The last thing Ned can remember is the stars. Luckily the pain took a backseat to those bright little bastards, and he was overjoyed by that fact. He was overjoyed... And then confused.
How could he remember anything? He was dead…
Was this Heaven?
Ned only let this thought linger for a second before laughing out loud. No way in Hell would he make it to Heaven.
… Was that it? Hell? Because if so, Hell looked an awful lot like the Cryptonomica. Sure, the little shop had it’s difficulties and Victoria’s energy always seemed to be looming around the place, but Ned would never call it a Hell.
He had a few moments to ponder his odds before he saw the front door open. Standing before him, looking exhausted, dressed in all black, was Kirby. His hair was wet and only now did Ned realize it was absolutely pouring outside. The boy’s eyes were trained on the deteriorating floorboards as he dropped his bag on the floor beside him and went rushing towards the back room. Curious, Ned decided to follow Kirby’s retreating form.
It was then he realized he was floating. Strange .
Ned found Kirby in his office, head in his hands. He took a deep breath before his shoulders began to shake and it was made clear that he was sobbing. The reasoning behind it? Ned had no idea. He chalked it up to the boy probably just having a rough day, which… Sure, he’d never seen Kirby break down the way he was, even on the worst of days, but that could’ve changed. Besides, Kirby’s woes weren’t the big mystery here -- Ned need to know what exactly was going on right now.
He left his assistant to explore the rest of the Cryptonomica. From what he could remember of the place, not a whole lot had changed aside from the fact it looked a little cleaner. It was still an old establishment with nick-nacks galore. Posters from old monster movies littered the walls. The R.C. Cola machine was still up and running. It was still the little dank tourist trap it had been before Ned passed. The trap-covered display cases caught his eye, though.
A knock came at the door and it was enough to distract Ned for a moment. He figured that whatever was happening here, it would be rude to not open the door. So he… Floated over to the door.
The first sign that something was wrong was when his hand phased through the door knob. The second sign had been, upon looking at his own hand, he noticed it was a light blue color, semi-translucent by the way he could see the outline of the floor through it. Panicked, he began looking for any kind of reflective surface. They had a few circus mirrors in here somewhere but -- of course Kirby had covered those up to. He continued to search until he managed to catch a glimpse of himself in the window.
What he saw was… Well, it was him but different. He still wore the same jacket, the same boots, the same pants, as the day he died. His hair was tousled in ways no hairbrush would be able to fix (even if he was able to pick one up in the first place). The bags under his eyes were deeper and darker than he could ever remember them being. Much like his hand, his entire form was that pale-blue color. The most grisly feature that he chose to ignore was the bullet wound on his torso.
One word came to mind as he looked himself over: Ghost.
Ned Chicane was a fucking ghost .
He wasn’t given much time to process this as another, louder knock came at the door. He looked behind him, towards his office where Kirby still resided, and then back to the door. He thought for a brief moment, braced himself, then phased through the front door.
Upon doing so, he was immediately able to tell that the rain had picked up. Two figures stood in front of the Cryptonomica under one very large umbrella.
Duck Newton and Aubrey Little.
Ned, despite being dead, felt pure joy at the sight of them. He hadn’t realized how much he’d missed them -- hadn’t even realized you could miss someone when you were dead. At that moment he really just wanted to hug them, get those glum looks off their faces, apologize for everything, tell them he was proud of them. He wasn’t alive so he couldn’t do any of these things, but fuck , he wishes he could. Aubrey probably wouldn’t be happy about seeing him. Hell, neither would Duck, if she filled him in on what happened. At the very least though, they were here, and he would let himself be happy about that.
Or he would have, had he not inspected the pair closer. They both wore all black, much like Kirby had been. Duck held the umbrella in a white-knuckled grip, wiping a tear from his eye with the other hand. Aubrey stood there biting her lip as she watched the door. In one hand she held a paper. When Ned read the words on said paper, his form quivered.
In Loving Memory of Edmund Kelly Chicane .
Ned… Well, he never imagined he would get a funeral, let alone that anyone would come to it. He imagined, on the off chance he did get a proper burial for whatever reason, the only person who’d be there would be the poor bastard who had to bury him. Outside of that, he thought people would be overjoyed to find out the notorious Ned “Fuck Up” Chicane was dead. And yet he’d had a funeral and people had attended said funeral. At the very least he knew Duck, Aubrey, and Kirby had. Kirby had been crying. Duck had too. Ned would be lying if he said Aubrey didn’t look a little shaken.
Guilt and sorrow washed over the man’s soul as he looked over these two he’d grown to care about so much. He was dead. He was actually -
“Maybe we should just come back tomorrow?” Aubrey mumbled, her voice almost getting lost in the pouring rain.
Duck sniffled. “Somethin' must've shook him bad for him to go runnin’ off like that. We really should check up on him.”
She shifted from her left foot to her right, biting her lip. “Yeah, but what if… He just wants to be alone? It would make sense, you know…”
Ned watched the two as they went silent. They were watching the door so intensely, contemplating what to do. They both looked so… Uncomfortable. Sad. It broke the dead man’s heart to see them like this.
A few more seconds passed in complete silence. Just as Duck went to knock on the door a third time, it swung open to reveal a disheveled looking Kirby. He smiled at the two, eyes still puffy, “hey there guys,” he said, “sorry about runnin away out of the blue and all…”
Aubrey gave a gentle smile of her own. “Hey, it’s okay man… You alright?”
“As alright as you can be, I guess,” he tried to chuckle, but it came out as a choked sound. A moment of silence passed between the three before he spoke up again, “hey… I know everything’s kinda out in the open now so… If you ever need help with anything, the Cryptonomica can be your trustworthy base.”
Duck glanced up at him. “You sure?”
Kirby shrugged. “Yeah, I mean… The place is mine now. Besides, uh…” He scratched the back of his neck sheepishly, “feel like Ned would’ve wanted this place to be of some use.”
Ned, who was floating not even two feet away, nodded.
Aubrey and Duck smiled before hugging Kirby. Promises to see each other again soon were made before they parted ways, the two Pine Guard members walking to their taxi while Kirby made his way back inside.
All things considered, Ned decided being a ghost probably wouldn’t be that bad.
Two weeks had passed.
Overall, Ned’s assumption that being a ghost wasn’t so bad turned out to be mostly true. He was free to go wherever he wanted, including places outside the Cryptonomica. He could phase through walls and could still see his friends.
The downside though? No one could see or hear him.
Frankly, it was unfair. He understood that Moira could be seen and heard because she was a Sylph, a completely different species from a completely different planet, but what about Dewey!? He died, became a ghost, and people could still hear and see him just fine! So why not Ned?
A majority of the time this didn’t bother him. In all honesty, it was strange to imagine having a conversation with anyone. He couldn’t imagine their response to him still being around. Not to mention his death had apparently taken a toll on many , so maybe it was best no one could hear or see him.
So yeah, a majority of the time, it didn’t bother him.
And then there were days like today.
Kirby was filing some paperwork for the Cryptonomica. Since the city shut down the tourist trap hadn’t been getting many tourists. So as Kirby did the essentially useless paperwork, Ned was having a one way conversation.
“The weather has been simply smashing , wouldn’t you say, dear boy?” Of course, he got no response.
“Would love to go out and sunbathe, maybe get a nice tan, oh wait !” he laughs, “I fucking can’t! I’m dead!”
Ned’s form goes to float next to the window where bright light shines through. “Look!” He gestures wildly to the floor, “I don’t even cast a damn shadow!”
Kirby just went on filing paperwork. Had he been alive, this wouldn’t have been a bad thing -- it meant less work for Ned. But Ned wasn’t alive. He was dead and a ghost. A ghost that no one could see, hear, or talk to, and it was infuriating!
Overcome with anger and desperation, Ned swiped his hand over the papers on the desk. To the surprise of both him and Kirby, all of the papers went flying up into the air, the neat piles they’d been in prior now destroyed. Kirby took a moment to compose himself before mumbling, “what… what the fuck?”
Feeling rejuvenated and hopeful, swiped at what remained on the desk, sending those papers flying up as well. Another moment and he began to kick the papers into a messy pile under his desk, a practice he took part in when he was alive to avoid paperwork. When he looked back at his previous assistant, he saw realization, shock, and… Joy, in Kirby’s face.
Hands on his hips, sporting a grin, Kirby chuckled to the seemingly empty room, now aware someone else was there with him. “Still know how to fuck with me even in the after-life, dontcha, Ned.”
It wasn’t talking but it was some form of communication. It was some form of communication and Ned was thriving off of it. Fucking with Kirby had always been fun when he was alive, but now that he was dead the experience had heightened tenfold.
An entire month had passed since the flying papers incident. Since then, Ned discovered a few more tricks. Being able to open and close doors, fuck with the electricity, he even figured out how to hop into Kirby’s dreams (the one time that did happen, Kirby woke up in cold sweats and cried for an hour, so Ned never did it again after that point).
He found exerting his energy to mess with Kirby was insanely tiring, but it was so, so worth it. Not to mention it was nice to know that Kirby actually knew he was there and acknowledged him. Even if, more often than not, it was him groaning, “Ned, please, I’m trying to work.”
Then one night, out of the blue, Kirby came into the Cryptonomica drunk. He stumbled through the front door, slamming it behind him, an unopened beer in his hand. He managed to get to the desk and leaned on it before sitting down.
“Ned!” Kirby shouted. “Ned, let’s…” Ned watched as Kirby opened the beer in his hand and poured a bit of its contents on the wooden floor before downing half the bottle himself.
“What the hell are you doing?” Ned asked, terrified as he watched the events take place. That was going to be a bitch to clean later.
As if he was able to hear him, Kirby supplied his answer to Ned’s question. “Pouring one out for you… They-” hiccup “-did it at your funeral, but I didn’t stay that long. Too sad.”
Ned just frowned, pulling the chair out for Kirby.
“Thanks… Thank you sooooo much, ghost Ned,” the boy slurred, slumping over and resting his head in his arms.
The room was silent for a few moments before Kirby began crying. “Why’d you… Why’d you gotta go and die, Ned?” his voice sounded hopeless.
Ned felt his soul fill with guilt.
“You went and died, now the world’s endin’, Aubrey and Duck always moping around here, and they don’t even know you’re still here! You’re dead and I’m mad at you for it.” Kirby seemed to chuckle at his own words, despite being cut off by a sniffle here or there. “I mean, guess you didn’t have much of a choice, huh? You just… You just died! Shit fucking blows, Ned.”
“Don’t I know it,” Ned responded quietly despite knowing the other couldn’t hear him.
The young man before him began to drift, tears still on his face but they weren’t coming as quickly and his eyes were becoming droopy. “Promise… I promise I won’t get an exorcism on you, Ned,” he yawned, “I like your company…” and with that he managed to fall asleep.
Ned was exhausted both spirit-wise and emotionally. Despite this though, he managed to pull a blanket up over Kirby’s sleeping form before leaving the room with a faint smile on his face.