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Supernatural Snapshots

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Vivi stood closer to the back, shuffling her feet and fists tight. 

Now just where am I? Gritting her teeth, Vivi swallows back her growing anxiety and takes her gaze back to the long silhouettes casting over her. One- far too big. 

 

The fact that this person, the missing person completely absent from her memories, seemed to be a literal giant compared to all of them made no sense from a civilian standpoint. Even if it was possible, the sheer magnitude of their height was probably the most confusing part to her. 

And the other one, much shorter, and lankier, and frail, is also shuffling beside the other. This one she knew. She could clearly see the fabric in his vest and the wacky bell bottoms he always wore. The slump in his shoulder, and the indication of sharp shoulder blades from a lack of eating. 

Both were her boys. Only one was present. The other…

Probably dead.

She grinds her teeth, keeping a close watch on the whipping shadows of her peripheral vision. Long, whipping tails surrounded this path like swarms of darkness locking onto its prey, growing more and more frenzied. 

Except this wasn’t the monster that took the first one. No. This one is too close and familiar to be that. The real enemy had to be out there, somewhere. Just out of their reach. 

Narrowing her eyes, Vivi resists the urge to shove her hands into her pocket. There’s no time to hide how scared she is. There’s no time.

Dimly lit shadows cascade around the outline of her friend, who’s legs trip up and arm dangles precariously. His steps scattered and breathing harsh in her ears, growing louder and sharper each second. His one arm shook. 

And he wasn’t the only one who was shaking. The other figure- his friend has stopped, turned to Arthur. Both large arms shaking terribly fast and filled with chaotic energy aimed directly for Arthur. 

Gasping, Vivi’s head flew up from the pillow, eyes wide and arms trembling from the insane amount of energy trapped under her skin. She’s scrambling, shoving her pillow, books, charms and spells and launching herself back, twisting around and nails clasping against the worn leather seats. Ears ringing and dulled under the sound of her warning bells screeching at her. Only letting her hear the music and the motor and the slight chinks of the tires with Arthur’s voice. 

“Vivi-!” He grips the steering wheel to stop the swerve caused from Vivi’s jumpscare.

“Arthur!” 

“What?” He gasps, exasperated and noticeably more tense than usual.

Vivi blanked, quickly scanning over the dark road and the freshly awakened Mystery huffing and curling up again, “…. I don’t know. Had a nightmare and panicked,” She leans over, nuzzling against him, a wide smile on her face- so much so it nearly hurt from all the energy built up, “wanted to tell you I love you.”

Chapter Text

It escalated into a battle of snapping muzzles and shrieking heads and claws. Slashing, biting. A job once reserved specifically for only the bravest warriors. The strongest and most cunning.
Not typically a fox.

 

Nine tails swish around Mystery’s back. Fanning out and whipping the three cat-like beasts at his hide. All while his attention sharpens under the furious eye of the boar.

A slice across his eye may have been Mystery’s largest hindrance.

It’s blood trickled down Mystery’s snout. Filling his nostrils with metallic stings and taking his ability to see the hoards of monsters coming for the weakened kitsune.

A kitsune may be strong, one with nine tails such as he would have been impossible to take on alone.

Strength in numbers.

Mystery stiffens. A blow and swift crack of his skull had him spinning. Yelping. Vulnerable to the more and more spirits and Yokai and beasts all crawling from every hole and tree to lay feast on the kitsune-

Tumbling, Mystery falls limp. Knocked onto his side, dragging across the bloodstained dirt. Each sting and cut amplifies. A strained whimper slipping from his lips, but Mystery hardens his gaze and keeps himself calm.

If this is how he was to die.

So be it.

The beasts gather around, monstrously large shadows with glinting eyes. Unable to tear his gaze away, Mystery prepares for the first attack, the first talon to slice him apart-

Cracking branches, straining bow.

A burst of light. Shrieks of agony. Whimpers and cries mixing into one horrid sound, muffled only by the flare of ice splitting across their body and skin until the beast itself was pierced from the inside out. Glass-like shards shot out from its belly. Striking the surrounding yokai. Burning them to the touch and even if the beasts set themselves aflame, the ice would not melt.

And yet, Mystery was unscathed.

He sits there, limp yet tense, making deals with gods to protect him from whatever wizard had come upon them.

“What did I tell you about running off on your own,” Mystery ears perk at the thick Japanese accent lacing the beings words. But before Mystery could force himself to roll, it dawned on him just who had helped him.

Stepping over the blades and the frosted grass, Mushi traces over Mystery’s many tails, stalking into his vision. Despite its irony, mystery’s gaze flicker to her face in shame. Mushi- face cold and stern- stares back at him. Across her back, a large bow Is strapped to her shoulder, a quiver on her hip.

His tails flatten against his hide, sneaking between his legs, and without thinking, he whimpers.

“Don’t fret, I cannot fault you for believing you had enough strength to take on an army.” A gentle smile stretches across the warriors features, an act Mystery still struggled to wraps his tails around, “you have been spending the last millennia resting in trees and luring in your prey. Come here-“ Mushi crouches, and snuck her limbs under mystery and slinging immense fox over her shoulders. Whining, Mystery’s tails retreat between his limp legs. Form beginning to shift into that of a rat. Gods know he’s earned it-

“Don’t change, Mystery. Your wounds will surely take your life if you become any smaller.” There was no bitterness in that voice, only a sweet hum of a chuckle.

 

Chapter Text

What’s wrong with me? The question repeats on a loop, and has been for maybe the past hour. Endless noise and questions on how Arthur managed to be this bad for everyone.

 

His uncle, who had to deal with him and his lack of sleep. Who listened to his breakdowns and needed to come into his room late at night. Screaming about how his friends are dead. He’s alone. He doesn’t know what to do. Lance shouldn’t have to get up in the wee hours of the morning just because of him.
Vivi, bless her soul, who is constantly following along with his charades. Accompanying him across country. Getting hurt. Taking the hits. Suffering and enduring more trauma due to the smallest inconsistencies that have long since left her mind.

You did this to her. His mind repeats. He’s going to be sick.

Lewis- hes still missing. He should have kept a closer eye on him. Should have ensured it was him closer to that edge and not Lewis. Now he’s gone.
Did he fall? Did he vanish? Nothing Arthur could come up with explained the reason why Lewis was just gone.

He wouldn’t leave intentionally, would he?

No… no… Lewis loves Vivi. He wouldn’t leave her.. They haven’t know each other longer, maybe he did- he WOULDN'T leave.
Maybe Lewis was sick of him, and that… he hated Arthur. Did he really ruin it for them…?

He chokes, tears sliding down his cheeks and falling way too fast. Arthur smacks his palm over his face, grinding it against his cheeks to wipe away the tears. But no matter what he did. He always cried.

The whine escaped his lungs, filling the small space around him.

Where am I- Closet. Small closet with no blankets or pillows like usual. Those are casted into the hallway to make a sea of softness. The closet darkened. No light. Not even his phone. Nothing. Nothing. Nothing. Nothing- 

A small knock rips Arthur’s attention up. And without warning he’s overly aware of the creaks and whispers outside his small realm of inky black nothingness. The only place where the trembling shadows and lingering regrets aren’t visible. Even that sentiment is futile, not when bursts of swarming colors and shapes fill his eyes every time they get too dry and fill with acidic tears

Clicks of claws pace outside the door. Whimpers- growls erupting on the other side. Angry mutters of bitterment drowns out his thoughts and dips his body in cement. Please move, please move, please move, please please please please

“Arthur-?”

The voice was so calm and soft. Worry etched into it. So… peaceful than the angry shouts surrounding it. But even then- the gentle voice silenced the shadows and muted their screams. Even his own thoughts. Even the questions of who he was, what made up his existence, what anything meant.

“Do you want to come out? Or can one of us come in? No not you Mystery- when he comes out, he’s probably-”

Mystery.

Mystery. Puppy. Fur. Glasses. Teeth. Blood. Blood blood. Pain red-
A scream rips through his throat. Burning him from inside out.

“M-Mystery-!” 

So many times he’s had to rely on a dog for emotional support. A dog. How pathetic!

A loud broken bark startles through him. Forcing Arthur’s attention to focus.
He really wants that dog. No matter how much his skin burns and aches. He wants the puppy to run his hand through.

A soft murmur of voices return outside. Still sweet, still peaceful.
Gentle whimpers and scratches against the door. 

“C-“ His voice cuts out, sore, Arthur gasps for air, trying again in a smaller mumble, “Come here boy,”

The door creaks open. 

A small white snout pushing through, ears flat, Arthur didn’t stop his arm from lifting, and the dog rushes forward, taking his spot in his lap.
You are okay, Arthur. It’s safe here.

Chapter Text

Above all else, there’s a tense silence. Neither person spoke, focused only on the other. Taking in their facial features and body language, gauging each other based on the small actions and twitches of their hand. 

 

How exactly did Death expect either to respond. One a towering spectator with a thirst for blood and a coward dressed in yellow. 

The walls exudes a sinister scent. Nearly frigid. 

The specter- Lewis glares at Arthur, doing nothing to conceal the fury burning in them. Infact- their fists smoked and burned, their plates of bone glowing pink. Resisting every temptation to subject Arthur to the peril they planned. 

The only reason Arthur wasn’t burnt to a crisp right there-

Was because Death forbade it.

Death, Arthur swallows tightly, blinking back a shudder as he thinks back to the numbing void outside of the walls, an all powerful being who- for some reason- patiently waits for all the souls to return to them. The one who brought both him and the dead spectator into its walls. 

*Why… is it because this spectator wants to kill him?* 

Arthur didn’t know how much of that glare he could handle. 

“S-So…” Arthur swallows, remembering how Death *promised* that no harm shall come to Arthur within their home, but this is a risk sigh the probability of a bomb exploding, but he needed to know, “Why are you after us…?” 

The spectator blinks, pink rings flaming. The fire within them growing by the pinkish glow now coming into their sockets. Muscles tightening, it speaks, “You have a lot of nerve to ask such a thing, Arthur.”

Voice gravely, echoing and sharp, the familiarity punches Arthur in the gut. It was so close to Lewis… Please don’t do this to me And yet, the only thing Arthur can ask himself is Why does it know his name?

“Is it?” Arthur challenges shakily, “you’ve been following us for a while. Are you - you’re after me at least, right?” 

”Who else?” It snaps.

Don’t flinch, Arthur. Don’t flinch. Stay strong.

“The girl.”

”Vivi,” Fuck it knows HER name too? ”I must say, I’m horribly disappointed in you. Disrespecting her that way.” The ghost scowls- seems to, and Arthur can’t help his flinch. 

“If you know anything about the world of supernaturals, then you know the importance of a name.” 

Eyes widen, the spectator tenses, now anxious and … embarrassed? Holy shit did I actually manage to one up them??

They also notice Arthur’s victory, ”Fine. Whatever.” hissing, the flame of his hair ignites, growing tall and gaseous, ”You’re correct, I have business with you first and foremost.”

“O-kay!” His spine strains from tension, “Well. Uh- who are you?”

”You know who I am.”

Arthur bites his lip, swallowing back, “Mmm… no, no I don’t. Unless it’s from a case that I forgot! Then maybe?” He shrugs, really really hoping that the spectator doesn’t break its one restriction. 

”Excuse me?”

Should he say this? Should he really- oh well! “We- we lost our memories a while ago! A lot of past cases are completely gone for me, and - Vi doesn’t even remember one of our members or-“

”Which.” They take a step closer to him, far too close than Arthur would have liked.

They’re practically chest to chest, and Arthur needs to strain his neck to look past their tie. 

He didn’t know what compelled him to say it, share this crucial information with someone so dangerous.

“Our best friend. He went missing the same night we lost our memorie- AH!” 

When they snatched his wrist, Lightning bolts shoot through his arm. Amplified by the metal joints twisting under the iron grip of the spectator. His wrist now arms length away forcing Arthur impossibly close.

“S-stop..”

”Why should I? Your best friend is missing? You coward! Parading around like you’re innocent! And you feigning ignorance won’t get you anywhere, you knew who I was in the cave, so what’s  different?”

The shooting ripples of pain rocket through Arthur’s arm, electrifying his fingers and frying the nerves of his shoulder, but it was far easier to deal with in comparison to the heart pounding anxiety coursing through the rest of him. 

The chase, the drive. Each horrible second of running down that horrifically warm cavern, met only to the blood stained, magenta burnt stalagmites that seared themselves to his memory. Overlapped with the horrible night where Lewis’s screams echoed through every wall. Where the only thing he felt was a cold numbness and endless agony.

What was different? What WAS different?

Voice strained and shrieking, Arthur squints through the tears, “Stop it! Death will-“ 

”I’m already DEAD, Arthur! I fell to your hand, why do you keep running from the truth-?!” Lewis’s burning scalp burst into flame, melting away to reveal the same face Arthur winced at many times before- from photographs, to missing photos, to voicemails, to the cave.

NO! NO NO NO- DONT-!

His grip didn’t falter. 

“Lewis, have you already forgotten our deal?”

Lewis’s grip on his arm releases, allowing Arthur to tumble back- landing on his ass and pinning his metallic arm to his side, praying he could make the electrical sparks hurt any less. So much so that he completely missed the parental tone whispering in his ear. Soothing him with comforting words and encouraging him to- 

Not thinking straight, Arthur lets his metal arm fall numb- ignoring its jittery sparks- and reaches to his prosthetic shoulder. Disengaging the locks far quicker than he should have been able to. 

None of those thoughts came to mind, not until the arm clatters to the floor, and Arthur is left weak and gasping and sobbing from the electrifying burns encapsulating his bones and heart.

“Didn’t I make my conditions clear, Lewis Pepper? Bring you two here, to allow you both peace. And yet, you’ve broken my only rule. What do you have to say for yourself?”

Arthur does his best to not fall over, the horrible pain barely subsiding and offering any leeway for him. 

In fact, if he didn’t hold his breath, he wouldn’t have heard Death’s voice surrounding him. 

Something grazes his fried shoulder, what felt like a hand. Anywhere it’s palm rubs, a soothed feeling simply… took the pain. Relaxed his heart. Brought the overwhelming thoughts to a soft hum and not a powerful shriek. 

Allowed him the strength to turn back and see what scene had taken shape around them. 

No longer was their wall paper and stained glass murals on the wall, instead, everything took on a much more… angelic appearance. Each wall covered in faintly drawn eyes, all blinking and focusing on them all. 

”I must say, I am disappointed in you.”

”And?” Lewis dared, and it became noticeably more twisted, long, draping wings of all kinds lining the walls like curtains. 

And for once, Arthur wasn’t fearful. 

But Lewis sure was.

Crouched over on himself, Arthur blearily glances around the new interior of the room. Everything was reflective, and thus shone a brilliant purple and pink as Lewis’s flame lit up their surroundings. 

Lewis was… closer to him. Arthur didn’t even realize it at first until he realized he was trapped in the immense shadow towering over him, but Lewis’s back was turned to him. 

The golden heart, at Arthur’s side. 

Breathlessly, Arthur switches from the golden- *brilliantly* beating heart, and Lewis’s furious stance- his shoulders tense and feet planted apart, both fists clenched and enveloped in fire and burning flames. 

Why…

“Who are you? Why do you stop me?” Lewis demands, his voice and anchor crack in equal measure. 

Arthur grabs it, confused and compelled, the fear radiating from it drew him closer. Maybe this can give us an advantage..? Maybe-

The wings bristle, puffing up, and Arthur shudders. A warm wind washing over them. An even calmer chuckle tickling his ears. 

"Oh Lewis, you misunderstand. You too perished far too early, and that is why I wish to do everything I can for you to get the justice you deserve. But Arthur, is innocent. In terms that he did not commit the act of judgment, but one of my own." 

The stained glass dyes red. And all at once, the walls, glass, and floor, shatter.

Chapter Text

The evening had grown uncharacteristically cold that night. The frigidness enough to shoo any wandering animal or person into their shelter of choice. Some cats made a habit of resting on their back porch, curled up under the vents Duet always had on. 

After they saw the first kitten cuddled under the sheet they set out, Duet started to make a habit of leaving the back door ajar.

 

Hearing the scratch of small critters roaming their halls, scratching up the curtains and making a nest in Duets many covers and rugs.

 

What Duet never suspected to hear- not without panic following their thoughts- was to hear a voice, and heavy steps falling on the back porch.

 

Sitting up, Duet softly yawns, stretching their limbs and draping a cloak around their neck, obscuring every part of them, before approaching the trespasser. Quickly after, Duet handles their staff, a crystal lining it’s top, a perfect weapon and a light wrapped into one.

 

Perhaps one of the homeless saw the light and decided to stop inside…?

 Duet ponders, humming wistfully as they step out.

 

A smaller kitten- a calico- jumps in surprise when Duets bedroom door opens, peering up and promptly meowing a greeting. Duet paid them no mind, and kept walking, following the paintings and hung messages along their walls, before reaching the pantry.

 

If this was someone of no harm, would they scurry away?

 

Duet had no idea. Lacing their fingers around the clean door knob and cracking it open.

 

Someone flinches. The brisk chill of the wind attempting to bypass the insulated cloak.

 

The staff glows, and Duets eyes widen in surprise.

 

What Duet did not expect, was a man seemingly larger than his door frame leaning in, a hand pressed to one of the cats sides and petting them gingerly. Puffs of white air marking each shaky breath.

 

“Lewis, what on earth are you doing?”

 

Lewis- Vivi’s friend, a gentle giant who lingers around her every step- shakes and jerks back, vanishing past the door, “hold on, is everything alright?”

 

The steps creak loudly, crescendoing into a haphazard whine mixed with Lewis’s gasp. Duet pushes through the door, crossing the steps in a few short steps and peering out.

 

“Hold it.”

 

Lewis freezes, hunched over himself and turning to meekly stare at Duet in a moment of silent paralysis. At a loss of what to do, what to say to explain away his sudden appearance.

 

Lacking shoes, and a coat, 

Duet thinks to themselves, recalling how “uptight” Vivi once said Lewis was about proper weather wear- forcing her to come into work with several coats. This sort of appearance on a night like this was far from natural.

 

Something else was wrong.

 

“I-.. I’m sorry, Duet. I never should have come here or-“ Lewis’s voice interrupt their thoughts and brought Duet back to the fact that Lewis must have been freezing.

 

Lifting their hand, Duet quickly silenced him.

 

“First, Lewis, no need to explain yourself. Please, come in, you’ll get frostbite,”

 

As if he wasn’t even aware of his own predicament, Lewis’s head snapped down to his own body and feet.

 

“Ah- are you sure..?”

 

“Positive. Come in,”

 

Lewis hesitantly followed their instruction, flinching at the bitter cold of the railing and forcing himself to walk up the steps.

 

“My dearest apologies, Duet. I didn’t mean to disturb you-“

 

“There is no need for apology, I would be devastated if I had left you out there.” Unclasping their cloak, Duet takes it off and holds out the feathery material, shaking it lightly when Lewis simply stares at it, “Be a dear and accept this gift, for tonight. I’ll prepare some tea for you. Please take a seat anywhere.”

 

Lewis blinks down at it, gingerly taking it with shaky hands, confused.

 

“Where… is your living room?”

 

“Down the hall, once you get to the end, turn and there will be a couch and television set.”

 

Before vanishing out of sight, Duet reaches over and opens a spare closet, quickly pulling out a pair of slippers, the biggest ones he had, “Wear these, I can’t imagine how cold you are.”

 

Steam rose gently from each glass Duet poured, allowing Lewis a chance to stop the flow when he felt necessary. But upon not hearing a word from him, Duet simply capped it off halfway.

 

“Would you like to talk, Lewis?”

 

The larger man stifles a breath, chest rising and falling calmer than it had before, and Lewis nodded his head.

 

“Yes, I wanted to ask why you let me in.”

 

Duet quirks an eyebrow, taking a small sip, “Is there a need for a reason?”

 

Handling his own cup gingerly, Lewis mimicked them, “… Yes.”

 

“Aha, you’re a funny man, I’ll tell you that.” Duet sets down their cup and smiled calmly, “You appeared at my doorstep without proper protection, in the middle of a freezing night, and presumably without prior knowledge I lived here. One can’t help but be concerned.”

 

“I could have been a thief.”

 

“Alas, that’s a risk I have been willing to take. Although, most thieves are easily subdued.”

 

Lewis furrows his eyebrows, “How..?”

 

“Offering a meal, a place to stay, a direction to a proper life. Or, if needed, I use one of my canes.” Duet explains, leaning over and gesturing toward their collection. And Duet turns to him again, “However, I’m also familiar with you.”

 

Lewis swallows back more tea, pointedly looking away from Duet now, murmuring how he still didn’t have the right to simply show up. Regardless of what he said, Duet simply shrugs.

 

“But, I do have a question for you Lewis. Why did you come here like that.”

 

Pursing his lips, Lewis nervously turns his attention to his hands.

 

“I had an anxiety attack.”

 

“So you ran?”

 

“Yes.”

 

“What happened?”

 

Lewis’s face twists, expression and lips tightening and growing intense, “I had a scary nightmare, and I woke up panicked, and I ran.”

 

Nodding, Duet leans forward, watching Lewis pointedly, “And?”

 

“… and..?”

 

“What was it about? You were very frightened earlier, so perhaps there is something I can do to quell your anxieties.”

 

“It’s not that simple.”

 

“Are you sure?”

 

“Yes! I’m sure!” The burst of frustration died down instantly, hand flying up to his mouth, a look of shock and shame spreads over his face, “..Im sorry, I don’t know what’s come over me.”

 

“Heh, you’re quite alright.” Duet says, tilting their head to the side and watching the light bounce off Lewis’s shoulders. The moonlight seemed to flutter against him, highlighting the slight gaunt in his cheeks and the darkness under his eyes. A swarm of negativity lingered around him, similar to his much smaller friend.

 

“Has everything been alright, Lewis? As of late.”

 

“… what do you mean?”

 

There’s a shift, a hint of defensiveness returning, Duet can feel the truth getting closer.

 

“Inside your own head. I’m not one to beat around the bush, so let me put it this way; how has your thoughts changed these past few days? Is it harder for you? Easier? Does it feel like the demons of your life have gotten the better of you?”

 

Silence grows between them, Duet keeping their gaze still and calm, all while Lewis’s face is tight and- a tad too panicked. Similar to how Chloe appears when Duet catches her in the middle of her schemes.

 

“Lewis?”

 

His face cracks, and after a tense moment, he lets out a heavy sigh. “Things are bad, Duet. Nothing is wrong at home, or with work… or my friends.. nothing really is wrong,” he pauses, “but nothing’s right either. I sleep so much now and I’m - unbelievably tired. I think I may just be anxious.” Lewis rambles, releasing a deep breath and looking everywhere besides Duets face. They couldn’t help but laugh.

 

“You’ve been sleeping a lot.” Duet repeats, mulling over the words a few seconds longer, “I don’t suppose this bount of rest your getting is the culprit for these dreams? Possibly feeling like you’ve done too little to be satisfied?”

 

Twiddling his thumbs, Lewis bites his lip and nods, “I suppose you can say that… Its been.. a bit more than that.”

 

“Oh..?”

 

“Well! A- well not a lot but- nothing has been going on in my head- in general and I’ve been just a tad bit stressed and-!” Lewis splutters, the words spilling out of him like a waterfall, and it becomes painfully apparent just how much he’s been holding all of it back. Unable to keep up, Duet instead keeps in mind the small details that Lewis kept emphasizing- A sense of misery, tiredness, and an over abundant amount of paralyzing stress, and on top of all of that, how little Lewis feels he can talk about these feelings.

 

“And how long did this occur?”

 

“About- well.. i’ve been noticing it for the past few months, and I can’t help but think its getting worse! It’s- its even affecting my dreams now. I- …” His breath hitches, caught on the next details that would surely send anyone into a panic.

 

According to Lewis, that was. His gaze returning to his cup, and despite it now having gone cold, he snatches the cup and downs all of it in an instant. Drawing back with a gasp and sorrow painting his face, “Duet- s.. I-.. thank you very much for your kindness, and listening to my rambling, but I- I need to get home and-” Lewis is rising from his place, shrugging off the feathery cape and hastily folding it.

 

“Would you like me to drive you?”

 

Flabbergasted, Lewis chokes on his breath, straightening up, “I- im sorry?”

 

“It’s far too cold out for you right now. I fear you may catch frostbite, and that will cost you a lot more. In fact, you may want to sleep more, wouldn’t you?”

 

His mouth hangs open, about to respond and reject the notion. If it wasn’t for the fact that Duet knew what they were talking about. Stilted, and now considering a whole lot more, Lewis resembled more of a startled puppy than the werewolf Duet compared him to when they first met.

 

“… I mean.. you’re right but- its so late!”

 

“And your parents will be much happier knowing their son returned home safe and sound, don’t you think?” Suggesting that, Duet watches Lewis’s eyebrows furrow with concern, and stands up themself, “I can always explain what had occurred to them if they fret, but it would be far safer than you traversing Tempo on your own.”

 

”…. Perhaps… I can always call my friend for a ride..?“

 

"But its like you said, it’s far too early.” Duet points out, but tilts their head, “However, I would be far more comfortable being driven home than you being by yourself. Do you have your phone, by any chance?”

 

By instinct, Lewis pats his side, his pocket, not breaking eye contact before he’s digging around for it.

 

“I- I thought I had it-! But-!”

 

He freezes, eyes locked on the small and outdated phone held out to him. Duet- smiling- seemed to produce it from nowhere.

 

“I have Vivi’s number already programed in, but if you have someone else in mind, by all means.”

 

“… Are you sure..?”

 

“Positively.”

 

For once, Lewis didn’t hesitate, and he carefully took the phone and began to dial, murmuring to himself about Arthur being awake..

 

No answer. Lewis gruffs, dialing again.

 

This time, he lifted the phone to his ear and whispers, “Vivi…? Yes, its me… I know, I know, I’m sorry to call to late but-… Im at your boss’s place, can you come pick me up? … I’ll explain in a little bit… Okay… okay… thank you Vivi… I love you, too…. goodbye.” Lewis huffs, hanging up and holding the phone back out to Duet, “she’s on her way. Thank you Duet, for everything. I’ll wait outside-”

 

“Hm, I understand. Then I hope you realize, I am going to watch over you until I know you’ve been safely picked up.”

 

“Are you sure?”

 

“It’s my responsibility to ensure all of my guests are safe, so yes.”

 

Conflicted, Lewis taps his fingers against his side anxiously, before nodding, “May I wait outside..?”

 

“If that helps you feel comfortable, yes. But you must keep the cloak.”

 

Lewis doesn’t object, not this time.

 

The porch was far colder than even Duet expected, a chill shaking them both to their cores. And it seemed even with the cloak, Lewis still shivered. No words spoke between them. Leaving them both in a comfortable and calm silence. Until Lewis’s chest rags a little heavier than before, and he turns to him.

 

“Duet, may I- share something with you? Its… a little frightening.”

 

“Your in luck, frightening and mystery is my middle name.”

 

“Heh- didn’t realize you and Vivi shared a middle name.”

 

“I try to keep a theme in my book shop, you see? Now, what is on your mind, Lewis?”

 

Lewis tenses, pulling the cloak tighter around him, “My dream… what- what made me so panicked.. I… I had a gun.”

 

It comes out with a sigh, and Duet tilts their head, urging Lewis onward.

 

“I was about to shoot myself.”

 

“Ah, I see. Is this related to your recent struggles?”

 

“… It is. I keep thinking about- ways to… to hurt myself. I can barely move half the time because of it.”

 

“… Do you experience a need to take your life?”

 

“Not always,” The puffs of air surround his face, lighting up how disappointed he was in himself for saying it, “but a lot of the time.”

 

“Is that so?” Two headlights shine down the street, growing closer, “have you spoken to your parents about it?”

 

“You’re the only one who knows.” The car is pulling up, a door opening, Vivi opening the door and squinting up at that, dressed in only a tank top and some shorts, unaffected by the brisk chill- much to Duets own amusement.

 

“Do you plan to tell anyone else?”

 

Lewis doesn’t answer, waving back at Vivi and about to head down the stairs to her, before he finally pauses and turns to them, “Yes.”

Chapter Text

Arthur’s breathing wasn’t ragged. He wasn’t conscious- no, but he was stuck. Trapped in his own mind, surrounded by his own thoughts that grew jittered and jumbled and lost meaning faster than he could catch on.

And at the same time, he was completely at peace. A warmth surrounded his entire body, and no matter how much his chest raggedly rose, Arthur never fell off the deep end and into the great abyss that was his lingering anxiety. 

How long had he been asleep for? 

Great question. If he had to guess, a few hours. 

But in Deaths realm, that could translate to centuries.

And in the deep spirals of Arthur’s long memory - dating back to the day of his birth- one memory in particular stuck out.

The shattering of a thousand shards. Lewis’s- it had to be him..- fear. The tall, looming shadow of Death themself.

Lewis was being punished for hurting him, wasn’t he? 

Arthur could only hope he wasn’t- but nothing else would make sense. The other mass of the skeletal figure dropped to the floor, dragged across and into the arms similar to jaws.

Was it Lewis..? 

Arthur shifts in his sleep, maybe rolling over, maybe stretching, maybe something completely different. But along with it- he couldn’t stop his mind from making small comparisons.

Lewis has anger issues, apparently.

The man had a patience of a saint and the love to fuel a million farms- however that worked- everyone could feel the happiness and joy radiate from him everyday. Arthur couldn’t ever recall a moment in his life where Lewis was angry enough to be cruel- to directly harm someone else. 

Hurting was reserved for only the worst beings. The worst and snarling spirits who threatened to disembowel and ravage cities. 

Was it really the same Lewis? 

Based on that alone, anyone would have said it wasn’t. Lewis wasn’t like that. 

But it felt so familiar. His voice, the way he stood and how he guarded Arthur in the face of Death before being dragged away.

Arthur could feel it in his heart even. That was Lewis, it had to be.

A tremor ripples up his spine. Arthur’s body becoming alert and awake. Tingles taking hold of his limbs. Growing faster and more intense. Growing increasingly more noticeable how warm he was. Sweat lining his back and arm. Legs jolting. 

And he was awake. Eyes popping open and his lungs filled with a gasp, burning his throat and tickling the back of his throat. 

Coughing roughly, Arthur forces himself up. His face buried in the crook of his arm, curled over himself and wrenching until he could finally breath. 

He was drenched in sweat. A quick swipe across his forehead confirming that fact. Pulling back his hand, Arthur’s eyebrows furrowed in confusion, there being so much more liquid than he expected-

“… What…?” Arthur mumbled to himself, barely processing the sweltering heat surrounding him, until he sat up more. The sweat slicked against his back and it felt like it poured down his skin, Arthur’s face scrunches in disgust. Tearing off his insufferably puffy vest, his wrist bands, his shirt- anything that touched his skin was removed immediately, discarded against the equally soaked sheets and the unnecessary amount of blankets. Staring at the crumpled mess, Arthur grimaces. 

“Okay- that’s disgusting..” he mumbles to himself, noticing immediately that the heat was still horribly oppressive. This would kill him. He’s going to die here from heatstroke.

Twisting his head back, Arthur’s gaze switches from wall to wall, before finally landing on one distinct wall. 

Stained glass shapes, triangles and squares, stained various colors of blue and green. The color combo emits a clear ring, and shone brilliantly. Various parts taking its turn to glow, until Arthur finally settles on one aspect. 

The triangles were green, sharply marking the edges and stabbing inward. The very center being a strange bundle of shapes and designs. Vaguely revealing a human shape. 

Someone falling. 

Transfixed, Arthur stares. 

Sickened, tremors run along his spine.

Falling. Someone falling. Falling into spikes. Blood. Blood everyone. Blood on hands. Blood below. Hands. Hands hands hands- Your fault. Your fault. Your fault. 

Your fault.

 

Arthur gasps, mind going blank and eyes widening, slapping his hand across his chest. Kickstarting his coughing spurt and jolting him awake. Shoving himself up, he gasps. Each breath straining him further and further, ripping warm gulps of blood- no water- AIR, down. 

Gripping his shirt- trying to, Arthur claws his chest, tearing across it and leaving red angry scrapes in its wake. 

A pound bursts in his ears, louder than the ever present ring shrilling in his head. Emphasizing the headache thumping against his forehead. Trying to claw its way out. 

Gaping around the room, Arthur’s eyes land on the same green mural, the same form- now painted purple. 

Arthur’s mind stalls, he whips his head back and forces his mind elsewhere. Instead it was swarmed in static and fuzz, filling his entire head like cotton.

His mouth opens, but nothing comes out, not even bile, not even spit. Only screams. 

So much screaming. Echoing in his head and the room and crescendoing until it’s far too loud to even process letters. 

Nothing except for mind numbing panic. 

 

Arthur wakes up. But it’s different. 

There’s silence. Only silence. His heartbeat so distant yet so intense it pulsates through his whole chest. 

It hurts. But he can’t move. 

It’s so jarring. 

The heat is still there. 

The stained glass was everywhere, even the ceiling. But it’s different. 

There’s pink, it’s moving. It’s staring at him. Arthur can’t see it’s eyes but he knows it’s staring at him. 

And it’s dark, the space above the blue stained glass, it was empty, except for the large mass moving. 

Next, Arthur finally notices the pounding. It’s not his heart, it’s the thing- person. The space lights up, and the glass mural is overturned into a screen of gradients, made of pink and purples and sharper blues and no greens.

The light dies down. And bursts again. 

Again. Again. Again.

It’s almost entrancing.

….

Where is he? What is that?

….

Is it Lewis?

….

Why? 

…. 

He didn’t remember falling asleep. 

But he did.

 

Chapter Text

The branch twists and wraps around his thigh, taking hold of it in a tight, furious grip that only dug its thorns in deeper into his skin when Arthur yanked back. It would have worked, Arthur could argue.

Had it not been for the hole in his leg the tree was attempting to stab through. 

He couldn’t even hiss, the poisons seeping into his skin and paralyzing the muscles . Nerves screaming, burning with such an intensity that Arthur could hardly see straight. Much less for the dim white moonlight barely lighting a path, Arthur was blinded from the tears stinging at his eyes. 

coiling up his leg and pressing its thorns deeper, the branch splits into subsections, and yet  the numbness barely masking said twigs and branches puncturing his veins. The plunge forcing Arthur to his knees. 

His hands shake, trembling viciously from its burn, similar to his scrambling thoughts. “A yokai? A monster with- AHH-!” He screams, and at the same time it’s stuck there. 

Arthur digs for his bag, tousled to the side and barely out of reach. Grinding his teeth and clawing at the dirt for the blade hanging off the side. 

C’mon, cmon, cmon, cmon! Grab it! 

The burn intensifies, thorns spiking out and embedding into his flesh. Spores of blood bleeds past his clothes and fills the ground around him. 

Heart racing, too confused to understand what to do, Arthur takes hold of the dagger hanging off the side- not bothering to unlatch it and stabbing it into plant, only to recoil in agony as the spot goes red and it thrashes. 

He’s alone. He’s alone, he’s going to die-

Sucking in his breath, Arthur stifles the urge to sob and shrieks, “LEWIS-! VIVI! H-HELP-!” 

 

“Are you alright, Artie?” Lewis whispers softly, arms outstretched and delicately gripping Arthur’s arms as if he were made of porcelain. 

And being directly contradicted when Arthur jumps on one leg to get closer. And completely miss the point of physical therapy.

Arthur still winces, needing to land on the ground anyway. But despite the small moan of pain, Lewis is reaching up and holding him up, a scold brewing on his tongue.

“Arthur! You shouldn’t move too fast, you’re still healing.” 

“Sorry-!” Arthur hisses, eyes clenched shut and lifting his leg up slightly, doing nothing to help soothe and lessen the pain, “I can’t help it, I don’t want to walk on this damn leg!”

Lewis frowns, “I know, but it’s the best way for you to learn how to still use it as you heal. We’ll help you,” smiling softly and leaning close to hug him, lifting him slightly off the ground but just barely so Arthur’s toes touched still.

Arthur whines, huffing and sinking into Lewis’s hold, cheek pressed against Lewis’s chest.

And not too far off, cloaked in a thick robe, drenched in a mixture of sweat, dew, and whatever potion of hers just blew up, Vivi peaks out. A smile stretching over her face at the sight. 

And she bounds across the garden. 

“Hey hey!” Is the only warning, Lewis reacting first and spinning Arthur out of harm’s way, standing strong when Vivi leaps onto his back. 

“Vivi, c'mon.” He says warningly, glaring at Vivi as she mocks innocence and climbs higher on his back, perching on his shoulder and smiling coyly down at Arthur. 

“What!” Vivi asks, reaching down and playfully curling a finger around Arthur’s antennas, before flinching back at the pure “wrath” of his glare, “I’m not the one who got stuck in a moose trap~” 

Arthur’s head falls back, letting out a guttural wail, “I didn’t know!” Finishing off his whine by pressing his teary eyed face into Lewis’s chest again. 

“You didn’t even look to see for traps!” 

“No one told me that the forest takes things and brings it to us to deal with! It’s not my fault.”

“Where do you think they go?” Vivi asks, accidentally pulling back Lewis’s hair and forcing his head back. 

“I don’t know. I thought the forest just-“ Arthur trips over his words, “threw them? Somewhere? Not left it in the dark!” 

Vivi snickers, finally catching the glare Lewis was shooting her. Unfazed, she simply boops his nose. 

“Alright, your protest has been heard. I’ll stop teasing.” She leans over Lewis’s head, looking at Arthur directly, “Artie, want me to grab you a healing potion?” 

Arthur- with his (now common) pout puckers up more, gaze switching to Lewis. Always the authortain over what medicines are used and when, they all knew this, and as soon as Vivi jumped down, whisking out a small bottle of clear and shimmery liquids, Lewis returned Arthur’s gaze. 

Three seconds pass, “After you finish the rest of the hour, then you can.”

“LEEEEW”

Chapter Text

Mystery had made many mistakes in his long life.

Only recently did he even think to have compassion for the human race as a whole. That, on its own, was simply a subset of being under the Yukino’s- being showed a form of kindness that he never considered would be used for the likes of him. 

Care, and kindness, despite how Mystery had wronged humanity time and time again, the Yukinos never showed hatred, welcomed mystery as one of their own. 

The least he could do was help them with their nighterrors.

Pawing across the small surface, Mystery’s gaze stays locked onto the mess of blue hair sprawled across the pillow. She simply meant to lay down for a few minutes to deal with her headache. One filled with images of the Pepper paradiso and lacking too much memory to understand any of it. To her left, facing away from her, was a group photo taken with Lewis’s entire family, encapsulating Arthur’s many demises at the hands of Cayenne Pepper.

The heavy sleep soon made more sense. And with an even heavier huff, Mystery looms over her, pressing his snout into the fluff of Vivi’s hair and giving a small tentative lick. 

Her body sags immediately. The restless tremble in her leg giving out and the pained confusion adorning her face ceasing into a long, calm slumber. 

One she would sleep with until the next apocalypse struck, knowing her. 

Curling his lips back into a fox like grin, Mystery presses his snout against her head again, licking the smallest kiss across her forehead as his tail wags. 

Now if only Arthur were to do the same.

Mystery’s stomach sours, and the picture of Lewis’s family made all too much sense. 

Turning back, Mystery watches Arthur half dangle out of the van. One foot perched and the other bouncing, nursing an energy drink despite how much he gagged with each sip, and the computer he always had in his other arm. 

Reading articles, tracking progress, looking for the smallest hint that could possibly lead them to figure out who *took* Lewis and *why.*

Ears drooping, Mystery resists a dog-like whine. The smallest house from Mystery could send Arthur into shock, into panic. 

Never once did Mystery realize just how much trauma could effect him like this.

Anxiously creeping toward him, Mystery watches as the hairs on the back of his scalp stand in response to each step, how tense he got as Mystery dared coming close. 

But he had to try. 

It could be the most sleep Arthur would get in months. 

But Mystery couldn’t even think of the illusion to replace his thoughts with, because Arthur’s head snaps back. Freezing, Mystery drops to a sit. Terrified eyes stare back, Arthur lightly shaking from the poison he insisted on ingesting every moment.

But Mystery wasn’t the only one with ideas, he supposed, as Arthur’s expression stayed tight and heavily guarded, still managing to look meek and terrified all at the same time, he slowly starts to speak, “H- .. hey boy…!” He says, a common greeting between the two before…. 

Arthur lifts his robotic arm, and it’s weight made it clear how much Arthur lacked faith in him. 

Mystery blinks, holding his breath. Before shoving his head into the palm faster than Arthur could retract. 

A shriek rips through Arthur’s throat, forcibly pulling himself back. So much force backing it that Arthur clatters our and collapses out of the van and onto the dirt. 

He coughs and wretches. Tail held between his legs, Mystery whines and forces himself to return to Vivi and lay down. Fearing that if he came close to Arthur, it would be worse.

Chapter Text

Cayenne yanks her wrist away, pulling hard against the dingy and rusted handcuffs. Her face twisted by anger and her eyes welling with tears. 

“God-! Dammit-! Fucking-! OPEN-!! She shouts, kicking the metal fence in time with the anger swelling inside of her. 

Fury swelled within her, growing so intense and immense she shook in her boots. 

Not only that, she threw her headband. The fact that it was in the dirt now and not in her hair was truly the icing on the cake. 

A meteor better hit right now and hit Belle in her big stupid face! Cayenne grits her teeth and shakes against the handcuff again. 

To absolutely no avail. Instead, they locked tighter around her small wrist. If Paprika wasn’t sitting right there, Cayenne would have screamed.

“’Yenne..?” Paprika’s small voice piques above Cayennes mental storm of curses, and she flinches under the sudden sink eye of Cayennes fury.

”What?” 

Paprika swallows, cringing at the sight of Cayennes growing welts. There’s one clean slice that she can see- clear as day! And it had her sick. 

Forcing down her queasiness, Paprika frightfully produces a small First Aid Kit from her pocket, and pulls out all of the small, colorful bandages covered in spongebob and Dora and ghosts. 

Cayenne stares at it dumbly, “… What?” 

Paprika forces a big smile, “We can cover your arm so the … rings don’t hurt as bad!”

Cayenne couldn’t help glaring, even if it lessened dramatically, the rage was still there, still enough to kill a grown man if one tries to grab one of them-

Nervous by Cayennes silence, Paprika hides his chin in her frills, “A-are you mad that these are Belle’s…?”

Jolting, Cayenne’s teeth grit, ”Well NOW I am!”

How DARE she pit Paprika against her? Use their sweet, innocent little sister to get into her good graces! Belle could have given them to her herself!

“I don’t want them. Where are yours?”

Paprika blushes, averting her gaze, and whispers quietly, ”I gave all of mine away…”

It then hit Cayenne how much of a serial bandaid giver Paprika was.

“Where are yours ‘Yenne?” 

Now it’s Cayenne’s turn to be the target of her own frustration, and with a bigger sigh, she grumbles, “I don’t got it on me.” 

“Why not? Your kit is suppose to keep you safe-“

“Yeah? Where am I supposed to keep it ‘Rika? I wear a DRESS! Dresses don’t have pockets!”

That was a bold faced lie, Lewis always took plenty of time out of his day to sew pockets in all of their articles of clothing. 

Not that Paprika needed to know that.

And it worked too, Cayenne thinks triumphantly as Paprika frowned to herself and retracts into herself like a turtle- no longer even looking at Cayenne as she undoubtedly thinks to herself.

Why did Belle get the phone? Why couldn’t she or Paprika get one? Belle doesn’t even use hers! She just went and ran to find Lewis or mama. It’s bullshit!

Cayenne growls and pouts, trying to cross her arms but unable to. Instead settling for her arm folded across her chest.

Neither of them paying mind to the backyard Cayenne was attached to.

The sounds of a door unlocking and a stampede pounding against the ground was was what finally got them to even look up. 

And shriek.

Cayenne is yanking her arm back, wrist slicing against the handcuffs even more- but that didn’t matter. What mattered was the several dogs locking into them. 

“Cayenne!!” Paprika shoves herself in between Cayenne and the fence, arms outstretched. But her protection only came so far. The dogs- large bulldogs and sharp eared beasts race directly to them. Cayennes heart beating out of her chest and taking her line of sight. 

“Whoa! EY! Bacchus! Venus! Neptune! Get back here!”

Paprika gasps, finally noticing a short- green clad…. lady? Man? Bolting across the expansive lawn, leashes in hand and in seconds, was upon the herd.

And as if by a shine of luck shining down on them- a familiar man came into view out of the corner of Paprika’s eye

“Cayenne! Paprika!” Lewis’s voice boomed with panic, and he’s running along the dirt road to get to them.

“Hey!” Paprika giggles nervously, glancing up at her sister, “Lew is here, he’ll-“

Cayennes eyes were blank, her body had gone slack. Simply sitting there and leaning back, stiff as a board. 

Frozen, Paprika didn’t know if she was dead or was asleep, but despite the beasts clawing at the fence still, she stared between Cayenne and Lewis rapidly approaching. 

“C-Cayenne..?” Paprika whispers under her breath, tears beginning to well in her eyes as it dawns upon her that she failed to keep her sister safe. She failed and-

“Pap’,” Lewis is there, on his knee and looking from Cayenne to Paprika and to the new adult that Paprika couldn’t recognize, “Sweetheart, what happened?” 

“Ca- cay..! She’s.. she’s de-“ Paprika mumbles, a rush of words not coming out correctly and making her sound dumber than she was already. Lewis didn’t rush her, watching her carefully and calmly. A hand on her shoulder and the other on Cayennes face. He’s bringing her back-! Thank you Lew-

“Oh hey, Lewis. These your kids or something?”

Paprika whips her head back, staring up into large- swirly colored goggles. The kind you would see only from a villain. Shaking, Paprika backs away into Cayenne again, who is simply sitting there and leaning back, her arm straight out and held up by her bruising wrist.

“No, sisters-“ Lewis replies, not even looking at them, gently pushing Paprika out of the way and wrapping an arm around Cayennes back, cradling her close and lessening the distance in which she hung, “Chloe, do you know what happened? Why is she handcuffed-?” One of the dogs with a shiny coat jumps at the fence, startling Lewis and Chloe shouts. 

“OI! Go play. Back up, Nep.” 

The dog whines sadly, trying to jump again and press their nose to the fence, snuffed right against Cayennes fingers-

”NEPTUNE!” With a quick flick, the enormous dog- reduced to a puddle of whining and obedience- falls to the ground, overly dramatic and laying there. Chloe stares at the doggy, before shrugging and returning to Lewis and Cayenne. 

“…. how is she asleep?” 

“She’s afraid of dogs!” Paprika says, a bit too loudly than she meant, before she remembered something else, “We- we’re sorry miss! We didn’t mean to get stuck. Our sister dared her and-“

Lewis’s head snaps over to her, “Excuse me?”

Chloe, on the other hand, barks out a laugh, “Kidding right? Sweet. Hold on, let’s get your sis out before you yell at em.”

Lewis nods briefly, paying more attention to Cayenne and less the how Chloe quickly ran back into her house.

Paprika couldn’t help but shake in her rain boots (which still earned  befuddled looks from passerbyers), even more so when Lewis turns to her. No anger lingers on his face, merely concern. 

He just doesn’t wanna scare you! He doesn’t like scaring anyone! Paprika reminds herself, and steeled herself for the interrogations like she saw on tv.

“Pap’, what do you mean she was dared to do this?”

Stiffening, Paprika averts her gaze and keeps it on the ground, staring at a pebble. Slowly, she opens her mouth and brings herself to talk.

“We… we’re trying to test our courage..” her hearts hammering against her chest, mind running rampant as it finally hits her that it took that much to squeeze just that out! What if they get in trouble? “Belle… I dared Cayenne to do it!” 

“… You did?” Lewis asks, quirking an eyebrow and staring directly into her soul, picking apart the threads and exposing her. He always had the power to do that…!

“Y-yeah! She dared me to swallow a worm!” 

“Did she know?” Oh no he doesn’t believe me! Fists tightening, Paprika willed herself to do the only thing she thought could possibly make Lewis believe her.

And began describing how the worm in super-duper detail. Everything she could even vaguely remember about worms she brought up again and again, running out of breath and making herself gasp only to keep going. 

Lewis’s expression stayed the exact same. 

At some point, Cayenne woke up too.

And Chloe returned. Not the doggies though (which was nice), they were sitting in a small little hole they dug out.

Chloe’s hands working quickly over the handcuff, shoving a wire (a pin? She has one of those!) and was twisting it. And with a click, Cayennes bruised and scratched up wrist was free! 

Chloe interrupts Paprika’s story, smiling down at Cayenne- who still hadn’t made an effort to move away from Lewis’s protective hold- “There you go, kid, hope you don’t get stuck again. That’ll be a bitc-“

”Chloe!”

“Yeesh, sorry.” Grumbling, she stands up and readjusts her goggles, “well, imma yeet. See you guys later~” 

And with that, she completely vanished.

“Pap’,” Cayenne finally says, irate and rubbing her wrist, “why the fuck did you think Lew would believe that?”

”-!! CAYENNE-!”

Chapter Text

Tempo has always been filled with monsters. Cryptids, ghouls, the paranormal, spooky scary skeletons, whatever anyone liked to call them, but everyone was aware of the population hiding just out of sight. 

Mimics, ghosts, personified and “hoax”. If you can name them, they were most likely a permanent residence in Tempo.

The train slows to a stop. Several passengers moving out without a second glance. Disappearing into the endless night.

Interacting with the community of monsters was especially dangerous. But when things go right, the rewards can be endless.

Grabbing his suitcase, and a plate of some kind, he stands and waits for the next stop. Taking deep, terrified breaths as the ding of each stop passed by.

His stop resounded like church bells, the kind you hear when a funeral is underway. He didn’t stay on the train, swallowing back his panic and fear, he reminds himself of why. 

He steps off. Into the cold, lonely night.

Sometimes people go to them for money.

He debates on leaving his suitcase close by. Pondering the thought of something demanding more than he could offer. But his target is already in sight. 

For immortality.

He swallows his breath, staring down the long street, illuminated by a single, lone lamppost. Standing nine feet and with a light so bright it was unreal. 

For luck.

The plate in his hand has gone cold. One could only pray that it’ll accept his offering regardless. The closer his steps dared, the louder his heart beat. 

The sounds amplify, spiking his adrenaline, but despite all of that, he keeps steady. The sound of footsteps was only it’s illusion, he reminded himself.

Some go for protection.

He stands before the lamppost, his heart in his ears and his lungs tight. Every part of his wishing that someone else was here, someone who can grab his hand and tell him it’s okay. They’ll be safe. 

He abandoned the suitcase a few steps back, and now he held the plate of cooked peppers in hand. The spicy scent had wafted and mixed with the air. 

The lamppost seemed to be breathing. He sets it down on the foot of the lamppost, looking up at its growing flame with uncertainty. 

Three beats of silence follow, and when it became noticeable that it wasn’t going to shift. 

“My name is Arthur Yukino- Kingsmen. My wife is in danger of a Yokai from Japan, if you find it in your nature to protect others, may I ask for your support in defending her.” He says, voice shaky and wavering, adding on a small please for good measure.

The sound of footsteps increase, doubling. Arthur has to resist jerking his head to the side to be sure no one was rushing him. 

Instead, a much different noise intermingled with the increasing pounding of his heart. 

Arthur finally turns, whipping his head back and meeting the seven eyed gaze of a large multi-legged creature staring directly at him.

Eyes widening, the bound in his heart shot into the rest of him. His muscles and limbs shaking at the sheer size of whatever was staring at him. The beast moved a lot faster than Arthur expected. Just a few steps and it’s halfway up the building wall and halfway to him. Large hooks for teeth gnashes threateningly. And yet his body wouldn’t move.

Arthurs heart hammers against his chest. Just run. You made your sacrifice- if it works it works if not then-

In a swoop, he’s blind. Everything he was just vaguely able to see was snatched out of view. And seconds later it was intensely apparent his legs and arms were squeezed together, twisted and folded against his chest like he was shoved into a cellar. An intense heat filling his lungs and surrounding him in a bone crushing hug. 

Skull pounding, Arthur blinks twice, the ring in his ears barely blocking out the hiss and crescendoing scream. 

It blasts through his head, making his head throb, Arthur ducks his head into his shoulders, praying that somehow it’ll help. It’ll work even just a bit. 

It didn’t. 

Despite his arm being pinned to his side, through tears, Arthur wrangles and twists his arms out of its hold, ignoring the burn across the bone to sneak palms against ears. All of his efforts barely blocking out the hiss and the fwaps. Something closer to flapping wings. 

His vision returns. The pounding returned, exceptionally louder than before. 

Was he sitting on bars..? Where was he?! Its far too similar to that of a cage..! Arthur blinks and focus’s his sight. 

Black. Or grey. It’s…. mesh…? Just barely see through, Arthur doesn’t even try to think of it past the fact that it’s far too close. Is he in a bag..? When did he-

”Stop, moving.”

Flinching, Arthur freezes, joints locking up. All at once did the burn of his muscles and the sweat trickling down his scalp return full force. But none of that matters. Not with the very real sensation of the mesh blackness expanding and deflating against his skin. 

Breathing.

Arthurs own breath picks up, hitching on his throat as the warmth was noticeably wet. Slick and slimy and fleshy.

In the belly of the beast. He would have laughed, if the thought of being eaten wasn’t any more horrifying.

But who was he to ignore his captors wishes…? Maybe this was the last time he’d see the light of day. Did he tell Vivi he loved her before he went-? Did he-

His thoughts halt like a freight train as a large hand shoots through the sticky and breathing membrane. Nearly shrieking, Arthur kicks his leg out. But instead of kicking away the hand like he liked a resounding drung rumbles through his body- and the body he was is yelps with pain. Almost enough to have the hand retract. 

The stark white on black didn’t vanish like he hoped it would. Instead there was an object in palm, shining and glimmering brilliantly.

A golden heart, with shines of a multitude of colors- almost oily in its sheen. The cryptid releases the heart and instead of falling it zips over and blasts into his chest. Amplifying both heartbeats.

Arthur screams. 

The heat is unbearable. His mind lost to terror. Memories twisting and fading into a mangled heap of-

“Ack-!” Arthur shrieks, all the constraints release, and Arthur falls past the inky barrier with no resistance. Collapsing face and chest first into cold, rock hard concrete. 

Shaky hands can hardly grasp reality before Arthurs forcing his head up, gasping like he was dunked underwater. Forcing his head up, Arthur is met with a long area of concrete, a gravel mixture- and then nothing else but the deep dark sky,

Peppered with pinpricks of stars.

”Mr. Yukino- Kingsmen,” The same voice as before rang, accompanied by even more pounding- beating, Arthur whips his head back quickly, twisting his spine in a way that makes his back ache and pulls several muscles in his shoulders. 

Towering over him, is a man larger than Arthur could ever imagine. With a skull for a face and a feathery cloak, blowing up with the wind, but revealing none of him. 

”I accept your request, I will gladly protect your wife, and you from threats that surround you. I swear.”

Chapter Text

There was one thing Lance wanted to promise himself when he left his family and started his shop. After years of bending to the will of his sisters and brothers, Lance made it clear to himself that they will not be relying on him anymore. 

That’s the one thing. That’s it. 

… Of course, how can he turn away an eight year old boy shivering on his doorstep with a backpack dangling from his tiny wrists and looking at him with a doe eyed expression. 

“Step on in, you’ll get frostbite if you stay out there.” Lance says, stepping to the side and ushering to the inside. Arthur peers inside, passing over everything quickly for a small moment. It seemed almost foreign, and in the kids defense, it was. Lance took the small moment to glance in himself. Every inch of his home was in spick-span-shape, not an ounce of dust on any wall. On top of that, everything that could be considered dangerous was also safely locked away in the garage, a necessary precaution the government wanted him to take to ensure Arthurs safety. 

He didn’t mind nearly as much as he thought he would. 

Finally, Arthur starts in, ducking down with his shoulders up to his ears as peering around like a deer in headlights. 

Lance shuts the door and herds Arthur further in, making his way to the kitchen, “Feel free to put your bag anywhere, Art. Dinners cookin’ now, so take a seat in the living room and relax.” 

“Uh.. Lance?”

Glancing over his shoulder, Lance catches Arthur following him into the kitchen, still glancing around like it’s the first time he ever seen the place.

“Yeah?”

“.. Where’s my room..?” Arthur asks, holding his bag in front of him, blocking everything besides his head and two little stick legs. Lance snorts. 

“Remember that room upstairs you always slept in?” 

“Mmhm?”

“Right up there, I didn’t know how you wanted it to look so I didn’t do much to the look of it. But I bought you a few posters if you’d like to hang them up.”

There’s a moment of stunned silence, before Arthur finally smiles, “Thank you, Lance. Can I go upstairs now?” 

“Yeah! Knock yourself out, take a nap if you need to. It’s a Saturday remember?” 

“But it’s night time!” Arthur shoots back, a laugh backing his tiny voice, and Lance smirks in his direction.

“And? Sounds like the perfect time for a nap. Head to bed, you, I’ll wake you up when dinners ready.” 

Arthur smiles back at him, and not too long after there’s footsteps stamping above him, and the even louder screech of Arthur’s new bed.

He’ll be just fine, Lance reminds himself, smiling entirely to himself.

 

The night was easy enough, Arthur adjusted well enough for the first night, and it seemed like the first night would have gone swell. 

Had not for the scream jolting Lance awake. 

A loud, piercing shriek has Lance throwing off the blanket fast. 

Throwing open the door, Lance dashes across the floorboards and slides out of the room, “I’M COMIN’, ART-“ Lance throws open the door, hand smacking for the light switch.

The lights switch on, basking the room in a horridly bright light. The screaming stops quickly afterward, leaving only a faint whine and whimper. Squinting past the bright glaze, Lance quickly spots out the source of the noise. 

Arthurs bundles under his blankets, curled in a frightened ball, staring at the window with an unruly amount of terror. 

“Wha- whats happenin’?” 

“I- I..!” His voice trembles and trips over itself, and he mumbles into his blankets. 

Sitting on the bed across from him, Lance rubs a hand along Arthur’s shoulder, frowning when he flinches back and tries to bury himself further. 

“I’m sorry- I’m sorry lance I didn’t- I didn’t mean to yell..! I got scared and-“ Arthur bursts into tears, rolling down his chin as he tries to bite his quivering lip. 

Sighing, Lance nods, reaching for Arthur and pulling him into a hug, lifting Arthur from his spot and into his lap. A hand nestling into Arthurs unruly mane, another pressed against Arthurs back. “It’s good, boy.. let it out…” he murmurs, “I don’t mind if you cry here. It’s safe.” 

Arthur shudders, his whole frame shaking under Lance’s hold, tiny hands unsurely shaking, before crawling to wrap around the older figure. 

“I- I didn’t mean to.. I-“ Arthur weeps, his cries starting to seep into Lance’s shirt. 

“It’s alright, you.. just relax. Ain’t nothing gonna hurt you while im here, you hear?” 

His weeping didn’t subside, not until Arthurs leaning into him, with nothing less than gentle whimpering and heavy sighs. 

What on earth had that woman done to ya, Artie? Lance wanted to ask, but he kept those questions to himself. 

He didn’t need too. 

He already knew of the scars littering Arthurs back and legs. His mothers abuse disguised as discipline. 

Brutal beatings. He heard of all of it. 

The damned wench can rot for all Lance cared. 

“I’ll keep you safe, Arthur. I promise.”

 

Chapter Text

You aren’t some little girl, remember that.

Chloe glares at the mirror, disgusted by seeing her own reflection in the first time in centuries. 

“I really hate this thing.” She grumbles, flicking the reflected nose, her own was red. Scorched from the blaze of sunlight. Pick up more sunscreen. She adds to her mental list, 74 and counting, before reaching up and picking at the peeling skin, seeing blood instead trickle down. 

“Ew..” Chloe grumbles, pulling her hood over her head and casting long shadows down her face. Only the complete darkness surrounding her face gave her comfort and security. 

With a giggle, she yanks the curtain down to cover the mirror as she turns, skipping her way to the hallway and calling into it, “Venus~ Neptune!” She cries out, gaze immediately falling on her two precious bastards dogs lying in one of their many beds. At the very end, the shadow of a large sword is knocked over, Chloe cant help her scowl, “Bacchus… put that down!”

The dog spins his head around, swinging the large, golden sword and lodging it in the wall. When the sword refused to budge, Bacchus growls and yanks it more. 

“Hey! You’re ripping up my wall paper!”

Bacchus didn’t seem to hear her, instead only hearing the bark in her tone. Panicked- and probably way too excited from the treats given to them earlier, Bacchus rips them sword from the wall and races through the rest of them, a scrap being the only indication that the sword is slashing the walls. 

”OI!!” Leaping over Venus and Neptune, Chloe slides across the floor- bracing herself to slam into the wall. She rubs her throbbing scalp with a slight grimace until she notices that there’s a single stripe of evidence of Bacchus destroying even more wallpaper!

“EXCUSE YOU! That was from a friend!!” Her cloak flies up, moving forth from the large, bat-like wings protruding and sprouting out, and in a quick bustle of movement and flapping, she’s spirally down the hall. Fangs bared in fury as her pup yelps and dives left. Shimmering his way into an open vent WHY IS IT OPEN?! and crawling in, the sword barely dangling from his mouth as he crawls. 

“Bacchus, come ON!” Chloe shouts, voice straining as both her eyes and wings shine a brilliant green, the start of horns pointing from her forehead. Green mist flowing from under her clothes. 

Peering down the vent shaft, Chloe catches the scent of oils and metals, and curses. 

“Bacchus- you’re going to get hurt!” She screams, trying to catch the dogs attention and flashing down the corridor.

Snatching up a thin, colorful, rug, Chloe glides along her ceiling and walls, bouncing off one of her covered mis-hung mirrors and launching herself foreword and into the most dangerous room in the house for a dog!

Despite the tall stands of armor and walls filled with twisted swords and sharpened staffs, Bacchus eagerly jumps behind one to the other, thankfully lacking the sword from before but now energetic and jumping from spot to spot. Swallowing, Chloe quickly takes in the room before honing in on the giant pup. 

“Bacc… c’mere boy..” She whispers, the bone in her hands enforcing and growing sharp, even more as the whine of the stands grew. They’re going to fall, and if you aren’t careful, they’re going to kill your dog, Chloe!

“Bacc~y! Come, boy! C’mere!” She coos softly, hiding the rug behind her. Bacchus’s tail wags, fast too, slapping the tall stands furiously, but lacking the sword- which is.. better, but not by much. Most already unsteady and threatening to fall, so much so that she kept her wings high up and blocking herself from the wardrobe sized cases that were bound to collapse. Renovate this place to be dog-safe since they’re all idiots. She growls, adding it to the list and keeping her focus directed on Bacchus. Who keeps wagging, completely oblivious to what’s happening around him. 

“Baaacchus…! Come! Come boy, come to mommy!!”

He barks, dropping to his chest to play. 

The creak of the nearest stand to Bacchus crescendos into a shrieking whine. 

”BACCHUS!” Without a further moment of hesitation, Chloe launches herself at the dog, the rug covering the jumping mass as she moves over them both. Twisting her head at the last minute to see one of the sturdy cases falling down on her, rolls of daggers and knives slipping out, blade first.

”Shit.”

Bacchus yelps and whimpers, trapped beneath the rug- a special magic infused rug Chloe got from scamming a dumb pawn shop owner- and the loud clatter of swords and armor collapsing onto Chloe herself. 

Who could have been better, considering she needed to grit her teeth in order to keep herself from falling as well (not that it would do much, the rug was as stiff as steel and acting as a perfect shelter for Bacchus, and it would stay that way until all the pressure is removed.)

It still hurt. Blood began to drip from her wings, sweeping into her clothes and into the rug, and for a moment, Chloe has no possible idea what she can do to fix any of this while shish-kebabbed by several different daggers and blades, a few of which now protruding from her stomach. 

“Jesus.. Christ!” She whimpers, fangs beginning to protrude from the scents surrounding her, ”HEY SIRI!!” She screams, hoping to god (wherever she was!) that her phone stayed in her pocket.

”What can I help you with, Galaxy Bat?”

“C-call… K-“

”Sorry, I didn’t quite catch that.”

”CALL MONS- KLUB!”

”Calling…”

Chloe lets out a sigh of frustration as the phone rings, trying to both stretch her wings and keep them as still as possible- letting more blades slice and slide deeper. She bites her tongue to not cry.

”Duet speaking, how may I be of service?” A familiar voice speaks through her pocket.

“Fuck- I didn’t want you! Gahh.. fine, Duet, i’m stuck in a pickle, can you and the others come over here and help me?”

”Oh? What occurre-“

“I have seven blades sticking out of my chest, just get here and help me.”

”On it, I’ll pick up the others on my way.” They hang up, leaving both her and Bacchus in silence and whimpering.

Chloe lets out a deep, angry sigh, “Thanks.”

Chapter Text

The twigs and leaves snap and crunch under their feet as they walk in tandem, both men having short and fleeting conversation. Arthur, however, was on edge. 

Lewis had brought him out here for a reason. Needed to discuss important business. Whatever that “business” had Arthur overtly tense and focused on every detail of an expression on Lewis’s face. Anything that could mean anything, Arthur surely overthought. And the prospect was exhausting. 

Just chill, he’s about to leave and become a protector of the Forest. Maybe he just wants to talk, confide, things like that. Arthur reminds himself, gnawing on his lip and playing with his hands, fumbling specifically with his more mechanical one. 

Lewis glances down at him, a soft smile floating across his face, and he reaches down to hook his thumb around Arthurs. 

“Is everything okay, Artie?”

Arthur snaps to attention, immediately eyeing Lewis’s hand before hesitantly taking it, appreciating the squeeze before looking at Lewis.

“I’m good, thinking is all…” Arthur sighs, searching for the yellow stones he always looked for when he was nervous, “.. I’m really going to miss you and Vivi.” 

Perking up at that, Lewis frowns, eyebrows furrowed, and he gently squeezes Arthurs palm.

“It’s been fun while it lasted, though! I’m sure you and Vi’ and… I’m sure you guys will be really happy together.” 

“Ah- is that what you think?”

Face scrunching up, Arthur shrugs, “Yeah? Aren’t you guys going to your new home like… next month?”

Its Lewis’s time to shrug, a bit uncommitted too, which was more than concerning considering how invested he’s been in this. Arthur immediately had questions bubbling in his stomach, ready to bombard his friend when Lewis turns to him with that same, gentle smile, enveloping his hand entirely. 

“I actually wanted to talk to you about that.”

“Oh yeah? What about?” Arthur asks, frowning a bit more. Paying particular attention when Lewis squeezes his hand, smiling down at him sweetly.

“Would you be interested in joining us?”

Excuse me?

His confusion must have been obvious, because Lewis’s face flushes and he’s gripping hand a little tighter, this time stopping and bring it up to his chest. With a nervous hum, “Vivi and I want one more person to join us in our new life, and we both want it to be you.” Lewis says, earnestly watching Arthurs expression for the shifts of shock covering it, “Of course, it is a huge commitment. I didn’t want to pin this on you last minute but.. I never willed the courage to ask. I… we both really want you to stay in our lives.” Lewis says in a burst of excitement. 

The kind that has been bubbling in your stomach for far too long, and has you itching to confess.

“You… you want.. Me?”

Lewis bobs his head eagerly, “Yes! I- I know you wanted to stay with your uncle, and that’s why I’ve been so hesitant, but I truly mean it Arthur. I want you to stay with me. I promise, on my life, that I will do everything I can to keep you safe, and happy, and satisfied with everything!” 

Arthur doesn’t answer, he can’t.

Lewis notices this, face softening, “But it’s up to you, Arthur,” Arthur.. Why did that feel so intimate? “I-… I will never force you to come with us if that isn’t the life you want. I just-” Lewis freezes, something just barely on the tip of his tongue. 

“.. Y-yeah..?” Arthur says, leaning in a bit more than he thought he would, heart pounding against his chest. Can he feel his eyes sting? Is he going to cry?

Lewis takes a long, deep breath, and his palm touches from Arthur’s hand to his shoulder, ghosting at the base of his neck.

“I never told you this, but… Arthur, I- I adore you. I adore every aspect of you. I- I can’t imagine a life without you in it. Its- it blows me away just… how much of my heart beats for you.”

Lewis may as well just get down on his knee and propose already.

Arthurs head is spinning faster than the stars beginning to dot the sky behind Lewis’s head. He chokes out a breathless laugh, not even breathing straight from the swarm of emotion washing over him. 

“But- but i’m… I’m not experienced..! In- in anything, I-” Out of all the things he could have said, none of it seemed to matter in that moment. 

Lewis laughs, bringing him into a hug, so tight that Arthur could feel their hearts beat together.

“That’s okay! It’s alright, Arthur, Its- its very common, Its-! God, I love you.”

“… I love you, too, Lewis. I want to go with you.”

“Are you sure?”

“Yeah, yeah.. Im- i’ll talk with Lance and- and… yeah… I love you.” 

“I love you too.”

Chapter Text

Lewis.

There’s nothing but darkness, mind for a few spots of light that seemed to pour in from some place, bathing the jagged rocks with a green hue. 

He blinks slowly, not even processing the action, nor the fact that he was on his feet. 

Strange. Didn’t he roll out of bed?

What else could explain his racing heart, or the ache in his stomach.

He fell. That much was clear. 

But this isn’t his room, this isn’t the cave. 

Lewis doesn’t recognize this place.

He stares a few moments longer, gaze drifting from the moving shadows- surely formed from his own mind. 

Even more peculiar, 

He fell, from somewhere. 

But he has absolutely no recollection of when.

Or why. 

Did he have a nightmare…? 

Maybe he should investigate that first. 

Even more peculiar, was that Lewis didn’t even notice he was holding something. Not until he shifted his head, and his eyes glance across his own his arm - why was his clothing ripped..? - and to his hand. The fingers curled around something. 

Whatever it was, he couldn’t feel it.

If he did, then he simply didn’t notice it. 

It felt empty. 

Like nothingness surrounded him everywhere.

Lewis’s fingers twitch, and with it, a flicker of a glow shines under his skin, quickly spreading up his arms and shoulder, along with an intense, buzzing- burning sensation. 

And just like that, Lewis was awake.

Feeling comes back to him in an instant, slowly warming his skin, and then bursting all throughout him, warming his chest and his stomach, his legs and face. And with it came feeling. His clothes are stiff and scratchy, and his skin feels sticky- as if he had showered in weeks. 

Lewis grimaces, choking  on the stank of his own breath. His brain is heavy, it burns, and yet he still shakes his head, forcing his mind to pay attention to the rest of himself. 

He felt stiff. Hungry. 

Angry. 

Why anger?

The thoughts echo in his scalp, echo through the space. But even though he had no idea what the cause was, his limbs shook, teeth grit, hes filled with a painful wave that makes it hard for him to even move. 

”You were with others- friends,“ He reminds himself, failing to notice the inconsistency of his breathless voice, instead, turning up his head to the green hues, he calls, ”…Guys? Wh-… where are you?“

Lewis’s lifts his gaze upon the green edges. Each one seemingly glowing, shining with a brilliant edge.

Something tickles his nose. Scrunching his face with disgust, Lewis sniffs the air, unable to distinguish what the scent was. It’s… pungent. Similar to rotting food, with a trace of something strong and even more metallic. 

He could hear a drip. Somewhere. 

But nothing else, in fact, there’s an unusual dampness to the air, and yet he couldn’t make out rushing water, or the trickle of a creak. 

So where was the dripping..?

Feeling around the… whatever he was touching, Lewis started forward. But another set of questions simply bloom in his mind.

Each step his tool felt unnatural, as if he was stepping on a soft material he could easily sink into, like he was walking on air. 

He couldn’t see his feet, but the second option was out of the question. Walking on air was simply ridiculous! And didn’t make any sense whatsoever.

So the thought of what the former was a tad more worrying. 

Plush carpet wouldn’t be in the middle of a dank cave (assuming, that is), nor a comforter. 

“Stop thinking like that,” Lewis interrupts, sighing roughly, reminding himself, “Its probably mud.” 

It didn’t feel wet. But it’s the only option that makes sense.

Had to be. 

It had to.

“Guys!” He tries again, taking another step- and this time feeling cool ground beneath his foot. Much steadier too, but he didn’t spend too much time celebrating. 

A shiver courses up his spine. 

And a tap. 

Jolting, Lewis twists around, arm swinging out to hopefully catch someone’s hand- Vivi, most likely with how she loved to spook them.

It wasn’t. His hand phased right through them. 

A small, faintly glowing orb. It’s white and translucent. Emitting just enough light for Lewis to see indications of stone behind it. 

A ghost. A scared one at that. 

Blinking rapidly, Lewis sucks in his breath, contemplating how dangerous this tiny ball of energy may be. 

“Hello..” He whispers, stiff fingers stretching out to the curled form. With a flutter of noise it threatens it recoils. “My mistake. I didn’t mean to hurt you…” The small form returns, and upon closer inspection (and his ability to properly see returning) Lewis notices they smallest hints of a facial expression.

It’s… sad.

“Are you alone?”

The small spirit lifts its tiny head, and Lewis’s eyes drift from its glowing yellow eyes to the dull, near grey yellowed heart directly under its head. Lewis purses his lips and reaches his hand out again, smiling a tad bit and holding his palm outs hoping it would trust him a little bit more. 

And much to his surprise, it does. With a gentle, echoing purr noise, the ghost nuzzles against his palm.

“Aw, are you scared, little one?” Lewis chuckles fondly, appreciating such a cute distraction in this.. dreadful atmosphere, which grew so heavy it sank on him like a wet rug. Giving him all the more reason to scratch its chin, hoping to incite another purr. It Leans into the pets for a small moment, until it glides it’s form across his arm, and it’s translucent body shifted from white to pink, which glowed brilliantly. Eyes widening, Lewis was mesmerized. It turned the same color his body had just moments before. It clings to his wrist, with small hubby arms wrapping around his biceps- and unintentionally bringing Lewis’s attention to his tattered clothes. 

“Are you trapped here too?” He asks the small creature, patting its head more, “My friends and I got separated, but for now, let’s stay together, okay?”

The small spirit looks up at him, before miserably sighing and flopping against his arm again. 

“I’ll take that as a yes.” Lewis sighs. 

And for that one moment, he’s content.

”Oh, there you are Lewis. I was wondering when you’d finally decide to wake up.”

Lewis’s eyes shoot wide, turning around faster than he meant to- he nearly trips- and because of the jolt he doesn’t notice the way his new companion stiffens. 

“Arthur-? Is that you?”

The dim light from before is back, now shining brighter than before. Just barely enough to make the outline of more stalagmites noticeable, and Arthur in the mix of it. 

Lewis almost runs straight to him. But something stops him. Something indescribable. But … he can’t go near him. 

Why that was is beyond him currently.

Maybe it’s the way Arthur said that, or the paranoia of the cavern getting to him, but something felt so.. wrong. Like Lewis was on trial for a crime he didn’t remember. 

Arthur’s too far away to tell the expression of, the darkness not providing much else to go on. 

Perhaps it’s just his imagination. But that doesn’t feel like Arthur. Not in any sense. Maybe they were kidnapped? This one trying to lure him away from the others.

They tilt their head, eyes boring into Lewis uncomfortably, stepping from side to side in an odd saunter. Something so unlike Arthur, it screamed danger. 

He takes a step back. 

”Where ya’ going, buddy? It’s too dark to run, you know.”

The hairs on Lewis’s neck stands. 

”I won’t hurt ya’, not too bad at least. We both know I can’t do much more harm to you physically.” His stomach churns at the sing in his voice. Mimicking Arthur almost perfectly.

That is definitely not Arthur. 

He’s in big trouble. 

Frowning tightly, Lewis glares. 

“Who are you? What have you done with my friends.” 

It throws its head back, laughing, ”I think they ran. Took off. Ain’t it sad? They couldn’t even take the time to see if you were gone.”

“Excuse me?” Lewis growls, reaching up for the spirit, holding a protective stance, “They wouldn’t leave me.”

”And I bet they’d never kill you.”

His head feels like it’s been dunked under water. Lewis’s chest rags. 

He takes his silence as an answer, and with a sick chuckle, he goes on, slipping closer, ”Sorry, did I hit a sore subject? I was only playing~”

“Who are you?” Lewis says, slow and steady, breathing through his nose. 

”Who am I? Well, I suppose that’s up to you to decide!”

And in the blink of an eye, Arthur’s face is far too close and lit up by nothing but green. A large, ghastly grin stretched over his face like his lips had been carved into his cheeks. The ghost on his arm shrieks and zips behind Lewis’s back.

Something tight rings his neck. Breath catching. The pain shooting. Lewis’s mind stalls for a response and instead he tries to squirm away. 

He can’t. 

His entire body is paralyzed. 

”Oho~ would you look at that! Turns out I can still hurt you!” It laughs, the gleeful expression he had seen many times before now appearing nothing short of sadistic.

Something’s burning, encasing his bones and bursting through the tissue of muscle, Lewis trembles. 

He could have easily grabbed away Arthur’s hand- or whatever it could have been. He didn’t care. The only thing he paid mind to was the dreadful expression coating Arthur’s eyes. 

Squinting, Arthur hums a small chuckle, and the tightness around Lewis’s neck doubles. Whisps of black fog rise up before his chin. Unable to tear his eyes away. 

"Oh c'mon now, surely you’re stronger than that!” Arthur teases, “You can very easily pin me down, even when I did have the upper hand! So unless im wrong, be a dear and help prove my point.”

His fingers grip, tremble and shake, and yet he still couldn’t move. 

The Arthur mimicks face falls, scrunching up just as fast. 

“Hmmm… If my memory serves me right, you’re a pacifist, am I correct? You’d never raise your hand against anyone? Is that right?”

Lewis doesn’t respond. Growing mad. 

“Ooh~ Thats right! You do have the capabilities in getting pissed, right? In fact-” Arthur lifts his hand, his short fingers have now become elongated, with darkened nails so long they resembled needles. 

A piercing,  horrible scratch  digs deep into his cranium. He wishes he could scream. 

“Aha! You have anger issues~ you don’t like being disrespected! Nor having your friends be in danger. How sweet.” Arthur sings, teeth rotted and disgusting, resembling stones. 

Their face goes serious, and with a small whisper, they say- “How would you feel If I told you, one of your best friends hated you?”

It burns, even more so now. How dare he? Who is this person to twist knots in his head- make him turn on his friends!

The grip loosened, Lewis coughs and gasps for air, not realizing just how much his lungs burned and ached for that comfort. 

“Don’t believe me?”

“N- no! Of course n-” Lewis chokes on the raw rip in his throat, “They woul-n’t! You-”

The mimik spins Lewis roughly by his head, forcing the rest of him to go with it. 

A beam of light casted from above- a hole high up. 

A landing. 

“Just look~”

Lewis’s head snaps up even if he didn’t want it to, his stomach dropping. 

The light shines down on himself. 

His bloodied, broken self. Impaled on a stalagmite so much that his ribs had popped out and opened like a claw. 

He cant breath, but not because of the mimic holding his throat.

But just behind him, the figure resembling his friend jerks and twists in front of him, once again in his face with a smile splitting his face in half. “Frightening ain’t it! Who knew he had it in him.” They say, all Lewis can do it stare. Switching between the corpse- with real blood dripping from it - and the mimic. A sense of familiarity striking Lewis in a way that’s all too horrifying. 

Blossoming pain erupts in his back, spreading far too quickly for him to process. His knees buckle. 

He doesn’t fall. 

The spirit behind him whimpers, and zips in front of Lewis’s face. Small, beady tears rolling down its face as it tried to wave away the image. 

“Of course, you know it was me, right?”

He was simply sitting there, and then in the next moment, he wasn’t.

“Maybe you should look a bit closer, I think you’ll find something. Grab it, before I do.”

With Arthur’s distorted voice fading, the mimic flashes out of his sight.

Lewis gets closer. He isn’t walking. 

He hears the drips again. 

He wants to cry. 

His anger- for a single moment- is muted, hushed away by the agony deeply settling in his chest. 

“It can’t.. be…” Lewis didn’t notice the echo in his voice, but the startling realization doesn’t hold a candle to the fear and sorrow this grotesque scene paints.

He doesn’t stop, until he is staring directly up at the battered body that- that was his.

Is it real..? It’s far too high for him to reach. 

Prove the mimic wrong, prove himself wrong. 

It had to be a dol-

Clink

Lewis freezes, the chime drawing his attention to his feet. He didn’t notice how high up he was at first, but he’s not touching the floor anymore, he’s floating. Beneath him, was a faintly beating, faintly glowing object. 

It’s a locket. His locket specifically. Inside has two pictures, one with Vivi, one with Arthur. 

Lewis’s breath catches in his throat. The spirit dives down for it, unearthing it from the mud- from a puddle of his own blood and presenting it to him. Lewis’s hands are far too shaky, but he holds out a trembling hand and lets the ball set it gingerly in his grasp. 

It feels like nothing. Pressing his thumb to the bloody surface, he tried to ignore how his eyes gleam in the reflection. 

It cracks open. 

Showing him exactly what he expected.

Two pictures, one with Vivi, one with Arthur. 

Arthurs picture, was drenched in blood. Staining it entirely. 

The anger is back. Crescendoing into an ugly, twisted mess of heat.

His grip tightens, the edges of the locket digging into his fingers. His veins popping. Teeth grit.

“Arthur..”

That’s right, he didn’t just fall. He didn’t trip. Didn’t stumble.

He was pushed. Wasn’t he?

That nasty heat spirals, pinpricks speckling his body, a glow emitting. 

Before his entire body erupts. 

Fire cycloning around him, enveloping his arms, legs, his face and body all in one swoop. Red hot anger personified in a mass of explosion and pain. The shadows stretch threatening throughout the cave. 

The spirit shoots away from him, diving behind a stalagmite and pressing its small hands to its ears. As if curling up will block them from the screams echoing against every surface. Louder and louder. 

So  thunderous the stalactites shook and the cavern begins to crumble.

So deafening.

Not even Lewis could notice how his locke- anchor dies in its color, and a spiderwebbed crack splintering across it.

Chapter Text

“Are you ready to go in?” Vivi whispers, hunched over and peering into the locked room through its keyhole, “It… looks like a table?”

Arthur blinks quizzically at her, and glanced back down to Mystery, “Uh.. Vi’ the door is locked, how are we going to get it.”

“The same way we always do!” Vivi announces, whisking him over by his wrists, “You pick the lock.”

“….” Arthur slowly turns to glare at her, “and this was your grand master plan? To have me do it?”

“Yep!”

Arthur exasperatedly sighs and sinks to his knees, pulling out a thin metal band and jamming it into the lock. Whilst Vivi eagerly leans over his shoulder. Watching him with the biggest grin on her face. Its so cool! Why won’t he teach me how to do this-? It wasn’t like she didn’t know how to pick locks, just that Arthur was much better. 

Mystery sniffs at the crack under the door again, attempting to smell out the peculiar scents swarming the room. Chicken, beef, pork, a variety of spice and cheeses, punch and wines.. and something else. Mystery snuffs and glares at the door, scratching against it anxiously. Instead of the door opening (an unlikely scenario but Mystery was hopeful nonetheless) it remained still, but Vivi’s fingers quickly bury themselves in his fur in a gentle pet. 

“I bet you smell that too, huh boy?” Vivi glances over to Arthur, “Do you think whatever spirit here will let us stay the night?” 

Arthur pauses mid fumble and looks back at her, “Sure, if you wanna get murdered. If you do though, just know I’m going to be in the van ready to leave.” 

“Pshh, how sweet of you.”

“Har har.” 

The door clicks, and the twin doors slowly creak to an open. 

“… I .. didn’t do that.”

Arthur stares into the room, unsure hands quickly retracting to his chest and he stands up in an instant, allowing Vivi to squeeze past him, Mystery pushing past him into the hall. 

A long table had been set out, on either side was a single, extravagant chair and between all of it was platters of cakes and delicacies of many kinds. Plates made of meats and cheese lining the center. 

“Jeez, talk about overkill.” Arthur mumbles, stepping next to his two companions and shoving his fists in his pockets. Although, he didn’t need to glance over to see Vivi had stars glimmering in her eyes. 

“Vi’..” 

She barely took a step, “What? It’s a whole banquet! I was just going to see if it was real.” She whines defends, and Arthur and mystery both held back their snort. 

“Oh yeah, I’m sure of it. Last time we went anywhere, you raided their fridge.”

“There wasn’t any inhabitants.”

“And you dove head first into rotting food.”

Vivi slumps and crosses her arms, a small pout on her lips as she sets further into the room. 

Making sure to get a small swipe of the frosting on one of the miniature cakes.

Arthur can only sigh, before setting out to inspect himself. 

Mystery, on the other hand, hadn’t budged. A scent tickling his nose and leaving him trapped in his spot. 

It’s so familiar, yet with just a twinge of distortment.

Only spurred to action when he noticed Vivi Indeed grabbing small bites off every silver platter when she thought no one was looking. Mystery lets out a human- like gasp and bolts over to her, leaping onto the table and whining. 

Vivi freezes, her shocked expression melting into a grin, “Aww, did you want some too?” She picks out a small, boneless piece of chicken and holds it up to Mystery, allowing him to sniff at it. Only for Mystery to physically gag and attempt to smack it out of her hand. 

“Mystery!” She scoops him up, bopping his nose a tad hard, her on form of punishment, “you can’t just hop onto the table and then knock everything off! It’s not nice.” 

Mystery huffs, twisting his head to look for Arthur, relieved to see he was still inspecting the food and the walls and everything here. 

It doesn’t feel safe. 

And on cue, the twin doors they came in from slam shut.

Both Arthur and Vivi whip around, a jolt of fear ripping through both of them, eyes wide and startled. 

“Oh…. shit,” Arthur whispers, urgency filling his voice as he rushes over to the door, shaking the doorknobs and whining, ”Fuck! It’s locked.”

“Aw great!” Vivi groans, setting Mystery down and rushing to his side, “want me to break it down-?”

“You May have to..”

Unbeknownst to those two, someone else decided to join them. 

Mystery caught them immediately, a growl rumbling through his chest as he stalks toward the plum of smoke, focused on the large, rising figure.

Lewis.

”Welcome! To my humble abode!”

Vivi was over Arthurs shoulder, watching him try and dismantle the lock. Until the booming voice fills the room. A shudder zips down her spine and she bolts up straight, whipping back to see the towering figure rapidly approaching. 

Or- would have been approaching, if not for Mystery.

Mystery’s teeth bared against the spirit, ears flat against his head and a growl growing louder. Glaring up at Lewis with an animosity reserved for only the most fierce spirits. Much to Lewis’s clear surprise. 

He seemingly didn’t take into account that Mystery was apart of the group as well. Clearly puzzled, Lewis glances from Mystery to his targets, and he clenches his fists. 

”Aww, how cute. I must say, your dog is a lovely one. Mind if I pet him?” Lewis asks Vivi, and she frowns.

Vivi slowly creeps forward, shielding Mystery from the enormous figure, whispering to Arthur, “I’m going to handle this, Artie.. Get us out." 

"On it, on it just do it-!" Arthur mumbles anxiously, his movements horribly slowed by the anxiety racing through his fingers, as if his hands purposefully wanted him to fail.

Lewis, simply smiles down at them, crouching down and holding out his hand to Mystery, inviting him to sniff his fingers. 

Mystery didn’t let up, barking angrily at his former friend. 

He could smell the disgusting stench of hatred waft off him, the scent of iron fleeting off his clothes. There’s a blood thirty intent in his eyes. 

When did he rise again? Why did Mystery fail to notice-? 

Of course, it was his fault that he didn’t hunt down that cave soon enough. A pang of regret stings in Mystery’s chest, and the fleeting thoughts of how this encounter may have been prevented flashes in Mystery’s mind. 

Vivi is talking, Lewis is insisting something. Asking them both to sit and eat, take a rest before they go on their travels. 

Mystery barks. 

"Or.. If you’d rather be difficult,” Lewis’s voice shifts, growling with a voice dipped in bitter rage. Vivi freezes, and Lewis rises to his full height, a menacing glare directed at the three, before he lifts his hand,  and snaps his fingers. 

Upon that silent command, a bronze amulet appears in his clutched palm, several ghastly spirits poke their heads out from around him. Before shooting out and wrapping around Vivi’s arms, yanking her forward and surrounding her body. 

“ARTHU-" His voice fades rapidly, eyes rolling into her skull. A trauma induced breakdown caused by Lewis’s overwhelming presence. Mystery launches himself at Lewis, claws bared. 

But the form vanishes before he could touch him. 

Lewis reforms just behind him, and without warning, Mystery’s limbs are clamped together, usable to move or change in size.

No-! Mystery panickedly thinks. Vision falling black.

 

Chapter Text

I gotta be hallucinating. That can’t be real. Why am on the roof. When did I get on the roof? Did this man for real just carry me onto a roof? Why does it sound like footsteps? What the fuck.

The enormously large cryptid stares at him expectantly, leaning a tad forward as they tilt their head, “Mr. Yukino- Kingsmen?” 

Arthurs mind is spinning, and he blinks slowly, ears ringing and mixing with the terrifying noise of footsteps all around him. Sounding closer to running. Is someone chasing them-? No, it sounds like it’s coming from everywhere. “Ye-yeah?” 

“Are… you okay?” 

“No, not particularly. What the heck just happened?” 

 

The cryptid frowns, it’s glowing eyes shrinking behind its skull- mask? Is that a mask? It clearly had a face so maybe it was just a dude- No because how do you explain that cage thing? ”My dearest apologize, sir,” The cryptids voice is thick, similar to syrup, ”I- I panicked, and in order to make sure the Amanita didn’t get you, I… placed you in my chest cavity.” They explain, parting their feathery cloak to reveal a second coat, and then the cage. The black skin he remembered clung to each of the bars, and was entirely translucent, and within the depth of the cage- belly- oven-? Is a large, glowing and rapidly racing heart. Impossibly big too, like a whole skull. 

It’s beat intensifies, and for a quick moment Arthur understood that feeling perfectly, as his heart was pounding against his ribcage. Except before Arthur could get a better look at it, the cryptid covers it swiftly.

“That’s… your heart?” 

They glance down, frowning, and carefully they shield their chest, ”Yes. It is,” They sigh, ”My apologies for the loud noise… I have.. anxiety, around others.” They admit, shuffling back a small bit, ”I’ve been told my heart can be… quite loud.”

That’s for damn sure. Arthur hums softly, pressing his palms to the gravelly surface and pushing himself up. A shudder running up his limbs, and a sudden desire smacks into him. 

He really wants to hug. Bad. Like, really bad. Arthur grits his teeth, arms feeling so empty and desolate, his mind shifting to focus solely on Vivi. God did he miss her..! A pained whine rises in his throat, noticing a new and awful ache in his stomach. He missed dinner, didn’t he? Oh god, Vivi’s going to be pissed with him! She said she was preparing some of that Curry he liked tonight. And here he was! On top of a roof! 

Arthur twists his head around, staring at the tall figure. The aches and pain only increasing. 

“Hey.. uh- do you think….” His voice cracks, falling into nothing, and he sighs, “First- what’s your name? I- I heard it was… Lewis?” 

Honestly the heart explains he running that everyone reported around that lamppost.

”Hm, I mean.. Yes! I prefer that name, but I earned the name Lowos.”

“Lowos..? Why?”

Lowos points at his skull- mask- face thing, ”Apparently this looks like an emoji.”

He wasn’t wrong. 

Lowos

Chapter Text

Lewis had no idea how long they been trapped there. Trapped in a single building lacking power and dwindling on the food it had stored away. 

Two dozen people were present with him the day they were locked in- forced to stay in by an unbreakable barrier. 

Who knows how many were left. Lewis sighs, rubbing his eye stiffly and glancing down to the two forms beside him. 

Vivi, a woman seeking out knowledge on the paranormal happenings around tempo, an investigator. She had a sharp eye… the second weapons were introduced, she quickly took the reigns in teaching Lewis how to properly wield one.

Arthur… a young mechanic he probably wouldn’t have seen before if not for this situation. One of the firsts to be changed by the disease spread through the walls. Whatever it was, going feral as they dubbed it, it seemed to be infectious. That… didn’t matter too much to them. 

Lewis hears a distant noise, and he looks to the door. Honing his ears to listen for the possibility of someone coming close. All the while he reaches for both Vivi and Arthur to wake them up. 

The sound fades, and the race in Lewis’s heart finally slows. 

Gunshots blast out, in a rapid stream that may have meant anything. Nothing safe, that was for sure. 

Arthur jolts awake, sitting up urgently and rapidly taking in the room, seeing nothing but the three of them. Slowly, Vivi blinks awake.

“What happened? Is someone after us-“ His breath hitches, Lewis’s hand resting on his shoulder and massaging it gently. 

“I’m not sure, but they sound close.” 

“God dammit.” Vivi grumbles, pushing against the floor and standing, stretching a small bit before she glances over at him, “I’ll barricade the door. Lewis, can you look into the closet to see if there’s a … broom-? Or something.” 

He nods, pushing himself up quickly and making his way through the darkness to the closet. 

His hand barely grazed the handle, before the sound of intense knocking raptures his ears. He spins around. 

Vivi glares at the door in suspicion, refusing to get near it, not with the heavy torrent of fists banging against it. 

Not saying anything, she shoots a look over her shoulder to the two, a quick warning to get up. 

Without thinking, Lewis scoops Arthur up, remaining silent the entire time, mind for the smallest whisper; “Sorry, we can rest more soon.” 

Arthur nods, the bags under his eyes proving that he didn’t believe Lewis for a second, and he stretches himself. Reaching into his pocket, Arthur brings out his pistol. No bullets ready. 

“LET US IN!” A voice screams, a heavy blow done to the door- near the doorknob, “WE WONT BE FREE! NOT UNLESS WE-“ they cut themselves off, or- someone else does. 

Several bullets are shot.

Vivi can’t help but cringe. 

Then something else happens. 

The door knob twists, someone is playing with it. 

And then- 

“They’re unscrewing the door knob..!” Arthur reports, able to recognize the sound, ”They’re gonna get in. We need to hide.”

Vivi backs cautiously from the door, ”I know. I know we just-“

The door explodes, wood chips flying everywhere. The blast ringing in their ears. The barrel of a gun- a shot gun- pokes through the enormous hole. The man holding it, with disheveled hair and noticeable scratches to his face spots Arthur, and his grimace intensifies. 

“Oh there you are, you little bitch.” Arthur flinches, unsure and confused.

 ”Did I attack hi-“

“You sure did!” The man hollers, gun raised and in one fast flash of intense light, Arthur is sent back. A spray of blood painting the wall, chunks of his flesh hitting the floor. 

Lewis’s heart drops, diving for him, and quickly figuring where he was shot. 

His left shoulder. His arm now barely dangling from the remains of tearing muscle. 

Face blank, Arthur’s legs shake and tremble, eyes barely floating from the empty space in the door - Where Vivi had thrown it open, grabbing at the man and wrestling him to the floor - to his own arm. 

Lewis’s chest tightens, and he twists Arthurs head to face him instead, “Look at me, look at me, Arthur. This is going to hurt very much but I need you to hold on for me.” 

Arthur is barely paying attention. The shock completely set in. 

Lewis swivels his head back, eyes settling on the door frame and seeing nothing. 

Where did Vivi go?!

Swallowing back his anxiety, Lewis forces himself back to Arthur, figuring Vivi is rushing to find where the guy went.

Sucking in his breath, Lewis gingerly - and urgently - squeezes his hands under Arthur and heaves him into his arms. Arthurs arm dangles loosely, and Lewis quickly attempts to grab it and place it over Arthurs chest- but when he grabs it, Arthur shrieks. Thrashing in his arms, struggling against him and nearly making Lewis drop him.

Arthur barely stifles a yell, and another rain of noise pierces their ears. Something so distinct yet foreign it made Lewis want to cower and collapse. Like glass shattering but in the form of a train racing past him, and it echos all over. Arthur whines, a stream of blood seeping into his clothes and dripping onto the floor. 

Its not safe here right now.. we have to go! 

Lewis races down the hall, holding Arthur close to his chest, tightly holding his shoulder toward them and praying the pressure would help in anyway. 

Except, crumbles of concrete fell, the walls starting to splinter and crack, and in horror, Lewis watches it cave in on one side, threatening to continue until they were crushed. Unless, they turn back.

Lewis grits his teeth anxiously, looking from the caving walls to Arthur. And he spins on his heel, rushing back to the room they were in before, where he could hide Arthur from anyone else, and properly wrap his shoulder. 

Lewis kicks the door open and slides in. Resting Arthur ok his back, Lewis locks the door (as futile as that was) and switches his attention to his shirt, ripping a long chunk of his shirt and falling to his knees. 

“L-Lewis..! Lewis it hurts-“

“I know.. I know sweetheart.” Lewis whispers, trying to keep himself from looking directly at the pulsating wound. 

“Here, I’m going to wrap it and..” 

Arthur passed out, eyes wide and mouth hung open. And Lewis doesn’t know if he should be relieved or not. Pressing his palm against Arthur’s chest, he sighs in relief and got to work wrapped his arm to his side. 

“We’ll get out of here soon, sweetheart. I promise..!” Lewis whispers, eyes blurring and stinging, Arthur doesn’t respond and sudden thoughts strikes him. 

Arthur could die. He could die and Vivi is gone! 

“Arthur- Arthur please stay with me.” He says softly, unsure of what he’s saying. Feeling for his heartbeat, feeling it steadily fade. 

“No..!” He gasps, the ache in his chest getting out of control, spiraling into despair, “please! Please don’t die.. I need y-“ 

Bright, piercing lights flood the room, blinding Lewis. He squints through his tears, the sudden intensity far too much for him to see through. 

What is that- 

“Hands up!” An unfamiliar voice shouts, and Lewis’s shoulders tense. He doesn’t respond immediately, but he slowly turns his head, making out a man in blue, surprisingly clean cut. Someone who hasn’t been here as long as they have. 

“Hands, up.” The man- officer repeats, and Lewis swallows, rising to his feet and doing as he said, but keeping his eyes on Arthur. 

“H-he…. sir- my friend is hurt.” Lewis starts, babbling, “He needs help- sir-!”

“That’s enough, sir.” The police officer says, lowering the gun a tad bit, eyes drifting to the floor where Arthur was, “What happened to him?”

“He got shot. I was trying to stop the bleeding but the walls started to fall-“

The police officer nods. 

It happens too quickly. Someone comes in with a stretcher, Arthur is lifted up and pushed out on it. 

Someone else comes in to talk to him, but Lewis doesn’t hear them. He’s escorted out. 

What…. happened..

Chapter Text

“What is your name?”

“Lewis pepper.”

“Do you have family in Texas?”

“Yes, sisters and parents, we own a restaurant in tempo.” 

“Can you recall their phone numbers.”

“… I can’t.” 

Lewis sits on the observation table, eyes switching from the doctor and the second observer, before landing on the doctor again. 

His entire body seems to be wrapped under the paper like sheet of a hospital gown, far too short to cover himself adequately, so his hands were covering his delicates. 

That didn’t particularly matter, what mattered was that his eyes were burning. 

These lights were far too bright. 

The physical examination went… alright.. Lewis didn’t want them to touch them, but he couldn’t resist them. 

They were promising him that after that, he could go and see the other survivors. 

They didn’t say whether Arthur or Vivi survived, but he wants to hope they did. 

They had to. 

“Lewis, other patients report that they’ve been in the building for an extended period. how long would you say you were trapped in there?”

Lewis doesn’t want to think about that place. 

“… I don’t know, my watch stopped working at the beginning. But, a long time.”

“Okay…” the doctor frowns, biting her lip, “did it feel like a week, a month, a year?”

“… a year, definitely a year.”

The observer writes something on their clipboard, data, Lewis figures.

The doctor hums, and nods. 

“You seem to have bonded with two other people, do you remember their names?”

Lewis shifts, leaning forward, the hair shading his eyes, “Yes. Vivi was an investigator, with blue hair and she had - she was a really good leader. The other one, Arthur, we found him later on. He’s a mechanic, has anxiety, he was really … really nice.” lewis faintly recalls how he offered to be bait, whenever he wasn’t… 

Mind dulling, his memory fuzzes. 

The doctor nods, the observer scribbles.

“Arthur…. out of the people you’ve mentioned, yourself included, he has the strongest amount of a bacteria. This bacteria led to episodes of temporary insanity, a zombie like state. Is this true?”

Lewis nods, and he reaches for his arm. Arthur bit him once during one of those episodes. 

“We called it going feral.” He explains.

“I see. Are you aware that being in such close contact led to you and Vivi both contracting this… feral-ness?”

They both had episodes. At times. 

“Yes.”

“Do you have any suspicion how he contracted it?”

Lewis swallows, retracting, eyes glued to the small dips of the wall. 

“Yes… something- whatever trapped us in there.. it wanted us to kill each other. When no one did at first.. it brought guns. Then… I- I’m sorry, it’s hard to think of..”

The doctor looks to the observer, and back to him, Lewis can’t read her expression. “That’s alright Lewis, would you like to take a break?”

“…. May I see the others if we do?”

The doctor frowns and shakes her head, “Unfortunately, for right now we need to keep you all quarantined. Until we can see exactly what we can do to ensure your safety, as well as the general populous.”

Eyes stinging, Lewis shuffles back, nodding, “May we continue then?”

“Of course. Take your time Lewis, we have all day.”

Lewis swallows, and then keeps going, “We.. we think that it poisoned the water. We needed to boil water and… look for scraps to eat. Cooked anything we could thoroughly.”

The doctor blinks slowly and then asks, “By any chance, did you need to consume human flesh?”

“Once…” Lewis braces himself, memory replaying and in seconds he feels sick to his stomach. Lewis grits his teeth, gagging, “I- I need-“

“Grab a trash can, quick.”

 

Chapter Text

Arthur must have looked as terrified as he felt, because as he stood there, soaking wet from a bucket-above-the door prank gone wrong, Lance was nervously approaching him. Eyebrows knitted together and shoulders hunched, Lance had knocked over his chair from how fast he was moving.

Somehow he missed the bucket and was spared from being drenched without a spare change of clothes. Even if they did live next to the garage, the inconvenience would have been mildly humiliating and would have undoubtedly made the rest of the day worse for the workers. Except having a grumpy uncle and hard shift would have been far better that Arthur's body changing before their very eyes. 

Sections of his neck opened, leading to airways and letting him breath. Skin spreading out and growing for fins- Legs knitting together beginning to connect the two limbs into one. 

One problem. 

Arthur still had pants. 

Arthur glances at Lance, who now stood just a few meters away. 

"Artie, just breathe... Talk to me-"

"G-gotta go!" Arthur sputters, a few moments too late, the pain of tearing tissue between his thighs grow terrible, even more so as he leapt out of the room and darted to their living space. Running even faster when heavy boots stamp against the hardwood behind him.

Bathroom, bathroom! Wheres the bathroom-? Arthurs mind races unbearably fast. His eyes blur, like he's looking through transparent eyelids, distorting the world around him into a washed out blur. Scraping his fleshed wrist against his cheek, Arthur haphazardly undid his pants, and he bounces on one foot to remove his pants, underwear, shoes and socks- needing to remove everything before he reached the bathroom. 

"Arthur!!" Lance skids across the floor before he follows down the hall, hearing a agonized cry and the water running, "Arthur, god dammit- get back here-!" Arthurs yellow pants were discarded in the hallway. The bathroom door hung ajar, and Lance- usually not the one to infringe on his nephews privacy- swung open the door. "Ar-..." Lance fell quiet, eyes training on Arthurs hunched over form in the bathtub, sitting in a pool of blood, water, and golden scales.

"Im sorry, Im sorry..!"

Lance's eyes drop to the large, connected mass in the water. Instead of thin pale legs, it was replaced with a long, almost majestic appearing appendage, with fins at the end that glimmered, and yet the spines...? Appeared to resemble elongated toes. Webbed and tattered.. torn. 

The elder mechanic looks back up at his nephew, and watches first hand as the poor boy struggles to wipe away snot and tears from his face. Both simultaneously deformed and recognizable that Lance couldn't help but be stunned. With shaky breaths, Lance hesitantly approaches. 

"Stop- stop...!" Arthur's voice echos in his throat, loud and gravely and like he's being drowned, "I-..! I don't want you to see me like this!" The bathwater splashes onto the floor, creating a mess that Lance paid no mind to. Instead, all of his attention- stony faced and firm, had locked onto Arthur, who now scrambled to get away despite a clear inability to move. 

Lance drops to his knees beside the tub, and stares Arthur in the face. 

"What happened, Artie?" He asks, voice softer than usual, sorrowful even.. 

"I-..." Arthur's breath hitches, but his shoulders fall and he begins to sink into the water, "Curse, ...we don't know how to fix it.. not yet."

Chapter Text

You’re really pathetic sometimes. Arthur takes another small sip of the wine in his hand, cringing at the bitter taste covering his tongue that had his entire body shivering as he struggled to swallow, before overriding the taste with another crunchy bite of a pickle. A…. surprising and interesting mix that Arthur still wasn’t sure if he enjoyed or not. But! The vinegar and potent wine taste was doing its job! Such as… getting him drunk and forcing himself to relax is what it’s meant to do.

This isn’t working. Arthur gripes, setting down both the wine and the pickle- (half tempted to just shove the pickle in the wine itself due to how he never indulged in the expensive substance so much, but Vivi would flay him if he did) and halfheartedly shuffled into the couch cushions again, wrapping the Snuggie tightly around his waist.

Noticing the small commotion and the waft of negative energy, Mystery lifts his head. Arthur didn’t pay him much mind until he was tucked in his cocoon again, reaching for the remote to turn up the volume on the television.

Mystery was staring at the screen. Ears perked and eyes alert in bafflement. Face scrunched, Arthur turns and watches the miracle girls of sailor moon dance across the screen.

“What’s wrong boy?” Arthur’s hand shakes as he hesitates to scratch the puppy behind the ears- only to flinch why? as Mystery suddenly turns back to him. Shooting him a questioning glare.

“What?” Arthur asks, reaching over and taking a second swig of his drink, to try and make sense of how- out of place everything was becoming, “we watched this together all the time! Im allowed to watch it from time to… time..” Arthur’s mind stalls, mulling over the words again and again.

Great, great great great just FANTASTIC! His thoughts flatline all together, switching away from the pastel backgrounds to an all too familiar face. And his mind turns against him. Why should you get to enjoy this, while Lewis is probably being tortured? He’s missing and you’re here, on the couch, while he could be starving and begging for help or freedom or-

Something wet pulls Arthur from the terrifying scene.

He blinks, and mouth agape, looks to see Mystery, whining softly and standing over him, now bearing a face -too close and too human- of concern.

Arthur doesn’t need to touch his face to know that he’s now crying.

 

Chapter Text

Lewis didn’t have a care in the world. Nope. Not one. Not a single single thing that was twisting him up inside and threatening to ruin the great day he was having. 

If that was the case at all.

Foot stamped against the accelerator so intensely that surely the pedal would have snapped seconds before. Instead, tired screech. The behemoth of a machine jolts to life. Fire ablaze. Engine growling with a thirst for blood. Fueled by the years of anguish bubbling to the surface all at once. 

Every petty slight, every joke that even slightly upset him reared it ugly head. 

Arthur hated you from the very beginning.

The flames blitz. Vision clouded. 

Never once did he hold an ounce of honest.

He’s seeing red. The road painted bloody and black. 

How could he? Only a selfish bastard could have devised such a plan. 

His grip tightens on the wheel, knuckles protruding. 

Why? Why go through all the trouble? All the years of playing pretend? Why?!

A flare erupts. White light zapping across the night sky- blinding him.

”Oh no.” Lewis barely registers the words before the tires are screeching again.

It takes Lewis less than two minutes to fling back his arm, reflexively blocking his passenger side. Bracing and pushing himself into his seat to avoid flying out the windshield himself. Stomach now completely eviscerated from the intense adrenaline pounding through his heart- anchor, sending his mind spiraling with it. 

”Oh goodness.. what in blue blazes..?” Lewis peers over the side of the car- as soon as he physically could- and took note of strange figures now positioned outside of his door. 

Who...?

Lewis blinks, staring dully at the figures- there’s a second one now- before twisting his head and taking in the scene beside him. 

A white building, decorated in lovely and vibrant plants and even more vibrant windows. Stained glass that held an impeccable shine. 

Oh my god. How on- does that mean-?

Lewis spins his head back to the two figures, fire diminishing. 

Literally, his hair went out in a silent hush, the engine of the truck died and left a cold hunk of gothic metal. 

Oh god oh god oh god oh god PLEASE be anyone but them-

What was he feeling..? Shame? Fear..? But why-?

A thin beam shoots up into the front seats, Lewis can’t stop his train of thought spiraling into panic. He has nowhere to go but out, does he? 

His skull swivels back to see if there was anyone on the other side. Surely enough, there was three individuals. 

This is the restaurant- who’s working so late-?

Tap tap

With a gasp, Lewis’s eyes shot back to the window. A broom stick tapping against the glowing glass. 

Muffled voices surround the outside of the truck, one clearly being, ”Grab the salt and pour a line around it, it should be able to keep it contained.”

”Fuck.”

That was Mamá- she’s out there..! What on earth have I gotten myself into? His fingers itch to grab the door handle, fling it open and greet his parents. He’s missed them so much!

Has he? 

Ever since he rose again- 

Have they ever even crossed his mind..?

No.

No they have not.

...

He’s in serious trouble. 

Lewis takes a long, shaky breath, and readjusts his tie, brushes back his hair- should he take on a familiar form? It’s his parents for Christ sake!

Lewis peers out the window again, despite the faint illumination of the moon barely revealing them, He could feel the bitter annoyance directed at him. 

They deserve to know.

The fire of his hair lights up the interior of the car, erupting past his face and swallowing his skull whole, evaporating just as quick.

Glancing in the rear view mirror, Lewis can’t help the flinch taking hold of his shoulders, now stiff with panic. 

He looks so similar, and yet different in every sense. 

It can’t be real, none of this can be real. 

You’re dead, and someone you would have died for killed you.

 

“Any idea what kind it is?” Mr. Pepper whispers haphazardly, flipping rapidly through one of their “cook books” their missing son had given them. 

In Case of emergencies, if something followed him back home. Mrs. Pepper faintly recalled, she sighs, and nods. 

“A wraith, by chance, driven by rage and destruction.” She guesses, eyes glaring up into the drivers side of the truck. 

Occasionally, two pinpricks of light ghosted across the glass. Whatever was in there knew that it was being watched. 

“Dear, can you find the section for elemental aspects-?” Mrs. Pepper commanded, watching the last remains of purple fire die down from its engine, leaving a layer of ghastly smoke to rise from it. 

“Mrs-“ Mrs Pepper glances over sharply, accidentally startling the anxious worker ducked under one of the exhaust pipes, a hand grazing over the metal-

”Don't touch that, Celtic, And get out of the circle.”

Celtic whisks their hand back, stumbling over their own feet to dodge the truck altogether.

“Sorry! Sorry-.. uh- I know this may be a bad time but, uhm! may I place an order for more table salt-?”

“Yes, of course. Thank you Celtic.”

“Ah! Found it!” Mr. Pepper pops up beside her, holds the book open. 

Just as she began to read over it- a click and burst of air snatches their attention to the truck again. 

The door opened.

Plumes of pink, glittering smoke seeps out of the cracked door. Revealing a black boot stepping down, leading to the rest of the spirit. 

A tall, abnormally large person slinks out. Ironically, their shoulders kept together and head low. Large hair covering their eyes and face. Dressed in a suit and lined with stark white ribs. Over its chest, A large, beating amulet sparks gold.

A silence fell over them all. Tense between the living and the dead. 

It lifts its head, revealing a face all too familiar. 

“.. Im sorry, you all.” The familiar baritone shouldn’t have cut so deep, and yet Mrs. Peppers body stiffens. Heart strings in knots. Beads of sweat starting to fall. 

Dropping the book, Mr. Pepper took a small, hesitant step, breath quivering.

“...Lewis..?” 

It- he reacts sharply. Flinching down and shoulders shaking, under his hair, those pinpricks expand and smoke drifts from it.

”Papa.. I missed you..” It’s so close, almost perfect, if not for the echo in his voice.

A firm hand grips Mr.Peppers shoulder. 

“Not yet,” Her voice quivers, Lewis’s face sending pinpricks into her subconscious, tearing through her mind, “We don’t know if it’s a mimic.” 

Lewis’s face blanks, eyes- black pits wide, and mouth hung ajar. 

”... What..?”

Silence. Only marked by the three of them staring at one another. The workers who stayed over time scurry out of view, some behind them and some back into the restaurant.

”Mamá, it’s me.. Lewis!”

“You May look like him, but there has been plenty of times when spirits of the same nature tricked us in order to get in.” Mrs. Pepper grits her teeth, stomach turning sour and nearly seething, “Our son has been missing for over two years, you won’t get away with this disguise.”

”I-...” It’s hair lights up, the pits of its sockets glowing, ”I- I’m not a mimic! I’m your son!” It desperately shouts- Starting toward them in a manner all too similar to every time Lewis needed comfort. Except, this one couldn’t. The salt barrier glowing and sparkling with purple light, even grabbing the spirits attention as shock and despair washes over its face. 

It has all of his mannerisms down to the wrinkle of its eye.

"It can’t be, remember that," Mrs. Pepper whispers, all to herself, to quell the ache in her heart growing ravenous.

The ghost’s chest goes ragged, a shake in its entire body as it looks all around him. Trapped. 

”No.. Mamá!” he- it yells, slamming its fist against the barrier, desperately trying to break through, ”M-Mamá please-! I- I-!” Tearing out its hair, ”Mimics don’t know memories! Only base level knowledge-“ It starts, ”Paprika was prenatal- we were all scared she wasn’t going to make it, but she did- Cayenne doesn’t do good in school but she’s an excellent soccer player, almost won the championships- Belle- Belles the top of her class, a gifted child. She’s impressionable and sweet and loves everyone. Your wedding was the-” It rambles off, listing one fact after another, recounting trips they had gone on and traumatic scares they had once or twice.

Mrs pepper wasn’t listening anymore, staring cold hearted and blank. The thrum of her own fastened heart being the one thing that stopped her from breaking down right there. 

“... I’m going to call them,” Mr. Pepper finally says, and the heartbreak was clear in his voice, she didn’t need to look over to see there were tears in his eyes. Not more than two minutes later, Mrs.Pepper could hear him talking hurriedly into his phone, but she kept her focus securely on...

Lewis, eyes ever so wide, and entirely filled with despair, finally gasps for breath, clutching the golden heart beating furiously at his chest. It’s covered in long black splintering cracks, dulling the shade to a dingy grey. A few of its pieces crumbling off. 

Mr. Pepper rejoins her at her side, and yet he feels empty, mumbling, “They’re coming right now. Said to not look at it.” 

“Alright. Hunny, go inside, check on the girls for me. I’ll keep watch.” 

Mr. Pepper looks up at her hopelessly, “Are you sure? I can keep an eye on..” His eyes betray him, drifting back to where the mimic stood quietly. 

Silent, devoid, watching them like they were his only hopes.

”Go inside.”

It’s hands shake, and after a split second of silence. The ghost erupts. Exploding out into a mess of fire and smoke, not able to touch any of them, but rising in its small space. 

Launching itself into the truck yet again, sending the truck rocking.

Mrs pepper didn’t say anything, just standing there, thanking the lord that the truck didn’t tumble over.

Chapter Text

Lewis glare didn’t rise from the orange van, now half way jutting out of a building. Halfway across the hood, dangling out of the windshield, his target.

He steps out of the truck, the exhausts still blazing, a growl rumbles in his chest, his anchor beating in tandem with his fury. Lewis’s fist burns, “May you rest easy, Kingsmen-“

The ground ripples and crack. A massive figure shooting up like a weed from directly under him. So quickly in fact that he didn’t have a moment to retract the flames or jump out of the way. Thus- Lewis forces his body to stop the momentum for being thrown ten feet in the air, and he spins around, fire licking his scalp.

“You again?!” He shouts, glaring down at the woman-? Tree? With an intense fury and desire to burn .

Clearly, he wasn’t the only one. As Shiromori stood in her own form of dumbfoundment. A waft of smoke and fire lines her shoulders, burning at her robes and hair, scorching the petals and bark like skin she possessed. Face scrunched, she takes in the state of herself, and sees the fire rapidly climbing up her arms and line her beads. A mist of embers surrounding her, catching all the dust around her on fire.

Including a drifting, red lotus petal.

Shiromori watches the petal burn with comically large eyes. The realization sets in, face darkening. Head snapping toward him, Lewis is met with eyes filled with darkness, with pupils that glow menacing. Before her, her scissors are covered in blooming flowers- spiking out to reveal its enormous size.

With a demonic shriek, Shiro launches at him.

 

“What the fuck is going on here?!” Lance demands, rushing out the door and racing over to Vivi, who is gingerly carrying Arthur limply against her side. To which she grins anxiously.

“I got no fuckin’ idea really! Your guess is as good as mine- I just woke up!”

Lance doesn’t listen to her any longer and gets on Arthurs other side, supporting him a bit more as they scramble inside. Mystery lagging just a tad behind. Taking in the disaster forming in the parking lot.

Shiromori slashes a thick slice across Lewis’s front, and in turn one of her limbs is punched clean off. Only to sprout brand new ones.

His tails tuck between his legs, anxiety prickling at his neck, at a total loss of who he should protect and defend.

“Mystery!” Vivi’s voice pierces his thoughts, “Get in here, I’m going to cast a barrier spell.” She rapidly explains, readying her energy to do exactly that.

That answers that. Mystery thinks, bounding inside to take guard for the three living ones.

Chapter Text

Lewis didn’t remember when he fell asleep, nor how he got there. Dressed in a warm hoodie and bundled under an even thicker blanket, buried against what felt like a mound of pillows. 

He looks around, unearthing a hand and using it to prop himself forward. Lewis stares around, taking in the vans interior slowly and precisely, hoping that one aspect would be different. Trigger his hazy memory to come back to him and understand the correlation of him being there. 

Lewis drew a blank.

 

The front of the van is empty, but one of the windows is rolled down. Outside of it, the faintest sounds played in a near musical melody. One he’s very familiar with the pop and crack of a grill. Even more so with the mobile one. Always stored in the back of the van Incase they’re on their own and need to make food. 

Confused, Lewis blinks and parts the blankets more, moving his body in what felt like a month. Every joint, without fail, was locked up and difficult to pop. Stiff muscle trapping him there. 

More effort a lot more than Lewis had to give and the layers upon layers of custom quilts and puffy duvets. 

Whoever was out there- either Vivi or Arthur, had to be one of those two- busied themselves with the grill. A smell of bacon and .. eggs? Filled Lewis’s nostrils.

“... hey...?”

A clatter and scuff quickly follow. A soft and shaky voice babbling something or the other. Before the open window is replaced by a familiar head. 

Lewis could recognize those sunken eyes anywhere, and the accompanying bags. 

Arthur- lacking a shirt- smiles at him. Edges pulled up and baring teeth, the way he always did when he was faking.

“Hey bud, feeling alright?” Arthur rasps, opening the door and plopping inside, paging no mind to the rock of the van as a result. Slinging an arm up, he hooks it around the headrest and peers at him, “glad to see you’re awake. Feeling okay?”

Part of Lewis didn’t want to be rude, the meaner side of him spoke anyway, “Where are we? What happened last night?” 

If Arthur’s upset by being ignored, he doesn’t show it, “I saw you were feeling down and gloomy yesterday. Brought you to the campsite you really liked, with the mountains and the deep caves that echo when you laugh,” He explains, expression never faltering, except for the small crook in his eyebrow when he adds on, “I coulda sworn you said they help you feel at peace. So I thought..”

“You.... took me to the caves..? Wh-why? I don’t remember anything from last night, so could you fill me in?” Lewis says, a bit too forceful.

Arthur laughs. 

“You were having a breakdown.”

“What?!” Lewis’s face heats in shame, memories from last night flooding back in an eruption of embarrassment. “Y-yesterday.. I-?”

“Yeah,” Arthur responds, shrugging his shoulders as if it was normal, “don’t worry, buddy. Happens to the best of us.” 

He’s still agape, eyebrows furrowed.

“But- then why are you- why’d you take me here?”

“I know you love the place. And let’s face it, going through what you’re going though? It’s hard. I didn’t want to leave you alone with no support. 

“But- but!” He stammers, pushing aside the blankets, “you had work today?”

”Had, I called off. You’re more important.”

“No no-! Arthur you didn’t have to do that.”

Arthur shrugs again, “I would want someone to do the same when I’m having a break in sanity. Don’t sweat it.”