Actions

Work Header

A Cleansing of the Earth

Chapter Text

As far as Kevin Wendell Crumb knows, he has never participated in the annual Purge and the residents of his subconscious have decided that it’s for the best that it remain that way. They’ve all agreed that Kevin is not a killer, not even in situations where killing is legally sanctioned, and the fact that Kevin’s body is now hosting a cannibalistic demigod is just further verification of that. They are all aware (or at least most of them are) that this line of reasoning sounds insane but Kevin is also NOT insane...some of the people with whom he shares his body might be. Barry tries not to point fingers (because what good did pointing fingers ever do anybody?) but it is sometimes hard to suppress that urge.

It would probably help any interested parties to know that Kevin’s first direct experience with the Purge had resulted in the death of his mother. More specifically, the discovery of his mother’s body on the living room floor the morning after the Purge. As he remembered it, he’d slept through the Purge and HE had. Jade, however, had spent the night hiding under Kevin’s bed clutching a kitchen knife. She knew that if anyone actually came in and found her and...hurt her, Dennis would take the light but that just made her all the more determined to protect herself. She didn’t NEED Dennis and she HATED having him come to her rescue like she was some kind of airheaded damsel. It especially annoyed her that Dennis would take the light as soon as Kevin’s mom started yelling because Jade KNEW she could take that bitch in a fight if the others would just LET her.

Anyway, Jade was hunkered down under the bed, clutching a kitchen knife, formulating vague plans involving severed Achilles tendons, when she heard glass shattering downstairs. Dennis had done his best to fortify the house the day before, while Kevin’s mom was at work and Kevin was supposed to be at school but their resources were limited and, of course, they couldn’t ask Kevin’s mom for money. It was a set-in-stone rule that they were never to ask Kevin’s mom for anything. He’d nailed the window shut and covered the pane in duct tape...apparently, that wasn’t enough. Jade was glad that Kevin was asleep, if he were here, he might feel the urge to go check on his mom. In spite of everything, Kevin still loved his mom... Jade didn’t have that handicap. As it gets noisier downstairs, Jade can feel Dennis in the back of her mind, pricking up his ears. Suspicious sounds in the middle of the night are one of the things that Jade and Barry jokingly refer to as “Dennis signals.”

To keep him at bay, she tried not to panic and kept repeating that she’s “got this” over and over...as long as they don’t come up here. Eventually, she feels Dennis get out of his chair and come closer, just to the edge of the light but not in it. Jade and Dennis had only shared the light once before and neither of them had liked it. She covers her ears as best she can without letting go of the knife and focuses on taking deep breaths.

(It’s so dusty under here...have to add dust mopping under the beds to the daily chore list...dust is mostly dead skin cells.)

(Shut up, Dennis! Shut up! Shut up! Shut up!)

------

It wasn’t unusual for Kevin to wake up under his bed without remembering having gotten under there... the knife was new though, as was his white-knuckled grip on it’s handle. When he let go of it, his hand was stiff, as though he’d been holding onto it very tightly for a very long time. Out of habit, he stayed put for a few minutes and listened carefully for sounds of his mother downstairs. Usually, the absence of such sounds would have calmed him down but on this occasion, he found the silence unnerving. He made his way silently downstairs (if she was asleep, he didn’t want to wake her) and into the kitchen to find it TRASHED and somewhere in the back of his mind, Mr. Dennis starts to compile a list of what must be done to put it back in order. This does a little to soothe Kevin but all semblance of calm vanishes from his mind when he opens the door to the sitting room.

He only gets to look for a moment before Mrs. Patricia makes the perhaps a bit obvious, observation that this is no place for a child. Kevin was 15 at the time but as far as some of his alters are concerned he will always be a “boy.” Mr. Dennis is among those alters which is why he readily agrees; this is no place for a child. The last thing Kevin remembers of that day is being gently pulled out of the light by a pair of strong hands.

------

It had always bothered Dennis that the house’s wood floor was not properly sealed; that’s why it’s got so many stains and that’s why Kevin’s mother's blood is going to stain it even further. He’s always wanted to sand it down until the stains are gone and apply a coat of lacquer... but, of course, Kevin’s mother would never pay for the necessary equipment and (in this case) he’d have to mop up the blood first but before he can do that he’d have to haul the rug out to the curb but before he can do THAT he needs to move the body...Kevin’s mother’s body. Dennis had seen her naked before; crouched on the floor of the shower, sobbing and gasping like she couldn’t breathe...with the curtain open despite the fact that the shower was ON...making a mess of the floor. He hadn’t wanted to touch her then either but he’d had to get her out of the room so that he could clean it. He remembers how she’d clung to him when he picked her up (he’d have preferred that she’d fought him instead, he’d have been prepared for that) and the feeling of her wet, naked breasts pressed against him and her reluctance to let him go as he’d put her into bed. He’d mopped up the water and then thoroughly bleached the entire bathroom and then washed in scalding hot water. The shirt he had been wearing had had to be thrown out...leaving Kevin with only 3 shirts.

The unwelcome memory gave him an idea. He went and got the clear plastic shower curtain. It was old but clean; Dennis would spray it with a bleach solution every day to prevent mildew buildup. He tried not to look at the body too closely as he wrapped it up but he can’t help but notice that there’s blood between the legs and something had been shoved into the mouth, probably to stop the screaming... she probably chocked to death on it. When the body is squared away in the bathtub (this shirt would have to go to, her head had touched his shoulder) he set to work tidying the house. Not much had been stolen because there wasn’t much worth stealing, but a lot of things had been broken. After disposing of what can’t be fixed, he settled into a modified (longer, more intensive) version of the cleaning routine that he did every day between Kevin coming home from school and his mother coming home from work. As he’s finishing with the floors, he feels the familiar light touch of Miss. Patricia’s hand on his arm, then her voice is in his ear, soft but authoritative.

(We really had aught to attend to the body.)

“Someone’ll come an’ get it.” Dennis knows this is true, he read a pamphlet about it; on the day following each Purge, a crew is dispatched to collect the corpses... and the orphans (of which Kevin is now one) the former go to the morgue, the ladder are sent to live with next-of-kin or moved into group homes... Kevin HAS no next-of-kin. Dennis also knows that the literal disposal of the body is probably not what Miss. Patricia is concerned about. It’s been over a year since Kevin has gone to church but Miss. Patricia still lingers around his mind like a ghost, still considering herself the keeper of Kevin’s soul. She prays on his behalf, she’s the reason there’s still a rosary in his bedside drawer that he can’t remember why he’s holding onto...

“I don’t wanna’ touch it again.” Dennis chokes a little. Miss. Patricia’s voice becomes equal parts soothing and beseeching.

(Just move her onto the bed for me, please...Then you can go and rest.)

Dennis sighs, suddenly exhausted, and runs a hand through Kevin’s hair (it needs washing...it always seems to need washing) then hauls himself to his feet and goes back into the bathroom.

-------

Once the corpse is on the bed, Patricia immediately finds herself alone with it, Dennis having thoroughly retreated. He’s a great help the majority of the time but there are certain things that the poor dear just hasn’t got the stomach for. The others had been growing restless before she’d stepped into the light but none of them seem keen to share it with her in this moment... perhaps Dennis has cautioned them against it. She’s had only fleeting encounters with Kevin’s mother but she’s well aware of the woman’s reputation, which is why she finds herself feeling nothing as she looks at her hollow shell. None the less, she feels...obligated.

She get’s a clean cloth and some of the bleach water that Dennis had been using on the floor and sets about methodically scrubbing the body. A great deal of damage has been done below the waist Patricia is as morally repulsed by what that implies as she possibly can be while feeling absolutely NO sympathy for the victim...the cloth in her mouth turns out to be her own underthings. She cleans her face, combs out her hair and uses a sewing kit that she finds in the dresser to close her eyes and mouth. She can’t move her enough to dress her, so she supposes that covering her from the neck down with a sheet will have to do. It gives her grim satisfaction to think that this is the most presentable that the pitiful creature has ever looked.

After she fetches her rosary from Kevin’s bedside table and lights some candles on his mother’s, she finds herself just standing at the foot of the bed for an unnervingly long time. It’s a bit difficult to explain to the uninitiated but Patricia had always had the ability to convert any room into a sacred space through the sheer force of her will. That was her purpose, to commune with the Almighty and there had been a time when she could direct His attention, call down His blessing, on any place at any time. There had also been a time (when there were fewer of them) that the others had had just as much faith in her abilities as she did. Now, as far as she knows, Hedwig is the only one who still believes that she can “talk to God”...it’s why he fears her. Dennis still views her with a certain degree of reverence but she has a feeling that this is more out of habit and necessity. There are times when his brute strength and hyper-practical, linear thinking fail him and, at those times, she is there.

As the other’s faith in her abilities dwindled, so too did the abilities themselves. She feels God’s presence less and less these days and his absence leaves a void in her so cold that it burns. Still...she feels obligated and so she finally decides to just say the words.

“Father of all, we pray for your daughter...Penelope, and for all those whom we...love but see no longer. May you grant them eternal rest and let perpetual light shine upon them. May her soul and the souls of all the departed, through your mercy, rest in peace. For thine are the kingdom, the power, and the glory...Amen.”

Tears begin to form in Patricia’s eyes but they’re not for the wretched woman but for the fact that at that moment she is all too keenly aware of the fact that she just stood over a corpse, holding a necklace and recited a poem...nothing more. She drops the rosary on the corpse’s chest and leaves the room.

Chapter Text

Kevin gets shuffled off to a group home after his mother’s death and stays there until he is 18, just barely managing to graduate high school while his mind is in such a state of chaos that new alters are beginning to form. That’s when he gets Orwell, who is the reason that history is the only subject he excels in despite the fact that he doesn’t think he has any particular interest in it, and Ansel (Handsome Ansel) who gets him his first girlfriend. The girl, Anette, would later dump him after meeting Hedwig and spread a rumor around school that Kevin is “retarded.” Kevin is heartbroken and so all the alters are as well...except for Mr. Dennis and Miss. Patricia, who had never liked Anette and think that Kevin is lucky to be rid of her. Hedwig doesn’t like her either because Mr. Dennis says she’s not a nice girl.

-----

Dennis is worried about Miss. Patricia and annoyed that he seems to be the only one who is. She’s more and more like a ghost these days. Her only contact with the light is when she shares it with Dennis and the things she whispers to him are making less and less sense as time goes by. She mixes up prayers and bible verses with things she read on greeting cards and throw pillows and inspirational posters. When they’re together in the room in Kevin's mind, Dennis notices that she even looks different now. She’s like one of Barry’s fashion sketches; a tall, angular, vaguely female shape with no face. Like so many other things, Dennis keeps his concerns about her to himself. If she goes away (can alters go away?) he knows he’ll be the only one who’ll miss her.

------

Barry, by contrast, has gotten brighter and more detailed. When they’re booted from the group home, he winds up being useful in ways that none of the others had anticipated. What it boils down to is that he’s good at making friends and people feel safe around him. This doesn’t sound like much but it’s often the difference between the group crashing on someone’s couch and spending another night in an overcrowded shelter or (god forbid) in a subway station or on a park bench. So gradually that no one even seems to notice it happening, he goes from just being Barry to being Mr. Barry and the other’s grow to trust his judgment implicitly. He regularly asks for Dennis’s input on more practical matters and Dennis isn’t sure if this is because he actually needs advice or because he can sense that Dennis isn’t quite as confident in him as the others and is trying to win him over.

Jade and Ansel also develop their own particular method for securing shelter but Mr. Barry manages to convince them that their way should be plan B. Many of the alters (as well as Kevin himself) do not respond positively to waking up naked in a stranger’s bed and it’s always been hard to predict which of them will wake up first. For instance, Dennis once wakes up next to a middle-aged, single mom who wants him out of there before her kids wake up and later that day he shaves off Kevin’s hair in the filthy bathroom of a homeless shelter. Ansel has always said that Kevin’s hair was one of his best features (he’s uniquely conscious of what parts of Kevin women find attractive) but Dennis insists to Barry that the impromptu haircut was for the sake of hygiene and not a passive-aggressive slight. Barry can’t help but think that the timing is definitely not coincidental but also can’t deny that being “transient” does make things like lice infestation a greater concern than they were before. Ultimately he just winds up letting the issue drop and thanking his lucky stars that it wasn’t one of Jade’s boyfriends that Dennis had woken up next to.

------

Kevin develops the habit of writing dates and times on his arm with a pen because he’s feeling more and more like a passenger in his own body these days. He falls asleep in a homeless shelter, he wakes up on a strangers couch. He zones out on the bus on his way to the library, he wakes up at the library with a book about the fall of Rome under his head. What’s more disturbing is that there’s a notebook beside it full of notes in handwriting that he recognizes but has no idea where from (it says Orwell on the cover.) Suddenly he has no hair... when did he cut off his hair? He wakes up in one of those plastic tunnels at the playground with cops standing over him. They think he’s a junkie who passed out in there. He checks himself for track marks while he waits in the holding cell at the police station but finds only the marks that have always been there...he only remembers where SOME of them came from.

He repeatedly tries to get his head together. He carries a backpack around with him that he somehow knows that someone shoplifted...he doesn’t remember doing it...but he has it now so... In the backpack, there is a set of toiletries (from a motel, he guesses), his second outfit, 2 pairs of glasses, a sketchbook and 2 notebooks. The sketchbook alternates between drawings of people (their features are vague but their clothing is detailed and there are notes in the margins about fabric types) and childishly simple drawings. One of the child’s drawings is a very tall, broad man in a Superman pose drawn all in shades of gray, it says “Mr. Dennis” across the top. Kevin knows that Mr. Dennis fixes things but he doesn’t know why he knows that. He remembers voices in his head that he used to find soothing before he learned that there weren’t supposed to be ANY voices in his head.

The first notebook appears to be a journal shared by multiple people. Barry is worried, where did Dennis go during that 4-hour patch yesterday when he’d blocked the rest of them out? Jade is angry, the others treat her like a kid and she’s NOT a fucking kid! Barry thinks Jade might be hypoglycemic. Ansel is obsessed with a woman named Anne, then a woman named Molly, then a woman named Sarah. There are a few entries in Spanish...Kevin can’t read Spanish. Jade is mad again, who does Dennis think he is? (Kevin is right there with Jade on that one.) Orwell writes a list of books he plans to read, he does so again a few pages later. Jade is sick of only being able to date gay guys. Barry feels sorry for someone named Leon because Jade broke up with him and wasn’t gentle about it and he seemed like a nice guy. Ansel wrote a poem to someone named Selma...it is not a good poem. Kevin can’t help but notice that entries by the infamous “Dennis” are conspicuously absent. Here and there are prayer cards and greeting cards tucked between the pages.

He winds up closing the first notebook halfway through because he feels himself starting to panic and when he panics he blacks out. The second notebook is the one with “Orwell” written on the cover and it’s far less emotionally distressing. Orwell appears to be writing a meticulously detailed history of the western world with a particular focus on pivotal wars. Someone else with different handwriting is using the same notebook to write a history of the cultural exchange between Japan and America and how that is reflected in the cinema of those respective nations. Neither of them seems aware that they’re sharing the notebook.

When Kevin is done reading, he feels no better than he did when he started. He tries to fill out online job applications but knows that that’s pointless because he has NO work experience and nothing to write in the space that his address is supposed to go. He starts panicking, he blacks out. This process repeats every month or so.

------

The big change occurs when Hedwig gets picked up on suspicious person charges. It turns out that most people consider a man in his early 20s, alone, hanging around a playground, trying to play with the children as though he himself were a child to be “suspicious.” Now, normally things like getting arrested would set off the “Dennis Signal” but a cop named Anthony Radford had happened to take this particular call. Officer Radford has a nice named Juniper who is 22 years old but has the learning capacity of a 10-year-old. He manages to get Hedwig (who lies and says his name is Kevin because that’s what Mr.Dennis says he’s supposed to do) to get into the police car voluntarily on the promise that he’ll turn on the siren (but just for a little bit.)

When they get to the police station, Officer Radford gives him a candy bar from the vending machine and a coloring book and some markers and asks him to wait in a room where there are just a table and two chairs. Mr. Dennis is in Hedwig’s ear telling him that he should get out of the light because it’s not safe here. Usually, that’d be enough to send the boy running back to his chair (he trusts Mr. Dennis, Mr. Dennis is a grownup) but the others NEVER let him have candy and the coloring book’s got the Avengers in it. He flips through the book, telling Mr. Dennis who all the characters are (he knows because he sometimes goes to the comic store and reads until the man behind the counter yells at him) and asking if he thinks he could beat them in a fight. Hedwig bets he could, nobody’s stronger than Mr. Dennis.

A while later (when Mr. Dennis is starting to get that voice he gets when he’s trying not to yell) Officer Radford comes back and he has a lady with him who looks really tired. Her name is Denise, she’s a social worker, Hedwig doesn’t know what that is. Then Mr. Barry is in his ear and he really wants to talk to the social worker (he says ‘please, please, please.’) Hedwig sometimes wonders why the other’s never just take him out of the light like they do with Kevin, he guesses they must like him better than Kevin. The tired lady starts to ask him questions.

Did he come to the park WITH someone?

He nods; he and Jade had been sharing the light, they’d snuck into a movie together and after that Hedwig had wanted to go to the park. Jade got bored when they were at the park and went back to her chair. Hedwig doesn’t tell the part about the movie because he knows you’re not supposed to sneak into movies...he starts to wonder if maybe he’s in trouble for that.

Does he mean that Jade left him at the park?

Hedwig doesn’t know how to answer that...the other’s don’t ever really LEAVE...at least not like people who aren’t part of Kevin do. He just shakes his head, he starts to get embarassed.

Where IS Jade?

“In her chair.” Hedwig tries to say it the way Mr.Dennis says his answers when people ask him dumb questions but he’s not scary like Mr. Dennis. The lady looks at him like she feels sad for him and that makes him angry but he doesn’t know why.

Does he have any I.D. with him? Like a card with his name on it?

...they have a card with Kevin’s name on it...it’s in their bag...where is their bag? All the other’s said how important their bag was over and over and now Hedwig doesn’t know where it is and he’s gonna’ be in trouble and now he just wants to go back to his chair. He takes a step backward out of the light and Mr. Dennis grabs him too hard, it hurts.

------

It takes Barry a minute to turn down the volume on what’s going on inside Kevin’s head (Hedwig is crying, Dennis, is yelling at Jade for leaving Hedwig alone in the park) but when he finally does the cop and the social worker are looking at him like they’re worried he may be having a stroke. Not his smoothest entrance. He sits up (Hedwig had started to curl in on himself defensively), takes a deep breath, and blots his eyes with his sleeve.

“Am I bein’ charged with something?” He tries to make the question sound casual...which is admittedly kind of ridiculous. The two other people in the room seem stunned into silence and it’s his natural inclination to fill conversational gaps.

“Listen, I sincerely apologize if I... made anyone uncomfortable but, last I checked, that ain’t illegal.”

“Can I get your FULL name, please?” The cop is suddenly all business.

“Kevin Crumb.” Barry lies automatically.

“I’m gonna’ go run that.” He’s talking to the social worker but his eyes don’t leave Barry. “You can continue to interview Mr. Crumb but be aware that you’re being observed.”

The social worker nods, she’s looking at Barry like he’s a Magic Eye poster. Once they’re alone (-ish) she tenses up a little...Barry feels bad about that.

“Very CSI.” He quips as he gestures to the large ‘mirror’ on the opposite wall. “Makes me feel bad that I don’t have any sordid deeds to confess...ya’ know, apart from my...suspicious-ing all over town.”

The social worker’s laugh is only polite but at least it’s something. She seems to be carefully considering what she’s about to say.

“Mr Crumb.... Are you aware that just moments ago, you were behaving like a child?”

“Yeah.” Barry’s laugh comes out more nervous than he’d intended. “I can remember what happened moments ago.”

He WON’T tell her that that’s not always the case, that there are sometimes minutes, hours and even days that he can’t remember. He just wants to get out of here.

“And...you were doing that...deliberately?”

“Eh...” Barry shrugs trying to buy himself some time to think of something to say that’s LIKE the truth. “I been under a lotta’ stress lately and, sometimes, when I get stressed out I get a little...weird.”

“You cope with stress by behaving like a child?”

“Kid’s ain’t got much to worry about, do they?”

He can tell that she can tell that he’s being evasive but she isn’t willing to call him on it. She goes on carefully.

“What, specifically, are you stressed about?”

He considers lying but decides that being honest about this particular thing won’t give the WHOLE game away.

“I’m...between addresses at the moment.”

The cop comes back into the room just then and gives Barry a long, contemplative look.

“We’re letting you go... just... in the future, try and stay away from that park.”

In the back of his mind, Barry feels Jade bristle.

(It’s a PUBLIC fucking park!)

At least some of the rage there is probably overflow from her argument with Dennis. Barry ignores her in favor of nodding and smiling. The cop asks him to wait just a little longer while he takes the social worker into the next room. They’re gone for at least 10 minutes (Barry thinks...there’s no clock in here) and when they come back the social worker asks him to follow her out of the building. Once they’re out on the sidewalk, Jade tells Barry to run for it. He’s not going to but the suggestion makes him laugh, he covers it by coughing.

The social worker offers him a ride and he figures he may as well use it to go back to the park and see if their bag is there. If it isn’t, he’s going to have to get Jade and Hedwig to help him retrace their steps in order to find it. He finds it hidden under the slide, miraculously undisturbed. Relief washes over him, he thinks he’s in the clear...then the social worker calls after him as he goes to leave the park. He doesn’t WANT to turn around but she’d been so nice to him...and her concern seems so genuine.

“Do you have somewhere to go tonight?”

“Yeah.” He has nowhere particular in mind but they’ll work something out...they always do.

The social worker pauses a long time as if weighing the pros and cons of asking what she’s about to ask.

“Are you receiving any form of psychiatric care?”

Barry’s instinct is to ask ‘what for?’ but there’s something in the intensity of her gaze that tells him feigned ignorance would be a waste of both their time.

“I don’t have any insurance.” The closest thing they have to a job is the 2 night a week gig that Dennis has as a “part-time, third shift, sanitation engineer”... and the occasional wads of cash that Jade comes up with. Ansel would never trade sex for money, or anything for that matter...he’s a giver.

The social worker slips a little white card out of the pocket of her blazer and hands it to Barry saying that he should call the place and set up an appointment. He promises he will but isn’t sure he means it, he just wants to get out of there.

Chapter Text

To everyone’s surprise, Kevin is the one who winds up making the appointment. He finds the card in his bag and can’t remember how it got there but has a feeling that it’s important. The place turns out to be the headquarters of a foundation devoted to arranging psychiatric care for “at need individuals.” Kevin dryly thinks that that’s a convoluted way of saying “unemployed.” He doesn’t know that Dennis has a job...mostly because “Dennis” is just a shadow in the back of his mind that gets bigger when he gets scared. He’s told that the first “interview” will be to determine his eligibility and is given a list of documents that will be helpful in this task.

Kevin has no idea how he’s supposed to get any of those documents but Kat does.

------

Well, she might not know yet, but she can find out. Unlike most of the other alters, Kat has vague memories of a life before she joined Team Kevin. She prefers to think of it that way because that makes it feel like it was a voluntary decision on her part. She thinks that, maybe, she used to be an executive assistant to one of the higher-ups in a big corporation; one of those guys that has a fancy title and gets paid a lot but doesn’t really DO much. That’s why she greatly prefers what she does now.

(She’s Mr. Barry’s personal assistant...right?)

(After an uncertain pause, Mr. Barry eagerly assures her that she is and that her first assignment is to put together a file on Kevin with a particular focus on education and work history.)

(No problem!)

Anyway, what she likes about Kevin is that he’s a smaller organization which allows for greater individual accountability amongst team members. Granted, she’s not sure EXACTLY home many team members there ARE because she doesn’t think that the kid counts and the woman who’s always whispering bible verses to herself doesn’t seem to serve any particular purpose. Mr. Dennis won't let Kat anywhere near her. There are also 2 professors but they both always seem to be engaged in their own side projects. Mr. Barry tells her to let him worry about that and focus on her assignment.

(No problem!)

Well, she does hit a LITTLE snag... Mr. Dennis is TERRIFYING (she doesn’t tell anyone she thinks that but...he is) and she needs documentation of his income and he won't give it to her because she can’t tell him why she needs it. Mr. Barry tells Kat to just let him handle Mr. Dennis from now on.

------

The day of the appointment, Kevin can’t bring himself to get out of bed (it’s fine, everyone has bad days), so Barry winds up being the one to actually go to it. Kat shares the light with him so that she can take notes. The meeting is brief and unpleasant and he’s told to return in a month, by then they should know if he qualifies for assistance.

------

Dennis spends most his time alone these days. He supposes he likes his job; on Mondays and Thursdays, he wakes up late at night when all the others are asleep and walks to a small office building that he gets paid $50 a night to clean. He likes how quiet and still the empty building is, he likes that he doesn’t have to share the light with Mr. Barry because there’s no one there who’ll expect him to exchange pleasantries with them. It’s just him and the smell of bleach and a list of tasks just complicated enough to keep his mind from wondering.

He DOESN’T like the places that his mind goes when he lets it wander. There are always what Miss. Patricia used to call “fallen women” along the route he takes to work. He tries to ignore them but it’s...difficult. Sometimes they’ll deliberately block his path, posing and making crude suggestions. When he ignores them, they call him names (“loser”, “limp-dick”, “faggot.”) The very young ones stick in his head the most.

At first, he’s able to convince himself that it’s because he’s concerned about them...

Once when it's nearing dawn and he’s on his way back from work, he sees one on the other side of the street that CAN’T be more than 15; she’s smeared on a lot of make-up but still just looks like a little girl playing dress-up in an older woman's clothes. She doesn’t seem to notice him, the way she’s slumped against the streetlight suggests that she’s on something (most of them are.) For a while, time seems to freeze and he just watches her and his mind... wanders.

It’s not smart of her to be out here alone. She can’t weight more than 90 pounds, she’d be light as a feather in his arms and even if she fought him she couldn’t do any real damage. He’s struck, suddenly, with a vivid memory of a time Kevin’s mother scratched his face with her nails hard enough to draw blood but then it changes and they’re the girl's nails and she’s like a feather in his arms and he covers her mouth to keep her from screaming. She’d probably smell cheap but sweet, like cotton candy or baby powder. He doesn’t think about where he would take her because the only places he can think of are FILTHY, so he skips to the part where he’s on top of her, pinning her down easily with one hand on her throat, tearing off her cheap, plastic bustier and...

His train of thought derails when he notices that she’s noticed him. She doesn’t approach him, she just stands perfectly still, eyes wide, like a rabbit that’s just realized it’s being stalked by a fox. When she turns and walks away he can tell that she’s trying to look casual but her stride is just a little too quick, she trips on her heels twice before she’s out of sight. Dennis is both extremely anxious and PAINFULLY aroused.

There’s a gas station nearby where they don’t make you ask for a key to use the bathroom. It’s as repulsive as he’d expected but he doesn’t know where else to go. He masturbates until it starts to hurt...then he vomits. After spending a few minutes hyperventilating (it is not in his nature to cry) he steadies himself. Despite his awareness that trying to clean himself in a place like this is basically like bathing in raw sewage (it’s been a LONG time since he’s felt truly clean), he takes the toiletry kit from their bag. He brushes his teeth and washes his hands and face.

There’s an irritated man waiting outside the bathroom (a trucker by the looks of him) but Dennis fixes him with a glare and so he doesn’t say anything. Dennis goes to a diner and gets black coffee. It’s hot enough to burn his mouth...good. He wishes that Miss. Patricia was here (lately, she’s been catatonic in her chair...Dennis wonders if that’s what death looks like for an alter.) Of course, he would never have exposed her to any of the things that had happened just before but...

Kevin’s mother had done more to Dennis than physically hurt him. The other’s knew that when Kevin was woken up in the middle of the night, Dennis would automatically take the light, but they didn’t actually know WHY... at least not the whole truth. They didn’t know that, sometimes, Dennis would wake up in the middle of the night and Kevin’s mother would be there...in the bed with him...and her voice would be soft and her touch would be gentle...all over his...all over THEIR body. He would try to just wait it out as he did with the beatings, but sometimes his...their...Kevin’s (?) body would react without him meaning it to... Sometimes she’d want Dennis to touch her and he would.

As with so many other things, Dennis had kept this from the others...except Miss. Patricia. He would confess his sins to her and she would offer him absolution (assure him that GOD forgave him)...Dennis wasn’t even sure he believed in God but it had always made him feel better...cleaner. He hasn’t even done anything but he feels like he needs that now, to repent and to be absolved. The other’s barely seem to notice Miss. Patricia’s absence and Dennis is finding it harder and harder not to resent them for it.

Chapter Text

It turns out Kevin does qualify for “assistance,” he’s assigned a counselor and...someone goes to the appointments. They also connect him with an employment agency that finds him a slightly better “Sanitation Engineer” job than the one that he hadn’t known he had. It’s still technically part-time (35 hours a week) and pays below minimum wage. That combined with the federal housing assistance that his disability (the first diagnosis he’s given is manic depression, then severe bipolar disorder, then schizophrenia) qualifies him for, gets him the smallest studio apartment in the most rundown building in the worst part of town. At least there he has a door to lock (someone installs 6 locks on the inside of that door shortly after he moves in, they're just there one morning.)

He gets a bookshelf from a second-hand store and it slowly fills up with books he doesn’t remember buying; history books, comic books, books of poetry, trashy romance novels, back issues of fashion magazines, psychology books, and self-help books, a book about...child care? A heavily stylized sketch of a landscape is tacked to his wall one morning, it’s the only decoration in the apartment. He frequently overhears his neighbors complaining about how things in their apartments are always breaking but nothing in his apartment ever seems to, it’s also always clean to the point of clinical sterility. At some point, he acquires a beat-up old boom box and CDs start to pile up beside it. He’s a big fan chart-topping hip hop...apparently. More than once, the old woman in the apartment next to his catches him in the hallway and berates him for playing his music so loud, he apologizes because he doesn’t know what else to say.

He goes to his job about a quarter of the time and the rest of the time someone else goes for him...the security guard who lets him into the building and the few other custodians who work the night shift are inexplicably intimidated by him and make a point of speaking to him as little as possible. There are still journals and sketchbooks but Kevin can’t bring himself to read them. He buys a brand new notebook and writes his own name on the cover. He tries to write in it every day but when he looks back over it there are sometimes gaps of as much as a week between entries. He finds a pile of child’s drawings in his bedside table, one appears to be of the old woman next door to him as some kind of monster.

At one of the few therapy sessions he manages to make it to, his counselor asks if he’d be alright with her recording one of their sessions. She has a colleague who is a specialist in a certain rare disorder and thinks that his case might be of interest to her. Kevin reluctantly agrees, reminding her that he doesn’t have insurance. As they talk, Kevin is painfully aware of the recording device sitting on the table between them, he starts to stammer and fidget. At one point he’s just staring at the clock on the wall opposite him and the next thing he knows the appointment is over. He’s told that he’s done very well and that they’ll discuss the afore mentioned collegue’s feedback at his next appointment. He hopes that he’ll actually get to be present for that one.

The Purge hit’s before Kevin’s next appointment. Dennis has added 3 more locks and a cross-bar to their door and a metal shutter to the apartment's one small window. He blocks the others out and then just hunkers down and waits. It’s unexpectedly quiet at first and so he gets restless, he cleans the apartment which doesn’t take long because it’s literally just one room and he can’t vacuum because he needs to stay alert. He tries to read one of Orwell’s books about the civil war, he cleans the apartment again, he alphabetizes the books on the bookshelf.

A car alarm goes off in the distance, he doesn’t jump (it is not in his nature to be startled) but he does tense a little and listens closer. Eventually, after he’s gotten the cutlery from the kitchen and set to work sharpening it, he hears glass breaking in the parking lot just outside but only a few more alarms. The only people in this building who can afford the types of cars that have alarms are drug dealers. There’s one gunshot...two...three. Someone is shouting but it’s still OUTSIDE.

The apartment is a minimum security building with an emphasis on the “minimum,” it’s owner is probably some scumbag slum lord who lives in one of the nicer parts of the city...for a moment, Dennis wonders how hard it would be to figure out where the guy lives...what sort of security system he has. He’s jerked out of his thoughts by the sound of a woman screaming down the hall...they’re INSIDE now. He’s made a point of not getting to know any of the neighbors for the same reason that he’s blocked the other’s out and intends to keep them blocked out until 7 a.m. tomorrow. He knows a few of them have made friends in the building (Barry makes friends where ever he goes.)

He almost wishes he’d gotten a gun but someone like Kevin can’t legally own a gun... Still, he bets that there are people in this very building who could have gotten him one for the right price. The woman down the hall WON'T STOP screaming and Dennis wishes she would because it’s stirring up the kind of bad thoughts that he works so hard to keep at bay. He finds himself thinking that, if he were armed, there would be no real reason why he couldn't be out there right now. His mind drifts back to those “fallen women” and he wonders how many of them managed to find somewhere to go tonight.

Come to think of it...why can’t he go out there now? He’s unarmed but he’s not as fragile as the others and people are hesitant to approach him even under normal circumstances. With a little luck, he could go find one of them...one of the little, soft, frail things...and drag her back here...she’d be light as a feather in his arms...the others would never even know.

He’s pulled out of his revelry by the abrupt stoppage of the screaming and immediately recoils from his own thoughts. He’s sweating, he has an erection...he’s cut his hand with the knife he’d forgotten that he was holding. By the time he’s done washing it and stopping the bleeding, his anxiety and...other, less appropriate feelings have subsided. He hears a gunshot from RIGHT next door and hurries back out into the main room of the apartment. It looks like someone tried to force the door open while he was in the bathroom but the crossbar held.

Whose gun had it been that he’d heard? It stands to reason that if the people who tried to force the door had had a gun, they’d have put at least one bullet through the door. He passes the remainder of the night standing opposite the door, knife in hand. Eventually, the siren sounds (signaling the end of the Purge) and Dennis goes and lies down.

------

Barry wakes up at around noon, brews a pot of coffee, has a bowl of cereal, flips through an issue of Vogue and tries not to think about the horrific nightmare visions he’d be confronted with if he went outside right now. Post-Purge clean up usually takes over a day but he’s hoping that the worst of it will be over by the time Kevin has to leave for work. There’s a cut on Kevin’s hand (he’ll have to ask Dennis about that when he wakes up) and the door looks a little worse for wear but apart from that the apartment looks ok...the bleach smell is stronger than usual. Barry tries to sketch but it’s just not flowing today, it would probably help if there wasn’t a throbbing pain in his hand. He decides that it’s probably ok if he goes and does laundry, he doesn’t even need to leave the building for that.

As soon as he opens the apartment door, he’s confronted with a massive red and grey splatter mark on the wall opposite his neighbor's door. The door itself is also absent and when he looks in he sees his neighbor (Miss. Diana) and her son straightening up. Her son doesn’t live here but he visits her a lot (he probably came to sit with her last night) and Barry has bumped into him in the hall enough times to know that the guy has a standoffish demeanor to rival Dennis’. Jade thinks he’s hot.

The bodies have already been taken away by now but there’s blood and graffiti (“RELEASE THE BEAST!!!!!”) spread all throughout the building. Luckily, the vandals didn’t feel the need to venture into the basement so the laundry room is no worse than it was before. Laundry is one of the few household chores that Dennis trusts Barry with because one of the few traits they share is an understanding of the fact that the care instructions on the labels of clothing are there for a REASON. Barry’s put his first load in and is leaning against the machine, flipping through Harper’s Bazaar when a woman hurries into the room. He knows her; her name is Bernadette and she lives a floor up from him.

Normally, Barry would at least make small talk with her but she seems a little distracted right now...shoving blood-soaked sheets into a washing machine. He has to fight the urge to tell her that she’s overloading it and that if she doesn’t run a cold rinse cycle before the wash cycle, they’re just going to wind up stained.

------

Kevin doesn’t remember actually going to the therapist's office but he does come to in the waiting room. Apparently, the colleague mentioned at the last appointment (he’s told now that her name is Dr. Karen Fletcher) has listened to the recording and is now very eager to set up a phone interview with Kevin. Based on how that goes, there will be a series of diagnostic interviews to determine if he is a candidate for her particular type of treatment. Kevin feels the need to remind her, again, that he doesn’t have insurance and this doesn’t sound like the sort of thing that his “federal assistance” would cover.

The therapist then carefully, hesitantly explains that Dr. Fletcher’s primary occupation is actually the clinical study of Dissociative Identity Disorder. If Kevin qualifies, she will provide him with therapy free of charge on the condition that he permit her to also use him as a subject for her research. When Kevin only stares at her blankly, she further clarifies that Dissociative Identity Disorder is more commonly recognized by its old name; “Multiple Personality Disorder.”

“Like Sybil?” Kevin blurts out, feeling stupid as soon as the words leave his mouth.

“Only... kind of like that. Dr. Fletcher will be able to explain it better than I could.”

“You said I was schizophrenic.”

“That was my initial impression but since I’ve gotten to know you better I’ve come to the conclusion that if you do have schizophrenia, it’s a VERY atypical case.”

Kevin feels himself starting to get anxious...shit. No, no, no, stay HERE damn it! He feels a migraine coming on.

“You don’t have to decide just now.” The doctor says gently, as though sensing his distress. “Just think about it, if you decide one way or the other before your next appointment, give me a call, if not, we’ll talk about it again then.”

“Can I go home now?” Kevin WANTS to go home, he wants to close the curtains (that he doesn’t remember buying) on his window and turn off the lights and just lay on his bed in the pitch-black darkness.

------

On the bus ride back to the apartment, Jade takes the light. She’s not gonna’ have Kevin losing his shit on public transportation. No way she’s gonna’ let him be THAT guy. Barry slides into the light next to her (easy and natural the way it’s always been for them) and she has to remember to think what she says to him instead of saying it out loud. She’s not gonna’ have Kevin be the guy who talks to himself on the bus either.

(You’re gonna’ say we should do it.)

She’s always been pretty good at predicting when Barry will be on board with something and, now that he’s their fearless leader, him being on board means they all gotta’ get on board.

(I mean, why not? It’s not like it’s gonna’ cost us anything.)

(I guess...and I can’t say it’d break my heart to find out that Kevin’s not actually a schizo...it’s just...)

(Just what?)

(“Research subject”? Kevin ain’t no lab rat.)

(I mean.... Psychology IS a science...they gotta’ get their info from somewhere.)

Jade gets off the bus in front of a coffee shop that she and Barry frequent, she can feel him raise an eyebrow.

(What? I need a caffeine fix.)

(And to see if Devon’s working...?)

Jade involuntarily smiles.

(Hate to break it to ya’ doll but I’m, like...70% sure he’s straight.)

(I can work with 40%.)

Jade orders a latte from a barista who is, sadly, not Devon and settles into a booth along the back wall. She takes out Barry’s sketchbook and flips to a blank page, eventually, their right hand starts to sketch. They sit a while in comfortable silence until Jade breaks it.

(If we set up the phone interview, I think Kevin should be the one to actually do it.)

Their right hand freezes on the page.

(You know he’s not good with introductions.)

Jade sighs. She wonders how Barry’s gone this long without noticing that him and Dennis are both equally overprotective of Kevin, just in different ways.

(He’s never gonna’ grow a spine if you keep doin’ everything for him.)

(Don’t be mean.)

Barry’s tone sharpens in a way that it rarely does, Jade sighs again.

(You know he’d be better off if he could handle more shit himself.)

Barry goes quiet for a few minutes, their right hand resumes sketching, pressing harder on the paper than before.

(We’ll see how he feels the day of.)

The silence after that is a little less comfortable, Jade breaks it again.

(You ever wonder why we can’t just...TALK to Kevin...like how we do with each other?)

(...Hedwig told me something once... about how him and ‘Mr. Dennis’ used to be able to talk to Kevin all the time...)

Jade has been around longer than Barry, Dennis has been around longer than everyone... no one’s sure how long Hedwig’s been around... if you ask him he just keeps repeating that he’s 9 and eventually he gets frustrated, then angry. The whole thing creeps Jade out so she tries to lighten the mood.

(Ick, can you imagine?!)

(What?)

(Having to listen to Dennis ALL the time!)

Barry almost laughs but then stops himself. His tone is less serious than it was before.

(Don’t be mean.)

Chapter Text

Kevin wakes up just after noon and finds a note on his bedside table. The handwriting is like his own but looser.

“Wait for call from Dr. Fletcher, 2:30 p.m.”

He remembers discussing the arrangement of a phone interview but not arranging one...apparently someone did it for him. He needs to kill time, he goes to the bookshelf. Someone has started buying schematics for different types of security systems, probably the same person who put 9 locks and a crossbar on his door. Someone else has bought a book on pattern making which makes him wonder if he’s going to wind up owning a sewing machine at some point. Can he afford one? How much does he even make?

He decides that he should make an entry in his journal. Huge mistake...there’s a two-day gap between the last one and the one he’s about to write. Maybe he should look at the other journal and try to fill in the gaps? No...that’ll just get him anxious. He writes all this down and then closes the journal. He takes the first volume of The Saga of Swamp Thing off the shelf and starts to read. He’s read it before but that’s kind of the point, he can REMEMBER having read it before.

Kevin gets engrossed in the story to such an extent that the ring of the phone startles him. For just a second, someone else reaches for the phone...with his hand..but then it’s just his own hand again. This isn’t an uncommon experience for him. The woman on the phone introduces herself even though Kevin already knows her name and so he introduces himself even though she already knows his name. She asks him how he is and he says ‘fine.’ They undoubtedly both know that that isn’t true but that’s what you’re supposed to say, isn’t it?

Pleasantries complete, she runs through a checklist of symptoms with him. She keeps stopping to ask if he’s alright...he wonders if he sounds anxious. Throughout the course of the conversation, he learns that he at some point signed a form to have his medical records released to her. His surprise at this information must be noticeable in his voice because she asks him if he’s comfortable with that, he says he is even though he REALLY isn’t. When a natural gap in the conversation presents itself, he can’t help but ask.

“Why did you want to talk to me?”

“What do mean?”

“Dr. Kumal said that you listened to the recording and that made you want to set up a phone interview...why?”

“Kevin...have YOU heard the recording?”

“No.” For some reason, his mouth goes dry when he answers.

“Well, perhaps at your first appointment, we could listen to it together.”

Kevin freezes... why does the prosepect of listening to a recording of his own voice scare him?

“I apologize.” The doctor’s tone turns mildly self-deprecating. “I was being presumptuous. Are you interested in scheduling an appointment?”

“Uh...I mean...yeah, I am... I just got kind of a weird work schedule.”

That sounds like a lame excuse even to his own ears.

“I conduct sessions in my home office, so my own schedule is quite flexible.”

“You just....”

He was about to say ‘you just invite crazy people into your house?’ but then realizes that he was about to refer to himself as a ‘crazy person.’ He goes a less direct route.

“Isn’t that dangerous?”

“Not in my experience, and I’ve quite a bit of that.”

Kevin winds up with an appointment at 11:30 a.m. that Sunday... he really hopes that he’ll go to it. He finds himself writing the date, time and address on his forearm out of habit.

-----

Kevin can’t sleep the night before the interview so at around 6 a.m. Orwell decides he may as well get some work done. He brews a pot of coffee and sets up at the little folding table that they also use as a dining table. What he wouldn’t give for a proper desk but they don’t have room for one. Barry has promised that if they ever get a better job and a bigger place, that will be one of their first purchases. It’s nice of him to SAY that but Orwell has little faith that it will ever actually happen.

Barry is always nice. He only bothers Orwell to occasionally see how he’s doing or to get his input when there is a decision to be made that will affect all of them. Excluding that, he leaves him to his work. There’s only one major point of contention between them; Orwell would like for Kevin to go to college. Barry thinks that (considering how poorly he did in high school) he wouldn’t be able to handle the stress of college but Orwell points out that if he majored in history that wouldn’t be a problem. Barry points out that that would add up to a LOT of lost time for Kevin (he’d be out of the light most of the time for at least 4 years.)

At that point Mr. Dennis had chimed in (something that he rarely does and that Orwell never welcomes) to point out that a bachelors in history would be worthless as far as the job market is concerned. Orwell does not CARE for Mr. Dennis...he never has. He recognizes that Mr. Dennis is necessary but he wishes that weren’t the case because the man is a brute...and an intellectual cripple...and it seems like the only time he acknowledges Orwell is to passive-aggressively point out how nonessential he is.

(How long have you been up?)

It’s Mr. Barry’s voice, Orwell responds out loud so that he doesn’t have to stop reading.

“Only since 6....Kevin couldn’t sleep.”

(Great, now he gets to be nervous AND sleep deprived.)

“For what?”

(He’s got an appointment later... would you mind coming back inside?)

Mr. Barry has the ability to just take Orwell out of the light but he rarely uses it, which Orwell appreciates.

“One moment please.”

Orwell reads to the end of the paragraph, puts in a bookmark and replaces the book and his notebook on the shelf. He closes his eyes and consciously relaxes every muscle in his body when he opens his eyes again, he’s back in his chair.

------

Barry takes a sip from the coffee cup that Orwell had left behind and cringes. Orwell and Dennis both take their coffee black...it’s the only thing they have in common. He adds some sugar and downs the rest of it. He’s been talking it over with the others and they all agree that it would be best for Kevin to at least go to the first appointment, they were all impressed that he got through the phone interview. The exceptions are Dennis (who’s always had very little to say about the whole therapy thing), Miss. Patricia (who says very little in general lately) and Hedwig (who doesn’t get why Kevin needs ANOTHER doctor when he’s already got one.) Barry promises the kid that he’ll take him to the arcade on their next day off if he just BEHAVES today.

It’s 10, so there’s no point in trying to take a nap (he also couldn’t predict who would wake up from said nap.) Barry takes a shower and then a ridiculously long time picking out an outfit considering how little clothing Kevin owns. He realizes he’s stalling because he’s hoping Kevin will get into the light before he gets to the doctor's office. With the Others, it’s easier, he can just TELL them that he needs them to take the light but Kevin isn’t as accessible as they are. He has a chair in the room but when he’s in it he’s always asleep and (so far) no one has the ability to wake him.

Barry tries other methods for “summoning” Kevin that worked in the past. He lies on their bed and stares at the ceiling but tries not to focus his eyes on any particular point. He re-writes the date, time and location of the appointment on his arm and reads it over and over again. He’s considering taking one of the books that he knows Kevin likes off of the shelf and reading it but then realizes that he needs to get a move-on or he’s going to be late. The doctor's house is only 15 minutes from his on foot and it occurs to Barry, not for the first time, how odd it is that there’s so little physical distance between the bad and good parts of town.

The building is old but not in the way that the building Kevin lives in is old; it’s the sort of place that’s described in real estate listings as “historic.” There’s a metal plaque next to the front door bearing the logo of a high tech security company. Barry pauses in the entryway for a few minutes...giving Kevin one last chance to step in... looks like he’s gonna’ be tackling this one. Jade’s gonna’ give him crap about this later.

Chapter Text

It only takes Dr. Fletcher a few minutes of conversation to figure out that Barry isn’t Kevin. Apparently, his cadence and speaking style are drastically different than Kevin’s (Barry was not aware of that) and Kevin had come across as quite shy on the phone (that doesn’t surprise Barry at all.) He apologizes profusely for the fact that he isn’t Kevin and explains that he genuinely tried to get Kevin to show up to the appointment. The doctor assures him that there’s no need to apologize; this isn’t the first time she’s had an alter show up in the place of a primary. More often than not, in fact, it takes 2 or 3 reschedulings just to get them to show up at all.

Barry tells her as much about Kevin as he can, admitting that he doesn’t know everything because he’s only been around since Kevin was about 13... he thinks. She asks him how many of them there are and he’s only able to give her a tentative number; new alters sometimes just show up unexpectedly (Samuel’s only been around about a week.) To his surprise, she asks him to tell her about himself...he’d thought they were supposed to focus on Kevin. As a rule, Barry gets along with most people but he finds Dr. Fletcher especially easy to talk to. It occurs to him later that this is possibly because it’s her JOB to be easy to talk to but, still, it’s nice. Their last therapist hadn’t been unkind to him but he’d always gotten the feeling that she didn’t think of him as an actual person.

She winds up giving them more than just free therapy. She’s lived in the city her whole life and is very well connected. She gets them an interview for a full time “General Maintenance and Sanitation” gig at the Philidelphia Zoo. Barry and Dennis have to share the light for that one because Dennis has no social skills and Barry knows jack-all about “maintenance and sanitation.” Barry makes a joke about how between the two of them they make one functioning person and he thinks Dennis almost laughs.

The interview goes well, at least, that’s how Barry feels about it. When he’s sharing the light with any of the Others he can usually get at least little ripples of emotion off of them but Dennis is like a cinderblock wall. Barry can’t deny that they usually make a good team but he’d be lying if he said that he was entirely at ease when alone with Dennis. None the less, he convinces Dennis that they should take a walk around the zoo before going home (they were told they could and it’s mid-day on a Wednesday so the place is nearly empty.) Barry moves out of the center of the light, giving Dennis control of Kevin’s body.

When Dennis comes to a stop by the lion cages, seemingly watching the animals lounge in the sun, Barry decides that now is as good a time as any to bring up what he’s been meaning to bring up. He eases into it.

(How’ve ya been?)

(In regards to...?)

Barry hates that. You’d think that being a man a few words, Dennis would tend to give straight answers...you’d be wrong though.

(Just...in general... it feels like we don’t talk much.)

(Because we don’t...that a problem?)

(Well, yeah...)

Dennis cuts him off.

(You know that if there were anything you NEEDED to know, I would tell you.)

(Ya...I guess.)

Barry decides there’s no point in beating around the bush.

(Ya know...Dr. Fletcher says that she’d ideally like to become acquainted with all of us eventually.)

There’s a long pause during which Barry would swear that Dennis didn’t hear him...if that weren’t physically impossible.

(...reality is often not ideal. Dr. Fletcher likely already knows that.)

(Is that you’re way of saying you’re not gonna’ talk to her?)

(I don’t see the need.)

(...Really?)

One of the lions starts grooming itself between it’s legs, Dennis turns away sharply and heads toward the indoor enclosure. It’s full of exotic birds behind glass. Barry decides to approach from a different angle.

(You know Hedwig’ll be more likely to do it if you do.)

It’s true. For reasons that are a complete mystery to Barry, Hedwig has always just ADORED Mr. Dennis. Mr. Dennis is his hero, Mr. Dennis is the biggest, strongest, smartest man in the whole world. Everything Mr. Dennis says is absolute truth and there’s nothing Mr. Dennis can’t do... Barry doesn’t dislike Dennis (as a rule, he doesn’t REALLY dislike anyone) he’s just genuinely confused as to how a kid got so enamored with a cinderblock wall.

(I’ll tell him he has to.)

(...I still think you should too...)

(Why?)

(YOU KNOW WHY DENNIS!)

Barry takes a moment to collect himself.

(Dr. Fletcher says that the therapy will be most effective if there’s full disclosure and NONE of us, individually, is capable of fully disclosing...we all have to participate.)

Dennis actually seems to be thinking about what he just said, Barry takes advantage of his silence.

(We both know that there are things about Kevin that only you know...important things...)

(You’re better off not knowing....)

(Fine! Then don’t tell them to us, just tell them to Dr. Fletcher.)

(So she can put them in a book?)

Barry doesn’t know what to say...he hadn’t thought that Dennis knew about Dr. Fletcher’s published work.

(Despite what Mr. Orwell might think, I CAN read and I’ve read a few’a her books.)

(You... have?)

(Yeah...she goes into an awful lotta’ detail for someone who claims to respect her patient's privacy.)

(She doesn’t use their real names...)

(It doesn’t matter! There are some things you just DON’T make a spectacle out of!)

Barry wants to say that he doesn’t think that’s what Dr. Fletcher does but he’s thrown by how Dennis’ voice just cracked...almost as though he were about to cry. The next thing he knows, he’s back in his chair. Dennis has pushed him out of the light.

------

It is not in Dennis’ nature to cry, he’s just having trouble breathing right now. He goes quickly back to the car and sits a moment behind the wheel, taking deep breaths, waiting for his nerves to steady. He takes the disinfectant wipes out of the glove compartment and wipes down the steering wheel and the dashboard and the cup holders. Someone left a candy wrapper in the door pocket despite his FREQUENT reminders that it’s NOT a God damned trash can! He rakes his fingers over his scalp. There’s stubble...when he gets home he’ll shave and shower...but only after he cleans the apartment for the second time that day... he’s FINE.

Chapter Text

Kevin gets the job at the zoo, likely due in no small part to the fact that he has Dr. Fletcher as a reference and the guy who hired him is a personal friend of hers...and that the zoo gets a tax break for hiring someone with a mental disability. He tries not to focus on that and instead focuses on the fact that he now has a full-time job and health insurance and might even be able to afford to live somewhere where the walls aren’t made of cardboard. He’s on an odd kind of split shift half of which takes place when the zoo is open and the other half after it’s closed. He knows that someone works the first half and a different person works the second. Dr. Fletcher occasionally asks him if he’s ready to learn who some of those people are...he’s not. She doesn’t press the matter though because he’s getting better and better at showing up to his sessions himself and she doesn’t want to do anything that might cause a relapse.

Kevin can finally afford a tv and a laptop, though neither are expensive models. He makes a point of buying a Forbidden Planet DVD along with the tv because he knows that, now that he has a way of watching them, DVDs are going to start accumulating and he wants the first one to be one he chose himself. He locks the computer with a password but isn’t sure that’ll do any good and starts keeping a video journal instead of writing in his notebook. He finds that his thoughts flow better when he can just say them out loud. Things are going oddly well, he feels better than he can remember having felt... probably ever. Granted, the bar isn’t very high.

------

Hedwig is in Dr. Fletcher’s office and he’s in a blue chair and he’s wearing Mr. Barry’s clothes because Mr. Barry brought him here. This is the first time he’s ever got to see Dr. Fletcher and the first thing he thinks is that she’s old, like Kevin’s mom would be if she weren’t dead. Miss. Patricia had just told him that Kevin’s mom had “passed on,” she thought Hedwig didn’t know what that meant but he did. Dr. Fletcher isn’t mean like Kevin’s mom though and her clothes are nicer. She asks him if he feels safe here and he says yes. Mr. Dennis told him it was ok to go here and Mr. Dennis wouldn’t let him go anywhere where he might get hurt.

“Did you want to come here?”

“... Mr. Dennis says, if I’m good, he’ll let me come to the zoo with him at night and look at the hyenas...can I have some candy?”

He points at the bowl on the table next to him and Dr. Fletcher nods. He takes 3 pieces, eats one and puts the rest in his pocket.

“So, Mr. Dennis was in favor of you’re coming here?”

“He says that Mr. Barry says that you told him that if I talk to you, Kevin’ll feel better.”

“Do you know why Kevin needs to feel better?”

“...cause he’s sick? Is that how come he’s always sleepin’ and cryin’, etcetera, and he don’t play with me no more?”

“That may be a part of it... when did you and Kevin used to play?”

“....he used to not be taller than me and Mr. Dennis would tell us when it was safe to go out and we’d play and watch cartoons, etcetera.”

“Has Mr. Dennis always been taller than you?”

“Yeah.” Hedwig laughs. “Mr. Dennis is a grownup.”

“And he was a grownup even when Kevin was the same age as you?”

“...I’m 9.”

“Right... but Mr. Dennis was never 9.”

“Nu-uh.” Hedwig shakes his head.

“Is Mr. Dennis your friend.”

“Yeah! Mr. Dennis says hyenas are nocked-turn-all, so they sleep durin’ the day but if ya go in the zoo at night you can see um movin’ around and fightin’, etcetera...they got eyes that glow in the dark!”

Dr. Fletcher smiles. Hedwig likes that...Kevin’s mom had never smiled at him. He wants to tell her more about hyenas but she starts talking first.

“Would you say that all of the others are your friends?”

Hedwig’s not sure... he thinks some of the others don’t even like him.

“Jade’s my friend... she used to only be a little taller than me but now she’s a lot taller an’ she gets real angry sometimes an’ Mr. Barry says he thinks it’s cause there’s not enough sugar in’er blood.”

“Is Mr. Barry your friend?”

Hedwig’s not sure...he guesses Mr. Barry is his friend but...

“How come he gets to be the leader?”

“What do you mean?”

“Mr. Dennis and Miss. Patricia used to be the leader together but then Miss. Patricia went away and Mr. Dennis got sad but I think Mr. Dennis should just be the leader by his self cause he’s more grown-up than Mr. Barry.”

Dr. Fletcher doesn’t say anything and just looks at him for a long time. He starts to worry he did something wrong.

“How do you know Mr. Dennis is sad?”

Hedwig doesn’t know what to say because he doesn’t know how he knows...he just...does. He shrugs.

They talk for a while after that and Hedwig tells her more of the things Mr. Dennis and Mr. Barry told him about the zoo and what kind of music he likes and how him and Jade both like superhero movies but Jade just likes them cause the guys in them are ripped. After a while, she tells him the session is over and asks him to bring Mr. Barry back.

“I can walk home by myself ya’ know...Jade made me learn the street signs.”

“I’m sure you can, but I would like to talk to Mr. Barry again before you leave.”

She goes over and picks up the bowl with the candy in it.

“How about this, if you bring Mr. Barry back, I’ll give him all of this to take home so that you can have it later.”

“...ok.”

------

Barry comes to sitting opposite Dr. Fletcher, as he’d been before, except that one of his legs is thrown over the arm of the chair. He rights himself.

“Sorry if he was kind’a... hyper.”

“Not at all. In fact, we had a very productive session.”

“Really?”

“Really.”

As they’re talking, she goes and gets a plastic bag from the kitchen and empties the candy dish into it. She hands it to Barry, who raises an eyebrow but takes it.

“Have you talked to the Others about who I’ll be speaking with next week?”

“Probably Jade but we’ll have to see how she feels the day of. Her mood can be kind of erratic.”

“You believe she struggles with low blood sugar.”

“Hedwig tell you that?”

“He didn’t use those exact words but yes...has she ever had her blood tested?”

“Uh...no.”

“Well, that’ll give us something to discuss when she comes in.”

------

A few days before the Purge, Barry informs Dennis that he won’t be needed that night. Over the past year, Barry has befriended a young lady named Colette, who he met at the coffee shop. Colette is a tall, slender, stylishly dressed blonde from a well-to-do family. She lives in a very exclusive, maximum security high-rise and has apparently INSISTED that Barry sleep over there on Purge night. Dennis seems almost insulted by this and Barry really doesn’t get that...you’d think he’d be happy not to have to hold down the fort for once.

All the Others agree that, if there is a safer place for them to go, then it only makes sense for them to go there. It’s decided that Barry will have the light during this year’s Purge. On the night, as Barry prepares to head to Colette’s place, Dennis is conspicuously anxious. Hedwig goes and sits on the floor by Dennis’ chair, his back resting against the side of it.

Chapter Text

Barry arrives at Colette’s building about half an hour before the Purge is set to begin because this isn’t exactly the sort of thing you can be fashionably late to. The doorman won't let him in so he has to wait there while the guy calls Colette on the intercom and then until she comes down to get him. He’s a little antsy, he’s never been outside THIS close to the start of the Purge before...the streets are already mostly empty. An unnatural stillness has settled over the usually bustling city. He lets out a breath he hadn’t realized he was holding when Colette finally appears.

She greets him with her usual hug and briefly lingering kiss on the lips. Barry doesn’t read much into this because he assumes that she assumes that he’s gay...most people do. It’s not necessarily UN-true... in the past, he’s found the term “heteroflexible” to be of use. She leads him by the hand into the elevator and he notices that she’s wearing a skimpy black cocktail dress and candy-apple red, stiletto heels.

“This you’re usual Purge lock-down attire?” he gestures to her barely clad body.

She giggles and strikes a pose.

“Actually, it’s more of a lock-down party.”

“Well, if I knew it was gonna’ be a full-blown occasion, I’d have tried to find somethin’ nicer to wear.”

“Shut up!” She playfully bats his arm. “You know you look fabulous in anything.”

“This is true.” He shrugs. “So...uh, how many people are gonna’ be at this thing?”

“It’s just an intimate get together... me, you, my fiance, a few of our friends.”

Fiance...yep, she’s definitely assuming he’s gay. They take the elevator to the top floor penthouse, Barry had known she was well off but he didn’t think she was LOADED. He makes a promise to himself not to seem too impressed. When they get inside the apartment, his first thought it that Dennis would like the place. It’s all glass and metal and smooth, hard surfaces... like the inside of a really classy refrigerator.

There’s a group of three people sitting in a semi-circular sectional in the center of the room, mid-conversation, while a fourth mixes drinks at a bar along the far wall. Barry guesses the guy behind the bar must be the aforementioned fiance because after he sets the tray of drinks he’d been mixing down on an (also glass and metal) table in the middle of the group, he comes over and kisses her. When their lips part, they wrap their arms around each other's waists and turn to look at Barry.

“Dean, this is Barry.”

Dean smiles (his teeth are so white they’d probably glow under a blacklight) and looks Barry up and down in a way that for some reason makes him wish he was wearing more layers. After they shake hands, Dean takes a drink from the tray and hands it to Barry.

“You've got some catching up to do.” He says jovially. “We’ve been at it since 3.”

“Didn’t know I had the option’a showin’ up that early.”

“He’s teasing.” Colette laughs. “Kyle’s the only one who’s been here since 3.”

A guy in the group who looks near-to exactly like Dean except for smaller and less artificial waves and Barry waves back... They’ve gotta’ be either brothers or clones.

Colette gestures to a young dark-skinned black guy with close-cropped hair and thick-rimmed black glasses sitting across from Kyle. She introduces him as Antoine, a friend of Dean’s from work. Antoine is wearing an off the rack charcoal grey suit; that combined with Colette’s dress and the tuxes that Dean and his brother/clone are wearing makes Barry wonder if they neglected to tell all their guests about the dress code. The only other woman in the group is Arina, a shy waif with raven hair and a slight Eastern European accent. She and Kyle met at the gym.

They settle into the sectional, Dean pointedly placing himself between Colette and Barry, and have started to settle into a natural conversation...until the siren sounds. In the back of his mind, Barry feels Dennis reflexively jump up out of his chair. Barry is so quick to reassure him that he doesn’t realize he’s talking out loud.

“It’s fine, we’re fine...”

He feels a hand on his arm and jumps... it’s Dean.

“Come on.” He stands up, pulling Barry along with him. “I want to show you something really cool.”

As he’s lead out onto the balcony, he glances briefly back at Colette who’s so engaged in conversation with the group that she doesn’t even lookup. The “balcony” is twice the size of the sitting room they’d just been in and has a small swimming pool in the center of it (LOADED), it’s also completely enclosed in glass. Dean leads him over to the glass and knocks hard on it twice with his right hand....his left hand is now holding Barry’s right hand.

“That’s 4 inches thick and bulletproof. Even if someone did manage to, like, grappling hook up the side of the building, there’s no way they'd be able to get in.”

Dean turns and looks at Barry, making eye contact with him for the first time since they’ve met.

“So relax.” The other man's thumb strokes the underside of Barry’s wrist soothingly. Dennis sit’s back down, just as likely recoiling from the intimate touch as accepting the fact that they’re safe.

“Finish that drink and I’ll go make you another one.”

Barry smirks and downs what’s left in the martini glass that he’s been holding, it had been mostly full. Dean snatches the empty vessel from his hand and walks briskly back inside. Barry lingers a moment on the balcony, taking in the street below. Metal shutters have been closed over the windows of the lower levels of the surrounding buildings and an armored van with speakers mounted on it is slowly creeping down the street; likely blaring a final warning to anyone foolish or unfortunate enough to still be out.

When Barry comes back into the sitting room, an enormous flat-screen tv has appeared; apparently risen out of a hidden compartment in the floor (LOADED) and the standard, pre-Purge public service announcement has started. Barry’s never seen it. They didn’t have a t.v. until about a month ago and even that’s not hooked up to cable. He resumes his former place on the couch and eventually, Dean comes over and sits beside him (so close they're practically touching) and hands him a glass of something the same color red as Colette’s shoes. He also casually drapes his arm along the back of the couch, behind Barry’s head. Colette takes as much notice of this as she did their leaving the room earlier.

Orwell creeps just to the edge of the light when the talking heads on the tv explain the history of the Purge and all the good it’s done for America. Barry is having a little trouble paying attention, Dean is leaning into him and seems more concerned with the side of his neck than the screen in front of him. It’s not unpleasant but...the guy’s fiance is RIGHT there. He balks just a little and the other man lets up. He doesn’t move his arm though.

When the national anthem starts playing, Colette pushes a button on the remote, the tv lowers into the floor, the lights in the room come back on and Dean shifts away from Barry just a little. Colette immediately rises, shucks off her dress and asks ‘who’s for a swim?’ She doesn’t even wait to see who responds before walking out onto that balcony. The other’s follow her, except Barry (it is a set-in-stone rule that they DO NOT remove Kevin’s shirt in front of people)... and Dean.

“You can go ahead.” Barry says, standing up and walking over to the bar...trying not too look as nervous as he is. “I’m just not much of a water person.”

“It’s fine...I can use that pool any day.”

He just sits and watches as Barry pours himself another drink, seems a little reproached when Barry doesn’t come back to sit beside him.

“Colette tells me you’re into fashion.”

“...yeah...”

“Then I’ve got something I think you’ll appreciate.”

He gets up and strides across the room toward a hallway, he pauses just before entering it and motions for Barry to follow. They emerge into a bedroom larger than Kevin’s apartment (as stark and glossy as the sitting room) in the center of it there’s an industrial-style four-poster bed. Dean walks to the wall behind the bed and pushes a button and the wall opens revealing a hidden walk-in closet full of...just...a ridiculous number of suits. There’s gotta’ be at least 200 suits in there...who needs that many suits? Dean turns to him and poses like a magician who’s just done an especially impressive trick and Barry forces a smile.

“Wow.”

“I know, right?” Dean motions for him to come into the closet.

This isn’t exactly the type of “fashion” that Barry is “into” but he can appreciate the craftsmanship...he guesses... Dean is a BIG fan of black, dark gray and navy. He points to each rack as he lists the brand names.

“Boss, Ford, Zegna, Prada, Gucci, Armani, Brooks Brothers, Dior, Briani...all custom, of course.”

“Of course.” Barry downs half his drink in one gulp. They talk for a while about cuts and linings, ties and pocket squares, Barry starts to relax a little. Eventually, the conversation just sort of loses momentum and Dean stands there looking at him for an uncomfortably long time.

“Would you like to try one on?”

Barry doesn’t really want to but he has a feeling that things might get uncomfortable if he says no...and they’re stuck here until 7 a.m. He just nods.

“I would LOVE to see you in...” Dean skims through the Brooks Brothers rack, “...this.”

It’s ALL wrong. The suit is black and the shirt under it is dark red, the tie is the same color as the shirt... there should be some blue or at least pale grey in there...to bring out Kevin’s eyes. He takes it anyway. Dean seems to sense his hesitance and turns his back...giving Barry a bare minimum of privacy. The suit’s a little roomy on him; you can tell Dean spends a LOT of time at the gym.

Dean turns around just as Barry is buttoning the shirt and comes and ties the tie for him... There’s something...condescending about that...was he assuming Barry had never worn a tie before? He grabs his shoulders, positions him in front of the full-length mirror and just LOOKS at him for an uncomfortably long time...not letting go of his shoulders. Eventually, he wraps his arms around Barry’s waist.

“You’re gorgeous, you know that?”

He does, Kevin is a babe...for some reason, only him, Jade and Ansel seem aware of that. Dean turns his attention to the side of Barry’s neck again and this time he actually pushes him off and moves away from him. The other man gives him a warning look (Dennis stirrs.)

“Aren’t you an' Colette engaged.”

Dean suddenly looks relieved, he laughs.

“She didn’t tell you, did she?”

Barry just waits for an explanation...he feels that he’s owed at least that... Dennis is measuring the distance from here to the bedroom door.

“Colette and I... don’t participate in the Purge in the typical sense...but... we do have our own tradition. Every year, we have a little lock-down party and I bring someone for her and she brings someone for me.”

All at once, it dawns on Barry what he’s talking about.

“You’re swingers?”

“Just on Purge Night.”

He advances on Barry again... presumptuous...like now that it’s been explained, of course, Barry is going to fuck him...because what possible reason could he have to not want to? Barry isn’t a prude by any stretch of the imagination but... he usually at least needs to LIKE the person he’s with and he does NOT like Dean... right now, he’s not even sure he likes Colette anymore. He says something that he’s sure is going to throw Dean off.

“Are the people she brings for you always men?”

For a moment, something like vulnerability or...shame (?) flickers across the other man’s too-chiseled features. It’s quickly replaced by a sharp smile.

“Yeah, and I usually bring her a black guy.”

There’s something about the way he says that last part that really rubs Barry the wrong way.

Dean walks up to him, confident again, and puts one hand on the back of his neck and one arm around his waist; pulling him closer with an intentionally startling amount of force. Dennis is RIGHT on the edge of the light but Barry doesn’t let him in...it’s the first time he’s ever kept one of the other’s from sharing the light with him...before now, he hadn’t even been sure he HAD that ability. Then again, he doesn’t know what would happen if Dennis actually tried to FORCE his way in.

They’re STUCK here until 7 a.m., he can’t let things get awkward and he DEFINATELY can’t let things get violent. Desperate, he turns to Jade.

(Honey...could ya’... do you want to...?)

Jade comes to the edge of the light, not seeming particularly enthused but...

(He ain’t ugly.) She shrugs.

Thanking GOD for Jade, Barry steps aside, letting her into the light. This all happens so quickly that Dean doesn’t even notice it. As Barry goes to his chair, he can FEEL Dennis’ eyes on him, he can feel the disgust in the other alter’s gaze. They don’t all have the ability to completely block the others out like Dennis but they have a sort of privacy filter that they put up when one of them is doing “grown-up stuff.” Barry is pretty sure that, even with that, Hedwig’s probably seen more than a kid his age should.

They all sit in uncomfortable silence while Jade does her thing. She knows that in these sorts of situations she’s supposed to come right back in when she’s done.

------

When Barry comes to, he’s lying naked on the bed he’d seen earlier. The alarm clock on the bedside table tells him it’s an hour later. Dean is lying beside him, looking up at the ceiling, seemingly lost in thought. He slides out of the bed as inconspicuously as he can and starts getting dressed (putting his OWN clothes back on.) If he hadn’t been so consumed with self-loathing at that particular moment, he might have heard Dean getting something out of the bedside drawer. If Dennis weren’t pointedly NOT paying attention (as he always does at times like this) he might have heard it too...

Barry is abruptly jerked backward by something around his throat. He feels Dean’s chest against his back. He tries to struggle but whatever's around his throat cuts into his skin when he does. He feels Kevin’s blood dribbling down his chest... he can’t breathe... Dean whispers in his ear.

“Before you go, I just want to tell you how grateful I am...thank you, thank you for letting me cleanse my soul.”

All at once the pain is gone, Barry is flung back into his chair.

Chapter Text

Dennis whips his head back as hard as he can. Of course, this hurts him too but feeling the other man’s nose breaking is SO gratifying that it’s well worth the pain. As soon as the other man let’s go of the metal wire around his neck, Dennis reaches up and removes it. It cuts his hands as he does so. If Mr. Barry had put up more of a fight, they’d be bleeding to death right now. He very badly wants to examine Kevin’s neck to see how deeply cut it is but the other man is back on him sooner than he expected.

He throws his elbow back into the other man’s sternum, just to get enough distance between them, then turns around and brings the heel of his palm up into the man’s already broken nose. The other man staggers back, making a wholly inhuman noise. Dennis punches him in the throat so that he can’t start screaming, then shoves his shoulders hard enough to knock him to the ground. There’s an audible crack when his head hits the hard, white floor.

Dennis picks the thing that had been around his neck up and examines it. It’s a length of silver wire with a straight handle at each end. He looks over at the man on the ground and immediately knows what the thing is for. He kneels over the man, pinning his arms down with his knees, and wraps the wire around his neck. As Dennis pulls the handles in opposite directions, the wire simultaneously strangles the man and slits his throat. He makes one final, pathetic, flailing attempt to get out from under Dennis and then the light leaves his eyes.

As soon as he knows the threat has been neutralized, Dennis gets up and goes to the floor-length mirror in the closet. The wire had barely cut into Kevin’s skin and the wound has already started clotting. He’ll clean it properly when he gets home but first, he has to get home. Mr. Barry hadn’t put his shirt back on before the man attacked him and for a moment Dennis is distracted by Kevin’s scars. That man, that VILE man had seen them...probably even touched them.

Dennis puts on Mr. Barry’s shirt and shoes. He makes a point of grinding one of the dead man’s hands under his heel as he leaves the room. The sitting room is mostly dark now with only ambient light coming in from the outside but Dennis can just make out a writhing shape on the couch. Glasses. Where are his glasses? He feels around in Barry’s pockets and is surprised to find them there... Even with as sure as he’d seemed that things would be fine, Barry had still been prepared for the possibility that he might wind up needing Dennis...Dennis is not sure how to feel about this.

When Dennis’ eyes have finally adjusted to the near-dark he realizes that the shape on the couch is a naked man frantically thrusting into a woman... Correction, the BODY of a woman...the way her arm hangs limply over the side of the couch and her head lulls to the side makes it clear that she is (as Miss. Patricia used to say) “no longer with us.” Dennis doesn’t really FEEL anything in response to this, all he knows is that that man is between him and the door. Dennis edges over to the bar and feels around until he finds something that he remembers having briefly seen through Barry’s eyes earlier; it’s a little stone statue of...a fox, maybe...or a cat? It doesn’t really matter, what matters is that it’s heavy and one end of it is pointed.

The man is so absorbed in his...actvities that Dennis is able to just walk right up to him...even stand over him a moment. He doesn’t know why, but for some reason, he waits until the man stops moving and begins to turn to look up at him before he brings the thing down on his head... again and again until he feels something warm and sticky splatter against his face. Trying not to think about what that is (he’ll wash when he gets home...he’ll baste himself in isopropyl alcohol) he makes his way to the door to find it locked. Finding that there’s no way of unlocking it, Dennis remembers, “maximum security”...EVERY DOOR in the building had locked automatically at 7 p.m. It occurs to him that this place was designed as much to keep people IN as to keep them out and he wonders how that obvious fact had escaped Barry’s notice or, if it hadn’t, why it had not set off any alarm bells in the other alter’s mind... Is he the only one around here with any survival instincts?

Suddenly he’s blinded again because the room is flooded with light. He pivots and as his eyes adjust he sees a woman on the other side of the room. She’s frozen in shock. She’s spattered with blood (none of which seems to be her own), wearing only lacy black underthings and a pair of bright red shoes. She’s emaciated like the women in the magazines that Barry’s always reading and that makes Dennis flashback to that very young girl...slumped against the street light...had it been...a year ago? He’s pulled out of his memory by her voice.

“Barry?”

Her tone is genuinely questioning... Dennis doesn’t blame her. In response, he only shakes his head as he realizes that this is Barry’s “friend”...the one who brought them here...knowing what that man planned to do to them. He takes a single step forward and she darts further back into the apartment. Guns, Dennis thinks, she’s probably headed for where they keep their guns. She’s surprisingly dextrous in those ridiculous shoes but he’s just plain faster than her.

He gets her by the hair (her long, soft, blonde hair) and throws her back into the sitting room. She shrieks as her elbow hits the floor but to her credit, she scrambles back to her feet surprisingly quickly. She makes for the door to the balcony and manages to make it outside but Dennis gets there just in time to grab the door before she closes it. Again, to her credit, she doesn’t try to pull it shut (knowing she can’t beat him in a contest of strength.) Instead, she runs to the other side of the balcony, putting the pool between them.

For a long time they stand there regarding each other. She backs up against the glass, cradling her (probably broken) right arm in her left arm. He centers himself in front of the door, squares his shoulders, crosses his arms. It starts to seem like she won’t be breaking the silence so he figures that he might as well.

“Can I ask ya’ somethin’?”

She doesn’t respond, she just stands there, glaring at him, cradling her arm and shivering... so he proceeds.

“Why’d ya pick us...me...why’d ya pick me?”

She takes a deep breath, then another, then she sobs and tears well up in her eyes.

“I don’t kno-”

“Don’t do that.” Dennis cuts her off, shaking his head. “Don’t lie...not now. Do ya’ really want the LAST thing you SAY to be a lie?”

Her face contorts as if in rage but then she starts crying. Dennis just waits. Eventually, she starts talking, almost calmly but her lower lip is quivering.

“I picked YOU because you told me you had some kind of mental disorder... and you get federal housing assistance...and you’re just a JANITOR at the ZOO...and you have no FAMILY.”

Dennis is surprised at just how much Barry had told this woman about them and disgusted that she’d used all that to decide that they were disposable (KEVIN is NOT disposable.) None of this shows on his face though and when he speaks his voice is calm and even.

“Thank you.” He nods. “Thank you for your honesty.”

He fakes left but then goes right and he’s fast enough that she’s not able to correct her course before he gets to her. She fights him as best she can with only one good arm and they wind up falling down into the water. This does not work to her advantage. He manages to drag her up into the shallow end. When she tries to stand up, he uses his right leg to sweep both hers out from under her and holds her head under that water with both his hands.

She claws at him but her long nails (like most everything about her) are fake and so only a few of them puncture his skin. The rest of her nails break off, taking chunks of her real nails with them. Both their blood streaks the water. It seems to be taking her a while to drown, he gets an idea. He sweeps her up into his arms (she’s light as a feather) and walks further into the shallow end.

She’s lethargic now, no longer struggling, so it’s easy for him to adjust his grip on her. He drapes her legs over his left arm and cradles the back of her head in his right hand before sliding it forward on her face until he can slip his thumb into her mouth. When she realizes her head is going back underwater, she starts struggling again. She bites down on his thumb and he can feel the bone cracking and it hurts but...well...when has pain ever stopped him? He holds her head under the water until her hands cease their clawing at his arm and bubbles stop coming out of her mouth.

When she goes still, the STRANGEST thing happens...Dennis’ mind goes completely quiet. He’s not anxious, he’s not worried, he’s not lonely or depressed... He just... is. He picks her up again and carries her to a point in the pool where it’s shallow enough for him to sit and then he does. For...who knows how long, he just sits... holding her...feeling her. He tries to remember the last time he HELD a woman and he...can’t...he thinks that maybe this is the first time...

Eventually, the heat leaves her body and with that, his brain sputters back to life. He’s sitting in a swimming pool holding a dead body and there’s blood and GOD only know’s what other fluids in the pool and he has open wounds and he’s FILTHY... filthy...disgusting. A wave of revulsion hits him and he gets to his feet as quickly as he can, dropping the thing he’d been holding. He staggers back into the sitting room and falls onto the couch opposite the two dead bodies already occupying it. He’s shaking and his head is pounding and he keeps heaving but nothing comes out.

He slips from the couch onto the floor and curls in on himself, covering his ears as though to block out some very loud noise. He can’t breathe....he can’t breathe...he can’t breathe and the pressure in his head keeps building and his own heartbeat is deafening and then....and then he suddenly feels a hand gently resting on his forearm...and then another one on the back of his neck. None of the others can talk to him right now...he’s blocked them out...yet there’s a voice in his ear...soft but commanding...familiar.

“You can go and rest now.”

Chapter Text

When Patricia comes to, it takes her a while just to adjust to the mere fact of her own physicality. It has been a while...hasn’t it, Dear Kevin? Once she settles into their body, she realizes that she’s in a considerable amount of pain...and wearing sopping wet clothing. Right, a bath first, then a change of clothes. She makes the mistake of using her right hand (which is quite damaged) to grip the arm of the couch and get to her feet. The pain that shoots up her arm makes Dennis stir but she shushes him and waits until she feels him go back to sleep before proceeding.

The place she’s in is cold and hard and sparse, like a sepulcher...how fitting. The clock above the door tells her that it’s only 3 a.m. so (assuming the Purge still ends at 7) she’s plenty of time. She finds a bathroom; all gleaming metal and white marble with an enormous round tub in the center...like a baptismal pool. She turns on the water and searches the bathroom cabinets until she finds an ornate jar containing a mixture of Epsom salts and hibiscus petals. She puts a handful of it into the tub and (to appease Dennis) a little iodine.

As Patricia peels off the clothing, she finds undeniable proof that Dennis had... GREATLY enjoyed at least some part of what had transpired before her arrival. She’s not disgusted, no, only concerned. The poor dear really isn’t well, is he? Though she supposes it’d be odd if he were, considering the things Kevin’s mother had done to him...and MADE him do. He really shouldn’t have been left to his own devices but Patricia had had no choice. She’ll explain that to him the next time she gets the chance...and she’ll tell him all the WONDERFUL things she’s learned.

She’s careful not to use her right hand to lower herself into the bath. The water feels heavenly. It had used to feel unnatural to her to inhabit Kevin’s body without one of the boys in the light with her (it’s so very different from the one she inhabits while in their room inside his head) but she finds it no longer bothers her. She takes her time washing each precious scar, taking extra care with the fresh wounds. It’s evidently been quite a trying night.

After she dries herself, she dons a red silk kimono that had been hanging on a hook by the door. Finally, she looks in the mirror and what she sees pains her... Kevin has grown into a man...while she was away. Her absence had felt both short and long to her, as though an eternity had passed in an instant, but the changes in Kevin’s face and body imply that it’s been at least... 4 years? Perhaps longer? She tells herself that the others will be able to fill her in (what are they like now? Are there more of them?) and that there’s no point in fretting over it at present.

It’s 5 now. She strolls around the apartment, surveying the aftermath. As she’s examining the entangled couple on the sofa, a soft, wet, noise catches her attention. It’s coming from behind a door to the left of the bar that she finds leads into a small guest room... There’s a nude, young, African American gentleman bound to the bed who looks much the worse for wear.

His throat’s been cut...incorrectly, obviously or he wouldn’t still be (just barely) alive. As she takes in the rest of his body, though, it occurs to her that whoever had done this had had no interest in dispatching him quickly... In places the flesh has been peeled away to reveal the muscle underneath, his fingernails are missing, both his Achilles' tendons have been cut clean through. He has no eyelids and...no tongue. His...intimate parts are missing but the stump that remains has been tied off... and yet he’s still, SOMEHOW just barely breathing. Each breath makes a raspy whistling noise as it passes the hole that’s been made in his windpipe.

As she approaches the bed, she notices a set of ornate, delicate-looking knives laid out neatly on the nightstand. He can’t POSSIBLY actually be conscious at this point...surely shock has set in and what she’s seeing are just the last involuntary muscular spasms of a body already technically dead...but... He turns to look at her (can he even see?) and his next breath comes out in a pitiful, gurgling stammer than MIGHT be an attempt at speech.

“Poor dear.”

Is all she can think to say as she raises a hand to caress his hair in a manner that she hopes is soothing but... Realistically, if he can still feel anything now, it’s probably all pain... He won’t be surviving this, best to put him out of his misery. She maintains eye contact with him to keep his focus on her and slowly, silently picks up one of the little silver knives from the nightstand. She plunges it swiftly into his temple. His death is instant and, she hopes, painless.

As Patricia washes the blood off her hands in the kitchen sink, she notes something odd. She’d felt sympathy for the man but now she feels...nothing. He’s gone and, with him, any associated emotions. That’s abnormal, isn’t it? Was she like this before? She can remember so little of how she’d been before...

It’s 6:30 and she supposes that she should get dressed. Technically, nothing that’s happened here has been illegal but it’s probably still for the best that they make their exit inconspicuously. She walks down the hall until she finds a bedroom. There’s a corpse on the floor but she pays that much less mind than she does the racks of men’s clothing that line the entire back wall. Trying to think what Dennis would choose, she put’s on a pair of dark blue slacks and a shirt in a similar color. Then she tries to wake Dennis but winds up waking someone else instead.

(...Miss. Patricia?)

Dennis had felt familiar but also fundamentally different somehow. Hedwig, bless his heart, is still EXACTLY the same... Unfortunately, in this situation, that means he’s useless. Patricia huffs but tries not to sound angry.

“Dear heart, could you possibly fetch Mr. Dennis for me?”

(I don’t...think so...is Mr. Barry gonna' be ok?)

Patricia wonders what he means by that but doesn’t ask because she doesn’t feel like having to endure the child’s convoluted explanation. She goes back to the bathroom and searches the wet pile of clothing she’d left there until she finds a set of keys. She can hear the siren sounding outside. When she goes back into the sitting room (carefully avoiding looking at the bodies because there are some things a CHILD should not see) she finds that the apartment’s door is unlocked.

“I don’t suppose you know where we live?”

Her hopes are not high when she asks the question so she’s all the more surprised when she receives a burst of enthusiasm in response.

(Uh-huh, I do! Jade...)

“Jade made me learn the signs!”

The second half comes out of Kevin’s mouth because suddenly Hedwig is in the light and Patricia is standing just outside of it. That is new...and inconvenient.

(Come back inside and you can tell ME the signs.)

“I can walk home by myself!”

(He can, ya’ know.)

Patricia turns to see Jade, looking to have aged the same amount that Kevin had. She’s kneeling in front of Barry, who is similarily aged and apparently in a deep state of shock. The other’s (of whom there are at least twice as many as Patricia remembers) all appear to be sleeping or locked in some sort of stasis. She looks over to her own chair and is relieved to see Dennis where he’s always been, just to her right (on his right is Hedwig’s currently empty chair.) Dennis is, of course, older because Kevin has gotten older and Dennis must always be older than Kevin... he’s also fast asleep.

Chapter Text

Kevin wakes up in the late afternoon the day after The Purge (the calendar tells him.) His WHOLE body hurts and he’s wearing clothes that aren’t his...and he smells like flowers. Worst of all is his right hand, which is THROBBING and so inflamed that he can barely bend his fingers. It’s not abnormal for him to have no memory of The Purge (Dr. Fletcher tells him that that’s because his Alters go on high alert during that time) but literally, EVERYTHING else about this situation is. He should call Dr. Fletcher, shouldn’t he? This feels like the sort of thing that someone with DID should tell their psychiatrist about.

He leaves a message on her machine asking if he can get in for an emergency appointment early tomorrow...does he work tomorrow? In addition to all the other aches and pains, he feels a migraine coming on. Shit. He goes into his (still impeccably clean) bathroom and searches the medicine cabinet for something to take. Someone's glasses are on the sink, he knows there's another pair in a case on top of the bookshelf but he doesn’t know how he knows.

Kevin downs 4 Excedrin Migraine (how had he not noticed how thirsty he was? Is he hungover?) and goes back into the main room of the apartment. As predicted, DVDs have accumulated. There are documentaries (history, nature, the ocean, space), action movies (someone likes Quentin Tarantino), both romcoms and romantic dramas, some titles he can’t read because they’re in Japanese, some titles he can’t read because they’re in Spanish... When his eyes fall on a box set of the first season of Batman the Animated series, he feels someone in the back of his mind get excited... Sure, why not. He puts the first disc in and climbs back into bed.

For the rest of the afternoon, evening, and night, Kevin drifts in and out of consciousness. Sometimes he’s sleeping, sometimes someone else is taking over. At some point, someone changes the DVD to Inglorious Bastards. He comes to once sitting at the table with a sandwich in front of him, there’s nothing on it but paprika and mayonnaise. He still eats it.

At around 7 am, the phone rings. He’s not sure if he was woken up by it ringing or if it’s ringing prompted someone else to hand control back over to him. The people on tv are speaking Spanish.

“Hello.”

“Kevin?”

The sound of Dr. Fletcher’s voice makes him feel instantly calmer despite how tense she sounds.

“Yeah, it’s me...”

“Are you safe?”

“I am...now...I don’t know if I slept last night...”

“You can come in at 8:00.”

“Thank you.”

He hangs up before she can say anything else. He gets a feeling of derision from the back of his mind. Someone thinks that he was being rude just then. These sorts of feelings (the kind that are in his mind but don’t feel like they necessarily BELONG to him) have gotten stronger and more frequent as he’s progressed in therapy. Dr. Fletcher says that they come from the Others...his alters. She also says that they’re a good thing because they create at least some degree of cohesion between him and the Others. She also tells him that some of the Others can feel HIS emotions in a similar way.

He takes 4 more pills, brews a pot of coffee and decides to start the movie over and try to figure out what it is he’s been watching. He finds that he remembers the general plot. Not that he’s able to discern the plot based on context clues despite not knowing what the characters are saying, but that he actually REMEMBERS it. It’s as though he’s seen the film before...at some point in the past when he... spoke Spanish (?). It takes place in the 1940s and is about a little Spanish girl who goes to see the movie Frankenstein with her older sister and then starts to imagine that Frankenstein is a spirit that only she can talk to... like an imaginary friend.

He’s actually kind of disappointed he doesn’t get to the end of the movie before he has to leave for his appointment. Without the mystery film to distract him, his anxiety starts building again while he’s on the bus. He should have taken more Excedrin before he left the house because his head is killing him. Someone starts compiling a list of the information she’ll (“she’ll”?) need to file his taxes, which should be done before the week is out. Someone reminds him that he has a book overdue at the library. Someone wonders what the fuck that old woman across the aisle from them is looking at. A bunch of someones are suddenly trying to direct his attention to a bunch of different things and then...

------

Hedwig is on a bus because they need to go see Dr. Fletcher so he can fix Mr. Barry but he just wants to go home because his hand hurts SO bad. Ouch! Ouch! Ouch! He backs out of the light and then Jade darts into it before any of the others can.

------

“Hey Cruella Devil, how ‘bout ya mind yer own business.”

Jade hisses at the old bag across the aisle because, seriously, what the fuck happened to fucking manners? Shit, her hand hurts. She hopes that that’s because Dennis used it to cave in that yuppie fuck’s skull. She figures that Kevin had to have almost died; that’s the only reason she can think of for the Church Ladie’s sudden reappearance and the fact that Barry’s a wreck right now. Dr. Feltcher will fix that right? That’s her job, isn’t it?

Patricia wants to know who Dr. Fletcher is but that’s just too damn bad; she needs to focus on fixing whatever the hell she did to Dennis. He’s been asleep since Jade woke up which was right after they got home the morning after The Purge... Are they still wearing the creep’s clothes? Why didn’t Kevin change? This whole thing is a fuckin’ shit show.

When Dr. Fletcher answers the door, she looks like shit...like she’s been crying. Jade would ask why but she’s kinda’ got other things to worry about right now.

“Dr. Fletcher, you gotta’ make with the psychiatry and FAST!”

“Jade?”

“Yeah, sorry, Kevin didn’t make it here and Barry’s a zombie right now.”

“What happened to your hand?”

“Hell if I know!”

The doctor leads her into the kitchen, sits her down at the table, leaves and comes back with a first-aid kit. She feels around on Kevin’s hand (Jade manages to only swear 3 times during that) and figures out that the thumb is broken. Jade wonders, why just the thumb?

“Kevin really should have gone to the hospital for this.”

“Maybe he didn’t feel like sittin’ in a waitin’ room for 4 hours.”

Emergency rooms and walk-in clinics are always PACKED after the purge. The doctor nods in concession and begins putting a makeshift splint on the broken thumb.

“I assume this has something to do with why Kevin called me for an emergency appointment.”

“Oh, yeah.”

“Something happened on Purge Night?”

“Yep.” Jade scowls. “I wasn’t there for all of it but from what I gather Colette invited Barry to her place so her boyfriend could fuck’im and then kill’im.”

The doctor cringes but doesn’t say anything, just focusing on patching Kevin’s hand.

“I knew there was a reason I didn’ like that stuck-up skank, treatin’ Barry like he was a stray dog, but I didn’t say nothin’ and this...” She raises the hand to motion to the cut on Kevin’s neck and instantly regrets it (FUCK that hurts!) “...this doctor, is what happens when I keep my opinions to myself.”

“...someone tried to kill Barry?”

“Uh, yeah, this fucking stockbroker looking mother fucker who’s obviously so deep in the closet he’s findin’ Christmas present and deals with it by Purgin’ gay guys.”

Dr. Fletcher is looking at Kevin’s neck, she looks like she might start crying again.

“And one of you stopped him?”

“Dennis cut in and, I gotta’ say, that’s the first time I ever been glad THAT happened. I hope he curb stomped the piece’a shit.”

“Are you alright?”

“Ya’ mean besides the obvious?”

Jade uses her uninjured hand to gesture to Kevin’s throat and mangled right hand.

“No, I mean are YOU alright?”

Jade realizes then that, at some point, she’d started crying. She wipes her eyes as quickly as she can... she’s got a reputation to maintain, damn it.

“I’ll live.”

Dr. Fletcher doesn’t pry. Jade’s always liked that the woman knows when to back off. She finishes the splint and then they go and sit in her office.

“You said that Barry is currently nonresponsive?”

“He won’t talk ta me...”

Jade tries not to sound as worried as she is, which is hard because shes REALLY fuckin’ worried.

“And Kevin is still inaccessible to you?”

Jade just nods. Dr. Fletcher sits a long time, thinking.

“I think...that Kevin needs to speak to me... if he didn’t, he wouldn't have made the appointment... agreed?”

“...yeah.”

“This is... a bit difficult to explain... but I’d like to try something now that I’ve been working on with Barry and Kevin...”

“Barry can talk to Kevin?!”

Jade thinks ‘no way’, Barry would have told her about that... right?

“No... I’ve been working on it with them separately but simultaneously... You see, Barry has brought it to my attention that many of you believe that Kevin should spend more time in the light.”

“Yeah.”

“But also that he has extreme difficulty bringing Kevin into the light and so we have been working on a method whereby Kevin can be summoned into the light through the use of his full name.”

Jade realizes just then that she has NO idea what Kevin’s middle name is...she’s never had a reason to know. The doctor goes on.

“With your permission, I’d like to attempt that now... do I have your permission?”

Jade shrugs.

“Go fer it.”

The doctor smiles weakly and then takes a deep breath, then she looks directly into Jade’s eyes.

“Kevin...Wendell...Crumb.”

A beat passes...Jade looks around the room to make 100% sure she’s still on the outside. The doctor takes another deep breath and then, more forcefully.

“KEVIN... WENDELL... CRUMB!”

------

Kevin comes too and he... has no idea where he is. He’s in a hard wooden chair... in a room that looks like it’s been progressively added onto over a long period of time... the walls aren’t all the same color or even the same material... In some places, it’s drywall or raw wooden boards or brick or cinderblock. It also seems...physically impossible...he can’t tell how many sides it has and the walls seem to go up, up...infinitely into a black void. Some walls are in shadow or complete darkness while some are well lit... even though there seems to be no clear SOURCE of light in the room...except that spotlight...in the center...that seems to be shining up out of the floor but not casting light on anything around it.

Against each wall is an empty chair and Kevin soon realizes the chairs are empty because the people who were in them have all rushed toward the light... they’re pushing eachother...some of them are hitting, even biting each other. On the other side of the room (which is simultaneously extremely far away yet not difficult to see) a man stands up... he’s taller than all the others and Kevin somehow knows that he’s not supposed to look at him but he doesn’t know why. He turns to his right and sees...himself...but...not. The other him is looking at him and seems just as surprised by the situation as he is.

------

Dennis comes too in a room that looks like a small library. It’s not dirty, just...cluttered... Like if Kevin’s bookshelf took up his entire apartment. There’s a neatly dressed elderly woman sitting across from him looking deeply concerned. She speaks and he knows her voice but he doesn’t know from where.

“Kevin?”

Dennis shakes his head.

Chapter Text

“To whom am I speaking?”

The doctor asks, carefully keeping her tone neutral.

“I could ask you the same question.”

Dennis counters, not about to divulge any more information than absolutely necessary, at least not while he knows as little as he does. He checks his pockets to find that not only are his glasses not in them, but they’re not HIS pockets. Somebody’s bandaged his right hand... He notes that the candy dish on the table beside him isn’t in the exact center of the table, he corrects this. He crosses his arms to resist the urge to do more. There’s so much here that needs straightening and organizing and that’s just what he can see without the aid of his glasses.

The woman across from him appears to have been patiently waiting for his gaze to return to her. He overcompensates by looking directly into her eyes.

“We haven’t met before?”

“We have not.”

For a moment she’s put off by the bluntness of his tone but she recovers quickly.

“Then I suppose I should introduce myself... I’m Dr. Karen Fletcher.”

She waits, obviously expecting him to introduce himself. Dennis also waits. So... this is Dr. Fletcher. He wonders who brought them here; it couldn’t have been Miss. Patricia, she’d have no way of knowing Kevin even HAS a psychiatrist, let alone where said psychiatrists office is. Eventually, Dr. Fletcher cracks and breaks the silence.

“I was attempting to speak with Kevin... he called me seeming very upset about something that had happened on Purge Night...”

Again, she waits, clearly expecting him to volunteer information. Had the others all been so easy?

“Jade said that someone attempted to... Purge Barry and now he’s nonresponsive...”

“Well he’s sure respondin’ now, everyone is, it’s Bedlum in there...what exactly did you do?”

The doctor looks guilty.

“Barry and I have been working on a method for bringing Kevin into the light... I didn’t intend to have to use it yet and clearly, it hasn’t been perfected.”

“Clearly.”

Dennis’ whole body tenses... Barry’s been making plans with this doctor plans that could have a serious impact on Kevin’s well being...and hadn’t felt the need to tell HIM a thing about it. He adjusts the candy dish again...it wasn’t quite centered.

“The idea of Kevin being in the light more often bothers you?”

“Considering...”

Dennis nods down at his right hand. For a moment, tender concern flickers across the doctors face...Dennis thinks it might be real. The doctor seems to carefully consider her next words before saying them.

“I apologize but... since I’ve never attempted to summon Kevin before and it clearly didn’t have the intended effect, I’m concerned I may have inadvertently caused him to further dissociate. Would you mind telling me how long you’ve been with Kevin?”

This is smart, Dennis thinks. He’s shown a clear unwillingness to give her his name so now she’s asking for information that might lead her to it...he wonders what the other’s have told her about him. Undoubtedly, SOME of the other’s have at least mentioned that, when they first came into being, Dennis was already there. Depending on which those were, she would immediately guess who he is if he answered honestly... but lying is not in his nature. He ops for ambiguity instead.

“I’m not new.”

“Were you present on Purge Night?”

“Present enough.”

Dennis flashes back to the girl glaring at him, then to her blood streaking the water, then to the weight of her scantily clad body in his arms... He decides he’d better change the subject. He adjusts the candy dish one more time.

“Listen, Doctor, someone did attempt to Purge Kevin but, as you can see, they were unsuccessful. Mr. Barry was not well this morning but he at least seems to be awake now... I can’t fetch Kevin for you but you have an appointment with him in 2 days. I think he can wait until then to discuss Purge Night with you.”

“Actually, I think I’d like to speak to you a while longer... if you don’t mind.”

Dennis wants to tell her that he DOES mind, that he doesn’t want to be here and had NEVER intended to come here at all. He doesn’t, though, because that my help her to guess who he is. Likewise, if he hands the Light over to Barry now, Barry may tell her who she’s been speaking to. Any of the other’s would tell her as well... he’s stuck. He almost adjusts the candy dish again but diverts that movement into raking his fingers over his scalp.

“Now, Jade told me that Dennis ‘cut in’ when he sensed that Barry was in danger... do you know how exactly Dennis responded to the danger?”

Dennis does not appreciate the reminder that Jade just calls him ‘Dennis’...

“Why is that important?”

“I’m sure you already know that Kevin abstains from the Purge for moral reasons. It would upset him to know that he... killed, even in self-defense.”

“Kevin did NOTHING on Purge Night...Kevin was asleep.”

The doctor seems to be processing this.

“Despite the level of autonomy that you and the others have, Kevin, views himself as being responsible for your actions... the thought that one of you may do something that he would find... morally objectionable causes him a great deal of anxiety.”

Dennis thinks that not knowing can’t POSSIBLY cause Kevin anywhere near as much anxiety as knowing would and resents that the doctor seems to think she understands Kevin more than he does...he doesn’t say any of this though...he adjusts the candy dish again.

“This is why we USUALLY don’t go out on Purge Night.”

“Right... usually you stay in and Mr. Dennis ‘holds down the fort’ as Barry would say.”

Dennis can’t hold back his sneer at that... He wants to say that, yes, that IS what they usually do... If Barry hadn’t felt the need to change it, everything would have been fine. He doesn’t say it though...he adjusts the candy dish again.

“Why do you suppose that Barry felt the need to deviate from that pattern?”

Dennis could swear that she’s baiting him now.

“I don’t know.”

That’s not a lie...Dennis has NEVER understood how Barry’s mind works.

“He has expressed concern that Kevin is lonely.”

Dennis can only arch a brow at this. Lonely? How can Kevin be lonely...he is literally NEVER alone... Then again...Dennis is technically never alone either...

“He’s also expressed concern about Dennis... that he’s grown increasingly withdrawn since the death of Kevin’s mother... and that he seems anxious and overwhelmed.”

Dennis doesn’t even know where to start with that; no he hasn’t (has he?) and no he isn’t... he ISN’T. It dawns on him then that she IS baiting him, it also dawns on him why.

“...I’m the only one you haven’t met yet... aren’t I?”

“I’m sorry that it had to happen under these circumstances... Dennis.”

Dennis briefly panics, feeling exposed, but he doesn’t let it show. It’s worth noting that the doctor looks no less vulnerable.

“Are you alright?”

Dennis doesn’t even know how to process that question...he never does... not that anyone other than Barry ever asks him.

“In regards to...?”

“What happened on Purge Night... Jade said that you ‘cut in’ when...”

She seems unable to actually say it and her eyes mist over just a bit. Dennis doesn’t like that, he’s not good with... feelings. He hastens to reassure her.

“We’re alive, ain’t we?”

The doctor nods, not looking at all reassured. Dennis has never been any good at reassuring people... that’s more of a Barry thing.

“Would ya’ like to speak to Mr. Barry?”

“Yes but... not just yet.”

It takes her a moment to collect herself.

“I know you’ve been reluctant to come here and didn’t intend to come here this time, so I won’t try to convince you to tell me anything. I would just like you to know that if in the future, you do opt to come to an appointment, we don’t necessarily NEED to discuss Kevin’s past.”

Dennis is confused by this, what else could she possibly want to speak to him about?

“Most of the others have told me that, when they first came into being, you were already there. That you have the unique ability to completely block the others out and that you usually exercise that ability at times when Kevin is in physical danger... This has lead me to conclude that your original, intended purpose was the encapsulation of traumatic memories.”

Dennis can remember having read something like this in one of Dr. Fletcher’s books. He’d began reading them to get some idea of how trustworthy Dr. Fletcher was but had kept reading them out of habit and curiosity.

“In light of that, I completely understand why you’d be reluctant to disclose EVERYTHING that you know.”

“Then what’s the point in my comin’ to appointments?”

“The same reason anyone sees a therapist. I wasn’t lying before, Barry has expressed concern for you and based on what he’s told me, that concern doesn’t seem unwarranted.”

For a moment, Dennis wants to know what Barry’s said about him but he WILL NOT ask, he wouldn’t want the doctor to think he cares.

“He would like to help you but feels that the... nature of you’re relationship prevents him from doing so. So, for future reference, I’d like you to know that anything you told me in confidence would not be shared with the others.”

“What about Kevin?”

“I record all of my sessions with alters for the benefit of the primary. Should Kevin ever request to hear those recordings, I would be ethically obligated to allow him but as of yet, he has expressed no interest and I haven’t pressed the matter.”

“....would you put it in any a’yer books?”

“The only way I could do that is if Kevin were to listen to it and then sign an official release giving me permission and, as I’ve said, he’s expressed no interest. Just knowing that he’s... atypical, seems to cause him a great deal of anxiety and at this point in his treatment my primary concern is the reduction of anxiety.”

Dennis doesn’t know why but it hurts him just a little to hear that, still, he tells himself it’s for the best.

“I appreciate the offer but...I can’t promise you I’ll ever take you up on it.”

Hurt flickers across the doctors face but it’s followed by understanding. She nods.

“I’m gonna’ get Mr. Barry fer ‘ya now.”

Dennis doesn’t wait to see if she responds, he backs out of the light and pushes Barry into it.

------

Barry comes to in Dr. Fletcher’s office, he immediately begins crying.

“I messed up, Dr. Fletcher...I messed up REAL bad.”

Chapter Text

Dennis WANTS to yell at Barry for what happened on Purge Night but he finds that the alter has already thoroughly beaten himself up about it and (despite what SOME may believe) Dennis is not a bully. Instead, he just calmly informs Barry that he will have the Light on Purge Night, all of them, from now on. To his relief, Barry does not misinterpret this as a request. His dynamic with Jade is different now too. They still don’t like each other, they probably never will, but she no longer automatically sides against him when he and Barry have disagreements about what course of action they should take. She still USUALLY does, but she no longer does it AUTOMATICALLY and Dennis supposes that at least that’s something.

Barry also asks Dennis to share the light with him more often, particularly when he has to go out at night. It doesn’t take Dennis long to realize that this is because he’s afraid, no longer as blindly trusting of humanity as he once was. Dennis TRIES to tell himself that this is a good thing but he just can’t convince himself of it. He can’t think that Kevin nearly dying was in any way a positive thing. Anyway, that’s not how Barry is SUPPOSED to be...he has a purpose to serve, they all do, and his increased trepidation makes him less effective at that.

Miss. Patricia is giving Dennis space. He has a feeling that’s because she knows he’s not ready to speak with her yet. He’s torn between anger (HOW DARE SHE LEAVE HIM!) and the desire to fall to his knees and thank her for coming back, to promise her that he’ll do ANYTHING she asks if she just DOESN’T LEAVE him again... He realizes he’s thinking about that wrong...he should be angry that she left Kevin or at least that she left THEM (the group)... but he can’t honestly say that that’s how he really feels.

A change happens in Samuel. Samuel had had no features before beyond being “tech support,” he’s the reason that each of the Alters now has their own login on Kevin's computer and that Kevin doesn’t know that they each have their own login. Samuel is suddenly VERY pro-Purge. He binge-watches Purge Feeds on youtube and argues the merits of the Purge in comments sections and on message boards. He’s memorized the propaganda about the New Founding Fathers and America’s Rebirth and firmly believes it all.

He and Orwell need to be kept apart because Orwell’s feelings on the Purge are the exact opposite and, if allowed, their debates can go on for hours. Dennis would like to reassure Orwell that it doesn’t matter how Samuel feels about the Purge because Samuel is not allowed in the light on Purge Night but he knows his reassurances would mean nothing. Orwell has never had any respect for anything Dennis has to say.

One night, Dennis is woken up by a nightmare that Kevin had been having. Sometimes Dennis can remember Kevin’s nightmares but not this time. All he knows is that it had apparently been so vivid that Kevin had perceived it as a real, physical threat. For a while he lays in the dark, trying to fall back to sleep but he’s always been bad at that. He’s generally bad at any sort of resting. His natural inclination is toward productivity. He decides to read one of the security system installation manuals that he’s bought recently. He’s got quite a collection of them going but he has no idea why. The Others write it off as just another one of his “compulsions;” like shaving Kevin’s head or his recently developed aversion to touching doorknobs.

He knows one thing that would be sure to help him sleep but lately he can’t... gratify himself without a series of...truely detestable images playing through his mind. It’s a collage of things he’s done and things that he imagines he COULD do and when he soothes himself with their assistance he always wakes up feeling guilty the next morning. He’s tried watching porn (which he carefully hides from the others) in an attempt to replace the images that his mind supplies but instead they wind up blending together. When he tries to put those sorts of thoughts out of his mind entirely, he can only manage for so long and then they come back stronger and viler...as though they had been building up somewhere inside him.

The manual isn’t distracting him enough. He thinks maybe he’ll clean the apartment for the 3rd time that day, then take his 4th shower of the past 24 hours, then maybe he’ll be able to sleep. He’s getting cleaning supplies out from under the sink when he feels Miss. Patricia’s hand on his arm. This has always been her way of giving him notice before she joins him in the Light but, in light of recent developments, he especially appreciates it now. He could just block her out but he doesn’t, he never has.

(A bit late for chores, don’t you think? Doesn’t Barry need to be up early?)

“He does.”

Dennis begins dusting. He can feel her waiting for him to say something and he feels that he should but can’t think of anything to say. Eventually, she breaks the silence.

(You’re angry with me?)

Dennis doesn’t know how to respond to that...he certainly WAS but...is he still? He had felt the anger fading and known he could only hold onto it for so long. All that’s left now is relief and hurt and a need to know.

“Did you leave on purpose?”

(That’s a... complicated question.)

Dennis audibly scoffs, is she really going to be evasive now?

(Dennis, I think you should lie back down... do you remember how I used to tell you stories when you couldn’t sleep?)

Dennis remembers how she used to tell Kevin and Hedwig stories... he’d just happened to overhear them. He sighs, puts the cleaning supplies away, shuts off the lights and goes and lies back down. There’s no point in arguing with Miss. Patricia.

(To answer your question; I did leave of my own volition but I didn’t WANT to.)

“Where did you go?” Where COULD she have gone?

(All in good time, Dennis, but first I’d like you to know why I left...)

She seems reluctant to continue...he waits.

(I had become...unfit to serve my purpose...I could no longer pray...not REALLY. I felt that the Lord God had withdrawn his favor from me...)

“You know non’a that ever mattered to me.”

It’s true but he immediately regrets saying it because he knows that it hurts her to hear it.

(It mattered to me, Dennis... I wanted to know what I’d done to have lost his favor and so I went on a spiritual journey.)

“To where?”

(Dennis... do you remember... the Train Yard?)

It takes him a moment but he does remember it. All the Others know that Kevin’s father had left him on a train but none of them have first-hand memories of it because none of them had come into being yet when it happened. Dennis, however, does have first-hand memories of a nightmare that Kevin used to have. In the nightmare, Kevin had gone to the trainyard to look for his father and beg him to come home.

Once he got there, he found it dark and still and empty and had somehow known that he couldn’t go in... because SOMETHING was out there waiting for him. It wouldn’t come to him, it was just waiting for him to come to it...so he couldn’t go look for his father. In the dream, Kevin would stand paralyzed by fear, afraid to go further into the trainyard but afraid to leave it because then he would have to go home...to his mother. Eventually, he would awake in a panic, Dennis would take the light but once he realized that there was no REAL threat, he would recede and Miss. Patricia would soothe Kevin back to sleep.

“I didn’t know you could actually go there.”

(Neither did I... until I did. I felt myself being called to the place and, when I got there, I found him waiting.)

Him? Dennis thinks that maybe she means Kevin’s father but...no...no, Kevin’s father had left on a REAL train, from a REAL train yard. Miss. Patricia seems to sense his confusion.

(Dennis...I’ve met the Beast.)

“The Beast?”

(THE Beast.)

It takes it a moment to click but then Dennis flashes back to all the post Purge graffiti (“Release the Beast!”) and the talking heads on television going on about citizens “releasing the Beast in record numbers.” He rolls his eyes.

“You been talkin’ ta Samuel.”

(No... I’ve been talking to the Beast himself, Dennis... the immortal, primal spirit that all those pretenders CLAIM to be channeling when they go out and indulge their juvenile, sadistic perversions. He is displeased with how his name has been abused and has charged us with restoring it.)

“We DON’T Purge, Patricia.”

(Dennis... I saw the bodies.)

“I did what I had to.”

He’s careful not to come off as defensive... he flashes back to the girl biting him and to how soft her skin had been.

(...and you don’t regret it... do you?)

He’s ashamed of how his body had reacted when he Purged the girl but... he can’t summon any remorse for the deaths of her and the man... they had deserved it. Miss Patricia seems to take his lack of response as a ‘no.’

(Nor should you... they were impure.)

She gives him a moment to digest this before going on.

(The Purge is MEANT to be an annual cleansing, a culling of the herd, a separation of the wheat from the chaff... the problem, dear, is that the corrupt parties in power have deliberately created confusion about who the ‘chaff’ are. They’ve convinced the general populace that society stands to benefit from the removal of people like Kevin. That’s not true...is it?)

“No,” Dennis says resolutely, he has never been surer of anything.

(Meanwhile, they’ve raised up and glorified the Impure. It is blasphemy, Dennis, and it must be corrected.)

“I can’t do that again!”

Dennis is immediately ashamed of how his voice cracks. Miss. Patricia’s voice becomes a soothing purr.

(My dear, of course not.)

She gives Dennis a moment to compose himself before she goes on.

(He asks not that we cleanse the earth ourselves, only that we enable him in doing so.)

Dennis turns this over in his mind but ultimately just has to ask.

“What...exactly are you suggesting that we do?”

(Have you ever wondered, lamb, how it is that Kevin’s body is able to house so many souls?)

Dennis can honestly say he has not wondered this... does he even have a soul? He considers telling Miss. Patricia about what he’s read about Kevin’s “disorder,” about how she, him and all the others are an adaptive coping mechanism that Kevin has developed in order to continue function despite all he’s endured. He has a feeling that won’t sit well with her though and he’s not... ENTIRELY sure that he buys it either. She’ll sense that doubt in him, she’s always been able to sense doubt in him.

(We’ve always known that Kevin was special but now I know exactly WHY. Everything, all he’s been through and all we’ve been through has served to prepare his body and mind to be a conduit for the divine.)

“...you believe that Kevin’s purpose is to be possessed by some sort of...”

(God, Dennis. The Beast is a God... and he’s chosen Kevin to be his hand on the earth.)

Dennis gropes in his mind for something to say...

“Dr. Fletcher says that... if we... hurt anyone, Kevin will feel... responsible.”

(But he won’t be, will he? There’s no need for him to even know and the world will be a safer place for him and for people like him. Isn’t that what you want, Dennis? Isn’t that what you’ve ALWAYS wanted?)

“So... Kevin is gonna’ be possessed by a God...”

(For just one sacred night each year. I will summon him and he will feed on the Impure.)

“What if you just... didn’t...”

(Dennis.)

Her voice hardens.

(Aren’t you tired of being afraid?)

His impulse is to deny that he has EVER been afraid but... she’ll know he’s lying...she always knows when he’s lying. When she goes on talking, her voice is gentle again.

(Put your faith in Him, Dennis, and we’ll never have anything to fear again. We will be glorious, glorious and no longer afraid.)

Dennis can’t think of a response...there’s an odd ache in his chest.

(I think you should sleep now, my love.)

Patricia coos and suddenly Dennis can barely keep his eyes open. As he falls into sleep she continues talking.

(Maybe... someday soon, I can take you with me to the Train Yard...and you can meet him.)

Chapter Text

When Casey Cooke thinks back on it, the thing that makes her ultimately decide to kill her uncle is kind of stupid... especially in light of all the other, perfectly good reasons he’d given her over the years. He had had a Purge tradition where he and his friends would go out in a truck that his friend Duke had suped-up for the particular purpose and...hunt the homeless for sport. She sees no point in dressing it up. He would take the hunting rifle that used to be her fathers and go out and kill people whom he had deemed “pathetic,’ unworthy of life. Casey had always assumed that it was because it made him feel better about what a loser he was.

Usually a few hours before 7 a.m. he’d come home drunk and riled up and in the mood to “celebrate” another successful hunt... with Casey. Once she’d just not let him back in, on the excuse that she didn’t feel safe opening the door before the Purge ended (when really she’d never felt safe opening the door to him.) He’d spent the night at Duke's place and come home around noon the next day, hungover and furious...it was one of the few times that she’d actually thought he may kill her. School was always out the week after the Purge (people had cleanup to do, funerals to arrange, new homes to find for orphaned children) so by the time she went back to school the bruises had mostly faded. She learned her lesson and, from then on, she’d let him in and just hope that he was too drunk to get it up.

She’s ashamed to think of how many times, while he was passed out in his chair or his bed and there were a few hours of Purge left when she could have EASILY killed him. It’d have been as simple as getting a kitchen knife and cutting his throat. Using the gun would have given the act a certain poetic irony but he was always careful to lock that away in the gun safe when he got home, no matter how drunk he was. Instead, she’d clean up whatever mess he’d made (she knew she’d pay for it if she didn’t) and then lie in the fetal position on her bed and wait to hear the siren. She started considering killing her uncle during her senior year of high school.

Senior year is when you’re expected to start participating in the Purge. There’s no official rule about it, it’s just a social expectation. Teens from Pro-Purge households usually get some sort of weapon as a graduation present and the next day social media is flooded with first kill selfies. Casey doesn’t usually make much use of social media (because she has no friends) but she stays off-line completely on that day. She knows her uncle won't be buying her anything; both because he wouldn’t want to “waste” money on her and because he’s sort of passively aware that she’s not a big Purge fan.

Ultimately, it’s just a little passing comment that tips her over the edge. It’s early morning on Purge day and they’re having another one of their uncomfortable breakfasts. When possible, she tries to get up before him and just leave, grab a granola bar from the vending machine when she gets to school. When he gets up before her, he’ll insist that she sit and eat with him. He’s in one of his annoyingly jovial moods (probably thinking about what he’ll be doing later) so he keeps trying to make conversation with her. She responds as little as she possibly can without getting him mad.

She finishes her cereal and goes and rinses her bowl in the sink, trying not to seem hurried because that’s another thing that would piss him off. She gets her backpack and is almost safely out the door when he calls after her.

“Ya’ know, Casey Bear, since you’re a big girl now, you could come out with me and the guys later.”

Casey doesn’t respond, she had genuinely not seen the offer coming.

“Come on, Case, it’ll be fun... just like old times.”

It dawns on her then that he’s referring to the old hunting trips...with her dad. Rage boils up inside her and there’s so much she would like to say but she knows that any portion of it will earn her a black eye if she says it out loud. Instead, she just mutters ‘no thank you’ and leaves before he has the chance to respond. As she sits on the city bus on the way to school, she makes up her mind... he dies tonight.

She gets home from school before he gets home from work and starts to enact the plan she’s been making all day. It’s not complicated. She takes a knife from the block in the kitchen and hides it under her pillow. Then all there is to do is wait and steal herself. She’s going to have to make sure he doesn’t see it coming because if he does there’s no way she’ll succeed, he’s stronger than her. There’s only one sure-fire distraction that she could think of and she’s having trouble pushing down her disgust enough to get into the right headspace.

She goes to his liquor cabinet under the sink and swallows a mouthful of Jim Beam. It’s her first taste of alcohol, it makes her gag. She’s not allowed to touch anything in that cabinet but he won’t be around long enough to notice that it’s been touched. When he gets home, he’s in a good mood and she tries not to act too differently from how she’d normally act with the exception of the fact that she doesn’t immediately go to her room. If she acted happy to see him, he might get suspicious.

There are 2 hours until the Purge starts, he gets the gun from the safe in his room and sets about cleaning it and prepping it for the hunt. Casey lingers, feigning interest in what he’s doing. She asks him generic, pre-hunting-trip questions; how was it last year? Where are they going this year? Do they usually go to the same place? He seems pleased by her sudden interests and answers all her questions in exorbitant detail. He asks her if she’s SURE she doesn’t want to come with. She says no...she’d be too afraid. He smiles patronizingly and promises he’ll protect her...God, does she hate him.

When the siren sounds, he goes to leave and she almost loses her nerve and lets him but then her hand reaches out (almost of its own accord) and grips his sleeve. He looks at her questioningly. She rises up on tip-toes and...kisses him...on the mouth, wrapping her arms around his neck.

“For luck.”

She hopes that the fact that she’s suppressing a gag makes her voice sound like a sultry whisper. Suppressing her every instinct, she brushes her lips against his again, just barely touching. He takes the bait and kisses her, dropping the gun on the floor in the process. She can’t bring herself to respond so instead she just lets it happen (like usual), lets his slimy tongue slide into her mouth. Bile rises in her throat but she doesn’t let herself pull back, she wishes she had had more alcohol before he came home. When their lips part, she forces a smile, forces herself to look directly into his eyes.

“Let’s play animals.”

She whispers and it’s physically painful to say the words. He seems unable to process what he’s hearing. She slips from his grip and walks over to her open bedroom door, removing her shirt along the way. She pauses in the doorway and looks back at him, letting him take in the sight of the marks he’s made on her... He’s already NOTICEABLY excited but is for some reason still hesitating. She backs further into the room and unbuttons her jeans, letting them drop to the floor.

“Animals don’t wear clothes.”

She reminds him. He eagerly scrambles out of his clothing as he makes his way to her. She had to fight the urge to slam the door before he gets there. She keeps her eyes trained just over his left shoulder, to create the illusion that she’s looking at him. When he gets to her, he falls to with his usual greediness; ripping off her bra and needing her breasts hard enough that is hurts. Only when he goes to push her onto the bed, does she resist. He pulls back, anger starting to cloud his eyes but then she growls at him in a way that she hopes comes across as playful. He smiles.

He lets her maneuver him onto the bed and climb on top of him but, even then, he needs to feel in control. He grabs her hair and yanks her down into a bruising kiss. Revolting as it is, she’s grateful for it because it makes it easier for her to inconspicuously slide her hand under the pillow... where the knife is. Before she has the chance to lose her courage, she slips it out from it’s hiding place and plunges it into his throat.

Casey’s never killed anyone before and so she had no way of knowing that this wouldn’t cause him to die instantly. His grip on her hair releases and his hands fly to his throat, fumbling at the handle of the knife. Casey quickly scrambles off of him and to the other side of the room. Despite how he’s gushing blood, he manages to get to his feet and stagger toward her. She slides along the wall, keeping as much distance between them as possible, and into the dining room, to where he left the gun on the floor.

It’s been a long time since she’s even touched a gun and her dad had died well before she’d been old enough to actually learn how to shoot but she still knows how to point it and where the trigger is. He makes it to the doorway, leaving a trail of arterial spray in his wake and leans against the door frame, shock and fury in his eyes (he seems to actually have to audacity to wonder why this is happening.) Casey aims the gun at him (“aim for the body”) and then compresses the trigger (“squeeze, don’t pull”) and the next thing she knows, gore is exploding out of her uncle's back. His body thuds to the ground. She stands there waiting to feel “cleansed” but the feeling never comes.

The rest of the night is a blur. She scrambles back into her clothes (which would probably be easier if she’d washed the blood off of herself first), barricades the door (why, exactly?) and then open the metal shutter on her bedroom window and climbs out onto the fire escape. She’s lucky that the street light on that side of the building is broken (has been since they moved in) or someone might have seen her and pegged her from the street.

She doesn’t even realize until she’s up there that she had brought the gun with her. She tucks herself into a corner where the view of her from the street is obscured by the half wall around the roof of the building. The fire escape is the only way up here and she keeps the gun trained on it (is it even still loaded?) She tells herself that, if anyone comes up here, she’ll kill them...she WILL... no one ever comes.

The siren sounds but Casey still waits until the corpse wagon pulls up in front of the building. She continues waiting until it pulls away again. She can’t go back into the apartment until she KNOWS that that THING is gone.

In light of the circumstances (that she’ll need to be getting a job now) Casey Cooke is allowed to finish her senior year of high school online. Her parents had put money into a trust fund to be accessed when she turned 18. It’s not much but between that and the money she makes bussing tables in a shitty little dinner, she’s able to afford a shitty little studio apartment in the most rundown building in the worst part of town.

Chapter Text

The apartment isn’t much different than the one she shared with her uncle apart from being smaller. Still, it feels bigger just because HE isn’t there. It’s just the right size for her meager possessions and she can leave those possessions wherever she likes without having to worry that someone will give her a bruise for it. The neighbors aren’t particularly friendly but, honestly, she prefers that. Right now she just wants to enjoy her solitude because that’s something she’s never really had before. Being able to just sit in isolation at the end of a long day at her shitty job feels like a luxury to her.

------

There are always fresh flowers in Kevin’s apartment now. Emphasis on the “fresh” because someone throws them away the instant they begin to show the slightest signs of wilting. He’s also accumulated an array of herbal teas and added a lot of what usually gets stocked under “world music” to his CD collection. His bookshelf is full but a variety of scriptures from different religions start to pile up beside it along with books on new-age spiritualism. Someone who writes in very eloquent cursive has made notes in the margins of the scriptures but Kevin can’t bring himself to read any of them... he tells himself that, eventually, he will... Eventually, he’ll read everything the Others have written but that may not be for a while. Dr. Fletcher told him it’s best not to rush this.

He’s going to “meet” Mr. Barry today. He and Dr. Fletcher have discussed it and decided that it would be best for Barry to go first because the other’s seem to have made him their unofficial leader. This is only going to be the first introduction for Kevin though because, apparently, Barry has known him since he was 13 years old. He and Barry are the same age but Barry is far more outgoing than him. Barry is very open-minded and empathetic. Barry knows all the Others and does his best to ensure that they’re able to peacefully coexist with each other, though he’s not always successful at this. These are all just thing’s that Dr. Fletcher has told Kevin about Barry.

He walks to Dr. Fletcher’s office because he’s learned that walking makes him less anxious than riding the bus does and he doesn’t want someone else to wind up showing up to the appointment in his place. Of all the people in his body, he’s the only one who hasn’t met Barry, so any of them showing up would be pretty pointless. It’s a nice day because it’s started to warm up but isn’t warm enough yet that the city smells like a city in the summertime. He avoids eye contact with people while he walks because of the ever-present risk that he may run into someone who knows him but who he doesn’t know.

Getting to Dr. Fletcher’s building feels like reaching a safe house, it always does. She ushers him in and they settle into their usual seats in her office. They go through the typical, cursory conversation about how he’s been lately. It’s superficial but he appreciates it because he knows that she sees the other’s more frequently than him (apparently one of them had been there just yesterday) but still bothers to treat him as an individual. For her, conversations with the other’s are not substitutes for conversations with him, his last therapist had not felt that way.

Pleasantries complete, she begins going around the room, covering windows. When the only light left in the room is the dim light of the lamp near the couch, she asks him to go lie down on it. She leaves his line of sight for a while and he can hear her rummaging around, then she comes back and sets a tape recorder on the table nearest to him. She goes and sits in the chair opposite the couch.

“I think that it’s important that you be in control of this, so you’ll be the one to start the recording. If at any point after it’s started, you being to feel overwhelmed, you can turn it off. There is nothing on the tape that is innately distressing but it’s not uncommon for DID patients to experience an involuntary fight or flight reaction upon first hearing the voices of their alters.”

“What...exactly is on the tape?”

“This is the tape Dr. Kumal sent me that first got me interested in your case. It’s a standard session with her during which you began to experience social discomfort, seemingly in response to the knowledge that you were being recorded, and then dissociated into Mr. Barry. At roughly 5 minutes in, you cease to speak and Dr. Kumal prods you, then Mr. Barry begins to speak. I’m telling you this because the purpose of this exercise is not to frighten or surprise you, it’s for you to take the first step in viewing your alters as truly real and autonomous and, most importantly, benign.”

Kevin can’t speak, he only nods.

“When you’re ready, hit play.”

Kevin ALMOST loses his nerve but then he takes a deep breath and hits play. He remembers the beginning of the conversation and, as Dr. Fletcher had said, his voice stops exactly at the 5-minute mark. He hears Dr. Kumal asking him if he’s alright; once, then again and then...

“Sorry, Doc, I was... miles away. What were we talkin’ about again?”

It’s not...NOT his voice but it’s...different...like he’s impersonating someone else... except, if he had been, he’s sure he’d remember it. Dr. Kumal’s voice comes back.

“We were talking about your migraines... and how you experience loss of time.”

“Well... I can remember stuff that happens to some of the others... if they LET me remember it. Like... Jade can just kinda’ pass memories to me. Some’a them will just tell me what went on, if I ask or if they think I need ta’ know.”

“I’m sorry...”

Dr. Kumal sounds like she’s uncomfortable but trying not to show it.

“Would you mind telling me your name?”

“Sorry... Kevin bailed a while back... I’m Barry... Barry S.”

“And, you’re aware that you... share a body with Kevin.”

“Yeah... it’d be kinda’ hard ta’ miss that.”

“Are the Others aware of it?”

“They all eventually are but they don’t all start out that way.”

“Start out?”

“When they first come around...some of ‘um are confused and some of ‘um don’t take the news so well but...uh, they adjust and we adjust to them... It’s all one big, on goin’ adjustment.”

The man on the tape laughs breathily.

“I understand that one of you is a child?”

“Ya met the kid? Oh boy...”

The man laughs again, a little more anxious this time.

“I’m sorry ‘bout that. He ain’t supposed to go out himself.”

“And who usually accompanies him?”

“Uh... me or Jade or Dennis... Orwell takes him to museums sometimes... it depends on the circumstances.”

“But sometimes he’ll venture out on his own?”

“He ain’t a bad kid... just doesn’t like bein’ cooped up.”

“And does he understand your... situation?”

“... as well as a 9-year-old can...”

Kevin’s hand darts over to the pause button.

“Are you alright?”

Dr. Fletcher sounds concerned.

“I... I don’t know. That’s just kind of... a lot... all at once.”

“I have another recording of my first session with Barry in which he talks about himself in more detail...”

“I don’t think I can do that today.”

“That’s alright.”

“Could I maybe... take the tape home?”

“I don’t think that it would be a good idea for you to listen to it alone.”

Kevin nods, instinctively trusting his doctor's judgment.

“Are you still having nightmares about Purge night? About what you imagine happened?”

“Yeah...”

Kevin’s heart stutters just a little.

“And you haven’t gotten any details out of... them... about what went on?”

“Unfortunately, nothing beyond the fact that someone attempted to... Purge you and that one of them prevented it...”

“I still have no idea who Colette is.”

Kevin HATES that the Others apparently have complex interpersonal relationships that he knows NOTHING about.

“... do you think I killed her?”

The question hangs in the air for an uncomfortably long time before Dr. Fletcher responds but her response is confident.

“No... I don’t think you did.”

------

Casey’s sleep schedule has become completely erratic since leaving high school. She usually wakes up around noon and showers and then just mills around until she has to leave for her shift. It starts at 2 and ends at 10. When she gets home, she’ll lie down for an hour or so and then get up and so her online homework. This is what has her doing her laundry at 2 am on a Thursday morning.

As she’s coming out of her apartment a man who lives across the hall and a couple of doors down is going into his. He’s wearing the dark blue slacks and work shirt that seem to be the standard uniform for men who work third shift. She’s almost to the stairs that lead to the basement laundry room when he calls after her. Well, not exactly “calls,” his voice is hesitant as though he was hoping she wouldn’t hear him.

“Miss... ya’ dropped something.”

He makes no move to pick it up and as she goes back for it she realizes that that’s because it’s one of her bras. She feels blood rush to her face as she crouches to retrieve it. She murmurs a ‘thanks’ and he nods. Before she can even make up her mind about rather or not to introduce herself, he unlocks his door and rushes inside, as though he were eager to get away from her. Yep, the neighbors definitely aren’t over-friendly.

------

Once inside, Dennis sets to work cleaning the apartment, as per his routine. His mind starts to wander. That girl was new... the man who’d been in her apartment had been arrested a month before. Dennis hadn’t liked him. She looks a little young to be living alone but he knows the ground floor is all studios... maybe she has a boyfriend? Hopefully, because it certainly wouldn’t be smart of her to be out here alone...

He slams the breaks on his train of thought. He goes and takes an ice-cold shower. He finishes cleaning the apartment. He watches porn and masturbates... he takes another shower. He cleans the apartment again. He tries to read one of his security system installation manuals but can’t focus... she’d had big brown eyes... like a doe. He gets in the shower again but this time he turns the water up as hot as it will go. He stands under it until it goes cold. He almost starts cleaning the apartment again but Miss. Patricia intervenes. As he’s falling asleep, she tells him the story of Sampson and Delilah.

Chapter Text

Barry had been as nervous about their first “meeting” as Kevin had and is relieved that things don’t feel much different after it. He’d hoped for the best but feared the worst and in the end, neither had happened. Ultimately, the relief is stronger than the disappointment. He’d half expected some of the others to try and stop the meeting and wasn’t sure he’d be able to do anything about it if they did. He has limited practice at keeping the others out of the light because there’s usually no need for that. In his ideal world, there would never be a need for that.

Since her return, Miss. Patricia has made it clear that she won’t be participating in therapy. She doesn’t BELIEVE in that sort of thing. She thinks no good can possibly come from bringing an outside party into THEIR business and resents that an outside party is even needed to connect them to Kevin. She pointedly reminds Barry that there HAD been a time when there was no barrier between Kevin and his Alters... but, of course, Barry hadn’t been around then. Most of the other’s hadn’t been around then but she makes it as clear as possible that she believes the problem is mostly Barry’s fault as she can without just coming right out and saying it.

Dennis’ chair is still to the right of her’s but it’s not as close to her’s as it used to be and Barry takes that as a good sign. It comes as a massive relief that the strong alter doesn’t immediately revert to his old pattern of just automatically agreeing with Miss. Patricia about everything. Barry knows that the two of them together would have easily been able to completely strip him of his tenuous, informal authority. Dennis still abstains from therapy but doesn’t mind the others participating in it if it’s going to help Kevin function better, which it seems to be doing. If there’s anything Dennis respects, it’s tangible results.

Hedwig seems resentful of the fact that he no longer has Mr. Dennis all to himself but, of course, he won’t say that in front of Miss. Patricia. He’s just as intimidated by her as he ever was. Instead, he spends more time with Jade and Orwell and Samuel. The Samuel part is...troubling. Usually, Barry would ask Dennis to step in but he seems... distracted lately. Barry can tell there’s something wrong but he knows there’s no point in asking him about it. Ultimately he winds up just hoping that Orwell’s strong anti-Purge stance will be enough to counter Samuels strong pro-Purge stance. He also reassures himself with the fact that it doesn’t matter anyway because Dennis will be in control while they’re on Purge lock-down.

Samuel’s got a real “young Republican” vibe to him these days. He’s developed features; he looks to be in his late teens with shoulder-length blonde hair, blue eyes and an ever-present smile that shows a few too many teeth. He reads a lot of right-wing philosophy and talks a lot about how modern society is a suppression of the order that is innate in nature. This is why the Purge is so great, it temporarily removes all of the artificial barriers that stand between man and nature and allows some degree of balance to be restored. Samuel thinks that all of Kevin’s problems are due to his having been socially programmed to deny his true nature (here he gestures to the Others in their circle of chairs) and that, were it not for that programming, none of his past sufferings would have occurred. In short, it happened because Kevin ALLOWED it to happen.

At best, the Others begrudgingly tolerate Samuel with the exception Hedwig (who just likes being told that Kevin is powerful because that means that he’s also powerful because he’s a part of Kevin) ...and Miss. Patricia. They spend a lot more time talking alone together than Barry is comfortable with. Dennis seems to have mixed feelings about Samuel that are not helped by the fact that, for a long portion of his existence, he’d been stronger than Kevin’s mother... but he’d never fought back against her...not once. They all know that the reason Dennis had never fought back was that Kevin loved his mother, so Dennis couldn’t hurt her without also hurting Kevin. Samuel points out that that sounds a lot like ("say it with me") SOCIAL PROGRAMMING.

On one of the rare occasions that Samuel shares the light with Dennis, he asks him if he feels some kinship with the all the big, powerful predators that are kept caged in the zoo where they work. Dennis doesn’t answer, instead, he just shoves him out of the light.

------

Kevin has a day off and doesn’t really know what to do with himself. He’s hesitant to go out because he knows that the other’s sometimes do and he doesn’t want to run into one of THEIR friends. Dr. Fletcher has told him that those could become his friends too if he just achieves more cohesion with the others. The only real change he’s noticed since his “meeting” with Barry is that now he knows which things around the apartment belong to Barry.

Barry likes hyper-stylized arthouse movies that Kevin thinks LOOK nice but are a little lacking in substance. Barry’s clothes are all simple and comfortable, yet stylish, like something a fashion designer would wear. Looking through the sketchbooks (at some point Barry and the kid each got their own) confirms that Barry is, in fact, a fashion designer...or, at least, wants to be. This makes Kevin feel oddly guilty. It had never occurred to him that any of the people he shares his body with might have hopes and dreams that have nothing to do with him and that having to build their lives around him might be holding them back from pursuing those.

Kevin takes a Valium and decides to read Barry’s journal (each alter has their own now and Dr. Fletcher has told him that he has permission to read Barry’s.) Between very glib, superficial entries about gossip around the apartment building and commentary on the most current clothing lines of brands that Kevin doesn’t recognize, it’s all... worrying. Worrying about Kevin and worrying about other people that Kevin has a sneaking suspicion don’t exist outside of his own brain. Eventually, there’s just too many names being mentioned and Kevin has to stop reading. He’s not supposed to move on to the others until he and Barry have attained as much “cohesion” as they possibly can.

Kevin had been disappointed to learn that “integration” is a myth... or, at least, not what he thought it was. He’s been informed that there is no real cure for his disorder but it is possible to live a normal life with it. It’s just going to require a lot of communication and coordination and trust between him and the Others. Considering that he currently doesn’t even know WHO most of the Others are, he doesn’t expect this to happen any time soon. Dr. Fletcher has, in fact, confirmed that it will be an exhaustive, years-long process that may NEVER be truly complete. She doesn’t want him to go into it with unrealistic expectations.

After taking a brief, Valium induced nap, Kevin decides that he should go out somewhere... it can’t be healthy to spend so much time alone in a single room. Maybe he’ll go see a movie... then he won’t technically be alone but he won't have to talk to anyone. He makes sure that he looks at least semi-presentable and then goes out to the bus stop in front of the building. There’s no one in there but a teenage girl with long brown hair who gives off the distinct vibe of not wanting to be noticed. That’s just fine with Kevin.

He sits on the far end of the bench from her and begins scrolling through his phone, following her example. He completely caught off guard when her eyes drift over to him. Her voice is tentative, almost as though she hadn’t actually wanted him to hear her.

“Hey.”

Kevin scans the single word for implied familiarity but honestly can’t tell one way or the other. He tries to keep his response equally neutral.

“Hey.”

Kevin feels... something in the back of his mind... like someone coming slightly forward but then abruptly receding. It’s almost like... fear but not necessarily OF the girl. What the hell is wrong with him? He’s abruptly pulled out of his self-loathing introspection by her voice, still equally hesitant and noncommittal. Like she can’t decide if she really wants to have a conversation with him.

“You must have a really weird work schedule.”

“...what do you mean?”

“...you work from afternoon to 2 in the morning?”

It takes him a moment to realize what she’s talking about (she must have seen one of the Others coming home from the second half of his split shift) and, in the meanwhile, she starts to look embarrassed... he feels bad about that.

“Oh, I do have a weird schedule but this is actually one of my days off.”

“Oh.”

She laughs in the way people do when nothing funny has been said but they need to fill the silence somehow. None the less, an awkward silence does eventually descend.

“... you don’t remember me...huh?”

“Sorry... I’m usually kind of...out of it when I get home.”

“I can relate.”

The silence starts gathering again...someone prods him to talk.

“You’re new, right?”

“Yeah, I’ve only been here about a month.”

“How ya’ likin’ it?”

“It’s... an apartment.”

“That is... technically accurate.”

They both laugh naturally and Kevin feels pathetically proud of himself. Good job, he thinks, good job sounding like a normal human for a few minutes. He immediately ruins it though.

“You here alone?”

As soon as the words leave his mouth, he realizes how creepy it is for a guy who’s nearly 30 to be asking a teenage girl that.

“...sorry.”

“No...it’s ok... I was living with my uncle but he died in the last Purge.”

“Oh...”

Kevin’s heart rate suddenly spikes at the mention of that fateful night... that horrifying blank spot in his memory. He wonders if he should tell her that he is also a Purge Orphan but that doesn’t seem like the sort of thing that normal people just casually bring up in conversations with complete strangers... She’d brought it up, though... He’s saved from having to decide by the arrival of the bus.

“I’m on the next one.”

He doesn’t know why he felt the need to give her a reason that he won’t be boarding the bus with her. She rises to leave but then seems to reconsider it. She turns to him.

“I’m Casey Cooke.”

She holds out her hand and hesitantly takes it...someone doesn’t like touching other people’s hands.

“Kevin Crumb.”

“See you around... Kevin Crumb.”

She gets on the bus. As he watches it pull away, he remembers that the next one won’t be around for an hour. He decides to walk to the movie theater and that turns into just generally taking a walk. He goes around the block once and then goes back to his apartment. He rewatches that weird Spanish movie. He’s learned by now that it’s called The Spirit of the Beehive.

Chapter Text

It’s early one morning and Patricia is making breakfast for Kevin, who hasn’t woken up yet. She’s not much of a cook but Dennis sees no need to tell her that. Food is food. Dennis is lingering on the edge of the light, appreciating the conventional domesticity of the scene. Patricia had been the only source of that all throughout Kevin’s childhood, Kevin’s mother rarely being up to the task. He’s loathed to ruin it but they need to talk. He decides to start with the topic that he thinks will evoke the least defensiveness in her.

“You shouldn’t be so rough on Mr. Barry, ya’ know...he’s trying.”

She sighs.

“I just think, that it’s a bit foolish for the other’s to place such faith in him when he’s clearly oblivious to what a dangerous place the world can be for someone like Kevin.”

“I don’t think he is... oblivious anymore... I mean, he gave me Purge Night without any argument.”

“Yes, and it occurs to me now that I’d yet to thank you for securing that for us... the Others don’t thank you often, do they?”

Dennis decides to ignore the question because he knows that it’s meant to distract him.

“I take it by ‘us’ you mean you, me and...”

“The Beast... though there may be some others by the time the blessed night arrives... Samuel shows promise.”

“Samuel is... a kid who thinks he knows everything.”

“He’s close though... just on the edge of true understanding of OUR full potential... nearer than you I dare say.”

“Patricia...”

She cuts him off, her tone growing apologetic.

“It’s my fault though... I haven’t adequately explained.”

“No...I think you got the broad strokes in...this...God is gonna’ inhabit our body and roam the streets... killing random people.”

“Not ‘random’ people, Dennis, the Impure... and he’s going to eat them... they are his natural sustenance.”

Dennis can’t respond because the thought of THEIR body committing cannibalism has his stomach in knots. Patricia goes on.

“He also needn’t ‘roam’ anywhere...not if we make it unnecessary for him to do so. Well, make him a sacred place in which to feed and bring the Impure there.”

“You don’t think this put’s Kevin in harm's way? If one of us gets hurt, he gets hurt.”

Dennis indicates their right hand which is still on the mend.

“But we don’t all get hurt equally easily, do we?”

The question hangs in the air... Dennis has honestly never really thought about that before but... it IS true. He’s only lately started to wonder why they had all given so little thought to their situation.

“Think about it, Dear, that... dreadful woman did things to YOU that would have killed any of the others... I couldn’t lift her corpse but you could.”

Dennis is paralyzed for a moment by the rush of horrible memories, Patricia strokes his/her/their arm soothingly.

“I’m sorry I had to bring her up but your experiences with her do clearly prove that Kevin’s body really, PHYSICALLY changes depending on which of us is in the light... imagine how it’ll be with a GOD in the light.”

“...how do you know it’s a God?”

“Dennis... I KNOW.”

Dennis hesitates to pull the trigger because he knows there’ll be no going back once he does.

“Didn’t you used to ‘know’ that about the other God? The one you went to church to see?”

It catches him off guard when she doesn’t get angry... instead, she laughs.

“Oh, that God is quite real as well...he’s also distant, indifferent, weak and useless.”

Even though it’s pretty obvious by now that Patricia no longer has faith in the God she prayed to during Kevin’s childhood, it still shocks Dennis to hear her speak of Him that way.

“I put my trust in him completely, gave to him ALL of myself and he did nothing. There is so much evil in the world, so much pain and all because he ALLOWS it... The Beast will put a stop to it... His kingdom will be on Earth and it will be an Eden for the Pure.”

Before Dennis can respond, they feel a stirring; Kevin is up.

------

Kevin comes to standing at his kitchen counter, a plate of overcooked scrambled eggs in front of him. He eats them, for some reason having the feeling that not doing so will upset someone.

------

Samuel likes Dennis, really he does, but Dennis doesn’t seem to like him. That’s a terrible shame because he’s a feeling the two of them could be of great used to each other, especially if they’re to enact Miss. Patricia’s plan, come Purge Night. She’s told him a great deal about the ethical and spiritual reasons she thinks they should participate and he supposes that’s...interesting. Truth be told, though, he doesn’t care WHY they participate as long as they DO. Kevin, dear Kevin, has SO much anger built up inside him that he doesn’t even allow himself to acknowledge and they must vent that SOMEHOW before the black ichor rises high enough to drown them all. It doesn’t matter WHO exactly does it; him, Dennis, Kevin himself, the Beast... if he exists. They, the collective that is Kevin Wendell Crumb, MUST Purge. They are an apex predator and, eventually, they need to start behaving like one.

------

Barry is brought to by someone knocking on the wall and he realizes that it’s because there’s a Nicki Minaj album blaring on their stereo. He turns it off and the knocking stops. He checks the clock. They’re between his shift and Dennis’ and they should be resting but apparently, Hedwig had had other ideas. There’s a half-empty 2 liter of Mountain Dew on the table beside the drawing he’d been working on. Who bought him that? Maybe it’s time to change the PIN on their bank account again. Hedwig isn’t SUPPOSED to know it but someone keeps telling him.

He’s got enough time to take a walk before he has to hand the light over to Dennis and he needs air. He changes out of Hedwig’s tracksuit and puts the drawing away in the file he’s started keeping to show to Dr. Fletcher. Lately, the kid’s been headed in an unsettling direction, artistically. As he emerges out into the hallway, a girl comes out of the apartment across the hall and a few doors down. Zander had lived there but he’s been arrested about a month ago. Burnadette thinks he’d been making meth in there.

Him and the girl wind up walking down the hall together. He considers initiating a conversation but she beats him to it.

“You work tonight?”

Oh... they’ve met.

“Yeah.” He replies casually, lowering his voice a little to try and sound like Kevin. “In a few hours... I was just gonna’ take a breather before...”

He doesn’t finish that sentence because the second half is ‘I get sent back to my chair for the night.’ She doesn’t seem to notice.

“Oh... where do you work?”

She asks as though she’s been wondering about it for some time and Barry wonders just how long ago and how many times they’ve met.

“At the Philidelphia Zoo.”

“At night?”

“I’m on the maintenance crew.”

“Yeah, I guess they need that kind of thing at zoos too.”

“Yeah and I’m not smart enough to do any'a the interesting stuff.”

He means it as a joke but she doesn’t laugh. He changes the subject.

“Where did you say you work?”

He’s learned that this is the best way to figure out things that he’s already supposed to know.

“I’m second shift at a dinner.”

It strikes him as a little odd that she didn’t say which one but he’s not about to pry... for all he knows, she’s already told him the name.

“They only let me buss tables because they don’t want me talking to the customers.”

He laughs and, luckily, so does she. They arrive at the bus stop which is apparently her destination. He looks for signs that she wants to be left alone but she leans against the side and continues looking at him. He decides he can hang around a bit.

“I just wanted to say that I’m sorry for... what I said before... about my uncle.”

He has no idea what she means.

“... it didn’t occur to me until hours later that that was a really inappropriate thing to just...say to someone I barely know.”

“Don’t worry about it.”

He shrugs, he may not know what she means but he’s sure he doesn’t want her to worry about it. What good did worrying ever do anybody? He thinks about the ‘barely know’ part. So, she’s spoken to ‘him’ maybe once or twice? If she’s doing it more than once, then it probably wasn’t Dennis. She’s cute... maybe it was Ansel? He realizes he’s been quiet a little too long.

“You in school?”

He asks as a roundabout way of figuring out her approximate age. Ansel’s almost gotten them in trouble a few times.

“I’m finishing online, I should be out by the end of June.”

‘Finishing’... so she’s probably at least a high school senior.

“Wish I coulda’ done that.”

Kevin probably couldn’t have done that... there had been no computer in his mom’s house.

“Yeah, it turns out high school’s not so bad when you don’t have classmates.”

Barry smirks; she’s an introvert then... so is Kevin... but they’ve been talking.

The bus pulls up.

“See you around, Kevin.”

“Later, Doll.”

Barry learned a long time ago that pet names are a good way to convey familiarity while concealing the fact that you don’t know the other person’s name. She blushes just a little as she turns to board the bus.

------

Dennis comes to as Barry is putting on their work clothes. He steps into the light and nudges Barry out of it.

(Mornin’, sunshine.)

Dennis just grunts in response. He can feel that they haven’t had enough sleep... it’s going to be a long night.

(So, apparently we already know the new girl.)

Dennis freezes, he reminds himself that he didn’t DO anything.

(Did... you talk ta her?)

“Once.”

He keeps his tone flat which, luckily, is his default tone.

(She tell you’er name?)

“... no... did she tell you?”

Dennis ignores the little flicker of jealousy he feels at the possibility that she had... because it’s RIDICULOUS. Still, he feels just a little relieved when Barry says no.

Chapter Text

Eventually, through the process of elimination, Barry learns that it was Kevin himself who’d talked to the girl... He still doesn’t know her name. This is big though, Kevin talked to a girl on his own. Ansel’s gonna’ be proud. Barry decides that he’s gonna’ make a project of making friends with the girl; Kevin could use a friend and this one seems less likely to try and kill him for sport.

He can’t be too aggressive about it, she seems shy. Maybe he could just try and get Kevin in the light around her more since they’d apparently hit it off? It’s just that he still has no reliable way of putting Kevin into the light. The whole summoning thing had been a disaster. Everyone had basically gone feral and when Barry had questioned them about it later they’d had no idea what had come over them.

He decides it’s probably best for him to handle it and maybe Jade. He’s not gonna’ turn Ansel loose on the girl because she seems like the type who’d be scared off by him. Besides, this doesn’t have to be romantic...maybe it’s for the best that it isn’t. The girl is young, probably hasn’t had many relationships and has apparently been through some stuff. The last thing she needs is to get involved with an older guy who’s not... 100% mentally stable. It’s presumptuous to assume that that’s even an option anyway, she’d just blushed a little, once.

Kevin needs friends anyway. He needs more people in his life who aren’t basically just roommates that he never actually sees. Barry stops himself there, Dr. Fletcher wouldn’t approve of him thinking of it that way. He also KNOWS that’s not accurate, despite their minimal level of ‘cohesion’ he still feels connected to Kevin. For instance, he knows that Kevin would like to get to know this girl.

------

Dennis is in Dr. Fletcher’s office for only the second time since she’s become Kevin’s therapist. They’ve been making stilted, uncomfortable conversation for about 15 minutes. He knows she’s probably eager to know why he felt the need to come to an appointment after all this time but is too tactful to ask outright. She’s letting him direct the conversation... which is why it’s taking so long to go anywhere. Eventually, she hesitantly takes the reigns.

“I’m thrilled that you were willing to come to speak to me today and I don’t want you to think that you need an excuse but I can’t help but feel that somethings... troubling you.”

“...something always is.”

Dennis admits, reluctantly.

“Bein’ ‘troubled’ is kinda’ my job.”

The doctor nods solemnly. Dennis had half expected her to ask for elaboration but he remembers having read about the ‘Protector Archeyatye’ in one of her books, about how there’s always at least one alter that fits it. It makes him feel simultaneously better and worse to know that there’s a slot into which he fits so neatly. He’s not unique but he’s also not alone in the world.

“Do you believe that Kevin is in some sort of danger?”

“...not any more so than usual...nothing I can’t handle.”

Dr. Fletcher seems to want to press the matter but knows she shouldn’t. She’s regarding him with a mix of caution and gentle concern...like he’s a wounded animal that she wants to help but is also afraid may bite her.

“Did you just feel like talking then?”

Dennis never really FEELS like talking, it’s just sometimes necessary.

“I do have... a concern.”

The doctor waits. Dennis tries to think how to tell her what he feels he needs to without exposing her to anything... indecent. Dr. Fletcher is a nice lady; she shouldn’t have to hear that filth.

“There’s a new girl in our building... Barry thinks that she would make a good friend for Kevin.”

“Barry does often express concern over Kevin’s lack of interpersonal relationships and I do agree that he’d be happier if he were less isolated. Has Kevin met this girl?”

“Yeah... he did before Barry did and Barry thinks that’s... significant.”

“Do you?”

“I don’t know... he might be reading into it too much.”

“That’s not impossible but it doesn’t seem as though there’s much at risk if winds up being wrong... Are you concerned she may not be trustworthy?”

“I just naturally assume that people can’t be trusted unless I’m given some kinda’ compelling evidence that they can... but that’s not my primary concern here... she doesn’t have a maximum security trap to lure us into...”

“Perhaps... you could just tell me your concern?”

God, how he wishes it were that easy. Unfortunately, there’s no way of saying ‘she’s so beautiful that just looking at her makes me think about rape and murder’ without sounding... well... as sick as he IS. That’s why he SHOULD tell her though, isn’t it? He’s SICK and she’s a DOCTOR... Miss. Patricia has been trying to help him but... it doesn’t seem to be working... It’s not her fault, she’s just not a doctor. He thinks he may have thought of a good lead-in.

“Mr. Barry bought me a book about OCD... that you’re idea?”

“I didn’t specifically tell him to buy you a book but I did say that some of your behaviors that he’s described to me sound like the habits of someone with OCD. Of course, I can’t make an official diagnosis based purely on second-hand accounts.”

“Listen...I’m aware that I got... patterns I get locked into... I’m not oblivious... It’s just that sometimes those patterns aren’t things I DO... sometimes they’re thoughts that I have.”

It’s hard to even get that far. He expects her to somehow immediately know what he means and be repulsed by it. When she isn’t, he presses on.

“Sometimes I find myself thinking things that I KNOW I shouldn’t be thinking... and they’ll play again and again in my head and the harder I try to stop it the worse it gets.”

The doctor looks concerned and a little sad.

“And these thoughts in some way concern the new woman in your building.”

“...not just her...”

“... would you care to tell me some of these thoughts?”

The doctor’s tone indicates that she already knows the answer. Dennis shakes his head. When he goes on, he hears the breaking in his voice and he HATES that...he’s not SUPPOSED to be weak.

“Is there a way to just... make it STOP?”

The doctor looks at him with more empathy than he feels he deserves. He knows she wouldn’t be looking at him like that if she actually KNEW the things that go through his mind when he looks at a pretty young girl... sometimes even when he just REMEMBERS having looked at a pretty young girl. She’d HATE him if she knew... There’s is no doubt of that in his mind because he knows what goes through his mind and he HATES himself for it.

“Dennis... did you read the book that Barry got you?”

“...no.”

“This is just an educated guess based on the limited information you’ve given me but I THINK what you’re describing are Obsessive Recurring Intrusive Thoughts... they’re a common symptom of OCD...”

“You can fix it then?”

The doctor looks genuinely remorseful.

“If I could, I would... but I’m afraid that it doesn’t work that way...”

Dennis frustratedly rakes his fingers over his scalp... he’s having trouble breathing all of a sudden.

“It would be helpful if you could explain these thoughts to me because then we could unpack them together and try to figure out what their origin is but... I know your unwilling to do that and I won't try to make you. I hope that eventually, in you’re own time, you will confide in me about them but, for the time being, I can provide you with SOME advice.”

Dennis can’t look at her but he does listen because he needs SOMETHING.

“There is a practice in meditation where one simply allows their thoughts to flow organically. They don’t fixate on any particular thoughts or evaluate the thoughts they have, they simply let them pass through their minds. The next time you have these thoughts, I want you to simply HAVE them. Don’t fixate on them, don’t evaluate them, don’t judge yourself for having them. Simply LET them happen.”

“LET them...?”

“A though, on its own, is neither good nor evil... only actions can be good or evil. These thoughts do not define you unless you allow them to by permitting them to influence your behavior.”

“It can’t be that easy.”

“It won’t be... it may take you a very long time to become adept at this but the more you practice it the easier it will become.”

While Dennis is mulling this over, the doctor goes on.

“Now... I feel an ethical obligation to ask you... Are you sincerely concerned that these compulsions may make you a danger to yourself or others?”

Dennis thinks about it and...no... NO, he would NEVER harm her... and he can’t harm himself without harming Kevin and he would NEVER harm Kevin.

“No.”

Chapter Text

Dennis is somewhere with Miss. Patricia that is not their room in Kevin’s mind which is... alarming, because that’s usually the only place they’re capable of being together the way that people who aren’t a part of Kevin are together when they’re in the same room. The place they’re in is cold and hard and gray... A big cement room with square cement pillars placed at intervals throughout it. He has no memory of having come here or of how they got here, they simply ARE here. They’re alone, which is also alarming...where are the Others?

“Where they’ve always been, we’ve left, they haven't.”

Dennis starts when Patricia responds out loud... had he said that out loud?

“Left?!”

Dennis is immediately gripped with panic. He’s away from the Others? Away from Kevin?

“It’s only temporary.”

Patricia’s voice is soft and she moves to touch him but he moves away. It’s the first time he’s ever consciously moved away from her. She looks... different but when he thinks back he’s not sure what’s different about her or when she changed. When she’d first come around, she’d simply looked like a cleaner, more prim version of Kevin’s mother but... Dennis doesn’t THINK Kevin’s mother looked like this. He tries to remember exactly how the woman had looked but finds that he can’t.

Miss. Patricia looks neither young nor old now. She’s tall, nearly Dennis’ height and there’s an angular, bird-like quality to her form that Dennis would read as an indication of frailty in anyone else. Her hair is silver white and hangs straight down, well past her shoulders. Her eyes are Kevin’s eyes but clearer and sharper. Her lips are red (but not from makeup, Miss. Patricia does not approve of makeup) that perfectly matches the long silk robe she’s wearing. Dennis realizes that the reason he’s so struck by her appearance is that this is the first time he’s REALLY looked at her since her return.

“The body was asleep when we left, I assure you, they’re all quite safe.”

“Where are we?”

There’s a sternness in his voice that he would normally NEVER direct at Miss. Patricia.

“Don’t you remember Dennis? I told you that I would take you to meet him.”

Dennis looks around again, at the end of the long, cement room they’re in, there’s a square archway beyond which is darkness. Dennis somehow knows that beyond that are the train tracks...they’re in the train yard. There’s a sinking feeling in the pit of his stomach that he refuses to acknowledge as fear.

“That’s just him testing you.”

Can Patricia read his mind in this place?

“I assure you there’s nothing here for you to fear.”

She takes one of his hands in both hers and begins leading him forward.

“Kevin couldn’t go in but that’s because he SHOULDN’T... there are certain things that are simply not for him to know. You and I understand that better than all the others, don’t we?”

Dennis nods, numbly... allowing himself to be lead despite his trepidation. When they get the square archway, there’s a sudden drop and Dennis can feel gravel beneath his boots. The tracks stretch out to either side of them, disappearing into the darkness of subterranean tunnels. Here and there are individual train cars but they all appear abandoned. Some are rusted, some have broken windows.

There’s light inside one of them and that piques Dennis’ curiosity enough that he lets go of Patricia’s hand and goes to inspect it. Someone appears to have been living there; there are candles along the backs of some of the seats and a makeshift bed has been constructed out of seat cushions and what look like utility tarps in the space between the very back seats and the emergency exit. The windows are all covered in thin sheets of paper that Dennis slowly realizes are pages of the bible. He turns to find Miss. Patricia standing at the front of the train.

“I was here for quite some time.”

“You were gone four years.”

“No, no...” She shakes her head. “MUCH longer.”

He walks back over to her... he has the strangest urge to put his arms around her.

“He wouldn't allow me to find him until he felt I was ready... at times I thought I was going mad... that I may die here.”

She’s been gazing off into the distance at nothing in particular but then she looks up at him.

“I missed you terribly.”

He wants to correct her... she must mean that she missed Kevin... but the way she looks at him gives him an odd ache in his chest. She takes his hand again and leads him out of the train car. Her voice is less emotional as she goes on.

“It won’t take as long this time because he lets me find him and trusts me to bring only the worthy to him; only those who can be of use. There are a few of the Others that I’m considering but I wanted you to be the first.”

“Why?’

“Because you’re so much more important than all the others...”

He wants to ask her what exactly she means by that but before he can they come to another train car. It’s longer than all the others and it’s windows look to have been painted over red from the inside. There’s a single florescent light above it that keeps flickering on and off. Miss. Patricia stops him abruptly before they get too near to it.

“You’re going to go in there, to HIM...alone... When he lets you, you’ll come back to me.”

Dennis thinks that it doesn’t bode well that she says the last part as though SHE needs assurance that it’s true. She lets go of his hand and sharply turns away from him, seemingly studying the other train cars off in the gloomy distance. A part of Dennis wants to refuse, to say that this is crazy and DEMAND that she take him back to their room in Kevin’s head... where it’s safe... but... he feels himself being called.

As soon as he steps into the car, he realizes that the windows aren’t painted over at all... they’re splattered with blood. The seats have been removed and where they would be the floor is littered with bones, some old and dry some with gore still clinging to them. The air is thick with the smell of copper and the interior is bathed in a red glow. Under normal circumstances, Dennis would be thinking that he should turn around and leave immediately but his mind is a complete blank. He’s not thinking at all, only feeling, feeling himself being called.

He gets to the back of the car and finds....something there... hunched, sitting cross-legged on the floor, it’s long, black hair obscuring its face. As it hears him approach, it lifts it’s monstrous head. It’s skin is chalk white and it’s eyes appear black at first glance but Dennis eventually notices that around the massive pupils there is the thinnest ring of blue...the same blue as Kevin’s eyes. Under normal circumstances, Dennis would be having trouble breathing now but instead, he’s not breathing at all. The thing stands.

It’s tall, too tall to rise to it’s full height in this confined space. It’s body is all bone and hard, sinewy muscle and scar tissue. It’s also nude and undeniably male. It’s got long arms and long fingers that end in straight, bone-white claws. It reaches out and cups the back of his skull more easily than he’d cupped Colette’s skull. With it’s other hands it tears away his shirt, exposing ALL his scars.

Even wounds that had left no mark on Kevin in the long term had left marks on him, leaving his whole body a twisted collage of agony. Very, very gently, it runs it’s lethal fingers down the side of his face, then down his throat, then down his chest. It traces each mark, the touch more intimate than anything Dennis has ever felt.

“Beautiful.”

He hears it breathe and for a moment Dennis FEELS beautiful, whole and new...as though he hasn’t been destroyed.

“Not destroyed.”

It says, reading his mind and perhaps even speaking only in his mind.

“Blessed, glorified, perfected.”

It uses it’s hand on the back of his head to force him to look up and meet it’s mostly black, blue-rimmed gaze. It moves him as easily as a child would manipulate a doll.

“Rejoice, your soul is pure.”

It brings it’s face close to his and nuzzles the side of his neck like he’s seen lions do to other lions in the zoo. It runs it’s hands over his torso; gently petting his chest and back.

“The Broken...”

It says, it’s mouth brushing his ear.

“... are the more evolved.”

Chapter Text

Kevin seems to have made a friend. Sometimes he talks to Casey Cooke and sometimes someone else does but either way things seem to be going well. They’ve gotten to a point where they can really TALK to each other... though not quite far enough that he can tell her that the person she’s talking to is not always him. Either the other person is very similar to him or self-aware enough to convincingly pretend to be him when alone with Casey. Kevin is conflicted about this because it feels a bit like lying.

Dr. Fletcher says that all the Others are ‘facets’ of him so, in a way, Casey is still with him even when she’s with one of them. She does, however, think that if their relationship progresses beyond the platonic, it would be best for Kevin to be honest with Casey. None of the others have had SERIOUS romantic relationships but Kevin knows that they’ve had sex without him knowing about it. He gets tested regularily just in case, on Dr. Fletcher’s suggestion. He doens’t expect that things will go there with Casey anyway, though because she can (and SHOULD) do better than him.

He does sometimes wonder if whichever one of the Others she spends time with feels the same way, though. Sometimes it seems like Casey if flirting with him but...no... he’s reading too much into it. They progress from occasional conversations in the hallway and the laundry room to actually, sometimes going places together. The most recent is a trip to the art museum that ‘he’ apparently invited her to. He knows NOTHING about art... does he?

He knows that Barry knows about art and that gives him a strange kind of comfort; if he starts to look too stupid, Barry can step in. WILL he though? And will Casey notice if it happens? It winds up being a non-issue because things go fine. Art was the only class that Casey actually enjoyed in school and so she winds up doing most of the talking, more than he thinks he’s ever heard her talk. Kevin learns that he loves Zdzislaw Beksinski... he can feel that one of the Others does too but it’s not Barry. Well, when he meets... whoever that is, they’ll have at least one thing in common.

Her apartment is further down the hall than his but he still accompanies her to her door (that’s what you’re supposed to do...isn’t it?) She hesitates a moment, biting her lip (someone is mesmerized by that) and then asks him if he wants to come in and watch a movie. He waits for somone to have some sort of feeling about that that will tell him how to respond but all is quiet. He says yes and he means it.

Her apartment is the exact same layout as his but flipped so the door to the bathroom is in the back left corner of the main room instead of the back right and the kitchenette is along the left wall. She tells him that he can pick out a DVD while she makes popcorn. He nods, suddenly nervous because he’s realized that there’s nowhere to sit but on her bed. He doesn’t reconize most of the titles of the DVDs so he just picks one at random; Coraline.

Casey’s began rearranging the pillows and blankets on the bed to make it into a sort of makeshift couch. He puts the DVD in and goes over to sit by her, on the other side of the bed, not close enough to touch, with the bowl of popcorn between them. Someone thinks it’s for the best that he stay out of arms reach of her. That same someone is noticing that she has no locks on the inside of her door. He hopes she’ll change that before the Purge but doesn’t want to say anything about it... he’s not her father.

They settle in and the movie starts...someone is annoyingly conscious of how close she is even though she’s not particularily close. The Other Mother reminds someone of someone else. Kevin hates that he sometimes feels left out in his own mind. Dr. Fletcher has assured him that that feeling will decrease as he progresses in therapy. While he was distracted, she’s shifted a little closer... or maybe he’s just imagining that.

He realizes he’s not imagining it when she rests her head on his shoulder, careful and tenative like she’s waiting for him to pull away. Someone thinks he should but he won't, he doesn’t want to. Her hair smells like peaches. They sit like that until the film is over and the whole time someone is uncomfortable, it’s not Kevin and Kevin keeps reminding himself of that. By the time the movie’s over she remarks that it’s starting to get late. He takes this as an indicaiton that she’d like him to leave.

She sees him to the door (not that that’s realls necessary) and accompanies him out into the hall. As he’s about to walk away she stops him with a hand on his arm. For a few seconds, she regards him as though considering something... then she kisses him. It’s just the touch of lips on lips but she holds there a while and he realizes that this is because she waiting to see if he’ll deepen it. He doesn’t... someone else does... someone else also snakes an arm around her waist.

For a terrifying moment, as someone else kisses her with a furver that borders on violence, Kevin feels himself sort of... flickering... like a light bulb that’s about to go out. He realizes he’s dissociating...he’s never been so consciously aware that it was about to happen. He tries to stop it but he doesn’t know how.

------

Dennis isn’t thinking at all (which is rare for him), he’s just holding her and feeling her and tasting her. Then he feels a little jolt that he realizes is Barry trying to push him out of the light and comes to his senses. He grabs the girl (Casey, they’ve learned by now that her name is Casey) by her upper arms and moves her away from him. For a moment he thinks that she looks beautiful when she’s startled but then he remembers that he doesn’t want to frighten her.

“It’s late...”

He says by way of explanation.

“You should get some rest.”

He lets go of her but then reaches back up to tuck her hair behind her ear. He knows that as soon as he lets his guard down Barry is going to really let him have it, so why not allow him self one more little indulgence? (For a moment he thinks, why not allow himself more than that? Why not help himself to the whole store? She might even let him and even if she didn’t, he doubts she could STOP him... he just lets the thought pass.)

“Yeah, you’re right.”

She sounds breathless and a little confused, she’s blushing, she bites her lower lip and he thinks how much HE’D like to bite... any part of her (he lets the thought pass.) He’s almost safely back in their apartment when she calls after him.

“I’ll see you Thursday, right?”

Dennis has no idea what’s happening on Thursday but he nods. Once inside, he almost lets his guard down but then thinks that he should... calm down first. He gets into the shower and almost puts the water on cold out of habit but then reminds himself that that won't be necessary. He lets his mind wander; he imagines forcing her back into her apartment, down onto her bed.

He can’t seem to make up his mind about rather she’d push him away or pull him closer so he alternates. He imagines kissing her, harder and harder until he tastes her blood in his mouth. Her body would be so soft and pale under all those layers she’s always wearing.

He doesn’t know if she’s a virgin but (for his purposes) he decides that she is. She’d be so, so tight and her muscles would clench around him... reflexively trying to expel him. She’d gasp and whimper, caught between plasure and pain... maybe secretly enjoying the pain. He could easily pin both her slender wrists above her head with one hand and use the other to hold her face still, forcing her to keep kissing him, drinking in her whimpers and gasps. She would probably try to fight back, she’d probably bite him. He finishes while vividly imagining how her teeth would feel sinking into his lower lip.

When he recovers, he feels guilt and shame starting to close in on him. He reminds himself that they’re just thoughts, he hasn’t DONE anything, he would NEVER hurt her. He methodically scrubs himself, then he sprays the shower down with bleach. The smell and the familiarity of the activity are soothing. He puts on a pair of Barry’s silk pajama bottoms (a sort of peace offering) and then climbs into bed. He drops his guard.

(What the hell was that?)

Barry rarely yells but his voice is tense and sharp.

“I didn’t do anything she didn’t want me to do.”

(WRONG, you didn’t do anything she didn’t want KEVIN to do. She doesn’t even know that YOU exist.)

“Right, so no harm done.”

(You know that’s not how Kevin’s gonna’ feel about it.)

He’s right, Dennis HATES how often Barry is right about these sorts of things. Kevin has felt vaguely guilty since his friendship with Casey began, he feels like he’s been lying to her. He’s not going to take the fact that she kissed someone that she though was him but actually wasn’t well. Now Dennis DOES feel guilty.

“It won’t happen again... I promise.”

This calms Barry down a little, Dennis has yet to break a promise. Though, if he’s honest, he’s not sure he’ll be able to keep this one.

(You’re a pig.)

Barry sounds more exasperated than angry. He’s tired, they’re all tired and they need to be up for work in about 6 hours. Despite the nagging guilt and the knowledge that there’s going to be fallout to what just happened, Dennis finds it surprisingly easy to fall asleep.

Chapter Text

“So I gotta’ tell her, right?”

Barry has just finished explaining the situation with Casey and the whole stolen kiss debacle to Dr. Fletcher and he’s desperately hoping that she’ll offer some solution.

“I mean, the whole thing’s got Kevin twisted up in knots and she’s not stupid...eventually she’s gonna’ figure out somethings off about him. Granted she’s probably not gonna’ guess that that off thing is that he’s not alone in his own brain but she’s definitely gonna’ pick up on something and, if things get serious between 'em, she’s gonna’ want an explanation... So I should get out ahead of that, right?”

Dr. Fletcher has been pensively silent this whole time, just letting Barry unburden himself.

“Do you want me to tell you rather or not you should or do you just want me to tell you that you should?”

Barry deflates, sighing and slumping back in his chair.

“I feel like it should be Kevin’s decision but I KNOW that if I leave it up ta’ him he’s never gonna’ tell ‘er.”

“How do you know that?”

“Because he’s never told anyone about it. You only found out because Dr. Kumal sent you that tape and Dr. Kumal only found out because I told ‘er... and the last time I told someone who wasn’t a doctor it didn’t turn out so well.”

“You’re referring to the incident with Colette?”

“Yeah.”

“Do you think that Casey is like Colette?”

“Well...no... but I didn’t think Colette was like Colette either.”

Barry tears up a little and the doctor waits for him to collect himself.

“Listen, you told Kevin that if things went...beyond ‘platonic,’ he should tell her...right?”

“I did.”

“So how about ya’ just tell him that it’s time to pull the trigger on that one. I think we’re beyond platonic.”

“It was just one kiss though and none of you have spoken to her since.”

“That’s another thing... the next time you talk to Kevin, could ya’ maybe...just... reassure him that Dennis didn’t sexually assault Casey?”

“Why does he believe that that happened?”

“I mean...you’ve met Dennis a couple times... he can get kinda’...intense. When Casey kissed Kevin and Kevin didn’t respond quick enough Dennis cut in and did so... intensely. That’s kinda’ the only part of the incident Kevin remembers and I think he might be worried that ‘he’ hurt Casey.”

“But he didn’t?”

“Of course not.... He wouldn’t. I’ll admit that Dennis overreached, he shouldn’t have done what he did but I’m also certain that at some point Casey got absorbed into the little circle of people that he obsessively worries about. I guess she should feel honored since she's the first member' a that club that's not a resident of Kevin.”

“What makes you say that?”

“When we were in’er apartment he noticed she didn’t have any locks on the inside of her door. He keeps bringin’ up that Kevin should buy’er some and I keep havin’ to explain to him that that would also be an overreach considerin’ that they ain’ even technically datin’ yet.”

Dr. Fletcher looks thoughtful and a little worried.

“I don’t suppose it would be possible for me to speak with Dennis?”

Barry huffs in frustration.

“You know he only comes here when he thinks it’s life or death.”

“It just... occurs to me that both Kevin and Dennis are dealing with some very intense feelings that they’re lack of romantic experience may have left them ill-equipped to deal with.”

“Heh, tell me about it. The only emotions Dennis is ‘equipt’ to deal with are irritation, paranoia and, apparently, horniness... if that even counts as an emotion. Caught me completely off guard cause until recently I’d’ve assumed he was scared of sex... considerin’ how he’s always lecturin’ Jade about venereal diseases.”

“Do you know if Dennis has ever had any sexual partners?”

“... I don’t... think so but, like I said, until the whole kiss thing all signs had pointed to no... he HATES bein’ touched. He practically had a panic attack durin’ the eye exam he had to go through to get his glasses but unfortunately him an Orwell got different prescriptions and we couldn’t have him goin’ around blind as a bat...specially since he always insists on drivin’.”

For a moment the doctor seems to be carefully processing what he’d just said and then barry can’t help but ask;

“He tell you about anyone?”

“You know I can’t tell you that.”

Barry sighs but nods in resignation.

“At Kevin’s appointment tomorrow, I’ll tell him what you’ve told me and I’ll encourage him to disclose the situation to Miss. Cooke. I think that having to keep it from her is causing all of you a great deal of anxiety.”

“Right... and when she dumps’im, we’ll just pick up the pieces... it won’t be the first time.”

“Are you so sure that’s how she’ll react?”

“Eh... she’s only 18, she’s never even casually dated anyone before and no girl wants her first boyfriend to be...”

Barry gestures vaguely to Kevin’s body.

“While it will be understandable if she does... I don’t think you should just assume that she will. People can surprise you.”

------

Dennis has begun preparing for the Purge. It’s just become a standard part of his routine. Sleep, eat, go to work, clean, prepare for the Purge. The first step had been finding a place that Miss. Patricia could make sacred so that he can bring the sacred food there on the sacred night. That part had been easily done; there’s a series of empty storage rooms under the zoo that has been converted into a sort of makeshift apartment. He asks about it and is told he can stay there if he’s willing to take a cut in pay. He’s fine with that, it’s more spacious than their current accommodations and the cut in pay he’d have to take is less than they pay in rent now...he just has to convince the others.

In the meanwhile, he needs to actually FIND the sacred food, a task that Samuel is perversely delighted to assist him with. Samuel is DEEPLY involved in online, pro-Purge culture and there are a LOT of chat rooms where “Hunting Parties” swap stories about all the “filthy swine” they’ve executed on Purge Night. Some of them even post videos. Samuel usually uses these purely for entertainment but he tells Dennis that he thinks with a little cyber-detective work, he might be able to find out who some of them are and where they live. Dennis makes it clear that he’ll only take the food from upper-class neighborhoods.

In the midst of this is Casey Cooke. The Others don’t want Dennis anywhere near her but there’s not really anything they can do to stop him from seeing her, especially when it’s just chance encounters in the hallway or the laundry room. He tries to talk to her but it’s not easy for him like it is for Barry or Jade or Ansel.

He gets the feeling that all she sees him as is a bad mood that Kevin gets into sometimes and that hurts him for reasons he can’t explain. He wishes he could just hold her again but the situation is never right. At night he thinks about her and lets his mind wander. He knows that if they move he may not get to see her again... Sure, the zoo is close enough that she and Kevin could still date but he’s sure that Barry will take great care that Dennis doesn’t get into the light during any of those dates. He’s getting more powerful, he can’t forcibly remove Dennis from the light but if he’s already in there he can keep Dennis out of it.

To all their surprise, Miss. Patricia has no objection to Casey Cooke’s presence in Kevin’s life...she wants him to be happy, after all. At least, that’s what she says to the Others. When she and Dennis are able to talk alone, she suggests that maybe, once they're situated in their new accommodations, Kevin could invite Casey to come sit with him on Purge Night. Dennis doesn’t openly object but she must sense him balking because she asks him if he thinks Casey is Pure. He wants to say ‘yes, of course’ but, in truth, he doesn’t know. Miss. Patricia tells him that, either way, it would be best for her to meet the Beast. If she’s Pure, he’ll not harm her and if she isn’t, he’ll do Kevin a favor by removing her from his life... either way, it’s a win.

Dennis secretly resolves to NEVER let Casey Cooke meet the Beast. Pure or not...he won’t let anyone hurt her. He tells himself that it’s only because her death would be devastating to Kevin.

Chapter Text

Since her uncle had spent her life scaring off any member of the male sex who came anywhere near her, Casey doesn’t have much in the way of romantic experience. That’s why the next day, as she goes about the mundane tasks of her job, she finds herself replaying the night before. Things had been more or less normal between her and Kevin granted it was one of his lower energy days but, as someone who is perpetually low energy, she kind of prefers those. His high energy days feel...not exactly “forced”... she can’t really think of a word for it. Anyway, the date (HAD it been a date?) had gone fine up until the whole kiss thing.

It’d have been one thing if he’d rejected her, she’d been mentally prepared for that since when they’d first started talking he’d seemed a little ill at ease with the age difference. She could have taken a rejection but she doesn’t even know HOW to feel about him kissing her like he was trying to suck the life out her and then telling her to go to bed and suddenly seeming desperate to get away from her... His voice had gotten deeper... She’s pretty sure that’s not the standard first kiss reaction but... how would she know?

Had he been... mad at her for kissing him? People don’t usually participate so enthusiastically in things that they’re mad about. She plans on talking to him about it the next time she sees him but when she does he seems...nervous...sort of...guilty. So maybe the age difference thing IS still an issue for him. She can’t bring herself to bring up the ‘incident’ because she doesn’t want to make things worse and for a while she worries that he might just stop talking to her but then, slowly, things revert to normal... Well, mostly normal.

They go back to hanging out the way they had been, she doesn’t invite him into her apartment again. He has his high energy days and his low energy days but between that there’s... she doesn’t know if there’s even a word for it. Sometimes they’ll run into each other in the hallway or the laundry room and he’ll act... like he only just recently met her and doesn’t know what to say to her... also, like just being around her causes him physical pain... but not enough to make him avoid her. Maybe that’s just how he is when he’s tired?

Things go on like that until one evening he texts her that he has something to tell her and gives her a time and address to meet him at the next day. She asks why and he just says that he has someone he’d like her to meet. At first, she thinks it’s a bit early for him to be introducing her to his parents but then she remembers that he has no parent. His father had left when he was 8 and his mother had died in the purge. She’d been almost tempted to tell him HOW her uncle had died when he’d opened up to her about that but had thought better of it.

If he did have parents, would there even be a need for him to introduce her to them? Are they dating? They’d only had the one kiss and she hadn’t been able to work up the courage to attempt a second... he hadn’t made a move either. So, they’re friends then... who is it important that he introduces his FRIEND to?

------

She arrives at the building the next day to find him already waiting there, leaning against a lamppost, looking nervous. He jumps when she says his name.

“What...uh...is this?”

She gestures to the regal-looking building they’re in front of.

“It’ll be... easier to explain once we get inside.”

He avoids eye contact but takes her hand to lead her into the building. They proceed wordlessly up three flights of stairs, he keeps gripping her hand tighter... Like he’s worried she might just turn around and leave. The place looks like an apartment building but with only 4 of what must be very spacious units in it. The door they stop at, however, has a plaque on it “Dr. K. Fletcher.” She freezes.

“You’re introducing me to a... doctor.”

“Yeah... my doctor.”

Before she can inquire further, he knocks on the door. Eventually, an older woman answers.

“Kevin?”

Casey is curious as to why she says it like it’s a question.

“Afternoon, Dr. Fletcher.”

Kevin smiles nervously.

“And this must be Miss. Casey Cooke.”

The doctor extends a hand to her and she takes it, still confused. The doctor motions them both into the apartment (which is, indeed, quite spacious) and Kevin leads Casey over to a little sitting area at the far end of what looks like a library. They each take a seat on either side of an end table with a candy dish on it. The doctor says that she’ll go and make them some coffee... leaving Casey and Kevin alone.

“Are you... sick?”

“No... kind’a... in a way.”

The doctor comes back with a tray with three cups of coffee and sugar and creamer on it. She glances over at Kevin and he nods in a way that Casey can tell is meant to be meaningful.

“All right, I suppose we should begin by establishing how much you already know.”

“About what?”

“I haven’t told her anything.”

Kevin’s tone is strained and embarrassed and he still won't look at Casey.

“I didn’t think she’d believe me if you weren't here.”

“About what?”

Casey is starting to get annoyed. The doctor looks at her as though she understands.

“I supposed Kevin should have told you that I’m a doctor of Psychiatry whom he has been seeing multiple times a week for nearly a decade now.”

Casey freezes up, she can’t think of anything to say that won’t make her sound incredibly insensitive, so she says nothing. When it becomes clear that she won't be responding, the doctor goes on.

“Kevin has an extremely rare disorder the study of which I have made my life’s work. He has given me the privilege of allowing me insight into his mind in exchange for my services as a therapist.”

“Disorder?”

Casey tenses and, to her shame, shifts away from Kevin just a bit.

“Kevin?”

Again, the doctor says Kevin’s name as though it were a question and he nods.

“I think it would be best if you explained it to her to the best of your abilities...then I’ll fill the gaps.”

Kevin takes a deep breath... he still seems unable to look at Casey.

“It’s called Dissociative Identity Disorder but you probably know it as Multiple Personality Disorder...”

He closes his eyes, takes three long, slow breaths in and out and then continues.

“Basically... I can’t handle... reality... so at some point... probably when I was a kid, my brains started... making new people to handle the different parts of my life for me...”

The doctor waits to see if he’ll go on but when he doesn’t she does.

“It’s a response to extreme trauma experienced in childhood. The brain adapts by compartmentalizing and assigning each compartment a task... sort of, dividing up the burden, if you will. Each time a new stressor presents itself, the brain compartmentalizes further. It is my personal belief that this should not be viewed as an illness but rather as a prime example of the incredible capacity of the human brain.”

Kevin makes a soft, almost-sobbing noise.

“Kevin doesn’t entirely agree with me about it but, I believe, that people like him are the vanguard of the next stage in human evolution. Had he not been born into a world that viewed him as broken and lesser then he wouldn’t have experienced as much anxiety regarding his condition and that anxiety is the REAL problem.”

She waits a moment, just letting Casey digest this. This is a lot to take in all at once and that probably shows on her face.

“So... Kevin has more than one personality?”

“Our last count was 23 but the number can fluctuate. Some of them have identities that are as fully formed as your’s or mine but some are more... utilitarian... essentially just comprised of one or two specific skills or traits and only coming out under certain, highly specific circumstance. The ones most often active are Barry, Jade, Ansel, Dennis, Hedwig, Samuel, and Orwell... you’ve likely met some of them.”

Kevin chimes in.

“You spend a lot of time with Barry and Jade... you’ve met Dennis at least once... that I know of.”

“So...I’m not actually WITH you when I’m with you?”

Casey feels hurt and that must show on her face as well because Kevin immediately looks guilty.

“You spend a LOT of time with me... when we first met, that was me... Barry tries to get me into the Light around you as much as possible.”

“The light?”

“The Others experience the inside of Kevin’s mind as a multisided room in which each of them has a chair...when one of them is active and feels it’s necessary to take control of Kevin’s body, they do so by entering a spotlight that shines up from the floor in the center of the circle of chairs. Sometimes more than one of them is in the light at a time. That’s why Kevin said that you spend a lot of time with Barry AND Jade... they often share the light when with you so that Barry can temper her personality which is... quite different from Kevin’s.”

Casey’s mind is, of course, flooded with questions but she can’t bring herself to ask any of them... She doesn’t want to make Kevin feel like a sideshow exhibit.

“Now that you know all this, I think that the two of you should take some time apart so that you can process it... then, you should have a discussion about where you think it would be best to go from here. Kevin has made it clear that he’s aware this will all be a bit... much for you and won’t hold it against you if you opt not to be involved with him anymore.”

Casey feels a little insulted by this but, honestly, she can’t say for certain one way or the other just yet. At this point, both the women seem to notice that Kevin has been silent for some time. They both turn to look at him.

“Sorry... Kevin got overwhelmed.”

The voice is not unfamiliar to Casey...it’s how Kevin tends to speak on his ‘high energy’ days.

“I’m Barry... believe it or not, you and I actually know each other pretty well.”

Casey CAN NOT speak... she feels betrayed but also isn’t sure that that feeling is well-founded. She definitely needs to take time to think about this... if she doesn’t, she’s bound to say something she’ll regret.

“Barry’s purpose, as far as I can discern, is to act as a sort of social conduit... he manages Kevin’s interpersonal relationships as well as keeping the peace between the Others and coordinating their activities... deciding who will be in the Light and when.”

“Shouldn’t KEVIN get to do that?”

“Believe me, if I had my way, he would. One a the things me and Dr. Fletcher have been workin’ on is tryin’ ta get Kevin into the driver’s seat. Not that I don’t understand why he’d wanna’ stay where he is... this ain’t an easy job.”

Dr. Fletcher elaborates.

“From what I’ve been able to gather, there WAS a time when Kevin could at least control rather or not HE was in the light, he also had a greater awareness of all his various alters but at some point, most likely due to some extreme trauma he suffered, he lost control completely.”

Casey feels sick... ‘trauma’? Who had done what to Kevin? And where the hell is that person now?

-----

The session ends and Barry asks if she’d like him to leave her alone. She says that that’d be ridiculous, considering that they’re both going to the same building. When they get to Kevin’s door, Barry stops Casey before she can proceed to her own.

“Listen, what Dr. Fletcher said about Kevin bein’ prepared for you ta’ not wanna’ see him anymore? That’s true. He doesn’t and... none of Us want you stickin’ around just cause you’ll feel guilty if you don’t. He won’t be happy if you decide ta’ cut things off but... he’ll get over it. Ain’t like he’s never been dumped before and it’s not like he’ll be dealin’ with it alone.”

Casey gets hung up on the word ‘dumped.’ She guesses that that means that Kevin sees her as more than a friend.

“And... by the by... if you decided you didn’t wanna’ see us anymore, now would be a perfect time... cause we’re gonna’ be movin’ soon.”

Casey’s gaze snaps up from the floor to his face.

“Moving?”

Chapter Text

Kevin has bought himself his own sketchbook and discovered that he can draw... sort of. Dr. Fletcher has told him that he may discover that he has the same skills as some of the other’s because these are stored in the part of the brain responsible for ‘procedural memory’ and he and the other’s share that area of the brain. She’s told him that nearly all of Barry’s early memories are of art class which Kevin supposes makes sense since he has NO memory of art class. He’s also listened to more tapes of Barry’s sessions. Barry misses the days when it was all just art class because at some point things had gotten WAY more complicated.

Kevin’s mother had not been... well. He and Dr. Fletcher have speculated about what might have been wrong with her but there’s only so much she can discern based on the fragmented, second-hand accounts that Kevin and the Others have been able to give her... Especially since a lot of the Other’s hadn’t been around when she’d been alive and the ones that had made a point of avoiding her whenever possible. Dennis had probably spent the most time with her (maybe even more than Kevin) but he rarely comes to therapy. One of the few things Kevin CAN clearly remember about his mother is her erratic moods, particularly fits of blind rage and bouts of deep, deep depression.

These bouts of depression would usually come as a relief to Kevin because they made it easier to avoid her. She’d take to her bed for days at a time, not even coming out to eat or bathe. Patricia would make food for her and leave it on the table just inside the bedroom door but apart from that, they’d leave her alone. It became a problem, however, when she kept missing work. If that went on too long, Dennis pointed out, eventually the lights and power would get shut off and they couldn’t have that.

Dennis, ever the pragmatist, just started looking into ways to literally KEEP the power and water on... He’d have to do things that weren’t... technically legal but necessity is necessity. One afternoon, Barry had been sitting on the floor of the living room, using the coffee table as a surface to sketch on when he’d had his very first practical thought. That’s exactly how he’d phrased it to Dr. Fletcher.

The others, he’d though, are worried about what’ll happen if Kevin’s mom loses her job and they keep making plans that rely on the assumption that that’s gonna’ happen... but what if it didn’t happen? What if...someone convinced her to go back to work? Patricia won’t do it... Patricia HATES Kevin’s mom. Jade isn’t tactful enough. Dennis is an emotional cripple. Hedwig’s just a kid.

Barry stood up and began to make his way through the eerily quiet house to Kevin’s mom’s room. When he got to just outside the door, he’d felt Dennis wake up.

(That’s another thing Kevin has learned about the Other’s from Dr. Fletcher, they’re not always ‘on’ , sometimes they’re dormant and sometimes they’re active. It had used to be that they were dormant unless the specific circumstances required to activate them were present but at some point that had changed...probably due to some sort of trauma Kevin had suffered. Now at least some of them are ALWAYS active and Kevin himself is dormant more often than not. One of the goals of his therapy is to change this.)

Anyway, Barry had approached the door and Dennis had hopped to attention as he always did when detecting a threat (back then, Kevin’s mom hat been THE threat.) He could have just yanked Barry out of the light but instead, he’d hovered on its edge like a storm cloud... curious about what Barry was planning to do. It didn’t occur to Barry until he was actually looking at her that he’d never really seen Kevin’s mom. He didn’t know what he was expecting but it wasn’t a frail-looking middle-aged woman in a floral nightgown curled up in the fetal position in the middle of a nest of blankets.

She’d been sleeping but obviously not very heavily since she jolts awake as soon as he enters the room...he hadn’t even made any noise. She seems confused to see him standing there, for a while, they just silently regard each other. When she speaks her voice is hoarse, her eyes are also puffy, she’s been crying.

“You hate me? Don’t you?”

Barry thinks that that’s an odd choice for an ice breaker... He needs to think about it... does he? Patricia sure does. As far as Hedwig is concerned she may as well be the Wicked Witch of the West. Jade thinks she’s a ‘psycho cunt.’ Dennis has no feelings about her at all... at least not any he’s willing to share with the class.

“No.”

Barry says as though the question were ridiculous.

“You hate me?”

“No.”

That triggers a fresh burst of tears and Barry starts to worry that coming in here was a mistake. Too late to back out now. He tries to lighten the mood.

“Well that’s good... it’d be a real inconvenience if we hated each other... ain’t like there’s anybody else around here.”

He means the last part as a joke but immediately realizes that it was pointless because only the people he shares Kevin’s body with would get it and the only one of them that’s awake is Dennis and Dennis has no sense of humor. He walks a little closer to the bed a feels Dennis put a hand on his shoulder, just a reminder that he can remove him from the light at any time. He had used to be able to do that, take the Others out of the light whenever he felt it was necessary and keep them out of it for as long as he felt was necessary. That’s why for a long time Miss. Patricia had basically written the rules; back then, Dennis had always, unconditionally been on HER side.

The touch doesn’t feel like a warning or a threat though, it feels like a reassurance... Does Dennis think that Barry’s scared? What on Earth would he be scared of? The woman on the bed looks like she can barely lift her own head.

“Are you alright?”

Barry asks mostly because it seems like the standard dialogue for this type of situation.

“No... I’m not.”

She sounds like she wants to get angry but can’t muster the energy.

Barry had just sort of stayed there in the room with her, making attempts at conversation until she’d sighed and stood up. Dennis REALLY hadn’t like that and Barry had felt himself being moved, just slightly toward the edge of the light. It had been the first time he’d made an effort to stay in it because he’d wanted to see what would happen. She walked across the room at which point Barry had noticed that her nightgown was indecently thin, he didn’t look down at her body.

Penelope, he found himself suddenly thinking (apropos of nothing) her name is Penelope. Penelope had put her hand on the side of his face and looked into his eyes, her’s had misted over again. (Barry would later realize that he SHOULD have been afraid at this moment but at the time he didn’t know enough to be afraid.)

“You look so much like your father.”

Barry has no memories of Kevin’s dad (none of the Others do) he exists to them the way a character in an old book exists to someone who’s read that book again and again. At this point, the tears actually run down her face and she leans in abruptly and puts her mouth on his... it’s not QUITE a kiss. Then she wraps her arms around his shoulders, burying her face against one of them and cries. He just lets her, when the sobs start to ebb off, she speaks again.

“I love you... I love you so so much and everything I do is because I LOVE you... you know that right?”

She pulls back and looks into his eyes again... Dennis is in the light with him now but still not removing him from it.

“... I know...”

Barry only says this because Dennis warns him (without words, purely through a tightening of hands on his shoulders) that to say otherwise would yield negative results. Penelope’s eyes brim with new tears but she seems pleased by his answer.

“And you can’t ever leave me... I would DIE if you left me...”

She had her hands on either side of his face now... the nails digging in just a little. Dennis still has a grip on his shoulders but now he’s holding him still... like he WANTS him to see this.

“I ain’t goin’ nowhere.”

Barry says it because it’s true... where would they go?

“Tell me you love me.”

It’s a clear command and her grip tightens a little as she says it. Barry obeys.

“I... I love you... and I won't leave you.”

She relaxes and, in an obvious direct response, Dennis’ grip relaxes. Her eyes clear then, as though a fog is lifting from around her brain. She kisses him lightly on the mouth and then brushes past him into the bathroom. Eventually, he hears the shower turn on.

After that, Dennis and Miss. Patricia (so most likely just Miss. Patricia) decide that this is what Barry does. Whenever Kevin’s mom takes to her bed for too long, it becomes Barry’s job to go in there (Dennis sharing the light with him, just in case) and sit with her and talk to her and reassure her he won’t leave... and tell her he loves her.

Chapter Text

Casey is doing her laundry 3 days after the surprise psychiatrist appointment. As per the doctors' advice, she and Kevin have avoided each other. It may be intentional or instinctual (some sort of internal clock telling him their time apart is up) but Kevin comes into the laundry room when Casey just happens to be there. He doesn’t speak to her, simply sets to work doing what he came there to do. She realizes that he’s letting her decide rather or not they’ll still be speaking.

“The zoo’s not so far away... it wouldn’t be hard for us to keep seeing each other.”

“But far enough that it wouldn’t be hard for us to stop seeing each other.”

She bristles but tries not to get angry.

“Do you not WANT to see me anymore... cause if that’s the case, then you should just come out and say it.”

“I wanna’ keep seeing you Casey... what I don’t want is to take my problem and make it your’s... you don’t deserve that, you deserve to have a normal life.”

“Well the normal life ship has LONG since sailed by now and that had nothing to do with you.”

He looks at her questioningly. She glances around to ensure they are COMPLETELY alone in the shadowed basement laundry room.

“The doctor said that you’re... like this because of trauma in your childhood... Well, I can relate.”

“You’re uncle?”

He says it as though it’s something he’s suspected for some time... she wonders how much of their initially having been drawn to one another is the result of their both having been ‘traumatized.’

“Yeah.”

She confirms flatly.

“My mom died when I was too young to even remember what she looked like and my dad had a heart attack when I was 8. I was alone and helpless and totally dependent on him and he... hurt me... in every way he possibly could. Then, on my first purge as an adult... I killed him.”

She knows the correct phrasing is “I Purged him” but she sees no point in dressing it up. She and Kevin have been moving closer and closer as she’s been talking. She looks up into his eyes now.

“I stabbed him in the throat... and when that didn’t work, I shot him.”

He puts his hand on her shoulder, his expression a strange mix of sadness and fascination.

“You didn’t kill your mom, did you?”

“...no...”

“See, so you’re less fucked up than I am... if anything, I should be telling you to stay away from me... do you want to stay away from me?”

“No.”

“Ok, then there’s no reason for us to stop seeing each other after you move because neither of us wants that.”

She kisses him for the second time then, just a chaste peck on the lips. They both go back about their business and at one point it looks as though he may be about to say something to her but then someone else comes into the room.

------

Kevin’s old apartment had been near to overflowing but the new place looks strangely empty because of how much bigger it is. This will change though, he knows it’s only a matter of time before the Others fill it up. One of them had apparently found the place for him and negotiated him moving in so he can only assume that they have plans for it. Casey had helped him move in. It had felt like a cementing of their status as a couple. It had also been a good way for her to get know some of the Others at least a little. Kevin himself doesn’t know much about them beyond their names and what items belong to them and the two of them try to organize things so that each of them has their own space.

Casey finds Hedwig’s drawings and covers the walls of one of the small rooms with them. Kevin is more troubled by their content than Casey seems to be. There’s still only one computer and it gets put in a room that’s central to all the other rooms. As per Dr. Fletcher's suggestion, they’ve all started keeping video diaries (those that are willing to anyway); each of them has a private one that is locked with a password that Kevin doesn’t know and one unlocked one that is specifically FOR Kevin. Barry makes the most updates to his unlocked one.

Kevin lets Casey watch a few that he carefully selects, avoiding Ansel’s file entirely because by now it’s mostly about how Casey is their soulmate. He’s started planning a wedding (which even Kevin finds creepy) and written poems to her... they are not good poems. Ansel has met Casey a few times but, of course, he’d been sharing the light with Barry at the time so Barry could keep him under control. Ansel had once proposed to a woman after only knowing her for a week, her name is Gillian, she works in the monkey house at the zoo, Barry does his best to avoid her.

By the time they’re done it’s getting dark but he asks if she’d like to stay and watch a movie. For some reason, he wants to show her The Spirit of the Beehive. Though there’s now room for one, he doesn’t have a couch yet. They start out sitting on his bed and she eventually winds up laying on her side with her head on a pillow in his lap. He can’t help but marvel at how little learning about his disorder has changed her behavior around him... if anything, she seems more comfortable now. He guesses that that makes a kind of sense. From her perspective, he’d just been acting ‘weird’ before and she hadn’t known why... now she does.

He slowly, carefully begins to pet her hair and for a moment there’s a strange ache in his chest... but then suddenly Barry is there. Though he and barry can’t directly communicate (as he’s been told the Others can) they’ve gotten to a point where he knows how it feels when Barry is in the light with him. This doesn’t cause him alarm because Barry has never forcibly moved him out of the light (like some of the Others.) For the time being, Barry seems content to simply be present.

By the time the movie ends, it’s almost one in the morning. Kevin wonders if Casey’s noticed...

“It’s late.”

She rolls over onto her back and looks up at him.

“Do you want to me go?”

“I could give you a ride home if you want or...”

“Or?”

She smirks and he feels himself blush.

“...I won’t... expect anything... if you stay.”

“So we’ll just be sleeping?”

He nods. She seems to be considering it for a moment.

“Do you have anything I can wear to sleep in?”

------

She goes into the bathroom to change into the t-shirt and sweats he gave her and he puts on a pair of pajamas, both the top and bottom. It’s more than he usually wears to bed but he doesn’t want her seeing his chest...or back... or forearms. He’s glad there’s no mirror in his new bedroom because one look at his own scars and he would definitely lose his nerve. He reminds himself that they’ll just be sleeping... he does that every night... just not with someone in bed next to him. She knocks on the bathroom door to let him know she’s coming out.

His clothes are too big on her, it makes her look tiny and delicate and vulnerable. He gets the urge to put his arms around her but...no, he’d said they’d just be sleeping and he doesn’t want her to think he was lying. Barry has receded, he’s giving them privacy, it’s just the two of them now... not that that matters. She immediately takes the side of the bed that isn’t along the wall (she doesn’t want to feel trapped, he thinks.) He crawls in next to her from the bottom of the bed.

Once the lights are out it suddenly seems unnaturally quiet down here... like a tomb... that wasn’t Kevin’s thought but it did come from his mind. They lay awake an uncomfortably long time. He knows she’s awake and she knows he’s awake but neither of them intends to say anything about it. Eventually, she rolls over to face him and slowly, tentatively places a warm, little hand on his chest. Eventually, he feels her head touch his shoulder.

There’s something... just a little flickering in Kevin’s head that’s so brief he can’t even begin to identify it. Suddenly he feels that Barry is present again and for some reason that makes it easier for him to fall asleep.

Chapter Text

Patricia wakes up in a rather unique position. There’s a very young girl clinging to her side. She carefully disentangles herself and then stands beside the bed, studying the thing. This must be Casey Cooke then... she’s wearing Kevin’s clothing. She leaves the thing to sleep and goes to take stock of their new home.

Apart from the unignorable fact of it’s being underground it’s... not bad. It clearly wasn’t originally intended to be a living space; it’s awkwardly laid out, a series of small to medium-sized rooms on either side of one long hallway. Kevin and the girl seem to have tried to assign purposes to the rooms but she’s sure it’ll wind up getting rearranged as the Others get settled in.

There’s one room that appears to have originally been a walk-in storage closet that’s been covered with the child’s drawings. Interspersed with pictures of the Others there are images of unspeakable violence (clearly the boy’s spent too much time watching Purge Feeds with Samuel) but... some of them seem to be of the Beast. That’s certainly not a BAD thing but... she hasn’t mentioned their new Lord to the boy. Sometimes the child just knows things without there being any clear source for the information and, in this particular instance, Patricia can imagine that causing them trouble... There are SOME of the Others whom she certainly doesn’t want knowing a thing... Barry in particular. She’ll have Dennis talk to the boy...

She finds the kitchen... that will need reorganizing. Beyond the kitchen is a long narrow room that contains nothing at present except the computer (which Patricia does not use.) Beyond that is a sort of utility room that has a large steel sink beside the door. On the far wall of the room is a heavy wooden door that’s locked. It’s not hard for Patricia to find the ring of keys, they’re on Kevin’s bedside table.

Beyond the door is a square room with no apparent purpose. It’s less finished, it’s walls are raw brick and its floor is dirt, there’s an enormous vent in the ceiling... all things Dennis can fix. She can feel it though, this is the place, this is where the Sacred Food will be kept. It takes her a while to find her incense but when she does she lights some in the room. She feels she should pray but... there are no prayers for HIM are there. Instead, she imagines the Train Yard, imagines how his energy fills the place and imagines it flowing through her into this room.

She puts the key to the room into the pocket of Dennis’ jacket... She supposes that she should make breakfast.

------

Casey wakes up to the faint smell of burnt toast. She’s alone in the bed. She gets dressed before going out into the kitchen. In the kitchen, she finds someone who she immediately knows isn’t Kevin standing over the stove. She can’t help but marvel at what a difference just a change in stance and posture can make (she somehow knows this person is female without even seeing their face.) Despite having been reassured by both Dr. Fletcher and Kevin that none of the Others are dangerous, Casey feels herself instinctively tense up.

“Hi.”

She had been careful to keep her tone neutral but the woman at the stove still tenses before she turns. When she does, she smiles a sharp, brittle smile that contrasts with the soft placidity of her voice.

“Good morning sleepy head... I was beginning to think you’d never wake.”

There’s an accent that Casey finds hard to place...English or maybe... Irish.

“Sorry... me and Kevin were up kind of late.”

The woman arched a brow and Casey feels herself blush.

“Unpacking.”

She elaborates.

“Of course.”

With only those two words the woman conveys both that she had suspected nothing else and that Casey should be ashamed for assuming that she had. She strides over to the table and sets down a plate.

“Come, eat.”

The woman in Kevin’s body makes a beckoning gesture toward the table and Casey follows. As she sits, she realizes that all that’s on the plate is a single fried egg between two slightly burned pieces of toast, cut neatly down the center. The woman watches until she takes a bite and then walks back over to the stove. The kettle starts to whistle almost as if in response to her approach. She pours some of the hot water into a cup and then looks at Casey questioningly.

“No thanks.”

“Coffee?”

“No, I’m good.”

Casey only says this because there doesn’t seem to be any made yet and she doesn’t want... whoever this is going out of their way for her. The woman in Kevin’s body comes and sits at the table opposite Casey. She studies her a moment and then takes a sip of her tea.

“Aren’t you going to eat anything?”

“Kevin will eat when he wakes.”

“Nothing for you though?”

“No.”

There are a million questions Casey would like to ask but she goes with the one that she thinks is least likely to cause offense.

“We haven’t met... have we?”

“We have not, though it would be impossible for me not to have heard of THE Casey Cooke.”

Casey feels self-conscious all of a sudden and tries to shift the focus off of herself.

“Do you have a name?”

“Doesn’t everyone?”

Casey feels, even more, self-conscious, she’d for some reason assumed that Kevin’s more ‘functional’ alters didn’t have names... though this doesn’t seem like one of those... or if she IS, her function definitely isn’t cooking. There’s a long silence during which Casey would swear that the woman is enjoying her discomfort, then her face becomes a mask of perfect contrition.

“Forgive me, dear, I don’t often get to meet new people... I’m Miss. Patricia.”

She extends a hand across the table and Casey takes it... even Kevin’s hands seem different with this person controlling them... elegant and frail. Instead of shaking Casey’s hand, Miss. Patricia only holds onto it for a moment, running a thumb over her knuckles, then lets it go.

“So is that what Kevin does when he’s not in the light? Sleep?”

“Yes... as do the Others... most of the time.”

“Do you sleep a lot?”

Miss. Patricia only looks at her quizzically.

“Sorry... it’s just that Dr. Fletcher listed off the ones that are the most active and she didn’t mention your name.”

“That DOCTOR has no business mentioning my name.”

She spits out the word ‘doctor’ as though it were an insult.

“You don’t like Dr. Fletcher?”

“It’s nothing personal... I simply believe that things like psychology exist to convince people like Kevin that they are subnormal when in fact they’re quite the opposite. Kevin does not require a doctor because Kevin is NOT sick.”

Casey is tempted to point out how much she sounds like Dr. Fletcher right now

“Do you see Kevin as being sick? As some sort of cripple?”

“No.”

Patricia seems caught off guard by the conviction with which she says it. Casey takes advantage of her momentary disorientation to ask a question.

“How long have you been with Kevin?”

For a moment Patricia just looks at her in a way that makes her feel like she’s being dissected. She huffs through her nose and then answers.

“When I first arrived Kevin was 10 years old... it was just him and Hedwig and poor, overwrought Dennis.”

“Overwrought?”

“I think we’ve done enough sharing for a first meeting, don’t you?”

The way she says it makes it clear that it’s not actually a question.

“Finish your meal.”

Casey finishes the sandwich while Patricia sit’s and silently sips her tea, regarding her with that same dissecting gaze. When she starts talking again, her tone is completely placid.

“I think it’s important you understand, dear, that you are NEW and, therefore, in my view disposable... it would hurt Kevin to lose you but he would heal... I’ve seen him do so before and, if you gave me a compelling enough reason, I COULD get rid of you. I’ve no intention of doing so at present but DO NOT test me.”

Patricia looks down at her plate as though to confirm it’s empty.

“Now... I’ll fetch Dennis to take you home.”

Casey wants to object to this but she doesn’t for two reasons. The first is that she sees by the clock on the stove that she has work in a few hours. The second is that the ‘fetching’ appears to have already begun.

Chapter Text

Kevin’s body seems to straighten and broaden. Kevin had said that Casey had only met Dennis once ‘that he knew of’ but they’ve definitely met more than once. Now that she know’s they aren’t the same person, she can’t help but wonder how she ever mistook him for Kevin. In fact, if someone would have told her that the man in front of her was Kevin’s older brother, she’d have believed them. He squints a little (she remembers that he’s usually wearing glasses when she sees him) and then looks briefly embarrassed, raking his fingers over his scalp

“Uh... if you’ll just give me a moment to get dressed, I’ll take ya’ home.”

His voice is like Kevin’s but deeper, the accent heavier. He brushes past her into the bedroom, seeming to take deliberate care not to touch her. Eventually, he emerges from the bedroom in his work clothes, Casey wonders if that’s the only outfit he ever wears. While he was in the bedroom, she’d gotten the keys from the kitchen counter, Patricia moved them, they’d been on the bedside table last night. She holds them out to him and he takes them, again, seemingly making a conscious effort to not touch her.

He leads her through the series of doors between them and the outside, unlocking each one (she hadn’t realized that they were all locked) and glancing behind him each time he stops. Where does he think she’s going to go? There’s only one way out. The zoo is open but he leads her out the service exit into the staff parking lot. When they get to the car, he comes around to the passenger's side first, unlocks it, wipes the handle with a yellow cloth and then opens the door for her. She can’t help but smirk at that...how gentlemanly.

It’s not a long drive but Casey would rather not make it in complete silence. She remembers how much trouble Dennis usually seems to have making conversation so she tries to keep things simple.

“You work tonight?”

“... yeah... Wednesday through Sunday 7 p.m. to 11 p.m.”

He says it mechanically as though he’s made a point of memorizing it... then he keeps going.

“And you work from 2 p.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Thursday.”

“...yeah...”

She doesn’t really know how else to respond to the knowledge that he’s apparently also memorized HER work schedule. She tells herself it’s not THAT weird... Kevin knows her work schedule... she just thought that Barry was the only one of the Others that he freely exchanged information with. She wonders if maybe she can do some damage control... from the few videos of Barry’s that Kevin has shown her, she’s gotten the impression that Dennis and Patricia are close.

“I’m sorry if I upset Paricia.”

Dennis briefly glances at her, he looks confused.

“The two of you aren’t big fans of Dr. Fletcher, huh?”

“I got nothin’ against Dr. Fletcher... she’s a nice lady.”

Casey wants to ask him why he doesn’t go to therapy if that’s how he feels but she knows that would probably hit a nerve and thinks she’s done enough of that for one day. Instead, she just agrees.

“She is... do her and Patricia not get along?”

“MISS Patricia has very specific ideas about how our situation should be handled and they do not involve the inclusion of outside parties.”

“Am I an ‘outside party’?”

He just seems confused again so she elaborates.

“She wanted me to know that she could get rid of me.”

Dennis abruptly hits the breaks, they’re in front of Caseys building now. He turns to her.

“She said that to you?”

He seems angry now... Casey tries to backpedal.

“I think she’s just worried I might not be good for Kevin... I mean... it’s not like she really knows me so... I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have said anything...”

“No... you didn’t do anything wrong...”

He huffs in frustration, raking his fingers over his scalp.

“She’s just... very... protective of Kevin.”

“I get it.”

Casey hastens to reassure him.

“Kevin’s past experiences with women have been mostly bad... starting with his own mother...”

He tenses in a way that makes her feel guilty but then he takes a few deep breaths. When he goes on, his voice is less strained.

“You don’t need to worry about her, ok? There’s not really a whole lot she can do on her own and, if she tried to get rid of you, she wouldn’t have my help because I... I think you’re good for Kevin.”

“You’ve helped her get rid of people?”

He tenses up again...rakes his hands over his scalp.

“Not... ah, not the way you’re thinkin’.”

An awkward silence descends and he looks so uncomfortable that she feels the need to rescue him.

“I have to go get ready for work but I’d really appreciate it if we could talk more at some point.”

He looks confused again, as though he can’t imagine why anyone would want to talk to him. She can’t help herself, she leans in and kisses him on the cheek.

“Thanks for the ride.”

She gets out of the car before he can respond.

------

Dennis has a while before his shift starts, he thinks he should rest but instead, he finds himself standing in the unfinished room the key to which Miss Patricia had put in his pocket. He’s compiling a list of necessary materials in his head (he should soundproof it...just in case) and trying to plan out how he’ll get them down here. He’ll have to do it bit by bit so as not to attract attention. Even though nothing that’ll be happening on Purge Night will be illegal, he and Miss Patricia have agreed that it would still be best for them to be discreet. It won’t be illegal for someone to try to stop them either and he wouldn’t want anyone who doesn’t deserve it to wind up getting hurt. He feels her hand on his arm and then feels her enter the light beside him.

“You can feel it can’t you? This is a sacred space.”

He nods because... he actually can. He’d never known what she was talking about when she’d talked about things like that in regards to their old god but since meeting the Beast he feels more sensitive to those sorts of things. He’s probably not as sensitive as Miss. Patricia but he gets a feeling here like the one he’d had in the Train Yard only muffled. Somehow, he knows it’ll get stronger as the Sacred Night approaches. He’d meant to have words with her, about what happened with Casey, but he decides that it can wait until later... he doesn’t want to spoil this.

He lets Hedwig into the light with him as he does his routine maintenance check for the night because the novelty of getting to be in the zoo when no one else can never seems to wear off for the kid. They make their usual stops by the lions and the hyenas. The keepers have hung the carcass of something from a tree in the lion enclosure and they spend a while watching the lionesses tear at it and fight over it. There’s only one male and he’s kept in a separate enclosure and only let in with the others during mating season... Dennis sometimes feels sorry for him. Dennis also wonders if these beasts can sense his connection to The Beast but his job doesn’t permit him to get close enough to them to tell if they can. He’s got keys to everything (Hedwig is really impressed by that) but not the animal enclosures.

(Is Casey your girlfriend or Kevin’s girlfriend?)

The question catches him off guard.

“Why were you wondering about that?”

(You kissed’er first and I thought that meant she's ‘ur girlfriend but everybody got all mad about it and now she’s always kissin’ Kevin...)

“You shouldn't eavesdrop on adult’s conversations.”

(Yeah, yeah... is she ‘ur girlfriend?)

Dennis sighs.

“She’s with Kevin.”

(How come?)

“Because she likes Kevin.”

(...I think ‘ur better ‘an Kevin.)

“I’m not.”

(Yuh-huh, ‘ur real strong and smart and ya’ can fix stuff, ya’ got keys to everything...etcetera.)

Dennis has to stifle a laugh at that, deciding that there’s no reason to explain why most women aren’t impressed by rings of keys.

(‘Ur a better friend than Kevin... you never let nobody hurt me.)

He’s explained to the kid time and time again that Kevin never MEANT for anything bad to happen to him, he hadn’t even had any control over rather or not it did, but there are some things a 9-year-old just can’t get their head around.

(Ya’ should tell ‘er that... that if she’s ‘ur girlfriend ya’ won’t let nobody hurt ‘er.)

“Nobody hurts her either way.”

(... ‘ya love ‘er, huh?)

Dennis pretends not to have heard the question.

Chapter Text

By the time the city starts to freeze, Dennis has procured all the necessary materials and gotten them secreted away in the Sacred room to which he alone still has the key. Barry doesn’t seem to wonder at its absence, probably because he only keeps track of the keys that he uses on a regular basis and he’s never had a need to go into that room. The challenge then becomes finding time to work on it without the Others becoming suspicious. Dennis has gotten in the habit of getting into the light as soon as Barry leaves it to rest after his shift. The Others begin to wonder why they’re suddenly so tired all the time and Miss. Patricia helpfully suggests that maybe Kevin has developed a vitamin D deficiency; the days are getting shorter and living underground certainly hasn’t increased the amount of time that he spends in the sun. Kat adds a vitamin D supplement to the other pills in the sorter that she bought for Kevin when he’d had trouble remembering to take his prescriptions.

Miss Patricia also points out (to Dennis) that perhaps if they spent a bit less time with Casey the project would get done faster. Dennis simply insists that he has every phase planned out and is on schedule to have it finished WELL before it will be needed. Their schedules make it difficult but Barry makes a point of ensuring that they see Casey as often as possible. They have lunch together most days, usually, Casey gets something for them and brings it to the zoo. She sleeps over at least 2 nights a week and is working on getting her schedule at work changed so that it lines up better with Kevins.

Barry tries to get Kevin in the light during these lunches but there’s still no reliable way of waking him. Casey says she doesn’t mind, she likes Barry. Barry likes Casey too but he still finds the whole situation frustrating. Dr. Fletcher assures him that they’re making good progress but he still feels like he’s failing and feels generally overwhelmed by the whole situation. He won’t tell the Others about this though, he wouldn’t want ANYONE thinking that Patricia had gotten to him. As far as they all know, everything is fine. Dr. Fletcher prescribes more valium specifically so that there’s some for Barry and advises Kevin to keep it in a different place in the apartment than he keeps his own.

Sometimes Casey sleeps over on nights that Barry doesn’t work the next morning and Miss Patricia somehow always manages to be the first one up on those mornings. She lets Casey sleep and proceeds with her usual regiment of reanointing the Sacred Space (while also checking Dennis’ progress) and then making breakfast. The difference is that now she makes enough for two and, when she hears Casey stirring, she wakes Dennis and hands the light off to him. It only takes a few times for Dennis to realize that this is a favor she’s doing for him.

The Others seem to think Miss Patrcis hates Casey but Dennis knows better. She simply doesn’t TRUST Casey. That’s a distinction that the two of them have always been better at making than the Others. Sometimes she’ll linger in the light and listen to their conversation and Dennis doesn’t mind this. His life would certainly be easier if the two of them trusted each other. He’s almost tempted to ask Dr. Fletcher if there’s any way he can help move that along but...no. One of the Others has undoubtedly brought the situation up to the doctor by now... and isn’t that the sort of thing Barry’s supposed to handle?

Miss Patricia only brought up the prospect of Casey meeting The Beast a few more times but has stopped by now. It’s not often that Dennis puts his foot down (at least not when it comes to Miss Patricia) but when he does, she knows there’s no moving him. Ironically, that’s one of the things she’s always admired about him. Casey doesn’t seem intimidated by Dennis and he doesn’t know how to process that. It’s not that he WANTS her to be intimidated, it’s just that the bulk of his interactions with other people begin with them vaguely worrying that he may hurt them and then segway into his having to decide if he’ll be diffusing or feeding that worry.

The more he gets to know her, the more he starts to feel guilt creeping back in about the... private thoughts he has about her. He tries not to make them about her, tries to replace the image of her in his mind with other pretty girls he’s seen or with just a generic waif with big eyes and dark hair. They all wind up turning back into Casey Cooke though. There’s a part of him (a dark, secret part) that wants her all to himself. He wants her in a cage to which he has the only key, at his mercy, on her knees for him. If he really wanted to, he could do it; trap her somewhere and keep the Others from ever finding out (she would try to leave... what would he have to do to keep her from leaving?)

These are only thoughts he has when she’s not actually around though. When he’s with her, actually looking at her and speaking to her, he can’t fathom doing anything that would cause her any kind of pain. Despite his constantly reminding himself that there is NO connection between the real Casey Cooke and the one he keeps locked away in his mind, he still finds himself feeling guilty. He still feels the need to keep a certain amount of space between them.

After she leaves, he always changes their sheets so that they don’t smell like her. It doesn’t help, nothing helps. He occasionally finds himself wondering if she and Kevin have had sex... they MUST have...they’ve been dating for months. He keeps considering going to see Dr. Fletcher but deciding against it. People go to doctors when they have problems and he does NOT have a problem. ... he is FINE, he is in CONTROL of himself.

------

Kevin is in Dr. Fletcher’s office, sitting on the couch, Dr. Fletcher is perched on the edge of her chair opposite the couch. Both of them are looking at a series of drawings laid out on the coffee table between them. Some of them are Hedwig’s. Someone, probably Barry or Kat, had taken them off the walls of the room that Kevin (and apparently all the Others) has come to regard as Hedwig’s room. He’d woken up that morning to find them in a manilla folder with “Take to Dr. Fletcher, please” written on it in Kat’s handwriting and “PUT BACK WHEN YOU GET HOME” written below it in Barry’s handwriting.

The other drawings are Kevin’s... their content is unsettlingly similar. In fact, some of his pictures just look like Hedwig’s pictures if they were drawn by an adult. They’re all set in the Train Yard. Kevin had completely forgotten the recurring nightmares he used to have about the place until he saw the pictures of it tacked to the wall. They all feature a big, shadowy figure with sharp teeth and red eyes and long, sharp fingers. The main difference is that in Hedwig’s drawings the creature is a giant (large enough to swallow a person whole) but in Kevins, it’s big but not THAT big (maybe 9 or 10 feet tall.) Dr. Fletcher theorizes that this may be because Hedwig tends to associate size with power and importance. They’ve both drawn it eating people but Kevin’s drawings are far more realistic and, therefore, more disturbing.

“Do you have any idea why the two of you may have been inspired to draw similar images?”

“No... I just... started drawing and this is what came out.”

“Did you dissociate while drawing?”

“No, it was definitely still me... it felt like... deja vus but... that doesn’t make any sense because I can remember those dreams now and I never SAW the monster in any of them... I just knew it was there.”

“That’s why you didn’t go in.”

“Right.”

“But some of these suggest that you did venture in.”

She points to some of Kevin’s drawings that are of an expanse of train tracks with decrepit train cars scattered here and there on them. In one, there are lights in one of the cars.

“It’s possible that you’ve been dreaming of the train yard again and just don’t remember it... people, in general, don’t consciously remember most of what they dream.”

“So these are like... a dream journal?”

“Possibly.”

“And the kid’s been having the same dreams?”

“Or, at least, similar dreams... has Barry mentioned anything that relates to this in his video journal?”

“He talks about being ‘worried about the kid’ but he doesn’t know what to do about it because the kid doesn’t talk to him... ‘the kid’ talks to ‘Mr. Dennis’ but apparently ‘Mr. Dennis’ keeps the things him and Hedwig talk about between them.”

“One of his functions is to keep secrets.”

“He thinks he’s helping ME by keeping things that are going on in MY head a secret from ME?”

“If that hadn’t been necessary at some point, then Dennis wouldn’t exist.”

Kevin looks defeated and frustrated.

“Have any of the Others seen your sketches?”

“No... I only draw when I know I’m alone and I hide the book.”

Dr. Fletcher looks concerned so Kevin explains.

“I trust Barry to respect my privacy but I don’t know if I trust any of the rest’a them.”

The doctor looks down at the table a while with an expression of grim intensity. She collects the child’s drawings.

“I would like to keep these if you don’t mind, so that I can discuss them with him the next time he comes in.”

“Barry seems to think I should put them back where they were.”

“Hedwig may be upset that you moved them... in the past, he’s expressed some upset over you moving his things. He may act up between now and his next appointment so I think we should move it to tomorrow. He’ll be less upset when he knows that you moved them because I wanted you to... that’s what I’ll tell him.”

Kevin nods and starts gathering up his drawings.

“We’re gonna’ have to meet between my shifts.”

“I have 1:30 open.”

Kevin takes a pen from her desk and writes it on his arm, that’s STILL the best way he has to convey information to the Other’s and be SURE that they’ll see it.

“And Barry is usually up first on days that you work in the morning?”

“...I... I think.”

She writes something down on a piece of paper, puts it in an envelope, seals the envelope and writes ‘Barry’ on it.

“Put this in the drawer of your bedside table. It just explains to Barry that I need him to ensure that Hedwig comes to the appointment.”

Kevin takes it and puts it in the pocket of his sweatshirt.

------

Later that night, while Kevin is at home, he can feel someone who isn’t Barry in the light with him. They’re not trying to move him, they’re just standing there... watching what he’s doing. He takes the envelope along with some other random things out of his pocket and casually drops them into the bedside table. He looks at his DVDs and waits for someone to have some sort of feeling in response to one of them but there’s nothing, then he goes to the bookshelf... still nothing. He winds up falling asleep watching a documentary about the East Australian Current.

Chapter Text

One of the often-overlooked advantages of living underground is how easy it is to make any room in one's home completely dark. This is advantageous to Kevin and Casey because neither of them is comfortable taking their clothes off in front of the other yet. They each know that the other has scars and they both understand the other’s discomfort with having them seen by others. That doesn’t stop them from wanting to touch each other. They’re doing so now, in Kevin’s bed in his completely darkened room, each of them stripped to the point that they’re comfortable with.

This leaves each of them in their underwear and a tank top. Casy can feel some of Kevin’s scars (dents and ridges) through the fabric but she tries not to focus on that. She tries to focus on making him feel good because he’s making her feel good. Like most things this has been an ongoing process for them, learning each other's bodys. She’s told him she’s not ready to have sex yet and he’d had such little difficulty understanding that she thinks maybe he’s not ready either.

Instead, they make love with their hands and their mouths. She feels the heat of his right hand now, moving from her breast, skimming down her side, coming to rest on her hip. He’s waiting for permission and she gives it to him by deepening their kiss and running her fingers over the back of scalp and neck. He’s sensitive there, he shivers and moans into her mouth. There are wispy little scars on her inner thigh, ones she made herself, and he can’t possibly not have noticed them but has never asked her about them. It’s like he knows that she wouldn't want to have to explain them.

The warmth of his hand moves from her hip to her pubic mound and then, slowly, to between her legs. She parts them a little further and arches, a silent invitation. He knows right where to touch her but he doesn’t go there immediately, he circles around it, gentle, teasing. He doesn’t proceed until she starts to keen and rut against his hand. He goes gently on her clit at first, then slowly increases the pressure. His other hand is gripping her hair, pulling just slightly. His mouth goes from her mouth to her neck so that when she cums she’s able to moan and whimper and scream...he likes to hear her.

They lay a while in the dark, listening to each other breath. She can feel his arousal pressed against her. When the fog of orgasm has cleared enough from her brain, she slips out from under him, pushes him onto his back and straddles him. She kisses him the way he’d kissed her the first time they'd kissed. She grazes the side of his neck with her teeth but then worries that his heavy breathing isn’t the right kind.

“You ok?”

“M...More than ok... WAY more.”

He stammers and she laughs and continues working her way down his body. She only pulls his pants down far enough to get to the parts she needs to, knowing he wouldn’t be comfortable with more. She takes him into her mouth. The one time her uncle had tried to make her do this, she’d bitten him. He had beat the shit out of her afterward but he’d never tried it again.

She likes doing it with Kevin though, strangely enough, it gives her a sense of...control. He runs his hands through her hair and strokes the back of her neck, pleading, never forceful. He pants and groans and hisses through his teeth. She’s become adept enough at this that she knows she could hold him there, in that desperate place right on the brink of ecstasy, for as long as she wants and he would let her. She won’t....but she could... he would let her.

Afterward, they lay entangled in the cool, still darkness until they fall asleep.

Chapter Text

Casey and Dennis are having breakfast one morning (this appears to have become a ritual between them) when Casey decides that maybe they’ve reached a point where they can talk about things that are actually significant. They’ve been just ‘making conversation’ until now and she does wonder if perhaps that's the point. Maybe someone wanted Dennis to get practice making conversation. They've finally gotten to a point that he doesn’t tense up every time she moves and gives more than bare-bones answers to her questions. He doesn’t ask questions about her, he seems to have a personal policy against prying into other people’s lives. When she asks him questions, though, he answers to the best of his ability which is limited when it comes to certain things. Not the things she’s been wondering about though.

“So... does Miss Patricia still want me gone?”

She’s careful to say MISS Patricia because it seems to irritate Dennis when she just calls the woman Patricia. Sometimes just existing seems taxing for Dennis and Casey doesn’t want to add to that. He hesitates a long time before answering, as though choosing his words carefully in his mind before he says them. He always seems to be carefully choosing his words when he talks to her as if a single misplaced syllable could cause something horrible to happen.

“I don’t think she ever actually wanted you gone... she just wanted you to know where you stood. She DOES care about Kevin and you’re good for him. Not even she can deny that.”

Casey carefully considers what she’s going to say now. Dennis and Patricia are (as Barry had led her to believe) close and even when he doesn’t agree with her he’s still protective of her and doesn’t like to hear anyone speaking ill of her. They sometimes remind Casey of a slightly-too-close mother and son.

“Would you not talk to me if she didn’t want you to?”

For a moment he seems to be scanning the question for signs of mockery... he seems to find none.

“I respect her and I take her advice a lot because she’s smarter than me but... she doesn’t CONTROL me or anything like that... you been talking ta’ Jade?”

Jade does, in fact, have very strong, mostly negative opinions about Dennis and Patricia’s relationship, the term ‘codependent freakshow’ has been used more than once. Jade also seems to think that Patrica is resentful of the fact that Barry is in charge now and is surprised that Dennis hasn’t made any move to change that. According to her, Dennis used to be Patrica’s ‘enforcer’ and what Dennis has sad about there not being much that Patricia can do on her own makes Casey inclined to believe this. Casey has a feeling it would be a bad idea to repeat any of this to Dennis.

“I just wanted to know if you talk to me because you want to or because someone else is making you.”

“Of course I want to.”

He sounds almost angry but then seems to deliberately soften his tone.

“I’m just not good at it... like some people.”

Casey sometimes gets the suspicion that Dennis is jealous of Barry but she doesn’t want to go down that road. He probably wouldn’t admit to it if he were. He gets defensive when it’s implied that he has ANY weaknesses or insecurities. Even when he’d said that Patricia is smarter than him, he’d said it as though it were a simple matter of fact, not an indication of a deficiency on his part.

“She’s older than you, right? Does that mean she’s been with Kevin longer?”

“Uh... no. We’re all made the age that we need to be and if we need to age, we do. I’m older than Kevin and I’d been around 3 years when Miss Patricia showed up but she’s always been older than me... kind’ a like how Hedwig was around before most of the Others but he’ll always be younger than them... because he doesn’t grow.”

“Why not?”

Dennis shrugs.

“Cause Kevin don’t need him to... they used ta’ be the same age and Jade used to be just a couple years older than them...”

He sort of trails off then, as though getting lost in a memory.

“Why did Kevin need you to be older than him?”

There’s a long pause during which it seems almost like he won't answer. He becomes suddenly tense and guarded, as though she’d asked him something very intimate. Then he seems to come up with an answer that he feels will satisfy her without revealing too much.

“His dad left... someone had to fill that slot and it couldn’t be someone his own age.”

“So were you... like... the same age as his mom?”

Casey immediately regrets bringing up Kevin’s mom because she knows that Dennis can’t stand having to think about that woman. He winces, just a little, as though she’d just stuck him with a needle.

“I don’t really have an age... I’m just... older than Kevin.”

Casey gets hung up there because she can’t imagine what that must be like. It surprises her when Dennis keeps talking of his own accord, distantly, as though lost in memory again.

“Used to be we didn’t even have names... Kevin was Kevin but Hedwig was just ‘the other boy’ and I was ‘Mister.’”

Casey can’t help but smile a little.

“Mister?”

“Kevin’s a good kid, that’s what good kids call men who’s names they don’t know.”

“Didn’t you wonder why you didn’t have a name? Or where you came from? Or why you were sharing a body with a little boy?”

“No.”

He says it flatly, as though that were a given. She must look confused because he elaborates.

“We’re all made for a reason... Kevin didn’t need me to ‘wonder’ so I didn’t.”

“And you’re reason was to be, like... a surrogate dad?”

His facial expression doesn’t change much (he seems to have a set number of facial expressions) but she can see gears turning in his eyes... he’s trying to figure out what portion of the truth to tell her. He never outright lies to her but he does withhold information and he’s not nearly as subtle about it as he thinks he is.

“... more or less.”

Casey decides she should steer away from that, the portion he’s not telling her is probably HORRIBLE and she doesn’t want to make him think about horrible things.

“How did you wind up with a name?”

“Miss. Patricia showed up and she had one... I think just so she’d have something to introduce herself by... then eventually Hedwig had one, then I got one.”

“From where?”

He just shrugs, not seeming at all troubled by the fact that he doesn’t know. She thinks maybe she should talk to Kevin about it... it had to have been Kevin that named them, either consciously or unconsciously. She also wonders if Dr. Fletcher has heard any of this but she knows Dennis rarely goes to therapy and none of the Others have been around long enough that they’d know this information. Jade had told Casey that she named herself, Barry got his name out of a magazine... he thinks. He remembers it as having been the name of a designer but has never been able to find any mention of the guy anywhere else.

He’d gone a whole year with no name before he’d found his. That’s how he put it, he’d just FOUND it and had a feeling that it was his name. Barry had also confirmed her suspicion that some of the alters don’t have names... some of them don’t even have faces or concrete physical forms. Some of them are just ‘clouds of emotion,’ that had been the best way he could think to describe it. Some of them have more than names, though, some of them have full-on backstories as though they’d lived entire lives before coming to reside in Kevin... one of them is a cowboy.

Barry told her that Dr. Fletcher says that some of these are ‘escapist’ alters. They’d been made at times when things seemed so hopeless to Kevin that he’d thought the only way to escape it was to cease being all together. Someone who wasn’t like Kevin might have committed suicide under those circumstances but Kevin coped by just becoming a completely different person for a while. Casey has started to understand what Dr. Fletcher meant when she’d described Kevin’s DID as an ‘adaptation.’

“The first thing I remember KNOWING was that Kevin’s dad left and I needed to look after Kevin until he came back.”

He has a faraway gaze as he says it, as though he’s not necessarily saying it TO her... like he’s just thinking out loud.

“You expected him to come back?”

Casey tries not to sound as sad as that information makes her feel.

“Yeah... we all did but eventually realized he wasn't.”

“... what do you think about Kevin’s dad?”

It seems to take him a long time to process the question, as though he’s never been asked it before. Eventually, he shakes his head.

“... I don’t think about ‘im at all.”

Dennis scans the table to see that both their plates are empty. He collects them and goes over to the sink. Dishes are always washed IMMEDIATELY after they are used. Casey goes over and starts taking them from him to dry them and put them away. He takes great care not to touch her hands. She wonders, not for the first time if he’s a little afraid of girls... maybe she should ask Barry about that.

“Kevin ever show you the zoo at night?”

This is obviously him changing the subject, that’s fine, she was starting to get uncomfortable anyway.

“No... usually, we just hang around here.”

“You should come back after hours some time... I could show you.”

She’s caught off guard... this is the first time Dennis has ever taken it upon himself to invite her anywhere... even if it’s somewhere she’s technically already been.

“Sounds cool.”

“It is... you free tomorrow night?”

Wow, he REALLY means it.

“... sure.”

He drives her home, as usual, she gets ready for work and then spends her shift combing back over their conversation in her head. She’s considered telling Dr. Fletcher some of the things the Others tell her that she knows they haven’t told the doctor but can’t decide if that’d be a betrayal of their trust. She hasn’t even told Kevin some of those things and the last thing she needs is for them to stop trusting her... the ones that DO trust her anyway.

------

When Dennis gets home, he’s wracked with anxiety. Why did he ask her that? Things were going fine and then he had to go and fuck it up by deviating from their establishes routine... NO good ever comes of deviating from routine. He’s going to be alone with Casey...at night. He gets an idea that immediately calms him down. Hedwig... Hedwig hasn’t met her yet and has expressed a strong desire to do so. So, he’ll bring the kid with him... he won’t misbehave around the kid. After a while, he feels Kevin stir and steps out of the light.

------

Kevin comes to feeling vaguely anxious and having no idea why. He checks to make sure he’s alone and finds that he is so he gets his sketchbook from it’s hiding place. The board that makes up the front of the base of the bookshelf (the first one, he has two now and a desk) can be removed. He sits at the coffee table and draws. For the first time, he doesn’t draw nightmare images... instead he draws Casey Cooke.

Chapter Text

It’s been a long, grueling, dirty job but Dennis feels profoundly satisfied while viewing the results. The sacred space is complete, as promised, well before it will be needed. It’s not only complete, but it’s also pristine. He’s removed every speck of dust and sterilized every surface. It almost pains him to think of it coated in blood (he flashes back to the inside the train car where he’d met the Beast) but reminds himself that that’s what it was MADE for.

He takes a shower and then tries to sleep a little before his shift but he can’t. Casey Cooke will be meeting him at the front gate at 7:30 and then she’ll accompany him on his usual rounds. There’s no need to be nervous, he tells himself, it’s nothing he doesn’t usually do... and the kid will be there. He can’t stop thinking about what he could do though... if the kid weren’t there. He tries to just let the thoughts pass through his head but they KEEP passing through his head.

He changes the sheets on the bed even though he had changed them since the last time she slept over, he could swear that they still smell like her. Kevin has 4 sets of sheets, all plain white so that they can be washed in bleach. They all get washed once a week (even the ones that haven’t been used) and usually start to grow threadbare after about a month. This all adds up to a lot of money getting spent on sheets. That’s really more Barry’s fault, though, because he always insists on buying high thread-count cotton. Comfort has never been a high priority for Dennis.

His porn collection has expanded to what even he will admit are frightening proportions. The terms “brunette” and “barely legal” abound in his search history. He watches a particularly rough one that mimics a kidnapping scenario. The protagonist lures a girl in a catholic school uniform (even though she’s clearly at least 20) into his car under some pretense (he’s gotten into the habit of muting it during the dialogue portions because the dialogue never makes any sense) and then takes her back to his house where he uses chloroform to render her unconscious. Dennis knows that part is ridiculous too. He’s looked into it as a part of his Purge Night preparations and it would actually take chloroform an impractically long time to render someone completely unconscious.

The girl awakes in the basement with her hands bound behind her back. She’s crying and acting frightened but not convincingly. The protagonist uses a knife to cut off her uniform while she (unconvincingly) struggles. It annoys Dennis that her breasts are so clearly fake and her navel is pierced and she has a cheap tattoo of two dolphins on her lower back. The annoyance isn’t nearly enough to keep him from getting hard.

He makes a point of waiting as long as possible to touch himself because he is in CONTROL of himself. At this point, he has the audio on and she’s trying to dissuade him by telling him she’s a virgin (unconvincingly.) He holds the knife to her throat and forces her to give him oral sex, eventually, he drops the knife so that he can take ahold of her hair and force himself further down her throat until she starts gagging and choking... That, at least, seems genuine.

Once tears start to run down her face (again, seemingly genuine) he lets go of her hair and shoves her face to the floor. He starts fucking her from behind while she continues to (unconvincingly) cry and plead. Eventually, she starts moaning instead and that’s equally fake, he cuts the sound again because he really can’t stand that shit. He starts to touch himself now. He tries to imagine that the girl is Casey but NOT Casey, an avatar of Casey, a brainless human doll who just happens to look like her.

He stops the recording at the point when the man pulls out of the girl and ‘forces’ her back into a kneeling position and stands over her masturbating. Nothing about seeing a man ejaculate on a woman's face appeals to him... it’s just unsanitary. He finishes and then takes another shower. He starts to feel guilty, so he cleans the apartment. By the time he’s done he has just enough time to make coffee and down a few cups before his shift starts.

------

While he’s doing what he needs to near the front gate (killing time until 7:30) he fetches Hedwig. The kid is excited to the point that he usually is when he gets to go with Dennis on his nightly rounds but the excitement wanes a little when Dennis tells them that they’ll be having a guest. The kid gets jealous when anyone else encroaches on what is supposed to be THEIR time. He doesn’t tell him who the guest will be because he thinks it best that she introduce herself.

He checks his watch and sees that it’s 7:25. By the time he gets to the gate, she’s already there and he hopes he hasn’t kept her waiting. It’s not safe for her to be standing around outside alone at night. Hedwig guesses who she is without her having to introduce herself and immediately gets excited again.

(Are you guys on a date?)

“If it was a date, you wouldn’t be here.”

Dennis responds under his breath and he’s far enough from the gate yet that Casey doesn’t hear him but he reminds himself that he’ll need to think anything he says to Hedwig from here on out. She smiles as he approaches the gate and he’d swear that it was because she’s actually happy to see him... she definitely wouldn’t be if she’d known what he’d been doing earlier. He unlocks the gate and holds it open for her. For some reason locking it behind her makes a little thrill run through him. She’s on his territory now and she can’t leave... not unless he lets her (he just lets the thought pass.)

“Figure I should let you know off the bat that we ain’t alone.”

She looks at him quizzically.

“I bring the kid with me sometimes.”

“Hedwig?”

Hedwig seems thrilled that she already knows his name.

“So he’s... in the light with you right now?”

“I’m in the center so I control the body but, yeah, he’s in here with me.”

“Just to meet me?”

“He likes bein’ in the zoo when there’s nobody else here.”

She smiles.

“So you let him come with you?”

He nods.

“That’s adorable.”

His face gets hot all of a sudden and he looks away and rakes his fingers over his scalp. She’s not at all intrusive, she just trails him, looking at the animals, asking the occasional question (respectful of the fact that he’s on the clock.) That doesn’t stop him from being PAINFULLY aware of her presence. Hedwig’s questions are FAR more frequent. Does Casey like Marvel or DC better? Does she like Kanye? What’s her high score in Street Fighter? Can she go to the arcade with him next time? Dennis just tells him that most of these are probably questions for Mr. Barry.

Eventually they get to the portion where he has to go into the system of tunnels under the zoo. That’s where the specialized heating and cooling units for the various enclosures are as well as the water pumps for the ones that have water features. Hedwig had found it exciting the first time he’d been down there but by now he’s just bored by it.

“You wanna’ wait up here? Won’t be more than half an hour unless somethin’s broken.”

“Ok.”

If he didn’t know better, he’d think that Casey was hesitant to separate from him... usually people are relieved when he leaves them alone.

“Just... stay in the general area.”

Dennis HATES going down there... it’s loud and dusty and claustrophobic. Still, he runs a diagnostic on each unit and updates the log. At some point in the process, Hedwig falls asleep. When Dennis reemerges, Casey is nowhere in sight and he briefly panics, then he spots her over by the antelope enclosure. He comes to stand next to her; the animals aren’t very active at night but at the far end of the enclosures (it’s one of the larger ones because they need room to run) you can see them hunkered down for the night in a grove of trees. Within a few weeks, they’ll start putting them inside at night.

“Did you know that a buck can lose 40% of his weight during mating season... chasing does around.”

He’s confused at the fact that she sounds a little sad and distant... as if lost in a memory.

“You hunt?”

“My dad was teaching me... He’d take me with him every year but he died before I got old enough to participate.”

Dennis knows that Casey has no parents and was raised by her uncle, whom Barry has told him that he is NEVER to mention (why would he?) but this is the first piece of information he’s learned about her father apart from him being dead. He doesn’t know how to respond to the sudden, seemingly randomly chosen bit of information so he just doesn’t respond. Instead, he finds himself thinking about Casey’s uncle. He’s never asked for details but there are certain things about Casey that Dennis finds sadly relatable, little ticks and mannerisms that indicate that she grew up in an environment of constant fear. He wonders where her uncle lives... surely he’d be fitting food for the Beast.

He walks her to the gate. When she’d asked if he wanted her to go, he’d told her only that Barry works tomorrow morning. In truth, Barry wouldn’t mind waking up next to Casey, it wouldn’t even be the first time but... Dennis knows that he won’t be able to fall asleep in the same bed as Casey Cooke and he doesn’t trust himself awake in the same bed as Casey Cooke. When they get to the gate he finds himself thinking that he doesn’t HAVE to unlock it but he lets that though pass and unlocks it. When he closes it between them, he feels an odd ache in his chest.

“Thanks.”

She sounds almost shy now, her head is ducked just a little and her hair is obscuring half of her face. He can't help himself, he reaches through the bars and tucks it behind her ear.

“Any time.”

Chapter Text

Barry figures the room CAN’T be important... at least not to him. He’s probably not even supposed to go in there or they’d have given him a key to it and they didn’t... did they? He hadn’t counted the keys when they’d gotten them but Dennis had. There had been 36. He and Dennis use the keys the most and if they were one short, Dennis would DEFINATELY notice. Dennis DOES NOT let things get misplaced.

It’s gotta’ just be because he’s cooped up more than usual (it being the dead of winter and all) but the door gives him a weird feeling. Like there’s something in there that can see him through it. He closes the metal door to the little room that’s between the computer room and the mystery room and locks it. There, problem solved... right? He can still...feel it, though... or maybe ‘feel’ isn’t the right word... it’s almost like there’s a low, barely audible noise coming from in there that he can only hear on a subconscious level.

Jesus... he sounds crazy. He needs to just get over it... or maybe tell Dr. Fletcher? No, he’s not gonna’ worry her over something this stupid. He’s been going a little heavy on the valium lately but he’s pretty sure that vague delusions about their being a sentient, subliminal noise in your backroom isn’t a side effect of any anti-anxiety med... it would kinda’ defeat the purpose. He just needs to spend a little less time in the apartment, that’s all.

He starts having them spend the night at Casey’s on nights when she’d usually sleep at their place. Their apartment does get pretty cold at night (on account of it bein’ underground and all) and that provides him the perfect excuse. Dennis won’t go over there at the end of his shift though, not big on deviating from routine, that one. Barry doesn’t want to tell him the REAL reason he’s trying to spend less time in their apartment (because he would point out how stupid it is) so he just gives him the same reason he gave Casey. Dennis doesn’t think that it’s that cold down there but the only thing that makes Dennis uncomfortable is having to interact with other humans in any capacity... even on the phone.

So they wind up sleeping over at Casey’s on nights when Dennis doesn’t work. Barry doesn’t need to ask why Dennis has an aversion to going to Casey’s place. Casey is, after all, a human and Dennis isn’t a big fan of those. From what Casey’s told him, she and Dennis have been chatting occasionally and he seems to be getting better at it but that’s miles away from sleeping in someone else’s bed. The Kiss Incident also happened after going into Casey’s apartment and Dennis had gotten a lot of crap from the Other’s after that one.

Barry had been mad at him initially but tried to get him to talk about it later. Of course, Dennis had just done his cinderblock wall routine and kept saying that it wouldn’t happen again... so there was no need to talk about it. Barry remembers what Dr. Fletcher had said about how Dennis may be dealing with feelings he’s not equipped to handle and he can only think that she has NO idea. If they wind up with am an ulcer, it’s gonna’ be Dennis’ fault. He’s tempted to ask Casey what she and Dennis talk about but he’s sure that if it’s anything significant, Dennis wouldn’t want her telling him about it... it’s probably nothing significant.

------

Patricia spends a great deal of her time in the sacred room now, meditating, focusing on channeling energy from the Train Yard. She feels foolish for having once believed that prayers (mere words) had had power. She’s making a beacon for the Beast so that he’ll have no trouble finding this place on the Sacred Night. The ritual for brining him over into their world from where he is will require that she and Dennis go to the place that Kevin’s father had gone in order to leave them. She regrets that Dennis will have to make two trips out into the chaos that night (one to retrieve the food and another to go to the place where they will conduct the ritual) but he assures her that he can handle it.

Barry has begun to suspect something, not because he’s actually on to them but because now the sacred energy is so strong that even he can feel it. He stops having Casey Cooke over and instead starts sleeping at her apartment when he can. This annoys her mostly because it makes it more difficult for her to arrange Dennis seeing the girl and she feels that she owes him that in exchange for all he’s done for her. There’s not much else SHE can provide that he would actually want. He pretends to only care for the girl because she’s ‘good for Kevin’... Patricia assumes that this is because he’s somehow forgotten that she can tell when he’s lying.

She doesn’t feel threatened by the girl any longer and has even developed a bit of a fondness for her. Casey Cooke comes across like a wounded dove at first glance but beneath that there’s something else... something hard and sharp that Patricia would like to see more of. If the girl does wind up being a permanent fixture in Kevin’s life (as most of the Others are convinced she will) Patricia may explore that further. Kevin had chosen Casey after all and it only stands to reason that he’d be instinctively drawn to someone like himself... someone worthy of the Beast’s favor. The easiest way to confirm this would be for her to meet the Beast but she knows that there’s no point bringing that up to Dennis. She’d pressed too hard on the matter before, so now she knows that he’ll hear none of it if she tries to explain that her motives for wanting the meeting to occur have changed.

Dennis had discussed Hedwig’s drawings with the boy and apparently they’re of dreams he’s been having. Patricia ponders the significance of this. It appears she was mistaken in her initial assumption that nothing about the boy has changed. She remembers how he’d taken the light from her, seemingly without even meaning to. Dennis has also told her that no one can remove him from the light once he gets into the center of it...he needs to be coaxed out now. He appears to have grown more powerful but, thankfully, does not seem aware of it and she and Dennis have agreed that it’s best that those conditions do not change for the time being. Though the boy may be of use should the Others learn of their plans and raise objections.

All in all, things are going swimmingly but Patricia doesn’t let herself relax too much. One of the things she and Dennis have always shared in common and that distances them from the Others is their keen understanding of the fact that there is ALWAYS something to worry about. Things going well just means that they have yet to go wrong and the best you can do is to brace yourself for when the wrong occurs. The world is full of monsters, she’s just grateful that they now have a monster of their own.

------

Dr. Fletcher dreads the approaching end of winter and it’s not because she’s especially fond of the season. It’s because she knows that March 21st is coming... Purge Day, which naturally leads into Purge Night. She has colleagues who have made a point of studying the waves of psychological damage that that supposed ‘cleansing’ night does and their findings receive even less attention from the broader public than her own do. There are systems in place to suppress that information, she’s sure of it. One of those colleagues was murdered execution-style in her own (very well secured) home one Purge Night 3 years ago.

She conducts some similar studies herself but only to the extent that it affects the subset of the population that she’s made it her life's work to study. Most of her patients, thank god, do not participate in the Purge. They’re more concerned with finding safe places to stay when the night arrives because people like them, who tend to be viewed as eccentric but harmless by others, are often targetted. It doesn’t help that many of them undergo occasional periods of transience and the homeless are always the ones that get hit the hardest. She usually knows which of them are “between addresses” but some of them wouldn’t tell her if they were, or their alters believe that it wouldn’t be safe to tell her.

She’d had a patient once whose protector was a teenage girl named Petra with a German accent who believed that she was living in Nazi-occupied Berlin. The only explanation for this that the patient could provide was that her great grandmother had at one point lived in Nazi-occupied Berlin. She had only known her briefly when she was a teenager (she'd lived with her and her parents while on her death bed) but she must have left an impression. It was Dr. Fletcher’s personal theory that the physical abuse the patient's parents inflicted on her must have either began or intensified around the time of her great grandmother’s death.

Any time the patient felt she was in physical danger, Petra would emerge and assume that ‘they’ (the Nazis) had come for her. Dr. Fletcher had spoken with Petra a few times and been told her strategy for such situations:

“If you can run, you run. If you can’t run, you hide. If you can’t hide, you fight. If you start to lose the fight, you don’t let them take you alive.”

This particular patient had been one of the few that Dr. Fletcher had wound up giving sanctuary in her own home during the Purge. She only ever does this when all other options have been exhausted because her landlord has a rule against it. If word gets out that a building offers sanctuary during the Purge, that building becomes a target in future Purges.

The patient in question had been unemployed and homeless at the time and had told her that she knew Petra would not let her stay in a homeless shelter during the Purge... She’d heard too much about how they get targeted and how some of them take ‘donations’ from the rich in exchange for looking the other way if a few homeless go missing. Dr. Fletcher has some friends who offer sanctuary (of course, they’re very hush-hush about it) but none of them had felt it was safe to do so that year and so she’d wound up offering to sneak the poor girl into her building before the Purge began.

She had cut it close, arriving just as the final warning was sounding. It also hadn’t been her who’d arrived... it had been Petra. She’d been in a sort of giddy panic as if proud of having just narrowly escaped some unspeakable horror. From what Dr. Fletcher had been able to gather from her breathless, heavily accented account, she’d been convinced that ‘they’ had been pursuing her while she was on her way there but she’d evaded them by taking a more complicated route than was necessary. Maybe someone HAD been chasing her, the doctor would never know.

As she’d been helping Petra out of her brown trench coat, she’d noticed that one of the pockets hung a little heavy. Inside, she’d found an active hand grenade... Petra had snatched it from her hand and swiftly explained.

“It’s for them...if they get me and I can’t get away... I can pull out the pin... take them with me.”

Petra had seemed very proud of her plan and Dr. Fletcher had pretended to be impressed. Later on, when she’d gotten then girl calm enough that another alter had come out, she had taken the device from her and hidden it in the bottom drawer of her dresser. She had never found out how the patient had gotten ahold of it in the first place (she can add that to the list of things she’ll never know.)

The very next Purge, the patient had met her end in an apartment the rent for which she’d paid with a job that Dr. Fletcher had helped her find. The body had been brutalized so it was assumed that she’d been beaten to death but Dr. Fletcher had wanted to know how much of the damage was inflicted post mortem. Unfortunately, she’d found that there were no legal channels through which she could get that specific information and (even if there were) deaths that occur during the Purge are never very thoroughly investigated. Dr. Fletcher had managed to find the coroner who’d examined the body and had asked him if the girl's throat or wrists were cut. He’d refused to give her the information but, before refusing, he’d looked surprised.

Once the patient had gotten an apartment, she’d conducted regular checks to ensure that Petra wasn’t hiding anything there that she shouldn’t be. Sometimes she found things that she couldn’t identify but would later learn were homemade incendiary devices. Dr. Fletcher will never know for sure, but she has a feeling that those checks were the only reason that Petra had wound up cutting her own throat instead of dying in an explosion and taking her attackers with her.

Chapter Text

As the city begins to thaw, the excitement begins to mount. Even those who are not aware of the plan can feel it but they just assume that it’s due to the improving weather. Samuel has picked out a house for Dennis which he swears in inhabited by a couple who will make ideal Sacred Food. Dennis has him go through the entire process of how he selected this particular couple, show him the Purge Feeds he’d initially seen them in, explain how he found out where they live. He still doesn’t trust it and he winds up confiding this to Patricia. She tells him to trust his instincts.

“If they’re not right, you’ll know and you’ll have 5 hours to find more. We won't be retrieving the Beast until midnight.”

When he asks why it has to be midnight, she explains to him that midnight is a between-time, much as spring is a between-season. It is in the between that the barriers separating plains of existence are at their thinnest, this will enable the Beast to pass over into their world using Kevin as a doorway. Dennis only partially understands this but he assumes that Miss. Patricia must know what she’s talking about. She’s been studying these sorts of things exhaustively since she came back.

He takes a drive to the location on his own to conduct a security evaluation (you can never be too prepared.) They live in a gated community but on the far edge of it, where only a chainlink fence separates it from a grove of trees. He has a pair of bolt cutters in the kit he’s been building since he finished the room, that should get him through that. He tried to determine what type of security system they have without getting close enough to the house to draw suspicion. It’s one of the flashier models that do more to create the illusion of security than actually provide it.

He can cut the power from a distance and then all it’ll take to get him in is a crowbar... maybe he doesn’t have to go in though. According to the videos Samuel had shown him, they go out hunting in costume every year. He might be able to just find a place to his and lay in wait until they come out themselves. He tries to decide which will be less dangerous. He doesn’t know what’s inside the house but if he waits for them to come out, he’ll risk being seen by their neighbor's security cameras. He also doesn’t know how many of their neighbors also hunt.

Miss. Patricia has told him that he is to bring the food back alive but she’ll forgive him killing anyone who gets in his way while he’s procuring it. Despite knowing he has her permission, he’d still rather not do any of the killing himself. He’s decided that he doesn’t, personally, believe that it’s right for humans to kill other humans. Sure, he’d done it before but that had been out of necessity (mostly) and he had known for a fact that those people deserved it. He doesn’t want to risk killing anyone who doesn’t.

He still doesn’t have a gun (he doesn’t want to make Kevin into a criminal) but he does have an aerosol spray can of a potent tranquilizer that he’s been given to use in the very unlikely event that one of the large predators at the zoo escapes while he’s there alone. He didn’t steal it, he tells himself, it was given to him... he’ll be using it for a purpose that would be illegal under normal circumstances but kidnapping, like murder, is not illegal during the Purge. He’ll weigh the pros and cons of his two plans with Miss. Patricia later. He knows that Samuel will favor the breaking and entering option but he has very little respect for anything that Samuel has to say. It’s bad enough that the smug little bastard got to be involved in this at all... he doesn’t even believe in the Beast.

Barry has gotten into the habit of having them sleep at Casey’s on nights that Dennis doesn’t work. Dennis had HOPED that Casey would object to this (she’d seemed to be enjoying her solitude after being trapped with her uncle for so long) but he’s apparently underestimated how much she likes having Kevin around. The thing Barry seems to have forgotten that Kevin is still prone to nightmares (especially when sleeping in unfamiliar places) and that Kevin’s nightmares wake Dennis up. When Kevin has a nightmare at Casey’s place, Dennis wakes up in Casey’s bed... with Casey sleeping right next to him.

The first time it happens, he tries to just go back to sleep but he can’t. She’s RIGHT there... he can hear her breathing and feel the heat from her body and he can’t stop thinking about how easy it would be to...to... He winds up just laying awake until morning and leaving the light the instant he feels Kevin stir. The second time it happens is worse because she’s lying on her side, facing him. He can feel her breath on the side of his neck and there are just INCHES between them.

For a mad moment he considers just giving in... she may not even realize that he’s not Kevin and they can’t POSSIBLY still not have had sex... he wouldn’t hurt her... he would just... He gets out of the bed as quietly as he can and goes to the bathroom and masturbates, gritting his teeth so hard that his jaw creaks to keep from making ANY noise at all. When he’s done he washes his hands and splashes his face with cold water. This turns out to be a mistake because when he returns she’s partially awake. When he lies back down she wraps a slender arm around his waist and buries her soft, angelic face against the side of his neck.

Oh, GOD! She's SO WARM and she smells SO GOOD and her lips are practically touching his neck. He could easily turn his head and kiss her... he remembers all too well how it had felt to kiss her. She’d wanted it then, why not now? He can’t just let the thoughts pass because they're not JUST thoughts in his head anymore. She’s a living breathing person with her warm, soft, wiling body pressed against his and he could SO easily....so, SO easily...

Luckily she falls quickly back into a deep enough sleep that she doesn’t notice how heavily he’s breathing or how hard he is. The rest of the night is pure, sweet hell that he simultaneously never wants to end and wishes that he could die just to escape. At one point he nearly loses his grip, he turns his head so that they’re mouths are nearly touching...so that they’re sharing breath. He could kiss her so easily, he could lick her soft pink lips, he could bite her, he could climb on top of her and pin her down and... The third time it happens, Kevin wakes up on the floor the next morning, very confused.

The fourth time it happens, Dennis decides that he can’t take it anymore... he needs to leave. He doesn’t know where Kevin’s clothes are so he just puts Kevin’s coat on over the pajamas he’s wearing. Their car keys are in one of the pockets and his glasses are in the other... Barry doesn’t go anywhere without them now. He’s nearly out the door when he hears her voice behind him.

“Where are you going... Dennis?”

He turns, arching a brow.

“Your posture’s a dead giveaway.”

He scrambles in his head for a lie or at least an omission of information that’ll get her to just go back to bed but before he can think of one he notices something. She’s sat up in bed and turned on the lamp on the bedside table. She’s wearing a tank top and he can see a dark red scar down the side of her right upper arm and another one (like a bite mark) on her left shoulder. She suddenly becomes self-conscious and quickly retrieves her robe from the floor beside the bed and gets up to put it on.

“Your uncle do that?”

Suddenly all thoughts of anything other than finding that man and HURTING him vanish from Dennis’ mind.

“Would you just leave if your gonna’ leave.”

She sounds defensive and he feels guilty... that was a stupid question... who ELSE would have done that to her? He takes the coat off.

“I’m sorry it’s just... I’m just...”

“No... no, I’m sorry... I know you’re not comfortable with... new situations. You can go if you want... I won’t be mad.”

He doesn’t want to go anymore, though, he wants to do whatever he has to to get rid of that sad, haunted look in her beautiful eyes. He rakes his fingers over his scalp.

“Jesus... you really don’t deserve to have to deal with all this shit.”

She sighs.

“Me and Kevin have been over that more than once, me and Barry have even been over it a few times. I’ve made it clear that if it means getting to be with Kevin I’m more than willing to deal with ‘this shit.’ I’m not even just ‘dealing’ with it... I actually like you guys... the ones that like me anyway... I like you too but I know that you’re not much of a people person and I don’t want you to feel like you have to force yourself to spend time with me if you’re not comfortable with it.”

Dennis absolutely hates himself right now. It’s true that he’s uncomfortable around her but if she knew the reason, she wouldn’t be so empathetic about it. She’d HATE him if she knew... fuck...he really IS a pig. What automatically comes out of his mouth has nothing to do with any of that though.

“You... like me?”

She laughs.

“Yeah.”

“... why?”

Chapter Text

Casey can’t help but laugh at how genuinely incredulous he sounds.

“Wow, Barry was right, you really do have some serious self-esteem issues.”

He bristles. She knows he doesn’t like that Barry talks about him with other people but wonders if he’d feel differently about it if he knew that Barry has more positive things to say about him than any of the Others. That might not surprise him though, there doesn’t seem to be anyone about whom Barry has nothing positive to say. He doesn’t seem to be heading for the door and Casey wonders what he plans to do next. She doubts he’ll be getting back into bed with her. It’s 4 am... close enough to dawn that she’s willing to give up on sleeping.

“Yeah, I like you... you don’t make me feel overwhelmed like Jade and Barry sometimes do.”

He looks concerned.

“It’s not anything they do on purpose it’s just that they're both REALLY...”

“Yeah... I know what ya’ mean.”

“I like that too... I don’t feel like I need to constantly explain myself to you or apologize to you for the way I am... because you get it... the way Kevin does.”

He winces as though she hit a nerve.

“Kevin is NOTHING like me.”

“That’s not true... I mean, you and him clearly aren’t EXACTLY the same. If you were, there wouldn’t be any need for you, so you wouldn’t have been made in the first place but... I feel like there are things that me and him understand about each other that not a lot of other people understand... and you understand those things too.”

“No one should ever have to understand those things.”

He crumbles then, sitting down in one of the chairs by her kitchenette table, bowing his head and raking his finger over his scalp.

“Yeah, probably not... but here the three of us are.”

“The three of us...”

There’s a trace of bitter humor in his voice that she doesn’t know how to respond to. For a long time, they sit in silence and he looks so alone over there that she’s tempted to go over to him. She knows he wouldn’t want that though... he’d been about to LITERALLY flee the apartment because he couldn’t stand being near her. When he speaks again it takes her by surprise despite the fact that his voice is calm and low and even.

“I would very much appreciate it if you would tell me where your uncle lives.”

“Because the Purge is coming up?”

The question might have come across as accusatory if her voice weren’t so completely devoid of emotion... she honestly feels nothing now where her uncle is concerned. Dennis swallows hard, his tone becomes slightly pleading.

“You’d be... giving me a gift... I WANT to do this for you... you wouldn’t be involved and you’d never have to worry about him again.”

She’s is actively aware of how sick it is that the offer makes her smile, that she can’t help but think of how ‘sweet’ it is that he wants so badly to give her something and how sad it is that he thinks this is the only thing he has to offer that she would appreciate. He really does have self-esteem problems. She almost regrets that she has to tell him.

“I don’t have to worry about him now... because he doesn’t LIVE anywhere anymore. I saw to that the Purge Night right before Kevin and I met... I don’t even know where he’s buried.”

Dennis isn’t usually particularly chatty but this seems to leave him at a complete loss for words, as though it contradicts everything he’d been assuming about her until then. She’s had a question burning in her mind for a long time that she for some reason feels that if she doesn’t get answered now, she never will. She steels herself and asks.

“Did one of you kill Kevin’s mom?”

She immediately regrets asking because hearing it seems to cause him physical pain. He sort of... seizes up... as though his mind can’t even decipher that question. When he speaks again, he sounds defensive.

“N...no... NO... I never even raised a hand ta’ Kevin’s mother.”

She doesn’t ask him why because she knows there’d be as much point in that as someone asking her why she’d let her uncle live for as long as she had.

“None of the Others either? I mean... I know Kevin couldn’t have done it but I wonder sometimes if it was you or Patricia or... maybe Jade.”

Dennis shakes his head and sputters briefly as though struggling to breathe.

“Jade... Jade might have tried if I would’ a let’er but she was... a lot weaker back then... She got a few good hits in a couple of times but that didn’t help anything... it just made it worse.”

Casey nods, remembering the few times she’d semi-successfully fought back against her uncle. The satisfaction that managing to hurt him had given her had NEVER been worth what followed. Of course, in Kevin’s case, Jade was never there for what followed... Dennis was.

“And you didn't let Patricia either?”

Dennis sighs and a strange tenderness wells up in his eyes.

“Miss. Patricia used to be... different... Used to be she only ever left the house to go to church... ‘Thou shalt not kill’... and rath is a mortal sin.”

His face hardens again.

“If she’d been the way she is now back then, I’d have been willing to put money on Kevin’s mother not living long enough to die the way she did.”

“Do you wish she had been?”

“No... no, I wish the world were the sort’ a place that would let her stay innocent... She’s only how she is because that’s how she NEEDS to be... You get that, right? That’s how it is for all of us.”

Casey nods.

“And if you weren’t the way you are, Kevin wouldn’t have survived long enough to meet me... and... I love you for that.”

He starts and looks at her, equal parts incredulous and... angry... maybe?

“Don’t say that... you DO NOT.”

“Yes, I do.”

She snaps back.

“The Others... the ones who haven’t been around as long, talk about you and about Miss. Patricia like you’re just... mean or petty or controlling but... that’s because they weren’t around for the worst of it, isn’t it? They generally know what happened but they don’t REMEMBER it, they don’t really know what it was like. So, they can’t appreciate that everything you’ve done has been out of love... you’ve been shielding Kevin and keeping him alive and TRYING to let him stay innocent. I don’t think he even fully understands that... because you’ve given him the GIFT of not being able to. I think if he did understand it, he would love you for it... I love you for it.”

Dennis seems to be... glitching... as though he WOULD cry but isn’t physically able to. Casey thinks that she should ask Dr. Fletcher if that possible. When he finally talks his voice is hoarse and strained.

“You...uh... you shouldn’t say any’ a that ta’ Kevin.”

“I won’t. Your situation isn’t his fault any more than any of what my uncle did to me was my fault, so what good would it do for me to make him feel guilty about it.”

Dennis nods.

“Like you said, the world shouldn’t be like this. Nothing that’s happened to either of us should ever happen to anyone.”

“... but here we are.”

“Yeah... here all 24 of us are.”

Casey gets out of the bed, walks over to him and bends down to kiss him, just a quick peck on the lips, then she walks over to the kitchenette.

“I’m gonna’ make some coffee... unless you think YOU’LL be able to get back to sleep.”

“Coffee sounds good.”

“Oh, and don’t tell any of the Others that stuff I told you about my uncle... Kevin knows but he hasn’t even told Barry. He thinks that they should only know about it if I want them to.”

“And you don’t?”

“No... So I guess that’s another thing that’s just between the three of us.”

Chapter Text

Samuel is 17 and has been 17 for the entirety of his roughly 10-year existence and suspects that he’ll remain that age for the rest of Kevin’s existence. He tries not to think about that too much since Kevin is already too old for his liking. It doesn’t help that the poor thing wasn’t much to look at, to begin with, and Dennis keeps cutting off all of their hair. He and Ansel agree about Dennis’ severely lacking aesthetic sensibilities but otherwise, he thinks the man is a useless bore. He would never tell him that though, he makes a point of at least being civil to all the Others... even the ones that he does not like.

He’s been extra polite and helpful to Miss. Patricia and Mr. Dennis lately because he’s hoping they’ll let him have some involvement in the plan beyond locating the ‘food’ as they’ve been calling it. He wants to go with Dennis when he goes out to retrieve it. He knows Dennis won’t do any killing unless it’s necessary (though if it does wind up being necessary, that may be enough to convince Samuel that there is a god and that that God loves him) but he still wants to be out in it, in the Purge. He wants to see the carnage and hear the screams and smell the petrol and gun powder... even if he has to use Dennis’ senses to do it.

He likes Mr. Dennis, particularly being in the Light with him. When they occupy the light together, Samuel can feel how strong Mr. Dennis is and it’s SO easy to imagine how much damage those hands alone could do... What a waste it is that the other alter is so hesitant to put them to proper use. Samuel can get into all their accounts on Kevin’s computer so he knows what a... rich fantasy life Mr. Dennis has and that it’s not so very different from his own. The primary difference is that Samuel doesn’t experience sexual urges whereas Mr. Dennis seems to have them to excess.

It would probably be frustrating if he did have them, considering that he hasn’t got a body of his own. He’s noticed that those among them who look more like Kevin when they’re on the inside seem to be more comfortable in Kevin’s body, which only makes sense. To Samuel, Kevin’s body has always felt foreign and constricting, like something he’s trapped inside of (maybe that’s why Jade has such a temper.) He hates that he’ll live and die stuck inside this thing and no one will ever even know he was there. Someday, Kevin will be old and he’ll be a teenager trapped in an old man’s body... he envies Hedwig’s inability to fully comprehend the gravity of their situation.

That’s why he likes being online, he can be himself there and have others perceive him as himself. He’s smart enough to cover his tracks so that no one will ever find out that he’s trapped in the body of a thirty-something maintenance man who lives in a basement. He has friends online, Miss. Patricia says that those aren’t ‘real’ friends but, as Samuel sees it, those friendships are about as real as any of the Others are. They talk about their Purge plans and post pictures of their costumes and weapons and share stories. Samuel, of course, cannot post pictures of himself and Kevin has no weapons but the group seems to greatly enjoy his stories. Samuel has no compunctions about lying because he himself is a figment of someone’s imagination so why should truth have any value to him?

He gets so jealous in the days after the Purge when his friends post pictures of their kills, some of them posing next to them in their costumes. It makes him feel lonely. Occasionally he’ll get invites to join hunting parties. They arrange to meet in a public place and all wear costumes so it’s kept as anonymous as possible. He has to decline, of course, he lies and says that he prefers to hunt alone.

The online roleplaying groups help a little. He knows that they’re probably made up mostly of kids who are too young to participate in the Purge and adults who are too cowardly but when he’s really absorbed in a session he tends to forget all that. Sometimes other members will invite him to private chats where they’ll ask him to tell them how he’d Purge them. Some of them, mostly the female ones (or at least the ones who claim to be female) want him to tell them how he’d rape them before Purging them.

In reality, he wouldn’t do that at all but... he wants to give them what they need. He gets plenty of inspiration from Mr. Dennis’ pornography collection. He mixes scenarios and dialogue from those crude films with the products of his own imagination and at the end (after he’s ‘fucked’ and then ‘Purged’ them) they thank him and call him Sir... Some of them say that they love him and even beg him to meet them in person. One woman is particularly desperate for him to meet her on the coming Purge Night, she even tells him her home address. He, of course, declines but he finds himself hoping that the poor thing had found SOMONE to take her up on the offer.

Sometimes he’ll stand in front of a mirror and stare THROUGH Kevin. Sometimes, if he does this long enough, he’d swear that he can actually see his own face, his own eyes, looking back at him.

------

Dennis has been feeling....good (?) lately... he thinks. Like crying, contentment really isn’t in his nature but, since his talk with Casey, he’s been feeling like a weight has been lifted off of him. Things haven’t gotten better, they're the same as they were before but he just feels... different somehow... cleaner. Miss. Patricia is the only one who notices any change in him but he just assures her that there’s nothing she needs to worry about. Usually, he only changes when he’s found something new to worry about or neurotically fixate on. He’s surprised she doesn’t remark on the fact that this change in him occurred after his spending a night at Casey’s apartment, in fact, she seems generally less suspicious of Casey these days and that makes him feel...good... he thinks.

He also thinks that maybe he believes what she’d said about... loving him. Obviously, she didn’t mean it the way she does when she says it to Kevin (she HAS to have said it to Kevin by now) but she might mean it the way some people mean it when they say it to their siblings or their parents... At the very least, there’s no reason for her to lie about it... like how Barry had lied about it SO many times when he’d said it to Kevin’s mother. He thinks that’s got to be the one way in which Barry is stronger than him. Dennis has never said that to anyone, not even when he’s actually felt it... Not that he’s felt it much... He’s always felt it or Miss. Patricia but he knows he doesn’t need to SAY it to her.

He’s going over his kidnapping kit, which has become a part of his daily routine when feels Samuel slip into the Light beside him.

(Afternoon Mr. Dennis, all is in order, I trust.)

As usual, the boy's tone is polite but in an... oily sort of way... like someone who’s trying to sell something.

“What do you want?”

(I thought we’d established that the three of us all want the same thing...)

“A SIMILAR thing, not the same and that’s already been arranged for so why are you talking to me right now and not to Miss. Patricia?”

He can feel reproach leaking out of the boy but his tone remains superficially pleasant.

(There’s a... favor I’d like to ask you... man to man.)

“Why would I do you a favor?”

(It’s not as though I haven’t done you any.)

Dennis feels an annoying little twinge of guilt.

“What do you want?”

(Something small... just the TINIEST little compensation for my contribution... you won’t even have to DO anything for me, really..)

“Do you always try’an use as many words as possible when you talk?”

The reproach beneath the sugary veneer turns to bitterness.

(I apologize, I’ll cut to the chase. I want to be in the light with you on Purge Night.)

“I thought the three of us agreed that I’d be goin’ out alone. Miss. Patricia doesn’t wanna’ see that and she doesn’t think you should either.”

(Which is ridiculous, considering what I’ve already seen.)

“Videos ain’t the same as real life.”

(You of all people would know that, wouldn’t you? I mean, why else would you need so many of them?)

It immediately dawns on Dennis what the boy means and he could swear that his heart stops beating, he breaks out in a cold sweat. He tries to sound angry instead of mortified.

“You been snoopin’ around in my account?”

(I’m honestly disappointed, did it really never occur to you that the fact that I MADE the accounts would mean that I’d be able to get INTO the accounts?)

“I change my password...”

(Indeed you do! Every week. I could list off all the ones you’ve used over the past year in chronological order... but I don’t want to bore you.)

“You... fucking weasel!”

The boy switches to a soothing tone that sounds like a mocking parody of Miss. Patricia’s.

(I’m sorry, I really didn't want to resort to this but you’re being unreasonable... and I REALLY don’t want to see what the repercussions would be if anyone else saw what was in your account... I mean... your browser history alone...)

“Miss. Patricia knows about my... problems.”

(But none of the Others do, do they? And they practically crucified you just for kissing a girl... imagine how it would change you in their eyes if they knew what you got up to during your private time. A lot of them don’t like you right now but they at least respect you... do you think they still would if they knew?)

For a moment Dennis is blinded by rage but once it passes he feel ashamed and defeated.

“You will just BE in the light... you won’t do anything?”

(I’ll just sit and watch like a good boy.)

“And you KNOW I won’t be kill’ in anybody.”

(Unfortunately.)

Dennis has never wanted to hit someone more in his entire life but, unfortunately, this someone is inside Kevin’s body.

“Fine.”

He says through gritted teeth.

(Fine? We have an accord then, a gentleman's agreement... man to man.)

Dennis can hear the pure glee in the boy's voice and it makes him sick to his stomach.

Chapter Text

Dennis doesn’t spend a lot of time in front of the mirror, that’s more of a Barry or Ansel thing but he finds it hard to resist the urge to study himself when he puts on his Purge Night gear for the first time. It’s mostly dark blue because he read up on it and it turns out that color is better night camouflage than black. He’s mapped out his course to the house where the food lives. He’d gone there days before and hidden the car in the wooded area that he’d done his preemptive surveillance from. He knows there’s a chance that someone might have found it but it wouldn’t be possible to do this without assuming some risk.

He’s decided that he’ll arrive early, before the alarm sounds, and wait. They won't have left yet, they’ll be inside putting on their costumes and readying their weapons. He’s figured out how to disable their alarm system without cutting general power so they won't suspect anything's wrong until they actually see him (which he intends to postpone and long as possible.) The videos that Samuel showed him indicated that they favor blades to guns but miss Patricia has insisted he wears a bulletproof vest, just in case. Besides, he doesn’t know who he may encounter on his way to and from the location.

While he thinks it’s prudent that he cover his face, he’d opted not to wear a mask (much to Samuel’s disappointment.) Instead, he opts to wear one of the dust masks that he uses when he has to go into particularly dirty areas throughout the course of his job. He’ll need it anyway, to ensure that he doesn’t accidentally breath in the aerosol sedative he’ll be using. He’s put that in his tool belt along with a personal taser, pepper spray, and a knife (all things that it is legal for Kevin to own.) He invested in pair of armored gloves with individual metal plates on the backs of each digit of each finger, one on the back of each hand and gauntlets that cover his arms up to the elbow. They’d been expensive but he’d convinced himself that the purpose wasn’t frivolous...they’re for self-defense... the fact that anyone he hits while wearing them is REALLY gonna’ feel it is just a bonus.

He checks his watch, it’ll take an hour for him to get to the house on foot (taking the inconspicuous rout that he’s mapped out.) If he wants to get there before the siren sounds, he needs to head out now. He’s left the tools he'll need to get into the house locked in the trunk of the car which, God willing (or.. The Beast willing?) will be there waiting for him. He leaves the zoo through the service exit and sets out on foot towards his quarry. The streets are already in a kind of chaos but it’s all people frantically rushing for shelter. The only person who takes notice of Dennis is a man who tries to sell him a handgun.

He gets to the suburb well in advance of when he needs to be there which turns out to be a good thing. There appears to be some kind of private security force conducting a scan of the perimeter. He’s put the car far back enough in the wooded area that they shouldn’t find it unless they specifically search that wooded area for hidden cars. If they’re smart, they’ll do that, so he just has to hope that they’re not smart... It turns out that they’re not.

He waits until they all retreat to the guard shacks near the front of the gated community and then proceeds. The car is miraculously untouched save what would usually accumulate on something left in the woods overnight (he makes a mental note to wash it after all this is over.) He checks the trunk to find his tool kit undisturbed, then moves it into the back seat so he can reverify that the trunk will be large enough to hold two adults. It’s a grueling half-hour until the first alarm sounds which means that there’s another grueling half hour until the final alarm sounds. The sound of the alarm makes Samuel jump up out of his chair like a dog just invited out for a walk. Dennis sighs, he could keep him out of the light but he won't... they had an agreement.

(We’ll be breaking and entering then?)

He sounds so thrilled that Dennis actually feels a little sorry for him, the kid really doesn’t get out... at all, does he?

“Yep, bolt cutter through the fence, disable the alarm system, pry open on the shutters and then we’re in.”

Samuel seems disappointed that it’s not going to be more complicated and Dennis hates that that bothers him.

“People who live in places like these tend to assume that no one’s gonna’ come for them so they’re security systems tend to have bigger gaps in ‘um than you’d expect...no idea what we’ll find when we get in there though.”

Samuel perks up.

(They probably own at least one firearm, most people do, for emergencies.)

“That’s why we gotta’ be careful they don’t see us comin’.”

He realizes that he’s deliberately trying to make it sound more dangerous to make it more exciting for the kid... he doesn’t know why... he doesn’t even LIKE Samuel.

(Can we take main street on the way back home?)

“Absolutely not.”

(But that’s where all the action is!)

“Exactly, we wanna’ actually MAKE it back and in case you haven’t noticed, Kevin’s car ain’t exactly a tank.”

Samuel huffs like a petulant child.

(Believe me, I’m WELL aware of all the things that Kevin does not have.)

A tense beat passes during which neither of them says anything. When Samuel talks again, his tone is carefully respectful, like he’s aware that what he’s just said is incredibly rude.

(So... well get them and bring them back to the apartment and then...?)

“And then you go back to your chair and me and Miss. Patricia do what we need to.”

(You summon the Beast... at midnight?)

“Yeah.”

(But, assuming all goes according to plan, there’ll be plenty of time to kill between midnight and when we get them to the holding chamber.)

“The Sacred Space.”

(Right... but, is there any reason that you can’t take advantage of that extra time.)

Dennis pointedly does not respond.

(I mean... think about it, NOTHING is illegal on this night. You could tell Miss. Patricia that the procuring took longer than you expected and then you could go out and... indulge. Tonight is supposed to be about the venting of pent up primal urges and I think we both know that you’ve plenty of those...)

“Do you wanna go back ta your chair right now?”

(I’m not judging you, Dennis. I want to HELP you... because I like you.)

Just hearing Samuel say that makes Dennis want to bathe.

(I’m just saying that, instead of fetching Miss. Patricia as soon as you have the food secured, you could take that time to... live a little. You could go find a girl who looks like the ones in your videos... or pay Casey a visit... deep down, she probably wishes you would.)

Dennis’ head is flooded with rage and... explicit images but both of those things are drowned out by the final alarm. Dennis stands up and gets the bolt cutters and crowbar out of the back seat.

“You WILL NOT speak while I am working.”

He feels Samuel nod as he proceeds toward the fence. Within minutes, he’s breached the fence and has the alarm disabled. It’s easy for him to pry the shutter on the small window on the back of the house open.... this security system is basically a joke. He only has to slide the blade of his knife between the frame and the windowsill to unlatch the window. He’s thankful for that, having to break the glass would have drawn attention. (He can feel that Samuel is disappointed that they didn't ‘get’ to break any glass.)

He slides through the window and into an expensive-looking kitchen, stainless steel appliances, granite countertops, the works. There are pictures on the refrigerator but Dennis tries not to examine them too closely, he doesn’t want to humanize the food. The ground floor is quiet but he can hear moving around and faint conversation upstairs. Even with all the evidence that Samuel has provided him, Dennis still feels a little nagging doubt but then he goes into the dining room and sees a vase of blue flowers on the table.

It's not common practice in urban areas but he knows that suburbanites show their support for the Purge by putting blue flowers on their front porches. They're not out yet but they HAVE them, they were probably planning to put them out when they left for the night. This proves that they're at least supportive of The Purge, which is enough to ease Dennis' mind. He should bring them with him, he thinks, for Miss. Patricia. The stairs creak as someone begins to descend them and Dennis silently retreats to the relative darkness of the kitchen.

He watches the rectangle of light that leads to the dining room until a woman appears. She's wearing a long white robe like the ones the people in those books about neo-paganism that Miss. Patricia has been reading wear and there's a garland of blue flowers around her head. She's tall and slender with long chestnut hair that makes Dennis think (inappropriately) of Casey. She's humming to herself, cheerful, completely at ease. Her back is to him when she plucks a single flower from the bouquet on the table, inhales it's scent and then sighs dreamily.

Dennis' almost feels bad that he has to spoil such a pretty picture but then he reminds himself what she's so cheerfully anticipating. It only takes him two strides to step out of the shadows and grab her. He wraps an arm around her waist and sprays the sedative directly into her face. She doesn't even get to see her assailant before she falls unconscious but she does have the presence of mind to shove the vase off the table hard enough that it shatters against the dining room wall, likely hoping to alert her partner upstairs.

Dennis moves quickly, he drags her into the kitchen (out of view of the dining room door) and uses 2 pairs of the riot cuffs he'd bought online, one for her wrists and the other for her ankles. He forces himself to ignore how soft her skin is... his hands itch to run through her hair.

"Sandy?"

He hears a man's voice call from the living room followed by a barely audible metallic click (a gun being cocked.) Dennis lifts the unconscious woman and sets her on the counter in front of the window through which he'd entered. His eyes have adjusted to the near dark by now so he can see that there's a block of knives beside the stove. The man has to reach a hand into the room to turn on the lights in the kitchen and Dennis impales that hand with the knife he'd selected, pinning it to the wall. The man screams and fires blindly just as Dennis gets him in the face with the sedative.

The bullet hitting Dennis's side isn't the worst pain he's ever felt, but it's close. He just hopes the vest was enough to prevent serious damage. As Sandy's husband crumples to the floor, the knife slices through the webbing between his middle and ring finger. Dennis hopes Miss Patricia won't be angry about the damage. She did just say "alive", not "unharmed."

Ignoring the throbbing ache in his side, Dennis gets a dishcloth from one of the drawers, tears it into strips and uses it to wrap the man's hand. He's certain Miss Patricia will be angry if one of them bleeds out before he even gets them to the sacred space. With his wound, it takes Dennis longer than he'd like to get them into the trunk of the car. The girl shows signs of coming to, so he gives her another hit. Surprisingly, Samuel reminds him to go back for the flowers. On the drive home, they pass a tree from which 6 people have been lynched and then shot through with arrows again and again. Samuel remarks that it's like a Christmas tree and, in spite of himself, Dennis laughs and then winces at the shooting pain in his side.

Chapter Text

It takes him longer than it should have to get the food into the Sacred Space because by now it feels like he’s being stabbed in the side every time he inhales. He leaves them bound, in the locked room and goes quickly to the bathroom. He strips all the layers of off his torso, finding the bullet embedded in the vest and setting it on the back of the sink. There’s no open wound but there is a huge, ugly bruise on his side where he’d been hit. The pain has significantly decreased now that he’s no longer constricted by the vest but it returns in little jolts as he prods the area, trying to see if anything is broken.

Samuel isn’t saying anything but he can feel that the boy is fascinated by the wound, he shoves him back into his chair. Miss. Patricia rushes into the light without even giving her customary warning. Dennis can feel her shock, fear, and regret. He hastens to reassure her.

“It’s not as bad as it looks, that did its job.”

He nods toward the vest on the floor.

“I’m not gonna’ be able ta’ put it back on though... I can’t breathe with it on.”

(...can you make it to the train yard?)

If he didn’t know better, he’d swear that it sounded like she was hoping he’d say no.

“Course I can... ain’t like I never had a bruise before.”

He can sense her doubt.

“I just gotta’ be careful not to get spotted by anyone with a gun.”

(Will that be easy to do on the route you’ve mapped?)

She sounds torn so he doubles down on the reassurance even though he himself isn’t sure. He’s always hated disappointing Miss Patricia and this would be a MASSIVE disappointment. He doesn’t lie though.

“It’s all back alleys.”

By now he’s moved into the bedroom and is selecting a fresh shirt. He put the other one in the trash in the kitchen, making a mental note to take it out before any of the Others has a chance to notice it’s irregular contents. He’s making plans for tomorrow because he will, OF COURSE, be around tomorrow. He gets the armored gloves back on and then the tool belt. He’s used up the aerosol sedative but he still has the taser and the pepper spray and the crowbar...just in case.

Miss. Patricia suggests that maybe he should take some of those pills that Kevin takes for headaches but he insists that he doesn’t need them. He’s researched it and the trainyard is only minimally secured during the Purge, it turns out empty train cars aren’t a big draw for people looking to “Release the Beast.” It costs less for the city to just fix whatever damage does get done than it would to secure such a large area. As luck would have it, Dennis is only accosted once on his way to the trainyard, in a back alley by a teenage boy wielding a Scottish short sword. He maces him and then backhands him across the face.

Dennis leaves the boy alive but on the ground and whimpering. When he gets to the trainyard, he’s met with another chainlink fence. Stupid, he mentally berates himself, sloppy... should have brought the bolt cutters. He walks the length of the fence in hopes of finding an opening but no such luck. His watch tells him that there’s just half an hour to midnight.

He throws the crowbar over the fence and then climbs after it. By the time he hits the ground on the other side, the bruised area is burning and throbbing. Patricia’s hands are cool on the back of his neck and the side of his face. He allows himself a moment's rest and then proceeds into the trainyard. She had told him he would know where to go when he got inside, and he does.

Though this trainyard is nothing like the one in Kevin’s dreams, the call he feels is the same. He passes a few people who have clearly sought this place out as a refuge, they run from him or simply huddle further into the dark corners. Dennis hopes that, once he’s done what he’s come to do, this place remains a refuge for them... he hopes that they’re Pure. Miss. Patricia says that the Beast will know where to go to feed but could give no assurance that he would make no stops along the way. If he runs across anyone particularly impure on his journey, he may not be able to help himself.

He knows that a particular car is the one he’s looking for because the light hanging over it is flickering on and off and sometimes the windows appear to be painted red on the inside. Someone is waiting for them inside and suddenly it is truly ‘them.’ When the light is on she’s standing next to him, holding his hand. When it’s off, she’s back inside Kevin’s head. He starts to get what she’d meant by ‘between time’ and barriers dissolving. They enter the car together and when the light is off it’s just an empty train car but when the light is on it’s the train car in which he’d met the Beast, complete with the Beast himself crouching at the far end.

Each time the light comes on, he reappears closer to them and then suddenly the light goes out altogether. For the first time in the whole of his existence, Dennis feels truly alone but before he can even decide how he feels about that his blood is suddenly on fire. His heart feels like it’s being squeezed in a fist that alternately loosens and tightens to keep the boiling blood moving through his body. He feels the breath of something on the back of his neck and his own breathing syncs up with it. His own vision starts to flicker the way the light had been flickering; he’s in an empty train car, he’s in a train car full of bloody bones, he’s back in an empty train car.

He wonders where the Beast is but then he realizes that that’s who’s breath he’s feeling on the back of his neck. He looks down and sees that the Beast’s hands, with their long, sharp fingers are buried inside him, slid up under his rib cage. There’s a mouth at his throat, nuzzling and then teeth piercing his skin. Logically, he knows he should be afraid right now but he isn’t. There’s unbearable pain and then agonizing pleasure and he passively wonders if he WILL be around tomorrow.

Chapter Text

Oh, this is it then, the Other place where the Others live; the Priestess and the Sentry and the Child. There are some of the Pure gathered here and they avert their eyes respectfully as he passes. Carried on the breeze from the direction of the city he can smell blood and it makes his mouth water. But they’re not all for him, his priestess has made him an altar and placed offerings there and he must at the very least consume those first. He is so, so hungry but there are right and wrong ways to go about feeding.

As he makes his way to the altar, he is repeatedly accosted, some of them he kills, others he only wounds but he doesn’t take a single bite. He realizes that he can get there quicker if he goes over the buildings and so he does, scaling walls and leaping from structure to structure. A person in one of the buildings fires at him with a weapon. He climbs down and bends the man's weapon in two and then does the same with the arm he’d been using to hold it. When he gets back to the roof he stops a moment to survey the streets beneath him, there is fire and noise and so much blood and he does not wonder why his priestess called upon him to cleanse this place.

The altar is beneath a garden decorated with creatures like himself but lesser. He’s chosen his acolytes well. This makes him regret destroying the inferior ones that had found him before his priestess even less. It had taken some doing to peel the scales from her eyes but once she was awoken her instincts had proven flawless. He intends to make his way to the altar immediately after scaling the fence but then he hears a noise.

There are two intruders by one of the enclosures, firing into it with weapons. He comes up from behind them and digs his claws into the stomach and throat of one of them. The other responds to the evisceration of his companion by turning and firing. There’s enough force behind the bullet that it causes the Beast’s shoulder to jerk back but it does no damage, the sound of it hitting the ground seems loud in the awed silence that follows. The man is so stunned that the Beast is able to simply walk up and take the weapon out of his hands. He examines it briefly before dropping it to the ground, judging it unnecessary. As the man finally snaps out of his shock and begins to run, the Beast snatches him by the hair and then places a hand on either side of his head, twisting it all the way around. He looks into the enclosure and sees the eyes of a large, maned creature glowing in the dark.

The altar is in an underground place that’s cool and dark, like his home in at least those two respects. There are many doors here but he knows which is his instinctively. Inside he finds them, the offerings, bound and trembling and cloaked in white. Beautiful, SO beautiful. He takes his time, savors them, listens to their screams echo off the walls. When he’s done, all that’s left are the shreds of their clothing and scattered bits of bone and hair.

He finds himself lingering and finding evidence that more than just his 3 acolytes live there... but there’s only a single sleeping chamber and the cloth on the bed smells like... 'her'...her? Who IS she?

------

Dennis wakes up the next morning... this is a surprise. Last night, he’d thought that he was dying or maybe just...ceasing to be. He hadn’t been worried that it was happening, he’d just thought that it might be. Here he is though...alive...wearing nothing but a tattered pair of pants... blood on his hands... blood in his mouth. Usually, a thing like this would cause immediate revulsion and panic but that reaction is considerably delayed this time because he’s so preoccupied with the fact of his continued existence and... something else, a deep, internal placidity that is certainly NOT in his nature.

Eventually he gets up because there’s sure to be cleaning to do and that’s what he does, right? There’s blood on him, blood on the sheets... there’s bound to be blood in the sacred space... that’s what it’s for. He cleans the Sacred Space, not feeling any disgust, just doing it because it’s what he does. He finds bloody footprints and little smears of blood here and there on the walls, suggesting that the Beast had looked over the place. This makes him feel oddly self-conscious. He’s snapped out of his reverie by the ringing of Kevin’s phone. It’s a song that must be of some significance to him and Casey because they selected it to be her ringtone.

At the memory of Casey and the realization that she’d been alone during the Purge last night, he begins to worry and, therefore, to feel like himself again. He sprints to the bedroom and managed to get the phone on the last ring.

“Casey.”

“Hi, Dennis.”

When did she get so good at identifying their voices?

“I was just calling to make sure you made it through last night.”

He feels guilty, he should have been the one to call her... Kevin should have been the one to call her.

“Yeah, fine... you?”

“... you put 12 locks and 3 crossbars on my door... it’d have taken some pretty determined psychopaths to get in here. I did keep my dad’s gun loaded next to the bed though... just in case.”

“Smart.”

Casey laughs... Dennis isn’t sure what’s funny about what he just said.

“I was just wondering if maybe you wanted to meet for lunch.”

Dennis looks up at the clock, it’s 11:30.

“Sure...uh, ya’ caught me in the middle’ a cleaning...”

That’s not a suspicious thing to say, Casey knows that at any given moment Dennis could be in the middle of cleaning.

“...just gimme’ a couple hours, if Kevin ain’t up, I’ll send Mr. Barry.”

“...I wouldn’t mind if you came...”

Casey seems to sense his discomfort through the phone.

“...or Barry... Barry would be great.”

Dennis writes “Lunch with Casey, 2:00” on the note pad on the bedside table, in case Kevin wakes up in time and then bids Casey goodbye. He finishes the cleaning with his usual intensity (not the meditative languor he’d felt while cleaning the Sacred Space) and then showers. As he’s methodically scrubbing himself, he notices something odd. The bruise on his side is gone, there’s a sort of discoloration of the skin in that area but the pain is completely gone. There’s also a shallow divot in Kevin’s left shoulder that he’s sure wasn’t there before. After he dries off, he puts on Barry’s clothes. That way he can at least delay having to come up with an explanation for the new marks.

-----

Casey likes Barry but she sometimes wonders if he’s aware that, in his own way, he’s even more closed off than Dennis. He’s more than willing to talk about how Kevin and the Others are doing and ask her how she’s getting on. When it comes to him though, things are always “great”, “wonderful”, “spectacular”, “just peachy”, “don’t worry about it, Doll.” This is the case as he would tell it even when it is CLEARLY not actually the case. The thing she can get him to talk about most is his work, not his job at the zoo, but his REAL work, his art.

By now Casey has started to consider college for graphic design and Barry is extremely supportive of that decision. This inevitably leads Casey to ask why Kevin never considered college or, she supposes more accurately, why Barry had never considered college FOR Kevin. Considering the array of skills that the Others have, there are plenty of things that Kevin could have majored in. Barry reacts as though this is a long-held point of contention between him and someone else, Casey guesses Orwell. He’s the only of the Others she’s met so far with a distinctly academic bent.

“Some things just ain’t in the cards for Kevin, Baby Girl.”

He’s smiling but there’s whistful resignation in his voice. Casey wants to press the issue but doesn’t because she’s tried before and knows that there’s no point in it. Barry’s natural tendency is to DEFUSE arguments so if she presses, he’ll just say that he doesn’t want to argue and give her that pleading look (still smiling, always) and maybe kiss the back of her hand or her cheek.

There’s more physical intimacy between her and Barry than there is between her and any of the Others but she can’t figure out if he intends it to be romantic or platonic. Sometimes she considers asking Kevin if it would be ok if it were romantic but she can’t think of a good lead into asking her boyfriend if it’s ok if she has sex with him while he’s in a dissociative fugue state. Jade has told her that she may as well go for it (“it wouldn’t technically be cheat’n”) but Casey has a feeling that Jade is not the best place to go for romantic advice. Jade still has the occasional casual flings (with men, of course, because she’s straight) and has made it clear that this won’t be changing. Casey is surprised at how little this bothers her... maybe because Jade bares literally no similarity to Kevin outside of just happening to share a body with him.

Casey’s been quiet a while so, of course, Barry takes the opportunity to shift the topic of conversation off of himself.

“How was ‘ur Purge Night?”

“Uneventful... I guess, it helped that Dennis put all those locks on my door.”

Barry sighs. Crap, Casey had thought he already knew about that. He worries a lot and isn't as good at hiding it as he thinks he is so she tries not to add to that burden.

“And I’m assumin’ you didn’t ASK him to do that?”

“It’s fine, I had been meaning to buy some anyway.”

She decides to omit the fact that Dennis had come to her apartment while she was at work (using Kevin’s key to get in) in order to install the locks.

“Still... it’s lookin’ like it’s about time for another talk about boundaries. What’s it been, a whole week since the last one?”

Casey laughs, she’s about to reassure him again that it’s fine but he goes on before she can.

“I swear, it means he likes you... he just ain’t used ta’ havin’ people he cares about who don’t share a body with ‘im.”

Casey tries to ignore the warm feeling that being told that Dennis cares about her gives her. After they eat they walk around for a while just talking. Barry keeps things light, as usual. She asks if she should be expecting him at her place tonight, which would be typical of their pattern as of late. Barry asks if she wouldn’t mind coming to Kevin’s place instead, seeming a little surprised by his own response.

Chapter Text

Kevin is terrified. He’s laying in bed next to a sleeping Casey at what he somehow knows is exactly midnight and he has this feeling... It’s like what you would feel if you awoke in the middle of the night to find an unknown figure standing in the dark beside your bed... except in his case, the figure is IN the bed and he IS the figure. He’s learned to tell the Others apart by now based on how it feels when they’re in the light with him and how to differentiate between when they’re going to take control of the light from him or when they’re simply lingering. Barry has told him in his video logs that some of the Others want very badly to be closer to him.

Strangely enough, it had made him feel better to learn what those feelings were because he’s always had them and had found them terrifying when he’d had no explanation for them. This one IS terrifying though because the presence he feels is completely unfamiliar... it doesn’t even feel human. He’s also not sure if it’s in control or if he is. It seems to fill the Light completely while somehow still allowing him to remain in it.

The thing is very interested in Casey and that makes Kevin afraid to move because he doesn’t know if it would be him moving or the thing moving and he doesn’t want it touching her. It’s him deciding not to move though... so that means he’s in control, right? Still, he doesn’t trust it and so he lies completely still, barely even breathing until he feels it withdraw... at what he somehow knows is exactly the stroke of 1 a.m. He thinks that he should get up and call Dr. Fletcher... she’ll usually answer her phone even if it’s the middle of the night and even if she doesn’t he can leave a message. He’s about to get up when he feels someone else enter the light, he knows her by how she feels, her name is Miss. Patricia.

He’s hit suddenly with a vivid memory of someone raking their fingers through his hair (it’s got to be a memory because he hasn’t actually had hair for some time now) and then he for some reason finds himself remembering the lyrics to a song. He cannot, for the life of him, remember where he actually heard it but the lyrics are perfectly clear in his head.

“When at night I go to sleep

Fourteen angels watch do keep

Two my head are guarding

Two my feet are guiding

Two are on my right hand

Two are on my left hand

Two who warmly cover

Two who o’er me hover

Two to whom ‘tis given

To guide my steps to heaven...”

He’s asleep by that point in the song and awakes the next morning with the nagging feeling that there’s something he needs to tell Dr. Flectcher, something about last night, but he has NO idea what. Barry is gently tugging his arm, he needs to get out of the light so that Barry can get ready for his morning shift. Kevin tells himself that if it were REALLY important, he’d have written it on the notepad he keeps beside the bed. He gives sleeping Casey a kiss goodbye and then lets himself be moved out of the light.

------

Kevin has new scars, which doesn’t seem possible since you can’t get scars without getting wounds first and Barry sure as hell doesn’t remember Kevin getting wounded... but there they are. There’s a patch of skin on his side that’s darker than the surrounding skin and there’s a weird little round dent on his left shoulder. He tries to wake Dennis up but is unsuccessful so he just makes a mental note to ask him about it later. He can’t imagine what sort of explanation Dennis could possibly give him though. Before he leaves, he combs through his journal and looks for missing time but only finds a patch here or there. None of it is recent and none of the patches are long enough to accommodate the acquiring and healing of new wounds.

------

Casey wakes up at around 9:00 and has a bowl of cereal. They’d agreed the night before that she’d just hang out here until Barry is done with his shift, then they’d have lunch together, then he’d drive her to her shift at the diner. She puts on a movie. One of Kevin’s alters only speaks Spanish and seems to have a preference for surreal, artsy horror movies. Casey likes them even if she sometimes can’t follow the plot. She actually prefers the Spanish version of Dracula to the English one.

She starts sketching and gets so absorbed that she barely registers Kevin (or whoever happens to be in Kevin's body) coming home. If she’d been paying attention, she’d have known instantly that it wasn’t Kevin or Barry, either of them would have announced themselves somehow. Whoever-it-is walks right past the room Casey’s in and goes directly to the kitchen. Casey finishes her sketch and goes cautiously into the kitchen. Whoever-it-is is removing takeout from containers and carefully arranging it on a plate...just one plate.

“...Patricia?”

Irritation briefly flickers across her face (likely at Casey’s not using the appropriate honorific) but then she seems to have decided to let it go.

“Good afternoon, Casey.”

She gestures invitingly to the place at the table that she’s just set. Casey proceeds with caution. At least Patricia didn’t MAKE the food...so she PROBABLY hasn’t poisoned it or anything. When Casey sits and begins to eat, Patricia seems genuinely pleased. She goes over to the stove and puts the kettle on... does she live off of tea? Casey tries to think of a way of asking her why she's here without coming off as hostile.

"Did... did Barry need to leave the Light for some reason?"

“He didn’t necessarily NEED to but... it occurred to me that it’s been some time since you and I have had a chat.”

Casey’s head is suddenly flooded with questions... Can Patricia take the light from Barry or did she have Dennis do it for her? Can Dennis still do that? The Others had mentioned that Dennis used to be able to do that.

“Did I do something wrong?”

“Whatever would make you think that?”

Casey tries to choose her next words carefully.

“It’s just that... the last time we talked you seemed kind of...”

Luckily Casey doesn’t need to finish that sentence, Patricia smiles bemusedly.

“Oh, you must forgive me for that... it’s just that I didn’t know you at the time, so I didn’t know if Kevin needed to be protected from you.”

“I get it.”

Casey jumps when the kettle shrieks. Patricia removes it from the burner and mechanically goes about the ritual of making tea, two cups.

“And, to be frank dear, I didn’t expect that you’d be around very long... certainly not THIS long...”

Patricia brings the two cups to the table and sets one in front of Casey.

“... good for you.”

Casey wonders if she’s being mildly passive-aggressive on purpose or if that’s just her default setting.

“But you don’t think that you need to protect Kevin from me now?”

“It would appear not.”

“Me and Dennis aren’t always alone when we’re together, are we?”

It’s the only way Casey can think that Patricia would have learned more about her between now and their first and only conversation.

“And you’re intuitive, I really had underestimated you.”

Casey just looks at her, still waiting for an answer. Patricia swirls her tea in her cup and takes a sip before responding.

“Dennis and I have no secrets from each other.”

Casey has a feeling that that’s not the whole truth of the matter.

“Are you and Dennis always in the light at the same time?”

Patricia seems to find the implication amusing.

“Of course not, but there ARE certain situations in which he feels the need for a sort of... social buffer.”

Casey can’t help but feel a little hurt by this.

“He needs a... buffer when he’s with me?”

Patricia gives her a mildly pitying look.

“Not always. He’s just a bit... sensitive... and young ladies tend to... agitate that sensitivity.”

Casey honestly cannot make heads or tails of this... she knows Dennis has problems with social anxiety but that doesn’t seem to be what Patricia is referring to... what the hell is she referring to? Patricia seems to sense her confusion and elaborates.

“For what it’s worth, he seems to have grown considerably more relaxed around you as of late and he wouldn’t dream of compromising your relationship with Kevin...”

This just confuses Casey more.

“... he knows how much you mean to him.”

Patricia finally seems to sense Casey’s discomfort and steers the conversation in a more neutral direction.

“So... tell me, my dear, how HAVE you been?”

Chapter Text

They make stilted conversation until Casey needs to leave for her shift. Patricia can't drive, so she fetches Dennis. Dennis seems anxious (more so than usual) but Casey chalks it up to him knowing that she'd just been interacting with Patricia.

When Dennis gets back to the apartment, Patricia is immediately in the light with him as soon as he steps in the door.

(You're worried?)

"Mr. Barry's gonna' ask me about the marks... he tried to this mornin' but I pretended ta be asleep... What do I say?"

There's a long silence during which he can feel her thinking and his anxiety increases. He decides that the kitchen looks dirty... he should bleach the countertops...all of them... and the table and the sink.. the floor could use mopping. He's done half that by the time she speaks again.

(None of us has a perfect memory, do we?)

Dennis isn't sure where she's going with this so he just answers flatly.

"No."

(And Mr. Barry is a bit absent-minded, isn't he? He didn't even remember how many keys we were given when we moved here.)

"There were 33."

Dennis says automatically because numbers are another thing that he finds soothing.

(Yes, you noticed and Barry didn't... in fact, you're typically more observant than he is, even he would admit to that.)

She goes quiet again and Dennis starts to think about cleaning the oven... it's not like there's some sort of rule against doing it more than once a month... is there?

(It's not entirely inconceivable, then, that there are things about Kevin himself that Barry has neglected to notice. Of course YOU know every scar by heart, as do I, but does Barry?)

Dennis thinks about it... does he? There isn't really a reason why he would.

"But he noticed these ones, this morning..."

(But perhaps they'd simply escaped his notice until now.)

It clicks in Dennis's head then, what she means.

"You're gonna' tell him they've always been there?"

Patricia sighs.

(You know he won't believe me... but he may believe you.)

------

Dennis is conducting his rounds later that night when, predictably, Barry comes into the light beside him. Barry seems hesitant to speak and so Dennis ignores him. Dennis has always been aware that Barry was a little intimidated by him but he doesn't take advantage of it... often. The silence goes on long enough that Dennis starts to get uncomfortable.

"You need somethin'?"

There's a pregnant pause as though Barry's worried he's about to open a can of worms.

(I was just wonderin' if you... uh... noticed anything out of the ordinary today?)

"In regards to...?"

He can feel Barry squirm just a little, when he goes on his tone is clipped.

(Kevin... have you noticed anything unusual about Kevin?)

Dennis only shakes his head. Barry tisks in that way he does when he's trying to think of a tactful way to phrase something. Dennis sometimes wonders how much time Barry wastes thinking of tactful ways to say things. Maybe he'll start adding up the seconds... it's gotta' be at least a few hours a week. Dennis makes the rare decision to try and expedite the conversation.

"Somethin' I shoulda' noticed?"

Dennis raises an eyebrow and makes his tone loosely suspicious, wanting to put Barry on the defensive.... maybe then he'll just drop the issue. He's satisfied with how hesitant Barry is to go on.

(...when I was gettin' dressed this morning... I noticed some marks that I don't think were there before...)

"Before what?"

The question, predictably, knocks Barry off balance.

(... they weren't there the last time I saw him with his shirt off.)

"I ain't seen him with his shirt off today and there wasn't nothin' new there the last time I did."

Barry goes quiet for a moment then and Dennis can feel Barry starting to doubt himself. Self-doubt has always been Barry's Achillies heel, Dennis knows that if he pushes him far enough in that direction, he'll be in the clear. He makes his tone overtly accusing this time.

"You or one' a the Others been up to somethin' I should know about? Somethin' that mighta' left marks on Kevin?"

(What? No...uh...)

He can feel that Barry REALLY doesn't want to ask what he's about to ask.

(You didn't do anything... outta' the ordinary on Purge Night... did you?)

Dennis tenses and makes a conscious effort to sound on the brink of anger when he responds.

"Of course not... that's more 'ur thing, ain't it?"

He can feel Barry deflating and withdrawing. When Barry leaves the light without saying another word, Dennis feels an odd blend of accomplishment, relief and... a little guilt.

-------

The next morning, Barry is brushing his teeth, getting ready for the morning shift, when something on the floor behind the toilet catches his eye. He spits, rinses his brush, puts it in the cup with the others and crouches to retrieve the object... it's a bullet. Before he leaves, he sends Dr. Fletcher an e-mail saying that he needs to see her "ASAP."

Chapter Text

By the time Barry gets back from his shift, Dr. Fletcher has returned his e-mail. He goes directly to her office. He shows her the bullet and explains the circumstances under which he found it and the new marks on Kevin's body. Barry learns that Dr. Flecter has not seen Kevin with his shirt off... he’d been pretty sure she hadn’t but it would have been helpful to him if she had.

“And you’re CERTAIN that these are new scars?”

“Like... 60%... but, I mean... ‘new scars’ is kind of a contradiction in terms, ain’t it?”

“I suppose it is...”

For the first time in their doctor/patient relationship, Dr. Fletcher seems at a loss for words.

“It’s just... I also talked to Carlos today and he said that he heard that two dead bodies were removed from right in front of the lion enclosure the morning after the Purge and they had had guns with them... like maybe they were gonna’ kill the lion but... someone killed them first and now Kevin’s got new scars and I found a bullet in our bathroom and it seems like those two things can’t possibly NOT be related but I also can’t think of any way they WOULD be related that doesn’t sound completely insane...”

Barry is pacing, he doesn’t usually pace but now feels like the time for it. Dr. Fletcher speaks with practiced calm.

“And Dennis had the light during the Purge, as usual?”

“Yeah... and whatever the hell happened here I don’t want him to know about it ‘cause I just barely mentioned it ta’ him last night and he bit my head off and the last thing I need is him an’ Patricia thinkin’ I lost my grip on the wheel and now Kevin’s...Kevin’s... God, I don’t know.”

Barry crumples down into his usual chair and holds his head in his hands a moment before looking up at Dr. Fletcher with slightly wet eyes.

“You would tell me if I were... loosin’ it... right?”

“I don’t think that that’s the case... I think that the best course of action here would be for me to speak with some of the others... clearly, there’ve been goings-on for which you were not present.”

Barry nods, feeling a little relieved at the prospect of a solution.

“Since the summoning didn’t work out the last time we tried it, I did some research into other possible solutions and came across this...”

She goes to her desk and gets a small black box out of one of the drawers, she takes something out of the box that looks like a miniature spotlight.

“This, is a hypnosis light... it has been found to induce dissociation in individuals with D.I.D. I can use it to... cycle through the Others and see if any of them has any information that might clarify your situation but, as you know, I need your permission beforehand. Do I have your permission?”

“Of course.”

Barry nods and sighs. Dr. Fletcher still seems a bit reluctant but proceeds.

“Alright, now just look into the center of the light and try to keep your eyes open.”

The light flashes, Barry feels himself... dissolving.

------

Samuel comes to in Dr. Fletcher’s office... he’s been here a few times before... he likes her...she’s easy to manipulate.

“Would you mind not doing that again? I can already feel a headache coming on.”

“Hello, Samuel.”

The doctor keeps her tone neutral but he knows that she’d prefer it hadn’t been him. Still, he puts on his most cordial smile.

“I assume that some sort of irregular circumstances have warranted these irregular measures.”

He gestures to the light in her hand.

“Yes, actually, Barry came to me today very upset and in hopes that I could help him clarify those circumstances.”

“And what, exactly, are they?”

He can see her struggling to think of how exactly to explain things that he likely already knows to him and he finds that very amusing.

“Well, as Barry tells it, he noticed some scars on Kevin’s body the morning after the Purge that he doesn’t recall having been there before and then this morning he found this in your bathroom.”

She holds up the bullet. Samuel’s smile broadens at the memory of Purge Night, the intrigue, the blood, the pain. Of course, a lie rolls off his tongue as easily as water off a duck’s back.

“Oh, that? That’s mine.”

“It’s... yours?”

He nods.

“I found it on the sidewalk and thought it was cool... I brought it home with me and must have mislaid it at some point. I’ll be sure to thank Mr. Barry for finding it for me... May I have it back please?”

For a moment, the doctor looks at him contemplatively, as though trying to decide if she should trust him... she ultimately opts not to.

“You collect bullets?”

“You know what a fan of the Purge I am and the Others don’t allow me to participate so I like to collect whatever little ephemera I can... It’s as though your friends or family went on a trip that you badly wanted to go on but were unable to attend and so they brought you back...say... a refrigerator magnet or a keychain. It’s not a substitute for the actual experience, of course, but at least it’s... something. I have a little collection of Purge mementos that I keep hidden from the Other... bullet casings, debris from explosives... human teeth.”

She looks uncomfortable... it’s delightful. He switches to a sort of pleading puppy dog look.

“It would mean a GREAT deal to me if you’d let me have that back.”

It works, she hands him the bullet. It’s warm, Samuel knows the heat is from the doctor's hand but he imagines that it’s from Mr. Dennis’s side...where it had almost punctured him. Samuel really does LIKE Mr. Dennis, he’ll cherish this memento of their special night.

“Do you have any memory of Purge Night?”

Of course he does and thinking of them makes him feel warm inside but he can’t tell the doctor that.

“Doctor, you know I don’t. We all sleep during it while Dennis keeps watch... you know that... I haven’t even gotten to watch the Feeds yet... I think I’ll pick up a bottle of wine on the way home, for the occasion. My friends and I are having a watch party.”

The doctor doesn’t know that his ‘friends’ are all online but he sees no reason why she would need to.

“I think that perhaps I should talk to one of the Others.”

“But none of them will know any more than I do... and you need my permission to use that little device again, don’t you?”

“I do... but... Barry is very upset and it would calm him if I could get more information.”

“But, there IS no more information to be had and you DO NOT have my permission.”

The doctor's expression comes the nearest to anger that he’s ever seen it and that gives him a sense of accomplishment. He decided to do something to earn himself some brownie points with Mr. Dennis and Miss. Patricia while he’s here.

“I am glad you’ve brought up Mr. Barry though because I AM worried about him.”

“You’re worried?”

“He’s been TERRIBLY paranoid lately, perhaps you should consider upping his dosage of that medication?”

“Valium?”

“Right... or... maybe not... he does take an awful lot of it and... is it MEANT to be mixed with alcohol?”

“No... I would not advise that.”

“Oh... perhaps I’ve said too much... poor Mr. Barry is just under SO much pressure and I think you’re probably aware that his constitution is not the strongest... and now there’s this strange... body dysmorphia.”

“Body dysmorphia?”

Samuel shrugs and makes sure his smile looks strained.

“I’m not sure if that’s the word for it... you’re the psychiatrist. Is there a technical term for when someone perceives features of their body as being recent developments when they aren’t?”

“You’re referring to the scars?”

“Yes... which, I assure you, have been there for at least as long as I can remember... Though Mr. Dennis would be the authority on that, wouldn’t he?”

The doctor nods.

“And HE’S said that there have been no recent additions to Kevin’s extensive collection of scars and I, for one, trust him... Don’t you?”

“Could I possibly speak to Dennis?”

“Not at the moment, I’m afraid... you know how wary of this whole THING he is.”

Samuel gestures vaguely around the room.

“But I shall certainly run your request by him and see if he’ll be willing to consider attending a session at some point in the near future.”

Samuel greatly enjoys the doctor’s barely concealed frustration.

“I apologize but I really MUST be going now... I have things that I’d like to get done before Mr. Dennis has to prepare for his shift.”

When Samuel gets back to the apartment, he adds the bullet to his collection. He hadn’t been lying about that part. He keeps it in a humidor that he bought at the thrift shop. He hides it inside the box spring of Kevin’s mattress.

Chapter Text

As they get to the car, Dennis moves Samuel out of the center of the light, none of the Others gets to drive when Dennis is awake. Samuel is delighted that he doesn’t make him leave the light, though. Perhaps Dennis is warming to him. There is a question he would like to ask.

(So... the Beast exists?)

“You say that like Miss. Patricia hasn’t been telling you about him for months.”

(Well, you can’t blame me for being skeptical... I didn’t get to meet him.)

Dennis doesn’t take the bait, he usually doesn’t, instead, he just changes the subject.

“Ya’ did good in there.”

Samuel tries not to seem as happy as he is... he’s pretty sure this is the first time Dennis has ever complimented him.

(I’ve already started scouting out new prospects for next year... Miss. Patricia mentioned that we should get more next time, maybe as many as 10 or 12.)

“Well... keep an eye out.”

Dennis doesn’t sound particularly enthused about the coming challenge... Samuel, however, is thrilled. Everything's coming up...

------

Dennis suddenly feels Samuel leave the light and Hedwig enters it, brimming with excitement.

(Hi, Mr. Dennis!)

“Hey, kid... ya need somethin'.”

(Can you get me a candy bar from ‘na gas station on’a way home.)

“Yeah, why not.”

Dennis can’t help but smirk a little, today is a good day, they should all get to celebrate.

(The Beast was really awesome, huh?)

The question comes as such a shock to Dennis that he nearly slams on the breaks in the middle of an intersection. He keeps his tone even when he replies.

“You... saw the Beast?”

(Yeah! He was climbin’ on roofs like Batman and he got those bad guys who were gonna’ hurt Sampson!)

Sampson is the name of the lion at the zoo, he’s one of Hedwig’s favorite animals.

“You were... awake fer that?”

(Yeah! Didn’t you an’ Miss. Patricia and Mr. Samuel see?)

Dennis pulls into a secluded area beside the gas station.

“No... apparently, you were the only one.”

(Really?!)

"...yeah."

Dennis is in the unique position of not knowing if he should panic or not...he needs to tell Miss. Patricia about this as soon as possible but, until then, there’s no point in getting the kid worried. He goes inside and lets him pick out some candy. On the drive back, he tries to do some damage control.

“Listen... uh... it’s only me and you and Miss. Patricia and Samuel who know about the Beast and we can’t tell the Others.”

(How come?)

“Well...because we know about the Beast cause he wants us to know... if we tell the Others he might get mad.”

(How come he don’t want tha’ Others ta’ know?)

Dennis scrambles in his head for SOMETHING that the kid will understand.

“It’s like how... in the comic books superheroes don’t tell the people who are close to ‘um that they’re superheroes?”

(... cause it wouldn’t be safe?)

“Right.”

Dennis is flooded with relief.

(Does tha’ Beast got a nemesis?!)

Hedwig sounds THRILLED at the prospect.

“No...not yet but that’s another reason we need ta’ keep it between us. The more people who know, the more of a chance there is that someone who shouldn’t know might find out.”

(Can we tell Casey? Or Dr. Fletcher? Dr. Fletcher’s real good at not tellin’ people things we tell her.)

The panic wells back up again.

“No... because... then they wouldn’t be safe.”

Dennis doesn’t usually pay much attention when Hedwig talks about Superheroes but he remembers some of the basics because they’re repeated so often that it’d be impossible for him not to.

(Oh...yeah... like how Spiderman don’t tell Marry Jane.)

“Yeah... just like that.”

(Cause we gotta’ protect her cause she’s our girlfriend.)

“... she’s KEVIN’S girlfriend...”

(Yeah...but...)

Dennis can feel Hedwig mentally grappling with concepts that he’s nowhere near equipt to understand.

(If we’re all parta’ Kevin and we all like ‘er and she likes all us, how come we can’t just all be ‘er boyfriend?)

Dennis’s face gets hot but he knows that Hedwig can’t possibly actually understand how inappropriate what he’s suggesting is... Hedwig still thinks that you can get a girl pregnant by kissing her.

“She doesn’t like us all... like that.”

There’s a long pause during which Dennis hopes that the kid is just going to let the subject drop, no such luck though.

(You like her like that though... that’s how come Miss. Patricia made sure to got ta’ talk ta’ her back when Mr. Barry didn’t want ya’ to...right?)

Dennis is at a loss... he can’t think of any other plausible explanation.

(An’ sometimes, when she goes to the zoo with us at night, she looks at you like she likes you like that.)

“... how would you know?”

The kid can’t seem to come up with an answer, Dennis sighs.

“Could you please go back to your chair.”

(Ya’ mad at me?)

The kid sounds so worried that Dennis feels guilty.

“No... I just...uh... I need some time alone... please.”

Since Hedwig isn’t in the center of the light, Dennis could just remove him from it but he tries to avoid doing that, he doesn’t want the kid to stop trusting him. To his immense relief, the kid recedes of his own volition.

------

Later that night, when Dennis goes to bed, Barry creeps into the light. He gets his digital camera and goes into the bathroom where the lighting is best. Kevin has stopped wearing a pajama shirt even when Casey is over, they’ve both seen each other's scars by now. The next time he’s alone with Casey, he plans on asking her if she’s noticed anything new about Kevin. For now, he just photographs Kevin’s torso from every angle. He’s going to start doing regular checks for new marks, using the pictures as a basis for comparison. This seems neurotic even to him (Dennis level neurotic) but, since he apparently can’t trust his own memory, he doesn’t know what else to do.

He’s questioned all the Others only to find that most of them make a point of NOT examining Kevin’s body too closely, at least not the damaged parts. Barry’s a bit ashamed to realize that he’s no different. He’s conscious of Kevin’s appearance to the point required to make sure that he looks generally presentable but does his best to ignore the scars... but not anymore. He doesn’t know what but SOMETHING is going on and it’s his job to handle it. He hadn’t even wanted the job initially but here he is and he fears what may result if he loses it.

He saves the pictures to his locked account on their computer and makes an entry about the situation in his private video journal. He can’t sleep, he’s restless and eventually, he starts to feel like he isn’t alone...but all the Others are asleep. (He fails to notice that this feeling begins at the stroke of midnight.) He gets dressed and goes and strolls around the zoo so that he can at least tell himself that the reason he feels like he’s not alone is that the animals are watching.

He stops by the lion enclosure and finds himself thinking about the bodies he’d heard had been removed from there... Maybe there never were any... Maybe it was just a rumor. Not even the person he’d heard about it from had actually SEEN them and... The part about one of them having its head twisted 360 DEFINATELY isn’t true. Eventually, he looks up from the pavement to see Sampson (the lion) studying him with an unsettling intensity.

Chapter Text

Casey and Barry are having dinner... it’s nice but... she hasn't seen Kevin since the Purge and that was two weeks ago. Barry himself also seems a little on edge but, of course, won’t give her any straight answers about why. Then it happens, for the first time EVER, Barry and Casey have an awkward conversational silence. He stares contemplatively into his takeout Chinese. She knows there’s no point because he’ll just say he’s fine but she feels compelled to ask anyway.

“Are... you ok?”

To her surprise, he doesn’t give his usual automatic reassurance... he stares at his food a while longer.

“Actually... Doll... I got a little... situation, goin’ on.”

“Does this have something to do with why I haven’t seen Kevin since before the Purge?”

“Kinda’... sorta’... definitely. I mean, he usually gets kinda’ spooked around the Purge on accounta’... ya’ know... his mom, but two weeks IS a bit excessive.”

Barry laughs nervously... he looks tired. He seems hesitant to continue.

“Honey... I’m about to ask you some weird... sorta’ pervy questions but I promise you that I have a completely non-pervy motive for askin’ them.”

She just looks at him expectantly and waits.

“So... you an’ Kevin have been... intimate, right?”

She nods.

“When was the last time?”

“Well... I haven’t seen him for a little over two weeks...I mean, I’ve SEEN him... but...”

She motions vaguely to Barry.

“Right... and I’m REALLY sorry about that but there’s something I wanna’ get a handle on before I let ‘im come back.”

“You’ve been keeping him away from me?!”

“Not from YOU specifically!”

He raises his hands in a defensive gesture.

“Barry, I didn’t even know you could do that!”

“I almost never do and I’ve NEVER done it ta’ Kevin... and I’ve never done it to ANYONE this long.”

“I’m not answering any questions until you promise me that you’ll bring him back after I do!”

“Well, ya’ know I can’t just BRING him back but... I promise I won’t block him the next time he tries to get into the light.”

Casey pointedly stabs a piece of sesame chicken.

“Fine.”

Barry takes a deep breath before he continues.

“So... you’ve seen his scars...right?”

Casey nods.

“... and you remember where all of them are?”

“I mean... I don’t fixate on them or anything...”

“But you’d know if there was a new one?”

“Probably.”

“Especially if it was a big one?”

Suddenly she goes from moderately angry to extremely worried.

“What happened?”

“I don’t know... that’s the problem.”

She can see that Barry is worried too and that makes her feel a little guilty for getting angry.

“... let me see.”

Barry starts to pull down the collar of his t-shirt but seems reluctant to stretch it out. Instead, he just stands up and takes it off. Her eyes go immediately to a puckered indentation on his left shoulder. She can't restrain her gasp or her compulsion to stand up and gently run her fingers over it. She almost asks what it is but then she remembers, he doesn’t know.

“That’s new, right?”

“Definitely.”

“Right! Dr. Fletcher made me go to our general practitioner about it and he says that it looks like a scar from a bullet wound but there never WAS any wound.”

“Dennis must be freaking out.”

“That’s the REALLY weird thing, he acts like he can’t even see it.”

“Have you pointed it out to him?”

Barry looks down and away and scratches the back of his neck.

“No... I don’t think he’d take it real well if I tell him that Kevin apparently got shot at some point and none of us even noticed... he’s already paranoid, we don’t wanna’ take it to a crippling level.”

“And Dr. Fletcher couldn’t explain it?”

“Nope, came up completely empty.”

Barry’s eyes mist over a little, he’s bouncing anxiously on the balls of his feet now. He takes her hand and puts it on his (Kevin’s?) side.

“There was a big reddish-purple mark there but it’s been fading.”

“Does any of it... hurt?”

“Seems like it should, huh?”

Their eyes meet and Casey is suddenly aware that she’s touching Barry’s naked chest for the first time. It’s stupid for her to be thinking about that now... it’s still technically her boyfriend’s chest and there are more important things going on... Still, she withdraws her hand. He puts his shirt back on. He sighs.

“I’ve been checkin’ every day since and there aren’t any more new scars...so at least we know it ain’t gettin’ worse.”

“Why did you wait so long to tell me about this?”

“Well... at first I was hopin’ I could just fix whatever it was and you wouldn’t have to find out about it and then I didn’t know what I would tell you if I did and... you know I don’t like makin’ you worry.”

“You’re going to have to get over that, especially if it means me not seeing my boyfriend for two weeks... Oh, god, does Kevin know about it.”

“... that was gonna’ be the next hurdle.”

“It seems like it should have been the first one, considering that it’s KEVIN’S body.”

She can’t help but wonder, though, if it really IS just Kevin’s body. Dr. Fletcher refers to Kevin as the primary so that was how Casey had initially thought of the situation but the more she’s gotten to know some of the Others the harder it is for her to hold onto that perception. They have personalities, feelings, thoughts, and opinions that are entirely their own and it’s not like any of them CHOSE to live in Kevin’s body... or like they have bodies of their own that they can go to if they decide the whole ‘being an alter’ thing isn’t for them. She also definitely doesn’t feel like she’s with Kevin when she’s with the Others... if she did, she wouldn’t miss him right now.

“You don’t have to stay over if you don’t want.”

Casey rolls her eyes.

“Right, like I’m going to go back to my apartment and sleep just fine knowing that I’m leaving you alone to deal with... whatever the hell this is.”

She puts her hand on his shoulder. He looks like he wants to object to her staying but can’t... because he actually doesn’t WANT to be alone. She could swear that he looks afraid. For the rest of the night, they act like everything’s normal even though they both KNOW it’s not. They finish eating, they watch a movie. When they go to bed, Barry puts on a full set of Kevin’s pajamas and the realization that he’s self-conscious makes Casey self-conscious even though this isn’t anywhere near the first time they’ve slept in the same bed.

He’s tense in the dark next to her like he’s waiting for something bad to happen. She can’t imagine what. They’ve cuddled before, she doesn’t think that’s crossing a line, and occasionally they’ll kiss... but only briefly. Barry is the extreme opposite of Dennis in a lot of ways, one of which being that Barry is soothed by touch (whereas Dennis seems terrified of it.) She tucks herself into his side and he puts his arm around her. Eventually, they both fall asleep.

------

Someone is dreaming but no one knows who. It’s about the Beast... or maybe it’s the Beast that’s dreaming... but he’s not dreaming. The Beast has no need for sleep... he is always awake and always waiting. He’s etching pictures on the bloodied windows of his home. They’re arcane symbols in a language older than time. They tell stories about beings older than time of which the Beast is one of the remaining few. He does not even know himself if the stories are true but it doesn’t matter because he intends to reshape all existence and then the truth will be what he says it is. Suddenly, the between-time comes and he feels warmth and he smells ‘her’ and he opens Kevin’s eyes. Her body is flush with his and they are, for the first time, alone in Kevin’s room.

Chapter Text

He must be careful. Despite not being at his full strength outside of the Sacred Night he could still damage her very easily and he does not want that. She is different from the rest, she is among the Pure. Her sanctity is etched in her skin in the arcane symbols of a language older than time. Kevin must have sensed her worthiness that’s why he chose her... as a mate.

They are the vanguard of the next stage of human evolution, Kevin is to be the Father and she the Mother. All the Pure are the progeny of the Beast but these will be so in a more direct sense. Casey Cooke will birth the first in a line of conduits that will ensure his mission to purify the Earth continues even after Kevin’s body succumbs to the ravages of time. She shifts in her sleep, seeming to sense that he is watching her. Her eyes flutter open and she stares at him for a long time, waiting for her vision to adjust to the dark.

-------

Casey awakes in response to... something... a sort of subtle prickling feeling on the surface of her skin; like a breeze raising goosebumps. Barry (?) has shifted so that he’s propped up on one elbow looking down at her. Even only being able to see his outline in the dark, she knows this isn’t Barry, or Kevin... or anyone she knows. She feels like she can’t move like she’s pinned in place by his gaze. It feels like his body is giving off more heat than it was before and she’s struck with a strange fascination.

She reaches up and touches just as the base of his throat and then moves her hand gently over to where the new scar is...it’s warmer than the rest of him. There’s a rumble in his chest, like the purr of a big cat and she jerks her hand back and moves away. His hand darts forward and seizes her wrist and she almost panics before she realizes that he was only stopping her from falling off of the bed. There’s a frightening amount of latent strength in that hand though. She’d felt something similar but to a lesser extent the few times that Dennis had touched her.

He loosens his grip, as though testing to see if she’ll pull away, as he sifts into a sitting position. When she doesn’t pull away, he brings her hand to the side of his face reminding her, ludicrously, of an animal wanting to be petted. When she doesn’t withdraw from that he presses his mouth to her palm. It’s not a kiss, more like he’s... tasting her skin. She withdraws her hand slowly, not wanting him (or...it?) to misread that as a hostile gesture. She tells herself there’s no reason to be afraid, this is just an alter that she hasn’t met yet... that’s all... no big deal.

Still, her hand is shaking a little when she reaches to turn on the bedside lamp. It turns it’s head away from the light and then slowly turns back. Casey realizes that this is because it’s pupils are so dilated that the irises are barely visible. It also looks paler than Kevin and it’s veins stand out under it’s skin. Casey has learned (mostly from Dr. Fletcher) about the how the mind-body connection is particularly prominent in D.I.D. patients; that’s why the alters vary in physical strength and Jade has diabetes and Dennis and Orwell can’t wear the same glasses. THIS seems different somehow, though.

She feels guilty that, at first, all she can do is LOOK. It’s expression, it’s bearing... all of it reads as...inhuman... but not unintelligent. It’s eyes drift up to her’s and then it’s head follows them. She feels herself flush and her heart rate increases but she tries not to seem nervous. It seems to sense her anxiety.

“You’re in no danger, Casey Cooke.”

“I know.”

She doesn’t necessarily mean it but she tells herself that she should... NONE of them are dangerous, she’s been repeatedly reassured of that and she TRUSTS Kevin. That’s why she doesn’t get out of the bed. Her back is against the headboard and his is against the wall. Since the first time she’s slept over, he’s always let her sleep on the side of the bed away from the wall. She could leave he room easily right now... but she won't. This is a part of Kevin she doesn’t know and she wants to know all of Kevin.

“Do you have a name?”

He seems bemused that that would be her first question. His voice is odd, like the voice of a thing that had only learned to mimic human speech. He also lacks the Philly accent that the majority of Kevin’s alters have.

“I have had many names but my acolytes call me the Beast.”

“Acolytes?”

It takes Casey a moment to remember what the word means...it’s not like it’s the kind of word you hear all the time.

“You have acolytes?”

“I do.”

“... is Kevin one of them.”

The Beast seems to be thinking.

“Kevin sleeps far away... I’ve never met him but he’s very important and he’s brought you to us and you are very important.”

This all has Casey’s head spinning but she tries to keep her bearings because she needs to get information. She has a feeling that this can’t possibly be unrelated to Barry’s situation and she wants something to tell him and to tell Kevin when she finally sees him again. She asks the most direct question she can think of.

“Do you know anything about that?”

She points to the bullet wound. The Beast doesn’t even look down at it, his gaze is trained on her, drinking her in in a way that feels more reverent than objectifying. He smiles.

“Kevin is only a man but I am much more, their bullets could not hurt me.”

“Who? Who’s bullets?”

“Those men who dared to intrude in my garden.”

The only interpretation she can think of for this is that someone had come into the zoo and they’d had a gun... that’s where the bullet wound came from.

She suddenly feels grateful, Kevin was shot and he’s alive... because of this... Beast. She wonders if he knows that that’s one of the names that’s used for the Devil in the bible. She cautiously shifts closer to him. He reaches out and traces the scars on her collar bone, gently, reverently, as though it’s a privilege to be allowed to touch them. This should offend her, she thinks, but it doesn’t. Remembering how he’d wanted to be ‘petted’ she reaches up and unbuttons his pajama top.

She touches the bullet wound, she touches the other scars on Kevin’s chest that she usually tries not to focus on because she doesn’t want to make him self conscious. The Best does not seem self-conscious, he closes his eyes as if in ecstasy as she touches his scars. Arousal hits her like a bolt of lightning. It’s sick, it’s so, so sick that something like this is having that effect on her but when he leans forward and puts his mouth near hers (as though he didn’t know what kissing was and only wanted to share her breath) she automatically closes the distance. The kiss is animalistic, clashing teeth and lapping tongues.

She doesn’t even realize that she’s slipped into his lap until his arms are around her waist. He’s still restraining himself, he could crush her but he won’t and she knows that shouldn't excite her so much. He’s powerful but he’s relinquishing that power... to her. Suddenly she can’t help herself; she’s pulling off his shirt and he doesn’t object, he helps her. She surprised at her own lack of resistance when he does the same with her shirt.

She pulls him down on top of her. He grinds against her twice and then pulls back to study her. He runs his tongue along the scars on her collar bones and her chest and works his way down her body. He somehow manages to be frantic and yet reverent and tender. Her remaining clothing seems to disappear, the sound of ripping fabric only background noise to the thudding of her own heart in her ears.

He buries his face between her legs and she parts them for him willingly, even eagerly. He laps and sucks and there’s even the occasional scraping of teeth and cums more quickly than she ever has before. He drinks her juices desperately and then for a moment seems to just linger, inhaling her scent. When he crawls back up her body she considers, for a moment, telling him to stop. She somehow knows that he would but the head of his member is already against her opening and she squirms and whimpers.

When he plunges into her, she wraps her legs around him. He’s already panting but still, she runs her fingers along the back of his neck and scalp, for some reason curious to see if he’s sensitive there... like Kevin. He purrs again and then she’s arching and thrusting to meet his thrusts. His face is buried in her neck and when he spills inside her he trembles and whimpers. He’s been rendered vulnerable and it’s because of her and that makes her feel powerful.

He lays bonelessly on top of her for a while and then pulls back and looks into her eyes again. He presses his forehead to hers and for a moment they do just simply share breath. He lowers himself and nuzzles at her throat, kisses down between her breasts and then briefly lays his head on her stomach. She knows the significance of this gesture. She pets him as she drifts to sleep.

------

At the stroke of 1 a.m., Kevin wakes up for the first time in two weeks.

Chapter Text

Casey has been laying in Kevin’s bed for at least an hour since she woke up. She’s trying to figure out what she’s supposed to do now and there are a variety of factors contributing to her uncertainty. Kevin apparently has an alter that he doesn’t know about...should she tell him about it? Should she call Dr. Fletcher and tell HER about it? The doctor had given Casey her home phone number ‘just in case’ but Casey has tried not to use it too much. Kevin isn’t even her only patient and, if she puts as much time and effort into all of them as she does into Kevin, the poor woman probably has next to no life outside of her work.

Barry will have left for work by now and she hopes that it’s him that returns from his shift (it usually is but sometimes not) because she feels like it’ll be easiest to talk about what happened last night with him. She doesn’t know, though, if it will make him feel better or worse to know that there’s an alter he hadn’t known about (part of his job is to know all of them) and that that alter is apparently bulletproof. She’s pretty sure the mind-body connection doesn’t account for things like that but, again, maybe she should talk to Dr. Fletcher. It probably would have helped if she’d gotten more actual information out of the Beast but instead she’d... God, what the hell is wrong with her?

That brings her to the last item on her list of concerns; did she... cheat on Kevin last night? She has to tell him, of course... fuck, why hadn’t they talked about the terms of their relationship when it came to...THAT sooner? She’d meant to and she thinks that, maybe, he’d meant to but they’d been putting it off. She hadn’t wanted to bring it up because she thought that might hurt him but now she’s done something that might hurt him even more. Why had she been so drawn to the Beast? How had he already known her when she hadn’t known him?

She jumps when she hears a knock on the door because she'd been certain that she was alone in the apartment. After about 30 seconds Patricia comes in carrying a tray.

"Wasn't Barry supposed to work this morning?"

"I had Dennis call in sick."

Casey thinks that that must have killed Dennis. He's very proud of his collection of unused sick days. She also wonders, again, how Patricia took the light from Barry.

"Is Barry... sick?"

For a moment Casey wonders how that works... Is it possible for just one of them to be physically ill? Even if it is, it's probably not the case here or else Dennis would have just bitten the bullet and done Barry's shift... He's VERY proud of his collection of unused sick days.

"Not that I know of."

Patricia responds offhandedly. Casey sits cross-legged and Patricia puts the tray down on the bed in front of her. There are two cups of tea beside the plate and Patricia takes one for herself before going to sit on the far end of the bed. She takes a sip before going on.

"It just occurred to me that it may not be the best idea to leave you alone... after last night."

There's nothing judgemental in her tone or expression but Casey still feels mortified at the prospect of her knowing ALL of what happened last night. All Casey can muster is a checked whisper.

"Last night?"

Patricia looks at Casey as though she knows she's playing dumb but then sighs and elaborates.

"He revealed himself to you. "

Casey can't help but feel that the specific choice of words was intentional but if Patricia isn't willing to overtly discuss it, that's more than fine with her. Not knowing what to say, Casey just begins to eat. As usual, everything is slightly overcooked, Dennis and Patricia share a mutual fear of foodborne pathogens.

"I do wish that He'd told me that he intended to so that I could have prepared you for it but it is not my place to question His decisions."

Casey tries not to think too much about how Patricia would have 'prepared' her for last night... assuming that she knows ALL of what happened... which Casey is also trying not to do. She continues to eat, not looking up. Eventually, Patricia prods her in an uncharacteristically sympathetic tone.

"Surely you must have questions..."

Of course, the question Casey really WANTS to ask is simply 'what the hell WAS that?' but Miss. Patricia doesn't respond positively to the use of 'foul language.' She tries to break the tangled mass of her confusion down into smaller parts.

"How many of the Others know about him? He said he had 'acolytes' but I'm assuming Barry isn't one of them."

"Of course not."

Patricia seems to find the very idea ludicrous.

"At present his following consists of only Dennis, Samuel, Hedwig and myself... though I do hope that you can now be counted among us."

Despite her choice of words, she doesn't actually sound hopeful.

"Hedwig?"

"Of course the boy doesn't fully comprehend ALL that He is but the Beast still found him worthy... He did that without informing me as well."

Casey feels somehow as though she knows even less now than she did when they started. She tries to think of a way to rewind things.

“So... the Beast is one of Kevin’s alters?”

Patricia looks scandalized and shakes her head.

“No, no, dear, the Beast is a far greater thing than all of us, we were all made to serve him.”

“Even the ones who aren’t ‘acolytes’?”

“The Others may not realize it, but they’ve all played a part in making conditions right for His emergence. At the very least, they tend to Kevin, who is the Beast’s vessel in this plane of reality.”

This all sounds insane but Casey has a feeling that it won’t do any good to point that out.

“Doesn’t Kevin get a say in this?”

“No one who is chosen by a GOD ever does.”

Casey is starting to get angry but she tries not to act like it because she knows that that, also, will not do any good. She’s not even sure how much this should worry her. Kevin apparently has an alter that he doesn’t know about and some of his other alters have built some kind of...cult around it. It’s unsettling, sure, but it doesn’t seem to be doing any harm... that she knows of... yet. She wants clarification.

“Has the Beast always been around?”

“He has always been but he has not always been connected to Kevin... I had to build that bridge.”

Casey’s confusion must show on her face.

“You’ve been told, I’m sure, that each of us was created to serve a purpose... do you know what mine was?”

Casey shakes her head, Patricia does not seem surprised.

“Kevin was a lonely, unhappy child... he sought out a context for his suffering by turning to religion, specifically the church of Saint Agatha, which was walking distance from the home he unhappily shared with... that woman. The first thing I remember is the Easter Vigil there... have you ever been to one?”

Casey shakes her head again, religion had never played much of a part in her life, not even when her father was alive.

“It’s done at night. The congregation assembles in front of the church where a fire is lit. The priest blesses the fire and each member of the congregation is given a candle to light off of it. The congregation then proceeds into the church where a mass is conducted by only the light of the candles. I looked up and I saw the crucifix and I knew that there was my purpose.”

She looks... lonely then, as though sensing Casey’s lack of understanding.

“I had dreamed once that I was with Christ upon the earth. I was so very near him, and in many tears for the assurance of the pardon of my sins, and I was so ravished with his love towards me, I thought it far exceeding the affection of the kindest husband.”

For the first time Casey feels compelled to touch Patricia, to comfort her because she seems so genuinely devastated by the memory. It also dawns on Casey for the first time WHAT Patricia is... she’s a nun. Kevin had needed something greater than himself to hold onto and it had been Patricia’s job to provide that. Casey moves toward her and she stands as though deliberately avoiding physical contact.

“Something happened though... I developed a weakness of faith that I could not shake... I did not feel Christ’s help as near. I prayed and I prayed but I... could not. I feared I would never feel that same measure of love again and without it, I was... useless. I could not bare existence without purpose... none of us can... and so I went away.”

“...how?”

Patricia gazes contemplatively into her tea as though trying to think of words for something that she’s rarely required to articulate.

“Has Kevin ever told you of the trainyard?”

“No.”

“... no... I don’t suppose he would have, he can just barely remember it himself. All I'd ever known about it was that it’s a place that people go to disappear and so I went there... to disappear. I don’t know what I’d expected to happen but I found myself in a cold, dark, cavernous place... like a cave. I wondered there... I don’t know how long. Sometimes I could see nothing at all and I would hear things moving in the dark. Eventually, the Beast called me to him... he’d been waiting, you see, until I was ready and he took me into his embrace and with his touch, he made me worthy and he kept me there with him and taught me things. I’d have been content to stay there with him because I’d forgotten that there had been anything before... but then, all at once, I remembered... and I realized that I was needed...”

Patricia smiles wistfully, as though ‘needed’ is the best thing that anyone could possibly be.

“What did he teach you?”

She looks up questioningly, as though she’d forgotten Casey was in the room.

“The Beast... when he kept you with him... what did he teach you?”

“I don’t think it’s my place to tell you... not if he’s going to be speaking to you directly.”

Patricia walks back over to her and runs a hand through her hair, gripping at the back of her head, pulling just slightly... the way Kevin sometimes does when they make love.

“Do you realize, child, how honored you should be? You are pure, he favors you, he has made you worthy... with his touch. You are precious to him and... to all of us.”

She says that last part as though realizing it for the first time. She lets go of her hair and moves back to her original position, sitting at the end of the bed. She nods to the plate and Casey continues to eat. Patricia sips her tea.

“I would like to know, dear, whom you intend to tell about last night... and what you intend to tell them.”

“I think Barry should know that there’s another alter.”

“Why?”

Casey can’t come up with a response...not one that she thinks Patricia would accept anyway.

“Mr. Barry is quite adept at handling day to day matters but the Beast plays no part in any of that... I suppose you also believe that Dr. Fletcher should know?”

“...yes.”

“Why?”

“The Beast is...”

“I think the term you’re searching for is ‘invulnerable’ and, of course, he is. There is no weapon that can harm a God, dear girl.”

“Don’t you want to know... how?”

“I KNOW how... and you do as well... because I’ve told you. We don’t need that doctor diminishing it with her ridiculous pseudoscience.”

Casey has to hold back a scoff at that.

“I need to tell Kevin about... about...”

Patricia nods in understanding, seemingly wanting to spare Casey the embarrassment of having to finish that sentence.

“I imagine that, for the sake of your own peace of mind, you will want to tell him SOMETHING... but, as you consider what, specifically you will say to him I think you should bear in mind that this morning Kevin had the Light. He handed the Light off to Mr. Barry so that he could prepare for his shift and now... I have it.”

She smiles and shrugs.

“Do you suppose that Mr. Barry GAVE me the Light? Or would EVER do so willingly?”

“Does... Barry not actually control the Light?”

“He has more control over it than some of us but not more than ALL of us and Kevin, poor dear, has nearly none... I suggest you bear that in mind when you decide WHAT you will be telling him.”

Chapter Text

Casey agonizes over how she’s going to bring the... incident up to Kevin but she winds up not having to. After her conversation with Patricia, Dennis drives her home before his shift. He’s no less talkative than usual but there’s something crackling beneath his silence. Casey can’t pinpoint what it is, Dennis is always so hard to read. When he stops in front of her apartment, he asks her if she’ll be alright... an alien hint of tenderness in his voice. Casey tells him that she’ll live and gets out of the car.

For a few days no one answers her texts or calls. She thinks of going there to see him but doesn’t know if he’d want to see her or if it would even be him that she would see. She starts to think that this is it, she’s ruined it, she’s ruined everything. What’s worse is that she doesn’t even know if it’s just their relationship she’s ruined or if she’s done Kevin some sort of psychological harm. She calls Dr. Fletcher and just asks if Kevin seemed alright at his last appointment. Apparently Barry had gone into the appointment and he’d seemed no different than he has been lately (that’s the most detail the doctor can ethically go into.)

Not knowing what else to do, Casey explains the situation. Not the WHOLE situation, of course, she tells the doctor that she slept with one of the alters and feels terrible about it. She just wants to know if Kevin knows about it and if he’s upset. Dr. Fletcher assures her that she’ll do what she can but she can’t MAKE Kevin talk to her about any specific thing, she can’t even make Kevin come to his appointments. Casey’s almost given up hope until she gets a call one night... from Kevin.

“Are you ok?”

It’s all she can think to ask since she doesn’t know how much he knows yet.

“Uh... yeah.”

His voice sounds slightly hoarse, as though he’s just woken up. All she can do is wait to see what he’ll say and it’s agonizing. Eventually, he takes a deep breath as though fortifying himself for the coming conversation.

“I just wanna’ start off by saying that I’m not... angry... I mean, I was at first... that’s why I needed a while to process things because I don’t want... I don’t want this to mean things are over between us. I love you... that hasn’t changed... it’s just gotten more complicated.”

“I swear I was going to tell you but no one would answer my texts or pick up my calls.”

“I’m sorry about that, I’ve been going in and out a lot lately... I don’t know why none of the Others responded.”

“Did one of them tell you?”

“No... they didn’t need to. I came to... what I assume was shortly after and we were in kind of a... compromising position.”

Casey cringes and feels her eyes watering a bit.

“I’m so, so sorry.”

“... I mean... it’s not like I’ve been completely clear about what my feelings were when it came to... that. I hadn’t really thought about it before because I’d never thought I’d get far enough in a relationship to have to have THAT talk.”

He laughs humorlessly.

“And it’s not like I’m, technically, completely monogamous...”

“Jade isn’t you.”

“Yeah but we share a body... and it’s not like what she does can’t have repercussions that would affect you... and you were so understanding about that...”

He chokes up at the end and Casey feels like complete shit.

“...I’d be lying if I said it came as a COMPLETE surprise... I mean... whole months go by where you spend more time with Barry than with me.”

That gives Casey pause. Barry, Kevin thinks she slept with Barry. Clarifying things would complicate them SO much more and she can’t help remembering what Patricia had said... about carefully considering WHAT she would tell Kevin. It’s probably a lot easier for him to process “my girlfriend slept with one of my alters” than it would be for him to process “my girlfriend slept with one of my alters that I didn’t know existed and also that alter is some kind of indestructible metahuman.” He’s undoubtedly noticed the scar by now but he’s not asking her about it... she wonders how he’s rationalized it to himself.

“You still there?”

Casey hadn’t realized how long she’d been quiet.

“Yeah... sorry... I promise it won't happen again.”

There’s a contemplative silence, he takes another deep breath.

“I think... you should come over tomorrow night... I’ll do my best to be in the light then and we can talk about it... Just remember that... I’m not angry and I don’t want this to be the end of anything... I love you.”

“... I love you too.”

Casey cries for a while after she gets off the phone.

------

The next night, she texts Kevin from the bus to tell him that she’s close and she finds him waiting for her by the staff entrance to the zoo. She knows instantly that it’s him and feels profoundly relieved. They embrace like two lovers who have been apart nearly a month because that’s what they are. He looks tired and a little raw as though he’s had a stressful day but she couldn’t guess what he’s spent that day doing. She wonders if he’s been in the light all day, he’s confided in her before that being alone in the light for long stretches of time can be a strain for him just because he’s so unused to it. His doctor has told him that he should try spending progressively longer stretches of time in the light but that’s hard for him to do since he has so little control over it. The most he can do to keep from dissociating is try to stay calm.

He holds her hand as they walk through the tunnel that leads down to the apartment. Once inside, it becomes apparent to her that he must have spent at least part of the day as Dennis because the smell of bleach is fresh in the air and not a single thing is out of place. Kevin tried for a while to be very diligent about keeping the apartment clean, thinking that that would lead Dennis to feel the need to take the Light less often but he quickly learned the folly of that. Dennis has his own very rigorous, highly specific standards of cleanliness and order that, apparently, no one but him can possibly meet. Any of the Others could have told Kevin that.

They go into the living room and Casey settles on the couch, Kevin continues to pace around... That worries Casey. Eventually, he seems to sense her worry and comes to sit on the side of the couch opposite her.

“I ordered pizza.”

The first few times they’d tried to order takeout to the Philadelphia Zoo, the restaurants had thought it was a prank call and they’d had to go and pick up the food. Casey had explained the situation (Kevin is bad with confrontations, he’d endure countless inconveniences to avoid one) but eventually, they’d gotten a few restaurants to believe them and those had been their regulars.

“Ok.”

Casey says dumbly, not knowing if she’s meant to lead into the discussion she came here for or if she’s supposed to wait for him to do it. Maybe they won’t talk about it at all, maybe hell just decide to drop the issue altogether. Casey doesn’t want to do that... they need to get past it and they can’t if they just pretend it didn’t happen. There’s a long beat during which Casey is concerned Kevin might dissociate but then he starts to talk.

“So... was that the first time?”

“Yeah.”

He nods with an expression like he’s solving a puzzle in his head. Casey almost speaks, to apologize again but he beats her to it.

“I’ve... given it a lot of thought and talked it over with Dr. Fletcher and... I think it’s only fair that you be allowed to... do that... with the Others... if you want.”

“Kevin... you don’t have to say that.”

“I’m not saying it because I think I have to, I’m saying it because I mean it... I mean, think about it, the reason the Others even exist is that I can’t handle my own life... so it has to be broken down into pieces so that each piece can be handled by a different alter... that’s how it is with my job, that’s how it is with my friendships... why would my relationship be any different?”

Casey feels another stab of guilt... does Kevin think he’s not good enough for her?

“I just want you to... have everything you need. The Others take care of me that way so... why can’t they... take care of you too?”

Casey WANTS to say that she doesn’t want anyone but Kevin to “take care of her” that way, that she never even thinks about anyone but Kevin that way but... that would be a lie and she’s already telling one BIG lie of omission... she doesn’t want to add to that. She’s also stuck with a vivid memory of the last of the very few times Dennis had touched her; he’d brushed her hair out of her face ( he does that sometimes... she assumes that it’s because of his OCD) and his fingers had briefly brushed her neck just behind her ear and her face had gotten hot and there’d been a fluttering in her stomach. She thinks about it and, even if she wants Dennis, he probably doesn’t want her... he doesn’t seem to be a fan of physical contact in general. So, even if she accepts Kevin’s offer, she’ll probably never wind up making use of it. She nods.

“I’m probably not gonna’ wind up... doing anything, though.”

Kevin smiles tightly and rests his hand on the back of hers.

“It’s ok if you don’t but... it’s also ok if you do...just... keep it in the group...ok?”

When he says ‘the group’ he gestures to himself and she can’t help but smile a little at that.

“...ok.”

Chapter Text

Orwell has started a YouTube channel devoted to the discussion of history. He’s developed a concern lately that someone may try to destroy his writing (he doesn’t know who he’s worried may destroy it, or why) so he’s decided to record it, all of it, in a medium that can never be completely destroyed. The internet never forgets. His channel only has 20 followers and they rarely leave comments but Orwell tells himself that that doesn’t matter. He’s filled 20 notebooks with writing by now, he combs back through it and divides it into chapters and makes each chapter into a half-hour video.

He realizes, as he goes back over his work, that he’s been writing a history of violence. He hadn’t thought about it that way before but now he has and now he can’t think of it any other way. It takes him a while because he can mostly only work when Kevin can’t sleep but eventually he gets to the founding of the United States, how it’s birth had been similar to a literal birth in that there’d been a lot of blood involved. He used to think of history in a purely strategic way but now he can’t help but see the blood... how the present is tied to the past by a long red cord engorged with human blood... like an umbilical cord.

He wades through the blood of America’s birth and through the ebb and flow of blood that comes after and then comes, naturally, to the blood of it’s Re-Birth. Things change at that point, suddenly he’s not just recording anymore. He loses his objectivity. His research also takes a turn, he’s not just chronicling events anymore but looking closely at the ramifications of those events. Sociology leaks into his history.

The first Purge was not nearly as heavily participated in as any of the more recent ones. Then the government began a ‘public service announcement’ blitz highlighting the purge as a patriotic duty. A wave of psychologists and sociologists COINCIDENTALLY begin putting out books extolling the psychological benefits of the Purge and offering their services as ‘experts’ to news outlets. Orwell finds himself researching the backgrounds of those ‘experts’ and finding their credentials to be specious at best. The author of the first ‘scientifically based’ pro-Purge book had only had a bachelor's degree in social work... it hadn’t stopped him from putting Dr. before his name on the spine of the book though.

He does find studies regarding the Purge done by actual doctors but he has to look very hard and he finds an unsettling trend. People who study the negative effects of the Purge (increases in suicide rates, increases in children in the foster system, increases in homelessness, increases in diagnoses of trauma-related mental disorders, etc.) tend to abruptly cease their research for no apparent reason... or die in The Purge. The information is mostly passed around in professional circles so Orwell winds up having to bluff his way into those circles; it’s unsettlingly easy to do, considering the amount of danger the people in those circles seem to be in.

This sets him down a slippery slope. He continues his historical research but starts another project as well. He’s documenting correlations that all seem to indicate that the Purge, which is constantly touted as the cure to all the countries ills, is actually a disease. It removes “noncontributing members of society” but in doing so creates more “noncontributing members of society” (people who are how Kevin used to be before he found Dr. Fletcher.) It kills those people and in the process infects more. It’s basically society-wide autocannibalism.

Orwell does not know what to DO with this realization. He starts to wonder if it’s possible that he’s dug too deep because lately, he feels like he’s being watched... mostly when he’s awake alone late at night.

------

Kevin wrote a note to Barry. Barry had found it folded in half and placed under the cover of his sketchbook. It explains that he and Casey have decided that they are going to have a sort of semi-open relationship. Basically that if Casey decides she wants to sleep with any of the Others, Kevin won’t consider it infidelity. Barry doesn’t have a problem with this, he just wondered what had gotten them thinking about it all the sudden... had Casey requested clarification?

Barry isn’t sure if it would be a good idea to inform ALL the Others of the new development. He knows that with some of them it won't be necessary; a lot of them have no sex drives to speak of. The ones that identify as female (of which there are 8) are either straight or... a sexual... he guesses. Barry had always chalked the asexuality of the female population up to the fact that Kevin is (mostly) straight... Jade being the wild-card. He’s pretty sure Patricia is married to god or whatever (not that she’s mentioned god much since she came back.)

The guys are a mixed bag; some of them are straight and would probably be thrilled to hear about this because until now the rule had been that Kevin’s body couldn’t be with any WOMEN who weren’t Casey and it had been unclear on rather or not they were allowed to participate in that. Some of them are downright afraid of women and have never even spoken to Casey (or any other girl.) Some of them (like Orwell) are asexual introverts. Orwell doesn’t mind talking to Casey but ultimately prefers to focus on his work, which he prefers to do alone.

Then there’s Ansel who has only spoken to Casey a few times (while sharing the light with Barry) but already knows that he LOVES her... like... picking out ‘his’ and ‘hers’ funeral plots love. Granted, he’s felt that way before... about pretty much any woman he’s interacted with on any sort of a regular basis. Barry doesn’t really know how interested in sex Ansel is though. Sure, he’d gotten around a lot when they were homeless but that had been a survival thing. Barry still feels guilty that that had been necessary... he should have made it unnecessary.

Under less pressing conditions, Ansel seems to view sex as an extension of ROMANCE. Ironically Barry has a similar view of sex except if you replace ‘romance’ with ‘friendship.’ He’s had sexual relationships but they’ve all been decidedly casual and initiated by the other person. If Barry likes someone and they express interest, he’ll have sex with them. He enjoys it when it happens but doesn’t feel like he’s missing out on anything if it doesn’t happen. He any Casey cuddle and will occasionally give each other a peck on the lips but she’s never seemed to want to take it any further and Barry likes to think he’s good at reading people.

Then there’s Dennis...oh, boy. Thanks to his being so closed off, Barry honestly has no idea what his thoughts would be regarding this kind of thing. Until the kiss incident, Barry had assumed that Dennis at the very least had had no interest in sex if not outright feared it. He’s scared of germs, doesn’t like to be touched and avoids women whenever possible... Yet, according to Casey, Dennis has made a conscious effort to get more acclimated to her presence. Barry would just write this off as Dennis’s begrudging acceptance of the fact that Casey isn’t going to be going anywhere... if it weren’t for that kiss... which Dennis refuses to even acknowledge had happened, let alone discuss in detail.

Barry decides that the safest bet is probably just to leave it up to her. He’ll just wait and see if she makes a move on anyone and then play by ear from there. In the meanwhile, it probably wouldn’t hurt to talk the new arrangement through with her... maybe try to figure out why she and Kevin felt that things needed to be rearranged. He continues mentally preparing himself for an awkward conversation. He and Casey are close but not THAT close...

Maybe he can have Jade talk to her about it while sharing the light with him. Jade has told him that the two of them had discussed those sorts of things before but at the time Casey had just seemed confused. She certainly hadn’t seemed to have any specific one of the Others in mind during the conversation. It’s not that Jade is closer to Casey than Barry, it’s just that Jade has no filter and god bless her for that.

------

From Casey’s angle, not much has changed. She doesn’t encounter the Beast again... if he does come around, it’s when she’s asleep and he doesn’t wake her. Barry had had Jade talk to her and the overall impression she’d come away with was that the next move is her’s. Barry hasn’t told the Others because he doesn’t want them making assumptions or trying to pressure her into anything. Casey can’t help but wonder which ones he thinks would do that but she also doesn’t really WANT to know. She’s glad Dennis doesn’t know because she’s not sure she could act naturally around him knowing that he knew. She DEFINITELY doesn’t want Patricia to know.

It’s become a regular thing for her to accompany Dennis on his rounds once a month. He tells her that Hedwig looks forward to it. They also still occasionally have breakfast together, after which he of course immediately brings her home. She wishes he wouldn’t but she can’t bring herself to say it. She doesn’t want to seem needy or to disrupt whatever it is he does after he drops her off. He seems to spend most of his time in the light engaged in preplanned tasks (Barry has said that Dennis doesn’t ‘do’ recreation.)

She supposes that she should just be grateful for the regimented blocks of time she gets to spend with him. Since she’s learned that no one else is making him do it, she’s actually kind of flattered by the fact that he factors her into his routine. Sometimes, when she’s lying awake at night alone in her apartment, she wonders exactly how much Dennis likes her... if he’s even capable of liking people in THAT way. Barry’s told her that a lot of the Others don’t experience romantic or sexual feelings (with Ansel and Jade being clear exceptions.) She and Dennis have also developed a fragile sort of kinship that they both seem to benefit from and she wouldn’t want to ruin that by doing something that might make him uncomfortable.

She has no doubt that it WOULD make him uncomfortable because, in the beginning, her mere presence had caused him noticeable discomfort. Even now, when they’re... friends(?) he still seems to be taking care around her, like she’s extremely fragile or dangerous. In the light of day, she thinks that she should just put the idea out of her mind entirely. Dennis has never even glanced below her neck (that she’s noticed) and goes out of his way to avoid touching her (outside of the occasional OCD driven hair rearranging.) If he can’t touch her hand, she doubts he’ll jump at the opportunity to touch parts of her that are normally covered by clothing. So... that’s it... she’s just going to put it out of her mind...right.

Chapter Text

Dennis doesn’t know why he’s been thinking of Kevin’s mother lately. He’d thought that he shut her completely out of his mind after the funeral, which he attended and at which the only other attendees were a few distant relatives he hadn’t met before. He hasn’t seen them since and doesn’t even remember their names now. She had had bare minimum life insurance so everything about the services had been quick and cheap. Kevin had visited the grave on Mother’s Day for a few years but eventually stopped bothering.

Despite the efforts of all the Others to spend as little time in her presence as possible, it had sometimes been unavoidable and of course, it was part of Dennis’s job to handle those times. This is why Dennis has more memories of her than anyone else... maybe even Kevin. There are the obvious ones, the ones etched into Kevin’s skin. There are also memories of tense, silent dinners and equally tense, silent times when she would for some reason MAKE him sit and watch television with her. Worst of all, in his opinion, were the times that she would try to make conversation with him. They were rare... which made him so ill-prepared for them; usually, she was of the “children should be seen and not heard” school of thought.

Usually the day after one of these failed attempts at communication, she’d be in an even fouler mood than usual and Dennis had never understood the connection. Eventually, it would become Barry’s job to handle this sort of thing but for a long time before there was a Barry and for a while after that Dennis had had to grapple with the problem on his own. When Barry had finally taken over that portion of dealing with Kevin’s mom, Dennis had felt simultaneously relieved and... disappointed... in himself. He had failed. He wasn’t supposed to need help.

He’d gotten a similar feeling when Miss. Patricia first came around but then it had been combined with the confusion generated by her being a woman. Dennis doesn’t have anything against women (though sometimes it takes a conscious effort on his part not to develop a ‘thing’), he had just objected to her presence initially because Kevin is NOT a woman. It had made him worried that there was something wrong with Kevin. He’d felt similarily when Jade showed up but Jade had at least not been older than him. By the time all the other female facets of Kevin had materialized, Dennis had long since ceased worrying about that sort of thing if for no other reason than that he didn’t have the energy... and it wasn’t like there was anything he could do about it.

Casey is going to be meeting him by the front gate at 7:30 so he spends the few hours in the light he has until then just trying to put Kevin’s mother out of his mind. He knows it’s ridiculous, but he feels like just thinking about that woman around Casey would be like exposing Casey to her and he would NEVER do that. He’s cleaning the oven for the third time that month when it occurs to him, not for the first time, that he’s only doing what he’s doing right now indirectly BECAUSE of Kevin’s mother. Sometimes he thinks of how much of him only is the way it is because of Kevin’s mother. Kevin had MADE him, sure, but that woman had shaped him.

During the time they’d spent living with her nearly EVERYTHING he’d done had revolved around her: placating her, avoiding her, doing his best not to incur her wrath and enduring it when he failed. Sometimes he’d even protected her... from herself. Some of the Others resent him for that but he doesn’t regret it because he knows that if she’d died when Kevin was younger it would have just hurt him more... and they would have wound up homeless sooner. Barry and Miss. Patricia both understand that he’d handled the situation to the best of his abilities... it’s one of the few things they have in common. Dennis used to sometimes wonder what he might have been like if Kevin’s childhood hadn’t been the way it had been but he’d ultimately realized that, in that case, he wouldn’t have existed at all...

He almost gets bogged down in that thought. The things that happened to Kevin shouldn’t have happened and if they hadn’t happened he wouldn’t exist, ergo, he shouldn’t exist. Suddenly his throat and chest get tight and he finds himself frozen in place save for the slight tremor in his hands. Then he flashes back to that one morning in Casey’s apartment when she’d caught him sneaking out, to the conversation they’d had: “...but here we are.” Right, here he is... no point in dwelling on what-ifs.

He finishes cleaning the oven and then peels off the gloves he’d been wearing. He notices that some of the oven cleaner had gotten on his right forearm, just above the cuff of the glove, but notes that there’s no damage. He knows that that stuff can eat holes in normal people’s skin and feels just a little flicker of pride (yet another thing that does not usually come to him naturally.) Yes, indeed, here he is.

Dennis has exactly one outfit for each day of the week and they are all washed at the end of the week, even the ones that haven’t been used. There are days when he doesn’t get the light at all. The room with the computer in it has racks in it for each of their clothing (or, at least, the ones that feel the need to have their own clothing.) Barry’s is overflowing and that is baffling to Dennis. He can’t possibly actually WEAR all that.

They had used to all just wear Kevin’s clothes, except at work, where Dennis and Barry wear the same clothes. Dennis doesn’t see the need for work clothes and non-work clothes. He also prefers not to be noticed and he’s found that, if you’re dressed like a maintenance man, people tend not to give you second glances. Jade and Miss. Patricia have limited wardrobes which they understand are only to be worn around the house. Kevin is not a woman so he can’t go out dressed like one. Hedwig only has one outfit, a bright yellow tracksuit.

-------

When Dennis meets Casey at the front gate, he could swear that there’s something different about her but he can’t pinpoint what it is. It’s like she’s giving off a subtle, barely visible light. She also seems nervous and that worries Dennis; it’s been a long time since just being around him was enough to make her nervous. Hedwig, of course, doesn’t sense that anything is off and Dennis envies his obliviousness. Despite the vague feeling of... off-ness, things proceed as usual.

They chat casually as he goes about his business. She seems to instinctively know not to talk when he’s focusing particularly intensely on some task, he’s always liked that about her. She’s been applying to colleges lately and looking into financial aid. Dennis thinks that good, she’s smart and he wants her to have more opportunities than Kevin. A part of him worries though; what if she gets accepted to a school that’s far away and winds up leaving him... leaving Kevin.

Dennis does his level best to convince himself that he only worries because she’s been good for Kevin and her going away might undo a lot of the progress he’s made since meeting her... He’s ALMOST able to make himself believe that. There’s another part of him that thinks: how DARE she even consider leaving him... she wouldn’t... she better not even FUCKING try because if she did he’d have no choice but to stop her. Does she think he couldn’t stop her? Does she think SHE’S the one in control here? Maybe he should SHOW her exactly who’s in control here. Maybe Samuel was right... maybe, deep down, she WANTS him to.

Of course, he says none of this out loud and just lets the (awful, ugly) thought pass. Anyway, he knows that if she wanted to leave, there’d be nothing he could do about it... Nothing that wouldn’t hurt her anyway... and he would never do that. Reminding himself of that calms him down a little but his hands are still shaking. He hopes she doesn’t notice. Hedwig does and asks him what’s wrong. He tells the kid that he’s fine, not realizing that he’s said it out loud.

Casey seems to notice but tactfully doesn’t call attention to it, it’s not the first time it’s happened and she’s used to it by now. As he completes his rounds, she seems to get nervous again. When he goes to unlock the front gate for her, she places a warm little hand on his wrist. He looks down at her questioningly and she seems hesitant, as though she’s about to ask him a big favor.

“Would it be ok if I stayed here tonight?”

Dennis can’t speak... he’s caught between wanting to say yes and KNOWING that it would be smarter for him to say no. She seems to read this as confusion.

“The powers out in my building and who knows when it’s going to be back on again.”

This is entirely plausible. Dennis has lived in that building before and he vividly remembers how poorly maintained it had been. He doesn’t expect that it’s improved in his absence. When he speaks, he’s embarrassed at the slight strain in his voice.

“Sure.”

As they make their way back to Kevin’s apartment, Dennis tries to soothe himself. It’s not as though he’s never been alone with Casey before... they’ve technically been alone together for the past hour or so (Hedwig had fallen asleep) and their alone together in the morning on a regular basis. He knows, of course, what specific thing he’s worried about and he tries to get out ahead of it. As soon as they walk into the apartment, he turns to her.

“You can have the bed... I’ll take the couch.”

If he didn’t know better, he’d swear that she looks disappointed.

“...ok.”

He lets her use the bathroom first, to get ready for bed, and tries not to look at her when she comes out in just a towel and goes into Kevin’s room. She emerges minutes later in the outfit she usually wears to bed when she sleeps here; one of Kevin’s old t-shirts and a pair of sweatpants that have a drawstring waist. He tries not to look at her too much in that either because being reminded of how much smaller than him she is makes his pulse quicken. He brushes past her to go into the bedroom and retrieve a set of pajamas for himself and then goes into the bathroom to shower. He hopes that by the time he’s done showering and dressing, she’ll have gone to bed but somehow knows that that hope is in vain.

Sure enough, he comes back into the living room to find her there, making up the couch for him. He thanks her despite actually wanting to tell her to just go to bed already... it’s bad enough that he’s going to have to sleep (or more likely not sleep) on blankets that smell like her now. She tells him he’s welcome and then kisses him on the cheek (yep, he definitely won’t be doing any sleeping) before hesitantly going to the bedroom. He lies there in the dark for who knows how long, letting thoughts pass, but eventually has to get up and go to the bathroom to masturbate. Even if he ever did do it in any other room of the house (which he rarely does because that’s unsanitary) he wouldn’t have done it right where he was. He COULDN’T risk her coming out of the bedroom and... seeing him.

When he comes back to find her standing in the dark in the middle of the living room he immediately feels deeply ashamed. She can’t possibly have known what he was just doing but it FEELS like she knows. He gets that feeling around women a lot... like they can see inside his head and hate him for what they see there. He does his best not to lump Casey in with the rest of them but sometimes it’s difficult not to. Partly to soothe his guilt and partly because he really wants to know, he asks if she’s alright.

“Yeah... I just couldn’t sleep.”

She has her arms wrapped around herself as though she’s cold and she looks so little and vulnerable alone in the middle of the room in clothes that are too big for her that for a moment the urge to take her into his arms almost overwhelms him. Ironically, it’s her voice that stops him.

“I need to talk to you about something.”

“You want me to fetch Mr. Barry?”

He can’t imagine what she’d want to talk about with him specifically and right now every second in her presence is chipping away at his self-control. She looks a strange mix of sad and amused.

“No, I need to talk to YOU... is that ok? Or would you rather wait until morning?”

He knows how she WANTS him to respond and sees no point in BOTH of them not getting any sleep tonight so, despite his reluctance, he sits on one end of the couch and gestures for her to sit on the other end. She sits in the middle... Both closer than he prefers and not nearly as close as he would LIKE. Why does everything have to be so damned complicated?

She spends a while just studying him as though trying to think how to say what she wants to say. She seems nervous but... not the way she’d been nervous around him in the beginning. Eventually, she goes on carefully, as though she’s worried she might say something that’ll upset him.

“Has Barry told you anything about the... decision that me and Kevin made?”

Dennis bristles... of course he hasn’t.

“Barry don’t tell me as much as ya’d think.”

Casey even seems a little irritated, as though this makes things harder for her somehow. She takes a deep breath.

“Well... a few weeks ago, Kevin told me that if I wanted to... be... intimate with any of the Others that... he’d be alright with that.”

It takes Dennis a moment to process this, not because he doesn’t understand it but because he thinks that she can’t possibly mean it that way... there’s got to be some OTHER meaning that he’s missing. She waits but when it becomes apparent that he’s not going to, she goes on.

“I guess what I’m saying is that... if you wanted to share the bed with me... that would be ok... in fact, I’d REALLY like it if you did.”

The only way she could make her meaning more obvious was if she actually used the words but his mind still rejects it because... no... no, she can’t possibly want... him... who would want him? If she does, it has to be because of some sort of misunderstanding on her part or because she doesn’t REALLY know him. Despite not having told her a single lie he must have inadvertently tricked her somehow. Well, at least now he knows she can’t see inside his head... if she could, she’d run screaming at the prospect of him even touching her.

She does the extreme opposite though, she reaches over and takes his right hand in both of hers and passes her thumb over the underside of his wrist, back and forth in a manner that’s probably meant to be soothing. His inner conflict must show on his face because she looks at him pityingly for a moment.

“Dennis... do you know what I’m talking about?”

That would come across as condescending if it weren’t for the fact that some of the Others actually don’t know what sex is. He just nods, not trusting himself to speak. She places her right hand on his should and then slowly, cautiously, leans in and places her lips against his. With that, the last of his self-control crumbles. He grabs her, his right arm around her waist and his left hand cupping the back of her skull, holding her head in place despite the fact that she shows no signs of withdrawing.

He groans into the kiss and she seems to take that as permission to move closer, straddling his lap, wrapping her arms around his neck. After a few minutes of kissing like they’re trying to swallow each other, she pushes him away. He has to FORCE himself to let go but then is relieved to see that she’s just getting enough distance between them to remove her shirt. He’s overwhelmed, he wants to taste every inch of her beautiful, scarred, Pure skin. He leans in to press his lips to the scars on her collar bone but she stops him again and nods down to his shirt.

He tells himself that it’s ridiculous to be selfconscious, it’s not like there’s anything under there that she hasn’t seen before but... HE’S never been that exposed. She slips her hands under his shirt and runs them over his chest and his hesitance evaporates. When his shirt hits the floor she, much to his surprise, leans in and kisses HIS scars... starting with the new one. She peppers his shoulders, collar bones, and neck with kisses and then returns to his mouth with renewed vigor. His head is reeling because now it’s undeniable that she WANTS HIM and it’s still so hard to believe.

In an effort to push down his insecurity, he takes control. He pushes her onto her back, his body easily covers hers. Even then he still doesn’t feel like he’s in control, he feels overwhelmed. Her touch, the feel, taste, and smell of her... it’s all too much but he CAN’T stop himself. Then she slides one of her warm little hands down between them and into his pants and runs her fingers over his cock and... that’s it... that’s all it takes to put him over the edge.

He freezes and then withdraws... humiliation washing over him. He’s about to dart into the bathroom because he NEEDS to clean himself... he’s filthy, filthy, disgusting, pathetic. She blocks his path and then cautiously wraps her arms around him. He breaks, he doesn’t cry (he can’t cry) but he starts gasping and buries his face in the side of her neck. She slides her hand up his body and starts petting his shoulders and the back of his neck, soothing. He wants to stay there forever... to meld into her and cease being entirely.

Once his breath slows, she pulls back from him and brings a hand down to the waistband of his pants. She whispers.

“You should take these off, they’re dirty.”

He can’t argue with that logic and so he does. She pushes him back onto the couch and then takes off her own pants and stands completely bare before him. She straddles his lap again and kisses him. This time it’s less frantic, more deep and lingering. She takes his right hand in hers but then hesitates and looks directly into his eyes.

“You can still take care of me... do you want to?”

He nods eagerly, still dazed and shaky and nervous. She guides his hand between her legs, positioning his fingers where she wants them. It takes a while and some direction but eventually he picks up on what she likes. When she climaxes, he’s pumping two fingers in and out of her a rubbing her clit with his thumb... he’s also hard again. She slumps against him for a few minutes, panting against the side of his neck and then pulls back and kisses him again.

When she’s caught her breath, she lowers herself down onto him, slow and then lets him set the pace. Neither of them realizes it but while they’re doing it on the couch the clock strikes midnight. When they’ve both recuperated, she stands up and coaxes him into the bedroom where they do it again and again and again. It’s hard and fast and rabid because they’re both suddenly and inexplicably insatiable. At around 1 a.m. they both pass out from sheer exhaustion.

Chapter Text

Casey wakes up the next morning alone in Kevin’s bed and feeling moderately sore. She hears the generic sounds of some MTV reality show in the next room and knows that that means Jade is out there. She seems to watch those shows specifically so she can talk about what idiots the people on them are. Needing a moment to prepare herself, she just lies in the bed a while longer. She had hoped that Dennis would still be there the next morning but she should have known better, Kevin is rarely the same person waking up as he was when he went to sleep. Still, she would like to have talked about what happened last night with Dennis, get some sense of how he feels about it.

Realizing, with not a little embarrassment, that she and Dennis had left their clothes scattered all over the living room floor and that the clothes she wore yesterday are still in the bathroom (neatly folded, knowing Dennis) Casey makes do with a pair of his pajamas. She’s never really looked at them before but now she can see that each alter has at least one pair of pajamas. There’s even an assortment of nightgowns. Casey wonders when the alters had started wanting their own distinct clothing. Back when they’d still lived in the same apartment, she’d never seen them in anything that Kevin wouldn’t wear but maybe the different outfits are just for around the house.

She selects a pair that don’t look expensive (she guesses the silk ones are Barry’s) and puts them on. When she goes out into the living room she says good morning and Jade just makes a vague noise of acknowledgment, apparently engrossed in what she’s watching. Casey goes to the kitchen, pours herself a bowl of cereal and then returns to the living room to sit on the side of the couch opposite Jade. The blankets and pillow, on which Jade is leaning, are still on the couch but there’s no longer clothing on the floor. Casey wonders if Dennis got up after she went to sleep and picked it up, that wouldn’t be out of character for him but she could swear he’d fallen asleep before her.

At first Jade barely seems to acknowledge her but then Casey notices that she keep glancing over at her expectantly. Eventually, she breaks the silence (she and Barry are both equally ill at ease with silence.)

“Really? Really? Ya’ just gonna’ sit there eatin’ cereal like nothin’s outta the ordinary?”

“What do you mean?”

Casey knows exactly what she means.

“I mean that you fucked Dennis last night.”

Blood rushes to Casey’s face.

“What makes you think that?”

“There was kind’ a a lotta evidence, which I put in the wash... you’re welcome.”

“Thank you.”

It’s all Casey can think to say, she also thinks about how if the clothes were washed on the wrong cycle (which is likely) Dennis is just going to wind up rewashing them... or even throwing them away. Jade mutes the t.v. and turns to face Casey, sitting cross-legged. She’s wearing a long, cotton candy pink robe. Casey sometimes wonders where she finds things like that in men’s sizes but has yet to ask because, frankly, she’s a bit intimidated by Jade. Before they’d met, Barry had once described Jade to Casey as being ‘like a rottweiler with a pink bow on her collar’ and Casey has found that to be an accurate description. Luckily, the rottweiler seems to be in a good mood right now.

“So... dish. Was it weird? It was weird, right?”

“I... don’t think he’d want me giving anyone else a lot of details.”

“Duh, that’s why I want ‘em!”

Casey doesn’t dislike Jade but she doesn’t exactly like her either and this is why. If you asked Jade which of the Others she liked the least, she’d say Patricia but she only ever picks on Dennis. He’s an easier target. Clearly, Casey has been silent longer than Jade is comfortable with because she goes on talking.

“I swear, I won’t tell ‘im ya told me anything...”

Casey isn’t sure she believes that.

“I’m just tryin’a get my head around the fact that Dennis voluntarily touched another person... did he make ya’...like... slather yer’self with Purell before?”

Jade laughs and Casey must look defensive because she abruptly stops.

“Hey, I ain’t judgein’ or nothin’. I mean, if I were you I’d a’ gone with LITERALLY anyone BUT Dennis, but you do you. Matter a’ fact, I been suggestin’ we get Dennis laid for years now but it’s not like anyone takes me serious. I also assumed we’d have ta’ pay someone and that someone was gonna’ be a effeminate teenage boy.”

Casey openly glares at her then and she holds up her hands in a mock defensive gesture.

“Sorry, sorry, didn’t mean ta’ hit a nerve... I’m just hopin’ it wasn’t SO weird that ya’ won't wanna’ do it again ‘cause maybe if he starts gettin’ laid on the regular he’ll finally relax a little for the first time in ‘is fuckin’ life and we can all be just a little less miserable.”

Barry has warned Casey against taking sides in the whole Jade v. Dennis and Patricia thing, that even he does his best not to take sides and that that beef goes back a LONG way, back to before Casey was born in fact, so there'd be no point in her getting involved in it. Barry wants everyone to get along (with each other and with Casey) and if Casey were to take any one's side in any dispute among the Others, she’d just be making enemies for herself and lighting fires that Barry would have to put out. With all this in mind, Casey decides to hold her tongue on the matter. Eventually, Jade seems to grow bored with her and returns her attention to the t.v. Of course, she continuously comments on what’s going on on the screen and Casey responds just enough to not come across as hostile.

Eventually she falls silent and seems to freeze in place for a few seconds, then Kevin turns and looks at Casey. She smiles and kisses him.

“Morning... how long have I been up?”

“I’m not sure, Jade was up before me but I’m pretty sure she was the first one up.”

She nods down at what he’s wearing. He only looks a little embarrassed, not nearly as much so as he had the first few times something like this had happened. He kisses her forehead and then gets up and goes into the bedroom, presumably to change. As predicted, he comes back wearing his own clothes. As he sits back down, he seems to notice her clothes for the first time.

“You sleepover last night?”

“Yeah.”

He looks down at the couch and seems a little confused. Casey considers lying and telling him that Dennis had slept there but then decides against it. She hasn’t done anything wrong, so why should she lie about it? Besides, she feels like the whole ‘open relationship’ thing will work better if there as much transparency as possible.

“Dennis was going to sleep on the couch but I... convinced him not to.”

“Oh...”

He seems caught off guard.

“Is that ok?”

“Yeah...yeah... I mean... I did say that you just had to keep it in the group.”

He doesn’t seem COMPLETELY at ease with the idea and Casey doesn’t need to wonder why. He’d thought that she was just interested in Barry and he KNOWS Barry. Barry leaves video messages for him at least 3 times a week to keep him up to speed on things, he’s allowed to read Barry’s journal and look through his sketchbook. Dennis does NONE of those things and so Kevin only knows him by name and reputation. Dennis is just a vague sketch of a person in Kevin’s mind... a vague, intimidating sketch. Casey suddenly feels like maybe she has done something wrong.

“I’m sure if I told him that you weren’t comfortable...”

“No, I’m... fine. I just didn’t think that you and Dennis were... close. I mean, Barry made it seem like you just interacted with him to be nice.”

“That’s how it was at first but I wound up liking him a lot more than I expected. We have more in common than you’d expect and we understand each other.”

Casey can see in his eyes that Kevin is about to ask what she means but then stops because he’s realized what she means. Of course, Kevin and Casey have a lot of those same things in common but he doesn’t remember them as clearly as Casey does... Dennis remembers them clearly. Kevin stands up and takes the two bowls off the coffee table and into the kitchen, clearly just looking for an excuse to leave the room. Casey doesn’t follow him, she knows by now that when he retreats it’s best to just let him. In the past, her not allowing him to retreat into a different room has caused him to retreat into himself instead.

Eventually he comes back, seeming calmer, and sits back down. His expression is still hard to read, though, it’s not the expected jealousy or anger. He seems to be mulling something over in his head and when he speaks it sounds like he’s regretting the question as he asks it.

“... can you tell me about Dennis? Not about... last night, specifically, just... ANYTHING about Dennis?”

Chapter Text

Kevin is in Dr. Fletcher’s office and has just finished explaining the situation, leaving off at the previous morning.

“And, she declined to give you any information about Dennis?”

“She said she wants to talk to him first to see what he would be ok with her telling me... I’m not gonna’ pretend that didn’t sting a little.”

“It does make sense that she doesn’t want to lose his trust and she’d certainly risk doing that by disclosing information to you that he’d meant to be kept between the two of them.”

“Yeah, that’s why I’d have felt better about it if it’d been Barry, he doesn’t keep things from me.”

“You feel alienated?”

“I feel... a lotta’ things... some of which contradict each other.”

She just patiently waits for him to explain.

“You know I don’t like thinking about how the Others have relationships that I don’t even know about... and now one of those relationships is with my girlfriend and, yeah, that bothers me... it makes me feel like I’m... backsliding, to how it was before... when I didn’t know anything about them.”

“Well you know there’s no risk of it ever being that way again, not with all you’ve learned.”

“Yeah... LOGICALLY I know that but that doesn’t stop me from remembering what it feels like to be that... helpless, terrified... pathetic person. Dennis just generally reminds me of that.”

“Because he’s inaccessible.”

“Right... all the Others have made at least SOME effort to communicate but I get NOTHING from Dennis. Barry says that it’s not important, that I should just try not to think about it because there’s nothing about Dennis that I actually NEED to know but it’s kind’a hard to think about it that way now that I know he’s close to Casey. I swear I’m not just...jealous or some petty shit like that. I mean, it’s not like it’s possible for him to take her away from me.”

“For what it’s worth, based on my admittedly limited knowledge about him, I don’t think that he would even if he could.”

“Like I said, I’m not worried about that.”

“Are you worried that it isn’t safe for her to spend so much time with him... Based on the few recordings of him I’ve been able to supply you with I can understand why you might be but I don’t think...”

He cuts her off.

“Believe it or not I’m actually not worried about that at all... That’s where those contradictory feelings I was talking about come in because... on some level... on that level where I’m always overwhelmed and terrified, I’m actually... relieved.”

“Relieved?”

Kevin hesitates like he’s about to reveal something embarrassing.

“The first thing I remembered about Mist... about Dennis when I was reminded that he exists is that he fixes things... the second thing I remembered was that he protects... Us.”

Kevin gestures to himself.

“So, on some level, I want him to get closer to her because then he might start to see her as one of Us... and if she’s one of Us then she can’t ever get hurt... Because Dennis won’t let that happen.”

The doctor’s expression is strangely sad.

“You seem to believe that there’s something wrong with that line of reasoning.”

“There IS... the world is full of things that could hurt her that Dennis has NO control over but some part of me still feels like he’s got this... superhuman ability to keep people safe and that feels... childish. Like believing that putting a blanket over your head makes it so that monsters can’t find you.”

“Maybe it feels childish because it’s something in which you had unshakeable faith when you WERE a child.”

Kevin had been lying down but he now he sits up and anxiously scratches the back of his arm.

“In some of the session recordings I’ve listened to, some of them have said that Patricia, Dennis, and Hedwig used to be able to just talk to me all the time... why don’t I remember any of that? I mean... all my memories of my childhood are kind’a choppy and blurry but I do HAVE memories and from how it sounds the connection got cut off around when my mom died... I was 15 then and I can remember being 15... at least... I think I can.”

He seems to be getting more and more anxious, the doctor worries he may dissociate.

“Memory is not as reliable as we would like to believe it is. Most people with your condition are said to have claimed to hear voices when they were children. Now, when a child says a thing like that it’s not taken the same as it is when an adult says it. Most of them go through their childhoods believing that there’s nothing irregular about them, that everyone's mind works the way there’s does. If you ask them later in life though, when they’re old enough to be aware of the stigma attached to a thing like ‘hearing voices’ most of them will claim that they have no memory of having had any such experience. In an effort to protect the conscious self, the mind edits the memory. It’s possible that your... adaptation may make your mind especially adept at doing so.”

“I wish you wouldn’t... talk about it like that.”

“I’m sorry but you know what I believe. Now, do you remember how desperate you were to believe that you were normal back when we first met? I don’t think it’s a coincidence that you lost control of the light at the same time that you ceased being able to communicate directly with the Others.”

“What do you mean?”

“Do you remember what the Others have said, in the recordings, about Dennis being able to block them out when he’s in the light?”

“Yeah.”

“I think that you have a similar ability but to an even greater extent. I think that you can not only block them out but remove them from your awareness entirely, even retroactively. In your case, though, the ‘switch’ seems to have gotten stuck in the ‘on’ position. This may be because you subconsciously want it that way or it may be because by now there are so many of the Others that if it were turned ‘off’ you wouldn’t be able to function... there would be too many voices demanding your attention at all times. Unfortunately blocking out their voices seems to also block out your memories of their voices.”

“Isn’t there a thing you can do where you, like, hypnotize me to make me remember things?”

“There is but that was deemed unethical some time ago when it became apparent that it was far easier to plant false memories using hypnosis than it was to uncover buried ones and we certainly don’t want that.”

“Yeah, I don’t think my brain needs to get any more scrambled.”

He means it as self-deprecating humor but she gives him a genuinely pitying look and then he feels guilty. She glances up at the clock which he’s learned by now means that their appointment is nearing its end.

“Do you think that Casey will be willing to come in and discuss the situation with me?”

“...probably.”

"Between now and our next session I want you to start writing down or recording what you DO remember about your childhood and at your next session we'll go over it and see if we can't... unearth some things."

------

Kevin walks home in the rain. When he gets home he showers and changes clothes, then he goes to the drawer in his bedside table where some of Hedwig’s older drawings have been piled up. He finds the one with Mr. Dennis written across the top. For a while, he just sits on his bed and studies it. Really, it’s about what he imagines when he tries to picture Dennis... a big, broad, grim figure all in shades of gray.

He goes to the computer and makes a video diary entry explaining the situation to Barry and requesting clarification because by this point he’s pretty sure it wasn’t Barry who slept with her the first time. He assumes this must mean that she’s been with Dennis more than once. He assumes it can’t have been going on long without Casey having told him about it because he trusts her... he CHOSES to trust her. Briefly, he considers making a video to Dennis... what would he even SAY though? And would Dennis watch it? He’s sure he wouldn’t RESPOND to it.

Ultimately he decides he can’t... not yet, anyway.

Instead, he takes out a pad of paper and starts to write, he starts with what little he remembers of the day his mother died and works his way back.

Chapter Text

Even though he knows it’d have been socially awkward (because nearly everything involving him and another person is) Dennis wishes he’d have gotten to wake up next to Casey the morning after... He tells himself not to get greedy though, he’s already gotten more than he’d ever dared hope for. There’s an odd sense of relief too because despite being FAR from innocent, he’d never actually done that with another person before (at least not voluntarily) and had always been faintly, distantly anxious that he was unable to... that he was... broken somehow when it came to... that. They’d done it though... and she hadn’t hurt him and he hadn’t hurt her. He worries (because there is ALWAYS something to worry about) that she regrets it and won’t want to do it again but he supposes he’ll just have to wait and see.

Yet, he finds himself thinking that she hasn’t got a right to say ‘no’, certainly not now that she’s said ‘yes’... and enthusiastically, he might add. Even if she did say no, that doesn’t mean he has to listen. She could say no and keep saying no the whole time but there wouldn’t really be anything she could do to stop him. He almost wishes she would say no just so he’d have the opportunity to show her how little she can do to stop him... he’d probably even be able to MAKE her like it.

Of course, he just lets the thought pass. He’s gotten good at that, he doesn’t even get anxious now. There’s a little quickening of his pulse that has nothing to do with anxiety but other than that, nothing. Those thoughts don’t mean anything, he knows that now. None the less, he feels the need to keep himself distracted the rest of the day just so he doesn’t get caught up in remembering how she’d felt on top of him and under him and around him.

The next time he sees her it’s in the morning. He’s already sitting at the breakfast table with her which means that Patricia must have talked to her a while. Miss. Patricia has been mentioning Casey to him less and less lately and he chooses to take that as a good sign. He hopes that if there were problems between them, Casey would tell him but knows that she’d more likely tell Barry. He wonders if she knows that there wouldn’t be anything Barry could do about it.

Miss. Patricia has made it abundantly clear that she doesn’t view Barry as any sort of an authority figure and she’s leveraged her connection to the Beast to convince Hedwig to take the light from Barry for her any time she asks him to. The problem is that Dennis can’t explain the general situation to Casey without telling her things that she’s better off not knowing. He must have been off in his head too long because Casey looks concerned.

“You there?”

“...yeah... sorry.”

“It’s ok.”

She smiles. He wants to kiss her but doesn’t know if that would be appropriate. He’s not clear yet on what is and is not allowed... Should he just... ask? Is that a thing people in relationships do? Are they in a relationship? No... of course not. Her voice startles him just a little.

“There’s something we need to talk about...”

He’s immediately certain that she’s going to tell him she regrets what happened but before he can start internally panicking, she goes on.

“Kevin asked me about you?”

Dennis had certainly not been expecting that.

“About... what we did?”

“No. I mean, I told him we slept together but he didn’t ask for details or anything. He just doesn't like how little he knows about you... in general.”

“In general?”

“It’s always bothered him but I think it bothers him a little more now that he knows you and me are going to be together.”

For a moment Dennis gets hung up on the word ‘together’ but then he pushes past it.

“Barry explained who I am to him.”

“Yeah... really vaguely. Everyone else has actually communicated with him directly somehow at least once.”

Dennis knows that. Miss. Patricia had written Kevin a single letter the contents of which she had shared with none of the Others. She’ll also occasionally write notes to Kevin but they’re usually brief quotes or passages from books she’s read. Hedwig had had to be cajoled into leaving a single video message for Kevin and whatever he’d said in it had really upset Kevin. Dennis had tried to get him to tell him what he said but STILL doesn’t know. The kid can be surprisingly headstrong.

“... I don’t see the need.”

“It’ll make Kevin feel better.”

“I doubt that.”

“...why?”

“Why would it?”

Casey seems at a loss for words or at least at a loss for the specific words to express what she’s thinking. Dennis takes advantage of her silence.

“Dr. Fletcher said ‘er self that my original purpose was to encapsulate bad memories... why would it make Kevin feel better to get more acquainted with a cluster a bad memories?”

“Is that actually how you see yourself? That’s not ALL you are.”

Casey seems distressed at the prospect and Dennis for some reason appreciates that... She actually SEES him, even more than some of the Others do. This is, of course, mingled with the usual guilty feeling that her concern is more than he deserves... He sighs.

“No... I’m also security and Kevin knowin’ more about that would just mean that he knows more about how much danger he’s in and I don’t want him knowin’ that.”

“Have you ever thought that maybe he’s not in as much danger as you think?”

Dennis feels mildly insulted, is she accusing him of being paranoid? It must show on his face.

“I’m not saying you’re... paranoid or anything, I’m just saying that when all you have is a hammer, everything tends to look like a nail.”

Dennis realizes then that there’s also a lot Casey doesn’t know and that he can never tell her any of those things. Suddenly it feels like there’s a vast, aching distance between them and that makes him... sad. Casey's expression suddenly softens.

“We don’t have to keep talking about it right now but I want you to promise me you’ll think about it... could I at least tell him what you’ve told me?”

Dennis just wants this conversation to end... he definitely doesn’t want it turning into an argument. They’ve just recently gotten ‘together’ (apparently) and he doesn’t want things to go sour so early on.

“... fine.”

She looks profoundly relieved.

“Thank you.”

She gets up from her chair and walks around the table and kisses him. She intends for it to be a quick peck on the lips but he winds his hand into her hair and holds her there. He doesn’t let go until he’s thoroughly explored the inside of her mouth. She tastes like syrup. Eventually, she does reach up and gently removes his hand. When she pulls back, she’s flushed and breathless. Their eyes meet, he notices that she seems reluctant to let go of his wrist. After a beat, she looks down at his plate.

“You haven’t touched your food...”

She says, partly teasing.

“You know Miss. Patricia will get mad if you don’t eat.”

Dennis knows the second part is deadly serious. As Casey takes her dishes to the sink, Dennis bolts down his food (it’s cold by now) and then goes over to help her with the dishes. He FRAMES it as wanting to help her but the fact is that he’s still not comfortable with anyone else doing the cleaning and he doesn’t want to have to rewash them after she leaves. As usual, he washes and she dries. He lets his hand touch hers as he hands them off to her, experimentally.

When the washing is done and she’s putting plates away, he very quietly comes up behind her. He gets close enough to touch her but doesn’t for what feels like a long time. Eventually, he reaches up and runs a hand over her hair, just barely touching. She gasps and turns and a little predatory thrill shivers through him. He almost starts picturing her trying to push him away and him easily pinning her against the counter, one hand on either side of her slender body... but then she smiles and laughs and kisses him.

He lets the though pass and kisses her back. She slips out from under him and walks toward the bedroom, grabbing his hand as she goes. Dennis wonders briefly if it’s normal for people to have sex in the morning but that’s quickly drowned out by the hormones flooding his brain. He starts out on top but at some point, she maneuvers him onto his back. She rides him, varying the speed and intensity so that he keeps nearly climaxing over and over. He knows he could easily take control back from her at any time but he for some reason doesn’t. Just as it’s getting to the point that he has to grit his teeth to keep from begging, she LETS him cum and then keeps grinding against him, drawing it out until she hits her own peak. She lays on top of him after and he can’t stop touching her; running his fingers over her hair and over her beautiful, perfect, scarred skin. They’re TOGETHER, he keeps thinking, they’re together and she LOVES him.

Chapter Text

Samuel finds himself a bit annoyed at how distracted Mr. Dennis seems as of late. He’s began scouting for next years ‘food’ and has only been able to get a minimum of input from Mr. Dennis on his prospects. To his surprise, Miss. Patricia seems untroubled by Mr. Dennis’s inattention. She reminds him that they’ve nearly a year until the next Purge and Dennis won’t be able to do his part (planning and preparing for the procurement) until Samuel has found their quarry. Miss. Patricia also seems to have some personal investment in Mr. Dennis’s burgeoning relationship with Casey Cooke and Samuel cannot imagine why.

As with most of her seemingly inexplicable behavior, he assumes it must have something to do with the Beast. Samuel is finding it harder and harder not to resent the fact that he’s yet to meet their resident demi-god. Thus far all other involved parties have and he sees no reason why they’d be considered worthy but he wouldn’t. The one time he asks her about it, he says only that the Beast has expressed no interest in meeting him. Samuel is not sure she’s telling him the whole truth; he knows the beast had sought out Patricia and Hedwig but had he actually expressed an interest in Dennis? Samuel likes Dennis, of course, but he doesn’t see how the man could possibly be more worthy of the attentions of a higher being than he himself.

He’s started thinking about the hunting parties that he’s frequently invited to join. Miss. Patricia wants 10-12 people and that just happens to be the standard size of a hunting party. He’s feeling a few of them out, getting acquainted with their members, deciding which he would miss the least. He considers them all his friends but, obviously, they’re not all of equal value. The main obstacle presented by using a hunting party for food is that hunting parties tend to use guns... or at least weapons of some kind.

There’s one group that looks promising. They’re a motley crew of history enthusiasts who pride themselves on using only renaissance era weaponry. It occurs to him, though, that if they’re all actually skilled with their weapons, Dennis may have a harder time subduing them than he would a group of people with guns... unless he buys a suit of armor. The vague discussions he and Dennis have had about the challenges of subduing a group involve tear gas (which Samuel has verified can be legally purchased), a gas mask (for Dennis to wear), and some sort of mass transit vehicle.

Samuel had suggested that they commandeer one of the vehicles that the zoo uses to transport large animals but Dennis had immediately vetoed the idea. He doesn’t want to risk damaging zoo property and losing Kevin’s job. There may be no laws during the purge but there’s also no law against an employer firing an employee for damage done to company property during the Purge. Samuel had tried to argue that it would be highly unlikely that they would damage it but Dennis had held the line on his veto. They’ve batted around the idea of renting a van on Purge day (factoring in demand and the assumption on the part of the lender that the van will come back damaged, the price would be outrageous) or stealing one after the Purge begins. Dennis seems to have reservations about stealing which Samuel finds ridiculous. He has realized by now that deep down Dennis wants to be ‘good’ and that that’s probably his greatest weakness.

------

Kevin and Casey are laying in bed together one morning. It’s not common for them to get to wake up next to each other so they’re just savoring it. He’s spooned up behind her, arms around her, tracing the lines of her right palm with his left hand. It’s so peaceful, she doesn’t want to ruin it but she thinks that they should have this conversation as soon as possible and that it would be best to do it when he’s relaxed.

“Do you still wanna’ know about Dennis?”

His hand ceases its motion and she feels him tense just a little. He sighs.

“What did he give you permission to tell me?”

She tries to ignore the little trace of bitterness in his voice... it doesn’t seem to be directed at HER anyway. She combs back through what she knows in her head and tries to think how best to word it, what order to put it in.

“He told me... that he doesn’t remember your dad leaving because he didn’t exist when it happened but the first thing he remembers knowing is that your dad had left and that he was supposed to take care of you... until he came back.”

She feels Kevin nod behind her.

“I remember watching him leave but I don’t remember where he was going... he WAS supposed to come back though.”

She’s relieved that he sounds so calm, she goes on.

“He said that in the beginning, it was just you and him and Hedwig but that him and Hedwig didn’t have names. He was ‘Mister’ and Hedwig was ‘the other boy’... I’ve been wanting to ask for a while if you know where their names came from.”

“...no... when did they get names?”

“He said that Miss. Patricia showed up and already had one and then Hedwig got one and then he got one.”

“When did Patricia show up?”

Casey struggles to remember.

“He said he’d been around... 3 years but when Patricia showed up she was already older than him... and that he doesn’t have an age.”

“He doesn’t?”

“No... he’s just... older than you.”

There’s a long pregnant pause and then Kevin asks;

“How does he feel about me?”

The communications he’s received from the Others have revealed that some of them don’t care for him very much... one video, in particular, had REALLY rattled him but he hadn’t wanted to talk about its contents or who it was from. Casey has no trouble answering the question honestly.

“Mosty just really concerned, worried, anxious... ALL the time. It seems like in his mind the whole world is made up of things just waiting to hurt you, either physically or mentally.”

“He doesn’t think I could handle any of that myself?”

“... I don’t know... I don’t know if he thinks you can’t or just that you shouldn’t have to.”

“But he just protects me because it’s his job.”

“I don’t think so... I think he loves you.”

“I’m assuming he didn’t actually SAY that.”

Casey laughs.

“No... he’s not really big on open expressions of emotion... I just think he does.”

Casey doesn’t think he believes her... she can FEEL him doubting it... she doesn’t doubt it though. There’s one more thing he thinks he should know... it’s not something that Dennis told her but a suspicion that she’s had for a very long time that she’s become more and more certain of the closer she’s gotten to Dennis. She feels like she should tell SOMEONE about it. Maybe she shouldn’t tell Kevin though... maybe Dr. Fletcher... but Dennis doesn’t talk to Dr. Fletcher... she wonders if she could convince him to. For the time being, she decides to just let the matter rest. She’s pulled out of her head by Kevin’s voice.

“Did he happen to mention who was there first?”

“Huh?”

“You said that in the beginning, it was just me and him and Hedwig but... were they both created at the same time?”

“I don’t know... I always just assumed Dennis was first.”

He goes silent for a long time after that, seemingly lost in thought. Eventually, he wraps his arms around her waist and buries his face in her neck as though to distract himself from his own thoughts.

“You ok?”

“Yeah...”

She shivers when his breath tickles her neck. She expects him to ask more questions, to want to know about how things are between her and Dennis. He doesn’t though and she’s relieved because she would honestly rather keep those aspects of their relationships separate, at least for now. It occurs to her that now, for all intents and purposes, she has 2 boyfriends and that feels so strange. She’d have never imagined herself having to navigate that sort of romantic situation.

Suddenly she remembers something else Dennis had told her and feels that she should tell Kevin because it had seemed important to him.

“He... for some reason wanted me to know that he never hurt your mom.”

“...oh.”

She doesn’t know how he manages to pack so much guilt and remorse into a single syllable. His breathing becomes slow and labored as though he’s either crying or trying not to. She doesn’t call attention to it because she knows he’d rather she didn’t. Instead, she just lies there and lets him hold her. Once he’s calmed down, they get up and go have breakfast.

Chapter Text

Dennis is relieved that not much changes as a result of him and Casey being “together.” Everything FEELS different in mostly positive ways but Casey seems to understand that he’s a creature of habit. Their interactions are more or less the same save that a new one has been added. They’re engaged in that particular interaction right now. Despite the fact that their first time had been on the couch, Dennis had for some reason assumed that normal (‘good’) people didn’t do it outside the bedroom.

Casey had practically been begging for it though, in her own subtle, reserved way. There had been an ‘accidental’ touch here, a subtly suggestive remark there, she’d kept finding excuses to stand close enough to him that he could feel her body heat. As soon as they’d gotten into the apartment he’d snapped, pinned her against the wall and kissed her. When she’d gone to touch him, undoubtedly intent on another teasing caress, he’d seized her wrists and pinned them above her head. He doesn’t remember how it had progressed after that but he had wound up bending her over the kitchen table, easily pinning both of her wrists above her head with one hand and using the other to pull her skirt up and her tights down. It’s rare that she wears a dress and he can’t help but feel that it had been a deliberate choice on her part.

Later on, he’d think that he’d picked a poor spot to do it; it’s unsanitary and the table isn’t particularity sturdy but at the time there hadn’t been a single rational thought in his head. He’d also only removed enough of his own clothing to do what he intended to do. He’d rutted into her hard and deep and steady. She’d moaned and twisted in his grip but only in an effort to get more control over the pace, to speed things up. Feeling a sudden inkling of sadism, he’d stopped thrusting entirely and snaked a hand under her to place two fingers against her clit, not rubbing, just applying slight, teasing pressure. She’d wriggled under him but he’d pressed his body flush with her’s so that she could barely move (in retrospect, he’d be surprised the table didn’t collapse under them.)

“Dennis...”

She’d whimpered desperately and... oh, he LIKED that. He’d buried his face in the side of her neck, savoring her scent and the sound of her rapid, panting breath and how completely helpless she is under him. He brings his mouth to her ear.

“What do we say?”

His voice sounds unusually rough even to his own ears and a shiver runs through her body and for a moment he almost gives and keeps going but then she responds in a quiet, breathy, shaky voice.

“... please...”

He wants to make her say it again and again, to make her beg like she’d tried to make him beg the second time they’d been together but he can’t help himself. He starts up again, faster and harder and moves the hand on her wrists to her hair so that he can pull her head back, giving him better access to her neck. He kisses then sucks then presses his teeth down just enough for her to feel it. Her internal muscles flutter around him in a way that he’s learned by now is a sign that she’s about to hit her peak... he feels oddly proud of this, she doesn’t usually get there before him. She half-moans-half-screams as she cums and (on an instinct the origins of which he can’t even begin to guess) he slides his hand around to cover her mouth. She sucks on his fingers and the feeling of her teeth has him flashing back to blood-streaked pool water and warm wet skin and he finishes inside her with an intensity that startles even him.

After some unmeasured amount of time, her voice drifts through the haze of his orgasm.

“Dennis... you’re crushing me.”

His mind suddenly clears and he gets off of her. Immediately, because it’s always waiting just on the edge of his consciousness, worry sets in. Had he done something she didn’t want him to do? Had he hurt her? Why the hell was he thinking about... THAT when he was with her? What the fuck is wrong with him?

He’s jerked back into the present by her leaning on him; she’s always a little unsteady on her feet... after. She cups the side of his face in her hand, which feels cooler than his own skin despite her clearly being flushed, and kisses him. They stay like that a while, leaning against the counter and holding each other, until both their breathing evens out. She casually announces that she’s going to go take a shower and leaves him standing alone in the kitchen. He quickly puts his clothes back in order and then sets about meticulously scrubbing the table... and then the entire kitchen.

Eventually, probably confused by his absence, she comes back into the kitchen looking fresh and clean and soft. She’s started keeping some of her own things here; a toothbrush, some outfits, a nightgown. He’d have thought that a thing like that would bother him but it doesn’t because it’s her. For a while she just stands in the kitchen doorway, watching him scrub the floor but eventually comes and sits in one of the chairs by the table.

“You ok?”

Her tone implies that she knows he isn’t. He wishes she didn’t notice so much. He wishes she’d just gone to bed without him and left him to decontaminate the entire kitchen (possibly the entire apartment) and then himself before crawling silently into bed beside her. How is he supposed to explain what’s bothering him without her realizing how sick he is? He says the only thing he can think to say.

“Did I hurt you?”

“No... I thought I’d made it pretty obvious that you were doing the opposite.”

She acts as though his concern were completely unwarranted and the knot in his stomach loosens just a little. She reaches out and runs her fingernails up and down the back of his neck and it loosens just a little more. There’d be no point in her trying to make him stop cleaning or in her insisting on helping him, she’d learned that by now. Instead, she just sits watching him and eventually starts to talk in an even tone.

“Did you think that you were hurting me?”

He has no idea how to answer... the knot tightens again.

“Did you WANT to hurt me?”

“No.”

The answer comes automatically because OF COURSE, he doesn’t.

“And you know if I’d wanted you to stop I would have at least said something, right?”

He doesn’t answer because he didn’t know that... not at the time. There’s an elephant in the room that neither of them is willing to acknowledge... Her uncle... her uncle had hurt her...like that... and Kevin’s mother had hurt Dennis like that. Neither of them has ever openly told the other about it but they’ve both picked up on the signs. Dennis DOES NOT want to be like either of those people. Her hand has become a warm, grounding weight on the back of his neck and he realizes that he’s stopped moving and is now just on his hands and knees on the floor in front of her with her hand on the back of his neck.

“I trust you, you know. I trust you not to hurt me and I trust you to stop if I tell you to stop.”

His throat tightens at the thought of her trusting him more than he trusts himself.

“I SWEAR I won’t ever do anything like that again.”

She digs her nails into his skin just slightly.

“That’d be a real shame.”

She kisses him on the back of the head and then gets up to leave the room, stopping at the door.

“If you’re still here tomorrow morning, we’ll talk about it.”

He ponders her meaning as he finishes bleaching every surface in the kitchen. Once he’s done he spends about an hour just pacing around the apartment, trying to decide if he should clean the rest or leave it for tomorrow. Eventually, he gets in the shower and masturbates over and over again for... he doesn’t know how long. He wants to be certain that he won’t be tempted when he gets into bed next to her but he’s not sure anything can guarantee that. Maybe he should try to wake Barry...

No, he doesn’t want to have to explain to Barry why he woke him up just so he could step into the light and go right back to sleep again. Of course, Barry would want an explanation and if Dennis gave him an honest one he’d have to put up with him trying to get him to talk it through with him for god only knows how long after. Barry needs to stop trying to play psychiatrist with him. If he’s not willing to talk to a real one, why would he talk to Barry pretending to be one? Dennis only realizes he’s been in the shower too long when the water goes ice cold.

He puts on a full set of pajamas and goes into the bedroom. To his profound relief, Casey seems to be asleep. When he lays down, his hands itch to touch her. He doesn’t want to fuck her again, he wants to hold her. He doesn’t know if the compulsion is coming from where it usually does or from a desire to reassure her (which would be ridiculous, since she’s unconscious and hadn’t seemed to require any reassurance) or from a desire to reassure himself.

------

When Casey wakes up the next morning, Kevin’s (?) arm is draped over her and his face is pressed against her shoulder.

Chapter Text

If Patricia is ever made uncomfortable by waking up next to Casey, she's good at concealing it. The only time anything like discomfort shows is when Kevin (or whoever had been occupying his body the night before) goes to sleep without a shirt on but then she only rises hastily to cover herself and then proceeds seeming unaffected. It's rare, though, that Casey even gets to see that much as Patricia tends to rise well before her. There had been only one incident when they'd both awoken at the same time and neither of them had had anything on. When Casey had realized who was beside her (which had taken a bit because Patricia is rarely at a loss for words... and Casey had never seen her blush before) she rose from the bed to get one of her robes from the wardrobe where all the Others night clothes are kept.

When Casey had turned to hand it to her, Patricia had looked away in an abrupt manner that implied that she had NOT been looking away moments before. Her nightgown suddenly seeming too revealing, Casey had opted to leave it on the floor and put on another one of Patricia's robes. There are 3 of them and they're considerably more expensive than anything else in Patricia's wardrobe because Barry had picked them out for her. Barry still occasionally tries to 'make nice' with Patricia despite undoubtedly having realized the futility of the task by now. The rest of her clothing was purchased from thrift shops by Dennis while she was sharing the Light with him.

Casey had turned her back while putting on the robe in order to give Patricia enough privacy to get out of bed and cover herself similarly. When she'd turned around Patricia had been covered and standing against the door frame, watching her with a sort of... lost, confused expression. For a moment she'd seemed sort of... stuck, just looking at Casey... wearing HER robe. Not knowing how else to respond, Casey had sputtered an apology.

"I'm sorry... I can put on something else..."

Patricia had shaken her head and given a forced, almost shy smile.

"Nonsense... it suits you."

She'd stepped forward and brushed Casey's hair behind her ear. Casey hadn't been able to ignore that, after that day, Patricia started touching her hair a lot; moving it off her face, running her fingers through it, occasionally braiding it. She had refused to consider that there may be some correlation between this and how the first part of her Dennis had been comfortable touching had been her hair. Patricia had then lead her into the kitchen... literally. She had taken Casey by the wrist and led her there as though it were very hard to find and Casey might get lost along the way.

Patricia had then set about TRYING to make breakfast. This had been painful to watch because she'd suddenly seemed to have forgotten not only where everything in the kitchen was but also how all of it worked. She kept dropping things and would occasionally just stop and look around thoughtfully as though trying to guess where to find the next item she needed. Casey had started to think that she'd fucked up somehow. She'd mismanaged the situation and now Patricia was... glitching(?) or whatever it was called when an alter malfunctioned. It had come to Casey's profound relief when Barry took the light from Patricia and suggested that they go out for breakfast. While they were eating Casey had asked what ‘that’ had been; Barry had said he didn’t know but (of course) told her not to worry about it. The next time Casey sleeps at Kevin’s place, she notices that a coat hook has been installed at the end of Kevin’s bed and one of Patricia’s robes is hanging from it. She assumes that was Dennis’s doing.

This time is, thankfully, nothing like that. Patricia just glances down briefly to ensure that she’s covered and smiles at Casey in her usual practiced-ly pleasant way.

“Good morning, dear. What has you up so early?”

There’s no passive-aggression in the question (like there would have been earlier on.) Patricia isn’t like that often around Casey anymore but she’ll still bring it out occasionally as if just to show that she still has it, like a knife that she keeps hidden in her sleeve.

“I honestly don’t know.”

Patricia slides off of the end of the bed and immediately puts on the robe hanging there. She does this even when it’s not necessary because, like Dennis, she has a tendency to get locked into patterns. As she’s repeating another of her patterns, making breakfast, Casey notices that she’s only made one plate and Patricia notices her noticing.

“I’m afraid Dennis won’t be joining you... he’s a bit under the weather.”

Casey isn’t sure what she means by this, she’s never used that expression to refer to one of the Others before. She doesn’t want to ask questions because she doesn’t want to wind up letting on about what happened last night. Patricia know’s that she and Dennis are ‘together’ in a general sense but she’d rather not get into details. Sometimes Casey remembers what Patricia had once said about how she and Dennis had no secrets from each other but she’s been taking it on faith that that doesn’t extend into Dennis’s sex life... mostly because Dennis hadn’t HAD a sex life back when she’d said it.

As usual, Patricia only brews herself some tea. Casey STILL hasn’t ever seen her eat. Patricia doesn’t try to make conversation but only seems thoughtful, staring down into her cup. After a while, she speaks and there’s a softness in her voice that Casey has learned usually proceeds an attempt to gain sensitive information.

“How have you and Dennis been getting on?”

Oh boy, things are about to get weird, aren’t they?

“Fine... great... does he seem happy?”

“Near to it as I’ve ever seen him.”

This should come across as passive-aggressive but she seems to actually mean it. She supposes that, like recreation, Dennis doesn’t really DO happy. If ‘near to it’ as close as she can get him, then she supposes she’ll have to learn to accept that. Patricia seems to notice her mild disappointment.

“You must be patient with him, dear. Romantic relationships aren’t exactly his element.”

“... did he ask you to talk to me?”

“Do you honestly think that he would?”

Casey shakes her head because of course not... Dennis would never ask anyone for help.

“So you’re just worried then?”

“...always.”

Patricia’s face grows grim and thoughtful and Casey can tell she’s about to talk about something that is not her ‘element.’

“How much has Dennis told you about his relationship with that woman?”

Casey knows which woman Patricia is referring to because she never acknowledges Kevin’s mom as Kevin’s mom; it’s always ‘that woman,’ sometimes with an unflattering adjective thrown in.

“Almost nothing except that he didn’t hit her... Barry’s told me about it though.”

“And how much has Barry told you?”

“That she was... REALLY abusive... I mean, I’ve seen Kevin’s scars... and that Dennis was the one who actually... took most of it.”

“That’s true but it’s not the whole truth... there was... more.”

Casey begins to feel sick because she knows where Patricia is leading her... to the confirmation of a long-held suspicion that she had hoped was incorrect. Patricia makes eye contact with Casey and her understanding must show there because she then looks simultaneously sad and relieved that she doesn't need to elaborate.

“You must not mention it to anyone...even him.”

“Why do you know about it?”

“... because he told me. He confessed it to me as though it was something HE had done and begged me to forgive him... on God’s behalf.”

Patricia sneers at that last part.

“... and... blind as I was at the time, I did. I wanted to give him SOME form of relief and that was all I felt I could offer.”

Casey doesn’t know what to say... she wants to cry or scream or throw up or all three at once but none of them seems to be happening. Patricia seems to take her silence as permission to go on.

“He loved her you know because Kevin did, even though he KNEW he should hate her and of course he blamed himself for that as well... saw it as a weakness in his character... and when she died he mourned her, again, because Kevin did and hated himself for mourning her.”

“Does he always feel the same way Kevin feels about other people.”

“Only when it’s very very deep... somewhere down very very deep he and Kevin are more connected than I think either of them realizes.”

Casey can’t help but ponder the implications of this... did Dennis develope feelings for her because Kevin had feelings for her? She also feels just a little bit more nauseous at the thought that on some sick, twisted, Venn diagram, that would place her in the same category as Kevin’s mother. Patricia breaks her out of her thoughts, suddenly sounding very dry and tired.

“Anyway, all I MEANT to tell you was that, because of THAT woman, Dennis has very complicated... not entirely healthy feelings about... women and about... physical intimacy and I think that if you’re to proceed, it’s only fair that you be made aware of that.”

She takes a deep shaky breath.

“He’s... not well... but he tries to be good. You just need to be patient with him.”

The fact that Patricia would admit to Dennis not being ‘well’ when she would NEVER say the same about Kevin (who has a DIAGNOSED mental disorder) is more than a little concerning to Casey. She doesn’t feel that it would do any good to say that though. She’s also not sure how to feel about the fact that Patricia had felt the need to give her this information at this particular time... after what happened last night... it makes her wonder, uncomfortably, if Dennis and Patricia really do have NO secrets from each other.

Casey CAN’T eat, she pushes her plate away and Patricia seems to understand because she doesn’t prod her to finish the way she normally would. Instead, she gets up and walks around the table to take the plate from in front of her, in the process, she kisses her on the top of the head.

Chapter Text

Kevin gets what Dr. Fletcher had meant about whatever enables him to block the Others out being permanently ‘switched on’ being a practical necessity because even now he feels like his attention is being pulled in a lot of different directions. He and Dr. Fletcher had come up with a list of questions for the Others to answer. Some of them had been willing to come into Dr. Fletcher’s office and do recorded interviews while others had been willing to answer the questions only if they could do so alone (either in videos or in written form.) Some had been unwilling or unable to perform the task at all. One morning, Kevin had found a piece of notebook paper under his pillow with a sequence of seemingly random letters and numbers scrawled on it with B.T. written at the bottom like a signature. He thinks it’s probably some sort of code but he can’t make heads or tails of it.

Ian and Marry’s interview had been a bit hard to watch. They’re twins and always share the light... sometimes speaking at the same time. They would get hung up on some questions because they would disagree over the answers and stop to argue. For some reason they’re Scottish but they disagree over where and when in Scotland they had lived before coming to reside in Kevin. When asked why they believe they’re now sharing Kevin’s body with multiple other people, Ian had spoken for both of them with a shrug.

“Your guess is as good as ours.”

Luke had gone on for nearly 4 hours, for some reason feeling the need to answer each question in as many words as possible and provide extensive, unrequested details and bits of information. He’s never really thought about why he shares a body with Kevin. He reacts to the question as though it’s an odd one as if every body has more than one consciousness inside it. Kat had treated it like a job interview. Samuel had seemed annoyed the whole time, as though he’d been pulled away from something he’d much rather be doing. He shares a body with Kevin ‘because life is profoundly cruel and unfair.’

Kevin is surprised to find that he knows Jade... or, at least, knows where she came from. When he’d been in grade school (he’s not sure what grade) there had been a group of girls he would hang around during recess. They had probably only been a year or so older than him but at the time they’d seemed like adults because they swore and smoked and talked about things that he’d thought only adults knew about. Them talking about those things openly around him had made him feel more adult. He’s not sure that he could accurately have called them ‘friends’ (he doesn’t remember any of their names and doesn’t think that they ever even learned his) he’d just hang out around them because the bullies were afraid of them and they’d let him... probably out of pity. Jade seems to be a composite of all of them. She knows that she shares a body with Kevin “because he’s got a disorder, duh.”

Felida had been a challenge for all parties involved because she only speaks Spanish, which is disturbing to Kevin because he doesn’t know a single word of Spanish. Dr. Fletcher had had to enlist the aid of a friend of her’s who’s a professor of linguistics whose family had immigrated to America from Puerta Rico when he was in his early teens. He’d rewritten the questions in Spanish for them and then translated Felida’s answers, which had been given in written form.

After the translation, he had been intrigued and wanted to meet Kevin so that he could explain why in person. Apparently, though Felida claims to be a native of Spain and speak only Spanish, she sometimes speaks it the way someone who learned it as a second language would. Her phrasing is technically accurate but awkward and lacking in nuance. Other times, though, she speaks like a native but not always a native of the same place. She uses regional dialects and colloquialisms from different parts of Spain and sometimes from parts of Mexico or Peru or Puerto Rico.

He’d explained this all to Kevin at a dinner at Dr. Fletcher’s house that Kevin was honestly surprised he was able to remain present for because he’s always found the company of people who are that much more intelligent than him intimidating. He thinks that just knowing that Barry COULD take the light if need be had helped him stay. The linguistics professor had wanted to know if Kevin had ever traveled outside the united states and Kevin had, of course, said no... he’s never even been outside of Philidelphia (Jesus Christ, he's over 30 and he's never been outside the city where he was born.) Had he taken Spanish in high school? He honestly doesn’t know...maybe... if he did he probably didn’t get a good grade in it.

When Kevin got home from the dinner, he’d gotten the sudden compulsion to look through his DVD collection. Sure enough, some films are in Spanish but they weren’t all made in Spain, some were made in Mexico or Puerto Rico or even Peru. Mystery solved, then, she’d learned the basics when he was in high school (he doesn’t remember any Spanish but some part of his mind had been absorbing the information) and the rest from movies and t.v. When he’d told Dr. Fletcher about it, she had seemed as surprised as he’d been. That had made him feel better, at least it wasn’t obvious to everyone but him.

The movies all have similar themes and this explains why Felida seems to be a character from a gothic novel. She lives in the big old house where her mama and papa had died. She’d taken care of them while they were sick and when they’d gone she’d had no one else and nowhere else to go. Mr. Barry is a nice man who checks in on her sometimes, she thinks he must live in the village nearby and be in some way employed by her family's estate. Kevin is a sad boy (ouch) that she sometimes dreams about.

Felida is what first makes Kevin (and Dr. Fletcher and Barry) realize that not all the Others perceive things the same way. Sure enough, when asked, they all describe ‘the room’ differently, with different numbers of people in it. Some of them, like Felida, are not even aware of the room and the only other alter they know of is Barry. Barry seems to be the only one who can see and access all of the Others. Barry is also surprised to learn that Felida only speaks Spanish because every conversation he’s had with her has been in English... as far as he knows.

All the Others perceive her as only speaking Spanish (Jade calls her ‘the creepy Mexican girl’), that’s why none of them talk to her despite the fact that she has a chair in The Room... the room that she knows nothing about which is full of people of whose existence (with the exception of Barry) she is completely unaware. In one of his vlogs, Barry says that this reminds him of how a while back Patricia had ‘gone away,’ or rather she SAID she’d been away after she’d gotten back but as far as all the Other’s had been concerned, she’d been in her chair the whole time, she’d just been ‘asleep or in some kinda’ coma.’ Dennis had both been able to see her in her chair and regarded her as having been ‘gone’ during this time.

In the first letter that Patricia had written Kevin, 15 pages front and back, she’d apologized for having had to ‘leave’ him at one point and he hadn’t understood what she meant by that until the Felida breakthrough. The Others (at least the ones that are aware of her) seem intimidated by Patricia and Kevin doesn’t understand why. The letter had been mostly about how she loves him (she’s the only one of the Others that has said that) and is sorry for having failed him in the past. She seems to regret not having killed Kevin’s mom... Kevin doesn’t regret that. Now he continually gets little notes from her that are mostly affirmations that range from cliche to... he’s not sure what to call it. Yesterday morning there had been a post-it on the refrigerator that read ‘Death is only the end if you assume that the story is about you.’ in her unmistakable cursive.

Kevin has been able to determine some things about Dennis purely by process of elimination. Dennis doesn’t watch t.v. or movies or read any books that aren’t instructional in some way. The possible exception is Dr. Fletcher’s books but Kevin isn’t 100% certain that those don’t belong to someone else. Given his unwillingness to participate in therapy, it seems odd that Dennis would read books about psychology. Dennis has no clothing outside of multiple pairs of dark blue slacks and multiple work shirts. Dennis has an extensive collection of schematics and installation manuals for various security systems and worse eyesight than Orwell.

Dennis does not keep any sort of journal (video or otherwise) and doesn’t see how Kevin would benefit from further communication with him. Barry describes Dennis as ‘utilitarian,’ Jade describes him as a ‘neurotic, prudish control freak.’ Kevin can’t vouch for the second thing but he can see the ‘neurotic control freak’ part. It seems like any time Kevin attempts any household chores or maintenance, he later finds that Dennis has redone it... though, to be fair, Dennis does it better than him. Even though she’d probably be able to verify the second part, Kevin resists the urge to ask Casey anything about the romantic aspects of she and Dennis’s relationship... he knows that would make her uncomfortable and doesn’t want to make her feel like he’s using her to get information.

Once experimentally, Kevin puts on Dennis’s glasses. He immediately feels guilty, like a little kid who's snuck into his big brother's room, and it only takes a few minutes for him to develop a splitting migraine. He tells himself that it was from eyestrain but the less rational part of him thinks that it was something else. It doesn’t help that he gets a similar feeling later on when he tries to look through the security manuals that he knows are Dennis’s. It helps even less that the feeling is accompanied by the sense that he’s being watched and a strange, chemical burning sensation in his throat and eyes... like he’s just inhaled bleach fumes.

In a fit of immature, irrational rebelliousness that he’ll be deeply ashamed of later, Kevin takes a half-gallon of chocolate milk from the refrigerator and pours it on the kitchen floor. A pain like a heated needle shoots through his skull and he blacks out. He wakes up 4 hours later in bed. When he gets up to look around he finds that the entire apartment has been thoroughly sterilized. A look in the bathroom mirror shows him that he’s been bathed and his face and scalp freshly shaved.

Chapter Text

Dennis doesn’t like how it’s referred to as “playing” by most online communities devoted to it... CHILDREN play but Casey says they don’t have to call it that. She says all that matters is that they make rules that both of them agree to. Dennis doesn’t mind that, rules are comforting, they keep you from losing control. She’s sitting on the couch with him right now with her legs over his lap, running her fingers over the back of his recently shaved scalp. It feels so good that he has a little trouble paying attention to what she’s saying.

She’d pouted a little when she’d seen that he’d cut his hair off again but hadn’t given him too much trouble about it because she knows what a challenge it is for him to just let it grow. She thinks he shaves it off for the same reason Mr. Barry thinks he shaves it off and at one point that had been at least partly the truth but he doesn’t worry much about infestation now that they’re no longer homeless. In truth, he doesn’t know why he does it, he doesn’t know exactly why he does a lot of what he does. Barry has bought him books on both OCD and Mysophobia and he knows that Barry means well but he still doesn’t read them. He doesn’t like accepting help in general but for some reason, it’s especially abrasive when it comes from Barry...he doesn’t know why.

He has his arm around her waist, he’s allowed to touch her like that all the time now. He’d spent so long restraining himself that it feels surreal to just be allowed to touch her. She’s not wearing a dress today though so he’s careful not to abuse the privilege. That’s one of the things they’ve agreed upon, that when she wears a dress he’s allowed to be more ‘aggressive.’ They’d been apart for two weeks after the incident and he doesn’t know WHO’S decision that had been... maybe his. When they’d finally seen each other again she’d insisted that they discuss what had happened and why he’d been more shaken by it than she had.

That’s when she’d become the third person he’d ever told about his ‘intrusive thoughts’ (Miss. Patricia being the first and Dr. Fletcher being the second.) He’d made her promise not to tell any of the Other’s beforehand and even after she’d agreed he’d still not been able to meet her gaze while talking about it and had been as vague as he could while still getting the general idea across. He hadn’t told her about the videos for fear that she might ask to see one. She doesn’t deserve to be exposed to... that. To his surprise, she hadn’t been disgusted or angry, just quietly thoughtful for a while.

She’d asked if he’d had any of these thoughts about her specifically and he’d admitted as much but declined to describe them. She hadn’t pressured him, seeming to understand how hard it had been for him to tell her even as much as he had. They spend the rest of the evening together and Dennis is surprised at how much he missed just being with her. He thinks about ‘it’ of course but only in the way that he’s always peripherally thinking about ‘it’ (even when he doesn’t want to) He doesn’t think he could actually do it right now though... he feels oddly self-conscious, as though they haven’t already been together, because things have suddenly gotten MORE complicated.

When they get into bed something feels off and he realizes that it’s the fact that he’s never fallen asleep beside her without sex proceeding it. He really hopes that this isn’t a new ‘compulsion’ forming because he doesn’t want her roped into that... at least not any more so than just spending as much time around him as she does makes her. THAT doesn’t feel like the sort of thing that should become mechanical and obligatory. Even after her breathing evens out, signifying sleep, he lays awake with his stomach in knots... Until midnight when familiar heat ripples through him and suddenly the anxiety is swept aside and all that left is a raw, visceral, primal craving... for her.

The next thing he knows he’s on top of her, burying his face in her neck. It feels like it’s been so so long since he’s inhaled her scent... much longer than two weeks. He has to FORCE himself to pull back when she pushes against his shoulder and says his name in a mildly alarmed tone. When they lock eyes, she relaxes as though she’d only needed reassurance that it was him. Words spill automatically out of his mouth, his voice rough in contrast with the tenderness of the sentiment.

“I missed you so much.”

When she kisses him he feels guilty... as though he’d somehow lied to her... but not guilty enough to stop.

------

Samuel has hit the JACKPOT! That is if it’s actually real. In his roamings, he’s finally happened upon a group that seems practically tailor-made to their needs. It’s a group of self-proclaimed Satanists who meet every Purge in a group of 13 (spooky) and at the witching hour (midnight) select one of their own number (via a game of chance) to sacrifice to The Dark Lord. For obvious reasons, they’re now short one and are looking for a new 13th.

The Purge is months off and Samuel thinks that he may be able to finesse his way into the group but he’s decided not to proceed until he’s gotten the green light from Miss. Patricia. He has a feeling Dennis may have reservations, winning their trust may require some things with which he’d undoubtedly be uncomfortable, so he’s going to go right over Dennis’s head. When he tells her about it she points out all the obvious ways in which it sounds suspicious but he explains to her that that’s where the parts that Dennis won't like come in. The group has a vetting process the first step of which is meeting with one of them in a public place, no other steps will be disclosed until that one is complete. He assumes that these other steps will involve a series of gestures meant to prove the new member's genuine devotion to the Dark Lord and the group.

Patricia points out the (again obvious) fact that Dennis won’t be willing, or even able, to do something like that; complex social interactions are not his forte. Samuel is SO glad she brought that up because that gives him the opportunity to volunteer. He could do it, he could fake sincerity, that’s what he does best. He could ingratiate himself to the group, earn their trust and then volunteer the zoo as a location for their gathering. If he plays his cards right, Dennis may not even need to know.

Samuel immediately kicks himself for that last part. Of course, Patricia wouldn’t even think of leaving Dennis out of the loop... Dennis is her favorite... everyone knows that... except maybe Dennis. He apologizes for even suggesting it but still insists that he should be allowed to handle the parts of the plan that will require social finesse. She’s more receptive to that, probably because she knows Dennis will be more than happy to LET him handle those parts. Dennis can fake his way through brief, superficial conversations, usually by imitating Barry, but this (if it’s real) will undoubtedly be more involved.

They ultimately agree that he will go to the initial meeting, she will share the light with him but he will do the talking. Based on how that goes, they’ll inform Dennis of the new plan. Patricia has one other objection; she doesn’t think that they should meet at the zoo. Samuel had assumed that that would be the ONLY location she’d accept since that’s where the “Sacred Space” is but she says that she has another location in mind. It will require some preparation but, as he’s pointed out, Purge Night is months away.

------

The doors of St. Agatha’s Church have been closed for five years, it’s stained glass windows have all been shattered and replaced by plain boards, it’s doors have been dead-bolted to prevent further vandalism. SOMEONE has to own it, Patricia supposes, but whoever they are they’ve left the place to rot and don’t come here often. She knows this because she sometimes has Dennis bring her here. Something about seeing the place where she used to most acutely feel their old God’s presence (the place where she was, for all intents and purposes, ‘born’) now dead and hollow strengthens her faith the Beast. He’ll bring life back to this dead place, he’ll paint it’s walls bright red.

She goes to the back door and then steps out of the center of the light in order to give him control of the body. He’s watched tutorials on lock picking and had seemed confident enough in his abilities back at the apartment but she can feel his embarrassment as he takes an inconveniently long time to get the deadbolt open. The only reason she didn’t just bring Dennis’s bolt cutters with her is that they need to be able to relock it after they leave. It wouldn’t help them for whoever owns it to tighten security following an obvious break-in. She also doubts that either she or Samuel would have the upper body strength to cut through the chains looped around the handles of the churches ornate doors and Dennis isn’t in on the plan yet.

When they get inside she feels briefly panicked in the few seconds it takes her to turn on the flashlight she’d brought. She tries to remember the last time she’s ventured out without Dennis... It had been a long, long time ago... when she’d gone to mass here with Kevin. Everything that could be of value has been removed, either by whoever owns the place or by previous intruders. Patricia couldn’t help but notice that the doors hadn’t had locks of their own, only the deadbolts. There aren’t even pews anymore, it’s just an empty cavern... a blank canvas.

Patricia looks up above where the altar used to be and flashes back to her first memory. Jesus (Called Christ), the sacrificial lamb nailed to a cross, his battered body and sadly resigned face illuminated only by candlelight. She remembers, vividly, his visible rib cage and pale skin and shining, red wounds and the blood running down his face. There’s still a little flicker of nostalgic affection in her for him... but not for his father. All that had been done to Christ had been the result of his having placed his trust in his father... that distant, impotent, cruel God. That God has gone from here and left this place a hollow cavity, waiting to be filled by a more worthy successor.

Chapter Text

Samuel sets up a coffee date with someone who claims to be one of the group's longest-lasting members, online she goes by DarkMaven666 (*eye roll*) and she only knows him by his handle, Cheshire. She gives him the address of a coffee shop (he looks it up on google maps to verify that there actually is a coffee shop there) and a time and says that she’ll be waiting for him in the booth in the back left corner. Samuel’s not sure how to dress for the occasion so he just wears one of Barry’s go-to outfits. It’s what he should be going for, he guesses, approachable yet slightly unconventional and in mostly dark colors. His main worry is that she’ll be significantly younger than Kevin, neither of them has disclosed their age, he doubts a group of teen goths will be accepting of a 30-something “normal.”

The coffee shop is a small, independently owned cafe/bookstore that’s stock seems to be focused mostly on spirituality and the occult, it’s decor seems to come entirely from Spirit Halloween stores. As Samuel orders a cappuccino from a morose young man with a green mohawk that he hadn’t bothered to style today, Miss. Patricia studies the bookshelf behind him, counting off the books she’s already read. The man with the limp mohawk hastily prepares his order and takes his money before going back to reading his paperback Necronomicon. He forgets to give Samuel change but Samuel lets it go, it’s not like it’s actually HIS money anyway. Order in hand, he heads to the back left corner.

When he gets there, her reasons for picking that particular booth are immediately obvious, the walls around it are decorated with Satanic imagery (pentacles, images of Baphomet, etc.) Samuel is relieved that she appears to be in her early 40s, though anorexically thin and caked with makeup (the pale foundation doesn’t quite match her own chalky skin.) When he approaches he says the name she knows him by and she rises and introduces herself as ‘Mavin’, extending a hand. As they shake hands, her eyes sweep over him and he notes a dim flicker of pleased surprise. Oh, she finds Kevin attractive... Samuel can’t say he gets it (there’s no accounting for taste) but he’s pleased to have been given an advantage this early on.

He decides he’ll lean into that. As they have a deceptively normal conversation (as though they’d been set up on a blind date) he plays shy, as though he’s intimidated yet fascinated by the dark mystery of her. He has to tell surprisingly few lies but Patricia never feels the need to pull him back, as they’d agreed she would if he began to reveal too much. He tells her he’s a maintenance worker and she doesn’t ask where. He tells her he hasn’t got many friends and both his parents are dead (making sure to put on a kicked-puppy expression.) He tells her he’s been diagnosed with major depression (venturing a wild guess that she’s probably been given similar diagnoses in the past) and schizophrenia (because she seems the type who’ll find a thing like that intriguing.)

As they go on, the conversation gets less and less typical and that’s when he has to tell his first big lie. He says that he had killed Kevin’s mother (of course, he refers to her as his mother) because the Beast had come to him in a dream and told him to. He says that since that fateful Purge Night when he was 15 years old, he’d known that he was meant to devote his life to The Dark Lord but that he’s struggled his whole life to figure out exactly what that meant. He says that his finding her group online had felt fated, as though it was what he’d been waiting for all this time. He just knows, he tells her, that with her guidance he can finally find the path that Satan has intended for him, that he can finally be fulfilled.

By the end of their conversation she’s holding one of his hands in both hers and looking at him like he’s a poor, lost little thing that she wants to take care of. He internally pats himself on the back for having NAILED it. She tells him that she’s sure that the group can help him and that she has to talk it over with her husband but if it were left up to her he’d be in. She gives him some books to read (she and her husband own the cafe, the boy at the cash register is her stepson) and tells him that if he’s on any sort of psychiatric medication, he should stop taking it so he can more clearly hear the things The Dark Lord says to him. She asks for his phone number (he gives her the number to a burner phone that he bought specifically for this purpose) and tells him that by the time the week is out she’ll have called him to tell him rather or not he’s been accepted.

He’s not even mildly surprised to receive her call the very next night.

------

“So... me an’ Kevin been kick’ in an idea around.”

Barry is in Dr. Fletcher’s office, it was supposed to be Kevin today but he hadn’t been up for it.

“An idea?”

“Yeah and I thought it might be best to run it past an impartial third party before telling Casey or the Others about it.”

“The plan involves Casey.”

“Yeah...”

He smirks wistfully.

“She’s probably gonna’ be startin’ college at the beginning a’ the next semester... not sure when exactly that is... and Kevin had an idea that he thinks might make things easier for her.”

“It’s significant to you that it was KEVIN’S idea?”

“Definitely... he thinks that there ain’t no point in her keepin’ up her own place when we got more than enough room fer’ her... and if she moved in with us and she wouldn’t have rent ta’ pay... she could quit her job and just focus on school.”

The doctor only looks thoughtful so Barry goes on.

“Ya’ think I should even bother askin’?”

“Why would you assume that you shouldn’t bother?”

“Well... first there’s the Others... some’a them might not be comfortable with an ‘outside party' livin’ with us.”

“You mean Dennis and Patricia?”

“No, actually... I mean, I think Dennis might have some concerns but that’s cause all he does is have concerns...”

“But you believe he may be receptive to the idea?”

“If you’d ask me that before they became an item I’d say hell no but now... he MIGHT be... he does worry a lot about her bein’ by herself at night in that building which, I’ll admit, ain’t unwarranted. We’ve lived there, the place is one step above a crack house and that’s bein’ generous since I’m pretty sure more than one crack dealer lives there. So, if I played up the safety angle, I think I could get Dennis on board.”

“And Patricia?”

“Patricia’s been... I don’t know... she’s not trying to get Casey outta’ the picture anymore and SEEMS to even like when she’s around... Not that I can say anything fer’ sure, mind ya’, since she don’t talk to me... She does seem to soften up a little when Casey’s around though.”

“You’re not entirely certain when it comes to her though?”

“It could go either way... she may reject the idea flat out just ‘cause it’s me presenting it ta’ her but if I get Dennis on board and have him ask ‘er about it, there might be a chance.”

“Who is it you’re worried about then?”

“Well, my first thought was Jade, if Casey lives with us she definitely ain’t gonna’ be able to bring her boyfriends back ta’ the apartment anymore and I don’t know how that’ll sit with her.”

“She does have a tendency to balk at other’s attempts to place restrictions on her but in the past, she has been more open to compromises with you.”

“Yeah...”

Barry takes a beat to organize his thoughts.

“We all like Casey, you know that just in different ways and ta’ different degrees but... some of us really value alone time... I mean... Felida, fer’ example’ only ever takes the light when there’s no one around. If Casey lived with us she’ll either never come out or we’ll be doin’ a lot less sleepin’ because she’ll only take the Light after Casey goes ta’ bed... Then again, I’m not even sure if it’d be all that bad if she never took the light again since she seems to have her own little world inside Kevin’s head and I’d still be able ta’ ‘visit’ her.”

“Not to derail the discussion but Dr. Juarez has expressed interest in having a one-on-one meeting with Felida.”

“Ya’ know that’d be a hard sell... she’s literally scared of people and I can’t MAKE her do nothin’.”

“I know, I’ve told him as much.”

The doctor nods.”

“I’ll definitely run it by ‘er though... it might be good fer’ her ta’ talk to someone besides me once in a while. Anyway, goin’ back to the original topic, I’m also not totally sure that Casey would even accept our invitation if we gave it to her.”

“She does seem to value her autonomy.”

“Can ya’ blame her? The last time she depended on a man it turned out as bad as it possibly could short’a her windin’ up dead and, even if her past were different, I think her boyfriend askin’ her to quit her job and come live with him in a cement bunker under a zoo might set off some alarm bells.”

“She hasn’t seemed put off by your living situation in the past.”

“Ya’ but so far she’s just visited, that ain’t the same as livin’ there.”

The doctor nods again and for a moment they both sit in contemplative silence.

“I do got one other concern that I wanted to bring up before the end’a the session.”

The doctor looks concerned.

“Kat says we got a lotta’ unaccounted for activity in our bank account... just yesterday someone took $50 in cash out and I can’t get anyone to cop to it. Apparently, there’s little withdraws like that here an’ there... it’s probably nothin’ but... what if it isn’t?”

The doctor writes something down in her notebook, likely to be added to Kevin’s file later.

“Have you been experiencing time loss... that is, chunks of missing time that you can’t account for even after questioning the Others?”

Barry pauses a long time, as though he doesn’t want to answer.

“... yeah... just little bits though...here ‘an there... like the withdraws.”

“Do they correspond with the withdraws?”

“...yeah...”

Barry sounds as though he’s just made the connection for the first time.

“An’ whoever it is is always careful to get money from the atm instead’a usin’ the debit card... shit.”

“Do you think there’s a chance that a new member has been added to the group?”

“Maybe but... I don’t think so... I think I’d know if that happened or I guess I should say ‘I hope’.”

“The prospect of there being alters of which you’re unaware is concerning to you?”

“You kiddin’? That’s the scariest thing I can think of.”

Chapter Text

Dennis is cleaning the grout in the bathroom with straight bleach and a toothbrush after coming back from dropping Casey off at her apartment. He’d never admit it, not even to himself, but he’s doing this to keep himself from fixating on a conversation he’d had with Barry earlier. The impulse to immediately say ‘yes’ when it was brought up had been surprisingly strong but he’d managed to suppress it and force himself to respond rationally. Of course, Casey can’t live here (with him... where she belongs) putting aside the things he couldn’t tell Barry, living with them would mean living with ALL of them and Barry knows how stressful that can be. Besides, she probably wouldn’t even want to.

Casey has a lot of what Miss. Patricia calls “modern sensibilities” about relationships. She doesn’t like to lean on other people. It’s not that Dennis doesn’t get that but he doesn’t get why she has reservations about leaning on HIM; doesn’t she get that that’s what he’s FOR? Yet she’s started getting mad at him even when he just fixes things in her apartment without mentioning it to her first even though she can’t possibly be unaware that if she waits for building maintenance to get around to it it’s NEVER going to get done. Eventually, realizing there’s no stopping him, she asks that he only fix things in her apartment when she’s there to watch him so that then she’ll know how to do it but... why? He already knows how and it’s not like he’s going anywhere... does she think he’s going somewhere?

If she lived here, it would at least put an end to that because she can’t rationally object to him fixing things in his own apartment... Miss. Patricia’s hand is on his arm and then her voice is in his ear.

“Turn on the fan, dear.”

Just then he realizes that his eyes are burning and he’s getting a headache, how had he not noticed the build-up of bleach fumes? After he’s switched on the fan and turned around to look at the shower he decides he’s just going to have to regrout it... He wonders how long it’s been since it’s last regrouting but he doubts anyone would be able to tell him that information. Before they’d moved in here most of the zoo staff hadn’t even known the place existed. Sometimes he wonders if he just stayed down here if they’d all forget it again and him along with it... He has weird thoughts like that some times...

“Somethings troubling you.”

It’s not a question but Dennis still shakes his head in response.

“It’s just a... stupid idea Barry had.”

Patricia doesn’t say anything but he can feel her waiting for him to elaborate.

“He thinks Casey should move in with us.”

Miss. Patricia hesitates longer than he’d expect... long enough that it makes him nervous.

“I already told him no.”

“Of course.”

Her tone doesn’t match the certainty of her words. Dennis can’t imagine why this would be but before he can wonder too much she speaks again.

“You should go and lie down.”

“I’m fine.”

“Dennis!”

When her tone goes stern he immediately gives, as usual. He goes and lies down on Kevin’s bed, on top of the covers. She was right, after a few minutes the chemical fumes dissipate and he feels better. A stray thought skitters across his mind and he tells it to her, not knowing exactly why.

“It’d be less of a problem for her to live here now that we’re gonna’ be takin’ the Food somewhere else.”

“So you approve of the church then?”

She’s clearly making a conscious effort to direct his thoughts elsewhere. He sighs.

“I got a feeling it doesn’t matter if I approve.”

Again, she just waits for him to elaborate.

“It’s messy.”

“I have a feeling that the people we’ll be luring there won’t care rather or not it’s clean.”

“I didn’t just mean literally... there are gonna’ be a lot more factors to consider and I don’t trust those people, do you?”

“Of course not and even Samuel himself did admit that it’s possible that they may be luring US into a trap but, as I see it, once the Beast emerges that won’t matter. We just have to give Samuel enough slack to earn their trust to the point that they’d be willing to gather at a location that he suggests.”

“That’s another thing, I’m not so sure givin’ him slack is a good idea... his spending habits have drawn some suspicion.”

“Barry noticed that?”

“He brought it up to me but I’m assuming it was his little secretary who noticed it. He’s changed our pin number and I’m not telling Samuel the new one. If he wants to spend money I at least need to know about it so I can think a’ something to tell Barry and I don’t trust him ta’ tell me of his own volition.”

“...perhaps that IS for the best.”

She sounds sad, Dennis doesn’t like that.

“I think he’d take the whole thing more seriously if you took him to the Train Yard... like you did with me.”

There’s a long pregnant pause.

“He undoubtedly would but... I don’t think he’s ready.”

“What happens if you do it when he’s not ready?”

There’s another long pause during which he can feel her thinking.

“Do you remember the bones?”

“...bones?”

“In the train car.”

That reminder is all it takes for Dennis to suddenly and vividly remember the gory mess that the Beast seemed to live in. He nods.

“Where do you suppose they came from?”

It has to be a rhetorical question because how would he know?

“I don’t know for sure but I have a feeling that that is what would happen.”

Dennis hesitates a moment but ultimately decides to ask a question that’s been weighing heavy on his mind since he first met The Beast.

“Could that have happened to me?”

“...I was... nearly certain that he would like you. You have to understand that I needed you involved before I could do... ANYTHING...”

Dennis just nods, he’d suspected that she’d been taking a gamble on it all along so it only has a little impact to have that suspicion confirmed. He could have died... The Beast might have EATEN him. What really bothers him is how little the thought of it bothers him.

Chapter Text

Casey is in Dr. Fletcher’s office for only the second time. This appointment is long overdue, Barry had told her the doctor wanted to speak to her some time ago but she’d kept making excuses to put it off and he, of course, hadn’t pressed her. None of the Others that were the type to press seemed to WANT her to see Dr. Fletcher, Casey couldn’t imagine why. Well, she could imagine why Patricia and Dennis didn’t want her to. Patricia thinks the doctor is a ‘charlatan’ who would ‘poison her mind,’ Dennis thinks that doctors are for sick people and that Casey is NOT sick (this makes Casey wonder if the two have ever discussed rather or not Kevin is ‘sick’ because they seem to be of differing opinions on the matter.) Casey can only guess when it comes to the rest, though she’s only really spoken about it to Jade and Orwell... the general impression she’d gotten was that most of them either didn’t want her to go or didn’t care if she went.

The place feels strange like it’s different in a way that's very important but difficult to specify... like the last time she’d been here had only been a dream. The doctor isn’t the type to press either so she makes small talk with Casey, seemingly waiting for Casey to tell her why she’s here or ask why she’d wanted her to come in. She has something specific to discuss with the doctor, though, and she decides that it’s only fair that that comes before whatever the doctor had wanted to discuss. If she’s going to be pumped for information, she may as well get some free advice in exchange. It just comes bubbling out in the middle of whatever they’d been talking about, Casey had only been half paying attention.

“Kevin asked me to move in with him?”

This gives the doctor pause but her response surprises Casey.

“So soon?”

“You knew he was going to ask?”

“Barry told me that he and Kevin had been discussing it but... that was only a few days ago and I was under the impression that Kevin intended to wait until it had been run past the Others.”

Casey had been under the impression that Barry made most of the decisions when it came to big changes in Kevin’s life but apparently it’s more of a collaborative effort.

“I guess I should be flattered that he was so eager to ask me that he bypassed the... democratic process.”

Casey is only half sarcastic and it doesn’t seem to affect the doctor at all. Little wonder, if she’s used to dealing with Jade there’s probably nothing Casey could say or do that would throw her.

“Do you feel flattered?”

Casey hadn’t been expecting that... she’d expected an actual answer. She pushes down her frustration and responds honestly.

“I do... but I... I’m not sure what to tell him...”

“You’re conflicted?”

Casey doesn’t just want to say ‘yes’ because that doesn’t feel true... or, at least, it doesn’t feel like the WHOLE truth.

“I love Kevin... and Dennis...”

The doctor doesn’t speak, only nods encouragement. Casey can’t ignore the slight tick in her expression at the mention of Dennis’s name.

“I love all of them... in a way... I just... I like our relationship the way it is and until Kevin brought it up I would’ve never have thought of changing it.”

The doctor nods again but in understanding (Casey wonders how much of a psychiatrists job is just being able to communicate purely through nods.) Thankfully this nod is followed by an actual verbal response.

“Cohabitation is a big step in any relationship and... I assume this is your first.”

Now it’s Casey’s turn to nod, suddenly, in front of this very distinguished woman in her very distinguished home, she feels like a child. It’s been YEARS since she’s felt like a child. The doctor goes on.

“... and it would be dishonest on both our parts to behave as though yours were a typical relationship.”

Casey wants to object because she feels as though just acknowledging the strangeness of their situation is somehow an insult or betrayal to Kevin but she can’t bring herself to do it... because the doctor is right.

“I’m sure that at least Kevin and Barry will be able to understand why a very young lady with so little romantic experience will be reluctant to make such a commitment.”

The doctor looks at Casey as though she’s throwing her a lifeline and Casey almost just takes it but she can’t help but notice the Doctor had only mentioned 2 specific names of the many that could be counted as involved parties. One, in particular, comes to her mind.

“Do you think it’ll upset Kevin or Dennis if I say no?”

“I think it’ll upset Kevin but I feel I know Kevin well enough to confidently state that he’ll be able to handle that disappointment... Are YOU concerned that your saying ‘no’ will upset Dennis?”

Casey tries to carefully formulate her answer before responding because she doesn’t want to give the wrong impression (that she’s AFRAID of Dennis.) She takes in a breath and then lets it out slowly.

“I don’t know... I don’t even know if the prospect has been brought up to him yet but I can imagine circumstances where my saying no would really upset him.”

The doctor raises a questioning brow. Casey looks down and shakes her head ruefully.

“He seems to... want to be closer to me, like... he’ll come into my house when I’m not there and fix stuff and he doesn’t understand why that bothers me... I mean... I know it seems stupid that I’d have a problem with someone doing free work for me but...”

“Not at all. You’ve worked hard for you’re autonomy. You don’t want him viewing you as helpless or infringing on your personal space. Even without your background, that mindset would make perfect sense in a bright, competent young woman your age.”

“What do you know about my background?”

Casey suddenly feels smaller and more exposed.

“Only that it’s similar to Kevin’s in the worst of ways, that’s as much as I've been told.”

The doctor's tone is reassuring, as though she’d sensed Casey’s unease. Casey can FEEL the doctor waiting to ask something and so she just waits for it.

“If you don’t mind my asking, how old are you?”

Casey must look offended by this because the doctor tries to smooth it over.

“Forgive me, it’s just that at my age anyone under 35 looks like a child.”

“It’s ok.”

Casey isn’t entirely sincere. She knows what the doctor actually wants to know so she saves them some time by just telling her.

“I was 17 when me and Kevin met or, I guess, it was Dennis I met that first time... I turned 18 a month later... we didn’t have sex for the first time until we’d been dating for a few months... I was almost 19 when me and Dennis had sex for the first time.”

The doctor seems surprised at her ability to predict the exact information she’d wanted, Casey takes advantage of her pause.

“Dennis told me about his... he said you called them ‘pervasive thoughts.’”

“How much, exactly has he told you?”

The doctor seems genuinely surprised that Casey had stayed after being made privy to that information. Casey feels herself preemptively blush.

“He said that... pretty young girls... like me... make him think about all the worst things that he could do to... someone like me... and that he doesn’t have control over it, like, that it’s a part of his OCD? But that he KNOWS those are bad thoughts and he wouldn’t ever act on any of them. He said that you helped him with that.”

“I did... the second of the two times we’d ever spoken. He seemed specifically concerned for your well being.”

“Like... he didn’t have those thoughts before he met me?”

“No, he undoubtedly did, he just didn't have a specific person whom he actually knew upon which to project them and the fact that he finally did was causing him a great deal of anxiety.”

The doctor gives her a moment to digest the information. Casey wonders then if she should tell the doctor about the recently added feature of she and Dennis's sex life. Is she HURTING Dennis by basically asking him to act on his 'bad thoughts'? And what does it say about her that she wants him to? Shouldn't she be repulsed by them, given what she's been through? Is she the one here who's 'sick'? Ultimately she winds up remaining silent, she cannot bring herself to discuss her sex life with a woman she barely knows who's old enough to be her grandmother.

“I’m sorry if this offends you but I feel ethically bound to ask... do you feel SAFE with Dennis?”

“Yes.”

“... and... has he ever made you feel... as though you HAD to do something with him or for him that you didn’t necessarily WANT to do?”

Casey’s initial response is a flare of anger but she quickly tamps it down, she tells herself that the doctor means well and that if she were on the outside looking in on her situation she’d probably be asking the same question. She winds up laughing, breathy and incredulous.

“No...no... I mean, I get why you might worry about that but...no. The first time we were... together, I practically had to crawl into his lap before he even got the message.”

The doctor is visibly relieved.

“Well... miss Cooke, I just want you to know that IF at any time you DO feel uncomfortable in your relationship, you can feel free to come to me about it, it won’t even be necessary for me to tell Kevin that you were here.”

Casey just nods, unable to decide if she’ll be using that privilege or not.

“...and just generally, if you at any time would like to leave the relationship, I want you to know that you’ve as much right to do so as you would in any other relationship.”

Casey looks up at her quizzically.

“Did you actually think I needed to be told that?”

“Well, often times when someone is in a relationship with someone like Kevin, they wind up feeling as though they CAN’T leave without doing their partner some sort of psychological damage and I’d just like you to know that Kevin’s psychological health is and will always be more my responsibility than yours. If ever you do not want to stay, know that you are under no moral obligation.”

Casey had NEVER thought about breaking up with Kevin but she supposes that she can see why someone might feel like they couldn’t do so without irreparably damaging him. Ultimately she just thanks the doctor for the information. She leaves the appointment feeling dissatisfied, she’d been hoping to come away knowing what she was going to say to Kevin the next time she saw him.

Chapter Text

For the first time ever, Barry is having difficulty not getting mad at Kevin. He’d thrown a wrench in the gears pretty much right after they’d agreed on a plan. It can’t have been more than a day after and there’s no way Kevin didn’t know that Barry couldn’t possibly have reached a consensus among the Others. He’d gone right ahead with it though, he’d asked Casey to move in with them. As per Kevin’s last vlog, Casey had told him she needed to think about it... he’d seemed nervous, almost as though he knew he’d done something wrong.

Barry tries to avoid making Kevin feel smothered or shackled by his responsibility to the group and usually that’s not hard, usually Kevin is content to let decisions be made for him. Apparently, this time is different and Barry could have at least used a heads up that it was going to be different. He doesn’t DO resentment but it’s hard for him to remember that right now. He tries to look at it from another angle... this is a good sign in terms of Kevin’s psychological health, right? Yeah, sure... maybe... but that doesn’t erase the fact that this is the sort of thing that could affect them all (depending on how it goes) and Kevin had completely disregarded that fact... and why should he get to do that?

When was the last time HE’D done ANYTHING without first considering how it would affect everyone else? Barry isn’t sure he ever has so what gives Kevin the right... He doesn’t want to get mad... it’s not constructive... he’s not an ANGRY person... He decides he’ll tell Dennis, Dennis’s vote had been an immediate and definite ‘no’ so of course, DENNIS will get mad. If Dennis gets mad then Barry can focus on calming him down to distract himself from how mad he’s... really trying not to be.

Then another thing that rarely happens happens, Dennis disappoints him. Hedwig is in the light, drawing and listening to music (Graduation by Kanye West) during the designated ‘playtime’ they try to arrange for him every week. Barry goes over to Dennis’s chair, as usual, Dennis stands before he reaches him. Dennis doesn’t like to be looked down on and his height assures that no one in The Room can look down on him when he’s standing up. As Barry tells him what’s transpired his expression is unreadable; his arms are crossed (out of habit) and his mouth is a straight line. In here, the light is always glinting off his glasses at just the right angle to turn his eyes into little mirrors.

His eyebrow rises as Barry is talking, that could mean anything, and when Barry’s done he’s perfectly still and silent for an uncomfortably long time. His jaw works a little, as though he’s grinding his teeth.

“She’s thinkin’ about it?”

His tone is quiet and flat... damn it, why is he not angry?

“Yeah.”

“But she’ll probably say no... right? I mean, why would she say yes?”

Questions, he’s asking questions? That’s the last thing Barry needs right now. Barry can think of plenty of reasons why she’d say yes (for example, all the reasons he and Kevin had thought it might be a good idea to ask her in the first place) but Barry doesn’t want to talk about that right now. Barry wants Dennis to be angry at Kevin but, of course, the one time he WANTS that it doesn’t happen.

“I’m sure if I talk ta’ her and explain that Kevin jumped the gun, she’ll listen to reason, she usually does.”

“I don’t see the need.”

“What?”

Dennis doesn’t respond right away and Barry would swear that his posture has changed, that he looks a little... nervous or embarrassed?

“Why not just let’ er think about it. If she REALLY does think about it, she’ll probably just say no anyway so... no need fer you ta’ talk to her.”

Dennis is making no sense right now, if he wants her to say no then why wouldn’t he want Barry to discourage her from saying yes... unless...

“You still DON’T want her moving in, right?”

“I think... I know it wouldn’t be good fer her and that if I can see that she’s probably smart enough to see it too... if she REALLY thinks about it.”

Barry has a sneaking suspicion that he really wants to ignore but he just CAN’T... his nature won’t allow it.

“Do you KNOW that, Dennis? Really? Cause you’re soundin’ like maybe you’re not so sure about it now.”

Fuck, this is not the direction he wanted this to wind up going. Dennis won’t meet his eyes but that’s not out of the ordinary (Dennis is not generally a fan of eye contact.) He ultimately winds up huffing and running his fingers over his scalp and telling Barry to do whatever he thinks he needs to do. Barry notes that Patricia has been watching the whole exchange, she can’t hear them (when two alters have a conversation in The Room, the others can’t hear it) but he wouldn’t rule out her being able to read their lips or at least being able to tell Dennis is upset and asking him what it was about. Her vote had been a ‘no’ as well and Barry just now begins to wonder which of them had come to a decision first and if they’d discussed the matter with each other... who’s he kidding? Of course they had.

Barry reluctantly puts a hand on Dennis’s arm before he can fully turn away and Dennis looks almost offended... Barry just then realizes that this is the first time he’s ever TOUCHED Dennis and withdraws his hand as if from a very hot surface. Dennis still lingers, looking at him expectantly. Suddenly feeling smaller, Barry goes on with less confidence than he would usually have.

“Ya’ know... it’s ok to admit that you want ‘er around because you care about ‘er... at least... ta’ me anyway.”

Dennis hesitates a moment and something like pained confusion flickers across his face, then he just walks away. As Barry watches him return to his place at Patricia’s right hand he feels deeply dissatisfied. Ultimately he winds up telling Jade and taking some comfort in her indignation. Who does Kevin think he is? He can’t just ignore everyone else and do whatever he wants! None of the rest of them get to do that!

Barry doesn’t openly agree with her but he gets some comfort out of hearing someone else say it. He tries to convince her that having Casey living with them won’t be so bad because he figures he may as well get some practice doing it. If she says yes, he’s going to have to smoothe things over with all the Others who’d voted ‘no.’ Beneath the stress and irritation, he does hope that she’ll say yes. He can’t imagine why she wouldn’t.

------

Casey seems under the impression that Dennis hadn’t known anything about Kevin inviting her to live with him and he lets her stay under that impression because he doesn’t think any good could come from him asking her why she’d said no. Privately, he vacillates from being angry with her for saying no, thinking that she must have said no because of something HE has done and trying to convince himself that he should stop questioning it and just be glad she’d said no. After all, he and Miss Patricia had agreed that it would be for the best that she didn’t move in... hadn't they? But then why does the rejection sting so much? Maybe he’s just upset on Kevin’s behalf.

Kevin had told Casey that he was fine with her deciding to stay in her own apartment but privately he’d spiraled down into a deep pit of self-loathing. Barry says he’s handling that and Dennis decides to trust him because it’s not like there’s anything he can do about it. He’s not good with feelings, not even his own. Ultimately he tells himself that, of course, that must be it... her rejection had hurt KEVIN and he doesn’t like it when Kevin gets hurt. Kevin will get over it though, Barry assures him.

When told the news Miss Patricia reacts with a mix of relief and (Dennis could sware) disappointment. He doesn’t call attention to it because he knows she doesn’t want him to. A large part of the foundation of their relationship is that they both know when to ignore the other’s feelings... Dennis wishes that Barry would learn how to do that. He assumes she’s disappointed because lately, she seems to have developed a fondness for taking care of Casey, feeding her, brushing her hair, laying out clothes for her to put on after every time she bathes at Kevin’s apartment. Sometimes he thinks the only thing stopping her from offering to help Casey bathe is her sense of conventional social boundaries.

Dennis doesn’t question why she does this because it’s obvious, she loves Casey. She doesn’t ever say it but Dennis can tell, just how she can tell that Dennis loves Casey and how she knows Dennis loves her without it ever having to be said. He hates that she’s unhappy but there’s nothing he can do. He’s not good at comforting people even under normal circumstances, let alone when he’s not even allowed to acknowledge that they’re upset. The best either of them can do for the other is to keep reiterating that it’s ‘for the best.’

Dennis stops going into Casey’s apartment when she isn’t there, conceding that maybe he’d been abusing the privilege. He also starts asking her before fixing things. She watches when he does it and asks him to explain each step. He still doesn’t see the need but apparently she does and he guesses that that's enough for him.

Chapter Text

Barry has to keep reminding himself that things have been looking up lately to curtail how anxious he’s been feeling. Kevin had been a wreck for a while but had made it clear that Casey was NOT to know about it. Barry had never seen him pretend to be ok before... usually, when he needs to seem ok despite the fact that he's miserable he dissociates into Barry. Dr. Fletcher doesn’t give him a straight answer about rather or not it’s a good thing that Kevin is apparently now capable of concealing his emotions. It’s gotta’ be a good thing, Barry figures... it means he can spend more time in The Light at least.

He’d for some reason assumed that Casey’s decision not to move in with him was phase one in her breaking up with him. He’d grown more and more despondent as he’d waited for the other shoe to drop but he seems to have finally accepted that there IS no other shoe. It’s a good thing that Samuel’s suggestion that Kevin preemptively break up with Casey had gone completely ignored. It’s also a good thing that the possibility of Casey moving in had never even been mentioned to Hedwig because there’s no way he wouldn’t have wound up asking her why she hadn’t wanted to. That’s another thing that Kevin had made it very clear that they were NOT to do.

Yeah, things have been going just fine lately, so Barry’s mounting anxiety probably doesn’t mean anything. He doesn’t even bring it up to Dr. Fletcher. He does tell her about the ‘new scar’ though. There haven’t been any additional ones, which is good, but the bullet wound seems to have been changing lately. Just within the past month or so the indentation has gotten shallower (Barry verified this using the pictures he’s been taking.) Sometimes there’ll be a dull ache in that area and the scar will be warmer than the surrounding skin, almost hot to the touch.

Dr. Fletcher still can’t give him any answers regarding the scar despite having combed through case file after case file in an attempt to find something similar. There is nothing similar. She asks Barry to print out hard copies of his photographs to add to Kevin’s file and promises that she’ll keep looking into the matter. That’s not all though; Barry’s been finding himself restless at night, more and more as the weather warms up. Valium doesn’t even make a dent in it.

He’s gotten in the habit of taking walks through the zoo at night. Their apartment has started to feel claustrophobic and... like he’s not alone in there. He knows that technically he’s NEVER alone but this... this happens when he knows everyone else is asleep. When he walks through the zoo he gets a feeling that he imagines is something like how it’d feel to be followed at a distance by a big, predatory animal. It’s not ‘stalking’ him though, it’s just... following.

He reminds himself that ‘it’ is neither stalking nor following because ‘it’ doesn’t exist. There are no animals here that aren’t in cages. All the Others seem just a little off in ways that it’s hard for Barry to put his finger on. It’s almost as if they, like Kevin, are waiting for some nonexistent ‘other shoe’ to drop. When asked how they are most of them tersely say that they’re ‘fine’ probably because they also can’t think of any reason why they wouldn’t be.

The outliers are Patricia, Dennis, Hedwig, and Samuel. Hedwig is bouncing off the walls but Barry supposes that that’s probably just due to having been cooped up all winter. Samuel is in a considerably better mood than usual... maybe the kids got seasonal affective disorder or something. Patricia and Dennis are different in that they’re NOT different. It’s almost like they’re going out of their way to behave as typically as possible.

Barry tells himself that’s a ridiculous thought if that’s the way they usually act, how would he know that they were going out of their way to act that way? He tells himself that he just needs to wait it out. It’s been this way the last couple of years; he’ll be on edge for a while at the beginning of spring and then one morning he’ll wake up and suddenly feel normal again, maybe even better than usual. Yeah, usually by the end of May things have evened back out again... Wait...the end of MAY?

-----

Dennis had had to ask Barry about the sign because the keepers are only there during the day and Barry is on a first-name basis with most of them. The sign says that this will be Sampson’s last summer ‘with us.’ Barry tells him that the lion is getting on in years and they have decided that it’s time to retire him. Since Sampson’s ‘job’ is impregnating lionesses, for him ‘retirement’ means getting fixed and shipped off to a zoo that doesn’t breed its animals. Deciding that he doesn’t want to have to explain what ‘fixed’ means to a child, Dennis just tells Hedwig that Sampson is getting too old to give the lionesses babies, so he’s going to live somewhere else and a new lion will be taking his place. Hedwig already HATES the new lion.

Apart from that, things are going fine... not that he’s let his guard down because he never does. Samuel has shown his new Satanist ‘friends’ the church and they’d apparently loved it. Dennis stays out of the light when Samuel is interacting with them because he finds them insufferable. Usually, Patricia will share the light with Samuel during those times so that she can feed him information during conversations since she had already read all the books they’d given him to read. Dennis doesn’t like it (he tells himself because it’s not safe even though he wouldn’t need to be in the light to know if they were in any sort of physical danger) but he keeps that to himself because it’s necessary.

The Coven (as they call themselves) have set about preparing the church for the big night and Dennis goes there occasionally to check their work. They’ve only bothered cleaning the raised platform where the altar used to be and Dennis has to fight the urge to clean the rest of the place, he hates seeing things left unfinished. That’s one of the things he hates about these people, they do everything half-assed and don’t care as long as it looks pretty. They’ve painted a big circle with a star in it (a pentagram, Miss Patricia tells him) on the platform and started constructing a makeshift altar of their own at the back of the enclave that the platform is set into. Right now it’s just a long narrow table that one of them must have brought from their home but Samuel assures him that it’ll look more like a proper altar on the Big Night, Maven just doesn’t want to leave anything valuable in there and chance someone breaking in and stealing it.

Maven troubles Dennis... or rather, it troubles him that Samuel seems to actually like her. Dennis hasn’t met her but he knows enough about her to know she can’t be trusted. Really, what sort of person tells a mentally ill man 15 years their junior to stop taking his meds on their first meeting and then starts fucking him a month later. Samuel tells him that she and her husband have an ‘open marriage’... as though the fact that she’s married is the shadiest thing about the whole situation. He’d even suggested once that they tell her the truth about them, that she’d probably ‘get a kick out of it.’ Of course, Dennis and Miss Patricia had shot the suggestion down immediately and absolutely.

She thinks his ‘real’ name is Samuel Hunter and it’s going to stay that way.

------

According to Miss Patricia, what the Coven calls Satanism is more like new aged spiritualism just with a darker color palette. Mavin believes that she has sold her soul to the Devil but she also believes in the healing power of crystals and astrology and holistic medicine and elemental spirits and voodoo spirits and ghosts and... pretty much whatever happens to strike her fancy. Samuel thinks that he could probably just tell her about The Beast and she’d not only immediately accept it but in fact be delighted. After all, all she REALLY wants is to feel special and you can’t get much more ‘special’ than fucking the conduit of a God. She’d probably say that she’d ‘sensed’ (she also believes that she’s mildly psychic) that there was something special about him and that was why she’d been instantly drawn to him... as if her obvious aesthetic appreciation for Kevin’s body had nothing to do with it.

All this makes it sound like Samuel dislikes Mavin but that couldn’t be farther from the truth. Spiritual beliefs aside, they have a great deal in common. She’ll never know just how similar they are because he has to pretend that he’s a naive innocent that she’s luring into her dark secret world. He really does admire her tenacity though, when she REALLY wants something, there’s no keeping her from it. She’s also so skilled a liar that even she seems to believe her own lies and, in this way, she’s created a sort of pocket reality that revolves entirely around her.

There’s also the sex. She was his first but the act itself had held no significance for him, it’s just a build-up and release of pressure...like urinating but more intense. What her preferences regarding the act had revealed about her held more fascination for him. The first time they’d done it had been in her apartment (above the book store) while her husband was elsewhere, possibly off fucking someone else. She’d invited him over for dinner and he’d assumed that it would be with her and her husband and possibly some other members of the Coven (at that point she’d been slowly introducing him to them, one or two at a time) but he’d arrived to find only her.

The apartment had been candlelit but that wasn’t unusual, she and her husband go through a lot of candles and he’s surprised they haven’t accidentally burned the place down yet. They’d eaten and had the sort of conversation that had become typical for them at that point. She’s always interested to hear the ways in which his perceptions have changed since he’d stopped taking his meds. He hasn’t stopped taking his meds, of course, and couldn’t even if he wanted to because he’s not the one who takes the meds, it’s usually Barry or Kevin himself. He comes up with things to tell her, though, dreams and visions and things that ‘their Master’ whispers to him and she listens with wrapped fascination.

After the meal she’d poured them each another glass of wine and coaxed him into the bedroom. Samuel drinks on a regular basis, the Others don’t know because he takes great care to hide his bottles and to never consume so much that one of them wakes up with a hangover, but he pretends to be more impaired by the alcohol than he actually is. Her pretense for bringing him in there is to show him a book that she keeps on the altar in the bedroom (there are little makeshift altars all over the apartment.) She claims that it’s a rare and ancient tome bound in human skin, that contains Luciferian rites predating Christianity. That’s all OBVIOUSLY not true, it’s a well-made prop but clearly a prop... the fact that she bought it on eBay probably should have tipped her off to that.

There in her little pocket reality right now, though, so the book is whatever she says it is and he reacts accordingly. He takes great care with the ‘ancient’ pages as he looks through it. It’s written in Latin which Miss Patrician would have been able to read had she not left the Light as soon as it became apparent that things were going to get intimate. The illustrations are quite good if you can ignore the absurdity of the fact that the people in them all just happen to be nude women who’d be considered attractive by modern standards (another clear indication that the book isn’t ‘ancient.’) She cuddles up against his side as he sits on the bed feigning a mix of discomfort and fascination with the imagery.

Eventually she takes the book from his hands and carefully puts it back in its place. As she walks back to the bed, she unzips her dress and lets it fall to the floor. She’s nearly skeletal and her breasts clearly aren’t real and he doesn’t feel much of anything while looking at her. He mechanically traces the lines of her body with his eyes and feigns nervousness. She pushes him onto his back and proceeds to eagerly unwrap him like a present.

She does most of the work because he’s told her that he’s a virgin. He’d behaved as though it were a difficult confession that he’d only made to her because he felt so especially close to her but really he couldn't have cared less. Sure enough, once the deed is done he doesn’t feel any different. Thanks to the combined efforts of Jade and Dennis there’s no hair on his body either and she seems to like that. As they lay in the dark, the candles having burned out, she keeps petting his chest.

As their relationship continues, she reveals that she likes to be choked. He pretends, at least at first, to be uncomfortable with it and only doing it to please her but really he finds it far more stimulating than any more conventional foreplay. Sometimes he idly thinks about not stopping and just choking her to death. He wouldn’t, of course, that would ruin the plan. Eventually he ‘confesses’ these thoughts to her, adding a bit at the end about how beautiful she would look cold and still beneath him to stroke her ego. As predicted, she finds this ‘hot’ and for some reason seems to trust him more afterward, counterintuitive as it may seem.

Samuel briefly considers offering a night with her to Dennis, considering their overlapping predilections, but ultimately decides against it because Dennis would more likely respond negatively to such an offer. Dennis would never ‘cheat’ on Casey and Maven really isn’t his type... she’s far too close to his own age.

Sometime later, she confesses to him that she and her husband had conspired to get rid of his previous wife. Maven and Morpheous (definitely not his real name) have been married for three years and 4 years ago on Purge Night Nadine (his previous wife) had lost the game that they use to select the sacrifice. Maven heavily implies that this had not been by chance. As he’s said, Samuel admires her tenacity.

He wonders if he’ll miss her when she’s dead.

Chapter Text

At nearly 31 Kevin-as-Samuel is the second youngest member of the Coven. The youngest is a 27-year-old girl who goes by the name Lenore (though who knows what it says on her birth certificate.) Her hobbies include taking Ketamine and... probably not much else. She doesn’t have a place of residence but instead gets passed around by the men, and a couple of the women, in the group. She doesn’t seem to be much of an active participant but it’s sort of hard to actively participate in anything when you’re almost never completely lucid.

Samuel doesn’t ask many questions about her but Patricia is able to gather by listening through their shared ears that she was homeless before the group ‘took her in.’ They frame it as an act of charity on their part, that they’re ‘taking care of her’ because they’re ‘like a family.’ Though Patricia doesn’t think keeping someone near-catatonic on horse tranquilizers for days at a time while you do as you please to their body would fit ANYONE’S definition of ‘care.’

On nights that Samuel sleeps at Maven’s apartment, Patricia makes a point of getting up early so that she can wake Samuel and get him back into the light before anyone else gets up. On the particular night proceeding the morning she found the girl in the bathroom, Samuel and Maven had been in the apartment’s guest bedroom while Maven’s husband had been in the master bedroom with Lenore... doing god knows what. Well, they’d all been doing god knows what as far as Patricia is concerned because she certainly doesn’t stay around to watch. As usual, Patricia had risen before the other inhabitants of the apartment, she’d thought... until she heard all the noise in the bathroom. The door is partially open and she opens it just enough more to verify that the girl is kneeling on the floor in front of the toilet.

Patricia moves silently into the room and kneels to move the girl's hair away from her face. The girl starts and almost pulls away but another bout of vomiting keeps her in place. Patricia wets a washcloth and uses it to clean the vomit out of her hair and then pulls it back into a low ponytail. She sits rubbing the poor creatures back until the vomiting subsides and then gently manipulates her so that she’s sitting on the floor with her back to the wall. She’s wearing a black silk robe that Patricia thinks belongs to Maven’s husband but she hasn’t bothered to tie it. Patricia’s eyes linger on the girl’s chest only briefly but for longer than she’d be willing to admit before she closes the garment and secures the sash. She rinses the rag clean in the sink and uses it to wash the girl’s face.

“There we are, feeling better?”

The girls previously bleary, distant gaze focuses suddenly and her brow furrows in confusion.

“W-who are you?”

“Don’t be silly, you know who I am.”

It seems to take a great mental effort on the girl’s part to recall the name and even when she says it she sounds uncertain.

“...Sam?”

She and Samuel have had limited interactions. Patricia only nods by way of response.

“Why’s ‘ur voice different?”

“I’m not sure I know what you mean.”

The girl looks as though she wants to pursue the issue farther but doubts her own recollections and has too little energy to bother. Patricia helps her up off the bathroom floor and onto the couch in the living room, closing and flushing the toilet as she goes. Once she has her settled, she takes her hair out of the ponytail and spends a while just running her fingers through it, working out the knots. She feels the girl relax under her ministrations and finds herself relaxing as well. She almost gets lost in it but then remembers her priorities.

“You’re terribly sick, aren’t you, dear?”

Hope flares in the girl's eyes and she nods frantically.

“I...I need-”

Patricia cuts her off.

“You NEED water.”

The girl almost protests but it dies on her lips when Patricia stands and looks down at her sternly.

“And when’s the last time you’ve had anything to eat?”

The girl just looks confused.

“I thought so. Wait here.”

Patricia goes into the kitchen and is immediately thankful that Dennis has never set foot in this place and probably never will. Satanists are apparently a terribly untidy people. She doesn’t suppose she’ll have time to cook anything so she just grabs a few pieces of white bread and fills a large glass with water, it’s better than nothing. Though the girl had been ready to refuse the offered water, the site of it seems to make her realize just how dehydrated she is. She snatches the glass and gulps it down.

“Not too fast.”

Patricia scolds.

“You’ll just make yourself sick again.”

The girl immediately slows down, Patricia feels a little tingling of satisfaction. When she’s finished the water, Patricia gestures to the bread on a small plate on the table and the girl obediently begins eating it. Patricia decides that she should talk while the girl eats, she doesn’t know how much time she has.

“Tell me, are you here because you want to be?”

The girl looks at her blankly as though she’s never even bothered to ask herself that question.

“They’re... my friends.”

“Really? Are you sure?”

The girl nods but it takes her a while. Patricia reaches up and tucks a hair behind her ear.

“And, if they found someone younger and prettier and... more desperate than you... do you suppose they’d still be your friends then?”

The girl just looks mildly pained, her eyes get a little wetter.

“Would you like to know what I think?”

Patricia waits for the girl to respond but she doesn’t so she just goes on anyway.

“I think that, to them, you have an expiration date and once you’ve passed that or they find someone to fill your space... whichever comes first, you may find yourself losing that little game they play on Purge Night.”

Fear creeps into the girl's eyes but it’s not new fear, it’s clear she’s had that thought herself before, even if only during her few, far spaced periods of lucidity.

“They may not even go to that much trouble, they may just put you back out on the street where they found you.”

This must have struck a nerve because the girl abruptly begins violently sobbing, the bread she’d been chewing falls out of her mouth. Patricia pushes past the disgust and puts a hand on the girl's shoulder.

“There, there... is there really nowhere else you can go? Do you have no family that you could contact?”

The girl hesitates, thinking, but then shakes her head.

“I...I can’t...she wouldn’t....”

Patricia squeezes the girl's shoulder and she seems to take this as an invitation to move closer. She throws her arms around Patricia and presses her face into her chest... which she just now realizes is bare because she’s only wearing the pajama pants Samuel had fallen asleep in. She can feel the girl’s tears and snot on her skin but she can’t bring herself to push her away. Instead, she goes back to rubbing her back as the poor thing’s frail body is wracked with a fresh round of sobs. She’s trying to think of something to say and beginning to regret having spoken to the girl at all. Ultimately, there's only one thing she can think of.

"I know, pet... it hurts to be awake but if you stay asleep too long the predators find you... and eat you up."

She’s ‘saved’ for lack of a better word, by the sounds of Maven stirring in the guest room. So quickly that an outside observer wouldn’t even register it, she rouses Samuel and moves him into the light.

------

Samuel comes to with Lenore crying all over him and then looks up to see Maven standing in the doorway to the guest room, in her black silk and lace dressing gown, looking at him quizzically. He carefully formulates his response. Of course, he doesn’t care why the girl is crying but the man he’s been pretending to be probably would so he tries to sound concerned.

“I just came out here and found her like this.”

Maven, seeming to believe him, comes over and sits on the other side of the couch. She takes Lenore by the shoulder, pulling her off of Samuel and on to her and when she speaks her voice is filled with condescending faux-sweetness.

“Oh, honey, what’s wrong?”

“I...I wanna’ g-go home...”

That seems to be all the girl can say before she falls apart again. Maven holds her until she cries herself out and then brings the two of them into the kitchen where she makes them breakfast. She puts a little vial of white powder beside Lenore’s plate and kisses her on the top of the head. As she fingers the vial, Lenore for some reason looks at Samuel but only briefly. She puts it into the pocket of her robe instead of immediately snorting it like she usually would.

Chapter Text

Patricia wakes up in the middle of the night and is relieved to find that she’s in Kevin’s bed, holding Casey. She’s been waking up in more strange beds than she cares for lately. She hadn’t anticipated what a time-consuming undertaking Samuels method of procurement would be. Dennis also seems anxious at how much she’s been leaving the apartment without him and she does hate to worry him. He also hasn’t been given as much to do as she knows he would prefer, nothing vexes him so much as being made to feel unnecessary.

For the time being, Patricia tries to put it out of her mind and just enjoy being in familiar surroundings... with Casey and her familiar warmth and her familiar scent. She kisses the top of the dear girl’s head and feels her shift, nestling further into Kevin’s body. She and Dennis must have been intimate because, while Casey is nude, Patricia is wearing a full set of pajamas. Since the incident, Dennis is always sure to redress when they’re done... being intimate, out of consideration for Patricia.

They’ve been doing some... unconventional things in the bedroom; sometimes Dennis will have scratch marks or little bruises or even bite marks on him and he’d, of course, had to explain them to the Others. He’d said only that they were ‘from Casey’ and, while Jade had seemed eager for details, Barry had discouraged them all from prying. Casey had once had rope burns on her wrists that Patricia had found deeply distressing even after Casey had explained, blushing, that they were just from a ‘game’ she and Dennis had been ‘playing.’ Patricia had felt that she should talk to Dennis (remind him that a gentleman does not harm ladies) but she hadn’t known how to bring it up. She tries not to pry into that portion of Dennis and Casey’s relationship and Casey’s demeanor had implied that she was complicit in whatever had gone on. Perhaps she’s unwell in the same way that Dennis is... poor thing.

Patricia tightens her grip around her.

------

Samuel had had to do some damage control following Patricia’s little philanthropic outburst. Lenore had confided in him that she was thinking of leaving the group. She’d been unclear about why she was confiding in him. She seemed to think that her interaction with Patricia had been some sort of dream or hallucination (mostly because he’d stuck to his story about having just come out and found her crying on the couch.) She has strange dreams and hallucinations all the time but this one had affected her because it seemed so real and when she’d thought about it (of course after cutting back on her daily doses of Special-K) she’d realized that she’s unhappy... that ‘this life’ isn’t really for her.

He’d been angry, mostly at Patricia, but he’d concealed it both during the conversation and later when he’d spoken with Patricia because one simply DOES NOT raise one’s voice to MISS Patricia. He’d told Lenore that he understood why she wanted to leave, in fact, he’d been concerned about her drug use but hadn’t felt it was his place to say anything because they hadn’t even known each other long. He’d also said that if she really WANTED to leave, he was sure no one in the Coven would stop her; their master ‘chains only the willing’ after all. He had, however, encouraged her to wait until after Purge Night. It was only a few days away and it’d be awfully inconsiderate of her to leave them one short of 13 on such short notice.

A little flicker of apprehension had come into her eyes at the mention of the Purge and he’d asked her if she was worried about something. She’d said that, if she stayed, she may wind up losing the game and she didn’t want to risk that. Samuel had wanted to hit her then, right in her stupid junkie face but he’d suppressed the urge and pretended to understand her concern. He’d confided in her, though, that Maven had had a premonition regarding who’d be losing the game and he can’t tell her who but it wasn’t her. This is all of course not true... and they’ll ALL be losing the game.

He convinces her to stay for one last Purge, saving their plan from a last-minute derailing. This convinces him that he should have the conversation he’s been considering having with Patricia for some time now... about how Dennis may not be ENTIRELY necessary on the Purge night. He’s done most of the work this time around, so why shouldn’t he get to be the one to help her summon the Beast. It really isn’t fair, after all, that he hasn’t even gotten to MEET the Beast after all the help he’s given them. What role does Dennis even PLAY in summoning the Beast? Whatever it is, Samuel doubts it’s anything HE couldn’t do.

He lays out his case to her and she listens with a neutral expression. She’ll ‘take it under consideration’ she tells him. He knows that that means she’ll be running it by Dennis because the two of them basically share a brain, rendering them incapable of making decisions without first consulting one another. Samuel pushes his anger even further down and forces a smile. It’s only when she tells him no that he can’t contain his it anymore, it just comes bubbling out of him.

He says he’s sick of not getting the recognition he deserves and he WILL NOT accept being overlooked any longer. He tells her that if they keep treating him like this, he won’t be helping them anymore and maybe he might start doing the opposite. He tells her about Dennis’s porn collection which, by the way, hasn’t stopped growing even now that he has that plain little waif to work his perverted urges off on. He tells her how easily he could ensure that all the Others see it. How does she think they’d feel about Dennis then? And how would Dennis feel? ESPECIALLY if Casey happened to come across the illicit materials.

Why Samuel shudders to think how it might affect dear Kevin if the girl were to leave them. Does Patricia remember, he asks, how Kevin used to hurt himself when he got very sad? And he's sure she can imagine how, with all the resources at his disposal, Samuel could make Kevin QUITE sad indeed. If given the right incentive, he could ruin Kevin's life.

Patricia is very still and silent for a few moments, just studying him in that methodical, dissecting way she has. To his surprise, she concedes that he’s right. After all, he’s the only member of their group who has yet to meet their Master and that really IS unfair, considering how much of the heavy lifting he’s been doing. She tells him to let her break the news to Dennis, though. He’s bound to be quite disappointed.

Dennis doesn’t seem pleased after he’s been told but he doesn’t get angry with Samuel the way he’d expected. If anything, he seems a bit anxious but Samuel supposes that anyone would be anxious at the prospect of being replaced. Samuel likes Dennis, really he does, but it’s beginning to seem that the poor fellow isn’t as necessary as he used to be. How unfortunate... for him.

When the night comes, he’s happier than he thinks he’s ever been. They decide that to avoid suspicion they’ll stagger their arrivals but ensure that all the members of the Coven are there before the alarm sounds. Maven and 2 of the other older women in the group will arrive first and put the finishing touches on the altar, light the candles, etc. Samuel is scheduled to arrive second to last. Once assembled, they'll deadbolt the doors from the inside to ensure they won’t be disturbed and then begin the revels.

Maven’s husband (the dear, generous, soon to be dead fellow) has provided gallons upon gallons of red wine and a trail mix of acid, ecstasy, and ketamine to aid them all in the shedding of their inhibitions. Samuel has gone to the trouble of learning sleight of hand so that he can create the illusion that he’s taking as many pills as the others. To be safe, they’ve brought a battery-powered alarm clock, set to half an hour before midnight, so that they’ll have the sacrifice selected in time for the ‘witching hour.’ Lenore and Domino (the member of the group she’d spent the previous night with) arrive late, clearly having pregamed a bit excessively. Apparently, Lenore intends to make the most of her final night with the Coven.

Once the doors are locked and the final alarm sounds, things begin in earnest.

------

After thoroughly researching what the fallout would be, Dorian had decided against killing his father and stepmother. He has no real reason not to, outside of being chicken shit. Maven, that bitch, had killed his mother, he’s not sure HOW exactly but he just KNOWS it was her. His father may or may not have been complicit in the murder but he certainly didn’t seem to mourn his wife's death for too long. He and Mavin had been fucking even when his mother was still alive.

She’d known about it and allowed it, preferring it over losing her husband. That hadn’t been enough to save her though. She’d ‘lost the game’ and about a month later Maven had moved in. Within the year she and his father had been married and then suddenly the two-bedroom apartment above the bookstore had gotten too crowded for three people. Dorian’s father had moved him into his own apartment in one of the rental properties he owned. Really, if it weren’t for the circumstances, Dorian would have been thrilled at being given that much autonomy but he wasn’t.

If he kills Maven and Morpheus (who's REAL name is Dave), he’ll get the book store and the rental properties free and clear since he turned 18 a month ago. He’d thought about it, even mapped out the specifics of how he’d do it. He’d chickened out though and now it’s too late. He knows where they are, he’s followed them at a distance on their little excursions to the abandoned church. His plan HAD been to break-in in on purge day before they got there and hide somewhere inside with the pistol he’d bought specifically for the purpose. He’d assumed that being the leaders of the Coven, they’d arrive first and then he would kill them. He hadn’t decided if he’d also kill those pretentious fucks they hang out with.

It’ doesn’t matter now though because the final alarm has already sounded and they’ll be hunkered down in there, probably getting trashed and fucking each other. Drugs, alcohol, and sex seem to be a vital component of all their ‘rituals.’ He’s having some drugs and alcohol himself right now. He’d gone into their apartment and taken a bottle of Jack and some pills with little rabbits stamped into them. Now he’s laying on the living room floor of his apartment, spaced out, playing with the gun.

He loads it, just to see how it feels to load it, and then experimentally shoots up into the ceiling. Little flecks of plaster fall down like snow and adrenaline spikes in his veins. Suddenly his mind changes... why not? Why not do it tonight? They deserve it and he’ll DEFINATELY be doing it eventually. It’s long after the final alarm bell so the streets won’t necessarily be safe but... well... those who dare not, care not. Who had said that? Whoever they were, they were right.

Before he knows it, he’s up and putting on his combat boots and old bomber jacket. He thinks he may have run all the way to the church... or maybe teleported there somehow. It seems to take no time at all to get there and no one gets in his way. It’s a sign, he thinks, they were MEANT to die tonight. The doors are all locked but he’s not about to let that stop him, if there is such a thing as fate, it’s favoring him tonight.

Thick, ropey ivy vines cover the front right corner of the building and he decides that that must be his way in...why else would it be there? Whatever was in those pills seems is giving him a CRAZY amount of energy and dulling his sense of pain. His knuckles keep scraping the brick until eventually they start to bleed but he doesn’t feel a thing. Then, he finds it, a little square window covered by a wooden shutter. He punches through it, he’s INVINCIBLE.

He emerges onto a narrow catwalk along the wall of a tall, narrow room the floor of which he’s uncomfortably far away from. It takes him a moment, but he realizes that he’s in the church’s bell tower. Remembering a childhood curiosity, he looks up to see if there’s an actual bell in there and is disappointed to find none... Maybe there was one and they took it out after the church got shut down. That’s not what he’s here for anyway.

With as much care as he can muster given his intoxicated state, he makes his way slowly down the catwalk. By the grace of... someone, he makes it to the floor of the tower. There’s a narrow little door on one of the walls that can't lead anywhere but into the church. He goes through it and finds himself in the choir loft, it’s empty, save some truly impressive cobwebs and only one broken pew. He hears music (Morrissey) from below but apart from that, it’s oddly silent.

Not wanting to be spotted, he gets on all fours and crawls to the edge of the loft. When he peaks over the side, his stomach drops... there are... parts of people... EVERYWHERE. It’s as if a bomb went off that was somehow powerful enough to kill all the people in the building but too weak to damage the structure itself. He freezes in place and for a moment the music is nearly drowned out by the ringing in his ears that always accompanies a panic attack. Once it subsides he starts to hear...it...

There’s a wet, tearing sound coming from the front where the alter used to be. It takes an agonizingly long time for his eyes to adjust to the candlelight but when they finally do he sees that the nude body of a woman has been laid out there. There’s a... thing that’s shaped like a man but clearly isn’t one crouched beside her. It’s naked and its skin appears to be stretched taut over more muscle than it’s accustomed to accommodating. It’s so pale that blue veins are visible even from this distance.

It’s hunched over the woman's body, one had spread out like a big, white spider on the other side of her head to keep it from falling over. He can see what it’s doing but it takes a moment for his mind to accept the reality of what he’s looking at. It’s... eating her face... it’s fucking eating her fucking face. Seeming to have stripped all the meat of the cheeks, it sits back on its haunches so that is can use both of his hands to pry open her mouth. There’s a cracking noise that he may only have imagined he was hearing and he’s reminded, uncomfortably, of someone prying open an oyster.

It lowers it’s face to her’s, appearing to be pressing a kiss to her lipless mouth... until it pulls back... with her tongue between it’s teeth. The muscle stretches like taffy before tearing and detaching. It dangles like a big red slug until the thing throws it’s head back, swallowing the meat in one gulp and... Dorian could swear he’s seen that face before. It’s a bit hard for him to thoroughly search his memory though because he’s drunk and high and the only thing keeping him from throwing up is the knowledge that if he does that THING will hear it and know he’s there. It notices anyway, fixing him with wide, black eyes. Those eyes could hold whole universes within their fathomless depths and when they lock with his he can't move or breath.... he's not even sure that his heart is still beating.

It looks just long enough for him to register that it knows he’s there and then goes back to it’s meal. Forgetting stealth, Dorian hurries back into the bell tower. He only makes it halfway up the catwalk before his foot misses the edge, sending him falling. There’s an audible crack as he hits the ground and his left shin snaps. He claps a hand over his mouth to keep his pained scream from escaping. Once the initial wave of pain passes, he manages to pitifully crawl into a dark corner where he curls up and spends the rest of the night waiting for it to come looking for him.

It never does.

Chapter Text

Anyone who thinks Lenore is out of it right now have never REALLY seen her out of it. Sure, she and Domino have been drinking all of Purge day and the night before but she’s paced herself. Since that weird dream or vision or whatever it was, she’s also only been taking just enough K to keep the withdrawal symptoms at bay. Her head's clearer now than it’s been in months. Spending the previous night with Domino had been her decision, she likes him and she’s going to miss him.

She’d considered telling him she’s leaving the group and why... maybe trying to convince him to leave with her (it’d be easier if she wasn’t doing it alone) but, no. She doesn’t want to make any more waves than absolutely necessary and Domino is more of an integral part of the group than she is. Luring him away would be sure to piss Maven off and, since she and Morpheus got together, bad things have tended to happen to people who piss Maven off. Besides, if even Lenore could see that, Domino’s probably aware of it to and would never consider leaving.

She also wonders if maybe she should try to get Sam to leave; not necessarily with her, they barely know each other but he’s gotten a little too close to Maven. Despite their open marriage, Morpheus can still get jealous sometimes, especially when Maven does more with her boy toys than just fuck them. Maven seems to have grown genuinely close with Sam and the poor guy is too naive to realize that that’s a dangerous situation to be in. He’s too naive in general, too nice, if he sticks around this group too long, they’re going to eat him alive. She also thinks that the fact that whatever it was that advised her to leave in her hallucination had looked like him can’t have been a coincidence. She doesn’t believe in psychic abilities or any of that bullshit but she does believe that sometimes her own subconscious mind tries to tell her things.

She makes up her mind that, after the party gets going, she’s going to try and take Sam aside and enlighten him about the internal politics of the group and explain to him why he’s in danger. She may not even be able to accomplish the first part, Maven’s got her hooks in him DEEP, but she has to try. She and Dom get some dirty looks for showing up late. She’d been letting him decide when they were going to leave, vainly hoping that he might blackout or just get too trashed to remember that it was Purge Night. Unfortunately, he had remembered; he’d had to lean on her the entire walk there but they’d made it.

After the party has gotten going and she’d carefully checked to ensure that Maven is... otherwise engaged, she asks Sam to come with her to the church's entryway. She tries to make her case to him but, even though she may not be totally trashed, she’s not exactly sober either and she winds up stumbling over the words. He silences her with a hand on her shoulder and tells her that she needn’t ‘worry her little head,’ he knows EXACTLY what he doing. When he walks away from her she hangs back in the entryway for a while, feeling even more unsettled. She could swear his voice had been... off somehow and his smile had been different... more like a shark or a hyena.

She participates in the festivities just enough to keep from drawing suspicion but she can’t relax. She can’t overcome the feeling that something BAD, even worse than what usually happens on this night, is going to happen.

------

Samuel drinks enough to avoid suspicion but slips all the pills he’s given into his sleeve, to be deposited in inconspicuous places on the floor while the others aren’t paying attention. Maven is a wreck, she’s been downing pills by the handfull and downing wine by the bottle. She had him fuck her in front of the alter. At some point, she and her husband lure him into the choir loft where they both fuck her at the same time. To Samuel’s surprise, Miss Patricia doesn’t withdraw as she usually does when he’s engaged in these sorts of activities. She watches the goings-on with cold detachment from her place beside him in the Light.

He could swear he gets more and more energy as midnight draws closer. The air itself seems to crackle with electricity and he can feel something... touching him. It’s not touching Kevin’s body, it’s touching HIS body... sort of... coiling around him... like sentient smoke. It feels... good. The Beast can see him for himself and is curious about him... probably because it had been expecting Dennis.

When the alarm goes off, it takes Morpheous another 15 minutes to get everyone to stop what they're doing. Most of them seem to have forgotten that they came here for a reason. The game turns out to be quite simple; Maven will put 13 playing cards into little envelopes and then put those envelopes into the top hat that Morphepus had been wearing when he'd arrived. Each member of the Coven will draw out an envelope, whoever winds up with the Joker card will be the sacrifice. Samuel's not even sure it counts as a game but he supposes that it's all most of them can manage in their impaired state.

At this point Samuel is feeling... off. He feels like there's someone behind him but when he turns around, there's no one there. When he tries to turn around a third time, he finds that he's physically unable. He is able to step forward to get his envelope and when he returns to his place in the circle he sees a figure standing in the dark beneath the choir loft. He knows immediately that it's not a member of the coven because this person is fully clothed. It's tall and slender with very long hair and wearing what appears to be a loose, flowing robe.

"Are you ready, dear?"

It's Patricia's voice but it's somehow coming both from inside Kevin's head and the other side of the room. He can't respond because a frighteningly large hand has come up to cover his mouth (HIS mouth.) Domino has gotten the Joker, both the women and the men embrace and kiss him, bidding him goodbye. Lenore clings to him until she's pried off. For his own part, he seems happily resigned to his fate, though the drugs probably play some part in that.

They're passing out little ornamental knives but when someone tries to hand one to Samuel he can't take it, he can't move. He also seems to be in two places at once; he's in the church but also in some sort of... cave. In the cave, Patricia is right in front of him, reassuring him in a soft, placid voice that it will ALL be over soon. He can feel now that the thing behind him is easily twice his height, it has to crouch and hunch over to get its arms around him.

The hand that's over his mouth smells like dead things. Another hand is moving around his torso, probing as though looking for an opening. When it doesn't find one, it MAKES one. It's claws are so sharp that at first, he feels nothing but it's hand slides under his rib cage, towards his heart, and the pain is unbearable. He tries to scream but can't, he reaches a hand out to Patricia but she steps just out of his reach.

She maintains eye contact with him as the thing digs its nails into his heart. Suddenly he feels breath on the side of his neck and then it's biting him, sinking it's canines into the artery. From the bite, an acidic burning spreads through his bloodstream until every cell of his being feels as though it's being dissolved. He remembers then how spiders eat, by first injecting their prey with acid, and finally realizes what's happening... it's eating him. It uncovers his mouth and black fluid comes spilling out, burning his chin, throat, and chest as it trickles down. It's the first time he's ever actually FELT pain and pain is the last thing he feels.

------

When Sam crumples to his knees and bile, tinted red by the wine he’s been drinking all night, spills out of his mouth, Lenore’s first thought is that he must have overdosed on something. It quickly becomes apparent, to her at least, that that’s not the case. He starts to sweat profusely and pants like an animal as veins rise to the surface of his skin. His muscles seem to be slithering around under his skin, detaching from their ligaments and rearranging themselves. Why does no one else seem to notice that? They just crowd around him and keep asking what’s wrong.

Eventually Maven goes down on her knees in front of him and places a hand on the side of his face. At the touch, his head jerks up and his eyes open. He turns his head, quick as a viper’s strike, and bites her thumb clean off. It seems to take no effort at all on his part, as though the bone were made of meringue. There’s an artery in the thumb (most people don’t know that) so Mavens's hand becomes a blood fountain.

The women swarm around her, trying to stop the bleeding, as the men pile on Sam... or... what WAS Sam. It’s eyes are black and just slightly too big for it’s face and it laughs as they attack it. It plunges a hand into Morpheous’s throat, ripping out his larynx while simultaneously grabbing Damien by the hair and whipping him across the room. He hits the marble wall with such force that his head practically explodes. Lenore doesn’t wait to see more, she runs into the little room off to the side of the niche where the alter used to be (she doesn’t know what the fuck it’s called) and closes and locks the door behind her.

All that's left in the room is an empty wardrobe. She climbs inside and closes the door and then all she can do is listen to the screams and wait. Eventually, all she can hear is Morrisy on vinyl echoing through the church. After an agonizingly long time, there’s a scratching at the door and then the splintering sound of it being forced open. It finds her, of course, there was only one place to look.

She makes a pitiful attempt to hold the door to the wardrobe closed but she may as well be a toddler for all it matters. Once they’re open, she’s face to face with it. It’s naked and coated in blood and it’s eyes are deep, black pools that she for some reason can resist starring into. While keeping her trapped with a hand on either side of her it bores into her soul. It brings it’s face close to hers and inhales and then rests it’s forehead against hers. Eventually, when her whole body is shaking and tears have begun to sweep down her face, it withdraws just a little and... smiles.

“You are different from the rest.”

It says, it’s voice sounding long disused.

“Rejoice, for your soul is pure.”

It slowly brings a blood-soaked hand to the side of her face and slips it’s thumb across her forehead as if in a ritual gesture. It’s skin is unnaturally hot and it’s touch causes an inexplicable tingling in her loins. It stands there a moment, uncomfortably close, studying her. She MUST be insane because she feels the strangest compulsion to lean in and kiss it. Thankfully, before she can act on that compulsion a noise from behind distracts it, it’s metallic, like someone struggling with the deadbolt on one of the doors. The thing darts from the room so quickly it’s a blur, leaving Lenore alone.

She closes the doors to the wardrobe, slides down to the floor and just sits and waits for it to come back... partly hoping that it will.

It never does.

Chapter Text

The next morning Patricia wakes in Kevin’s bed, completely nude and covered in blood. She immediately gets into the shower because she knows Dennis will leave her alone when she’s in there and she needs time to prepare herself for the coming conversation. He’ll be angry no doubt or, at the very least, upset. She could tell that he hadn’t been fond of Samuel but he sees it as his responsibility to protect ALL of them, even the ones he doesn’t like. If he’d shown his true colors to her earlier when they had more time before the Purge, she’d not have gone to such drastic measures but he’d backed her into a corner. She is certain that, eventually, Dennis will understand.

Once she’s bathed, gotten into on of the robes Barry had bought her and began removing the bloodied sheets from the bed, she feels him enter the light.

“Ya’ should let me do that.”

“I don’t mind.”

He’s silent as she changes the sheets but she can feel how tense he is with the effort of restraining himself. She goes into the kitchen after and puts on the kettle purely out of habit. Once her tea is prepared she goes and sits at the table and just waits. When he does speak his voice tight and monotone, the way it always is when he’s trying not to yell. He NEVER raises his voice to her but she can tell when he wants to.

“You knew that was gonna’ happen.”

It’s not a question or an accusation, just a statement.

“There was a SLIGHT chance that it might not.”

“But you were expecting it?”

“Of course... he devours the impure, Dennis... Samuel came along far too late in Kevin’s life and was too insulated and... self-absorbed to have ever truly suffered. I’m surprised it had never occurred to him that that was why I was keeping him from the Beast... he was SUPPOSED to be so very clever...”

“You didn’t have to go right to killing him... We could have gotten a leash on him somehow.”

“The Purge was so close and he was threatening Kevin and threatening you.”

“Yeah, I know, he’d been threatenin’ me from the start. After a while, it was just white noise ta’ me.”

“Why didn’t you tell me about it?”

“Because...I was handling it... and he was useful.”

To temper the mounting tension in his voice she keeps her’s completely calm.

“He aimed to replace you, you know. At first, he seemed to admire you but at some point, he got it into his head that he was better, more important than you. I could think of only one way to show him just how WRONG he was.”

Dennis’s voice softens, he sounds tired and exasperated and just a little touched.

“You said you were just gonna teach him a lesson.”

“And I did... I imagine he learned QUITE a bit in the final moments of his existence.”

------

Lenore awakes the next morning and panics briefly at the realization that she’s in a dark, confined space. When she falls out of the wardrobe, she remembers where she is and why she’d gotten in there. She listens carefully for any sound but by now even the record player has stopped. If that thing is still out there, she wonders, will it kill her? She can’t imagine why it would since it had made such a production of sparing her last night but it hadn’t exactly seemed rational or reasonable.

She wonders if maybe she should just stay where she is and wait. Eventually, they’ll come to collect the bodies but this is a bad part of town so that likely won’t be until evening. She gets to her feet and walks over to the door as soundlessly as possible. It’s not even closed so she hugs the wall and piers cautiously around the door frame. She wonders how early it is because the blood is still bright red against the white marble of the church’s walls and floor.

Then, she hears it... a voice calling for help from... somewhere above her. She goes out into the church, slipping once in a puddle of blood and then taking care to avoid them. After listening for a while, she realizes the voice is in the choir loft but it’s muffled. As she makes her way to the back of the church and up the stairs of the choir loft, she tries not to look around too much. She sees enough, though, to know that there aren’t any bodies... just pieces of bodies.

Eventually she finds a little narrow door and behind it, Morpheous’s son... his name escapes her just now. He’s wedged into a corner with his legs in front of him, the left one bent below the knee, where it shouldn’t be able to bend. She sits down near him.

“I’m not gonna’ be able to get you down the stairs, but I’ll stay with you until they come.”

He nods, he looks like he’s been crying.

“What’s your name?”

She talks to him to distract him from the pain.

“Dorian.”

His voice is hoarse, she wonders just how long he’d been screaming.

“You?”

“Lenore.”

Surprisingly he smiles in a shakey, sickly sort of way.

“... ‘a dirge to her, the doubly dead, in having died so young’?”

He looks at her questioningly and then it occurs to her that he’s quoting the poem. She nods and, of all things, laughs.

“Yeah... I’m really into Poe.”

That’s not quite true. There had BEEN a time when she’d been really into Poe but she can’t remember the last time she’d read him or anyone else. She’d discovered ketamine when she was 19 and from then on that had been all she’d cared about. Now that she’s thought about it, she starts to feel sick; withdrawal setting in. She remembers that she had some on her but then remembers that she’s not wearing any clothes.

“Hang on, I’ll be back.”

She runs downstairs and finds the jacket she’d worn there, taking the little vials of white powder out of its pocket. Then she finds Domino’s black trench coat; it’s only a little bloody and still has his apartment keys in the pocket. She decides that she’ll sit with the kid until she’s sure he’s safely on his way to a hospital, then she’ll walk back to Dom’s apartment. He was a drug dealer so there’s bound to be cash in there and it’s not like he’ll be needing it. She’ll take the money and buy a bus ticket to... she hasn’t decided where. She just knows she can’t stay in Philidelphia, not now that she knows for sure that the Devil is real and walks the earth here.

By the time the week is out, Lenore will be long gone and Dorian will have convinced himself that he had absolutely NOT seen what he remembers having seen.

------

When the Others begin to wake up, none of them questions or even seems to notice Samuels’s absence. His chair isn’t even in the Room anymore. Dennis keeps waiting to have to come up with an explanation but DAYS go by and it never becomes necessary. Instead, he starts slowly removing Samuel’s things from the apartment bit by bit. It’s mostly books (the most worn among them a copy of American Psycho) and computer accessories that Dennis can’t even begin to guess the purpose of.

Dennis thinks back on the bones in the Beast’s lair and wonders if Samuel is among them now. Are they all the remains of alters? He worries about Patricia too. Has she done this before or are all those bones from alters that stumbled upon the Beast’s lair before she did? She’s ambiguous in her responses, not seeming to want to discuss the Beast this soon after Purge night.

He’s, for lack of a better phrase, ‘closer’ the closer they are to the Purge and ‘farther away’ the farther they are from the Purge. This means that if they talked about him now, he would hear them. He can look through their eyes and used their senses to perceive the environment and even take the light if it’s left unattended. Patricia tells him that there’s no need to worry about this but Dennis thinks it seems like exactly the sort of thing he should worry about. He thinks about all the times he’s been with Casey close to Purge Night... how ravenous he had been.

Casey has been working with him and she’s been very patient. The hardest part for him has been openly telling her about his compulsions... regarding her. They work out ways that he can give vent to them while remaining within the parameters they’ve agreed on and, of course, he is always to STOP if she tells him to. His latest project is finding ways to bind her that won’t leave marks on her body. She’d said she didn’t mind the rope burns, that they’d healed within days and had barely hurt but he doesn’t want to hurt her at all.

She likes relinquishing control to someone she can trust because it reminds her that there’s someone she can trust... finally. They roleplay scenarios where he’s holding her against her will. So many of his fantasies involve having her completely dependent on him and she’s surprisingly understanding about that given how independent she normally is. In fact, she seems to find it... stimulating. She climaxes faster when he ‘forces’ himself on her... sometimes even multiple times.

He tries not to think about what all this SAYS about both of them.

Chapter Text

When Barry takes the light for the first time post Purge he feels just fine... which is alarming. It’s just like last year, there had been inexplicable mounting tension winding tighter and tighter and then suddenly releasing for no apparent reason. He checks Kevin’s body over and finds no new marks but that doesn’t necessarily disprove his theory. Maybe...whoever had just been more careful this time. He has an appointment with Dr. Fletcher in the gap between his and Dennis’s shifts and he plans to finally tell her what he’s been suspecting. Really, he’s hoping she’ll just tell him that his suspicions are groundless because he DOES NOT want to be right about this.

She offers him coffee which accepts purely to get more time to work out what he’s going to say in his head. He definitely doesn’t NEED caffeine, he feels more awake, more inspired more... everything right now than he has in a while. The only thing keeping him from enjoying it is his theory about the reason for it. Barry has trouble even sitting still as he waits for her to come back into the room. When she comes back in she sets down a tray and he takes a cup off of it and thanks her. He just holds it though.

“How are you today?”

It takes Barry a moment to come up with an answer to even that question.

“Good... I think.”

“Are there new marks?”

“Uh... no. In fact, I can’t put my finger on any specific thing that I’d say is wrong...”

“...but you feel that something is?”

Barry slowly takes in a breath and then slowly lets it out.

“I know...ya’ probably can’t tell me this but... I know Casy comes here sometimes and... has she ever said anything to you about Dennis wanting her to stay with him durin’ the Purge?”

“She’s visited with me a few times, the Purge wasn’t discussed during any of them.”

That is SO Dr. Fletcher, answering without answering.

“It’s just... as far as I know Dennis never has and it’s recently occurred to me that that’s kinda’... odd.”

“You mean that it seems out of character for him?”

“Yeah... I mean... she gets locks and alarms and self-defense stuff from him like most girls get flowers from their boyfriends but, knowin’ him, it seems weird ta’ me that he doesn’t actually wanna’ be WITH her on Purge Night.”

“She does have quite the independent streak, it’s possible that he offered and she declined.”

“Yeah but then ya’d think he’d like... stake out her apartment or something and if he did that she’d complain ta’ me about it... she’s had me talk ta’ him about boundaries before.”

“...and all this has caused you to develop some particular suspicion?”

Barry looks down into his cooling cup of coffee.

“Just ta’ be clear, I WANT you ta’ tell me that I’m wrong... that I’m just being paranoid.”

“I’ve never known you to be paranoid.”

Barry sighs.

“I think... I think one of US might’a started Purging... probably Dennis.”

“What makes you suspect Dennis specifically?”

“Cause... he’s the only one who could... he’s got the light on Purge Night, nobody’s strong enough ta’ take it from ‘im by force. He’d probably give it ta’ Patricia if she asked but he’d wanna’ share it with ‘er and I can’t thinka’ anyone Patricia would wanna’ kill... except maybe... you.”

Barry winces and immediately backpedals.

“Dennis wouldn’t let ‘er do that though... he LIKES you... he think yer’ good fer Kevin...but... that kinda’ pokes a hole in my theory about it bein’ Dennis...”

“How so?”

“Well... I don’t think Dennis would kill people just fer the hell’a it... he’d need a reason and all the people he’s got a reason ta’ kill are still alive”

“There are people that you think he’d feel justified in killing?”

“OH, YEAH... ya’ gotta’ remember that he don’t interact with a lotta’ people on a regular basis and he dislikes most’a them... but they’re all still alive so...”

Barry just runs out of steam there, not sure where else to go. The doctor attempts to help him get moving again.

“And that wouldn’t explain the scar...”

She nods to his shoulder, triggering Barry to start self consciously fingering the spot. The scar is barely visible now. If what’s happened recently is setting a precedent, it’ll be completely gone after next Purge.

“...unless Dennis is immune to gunfire but I think you’d have mentioned that to me by now.”

What was previously semi-clear in Barry’s mind suddenly becomes very blurred.

“.... he’s not... or at least he WASN’T... but... but he’s always been the strongest one’a US and... is it possible he might’a gotten...stronger? I don’t think he’d tell me about it if he had, ya’ know he ain’t big on sharing.”

The doctor looks at him as if trying to figure out how to carefully phrase her next words.

“Barry, I’ve found people like Kevin to be capable of some exceptional, even SEEMINGLY impossible things but none of it, when examined more closely, has ever been found to be completely beyond the realm of ALL human capability.”

He looks confused.

“What I mean to say is that no HUMAN is immune to gun-shot and, based on what I know, that means no alter could be either. Alter’s are, for all intents and purposes, people so they cannot do things that it would be impossible for any person to do.”

Barry is in some ways comforted by this but made more anxious in other ways... there’s still no explanation for the bullet scar.

“Though that doesn’t rule out the possibility that one of you may have started participating in the Purge... are you certain the only possibility is Dennis?”

“Yeah... I mean, Jade’s got enemies, mostly in the form’a disgruntles ex-boyfriends but I don’t see her killin’ anybody... or... maybe I just don’t wanna’ imagine that... she’s my best friend...”

Barry’s eyes mist over. Finally, he plucks a sugar cube from the tray and drops it into his coffee. He’s not sure he’ll be drinking it but he needs to keep his hands busy. Dr. Fletcher seems to be waiting for him to go on, like an actor doing a scene with another actor who’s forgotten their lines, but Barry can’t imagine what she’s waiting for. Eventually, she goes on.

“Perhaps, you should consider asking Casey to come sit with Kevin during the next Purge.”

He looks at her questioningly.

“If Dennis takes issue with it, then you’ll know that there are SOME grounds for your suspicions. If he doesn’t, then you’ll know that your concerns were groundless.”

He brightens a bit.

“Yeah...yeah, I gotta’ be careful how I put it though... I think if I tell Casey that I worry about Dennis’ being alone durin’ the Purge, she might go fer’ it and if Dennis really does just stay hunkered down in the apartment, he’d have no reason ta’ say no.”

Something seems to occur to him then and his face falls.

“But what da’ I do if he does have a problem with it?”

The doctor mulls this over for a moment.

“Just find out rather or not he does, we’ll play by ear from there... I know there’s probably little point in my asking but do you think you’d be able to convince him to come to a session?”

“I can TRY but the outlook ain’t good... why don’t ya’ just ask Casey ta’ try an’ talk him in ta’ it... he’s willin’ ta’ go a lot further outside his comfort zone fer her than he is fer me.”

“Well, first off, I think she’d refuse but I also don’t think he’d receive the full benefit of therapy if he attended purely out of fear that his significant other may leave him if he doesn’t.”

Barry begrudgingly concedes. When he leaves, Dr. Fletcher goes immediately to Kevin’s file and updates the section about Samuel. Under his name, it already says “lonely, insecure, pathological liar, above-average intelligence for his self-proclaimed age, sociopathic tendencies (possibly affected for attention)”, to that she adds “May no longer exist.”

------

Dennis takes the light from Barry as soon as he gets back from his appointment. Casey will be accompanying him on his rounds tonight and coming back to the apartment with him after. There are things he needs to do before she gets here... things he needs to make ready. Of course, he washes and does a once over of the apartment. Then he goes through his kit.

He is boundlessly grateful for the internet because he’s bought some things that he could never even mention to another person let alone go through the process of purchasing from a cashier. He puts on cologne; it had been Samuel’s. He tells himself that he’s been using it just because it would be wasteful to throw it away. The fact that he only uses it when he’s about to see Casey is neither here nor there. He hadn’t felt the same serenity he had the day after the last Purge (when he’d been in the light during the Beast’s emergence) but he does feel generally invigorated now that their master has fed.

When he meets Casey at the front gate, she’s wearing a powder blue summer dress.

Chapter Text

The laws of physics don’t apply to The Room because it doesn’t physically exist and each Alter seems to perceive it differently. Of all of them, Barry perceives The Room as being the largest because he can see all 22 of the people in it. Even so, it fluctuates in size. Sometimes, when they’re discussing something as a group, they’re crowded in there very close to each other while the rest of the time they’re spaced a comfortable distance apart. Right now, as Barry tries to work up the nerve to approach her, Patricia appears to be MILES away.

Barry sits on one side of the circle with Jade to his right and Kevin to his left, Patricia sits on the other end with Dennis (of course) on her right and Mary and Ian about a yard away on her left. The twin’s chairs are so close together that it’s hard to tell if they even have separate chairs or if they’re sitting on a wooden bench. Both the chairs to her right are currently empty, meaning that Dennis and Casey are in the early stages of their “date night” (the part where she accompanies him on his rounds while Hedwig shares the light with him.) Later on, when they’ve started doing “grown-up stuff” Hedwig will have come back into the room and gone to sleep. Barry’s decided he’ll wait until then so he can be ABSOLUTELY certain that Dennis is distracted.

He’s going to tell her he’s worried about Dennis, mostly because he IS but also because he thinks that’ll be the path of least resistance when it comes to getting her to talk to him. If Dennis HAS been Purging, he doubts that she knows about it or else she’d have counseled him against it. Barry’s not particularly religious but he’s pretty sure murder is a sin and Patricia’s counseling him against violence had been enough to keep him from hurting Kevin’s mom which had probably been no small task. So, if Dennis is Purging, she’d probably want to know about it and she’s probably the only one who’d be able to stop him. The two of them have always been very important to each other.

When Patricia had gone on her little leave of absence, Jade had very openly hoped that Kevin’s mom being dead meant that they didn’t need the “bible-thumping bitch” anymore but Barry had asked her to tone it down around Dennis. Dennis had dutifully attended Patrician’s hollow shell and kept the Others away from her. It had been obvious, to Barry at least, that he was completely lost without her. Of course, he knew there’d be no point in trying to talk to him about it. The Other’s had either barely taken note of her absence or rejoiced in their newfound freedom.

Patricia had written the rules and Dennis had enforced them but left to his own devices he exerted no authority beyond what was necessary to keep them from physical harm. This lead to him interacting with the Others much less in general. Barry could do nothing but watch as he sank down into a deep black pit of depression that no one else seemed to notice... except Hedwig. Of course, being 9 years old, Hedwig wasn’t really equipped to deal with complex emotions. He’d responded by becoming extremely clingy, never leaving Dennis alone, and demanding and even misbehaving sometimes just because if Dennis was angry, then at least he wasn’t sad.

Barry had been equal parts relieved and worried when Patricia had returned. Worry is always combined with everything he feels. He’d been glad she was back because she was the only one who Dennis would ever allow to help him but worried that her return may upset the group’s newfound equilibrium. She had come back different, sharper and harder in both appearance and manner. She’s also always wearing red now when before she’d only ever worn black (the color befitting a ‘bride of Christ’ as she’d called herself at the time.)

It had surprised him how passive she’d wound up being following her initial proclamation of her objection to Barry being in charge. She’d had used to be VERY vocal, she spoke first and when she spoke EVERYONE listened, but now she mostly just sits beside Dennis. She talks to Dennis the most (but that’s nothing new) and is not hesitant to give her input when a group consensus is being taken but she’s made no move to unseat Barry and he finds that suspicious. Don’t get him wrong, it’s GOOD that she hasn’t but... why hasn’t she? Hedwig comes back into the light and Barry suddenly remembers Dennis, he needs to talk to Patricia about Dennis.

He waits until Hedwig’s eyes close and then gets up and walks across the circle. As he approaches her he begins to feel as though he’s shrinking and he has to remind himself that he is NOT a kid anymore; he’s an ADULT going to talk to another ADULT. When he gets close she raises her eyes from her lap. She’s always doing something repetitive with her hands when she’s sitting. She had used to constantly run a rosary through her fingers but now she’s always knitting something that will never be finished because it doesn’t exist.

“What do you want?”

She asks bluntly, the motion of her hands never ceasing. Barry chokes but only for a second... her eyes are like chips of ice.

“We need ta’ talk...”

“Oh, I disagree.”

Barry ignores her attempt to cut him off.

“...about Dennis.”

She looks mildly alarmed but only for a moment before it’s replaced with indignation.

“If Dennis DOES have any problems, they’re not for YOU to worry about.”

Barry is not quick to anger, he has to keep reminding himself of that.

“Yeah well I’m worried anyway.”

He forces a smile and a dry laugh.

“Ya’ see, I did an awful lotta’ worryin’ about him while you were gone and it’s kinda’ hard ta’ get outta’ the habit.”

Shit, why did he go down that road? If he puts her on the defensive, there’s no chance of making any progress. Predictably, her features harden. He holds up his hands in mock surrender and takes a step back in an expression of silent apology.

“What do you WANT?”

She repeats. He takes a deep breath and tries to think of the least confrontational way to phrase what he needs to say.

“Are you...sure that Dennis doesn’t leave the apartment during the Purge?”

“Are you?”

She looks at him oddly accusingly.

“Because last I was aware, we ALL slept during the Purge so I don’t know what would give you the impression that I knew any more about what goes on on that night than you do.”

Barry proceeds with caution, he has to soften her or he’s not going to get anywhere. He tries to make his next remark vaguely complimentary.

“Right, we all sleep but if he WERE deviating from the plan and he was to tell somebody about that it would definitely be you...”

As predicted she relaxes, though to a degree that’s barely perceivable.

“... and if he were actin’... odd, you’d definitely be the first ta’ notice. So, I just wanted ta’ know if you’d noticed anything.”

She seems to be thinking for a very long time, long enough that he starts to get uncomfortable... this was probably her intention.

“...no.”

She finally says simply but then becomes defensive again.

“What, may I ask, has led you to suspect that he leaves the apartment?”

Barry tries to decide how much to tell her, he decides to go with the thing that he knows will soften her at least a little more.

“It just occurred to me lately that it’s weird that he don’t ask Casey ta’ come sit with us... I mean, even I worry about her bein' by herself on Purge Night so I’d think knowin’ that she was would drive Dennis crazy.”

She nearly smiles at the mere mention of the girl’s name and when she goes on her tone is fond even if what she’s saying is technically a criticism.

“You know how stubborn she can be.”

“So he’s asked her?”

“...no, he wanted to but I advised him against it. He’s told me she often complains to you about him not giving her her space. It upsets him that she doesn’t feel she can come to him with her grievances... all he really wants is for her to be happy.”

“She doesn’t come to me THAT often...”

Barry suddenly feels a little guilty... like he’s been an interloper in Dennis and Casey’s relationship.

“So... you suspect that he leaves our apartment and goes to hers?”

“I know he doesn’t but he might... stake the place out... ya’ know, find a way to look after her without her knowin’ he’s lookin’ after her.”

Patricia actually smiles fondly at this. Dennis is her favorite... everyone knows that. She sighs but it sounds more whistful than exasperated.

“That does SOUND like something he would do. I know that under normal circumstances he wouldn’t DREAM of putting us all at risk but... Miss Cooke does have a certain effect on him.”

“Yeah.”

Barry can’t help but smile. He really wishes that what they’ve been talking about was his actual suspicion but he knows he can’t directly ask Patricia about that. She would not for a second entertain any accusations against her pet, her dear, her lamb... even if she herself secretly suspected they were true. Barry decides to try for just a little more information before wrapping this up, it’s gone better than he’d thought it would and he doesn’t want to press his luck.

“Could ya’ just... maybe... ask ‘im if he has been? There’s no reason anyone else needs ta’ know but if he is doing that he needs ta’ stop... we can agree on that, right?”

“Right and I shall certainly put a stop to it if he is.”

It’s almost embarrassing how good it feels to have her do something other than spit acid at him. He decides maybe he’ll try for a little more. Maybe he can lead her to the same suspicion he has instead of directly telling her about it.

“Um... just one more thing. Have you noticed any new marks on Kevin?”

Her brow creases in concern.

“I mean, not NEW new but... after last year’s Purge I noticed a dent in his right shoulder that our doctor says looks like a scar from a bullet wound and Dennis doesn’t seem ta’ be able ta’ see it.”

“A bullet wound?”

She sounds positively mortified.

“It’s fine, we’re ok. Like I said, it’s a SCAR so Kevin’s not really hurt, I’m just pretty sure the mark wasn’t there before last year’s Purge... do you know the mark I’m talkin’ about?”

“I’m afraid not.”

She seems so distressed that he actually regrets telling her.

“It’s not anything ta’ worry about. It even seems ta’ be fading. I was just wondering if you could see it... PLEASE don’t mention it ta’ Dennis.”

“Of course not, he worries more than enough as it is.”

“Definitely....but just... try ‘an figure out if he’s been goin’ outside during the Purge because that’s the only way I can think that we’d have wound up with it.”

“You mean that you suspect he’s been lieing to you?”

The defensiveness is seeping back into her tone. Barry tries to do damage control.

“Love makes ya’ do crazy things.”

She nods, softening again.

“That it does.”

Barry walks away feeling satisfied with how things went. Patricia watches Barry walk away, feeling equally satisfied.

Chapter Text

It had started when Casey had become friends with a girl named Sarah who lived a floor up from her. They’d never have even met were it not for the random happenstance of their doing laundry on the same day at the same time. Sarah is in nursing school and spends her Purge Nights volunteering. It had taken months of the two of them speaking on a regular basis for her to admit even that and they’d only gotten started on that topic because she’d expressed concern about Casey being alone on Purge night. Sarah lives with her boyfriend who also volunteers but she’d offered to have him sit with Casey on Purge Night if she felt she needed it.

Casey had explained to her that, thanks to the efforts of HER boyfriend, her one-room studio is basically a miniature fortress. She could tell that Sarah wanted to ask her why her boyfriend wasn’t with her on Purge Night but was holding back. This gets her thinking about how she has no idea what Kevin (or whoever inhabits his body that night) does during the Purge but she’ll probably never ask... she’s worried she may not like the answer. Casey moves the conversation away from that by asking Sarah what exactly she voluntarily does on Purge Night. That’s how Casey learns about the secret hospitals. At the time of their conversation, Sarah can’t even tell her where the one she’ll be working at is going to be because she doesn’t know yet. They’re never set up in the same place twice and those who volunteer at them are not told the location until Purge Day.

Casey half-seriously suggests that maybe she should come with her... then at least she wouldn’t be alone. The next time Casey sees Sarah, she asks her if she really meant what she’d said. Apparently, she’d spoken to her “overseer” and he’d said that they were in DESPERATE need of hands. So, Casey had started learning basic first-aid and how to clean, mend and dress wounds. Sarah does what she can to get her up to speed in time but being a nursing student takes up a lot of her time so she often hands her off to other volunteers who already know the ropes. Casey gets the feeling that this is also a sort of vetting process; these people are evaluating her to see if she’s trustworthy. It is VERY important that the “wrong people” do not learn where the hospital is going to be.

It’s not until Casey and Sarah are filling backpacks with medical supplies that Sarah had managed to discretely pilfer throughout the year that it occurs to Casey that Dennis would LOSE his MIND if he knew she was leaving her apartment on Purge Night. This thought doesn’t even give her pause though. If she doesn’t need to know what he does during the Purge then he doesn’t need to know what she does. At the last minute, Casey remembers that she has a gun and asks if she should bring it with. Sarah hesitates nervously but ultimately says yes, on the condition that Casey only carries the empty rifle and gives her the bullets. Casey could get angry at her distrust but instead, she just wonders if any specific incident had incited that distrust.

Casey still hasn’t been told the hospital’s location so she just has to follow Sarah. Sarah’s boyfriend is an “ambulance driver” so he had to arrive early so that they could prep his van. As they make their way through the streets, they’re approached by multiple men, some trying to sell them things, some offering them “protection” for the night. None of them gets too aggressive and Casey has a feeling that that probably has something to do with the fact that she is holding a hunting rifle. This makes her feel strangely sentimental; it’s as if her father is protecting them from beyond the grave.

The hospital is located in a parking garage. Casey has to wait at a distance while Sarah talks to a man who appears to be stationed outside as a guard. Eventually, Sarah waves Casey over and they proceed in and down until their in a part of the parking garage well below the ground. In the middle of the cold, dark, massive space, a makeshift room has been constructed by attaching sheet metal to the cement pillars. Inside cots and stretchers are at the ready and there’s a flurry of preparatory activity. The elderly woman who lets them in glances at Casey’s gun.

“I’ve got the bullets.”

Sarah explains and it seems to satisfy the other woman. Casey winds up having to put the gun down anyway. She needs both hands to help with the preparations. Things are almost dull at first, they’re so far below ground that they can’t even hear the chaos above, but then the first patient is brought in. She comes in an “ambulance” that technically belongs to a different “hospital” but the drivers know the locations of all of them and are told to go to the whichever one they're nearest to after picking up a patient.

The patient is a teenage girl in a fairy costume that suggests she’d been planning on doing some Purging herself tonight. Her plans had been cut short by someone with an undeniably impressive aim who’d nailed her right in the jugular with a lawn dart. The vivid color and copious quantity of the blood have Casey flashing back to the night her uncle had died. She’s of no help here (she’ll find that being the case more than once that night) and can only watch as one of the few volunteers who’s an actual doctor struggles to plug up the geyser of blood. The girl spends the rest of the night in a state of semi-conscious shock and is dead before sunrise. Casey isn’t sure if she should be happy or sad about that which is something else she’ll often find to be the case in the future.

She spends the whole night holding things for people or handing things to people or going to fetch things for people, never once actually getting to lay hands on a patient. Things escalate as the night goes on and soon they’re out of cots, laying people on the concrete with a sheet under them until they run out of sheets and then it’s just the concrete. The injuries get more and more gruesome; one has his face split open with a machete, another’s been castrated, another had a pipe bomb shoved... inside her but the ambulance had thankfully gotten to her before the assailant had a chance to detonate it. Each ambulance is equipped with a kit of nonlethal weapons for subduing assailants and all drivers and ridealong attendance are give bulletproof vests. The guy who put the pipe bomb there had been maced repeatedly and bludgeoned about the head and neck to an extent that the ambulance attendant SWEARS was necessary.

At the peak of the chaos, someone who’s been burned so badly that their gender is indistinguishable is brought in. That’s the first time that Casey sees David Dunn; his clothes are badly burned but there’s not a scratch on the man himself. He’d apparently chased off the assailants but he has no weapon on him that Casey can see. She’d later hear from the driver of the ambulance he’d been in that the assailants (two guys with homemade flame throwers) had “freaked out” and ran away when “Dunn just kept coming at them” even after they’d lit him on fire. Casey thinks that the driver must have misremembered... or David Dunn is a master magician.

The burn victim survives the night and is rushed to the emergency room as soon as the alarm sounds the next morning but Casey has no way of knowing how he fares after that.

------

It was no mystery to David how Elijah Prince had survived the Purge prior to his incarceration. He was well off enough to afford a high-end security system and smart enough to figure out which ones were actually worth the money. After his incarceration in a prison hospital for the criminally insane, however, he hadn’t lasted a single Purge. As far as David could gather someone, probably a member of the staff, had simply gone into his room at night (while he was under heavy sedation) and caved his skull in with a blunt object (possibly a lead pipe but more likely a Maglite.) David doesn’t know how to feel about this.

He had been monitoring Elijah as closely as he legally could since his arrest, trial and incarceration and had laid awake more than one night contemplating what might happen should he escape. Would he go on committing mass murders despite having already proven his theory? Would he want revenge on David? If he did, there was only one way he could get it since harming David himself was not possible... He would go after Joseph. Because of this, David had to admit to feeling some relief upon hearing about Elijah’s death... but only SOME relief.

He hadn’t shed any tears for that mass-murdering sociopath but the circumstances of the man’s death had not sat well with him. He didn’t want to live in a world where a PATIENT in a HOSPITAL could be murdered by a member of said hospitals STAFF with the only repercussions being the POSSIBLE firing of that staff member. After all, in such a world, wasn’t Elijah’s only real crime just not waiting until the Purge to do what he did? The reasons he hadn’t waited were obvious; his plans usually involved the sabotage of mass transit vehicles and public transportation did not run during the Purge but, still... If he had found some other way to kill an equal number of people (say....burning down a hospital full of heavily sedated mental patients) and done so on Purge night, society would have considered him completely innocent.

David keeps track of Elijah’s mother as best as he legally can. Apparently, his will had stipulated that in the event of his untimely death his art collection was to be “liquidated” and the profits given to his mother. There had apparently been museums and private collectors champing at the bit to buy from Elijah Prince’s legendary collection of “sequential pop art.” The man’s reputation had not at all negatively affected the value of the treasures he’d spent his life hoarding. His mother had wanted to keep it all but, seeming to anticipate that this would be her reaction, Elijah had ensured that his will was ironclad.

There’s another thing that David can’t help but get hung up on and what brings him closest to mourning for his late nemesis(?). He can’t help but think what a waste of potential Elijah had been. A unique, dazzling, borderline superhuman intellect wasted on a childish obsession... a truly remarkable brain... smashed in by a Maglite.

Chapter Text

To Barry’s perception, he is sitting cross-legged on the floor in front of Felida’s chair during their conversation but who knows what she’s seeing. She’s dressed in a plain black dress with a full, floor-length skirt, and long, puffed sleeves. She has a sort of tiara made of stiffened black lace atop her long, thick black hair. A black lace veil is draped over both her and her chair, covering them both completely. Her doll-like, honey-colored eyes are wide and damp as though she’s been crying. Beneath the light brown of her skin, she’s ashen.

She wants... no NEEDS Barry to bring her a priest. She won’t say why but she stresses that it is URGENT. Her soul is in danger, of that she is sure, and only a man of the cloth can help her. Barry assures her that he’ll find someone for her (not telling her that he already has someone in mind) and asks if she has any other concerns. She goes quiet for a long time but then says;

“That Sister... who used to come and give me communion and take my confessions... she’s dead now, isn’t she?”

Barry knows she must mean Miss. Patricia. He asks her when the last time she’d seen her was and she hesitates a long time, as though not sure how to answer. After a while, she only says ‘years and years.’ Barry asks her what makes her think that ‘the Sister’ is dead and she only repeats the question (‘she is, isn’t she?’) but now meeting his eyes as though she knows for sure that the answer is ‘yes.’ Barry says he’ll look into it but Felida doesn’t seem to care if he does, she seems convinced that she already knows the answer.

Barry explains the situation to Dr. Fletcher and suggests that this may be a way for her linguistics professor friend to get that interview with Felida that he had wanted... He’ll just need to pretend to be a priest. They’re both keenly aware of the ethical dubiousness of this but Dr. Fletcher thinks that if Felida needs help and will only accept it from a priest, then they WILL need to provide it... somehow. Barry thinks that they may as well hit two birds with one stone. Dr. Fletcher says that she needs to think about it and adds that Dr. Galarza was raised Catholic, so he may have some compunctions about impersonating a man of the cloth.

It turns out he doesn’t... like, at all. He hasn’t been to confession since he was a boy but he remembers ‘how it goes.’ He’ll sign any nondisclosure agreement he needs to, he just wants a recording of this bizarre linguistic anomaly for the purposes of his own research. Even after he’s enthusiastically agreed to participate, Dr. Fletcher still has reservations. Felida is very psychologically fragile (as far as she’s concerned, she’s been a shut-in since the deaths of her mother and father) and there’s also Kevin to consider. She wants Barry to secure Kevin’s permission to bring an outside party into the situation, she WILL NOT proceed without it.

Kevin readily gives his consent, which Barry does not find surprising. He’s met Dr. Galarza before and had liked him. He’s very warm and charming and clever and if he has any suspicions that Kevin is ‘malingering’ (as Dr. Fletcher would say) he’s very good at concealing them. Kevin would also like a recording of Felida’s voice. All he has from her now is a single letter generally explaining who she is that Barry had asked her to write, telling her that it was needed for legal purposes...she thinks Barry is her family’s lawyer.

Even THEN, Dr. Fletcher has reservations. They must be very careful about how they handle the situation. Dr. Galarza must be very thoroughly briefed on how to handle Felida. He must, of course, be polite and gentle but that won’t be a challenge for him. The most important thing is that he not say or do ANYTHING that indicates to Felida that they are not in HER home.

As far as Felida is concerned, she never leaves the family manor. Even her occasional sessions with Dr. Fletcher, as far as she’s concerned, take place in the drawing-room of the family manor. Since Dr. Fletcher doesn’t speak Spanish, on those occasions Barry shares the light with Felida so that he can ‘translate.’ He still swears that HE hears English coming out of her mouth but she has developed an accent since he’s learned that she’s Spanish. She’ll need to be alone with the ‘priest’ though and that’s another thing that’ll put her on edge. With the exception of Mister Barry, men make her nervous but she does insist that she needs a MAN of the cloth.

It occurs to Barry to ask her how she knows men make her nervous if he’s the only one she ever sees and he doesn’t make her nervous. She tells him that he’s not in a tone that suggests that she’d been assuming he knew. There’s a ‘tall unsmiling man,’ she tells him, who comes and checks the house sometimes and makes sure nothing needs fixing. She’d only been able to work up the nerve to talk to him once and that had been to ask where the Sister had gone. He’d told her only that she was ‘away’ and may never come back. She said he’d seemed sad when he’d said it and that was what had made her suspect that the Sister had died.

When the day comes Dr. Galarza arrives at Dr. Fletcher’s office wearing all black (having found vestments to be surprisingly expensive.) Dr. Fletcher gives him a thorough briefing on how he is to behave during the confession and behaviors that he is to avoid. Barry doesn’t have much to add, he and Dr. Fletcher had talked it through thoroughly beforehand and she’s better at explaining this sort of thing than he is. Both of the doctor’s respective recording devices are hidden in different places in the room; Felida CAN’T see them or even know they’re there. When all is in place, Dr. Fletcher leaves the two men alone and Barry tries not to show how uncomfortable he feels.

“Uh... I might go kinda’... blank fer a few minutes while I go get ‘er. When I...uh... come back, I’ll tell you if I failed... if it’s still me. If I succeed, it’ll be her that comes back and I don’t think you’ll have any trouble knowin’ it... she’s the only one’ a US that speaks Spanish and that’s all she speaks.”

Dr. Galarza only nods and Barry realizes that he already knows most of this information. He tells himself to quit stalling, closes his eyes and focuses on receding. When he opens his eyes again, he’s in his chair. He makes his way over to Felida as quietly as he can because not all the Other’s are dormant. He kneels in front of her and places a hand over hers. When her eyes open, he tells her he’s brought her a priest.

------

When Barry comes to he checks the clock and it's 3 hours later. Shit, how could Felida have THAT much to confess? She's a shut-in for christ's sake. When he manages to tear his eyes from the clock he notices that the other man looks a combination of disturbed and worried. He's looking at Barry as though he's just witnessed a werewolf transformation.

"...Mr. Barry?"

He says it in a near whisper. Barry nods, the fog around his brain lifting. He almost speaks but Dr. Galarza holds a finger to his lips before he can. The man rises from his chair and goes, silently, to where Dr. Fletcher's tape recorder is hidden. He turns it off.

"Uh... Dr. Fletcher has told me that she'll be giving a copy of her tape to Mr. Crumb along with the English transcript of the interview that I will be writing... Does... does Mr. Crumb reading it mean that you will have read it as well?"

Barry's not sure exactly what he's asking.

"...I mean... if Kevin tells me about it."

"What if he doesn't?"

Dr. Galarza's tone implies that the question is very important. Barry answers bluntly.

"Then I won't know."

The Doctor seems to find that prospect distressing. He’s quiet for a few beats and looks as though he’s trying to solve a complicated equation in his head.

“How many of you are... in there?”

He gestures vaguely to Kevin’s head.

“Twenty two.”

“Twenty two?”

“...yeah? Did Felida give you a different number?”

“She didn’t give me any number but Mr. Crumb told me there were 23 when we first met.”

No, Barry thinks, no, no...there are 22...there have been 22 for about a decade now...he KNOWS that there’s 22.

“And all of them are... PEOPLE?”

The emphasis on the word “people” does nothing to ease Barry’s nerves.

“Uh...yeah? More or less.”

The doctor seems to be thinking again.

“I think... YOU need to read the transcript... and also think that perhaps Mr. Crumb should not but there’s not much I can do about that.”

“Didn’t you sign a nondisclosure agreement?”

“...I did... but... there’s not much legal precedent for these circumstances, is there?”

“...I guess not...”

“The nondisclosure agreement specifically says that no one other than Kevin Crumb is to see the transcript but, as far as the law is concerned, you ARE Kevin Crumb. There’s also no need for Dr. Fletcher to know that I let you read it.”

“... I guess not...”

“Do you have an email address that is... just yours?”

“Yeah.”

“How about this? I’ll send you a copy of the transcript and YOU can decide if you would like to read it. Do I have your permission?

He nods as he asks, making it clear what answer he wants. Barry gives it to him.

“Alright.”

Dr. Galarza nods, seeming for some reason exhausted and on edge.

“I think I should go and get Karen now.”

Dr. Fletcher had gone across the hall to visit her neighbor with instructions that one of them was to come and get her when the “confession” had concluded. Barry just nods numbly as he leaves the room, feeling a knot form in his stomach.

Chapter Text

Casey had asked Barry to take her dress shopping (since she’d only owned the one dress at the time that she and Dennis agreed to the rule), not knowing for sure if he’d be more or less eager to help if he knew the exact reason that she suddenly wanted to add some “more feminine pieces” to he wardrobe. She knows he’s aware of her and Dennis’s relationship and he knows that she knows he knows but it’s not the sort of thing about which they talk openly. In fact, apart from Jade, all the Others seem to have an unofficial don’t ask/don’t tell policy when it comes to romantic relationships. Rather this is out of politeness or just plain apathy, she supposes she’ll never know. The TYPES of dresses Barry selects for her (which tend to be more sweet and girlish than the things he designs) makes her think he at least vaguely suspects their purpose.

Rather consciously or unconsciously, Barry also seems to be attuned to what provokes certain visceral responses in Dennis. When he meets her at the gate he eyes her up and down (briefly but hungrily) before letting her in. At the moment, all he can do is eye her because this is the portion of the evening where Hedwig shares the light with him. She knows none of the Other’s can feel what Dennis is feeling even when they’re in the Light with him but Hedwig still sees what Dennis sees, which is probably why he’s careful not to let his eyes linger on any specific part of her for too long. At that moment, though, Casey probably knows what he’s thinking better than any of the Others do.

As she follows him through his rounds, he tries to avoid looking directly at her for too long. She knows him well enough not to take this as an insult. They also talk off and on, he asks her general questions about what’s going on in her life. He’d done this before their relationship had changed and has made a point of continuing to do it seemingly to demonstrate to her that “playing” (a term he still refuses to use) is not all he’s interested in her for. She hadn’t needed any proof of that but she lets him give it to her, knowing that doing so makes HIM feel better.

He could have easily gotten the answers to the questions he asks her from Barry but she knows he doesn’t talk to Barry unless Barry talks to him and then he usually only answers questions. He could learn about her from Patricia but probably not what he want’s to know. She and Patricia’s conversations are markedly different from the ones she has with Barry or Jade or sometimes Orwell. When she talks to Orwell, he’s like a freediver surfacing for air; he NEEDS some human interaction and she just happens to be the most conveniently available human. He’s been asking her questions lately about how things are going around the old apartment but she has a feeling that this is not because he particularly cares about the old apartment. Last time he had wanted to know if anyone there had been killed in the last Purge and she said yes, but not anyone she knew personally.

She can tell when Hedwig leaves the light because Dennis tenses... that’s not quite the right word for it. She doesn’t know if there’s a word for it. He disappears into the underground room where all the pumps and stuff are kept and she just waits and tries to get in the right headspace. She tells herself she’s unsuspecting. For the purposes of their game, there are no Others; there’s only Dennis, whom she knows but not very well. He’d offered to show her the zoo at night and she’d been too naive to be suspicious of such an offer from an older man that she doesn’t know very well. She’s one of the more fortunate girls that she used to go to school with, the ones who’d never REALLY been hurt and so don’t expect to be hurt. That’s her mindset, for the purposes of the game.

In the time it takes him to reemerge from below ground, she indulges in solitary enjoyment of this mindset... of being innocent or at least what she imagines it’s like to be innocent. When he comes back to her, she’d swear he looks bigger and grimmer than usual and she realizes that this is what he looks like to normal people, the ones that Patricia says are ‘asleep.’ He probably prefers to be seen this way; blank and invulnerable. She imagines that she probably looks different to him too. Usually, even in warm weather, she keeps her arms and legs covered but the dress she’s wearing cuts off just above her knees and has no sleeves.

She only shows her scars to Kevin and Dennis and Patricia (though usually, that’s not on purpose.) Both Kevin and Dennis have let her look at theirs, let her trace them with her fingers and her lips. That’s why it doesn’t offend her that seeing them excites Dennis, she knows that they mean something different to him than they do to other people. Dennis once told her that how he’d felt when he first saw them was how he imagines a lion raised in captivity must feel when he sees a lioness for the first time. Casey thinks that she gets what he means by this.

She doesn’t make him come up with some pretense to ‘lure’ her into the apartment, she just follows him in, ‘unsuspecting.’ She examines the apartment, pretending to not have been there before, while he locks the door and ‘hides’ the keys. Casey knows where he puts them because it’s the same place every time but, for their purposes, she pretends not to.

While she's pretending to be closely examining Barry’s most recent sewing project, he comes up behind her. A little thrill runs through her then that she can only compare to being a child, playing with a Jack in the Box. She knows he's going to strike, just not when. The first time they'd attempted something like this, he hadn't been able to go through with it (either of them can call off the game at any time.) He'd apologized to her again and again even though it was meant to be HIS fantasy they were indulging. She'd distracted him from his self-loathing by coaxing him into the bedroom where they'd fucked normally... or, at least as normally as they ever do.

With practice, he'd gotten better at getting into the right headspace. This time he stands behind her a while, eventually, she feels his hand ghost over her hair. He lunges, then, wrapping his right arm around her waist and putting a cloth he's holding in his left hand over her mouth. They're pretending it's chloroform. He'd made it clear that he wants her to actually fight him (not just pretend) but she still holds back somewhat. She doesn't actually want to hurt him any more than he does her.

When he has her pinned firmly against his chest, the cloth covering her nose and mouth, she counts out 30 seconds in her head and then goes limp. They'd agreed on 30 seconds even though he knows chloroform would actually take much longer. She had reminded him that they are PRETENDING. He hasn't done much of that in his life, mostly because he'd had no reason to want to until her. The ease with which he lifts her "unconscious" body is enough to get her a little wet.

When he gets to the bedroom he sits on the bed a while cradling her in his lap like a doll. He touches her with hungry reverence, as though he's never had the privilege before. He gathers a handful of her hair and holds it to his nose, inhaling deeply and shuddering. He lowers his mouth to hers, stopping just short of kissing, breathing in when she breathes out. He goes lower to the side of her neck where she feels his lips, his tongue, the briefly lingering pressure of his teeth.

The whole time she has to resist the urge to respond or reciprocate. She's not supposed to "wake up" until he has her bound. He pulls back abruptly from her throat as if snapping out of a trance. When he's got her laid out on the bed he starts to remove her clothes, this wouldn't take so long if he weren't so intent on not damaging them. Maybe she should have told him about how Barry had insisted on paying for them so he'd know that it wouldn't be her money he'd be wasting?

He strips her down to just her underwear and then leaves the room to go get his "kit." He bought a metal lockbox to keep their "toys" in and hides it somewhere in the apartment that not even she knows about. She almost wants to tease him for his lack of preparedness. If this were a REAL kidnapping, it'd be in his best interest to avoid ever leaving her alone in an unlocked room. Instead, she just lies there, breathing deep, feeling that same excitement from before tingling through her body.

It takes considerable self-control to keep from touching herself, she's pretty sure unconscious people don't do that. Besides, she's not supposed to do that during the game so if he came back and caught her in the act he'd... punish her. Just as she's about to give in and slip a hand between her legs she hears him reenter the room. He must have seen the slight movement of her left hand because that's the first one he binds. When he's got both her wrists in padded, leather cuffs he pauses a while as though considering something.

When he removes her underwear she feels a rush of cold air and almost reflexively closes her legs but he stops her with a hand on each of her ankles. Instead of immediately binding her legs, he kneels between them and rakes the tips of his fingers through her pubic hair and then runs his thumb over her slit. He barely applies pressure but the caress is enough to send more blood and other fluids rushing to the area. She thinks he must be fucking with her, testing her, and it's working. Knowing that she CAN'T touch herself makes her want it even more, her whole body tingles expectantly.

She almost breaks character to tell him to just GET ON WITH IT but then he's standing at the foot of the bed again. Her legs are spread wider as he tethers each of them to it's respective corner of the bed. It's then, as she lays spread eagle with her most intimate, vulnerable parts exposed to the open air that a little fear creeps in. She reminds herself that it's not REAL fear, she knows he won't hurt her. She also knows that if she were to open her mouth now it'd be to beg him to touch her, not to release her.

She hears him leave the room again and decides that now's as good a time as any to "wake up." When she opens her eyes her heart rate speeds up a little more because she can't see. At some point, he turned off the room's only lamp and she doesn't see any light coming in from the door either. This makes sense, he'd have to have put out all the lights in the apartment so that his eyes didn't have to readjust every time he reentered the room. She wonders what about this he finds more appealing than just blindfolding her.

She does a check-in with herself; does she want to stop?... No. A hand grabs her by the jaw and she starts, she hadn’t realized that Dennis could move so silently. He keeps a firm hold on her jaw to keep her from turning her face away as he cleans it with a cold, damp washcloth. She doesn’t usually bother with makeup beyond tinted gloss and is now thinking that maybe she shouldn’t have if he was just going to wipe it off. Maybe wiping off her make-up is part of the fantasy though.

She twists in her bonds but she doesn’t have much slack to work with and he’s so strong that she may as well not even be trying to move her head. The last time they’d done something like this, he’d bound her with rope so that she was stuck in a kneeling position but that had allowed for quite a bit of struggle on her part. He’d seemed to enjoy it at the time but had felt guilty about the marks it’d left on her wrists and ankles and thighs. She hadn’t minded the marks at all but her telling him that had had no effect. He’d grown fixated on finding ways of binding her that wouldn’t leave marks. He’d even keep her updated on his research, telling her what he’d learned in the time they were apart each time they saw each other. She starts to think that his fixation has as much to do with his liking having a project as it does with his desire to avoid harming her.

------

Dennis is so aroused he can barely think. A part of him wants to just fuck her right now but he tells himself ‘not yet.’ He’s not going to let himself lose control, not again. The medical-grade four-point restraints are worth every penny; he can tell she’s trying but she can barely move. There’ll be no marks tomorrow but she’s completely under his control. Really when it comes to her that’s all he wants, not to hurt her, just to control her... at least... as much as she’ll let him...

He’s getting used to just living with his contradictory feelings in that area. He simultaneously wants her to give herself to him completely and wants to give himself to her completely. He knows she’d never do it but if she’d just consign herself to his care she would receive so much in return; his heart, his soul (does he have a soul? If he did, she could have it), his unfaultering, ironclad, eternal devotion.

“Please don’t hurt me.”

She says it so convincingly that he almost worries he is but then he remembers that they’re pretending. She’s better at pretending than he is but he gives it his best try.

“That’s up to you, sweetheart. If you be good, I’ll be good... deal?”

He’s pleased with how the sound of his voice sends a shiver through her. She arches just a little and breaks out in goosebumps. Her nipples harden... fuck. He can’t help himself, he leans in to kiss her and she snaps at him. He pulls hard on her hair, jerking her head back and she moans in spite of herself.

“I said,” he gives another tug for emphasis, “be good.”

He trails a hand down her body, pleased at how she squirms in an effort to get him to touch her breasts. He stops just below her navel. She squirms more as he flattens his hand and just leaves it to sit there, a warm weight.

“Say it.”

He hisses, twisting his hand in her hair. He has to wait a while but then...

“I’ll be good.”

It comes out in a breathy little whimper that sends a jolt straight to his groin. He withdraws temporarily to rinse the rag in the bucket of cold water he’d brought in with it. She lies there panting but jumps when it returns to her skin. He’d made sure that the water was ice cold specifically for this purpose. She’s shivering but he follows the swipe of the rag with his mouth making her squirm and arch into the warmth.

He nibbles and sucks at her breasts as he strokes up and down her slit with the rag, now warmed by her body heat. She’s hissing through her teeth to keep from moaning. He sucks one of her hard nipples into his mouth and grazes it with his teeth and then takes it between them. He doesn’t apply enough pressure to break the skin but he’s for some reason hit with a vivid memory of the taste of blood. He’s never tasted blood though...has he?

He releases it, runs his tongue over it and then turns his attention to the other one. He blows a stream of cool air over it and she whimpers and shivers. That’s not enough for him. He stops the motion of his hand between her legs.

“Beg.”

He orders.

“Fuck you.”

Oh, right, she’s pretending she doesn’t want it. He winds his left hand in her hair again keeps his right hand between her leg, pressing but not moving. He brings his face close enough to hers to kiss (this also feels strangely familiar) and growls.

“BEG.”

They both wait but she gives before he does.

“P-please.”

She whispers.

“What was ‘at?”

“Please!”

He starts to move his hand again.

“Good girl.”

She almost curses at him again but he yanks hard on her hair.

“Keep it up.”

She doesn’t say anything for a while so he stops moving his hand until she says it again and again and again as he continues to stimulate her until she starts to shudder and arch her back. As she climaxes he kisses her, swallowing her scream. He stands up and finally removes his clothes. Her eyes have probably adjusted by now so she can see him but all in shades of grey, the way he is in Kevin’s head. She’s so wet that he easily slips inside (where it’s nice and warm and tight) and her body’s positive reaction to him is undeniable but she keeps up the pretense of a struggle as he fucks her.

It’s GOOD, so so good. He trails down to her throat kisses and sucks. For a moment his teeth are against her skin again and something in him says ‘bite down, leave a mark.’ He doesn’t want to leave marks though, does he? Does he? He pulls himself away from her throat and goes back to her mouth, nibbling and sucking at her lips. She breaks character and starts kissing him but in a combative sort of way. He reciprocates with equal violence.

He keeps rutting into her as they half kiss, half bite each other until he feels her inner walls spasm around him again. She’s limp with exhaustion under him as he keeps going until he hits his peak buried deep inside her. He collapses on top of her and just stays that way, with his face buried in her neck, for a very long time.

“My arms are going numb.”

She whispers in his ear and it jerks him out of his half-sleep. He rinses out the rag again and wipes his face with it to wake himself up. Then, he unbinds her, rubbing up and down each limb as he goes to help restimulate circulation. He lets her rest while he puts everything back into the lockbox and goes to hide it. When he comes back she’s already in the shower. He changes the sheets on the bed and then joins her and they wash each other.

He barely has the energy to dress for bed and by the time he lays down next to her, Casey is already asleep. He spoons up behind her and drifts off, his mind blessedly quiet.