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The Gang Gets Therapy

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Ghost Therapy was first coined on a depressing Thursday, in the kitchen, whilst everything went to shit.

 

The ghosts had been arguing a lot, lately. More than usual, and that was truly saying something, because Film Night and the whole The Notebook Or Star Wars debate plus subsequent fight breaking out happened weekly . No, this was every day , and Alison was quite possibly going mad.

 

She slumped over the kitchen table, tepid mug of chamomile in hand (because it was the only thing they had left, and because Alison would rather have stupid overly sweet tea than none at all). Upstairs were the wails of the undead, the snide tone of Julian, and the high pitched shriek that could only come from Thomas being offended, the desperate attempt at order from Pat, and then The Captain’s more direct one, and the jovial defense from Kitty, and Fanny’s clipped rebuttal, and Robin’s holler, and Mary’s nervy muttering (she ignored the fact she could pinpoint exactly what they sounded like through walls). Nobody was in the kitchen at present, which was fortunate, because Alison was going to genuinely strangle any undead individual back to life if they bothered her during her Alison Alloted Tea Time (AATT for short).

 

Mike sat down next to her.

“They’re being annoying, aren’t they?” He said, evenly with a little bit of sympathy.

“Yes.” She groaned, from her place in the table. 

 

“Do you think you could- Nevermind.”

She lifted her head up, staring at him. “No, what is it?”

“This is just Sat In On One Psychology Lecture Mike talking, don’t mind me.”

“Honestly, any suggestion is welcome at the moment, considering I might bang my head through the newly fixed floorboards if they don’t stop fucking about.”

Mike looked a bit taken aback, and frowned. “Right. No, sorry, it was just… do you think therapy might help?”

“Ghost- Ghost therapy?”

“Might help ease a bit of the tension.” He said, raising his eyebrows and taking a sip from his You’re My Favourite Knobhead mug. She got him it for Christmas two years ago, along with a DVD for one of those schlocky action films he’s obsessed with. It was funny to think of, life before the ghosts. It felt like almost a different one entirely.

 

“Huh.” Alison stared into her chamomile, and thought.

 

---

“Ghost therapy?” The Captain echoed incredulously. He was frowning, because he usually was. 

 

“Ghost therapy.” Alison said, definitively, whipping out her notebook and an old pen she’d found rattling in Heather Button’s drawers. A dead person held this pen. It felt appropriate.

 

“Right.” Pat said, voice carefully neutral. “Now, I don’t mean to doubt you, Alison, but- well, I don’t think we need therapy, do we? That’s a bit drastic.”

Alison stared directly at him and pointed to the corner, in which Thomas and Julian were charging at each other like bulls with bad cases of toxic masculinity. Alison snapped at the two, and they retreated, muttering darkly to themselves.

 

Kitty clapped her hands together. “I think it’s a splendid idea!”

Simultaneously, Fanny frowned deeply. “I think this is a terrible idea.”

“Let’s begin.” Alison clicked her pen. 

 

---

 

Alison had split it so they each took therapy alone, and had told them that if she caught them snooping in on others’ sessions they’d be banned from Film Night for two weeks, which was a grave punishment in each ghost’s humble opinion. Good. Calling back to the web page she had skimmed in preparation, privacy was key. Patient doctor confidentiality, baby. 

 

Sitting in front of her was Fanny, with her arms crossed.


“Hi.” Alison said, practicing both her Customer Service Voice and Customer Service Smile.

“I think this is all pointless and idiotic.” Fanny said, sniffing, and staring pointedly out of the window.

 

Alison wrote it down. The notebook she had was patterned with dogs riding skateboards. She carefully hid it from Fanny’s view. She had been a little sensitive about dogs after the whole situation she liked to call Dante’s Inferno. “Why do you think that?”

“Well, in my day, you didn’t ‘talk out your problems’. You just dealt with them. You kept them locked in your heart and let them fester. It’s the healthy and natural way.”

“Okay. But don’t you think that’ll just exacerbate the issue?” Alison asked, in a neutral voice, to not betray the way her mind immediately jumped to saying Absolutely Not, Your Opinions Are Terrible. One day she’ll get to say it. One day. 

 

“Not if you don’t think about it.” Fanny murmured, her posture similar to that of a teenager with bad bangs.

Alison wrote that down. “Yes, but- Okay, I’ll rephrase the question. Isn’t it better to solve something than just let it annoy you forever?”

Fanny looked ready to rebuke, and then paused, eyebrow furrowing, as she reconsidered. She opened her mouth, and closed it. Then her mouth became a thin line.

 

Alison waited for her to say something. She didn’t. 

 

“O-kay, I’ll give you an example. Kitty is very open about her emotions, wouldn’t you say?”

Fanny nodded hesitantly.

 

“And, when Kitty cries, people are quite quick to comfort her, too. So her problem gets solved a lot quicker. So what I’m saying is it’s a bit easier to ask for help then just not deal with it at all.”

Alison had her pen poised on the paper, waiting for Fanny’s reaction. Damn , she was great at this therapy thing! She deserved a damn medal!

 

“Why does everything have to be easy? ” Fanny blurted out in response.

 

Alison was about to answer, but Fanny kept talking, voice going a mile a minute. The repression lock was wide fucking open, apparently.

“Why can’t everyone just be sad! Why does it have to be sunshine and smiles and Hello Lady Button! and canoes all the time! Why can’t- why can’t we just be miserable in peace! Why does she- why do you consider yourself the exception to every rule I’ve had to deal with for- for years!”

Alison widened her eyes. Fanny looked out of breath, sighing a little bit. She was looking down at her feet.

 

“In all my years, I’ve had to be exactly how everyone wanted me, and I’ve succeeded. And it’s not fair at all that you all get to galavant about with your tattoos and your pink bows and your imaginary statue friends and your handsome husbands. Not fair at all.” Her voice was quiet, and reproachful, and a little bit sad, which was… unexpected.


Okay, maybe she didn’t deserve a damn medal. 

 

Fanny swiftly got up, smoothing down her dress. “Thank you, Alison. This has been a huge and unenjoyable waste of my time.” She then left the room.

 

“Does that mean it’s my turn?” Thomas said, a minute after, poking his head in the doorway.

 

---

 

“So. Thomas.” Alison started, hands on her notebook. She was feeling a little knocked back, after the whole Fanny debacle, but she was determined to see this through till the bitter end, and hopefully manage to restore the balance that had been so thoroughly knocked out of whack. The bitter, emotionally healthy end.

 

“Yes, queen?” Thomas said, completely unironically.

 

Thomas was on a weird feminist kick, recently, ever since he had watched Legally Blonde and sympathised with Elle Woods to a surprising extent. He had since watched every movie in the Netflix category Girl Power, had slipped encouraging girlboss slogans into his everyday vernacular, and was currently working his way through every iteration of The Stepford Wives. Frankly, it was very on brand. Also deeply hilarious.

 

“Therapy.” Alison was finding it a lot harder to get him to open up than Fanny, which was incredibly weird, considering Fanny was the emotional equivalent of a cartoon fridge with padlocks and chains tied around it. Thomas, however, was the most emotional person she’d ever met. He cried at movies that weren’t even meant to be sad, lamented his late, sorrowful life at least every hour, and got genuinely emotionally distressed when his favourites in reality TV got voted out. Everything was Bambi for him. All the time. 

 

“Yes.” Thomas said, nodding awkwardly.

“Tell me about, uh, your feelings.” Fuck! She had been thrown for a loop with the whole Fanny thing! God, when was Customer Service Alison when she needed her!

 

“Well, as you know, I feel many things.” Thomas started, gesturing to himself. “So many things. It’s hard to keep track. I’m sent on a constant feeling rollercoaster, except you never reach the end. Just, feelings, feelings, feelings. All the livelong day. A concerning amount, really.”

Alison hummed, nodding sagely. She noted that down. “So, what are those feelings?”

Thomas faltered. “Um. Right. Yeah. Boy, those feelings! Oh the things I feel. Which I am about to tell you. Right now.”

She waited.

Thomas scratched the back of his neck, a little nervously. “You know, it’s actually- there’s just such a high quantity of them, it’s really quite hard to pinpoint.”

“Oh.”


The clock ticked in the distance.

“It’s not like I don’t know what I feel.” Thomas amended hastily. “Obviously. It’s just- This is all under secrecy, yes? You must have taken an oath of some sort?”

“I’m not a real therapist.” She said, squinting. “What, did you think I was?”

“Not at all, no, of course not. Though I would wholeheartedly support you if you were. As Dimple T states, ‘get it girl’.” 

 

She wrote that down. “Okay, what were you saying earlier?”

 

“It’s all a bit confusing, is all.” Thomas sighed, not even in the Lovelorn Poet kind of way, but in the What Can You Do. “Everyone thinks I’m supposed to be- well, romantic, and have these deep and emotional connections, and I don’t . I want to live up to that, and I keep trying to, and it never works out. And I only really became a poet because my family was old money, and that was the only course of action, you know?”

Before Alison can comment on that deeply surprising piece of emotional honesty, she got caught on something. “You had a family?

Thomas tilted his head. “Yes. I was quite literally killed by a member of my family. Oh, damn, that would be a much better thing to talk about!”

Alison ran a hand through her hair. “Sorry, yeah. It’s just a bit hard to think of you without the ghosts.”

 

“I have been with them for nearly two hundred years.” Thomas joked, with a slight edge to it.

 

Thorne, it is my turn! ” The Captain’s voice blustered from outside the door.

---


“I’m surprised you’re eager to do this, Captain.” Alison said, clicking her pen. This was going to be a doozy. A doozy for emotional healthiness, not a doozy for her insatiable need for secrets. She needed to clarify that.

 

“I’ve thought it over, and I think it’s a fantastic idea.” He almost sounded pleased. “All of them are deeply disturbed. I’m excited to work with you on this.”


“I think you’ve got the wrong ide-”

“For example, Thorne over there. Imagine me flipping open a binder full of the information I’ve mentally indexed about my cohorts, just now. He clearly romanticizes the idea of being in love. Can we talk about that? Dear lord, I’ve been dying to talk about that with someone.”

“Okay. This is- this is kind of unexpected, if I’m honest. No, the point of therapy is to talk about yourself.”

The Captain stiffened. “There’s nothing to talk about.”

There was a moment of silence. Alison tapped her pen against her notebook and exhaled. “Any childhood trauma?” She offered.

 

“It was one hundred years ago, Alison, I think I’ll be alright.”

“Sometimes that stuff pops up again, though. You keep telling yourself you’re twenty five now, you’ll be fine. And then it’s like you’re twenty six now and so on and so on until eventually you’re thirty, and you’re in a house full of ghosts, and you’re still thinking about it!”

“You’re only thirty? ” The Captain said, horrified.


“Only?”

“To answer your question, no. I do not have any childhood trauma.”

“Any adult trauma?” She said, and he stilled.

 

“Okay. Touche.”

“Aha! Got ya there!”

“You did get me there, yes.” He conceded, with a little bit of finality. There was another pause. Alison was beginning to find herself more and more acquainted with pauses, today.


Everything was going entirely wrong, and she was only three people in. The Captain was staring at her, not even at the window , and so far she’d opened the Pandora’s Box that was Fanny’s emotional repression and completely ignored Thomas’ attempt at being honest with himself for once via her confusion that he had a family. Dear Christ, everybody has a family. She should have prepared herself more. 

 

“Are you quite alright, Alison?” 

 

She was a little taken aback. The only time she had seen The Captain discuss feelings was when he watched the ending to No Country For Old Men and he said it was bittersweet. That’s it. He was a closed book. 


“Yeah.” She said, hesitantly. “I’m… well, it’s just a bit hard, isn’t it? All of it. I’ve sort of made a mess of things. I don’t think I’m cut out for this.”

“Considering your total lack of experience and expertise in this, probably.” The Captain responded, before clearing his throat. “Sorry. Not helping.”

“It’s just… I want to help you guys. You’re part of the family, you know? But it’s hard, because you’re all very confusing.” It wasn’t the weirdest thing that had happened in her life, opening up to an undead world war two army Captain with repression issues about how she was struggling with helping their dysfunctional found family with their respective trauma, but it was up there. Along with the time she swore she saw Ross from Friends stare directly at her, but then again she was running on three cans of redbull, so who can be sure. 

 

“We certainly are a bizarre lot, I’ll give you that. Just last week I saw Mary punch Robin so hard that he went through the actual wall, and then they didn’t speak of it again. They didn’t speak of it again, Alison! It was just random! And terrifying!”

“Sorry, by the way. This was supposed to be your therapy session.”

He smiled, which was strange to see on his face when he wasn’t smug or conniving or trying to trick her into putting Saving Private Ryan in the Film Night ballot. “Alison, I think you know me enough by now that what you’re proposing wouldn’t really work for me, anyway.” 

 

She frowned, because one of the clear points of the webpage was that Therapy Works For Everyone! but ultimately said nothing.

 

And he left.


“He finished?” Robin said, sticking his head directly through the wall.

 

She sighed, and gave him a close-lipped smile. “Yep. Come in.”

 

Chapter Text

Alison tried her best Pleasing And Satiating smile for Robin, who was looking dimly at the floor, a little zoned out. 

“So, what do you hope to get out of this?” She offered, after a little while, hands clasped together. The notebook was on her lap, abandoned for the moment. The corgis leered at her from behind their sunglasses, holding their skateboards as if to shame her. Little bastards.

“Something to do, innit.” He said, mildly, swinging his legs.

“Right. Is there anything you’d like to discuss?” She felt like she was going in circles with these people. They talked so much, constantly, all the time, and yet when they finally had a safe space to discuss their trauma to their friendly living friend, they held their tongues! It was all ironic, and Alison would’ve laughed if she wasn’t said friend, and feeling horrendously guilty for some reason.

“Hmm.” Robin contemplated. “Friends.”

“The- the show?” 

He nodded, looking up at her. “Yeah.” 

“Okay. Um, go ahead.” She opened her notebook, ignoring the messy scrawl that had become her notes at the top of the page. Friends? Really?

“The show go on long time. Really long time. And they friends, for that time. Nothing ever seem to end, with them.”

She nodded, uneasily. “Yeah.”

“But… life not that. Everything end. Even when you love it. Everybody go, and break apart, and get tired of themself. And you don’t want that, because… it unfair. But that only way. And… sometimes, wish it was like Friends. Where they all stay together, forever, and take on any challenge. Move in place, and get in fight, and make up, and love. And I love everyone here, but they all leave. People I love left, and I never see them again. And it still hurts. I found the word for it. ‘Mourn’.”

“Oh.” She whispered, quietly. He had a shining look in his eyes, like reminiscing, like old pain that he wanted to remember. She had never really seen him this thoughtful. 

 

“Yeah. Oh. Family stop visiting. My family stop when they all dead, but I never saw them. Moved on. And I never get that. And… sometimes wish others wouldn’t move on, either. Sometimes wish that we here forever, even if that mean we stuck. You know?”

She stared at him, unsure what to say, before swallowing. “Robin, I had no idea-”

Robin sprang up out of his chair, looking slightly embarrassed, coughing and looking at the floorboards. “Food club. Want to talk about bum. Don’t want to miss it. Bye.” He hurried, legs tripping over themselves in his rush, out of the door, leaving Alison blinking.

---


Pat drummed his fingers against his legs. Alison cleared her throat.

“So.” She prompted, scraping a loose curl behind her ear, ducking her head, a little embarrassed. Pat looked- well, Pat looked disappointed , almost, and she was finding herself feeling a little chastised. Pat was like your Dad, and, no matter how much you wanted to rebel, you felt that slight twinge of not-good-enough when he was upset with you, whether he meant it or not. She blamed it on those sad, doberman-like eyes.

“Carol and I tried this.” Pat said, casually, as if discussing breakfast, except his voice was more taut than usual, like it was a piece of string being stretched. “Before, you know. Not sure how you could do therapy with someone you couldn’t see, like.” He laughed weakly at that. “But- well, Carol and I- We were happy. We were. It’s just that- some days- I felt like I was speaking another language. Like some horrible Tower Of Babel situation, you know, where everyone had been cursed to not understand each other. And for years , I thought- well, it’s a bit silly, really. I’ve never believed in God, not that much. But… I wondered what I’d done. Who I’d hurt. How I’d hurt, to make her look at me like that.”

He paused, suddenly, drumming out a soundless tune on the armrest, and Alison opened up her mouth to speak. Except, at that, he bulldozed ahead.

“So, we got it. Nice fella doing it, really- combover, big, chunky glasses- looked sorta like an author-type. Think he was an author-type, actually. Wrote a book- “Everything That’s Wrong With Your Marriage”, that type of thing. And we tried , we really did. We wanted to do it for Daly. He deserved it.” He quirked his lips in what could be considered a smile, eyes swimming with memories. “Really good kid, my boy, always made sure to tell him. But sometimes, sometimes, even when you try your absolute fucking - excuse my french- hardest, nothing happens. The pieces don’t fit.”

Alison nodded, unsure what would come out of her mouth if she chose to speak, her pen gripped tightly in her curled fingers.

“And- I love her. I love her so much. I don’t think I can ever stop loving her. And maybe I always knew. How they’d look at each other, this- this aching fondness in their eyes, the way she looked so guilty , when she saw me. But I didn’t want to know. I still don’t. I just want- I want to believe that someone out there misses me, still thinks about me, still hurts over me. And-” He smiles at her, pained, a strange match for his face. “And isn’t that selfish? To want someone to grieve over you? I think it is, at any rate. But I just- I just can’t bring myself to be happy for them. I want to think of myself as a good person, and I try to be, Alison, I really do, but I don’t think a good person would do that. Sometimes things just don’t fit.”

Alison swallowed, audibly, her mind sluggishly working her way through this, this emotional honesty that feels so blunt for her ears, so hurtfully distant. She should be able to process this, she should, it’s her duty , but- her brain just feels raw, after that, a longing sensation permeating its way through her head, a thing left over from childhood. A cut on her knee her mum would lovingly swipe her thumb across, would disinfect, tenderly hushing Alison’s wails, and then stick a plaster over, making a show of kissing it. You’re better now. You’re safe, Alison. That’s what that would say, and now it was gone. It was gone, and she wasn’t safe, not even in that moment, and the worst part was this was about Pat , not her , so why did it hurt so much?

“I’m sorry, Pat.” She said, quietly, because that was about all she could say.

“Me too.” He nodded at her, stiffly, standing up, and giving her a watery smile. “Keep at it, hey? I feel like the others could do with someone listening.”



Chapter Text

Kitty is very open about her emotions. 

“-Patrick Swayze is my favourite, apart from Hugh Grant and Colin Firth of course, and I really, really liked Ghost, it was just so lovely. Well, apart from the - you know, the train part, that was a bit scary, but the rest was so romantic… how he loved her even when he was dead. A bit like you and Thomas! Except the lady liked Patrick Swayze back, so maybe not like that at all. It made me a bit sad, too. She couldn’t see him! Ah, imagine if you couldn’t see us, Alison, that’d be horrid… I’d cry forever and ever, but I won’t have to, because you can!-”

Kitty flapped her hands in the air, grinning and gushing, and Alison felt honestly a little relieved. Kitty was just so joyful and kind it was particularly hard to get sad around her. She was like a human disco ball in a world where discos were actually a good thing.

Sure, Kitty cried, but Kitty cried in the approachable way. The way where you can just (figuratively) wrap your arms around her and tell her it’ll be alright and she’ll believe you. It’s all just temporary. You don’t have to keep dealing with mess , and baggage , and trauma , you can just buy the DVD, or a new poster, or hold a sleepover. She’s got this down pat. Down super pat. Pat all the way to the ground. She’s losing hold of her metaphor.

Not that there was anything wrong in being open about your emotions. That was what this therapy was for , anyways. Helping out the ghosts. Listening to their grievances. Airing out laundry (respectfully). It was just - well, everything wasn’t going as planned. There was nothing resolved. There were no loose ends satisfyingly tied up. Fanny and the Captain were still repressed and Thomas was still lost and Pat was still mourning and Robin was still - well, Robin, inscrutable. She technically hadn’t helped anyone at all. All she was asking for was something a little easy , just a short win she could snatch up before any more bullshit. 

“Oh, gosh, I wish my sister were here to see all of this. When I was alive, we mostly just entertained each other - our Governess was a bit boring, and we took lessons together, so we’d make all kinds of funny faces across the classroom! She never got in trouble for it, but I got caught plenty of times. Even when I wasn’t doing them!” Kitty laughed, a little more loudly than usual, before sobering, a thoughtful expression creeping its way onto her face. “You know, I don’t know if she ever came back as a ghost. She moved away before then. Maybe she did! Oh, how wonderful would it be if we knew where she was? Then you could go there and we could send messages to each other, like a game.”

Shit.

“Yes.” Alison said, carefully. “Yes, that would be nice.”

“Perhaps you could find her!” Kitty led on, beaming. “Like -  like on that programme, the one Thomas hates. Who do you think you are , that’s it!”

Shit!

“There are bound to be marriage records - it was a while ago now but she definitely did marry - and I know the name! And then you can research her, find out where she died, and visit to see if she stayed on. Oh, but what if she did! It would be a lovely surprise, wouldn’t it, Alison?”

“Err.” Alison stalled. “Sure, yeah.”

Wonderful! I’m so glad you’re doing this. I’m so glad! Then we can all be sisters. Three sisters! If Papa could see us…”

Her stupid fucking internal monologue had jinxed it! God. This was gonna be worse than when Alison thought Kitty could take Marley and Me. 

Kitty was just standing up to leave, and Alison tamped down the back of her mind that was already celebrating over an easy win , knowing what she had to do. Knowing that this conversation would completely fuck up the house dynamic even more, something Alison was increasingly finding herself more and more capable of.

“Kitty?”

Kitty turned around, the feather in her hair perkier than usual. “Yes, Alison?”

“I don’t think I can do that.”

It drooped. Kitty’s smile dropped. Her eyes immediately grew wider, as if anticipating floods of tears. “Why?”

“Because - because I don’t think it would be good.” Alison winced pre-emptively. “For you.”

Kitty’s voice took on something she hadn’t quite heard before. It was new. It was odd. It was something she couldn’t really recognise on Kitty. “But I’m asking, Alison.” 

“Right.” Alison fiddled with her pen. “It’s just that, well, I don’t really know how to put this, but…” She took a deep breath. Really deep. “Maybeyoursisterwasn’tverynicetoyou?”

“What?”

“It’s true. From what I’ve heard, I don’t really think she was good to you at all. I think she hurt you, and convinced you that it was okay. And I just don’t want her to be able to hurt you again.” 

Kitty took a long pause, pursed her lips together, screwed her eyes shut, and shook her head several times, as if to shake away emotion. “I don’t - I don’t know what you’re saying, Alison. In fact this whole thing is confusing me. You’re confusing me. It’s nasty, and I think you should come talk to me when you’re ready to not be nasty.” She shook her head, once more. “Yes, that’s right.”

She walked off, quite stiffly, silent against the creaking floorboards. Alison had never quite gotten used to the lack of sound that followed ghosts, the complete vacuum in which they existed.

Her emotional honesty hung in the air, took up the whole room. She had tried. Kitty didn’t want to listen. And everything about it was so awful because she had handled it right , and yet it wasn’t Kitty’s fault either, because Alison would have reacted the same way. It was all just awful, everything. And it was another tally to Bad Therapy Session, compared to the big fat zero of Good Therapy Session. She wasn’t sure why being good at this, or hell, even continuing with this, was so important to her, but it was. She needed to. It was necessary, somehow. She needed to get something right.

“Next!” She yelled.

The door slowly creaked open. Julian let out a loud huff. “I’ve been at that for ten minutes, you know.” He complained, jerking his thumb back to the door. “Completely ruined my entrance.”

Oh, God.

 

---

 

“I think we both know this isn’t going to be anything.” Alison said.

“That’s what I said to my receptionist, and look what happened.” Julian replied, easily, before clapping once. “Zing!”

“You can’t just say zing to yourself, that’s not how it works.”

“Just did it. And it was funny, so it’s fine. Anyways, I’m glad you know the exact nature of our relationship, Alison - very helpful to be on the same page.” He uncrossed and crossed his legs. “I just came in to give you a bit of a reprieve, Als.”

“Don’t call me Als.” Alison panned, notebook discarded to the floor.

“Noted! Ally it is then.”

“Alison.”

“You’re so boring.” Julian said, easily. “How’s everything going? Any crying?”

“Did you not listen when I explicitly said I wouldn’t tell anyone about anything? That it was a rule?”

“Well, yes, but I assumed that just didn’t apply to me.” Julian’s expression turned genuinely quizzical. “It really did?”

“Yes! How many times!”

“But I’m not
like them , am I? I’m not a bloody wack job. We’re normals. I mean, you’re a little bit doolally, but you’re as normal as I can get in this house. We’re equals. Practically. Sixty forty.” 

Alison blinked, slowly. “Do you ever just stop yourself before you say something? Consider that maybe, just maybe, whatever you’re about to say the world could probably do without?”

“I’ve never been one for proofreading.” He winked at her, as if they were sharing a private joke. “Come on, spill . It’s not like you’re under oath. Scout’s Honour, I won’t tell.”

Alison pretended to consider it. “No.”

Julian sighed, loudly again, and slapped his hands against his knees, getting up and letting out an old man groan as a side effect of that. “Well, I tried. I owe Mary a tenner - though I think I found a loophole...” He groaned again, loudly, for an uncomfortably prolonged period of time, and tapped her on the shoulder. “Good luck.”

“Thank you. I know you’re being insincere.”

“Aah, you know me too well!” He pointed a finger at her like they were friends, before backing out of the room. She had an interaction with him like this at least once a day. He kept referring to a “rapport” they had. It was more horrifying than wrong, really.