There are few things in Union that give Stefano any cause for concern, but the ghostly, singing woman is one of them. So when he spots her drifting toward him down the street in the residential district, he is quick to duck inside the nearest house. He has encountered her once before, and once was enough. He has no desire to relive that experience- the cold, the static, being thrust head-first into his worst memories...
He does feel a little silly running from her when he has the power of the Core, but in their last encounter he found himself unable to summon that power, crushed under the weight of his own past. Evading her is his only viable option. He finds a large wardrobe in the back bedroom, yanks the door open, and dives inside.
He doesn’t expect the wardrobe to already be occupied.
“What the fuck?” snarls Sebastian, throwing an elbow into his ribs. “Get off me, you asshole!”
“I cannot very well ‘get off’ you,” Stefano hisses back. “Where would I go?” The wardrobe is the only remotely safe place in the house, and the two of them are occupying all of the available space inside it.
“Not my problem,” growls Sebastian, giving him another shove.
The singing is getting louder now, and the temperature in the room is dropping. “Shut up,” he tells Sebastian in his most commanding whisper.
“ You shut up,” Sebastian whispers back. Stefano thinks it’s actually advisable for both of them to shut up, so he doesn’t offer further argument.
The singing is even louder, and the static is starting to fill Stefano’s senses- the buzz in his ears and the distortions at the edges of his vision. Sebastian must be experiencing it too, and, as if by some unspoken agreement, they both freeze. Stefano can feel his heart hammering in his chest where Sebastian’s shoulder is pressed against it. He holds his breath and waits for the feelings to pass- the terrible, bone-deep cold, the prickles of static that make him want to flinch away from his own head.
His brain is being pulled in on itself. There is blood in his mouth and sand in his eyes and a hand on his arm.
“Shhhh,” someone hisses in his ear, and he isn’t in the desert. He is in a very small space with a man who is supposed to be his enemy. It is Sebastian’s hand on his arm, and the eerie singing is moving away from them. He takes a deep breath and tries to calm his nerves and his shaking, but he can’t tell where his own tremors end and Sebastian’s begin.
It is comforting to think that he’s not the only one who is afraid, but Sebastian has some nerve to shush him when he obviously knows how much they need to be quiet. “You can let go of me now,” Stefano mutters.
“I’m not touching you!” Sebastian snaps back.
Stefano glances pointedly at his arm, realizes Sebastian can’t see him in the darkness, and wiggles his arm a little for emphasis. Sebastian lets out a huff and snatches his hand away.
They sit in silence for a few more seconds. The singing is farther off but still audible, and Stefano is willing to overlook his differences with Sebastian for the moment if it keeps him alive.
Apparently Sebastian is taking a different approach.
“Where is Lily?” he hisses.
Stefano heaves a sigh. “This isn’t the time, Sebastian.”
“God damn it, Stefano-” Sebastian begins, shoving his shoulder into Stefano’s chest in a way that is decidedly more aggressive than their earlier grappling. Stefano grunts reflexively, and the singing stops abruptly.
They both freeze, not even daring to breathe, until the singing starts again. Stefano’s heart sinks. It’s getting closer.
“Shit,” Sebastian mutters.
“This is your fault,” Stefano whispers.
“You think I don’t know that?” Sebastian whispers back.
The cold is returning. Sebastian’s hands are still on him, but now it’s less like they’re struggling and more like Sebastian is clinging to him in terror. Stefano’s hands are fumbling in the dark, finding Sebastian and holding on as the static starts to build inside his head.
He is shaking, and Sebastian is shaking against him, and the singing is right outside the wardrobe now, the cold and the static in full force as Stefano struggles to keep his grip on the world around him, to keep his grip on Sebastian.
The intensity grows until he is sure they are both going to lose their minds, but then the singing begins to recede, and the cold and the static along with it. She must be moving farther away, and this time neither one of them is foolish enough to make a noise.
Stefano never thought he would be so eager to breathe air that is warm and stuffy, but he can feel his strength and resolve returning with every breath he takes. He also can’t help but notice that Sebastian’s arms are still around him.
“You can let go of me now,” he says, proud of how confident his voice sounds.
Sebastian lets out a snort of laughter. “ You can let go of me ,” he points out.
Stefano realizes that he is, in fact, still holding on to Sebastian, and he drops his arms abruptly as Sebastian does the same. In the next few seconds, they both catch their breath, and Stefano can feel the energy between them shift.
“Where is Lily?” Sebastian is all business now, voice hard and commanding, and Stefano actually feels relieved at the return to their normal dynamic.
He smiles in the dark. “Why don’t you come and find out?” he says. “I would hate to never see you again.”
Before Sebastian can react, Stefano is on his feet and out of the wardrobe and stepping back into the subspace of Union where Sebastian cannot reach him. He is still smiling to himself. He really does hope Sebastian lives long enough to see him again.