel your hatred roaring, causing the man in the hat to grin even wider. “You want to make him pay, yes? But consider this… all those heroes in your town, what did they ever do in the name of their so-called, disgusting justice and good? Have they ever come to your rescue? A poor, suffering street urchin on the brink of dying? Oh no, they just used all their power for their own good, their own gain and fame. Has anything ever changed for the better with them around? Or has their mere existence made it even harder for the more unfortunate of the world to get by? Think about that for a change and then decide if you’re willing to take this golden opportunity I’m granting you seriously already!”

He has a point, you realize suddenly. In fact, he’s right about everything! You don’t even care that he somehow, again, knows where you came from, his words just make sense! For people like you, there had never been a light at the end of the tunnel. Too weak to fight for scraps? Too bad! Alone in this world with nobody left to turn to? Well, tough tiddies. And who had been the only one willing to give you a chance? Sans Gaster, the cruelest mobster in South City, and a monster on top of that. And wasn’t he, wasn’t Blackhat, now doing the same for you even though he absolutely didn’t have to and would most likely be better off himself by getting rid of you? Yet here he was, another high ranked villain taking you under his wing and putting up with your constant attitude and disobedience. It really was your own fault if you got slapped by the hand that fed you and that you were biting over and over again without thinking about the bigger picture for one minute!

Without realizing it, you stand up straighter and return Blackhat’s burning gaze, your fists clenched by your sides.

    “I will. I’m sorry for the trouble I’ve caused you, Lord Blackhat. I… I didn’t see it like that before.”

He hums quietly, a satisfied smile on his face.

    “That’s what I like to hear. Now, go wake Flug. He has much to do today and I won’t tolerate him slacking off on such an important day. He should be in the plane.”

   “Alright, boss, will do.”

    “Good. And do get changed. Some of those parasites I call my guests might react… unpredictably to the scent of fear. Wouldn’t want you to lose a limb or three.” He walks away, chuckling his evil laughter and after four steps you hear the whoosh of him disappearing into the shadows. You stay where you are, staring at the empty room. Blackhat’s words still echo in your mind, but then you remember his orders and quickly clean up the mess of broken shards and spilled coffee before heading towards the elevator and riding it all the way to the attic, where the entrance to the crashed airliner is located.

The door, once the lateral exit right behind the cockpit, is sealed off with more of the security tape and plastered with signs that tell Dementia quite clearly she's not allowed in here! Not really sure what to do, you knock on the door, hearing the full metallic sound reverberate.

    “Uh, doc? Sorry for interrupting your beauty rest but the boss-hat told me to get you… Doctor Flug?” No answer, the plane remains eerily quiet.

With a sigh you pick out another improvised lock pick you made from one of the ballpoint pens in your own desk and get to work on the lock to the side of the door. Not a minute later it opens and you’re able to pull the two sliding doors apart and slip into the dark interior of the crashed plane.

As your eyes get used to the dimness, you quickly make your way through the repurposed airliner, past Flug's labs, working stations and a tiny bathroom, to a homey looking living room where you had caught a glimpse of a mountain of stuffed animals the first time you were in here.

Leaving the first class, now the work area, you walk into the living space, freezing when you see that the mountain of plushies is heaving up and down. Must be 5.0.5's place to sleep then. You're not sure whether waking him might trigger his… other form so you cautiously tiptoe around him, further down the length of the plane, to the back, through another door and…

    “What the…” you mumble under your breath and take a long look around the small room that is Flug's quarter. The first thing that catches your eye is an almost futuristic looking machine with a round glass cover, like some sort of hypersleep chamber, plugged into the wall to the right, next to the last few windows. The bright orange black box, serving as a nightstand, stands out even in the darkness and you immediately notice the green glowing heartbeat monitor on its display which strikes you as quite odd, but then you realize that Flug must have been tinkering with the stuff in here as well, evil genius that he is.

The walls around the sleep chamber are covered with framed pictures, shelves full of plane models and various degree and diploma, all of them bearing the Black Hat Organization symbol. Most of the people in the photos have their faces removed, but when you walk closer to take a better look at the one that appears to be a family photo, you suddenly spot movement in the chamber and stop, immediately feeling caught invading his privacy like that.

Flug tosses in restless sleep, making defensive gestures with his hands. He’s wearing a NASA shirt and loose grey track pants. And he’s also wearing a paper bag along with goggles over his face while sleeping. So even in here he doesn’t feel safe enough to take it off? You’re beginning to wonder if it is because of Blackhat, who could literally appear whenever and wherever he wanted without a warning, and who didn’t bother with personal space apparently, at least not when he felt like scaring the shit out of everyone else. Or if it is something psychological that's related to his past.

You don’t really feel like messing with the strange glass coffin Flug uses as a bed, so you turn around and flip the light switch next to the door. The mad scientist jerks up, banging his head against the glass before his hand finds the button that opens the sleeping chamber, cold air streaming out of it in dense clouds. Rubbing his forehead, he looks around and flinches when he sees you standing by the door.

    “You! How- what in Mengele's name are you doing here?!” he shrieks, pointing an accusing finger at you. Okay, you assumed he wouldn’t be all too happy to get woken up like that but this takes you a bit by surprise.

    “Relax, doc, I’m not exactly happy to be here, either. But Lord Blackhat ordered me to wake you up so… sorry. Um, I guess I’m gonna wait outside then.” You say sheepishly and are about to shoulder the door open behind you, when a loud roar thunders from the other room and something heavy throws itself against the door, closing it with a slam. "Oh fuck!” you yell and jump back, bumping into Flug who grabs your arms and gently but firmly shoves you out of the way.

5.0.5 scratches at the door like he’s gone mad, and thinking about what you saw the evening before, that's pretty damn likely. The noises he's making sound too much like an actual, feral bear for your taste, but Flug walks up to the door anyway, placing his palms against it, and whispers soothingly to his little

    “Fluffy?” you repeat under your breath when you hear him utter it. Slowly the ferocious snarling and scratching stops and eventually, Flug opens the door to get enveloped in a big, blue, frantic bear hug.

   “Oh it's okay my little sunshine, I know you were just trying to protect daddy. My precious boy.” You have never heard Flug cooing before but there he goes, scratching 5.0.5’s ears and cuddling his round face until the teary-eyed bear has calmed down again. “See? Nothing bad happened, it was just _______ who woke me up. No, it's alright, she isn’t scared of you.” He quickly adds when 5.0.5 makes a distressed noise, his lip trembling again.

Well, you're not scared anymore now that he’s back to being cute and cuddly. But you were seriously close to shitting yourself. Yet despite that, you walk up to 5.0.5 yourself now and lift a hand to pet his arm.

    “Yeah, sorry I startled you like that, bud. But we have a lot to do today… apparently.”

The bear gives you a bright smile and nuzzles Flug once more before putting him back down and leaving the room, the yellow flower happily bobbing over his head. Flug sighs quietly and turns to you with a confused look behind his goggles.

    “Why exactly did Lord Blackhat send you to wake me, though? I have never overslept before!” He quickly checks the alarm clock on the black box to make sure however. You’re not surprised to see it's a little biplane with pilot.

    “Uh… he said that some guests were coming here for a shoot? And that I’m supposed to help out with keeping them entertained.” You already want to jump out of another window. Much more bearable to face Blackhat's wrath than to play the servant for a bunch of snobby villains!

    “Oh, is that all?” Flug says lightly. Then his eyes nearly pop out of the goggles and he clutches the edges of his paper bag, almost ripping it to shreds. "That is today?! Oh no! Oh no, no, no- with all that chaos going on I completely forgot that the V.i.V. meeting is today and the shoot- and- oh sweet baby Jesus he's going to kill me!!”

Flug is in full on panic mode. He storms past you to his desk in the living room, flinging blueprints and papers off the table, his hands shaking so bad that the paper makes wobble noises. You can’t even understand the frantic string of words anymore as he flips through a calendar, dropping it and almost knocking himself unconscious against the edge of the table when he tries to pick it back up.

You look to the side and see 5.0.5, clinging to a vacuum cleaner like it’s his lifeline, on the verge of tears again. He’s actually wearing a maid outfit now and you’re a little impressed Blackhat bothered to include the ruffled apron when he scared you with that disguise.

But then you decide to make a move and pull Flug away from the desk, turning him around by his boney shoulders. His paper bag is terribly crinkled and tiny holes have appeared on the edges. Fighting your own curiosity to steal a peek inside, you stare him down and wait until he at least stops stammering.

    "Doc. It's gonna be fine. Let 5.0.5 and me take care of the mansion while you get your thoughts in order and get ready. There’s coffee downstairs and some leftover sandwiches in the fridge. Sound good?”

He flinches at the mentioned sandwiches, and you halfway expect him to yell at you the way he had in the kitchen two days ago. But then Flug's shoulders slump in your grip and he nods slightly.

"Alright? And if something does go wrong, tell the boss it was my fault.”

Now he shoots you a distrustful glare and frees himself from your hands.

    “Why in the world would you do that?!” he wants to know and you can’t really blame him. While that’s already a very unlikely thing for any lowlife criminal to do, it is an entirely different situation when your boss is Blackhat. You were either too pure of heart, aka not evil, or stupid. Or you were Dementia and probably got some sick pleasure out of every contact with him, be it severe punishment or just a kick in the head.

You smirk, showing a few teeth.

    “Figured it might be kinda handy to have you owe me a few favors.” There you go. Calculating and not at all altruistic. And while you really do feel bad for the guy, you still have to think for yourself in the long run. Dr. Flug blinks in surprise but then he snickers quietly.

    “That’s fair. Alright, I’ll take your word for it, but don’t come to me complaining afterwards.” You shrug.

    “Then let’s make sure nothing goes wrong, huh? Come on bud, we need to get going!” you say to 5.0.5 and the bear salutes you with a happy “Bao!” before lumbering off with the vacuum in tow.

On your way out, you stop for a second to pull the shirt away from your wound and inspect the dressing. It's not leaking, and apparently not even Blackhat's disciplinary measures had opened it back up. Still, you should probably redress it when you were done with getting everything ready.

Suddenly you look back over your shoulder. The door to Flug's room is opened a little, and through the slit you see him from the side, taking his shirt off. You can’t see his face with the way the shirt is completely covering his head, but you do see the long, white scar, running under his chest, as if something had been cut out, before you snap back to reality and hurry out of the plane.

That was probably something you were absolutely not supposed to see.

Chapter Text

Mawrasite glances at you, tightly crossing her arms again, clutching the handkerchief in one fist.

    “I- I’m really sorry it snapped at you, it's very starved. But-but don’t worry, I won’t let it eat you!”

 

 

18. Damn Door

 

 

There’s really not that much to clean around the manor this time, safe for the occasional chaos Dementia has left behind, like the one in the small living room from last night. The bowl you saw her carry still has some kernels left in it, but your focus is more on the weird hand puppet lying on the couch.

    “Augh, what the hell, Dem?” you mutter and gingerly pick the self-made Blackhat puppet up by the end of its sleeve. There's popcorn crumbs stuck to the felt-teeth and dried spots of… something around the mouth. A shiver runs over your back and you drop the puppet into a drawer under the TV before you get back to cleaning the mess Dementia had managed to produce during her movie-night. The mere act of fluffing pillows and picking off tiny crumbs makes you incredibly angry. This is so boring! Unnecessary.

    “Stupid!” you growl through clenched teeth, glaring at a dirty sock you just pulled out of the depths of the couch. Suddenly one of the many other screens in the room switches on and you almost fall backwards over the low coffee table when Blackhat's stare pierces you through the static flickering.

    “Boss! Uh, anything else you need? W- we're nearly done with sprucing this place up.” You quickly assure him but Blackhat makes a dismissive gesture, baring his teeth at you.

    “I hope there is a good reason why you’re still not changed. If you disgrace my organization in any way with your overly crude manners you can bid your miserable soul adieu right now!” he snarls, his folded hands transforming into sharp claws on the desk. You gulp.

    “I was just about to do that. Get changed, I mean!”

Without another word, the monitor blips off again and you stick out your tongue at the sizzling screen. Oh well, if it means you don’t have to clean anymore, you’ll gladly head back to your room and change.

You run into Flug in the front hall, who’s already wearing a clean lab coat and a new paper bag. You’re still awfully curious about that scar you saw, but now really isn’t the time or place for this. Besides: the giant, walking tripod that suddenly bounds into the hall makes you recoil in start.

    “Ah, there you are, _______!” Flug greets you, sounding a lot calmer than when you woke him, which is definitely a good sign. “I don’t think you have met Cambot yet. He will help us shoot this special.”

    “He?” you repeat, amused, and eye the robot closer. It really is just a huge camcorder on three long, astonishingly flexible tripod legs but then you notice the two metal arms it's keeping closely drawn to its camera body. Cambot tilts a little, focusing its lens on you like a curious puppy and you snort. “Hey Cambot, how's it going?”

Flug pats one of the metal legs.

    “Cambot is one of my earliest inventions, so, yeah, there’s some sentiment for him.”

Then you remember something and your blood runs cold: “Oh sh-, Flug, what about Dementia?! Shouldn’t we, like…” But the evil genius waves you off.

    “Don’t worry, she’s already restrained and sedated in her room. Even if we weren’t expecting female guests, she would most likely cause havoc out of pure boredom… or even try to hijack the feed with one of her stupid Dementia Tips again.”

You flinch and try desperately not to cover the bandaged bite mark with your hand.

    “Huh, so she’s really that territorial?” You ask with a weak laugh and Flug rolls his eyes behind his goggles.

    “Ugh, you have no idea. You should have seen her when we were doing our first job for Miss Penumbra. And it's only gotten worse with her ever since. I'm honestly surprised she hasn’t done anything to you yet.” He confesses, naïvely honest. Oh wow, that guy really had no clue about tactfulness whatsoever. What a nerd.

    “Yeah, well, it’s not like I’m not constantly trying to stop her from jumping to conclusions.” You mutter through clenched teeth. Dementia would definitely obliterate you five times over if she ever got to know what had gone down in Blackhat’s office last night! Or before that, in your room. “Okay, so, what am I supposed to do when the guests show up? Blackhat made it sound like I should serve them drinks and stuff like that.” You remember to ask, again with that stir of unease in your guts, and Flug shrugs.

    “That’s basically it. The hatbotlers have prepared the dining room to accommodate our guests in between their individual shoots, so you'll probably just have to pour a few drinks. But you also have to make sure there’s not going to be any fights! They might all be members of the VIVs* of the Black Hat Organization, but they’re still villains, and some hold a grudge or two against each other about who stands higher in our master’s favor. And you can probably guess what Lord Blackhat will do to the both of us if those rivalries escalate in his house.”

Great, you think with still growing reluctance, I gotta play the servant and the fucking babysitter for a bunch of sickos.

    “I’ll do my best, doc. See you in a bit, I should really get out of these coffee-drowned pants.” With that you take the elevator up to your room. The sun is up by now, shining red through the huge windows, illuminating floating dust particles, and something draped over the bed. You slowly walk up to it, your face already twisting into a grimace when you realize what’s lain out for you on the blanket: a red, silk shirt with short, puffed sleeves, black gloves and a slim tie, a dark grey pair of tights, a black pencil skirt and a pair of black pumps with red soles – the kind that’s guaranteed to make you break your neck and ankles after three steps.

You draw a sharp breath to already scream out your refusal, but then you just sigh in defeat and start stripping out of your clothes. There’s no use fighting this, not when you already know what will happen if you do. Blackhat told you to change, and apparently you’re supposed to change into that getup so what can you do?

It’s no surprise that all the pieces are a perfect fit, if maybe a little too perfect for your taste, making you feel uncomfortably accentuated in all the wrong ways. You’re a thief for fuck’s sake, not a flashy hooker trying to attract clients! You’re supposed to go unnoticed, melt into the shadows and move unrestricted, and above all have enough pockets to carry your gear/loot close to your body without it showing! This just feels like you’ve been shoved into a bunch of restraints to be paraded around! This is torture! And it's definitely a punishment for yesterday!

But then you lift the skirt off the blanket and notice something lying underneath it. A delicate set of thigh-holsters made from black leather, the belt only two fingers wide and equipped with half a dozen slim throwing knives in sheaths attached on each side. Speechless, you hold it up into the light and pull one of the knives out, drawing a shaking breath.

They are gorgeous! The blade is made from some sort of crystal or resin, so thin you can almost see through it, but sharp enough to sink into flesh without any resistance as you test the edge against your thumb, and you have no doubt that they’re much sturdier than they look. Likely a carbon-derivate, perhaps even diamond!? The entire holster and the knives themselves are so delicately forged that they aren’t even visible underneath the tight fitting pencil skirt when you pull it over the straps and zip it up. And since the knives hang upside down in their sheaths, you won’t have any trouble to draw them without a lot of fumbling!

When you're done piecing everything together, you hurry to the huge dresser to take a look at the giant mirror inside. The woman in front of you looks nothing like your old self. It’s so weird! But not exactly bad, and even the shoes aren’t that uncomfortable. Yeah, this isn’t so-

    “Hold still.” Blackhat rasps behind you and you’re really glad your body freezes instinctively on that command because otherwise you might have actually stabbed him with one of the throwing knives! But before you have even time to wonder why you can’t see his reflection this time, you feel his fingers on your scalp, messing with the bun you’re keeping your hair in, and now you have to actively keep yourself from bolting. Your worn hair tie gets carelessly flicked across the room, replaced by a silvery metal ornament through which Blackhat stabs two thick needles, tightly securing your hair back in place. There’s something strange to these and you lift your hand before you can stop yourself to finger one of them, your eyes widening when it comes apart at the top and you can pull a very thin dagger out of the hollow part of the needle.     

    “Holy shit…” you mumble, amazed. One of Blackhat’s hands slightly brushes over the branding on your back, making it burn beneath the shirt until you hiss through clenched teeth and quickly stick the hidden knife back into its sheath.

    “I won’t tolerate any blunders today. And I certainly don’t expect anything outstanding from you. But manage to surprise me and I will maybe let you keep these. Now get back to work!” With this he disappears again and you shiver from the wave of unearthly energy dispersing so close to you. Surprise him? With what, stabbing one of the VIVs? Probably better to not stress about that part when you don’t even know what’s in store for you on the regular.

    “Maybe surviving this whole ordeal would be the real surprise.” You mutter and head back down to the foyer, using the elevator because you really don’t feel like taking your chances with a bunch of stairs in these heels.

When you step outside the lift, you nearly get waltzed down by a gang of hatbotlers; tiny, mono wheeled robots with black bowler hats and Blackhat's mean, sharp-toothed features. You snicker to yourself, imagining them trailing behind the big boss like a group of ducklings, when suddenly the doorbell rings (bing-bong), the sound so bizarre in a place like this it makes you flinch.

    “What’s the point of having a normal sounding doorbell in such a hellish manor? The sound of tortured souls would be way more fitting.” you grouse under your breath and hastily walk up to the door since none of the robots seem to be feeling like they should probably get that.   

Alright, _______, you think, determined, grabbing the doorknob maybe a little too tightly. This is just another job, just another knife you have to catch! Whatever is waiting for you behind that door, you’ll be fine!

    “Welcome to the Black Hat Organization! I’m _______, and-", everything else you had planned to say fails you as you look up and into the red glowing eye sockets of a skeleton. You’re frozen, eyes torn open in shock and yet the hand that’s not currently clawing into the wood of the door reaches down for your skirt, the knives, you have to get the knives, you have to kill him, kill him kill-

    “You alright there, miss?” the skeleton asks, tensed, and it’s the vowel-heavy, polite British accent that stops you dead in your tracks and allows you to blink, your mind snapping out of the panic-reaction.

There is indeed a skeleton standing in front of you, but it's no-one you know. In fact, now that you really look at him, you're confused how you ever could have mistaken him for one of the Gaster brothers! He’s way smaller, first off, barely as tall as Blackhat without his hat, where Sans had been around 6 foot eight and Papyrus was closer to nine feet than eight. And he’s definitely wearing a villain getup, a dark suit with a huge collar of long, curved teeth that run all the way to the hood on his back, complete with a set of red gloves, one of which is reaching for a massive sword strapped to his hip. And you're still gaping like a braindead rock!

    “I- yes, I’m terribly sorry, that was rude of me! B- but I thought you were someone I knew at first. Please, do come in.” you stammer and quickly move to the side, ushering the skeleton inside. He’s laughing quietly and gives you another curious look once you close the door behind him.

    “Must not have been an awfully pleasant fella. I would be lying if I told you I wasn’t happy with one or the other terrified reaction, but that someone would initially decide to pull a blade on me is refreshingly new. I suppose you’re new in the Organization?”

Before you can answer, the air beside you thickens and darkens and Lord Blackhat emerges with the brief sound of howling souls, throwing you a quick but piercing glare.

    “A bloody amateur, I’m afraid… welcome back to my humble abode, Hunter. How fairs the skeleton-war?” the man in the hat turns to his guest and effectively blocks out the vicious look you shoot back at him.

    “Lord Blackhat! It is I who is humbled by your very presence, once again. Thanks to the mass-enchantment I commissioned from you, we are on the brink of driving the living off the face of the Earth for good now!” the skeleton, Hunter, exclaims, clenching a red-gloved fist. Blackhat’s grin widens.

    “Marvelous. I do hope you don’t forget to collect the souls for our agreed compensation.” He says with the clear but unspoken threat to get another soul as compensation should he really forget. Hunter flinches and quickly waves his hands around.

    “They are being collected as we speak, Lord Blackhat, I assure you.”

    “Excellent. Now, I'm afraid I’ll have to leave you in the less than capable hands of my newest henchman. Please don’t hesitate to act out your frustration on her should she fail at the simplest of tasks; I will join you once the rest of our guests have arrived.” With that, Blackhat vanishes, leaving the two of you in a more than uncomfortable silence that you almost tear apart by how hard you're grinding your teeth.

But then the skeleton exhales in relief and drops his tensed shoulders.

    “Bloody hell, he still gives me the creeps! And you didn’t even flinch!” he gives you a long stare and you rub your arm sheepishly. “There is just something about you, not matter what he says. I hope you'll humor an old skeleton's curiosity by telling me how you got to work under the one and only Lord of Evil and still manage to stay sane?” he sounds honestly intrigued and you feel a little better about the whole situation, when Flug suddenly comes into the main hall and greets Hunter, who immediately walks over to him.

    “Well met, Doctor. I must say, those cryo-bombs might be your most devastating invention yet!”

Flug waves the skeleton off with a flattered chuckle and escorts him to the first floor where the dining room and the editing room are located. You remain by the door, because not half a minute later, the bell rings again.

    “Okay, just don’t freak out if it's another skeleton. It's okay, Blackhat's not gonna invite Sans over, he didn’t even remember him, he hates him, it's fine…” you mumble and force a smile back on your face.

    “Hello and welcome to the Black Hat Organization! Are you here for the VIV shoot?” From your first impression of the next guest, you immediately calm down a little. The villain is a young, masked woman with an exhausted expression, smiling back at you, albeit a little confused. She’s wearing a cute black minidress with a black choker around her neck and torn purple tights that match the color of her short, wild hair. The chest piece of her dress looks like it's made from huge teeth, smaller ones lining the hem of the skirt and you can’t help but admire the outfit. Six bone-white spider-like legs stick out behind her and she even has a pair of teeth-clips holding back her hair.

    “Oh, uh, hi, I’m- I’m Mawrasite. You’re… um, you’re new here, right?” she says, waving tiredly at you and you notice the sickly yellow colour of her eyeballs and the smudged black eyeliner beneath them, making her look like she had either been crying or yawning a lot. You instantly wonder what she might be able to do, since Hunter was obviously undead and Void had his black hole ability. It seemed like the members of the VIV. were all nothing short of super-villains themselves. Which isn't exactly reassuring.

    “Yeah, I haven’t been working for Lord Blackhat for that long. Please come in! We are still waiting for the other guests to arrive but you can already join Hunter in the dining room.” You chime and usher her inside. Mawrasite doesn’t shake your offered hand though and instead keeps her arms tightly crossed over her stomach. You tilt your head.

“Are you alright? I could get Doctor Flug if you're not feeling well.” But the villainess shakes her head viciously, clutching her middle even harder and you think you can hear a low gurgling.

    “Oh G-g-God, please not him! I’m fine, it's just, this p-place-", and as if that had been his cue, Blackhat appears once more but now the effect is a catastrophe in itself: Mawrasite shrieks, slaps her hands over her mouth and her waist splits open into a horrible maw of razor sharp teeth and a coiling tongue that promptly snaps at you and it is only thanks to your remaining nervousness that you’re quick enough to evade the hooked fangs.

    “Oh no! Oh no, no, no! I’m s-s-sorry Lord Blackhat, it was behaving so well until now-, I- I just-" she’s close to tears now, frantically trying to shut the snapping jaws of her own body with her arms. You can only stare in horror, your hands already feeling for the knives again, but Blackhat pulls one of his better nightmare grimaces and Mawrasite’s surging form transforms back to that of a normal human in the blink of an eye. Yet the toothy chest piece you thought to be merely a clever fashion choice at first makes much more sense now: the teeth are the actual monster's teeth.

    “Thank you.” She whispers, her cheeks burning red underneath the crimson mask. Blackhat chuckles menacingly.

    “I see, that parasite of yours is doing well as always, my dear Mawrasite. But apparently you haven’t been feeding it enough, hm?” He adds with a probing glare and Mawrasite seems to shrink before his eye as she mumbles something so quiet that you can’t understand her at all.

“Speak up!” Blackhat barks and the villainess flinches, the teeth of her chest flaring slightly in response.

    “I- I said that there’s this new hero who started protecting the city and I haven’t been able to feed it properly in weeks because of her! She's too strong for me!” Her stomach gives another miserable growl and Blackhat procures a handkerchief from his coat, giving it to Mawrasite who quickly dabs at her teary eyes.

    “Now, now, is that all? You are in luck, my dear; exterminating pesky heroes is a specialty of my Organization, don't you know?” That makes the young woman with the terrible parasite chuckle weakly. “We can discuss the matter after the shoot. And if your parasite demands a snack in the meantime, feel free to help yourself to this useless human I keep around as of late.” Darting you another mean grin, Blackhat vanishes.

Mawrasite glances at you, tightly crossing her arms again, clutching the handkerchief in one gloved fist.

    “I- I’m really sorry it snapped at you, it's very starved and might have smelled your nervousness. But-but don’t worry, I won’t let it eat you like he said, n-no way!” Casting a quick glimpse around, she lowers her voice into the quietest whisper. “Y- you’re really nice. But don’t tell anyone I said that!!”

It takes you a second to process what she said and even longer to find a fitting response. But then you just smile at her and shake your head.

    “My lips are sealed. I’m _______, by the way.” Mawrasite gives you a surprised look.

    “You use your real name? No alias?”

You shrug, reaching for the door when you already hear someone new approaching outside.

    “Well, I’m kinda new to this whole villain-thing? I worked for someone else before, and I couldn’t really use the attention a flashy alias would have gotten me. I prefer to stay under the radar.”

Mawrasite blushes hard again, like she just put her foot in her mouth by asking.

    “O-oh, I see… well, you should think about it. It's really c-cool when people fear you just by hearing your name. Sure, it might get you on a hero's radar but that’s what the Organization is for. And when you work for L-Lord Blackhat personally, you learn from the best. T-trust me. I was a nobody, a freak with a p-parasite who almost ate me before I got into the special villain course of his academy and learned how to control it and actually u-use its powers.”

You watch her leave, her words slowly sinking in. But then the doorbell rings and you're back to playing hostess.

 

 

 


*VIV: Very Important Villain

 

Chapter Text

  “Oh I already know what service I’m gonna book her for.” Dark Phantom throws in with an absolutely nasty chuckle and now you flinch with a disgusted expression and shoot Blackhat a quick but apprehensive glance.

 

19. We're All Mad

 

 

Roughly an hour later, you find yourself stuffed in the gloomy dining room with half a dozen dangerous individuals that all pride themselves to be called super-villain, and who are all eyeing each other with more or less vile intentions when they think nobody is looking. To say you’re nervous would be a grave understatement if you’d ever heard one. How the hell are you supposed to stop a fight between villains of their caliber all on your own?

Let’s say for example Metauro, a seven foot, muscly mountain of minotaur with shoulders as wide as you are tall, decides he’s had enough of Dark Phantom's constant verbal jabs against the aesthetic value of his face. What the fuck are you supposed to stop him with?! One of your tiny knives? And to be honest, you probably wouldn’t even bother to stop poor Metauro; that Dark Phantom guy definitely needed to be taken down a few notches!

If you previously would see Sans' skull floating before your inner eye when you thought about the term “disgusting pig", that mental image had now been thoroughly replaced the second you opened the door for Dark Phantom.

    “Ohoho, didn’t know Blackhat was offering those particular services now, too!” he had leered, and you had nearly been able to hear the sound of your clothes ripping to shreds as he shamelessly stripped you with his eyes. Every fiber in your body was begging you to gut this masked asshole on the front door step and tell Flug afterwards you didn’t think a clown like that would be on the guest list. Your hand had clutched the door so hard you could feel it splinter beneath your gloves but you refused to let go and do something you might regret later.

When Blackhat materialized to greet the newcomer, you almost fell around his neck out of sheer relief over the distraction. And you would have been okay if he killed you over it, death seemed a way better alternative than spending another second in Dark Phantom's presence, who was already trying to sneak a dark blue business card into your cleavage. Blackhat snatched it before he could however and the card incinerated between his fingers while he gave the villain a grin so murderous that Dark Phantom actually took a step away from you, nervously smoothing his silver mohawk. Way to go boss, you thought with a miserable face, you mark your territory.

Fortunately the next guest was already at the door and you could finally ignore Dark Phantom, but unfortunately he managed to slip an entire money clip into your shirt before you knew what the hell was happening. “See it as pay in advance.” He drawled and it was only because of the doorbell that you didn’t deck his entire backside with throwing knives as he sauntered up the stairs! Later, you realized that the moron had just given you a thousand Hatcoins, which was an actual currency you could use to buy exclusive stuff from the Black Hat Organization. So he probably didn’t have any actual superhuman abilities. He was just stinking rich. Emphasis on the stinking part.

Suddenly the Supreme Leader Bonnivet, a cute, colorful, but very tiny alien conqueror, waves at you and you quickly hurry to her side, bending down to where she’s lounging on a pile of pillows on her seat.

    “Yes, Supreme Leader?” you say with a genuine smile. “Anything I can get for you?”

Bonnivet giggles, delighted, asking you for another cup of tea in her sweet lisp, caused by her enormous, bunny-like front teeth. She had arrived right after Dark Phantom and you immediately liked her. Yes, she was a cruel intergalactic dictator who had enslaved dozens of civilizations already, yes, she was responsible for the extinction of a dozen other races that had refused to get conquered, and yes, she would probably love to keep you as a weird pet on her home planet but she was very sweet and adorable about it. Plus, Dark Phantom seemed pretty scared of her so there was that.

You’re glad that 5.0.5 is here, too, helping you out with keeping the guests happy and you can tell this is not the first time he's done that either, which is amazing since he can’t actually talk himself. Flug was already busy with setting up the back part of the gallery for the next shots but you had managed to ask him, in disbelief, if these were really all the members of the VIV circle. The scientist had immediately broken out in a panicked sweat. No, those were definitely not all the members but the rest was either too busy with destroying the heroes in their worlds or hadn’t even responded to the invitation which was the main reason for his nervousness. Usually the villains would fight over who’d get the chance to be in one of the more prestigious special videos of the Black Hat Organization, mostly to get even more infamous themselves, so their silence was concerning.

Not for you, though, you were too worried about everything going smoothly than wondering why the other villains went silent all of a sudden.

Bonnivet thanks you for the tea, patting your hand like a grandma, or the Queen herself, with a “thank you dearie" but your heart melts anyway. How can an evil conqueror be so adorable?! And exactly how evil does she have to be for Lord Blackhat to bow down all the way and kiss the back of her hand, which she took with the same delighted giggle as the tea now?

Hunter, the skeletal General of the Undead, picks up his conversation with Metauro about sharpening huge weapons more efficiently, and Mawrasite carefully nibbles on one of the cookies 5.0.5 had whipped up last-minute.

It seems to be going smoothly so far.

Well, if you left out the scrutinizing glare Lady Naga, the last to arrive, has been considering you with the entire time of course. You can feel her eyes even now, drilling a hole into your back while you fix another teensy expresso for Metauro that he gingerly picks up between two of his massive fingers to drink, since not even his pinky would fit through the handle.

But before you can think of a polite way to ask what the fuck her problem is, the door to the dining room opens and Flug sticks his paper bag in again to get the next candidate.

    “Dark Phantom, we're ready for your shoot.” He announces and the supervillain finally drags his dirty, spiked boots off the table to swagger through the door, his long nose high in the air, swinging his cape. God, you wanted to teach that asshole a lesson so badly! But now it won’t be that long anymore until this ordeal is finally over!

Once the door closes, you dart forward to wipe down the table where he had parked his boots, when you suddenly find yourself face to face with Lady Naga, and she is positively radiating hostility.

    “Uh… excuse me…” you mumble and try to move around her, but her armored glove wraps around your arm and pulls you back, shoving you onto the empty chair. Uh-oh. Not good. In fact, this seems really bad!

    “Alright and now you talk.” She hisses in her Japanese accent, her yellow eyes narrowing behind the horned oni-mask that’s hiding her face. You stare at her, alarmed and completely thrown off track.

At first you had thought that Lady Naga was related to Dementia, since she was also – well – a lizard-person. But apparently the supervillain was the real deal, and not a crazy punk with weird gecko abilities and green hair. Lady Naga was covered in shiny, emerald green scales from neck to toe, and her eyes were definitely not human but entirely golden, with lance shaped pupils and a second pair of thin lids. She did have a thick, green braid, however, so there were similarities between her and Dem. Safe for the long claws, which she now presses into the skin of your neck.

Your fingers flinch on your thighs, an instinctive reaction to grab one of the knives beneath your skirt and stab the ever-loving shit out of her, but you stop yourself in the last second. Even though you had told Flug you were willing to take the blame should something go wrong, you really want to avoid any trouble if you can help it! So instead you grab Naga's wrist and make as innocent a face as you can.

    “I’m sorry?” You keep your eyes focused on your opponent, but you notice the other villains moving on their seats in your peripheral, and hear 5.0.5.’s concerned growl.

    “Hey, what gives, freak?!” Bonnivet shouts from her mountain of pillows and even Mawrasite has stood up from her chair, her hands halfway reaching out for you.

    “Y-yeah, what are you doing? S-she didn’t do anything wrong!” she protests, but sits down at once when Lady Naga shoots her a crushing glare over the shoulder. Hunter and Metauro just share a look like they’re curious to see how this will play out. Double uh-oh.

    “Lord Blackhat told me to skin this pathetic creature alive should she annoy me, as I’m sure he told you all something along those lines as well. And Lord Blackhat never says anything without a meaning if he bothers to speak. So: tell me why I shouldn’t follow his suggestion, baka?” Lady Naga hisses, golden eyes flashing dangerously at you.

She’s right, in a way. Blackhat had told every single one of his guests to basically brutally murder you should you step on their toes or just look at them funny, which at first had seemed like his usual idea of endearment to you, but now that Lady Naga brings it up again, it makes you wonder why exactly the boss had even bothered to greet each individual villain personally at the door when before he had told you to keep them entertained so they wouldn't pester him. Sounds a little like he had tried to instigate this. And by a little you mean a lot.

    “Did I do anything to annoy you, Lady Naga?” you ask sweetly and smile despite your high strung nerves. You hate to writhe before them like some lower servant, but you really don’t want them to test you in a fight. You just want to get this day over with and then take a hike through Hatsville, unperturbed, for fuck's sake!

Your thoughts are interrupted when Naga tightens her grip on you and pulls out a huge, rectangular knife that looks suspiciously like Japanese steel. What a beauty! If only it wasn’t aimed at you.

    “You annoy me by your mere presence! I don’t buy your little act. You may give the perfect little, if maybe a bit dumb hostess but I don’t like the look in your eyes. And I refuse to believe Lord Blackhat would bother to keep an insignificant human around just for this line of work… no, you’re something else. And you’re going to tell me who you are and what it is that you do in the Organization or I will make you talk!”

Your answer is a short, surprised laugh that you absolutely fail to suppress. Lady Naga looks like she's about to slash your throat open.

“What in the devil’s name are you laughing at you little bitch?!”

Now you drop the polite smile that has been making your jaw hurt all day and openly sneer at her.

    “It's funny how you think a punk like you can make me talk.”

Mawrasite is shaking her head at you with wide eyes and the three other villains shoot you a disbelieving stare. 5.0.5 has crept closer to you, a frantic look on his face but you wave him off with a grin. “Don't worry, bud. I got this.”

    “You seem to have forgotten the position you’re in!” Lady Naga snarls, her hand grabbing the collar of your shirt to yank you off the chair and up to her face. With a sour pout you pointedly pick her fingers off the fabric, ignoring her knife.

    “And this is finest silk that I would really hate to have to pay off, thank you very much. In case you have already forgotten… I work for Blackhat! How the hell do you think my job-interview went? There’s few things I’m scared of nowadays and you, lady, ain’t one of ‘em!”

That finally seems to have gotten through to her and she recoils for a second, before she remembers Blackhat's invitation what to do with you.

    “You have no right – no right! – to be here! He said he wouldn’t take any more underlings and yet here you are, a wimpy, pathetic loser, when it could have been me!” She dashes forward, swinging her knife, but you had anticipated that and snatch the silver plate full of cookies off the table, blocking the first incoming blow with ease. The second, a backhand with the same knife, aims right for your face and you jump back, rolling over the table in one nimble motion and finally getting something between you and the mad villainess, who shouts at your audacity to not stay still and get murdered.

    “Fight me, coward!” Naga roars and leaps over the table after you. The way she fights, and her entire demeanor immediately remind you of Undyne, the fish-lady monster that had worked for a rivalling gang from Central City. And you had danced with the likes of her a few times, the long, bulging scar on your thigh a permanent reminder. Reflexively, you grab an empty chair and toss it in Naga's way in the last second. Wood splinters, Mawrasite yelps and hides under the table, but the other villains just watch the fight with enough alertness to not get tangled up in it themselves.

    “Come on, dearie, annihilate her!” Bonnivet cheers you on with a toast from her teacup. But you still don’t draw your own, hidden knives. It’s an element of surprise you can’t give away too early in the fight. You avoid another swing and swiftly throw the plate you're still holding at her. It hits her square in the facemask with a resounding dang and Lady Naga roars in wordless fury.

    “This is ridiculous, I’m not fighting you!” you yell, hoping that Flug or Blackhat or even a hatbot would soon show up so you could get this back under control. Then you see something blue out the corner of your eye and shout: “5.0.5, no! Bad bear! I told you to stay out of this!”

The blue bear whines in distress and suddenly bolts out the door, probably to get Flug. Or Blackhat. Oh God, he wouldn’t actually get Dem, would he?! You can’t say which one you’d prefer but you don’t have time to think much about it, the cleaver comes down on you with incredible speed and you jump back again, bumping against one of the pedestals with Faberge eggs, which means that you’ve been backed into a corner!

    “Gotcha now!” Naga barks in triumph, drawing up her knee to kick you into the wall.

Big mistake you haughty bitch, you think, pushing away from the wall to attack her with a quick straight right, aiming for her unprotected throat. Your hand gets cut by one of the curled teeth on her mask, but you land the hit anyway, feel the resistance from her scaly skin and the harder thyroid beneath, and then hear the satisfying sound of Lady Naga trying to breathe in shock. Yet that breath stops abruptly after a second and now she gasps, unable to inhale.

You swiftly move around her back and wrestle the huge knife out of her hand. With deadly precision you throw it and it chips the rim of her mask before it slams into the wallpaper and stays there, two inches deep inside the wall.

    “You done?!” you shout at her back and keep the tension in your body despite your obvious victory. She could get really angry now. With half an ear you hear Bonnivet laughing like a child and soft applause from Hunter and Metauro. Mawrasite just sighs in relief. Lady Naga gargles unintelligibly and turns around to you, murder in her yellow eyes. You draw your hands up, staring her down. “Round two? I’m down, but you should really get that breath under control first or this will be disappointingly short I’m afraid. Plus, I doubt you really want me to mess you up before your shoot, huh?” you add, sneering. When she reaches over her back you snort and do the same, pulling the second knife you just stole from her out of the waistband of your skirt. “Looking for this?”

Now the other villains make awed sounds and even Lady Naga looks a bit baffled. But instead of throwing this one into the wall as well, you twirl it and hold it out to her the way you had done after Blackhat had chucked the Bowie knife at you. A peace offering.

“You know, you could have just asked me like a normal person who I am and what exactly I'm doing here. And maybe I would have told you that I didn’t come here asking for a job and that I am a thief by trade who’s trying to pay off a debt by working for Lord Blackhat.” You tell her, exasperated but without any anger, even though you think that she must be mad if she actually wants to work directly for Blackhat. The only person you know that’s here willingly and thoroughly enjoys herself, and his cruel reign over the organization, is Dementia, and she’s undoubtedly batshit insane.

Lady Naga slowly grabs the knife you're holding out to her, looking at her reflection in the flawless steel. Her eyes narrow in thought.

    “Rule… rule number 42: Don't stop attacking until the heart of your enemy stops beating!” She jumps forward, pushing you to the ground before you know what's happening. At the table, Hunter groans in disappointment while Metauro laughs resoundingly, banging a huge fist onto the wood in applause.

    “Ah, too bad little thief, we were rooting for you!” he hollers, but now you’re way too busy to actually fight for your life than to pay your audience much attention. Lady Naga straddles your middle, grabbing your neck with her free hand, the knife rising above her head like a miniature guillotine. You claw at her arm, unable to reach the knives under your skirt in this position, kick and writhe beneath her, your eyes glued to the razor sharp blade while you’re desperately trying to come up with a way to get out of her grasp without your own knives, but your brain is disappointingly vacant.

Then, like a mental slap, you remember the hair-ornament Blackhat had personally put on you, and your hands fly up to your bun, drawing the two hidden, needle-thin daggers and with a loud scream you plunge them into Lady Naga's neck just as her cleaver comes down, slashing her throat open from the collarbone up to her jaw.

Green blood showers you in a gory spray and you barely dodge the knife that falls out of her hand as she tries to keep the life inside her body. With another hissed grunt you push the bleeding villain off of you, roll her over, and grab the knife she dropped, raising it like she had just a second ago. Lizard blood is dripping from your face, your hair and your hands but you just stare into her wide opened eyes, a snarl on your face.

    “Here's a rule for ya… don’t be fucking rude!” The blade sings from the speed when you bring it down, splitting Lady Naga's skull clean in two, along with the mask.

Before you have time to even reflect about the fact that you had just brutally murdered someone, the body beneath you vanishes into smoke all of a sudden, dropping the knife and you onto the floor. Your poor, adrenaline-flooded brain struggles to comprehend what the hell is going on, until a slow-clapped applause jerks you from your perplexity.

    “What a pathetic excuse for a fight to the death. Any drunken saloon-brawl would have been more exciting to watch, but at least you managed not to die.” Lord Blackhat comments and you wheel around to where he manifests from inside the wall, giving you a hard glare with his mouth twisted in irritation. “Thank you for your participation, Lady Naga.” He adds, a lot more civil, and the wallpaper next to him moves suddenly, the distorted shape turning into the colorful form of Lady Naga who had been camouflaged, leaning with crossed arms against the wall, her golden eyes narrowed at you behind the mask. She looks entirely unharmed and you glance to the ground in front of you, then back to her. All the blood has vanished as well.

Another illusion…

    “Oh, but we were very entertained by this live showcase, Lord Blackhat.” Bonnivet chimes, clapping her hands together. "Please tell me that this lovely lady is available for hire! I can already think of something she might be able to steal for me! What am I saying, I’d also pay just for her company!”

    “I- I could really use her help, too. That heroine in my city uses a modified weapon she could steal. If- if it's not as expensive to hire her as Dementia. I really can’t afford her right now.” Mawrasite says, throwing you a hopeful glance, that you return with a confused blink. You’re still not fully grasping what this is all about, and you completely miss how the door opens for Dark Phantom to enter, followed by a very exhausted and angry looking Flug.

Blackhat grins widely and you can hear the dollar signs – or rather Hatcoins – cachinging behind his monocle.

    “We still need to wait for the results of her first official mission before I will even consider offering her services to my network.” He dampens their enthusiasm, his grin turning a tad sharper. “It may well be that this is the first and last time you see her… alive.

    “Oooooh I already know what kinda service I’m gonna book her for.” Dark Phantom throws in with an absolutely nasty chuckle and now you finally shake your dumbfounded paralysis, flinching with a disgusted expression and shooting Blackhat a quick but pleading glance. Thankfully, your boss looks just as repulsed as you feel.

    “Not for that, you classless filth!” He snaps at the villain. “I’d rather hang myself with your entrails than ever consider running something as base as a brothel! No matter how profitable that might be. Rule number 17: a villain of true power must always maintain a certain amount of class in any situation. Or do you need a private lesson to brush up your memory?” Blackhat growls, raising a glowing hand.

Dark Phantom gulps and quickly shakes his head. Flug clears his throat and all villains turn their heads towards him.

    “Umm, Lady Naga, your shoot is the next one, if you would…” he says, already inching towards the door. Lady Naga huffs an annoyed breath and pushes off the wall to pull her knife from the wallpaper and follow the evil scientist. But then she stops in front of you, staring you down, her free hand making a demanding gesture. You quickly stand up and hand her the other knife which she puts into the sheaths on her back from where you had stolen it. So Blackhat must’ve casted the illusion right before you had “killed" her. Which means that the throat-punch you had managed to land did actually hurt her. Good.

Before she leaves with Flug, she leans towards you, hissing under her breath: “I’m looking forward to a rematch where I won’t have to hold back because Lord Blackhat ordered me to. Next time you won't get off so easily.”

To your own surprise you snort and throw her a suggestive wink.

    “Oh shit, if you wanted to get me off, you could've just asked. That would be a rematch I'm looking forward to.” You whisper back, grinning when Lady Naga recoils and bumps against the table, her eyes widened behind the mask and while you can’t see it, you’re pretty sure she’s blushing, too. Well, if a lizard-woman can actually blush that is.

Chapter Text

A terribly cynical part of you eggs you on to wave at him, but you’re too confused to move and just return his stare. Your instincts tell you that something bad is going to happen.

 

 

20. Mean To Me

 

 

You manage to get through the rest of the VIV shoot without causing another fight and your mood has actually improved since your throw down against Lady Naga, because the rest of the villains – except for Dark Phantom but you had chosen to ignore the fact he even existed – were treating you with a lot more respect and interest now that your secret was out.

Blackhat left after his grand scheme was over, already visibly annoyed by everything and everyone again and you were more than relieved about that. You couldn’t help it… even though he treated you like garbage every day already, his demeanor today seemed unnecessarily mean to you. Uncalled for even. But you’ll probably get an opportunity to address that in a hot minute, since the last guest – Mawrasite – has just walked out the door, after waving shyly at you, and your entire body slumps, abandoning the tension you’ve kept up all day as you sink against the huge front door, wiping your face with your gloved hands and massaging your aching jaw.

    “Uuuugh…” you groan loudly. 5.0.5 rubs your shoulder with a commiserative string of growls and you pat his paw, giving him a tired smile. “Thank you so much for helping me, bud… I don’t know what I would have done without-"

Before you can finish the sentence, your body gets flung into the air until your back slams against the ceiling and you stare with wide eyes at the floor, where 5.0.5 has jumped back a good meter, staring up at you, just as startled. Then the ceiling surges and swallows you like a cold, hungry swamp. 

Darkness engulfs you once again, horrible, agonized screams echoing all around you and you hold your breath in hope that it will soon spit you back out!

    “Huhuhuhu, fancy meeting you here, _______.” Wingdings chuckles and you snap your eyes open in shock, a gasp escaping your chest. There he is, a ghostly, white mask of jagged teeth and crazy, pixelated eyes, floating next to you in the whirling darkness, one cheek propped up on a hand, six others floating around him and signing along as he speaks.

    “Y- you’re alive?!” you whisper but Wingdings only places a few fingers in front of his terrible skeleton-grin, his eye sockets crinkling in amusement.

    “Shh! Shshshsh, you will forget you saw me in a bit. But what you will remember is this:” Instead of telling you, he presses a purple glowing hand to your forehead, the hole in his palm right over your eyes, and your vision distorts as you look through it, until you blink and find yourself back in a lab; in Wingdings' old lab, standing in front of his desk that's littered with notes and print-outs and a heavy book. The same book you took from Blackhat's library. It's opened somewhere in the middle, but you can’t see the number of the page and the image is already fading!

    “No, wait... wait!” you sputter, confused. This was important, quick, you had to memorize this page! The title, where was it?

The Darkness spits you out onto the floor of Blackhat's office and you pant for air, wondering why this had taken so long. Woah, what a ride. Extra suffery. Before you can think about getting up, a dark shadow falls over you and you flinch, already expecting some form of physical abuse.

Yet Blackhat just scrutinizes you for a long moment, his one eye narrowed in suspicion. You keep very still and try to ignore the cold sweat that’s running over your back. Oh jeez what did I do now?! You didn’t get any chance before to worry about what would happen after the shooting - the villains had kept you busy for the rest of the afternoon, so now you’re more than anxious about Blackhat's impression of how this day went.

Would he approve the fight against Lady Naga? Okay, to be fair he had already bashed your performance back in the dining room, but you never knew, maybe it had just been because of the guests present and he was actually pleased with how you fought, besides, all the other villains had seemed to be very impressed by your-

    “Pathetic.” Somehow he manages to pronounce each syllable more crassly than the one before.

You blink rapidly at him, your mouth falling open.

    “You’re kidding me!” You scoff once you’ve recovered from your initial shock and quickly try to scramble to your feet, but now one of the high heeled pumps wobbles beneath you and you promptly fall back on your ass, hissing at the pain. Blackhat leans over you as you clutch your throbbing ankle.

    “Do I look like I’m kidding?” he growls, his demonic voice sending goosebumps down your limbs, and you already know what horrible nightmare-face he’s sporting without having to look.

    “Probably not.” You shoot back angrily, not bothering to lift your head, and now he grabs you by the slim tie around your neck, jerking you to your feet by it. All you see are teeth, huge and sharp and glistening green from slobber. The next thing you know, your boss pushes you face first into the wood of his desk, your nose giving a dangerous crunch and you yell out in pain, only to choke miserably when his grip around the tie tightens and pulls it mercilessly taught against your throat.

    “I am not entirely sure whether I should like that unbreakable spirit of yours, or curse it to the pits of Hell…” Blackhat muses above your head, the fingers of his other hand drumming a lively rhythm onto the hard desk. You squirm desperately, clawing at the tie that’s strangling you slowly but surely.

“On one hand, I'm very intrigued to find out just what it takes to finally, permanently break it… but on the other hand… the audacity with which you wield it… is really starting to piss me off.

Fuck. You know you’ve gone too far when Blackhat out of all people loses his composure and starts swearing like a sailor. Why did you have to constantly mouth off like that?! You knew what he was capable off, and how he reacted to being disrespected, not to mention that talk you had in the kitchen this very morning, so why couldn’t you just shut up for once in your life?!

“But to be fair… you did manage to surprise me today.” Suddenly the cruel pressure around your throat eases and you breathe frantically, exhaling shakily with a pained moan. Cautiously glancing at Blackhat next to you, you slowly stand up and move away from him, rubbing your neck with one hand, the other steadying you against the desk.

    “Because…” you croak, “because I killed Lady Naga's doppelganger?”

Blackhat grimaces like you just showed him an especially gross insect. Although, he probably would have preferred something like that over what you had just said.

    “I will get to that in a minute. No, what surprised me was the interest of the other villains to actually hire you after that disgraceful embarrassment. Clearly they all failed to realize what a hopeless case you are and simply fell for your base charms! But as long as I can make any money off of you, I suppose it’s an excuse for you to live!” He stops in his ranting when you pout at him and cross your arms like a child. His viper pupil darts up and down your frame in disbelief. “What… what in the devil are you doing?!”

    “I don't get what you’re disappointed at, boss!” You blurt out, gesturing to the door. “I did what you wanted and behaved myself, I kept the guests entertained and didn’t let them trash the mansion because of some stupid rivalries! They didn’t wander off to pester you and nobody complained about anything being wrong! You were the one who tried to make them attack me and the only one who did was Lady Naga, who obviously was in on the whole spiel in the first place! So, technically, I did. Do. Okay! And by the way, do you have to be so mean?! I get it, you're evil as all get-out, big whoop, but I'm trying, for crying out loud! Sorry if I'm only human and not some freakishly mutated super-villain!”

Lord Blackhat stares at you, looking like he’s suffering from a burst blood vessel in his brain, caused precisely  by the last two sentences you just hurled at him in your anger. But when you already fear he’s going to explode, he exhales forcefully, walks around his desk and looks out the huge window, one hand on his back like always, the other doing something in front of him you can’t see, but there’s the distant noise of an explosion from outside.

    “The only favor… I will ever grant you without charging you for it, is going to be me, pretending that I did not just hear this idiocy out of your mouth.” His head snaps all the way around to you with a cracking noise, his monocle gleaming red, and his visible eye rolled back into his skull. “Sit!

After a punishment like the one you just had, you automatically obey his command without a second thought, and promptly fall on your ass. Blackhat’s raucous laughter is the final clue you need to realize that he didn’t summon a chair for you this time on purpose.

    “Mwahahahar, ah, I’ve been looking forward to this all day! I just wish I had gotten the cambot up here in time to record it! Muehehe…” he's still chuckling to himself by the time you've pulled yourself back up on the desk, giving him a defeated nod.

    “Alright, you got me, sir. Can I have a chair now? I promise I won’t spout any more idiocy.” You mumble with a sigh but quickly flinch back when he slams a clawed hand on the desk, scratching up the wood.

    “If you make another stupid promise like that I will personally snap your neck!”

    “P- point taken.”

Finally he relents and conjures up an uncomfortable chair that you sink down on in complete and utter exhaustion. Suddenly you feel every injury and sore muscle in your body; the branding, the freshly burned bite-wound in your shoulder, the cut where Naga's mask had slashed the back of your hand open, even the spot on your head from the beginning of this gruesome change of scenery, where one of Sans' guards had sucker punched you! “Ow…” you groan and rub your smarting left wrist that’s still a little sprained and throbbing after the hectic fight with Naga.

    “Feeling sore?” Blackhat asks furtively with a knowing grin. “A nice, hot bath might help.”

To your own surprise you manage to laugh at that, shooting a round of snapping finger guns at him.

    “Hah, yeah, like I’m ever gonna fall for that again.”  Your own grin falters when his slants in a sardonic way.

    “Do you honestly think I would require bath additives to paralyze you?” he snickers maliciously and you drop the finger guns.

    “Uh, I kinda did, until now that is.” Great. Now you’ll never feel safe in your life again.

    “Let’s get this over with.” He suddenly barks. “I'm getting bored of you unsuccessfully trying to outwit me. Tell me the reason your fight against Lady Naga was a disaster!”

You think hard, try to remember the smallest details about the fight, but it had all been over so quickly! What had went wrong, and when?! Was its maybe…

    “Because… I gave her the knife back? Because I didn’t kill her right away, like she said?” That had to be it! She even told you the number of that stupid rule and all! But to your surprise…

    “No! While it was a grave error and an inexcusable mistake under any different circumstances, I understand your reason behind it.” Blackhat snaps and you blink, confounded.

    “Y- you do?” The Crawling Chaos being empathetic?! Able to put himself into another person’s shoes and understand why you didn’t want to behave like a psychopath and kill someone?! Get out of here! Yet Blackhat twirls his hand around with a nod.

    “While Lady Naga was the one who attacked you, you knew she was still a VIP member of the Black Hat Organization, with a significant monetary value to me, one I would hate to lose and one that you would never be able to replace. Moreover, she was here as a guest, and you somehow had enough brain cells left to know how incredibly bad for business it is to kill guests under your roof. So, you did well sparing her life. No, what I’m talking about is the way you fought after you handed her back the knife you took!” Now he actually counts the number of errors on his fingers, his face twisted into an angry snarl.

“Her second assault took you completely off-guard even though it was plain to see that she would attack again and you just let it happen like a fool! She gave you one opening after the other, had no defense up whatsoever, took forever to strike, and yet you only found your bearings after I had to remind you of the hidden knives! Pathetic!”

You ignore the mistakes he’s listing and narrow your eyes at him, straightening in your chair.

    “So that was you? That mental… push? Okay can you actually control minds or what the hell am I supposed to think here?!” you blurt out. Blackhat groans, smacks a hand over his face and drags it down, ripping his entire skin off in the process. You make a retching sound in your throat when he just slaps the bloodied flap onto his desk with a wet noise, his now lidless, bloodshot eye piercing you in a horrible fashion. His teeth look even bigger, now that there’s no lips to cover them.

You just stare at each other for a minute. Then you huff, sit back and mutter an inaudible apology. Blackhat drums his fingers on the desk until you look back up and into his skinned face that still looks angry and impatient even without any actual facial expressions.

    “Oh for fuck's… I’m sorry, Lord Blackhat, for interrupting you yet again, please accept my humble apology and do continue with how I managed to disappoint you in every way, shape or form, I shall not run my bitch-ass mouth again while you do so.” you prattle down, shrugging when he shoots you a very baffled look. “What, you want me to write it down, too?!”

He scrutinizes you intently, and you’re more than glad when his skin suddenly materializes back over his face so that you can actually see the thoughtful frown he’s wearing, probably because of your choice of words which is, granted, very unusual for a common criminal like you, but you had managed to educate yourself enough in South City's public library to polish your vocabulary quite a bit beyond that of a street urchin. But then Blackhat just shakes his head and sighs, resigning.

    “Nevermind that. Keep the knives; after all you did actually surprise me by not getting yourself killed. What’s more important now is your first official mission outside the Black Hat Organization under Void's lead, which will be tomorrow. If you manage to complete it successfully, you will get to work in earnest for me. If not… well, then let’s just say you won’t have to worry your pretty little head about me messing with your mind any longer.” His grin is back with full force, as is the silent excitement in his eye. You gulp and nod quietly.

Over the fuss with Wingdings, the VIVs, and getting rid of the tracker, you had completely forgotten the heist you were supposed to pull off with Mr. “Professional supervillain, actually?!”. Yet… to be perfectly honest, you were looking forward to stealing that artifact!

    “I'll try not to disappoint you… all that much, boss.” Then you just sit there, tapping your fingers together, waiting for something else but Blackhat only keeps his thoughtful stare on you. What the hell is up with him? Why is he looking at me like I poisoned his food or something like that?! When he still doesn’t say anything else, you clear your throat and shrug.

“Uh, I should… go and help Flug clean up the dining room.” He doesn’t stop you when you get up from the chair, but his single eye never leaves you either as you slowly walk backwards to the door. When he still doesn’t call you back, you turn on your heels, nearly tripping over them again, and finally hurry out of his office, hating the way your hips are forced to sway in those stupid shoes!

You almost run right into Flug outside, who gives a startled squeak when you burst out the door.

    “Woah! It's just me, doc.” You calm him with a snort and bend down to finally get out of the pumps. A sigh escapes your lips when you dig your maltreated toes into the plush runner of the hallway. Flug glances at the door to Blackhat's office, clearly not really that keen on going in, but probably having to anyway. You cock your head and wave a hand before his goggles.

“Hey, Flug… you okay? Boss already slapped me around a good bit so I don’t think his mood is as bad as it was right after the shoot. Do you need anything else done around here? If not, I’m pretty beat myse-"

    “Oh, yeah, you could do something.” Flug promptly interrupts you and pushes a key card into your hand. “That’s the card to Dementia's room. I think she deserves to stretch her legs after being in restraints for half a day. Just make sure she doesn’t decide to take all that pent up, malicious energy out on you. The VIV members were very impressed by you, so it would be a shame if we’d have to cancel all those pre-orders before you even got the chance to get approved for any real villain-work.” He chuckles to himself, not noticing the glare you're shooting him.

    “Yeah, what the hell do I do when Dem decides to bite me? Shouldn’t I get some… iunno, shots first?” you gripe, just for the hell of it. The evil plane-enthusiast waves you off.

    “Oh come now, you have very quick reflexes. And if she does manage to bite you despite that, I have some tetanus-shots ready for such a case.”

Before you can protest, or even get the chance to get out of those clothes, he’s already called one of the hatbotlers to take you down to the restricted area where Dementia is being held, and you run after the speedy little robot, who doesn’t bother to slow down for you whatsoever. So they don’t just share the visuals of BH, apparently.

Dementia's “room" is located in the lower levels of the manor, like all potentially dangerous things, except of course for the big boss himself. But the robot henchman takes you through a short, underground tunnel beneath the lab, ending in front of a huge set of metal doors that are covered in scratch marks and spray painted graffiti, leaving no doubt as to who exactly lives here. Or rather, gets locked up in here.

The robot gives you an angry bleep and you quickly swipe the card before the electronic lock, taking a hasty step back when the doors open with a loud hiss and loads of cold air wafting over the floor. You take the second of waiting to put your shoes back on; as uncomfortable as you think they are, it’s probably better than the ice cold metal floor.

The hangar behind the double doors is huge, stretching over a hundred feet in both length and width, with a small tower built in the front of a platform which the hatbotler promptly races towards. You look around the vast room while you hurry after it, immediately spotting a good dozen of security cameras, red blinking warning lights on the walls, and safety tape around a giant hatch in the ground before the tower. An arsenal of machinery is attached to the ceiling and you can even make out a railing system that leads to another gate in the ceiling, labeled “cryo-storage". A metal cage is swaying slightly from a thick cable. The strange setup both confuses and alarms you and you look from the ceiling to the closed hatchway in the floor, furrowing your brow.

Wait… don’t tell me they’re keeping Dementia locked up down there in the dark?! That’s awful!

Yet, knowing Flug and especially Blackhat, it's pretty damn likely that this is exactly the case here. Despite your own experiences with Dementia, or maybe because of them, that thought makes you incredibly angry. Sure, she was completely crazy and probably extremely dangerous but that was no reason to lock her up like a wild animal, right?! Worse, you had seen wild animals in a zoo once and even they had nicer places to stay than Dementia, an actual human being!

    “Step-away-from-the-hatch-during-unlocking-procedure!” The hatbotler barks at you and you climb the stairs to the inside of the tower, where it starts to operate a few levers and switches on the massive console desk. You have studied the camera feed from the inside of the cell, but now the hatch in the ceiling opens and the cage slowly disappears inside, so you look around the small security room. Besides from the screen with the green infrared video, there’s a feeding schedule, a log with accidents, Dementia's ankle monitor readings…

    “Help, somebody help me, aaaah!” The frightened outcry makes you shoot back around to the window. The cage is slowly lowering down again, but now there is someone trapped inside it, wearing a colorful suit with a golden cape, looking every bit a hero as you look out of character in your outfit. He’s trying frantically to bend the bars apart, but stops when your eyes meet, and then he reaches a hand out of the cage for you instead, his eyes wide and scared behind the blue face-mask. A terribly cynical and evil part of you eggs you on to just wave at him, but you’re too confused to move at all, and simply return his desperate stare, stunned into silence. Your instincts tell you that something extremely bad is going on here.

“Y-you there! Please, help me! I have to get out of here, I have to warn- oh God what is that?!” During his frantic plea, the cage has disappeared inside the now opened hatch in the ground and the next thing you hear is a feral snarling and then the pained, horrified screams of the hero echoing around the empty room, along with the bone-rattling sound of something bodily being torn apart.

You just stare into the pitch black rectangle in the ground, seeing more smudged graffiti on the walls, reading Blackhat x Dem and the sorts, without really noticing it. The cable of the cage whips around like something down there is flinging the metal structure from one side to the other like a dog would with a toy, before it stops completely. It's suddenly dead silent for a second and you can hear your own, thundering heartbeat in your ears. Then the hatbotler pulls the cage back up, or rather what’s left of it.

The iron bars, which the hero hadn’t been able to pull apart, are completely trashed, frayed metal sticking into the air, and one side of the cage only hangs on by a little piece.

    “Prepare-for-releasing-Dementia. Security-stand-by.” The hatbotler spins its head around to you with a crunching sound, releasing one claw-hand to shoo you out of the tower and you tentatively stilt down the stairs, swallowing against the choked up feeling in your throat as you slowly approach the hole in the ground.

At the same time, a platform gets hoisted up and not half a minute later, Dementia’s yellow, mismatched eyes pierce you where you stand, a manic, blood-smeared grin on her face.

    “Ahahahahaharr! Aww, how nice of you to bring me dessert!”

Chapter Text

 “Awfully nosy, aren’t you? Oh well, I suppose that’s a thief for you, always sticking your nose into other people's business.” So, he’s not going to actually spill some evil beans. Figures.

 

 

21. The Black Pharaoh

 

 

 You openly stare at Dementia while she has her laughing fit, completely taken aback by what you’re seeing before you. The crazy lizard-lady is wrapped up in a large straight-jacket with only her legs peeking out, her hood gone, so now you witness the full chaos of her hair for the first time. The part of her red bangs that’s usually hidden beneath the lizard-hoodie sticks up in the air like two red horns, making her look even more insane than when she’s in her full punkrock gear, and now you think that her everyday clothes are a lot tamer than Dem au naturel.

In addition to the straight-jacket she's also strapped into a metal framework, but before you can give that a closer look Dementia wiggles around and suddenly jumps down from the broken restraining device, somehow still wearing the jacket. Yet you doubt that this is gonna be an issue for her, and suddenly you realize just in how dangerous of a situation you’re actually in!

    “Uh, hey, Dee…” you say quickly and take a cautious step back, your high heels making a loud clacking sound on the metal. Immediately Dementia looks you over, scrutinizes every inch of you, and her brows already draw together in growing anger as she bares her teeth and rips the straight-jacket apart with one fierce flex. Uh-oh, your mind thinks, elaborately. This is bad. Again!

When Dementia stalks towards you, with that intense, burning glare trained on your body, you freeze where you stand, knowing immediately not to make any sudden movements now. There’s a warning bleep coming from the tower behind you, followed by the sharp sound of guns being loaded, but you keep your eyes on Dem and hold your breath as she reaches out and fingers the red silk blouse you’re wearing.

    “What’s with that… fancy getup?” she mutters. Her lips - with the hero’s blood still on them – part into another crazed, teeth-baring grin. You notice that a piece of golden cape is stuck between her fangs. “Don’t tell me you’re trying to… impress someone?!” Her fist grabs hold of your shirt and your brain threatens to short-circuit at the prospect of getting murdered right here and now for wearing the wrong clothes, and not to mention your bad conscience from getting kissed by Blackhat twice! You had only tried to get him to bite you, it wasn’t like you had been out to seduce him on his fucking desk! Wait… seducing… it had worked with Lady Naga, right?

Despite the danger in front of you, and your resulting fear, you manage a crooked smirk and cock an eyebrow at Dementia. She’s probably gonna kill you with her bare fists anyway, so why not roll with the punches?

    “Actually, I was hoping to impress you.” You purr and look down to where her fist is curled in your shirt. “Nice of you to help me out of these clothes already.”

Dementia instantly drops her furious snarl and gives you a perplexed look, but only for a second before her wide grin returns, albeit way less deadly, and she finally lets go of you. For a horrible moment you try to figure out what you would have done if she had actually decided to take you up on that offer! Yet it looks like you played your aces right: she chuckles and winks at you, taking a step back.

    “Ohoho, that’s very flattering, puny thief, but I’m saving myself for my one and only love, Blackhat.” She utters his name with something close to a moan and you grimace, pouting at the annoying nickname.

    “Hey, I have a name, you know? Wait, do you even know my name?” You ask, a bit dumbfounded, trying to remember, but Dementia waves you off with a snort.

    “Of course I know your name, silly. I just like to call you puny thief. Or weakling. But maybe I should call you horny thief now, too.”

An incredulous “Bitch!” escapes you before you can stop yourself but fortunately she’s already cackling again, so you’re good. It’s all good now. Well… except for that gnawing feeling of pity when you glance at the dark pit that is her holding cell and the torn pieces of straight-jacket. No wonder Dementia’s such a nutcase. She got locked up in here every day, with not even a bed to sleep in, pining for a heartless, soul-snatching demon, and you? You were given a giant ass room just to sleep in, more than enough unwanted attention from said heartless, soul-snatching demon, and on top of that a luxurious bathroom with-

    “Hey, Dem?” You suddenly say, softer, and she immediately scrutinizes you in suspicion again, so you raise your hands defensively. “Do you… wanna come upstairs and take a bath? I think you’re gonna like it. But maybe you should put on some clothes first.”

 

-

 

You feel incredibly lousy when you open the bathroom door for Dementia and she looks around the vast room with wide eyes, like she’s never been in here or seen such a lavish bathroom to begin with. Which reminds you…

    “How long have you lived here, actually? Or, how did you get here in the first place and work for Blackhat?” you ask her, honestly interested. You know that Flug had come here by accident, more or less, but that’s already everything you know about him. But you know near to nothing about Dementia, if that is even her real name. Who was she before she got to work for the BHO? Or… had she been created? And what about 5.0.5? Flug treated him like his son, while Blackhat had called him a “failure", so-

    “I don't know how I got here, or when, but this is my home and I never want to leave now that Blackhat loves me.” Dementia interrupts your thoughts casually, checking the corners of the room on all fours, sniffing the air. With the way her hood falls over her face and her hair covering most of her body, she really looks like a furry lizard. A furry, feral lizard. You allow her to explore the room in peace and walk up to the tub to draw her the bath you promised, still wondering if she had always been this crazy or if something had happened to her in the process of being around Blackhat all this time. You just hope the same thing doesn’t happen to you now that you are working for him as well.

A movement next to your arm makes you look down. Dem is peering over the rim of the tub, her eyes narrowed at the water.

    “Flug tried to bathe me without sedatives. Once. And he had to stich his arm after that.” She hisses, casting you a very telling glare. But you grin back at her and jerk your head towards the sink.

    “I bet he didn’t have my secret weapon.” Before Dementia can actually take that as a threat, and decide whether to immediately fight you or just bolt, you walk over to the cupboard and take one of the black bath bombs out, picking it up with the very tips of your fingers. “Catch!”

She catches it easily, holds it up to her face to sniff cautiously, and the next thing you know is that your eardrums might have actually popped from the shrill squeal of delight she shrieks out. In a flurry of hectic motions she’s ripped the black parchment off and stares at the orb, caressing the red glitter streaking the pitch black surface of the bath bomb.

    “What… what is that? Oh, who cares, it's perfect! I love it! Can I eat it?!” she whispers, enthralled, and you quickly shake your head.

    “Nonononono, don’t eat it! You toss it in the water and take a bath with it. It's a bath bomb.”

Dementia holds the bath bomb in her hands as if it were a baby bird, her eyes wide and round. You shuffle your feet on the floor, still feeling awful that she has obviously  never gotten to experience something as nice as a hot bath, regardless of the sinister motives behind the otherwise amazing bath additive.

    “You know, you can always come up here and take a bath if you want, I don't mind. And I- I don’t like the smell of those anyway, so, they're yours if you want them.”

Her head snaps around to you, giving you an expression as though you were the insane one here.

    “How can you not love it?! It smells like him!” For a second you fear she might actually take a bite out of the black orb but then she carefully puts it in the water and gasps out loud when it starts to sizzle and paint the inside of the tub black like the darkest of nights. You barely manage to dodge the spray of hot water when Dementia cannonballs into the tub, without bothering to take her clothes off first, setting the bathroom under water. But her absolute childlike happiness makes you smile. Even if it's because of Blackhat who will probably never feel anything even remotely related to affection for her in return.

Dementia spits out a mouthful of black water, giggling to herself, and curls up in the tub with a happy sigh. You crouch down beside the bathtub and watch her run her fingers slowly through the ink-like water, her yellow eyes dark in the shadow of her drenched lizard hood. She peeks up at you and smiles tipsily.

    “It's like he’s wrapped his strong, warm arms around me…” she whispers. Trying not to make a face at that, you stand up and point a thumb over your shoulder.

    “Stay as long as you want, I’ll be next door.” You turn around and grab the doorknob.

    “Hey.” The soft tone in her voice scares you worse than anything Blackhat has ever unleashed on you.

Oh, please don’t tell me she's gonna… you slowly turn back around, but Dementia is merely poking her head over the rim of the tub, gnawing on her lip.

    “Thanks, _______. You really are a weakling but… this is nice.”

Now you smile, partly in relief.

    “Hey, no biggie, Dee. Flug already has nightmares about us teaming up. Sounds like a good idea, huh?”

Dementia grins widely at that and nods before sinking back into the tub, humming a flowing tune that sounds faintly familiar to you. Maybe it was from one of Windings' operas that he used to listen to in his lab… somehow the name Carmen pops into your head but you shrug and leave the bathroom, closing the door all the way.

Back in your room, you frown at the light still coming in through the windows. It's way too early to sneak out undetected, and you don’t really feel like eating after bearing witness to Dementia wolfing down an entire hero, cape and all. Your gaze falls on the bed and then the nightstand where the heavy book of the Unnamable Horrors is still lying.

 Suddenly you remember something. You had actually seen this book before once, in Wingdings' lab! He had left it open on his desk, and you wonder why you hadn’t recognized it at first, but then again, all your memories of Dings had been locked away by him until yesterday, and most likely the one about the book as well!

Excited about a new clue, you jump on the bed and grab the book, groaning once more at the unexpectedly heavy weight. How in the hell could a simple, old stack of dusty paper be so freakishly heavy?! Once you heaved it over, you fold it open and stop, hesitating. The entity whose page you’ve landed on this time (a fish-like creature named Dagon), is already disgusting enough to make you consider closing the book for good and shoving it under your bed to never look inside it again! And if you have to turn every page to find the one you vaguely remember, you’ll surely end up insane.

    “Come on, what was the title again?” you mutter, stabbing your temples with your fingers. N… I think it started with… N… You flip the book over onto its cover and open it from the back, quickly flicking through the pages of the alphabetical index until you’re at N. Now you just need to slowly read through the list and hope that one of the titles will spark your memory. But you don’t even have to look for long: your eyes promptly dart down, to where N is replaced by O, and freeze. Goosebumps race over your arms in cold waves and you know that you found it without having to open the book at the page and check.

Nyarlathotep.

There are two sets of page numbers, and you recognize the first one, as it had been the missing pages for the Crawling Chaos. Anxious, you thumb through the crackling edges of the book and navigate to the second set of pages listed under Nyarlathotep.

You open the book fully and gasp out loud when the hand drawn portrait jumps into your vision:

It's Blackhat.

There's no doubt, you recognize the sharp features of his face immediately even though he looks a lot more different than he does now. In the sketch, he's wearing a giant, black pharaoh’s-crown, complete with the beard-thingy you had seen them depicted with in some of the museums you had snuck into. His left eye is not visible here either, but instead of a monocle the author of the book had drawn him with a veil falling over that side.

Shaken to the core, you look at the title and the passages of text beneath it.

Nyarlathotep – also known as the Crawling Chaos, the Black Pharaoh, the Dark Demon, the Floating Horror, the Dweller in Darkness…

The list goes on and on for a while and every new name strikes a hidden chord inside you, pulls on strings that reverb only with fear and dread until you have to close the book with a slam and remember to breathe!

You found it. Whatever the mysterious author of the note in the library wanted their associates to find, you had figured it out. With these pages you would uncover Blackhat's true identity and maybe even his motives, but in any case it was important somehow, if not something you might use to your advantage. You’re still not sure how much weight the missing pages on the Crawling Chaos were carrying, but this is all you need for now. And now that you know Blackhat's real name, you can actually search his library for more information! It's a bit haughty that he would own books about himself, but really not that surprising, considering the countless ancient portraits of him, lining the walls of his mansion. Count the wrath to the vanity and Blackhat made a pretty good start of combining all deadly sins in his being.

It's decided; you’re going to read all about Nyarlathotep until you’re either insane or too grossed out to read any further, or until the sun has set and you can finally get the hell out of here. But first, you really had to get out of these goddamn clothes! So you jump off the bed and walk towards the wardrobe, already unbuttoning your shirt while your mind is still trying to piece it all together.

    “If his real name is Nyarlathotep, why doesn’t he just call himself that and goes with Blackhat instead?” you think out loud, putting the shirt onto an empty hanger and grabbing the hem of your sports bra, pulling it up halfway. “Yeah okay, I get why he wouldn't go by Crawling Chaos, but Nyarlathotep isn’t actually that bad... and why had Wingdings been researching this book? Nyarlathotep," you repeat the name, trying to recall if Dings had ever talked about him before. "Nyarlathotep" It does sound somehow familiar the more you say it... "Nyarlathotep."

A loud whooshing sound like a fierce gust of wind echoes through your room as soon as the vile name has crossed your lips for the third time, and you wheel around in start. A huge column of red light is spinning behind you, a horrible tornado of whirling shadows and red glowing eyes and other terrible limbs you can't even comprehend, and then Blackhat emerges from it, without his black coat or gloves but instead wearing a more than baffled expression, staring at your face for a solid five seconds before the nasty grin splits his ashen features and reveals sharp teeth as per usual.

You’re still utterly stunned by his unsolicited entrance and only remember to yank your bra back over your breasts when his single pupil darts down from your face for the fraction of a second.

    “L- lord Blackhat!? I- um, I was just-" you stammer, panicking at the thought of him possibly realizing what you really had been up to with the book, but your boss merely chuckles menacingly and crosses his hands on his back to give you a probing glare, arching a thin eyebrow.

    “Well, well, well… it has been eons since someone dared to summon me like this… and with that name to begin with. You work much faster than I would have given you credit for my dear, which can only mean…” he approaches you in one smooth, unnatural motion, his entirely horrible aura enough to force you to move back until your bare shoulder blades bump against the closet, and you raise your hands immediately in defense. Blackhat keeps his bloodshot eye trained on your face, his grin daring you to oppose him with a sarcastic comment or your usual spite, but by now you have tangoed with him enough times to know that this is serious! If he had only been annoyed or irritated by everything you did so far he is now mad with rage!

You realize that he hasn’t finished the sentence and lick your lips, lowering your hands and pressing them against the door behind you instead to be able to push yourself off of the wardrobe if you have to be fast. Yet that opportunity dies instantly when Blackhat appears right in front of you all of a sudden and slams his hands up against the wood of the dresser to both sides of your head, and now he is too close for you to even hope to evade any attacks. He’s hell-bent on confronting you, leaving you no room to weasel your away out of it this time.

    “Which can only mean what?” you whisper, hoping that Dementia doesn’t decide she’s finished with her bath now of all times and catches you in this more than incriminating position, which is ridiculous, considering you could actually be killed any second now! Blackhat pauses for a beat, staring you down with deeply furrowed brows, searching for something hidden in your expression that he appears to have been expecting but cannot seem to find now that he has you cornered.

    “That you must have had help. Or you found something that pointed you in the direction of Lovecraft's almanac. I refuse to believe that you managed to figure all of this out by yourself!” He growls. One of his fingers, now a curled, sharp talon, scratches the door of the dresser in a strange rhythm that effectively chips away at both the wood and your mental strength. You attempt to swallow down the fear and almost choke when shadowy tendrils sneak up all around your body, ready to strike, to ensnare and strangle you most likely. Should you tell him about the note?! Would he know if you didn’t? What would he do if you did? God, his teeth were way too close; the bite wound in your shoulder throbs in warning, reminding you of the pain of having your skin torn open by them.

    “I… I have seen this book before.” You finally wheeze out, trying not to whimper when he leans even closer, his terrifying face now right before yours, your right eye – round and wide from fear, with unshed tears making it glisten – reflected in the monocle as if it was his own.

    "Where.” Once again, it's not a question but an order and you have to close your eyes now, clench them shut against the physical waves of malicious intent Blackhat radiates and that threaten to drive you insane. His finger is still drumming and scratching on the wood, the sounds drilling at your spinal cord…

    “Wingdings!” you hiss, barely audible, your voice on the verge of cracking now. “His lab- I didn’t know before I saw him again and got my- my memory of him back, and I- I only remembered it when I got back here and saw-" Your thoughts stop right then and there, your brain severing every connection it had with your body out of self-preservation, the second Blackhat's lips touch the delicate skin between your jaw and neck – the very, very vulnerable skin that barely protects some of the most vital arteries inside you. Too close, this is too close, this is-

    “Go on.” He rumbles into your skin and your resolve breaks as if he had shot it from point blank range with a gun.

    “A note! I- I found a note! I- in the library- oh God, don’t bite, please don’t, don't, I can’t-“

A single tear spills at his dark, triumphing chuckle that vibrates against your neck and you fight the helpless sob trying to force it’s way out your chest.

    “Now, now, that wasn’t so hard, was it?” Blackhat rasps in mock solace, his left hand abandoning its place on the door to pat your cheek, although to you it feels like he's just testing the skin to see how hard he has to slap you in order to break it, and sure enough, his next words betray the softness in his voice: “I should mutilate you for conspiring against me, but I am much more impressed by your determination to keep your secrets, so I won’t be sending you to the dimension of eternal suffering for now… but I assume you have questions after your… investigative breakthrough?”

Your first instinct is to shake your head so that he will hopefully drop the subject and get the hell away from you. But you do have questions. A ton of them to be precise. And if Blackhat is really offering to answer them right now…

    “Wh-" you start and feel his grin widening just a fraction next to your jaw, causing a new shiver of ice-cold fear to run down from the nape of your neck to the soles of your feet. He's just lying in wait, patient like an alligator in a swamp, for you to make the mistake of asking no doubt! You even think you can hear a low rumbling coming from his chest. So he had only tried to trick you again. You swallow and take a deep, shaking breath. “Would you please let go of me now, boss? You’re giving me the creeps and I told you I wasn’t going to fall for any more of your traps.” Somebody should really applaud you for wheezing that out without stuttering or fainting! Maybe not the most epic choice for some last words but nobody would ever know about your pitiful end anyway.

Yet the unimaginable happens: Blackhat takes a step away from you, and suddenly the crushing force of deadly intentions, along with the tentacles, dissipates around you, allowing you to finally open your eyes and stop clawing at the wooden dresser. However, you’re still using up most of your strength to keep your knees from buckling beneath you and just collapse into a limp heap before him, so you’re not really out of the fray yet.

Your horrible employer nods at you, maybe not in respect, but definitely in wordless acknowledgement, before snapping his fingers and teleporting the heavy book into his hands, studying his own portrait with an unreadable expression.

   “A very accurate conglomeration of the Unspeakable Horrors, but personally I prefer the Necronomicon; the Arab that wrote it was much more open to the dark arts than the good professor, who merely dares to quote passages from the Necronomicon itself and left out most of the forbidden rituals, as to not endanger humanity.”

      “Oh.” You just say, not really sure what the hell he's talking about. But you try to remember the name of that other book, the-

    “The Necronomicon is in my office, if you are really that interested in losing your sane mind, my dear. Just don’t go ahead and summon any more Outer Gods with your thoughtless monologues. I’m afraid they wouldn't be all too happy to get called here of all places… and neither would you, I assure you.” He chuckles to himself and you swallow, your mouth suddenly dry.

    “Ou- Outer Gods? Is that what you are, a god?”

Blackhat’s answer is a grin possibly even wider than any you have seen so far, and his features gleam red from beneath the shadow of his top hat, shone on by the dwindling light filtering through the colored windows. Without noticing it you press your back firmer against the wood again, fearing he might kill you now after all since you had dared to ask a question. Yet, to your endless relief, your boss shakes his head indulgently, the terrible grin softening into a lenient smirk.

    “God doesn’t quite begin to describe the true nature of my existence, but until now no mortal being has been able to comprehend, or even withstand the knowledge to invent a more appropriate term you humans could fathom. But, yes, let’s just leave it at that.” His eye traps your gaze again, looking ever furtive, and he cocks his head a little, no doubt gauging your reaction. But while that is a rather huge revelation, you find you’re not surprised at all. Considering what you had already seen him do, and most importantly the things you had not seen, Blackhat being a god is the only reasonable explanation. If there even was something like reason when it came to him.

Suddenly you can’t help but shoot another nervous look towards the bathroom door, hoping Dementia had not heard anything of what was going on in here.

“You go on and on about how you won't fall for my traps anymore and yet you seem to have already forgotten that the bath bombs put whoever uses them to sleep… it really is two steps forward and one step back with you.” Blackhat grouses and slams the book shut, making you flinch at the sound. With a casual flick of his hand he tosses the heavy tome back on the bed and walks over to one of the two big windows, where the sun is slowly setting in a fiery, red sky.

Now that you finally aren’t under his piercing glare anymore, you relax a little and glance at  the bed. You really have to sit down for a moment but you also still want to be up on your feet and able to move quickly…

    “But", you say, shrug, and sink down on the very edge of the mattress, one foot still on the floor, quickly slipping out of the high heels, “that means I’m going forward nonetheless.”

Blackhat's face in the reflection twists into a terrible grimace of torn skin, teeth and dead things around his rolled-back eye, his demonically amplified voice shaking the very room: “At a snail's pace you impertinent bag of flesh! Do you really think I have the patience for a slow-learner?! I can’t have my business relying on incompetent fools! Get over here!

You are gotten over there by his unearthly powers before you can even think about jumping to your feet, the invisible force dragging you over the carpet until you’re standing right next to Blackhat, your bare shoulder touching the sleeve of his dress shirt. From the corner of your eye you can see that he's still doing creepy shit with his face, so you keep your own gaze on the view outside, noticing the skyline only with half of your mind. Through the newly rising veil of panic you wonder why he, a god, would bother with a physical form or with running a business of all things, or why he could not read your mind whenever he wanted, but those are questions you don’t dare to ask aloud. A cold, leathery hand slithers over your back until it finds its place on the branding beneath your shoulder blade, the surfacing disgust making you wince.

    “I was going to talk to you before your little stroll anyway, so let me give you a word of advice…” he says, now completely composed again. You wheel around to face him, already opening your mouth in denial, but Blackhat glances down to you with a knowing grin.

"Oh please. Did you really think I would not see right through your cute, little plan to get rid of Flug's tracker? You were so crude about it I had trouble keeping a straight face! I did not plant that device on you, and I don’t intend to lock you up in here, as I simply have no need to keep you under surveillance. I will always know where you are, where your soul is.”

That confirms one of your suspicions! But how and why?! What was it that connected you to Blackhat, if not your thoughts? Your fear now completely gone, you turn around to him again and look him straight in the eye.

    “Is it because of the contract I signed? Because of the branding? Or because of what you did to my SOUL after Wingdings messed with it? Or just because you are, you know a god?!” you blurt out. Blackhat gazes down upon you, his mouth curling like he just stepped into something gross.

    “Awfully nosy, aren’t you? Oh well, I suppose that’s a thief for you: always sticking your nose into other people's business.” He huffs arrogantly and looks back out the window. So, he’s not going to actually spill some evil beans. Figures.

    “Hey I take great pride in that, thank you very much!” you bristle and cross your arms in front of your chest. Blackhat clucks his forked tongue with a heavy sigh, rolling his eye at the window.

    “I know, to my utter disfavour. Here.”

Suddenly he pushes something into your hands and you almost drop the smooth, flat object before you catch yourself and take a look at it. It's a simple mask, white and shaped like an upside-down, round teardrop with a black stripe in a broad V in the middle.

“Do not let yourself get caught or do my Organization discredit in any other way, or you will earn a trip to the aforementioned dimension of eternal suffering. You can ask Flug about its specific amenities, and what else I expect of you should someone see your face.” And without another word, he vanishes into the ground.

You stare at the mask in your hand, once again uprooted by Blackhat's horrible and mysterious ways. Then you flinch and spin around to the bathroom door, suddenly remembering that Dementia is currently passed out in a tub full of water.

    “Oh sh-, please don't tell me she drowned in there!”

Chapter Text

That’s what you get for attempting to poison your employer with something as disgusting as arsenic! Not to mention the vile amount of sugar to hide it under! Now cyanide, oh he would have downed that with gusto, and maybe even asked for seconds!

 

22. Nightlife

 

Luckily, Dementia had not drowned in her slumber while your boss was terrorizing you. She’s fast asleep, sure enough, curled up on her side the way you left her, snoring peacefully with the occasional garbled noise or clack of her teeth, as if she was snapping at something in her dreams. You’re still a little concerned about her drowning without any supervision, so you drain a bit of water from the tub, just so much that she can't possibly dunk her head under. Then you stare at her, honestly surprised that the bath bombs have any effect on her, and you wonder if Blackhat could actively control the duration of the paralysis, or if the sedation worked differently from one person to the other. If that's the case, you don’t really understand how the bombs could knock out Dementia in a matter of seconds, when you had clearly been able to withstand them for longer. She is obviously stronger than you, and besides that genetically modified at least, plus all that frequent sedating from Flug must have left her with a rather huge resistance against drugs, while you had never even smoked weed before. You were pretty used to alcohol, for various reasons, but you had never abused any other drug besides that.

Add it to the rest of the shit that doesn’t quite add up in here, you think and leave Dementia to her dreams, turning around to the sink and finally stripping off your sports bra to inspect the dressing of your cauterized bite-mark. The gauze is moist with liquid from the wound and you grimace at the soaked, smelly patch, tossing it into the trash can. While you redress the oozing burn, you briefly think about aborting the trip outside, but then you frown and shake your head. No, you have to get out and clear your mind! Being stuck in this hellish mansion for that long had almost made you mad on one too many occasions as that you could stand it any longer.

You need to smell the crisp night air, feel the freezing winds on the rooftops nipping at your unprotected skin, and see the open sky above you, the stars on a moonless night being the only witnesses to your crimes. Yeah, no matter how bruised up you were when you still rolled with the gang, you had always found the energy to sneak out and jump from roof to roof, sneak into other people’s homes and take what wasn’t yours. On some nights you were already content with just watching the nightlife down in the alleys and dark streets, learning, simply by observing and picking up secrets and gossip, or by hiding in the library and reading book after book to satiate your hunger for knowledge.

Lost in your thoughts like that, you move faster than you realize. In a wink the wound is patched up again and you’re back in your room, rubbing ashes and soot from the fireplace over your face to hide it in the darkness. Then you remember the mask Blackhat had given you and that you had thrown onto the bed, but when you turn around, there’s suddenly more stuff lying on the blankets that wasn’t there before…

    “Oh God,” you groan, “please don’t tell me it’s another outfit-“

Of course it is. Albeit not what you had expected, and your jaw drops in surprise when you recognize the shirt you had arrived in, your leggings and your leather jacket, all looking cleaned and even ironed! “Holy shit…” you mumble, astonished. “Uh… thanks, boss?” When you pick up the shirt, you reveal something underneath it and drop the shirt immediately, your eyes wide as if you had seen a ghost. And in a way you have. Before you lies an intricate contraption of black belts, leather straps and small bags, hand-sewn and supple from years of wear, with loops for throwing knives, rope and other gear. An elaborate piece of patchwork artisan craft, and entirely DIY as Flug would probably put it. It’s your missing gear belt. Where in the world did he find that?!

You shake your head and almost fall on your face, trying to get out of the tights and the skirt as fast as you can to put on your leggings and pull the straps over them. The way it fits so snugly on your form, it can only be your gear belt. Your hands fly over the different loops and satchels, locating some of your old knives, a bag of lock picks and, most importantly, your grappling hook! A relieved sigh escapes you, unbidden, and you caress the worn steel of the big, tempered gaff that’s pressing so familiarly into your right thigh. Shit, you almost feel like crying.

    “Hell yeah…” you whisper. At least now, with your climbing hook, you won’t need to rely on your arms as much as you had already feared. The bite mark is in a very inconvenient spot to climb a lot with it.

Blackhat would probably kill you for thanking him, but you are beyond grateful right now. He had returned a part of you on his own accord that had been missing, and without which you had felt incredibly useless and vulnerable. You really want to know where he had gotten it from, or how, but that’s secondary now. Now you want to wait for night to fall over Hatsville and then get out there and harass some of her unsuspecting inhabitants. Although, it may actually turn out to become a challenge; with Blackhat living among them, the people of Hatsville might be expecting anything at any time!  

    “All the more fun then. I like a good challenge.” You say to yourself, smiling, and finally pick up the strange mask to inspect it. It actually doesn't look like much, and you had never used a mask to cover your entire face before, but since it’s a gift from Lord Blackhat it has to have some sort of unusual properties, right?

Or it might kill me if I use it wrongly. An inner voice cautions you out of the blue and you hesitate, carefully turning the mask around this way and that, looking it over as closely as you can. There really is nothing to it, it's just a plain, thin mask made from a material like plastic or fiberglass. You don’t even see any way to fasten it to your head, to be honest! Okay, so that is definitely weird.

Let’s just see what it looks like, you decide and open the wardrobe door with the mirror on the inside. When you hold the mask against your face, you notice that the black visor is perfectly see-through, while being completely opaque from the other side, hiding your eyes. You look like a Powerranger. But you can’t let go off it or it's going to fall down!

    “What the hell… this is useless!” you grouse in disbelief. Why would your eldritch, omniscient, godlike boss give you this if it was so utterly impractical to you!? Well, good thing you already smudged your face with coal then. Shrugging, you toss the mask back on the bed and finally put on your shirt and leather jacket, humming in satisfaction when the supple, worn material glides over your arms like a second skin. When you turn back around to the mirror, you can’t help but grin widely at your reflection that you had only ever seen in the glassed fronts of skyscrapers and store windows before, yet it is unmistakably you. You would even recognize the silhouette if someone drew it on a piece of paper. Just…

You flip the dark grey hood of your jacket over your head and your grin gets a tad darker, meaner. Yeah. There she is. Ghost herself. But you can imagine how much more awesome you would look with the mask on, and you really want to see it now. So you pick it back up to hold it before your face, and it flies out of your hand when you get it close to your skin, attaching itself to your hood and head as if you were made of metal and the mask was a fridge magnet!

For a second you panic and yank the mask back down, afraid it might be stuck to you forever now, but it comes off easily and your skin stays intact as well. Catching your breath, you allow it to stick itself back on your face, peering through the visor. The white mask sticks out harshly from your otherwise black frame, and you’re not really sure if this is going to work with hiding in the dark, but the second you think about it, the mask turns pitch-black and now you look like a solid shadow.

    “Holy shit…” you breathe out, amazed. Curious, you flip your hood back, expecting the mask to fall off your face. But you're surprised yet again: the mask vanishes inside the hood when you pull it off and your eyes widen in shock. Oh no, had you broken it?! Quickly, you flip the hood back in place and the mask wraps itself over your face again. “Oooh my God this is so fucking cool?!”

    “What is?” Dementia asks from the bathroom door, sounding incredibly sleepy and you tear the hood from your head immediately, whirling around to her.

    “Dem! You’re- um, done already?” your voice sounds way too high pitched and she scrutinizes you, her grogginess instantly forgotten.

    “Uh, duh? I was getting wrinkly! And you look incredibly caught. And what's with your face? Looks like you could use a bath, too.” She retorts, propping her fists on her hips. Her clothes are still wet, dripping all over your bedroom floor, as is her hair. You shake your head; you feel way too happy with your old gear and the fantastic addition to it as that you would start a fight now.

    “I'm working on my work attire, the coal is for camouflage.” You smirk and gesture down your form. “Also I asked Flug for some gear that was like my old one, and he dropped it off a while ago. You fell asleep in the bath by the way and I didn’t feel like waking you. Sorry for letting you shrivel up like that. Ya raisin.”

Fortunately Dementia does not share Blackhat's eerie ability to sniff out lies and she snorts at the jab.

    “Raisin? Wow, your insults are lame.” She cackles loudly and wrings her hair out, flooding the carpet. You throw your arms up in the air, scandalized but unable to really stop her.

    “Ugh, come on, Dem, seriously?! Couldn't you have done that in the tub? If I’m getting mold in here I’ll make you eat it!” you complain but she just keeps laughing and bumps your shoulder with a fist on her way out. Unnecessarily hard.

    “Hah! That one was better! I’ll go finish my movie-marathon. You wanna come, too?” The invitation is genuine and you blink, surprised. But then you remind yourself that you have to read more about Blackhat's true identity and when you’re with Dementia the entire night, you probably won’t get a chance to do that or sneak out.

    “Nah, I’m pretty beat. I had to play servant for a bunch of villains the whole day! But knock yourself out, Dee. Oh and if you’re looking for your… um… hand puppet, I put it in a drawer under the TV.”

Now it's Dementia's turn to blink at you in bafflement.

    “Huh, so you really don’t have a crush on Blackhat? Anyone else would have kept that puppet for herself…” then her grin returns and she shrugs. “Alright, you really need that beauty sleep, so get as much as you can. Bye, ______!”

You wave as she leaves and exhale when the door finally closes behind Dementia.

    “I just hope the boss doesn't get the bright idea to blackmail me with that kiss in his office…” you mutter with a shudder and quickly lock the door, your fingers lingering on the cold brass knob. You should probably take some of the medical gloves along to not leave any fingerprints.

Nodding at that brilliant idea, you walk back to the bed, making a mental note to dedicate this first excursion to exploring the city and looking for places where you could get back the rest of your tools and gear.

    “Most important would be a phone, a watch and a flashlight, maybe even a pair of leather gloves-" you fall silent in your mumbling when you look at the blanket. The heavy book left a visible indentation on it, but the tome itself is gone. “… oh come on, seriously?!” You groan and flip off the darkness around you. Typical! This had been going way too smooth for your liking anyway! “Yeah, yeah, I get it, BH. You win some, you lose some.” But the reason Blackhat took the book away from you can only be that he doesn’t actually want you to investigate his true nature and, no doubt, the connection to Azathoth that Wingdings had hinted at in the book, any further. Which means that there has to be something about that knowledge that would make him vulnerable. If he didn’t care about it, he would have let you go insane by reading more about him for all he cared. Following your suspicion, you stick your fingers into the hidden pocket beneath the actual chest pocket of your jacket. The mysterious note with the secret code is gone.

     “Looks like someone got spooked by a little kitty-cat.” You say to yourself, grinning crookedly. There's no doubt that you won’t actually find the Necronomicon in Blackhat's office now.

Whatever. Let him keep his secrets. I don’t care.

 

-

 

The mansion is dark and eerily quiet when you finally sneak out of your room and look along the hallway of the third floor. Not a soul, or soul-snatching entity present, not even a hatbotler. Still, you take an extra minute to strain your ears in the darkness and listen in to the silence before you vault over the handrail and catch your fall on the landing beneath you. Hanging from your left hand, you pull yourself up for a second to peek along the dark hall that leads towards Blackhat's office. The silence seems even deeper here and you quickly drop down two more ledges until you’re on the ground floor.

At first you had planned to get out through one of your windows, but upon further consideration you decided to change plans. Even though the tracker was secured under your pillow to make it look like you were sleeping, there was still the possibility that most of the windows of the manor were hooked up to the internal security system and would trigger an alarm if you opened them. Except for the one in the kitchen, the one that was hopefully still left with the piece of tape you had put over the lock during your first escapade. Flug might be an evil scientist but he loved 5.0.5 with every fiber, and you counted on that love to work in your favour and the kitchen window to not be armed in order to let 5.0.5 open it whenever he wanted to cool off a freshly backed pie.

On your way to the kitchen you freeze, pressing your body into the shadow of a column when a loud noise echoes through the hall. But then you pick up Dementia's high-pitched laughter and relax a little. Right, she was having her movie-night a few yards down the curving hallway. You use the volume of the TV to quickly open and close the door to the kitchen, dropping into a crouch to hide from anyone behind the counter. Yet, as you had hoped, the room is dark and empty, the movie noises muffled. Again you listen in for anything out of the ordinary, until the rumbling from the fridge becomes too loud to bear and you sneak towards the window, crossing your fingers and sending a silent prayer to the greater forces of the universe to please not be a dick for once! The same goes for Blackhat, of course.

The window looks closed, but when you give it a tentative pull it slides open without any resistance. The tape had done its job once more! And, as you had suspected, no cables, optical barriers, or other sensors that connect it to an alarm system. With that weight off your chest, you relax a lot more and turn away towards the abandoned kitchen, your fingers drumming undecidedly against your thigh. When you spot the cold rest of brewed coffee in the pot, you make the decision to fuel up before the trip, downing the coffee in one big gulp straight from the pitcher and foraging the fridge for a quick bite.

While you munch on leftover pie and sandwiches, you immediately try to imagine what to expect from the heist with Void the next day. Stealing the artifact would probably be a whole lot easier without having a villain with super powers wreaking havoc outside, but he had told you that it would be much harder for him to help you if you got caught inside the museum. His attack was merely supposed to act as bait for the security forces and to cut the power supply so you could steal the artifact unnoticed without having to worry about triggering any alarms.

    “He’s actually not that stupid…” you muse, licking your fingers clean and moaning at the taste of caramel from the pie. You can’t remember that you had ever tasted food this good in your life before, and on top of all on a daily basis. If you didn’t watch out you could easily gain a few pounds too many!

Just like a few days ago you jump out the window and use the shadow of the wall/hat brim above to survey the area around you, but this time you sneak around the back of the mansion to the other side. You still have the map the old kiosk vendor showed you memorized, and the first store on your mental list is in that direction. The street around Blackhat's lair is completely dark, not one of the lights seems to work, which does not surprise you at all. A howling wind whirls up dead leaves and you cower down for a second, every muscle in your body tensed. But the creepy gust settles down again and no other sound disturbs the nightly silence.

With one hand you flip up your hood, the mask immediately wrapping over your face. The street into the depths of Hatsville looks deserted, sure enough, and there is not a single light in any of the houses around. It does strike you as odd, but then again it could always be the case that none of those houses were actually inhabited. Besides, you would never hunt so close to your base anyway, especially not when it was so exposed and without a concealed route to get back in. Blackhat had specifically told you not to get caught or do his organization discredit in any other way. So, he probably would not be happy about people knocking on his door, asking if he knew anything about a certain, masked thief.

No, you had to choose a territory that was far enough away to exclude the mansion from any initial search-radar. This would make coming back here a total pain in your ass, especially if you were loaded with loot, but considering any other possible outcomes, this was the least risky approach.

Silent as an owl you dash across the dead lawn and vault over the spiked fence, your movements a little less fluent than you would have liked them to be, but considering the time you had spent cooped up in the mansion, not exactly surprising. This would be the perfect workout-run before the heist!

You cross the street, your right hand freeing the gaff from its carabiner with dreamlike confidence and whirling it in a wide arch. It flies over the top of the nearest house, where it wraps itself around the chimney, and you use your momentum and speed to swing up onto the roof, balancing your landing with your outstretched arm. The wound in your shoulder protests dully but it's not too bad. Jumping to your feet, you reel the gaff back in and prop your hands on your hips, smelling the cold night air. Hatsville central looks deceivingly calm in the dark, but your heightened senses quickly pick up the faint noises of sirens, shouts and even a few muffled shots from even farther away. Suddenly it doesn’t even seem all that different from South City.

An unexpected shiver takes a hold of you and you immediately turn around, crouching slightly on the steep roof to not lose your balance. The hat manor looks like a black monster cowering on a hill, the crimson windows gleaming like eyes without any obvious light source. From this angle you can see the side of the big, oval frame that marks Blackhat's office, but your gaze quickly darts up to an oriel with three arching windows you haven’t seen until now. For a second you're stunned in confusion. Which room was up there again?

    “No… wait, have I been up there? There's the attic… there's the third floor…” No, as far as you know, this room with the three windows doesn't exist, and you’re dead sure you had been to every single room on your task-marathon. Suddenly something moves behind the window and a dark silhouette blocks out the light. That dark shadow is so unmistakably Blackhat that you barely resist the urge to throw yourself behind the chimney and hide.

It's cool, ______, relax! You tell yourself, clenching your hands into fists to keep it together. You know he's watching you, his gaze almost palpable. So this has to be his room and not the office like you thought. Why would Blackhat need a second private room if he didn’t sleep, though? Was there a way to get in? A hidden passage maybe? Did Flug or Dementia know how to get there? Had he taken the books up there?

Trying to curb your curiosity, you turn away and jump to the next roof, ignoring the sensation of a single eye piercing your back. The branding under your shirt flares for a second, but the pain is gone just as quickly, and with it the feeling of being watched.

Probably his way of telling me to not get into any trouble and to be careful, you think and snort with a wide grin. Yeah, right!

 

-

 

Blackhat would never admit it, not even to himself, but you managed to astonish him. By accident, of course, but you out of all people had unveiled the connection he had furiously been trying to find himself for years now! He looks down on the crumpled piece of paper he took from you, on the terribly crooked handwriting he knows all too well.

I have figured it out! I know the truth about the one they call Black Hat, about the Crawling Chaos himself!

C.5-S.2-B.15 

    “Did you now, you spineless traitor? If I hadn't already swallowed your pathetic soul I would reanimate your cowardly corpse to slowly push you into the Black Hat Organization Destructor X blender myself!” He crushes the note, rips it apart and burns it until not a single atom is left of it. But it is still only a measly surrogate for the one he would prefer to tear into shreds! Unfortunately, his former scientific engineer had met his untimely demise by Blackhat's own hand, or rather… barf, almost a decade ago, when Flug was still studying for his degrees in the BHO academy.

He remembers the incident with a certain mirth; after all, it had been very amusing to watch the good professor get dissolved by an eldritch mouth full of acid. That’s what you get for attempting to poison your employer with something as disgusting as arsenic! Not to mention the vile amount of sugar to hide it under! No wonder he had immediately thrown it all up and right into the perpetrator's face. Now cyanide, oh he would have downed that with gusto, and maybe even asked for seconds before strangling the poor sod with his own intestines. And his name- and faceless accomplice as well!

Blackhat turns to his desk next to the windows where the tome of Lovecraft is opened at the chapter about the Crawling Chaos, or rather where it should be. Someone had dared to cut the pages out with a scalpel, and the fact that this had happened right under his nose is probably a worse insult than the mutilation of the book itself, or the motive behind it. He had suspected that the professor was conspiring against him, and that the poison-incident wasn’t merely the meltdown of a human mind under his employment, but rather an actual attempt to take him out, albeit a very stupid attempt if he’d ever seen one. But he had never found any evidence for it, and Flug had failed to discover anything of use in his predecessor's notes as well.

But you? Through whatever twisted luck or fate you had stumbled upon the very piece he had been missing. That his former engineer had an accomplice, and that their goal was to uncover the very nature of his, Blackhat's, existence. And apparently you were trying the same now, spurred by that damned nosiness of a thief and con-artist. Yet as much as he exults at the idea of your mind unravelling from the scope of the sheer, horrible nature that is his origin, he can’t allow you to delve deeper into the Necronomicon’s forbidden knowledge. It would make you a liability, a weak spot, and a possible target for the allegiances that were trying to hamper his organization in every way. Well, you were a target already, simply because you worked for him, but it would make you a worthwhile target. In regard of his true nature, you already knew more than Flug!

Blackhat freezes when his senses notice movement outside. A dark, hooded figure swings elegantly onto one of the dummy-houses that surround his manor, lithely landing on the ridge of the roof. He can’t lie about it, you make a much better figure in your element than he would have thought, even though the bite must still hurt under that sloppy patchwork of yours. A shame he had bitten so deeply right away, it would have been much more riveting to watch you terribly mutilating yourself in order to get the tracker out, but he simply had not been able to hold himself back at the sight and smell of your sweet, vulnerable flesh. And while he knew you had thought you were playing him to get what you wanted, he had still enjoyed himself immensely, if anything because of the amount of self-loathing and shame you must have felt, having to go against one of your principles and offer him your own body just to get a little freedom to move around, when in reality he did not care at all where the hell you were scurrying about on the island.

His grin is wide, the anger from before forgotten. Your fear when he confronted you about his real name had been genuine and bordering on mortal; you had known instinctively that you were in real danger then, another surprise to him since he had not expected you to actually still have that sensibility, being already used to all kinds of punishment and what not. He thinks back to the night you had appeared in the manor, your gall even though you knew who you were dealing with and that persisted even after he showed you some of the horrors he was capable of. It had been a gamble to sign you on, buying a pig in a poke, an impulsive decision, based solely on the strange circumstances of your appearance at his proverbial doorstep and that unbelievably enticing soul, that rare treasure he had never encountered in such form before and that he wanted to devour so badly now.

Training you to contribute to his profit was work. It demanded an effort from him he had not been forced to make in a long time. Integrating Flug into his organization had been easy. The man was, and would always be, scared out of his mind when it came to Blackhat, but he was just as devoted as he was scared. Blackhat owned his true identity, owned and protected it so that Flug could eventually fulfill his purpose, his lifelong dream. But he would never be free.

Dementia? Please! The hazard she posed to his other assets was easily outweighed by the heroes she had already slain and the outstanding chaos she left in her wake. Her raw strength, compulsive loyalty, and obsessive lust for his person made her the perfect bodyguard. Not that he really needed one, but brawn was just as important as brains in his line of business. She had also stolen a few very important items and trinkets for him occasionally, but you could not leave her to her own devices. She was the ultimate henchman, but not the ultimate villain, never would be, which was, also, Flug's fault.

You however…

Blackhat watches you leave, jumping across more roofs until you’re out of sight. Well, human sight. His other senses, those for which humankind does not even have a concept, let alone names, are very much aware of where you are in relation to him. For a second he plays with the thought of following you, of stretching huge wings that he hasn’t used in a long while but, alas, there is work to be done in the name of evil. Plus, he doesn’t feel comfortable leaving the mansion… as much as he hates to say it: that infuriating intruder is still trying to wiggle through his layers of defense! It's like he can hear his manic cackle trickling through invisible cracks in the wall!

Which is exactly why Blackhat, Nyarlathotep, the Crawling Chaos, the Black Pharaoh, or whatever they called him, needs to work overtime tonight. At least it's not going to get boring any time soon, and his grin turns a tad sharper. That's what he loves about this reality. It is never. Ever. Boring.

Chapter Text

Now it’s time for more elaborate diversions. Like the noisemaker you crafted, and that’s waiting at the other side for the timer to go off. Electronics stores turn out to be the best place to loot yet again!

 

23. Beautiful Crime

 

 

It seems almost like fate that one of the gargoyles is partially broken off from the roof of the church, so that your silhouette doesn't stick out unusually against the night sky as you crouch down behind it and peer into the plaza below, eyeing your target. The jeweler has even heavier roller shutters than the electronics store you just relieved of a few choice items, but the effect is the same as if the owner had hung up a huge sign that said “Hey, I’m stinking rich and I can afford top security, come get it!”. It was basically an invitation to you to come get it. You’re still grinning, and at this point it’s ridiculous and actually starting to hurt your jaw. But this night couldn’t have started any better, and now it would end in one giant bang! And not even His Lordship would possibly be able to badmouth your performance this time!

    “Oh yeah...” You do a little head-jiggle and slink back into the shadow of the clocktower, your heart pounding in excitement. Getting in and out of the run down electronics store had been easier than you initially anticipated, the store clerk’s bad habit of smoking with an opened bathroom-window the point of entry you needed. And with an improvised thin steel-hook from the trash container nearby, you had cracked that compromised window in a matter of seconds.

Inside, you had at first been disappointed to see the store almost completely empty, your night vision picking up on the giant clearance sale signs all around. But after a closer inspection, you had actually found more than you had hoped for: clamshell phones, much more efficient than traceable smart phones and moreover still able to be used for all kinds of gadgets and hacking devices without running the risk of getting picked up by network scanners due to the lack of GPS, a tactical watch, a bunch of flashlights and batteries, a pair of cable cutters, copper wire and basic transistors from radios to maybe even forge a simple jammer that could manipulate electronic locks, and a laptop bag to carry all that loot and then some.

With your eyes so well adapted to darkness, you were able to work without any light and not get spotted by the ridiculously backward cameras in two corners of the store. Before you left you had also broken in to the manager’s office, just for good measures, where you found an ancient safe underneath the sagged desk, with two thousand regular dollars inside, virtually not any different from those in your world. You should probably feel bad for robbing someone who was obviously already struggling with his business. But you never had before and now really wasn’t the time to suddenly change your ways. If anything, you had to be especially ruthless now, all odds considered. 

The toy night-vision-goggles you took from the store turn out to be the real MVP on this first heist, though. The night vision function isn’t even half bad and the distance of the binoculars themselves it also acceptable, enabling you to examine the jeweler's outside a bit closer. The point of entrance is obvious: an air ventilation shaft on the flat roof. It's possible that this one is hooked up to an alarm, so you shouldn't just head-dive into it straight away. An alternative could always be an overhead window to the back or even a cellar-hatch. And if neither of those turn out to be a safe option with your current, measly loadout, you can always just head back to base and try another time with better gear. Better safe than sorry, especially when you're going to get double-punished if you’re caught, triple, if Blackhat would let Flug have a go at you as well for breaking house arrest. And from the graffiti you saw all around, police forces don’t exactly seem to be friendly around these parts. Not a surprise, really.

    “Alright, enough dilly-dallying. Let's see if those fancy gates are merely the tip of the iceberg, or just a flashy scare-tactic.” You mumble, strapping the laptop bag tightly across your torso and flipping your hood back over your head, immediately relaxing when the white mask materializes from its depths to hide your face. The bite wound in your shoulder stings a lot sharper when you rappel down from the church's roof, reminding you quite nonchalantly that you are, in fact, not really in any condition to overly exert yourself before the actual, important heist that would define your future. But you don’t want to go home yet, not without at least checking out what you’re going to have to deal with eventually, because there’s no way you’re not going to rob this place.

Taking the smart approach, you make a huge arch around the target before actually crossing the street, dashing from one dark alley into the next, always checking both ways and back before changing your position, executing your usual stake-out routine even stricter now since you’re in an unknown territory with unknown threats and, reminding yourself of Blackhat, unknown rogue elements of questionable alignment! Luckily though, the jeweler has two neighboring buildings right next to it, separated only by a narrow passage to the joint backyard, which will grant you a much easier access route than an isolated building would have. This way, you can safely scale the back of the adjacent convenience store (making a mental note to ransack this place as well some other time for some everyday goodies), and creep up on your prey on your belly, silently sneaking over the flat roof. The moon is only a slim sickle, yet the ambient light from the street and the town itself illuminate your surroundings sufficiently to observe the roof in front of you as you peek over the low wall circling the building you’re currently on.

First thing you notice: no guards patrolling the roof, at least not yet. Might well be that there’s actually one or two inside, planning to head out to check the perimeter later. Second, what you had already seen through the toy binoculars: security cameras on every corner of the jeweler’s store, an extra one overlooking the length of the alley leading to the backyard. So the shutters probably weren’t in front of the windows just to initially scare of any lowlife criminal from taking a crack at this place.

Despite the security measures, you smirk. There’s always a blind spot when it comes to cameras… and it’s almost always above them. You jump to your feet without a sound, wincing slightly at the jolt of pain shooting through your body in various places, all the injuries you sustained over these past few days greeting you individually, but you roll your shoulders in a stubborn display, scrunching up your face under the mask when the spot in your shoulder responds even worse to that. Idiot! you scold yourself and zip down your jacket a few inches to take out the binoculars that are dangling around your neck on a kid-sized thread, struggling for a hot second to actually get them in front of your eyes without taking the mask off completely.

But there’s no security camera installed on the roof, as you hoped. So no burglar around here had ever attempted a robbery of this place from above then. You snicker and stuff the spy glasses back under your jacket, zipping it up to your neck.

    “Welp, don’t expect me to go easy on you just because it’s your first time!” Yet the dirty pun loses it’s humor when Dark Phantom’s ugly laugh resurfaces in your mind and you make a face under your mask. Great, dirty jokes were ruined for you forever now! Guess it’s back to knock-knock jokes for me. The humanity!

    “Okay stop it! Focus!” you chide and take a few steps back for a running start, flipping the laptop bag over your shoulder (ouch!) so it’s in front of you. A last estimation of the distance, and then your tabi-shoes carry you over the roof at top speed, aiming for the low wall. After a horrifying millisecond of doubt, you actually manage to place your leading foot on it and push off the ledge. Then the addicting moment of being airborne, your arms spread like wings, feet drawn to your body, already going over into the next motion without a hitch, your grin wide under the mask, trying to keep in your shout of joy. The roof comes flying at you and your toes touch it for the split of a second before you already use the energy of the impact against it, curling in on yourself to roll over your shoulder (double ouch!!) and your back, pressing the bag to your chest to not crush your valuable loot.

Smooth as a cat, you finish the roll and come back up to your feet without having to expend any energy, simply using momentum and physics right. Immediately you flip the bag back around and dart into the shadow of the ventilation tower, not stopping in your movements until you’re in cover, straining your ears against the blood rushing through them.

Everything stays silent, not even a nightly critter makes a noise, the relief quickly lowering your pulse. Still, you lean over and peek around the aluminum shaft you’re leaning against, double-checking for cameras or other security measures you might have overlooked. Alright, this route seems like a good approach already, even in the event of having to retreat for now and come back later. At last, some actual luck for good ol’ _______! Now all you need is some more to get a fat stack of diamonds and/or money to bring back to your horrid employer and prove your worth!

Suddenly you stop and take a step back from yourself. Are you actually excited about working for Blackhat? This trip was supposed to clear your head, especially of all his horrors, and not to be dedicated to fucking appease the bastard! Were you actually okay with accepting your fate and staying under his heel until the day you died or until he grew bored of you and just decided to take your SOUL?! Fuck no! Your endgame, before ending up in this bitch of a situation, had been to become your own boss, to be the one who called the shots and not to stumble from one sadistic boss straight to the next!

You grind your teeth, your right fist balling around the handle of the gaff. This was your accomplishment, not a job, not a mission, it was your fucking show, and all the rewards were yours, too! So you had debts to pay? Oh please, a single flawless stone, even just a VVS1* diamond of just one carat would be enough to pay for the window you - or Gaster, to be precise – had smashed, for the clothes you – Blackhat mostly – had ruined, and the time you spent being his guest! With the rest, you could do as you pleased and maybe even buy a few of Flug’s gadgets with the Hatcoins Dark Phantom had slipped into your cleavage!

With a deep breath you try to strangle your rising anger before it can spiral out of control and make you lose focus. You would deal with this later. Now, you were on a roof, about to break into a probably highly secured jewelry store, and not at all sufficiently equipped for it. You would have to rely on your physical skills and your smarts, and in order for those to work flawlessly, you had to calm. down.

You force yourself to take your time, breathing slowly, banishing all thoughts about anything other than the target -  the heist -  out of your mind until it is empty and focused only on what matters: get the loot. Get in and get out. Locate the alarms. Use your environment. Make no noise. Don’t react rashly… Fuck Blackhat and his stupid organization.

    “You fail, you fly.” The phrase comes over your lips in a hushed whisper without really realizing it, the very words that have haunted you all your life and yet spurred you on to get back up even though it hurt all over, to refuse to surrender even though you didn’t really see why, to survive and to see the sun rise again, because it meant you were spiting the universe itself simply by existing. And without fail, your legs move on their own to get you up, turn around and get to work on the ventilation shaft. The screws are easily undone with one of your knives, even though a multi-tool would be much nicer to have for this, adding it to the list, and the lateral maintenance hatch is opened in a minute. The corners look clean, no cables or LEDs indicating optical barriers. The dark shaft is as narrow as it gets but no actual obstacle for you since you’re flexible enough to squeeze through basically anything and dislocate a few joints to make it fit. Nothing you’ve never done before.

You crawl feet first into the hole, the soles of your toed shoes rubbery enough to support your weight even against smooth metal and you slowly make your way down until you reach the bottom, feeling around with one foot to determine the direction of the horizontal junction beneath you. After you briefly walked through the motions in your head, you untangle yourself from the laptop bag and gently lower it to the ground before you bend over, wedging your head and shoulders between the wall and your legs, twisting your feet around and back until your shins slip away against the metal and then you have room to flip over, suddenly upside down in the duct. You press your drawn up knees into one wall, your back into the other, and slowly control your descend with the pressure, planting your hands on the metal below once you’re in reach to crawl into the horizontal vent, casually slipping your head and one arm through the strap of the laptop bag on the way. The night-vision-toy once more proves invaluable to you, lighting up the pitch-black tunnel just enough to make out your own hand before you.

You take your time, to look for optical barriers and other sensors, and to make as little noise as possible, using only your hands and the toes of your shoes to pull you forward. You might be slow as fuck this way, but with the rough size of the building in your mind, you probably won’t have to crawl far, and just when your arms are starting to get tired from alternating between pulling your entire weight and holding the binoculars up, your vision suddenly lights up, the faint outlines of a ventilation grid beckoning just a few feet in front of you. And then you see the dim, red flash of an alarm system right next to it.

Crap! You think, frowning. That is actually not a bad spot to install a sensor, at least for the owner of this fine establishment. For you, it means extra hours and a lot of problem solving. Theoretically, you could kick out one of the plates that make up the tunnel itself and get out smash-and-bash-style, but you still don’t know if there’s actually a laser grid waiting below you or not. Or guards. Or a rabid dog! No, you’ll have to disable the optical barrier or get around it through another, unsecured vent, although that possibility is already unlikely in theory.

Time to find out if the stuff you looted is worth more than what it was priced at! But first, you have to evaluate what type of alarm system you are actually dealing with here. So you crawl forward, now making sure you’re staying as far away from the wall with the vent as you physically can in this cramped space, eventually turning onto your side to get some room and also a better angle to work from. By now you're drenched in sweat beneath your leather jacket, your hands slippery inside the rubber gloves, yet you wear a grim, determined smile, your brain reveling in the comfortable familiarity of doing what you love. You had opted not to get out a flashlight before entering the horizontal shaft, its bright ray too dangerous should a guard actually be down in the store, making things even harder for you, but that was one of the challenges that made your work so rewarding. Overcoming more, and more elaborate defenses, every heist having different obstacles than the one before.

You’re finally at the vent and push your hood back so that the stiff mask doesn’t impair your movements any longer. The binoculars reveal an inconspicuous little apparatus at the bottom of the vent, hooked up to a control system outside through a cable that's running down the length of the tunnel, away from you. Its counterpart, the receiver of the optical barrier, is bolted in place at the other end of the vent opening, acting as a simple mirror to reflect the laser back into the first compartment, where it's picked up by a sensor. Anything disrupting this simple but ingenious setup would inevitably trigger a silent alarm, alerting the guards on site, as well as an external security company or even the police.

You wipe your clammy brow on your arm, a plan already forming the longer you examine the system and break its function down to the bare mechanics. There's no way, at least not like this and with what little time you have, to calculate the exact angle the laser is casted back at to the sensor, and use something reflective right in front of the laser to squeeze past it without disturbing the barrier. That method would be way to reliant on sheer luck, or mathematical skills, which you have neither of.

But... what if you just… pushed the entire barrier out of your way?!

You suck in a sharp breath and shuffle back to not accidentally bump into the laser's path, already pulling your bag to the front, fumbling with the zipper. In a flurry you have what you need, now you just need to calm the fuck down and be very, very careful! A wrong movement, just a millimeter off and you can only hope that you have enough time to get the hell out of here before the pigs show up!

 

-

 

After what feels like hours, but according to your new watch only took you about twenty minutes, you look down at the fruits of your labor, your clothes now ultimately drenched by your own sweat. But you don’t pay it any mind, your entire focus is on the next part of this insane contraption you foraged: using the thin steel-rod from your first break-in as a stabilizing foundation, you had connected the two compartments of the optical barrier with an intertwined, sturdy thread of copper wiring, hard enough to not get bend under normal force, wrapping the loose strands of wire around the laser and the reflector and tightly twisting them together so that there was absolutely no wiggle-room for either of them.

Now, it was time for the hard part.

Holding your breath, you push past the alarm system once more to give the power chord a closer look. As you suspected, it's completely loose in the tunnel, disappearing into the darkness. Alright, you think, that should work. As long as I use an alternative route to get out, or else the whole thing is gonna fall over once I try to climb back in here with even more loot. But that was another problem for later. Now, you need to scoot all the way back to the laser and unscrew both that and the reflector in order to get to the last and most dangerous phase!

Your knife makes quick work of the tiny screws with which the laser trap is bolted to the ventilation tunnel, and you pocket them automatically to not leave unnecessary hubris behind that might bite you in the ass later. Then you take a deep breath, hold it, and grab the laser by the cable sticking out of it, giving it the gentlest of pulls. Both components move in sync, none of them wobbling, the red light keeping up its lazy blinking with the exact same frequency. You pull again. The laser blinks. Inch by goddamn inch you pull the entire setup deeper and deeper into the vent until you’re far enough away from the grid. Only when you have cautiously shuffled back to it, do you dare to take a deep, relieved breath. Shit. That was scary!  But you haven’t even made it halfway, now you need to actually get down into the store without tripping the alarms you don’t even know anything about yet! The rabid dog is still a likely option.

From outside the vent, it must have been looking pretty comical, the way the vent grid opens without a sound, only to immediately fall down a foot before a fumbling arm quickly shoots after it to snatch it out of the air, a dull bonk following the frantic motion promptly.

You hiss out suppressed curses through your clenched teeth and silently place the cover panel next to the opening, flipping up your hood before carefully peeking out over the edge of the hatch, scanning the sales area below you.

No sound of any living being around you, no dogs, no guards. No laser grid either, at least none you can see this time. Infrared barriers were invisible to the human eye, but not the sockets that emitted them. With the night-vision binoculars, you quickly sweep the room, looking at the walls, and then sweep the room again, more slowly, checking the walls and the display cases in the middle of the vast hall, arranged in a few rows. The grid is there, sure enough, but from the positioning of the narrow, black boxes, you can tell that it's covering only a few feet in front each of the vast windows as well as the door, in case someone actually managed to lift or cut one of the shutters. The rest of the sale floor looks clean. Except for more cameras in the corners that is. You freeze and think about just bolting and counting your losses, but then you look closer and see that the cameras are actually offline, the little LED next to them black and dead. Maybe the owner switched between the exterior and interior cameras depending on the time of day, which made sense from a money-saving perspective.

You exhale shakily and slump a little in your vent, that call almost too close for comfort. But then you pull yourself together, maneuver around until you can slip your feet out of the duct and lower yourself into the store, stretching your aching limbs when you’re down on solid ground. Good thing you're not claustrophobic at all. You flip your bag around, spin your knife over the back of your hand a few times and look around you. Time to get to work!

Here’s something interesting about robbing a jewelry store, especially a fairly provincial one like this: once you’re past all the fancy security systems, getting the loot is as easy as it can be, as boring as shopping for groceries. You just jemmy the ridiculously simple locks on the display cases with a flat blade, pop the lid, and just grab whatever's inside and stuff it into a bag, or every fricking pocket you can fit on your person. You hum quietly to yourself, turning the rings you find around a little to check for the number indicating the alloy's composition, but the gold and silver loot seems legit so far. Now for the stones…

You open the front pocket of your bag and take one of the small flashlights out, as well as the laser pointer you took, shining both at the bigger ices you come across, looking for impurities and inclusions the light would bounce off from and that would bring down the diamond's worth. You’re really not an expert on stones, and without the right gear you can’t even tell if they're industrial diamonds or the kind people crawled through stuffy, mud-filled tunnels for, but up to now you had always managed to get them sold, no matter where you got them from, and for a solid price, too, if Sans' glinting pin-pricks had been anything to go by. That reminds you, with a scary amount of dread, that you have no idea how or where in this cursed dimension you could fence your goods! Of course… the boss might know. But you'd rather hoard the stuff and sleep on a mountain of diamonds and tacky jewelry than ask him for his contacts right now. Remember, you're doing this for you!

A huge collar quickly takes up all your attention and you closely inspect the display case it's in, realizing that you’ll need a bit more fiddling with the lock this time. Still, it’s just a simple cylinder-lock, and no match for your tiny lock picks. With one you carefully twist the lock in its socket until you feel the tension of the cylinders objecting to the rotation, taking the second lock pick and inserting it with the angled tip pointing up, sliding it gently back and forth inside the small lock, feeling for each cylinder. As expected, there’s only five of them and you quickly find the first seized one. Now you steady your hand even further on the one that’s still keeping the lock twisted and move the second lock pick micrometer for micrometer up, straining your ears against the sound of your blood and the general white noise that’s always there.

Click.

It’s the quietest of sounds, yet to you it’s a crescendo of success every time, and you smile when the lock yields a little more under the rotational force you’re keeping on it. Unlocking the case doesn’t take you longer than twenty seconds and the glass door swings open without a sound. “Hello…” you breathe, letting your gloved fingers flutter over the golden collar. There’s dark stones the size of quail eggs set into the outer rim of tear-shaped elements, the one right in the middle even bigger than that. From the cut and color you think they’re probably rubies, accompanied by a smaller ring of stones over the teardrops, making up a beautiful, elaborate net of glinting treasures embedded into a heavy frame of gold. The pompous collar wanders into your loot-bag as well, naturally.

You loot every single case until your bag is heavy enough to border on becoming a risk to your mobility and you force yourself to stop. Over encumbering yourself would be a rookie-mistake. Now you had to figure out how to get out of here without tripping another alarm. The vent is out of the question; the risk of knocking the dangerously loose contraption you built from the laser over is way too high, and with your bag now stuffed you doubt you’ll be able to crawl through the shaft quickly enough before the popo shows up. Front door is a no-go as well, for obvious reasons of the shutter kind. Which leaves you with only two options: checking the back for an exit and just book it in case it’s hooked up to an alarm, or find another, unlikely, escape route.

Carefully making your way through the shop towards the counter, you suddenly stop and bite your lip, regarding the antique cash registry. Might be worth to look inside! But, sadly, you’re only met with emptiness once your Bowie knife has made short work of the lock. At least the owner was smart enough to empty the registry every day. Oh well. It’s not like you were hurting on money right now, the two thousand dollars from the electronics store are still snugly stashed in one of the hidden pockets inside your jacket, the thought eliciting a content smile from you. Let’s just get back for now. This was only our first night out in town. And you hadn’t even seen everything of the city yet!

The door behind the counter leads to a small, dark hallway with more doors, darker rectangles in the night-vision of your toy-binoculars, branching off to the left and right of it. And one, heavier door at the end of the hallway, decorated by a glowing emergency-exit-sign. Along with a blinking, moving camera. You quickly slink back behind the door you came through, making a reluctant noise. A fixed camera could have been taken out of commission with one of the laser pointers aimed straight at it, but since it's swaying from one side to the other, that option was already out. You had no climbing spikes to approach it from the ceiling, and the doors on either side are probably all locked as well, so you wouldn’t be able to dash from one to the other while the camera was pointing in the opposite direction.

You squat down behind the door, eyeing the camera through a tiny slit, racking your brains. It’s definitely using a residual light-amplifier, probably even infra red to pick up body-heat, otherwise I don’t see a reason why the owner would bother to switch off all the other cameras inside and keep this one on. It might have already spotted me when I opened the door, but I got out of sight pretty quickly so…

    “Fuck it. I'm taking the direct route.” You hiss and detach one of the few throwing knives left on your belt, giving the blade a quick kiss for luck. In the next second you throw the door open, aim, pull your arm back and throw the knife with deadly precision. The camera explodes into a million pieces and before the knife hits the ground, you’ve already crossed the corridor halfway, sprinting to the back door. It's locked, of course, but now time seems to slow as adrenaline floods your body, channeling your focus on the task at hand and nothing else. Your fingers fly through the process of cracking the lock, every movement purposeful and confident, since, you know, your life very much depends on this. By now someone must have noticed that the camera is offline and it's only a matter of time and efficiency concerning the coordinating forces until someone's going to show up here with probably lethal forces not far behind.

The lock snaps, the door slams open, and you dash over the backyard, readying your gaff. The wall is low enough to climb over without it, but the rope makes it a lot easier still and you're already half a mile away from the jeweler when you hear the first police siren in the distance. Your mind tries to panic for a second, telling you that this is it, this time they’re gonna get you!, but you rein it back in and call up the map inside your head, estimating your rough position and how to get back to base. The store front was pointing north, which means you’re currently running south, leaving Blackhat’s mansion to the southwest of you. But that is also where the sirens are coming from.

You skitter to a halt in the shadow of an alley, twisting your head this way and that until you’re pretty sure you know where the cars are. Getting back to the manor on a direct path is out of the question, you can very well imagine what Blackhat will do to you if you return with the police on your heels! No, you need to stick to the smaller streets and backyards and take a huge detour to shake your pursuers for good! Sure, a few of them will stay behind to investigate the crime scene, but the entire rest will probably fan out immediately to hunt you down! Shit, you should have left a few false clues to lead them away from the hat. Well, nothing you can really do about that now! Now all you can do is run! Fast!

The alley spits you out into another open backyard, the dark houses around it crumbling, dilapidated structures from what you can see in the darkness, no light glowing behind the black rectangles. The overgrown garden offers enough protection from prying eyes and you cower down in the grass, slowly making your way to the destroyed wired fence, pausing now and then to listen for the sirens. They’re closer already!

There's no time; you sprint through the bushes, ignoring the thorns and thistles scratching up your legs through the leggings but grateful for the mask and gloves protecting your face and hands. You vault over the lowest part of the sagged fence and make a shocked sound when the ground suddenly drops off into a steep slope, reacting too slow to catch your balance in time. The only thing you can do is curl in on yourself and protect your head but the fall down the hillside is still painful, every stone, every gnarled root another bruise you’re going to be brandishing the next day. You just hope the end comes soon.

And it does, lucky you! The impact is hard enough to knock the air out of your lungs. For a few heartbeats you just stay lying in the dirt, sending feeling into every limb to make sure nothing's broken or dislocated. Yet, apart from the million bruises, you’re still in one piece. But you don’t have time to check if your loot survived the fall as well, all that noise must have alerted the entire block! When you jump back to your feet, you freeze, eyes quickly darting around in alert.

The ditch you just came down so unceremoniously is actually the dried out bed of a river that disappears between the ominous shadows of trees to both sides. Though, upon closer inspection it looks more like some sort of drainage canal in case of a flood caused by heavy rain. Which means it probably is connected to the sewer system of Hatsville! And one of the manholes bearing Blackhat’s insignia is right in front of the manor! You’ll just have to not get lost in that labyrinth somehow, but at least it might offer enough cover until the cops lost your trail, provided they don’t use hounds for their search, but that seems a little extreme for a simple burglary.

You examine the canal for another minute, trying to estimate in which direction the entrance to the sewer might be located, before flipping your bag around and taking out one of the bigger flashlights, placing it on the ground, where it promptly starts rolling to your left. “So, the coast has to be this way, which means that the right leads me back to the sewer.” You mumble, crosschecking the fact with your internal map, which confirms it. Blackhat’s lair has to be located right in the middle of the island, and the underground sewer system probably has its center there as well, right underneath the hat.

    “Right under the source of everything shitty.” You snort and pick up the flashlight, making your way quickly up the dried out concrete flow, keeping to the shadows of the trees. The way does slope up ever so slightly, and you walk faster, the sound of police cars still not any quieter. The laptop bag is heavy around your shoulder, your greed all too evident on the long hike back, and you hope you won’t be all too dished in the morning for the heist on the museum with Void. Suddenly you stop dead in your tracks and duck behind a bush. There’s most definitely light shining through the trees, by the looks of it a campfire. Crap, who the fuck decides to camp in such a creepy forest this close to the fricking city?? You silently move closer, sneaking from cover to cover, always checking your immediate surroundings before changing your position.

After fifty yards, the trees give way to a narrow clearing that ends in the gaping, black entrance to the sewer system, high enough for you to walk in without scraping your scalp against the brick ceiling. And squatting between you and your escape route is a group of a dozen drifters, huddled around a sooty fire of old wood boards and scraps of trash, handing bottles of cheap booze and plastic bags filled with glue around. You scrunch up your face behind the mask. Drifters were a tricky bunch, especially when you didn’t know them already and even more so in towns like this one. You had nothing of worth you could offer them in exchange for free passage, and you would rather chop your own leg off than give them any of your loot, not that they could even hope to make it into cash anyway. Nope, your best chance at success would be to sneak around them towards the tunnel or wait until they were all too high or drunk to really pose a threat to you. But, from previous experiences, that could likely turn out to take all night. Time you did not have as of right now, not with the police sirens still howling in the distance!

In fact, the drifters seem pretty alert because of the commotion already, lifting their heads now and then to peer into the darkness. The leader, a relatively muscular guy with a patchy beard and greasy black hair, sporting a big crowbar that he’s stuck through the belt loop of his dirty pants, twitches whenever the sirens change position, his hands opening and closing into tight, angry fists, his knuckles scarred and crusted with old blood. Yup, that one’s gonna be trouble if he spots you. The best approach here would be to sneak as close to the sewer entrance as their combined field of vision allowed and then use a distraction to make them look the opposite way before diving into the protective darkness.

You slink back behind the trees and take another huge detour to circle the campsite and get to the side of the hill where the canal disappears in the earth, always keeping your eyes on the ragtag group of unfortunate souls. You had no ill-will or prejudice against them. After all, if Sans had not taken you in when he found you rummaging around his food storage, you would have ended up as one of them, if not dead. They were also just trying to get by and didn’t have the luck of belonging to a prestigious gang of mobsters like you once did, but they, too, had every right to defend their temporary home and belongings from any danger. A masked, unknown character of questionable moral alignment skulking around in the dark and equipped with knives could easily be considered a huge threat to their lives. So, best to avoid every form of confrontation until you had something that you could offer these people as a sign of peace and trust between yourself and their group. Beggars and drifters could be huge allies if you respected them and paid them appropriately for information or shelter. It was just another form of business in the underground.

Later, you would smack yourself for not thinking about the two thousand freaking dollars in your possession, but at this point you had completely forgotten the money you stole from the electronics store and only cared about getting your precious gold and diamonds safely back to the lair of Nyarlathotep.

With your back pressed against its bark, you glance around the side of the tree right next to the dark entrance to the sewers. Behind it, the area is frighteningly open and well lit. If you had a bottle of water and a few small balloons, you could have easily snuffed that puny fire out and created both a distraction for yourself and blinded the entire group at the same time for at least one minute. But now you had to rely on other, more elaborate methods of diversion. Like the noisemaker you had quickly crafted during your detour through the bushes, out of batteries, a transistor and one of the clam shell phones from your bag, and that’s waiting at the other side of the clearing for its timer to go off. Electronics stores turn out to be the best place to find useful tools for a thief yet again! Your legs tingle from tension, your eyes burn from the strain of keeping them opened for so long but you can’t let any of them out of sight for one second! If just one spotted you, you were done for.

The shrill sound of the phone going off is loud enough in the nightly silence to make even you flinch in start. The drifters all jump to their feet, some of them who are already too wasted fall flat on their backs trying to react in time. Their leader lets out a shocked scream of alarm, drawing the crowbar. All eyes are focused on the source of the horrible din, expecting an attack, and you make your move, darting out from the shadow of the tree and straight into the tunnel.

    “Woah there, where did you-“ A hand comes down on your right shoulder out of the dark, pain flaring through your body from the cauterized bite wound, and without really realizing what’s happening, other than the brief but violent wave of rage, you spin around and swing your right arm up and behind you in a wide, unhesitating arch, slashing the drifter open from his right side to his left ear with the Bowie knife. Blood splashes onto your mask, covers half of the visor, and the man you just gutted stares at you with wide, surprised eyes, his mouth still open from the last syllable he spoke to you. His hands, both empty and gaunt, grasp at the gaping hole in his chest and neck, and as he falls to the ground you can only stare back at him in shock, entirely stunned yourself. When had you drawn the knife? Why had you lashed out immediately? What the hell had just happened here?!

Screams ring out in front of you, but you don’t hear them. You’re still looking at the blood that’s spurting out of the drifter’s slashed throat, seeping into the earth. The cut is so deep that you can see white bones and thyroid tissue through the flood of red.

    “Oh God, oh God, Jonesy! Jonesy, Jo- oh dear Lord and Savior, stay with me Jonesy!” The leader cries out, trying with shaking hands to keep the life inside of the other man who’s weakly grasping for the many hands reaching out for him, his eyes already growing dim. His frail chest beneath the cut, ragged shirt trembles once more, then his hands slacken. The drifters all cry out in unison, weeping, sobbing and holding each other for comfort. And you can only stare, mortified. You had killed him. You had killed an unarmed man who had never done anything to you and had not posed a real threat to you, emaciated as he was. The drifters seem to realize this in the same moment, their leader lifting his head to shoot you a glare through his tears that spells out what he’s going to do before he even raises his broken, hoarse voice:

    “You… you killed my brother! You k-killed him! He didn’t do nothing wrong, never! I’ll skin you alive! Murderer! Murderer!” He howls in agony, scrambling to his feet and grabbing the crowbar from the ground where he had dropped it to charge you, but your body has finally shaken the paralysis and you already wheel around to sprint into the dark tunnel, your hood barely staying on your head. The shouts of the drifters echo around you like the screams of vengeful spirits as they quickly take up pursuit. And they probably know the sewers better than you, because you don’t know shit about the sewers! You had merely been running from getting arrested, but now you are running for your fucking life! 


*Very, Very Slightly Included (1st Degree) – Diamond clarity inclusions rated VVS1 are not visible at all under 10x magnification

 

 

 

Chapter Text

“Y-you don' wannit?” you say, hesitant, tripping over your feet when he suddenly advances but Blackhat catches your fall.

    “The loot is acceptable, but there is something else I’d much more prefer, my little thief.”

 

 

24. WTH

 

 

They are still chasing you! No matter how many turns you took, no matter how fast and quiet you ran, the drifters were still on your heels.

You curse yourself wildly in your head, your labored breath fogging up the rest of the visor that isn’t covered by an arterial spray of blood, making it even harder for you to see where the hell you’re going. The reality of what you had done is still only sluggishly dripping into your conscious mind, held back by your firm belief that you were not, in fact, a murderer! But you were. You had killed that poor son of a bitch whose only concerns had probably been how to survive the next day and keep his family of tramps safe from harm. You didn’t even have to kill the guy, you could have just kicked him, or shoved him off of you or even threatened him with the knife to get past him, but you absolutely did not have to kill him! Especially the way you did! That had been brutal overkill! That hadn’t been you back there!

He was in your way. He would have stopped you. A cold voice whispers inside your head. No, you object in utter horror. You had never ever killed someone before, not even when you were in mortal danger, that just wasn’t you! You had hurt people when necessary, but taking a life was simply a line you refused to cross.

Well, the old you got herself killed by Sans. The voice scoffs. Wingdings was right, you're dead to the world and now all you got is this one last dice game where the old rules don't count shit anymore! There’s literally nothing stopping you from getting what you want with whatever means.

    “Yeah? Well, tell that to the angry mob chasing us you shithead!” you wheeze out, your voice high and thin from running with the heavy bag still digging into your left shoulder. This is insane, now you’re already talking to inner voices! And while you could theoretically summon Blackhat with his real name anytime (though maybe he would be prepared for that now and just straight up refuse to be summoned), you have serious doubts that he would actually help you. It was much more likely that he would cheer the drifters on to tear you into bloody strips, or even sell them some silver butter knives to do it. The ridiculousness of that mental image elicits a hysteric laughter from you. You slap a hand over your mouth, smacking the hard mask against your teeth. Apparently you had really lost your mind somewhere on this escapade; keep acting so stupid and they would get you at the next right turn!

That reminds you: you have absolutely no idea anymore where the fuck you are or where the hell you’re even going. In your panic you had just run away, the internalized map of the city and the knowledge of the four cardinal directions now absolutely useless to you! Fear grips your heart in an ice cold clutch and you try furiously to fight the tears stinging in the corners of your eyes. If you cried now it would all be over, then you could stop running altogether and just hope to somehow win a fight against ten rabid people with nothing to lose. Great job on your first heist in Hatsville, noob, better luck in the next life! The only gratification would be that good ol’ Lord Blackhat didn’t get to swallow your pathetic soul in the end after all! Victory!

The tears spill despite your best efforts. Shit, you don’t want to die, you didn’t mean to kill their friend (brother, poor Jonesy was Crowbar’s brother you monster!), you had only tried to get away from the cops so that your horrible eldritch boss would not send you to some terrible dimension of suffering or whatever, or worse, tear your other shoulder open with his freakish set of teeth to balance your appearance out because, good God, if there was anything that fucker cared more about than money it was fucking aesthetics

Cold water splashes around your feet, drenching your jika-tabis and your leggings and you whine in almost child-like petulance. Perfect, you had obviously stumbled into the part of the sewers that’s actively used. The gross feeling and smell of standing in shit is enough to put your panicked spiral on hold, allowing you to return to your senses for a second. The haunting sound of trampling footsteps is not right behind you anymore, which is good for a change. It gives you time to stop and think what to do next. You’re terribly lost, no use to sugarcoat that in any way. You’re lost, scared, confused and bordering on freaking out, not to mention exhausted and hurting all over. And dirty, don’t forget dirty, you’re literally covered in shit, piss and blood! The scoffing voice adds unnecessarily. Noted, you think back angrily, fumbling with the zipper of your bag. One of the mini flashlights falls with a taunting gloop into the black sewage, forever lost. The second lights up the tunnel in front of you, revealing an elevated concrete wall where two rats stand up on their hind legs, squeaking at you in indignation. You hiss at them until they scram and hop up on the narrow, dry wall, crouching to not bump your head.

When you hear the furious, but also very confused sounding voices in the distance, you freeze and snuff the flashlight instantly, listening against the sound of water sloshing and rats chattering, not to mention your own thundering heartbeat and haunted breath.

    “Where did they go?! Did anyone see?” That’s Crowbar. Had they actually lost you?! The answer to both your questions is faint muttering, which is pretty much the answer you had hoped to hear. Next, the canalisation erupts in hoarse, roared curses, the sound of a crowbar hitting concrete and screams of fear. Huh. So they’re not such a happy family after all. You giggle weakly, wheezing and on the brink of losing it, before you suddenly curl in on yourself, thankfully remembering in time to flip the hood back, and suffocate your shrill cry in the sleeve of your jacket, rocking back and forth on the balls of your feet, making yourself as small as you can. This is something you can’t suppress, a reaction so visceral and powerful that all you can do is to muffle its outbreak and hope you’re going to be okay afterwards, to still be in one piece after the storm passes. Somehow… in a very deep and suppressed part of your brain and your SOUL, it feels familiar. Like you’d done this before. The screaming, muffling, and rocking part. Not the killing somebody and losing your mind over it part, no.

You scream until your throat hurts too much to keep it up. Then you just wait, listening for approaching steps. Fortunately the painful feeling of being torn apart from the inside has ebbed away. But the sewer system stays quiet, almost too quiet… where were all the rats you had heard not a minute ago? Had your breakdown scared them off? Unlikely. You don’t hear anything, no drifters out to kill you, no rats, no police sirens. Your street instincts urge you to keep going forward, whatever you do, do not stop in an unknown environment! At least something rational in all this madness; this was a logic you couldn’t defy or ignore. So you cover your face with the mask again and start crouching along the wall, looking for the wan light-fingers of a manhole above you to climb up and check where the hell you are. When you already fear there just isn’t going to be a manhole, you get blinded by a stray ray of pale light from above.

    “Thank you, thank you, thank you!” you whisper intently, not sure to what higher power but you don’t even care anymore! The steel staves are slick and slippery under your feet and you’re once more eternally grateful for the medical gloves so you don’t have to touch icky, slimy algae, or the equally icky underside of the manhole cover. You have to precariously balance on the ladder with only your feet in order to be able to lift the heavy slab of concrete and iron over your head and keep it only a few inches lifted to see the street but to not be seen in turn. Your eyes dart frantically around behind your smudged visor and you yank the hood down to be able to see, searching for any clue, any landmark familiar to you, which is ridiculous, considering you had only been to the outside twice now! But then you see a shine of crimson, a familiar, oval shaped window in pitch black darkness in the distance right in front of you, before it gets obstructed by a boot so dirty you can’t even tell its original color or material, and then the manhole cover is ripped out of your hands, hitting the street with a sound so loud you flinch away from the opening with a startled yelp. Your feet slip on the icky algae and you fall, jerking your hands over your head to curl into a ball, praying you don’t hit the narrow wall with the back of your neck! And if you do, that you’re dead immediately and not end up paralyzed!

For a frightening second you had seen the absolutely mad face of Crowbar, but the real dread only hits you when your back slams into the cold water, numbing your entire body before a horrible pain shoots through your spine. He had seen your face, too! Your equilibrium is entirely out of whack from the impact, you eventually remember to right yourself up and get your fucking head out of the water to breathe, gasping desperately for air. You feel dizzy, sick and tired, so, so tired, but then the light gets blocked out by a huge shadow and you barely have time to jack-knife out of the way as the drifter already drops down into the tunnel, bringing his crowbar down on you with a mad swing. It brushes your thigh and you can feel it going straight through the leggings and your skin, the flaring pain only increasing when the disgusting water hits the wound. You cry out again and just run for it, knowing that the mansion is in a straight line with the sewer tunnel you’re currently in. You have to fight against the weight of the water to get away from Crowbar, who’s already splashing along behind you. He’s taller than you, which means his legs aren’t as far in the water as yours, which means in turn that he won’t have to use as much energy to make one step as you do, which ultimately means you’re not gonna make it in time before you’re completely exhausted and he catches up to you!!

You hear the metal whistling through the air and dive headlong again, retching when your face gets under water, but you can’t afford to be squeamish, not when the next swing is already aiming at your back! With a grunt, you pull at the strap of your bag, jerking it up higher on your shoulder, and the blow that was meant to carve a nice hole into your spine merely destroys one or ten of your loot-items. For an incredulous second you ask yourself why the hell you’re still hauling all this shit along with you that actually slows you down more, but then you see something out of the corner of your eye, illuminated by yet another manhole. It’s a black top hat inside a circle, spray painted on the brick wall. You’re close!

    “Stop running you piece of shit! I’ll kill you!” Crowbar howls with his hoarse voice behind you and suddenly a sharp pain against the side of your head knocks the literal lights out. You come to again, tasting bitter acid in your throat, your vision doubled, no, tripled from the swing with the crowbar. In the back of your mind you think that he couldn’t have really hit you, otherwise you would be dead now, but the majority of your brain is still struggling to even make your body function properly. You see your own ghostly hand grabbing the wall next to you before your vision gets black again, then something shiny in the dark water, droplets rippling off of black and red scales, the pattern of black and red stripes flinging you into another sickening vertigo that brings you to your knees.

Finally, with an almost audible snap, you come to your senses and wheel around, stumbling backwards in the black water that’s suddenly churning and surging as if you’re standing next to a waterfall. Screams - through the sound of furious waves you hear loud screams of terror and pain! What the hell is happening?! You have no doubt that you’re in danger, too; whoever is screaming is obviously getting attacked by something that’s in the sewer with you! Blinking rapidly into the darkness to adjust your eyes, you fish out the flashlight in your jacket’s pocket, pointing it back into the tunnel where the screams are coming from. The light flickers only in rapid spurts, but each flash illuminates the scene in individual frames, so clearly that the images get branded into your retina, leaving white negatives in each following darkness: the drifter is trapped between the huge jaws of a monstrous, black and red banded snake, its head over two feet long, with teeth the size of your middle finger. Or at least you think they are that long - most of them are currently buried up to the gum inside Crowbar’s pale body, blood raining hotly down upon you. The snake whips its head up, adjusting its bite and the drifter’s agonized screams seize so abruptly that their following absence feels wrong to you.

Deaf to the inner voice screaming at you to run away, you keep staring at the terrifying series of stroboscopic images, see the snake dropping the lifeless body and swaying its head around towards you in one slow motion, a long, forked tongue flicking the air. The last thing you notice is that its eyes are blood red, the pupils lance shaped, so it's definitely venomous. And then the flashlight gutters one last time before it dies completely.

The darkness that follows is deep and eternal and you freeze where you stand in the water, clutching the dead torch with both hands, your eyes opened all the way and yet utterly useless. Your other senses kick in to help, but your smell is already overwhelmed enough by the stench of sewage, blood and death, leaving your taste (acid, blood, vomit), touch and hearing. You can feel the waves getting lower, the churning current stilling against your legs, your thigh burning where the crowbar slashed your skin open. Your ears pick up a faint hissing that’s slowly increasing in volume and shortening in distance. You start to tremble, the image of the hooked fangs still burned into your brain. When the gargantuan snake brushes against your knee in the water and spins you around by its sheer mass you flinch, your eyes clenching shut instantly out of reflex. The scales are each as big as your hand, you can feel this, too, as they glide along your leg. It moves slowly, but you notice immediately that the snake is circling you with its body, the hissing first behind you before it comes back around. Now you can smell the snake itself even through the stench of the sewage, its death-breath and the rotting remains of unfortunate victims between its teeth. The tips of the forked tongue flick against your cheek and you suddenly sob out. Blackhat, you have to call him for help, you have to try at least! But your teeth are chattering so badly that you can’t even form his eldritch name a single time. Tears are running down your filthy face in streams now and the snake flicks its tongue over it again, the hiss stopping.

This is it, you think, strangely distanced from your turmoil. Pretty epic, getting eaten by a giant snake-monster. Nobody seen that coming. You comfort yourself with the thought that you won’t remember the pain once you’re dead, swallow your choked up cries and manage one calm breath. But nothing happens. You frown, balling your hands into painful fists from the suspense. All of a sudden, the snake turns away and moves back into the tunnel, unravelling its body from you. You snap your eyes open in sheer confusion. Were you not food for it? Okay, you were a lot lighter and smaller than Crowbar had been, but that just made you an excellent entrée, right?

You stay where you are, afraid that one wrong move from you might alert the snake to your presence after all. One of your hands pulls the bag around in front of your body, mindlessly taking out another sealed flashlight, the last one, slowly unwrapping it. Your eyes are still fixed on a point in the darkness, unblinking, your mind, again, balancing blindfolded on a slim tightrope above a deep, gaping chasm of insanity. Would you fall this time?

Click.

The flashlight illuminates the sewer in a bright, stark ray that makes the shadows too large and too dark. Slowly, very, very slowly you turn on one spot, hiking up your shoulders in apprehension. The giant snake (God it has to be at least twenty-some meters in length, if not more) is busy unhinging its massive jaws, creeping up to Crowbar who’s floating face-down in the black water. When it suddenly shoots forward to swallow his corpse in one go, you wheel around, your mind falling, falling, and run down the flooded tunnel, too horrified to care if it decides to chase you now after all. You don’t want to see this, you don’t want to think about this, all you want is to thoroughly, permanently forget this night ever happened in the first place!

Your mind is already coming apart at the seams again on its own and the blow against your head does its part; you have no idea where this strange door suddenly came from, for example, or how in the world you know it’s an entrance to Blackhat’s mansion, but it just makes sense. Only he could envision a snake as big and terrifying as the one you encountered. It was the perfect security measure for a hidden backdoor. Maybe that snake had even been Blackhat himself in disguise, and you definitely wouldn’t put it past him to scare the ever-loving shit out of you while you were already suffering from a mental breakdown!  

Another momentary blackout and you find yourself inside a long, dark hallway, looking somehow familiar until you remember a similar tunnel leading to Dementia's room. You’re back inside the manor.

You turn around, confounded, staring at the opened door, the lock utterly destroyed by raw force. Had you done that?! When you look down on your hand, you’re clutching the crowbar. With a strangled cry you drop it, recoiling from the echoing metal clang on the hard ground. Then you’re running again, tasting blood in the back of your throat, your arms and legs aching with every step, your head swimming. At one point you fall and don’t remember getting back up but you’re running again, recognizing the dungeon around you all of a sudden. Gigantos snarls behind you in surprise.

Booze, you had to find booze! Hard, liver-shredding liquor and schnapps to drink yourself into fucking oblivion! Fuck Void and fuck this stupid heist for some magical artifact, all you care about now is erasing the last 12 hours from your hard drive without any recollection of where those twelve hours went. You want to be so bloody hammered that not even Blackhat could wake you! And you might know one place where to look for what you need!

 

-

 

The fireplace in the lounge is still roaring with cold, unnatural green flames. Maybe you could eradicate the memory of what had happened in here as well, if you found what you were looking for. Not caring about anything at this point, you let the dripping laptop bag drop to the ground, shrug out of your wet jacket and walk over to the cabinet where your boss apparently stashes his most precious spirits. You have no idea how literal that sentence is.

After pushing half a dozen dusty bottles with faded warning signs for poison aside, your cold hand wraps around the heavy, comforting neck of an entire, sealed bottle of finely distilled and aged gin. Of course your boss would have that in his drinks cabinet. You chuckle miserably, tears running over your face again but this time you wipe them off angrily, slashing the cap from the bottle with one swipe of your Bowie knife. Which still has Jonesy's blood all over it now that you look at it. Your chuckle escalates into a hysteric fit of hyperventilation and you whizz around, throwing the knife with a desperate, pained cry. The blade sinks up to the hilt into Blackhat's grinning face on a portrait at the other end of the lounge, the handle thrumming from the force. You sniff and knock the bottle back, drinking gulp after gulp, ignoring the burn the gin leaves in your throat. Part of you feels bad for disrespecting such an expensive brew, but then you take a few more deep swigs and the bad feeling goes away.

Cut

You're stumbling along the dark gallery, cackling at every other new photograph or portrait you discover, swaying dangerously from one side to the other. The second bottle you found that was actually drinkable had been an even more expensive Scotch, tasting like soothing, earthy and smoky nectar after the sharp and spicy gin, while getting you drunker and drunker with every drag.

The wet, heavy bag you’re pulling along over the floor gets caught on the display socket of a set of armor and you free it with a yank before bowing deeply towards the empty armor, waving your hand.

    “’scuse me miss… di'nt s-see you there.” When you come back up and your eyes manage to focus for a second, you dissolve into cackling laughter again. There's, how could it be any different, a black top hat atop the statue's helmet. “Eheheheee, fu-fuckin' hats. Sosoopid.”

Cut

You’re in the hallway to Blackhat's office, but you don’t know that. All you know is that you’re back in that warehouse by the sea side, drunk out of your ass, already dreading the lecture from Frisk. But maybe they won't lay into you so much since you brought the bottle along to share, as well as some fancy loot! And maybe, juuuuust maybe, you could flirt your way out of that confrontation again.

You grin tipsily, nodding, with a violent hiccup almost throwing you off balance. Great idea, me. Thanks me! You’re welcome, me. Without bothering to knock, since, you know, this was also your room, you kick the door open and holler in greeting, nearly getting hit by the door swinging back around. With the lucky reflexes of a complete and utter drunk, you sidestep around the massive door, giggle, and twirl back onto your original, wavy path towards the end of the room, which seems strangely large now that you take a look around. Man, you were wasted!

   “Honeyyyy I’m hoo-oooome!” you sing out, erupting into snorting laughter and promptly curl in on yourself to not pee your pants. That would be beneath you… literally. Still snickering, you come back up and blink lazily at the dark silhouette of Frisk, who's staring back at you so scandalized you immediately roll your eyes, groaning at the dizzy spinning that causes. "Oh c’mon, Fris! Fris-Fras. D-don' gimme that-that look. Hehe. Tha', that lookie-loo. I know!” You suddenly bark, standing up straight and placing a hand on your chest in guilty admittance. “I’m dunk! Uh… drunghk. Geeeeeet drunked on!” Holy shit! That is by far the funniest shit you ever came up with! Oh God you had to tell Sans this one! Now he would be someone who appreciated a good bad pun! Unlike Frisk, who's expression is still anything but amused, but now they eye you with a bit more interest. Ohohoo, time to bring out the big guns then! All aboard the MS Seduction and show no mercy!

“Soooo,” you lilt suggestively, biting your bottom lip, still not fully able to rein that snort in. You shoot Frisk a look from beneath your lashes, digging your toe into the floor when they arch an eyebrow at you. Maybe it was because of the low light in here, definitely because of the booze, but somehow Frisk looked different. Yet they don't move away when you slowly approach them, your fingers walking a teasing path up their chest, tilting your head back with another giggle before you pause, perplexed. “Okay, I wuz gon’ask ifyou're uh… upfursum.. fun… but… that hat is acshually dista- disht-… you look funny Friskybunny!” You snicker and reach up to steal their ridiculous hat, but when you lift it off, there's suddenly another, smaller hat beneath it! And under that one is another, weird one! And another one! There's just no end to them! Wait a second… black… hats?

You blink a few times, squeeze your eyes shut for a second and suddenly find yourself under the burning eye of Lord Blackhat, currently wearing a black fedora with a red hatband and a feather stuck in it. His mouth is twisted into that stupid frowny face he pulls whenever you annoy him, the one that’s already bordering on a teeth-baring snarl. You take an outraged, dramatic breath and lean back, your finger pushing accusingly into his shirt.

    “Blathack! Bla- … Boss! Di- didchu trick me again?!” His giant teeth part to retort something but you snicker again already and shove him a little, stumbling away when he does not move at all from that push and the entire force is used against you. “S-s-s-stop tha'! So silly… Oh, oh! Blackhatty, hehe,  Black Betty bam-a-lam… H-here, I-, I-I-I-got sumthin'… got some… hic-here!” You drop the empty bottle and spin around in circles trying to seize the dripping, smelling laptop bag illuding your grip that you’re still clutching in your other hand, eventually remembering to just lift up the hand that holds the strap, and unzip the front with a beaming smile. All the gold and silver jewelry you stole falls onto the floor and you shake the bag violently up and down until even the last ring rolls away over the carpet.

Blackhat makes no move, only follows the ring with his single eye, antennae-brows already drawing together again when his gaze snaps back to you, promptly darting down to your chest where it stays for one, two seconds, his expression suddenly switching to one of surprise before a victorious grin quickly splits his face apart and he returns your expectant, drunk, cross-eyed smile with a look of sinister glee. There’s something unsettling in the way he fixates you that even unnerves you in your drunk state, and you swallow nervously, pointing to your loot.

“Y-you don' wannit?” you mumble, hesitant and more than a little scared, tripping over your own feet when he suddenly advances in one swift motion, but Blackhat catches your fall easily, dipping you back to lean over you with his single eye blazing red from the shadow of his fedora.

    “The loot is acceptable, but there is something else I’d much more prefer, my filthy little thief.” He growls, his gleaming eye widening at you and the lance-shaped pupil pulses, spinning into a slim spiral that turns and turns until you can’t look away. For the fraction of a moment your head is crystal clear again, and fear surfaces briefly to warn you, when Blackhat's hand on your back slips lower and under your wet shirt, flinging you back into that pleasant, fuzzy haze in which a feeling of lust begins to swing along. You know what he’s insinuating and you try to fight the burning itch that has unexpectedly spread to your core. That tormenting, yearning sting you hoped to feel with someone else tonight, but now that you’re here and already hot and bothered you don’t see a reason not to play along, even though you have to struggle to keep your cool demeanor. After all, you were the one calling the shots!

But before you can do or say anything (probably stupid and drunk), his face closes in on yours and he presses a slow kiss to your parted lips, his tongue flicking against yours ever so slightly, and all you manage to utter is a breathy, surprised sigh for more. Blackhat rights you back up, shoots you another sharp-toothed grin and runs his gloved claws over your ass, making you shudder.

    “So tell me, _______,” he husks right next to your ear, pulling you flush against his body by the leather straps of your gear belt and you whimper. “Are you up for some fun?”

 

CUT

 

    “Take it off already! It smells horrid!” Blackhat grunts and grabs your t-shirt but you viciously shake your head and cross your arms over it, yelping when he simply drags your already naked ass off the desk by its collar. One of the seams rip and you reach back to slap him, so hard your hand feels like it's gone up in flames, actually managing to smack his head to the side. He stays like this for a second, and you barely have enough time to realize what you have done before his face snaps back around to you with a dry crunch, monocle glowing red and his mouth opening entirely too wide, spawning sawblades and insect-like claws to tear you apart. A horrible roar is working its way up his throat but you stay where you are and tighten your arms in front of your chest again, deciding you’d rather take the hit.

    “I- I don't want you to see!” you squeak out at the last second, clenching your eyes shut. The screeching sawblades retract and when you peek through one eye, Blackhat is looking at you with a bored, irritated scowl again. His red dress shirt is already half unbuttoned and you see the strange, ashen skin of his chest that seems to move and churn in unnatural ways, making you sick from looking at one spot for too long. Oh.

    “You- you don’t care about scars, huh.” You mumble flatly, raising your arms without a fight when he grabs the hem of your shirt this time to pull it over your head in one blurred yank and toss it aside, exposing your badly scarred upper body to the open.

    “Quite the opposite.” Blackhat growls, lifting you back up on the desk to step between your legs, pinching your breast with his teeth and swiping his tongue over the nipple he has caught, sucking sharply. You hiss out at the pain and yet arch your back at the same time to come his way. “I want to add my own.”

 

CUT!

 

    “Please… fuck, just let me- let me-!” you gasp, breathless, not sure if you're still trying to hold on to the wood of the desk or pull yourself away from Blackhat, who tuts at your outburst and stops yet again, causing you to wail in frustration and bang a fist on the desk's surface, earning your neck a sharp yank where his fist is still buried in your hair to keep your head up.

    “What did I tell you?” he snarls, using his demonic voice again which is by now almost enough to push you over the edge on its own, but of course he knows that and keeps it just so that it doesn’t.

Fucking bastard!

You cry out in shock and pain when his free hand slaps your rear hard enough to almost break the skin, his teeth suddenly pressing into your cheek as he bends closely over you, hot slobber running down your worried neck and chest, burning on the spots where his fangs have left countless marks.

    “You’re thinking out loud again, my dear _______. Now say it! ‘Please’…” he lets the sentence peter out like the sadist he is, pushing ever so slightly against your entrance with various slick, dripping organs in a silent promise to finish you off properly (lying, he’s lying, he’s gonna stop again right before-).

    “Please!” you sob out in defeat against the strain on your bent throat and the sharp pain his teeth threaten you with and that you crave all the same. You’re glad he called you by your name, though. You don’t think you could remember it anymore. Blackhat moves behind you again, chuckling darkly at your futile attempt to snap your hips back and simply take what you wanted so badly, his free hand now snaking around your hip to your front. Another clipped gasp shakes you, and then you twist your head against the cruel grip he has on your sweat-drenched, messy hair, meeting his already parting teeth with a desperate, sloppy kiss, breathing: “Please, Lord Blackhat, please let me c-"

 

FINAL CUT

 

 

Chapter Text

  “So, in theory… in the event that someone were to-“ – “Oh God,” Flug groans, turning around to you, frowning, “what did you do?!”

 

 

25. Evil Night Together

 

 

When you wake up, there is a single blissful second in which nothing hurts and everything is alright. But then the second passes and you furrow your brows with clenched eyes at the pounding headache. It's like someone is banging against the bone of your forehead with a hammer from the inside, trying to get out, but only lackadaisically, and you would rather they come out now and leave you to die! But that doesn’t happen of course and they keep on bangin'.

You exhale a strained breath, immediately noticing that your mouth tastes disgusting and your tongue feels like something furry crawled inside at night to shrivel up and die from dehydration. You try to move your lips a little but they, too, are swollen and crusted with blood, stinging with pain when you tear them away from each other.  Jesus fricking Christ what the hell happened?! Unfortunately there’s a hole the size of South City inside your throbbing head, the last thing you can clearly remember is being outside on a roof after robbing that electronics store…

Something must have happened after the store that you decided to drink yourself to oblivion, that much is obvious, and you don’t even try to remember what it was because a) it makes the pounding worse and b) you only ever drank that hard to forget stuff of the bad kind. Judging from this hangover of the century, it must have been really bad. Well, at least you somehow made it back to your comfy, luxurious bed in Blackhat's manor, plastered as you were, and you roll onto your left side to get a little more rest and hopefully lessen the pain, pausing in sudden confusion when there's an intense brightness hitting your eyelids. Wait, you think, did I fall asleep on the wrong end of the bed?

Silly, but judging from the light source, which can only be coming from your windows late in the morning, you definitely ended up with your head on the foot side of the bed. Smirking crookedly at your drunk shenanigans, you decide to check in what weird position you actually are right now, when there’s the distinct sound of a newspaper page being flipped over next to you, accompanied by a quiet sip on a cup with something hot in it.

You freeze, alarm making your entire body seize up. Why is there someone in your bed?! And who, pray tell, is it?! It can only be Dementia, she had the audacity to invade your private space before, and you did flirt with her, even if it had been out of self-preservation, but what would she want with a newspaper-

Oh. Oh no. Oh please, dear God no, don’t. This can’t be happening! Dread, denial, and the desperate attempt to recall how you ended up in here with someone other than Dementia, fight for control over your miserable brain, ending up with your primal instincts taking the wheel and making you snap your eyes open, while clawing at the sheets to be able to maybe defend yourself with it?! Red light blinds your suffering eyeballs and almost destroys your brain by the crushing headache reacting to the light, but you had managed to see your surroundings for the split of a second, noticing the three arched windows across from you that were actually on the wrong side of the room.

Wait… what?! You force your clenched eyes open again and stare, perplexed, at the entirely unknown room stretching out before you. The three windows with heavy curtains set into an oriel, an antique writing desk underneath them, but you don’t dare to move your head to look further around. It's gloomy in here and cold, the space tinged in hellish, crimson light; the walls, too, a purgatorial red, as is the floor and the ceiling and-

This isn’t your bed. This isn’t your room, either. This isn't even a room you know! Were you actually even in the manor?! And, more important yet: where the hell are your clothes?! You fight the urge to tightly wrap yourself up in the blanket and just scream out loud in confusion; after all, you’re still alive and don't seem to have any broken bones, even though your entire body hurts as if you had been tossed into a meat grinder for a few hours. Wait… Hidden under the blanket, you feel over your body and bite down on your other hand to keep from shrieking when you find dried blood and fresh bruises everywhere along the way, each alarmingly painful to the touch.

The someone next to you shifts, sighs exasperated and ruffles the newspaper again, indicating quite clearly that they know you’re awake by now. You can’t take it any longer, you have to know! You slowly turn back over onto your other side, inch by inch, your eyes widely opened in apprehension. And there he is, Lord Blackhat himself, sitting upright with his back resting against the high head end of his horrible canopy bed of evil comfort, nursing a hot cup of tea - or poison you can't really tell - his single eye probably scanning the lines of the newspaper he’s holding but from where you're lying, you only see his left side, the one with the-

Your poor brain stumbles to a screeching halt and you blink at the sight, trying one more time to understand what's in front of you. Blackhat is wearing a long, black sleeping hat with a red tassel instead of his top hat, a red morning robe with a plush black collar and matching cuffs, and over his left eye is-

    “Is… is that a sleeping-mask-eye-patch?” you blurt out, your voice hoarse and your throat raw as if you had been screaming the entire night. The black, satin eye patch over Blackhat's left eye is adorned with the stitched, white image of a stylized closed eye and a few lashes, confirming that it is indeed a sleeping mask. Blackhat doesn’t even bother to look at you and turns another page.

    “Judging from your horrendous snoring, I take it you slept well?” his gravelly, rasping voice is even deeper and raspier in the morning and it does things to you that you're not sure of if you like them. Then you really register what he said and sit up abruptly in indignation, holding your erupting volcano of a skull with a hiss.

   “I- I don’t snore, what the hell man?!”

Blackhat throws you a side-look so pointed you immediately swallow every other protest you have readied, and you silently pull up the blanket to cover your naked frame, drawing your legs up. His single eye follows the motion and he lets out a scoffing snort, chuckling quietly to himself before going back to reading today's Hatsville News in silence. You just stare at him, your mind on the brink of exploding like a kettle under pressure. Why the hell was he okay with you still being here? Why had he endured your horrendous snoring without straight up murdering you?! Why were you even in his bed in the first place?!? You didn’t just come up here, to this hidden room, you had no idea even existed until last night, because you were drunk and couldn’t find your own bed now, did you?! And why the hell were you naked??! Oh… oh God… There it is again, that unspeakable suspicion, that dreadful apprehension.

    “Did you, did we-" you choke out faintly, feeling your face flush instantly. There's no way this could have happened, not in a million years! You must have gotten the bruises and cuts on your drunk escape from the night out in town, yeah, that's it, that's probab-

    “We had sex, yes, and I am a little miffed how you could have possibly forgotten about it. But then again you were, to put it mildly, absolutely tanked*, dear.” Blackhat interrupts your thoughts, folding the newspaper neatly together and turning around to face you. A wide grin crawls along his dark features when he catches your expression of unadulterated shock and horror. “Ah, I knew it would be worthwhile to wait for you to wake. That was priceless.” And with that he knocks back the rest of his tea, humming in content. You, however, finally explode.

    “How can you be so casual about this!? We- we had sex?! I have a hard time believing I’d ever agree to even letting you touch me, no matter how fucking drunk I was!” You exclaim in outrage, regretting it instantly. Your head is positively bursting from the volume of your own voice, the whole situation so insane that you simply fold your torso over your crossed legs and bury your face in the blanket, groaning. Next to you, Blackhat chortles darkly and leans over to you, sliding a cold hand along your back. Yet, instead of flinching away from his vile touch or puking like you normally would have, you let out a low, vibrating moan when he runs his fingers over the length of your spine, startling yourself with your more than embarrassing reaction. The longer the touch of his strange hand lingers, the more you feel the urge to just crawl into his lap.

    “Are you quite certain about that?” he purrs slyly, knowingly, making the branding on the right side of your back throb with pain and your insides twist in want. You utter a miserable noise, thankfully muffled by the blanket, when his hand disappears again. This is madness! What had he done to you that you were so… that you allowed this (don’t lie you bitch, not only are you allowing it, you want this)?!

    “What the hell happened?” you ask him meekly, now desperate to remember what you did to end up like this. And to make Blackhat so goddamn tender all of a sudden! “You didn’t do anything to my SOUL, right?!” you add, alarmed, but he clucks his tongue in reproach.

    “Of course not, I am a man of my word after all. I asked you what you wanted in exchange for… oh, how did I put it again? Access to your body whenever I damn well pleased,” he ignores your horrified “What?!” entirely, and continues: “and you replied your only condition is that I won't get to have your soul unless you died by the hands of someone else, which is, in all honesty, an absolutely worthless deal since the same is already stated in your work-contract; which you would have known if you had bothered to read it at all!” he stops his rant only to shoot you a lopsided sneer. You stare back at him, baring your own teeth in a challenge.

    “I would never make a deal like that with you!” you hiss but Blackhat just grins wildly at your words, like he had expected you to say that, and sits up straighter in malicious excitement, pointing a thumb to the door by his right.

    “Shall I show you the recording, then? It is quite the spectacle but I’d advice you not to eat anything before watching it.” His glee is evil and sharp, like a knife in your back. But you are way too hungover to keep up your volatile reactions to every new, horrible detail of your first night out, and, frankly, the worst cat is already out the bag: You willingly had sex with Lord Blackhat, it was apparently so disgusting that he decided to record it, and you made a terrible pact with him without actually getting anything out of it yourself, other than more humiliation and suffering in the future.

    “Pass. Poor cambot.” You hiss and flop back into the pillows in defeat, wincing at the wave of sickness moving causes. “Ugh fuck, I’m gonna die on that stupid heist tonight.” Which seems a way better option than living with this shame any longer.  

    “About that…” Blackhat throws in, suddenly sounding officious. Swinging his legs out of the bed to put his cup on a table to the side, he rises and turns around to you with a concerned frown on his face, tapping the rolled up newspaper into his other hand like a baseball bat. “I would caution you to not overly exert yourself on the job tonight… those eggs I laid inside you are extremely fragile and filled with acid.”

    “YOU LAID EGGS INSIDE ME?!” you shriek out with your voice cracking, tears shooting into your eyes. Blackhat keeps his serious expression for another second before he dissolves into wheezing laughter, slapping his knee with the newspaper.

    “Mwahahaharr, ah another good one!” he croaks out after recovering from his fit, his shoulders still shaken by soundless laughter. You cover your face with your hands and let out a long, heavy sigh, more like a thin wail, wishing desperately you could reset everything that had led up to this point! When the cold newspaper is thrown onto your bare stomach you flinch with a yelp, sinking back in exhausted relief after realizing it is not some dead animal he chucked at you. “Normally I would congratulate you for making it into today's news, however… front page?!” Blackhat's voice is an angry growl now and you quickly sit back up, expecting pain.

Your boss is standing at the end of the giant canopy bed, arms crossed in front of his chest, scowling at you. The sleeping mask has been exchanged for his monocle while you were pitying yourself, top hat crowning his skull already. Yeah, you really don't want to stick around and watch him get fully dressed. You’re mentally scarred enough as it is without actually remembering a thing. Then you process what he said, shrug, and rub your crusted face.

    “Blackhat, I have absolutely no fucking idea what happened last night, other that I robbed an electronics store and got so drunk I did something even stupider than letting myself get caught by Dementia when I turned up here. You tell me.” You sigh, furrowing your brows when he already summons black tentacles from the inside of his gown to strangle you with, enraged by your lack of proper form of address. “Oh shut up! We fucked, for crying out loud, and you didn’t kick me out afterwards, so I get to call you just Blackhat, Blackhat!” you bark and slap the first of the tendrils away, crossing your arms in defiance. He shoots you a brief, baffled look before scowling again, growling: “I liked that mouth of yours better when it was busy su-"

    “I get it! Stop! Oh my God!” you scream out, smacking your hands over your ears, your cheeks burning from shame. He’s still talking and you try to sing over it obnoxiously but then he starts gesturing with his hands as well and you let out a loud string of colorful swears with your eyes closed and a finger in each ear. Until Blackhat slaps you in the face with the newspaper. You look at the title, your headache objecting decidedly against reading anything, but then you’re already scanning the text, your eyes widening with each line as your memory wiggles its way through the darkness of the blackout, scraps of mental images already flashing before your inner eye up to one that makes you wince, clasping a hand over your mouth.

    “T- the drifters… Crowbar. Oh God, that snake! I-“ your eyes snap up to Blackhat's, which is fixed on your face, carefully reading every reaction and drinking in your surfacing horror with visible gusto.

    “It would appear you had quite the… expedition of the local flora and fauna.” He rasps, one grey finger tapping against the paper to remind you to read it all.

The front page covers the story about a burglary in Hatsville's renowned jewelry store, roughly two million dollars of worth having been stolen by an unknown thief, yet it was likely that it was the same person who later allegedly attacked a group of drifters, camped in front of the entrance to the sewer system. The masked assailant was said to have killed an unarmed man named Jonesy, brutally murdering him before escaping into the tunnels. A sketch artist had drawn a picture of the masked thief, based on the description from the rest of the hobos, who were also mourning the brother of their murdered companion, a man named Cliff that never returned after chasing the attacker through the sewers. The police was urging the citizens to properly lock their homes and invest in security measures to keep safe from this new dangerous individual still at large.

    “I reckon he met my pet, Little Jack. Alas he was not as fortunate as you to bear my mark.” Blackhat sneers but you only nod as the memories form an image in your mind, the entire terror from the night before nestling cozily right back into the center of your being. You had killed someone in cold blood. The thought is so unsettling that you completely miss Blackhat's pleased noise as well as his feverish glare trying to drill a hole into your chest; only when he drops the paper and yanks you up by your arm to kiss you greedily do you return to the present world. Shocked, you try to push him away yet your hands merely cling to the soft velvet of his robe, your lips parting on their own accord to let his forked tongue enter and slide around yours, before he grabs you tightly and that strange ghost-hand pushes its way down your throat towards your SOUL again. Now you do fight his advances, or try to at least, but there really is not much you can do against an unearthly, overpowered being of evil that's used to taking everything he wants!

Other than the last time he did this, Blackhat's eldritch touch lingers much longer on your very core, the divine essence that your body merely harbors, the actual object of his desire: your soul. It feels like he's probing it, examining it from every side, tasting it! And with a wild, sudden surge of force you reject him, your SOUL baulking at the notion of being seen as food, lashing out against the dark force circling it like a shiver of hungry sharks. The effect is as immediate as it is volatile and you hear a pained roar from Blackhat, snapping your eyes open when he brutally shoves you away from him. A black liquid, like tar, is oozing out of his mouth, dripping to the floor where it sizzles. The monocle has grown pitch-black, his visible eye torn open in shock and with red veins streaking the white of it. One of his hands is clawing frantically at his chest, the other trying to steady the swaying entity of evil incarnate against the desk next to the windows.

You stay where you are, unable to move despite the unsettling sight of Blackhat clearly wounded. By something you did! Inside you, your soul feels more solid, shielded even, yet the feeling of actually sensing it quickly disperses, leaving you with only a lot of confusion and unease since your boss now looks like he’s mad enough to kill you right here and take that unruly soul of yours to crush it between his teeth. You cower down a little, not sure why you think you have even an ounce of a chance against him, naked and without any weapons as you are.

Blackhat is still panting for air, his mouth twisted into a furious snarl, teeth smudged with black… gunk. But then he briskly wipes it off with the back of his hand, taking a quick look around the expanse of the room before standing up straight again, suddenly seeming completely unharmed and composed. Yet his monocle is still not bright again, black smoke darkening it behind the glass.

    “I believe it's high time you stopped lazing about and got to work. See Flug for one of his remedies to cure your hangover, I can’t have you disgrace my Organization with sloppy work today. And do let him look after that leg of yours, the cut oozed all over the bloody sheets.” He hisses icily, already lifting a hand to snap you out of the room. You raise your arms to stop him.

    “Wait- hold on! What the hell was that? What happened to you, what did my S-"

Snap, and you fall through the floor and straight into your own bed, no detour through the in-between dimension of tormented souls this time, your head merrily pounding away to the rhythm of your heartbeat. You stare at the ceiling, letting reality come crashing down on you with its entire weight. Blackhat was not invulnerable as you had thought, and apparently he hadn’t known that either. This was getting weirder and weirder by the minute.

 

-

 

Once you’re gone Blackhat’s human form falls away from his true appearance, his inhuman scream of blind rage shaking the very fabric of reality itself, threatening to disturb He Who Dreams All, before he can rein his fury back in, his agony. He is mad with anger but also confusion; the vicious stab to his essence, the very concept of having pain inflicted on his person an act of atrocity in itself! Had the ancient, blind idiot suddenly forgotten how the rules of this reality worked?! He was Blackhat! He was Nyarlathotep, one of the Outer Gods, the bloody Crawling Chaos, capable of freely traversing every plane of existence as he pleased, invulnerable, immortal!

    “So how in the seven blasted pits of Hell is a mortal soul able to attack me?!” He howls, slavering in pure rage, the many tentacles of his surging eldritch frame curling at the memory of how painful the sudden, warning bite of your soul had been. Yes… it hadn’t simply attacked his essence, it had sunken sharp teeth into it, and had you been any more aware of what was going on, or a little more in tune with your own essence, he would have been too stunned to defend himself against a counterattack. Lured in like a moth to the damn flames! But that delectable growth of darkness within your soul, no doubt sprouted by killing the drifter, had made his accursed blood boil with the desire to taste it again; and after holding back the entire night only for you to come to your senses, he just hadn’t been able to wait any longer! He knew in every detail what you had done, had seen it, once again, in your subconscious mind while you were dreaming after passing out, knackered as the insane rump had left you. Somehow the memory of the night is enough to put a smirk on his face, before the severity of the situation calls him back to the much more important matter at hand. Bloody hell, your soul wasn’t just a dangerous temptation, it was a weapon! This was bad. But also new, unprecedented and thus undeniably exciting, thrilling even! Blackhat feels his own exhilaration finally breaching through the churning ocean of his unleashed anger, settling his temper for good and clearing his head. He knew what to do. He had to learn more about your soul and where it had come from, who had tempered with it and what it was that made it so powerful, so volatile.

He suddenly wheels around, the black coat of his chosen avatar whipping around his knees, searching every known and unknown dimension in this reality for the mysterious intruder you had called Wingdings with a hard stare. But of course, now there is nothing wiggling about between their layers.

That bastard knows something I don’t… he thinks, again in bafflement, anger and delighted surprise at the same time. This was getting more and more interesting by the minute!

 

-

 

Back in your room, you realize you have run into a problem. How in the hell am I going to explain this to Flug?! You stare at your reflection in the big mirror of your dresser, mouth agape at the battlefield Blackhat apparently left behind in his wake, though a tiny part of you still hopes that a few of those bruises and… teeth marks… somehow occurred during your escape from the drifters.

You do remember what happened after the jeweler now, but the rest, after running away from Blackhat's pet snake, is still in the dark, and probably for the better. You don’t think he had been lying about the deal you made with him while being absolutely hammered, you just have trouble understanding how you could have been so utterly thirsty for some quick dick that you’d jump his before even considering other, less horrible options. Like Dementia for example, or one of the hatbots, provided they were even equipped to do the horizontal mambo – shit, you’d honestly rather bang Flug than letting Blackhat anywhere near your nether regions, which, point in case, feel terribly sore and maltreated now that you’re standing for longer. He must have had paralyzed you again somehow, that might explain your reaction to his touch and when he had forced the kiss on you, just before his phantom hand groped your SOUL. There was no way you would suddenly fall for his charm with all your senses still intact!

Hissing at a particularly painful bite, a ring of small stab wounds around your right nipple, you try to figure out how to go about the day from here. Preferably without losing your mind in the process. First, you needed pain meds, badly, for your head and the general agony in your body. Second, water by the fucking gallon and something to eat. Third… You look at your right thigh, where the long cut from the crowbar is oozing grey slime again, a giant hematoma already blooming around the area. It's not that deep, but pretty long and apparently the sewage had not been the cleanest either. You don’t want to imagine what would have happened if the mad drifter had actually managed to land a real hit with that crowbar (his name was Cliff and it’s your fault, too, that he died!). Yeah, Flug had to disinfect and stitch that one. But what the hell are you supposed to tell him where you even got it from without him finding out that you removed his tracker and went outside?! Sucking on your lip, and immediately regretting it, you come to the conclusion that you’re going to have to tell Flug about what happened with Blackhat in order to not get re-chipped and probably ankle-monitored. The conspicuous burn wound on your shoulder and the worst of the more obvious bruises can be concealed with one of the dress shirts in your closet. Flug had seen your upper body already when he treated the branding on your back, so he probably won’t think anything out of the ordinary when your legs are equally fucked up. You just had to make sure he wouldn’t see the wound where you extracted the tracker, which reminds you to put that back on your body in case he scanned you for its functionality, and best to hide it at it’s original spot between your neck and shoulder, under another layer of gauze.

Good plan, looks like my brain isn’t all that fried after all, you think, sighing tiredly. It’s becoming more and more evident that you didn’t get a whole lot of sleep, despite the late hour. And you still have no idea when you’re supposed to meet up with Void but Blackhat did say tonight. Flug might be able to enlighten you further, he had promised you special gear for that heist after all, and he had been in charge with designing a plan of attack. Should you tell him about the damn pact as well? Maybe he knew a way to get out of it or at least have something that might make it...  easier in case Blackhat felt the itch to have some more access to your body again the next days. You shiver at the thought of not being drunk while having sex with him, but you also don’t want to end up as an alcoholic just because of that! It really shouldn't surprise you anymore, but you had no clue in the world how you still managed to get yourself deeper and deeper into this mess. You ban the thoughts into the back of your mind and start to get dressed for the undoubtedly embarrassing talk with the overworked genius.

 

-

 

In a place dark, darker but not yet darker, Wingdings Gaster is smiling in content satisfaction, watching the timeline he chose to manipulate. He definitely seemed to have backed the right horse this time with you. Slowly but surely, things were moving into the right direction, pieces were falling into the right places, and soon he would be something else, freed from this limited reality, this prison. What were a few more weeks or months to him who would become a God, no, mightier than a God?! Time and space didn't matter to him anymore already anyway. The pawns were moving, the board set with traps. And he would just have to sit back, watch, and win. How lovely! How exciting! Oh, he just couldn’t wait!

 

-

 

    “Hey Flug, can- can I bother you for a sec?”

Flug, tinkering with something on a workbench that looks like a pair of gloves, sighs but nods.

    “Of course, just make it quick, I’m still working on the last preparations for your heist tonight.”

You wring your hands and clear your throat, fighting desperately against the mind-crushing headache to put your thoughts into words that wouldn’t blatantly out your little accident right away.

    “So, in theory… in the event that someone were to-“ – “Oh God,” Flug groans, now lowering his tools and turning around to you, frowning, “what did you do?!”

    “Nothing!” you quickly protest, panicking, but when he shoots you a pointed glare from behind his goggles and silently takes the remote for the hatbots out of his coat pocket, you drop your defenses and slump, rubbing the back of your pounding head. “Okay, I, oof… I may have… done something… bad? With… the boss?” Flug runs a rubber glove over his paper bag with an annoyed huff.

    “Ugh, great. I was hoping you were smarter than this, but apparently I overestimated you. Come on.” Before you even have time to rack your brain about how in the world he immediately knows what you did, he has turned away and walks briskly towards the exit of the lab and into the hall leading down to the other closed doors you had seen on your first day. One of them slides open with a bleep. “In here. Get behind the screen, please.” It sounds like he’s done this particular spiel before, which makes you feel a little better actually. Apparently you hadn’t been the only idiot to get to experience that delightful facet of Blackhat. There’s something else you feel, something irritating about that thought, but before you can acknowledge or analyze this feeling in any way, Flug activates the screen you’re standing behind, typing on a computer in front of him while you hold your breath.

    “W-what are you looking for?” you chance to ask, already afraid he might actually find something you’re not going to like.

    “Eggs. They-“

    “THAT IS AN ACTUAL THING HE DOES!?” you scream out, making Flug flinch at his console and clutch his chest.

    “Stop that! Geez! Giving me a heart attack… Y- Yes, if Lord Blackhat deems someone worthy to be a suited surrogate for his spawn, he may lay some eggs inside them. Those things are extremely fragile and-“

    “Filled with acid, I know! Fuck, I thought he was joking?! What- what kind of spawn are we talking about? Mini-Blackhats? Just hats? Cronenberg monsters? Come on doc, I’m losing my mind!”

    “Well, you only have yourself to blame there!” he snaps back, huffing out a breath of relief when the scanner gives off a positive sounding bloop. “They can have various shapes, depending on the DNA of the surrogate, but they’re usually not sentient and just cause a ton of destruction and chaos wherever they get birthed. Afterwards they die, most of the times in a violent explosion. Fortunately, you don’t carry any. But I’ll administer you a special mix of vaccinations and anti-toxins, just in case. “

Flug turns to an emergency kit on the wall, slipping on a fresh pair of medical gloves over the usual yellow pair of heavy-duty rubber before taking out an empty, sealed syringe, a thick needle and a dark vial from another, double-locked container with multiple biohazard warnings and other, equally disturbing warning signs. You look around and eventually just sink down on the only chair in the room, bouncing your foot in nervousness. Your fingers twitch on your thigh, wanting to check if the tracker is still safe and sound under the layer of gauze you wrapped it in, hoping desperately that the mad scientist won’t notice. Yet when he gestures for you to lie down on the examination couch to the side of the scanner and pull down your pants, you relax a little and follow his instructions, lying face down on the stretcher.

    “What happened to your leg?!” Flug utters in start. For a horrible moment the word “crowbar” wants to come out of your mouth but then you pull yourself together and shrug, shaking your head where it's resting on your crossed arms, your burnt shoulder protesting sharply.

    “No fucking idea. The boss told me to get it fixed, didn’t tell me what happened.” That elicits an understanding hum from Flug, like yeah, that made perfect sense. You clench your teeth when the needle pierces the muscles of your glute, and hiss out when he empties the syringe into it. “Ow.”

    “You will probably be okay with just one dose. But I’ll need to monitor your vitals frequently over the next days to make sure you don't react to any of the compounds.” Flug explains, pulling the syringe out and sticking a bandage over the prick, making you snort at the image this must be, looking from the sidelines. He works in silence on your cut leg, cleaning and stitching the wound together so quickly you don't even want to know how often he had to do that, as he already bandages your thigh. Then you feel his gloved hand pushing your shirt up and flinch sharply.

    “Don't.” you whisper and his hand stops, hesitating. “Please. It's- it's not a pretty sight, but nothing serious. Just… lots'a bruises and bites. In various places.” The hand is quickly retracted, Flug busying himself with tidying the remains of his tools while you shuffle off the stretcher and pull your pants up. You rub your face in endless relief, hands shaking.

    “Thank you.” You say, honest. “Uh, that- that wasn’t everything, though. Do you have some aspirin? I- I might have-“    

    “Oh good Lo-, did you get drunk?!”

You twitch in surprise and terror, nodding slowly, your eyes widening at the, once more, awfully knowing tone in his reproachful voice.

    “Uh, how-“

    “Did you make a deal with him?”

Again you just nod. Flug sighs deeply, dragging a hand over his already crumpled paper bag again. “What kind of deal?”

Now you squirm under his scolding glare, too embarrassed to say it but then you just close your eyes for a second and return his look miserably. He’s already scanned you for eggs, for crying out loud, you hit rock bottom when you admitted you fucked up. Literally.

    “The… I was gonna say ‘friends’ for a second, Christ. Um, the employees with benefits kinda deal?” You expect Flug to yell at you, or do something else befitting for an evil genius surrounded by idiots, but he actually makes a surprised noise, scratching his chin under the bag.

    “Really? That is… unusual, even for Lord Blackhat. And bad. For you.”

    “You don’t say.” You mutter, raising your hands. “Look, I know I’m royally fucked, in every meaning of the word. Is there any way out of the deal?!” To your desperation, Flug shakes his head slowly from one side to the other, locking the med kit before coming back over to you, dropping a few white pills into your hand that you immediately pop and chew thoroughly, ignoring both the bitter taste and Flug's shocked wincing. He sighs and shrugs, turning his back on you again to switch off the scanner.

    “The only thing you can hope for is that he grows bored of you after a few times, that’s how it’s always been. Humans bore him easily if there’s nothing new to them.” Something like a bitter huff escapes him before he manages to stifle it and now you cock your head in curiosity, your mouth falling open.

    “Hold on, don’t tell me you-“

Flug wheels around all of a sudden, his eyes behind the dark goggles spitting fire, daring you to finish that sentence. You immediately raise your hands back up in defense, taking a step away from him. But the mad doctor deflates just as quickly, sheepishly rubbing the back of his neck, giving the slightest of nods. You stare at each other for a moment, something like mutual sympathy passing over the awkward, silent contact. Then the branding on your back flares up in blinding pain, making you double over, holding your side.

Get up here this instant!

    “He’s calling you. You should hurry or he’s going to fold you at least ten times. In every meaning of the word.” Flug comments, already hurrying out of the lab to not get influenced by Blackhat’s wrath as well. You throw an angry glare at his leaving back and stand up straight, letting the pain burn, getting more used to the feeling to be able to ignore it next time. What does he want now? You wonder, quickly leaving the lab area and taking the elevator up to the second floor of the manor. A grim, cynical smirk manages to curl your lips when the door opens and you look at the huge, dark entrance to the office at the other end of the hall. Finally done with his temper tantrum after I smacked the literal evil out of him?

You still don’t know what the hell had happened when he was touching your SOUL, but the simple fact that you had done something that was able to hurt him so obviously gave you hope, intrigued you to find out how you could use it actively to keep that bastard off your back in the future. You know that the deal was binding and ironclad in his eyes, or, well, eye, even though you had been inebriated and thus not able or accountable to make a valid contract. Technically he had raped you, and would continue to do so because of that fucking deal. If you went against the contract, he would punish you with more pain and unimaginable horrors, simple as that.

    “But… what if it hurt him too badly to even try it?” you whisper, a plan forming in your head that would require a lot of energy and effort to put into reality. Suddenly you wish Wingdings was still around to tell you more about how SOULs worked.

... or Frisk…


*tanked - Victorian age word for being drunk

 

Chapter Text

It stays quiet behind the door. Then a piece of paper gets pushed out and you recognize it as a business card. Something is scrawled on the back, the letters randomly capitalized but it looks like it's spelling out:

 

26. Go Fuck Yourself

 

 

When you enter the office, something promptly comes flying right at you and your reflexes kick in on their own, your hand quickly pulling the heavy door back towards your body. The Bowie knife slams so hard into the wood that the impact makes your shoulder jump in its socket, the tip of the blade coming out on the other side, an inch away from your chest. The flood of adrenaline slaps you wide awake, your pain instantly forgotten as you stare in disbelief at the pierced door that would have been a pierced you if you had been any slower. But then you throw it open and storm inside, kicking the door shut behind you with your bare foot. Your tabis had been smelling too disgusting to even consider putting them on and were currently taking a lovely soak in the bathtub.

Blackhat is standing in front of his desk, fully dressed down to the galoshes, both hands curled into tight fists, teeth bared in seething anger. Just like any other day. You give him a long look, one eyebrow arched, before turning around and yanking the knife out of the door.

    “I was wondering where this ended up in all this!” You say cheerily, twirling it over your hand and securing it in the sheath on the back of your sports bra as you spin back towards him with the most obnoxious smile you are able to pull off, watching in glee how his expression reaches yet a new level of murderous, and blink innocently at him. “Are you alright, sir?” If that wasn’t the perfect icing on the biggest cake of “Go Fuck Yourself" you don’t know what was. Blackhat’s lips furl back even more in response to your sass.

    “Alright? ALRIGHT?!” He roars, his body stretching and growing with horrible cracking noises until his top hat almost touches the high ceiling, blocking out the light from the single window so that you can clearly see the red glow in his one blazing eyeball. A giant, black claw slams down into the ground right next to you and cuts off your only escape route through the door. To make matters worse you jump away from the massive hand and right into the other one that immediately wraps around your body, threatening to squeeze the literal life out of you. Once again, he's going to make you eat your own words and you ignored every warning sign down the road, as Flug’s nasal, reprimanding voice comments in your mind. Yeah, you really only had yourself to blame here.

    “Okay, okay, I’m sorry- I’m sorry!” You wheeze out, strained, squirming in the crushing hold Blackhat has on you, stars exploding before your eyes. He lifts you up to his gargantuan face, each tooth as big as you and glistening with toxic green saliva.

    “You will be!” he snarls, the volume of his voice so loud it feels like your organs are being ripped apart by the vibrations and you lose consciousness for a second before you’re dropped ungently onto the floor out of four meters height, your right foot taking the fall and breaking with an audible snap, twisted in a very wrong angle. The pain is bad enough to make you scream out in shock and agony, writhing on the carpet. Blackhat shrinks back to normal size, watching you suffer with a satisfied, sadistic grin.

"Mh…” he hums, chuckling maliciously and bending down to you, “you do make the most pleasant sounds my dear. That was for vandalizing my portrait in the lounge and diminishing my liquor storage. And this:” he takes a swift step forward and slams the heel of his polished dress shoe right on your broken ankle before you can dodge, his next words getting nearly drowned out in your piercing cries as the sad rest of your bones gets grinded into a bloody paste. “This is for misbehaving once again. Now I do hope you will remember all that despite your hangover…” He glares at you, expectantly, frowning once more when you just keep screaming, but then you manage to pull yourself together for a second before he can decide to maim you any more, panting through clenched teeth, your vision blinded by tears, pain raging through your nerves.

    “I will!” you press out with a clipped groan, clenching your fist against the pain. “I got it, boss! Fuck-" you cry out again, sob and mewl when the pain just won't stop, already thinking about begging Blackhat to just end you, when he waves his hand around and a cold, pleasant feeling spreads through your leg, the agony instantly gone, leaving only a bitter aftertaste. Your foot is in the right place again, the bones restored, yet you still only move it around carefully, afraid a wrong twist or a little too much pressure might break it all over again. Your fresh clothes are already drenched in sweat, hair sticking to your forehead. You lift your head and meet Blackhat's sharp glare.

“It won’t happen again. Lord Blackhat.” You hiss, unable to keep the spite and anger out of your voice, the impotent fury of not having the power to fight back against the barbed leash of pain and horror he has put on you. Which he is very, very much aware of, judging by his wide, challenging grin as he summons his black cane to hook it around your neck and pull you up to your feet until you're only an inch away from his face.

    “That's a good little thief. You deserve a reward for such obedience, don’t you?” Before you can spit anything vile back, preferably a mouth full of spit, the pupil of his single eye dilates for the fraction of a second, and then you nod quickly, desperately. Yes, holy shit you wanted that reward, you wanted that reward so badly, right here, right now! You couldn’t take it any longer, couldn’t wait; these stupid clothes were in the way, the desk too far away - oh fuck the damn desk, the floor was fine for all you cared-

A moan escapes your throat when Blackhat yanks you against his body, your leg hooking itself over his thigh and your hands fly up to his chest, fumbling with the buttons of his shirt, feeling nothing but bliss and raw, all-consuming lust when he actually kisses you, but then he parts from you again and you stop, confused, as the overwhelming desire disappears like it had never been there. Instead you shove him away, stumbling back yourself with a disbelieving gape, feeling your face grow hot from shame, disgust and embarrassment.

    “That's how you did it?!” you whisper, appalled, looking down your form like you can’t believe your own body would betray you like this so easily. “You just… hypnotize me a little and-"

When you look back up, Blackhat is grinning widely again, crossing his hands on his back.

    “You should feel flattered that I even bother to go to such lengths just for you.” He replies, bringing one gloved hand back around to his chest, balling it into a fist, his face almost splitting apart from the huge, manic grin. “And not just take, while you still have your sane mind about you. Say, wouldn’t you prefer to feel this way permanently?” You recoil from him, viciously shaking your head. Blackhat uncurls his hand and reaches it towards you in an offering gesture. “It would make this little bargain we struck a lot easier for you, don’t you think? To not feel all this shame and loathing every time I don’t cast this spell on you? Why would you suffer through that willingly?” his voice has taken on a gentle, commiserative tone but you turn your eyes away from his intense gaze, digging your nails into the palms of your hand.

    “Because it means I’m still me, still with a will of my own and not just your puppet! I’d rather feel all the hatred and shame I can than being reduced to this! And,” you look back to him, grinning crookedly yourself now, “the fact that you're trying to get me to take that offer, only tells me that you can’t manipulate me for longer unless I allow it! So, no deal, Blackhat! No more fucking deals!”

    “Wrong.” He just deadpans. You take a sharp breath to launch into an entirely new tirade, when your boss already elaborates: “I can very well manipulate you like that however long I want to; your consent is not required in any way, my pet. But I, too, would much more prefer to have you suffer and feel miserable under my hands!” While he spits the words out the green saliva is downright spilling over his lips and down his chin and the expression he wears is one of bloodlust and hunger, something so vile you briefly play with the thought of blacking out again.

    “About that… spell or whatever this is.” You start and fight the urge to tremble when his grin slowly but fiercely returns, somehow managing the slightest amount of sarcasm despite your state. “Did you do the same to Dementia? Seems like you’re not really enjoying all that affection too much.”

Blackhat abruptly scrunches the area around his mouth in obvious distaste, turning away from you to walk back to his desk, bored now that you spurned another diabolical deal along with a spicy new source of entertainment for him.

    “Trust me, I did not. That is all her. And that is all thanks to Flug's incompetence!” he grinds out, folding his hands on his back. You raise both eyebrows at that, your suspicion pretty much confirmed at this point.

    “Flug created Dementia as well? Not just 5.0.5?”

A gloved index raises itself into the air, pausing your hasty assumptions.

    “Altered her, don't give the good doctor too much credit now. Dementia only keeps working for me because she makes for an exceptional hitman and security guard. Plus, her affection, as you call it, is a bothersome but quite useful trait I can use to manipulate her chaotic nature to my organization’s benefit. Do you have any idea how much money those villains are willing to pay, to have my love-sick lizard-abomination kill the heroes that pester them?”

You shrug, clueless. Blackhat, having turned back around to you, raises both hands with an insane grin, slobber running over his chin once more. “Neither do I, since I put Flug in charge of that side of the business as well, but it's a lot!” he rasps out with a hoarse laugh. “She's so good at what she does, I could charge those morons anything and they’d cough it up! Now, you on the other hand…” his gaze darkens again, focusing on you and scanning your frame with visible irritation. “You still have to prove if you’re even worth the air you use up being alive. But, you made a start.” Suddenly he tosses something your way and you struggle to catch it in time for a moment, glancing down at the heavy envelope.

“The loot you brought back was at least worth something. I took the liberty to already cut off my share, seeing as you're still working for my organization. You can exchange it for Hatcoins, of course. The money you made should at least be worth… a hundred or so, I really don’t know or care.”

You look up in shock from counting the dollar bills.

    “What?! There's at least a million bucks in here, what the hell kind of ridiculous trading rate is that?!”

    “The kind that earns me a bloody boatload of money.” Blackhat deadpans. You just blink and then pocket the money in your sports bra, unable to argue against that logic.

    “So… who was Dementia before she got altered? Where did she come from?” you ask instead, not willing to get off topic. “She doesn't remember her previous life, so was she always this crazy or did you make her lose her mind? Is she even here willingly?!”

Your boss begins to chuckle, working himself up to a raucous laughing fit that makes your skin itch with unease. When he has caught himself again, you swallow at the unbridled glee in his single eyeball.

    “Aah, truly a very ironic tale yet one of my favorites. I might tell it to you when you earned your stripes, little thief. But now, if you're not up for some more torture I’d advice you get the hell out of here! Go bother someone else.” He snaps, shooing you away with a gloved hand like you’re an especially annoying fly. You roll your eyes at him but hurry to vacate the office, indeed not up for some more torture.

    “Like I came here voluntarily.” You grumble on your way to the door, jumping in start when sharp claws wrap around your throat from behind you, almost piercing the skin there.

    “I heard that!” Blackhat warns you with an audible grin, choking you briefly. You twist your head around against his grip and make a mock surprised face.

    “Nooo, really?! Woah are you, like, a superhe-" before the word can actually cross your lips, and get you proper killed, you catch yourself: “err… super-hearing, earless bat or something?” Wow. That was lame. Maybe I should take classes from Dementia. Blackhat's annoyed expression says that, yes, you really should, but fortunately he lets go off you and just shoves you through the door, closing it behind you with a slam.

You sigh heavily in relief, glad to be off the hook for now and free to finally get something to eat and cure your hangover in peace before tonight. Suddenly you really want to go see 5.0.5! Now he would not only love to coddle you, hurting and miserable as you were, and make you something delicious to eat, noooo, he would also hug you and treat you nicely! The thought of getting some actual, honest kindness around here is so powerful you’re choking up a little and quickly swallow the soppy tears on your way to the elevator. Which opens with a ding before you have even pressed a button, revealing an excited looking Dementia.

All blood leaves your body. Your stomach drops like it's been severed from the rest of your organs, the entire weight from the consequences of what you had done while being drunk dropping on you like a ton of bricks.

Oh. Fuck. Me!

    “Heya ______!” she chimes, ignorant to your visible terror and simply bumps you out of the way with her shoulder, fluffing her hair and giggling flirtatiously. “Now move, Blackhat wants to see me! Do you think he's finally going to propose to me?!” Manic, delusional yellow eyes bore into yours, and you wonder how they haven’t taken on the shape of hearts by now, before you manage the tiniest, shakiest of nods. God, she had to smell the guilt and fear on you, lizards were kind of like snakes and they had pretty good smell, too, right?!

    “Sure, uh, w- why wouldn’t he?” you mumble, slowly walking backwards into the elevator, your eyes still on her. Your trembling hand lifts, feeling for the button to the ground floor. When you don’t find it immediately, you briefly glance down. With a loud slam Dementia's hand forces the closing door back open, her narrowed eyes piercing you suddenly. You recoil from her, your back hitting the wall of the cage so hard you feel every single bruise individually, even the ones on your ass. Flug was a true sport here for not commenting on those earlier.

But now you have a real problem and it's baring sharp canines at you! And you have nothing to aid you except for the knife hidden under your shirt; your gear belt is back in your room with the rest of your clothes from last night, soaking in the tub along with your shoes to get out the stench of sewer, alcohol and Blackhat!

    “You…” Dementia hisses under her breath, reaching out her other hand to grab your shirt and peel you off the wall, her face slowly drawing closer and closer until it's right next to your neck. You hear her smelling you, first in short sniffs and then a long drag all the way down to her lungs, her tongue tasting the air around you like that of a snake. Immediately, her fist curls tighter around the fabric of your shirt, the faux leather of her fingerless glove crunching.

“Why the fuck do you smell like him?! And why, the fuck, do I have the suspicion it's not from one of those bath grenades?! What are you hiding?!” Now you hear the suppressed growl in her chest, too, the warning rumble of a crocodile right before it snaps off your leg. You have no chance against her, you realize with finality, not even with your knives, shit, not even with every artillery strike in the world!

You take a timid breath, your brain working frantically against the headache and fear trying to make you panic.

    “Okay, I’ll tell you…” you whisper, spinning the words along in your mind to cast a net of believable lies and schemes. This was just like that time Papyrus had caught you sneaking back in after one of your nightly trips to the library before Sans had given you his permission to just go out and have fun as long as you brought him back his share. Back then, you had used the same method of telling him something that was true and something that wasn't. You open your eyes and look pleadingly into Dementia's, wrapping your hands around the wrist of her fist that’s still balled under your chin. "But please, promise me not to tell Flug?”

That throws Dementia off her rhythm so much that she blinks at you in surprise, cocking a brow.

    “Flug? What-“ – “Promise me, Dementia! Not a word to him or who knows what he's gonna do to me next!” you insist, stumbling when she drags you out of the elevator and shoves you into the corridor wall, but now she is snorting with laughter which is already better.

    “Oh come on, it's just Flug!” she cackles. You huff an angry breath and raise your hands.

    “Yeah, easy for you to say maybe! He's scared of you! But me? I’m wimpy, remember? I’d make the perfect Guinea pig for his sick inventions if he finds out I-, look, just promise me you won’t tell him?!” Dementia's glare darkens once more and she pokes a hard finger into your chest.

    “First you tell me why you have my hubby’s smell all over you…” the rest is an unspoken threat she doesn’t need to put into words and you nod quickly.

    “Oh yeah, sure. Well, the boss just strangled me for like ten minutes because I vandalized one of his portraits after getting drunk last night!” you croak out, pointing at the angry marks of fingers around your neck you discovered back in your room. “I passed out after the first five minutes, so I don’t know what he did then.” And bam, there was the lie that was hopefully enough to veil the entire gravitas of what had really happened. You just hope that Blackhat would not straight up tell Dementia what had actually taken place just to get her to beat you into a bloody pulp for a) sleeping with the man of her dreams and b) lying to her about it!

But for now it seems to be working. Dementia shoots you a jealous glare yet lets go off you all the same, blowing the bright red bangs out of her eyes.

    “Aww man, lucky you… I sometimes wish I'd fuck up that badly to get him to do that to me!” She grouses and you can’t help but grin sardonically.

    “Yeah, it's a talent. Look, do you wanna know what happened or not?!” She nods quickly, holding her pinky finger up.

    “Sure, ya, I promise not to tell Flug!” You hook your pinky around hers with a serious nod, before you grin widely at her, letting the pleasant memories of the clear sky and the freedom of roaming the streets at night fuel you.

    “I snuck out last night! And I broke into a jewelry store and stole all kinds of shit! It was awesome!” Yet instead of an amazed gasp or any other expression of scandalized delight you expected from someone who only got out of her cage for official business, Dementia just snorts again and shrugs.

    “Is that all?! Dude, I do that every other day without Flug knowing! That's your big secret? You don't even have an ankle monitor on you, you can basically just walk out the front door! Man, the only thing I envy you for is Blackhat choking you long enough to leave his amazing scent on you! But hey, good job, let's sneak out together next time, yeah? We can go steal a car and beat a bunch of people up!” While she's talking, Dementia is already jogging down the hallway to Blackhat's office, waving at you until she's through the heavy door.

Your disbelieving expression immediately drops into a snarl and you slam your hand onto the elevator button in anger, yelping when a sharp sting shoots through your left wrist. The closing door thankfully drowns out your incessant string of raw curses that continues all the way to the ground floor and the door of the kitchen. But before you gently push it open, you swallow the rest of all the swears you know, not wanting to expose 5.0.5 to them. And, as expected, the second the door swings open you are enveloped in the most delicious smells of cake, cookies, pancakes and everything nice. It's like an entirely different world compared to the horror-show outside. Yup, probably best for your mental and physical wellbeing to stay here the rest of the day until work calls.

With a soft, almost serene smile on your lips, one that only Frisk would recognize, you quietly close the door behind you and spot 5.0.5 at the other end of the kitchen, emitting happy growling noises as if he's trying to sing a song, giant oven mitts covering his big blue paws so that he can safely take the steaming pie out of the oven.

    “Morning, bud.” You call out to him, snickering when his round ears twitch in response, but he's still busy with the pie so you hop onto one of the bar stools on the other side of the counter and lean back with your elbows propped on the marble worktop behind you, watching the bear. The pounding in your forehead has lessened to a dull throbbing, which means Flug gave you actual aspirin and not some other new remedy he invented himself and that would react in God knows what way when you weren’t dehydrated for 24 hours or something stupid like that. Somehow you doubt that his inventions and experiments were really that successful which would explain why the villains kept buying more of them to finally, someday succeed. Well, 5.0.5 was his crowning achievement, at least in your opinion.

Suddenly the door to the kitchen is thrown open and slammed shut again before you have fully turned around, one of the serrated steak knives from the silver ware drawer already in your hand. The kitchen anterior looks empty, but then you spot the crooked edge of a battered top hat with patches behind the counter. Hectic, wheezing breaths come from below the top hat, as if the someone had been running for their life. You silently kneel on the stool and brace yourself on the counter separating you from the intruder, carefully peeking over it, the knife raised to throw it.

The… person leaning against the door is the size of a child, frail, and wearing clothes similar to those of Lord Blackhat, but looking more like secondhand rags and randomly thrown together to resemble the rough idea of Blackhat. They look more like a bum version of your posh boss, and you begin to understand, when they lift their head and you stare into the face of the derpiest version of Blackhat you could not have imagined yourself! The little guy is even wearing a magnifying glass over his left eye instead of a monocle. So he must be the other manifestation Flug's machine created, like Gigantos in the dungeon.

    “Hey there lil guy. Going somewhere?” you greet him and grin mischievously, crossing your arms on the counter and tapping the tip of the knife against the marble in a quick rhythm. At least this one doesn’t look like it's able to straight up rip you to shreds like Gigantos. Or the boss himself. He actually looks like the perfect punching bag for your frustrated ego. The derpy Blackhat garbles something unintelligible and tries to flee out the door but you’re quicker and shut it with one hand while the tiny guy yanks on the door knob with both hands and his feet planted against the wall. He looks ridiculous! Instead of perfectly fitted gloves he's wearing a pair of badly knitted, woolen mitts with some of the fingertips torn off, a red tweet vest and a mismatched pair of slippers over two different kinds of socks. His black coat is more a black jacket with patches on the frayed elbows, and the top hat… just looks downright self made. Badly. You wonder who in the blazes could have manifested that from their most evil thoughts!

The strange little man stops pulling on the door and jumps down, waving his noodle arms about, blathering in outrage, his tongue spraying drool at you with every other word he tries to pronounce. He seems to be getting more and more worked up the longer you’re keeping him from leaving and at one point he just pulls the top hat all the way over his face and stomps his slippers on the tiled floor in frustration, one of them emitting a squeak like a chewing toy for dogs, and you flinch in surprise.

What's gotten the lil fella so riled up? You think, confused, and watch him hide inside the broom closet in the far end corner. 5.0.5 trots over and utters a pitying noise, wringing his paws and shooting you a nervous look. Nodding towards the closet, you ask: “Do you know why he's so upset, bud?” 5.0.5 nods. Okay, this is gonna be tricky with only yes or no questions. “Is it… because of Blackhat?” A shake of the bear-head. “Flug?” Shake. “Me?!” Double shake and a pat on your back. Aww! “Dementia?” 5.0.5 quickly nods, so hard his flower bops back and forth on his head and brushes the blue fur. You widen your eyes at the reaction, glancing back to the closet where the stupid version of Blackhat chatters quietly but still audible enough to immediately find him.

“Is he trying to hide from her?” – “Baow!”

Mulling this over and cross-referencing it with everything else you know, and especially after your most recent encounter, you begin to understand.

    “Oooh, ew, is she- does she use him as a stand-in for the real Blackhat?! Since she can’t get him to love her back?!” you ask away, already feeling bad for the manifestation who didn’t ask to exist in the first place and on top of that get chased around by a lovesick, frustrated, horny lizard-psychopath who wants to use him as some sort of Blackhat-doll and doesn’t actually love him for who he is. Then again, those are your own assumptions and it could be an entirely different story. 5.0.5 nods again with a concerned growl, apparently feeling the same way. You return the nod with a serious expression, put the knife back into the drawer, and walk up to the closet. Knocking softly on the door, you get a negating garble as answer.

    “Hey, uh… you might want to keep it down in there, alright? I’m not going to tell Dementia you’re here, don't worry. You got a name? I'm ______.”

It stays quiet behind the door and you already fear he may have died from a heart attack, but then a piece of paper gets pushed out from under the door and you recognize it as a business card from the BHO. Something is scrawled on the back in red crayon, the letters randomly capitalized and turned upside down but if you look closely it looks like it's spelling out:

    “E- Earl? That your name, lil guy? Earl?”

Earl garbles in approval and 5.0.5 baows merrily, obviously happy that you’re trying to get along with him. Which also lifts your mood significantly. “Are you hungry, Earl? I wanted to ask 5.0.5 if he could make me some pancakes anyway. I’m sure he wouldn’t mind making a few more.” There's three seconds of contemplative silence before the door to the broom closet opens with a creak and Earl blinks derpily at you, the pupil behind his magnifying glass insanely… magnified. God he looks so silly! How in the hell had Blackhat not killed this walking caricature of himself yet?! Gigantos was one thing because he was a scary, murderous monster that had to be locked up but this was whack!

   “Ginayhuv… snannich?” Earl sputters and you frown a little, trying to understand the gibberish. But 5.0.5 coos his agreement and already wanders off, pulling cheese and ham out of the fridge, along with mayo, tomatoes and a bag of bread. You chuckle.

    “Sandwich. Duh-doy! Well, our bud is already making it, so, yeah, sure you can have a snannich, Earl.”

 

-

 

As stupid as Earl might seem at first glance, and second… and third, he is one hell of a poker player. After the tenth lost round, out of ten, you smack your measly pair of sevens on the counter, groaning at the flush he somehow got again!

    “I give up…” you sigh and rub your face, licking at a corner of your mouth where there's still honey from the pancakes sticking to it. "I can’t beat you… Curses.” Earl blabbers in smug content, wagging a gloveless finger at you, spitting around the consonants. You wipe some of the spray off your face, chuckling. “Yeah, yeah, shut up, I know you warned me.” Then you reach out your hand over the counter. “Well played, little man.”

Earl grabs your hand with a haughty, derpy smile, his tongue sticking out on one side, and shakes it viciously with both hands. Doing so, a bunch of cards promptly tumble out his sleeves. You stare at the cards, then back up at Earl, down and up, your brows furrowing while your hand traps his in a tight clutch when he tries to quickly pull away. Your free hand shoots forward and grabs his tweet vest, yanking him halfway over the counter.

    “You know Earl… I would definitely beat you up right now if I weren’t so impressed by those sleights of hand.” You growl at him and he laughs nervously, caught, beads of sweat running over his ashen face. 5.0.5 makes a pleading noise to please not fight in the kitchen but you already let the little cheat go, snickering yourself. “I knew there was no way you could get two royal flush in a row! How did you get so good at it? I didn’t even notice that!” Instead of an actual answer, Earl just points to his wobbling, patched up top hat. Plain enough, you guess and utter an understanding hum. Still, you’re more than surprised that Blackhat not only allows Earl to continue drawing breath but on top of that teaches him con-artist traits. And solid ones, too!

You glance at the tactical watch you took from the electronics store, the display revealing that it's already three in the afternoon, making you wonder just how long you slept it off for and still be this exhausted, and how the hell Blackhat had endured all that horrendous snoring (you're still absolutely scandalized about that) when he didn't actually sleep himself! It's strange that he let you stay in his room anyway, the hidden, mysterious master bedroom without any entrance, when he could have just dropped you off at your room and not have to deal with any of that, and you seriously doubt that he would let you stay just because he wanted to shock you with the news. Although… maybe that had been a reason, apart from him trying to touch your SOUL again, considering how absolutely delighted he had been to see your reaction. Oh God… had he watched you sleep? Probably, reading the newspaper can only entertain one for so long.

You groan at the sickness spreading through your stomach, cold sweat covering your forehead in a flash. Nope, you're still not used to the thought of having to repeat that, and you won't be in the foreseeable future, no way!


 

 

"There's still so much horror I can wreak on your pretty, little soul..."

 

Thank you guys so much for over 2600 hits, 20 bookmarks and 145 kudos I'm so happy you're all here and enjoy this ride!!!  

Chapter Text

You don’t know what compels you to do it. Maybe it’s the fact that he just received a vicious kick to the balls. Or maybe it’s the fact that Void apparently came from the same place you did.

 

 

27. I Come With Knives




Hours later, you are finally rid of both the headache and sickness from downing two bottles of high grade liquor, and more importantly from waking up next to your eldritch boss, but now you're back in Flug's lab and try to ignore the probing stare Void is giving you, while Flug rambles on and on about the amazing functions of the tools he built for you for this mission. One of your hands fiddles with the red, crystalline knives Blackhat had let you keep and that you immediately integrated into your old gear belt after leaving the kitchen. At first you hadn’t been sure if you should bring the belt at all, since you told Flug it had gone missing when you found yourself here, but then you realized Lord Blackhat himself had conjured it up from the depths of the void without you even asking him to, so you were basically entitled to flounce it about. But the head scientist of the BHO hadn’t even noticed it up to now, he was way too excited to finally unveil his new inventions specifically built for this first heist of yours.

    “And with this final button…” Flug jerks you out of your retrospection, demonstrating yet another function of the special pair of gloves you saw him tinkering on this morning. “You activate the integrated plasma-cutter that can even burn through bulletproof glass! But… be careful when you use it, it- there is the slight chance it might… well, not explode, but incinerate the glove- oh, I’m sure you’re gonna be fine!” He waves you off with a nervous laughter and you roll your eyes when he’s not looking. Great. It’s not like you expected his gadgets to be 100 percent safe, considering his other semi-failures, but now that there’s the possibility of setting yourself on fire, you’re probably only going to use them in the most extreme of emergency situations. Which you hope won’t even occur, considering who your backup is and what else you’re bringing to the party.

    “Got it, doc.” You say and reluctantly slip your hands into the gloves, immediately not liking the chunkiness to them. With all those fancy functions “hidden” inside them, they make your hands look like you’re about to punch a few teeth out and not meddle with delicate, armed locks and security devices. Flug nods proudly and crosses his arms behind his back, directing his attention to Void now.

    “I trust that you are all set? Good; here is the key for the hat-ship. Do not get a single scratch on it.” He adds and jerks the flat, black disk back again before Void can grab it. The super-villain nods quickly but you see the goosebumps on his bare upper arms. He’s wearing the same clothes when you first met him, and you suddenly realize that the purple vest with the golden ornaments is his villain getup. Oh. Well, Mawrasite looked much more like an actual villain, you think, and Dark Phantom as well, as gross as he might be. Not exactly an outfit that was going to strike fear into the hearts of men.

    “Of course not.” Void mumbles and takes the strange key from Flug, who tents his fingers in front of him.

    “I will stay in touch with you over the ship’s main computer, but once the mission is a go, you’re on your own. If you don’t return to the hat-ship within the set time-limit it will fly back to the mansion on its own and you will be stranded, if you’re not dead already. So, don’t take too much of a detour through the museum.” He laughs nasally at his own joke and you manage a very, very tired chuckle. Your entire body still feels terribly sore, beaten, bruised and exhausted, and not even 5.0.5’s love and care had done much to change that. You just wanted to get this over with as quickly as possible and not fail miserably for your own sake.

Void nods, entirely overlooking the lame pun and turns towards the exit of the lab, forcing you to hurry after him. Once the door slides shut behind the two of you, he turns to the right, to where the corridor leads down into the dungeon and finally into the dark labyrinth of tunnels you had first seen when you released Dementia from her cell. But apparently there were a whole lot more hallways leading away under the mansion. Thinking about all the dark houses you saw around the manor, you’re starting to get an idea of the actual dimensions of Blackhat’s lair beneath the surface.

Another metal door slides to the side, flood-lights illuminate the room upon your entrance, and you can’t suppress the groan bursting out of your chest at what you can only assume to be the hat-ship. The underground hangar houses a giant, black top hat built from metal, five meters high and wide, the red hatband the windows of the… UFO. It looks like a UFO. It has fricking thrusters underneath the brim, tiny wings on the top and a fin for stabilization! And, of course, the Black Hat Organization logo on the front with a white background. Somehow that looks a bit jarring on the otherwise black structure. To your side, Void chuckles.

    “Don’t tell me you haven’t seen this yet.” He says in disbelief but you shake your head.

    “I don’t even know why I am still surprised at this point…” you mutter and make a face at the hat-ship. “And we can’t just… teleport to the museum?” You ask, incredulous. Void shakes his head decidedly, already walking up to the ridiculous aircraft.

    “The organization only allows a hand full of members access to their teleportation network to begin with, since more locations increase the risk of getting compromised. Not that it would be a problem for Blackhat himself. It would just cause more overtime for Flug.” He takes another breath like he wants to say something else, but quickly shuts his mouth. You throw him a glance.

    “But you can fly this thing?!” An airplane is one thing, but this monstrosity doesn’t exactly look aerodynamic. At least not to you. Void makes a dismissive noise that doesn’t say either yes or no.

    “Eh. It runs on autopilot. Flug fed the computer the coordinates of a safe area close to the museum where security forces won’t find it. No piloting needed. You could even take a nap if you really wanted.” Then Void shoots you that strange look again, narrowing his eyes as he scrutinizes you. You immediately cross your arms in front of your chest and take a tiny step away from him. Your leather jacket crunches softly with the motion, masking the sound of knives being pulled from their sheaths within the sleeves.

    “What?!” you ask, feeling your own irritation return. “You got a problem with something?” Void doesn’t look intimidated by your confrontation and instead eyes you even closer.

    “What the hell happened to you?” he wants to know. “You look like you got beat up for at least a few hours. Don’t think I didn’t notice it.” You return his gaze with wide opened eyes, your own mouth growing slack and blood rushing into your face at the panicked thought that he might catch on to what exactly had happened to you. But then you catch yourself and scoff, leaning a little more back.

    “Uh that’s, how do I say this without sounding rude… none of your fucking business?!” you hiss at him, earning a deeper frown. At least now he actually looks a little like you’re getting under his skin with the way his arms get a touch of purple glow. Well boo-hoo you weren’t here to become besties, at least not in this life. That spot was reserved for 5.0.5 already!

    “It is. If you’re still recovering from injuries I need to know about them! Our mission could fail because you’re not in top condition! And I won’t let you ruin my only chance to get this artifact! I know, you made it quite clear that you’re, like, a solo-artist and stuff,” Void parrots you with a voice that makes you briefly want to kill him on the spot even more, “but now you work for Blackhat and under my lead. You are just a new asset he provides for free to get me what I want. Got that?” his tone is cold and arrogant and you bite your lower lip, swallowing your urge to plunge a knife into his throat and the tears of fury that want to well up. Instead, you imagine yourself stabbing Sans’ grinning skull over and over and over until you’re at least composed enough to not do something really stupid.

    “Well fuck you, too, Mr. Professional Supervillain.” You mutter under your breath and evade his piercing glare, stuffing your fists into your pockets. But when he still doesn’t budge, you exhale with another groan and shrug. “Okay, whatever, I have a cut in my right thigh that’s pretty fresh and a pretty burned spot on my right shoulder but it’s nothing! ‘m just a bit stiff is all.”

Now Void nods solemnly, not mentioning the rest of the bruises he must’ve seen on you in the harsh light of the lab earlier.

    “Alright, I’ll try to support your right side then if we run into any trouble. Here, put this in your ear.” Like this whole disaster didn’t just happen, he hands you one of the tiny earpieces Flug had given him during the briefing and you press the little thing into your ear, your hearing immediately feeling weird, and you grimace, what the villain fortunately doesn’t notice since he’s turned around to open the hat-ship with a button on the flat disk. “The channel should be encoded, but only use it when you’re in trouble either way, I don’t want our enemies to pick up any radio-signals before we have secured the artifact, alright?”

    “Whatever you say, chief. Can I take it out until I need it, though? That plug fucks up my equilibrium and my hearing. I don’t like it.” You complain and already dig the transmitter out of your ear-canal, stretching your jaw muscles to get the weird sensation out of it. Void clucks his tongue and walks up the short ramp into the dark ship.

    “You better get used to that, then. But yeah, sure. Just don’t lose it.” You grunt your affirmation back and follow him into the hat-ship. The actual cockpit is behind a small room and a metal door, probably some sort of storage unit. Past it, you can’t help but whistle lowly at the giant console at the front that looks awfully complicated with all its buttons and levers and slide-controls. Along the back wall you spot a row of seats that were undoubtedly once part of a plane’s interior. On one of them you notice a huge, orange… you want to say kiddy seat but the sheer size of it could fit a grown man. That or a blue, genetically modified bear. And just like that, it’s utterly cute again.

Void sinks into the pilot seat and messes with the console, so you walk over to the row of seats behind him and flop down on the hard cushions, wriggling around until you’re somewhat comfortably resting against the frame of 5.0.5’s seat, watching the supervillain start up the ship. The interior lights flicker on with a low hum, making you tense. You had never taken an airplane in your life. Flying was always something you tried to avoid at all costs, considering your old boss - the only authority figure you had ever known except for Wingdings maybe - had frequently threatened you with a bad time of the aerial kind. But before you can express any of your concerns, the hat-ship is fully booted and lifts off, the motion so sudden you have to claw at the cushion beneath you to not freak out. You’re heart is already going a thousand beats a minute, and you haven’t even left the hangar! When the ship shoots up into the night sky at top speed, you do scream after all.

 

-

 

    “Better?” Void asks you. Instead of a real answer, you moan faintly and lean your forehead against the cold outer hull of the hat-ship, wiping your chin with the back of your hand, trying not to get anything onto your jacket.

    “I hope… you tell Blackhat in your review of my services how I managed to keep it together until we touched down.” You mumble with weak humor, taking a deep breath to settle your upset stomach. The panicked sweat on your arms feels cold even with the jacket on. Void snorts behind you and you hear him taking the few steps towards the ledge of the skyscraper the ship landed on. After Flug had wished you good luck after the touch down, you had immediately bolted out of the ship, heaving. Fortunately this time you didn’t waste an entire meal, though.

    “I won’t even mention it. First time flying, huh? You’ll get used to it in no time.” You know he’s trying to cheer you up, which is weird after the confrontation from earlier, and not appreciated coming from someone who gets insulted by not being called a supervillain to begin with, but you shake your irritation off all the same and walk up to where he’s standing close to the edge, observing the city beneath. Your legs are still weak and you force yourself to really feel the solid ground under your still a bit damp tabi-shoes, connect yourself with the hard, unmoving concrete that means safety and a situation you can control.

    “Yeah, hard pass on that. I’ll take that nap when we head back. So, where’s the target?” you change the subject, scanning the glittering city in the night. The fresh wind howling around the flat roof carries the familiar smells of a big town and helps even more than the solid ground to recover. Greedy, you suck it down to your lungs, not caring that you’re not alone this time. Void’s hand points north to where you are. You follow the line of his finger easily, quickly picking out the flat, extensive building illuminated by multiple columns of light. With a bleep Void activates the hologram Flug gave you and rotates the museum’s blueprint until it’s lined up with the structure in the distance. You hum as you examine the plan. “Looks like we won’t even have to take a detour to get to our entry point. Good thinking, doc.” You mumble and nod in agreement. The less running you had to do, the better.

    “At least we can agree on that. I’ll have to circle the building, but you can wait right there until I give you the signal.”

    “Not so fast,” you caution and hold out a hand. “guard routes might have changed, Flug’s scans aren’t from tonight, remember? Could well be they upped security in the meanwhile. Let’s not rush in thinking we know everything already.”

For the first time since you met, Void shoots you an honestly impressed look and nods slowly.

    “Okay! You’re the expert on that area.”

You arch an eyebrow at him.

    “You… never broke into a building? As a villain?!” you blurt out and roll your eyes when he promptly scowls at you. “Supervillain, sorry. Christ.”

    “Of course I did! But- well, not with stealth. I just… I just totaled the place.” He says and shrugs. You scoff and mutter his words back mockingly so he can’t hear you over the howling wind. Out loud you say: “You might still have to use that special skill in case I can’t get out. Then just bust a big hole into the place, aight?”

    “If that doesn’t already happen during the battle, yeah, sure.” He says and you wheel around to him, stabbing an angry finger into his slim chest.

    “Hey! If I get squashed because you can’t control your fucking powers you won’t be getting shit, Void! If you even smash a single window without me giving the all-clear first I will bail, got it!? I’m not too keen on becoming collateral damage!”

Your anger takes him off-guard this time and he flinches, dropping the hologram projector, his arms glowing with a sudden, deep purple. You catch the expensive tool before it can shatter on the concrete, fixating him with a hard stare. Would you look at that. Apparently you’re not the only one who’s new to working in a team. After a few tense seconds in silence Void just nods and turns briskly away to get the helicopter drone Flug instructed you to take as an elevator off the building. You huff, pocket the projector and follow his lead, hooking your arms into the loops dangling from the drone. Your stomach does another unpleasant churn when the little flying robot, shaped like – what else did you expect you fools – a top hat, carries you over the edge of the skyscraper and towards the dark alley below before darting back up and out of sight. You immediately flip up your hood and the white mask materializes over your face. Next to you, the supervillain utters a surprised sound.

    “Woah, what- that’s not one of Flug’s inventions, is it?!” he asks incredulously and you shake your head, flipping the hood back and forth to demonstrate its strange abilities.

    “No, Blackhat gave it to me so I’d keep my face anonymous. I’m starting to think that’s the reason Flug has to wear this stupid paper bag.” You point out and Void snorts humorlessly, giving you an odd look.

    “Makes sense. Lucky you then...”

 

While the route to the museum had looked pretty direct from atop the skyscraper, it actually takes you a bit longer than you’re comfortable with to get there, since the nightly streets aren’t all that abandoned yet and you can’t afford to be spotted by anybody, not even the drunkest hobo and especially not by another villain, mask or not! But after a few harrowing close counters you’re finally staked out right across the street from the museum, pressed into the deep shadows of a small alleyway, looking for guards patrolling the area where your point of entry is located. It’s the back of one of the museum’s side buildings, a loading area with closed, heavy shutter gates lined along the wall. And above them is your entry: the roof windows.

You stay pressed against the wall and let your eyes scan the perimeter over and over. The loading area is only dimly lit by the street lights from the walkway in front of the shut metal gate, bordering the museum grounds off. A small sentry station is partially hidden by the gate and the adjacent fence, and you peer hard into its direction, trying to spot any movement inside. Yet the guard hut looks dark, abandoned. Another long gaze over the loading area, then you nudge Void and already dart from your cover.

    “Let’s go.”

He follows you on the heel, his boots making a lot more noise than you would have liked, but your path still looks clear, so you huddle against the broadest part of the gate and wave at him to get over to you. Without a word you interlock your hands and plant your back against the gate. Void lifts a brow but puts his boot into your palms either way. His startled intake causes a grin to flit over your face when you all but throw him over the gate. What had he expected? The guy’s so slim he weighs near to nothing!

You turn around and he gives you a skeptic look from the other side of the fence.

    “Uhm… and how are you-“

Ignoring his comment you swiftly climb up the tall gate and jump over it in less than five seconds, wiping your hands on your leggings, cocking a brow at him yourself now which he can’t see thanks to your mask, but doesn’t need to; your dripping sarcasm is very well audible.

    “You were saying?” But before he has time to come up with a clever reply, a blinding ray of light falls on the two of you, followed by a surprised shout. A guard?! In a blink you have drawn two of the red throwing knives from your gear belt, but then you hesitate, the image of poor Jonesy shooting through your mind, stalling your hands. Void hisses a curse, pulls you  behind him by the back of your jacket and raises a clenched fist, his arm glowing a radiant purple. A giant black hole materializes behind the guard who has already jerked up his radio, and with a low noise, he vanishes into eternal darkness, the black hole along with him.

    “Oh shit, why-, did you kill him?!” you cry out in terror. Void jerks away from you, an incredulous expression on his face.

    “What? Of course I did! You obviously weren’t going to do it!” Then he pauses and rakes his eyes over you, before an even more disbelieving look widens them. “Wait a minute… don’t tell me you can’t even snuff a guard! How the hell has Blackhat not kicked you out yet? And by kicking you out I mean kill you!”

You shrug helplessly, cursing yourself for even losing your cool in front of him like that.

    “I- but what if he has… a family? Or- I don’t know-“ but Void barks out a hysteric, cold laughter that shuts your meek stammering right up.

    “Are you for real? I once had a family, too, and the local hero of the district decided their lives were worth less than those of the people riding the derailing train he was trying to stop! If you haven’t noticed, which I almost can’t believe, it’s kill or be killed in this world! You should be glad this guy was just some random stranger who got in the way and not someone you knew that had to be offed!” He had raised his voice over the outburst and now seemed to take a second to compose himself again, looking away and towards the museum. “Now get your shit together, we’re not done here. And there are probably even more guards we’ll have to kill if we want to get what we’re here for.” Void storms a few steps over to the loading ramp before he stops again and throws you a glance over his shoulder. “I’ll do you a favor and don’t mention this to Blackhat, either. But you better not keep screwing around like that.”

You bite back the vicious comment on your tongue and follow him. Avoiding the guard altogether would have been the most optimal outcome for you, but in a few minutes it wouldn’t matter anyway; Void would attack in front of the museum and then everyone would be too focused on the supervillain wreaking havoc outside than to wonder where one guard was. But now really wasn’t the time to think grandly about the what’s and if’s – you had to focus, really focus. As if to remind you, Void points to his ear.

    “Put your earpiece in, we’re going to need an active comm line if we want this to go over smoothly.” Once you have stuffed the piece of electronic down your ear canal he nods and takes a deep breath, shaking out his hands. “Alright, get in position on the roof and once I unleash hell, you use the noise to get in, then wait for me to cut the power. Ready?”

    “As ready as I’ll ever be.” You grumble, returning the nod and detaching the gaff from your gear belt. In spite of his anger not a minute ago, Void shoots you a crooked grin.

    “And please don’t get yourself incinerated by Flug's sci-fi gloves.” With this he takes off, in an undeniably impressive supervillain way: summoning a black hole in the air above the roof, Void grabs a pebble off the floor, leaps up and uses the momentum of the black hole’s gravitational pull on the stone to soar over the museum’s roof and quickly out of sight. You can only follow the disappearing figure with your mouth hanging open in bafflement. Okay, that was seriously rad. But then you catch yourself and throw the gaff over the ledge of the wall, scaling the building lickety-split. He might have supernatural powers, but you had your own specific set of skills that weren’t exactly something to sneer at. You’re still pretty rattled by the coldhearted killing of the guard, and, to be perfectly honest, the murder you had committed yourself not even 24 hours ago, but you had to finally get your head back in the game for Pete’s sake! It was no fucking use to cry over spilled milk, no matter how crude that comparison might be under these circumstances, and you had been indirectly involved in killing people before, vividly remembering the traitor, Lenny, you had hit in the neck with a throwing knife, enabling Sans to smash his head with the heel of a huge, polished shoe. And weren’t you doing all this to kill Sans ultimately?!

So, in all honesty you weren’t exactly as good as you had been trying to tell yourself.

A loud explosion jerks you from your self centered thoughts and you hurry up to get to the rooftop, pulling yourself over the ledge with a protesting sting from your right shoulder. Once you’re up, you stare in the direction Void had vanished into, immediately spotting the utter destruction he already has managed to wreak, thanks to the xenon floodlights all swiveled towards the spot. Debris is flying around – cars, shredded parts of the chain linked fence, crumbling concrete walls. Everything, whether bolted or not gets flung up into the air and zeroes in on a black hole the size of a small house, lightning flashing over the surface in  a frightening display of raw power. A cacophony of sirens starts shrilling over the din, calling all forces to the attack and crying out for additional help. Time to make use of this distraction!

You run a few yards over the roof, to the center of the museum where the main hall is located, using the scans of the building you memorized. The angled windows in the roof are all hooked up to the internal security system with conductive lead foil and smashing one would interrupt the circuit and trigger the lockdown. But luckily Flug had equipped you with a modified version of  the bridging-tool you normally used to reroute the conduit of a stripped window. With swift, trained movements you have hooked the window up to the ammeter in no time, read the current on the display and punch the numbers into the second device you would use to bypass the trap. Not even two minutes later, your lock picks had made short work of the roof window, no alarm triggered, and you jump to your feet, grinning at the gaping, dark rectangle. Then you unravel the entire length of rope you’re carrying until you reach the safety line and toss that into the opening. The rest of the rope you wrap around a sturdy metal beam on the roof and knot it in a way that will allow you to retrieve the entire rope with a yank on the thin thread you’ve already thrown in through the window. After giving the rope a few hearty pulls, you ease yourself down into the silent museum.

Once inside, you pause in your descent to scan the upper corners of the walls around you, quickly noticing the security cameras, swaying from side to side, their LEDs still active. But it couldn’t be much longer now. You count your breaths, focus on your improving night vision and shift your weight to relieve your burned shoulder while you wait for your signal. So far everything seems to be going according to Flug’s plan, if you counted out the killed guard.

A louder explosion from outside makes the lights suddenly flicker on and off again, followed by a low hum as the power runs out. The security cameras all droop in unison, the red lights on them slowly fading to black. At the same time you pick up the noise of a collective clack as all doors hooked up to the backup power promptly get locked. The museum is now in lockdown mode, turning it into a fortress against any attacks from outside. You quickly slide down the rest of the rope and already pull the safety line that undoes the knot, falling to the marble ground and mitigating your impact with a fluid roll. And not a second too soon. With a loud rumble the windows in the roof get covered tightly by heavy shutters. Now you’re locked inside, but this is exactly what you wanted. As long as the lockdown is in full effect, the backup forces of security will also have a very hard time getting to the inner complex where the artifact is being displayed if you triggered a secondary alarm despite your precautions and best efforts. With the low light from outside now completely gone, you’re forced to remove the hood and mask to equip the night vision headset Flug gave you, illuminating the vast room in greyish shades. You sneak along behind the large center piece in the middle of the exhibit, the huge, skeletal shadow of a tyrannosaur looming above you, frozen in the middle of a pounce. Activating the hologram projector, you take a second to confirm your position before moving towards the closed door to your right separating you from your target. The point of entry couldn’t have been chosen any better, there’s literally only one door between you and the artifact. You’re going to be out of here in no time!

The heavy door is locked without any visible bars but the scans Flug’s drones did had revealed that they’re locked with an internal mechanism, invisible and inaccessible from outside. But the museum’s defenses have one very critical weak point: every room is connected to the air ventilation so that visitors trapped inside don’t suffocate during a lockdown. And while the ventilation ducts aren’t nearly wide enough to allow access for any human being, they are certainly big enough to send something else through to the other side. The one you’re planning to use is right beside the double door on ground level for your convenience. And since they won’t allow a human to get either in or out, their covers aren’t fitted with any special security measures. The tip of your knife is enough to unscrew the top of the grid and wedge it open. Then you sit back on your heels. 

    “Alright Flug, let’s see what your gadgets can do for real." You mumble into the darkness, ignoring the general sounds of chaos from outside. You just hope that Void remembers not to total the place while you’re still inside. From a pocket of your gear belt you procure a tiny robot drone and activate it with a button. The little device comes to life with a lot of whirring and beeping and you throw a nervous glance over your shoulder yet the hall behind you stays dark. Thank God the drone is pre-programmed so all you need to do is set it into the narrow air vent and silently close the hatch behind it. At once the robot scuttles off into the steel duct, quickly vanishing from sight. You wait with hiked up shoulders, straining your ears over the muffled noises. A particularly loud crash makes you flinch and duck slightly in apprehension, but nothing happens, safe for the soft clicking coming from inside the door, followed by an audible snap. So the drone actually managed to open it without triggering an alarm!

Still you push the heavy brass handle down with a grimace, always expecting the shrill cry of sirens. But the door swings open with only a low moan of ancient wood and you swiftly slip into the inner sanctum of the museum, quietly pulling the door shut behind you. In a low crouch you scan the expanse of the room, eyes darting from one suspicious shadow to the next and taking a moment every time to make sure it’s not moving. You’re still alone, the security guards must be either focusing on the main entrance where Void is unleashing hell in front of the museum, or are huddled up in their room to plan first. As long as none of them show up, you’re free to do as you please. The little robot drone bumps against your foot and you bend down to pick it up, patting it on the back before turning it off and placing it back in your pocket. Suddenly your earpiece gives of a crackle of static that makes you flinch so hard your back hits the door. But nothing else follows and you slump against the wood, pressing a hand to your chest to calm your racing heart. Probably just an interference caused by Void’s powers. Your haunted gaze comes to rest on a glass case in the middle of the room, barred off from the rest of the room by a thick velvet rope on poles. Inside is a simple, white block and poised on that a delicate armband, floating in the air. In the infrared light from the goggles, you can see that it is emitting a slow, pulsing glow. The artifact!

A smirk curls your lips and you step over the rope to saunter up to the display case, eyeing the artifact from up close as if you were a regular visitor. Your gaze falls on the plaque at the bottom of the case.

The Bracelet of Hermes

 It just looks like a fancy piece of jewelry, not like some magical instrument to create portals, safe for the glow maybe. Pretty boring, to be honest. Oh well, if Mr. Professional Pain in my Ass wants it so bad, let’s get it, you think and pull the gloves taut over your fingers. Some of the security measures might not be hooked up to any of the power supplies, running on a battery, and thus could still be active so you’ll have to check each of them first with the electromagnetic-field-scanner. Although the display case looks flawless you quickly notice the well hidden sensors and optical barrier points, tucked away from direct view in the corners and edges of the glass box. But before you can even lift your hand with the scanner, your earpiece explodes in a piercing chorus of shouts and gunshots and then Void’s scream: “Shit! ______, wherever you are, get to cover!”

    “What the hell, Void?!” you cry back in shock and pain alike, dropping the scanner and nearly pulling the earplug out. “What’s going-“

    “Just- fuck, just get behind something, I can’t hold him-“

But the rest of his words get swallowed by the booming sound of a giant fist that breaks down the entire south side of the room, the wall across from you collapsing in a rain of shattering marble, concrete and glass, a thick cloud of dust and rubble enveloping you and blinding you completely in the darkness, your infrared vision useless. Something hits your arm that you instinctively jerked before your face and you take a startled breath, instantly ducking behind the column of the display case. With a high crash the glass gets shattered by more debris, razor sharp shards raining down on you before you have enough time to pull the hood back over your face, the appearing mask knocking the goggles from your eyes. Your lungs sting from the dust you already inhaled and you can’t suppress the frantic coughs shaking you.

In all this chaos and destruction you raise a hand to feel your way up the marble podium, the heavy gloves Flug made for you now thankfully protecting your fingers from the edges of the broken glass case. More blows are raining down around you like a bomb shower – or a meteorite storm – and the ground shakes as more and more parts of the room come crashing down, the bright lights from outside suddenly glaring through the billowing clouds of pulverized bricks, blinding your maladapted eyes. Your fingers brush against a curved piece of metal and you hastily swipe it down and into your other hand, hissing at the pain in your forearm. You don’t think it’s broken, but definitely badly bruised from the piece of rubble. Suddenly the meteor shower ends abruptly, and your earpiece crackles, a cough coming over the aether. But you don’t dare to call out to Void over the subsiding noise. Instead you make yourself as small as you can behind the marble column, waiting with bated breath for what comes next. Rushing ahead right now doesn’t seem to be a good idea. Whoever caused this is probably just waiting for something to stick its head out of the ruined complex. You hastily pick up the headset and scanner you dropped, not wanting to possibly forget them here.

    “Void!” you whisper. “What the fuck happened? Void? Do you hear me?” Your ears strain against the noises from outside, the agitated shouts and howl of police sirens, and then suddenly a voice cuts through the din, full and booming, echoing through your earpiece, so Void must be somewhere between you and the speaker.

    “How do you like my new powers, Void? Pretty cool, huh? Finally I got something to take you down once and for all! Tonight, you answer for your crimes, villain!” The pompous speech is met with distant cheers and applause from the security forces outside and you hear the unknown person laugh loudly in triumph. A superhero?! Shit, Flug didn’t tell me what to do in this case! Where the fuck is Void?! Your mind is in turmoil; you can’t do shit against an actual hero on your own! You don’t have magic or black holes, you just have knives and a plasma-cutter that might incinerate you first before you can do any damage! But you already have the artifact, safe and sound in a hidden pocket. Should you try to get to the ship and call Flug to send Dementia as reinforcements? Invoke Blackhat himself? Without knowing Void’s condition it’s hard to choose an option. If he’s not too badly hurt you could split up and first secure the artifact before getting back, but if he’s unconscious, you’re on your own! There’s no way you can get away if you have to carry him, not without getting caught and the mission failing completely. A louder cough from the ruined wall makes you flinch and then something moves in the rubble, causing stones to fall apart with a clacking noise.

    “Y- you call that power?” Void! His voice sounds strained from pain but still sarcastic enough to calm the worst of your fears and open more options to you. “What the hell are you doing here? This- this isn’t even your terf you prick! I had expected Monolith to show up perhaps, but not a clown like you.”

The hero scoffs.

    “Takes one to know one! Too bad I showed up before you could steal the Bracelet of Hermes, huh? Did you honestly think I didn’t know you would come here?” he mocks the villain right back and you hear Void cursing under his breath.

    “Void.” You whisper again, calmer, getting an irritated noise back. Good, so he can still hear me. “I have the artifact. But I’m a sitting duck, the moron destroyed the entire room where the display case was, including the case and every trap hooked up to it! Security is probably already on their way to me. Can you get us out?”

    “You got it?” he’s still trying to keep his voice down but you hear the excited edge. “I can try… but- it’s looking bad.” His concern is audible as well, fanning your own nervousness.

    “Should we split up?” you suggest quickly. “If you can give me an opening, I could head to the ship and call for backup!”

    “Good idea, let me- shit!” The last word is a shouted curse and then you see the hero, swooping down from outside in an arch of light, his fist outstretched, wielding a spear. A black hole the size of a car opens right in front of the attacker but it collapses just as instantly, somehow destroyed by a swing from the spear and the hero emerges, unharmed! There’s lightning sparking from his weapon, eyes behind a mask glowing like wildfire and you take a panicked breath when a new cloud of dust explodes on the impact, the shockwave carrying it through the room. You hear Void’s agonized scream, cut off abruptly by another heavy blow from the heroes fist. Shit. He got him! That’s it, I have to get out of here before I end up like him! But how? The hero is blocking your only way out, you don’t think you can escape unnoticed through the rest of the museum that’s still under lockdown, not while being chased! You risk a look around the column and bite your lip to not scream in shock:

Void is lying on the cracked marble floor, the left side of his face covered in blood from a huge wound over his brow. There’s more blood seeping from beneath his shirt, the source a gaping slash from the spear, dyeing his purple vest black. He’s not dead yet, though, his chest moves in shallow intakes. You quickly slink back behind the column when a heavy, red boot is placed on Void’s chest, jerking the villain from his unconsciousness. Void screams in pain and tries feebly to pull the boot off of him but the hero leans on it with his entire weight, propping the end of the spear on the ground next to Void’s head to bend halfway down to him. He’s a mountain of muscles, of course, jet black hair slicked back into a perfect Elvis-flip, his suit a jarring combination of red and golden spandex. What was it with heroes and gold? And spandex! He chuckles and shakes his head.

    “I told you, Void. The good guys always win. Took a while, granted, but hey, look who’s the last one standing! I’ll send you a postcard when you’re locked up and your demonic powers finally stripped away.” Suddenly, with a last, desperate effort, Void draws up a leg and kicks the hero square in the nuts with enough force to lift the boot off his chest. The asshole doubles over, dropping his spear to clutch his groin, face turning as red as a beet, a huge vein throbbing on his temple. But then he turns and kicks the villain in his bleeding side, flinging him around and right back into unconsciousness. The wheezing hero spits on Void’s lifeless form. “You… should have stayed in the gutter where you belonged, with the other addicts and scum, the fucking bottom feeders! And since you just resisted arrest…” he lifts his spear off the floor, leveling it until the sharp blade is hovering right over Void’s head. “Got to hell!”

You don’t know what compels you to do it. Maybe it’s the fact that the hero just received a vicious kick to the balls and can’t even stand upright. Maybe it’s the way he said bottom feeders and scum. Or maybe it’s the fact that Void apparently came from the same place you did: from the gutter. Whatever it is, you suddenly dash from your cover, your tabi-shoes silent on the dusty marble. Just when the hero raises the spear to kill your partner, you jump on his back, grab a fistful of black locks and bury your Bowie knife up  to the hilt inside his unprotected neck; severing muscles, ligaments, windpipe and everything in the way with a vicious swipe of your arm that frees the blade from his throat again, spraying blood in an insane fountain across the room. The hero garbles unintelligibly in shock and clasps his open neck, the spear clattering uselessly to the floor, but his head simply flops back since there’s no more muscles left to pull it forward. You place a foot on his back and shove him away, jumping off of him. He stumbles one, two steps forward and then collapses on the ground, a huge, scarlet puddle quickly spreading from under his twitching body.

With wild eyes you wheel around to the opening in the building, your mask thankfully dimming the glare from the flood lights. Fortunately the impact left a big pile of rubble in the cleft, protecting you from the eyes of the security forces outside, but you can already hear them calling out for the hero, concerned. As fast as you can you stuff the bloodied knife back into its scabbard on your thigh and kneel down, turning Void over. With one hand you tear the right glove off your hand and drop it, holding the back of your hand over his face. A warm stream meets your skin and you exhale in relief.

    “Come on Mr. professional supervillain…” you curse and slap his cheeks. “Wake up! Wake up!” Suddenly his eyes flutter open, gaze unsteady yet he raises a hand to fend you off. He groans something you can’t understand but you’re already busy pulling him up, slinging his arm over your shoulder and hoisting his limp body off the ground with your own, panting from the pain that flares in your still too fresh shoulder-wound, your leg and the rest of your mangled body. On a notion, you grab the spear the hero dropped and use it as leverage to pull the two of you up. “Move your fucking feet, Void!” you hiss, glancing up to the hole in the wall. Now you can hear shouts and the trampling of feet on sliding rubble. “Shit, they’re coming!” Without waiting for Void to fully come to first, you drag him over to the door you came through, struggling trying to push it open with your shoulder and maneuver him and the huge spear through the narrow opening at the same time, but then you’re through and the heavy oak door falls shut with a slam. The darkness feels suffocating after the glaring flood lights, your hope of getting out dwindling again already. Fuck it. You just have to try!

    “Nyarlathotep, Nyarlathotep, Nyarlathotep!” you whisper intently, clenching your eyes shut. Void flinches next to you, his hand slightly tapping on your shoulder.

    “Wh- what are you doing?” he asks weakly. When nothing happens, and of course nothing happens, you spit out a desperate, hysteric laugh and shrug.

    “Shit, I don’t know? Trying to call Blackhat to get us the fuck out of here?!” your voice sounds shrill and panicked, doubling your anxiety even more. Void snorts a humorless guffaw himself.

    “Seriously? You’ll have a better chance to fly us out of here.” He comments. Your head snaps around to give him an angry glare, which is entirely ineffective in the dark.

    “Really Void? Cracking wiseass jokes at a time like this? Do I have to remind you that I saved your fucking life back there? Either you give me a constructive idea or I’ll drop your ass right here and get the artifact to Blackhat myself!”

Suddenly his grip around your shoulder tightens painfully and you whine, almost dropping him for real. But then he laughs out again, in sheer relief.

    “You still have it? Oh thank fuck- you have to use it!” You furrow your brow under the mask, doubtful.

    “I- what do you mean use it? I thought you had to enchant it first?” you say but take out the artifact either way. His wild hair tickles your neck as he shakes his head.

    “No, it works fine, for you at least. Here, put it on.” His fingers are cold when he pulls the armband from your grasp and slips it over your hand, the slow pulsing light illuminating him just enough to see the triumphing grin on his face. Blood is still running from the wound over his eyebrow. The artifact doesn’t feel like anything special is happening and you give him another doubting look. “Now, focus on the hat-ship, its cockpit. You have to really imagine us being there, okay?”

Loud voices ring from the other room, shocked shouts upon the discovery of the killed hero, orders are being shouted and you feel cold sweat on your forehead.

    “Why not Blackhat’s manor?” You ask, haunted. Void groans, his hand closing around yours.

    “No- wouldn’t work… can’t explain. It has to be the ship, ______! Please! Just… trust me on this, okay?” You hear the fear in his strained voice; pure terror. You even think that Void is shaking all over. But maybe that’s just you.

    “Okay.” You finally say. “Anything else I need to do?”

    “No. Just imagine us standing in the ship. Hurry!”

You close your eyes to focus. Before your inner eye you conjure up the image of the hat-ship’s bridge, the huge console, the pilot seat. You imagine the red window running around the entire wall, the metal floor, the row of seats and the kiddy seat for 5.0.5, and how cold it had been in there. “I think… I think you did it.” Void suddenly mumbles and faints, his limp weight pulling you to the ground with him. With a yelp you open your eyes and stare right at the backrest of the pilot seat inside the hat-ship. A quick look around confirms that you did indeed do it! This is real! Amazed, you look down on the glowing armband. Nothing’s changed, it still looks deceivingly boring.

Time to get the hell out of Dodge!

You toss the spear away, heave Void onto the seats in the back and push the button on the console you saw him press before the launch. The ship boots up with a growing drone and you remember to throw yourself into the pilot seat before the rocket-launch can smoosh you on the ground! But this time you laugh at the insane acceleration, laugh out in endless relief, because not only did you manage to escape with the artifact, no, you had killed a hero! And you don’t feel even an ounce bad about it! This was a total success! Well, if you counted Void out.

 

The hat-ship lifts off of the skyscraper and races away over the city and quickly out of view. The agent finally puts the binoculars from his strained eyes and jots down the exact time, velocity and direction. He hadn’t seen anyone board the ship. Better to report back and check up on his partners’ end. He pulls out his radio.

    “This is Happy Feet to Tango, come in?” He mumbles. His skin was itching like crazy under the thick black paint he had applied to every exposed square inch of his body that wasn’t covered by fabric. Hopefully it wasn’t an allergy. The radio crackles.

    “We read you Happy Feet. What is your status?” comes the low answer. Codename Happy Feet feels a surge of relief shooting through him, glad that his team was apparently alright. With an enemy like the one they were dancing with, survival was never really the likely outcome, no matter how well you were trained.

    “The Hat left. I repeat: the Hat left! Did you see who it was this time?” He replies and hopes that the answer is going to be either Papa Bear or Paperhat and not Punk. Or, Heaven forbid: Him! But no, He wouldn’t have used the hat-ship to get to places, that was for His henchmen. But you never knew.

    “Void. And apparently he wasn’t alone, but nobody saw the other one!” Tango’s voice carries her agitation even over the static connection. Happy Feet tenses, lying on his stomach. Void? So their intel had been correct, he was out to get the artifact. Tango continues: “They killed Centurio before he could capture Void. The poor bastard got his head nearly cut off by that other maniac! We found a single print on the scene that doesn’t match any in our database. But, they left something else behind! One of Paperhat’s inventions no doubt.” She sounds grim but satisfied nonetheless. In a wink he’s on his feet.

    “They left something behind on accident?! Tango-“ he exclaims but she laughs.

    “Relax, Happy Feet. It’s not a bomb and not bugged either. The way Waltz sees it, it’s just some fancy gadget they were testing on the crime scene. Maybe that’s how they got the Bracelet. Although…” a brief pause and he can already see her before his inner eye, looking around and analyzing the scene. “Looks more like the display case was collateral damage from the fight. They got away with the artifact… and from the looks of it they used it to get out of the locked museum. And they took the spear. Shit.”

Happy frowns again, mulling her words over in his head. They had never left something behind before other than chaos, destruction, deaths… but never a clue this big up to now! Then a thought hits him:

    “Do you think it’s a new villain under His wing?”

Tango exhales a long, whistling breath.

    “If it is, it’s definitely a possible lead. Let’s regroup and meet back at the dance studio.”

Happy Feet nods, stretching his aching, frozen limbs.

    “On my way. Over and out.”

Chapter Text

He gingerly pulls it over your hand, turns it around, and with a quick flick of his wrist the slim armband disappears. Then he places his empty glass onto the table next to the armchair.

 

28. Zipper




When the loading hatch lowers, you’re more than surprised, and startled, to see both Flug and Lord Blackhat standing outside in waiting. Void’s arm around your shoulder tenses and you can basically sense his equally sudden spike of fear even though he’s already about to pass out again. You just hope Blackhat’s displeasure about the more than bumpy execution of the heist wouldn’t all come raining down on you alone. After all you had secured the artifact successfully on your own and above all slain a hero, effectively saving this entire operation! Surely that fact alone had to be worth at least a few bonus points, right?

Yet when Blackhat’s single eye darts down from your face to your chest, to your SOUL, your instinct to writhe on the spot is close to unbearable, your heart skipping a painful beat at the wide, ill-boding grin that spreads over his features not a second later. So there’s your answer then. You clench your jaw in turn and already steel yourself for whatever might come now. Or later. However Flug, completely having missed this silent exchange, promptly takes a shocked breath when he notices the huge, freshly bleeding wound in Void’s side and comes rushing up the ramp.

    “Goodness, what happened?!” he exclaims, fussing over the injured supervillain until you just set him down on the metal walkway and take a few steps back so the doctor can do his thing without slapping you in the process. “This shouldn’t have happened, the plan was flawless!” Now he actually sounds like he’s blaming you. You scoff, throwing your head back to get your messy hair out of your eyes, and causing a handful of pale dust to waft to the floor.

    “Uh, yeah, up to the point where a fucking superhero just swooped in to crash the party, doc! Didn’t give us a plan for that now, did you?!” You snap at him, gesturing to Void. “He even knew Void was out to get the artifact! So, lemme ask you: what the fuck happened?!”

    “If- if you had watched all the orientation videos you would have known how to handle a surprise attack from a hero!” Flug yells back, his voice high-pitched from stress and being called out on his error. You bark out a cold laugh, remove the remaining glove from your hand and slap it to the ground, pointing an accusing finger at him.

    “Oh now it’s my fucking fault your plan did not have a one hundred percent chance of success like you kept bragging, you bloated, little egg-“

    “Silence!” Blackhat’s voice is like the sudden clap of thunder in the hangar, causing you to shield your ears with your hands and Flug to curl in on himself in fear of torture. Void does the only sane thing he can do in his state and straight up passes out again with a faint groan. You instantly wheel around to defend yourself against anything your boss might be feeling like to do to you – no way are you going to get punished because Flug decided to be a total dick! Sure enough, Blackhat’s face is distorted unnaturally in rage, his eye glowing red and his splayed fingers transformed into deadly claws. Flug clasps his rubber-gloved hands together, squirming.

    “I’m sorry, boss, I didn’t mean to yell!” he grovels but you snarl openly at Blackhat, returning his livid glare in anger.

    “Well, I did!” you protest, ignoring the warning growl coming from the eldritch horror in front of you. “That hero came prepared, not as a chance first responder! He even said something about new powers he had gotten to take Void down! The way I see it, this was a total setup!”

For a terrible second you think you’re going to get both your ankles broken this time, but then Blackhat pauses, the thought visibly processing in his mind. In a wink he’s back to his normal horrible self, snapping the fingers of one hand impatiently and pointing down to his shoes, his burning eye still trained on you. While everything inside you screams in outrage at the degrading gesture, you move to stomp off the ramp and position yourself next to the big boss, feeling all hairs on your body standing on end immediately. To Flug he says: “Doctor Flug, see to it that Void is accommodated for and his wounds taken care off, write him the receipt for medical expenses, and then run a complete security check of the network.”

His order is met with a shocked sound, and Flug scrambles to his feet, his eyes behind the dark googles agog with shock, two fresh half-moons of sweat darkening the white of his lab coat beneath his arms.

    “T- the en- entire network, boss?! That- that would take the whole-“

    “Yesterday, you spineless worm! And you better not take any breaks!” Blackhat roars and slams a heel onto the floor. Flames shoot out of the ground around him and you immediately jump back, but he already snatches your arm in a vice-like clutch, pulling you down into the darkness with him.

When you emerge it’s neither in his office nor in the hidden master bedroom, thankfully. Your eyes quickly dart around the gloomy room, recognizing the lounge with its green fire. But before you can do much else, Blackhat’s grip has shifted from your arm to your shoulder and with one powerful shove he’s tossed you into the cushion of the armchair, his frame blocking out the light from the fireplace. Your startled intake is abruptly cut off when you raise your eyes to his face, your hands instinctively clawing into the armrests. Blackhat’s eye is narrowed so tightly you can barely make out any of the stark white around the lance shaped pupil. Yet for once his mouth is not twisted in a teeth-baring grimace, but set into a harsh, thin line, making him look more thoughtful than really furious. Still, you don’t dare to move a muscle while in such a vulnerable and precarious position. Only your heart keeps racing away frantically. The antennae-like brows draw closer together, deepening his frown.

    “Your jacket.” Blackhat rumbles lowly. “Take it off.”

You freeze even more, a thousand thoughts shooting through your head why he would want you to do that yet none of them pleasant. Slowly, with eyes still wide, you shake your head. Your mouth falls open to stammer out an excuse why you would rather keep your jacket but your lips won’t move, and then he raises a gloved hand to the collar of your jacket, running one finger slowly and deliberately over your right shoulder, making the burned bite wound sting painfully until you wince in the seat, hissing. Blackhat lifts the finger to his face, smudging the layer of pulverized rubble between index and thumb. “You’re ruining the upholstery.” He finally says matter-of-factly.

    “Oh.” Is all you can utter. Like you had thrown yourself onto the cushion! Yet he doesn’t take a step back to give you space for that either. After a moment of indecision, you awkwardly ease yourself off the chair and stand up, merely an inch away from him now. Blackhat’s hot breath hits your face and you briefly wonder how since he does not have any nostrils, but terror grips you once more as he raises his hand to the zipper.

    “Allow me.”

Somehow he makes it sound less like a polite gesture and more like an irrefutable order bordering on a threat, and before you can even think of a way out of this he’s already pulled the zip slider down all the way and slips his hands under the lapels of your jacket. They glide over your shoulders and down your arms like snakes, peeling the supple leather away from your form. The way he does it, you’re forced to press up to his front so that he doesn’t dislocate both your shoulders, your nose brushing against the fabric of his blood red shirt. His scent is overpowering this up close, the bitter smell of cyanide piercing through everything else this time. But there’s something new in his breath, equally bitter, but also dry and a little pungent from high grade alcohol, laced with a hint of fennel and… anise? But Blackhat interrupts your observations by dropping your jacket to the floor, where it gets immediately swallowed in a portal to God-knows-where, inducing a mild panic-attack in you, and you take a shocked breath. He chuckles, finally taking a step back from you.

“Oh, don’t worry, my little thief, your precious trick-garment is safe and sound. Now, to celebrate your first successful job in the Black Hat Organization!” Suddenly there’s a tulip shaped glass in your hand and Blackhat catches your wrist before you can flinch hard and spill the drink that he’s already pouring. More than a little uneasy, recalling the last time he offered you something to drink, you stare at the strange emerald liquid that has the same smell you noticed on him, only a lot stronger. He fills the glass to a third and then adds water from another hefty crystal decanter. The previously clear liquor turns a milky lime green but doesn’t lose any of its poisonous appearance. You swallow nervously and shoot him a quick glance, but your boss looks completely calm. You decide to keep your guard up anyway. Once he’s done fixing your drink, Blackhat pours himself an entire glass full of the strong, green spirit. Giving it a cautious sniff, you hesitate.

    “Um… is this… can I really drink this?” You mumble, watching his returning grin with another flare of alarm. Blackhat trails one gloved finger over the rim of his glass, somehow eliciting a high, thrumming tone from it, his grin still miles from being even an inch reassuring.

    “But of course, my dear! You never had absinthe before? What a shame. From all liquors you humans invented, this is by far my favorite, commonly known as the green fairy… a Pernod Fils Tarragona… the French vintage from 1850, naturally. Do try to savor it? This is not a drink to be wasted.” His voice takes on a sharper edge around the insinuation of what you had done the night before and you twitch, guilt-ridden, clutching the stem. The clinking of his glass against the side of your own makes your eyes shoot back up to him. His gaze is as piercing as always, the monocle gleaming green from the flames that even give his teeth and the black silk of his top hat a poisonous glow. “Here’s to you; cheers.”

You repeat the toast barely audibly, lifting your own glass a little before taking the most cautious of sips. But, to your astonishment and relief, the concoction Blackhat mixed is not only drinkable in human terms, but downright… tasty! Your boss must have been watching your every reaction since he rasps a low, hoarse chuckle when your eyes widen in surprise and you take a second, deeper sip.

    “It’s- it’s really good!” you blurt out, shivering at the pleasant warmth spreading through your body that’s gotten a little cold without the jacket. Blackhat grins, his eye following the track of goosebumps running over your arms.

    “Isn’t it just? The main ingredient is Wormwood, so you should be careful not to drink too much right away. It can have quite powerful effects on your mind. Many artists and virtuosos of the 19th century used its unique properties to fuel their creativity, with, at times, extraordinary results that bordered on madness.” While he’s talking, Blackhat reaches out his free hand to seize yours that’s still dangling uselessly by your side, lifting it up between you. Suddenly you realize the artifact is still wrapped around your wrist. Over Void's injury and the escape you had forgotten all about it! He gingerly pulls it over your hand, turns it around in the light from the fire, and with a quick flick of his wrist the slim armband disappears from view. Then he knocks the entire rest of undiluted absinthe back and places his empty glass onto the table next to the armchair. His look has darkened considerably now and you immediately think about taking a cautionary step back yourself, but find you can’t move a limb. Shit, is he using his powers?! Yet both his hands miss the red glow you would have expected.

    “I- the artifact, I only used it-" you stutter, trying to gauge what to say that hopefully won’t set him off in yet another fit of rage. However, Blackhat just grins, stopping your blabbering with a raised finger.

   “I know.” He states, his gaze gaining yet a new level of intensity, a feverish glaze. “I was there.” Your mouth falls open in speechless indignation and now you shake the paralyzed stupor off, taking a step away from him.

    “You were there?! Then why didn’t you-!” but then your anger implodes just as quickly, resignation pulling your shoulders down into a defeated slump. After all, it’s still Blackhat you’re dealing with. “Ugh, nevermind…” A crooked smirk lifts the edge of your mouth. “So, since you already know what happened, how did I do? Anything that didn’t disappoint you?” You can’t help the cynic addition and take the second the question hangs in the air to empty your own glass, the heady buzz of the strong liquor a welcome dampener for your agitated mind. Out of the blue Blackhat’s gloved hand curls around yours that’s holding the glass, slowly but deliberately easing the frosted stem out of your fingers with the other and setting the glass aside as well. Your breath has abruptly caught in your throat, alarm shooting like liquid fire through your guts.

    “Let me put it this way…” he muses, his voice low and sibilant; an alien, husky treble in your ears. The hand still wrapped around yours lifts it to his face, and with a slight bow he kisses the back of your hand. The second his lips touch your skin you feel weak in the knees, staggering with a strangled gasp in your throat, your face coloring so hard you feel feverish. Your other hand grabs the backrest of the armchair so you won’t fall. All of this happens within the single heartbeat he has his lips barely brushing against your knuckles. Then you feel his thumb slowly stroking over the back of your hand, like he’s feeling the bones in it. “My, what a delicate bone structure you have under that calloused skin…” he murmurs, more to himself. “These are no hands of the working class or below it… are you quite sure you were born into the streets?”

You can’t answer, can’t even process the strange question, too stunned and too afraid to move a muscle with your legs still feeling like putty. But Blackhat doesn’t mind, he just smirks against your hand and gives it a second, longer kiss. At the same time you notice your repulsion crumbling away like dry sand, being replaced by…

    “Don’t.“ You whisper, tensed and already suspecting what might come next, panic seizing your mind despite your best efforts. Blackhat cocks one brow beneath the brim of his top hat, straightening his back again to look down on you, still holding your hand. The bastard looks perfectly innocent!

    “Why, I haven’t done anything uncouth now, my dear. Whatever could you mean?”

Your eyes are swimming with angry tears. Yet the anger is not only directed at your hellish employer, far from it. But you decide to use that anger to hopefully turn this boat around somehow, and press out: “You know exactly what the fuck I mean!”

His mouth twists in disapproval and regret, tutting: “What filth out of a lovely mouth such as yours… that gutter-language doesn’t become you at all. Let’s see if I can’t teach you some manners.” Blackhat’s grin is wicked and full of the filth he just chided you for as he bends deeply over you, slanting his open mouth over your still parted lips. A single tear spills from under your clenched eyes, the last sign of actual resistance before your brain simply shuts down any other rational thought, giving in to the carnal desire his vile kiss evokes in you, or it might end up insane. Sharp teeth nip on your bottom lip and you quickly open your mouth before he can actually bite down, allowing his forked tongue to slip inside and slide over yours. At the same time Blackhat closes the remaining distance between you by wrapping his arm around your waist and pulling you flush against his hard body, his other hand intertwining with yours that you had raised - maybe to slap him - and clasps it like you were dancing, deepening the kiss. You sigh and shudder despite yourself, your innards twisting in a way as if he had a third hand buried in your guts and was slowly curling it into a fist, dragging them down, all the way down. It’s a feeling both uncomfortable and yet so delicious you have to press your thighs together, squirming, or you fear it might split you open. After another second Blackhat parts from you, the hand on your back moving to your front and slowly slipping under the hem of your shirt.

    “Don’t.” You hiss and now he growls deeply in his chest, irritated.

    “Still?!” But he falls silent at your next words: “Don’t… stop.” And he claims your mouth again with a dark, pleased chuckle, the hand disappearing beneath your black t-shirt, and when you feel his gloved thumb flick over your nipple with the faintest of touches, you gasp in a breath and involuntarily press more into him. Yet despite your own body’s heinous betrayal you don’t think he’s using that spell on you again, the one he demonstrated in his office right after smashing your ankle, and that left you a thirsting, desperate mess that couldn’t wait to get laid, because you’re still keenly aware of the fact that you should be fighting this and that you are, beyond anything, extremely afraid of what he might do to you on a malevolent whim!

And still, you catch yourself returning the eldritch kiss more than readily, your own free hand curling around the nape of his neck to keep him from parting again. Suddenly, with a hungry moan in his throat, he shoves you forward and somehow your back slams into one of the walls when before you had been standing in the middle of the room. His fingers push up the sports bra you’re wearing and now there’s no fabric anymore that shields you from his ghastly skin as he cups your breast, teasing it with his thumb until you writhe and sigh beneath his touch, digging your nails into the skin of his neck. His lips dislodge from you for a fraction, still moving against yours, his voice low and tensed:

   “Give it to me.”

You know of course what he’s talking about and shake your head immediately. Blackhat’s hand over your breast squeezes and kneads until it borders on painful. It feels like he’s trying to dig a hole into your ribcage with his bare hand to get to your SOUL. You can feel the compelling glare from his single eye even through your clenched lids and now you press your lips firmly together in case he might try to coax you into another kiss only for his gruesome phantom-appendage to invade your innermost self again! His other hand abandons its grip around yours to join the one already caressing your breasts, the touch now tantalizing but precise enough to already start undoing you. You throw your head back and to the side, clutching his arms to steady yourself as if you weren’t already pinned to the wall by his body. In a flash his mouth is on your neck, sucking and biting the delicate skin, a stream of saliva running down your throat. “Then just a taste!” He rumbles, cajoling. “You killed with intention this time, you wanted to kill! I want to taste that death in you. I want to know what it did to you!”

    “That- that wasn’t the deal, Blackhat!” you manage to hiss out, twisting your head around to give him a warning glare. You’re both panting hard, breaths mixing in the heated air between you. The pupil of his single eye seems to have split into three now, giving his stare an almost unbearable intensity, yet you hold it, your heart leaping into your throat from newly rising apprehension that merges with the physical arousal still raging through your veins, making all your senses painfully sharpened. Then he grins furtively at you, his huge teeth glistening in the light from the fireplace next to him.

    “I could offer you another deal. You can have anything you want and all you would have to do is let me taste. your. soul!” He rasps, underlining each word with a firm stroke over your nipples that makes you squirm. Frantic, because a tiny voice inside your head tells you insistently that you could get something useful out of a deal this time, you shake your head again, your hands on his arms now actively trying to push him away.

    “I told you! No more deals! You will get my SOUL when it’s time, and not a second sooner!” You’re surprised by the steadiness of your voice, and apparently so is Blackhat, yet his brief look of astonishment is instantly replaced by a vicious snarl.

    “Then I should just kill you right here and now and take that bloody soul of yours for good!” he roars, yanking his hands out from under your shirt and pinning your shoulders to the wall with talon-armed claws, all suave air of seduction abandoned. You wince at the sharp sting of pain but keep your eyes locked with his, smirking sardonically in the face of doom itself.

    “That would also go against our deal. And my contract.” You remind him, resting your head back against the wall. A major part of your mind is reeling at how calm you are! You don’t actually think he would give a flying fuck about a deal he made with you while you were drunk, do you?! But, surprisingly enough, Blackhat pauses, his mouth still twisted into a teeth-baring maw but he’s actually hesitating! “That’s right.” you gloat, wrapping your hands around his wrists. “If you want it so badly why did you even agree to the terms of that deal? Plus, you know damn well I didn’t read a word of the contract I signed. It’s okay,” you add on a sudden notion, watching his eye widen, “we all make mistakes.”

With a terrible roar Blackhat explodes into a sickening chaos of whirling shadow tendrils, teeth and straight up surging darkness, while the room around you bends out of shape until the dimensions make no sense anymore, the sight almost enough to shatter your human mind. But the feeling of triumph, that the ending blow hasn’t come yet, keeps you from actually losing it. Horrible, gory organs, too many eyes and saw blades join your personal horror-show but you’re still not dead and when the terrifying tornado of unspeakable dread eventually subsides and the skewed view of the lounge stops breaking the laws of physics again, you cross your arms in front of your chest, hiding your shaking hands, and shoot Blackhat a look that you hope says unimpressed, and not I was this close to shitting my pants. In spite of what he said he didn’t kill you. This time he didn’t even harm a hair on your body! In fact, he looks loathe to come anywhere near you now, his hands balled into tight fists and his single eye bloodshot as he skewers you with a glare.

    “Get. Out!” Blackhat snarls, gnashing his teeth until you think they’re going to crack. You raise an eyebrow but swallow the dry comment shooting through your head, demanding to be let out and deliver his ego the finishing blow, since you fear that anything else from you now might be the catalyst he needs to kill you despite his obvious inability. So you just step round him and escape through the door on the other side of the room, your feet carrying you down the dark hall of the gallery and up the first two flights of stairs on your way to the safety of your room, before you’re forced to sink down on the upper landing, clutching the handrail. Your breath is so haunted it hurts your heaving ribs, your knees unable to support your weight any further. You glance down at your stolen watch. It’s already past 2 am, so 5.0.5 might still be prowling the hallways in his other form. Either that or Blackhat might just wake him up to tear you to shreds in his hurt pride, but you need to calm down first! And to do just that, and to keep itself from ultimately losing it, your mind begins to analyze what had just happened, tries to detangle the strange occurrences you just went through.

Why the fuck had Blackhat not ignored your protest and just tasted your SOUL this time? It hadn’t stopped him before, and he apparently had not been required to get your permission first. Was it because of what your SOUL did to him back in his room, the way it had attacked him? Was he actually afraid you might try to harm him if he touched your SOUL again without your consent? You curl up on the stairs, peering into the darkness through the poles of the banister, grounding yourself on the firm, warm wood. But the biggest question was: why had Blackhat not killed you even after you provoked him like that?! You doubt a dubious deal like the one he persuaded you into making would actually be enough to keep him from going against it and straight up murdering you! Though… maybe it was indeed the work-contract you had signed that actually protected you? The second biggest conundrum was his creepy obsession with your soul. He had been so ecstatic about it right before his outburst, almost desperate to taste it, downright feening. What was it about you killing the hero that had gotten him so riled up? Riled up enough to actually try and seduce you into allowing him a taste of your divine essence again. Was that the reason he had made this sex-pact with you in the first place? Your SOUL? It had to be, if he was actually interested in your body he wouldn’t have stopped after you denied him access to your SOUL, quite the opposite actually. His words echo through your mind, the tensed, urgent tone in his gravelly voice:

You killed with intention this time, you wanted to kill. I want to taste that death in you. I want to know what it did to you!

An ice cold shiver grabs hold of you and your eyes widen in terror. This time… the last time you killed someone, it had been the drifter you sliced open out of… yeah, what exactly had made you do that? Unfortunately you can’t recall the details anymore thanks to the two bottles of schnapps that had eviscerated most of your brain cells but something begins to dawn on you: Blackhat is waiting for something to happen to your SOUL that would make it even more desirable to him than it is right now which is why he didn’t kill you and took it for himself even though nothing more than a questionable deal was keeping him from it. But what would happen to you if your SOUL didn’t develop the way he wanted it to? If he got… bored with it, or worse, disappointed?

The cold fist around your heart squeezes, realization hitting you like the front of a truck. He would steal your essence under two circumstances, no, three rather: a) once your SOUL was the way he wanted it to be, once it tasted too good to hold back anymore most likely, b) once someone else killed you, or c) once your SOUL was the opposite of what he wanted. Then he would just kill you to get rid of you, your only usefulness, your only purpose to him forfeit. That was something you could not allow to happen, not under any circumstances! You were okay with him taking your SOUL in case you got killed by someone else, no problem. Then he would just be picking the scraps like a vulture would a carcass in the wild. Circle of life and all that shit. And if you kept doing what he wanted, developing your SOUL in the right way?

You pause suddenly, gnawing on your fingernails, your brow deeply furrowed. There is still the matter of his hesitation, of the reason why he hadn’t just tasted your SOUL as he damn well pleased. You would have been unable to stop him, his physical strength already overwhelming on its own, not to mention the unearthly, magical powers he possesses. You’re literally a doll to his whim, a happy puppet on strings if he wants you to be. So why? Why the hell had he not simply taken what he wanted? Was he so afraid of your SOUL possibly lashing out again and wounding him? It is the only reasonable explanation you can think of.

 You exhale a hoarse breath, running your hands over your face, fingers trembling. Void had accidentally revealed that you weren’t merely paying off a debt you owed to Lord Blackhat but that he was seeing you as his student; plus he had branded you with his mark as one of only three people in the entire world – worlds! The way Lady Naga had reacted, full of envy and hatred, this had to be an actual honor in the villain universe, something other people fought over to have! So he wanted to turn you into an actual villain, huh? Was that it? If you played along and slowly gained more infamy in his organization, did more jobs for villains and got more ruthless yourself, would that prolong your life or shorten it? And would he actually let you go off on your own eventually, and not keep you locked up in here as yet another henchman? Maybe… maybe Void could tell you more. He had been trained by Blackhat himself, right? He knew probably more about him than anyone else, possibly even more than Flug! Had he also sold his soul to Blackhat to become a member of his organization?

Your head is buzzing from all the thoughts running through it, droning like an agitated hive of hornets ready to erupt. You won’t get anywhere tonight thinking and worrying yourself crazy, you should try to get some rest. Tomorrow is most likely going to be hell already with how you had made a fool of Blackhat. You would definitely pay for that disaster, one way or the other. An anxious shiver shakes your shoulders and you pull yourself up on the railing, sneaking the last steps to your door. Once it closes behind you, a dark shadow falls on the stairway, reaching all the way up to your doorstep.

Chapter Text

He takes a breath as if to say something, pauses, and opens his eyes to look at you.

    “Vijay.” He just mumbles. You raise an eyebrow in confusion.

    “What-"

    “My name. It’s Vijay.”

 

29. Begging for Thread

 

 

Blackhat regards your sleeping face, screwed up in restless slumber, your lips moving silently. The cold sweat covering your body smells of fear, strong enough to almost taste it in the air as well. He doesn’t even have to enter your mind at this point to know what you’re dreaming of, what memories had surfaced from the part of your subconscious mind you keep locked away from yourself, to haunt you in your sleep this time. A Cheshire grin of cruel gratification splits his face. Serves you right for being so insolent and renitent! But he can’t deny your strong willpower, your resolve to oppose him yet again. You’re not stupid, you probably know by now what he’s out to do to you and he’s more than curious to see what you will do from here on out. Will you keep resisting him no matter the cost? Will you give up and surrender? He doubts that; you’re simply not the type to roll over and accept your fate. Never have been.

He raises a hand and waves it briskly to the side. The heavy comforter flies back, exposing your scarred body. You’re lying on your left side, the right hand hidden under the pillow, and he senses the knife in your grasp, ready to defend yourself at the slightest disturbance, betraying the vulnerable sight you behold. He’s still aching to have a taste of your soul, salivates without really noticing it. He can see it beneath the black shirt you wear, sure enough, sees the change that’s crept into your essence and that has smothered yet another tiny fraction of the light you’re still clinging to, even after everything that happened. His hand twitches on his back and he curls it into a tight fist to fight the hunger that’s rearing its ugly head again. Just one taste… it shrieks, and he listens. Just a single, little…

Suddenly your eyes open.

He stares at your face, frozen, unable to react. His mind is alarmingly empty, even when you already sit up, pulling the knife from underneath the pillow, angling it back with the blade outwards, your gaze darkening in outrage. Yet you don’t strike, simply eye him warily, your mouth twisting in repulsion.

    “Come to finish what you started?” you say quietly, your heaving chest the only thing betraying your inner fear. He doesn’t reply immediately. With every sense he possesses, with every eon of experience he scans you, tries furiously to understand how you managed, again, to become aware of his presence! This wasn’t supposed to be possible!

    “Interesting…” he mumbles involuntarily, noticing the confusion on your face, yet the wariness stays, always vigilant.

    “What?” you utter, scrutinizing him. Then you seem to notice that the blanket is gone and pull it back over your naked legs with a hiss. “Hey, what the hell?! Pervert!” He watches you tightly wrapping yourself up in the silken comforter, glowering at him once you’re done. When he still doesn’t do or say anything, you huff, annoyed, and flop back into the pillows, keeping the knife in front of you. “Do you actually want something or not? If not, I had a very exhausting night and could really use some shut-eye, thank you very mu-"

With a snap from his fingers the blanket disappears in a puff of smoke, laying you bare once more and now, finally, fear widens your eyes and shuts you up. Before you can even gasp, his shadow tendrils have wrapped around your limbs and neck, pulling you up to your knees and towards the edge of the bed until you’re kneeling in front of him on the mattress, the fear on your face turning to terror. Blackhat smirks.

    “How you can still be so flippant in such a vulnerable position is beyond my comprehension. That is not meant to be a compliment, by the way.” He rasps, grabbing your chin gently with his thumb and index, lifting your face a little. Your throat is working against the tight clutch of a tentacle, the pulse in your carotid drumming a frantic beat under its grasp. Blackhat licks his lips. He can’t really decide what to do to you, so many delectable options that would leave you utterly wrecked, both physically and mentally, maybe even spiritually if he really wanted to. But then a particular idea springs to mind, so foul he has to hide his grin. He knows how you will react to most forms of torture, and they wouldn’t have the desired effect anyway. After all, he’s out to get you to surrender your soul willingly to him, without running the risk of getting injured by it again. He still has no idea what he’s supposed to do if you got something like active control over it, and he doesn’t want to find out the bad way.

You say nothing and just return his gaze with silent, smoldering fury in your glinting eyes, waiting for what may come next. Another tendril removes itself from his shadow, snaking its way up your bare thigh and around the inside, making your breath hitch in your throat. He picks up the quickening of your heartbeat and allows himself to grin slowly as the appendage slips higher and underneath the hem of the shirt, the tip grazing your sex. With a quick, wolfish smirk he comments wordlessly on your refusal to wear the lingerie he supplied your dresser with. Now you gasp and flinch against the iron hold, tucking your head in. But he tuts in disapproval and raises your chin back up, his grip now a lot less gentle.

    “Look at me.” He orders, his voice adamant. Another tentacle joins the first one, quickly rubbing hard circles over your clit, making you twitch and shudder in return. Your pupils dilate despite the furious glare you pierce him with, lips parting to get more oxygen. He just watches, unmoved, slowly but surely letting his shadow-tendrils wind you up more and more, observing your approaching climax. You clench your teeth but the little sighs of pleasure escape you nonetheless and your face flushes in both shame and arousal down to your chest. His thumb moves from your chin to your lips, stroking them, wanting to see them pop and bleed for him. When your hips rock into the touch of his tentacles and he feels you tensing up, he abruptly pulls them away and out of your reach, grinning widely at the despairing look on your face.

    “Something wrong, love?” he inquires lowly, giving you a raised eyebrow. You bare your teeth in anger but then apparently try to rein your fury in, taking a deep breath and shaking your head against the tendril's grip.

    “Not at all.” You reply, still a little breathless. Oh please, if you thought he would let that deter him you were dead wrong. This was only the beginning! Blackhat smiles down upon you.

    “Good.” Then the tentacles return but this time they tease the center of your physical lust only every few strokes, moving away again and again and this time you jerk your hips around in frustration way sooner, sweat forming on your forehead. He keeps this up for a whole while, he can stretch this out all night to get you where he wants you to be. By now you’re writhing and squirming in his clutches, every muscle taut trying to get friction somehow! You might not remember, but your body does recall the pleasure he had let it experience before, that single night almost enough to condition it into yearning for his touch, even with the alcohol clouding your senses. He had that effect on mortals if he wished, and in some cases it was useful to get what he wanted from them. You were proving to be quite the special case, but he wasn’t one to turn down a good challenge.

    “Fuck!” Your hissed curse jerks him from his musing and pulls him back into the present moment. His gaze focuses on your face again, noticing that you closed your eyes somewhere in between. The hand on your jaw grabs tightly.

    “What did I tell you?” He snaps, dropping his voice into that demonic growl you seem to have a fancy for and, sure enough, you gasp out a real moan now, shivering. Reflexively your eyes shoot up to his, round and wide, your resolve gaining cracks. He brushes his thumb over your lips again and suddenly you take a snap at it, trapping it between your teeth. His raised brow is one of honest surprise this time around. But you don’t bite down to crush his thumb, and if you had he wouldn’t hesitate to bite off one of your hands in return to  teach you a lesson. Yet you keep a sharp pressure on his digit, never averting your glare. Slowly he pushes his thumb deeper into your mouth, feeling your tongue arch against it in response. When you suck, he rewards you with a long, undulating drag of the tentacles between your legs, almost enough to make your eyes flutter shut again. Blackhat feels his own desire stirring despite himself and is once more taken aback by this strange, opposing power you seem to possess without even being aware of it and that you shouldn’t even have in the first place.

He focuses on working you up again, letting the tendrils slip back and forth and around your clitoris in purposeful, firm strokes that make you suck harder, your saliva drenching the fabric of his glove, and a low growls vibrates in his chest and down to the tentacles. You keen highly around his thumb in your mouth, eyes begging him to please finish you as your orgasm builds once more, your loins tensing harder already. Blackhat doesn’t allow his face to betray his intentions and when you’re almost there, almost close enough to plunge over the edge, he vanishes entirely. Yet even from outside the door he can hear your frustrated scream of disbelief, the wicked grin finally able to break through the mask of his unmoved face.

Now he just had to wait.

 

You throw yourself back into the linens, pounding your fists on the mattress and cursing viciously into the darkness, your body almost screaming louder than you can.

    “God-fucking son of a bitch, top hat wearing motherfucker!” you wail, your breath a hissing stream of hot air. Without even thinking about it your hands shoot down your form, quickly touching yourself, burying the fingers of your other hand knuckle-deep inside your hot, disgracefully wet folds, three at a time, and you moan at the flash of pleasure reigniting like a kick-started engine. You’re not gentle, you’re desperate and brutal, rubbing and thrusting until you finally, mercifully come, mewling at the intensity of your orgasm and arching off the bed, filled with bliss. Yet, while you’re not even close to coming down, you feel like it’s not enough, not what it could have been. When you realize what you have just thought, another hoarse string of curses erupts from your chest and you grab the knife you dropped to throw it at one of his portraits on the wall, missing your target by a good foot and hearing the knife clutter harmlessly to the floor. Then you slump, exhausted, limbs feeling weak and useless, your hammering heartbeat visible in your chest. There’s a tinnitus in both your ears from the blood pressure, lightheadedness dampening your raging fury so much that you just decide to stay lying down. If Blackhat left you this desperate on purpose he probably had a bigger motive behind it other than just, well, screwing with you. Was he trying to get you to thirst after a good fuck with him?! Fat chance! If you were that needy you could always head out into the city and hook up with someone way lovelier at a bar!

    “Stupid asshat thinks he can play me like a damn fiddle.” You growl, crawling over to the pillow to lie down and finally get some rest. Then you realize that the blanket is still gone. You vent a long, tired sigh. “I hate you… so, so much, boss.” When you try to get out of the bed your knees immediately give way under you and you slump down on the carpet, holding on to the bed-post, groaning. You’re a mess. You give your poor legs a minute to recover before you slowly hoist yourself up and stagger over to the armoire. There had to be some spare blankets or sheets in there somewhere, right?

There are not.

 

-

 

The rising sunlight falls on a vast expanse of heavy velvet curtains, single fingers of red filtered light finding their way through the folds, raising dust particles with their warmth. Yet one window allows the full force of the sun to illuminate the gloomy room, the missing curtain draped over the king sized bed like the train of a dress, fanning out to the sides. You’re already awake, still not really rested, but finding gleeful satisfaction in your little art installation. Comfortably blanketed by the heavy crimson fabric, you feel like a queen. You may or may not even consider wearing this as a morning robe to parade down the stairs, dragging the four meter long curtain all the way after you. The thought is even hilarious enough to almost lift your sour mood from the night before. Almost.

With a sigh you fling back the curtain you had managed to yank down from the curtain-pole after discovering you had been left without a blanket or spare sheets, and walk into your bathroom. A loud snoring stops you dead in your tracks, your hand cramping around the brass handle. The source of the noise is easily discovered:

    “How… when did she even get in here?!” you whisper to yourself, stunned, and stare at the curled up mountain of matted green hair in the bathtub, smelling the used bath bomb only at the edge of your consciousness. Then dread claws at your innards, making you pale. Had she already been in here when Blackhat woke you up?! Had she heard?! You sink against the doorframe, your face doing the exact opposite of what it had been doing a second ago and you feel like a chameleon yourself at the rapid change of color in your skin. But then you take a moment to think, the calm, regular sound of her snoring not really fitting into your horror-scenario. Moreover, you are still breathing, too, right? If Dem had actually overheard any of what had taken place in the night, she would have killed you instantly without first taking a nice long nap in your tub. So, you owe your life, again, to Blackhat’s paralyzing bath additives.

A groan escapes you, a sound of utter done-ness, and you drag your feet over to the sink to wash your face and brush your teeth. You wonder how Void is doing and if you’re even going to get a chance to talk to him in private, preferably without Blackhat eavesdropping. It’s still a mystery to you why you hadn’t noticed his presence at all during the heist, and then wake up in the middle of the night because you had sensed him staring at you, which he obviously had not expected. Oh yes, you had seen that look on his face, that surprised widening of his eye and the slight twitch around his mouth. You had spent years, literally two decades, trying to see through Sans' deceiving, permanent skeleton-grin to hopefully predict his next outburst, so reading Blackhat’s facial expression was relatively easy in comparison. But that was already everything easy about dealing with him.

The movement behind you doesn’t even make you flinch at this point, you’ve calmed down enough to not react suspiciously around Dementia again, and since you had taken a shower before getting to bed, you’re fairly confident that none of her hubby’s smell is still clinging to your skin this time. The only thing you smell like has to be entirely you, since he hadn’t even touched you himself but let his shadow tentacles do all the dirty work. You shudder involuntarily at the memory. With a loud yawn and the splashing of water, Dementia rises from your bathtub, stretching languidly and smacking her lips. You envy her beyond anything right now. What you wouldn’t give for just one undisturbed night of sleep!

    “Mohin', Jem" you mouth around the toothbrush and wave at her in the mirror. She grins back and shakes her body like a dog, pelting your naked legs with ice cold water droplets. You jump at the freezing temperature and wheel around to her, protesting wordlessly. Dementia cackles, making a huge step with her long legs to get out of the tub, throwing her wet mass of hair back over her shoulder and whipping a foot wide spray of water across your face and the mirror behind you. Luckily you closed your eyes in time and feel the cold, black drops running down your face to drench the shirt you slept in. Spitting the mouth full of toothpaste into the sink, you turn back around to her and wipe your face with the other hand.

    “Thanks, but I already washed my face.” You grouse. Dem snickers and flicks a finger against your nose.

    “Ya missed a spot!” she chimes before twirling back around and stretching once more. You’re really not surprised to see she’s slept in her every day outfit. “Aaah that was amazing, I slept like a baby!”

    “Good for you.” You grumble, unable to keep the grumpiness out of your voice, and finish brushing your teeth. Suddenly Dementia is all up in your grill, poking your arm until you look at her. “What?!” you snap. She just rolls her eyes and keeps poking you.

    “Soooo?” she lilts and you tense immediately, sensing danger. Yet you manage to make a clueless face and shrug. Now she clucks her tongue against her fangs. “How did your first job go, nerd?! Did you complete the mission? How many heroes did you kill?!” Oh thank God, she is just being nosy about the heist. Despite your bad mood you grin.

    “I did indeed complete the mission and I killed my first hero. Plus I totally saved Void’s ass so, yeah. Was pretty awesome.” But Dementia gives you a disappointed moue.

    “Aww just one? Booooring!” You can’t help but snort, bumping her away with your hip.

    “Hey, fuck you, there was only one there! And he had superpowers! Man you should have seen it… I dunno what that was! Lots of lightning… tore right through one of Void’s black holes without a scratch! He had a spear and everything, it was crazy!” At least she seems a little more interested now, listening to your story with excitement in her mismatched eyes, so you start from  the beginning.

 

-

 

Half an hour later, you have managed to get at least one “Hell yeah!” out of Dementia (namely when you told her how exactly you had killed the hero) and satisfied her curiosity enough to leave you in peace and get dressed. This time you had chosen a high-waisted pair of dark grey slacks and an open, crimson button up shirt that you tied together across your stomach over a black top with the sleeves rolled up. You hate it, but you’re beginning to like the clothes in that dresser, maybe even the lacy panties and bralettes. That thought causes a sudden twist in your abdomen, along with a heated flush shooting through your cheeks and you stop in the middle of the stairway to calm the hell down! Yet your thoughts have already conjured up that particular moment of last night, unbidden; the nasty, predatory grin when Blackhat had been able to have some more access to your private parts without any barrier hindering him. Not that any of the wispy underwear would have made a big difference though. You force your quickened pulse down with a few calm breaths before you continue to trot down the stairs. You could take the elevator all the way to the lab but you felt like moving around a little, if only to figure out what the hell you were going to say to Void about Blackhat without Flug getting suspicious, but now you had an excuse why you were a little short of breath, too.

    “Hey, doc.” You greet Flug once you’ve found him in the laboratory and he looks up from behind the high stacked columns of paper on his desk, waving back at you with a tired sigh.

    “Oh, it’s just you, _______, I thought…” but then he shakes his head and stretches until his spindly back cracks dangerously. You look over the various crusted rings of coffee stains littering his desk, scrunching up your nose. The papers he’s working on contain a lot of bureaucratic verbiage, a lot more than you’re comfortable with and you quickly ask him where Void is to not keep him from work for too long. “He’s in the medical care room, the second door on the right down the hall.” Flug mumbles, already poring over his workload again, checking the screen of a computer now and then, his eyes behind the thick glasses squinted and strained. His left hand abandons its position on the keyboard to grab the mug standing next to him, reading “World’s Greatest Pilot", but before you can say anything the evil scientist has to learn that he’s all out of bean juice. With a defeated sigh he places the mug down again, going back to work. You quietly leave through the door, but instead of heading deeper into the underground lab you jog back up the stairs and take a right to the kitchen.

Five minutes later you place a steaming new cup of coffee in front of Flug and now he flinches in surprise, uttering a happy noise before his eyes narrow at you.

    “You’re way too nice, you know?” he comments and stares, suspicious, into the cup but already removes the straw from his old mug to take a sip, wincing at the temperature. You prop a hand on your hip, scowling.

    “I believe what you were trying to say is: thank you ______ for being so nice to me and for not being an asshole like Dementia or the boss and, let’s say, push over all these papers here!” Saying this, you poke one of the highest towers with a finger, causing the precariously balanced stack to sway. Flug shrieks and reaches for it with both hands.

    “Nonono- thankyou_______forbeingsonicetome!!!!” he hurries to sputter and you nimbly stop the mountain from over-balancing, grinning at him as he slouches over the desk in relief.

    “Why thank you Dr. Flug, I do what I can.” And with a snicker you saunter out the lab and down the hall to the medical care room. Void answers furtively when you knock, no doubt expecting Blackhat or Flug. He visibly relaxes when you slip through the sliding door and wave at him.

    “Hey _______...” he murmurs, his voice a little hoarse and sounding like he’s still fighting the pain. You snort back at him, tipping two fingers against your temple.

    “Howdy pardner.” You drawl in your best tex accent, a habit you picked up during your former gang life and that you kept only because it had annoyed Papyrus to hell and back. Void huffs a voiceless laughter, sitting up in his bed. A huge bandage is wrapped around his head and another one covers his entire bare torso up to the chest. A needle is stuck in the crook of his arm, connected to an IV stand. You walk up to the bed and make a face. “You doing okay?” you ask, more serious now, not really sure what to say or how to broach the real subject of your interest. You’re glad to see him up; his tanned, olive skin is still a little grey from pain and blood loss, but at least he has stopped fainting every five minutes. Void shrugs his shoulders, wincing a little, and his left hand twitches to his side.

    “I’ll live. Thanks to you. I… didn’t think I’d get out of there alive, not after that spear got me.” His dark eyes move from the blanket to your face and he blushes a little. “Thank you, _______. You saved my life.” His gaze is so intense that yours darts to the ground immediately and you scuff your feet on the floor.

    “Yeah, yeah, I know, I’m too nice…” you blurt out in a weak attempt to make a joke and he snorts in amusement.

    “You sure are, but I won’t complain. Did you give the artifact to Lord Blackhat?” he replies and now you can’t hide the color rising to your own face as you quickly nod.

   “Y- yeah, I did.” Then you fall silent, gnawing on your lip. Void leans back with a sigh, not noticing your tizzy.

    “Guess I have to congratulate you for killing your first hero. Or was that your first kill at all?” he asks. You shake your head.

    “Not the first kill, no. But the first one I didn’t feel like shit afterwards.” You add without thinking, causing Void to groan.

    “You really should watch out what you say around this place. Not exactly an attitude that's going to benefit your career here. Anyone else would have snitched on you by now, even if they owed you this big.” He manages a weak laugh before his head slumps against the headrest, his hands closing into tight fists.

    “Hey, Void, are you alright?!” you ask, a bit worried. The supervillain swallows but nods faintly. Then he takes a breath as if to say something, pauses, and opens his eyes a tiny slit to look at you.

    “Vijay.” He just mumbles. You raise an eyebrow in confusion.

    “What-"

    “My real name. It’s Vijay. Figured you deserved to know. You… you didn’t just save my life in that museum, you also killed one of my most relentless enemies. With only a knife.” A small smile tugs on his lips yet the look from his eyes is a little cloudy, glazed over. Now you frown.

    “What, you mean Elvis the Pelvis?” Void suddenly starts laughing so hard and loud you almost jump back. His white hair falls into his face and when he sits back up you see tears glinting in the corners of his eyes. He struggles for air and holds his side, groaning and laughing at the same time.

    “Oh shit…” he wheezes. “That- that's genius! Elvis the-" another fit of giggles interrupts him. “His name was actually Centurio! Damn, why didn’t I think of that before? Now I wish we could resurrect him to haul that at his ugly mug!” He gives you a wide grin that you return crookedly, still a bit taken aback by his outburst. But then his grin drops and he looks away, a hard expression suddenly clouding his face. “You… heard what he said, right? About me…” You raise your eyebrow again.

    “I thought you had passed out after that kick?” When he shakes his head you drop your own gaze and gnaw on your lip. “I did… it- it was part of why I rushed the asshole without thinking twice. But I get it, V, I really do.” When you look back into his face there’s a sad, lopsided smile on it that doesn’t quite reach his eyes.

    “Oh yeah? You don’t look like the type to shoot up and shit yourself in a dirty alley, totally stoned out of your mind.” He says lightly but the words themselves hit you like a physical slap. You widen your eyes in shock and embarrassment, feeling every bit like the idiot that you are. But before you can say anything, Void, or rather Vijay, waves you off. “Hey, don’t stress, I know what you were trying to say. Remember what I told you about my parents? That they died because the local hero decided he’d look much cooler trying to stop the train himself rather than first getting the people off the tracks?” he hadn’t really told you all those details before but the cold hatred in his voice keeps you from doing anything but nodding. He shrugs. “I was ten at the time and ended up on the streets after they were gone. Had no other family members. Hooked up with the wrong people and they hooked me up with the wrong drugs. I don’t know how I lasted years like this… I was more dead than alive when I heard rumors about a cult. But not just any cult. They said you could get everything your heart desired from the entity they worshipped. Riches, powers beyond your imagination…”

A cold shiver runs down your arms and neck and you can already tell just whose cult it must have been. Vijay's voice is distant while he talks, like he’s trying to protect his mind from the surfacing memories.

 

-

 

At first he had planned to sneak into the hidden room in an abandoned subway-tunnel to maybe boost some cash. Cults had cash right? His skin was itching, the withdrawal symptoms by now almost enough to drive him mad. Shit, he’d give everything for just half a gram of Black Hole and check out for a few hours, every-fucking-thing! And if the cult didn’t have any money stashed away he could always try to chat up one of the cultists outside and maybe get some cash the usual way. He hated the usual way, but he hated being without drugs even more.

But then, when he had managed to sneak inside behind the last hooded figure in tattered robes, he was too stunned, too enthralled, to think about sacking some cash to shoot up. He couldn’t tell what it was that captivated him so much. Was it the loaded atmosphere, the feeling of static energy hovering over the assembly? Was it the guttural, foreign sing-song of the cultists in a language that made his skin crawl from something else than jonesing*? Or… maybe it had really been the object of their fervor itself: the black top hat with the red hatband in their midst, surrounded by a circle of black candles, their tiny flames the only light source in the dank and stuffed room. The chanting grew louder and more insistent and he caught himself muttering along with them, bloodshot eyes glued to the hat, unable to look away. And suddenly, with a horrible shockwave moving the air around him, the distinct feeling of a presence filled the room, suffocating in its weight, its malicious energy, forcing him to kneel like the cultists around him. The candles guttered, their light dwindling and yet, somehow, they were casting a dark shadow onto the wall, in front of which the hat sat on the barren concrete floor. The shadow was pitch black, an angular shape that rose and rose up the concrete, and Vijay thought he could make out the silhouette of a man, dressed in a high collared coat or suit, wearing a top hat. He shot a look over his shoulder to the door, but it was closed shut and nobody stood in front of it. His hackles rose and he clawed at the hard ground but could only watch, in terror, as a wide grin appeared within the solid shadow. And when an eldritch voice spoke, demanding the sacrifice to be presented, he almost fainted.

Cowering on the dusty floor, he watched, his withdrawal symptoms forgotten, the drugs and the money forgotten. The ritual commenced and the sacrifice – a bald man crying with manic joy, thanking his brothers and sisters for choosing him, him, to be the sacrifice – was brought forth through the ranks of cultists and pushed to his knees before the hat. The followers quickly retreated from the man, their faces both fearful and enraptured, save for a smaller one who stayed standing behind the sacrifice, a blade flashing in his grasp. With one swift slash he opened the palm of his free hand and let the welling blood drip on the kneeling man’s head.

    “Oh Lord of all Evil, greatest Villain of all, take this humble sacrifice and grant us the power to slay those who wronged you and your name! Dark One, Chaos Embodied, Hatted Horror, I beseech you!” his devout, deep voice grew into a shout. “Take this sacrifice, and grant me your powers, so that I may crush the fools that want to keep us in the dark!”

Vijay was shaking with excitement and held his breath during the following silence like everyone else in the room. Only the sacrifice was breathing, loud and rapid. Then a low, entirely evil laughter echoed through the small chamber, its reverberations so palpable he felt like it was turning the remains of his poor brain into a liquid. A collective moan went through the files of cultists, a few of those in the front fainted with a strangled noise. The disembodied voice sounded pleased:

    “I accept your offering.”

The sacrifice sobbed out a relieved cry and in the next second the ring of candles flared up in a firestorm, engulfing the hat and the man in front of it, the heat strong enough to even curl the hairs on Vijay’s arms. Still he couldn’t move, could only stare at the man, laughing as the fire consumed him. At the same time the priest cried out, his body doubling over and becoming caught in an unearthly glow. His dirty, bare feet lifted off the floor by an unholy power. With a second shockwave the lights went out and utter darkness enveloped the room.

    “Light a candle, my children.” The priest spoke from the blackness, his voice hoarse but calm and steady. A few lighters snapped on, little candles lit up one by one until it was bright enough to see again. Vijay stood, craning his neck to see what was going on in the front. The top hat was still sitting in the half circle of candles, untouched by the flames that had whirled around it not even a minute ago. Yet, the same could not be said about the sacrifice: a small pile of ashes and bones was all the fire had left of him. The cultists murmured their farewells, but soon they turned to their priest, eyes wide in expectancy.

For a second Vijay thought his eyes were lying to him, that he was hallucinating, but the previously scrawny man had grown at least a foot in height and two around his shoulders, his entire body transformed to almost inhuman proportions. He raised his hands, now massive and meaty with veins bulging on their backs like worms, the cut in his palm healed. He turned around to his flock, throwing the hood back, revealing a terribly deformed face. The group of cultists recoiled in unison but the priest held up a hand to calm them. “Do not be afraid my children. Though our Lord and Master has taken my human form, he has bestowed me with this!” And his entire, huge frame went up in green flames that did not harm him but obeyed his every command, melting solid concrete in a matter of seconds. The cultists rejoiced and missed in their celebrations how Vijay slipped through the door and into the night, the black top hat clutched in his arms.


*Jonesing (slang): to suffer from severe withdrawal symptoms

Chapter Text

You try to imagine just how horrible someone must be that your boss would enjoy their company. Gleaming eyes promptly dart down to you, and their own grin widens.

    Don’t tell me that’s another one of those Outer Gods, you think in a flash of panic.

 

 

30. Terrible Things

 

 

It wasn’t working! Why wasn’t it working?!

Vijay covered his face in his hands and rocked back and forth in helpless desperation, a thin, hoarse wail the only sound tearing from his throat. The black top hat with the red band seemed to mock him, sitting lifelessly on the moldy cardboard box he had turned into a makeshift altar to summon the demon, or God, or whatever the entity was which the cultists had managed to call upon. He knew the incantation, the words were virtually branded into the sorry remains of his brain. But deep inside him he already knew why it wasn’t working. He had yet to present a sacrifice, a live one presumably. Vijay stared through his clawing fingers, his eyes haunted and red, but the strain came from something other than drugs for a change. Now the popped blood vessels were the result of looking, unmoving, at the hat for hours with nothing but dim candlelight to illuminate the narrow cellar room in an abandoned building he had claimed for himself. Stealing and foraging enough candles alone was proving to be a challenge, and above all he had to make sure the furious mob of cultists searching the gutters for their precious hat would not find him.

He bit his crusted lips open, gnawing on the flaky skin while his thoughts ran helter skelter like a swarm of trapped rats. He had to get a sacrifice. He just had to succeed. If there was any chance to change this hell that was his life, the Hatted Horror would be able to provide it. But only if he took this serious already!

 

The sacrifice was screaming his lungs out under the gag, but nothing more than a muffled moan escaped the dirty rags in his mouth. Vijay was still breathing heavily, from the struggle with the drifter and from his own nervous excitement. He took a look around the room, checked his preparations. The half circle of black candles, the black top hat in their midst. And the squirming, bound sacrifice that stared at him with horror in his watery eyes. Or rather, at the blade in his hand.

    “Get up.” Vijay ordered, his voice only a tensed hiss. The bound man shook his head and cried out when he got kicked in return. “Get on your knees!” he shouted at the sacrifice. Now the man obeyed, struggling to scramble to his knees until he grabbed him and pulled him up. The poor bastard had pissed himself and was shaking all over. But not for much longer now… Vijay dragged the blade over his palm, wincing at the pain but held it out over the drifter's head and clenched it into a fist despite the burn to let the blood pour. The red drops looked black in the dark room.

“Oh Lord of all Evil,” Vijay began, his voice growing steadier with every word, “greatest Villain of all, take this humble sacrifice and grant me the power to slay those who wronged you and your name! Dark One, Chaos Embodied, Hatted Horror, I beseech you! Take this sacrifice, and grant me your powers, so that I may crush the fools that want to keep us in the dark!” he screamed the last words and before the ringing in his own ears had subsided, a shockwave all but threw him to the ground. He cried out in disbelief and shock, his eyes glued to the shadow on the water-stained wall, the grin beneath the top hat’s brim that split the pitch black shape open in a wide crescent. The feeling of suffocation constricted around his throat and a tiny, forgotten part of his mind told him that this was wrong, that it was evil and wrong, but then the presence spoke, paralyzing Vijay where he knelt. The gagged man in front of him had sunken to the floor, unconscious.

    “Well, well, well…” the shadow rumbled, the voice sounding so unearthly and horrible that he felt tears pricking at the corners of his eyes. Yet he noticed the curiosity in its alien hiss, the silent intrigue. “Look what we have here. A rotten thief it would seem. You dare to remove my relic from the cult devoted to serve me?” the booming intensity of its anger was almost enough to make him lose his mind, but Vijay forced himself to nod, now shaking just as badly as the sacrifice had.

    “Speak, worm!” the voice bellowed, each word like the crack of thunder and he shrieked out:

    “I did! Yes, I took the hat from your cult m- my Lord and Master, but p- please, look, I- I didn’t mean any disrespect, I only want-"

A loud, roaring laughter rang through the small space. When the entity spoke again it sounded clearly amused:

   “Mwahahahar… ah, of course, you mortals always want for something. But tell me, human: why in Hell should I grant you any wishes? You have nothing in your possession that I might want in return!” In a matter of seconds the voice had switched to a rolling growl of irritation, making Vijay pale in mortal fear. He pointed weakly to the man on the ground.

   “B-b-but… the sacrifice I- I thought you-“ – “What?” the Hatted Horror snapped, interrupting his stammering. “You think I will just accept any bloody carcass thrown before my feet?! That you can offer me, Lord Blackhat, the foul trash you find in the gutter?! I would take your soul and be done with this but you don’t even have a soul that interests me!” And with a flash of green light Blackhat vanished, snuffing out the candles as his presence receded. In the darkness Vijay listened to his own, frantic sobs.

 

He tried again and again to summon the Lord of all Evil and get him to accept the sacrifice, took to kidnapping wealthier people leaving the clubs of the uptown city at night. He tried young women, older women, even a teenager at one time. But every time the entity laughed at his pitiful attempts and vanished again, leaving him mad with despair. Vijay didn’t notice how his black hair soon turned long and wild and an almost snow white, he only cared about figuring out what he could possibly offer the one called Blackhat in exchange for a better life. Yet nothing he presented was ever acceptable, but the fact alone that the Hatted Horror allowed to be summoned by him every single time kept his hope up. And the rejected sacrifices? He couldn’t let them go, not when they knew his face and most importantly where he was hiding. Luckily the room across from his had a heavy door that kept the worst of the stench locked away.

Months had passed and Vijay was now so weak he could barely stay conscious. He wasn’t even able anymore to abduct sacrifices, not even the drunkest hobos; the last person had beaten him up badly and managed to escape, taking the knife from him. With a broken hand and swollen face he had stumbled back to his hideout, sank down to the floor in front of the hat and cried until he didn’t even have tears left. Then he picked up a glass shard lying in a corner and cut over a new patch of skin on his forearm. The rest of his arms and hands was too scarred and infected from the previous rituals to risk cutting them again. He sliced open both arms for more blood – he barely had any left to give – and knelt before the circle of candles where the ground was covered in a thick crust of dried blood. His dry lips moved fervently, mumbling the lines of the incantation, his eyes shutting again and again. He didn’t even flinch anymore when Blackhat appeared, didn’t even realize that the Hatted Horror stood before him in the flesh this time and not as an incorporeal shadow. Vijay looked up and into the dark, ashen face, returning the glare out of a single, bone-white eye with a lance shaped pupil, his own eyes glazed over from the fever raging through his body. The horrible grin revealed sharp, enormous teeth that glowed green in the dim room.

    “I have to say, I am impressed by your determination, boy.” Blackhat rasped, clasping his hands on his back. “I was sure you would be dead by now or caught for your heinous murders, weak as your pathetic little rituals have left you. But maybe it’s not resolve but despair alone that keeps you going, hm?” His eye narrowed at the human and the monocle on the other side flashed briefly. Vijay raised his bleeding arms.

    “Please…” he whispered, his voice broken and paper thin. Blackhat’s mouth curled in repulsion.

    “Bah! I told you a thousand times, you have nothing I would want, and now you don’t even have a sacrifice for me! I should just kill you but that would be mercy, and I don’t do mercy.” He chuckled and was already about to vanish, when Vijay’s hand shot forward, grabbing the tail of his black coat. The temperature in the stuffy room suddenly dropped by at least 20 degree and a low growl rumbled through the Lord’s bared teeth, already gaining volume.

    “If I have nothing to give you… then I will do whatever you want me to. Whatever…” he took a shuddering breath, swallowing, “whatever it takes to make you accept my sacrifice and grant me...” The rest of his vow petered out in a hoarse whisper. And Blackhat stayed the hand he had lifted to annihilate this impertinent gutter-rat. His grin returned with full force.

    “Whatever it takes?” he repeated and eyed the young, emaciated man kneeling before him, the dirty hand that was still curled in the fabric of his coat. Vijay nodded slowly, feebly.

    “Yes, sir.” He breathed back, feverish eyes losing their focus for a second. Of course Blackhat knew nearly everything there was to know about his new little acolyte by now. He knew of the hatred he harbored in his depraved soul, the desire for revenge, smothered only by his own inability and powerlessness, and the years of drug abuse. Especially that one called…

    “And in return? Let’s say I would want you to never summon me again, what would you like in exchange?” he probed and watched a look of confusion creasing Vijay’s brow.

    “I… I want your powers… like- like the ones you gave that priest?” he uttered, now a little clearer. His dark eyes flashed all of a sudden. “I… I want to make him pay!” Good.

    “Well then…” With that Blackhat raised both his hands and twisted his fingers into sharp talons. The guttering flames of the candles roared to new life as he called upon the dark forces, the deepest secrets of the universe themselves and manipulated them to his whim, catching a star, crushing it, channeling the resulting power of its death into the addict's essence and merging them together, defying the laws of physics. Vijay gave a shout of start that soon grew into an agonized cry of pain as the unearthly energy was forced into his body. For a second it looked like the vessel would tear from the sheer power. But it didn’t and Blackhat nodded at his work in satisfaction. The young man slumped to the ground, shaking in violent bursts.

    “There. I gave you what you asked for. Now stop whimpering and show me what you can do with these… powers!” And with a bellowing laughter he vanished, leaving Vijay trembling on the floor, purple threads of lightning flashing over his body.

 

-

 

    “So…” you ask faintly and clear your throat to get the scratching out of your voice. Vijay’s expression had never once betrayed any emotion while he was talking but your eyes are wide with shock by now and you feel terribly cold in the sterile room. At one point during his story you had sunken down on the edge of the narrow medical bed, unable to stand anymore. “What- what did you do then?”

A short chuckle erupts through the harsh line of his lips. Your eyes dart down to the bandages he always keeps wrapped around his forearms, shivering now that you know the reason behind them. Void raises one hand to run his fingers through the wild mane of white hair.

    “When I came to again I felt incredible. I felt… for once in my life I didn’t feel weak and helpless. Like I still had to take everything life was throwing at me. I just went into the city and unleashed hell, laid everything to waste with my new powers. I didn’t even try to control them, heh, as if I would have been able to… There was a black hole the size of an entire block in the sky, sucking everything and everyone into the void, except me. Of course that didn’t go unnoticed and before I knew it, there he was… the hero who had caused the death of my parents. Older, but unmistakably the vainglorious bastard from back then. He went on some bloated speech but I didn’t hear a word of it… I’m surprised I even remember any of this so clearly, I was completely out of it. Couldn’t tell if I was feeling the power or the raging pain in my body anymore.”

Vijay falters for a second to catch his breath and clear his throat. You keep staring at him, spellbound, your heart hammering away in your chest.

    “Did you kill him?” You breathe out. Now he snorts and shoots you a grin. It’s the first time he looked at you in what feels like an hour.

    “Fuck yeah I did! Didn’t even let him finish his stupid monologue! I summoned two black holes right next to him and they tore him apart, it was insane!” He notices you flinching and the grin drops instantly, an uncomfortable silence hanging over the room. But then you nudge his leg with your knee.

    “What happened then?” Vijay pales a little as the memory surfaces.

    “Blackhat came back once the chaos was over… I was just sitting there among the rubble, the entire city nothing but a destroyed wasteland. He looked around and I could see how much he liked what I had done with the place.” Another dry chuckle. “Then? He offered me a deal. He would train me himself to become a supervillain, gain access to his products, his academy, his network, all that jazz. And all of that for the price of my soul. I didn’t even let him finish explaining and signed immediately. He could have killed me, or rather leave me to rot. And yet he took me in and made me who I am today. I don’t… I don’t know if my parents would be proud of the things I did or the person I have become just to avenge them but… beats dying in a gutter don’t you think?”

You nod weakly. There’s nothing to argue against that. Even if Void the supervillain had probably killed thousands and thousands of innocent people, Vijay the gutter-rat, the orphan, had given more than anyone you knew to escape hell on earth, a hell he had not done anything to deserve in the first place, and paid the ultimate price for clawing his way out of it.

“So… that’s kinda the reason why I was such an ass to you when we first met, and before the heist, you know?” he interrupts your thoughts and it’s the sheepish tone in his voice that makes you frown in sudden confusion.

    “Huh?” you utter, shaking your head since you don’t know how that would explain him being a douche to you. You had thought it was just his personality, his damn pride as a villain, superior to you in every regard. Vijay’s grey face gets a bit more color back.

    “Oh come on! I just told you my tragic backstory- Look. When Lord Blackhat told me that he was… ugh I shouldn’t tell you but he’s gonna tear me a new one for that slip-up anyway! Just- when I heard that you basically just popped up out of nowhere and immediately got into the organization- got his mark for crying out loud, without having to.. “ he suddenly can’t seem to say it out loud, struggles with his own anger but you begin to realize what he’s trying to tell you. “Just like that, without even doing anything, I…” he lifts his head and the dark eyes pierce yours with a brief flash of intense emotion. “God I hated your guts when I first saw you. What made you so special that he took you in immediately? You have no magical abilities, no super powers, shit you’re not even really evil or a sick genius like Flug! But…” his voice loses the bitter tone and even his eyes turn more mellow. “You did save my life by killing Centurio and you got me out despite all that. And you helped me get the artifact. So, I’m glad you’re working for Blackhat.”

You just sit there, frozen. It all makes sense now, even why Lady Naga straight up tried to murder you, and that had not been part of any scheme by Blackhat. All those villains, they probably had fought tooth and nails to even get into the organization as paying members. And you? Was it really just your SOUL Blackhat wanted? Was it really that special that you didn’t have to prove you would go to the length Void had to earn your stay? Were you just here to end up as a fancy dessert for this soul-snatching horror in a hat?!

    “I, uh…” you mumble, thoughts all over the place. “He’s been going on and on about me making a fine villain one day, yeah… but…” you bite your lips, not sure what you should tell him or how much, or if you should even say anything at all. Vijay gives you an inquisitive look, then his eyes widen ever so slightly.

    “Those wounds you had… he took off the kid’s gloves, didn’t he?” He realizes in a hushed tone, a very, very commiserative and knowing tone that immediately makes you bristle.

    “It’s nothing! I was already used to getting beat up by my old boss, even before I came here!” you glare at him but his gaze doesn’t change or falter. If anything it deepens in sympathy.

    “And yet it’s more than that, isn’t it?” And just like that you cave.

    “He wants my soul…” you whisper, the fear you’ve been maintaining so well until now suddenly rushing you in an overwhelming flood. “He’s… he’s trying to change it somehow, change me, to make it… I don’t know, tastier for him?! I don’t know what to do, I can’t even-" With a hushing sound he reaches out and pulls you into a tight hug, shutting you up before you can really lose it. If the situation was any different you would have shoved him away immediately but now you’re just grateful you can hide your face for a second. He smells like disinfectant but underneath, he smells warm and alive. Human.

    “Shh, I know. I can’t imagine what you must be going through but, like you said, I get it. But you can’t give up, ______, you can’t! If you do…” He doesn’t have to spell it out, you know just as well what might likely happen if you grew too weak to fight. “Just remember that you’re not one of the good guys, not with how long you managed to stay alive in here. If you were, he would have killed you the second you arrived. You are a villain. And as long as you don’t fight against that part you’re going to be fine.”

You choke out a dry laugh and finally worm out of his arms, giving him a doubtful look.

    “Am I though? Am I going to be fine, Vijay?”

He doesn’t answer that.

 

-

 

Void’s recovery ends shortly after that heart-to-heart, when the both of you suddenly contort in agony as the branding Blackhat had bestowed upon you flares up in searing pain, calling you to his office.

    “Does it ever get any easier?” you ask him on the way up and rub your stinging back, the elevator rumbling quietly around you. Void snorts. The mark on his left upper arm is glowing like a nest of waking embers, giving you a very good idea what must be going on beneath your shirt and top right now.

    “I always thought it was getting worse, actually.”

Before you can comment on that the elevator stops on the second floor of the mansion and the opening door reveals the long hallway to your boss’ office door. Suppressing a shudder of fear and unease, you walk up to it, a little behind Void in case Blackhat was planning to throw another knife at you. You didn’t feel like playing catch today. Just when you’re ten feet away from it, the giant door swings open, the voices that emerge causing you to stop dead in your tracks and wait, tensed. Vijay pulls you out of the way and against the hallway wall the second a tall, slender figure all dressed in red steps out of the office, followed by Lord Blackhat who’s wearing his signature grin, ushering the other… person out.

    “A pleasure as always doing business with you old chap.” He rasps politely, sounding genuinely pleased for once. Your eyes dart to the gangly being, astonished to think there might actually be someone Blackhat enjoys the company of, and immediately on edge trying to imagine just how horrible someone like that must be! He’s taller than your boss, very skinny, dressed from head to toe in a blood red pinstripe coat, tail frayed, with wide shoulder pads and the collar closed all the way to his pointed chin. To compliment the suit he’s wearing burgundy slacks and pointed shoes with slight heels of the same color. A red bowtie sits at the base of his long neck between black lapels that frame a bright red dress shirt with a black cross underneath the coat. In one gloved hand he’s holding something like an antique microphone on a cane. You look up to his pale gray face and can’t keep a gasp. Gleaming, entirely red eyes promptly dart down to you, the right one adorned by a burgundy monocle, and his own terrible grin widens, revealing sharp, yellow teeth that look just as dangerous as Blackhat’s.

    “Why, the pleasure is all mine!” he exclaims, to you, not to your boss. His voice sounds strangely filtered and scratchy as if coming from an old, old radio speaker and you feel your hackles rising instantly at the otherworldly phenomenon. Or maybe it’s because that man had the balls to openly ignore Blackhat. Don’t tell me that’s another one of those Outer Gods he mentioned! You think in a flash of panic. Blackhat’s voice has the temperature of glacial ice when he speaks again:

    “Alastor, allow me to introduce the newest member of the Black Hat Organization: ______; a thief by trade.” Alastor doesn’t seem discouraged at all by the more than curt introduction, bowing down to you slightly, his grin ecstatic. Thick tufts of bright red hair with dark ends stick up to two sides above his bob-cut, the unusual shape somehow reminding you of deer ears, while an actual pair of small, black antlers peeks out of the wild mane.

    “Alastor, the Radio Demon from Hell, at your service. I am de-lighted to make your acquaintance, Miss ______!” he announces in an excited flurry of words – and it really sounds like he’s announcing you for an interview on a show. He extends his free hand and you take it feebly, too nervous to find your usual repartee when you catch the quick, yet distinct glimpse he throws at your chest, at your SOUL. You notice the long, red claws protruding from his dark glove out of the corner of your eye as his hand curls tightly around your fingers to give your hand an energetic shake.

    “L- likewise, uh… Mr. Radio Demon, sir.” You wheeze out and flinch when he springs back up with a raucous laughter.

    “Ahahaha, oh, goodness me! Please darling, there is absolutely no need for such stiff formalities, you may call me just Alastor. I insist!” He adds with a quick wink, the grin widening impossibly, and the static disappears on the last two words, somehow being more jarring than when he was talking with it. You don’t know how, but you manage a little smile despite your unease and Alastor beams. “Ahh, there it is! I knew you had a charming smile hidden away!” Then he smoothly turns to Blackhat, bowing deeply. “I must bid you adieu now, old friend. I hope the souls I gathered are to your satisfaction? With the problem of overpopulation Hell currently faces, I’m sure you might find some choice essences among them. And…” he shoots you another glance, “you are going to keep this lovely diamond in the rough around for a while longer, won’t you? I can imagine that my esteemed business partner will have need of someone in her profession soon enough.”

Blackhat’s single eye darts over to you for a second, his own grin returning with full force.

    “Now, now, Alastor you sly dog, you know I can’t go into any details about company confidentiality.” He chides ominously and the two share a horrible laugh, both grinning so hard and wide you get the feeling there’s some sort of contest going on among them. Then, with another shake of Blackhat’s hand, portraying quite plainly that they’re meeting on equal terms, the Radio Demon vanishes in a cloud of red smoke. The hat demon however skewers Vijay and you with a glare, pointing into his office. Without a word you comply and feel a little better when you realize that even the supervillain seems just as rattled as you are from this casual encounter between two heavyweight entities of pure evil. You have a ton of questions after meeting Alastor, but deem it wiser to shut up until addressed. Blackhat walks around his desk and plants himself in the high backed chair, giving each of you a long piercing stare. He looks angry, but since that was pretty much his default mode, you’re not really sure what to expect. Suddenly the door flies open and Flug hurries in, panting like he ran all the way from his lab to the office. Which he probably did. He places a stack of Manila files on the desk, whispers something to Blackhat and waits with shaking limbs for an answer. The big boss bares his teeth in a snarl and slaps Flug with one quick backhand.

    “Keep. looking.” He growls. A snap of his fingers and the scientist is unceremoniously blipped out of the room. Then, without addressing any of the interruptions, he turns to Vijay: “Now, I’m sure you can’t wait to have that artifact back, Void.” Void just nods. “But before I give it to you,” Blackhat continues, “tell me, why is it that a single hero manages to put you, an ultimate villain trained by none other than myself, out of commission without a scratch on his person?!” Your instinct to recoil from his sudden outburst of rage is overwhelming yet you keep stock still and look at a point behind your boss who has risen from his chair. You hear Vijay swallowing thickly.

    “He- he had somehow gotten new powers,” Void whispers, “my black hole had no effect on him. I know I failed, Lord Blackhat. If- if it hadn’t been for ______'s assist, I would have been killed, or worse… captured.” At his confession Blackhat’s grin returns and he lifts a glowing hand.

    “And you know the punishment for putting my assets, my organization, in danger of being compromised?” Without waiting for a response he curls his hand into a fist. Void is lifted off the ground, legs kicking as the cruel force chokes him. Blackhat lifts him up higher and slams him to the floor. Now the villain screams out in pain only to have his limbs twisted by invisible hands until they crunch dangerously, before he’s lifted up again, his body engulfed in the red glow.

Everything inside you wants to interfere, to stop this, but you know the punishment would all just fall on you as well then and this time Blackhat probably wouldn’t be satisfied with merely crushing a foot or two. The screams grind away at your mental strength, your nails digging painfully into the palms of your hands. But then you remember something.

    “The spear!” you blurt out. The single, lance shaped pupil darts to you in wordless fury and you quickly continue before he can trap you with his powers: “There was something he did with his spear that defeated the black hole! I- I took the spear with me when we got out, it’s still in the hat-ship!” For a second Blackhat stares at you, processing your words. Then he drops Void to the ground where the villain curls up, groaning. Your horrible employer shoots you a sly grin.

    “Well, well. Looks like you’re not such a rookie at all, my dear. I’ll have to let Flug analyze this weapon then. Here, take your trinket, whelp.” Suddenly the artifact is in his other hand and he tosses it at Void who manages to come back on his feet. His bloodshot eyes are only trained on the silver bracelet that he cradles in his hands, a strained, triumphed smile tugging on his lips.

    “Thank you, Lord Blackhat.” He wheezes. Blackhat scrunches his face in distaste.

    “Of course, even though I enchanted it, you still can’t use it to get into the mansion at your own leisure, as my powers block its magic.” That would explain why Void had told you to use the artifact to get back to the ship and not straight to the mansion. “But apart from this single exception, using the artifact with your black holes will allow you to teleport everywhere you please. ______, see him out, will you?” he says to you and you nod quickly. Blackhat’s eye narrows with another mean grin as he holds your gaze for another moment. “And no little strolls outside for now, not while the law is still looking for you.”

Your mouth falls open in protest, but Vijay kicks you swiftly with the tip of his boot outside of Blackhat’s line of sight and you shut right up. Still, having to spend another day and night in here with nothing to do, it already drives you up the walls!

    “Sure thing, boss.” You growl and spin on your heel to leave the office, Void stumbling along after you. When the door falls shut behind you, it’s only because of your quick reflexes and heightened senses that you manage to catch him before he falls face first to the floor. “Shit!” you curse out and wrap his arm over your shoulder to right him up, causing him to hiss at the pain. “Sorry, can you stand?”

Vijay just whimpers and claws his hand into your shirt to hold on. You huff a breath and start dragging him to the elevator. “Hold on, I’ll get you back to the doc.”

    “You know…” he suddenly croaks out. “’s not so bad…” You shoot him a skeptical glance that he doesn’t see and scoff.

    “What? Getting beaten into a pulp? I think so, too!” He shakes his head.

    “Living… without a soul. Makes a lot of things easier, the killing for example.”

You almost drop him out of shock, mouth standing open in disbelief.

    “Wait… are you trying to tell me that you already don’t have a soul anymore?!”

Chapter Text

Suddenly a shadow tendril creeps over the table. He rasps something but your focus is on the black, curling appendage, your heart suddenly thundering in your throat.

 

 

31. Sick Thoughts

 

 

    “So, let me get this straight – again.” You lay your palms against each other and press the tips of your fingers to your lips. Closing your eyes with a frown you say: “You don’t have a soul anymore… and yet you are somehow still alive?!” Void just nods, exhausted. Flug had already treated the reopened wound in his side and given him something against the pain but the villain was still not really in any shape to leave yet. “But- how!?” Now he shrugs with a tired snort.

    “Shit, I don’t know, ask Blackhat how it works.” Yeah. Like you were actually gonna do that after this lovely debriefing you all just had. But this new revelation is… you don’t even know what you're feeling. Well, the fact that you apparently won’t straight up die from Blackhat snatching your SOUL is reassuring, of course. Apart from being the complete opposite of what you had thought up to now. But… you can’t imagine how it would work, that you’d still be the same person with your soul gone! After all, you are from another world, right? Another dimension! A dimension where human SOULs could only be obtained by killing said human, while monster SOULs couldn’t even be absorbed, they vanished right after a monster was killed, and the monster’s body had turned into dust.

“My soul was the payment for getting trained by him.” Vijay explains. You jerk from your thoughts.

    “I thought you paid with your soul for the powers he gave you?”

    “No, he gave me those to see what I could do with them, for some entertainment. But there’s always a catch when Blackhat makes a deal with you or even gives you something for free, with seemingly no strings attached. Especially then.” Thinking back to the complementary bath bombs you had liked at first, only to find out he was using them to put you to sleep so he could mess with your mind, you shake yourself a little. And now you’re not so sure anymore that the mask he gave you is simply just a magical cover for your face. You remind yourself to be very careful with it or just leave it in your room the next time you head out and use something else to cover your face.

    “So… what was the catch with your powers then?” you ask carefully. Void leans to the side on the stretcher he’s sitting on, checking if Flug is still somewhere in the room, before he summons a microscopic black hole in his palm that promptly pulls on you. His arm begins to glow with that purple light again, but when you look closer, you notice that the edges where the shine is going over into his skin look frayed, like his arm is being-

    “Whoa hey, watch out!” He quickly lets the hole disappear but not quick enough: a strand of your hair has fallen over your shoulder and gets cut off at the last inch, disappearing in the event horizon. Realizing how close you have gotten to him, you immediately jerk back. “Sorry, even a small one is pretty strong.” He explains. “The catch with my powers is that every time I use them, it feels like I’m being torn apart, my body disintegrating and ripping open at the seams. That glow you see is the energy of the quasar Blackhat put inside my body, trying to break free.”

    “Oh damn…” you mumble, reminding yourself to look up what a quasar is, but it sounds pretty painful. Vijay hums in agreement.

    “Yup. I’m pretty much used to it by now… but even my stress levels can trigger it, so I’m also pretty much used to a whole lot more potent painkillers in my system than what little Flug gave me…” A faint groan. “Fucking cheapskate.”

You watch him writhe in pain, gnawing on your lip again.

    “You want some more?” It’s only a low whisper but his eyes fly open immediately again and he gives you a suspicious look.

    “Meaning?” he asks back, just as low. You raise both brows and nod your head slightly to the adjacent room, where Flug kept his meds under lock and key.

    “I mean,” you say slowly, “that you look like you’re in pain and could probably use some more morphine, and I could use a favor.”

A grim smirk splits his lips and he furrows his brows at you, the dark eyes flashing through the haze of agony.

    “Are you telling me - a suffering, mutilated, former junkie - that you’re gonna hook me up in exchange for a favor?” When you nod Void chuckles and leans back against the wall. “That is probably the most villainous thing I’ve seen you pull off. Alright, but I wanna hear that favor first.”

    “No.” you reply sternly, watching an honest expression of surprise spreading over his features. There’s even a bit of dismay, you think. But then he huffs out a breath, fists clenching as he crosses his arms over his bandaged ribs.

    “Shit, you’re actually serious about this…” he hisses and you nod, an arid smile curling your lips.

    “I am… and you already owe me big time, remember? That whole… saving your life thing and stopping Blackhat from beating more than the ever-loving shit out of you back in his office, by taking that hero’s spear along as a bonus goodie?” Now Void laughs out, holding his wounded side.

    “Alright, alright, shit, I take it all back: you are evil and probably a sicker genius than Flug.” He presses out, nodding at you. You put a hand on your hip and snort.

    “That’s very flattering of you to say, but flirting won’t get you any meds, V.”

    “Fine. I’m in. But if Flug catches you or finds out later, I’m gonna deny everything and blame it on you!”

    “Deal.” You flash him a wide grin.

 

Not even five minutes later you toss a package of morphine pills into his lap, shrugging when he stares at you with his mouth open.

    “What? I said I was gonna get you some.” You snort. “Oh, I’m sorry, did you want a different flavor?” Void manages to get his face back under control, quickly hiding the pills in the pocket of his pants before he shakes his head, clearly dumbfounded.

    “Let’s just say I didn’t expect you to actually- you know what, nevermind. Also I take back what I said about you not having super powers. Alright, shoot. What’s this favor? Err… favors.”

You take a deep breath.

     “Just one for now. I want you to find someone for me. Someone in another… dimension, I guess.” Vijay frowns slowly, playing with the armband dangling from his bony wrist. “It’s-, okay, I don’t know how much Blackhat told you about me, but I’m not from this world. Someone brought me here, someone who was able to cross over between those dimensions.”

    “It… will be difficult to find someone who can do that without knowing where to look first.” He ponders but you shake your head.

    “No, no, not him! He’s already- Blackhat killed him a few days ago when he showed up here a second time.”

    “Whoa- hold on,” he interrupts you, suddenly wide awake, sitting up on the stretcher, “you mean he got inside the mansion?! Holy shit… Blackhat must have been mad with rage…”

    “Yeah, 'course he was, but pay attention: I want you to get to my dimension, to a place called South City and find my- my friend, Frisk. I- I just want to know if they’re still alive and what they’re doing.” You quickly explain what Frisk looks like, where Sans' base is located, as well as the location of your safe house, just in case Frisk had somehow ended up there. “Think you can do that for me?” you finally say, not able to keep the pleading tone out of your voice. You just have to know if they’re okay and what happened to them after you had disappeared, even if they did betray you. Void runs his fingers over the artifact, brows knitted in contemplation.

    “It depends on the artifact. If I can find your dimension, then yeah, I’ll find your friend. Anything I should tell them from you?” he asks and you shake your head viciously.

    “No, don’t even tell them I’m alive! I need that element of surprise if I want my revenge!” the last word is a heated hiss and the villain shoots you a surprised look.

    “On your friend? I could kill them for you, too, so we’d be even.”

    “No!! Jesus, Void, listen for one damn second! My old boss is the one who’s going to get offed and I’ll do it myself! Just… please find Frisk for me, okay? That’s all.” You slump a little, suddenly feeling stupid for asking something like that in the first place. But then you watch Vijay’s hand reaching out to you.

    “Deal. I’ll find them.”

    “Fuck.” You groan, clasping his hand in your own. “Thank you.” He chuckles.

    “I have to thank you. For… everything, I guess.” With that he pulls the box back out of his pocket and pops a few pills into his hand that’s slightly shaking. You watch the growing amount of morphine and swallow.

    “Uh… are you sure you know what you’re doing? Flug didn’t exactly leave the package slip in there… you won’t die from an overdose, right? V?” He grins at your concern and throws the handful of pills into his mouth, swallowing them with a sip from the water glass you brought him earlier.

    “I better not, otherwise BH would first resurrect me and then kill me again for being so stupid and then do the same to you. I’ve seen him do it before. Not a pretty sight.” You shudder.

    “Is there anything he can’t do?!”

Void shrugs his shoulders.

    “Die?”

 

-

 

The library is quiet, except for the sound of paper rustling when you turn another page. Yet you don’t really read any of the words in the yellowed book and flip the page back, annoyed, to start the last paragraph over, only for your mind to wander off again midway. Never in your life have you been this bored and at the same time this restless. But there was just nothing you could do around here!

Flug, Dementia and even 5.0.5 had gone on a mission together, Earl had been caught by Dementia again and was probably locked in her room, so you couldn’t even play poker with him. Blackhat had forbidden you to go outside, and this time there was no sneaking out without getting caught since he knew where you were at every point in time. You had tried to watch TV in the little living room but the windowless, dark room with the many screens had given you all kinds of creeps and so you had eventually decided to sneak into the library, throwing a nervous look to the office door before slipping into the vast room, suddenly aware that you were indeed alone in the manor with the boss. Void had left once the morphine really kicked in, numbing his pain; and most of his higher brain functions along with it. Luckily Flug hadn’t noticed his suddenly changed state, he had been too nervous about his own mission as to pay the stoned supervillain any mind.

For the umpteenth time you shoot a glance over your shoulder at a noise, but the library is still empty. Yet there’s no way you can shake the feeling of being watched, your nervous anticipation making your legs tingle. You know something is going to happen sooner or later, something you ain’t gonna like probably. Blackhat still hadn’t punished you for denying him access to your SOUL last night, for downright making an ass out of him… and the fact that he hadn’t used the opportunity in his office was only adding to your unease. But… would he just torture you until you gave in and let him taste your SOUL again just to make the pain stop? You don’t want that. You’re not even sure you would be able to endure getting more of your bones broken, no matter how used you were to getting beaten up. At least Sans had always made sure you were still intact enough to keep stealing for him, okay minus the times he had literally put you out of commission for a day or two. With Blackhat and his powers, he could very well break every single bone inside you and heal you back up in an instant to do it all over again, or even bring you back from the dead if Void had told the truth.

You vent another sigh and squirm on the chair, flinching from the feeling. Oh, yeah, that was also a thing now, apparently. Biting your lip, you wiggle around again, lids drooping a little at the friction. You could go upstairs and take care of it real quick so you could maybe finally focus on whatever the hell you were reading, but what are the odds that a certain hatted horror figure was already waiting for you, hm? If this was really an aftereffect of whatever Blackhat had done to you, you would stay the hell away from him; no way are you going to play into his hands, you’d rather take the fucking torture then!

But maybe you were really just bored enough out of your mind that you felt this horny. If you were able to leave the house, you could easily find some pleasant company to take you home, no problem. Being under house arrest however… your options are more than limited, considering what they would entail: Should you chat up Dementia and tell her Blackhat would never find out - or care for that matter - if you blew off a little steam together, even if she was saving herself for him? Then again Dementia might be too extreme in the sheets for your taste, if she would even let herself get talked into a quick hump. Flug? You shiver and make a face. Oh Jesus no that would make life all kinds of awkward, even more than it already was between you, with the whole you-both-banged-the-boss-thing! You snort, trying to imagine how that would even work and groan immediately with a hand over your eyes. Then you stop, a thought crossing your mind. Void.

He had obviously grown to trust you after the heist, enough to tell you his real name. And you weren’t put off by him in the least, quite the opposite. He wasn’t Frisk, of course, and you probably would never feel the same about another person like you had about them, the way you still somehow felt. Then again, you had lost Frisk along the way due to your own selfish desires and your obsession to get enough money to leave the gang with them, not to mention the wedge Sans had apparently driven between you with his lies. But, alas, Void was gone as well for now and you had no means to contact him in any way, so there went that hookup.

Leaves only the big boss himself. You gnaw on your lip, squirming a little where you sit again, thinking back to how good those shadow tendrils had actually felt. But then you clutch a fist and shake your head as if to physically lose the thought. No! If you came crawling, asking him to fuck you he would say no as a matter of principle just to drive you even more insane! You couldn’t stoop that low, no way! He would come back around soon enough to try some shit on you and if it happened, at least you weren’t the one who had caved first. You nod, pleased with that plan. It’s like Vijay said, you couldn’t give up, especially not over something as ridiculous as a bit of thirst! You were stronger than this for fucks' sake!

    “Don’t tell me you’re still continuing your… research on the occult?” Blackhat’s voice susurrates behind you and you jump off your seat, gasping in start. You glance down on the book, look back up to him and quickly slap it shut.

    “No?” you snap back, entirely unconvincing. In fact you had tried to read more about this professor, Lovecraft, who had written the almanac Blackhat took away from you, trying to find out if there were more books he had written about the unnamable horrors, or more precisely, about Nyarlathotep and Azathoth. But thanks to the anthill that was your brain you hadn’t actually managed to read a single paragraph to the end or keep any of the information for that matter.

Blackhat shoots you a skeptic glare and rests his eye on the book. Suddenly a black tendril creeps over the table, flipping the book over to reveal the cover. He rasps out the title, but you don’t hear it, your entire focus is on that black, curling appendage lingering on the book. Your heart speeds up unbidden, thundering in your throat. When he takes a swift step towards you, you realize he just asked you something that you didn’t catch at all. Quickly your eyes shoot up to his face that’s already twisted into an irritated frown due to your rude inattention.

    “Sorry? I- I didn’t- what did you say?” you’re hasty to chase it up, recoiling from him with another jump of your heart. Blackhat pauses in his beginning snarl, eyeing you, before a grin slowly splits his features.

    “Now, whatever has you in such a tizzy, dearest?” he rumbles in amused intrigue, the intense gaze he levels on your face mocking his puzzlement.

    “Uh, how about the fact you keep creeping about and scaring the crap out of me? I think anyone would be freaked out by that!” you reply, crossing your arms in defiance. Blackhat takes another smooth step towards you, placing one hand on the high desk you’re leaning against, invading your personal space. You hold your breath involuntarily but can’t move away.

    “Maybe so… but you are not exactly ‘freaked out' now, are you? Not entirely at least.” His shadow tendril is still wiggling on the table and you shoot it another quick glimpse. Of course he notices. “Penny for your thoughts, my dear?” he asks slyly, the tentacle twitching like a lure. You swallow thickly but still can’t move away from him. He chuckles lowly. “Oh please, don’t tell me you are still… frustrated about last night? Why, I thought you loathed that form of physical contact anyway.”

You feel your face flush in anger and embarrassment, returning his probing look with a furious glare.

    “That was a low move, even for you!” you hiss impulsively and stab a finger into his chest. “I thought you were posing as some old-fashioned, posh gentleman or whatever, but in reality you’re just a sick, sadistic bastard!” Blackhat’s grin grows impossibly wider, his eye narrowing but not in anger.

    “Oh, the things you say… I am in fact a gentleman, but you are no lady deserving of courtesies. If you choose to continue behaving yourself like the gutter-rat you once were, I shall treat you accordingly.” While he says that, his other hand shoots up lithely to grab your chin, lifting your face a little to expose your throat and the angry marks his fingers left on your skin the day before. “Even though your delicate features tell a different story… you would look rather enrapturing in a ball gown, and even more so once I tore it to shreds.” Another step, and you’re forced to arch your back away from him, your eyes wide in apprehension and anticipation alike, painfully aware of the tingling between your legs. Your hand reaches back to support your weight on the desk, the other one you had raised to poke his sternum suddenly resting limply on his chest in a weak attempt to push him away. Blackhat’s single pupil constricts as his eye widens at you in manic zest, traveling down your form with an appreciative hum in his throat.

“Fortunately you’re quite flexible… I could tie you up into an appetizing, artistic pose with colorful ropes and have you dangling over the dining table. Meanwhile I’d host a lavish dinner party and have the guests marvel at this exotic new form of entertainment. I could lace you up down to the waist with satin ribbons knotted around fish hooks that I'm going to thread through the skin of your back, dressed in this and nothing else. Mh… the possibilities are endless, truly, and I know all of them my precious little thief. Oh the fun I could have with you…”

You shudder despite yourself, feeling uncomfortably hot and feverish, your mouth dry, and you swallow again, fingers curling into the fabric of his shirt.

    “You- you wouldn’t…” you breathe out. Blackhat cocks a brow at you. “You’re not actually interested in me or my body, right? You just want my SOUL and that’s it. You’re doing all this just to taste it again without getting hurt, or get me to hand it to you, don’t even try to deny it!”

    “Oh ______, you wound me. Why would I bother with all this when I can simply put a spell on you any time to have a taste? You just have to stop denying your own desires. I can clearly sense your arousal, I can smell it. So why keep torturing yourself trying to fight it? We’re alone, nobody will disturb us. But if you're too scared...”

With a sudden rush of angry force you push off the table, grab his tie and spin around, shoving him up against the desk. On the edge of your overwhelmed consciousness you’re surprised Blackhat lets it happen without a fight and only grins down on you, looking ever like the cat who caught the canary.

    “You fucking bastard!” you curse through your teeth and pull him down by the tie to kiss him almost brutally. He chuckles under your lips and parts his teeth to let your tongue enter. When you pull away, panting heavily, he licks his lips and nods.

    “A bold move, for you, but I’m still not quite convinced that you are up to the task. You certainly can do better than that.” With another angry noise you press against him again, catching his lower lip between your teeth, your hands tearing on his dress shirt until the buttons pop off, clattering to the floor. You work your way down his front, opening the waistcoat as well to run your palms over his bare skin, goosebumps racing over your own arms at the strange contact. But before you can flinch away he wraps one arm around the small of your back, pulling your hips flush against his, and now you feel the evidence of his own arousal pushing against your pelvis, making you suck in a sharp breath. You glance down to the bulge in his black pants and hear him chuckling darkly.

“Well?” Blackhat rasps, both furtive and sardonic. “I’m not going anywhere this time, seeing as you got me pinned.” Raising your glare back to his face, you shove a hand between you and give his cock a firm rub through the barrier of fabric, eliciting a harsh groan from the eldritch god. His visible eye flashes at you in exhilaration and Blackhat bucks slightly into your hand, his grin wide. Not averting your gaze, you finger the button open, along with the zipper, and let your hand disappear in his pants, immediately meeting his hot, pulsing erection under your skin. You bite your lips, another flush coloring your face, and raise yourself up to kiss him again and avoid his intense stare. Blackhat hums into your mouth, forked tongue circling yours and he sucks on it when your hand begins to stroke him deftly, his arm around your back flexing in response to your sensuous touches.

“Come now…” he murmurs with a tad of impatience sharpening his tone. “Stop being so tame already, this is getting dull.”

    “Shut up!” you snap back, tightening your grip until he hisses in a breath. “Shut the fuck up!” Yet still you drop into a crouch before his feet, yanking his pants down in the same motion, his cock springing free. You’re surprised to see that it looks like any regular cock, aside from the dark, ashen color maybe, translucent fluid leaking from the tip already. You had definitely not expected this. To be honest you had expected to encounter a tentacle or some other, alien organ. But then you hesitate and look up to Blackhat. His eye is gleaming from the shadow of the top hat, his grin a little crooked.

    “Are you sure you want to go on?” he smirks and before you can hiss a venomous reply back, something happens to his dick. You can’t look away as it suddenly splits open, tears apart into three tentacle-like appendages that move individually and curl in on themselves, revealing a horribly raw, gory inside with ripples and grooves and spikes, and embedded in the center, a pair of dark red folds through which a fourth, slippery tentacle slips through, thicker than all three and even more covered in bulges, pulsing. But it doesn’t stop there: the entire front of Blackhat’s body rips open in a sickening display of bloody entrails and strange organs, teeth lining the rims of the tear that reaches up to his chest, more tentacles spilling into the open, wiggling and curling like worms. You cling to his legs to not faint from the sight, your blood leaving your limbs for a nauseating moment. Your boss however leans back on his hands with a nasty grin, drawing the front of his coat further back.

    “Normally I refrain from stripping like this, but you certainly earned a thorough gander at the goods my dear. So? What are you waiting for?” his grin widens in a challenging way and you swallow against the sickness constricting your throat, slowly lowering your eyes again. Oh God… if only it wasn’t moving on its own! “Don’t tell me you’re getting second thoughts down there.” He teases above your head. Without another word you raise yourself up on your knees and wrap a hand around the tentacle in the center, aligning it before you clench your eyes shut and close your lips around the dripping member, a shiver running down your spine at the more than strange sensations, the feeling, taste and texture of it. Your stomach promptly jumps into your throat but you battle it down again and give the cock a suck, forcing it deeper down. Blackhat utters a low chuckle that turns into a rumbling hum.

“Yes, just like that…” his hand buries in your hair, pushing you further down on his dick and you want to smack it away but then one of the many tentacles wraps around your wrist and guides your hand to the three other pieces of his sex and they immediately curl around your fingers until you return the touch and stroke them, letting the wet tendrils slip through your hands. A loud, pleased moan escapes Blackhat. “Mh, what a quick learner you are… so eager.” Spurred on by his praise you bob your head, sucking harder, giving the surrounding tentacles harsh pulls that have your boss cursing in a strange, guttural language that frightens you to the core and yet drives you further on.

 

It had been a simple mission, an easy mission despite Flug’s usual rambling about sticking to the plan and who was to do what now in case of x and cover y and blahblahblah. Always with the nerd-talk! Good thing that a lot of those complicated missions as he called them could be completed by simply punching someone to death!

Dementia raises the trophy in her fist, flicking a little dirt off the pale, battered face of the hero, like she didn’t even notice the trace of blood her trinket left on the floor behind her. A serene smile plays around her lips. Blackhat would be so proud of her! Killing another capital bastard; she was sure he would at least let her hug him for once! She takes the next flight of stairs in a jog, her heart pounding from excitement, and there it is, at the end of the long, dark hallway: the looming door to his office! She quickly checks if her clothes are looking alright, fluffs her hair and skips up to the door, swinging the head around by the scalp. Suddenly she notices a beam of light coming from the room next to Blackhat’s office. The library? Before she can wonder who might be using that at this hour, her nose picks up that intoxicating smell that immediately brings a fiery heat to her loins and she smiles a little dopily now. Dementia sighs, shuddering at the thought of Blackhat. Not only was he a total badass and the most evil being to ever exist but he even looked cool reading a book. Or the newspaper. Or simply existing! The perfect man. And he would be hers! For ever and ever…

She opens the door halfway, already lifting the hero’s head to call out to her love, when her eyes take in the scene before her, her lizard brain coming to a sudden stop. There was Blackhat, sure enough, and oh God his shirt was open, the dark, chiseled chest seeming to absorb the light! The sight alone is almost enough to make her swoon; this was it, this was her moment! But then her heated gaze travels down, to where you’re kneeling and-

In a dizzying flash all blood seems to leave her body, instantly being replaced by a liquid fire, by an all-consuming rage that short-circuits her entire mind, and she kicks the door open with enough force to shatter it against the wall, splinters raining down on her. She drops the severed head and reaches for her axe, a terrible roar ripping from her chest.

    “You fucking bitch!! I’ll kill you!!”